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Saturday 9: The Love Boat

The Love Boat TV Show

What's going on, my friends? Anything exciting and new with you?

Here, we have decided to sell the "perfect" dream house and move back to the city. Frankly, it's me. I can't take it out here in the sticks. Small town = small minds. I've always known that, yet I thought I could "handle it." I couldn't. So, our house is officially going up for sale. On the one hand, I hate it, because I absolutely love this house. On the other hand, every time we go into Boise, I get a little giddy inside about coming back, so I know it's the right thing to do.

So let's love us some boat, shall we?

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Saturday 9: The Love Boat (1977)

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

1) The Love Boat ran from 1977 to 1987. It was in the Top 10 for seven of those 10 seasons. Are you familiar with the show? Were you a fan? 

the love boat gifs | WiffleGif

I was young then. I remember it was on, and I remember watching it. I remember very few details from the show, though.

2) Every week, viewers followed The Pacific Princess as she set sail to a glamorous destination. Have you ever taken a cruise? If so, where did you go? 

Five Day Trips for Your Next Mediterranean Cruise | NCL Travel Blog

 I have, and I absolutely love cruising. So far I've done these:

  • In 1991, at 14, I took my cruise with my family on the new Carnival Ecstasy. We went to San Jan, Puerto Rico, Saint Thomas, and the Bahamas.
  • I did a series of scientific cruises - shout out to the Coral Reef II crew - in college and grad school, but I'm thinking those don't count here.
  • Also in grad school, my grandpa took family on a Princess cruise. I went to Mexico, Jamaica, Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands, and Panama.
  • In 2006, Rob and I took the kids to Disney World and then on a short Carnival cruise. We only went to the Bahamas.
  • In 2008, Rob and I went on a Mediterranean Cruise aboard Holland America's ms Zuiderdam. We started in Barcelona and also visited France (Nice and Eze), Monaco, Italy (Lucca, Pisa, Civitavecchia, Rome, Sicily, Venice) three stops in Greece, and Croatia (Dubrovnik), before finally ending up in Madrid, Spain.
  • We were going to go on an Alaskan cruise this September, but the pandemic had other plans!

3) Gavin MacLeod played Captain Steubing. Born Allan See, he came up with the stage name by combining the first name of a fictional character he admired, and the last name of a teacher who influenced him. Using his formula, give yourself a stage name. For example, Sam would be Hermione Hart (Hermione from Harry Potter; Hart for her Kindergarten teacher).

Jennifer Lawrence GIF by The Hunger Games - Find & Share on GIPHY

Alrighty, I'll be Katniss O'Toole.

4) After the series ended, Fred Grandy (aka "Gopher") went on to become a Congressman from Iowa and then CEO of Goodwill Industries. If you had a bag of gently-used items to donate, where would you take them?

Restyle Thrift Store 625 S Vista Ave Boise, ID Clothes Posts - MapQuest

We would absolutely take them to ReStyle thrift shop in Boise, which benefits animal shelters and humans alike. We've donated many times there, and we've shopped many times as well.
 
5) Ted Lange is best known for his role as the ship's bartender, Isaac. But he began his career performing the classics, and appeared at Colorado Shakespearean Festival and London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Let's class up this joint. Give us a little Shakespeare. 

A Midsummer Night's Dream | Palace Opera & Ballet 2019/20 Season

My favorite has always been "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and my favorite character was Puck, that mischievous sprite. I'll say it simply: "Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

6) Bernie Kopell played the ship's doctor, Adam Bricker. Kopell first appeared on TV in 1961 and was a regular on Get Smart and That Girl, and he's still acting today. But Love Boat was, by far, his favorite role. Working on the show was "absolute heaven" because he was paid to travel the world and meet his acting idols, like Oscar winners Greer Garson, Joan Fontaine and Eva Marie Saint, who appeared on the show. When you think of the best job you have ever had, what made it so good: the pay, the location, the people you met, or the work itself?

Jose Canseco joins NBC Sports California's A's TV coverage | NBCS Bay Area

I probably have a definite favorite, but I can't pinpoint it at this moment. I'm extremely shy and introverted until I get to know people, but somehow working in customer service turns me rapidly extroverted, and I love talking to and helping customers. So I think an amalgamation of my customer-oriented jobs would be my "favorite" at the moment. I worked in an ice cream parlor, Larry's Scoop Shop, on St. Pete Beach before I entered graduate school. I think all of the above - the pay, the people, the job itself, and definitely the location - were pretty sweet at this job. I met José Canseco - which I keep forgetting whenever we have one of those "most famous" questions - and, by the way, he was a real asshole and a non-tipper.

7) Lauren Tewes played Cruise Director Julie McCoy. Today she lives in Seattle, appearing in local theater and -- between acting assignments -- working as a chef for a catering service. Have you hosted dinner for more than 8 people? If yes, do you remember what you served?

Dilapidated Colony Resort in Longboat Key slated for demolition

No, I haven't. I'm not really "host"material; I get too flippin' nervous. I really am a pile of neuroses. But I did work in catering - often in a tuxedo, sometimes on a ship - at Longboat Key's now-demolished The Colony Beach & Tennis Resort. It was very high-end and fancy back in the '90s, and then sometime between my working there and my going back years later to show the fam, I found it had been abandoned. But that was a great job, with lots of fancy foods for fancy people.

8) For the first nine seasons, the theme was sung by Jack Jones. The Grammy-winning singer says one of his career highlights playing Sky Masterson onstage in Guys and Dolls. In his late 50s at the time, had had to go outside his comfort zone, dancing and acting as well as singing before a live audience. Tell us about something new you tried recently.

FDA approves Lundbeck's VYEPTI™ (eptinezumab-jjmr) – the first and only  intravenous preventive treatment for migraine

Really? Are people doing new things right now? I'll be interested to find out. About the only new thing for me was getting an infusion of the latest-and-greatest migraine biologic, Vyepti, on Wednesday. My doctor has great hopes for this for me. So far, I'm not thrilled.

9) Random question  -- Which would you rather receive as a gift: one $500 wristwatch, or five $100 wristwatches?

07242020 Dive Watch

You know, I really had to think about this. I don't ever wear a watch, except for this Seiko dive watch I bought secondhand for twenty bucks back in 1998, after I became a SCUBA diver. It runs on my own motion, so of course, it still runs. So I thought, well, would I like to give five people a decent watch, or would I like to give one person a pretty nice watch? In the end, I decided that one person would appreciate his or her watch a bit more than the five people would combined, and for me, that meant fewer precious resources being used and possibly wasted if those watches don't get worn. So I'll take one if I may gift it, please.

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Yairn

All right, folks. Don't have too much fun quarantined in your bunkers, now. I've gotten some new wool, so I am hoping to get a bit of knitting done this weekend - but don't hold me to it.

Fin.


Sunday Stealing: ID Questions

Hey, you guys! You came back! Wanna hear something crazy? I had what, in these uncertain times of my health going from bad to worse regularly, I would consider a pretty decent day Saturday. I spent a couple of hours just {yes, I know} browsing Bed, Bath & Beyond with Chloë, getting absolutely nothing, and then getting a few "deals and steals" at Walgreens after that (hey, six free toothpastes ain't a bad haul, for starters), and she and I just get along famously when we're out and about together like that. And that set the tone for the remainder of my day, with multiple laughing-'til-I-cried experiences with the rest of the family after that. Yeah, I'm not talking about my physical difficulties, but that's because regardless of those, if I have a good outward day, I can ignore that stuff for a while. So I did. :)

But anyway.

I'm happy you're here for Sunday Stealing (I almost wrote "Saturday Sunday," because they're enmeshed in my brain). Link up here if you're playing along today!

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1: Three Fears ~

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a: nightmares (last night's was about scary dancing pandas - weird!); b: dying before my children are grown; and, c: of my dogs running out into traffic


2: Three things I love ~

Chloe 12th Grade 1

a: Chloë, who will be 17 in under three weeks;

Jack 10th Grade

b: Jack, 15; and,

Sophia 8th Grade

c: Sophia, who is 13 going on 19!


3: Four turns on ~

four?!! Hmm...

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a: Rob, obviously, who (since we're giving away ages here) will be 46 on the 30th;

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b: good yarn; in this case, it's Madeline Tosh merino wool in "Light Turquoise";

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c: Singing to good music turned up loud in the car with the windows down; and,

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d: Pure happiness and joy

4: Four turns off ~

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a: Smoking;

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b: Child abuse;

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c: sloooooow drivers; and,

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d: careless people who litter - & its effects on wildlife

5: My best friend ~

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I am fortunate enough to have two, both of whom I met in 6th grade and went all through the rest of middle, junior, and high school with: Lisa Joy & Shana Marie, both of whom I love with all my heart and definitely don't feel like I deserve!

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{Photo of Lisa & me in a photo booth at CocoWalk, in Coconut Grove, Florida, during Lisa's Spring Break, circa April 1997}

6: My favorite book ~

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I haven't read nearly all of these book by Jodi Picoult, but I have read My Sister's KeeperThe Tenth CircleNineteen Minutes, and Songs of the Humpback Whale (maybe others??), and I feel like all of them plus any more of her oeuvre that I'm going to read are my favorites, so can I make it her entire body of work?!

7: My best first date ~ 

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Well, obviously I think, I would have to say that was my first date with Rob! In mid-November 2000, he came down to St. Petersburg, FL, from Panama City Beach, FL, to meet me in person after an odd first acquaintanceship (is that a word?!) online. We went to a Chinese take-out/eat-in restaurant for lunch and spent a long, long time there getting to know each other. We were the only customers who were dining in, so the staff were paying us a lot of curious attention, but I don't think either of us cared. Fast-forward to a year later, and we were already married and parents of a tiny baby, Chloë Raine - with three more to soon follow! Yup, I think there was romance in my vegetable lo mein...

8: How tall am I ~

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At 5'1½", I think I'm short enough. However, my tiny little pixie girl, Chloë Rainebow, is maxed out at 4'9½" and is super cute to boot!


9: What do I miss ~ 

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Now that Chloë nearing 17 and in her senior year of high school, Jack has a job, and Sophie towers over me at 5'4" with no end in sight, I've been missing their younger years something fierce lately!

10: What time was I born ~

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Oh, I don't know, on time I guess?? ;) Since my DOB is 9/8/76, though, I like to joke that I was also born at 5:43:21 PM!

11: Favorite color ~

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Something like this would be my idea color palette, with the middle color being my favoritest fave


12: Do I have a crush ~

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Honestly? This may sound corny but after almost 18 years together, seeing Rob persevere through prostate cancer and numerous serious complications in recent months has me crushing on him all over again. Weird circumstance, but I love him with my whole heart and entire soul, and that's that.

13: Favorite quote ~

Image result for dirty dancing quote pickle on the plate

I'm really not good at remembering quotes and jokes and whatnot, but I've always remembered this one from Dirty Dancing!

14: Favorite place ~

Totally Bamboo® Idaho Destination Cutting Board

Gosh, I'm getting really cheesy again, but it's wherever my family members are. So right now, that's Idaho. (And P.S. If I had a spare $30, I'd totally be getting myself this State of Idaho cutting board. Love it!)

15: Favorite food ~

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New York-style pizzeria pizza - yummo!

16: Do I use sarcasm?

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What do you think?

17: What am I listening to right now?

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I'm watching a new-to-me rerun of Fixer Upper, a show I just starting getting into, like, yesterday.

18: First thing I notice in a new person ~

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Whether they just smile with their mouths, or if it reaches their eyes to show it's genuine

19: Eye color ~

Week 32 of 52 - JUST FOR ME

They used to be dark brown, but as I'm getting older, they're getting lighter brown with a ring of green around each iris

20: Hair color ~ 

See above; it's auburn, but I'm getting ready to dye it darker brown probably later this week.

~*~*~*~*~

That was a super fun meme! Thanks for the great thievery, Bev! And thanks to y'all for reading along with me!

Fin.


Wordless Wednesday: In Which All We Ever Do Is Eat #WW

Link up here if you're wordy or wordless today!

Again this week, I have a lot of food pictures to share, and again, I'll be a bit on the chattier side.

Let's go!

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Last Thursday was a really cool day for Team Odette. We drove up to Fort Lauderdale for a quadruple-play traveling lunch-into-dinner mystery shopping tour. Here, Sophia was doing the spoon-on-the-nose trick at a semi-upscale cheesecake restaurant chain we all (probably) know. That's us, keeping it classy!

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When we finally arrived home that night, we were pretty pumped and not yet ready to end the day. While Hubs and I sat outside watching the sunset, the kids rode around the neighborhood on their scooters. It's such a blast watching them whip down sidewalks and around sidewalks like they've been doing it all their lives and not just a week or two. Chloë hopped up on the hood of Miguel, our car, after sunset for one last snap.

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We've been getting food delivered from Hello Fresh, on their vegetarian plan. It's awesome, because they send us everything we need to make enough meals for the week and then some, with the recipes included in the package. I love the food, but it's pricey now that our introductory offer is over, so I need to cancel it. Worth a try, though... Anyway, these black bean-and-rice cakes over a corn and pepper relish with lime sour cream were excellent.

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We've also been getting all our eggs and produce from a local farm stand nearby, which is by far what I prefer to do rather than have it shipped to us. I've been trying to incorporate as many new foods into the kids' repertoires as I can, and encouraging them to choose the recipes and help me prepare them seems to make it more likely they'll actually eat those newer foods. I had guava, mango, and papaya to use, so we made what turned out to be just regular rice pudding with those fruits and some blueberries on top - but it was still really good.

(Not pictured: A delicious mango bread loaf or two we made the same night but gobbled down before I remembered to photograph it.)

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I'm still really, really loving this pizza dough recipe from a recent issue of Martha Stewart's Living magazine. The latest batch a day or two ago was the best yet. I keep meaning to freeze the dough to pull out for whenever, but it kinda just keeps getting used and eaten! This first one was beautiful, both visually and gustatorially. (Is that the right word?!) I used cherry tomatoes, both red ones and orangey-yellow ones, separately blanched, peeled, and puréed to make a color-blocked sauce topped with extra virgin olive oil and coarse salt. Bits and blobs of goat cheese topped it off. That one didn't last a New York minute on the kids' plates!

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The kids turned their noses up at this thinly-slivered eggplant parmesan pizza I made up next, but I still made 'em each try a bite. No go. Oh, well, introduce it six times and maybe they'll say "Yum!" on the sixth try, right? Funny story: Sophia walked in on me later that night, helping myself to a square of this pizza but tossing the eggplant before I ate it. Haha! Busted.

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I don't do meat, and Rob is trying to give it up as well, but we're still using up what's been in our deep freezer for a few months. The last pizza was ALL Rob, and he found it to be quite delectable. A simple tomato sauce for the base, topped with browned spicy Italian sausage and fresh green and red peppers from the farm stand, along with mushrooms and green olives from Publix. I'd made a similar one without the peppers for him the week before, but he said the peppers really made the pizza, so we had a WIN with this one.

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Jack wasn't thrilled with ANY of the pizzas, because he's pretty much a meat-and-bread boy. He doesn't like tomatoes in any form, cheese in any form, or pretty much anything else in any form. Picky, picky. I had a recipe for turkey meatballs from chef Mario Batali in a recent issue of People magazine in mind, so I offered to make some up for him. I don't like to play short-order cook, but since he's a 45-pound 11-year-old, I don't like him to not eat, either. (Put down your phone; he has pituitary dwarfism and will always be tiny!)

I made some without sauce for him and the ever-hungry Sophia, and the rest were cooked in an amazing red wine, rosemary and garlic sauce for Rob. Jack ate a whole two golf ball-sized meatballs, as did Sophia, and Rob ate a half-dozen after his meatzza. He was so full, he could scarcely walk, so he sat at the table for a while after that, completely unable to move. Hee.

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Nothing local or fresh about dessert that night, but Chloë had been asking to bake some chocolate chip cookies with me for a while, so I accepted her request. We were out of flour after my pizza crust binge, and we needed milk to go with the cookies (duh), and I have been all about the eggs lately, so another trip to Publix was in order. I rode my bike while Jack and Chloë rode along on their scooters. (Sophia was having a bath and was quite annoyed we went without her.)

The kids have only ridden around our neighborhood, and they have been delighted with that because the nabe kids have been home from public school. They've made half a dozen new friends this week, and they keep knocking on our door asking if my kids can come out and play. However, a trip outside the 'hood was a new experience, and along the way to Publix and back, I heard lots of woos and shouts of, "This is exhilarating!", "I can't believe we're doing this!" and "I feel so alive!" that made for a wonderful mom-moment for me, too.

(P.S. The Publix cashier was shocked when I told her I was on my bike and proceeded to put the flour and a gallon of milk on the bottom of my backpack, and then the carton of eggs on top to ride home. But I was right; they survived just fine. Did not try this with bread!)

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Still in baking mode this morning, I woke up the family around 0900 with freshly baked blueberry shortcakes and fresh Florida grapefruit halves from the farm stand. Rob laughed at me when I complained that my cream wouldn't whip, before he reminded me that I was using half-and-half and not heavy whipping cream. Oops. Publix again.

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Last but definitely not least, dinner tonight was another meal provided by Hello Fresh. I roasted the onions, cherry tomatoes, yellow squash, and garlic in some EVOO while boiling the rotini. Tossed it all with some fresh basil and parmesan cheese, and voila! Rob and I adored it; I was kind of grumpy that I couldn't fit more in my little gastric-bypass pouch because it was that tasty. Simple; I'll make it again but with local food.

Thanks for stopping by!

Fin.

 


Friday Fragments, Version 4.11.14

Half-Past Kissin' Time

Hey folks! I haven't fragged in a long, long time, since I've been such a horribly inconsistent blahgger during this past Year of the Brain Drama. So, welcome back, if you're visiting here from Half Past Kissin' Time and, somehow, still remember who I am. If not, welcome! Stick around, I'll be posting here again soon. Like, within a month, I swear. ;)

Link up here if you're playing along today - and read the post to see how you can win some cool prizes, too!

It was the weirdest thing, y'all: I got stung by a pissed-off bee? Wasp? Hornet? I don't know. Some kind of flying black insect with a nasty sting and a bad attitude. He dropped dead shortly after injecting me right below my left eye with his venom, and part of me cheered his demise while the biologist in me felt bad for helping to hasten it.

ANYWAY... it hurt like hell, but by the time I finished the drive home from Tampa to Miami, the swelling had gone down and it didn't hurt a bit. So it was with my surprise that I realized, the next morning, that the swelling had not only returned, but my left cheek was numb as well. This went away, and returned, and went away, and returned, repeatedly over the next few days, until Monday afternoon when my friends insisted I go to Urgent Care and get it checked out. Steph (of Stim fame) urged me to go immediately, and so I went.

After hearing my tale and seeing my left-side-droopy face, they sent me to the Emergency Department at the nearby hospital. The PA there diagnosed me with Bell's Palsy, completely unrelated to the sting, and ordered blood tests and a CT scan.

While I was getting my blood drawn, the lab techs informed me that my room was ready. "Room? What room?" I asked, puzzled. Long story short, my bloodwork was fine except for dehydration, but my CT showed a lesion in my left temporal lobe. What? Seriously? The doctor said it could be anything from nothing at all to an old infarction (a stroke? a temporary ischemic attack? Who knows?) to a tumor. They ordered an MRI for the next day and told me to sleep. 

Short story long, and I suppose this is now about three fragments too long for this post, they cut me loose the next day and told me to have an MRI as an outpatient. I'm getting it next week. I wasn't worried until I started losing some of my memory and partial sight in my left eye tonight, but I'm still not too terribly panicked. Hubs and I can't both have brain tumors, amIright? That would just be insane.

Having had a craniotomy to remove his tumor on February 5th, Rob is doing, well, not much better. He still uses a cane and, sometimes, even needs to revert to his walker. He sleeps all the time. However, we can carry on a semi-normal conversation now, and he can still make me laugh like nobody else. I guess when they remove mineralized bits of your brain and dig around inside your skull, it's pretty amazing to think you should have been all better by now (had it not been for last year's Cyberknife procedures). I won't rush him.

You know what I hate? When the po-po are out cruising on the Turnpike and going 5 MPH under the speed limit. Are they playing games with us, or what? Of course, everyone stays behind the police car for fear of getting a ticket... everyone except me. Ain't nobody got time for that! I always pass the officer, going no more than 5 MPH over the speed limit, yet keeping a careful eye on my mirror. I mean, I've only gotten *mumble, mumble* speeding tickets in the last 20 years. #scofflaw

Speaking of the Turnpike and weird things happening, guess what? I live in Miami, right? One of the biggest, busiest, most heavily-trafficked cities in the nation? So imagine how much I laughed when I had to divert my path off the Turnpike today because several cows - yes, cows, like, moo-moo - were wandering around, blocking the cars. HEE-larious.

I had this conversation with 11-year-old Jack and 12-year-old Chloë today:

Chloë: "Mom, I stubbed my toe on that levitated thing between the bathroom and the bedroom. It hurts!"

Mel: "I'm sorry. But, 'levitated' means floating in the air...'

C: "Oh, so what should I say? 'Elevated' is the right word, right?"

M: "You could say that. I would just say 'raised'..." (I always trail off, it seems.)

Jack: "Wait, what was levitating?"

C: "Nothing was!"

J: "No really, what was levitating?!"

C: "UFOs, geez!"

M: **laughs**

{End scene.}

Wednesday was the 30th anniversary of my mom's death at age 33 from untreated diabetes. I was seven years old. It was the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my entire life, and mine have not been an easy 37 years. So you'd think, after three decades of asking my sister and me on the phone, "Do you know what today is?" my dad would get the clue that no, we will not ever forget the day.

(Get yourself checked out regularly, folks. Senseless deaths like hers ... sigh.)

Mama

So, tomorrow we drive back down to Key West. I have lots of work to do down there. It's great because, hey, money... but I have no jobs to do on the way down or back, and it's a good three hours each way. And it always rains on the way back. Never fails.

Thanks for stopping by! Maybe, just maybe, I'll see you again here next week for more fragments. (My grandma always told me the road to hell was paved with good intentions, which I never really understood as a kid because I thought she was telling me I should have bad intentions!)

Fin.


Blazing A Trail

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Busy, busy, busy. That's what describes our life lately, and I'm nothing but pleased about it. What with the full-fledged return to mystery shopping - and believe you me, there is no shortage of work here - homeschooling, getting ready for Christmas, and keeping the house running, I guess it's no wonder that I'm exhausted lately. I feel like I've been catching up on a lifetime of lost sleep. Naps are my new BFF.

Last Thursday (I know, it's nearly a week later, but I'm tryin', y'all!), we stacked shops from morning to evening. School on-the-go is what it's about. I have a new book to read, about carschooling, to help support that need. Anyway. 

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Here's Chloë, looking adorbs at one of the places we shopped. If you ever want to know the name of a good burger place that serves the best, healthiest and tastiest burgers - both beef and veggie, we can vouch - hit me up for the name. I hadn't heard of it before we moved to Miami, but I'm sure there have to be more somewhere out there.

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We'd already fed the kids lunch at an Einstein Bagel (not for a shop) in Coral Gables, so they had ice cream while Rob had lunch. My lunch was next. That's how we do it without going way over budget: I'll take several meal shops and feed the kids or one or both of us in stages. It's not ideal, but we are used to it and it works for us.

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I love this picture of Jacky. (Jack calls himself that most of the time, and Sophia calls herself Sophie. It doesn't bother me, but I do find it interesting the way we diminutize ourselves.) the twinkle of his eyes, the look of anticipation - was he thinking of his own ice cream cone, yet to be served, or Christmas, or...? Speaking of which, yesterday in South Miami, he talked all. day. long. about being excited for Christmas, and every time, he started running rather than walking. I thought of it, and then, as if voicing my thoughts, Chloë said aloud that it seemed he was running to make the holiday come faster. I love that she is so intuitive like that.

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It must have been the ice cream he was anticipating. Look at that delight!

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When the choice is Chocolate or Vanilla, I never know what Sophia will pick. She switches it up randomly, to keep us guessing. Before Halloween, I had bought three books of coupons for free Wendy's Frosty Jrs for them, and we stop regularly to use them up before they expire. Jack and Rob will always get Chocolate, but the girls, especially Sophia? One never knows.

By the way, at what age will this child stop getting her ice cream all over her face? She devours it so ardently, I imagine she'll always need a quick trip to the washroom after a frozen treat!

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After the burger place, Jack hopped up on the platform for a jumping sesh with the girls. He was Grumpy McGrumpster beforehand, but the ice cream seriously pepped him up.

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I don't claim to be a good photographer, not one bit, but I do try.  I think, in this case, my lighting was a fail. But still, she's cute, no?

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My lunch followed Rob's, in downtown Coconut Grove. We love going there, so it wasn't without some disappointment that I had to tell the kids we didn't have time to wander around and window shop, people-watch, that sort of thing. Next time, next time.

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I wasn't thrilled with the grilled artichoke, but the low-cal salmon rolls more than made up for them for me. It took me a while, but I managed to eat three of them. I can eat more these days, nearly five years out from gastric bypass, so I'm extremely conscious of everything I eat and drink. No sense undoing the surgery we went into the red for me to get!

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After a long day of tagging along on my evaluations, the kids were seriously ready to let loose. I had a nice gift certificate to the Build-A-Bear Workshop across the street from the last shop, so after a whispered conference with Rob, we decided to go and let them spend it. But first, a few quarters plunked into the carousel there to get the party started...

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Chloë is always in pose mode, even when I don't want her to be. She was born to model, I think. Too bad she's so petite!

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It's rare to capture genuine happiness from this boy, and there is an abundance from this day's snaps. It would be wrong of me not to share!

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What's that I was saying about my poseur?

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Like their mom, these three can never resist a pretty fountain. Fortunately, I always have pennies for wishes!

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Finally, we made it to Build-A-Bear. The kids had been there a time or two before, so they knew what to do. Sophia choose a white kitty, Chloë selected a polar bear, and Jack, a German Shepherd dog.

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I love the posture here. Childlike enthusiasm at its best!

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Jack, watching and waiting for his turn. [I just typed 'tern' first, which led me to remember another bird-related mix-up. Rob and I had an argument recently, and I meant to call him an @$$hole. Instead, my brain thought, "bad word," and my mouth interpreted that as "bird." "You BIRD!" I shouted. I do this sort of thing all the time, but that one had us really cracking up. Argument over, just like that.]

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The kids love this part of the process. Stuffing her cat, almost finished, Soap was asked to make a wish on its heart. Who knows what she wished? They'll never tell.

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Another wish, for another stuffy. 

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Chloë and... Snowy? Argh, I forget. It matters to them that I know their loveys' names, so it matters to me.

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I have a whole series of pictures of a smiling Jack, grinning from ear to ear, but I'll spare you most of them. He looks so much like my sister in the pictures, I think. I can really see it here.

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Snowy was dressed in purple, complete with matching ear muffs. They never stay on, which annoys this girl, but she refused her father's offer to sew them on. "No," she sighed dramatically, "I'll just have to deal with it."

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Jack needed help dressing Hunter, his dog, at first, but soon he took over. "I can do it!"

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The picture didn't turn out well, I acknowledge, but I couldn't get it the way I wanted it anyway. Stuffies in their homes, happy kids, away we went.

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The mall looked beautiful after we left the Workshop, and the kids oohed and ahhed appreciatively. I love Christmas lights. I must admit, though I'm a colored-light fan, there is a certain beauty you can only achieve with all-white lights, no?

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Oh look, a selfie. No, an "usser?" I'll work on that.

Thanks for stopping by!

Fin.


Our NERF & Cheetos Block Party

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Recently, I was selected to be a host for a NERF/Cheetos {check out the latter site, by the way; it's pretty funny} Block Party from House Party. That's my niece, Karen, "liking" my Instagram picure from the NERF Party Pack, which included water guns, coupons for more, temporary tattoos, and of course instructions for the party host, moi.

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We were sent tons of bags of Cheetos cheesy poofs, too, with lots more coupons. I still have some coupons, for $1 off Cheetos and for $5 off a $9.99+ NERF product, so hit me up in the comments if you want me to drop any off in the mail to ya! I'll be happy to do that.

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Between the Party Pack and the coupons, I ended up with about 20 different water guns, all kinds. You may end up with a different number if you count the ones in the picture, but that's because SOMEONE, who shall remain nameless but who is 8, has blond hair, and is female, decided to abscond with several of the ones from the party pack and then proceed to LOOOOOSE them. Which is why I found myself at Walmart on Friday night at 11 PM to buy a lot more. And then forbid said child to LOOK at them, much less touch. Heh.

{Hey, it worked. You do what you have to do; I do what I have to do.}

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So that's Erica, whom Rob knows from his youth in Missouri, and her daughter, Kira. We invited them and papa Kevin to Hugh Tayor Birch State Park in Fort Lauderdale to have this little block party with us, and they were all in. Yay!

So, why did I need so many guns for eight people?

Welp, my plan was to con rope other park-goers into joining the party with us and handing out guns to all comers.

Guess what? It worked!

We let the kids run over to the playground with their water guns, and the came back with what Chloë hilariously dubbed "an angry mob."

They wanted our guns, y'all. So we put the "mob" to work and made them fill up all our guns in the bathrooms, and then have at it.

Yo. They had a BLAST. {Pun intended.}

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That's "Peanut," who was entirely too excited to play, once we convinced them that, yes, indeedy, they were allowed to play with us. Yes, convince. We had to tell the newcoming kids that they were invited to play with the NERF guns about three or four times before they accepted it. {{I experienced this in teaching, too. I hate the racial divide, and the suspicion, mistrust and doubt that comes along with it. It makes me sad.}} But what a beautiful kid, huh?

 

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The little girl in the dress, in the back, was SO worried about her dad finding out that she had gotten wet. He wasn't even at their Memorial Day party! I hope she didn't get in trouble for having a little fun...!

 

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It thrilled me to no end to see everyone playing together like that. That's what it's about, right there. {{Hell, of the three people I still really know here in South Florida, two are white, one's black from Trinidad & Tobago, and one's Jewish. I just realized that. Rock ON.}}

 

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Everybody gang up on Kira!!! Git 'er!!!

 

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Jack never lets his dwarfism stop him from taking down the big guys, er, girls, either. I love that about him! Look at him - he was totally kicking @$$ and taking names!

 

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Chloë, looking a little unsure about which gun to pick. Oh, the choices!

I think this is the point where two other kids walked into the park, shooting regular toy guns, and I said something about them having "real" guns (as opposed to water guns). Peanut rushed to reassure me that they weren't real, just toys... and I felt like a jerk for saying it! Ugh. I have no filter.

 

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The other kids left before I was able to hand out certificates to our party winners, so I chose among the eight of us for prizes. I know Rob won the Cheetos prize for "Most Cheesiest," and of the NERF Prizes, Chloë got "Hot Shot," Sophia received "Sly & Dry" (which should rightfully have gone to Kevin, but whatevs), and Jack won "Most Soaked." Kira got "NERF Ninja," and I can't remember what Erica won, but for winning, they'll each be entered to win a $100 Amazon.com Gift Card. Woots!

What fun we had. Thanks to House Party, NERF, and Cheetos for the great day!

Fin.


And Chaos Reigns Again.

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So finally, on Tuesday - three weeks after our much-anticipated arrival back in the state of Florida - our household goods were scheduled to be delivered from the movers. Not only had we not seen everything from the Portsmouth house in almost a month, but some of that stuff hadn't been seen by us in almost a year, having left it behind at our Virginia Beach house! To say we were all excited would be an extreme understatement.

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 They were scheduled to arrive between 0800 and 0900. By 0730, all the kids were up and dressed, and three cats were in each bathroom for the day. By 0800, everyone was outside, listening for the truck. By 0900, when the truck still hadn't appeared, this was Rob, reading and anticipating. I went and, having barely slept the previous night, flung myself down on the floor to catch a little shut-eye. The kids ... I don't know. Remember, I was trying to nap?

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At 0906, Rob flung open the bedroom door and shouted, "THEY'RE HERE!!!" and it was everybody up an' at 'em all at once, in 57 different directions. WOOHOO!!! As much as I've enjoyed my aching joints from sleeping on the hard tile floor in sleeping bags for the prior to weeks, I was not sad to see our belongings again!

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The truck was pretty cool, all opening on the side and being filled with pods like that, but Ricky, Brian, and Emilio were even better. They earned every penny; they were the best team we've encountered in this relay race to get our household from one state to another.

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As they took things out of the truck, Rob parked himself outside with a pen and clipboard, checking everything off the packing list, while I directed traffic to the proper rooms. By 1030 or 1100, Team Ricky were ready for a lunch break, so this was the halfway point. I thought, this much stuff I could handle. I knew we had another truckful, but I didn't realize that it was two FULL trucks' worth of stuff. Uh muh guh, we have a lot of crap!

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We started unpacking while they were on their break, so that they could hall away some of the boxes and packing material. When I uncovered our box full of spicy goodness, Chloë exclaimed, "Yeah! Now we can cook with some flavor again!" Dude. I know. Buh-bye, bland.

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For Round Two, Rob and I switched places. Good for him, because he needed a break from the sun, and good for me, because (a) I didn't know where to put our rapidly accumulating junk and (b) I needed a break from our ecstatic children. And this was the result. It may not look like waaaay too much stuff (or maybe it does?), but trust The Me, it is. We will be paring down our belongings considerably in the coming days and weeks. Freecycle, Craigslist, and eBay, here we come.

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I immediately set to work getting the rest of (or most of) our kitchen sitchyated, while I sic'ed Rob on getting us a table and chairs. We had left our kitchen table behind in Virginia Beach, so it has made a very welcome reappearance in our lives. Here's our first meal at a real table in almost a year! Sophia was missing because she crashed, worn out, on the couch until right after dinner.

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On Wednesday, Rob and the kids busied themselves with their respective rooms, whilst I went in search of a doctor to prescribe my meds. I'd run out Tuesday night, and long story short, I still don't have my freakin' drugs. It's going to be an interesting remainder of the week if I don't get some side-Effexor in my system - and soon.

So after I got home, tears and all, from the Emergency Department, I started dinner. The kids had been promised some muffins for breakfast, but I didn't get up in time to make them, so that was dessert. Sophie's extra pudge is already coming off thanks to all the walking and swimming an' sech we've been doing lately. Rob and I have a few extra pounds from eating moving crap on us, too, so we're pleased to be in a healthier eating groove now.

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Meanwhile, Jack's almost finished with his room! Poopyhead. (There's a mommy word for ya!) That child has always had a determined, one-track mind, so when he gets an idea for doing something in his head (in this case, rebuilding his LEGO sets), nothing deters him from doing it. Nothing.

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Unearthing cherished items - like all my JAFRA pampering goodness, above - has been delightful. We've already filled three boxes full of things to get rid of, too, which is also delightful. I want to live as minimalistic a lifestyle as our packratting selves can endure. I do not want to end up on an episode of "Hoarders," you guys. Not now, not ever!

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The kids were so excited to find the Jell-O Easter egg molds, and I just so happened to unpack some boxes of Jell-O just before that, so this'll be their snack for tomorrow. They've been bugging me since the first batch about when they'll be finished... patience is not the strong suit of any of that lot! They kinda get that from me. Heh.

So anyway, that's what's new on our end. And yourselves??

Fin.

P.S. Happy <<ahem>> belated birthday to my Twin-Laws, Mike & Gail, and happy 38th birthday to my sister, Stacey Jean! Love you guys!! ♥



Sundays In My City: Homebound In Homestead

Unknown Mami

It may be Monday, but no matter, because I'm always late. I'm linking up again with Unknown Mami and her posse on Sundays in my City, so come along as we explore what Team Odette did all last week when lack of gas - and funds - kept us around the ol' Homestead homestead. I promise to visit and comment back, too - though it may take me a month, I'll do it! Swears.

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Cooking. Did I show these already? I forget. Sorry, if so. Anyway, I promised to take the load off Rob - and give Chloë something to tally on my side of her chart - so last week I made some seasoned vegetables for all of us and this:

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pork steaks, for the rest of the family, 'cept me. (I don't do mammals. Somehow, some way, I'm going to become a full-on vegetarian again by the end of 2013, but it's hard when I have such high protein requirements, thanks to my gastric bypass surgery.)

We had no salt, no seasonings (the veggies came pre-seasoned, heh), and no fat, oil, lard, margarine, butter, you name it, you got it? So I quickly texted my former home-ec teacher of a mother-in-law, who suggested I cut the fat off the meat and render that first, then cook the meat in it. Brilliance! It worked like a charm. And even in that state, Rob pronounced it delicious and entirely edible enough to make again. Thanks, Mamacita!

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That was Sunday. On Monday night, we came home from I-don't-know-where hungry, and I whipped up some healthy lettuce and chicken salad spinach wraps for Rob and me, while he made some pasta for the mouths under the kids' upturned noses. Poo-poo on them; the wraps were delishamus.

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We've been walking every day still, and each day we encounter new flowers. This flower, on Tuesday, was the first yellow hibiscus I'd seen. It was the 29th anniversary of my mom's death that day, but I was determined not to cry. Guess what, I actually succeeded, thanks to my drugs I'm guessing.

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Every day, we go down to the lake across from our place. Well, almost every day. Rob wants to fish here, but the sign says no way, José. I don't think he'll listen. And gators? No way can my kids walk down to the lake by themselves. I've already lost one kid; I'm not giving the rest away.

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Some of the eggs have hatched! This mama Muscovy duck had 12 ducklings. Twelve! 

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Chloë and sibs have been determined to spot a gator since we moved down here. Fortunately, they've been unsuccessful so far. I want to go down to the Everglades and rent an airboat. I've never done that before, and I know it's fun. Surely we'll spot some gators that way.

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It took me a week, but I finally spotted an ibis. I was the last one. Why is this significant? The mascot of my alma mater, U-Miami, is Sebastian the Ibis, of course!

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We have seen several instances of Muscovies mating, so we've had to explain, yet again, all about the birds and the bees to the kids. It's an ongoing conversation, and we have an Open Door policy where that is concerned, so it's cool. I found it interesting to note that the drake bites the female on the back of the neck while he's mounting her, much like a male shark bites a thickened part of flesh on the back of a female during their dance of looove.

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And not to be outdone, this Mama Muscovy sported no less than 20 following ducklings that afternoon. Twenty!!

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On Wednesday, the hibiscus turned out to be a beautiful pink rose. And not only that, but:

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check out the gorgeous orchids on this tree! Real ones, too, no matter how fake they looked; I checked. We diverted from our usual path that day and walked to the next neighborhood over. I was bored to tears and dying for a change of scenery, after all.

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Knitting. I've kept up my pledge to knit for the highly-allergic Vinnie, though I don't have much yarn with me until our stuff gets here on Tuesday from the movers. A little colorwork this time, using an unraveled coat I never finished making for Sophia four years ago, and some yarn of Stephanie's that was used in another project for her boys.

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On Thursday, we decided to take the short walk up the road to get some free groceries with coupons I'd gotten. We stopped along the way to peer into the canal, where we spotted turtles, fish - and numerous shopping carts. Who throws a shopping cart into a canal, for Pete's sake?!

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I was aMAZED at the Publix, where not only did I get my items for free, but the coupons scanned above the cost of the items, and I got overage. I figured they would just make me buy something additional to eat that up, but no! They totaled it out, opened up the cash drawer, and gave me the money! Hello, ring-a-ding-ding! That's so unusual, and I bet you dollars to donuts it's not the official coupon policy of the store, but arguing was useless with them. So I took it and clicked my heels together with glee. 

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Sophia, wearing my straw hat from Miss Lisa, picked up what she called a blade of wheat and said, "Look, Mama, I'm a cowgirl!" Oh, the cute.

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On our way back home, we spotted these palm trees full of coconuts. Except, on closer inspection, they weren't coconuts at all, I guess. I don't know what the hell they are, but ... palm fruit, I guess?

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So this was my haul: A $6.59 bag of organic sugar, a $5.99 bottle of organic raw blue agave, two Michael Angelo's family-size meals, and a large Diet Coke from the deli - all of which, they paid me over a dollar to take home. Nice, huh?

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I'm part of Michael Angelo's team of taste-and-tell bloggers, so they provided me with the coupons for the free products to try. We got the chicken parmesan and the vegetable lasagna, both of wish were SOOOO good. I kid you not. Have you had their frozen foods? I would definitely buy these again, but you know me, they gotta be on sale and have a coupon to match! ;)

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One of Chloë's agents back in Virginia called Thursday to say they wanted to submit her for a lead role in a TV show! They said she was perfect for the part, and you know, I may be biased but, I wouldn't doubt it! The kid has charm and personality to spare. Look at that sass!

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And she looks so much like her daddy, it's nonsense. Fingers crossed, Chloë!!

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Friday was not my day. It was payday, yet my card kept getting declined every where I went. Turns out there was fraud on our account... I had to cancel about a dozen mystery shops for the weekend, along with a host of other plans. Big bummer. We had to hang around the 'hood even more. Here's silly Sophia dressing up as both her mom and her dad, simultaneously.

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For the first time in January, while he was visiting my dad, Jack had a grapefruit. Surprisingly enough, my picky boy LOVED it with a heavy dose of sweetening, so he kept prodding his sisters to try one, too. (Neither Rob nor I are big fans of the fruit.)  So when we grocery shopped Friday morning - after, of course, having to call the bank yet again to release the hold on my card so I could pay for mah dang groceries - I bought them each one to try. What would they think? I wondered.

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That was Sophia's reaction to her first bite. Ha! She cracks me up. So went Chloë's first bite, too. Needless to say, the grapefruit is now wrapped in Saran wrap in the fridge, since Jack only wanted a few bites. And yes, I sweeted it with that better-than-free organic sugar ;)

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Meanwhile, on Saturday night after Rob made us omelets for dinner, Jacky helped out with the dishes. Since he is a Little Person, he needs to jump up on the counter in order to reach the faucet. I'm so proud of this kid; nothing holds him back from doing what he aims to do, despite his small stature!

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And finally, since we're still more-or-less homebound, here is one last shot of "The Tweens," Cupcake and Muffin, acting as bookends over the kitchen sink. Pretty girls, they.

As always, thanks for stopping by! See you again real soon, y'hear?

Fin.


Sophia Lorelei Turns The Big "8"!

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On Saturday, our wee baby girl turned EIGHT freakin' YEARS OLD, guys. Can you believe it?! I can't. My baby. Is old. Which means I'm old. Gosh!

By the way, blue, because her favorite color is now blue. Gone are the days of all pink-and-purple  all the time. Le sigh.

Also by the way, because I'm thinking of it, she's the youngest kid, yet she's the biggest by quite a bit. Chloë is the size of a 6½-year-old and has the maturity to match, whilst Sophia's maturity matches her chronological age. It's quite an interesting dynamic, and by that I mean... frustrating entirely too often.

Anyway. Saturday, Sophia's birthday, was a beautiful day. Just gorgeous. And we had a blast. But first, there were the presents:

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Grandma (Rob's mom) sent a jumprope, headbands, puzzles that got put together immediately by all three kiddos, and a doodling book that she's been working in for hours on end each day since it came;

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Aunt Gail (Rob's sister), a new Scentsy consultant, sent her a Scentsy kitty which, as you can see, was met with much excitement; and, 

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on Friday night, she not only got a card with money from her Grandpa (Rob's dad, along with his stepmom), but our realtor stopped by to take the lockbox off our front door and, upon learning it was Sophie's birthday, whipped a $20 bill out of her wallet and gave it to the extremely delighted child, amidst our protests! So we took her to Wally-World and let her have a little shopping spree. What fun that was! 

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But back to Saturday, her special day... We were headed out to do a plethora of mystery shops that I'd lined up for the weekend, but the first one didn't pan out (and none of the rest 'cept one did, in the end), so we ended up in Miami's Bayside Marketplace. In all my years living in Miami the first time around, I'd never made it to Bayside, which turned out to be a feast for the eyes and ears. What a bizarre bazaar! I instantly loved it.

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The kids meandered around for a while, looking at this and that, before they happened upon the family bikes for rent. We didn't get a chance to ride that day, but we've done it before and I'm sure we'll do it again one day. Or have we? I can't remember, now that I think of it, when we actually did, so maybe I just made that part up.

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After that, Sophia got to ride in the carousel, choosing of course to sit in the spinny-thingy that she loves so much, for the mystery shop portion of our visit to Bayside. I'd have let the other kids go, too, but fundage is at a premium right now and I could only let one kid go. Being the birthday kid, choosing Sophie was a no-brainer.

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She also got to ride the train, as part of my evaluation, but she didn't sit here for long, oh no, she didn't!

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Instead, she climbed into the caboose (after determining that she wasn't allowed to ride in the engine car) and pretended she was a caged lion at the circus. Silly girl!!

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The ticket seller gave me a free punching balloon for her birthday. I don't know about you, but I love a punching balloon, and I'm pretty damn good at it, too. Much better than these goons kids of mine, but Jack is getting to be the best of the bunch at it. Sophia and Chloë, er, not so good...

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That ^^^ is what I had to do after the mystery shop portion of our visit. And so, I did. 

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Since we were at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant for me to GO, the kids were posing outside in Forrest's photo-op bench and shoes for Rob. Silliness.

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Across from the restaurant was this enormous banyan tree, which is my second favorite kind of tree, I think, after palm trees. This one was about 100 years old, though they can live to be about 1,000 years. Did you know that when the branches reach down all the way into the ground, they grow into new roots of the tree? Isn't that amazing?!

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Chloë had fun climbing up into the tree, and then Rob joined her. He climbed quite a bit higher, but not as high as he'd wanted to go before he got stuck with slick branches from the thunderstorm we'd gotten earlier that day. Indeed, the flooded roads are what stopped me from being able to get to my first mystery shop on time.

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After climbing the banyan tree, we stopped at Häagen-Dazs to get ice cream for Sophia. Again, I couldn't afford to get treats for all three kids and still do my mystery shops (which I later ended up abandoning anyway), and I had a coupon for one small kid's cone, so Sophia got it. She did share with her brother and sister, but Jack ended up crying about the ice cream and made me feel like complete crap. He knows we don't have a ton of money and that the birthday kid is the one who gets somewhat spoiled on their day, just like he did, but it's still hard to understand and accept at 10 years old... so I told him and Chloë they could each spend a dollar or two on something at the market. Again, ::sigh::

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Chloë was simpler, as usual, as she's relatively easy to please and Jack is impossible. She wanted her fortune told, so we spent her dollar on that. Sophia ended up getting her fortune read, too. Except it was funny, because Chloë hit the button for Spanish, and the fortune teller switched to Spanish for all of his mumbo-jumbo, of which I undertood not a word this time. Bah. 

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Jack's tastes aren't cheap - everything he wants has wheels or is some mode of transportation or another, and he pointed out things that cost anywhere from ten bucks to $200! Um, no. I said a dollar, Jacky darling...

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The girls were in heaven when we found this corner of a toy store decked out in Hello Kitty, well, everything! Sophia urged me to get the HK steering wheel, but I passed. Hee. I could just see me driving Penelope around with that on it, right?

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In a shell shop, Sophia put a dried-out sea star on her ear and pretended to be a mermaid. That's another thing she loves - mermaids. She did look pretty with it there, I have to say.

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Across the hall, we headed into the Brookstone store to see if there was anything (bahahaa) Jack wanted and could afford. I knew we wouldn't, but I humored the lad. We all found various massaging apparati that we all desperately wanted - and needed, you see, because we still don't have our household goods from the move and have been sleeping on tile floors for almost 2 weeks now. Talk about your aching bones!

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Finally, we found a candy store - which is seriously the last thing Jack really needs - and he got some Pop Rocks and a push-up thingamajig to spend his buck-fitty on. Ah, well. Remind me to call a dentist tomorrow, m'kay?

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Right after that, the kids were begging to go to the beach, which we'd promised this weekend, but first, Sophia had to dance to the salsa and merengue music playing outside by (I'm guessing) a local band. She stopped after I took this picture, came over to me, and whispered, "I'm kind of embarrassed, Mom. I don't know how to dance in public." So cute!

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And then, there was a fountain as we made our way over to the merengue band, so of course I had to fish three pennies out of my satchel to let them each make a wish. Rob and I abstained for once, though we usually join in and toss a coin or two.

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At the bandstand, there were plenty of listeners up front and center dancing to the music. Good times, good times, and no, I'm not near brave enough to have joined them. Not in a million years, though I like to listen and watch!

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On our way over to the parking garage, Sophia spotted a man twisting up balloon animals. She ran over and told him it was her birthday, so he asked her to pick a color and tell him what she wanted. He didn't speak much English, so she just dove into his bucket of balloons and fished out a blue one, asking for a dog. He whipped it up in no time flat, then made the sign of the cross and wished her many blessings for her birthday. Nice.

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A pretty smile and a blue poodle. A bloodle?

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At last, we made it out to Key Biscayne. First stop was Diver's Paradise, the dive shop where I used to work back in the day, to visit "the Omars" who own it. Only, Omar Jr. wasn't there because his wife had just had a baby boy, and Omar Sr. wasn't there because of the awful diving weather earlier in the day. Bummer; it's a looooong, long drive out to Key Biscayne from Homestead, so I don't know when I'll get out there to see them again. I will, though - count on that - but probably not before we get a dive in on the other end of the Florida Keys.

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Y por fin, we made it to la playa.  Those are my buried feet at the bottom of the picture; I'd have shown you my piggie toes, but my toenails aren't painted, and once, in college, a guy told me that girls' feet are ugly if the toenails aren't painted. Hee!

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Sophia was the only one who'd kept her bathing suit on after (we thought) the thunderstorms altered our plans to go to the beach, so she plunged RIGHT in the water and had herself a birthday ball. That, right there, is a happy, happy 8-year-old.

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Somewhere between the Sophie picture and this one, I'd dropped my iPhone and my keys into the water. Only, I didn't realize at the time about the keys, since I was so intent on rescuing my phone to get the next great picture. Hm. We'll revisit that later. See the muck behind Chloë, where Jack is? It was gooey and goopy, and she ran through it shouting, "EW! EW! EW! EW! EW!" in a very Chloë-like way.

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Rob found this whorling shell - a mini conch, mayhaps? - in the low tidal zone, and thus began a collection between him and Sophia. They found many a cool shell that day.

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And then, someone found a crab in the water, and all the Latinos ran screaming away, yelling (in Spanish) that it was poisonous and would kill them. I laughed and said it wouldn't, so my girl Sophia was the first one to dive back in and check out the crab. The Latino children kept running over, screaming, and running away, in a most amusing - albeit histrionic - way.

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A while later, I managed to find this itty-bitty hermit crab walking in the shallows, so I gave the kids an on-the-spot lesson about the crabs, their unique anatomy, and how they make their living.

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After that, Sophia hollered to me, "Look, Mom! I'm a water skipper!" and then she proceeded to run, splashing, across the top of the water like a little beetle. She's great fun, that kid.

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Finally, Jack decided to brave the muck. He rolled up his pant legs, with Daddy's help, and made his way over to me. In this picture, he was telling me there was no WAY he could manage to stay in the muck and water...

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...but pretty soon, realizing the fun that was to be had in the calm waters of Hobie Beach, he got over himself. I love, love, looove to see this boy have a good time.

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And there's me, freckling up like a freckly frecklepuss. Check it out, I have hair again!

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True to form, Sophia made a new friend. She does this absolutely everywhere she goes. The thing I loved most about this instance, though, was that Ana didn't speak a lick of Spanish, and yet Sophia still managed to pal around with her. They talked through me. Chloë and Soph asked a billion questions of Ana, and we learned that her favorite color is red, her favorite food is fried rice with eggs, she's 8 years old, and she has a pet bird.

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Meanwhile, Rob was walking around, solo for the most part, on the far end of Hobie Beach. I loved watching him connect with nature and enjoy himself. I think he's home. At last, it's his turn to shine, and he will do it well, I know.

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After a while, an ice cream truck sung out its offerings on the shore, and Ana dashed immediately over to her mother to ask for some helado. Naturally, so did my trio of hooligans. Remembering that Sophia had already had Häagen-Dazs that day, I threw sense to the wind and decided to make it right with Jack. So they all got ice cream. Though wouldn't you know it, three bites into his Spongebob sherbet, Jack decided his was too cold, and he didn't want it anymore. The little shit!

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Sophia and her new amiguita, Ana, enjoying ice cream together wordlessly

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After ice cream, Sophia apparently channeled Brookstone to give her sister and brother foot massages in the water. Jack was too squeamish to let her rub sand on his feet, though, so he ran squealing away as soon as I snapped this Instamography.

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Not long after that, the sun was setting for the day, and, knowing our shark friends like to come closer to shore at that time of day, we rounded up our little'uns and started to head toward the sand. Satisfied, we were, that a full day was had, so no complaints ensued.

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Sophia and Ana hugged good-bye, promising to see each other soon (though we have no way of reaching Ana). Somehow, these flowers materialized out of nowhere, and Ana gave them to Sophie, wishing her a very happy 8th birthday. Despite the ice cream stains and sand on her chin, I still think she looks beautiful here.

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Immediately, Sophia decided to play "bride" and, turning around, threw the bouquet to her sister to catch. The flowers went all over the place, the girls went under water to catch them, and I had myself a good belly laugh. Hence the blur.

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We got up to the arena, and Sophia dropped down to make sand angels. Of course! Who wouldn't want their wet and sand-covered birthday girl in their nice Honda Odyssey, ya know? I didn't care. It's such a messy Penelope right now, and I need to clean it out anyway...

Once we got back to Penny, I realized that I didn't have my keys. What? The doors were unlocked, too, so I scoured the front seat for them, to no avail. I sent Sophia back to where we'd left our shoes, but soon I realized that I had never put my keys down there in the first place. That's when I remembered dropping my phone. Just as a couple holding hands strolled by, I dashed down to the shallow water, and there were my keys, half-buried. I shouted, "I FOUND THEM!" to Sophia, and the male half of the couple exclaimed, "Wow! You were so lucky!" Indeed.

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Sophia mentioned something about her birthday cake being the last thing she needed to make her day complete, and that's when I remembered that, oh yeah, I'd made no plans for a cake! Oops. We stopped halfway home at the Publix where I worked in college, and I chatted up Little Richard in the produce department while Sophia picked out some strawberries. My girl loves her some strawberries like nothin' else. She always tries to find the biggest one. Look at her! She's such a goose.

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It was so big, she pretended she was a pig with an apple in her mouth. Jack wanted to cook her, but that's where I drew the line.  I know, I'm such a good mom.

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The berries were super juicy, and I had absolutely NOTHING of my cake-making schtuff to work with, so I did the best I could. Sophia didn't care a wit. She said it was the most beautiful cake ever, and she loved it. Who could argue with that?

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I had a bite, but it was one bite too many. On the other hand, Sophia has managed to sneak about 2/3 of the cake since last night, so I guess the chocolate cake-and-strawberry frosting combo (which Jack said tasted like Mentos gum) was too her liking. 

And that, my friends, is how you do a birthday 'round these parts.

Thanks for stopping by our little corner of the blahgisphere. Hope you'll stick around.

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Fin.

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Time For Some Fun... And A Little Retail Therapy

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Snacks, Miami-style, seen at a local gas station convenience store

After our disappointment at the realtor's office Friday, we decided that we needed to branch out from the internet, regarding our home-hunting search. We'd stopped in several stores, both drug and grocery, to look for the Apartment Guide and similar resources, but we haven't found any. I told Rob we should go up to my alma mater, the University of Miami, and look for the campus newspaper. I knew that classified ads for rentals were placed there back in my college days, so I thought we might be successful with some leads that way.

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When we got to UM, we parked near the UC (aka University Center, the school's student union), where I knew we'd find a paper and maybe some bulletin boards. The first thing out of Penelope (our Honda Odyssey), the kiddos wanted to chase around some Muscovy ducks that were visiting Lake Osceola. They were successful, as you can see from the photo, despite my protests.

So, I found The Hurricane, our student-run newspaper, but no ads of any kind. Since it's not quite summer rental time, I'm not completely surprised, but a little. However, we want to find something long-term instead of just a sub-lease for the summer, so it's probably for the best. Hindsight is 20-20, though. 

The kids wanted to see more of the campus, since they scarcely remembered our last visit there in 2007, and of course I was happy to oblige. We still had about 20 minutes left on the parking meter, so I showed them around the UC and Lake Osceola. Back in my day, most things were white with green and orange trim. I noted to Rob that everything has not only been upgraded, but changed to completely orange and green, with a wee bit of white trim. UM has gone full-on 'Canes décor, that's for sure!

After the UC and the lake, the kids wanted to see my dorm. I'd pointed out a couple others within view of the UC, so that piqued their interest. We drove over to Mahoney and Pearson residential colleges, the later being my dorm, and I pointed that out in addition to the dining hall where I took most of my meals. They loved it all, of course, and so did I. Ah, the memories... if we can afford it by the time the kids are in college, I'd love to continue the legacy with at least one of them. It costs a fortune, though, so who knows?

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After the very brief tour of UM, I thought the kids would enjoy a ride on the city's MetroRail, the overhead subway that goes pretty much in a straight line from South Miami to Hialeah. I was right, of course, though I should have expected Jack to be scared of the high platform. He was terrified, cried, and clung to me for a while, even though he was excited to ride the train. 

After a little bit of quick math in my head, I figured out it would be cheaper to get Day Passes for each of us, rather than go the pay-as-you-ride route. $25 later... ouch! Prices sure have gone up in the last 15 years. (I can't believe I'm that old, either!)

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Finally, Jack relaxed enough to let me take a picture with him and Rob. I think Rob looks so cute with his shaggy, very white beard... ♥ (My sister is not a fan, but she's not married to him, so pbbbh! It does tickle, though!)

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We decided to take the Metro into Coconut Grove and walk the mile or so down to Coco Walk, one of my favorite hangouts back in college. It hasn't really changed at all! I thought the kids would enjoy playing the "right" songs on the jukebox at Johnny Rockets, remembering how the wait staff would get up on the counters and dance to "Respect" and other fun hits. Well, they still had a good time, but the jukeboxes are broken now, and the staff said they only dance when the place is full. Bah. It was nearly empty at that point. The kids donned their paper hats and Jack said, "We work here, Mom!" So cute.

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Sophia and Chloë had grilled cheese sandwiches, Jack had the chicken fingers (well, really a bite of chicken and most of his fries, the stinker), Rob had a cheeseburger, and I ate my old standby, a tuna melt. Oh, and we got milkshakes for the kids, which they loved  - in no small part because the server spun the lid of the straw jar for them and made the straws spin out prettily! They're suckers for the little things, just like me.

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After dinner, we decided to walk around Coco Walk for a while before heading back on the Metro. We found a fountain, and I had enough pennies for everyone to make a wish. Can't tell you what we wished for, but one person on Facebook guessed mine easily! Can you? ;)

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Upstairs, I spotted some Britto luggage in a window and practically ran to go look at it. I haven't seen a Britto merch shop since we were in Charleston, and I do so love to look at it. The store sold Crocs, too, and Sophie fell in love with some Hello Kitty ones, along with a set of Hello Kitty Jibbitz that she just had to have. I debated for a while before deciding to get her some pink Crocs that she chose (the HK ones were too small for her piggies) and the Jibbitz, for her 8th birthday in two weeks. I might give them to her earlier, since the flip-flops I'd picked up for us girls at Walgreens are uncomfortable for her.

Anyway, the shopkeep at the Crocs store said there was another shop down below that sold a lot of Britto merchandise for cheaper than anywhere else he knew about. You know we ended up there, eventually, right?!

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First, though, we kept looking around upstairs. We came across a Pan Am store (what's up with that?! Is that a thing, now?) that sold lots of vintage-y Pan Am merchandise. They also had some old Pan Am displays set up, including this one of an actual plane interior. Chloë posed, and I taught her to say, "Buh-bye. Buh-bye now." Remember those old SNL skits?

Jack found a paper glider set there he wanted, and it was only $5, so I was going to get it. Then he found a miniature replica of a real Pan Am plane, but it was $30 - I said No Way, José! Not after all the loot he'd just scored for his 10th birthday. He was so disappointed, he cried. And then, of course, the $5 gliders weren't good enough either, and I wasn't going to buy him something just to buy him something. I explained it to him, and he understood, but he was still moody for the rest of the night. I did find $5 handmade necklaces at a kiosk down below for each of the girls, so I told him he could spend the same amount, but he found nothing he liked. Later, he asked me if he could just add the $5 to the $26 he already had saved up (and let the movers pack, by accident); I found this to be entrepreneurial and accepted. He brightened when he realized that he'd have enough to buy the miniature replica when he got his money back!

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Finally, we made our way to the shop that sells Britto merch on the cheap, Sparkle Plenty. Wow!! What a sight to behold. There was so much goodness in there, it's like I died and went to heaven. I decided that, to go with our Deep Night Romance giclée by Britto, we should stick with kissing fish only. There were several options, including an $80 picture frame (not now, thanks!), and an $18 luggage tag (also a nyet), but we went with these:

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a cute little toothbrush holder that I plan to use to hold scissors, if they fit, or something else if they don't, on the computer desk, and this:

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a fishy teapot that will look great in our future bright and cheery kitchen, no?

Awesome. We love you, Romero Britto!

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At the counter in the same shop, while paying for our goods, I came across these packs of gum and had to snatch a photo. Silliness. There were more, but I couldn't them all in the shot, and these were funnier.

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After the shop, Rob said it was time to go back to the hotel and tend to our kitties. I had asked several people if the Metro Day Passes I'd bought could also be used to ride the bus back to the station, but no one knew. Finally, I spotted an Information booth, so we strolled over there to ask. The three uniform attendants said, "YES!" in unison, so I gave them a double thumbs-up and said, "Right answer!" The kids were so not up to walking back, and we were all relieved. Woot!

Sophia found this guitar art standing up near the bus stop. She immediately had to start 'playing' it, Sophie-style. What fun!

We rode the bus back to the station, and then we got up to the platform to ride the station back. No sooner did we get there, though, before I started to convince Rob we had to go back down to the store across the street. I was DYING of thirst. Dying, I tell ya! I told him we'd get back in time for the train that was coming 17 minutes later (they run less frequently at night, and it was about 10 PM by that time). Well, guess what? We didn't! Oops.

So 20-some minutes later, we caught the next train and rode it back to the University station. Or so I thought. It completely skipped over our stop, and I looked up just in time to see the words "South Miami" flashing by as we approached the next station. Um, what?! No one at the next stop could understand why that would happen, but it did, so we had to get back on the Northbound train and ride back again. The kids weren't dismayed at all, thankfully, because I was dog-tired by that point and not up to another battle.

After we disembarked from the train a third time, we got over to Penelope and tried to start her up. Only, the battery was dead and the parking lot was now deserted. Greaaat. I told everyone to be quiet for five minutes, and I prayed. Then I tried the ignition again. Started RIGHT UP. Thank you, GOD!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We got back to the hotel, where all five of us promptly climbed into bed and fell asleep.

I can't tell you what happened most of Saturday, because I slept through, having come down with a bad cold, until nigh on 6 PM. I know Rob took the kids swimming at some point, but that's all I'm aware of. Now it's Easter, and I need to get the kids' baskets. It's 2:30 AM now, so I'll wait a couple more hours and then hit up a Walgreens for those and some newspapers. Surely there will be plenty of houses-for-rent ads in there, too.

So that's our adventures for now! I'll post more frequently than I have been in the past several months, now that we're here. Comment, sil vous plait. 

Fin.


Fun Family Splurging - On The Cheap


I've been doing a lot of mystery shops again lately, so we have been out and about as a family frequently. On Thursday, I had stacked about seven shops back-to-back, and I did not relish the idea of going back home, tired and worn out, to a messy, half-packed, midst-of-moving house. So I broached the idea of getting a hotel room for the night to Rob, and he was all in! So I went on the Hotels.com app on my iPhone and booked us a room at The Aloft in Chesapeake for a heavily discounted price.

We had actually never heard of The Aloft, so we had no idea what to expect, but all five of us were delighted and impressed! It was a really neat hotel, with great service (say hi to Justin for us if you go - the night clerk at the Front Desk) and awesome details. We liked it so much, and the off-season rate was so great, we ended up staying for two nights!

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While I rested, and then worked on mystery shop reports, Rob took the kids to the hotel pool two or three times. Sophia is swimming like a little fishy now - okay, like a puppy, since she still doggy-paddles for the most part - and does wonderfully in the water.

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Meanwhile, even Jack has finally decided to start swimming! Yay, Buddy! He can't go too far, or for too long, but it's a start. On the other hand, Chloë is still quite timid in the water and barely manages to jump in from the side... but I know she'll get there.

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On the second night, I stopped by the bar to get drinks for Rob and me. However, the bartender (hey, Lisa!) was closing, so I got him a bottle of beer to go and ordered this Bahama Mama for myself. It was delish. And strong. I got so plastered by the third sip! Thankfully alcohol hits me hard and fast, and gets processed by my new system just as quickly, so it had worn off almost by the time I got back to our loft and needed to work on reports!

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After my buzz wore off, I was quite thirsty, so I asked "my favorite child" to get my Coke out of the fridge. Naturally, all three of them decided they were that child (and they were right!), so they went, giggling, together to the fridge and fetched it, delivered it, and presented it with smiles as a team. Love my funny gang! ♥

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On Saturday morning, before we had breakfast and checked out, I went to the pool to see the latest swimming exploits and knit (and, okay, snooze some more) while the kids swam with Rob. I loved the atmosphere in there... definitely want to return to another The Aloft in the future. Sometime.

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On Monday, Steph and Tim babysat for us while we went out for a date/mystery shop at a restaurant bar. We went to the Walmart around the corner from the restaurant afterward, ostensibly to pick up a load of cat food, but we were looking around and came across a whole bunch of super-duper clearanced toys that we knew the kids would love. When we went to pick them up from Stim, we left their new toys in their car seats and let them discover them upon returning to the van. What joy! What glee! What fun! Here is Sophia's newly updated Lalaloopsy collection, with April Showers (the newest one) in the center.

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On Tuesday, en route to lots more shops and other errands, we all found ourselves very hungry for dinner. So, we took advantage of the Kids Eat Free special that day at Chili's and had a really inexpensive dinner, with Rob and I getting the combo dinner and all three kids eating for nada. The chips and spicy corn guamacole were SO good!!

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And yesterday (Wednesday), we had LOADS of fun. While Rob and Jack went to Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach to get Rob a haircut, I took the girls to Sunshine Smiles, A Kids' Spa around the corner. I had given Sophie a gift certificate to spend $20 there (which I'd actually gotten for FREE on LivingSocial!) for Christmas, and it's just taken this long to get time to get her in there. The girls were so hilarious during the visit.

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For her money, Sophia was able to get a manicure and make two lip glosses (an experience she shared with her big sis), and the first thing she did after the way-awesome Michelle set her up was soak her nails and hands. She sighed dreamily during this experience. Goof!

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Michelle quickly realized that Sophia was going to be quite a little wiggle worm during her mani - as she ALWAYS is, but even more so because she was so excited to be there - and she and I kept bursting into laughter about Sophia's hilarious antics and attempts to stay still. Such a goose. Here, she was having some kid crap (glue, maybe?) removed from her hands.

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Sophia happily looked on as Michelle painted her nails a lovely shade of sea blue-green (my favorite color!) that Chloë helped her pick out. Poor Michelle had to touch up her nails about five or six times, because she would NOT STOP MOVING!

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I love her cute little pudgy baby hands - the only thing about Soap that's still wee, I'm afraid - and her pretty nails. 

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Sophia was dying to lie down on the spa lounges and let her nails dry, so she inveigled her way into that with Michelle after promising not to smudge her nails. She was sooo happy, even if she didn't also get the cucumber slices on her eyes that she also requested!

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Chloë chillaxed next to Sophie and did her usual model pose when I asked to take her picture. Always preening for the camera, that one!

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Finally, when the nails were sufficiently dry (and after more touch-ups), it was time to go to the lipgloss-making station. They were able to pick their own colors to add to the balm bases and put lots of glitter in there, too. Of course, both of my girly girls wanted to use shades of pink.

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Glitter time!  Sophie added the pink and the silver to hers for some major sparkle.

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Then, the girls were given sticks to apply their new lipglosses to their puckers. Chloë did a pretty good little job not getting it all over the place.

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Sophia, meanwhile, had quite a bit of trouble getting hers just so and not glopping it all over the lower third of her face, so Mama had to step in and help her out after she wiped off the first attempt. It actually looked pretty good on her!
So that was that fun-ness, and all for the cost of just a tip to Michelle! Thanks, Sunshine Smiles!

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After that, it was Jack's turn for some fun, since this is his tenth birthday month, and we are celebrating him all month long! I had $20 in gift certificates to Build-A-Bear Workshop, (five for his birthday present and the other $15 from rewards for the Christmas gifts I'd gotten from there), so I instructed Jack on from which three least pricey stuffies he could choose - after all, the goal was to go cheap or go home - and he picked a pooch!

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The store employee helped him stuff his dog, and he was sooo excited to fluff him up. He worked that pedal pretty quickly!

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The employee then had Jack pick out a heart for his dog, and rub it on his face for smarts, cheek for cute, etc. Jack had a ball doing this and was giggling his little peanut head off! It's so great to see him genuinely smiling, since he's kind of a grump usually!

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Next it was time for an air bath to keep the newly fluffed and minted puppy clean. More real smiles from the boy!
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After a bath, Puppy needed some new clothes. Jack chose the camouflage outfit, which he seems to be into lately. Like his Dad!
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Daddy helped dress the easily-frustrated Jack's dog. The two of them are so cute together and have really been male-bonding a lot lately. I love to see it!
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Lastly, it was time to adopt Roger, the dog, into Jack's growing BAB family. He was thrilled, and I peeked in on him a couple times during last night and found him clutching Roger tightly in his sleep.

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After that, I had to do some more mystery shopping in the mall, but once again, everyone had gotten hungry. I told the kids we could grab just a little something to eat in the Food Court first, so we headed upstairs to snack on samples (hey, free belly filler) and then pick what we wanted to eat. Jack actually wanted to ride the escalator upstairs, which is unusual because he's terrified of it. And he still balked when he got over there, but then, he did it! He got on and rode up on his own (usually one of us has to carry him)! Yay, Jacky!!
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Well, call us pushovers, because when we got to the top of the escalator, Cold Stone Creamery was right there, and Sophie shouted out, "Ice Cream!" Rob and I quickly conferred and decided to have an upside-down meal: dessert at the mall, then dinner later at home. The kids LOVE when we do that, of course!
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We only got small (still going for cheap) kid-size ice creams for then, with one mix-in each, but they didn't seem to care. Or notice, I'm not sure which. Ice cream is ice cream, right?
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After the kids had their ice creams, I wandered around the Food Court (leaving Rob with the children) to figure out what I wanted to eat. Usually, it only takes a few sample bites to fill me up these days, so I wasn't really expecting to buy anything. However, I came across Cupcake Central - and, lo and behold, it was their Happy Hour Wednesday special! Amazing cupcakes for a buck each! Sweet. (heh, no pun intended) I bought six, because I couldn't bear the thought of having an empty hole in the box. When I walked back with the box, I told the kids they were for later, but I let them have this sneak peek!
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However, after a few minutes, Sophie wanted to look at hers up close, so I let her. Isn't she funny?! She kills me. And even though these were supposed to be "for later," the next thing I knew, she had peeled off the wrapper and shoved almost the whole thing in her face at once! I dropped my jaw and then died laughing, which made her laugh and spit cupcake out of her mouth all over the place. Oh, man. I was in total hysterics.  Sophie is just as nutty as I am!
I did my last shop at the mall after that, and then we headed home. Rob fed the kids some mac & cheese for dinner, while I took yet-another much-needed cat nap. 
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When I woke up, the kids were getting ready to go to bed. However, Sophia got into her lip gloss again and came jokingly stomping in to the room, blurting out, "Still can't get the hang of it, Mom!" I took one look and begged her to let me take this picture. 
Ahhh... good times, good times... and y'all know I love a great deal!
Fin.

Wordy Wednesday Times Two - A Look Back On February

Just because, y'know, I barely posted, and I know how much all three of you (if I even have THAT many readers left; holla if you're still here!) want to keep up with us! ;)

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In the beginning, Sophie got up in the middle of the night to play with a new set of LEGO Friends

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We went out for that Japanese hibachi dinner I mentioned... and I had scallops. I'm going to return to vegetarianism when we move back to Miami, if not sooner, so this was a penultimate hurrah.

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I snagged a bunch of cool K'nex toys (and similar) from a friend for Jack, and the boys have spent HOURS playing and building.

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We visited my buddy Saritah and had a fantabuloso time - hope to do it again soon, too!

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I started "collecting" vanity plates again - this one makes me snicker.

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The kiddies and I had a delishimus lunch at Panera, a longtime fave of ours.

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The kiddos took their last month of instrument lessons - well, Chloë (piccolo/flute) and Jack (keyboard) did. Sophie gave up (guitar) several months ago. :\

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Sophie played with the make-up set I gave her and Chloë; afterward, she ran up to me doing this, and said, "Mommy, I'm a zombie clown!" I died laughing.

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Pepper-the-adorablest-cat-ever and Chloë continued their mutual admiration.

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We brought Rob lunch at work and spent some lovey-dovey time together.

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The girls picked out my outfit, and I actually really liked it. So we skipped to my Lou, my darlin'.

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Donuts were enjoyed.

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One of several visits to Sweet Frog for froyo, a NEW fave of ours

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We went to Chuck E. Cheese's a couple times, a kind of guilty pleasure for me.

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These boys: two peas in a pod.

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This was before The Brawl That Started It All.

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The girls, hanging out with their boots, as Sophia put it

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Rob and I both had to do a double-take for this one! Really??!

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This isn't a great picture - from another mystery shop - but Jacky looks so cute in it, I wanted to share.

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And finally, I discovered a new app: Tadaa!

So. What's new with YOU?

Fin.


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

It's that time again, when all the bits and pieces floating around in the ol' noggin get gathered together and shared with Mrs.4444 at Half Past Kissin' Time. Join us here, won't you?

First things first. My keyboard is driving me crazy. I don't know what's going on with it, but it's skipping letters and symbols I'm typing, like, every four characters. How do I fix it, other than replacing it? I'm afraid I don't know. And since I've just had to replace BOTH my fried hard drive and, a week later, my monitor, I'm thrilled to death at the prospect. :\

Secondarily, I've been on a major mystery shopping spree lately. I go through fits and starts where I'll go nuts doing tons of shops and then get burned out and refuse all but the most plum assignments. This is the 'nuts' part, which it seems I always do in the summertime. It's fine, because we get to have lots of fun, travel, and lots of paychecks come in to boot! Once September comes 'round, I'll slow down and get back into the school groove with the kids full-time, so it's now or never next year.

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One such shop was last Thursday, a trip with me and five kids 7-11 years, to our local waterpark. Oy vey. I paired everyone up: Chloë with her little beau, Jack with his bestie (the beau's younger brother), and Sophia with - Mama didn't raise no fool - ME. Guess who behaved the best out of all of them? If you know anything about my kids, you'll be shocked to hear it was Sophie. Chloë and Beau disappeared without checking back in for HOURS, Jack and Bestie kept splitting up, and Sophia stuck by my side and did everything she was told to do. Now that's crazytown. Like a parallel universe.

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Last night's series of shops found us driving all over the Hampton Roads area - well, the Southside, anyway, not the Peninsula - and all the way up the Eastern Shore of Virginia, almost to Maryland.  Yes, it pays well, or else I wouldn't put that much gas into it! This picture is cruising along on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (CBBT), before we hit the Eastern Shore. I like Virginia's ES okay, but it's not very beachy-kitschy, which I tend to prefer. I like the scene in North Carolina's Outer Banks better - and the Florida Keys best. Wonder what I'll think of the San Diego area??

August 2012

Of course, mystery shopping involves lots of dining out, so we found ourselves at a popular steakhouse on kids' night Tuesday, where the kiddos had a great time getting these balloon animals and such. Sorry for the poor photo quality; guess I need to clean my iPhone lens!

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Aside from shops, there's this latest excitement in the house: I'm signing the kids up for lessons on their respective instruments, starting in September. Chloë's had her flute, and Sophia her guitar, for a while now with no action, so it's time we got into it. Jack settled on keyboarding, so we went to the music lesson shop tonight and picked him out the starter model. Can you believe this thing? When I was his age, a similarly-priced Casio was given to me, and it was about 1/100th as cool, with way fewer bells and whistles. He's absolutely giddy over it, which I love to see.

I can't wait to see how they do, learning music professionally. There's a slight chance I might give up my role as their voice teacher and get lessons in that as well, but I'm not sure the budget will allow for it. Besides, I've been classically trained, and despite the fact that it's been 18 years since I sang in an ensemble, I still know a thing or two about singing. So we'll see.

I have a billion other things going on, but I should get some rest. I'm taking the older two and myself to the doctors' offices for various ailments tomorrow afternoon, and then Rob and I have a mystery shop date at a bar. So I'll leave you with these latest personalized plates spotted around town:

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AWESEEM!!! I don't know why I like this one very much, but I do. It tickles my fancy.

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What the what?! Someone explain it to me. For the longest time, I thought it was somethin like "SEX PIMP," (hee) until it dawned on me that it might be "PMS EXPERT" or something. But why in Heaven's name would you want to advertise that?!

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And finally, an "aww" one: This parent is proud of her/his "TWO LITTLE PEAS." Cute stuff.

Anyway, I hope you all have a weekend of fabulosity, and I'll fill you in on the fun stuff we're doing next week. Same place, same time. 'K?

Fin.


Train Of Thought

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Rob's mom, my dear MIL, recently suggested that we take Jack on a short train ride like Chloë did in September for her 10th birthday trip up to D.C. He is a fan of all things that go, especially if they have wheels and engines an' sech, so she rightly figured he would get a big kick out of it. To get the best prices, we had to go on weekdays, which meant Rob couldn't go along. So, I invited Jenny From the Block and her kids, M & G, along for our train trip to Richmond last week. Here are G and Jack playing Legos in the Newport News train station as we waited for our turn to embark. We got there waaaay early, so there was lots of time for that. Oops. I had counted on lots more traffic.

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It was a splendid idea. Jack was positively giddy with excitement, and I think I heard the words, "Thanks for taking us on this train trip, Mommy," about 47K times in those coupla days. Not that I got sick of it, mind you. He was a born grump, so to make him really happy is one of my greatest pleasures.

 

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Well, we were all pretty excited, truth be told. I'd love to take a cross-country train trip, with sleeper cars and the whole bit, some day. How fun would that be?!

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It was hard to keep the kids confined to their seats, so fortunately they were free to get up and walk around, because they all wanted to watch the world go by as the train flew from Newport News to Williamsburg and then our final destination. (It was a very short trip, but the train tickets were cheaper than the gas to drive there, I swear!)

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It took us a minute to figure out where to go for the proper bus, and I almost got into a smackdown with a woman at a different stop across the street, who was not listening to what I was telling her while I was busy not listening to what she was telling me. Heh. Eventually we got it sorted out and, thanks to her help and that of the actual bus drivers, we soon (not, more like two hours later) ended up at the hotel I'd gotten super-cheaply on Priceline. Woot!

 

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While we waited for the bus, we watched more trains go by. I forget how many cars they counted, but this was a super-duper long one!

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The hotel was mostly pretty nice, with respectful and attentive staff, but there were a few snafus, like the fact that they wanted a $50 deposit - which I didn't happen to have - and weren't going to waive the policy even though we'd already paid for the room (Jenny saved the day, thankfully), and the pool being closed for our entire first day, even though that's what the kids really wanted to go do most of all. So when we got in our room, finally, Jenny and the girls played cards on her bed, the boys played Legos some more, and I took a wee nap.

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For dinner, we went across the street to the Chick-fil-A, because we wanted to let the kids burn off all their energy in the play place. They made friends with a gorgeous, statuesque young girl who is destined to be a model, from the looks of her. She was down-to-earth, though, and really enjoyed playing with our unsocialized, homeschooled kidlets. ;)

 

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Jenny treated all the kids to ice cream after dinner, at the same place. Oh, there, you can see Chloë's necklace from her beau, S, can't you?

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Before long, it was time to head back to the hotel and start getting ready for bed. Chloë & M both had "cute" sayings on their jammies, so they were all happy about that and posed for this "I'm Snow Cute as a Kitten" picture together. Then, after they had all brushed teeth, gotten their respective medicines and jammies on and found places to sleep, Miss Jenny read the five of them a bedtime story. It worked like a charm! I timed it: by 9:28 PM, all of them were sleeping soundly. Meanwhile, here it is 0420 right now and my daughters are still wide awake. What is the magic formula? A stricter bedtime routine, and a story. We used to do it. I think we will be starting that again, after this night. Ridiculous!

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The following morning, we had a leisurely breakfast in our room (we'd both packed plenty of food) before heading to the finally-reopened pool for what was supposed to be most of the day. Um, hmm, seems they forgot to make it warm and not crank up the air conditioning in the pool room at the same time. We all froze! Even Jenny and I, and we didn't swim! Still, they braved it for as long as they could stand it, petering out one by one to wrap up in towels on the lounge chairs. Sophia's the second-youngest and yet the only one who could really swim. She was pretty dang cute swimming around with the other four hovering around the stairs together!

Oh, a funny: Sophia decided they were going to play spa, and she was giving all of the other kids massages on their chaises when an employee walked through the courtyard where we were. She jokingly asked if she could make an appointment for a massage, too, and Sophia didn't skip a beat before taking over to an imaginary sign and pointing out that it read, "For kids 10 and under only!" Just like that. There was no sign, let alone one saying anything about 10 and under; she's just quick with the humor like that. Love that kid!

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To warm up the kids, Jenny decided to take us all next door to the restaurant, which was plenty warm, and treat us to lunch there. The décor was really cool and gave me some ideas...

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Since we were in a "fancy" restaurant, M and Jenny decided we had to drink from our cups with our pinky fingers up and speak in British accents. Everyone but grumpy-boy participated, so it was a bit of a giggle-fest there for a minute. We were having a good time - even Jack, though he'd never have admitted it.

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After lunch, we tried the pool again, but it was still too cold, despite the Engineer's best efforts to warm it up for us. So we went back up to the room, where Sophie and M took a "hot tub" together. M told met they were pretending to be two elbow macaronis cooking in hot water, which I found to be particularly amusing!

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For dinner, we had the hotel shuttle drive us sort of across the street to the Steak 'n' Shake for a dinner of, um, ice cream milkshakes. Yup. That's all. Even I got in on that one, knowing full well it would make me sick to my guts. (And it did.) The cool part was I saw a Mattaponi Indian's truck, which I know it was because it said something about "Custalow Landscaping," and that's the last name of pretty much all of the Mattaponi tribe. I tried to find the owner, so s/he could pass a message on to Ol' George for me (remember our field trip to the reservation?), but I couldn't determine who it was. And, you know, I didn't want to assume too much. I did ask one darker-skinned man, but he was from New York and recognized me as a fellow New Yawka by my accent, too. Weird that I still have enough of a Hudson Valley accent to be recognized, though I haven't lived there since I was six! Anyway, blah blah blah.

 

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The next day, our shuttle driver drove us to the bus stop we needed, after we checked out at noon. Time to get home again. We waited a while for the bus, so the kids checked out the mushrooms growing all around and had a quick lesson from us moms about different kinds of fungi. Hey, it's always schooltime 'round these parts.

 

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Finally, we caught our bus, and no transfers this time. Only, the driver pointed out the wrong place for us to take a "short cut," and it turned out to be a really LONG cut, which wasn't terribly fun with all the baggage we were lugging around. Super annoying. And we couldn't find a bathroom soon enough for poor Sophia, who had a little accident and had to change in a dark stairwell during our trek to the right location. Thank goodness I'd brought a pack of wipes with us to clean her up well!

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We eventually made it to the real, newer Richmond Amtrak station, which is actually quite nice. We found a parlor-type room unoccupied, so we claimed it for our rambunctious crew. We had a three-hour wait for our train! There was no place to stow our luggage and go wander around town, and neither of us had the energy to take it with us, so we sat and "needled," while the kids played various games with each other. It worked out okay; we were even eventually joined by a brave college student who we nicknamed "Anime Freak," because, well, that's what his shirt said. Shout out to Anime Freak!

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I knit while Jenny crocheted, and then we made our way over to the platform when our train was called. There was another 20 or so minutes of waiting time there, where two elderly women glared at us, sniffed the air repeatedly and generally disapproved of our mere existence. Jenny later sent me this link on Pinterest for those women. Hee. When it was time to board, we lined up the kids between us, with a mom on either end as we'd been doing throughout the journey, and walked past those two snobby women. I couldn't resist. I smiled cheerfully at them and said, loudly, "Thanks for all the disapproving glares!" before marching past them with the rest of the gang. Anime Freak caught up to me and said, "Nice job! I hate people like that." I wonder what side the rest of the travelers were on?

For the rest of the journey home, it was pretty uneventful as the two mommies kept needling and the kids kept needling us to entertain them. Ha. No. So they busied themselves somehow, and we soon reached Newport News once again. Jenny had driven us up there, so as she drove home, I entertained the kids with that "A my name is Alice" game. M really liked that; she and Chloë played it between themselves about three more times while the younger three children dozed and chillaxed.

All in all, it was a pretty swell time. The seven of us survived each other, public transportation, the state capital, and non-child-friendly old maids. Win.

Fin.


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Link up here if you've got bits & pieces rattling around in the ol' noggin to share with Mrs. 4444 and friends today! I have quite a few, so take a load off and stay awhile, won't you?

I've got new news, so pop on over to this post if you want to know what big changes are afoot in my (and my older daughter's) lives!

Likewise, I'd love your input on my Aloha Friday question for this week, which is here! Let me know if you have an AF post this week, too, so I can be sure to check it out!

New Looks

I've been playing around with the new Jafra color collection lately, so I'm experimenting with some new looks instead of my usual standby, which is closest to the bottom right in this collage. Which do you like best?

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Chloë, my oldest, was looking particularly adorable today, so I snapped this photo of her and then played around with it in Picasa by Google. I can't claim credit for those curls, which she gets from her daddy. His hair looks just like this when he's not, well, in the Navy for 19 years!

 

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Chloë wanted a makeover, so we played around with some of my make-up on her for a little while Thursday evening. What do you think about make-up on a 10-year-old? Totally wrong, or okay if it's just for fun, like this? Obviously, we don't do this very often, but I think it's fine once in a blue moon, for kicks.

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Speaking of Jafra, I've been painting my nails with our wonderful lacquers faithfully, and they're actually growing and not breaking! I have paper-thin nails normally, and they break easily. My sister's nails are long and strong, so I sent her this picture on Facebook. Yeah. We bonded over nails. What can I say; she's a cosmetologist!

Feb Kiwi Crate

Sophia and Jack have been having so much fun with their Kiwi Crates over the past few months, that I finally relented and renewed their subscription after being asked approximately 8700 times. They worked on it a bit Thursday evening and made parrots and treasure boxes. Can you guess the theme? Yep. Next we'll be making pirate hats and eye patches to go with them. Fun!

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After nearly two years of trying to get a table to our local Melting Pot's Girls' Night Out, I finally scored us a table - at 10:30 PM! It ended up working out to be a good time, albeit very late, because my friend Tabby and I had preview tickets for the movie American Reunion, the American Pie sequel, the same night. So for seven hours, I was out with first Tabby, and then Tab, and two of my "Turtle Friends," Saritah and Jenny From the Block at dinner. And oh, my gosh, I laughed so hard and often during both events. The movie was hysterical from start to finish, and we had ourselves a hilarious time at dinner, too. I hope we don't have to wait another couple years to do it again!

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Our tax refund check came in recently - well, partially, anyway, as the IRS denied Chloë as our child based on a clerical error on their part, argh - so Rob and I got some very necessary new tires for his motorcycle, Elsie, and my Odyssey, Penelope. The tire appointment was supposed to take about two hours, so I asked Jenny From the Block to keep our kiddos while we were there. I just wasn't up to deal with the boredom whining, basically! She agreed, so in the end, Rob and I decided to venture out together on his motorcycle for the first time, to use one of our Groupon-like certificates for a local Thai restaurant which we'd never tried. We were the only people there for quite a while, as you can see, but it certainly wasn't because of the food quality!

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Our meal was excellent, although mine was spicier than I expected. I can't do spicy, and not just because of my sensitive gastric bypass pouch; I never could handle it. I just don't have the stomach - or tongue! - for it, sad to say. Still, it was good. But better than that was the fun of riding around on the back of the BMW with Rob! I had so much fun! I was a little scared, sure, but it was a breathlessly-exhilarating kind of fun. I hope we get another chance to do that again soon, too!

So pretty much other than the pictures and details of Jack's birthday party, I'm all caught up now on my blahggy show-and-telling. I really ought to do that, especially since it'll be time to show Sophia's birthday party pictures in another week! On Friday the 13th, my youngest child will turn seven! We'll have her, 9-year-old Jack, and 10½-year-old Chloë. It' to face the music: my family is aging out of the "little kid" stage. I guess we're pretty well established by now, huh?

And now to leave you with my old standby, a Cute Kid Quote. As you may or may not know, in my previous existence as a singleton, I was a marine biologist, studying shark feeding behaviour. My kids know all about that, and for whatever reason, it comes up frequently. Anyway, Thursday afternoon, we were driving around, when Jack suddenly asked what a car's muffler was for. Before I could answer, Sophia snapped at him, "She doesn't know! She's not a car biologist! It's not like she dives into cars!" I had quite a chuckle over that one! These kids. They kill me.

On that note, thanks for stopping by, and have a fabulous weekend!

Fin.


Something's Fishy At Sweet Pea Academy...

So with the help of my MIL and her brother, along with lots of bonus points from doing community service with the Scouts (both Cub and Girl), we turned in enough Labels For Education to get the following goodies:

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(Photo from LFE site) A world map, which hasn't come yet, or I'd have a better picture to show you,

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a dozen bottles of tempera paint for our artistic pursuits, and,

 

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our new 5-gal fish aquarium! The kids are decidedly most excited about this new swag.

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We ran as soon as possible over to Petco to get some gravel, silk plants, food, and dechlorinator to set up our tank, as well as figure out which fish we were probably going to get after the tank had time to set up for a few days. I put it together, and the kids were beside themselves the whole time. Jack kept saying, "I'm going to cry happy!" He said it again today when we went to go get our fish.

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This is Steve, who helped us both today with our new fish and the other day when we picked out what we'd need to get the tank ready, pulling out Chloë's Starfire Red Glofish and Sophia's Galatic Purple Glofish (both are Danio rerio).

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The girls with their new fishies!

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Then, Steve plucked out a Neon Tetra (Paracheirodon innesi) for Jack. We were originally going to go with something else, but Steve said no, too big. Jack recovered quickly from that setback.

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Does Jack look like a little white monkey when he's super-excited, or what?!

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We also picked out an algae-eater (Hypostomus plecostomus) for the tank, although eventually it'll get too big for our tank. That's okay; we planned on upsizing eventually anyhow. Sophia got to carry it on her lap on the ride home.

 

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This is Hallie, the very friendly Scottish Terrier we met at Petco today. I always wanted to get a Scottie and name him Hamlet. Hallie was all over me; cute pooch!

 

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I went against common knowledge, sense and practice and unceremoniously dumped our four new fishes into the tank, instead of taking the proper time to acclimate them to their new environs. Sue me. They seem fine.

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I stopped at Jenny From the Block's house after Petco to bring her a few things, and we collectively decided that, since she's the tank "maid," we'll name the plecostomus Alice. Get it? C'mon, please tell me you get it. We briefly considered "Hazel" as well but quickly decided that was too old school for Alice. Hey, Alice? You lookin' at me?

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And finally, we have Jack's Tetra, originally named "Little Frankie" but renamed "Speedy" since "he moves so fast" on the far right; Chloë's hot pink Glofish named "Moon" on the bottom left, and Sophie's "Starlight Starbright" above Moon. They all seem happy with their new home.

The kids are totally thrilled. I mean, it's been a couple hours, and they're still in their staring at the tank. Jack exclaimed, "This is even better than going to the Aquarium, because now we have our own aquarium!" Ha! I'm so happy they're delighted. So. Happy.

Fin.

P.S. Thanks, Mamacita and Unc!

 


Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

Thought I'd share these latest gems from today - one per kid:

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At the post office, helping me mail a bunch of packages, Jack noticed the "in" door and the "out" door. He asked me, "Mom, why does that door say 'DO NOT ENTER,' but it has a handle on it?"

Me, looking and laughing, stupefied: "Well, that's a very good question, son!"

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Tonight, it was dark, and we were driving around. I have both a new black case on my iPhone and a new black car charger into which said phone was plugged, and I was holding it up to help me navigate as I drove. From her seat behind her father, Sophia asked me, "Mommy, why are you holding a knife?" I was all, "What?! Why would I be holding a knife! It's my phone!" To which Chloë smartly - and altogether too quickly - replied, "Well, why should you be holding your phone while you're driving? Why should you hold anything while you're driving?"

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And finally, on the way home from the same trip, I was making some small talk about how every itty-bitty car I saw that I liked was either a Smart Car or a Mazda Miata, it turned out. The kids got to talking about why it was called a Smart Car, which led to more questions about why it was so small. Sophia piped up, "It's like this van, if it was just Mommy's seat!"  It was an amusing comment... at the the time.

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Hmm, maybe you had to be there for that one?

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Anyway, that's all. Back to paying the bills and getting ready for some deal-shopping!

Fin.


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Hey, y'all, link up with Mrs. 4444s if you're fragmenting today!

My husband texted the following to me, but he didn't ID which kid said it, so I can't give proper credit (my Mommy senses tell me it was 6yo Sophia, though): "Unicorns are real. They're just fat and gray and we call them rhinos." I was out shopping when I got his text, and I split a gut laughing and had to share it with the other person shopping near me, lest they think (correctly) that I was loony! Too funny!

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I shared this gorgeous yarn I received from The Knitting Goddess (in the UK, so shipping took what seemed like forEVER) the other day on Wordless Wednesday, but it's so beautious, I wanted to see it again. Hehe. Tell me those aren't some luscious colors?! I'll be using these for hexipuffs on my Beekeeper's Quilt. Why haven't I started yet? That's a darn good question. I will today, I think.

My husband's alarm has been going off for 45 minutes now (it's currently 0645). Why don't I wake him up, you ask? Because. It's IMPOSSIBLE to rouse that beast. Hence the 45 minutes. Are you easy or difficult to awaken? Most of the time, I'm hard to wake, too. I don't sleep well or often, but when I do, I want to stay that way, thank you!

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My gardening friend, Miss C., was a guest presenter at my Daisy meeting yesterday, and while I was editing the pictures, this one popped up as the first one. Yes, that's MY kid disrupting the group, not in uniform (she had it on but yanked it off, as she always does) and being a total goose. Sophia!! She is such a pill. Or as Miss C diplomatically put it, "She's spirited." Oh, I'm so glad I'm the Leader, because I'd be mortified if she behaved that way for others meeting after meeting (and she does). Argh!

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As far as what Miss C. did with the girls, she read them the next chapter in our yearlong story (aka our "Journey," "Between Earth and Sky) and then talked to them about how plants clean the soil and air. She then gave them a project that I'm sure we've all seen before, if not done a time or two: made pinecone bird feeders with peanut butter and birdseed. However, her yard had a dearth of pine cones but plenty of gum balls, so she brought those instead, and they worked great to clump up with PB and seeds. Sophia rushed right home and tied hers to her special 4th birthday tree, out front, and waited immediately for the birds. And did they come! Mostly gulls and crows (?) or some sort, but we're hoping for something a little more exciting colorful. Anyway, it was a great meeting, and I'm glad we did it!

Jack, who will be 9 in a month and a half or so, has been asking for his own digital camera like his sisters for ages. I mean, forEVER (I used that one already, right? So what) - and I found a killer steal on one for him the other day. I'm even going to get $40 back in rewards for it, making it an even sweeter deal. I didn't pay a cent for it, because I am one of those crazy coupon deal girls, when I get the chance, and I'm so ecstatic about both (a) the fact that I'm going to make him SUPER happy and (b) my great deal, I just had to share it with you!

Speaking of deals, kids and birthday presents, I got a robotic penguin toy for Sophia of a Plum District deal the other day, too, as she is a penguin fanatic. I mean, she is nuts for them. She likes all birds (and bugs!), but penguins are her absolute favorite. So yay me for scoring goodies - with slick deals - to make their upcoming birthdays fantabulous! (She'll be 7 a month after Jack's birthday; my gosh!!!! I can't even stand it that my baby will be that old. I wish I could make another one or three. Hehe.)

So I've had that iron transfusion, confirmed with the oncologist/hematologist that I do NOT need to continue taking oral Fe supplements daily, and yet I still get so dizzy I almost pass out when I stand up half the time. What gives? My blood pressure is on the low side, but still within normal range. It's wicked annoying. I mean, if I'm gonna get that dizzy, can't I have the fun of passing straight out, already? That would make for a much more interesting fragment, at least. I did it once, in 8th grade. I was the talk of my class. What fun! Haha.

By the way, if you're a frequent www.Amazon.com shopper (hello, Swagbucks money!) and you know about their Prime free shipping but don't want to lay out the moolah to pay for that service, here's something I scored that you might want to know: If you have an .edu email address - even if you're a college alum! - you can sign up for Amazon Student and get free Prime shipping! I've been taking loads of advantage of that sweet deal, since I do get tons of Amazon GCs from Swagbucks, surveys and other things I do on- and off-line to save a buck, and it is Teh Awesome. Check it out. Rats. I just went to go link you to Amazon Student here, and the free offer is now gone and replaced by a half-off deal. Still, better than $79, right?

It's 0708. Hubby finally woke up. Just keeping you updated, since I knew you were in suspense about that!

If you're at all interested in Native American culture, be sure and check out my post here about our field trip last Saturday to the Mattaponi ("matt-upon-AYE) Indian Resevation 90 minutes north of here. It was cool as all-get-out, and I can't wait to go back up in June for their annual Pow-wow. Worth a read, I'm told!

And, as long as you're here and I'm in demanding begging mode, answer my Aloha Friday questions, will ya? I'm nosy interested. And I like strikethrough.

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I've been struggling with constant, daily migraines the past few weeks again, so schooling has been sketchy lately. Anyway, a recent day last week was quite warm, but rainy. Once the rain cleared, I was ready to get up out of the house and go for a walk to get some exercise for my and the kids' young bodies. Instead of just walking, though, we did a lot of running and jumping and splashing in the ubiquitous mud puddles around our neighborhood lake. It was too fun, and Chloë declared it, "The BEST rainy day EVER!" I had to agree. Sometimes, you just gotta be a kid again, right? We were so soaked (and muddy), we jumped right into warm showers when we got home. But what a memory that should make for all of us!

Guess I'm out of fragments for now - lucky you!! I'm off to email my Girl Scout troop about Thinking Day, which is coming up. It's a day when we think about the Girl Scouts and Guides around the world, every year, and we always participate. Anyway, blah blah.

Have a great week! 'Til next time...

Fin.


Are You Lookin' At My Ass?

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This is what you're in for tonight. (Click to embiggerate, as usual.) What? You want to see the pics individually? Well, all righty, then, I think we can manage that...

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But first, I'm up to some, oh, 43 hexipuffs, and I've been asked several times what I plan to do with the darn things. Oh, but didin't I link you here, to the Beekeeper's Quilt, already? Eventually, they'll be sewn together for a fun, poofy, multi-colored and -textured blanket, and I simply cannot wait to do that. I'm hexipuffing every free moment and enjoying every minute of it. Won't you join me, oh, ye knitters of the world? You don't knit, you say? Well, there's also a free Ravelry crochet equivalent, if you're so inclined... but anyway, that's what they're for. Aren't they cool? (Say yes or I'll cry.)

So anyway... (ugh, I'm full. Chloë has been all about baking bread in the bread machine lately, and her latest creation, chocolate chip-honey-oat bread just finished baking. I had a rather-too-large hunk of it with nary a chocolate chip in the slice. Life is so unfair. But I digress yet again...)

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We had a homeschoolers' field trip to the Hunt Club Farm Winter Wonderland tonight, so the first thing our kids ran to do after we got our wristbands and entered through the lighted arch was run through the light maze. Lots of these pictures are blurry, and I apologize for that, but I'm still learning the settings on my Nikon. Yes, I got it in February, and no, I have not yet read the instruction manual. All in due time. These were all taken on the nighttime setting, which would have been great if the little people were not in constant freaking motion...!

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Sophia, as usual, was the fastest. You'd think she was running through a laser security light field thingy.

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She did pause for a quick smile at Mom after the maze, though. Time to cut the bangs again, eh?

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After the light maze, we happened upon the Nativity scene, where Jack was pointing at the donkey and saying,...

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..."Hey! You ass!" Then, to us, "What? That's what they're called!" What could we do but agree?

 

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Apparently there were llamas and alpacas at the birth of Jesus, too. Who knew?

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The children running through the archway on the way to the Wonderland workshop

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They were here last year, too, and it was very similar then, but that didn't stop them from being amazed and wanting to touch everything in sight.

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I do like me some cocks. Peacocks, people. Peacocks. Sheesh. (Heh heh)

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Sophia was the most hands-on of the kids, as usual. She's very handsy. She's not the type of kid you bring to a glassware store, you know what I'm sayin'?

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There were lots of little vignettes set up of elves working at various tasks. I didn't care what they were doing. I just wanted to get all three kids in one decent shot. Watch. I tried again and again.

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I don't know what Jack was looking at, but in this picture, my eye keeps being drawn to the fact that it looks like the fawn is trying to nurse from his daddy. Um...

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My attempt at an artsy picture

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There's just something about a praying mantis that screams "Christmas!" isn't there?

 

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Another awesome shot of the back of the three kidlets. Hey, whatever, man. They're cute from any angle, I maintain.

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Soapster petting the swan

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The swan's nest of 'eggs'

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Chloë's always reliable for a good pose, huh? The polar bear was pretty compliant, too.

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More of the the three children's backs, as they admire the doll factory

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What the hell is that? A bunny? Yeah, a bunny. And an unnaturally bright child. Maybe this is Sophie's audition for Twilight.

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I forget what this was that was flying around, but I think it was penguins. Yeah, that's the ticket. Rob was mocking them, because, ah, penguins. Flying. You know?

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Three faces! Score! Ten points for me. Nothing for you, except eleventy more pictures.

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So this elf was totally drunk on moonshine, a fact that tickled Rob and I mercilessly. I mean, we weren't falling down laughing, but we had a few good giggles over it. I mean, this was supposed to be for the kids, wasn't it? And there was a damn drunk elf! Nice.

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El niño, Jackalope

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Oh, here we go, back to the backs of the chirren. Looking at skiing bears. You know, I've never gone downhill skiing in my life. That's on my bucket list, too. It's a rather long list. But I'm going on yet another tangent...

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So I did a freaking spectactular job of capturing the three kids in a billion pictures, where NONE of their faces were visible. Go, me!!

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Sophia admiring more elfin (elvish?) scenery

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Train-obsessed Jack couldn't help but get down on all fours to admire this little set-up. Give that boy anything that goes and he's a happy little mofo boy.

 

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Hey, guys, stand in front of that tree and smile! Or, well, do that!

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Santa wasn't on his couch when we got up front to take pictures with him, so I had the kids pose in his absence. They no longer believe in him anyway, so they didn't care much. They were happy just to get the candy cane out of his basket and leave, but then...

 

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...he showed up, like, a minute later. He asked them what they wanted for Christmas. Sophia told him, "Oh, you wouldn't know what it was if I told you." I died laughing. As if! Santa knows everything. He's like the god of toys. I forget what it was she thought would stump him, but it was something to do with Barbies. That girl is Barbie-crazy.

 

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Immediately outside, Rob and the kids were drawn to this Blacksmith Shop, which was cool and all, except for this one creepy thing Rob found on the ledge:

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A severed hand, with a missing finger! What in the hell? Merry, merry, ho, ho, ho!

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Time to go back through the lighted archway to head toward the bonfires. We brought our own bag of marshmallows. We paid just over a buck for a whole bag. They were selling them there for five for a dollar. Um, yeah. This place is making BANK.

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"Kids, run through the arches, so I can get a picture of your heads looking invisible like in Back to the Future!" Okay, so that's not exactly what I said, but it might as well have been.

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The kids wanted to stop and look at the turkey in the chicken coop. So here are four turkeys...

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I always have the kids say something when I take their picture, something silly, so they're smiling and laughing (theoretically) when I make the snap. Half the time, I catch them mid-phrase, so it looks like this. I'm no Annie Leibovitz, what can I say?

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Finally, the moment we were all waiting for: marshmallow roasting time! I ate about six too many. I think I had seven. I like them on fire, roasted to a crisp. It's the only food I like burnt. Otherwise, blech. The kids, they like them practically raw, with no brown on them or anything. Rob has it down to an art form. They were disappointed we didn't get hot dogs this year, but hey, we were on a tight budget, and the 'mallows themselves were a splurge we could barely afford, this being the first half of the month, after all. But anyway, anyhow.

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These are mine. This is how I like my marshmallows roasted. Crispy. Fried. Mmm. Hot and black, like I like my men... ;P (That will elicit a mock-indignant "uh!" out of the hubs, I know.)

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Smoke gets in your eyes... and hers... and mine... and all of ours...

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Chloë in the obligatory, singular black-and-white pose. of which I don't do enough, I think....

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One last marshmallow-roasting picture before we decided to pack it in for the night. We'd have stayed longer, but I was freezing. It really is time for me to pack in the Crocs flip-flops, but I love them so dearly, I haven't had the heart to break out the sneakers or boots yet...

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And so, we left. Good-bye, Hunt Club Farm. Until next year.

Fin.


The First Weekend In June

I keep feeling like I had this unproductive weekend, because I didn't accomplish my singular goal at all, so here is a run-through of what I actually did do, to make myself feel better. And to share with you, because I know you hang on the edge of your seat, waiting for me to post these scintillating things I talk about, right?

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First, like I mentioned, there was desire to paint in the wee hours of Saturday morning. Now. So I painted the pantry door. And the little bitty corner of wall next to it, which of course meant that more painting in the kitchen would need to happen, or else that little green section of wall would like mighty curious, all by itself.

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Well, the real first first was making the pizza cake, from Friday night into the wee hours of Saturday morning. 

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And the second thing, immediately after finishing the cake, was scooping up the leftover cake and frosting and constructing these cake pops. These are long since gone, sold right away, but like I (think I) posted yesterday, more can be made if you need parting gifts for Teacher, or a special graduate, or Dad, or, well, anybody, because I really don't care whom you give them to, as long as you buy some. Heh.

So the third thing, then, was painting the door.

I went back and forth all day Saturday after that, moving kitchen furniture (that would be the full baker's rack, the deep freezer, and the table and chairs), scrubbing sections of wall piece by piece, paint first, second, and the exasperatingly always-necessary third coat... and coming back here to play on Facebook and run my stupid Farmville. (I call it "stupid," but I really like it. It gives me a quick opportunity to take frequent breaks from whatever I'm doing, and I've always been a girl who likes taking frequent breaks. Maybe I do have ADHD, but that's how I manage it. Whatever. Moving on.)

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As part of this parenting course we're doing right now (more on that later), Rob and I are each supposed to spend 10 minutes of true quality time with each of the kids, twice per day. So Sophia and I spent one of our ten-minute sessions painting the back of the kitchen wall. I did all the cutting in around the edges, and she painted in the middle. I guided her with the correct way to hold the brush and move it back and forth, back and forth, and then she went and did it her own way. Which is fine. You can lead a horse to water...

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Chloë wanted a painting turn after that, too, so I spent another segment of quality time showing her the same things I'd shown Sophia. She did it more exactly like I showed her, because that is her way. She, being a Virgo like me, is quite a bit of a perfectionist. I am doing my best, now, seeing this, and knowing how difficult it is to be that way, to guide her away from that tendency. It's not easy. Anyway, so they helped me paint the walls.

Jack wanted to paint, too, but he was never available when I was ready for him, because he spent a great deal of the weekend outside with the neighbor kids, riding his bike, driving his Cadillac Escalade Power Wheels, using the girls' scooter, and generally getting dirty and having a ball. So I didn't force the 10 minutes on him, although I do think it's especially important that he and I connect for those 20 min per day. I'll work on it, getting it in.

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So eventually, the bottom half of the kitchen got painted, as far as I could go without moving the refrigerator. Luckily, I have plenty of paint left, for whenever Rob gets around to helping me with that. (I tried, but I'm a weenie.)

In the eight-plus years we've lived here, the kitchen has always been at the top of my "gotta change this" list, but for some reason, it has escaped my ministrations thus far. I even have the paint for the top half. Well, now that we've had to keep the windows open all the time (no AC), the cats have scratched out half the screens in the house, and they've all but shredded the café curtains covering the kitchen windows. I hate it. And I hate the country-cottage-y wallpaper on the top half of the kitchen walls, too. That's fine and good, but I am just not a country-cottage-y type of person. I like bold, striking colors that pop. 

So I got up on the chairs and started to RRRRRRRRRIP the wallpaper off the walls, tossing big strips of it onto to floor, to the kids' shock and dismay. "Mom! What are you DOING?!" they demanded.

I just laughed and let their father explain. That's often the way things go around here. I laugh, and he's left to explain why.

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I pulled off all the copper molds from around the top of the walls, too. I'm going to sell them. I collected them years ago, when we lived in Panama City, FL. And while I still absolutely adore copper - it's my favorite precious metal - it's just not the look I'm going for anymore. So they have to go. I don't have them listed anywhere yet, but I do have some interest. Let me know if you, too, want to stake a claim. I'm willing to break up the lot.

Because we didn't get Rob's Navy paycheck the first of the month and things are uncomfortably tight right now, and also because I'm trying to walk more and drive less in the interest of Saving The Planet, Chloë and I walked to the grocery store late Saturday evening. The kids were begging, crying, for milk, so I decided to break down and spend some of our very little money on a gallon. I mean, it's milk, and they're kids. Not exactly a luxury. 

Chloë and I had the best talk on our way to and from the store. We discussed physical beauty and why that might not be the most important thing about a person, and what things might be more important. She decided that being healthy was the most important thing, and being safe, so we talked about ways she could be healthy and safe. She came up with lots of fantastic answers, like eating junk foods in moderation, always wearing her helmet when she rides her bike or scooter, and getting the proper amount of sleep. I was impressed.

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At the store, she "helped" me shop, and by that, I mean she pushed the little cart around and mostly observed as I made decisions about what to buy and what to leave at the store. We talked about the importance of shopping the perimeter - she remembered what "perimeter" meant from her studies in math - and, like eating junk food, using the processed foods in the center aisles in moderation. I had decided to make a Key Lime Pie for dessert, to use up the Key Limes I'd picked up at a roadside citrus stand in Florida a few weeks ago, so we bought the condensed milk and graham crackers I needed for that, comparing prices-per-unit and all that we always try to do.

And since I have a partially-made batch of hummus in the freezer, I decided that I should get a lemon or two (of which there were none, so I'm going to try Key Lime hummus instead!) and the tahini I need to finish it. We spent about six years looking for the damn tahini, which used to be much easier to find, back when they had a separate section for "health foods." (Now it's next to the mayonnaise and other condiments, in case you're wondering.)

Having "gone green" by walking to the store instead of driving, I'd have felt pretty crappy about getting one of those God-awful plastic grocery bags in which to lug our loot home, so I bought yet another 99¢ canvas bag, too. I just can't stand those plastic bags. They, among other things like inconsiderate smokers, people who drink copious amounts of bottled water and don't even recycle the bottles, and folks who take nine hours to make the right turn in front of me, are the absolute bane of my existence.

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So we walked home, me lugging the bag full of milk-and-schtuff, and continued our nice, Mom-to-Daughter talk. Somehow it morphed into what life will be like as she eases into her teenage years, and how it's natural for girls to butt heads with their mothers frequently in those times. That really upset her. I made her promise to remember one thing: that no matter what she said or did, and no matter what I said or did, I would always love her more than she could understand until she was a mother herself. That eased her mind a bit.

Then that translated into a conversation about the pressures of being a teen and experimenting with things like drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex. I told her my hopes and expectations, and she asked good questions. Overall, it was a very productive conversation, and I'm so delighted we had the chance to have it.

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So we got home, and I made the pie, and oh, my word, it was freaking delicious. Beyond expectations. I still have plenty of Key Limes, so I plan to bring another pie to our Gardening club this Thursday. Assuming I still have the gas to get there. Jack didn't like the pie, but everyone else devoured it with gusto. I had way more than I had any business having, but after cheesecake, Key Lime Pie has to be my fav... well, no, there's Dutch Apple Cream Pie, and Chocolate Chip Cookies, and... Uh. I just love sweets. I'm in the right business, I think. (And I'm glad I've discovered the power of prunes to help me take off any extra weight I might gain from sampling my own wares! Phooo, do those work well. Golly. *ahem*)

So that was Saturday.

Sunday, we didn't make it to church either, which was sad, especially since I'd visited their food pantry on Thursday after Girl Scouts, and they serviced us quite nicely. (That's something I've never done before in my life, and it's quite humbling. Thank you, to any and all of you who donate to the Food Bank. We haven't needed it before, but with this paycheck snafu, I'm certainly glad it's there for us in this time of need. Now if only there were a Gas Pantry, eh?)

I napped a lot on Sunday. Rob napped a lot, and Sophia did, too. The other two mostly watched Nova shows on the Wii, from Netflix. Jack is especially fond of the Nova programs, and particularly the ones that feed his transportation and mechanically-oriented brain. He'll watch the same ones about plane crashes or rockets taking off over and over, always going upstairs to get a toy that goes along with the program, and making-believe he's part of the action. It's pretty cool. Rob gets a huge kick out of his doing that.

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For my evening 10-minute session with Sophia, she just wanted to play with the discarded boxes I'm trying to get rid of on Freecycle. She's decided she needs them for her tiny toys instead, like finger puppets and the Squinkies a friend gave her at her birthday party in April. Here she is admiring the bunk bed she made for her bunny finger puppet.

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This is her favorite box, though, because "it's the biggest, and it has a window, so I can see what they're doing in there." She asked me to punch holes in the window with my knitting needle, so her bunny could breathe. And so I did, until she told me, "enough."

While Sophia had been napping earlier, I got started training Jack and Chloë on the way we do laundry, from beginning to end. They collected all the laundry in the house, sorted it into the proper piles, learned how to run the washer and the dryer, and then I showed them how to fold their own clothes. For now, I'll leave it at that, until I feel they're ready to start folding Mom & Dad's, and the towels and sheets. I've just always done the laundry myself and only had them run and put away their things. But with the parenting course, I see the error of my ways. I don't know why I didn't, but I guess I figured they would just pick it up eventually. Foolish. So now I'll be working on their "training," and we don't call them "chores" but rather "contributions." It's working out well. They feel important and significant, and Jack even commented that doing the laundry was "fun." (Not to me, but to his big sister. No way he'd let me hear such a thing on purpose!)

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After dinner, when I wanted some knitting time on my sparkle! dress, and Chloë wanted a break from folding laundry, I asked her to spend a little quality time herself with Sophia. The two of them have been fighting a lot again lately, so I asked Chloë read Sophia some stories. She grumped and grumbled about it at first, but in the end, she read three stories to Soap without me asking her to go past the first one. And I made lots of progress on my dress:

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Pretty soon, I'll be at the placket, which is my new favorite word to say. I can't wait to finish the front.

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Jack went to bed first tonight, so again, I didn't really get to spend my QT with him. I'll give him extra tomorrow. After story time between the girls, Chloë wanted her ten minutes with me. Sophia and Dad spent those ten minutes together, too, playing and Soph telling cute, six-year-old stories to her Daddy. Chloë and I went for a moonlit walk around the smaller lake.

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I took the Nikon along, just in case I found anything cool to take a picture of, but most of my pictures didn't turn out. I liked the way these branches stuck out far into the light of the street lamp, so I snapped it.

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Halfway 'round the lake, I spotted a "frog" hopping off the path, toward the water. I managed to catch it for Chloë, who immediately squealed when she felt it and dropped him. So I caught him again, and then, of course, I could see it was really a toad and not a frog at all. We agreed to bring him home to show Daddy and Sophia. We took turns holding him and talking about what we learned months ago when we covered Amphibians, about the differences between frogs and toads. Chloë surprised me by remembering quite a lot of them without my prompting her, and I felt a lot of pride inside me.

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There were a lot of ducks and drakes pairing up along our walk, but those photos didn't come out. I'm glad this one of Mama and her four ducklings did, though - how cute are they?! I just adore baby aminals of all flavors and varieties. I'm definitely a Woman in that regard. Baby people, baby ducks, baby anything, and my heart melts.

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Chloë could barely wait to burst in the front door and show them the toad. We had to shh-shh-shh her, because the windows are open, and our neighbors sleep early. Of course, they gave her all the attention she was due, and there was even more fun when Sophia, holding the poor toad, dropped him in the house. I was in the powder room when that happened, but the sounds of them all gadding about, trying to catch it, were amusing to hear.

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Chloë went to bed shortly after that - no, she had her ten minutes of Dad time first, and they looked through an American Baby magazine together, of all things - and Sophia and I shared some more time while I knit. She drew pictures of different things, like Chloë and I taking a walk, and of an "alien monster mouth" coming out of the sky and eating our entire unsuspecting family. I'm not really worried about that one, since she was giggling while she told me what it was. Sophia loves to color and draw, and she has become quite good at it, actually. I'll have to show you some of her drawings next time.

For now, though, I'm going to wrap up my weekend by trying to knit at least to the placket and making my To-Do list for the coming week.  I hope yours is a good one.

Fin.


The Party Of The Century

Okay, so maybe that's overstating things a little bit. But Sophia's birthday party today, a pony party held at the stables of one of our local Navy bases, was pretty freakin' great, I think.

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Sophia wanted a strawberry (her favorite thing in the world) cake, and I found these cool edible icing images on eBay, so all I had to do was bake, assemble, and decorate a double-layer sheet cake. 'Twas pretty simple, but the result made Sophia extremely happy. In turn, I was satisfied.

 

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As an aside, Saturday (yesterday) arrived, with the party today, and the image still hadn't arrived. I was a little panicky. And then, I found it shoved all inside my tiny mailbox, squished up with the rest of of the mail, when the package clearly stated, "DO NOT BEND." I was afraid to look at it, thinking it would all be mushed in there, but it was perfect. After all that, it was a little humid in our house and the image started sticking together, so I thought it STILL wouldn't work out! But in the end, I got it unstuck okay, and it went on the cake perfectly, and all was well. And it looked great. Phew! (But between being strawberry-flavored and ALL that frosting - which I can't stand - ick! This was one birthday cake I was not sad to not be able to eat!)

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I couldn't find horse-themed treat bags, so I made my own with generic pink bags from Party City and lots of paper cut-outs using my Cricut. I got all the goodies - pewter horse necklaces, horse finger puppets, miniature horse toys, mini-horse stuffies, and the pink cowgirl hats that of course didn't fit in the bags - off of eBay as well, along with all the paperware for the party. Much cheaper than Party City's offerings for basically the same things, I might add.

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Finally, the time arrived to go set up for the party, and that we did. Only, the wind was whipping through the party pavilion, and we had a dickens (that's one of my kids' favorite words) of a time keeping everything on the tables. We had a few minutes before everyone arrived, so when a nice lady came walking by with her horse, the kids took the opportunity to question her about all manner of horse-related facts. And they got to feed Sunny some carrots, too. (By the by, I looked for a few boy- or generic-colored cowboy hats for the three boys in attendance at the party at Party City yesterday, but I could only find adult-sized hats. Bummer.)

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Chloë cracked us all up when she asked, "Is the horse's tail just fur sticking out of its butt?" Bahahaha! Kids. 

 

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I don't have much to say about this picture. It's pretty self-explanatory; I just thought he was cute petting Sunny!

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Nice Lady said the kids could walk Sunny a little bit. Wow! She sure knew how to please a kid.

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Then, Sunny decided to walk the kids a little bit, too. Whoa, Nelly! Nice Lady came and rescued them. 

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Yep, this photo pretty much sums it up: Sophia was in Horse Heaven. Too bad we don't have the fundage for riding lessons. She'd love that.

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In the end, Nice Lady said it was time to turn Sunny out for some heavy-duty grass consumption, so we said good-bye to him and returned to party duties.

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There was a small petting zoo right next to the pavilion, so Jack buddied up to this li'l pony as we waited for our guests to arrive.

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Best. Picture. Ever!!! Look at that poor sheep run! This photo makes me die, every time I look at it. So yes, the guests started arriving - all the ones invited, plus lots of their siblings, so we had 15 kids in all -  and followed Rob into the petting zoo. I'm so glad I got this picture...!

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Soon, our party pony (that sounds terrible) was brought over, and I was told for the first time that one of US would have to lead the horse around the arena, walking each child on top of José. Um, what?! So I called out to the parents, "I need a volunteer!" and, thankfully, wonderful V agreed to be the pony puller. (We had TONS of parental help at this party, actually. If any of you happen to read this, please know we're so grateful!!)

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The Birthday Girl made the inaugural ride around the arena, with a very sweet José and a very reluctant V. Poor thing. Her shoes got quite muddy. (Mine did too; they suffered to bring you this stellar photography, you know.) (At least, I think that was mud.)

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Hee! No, that's not a miniature Lady Godiva! It's Chloë, with her curls whipping around her face. Silly. So, Rob helped each of the kids on and off the horse, helmet secured, until the very last child's turn. It took an hour or so. Jack was last to ride, but then he chickened out at the last minute and didn't go. That was after complaining about how long it was taking for his turn, for the entire hour. Really? Yes, typical Jack.

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Meanwhile, Sophia and the rest of the waiters gawked at ladybugs and worms before another helpful parent, D, engaged them in a rousing game of "Simon Says."  What would we have done if all the parents dropped off their kids and left? Hmm. I don't know, but it would have been a lot more demanding for me!

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After "Simon Says," they got back to playing in the dirt. Hey, free entertainment - I mean, it's dirt cheap! Heh. Sorry.

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Sophia is my dirty girl. She's like Pigpen, from Peanuts. One of the other moms, N, said to me while I was busy taking pictures of the other girls, "You know Sophia just made a dirt angel, right?" Um. No. But I wasn't surprised!

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We later decided that if we ever get a pet horse (psht, not likely), we'd name it Buttercup. My kids love 'em.

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N took over from V, walking the last few kids around the paddock or corral or whatever the hell it's called, just in time for José to pee buckets and then, shortly thereafter, take a huge dump. Not thrilled, she grumbled, "What's he going to do next, puke?" Poor N! She's putting her game face on here! 

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I figured on doing cake and presents next, but the tractor driver informed me that it was time for the hayride then, instead of at the end like we'd planned. Why? Because they were waiting to run the horses, and they couldn't be done at the same time. Or something. So we went on the longest hayride in history, but it was fun. We saw lots of horses, got whacked in the face with lots of trees, and... well, sat on hay. Don't get me wrong, I love hayrides - but it was LONG!

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I sat next to the boy-child, who really does not have Inspector Gadget-length arms.

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Finally, it was time to devour some cake! I handed over the camera to N, so I could light Sophia's candles. Except, the wind wasn't cooperating, and I could barely get them lit. After we all sang that well-known song to her, I ended up lighting each one and letting her blow it out individually. It took approximately thirty-hundred hours, but we got 'er done. (I hope she made six separate wishes!)

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My beautiful girl, Sophia Lorelei, got the first piece of strawberry cake. She had seconds, too. I guess it wasn't so bad.

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After cake, we did presents, natch. She got loads of wonderful gifts, and she kept squealing about each and every one. Not only did she declare it the Best. Day. Ever, but when she opened the three horses I bought her, she said I was the Best. Mom. Ever. Woot!  Nice that she said it in front of a few dozen ears, too. N helped me out again by writing down all of the gifts, so that will help with thank-you notes later. She told me the bill was in the mail.

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Finally, the time came for what the kids had all been waiting so patiently for: the piñata! It was huge. Huge. Sophia, again, was first at bat, and Rob blindfolded and spun her around. She started toward the line of waiting kids. Eek!! I rushed over and redirected her before she could decapitate anyone, and BOOM! went the stick. Fifteen children had their turn, then 15 children went again, without the blindfold this time. It took nearly a third full round, before kabow!! Candy and little toys came out like a dime store deluge.

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It was a pretty great time to be a kid at a pony party. Except for one. One of the dads noticed that Sophia was missing. What the?! We couldn't find her anywhere. Finally, she was located behind the small building in the pavilion, crying her little eyes out. Poor thing. She said she didn't get any of the candy, which she didn't, but I think she was overwhelmed by the rush of kids and wasn't prepared for it. Lots of the kids came over and handed her some of their candy, which was completely heart-warming, and I thanked them. We dried her eyes and brought her back to thank everyone for coming and say good-bye.

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While Rob finished cleaning up (the parents had all helped!), I got the kids into the car and asked them what their favorite part of the party was. My favorite answer belonged to Sophia, who said, "The whole thing."

Win!

Fin.

P.S. The three of them have spent the last five hours playing with every single thing she received, giving each its due turn and appreciating everything. She's had a spectacular, fantastic, wonderful day.

 


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments 

Link up here if you're fragmenting along with Mrs.4444 today!

I can't promise my fragments today won't depress you. If you don't feel like it, shuffle on along now... ;)

So I had this friend. A really, really good, close friend, who I cared a tremendous bit about. I knew him a very short period of time, but we clicked immediately and got along like two people who get along real well.

Anyway, things got too intense, and when I posted this, he had enough. It cost me the friendship.

That was what, a week ago? My heart is still broken.

Actually, for the first time since I was a teenager, I did this:

 

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I never considered myself a "cutter," because I have always used my fingernails (I have attempted scissors and knives but couldn't ever manage to break the skin with them), but apparently that counts. It's worse than it looks in the picture; that was fresh. Don't ask me why I took a picture.

Right now it looks like this, though:

 

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...because Hello Kitty was all I had in my First Aid kit. Hey, whatever works. It hurts like hell. I won't be doing it again anytime soon. That's a promise.

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I did try not to cut. I even put on my sneakers - which I never, ever wear - and went out for a run to try and stop the pain I was feeling. I don't run. I just don't. But I did. And I liked it. So I've been gathering up a Playlist of run-worthy songs on my iPod, and as soon as the weather isn't crappish, I'm going to keep doing it. I WILL run that 5K this year!! Another promise.

Anyway, CM, if you're out there reading this (which I doubt, but you never know), please stop this nonsense and be my friend again. Please?

Here's another thing I posted this week, that I think you should read. I'm actually kind of proud of it. I printed it out and mailed it. Kinda hoping it makes the old man cry again. Is that wrong?

I have to admit, I feel like I've been falling down on the job when it comes to homeschooling. I think we do okay at it when we DO it, but we haven't spent enough time on it since Christmas. Granted, my 5yo went from not knowing all her letter sounds to READING, and my 7yo went from a mid-kinder reading level to a mid/late-first grade level so far this school year, and my 9yo went from being TERRIBLE at math to adding up $80 worth of groceries in her head and only being 3¢ off the actual total... and oodles of other things, but... I'm slacking. There. I said it. I'm slacking. Time to get back in the saddle and be more gung-ho again.

We've been doing lots of Valentine's arts and crafts projects this week, including all these on Tuesday and more stuff today:

 

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our bedecked chandelier, and

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our Valentine (eucalyptus) tree, and

 

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our bannisters, and 

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this little love-note to my alma mater, the U. of Miami. Fun times. I had every intention of doing more academic stuff today, but we had a rough, tough morning, so I made it up to the kids with an afternoon full of buttons, ribbons, glitter and hot glue!

Tonight, I continued the craftiness by finishing up the African Gray (amigurumi) parrot I've been making for a good friend of mine. I had no pattern or experience, really, with amigurumi other than one or two little things, so it was a real challenge for me. I can't show you the picture yet because she hasn't seen it and reads this blog, so I'll just show you my starting point a few weeks ago:

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She approved of my color choices, but that's it! Everything else will be a surprise. Eek! I'm nervous!

At Bunco last night, Skinny-Minnie T totally made my night by standing next to me and joke-angrily saying that SHE was supposed to be the skinny one, here! At the time, I was wearing size SIX jeans and really needed a belt!! :D

I'll leave you now with this funny (and totally wrong!) little conversation that my husband texted to me. It happened a little while ago:

Hubs, to son Jack, 7: "I'm trying to take a dump, can you leave [the bathroom], please??"

Jack: "I'm trying to look at the damn [valentine] tree!"

I busted a gut. I probably shouldn't share that, but I think it's hee-larious. Some - maybe all - of you are shaking your heads, and I don't care. It's funny to ME!

All right, good-night and happy weekend.

Fin.


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments 

Link up with Mrs. 4444 if you're fragmenting today!

I haven't done this in ages. I've been soo busy, since we started homeschooling this year and I started a Daisy Girl Scout troop, too. With those things, a return to regular mystery shopping, and everything else that life entails, I've barely had time to blog. So... happy to be back. I hope it sticks!

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I spotted this sign on the door at 7-11 yesterday, and it just made me giggle. Am I the only one who sees the humor in this? The clerk didn't find it so funny when I mentioned it... but I guess she wouldn't!

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Chloë's hair has gotten super-long again. Just above her tush. Well, it was, but after this, I chopped about 2-3" of dead ends off, and now it looks much better. She was upset at first, but then she looked in the mirror and couldn't even tell the difference, so I was spared a fit. Phew!

Self portraits 007 

So, here's some big news: I've lost 200 pounds!! I finally hit the mark, and I'm ecstatic. On January 26, 2009, I was a size 26. Now, all these months after my gastric bypass surgery that day, size 8s are loose on me! Woohoo!! After I get all my loose skin cut off (hopefully in the spring), I'll be in a 6 for sure - if not a 4!

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The Fall Product sale for Girl Scouts is in full swing, but WE are not! I have been very lazy (or forgetful) about taking the girls out to sell, so they've only gone this one time, here. Historically, Chloë has carried her troop for this and the cookie sale, but not this time if we don't get our butts in gear. Hopefully this weekend will be nice... but anyway, isn't Sophia the cutest Daisy ever??

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And in her 5th year of Scouts, Chloë is now a Junior! Hard to believe; it's going so fast. Of course, she's still Daisy-sized, so she looks pretty teeny up against her fellow troop members!

On Sunday morning, I crashed my new Odyssey. I'm upset, but I would be more so if I actually felt an affinity for Penelope (that's its name). I really don't. I miss Vanna, my old van, which I loved infinitely more than Penny. I just keep reminding myself that she's super-safe, and that's the most important thing. And I can't even get her fixed right now, because I'd have to be without a vehicle for goodness knows how long, and we can't afford to pay for a rental. It's a suck-suck situation, all the way around.

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Tonight after the regular meeting, I held an Investiture Ceremony to welcome my Daisies officially into Girl Scouts. It went really well, and the girls were adorable! What made me happiest, though, was that our audience was absolutely packed with proud family members. Such support made me so glad. I have great parents in my troop!

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I'm looking through the pictures that Jeff and Lisa Keeney took of our family in May right now, and there are just so many favorites, it was hard to pick just one to share with you. So here's one I love... would you like to see some more?

And now, a few cute kid quotes:

Sophia, 5½, was watching a documentary about the fauna in Antarctica when she suddenly exclaimed, "Mommy, look! It's a beach beaver! A beach beaver! Wait... oh, no, it's just a sea otter..."

Chloë, 9, proclaimed, "Elbow macaroni is America's favorite macaroni. I will NOT eat any other macaroni."

Sophia was explaining to someone about how she lost her two front teeth: "It didn't hurt when I was hanging ON the treadmill. It didn't hurt until I fell OFF the treadmill."

(Which I thought was hysterical - the explanation, not the fall!)

Going door-to-door, selling for Girl Scouts, Sophia wanted to know why she couldn't go by herself. I answered that she was much too young, and Girl Scouts requires a girl to be 13 before they can do so. She replied, "Mommy, can you hide so they know I'm old? Can I pretend I'm 8? I mean, 10?"

Chloë said about Jack, 7½, "He doesn't even like brown sugar - and that's, like, the best sugar there IS!" when telling Daddy how to make Jack's oatmeal.

Have I told you this one, before? We were in the mall, walking along, when Jack shouted, "LOOK, DAD! THE ESCALATOR STOPPED!!" all incredulously. Rob looked back, stopped, and then said, "Those are stairs, son."

I died.

Have a great weekend!

Fin.


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Is it Friday again already?! Sheesh, I am way behind on "regular" posts here, sorry! Well, thank goodness for Mrs.4444, or y'all would NEVER hear what's going on in our lives... wait. You might like that. Anyway!

2010-07-18

Last weekend, Sophia went to the birthday party of her former preschool teacher's little boy. I didn't take any pictures of anyone else, ever since I got in trouble with the school for having pix of other preschool children here on the blahg. *insert eyeroll here* So here's Sophia having tons of fun at the newly-updated Chuck E. Cheese. I couldn't believe it when I walked in there - it's all different since her party in April! New games, new rides, new layout... too bad they didn't have new (organic) food. I let her eat, though. She was THRILLED and totally pigged out!

I talked to her teacher quite a bit; we get along swimmingly. Seems Sophia is a "fave" of hers from class, and she behaves like an angel while at school. Ha! She could not believe how seriously naughty Sophia is at home. Maybe I should send her back to preschool...? I mean, really, wth?

As we left that party, Sophia told me she was going to marry the 2yo birthday boy. I pointed out that she was quite a bit older than him, at five, but she seemed nonplussed. My daughter, the cougar!

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Hahaha, this picture kills me. Not only am I wearing Ye Olde Fashioned Scary Mud Mask, but it looks like I have a giant boog on my face! Awesome.

This is part of a review I'm doing for my giveaway blog, Fishing and Wishing. I'm having lots of fun giving away goodies every night there, but I tell you what, it is starting to become a lot of work to keep up with it! I'm thinking about getting an assistant... and at times, I think about handing off the blog to someone else entirely! I just don't know how I'm going to have time to keep up with it AND this blog AND running this household AND homeschooling. Something's gotta give!

I am pigging out like crazy this week. I don't know what it is; every once in a while, the former appetite seems to come back, and I feel like eating constantly. And I eat when I'm hungry, so I'm afraid to step on the scale this week! I haven't been keeping up with my protein, either, so... yeah. Maybe I'll skip that mean ol' weighin' machine for a few more days.

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Two things about Sophia: She loves birds, and she loves bugs. She loves the cool bugs she catches, like this grasshopper, so much that she wants to keep them for pets. Mom never lets her, though. Today, she asked me, "Can we put him in a bucket and poke lots of holes in it so he can breathe?" I declined, asking, "But what would we feed him, honey? We don't want him to starve!" She had a ready answer: "We'll just go to the pet store and get grasshopper food, Mom!"

2010-07-21

I usually get my crabcakes already made from the fishmonger at the Farmer's Market, Uncle Chuck. His are the best in the world, I sh*t you not. 

But the last time I went, he was out of them! Wha?! Didn't he know I was coming?

I had to settle for a pound of lump crab meat, instead.

That was at the beginning of this month, and yesterday, I finally decided to break down and make my own crabby patties. I had asked Steph how she made hers, but I lost where she told me (it was online, on Facebook I think), so I turned to the old standby: The Joy of Cooking. Reading the recipe, it sounded pretty much exactly like Steph's, so I decided to go for it (mustard and all! Eek!)

 I had to make a few subs: I didn't have scallions, so I used the organic red onions from the organic food shoppe. I didn't have bread crumbs, or even bread to make my own, so I used cornmeal (yeah, don't do that). Otherwise, I think I followed the 'structions pretty much exactly... and you know what?

Uncle Chuck's were a zillion times better. Seriously. If you're ever in Virginia Beach on a Thursday-thru-Sunday, get thee to his stand at the Farmer's Market and pick up some of his crabcakes! *drool*

Oh! Oh! Oh! I have perhaps the most exciting news you've read all year minute: We now have air conditioning!! I'm no longer stuffing freezer packs down my bra and underwear all day long, to keep from melting! Hee. Ahhhh. Everyone is feeling MUCH better, thanks. And I no longer have to listen to the poor dog panting like crazy. That was driving me insane in the membrane. (I'd yell at her, "Stop BREATHING, already!") Aw, poor pooch.

Jack, 7, is at Cub Scout camp this week. I heard from his Leader, Beth, that he's having a fantastic time and has gone boating and rock wall climbing. I didn't believe it - he's quite a chicken, and a whiner - but she said she has the pictures to prove it! I can't wait to see.

We miss him so much, Rob and I. It's very different without the little feller. The girls got along for the first time EVER yesterday, and played like sweet little sisters. Today, however, the fighting was worse than usual. It was outrageous! I felt like shouting, SHUT UPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!

So that's all from me this week. Hope y'all have a fan-flipping-tastic week, and I'll see ya back here next time!

Fin.


Who You Callin' A Cracker?

2010-07-14
 
I'm in a Picasa collage frame of mind, lately. If you couldn't tell.

So I started this homemade cracker recipe on Monday night, around 0200, when I had expected to stay up all night. For various reasons.

I got out all my ingredients, mixed them properly in my lovely red KitchenAid mixer, and then... I started to go blind. Or, I thought I was going blind. My head was all pinched-in feeling, and my eyes couldn't focus right. There was no way those crackers were getting made, not then.

I thought for a minute about waking Rob up, and then I thought it was a horrible oncoming migraine.

And then, wait a minute! I know this feeling!

Yup. Sure enough.

I went to the cabinet where we keep all our meds, and looked in the spot where I reach for the same four bottles every night: Effexor, Abilify, Iron, Vitamin D. But the D was missing, and in its place? My Trazadone! My sleeping pill!

Sigh. Nope, those crackers weren't getting made right then. I quickly threw the mixer bowl full of ingredients into the fridge, stumbled heavily across the downstairs, and crashed on the the couch.

Zzzzzzzzz.

I didn't wake up for a very. long. time.

You see, before my surgery, I used to take a whole pill, and sometimes even two, to knock myself out at night. But now? I rarely take one (not that I don't need it), because it hits me SO hard. And when I do, I only take a half a pill, and sometimes only a quarter.

But I took a whole one, thinking it was my Vitamin D. D'oh! I blame Rob. It's at least 3% his fault, for moving the pill bottles around in search of his own. Right?

Right.

(He disagrees. Oh, that Rob, always refusing to take responsibility for my foolish mistakes. Some husband he is!)

Anyway.

After I roasted a marvelous 100% organic free-range chicken on Tuesday night for dinner, and Rob made the accompanying locally-picked green beans, plus organic mac & cheese for the kids, I decided to pull that mixer bowl out of the fridge, and continue with the crackers.

The pictures above are all Chloë's work. I ordered her suggested she photo-document the process. She eagerly complied. Didn't she do a great job?

And so did I:

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That, there, is one satisfied customer, enjoying his homemade organic crackers topped with fresh, local, organic tomatoes and organic herbed cheese. (Yep, we're still doing the organic thing. Even though the world is going to end. Never mind. It's not. Carry on.)

He raved, at my prodding, about my creation. He said it was "the best snack I've had all night."

I almost forgive him for the Trazadone mix-up, after a compliment like that.

Fin.