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Entries from September 2013

Music Monday: I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself

"I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" by The White Stripes

So this is a new meme for me. It's (and you may have already figured this out, oh, brilliant you) "Music Monday," and it's hosted by this quintuple (?!?) threat:


Callie of Jamerican Spice;


Stacy Uncorked;

 Reading Challenge Addict

X-Mas Dolly;


Cathy of Cathy Kennedy's Blog; and,

Naila Moon of Just The Stuff Ya Know.

* * *

So I just found out about this blog hop about a half-hour ago, and I've been poking around, trying to figure out exactly what I'm supposed to be doing and... I'm still not quite entirely totally a hundred percent sure I'm doing it right!

I think there are supposed to be themes, but I don't know where to find the current one. I think you can go theme-less and pick what you want, for whatever is relevant to your life at the moment, however, and so that is what I am choosing to do!

* * * * *

You may think that is why I have chosen The White Stripes' song for my Music Monday tune this week, but no. You would be wrong.

I've mentioned about, oh, three or four times in the past just-as-many posts that Rob (aka, the Husbeast) is back in the hospital.

{For those of you new to Smellyann's Blahg, here's a super-quick back story: Rob was diagnosed with a cavernous hemangioma a couple of years ago. It's benign and was asymptomatic until this past May. He developed myriad symptoms, which led to five Cyberknife Radiation Surgeries in June/July. A couple of weeks ago, the site started bleeding, and swelling was pressing into the 'good' brain tissue. He's been on a heavy course of steroids since then, but yesterday - Sunday, September 29th - saw him landing back in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit for the third time this month with more symptoms. Now you're caught up! Read more here.}

Now, when this happens, I get energized, generally speaking. I've gotten tons of housework, knitting, running around, take-chargey-ness done on the prior hospital stays, and this time I expected no different.

Except, it is. It's different.

I don't know what it is, or why, but I'm just unable to figure out what to do with myself while Rob is gone.

For once, I'm not scared he's going to die, so that's not it. I have complete faith he'll be fine and coming home in a few days as planned.

I have tons of stuff to actually do, so lack of plans is not prohibiting me from being productive. It's payday, rent is due, food needs to be shopped for and prepared and served to our three kiddos, I need to homeschool that trio, I have lots of knitting to do, and so on and so forth. No, I've no shortage of duties now.

So what? What is it that's keeping me from focusing?!

I tried to clean up the kitchen, but I cut my thumb (not intentionally, I promise) and assigned that task to Jack instead.

I tried to do the laundry, but I kept mixing up dirty and clean, and well, that's just no good, so I delegated that job to Chloë.

I tried to straighten up the living room, but I found myself totally unable to figure out what the heck to actually do, so I requested Sophia as a replacement.

I ran out of kids after that, so I stopped trying. Mostly. I have taken no fewer than four (FOUR!) baths - two to wash, two just to soak and sit there, reading a magazine - in the past 12 hours. And then the tub got funky, so I scrubbed that and, while I was in the throes of spraying cleanser, the toilet. One of our cats kept running up and down the length of the sink counter to watch me, so I left that alone. No sense killing the poor fuzzmonster, after all.

* * * * * * * *

But mostly, I've come back here, blahgged on this page, read emails that I never answered, looked at Facebook, and just... sat here. Doing nothing. Saying not much. Thinking... everything. I miss him. Plain and simple, I MISS HIM.

Please don't  - DON'T - do the whole, "Oh, it could be worse. He could be in [insert war-torn foreign country here]. He could be divorcing you. He could be dead. Get over yourself. Blah blah blah."

Yeah, I know.

But you know what? I see people do that to each other every single day on Facebook, and I can not, for the love of all that is fresh and juicy, stand it one bit. My friends do it to me, their friends do it them... why?

For one thing, it's not helpful. At all. It just serves to make the person having feelings feel guilty for having them!

For another, it's mean!

I could go on with what it is, but let's stop there because that's not where this post was supposed to be going. Just don't do it, m'kay? I know, I'm not stupid, I have feelings, I'm occasionally rational, and whatever. I don't care. I'm entitled to miss the man I love with all my heart while he's not home with me, where he should be. For whatever reason that is.

In the end, I'll go visit him, we'll talk to his neurosurgeon, his radiologist/oncologist (whose name I am forever getting wrong, but he's probably used to it), a billion nurses, ten more nurse's aides, the cafeteria lady who hates me because I have no cash EVER and somehow using a debit card is stealing from her paycheck (huh?!), the guy at the front desk who checks my ID and issues my visitor pass, the guy at the garage window who takes my six bucks for daily parking, nineteen people my kids annoy in the elevators... and if you've been to a huge hospital in a major city before, you know this drill.

And then he'll come home. And we'll try to resume normal life. Which for us, is anything but normal, but you know.

I think, what I'm most worried about right now, after thinking about this, is that it won't end here. This won't be the last visit. He'll go back in two weeks, or a month, or even in March, but he will go back. Won't he?

I don't know.  

And in the meantime... what do I do with myself?! Without him?




In Which I Make Up For It

Rob, aka Bob, aka Hubs, Roger, Ronald, Ribbon, Rupert, RuPaul, and a million other things I've called him over the last 13 years... is back in the hospital. The kids are asleep, the cats are passed out, and the house is quiet. I can't sleep, and I can't seem to focus enough to get anything else of import accomplished, either. 

And so, I am going to catch up on some memes I missed this summer. Feel free to skip over this post if you find those boring, but I promise you some entertaining answers to follow...!

The Autumn Meme

First of all, is autumn your favorite season? Why or why not? 


Heck, no. In order of favorites, they are: Summer, Spring, Autumn, Winter. I hate the cold, and I hate the impending cold. I am fairly certain I suffer from some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Thankfully, here in Miami, it matters little anymore. Dodged that bullet!

Is it ‘autumn’ or ‘fall’, to you?

It depends on whether I'm in a snooty mood or not. "Fall" is for the layman, is it not?

What kind of weather does your area get during this season? 

As mentioned, we live in Miami now, so if memory serves (and, admittedly, I haven't lived here in Autumn since - gosh! - 1997), it's pretty much just Late-Summer weather. In other words, more sun, more rain, more heat. I went outside last night at 2200, when it was still 83ºF. I can live with that!

Were you born in an autumn month? 


Sorta-kinda. I was born September 8th, so not really, but yeah.

Do you pay attention to any ‘fall fashions’?

Ha. I was just "lamenting" this to Rob the other day. I have oodles upon oodles of free magazine subscriptions, and of course right now they're all filled with the latest Fall fashions, none of which apply to me. I look, but I can't touch, y'know? It doesn't really interest me, anyway, other than to flip pages quickly while I knit. Someone who is a slave to fashion is most probably not one of my very best chums.

Which leaf color is your favorite? 

I like them all, except green. Nothing wrong with green, but it's like the ubiquitous white walls of an apartment. Change is good.

Is it still fun to rake the leaves and jump in piles of them? 

The day I get tired of that, shoot me dead.

When can you really tell that it’s autumn? 


Well, around here, it's when the calendar says so. Anywhere else, I'd say it's when the stores stop filling up with berries and drupes and start filling up with apples and gourds. (What? I like produce.)

Do you enjoy carving pumpkins? 


I love it, but I have no particular talent for it. I'm always looking for something new to do with pumpkins, though. The year we did the puking pumpkin, we got a lot of neighborhood attention. People loved our stolen idea! I have thoughts about this year's pumpkin(s), too, but I'm not spilling yet!

Do you eat the pumpkin seeds? If so, do you put any kind of flavoring on it?

Yes, and no. I love roasting them, and except for salt - and not even always, then - they're good enough on their own. I never did understand eating something solely as a conduit for other flavorings.

Are you planning to go to a pumpkin patch this year? 

I guess I better get on Swagbucks (okay, Google, for you regular folk) and investigate! I lurve a pumpkin patch; it's probably the kids' favorite annual tradition.

Which was your favorite Halloween costume to wear? 


I was a dancer as a tween, so I always loved to wear the previous recital costume(s) when I went out, whether to parties or trick-or-treating. It was simple, after all.

Are you planning to go trick-or-treating? Why or why not?


If Rob is home, he'll probably take the kids. I adore staying home and passing out the candy. I'm a control freak; I love to make sure each handful is evenly dosed. Aside from that obvious nonsense, I love seeing all the cute kiddos! (And yes, I get annoyed by the teens in their daily street clothes.)

Are there any county fairs or festivals held nearby during this time?


I don't rightly know. Our county fair is in February, but who knows what goes on down in the Keys, just a few minutes south of here?

What is your favorite dessert for this time of year? 


There is absolutely NOTHING better, in my mind, than a Dutch apple cream pie. Oh, my God. I can't even wait! ::drool::

Is your Thanksgiving Day in October or November, if you even celebrate it? 


We do, in Thanksgiving. Who doesn't celebrate it? It is (or can be) completely secular. What's not to love about having gratitude for one's blessings?!

If you do celebrate it, where do you usually have Thanksgiving dinner? 


I can't remember a Thanksgiving we had with anyone but ourselves, at home, aside from a disastrous attempt to share it on base when I was pregnant with the boys, in Guam. We went home and fixed ourselves some chicken and sides and called it good. Best Thanksgiving ever that year!

Do you remember any crafts you used to do that were autumn-themed? 


You mean aside from the obvious hand-turkey drawings and pilgrim hats? As a kid? No, but I do get into it with the kids each and every year. I can't wait until Tuesday! We took a family vote: spread Halloween out over the whole month, day by day, or splurge at the end on one big hurrah? The former won by one vote. Yay!

Are any of your favorite bands doing a fall tour this year? 


(Just kidding!)

I don't have TV, I don't have any budget for that, and so yes, I'm sure they are.

Which new TV show are you looking forward to this season?  


Boohoo. Still no TV since the last question was answered.

How does autumn typically make you feel? 


Wistful for Summer, until late October when holiday fever kicks in

What color do you always associate with autumn? 


oranges, yellows, golds, and deep reds - falling leaf colors

Is there a song that always reminds you of this season? 


"Wake me up when September ends" has been going through my mind all month!

Do you have any seasonal traditions? 


Like I said, our best tradition is visiting the pumpkin patch. We always make sure to hit a hayride, do a cornfield maze, pick our gourds, have some warm apple cider (heh heh), and do the petting zoo thing. Not sure what Miami will visit upon us in that vein.

Do you spend a lot of time outside during this time of the year? 


As much as at any other time, I guess. We love the outdoors - Rob, especially, is eager to get us more "hotel-friendly" folk (ie, me) into camping (ugh), fishing (blah), hunting (nope), and stuff, but he's just as happy going hiking, mountain biking or -climbing, and all manner of grizzly stuff by his lonesome. Well, with a buddy...

How can you tell that fall is over?  


If there is a tree taller than my head in the living room, it's a sure sign that Winter has arrived.

What is a typical autumn outfit that you wear?


Here we go again. Hey, down here, you're lucky if I throw on shoes. And a brassiere.

Describe a perfect autumn day:  


Let's pretend I'm in Central New York again, but this time I'm a parent, and my family is a happy one. We'll go do all the pumpkin patch things mentioned above, then go home and huddle in front of a fire, roasting chestnuts we picked up at the farm. One last glass of cider before baths and tucking in the kids, and that's a happy day.

Do you hate it when stores start promoting Christmas early? 



To be honest, I'm pretty indifferent about it. I don't hate it, but I do think, REALLY?! Who are they kidding? I haven't bought my Halloween candy yet and you want me to buy ornaments. Crazily enough, this year, that's just what happened... ha!

What is your favorite thing about this season?

I'm going to take a stab at being healthy-ISH and stable-ISH now that SAD isn't going to be quite so, oh, over-taking this year, so I'll just say being with my family and celebrating the wonderful things that come with Autumn. I adore my little babes, and my guy, and just being together, no matter the season. <<mushy gushy>>

* * * * * * * *

Waking Up in Vegas


Thanks to Cat for recommending Katy Perry 

1) As she sings about her night in Las Vegas, Katy wonders if she "got hitched last night dressed up like Elvis." Tell us about the last wedding you attended.
My BFF, Lisa, and her husband Faris, had a pretty traditional Arabic wedding. It was, in a word, AWESOME. Lisa was carried around on a chair, there was bellydancing, and the music! Wonderful. I loved every second of it and was sorry when it ended.
2) Whenever Crazy Sam visits Las Vegas, she stays at the Paris Hotel and Casino. Have you ever been to Las Vegas, Nevada? What about Paris, France?

I've been once, with my then-roommate, Marc. His parents sent us, and we stayed at the Treasure Island. We saw Cirque du Soleil's "O," which was amazing, and got comped for tons of meals. It was fabulous.
I have yet to go to Paris.
3) Do you enjoy gambling? Have you had any success at it?
I don't enjoy it; it's not fun to me to throw away money I don't have. When I turned 18, I bought a lotto ticket. I won $3 or $4! I bought a ticket the following week, too. I won nothing. I didn't buy another ticket.
4) Las Vegas is served by the RTC Bus Service and the Vegas Monorail System connects many of casinos on The Strip. When was the last time you rode a bus or a train?

In April or May, we took the Metrorail from the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables to Coconut Grove. We had fun running around in CocoWalk there, and then we took the bus back to the station, where we road the Metro back to UM. It wasn't much, but the kids adored it and keep begging to do it again!
5) It's not unusual for the mercury to hit 100º in Vegas in August. Which are you more comfortable in -- extreme heat or bone-chilling cold? 

Answer your question? ;)
6) As a little girl, Katy Perry sang nothing but gospel. Do you remember any church songs from your childhood?

That was probably my favorite, along with several little-known hymns by Mary Baker Eddy. If you personally know any, color me shocked.
7) She made her film debut as the voice of Smurfette in The Smurfs (2011). Who is your all-time favorite cartoon character?

"Just keep swimming!"
8) Do you consider yourself a picky eater?
I'm not picky. I just won't eat:
- raw tomatoes
- mushrooms
- mustard
- most salad dressings
- mammals
- most birds
- any sea creatures that I have ever studied
- any other animals
- baked beans
- anything BBQ
and probably ten billion other things I'm forgetting.
9) You receive an invitation to a party that starts at 7:00 PM. When will you arrive?


It depends.

If it's a small gathering, I'm there by 7:15 PM. If it's a huge shindig where no one will notice whether I'm present or absent, I'll just get there whenever I can and slip out early unless I'm having a terribly good time.

And now I'm going to soak in a tub and read the latest issue of People.


Sundays In My City: From Here To The Everglades

Unknown Mami

Link up with the Unknown Mami if you want to show us around your place today!

It's been a while since I've participated in SimC, but since Rob (Hubs) is back in the hospital as of this morning, for at least a coupla days in the Neuro ICU, I'm sitting at home twiddling my thumbs [read: avoiding housework] and thought I'd catch up. Here goes:


I'm supposed to be taking a break from knitting doll sweaters for Itsystitch and returning to real-life person sweaters for my friends' son, Vinnie, who's allergic to everything. He can't wear anything but pure wool, cashmere, silk, and ... I forget the fourth thing. But nothing synthetic, no plant fibers, and not very many from Kingdom Animalia, either. He's an expensive kid to dress and feed! So I help Steph out where I can. I found a good deal on yarn, she bought it, and it just arrived. It's really orange and blue, not purple as it looks, and I have bunches of the latter. I'm going to make him a sweater and hat, or socks, or something, and send the remainder to her for another person to make his longies (long pants). I just find that sizing longies isn't my forte, so I'm happy to pass along that job.

Oh, but my point is (and I do have one, to quote Ellen D.), of the billion cajillion needles I have, none will work for this jobby. Suck! I bought a new one, but it's still too long. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate knitting in the round?!

In case you're thinking, well, that's nice and everything, Smelly, but what's that got to do with your city? um, to you I say, there's our front patio. Heh. Moving on...


We got some real, honest-to-God produce and, for everyone but me, meat in the house recently (food has been scarce 'round here, but we should be fixed up for that now), so Rob stuffed peppers with (what else?) rice and ground cow flesh (sorry) (not really) for himself and Kid3. They actually tried it, to my utmost surprise. I'd rather have given them purty purple and orange and red bells, rather than everyday green, but Wal-Mart seems to be lacking on that front.


I got a birthday card (only about 2½ weeks late, but I'll take it) with a free drink offer from the Dunkin' Donuts down the road (ah, now we're getting somewhere!), so I took Sophie with me to go do that and run a coupla other errands. (First up was Michael's, the arts & crafts store, where I'm sloooooowly stocking up on supplies for her planned artist-themed birthday shindig in April; I spent a whopping 83¢ on a plastic paint palette, if you're keeping track of our finances...) (and yes, I know I ramble, but at least it's written down, so you can't call it intelligible) (doing it on purpose now) (I know I'm obnoxious) (at least I don't use hashtags on this-here blahg) (where was I? Oh, yeah) So when we got to DD, she figured she'd be getting a doughnut, right? I mean, she is a normal 8-year-old American girl.

Only, Mom had just spent 83¢ out of her last dollar, so doughnuts were not to be had.

She pouted.

It was 7:45 PM, and closing time was 8 PM... meaning, everything made had to be tossed or taken home by employees soon, I'm guessing.

Can you believe, after pouting instead of cheerfully accepting her fate, the shopkeep rewarded her with a bag full of various MunchkinsTM? After telling her that making pouty faces wouldn't get her a doughnut?

She did thank him a billion times and, in return, reward him with huge smiles, but... well, I think I've made my point.

So let's shove off that topic, shall we?


Speaking of that Sophia, once she got home and divvied up the MunchkinsTM with her siblings, she was, natch, on a sugar high. No sooner did she finish her dinner then she went diving into the cache of Halloween costumes from years past. She doesn't even remember the show JoJo's Circus on The Disney Channel, but you do, right?! So this was her outfit for the evening, wherein she pretended she was being French. Only, she spoke in a British accent. Because French is HARD,  people!!


Later, she came out wearing my former Mrs. Incredibles costume from back when I was still super-morbidly obese. And the JoJo wig. Ha! This kid, if you could have seen her, would have made you laugh and laugh. She is hysterical. I promise.


And now, we come to the heart of the matter: We finally visited the Florida Everglades! A mere 10 minutes away (at least, the southern tip), yet we hadn't quite ventured down the ol' South Dixie Highway to get there as a team yet. (I'd been there long ago, with my then-college summer-housemate, Dr. Jasper Lament of The Nature Trust of British Columbia, now, and Ducks Unlimited fame, formerly.) ANYWAY, it was free on Saturday, so we finally made it. Woot!


We started at out the Ernest Coe Visitor Center way down at our end of Miami-Dade County, where there were lots of neat-o mosquito interactive exhibits, a photo essay on the dangers of the changing climate, and of course, a gift store. We made nary an expenditure there, however (see aforementioned 83-cent splurge).


That's my super-cute son, Jack, finding our very first (and, so far, last) geocache! We did all kinds of research on the night before, set up Rob's Garmin GPS, downloaded the free version of the app on my iPhone, yadda yadda, only to have none of the stars align after we found this cache. I brought along a notebook and recorded The Find, did the same in the app, and did a little happy dance with the kiddos before exchanging some swag from the box for a trinket of our own. The exhilaration was shortlived, though, because the app no longer showed us any more hidden cache locations, and Rob couldn't get the GPS to register the lat and long he was inputting. We decided instead to hike some trails, which of course, is not a bad Plan B!

Only, THIS mom fell asleep in the van before we found any trails and was deliriously tired when awakened to join in when one was finally discovered. The 'Glades is a huge park, y'all, and lots of stuff is going on there. I just... didn't see any of it yesterday. No matter. There will be more chances.


That's me. I know, not city-related either, but I'm here and I'm typing and that's what you get. 

You see, Rob (the Hubs) was feeling quite dizzy again this morning, and the last time that happened, we (meaning his neurosurgeon) discovered a cerebellar hemmorhage (yikes!!), so I called said doctor and was told to delivered him back to the hospital post-haste.

I did that, forgetting to grab my purse along the way. We arrived at the hospital and discovered the omission, which meant I could neither obtain a visitor's pass nor pay for parking. SUCK. I had no choice but to drop Rob off and head back home: a two-hour tour, round-trip.

I've been pretty much sitting here ever since, alternating between putzing around on the computer and playing with Sophia, while Jack and Chloë take extended naps. And that's when I got looking at the hair on my head and thinking it was looking rather shaggy.

Bring on the scissors!


Yep, I did that. The last time I took a pair of scissors to my head, in November 2012, I ended up bald. No lie, bald. So I think it's pretty awesome that I ended up with this boyish little pixie instead of, you know, a wig and a ballcap like last time, amiright?


Sophia's reaction was to say, "Why did you DO that? Don't you know long, blond hair is 'in' this season?!!"

She kills me. She makes me die. I die, I die, I die, I'm dead.

(Name that flick.) (Yeah, I paraphrased that, too.)


P.S. Thanks for stopping by, and yes, I know, I am weird. Aren't we all? 

Sunday Stealing: My Randomness Meme


Link up here if you're playing along this weekend!


My Random Randomness Meme

1. How did you choose your baby's or pet's names? 


Rob chose our kids' names, all except the last one. He picked out Chloë Raine, and I loved that, so we went with it. For the twins, Robert William was a combination of naming after Hubs and naming after his father-figure mentor from his kidhood. Jack River was the subject of much discussion before we landed on it at last. I think I was the one who chose Sophia Lorelei. We both have water-based backgrounds, so it's fitting that all the kids have names related to water (even Robby, if you know that story).


2. Have you ever been fishing?


I've been fishing exactly twice that I can remember. No, four times, I lied. It's not a hobby of mine, but Rob is an avid fly-fisherman.


.3. Have you ever had your national flag painted on your face? 


Not that I can recall. Not sure why I would do that.


4. What was the last social faux pas you made? 


I make them all the time, so you never know. I think it was probably the post about parenting I made recently. Rob and I had a bit of a heated discussion about it, so I took it down. I thought it was good, though...


5 .What makes you nostalgic?


Lots of things tend to do that. Anything that brings me back to an old time or an old place tends to get me thinking about that stuff. I'm a dweller. I live inside my own head.


6. What's the scariest thing you've ever done?


Probably, it would have to be bringing four new people into this world! Have you seen this place, and the direction in which it's going?!


7. What fairy tale character would you most associate with? 


Oh, absolutely that would have to be Cinderella. I had a Cinderella story growing up, with the wicked stepmother and everything. Mop the floors! Do the laundry! Clean the bathrooms...! And yet, I've found my Prince Charming and am, more or less, living happily ever after. We even have a family decal on our van with those words over it!


8. How much do you tend to swear in public? 


I used to be worse about it, but I'm making a concerted effort to swear way less. I'm being successful at it, though I still slip sometimes.


9. If you ruled your own country, who would you get to write your national anthem? 


I wouldn't change our national anthem; I love it. So, no one.


10. Who is the most intelligent person you know? 


That would be hard tellin', since I know a TON of smart people. I used to put myself up there, too, but Mommy Brain has taken a toll on me!


11. What's the craziest thing you've ever done for someone? 


Hmm... When my sister's kid was sick, I dropped everything - even my still-nursing son, Jack - to drive overnight up to help her out. Jack was due to be weaned, but I'd have done it differently if I were thinking about it more clearly.


12. What's the worst piece of advice anyone has ever given you?


Not to marry my husband.  "It's too soon," they said of our whirlwind courtship. We're coming up on 13 years, and I'm insanely happy being with him. Yeah, I was write and they were wrong, nyah nyah nyah!


13. If you had to describe yourself as a flavor, what would it be? 


I'm going to go with Rocky Road. For many reasons. ;)


14. If you had to describe yourself as a car, what would it be? 


Why, I'd be a SmartCar! Little, cute, zippy, and, duh, smart!


15. If you had to describe yourself as an animal, what would it be?


I'd be a tiger. I show my stripes.


16. Do you think laughing at someone else's misfortune is wrong?


Of course it's wrong! I hate it, hate it, hate it.


17. If a loved one was to serenade you, what song would you most like them to sing?


I wouldn't want to be the one picking. I would want them to sing whatever was in their heart to sing to me.


18. Would you ever let your parents pick out a partner for you? 


Oh HELL, no. HELL, no! Can I say it again? HELL, no!


19. Have you ever tried spam? (the meat product)


Maybe once or twice as a kid, camping or something, but I can't remember any specifics. Certainly not as an adult.



Saturday 9: Ain't That A Kick In The Head?

Link up here if you're playing along this week!
Unfamiliar with this week's featured song? Hear it here.
1) In the song, Dean sings, "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?" to express how delighted he is to discover the girl loves him. When was the last time you were pleasantly surprised?
This afternoon, actually - I discovered that in addition to the free museum day on Saturday, national parks are having another free day, too. We missed out on it last time and now we are going to make use of the day and head to the Everglades National Park. I'm SO excited to go, as I haven't been there since college, and explore things with my family. We're going to start geocaching, too, which is something that's been on my bucket list for a while now. Yippee, I can't wait!!
2) Martin was born Dino Paul Crochetti, and his family only spoke Italian at home. Do you speak any language other than English?
I do. Not as fluent as I used to be, but I speak pretty decent Spanish and am teaching it to the kids. I know a little French, Italian, German, and Japanese, but not enough to go have a full conversation with a native speaker. I'd love to know every language in the world!
3) Before he became an entertainer, Martin fought under the name "Kid Crochett." Do you watch boxing? What about wrestling?
Nope. I used to watch WWF as a kid, with my sister, but only for sillies. I never took any of that stuff seriously. Although I did go watch the Floyd Mayweather vs. somebody-or-other fight a couple of years ago, at a bar in DC. It was fun, though I cringed the whole time!
4) This song appeared in the original Ocean's 11 (1960). That film was remade in 2001, with basically the same plot -- a group of suave criminals knock over the casinos on the Vegas Strip. Why do you think so many movies feature crooks and con men as heroes?
I don't know, but I loved Ocean's 11 (the 2001 remake) - George Clooney, Matt Damon, Brad Pitt... all those guys! Great cast! Plus it was really well-written and kept my interest. Good show.

5) Crazy Sam's college sweetheart took over his family's wholesale liquor business, married a woman named Helene and has two sons. How does she know this? She checked his Facebook page on the sly. Have you ever used the internet to look up an ex?
Hahaha.... sure, I have. Why not? 
6) As she writes this week's meme, Sam is sipping from a Big Bang Theory cup that features Sheldon's face and the word, "Bazinga!" Tell us about your favorite mug or water bottle. 
My "mug" is a huge Big Gulp "keg" from 7-Eleven, from which I chug throughout the day. I love it, even if it does get a bit too heavy when it's full.
7) Are you a good judge of character?
I like to think I am.
8) Do you know how to turn a somersault?
Doesn't everybody? I prefer to do it in water these days, however.
9) Which one do you use -- roll-on, stick or spray deodorant?
Definitely a stick. I hate the other forms.

Wordless Wednesday: Baking It Up!

Link up on 5 Minutes for Mom if you're Wordless (or not, whatever) today!


I've been knitting the doll sweaters I mentioned in a previous post, so when I got paid for the latest batch, I decided to spend a small portion of the money on some delicious desserts for my family. I love to bake, and my friend Erica has been talking about these a lot lately, so I was first inspired to make this yummy Angel Food cake. I added some freshly whipped cream and juicy red raspberries to make it a wee bit more nutritious. I had never made one before, and it was HUGE hit with the kids. Chloë, my oldest, even said it was the best cake she'd ever had!


Jack, my 10-year-old son, asked for a cheesecake while I was baking the Angel Food (I hadn't told them what it would be, and he was hoping), so I baked that the following day. Of course, I like to make a huge, New York-style kind like I had growing up in that state, and I topped it high with fresh strawberries for a punch of color and nutrition. Personally, I was a little disappointed in it as it felt a little gritty and less creamy than I wanted, but my standards for cheesecake are extremely high. Everyone else loved it, and they devoured it within two days!

What have you been cooking up lately?


Product Review: Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum



Hey, guys. Here I am again. I know! Three posts before dawn. I'm on a roll.


I'm back with another product review: this time, it's for Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum.




Way back in April, Fysiko sent me a full-size tube of their Eyelash Growth Serum for review here on the blahg. I was to use the product for a full 16 weeks and then post my review here on Smellyann Strikes Again.


You may remember, I posted a halfway-point set of photos. Four months is a long time, so I wanted to check in after two months. You can read about that and see the photos here.




This was my "BEFORE" picture, taken at the end of April 2013. I had computer issues at the time, so I apologize for the poor-ish quality of the picture. You can see the length of my lashes pretty well, though, and that's what counts.



But look now! This is my "AFTER" picture, taken at the end of August.


(Because of Rob's brain tumor drama, it's taken me this long to get the post up; sorry!)


Look how thick and lush my eyelashes are, compared to the stubby little ones back in April! No photoshop, no editing, no nothing. Just my bare face and a camera.




Wow, what a messy job of mascara I did that morning! I had to put some on to show you, though, because the newer growth from the Fysiko serum was blond, and you can't really see it on the "AFTER" photo above this one. My lashes are super long now!


Remember that commercial, long ago, where the girl complains because her lashes are always hitting her glasses when she blinks? That's me now! Except I'm not complaining, because it took 16 weeks of daily (sometimes twice!) Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum to achieve that phenomenon.




This is also my "AFTER" morning, but it doesn't really tell you much by itself, since I took no "BEFORE" photo with my eyes open. But look here:




I used a basic, regular ol' Bobbi Brown mascara with no claims to lengthen and thicken for these two shots. I just wanted to show you the new length and fullness of my eyelashes, and I had to darken the little blond tips with mascara to prove it to you.


Is that crazy or what? Honestly, folks, I'm really impressed. I truly didn't think I would notice any appreciable difference, and yet here the proof is in the pictures to show you that it works.


You can find Fysiko Eyelash Growth Serum here, with purchasing information here. Let me know if you end up grabbing some for your own blinky-winkies! (I'm a dork. I know.)




Full Disclosure: Fysiko provided me with a full-size product for review purposes. I was not otherwise compensated for this post. All opinions in this review are, as always, my own. I'm just a happy consumer!

Bzz, Bzz: Kashi Hummus Crisps #GotItFree #ProductReview

OMGarsh, y'all. I am a bad BzzAgent and a bad blogger.
Why? you're asking. (Go ahead, ask. I don't mind!)
Because, you guys! I received a bag of Sea Salt & Olive Oil Kashi Hummus Crisps the other day, and I never took a single picture.
I know! I slapped my own hand!
Here's what happened: Rob was in the hospital again two weeks ago for the first of two Neuro-ICU visits in a row for Ye Olde Lovely Braine Tumore. (heh) (I know it's not funny. Give me a break, will ya? Humor helps.)
The doorbell rang as I was packing up for the hour-long commute up to the hospital from home.
I grabbed the box, opened it, saw snacks and probably thought to myself, "Ooh, yummy!" and stashed the bag in my hospital gear. Off I went.
At the hospital an hour later, I was grabbing my teddy bear, my bag, my big ol' keg of the drink du jour, and spotted that bag of Kashi Hummus Crisps. I was starving by that point - you don't tend to eat a whole lot when you're visiting the Neuro Intensive Care Unit, you know what I mean? - and ripped open the bag.
Oh, my goodness, y'all. They were good!! I munched all the way from my van in the parking garage, up to the hospital, during the ride in the elevator, and down the hall to Rob's room. I even struck up a conversation about them in the elevator and handed out a coupon (Want one? Let me know in the comments)!
I think they were all gone by the time I reached Rob's room on the 5th floor, but I can't remember. He can't either, so he must not have gotten one. Because I PIGGED OUT and ate them all.
They were air-popped crisps, with a crunchy texture, and I loved that. But more importantly, the taste! I believe I have made it known in this blahg before how I feel about hummus (YUMMUS!), and Kashi did not disappoint. I can't wait to try the other two flavors, Caramelized Onion and Tomato, Basil & Feta. Do those not sound amazing? To me, they do!
This picture makes me laugh. You'd think I'd realize the words would be reversed, but no. Anyway, that's all I have to show for my delicious bag of Kashi Hummus Crisps. Gone-in-a-flash is what they should have been called, if you ask me!
Of course, Kashi doesn't disappoint when it comes to nutrition, either. The crisps are made with whole grains and real chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), so you know you're getting plenty of fiber and protein in this snack. Both are high on my list of dietary priorities, so I'll be munching more - soon!
What else?
  • At least 3g fiber
  • At least 3g protein
  • At least 5g of whole grains
  • No partially hydrogenated oils
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • No artificial anything! 
In the final analysis, I have to say, I honestly prefer these Kashi Hummus Crisps to, say, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. They have all of the delicious flavor with none of the guilt. I feel good about eating them!
Full Disclosure: Kashi and BzzAgent provided a bag of Sea Salt & Olive Oil Hummus Crisps to me for review and sharing, but all opinions expressed herein are, as always, my own. I received coupons, too, but not for free product. You can rest assured you'll always get my honest feedback!

Aloha Friday: Avast, Me Hearties!

Aloha Friday Blog Hop on @PamelaMKramer

Link up with A Renaissance Woman if you're questioning the rest of us today!
So, today was pretty good for Team Odette, all things considered. Rob and Sophie went to go see the movie Planes at a nearby theater, making them the last of our family to see it, and all five of us for FREE!
(As an aside, I'm glad we didn't pay anything for any of us to see it, because Planes is no Cars, y'know what I'm sayin'?)
When they returned, we packed up and visited a local park that I'd spotted during an outing by myself the week before, which I knew the kids would enjoy. (They did.)
After that, we came home and were reminded by my friend Tabitha that it was "International Talk Like a Pirate Day" and that Krispy Kreme was giving a free dozen donuts to anyone who went in dressed like a pirate. A quick 15 minutes later, we were back in the car and headed for our local shop. I thought we'd score ONE box, but to my surprise, they gave a dozen glazed donuts to each of my three kiddos! Sweet! (Literally.)
We gave two of the doughnuts to the gate guard of our neighborhood, as she was opening the gate for us to get back home. I mean, we had three dozen, after all!
Not so fun for Pepper, but hilariously for the rest of us, Chloë came out of her room complaining that Sophia had put purple lipstick on him. Rob immediately burst out laughing, while I was trying to go all scoldy-Mama on Soap, which caused the rest of us to giggle, too. Look at that poor puss!
Ultimately, I decided to let the kids open a box that just arrived for them from Green Kid Crafts for me to review. I got it free, just paying shipping, so I guess I shouldn't complain too much that it wasn't a full kit and was just a "sample," though I did expect it to be the full kit. And the quality of the materials were kind of lame, IMNSHO. Oh, well. They enjoyed making the tam drum and really got along swell together in the process. If I had to buy the kit for full price, though, I'll be honest - it's Kiwi Crate over Green Kids Crafts, hands down!
All that being said, my question for you guys this week is:
What was the best day of this week for you, and how did you spend it?
Leave me a link to your blog so I can answer your question, too.
(I finally found where all my blahg comments were going with my new Yahoo! email filter, so I'll actually be following up on those tonight!)
P.S. A number of you inquired about my anti-Semitic calendar post from last week. It's a Pillsbury calendar for 2013, but lo and behold, I just got a new World Wildlife Fund calendar in the mail for 2014. Of course, I immediately checked September & October - and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are there, where they should be! Woot! (I didn't spot Ramadan, though...)

Knitting For Itsystitch

Last fall, I started knitting doll sweaters for my friend Amy's incredibly beautiful handmade, Waldorf-inspired, diminutive dolls, branded under the name Itsystitch. I knitted until just before we moved from Virginia to Florida, and then I took a long break to focus on my family and other projects. 


Now that the cooler weather is coming for many parts of the country, Itsystitch dolls are needing sweaters again! Amy shipped some beautiful Cascade 220 wool yarn my way, some of which are seen above, to get back to knitting sweaters.


Between the two of us, Amy and I have tweaked that pattern so many times to ensure the perfect fit for her gorgeous, amazingly well-crafted dolls. Here's a recent one, prior to even more tweaking.


I wanted to churn out the sweaters for Amy's in-demand Itsystitch dolls, so I even brought my yarn swift and ball-winder to the hospital while Rob was there, so I could wind the twisted hanks into workable balls of yarn. Hour after hour, day after day, I sat next to Rob's bed in the hospital, knitting these tiny sweaters.


Here's another sweater, largely knitted while sitting at Rob's bedside.


I had some of Amy's red and some green left from previous Itsystitch sweaters, but not enough of either to make a full sweater. I suggested a striped number to Amy, and she thought it sounded like a great idea for a Christmas-themed doll. I'll be interested to see how that turns out!


On Friday, I got to the post office just in time to ship the latest batch of sweaters, including the Christmas stripe from above, to Amy's house in Arizona where she works on her dolls.


Here's Amy's gorgeous daughter, Stella, with one of Amy's latest creations. You can see one of the sweaters I made there, in yellow, if you can take your eyes off beautiful Stella!


Here's another of Amy's dolls, sporting one of the sweaters I knitted for her. She further accessorizes the sweaters with buttons and other embellishments, creating the perfect touch for her sweet creations.


All of Amy's Itsystitch dolls are made with high-end materials and take hours to create. They come in a variety of skin tones and arrive perfectly packaged with names, birth certificates, and personalities to fit their style. You can find Amy's dolls on Etsy here.


You can also find Itsystitch on Facebook for all the latest doll updates, previews, and other new information from Amy. "Like" her page to follow along and get the latest news.


I hope you'll follow along on Etsy and Facebook for all the latest Itsystitch news. These are truly high-quality dolls, made with the best materials and the ultimate in love and care. I crave one for my own, but while Sophia is Miss Destructo, I'm afraid that's just a pipe dream!

Let me know if you decide to snag one in the future!



Sunday Stealing: More Meme, Parts I, II, & III


Link up here if you're playing along today!

I've been absent for the past couple of weeks, since Rob's been in the Neuro ICU with his brain tumor drama again, so I'm catching up. For the players' sakes, I'll start with Part III and go backward from there. Enjoy!

Part III

Most daring Dare you have ever done? 

Hmmm. I don't recall, but we still "Dare" each other to do things, Hubs and I, except we call it "Ten Bucks" from the show Ed of a few years back. "Ten bucks if you go do XYZ," we'll say. Neither of us ever whips out a ten-spot, though! Recently I got ten-bucksed to call up a local seafood restaurant and ask how much their she-crab soup was.  I thought it was going to be around $20 a bowl, but it was pretty reasonable, so the call didn't turn out to be that funny. Wish I had something more entertaining for you!


When is the last time you did something you knew was wrong? 

Probably about a month ago. There was chocolate on the counter at the store where I'm always going, and I suddenly craved chocolate... so I took one. The cashier wasn't there and never returned, and I had to run, so I didn't get to pay for it, either. I've felt horrible about the 50¢ ever since!


What was on your mind most today? 

Well, it's only 0335, so the only real thing on my mind so far is my sore lip! One of our cats laid it open while I was sleeping and caused quite the commotion in our house. Hurts like the dickens!


Have a best friend? 


I do. My hubs, and my BFF Dr. Lisa are my two best friends. She's been my bestie since sixth grade, and I love her to death.

If you were upset, who’ s the first person you would go to? 

Absolutely, it would be Rob, my husband - whether he likes it or not, he gets to hear about all my woes. And the good stuff, too, of course.


When was the last time someone yelled at you? 

Maybe it's happened more recently, but Rob's nurse at the hospital the last time we dealt with his brain drama, back in June, really tore into me for coming in around 0600 and being too loud, waking up other patients. He was an asshole; I was really worried about Hubs and the care he was getting there, so... whatever. I insisted that nurse be taken off Rob's case. You don't need to yell at me and get in my face for being scared.

What have you done today, so far? 

So far, I've finished knitting a doll sweater, taken a shower, gotten my mouth booboo fixed up by Hubs, run to the store for a soda and donuts (I did wake everyone up, so I had to feed them!), dressed and typed up this and the Saturday 9 memes. Not bad for before 0400, huh?


What did last weekend consist of? 

We had a reprieve last weekend between intensive care visits, so we drove around much of Saturday and Sunday redeeming our birthday freebie coupons. My oldest kiddo, Chloë, and I had back-to-back birthdays.


What are you listening to? 

"Irreplaceable" by Beyoncé on IHeartRadio, on my iPhone


Who were you last in a car with? 

Hubs and our three kids, who went to the store for donuts with me - Rob carried Sophia in and out of the car, since she's in footy PJs and the ground was wet. Even though she's a ginormous 8-year-old, it was pretty cute!


Have you ever been called cute? 

Yes, mostly by me, because I am! ;)


Describe how you feel right now in one word: 



Has anybody ever told you that you talk too fast? 

Ha. Yes. I grew up in New York, and when I moved to South Carolina between high school and college, I worked at the Winn-Dixie down the road from my dad's apartment. I had to call on the microphone for stamps, manager approvals, and whatnot, and they were forever telling me to SLOW DOWN, because they couldn't understand me! I thought it was hilarious.


Did you have fun yesterday? 

Not really. I came down sick Friday evening and spent all of Saturday huddled in bed. Not how I wanted to spend this weekend with Rob finally out of the hospital, but I suppose it could be worse.


Do you like to cuddle? 

I do, but only when I'm in the mood. If someone's huggin' on me when I don't feel like it, I do get annoyed.


Do you think someone is thinking about you? 

Rob is, because I just asked him to reset the internet. Our internet is FOREVER "going down," so to speak, so we are constantly resetting it. Truly obnoxious. #FirstWorldProblems


Are you stubborn? 

About as stubborn as they come, I am!


Is there a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or ex that you will never forget? 

There is, but I don't think it's uncommon. Doesn't everyone have that person?


Thinking back, are there people you have no idea why you hung out with? 

Kind of. There were people who were a bad influence on me and made me behave in a way I'm not proud of. I'm actually still friends with most of them, and we're all different now. We don't hang out as a group anymore, though, which is probably a good thing.

How’s your heart? 

It's good. My husband is home from the hospital and feeling fine, which is a huge relief. Yeah. I'm good.

Are you easily amused? 

I would say I'm easily entertained. It takes a lot to make me really laugh, though; I appreciate anyone with an intellectual sense of humor. If you can make me laugh, you're in like Flynn!

Do you speak more than 2 languages? 

More than two? No... I can speak bits and pieces of about 15 different languages, but I can really only speak and understand English and Spanish well. My youngest kiddo, Sophia, was actually shocked to learn that I'm not Latina recently - she thought I was!

Are you doing anything tonight? 

It'll be Sunday night, so I'll be planning out our school week for my homeschooling kids. We took the past two weeks off to run around, back and forth to the hospital to visit and take care of Rob, so we have a bunch of catching up to do.

Is there a person of the same sex who means a lot to you? 

There are several! My sister, Dr. Lisa (BFF, mentioned above), my daughters, ... and many more. Not necessarily in that order.

Is your hair naturally straight? 

Like a stick! People are always asking where Chloë got her wicked curly hair, and she always proudly responds, "From my daddy!"

What happened at 10:00 am? 

I haven't a clue. It hasn't happened yet today, and I was dead to the world for it on Saturday.

What were you doing at ten last night? 

Same thing, sleeping. I've felt like crap!

Have you made someone happy today? 

I have. The kids got to ride to the store and pick out doughnuts in the middle of the night. Pretty cool for them, eh?

Is it hard for you to get over someone? 

Hm. It depends on the situation, but as far as exes, I'm almost always the one who does the breaking up, so there's some crying and then it's over. As far as people who die, I don't get over that very easily at all.

Think it’s disgusting when girls get really wasted? 

I don't know if "disgusting" is the word I'd choose to use. Probably more like "sad," if it's a frequent occurrence, especially one that goes on and on for years... There's just so much more to life. And why does it have to be for girls only? It applies to guys, too, IMO.

How long did it take you to get over your last ex? 

My last ex would be Jamil. We were engaged and lived together. He hit me, and I landed in a bookshelf and broke my two front teeth. I kicked him out after that, obviously breaking up with him in the process. Within two weeks, I had met my now-husband. Two months after that, we were married, and very shortly after that, I was pregnant with Chloë. I have given Jamil very little thought since the teeth incident.

When you are home alone do you still close the door when you shower?


Decidedly not. I don't even shut it when everyone's here, unless we have company (which we never do). I can't stand the bathroom and mirror all steamed up, so I leave it open.

Meh. I guess I'll do Parts I & II later. I need to get back to my knitting. Cheers!


Saturday 9: Dominos

Link up here if you've played along this weekend!

Saturday 9: Dominos

Unfamiliar with this week's song? Listen to it here.

1) Have you ever carefully set up dominos and then watched them fall? Or built a house out of playing cards?
Sure, I've attempted both. I never got terribly far, though; I have really shaky hands. I could never be a neurosurgeon!
2) In this week's song, Big Pink lead vocalist Robbie Furze sings, "The hottest love has the coldest end." Have you ever had a relationship that started out so promisingly and passionately but then quickly flamed out?

Yeah, I've had several. Some have been painful, but others, you just enjoy the ride...
3) This is from Big Pink's CD, A Brief History of Love. What about your personal history of love? How many times would say you have truly been in love?

I would say three times. This time, it's going to last. Hubs and I are in our 13th year of marriage, and we'll go to the end. I'm sure of it.
4) Nicki Minaj sampled this song for her own, "Girls Fall Like Dominos." Nicki won't be back on American Idol this season. Is your reaction a) delight or b) sadness or c) a yawn.
I choose (c). I don't watch American Idol anyway, so it doesn't affect me.
5) While nationally the news centers on foreign policy and the economy, Sam's hometown is abuzz over the new Asian-fusion restaurant on Main Street and whether it can get a liquor license. What's the big local story where you are?
We're still abuzz over Diana Nyad (maybe I got the name wrong?) swimming from Cuba to Key West. I know it's global news, but since it happened right here, it was pretty huge. Sam's news is more fun!

 6) Mary Jane Kelley is believed to be the fifth and final victim of Jack the  Ripper. OK, now it's your turn. Share a random fact that's rattling  around in your brain.
I don't have one on the tip of my brain, so I'll share this: Around 12:47 AM, two of our cats were chasing each other around the house, and one ran over my face. She clawed open my upper lip, and I bled a ton. We almost went for stitches but decided against it. I woke up the whole house with my hollering, so we went out for donuts at 0200. Now they're all awake, playing quietly. Not my ideal evening, but I enjoy listening to them be sweet to each other...

 7) Crazy Sam cursed last night when she dropped a can of tomato paste on her foot. (Hey! It really hurt!) When was the last time you swore?
I swear all the time. I have a potty mouth; I blame my New York upbringing! Kidding... mostly. I'm actively working on cutting back now, though I still cuss every day, I'm sure.

 8) Sam has a grocery bag filled with hoodies and t-shirts she no longer wants and plans to take them to The Salvation Army store. What do you do with your gently used clothes? Toss them or donate them or hand them down to a friend or relative?

Toss them? Never! I either donate, hand them down, or if they're worth something and are in good shape, sell them on eBay. The girls' clothes, especially, since they're usually from Gymboree or The Children's Place, can make me some moolah!
9) Do you blush easily?
Oh, man, I do - and I hate it!! I can't ever have attention on me without turning beet red. It's a curse.
On to Sunday Stealing...

So Chloë Is Twelve, And I Am Old.


My wee, tiny little baby, Chloë Raine, is no more. She's a full-grown twelve-year-old, which is unreal. UNREAL. Twelve years? Really?! How did that happen? I can't believe it's been so long since Rob and I checked into the Pensacola Ronald McDonald House post-Caesarian section, so we could be near the NICU where Chloë stayed for what seemed like an eternity. (In reality, it was a stressful but relatively-brief ten days.)

Okay, so she's still tiny, but you know what I mean. I took her to the pediatrician the other day, where she weighed less than 50 pounds. She still wears a size 6-7 (girls, not juniors), whereas her 8-year-old sister, Sophia, is in a size 8-10. Small in stature though she may be, Chloë is huge on personality. We love her to death and would go to the ends of the earth for her. So, here's to Chloë!


Chloë's 12th birthday was the day before my 37th, this past September 7th and 8th. Essentially, since we share a birthday, that means more freebies for her. If you've read here a while, you may remember that we sign up for all the birthday freebies we can, and then go around and redeem them for a fun traveling birthday celebration. Call us cheap, but it's super enjoyable and a great time for everybody.


I wanted to do something fun and different for her birthday cake this year, and I didn't have a whole lot of money or time, so this is what I did. Cupcake cones! I had planned to put ice cream in the bottom of the cones for extra yumminess, but after the first cone broke to bits in the process - and realizing I had no freezer space to store a dozen cones upright - I aborted that mission. Still, these were simple and fun to make, and Chloë squealed with delight when she saw them. WIN!


We had lots of places to go on her birthday Saturday, so because I was afraid our five stinkin' cats would get up on the counter and knock the cones all over the place, we did her 'cake' and candles first thing in the morning. Strange but fun! We only had eight candles, so I had to relight four of them, but she didn't care. I had done them six times for Rob's 41st birthday the prior week, after all!


Our first stop was to pick up a boneless chicken meal from a KFC here in Homestead. Okay, okay, so this wasn't technically a freebie, but $2.99 for a two-piece meal with side and a biscuit. She absolutely loves their mac & cheese, so call this one a worthwhile splurge.

And how cute does she look in that dress?


Our next stop was at the Buffalo Wild Wings up the road in Pinecrest or somewhere. I'm not sure exactly, but you can Google it. ;) Chloë had a free dessert coming, so we all went in to share it with her. Jack was being a huge butthead, though, so he and Rob went out to sit in the car while Sophia stayed with her big sister. The conversation with the wait staff was funny. "No, we don't need any menus, thanks." "Nope, no drinks for us." "Yes, that's really all." Apparently they don't get a lot of cheap bastards at BWW? Lucky for me, the 'Canes vs. Florida game was on half the screens, so I watched football while the girls chowed down... (We won. Go U!)

I do leave a tip even when we don't have a bill, in case you're wondering just how cheap we are. No worries there, chill.


We girls ran into the mall to go to an Auntie Anne's for her free pretzel, but we were refused. I was so mad! The email clearly stated I could show the coupon on my mobile phone instead of printing it out, so I opted to do that to save some paper and ink, you know? "Well, we've never seen this coupon on a phone before, so we can't take it." Seriously? I replied, "Well, you just lost my business. C'mon girls," and walked off. Honestly, people, it's 2013. Get with the program.

I pulled out a couple of pennies and let them make a wish at the fountain. They probably wished for me not to be such am embarrassing mom. Right?


There were a fire truck and ambulance outside the mall on our way back to the van, since it was National Safety Week or something. Of course, I saw a fun photo op for the lady-babies, and they climbed aboard. Woo-woo-woo!


Sophia said she wanted to be a firefighter, until she put that big ol' helmet on her head. Now she's reconsidering. Wait 'til she sees how heavy the rest of the uniform is!


The dude at the ambulance was befuddled when I asked if the girls could sit up in the back of the bus for a picture. Huh? Isn't that what you're here for? No one else was checking them out, so maybe not. Maybe they had a stretcher in the mall and were waiting to transport a patient? But they let us take our little Instagram, so I guess not.


We went to the Chuck E. Cheese in Cutler Bay after that. Not a birthday freebie, since she's aged out of that and several others, but I printed out some certificates off the CEC website for 10 free tokens for each of my kiddos. I just had to buy a small drink to redeem them, which was worth it for the fun I knew they'd have. I tracked Jack around the arcade, while Rob stayed with the girls and collected everyone's tickets. 

Holy crap. Number one, remind me that we are homeschoolers and can go on a Tuesday morning at 11 AM if we want to. We do not need to be there on a rainy Saturday afternoon with half the county. Holy shit. 

Number two, I totally called their safety hotline to report two (what seemed to me) major issues: Chuck E. came out and held court with the entire restaurant denizens - except for us, as we were in the long ticket-redemption line - right smack in front of the exit. With 50+ people blocking the doors, that had to be a fire hazard. Really?

Number three, the girl who was supposed to be shining her black light on wrists at the door to keep kiddos from escaping (or worse) was the only person not there during Chuck E.'s big door blockage. I stood there and watched a toddler run out through the gate and head for the front door, with no one there to stop her. Her daddy came running and grabbed her, yanking her back inside the restaurant, before the worker strolled over from the depths of the restaurant interior. Scary! And not cool.

Call me a worry-wart or whatever you will, but I have no plans to revisit Chuck E. Cheese anytime soon. And it's not just that location. Last time we were at CEC, in Virginia Beach, we almost came to a fist fight with another family, the so-called adults of which allowed their ginormous children to trample ours. Sorry, but I do not put up with that crap and called them on it.

Moving on...


After that, we headed to a mall called The Falls to redeem three separate $5 gift certificates to Build-A-Bear Workshop. One was for Chloë's birthday, one was for mine, and one was for our anniversary of signing up for their e-club. All three kids, therefore, had five bucks to spend in the store. And not a penny more, we made it clear - about eleventy billion times, because they kept wanting to stuff a $40 animal. Uh, no.

Chloë and Sophia had no trouble finding $5 accesories to spend their gift cards on, but Jack, as usual, was as indecisive as a gigolo in the red light district. He bitched and moaned about the five-dollar spending cap, and ultimately decided that he wasn't going to use his money at all. So Rob and I implored him, instead, to give his big sis a gift with it for her birthday. He begrudgingly picked out a Hello Kitty purse she'd been toying with getting, rolled his eyes, and snarked, "Happy birthday, Chloë," when he handed it over. 

Ah, the love.

(The three of them are usually much nicer and more loving to each other, swears.)


Next, we headed up to Coral Gables to get her free ice cream cone from the Ben & Jerry's shop downtown. A police officer on a segway kept passing by our van and looking at me, and I could tell he was checking me out. Just kidding. He was probably investiging our Virginia tags or our cracked windshield... but no ticket was administered, so phew! Chloë decided on Mango Sorbet (ick) and posed for her requisite iphoneography.

After that, we drove up and down the Gables' Miracle Mile looking for a certain bakery. I couldn't remember the name of it for the life of me, but I was certain I knew where it was. Siri was no help, either. I had picked up a couple of chocolate mousse cupcakes for my pal Marc's birthday-slash-Rosh Hashanah the week before, and he was dying for another taste.  Would I please pick them up a couple more, and a business card?

It took me no fewer than 45 minutes to find Ricky's Bakery, but apparently it was worth it to Marc, so I did it happily! They don't speak any English in the shop, and I picked up a take-out menu for Marc (no cards were in sight) and asked them, in my halting Spanish, to point out the chocolate mousse treats on the menu, so I could circle them for Marc to show if he returned on his own. Of course, that was one of the few things not on the menu, so my friend is out of luck, I'm afraid.


Before we headed over to Marc and Jenna's house with their mousse cakes, we had two more quick stops on the Miracle Mile to make. Chloë picked out a free, huge chocolate chip cookie from the Barnes & Noble Café. She'd had so many fun, free treats so far, she decided to split it in half and give each to Sophia and Jack. Sweet girl, she is.


And then, we stopped at California Pizza Kitchen for the free dessert of her choice. I had to real-quicklike download the CPK app on my iPhone, because they couldn't look up our freebie on my rewards account by my phone number. Be aware! She chose the Chocolate Soufflé Cake. The guy taking her order asked if she wanted it a la mode. At first I said no, since we were taking it to-go, but then I thought to ask for it on the side to take to Marc's three-year-old twins, Jake and Addison. Well, it didn't occur to me that there would be an upcharge for the ice cream until I had to pay a couple bucks, so be aware of that, too, if you're broke-as-a-joke like us!


I hung around at Marc's house for over an hour, having delivered the goods and coming in for a quick chat with my friends. Marc's in a wheelchair, having become a quadriplegic in his early 20s, and I used to live with him back in my college days. I was his night nurse then, so I know a lot about his particular needs. He's not been feeling well lately, so a question about that and, in turn, Rob's current health crisis turned into an extended conversation about everything under the sun. I love the two of them and was just thrilled to hang for a short while!

Finally, it was late, so we headed back to Homestead. Our local Sonic was on the way, so I stopped there top pick up Chloë's free grilled cheese Wacky Pack for her birthday dinner. She had her drink and apple slices before we got to the house. She was stuffed by that point, so I totally snagged her sammich when we got home. Hey, Mom's gotta eat sometimes, too.


Panera was around the corner from Sonic, and upon seeing it, I remembered that I had a freebie coming for my birthday from there, too! Anything from the bakery case that I wanted, so I perused the drive-thru menu and settled upon a carrot cupcake for Rob. Little did he know he was going to get it, but since he'd just celebrated Birthday Number 41 and I can't really eat sweets, well, he became the lucky recipient.


On Sunday, my birthday, I slept almost the whoooole damned day. I needed it after having spent five days rushing back and forth to the University of Miami Hospital an hour from home to visit Rob! I finally woke up around 1800, just in time to shower and head to the 7 PM showing of Planes with Chloë for our free birthday movie down the road at Homestead's Flagship Cinema. We even got a free 40-oz soda, though I did splurge (wincing, natch) on nachos for my kid.


After the movie, we returned home to collect Rob and the Littles for more birthday fun. Our first stop was to Denny's, so I could collect my free Grand Slam. I ate none of it. Jack was again being a jerkface to his sister, so he and Rob - again - sat in the car while the girls scarfed down the meal. He's apparently having a hard time with anyone else having a birthday. (Marc suggested I videotape his entire next birthday to prove that he, too, gets showered with fun and love when it's his turn. I just might!)


We ran to Walmart after Denny's, so that Chloë could spend her gift card from her paternal grandfather and step-grandma. She decided to choose a Cleopatra Halloween costume for next month, and the remainder was spent on a small Barbie toy. At 12, she still loves to play Barbies with her younger sister, which is fine by me.


The subsequent trip to IHOP proved to be happier for Jack, who successfully scored the strawberry pancakes from my free Rooty Tooty Fresh 'n' Fruity meal. Finally, a smiling boy picture. You were beginning to think that never happened, weren't you?



Birthday freebies got put on hold from Monday through Wednesday evening, as I had to take Rob back into the hospital first thing in the morning on the 9th. He had the worst headache of his life, and since he'd been in intensive care with a cerebellar hemmorhage last week, I wasn't playing around. I called his neurosurgeon, told him that Rob's pain was so bad he was throwing up and crying, and was instructed to bring him right in to the UM Emergency Department. They admitted him back to the Neuro Intensive Care Unit right away for a heavy shock of steroids to reduce the cerebellar swelling and thus, the pain in his head. It worked, and he was released 2½ days later with more steroids to take. Indefinitely. Joy. (Should I sign him up for MLB?)


On the trip home from the hospital Wednesday afternoon, we must have hit a nail or something, because we were smack-dab in the middle of the Palmetto Expressway when we blew a tire. Greaaaat. I pulled off onto the Le Jeune road exit near Miami International Airport, so you can imagine the busyness of the lane. Nevertheless, I scooted all the way over the to right, leaving enough room for my fellow drivers to pass and get off the express.

So there was Rob, in the rain, fresh out of the hospital, with a brain tumor, changing my tire. I felt horrible for him, but grateful for the rest of us, because if it happened on the way to the hospital, I can't imagine what I would have done. Besides cry. Did I mention my phone was dead, and my brandy-new car charger stopped working? That kind of excitement, we don't really need, no, thank you!

While he was jacking up the van to put on the donut, a tow truck pulled up behind us, blocking ALL traffic. HONK! HONK! "MOVE!" the driver shouted. Um, okay, but you could have just passed us like everyone else figured out how to do. "Get outta the way!"

The guy turned out to be nice, if kind of fierce. He followed me off the exit, going no more than 4 MPH, while my blown tire went thump-thump-thump! on the rim. Rob was PISSED, because the tire that should have been able to be repaired for $28 was thusly thoroughly destroyed. We ended up having to replace it completely for five times as much. Not. Happy. We drove to Tire King in the Gables to find out that fine fact, where I snapped this photo of Jack, dead to the world.


On the way home, driving carefully on US-1 through all of southern Miami-Dade County, we swung into Toys 'R Us for Chloë to spend her birthday money from Aunt Stacey (my sister). She decided on two color-your-own bags for herself and Sophia, which of course infuriated her poor, left out little brother. He cried and cried, and there was nothing I could think of to do, other than assure him that he would never have spent his money on either of his sisters if the shoe were on the other foot. He had no choice but to agree, and that quieted him. Not an ideal situation, but I was unwilling to upset my birthday girl, so I let it go.


At the checkout, the cashier discovered we were celebrating a birthday, so she gave Chloë a balloon and a crown. So she's 12, whatevs. Fun is fun.


Once home, I decided Chloë and I should ride around our nearby streets and redeem the Homestead birthday freebies. Rob protested, because of the donut wheel, but I am a stubborn fool and wanted to be finished with the birthday business. So, we left him home with the Littles and headed out. Our first stop was Shakey's Pizza Parlor down the road, where she was given a free pizza and drink. I could have gotten a free buffet for my birthday, too, but they didn't have the buffet set up. Eh. No big deal.


We ran to Kohl's in the same plaza to spend a free $10 gift card I'd been sent in the mail. We picked over the entire store while she made up her mind what to buy, so I was stunned to find this huge Christmas display, in the middle of September. Too soon, people!


However, my chagrin didn't last too long, because I spotted a tree filled with beach-themed ornaments behind the one pictured above. I off-handedly suggested she buy one for herself and her siblings to celebrate their first Christmas in Miami, and Chloë jumped at the thought! The ball in the center is for her, and she gave the swordfish to Jack and the octopus to Sophia. They were thrilled she thought of them!


Chloë still had a birthday gift card from Grandma (my MIL) to spend, so we headed to Walmart once again. She carefully chose what to spend her money on, having promised Jack she'd get him a small LEGO set while they were cleaning garbage out of the van earlier. She selected that first! Then she picked out the nail and lip gloss sets, and a couple bottles of colored bubbles from the clearance section rounded out her selection. Satisfied, we headed for the register. Good job, Sis!


We had called Ruby Tuesday's from the 2o-items-or-less line at Walmart to order a pretzel cheeseburger for Rob and her two free gourmet cupcakes, having discovered they were closing in the very near future. We got there just in time and picked up the food from the bar, where I had to shoo Chloë to a distant table to avoid the discouraging glares from bar patrons...


Our last birthday stop of the night was once again Sonic, where I'd been given a free birthday CreamSlush. Of course, I couldn't have that either, so Chloë got that one, too. She chose an orange creamsicle, at my suggestion, and shared with her brother and sister when we returned home. I snuck in a sip, and oh, my, that thing was delish!


A package from Aunt Gail (Rob's sister) was waiting for us at home. There was a cute dress for Chloë, plus two more shirts for her, and presents for Rob and me, too! Thanks, Gail! ♥


Our air conditioner went out last night, plus Rob's mom and dad helped us out with money for a new van tire, so we headed to Walmart yet again on Thursday. Here's Chloë - and Rob in the background - modeling a new shirt from Aunt Gail. Adorbs! It fit perfectly, too. 


I had coupons for Driscoll berries and a box of SeaPak clams, so we got those and the filter, too. Sophia, who loves nothing more than a container of strawberries in her hands, posed for a picture with me while we waited for the tire to be mounted. Jack, meanwhile, was happy as a clam to watch the garage activity from the waiting room. The boy loves his cars!


Back at home, Sophia found the present Gail had sent to moi, which was a few bottles of fun textured nail polish and some nail decals. Apparently, on all her trips to coupon at the drugstores with her mom, Sophia had her eye on exactly this shade of Fuzzy Coat, so when she discovered it on my desk, she was practically beside herself with excitement. WIN, again! She insisted on painting her nails herself (can you tell?), but I drew the line at topping this with another, different variety of textured polish. Enough is enough, y'know? On the other hand, she is eight years old, so who cares? Maybe I should have let her...

And that, my friends, is the end of Birthday Season 2013. Maybe. I still have a $30 gift certificate for a meal at Benihana...


P.S. I did try to give Chloë an actual gift from us. I had gotten a sweet deal on an alarm clock radio for her to plug her Kindle Fire into, but imagine my disappointment when she opened it and it didn't work with hers! The kids each have a Fire HD, which apparently requires different plug-ins from the non-HD. Suck. Mommy FAIL.

P.P.S. I also gave her a book that I'd redeemed some Kellogg's Family Rewards points for, a tween-y book that was waiting for us at home on Wednesday night. She has already read through the entire book!

Aloha Friday: Jewish Holidays


Aloha Friday Blog Hop on @PamelaMKramer 

Link up here if you've got questions for the rest of us today!

My question for you this week is:

Is your calendar anti-Semitic?

What?! you say. I know.

But I was talking to a friend of mine tonight, who happens to be Jewish, about Yom Kippur this weekend. It might be today, but I couldn't tell you for sure, since it's not on my calendar. Neither is Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which started recently. I'm not Jewish, but I have many friends and three cousins who are, so I'm kind of offended by this! Just to be sure, I peeked at December and sure enough, Hannukah was NOT there. I looked back at November and breathed a sigh of relief to realize that's because it starts this year... but still. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are pretty major Jewish holidays, so WTF?

Anyway, that's my question. What's missing from your calendar?


Birthdays And Other Blessings


At the tail end of August, Rob turned 41 years old. That was on Friday, the 30th. By Sunday night, he was back in the hospital.

If you're a regular reader here, you'll remember that he has had a cerebellar/peduncular brain tumor that has been quite naughty in the past several months. He had five Cyberknife radiation surgery treatments in July, which we thought would be the end of the trouble, but we were wrong.

He's been quite dizzy since he finished treatment, and then his headaches came back with increasing severity and frequency. He'd had a cold and thought he was dealing with a sinus infection and inner ear trouble, so we didn't rush back for a follow-up like we should have.


On Saturday, the last day of August, he started driving Team Odette to Miami's South Beach for a visit with my longtime internet friend, Kellee. It was the first time we were going to meet in "real life," so of course I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

However, he was swerving all over the road right from the beginning, so after two or three swerves, I demanded he pull over and let me drive. He insisted he was FINE, DAMMIT, but I knew. I just knew. I called Dr. Shaya, his neurosurgeon, and let him know. Monday was Labor Day, so he set up an appointment for first thing Tuesday morning.

He seemed pretty okay at the beach, but after we returned home that evening, his behavior became a little "off" like it had been back in June. Not as bad, and nothing I can specifically put my finger on, but something was up. I told him we were going to head over to the local emergency department for an MRI to check on things. I wanted to have the image anyway, to bring to Dr. Shaya, so he could determine if Cyberknife had done what it was supposed to do.

Well, it wasn't good news. From the sound of things at the ER, Rob was in dire straits. His brain was bleeding, and there was inflammation and swelling pushing on the rest of his brain from the site of the cavernous angioma that radiation had treated. Indeed, when we talked to Dr. Shaya the following morning at the University of Miami Hospital, where they quickly transferred him, he told us that, "When they called me, I thought [he was] dead."


At UM, Rob was put in the Neuro ICU for observation and further testing. He had an MRI and an MRA, along with a CT scan. Our medical bills were mounting, and since Rob continues to search for post-retirement employement, we can hardly pay our household bills, let alone anything additonal. His sister Gail set up a fundraiser for us, and between the amount that has been raised and the prayers from all over the country - nay, the world - we have been beside ourselves with gratitude. It's amazing.

On Wednesday, Rob was taken out of the N-ICU and put in a regular bed, and then he was released this past Thursday afternoon. Or maybe it was Thursday and Friday; I don't know, because the days run together when you're in hospital, don't they?


Cyberknife takes three full months for the patient to receive the full benefit of treatment, unless progress is interrupted by a bleed. Unfortunately, the latter situation is what happened in Rob's case. Dr. Shaya and his radiologist oncologist, Dr. Fayed, discussed the case at length before deciding how to proceed.

They determined that the bleed had happened about two weeks prior, and there was nothing to do but watch him closely for another couple of months to see how the remaining time since Cyberknife would go. In the meantime, he has to take steroids to reduce the swelling and conquer his dizziness, get MRIs to track progress, and have his symptoms tracked (by me) and reported to his doctors. If anything else happens, we're to report back to UM Hospital immediately. Do not pass "GO," do not collect a paycheck.

This past weekend, Birthday Season continued for Team Odette. Chloë turned 12 (TWELVE!!!!) on Saturday, and my 37th birthday was the following day. I'm so thankful the five of us were able to be together for the birthday fun that ensued, which I'll report on in a separate post.


Rob's dizziness continues, along with some nausea from the steroids and extreme tiredness from I-don't-know-what. He has slept endlessly when we haven't been on-the-go for birthday fun. Other than that, he's doing pretty well, considering.

Anyway, folks, that's why I've been missing in action yet again. I'll post soon, if not immediately, with pictures from the joint birthday I share with my older daughter!