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Saturday 9: This Night Won't Last Forever

Michael Johnson - This Night Won't Last Forever (LYRICS) FM HORIZONTE 94.3  - YouTube

Hey, folks!

It's been a loooong week for me here; how 'bout you? I hope better than mine.

I confess, I don't know Michael Johnson (other than my estranged brother-in-law) or this song, but the sound is dead on my laptop, so I'll have to give it a listen on my phone or desktop later.

Let's get to it, shall we? Link up here if you're playing along with Saturday 9ers this weekend!


Saturday 9: This Night Won't Last Forever (1979)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.
1) This song begins with, "Everybody likes a celebration." Do you have any birthdays or anniversaries coming up on your calendar?
No description available. Open photo Open photo
Sheesh, not for a while. Look, Rob just turned 50 at the end of August, Chloë just turned 21 at the beginning of September, and I turned... a year older the next day. That's enough! Actually, one of my best friends is having a birthday near the beginning of October. ♥
2) The lyrics tell us Michael Johnson is stuck at a party while his heart is breaking. He finds it awkward and painful to pretend there's nothing wrong. Are you adept at "putting a good face on it?" Or is it easy for others to tell how you're feeling?
When you need to hide your emotions - Life Marbles
It depends where I am, who I'm with. I can hide my emotions from some people, while others get allllll the emotions coming forth. (Lucky them.) I guess it depends on my comfort level.
3) Michael feels like this is going to be a long night. Is there a part of your day when time tends to drag? Or when it flies?
The Next Inclusion Revolution: Disability in Advertising
Because of the nature of my health condition(s), I get tired very, very easily. I'm the person who is perfectly described by Spoon Theory, if you've not heard of that. I am a true spoonie. So by virtue of not just being in a wheelchair (or, occasionally, using my walker or cane), my disabilities require someone to always be with me. Even when I go out driving, it's best if someone who can also drive goes along, on the 50-50 chance I won't be able to get us home. This has happened numerous times. All of this to say, if I'm awake, and especially if I'm home, it drags, because my time does not belong just to me. I'm fully dependent on others, and I dearly miss my independence.
4) As bad as he feels right now, he's still hopeful about tomorrow. What are you looking forward to for Sunday?
Moon Phases | Moon in Motion – Moon: NASA Science
When they say the full moon brings out the "crazies," it's not for nothing. Just like the full moon (and the new moon) affects the pull of the tides, it affects so much else. Ask any ER nurse or attending: the Emergency Department is likely to be loaded with "interesting" cases that night. Every time, at least in populous area of the country. Likewise, my joint and muscle pain comes to a screaming maximum at both the full moon and the new moon, which we'll have on Sunday. So I am only able to do as little as humanly possible then.
5) When he was 13, Michael taught himself to play the guitar. He went on to take formal lessons and mastered classical guitar. What's something you would like to learn more about/do better?
Design star turned Master Knitter Charles Gandy creates fantastical socks -  Atlanta Magazine
I would love to follow in the footsteps of Master Knitter Charles Gandy, here. I actually started the master knitting program back in 2014 or so, but that's when I started to get really sick, and I just couldn't keep going. There are still many knitting skills I still want to learn, so master or not, I would love to learn them eventually.
6) For a time he performed with a trio known as Denver, Boise & Johnson. The Denver was John. Do you have a favorite John Denver song?
Photo: John Denver 5
I'd probably have to say it's "I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane." Love that one.
7) He retired to Minneapolis to be near his adult daughter. But he never stopped performing entirely. For years he delighted loyal local fans with an annual holiday concert on December 26 at Orchestra Hall. Is there a performer you've seen in concert more than once?
Grateful Dead | Spotify
Me, not so lucky, no. But before we met, Hubs was a superfan of the Grateful Dead and saw at least a dozen of their concerts. He had so many Dead t-shirts back then!
8) In 1979, when this song was popular, the cable channel ESPN launched. What's the last sporting event that you watched?
Iga Swiatek Getty 2022 US Open
I peeped a lot of the 2022 US (tennis) Open. It was epic, both mens' and women's tennis, but I especially loved watching Iga Świątek play. She's amazing!

9) Random question: Do you play Wordle?
These 21 Tweets About Wordle Are Honestly Just As Good As Playing The Game  Itself
I don't, know. I looked at it, but decided I already have my hands full with Words With Friends after playing that for approximately a century, now. I play constantly and am still not bored (since they throw in fun things all the time), so why give up on a good thing? But enjoy your Wordle, everyone. Does seem fun, also.
Well that's it, guys. Have a lovely week, if you so choose!

Saturday 9: Uncle Albert/Uncle Halsey

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" - Paul & Linda McCartney ...

Hello, hello! Happy Saturday. I cannot believe that the next time we meet, it will be June. This novel coronavirus situation has at once seemed to make time slow to a crawl, and simultaneously it has flown by. It is the same as being a parent.

I do not know this song at all, so I am looking forward to giving it a listen after I watch the NASA/Space-X launch today. Fingers are tightly crossed 🤞 that that goes well!

Link up here if you're joining us today!


Saturday 9: Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (1971)

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

1) The lyrics tell us Paul believes it's going to rain. How's the weather where you are today?

It's  actually quite lovely! The city pool is/was supposed to open today, which would have been nice, but I don't think Idaho is in that level of re-opening just yet.

2) Paul sings that he is sorry because he hasn't "done a bloody thing all day." What do you hope to accomplish this weekend?


Well, it's a payday/bill-paying weekend, so I've got to get that done. We're also finally starting to work on decorating this giant new house of ours, starting with our bedroom, so I'm interesting in doing more work and planning on that. I've bought the bedding (this "Ava" set from Fiesta), so that's my inspiration. And I am on the Paper Hugs team for the Mama Dragons, sending love and support to the "baby dragon" LGBTQ kids out there, and I'd like to put a lot of envelopes in the mail today! Aside from that, walking the dogs and maybe cooking something - anything - for my first time in this house is a goal.

3) He also references butter pie, which is made primarily with potatoes (with onions and, of course, butter). That dish is not popular on this side of the Atlantic. Last time you had potatoes, how were they prepared (baked, mashed, hash browned, french fried ...)?

Tutorial: how to make potato roses. The most beautiful thing you ...

I probably grabbed someone else's french fry from somewhere. I haven't been eating a lot of potatoes lately, but now I want to make these!

4) Linda McCartney is credited as co-writer and performer on this recording. Paul and Linda were partners in real life, too; married 29 years, they raised four children together. They often said they tried never to spend more than a few hours apart. Do you enjoy a lot of togetherness, or do you value your personal time? Has your experience with Covid-19 and quarantine changed how you feel about this?

03132020 Rob and Sophia Flowers 2

I think we're a lot like Linda and Paul. We're a pretty tight family. Sometimes I think there must be this perception that we don't fight or our kids don't act up, which certainly isn't true, of course. But above all, there is love and togetherness and support. Now that Rob is retired and both of us are disabled, we spend a lot more time together than I thought we would at this stage - but that's not a problem! Ultimately, I think we're most comfortable being our authentic selves in front of each other, and I am thankful for that.

5) Paul and Linda came from very different backgrounds. His family was lower middle class, lived in Liverpool's public housing and received government aid. She grew up in affluent Scarsdale, the daughter of a wealthy theatrical attorney. Do you think it's more important for a couple to share a common background, or to share common interests?

Pin on STEaM Education

From personal experience, I'd say you need to have some of both. Of course each should have their own interests and hobbies and will come from different backstories, but if you don't have any similar ground that brings you together,... then what will keep you together?

6) Paul is known for his work ethic. At age 78, he's still making music and performing live. What's your favorite Paul McCartney song?

Oh gosh, ask me to today and I'll tell you one thing; ask me tomorrow, and I'll tell you another! Five years ago, Paul wrote "FourFiveSeconds" with Kanye West, which they then performed with Rihanna. I really loved that collab.

7) In 1971, when this song was a hit, Bobby Fischer was the world's most famous and highest-rated chess player. Do you play chess?

purely decorative" | Chess board, Chess, Chess pieces

You know, I have never learned. I've never been taught, I've never sat down in front of a chess board to teach myself, I don't know how. It is on my bucket list, though, so maybe I oughtta just get myself together and do it!

8) England's Princess Anne turned 21 in 1971. The occasion was commemorated by a formal portrait, taken by celebrated fashion photographer Norman Parkinson. Who took the most recent photo of you?

I guess I did! My girls and I were fooling around, playing with Facebook's new "Rooms" feature, and we were all making different silly faces with its filters. This one tickled me, so I snagged a screenshot. Hee!

9) Random question: Do you find it more satisfying to work with your hands, or your head?

I like both. I loved Big Bang Theory, of course, as so many of us did, and I could see myself in that environment. I often wondered whether I'd be happier being the theoretical physicist or the practical one. I like being the idea "guy," but I also like being the one to execute them. Maybe I'm a start-to-finish person, y'know? Here's a sweater I knitted for my all-grown-up-now son way back in the day. Lyme arthritis has waylaid my knitting hobby, but I've now ordered yarn and buttons and am determined to get back to work!


Happy weekend to you all. May you be safe and healthy.


Saturday 9: Along Comes A Friend

Hey, guys! You came back! I'm always excited when I (remember to) do a Saturday 9 or Sunday Stealing post on time, because it usually means I get to visit with my friends in the blogosphere. So I'm thrilled you're here.

Link up here if you wish to play along this week!

And let's begin:


Saturday 9: Along Comes a Friend (Theme from Kate and Allie) (1984)

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

1) This week's song is the theme from Kate and Allie, a sitcom that ran from 1984 to 1989. Were you a fan?

Image result for jane curtin kate and allie

Oh, yes. I loved that show!

2) The show was about two divorced women who live and raise their children together. Were you ever a single parent? Were you raised by a single parent?

Image result for single parent meme

No, I've never been a single mom. Thank goodness, because even though I know I would find the strength, I don't have it innately. I was not raised by a single parent, either. I give single moms and dads a LOT of credit, because I know how soul-exhausting that must be.

3) Allie is proud that she can make a perfect cup of coffee: "Just the essence of the bean. No acidity." Kate is proud that she can belch the alphabet. What are you proud of?

I am proud of my ability to turn sticks and string into works of art!

4) Kate and Allie share half of a duplex in Greenwich Village. Many episodes had them doing laundry in the basement. Where are your washer and dryer?

We have a laundry room about smack-dab in the middle of our ranch-style house. Nothing special.

5) Kate was played by Susan St. James. She was familiar to viewers as the "wife" in McMillan and Wife. Without looking it up, do you know who played McMillan?

Actually, I'd never even heard of that show! :O

6) Allie was played by Jane Curtin. She was one of three women in the original Saturday Night Live cast. Without looking it up, can you name the other two?

Hm. Gilda Radner and... no. I don't know the third.

7) On the set, Jane Curtin ran a poker game for the cast and crew. Do you think winning at poker takes more luck or skill?

Image result for good poker hand

I'm not sure which it takes more of, but I've played poker and know that it definitely takes some skill. But luck definitely plays its part.

8) The Kate & Allie theme was cowritten and sung by John Lefler. Years later, Mr. Lefler wrote the theme for the Pokemon show. Is anyone in your life into Pokemon?

Image result for pokemon go gif

9) Random question: What's the last thing you whispered?

Oh, I don't know; I'm not a big fan of whispering. I usually only do it in jest.


I fell asleep halfway through writing this, because I was just exhausted! Fortunately, I'm still technically "early" for our time zone. ;) Have a lovely weekend, everyone!


Saturday 9: Easter Parade #DoubleHeader

Hi, everyone! I'm going to do this week's and last week's Sat9s together, so bear with me. I wasn't able to participate last week because I was again in the hospital with pneumonia, and I missed you guys! But I'll do the current week's edition first. Link up here if you want to play along this week!


Saturday 9: Easter Parade ("In Your Easter Bonnet") (1948)

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

1) This song is about a special Easter hat to be worn with your "Sunday best." Will you be getting dressed up this weekend?
Throwback to Easter 2015 or 2016 in Miami, Florida - when I could still get away with dressing the kids like that! ;)
We'll probably dress up, but not too fancily. Our church is pretty casual, but I still want to look nice for this major holiday in our religion. No more matchy-matchy for the kids, though. Fifteen-year-old Jack would never wear a bowtie for me again, and forget about dresses on Sophia! I might see if we can cook up some fun duds from our awesome local thrift shop, ReStyle, on Friday or Saturday.

2) Judy Garland's partner in this movie was supposed to be Gene Kelly, but he was unavailable because he broke his ankle playing volleyball. Have you ever lost a big opportunity because of a medical issue?
A lot, actually. Most recently, while I was stuck in the hospital desperately wanting to be at Sophia's first Idaho showjumping entry, her dad was there taking care of everything for her. It broke my heart not being there for my kid. That's my job!! I cried a lot that day in the hospital, and I cried again tonight editing the pictures Rob took from it. 
3) Garland later confessed that, at first, she would have preferred Kelly because she knew him well and was intimidated by Fred Astaire. By the end of filming, she found she enjoyed Astaire a great deal. Can you think of a friend with whom you had a rocky relationship at the beginning?
Image result for rocky relationship funny
Several! When my son Jack turned a year old, I joined a community of moms online at what we now affectionately call "p.com." I hit it off with a bunch of the moms right away, but with many others, of course, we rubbed each other the wrong way. Fast-forward 14 years, and I'm still friends with quite a number of moms in both camps on Facebook. And I've met a few in real life, too.
4) This song was inspired by New York City's Easter Parade. Does your community host a similar event?
I wish, just so I could have a good excuse to rock a kick-ass bonnet like this one! ;) But there are a number of Easter egg hunts to attend, and one is a night-time flashlight egg hunt geared just for the teenagers. Oh yeah, you know I'm dragging my three teens there!

5) The biggest chocolate Easter egg was made in Italy, measured 34 feet tall and weighed a staggering 15,000 lbs. Do you thinks it's possible to have too much chocolate?
Image result for lindt peanut butter truffles 
Pre-gastric bypass nine years ago, I would have said "no way" to the idea of too much chocolate. Now, however, I have just gotten sick off eating a Nestlé and, well, also a Nestlé 100 Grand bar in quick succession. Was it worth it? Hard to say. Maybe not. But if it were one of the now-extinct Lindt Peanut Butter Lindor Truffles, I'd eat them by the fistful. Damn shame they discontinued those delicious confections. Yesterday, I discovered the Dove® Peanut Butter Eggs are a satisfying substitute. I ate the whole bag. Sorry, kids. At least I saved one more bag for their Easter baskets. And yes, I do still make Easter baskets for my teenagers. So? :p
6) Jelly beans are also popular this time of year. A 2013 poll tells us that red is by far the favorite jelly bean color, with yellow a distant second. Do you have a preference?
Image result for jelly belly funny
I have never, ever in my entire life been a fan of jelly beans. I do, however, enjoy the various flavor names of Jelly Belly® jelly beans!
Image result for beanboozled flavors
And have you ever heard of the game BeanBoozled by Jelly Belly®? It's so funny: you divvy up a box of mystery jelly beans and then, long story short, when it's your turn to eat one, you don't know if it'll be yummy or a gross flavor! We've played it as a family twice. I think I actually sat it out both times to play shutterbug, but I remember one of the yucky flavors was "Dead Fish," and another was "Stinky Socks"!!! How nasty is that?! Ha. So funny. Would probably be a good drinking game, too... ;)

7) We've been talking a lot about sweets this morning. The only holiday that generates more candy sales is Halloween. When do you eat more candy: Easter or Halloween?

8) Easter is considered the season of rebirth. What makes you feel refreshed or rejuvenated?
Image result for rejuvenated funny
A good nap. And nowadays, I take one nearly every day. Sometimes two. Occasionally three. Eating generally makes me tired. It's supremely annoying.

9)  This year, April Fool's Day happens to coincide with Easter Sunday. Do you expect to fall victim to any pranks this weekend?
Image result for April Fool's on Easter meme
Probably. I have three naughty kiddos and an even naughtier husband, so I don't expect to get away from Sunday unscathed by pranks. I have, however, cooked up what I hope is a humorous scheme to be carried out by my two daughters. More on that after Sunday...!
And now, since I missed last week's fun due to being stuck in the f*****g hospital once again, I'm gonna do it now. And you will read it, and ye shall enjoy. The link is here if you're wanting to make a late entrance to that party with me, too.
Sweet Disaster (2016)

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

1) This video begins outside a convenience store with a sign advertising beer, produce, lotto and an ATM. Will you buy beer, produce or a lotto ticket this weekend? Will you visit an ATM?
Image result for ATM shooting out cash
I will be visiting an ATM this morning, or Saturday morning at the latest, for sure. I might buy some beer for Hubs' Easter basket (I'm making him one for the first time this year, because I'm fun, weird, and random like that). I'll definitely buy a ton of produce, since it's time for my monthly grocery shopping haul time, and being semi-vegetarian, produce is kinda required! Hubs likes lotto scratch-off tickets, so there may be some of that going on, too. Haven't decided yet.

2) As the video progresses, fountain drinks and donuts are consumed. When you stop for a snack during a road trip, what do you usually grab?
Image result for giant diet coke fountain drink
For me, there will definitely be a Diet Coke® involved. (If you're into these, have you tried the new special flavors yet? I've obviously had the regular kind, and I've also tried Twisted Mango and Zesty Blood Orange. They were yummy, and I don't normally like mango anything! I'm still getting around to the Ginger Lime and Feisty Cherry varieties. Anyway...) It may actually involve either a ginormous fountain Diet Coke, or if that's not available, about four 20-oz bottles of Diet Coke®. I sip constantly and don't like stopping every 20 minutes, y'know? As far as snacks go, that can vary widely for me but now that Sabra has those hummus and pretzel cups, I might get one of those and or a couple of mozzarella cheese sticks. That was a pretty involved answer, so I'll spare you what the other four members of Team Odette might get! (Except to say that for Jack, Pepperidge Farm® Cheddar Goldfish® crackers are a given.)

3) The lyrics reference "a river of champagne." When did you last enjoy a spot of the bubbly?
Well, I bought two bottles of champagne for Christmas, but I was in the hospital for that day. So then I decided we should have it on New Year's Eve instead, right? But I was back in the hospital for that day, too. Finally, on Take Three, we had our champagne on our 17th anniversary: January 2nd, 2018. Must have been in the cards! I think that was the last time I have imbibed in any way.

4) The end of the video features sci-fi/horror images. Is that a genre you enjoy? If not, what kind of books do you read most often?
Image result for jodi picoult books
That's a flat-out "no." I don't like either sci-fi very much or, especially horror. I loathe it. Jodi Picoult is my favorite author, but I'm behind on reading her books. Maybe I'll hit up the library this weekend and rent one I haven't read before. My mother-in-law turned me on to Jodi years ago (first-name basis because we're cool like that), and I'm so glad she did!

5) The trio that makes up The Dreamers are dyed-in-the-wool New Yorkers. If you could live in any city or village in the world, would you move or stay right where you are?
Image result for living in tokyo gif
When I was in my late teens and early 20s, before I got married and became a mom, it was absolutely on my Bucket List to live in a chic Manhattan apartment for at least a year. That'll probably never happen now.  I don't know if I'd move from Boise without very good reason right now, but there are still plenty of cities I would want to visit for a lengthy run. Tokyo, Paris, Sydney, Prague... just a few names that come to mind. I love frequent changes of scenery!

6) The Dreamers describe themselves as "impractical."  What about you? Do you consider yourself practical or impractical?
Image result for rose colored glasses gif
I'm maybe an even mixture of both. And I'm a proud idealist, much more so than a realist. I'm an optimist by nature, rarely a pessimist except when my Bipolar Disorder leads me to a more depressed side (specifically, lately, when it comes to my health). But rose-colored glasses? I'll take all the pairs.

7) They also won't "listen to those who doubt" them. Sometimes we find the ones who doubt us most are ourselves. What about you? Are you confident, or do you suffer from self-doubt?
Image result for self-conscious meme
I've been very self-conscious my whole life. It's irritating. I've been in therapy for a number of years and still haven't found the key to building up my own confidence. Not that I'll give up; I'm just not there yet, frustratingly enough...

8) Do you often remember your dreams?
Image result for dream about flying gif
I remember certain dreams more than others; usually the recurrent ones stick with me. I often dream about flying; I have my whole life. Those are usually my favorite, except for the ones where I'm flying away from something to escape a scary situation. Often, though, I'll forget the dream but remember the impact on my mindset for the entire day.
9) Random question: Would you rather get $100 today, or $250 on this date a year from now?
Image result for $100 funny
Circumstances exist that lead me to go for the instant-gratification answer. Gimme the $100 bucks, por favor!
So, that was fun, and now I'm done. More later; I have so many posts I'm behind on and never get to for one reason or another. Tonight, though, I am determined!

Saturday 9: Angel

Hey fogies! Sorry for the radio silence this past week, but I have been siiiiiick as a dog. Hopefully that is well over.

Link up here at Saturday 9 to play along with the rest of the bunch!

Let's get started.


Saturday 9: Angel (1998)
... because Bev recommended it

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

Image result for jonathan melvoin
1) Sarah McLachlan wrote this song about someone she barely knew. She read the obit of Jonathan Melvoin, keyboard player for the Smashing Pumpkins, who died of a heroin overdose. What's the most recent news story that touched you deeply?

Well, it was about the last messages and phone calls from Princess Diana to then-little boys, Princes William and Harry. I know it's silly, that I, an American and comparatively a pauper, a commoner, would feel this way, but I do feel connected to the British princes. My blonde, blue-eyed mother suddenly at 33, shocking everyone, leaving behind two little girls. Diana died suddenly at 36, shocking everyone, leaving behind two little boys. I wanted to write to the two of them when she was killed, but I figured they'd never really get the letter anyway.
Image result for Linda Mccartney
2) Ms. McLachlan performed this in tribute to Linda McCartney at the 1999 Concert for Linda. She was expressing her hope that, in death, Linda found relief and peace after a long and painful battle with cancer. What do you think happens to us when we die?
I'm so torn on this. I obviously don't really have any idea, nor does anyone else, truly. Part of me thinks that's it, it's over, that's the end. But the part of me whose faith tells her that her mom and son are walking through Heaven together these last 14 years is stronger. As for Hell... well, all I know about that is I really do not want to go there!
Image result for the guiding light

3) Daytime dramas General Hospital and As the World Turns used this song on-air after a major character died. Do you follow any "soap operas?"
When I was a tween/teen, my stepsisters were into Guiding Light, so that's what I watched, too. Didn't have much of a choice if I wanted to watch something in the family room, anyway. But not since about 1992 or so have I followed any soaps.
Chickens 012
Chickens 012
4) In 2007, Sarah donated her recording of this song to the ASPCA. Do you have a pet? If yes, how did you get it (shelter, pet store, etc.)?
Do I have a pet? Ahahaha, you kill me, Sam. Here's our current rundown: Two dogs (Paco, gotten from a family who couldn't keep their baby's hands off him and kept hurting him, and Tapioca, from That Black Dog Rescue in Miami); four cats (Pepper, found in the street in the middle of the night, Muffin, adopted from the friend of a friend, Sugarplum, adopted from a girl in Miami who couldn't keep kittens for Sophia's 10th birthday, and Henry, adopted through Pet Supermarket in Miami from the Humane Society of Miami); two gerbils and a guinea pig (all from the pet store); and ten chickens (one won by son at a county fair and the other purchased for a dollar each from a crazy chicken lady). So yeah... a few animals in this household!
Image result for aspca

5) She admits she can't watch those ASPCA commercials, where her recording of "Angel" plays over sad photos of animals. Is there a TV commercial that really gets to you (in either a good or a bad way)?
I haven't watched commercials in ages, but I agree, that and those poor, sick children with distended bellies in Africa who need adopting... those things always get to me.

6) In 1994, Sarah was stalked by an obsessed fan. Tell us about a time you were really frightened. In retrospect, was your fear commensurate with the threat?
I had a stalker, too. When I lived in Miami, right after college, a former friend turned stalker on me. He found out where I lived, when I would be out of town and when I would be back (I know this because if I left for a long time, he'd have a package delivered in the mail upon my return, with nothing in the middle - and I didn't hold my mail, ever). He wanted to marry me and would stop at nothing to get his way. One time, at about 11 PM after work one night, I pulled into my driveway and opened my car door; I could hear some rustling in the bushes and just felt completely creeped out. I left immediately and drove over to my BFF Kristal's house. Eventually, after a while of this, I had a stalking police report out on him, and they offered to help me file a restraining order. I thought nothing would come of it, and I was wrong. He attacked me in my house later that summer. A definite "hell yes" to the question!
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7) Sarah was adopted by Jack and Dorice McLachlan. Though she has a friendly relationship with her birth mother, she always considered Dorice her mother and sees herself behaving with her son the way Dorice did with her. Is there anyone in your family that you feel you resemble, either physically or by behavior?
In looks, I definitely resemble my father, although I have my mother's and her mother's, er... rather chunky physique. It's starting to dawn on me how to accept myself this way, rather than hate every square inch of myself.  Anyway, I do not remember my mother well enough to know if I have any of her behaviors, although I'm told my silliness, giggling, and love of game-playing come from Mom. I have a few of my dad's minor habits, like playing with my earlobes while I drive or think, but thankfully I do not resemble his behavior much beyond that. Phew.
Image result for lilith fair

8) McLachlan is one of the founders of Lilith Fair, a summer concert series designed to showcase talented female performers. Do/did your summer plans include an outdoor concert?
No, although we were supposed to go to a big outdoor concert last weekend. We had to miss it, because of my illness. Hopefully there will be more to come!
Image result for prince william

9) Random question: Which of these men would you most like to be seated with at dinner -- Clint Eastwood, Prince William or Jimmy Fallon?
Well, given my answer to the first question, I think it's obvious that I would choose the prince! I have no care to talk to Mr. Eastwood, although I'm sure Jimmy Fallon would be hilarious fun to pair up with over dinner, but you know I would have a lot to talk about with Prince William. Hopefully no tears in our pudding, though.
Thanks, Sam, I really enjoyed this week's questions. Happy Saturday, y'all! 

Saturday 9: Sara Smile


Hey, guys and dolls... Link up here with Crazy Sam if you're playing along today, too!

Saturday 9: Sara Smile (1976)

... Because Kwizgiver suggested Hall & Oates. Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This was Hall & Oates' first #1 hit. Can you name another of their popular songs?
"Maneater" was the first one that came to mind. I remember when it was popular on the radio.

2) Daryl Hall and Sara Allen were a couple for 30 years, and he wrote this at the beginning of their long relationship. That makes this a very public love letter. Are you good at writing love letters? Would you rather tell the person how you feel, face to face? Or do you let your actions speak louder than your words?
I've written many a love letter in my time. I think I'm pretty good at it. Never had one get rejected, anyway. One of the best lines ever received in a love letter to me read, "You may not be the girl of my dreams, but you are the girl in my dreams." I adored it!

3) In the song, Daryl and Sara are waiting for the sunrise. Did you see the sunrise this morning? Or did you sleep in?
Sophia and I were up well before the sun, and now Hubs and son Jack are up before the sun, too. Oops, here comes Chloë, too. Yup, we're all early risers this morning!

4) Both Hall & Oates hail from the Philadelphia area. Hall is a native of suburban Pottstown, which was a stop on the Reading/Philadelphia rail line made famous in Monopoly. Do you like playing board games?
I do! I love Trivial Pursuit the best, and games like it. Although... Quelf is pretty fun, and I am dying to play Cards Against Humanity. Never have.

5) John Oates grew up a few miles away from Pottstown in North Wales. Decades ago, North Wales' biggest employer was a cigar factory. Do you like the smell of a cigar?
Gross, no way! On a related note, someone at the local hospital marked my hospital record as though I am a heavy smoker. I pitched a minor fit about it... record changed.

6) Daryl Hall now hosts a music show, Live from Daryl's House, that you catch free online. Do you typically watch shows from your computer, pad, phone or TV set?
I don't, except for Jeopardy! on the telly.
7) Hall & Oates are currently on tour. Are you seeing/have you seen a concert this summer?

No... it's not currently in the budget, sigh. Taylor Swift '15 in Miami was my last concert, and Chloë's first. Unless you count the guy beautifully playing cello on the corner in Coconut Grove as a busker to pay for his Juilliard audition trip last weekend? Jack and I each gave the guy a dollar. (This is another busking cellist, not 'my' guy.)
8) Daryl and John have been friends for 50 years, even living together at the beginning of their careers when money was tight. Another successful duo of the rock era, Simon & Garfunkle, also met as teens but they forever seem to be feuding. What do you think makes for a lasting friendship/partnership?
My two BFFs, Shana (a concert violinist in her own right), and Dr. Lisa, have been my awesome friends for almost 30 years. They are two completely different personalities, but they have several things in common: very intelligent, fun sense of humor, and fierce loyalty to our friendship. I can honestly say that these two women have been with me through thick and thin, more than anybody else in my life except my own husband, but even longer! Love you ladies!

9) Random question:  Are you quick to try new things?
Yes! Pretty quick. I love change, actually. I get bored quickly and easily, and I'm always doing 10 things at once. As much as one can, anyway. I can't stand sticking with the status quo, when that clearly isn't working. It's called progress, people: embrace it! ;)
Thanks for your visit! Make sure you stop by the rest of the Sat9ers' posts, too!

Sunday Stealing: Why Do You Want To Know That?!

Link up here if you're stealing along with the rest of us today!


List 5 things you want to do before the year ends:

  1. a. Bake Christmas cookies with my family,

b. Go to Christmas Eve candlelight services together,

c. Get our veritable mountain of laundry washed, dried, folded and put away for once,

d. Get everyone's Christmas presents wrapped, and

Buy more groceries and make sure we use up these ^^^ veggies & tilapia from the farm where we get our weekly CSA shares!

  1. What color are your pants?


They're a bit more red than in this picture, but cherry red not tomato red, on top, and black on the rest.

Favorite motivational quote:


I have this posted on my wall, here in my little office area of the living room. Whenever I'm feeling like poo, I look up at it and remind myself to BE the good, etc.

When was the last time you drank coffee?

  1.  Last night, Chloë and I made a run to Starbucks. She ordered a Java Chip Frappuccino, I ordered an Egg Nog Frapp "Light" with Coconut Milk (minimal dairy for me), and I brought home a Café Mocha for Rob. Technically, I don't think there was any coffee in mine, but I probably had some earlier in the day... maybe?

    What was the last thing you ate?
  2. I've been eating a lot of ice chips lately, so that was the last solid "food" I consumed. I'm not eating much else aside from the ice! It took me a few days to realize I probably have Pica from being extremely anemic. :\
  3. Favorite animal:

So, my favorite overall animal is of the sea: Shortfin Mako Shark.

  1. My favorite land animal is the African Elephant.

    1. And my favorite animal of flight is the soaring Bald Eagle.

      Favorite song:

  1. "Near You Always" by Jewel - though I adore that entire album!

    Last movie you watched?
  2. Well, I rented five movies (for FREE!) from the Redbox last night, but we only managed to get two watched (Paper Towns and Shaun The Sheep), but the one I'm really looking forward to watching today is the newer Vacation movie! Yes, I'm totally allowing my kids to watch it. C'mon, it'll be fun..! ;)

    Any turn-ons?

Nicole nailed it - in that order, too!

  1. Any turn-offs?
  2. Arrogance, lack of sense of humor, and stupidity are my major turn-offs.

    List 4 big words off of the top of your head.
  3. Okay... extraneous, superfluous, garrulous, expediency
  4. What are some meaningful movies?
  5. Jodie Foster in The Accused, and

Gabourey Sidibe in Precious really meant a lot to me.

  1. The two most important people in your life right now?
  1. 20151201_183107
  2. IMG_20151203_043657
  3. No. I cannot do just two. It's these four folks: Rob, Jack, Chloë, and Sophia. They are my life!

    What are 3 things you want for Christmas?
  4. I really, really want the Cards Against Humanity game!

  1. THIS new printer, which Rob already gave me, because I desperately needed it, and

  1. OF COURSE I want peace on Earth. Please, please, please, let there be peace.

    When was the last time you read a good book?
  2. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Book 1 The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto: A Novel Gulliver's Travels: A Signature Performance by David Hyde Pierce A Confederacy of Dunces Boo: A Novel
  3. These are the five books I just purchased from Audible. I hope I have time to listen to all of them in the next few months!

    What was the last thing you studied?
  4. I studied the ecological and functional morphology of the pharyngeal jaw apparatus of elasmobranch fishes, with this guy:

  1. Dr. Philip J. Motta, at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
    Do you have any nicknames?
  3. Aside from Smellyann? It's pretty much "Mom," or "Honey."

    Favorite kind of perfume?
  4. It changes. Right now, I'm really digging my JAFRA blends, which have some fruity elements, a little bit of floral, and a little bit of ... allure. I can mix and match which one(s) I use, depending on my mood. Love them!

    Do you have any international friends / friends who live out of state?

Yes, of course I have tons of friends (and family) from out-of-state, but I also have lots of international friends. Some of them, I have never even met. I'm hoping to meet Pammy, here, in the next few months. I have "known" her since 2004. She lives in Canada; I shall have to pack warm!

  1. 20. What is something unique that you do every single day?

I'm in a lot of pain these days, so I am trying to do gentle yoga as much as possible. Sometimes, it's a simple stretch or two. Other times, when I'm having a better day, I get more active. But I have a ways to go before I look this beautiful whilst doing it!

  1. If there was a movie based on your life, what would it be called?
  2. It would be called Does That Make Me Crazy?

  3. When was the last time you bought a gift for someone?
  5. I bought a drift fishing trip for Rob and Jack for Christmas, last. Shhh, don't tell Jack!

    Are you a shopaholic?
  6. In-store, not so much, but online... I have to be careful!

    What are some songs that always make you feel better?

The #1 song to get me in a good mood, up and dancing on my feet is "Kiss" by Prince. Guaranteed.


Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday Stealing: 25 Fun

Link up here if you're stealing today, thieves!
25 Fun Meme
Stolen from: My Random Randomness
1. If you were trapped in a room with the person who asked this for 24 hours, what would you do? 
 Since Kwizgiver and I both knit, I imagine we'd sit, knit, chat, knit some more, repeat. Or maybe read.
2. If you could learn any language instantly, what would it be?
Well, all of them! I would love to know every word of every language. Arabic, Japanese, and yes, French. But I'm selecting French for this question because though I can read a lot of it, I can't speak or understand spoken French. It just doesn't sound how I expect, from learning Spanish and bits of Italian. Not phonetic. (Yes, the Romance Languages are my favorite family.)

3. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
The dictionary!

4. Favorite song lyric?
Weird Al's song, "Melanie" is in my head now. Maybe because that's my name? So, "Me-eh-eh-elanie, why won't you go out with me?" But not really. I am just always hard-pressed to pick a favorite anything!

5. Favorite album?
Eric Clapton's Unplugged. Love it, love every song on it! (I don't know what happened with my formatting here. Ugh.)

6. Which time of day would you say is best for you work-wise?
About 8 PM. Total night owl, here!

7. Favorite city that you’ve visited?
I'm going to be an oddball and say Dubrovnik, Croatia. It was on our European cruise, and I was surprised to see Croatia on the itinerary. I had never heard of it. But it was beautiful, it was unexpected in so many ways, and I loved every second of every step within the old city. So thank you, Dubrovnik, for showing me many lovely surprises at every turn!

8. Favorite city that you haven’t visited?
How can I know the answer to this?

9. If you could donate $10,000 to charity, what charity would you pick?
I would give half to an environmentalist cause, like maybe Greenpeace, and half to, I think, Heifer International. I really like what they're doing.

10. What is one book you wish you could get all your friends to read?
Mine! ;) Come on, NaNoWriMo!
11. What is one movie you wish you could get all your friends to watch?
Well, Food Inc. for starters. We'll go from there.
12. What do you think people assume about you from first glance?
... the worst. I have a lot of paranoia about people talking and laughing about me. I don't like this question right now.
13. If you could play any musical instrument, what would it be?
Saxophone, definitely! And then, harp...

14. What is your favorite item of clothing?
 Welp, since I don't have an awesome dino hoodie, I'm going to have to go with the black cardigan I'm wearing right now. It doesn't button, just hangs open, and I keep it on the back of my desk chair when I'm not wearing it, day in and day out, until it can stand up on its own stank. Seriously, I gotta be the only person freezing like it's Antarctica out there, when we're still reaching temps over 80 degrees F at the end of October. #GastricBypassProblems
15. Who was your first follower on your blog? Do they still follow you?
Damn if I know.

16. If you could create one thing, what would it be?
If I could, I would create a United States that was all the best and none of the worst things that make up our 239-year history.

17. Favorite superhero?
Christopher Reeve. Oh, I mean, Superman. ;)

18. If you were to write an autobiography, what would you title it?
I don't know. Maybe: Shit Just Got Real, Y'all. 
19. If you were to have a band, what would you call it?
I think "Free Beer" sounds like a winner, personally! Except maybe let's make it "rum" or "vodka" instead of beer? I'm not much for suds.

20. What is your favorite card/board game?
Scrabble. I play Words With Friends on my phone, like, every day. I have about 27 games going right now. Might be obsessed?

21. What was the first IM service you used? Who was the first person you talked to on it?
mIRC, of course! When I was an undergrad at U-Miami, I started learning about online chat groups. I had a friend named Kevin from Kentucky or Kansas or something. He turned out to be a Nutter Butter.

22. If you could give a friendly hug to any one person, who would it be?
My Hubs' best friend, Larry, whom I've never met. We've become cronies over the Interwebs (aka Facebook Messenger), and it would be really cool to give him an actual hug.

23. Have you ever won any sort of contests? What kind?
Not a beauty contest, that's for sure. Since I'm taking my older daughter, Chloe, to her first major concert on Tuesday (Taylor Swift), I'm thinking back to when I won concert tickets to the Black-Eyed Peas. I also won tickets to take my husband to see Crosby, Stills and Nash, another year. Both were epic experiences.

24. Who was the last person you hugged? Cannot be your romantic/sexual partner if you have one.
Can it be my kids? Other than Hubs, it was probably my son Jack. He's the biggest hugger of my kids. First thing he does when he comes out of his room in the morning, and the last thing he does before he turns in for the night, is come give me a hug. 

25. If you could be skilled in any one activity, what would it be? Cannot be romantic or sexual.
First, it makes me giggle that sexual skills are disqualified. But, but...! ;) Second, I wish I was an amazing gymnast, especially on Floor. Bounding across a gymnasium, leaping, twisting, and turning? I mean, yeah, I'm knocking on 40's door, but that's always been a little secret fantasy of mine.
Welp, that's it for now. Thanks for stopping by!

It's The Thought That Counts.

At least, I hope so, because I have put a lot of thought, and not really much money*, into the kids' Christmas presents this year. '

*(And yes, I may be linking you to where you can find - and maybe even where I specifically bought - some of the presents, but I can guaran-damn-tee you I never pay full price for anything. Well, except a gallon of milk. I pay full price for the kids' milk.)


Where was I?

Oh, yes. Advent. I started talking about our Advent season for the current year in this post from a week ago, and I have continued random gift-giving in the interim. A little catch-up is therefore due now:


Jack started us off on Sunday, December 7th. I forget why, but I'm sure I have a very good reason for that. I have a system for everything I do, after all. Is that a woman thing, or just a woman-with-OCD thing?


LEGO City is its name, and LEGO City is his game. The boy is obsessed with it. If I haven't mentioned it on this-here blahg yet, he wants a LEGO City-themed bedroom, a LEGO City-themed 12th birthday, and pretty much a LEGO City-themed life.


Sophia opened her NERF Rebelle Agent Bow, so now she and Chloë both have one. Sophie's immediate move was to put a target up on the front door and start shooting. Typical. She also nearly fell asleep with one of the arrows suctioned to her forehead, which was, you know, amusing...


We gave Chloë the Taboo Board Game, but that was kind of a fail on my part: When she read that it's for ages 13+, the other two kiddos immediately opted out of even attempting to play. And the directions said for two teams of two or more, which left us no choice but not to play that night. She was bummed, and I felt like poopy-doo.

However! Facebook friends to the rescue, as several of them gave me alternative ways to play to save the game for Chlo. We just, ah, haven't done it yet.


I think I made up for it on the next gifting occasion, when I gave her this (created) blue and white sapphire sterling silver necklace. It was, according to the Sears site, worth $200. I paid $12.50 for it. SCORE!

(Oh and yes, she loved it. I think it needs a shorter chain for her dainty frame, but she likes it the way it is, so there we are.)


I think I got this Littlest Pet Shop Walkables Exclusive Playset Black White Collection on Amazon, but I certainly didn't pay anywhere near as much as it shows now. Whew! Thank God for blogs like Hip2Save, because I'd be up a creek without them.


know I got this game, King of Tokyo, on Amazon, but again, not for the price showing now.

{Yes, maybe it's crude to keep discussing prices, but I am known for being very thrifty, and I don't want anyone thinking I just go flat-out nuts for Christmas. Hip2Save is a lifesaver, folks. READ IT. Daily.}

And no, we haven't played that yet, either. I'm expecting to on the 'morrow.

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Speaking of Facebook, this is my current cover photo. You may have seen it. These awesome Minecraft shirts were purchased at ThinkGeek. The kids loved them!


To further develop Jack's LEGO-themed room, I snagged this storage bin with building top (gotta love Shoprunner for free 2-day shipping, too!), and he insisted on putting it together himself right away:


Pretty cool, huh?


Chloë, who had previously seen both Sophia and Jack get headphones, was rather chagrined that she didn't have a pair of her own. What she didn't know was that I had purchased these headphones for her long ago, and that they had been sitting in my gift closet since at least October. When I found out she, too, wanted a pair, I made sure that was the next gift she opened. She was ecstatic!


Sophia received more Littlest Pet Shop sets, which I'd gotten on sale and with Buy One, Get One coupons at Target during the summertime. She's currently on an LPS streak right now, so this kid was a happy one.


Not to leave out Hubs, I gave him a staple gun. Yes, a staple gun. Don't hate. We He needed one. I mean, for all the projects he's tackling and, oh... fahgeddit.

Don't you like his head adornment, though?


Sophie told me she was not "over" her Monster High obsession of last year, but Chloë was, so I jumped on a few hot Monster High deals during all the crazy Cyber Monday sales. One day in the new year, we'll have to line up the current collection all over again.

The Monster High Freaky Fusion Cleolei Doll turned out to be pretty cool, anyway.


Another ThinkGeek buy for Jack - and if you've never read the product descriptions before, do it. You're in for a good chuckle.


I got this for less than two bucks at Amazon. I think I have mentioned that Chloë is an enormous fan of Taylor Swift's, so I snagged it for her. I warned her that "unauthorized biography" often meant "not always kind," but she was excited just the same.

Taylor Swift: Just for You on Amazon


That same night, Hubs gave me these totally rockin' Shark Slippers from ThinkGeek. I love the descriptions on the site. Have I mentioned that yet? Too funny!


This morning, I told the kids to clean up the living room, and they had it done in fewer than five minutes. Why? Because I wanted to give them another present. On further examination, both here in person and in this picture, I see that the five-minute clean-up treatment totally shows. But I don't care right now.

There were LEGO Friends for the girls: the Dolphin Cruiser for Chloë, and the Sunshine Ranch for Sophia. As I type, they are still building their sets (and watching the Taylor Swift DVD), while Jack giggles. He finished his LEGO City Arctic Outpost a long, long time ago. It's kind of his thing, after all!

Welp, I suppose that's it for now. Maybe in another week, I'll be bring you more faux conspicuous consumption, but in the meantime, stay tuned for more homeschool-related posts!


It Started With A Sweater.



Yesterday was Friday, November 7th, 2014. We've had a busy week of homeschooling! I'm going to start backward from Friday because, as any busy mother will understand, what's easiest on my tired brain is what wins right now. I started the day with this unfinished hoodie sweater for Stephanie's son Vinnie who, as you may remember, is allergic to, like, practically everything on the planet. Including the planet. So when I can, I knit for him.


After Victoria was dropped off by her mom, Veronica, we did the kids' weekly spelling test before running off to Publix for supplies for lunch. When we returned home, I packed lunches while the kiddos watched their daily Math-U-See lesson. I printed off their practice work to do in the car - hey, carschooling is a thing! - and then off we went for an hour-long drive to downtown Miami.

We were in search of the site of ancient Tequesta ruins, found over the past year among the high-rise office buildings, hotels, and condominiums that make up much of the city. I read article after article about the findings, but I could not for the life of me find the exact location of the excavation, which is still underway. So I warned the kids that while I hoped we would find it, we might not see a darn thing.

I drove to the hotel mentioned in one article, the J.W. Marriott Marquis, and lo and behold, there was this site cordoned off by fences and barricades. I was terribly excited, knowing in my heart of hearts that that was the place. And so, for eight bucks an hour, I parked in the closest garage I could find... and mentally crossed my fingers.

The kids were kind of under a microscope in the city, this being in the middle of a busy workday in a huge office building as we rode down the elevator. One lady stepped on and couldn't keep herself from saying aloud, "Well! This is interesting!" to my amusement. I cautioned them to behave, hold hands when crossing streets, and above all, be completely respectful of the site if we had, indeed, found the ancient Tequesta burial grounds.


This woman, a Mrs. Carr whose first name I didn't catch, was looking at the five of us curiously when we approached the site where workers were... digging and hauling artifacts. She walked to her car nearby and then, I took my chance. "Excuse me, ma'am?" I called out to her. She hesitated, looked around, and then came over. "Is this the site of the Tequesta burial grounds?" To my utter delight, she confirmed that it was! We found it on the first go!

Not only that, but she turned out to be the wife of the internationally famous archaeologist, Robert Carr, who also came over and introduced himself to us! Of course, I had to explain who the heck we were and what we were doing there. Dr. Carr surprised me by first telling me about his book, Digging Miami, which can be found here on Amazon.com, and then telling the Mrs. to bring over some artifacts to show the children! 

Yeah, folks. We struck homeschool field trip GOLD. Fo'reals.


Mrs. Carr told the kids about the Tequesta way of life. She explained, as we had previously read over the past week, that these native people were not farmers but rather hunters and gatherers, relying on fish and other seafood that pretty much came right to them, allowing for much leisure time - a rarity amongst the whole of American Indians. Here, she was showing them a piece of pottery, made mostly of sand. No clay is found in the Miami area, y'all.


The hundreds-of-years-old bone of a turtle was shown, explaining yet another part of the Tequesta diet.


Dr. Carr's wife also brought over a fossil conch shell to show the kids that not only did the Tequesta feast on the plentiful mollusk, but they used the shell for digging and scooping as well.


After the kids learned quite a bit of cool information about the Tequesta from Dr. and Mrs. Carr, and handled some ancient artifacts, we were left alone to peaceably observe the excavation. We bowed our heads and took a moment of silence, out of respect for the people who exist no more. Solemnly, yet excitedly, we headed back to the car to discuss what we had just experienced. The kids were curious and respectful, and I was just utterly full of awe and gratitude.


By that point, everyone was starving, so I found nearby Gibson Park for lunch. We feasted on turkey and Meunster sammiches, a variety of fruit, juice boxes, and Pepperidge Farm cookies. Hey, guess what was on sale at Publix today? However, I quickly discovered that we were in an area of Miami called Overtown, and... well, it is well-known as not the safest place to be if you're of the paler skin persuasion. We were surrounded by children who kept their distance but stared at us the whole time.

I don't have a racist bone in my body, so I didn't feel scared, but I will admit to feeling uncomfortable there. Out of place, if you will, and kind of unwanted. Speaking of under a microscope...! Fortunately - or not? - three of us seriously needed to use the bathroom, and we could not find a restroom in the park. So we left, with my promises that we would go home and find a park closer to Homestead.

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After stopping at the Overtown Winn-Dixie to use the facilities, the five of us headed home. The math papers were not finished; the kids chose to snooze or chatter about Tequesta people on the hour-plus drive home in the Miami rush hour traffic. We picked up Rob and Paco at home before heading to a nearby park where Chloe is supposed to be having her Cheerleading practice.

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There was a gated-in area where the kids could play, so I took the kids in there while Rob and Paco sat on a bench outside. Paco hadn't seen Mama all day, though, so all he wanted to do was be near me.


Poor, but adorable, Paco... but oh, the cute!


The girls really enjoyed this half-swing, half-jump feature of the playground. Every time I turned around, one, two, or three of them were on there again. Jack got a chance or two at it, but not many!

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He found this curious structure in one corner of the park, with a hole in it. Expecting there to be something on the other side of the park where his voice would come out to a passerby, he hollered, "HELLO!!!!!" into the hole.


A second later, his own voice returned the hello.

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I managed to capture this, "What the heck?!" look on his face when he heard the echo. It was pretty fun. He yelled a whole bunch more into it and twisted his voice each time, to make different sounds. Yup, I see more visits to this park in the near future!

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Soon, it grew dark, and I missed my hubs and my dog. So I announced a 10-minute, and then a 5-minute, warning before we headed home. I had asked Veronica if Victoria could stay for dinner, and she agreed. 

Back at home, I had the kids blog about the Tequesta field trip on their own personal blogs (they're password-protected, so if you want to read their posts, you'll have to ask me for the deets) while I made a dinner of baby artichokes and turkey sliders. No cheese for Jack, please!


For the second time in a week, I gave the four kidoodles a cup of vanilla and chocolate pudding for dessert. They all ate a great deal for dinner and dessert; between the field trip and the park day, I must have worn them out and hungered them up but good!

After dinner, they finished their blog posts and then wanted to work on our Astronomy lessons, but I was waaaaay too tired to keep doing school. The six of us played the family edition of Trivial Pursuit instead. It was fun and full of laughter, and we all had a great time. Sophia won for the first time, and man, did she let us know it!

I took Victoria home after that and crashed soon afterward... but only for a little while, as you can see it's not even 0400 and I'm sitting here posting on this little bitty blahg.


Oh... and now, the sweater has its hood. Next up: SLEEVES!

Thanks for stopping by!



Our #DisneySide Celebration + Jack's 11th Birthday Party


On Sunday, we finally had our DisneySide Celebration @ Home. The party was sponsored by Disney Parks and MommyParties, and I was given LOTS of great products to use to help us celebrate Jack turning 11.  From the American Tourister spinner luggage I carried all the party supplies around in, to the Mickey-themed cutters I shaped the meats and cheeses above with, and lots more, we had a great, great party package and a really fun time. Here's more:


Our nephew, Harry, arrived with his dad and sister from Missouri on Saturday, just in time to celebrate with us. (All pictures shown here were taken by Harry's dad, Rob's brother Mike.)


We had Mickey Mouse Clubhouse-themed plates, napkins, cups and stuff, given to me as part of the package, and I snagged a few more matching items from Amazon.com - like the Guest of Honor ribbon Jack's sporting on his Mickey shirt (which I got on clearance from Disney's shopping website).


Sophia and Elizabeth checked out the Grand Room at our neighborhood's clubhouse, decorated by Yours Truly for the party. I didn't realize until nearly the last minute that the furniture wasn't included in the room rental, but I had a (very ugly) card table and chairs that stepped in to help. I was given another, much nicer table from someone on Freecycle, and I managed to talk the clubhouse manager into letting me borrow one set of table and chairs, too. It sufficed.


We were given Crayola fabric markers and Hanes t-shirts for the party guests to decorate, so that was the first thing we did. Here are Chloë and Elizabeth (Harry's big sister) doing theirs. It wasn't a huge hit of an activity, like I kinda expected it to be, but they seemed to have a little fun with it. My girls, always the artists, enjoyed it the most.


I got the labels for the water bottles, Hershey bars, and the door sign and banner, from a lovely lady on Listia who designed them to match the party's theme for me. She sent me the invitations and thank-you notes, too. I just had to print everything myself without doing any of the 'real' work, which was nice for once!


Jack, who seriously needs a haircut, was eager for the party to start. Did he care about the t-shirts, the games, the prizes, or the food? NO! He just wanted to get into his presents. Oy vey. Even at eleven, he's still like a little kid.


I kept the cupcakes super simple, even though I love to bake and make cakes, because my anxiety level was high. Disney and MommyParties gave me the cupcake wrappers, and I grabbed the stand and Mickey picks off of Amazon. We always leave one blue for Robby, Jack's twin...


The balloons, also provided by Disney and brought to Party City for heliumating, were a huge hit. You just never know what's going to be the big thing. Next time, I'm just getting a bunch of balloons and letting the kids go berserk, I swear!


Harry and Elizabeth were smart to decorate their balloons, so they would know which one belonged to them. Is this child not totes adorbs?!


Jake, my friend Marc and Jenna's four-year-old son, was also on hand to help us party. 


Addison, Jake's twin sister, was there as well. She's my cutie little cuddly-pie! Love her!


I adore this shot Mike took of Harry jumping after his balloon!! 


Jack scored BIG-time when it came to presents. He received LEGO after LEGO set, a couple of nanoblock sets, and one more big pressie from Mom & Dad.


Addi sat on my lap and kept me company during the gift unwrapping. She's such a love.


The big gift, you ask? Jack's RC Plane, for which he's been asking since he was at least eight, maybe younger. Was he happy with it?


What do you think?!


Sophia and Elizabeth have become fast friends in the short time they've been together this visit.


After Jack opened all of his gifts, I brought out the Mickey piñata. Everyone laughed when they realized it wasn't the whack-with-a-stick kind but rather a pull-string one. What, do harm to Mickey?! As IF!


All the kids gathered 'round to pull Mickey's strings. Jake and Addi had to take a second turn...but still no candy came. What the?!


Finally, the kids beat the crap out of Mickey (hey, it was a good idea in theory), and the candy fell. Elizabeth was right there to swoop it all up, too. Haha!


Jack, feeling aggressive from all his latent gift-wanting energy, decided to do more damage to Mickey while the candy waited.


After the piñata excitement, it was time for the kids to pose on the Mickey background for photo ops. Mike did a fabulous job, I have to say, with capturing the spirit of each child.


Harry and that balloon, man... like BFFs!


Chloë, for once, was the least poseable child for Photo Ops. Usually she is the first one to strike a pose!


Sophia, of course, doing her Sophie best.


A little of that goes a long way, so we paused to sing Happy Birthday to Jack, who impatiently did not wait to make a wish and finish the song before he blew out the candles!


Jake was all about getting that blue cupcake! You'll be able to tell later - he did! Hee.


Elizabeth, back at the wall for her shot with Mickey Mouse, is the spitting image of her mother.


Jack and Harry stepped back up to join Eliz, and the three of these cousins had themselves a few giggles together. Fun times!


Exit Elizabeth, enter Chloë. You can see these kids are related, can'tcha?


The series with Jake and Addison was super funny. I wish I could show you all the pictures, but loading time would be immense!


Our friends Erica and Kevin came with their daughter Kira, who is just about Jack's age - maybe a hair older. Yeah, she turned 11 in November.


And... apparently, Kira and Jack our our latest couple. Jackira?


I don't know what Marc and I were talking about so seriously with Jake, but I was glad to spend time with each of them!


Erica, Chloë and Sophia, along with Elizabeth who stepped out of the picture, had some fun playing games with the prizes I gave out.


At the end of the day, it was a pretty great party, and I think everyone had a fun time. Right, Harry?

Thanks, Disney and MommyParties!!



Friday Fragments, Version 11.15.13


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

If you've been following along here for some time, you know that my husband, Rob, retired in June of this year and subsequently had 5 Cyberknife surgeries on his brain tumor. The Cyberknife worked; the tumor is gone, but it also caused more problems: there is bleeding and swelling in Rob's brain, and he's been in and out of the Neuro-ICU for months to get treatment.

Well, an update:

I took him for yet another MRI on Monday, and brought him to the neurosurgeon's office on Tuesday to go over the test. He confirmed the tumor IS gone, and depending on contrast, it looks like the swelling is going down.

That's all well and good, but Rob has to stay on the problematic steroid meds that have caused a 30-lb weight gain, major joint pain (he's walking with a cane now, at 41), mental confusion, and a host of other issues he'd probably rather I didn't report here. After the next planned MRI in January, we're hoping he can step down off the Decadron, because ugh! It's terrible for him. 

Thank you all for your continued thoughts and prayers during this time.


No more Odyssey for us. We got our Honda Ody in 2010, at the end of the model year. Three years and change later, we were here, at home, when Jack said there was someone outside. It was late at night. I opened the door, and there was Penelope being towed away, at racehorse speed, unceremoniously. 

We have LoJack, so we knew exactly where it was, and why:

1.  Our registration was expired, because we missed a few payments and Honda wouldn't, therefore, give us the title information so we could go get new, current, Florida tags. So our homeowner's association had us towed, right from our reserved parking space. At 11 PM. NICE.

2. In order to get it back, we needed to show current title and tag information. Honda now said no, we would need to pay the full $18K owed on the vehicle in order to get that from them. REALLY NICE. Guess fewer people care about retired veterans (with brain tumors, no less) than you might think?!

3. Not having 18K, we took some of the money we received as a donation from a veteran's fund to buy this (pictured above) 2004 Chevy Trailblazer in cash, paid in full, and immediately got new tags and stickers so we would not get towed again. This was about 5 or 6 weeks after Penelope got towed. Rob was trying to buy us a car, but his brain was too muddled to complete the process, so I took over and got it done in one day. I got fed up with all the walking everywhere, needless to say!

4. Today, a week after getting "Miguel" (because this Chevy felt masculine to me, and because the seller spoke only Spanish, LOL), we finally went down to the [email protected]$$ tow lot to get all of our belongings - including the kids' booster seats - out of Penelope. On our way home, I called up Honda and told them where they could pick up their freakin' van. The guy on the phone was actually very sympathetic; he actually apologized and sounded genuinely sorry when I explained our situation, but of course there was nothing he could do about it.

So. That's that. Miguel is pretty decent, has a few minor problems and fixes are necessary, but we'll get to those in time. My only real complaint is that there is no 3rd row of seating, so the kids are all right next to each other in the back, and Oh. My. God, are they driving us crazy with the squabbling!! They aren't used to that, but guess what? They'll have to get used to it, because this is what we've got right now!


I love globes. I love maps; I love anything that represents traveling the world (or even space)! So when we spied this antique wooden one at the thrift store across the street from the tow place, I had to mosy on over there and take a wee gander. Rob was guessing $150, while I thought more like a hundred bucks, but the guy only wanted $75. Nevertheless, it was about $74 more than I was prepared to spend at the moment, so I had to take a pass. I walked quickly through the terribly-cool shop to see what other wares he had, and I found quite a few interesting things. I bought nothing, but it sure was fun to take a peek!


Since we've been house-bound for a month and a half, or however long we didn't have a vehicle, I've been suffering a bad case of cabin fever. So I got on the computer yesterday morning and, after deciding driving down to Key West and back was not what I wanted, looked around Groupon to see if there were any good deals on something fun (and cheap!) we could do closer to home. (It's about a 7-hour round-trip to Key West from here.) I found it! We headed up to Sawgrass Mills Mall, in Fort Lauderdale, Groupon for the arcade in hand, to have some much-needed respite from all the drama and negativity we've been dealing with for a while. The kids LOVE the fountains there; they are always walking up and around them and making wishes... I hope they come true.


The Groupon was for two hours of unlimited play on the attractions, including tons and tons of awesome games and ticket-giving machines for redeeming prizes. Gameroom is a really fun place for kids, if you're ever in Ft. Laudie... Sophia played this claw game and won a huge ball that she's been driving me crazy ever since, bouncing and tossing around in the house. It's just a matter of time until something gets broken...!

So, we were hoping Rob would get at least a 30% disability determination from the VA. They recently made their decision: 90%! We are no longer destitute, struggling to put food on the table, and all that fun stuff. We can finally pay our bills again, have a running, paid-off vehicle, plenty of food, and can occasionally actually go do something. It's a really good feeling. Honey, I'm sorry that the Navy broke you, but thank you for your service to our country - and our family. ♥

Lowe's Build & Grow

The kids had a Build & Grow Clinic at Lowe's on Saturday morning. Rob usually takes them, but he wasn't up to it, so for the first time I went. Oh, my word. First, there are 3 dozen kids, pounding away, so I was glad not to have one of my ever-present headaches.

Second, I'm not so good with building stuff. It's just not my forte. So when the kids asked me for help, I was all, "uhh, uhh, okayyy, I'll try..." and they looked at me just as uncertainly as I was looking at the directions. 

In the end, my kiddos stayed true to form, and this is how it went:

Jack decided to skip Mommy's help and went off in a corner to build it himself. He did a good job, since he's very perfecting and meticulous about these things, but his pull-back car wouldn't go. He was pretty mad about it and didn't want to take the dang thing home. I insisted.

Chloë, my dainty little flower, needed TONS of help hammering in her nails, and she followed the directions to a 'T.' Her car didn't go when pulled back, either, but she didn't care because she decorated it with pretty little pink flower stickers, and that was good enough for her.

Sophia didn't follow the directions at ALL, needed a bare minimum of help from me - just to finish hammering in a few nails - and her car worked perfectly. That's my Sophie for you! 

That's about it from me this week. We're headed to the Fish Fry and Seafood Festivale here in Homestead tomorrow (another cheap Groupon!), so look for pictures of that on "Sundays in my City" in a coupla days.






Susie Homemaker Visits The Garden


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

(Yeah, I probably will.)


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


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


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


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



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



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


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


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


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

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


Friday Fragments: Episode 6.7.13

Half-Past Kissin' Time
Here I am again, two weeks in a row. Go me! Link up here to join Mrs. 4444 in blowing out all the fragments of your brain today.
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So I've been trying for months to achieve the ombre nail polish look seen here:
which, admittedly, isn't the best example, but you get the idea. Instead, though, I end
up with this (these are mine, right now):

which looks like total crap. You can't really see it from the picture, so perhaps I should've retaken it without the flash, but what you can see is the total crappiness of my ombre paint job. What the heck? Why can't I do this? If you've ever succeeded at this look, which I adore, please fill me in your special little secret. Unless it involves eleventy-nine weird little tools that I probably don't have. Not doin' that.
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I was so, so terribly excited for Rob (Hubs) to go to my alma mater, the University of Miami, but we found out yesterday that he didn't get in. I am super bummed, probably as much as he is. I can't figure out why not, either. I assumed he was a shoo-in for his 20 years of military service, and I never even considered the possibility he wouldn't get admitted. Major suckage.
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I've been listening to the Elvis Duran radio show in the mornings lately, and the show is absolutely hysterical. Have you ever heard it? Today, they were discussing what everybody's victims would have in common if they were serial killers, and I immediately thought of mine: the people who take an hour to make a right turn in front of me while I'm driving. If I were a murderer, I would follow those people and kill them as slowly as that damned right turn. Ha! What a morbid conversation. I asked Rob, and his answer was a simple "frat boys." Too funny. I get that, too.
So what would yours be? C'mon, play along - it's just a joke after all.
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I am still trying like hell to quit my awful Diet Coke addiction, but it's so hard. I'm trying again now, for about the tenth time in the two+ months since we've lived here in Miami, but with a renewed earnestness. What keeps happening is, I'll buy some, drink it all up instead of parceling it out slowly, and then run out and be miserable. I'm talking severe, prolonged headaches, total crankiness, and sleeping endlessly. I hate it. I've been stocking up on K-cups and Crystal Light to help me alternate with the "last" batch of Coca Dieta that I have now. I have got to kick this!
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I feel kind of bereft since quitting my mystery shopping gig. I miss it; I really do. I don't quite know what to do with myself. It opened a lot of doors, brought a lot of opportunities, and most importantly, got us up and out of the house!  Without that, we've been housebound pretty much all the time, except when I'm out restocking our larder. So I've been collecting ideas for things to do this summer on the cheap - that's how we roll now that Rob's retired - and plan to make the most of it.

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So I guess that's about all that's on my mind today. Shortest one ever from me!

Have a good weekend, y'all.

Friday Fragments: 5.31.13 Edition

Half-Past Kissin' Time
I'm linkin' up with Mrs. 4444 for the first time since before we moved to Miami! Friday didn't sneak up on me for once, so here I am. Link up here if you're fragmenting today. Let's go!
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As if we didn't have enough critters, Sophie brought home a cupful of tadpoles from the park after our picnic Saturday. We don't exactly stock adolescent frog food on a regular basis, so... Rob fed them some canteloupe. Guess what? They ate it. They're still eating it. I haven't run out for tadpole feed since they joined the homestead, so they're stuck with melons. It works.
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This is Chloë's "kitten," Pepper. Those of you with stellar memories may remember that last Fall, after we rescued him, he nearly died and needed several blood transfusions. We didn't know if he'd make it, yet here he is, alive and, as she calls him, "fluffy"! Pepper is one big cat. He's beautiful, though, and is probably my favorite feline of the bunch. I love him, the sweety. ♥ So glad he's here.
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I was at Michael's on Monday, looking around like crazy for buttons, when I came upon this "Craft Supplies" department. Um, hello? It's Michael's, for Pete's sake. Doesn't that describe the whole store??!
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After I made the Presto Chango sweater for Stephanie's son Vinnie, who is allergic to darn near everything under the sun, I needed some instant gratification. I had this ribbon yarn left over from a wreath I made, so I cast on 20 stitches and just knit every row. No pattern needed, and it turned out pretty cool. Sophia watched me make it with keen interest, so after I bound it off the needles, I handed it over to her to keep. She was shocked and delighted! I made her so happy, which thrilled me endlessly. It's the little things. ♥
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So I think I'm going to change the name of my blahg from "Smellyann Strikes Again" to... I'm not sure. Just "Smellyann"? "Smellyann's World?" No, that's lame. I need thoughts and suggestions. Only my nickname appears in the URL, so no harm, no foul
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After I read this post from Jordan Ferney of Oh Happy Day, I knew we needed to make these Shrinky Dink crafts for Rob and the kids' two grandfathers for the upcoming Father's Day. I hustled over to Michaels for tie tack backings and inkjet Shrinky Dink paper, but I only found the latter. No shocker there. So I subbed earring posts and backs for the tie tacks, and I think that'll work. Sometimes good enough is good enough, right?


Are these not adorable?! Yes, we gave the presents to Rob some three weeks early (we'll still do more for him on his actual day, don't worry), because we needed his help finishing the presents. Yeah, that sucks, I know. But though the tie tacks worked, the keychains didn't. We put holes in the paper pre-shrinking, and they closed up in the oven! D'oh! I gave Rob the task of figuring out the hole-making for those. Hee. Still, all five of us loved this project and are going to do it again in the future. Thanks, Jordan!
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Since the Sophie scarf, I've had bad knitting juju. First there was this gorgeous yarn. I haven't looked at it in natural light in a while, but I'm pretty sure it's tomato red or even orange, not the cherry red it looks like here in artificial lighting. Anyway, whatever. It's fingering weight yarn, which is pretty fine, and it kept tangling up on me. I have a lot of yardage, meaning I can make a good-sized project for Vinnie, but I could not find a good pattern to go with it to save my life. Finally, after a prolonged search, I found one. Whew.

This was the project. It was as complicated as it looks there with all ten stitch markers. I didn't get much farther than that before I ripped it all out. I couldn't make heads nor tails of the pattern after that and was completely irritated afterward. Bah!

Then I pulled out this Madeline Tosh yarn, which is absolutely gorgeous and, let's face it, pretty spendy premium yarn. For what I paid, you'd think it would wind beautifully from the hank into a knittable cake. Not so. It knotted up, wound back on itself, and was a complete mess. I bandied about lots of bad words and had a black cloud hanging over my head. In the end, Rob wound it into a ball for me, but I still couldn't find a decent project for it. Double BAH!

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I did finally pull out another hank of yet another beautiful yarn for a new Vinnie project, and it's going well so far. Still, it's on circular needles, and I hate circular needles, so the going is slow. I'm determined to make this one stick, though!
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Oh, hi again, Pepper! Sorry to bother you while you're doing your business. That wasn't the plan.... we have a bunch of cats, so the litterbox is an ongoing issue, with the cleaning and the changing and the sweeping of tracked litter all over the floor. So I was excited to get a deal from PetSmart.com on these Tidy Cats Breeze litter systems, which uses pellets instead of litter - no tracking! And there are pee sheets to change in a drawer under the main poopy compartment so... am I really telling you this? Let's just say, these three thingamabobs should simplify our lives greatly, and I'm a wee bit excited about that.
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So, I've mentioned before that I play a lot of Words With Friends. I have a new 'friend' onboard with me, and, well, it's obvious that she cheats at the game. It pisses me off! I still think I'll win, but that's not cool. What do you do? Continue the game even though you know your opponent is a cheater? Or call it a day on them and end the game?
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Jack, Sophia and Chloë love their new Kindles. We got them the 7" HD Fire versions, ostensibly for school, but they play games on them all the time, too. They adore them so much, it's become difficult to get them to put them down. So we've had to institute a new rule: chores first, then Kindles. No chores, no Kindles. It works. I do find it amusing to see the five of us sitting around together on our various technological devices. Of course, we get plenty of book time, face time, and outside time, too, but I think this is great!
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And finally, speaking of Stephanie, I've had this vintage lace and rickrack for about 13 or 14 years. I got it from my boss's mom, who was being put into a nursing home, and I've never used it. Stephanie sews, and while I've tried, I'm no good at it. So I'm rehoming the goodness with her. I can't wait to see what you make with it, Steph!
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Have a good weekend, y'all. Thanks for stopping by!

Building A Legacy


Tuesday was another whirlwind day of mystery shopping, of which I seem to be making quite a career for myself here in Miami.  The first assignment - of nine or ten, which maybe be a days record for me - was at an organic burger restaurant. Rob delighted in grass-fed beef, while I noshed on a delishamus veggie patty. The kids shared with us. The place was spendy, but if you're in the market for the sorta thing, this was your place. 


After a few more shops, we headed over for yet another one on the University of Miami campus. It's obviously a favorite destination of mine; I have always felt at home there. Once the kids jumped out of the van, they found these adolescent ducklings that weren't the least bit squeamish about close contact with miniature mankind.


Jack walked along behind the ducks for a little while, with Mama Duck peering over her birdly shoulder every so often to make sure he wasn't getting too close. I'll tell you a secret, though. I touched three of them when she wasn't looking, just to see if I could. I could.


I wanted to see if my old Marine Sciences advisor was still in residence, so we headed over to Cox Science Center to find him. We stopped by my 2nd favorite fountain on the fount-heavy campus for a dip (Sophie) and a sprinkle (Jack) before heading thataway.


When we arrived at Cox, there was no "there" there. My old Marine Sciences office was a goner. I was a little verklempt, until we looked about nine feet to the right, and, lo and behold, there was my old lab. It still looked pretty much exactly the same: full of aquaria, mounted fishes, and, well, labby things. Home sweet home. Dr. D. wasn't in that day, but we'll be back. Oh, we'll be back.


Checkiddout! Britto made one just for UM. Ohai, that's awesome. We found this at the Bowman Foster Ashe building, AKA administration. Why were we there, you may be wondering? Maaaaaybe it was because Rob wanted to visit the VA office and inquire about matriculating as a Navy vet. And maybe the meeting went superbly well. And maybe he's not even required to take the SAT, and maybe the Yellow Ribbon program there makes up for 100% of what the GI bill does not cover, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be going there come Autumn.

I could be just a leetle bit excited. I think he is, too, which I find utterly delightful. We'll be his'n'hers alums!

Okay, let's not get carried away. Back to the post at hand.


A few more shops later, we found ourselves at a wicked cool bowling alley with wicked bad service. The atmosphere was super fun, but no. Don't go there.

And yes, I know, about Chloë's outfit. She's eleven, and she dresses herself, and I think she looks just fine, thanks.


So I had to drink for this shop, and wow, they made some seriously strong-ass drinks for me. I was unfit to drive, to say the very least (so I didn't); I was pretty much unfit to walk straight, either. I don't enjoy that so much.


After the bowling, there was miniature golf. That wasn't part of the shop, but it was there.


Sophia, 8


Jack, 10 (!!!!)


Chloë, 11½


Chloë was being a boogerbutt by that point, so she didn't get in on the sibling lovefest (that doesn't sound good, does it?) that happened on the way back to the parking lot after bowling. This was spontaneous, natural, totally unforced. Love it.


I had to snap a shot of this car we spotted in the lot. Because overkill.

{~*~ I have nothing exciting to report from today (Wednesday), because it was a lazy, homeschooling, pink-eye day. I made a bunch of doctors' appointments and took a nap. Exciting, right? But more on-the-go tomorrow and Friday ~*~}


The Mystery Is History

You know what? I have been mystery shopping like crazy lately and have learned one thing I never really picked up before about living in Miami and surrounding cities: There is a ridiculous number of malls here. I've been to more shopping centers than I can count lately, and they're starting to blend together. But it's fun, I'm learning my way around with Siri's help, and hopefully I'll be helping pay the bills when my fees start rolling in...


Another thing I've learned is this: I can usually fill Oscar the Pouch and the belly of at least one of the smaller children (not Rob's or Sophie's - the two of them are never full) by walking around the mall's Food Court during peak hours, sampling everything that's handed out, and save some money on buying actual meals. They don't seem to care whether you plan on buying there or not, or even if you listen to their sometimes long-winded spiel about everything that's on offer, but I usually try and stay. Unless I can't understand them. Then I just say "thank you" and bounce. 

So when we found ourselves at Aventura Mall on Wednesday evening, with not a clue on the planet where the expensive kitchen boutique was that I was supposed to evaluate and four hungry bellies (and a pouch), we headed for the Food Court to do my trick. Only, we were there at a bad time, apparently, because no one was out with their red tray (it's always red, I wonder why?), giving out samples in dixie cups. That's another thing I learned: no one here uses toothpicks for the samples. I wonder about that, too; did a guy stab someone at the crowded table next to him for some teriyaki chicken?


We bought some delicioso Thai mango chicken and something-BBQ chicken (I seem to be having as much trouble returning to full-on vegetarianism as I am giving up my Diet Coke habit), lo mein, flied lice, and fried platanos (yum!) for dinner. Chloë surprised me by completely chowing down, even more than Sophie did, I think. Once in a while, Chlo can really pack it away.

So I couldn't find the boutique, left the mall to go across the street, walked around for about ten minutes, went back to the mall, and finally went into Nordstrom (or "Nerd Storm," as Sophia has hilariously dubbed it) to ask for help. I thought it would be in there, knowing how much the coffee machines I was to evaluate cost, but I was wrong. Argh. More walking, and I have a huge blister from Orlando on my left pinky toe.

Rob and the kids were still out in the car by this point, having gone all over Aventura to track this damn shop down, which really cut into my mileage and per-hour fees, y'know? It's a good thing I ended up getting a perfectly brewed cup of coffee and a pretty big fee out of that shop, or I'd have been more upset. I still haven't shut up about that coffee. If I didn't have the Keurig, I might be tempted to buy one of these guys, outrageous price tag notwithstanding.


After the coffee boutique, we headed NW to Sawgrass Mills, a freakin' enormous mall with everything from Old Navy and The Gap to Jimmy Choo and other lux brands. Sawgrass Mills is to the left of Fort Lauderdale, if you're following along on a map. I had to go there to do three valet parking and one retail shop. One of the valet stands no longer exists, though, so it's anyone's guess whether I'll get my fee for a 'closed' shop (sometimes you get paid even if the place isn't there anymore) or not. After we parked at the first place, we had to wander around the mall a little bit to kill time. There were these cool spiral-shaped fountains there, and this one was empty, so we let the kidoodles walk around on top of it. I love the stance and look on Jack's face, like he's in Jurassic Park or something.


We happened across an arcade, Gameroom (which Sophia amusingly decided should be called "Gam-er-OOM" instead of the real pronunciation), so after checking that prices weren't outrageous, I decided to load a game card with a little cash and turn the kids loose. We were the only people there, so they had the run of the place. It's like a giant, grown-up Chuck E. Cheese's in there or something. I've not been to a Dave & Buster's yet, so I can't compare.


We went around, sliding the card for one kid after the other, for about a half-hour. Each kid won a ton of tickets at their games. Here, Sophia was on a machine where she had to jump when the light was on "STOP" to win lots of tickets. Not shockingly, she was great at it. This kid is good at pretty much everything she attempts. Except cleaning her room, but I'm starting to think that's a conscious effort on her part...


I told Chloë, "I don't know why you guys love playing the Claw Game so much. It's almost impossible to win anything!" but they don't care. They'll care when it's their money, I'm betting.


Jack loves to prove me wrong. He won this humongo ball from - you guessed it - a Claw Game. A gigantic Claw Game, one of four adjacent to each other. He was, to put it mildly, thrilled. So was I - we can use it for P.E. class! Never mind that the thing is as big as he is.


Speaking of huge games, Chloë found this big Connect 4 and had to play that. She won, too, but it's a pretty easy thing to do when you have no competitor...


When Rob helped the kids feed their earned tickets into the redemption machine, they'd gotten 209, I think, for their little bit of money. I showed them all the things that could be gotten for 200 tickets, and they weren't impressed, so I showed them some things they could save up for, and which would they rather do? Miracle of miracles, they decided to bank their tickets for another time. You could've knocked me over with a feather; they've never gone that route when I've tried to convince them in the past!

::SNIFF:: My little babies are growning up.


We went and did another parking shop at the same city mall, as well as the retail store I mentioned above. It was silly, because that store has a similar name to a much more well-known, popular brand (see photo above for hint), and I had to ask in the no-name shop if they were the big-name one. Kind of embarrassing, but I love to embarrass myself, so I didn't care. I like to play games with these shops when they don't give me a specific scenario: I make up something ridiculous, just to gauge the reaction I'll get. This time, I went in there insisting that I had to have a yellow tank top; no other color would do, because I simply did not have enough yellow in my wardrobe. The guy who helped me cracked up; he couldn't help it. If you're crazy and you know it, clap your hands!


We headed back East then to Fort Lauderdale to do a really fun (or at least it was supposed to be) shop that the kids had been anticipating for about a week. I expected a much more professional, business-like outfit than the disorganized, badly-in-need-of-my-services one we encountered, however, which meant a long report was going to have to be written. I love doing the shops themselves; going home and doing the reports is another matter. I don't mind doing them, but I do, admittedly, seem to have a problem getting them done in a timely manner. I make sure to write kick-ass reports to make up for it, though!

We had time to kill, once again, between portions of this last shop for the night, and once again everyone was ravenous, so I checked in to our location on Foursquare to find recommended places to eat. We were in the Las Olas Shops section of Ft. Lauderdale by that point. All of the recommendations were too far to go in order to eat and be back to the place where we needed to return in an hour, so we looked around for inspiration. At first, I thought we'd go to the crépe restaurant - who doesn't love skinny pancakes?! - but then we spotted a cheese-and-whine bistro next door, and yeah, they had me at 'cheese.' I love cheese. Jack, who doesn't, was less than thrilled and refused to eat, so I promised him something else when we got back to Penelope.


If you're looking around for a place to eat in Las Olas, I recommend the Cheese Culture. The food was outstanding, and the ambiance was really cool. It's not a place for kids, and they don't have a menu for them either, but it sufficed. Especially since we ate outside on the otherwise-deserted patio, away from the rest of the grown-ups. People seem to get grouchy when their fancy date nights are disrupted by bickering little ones, for some reason... I want to go back sometime when we have a babysitter.


The girls shared an "Ultimate Grilled Cheese" sandwich, with gruyere and Emmenthaler cheese melted on a delicious ciabatta, and I had a bite. It was splendid! Rob and I each had a "Build-Your-Own" sandwich. I forget what he got, except for the greens on the side that were good but got left behind when I told him we had to dash off to get back to our shop location on time - bummer. I had turkey, fresh mozzarella, baby greens on a baguette with garlicky basil mayonaisse. I don't usually like mayo, but it sounded (and was) good. The food delivery had artistic flair to match the out-of-this-world flavor. The server was a little dingy but sweet, and she agreed we should return on a parents-only date night. I bought a bottle of wine from her, a sweet Moscato that we have yet to open, and she gave me a discount for which I didn't even ask. Nice place.


Kilwin's, a chocolate shoppe in Las Olas, was just a few store fronts down from Cheese Culture, so I stopped in to peruse the goods. I am first and foremost a chocolate fanatic and second a chocolate-coconut truffle fiend, so I'm forever on the hunt for the perfect one. I found it once, at a candy store on the Jersey Shore, but its match has been elusive ever since. They had huge coconut chocolates at Kilwin's; I bought a couple, and they were all right, but definitely not perfection. Alas, I'll keep looking.

I purchased some more truffles while I was there, though, about ten or twelve. Obstensibly for Robert, though I don't think he's had a single one yet. I bought him the raspberry ones, which he tends to love, along with some mocha, mint, and other delicious goodness I can no longer remember. These chocolates weren't cheap, being in the neighborhood of $23/lb and up, so imagine my chagrin when I woke up the next morning to find the cats had knocked them off the table and used them for hockey pucks!

We returned to our previous location to finish the half-begun assignment and go home. It was late by then, about 10:30 PM. Obviously, we weren't in NYC, but there's a hint for you. The return was more pleasant than the first leg, but they still blew it. Like I said, they need me. Desperately. I'll fix 'em, I will!

Apropos of nothing much, Rob told me recently that I should open my own mystery shopping company. I don't know. I doubt I'd do it, though it would be fun.



I had reports to write when we got home, but I was cold and exhausted. I decided to treat myself to some JAFRA Spa pampering, and it was just the right call to make. I was in smelly-good heaven, relaxed and soft of skin and hair. It felt amazing. I even tried to nap in the bathtub, but I didn't want to pull a Whitney, so it didn't take. Sorry, that was crude.


Ahhh... so refreshed! (That's unretouched Instagramography, there. Thanks, JAFRA!)

If you want to win some awesome JAFRA products, by the by, friend me on Facebook. I'm having a fun FB party online this week and yes, there will be prizes!



On Thursday morning, Rob unfortunately woke up with a pretty nasty cold, so it kinda sucked that we had about 10 hours of mystery shops to do in the Keys that day. And yeah, he is totally playing the part of military retiree these days. Hanging out in the Keys, fishin', growin'a  beard... people are always like, WHAT. is THAT. on his FACE?! Haha. Although, one of my friends did say he's kinda smokin' with the beard, and of course I agree. I ♥ my little Fur Face...

The first shop in Key Largo was interesting. It was inside an exclusive, gated village, and the words "hoity-toity" come to mind. Now, I've been in exclusive, gated villages before (and I don't mean gated apartment complexes like the one we live in now), in places like Hilton Head and whatnot, but this was something else again. They had a whole town in there, with grocery and fishing and shoe and other stores, and it was definitely an Old Money community. I felt spectacularly out of place. The gate guard took my driver's license, called up the shop where I ad to evaluate the service, and asked them permission to let me enter. I wasn't expecting that. I'm not a gawker or anything, not too much, but I gawked, y'all.


I had to do a high-end fishing store shop. Rob is a fisherman. He knows what he's talking about. Me, I don't collect and kill animals as a general rule (no offense) (maybe a little), so I had no clue. I tried to inveigle him into coming into the store with me and running the show, but he wasn't down with it. So I had to go in there and wing it. I played up my scenario thusly: I'm getting gifts for my fisherman husband and I don't know what I'm doing, so please help me out. It worked. I bought him four clouser saltwater fishing flies - though he doesn't have a saltwater rig yet - and he was happy with them. Win.

I had to drive south to Marathon after that and evaluate the company there that, uh, well, see the picture above? I can't exactly spell it out for you, because that would give it away. Anyway, the guy I talked to there was amazing. He completely blew me away with his keen interest in environmental initiatives. Y'all know I'm a raging environmentalist, so we really hit it off. I'll probably go back and talk to him some more on my own and have him give my kiddos a tour of the facility someday, too. This guy was GREEN, folks. True green. I loved it. Also, he gave me a way cool "welcome to the neighborhood" gift of 4-5 reusable canvas bags, an electronics charger that shuts down after the device is fully charged to stop vampire electricty suckage, a nifty keychain, lots of information printouts, and more. Color me impressed.


It had been storming like the dickens in the Keys between the first two assignments, and there came a point where Sophia and I really had to pee. Water rushing down the windows didn't help that situation much, you know? So Rob drove us right up to the door of a Hom Depot, and in the ½-second it took us to get out of Penelope and into the Depot, we were completely drenched. Which meant we were freezing when we returned to the air-conditioned van after emptying our respective bladders. That's probably what helped along my cold, from which I'm now suffering. Anyway, it was quite the tropical storm. When we got to Key West a couple of hours later, the roads were all rivers. Lakes. I haven't seen that much rain since 1995, during Tropical Storm Gordon my freshman year at U-Miami.

We arrived in Key West much earlier than we needed to be there, so we drove around a while and returned to the souvie shop where I'd bought my red wrap dress/skirt/thingy the week before. I think I showed it to you? If not, here it is:


It's amazing versatile and, I think, pretty flattering, depending on how I tie it. For twenty bucks, I can get several styles of dresses, skirts, and tunics out of it, so I wanted to get a yellow and a teal one, too. That I did. I accidentally bought the floor-length ones, though, which is okay but not ideal. I'll just have to tie them the other ways that don't work with the red one, right?

After that, Rob wanted to go fishing. He knew we'd end up down there way earlier than my assignment required, so he'd brought down a few poles, a cooler, and a bucket to prepare. We drove around on a wild goose chase for a while, trying to find a decent place to fish, before someone in a Circle K just told us to go the marina. You're not supposed to fish there, but he said they were cool about it, since it was the end of the charters' day. Worse thing that could happen was they'd tell us to leave, so we went.


The fish weren't biting for him, though. I think he was disappointed. I was, I know that much. I may not like to catch 'em and clean 'em - although back in my Mote Marine Lab days, I was pretty good at filleting the snook for the grouper and snapper - but I don't mind cooking and eating them these days. I'm trying to quit... but not that hard! ;) 

After an hour or so, he packed it up, and we went off in search of dinner and gas for Penelope. We didn't want to eat out anywhere, needing to save our cash, so we ended up at the Publix nearest my next assignment. Rob and the kids stayed in the car while I shopped for sandwich fixin's on the cheap. Bologna and American cheese it was; I splurged on good rolls. I got back in the car and told the kids, "Here are your choices: You can have boloney and cheese, or you can not eat. That's it." Guess what? They ate.


Finally, it was time to head over to one of the movie theaters on the island for my last assignment. Sophia was my date, having won the title of "Best Behaved Child" (can you believe it?!) after our trip to Orlando earlier in the week. We had planned to see The Croods for her sake, but it was 3D, and no upgraded movies were allowed for the job, so we went to see Iron Man 3 instead. It was the only one left that was semi-appropriate for an 8-year-old. I wasn't terribly excited, not having seen IM or IM2, but I was happy to have my fun baby as a companion. She did not disappoint.

The movie turned out to be really entertaining. It held my interest from start to finish, and hello?! I knew this already, but the movie reaffirmed it: Robert Downey Jr. is farking HOT. Oh, my word. I may have drooled. Cute butt, too. I think wardrobe did a really good job with him (as did his parents' genes). Honestly, though, I didn't expect to NOT be bored throughout the movie, and there wasn't one single second of that. I don't normally go for superhero movies - not since Christopher Reeve as Superman, anyway - but this was extremely well-written and -acted. In a nutshell, I liked it. Go see it. I'd even watch it again. And not just for RDJ. Much.


We got home from Key West at something like four in the morning on Friday, and I had all those reports to do. But I didn't. I tried, man. I tried. I was beyond exhausted by that point, though, and went to lie down "for a little bit." You guys, I didn't even get up until 9 PM on Friday to pee or anything! Crazy. So I missed a bunch of shops that I've since rescheduled, all my reports were late (ahem, but what else is new?), and I had a killer migraine. I needed that sleep, though, so it's all good, I guess.

And now? I have more shops to do. See ya!


Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Earth Day 2013


It's super-annoying that Typepad doesn't seem to wanna auto-save anymore, and I lose almost an entire kick-ass post when the screen freezes. But anyways...

While I was going about my business preparing for our Earth Day picnic on Monday, Rob came out wearing this Navy-issue peacoat, with the Meerschaum pipe in his mouth, saying, "Picture me on the bridge of our boat, steering across the Atlantic..." and I totally could. Can you? Course you can. It's still our dream, y'know. In a heartbeat, we would...


I had been searching on the old innernet for Earth Day activities and crafts when I came across The Nature Conservancy's All Hands on Earth picnic website. The idea, in a nutshell, is to foster sustainable food-eating practices by buying local and in-season to reduce, you know, gas and energy consumption from the production and distribution of worlds-away, out-of-season, uh... I said that way better the first time, but you get the gist, right? Right.

I had no fundage available at the time to run out to the Farmer's Market and pick up some deliciousness, so I figured I'd just use what we already had on hand to reduce waste, live frugally, and other great things we try to practice on a daily basis. I had cooked a bunch of chicken tits in the Crock-Pot the night before and still had half a -Pot left, so I tore that up and added some gorgonzola cheese crumbles leftover after our salad fixin's were used up, along with some apples I diced to add some sweetness and crunch. Along with some seasonings and Miracle Whip (Rob's fave), it was aces all around. Total yummo.


We chose Biscayne National Park as the nearby destination for our picnic because, despite the fact that it's too far to walk or ride a bike for us, the idea of Earth Day connotes (to me, anyway) surrounding oneself in the beautiful precious natural resources of our planet, and so it seemed a fitting locale. The last time we were there, I'd gotten a wicked bad sunburn from being too stupid to put on SPF before lying down on a towel with my library book. I just discovered what appears to be a melanoma - for which I'm going to the doc in about 7½ hours - on my chinny-chin-chin Monday morning, so I wasn't taking any chances with those harmful UV rays. We took along everything from SPF 30 all the way up to 85+. Although, really? Is that fo'real?


Aside from our afore-mentioned chicken salad on both spinach and sun-dried tomato wraps (also already on hand), we had mango cubes (I'd searched for a YouTube video on cutting them perfectly:


and it was spot-freakin'-on. Worked like a charm, after many failed attempts on my part.)

Plus, I threw in a bunch of bagged cereal for snacks, and Sophia snuck in half a pound cake for good measure. We served everything on reusable napkins and wrappers, and a pitcher of fruit punch was served in regular ol' plastic kids' cups. Leave no trace, leave the place better than when you found it, and all that.


When Jack dropped a piece of his cereal, this duck walked boldly up to him and looked askance. Not in the "how dare you?!" sense of the word, but "how dare you not feed me?" sense. He stayed there, quacked a few times, and made Jack squirm and squeal a whole bunch. It was hilarious.


We really laughed out loud a moment later when the two ducks on the bottom and left waddled up in perfect unison, speeding zip-zip along the sand to get their pieces of the proverbial pie. They didn't get any from us, although I noticed Sophia "accidentally" dropped one or two their way. Soon a fourth joined the flock, and by then we were surrounded by Muscovies looking to join our Earth Day picnic. Fun times.


After lunch, I sent the kids off on a Nature Treasure Hunt geared for kids aged 8-11, which, hey, is perfect since that's what range my kids all fall into, hey? The first one (of ten) was: "Find a place where an animal made a home," so off they went toward the mangroves to find nests or burrows. The three quickly spotted deep, wide holes in the ground and decided something had dug its way in, and I couldn't argue with that, so I gave them credit.


The second one directed them to make fairy homes out of natural objects, so Sophie had the idea to make teepees out of dried-out palm leaves. Chloë and Jack quickly followed suit; all but Chloë got them to stand without being held.

3. Find a seed - Easy! They just had to look up at the big palm trees everywhere to find them hanging out like so many, um, testicles. (What can I say? It's where the mind automatically goes.)

4. Make a tool, like a hammer or drawing stick. Jack, not being terribly imaginative, picked up a stick and started drawing. Okay, fine. Sophia, surprisingly equally unimaginative, picked up a stick and started hammering the top of her fairy teepee. Okaaaay, Chloë? She picked up a stick and pretended it was a screwdriver, driving, er, screws into the dirt. Better, but totally uninspired. Still, we moved on.

5. Find or name two things that all living things need to survive. The kids shouted out things like, "A home!" "Air!" "Food!" "Water!" etc. This one was too easy for this age group, IMO.

6. Listen for five sounds, including both human ones and otherwise. They listened to birds singing, people shuffling their feet on a nearby path, folks talking, boats' engines starting up at the marina next to us, and the wind whispering through the trees. That last one was my favorite.

7. Find a place where a plant-eater would be happy. Again, in a national park, way too easy.


The eighth one was super-cute. They had to spy on a bug. Jack crouched down first and watched an ant go ten ways to Sunday, all over the sand. Sophia and Chloë traced their own insects, and soon they all met up, head-to-head, with their daddy. I was thinking he probably wished he had a magnifying glass to light 'em on fire, because that's just the kind of Bob he is, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe.

9. Find a pattern in nature. They all came up with A-B-A-B-A-B patterns, so I challenged them to find something other than that. Jack was the first to do so; he found spirals projecting out from the center vein of a leaf, and I was proud.

10. Find something other than an animal that can live in water. First, they named about 3400 different animals before noticing us crossing our arms over our chest, tapping our feet and rolling our eyes all over the place. "Ohhhhh! Like seagrass?" Yeah. Duhhh.

We were done with that, and rather than do sunprints, they decided to go swimming again. Fine and good, but I was freezing and wasn't joining in. The lifeguard came over to speak at us about letting them go too far out without a parent right there (in zero waves, with a lifeguard spitting distance away, but whatevs), so Rob went in while I lay in the sun and fried a little more. My SPF 85+ was failing me, y'all! I reapplied.


Then, Rob rigged up his fishing poles and took us to go fishing. Well, took the kids, while I followed along for some Instagramography of whatever they caught (big fat nothin', it turned out). But check this sign - crocodiles?! In Florida? Gators, sure - we'd seen an 8-footer the last time out, in the canal near our house - but crocs? Who knew? Not I, not me, not us. Jack was determined to find one, but we didn't.

Also, I'm pretty sure they stole that croc drawing from Peter Pan.


Rob didn't have any bait, so he used a Sabiki Rig to try and catch some. He cast waaay far out, and then near, and then far again... but not even the pinfish were biting. So the kids and I went exploring while he kept trying.

We went up to the end of the walk, which culminated in, like, a pier, and looked out at the water. Another fisherman was next to us, so they meandered over to him to see what he was doing. "Fishing." What do you have on your hook? "Bait." He amused me. The kids kept pressing. My kids are pressers. So we learned this about him: He was originally from Ithaca, New York, now lived in Texas, and was here in Miami on temporary extra duty. He had never fished here before and insisted that pinfish couldn't be used to catch snapper, grouper, or larger fish, but Rob taught him how to rig the baitfish for better success (not that he was having any, but he had on previous outings, after all). He was fishing with live shrimp. I had about seventy-nine more facts about him on the tip of my brain, but they all just scattered because of course, I need them right now. Oh, and he gave Rob a beer. That was nice. Maybe it was a consolation prize, since neither man was having any luck with the fishies that day.


Rob gave up for a while, and just then, a manatee came into view, swimming toward the harbor. Another, smaller (I'm guessing female) sea cow swam toward him, and they met nose-to-nose for a few moments before the female turned, and they both swam away in the direction of the marina. It all happened too fast, just like with alligator the other day, for me to get a good picture, so all I have is this one of the four of them looking and pointing. It was SO breathtaking, Chloë was near tears, Sophia couldn't stop exclaiming, and my heart was racing. What wondrous things we've seen in our month here so far!


And then, if that weren't enough, a pelican flew in and landed near us. The kids thought that was just fantastic; they walked over and got in the big bird's face, not knowing how aggressive those things can be. They want fish, and they want it now. The pelican squawked, flapped its wings, and moved toward them. They yelped and jumped back, while I laughed. A third fishergent caught a pinfish - at last! - and threw it in the center of the pier. The kids gawked while the pelican stormed over there and gobbled it up. Only, the fish was spreading its rays, and the bird couldn't swallow it. We all watched, helpless, as it gagged and regurgitated the fish repeatedly, struggling to get it down its gullet with no success. What to do, what to do? Call a park ranger? Finally, with one loud gulp, the fish was choked down and bulging in the pelican's neck. Whew! What a relief.

We went home, exultant in our beautiful day, reliving all the amazing sights we'd seen.

Hope you all had a happy Earth Day, recycling and reusing and reducing. Remember to link up here if you're wordless - or not - today, too!


A Day (And A Half) In The Life...


It was Road Trip time again for the four youngest members of Team Odette this past weekend. Rob couldn't go, because he had duty and had to stand watch. Suck. I was hoping he'd be able to join, but alack and alas, no such luck this time.  I'm going to present the 36 hours in chronological, timeline format, which I hope is interesting and not dreadfully dull. If it is, be sure and tell me, and I'll go weep in the corner with self-pity. Um, yeah. So away we go!


1230: The children and I set off from our home in Portsmouth, VA, to points northward. Washington, D.C., to be specific. The trip should've taken 3-3½ hours, but ends up taking a little longer because of some heavy duty weekend traffic out of Hampton Roads.

1630: We arrive in downtown D.C. Because I've been chugging beverages all along the route, and despite a rest stop, my enormous bladder is full to burstin'. I finally find somewhere to park and then realize I have zippo change for the bloody meter, which doesn't take the $1 coins I received for change from my $20 bill at the rest stop vending machine. Arghhh!


1630-1700: We race around, finding plenty of signs like the above, first to get change for the meter (18 minutes' worth for a buck, ugh) and then find a place to make weewee. Nowhere. Nowhere to GO! Finally, at last, and por fin, I found a restaurant that would allow us to use the facilities. How do you spell relief?!


Relief. Get it?!!

1700: I now have exactly one hour left to complete the mystery shop I'm there to do, which necessarily has to take a full hour. I'm cutting it short on time. It takes me five minutes to find a parking space in the zone of my shop, which I'll explain more about later, and it is a pay-by-app or -phone spot. The app won't download - no signal in D.C.? Really?! - so I call the number. I have to give my license plate info first: CARE PKG. I spell it once, twice, thrice, and the system hangs up on me after successive failures. Repeat once more. The third time, I get smart and spell it phonetically: Charlie Alpha Romeo Echo Papa Kilo Golf. Success! But then... after setting up my credit card number and getting an account established, I input the parking meter number, and the system tells me that I cannot park there after 4:00 PM on weekdays. Then,

LOTS of them.

1725: I call my scheduler, give him the lowdown on the sitchy-ation, and ask if I can come back to do the evaluation on the 'morrow. He shuffles around some assignments, 'cause it matters whether it's done on the weekend or a weekday, and gives me the green light. Whew. We head out of the District, north to Maryland.


1820: We make it to the hotel where I'm doing a mystery shop that night, check in, throw our stuff in our room, and head back out to go do yet another mystery shop.


1955: After stopping at McD's to grab the kids some dinner and getting lost a few times, we arrive due west for our next mission: three games of laser tag! The kids are overjoyed; I've surprised them with this gig. They LOVE laser tag, having played it for shops twice before, and are now downright giddy. I have another surprise in store for them, too:


My old college pal Play-Doh, from our joint alma mater,


works nearby and met us there to play, too! The kids LOVE Play-Doh, and now they were brimming with the energy of crazed children that only comes out when the excitement is extreme. You parents know what I'm talkin' 'bout! They were all over him, jumping on him, climbing on him, etc., in a heartbeat, and I could barely get in a hug. The five of us had a blast playing laser tag (I kicked PD's arse 2 out of 3 times, woot), arcade games, snacking, and hanging out, until my shop was complete.

2215: We parted ways with PD and headed back East to the hotel. I got lost again a few more times. Dang, I miss Sue, my GPS! I had my iPhone GPS, but it just ain't the same.


2330: Tired - nay, exhausted - and gross from the long day in the car and games, I quickly do what I need to for the shop that night, before plopping the kids in front of the tube (because they're waaaay too wound up to sleep at this point), while I go soak in the tub. Ahhh.


0015: I'm still working on getting my as-yet-hyper babes to sleep, while trying to get some work done on the laptop. I'm unsuccessful at both, so I give up trying. All the lights get turned out, I set my alarm, and crash. I assume the kids do, too.


0830: I wake up just in time to go have breakfast before they shut it down, then head back to the room and crash some more. I'm soooo tired still.


1200: The kids and I finally rouse ourselves, an hour past check-out time. I've totally slept through my alarm and wake-up call. Whoops! We take 15 minutes and race around the room, getting dressed, packing up, and movin' on out. I go check out at the front desk, where I obviously don't look as shabby as I think I do, because the clerk is practically undressing me with his eyes. He's cute, so I let him. Ha.


1340: We arrive back in the zone of my evaluation of the streets of D.C. and park. I can't really tell you too much about it, other than that I'm basically mystery shopping the city itself. Yes, I'm that badass. I kid, I kid. We walk around my assign streets, doing what I need to be doing, and the kids all develop blisters as we go. The streets are clean enough, so I let them go barefoot. In downtown Washington, D.C. In the summer. On hot sidewalk granite. I'm an excellent mother. :\  We come across this little pond, an oasis in the desert city, and they look longingly at it. I look around, see no one in authority to stop us, and quickly let them dip their feet in the pondlet. They gab on and on about how good it feels. On we march, to finish the job.


When we come back across the Washington Monument, which the kids easily recognize in such a monument-filled ciudad, the kids insist on having their picture taken in front. Note that I'm still camera-less, save my iPhone, so quality is less than awesome.


1520: I finish my assignment, and we get back to the vicinity of the car park where Penelope is waiting. I know Play-Doh is busy studying in Georgetown for a major upcoming exam, so I call him up and offer to bring him some lunch for a study break. He happily accepts.


1610: After getting lost a few more times (!!!), we finally find la escuela where PD is studying. Immediately, the kids jump out of the car and begin climbing all over him again. PD is child-free, so far, so I offer him a few of my own. He laughingly declines. I try to get a decent picture of the kids and Play-Doh and end up with this lovely work of art:


Gee, thanks for putting the sammich down for 30 seconds, Jack! Sheesh!!

A little more chit-chat, a few more hugs, and PD is off to get back to studying.


1630: We head back out of the District, back into Virginia, for our next destination in Williamsburg, for another surprise mystery shopping assignment for the kids.


1845: We arrive at our destination at last, to the kids' total excitement. They are having way too much fun on this trip! We head in and go look at a bunch of weird, wild and wacky shiznat.


Like, this maneless, albino male lion, which the kids insist over my protests is a tiger...


... and this two-headed calf, which Sophia obviously thinks is wicked crazy.


I let them play the target-shootin' game, and it turns out that Jack is quite the ace with a BB gun! The girls each get a shot or two in, but Jack manages about ten! Nice. Maybe he'll grow up to be an expert marksman like his daddy is.


Sophia was busy looking at this slow-fast-slow-fast motion demo, when Chloë hollered at her to come try the laser obstacle course room. Oh, and we went through this groovy tunnel on a bridge, made with an optical illusion effect so you think you're spinning around and going upside-down instead of just walking straight through it. I loved it; meanwhile, it made all three children CRY. Yes, cry. Group hug time.


Feeling badly, I let the kids do the claw machine, which we all know never works. You never win these things. Ever. But guess what?! On the first time, Jack and I tag-teamed that bad boy and won these kids a one-eyed stuffed puppy they named Ripley. Woot!


Before we leave to go next door and watch the 4D movie, I insist we all get in the photo booth for a group sesh. Here's the result. We so crazeh!

2020: Finally, we're done with our shops and are ready to head home. I text Rob and tell him that we'll see him in about an hour. Ha. HA! I say.


1159: Over 3½ hours later, because the main Interstate (64) from the Peninsula down to the Southside of Hampton Roads is closed for the weekend at the same time as another alternate route in what can only be described as the most brilliant fecking move EVER, leaving the entirety of Hampton Roads to bottleneck through the last remaining resort, we get home. That, up there, is a full bladder. All of us had one, though mine had to have been about 90x that size, I swear. I barely made it!

That brings us to the end of our journey. But one more thing. You may have read a recent Friday Fragments post in which I challenged you, my readers, to play me on Words With Friends? Well, one such soul decided to take me up on that, and I spent the weekend being positively TROUNCED by such individual. My pride is wounded. I rarely get beaten, and never so badly, so I have a message for you, KO:


Imma gonna getcha! May take me 100 games, but when I do, well... Imma put a hurtin' on ya! ;)

Have a great week, pals!


Product Review & Party: Bobble Bots Moshi Monsters

Disclaimer: We were provided with a huge party pack from MommyParties and Bobble Bots in order to have a giveaway party with our friends and write this review. No monetary compensation took place. All opinions are, and will always be, my own.


A long, long time ago (like, six months ago, no lie), we were sent this really awesome party pack from the sponsors mentioned above, but because of circumstances beyond our control, we weren't able to have the party until my birthday cook-out this past weekend. Better late than never, right?! And LOOK at everything we received: Four playsets worth $19.99 each (the Bizarre Bazaar Store, Gross-ery Store, Ice Scream Store, and Yukea Store), two Starter Sets worth $9.99 each (I'm not sure which two, honestly!), TEN individual Moshlings worth $5.99 each, and three spare packages of batteries for the Moshlings, which we didn't actually need AT the party and divvied up amongst the four families in attendance. WOW!! What a great pack.

(And yes, the awesomeness of said pack made me feel guilty for taking SO long to have the party! But I digress...)


Before long, our guests arrived, and it was time to start the Moshi Monster Bobble Bots battle for global domination!!! Er, um, I mean, split the kiddos into two teams and let them quite literally "go to town," setting up their designated Monstro Cities and be the first team to get all their Moshlings to go into both Stores. It was quite a scramble for victory, amidst cries of, "I need help opening this!" and "I want this one! I want that one!" Yup, we let 'em duke it out, just like that.

Moshi Monsters BobbleBots

(Click collage to embiggerate.)

There was a great deal of running around, clamoring for parental attention to small pieces and parts that needed help being separated from their packaging, but it was fun times for all involved. NO TEARS, thankfully, as every family ended up getting a piece of the party to take home for later. But first, who won?!


Team A got their Monstro City set up and their Moshlings vibrating and bopping around from store to store, claiming victory about 20 minutes or so into the game. But wait! ...


.... At the same second, Team B declared their own victory over Moshi-land! Well, it was a good thing the prizes were the playthings themselves and dinner was ready at that moment, because I had to declare it a tie. And what kid likes a tie? None I've met. Hee. NO TEARS, people, that's the important thing to remember. They really, really liked the Moshi Monsters party, I say in my best Sally-Field-wins-an-Oscar voice!

But guess what else?! That's not the end! Oh, nooo...


There's a whole Moshi World online, here, where the Moshlings can be "adopted" and played with in educational games and activities, much like Webkinz World, for those of you familiar with that site. And, of course, it's FREE!

Here's what a couple of the parents had to say about Bobble Bots:

Saritah: "Moshi Monsters Bobble Bots were a lot of fun. The kiddos really enjoyed reconfiguring the setup with the litle decorations and having their moshlings run all over them. We had never heard of them before, but now my kids are all talking about who is going to collect more moshlings!"

Gotcha: "My three year old loves his Moshi Monster Bots.  We created an online account and he enjoyed choosing his monster and setting up its home. The games so far are too hard for him, but it gives us time to spend together and he enjoys tickling his monster. He has played nicely at the table with his Battle Bots Gross-ery store many times over the last couple days and is really enthralled with them. As expected the batteries have already started to fail from the heavy use, so we are grateful for the spares! 

"I did look for more Battle Bots at the store but only found collectible figurines of the Moshis which he did not seem as interested in, he likes the vibrating/running around aspect of the Battle Bots."

Alodeuri: "The kids enjoyed the Moshi Bots, they are a tad noisy and the small pieces have to be monitored because of the baby, but they did enjoy them. They mostly just focused on the little bots and not the town part. They have been playing with them."

As for me and mine, we haven't had a chance to set them up either in person or online yet, because we homeschool and have been busy with that (though all three of the other families do as well, so go, you guys!), but we definitely will! I'll be looking for more Moshlings in store and/or online as well, because I know they really enjoyed playing with them at our party!

Moshlings and their playsets can be found at Target, Toys 'R Us, online, and other fun retailers, so let me know if you check 'em out and what fun you've had, too!

Thanks, MommyParties & Bobble Bots for the fun Moshi Monsters party!! We're sorry it took us so long - forgive us?


A Quick Jaunt to NoVa


On Friday, the 1st, we had to do a hotel mystery shop in Fredericksburg, and a laser tag shop an hour's drive north, around the D.C. area. So we left early in the afternoon to check in to the hotel, I did a quick survey of our (very nice) room, and we took off again for Alexandria.

Needless to say, my kids are getting to be quite excellent little car travelers. An hour's trip is nothing to them, now. "Is it going to take long?" means "Will it be five or more hours?" these days!




All of these pictures are from my iPhone, as I didn't feel like lugging around the big Nikon and then risking it getting stolen while I was playing the game. So they're kind of hazy, because it was dark in there. Sorry 'bout that. 

When we arrived around 1820, I learned that it's all-you-can-play after 2000 on Fridays, so I called up my old college friend, who now lives in D.C., to let him know. He decided to show up a little later to play. While we waited, the kids and I had some munchies, played games, rode the rides, and did all the other things that, unbeknownst to them, were part of my shop requirements. They didn't care, as they were having loads of fun!


Chlo was all excited to have won this squishy ball thingy. She is still playing with it constantly. It's like a stress-reliever ball for her. Hey, whatever works - she needs it!


Soph stealing a sip of my Diet Coke in between playing games and running around the arcade


I said, "Raise your hand if you're having fun!" and in response, they all lay down on their backs and raised everything. Goofballs, all three of 'em!


Finally, the kids made it over to the Skee Ball games - my favorite! I'm kind of good at it, but they wouldn't let me throw one, single ball. Stinkers. I coulda gotten them more prize tickets, but noooo... I'm just the Moneybags 'round here. Humph.


Finally, Clay arrived, ready to play Laser Tag. I wish this picture had turned out better, because it would have been pretty cute. Sophia really took to Clay, and I think he had a good time with all of my kiddos, too. He was one of my best buds at U.Miami, so of course I was happy to spend a few hours with him, too! (Plus, I kicked his ass at Laser Tag, big-time!!)



Is that thing a dog or a bear? We couldn't decide. This was when we were heading in for a briefing of the rules, before actually playing.

The game was so fun. We've played it before, but it was just the five of us, never a huge bunch of people like it was that night. Good times! Chloe completely deceived me. She came up to me, whimpering that she was scared (we were on opposite teams). I came closer to her to help her out, and she said, "Haha! I just wanted to get you!" and tagged me with her laser. That snot!!! I had to hand it to her though, it was a pretty good gag.


Our last game of the night, Sophia decided to sit it out because she'd developed a painful blister on her foot from all the running around. Of course, I couldn't leave her out there by herself, so I sat it out with her. Clay took the older two kids into the laser tag arena for me, and Soph snuggled with her Mama. She piled herself into my lap and played on my iPhone while I stroked her sweet (long!) hair and rubbed her warm self. She wanted to send kissy pictures to Daddy via Facebook, so we did that. She's my little look-alike! I keep meaning to get out pictures of myself as a kid and put them up next to her, to show how close we look. Or have I already done that? I swear, I have Alzheimer's.


In the briefing room of the laser tag game, Jack did what Jack is always doing these days: one of his awesome head stands. He learned how to do it at gymnastics class a month or two ago, and he's forever on his head. I mean, always, all the time, that boy is upside-down. He does a fantastic job, staying up for two or three minutes on a good one. I told him I'd give him five bucks if he could stay up there for five minutes, but he hasn't yet made it. 

So we said our good-byes to my old friend, and drove the hour back to Fredericksburg. It was nearly midnight by then, and the kids were starving. We ducked into the grocery store across from the hotel (the very awesome Wegmans, which I was shocked to find in Virginia, since I know them from growing up in New York) and got all kinds of nummies for a midnight snack, before heading back into our hotel room. 

The kids were SO wound up from all the excitement, that I thought they'd never sleep. They even outlasted me; I fell asleep around 0100, and they were still up watching TV. Finally I woke up an hour or two later and put the kibosh on the telly, and yes, it was quite fun trying to wake them up for breakfast the following morning. They barely kept their eyes open while they ate. 

And then, we checked out and went home - and the whole trip only took one tank of gas. Whee!


Building A Legacy


Today was the annual Pinewood Derby race for my son's Cub Scout pack. The boys (Jack and Daddy) spent a lot of time last year on Jack's car, but this year it was rather rush-rush after the hustle and bustle of the holidays and then Rob's 8-day hospitalization. They made the car all in the past week, with Jack changing his mind about the design features several times in the process. We didn't have very high expectations for this year, after last year's First Place win in the Tiger Den! 

(And yes, I got on his case about what they were doing in the above picture!)



Last night, Rob took Jack to have the car weighed and impounded, as is the night-before custom. (The girls and I had some lovely time to ourselves, and we quite bonded, but that's for another time.)



This morning, none of our children wanted to get out of bed, after staying up super-late last night. Happily, we managed to make it to the church on time for the opening ceremony. Jack walked in the color guard - he's the one in the yellow neckerchief and mis-matched blue shoes above! So funny, he put on different shoes...



Cubmaster J, giving the announcements and rules update - isn't he a cutie??  Sadly, this is his last year with the pack, as his youngest son is moving up to Scouts soon. Rob was thinking about taking over the position, but he's relieved someone else stepped up for the job. Now he's thinking about what he'll do instead. (Meanwhile, I volunteered my services today as Treasurer, Awards .. uh, person, or Events Chair... we'll see what I end up doing, but I want to give Jack equal time in scouting).


After the opening, we moved upstairs to the room where the track was located, which is the same room where Jack's Wolf Den meets weekly. The Tigers had their races, and it was so cute to watch them in the same place where we were just last year. Soon, the Wolves were up. We had no idea what to expect from Jack's car, but lo and behold, it consistently came in first for each heat! That's his car with the red/black fade, above, in the lead.


After the six Wolf heats, the older boys started to race, so we went down the hall to do some crafts. I had brought my knitting, which I really need to finish for the intended recipient, so I asked Rob to be in charge of helping with the crafts. Jack went by himself in the next room to build the Twinkie car he was SOOO excited to make, while the rest of us sat in the room where they were making clothespin neckerchief slides. Here they are, just getting started... I don't have any more pictures of those activities, because I was busy knitting. Sorry.


One of my Daisy girls has an older brother in Jack's den, and their dad (another cutie!!) was busy being the computer tech guy for the races, so he asked me to look after G during the day. I was happy to; she's a little sweetheart. Here are the girls waiting to be let into the lunch hall for pizza and snacks. Little G was SO excited to have one of the doughnuts her daddy had brought!!


After lunch, Cubmaster J handed out the Popcorn sale awards to the pack. Jack earned himself a fishing pole, so he and Dad will be doing lots of that together come Spring. (Rob is an avid fisherman, though he hasn't had a chance to do a lot of it in our decade together.) Cubmaster's Webelos 2 son sold about $2700 in popcorn, so I quickly hit up his mother for tips for next year!!


We had already done the crafts, so after lunch, the kids got into the Derby poser thingy and had their pictures taken. 


Sophia had the next turn.


I barely remember taking this picture, so I have no idea what's up with Chloë's expression!


The races seemed to go much faster this year, and soon is was time to announce the winners for each den. When the Wolves were announced, we moved up front in time to see Jack declared the winner for his den. Woohoo!!


Cubmaster J handing Jack his participation ribbon and First Place trophy



Jack barely had the patience to sit and watch his car race today, but he was really excited to be getting another trophy!



After all the den winners were announced, the first- and second-place winners from each one raced against each other to see who won for the pack overall. There was one super-fast car on the tracks which couldn't have been beaten without a wreck, so we knew that First Place was out of reach for us. So, what would it be? In the end, Jack happily came in second for his pack!


For the next trophy picture, I couldn't get him to take his eyes off the prize for even a second! He was so excited.


Jack posing with his Wolf den leader, who's fantastic


I managed to snag a very busy cubmaster for another pic with the two trophies, and he asked me if he was going to be reading about this on my blog again this year. Uh, whoops - I always get so embarrassed when I find out people I know in real life, locally, have read it!! So here you go, J!


We helped clean up the church when the Derby was over, and then we took our happy boy home. He asked me if he could put his new trophies upstairs on his dresser, but I told him no way in h-e-double-hockey-sticks! Sophia would have them broken by bedtime. So they live on the mantel for now, where we can beam with pride at their growing collection. Now the boys have to get the car ready for Districts. Maybe this year, he'll have a chance! (Last year, his car broke.)

Go, Jack, go!


The Virginia State Fair

On the first of the month, the kids and I drove up to the State Fair, just north of Richmond. I woke them up at the buttcrack of dawn, because I had four early-morning mystery shops to do along the way. (Actually five, but we didn't make it to that last one in time.) En route to Doswell, we drove through Gloucester, Tappahannock, and Richmond. Those first two towns looked liked they'd be really cool to go exploring on another visit, so we plan to do just that.

After those four breakfast shops, I had lots of coffee, sandwiches and hash browns that none of us wanted to eat, so I put on my thinking cap to figure out where we could deliver them. Aha! What about the local fire or police department? Seemed like a good plan, so I did a quick search on my trusty iPhone for the nearest one, and a fire dept was nearby.

A half-hour and four false starts later, we finally arrived at the fire house. I had three little ones in PJs and me, all carrying a bag of food. When they opened the door, six fire fighters (including a female captain, woohoo!) all greeted us with smiles and curious looks. I explained why we were there and how I came upon all this unwanted food, and they were happy to take it off or hands. I did have to apologize for it not being as hot as it might have been, since I got lost so many times on the way there, but they didn't seem to care.

The chief who was visiting asked if we had time to take a tour of the trucks, and even though the Fair was now open, I said sure. Why pass up a chance to have a personal tour, even if they've all been before? One can always learn something new.

Unfortunately, I'd left my camera in the car, so I have no proof of this visit, but the kids had a blast trying on gear, talking into the trucks' headsets, and exploring all the equipment. The chief even gave them each a plastic fireman's hat to take home. When they were finished, we went back inside to say our good-bye's, and they thanked us for bringing them breakfast. All-in-all, it was a pretty cool impromptu visit.


We got to the Fair early enough that traffic and parking weren't so bad. We got right in, bought our tickets, and headed up to the area where all the animals were. After all, this was a school day, and technically I wanted to count this as a field trip, so it had to be at least partly edumacational. The first thing we ran into - after I spent a small fortune on a slice of cheese pizza for each of us, and Sophia promptly dumped her entire piece upside-down on the ground, to my extreme annoyance, that is - was the farm equipment. Jack, of course, was thoroughly delighted. He really wanted to climb up and see each machine, but that was definitely not allowed. The best we could do was get up close and take a few pictures.


This thing was massive! Jack was in awe. One nearby vendor's booth had models of many of the farm machines for toys, and Jack was enraptured. I'm definitely getting him one of them for Christmas, either a combine or a tractor. He hasn't decided which he wants for sure, so I guess I'll just pick one myself and start a collection for him.


After the tractors an' sech, we went into the first big tent, which was full of all kinds of farm animals on exhibit. We found some adorable bunnies, which immediately set the kids talking about missing Bounce and getting another pet rabbit. I'd love to, but we just re-homed our dog because she was one too many mouths to feed, so getting a bunny wouldn't quite make sense right now!


Besides, if I do get another pet wabbit, it's going to be one I can harvest for the fur! And then I'd have to learn to spin it...


Sophia made me nervous the whole time, because she just couldn't seem to hear me (and various other bystanders) saying, "Keep your fingers out of the cage!!" Thankfully, she didn't lose a single one. That time.



You can't really tell from the picture, but this bull was ENORMOUS. I couldn't stop looking at him.


Ass ass


These nursing piglets were sooooo cute!!! ♥


Thankfully, there was plenty of hand sanitizer all over the place in there. We used a LOT of it.


The kiddos were really excited when we went over by the alpacas and the owner had food for them to share. Sophia and Chloë kept laughing about the tickling sensation when they ate!


They're just so funny-looking! I really need to learn how to spin; alpaca fiber is among my favorites.


The chicks were also a big draw for my spawn. On the other side, there was an incubator with some still in the shells, some just emerging, and some fresh out of the shell. Those newly-hatched birds were flopped over, slimy, and unable to walk yet. The kids were so upset, thinking they were all dead! So I had to explain to them about that, and now they know. See? I told you a trip to the fair was going to be educational!


Big ol' pig boobs. I thought I had a hard time finding a bra that fits!


We don't have any floor fans, so the kids have never really had that classic experience of talking into a high-speed fan. When we walked by this one, I couldn't resist the opportunity to yell into it before inviting the kids to do the same. It was hard to pull them away, but we had so much else to see!


The next tent housed nothing but rabbits. They were all entered for ribbons and whatever prizes, so there was specimen after perfect specimen.  This guy was a blue ribbon winner. I don't know what happened to the other pictures, because I really wanted to show you a Lionhead rabbit, and I can't find them. Wait, there's always Google Images:


So silly looking!! I'd love one of this kind too, please.


After the bunnies, we visited the Pigeons and Doves tent, and Sophia, our resident bird-lover, was in seventh heaven. She would have stayed in there all day. I forget what this kind of pigeon was called, but they were really pretty. Sophia spent the rest of the entire weekend cooing like a dove. It was cute - for the first 19 hours...

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We looked at a few more animal tents before heading back to the center of the Fair for one of those ice cream cones that is squared and covered in chocolate & nuts. Remember those? I used to love those when I was a kid. They were about $4 each, so I bought only one for them to share, and they were quite annoyed with me for that. When I told them it was either that or rides, though, the choice was clear. On the way to the rides, we found these posing boards, and they had a bit of fun there. My favorites were the Sesame Street and King Kong ones!


I hadn't planned on taking the kids on any rides until after 9, when Daddy had joined us after work and when ticket prices went down to 60 for $20. On our way out of the animal exhibits, however, a nice older couple stopped me and asked if we were going to go on the rides. I told them we were, and they handed me $50 worth of tickets!! They said they weren't going to use them and thought we looked like a nice family, so take them and have fun. I about kissed their feet. Thank you, nice older couple!


After we used up all the tickets they gave us, Chloë was absolutely begging for a funnel cake. I tried to talk her into fried dough instead, but she stood her ground. They wanted cherries on top, so this is what we got. Waaaay too many freakin' cherries, and none of us wanted to eat them. In the end, the four of us were only able to eat about half of this, and it killed me to throw the rest away when I knew Rob would have tore it up. 

Of course, I shouldn't have eaten a single bite of it, and Oscar (my pouch) proved it by making me run to the (very far away) bathroom to puke it up. Ugh. I still do it at least once a day, but it never fails to exhaust me. Since I hadn't slept the night before, I immediately needed a nap. I'd gotten the kids up so early, and they watched movies instead of napping in the car, and their feet were killing them... so not one of them complained when I said I needed to go back to the van for a nap. 

And so we went. I turned on a movie for the kids and immediately fell asleep myself. I don't know if any of them slept at all, but I think they did for a little while. The next thing I knew, a policeman and some other guy were rapping on my window to wake me up. It took me a minute to come to my senses enough to be able to roll down the window! They were just checking to make sure everything was okay, since the kids were awake and moving about the cabin by that point, and I was passed out in the front seat. I explained and thanked them for checking on us, and they left. 

By that point, the kids were restless, hungry, and tired of waiting for Daddy. I'd expected him around 1700, but it was 1900 by then. He didn't end up arriving until 2100, because of traffic, so that sucked. I should've just made him stay home!


To kill time before Daddy arrived and the ticket prices went down, I took the kids through the Expo halls. They didn't really like the arts and crafts one, because I wouldn't let them touch anything. I was annoyed to find at least three or four crocheted and knit pieces entered for prizes, made from famous patterns I recognized. Really? Aren't they supposed to be your OWN creations? Or am I misunderstanding things? Because if you can use famous, established patterns, then I'm totally entering next year.

Anyway. They love fish tanks and are always begging me to get one for them. I would, but where on earth would we put it? Tinkerbell and Star would love one too, I'm sure.


After the more educational hall, we went to the last one, which was all the cool stuff different vendors had for sale. The roasted nuts were right in front of the entrance. Tricky, tricky. I made a beeline for them, and they gave each of us a yummy sample. Sold! I bought us a small bag, and the kids pretty much inhaled them before I could blink twice. Hungry, much? Right next door was the Virginia Lottery booth. We couldn't do much with the kids there, until we came across Lady Luck here, ready to pose with the children. Jack wanted no part of that, and the girls were confused when they couldn't keep the magic wands. Kinda lame. Oh, well.


Jack was thrilled about this race car, but he doesn't look it here because he was absolutely starving. And I think maybe he was mad that he wasn't allowed to get in it, too.


In the same hall, we came upon this guy selling these cool hair wraps, made by hand out of polymer clay. The girls were all over those, so the guy convinced me to let him wrap the girls' hair with them. We didn't buy them, but I got his card and am going to get them some for Christmas from their website, here.  The had a whole bunch of different charms for the ends of the wraps at the Fair, but I don't see any online, so I emailed them about it. 


Sophia was up next. Isn't this exactly the kind of guy you picture doing little girls' hair?!


I thought it was sufficiently cute that I whispered in the guy's ear to give me a card so I could order these for Christmas. I don't know why I bothered to whisper, though, since I've since had the girls pick out which colors they want, off the site!


This guy's whole exhibit was these balls of goo that went SPLAT! when you threw them down or at the wall. My kids loved it, but there was no way I was plunking down even a dollar on that stuff. Makes me wonder if he even made enough money to pay for his booth. (Sophia loved it, though. I had to grab her arm mid-splat after the 15th time, to get her to move along.)


Finally, we left the exhibits and went outside to use the bathrooms. I think it was after nine by then, so I bought a sheet of 60 tickets for the rides. The kids were chilling in this Ferris Wheel seat, set up just for this purpose, when Rob called and said he'd arrived. At last! 

He couldn't find my van in the throng of cars, so the poor guy had to carry his motorcycle gear all over the fair with him. Less than fun.

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The kids were excited that Daddy had come for more fun on the rides. We spent the next couple of hours all over the Midway (well, the "Kidway,") since they're not big enough yet for the "real" rides). Sophia, ever the bravest, coaxed us onto the high-flying, fast-soaring ones that she was tall enough to on, while Chloë and Jack continued to play it safe. We made ourselves sick on cheesy fries (YUM, my favorite fair food) and other stuff I can't remember, and generally had a really great time.



When the Midway finally closed, we were among the last people there. We yanked Chloë out of the bouncy house she was in, and were headed out, when she reminded me I promised they could play ONE game. Oh, yeah. You remembered that, huh, kid?


Of course I picked the balloon darts, because they were a guaranteed-win game. I thought I could do the 3-for-$5 and have each of them throw one dart, but then we would only have been able to get one prize. Shoot. So I had to pay two bucks per dart, which is just outrageous IMO. The fair these days... whew. Those guys are making BANK.


They all popped a balloon, which is great, but check out this lady's face when Jack threw his dart. Hee! That makes me laugh every time I look at it.

And so, we close the place down. During the day, I had made an unplanned stop to the fire department, thrown up, gone completely broke, been questioned by the police, and gained about three blisters... and it was fantastic. I LOVE THE FAIR!!!!


P.S. The rest of the story wasn't so great: I was nearly falling asleep driving, so I pulled into the first rest stop I could find for a short "nap." Only, I ended up sleeping the whole night through, as did the kids, never realizing I'd forgotten to turn off the lights! We were broke, starving, and I was still so exhausted that it didn't occur to me that there were other options besides having Rob drive back up to jump the battery with his motorcycle. D'oh!  

Merrily We Roll Along


On Thursday afternoon, I took Jack back to see Dr. A (whose name you can plainly see there on his uniform) to have his ears checked again. And yes, Doc is approximately 14 years old. I called him Doogie once or twice before, to his amusement.


Doc could still see bubbles of fluid in both of Jack's ears, which is why I'm surprised and happy to tell you that as of that very morning, Jack could hear clearly again! He didn't tell me this himself; I 'tested' him as I do/did every morning, and when I whispered his name from out of sight, he answered me! It was a joyous discovery. When I questioned him about his hearing, he seemed delighted to report that everything sounded normal again. Phew! And without a milligram of medication!


Jack didn't particularly like the exam... poor babe!


At that point, Jack commandeered my camera, so the next couple of shots are from him. 

This was probably the last time we will meet with Dr. A., because he and his family (wife and two kids) are moving to Italy. Such is life when you go to a military clinic: you get attached to your provider, develop a rapport over a year or three, and then either they or you move on to the next station, and you have to start all over again.

It's the second time since we've been here that I'm really sad to say good-bye to a great doctor. The first time was the doc we had when Jack was first born. Both were 'great' in that they took their time with the patients AND the parents, listened to what we had to say, and included our input in the treatment plans. Neither made me feel "lesser-than," because I don't happen to possess a medical degree. I appreciate that immensely.


I often make this face when one of the kids takes my picture. I don't know why; it's just a habit. And I hate having my picture taken from down below. My friend E taught me long ago that it's better to have your photo taken from slightly above; the result is more flattering. So when I don't like the angle, I make a face!

I look skinny though, huh?! Hee. This is Rob's Harley shirt that I'm wearing! And look, it's not supah-dupah tight, either! (My husband is a VERY thin man, so it's exciting to be able to wear his clothes!)


Jack is always curious about the things in the doctor's office, so it was no surprise when he pulled out the stirrups. After he lay down like this, I asked Doc to perform his Pap Smear. Doc snorted and says he avoids doing those at all costs!



Somewhere between the doctor visit and the following morning, my new camera got jacked up. Just the lens cover. Half of it won't open, and the other half won't shut! Awesome. I think I need to add a fund for repairing my old camera to the budget, somewhere, somehow. This new one is just a piece of crap; I hate it so.

Anyway, here's Jack eating a batch of scrambled eggs that HE made from start to finish, next to the plate of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (from another mix that he found in the stockpile bin) that HE mixed, and near to the bowl of being-prepared pie crust that HE helped to measure and mix. He was a very busy boy in the kitchen on Friday, and I do declare that cooking and baking are now one of his favorite things to do. I can tell he takes pride in the results, too!


Of course, he had to help roll out the pie crust. That's always the kids' favorite job to do, isn't it? I showed him how to carefully wrap the dough around the rollilng pin and lay it out in the pie pan, to avoid breaking it. He did a perfect job!


Then he fluted the ege of the crust, after I showed him how to do it. He did the whole rest of the crust without help.


He did a nice job, don't you think?

I showed him how to pierce the crust with a fork to keep it from bubbling up, and he had a good time with that. See how he concentrates? I love his devotion to doing the job right.


He insisted he wanted a cup of coffee after that! The boy does like coffee... so I slipped him the decaf and brewed him up a cup, with sugar and cream. He drank two sips and decided he didn't like it. I'd have drunk it, but I can't have sugar, so it went to waste. *le sigh*

After a while, it was time to get the girls off the bus. We had to rush Jack right out to Chesapeake for a Cub Scout friend's birthday party after that, at a popular bouncy house place. I'd lined up some errands to run so that the girls wouldn't have to sit there and watch him having fun, because I didn't have a spare $16 to let them play, too. Sophia was really disappointed, so I promised her I'd take her sometime this summer.

After dropping Jacky off, we stopped at the FedEx shop so I could ship a package. It didn't cost me anything; it was for a mystery shopping project I'd done the week before. Chloë waited in the car and read her book; Sophia came inside with me so she could use the potty. I've been pricing papers, just to know what things cost in case I need them for home-schooling, so I was surprised when they told me that theirs cost $10 a ream! Uh, no.

Then we stopped over at Babies 'R' Us, because I knew they carried the Snikiddy brand of snacks, for which I had three "Free Product" coupons. Snikiddy is all-natural but not organic; I decided that in this case, it was close enough for me. "Natural" doesn't really mean anything, so I did my research on the company and decided it was okay to consume. But while we were at BRU, I was thrilled to find a wonderful array of organic foods and drinks at reasonable prices. I'd love to buy all our organic goods at the shop at the Farmer's Market, but she's very expensive, so I'm having to find deals where I can. The emphasis is still going to be on buying local, though.

Our last stop was at the TAPS near BRU, to see if they had the Daisy Leader book. Our local store didn't have it, so I was chagrined to find they were out of it at this one, too. Tha hell?! How am I supposed to know what to do if I don't have a book? I NEED my book. We spent another few minutes looking around at all the cool stuff, but again, I didn't want to spend any money that I didn't have, so we bought nothing. My creative juices really get flowing in a store like that, though!

Unfortunately, all these errands only took an hour, so we still had to go back and sit for another hour at the birthday party site. They had some toys in the waiting area, so that kept the girls busy for 20 minutes while I was able to do some knitting. I spent a quarter on a bouncy ball for them to roll around to each other, when they tired of the toys and limited books available. After that, it was all go-go-go, because every time I looked away for a second, Sophia had shucked her shoes and was in one of the bouncy structures!! Illegally. Inwardly, I was laughing, but of course I couldn't show that I was amused by her antics, or she'd take that as acceptance. So I kept the stern look on my face as I dragged her out and back to the waiting room, hating all the while that I didn't have that spare $16.

One time, Jack had climbed halfway up the highest structure and would neither go up nor down, so all the boys came rushing over to get me. An older boy, the birthday kid's older brother, had tried to rescue him, but he wanted Mama only. I tore over there and shoved his butt up to the top, and then we slid down together. I completely understand his reluctance; I am the same way. When we slid down the steep slide, I got that sick feeling in my stomach that thrills some people (Sophia-types like my sister, Stacey) but which I don't enjoy at all.

And of course, when I returned, Sophia was nowhere to be found... until I looked in a corner of the big warehouse, where she was happily bouncing away with a new friend. She is such a stinker!


After the bouncy party was over, we went back to the Farmer's Market for some supplies for dinner. I had promised a celebratory dinner for Rob, for getting his motorcycle license, but we still hadn't done that yet. I found one restaurant in the area that was reported to be "organic," Crocs at the beach, but when I called them, it turned out they only had "some produce" that was actually organic - not their whole menu. Suck. (Attention, entrepreneurs! I see a niche needing to be filled...) Jack had wanted to make pizza, so we decided to make that for Daddy's dinner, instead.

The stop at the organic market was meant just for some organic sauce for the pizza(s), but the kids talked me into some fresh fruit, including Chloë and Jack's kiwis, above. I tried a slice; it was definitely the most delicious kiwi I'd ever tasted! I also got some organic bananas from Ecuador, which just smell amazing, for more smoothies. Or something, I don't know. Oh, and a package of goat cheese for one of the pizzas, since we don't particularly care for Organic Valley's mozzarella cheese. (It tastes very dry, like cheddar. Which is fine, if you're expecting cheddar, but not if you're expecting traditional mozz. I'll just have to learn to make my own!)


We also stopped at the Creamery I'd mentioned in a previous post, to get some ice cream and that fresh cream top milk. Anything to fatten up my skinnies!  The milk is already gone; it was SO good. The ice cream was excellent, too, but we really didn't care for the mint chips in that flavor, so we'll probably not buy that flavor again. The strawberry, though... mmmmmm! It all tasted so good, and since this working Maryland dairy farm is the apparently the closest such one to this area, they consider themselves to be "local." In fact, earlier this morning, I signed up for their weekly delivery service, for milk, cheese, and such. Not their eggs; though; I'll continue to get those from Polyface Farms at the organic store. 

(Have I mentioned Polyface? If not, look it up - it's Joel Salatin's family farm. He's the guy Rob and I love from Food, Inc., and he's going to be giving two talks at the Homeschool Convention in a couple of weeks. I'm going to meet him!!!!)


By the time we got home and got the kitchen cleaned up so I could start dinner, it was past 8 o'clock, and Jack had no interest in helping me make the pizza. So I made it myself: organic dough, sauce and goat cheese - doesn't it look SO good? And it was. Especially after I re-cooked it; the dough was raw when I first served it. Oops. Jack and Sophie didn't care for the goat cheese, so Chloë ate theirs. I adore goat cheese, though. Yum!


For dessert, I pulled out the pie Jack and I had made earlier in the day. It's got a mostly-organic crust, with the fresh-picked strawberries on top. The cream filling is made of organic eggs, yogurt, and cream cheese, plus sugar and a little bit of Cool Whip. I had a little taste, and it was SO yummy. I wish I could have dove in, but I'd really have made myself sick.


Our neighbors to the right came home when I ran out to the car for something, so I mentioned that Jack had made a special strawberry pie, and would they like to try it? Of course they would, so I served some up for thme and brought it over. I made her promise to tell me what she thought of it, even if it wasn't good, because I can't eat it and don't want to make it again if it's yucky!

In the mail yesterday, I'd gotten a new game for the Wii, "Just Dance," along with a cursive writing workbook for Chloë. I paid $1.33 for both, after using my Swagbucks money for the rest! The Wii game turned out to be SO much fun - and a great workout! The kids and I took turns doing dances, and I danced along behind them when it wasn't my turn. I was sweating up a storm and feeling great.


The kids' dancing was so funny! I'm sure mine was as well, but of course I have no pictures of that. And I wouldn't show you if I did!


Poor Jack. He has inherited his father's dance skill - or lack thereof - but he sure tried!


Rob sat there like a bump on a log the whole time, refusing to play with us. He wouldn't even dance once! Butthead. :P


No, she's not drinking a beer - it's an organic root beer! Delicious. (I am loving this organic stuff; can you tell?!) But look at her feet! This kid is so bendy and flexible. She amazes me! I think it will be a good fit when she tries gymnastics again later this year. 

We danced well into the night, past 2300, and then I tried to go for a run around our lake. I got about a third of the way along when I just collapsed, unable to breathe. (It was embarrassing, because a man was fishing right there!) I tried to catch my breath so I could start running again, but I just couldn't... and I ended up throwing up violently. It was very upsetting. I'll have to take it more slowly... but I'm ready to fly like the wind!

On a positive ending note, I've lost 4 lbs since Thursday! I'm now well into my fabulous 50s - as in, I'm at 157.3 lbs! Yay!! Less than 7½ lbs until I reach my doctor's goal!!


Garden State


Before I forget to tell you, I wanted to let you know now that I have created a new blog for our homeschooling efforts. You can see it here. Don't forget to add it to your reader!


Saturday was a dud, despite a multitude of plans, because Rob had a migraine, and I was super-exhausted. Chloë was supposed to go to overnight camp with her troop; we were supposed to go to the She-Crab Soup Classic down on the beach; we were supposed to take the kids to a Mother's Day Bead Craft at Michael's; we were supposed to take the kids to an Earth Day event at the mall; we were supposed to go to church. None of that happened. Instead, we took it super-easy today and did practically nothing. Hopefully, Sunday will be more productive, but every once in a while you need a day like that, so I don't feel too bad about things.

Instead, I'll tell you about Friday, which was a pretty great day.

Rob didn't have to work, for whatever reason, so we spent the day together. Once again, I had stayed up all night, this time doing homeschooling research. He got up with the children, while I showered and got ready for the day. After they were on the bus and he showered, we got started.


First, we went to Harris Teeter, since it's still triple coupons week. This picture is from Thursday, though. If you'll remember, I went on Wednesday and got a bagfull of groceries for 11¢! On Thursday, I got all of the above for 13¢! So all that stuff for under a quarter. Pretty great.


For Friday's shopping trip, I had Rob got to Customer Service to get his own VIC card, so he could use 20 additional coupons (their daily limit). We had two carts. In the end, we bought all of the above - and more, mostly cleaning stuff, that I forgot to put in the photo because I didn't see the bag - for less than $40, saving about $110 in coupons. If you want more specific details on this shopping trip, please comment or email me, because I don't want to focus on that in this post.


After we went home and put everything away, we had to go out and do a couple of mystery shops. The first one was at a gas station, where I had to buy gas, coffee and a soda, and do a number of observations. Unforunately, when I started to do the report today, I realized I forgot to take an essential picture. It's still up n the air whether I will need to just go back for that picture, or entirely reshop the thing. Obviously, I hope it's the former.

The second shop was at the fast food chain where I go all the time. Throughout the day, whenever we were in the car and traveling to our various destinations, and during this fast food shop, we talked about home-schooling the kids. Rob hasn't been reading my blog this week, so he was completely unaware of my plans. I wanted to bring him into the fold, of course, because I want him to be a vital part of this process, this experience, this adventure. I want him to come home and hear all about what we learned that day, but I also want him to be part of the teaching, and the learning, himself.  He readily agrees.


As part of our discussion, we talked about the hypocritical nature of this particular fast food shop, in which I'm not allowed to purchase certain foods. That pretty much leaves beef and pork, which I don't eat, which leaves him and the kids to eat the food or throw it away. That really sucks, because he doesn't want to eat beef either, and I would be happy if the kids didn't as well. Unfortunately, these shops pay well, so I'm torn. I can get a meatless sandwich, but I've been told not to order it every single time, less they identify me as The Shopper, and then I won't be able to work for them anymore. It's a slight conundrum. In the end, I'm sure I will quit doing them, but maybe not immediately. We'll see.


Finally, we headed to the Farmer's Market, to get me some crab cakes from our favourite fishmonger, Uncle Chuck. He's an awesome guy; I just love him to bits. And he makes great crab cakes. All of the rest of his seafood is wonderful, too - and it's fairly local. If it's not caught here, then he gets in from the Outer Banks or the Eastern Shore. The fish that he was fileting that afternoon was brought in on a boat at the oceanfront that morning. We chatted with him and one of his other customers for a little while, and then we headed next door to a new garden shop that has joined the Market since the last time we were there.

One of the things that I stayed up all night researching was composting and the garden I want to install in our currently-horrible backyard. Here are the first 14 things I would like to start growing four ourselves, with apologies in advance if the pictures make you drool on your keyboard:

Tomato Super Sweet 100 

Cherry Tomatoes (Super Sweet 100 variety)

Spinach Teton 

Spinach - Teton variety

Summer Squash Saffron 

Summer Squash - Saffron variety

Lettuce Black-Seeded Simpson 

Lettuce - Black-Seeded Simpson Variety

Cucumber Bush Champion 

Cucumber - Bush Champion variety

Sweet Pepper Carnival 

Sweet Pepper - Carnival hybrid variety

Beets Chioggia 

Beets - Chioggia variety

Carrot Danvers Half-Long 

Carrots - Danvers Half-Long variety

Radish French Breakfast

Radish - French Breakfast variety

Swiss Chard Fordhook Giant 

Swiss Chard - Fordhook Giant variety

Pole Bean Kentucky Wonder
  Pole Bean - Kentucky Wonder variety

Eggplant Rosa Bianca

Eggplant - Rosa Bianca variety

 Snap Pea Super Sugar Snap V.P.

Super Sugar Snap Peas



Those are the specific varieties I want (when mentioned), and I can get them all from the Burpee website for about $50. I want to peruse local vendors for cheaper sources, though. Hopefully I can spend a little bit less than that, but that's not really too bad.


At the garden shop at the Farmer's Maket, we started out by looking at the vegetable plants, but I wasn't too impressed with the varietes available or the prices. We found container garden planters shaped like giant feet that we both loved, similar to the ones above. They were $65 apiece (!!), which I found outrageous, but I can't seem to find them anywhere online. Not that shipping wouldn't be substantial... However, when an employee, Eileen, came over to ask if we needed help, we ended up getting into a wonderful conversation with her about how to start our vegetable garden. I'm so glad we did; she was a font of useful and practical information. We were going to rent a rototiller and tear up the whole backyard, but she advised us to save our money and build the raised beds I already knew we'd need (bad soil, poor drainage) right on top of the grass, instead. Hopefully we can all design the garden and build the beds ourselves, and we'll certainly work the garden together. I'm completely excited; I can't wait to start.


It will be costly, though. With all those seeds, the soil and whatever (organic) fertilizer we end up buying, lumber for the beds, the composting system, watering, etc., gardening isn't the cheap thrill I thought it would be! I'm so naive. Between that and the curricula I want to buy for the kids, the belly-surgery money is going to go POOF! I'm disappointed, but that doesn't mean I'll never have the surgery. It just means I'll have to wait another year, at least. Maybe by then, I'll be ready to have all of the surgeries I want to have (arms, thighs and boobs) and can pay for them all at once with our 2010 tax refund. I don't look quite as bad as the poor guy above, but it is how I feel, especially when I look in the mirror, so I don't want to leave things as they are. And I am pretty happy with how I look in clothes, except for my underthings and bathing suit. With summer coming, that stinks a bit - but what the hell, I didn't look any better before I had my gastric bypass!


It was just about time for the kids to come home from school by then, so we headed home. I was all set to relax while Rob took the kids across the street to the lake to run around, but then Rob came racing back to tell me about the newborn ducklings I had to see. Sophia came along beside me on the Big Wheel that she's about two years too old for, but she didn't care.


This mama had her hands full with no fewer than TEN ducklings trailing along behind her, wherever she went. I can relate, but ten! All at once! Phew. She is a brave woman bird. We found one egg whose inhabitant didn't make it out, so that was sad, but it's nature. It's what happens, all the time, even in people. I try to be that philosophical about my own loss, but it's obviously very hard! Anyway, these little critters were terribly cute, and I stood there and took about a dozen pictures and a video of them. I loved it when one little guy kept daydreaming and getting behind, only to look up and realize his mother and siblings were two feet away. Then he'd swim as fast as his little legs could carry him back to the pack. Adorable!


My feet. I took this picture by accident, with my iPhone, but I liked it.

Stim and Luke were headed over a few hours later for Game Night, so I had some cleaning up to do after the ducky visit. The kids helped me straighten up the office and living room, while Rob worked a little bit on the kitchen. It wasn't spotless by any means, but it was a damn sight better than what it was before we started!

Just before they got here, Chloë started pitching a fit about going to camp the next morning. She just did NOT want to go, but she could give no reason why not, so I was insisting that she go. She was furious and in tears. I brought her over to me to try to talk to her more calmly, when I noticed her poor, infected finger. (It was our second finger mishap of the day: I'd shaved off the top of my finger - a piece of the nail and the nailbed under it - in the shower that morning!) A week or so earlier, she'd had a large hangnail, so I cut it off with nail clippers. A couple of days ago, I noticed it was infected, so we put triple-antibiotic ointment on it. Well, we forgot about it, and it was a billion times worse when I noticed it. Immediately, I knew she had to be taken to the doctor. She burst into tears afresh, but there was no question about it. It was really bad. Rob jumped up and got her into his truck.



Stim-fam arrived while I was getting The Littles ready for bed. I was about to send them up, when they reminded me they hadn't yet had dinner! And it was after 8 PM! Whoopsy-daisy. I gave them each a half a bagel; I was just not in the mood to cook. It was hot, and I do NOT cook when the kitchen is fully clean. I just can't. Can't. They were satisfied, anyway.


Soon enough, Chloe and Rob returned from the ER. Poor girl! She'd had quite a bad time. They gave her a shot in the finger to numb it, and then sliced open the oozing infection to drain it. Yuck! And OW! It hurts a great deal, now. She keeps telling me she feels her heartbeat in her finger; I tell her I feel the same thing in mine. I feel bad that I wasn't there for her when she was going through that, though. Poor little one!



Once we got all the kids to bed and Steph had nursed baby Luke a few times, we started playing Quelf. To loosen us up, we girls each had a winecooler, and Tim had a beer. Maybe. I can't actually remember whether he had one or not, but alcohol definitely helps when playing this game. It was a blast!! I wanted to play a second game, but they had to go. Too bad, because we had all been laughing our asses off during play. Good times, good times. (I was Mrs. Picklefeather, in case you were wondering.)

After they left, I crashed. Hard. And that's all there is to it!