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Sunday Stealing: Sizzle Says


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The Sizzle Says Meme

Stolen from: Ms. Sizzle
1. If money were no object, what would you be doing with your life? 

I would be visiting every corner of Earth.

2. Money is just that - an object, so why aren’t you doing it? 

Hey, I'll get there, if only in books and dreams.

3. What’s better: horses or cows? 

Image result for sharks rule


4. What do you think the secret to happiness is? 

Learn to be content with "enough."

5. When was the last time you had a dream that you either remember well or did not want to awake from? Can you share a bit? 

I tend to have either wild, outrageous dreams, or future-foretelling dreams of mundane conversations that later happen in real life. I often have a sense of déjà vu when that conversation then happens. It's so eerie. Does this happen to you guys, too?

6. When you were a little kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

I wanted to be a concert singer, a famous gymnast and figure skater, a world-renowned novelist, and... oh, wait, I still do.

7. Complete this statement: Love is… 

... indescribably wonderful. When you know you have it, you just know.

8. Can you tell a good story? 


Orally, not so much. I suck at speaking the language of my native tongue. I just don't talk right! I mix up words, I'm the queen of Spoonerisms, I sometimes mentally grab the closest word to the one I really mean, and so on and so forth. I'm a much better storyteller in written form.

9. Can you remember your last daydream? What was it about?


You know what I sometimes daydream about? What it would be like to be mentally "normal." Is anyone in that category? I'm certainly not... and sometimes, all the various -oses and -isms etc. just get to be a wee bit too much. I daydream about being a regular person with regular shit on my mind.

10. If you were to thank someone today, who would you thank? 


I would thank Robert Allen Odette for taking a chance on and with me, and for creating this awesome little family with me. I love you and I love you and I love you...!

11. If you could be anyone's mojo, whose would you want to be, and why? (For those you do not know what mojo is, it's personal magnetism; charm.)

Did you not just read the last answer? Same guy! He's got my heart forever and always. Awwwwwww, shucks now.


Saturday 9: Dancing With Myself

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Saturday 9: Dancing with Myself (1980)

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

1) This song is one of Billy Idol's biggest hits. Can you name another?

 Sure, you're talking to an 80s girl, here. There's this one ("Mony, Mony"), "Rebel Yell," "White Wedding"... I can remember shouting the dirty lyrics to this one when it came on at the skating rink, too!

2) When is the last time you danced around your home? 

I dance around my house for Hubs' entertainment (okay, for my own as well) almost every day! What I lack in grace and coordination, I make up for with enthusiasm! Hee.

3) In this song, Billy says he dances with his own reflection. Is there a mirror in the room you're in right now?

There was... until a few days ago. Hubs knocked it down when he fell off the ladder, trying to change a light bulb. Um, no, I did not authorize that project. (Yes, he's okay. But the mirror is no more.)

4) Dancing with Myself is also the name of Billy Idol's 2014 autobiography. Let's say you're going to write your life story. What do you title it?

That remains to be seen... I was going to name it Passages: A Series of Vignettes, but that seemed cheesy, and I changed the styling of the book. So I'll let you know when I know, m'kay?

5) This month, Billy resumes his 2014-15 concert tour in New Orleans. Have you ever been to Louisiana?

At least twice, yes. Hubs' sister lives there, so we visited her once when I was preggers with #1, and then we drove to New Orleans when I was preggers with #2 and #3 to ship our car out to Guam (and SIL met us there, too). I loved Nawlins! Great city. I'd love to go again.

6) In 1980, when "Dancing with Myself" was first popular, VHS players were all the rage. Do you still have yours?

No way, but we can't seem to get the Blu-Ray player to work right, either. We're stuck in DVD-land for now, I suppose.

7) In 1980, The Love Boat was getting good ratings. Have you ever taken a cruise?

Yes, a few. Let me see:

In August 1991, just before I turned 15, I took my first cruise, an Eastern Caribbean on Carnival. We went to Nassau, Bahamas; St. Thomas in USVI; and San Juan, Puerto Rico

In 1999, my late gran'pappy took some of us on my second cruise, a Western Caribbean on Princess. We went to Cozumel, Mexico; Montego Bay, Jamaica; Grand Cayman Island; Limón, Costa Rica; and through the Panama Canal.

In 2006, Hubs and I took our littles to Disney World and then met up with my Dad and his then-wife for a short Carnival cruise to the Bahamas. I didn't love Nassau the first time, and I loved it even less the second time, but hey, the cruising itself was a good time!

In 2008, Hubs and I went on our oft-mentioned latent honeymoon cruise to the Mediterranean on Holland America line. We flew to Barcelona and cruised from there to France, Monaco, several ports in Italy and Greece, and Croatia. We flew from Venice back to Madrid to fly home. You can read about that spectacular trip here, if you so desire.

Four cruises? Is that all? Seems like there were more. I guess I'm thinking of all the scientific, non-pleasure cruise time I've spent as well!

8) Sally Field won her first Oscar in 1980 for the movie Norma Rae. Five years later she won a second Oscar for Places in the Heart and delivered one of the most quoted acceptance speeches in Academy history. Do you remember what she said?

Something about, "You like me, you really do like me," right? Isn't that the one? I was only nine then, so forgive me if I'm mistaken.

9) In 1980, People magazine named Stephen King one of the most intriguing people of the year because he had two big paperback bestsellers - The Dead Zone and The Shining. Do you have a favorite Stephen King book?

Haha. No. I tried to read The Shining, but I didn't get very far because I kept shutting my eyes at the scary parts. That habit doesn't work too well with books, you feel me?

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 9: Lucky Star

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Saturday 9: Lucky Star (1983)

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

1. Have you ever wished upon a star?

Yeah. I used to wish I would drop dead suddenly, when I was 8-17 years old. I never did, dammit, and it used to piss me off greatly! I don't wish that - or anything else - on stars anymore.

2. In the 1980s, Madonna considered her wrist bangles one of her fashion trademarks. What's one of your fashion trademarks?

My nose ring, of course! I took it out to get an MRI the other day, and it took my family 2 days to notice. I keep forgetting to put it back in...

3. Though she got good grades, Madonna could be disruptive at school, known for turning cartwheels in the halls between classes. Can you do a cartwheel?

I used to be able to, but I can't anymore thanks to arthritis.

4. Her high grade point average earned her a dance scholarship to the University of Michigan, home of the Wolverines. Do you follow college football?

Meh, not really. I mean, I try to keep track of my University of Miami Hurricanes, but that proves to be difficult without TV service! However... I think we're getting it again soon after years without out. Woooo!

5. Madonna co-starred in the movie version of Dick Tracy. Do you enjoy comics?

I used to, when I was a kid. It's just not something I really take pleasure in as an adult.

6. She played Argentinian First Lady Eva Peron in the biopic, Evita, and directed a movie about Wallis Simpson. What famous 20th century woman do you wish you could meet/could have met?

Hmm... So many! And everyone I can think of is still relevant in the 21st century. Oh, bother, I'll still choose one: Martha Stewart. I love that woman!

7. Madonna authored a children's book called The English Roses. Tell us about a book that had a big impact on you when you were a kid.

I loved the Anne of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.

8. One of Madonna's "vocal idols" is Ella Fitzgerald. Who is your all-time favorite female singer?

I think Alanis Morisette is my favorite female singer. I do love Madonna too, though!

9. Madonna once did a Pepsi commercial. What beverages are in your refrigerator right now?

I don't remember that! In our fridge, we have Diet Coke and milk. And Lactaid. I think that's it.

Thanks for stopping by! Come back soon, I have oodles more to post.


Starting November With A Bang


So you may have noticed, we have a new student in Sweet Pea Academy. My pal Veronica asked me to school her 9-year-old daughter, Victoria, who was not having the greatest experience in public school. She has, perhaps, more faith in my abilities than I do. After a deep discussion with Rob, we decided to thumbs-up the idea and give it a go. Victoria joined us full-time this past Monday, November 3rd. We started with a pancake breakfast.

Usually, Rob makes the pancakes in Casa de Odette, but he's not feeling too well lately, so I took a turn. There is a reason I don't normally make them: I'm not the best at it. At all. And this time was no different. I burned half of them, and I don't make cool shapes like Mickey faces or their names or anything else. Nevertheless, everyone gamely ate pancakes aplenty, and then we started school.


The kids watching their daily Math-U-See lesson


On Tuesday, we visited the library for our weekly trip. The kids wanted nothing more than to read their selections when we returned home, so of course I let them before we got started on our next task.


Each of the kids is doing a swap with a homeschooling partner somewhere else in the country; this is our third month participating. Each month, a different theme is chosen. In our first month, only Sophia did a swap, and the theme was SPACE. The second month, all three of my kids swapped, and their theme was HABITAT. This month, the theme is BIOGRAPHY, and Victoria is joining us in that. All four kids, after a discussion about biography, chose to do their swaps autobiographically, so I took pictures of each of them to include in albums they are making about themselves.


Naturally, Chloe wanted to include a photo of her beloved Pepper in her autobiography album!


On Tuesday, before we got started with school, we had a Welcome party for Victoria. It was a surprise planned by Veronica and us after Sophia came up with the idea during our family meeting about her joining us. Victoria had no idea; she was completely shocked!

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Veronica brought a pineapple upside-down cake she baked, which I love but didn't eat because I'm trying soooo hard to be good about eating healthy calories. But man, I wanted some!

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Rob played along with Party Mode, wearing the hat and everything. He's such a trooper.

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The look on Victoria's 3-year-old sister, Belen, cracked me up. She was like, "Um, no. Just... no."

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Veronica is 37 weeks pregnant with baby #4, Melodie-Grace, due around Thanksgiving Day. We can't wait to meet her!

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In homage to Victoria's Mexican heritage, I decided to make some simple Cinco de Mayo pinatas filled with - what else for this time of year? - Halloween candy. When Belen and the rest of the kids pulled a string, out fell the candy. Fun! And, I just knew there was a reason I was saving all those toilet paper rolls!

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I made the pinatas; Chloe made the welcome banner you can kinda-sorta see in the first photo, and Sophia made the paper flowers that I apparently neglected to photograph. That's a shame, since they turned out so well.

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We, uh, got just a little silly with paper hats. I swear I did not spike the punch!

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Victoria insisted I get silly with them. I'm always happy to embarrass myself; why not?

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I forget what Sophie was pretending to be here. She's always imagining something new and interesting; I wish I could record every moment of the child's life!

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Before we sent Victoria's mom and sister home for the day so we could start our lessons, Belen got into the party hat fun, too. Yeah!

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On Thursday, after several days of talking about the Tequesta, Ais, and Jaegas Indians of South Florida, we did a lab to demonstrate to the kids some of the ways in which these people lived. I sent the kids out on a scavenger hunt for sticks of various sizes, while I managed to score this huge fallen palm branch. I learned from an old Physics professor that, sometimes, to start things off, you need to "WOW" them in. When I hauled that giant branch into the living room in front of the kids, it was definitely a WOW moment!

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I had gotten several sizes of sharks' teeth, as well as a variety of mollusk shells, over the past several weeks in preparation for this lab. My goal was to show the children that natives used these as tools to help create their dwellings, hunt for food, make clothing, and even make more tools.

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Sophia really got into the whittling of this branch with the largest shark tooth.

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Victoria started with a smaller shark tooth on a smaller branch.

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Chloe got to work with an oyster shell on the great big palm branch I found, and she shaved off the outer "skin," realizing it could be used as lashing to tie together sticks and other materials for building purposes. Brilliant!

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The shells could be used to carve out canoes, but obviously I didn't have a large enough piece of wood for that, so we practiced on tiny twigs.

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Jack really enjoyed this lab. Even though he moaned and groaned, as he is wont to do, when I said we were doing a lab (who knew what that meant at the time?!), he was the first one to complain when I told them we were finished and had to clean up our materials. It's always that way with him!

So all in all, it was a pretty great week for Sweet Pea Academy. I think Victoria was just what we needed for a breath of fresh air in our daily lessons. With all our lessons, field trips, fun, and yes, meals, I still managed to get a ton of knitting done, and we were able to go get our passports ordered and then picked up for our trip to Mexico next week. Who needs sleep?!

(This girl.)

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 9: Little Red Corvette


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Saturday 9: LIttle Red Corvette (recommended by Smellyann) That's me!

No link this week. Prince apparently is very strict about copyright infringement.

1) The subject of this song is frankly sexual. Do you blush easily?

Why yes, I do, despite the fact that my mind is frequently in the gutter. I hate it (the blushing).

2) Prince is his real name (Prince Rogers, to be exact). Growing up, his  relatives called him "Skipper." Do you have any nicknames within your family?
Smellyann, at you service! (This was bestowed upon me by my older sister, as a middle school joke. My dad called me "Mellie-Ann," and Stacey changed it to Smelly... but I liked it.)
3) Prince says he's "obsessed" with Mozart and reads whatever he can find about the composer. What's the last book you read?
I'm reading Just One Thing by Dr. Rick Hanson, about how to develop a Buddha Brain. It was highly recommended by my former therapist; I enjoy perusing it when I've nothing else to do, so it's not really a stay-up-all-night-reading kind of book for me.

4) Between Prince and The Beach Boys, the Corvette is a much sung-about car. Tell us about your vehicle.
"Miguel" is an '04 Chevy Trailblazer. We had a much newer, much better Honda Odyssey, but, well, we lost "Penelope" in the midst of all our financial desperation after Hubs retired and the brain tumor drama started. Long story short, Miguel gets us from A to B, but other than that, he's nothing to write home about. Still, I'm grateful we have a vehicle.
5) In the 1980s, when Prince was popular, MTV could turn a song into a hit. In 2014, how do you hear new music?
Lamely, I mostly listen to all the Top 40 stations to get my new music. When I get sick of that, I switch around to the "classic rock" station which, to my dismay, now plays all the music of my youth. So apparently, I'm vintage now, too. I also listen to a lot of Latin music and know quite a few of the songs in Spanish. There's a French/Creole station or two that play here in Miami, but I just can't get into that music as much.
6) In 1982, when "Little Red Corvette" ruled the airwaves, Braniff Airways shocked the travel industry and threw passengers into chaos by declaring bankruptcy. When did you last fly? Did your trip go smoothly?
I don't think I've flown since our trip to Europe in 2008, but we'll be flying into New York at the end of July. I'm looking forward to it; I love to fly, and I'll see my sister and her family (and possibly my dad), along with all my high school chums. Can't wait!
7) 1982 is also the year Disney opened Epcot. Have you ever been to a Disney park?
Sure. The last time we went to Walt Disney World was in 2006, and we stayed on property for five days and visited all the parks and Downtown Disney. We've since been back to Downtown Disney several times but haven't gotten to an actual park in eight years. My kids super, rilly rilly want to go, but, y'know, it costs.
8) 1982 is the year Cheers premiered. The sitcom was set in a bar where "everybody knows your name." Tell us about your favorite local bar or restaurant.
There's a tapas restaurant in Coral Gables that I've been to at least half a dozen times "for work" since we moved here. Every dish and drink (get the sangría!) is spectacular; I've put lots of pictures of our "small plates" on Instagram (follow me: @Smellyann).
9) The 1980s were considered a highpoint in professional tennis, with Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe dominating the sport. Do you play tennis?
I have crappy depth perception, but I loved to attempt to play in high school. My serve wasn't bad, though. I'm not really the athletic type, which is a huge understatement. My sis, a Tough Mudder, got the "physical" genes.
Thanks for stopping by! Happy SUMMER!!!

Sunday Stealing: Hey 19! #Meme


Link up here if you're tired of not linking up.

Here we go!...

1 )Where would you retire to? 


Technically, you have to be employed to retire, I think. However, Hubs retired last year from the Navy, and we moved here to Miami. Furthermore, we're looking at houseboating in 2½ years' time, if not sooner. It's our dream to sail around the world, schooling the children as we go in various exotic ports of call, and having an amazing adventure. We shall see how it goes!

2) What are your best physical features? 


My face, except for my teeth, is passably acceptable. Anything below that is a lumpy, bumpy catastrophe.

3) What are your best characteristics? 

I'm a daydream believer. Cheer up!

4) What kind of books do you like to read? 

I'm a fan of most kinds of novels, not too much a non-fiction fan unless it's amusing in some way. I did like Ellen deGeneres' autobiography, My Point, and I Do Have One... way back 20-some years ago. That was a hoot!

5) What are you reading now? 


I haven't read a book in quite some time. Hopefully a year hasn't passed. I get dozens upon dozens of free magazines each week, and it's all I can do to keep up with the ones I have an interest in reading. I'm looking to the latest issue of Family Fun, which came today.

6) Where would you want to retire to? 

Pretty sure we answered this one at the jump...

7) What is your favorite time of the day? 

Anytime I feel like that ^^^ is a good time! I try to get a little of that every day. Lively music helps!

8) Where did you grow up? 


In Zone 4, CNY, outside of Syracuse.

9) How far away from your birthplace do you live now? 

It depends on how you want to measure - time elapsed while driving or walking, or distance in kilometres or inches or...? Anyway, from outside New York City to Miami, however you count it.

10) Are you a morning person or a night owl? 

I don't understand you morning people. Honestly. Right up there with people who run for fun.

11) What inspires you? 

I find inspiration everywhere. I like lots of bright, eye-popping colors. That always gets my juices flowing. 

12) Can you close your eyes and raise your eyebrows? 

Is that a thing? Because who can't do it?!

Do you have pets? 


We have our beloved Maine Coon kitty, Pepper, and another cat of my son's, Muffin, who is not a fan of mine. It's mostly mutual.

14)How many rings before you answer the phone? 

I usually let it go to voicemail... I hate answering the phone. Or the door. I think it's my social anxiety working there.

15) What are some of the different jobs that you have had in your life? 

I was a fisheries biology intern here, in Sarasota, Florida;

 I scooped ice cream and made delicious treats here, in St. Pete Beach, Florida;


I worked in the dive shop, Diver's Paradise of Key Biscayne, Florida, where I was PADI certified back in 1998... amongst others.

16) Any new and exciting things that you would like to share? 


I've been channeling Carmen Miranda?!

17) What is most important in life? 


Family, to me, is the most important thing in the world.

18) Did you dream last night? 


I always have the most vivid dreams.

19) Do you remember your dreams? 


Fairly routinely, I do, but the one that stuck with me from last night is not repeatable in a public forum! 

Welp, that's it for me. I have a $5 Starbucks gift card that needs spending, and the clock's ticking.

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday Fragments, Version 5.2.14

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Link up here if you've got some brain gems to deposit on us this morning!

So today's the day. I'm headed to the neurosurgeon, CT and MRI images from the last month in hand, to discuss what this means for Ye Olde-Fashioned Cerebrum. I'm nervous, as the lesion that I have can explain some of my symptoms of psychosis, which we've been explaining away as part of my Bipolar I diagnosis. Plus, the vain part of me just doesn't want to shave my head - again! 

I'm on the fence, and this morning's neuro visit may help me make the decision, but I'm strongly considering putting the kids back in public school in the fall. It kind of breaks my heart a little bit, but I feel like, especially as they age up (Chloë will be 13 {!!!!} then), they need more than I am able to give them. I want to give them the best possible chance at success - however they may choose to define it - in life, and deep down, I feel like homeschooling is letting them down in that regard. I don't know. No need to weigh in with your thoughts on this one; I don't really want outside input at this point.

Why do they ruin awesome songs by overplaying them? It's no secret I'm a Top 40 pop music fan, so of course all the songs I listen to are generally overplayed, but it seems like every other song on the radio is John Legend's "All of Me." I adore it, but I'm ready for it to fade out a little bit.

Our washing machine is on the fritz, and we're out of clean towels. Rob has tried, unsuccesfully, to repair it, which sucks. I do not relish the idea of hitting up a laundromat while we wait for a repair!

I've stalled on writing my book. I've written out the whole outline and know pretty much exactly what the whole book will say. It's just a matter of taking the time to get the words out of my head and into print. With due diligence, though, I just know it can be great. 

I did something quite naughty on Facebook a couple of days ago. I tagged my childhood tormentor in one of her own pictures as "The Face of Evil." Of course, she will have to - and won't - approve it, but in the moment, I felt better. Now, I just wish I hadn't put myself out there like that.

I got a new bike! It's adorable:


I'm having fun riding it around the nabe. I hadn't ridden a bike in about 17 years, so I'm a bit wobbly and have wiped out once, but it's good times!

Team Odette went out to Miami Beach last night for a dinner mystery shop. I was supposed to stage a complaint; I didn't have to fake one, though, as there were copious problems along the way. And Rob thought the staff were all condescending hipsters, whereas I thought... they were pretty cool. We often have widely disparate perceptions of such things, which I find interesting. Also, for the amount of money people pay to live and visit South Beach, you'd think the roads wouldn't be so completely sucktastic! Anyway, here's a selfie the lady babies and I took while there:


Have a great day, you guys. Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday Stealing: For Old Times' Sake


Link up here if you're a latecomer, like Yours Truly!

From For Old Times' Sake 

The For Old Times' Sake Meme

When was the last time you swam in a pool? 

March 5th or 6th. It was cold, in Suffolk, VA, with an unheated indoor pool. I preferred to jump into the pool, warm up in the hot tub until I was about to pass out, then lather, rinse, and repeat. Ah, good times.

 Do you like to party? 

I didn't go to a single frat party during my years at the Universities Miami and South Florida. I studied hard, and I worked up to three jobs at a time, besides. Apologies in advance to all you Greeks, but I don't like to be told with whom I can be friends, what parties and games to attend, and what guys to date. And I didn't want to check my brain at the door and share the community one. So nope, I didn't rush, pledge, or whatever those sorority girl-types do these days. Ah, I've waited a long time to say that "out loud." (I mean, uh, no.)

Describe the shirt you're wearing? 

It's green, with a peek-a-boo slit where you would be able to see my cleavage - if I had any.

What is one feature film that you don't like?

If Ernest went there, I hated it.

Would people describe you as happy? 

OMG, is anyone else sick of being told to Keep Calm yet?! Anyway, long story short, yes, I am generally considered to be happy. So much so, my dad called me "Joyous" as a kid. Nowadays, though, I need to take my meds like clockwork in order to be anything but a total $%^&* bitch. Sad to say.

Sleep with or without clothes on? 

I generally crash in whatever I've been wearing for the day. I have about four sets of PJs that haven't touched my skin, other than to be moved from drawer to box and back again, in ages.

Oh, and don't do a Google Images search for "sleep naked" with kids around. Consider yourself warned. (*ahem* I don't know whether to apologize or say "you're welcome" to my 11-year-old son now...)

Does it bother you if people swear around you? 

Are you kidding me? I'm a native New Yawka, my husband is a sailor, and... no. I don't mind. I'm trying to quit, but truth be told, I'm not really trying as hard as I could be.

Do you prefer Wednesdays or Thursdays? 

My favorite day of the week used to be any day that Hubs was home from work, spending the day with us. Now that he's retired, every day sucks. Haha! I kid, I kid.

Like to travel? 

Is the Pope Catholic?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Do I like to swear?

Yes, dudes. I live to travel.

Think you're attractive? 


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You tell me.

Are or were you a good student? 

I didn't get a 100 average in high school; I got a 119. I'm 37 years old now and other than this silly ol' blahg, no one in the world cares anymore. It was important at the time. I went into college as a mid-year sophomore and graduated from a 5-year program in 3 years with a double major and what would have been a triple minor if I'd gone another year. 

Yeah. I was a good student. But who cares? (ME, obviously! ha.)

Are you currently happy? 

So my husband left his critically-important medicine at the ballpark last night (why he brought it there is beyond me), and now he's retching between sobs. I feel bad for him. It's hard to be happy at this juncture.

Colored or black-and-white photo? 

I mean, there are great color pictures that would lose their grip in B/W, and vice-versa, but as for me? I live my life right out loud, in living color, every single day. Give me turquoise, give me fuschia, give me chartreuse any day of the week. I'll take the brightest, noisiest colors you have. (Oh, was this question not supposed to be metaphorical. My bad, yo.)

Do you consider yourself the life of the party? 

Not without major chemical assistance, no

Do you drink? 

I prefer to drink when they pay me to do it (my job has its perks), but yeah. And, I seem to imbibe a lot more frequently since Rob had his brain surgery. Coincidence?

Do you make fun of people?


Never say never, but I generally try to be nice. On the other hand, that girl at the store tonight should not have been wearing that strapless dress with all her bacne. I'll stop there.

Do you think dreams eventually come true? 

I think I'm some special kind of psychic, because I often have realistic dreams about mundane conversations or real-life situations that, the next day or a week later, actually happen. Does that count? And is this just moi?

Also, sure they do, or else I have been an idealistic daydreamer for nothing my whole life... and I refuse to allow for that possibility!

Favorite fictional character? 

I'm rather fond of Anne of Green Gables, but that's just the first name that came to mind... (P.S. It occurred to me, just before hitting "publish," that I only thought of characters in books. Interesting little factoid to probably no one, huh?)

Go to the movies or rent? 

Remember the days when your parents used to take you and your sister to the drive-in in your paneled wood station wagon, and they'd put the seats down in the back and buy you candy and popcorn, and there would be a cartoon before the feature started? And then you two would fall asleep, or at least that's what your parents thought before they started smooching, and everything was all right with the world?

Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, I'll pick the theater, if only because it brings me back to that place over three decades ago.

Have you ever moved? 

Follow me: Monroe, NY ► Syracuse, NY ► Aiken, SC ► Coral Gables, FL ► Warrenville, SC ► Coral Gables, FL ► South Miami, FL ► Coral Gables, FL ► South Miami, FL ► Coral Gables, FL ► Sarasota, FL ► Coral Gables, FL ► St. Pete, FL ► Tampa, FL ► St. Pete, FL ► Panama City Beach, FL ► Panama City, FL ► Hagatna, Guam ► Yigo, Guam ► Norfolk, VA ► Virginia Beach, VA ► Portsmouth, VA ► Homestead, FL ► ???

Have you ever stolen anything? 

I stole a Koosh Ball once, quite by accident. I walked out of the store with it, forgetting it was in my hands, until I got back to the car. I didn't return it. I felt so guilty, I just stuffed it into the back of my closet. I don't know what became of it after that.

How's the weather right now? 


Last time you cut your hair? 


On March 9th, I got this haircut. I like it.

Last person you talked to on the phone? 

A scheduler for a mystery shopping company called me to have me do an evaluation. 

Last time you showered? 

The water pressure in our shower sucks butt, so I prefer to take baths. Normally, I hate baths, so this irks me. I did shower a couple days ago, though, because it is faster, and I was in a hurry. Hey, you asked.

Loud or soft music? 

When I'm alone in my car, I love listening to loud music. I turn it down for the kids' sakes, though.

McDonalds or Burger King? 

I prefer Panera.

Night or day? 

You saw what time it was on the weather question, right?

Number of pillows? 

One if it's firm, two if it's so squishy that my head hits the mattress. I mean, what are the point of those?!

Piano or guitar? 

My friend Shana plays (among other things) the electric violin. I think that's pretty cool.

Current longing? 

I just want Hubs to...

Current disappointment? 

I was hoping for an avocado-on-toast, with cheese and lemon, sammich. I forgot we were out of the cheese and avocados, though. Bummer.

Current annoyance? 

Jack, my son, is watching Gravity behind me. He's talking through the entire freakin' thing. (Yes, he's awake at this hour. They all are. Our sleep patterns are all messed up this past year of Brain Drama.)

Last thing you ate? 

I'm eating sunflower kernels right now, since the last disappointment.

Last thing you bought? 

These are free at Walgreens this week, so I "bought" six. I drank three already, and I'm not wired.

Pick a lyric, any lyric or a song...

When I hear John Legend singing "All of Me" on the radio, it makes me question why no one's ever written a song like that for me. And sung it to me. I've always wanted to be serenaded outside my window in the middle of the night. Or ten o'clock. Because, you know, neighbors...

But Hubs can't sing. And he can't dance. However, no one makes me laugh harder than he does. And behold, that is good.

Pick a movie quote...


... But my favorite line in Dirty Dancing is, "Just put your pickle on everybody's plate, College Boy, and leave the hard stuff to me."

I actually say it all the time, when the moment's right. Crack myself up, I do.

Well that was fun. And long. Speaking of pickles...


Sunday Stealing: Reflections On New Year's Eve

Link up here if you're playing along today!

Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection Meme

 1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
I could say it was moving back to Miami, or Rob retiring from the Navy, or any number of things. But the absolute best-best thing was when we were seriously down-and-out over the summer and early fall, and dozens upon dozens of people stepped in to help us out in innumerable ways. We were struggling to pay our most basic bills and put food on the table for our three young'uns, and we were wowed by the impact of all those people banding together to support a Navy veteran and his family in need. It was incredible and really re-instilled my hope for humankind.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?

Well, like I said, we really struggled for several months this past year, but the biggest challenge was when we lost our Odyssey, Penelope, in the midst of it. We could no longer pay the car payment, of course, and it got repossessed. I'm saddened when I think of it, but joyful now that we are out from under that car payment and have a somewhat-reliable vehicle, Miguel, which we were able to purchase with funds from the many donations we received.

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?


There were many, but the most recent one happened yesterday. My 10-year-old son, Jack, has had a huge escalator phobia for years. He'll cling to his father or me, desperately terrified, for the duration of the ride. Yesterday, he decided he was going to overcome that fear and stepped bravely - four separate times - onto and off an escalator while barely touching me, except for stability. I'm super-proud of my boy!

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

In May or so, just as he was retiring and we were losing all our Navy income, outstanding insurance, and so forth, Rob's previously-diagnosed cerebellar cavernous angioma started acting up. It resulted in five Cyberknife surgeries to vaporize the tumor, but there were unexpected complications from that, too. He still struggles with those as well as side effects from the meds to treat them, and it's caused us to have to delay his plans to return to school for a nursing degree and pursue any kind of work.

5. Pick three words to describe 2013.  


Interesting. Stressful. Amazing.

6. What were the best books you read this year?  


Those are the books I want to read, but I only got to read ONE book this year, and it was not a good one. Here We Go Again by Jennifer Somebody is not one that I can recommend.

7. With whom were your most valuable relationships?  


That's me and Jack, 10.


That's Sophia, 8, on the left, and Chloë, 12, on the right.


And of course, that's me and Hubs. My family are my life; they mean everything to me.

8. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year? 

I continually struggle with making poor decisions, many of which only matter inside my own head, and then I dwell on them forever. I have got to learn, in 2014, to just let. things. go!

 9. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?  


I have long pursued an attitude of gratitude, and I think my appreciation for all that I have been blessed with has grown by leaps and bounds this year.

10. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?  


I have come to understand myself and my beliefs more clearly.

11. In what way(s) did you grow physically?  

Stealing this one from my friend Erica! I definitely added a few pounds this year. I'm working diligently to remove them, but it's proving to be a bigger challenge than I expected. I'm going to have to start, you know, exercising and stuff. (Well, I already started, but my motivation has flagged over these holidays...)

12. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?


I have long played the part of doormat in the family in which I grew up, and I stood up to those people when I felt like I was getting that same ol' treatment. It feels good, and now I feel like I have more of an equal footing with them.

13. What was the most enjoyable part of your work?  


I took a six-month hiatus from my "job," and now that I'm back, I realized just how much I enjoy the work! I really missed it in those latter months of my sabbatical.

14. What was the most challenging part of your work?


Walking away for those six months was really difficult, since I have been doing the same work diligently for 7½ years now. I needed the respite, but I felt like I was letting a lot of people down, including myself. In the end, though, I'm glad I took the break.

15. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year? 


The internet, of course. Sophia said I spend more time on the computer than anything else, and I vow to change that in 2014! (I don't necessarily think she's right, but I do spend a lot of time online, and I don't want that to be her main memory of Mom!)

16. What was the best way you used your time this past year? 

Absolutely, that would be homeschooling our trio of Odettelettes. They are so worth every second of time we have devoted to this endeavor!

17. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?

That quote about holding onto resentment meaning you're letting that person rent-free inside your head? It's so true. I've pretty much let it go. Almost.

18. Create a phrase or statement that describes 2013 for you.

Charles Dickens said it best!

* * * * *

This was a good one; I've enjoyed it. Cheers to all you thieves!




A Thursday Saturday 9: Potential New Boyfriend

Linkage is here if you're a way-late-comer to this party like I am!

I took a bit of a bloggy break for a week or two, but I'm ready to get back in the groove. What way to get back at it then a meme or two? Shall we? Here we go!

Unfamiliar with this week's featured song? Hear it here

1) In this song, Dolly Parton locks eyes with a definite maybe. What's the first thing that attracts you to a potential new boyfriend or girlfriend? If you're currently in a relationship, what first attracted you to your partner?
The first thing that I notice is always the eyes. It's funny, because in the first picture (we met online) that I saw of Rob, he was wearing sunglasses! So in this one case, it was his words that attracted me. I knew from his first email; I thought to myself, "I'm going to marry this guy." Two months later, I did!

2) When Dolly was still a very young girl, she met Johnny Cash, who told her to follow her instincts and pursue a music career. Obviously this worked out very well for her. What's the best advice you've ever received?
I am a very sensitive, introspective, self-flagellating person (mentally). So when I started my JAFRA business, my manager told me not to take the rejection to heart. She taught to say to myself, "Some will, some won't, so what, who's next?" Almost 15 years later, I still say it to myself!

3) Dolly enjoys telling interviewers how she met her husband at the Wishy-Washy Laundromat in Nashville. Do you have a load of dirty clothes, or some other household chore, waiting for you after you finish this week's Saturday 9?
Always. I'm raising three young'uns, so there are always mountains of laundry everywhere. I cannot contain the beast! Oy vey.

4) Dolly's Imagination Library is a charity devoted to children's literacy. What book did you enjoy as a kid? Or, if you're a parent, what book did you enjoy sharing with your own children?
My favorite book was Tikki Tikki Tembo by Arlene Mosel. So much fun to read aloud! With my kids, I'm grateful to my MIL for sending all of Shel Silverstein's poetry books, because we always enjoy reading those together.

5) Dolly's theme park, Dollywood, is a very popular vacation destination. When you have time off, would you rather travel or have friends/relatives visit you?
Oh, gosh, hands down I would rather travel. I would love to see every corner of the earth before I die. Except maybe Somalia. I could stand to skip the pirate thing.

6) Dolly is godmother to Miley Cyrus. If you could advise Miley, what would you say?

Maybe something like, "Honey, do you want to be remembered for being naked, drunk, and high? Or smart? Because, right now, you're not being thought of as the latter..."
7) Dolly has earned a reputation for being very warm and friendly to the public. Have you ever had a celebrity encounter? 
I've told this a few times on here, but I always like to share it. I used to read Dave Barry's syndicated Miami Herald column way back in my early days, from age 7 on, up in the Syracuse Post-Standard. Every Sunday, without fail, I looked for his column, and how I would laugh! So when I moved to Florida to attend the University of Miami, I worked at the Publix grocery store in Coral Gables, and lo and behold, Dave Barry and his wife Michelle came in All. The. Time to shop there!
The first time I saw him was on a Sunday, so I grabbed a newspaper and followed him around, super shyly, to get an autograph. I cherished that column for years until it got damaged in a move. He used to come through my check-out line all the time, and when I moved up to the office, he'd come up there to me. He bought gift certificates for turkeys to give out every Thanksgiving. Really great, nice guy. 

8) As you can see by the photo, this song was originally released on vinyl. Do you still have any old-school LPs or 45s?
No, I haven't had any of those in years, but I believe Hubs still does, somewhere... in a box.

9) Sam simply cannot stand Dish TV's Hopper commercial, where hysterical grown men hide under the bed and up in a tree house because they're afraid of ... something. What commercial just bugs the beejeesus out of you?
Any lawyer commercial, especially the traffic ones where they freakin' scream at you. When I worked at the law firm, Jim (the owner-lawyer) said he couldn't stand the guys who had to advertise on TV, or in the phone book, or whatever. He said the best way to get clients was word-of-mouth, because that meant you had a great reputation. That's the kind of lawyer he wanted to be - and he was. ♥

So Chloë Is Twelve, And I Am Old.


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

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


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


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


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


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

And how cute does she look in that dress?


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Moving on...


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

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

Ah, the love.

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

Friday Fragments, Episode 6.14.13

Unknown Mami

Link up with Mrs. 4444 Unknown Mami, who is taking over for summer, if ye be fragmentin' today!

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Is it seriously Flag Day already? Holy cow. Where is this month going? It's flying by, that's for sure. For you, too?

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I was talking with Rob (Hubs) in the car today about Kate Middleton and how I enjoyed following the Royal Windsor (right?) family ever since I watched Lady Di marry Prince Charles back when I was five years old, in 1981. He was surprised I remembered it. Who could forget this:

I've long been a fan and was honestly crushed when she died in 1997. Here she was, in her 30s, blonde and blue-eyed, dying suddenly and tragically, leaving behind two young children of the same sex... hm. Similarities to my own story much? Anyway. So I have followed Prince William's marriage and the baby bump story and all that with keen interest.

Rob posited that the Di/Charles story was a bigger one than the William/Kate one, on the world stage, as far as news stories go. I heartily disagreed. So I thought I'd ask you guys. What do you think? Is Kate as big a fairy tale story as that of her departed mother-in-law? I say equal.

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So sorry for the shameless begging request, but could you please comment on this review post? I don't have a huge ton of readers and need to get back to my sponsors with some feedback from folks. Thanks, y'all rock for helping me out! I promise I'll be a good little blahgger and visit back this week, too. No slacking for once, swears!

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Didja get your free donut on at Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme, or anywhere else on Friday? It was National Doughnut Day. Yup. We partook. I didn't eat a single bite, though; I am behaving so I can stay put in Rob's jeans! 

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The kids were sent books and pens (because you write in books?) by my dad on Saturday, and the girls dove right in. Jack just rolled his eyes and sarcastically said, "Oh, yay, another book." He's picked up reading a little more in the last couple-three months, but I definitely wouldn't call him a bookworm yet. We've instituted Family Reading Hour as of yesterday, and so far it hasn't stuck. We'll keep at it, though. It's important to us.

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We made Pillsbury Cresent Rolls the other day, and Sophia took the ends off the tube and turned herself into a housefly! I loved it. She's so fun, so creative, such a happy-go-lucky girl... I do adore her so, like all the children, but Sophie really has a knack for making us laugh!

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I took the kids to the $1 movie on Tuesday for Regal Cinemas' summer movie program. Used to be a free one by AMC or Cinemark or something too (nope, I just checked; it was Regal itself that used to be free), but apparently they're all a dollar now.  It's a bit of a hike to get there, too, or we might have gone back for The Three Stooges on Wednesday. We saw Ice Age: Continental Drift this week, and it was really pretty good for a multiple-sequel flick! I'd brought my knitting along, expecting to be buried in it, but I actually didn't get that much done because of having my eyes on the screen. I can't wait to go again next week. Looks like we'll have to choose between Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days and Parental Guidance for next week. We've seen the first, and isn't the latter not for little kids??

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The rain actually let up for once today, so we headed out to a park we haven't been to before this. Of course, as we made our way there, the sky completely opened up and down it came. Rob and the kids sat in the van when we got there and, hopeful, applied some sunscreen. Finally, the downpour slowed to a trickle and they got out to fish (the boys) and rollerskate (girls) while I stayed inside to knit. My nausea and dizziness returned with a vengeance after a few days off today, plus it's no fun to knit with wet yarn, or I'd have been happy to join them.


I actually did come out temporarily when I got bored of being by myself, and the whole fam-damily was all gathered on the fishing platform. I caught up with them as they watched a turtle chug down some shrimp left behind by a previous fisherperson. {As for Rob, he was using some crab legs that we'd gotten from Omaha Steaks for bait. I gave him my blessing to do that because I really didn't care for it the first time we tried it; I don't think I'll order from them again, since they're pricey and yet, a letdown! If we ever order frozen food to be delivered again, I already known Schwan's is the way to go - at least for Team Odette!}


After a spell, with no fish biting, we decided to make our way over to the restaurant at the park marina for dinner. The kids ate French potaters and mozzarella sticks - too much fried food, anyone? - while Hubs and I noshed on spinach and artichoke dip (meh, it was okay, but I wasn't wowed by any stretch) and tilapia sandwiches (total blech. I took two bites and ran to the bathroom, overcome with nausea). Rob will finish my sandwich, and I'll gladly be returning to full-on vegetarianism after this, I think!

We all shared chocolate mousse cake and Key Lime cheesecake for dessert, and I remained underwhelmed. For our limited budget to be spent on a dinner that I didn't find terrific, I was bummed. I know the grille at the park we usually visit will cook your catch and provide sides for just seven bucks a plate, so I'm planning on Rob catching some fish in the future! I won't eat it, but I can still proudly Instagram him doing it, right?

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Speaking of today's failed fishing venture, Rob managed to catch his karaoke kabuki suzuki sabiki rig on the bottom and get it stuck. He ran over to the van and got out his dive booties, so he could jump in and retrieve it. I was just looking on with interest until he said, "There are no crocodiles around, right?" Duh, Melanie! We were RIGHT NEXT TO the croc warning sign, and yet I'd forgotten about them. Instantly, I freaked out on him and refused to let him jump in, despite his protests about what we could do with his life insurance funds if he got eaten. Um, no thanks. Twelve-and-½ years ago I swore I didn't care if we were poor and living in a shack with nothing but each other (and our future children), and I meant it, dadgummit!

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Well, that's enough, I'd say. Nothing else in my brain rattling around right now. Lucky you - I'm finished! Have a good weekend, folks.


A Tale Of Two Milos

I'm still knitting for my friend Stephanie's son Vinnie, the toddler who is allergic to most, if not all, manmade fibers and many natural ones. As I'm currently financially restricted to knitting with the yarn from my stash, and most of my yarns were stashed with myself in mind (read: not little boy colors), it's getting harder to do! I fancy myself the enterprising sort, at least on occasion, so we're making do just fine for now. 


I bought the pattern for Milo {Ravelry link} not knowing it had several different cable options, thinking it perfect for the singular hank of 100% pure Blue-Faced Leicester wool from Spin in the City UK that I had stashed a while back. About 200 yards of rich, smooshy wool... yeah. I was sure I had enough. So I cast on at the end of May.

I immediately hated the pattern when I started knitting. First, it's knit on circular needles. I much prefer straight needles, by a long shot, over circs. And then if I must knit in the round, I rather do it on DPNs (double-pointed needles) over a lone circ. It's just not intuitive for my hands. When I knitted the first four rounds on this Milo, therefore, gritting my teeth the whole way, the next instructions were enough to make me put baby in the corner for a whole week: "Repeat the last two rounds NINE MORE TIMES." UGH.


And then, on Saturday night after seeing Vinnie's pictures on Facebook, I felt urged to knit for the wee boy. I had Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice fresh on iTunes as an audiobook, and though I hate being read to with a passion, I decided I would combine the detested read-aloud with the even more odious circular knitting and kill two birds. 

Oh, my gosh, y'all. I fell in love with BOTH!!

I busted out 6½ hours of knitting on Milo to a wonderful British accent reading me the swoon-worthy story of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy from Saturday night into Sunday morning, and it was time well spent. I got to like circular knitting in a new way, learned to love the pattern de Milo, and am eager to get more audiobooks for future knitting marathons.


The only problem with Milo the First, as you can see here, is that I completely miscalculated the yardage I would need. I only had the one hank and could not find any more online, so I decided to just knit until I ran out. I ended up running out as I was binding off, which sucked. I had to go grab a teensy bit of semi-coordinating wool that Stephanie herself had given to me for a different Vinnie project to finish the binding. It works. Kinda.

I mean, Milo is too short and wide for Vinnie, I think, so there's a bit of a learning curve with this pattern. It measured okay (ie, long enough) on the needle, but off the needle it's shorter than what I had measured before the short garter stitch hem! D'oh. I'm not crying over spilt milk, however, because this particular hank of wool came adorned with a teensy angeline fiber woven in, and as I'm not entirely sure Vinnie won't be allergic to that glittery thread, I won't be terribly upset if Steph ends up regifting the first incarnation of Milo to another, smaller babe.


So on Monday morning, in the wee hours, I cast on for Milo again. I dove deep into my stash and found this 100% Fine Highland wool in the proper weight for Milo. Still squeezy, but not quite as smooshy. Still soft, though not quite as buttery. Much softer than the scratchy Colorblock Sweater I just made Vinnie, so it'll do fine, I'm sure.


I hadn't yet had my fill of the Austen saga, so I found Pride & Prejudice - starring Keira Knightly - on Amazon Prime and sat back with my now-tolerable circular needle. By dawn, the movie had ended and the kids were starting to get up for the day.

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We went to the zoo after the rain cleared up, and I knit in the car while Rob drove there, at the zoo itself while the kids played, and I knit after we returned home. I find myself both addicted to the pattern and yearning for more Jane Austen. What else ya got, iTunes?

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I can't decide whether I did the cable wonkily or if Milo the Second just needs a good blocking (which Steph will handle, because Vinnie's also allergic to cats and so she has to pre-wash everything I send him), but they don't seem to be sitting properly. Eh. Small worry. The length is much more suitable for a toddler boy, as are the colors and lack of glitteriness, so I'm happier with this second rendition.

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It's not really screwy, I don't think; it's just hanging funny on that hanger. I did the bottom binding with a stretchy cast-off, so he'll be able to yank it on and off over his head easily. Makes it a little bumpy and nubby, but that's okay. It's more functional than pretty, and I'm all right with that.

I've already got a third Milo on the needles, ready for yet another cable pattern. Hope you like green, Steph, because I had another skein...


Sunday Stealing: Awkwardly Intriguing Questions

Link up here if you're playing along today!

1. What’s something you hide about your personality?

Online, and especially here in my little chunk of the blahgosphere, I don't really hide anything. What you see is what you get. But IRL, I hide a lot. Literally and figuratively. I don't like attention focused on me, I don't usually speak my mind face-to-face, and I am painfully shy. Most people who read my mind blahg, I mean, not mind! probably wouldn't have guessed that. People who think they know me generally don't.

2. How do you deal with criticism?  

I don't handle it well, to be honest. I have quite a bit of paranoia about it. I generally feel that if you don't like something I'm doing, you must hate me. It goes along with my first answer from yesterday's Saturday 9; when you're told constantly what a piece of shit you are, you tend to believe it. If you're going to criticize me, please be gentle and couch it in love. Otherwise, I tune out. Or cry. Or both.

3. What’s something sweet you’d like someone to do for you?

Every Mother's Day, all I ask for is a clean house. I don't think I've ever gotten it. It's okay.

4. Which fictional character would you most like to have lunch with and why?  

Anne Shirley from the Green Gables series. I think she'd be immensely entertaining, for one thing, and just generally good company.

5. Who would you say is your “anti” role model? Someone who serves as a warning rather than an inspiration?

Oh, that's an easy one: My evil stepmother. She taught me exactly how not to parent my own children. Everything she did, everything she was, is the opposite of how I want to be. I'm breaking the cycle of abuse: the buck stops here.

6. What’s the most infuriating thing your parents (or caregiver) do?

My father is so self-centered, even my then-seven year-old told him that the world doesn't revolve around him but rather the sun. I grew up as the "yes, Daddy, anything you say, Daddy" kid and was therefore his favorite. (Why? Because I needed his protection from his wife.) When I went off to college and got a mind of my own, that stopped completely. We're not that close anymore. I hold him at arm's length now. I'm pretty sure he hates it.

7. Which movie character do you most identify with and why?

Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind really spoke to me. I'm not saying I have that level of genius, but I feel locked inside my own brain much of the time, to the point that it sabotages my relationships. I'm lucky to have such a supportive, understanding husband. 

8. You’re an Action Movie Hero. What’s your weapon of choice and the line you scream when defeating your arch enemy?  

I'd go right for the jugular, like she did. I'd make it slow and painful, like she did. And I wouldn't let her say a word in defense of herself, like I couldn't. I'd get in close and quiet, and calmly ask, "How do you like me now, bitch?" and lock eyes with her, like I never never could before. Ooh, sounds evil... but I'm the good guy in this story.

9. What’s the oddest term of endearment you’ve ever used or that someone’s used for you?

It's either "Willis," which is my term of endearment for everybody, or "Chicken Poop," which I reserve especially for Chloë (my 11yo). I have no idea why I say the latter.

10. What was something you used to enjoy, but was ruined for you? What’s the story behind that?  

I used to love to sing and dance in public, but when I was 15, my stepmother said she wasn't going to continue paying for lessons. She said, and I quote, "I wasn't worth paying for." {{Ugh, I mistyped again. Obviously, she was talking about me and not herself. Der.}} She didn't buy me food or feminine hygiene products or anything after that. Life sucked.

11. Which mythological creature are you most like? Why? And if you could be any mythological creature, which would you want to be? Why?  

I'm like the mythical Phoenix, rising from the ashes. During my childhood, after Mom died and The Bitch From Hell came along, my joy was obliterated and I became a completely different person, angry, hostile, and afraid to live life. But I'm overcoming that and becoming ME again, anew. That suits me fine, I guess.

12. Describe your dream library.  

There would be an endless supply of books, and ladders that I could ride down the length of it on, and I would lend them out to only my reponsible friends. ;) And cushy, comfy chairs to curl up in, and a fireplace - away from the books - and a viewing/listening center for audio-visual materials - and a bathroom, and a snack bar. And a dog for a companion, at all times.

13. If you could design an amusement park ride, what would it be like?  

I'm pretty tame when it comes to the rides I ride, but in reality, I'm a little wild and crazy, a little spontaneous, and I embrace the unexpected. So I can't tell you; you'd have to find out for yourself. And no two rides would ever be the same.

14. Do you have any “rules” about food? 

My number one rule is NO MUSTARD. I not only hate it, but I have a phobia about it. I have no idea why.

No mammals; I don't eat 'em.

I was a marine biologist pre-marriage, so I can't eat anything I've studied. I take that on a case-by-case basis. I'll pretty much never eat Littorina ziczac - but who does?

No raw tomatoes; they make me gag.

No mushrooms; I don't do fungus as a general rule.

No baked beans. Even the smell of them makes me puke.

And for the kids: take what you want, but eat what you take! No wasting. I hate waste.

15. What’s your opinion on age differences in relationships?

I say, unless it's statutory rape, then go for it! Who am I to judge? As long as you're both happy and consenting adults, it's fine.

16. What’s something you want to do that you’d be embarrassed to tell other people about?

The only thing I would be embarrassed to tell are some of my sexual exploits, past, present and future. Those don't get written about here. Everything else is fair game, I think.

17. Describe a time/event in your life that you’re nostalgic for.

Of course, I would give anything to have my mom and son back to have and to hold...

Well, this was kind of a depressing post from me today, huh? Sorry about that, but it's real. It's always real.

Have a good week, y'all.


Oh, My Dawg, I'm So Excited!!!

...or, How We Spent Our Tax Refund!

        ...or, Man, We Should Be One of Those Couples Who Has To Spend a Million-Dollar Inheritance in 24-Hours Flat!

                   You feel me? But let's move on from these 77 alternate titles and get to the meat of this post.

If you hadn't realized, our federal tax refund hit our bank account yesterday. Here's how we've spent it on the kids and household goods in the day since then:


1. First stop, our local post office. We had to mail five or six packages, including the Progressive Snapshot device I'd never plugged into our Odyssey, Penelope, some video surveillance equipment for a mystery shop I'd (never) done, and the keys to our Virginia Beach house to our realtor back in that town. Plus, I had to buy a roll of stamps. Yes, some of us do still send snail mail. And also, we had to bring our lease in so that we could FINALLY get the keys to our mailbox. It's been 3 weeks, and we still have almost NO mail, save for the little bit that trickles down into our PO Box. Speaking of which, the kids and I went to check it while Rob finished up with the lease business, and there were two cards in it from Aunt Stacey (my sister). She sent cards and money for the two birthday babies, Jack and Sophia, having decided together with me that money was the way to go for our kids' respective birthdays from now on.


2. Next stop, Walmart. We spent a buttload of money on household necessities (and a few un-necessities, but not many) there. And Jack spent his new birthday money on this remote-controlled boat he'd been eyeing for a while.


Sophia spent her birthday money on this horse, which goes with her doll that she'd bought with birthday money from others earlier in the month. Granted, it's not tax money, but it happened yesterday, so I have to tell ya.


Also, Chloë and...




... Sophia both got new pairs of skates, which was and wasn't a splurge. It wasn't an absolute need, no, but they did need to get more and more varied exercise, and I needed a skating partner! Rob wanted to buy me a bike, too, but I figure I'll keep an eye on Freecycle for that. (Side note: Sophia fell on her butt a million times but is already zooming skillfully around the block. Chloë is still falling, but she'll get there, I'm sure. Soon as she lets go of all the tree branches, that is.)


 Other spending at Wally-World included food (absolutely necessary, right?), an iron (Rob had left ours back at the Va Beach house, oops), toilet bowl brushes (because, eww, he forgot those back there, too), a plunger (same story), towels and accessories to match the new shower curtains and mats in both our and the kids' bathrooms (splurge-y), a garbage can (forgot it, too), aaaand new bedding for all three kids (Sophia ruined all the old ones. She does that).




Next up, back at home, I went online to the Florida DMV website because we both need new state licenses, and then we'll need to register Penelope and the motorcycle, and then we'll need to get new insurance policies. (And I still freakin' need to fix the gigantical crack down the middle of my windshield, but that'll keep a li'l longer, won't it? It's been a month and a half already, after all...) But the next appointment - you make 'em online, here - for the DMV isn't until May 6th, so I looked at the docs we'll need for the new licenses. Crap, I need a new Social Security card. So do the kids; ours got stolen, which is not awesome. Lots of other stuff did, too; someone stole our "important papers" lockbox I kept under my desk. Ugh. Anyway. We'll go do that business tomorrow. Of course, they'll want my driver's license, among other things, to get the new card, so now I understand dogs and cats chasing their own tails!




We don't need cable TV - -haven't had it for years- - but we do need internet service. This is 2013, after all, and we have numerous electronic devices needing wi-fi. Not to mention the fact that our iPhones get crap for signals in the house on the LTE network, or 3G or 4G for the matter, and we don't have a landline. So, we put in about a half-dozen phone calls to Comcast to sign up for supah-fast (and cheap, compared to what we were paying for Cox in VA) cable internet service. We'd have done it sooner, but, ah, that's neither here nor there. It's done now, and they're coming Sunday, and I can't wait, and yeah.


Jafra Melanie


Next stop, JAFRA, to place an order. I have gotten several from clients that needed fulfilling, plus I plan to start kicking that into high gear, so I needed a few things myself for said purpose. Yeah. I love JAFRA packages. They smell so damn good and always bring promises of buttery soft skin. Mmm, me likey.




Speaking of our iPhones, I've been boosting off my 5's Personal Hotspot to get online and do all the important stuff like tell you on this blahg about that important stuff, and so I had to go on the AT&T website to pay our big, fat bill. That was that. Can't wait to whittle that back down after the Comcast guy comes with our new, um, nothing?




Speaking of paying the bills, I hopped over to our bank website and put in an extra payment for Penelope, and...




...Elsie, Rob's BMW motorsickle.


(Yes, I spelled it that way on porpoise. C'mon, now.)


And then, the really exciting stuff started. Well, wait, first dinner. The kids must eat. The husband must eat. I... must nibble. I gained about 10 lbs during our move and realized it even before I got my scale back a week ago to confirm it, so I've been eating very carefully and am already down 4 lbs since then. I was hoping to take it off by my birthday in September, so yay. But what? am I talking about??




For dinner, after Rob and the kids cleared off the table and cleaned up the kitchen enough for me to cook in it properly, we laid down the new bamboo runner we'd gotten on clearance from Walmart (a minute splurge, yes, but it went with my Fiestaware, and hey, bamboo!) and used the also-clearanced new cloth napkins (hey, reducing paper waste is a good thing). Since we were going fancyish, I decided to make the kids promise promise promise they wouldn't break the wedding crystal we'd gotten from Dr. Lisa and Uncle Faris, and they did pinky-promise, which is as good as gold 'round here. And guess what? The only person who came even close to breaking one was ME. Yup, I'm still the same ol' klutz I always was, rest assured. PS, the candles were Sophie's idear. We are SO decadent. ;P




I'd gotten this Ninja Chopper from my friend, Yet Another Stephanie, back in VA, but I hadn't put it to good use yet. We had avocados, we had guac mix, and we had tortilla chips, so it was time. And guess what? After a few pulses, we had delicious-ish guacamole. It wasn't the best I've ever had, but compared to the improvised batch I made after Rob and - yes! - the kids quickly polished off this one, it wasn't bad at all. Heh. (Mine wasn't either, but it lacked salt. And lymes. And cilantro. And had too much onion. And tomato. And not enough avocado. Damn, it must've sucked worse than I first rememberated.)




This picture is way washed-out compared to the actual scene, but then I whipped up a pork steak dinner from a recipe I'd gotten on the back of a can of Campbell's chicken broth. There was pasta instead of rice, because that's what I had, and I needed to squeeze fresh juice from oranges rather than use bottled juice, because that's what I had and hello, yummier, but other than that, it was pretty much according to the recipe. Kinda. Anyways. Rob says it was good enough to make again, which is high praise coming from him, but all three kids had upturned noses, the punks. I don't see them doing the whole presentation-is-everything thing on me with hummus and pita, or anything, so humph!




However, Jack and Chloë did enjoy the orange slices in the dinner so well that they requested more for dessert. Um, okay, twist my arm a little bit, why don'tcha.


And NOW for the rilly, rilly exciting part!!!


(You'd better be sitting down now.)


(I mean it.)


(Because this is heady, heady stuff, coming up here in a second.)


Are you ready?


All right.


You asked for it.










I bought stuff for homeschooling!!!!!! Yeah, school, baby! I can't WAIT to delve back in and get the kids back on track and have tons and tons and TONS of fun in the process. I love teaching them!!


Here's what I bought over at the Homeschool Buyers' Co-op:




All FIVE levels of Latin American Spanish from Rosetta Stone!!! Whoop!! For cheap! I have been wanting RS for aaaaaaaages, ever since I did a mystery shop at one of their kiosks (oops, I'm not supposed to tell you that) and saw how well it works. Chloë started angling for German, and I would have been thrilled with Latin, but we all settled on the LAS after thinking about what would be the most useful in our lives right now. I can not WAIT to get my teeny-weeny little hands on this baby. Sirrusly.




I usually piece our Science and Social Studies curricula together myself, but this year (starting now), I'm going to get a little help from the award-winning Adaptive Curriculum. I cannot wait to see how that works for us, especially in Social. Science, I've got down, but our Soshe has been a little, well, piecemeal, so I'd like to get it more organized in their brains, y'know?


For teaching Grammar rules more concretely, I got us a lifetime passport to Grammaropolis, which looks very promising. Sounds like fun, too!




For writing and all that goes with that business, I bought us a year's subscription (which is really enough information, with what I got, to last us through the end of high school if I choose) to Brave Writer, a highly rated program about which I've heard nothing but good stuff. Eeeeeek!


And now for the reeeeeealllllly exciting part!!!!


Can you stand it? I can't!!



Because we want the kids to be technologically savvy, and because so much of their work is computer- and internet-based, I have been wanting to get them each their own laptop or tablet for a while. I've been researching and thinking and debating about it; we've had ONE laptop for the kids up 'til now, and it just doesn't work that well when all three kids need to be online to do assignments. With three, I wouldn't need to constantly rotate them out and cut them short on projects - they could all work simultaneously! So after tons more research, I bought them each a Kindle Fire HD 7" tablet on Amazon.com! Wooohoooo, the
y are going to be so stoked, man!






Of course, to protect their shiny new electronical toys, I got them each a case in a different color. Jack's is green, because, well, it's his favorite, and I couldn't find a boyish pattern to suit him.




I think this one will be Chloë's.


Sophia will like this one.


I don't know how much they'll need or use them, but it remains to be seen, so I got them this pack of 6 styli for their Kindle Fire HDs, and also one - yes, just one - wall charger to share. I figure that much we can do on a rotational basis, right?

But I'm still not done outfitting the kids for the coming year. Nope, nope, nope. I did s'more shopping on ye olde Amazon first:


Sophia needs a new queen-sized mattress for the bunk bed she'll now be sharing with Chloë, because we had to leave her old one behind in Portsmouth (doesn't really matter; it was gross). I got her this memory-foam one, which has really good ratings. Remind me to air it out for two days first...

Oh, and for us, I got a new bed frame since Rob left our old one behind at the Virginia Beach house, which sucks because they aren't as cheap as I thought they were. Booger.


For Jack, I picked up a Yamaha keyboard stand (and a new wall charger, since he lost his). Even though he's decided not to pursue lessons for now, the music store folks convinced us to hang onto the keyboard in case one of the kids picks it up. And I can play, albeit slowly and gingerly, so we can all bang around on it for our music lessons in Sweet Pea Academy. It's cheap but comes highly-rated, so I think this one'll do us just faaaahhhhhn.


And finally (as you all breathe a sigh of relief, I know), the kids have been doing some growing since last I shopped for summer clothing for them. Especially Sophia; she's now, like, a foot taller than Jack! No lie. She needed a new bathing suit and picked this one out at Sears.

They all needed shorts and tees, so I bought bunches upon bunches of those for each kiddo, too, along with one dressy outfit for each kid. Inexplicably, after making a painstaking order there, Sears canceled several of my items and let the rest go through. Buh-wha-huh? I have to call them. I want those things, dammit! They need 'em! But it'll keep 'til 0900. Which, oh, is four minutes from now. Serendipity, baby!

Oh, shit, I totally forgot one more big splurge! Well, not like, a boat big, but Shamu big. *Ahem*


Yep. We're going to Orlando on Monday and Tuesday! Rob still has a little bit more time (a month, maybe) on Active Duty, so that means he and three dependents still get in for fah-reeeee at Anheuser-Busch parks through their ongoing Here's to the Heroes Salute program.  That leaves one kid out, so I bought another ticket, along with our parking pass, dine-all-day passes for Rob and the kids (I'll nibble and graze meagerly), and a stroller rental voucher. I can't wait, and the kids are ecstatic! (The stroller is mostly for Jack, who still has trouble walking sometimes, especially for long periods of time, thanks to his tight Achilles tendons, and also to keep the kid out of the sun here and there, and also in case we want it to carry things around the park without holding them.) Can't wait to see the shows, can't wait to see Shamu, can't wait to see my babies' faces when they get to feed a fish or two to the dolphins. Wheeee! That'll be Monday.


I think we'll do this on Tuesday, but we might not. I don't know yet. We'll see. Maybe we'll just come home Tuesday, or we might hang out with my online friend, Gloria, whom I've not yet met, or maybe we'll... hm. I don't know! Suggestions?

NOW I'm finished.

I have some mystery shops to go do today, along with my doctor's appointment for this thing growing on my chin, soooo.... whew! This post took forEVER to write.


P.S. I'm such a liar. That's not all. HAHAHA. The cats got new beds and litter to poop in - LOTS of litter.

Jack And Robby's TENTH Birthday


March 22nd marked ten years - a decade! unbelievable - since our beloved twin boys were born. As many, if not all of you know, Robby (seen, above, at three days old, so close to the end) died, so we have a little angel baby in heaven waiting for us.


And here is our little Peanut, Jack River, along with Chloë, Rob and me, on April 22nd, when Jack finally came out of the NICU after a month's stay - which is great, since they were 31-week preemies. He was expected to stay a month longer. And he's been a little scrapper like that ever since!


A week ago was their birthday. We celebrated Jack with a small party at Stephanie and Tim's house, along with their boys Luke & Vinnie.

Can I just take a moment to say how great Stim were to us during our last few weeks in Virginia? They had us over to eat two or three times, offered to let us spend the night when our house was cold, dark and all boxed up with nowhere for us to sleep (we would have taken them up on it, too, but they both had headaches and we felt it was just too much to ask), watched the kids several times while we were with the movers, and... I can't remember what else, but I know there is more. Thank you, guys! We are so grateful for all the help.

Steph took some pictures on my iPhone while I served Jack's cake:


(Hey, check it - my hair is growing back!)

We all sang to Jack, of course, and I had to remind him to stop and make a wish before he blew out his ten candles. It's a secret, of course, but I'm guessing it involves LEGOs! The boy is obsessed.


Making his wish - and IMHO, Rob looks so cute in this picture! I love him with longer hair and a beard. Ahh, the retired life!




We all had our ice cream cake - even me, which was not a good move, but hey - it's my faaaaave. I got so sick afterward. Was it worth it? Hells, yeah!


I played with Luke after cake - and omg, I look so much like my dad here, it's ridick! Ugh!


I'd given Jacky several presents, including his beloved LEGO City sets, during the month of March, but I hadn't saved anything from the packers to give to him on his actual birthday. D'oh!! Mamacita to the rescue - she sent books that arrived just in time for his special day. All three kids enjoyed reading them on the way down to Florida!


As for Robby, this year, in honor of the 10th anniversary of his passing, we've decided to shake things up a bit. We're doing Random Acts of Kindness in his memory. I got this idea from one of the many pamphlets left on my hospital bed after he died. I read through them for the sole purpose of finding something to do for his birthday, and I'm glad I did! I love this idea so much. We haven't decided whether to do these acts for a week, a month, or the whole year, but I love the idea of doing them in his name. We started right away, and it's been grand.

Happy birthday, boys. We love you both. ♥


P.S. I'm going to knit for Vinnie now, which I've been doing for a few weeks since he's allergic to many things including most fibers. I'll be back tonight or tomorrow with more pictures and posts - and hopefully some kind of good news - about our move and house-hunting. Cheers!

Neon Tiki Tribe Party!

Disclosure: In exchange for this review, I was provided with a party kit including the materials shown herein, by MommyParties and Neon Tiki Tribe. No monetary exchange took place. As always, all opinions are my own.


I'll explain that in a minute. But first, what's a party without some snacks? We started off with pizza bites:


Yes, the glasses were part of our kit. Everyone had fun wearing them!


We selected from purple, green, and gold glasses. It was like Mardi Gras in here!


Rob and I wore the t-shirts, since they were adult-sized, and it was just us for the party as everyone else called out with the latest bug to go 'round. We look adorable, I know. ;)

Now for the Neon Tiki Tribe, whose members include, from Left to Right: Mowah, the strongest; Tia, the smartest; Zeke, the leader; and, Dar, the fastest. Each of the four of us (Sophia was also out sick!) picked a character to be for the remainder of the party.

So. What IS the Neon Tiki Tribe? Tiki stands for Thoughtful, Intelligent, Kind Individual. It's a series of children's stories about issues relevant to kids with a moral involved in each story. Right now, there are three books available, and we received one for everybody, along with character posters:


The good guys, Neon Tiki Tribe members, battle the Evil Ku Tiki Tribe in each of the stories, so in addition to having a moral issue to discuss at the end of the story, good triumphs over bad each time. We received posters showing the bad guys, too:




First, we read Tiki Beach Battle! to introduce ourselves to the characters and the special powers each one gains when they put on their sunglasses. What's also cool about the books is that they use a Dyslexic-friendly font as well, since Dyslexia affects 1 in 10 kids. Pretty thoughtful!


We stopped to discuss the moral of the story over our shrimp cocktail. Hey, it went along with the beach theme of the story, so why not?


The kids clamoured for more, so we read Dog Rescue Mission! second, again taking turns. After that, I interviewed Rob and the kids about the characters, their powers, and the themes of the stories. We had fun seeing who could come up with the right answers the fastest!


Lastly, Chloë - our bookworm - read Bullies: Playground Push-Around to the rest of us by herself, while we followed along in our own books. We discussed the stories some more and related them to our own lives. After that, we called it a day!


If this sounds like something you could use in your own lives, schools, or other kid-related groups, head on over here to the Neon Tiki Tribe Store to see what books merchandise are available.

Enter Promo Code: Tiki300 to get 25% off your order!

Thanks to Neon Tiki Tribe and MommyParties for this fun and educational party experience for us. And yeah, I'm totally going to wear my glasses when I go out to the store tomorrow. Hee!


Product Review: "What's In The Bible DVD"

I was selected for participation in this review and given the What's in the bible DVD as a member of The Homeschool Lounge Review Team. All thoughts and opinions are my own.



A little while back, we were given this DVD: Volume 1: In The Beginning / Genesis from the "What's in the Bible" series to review. It's taken us a while to watch the DVD because our machine broke, and then the laptop wouldn't read the disk properly. Argh! We finally had a chance to view the 60-minute DVD Monday night, after I figured out how to get it to play in the afore-mentioned laptop. At last!!


You may or may not be able to read that top-right corner, but it tells us that this series is from Phil Vischer, the creator of VeggieTales®, of which we are huge fans! Indeed, I recognized several voices from VT, so it was a little bit of familiarity embedded in something novel for us.

All three kids sat transfixed throughout the hour-long, two-part DVD, and they erupted into giggles many times in that time. Volume 1 covers the structure and purpose of "the world's most important book," along with who wrote it. Covered topics include Adam & Eve and Noah and the Great Flood, amongst others. A bonus short section,"Quacky's Questions," answers "What is kindness?" My children watched the entire DVD, and then we discussed it.

Jack, my 9-year-old son, was exhausted by the time it was over, so he (as is typical for him) claimed not to have enjoyed it or learned anything from it (though I know he did both) and went straight to bed when it was over. Well! That left the girls.

Sophia, seven, told me she learned that it's important to always try to be good and obey her mom and dad, and God, and not be bad. She learned what sins were, and she learned about Noah and the flood. She said she was glad that God promised not to flood the entire Earth again, and she also learned that God separated people and gave them different languages to speak so there would be less sinning in the world. (Hey, I'm just telling you what my baby said; take what you will from it.)

When asked if she learned anything additional, Chloë, 11, told me that she learned that the Bible is the most important book in the world. We've talked previously - earlier in the same day, even - about respecting The Good Book and not losing or mistreating it (or any other books, but especially this one), so it didn't surprise me that she had this to say.

Both of my daughters said they loved the DVD and thought it was really funny, especially when the characters spoke in silly voices. They were surprised to learn that we get to keep the DVD instead of "renting it back," as they say, and also that it was given to me for us to review. Chloë said, "I thought you bought it for us as a fun surprise! Can we get more of them?"


Indeed,  I think it's possible this will make a great set for Christmas, and I know they - and the like-minded amongst you out there - will be thrilled to receive it!

If you visit the site, you'll see there are some great **free** resources and activities to go along with the series, including coloring pages, Bible flashcards, a Study Guide, and more!  Let me know if you end up getting the set or any parts of it, and what you think, too!

Thanks to The Homeschool Lounge review team and the series for providing us with this excellent jumping-off point for discussing all things Biblical!


Friday Fragments


Link up here if you've got bits and pieces to string together for Mrs. 4444 and the gang tonight!


It's certainly been an up-and-down week for us here at Chez Odette, but I'd like to start off this post with one major announcement:

After SIX (originally typed "SUX," which would also have been appropriate!) WEEKS, THE LICE ARE GONE, THE LICE ARE GONE, THANK GOD ALMIGHTY, THE LICE ARE GONE!!!!

Now, I had to totally chop off ALL of Chloe's long, luscious curls to do it, but desperate times call for desperate measures, y'know? Thankfully, her hair grows back wicked fast, like her dad's and Jack's. It'll be back before we know it.



Two weeks ago, my CPU died. We replaced it. Last week, my monitor died. Can't afford to replace that, too, just yet... UGH! I'm stuck using the laptop. I hate laptops. Can't say why; I just do.

Plus, this one doesn't have a number pad, which is why I can't do my special ALT characters. Bah.



(SPOILER ALERT if you haven't seen the Olympics yet tonight)

Gabby Douglas, Virginia Native who trained at Excalibur, where Chloe will start next month in rhythmic gymnastics after a switch from another gym that doesn't offer rhythmic, won All-Around Gold tonight! The first African-American to do so. I'm SO super proud of her and her teammates! USA, USA, USA!!!



My boys, Hubs and Son, are at Webelos (Cub Scouts) camp all week. They were supposed to get there on Sunday, but we messed up and thought it was supposed to be Monday. On Monday, we didn't get paid, like we thought we would, and so they still couldn't go until Tuesday. Suck! But the main point is, I miss them so much!!! I can't WAIT to pick them up tomorrow (today) morning and hear all about their adventures!



My dad and I had a major falling out several months ago. I mean, MAJOR. I thought we'd never speak again.  We've made a lot of progress through emails, however, and finally, I called him on his 70th birthday on Tuesday. There was no awkwardness whatsoever, which was a huge relief to me. I don't do confrontation - especially with my father - well at all, and there just wasn't any. Very anti-climactic, and I'm glad for it.



Today, my toilet overflowed all OVER the bathroom, and indeed, it still IS. I cannot seem to plunge that da*n low-flow piece of crap for the life of me, and so it waits until Rob gets home from camp tomorrow. Not a fun time. To top things off, I broke a jelly jar pulling something else out of the fridge tonight, got glass lodged in my foot, and can't find the foxtail and dustpan anywhere. So that mess will be waiting for Rob, too. Unless I can find some paper towels somewhere... and yes, I'll put on some shoes. Oy.



I had multiple sales in my Etsy shop, I was commissioned to do knitting for another WAHM's Waldorf-inspired mini-dolls, my blog post about Virginia Beach was featured on a national travel blog, and I was invited to submit a chapter in a textbook. I'm not sure I'll do that last one - who has the time?! - but I might give it a go. Either way, cool. I do want to write my own book at some point, so it would be good practice if I did it.



My wrist, which I unwittingly somehow injured at the end of May, is still not even remotely healed. I think there is nerve damage, since the fracture we thought was there seems not to be, judging from later x-rays.  I'm in a hella lot of pain, and I refuse to take pain medication on an ongoing basis for it.  Back to the doc I go, I guess...



I had a LOT of me-time this week, with the boys away and my friend Saritah taking the girls along with her kids to Vacation Bible School - up to four hours a night! SWEET. I took advantage of it, because my migraines have been plaguing me lately, and did a whole lotta nothin'. That's difficult for me to do, but between the wrist and the brain-pain, not so hard at the mome.


Guess that's all I feel like jabbering about for the time being, though I feel I could go on for another half-hour or more!  I'm going to try REALLY hard and visit other Fragmenters this weekend; a rarity for me with all the chaos our lifestyle brings.


Take it easy, peeps, and, you know, stay away from Chick-Fil-A and stuff... ;)


Hey! That Works For Me!

WFM 250x250 featured

As I mentioned previously, my pet tips "Works For Me Wednesday" post from several years ago was selected to be featured in this awesome new e-book, That Works For Me! How exciting! And now you have a chance to win a copy of that e-book from my little ol' bloggy here, Smellyann Strikes Again.

Check out this video to learn more about what's going to be in this book:


There's also another That Works For Me! contest going on, to win a $150 house cleaning, throughout the month of April. Submit a tip here for your entry to win!

Follow the e-book on Twitter for an extra entry, and for another extra entry, like them on Facebook!  Check 'em out and follow on Pinterest - you can add your blog posts with tips there, too!

Last but not least, if you don't win the giveaway copy of the e-book but would like a discount, here's your coupon code for $1 off the regular price of $9, making it $8 (but you could figure that out, right?): SAVE1. (Not sure when it expires, so don't wait!)

Giveaway ends April 18th at midnight EST! Just comment on this post about the e-book or whatever's on your mind, and don't forget about the contest they're running, too. Good luck!


Sunday Stealing: The Last March Meme

Sunday Stealing

Link up here if you're stealing today - or stalling, as I originally typed...

1.) Which TV character do you think you are most like?
Dexter. Except I don't actually kill people. I get him, though.
2) What time do you go to bed?
Whenever. Sometimes I don't. Normal sleep schedules have eluded me since birth. My parents used to stick me in my crib in the basement because I'd be up all night...

3) What was the last meal you made from scratch?
Pasta dishes last weekend for our Johnsonville Italian Sausage House Party. A lasagna, some penne regato w/, and some pesto rigatoni. I didn't eat any of it - no four-legged creatures for me.

4) What is your favorite type of music?
I like all kinds, but I'm partial to anything that's highly sing-along-able, like Top 40 music. Kinda lame, but I own it.

5) In what position do you sleep?

If I'm on the couch, which is often, on my back or side. If I'm bed, which is rare, on my tummy, curled around my gigantic teddy bear from Hubs.

6) What is your first memory?

I'm 2½ or 3, running, squealing happily with my arms in the air, running from my bedroom to my Mommy down the hall.

7) What is your least favorite smell?



The paper mill in Panama City, Florida. Ugh. Nastay. Cigarette smoke is a very close second.
8) It's your round at the pub and your friends asked you to surprise them. What drink would you buy and why?


Everyone would get a shot of Goldschläger, because that's "my" drink, even though I can no longer stand it. I have a story

9) What was the last thing you read/watched that made you cry?

My surviving twin made a birthday video for his brother (the 9th anniversary of his death is today, so I'm feeling a little morose, sorry). I watched it with my therapist, and we both cried.
10) They say that you learn something new every day. What was the last thing you have learned?

Sophia was reading in her animal book tonight and told me that an electric eel could power five light bulbs. Of course, she didn't give wattage or any of that information, so it's incomplete knowledge. I'll have to read up on that. ;)

11) Which Literary love interests would you snog, marry and avoid?

Pass. Too much thinking involved in that question. I'd be Jane Eyre and marry Mr. Rochester, though.
12) What is your oldest memory?

Pretty sure we covered that six questions ago. I know you're old, but my memory isn't that bad, yet...

13) Paperback, Hardback or Kindle? Which of these is your favorite reading format and why?

Any of the above, although I prefer a hardcover most, and one that I can lie around in bed and read all night and all day. The hard covers just seem more authentic, don't they?
14) If you could bring back any canceled TV series for another run what would you pick and why?

The original Dukes of Hazzard, because hello, they were hot. I don't care if I was in my single-digit years. I knew that Bo Duke was ca-yute!

15) Paperback, Hardback or Kindle?

Why are you fucking with me? I told you it wasn't a great day. Ask me 1,000 questions, but so help me God, if you repeat another one, I'll beat your ass. Oh, wait, that's the end. Okay, well, then, let's walk away from this unscathed, shall we?
P.S. Who calls it a "hardback," anyway? Not I, said the fly.  Cheers.
P.P.S. I don't know what's going on with these crazy changes when I post, but I'm not going to spend another ½-hour trying to fix it like I did last night! Deal. ;)

Sunday Stealing: The Not My Year Meme

Sunday Stealing

Link up here if it's not your year, either!

Sunday Stealing: The Not My Year Meme

1. Are you in a job that you truly enjoy?

I'm a stay-home homeschooling mom of three. I damn well better be, huh?

2. If you could do any job in the world what would it be?

I'd be a family court judge. And I hope to be, one day...

3. If you could be a character in a novel who would you be?

I'd be Tom Sawyer. What an imp! I like mischief as much as the next kid, you know?

4. When it comes to spending time with those you love, do you think it should be about quality or quantity?

Both count, but definitely quality over quantity. If you're not really present with each other, what's the point?

5. Is there a job/career you wanted but realized you couldn’t possibly do for one reason or another?

Pre-marriage and babies, I was a marine biologist. I was working with the pre-eminent scientist in our field (elasmobranch feeding ecomorphology, or in layman's terms, shark/skate/ray feeding behavioral ecology). A year and a half into my Ph.D., I realized I didn't have the passion to pursue that and be at sea half the year and then, when I was home, spend all my time stressing over grants and funding for research, etc. I wanted to be a wife and mom, and I didn't want to give up those desires, no matter how much I loved being a Biologist. And I did. And I still do... but. I love this so much more.

6. If you could live anywhere in the world or out of this world where would you live?

Oh, I'm so glad you added that last part. I'd love to live on Jupiter, assuming it were hospitable to humans. It's my favorite of our planets. (What, doesn't everyone have a favorite planet?)

7. Where would you most like to visit and with whom?

Everywhere I've never been, with Hubs and the trio of offspring we're raising.

8. Which skill would you like to learn?

Oh, gosh. I want to learn to spin my own yarn. And dye it. I want to learn to relax and meditate. I want to learn to practice self-patience and -forgiveness. I'd like to be fluent in every language, but at least five. It would be fun to be able to juggle while riding a unicycle... okay, now I'm getting carried away.

9. What made you laugh today?

A high school friend's Facebook status update: "Miracle Whip is actually tweeting on Twitter. What has the world come to when condiments are reminding us to set our clocks ahead?"

10. What are you looking forward to tomorrow?

Cleaning, organizing, and doing.

11. What is your sign and do you believe in horoscopes etc?

I'm a Virgo, and to the extent that it's fun. I fit the typical Virgo profile to a "T," but I don't go all nutso about it.

12. If you could change one thing about your life thus far, what would it be?

Many things... like, if I had known then what I know now, I would have seriously reconsidered going to the University of Miami, where top students like me struggled financially and football players were treated like gods, and perhaps gone to one of the several schools offering me a full, free ride instead.

13. If there was one charity you could give a huge contribution to, which charity would it be and why?

Heifer International. I think it's an awesome program.

14. Should smoking be legal?

No fecking way. Ugh. Don't even get me started.

15. What are your views on the smoking ban in public places?

Fully supportive - what'd I just say?!

16. Why do you blog?

To answer questions for your total entertainment, edification, and... okay, for my own amusement, too. And other things, but I've already answered this question eleventeen times before now.

17. Do you have a favorite author?

I'm not sure, but Jodi Picoult would definitely be near the top of the list, along with Elizabeth Zimmermann.

18. Can you play any musical instruments?

After my mom died, I learnt to play the organ/piano, which she also played. And my vocal chords. But I've always had a terrible ability to sight read music, so I didn't go very far with the keyboard. I did sing all through high school, and I was going to sing in college, too, but I got mono right before my audition, and then I got stage fright. I hate auditioning. Just give me the part I want and we'll go from there. Hee. 

19. What would your ideal car be?

I would love to zip around in a cute little Mazda Miata convertible, or a Smart for Two convertible. Red, of course. Red cars go faster.

20. Describe yourself in one short sentence.

I am so weird.

21. What do you look for in a spouse/other half?

A penis, for starters. That's a must. He's gotta make me laugh and make me think, even better if he can do them both at once. Everything else ... let's just say I got so lucky with Rob. He definitely got the short end of the marital stick! ;)

22. Worst meal you’ve had?

Chicken a la king, when I was, like, five. I'd probably love it now, though I'm too scared to attempt another go.

23. What do you do to relax in the evening?


24. Do you get along with your siblings?

I have one full sister 17 months older, and yes, we are very close. Always have been. I have a much-older half-sister whom I've never met, and two former step-sisters with whom I no longer have a relationship.

25. Do you have any regrets?

Everytime I start painting my nails, I instantly regret not going pee first.

Have a great week, y'all!


Sunday Stealing: The 99'er Meme, Part The First

Sunday Stealing

Link up here if you're stealing this weekend!

Cheers to all of us thieves!
1) Put your iTunes on shuffle. Give me the first 6 songs that pop up.
(a) "I'm Yours" by Brandy; (b) "Who Do U Love" by Deborah Cox; (c) "The War Is Over" by Kelly Clarkson; (d) "Four Leaf Clover" by Abra Moore; (e) "Bite Our Style - Interlude" by Missy Elliott; and (f) "A Thousand Years" by Sting.

2) If you could meet anyone on this earth, who would it be?
President Obama

3) Grab the book nearest to you, turn to page 23, give me line 17.

"Some days must be dark and dreary." - Longfellow
4) What do you think about most?

Oh, gosh. My mind is on warp speed most of the time. I couldn't possibly pinpoint my number one thought. Travel, maybe?

5) What does your latest text message from someone else say?

"Leaving. Love you!" - Hubs

6) Do you sleep with or without clothes on?

Usually with, unless it's freakin' hot

7) What's your strangest talent?

Hm, I don't know. I can bend my fingers at the first knuckle only.

8) Women.... (finish the sentence); Men.... (finish the sentence)

Women think too much. Men should realize that.

9) Ever had a poem or song written about you?

Not that I know of. Used to pretend that "Melanie" by Weird Al was for me; now Hubs and I pretend that he wrote "The Way You Are" by Bruno Mars for me. I'd love that, though!

10) When is the last time you played the air guitar?

Pfft. Either never or last week. I can't remember these things.

11) Do you have any strange phobias?

Y'all know I'm scared to death of mustard touching me. And sandpaper touching me. And those people in haunted houses touching me. Just don't touch me!

12) Ever stuck a foreign object up your nose?

Oh, probably a straw or two...

13) What's your religion?

Non-denominational Protestant Christian

14) If you are outside, what are you most likely doing?

Playing with or watching the kids play

15) Do you prefer to be behind the camera or in front of it?

I'm the family photographer, but I no longer mind having my photo taken, so it's a draw.

16) Simple but extremely complex. Favorite band?

You can't disappoint me with The Presidents of the United States of America!

17) What was the last lie you told?

Oh, probably something minor like "I don't know" to one of the kids, when I just didn't feel like the hassle of a long drawn-out explanation. Sometimes, it's just tiring!

18) Do you believe in karma?

I believe you eventually reap what you sow...

19) What does your URL mean?

Which one? http://smellyann.typepad.com, for this blahg? Smellyann's my nickname, no mystery there.

20) What is your greatest weakness; your greatest strength?

Weakness: I'm too self-indulgent. Strength: I'm incredibly passionate about the things about which I really care and will go to the ends of the earth for those things/people.

21) Who is your celebrity crush?

Eric Clapton! ♥

22) Have you ever gone skinny dipping?

Yep, sho'nuff.

23) How do you vent your anger?

Used to bottle it up and then explode. Now I bitch, bitch, bitch whenever the mood strikes me. Little leaks instead of one ginormous blow-up. Okay, truthfully, I yell and swear. I'm not proud.

24) Do you have a collection of anything?

I have a collection of collections.

25) Do you prefer talking on the phone or video chatting online?

Neither. I prefer to text or IM online. I don't like video chatting, and I don't like talking on the phone most of the time. What the heck is wrong with me?

Have a great week!


Good Things Of The Many (And The Mail)

Okay, so the mail has brought in packages lately that are of major delightfulness, so the stars of them have been photographed and are ready to share. I've been a busy little bee lately, so I have't had a chance to edit them 'til now. Wanna hear about it? And see some pictorial evidence? Awesome. Read on, then, ye three followers of me.


I totally stink at keeping presents from their recipients when I'm excited about giving them, so I've been, uh, kind of giving the kids the Christmas presents I swore I wasn't going to get (because we're doing Great Wolf Lodge again this year and, you know, I wanted to make it about memories and not stuff and all...), but since I have gotten them, and since, well, they were there when I opened this box from Disney, I couldn't really not gi-- oh, I'll just stop babbling and say that I got a kick-butt deal on these fleece blankets, with free shipping and personalization of their names, to boot! Jack got a Cars-themed one, Chloë's is Cinderella, and Sophia's was Tinkerbell. They LOVED them and carry them around all. the. time. WIN!


Mamacita, which is what MIL and I have decided I shall call her (after 10½ years or so) henceforth, sends us Hallmark Christmas ornaments each year. We have an awesome collection of them, thanks to her. This year's package arrived last week, so we all gathered 'round to see what she chose for us this time. Jack always gets a Santa in some sort of transportation, which thrills him to no end, and this year it was hot air balloon. So cute!



I will say two things: these pictures were taken in my cluttered, messy office-slash-craft room, but my excuse is that things are ALWAYS happening in here, so cut me some slack, will ya? And also, I did a poor job of focusing on the ornaments in several of these photos, but I didn't realize that until today, so since they're already put up in the attic until we set up the tree, I can't fix that. My bad.  Chloë usually gets one to do with the year or her age, ever since birth, and she loves her little snowman guy!


Sophia's was, appropriately, a gymnast - with her name on it!! Love it!! Also, the tiaras the girls are wearing in these two pictures are from the same Grandma package, which is why they're wearing them here. They light up, too!


This one appears to have been handmade, but if there was a note about that, I missed it. Mamacita? I'm guessing it's from the childhood of Rob, at least, since we've gotten a few of those in the past as well. Isn't it cute?


Rob's an angler of great enthusiasm, so he's gotten lots of fishing-related ones over the years from his mama. Too bad the expression on his face took precedence over the ornament, because it's The Awesome. So many of these ornaments have such great detail, and this one is no exception!


Ditto the above, about his (hehe) expression and the clarity of the ornament. Boo, me. He always gets a Navy/military/patriotic-themed one, since he's been in the US Navy for about 18½ years, so this year he got a flagged-out Santy Claus.


I love, love, love, love, LOVE the ornaments Mamacita chose for me - not this year, but every year - because she puts such great thought into them (well, everyone's, not just mine, but you know what I meant, right?). IMHO, I saved the best for last, because look! Apropos of the baking business I started this year (which is on hiatus for the time being, although I'm starting to reconsider that idear), I received a Christmas-themed cupcake ornie. Sweet! (Heh. Sorry, pun-haters.)


Also, since we homeschool, Mamacita gave me this "World Class Teacher" one, with a laptop on the, well, top. I adore this!! So very cool. Thanks, Mom/Grandma, for the wonderful additions to this year's tree!


But that's not all that was in the box. There were a few things I forgot to photo, like the Thanksgiving tablecloth and napkins we put away already, but not this train set for Jack! He immediately opened it and started choo-chooing it all around the office and living room:


(Again, 'scuse my mess!)


Oh! This guy was in the box, too! He'll grace our table this Thursday. Mama-jamma, did you make this?


Oops, speaking of trains, this mini-set of ornaments (or should I say set of mini-ornaments? Yes, pretend I did) was included also, for the whole family's enjoyment. Isn't it darling? Maybe it'll go on the fireplace this year, all set up. Of course, Jack thought it was just for him, since he and his gram share a love of all things train.



I got this fabu book of recipes in the box, and don't you think I should make that gingerbread house? I've never made one, but I want to and think about it every single year. This might just be the one. We shall see, we shall see.


And last, but certainly not least, the kids received another one of these recordable books from Grandma, in which she reads the story aloud to them. This year, it's Under The Same Moon.


Sophia immediately sat down to enjoy the book, but the other kids, who had already danced away to other adventures downstairs, heard it and clamored for share-age. So she traipsed on down there, where they all sat around the book and listened to it approximately 18 times. And no, I'm not exaggerating. For once. They love these books from Grandma.

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My dad sent a small package of trinkets and things for the kids and us, but I only managed to get this one of Sophie with the toy maze things - you know the ones? - she opted to get. She also chose the mini-Bible he sent, which the girls have sat down together to read on several occasions since then. Isn't that lovely?


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I got a package I ordered from Old Navy, but it didn't contain the Christmas outfits I bought, so boo. They better come soon, because they're awesome. I mean, so we can take our holiday card photos ASAP, y'know?? Anway, there were a bunch of shirts I got myself on clearance, as well as four fleece hoodies for the girls, in this package. The lady-babies insisted on trying them on straight away, which is the sole reason I took their picture. Plus, they're cute, are they not?

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And these are the other two. No, I didn't pose the girls; they linked arms of their own volition. ♥ Yes, Sophia is now taller than her sister, who is 3½ years older, which Chloë definitely does not appreciate. Sorry, darling.

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Okay, so technically these three sundaes I made for the chirren didn't come in the mail, but the ice cream, caramel sauce and whipped cream did get delivered by Oberweis, so I'm including them in this post. Can you stand it? They look so good, I want to make (them?) some more right this minute!


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Okay, so I made one for myself, too. I got about five bites in before I passed it to Rob - not because it wasn't delicious, because it was, as is every-dang-thing we have gotten from Oberweis. I didn't want to overdo it, though, because I have such a grumpy pouch!

And that is all. I have to go break up an argument. Oy.


Road Trip: Missouri, Six Months Later

At last, the Missouri trip! Cue the trumpets! Of course, now that it has been since end of February since our trip, I will have forgotten lots of little details that I probably would have otherwise included, but I'll make up for that with lots of pictures. So. Here we go!


We left middle of the night, as I recall, and drove straight through to central Missouri where Rob's brother and mom live (in separate locales, an hour apart). I started driving, but when it was day, I let Rob take over. Of course, never missing an opportunity to take "here we are driving to another state" photos, there's the one of Rob behind the wheel, all serious-like.

See how far back he is? He may be, well, petite, but he has freakishly long arms, a short torso and proportionately long legs. I am the opposite and have to sit right up against the wheel. We are forever having to move the seat around when we switch drivers in Penelope (our Odyssey)!



Me, trying to look all cool for my self-portrait. Where HAVE those sunglasses gotten to, anyway?


Jack was seriously excited on this trip. It's rare to get a genuine smile out of him (for a picture, that is). I wish I could remember exactly what this one was about!


I think this one had either just woken up or was on her way out. Or maybe both!


Chloë was pretty happy to be heading to Grandma's, too!


After many, many hours in the car, our first stop was in Columbia, MO, to visit Uncle Mike at his restaurant, Sycamore. He's the chef there, and having eaten there a few times, I can tell you that it is absolutely not to be missed if you're in that town. I love that he uses fresh, local, seasonal foods as much as he possibly can on the menu. Be sure and tell him I sent you. That and five cents will probably get you a nickel, but it would be fun anyway. Here's Chef-Uncle Mike telling the kids something restaurant-y. They hadn't been there since the summer of 2007, which in kids' years is like the entire Triassic Period, so of course they wanted the whole experience again.


Here they are about to go into the giant walk-in freezer. You can see the girls are wearing their Girl Scout tunic and vest, respectively. That's because, before our trip, they'd called up Uncle Mike and asked him if he wanted to buy any GS Cookies for their annual fundraiser. He bought one of each variety from them, so Troop Leader Mom made them go deliver them in uniform. Hee.


Sophia liked playing with the flappy bits of the freezer.


Of course, we didn't feed them during the entire, what, 20-some-hour road trip (har, I jest), so they were quick to bum food off Uncle Mike. Well, they were in a gourmet restaurant, after all! You can't lose with grapes when it comes to kids. 

They liked going downstairs to look at all the restaurant-size stock in the big pantry there, too. Now that we shop at BJs, they're used to seeing those sizes of cans, and one of them mentioned that it was "like at Uncle Mike's restaurant," one time.


One last peek at Uncle Mike and the front of the restaurant, before it was time to say goodbye and get buckled back in the car for the trip to Grandma's. They didn't love that - getting back in the car, that is - but since Grandma was on the other end of the drive, the complaints were kept to a minimum.


Of course, the first picture I have is not of the kids greeting Grandma but something Grandma almost always has on hand (she does way more baking than I do!) - cookies! I think Sophia spotted the chocolate chip goodness in the garage on the way in and, being our constant eater, accosted them until she was granted one or five. Probably not five, though she wouldn't have turned that many down!


After we'd been there a little while, gone through the hellos and how-are-yous, and shown our lovely room in the finished, cozy basement, Grandma (I now call her Mamacita, so if I slip, you'll know whom I mean) took us into the storage room and showed the kids her train collection. Now you KNOW Jack was all over that!


More of Grandma's trains. I seem not to have a picture of it, which is a shame, but when we were on our way home and driving through the coal towns of West Virginia, we stopped at a gift shop. I found a train made entirely of coal for Mamacita, and picked it up for her to send when we got home. Shame on me for not taking a photo!



Well, would you look at that! I lied. I found it already filed away under the photos from March, for some reason (which isn't odd because our trip DID end in the beginning of March but because I usually don't put them "away" like that until they've been blogged). Isn't it cool? I hope Mamacita liked it.

Anyway, back to our trip.


Even Chloë got interested in looking at all the different train cars from one of Grandma's sets - but no one was more enthused than Jack, of course.


Then Grandma brought out another box. I'll show you what that was in a minute, but I just have to say this peeky-peeky view of Sophia amuses the poo out of me!


Inside was an entire train village of ... what's it called? that hard counted cross-stitch frame stuff, the name of which is escaping me at present ... made by either Grandma or her mother. I can't seem to remember that part, either. (Sorry!)


The kids had a great time playing with that, until Grandma said it was time to put things away and go back upstairs. But not before she gave Rob and me all manner of old-timey cookbooks and things, through which I'm STILL looking. Fun stuff!


Upstairs, we were shown Grandma's Galileo thermometer, which fascinated them. (Gotta admit, they intrigue me, too. I've always wanted to get one. Don't know why I never did.)


This is the next day, now. We were expecting a visit from Uncle Mike and his kids, Harry and Elizabeth, who are younger than mine by quite a few years. Out came the toys - old ones, mostly, from Rob's childhood - that Grandma keeps on hand. Sophia delved right into making a block town.



Meanwhile, Jack was busy setting up the play castle. I think he might have snuck a few of the pieces home with him? I don't know, but the "guys" look recently familiar. Hmmm...



Chloë was into building with the blocks after a spell, too. I seem to remember her getting in a fight over them with Sophia. It wouldn't be a stretch to make that up, if not, since they are always doing that and driving me up a wall!


At last, Uncle Mike arrived with his little ones in tow. They take a while to warm up to new people and situations, so they stuck close to Dad for a while. I tried to get Elizabeth to play, or eat a cookie, or otherwise interact with me, but she wasn't ready yet. No worries, we were all old friends by the time we headed back to Virginia!


Now, there was Rob, in the midst of things, checking out the Lego™ cars Uncle Mike had brought for Jack and Harry. Jack is impatient about figuring out how to put things together, much of the time, so I'm sure he went straight to Daddy to ask for help!


Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Chloë and Elizabeth were working on setting up a game of Twister. Do I have to "™" that one, too? ;) I don't think they ever got it sorted out as to the proper rules, though, so maybe the game was never played. I can't remember...


Then the girls were given an Eric Carle book, and all was well again as they read through that one together.


In the living room - which was beginning to look like mine does ALL of the time - Harry had a flashlight. I got multiple pictures of him playing with that, but none as cute as this. I love the "figuring out" look on his face.


The girls were getting along swimmingly by that point, so there were all kinds of toys and games shared amongst the three of them. It was jolly good to see them playing together so nicely!


Harry was in more of a solitary kind of mood, then. But where was Jack? Playing with something wheeled, it's certain.



Next, Elizabeth showed us how her Daddy flips her, which then obligated him to do the same with Sophia (who weighs half a ton, no lie) and Chloë (more like half an ounce, no lie). About a hundred times. His poor back was aching after that, I'm sure!


Well, this was nice. More Eric Carle reading (The Mixed-Up Chameleon). Isn't it great to see kids - cousins, that is - who never see each other, getting along so swell. Warm fuzzies, I get, just remembering.


Oh, look, there's Jack again, probably having a "bossy" moment. He does that sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. He's not good at sharing. Luckily, it doesn't appear that Harry minded too much!


Look, there's me again! How exciting. I barely recognize myself, even now. Liz was distracted by something, but she really was paying attention to the story I was reading her. In fact, she asked me to read it about ten times. I obliged. It's not often I get to read to her, after all.


After a while, when it was late, my kiddos changed into their jammies, and Miss Linda - Grandma's roommate - allowed them upstairs to her suite to watch a kids' movie. They had a ball, they did. Going up to Miss Linda's room is a special treat, after all.


When the movie ended, and it was time for the littlest Odette children to head back to Columbia for bed, I tried to get them all seated on the stairs for a group picture. It was a comedy of errors. Here's attempt 1: nope!


#2: nope, nope!


For #3, the daddy Odettes got into the act to try and old the squirmy children still, but they STILL wouldn't all look at me!


#4: Ah, forget it!! Not gonna happen. (If I've said it once, I've said it 100 times: child photographers do NOT get paid enough!)



At least the three Odette girl-children posed together nicely for me. Check out Sophia's ridiculous stance. She's still doing that pose all these months later. What a goof!


Either he's happy the kids have gone to bed, or he's giving me a sarcastically-non-genuine "get out my face with that camera" smile.


Nope, they're still here! Must've been the latter. I get that a lot.


The next morning, we arose and got ready to leave for the second half of our week, my mystery shop at a resort in Branson. I found that town to be a lot like Pigeon Forge, TN, except with pretty bluffs. Neither was particularly my cup of tea, but hey, at least now I can say I've been there. This child was really sick on the drive down, but here it looks like she's in the middle of pitching a fit. I should know; she does it about five times every day. ::rolls eyes::


After checking into our resort, we went out to eat at a local touristy establishment for which we'd been given some decent coupons. As usual, there were crayons and coloring papers for the kids. Jack doesn't usually get into it as much as the other two, so this picture is of interest - at least, to me.


Rob ordered a huge beer, which took him about eleventeen hours to finish. He doesn't chug. He's not a chugger. So many times, I have gone out to eat with him and the meal took much longer than it ought to have, because he's so poky about finishing his beverages. And yes, that's a major character flaw. Ha!


I ordered these. Of course, I consumed nowhere near all of that, and there was much sharing and saving for later happening with these crab legs. But, hello, yum!


We stopped at Wal-mart after dinner to get a few groceries, and since our tax refund had come in, this new laptop for me to take with us on mystery shopping trips. We'd bought one for the kids, which I usurped during each such trip, back in the Fall, but Sophia had recently dropped it by accident, and it was kablooey. Can I just say, I hate this laptop? Hate it. It is the spawn of the debbul.


"Home" to the resort after dinner, where Rob crashed on our comfy bed. It was a nice place, I'll give it that.


I can't remember if Jack already had this and brought it along on the trip, or we got it for him at Wal-mart, or what, but I'm thinkin' the latter. Else, why the huge smile?


The next day, we were able to go see a show called Dixie Stampede, a Dolly Parton thing, which had been recommended by my friend Julie when we were in Pigeon Forge but couldn't do at the time. I found a good deal on some tickets, and off we went!  Naturally, my horse lover, Sophia, was in 7th heaven when we were able to see the "performers" in their stables getting fed and groomed. 


The girls were enraptured of (with?) this big floral butterfly on the front lawn, and they insisted I photograph it. So there you go, lady-babies.


Sophia climbed right up on the display horse at the top of the hill. Rules, schmules, she doesn't care whether it's allowed. Take my picture, dammit!


Chloë thought the cannon was pretty cool.


Oh, another pretty horse, inside this time. And that was the last of the photos until we got "home," because Dixie Stampede doesn't allow photography, under penalty of death. 


I did a little souvenir-shopping after the show, and each of the kids got one of these lollies with the horsies on them. Jack and Sophia each had a birthday coming up, so I let them pick out something for that, too, for later. Now that Chloë's birthday is around the corner, I'm wondering if she picked out something for that, too. I think she did, and it's in my closet! Glad I remembered in time...!


Just for sillies.


Huh. I wonder why this kid has so many cavities? ::scratches head in puzzlement::



After that, it was time for a bath. The kids love baths, especially in hotels. They'd live in there if I let them. Anyway, a long time ago, I'd gotten something for them on steep clearance at The Body Shop, and I'd put it away for a special occasion. I'd forgotten about it until I was packing for this trip, so I thought that was as good a time as any to give it to them. You can see I made them close their eyes and hold out their hands to get it!


"What the heck is it?!"


Why, it was animal-shaped soaps, of course! Sophia was given a sea turtle...


...Chloë a (badly photographed) elephant,...



...and Jack got a humpback whale. There were two or three more in the package, and since I think they bathed until every last bit of soap was gone, I probably gave those to them for the next night. They loved it. Just one of those little "nothing" surprises that make life fun, I guess.


The next day, we made the pilgrimage up to Springfield, MO, home of the original Bass Pro Shops. We had lunch with our kids' long-ago babysitter, Angie, and her husband Chris, but I completely forgot to take any pictures of them! Wait, I'll go steal one off her Facebook page, haha:


Then we said our good-byes and headover over to BPS. And oh, my, it was HUGE. Lots of scenery, stuff to do, and of course, things to buy. Let's see, shall we?


The sign tickled my fancy!


This is the kind of place where, as soon as you walk in, you want to look everywhere and see everything at once, because there's just SO MUCH stuff to see! And they didn't spare any detail, either. It was really cool.


I think Sophia was most excited about all the scenery and taxidermied animals, though I'm not quite sure she realized most of them were stuffed!


This guy sure wasn't! Or was he? You decide.


Soph and Rob made sure I noticed the deer "running" around overhead, on one end of the massive store.


Yep, definitely plenty to see!


Jack climbed onto this Arctic Cat ATV, which was a wee bit too big for him - but he didn't care. Look at that grin!


Meanwhile, Chloë was petting this, um, dead pig thing. Wild boar, I guess? Maybe?


I just liked the look of all the rods displayed together like that...


Chloë definitely found an ATV she liked!


And this one suited Sophia perfectly. She may be a tomboy, but she's all girl when it comes to pink and purple.


Ahh, here's one that's more Jack's size. Now if only we had a few extra grand...


Always the lawbreaker, there's Sophia climbing again, this time into a speed boat. Can't blame her. I love them, too!


I was so glad to capture this moment, as it is truly rare, much more so than one of Jack's genuine camera smiles. They play together nicely half the time, but the other half - watch out! (And yes, I have to point out how one has a tush that fills out her jeans nicely, while the other can barely keep her pants up. Hehe.)



Oh, now we're back to petting stuffed animals. Lynx? Bobcat? I have no clue.



No doubt about what this is. P-U!


Jack's checking out the turtles, and probably thinking, "How can I get in there?"


They even left no stone unturned when it came to the ceilings. So fascinating.



After that, Rob helped each of the kids with their target practice. They must have played that game ten times. I got bored and went and bought a bag of hot nuts. I do like some hot nuts. ;)


Love the look of concentration on Chloë's face here.


...And Sophie the lefty's turn.


Look out, deer!


Checking out something, with a temporary friend, maybe? They make lots of those.

After that, I sent Rob to roam around and look at stuff with the kids, while I did a little shopping. Probably a little too much, but I got some great deals on some things they could really use - and have - sooo... Later, at our resort suite, I presented their goodies with much fanfare. I'm a fan of, uh, that.



Okay, so the fishing poles and tackle boxes were Rob's idea, and they LOVE them. Rob has taken them fishing a billion times since then, so those were completely worthwhile.



The net was to go along with the fishing gear, and the Bug Jug was to replace Jack's bug kit from camp the previous summer, which Sophia had broken. He was utterly dismayed about that, and just as thrilled to get a new one. He's forever wanting to put bugs in there and look at them, too!


Name placemats, for dinnertime. Well, anytime, duh. Of course, we never find anything with the right ë, but she's used to that! I do remember they used them for every meal we ate at the resort after that! Now, they rarely get used but once in a while.



Jack needed a coat, and I found an awesome one for him on clearance. Chloë got the wildlife puzzle, and Sophia was given a camp activity book and another chirpy bird. This time, a cardinal. (When we went to Beaver Lake in my hometown, she picked out a goldfinch. She's a big fan of birds, too.)


The hats and mittens were on deep clearance, too. Don't they look so cute?


You can't see, but Jack's watch has cars on it. Chloë's has hearts, and Sophia's has penguins, which are one of her favorite animals. I figured it was time to teach them how to tell time. Unfortunately, these watches are lost and found all. the. time.


For dinner that night, we did the Japanese hibatchi thing. We've only done that with the kids one other time, so when I found a good coupon for one around the corner from where we were staying, we jumped on it. One of the two sisters sharing our table took the picture for us. Those two girls got a huge kick out of just about everything my kids said!



So yum. We got some hibatchi AND some sushi, which of course was waaay too much for my little pouch - lucky for Rob!


Great. Now I'm craving some. As a totally irrelevant and probably uninteresting aside, I can NOT eat rice at all except as part of sushi. Must be the stickiness that lets me eat it?


This guy was HEE-larious - and very talented, too! He threw food into everyone's mouth and, as is usually the case at a hibatchi, did all manner of other tricks. Love those restaurants. Have you never been? You must try it!


This part always scares the kids! Well, both times it has. 


Time to cook the food. I am a major fan of scallops, and Rob is quite the opposite, so I get them every chance I get. These did not disappoint. Mmm-mmm-mmm!


For a little treat later that night, I gave the kids these other lollies, which I'd also picked up at the Stampede. I'm a sucker, I know. (pun intended. heh heh)



Obligatory candy pose. Oh, wait, I'm not supposed to show you this. Let's fix that, in case that meany hate-mail lady is still reading, shall we?


There. Better? :P


Eh, feckit. They wound down a little with some telly before bed. And yes, I know, they shouldn't be still sucking their thumbs. It's hard to give up!


I can't remember what this was. Hot cocoa, maybe? I probably didn't need to include this shot, but this post is already picture-crazy, so why not?

We checked out the next morning and drove up to St. Louis for my own personal yarn shopping spree at The Loopy Ewe, which I already told you about here. And then we went west again, to meet Uncle Mike and his kiddos for dinner at Sycamore, a kind of spontaneous decision that I'm so glad we made, because it was (a) delicious, (b) loads of fun, and (c) great for the brothers to do some up-catching.


Harry and Liz, Sycamore regulars


Uncle Mike giving Sophie a little QT.


Mike's kids LOVE mussels and get them every time they eat at their dad's restaurant. Crazy, no? My kids wouldn't touch those in a million years, so good for them!


After dinner, during much of which I chased the five children around the upscale, fancy restaurant to help keep them in line while the menfolk chatted, we decided it was too soon to say our good-byes, so we chose to go to a nearby park to play. First, though, the kids wanted to look in the fountain and sculpture outside the restaurant.


I love the way Harry is beaming up at Chloë here!


And look at Elizabeth, taking off her shoes and socks to dip her feet in the freezing cold water, without a care in the world! Silly girl. She reminds me of Sophia, that way!


At the park, it was even colder, so (much to Jack's chagrin), I put his new coat on Liz to keep her warm. Then the three of us parents chased the five kids - especially frequent escapee Harry - around the park for an age or two. It was loads of fun; we all had a blast, I think!

And then, it was over, and we hugged and kissed and maybe some of us cried a little, and there were promises to keep in touch, and that was it. Back into the van, to head back home here to VA.


So that was Missouri, with all its bluffs and natural expanses we don't see much of here, 



... oh, and we can't forget our snapshot from Dolly's show, now, can we?

But one last thing.


In West VA, where we made that rest stop and stopped at the artisans' village, and where I picked up that coal train for Mamacita, I snapped this picture of handmade kitchen utensils on a kind of tree, because it looked cool and stuff.


And I plucked this egg separator off that tree, and yes, I have used it many times since then. Sometimes I forget we have it, but when I remember, it works great!


And oh, gosh, I'm a terrible mother, because look what I got for the children again?! That's it. No more crap when we go places. (I promise they don't eat like this all the time, at home!) 


And last, but not least, a coal German Shepherd Dog for Rob, in honor of our former pooch, Tiger Lily. It sits on his dresser. She isn't doing well, so soon, ... well, I don't want to end on that note.

It was a fantastic trip, and I'm thrilled we were able to go. Even more so that this post finally got written, sheesh! It took me HOURS, so if any of you actually read it, please comment and say so. And thanks.