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Sunday Stealing: Get It All Down Meme


Cheers to all of us thieves!
Get It All Down Meme

Stolen from: My Random Randomness

  • Are you a good dancer?

I'm okay at home, but I have issues dancing in public.

  • Are you a good singer?

I'm all right, but I'm no Streisand.

  • Are you a good cook?

The James Beard Foundation isn't going to come knocking anytime soon, but the rest of Team Odette seems pretty happy with it. When I'm manic, I bake and cook enough for an army. It used to be great when Hubs had an appetite. Now I have to be careful not to be wasteful. 

  • Are you a good artist?

I'm just half-decent, and that's all. Sophia, my 10-year-old, is forever artsing and crafting, though. She does some pretty cool stuff.

  • Are you a good listener?

It's not my finest attribute... :\

  • What's your favorite clean word?

I couldn't think of anything in English, so I'm saying this instead: My husband loves to drink an Arnold Palmer (half-iced tea, half-lemonade). I can't say this man's name to save my life. It's the worst tongue-twister for me EVAHHHH. I can't even say it properly in my head. So when I run to the Racetrac or whatever, and I offer him one and say it right? Major cause for self-praise.

When I'm feeling really emphatic, I like to throw out a whole conglomeration of curse words. George Carlin would've adored me.

  • What's your least favorite word?

Any kind of derogatory term for someone's culture, heritage, race, creed, you get the picture. I hate slurs.

  • What was the last film you saw?

We saw Tomorrowland in the IMAX theater a few weeks ago. It was epic awesomeness. I came away feeling completely inspired. I hope my kids did, too.

  • What football team do you support?

Gotta support the alma mater!

  • Have you ever been bobbing for apples?

Once. I was eight or nine years old, and my step-family's friends had a Halloween party.  I had forgotten about that rare fun moment during that decade of my life.

  • What's your most expensive piece of clothing?

Honestly, the name brands I wear are, like, Crocs and Old Navy. I do have a few designer items like Calvin Klein and DKNY or whatever, but I got them secondhand from thredUP. For what it's worth.

  • What's the last thing you took a picture of?

Sophia Ginger

Sophia begged me to turn her blond hair red. I didn't wanna! Hubs said she could. We discussed. End result: blondie is now a ginger. I it!

  • What's the last thing you drew a picture of?

I don't do a lot of drawing these days, but mostly I doodle botanical things, like ferns and daisies, when I'm on the phone.

  • Have you ever bought anything from eBay?

Oh, yes. Sophia (this is a Sophie-heavy post, huh?) is obsessed with all things Littlest Pet Shop lately, so my latest find was a "rare" (she says, and I did not verify, but awesomely inexpensive) LPS from either Taiwan or Hong Kong, I forget. It took 17 days to get here. She hounded the postal carrier daily for that package. Oh, the squeals, when it finally got here on Thursday!

  • Have you ever invented a fairly unique meal or drink?

Hubs says I create great, unique meals all the time (drinks, not so much), but I didn't know what he was talking about. He specified the foil meals I mentioned in yesterday's Saturday 9 post! Cooking en papillote is fantastic. (Psst, Country Dew - They're great in the oven as well as the grill, and I swear to you, you can't mess 'em up. I generally use heavy duty foil instead of parchment paper, though.)

  • Do you have any secret family recipes?

I don't think so. My grandmother was a great cook, but she died before I could get any recipes from her. I don't remember my mom's cooking at all, except for two things: Pumpkin pie, which I'm certain was the Libby's can recipe my home-ec teachin' mamacita-in-law swears is the only one to use, and Chicken a la King, which made my sister and I feign many an upset stomach. To this day, I have never eaten that.

I swear by the Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe, incidentally.

Welp, that's all for the Smellyann Sophia and Cooking Show for today.

Enjoy your day, all ye dads!


Sunday Stealing: Swiped Meme


Link up here if you're swiping today!

Swiped Meme

Stolen from: Get It All Down

Do you need to write down things to remember them?


Abso-freaking-lutely! If it doesn't get written down, it doesn't get done.

Do you keep a diary/journal?

You're looking at it, Sweetheart!

Are you scared of thunderstorms?

Not since I was about six. Now, I love them. Unless the power goes out for six days. That, not a fan.

Do you have any unusual fears or phobias?


You're looking at my absolute worst nightmare. If mustard touches me, If freak out. If it were all over me, like this, ohhhh hell naw.

Whats your favourite Disney movie?


Finding Nemo, of course! And yes, I did just go to Kohl's and get a Dory stuffy for my bed, because like I recently mentioned, she is so me! And she shall be my squishy.

Have you ever painted a house?


The outside? No. But I had painted the interior walls of our Virginia Beach house every color of the rainbow. Except puce and chartreuse. It's driving me insane living in a box with white walls right now, y'all.

What's the tallest tree you've ever climbed?

I used to climb the tree in our front yard in Monroe, NY, until we moved when I was six. At the time, it seemed huge... now, I'm not so sure it was much bigger than a stick. Who knows?

Do you always wear identical socks?


Dudes. I can count on zero fingers the number of times I've worn socks at all in the past year. I live for being barefoot!

Do you live by any motto or philosophy?


My motto has long been: "If you want something done right the first time, you've got to do it yourself." 

Do you lick the yogurt or dessert lid?


Of course! Isn't that the best part?!

Do you lick the spoon clean after making something sweet?

Before children, of course. After children, I have to divvy up the spoon, the beater, and the bowl amongst the three of them!

Have you ever played the bongos?


On Halloween 2000, the night before we "met" online, Hubs went as a bongo-playing beatnik to a costume party. We still have those bongos. I, of course, have played them (however badly) on numerous occasions. They are now adorned with artwork from our youngest child, Sophia, who has came out of the womb wielding crayons...

Have you ever handled a snake?


When my sister was 16, she was emancipated, and she lived with her future husband - and Jade, a Florida King snake. I used to hold Jade and let her wriggle and writhe all over me. I was 15 and probably held her until I graduated at 17. I don't think I've held a snake since then...

Have you ever assembled furniture by yourself?

I have, even IKEA furniture. When Hubs was in the hospital one of the first times with his brain tumor, we had the kids up in Fort Lauderdale with friends for the extended visit. One night, I went all gung-ho and built the girls' dressers myself. It took ALL night, but I got it done. Woot!

When did you last go to the beach?

I was in Key West on Wednesday with the family. All Sophia (our artistic youngest child) wanted to do was wade in the water. We ate dinner - and yes, I had a rather large and delicious piña colada - shopped for towels since we hadn't brought any, and walked around endlessly to look for our cars after NOT wading in the water. I think she is still holding a grudge. We'll go back to Key West in the next week or two. Need anything? Gal??

When if ever did you last go to London?


The last time I was in London was in a previous life, I guess. It's still sitting on my bucket list. I'll get there. Ain't dead yet!

What do you do to cool down when it's hot?


Listen. I'm probably the only idiot in Miami who needs a heating pad. Too hot? You must be crazy. (My gastric bypass surgery took away my ability to regulate my body temperature. It's a curse my family must live with. MWAHAHAHA...)

What's the most unusual thing you've ever eaten?

Probably sea urchin sushi, which I highly do NOT recommend. I nearly barfed.

Do you have a favorite mug?


This is my mug, and I love it. Meh.

Do you know any self-defense or martial arts?

Image result for grab twist pull testicles

Not really. When we were in high school, we learned the bare minimum of self-defense, which consisted of "Grab, Twist and Pull" the testicles of any male attacker. That's pretty much all I got out of it, anyway. I've never used it...

Who's your favorite movie action hero?


Lately it's Iron Man. I'm not really an action movie type of girl, but let's face it: Robert Downey, Jr. is HOT.

Have you ever ridden a motorcycle?


I've ridden on the back of the bike with my uncle (scary on purpose) and my husband (scary NOT on purpose). I'm not a huge fan of either, but I'm too chicken to learn to drive one myself.

Do you collect anything?


I collect shot glasses. I just had to buy my third case. And yes, I have actually used a few of them, once or twice...

Is there anything you wish would come back into fashion?


I don't know or care much about fashion. I wear what I like.

Do you stick to conventional fashions or like to try and be original?


Like I just said... I wear what I like. Haters be damned. :P 

Have you ever given someone a handmade present?

I have. Sometimes you win some, sometimes you don't. Meh.

If you could have any feature from an animal what would you want?

Wings. I want freakin' wings. I want to fly. Someday... if it's the last thing I do...! ;)
Thanks for stopping by, y'all.

Friday Fragments: Episode 5.1.15

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Look at me, fragmentin' three weeks in a row! Link up with Mrs. 4444 here if you have to brain-dump today, too.


Welp, Hubs has been hospitalized yet again, this time for surgery to remove an abscess that grew from nothing to absolutely enormous practically overnight. He's in horrendous pain and can't get comfortable, and I really feel for the guy. His retirement has completely sucked so far, these past two years. I hate that for him!

Nevertheless, as high as he was when I took this picture, he's still able to crack jokes and whoop my arse at Jeopardy! which pisses me off to no end. ;)

In addition to Rob having emergency surgery on Wednesday, this week has overall been a huge load of crap for our family. Instead of dwelling on that, though, I'm going to focus on cheerier, more pleasant things in this post. So here I am with just a few random thoughts.


I've been following Kathy B.'s Art Projects For Kids website and blog for years now, and we have done many of the projects she, an elementary school art teacher, puts forth on the site. This week, we chose to take it easy on school a little bit because of all the awfulness that's going on, so we opted to do this tropical fish watercolor painting assignment.


The top one is Sophia's, and this one is Chloë's. Not surprisingly, both girls jumped right in and got started. Chloë, true to herself, worked slowly and carefully, sticking close to the original form of the APFK assignment's detailing. On the other hand, as usual, Sophia went in her own direction and opted to do different species of fish of her own choosing and not exactly listen to my instructions. Haha! I love the flounder!

Scan_20150501 (2)

And here is Jack's. What impresses me the most about this is that, despite his constant proclaiming of "I hate Art!" (as you may remember from last week's entry) and all the tears he shed at the beginning of this assignment, he still did it anyway and turned out a not-too-shabby piece of work! He may be a cantankerous soul, but he is also a persistent one.


Speaking of websites and blogs I've followed for a long time, The Loopy Ewe is another one of them. I have been knitting ever since I was pregnant with the twins in Guam and found out I was going to be delivering the babies in the middle of winter in Virginia instead of near the equator. I thought I better learn the craft, to keep my three-babies-under-three warm myself, since there is absolutely no store selling warm clothes in Micronesia, y'all.

Anyway, back to The Loopy Ewe. Every week, Sheri (who I have actually had the pleasure to meet while shopping at her bricks-and-mortar yarn store, back when they were still based in St. Louis, Missouri, instead of Colorado) posts a store update with new yarns, on the blog. When I read it this week, I was instantly covetous of this orange Wollmeise, once one of the most highly sought-after yarns in the world. I actually scored a skein once, but we had, I think, eight (eight!) cats at that time, and sadly it didn't fare so well. Sigh. But I refrained from pulling out my debit card, because the knitting occasions happening around here lately have been few and far between. (It is soooo lovely, though.)


Please be sure and check out my post pinned at the top of this blahg, about Maria Bailey and her 5 Trades Away project. I still have this to swap - it's free, and I'll ship it to you! - and would love to trade it up for something for Maria to auction for the pregnant woman of Uganda. Thanks!

Oh, and I actually did have some good news this week. I've been seeing an OB/GYN for the past two months for these painful ovarian cysts that keep rupturing off my left ovary. I've had a hysterectomy, but they left me that so I wouldn't go into menopause at 31 years old. Anyway, they found a huge mass measuring about 9x5 cm, and he wasn't sure it was benign. My tests all came back Wednesday: every tumor marker was negative, and they didn't see the mass on my last ultrasound. It hurts like hell, but it must have been another cyst that finally ruptured. Hallelujah!

Well, that's it for me, this week, and for April. I'm looking forward to seeing what flowers May brings, because April sure had its share of showers for us.

Thanks for stopping by!


April Tinker & Doodle Crates from Kiwi Crate


Disclosure: I received no compensation for this post. However, I love Kiwi Crate, Tinker Crate, and Doodle Crate so much (as do the kiddos), I like to blog about them from time to time. Links contained within this post may be my referral links, for which I may get credit. However, all opinions are, as always, 100% my own.

April brought another crop of Kiwi Crates to the youngest two Odettes of the household: Tinker Crate (for ages 9-14+) for Jack, the mechanically-inclined child, and Doodle Crate (for ages 9-16+) for Sophia, the artistically-inclined child.


Jack's box was about ROBOTS for April. What I love about these Crates, apart from the fact that they get the child to think outside the, um, crate, is that they offer supplemental material and activities to further the lesson. My kids don't always want to continue, but with these Crates tailored to their particular interests, this lesson expansion is much more likely to happen.


ROBOTS was a really cool crate. When Jack saw markers, his first sinking feeling was that it was an art-related box. If you read this post, you'll remember that Jack "hates Art." But soon, we learned that he would be building a robot that colored on the paper after he built it, and that was Awesomeness. He let his robot go on drawing for quite a while and just admired it from nearby. And that, my friends, was a check in the "WIN" category for my boy.


Sophie's Doodle Crate was all about PAPERMAKING for the month of April. This was quite challenging, Sophia found. She could not get the paper pulp to come out of its container at first, and she actually got upset and walked away from it the first night. True to form, though, she came back and worked at it the next day - this, all on her own, just like I knew she would - and then, she was successful.


"Look, Mom! I made paper!" It looked just as I expected it to look, having seen homemade paper plenty of times. Sophia found it to be, shall we say, rustic, but I explained that that was part of the charm of making paper at home.

The next part of her April Doodle Crate was about BOOKBINDING. She used the paper she made, cut up into teensy pieces, to bind together pages for a book for her Littlest Pet Shop characters. Her latest obsession craze is creating little vignettes for her LPS critters and having me photograph them, which I then print out, miniaturized, onto photo paper for her to frame in her handmade frames. This is one of them.


So it didn't surprise me when she decided to make a tiny bound book for the LPS guys. For the cover, she had me scan the cover of our well-loved copy of e. l. konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler "so that it will match the style of the paper," she said. I miniaturized the scan and printed that out, and that became the cover of her newly bound book for the LPS. I love this. LOVE it.


So there you have it. This month's Kiwi Crates, a "Robots" Tinker Crate for Jack and a "Papermaking" Doodle Crate for Sophia, were complicated and challenging on both counts but definitely scored an A+, each, from both. Way to go, Kiwi Crate!


P.S. We started out with Kiwi Crates when my three were younger, and they all absolutely adored them. These are tailored to ages 4-8 and have plenty of adventures to keep the kids involved and intrigued for month after month of fun!


And now, for even younger kids (toddlers or so), they have introduced Koala Crates. These look so cute, and you can get them even more inexpensively with a monthly subscription like we have for Tinker and Doodle crates. I have no personal experience with the Koala Crates, but based on our love of all the other Crate series, I think these must be pretty fabulous, too!


Sundays In My City: Miami Children's Museum

Unknown Mami
Straight from Unknown Mami's mouth, er, fingers: "Share your city/town/suburb/you name it! Think of this as a photography carnival or photography meme (with or without words) that not only lets you share your part of the world, but lets you visit other parts of the world virtually. If you link up, please link back or post the Sundays In My City button either in your post or sidebar to let people know that other bloggers are sharing their communities too. Happy trails!"
Link up here if you're sharing today, too!
On Saturday, Team Odette had the opportunity to head up nearly to Miami Beach to visit the Miami Children's Museum. Disclosure: We were given five free passes to go as a family, courtesy of the Museum staff. Though we received tickets as compensation for this post, all opinions remain 100% my own.
We had a little difficulty getting into the museum with our passes, because the ticket seller did not recognize the code on them. But, it was a minor snafu that turned out to be completely worthwhile, because the children were enthralled and engaged throughout the museum, from beginning to end.
(Oh, I need to take a moment to apologize for some of these less-than-stellar photos. The combination of interesting lighting inside the museum and my apparently faulty attempts to adjust my Nikon accordingly was not such a good one.)
The first exhibit we encountered was "My Green Home," regarding energy, conservation, and sustainability. The raging environmentalist in me enjoyed that. The kids got right into it.
I loved the wind turbine, but it was hard for the children to see what was happening on top from down below, where they were operating it.
One thing I really liked seeing, here in this culturally rich city, was that all signage was posted in both English and Spanish. Good thinking.
This thermal imagining piece helped demonstrate how insulation works.
Next, we visited the bank! Bank of America - my least favorite financial institution in the world - clearly sponsored it, but I got over myself quickly and followed along with the fun.
Jack and I solved the riddle together to crack open the safe. {It isn't that it was too hard for him to do by himself, it's just that the kids were too spazzed out, having fun, that they failed to read all the signs posted everywhere. One of the pitfalls of edutainment, I think.}
SCORE! We're rich!
There was so much kiddie eye candy at the museum, we couldn't decide where to go first!
The fireman's pole was super fun. Jack refused to go, naturally. He's my chicken.
Sophia's going to be a speed demon when she grows up. I just know it. (She comes by it honestly.)
Guess where this silly girl was next?
Did you guess "veterinarian's office"? Sophia was all about the x-rays. That was a cool touch.
The other part of Pet Central had to do with adopting a new pet. This was a child-sized play tunnel. You guessed right, didja?
Chloë couldn't resist her turn, either.
The Construction Zone received our next visit. Of course, Jack was in his element there. I couldn't believe how much fun this kid was having... even more than he did at Legoland Florida, I would venture to say!
There was a whole room dedicated to Pirates. Jack started digging for treasure right off the bat.
Miami Children's Museum
{Click picture to embiggerate.}
The Pirate section was fun. The kids all swabbed the poop deck, which is something I'd love to see them do more of at home! ARRRR!
The Ocean Odyssey was just my cup of tea. The live coral and related fish species were like old friends of mine, from my marine biology days at University of Miami. It was quite relaxing for me there, too. As you can imagine, the hyper (at that point) children didn't stay for too long. Rats!
Yup, I was there, too! Forgive the heavy bags under my eyes. I hadn't slept well. By the end of the day, I was yawning my head off! The other moms grinned at me knowingly; they were feeling it, too.
What do we have here? I found a Jack!
We visited the USS Holtz Kids after that, but of course, Jack disappeared immediately. That was another cause of my not-amazing photography: The kids - mine and others - were just moving too fast, and either they whizzed out of my viewfinder too quickly, or another child whizzed in! Oh, well.
And then boom, back we were in the dentist's office. Jack did a great job brushing those teeth. Made me wish he was so spectacular at it at home!
In the Health & Wellness Center, the kids on crutches proved to be quite hilarious for moi
And then, we were off to the nation's second favorite grocery store, Publix! I had thought this was a vending machine, but Hubs informs me that it was actually a sniffer for different spices. He said it worked fine; Chloë, whose smellerator is broken, says otherwise.
I was terribly amused by the random lobster creeping along the floor, which I didn't discover until I was editing these pictures.
Miami Children's Museum-001
{Click photo to embiggerate.} 
"Publix" was tied for most-fun exhibit in the museum, for my kiddos. They had an absolute blast there, I swear. Jack had much fun cashiering and, since I loved working at the Coral Gables Publix while in college, I must say I was a little proud of that!

Chloë has "milk a cow" on her Bucket List. This cow didn't give any milk, so it didn't satisfy that need exactly, but it was still fun to make her moo!
Sophia is making my current favorite facial expression, which she and I both do to imitate "Lex" from Disneynature's Monkey Kingdom (which we saw on Earth Day), to show her disdain for the "bad" corn vs. the "good" one in her other hand. She cracks me up.
Every single day, I endeavor to make this child smile for real. Yesterday was definitely a success!
Sophia just having a little moment with the frozen pizza. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Chloë informed me that she was going to be the person at Publix who puts everything people don't want back. I always hated that job. Go for it, girl.
Uh-oh, we're back on crutches again! Bye-bye, Publix.
The green-screen room would have been pretty cool, except the monitors showing what they were doing were kind of sketchy. If they were fixed, awesomeness would be restored.
And, we are back to the pediatrician's office for another check-up. Kind of like art imitating life for Team Odette, eh?
Jack wanted to check his own reflexes, but that didn't work. I couldn't get them going, either. Rob knew what to do and bam! out shot that leg. Nailed it.
With Pedal Pushers, Jack and Sophia competed against each other to be the first one to light up all the lights. They both admitted to being exhausted when it was over. Dudes. I need to get that for my house!
Back to Bank of America for the girls, who have just discovered the vault.
Jack joined in, just in time to play "Teller" with Sophia, with Chloë as "Customer."
♫ "We're in the moneyyyyy!" ♫
Well, hello up there, Curly Sue! Where are we now?
There's Chlo peeking out from the top story of the fantastic and beautiful Castle of Dreams. It was definitely worth an "ooh-ahh" moment.
Hey there, Sophie! Jack didn't follow up there. Again, chicken.
Y'all know we are huge fans of - and collect the work of - Romero Britto. So of course, I had to snap a pic when I found his son Brendan's donated seahorse on the wall.
Speaking of which... there was this gigantic Britto right up the stairs from all the seahorses. Come to Mama!
Rob was having some fun of his own. I found him and watched undetected for several long minutes as he piloted a remote-controlled boat around "Biscayne Bay."
On my way up the ramp from peeping at Rob, I found Jack playing Stevedore. This exhibit was the tie for "most fun," with Publix. They kept going back to it.
All three kids had a fabulous time loading and unloading "cargo" into the ships.
I really liked it, too, because it invited teamwork between siblings and friends old and new. One person manned the controls while the other hooked and unhooked the cargo.
Above that, we found ourselves aboard a Carnival cruise ship, as we all have in real life more than once. This was the noisiest place of all, since drums could be found here. And oh, my word, they found the drums. I got an instant headache; so did Hubs. But, they were having fun, so we stayed as long as we could possibly stand it.
When we stepped off the ship, of course it was time to visit some World Cultures! Where else would you go on a cruise?
Jack stayed back to captain the ship. Not surprising.
Ahhh, here in this reading nook, Chloë found her element.
In these fun mirrors, diminutive Chloë found herself growing taller. She stayed there for a very long time. Broke my heart a little bit.
"Hello? Hello?"
This moment cracked me up. Jack, my cuddliest child, snuggled with this giant teddy bear in the World of Bears. And then...
...he pounced on it to hug it some more! So funny!
Oh look, Jack finally found the RC boats. I can't believe it took him that long.

There was a dance party at 1530 in Kidscape Village. It was cute. None of the kids joined, though, so we didn't stay for long.
The Sketch Aquarium was pretty freaking amazing. Chloë never found it, but Jack and Sophia were able to color on and digitize their own drawings to have them become part of an animated undersea environment: 
The Littles got a pretty big kick out of it, too. I loved this exhibit, the first of its kind in the US.
Right after that, we were invited into the auditorium for showtime. The actors played Pig and Gabriel. It was a pretty cute show; even though it was for the younger crowd, my kids giggled quite a lot.
By that time, we had pretty much seen and done everything we wanted to see and do, so it was about time to call it a day. I rounded up the troops, and their "aww, Mom" groans were relatively short-lived. We decided a visit to the gift shop was in order before heading home.
Jack selected this metal plane model, and the girls each chose this ball that bounces on water. I tried to steer them in different directions for everyone, but Sophia wanted none of the arts and crafts sets in which I tried to interest her; she was stickin' with that ball! In a move that should have surprised no one, she asked to take a bath as soon as we got home, so could start bouncing that ball! Haha.
Special thanks to the Miami Children's Museum for our fun outing, and don't forget to visit the Unknown Mami for more of Sundays In My City!

Friday Fragments: Episode 4.24.15

Half-Past Kissin' Time

I'm back again! What is this, two weeks in a row? Can you stand it? I know!

Link up here if you're fragmenting today!


Silly as it may seem, this might just be my favorite thing from our field trip to the Gold Coast Railroad Museum on Wednesday. If you missed it (and you know you did), you can read more about that here.

I hear it snowed all over parts north of here today. Well, yesterday. On April 23rd. Yes, I live south of Miami, Florida, but my attitude is more of dismay and sympathy than nanny-nanny-boo-boo. And seeing as I was raised in Central New York, I have experienced this phenomenon myself. It sucks. I know. So sorry, y'all.


For Earth Day, after the railroad museum, we made a couple of stops here and there. One stop was at local Disney Store to get our free Disneynature Monkey Kingdom reusable tote bags. I love a tote bag. Save the planet, and all, you know; that's me.


Anyway, that there is 12-year-old, itty-bitty Jack piggybacking on 10-year-old baby sister, Sophia. Nope, that's not a camera trick; he really is that small! And the Yoda hat? Totally works for him.


Miguel, the Castmember at the Disney Store, was all about the enthusiasm for my camera, when I asked him to pose with my freebie tote bag. I loved it. (Not a bad looking young man, either, huh?) And, he let me make two small purchases and get two bags. I loved that, also.



We also received our free milkshakes and fruitshakes from EVOS, which serves AirbakedTM food instead of deep-fried, much of it organic. I had not heard of it before Earth Day, so this was a great marketing ploy to get us in the door and come back for more. We didn't buy anything Wednesday, but we do plan to come back soon, probably on a Kids-Eat-Free Sunday. (I love a deal, y'know?) Since they're a lot closer to Homestead than our beloved Elevation Burger, we're anxious to try EVOS food and compare the two restaurants. Have you been to either one?

(Note: It's not McDonald's. You won't be paying Mickey D's prices.)

Color Me Mine - The Art Of Having Fun


We attempted to use our $60 Groupon for Color Me Mine, for "ceramics and sitting fees" for four people that day, but lo and behold, it doesn't actually cover all the costs, only some of the costs, and there is pretty much nothing ceramical that would have cost little enough so as not to have required me to fork out any additional money. Can you say, disappointment? We were all bummed. 

Except Jack. As Jack says, "I hate Art!"

So we'll go back sometime between payday and May 1st, when the Groupon expires... but I was pretty upset that we couldn't get our Arts and Crafts on that day. Stay tuned to see what ceramics everyone ends up picking out!


I had a mystery shop at a semi-local movie theater to do that night, so in honor of Earth Day yet again, we opted to go as a family to see Disneynature's Monkey Kingdom. I cannot say for sure whether I've seen any other Disneynature films before this, but maybe Oceans...? In any event, I absolutely loved Monkey Kingdom. It was fascinating to me as a Biologist, but heart-tugging to me as a mother. Definitely a show worth watching.

(And, I thought Tina Fey did an excellent job narrating it. What is she, some kind of professional?!)

Image result for two thumbs up


Two thumbs up, all the way around!

P.S. I adore that Disneynature films donates money to the programs and communities shown in the feature, in honor of each moviegoer who sees it opening week. Yay for Team Odette and the monkeys! Have you seen it yet?


After watching the Toque Macaques' antics for the last hour and a half, my monkeys were all amped up and silly-goosing around when let loose outside the theater. Good reminder how influential screen time can be, yo.

Welp, that's it for me this week. Thanks for stopping by!


Sundays In My City: Chihuly At Fairchild, A Garden Of Glass

Unknown Mami

Link up with Unknown Mami HERE if you want to play along, and "share your city/town/suburb/you name it! Think of this as a photography carnival or photography meme (with or without words) that not only lets you share your part of the world, but lets you visit other parts of the world virtually. If you link up, please link back or post the Sundays In My City button either in your post or sidebar to let people know that other bloggers are sharing their communities too."


On Sunday night, from 6-9 PM, we went to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to visit the Dale Chihuly blown glass art exhibit. Disclosure: We were given complimentary passes to the Garden in exchange for this blog post. As always, all opinions on this post are 100% my own.


This was the first exhibit we encountered. That's all glass, floating in the water! How cool, no? You can read all about artist Chihuly here.


The sights and scenery were breathtakingly beautiful throughout the garden.


This exhibit brought new meaning to the term "party boat" for me.


We craned our necks to look at this bird. Heh. See what I did there?




I really thought the White Belugas looked more like the crane than the whale, but what do I know? They were still Teh Awesome.


I hadn't realized the scientific name of Coffee before, but it makes sense in both generic and specific form. To me, anyway, and I drink a lot of the stuff.


♫ "Walking along. Singing a song. At the bottom of a beautiful, blimey, shimmery, shiny, sea..." ♫






Chloë thought the central blue starry thingy was more like a porcupine, but I was team sea urchin all the way. What do you think?



Please, no jokes about blue balls. I wouldn't dream of making one myself, either.





My girls, especially, seem to have this odd fascination with lily pads. I don't know what it is, but personally, I think they're pretty cool, too.


Electric blue




To me, these flowers in Spanish moss look like baby birds in a nest. Do you see it?


Chloë had to visit the restroom, and we were next to the garden café at the time. I got in line after seeing they had handcrafted tropical fruit sodas. I saw myriad flavors and guessed that the children would probably want to share the mango flavor, since they all positively adore all things mango. I guessed correctly, they affirmed when returning from the bathroom. As for me, I can't stand mangoes or anything flavored thusly. Just not my thing...


I find that plenty of vignettes, such as this one, found in the garden were objets d'art in and of themselves.


The koi pond was a beautiful location for this installation.


I think the blue koi pond, combined with this Chihuly piece, was my favorite, favorite part of the whole showing.



I hope I get an invite!


(Psst: probably my least favorite of the Chihuly pieces. Hey. Everybody's got to have one.)



"Mmm. Chocolate." (...said like Homer Simpson and his donuts.)


That's just bananas!


The edible garden was quite cool. No, we didn't actually get to partake of any fruits.


Got any colada for that piña?



Aguacate! YUM.


The honeybees, they matter. Keep 'em around, you guys.


I swear my grandma had this much aloe on her window ledge in her New Jersey apartment. No lie. I remember, like, every summer, at least one of us (my sister or I) would get a bad sunburn at the Leonia municipal pool, and we would break off a piece of aloe to rub on the burn.


This reminds me: I miss our compost bin. It was usefully huge (for our sizable family) and hugely useful. We left it behind at the house in Virginia Beach. Wah.



Speaking of mangoes...!



I love these camo pants on Sophie. Just sayin'.


There are so many different species of palm trees, I swear! I should probably go look up how many. Hang on a sec...

☼ Intermission ☼

I'm back. Holy crap, according to this Palm Wiki, there are about 2600 different species. Whoa!


Just a spider doing important spider things...



That guy in the hat, admiring the Icicle Tower, was wearing a utilitarian kilt. The kids wanted to ask him about it, but they dared not, so I had to suck it up and ask for them. He got it in Washington State, it's a Utilikilt, and he's not entirely Scottish. He was, however, quite terse, and so that's all I learned. His wife was far more friendly, and she was wearing a pretty butterfly skirt.



I like the name "Buccaneer Palm" better, personally.


"Here, lee-zard, lee-zard!" We saw a rather lot of rather large lizards, including one iguana, at the garden last night.


*ahem* Phallic! *ahem*


That one on the bottom reminded Rob of Stevie Wonder in his beaded-hair days, but I was immediately thinking of Bob Marley, myself.


Love this pic of Sophie carrying her OLDER brother Jack on her back! Love it, love it, love it!


A statue of the great Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, speaker for the Everglades, holding Sophia's hand. Well, maybe vice-versa, but you know what I mean.



Oh say, can you see?


This raccoon was just ambling along, nose to the ground, with nary a care in the world that we were standing there watching him, exclaiming, taking pictures, and otherwise carrying on about his nonchalance.



The Bird of Paradise, one of few tropical plants I can properly identify. Gee, I wonder why?


Sophie tried to get in the fountain, as she is always attempting to do. She has, at times, succeeded. That's life with Sophia!





Team Odette, just being silly, pretending to land tush-first on a giant cactus



A lady, speaking to me mostly in Spanish, asked for "the one that looks like a Christmas tree." I don't know who told her that, but apparently someone did, about this one. I don't see it at all?


I love you THIIIIISSSSSS much!


Jack was pretending to be a statue on a bench, like the one of Marjorie S. Douglas, but to me he looks more like a zombie. Silly.







I joked that this large ball cactus was almost as big as Chloë's enormous head. She indignantly exclaimed, "Hey! No, it's not!" Ha. Hahaha.



"The Trash Heap has spoken!" Who remembers Fraggle Rock?

Gotta watch this, whether you do or whether you don't:


Right? D'ya see it??!



The "Apple Blossom" Amaryllis is a monocotyledon. I prefer monocots to dicots. I said so aloud. This brought on an instant Science lesson about the differences in leaf striation between the two, when other people started gathering around to listen, and I got embarrassed and started walking away. Which reminds me, we really need to do a big ol' Plants Unit soon. I've sort of been avoiding it like the plague.


This piece reminds me of a bonfire explosion. Or something. I'm not sure. But I like it.


Back to the back!



"Talent is a flame. Genius is a fire." - Bernard Williams


We interrupted an engagement party, at which all the guests wore white. It looked soooo lovely, and what a beautiful setting for the fête! I had to know what was in all the goody bags everyone had, so I stopped a woman on the way out. She hadn't even looked in hers yet, so she didn't know! Can you even?! I made her look. She giggled and went right ahead and looked. I know there was a book about Chihuly and some chocolates, but I forget what else. Either way, it was cool to be semi- a part of things. ;)


Chloë, ever the dramatic child...!


We didn't, but we did visit the gift shop. It was quite the coolness. I didn't get pictures, but they had blown glass cnidaria ("jellyfish") inside more glass of another color. I wanted one. I dared not ask how much.


We loved this scene spread before us near the entrance/exit, so of course we had to take the photographic opportunity. I tried to get the kids to sing the "Farewell" song from The Sound of Music, but since they've never even SEEN it, they didn't know the song. Yes. I have failed them that much, apparently, since it's among my five top favorite films. Sadness.

In case you don't know that heck about which I am speaking:


On that note, adieu! And merci for stopping by.

Thank you, again, to Director of the Garden, Dr. Carl E. Lewis, and to Brooke LeMaire and the Marketing team at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for sending us the free passes to visit the garden. We had a wonderful time seeing the Chihuly exhibition and will definitely be back! As always, all opinions are completely mine in this post.


Wordless Wednesday: Kiwi Crate Fun

Link up here if you're (any degree of) Wordless today!


My kids LOVE Kiwi Crate! You can try it here and also take 30% off your first box with the code DRSEUSS. Sophia, here, aged almost 10, received her first box in Kiwi Crate's Doodle Box subscription. She LOVED it. At first, because this is for the older kids (aged 9-16+), it was a bit more challenging than the Crates she had had in the past, and she expressed some frustration. But, believing that this was good for her, I left her alone. She created what she wanted to out of the Crate and then used the paints to decorate her face a number of different ways. She's a completely creative kid, and this Crate really sparked her imagination!
Jack (nearly 12), on the other hand, is my mechanic. Thus, he received his first box in Kiwi Crate's Tinker Crate subscription (ages 8-14+). Again, like Sophie, he was more challenged with this kit, but again, I left him alone. And what a transformation! He put together the kits himself and was beaming with pride at what he had created. I was thrilled, since he is a difficult child to make happy.
Anyway, though not exactly Wordless, I thought I'd share the only two snaps of their processes I was able to get Saturday night. They Doodle'd and Tinker'd too quickly! ;)
Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday Stealing: The "Are You?" Meme

Link up here if you're joining us this weekend!

The Are You Meme 

Stolen from: From My Random Randomness 

1) Are you psychic in any way?

I don't know what I believe about that sort of thing, but I will say this: I get deja vu a LOT. I dream inane, mundane conversations and things that end up really occurring the next day or soon thereafter, all the time. It's so odd.

2) Are you a good dancer?

I dance sillishly to be funny now, but I was a dancer in my kidhood, and I was apparently pretty good... That was ages ago.

3) Are you a good singer?

I am a good back-up, choir-type singer. Lead singer material, I am not, though I have always wanted to be. I had strep several times in sixth grade, and it ruined my vocal chords for good.

4) Are you a good cook?

People seem to like what I make, usually. That's good enough for me.

My brother-in-law is a chef at his own restaurant, Sycamore, in Columbia, MO. You should go; the food is excellent.

5) Are you a good artist?

Not in the fine art sense of the word, but I'm pretty good with artsy-craftsy stuff. I do believe, however, I could be a decent artist with some training.

6) Are you a good listener?


No, it's something I continually need to remind myself to do. I'm a good interrupter, a good chatterer, but listening is hard for me. #TheStruggleIsReal

7) Are you a good public speaker?

Uh, no, not at all. I do not like attention focused on me, whether it's positive or negative attention, and I have panic attacks. Crying, shaking, the whole nine. Not a good scene.

8) Are you a good babysitter?

I love babies! BAAAAABIEEEEEES!!! (I think so?)

9) Are you a good mechanic?

Not in any sense of the word!

10) Are you a good diplomat?

I try very hard to be diplomatic, fair, and tactful. Sometimes I fail, but it's important to me.

11) Are you a good employee?

I love Dilbert! ;)

I am a very good employee. My one failure is timing. I hate being late, but sometimes I am.

12) Are you a good dresser?

It's not something I really care about, so probably not.

13) Are you a good swimmer?

I'm decent, but not great. Grandma made sure that I could tread water indefinitely when I was four or five years old, though! My sister, Stacey, and I were always in the community pool when we visited her and Grandpa, and it was important to her that we could swim and tread water so we could be in the pool by ourselves if she wasn't feeling it. She watched like a hawk, though!

14) Are you a good skier?

I've never gone downhill skiing. I used to like cross-country in P.E. back in high school. We certainly had enough snow and hills in Central New York, but I didn't go out for downhill ski club. Too afraid, I think I was... 

15) Are you a good gift giver?

Yes, I am! But I do appreciate appreciation in return. I recently gave a gift, and the recipient said, "Why did I get this? I wanted that!" Really? I was disgusted. Thankfully, it wasn't my own child who said that.

16) Are you a good musician?

Not really. I try, but I am pretty horrible at sightreading music. It just doesn't come naturally to me. I envy my good friend Shana's skillz, because she is a natural.

17) Are you a good comedian?

I've been told I'm funny and should do stand-up, but alas, that is like comic public speaking and... NO. Never gonna happen without drastically altering my state of consciousness.

18) Are you a good cleaner?

I am an awesome cleaner. I don't half-ass it, I clean until it's clean. However, I have 3 slobby kids (and a slobby husband), and we homeschool (and he's retired), and I do not like to waste my effort! So please don't pop in unannounced! ;)

19) Are you a good actor?

I recognize good and bad acting when I see it, and I recognize in myself that I would probably not produce the good kind.

20) Are you a good writer?

I like to think that I am, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, isn't it? 

I have a book or nine in me. I just can't seem to draw them out. I think I'm afraid of success more than I am of faillure. Time will tell.

Well, howdy doody, I'm at the end!



Sunday Stealing: Let's Talk Travel


Link up here if you're playing along today!

Ok let’s talk travel, do you like to travel? 

I live to travel. It's my mission in life to see everything I can see before I leave.

Where have you been? 

I can't say I've been to all those places, but I've been around the Caribbean a bunch, and we went on our European cruise in 2008. That was amazing. I lived in Guam and wanted to go to Australia and all around Asia, but alas, we didn't get to stay very long. I've been to Hawai'i, but unless the inside of the Honolulu airport is representative of the whole, then I don't count that. ;)

Next place you want to go? 

In mid-November, we'll be here (assuming I get all our passport stuff in order before then, d'oh!) at the Azul Fives resort on the Mexican Riviera. I'm super stoked!

What is something you MUST take with you when you travel? 

I have GOT to bring my phone with me, everywhere, every time. I can not stand to be that disconnected, but more importantly, I need to be able to be reached if something happens with our kids. This may be the first trip since Europe when we don't bring the laptop with us, though!

How do you like to travel? (mode of transportation)

I don't care how I get there, as long as I go...

With someone, or alone? 

I've actually never traveled by myself, and that is one thing that is not on my bucket list (I have a long list). I prefer companionship, so I can immediately share my experiences with someone and then remember them together down the road.

Do you dance in your car when there are other people with you? 

Of course I do! I have specific car-dancing moves for specific songs, too. Hubs laughs at me... but I think he enjoys my silliness. ;)

If you're quiet what does it mean? 

I'm never quiet when I'm comfortable. So if I'm quiet, it means I'm not.

Favorite scent?

My favorite scents are fruity, especially citrus, but when I smell the sea, it means I am HOME.

Least favorite scents: florals and that God-awful ubiquitous vanilla aroma. *gag*

Favorite store? 

I love any artsy-craftsy store, but Pearl in South Miami is the Bomb dot com! When I took my very last undergrad class at U. Miami, it was Design and Drawing, and I went to Pearl to get my supplies. That was in 1997, and I still get excited when I drive by that store, all these years later.

Say you wanted coffee.. what kind is your favorite?  

Lately, I've been getting the Venti Java Chip Frappuccino Light at Starbucks... and drinking about a third before I pass the rest to Rob or the kidoodles. I can never finish it and always wonder why I don't just get the Tall.

Favorite kind of pizza? 

My favorite pizza was this two-tone cherry tomato and goat cheese rustic pizza I made several months ago, using Martha Stewart magazine's dough recipe. It's a killer recipe, fo'shizzle. However, when I go out for it, I love a good margherita pizza.

I'm a New Yorker, though, so of course the best pizza in the land comes from there and must be folded in half!

Do you get embarrassed easily? 

I blush easily and can't stand being the center of attention - even positive attention makes me nervous. I hate that about me.

Do you mind people asking you personal questions? 

Oh, come now. I am the Queen of TMI. I just don't want to be on center stage when I over-divulge!

You have a tank of gas, $50, and the day off… what do you do? 

I'd probably head for the Florida Keys. I can be in Key Largo in 20 minutes. What do you want to do?

Favorite tv show?


Well, we haven't had TV service in at least 10 years, but if we did it will still be Big Bang Theory. I miss TV!

Song you turn the volume up all the way to listen to? 

"Kiss" by Prince, and yes I sing and dance to it, too! ;)

Something you keep in your car? 

I try to keep Miranda (our new-to-us 2012 Kia Sedona) an oasis of clean, since our house is decidedly not, so not much. Sophia, my 9yo, keeps her baseball stuff in the back, and I would be lost if I didn't keep my car charger in there. Literally. I must have my GPS!

 Highlight of your day? 

When Hubs worked, I would say it was when he came home. Since he's now a disabled, retired vet, he's always home now. But when he laughs... it makes me smile. Best thing in the world.

 Something you do everyday that you wish you didn’t have to do? 

Since I proclaimed myself the Queen of TMI, I guess it's now time to live up to it: I have a crazy GI tract and have been living in the bathroom especially since I got my gastric bypass surgery nearly six years ago. And our toilet... well, you have to flush it like 20 times to get stuff to go down. I spend a lot of time there, you know what I'm sayin'? (I wish diarrhea upon the idiot who invented low-flow plumbing facilities. GAH!)

 Do you mind if people just show up at your house unannounced? 

When I was in college, and my dorm room was always clean, I loved that. Now that I live with all these people - and animals - who apparently are untrainable in the realm of cleaning up their own crap... I hate it. Please call first. No, text. I don't like to answer my phone, either. :P

What do you do when you disagree with someone? 

I'm always right. The End. (You know that saying, "Would you rather be right or be happy?"? I have to say that to myself a lot... 'cause of course I'd rather be happy!)

Do you enjoy rain? 

I love the rain. I do. Because without it, there would be no rainbows. (It goes without saying that I love the sun shining, too, right?)

Who’s your favorite person in the whole world… besides me?


I love my hubs more than anyone on the planet. He is everything that matters to me, or he helped me create it. Even though he's dain-bramaged now, and different, and stuff... without him, I would be nothing and no one. He's my gift, and I know I got the better end of the deal in this relationship. I'm keeping him forever. Love you, Babe!

Thanks for stopping by!




Sweet Pea Academy: Art, Week 1 - Kandinksy & Indiana

080714 Sophia drawing

This isn't an official "art project" of Sophia's, but she drew it on her own, copying a book cover of a much smaller size. I think it demonstrates what a great little skill she's developing, here, at age 9.

I've been following the Art Projects For Kids site and blog for a number of years now, and in addition to the Native American arts and crafts we're going to be doing during this 2014-2015 school year, I want to spend each Friday doing at least one project from Kathy Barbro's site.

We started our school year this past Tuesday, after a false start on Monday, so yesterday we got out our new Art notebooks and supplies and worked on a project inspired by this, Robert Indiana's "LOVE":

Robert Indiana - Love (April 2010 Mix Cover)

Sophia's work was largely imitative:

082214 Sophia, Artist Robert Indiana,

while I let the kids pick whatever four-letter word (!!) they wanted. Jack's turned out like this:

082214 Jack, Artist Robert Indiana

and Chloë, not surprisingly, chose to do this:

082214 Chloë, Artist Robert Indiana.

After the Littles went to bed, Chloë still wanted to do another art project based on the APFK blog, so I had her do one based off this, Wassily Kandinky's "Farbstudie Quadrate":

Farbstudie Quadrate, c.1913 Poster

She took it in a whole different direction, which I love, and this was her finished result:

082314 Chloë, Artist Kandinksy

I just love it! What do you think?

Maybe today, when the bitties wake up, I'll have them do their own interpretation of Kandinsky's circles.

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 9: I Got You, Babe

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

Saturday 9: I Got You, Babe
(recommended by Thank You Great Spirit)

If you're not familiar with today's song, you can hear it here.

1) Popular music has produced almost countless groups, but not that many duos. Besides Sonny & Cher, can you name another?

I'm loving The Madden Brothers' song, "We Are Done" right now!

2)  Hearing this recording from his clock radio is how Bill Murray woke up every morning in Groundhog Day. What woke you up this morning

Honestly? Nothing. I didn't wake up until about 2:30 in the afternoon, but in my defense, it's because I really screwed up my meds this week and I get "stuck" asleep and have trouble waking when that happens. I should be back on track now, though. And we still got in a full week of school!

3) When she was growing up, Cher practiced her autograph for when she became a star. Is your signature legible? Or is it more of a scrawl?

It's more of a scrawl now, though it used to be legible. I recently changed it, without having any explanation.

4) In addition to showbiz, Sonny & Cher had many careers: Sonny was a restauranteur and politician, Cher is an interior designer. Would you like to try your hand at any of those professions?

I'd love to be an interior designer! I've actually thought about going into it.

5) In 1965, when this song topped the charts, Sonny and Cher were as famous for their wardrobe as for their music. Sonny was fond of tall, heavy-heeled boots while Cher often paired granny dresses with bare feet. What's on your feet right now?

Call me Cher; as usual, I've got bare feet, too. With blue polish on my toenails.

6) By 1968, their career crashed. Cher's early attempts as a movie actress failed, their records stopped selling and the IRS came after them for back taxes. Have you ever been audited?

Knock wood: no.

7) In 1971 they were on top again with their TV show. But their marriage was coming apart. Sonny said, "For the last 5 years I worried about our career, not about us." Have you ever been guilty of putting career before relationship? 

Oh yes, but truthfully, that relationship was doomed from the start.

8) By 1972 they were living separate lives - in the same house. For the sake of The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, they pretended to be happily married for another year and a half. Tell us about a time when you pretended to be happy, but weren't.
Are you kidding? I'm a pro at this. Most of us with crippling depression are pretty good at putting on that mask for society's sake.

9) While their separation and divorce were bitter, they resumed their friendship when Cher showed up at the opening of his restaurant in 1976. Have you ever made the first move in repairing a relationship?
I actually have, recently. And I'm glad I did, because I adore the person and had a wonderful time catching up. 
Thanks for stopping by! Here, enjoy some artwork of Sophia's from this week, in the style of artist Robert Indiana:

Random Tuesday: Baseball, #Jamberry Nails, And Pancakes?!


This may be only the second or third time I've participated in Random Tuesday with Stacey Uncorked, but I'm feeling it today, so here I am! Link up if you're completely random on a Tuesday, yes?

Shall we?

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Last week, Sophia and I spent a good 3½ hours at the pediatrician's office to get her bloodwork done. She's completely traumatized by doctors and dentists and especially their needles, so she spent that whole time screaming and carrying on about getting the blood drawn. It was exhausting - for her, for me, for the poor bewildered doctor, for the staff, and maybe even for the next office over, some of the staff of which had to come in and help hold her down to end the whole episode.

I had promised Sophie pancakes at IHOP, having gotten a certificate for a free stack in my email inbox a few days prior, but by the time we got home from the doc's office, she just wanted to go to sleep. I couldn't blame her; so did I! And that we did.

By the time we were both ready to go to IHOP for a short stack of flapjacks, it was about three o'clock in the morning. But we went anyway, and as you can see, the trauma had subsided and she was all about getting her stawberry hotcakes on. 

I don't quite have the heart to tell her she needs more bloodwork and some immunizations in the very near future... :\

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Crafting 2

I've been doing a buttload of planning for this upcoming homeschool year, 2014-2015, and the kids have been kicking around the house kinda bored. I had stocked up on craft supplies for Sophie's birthday party, but we never held it, to her utmost disappointment.

I had also had a ton, give or take a few hundred pounds, of both cardboard and styrofoam egg cartons saved up for a crafty occasion. Actually, I was hoping to Freecycle them to someone who needed them for chickens or what-have-you, but such a person never materialized. Enter Pinterest! I found oodles of egg carton crafts on that wondrous site, and behold, two or three days of crafting were born.

Crafting 1

All three kiddos started out with the supplies, which included pompoms, feathers, glue, patterned crafting tape, paint, and so much more aside from the egg cartons. Jack, my least crafty kid, wanted to join... but he finished with slap-dashery that was hard for me to encourage. And so, in a rare (I hope?) moment of shoddy, discouraging parenting, I asked him why he bothered. Admittedly, that was pretty shitty of me, and we both agreed to have a time-out from each other for the remainder of that afternoon. #MomFail

Chloë is pretty crafty, but I think it's Sophia who is the most talented in this arena. Not that Chloë isn't artistic, because she is; however, she's a complete perfectionist like her mother, and therefore she finds it harder to break loose and just have fun with the process with no perfect goal in mind. The above pompom family was Sophia's creation, with no inspiration form Pinterest or anything else but her own imagination.

I could wrap up this segment of post in numerous ways, but suffice it to say that I learned something about the kids and their different abilities and learning styles, yes, but more about me and how I parent differently to them. Fortunately, I think I grew from the experience!

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Somehow, I managed to lose my entire post and get it back again without having saved it myself. Whew! I tend to give up when that happens. Yay for Autosave features!

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Another difference between Jack and his sisters is that he does not generally enjoy being photographed, whereas the girls love having a camera lens aimed at them. So when I changed my Facebook profile picture to this, my dad started condemning the lack of Jack, talkin' 'bout how he (my dad) applauds Jack for being a different kid, etc, blah blah, yakkety yak, and I shouldn't exclude him.


It touched a nerve, as parents and their comments are wont to do. I bend over backward - occasionally literally, even! - to make sure my kids feel recognized for their individuality and their strengths. Rob and I both have abysmal self-esteem, and so it is high on my list of priorities to develop a healthy sense of self in all of my children. Furthermore, I try to spend time with each of them, alone, every single day, and honestly, I do the best I can do be the best mom I can be for them!

I think we're doing all right. So my message for all the grandparents in the world, if you happen to come across this is: Unless you have cause for grave concern, step aside and let your kids do their job with their kids. You raised yours, and now it's our turn to raise ours. Not that input isn't necessary or even desired, but come on. Wait until we ask, if you can, and in the meantime, be as positive and supportive as you can manage.

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Baseball 1

On Saturday, Chloë and I took Sophia over to baseball tryouts at a park in Miami. How cute is she here?! I love this picture of her.

She was "trying out" (which really meant having her skills assessed for placement on the best team for her) at the oldest age group, 9-10 years, in the league we're joining, so really she ended up being one of the very few with no experience playing baseball.

I don't think she cared. She's got confidence to spare, that one!

She was also the only girl we saw on the field, the only one not fully decked out in a uniform from season's path, and from what I could see, the only Southpaw. That didn't stop her! She went up there, swung her bat three times at the pitches, ran around the bases, and practiced catching and throwing with an assistant coach.

She thinks she did poorly because she didn't hit the ball, but that will improve. I think she did fine because she showed up and bravely tried something new!

Baseball 2

After Sophie's try-outs ended, the three of us ran across the park to the playground for some fun. Both of them made friends, as per usual, and they played until we ran out of water and heat exhaustion became a threat. I haven't heard back about the baseball team yet, but I'm sure there will be more on that in future posts. Watch this space!

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Jamberry 0

Apropos of not much, I painted a French manicure on my nails the other day. I'm sharing partly because I just like the picture, and partly as an intro to the current state of my nails (I know you're waiting with baited breath to find out).

Jamberry 1

My friend Tiffany sent me this awesome package on Saturday, so that I could experience the Jamberry phenomenon! As a JAFRA Consultant, I haven't had the pleasure of being introduced to Jamberry nail wraps until now. I couldn't wait to get started... but I did until yesterday, because I didn't open the mail until late Sunday night and discovered the treats contained therein!

Jamberry 2

How cute is this manicure I did all by little ol' self, with Berries and Gingham? I love it!

Tiffany sent me more "grown-up" adult-sized nail wraps, with these in mind for Sophie and Chlo, but I kinda stole them because I thought my nail beds were too tiny. Luckily, there are still plenty left for the girls, because each sheet comes with enough for several manicures. We'll have to do theirs tomorrow!

A few observations I've made so far about my Jamberry mani:

☼ There's just a very slight learning curve! I did my left hand first, starting with the thumb, and I immediately realized upon application that I could have gone with the larger size and dealt with minimal trimming of the wrap. I did my index finger second, and I accidentally wrinkled the wrap. I'm going to try to use my hair dryer, which is used to soften the wraps to make them easy to manipulate, to smooth that down. ☼

☼ There are SO many designs in the catalog, even for little girls' hands, that I know I'll be getting more in the future. Plenty of mature, adult designs (please, get your minds out of the gutter!), along with lots of whimsical themes. I love them all, and I can't wait until the Collegiate set includes one for my UM 'Canes! ☼

☼ For my oddly-shaped upside-down triangular nail shapes, I realized I could either go to the larger, regular size and trim the decals down easily, or paint my nails to match the wraps before applying them, so the gap's not so obvious. Tiffany assured me the wraps go on just as well over painted nails as bare ones. I'll be trying both methods soon, and you know I'll be reporting on that! ☼

Have you tried Jamberry nails yet? I'd love it if you would check out Tiffany's site and tell me what your favorite design is. Stay tuned for a special offer in the near future!

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Finally, we had a bunch of burnt-out light bulbs in the house, so we ran to Lowe's to get a bunch of new ones. What did we spot but this huge Halloween décor display?! Seriously, mid-August is way too soon for that. Do you agree?

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 9: Blues In the Night


Link up here if you're playing along today!

Saturday 9: Blues in the Night (1952)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) Was last night a good night for you? Or were you singing the blues?

Last night was pretty good. I finally saw the neurosurgeon, who said the lesion in my brain was probably a birth defect, a cyst that developed while I was a fetus, and nothing to worry about. I have to get it re-checked with another MRI in six months, but he didn't expect any changes. PHEW! I was so happy and relieved to hear that, and it set the tone for the rest of the day.

2) In this song, Rosemary Clooney sings about hearing "big talk" she didn't quite believe. What's the last fib, tall tale or out-and-out lie you heard?

It was probably one I told, and that's all I can or will say about that! ;)

3) Rosemary Clooney has a well-known nephew -- George, the Oscar winner and frequent People magazine cover story. Do you have any nieces or nephews?

I have several. I have two nieces from my sister, and one of each from both Hubs' brother and half-sister. They're all wonderful and beautiful kiddos!

4) Ms. Clooney married the same man twice. They married, had five children and divorced. Then three years later, they tried again ... and divorced again. Have you ever been tempted to give it another try with one of your former loves?

Sure I have. My high school boyfriend, Benji, and I tried again while I was in college. It wasn't meant to be; we're just two very different people. We are still friends, though.

5) Singers as diverse as Linda Ronstadt, Bette Midler and Amy Winehouse have said they admired and were influenced by Rosemary Clooney. If you could meet any artist (singer, writer, actor, director, painter, musician ...), who would it be?

I'm gonna list one for each of those listed categories:

Singer - Right now, I'm crushing on Ed Sheeran, not necessarily (just?) for looks but for his artistic bent.

Writer - Not only because of proximity to his beloved Key West, I'd go with Ernest Hemingway.

Actor - I have a thing for Matt Damon, so he'd be my choice. He lives near here, too, but I shan't stalk him, don't worry! ;)

Director - I'd love to pick the brain of Sofia Coppola.

Painter - It would be great to get to really know, as if anyone could do that, the great Vincent van Gogh, because we are similar in personality. I won't cut off my own ear anytime soon, but we have the same Personality Type. I'm self-sabotaging and am doing my damnedest not to die the same way he did.

Musician - Eric Clapton, hands down, whom I've loved for a couple decades now.

I'll add Romero Britto, my favorite fine artist, who ALSO can be found 'round these parts. He's probably the one I stand the best chance of actually meeting one day, too! Wish me luck and stuff.

6) 1952, the year this record was a hit, is also the year the "Big Bang Theory" was introduced by physicists Ralph Alpher and George Gamow. That is too lofty a topic for this humble meme, so instead we'll just ask: Do you watch the TV show of the same name? 

Hahaha... I was all getting ready to discuss the theory, too. BAZINGA! The show is (was) my favorite and what I miss terribly about not having television service for the past four or five years. I'll have to catch up online one day, I suppose. Right now, though, I'm binge-watching Dexter, and I'm on Season 6. I really connect with Dexter and have my own dark passenger, but this one doesn't want to harm anyone but my own self. :\

7) Sam Winters just broke her right thumbnail. While she won't go so far as saying it has her singing the blues, she must admit it bugs her. What little annoyances are you dealing with today?

My chin is breaking out, and it's driving me crazy. Not just because I'm 37, but hello, I've always had great skin. I don't want to start dealing with that crap now, FPS.

8) The house next door to Sam's has a FOR SALE on the lawn. Are you contemplating a move?

We just moved a year ago, so no plans anytime soon for another move. Hubs and I still retain our pipe dream of living on a boat, though. He'll have to get much better healthwise, though, before that can happen... and so will our bank account! ;)

9) What's your search engine of choice: Google, Bing, Yahoo or Ask? 

None of the above. I always use Swagbucks, so that I can get money back from my searches. I get about $10 in Amazon.com gift cards each month, which helps!

Thanks for stopping by!


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 Geocaching.com 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? 

Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: An August August #WW #Wordless

Link up here if you're wordless - or not, like me - today!

I've largely been absent this month, as I've said, so I haven't posted a lot of pictures. Here are a few, in random order, from our August:

002 (2)

We went to a big back-to-school bash at our local YMCA, where the girls received painted-on 'tattoos.'

003 (2)

Chloë got a sparkly blue dolphin.

004 (2)

Sophie was chomping at the bit to get her painting.


She loved her four-leaf clover!


Jack and Muffin cuddling together on the couch - they are best buds.


The other night, Chloë baked a gorgeous banana bread all by herself; all I did was call out the ingredients and measurements to her!


We had a sweet treat the other day; guess what Sophia thinks of doughnuts?


We went to a fun party at a local church and met some great new people. The kids were given balloon animals. Here's Sophia telling what she wanted.

Church Show

There were kids doing bike and skateboard tricks at the church party. Some were really good!


The Manx kittens we rescued in April have grown like weeds! They are still entirely kittenish, though - they get into more trouble than Sophia, if you can believe it!

Planes Movie

I got free tickets to any Disney movie, and Jack is super-fond of planes, so of course I had to take him to see the movie Planes in 3D! He loved it. (As for me? Meh.)

Pepper Vet

Pepper got locked up! He's been spraying, so we're trying to finance a neutering for him, but in the meantime he's living in the master bathroom. He took a trip to the vet recently for a check-up and got a clean bill of health. The vet agreed he's likely a Maine Coon. Our sweet boy! ♥


Sophie and I took a walk to a nearby store, and she spotted this really cool fungus near the sidewalk. I don't know what it was, but it sure looked funky!


There are all kinds of creatures living in our neighborhood, including these HUGE slugs we're always finding on our patio. I nearly stepped on this one - ick!

Kitty Kindle

Lucky has been busy doing school on the Kindle with the kids! ;)


Speaking of which, it's not unusual to find Sophia doing her schoolwork in odd positions! She's such a goose.


The kids are so conscientious about picking up litter when we go for walks. They each had armfuls to deposit in the garbage on another recent walk! I'm so proud of that.


We broke out our school's musical instruments for a jam session recently. The girls played multiple instruments at a time. Can you say 'cacophony'??


Everyone's so excited to start their Spanish education with Rosetta Stone! Woohoo! I bought the Latin American version because, duh, we live in Miami!

UM Alumni

We went to the University of Miami (my alma mater) Alumni Reunion at a Miami bar. It was sort of... eh. This shot of my cocktail is the only one I took, if that says anything. (We only went for the free drinks and eats, I can't lie.)


Jack's been loving all the Planes tie-ins at Lowe's Build & Grow workshops lately!


I hit up some school supply sales for the kids, and they had such a blast discovering everything I'd bought. We are set for this school year!


My hair is growing, slowly but surely. I've decided, for the first time in my life, to grow out my bangs. They're right in my eyes currently; I need to get some clips and pin them back. That's not the budget right now, though, so it's really annoying!


My friend J is a car seat guru, so I had her recommend a new one to me for Sophia, who used and abused the hell out of her last one! She suggested one that sells for less than $13 at Walmart, which of course made me SO happy. Soap loves the design!

Flower pot

I had Sophie do an arts-and-crafts project that Chloë later joined: they painted the inside of empty jars to make colorful flower pots. A fun activity!


After that, I gave them crepe paper and other materials to fashion some flowers for their new pots. It was pretty awesome, and I wish I'd taken some photos of those before the girls dispersed them throughout the house. I think they lasted in the actual pots for a total of an hour.

Welp, that's it from me for this morning. Hope you enjoyed!


Susie Homemaker Visits The Garden


Last time I published a real blahggy post here was in the middle of Rob's brain surgery saga - at the climax of this situation. He was in the University of Miami Hospital in uptown Miami (der), a 50-minute drive from home. On a good day. At 0400, with no traffic. At least I was getting good mpg when I went back and forth every day, sometimes twice. He hasn't had surgery yet - that'll be this Wednesday afternoon - so I'll be back with more updates on that soon.


Over the last weekend in June, whilst Rob was in the UM hospital and the kiddos were away at their new bff's house for a few days, I got busy at home. I hadn't been much more than a lump for the entire month prior, but when the going gets tough, the tough ... I don't know. I'm not really one of those people. But I got going. I did umpteen million loads of laundry, unpacked boxes (we're making progress finally, after a long and early stall), and decided to put the girls' IKEA dressers together after we visited that blockbuster Swedish store back in, oh, May. Or was it April? I can scarcely remember. Lucky, the kitten Rob rescued from under the dumpster, decided to help me.


It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears - and two hours - but I finally screwed the last screw and got those mothers assembled. This was pre-labeling; I wrote all the girls' clothing categories on the bins they'll go in and yes, I miscounted the number of green bins I needed. One more each. Whoops.


Here's Hunter, Lucky's littermate, being oh, so cute on my lap. They have grown so much and are in a terribly fun, playful stage right now.


On Sunday, while I was up at the hospital with Rob, the kids came back from their extended playdate. Our friends Erica and Kevin, and their daughter Kira, took excellent care of our babies, and they are still talking about what fun they had.


At home that night -and pretty much every night since - nobody could sleep, so we did a craft from Kiwi Crate. I had gotten a few months' subscription for Jack and Sophia TWO Christmases ago, but we never had the chance to do them. They did one once, when we first got them, and could not wait to dive back into the crates to see what further explorations waited within them.


We spread out all the materials for the crate. This one was all about plants and gardening. Sophia's being my Vanna White here, modeling the goods.


Jack and I teamed up to make window planters for squash and bean seeds. He really enjoyed this activity and asked a thousand and one questions as we went.


Meanwhile, the girls' half of the Crate was to decorate with clay a couple of cardboard pots, and then "plant" flowers and veggies in them. They decided this would be Daddy's homecoming gift the following day, when he was finally released from the hospital. So sweet.


Meanwhile, Jack's cat, Muffin, cozied up to some craft felt in a rare display of affection for anything - or anyone - other than her boy.


And I very messily decorated my nails in a patriotic display for the upcoming Independence Day. My hands have been so shaky lately, so it turned out like crap, but I still got compliments somehow.


On Wednesday the 3rd, Rob went in for an angiogram of his brain, to make sure where stuff was and see if everything was good to go for surgery this week. While we waited, I picked up a local parenting magazine and discovered a full calendar of free events - for every single day - in this area. Whoop, whoop! Just what I'd been looking for. We found out that just that very day, the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden nearby was having a free day. It normally would have cost us about $85 to get in as a family, so this was exciting. As soon as Rob got out of the hospital, we headed straight over. You guys - it was beautiful.


On our way over to a recommended exhibit, we passed this small waterfall. The garden was so lush and ... lush. That's the word. Exquisite. Breathtaking.


This was German bamboo and captured the girls' attention for several minutes. They loved that it was smooth and waxy on one surface - the side you can see - and soft and fuzzy on the other, not to mention the vivid colors.


You can't really tell from the picture, but this lizard that ran by us was SO huge, at first I thought it was a small iguana. It quickly ran to this dark spot on a nearby wall for camouflage, so I didn't get the greatest picture of it, but fo'realz, it was large.


Walking along, we passed laboratories where scientists were busily working. In these glass bottles, they were growing all manner of orchid varieties. Reminds me of the lab at Mote, only Red Tide grew there instead. Not exactly the same!


I caught Sophia as she was ducking behind this huge elephant ear leaf to scare me. Haha, kiddo, joke's on you!


Finally, we reached our destination: the exotic butterfly exhibit. This is what it looked like as soon as we stepped inside, like an overgrown jungle with winged creatures flitting this way and that. Only you can't see them, because most were too tiny, and the rest were too fast.


Once in a while, a few would stop and deign to let me take their picture.


Sophia tried like the dickens to get one to land on her finger, but she remained unsuccessful. Meanwhile, a girl nearby managed to get one to land, and she was center stage for a long moment. How beautiful.


The big, vibrant, indigo flutterbyes were too fast for me to photograph with my iPhone, so you'll have to settle for these guys.


There were chrysalis upon chrysalis behind the glass where, I'm sure, it was even more sweltering than it was in the main part of the exhibit. I was starting to get faint.


The next window had several butterflies already emerged - and more emerging as we watched. It was tres cool. After that, I was growing more faint, and I had my hand up to take another picture when Chloë whacked my arm and knocked the iPhone into a pond. It sank right to the bottom, and my heart with it! Oh noes! Rob jumped down to reach in, but he couldn't manage, so another fella did the job for him. I got my phone back, but it was so dead. (Thankfully, it came back to life later that evening - thank you, Otterbox!!)

And then I very nearly did pass out from overheating, so I had to get OUT of there, sit down, and put my head between my legs. Whew! That felt awful. Rob had to help ME back to the car, which was a little bit like the blind leading the blind. I was sad to leave so quickly, but it was much too freakin' hot for my thinker to stay.


That night, having recovered, I decided to put my homemaking skills back to use. Truth be told, I've been a bit manic since Rob went in the hospital, so I've been keeping busy in between the inevitable crash-and-burn marathon sleeping sessions. So anyway, I have been cooking. Everything. Literally. Everything.


That night, it was chicken burritos. I have stashed mix after mix, packet after packet, and they have just been multiplying like rabbits. So I decided to whittle down the herd and mixed up some fajita mix with the chicken tits I'd taken out the night before. So good, especially on the tomato tortillas - yum!


And then it was breakfast in the Crockpot. I diced potatoes,


and I threw them in the pot with some ham steak. No, no, Paula Deen.



So that was the mish-mash at night. I stayed up ALL night to make sure it turned out and didn't get ruined. I wanted Rob to have a good breakfast since he'd eaten so well in the hospital, y'know?


Eight hours later, this is what I found. It looked... okay in the pot. Actually kind of yummy, but since I don't eat piggies, I didn't try any.


It looked icky to me on the plate. But I woke Rob up to check his vitals eat breakfast, and he not only ate the whole plate, he asked for more! And ate another huge plateful. And then he went back to sleep. Apparently the girls liked the breakfast bake, too. Hm. Not bad. At the same time, I cooked chicken legs and potatoes in the Dutch oven. Manic, I'm telling you. (That was good, but the smell of the two things together made me wanna hurl. Seriously.)


The next morning, I took a selfie for my new profile pic. Look, my hair is growing! Slowly, but surely. Maybe I should rub the rest of the eyelash serum all over my head to make it grow??


Meanwhile, Rob's hair is growing like weeds. I hate him. Not really.


And little miss blondie let me braid her hair. She never lets me play with her hair.


Jack's been so excited to watch his window garden grow. He drowned the squash (bottom garden) but his beans are quite hardy. My squash is just starting to show!


After watching fireworks on the Fourth of July, Sophia caught a toad. She can catch anything, even when we tell her, "you'll never catch it! It's too fast!" It's like they jump right into her hands.


Chloë (whose face is boobooed because she and Sophie had an outdoor collision), try as she might, has trouble catching anything, so essentially Sophia catches them for her and then hands them over!


And then, while Chloë was holding the big toad, Sophia went and caught another, smaller one! Anything, she can catch!


Last night (Monday the 8th), we had a pineapple, so I tried hacking off the top to use our new coring tool on the rest. I could NOT hack it (sorry), so Rob had to step in. Here's me, playing the part of Carmen Miranda.


The tool worked eh, halfway decently, but we lost a lot of piña meat that way. I don't know about that thing, but at least I didn't pay anything for it!


We also had strawberries, so I just mixed them together and fed that to the kids after our Old El Paso-sponsored dinner. Sophia's favorite thing on the planet is a strawberry; she asks for them every single day of her life. No lie!


The kids devoured the fruit. They ate half that bowl!


I lightly sugared the remainder and decided to make fruit tartlets with them. I had made chocolate chip mini pies the other day, and my crust turned out awesome then, so I confidently made - I thought - the same crust. It was much too thick and doughy. Eh. I'll use my MIL's recipe next time. I hear it's the best!


(Proof of the chocolate chip mini pies. The parchment paper slips worked perfectly to lift them out without having to dump them over, but I forgot to do it with the fruit tarts. I'll not forget again!)


I whipped the cream myself for the mini pies, but it was gone by the time I made the fruit tarts. I'd made a bunch of jello for the kids to snack on, and they ate it down with the remainder of the whipped cream. Too bad for me, but good for my figure, because I love that stuff!


I also turned out two loaves of bread last night - one I made by hand, and one from the bread machine. The handmade bread is way better. Goes to show!


The tarts, doughy crust and all, turned out beautifully. Sophia has probably eaten three-quarters of them herself. Well, the inside. She's been leaving the crust for others. Humph. I won't botch that operation again!

(Yeah, I probably will.)


And finally, after all that, we did another Kiwi Crate craft at night. The kids are feigning their excitement, but it's true they really were about that delighted when I suggested it!


The first half of the crate had them making an ocean in which to go fishing! I love that the crates come with everything - except scissors and water - needed to do the activities. Brilliance. Chloë's playing Vanna this time.


The girls love to color and decorate and do all things crafty, while Jack doesn't, so they took about nine times longer to design their fish and other sea creatures than he did. He went back to his Kindle and waited.


They did a really good job on their "ocean." I was especially impressed with a sea turtle that Sophia made.



Finally, it was time to go fishing. They used Velcro tabs to catch the fish with the rods, and it worked well. Such fun!



Jack struggled a bit more than the girls with this, but eventually he got it. The Kiwi Crates are a bit young for the kids now, but it still helped with their manual dexterity. And the second half is always more educational than the crafty one.


This time, the kids had to make observations about various objects in salt vs. fresh water. Even Rob joined in with the discussion about that!


Jack would say, "This is boring," every time he guessed wrong, but then, "This is fun!" every time he guessed right. Typical!


And finally, some obligatory kitteny cuteness. Lucky and Hunter are so adorable, I can hardly stand it!

Whew! That was a long post. You deserve a medal if you read the whole thing!


Sundays In My City: Random Snaps From Last Week

Unknown Mami

It's been a few weeks since I've participated, but that's because we've been kind of lazy, and I've had camnesia. Sundays in my City are brought to you by Unknown Mami. Check out this link to see more photographs from around the globe.

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If you missed it, check out this post for more about our fun NERF/Cheetos Block Party yesterday - it was a blast!

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I have no idear why that picture is showing up so smallishly, but anyway, speaking of parties and free gifts, Smiley360 sent us this wicked cool craft kit full of BIC Mark-It markers, butterfly chimes to decorate, and glittery-doodads, ribbons and more to finish the job. (Hi, my name is Smellyann, and I am addicted to markers. You could say I was just a li'l excited!)

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The photos of Sophia decorating, and of all the kids with their finished products, have apparently disappeared into the ether. Bah! But here are Chloë and Jack, who griped at first about the craft being too "girly" and then jumped right in when he saw how much fun the girls were having. Hee. Typical Jack.


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You guys may have noticed we have a teensy obsession with Romero Britto's funky pop art, no? Welp, since he lives here in Miami, damn near everything is decorated with his style. How fun was it to find an ATM when we went shopping at Target recently?! (Answer: Very.)


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The Manx kittens Rob rescued from precarious positions recently have about doubled in size since we took them in to nurse them back to health. Stick a fork in them; they're done! We're ready to adopt them out, but so far no takers on CraigsList or Freecycle (ours allows it), which is fine. Time to bring out the big guns: We're going to have them neutered and then try again. We WILL NOT be keeping these puppies (as I always call them; wishful thinking, mayhaps?), so there is not one iota of an inkling of a chance they will grow up here. NO, no, no!

Rob is pretty adamant that they go together, so does anyone want two freakishly adorable kitties? They come with the bed they've commandeered, if that helps, along with any food we have for them. (Their taillessness dictates that they be fed soft food, 'cause dry food is too hard for them to poop out. They cry otherwise, and their poor little heinies get all sore and scabby. Do NOT try it. Oh. I'm probably not really selling them very well here, huh??)

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Now this is the TRUE "in my city" part: As I left the dermatologist's office on Wednesday, amidst his requests that I drive carefully, I realized that we'd had a downpour, to put it mildly. You can't really tell from this picture just how deep that water was; it was to the floor of my Honda Odyssey and therefore about midway up my calf.

I started just walking out to Penelope (the van), but when I got about ankle-deep, I decided I didn't care who was looking out the window and started jumping, leaping, and dancing my way to Penny. The rain continued, and I lifted up my arms and laughed my head off, absolutely refusing to run. What was the point? I was already soaked, might as well have some fun with it! (Needless to say, I left the AC off on the drive home. I was frrrrozen when I walked in the door and stripped down to nothin'!)

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My hands are so shaky lately, so you get blurry pix. Sorry. We went grocery shopping last week (I saved $215 if anyone but me cares; gotta love Publix!) and got stuff for S'mores. We brought them to the NERF/Cheetos Block Party Saturday, but the kids could NOT wait. We made some in the microwave - and would you believe, Jack had the nerve NOT to finish his?! Some Girl Scout he'd make!

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Checkiddout, I found the picture of Sophie coloring her butterfly chime... but why the heck are those photos so tiny?

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Oh, looky, I've been knitting for Vinnie again. It took me a while to start up again after the move, because the people who packed for us did a pretty sucky job. I found my straights in a box labeled "arrows," which is fantastic. Anyway, the sweater. I've had the wool forever and a day, obstensibly to knit socks for Robert, but I think that ship has sailed. So while the blanket I'm making him waits for the smaller needles to be rediscovered, I cast on for a sweater. It's handspun wool with no tag, so I had no clue how much yardage I had. I nearly ran out of the blue on the back, so I decided it had to be a colorblocked sweater. (Have I ever mentioned that I freaking hate the colorblock trend? I do.) Stephanie (Vinnie's mom) will have to tell me whether she wants the whole front red or to mix it up even more. (Steph: I also have green and black.)


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Lastly - and probably least, this time - I found out Best Buy was having a clearance sale today. 49¢ for school and office supplies and, like I mentioned with the markers, I adore school supplies. I mean, few things get me more pumped. It's sad but true. Since I had a $5 Best Buy Reward Zone sitting in my account for the longest time, I determined we needed to make a beeline for that odious store and spend it on the beloved supplies o' school. Welp, we price-checked lots of things, and these are the 11 things we got for a total of 41¢! I saved over $79, y'all! I know; cha-ching. (You can barely contain yourselves over there, amiright?)

'Kay. I'm done sharing pictures. What's up with you guys?


Sea World, Orlando, & Downtown Disney

Over the past two days (Monday and Tuesday), Team Odette traveled 4½ hours away to Orlando for a mini-vacation. Thanks to Anheuser-Busch for supporting our troops, because with their Here's to the Heroes 2013, Rob and three of his dependents could get in for free. We just had to buy a ticket for Jack. We also bought the eat-all-day deals for everyone but me, which is totally worth it, because you can literally go through the participating restaurants again and again and again and get way too much food for a normal person to consume. We are normally not wasteful people, so it was a little painful to throw away perfectly good food, but otherwise it was a really good value; do it!


To prepare for the trip, I packed tons of snacks (no-frosting strawberry Pop-Tarts, trail mix, a little chocolate, cereal, etc.) in snack-size Ziploc baggies for all three kids in their new bags (from Publix) with their names on them. I gave each child a clipboard filled with paper and enough writing and drawing implements, new sticker books, glitter and glue, and more to keep them busy. Finally, I ran to the Toys 'R Us outlet store at a mall about 5 minutes away and picked up these glow sticks, together with smelly-good bubbles and more cyalume light-up bracelets and necklaces, for use on Monday night after we left the park.


I let them open up their new goody bags on Sunday night before bed, giving them instructions on when and where each item was to be used. We had to leave at about 0400 to get to Sea World by the time it opened at 0900 Monday morning, or else I would have left them in their car seats and let them find them then. They were super-excited to find out what was in those bags!


We arrived at Sea World more than a half-hour early, thanks to only having to stop for potty breaks and drinks at the Florida Turnpike travel plazas once or twice. I'm definitely going to do this pre-planning packing for the kids' car trip needs when we road trip in the future. It worked out perfectly: there was no "I'm hungry," "Are we there yet?" or "I'm bored" whining whatsoever. Awesome!

One really nice thing about Anheuser-Busch parks - and Sea World was no different - was that, right after the park opened for business and while we were standing in line to redeem our vouchers for tickets, they stopped to play the National Anthem. Rob stood at attention respectfully, and as usual, tears welled up in his eyes. I love that my guy is such a true patriot. I really admire that. Sophia started talking about what a dumb song it was, but I hushed her up and explained to her what the song was and what it meant, and that shut her complaints up immediately. She stood quietly and respectfully throughout the song after that.


Entering the park was really easy, smooth and fast. The folks at Sea World have got it together. The first thing we found inside was a flock of flamingos, stinky and squawking like crazy. They have a distinctive smell, which isn't very pleasant, but they're absolutely beautiful. Sophia, our bird lover, was particularly captivated.


Near the flamingos, also-banded pelicans waited to be admired. Or as a Facebook friend called them, "the crows of Florida." Still, as aggressive and unpleasant as these fowl can be, I think they are pretty cool.


We moved along to the stingray tank (although there were other rays including this cownose), and of course my thoughts immediately went to the untimely death of Crocodile Hunger Steve Irwin, right? Apparently, though, the stingrays are de-barbed or something, to make them not dangerous to park guests. I don't know how I feel about that, but I guess liability would be a huge issue if a similar thing happened in the park.


There were oodles and oodles of penny press machines inside Sea World. They were everywhere! We spent about $25 on collecting these souvies everywhere we found them, which makes me cringe a little. However, they're really cool, a great thing to collect, and the kids have fun doing them. It's a take-away and a project in one experience, so I think it's worth it in the end. We have collections from here, now, along with Disney World and Epcot, and everywhere else we've been able to find them. I love 'em.


It took us less than two hours to fill our Sea World pressed penny book! The machines were so ubiquitous, it wasn't hard to do. We have about 10 more that don't fit in the book, plus there are another 10 or 12 on the back of this book, so we have plenty. We probably even missed a bunch of machines, since we didn't do everything there was to do in the park. It'll give us something to do on a future visit to Sea World, y'know? 


After we pressed our first set of pennies, the first thing we found was the dolphin feeding tank. It cost $7 per kid and was on Chloë's bucket list, so Rob and I talked it over and decided to do it. $21 for an experience like that was pretty cheap compared to other behind-the-scenes adventures Sea World offered, and we had zero fundage for souvenirs other than the requisite pennies and my shot glass collection (I got a shark one, natch), so this was the thing to do. I'd rather give the kids an amazing memory than more stuff we don't need any day of the week, too. Here, we were waiting at the dolphin tank for our turn to pet and feed them.


Soon, it was the kids' turn to step up and feed the bottlenose dolphins. It was an incredible, memorable experience for all five of us. I'm actually surprised Chloë didn't cry a little bit. We all got to touch them, and the girls and Rob (who stepped in for the too-nervous Jack) each fed them two fish after doing the instructed rub under the jaw. It was amazing; words can't do it justice.


We walked through the aquarium that goes over one's head after feeding the dolphins, and I pointed out the different fish we saw to the kids. Parrotfish, like this Stoplight one here, are among my favorite of the reef fish. 


We visited Turtle Trek, which was a breathtaking surround cinema, like the inside of a planetarium. Another Facebook friend highly recommended it, and she was right; I loved every second of this short 3D adventure through a turtle's life. Afterward, there was a staffer giving out trivia questions and discussing the lives and habits of turtles and other sea creatures. I answered one question correctly before anyone else did, so she handed me a baseball card-like information sheet on the Leafy Sea Dragon for a prize. Later, she talked all about conservation efforts in which Sea World participates and gave the kids a chance to earn their own cards. We walked away with prizes for the Bottlenose Dolphin, Florida Manatee, and California Sea Lion, too.


Speaking of manatees, I love that the iPhone 5 has such a great camera; I took this picture, which Steph snagged off Facebook for a background on her iPad, with it. It turned out beautifully, IMNSHO.


The kids played a little turtle game, "Race for the Beach," against other kiddos. There were lots of little educational and interactive exhibits around Sea World like this one. I think it's great the way the park is so focused on edutainment and conservation; they really make the effort to preserve our natural marine resources. That impressed me throughout the day.


A Florida gator adolescent taking a swim 

We found some upside-down jellies, Cassopeia frondosa, near the alligator holding pen. I learned about these animals long ago as an undergrad at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmopsheric Science (RSMAS), during my Invertebrate Zoology class with the wonderful Dr. Peter Glynn. I wonder if he's still teaching; he was an inspiration for me as a budding marine biologist.


I'm not sure what kind of Cnidarian this one is, but my question to you is: artistically beautiful species, or just ick?


We then visited some leopard sharks, and Rob asked me to drop some knowledge about them. You know what? I didn't want to; I just wanted to have a fun, great day without so much pressure to be the authority on anything. So I refrained and just enjoyed being in the moment.


By that point in the day, it was hot, we were sweaty, and the kids were red in the face. Sea World isn't too heavy on rides and play so much as shows and experiencing the natural beauty of the marine environment, so we didn't have a lot of that. Fine by me, but the children wanted more of it. We headed over to the little kiddie area on the far end of the park to let them play in the small waterpark area for a bit. It was just the cool-down they needed, so I'm glad we took the time out to do that.


Sophia as Queen of the World! 


Chloë and Sophia took a ride in Swishy Fishies, which is like Sea World's equivalent of Disney World's Teacups. Jack, who had been the most vociferous complainer about the lack of rides, chose not to go on any rides. Really? That's so Jack, but whatever, he still had a great time and thanked us for taking them on the trip, so it's all good. If you're a Teacup fan, by the way, they also had a similar ride that went high up in the air. We didn't do that one, though, because the kids have a bit of a fear of heights; they come by it honestly!


Chloë had to pose for a photo-op with a Shamu replica; she happily obliged my request. It's never hard to get this one to do so; it's always hard to get Jack to pose unless he's thoroughly pleased at the moment!


Oh, I lied. Jack DID go on one ride, the kiddie train. This was more his speed, literally and figuratively speaking. 


We opted to rent a double stroller for several reasons: Jack, who has taut Achilles' tendons, has trouble walking for long distances. Plus, we knew we'd have lots to carry and thought it would be easier to take them around with us than pay for a locker we might visit but once during the day. And also, it would provide some sun protection for the kids, who took turns riding during our visit. An unexpected bonus was that it provided some tush respite for Rob, who occasionally took a brief siesta when he could sneak the opportunity!


My friend from Portsmouth, Miss Lisa, requested a family picture in the park, so I stopped a woman to take one in front of the sea creature-themed carousel we all rode immediately after that. Sophia started to pull a stranger-child off a purple seahorse that she wanted to ride; the nerve of her! After a scolding from me, we went on the other side and found one for her. But talk about embarrassing...


Just for good measure, I had Rob snap another shot of me on my carousel ride for Miss Lisa. You know, we all wore bathing suits all day long, but I was the only one who wasn't asked to cover up with a shirt or shorts. If you ever visit Sea World, be prepared to have a cover-up of some sort for males and females alike, because they will say something to you if you're not 'properly' dressed.


A fun moment between Jack and Chloë that I was thrilled to capture


We walked through the Arctic exhibit and found ourselves there at just the right time for a short training session for the beluga whales. The trainer had the belugas spin, jump and play for fishy treats. What fun to watch!


This polar bear was lounging near the beluga whales. I'm sure there were more, but we didn't see any, and she didn't want to come closer for me to get a better picture. Brat. I jest.

Both Rob's and my phone died after that, so this is a shot of Shamu that I stole off Google Images. Hee. We walked around the beautiful Sea Garden - a replica of the undersea environment made out of land plants - while we waited for the Shamu show to start at 1730. It was completely worth the wait. I had gone to Sea World with my grandparents when I was five years old, but the only things I remembered were seeing the flamingos and having an alligator come toward us while we ate dinner. 

Shamu - probably the nth generation - and other orca friends put on a great display of tricks with their trainers. We had a lot of fun sitting in the Soak Zone and watching all the people in the rows in front of us get up, pissed, to leave after they got completely wet from the killer whales' antics (they're really dolphins, though, you know). Um, duh? You sat there knowing you'd get splashed and then you get upset when you do? What kind of sense does that make? None. Plus it's hilarious to have a whale do a humongous belly flop in front of you that leaves you dripping from head to toe. Make sure to put away those electronics and purses if you go; "soak" is definitely the key word!


Shortly after watching Shamu, we headed to our nearby hotel for the night.  The Seralago has mixed reviews from friends and strangers alike who have stayed in the same place, but we had a really nice stay there. There is a big cafeteria-slash-convenience store near the main lobby; we were able to get pizza, burgers and gyros for dinner, and everything tasted great. We picked up breakfast in the morning from there, too, even though Expedia said there was supposed to be a free continental one. (That was the only let-down.) There was a tiki bar and playground in the pool area, and the room was spacious and comfortable. For less than $60 a night in a high-traffic resort area, we were not disappointed. Your mileage may vary. 

The kids played with their glow sticks and bubbles, went swimming with Rob and warmed up in the hot tub at Seralago. Meanwhile, Rob and I got drinks from the bar that we left mostly untouched. Oh, that was another thing - my piña colada? They must have thought I was fourteen, because I swear it was a virgin; if there was alcohol in it, it was undetectable by my highly sensitive system. And that's sayin' something. I'm actually kind of glad, though, because I no longer enough the buzz of alcohol and have pretty much decided I'm done with the stuff after this. I might have something now and again in the future, but for the most part, I see no need to imbibe.


For lunch on Tuesday, we headed back East to Orlando (we stayed just West in Kissimmee, which is pronounced "Kiss-IH-me," but which my silly grandpa always pronounced "KISS-amee" to be funny) for a mystery shop. The place was dead, so we were able to get in and out of there fairly quickly before heading to our next destination.


We didn't have any real plans for Downtown Disney other than something fun for Jack and possibly renting a paddleboat, so I asked Rob's dad if he wanted us to visit them instead at their place in Boynton Beach on our way back to Homestead. Only, Rob's dad was not actually IN Boynton Beach yet, so that didn't pan out. A weather check Monday night didn't look promising for Downtown Disney, either, but fortunately the rain held out and we had a beautiful couple hours of sun during our trip to the Marketplace.


After getting squirted with water by the giant Stitch (from Lilo and Stitch) at World Of Disney, we stopped to listen to the orchestra play some tunes from movies and TV shows everyone recognized. I really enjoyed that and was grateful we didn't miss it.


There's a big LEGO store - one of Jack's few obsessions - at Downtown Disney, but instead he wanted go to Ridemakerz to build his own radio-controlled car. We spent a lot more there than I planned, but it turned out to be really worth it. The cars, accessories and chargers come with a lifetime warranty, which is good because later we discovered he had a bent axle and needed a new undercarriage. They swapped it out for him, no questions asked.


At the store, which is at the back of Team Disney if you want to find it, there was a huge selection of rims and wheels. Some are included in the price of the chassis, and some are extra. Jack happened to pick a set that were free-with-purchase, to my relief.


After he selected his rims, wheels and sound, Chris helped Jack assemble his new yellow Corvette. That was fun, to put it concisely. Jack could have been timed to see how long it put together the vehicle, just for fun, but he chose to take his time and not rush through the experience. I wasn't suprised at that; he's a pretty methodical kid when it comes to mechanics.


I wanted the girls to have an equitable experience compared to Jack's, and we didn't want to do the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, so we walked around to see what they could do. First, they chose to have their faces painted. Artist Emily was really talented; Sophia looks adorable in her "Princess Kitty" make-up, doesn't she?


Chloë chose to have the "Music Mania" paint. They each opted to get the glitter lipstick after Emily verified with me that it was okay. Why not? Full package, baby.


After their faces were done, we went to the Ghirardelli store near the entrance and got a strawberry shake for Sophia and a chocolate one for Chloë. I didn't taste Sophie's, but Chlo's was really rich and delicious. They were a bit pricey, but since neither girl could finish hers and passed them to the boys less than halfway through, it was okay by me. We got chocolate samples when we walked in the door, too, which satisfied my sweet tooth!


Just like my dad, Chloë usually chooses to eat the stems of her maraschino cherries. I do it, too.


Stim (Steph and Tim, back in Virginia) are big fans of Sulley from Monsters Inc., so now that the new movie is coming out, she was hoping to have me pick her up some Sulley merch to send her way. We didn't find anything for her or the boys, though I had fun looking around and texting her pictures of all the latest offerings!


Even though he'd spent a small fortune at Ridemakerz and knew he wasn't getting anything else, Jack wanted to look around at the LEGO store. I figured I'd see if they had anything new in the LEGO Friends section (the girls collect those sets) for my lady-babies, because their shakes and facepaintings cost nowhere near as much as Jack's Corvette. Not that I wanted to spend money just to spend money, not at all, but I wanted both to be fair and also give them something to DO and something to HAVE, just like Jack.

Sophia, who's been gunning for the LF House for over a year now, surprised me by changing her mind and opting for the Stable instead. She loves horses, as well as the afore-mentioned birds (bugs, too, though all the kids love animals in general), so maybe it wasn't so surprising. Chloë went with a smaller set, the Café I think. When we got home that evening, they started building their sets out front on the patio, since their room is still crowded with unpacked boxes. Must remedy that situation soon!


There are many LEGO structures around the store in Downtown Disney, including a serpent in the water nearby and this family and their dogs. On our way back to our van, Penelope, Jack wanted to pose with this structure for me. Oh, see his gappy grin? He lost a tooth at Sea World the day before! Apparently I forgot to tell my progeny that they weren't supposed to leave body parts in the park.


After stopping for another potty break during the ride home, we spotted this fresh Florida oranges and grapefuit shop that I wanted to visit. We were out of oranges, after all, and I knew we'd find more local goodies from right there in Fort Pierce and surrounding areas. I was right. I spent more than I wanted to, but shopping locally is important to me, so it was worth it.


Along with my ¼-bushel of Valencia oranges, I bought some real Florida honey (mmm...), some orange honey, and jellies and preserves: Guava Jelly, Jalepeño Pepper Jelly for Rob (ew, but he'll love it), Tangerine Marmalade (omg, that sounds so good right now), Orange Pineapple Cherry Marmalade, and also Mango Chutney. I also picked up some Vidalia Onion Mustard for Rob, and some Habanero Beef Jerky that he gobbled down as soon as I got back to Penelope and handed it to him. I snagged a bag of saltwater taffy that the propietor described as "so good, it's addictive" to ship to NY for my BFF, Dr. Lisa. She loves the stuff.


When we finally got home after a quick stop at the Walmart Vision Center to pick up Chloë and Rob's new prescription sunglasses (theirs took longer than Jack and Sophie's because they're so blind), Jack rushed out to test out the new wheels. He drove it all the way around the block and had to be convinced to come in when it got dark. I'm glad he was so happy, but he seems to think we'll be going back every year to get him another one. Ha! I don't know where he got that idea, but it wasn't from me!

So now that it's May, it's time to really get serious and down to business. April was a full month of fun for Team Odette, but it's time to rein it in just a little bit. Oh, there will still be plenty of fun, but we have work to do. There's lots of homeschooling on which to catch up, jobs to get, unpacking to finish, VA paperwork to get done, a house in Virginia to sell, and college to get into (for Rob). Much to do, though like I said, we'll still be having fun in between the more serious stuff. Stay tuned for another post tomorrow, as I have fun mystery shops planned for today!


Sunday Stealing: The Deleted Meme

Link up here if you wanna be a thief today, too!
Sunday Stealing: The Deleted Meme  

1. Who is your favorite artist (any field)?

Britto art
Definitely Romero Britto. We have a couple two-three of his pieces, both fine art and functional art. I ♥ him excessively. Have you hard of him before this?
2. Describe yourself.
If that picture doesn't sum it up, which I think it does quite well: warped, wacky, wild, and wonderful.

3. How do you feel today?
I had a few rough days toward the end of last week, but right now, right this very minute, I'm doing quite okay. I'm grateful for that.

4. Describe the area where you currently live.
I don't want to say it's the ghetto, but... it's the ghetto. Our old 'hood was much, uh, less so. Wah. Hopefully wherever we end up in San Diego will be a step back in the right direction for us, especially as far as safety is concerned. Bah.

5. If you could go anywhere, where would you go?
Is "everywhere" an option? Then that's my answer. (If not, then my first stop would be the Great Barrier Reef. Ohh.... one day.)

6. What is your favorite form of transportation?
Of all the modes of transportation I love, I would have to say walking is my favourite. Given the number of people I know who can't do it, or do it with extreme difficulty, including myself before I lost my weight, I consider myself very fortunate to have this ability. Now, running, pah! Well, I might take it up in 2013, but we'll see. I said that a year ago or so, too...

7. Your best friend is:
Rob and me
Hubs is my very, very besty-best friend. I'm so blessed.

8. You and your best friends are:

... in other words, kindred spirits. I have a lot of pals, chums, buds, whatever, but my very bestest-best friends are few and fantastic.
9. What's the weather like?
At least, that's what it is in my imagination at the mo'. Truthfully, it's almost 0330, probably pretty frosty outside, and I have no idea what daytime will bring. Are we in San Diego yet?!

10. What's your favorite time of day?
Even when he's in a seriously grumpy mood from work, it's that moment when Hubs walks in the door.

11. If your life was a TV show, what would it be called?
But, it's been done. Ah, well.

12. What is life to you?
The biologist in me is laughing at this question, but the "human" me has a harder time answering. Making people. Making good people. Making happy good people. You get the point.

13. Your relationship:
Was there something you wanted to ask me?

14. Your fear:
Been there, definitely do not want to go there again... and please don't say anything about Connecticut. I can NOT handle it. Sorry. Weak, I know.

15. What is the best advice you have to give?
That sounds pretty good. I'll go with that one.
16. Thought for the Day:
Ah, remember those? Anyway, my position is generally, "As long as it's funny, it's okay." However, I do not tolerate racism and most -isms, so there are exceptions. That's not really a "thought for the day" type of answer, is it? Ah, fuck it, I really don't care right now. LOL!

17. How would you categorize your soul's present condition:
My soul is good, thanks for asking.
Have an abfab week, peeps!

GIVEAWAY & Product Review: Creativity For Kids Craft Kits

This giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to the winner, MamaP of Fostering Love. Enjoy your prizes, MamaP & Kids!

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by Creativity For Kids and bsmmedia.com, in which we were given three craft kits to use for this review. No monetary exchange has taken place. All opinions, as always, are 100% my own.


Wow! Like I've said, sometimes this blahgging thing has its perks, and this time we really enjoyed that. We received three kits from Creativity for Kids in the mail to review:


(1) the Deluxe Glitter Art Kit (MSRP: $29.99);


(2) the Mossy Meadows Gnome Garden kit (MSRP: $29.99); and,


(3) the Tile Art Necklaces kit (MSRP: $15.99)!

The first kit we broke into, per the kids' request, was the Deluxe Glitter Art kit. At first, it being on the 'girly' side, Jack had no interest and stayed in his room watching plane crash videos on YouTube on the laptop. So the girls and I dug in with the first of three separate activities within the kit:

Creativity For Kids Blog

(click on photos to embiggerate)

Sophia, Chloë and I each made our own trinket boxes. Everything was included in the kit that we needed, from glue to glitter and rhinestones to the boxes themselves, so there was never any need for me to get up and go get something that we didn't have. Well, except plenty of newspaper, since we were working on Chloë's bed!


I thought all the boxes were lovely, but since my girls declared mine "the best," here's my finished product! I used lots and lots of glitter, glitter pens, and glue to make my box, and here it is, over a week later, still intact after plenty of drying time. Isn't it so cute?! I gave it to Chloë, but now I'm wishing I'd have kept it as a memento of the fun time we had crafting together.


Having wandered in and discovered that, hey, this is actually pretty fun, Jack sat down and joined us for the second activity in the kit: decorating pre-glittered gift tags, which will be super fun to use for birthday and holiday presents! The only problem we ran into with this activity was keeping our four cats off our drying table! They kept hopping up and smushing our glitter glue. (We eventually got smart and kicked them out with the door shut, but that took an embarrassingly long time to figure out.)


Our finished tags: the kit came with 12, so we each got to decorate three. Pretty cool, huh? (There are ribbons to tie them to packages and what-not, but at this point they were still in the drying phase.)

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The third activity in this first kit saw us making eight glittered and bejeweled cards, which came with envelopes. What fun it'll be for the kids to send out their thank you notes and other correspondence on note cards they decorated themselves!


Our finished cards - two for each of the four of us to make.


The kit comes with a detailed instruction sheet, as well as project ideas, so you'll never be at a loss for what to do with this Deluxe Glitter Art set!


The second kit, the Mossy Meadows Gnome Garden, has been the most anticipated project by the kids, especially Jack, since it's less girly than the other kits. Like all the Creativity for Kids kits, at least in my imagination, it comes with thorough instructions and wildly colorful depictions of what to do with it. The back of the box is cute, too, showing all the contents and even telling a little background of what's being made.


I insisted this kit be worked on outdoors, but unfortunately, the weather hasn't cooperated, and we haven't had a dry day in weeks to complete it. (Apologies to those suffering with a drought!) This is what I found when I first opened the box and pulled out the pieces: Lots of "stuff" to explore here!


Look at all this cool project material! The kids are absolutely chomping at the bit to get into it, and truth be told, so am I, because it looks so cute and fun. There are little ladybugs and wee gnomes and everything! Rain, rain, go away...


Finally, after several days, we gave up and got into the last kit, the tile necklaces. Just like the others, everything necessary came with the kit so that we had every last thing we needed to make our necklaces from start to finish. Even scissors and glue were included! I think that's really smart, because busy moms like me are often willing to do crafts with the kids, but we're pressed for time and often don't "want to get into it," when it comes to searching for and procuring all the necessary materials for a given project. Creativity For Kids is awesome, because it solves that problem - at a wide variety of price points for every budget.

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As you can probably tell from all the pictures in this collage, this project was a bit more involved. Some parts were a little troublesome for the kids, each of whom was able to decorate three tiles, though the project technically only comes with ALL the materials for eight necklaces. I merely sat by at the ready with my handy-dandy camera and a helping hand where needed. It took several hours to finish - well, more if you count drying time - because it's geared for ages 8+, and it really means it, darn it! There were quite a lot of steps, but they enjoyed making the necklaces every step of the way.

How much did Jack like making these projects??


Yes, this was literally his answer to my asking that - no staging required! They had SO MUCH FUN.

Oh, you wanna see the finished necklaces? Okay, of course:


One of Sophie's findings came unglued while she was threading the cord, so it's re-drying now. She's keeping all of hers, natch. She is seven, after all.


Chloë was going to give two of hers away, but she's capricious like her mama and keeps flipper-flopping about that decision! The third needs a finding and cord still, too.


Jack's decided to give his three away for presents, and to help with that endeavor, the kit even came with three cute little gift packets! He's all excited now, to give his presents to some very nice ladies we know. :)

So now that I've told you how awesome Creativity for Kids can be, how would you like a giveaway, hmm? Oh you would, would you? Well, one lucky reader of this blog is going to win not one, but TWO kits from Creativity for Kids!!! YAY! The winner will receive the Deluxe Glitter Art kit:

...along with yet another awesome kit that I didn't review:

the Beach Buddies Shell Crafts Mini Kit (MSRP: $5.99), which, I have to admit, makes me jealous, as a marine biologist! Ooh, pick me, pick me!

Contest Rules:

- The winner will be chosen from the Random Number Generator at 11:59 PM EST on September 1, 2012.

- ONE entry per person, please.

- To enter, you MUST leave a comment on THIS post telling me which Creativity for Kids kit intrigues you the most, who you will use it with or give it to... and your favorite colour.

- You may refer friends via Facebook, Twitter, your blog, etc., but there is still a limit of ONE entry per person.

Any questions? Let's begin! Good luck!!!


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Link up here if you're fragmented today, too!

I'm all in a blahgger's tizzy right now. Why? Typepad, for some unknown reason, stopped auto-saving posts during composition, and my stupid feckin' PC shut down 2/3 of the way through my initial FF write-up! What the heck?! On both counts. Argh. So now you're REALLY going to get the fragments, instead of my usual run-on blather. Well, maybe. It's still me, after all.

I'm still trudging along with the same sorry-@$$ keyboard as last week, should you care to know. I tried a replacement, but it was a dud. So frustrating!

I'm super annoyed at my 9yo son right now. Why? We have a Keurig (♥), and I was down to my last two K-cups of coffee. Meanwhile, I make sure to keep the hot cocoa K-cups stocked for the kids, which they love. Well, Jack, my boy, LOVES coffee, and while I was in the shower, he helped himself to both of those last two cups of mine! And NO, we don't allow him to drink it, save for the blue moon sip here and there, so I'm doubly annoyed! I can't believe he managed to fall asleep and isn't bouncing off the walls. Actually, there's my silver lining. It could be worse.

If your blood type is O- like mine, and you've ever given blood, I'm wondering if you get sick of all the calls from the American Red Cross, too? After three calls begging me for more blood - which I'm honestly happy to give, don't get me wrong - three more to remind me of my appointment, another to thank me afterward for being a 'hero,' and then probably one last to ask me to take a survey about my experience, I'm over it!

Speaking of blood, I'm actually excited to go see my oncologist/hematologist today. I don't usually get a thrill seeing any doctor (well, unless they're cute, like my OB/onc, but anyway), but today I'll find out if my labwork from Tuesday shows the need for another iron transfusion. I soooo hope so; I'm really dragging my butt around lately. It's bad. Between that and a recent onslaught of horrible migraines, I barely got out of bed the last two days. No good!

And speaking of excited about tomorrow, I can't wait to go to the big Etsy Craft Party at my friend Michelle's all-handmade goods shop, Kitsch! Woot! I'll get my craft on, mingle with my artsy friends, and sample some local eats. Big fun!

During my downtime, I'm forever on my iPhone, playing my favorite games: Words- and Hanging With Friends, and my latest addiction, Jewels (multi-player as well, but not from Zynga). Do you play? Challenge me! I'm Smellyann there, as well.

If you've got kids, be sure and check back tomorrow when I post a fun giveaway for you to enter and win a really fun prize for them! Don't forget!


I hate not to end on a photo or kid-quote of some sort, and since I didn't get out much to snap any personalized plates this week, I'll leave you with this one of Chloë & Sophia getting some arts & crafts goodies from a recent Crayola sale at Toys 'R Us. My girls love to craft as much as their mama, so they tore them open and got started right away. Oh, Jack got something, too, but he didn't want it "right now," which is Jack-code for "pretty much ever, thanks." My feelings aren't hurt. It was free, after all. Hee.

Y'all have a good weekend now, y'hear?


Sunday Stealing: The OC 25 Meme


Link up here if you're playing along today! Happy Easter/Passover to all who celebrate!

Sunday Stealing: The OC 25 Meme

1. What is your origin of your first name? What about any nicknames?

My mom just randomly came up with it. I was supposed to be "Eleanor" after my dad's mom, or "Clayton" if I was a boy, but when my dad wasn't in the room, my mom quickly put down "Melanie" instead. Hee! I've come to appreciate that, although my elementary school BFF was Eleanor, so of course I had wanted that to be my name then. My middle name is Ann, so my dad always called me "Mellie Ann," which my wonderful older sister changed to "Smellyann" at some point. And there you have it.

2. Have you any claims to fame?

Apparently, I'm meant to be a writer. In college, I came in second (or third?) in a huge poetry contest - you've probably seen the ads for it - and my published poem was analyzed in the front of the anthology in which it appeared. I was supposed to have my boys' and my story published in the Chicken Soup for the Twins Soul book, but apparently they decided it was too sad and took it out later on, which is fine with me. And more recently, my "Works for Me Wednesday" pets edition blahg post was published in a book called That Works For Me! or something like that; I had to give the proper permissions and all that. I've always been a pretty decent writer and thought I've had more poetry and maybe a novel rattling around in there, but I haven't been able to get started. We'll see if that ever comes to fruition.

3. If you were famous, how would you introduce yourself to someone who had never heard of you?

The same way I do now, I suppose: I'd have the head of my huge entourage do it. Heh.

4. Which of your country's achievements do you hold in highest regard?

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation couldn't have come soon enough; I think it just edges out winning the American Revolution. JMHO

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

First, I wanted to be a teacher and librarian. As I grew up, though, I wanted to be a marine biologist. And until I got married, I was one. For a brief time, I was livin' the dream I grew up having. Now, I'm happier things worked out this way. I wouldn't change a thing, except for maybe a fatter wallet..

6. What was your most prized possession as a child? Do you still have it?

It was my red-and-white stuffed puppy dog named Snowflake, who eventually was missing an ear. The other ear had holly leaves and berries on it. I loved that puppy. I don't know what happened to her.

7. What would you change about yourself, if you could?

Pfft. What wouldn't I? That would be a shorter list. I would take away the Bi-Polar Disorder from which I suffer (as do those around me, I'm afraid), and I would give myself more strength of character. People who know the sorts of things I've been through always tell me what a strong person I am, but I don't feel that way. I feel like a weak, meek little mouse. My therapist tells me I am progressing though - she told me recently that I was "individuating," since I am no longer seeking my father's approval. I laughed and said it was high-time at 35, but she says she sees people much older than I am who haven't gotten that far and wow! I am babbling! Anyway, physically, I'd get my plastics to remove the skin I have hanging around (literally) after my 200+-lb weight loss.

8. What are you obsessed with?

Yarn. Picking at myself. My husband's nuts. Jafra. Couponing. And more yarn.

9. What is your greatest achievement so far, or the high point of your career?

Oh, I've received my fair share of academic accolades, but my proudest achievement was winning "Class Giggler" in 3rd grade. I still have the certificate!

10. When/where were you happiest?

January 2, 2001: The day we eloped was the most blissful day in my life. I'll never, ever forget that high.

11. And the lowest point in your life thus far?

March 25, 2003: The day I held my older twin son as he shuddered taking his last breath. Nothing is worse than outliving your child.

12. What was the best decision you ever made?

Marrying Rob! He is so good for, and to, me. We both have our share of shortcomings, but I definitely ended up with the better end of the deal. God knew what he was doing when he brought me this man.

13. If you have any body modifications, which was most painful, or which do you regret the most? If you haven't got any, do you have any planned, or would you ever consider getting any?

Other than four piercings in each ear, I have a nose ring. So that was the most painful. I haven't fully decided on getting a tattoo, but if I do, it'll be a joint one with Rob, honoring our four children together.

14. What is the most idiotic thing you have ever done while intoxicated?

We don't have to go there, do we? Let's not. Maybe the next time I get that intoxicated, which will be never, I'll share that story with y'all. ;) Let's just say I'll probably never drink Goldschläger again!

15. What is your favorite joke?

I am so terrible at remembering things like jokes and movie quotes. Asking me to tell a joke is putting me on the spot. I like stupid jokes anyway, like this one:

Knock Knock?

Who's there?

Little old lady.

Little old lady who?

I didn't know you could yodel!

16. What is the coolest/most impressive thing you own?

You mean aside from my iPhone? (You know I love that dang thing.) Okay, let me think on it a minute... probably the Britto. We bought a limited edition giclée of his called Deep Night Romance on our Mediterranean cruise, and it sums up our love for each other beautifully.

17. When did you last cry, and why?

I cried a little bit last night, thinking about this coming Monday. It'll be the 28th anniversary of my mom's death, and I always get a little weepy.

18. What's the best piece of advice you've ever had?

Surprisingly, it came from my dad. I'll paraphrase: "Don't let anyone rob you of your joy."

19. Similarly, what's the nicest thing anyone's ever done for you?

A semi-anonymous benefactor helped me pay for my college degree, the day I was going to get kicked out for non-payment of my classes. Biggest relief of my life!

20. Have you any vices?

I'm too self-indulgent.

21. Do you regret anything?

No regrets. I live for today, and tomorrow. There are things I wish I'd done differently, but I didn't, and I have learned and grown from them.

22. What is the best invention ever?

Hello?! The iPhone! lol

23. How would you describe your relationship with your family?

I have a very small living family. My mom is gone, my dad and I aren't speaking at the moment, and my sister and I are as close as we can possibly be from a distance. I love that broad! ♥

24. Who is your biggest inspiration?

Anyone with deep emotional fortitude, who can come through a tragedy and not completely fall to pieces. Well, falling to pieces isn't the thing, but someone who can pick up those pieces and make life work again - that's inspiring to me.

25. What are you going to do when you've finished Sunday Stealing?

Work on my April/May Jafra newsletter, a week later than I'd planned. Oops.

Happy Easter!


Sunday Stealing: The Eve Was Framed Meme

Sunday Stealing

Link up here if you're a dirty, dirty meme'er like me.

Cheers to all of us thieves!
1. Why is your favorite color your favorite?
It's the color of the clear sea in the medium depths of the Caribbean, the most beautiful color I've ever seen, and reminds me of what I love in the world.
2. Do you prefer dogs or cats or do you just hate animals, and want to kill baby seals?

That question made me snort! I prefer itty bitty little puppy doggies, but I love all animals. Even the ugly ones.
3. How much time do you spend on the computer?

4. Not including porn, what do you do on the computer?

This meme is cheeky, eh? I do everything, a little of this, a little of that, a little of s'more stuff... nunya, mostly.
5. Are you a clock watcher?

Rarely. Only if I'm bored, which I try not to be.
6. What did you look for in a partner?

Intelligence and a good sense of humor, decency and kindness, love and passion.... and obviously not height. Sorry, baby. Hee.
7. What type of clothing do you prefer?

Whatever I look good in and disguises my 7-to-10-year-old baby belly!
8. What is your favorite type of music?

I can't lie. I like my Pop music best. I know it's lame, but it's so... singalongable, mostly!
9. Do you believe in the paranormal, ghosts, ESP, levitation, spoon bending?

Not right now, nope.
10. The most important question: Do you have a innie or outie belly button?

I've got a way-the-hell-innie.
11. What kind of car do you drive?

C'mon, I've got three kiddos. A minivan. 2010 Honda Odyssey. I've had it a year and a half, and I still miss my old van.
12. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun or The Boys Are Back in Town?
The former!
13. Camping or the Ritz?
As much as I love the great outdoors, I'm more at home in a fancy hotel.
14. What food are you craving RIGHT NOW . . . did you eat it?
I don't know, but no, because whatever it is, we don't have it. Oberweis cottage cheese, I think. It's the best!
15. The most thrilling place you've ever visited. Why?
Oh, gosh. I'm hard-pressed... Okay. Our 2008 Mediterranean cruise was pretty awesome. I love culture, I love travel, I love being on the water... and I was with my darling husband. The only downside about that trip was that I was still mighty big (I had my surgery the following January), and we couldn't do a few of the excursions we'd planned because of my size.
16. If you could slip into the skin of one public figure--celebrity, artist,--who would it be?
Does Matt Damon's wife count? Then he could slip into my skin. Did I just say that?
17. Look up from your computer. What do you see first?

The Britto we bought on the aforementioned cruise!
18. Sum up your philosophy of life in one sentence. You can borrow it from someone else, if you'd like.

You take the good, you take the bad, you take it all, and there you have the facts of life, oh, the facts of life... sorry. I'm in a singing mood.
19. Name the one thing you just don't understand about kids today.

No. The kids, I get. It's their parents I don't often get!
20. If you could steal one work of art from a museum or gallery, which would it be?
Dalí's The Persistence of Memory has always captivated me.
Have a stellar week, kids!

Join Lisa Loeb and Crayola "Inside the Crayon Box" LIVE on Wednesday, March 7th!

Creativity matters. It´s a skill that all children can learn and when it´s practiced every day, kids become the critical thinkers, problem solvers, and leaders in the classroom, and they´re better prepared for professions of the 21st century.

Crayola wants every child to be creatively alive, so they´re inviting parents "Inside the Crayon Box," for a special live chat with celebrities and trusted parenting experts that will inspire and spark ideas to expand your child´s creative thinking. If you find yourself looking for new ways to inspire your children to express their ideas and build their creativity, you´ll want to join us to learn and share!

The first "Inside the Crayon Box" live chat is Wednesday, March 7 at 9 p.m. EST. Join Crayola and musician, children´s author and mom, Lisa Loeb for a 45-minute live streaming video chat on the Crayola Facebook Page. Lisa, best-known for her number one hit "Stay (I Missed You)," will share as personal stories, practical advice and ways she brings a little creative play into every day for her daughter. We want to hear from you - participants can ask Lisa questions during the event, too!

Interested in the topics to be covered during the chat?

  • Why Does Creativity Matter? Creativity is not about who´s the best artists or becoming an architect. It´s a way of thinking that encourages kids´ original ideas and develops their confidence.
  • Growing Up Creative. Lisa will share stories about growing up in a home where creativity was encouraged.
  • Simple Tips. Easy Ideas. Like most moms, Lisa juggles a lot. She´ll share simple, easy ways she sparks her daughter´s creativity as part of their daily routine.

The chat will occur here in the Crayola YouTube channel on Wednesday. I'm going to be there - will you join me?

Also, be sure to check out Lisa´s book Lisa Loeb´s Silly Sing-Along: The Disappointing Pancake and Other Zany Songs (Sterling Children´s Books, 2011) available at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com. Sing, laugh, and play with pop Lisa in this fabulous collection of ten of the silliest songs ever. Fun activities, games, and recipes accompany whimsical songs. Take Lisa's Silly Sing-Along with you wherever you go and get the high-spirited good times started. Includes a 10-song CD recorded by Lisa!

Information about the Crayola "Inside the Crayon Box" live event was provided to me by Crayola through MyBlogSpark.

Thanks for reading!