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Saturday 9: Ordinary People

John Legend | Artist | www.grammy.com

John Legend: "Ordinary People"

Hello, hello, y'all. I very nearly missed this week's questionnaire, but I pulled myself up to get it done. We've all been doing this for so long "together," and I don't want to lose that.

Awesome Happy Spring GIF - white spring flowers and glitter

Happy Spring, Northern Hemisphereans! I'm so delighted. #understatement

Not much really happened here this week that I can think of; that is a good thing! Two weeks ago, my lithium levels were way too low, and I was planning on jumping off the nearest tall building. Now that the doctor has raised my dosage, I feel so, so, so much better. It was almost overnight! And I'm so thankful, so grateful to still be here.

Let's get it done. (P.S. I was just about to post this, and then my Chrome died, closing all my windows and not returning all the content I had here. So I'm aggravated now. GAH!)


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

1) In this song, John Legend sings that both he and his girl have "room to grow." What about you? In what areas would you like to improve?

Lyme Warrior Poem | Perseverance, Lyme, You are strong

Well, hard to do being here in a small hotel room (for yet another two months! Ugh!), but when we move into our new home I really want to make it a point to get out of bed and at least circulate with the family downstairs, every day. I'm in bed so much, some days I don't see anyone but Hubs. And the dogs are getting entirely too used to cozying up with  me all day. Something's gotta change, and I want to make the effort. I do not want the pain and fatigue from Lyme dictate what I do for the rest of my days.

2) He sings that when he hangs up in anger, she calls him back. Are you quicker to anger, or quicker to forgive?

Both! And quick to apologize, too. If someone apologizes to me, it's done, it's over.

3) "Ordinary People" was John Legend's first big hit. He originally wrote it for The Black Eyed Peas, but -- happily for him -- recorded it himself. Have you ever purchased a gift for someone else but then decided to keep it yourself?

Black Eyed Peas | Members, Music, Songs, & Facts | Britannica

Really? I love the Peas but I can't see them doing this song justice. As for me, I don't think I've ever done that, but I for sure have wished I had enough  money at that moment for a second one. Several times!

4) Ordinary People is also the title of an acclaimed novel by Judith Guest and an Oscar-winning film. Are you familiar with either the movie or the book?

Barbra Streisand, tout sur la chanteuse

Of course, I definitely knew the movie - my mother was a huge fan of Barbra Streisand. I remember that just a couple of months before she died, she took 7-year-old me and 8-year-old  Stacey (my big sister) to the movies to see Yentl. It's one of my last memories with my mom, so I cherish and love Barbra for it, too. As for the book, I don't think I had heard of it, but now it's on my "want to read" list on Goodreads. Thanks!

5) John is married to Chrissy Teigen, who gained fame as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. When is the last time you dove in? Were you in a pool, lake, river or sea?

Lucky Peak Dam Photos – Hicken Design

 Atlantic Ocean in August and September when we first got here to Maryland from Idaho, but it was a while before that that I actually got in and swam. In the summer of 2017, I swam with the fam at the Boise reservoir. It was a good day, and we had fun, but then I came down with this horrid bacterial infection that left me wishing for death. I hadn't heard of that particular critter before; I guess it was a big enough deal for the county epidemiologist to call me up and interview me over the phone. Guess I lost my nerve after that!

6) John unexpectedly proposed to Chrissy on vacation, but he was afraid airport security would ruin the surprise when they went through his carry on very thoroughly. He worried she would see the ring box and he'd have to drop down to one knee right there at the airport! Tell us about one of your flights: your first, your most recent or your most memorable.

It was just really odd flying back here to the East Coast this past summer. The jets were sparsely populated instead of overcrowded, and there was no food or drink service, and we were all constantly reminded to pull up our masks here or that way or whatever. It was tense and scary on the one hand, but also just another adventure arrow to stick in our quivers, I guess.

7) John is currently a coach on The Voice. The other coaches are Nick Jonas, Kelly Clarkson and Blake Shelton. Of those four singers, which is your favorite? 

Kelly Clarkson opens up about suicidal thoughts in her early career

Gotta go with my girl Kelly! I was nursing my first newborn Chloë when Kelly competed on and won the first season of American Idol.

8) In 2005, when this song was popular, Johnny Carson died. After he retired from The Tonight Show in 1993, he traveled extensively and discovered he especially enjoyed photographic safaris in Africa. If time and money were no object, where would you go on vacation?

Pastel-colored Jupiter dazzles in gorgeous Hubble telescope photo | Space

I'd have all the money and the time, you say?! Well sure, I'd visit all the continents in turn, thoroughly and passionately. But I wouldn't stop there. I'd say hello to Moon and then head outward for a glimpse of Mars before I hovered out around my favorite planet, Jupiter. I'll end this story of mine there, though, since it's too far-fetched even for me.

9) Random question -- In your typical day, what's the longest you usually go without saying a word to another person: all day, a few hours, an hour, or five minutes?

03202021 Paco

Right now, maybe about an hour, possibly two hours. But I've always got this little guy and his chonky sister to talk to!

All right, phew, I made it and hopefully will save it in time in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1...

Enjoy your Spring beginning, y'all!


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!

Saturday 9: It Don't Come Easy

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Saturday 9: It Don't Come Easy (1971)

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

1) This was Ringo's first big hit as a solo artist. Who is your favorite member of his old, very famous group, The Beatles?
I really don't have one. I could not even begin to select a favorite. Sorry.
2) In this song, Ringo sings that you have to pay your dues. Do you belong to any organizations that require you to pay dues?
At this moment, I don't, but I have thought about rejoining Mensa. I got my Mensa card and membership when I was about 22, when I was a young doctoral student feeling very insecure about my own intelligence. I needed it to prove to myself that I wasn't an idiot, I guess. Academia was overwhelming me at that point in my life.

3) He also sings, "you don't have to shout." When did you last raise your voice?
Last night. Listen, in a boisterous family such as mine, with a half-deaf husband who never lowers his voice, three zany kiddos, two dogs, four cats, and me? I often need to raise my voice in order to be heard.

4) Ringo has two piercings on each ear and one tattoo on each arm. Do you have more piercings or body art?
I have four holes in each ear, and my nose is pierced. That's it for me so far, but that may change in the future. And that's all I'm gonna say about that right now.
5) Ringo gave his first wife, Maureen, a one-of-a-kind birthday gift. Frank Sinatra made a recording of "The Lady Is a Tramp" personalized to her. Tell us about one of your most memorable birthday celebrations.
My most memorable birthday occurred when I turned 25. I had just given birth the day before for the first time, to Chloë Raine, but she was in the NICU while I recovered apart from her, from an emergency c-section. People were sending two sets of flowers to the hospital, for my birthday and for her birth, and I was so caught up in the wondrousness of being a nervous first-time mom that I forgot about my own birthday. That was on September 8, 2001, so three days before the terrorist attacks. Talk about tumult, especially since Hubs was on paternity leave from active duty service in the Navy at the time.
Also, when I was 17, I made my father an apple pie for his birthday. It was my first apple pie. He asked me to hold it up so he could take a picture. I had done an elaborate lattice top crust on the pie, so Dad asked me to tilt the pie up for the photo, and all of the innards of the pie slid out, onto the floor. After the shouting and hollering that ensued, we about laughed our fool heads off. Ah, well. The rest of it was still good!

6) Ringo appeared as Mr. Conductor on Thomas the Tank Engine. He recorded the narration for the entire first season in just a week. Tell us what you did last week. 
Well, this week (because I can scarcely remember last week, an ongoing situation) saw me going to downtown Miami, an hour away, for two separate doctor visits with University of Miami clinicians. On Tuesday, I saw my fibromyalgia specialist for the first time. I think she will really be able to help me get the intense daily pain I've been experiencing since May under some semblance of control.
Thursday was even better. I took 14-year-old Chloë, who is extremely petite and who has been diagnosed with "idiopathic short stature," to her pediatric endocrinologist. (Jack, who is also significantly small for 12 years, sees him as well, but he has a different diagnosis of pituitary dwarfism.) Anyway, Chloë should have been tested years ago, while Rob was still Active Duty Navy, for her delayed growth. The testing was finally done this year, and she just got news that she has been given approval for growth hormone shots! It would be an understatement to say that she is elated:

7) Ringo also did the narration for Ladybird children's books. Do you like audiobooks?
I have hated having someone read to me since I learned to read at three years old. I wanted to do it myself! But on the recent spate of long road trips we have taken, I listened to an audiobook or two while I drove. I didn't care for it, particularly, because I thought the tone of voice and inflections in each sentence were all wrong. On the other hand, I never take the time to read a book anymore, and I really wanted to read these books, so I definitely saw the value in them.

8) As a boy in Liverpool, Ringo loved watching American westerns. His passion for the genre is reflected in the outfit he's wearing on the sleeve for "It Don't Come Easy." Do you like cowboy movies/shows?
Nope, not my thing at all.

9) You know what else don't come easy? Nine questions every week. Crazy Sam has heard it all: this meme asks too many movie questions, too many questions about sports, too many questions that sound familiar ...  OK, now it's your turn. Help a tired meme mistress out. Contribute a random question that is not about movies or sports (pro or collegiate) and has never been asked before on this meme. Sam will compile these for an all-random Saturday 9 in November. That way she'll get a much-appreciated week off. Thanks for your help!
What's the perfect sandwich, complete with just the right bread, just the right fillings, condiments, and garnishes, and what kind of sides does it require? Chips? Pickles? Potato salad? (I say the word "pickle" a lot - don't ask - so I started with that thought. Haha.)

Saturday 9: Battle Hymn Of The Republic

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Saturday 9: Battle Hymn of the Republic

(From the archives

Memorial Day was introduced to honor the men and women who died while serving the in the United States Armed Forces. We want to make sure that message is not forgotten this weekend.

1) This recording was made live at St. Patrick's Cathedral, during Senator Robert F. Kennedy's funeral. (Hear it here.) While both of Bobby's older brothers were decorated war heroes, he served too - enlisting in the Navy in 1943. Are you a veteran? Are there veterans in your family? (We are grateful and want to hear about it.)
Rob Navy
This is then-AN Robert Odette, now retired PR1 Odette, in his first year in the United States Navy 22 years ago. I'm super-proud of the guy I married, not only for his epic contributions to our family, but for his service to our country. Thankfully, he is not being memorialized this weekend, as he's sitting behind me eating some potato chips!
Additionally, my grandfather served in the Navy in WWII. Several other family members on both sides of the marital bond are Navy vets, and my dad was a Coastie. I have not personally served.
2) Memorial Day also kicks off the summer season. What's your favorite picnic food? 
Hmm. Pre-vegetarianism, I would have had to say Fried Chicken! Post-veg, I'll say potato salad. I like the red, skin-on kind best.
3) Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life.
This is what my Grandpa wore. The scent of it brings me back to the their condo in New Jersey in the 80s. Ahhh... those were the days.
4) When was the last time you had your hair cut or trimmed?
I trimmed my own bangs this past week (shhh! don't tell my stylist sister), but about a week ago or three, I had it professionally cut.
5) Crazy Sam runs on Dunkin'. Are you loyal to a particular brand of coffee?
At home, I'll brew whatever K-cups I can get a good deal on - except Seattle's Best, because I'm NOT a fan - but if I got out for coffee, it's gonna be Starbucks. Yep. I don't go but once or twice a month, but when I do, it's gonna be a Java Chip Frappuccino Light, no whip, with coconut milk. Mmm-mmm, delish!
6) If money was no object, what home improvement would you like to make this summer? 
Buying one. Here in Miami. Specifically, since money is no object, I'd like one with 4+ bedrooms, 2½+ bathrooms, a large decked-out kitchen, and a sizable in-ground pool in the fenced-in backyard. With room on the patio for an immense grill, picnic table and benches, and lounge chairs. I'm not dreaming, much.

7) What was the last thing you bought purely for your own enjoyment?
Since you asked, a cherry red Victoria's Secret push-up bra, for my sad little ladies. ;) I'd show you a picture, but (a) I'm not brave enough to post a selfie of that and (b) I'm not secure enough to look at the models wearing it for longer than it takes to order it. Ha!
8) When was the last time you rode a bike?
Too long. My bike is sitting, locked up, on the front patio, waiting for me to hop aboard. I'm waiting for Hubs to install the basket on it, so I can look adorable while I'm tooling around, running errands. What?
9) Sam worries that many of her song selections reflect her decidedly Baby Boomer sensibilities. Is there a song or a performer that you'd like to see featured in a Saturday 9 this summer?
Oh, yes, lots of suggestions come to mind. I'm crushing right now on Björk's "I Miss You," Brandon Flowers' new album, and anything by Nickel Creek. Check it out!
Thanks for stopping by!

Trips Afield: Gold Coast Railroad Museum


Wednesday, like every April 22nd for the past ... well, that's up for debate, but read this story if you want to know more ... was Earth Day. We had big earthy, environmentalist plans, but those fell through. Fortunately, we had backup plans! We visited Miami's Gold Coast Railroad Museum, next do the Zoo, instead. Wow, did this trip come along with lots of history lessons!

Disclosure: We were given free passes to visit the Gold Coast Railroad Museum in exchange for this blog post. All opinions are, as always, 100% my own.

I kinda wanted to steal the "NO SNORING" sign from the museum's gift shop wall. Cute and funny!


We all had to test out the Morse Code telegraph machine. It was loud and, yes, obnoxious. God bless the twin girls working in the shop, because they must have to put up with that nonsense a lot.


And with that, we were outta the gate and into an immense, old railroad yard with all manner of antique and old-fashioned trains to explore. What fun! This was definitely right up Jack's alley.




I sort of have a fetish for antique suitcases. I love them. They bespeak so many adventures, I think. I would love to collect them, but I never find them, so...


Chloë thought this old wheelchair was pretty cool. I don't know whether it was kosher for her to sit on it, but she already was and there was no "keep off" sign, so I snapped the pic. I could say that about a lot of these pictures...


When Rob rang this bell, it was so loud and unexpected, I wanted to ring his bell!




Maybe you can tell from Jack's stance, but he was freaked out by the wax figure of a porter up there ahead, on the left. So I did what I do: laughed and took a photo.


Have a seat!


Sophe pretending to wash hands in the sink on the train... a rare sight, since I still have to tell her to do it for real now!


Very cool.


We were told that if the train was open, we could go ahead and go in and explore. We found lots of open trains to visit! This one... wasn't.



Proof that I was actually there, experiencing this, too. I gotta remember to take more pictures of me. Y'know, for posterity.


I guess they use the trains for after-school programs. Pretty cool place to go, if you ask me.


Silly Sophie, pretending to eat at the table. I love that she still has such fun imagining at ten.






This is Sophia trying to get up into the luggage cart. No, she didn't, but if I had looked away... she'd have been up there in a New York minute! ;)


Jack was pretty much in seventh heaven out here.



NASA, the early days


Rob checkin' out the innards


Hey, you gotta go, you gotta go. The train bathrooms remind me of the ones on the Piedmont airplanes back in the 80s.


Again, we weren't invited on one of the beds in the sleepers, but we weren't chastised or warned off them, either...


Sophia looking so cute with her little bandanna.... love it!




The kids loved the idea of transcontinental train travel. We vowed to do it sometime before they're grown.


This does not look even remotely comfortable!


Well, hello, Rufus.



Yeah, that might not be good.



At this point, I was having a total Stand By Me moment.



Rob, being a sweety... but I made him leave them there. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, after all.


Why, hello up there!








This is the part where Sophie pretends to be a hobo, hopping on and off cargo trains and going joy-riding!


Girl versus the machine?





Switch operator, Chloë


Speaking of Stand By Me...


Chugga-chugga-woo-woo! Hey, we're tweens and teens, but a train is a train, man.




Because Thomas.



Sophie in her babushka


The trainy equivalent of Air Force One. Pretty cool.




Hilariously, Sophie was pretending to be interrogated and pleading for her freedom. She cracks me up.


Jack was giggling because men used fancy China and drank tea. Silly boy!


The girls were terribly excited to find this very old, dusty book amongst the artifacts on one train. The books, we like them.





Now this one, I coveted. Badly.


America's Playground, Florida's East Coast, you say? I must go to there.


Yeah. I can't remember what she was doing here. Basking in the glory?



Uh, not a good angle for him!


Tiniest President ever.


My fellow Americans...!







Jack accidentally honked the horn, and it was LOUD. We all jumped. It was pretty hysterical. Eh, you had to be there.


What about wheelchairs?




We learned about blimps our first year of homeschooling, way back in 2010, so we kind of have an affinity for all things hydrofoil.




In honor of Daddy, the girls insisted I take their picture with the US Navy flag.


We totally confused the "We Can Do It" poster with "Rosie the Riveter" and talked all about the Normal Rockwell piece as if this was it. Uhhh.... ooops. Now we know better, though, and knowing is half the battle.

(RIP to the real "Rosie.)


True facts.


Yes, but do you know the way to San José?

We learned a lot of history on this field trip, and quite a lot about the history of race relations in this country. The kids all agreed by the end that racism pretty much sucks. Phew! I'm glad that was the attitude learned. 

Thanks to the GCRM for having us, and thank you for stopping by!


#TBT Throwback Thursday: Wedding Day Bliss


Yesterday (Wednesday), Team Odette headed up to Clearwater in Pinellas County, Florida, for me to visit a potential new JAFRA Consultant of mine. (That appointment went great, even though I forgot to take my anxiety meds. She's going to sign up next week!)


Afterward, the children were starving, so I took them nearby to Steak 'n' Shake for dinner. Surprising absolutely nobody, and true to form, Sophia ordered mac & cheese, Jack ordered chicken fingers, and Chloë ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. Par for the course. Robert had to stay outside in the car with Paco - voluntarily, of course. He spoils that pooch something awful (and I'm a bit of an enabler, myself)!


Since we were already in Pinellas, and St. Petersburg was on the way home, we offered to take the kids on a slight detour through St. Pete Beach and show them where we had our second wedding on the beach at sunset fourteen years ago. They were all over that like white on rice.  Our first stop was to visit where Mama used to work before going to graduate school: Larry's Olde Fashioned Ice Cream Parlor. (I gained so much weight snacking on the Peanut Butter and Chocolate flavor!)

Since the kids had already had shakes with dinner, I simply ordered a vanilla cone for our ice cream-lovin' spoiled pooch, Paquito, and let the kids get a chocolate-covered pretzel. And, come to find out, the same owner(s?) are still there from when I was 22 and heading off to University of South Florida to work on my Ph.D. in shark feeding ecomorphology with Dr. Phil Motta. (Totally name-dropping there.) She didn't recognize me, but when I told her that I had been there 16 years earlier, she said I must have been a baby, so I was too flattered to remind her that she fired me because I was leaving for grad school four months later!


And finally, we meandered down Gulf Blvd along the coastline to Pass-A-Grille Beach, the site of that fortyear post-nuptial wedding ceremony.

You see, we had originally planned for that sunset-on-the-shore wedding to be the actual nuptial ceremony. However, circumstances changed in that I had to rush up to see Rob unexpectedly a week or so after my previous visit to see him for a Navy Christmas party, wherein I found it almost impossible to drive away back to St. Petersburg at the end of my visit. For this latter drive up, I already knew by the time I arrived in Panama City Beach, where he was at Coastal Systems Station, that it would be utterly impossible for me to leave him again.

So, after we returned to PCB from Missouri to bury his stepfather, Gene, we hauled ass back to St. Pete together to put in my notice at work, pack up my apartment, get my dog Johnny... and elope! We filled out our marriage license paperwork on the 30th of December and had to wait until the 2nd of January to get married. Rushing to the courthouse after I finished work on that 2nd day of January, 2001, hand-in-hand and laughing our fool heads off, was the absolute best moment of my life.

We got married at the courthouse that day, just us and the Justice of the Peace. She shut the blinds, left, and let us smooch to our hearts' content after we exchanged the rings.


By that time, however, some of our family and friends had already made their travel arrangements for the planned beach wedding. We decided to go on with it and get married in front of them, our pastor, and God. (Not that He wasn't present the first time, but, you know.)

On February 17th, 2001, which also would have been my mommy's 50th birthday, we had our beach wedding after all. I had found out sometime around January 20th - just a few short weeks after we eloped - that Chloë was on the way! So I went to our wedding pregnant and, kicking off my shoes, finished the scenario barefoot to boot. I knew people would think my pregnancy was the reason we got married two short months after we first met, and that wasn't helped by her arrival a month early! Haha! But no matter, because Rob, God, and I know the truth. (And my OBs, natch.)

Anyway, 14 years later, there we were at twilight, with 13½-year-old Chloë, along with nearly-12yo Jack and nearly 10yo Sophia cavorting in the sand on Pass-a-Grille Beach. And just like we had those years ago, Rob and I kissed in the moonlight whilst dancing to Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight." However, with Paco in Rob's arms, those kisses turned into puppy licks and, um, eww.

Once we gathered up the children, who were disappointed not to have seen any sharks or cownose rays as I'd suggested might have happened, we decided to head up to St. Petersburg's 34th St S and visit where I used to work at the Law Offices of James M. Brickley.

Jim died while watching the attacks on September 11th, just four days after Chloë was born, so sadly the law firm was no longer there. It was replaced by a dental office. The Gold's Gym in that plaza was another gym chain now, but the Domino's was still there. The bagel shop that had the best bagels and cream cheeses on earth (which I've been craving ever since our elopement) was shut down and empty inside, and the plaza had expanded to include many more shops including one of those ubiquitous Dollar Tree stores. I got a little teary-eyed remembering Jim and his wife Pam, who I had considered my mom-figure once upon a time.

Anyway. All-in-all, it was a pretty rockin' day, and we had the best time. The kids and Paco snoozed almost all the way back home to Miami, and Rob and I held hands and rocked out to songs on the radio. And I drove entirely too fast.

Thanks for strolling with me down Memory Lane!


Sunday Stealing: Let's Talk Travel


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

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

Where have you been? 

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

Next place you want to go? 

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

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

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

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

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

With someone, or alone? 

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

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

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

If you're quiet what does it mean? 

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

Favorite scent?

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

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

Favorite store? 

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

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

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

Favorite kind of pizza? 

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

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

Do you get embarrassed easily? 

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

Do you mind people asking you personal questions? 

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

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

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

Favorite tv show?


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

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

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

Something you keep in your car? 

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

 Highlight of your day? 

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

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

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

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

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

What do you do when you disagree with someone? 

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

Do you enjoy rain? 

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

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


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

Thanks for stopping by!




Sunday Stealing: The 90 Meme, Part The Third


Link up here if you're playing along today!

And awaaaaaay we go:

61. Do you like current pop stars?  

I lurve Bruno Mars, and I'm crushing on Ed Sheeran, so... yeah?

62. What is your least favorite chore? 

Oh ma gaw, I should totes do that!

Least favorite: Dusting. You thought I was gonna say scrubbing toilets, dintcha?

63. Last place you drove your car? 


I drove to Domino's to pick up our free pizza for the Dodgers' no-hitter MLB game. Woot!

 64. Ever been out of the country? 

If I hadn't, I would consider myself much poorer indeed.

 65. Where were you the last time you used a public bathroom? 

I try to avoid it at all costs, but I did have to make a pit stop in a Burger King this afternoon after chugging a gallon of Diet Mt. Dew and getting caught in traffic during a deluge. Thank ye gods, it was clean.

 66. Could you handle being in the military? 

I've been a military wife for 13 years. That's as close as I'mma get.

 67. What is your average cell phone bill? 

It's not super bad since I get a 25% discount for being a Nielsen family. 

 68. Who or what are you thinking about right now? 

I'm wondering what witty label I'm going to put for the posts in which I reference my new Samsung Galaxy S5, now that I've upgraded from my iPhone.

 69. When was the last time you laughed REALLY hard? 

Butt Pic

Just a li'l bit ago, whilst creating this family portrait for my Facebook cover photo!

 70. How many pairs of shoes do you own? 

Like a dozen, fewer now that my feet have shrunk from a 7½ to a 5. I'm still getting rid of the too-biggies. I'm not really a shoe whore, or a purse whore, or a clothes whore... am I really female?!

 71. Are your toes always painted? 

Google "ugly feet funny" to see way gross pictures, by the way. As for my toes? Generally I do keep them painted. Right now my booboo toenail is showing black through the paint.

 72. How many piercings do you have? 


Nine. Four in each ear and one in my nose. I don't really have one in my bellybutton; I'm not a follower. Okay, so I don't really have a show-offable belly, but I still wouldn't.

 73. What are you doing today? 

Not what I should be, I'll say that. Hey, what do you want from me? That couch is comfy.

 74. Have you ever been gambling? 

I've been to Vegas and gambled with someone else's cash. I prefer things that way.

 75. When is the last time you updated your blog? 

I'm doing it right now. To quote my elder daughter, "That's kind of a duh."

 76. Do you like roller coasters? 

Do bears shit on the pope? (or something) (That would be a "no.")

 77. Have you ever been to Disneyland or -World? 

Never been to -Land. Been to WDW 3-4 times over the course of as many decades. 

 78. Do you have a favorite cartoon character? 

Just keep swimming!

 79. Last thing you cooked? 


Chocolate chip cookies that I got paid to make after a girl I know sampled a few from a prior batch and declared them, quote, "WOW." If baking counts, that is.

 80. How's the weather? 

It's full-on hurricane season here at the southern tip of Florida. What do you think?

 81. Do you e-mail more than snail mail? 

...but I still like writin' letters and sending cards and stuff.

 82. What's the funniest picture you ever took with your cell phone?  

You mean that photo up there with everyone's hineys wasn't good enough?

83. Last time you were sick? 

I'm bipolar. I'm always "sick."

 84. What states have you lived in? 

New York, South Carolina, Florida, Virginia - and Guam

 85. Do you wish you could move? 

We're hoping to live on a boat by the time I'm 40. Hubs is still recovering from brain surgery, so... he's got 2½ years to be well.

 86. Do you take a lot of quizzes? 

Oh, no more than the next blahg writer, I guess.

 87. What is your dream car? 

I'd love a Vespa. Do scooters count?

 88. Have you ever wanted someone you can't have? 

Sure, but there are no returns from Heaven, so you know... I'll wait.

 89. If you could be anywhere right now where would it be? 

I have to pee, so I guess the bathroom?

 90. Are you happy with your life?


I'm good.

Thanks for stopping by!


Saturday 9: Little Red Corvette


Link up here if you're playing along today!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 9: The Star-Spangled Banner

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

Memorial Day was introduced to honor the men and women who died while serving the in the United States Armed Forces. We want to make sure that message is not forgotten this weekend.

The Star Spangled Banner 

1) Are you a veteran? Are there veterans in your family? (We are grateful and want to hear about it.)
I'm not, but my husband is a U.S. Navy retiree as of a year ago. My grandfather served in WWII, and my dad and uncle served as well.

2) Memorial Day also kicks off the summer season. What's your favorite picnic food? 

I just like picnics, period. I don't eat hamburgers and hot dogs, so I guess it would have to be good ol' watermelon?!

3) Let's celebrate the Memorial Day holiday with ice cream. What's your favorite flavor?
Chocolate/Peanut Butter, followed closely by Mint Chip...mmmm!
4) This marks the weekend when Americans step up their outdoor activity and do things they may not have been able to do during the winter months. For example, when is the last time you rode a bike?
About 2 weeks ago, one time on my new bike before it was stolen. I've had a replacement bike delivered since then, but it hasn't been put together yet. Hopefully soon.

5) Or went hiking? 

Gosh, I can't remember the last time. Hubs can barely walk, and not without a cane, and he's my hiking partner. It's been a while.
6) Or rode a horse?

Not since my mom was alive, so I had to have been about 5 or 6!
7) Or toasted a marshmallow? 
I don't think we've done that since we moved to Florida, so I guess 2 years ago now.

8) As you answer these questions, is there an air conditioner or window fan on? 
Always; what's Miami without air conditioning! (Wretched, that's what)

9) Crazy Sam needs your help: What song or a performer would you like to see featured in a Saturday 9 this summer?

Have we done Prince? Michael Jackson? What about Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back!"? Hahahah... I think I'm kidding. ;)

Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday Stealing: Reflections On New Year's Eve

Link up here if you're playing along today!

Questions for a New Year’s Eve Reflection Meme

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

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

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

3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?


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

4. What was an unexpected obstacle?

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

5. Pick three words to describe 2013.  


Interesting. Stressful. Amazing.

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


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

7. With whom were your most valuable relationships?  


That's me and Jack, 10.


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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Dickens said it best!

* * * * *

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




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 shady-@$$ 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.






An Open Letter Of Thanks To #Campbells

Dear Campbells,

I tweeted you on Twitter recently about my experience at a local Publix grocery store about a month ago: I had purchased some Campbell's soups, and when I got home to open one of them (because broccoli cheese soup is YUM), it was gross and moldy inside.

Someone from your company promptly responded to my tweet, with an offer to make it right if I'd message back with my mailing address. So, of course, I did, though I'd already gotten my dollar back for the soup and no one was hurt in the process.

I didn't really know what to expect, but what I got in the mail was three $2 coupons and one $1 coupon for any items in the Campbell's family of products.

I was extremely grateful for the $7 in Campbell's products, and I want you to know why.  I was able to go to Walmart a day or two later and get a carton of Swanson chicken broth, two Homestyle cans of Campbell's soup, and a can of Cream of Chicken condensed soup. Not only did I get this for free, but I got change back since Walmart allows overage (26¢, to be exact).

Why did this mean so much to me? you may be wondering. And I'm going to tell you, so you can understand the extent of my sincerest gratitude.

My husband retired from 20 years of service in the U.S. Navy in May of this year. He went on terminal leave in March, and we moved from Virginia to Florida at that time. He has been searching for a job ever since, here in Florida. We are a family of five, with three kids under 12, so there are plenty of mouths to feed.

Once the Active Duty pay stopped and retirement pay kicked in on June 1, reality hit, and it hit hard.  Military pay rates are available for public knowledge, so if you want to know, look for retirement pay for an enlisted sailor at E6 with 20 years of service.

It's not a lot. It's really paltry, and a little bit shameful and pathetic, if you ask me. But you didn't, so I won't dwell on my feelings about it. Suffice it to say, we can pay our rent but really don't make enough money for anything else. In August, for example, I had exactly $100 to pay for food for the entire month.

In the middle of this current job hunt, my husband's previously-harmless brain tumor started exhibiting symptoms that necessitated several hospital stays and five treatments of Cyberknife Radiation Surgery. He's fine now, thankfully, but it was quite scary there for a while. Our insurance no longer covers co-pays, so we can't afford his follow-up MRI to see how the tumor has changed since the Cyberknife treatments, but we're confident things are going well in that head of his.

This is a long story, I know, but I wanted to tell you all of this to illustrate how very important that simple-to-you-but-not-to-us gesture was, of sending $7 in coupons, during this time of dire need for our family. We are so grateful for your help, since you provided a meal for each of my kids' hungry bellies.

I thank you, and my husband thanks you.



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.

Good-Bye, Navy Gravy Train. Hello, Retired Life.

Friday, May 31, 2013, was Rob's last day of Active Duty service in the United States Navy. Woohoo! Congratulations, PR1 Odette! (He loves being called that - just ask him.)

Also, Pride-Tradition-Service immediately made me think of PTS... Post-Traumatic Stress. Just sayin'. Anyway.


 To commemorate the occasion and because we had to, our first stop of the day was at t he DEERS office of Homestead Air Force Base for new retired IDs. Everyone but Sophie got one; she's not old enough yet, and this was no minor annoyance to her! I put on zero makeup for the occasion, since I have enough crap on my face what with the trillion bazillion freckles I'm currently sporting.

We headed for IHOP for lunch, since someone said something about pancakes for breakfast. Rob was all about it and turned the steering wheel in that direction. Only, there was a wait (imagine that, IHOP, busy?), and I didn't feel too well, so we went to Golden Corral instead.

Uh, dumb and dumber.

I'd forgotten that Golden Corral is like the Walmart of restaurants. Ugh. Also, they have, according to the manager, changed their corporate policy on gastric bypass patients. Have you ever gone to a buffet with someone who has a gastric pouch the size of your thumb? Not very cost-effective. They used to let us get the buffet at the kids' price, but no longer. Dumberer. And Chloë and I both became sick during eating. Coincidence? You decide.


Try to ignore the gross mattress, which will soon be replaced, because ew. After Golden Corral, we got home and Rob put together the girls' bunk beds. Finally; we've been here two months and it was about time. Chloë's been sleeping on the couch, and Sophie's mattress has been on the floor. So they're excited, a wee bit.


Soap took a nap after that. Guess the excitement got to her. Mm, look at those luscious lips. I lurve them. So smooshy! And I know, I know, she needs to stop with the thumb, but seeing it reminds me that no matter how big she gets, she's still my itty bitty baby!


Here's Jack with Hunter. Or is it Lucky? Hucky? Lunter? I don't know. They're SO cute, but I am really tired of having these kittens around. It's officially on Rob's agenda for later today to drop them off at the no-kill shelter. They gotta go. We might even pare down the pack further; it's been discussed. It's on the table.


Since everyone still wanted pancakes - except me. I don't really DO pancakes; it's not such a gastric bypass diet food, y'know? - we took Rob out for his retirement dinner at IHOP after all. They all had pancakes. Rob had a billion other things, because he is NEVER full, you guys, and I had an egg and cheese and spinach and egg omelet. It was delishamus.


I had an iced coffee, too. Yeah, I'm one of those annoying iPhonographers who Instagrams everything she puts in her mouth. Because you know why? It's fun. Have you heard that Nickleback-parody song about Instagram? Rob played it for me, and that's SO me. Too funny.

Speaking of Instagram, have you guys seen Projecteo? So cool: you get a little wheel with 9 of your Instagrams, and it comes with a projector to shoot them up on your wall or whatevs. How fun is that? Instagram party, anyone? I'm up for it. Too bad we don't know anyone here yet! At least not in homestead. Our closest pals are, like, a 45-minute drive on the Turnpike.

Hi, I babble.


Chloë got sick for the second time at IHOP. So maybe it was just a coincidence we both did at Golden Corral? I don't know. I asked Mamacita and Dr. Lisa what that might be about, and Doc suggested reflux. She had it really bad as a baby, so that could be. Poor kid. It seems to have passed now, though, but if it recurs, I'm putting in a call to a pediatrician pronto. I have GERD (acid reflux disease), and it is NO fun to suffer with.

I swear this post was going to be about Rob retiring. It's fun to ramble, though, you know?

So what have you guys been up to lately? No one ever tells me; I don't know why I keep asking!


Saturday 9: Battle Hymn Of The Republic

Link up here if you're a fun one!
Memorial Day was introduced to honor the men and women who died while serving the in the United States Armed Forces. We want to make sure that message is not forgotten this weekend.

1) This recording was made live at St. Patrick's Cathedral, during Sen. Robert Kennedy's funeral. While both of Bobby's older brothers were decorated war heroes, he served too - enlisting in the Navy in 1943. Are you a veteran? Are there veterans in your family? (We are grateful and want to hear about it.)
In one week, my husband will be retired from 20 years of Active Duty in the United States Navy. I'm SO proud of him. My grandfather served in the Navy in WWII. My uncle was in the Navy, and my dad, the Coast Guard.
2) Memorial Day also kicks off the summer season.What's your favorite picnic food? 

Oh, gosh. Let's see... Hm. I like a wine, cheese, and crusty bread picnic. Does that count? ;)
3) Name a scent that reminds you of someone special in your life.

Gosh! These are making me have to think this week! Okay, I got it. Old Spice cologne. Grandpa (the WWII vet) always wore it. Every single day. The one in the cream-colored bottle from back in the day.
4) When was the last time you had your hair cut or trimmed?

I shaved my head in December or January. It is maybe an inch or so long now. My hair grows sooooo slowly. Hopefully I won't ever have another Britney Spears moment again!
5) Crazy Sam runs on Dunkin'. Are you loyal to a particular brand of coffee?

No, but I tell you what, I can not STAND Seattle's Best. The best cup of coffee I ever had came out of a Nespresso boutique recently. I talked about it for DAYS. Literally.
6) If money was no object, what home improvement would you like to make this summer?
If money were no object, we'd buy that boat and sail the world. No home needed.

7) What was the last thing you bought purely for your own enjoyment?
Chocolate, yarn, and NERF water guns. We're having a water gun party tomorrow - I can't wait!
8) When was the last time you rode a bike?
Not since the summer of 1996, I don't think. It's been a very long time.
9) Sam worries that many of her song selections reflect her decidedly Baby Boomer sensibilities. Is there a song or a performer that you'd like to see featured in a Saturday 9 this summer?
Ooh! Do Bruno Mars! I adore him. I'm soooo pop music. Lame choices would come out of me. Keep on doin' what you're doin!

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 ~*~}


Sea World, Orlando, & Downtown Disney

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


A Florida gator adolescent taking a swim 

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


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


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


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


Sophia as Queen of the World! 


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


Also, Chloë and...




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


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




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




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


Jafra Melanie


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




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




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




...Elsie, Rob's BMW motorsickle.


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


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




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




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




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




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


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


(You'd better be sitting down now.)


(I mean it.)


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


Are you ready?


All right.


You asked for it.










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


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




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




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


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




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


And now for the reeeeeealllllly exciting part!!!!


Can you stand it? I can't!!



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






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




I think this one will be Chloë's.


Sophia will like this one.


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

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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

NOW I'm finished.

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


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

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!


Wordy Wednesday Times Two - A Look Back On February

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Donuts were enjoyed.


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


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


These boys: two peas in a pod.


This was before The Brawl That Started It All.


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


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


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


And finally, I discovered a new app: Tadaa!

So. What's new with YOU?


Random Schtuff Taking Up Space In My Brain Right Now

It's 0404 on a Tuesday morning, and I can't sleep - partly because I'm coming off a 5-day migraine in which I slept a TON, and partly because, well, I never sleep at night anyway. And I've got a lot on my mind right now, so prepare ye for a massive, totally random brain dump:


I'm really trying to rev up my Jafra business so that I can promote to Manager later this year. Really bad timing, considering we're going to move soon, but the exciting part is I have K joining my team soon! On the Saturday after next, we're having a Jafra spa party at her place, complete with smelly-good foot soaks, mud masks and way more, and whatever we earn at her party is going in to placing HER first order and getting her case. She's excited, I'm thrilled, and it's going to be a great send-off for me and instantly-built clientele for her. Yay!

Oops, I just realized I have two logos in that picture. Meh. It's a two-fer.


We visited my friend Saritah and her family last week, and we're going again the last week of February - along with Jenny from the Block and her kiddos, whom we haven't seen in ages upon ages. Trés fun! I have presents for both of them, so I hope I don't forget to bring 'em. Plus, Chloë is "in love" with older son Sebastian, and Sophia is "in love" with younger son Trevor, so Saritah and I are planning future double weddings. Sophie and Trevor have even locked themselves in his closet and smooched on the cheek already! What! I have to stop playing with that cute baby up there, Tempe, and pay attention to the rest of those rapscallions!

Recruitment Services Picture 2

(holy huge picture that won't let me scale it down... awesome)

We're supposed to be moving to Miami right around March 1st, and I'm kind of totally freaking out about it, because we are not even remotely ready. Still to do: clean up this house, our rental, so we can move the remaining at-least-half of our crap out of the old house, which we still own, into it; get the old house cleaned up and listed for sale post-haste; set a date for the movers to come; freakin' FIND a place to live in Miami - hello, apartment managers? Returning my phone call and/or email requests for information would be a good thing, 'kay? - and, gosh, that's enough for starters. Rob thinks we won't move in time. I'm stubborn as hell about that March 1 deadline, but I'm starting to agree with him. Cue major sad face.

Oh, and considering each of us is something of a medical marvel, once we do find a place to live, I have about 27 bazillion doctors to find and appointments to make!

I have a cold. Make that aNOTHer cold. Like, my third in 2013. Plus, I'm coming off a five-day migraine (post-publish read-through realization: oh. I told you that already. Meh. It's another two-fer) in which I did a lot of lying around in bed and not much else. With that, moving, building my business and everything else, it's like, WHAT homeschooling?! so far this month. I feel pretty shit-tastic about that. Well, we'll be making up for it by doing lots of school this summer, in between beach visits and dips in the pool. 

Rob's last day in the United States Navy is on Valentine's Day! Squee! We're not having a party, since no one could be bothered to come to his 40th birthday party in August, but don't think we won't be celebrating. Horizonta---um, TMI. ;) He has been counting down the days by telling me how many times left he has to shave, cut his curly locks, press his uniforms, and so on. I think the man is excited, y'all! 

Every Sunday, we have a family meeting. Someone different runs it each time, but the agenda is always the same:

1. Calendar, wherein we go through everyone's plans for the upcoming week,

2. Compliments and appreciation, wherein every person goes around and pays everyone else some C and/or A,

3. Allowance, which is everybody's favorite part,

4. Snack, which almost always involves a drive (for me) to 7-Eleven, and,

5. Fun activity, which for the last two weeks has been a gross-out contest!

Anyway, at this past Sunday's Family Meeting, my #2 for Rob was thanking him for 20 years of service to our country, and congratulating him on his terminal leave, which starts Friday. Chloë responded by throwing her arms around Daddy and sobbing happy tears. It was a very touching moment.

I have been super busy teaching coupon classes this month. So far, I have taught one at the library, 3½ "personal sessions" at various folks' homes, and taken one friend and her daughter on a shopping trip to see how I do it in real life. Total women taught so far: eight! With at least that many more to go before we move. I'm not charging much, either, so the personal satisfaction I get from imparting my money-saving knowledge and helping these women and their families out is what's really paying me. Warm fuzzies all around!


This is just a gratuitous kids-in-the-sun photo, because I like to close with an image. There's more on my mind than all this, but that seems like enough to dump on y'all for the time-being. Can ya keep some good thoughts for us that we'll be able to get out of here and move to Miami as close as possible to our self-imposed deadline? For my sanity's sake? Thanks. Much appreciated.


Saturday 9: Moves Like Jagger


Well, it is Sunday and I did miss this one, so I wasn't going to do it, but when I saw what album was covered, well, come on! Adam Levine...! So. the link is here, if you want to check it out. And let's begin:

1. Who makes the best moves in your life?

Well, it's my life, right, so that would have to be me. I make some pretty dumbass moves, too - don't get me wrong... but I've made some pretty awesome ones, too.

2. Tell us about a time where you had to be selfish with your time, and felt guilty about it (whether it was time taken from your children or a significant other).

Well, I "selfishly" take time for me every day, because I have to or I'd go COMPLETELY insane, and I'm already close. But I don't feel guilty for that. When I did feel guilty was when I was pregnant with the twins, and Chloe was only a year old... she had to play by herself a lot then and became pretty independent. And then again when I had Sophia, she nursed constantly, and I had to put the older ones on hold a lot. I felt bad about that, but we made due.

3. Do you feel that you can create more sex appeal or that it's just a given?

I do think it can be created, and also learned, when there is none. I don't think you're either born with it or you're not, and I do believe some people need to be taught! But definitely, it can be vamped up, right?

4. Do your religious beliefs really influence your behavior?

Yes, but perhaps not as much as they should...

5. Do you feel there are some things in a significant other that you can't change because of their sex?

Absolutely. Men and women are differently wired; it's a fact.

6. Do you see a younger, less secure person when you gaze in the mirror?

No, but after losing all that weight (over 200 lbs), I do still get surprised by what I see in the mirror. I expect to see a much fatter version of me and sometimes, even still, I forget!

7. If you have ever been pregnant, or have been with a woman who was, how did it affect your sex life?

We went from all the time to not at all. LOL Poor Hubs! We had our babies back-to-back-to-back, too, so he was... SOL. I have NO libido when I'm pregnant.

8. What would you like to work on to become a better person?

Ohmigosh. How much time do you have?? I'll leave the answer to work on during therapy, thanks.

9. When did you think that you understood the sacrifices that people in the military make on behalf of their country?

Probably not until I married my husband at 24. He had 8 years in the Navy at the time. He'll retire next year. In the past 12 years, I've learned what it means, for real.  Not just through my own family, but through my military family on the whole. It's pretty intense at times.


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Link up with Mrs. 4444 if ye be fragmentin' today!

I've got thoughts pouring out of my head like crazy right now, so I hope I can get them all down here before I forget some. I'm sure I will, though; some always escape. But where to begin? At the end, I think.

Thursday, after a week or 10 days of being seriously ill, I finally felt well enough to finish testing the kids for their end-of-year homeschooling proof of progress submission. I did the math tests with all three kids individually, as opposed to Language Arts, which I managed to run more or less simultaneously, so they could concentrate better. Each missed 2 or 3 answers at most, so overall they did extremely well, and I'm very happy, proud, and pleased to be finished!!

I got them each an m&m cookie from 7-11 as a quick reward for finishing and doing well, but tomorrow will be the real reward. Depending on the weather, we're going to hit the beach for the first time this summer! If it rains, then my back-up plan is melting all our (TONS OF) broken crayons down into new, fun ones. We're just going to use simple muffin tin this time around - no fun shapes - because we've never done it before, but I'm excited to finally make use of all those broken pieces they don't deem fit to use!

My CPU bit the bucket earlier this week, and of course I didn't have all my files backed up, so I'll be stressed about that until I get a technician of some sort to retrieve them for me. Do you back up regularly? I don't. I just can't be bothered, and then I kick myself every time something like this happens. Of course. It's so me.

Speaking of being sick, I went to the hospital Friday, Monday and Tuesday mornings for various procedures. My entire GI tract is all messed up and revolting against its owner at the moment. I admit, I spent a week wearing (and very necessarily so) adult diapers because of it. That wasn't fun, and now that I'm back in my own undies (thank you, Imodium, for finally kicking in), I am relishing the joy! ;P

I finally went to the doc on one of those days and got the prescription lice treatment from the kids' pediatrician, and guess what? They are STILL alive in Chloë's hair. So I did something rather drastic and chopped about 8" off, which was traumatic for her, but far less than the head-shaving I was (semi-seriously) threatening. She went from this:


to this:


The next day, when she saw how cute (and easy to take care of) it was, she felt much better about it. I think it makes her look soooo much younger! Do you?

I cut her sister's hair (and my bangs, lol) while I was at it:


I've since straightened hers up a little bit, but I think she also looks cute and younger than she did before, with the shorter 'do.

Three packages came in the mail today, including some new shirts we bought for Rob's retirement days starting in a few months, a bunch of Jafra goodness for various clients and me, and this:


Lovely yarn for a project a friend has commissioned from me. I can't say much more than that about it at the moment, but I'll show you the finished works when I can! It's always exciting when good fiber shows up in the mail!

Well, I'll leave you with this image snapped by Rob for my license plate project, since I lost all the ones I had captured in the CPU debacle:


I don't know why eleventy-nine % of the picture is pavement - that crazy hubs!

Well, I hope you all have a lovely weekend, and I apologize being bad about responding to comments and getting around to other fragmenters (always, but especially lately). It's been a bad time with whatever's goin' on in mah belleh, y'all. Hope you forgive me.


Sunday Stealing: The Imaginary Meme Conclusion

Sunday Stealing

Argghhhh! I was to the LAST question when Typepad ate my whole post! Dammit! WHY did they stop doing the awesomeness that was auto-save? Uh, what I mean is, link up here if you're playing along this week! ;)

Cheers to All Us Thieves! 

181. What's the BEST rock band that you have seen live?

They ALL have been great, but I absolutely LOVED the Blue Man Group concert. So. Cool.

182. Could you image being in a situation where you would run from the police?

If I was in a developing country, I could think of lots of scenarios for that. Here in the US, not so many, since I'm (fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint) white... unless I were a baddy. But I'm not a baddy.

183. Have you ever been asked for an autograph?

Sure, every time I use my credit card. I did dream the other day that Chloë was, though! (I seriously do wonder if she'll ever reach the stage where she's recognized as, "aren't you from that...?" though!)

184. What would you change about your living room?

I'd move the furniture from the old house into it, for starters! Larger would be nice, too, of course...

185. Do you drink out of glass or plastic most of the time at home?

I drink out of my plastic keg most of the time... AKA my 7-11 Xtreme Gulp. Diet Coke FTW!

186. Last hug?

From Sophia, about 1½-2 hours ago... she's a hugger, especially of late.

 187. Have you ever had to make up your mind?

Yeah, like whether to answer dumb meme questions.

188. What is on top of your refrigerator?

I had to go look: Several First Aid kits, Jack's box of shot needles (um, that's probably redundant, but I don't care), and our popsicle kit. Quite the menagerie.

189. Did it work out for you in terms of kids? (Meaning how did it work out & are you  happy? In other words, from “Have none, wanted none” to “8 kids & 3 grandkids)


Yes and no. From the outset, Hubs and I agreed that we wanted "two and only two, unless the second time it was twins." Well, the joke was on us, because the second time it was identical twin boys! Only, Robby died after three days, and after that, our arms felt so... empty... so we proceeded to have #4. Now neither of us can have any more, but I'd have another 10 or so if I could! Time will tell if we're meant to have more another way...

190. Are you afraid of the dark?

 At 35+, I always have been and remain so. I'm not ashamed to say it, either! Scary things can and have happened in the dark. (I didn't say I wasn't afraid of broad daylight, either... ;))

191. What if you had three wishes – what would you wish for?

I'm the hippie tree-hugger type, so right now, I'd wish for: (a) peace in all lands, (b) peace and contentment within my own heart, and (c) global smoking bans and recycling mandates. Ask me tomorrow and I'd probably have three different answers, though.

192. Do you feel sad often?

Well, as many of you know, I have Bipolar Disorder, so not sad so much as, well, depressed, obviously, and also completely and totally broken-hearted beyond words. I feel my emotions more strongly than most, both the good and the bad. It's a blessing and a curse, a total double-edged sword. But I'm babbling. Next!

193. Have you ever been in lust for an extended period of time?

Another blessing/curse of mine, yes. I struggle, admittedly, again...

194. Do you shower daily?

More like five or six times a week. I could not 'go European' in that regard! The only reason I miss that 7th day is usually out of pure laziness.

195. Have you ever prank called someone?

Short answer long, yes, and I'll happily admit that Rob and I will still do it when we think of something that amuses us terribly. One that comes to mind is from when we were at the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival a few years back. The hotel where we were staying displayed a sign advertising that they accepted pets. Rob called up and deadpanned, "Do you take sheep?" He kept it up for a while, too, with me in hysterics next to him!

196. If you have a garage, is it cluttered?

Dude. Not here, but we have a shed at the old house, and that is wholly Rob's domain. I won't even venture to look in it. Too skeered. *shudder*

197. You are about to die. What do you do with your worldly possessions?

Mostly, I don't care and Rob can decide - I'll be dead. There are a few things, though: Chloë, who missed sharing my birthday by a day, will get all my sapphires. Sophia, my April baby, will get all my diamonds. Stacey, my sister, will get everything that once belonged to our dear, departed mother. Science will get my corpus. I hope my brain holds the answers to some secrets for them!

198. Tell us about the first time that you bought a car.


It's not my favorite story, and it doesn't end well. I don't feel like getting cranky, so you'll have to ask me for The Rest of the Story later. Anyway, it was my dad's policy to give each of us four girls $1,000 toward our first cars, and I had money saved up since I started working at 15. My dad's car-savvy, so he did the scouting for me. It was September of '93, and he found me a red 1991 Ford Escort wagon. Not bad! It was supposed to have belonged to a little old lady, but I discovered soon after we bought it that when the sun hit just right, you could see the outline of the Coca-Cola logo...hee!

199. What is your favourite type of music?

Everything but country (sorry, y'all), but I'm a BIG fan of the über sing-alongable pop music. Is that lame? (That was rhetorical.)

200. What's your family like?

I have a wonderful husband who is about to turn 40 (the countdown is on and the party scheduled - wanna come?) and who will retire from the Navy in about 8 months! I have four kids, including Chloë, almost 11 (!!), Robby (my angel baby), Jack, 9, and Sophia, 7. We have four cats: Tinkerbell, Star, and the twittens (twin kittens, lol), Cupcake and Muffin. We put the "fun" in dysfunctional, fo' sho'! (My growing-up family was also dysfunctional after Mom died when I was 7, but there was absolutely no fun in that. :\ )

Whew! We've reached the end!! Have a great week, peeps!