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Saturday 9: Love Yourself

Hey, everyone. Yes, I'm late again. Been looking for a house in Idaho and trying to pack up this one here in Miami. The going is slow on both counts, and I am mopey. So forgive me if the mood isn't so super in this post... Here we go:


Saturday 9: Love Yourself (2015)
Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) In this song, Justin sings that he doesn't like to admit he's wrong. When did you most recently cop to a mistake?

I have no problem admitting when I'm wrong (I just never am). Just kidding! I admitted I was wrong for eating cheese last night/this morning when I was up all night paying for it!

2) He also complains that his girl doesn't like his friends. Who is someone that you've met recently and liked?

We haven't been to the horse farm where Sophie used to take lessons in a while, but we did go to their last Halloween party. I struck up a conversation with one of the other moms who didn't seem remotely friendly the first time I encountered her. Surprisingly, we had a great chat, and I really like her. Who knew?!

3) Justin first performed this song live on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Who is your favorite talk show host?

That would probably be Ellen! I love her, though I hardly ever watch telly nowadays.

4) Young Mr. Bieber recently had his credit card rejected ... at a Subway Sandwich Shop. Think about your last trip to a fast food restaurant. Did you pay with cash or plastic or your phone?

Image result for little caesar's

I went to Little Caesar's (pizza! pizza!) to pick up some food for the kiddos. I paid cash.  

Even though we're featuring a lack-of-love song, this is the last Saturday  9 before Valentine's Day and so this morning we shall focus on the upcoming holiday. 

5) In Victorian England, it was considered bad luck to sign a Valentine. Have you ever received an anonymous card from a secret admirer?
I received a bouquet of red roses, a few collectibles in the style I used to keep, and more from a "secret admirer," aka a stalker! No thanks!

6) Retailers report that approximately 3% of pet owners buy Valentines for their furry friends. Have you ever purchased a gift for a pet on a special occasion? 

Christmas and maybe birthdays, that's all. I mean, c'mon.
7) It was once believed that if a maiden ate a heavy meal before bed on February 13, her dreams that night would reveal the identity of the man she would eventually marry. Do you find that eating too close to bedtime disrupts your sleep?

Last night I dreamed (when I could actually sleep) that I had to do the dishes and the laundry by hand - in the bathtub. That was strange. Er, uh, what was the question?
8) The postmaster in Verona, Italy, reports that Shakespeare's Juliet Capulet still receives love letters. Without looking it up, can you give us a quote from Romeo and Juliet?
Image result for romeo and juliet window
I'm making my 15-year-old ChloĆ« answer this one, since she just recently finished reading it: "But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun." 
9) Necco's Sweethearts -- those little candy hearts that say things like "Be Mine" -- are Valentine Day's top-selling confection. Sam never could stand eating these candies. Do you like them?
Image result for mom conversation hearts
Not really. But I do like the moms' version better!! Heh heh.
Thanks for stopping by, even if I am a day late!

Daughters, Sisters... Friends.


These girls.

They're like typical sisters when they argue. They fight over everything related to sharing a room and a bathroom, especially the Wet Brush I bought Chloƫ, along with her 'it's a 10 miracle leave-in' conditioner, to tame her crazy, wild curls. Never mind that she decided to straighten it today with the flat iron I gave her for Christmas; none of us knew that I would be blogging about the two of them tonight!

They do get along famously well most of the time, don't get me wrong. But just like my sister Stacey and I did when we were younger - and, unlike the 3Ā½ years that separate my daughters, we were only 17 months apart - the arguments can get rather bitter and nasty.

Sophia never puts things she "borrows" back in their proper place. Including my scissors, which is why I have five different pairs. Including my Sharpies, which is why I jumped on a recent hot deal to get a 24-pack of all different colors at Office Depot for eight bucks and change and came home with an announcement that they were MINE... until Sophia decided to help herself and then either not return them, or else leave the capless marker where I could find it, all dried out. So I know all too well the pain-in-the-buttness that is my youngest child, but Rob and I have come to embrace it with the hashtag #BecauseSophia. We use it often.

Tonight, the altercation started over that damned Wet Brush again and continued when I needed plums for a tart I'm going to make. Both girls decided to come along for the trip to the store. (Which meant, by the way, that a simple run for plums turned into the additional need for peaches, strawberries, and avocados. All money well spent, to be sure, but not what I had intended!)

Both girls like to ride "shotgun" when I'm driving, so they take turns when the three of us go out together. It doesn't matter that this works out to Even Stevens on taking turns riding there; a fight happens regardless when it's time to return to the car and switch spots.

Then, one of the girls will get huffy over a song on the radio that the other chose, because one likes it, and the other doesn't. I usually let whoever is riding up front pick what we listen to on the radio, while retaining veto power. So all this nonsense over first a hairbrush, then a seat position in the car, and finally choosing this song or that song on the radio, devolved into a perfectly icky sisterly squabble.

I know it's normal. I know it's even natural. But if you're a mom of teens and/or tweens, you know that it is annoying AF.

I decided to devise a way to get them back on the same team, Team Odette, without their really even recognizing what I was doing: by blahgging about it.


Sophia Lorelei.

My youngest child, at 11Ā½. Still doesn't even know how to spell her middle name properly half the time, nor does she particularly care. She's going to be a bit of a wild child when she's grown up, I just know it. A little party girl.

She denies it, but when she and I are alone in the car, we start jamming along to loud beats and club mixes on the radio together. She bops her head to the music and encourages me to join her - so of course, I do!

I can totally picture her in the club, 21 years old, and maybe dancing with her hair swinging around on tabletops and counters. And the bar, a la Coyote Ugly. (Hopefully not drunk and nekkid!)

[Side story: Once upon a time, in 1997 or '98, my friends Kristal, Shana, and I were on Duval Street in Key West, out to have some fun. I was 21, had just graduated from college, ready to party it up a little bit, right? No harm, no driving, just fun. The three of us started off at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, where I had a big salad and, of course, a big ol' margarita. Salt on the rim. All delicious. Then we wandered around, bar-hopping, and having different drinks in each one. I forget where we were when the bartender sent over a shot of tequila to the three of us. Down the hatch! We ended up somewhere where Kristal, who is Trinidadian, taught me to "wind" during a Caribbean-based song. The two of them sat at a table nearby, probably laughing at me, while I danced barefoot in the middle of the bar, alone and having the time of my life, completely inebriated. Next thing I know, someone handed me a big cup of Guinness beer. I drank that too, of course. I didn't like beer at all then, but certainly not a dark beer on top of all that other crap I'd had. After downing it on the dance floor with some unknown male, I immediately had to run to the bathroom and lose everything, complete with my Margaritaville salad at the end. What a shame; it was a really good salad the first time. Eww, I know, but this is all to say, I don't judge Sophia for her future doing much of exactly this sort of shenaniganizing. As long as she's 21, not driving, not doing ANY drugs, and please no smoking... then I'm all for it. Live it up while you can, girl!]

So that's my Sophia. Wild, unpredictable, spontaneous, but full of joy. She is my "carpe diem" child all the way. 

Tonight, at Walmart, she was wearing her nightgown, had unkempt hair... broken arm from being bucked off her horse during a lesson, and did not have a care in the world. Why? "Because I can."

Her favorite song right now is this one:

She knows all the lyrics and puts me to shame when I try to sing along with her. And I love that.


Chloƫ Raine.

She'll be 15 in the beginning of September, and she acts every bit of that and more. Most of the time, she's respectful toward her parents, sweet, and willing to help around the house without too much huffiness. She cares about her appearance very much and is about as vain as her mother. Heh. She's well-spoken and possesses the vocabulary of someone much older, but a lot of it is mispronounced because she learns the words first from reading, then tries them out in her speech.

When a club-beat song comes on the radio and Sophia and I start jamming to it, Chloƫ sits in the back seat and rolls her eyes, waiting for a calmer song to come on the radio. Not always patiently, I might add.

If she did any of that club-scene wild-child partying stuff I mentioned above for Sophia, I would be shocked but not completely surprised. No, Chloƫ has it all planned out. We're currently working on her curriculum for 10th grade, which she's heading into this year, and then her junior and senior years will also be planned out in advance. She's looking at northern colleges where she can be in a pre-vet program in a much colder, snowier environment than sultry Miami here in the subtropics. After graduation, she wants to get into a top-notch vet school and concentrate on the health and care of cats. (We already call her the Crazy Cat Lady.) One of Sophia's horse instructors, Celia, would prefer Chloƫ to be an equestrian vet instead; apparently there are a shortage of good ones and she'd make bank doing it.

Chloƫ even wants to marry a potato farmer and live somewhere in Idaho, while she's out vettin' cats (or horses or whatever). She is half-joking about this, but I wouldn't be surprised if that is how it plays out for her.

Her favorite song on the radio right now is this one:

... which should surprise no one, since she's a complete Swiftie and would love to be a part of Taylor's squad!

So there's no shocker about these two girls not getting along over the minutiae of life sometimes, right?


To end their post-shopping trip squabble, I asked the girls about their favorite colors, let them each pick which fruit to buy (Sophia wanted strawberries; ChloĆ« preferred peaches), and asked them to tell me which song was their current favorite.

And I asked them to pose for this series of staged photos, for this blog. Between the back-to-back angry posing and discussing things that pissed them off about each other, and then this one where Sophia is sharing a strawberry with ChloĆ«, who is holding her sister's broken arm comfortingly, my ploy worked. 

They smirked. They giggled. Then they couldn't stop laughing. Paco photo-bombed the first shot of them sharing a berry, because he loves those things. Hysterics ensued. They hugged it out, without my even asking them to do so. They shared headphones and earbuds, and they came up with a song they both love the most right now:

I had to laugh. This song came out in, like, 1999 or something. Two years before ChloĆ« was even born! And they're always dogging on me for loving my old music from the 80s and 90s. Haha, joke's on you, girls! You like music even I thought was lame when it first came out almost 20 years ago!

But enough of that. They are getting along again, and they're doing it amazingly well. And all I had to do was ask them about music and have them pose for a few silly pictures. Yeah. I call that a legit #MomWin, don't you?

Let's see how long it lasts this time.


Wordless Wednesday: YMCA Kids' Day

Link up here with 5 Minutes For Mom, and pretty much all around the blogosphere, if you're wordless today!


On Saturday, we went to the YMCA Kids' Fair down the road from our house. The first stop was to visit the National Parks Service table, where we asked a billion questions and received tons of information. And the kids got to blow in a conch shell, which was super fun!


To promote healthy kids, they were giving out freshly made strawberry-banana, and blueberry, smoothies. I think Sophia went back three times for more, you guys. Fortunately, the ladies at the table encouraged it!


They were giving away free books at another table. The selection was a little junior to my kids' ability, but they didn't mind and have read all the books since then. My girls, especially, love to read!


The local Police Department was giving away free bicycle helmets, and Sophie snagged the last one. Lucky girl was making out like a bandit that day!


They were also giving away fresh pineapple chunks and bananas! Yum. Jack looks less than thrilled because he wanted to get on down the road to the Miami Children's Museum, but the girls had a couple servings each. Way to get our nutrition on!

Thanks for the fun day, YMCA!


Sundays In My City: Miami Children's Museum

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

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

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

Starting November With A Bang


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

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


The kids watching their daily Math-U-See lesson


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(This girl.)

Thanks for stopping by!


So Chloƫ Is Twelve, And I Am Old.


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

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


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


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


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


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

And how cute does she look in that dress?


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Moving on...


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

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

Ah, the love.

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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



Birthday freebies got put on hold from Monday through Wednesday evening, as I had to take Rob back into the hospital first thing in the morning on the 9th. He had the worst headache of his life, and since he'd been in intensive care with a cerebellar hemmorhage last week, I wasn't playing around. I called his neurosurgeon, told him that Rob's pain was so bad he was throwing up and crying, and was instructed to bring him right in to the UM Emergency Department. They admitted him back to the Neuro Intensive Care Unit right away for a heavy shock of steroids to reduce the cerebellar swelling and thus, the pain in his head. It worked, and he was released 2Ā½ days later with more steroids to take. Indefinitely. Joy. (Should I sign him up for MLB?)


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

Neon Tiki Tribe Party!

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


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


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


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


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

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

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


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




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


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


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


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


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

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

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


Scenes From A Thursday Morning At Home


An awful picture of me, having stayed up all night once again, yet feeling oddly refreshed. Could I have a worse expression on my face?!


A newly-shorn Chloƫ, still dreaming...


Jack's still zonked, too, after a wild night of chasing kittens.


Sophia, also newly-shorn and sucking thumb, perusing a good book...


Cupcake, posing nicely for her mama...


Barbies, posed by Sophia outside the bathroom; was there a line in the doll stall?


Heading outside: Rob's kayak taking up space on the front porch...


Oops, there's mah shadow, interrupting the snap of our stairway...


There's a fungus among us.


The crappy "driveway" that is the current bane of my existence...


The inexplicable cement surround for one of our trees... but I like it!


Green. Lots of green = love.


Weeds + beer caps mean I have some work to do outside.


And last but not least, a pop of color I almost smushed walking around.

What do you see in the mornings?


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

Link up with here with Mrs. 4444 if you've got bits and pieces floating through your brain today!


Right off the bat, I have to say I'm excited that tomorrow is the day I'm spending ~8 hours getting my iron transfusion! It's my first one, and it's not unusual for gastric bypass patients to need them. I'll probably be getting my first of many Vitamin B12 shots, as well. My hemoglobin levels are abyssmally low, which means it's a struggle and a chore just for me to make it through the day, every day, let alone cover everything that's on my plate. I've been dropping a lot of balls lately, admittedly, and I'm hoping this will make a huge difference for me - and my family, who have to put up with me. Hopefully, too, I'll be able to stop consuming the massive daily amounts of caffeine that I do to stay functioning and focused. So, yay!

The only downside is I won't be able to knit during the procedure... but I have about eleventy-billion magazines to catch up on, so I'm covered there. And I can always nap. What I'm wondering about now is, when do I pee? And eat? (I'll let you know. Hee.)


In awesome news, my kids have been focusing on their reading in our homeschooling so far this new year, and they have progressed dramatically. My oldest, a fifth grader, had to write her first book report, after much gnashing of teeth over it, and she did a splendid job. I had to make just a few corrections - all mechanics - but the content was fantastic. I was so pleased!

As for the two Littles, my son is in 3rd grade and came out of 1st grade public school hardly literate at all. So I remediated him from the Kinder level with our K-2 Hooked on Phonics program, and he just "graduated" from the program! It only took him a year and a half to do all three years' worth, so that's pretty great. Yes, I'm proud of him, but even more incredible is how visibly proud of himself he is! I love it!

The youngest, a first grader who was a late bloomer with regard to reading (she's the most active, physical of the lot), has suddenly pushed through the block and is now almost to the 2nd grade level of the program. So go, kids!! Starting next week, we'll slow down on so much all-reading, all-the-time, and focus more on math, with which all three of them also need remediation. No child left behind, my butt! But the buck stops here. :)


We were supposed to go on a field trip to the Food Bank with our two respective Girl Scout troops today, but I found out two hours before the trip that they had to reschedule it. ARGH! I had no choice but to cancel our regular meeting, since I have it planned to have a guest speaker come in, and there was no way to get her on such short notice. It was pretty stinko (my word of the month), and I was bummed, since we're behind where I wanted to be in my Daisy troop at this point. But with the iron deficiency, I have to say, I wasn't too terribly disappointed to get a reprieve! Just sayin'.



We've had Sophia to the Emergency Department 3-4 times this past week, as her breathing struggles have suddenly kicked back into high gear. It's not the weather, since it's barely cold here, and it started in the summertime anyway (in 2010!). We've seen 8 or 9 different doctors and gotten just as many "suggestions" about what it could be, with no real answers. It's frustrating for me, as her mom, to watch her go through this, so I can only imagine how much of an annoyance it is for her. My husband thinks it's entirely stress-induced, but I disagree. That may be a component, certainly, but since it frequently comes on when she's just sitting around, doing nothing remotely upsetting, how can that be?? I just wish I could help her.



A local-but-online-only friend of mine is a potter, and she fashions these awesome, funkadelic business card holders that I've been coveting for a long time. Last week, she made this red one, and I KNEW it was the one I had to have. It arrived today. Do you love it?! I do! So cool. Check out Lisa's Etsy shop for more awesome clay-mations!



We drove up the Eastern Shore of Virginia on Sunday (here's my view out the windshield of the Chesapeake Bay), for a high-paying mystery shop. Great, except I kind of screwed it up a little, and now I don't know if I am going to get paid for it. Argh. Well, if that happens, at least we had a fun trip and enjoyed lots of interesting scenery, right?


This is the kids in the back during the trip, watching Judy Moody and the Not-So-Bummer Summer, which they've been waiting for me to rent from the Blockbuster kiosk for ages. I waited until it dropped to $1, so I could get it for free (lots of codes out there, folks!), because I'm cheap like that!



Speaking of mystery shops, Rob and I finally went out for a nice dinner - with the kids, so it was only semi-romantic! - to celebrate the 11th wedding anniversary we shared on the 2nd of this month. Here's my Appletini. The kids love cherries and all clamored for mine, but um, no. Not the ones all soaked in Smirnoff, kiddos! It was really strong, and I got drunk very quickly. I drink maybe once a month, if that, and wow. I'm such a lightweight since my surgery!



And here's me, that night (tipsy), showing you my hair in its awkward growing-out phase. I can't stand my hair right now. I want it to be long NOW. I'm half-tempted to just chop it again, but it grows soooo slowly, I may never have another ponytail. Is 35 too old for ponytails, anyway? Not around the house, or in the summer at least, right? ;)



Last week (which I can tell ya, because I skipped FF then, sorry), we totally kept the kids up and took them to the 12:01 AM first showing of the newly re-released Beauty and the Beast in 3D. It was AWESOME. I think I had as good a time as the kids did. It cost a small fortune; I had sticker shock, but it was worth it for the "cool mom points" I earned, I think. At least Rob managed to stay awake during the whole thing - he'd had a nap first to make sure! Have you seen it? It was great.



Lastly, speaking of Etsy, I have to share this story. I bought this gorgeous yarn on clearance from Summer of Perfectly Handmade, and the whole situation quickly turned into a comedy of errors: First, she accidentally sent me the wrong yarn, and then she sent me the correct yarn after I mailed it back (and she was GREAT through this whole process, and I totally recommend her, so don't think I'm speaking too badly of her). Well, it was badly skeined, and when I wound it into center-pull "cakes" with my swift and ball winder, it took about two hours vs. the 10-15 minutes it should have, because it was such a mess. I finally got it, though, and managed to knit ONE hexipuff for the Beekeeper's Quilt I'm making before going to bed for the night. Well, I stupidly left that troublesome-but-lovely yarn out overnigh, and our two kittens decided to make it their plaything overnight. When I woke up early, before the kids, I went to go knit another puff with it... and it was GONE. So I instantly knew "the twins," as they are, were the culprits and headed upstairs to look for it. I found two 8mo kittens, each with a shred of the yarn hanging out of their mouths and looking at me guiltily. They immediately dropped it and went to go hide under my son's bed! Then I searched around and found the yarn strewn all over my older daughter's room, some of it chewed it into short strands, some of it just a gnarled, knotty mess, but all entirely wrecked. GAH!!  However, I kept plugging away at it, and look! Up there! I managed to eke out 13 or 14 hexipuffs out of the yarn, which I eventually sorted out, and they'll look great in the quilt. But what a pain!!

P.S. Summer sent me some more yarn as a gift, for all my troubles. So if you're a "yarnie" like I am, don't hesitate to check her out!


I'll leave you on that note. No, this one: "All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

RIP, Dr. King.



Chloƫ Raine Turns The Big 1-0!


All right, so check it out: on Wednesday, my oldest baby in all the world, the one and only, Curls, aka Clorox, aka Chlo-Bo, aka Chloƫ Raine, turned TEN years old! This is her in the morning before we headed out to our Christian Military Homeschooling Co-op's "Not Back To School" Breakfast Pajama Party. Yes, even I wore my PJs, which were about eight sizes too big, but it was either that or the skimpy stuff, and well, you know, it wasn't that kind of party. (And no, I have never been to that kind of party.) Anyway. She was, as you can see, entirely too excited about turning ten years old. Well, "too" isn't the word. Omit that. Just plain excited is more like it. And who wouldn't be? Ten is HUGE, right??

There were myriad snafus at the party; it was just one big comedy of errors, all of which led to one giant omission: I didn't take a single picture of the occasion, even though I promised the absent-but-present-in-spirit leaders of said co-op that I would do exactly that. And we sang to Chloƫ and another birthday girl present at the party, and did cupcakes and the whole bit for it, and everything. Not one dang picture. Gah! But let's not dwell on that, because I took 94 pictures of the rest of her big day, and we shall focus on that. Not that I'm going to show you all 94 pictures, or this page would never load.


After the shindig ended around noon-thirty, we cleaned up our mess and headed right down to the Oceanfront to play miniature golf. My pal Ashley, for whom I have yet to assign a nickername (and I don't think she'd appreciate "Trashley,") had given me a Groupon for 4 people to play, plus two funnel cakes. What an awesome gift to start off our "Poor Man's Birthday Party," as I call our birthdays-full-of-freebies! Neither of the girls had ever played any kind of golf before, and I'm not sure if Jack has with the Cubs, but they all pretty much stunk. Know what, though? I stink at it, too. So, the four of us were fairly evenly matched, except that I had to teach them the rules of the game. The miniature game, that is. Don't ask me about the rules of an actual fairway, 'cause I haven't got a clue.


I did find it interesting that Sophia, a Southpaw, stood the same way as the rest of us Righties to hit the ball. I tried telling her she might want to try the other direction, but she wasn't interested. It's all good.


I couldn't convince Jack to (a) hold the club properly, (b) hit the ball gently when he was a foot away from the hole, (c) not stop the ball when it kept moving past where he thought it ought to be, or (d) not pick up the ball and put it back where he did think it should be. He kept saying, "oops, sorry!" every time I reminded him of any of those things, which was, like, every other five seconds. Since I was in Birthday Mood, I just laughed it off, or else the competitive spirit in me might have gotten fired up about it! Although I admit I might have said "freakin'" once or twice, as in, "Stop touching the freakin' ball, Jack!"


On this particular hole, my ball was the first (and second) to go into "the drink," as my gran'pappy would have called it - although I could have lied and said that never happened, as there is no photographic evidence of such events. But that wouldn't be "Honest and Fair," which is the part of the Girl Scout Law my Daisies and I are working on this week, so I'm telling y'all the truth. Chloƫ was second to have to fish her ball out of the drink. (Speaking of balls, I never tired of saying, "Stay off the green, and don't touch your balls!" whenever it was my turn to give my bright orange ball a whack and I couldn't watch the youngsters. "Don't touch your balls!" I'm so mature.) Chloƫ also had to fish her all out of the drink two times. Team Odette rocks at putt-putt, y'all.


Twice fishing for Jacky, too. Haha! We so suck at this game, but since all four of us sucked equally, it was fun for everyone. They had a total blast. I don't have pictures of Sophia's ball in the drink, which makes me think hers didn't go in - but She of the Amazing Strength kept whacking her ball so hard it would fly clear across three or four holes and into some other form of golf-related trouble. Once, we even had to replace it, because it was lost completely. She'd probably give Tiger Woods a run for his money!


I didn't let them win, but this is Chloƫ's reaction upon my adding up the scores and announcing that she won amongst the kidlets! Fair and square, the birthday girl did the best. This, even after discovering on the third or fourth hole that we were, in fact, aiming for the LOWEST score and not the highest. **Snort**


After our four balls (hee) plunked into the hole (hehe) at the end of Hole 18, the kids discovered a "pirate ship" playground, complete with a fireman's pole-type, uh, pole, which kept them occupied for about 72 days or 15 minutes or something. They really liked that thing. We'd probably still be there if it wasn't hotter'n blue blazes that day, and we were getting all sweaty. Oh, and if I hadn't conveniently remembered the matter of the free funnel cakes we still had coming to us. Heh heh. (Hey, I was bored. Maybe I shoulda gone down the fireman's pole, too.)


Here's Sophia oh-so-patiently awaiting the arrival of the funnel cakes. Not.


I discovered that the kids' hands and feet were all orange from the fireman's pole, so I sent them to wash up before the funnel cakes arrived. Jack came back first and dug right in. I admit, I didn't wait for Birthday Girl and had some before she returned, too. Mmm, mmm - good stuff!


But, it doesn't look like she minded much, does it? She got plenty and there was some to spare. Too bad Daddy wasn't with us or it would've all gotten eaten fo' sho'!


What kid doesn't love these things? I don't know, but mine go nuts for them. Nuts, I tell ye!


Love. They LOVE these fool things. (Btw, what is up with cornhole boards? Are they all the rage now or something? I seem them advertised everywhere. What's the deal?!)


I had a few extra quarters, so I let each of the kids get one of these piratey-themed bouncy balls, after confirming that's what they were and not, in fact, gum. Jack's the only one who can have gum (Sophia never throws hers away in the proper place, and Chloƫ can't have it with her dental appliance), so that wouldn't have been fair. In any case, all three are probably long lost by now!


Here's my eight-year-old boy saying goodbye - a few dozen times - to the super-cute girl behind the counter. Can you say "first crush"? Yeah. He's eight. Is it time for that stuff already?!


After we finally finished at the golf course, I called my homeschooling pal Jenny From the Block to have her and her kids - sickly though they were - meet us at the mall to ride the carousel. When you join their birthday club, you get to take 9 friends with you for free, not including parents, who are free anyway. Sweet deal, right? So Jenny FTB hopped in the shower, and we drove past the mall to pick up a Victoria's Secret gift card I'd snagged on Freecycle that morning while we waited for them to get ready. It was for ten bucks, and when we got to the mall, we found all kinds of perfumes on sale for - wait for it - ten bucks! So I let my tween birthday girl pick out her favorite scent (read: the bottle she found most appealing), and we didn't owe a dime. Sweet score! (And she made a point of telling me that - see those skimpy blue undies in the back? - that those wouldn't look good on me right now because of all my extra skin. Thanks, kid. LMAO)


I'd gotten a $5 birthday gift certificate in my email inbox for both Chloƫ and me, so I of course gave her mine, which made $10 in free money for her to spend at Build-a-Bear Workshop. We headed down the mall hall after Vicki's to spend it. She already knew she wanted a pair of rollerskates for her BAB kitty, and she kept praying out loud that they wouldn't be more than ten bucks. Lo and behold, they were only six bucks! She found these silky undies for her kitty - complete with a rose decoration that her hand is covering - for $3.50, so after tax, we owed mere pennies for these two otherwise free presents. Yep, that grin was genuine. She was having a grand day.


Team BB (Jenny from the Block and her two kids, G and M) texted me to let me know they'd arrived at the mall, so we scooted over to meet them at the carousel. There was no wait and no charge for the ride, so on we went. Sophia and Jack stayed on the lower level, while the rest of us headed to the upper tier. Here's my birthday girl on the horse she picked, looking cute as a button, no?


Whoops, I didn't realize M blinked during her photo op. Sorry, M!


My loverly friend, Jenny from the Block (who has nice teeth, I just noticed), and her adorable son, G


Sophia was already having a blast spinning her spinny thing downstairs, before the ride even started. Goofball.


As it turns out, so was Jack, in his. Goofball #2. The ride started immediately after this picture was taken, so I was stuck sitting nearby on a bench instead of on the horse next to my birthday kid like I'd planned. Ah, well. Can't win 'em all, right? No one showed up to ride - it was in the middle of a school day, after all - so I'm pretty sure they gave us an extra long turn on the ol' carousel for the birthday girl. Nice, right?


Another cool thing about the carousel birthday club thing is that each rider gets a free punching balloon - at least at our mall. Who doesn't love a punching balloon? That's like, high on my list of Favorite Things in the World. Punch, punch, punch. Chloƫ, notoriously immature for her age, suddenly acted the part of the growing-up tween in many ways, including this one: When M's balloon accidentally popped shortly after receiving it, almost immediately Chlo turned to her and said, "You can have mine!" and handed her the balloon. I was bursting with pride over that smooth move.


For my birthday, I got a BOGO Free coupon for Auntie Anne's pretzels, so the seven of us walked down there to get a couple cinnamon ones. Team BB shared theirs, while Chloƫ shared hers with her siblings. I neither got, nor wanted, nor should have had any, especially after eating the funnel cake earlier in the day. (Besides, I like the ones with crushed almonds, so there.)


When yummy snacks are involved, this oft-squabbling trio somehow manage to get along. Amazing.


I don't remember if M got any pretzel - I think she opted out - but G sure enjoyed his!


Oh, my Jenny FTB, you are so silly!

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Speaking of my silly Jenny, she later texted me this image of her in the new shirt I gave her. See, I had a $10 birthday gift certificate to Torrid (because I'm a Diva), and these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirts on clearance for $9.98 were pretty much all that appealed to me in the "get it for free" price range. The shirt didn't fit me, but I figured I could use it for a comfy nightgown around the house, y'know? So when I showed it to Jenny FTB during our pretzel-engorging time, she was all raggin' on me because it wasn't my size. Turns out it would be her size, however, so after mucho back-and-forth, I convinced her to take it as my thank-you for coming out and sharing some of Chloƫ's birthday fun with us, despite not feeling so hot. Doesn't it look super cute on her?! I think so, too.


These rides were right next to the pretzel hut, and I still had quite a few quarters on me, so what the heck? I treated Sophia and M to this ride, and...


...Chloƫ, Jack and G squeezed in together on this one. Jenny FTB tried to give me her sole quarter, but I made that big spender keep her cash. LOL!


Then we headed over to Charlotte Russe, where I'd gotten a $5 Gift Certificate for my birthday, too. Jenny FTB immediately found a wallet in that price range that she loved, and since she rilly, rilly needed a new wallet, I was all, "Here, take the $5 GC." And you know what? Giving feels really good. I felt pleased, and she was happy, and the new wallet works for her, and yay yay!

And then we went over to the JC Penney Portrait Studio to use my coupon for a free sitting fee and free 8x10, thinking the seven of us could take a silly picture or eleven together. But you know what? Unlike Sears' coupon, the JCP sitting fee apparently only covers ONE person, which is lame. So JFTB and I looked at each other, scowled, and then decided to just let Chloƫ get HER pictures taken. I mean, it was her birthday, right? It only made sense. I can't copy any of the pictures off the site or I totally would, but hopefully you can see them here. If Slide 1 is of a close-up of her face with the balloons around it, that's the one I ordered for my free 8x10. Which would you have chosen?


After that, we were pretty much mall-tired, so we all trucked down to our closely-parked vehicles and hugged each other good-day a hundred bunches of times. I'm so glad they were able to come out; it was a blast hanging out with them, and I know Chloƫ would agree! (And yes, I was making them say, "Happy Birthday, Chloƫƫƫƫ!" for the picture, and yes, Jack was rolling his eyes about it. He was being a total punk that day!!)

We returned home, then, and woke up Daddy, so that he could come with us for the rest of Poor Man's Birthday Party. He changed out of his uniform lickety-split, and off we went again, for more fun!

First, we went to Sonic for our two free Wacky Pack kids' meals. I had a coupon for two, for my birthday and Chloƫ's. We let Sophia and Jack eat those. Happily, they both picked the apple slices as their sides, with no encouragement from the 'rents. Booya!

Then, we went to Ruby Tuesday for a free burger, fries and some other side (green beans?) that I got for my birthday but obviously wasn't going to eat, so that was Rob's dinner.


Silver Diner gave Chloƫ a free meal for her birthday, so she chose the mac-and-cheese entrƩe with a side of strawberries (again, no prompting!), and a strawberry shake. My kids LOVE eating at Silver Diner, but since only Chlo got a free meal, we took it to-go, like everyone else. Yep, I let them eat in car after just getting a car wash (for a mystery shop, natch). I'm a glutton for punishment. Guess I'll have to take another such shop soon!


Chick-Fil-A was right next to Silver Diner, and I happened to have a coupon for a free chicken sandwich from probably over a year ago, so I drove over and redeemed that without a hitch. I ate a third, and then Sophia ate a third, and I think the other third went into the round filing cabinet. I would've eaten it later, but whatev.


From there, we headed down to Chuck E. Cheese's to redeem Chloƫ's birthday coupon for 20 free tokens. Twenty isn't a lot, but they made it go pretty far and managed to spend about 40 minutes in the place, so it was worthwhile. I doled them out, giving six each to the Littles and eight to Chloƫ, with surprisingly no complaints. Now, looking at this picture, I'm wondering what was so fascinating on the side, there!

The three kids went off in three different directions, so I'm always thankful for their blacklight kid-numbering system when we go! Jack always heads for this shooty-thingy, so it wasn't too hard to track him down. In this picture, what I see, though, is how tiny he still is. (He still fits into some 6-month baby swim shorts, if that tells you much!)


Sophia was a little harder to track down, since she zipped right away from me and is good at finding hidey-holes. But find her I did, for once not riding the bike-helicopter ride that goes up and down. That's her favorite thing-a-ma-jig.


I pretty much followed Chloƫ around after that, waiting for good birthday photo ops. Found one!


Make that two! :) After this, I kicked her butt at air hockey. I play a mean game of air hockey, and by that, I mean, "against ten year old wimpy girls."


The kids all crowded around to watch Chloƫ play her last token, while Rob and I stood back and made jokes about honey pots.


One of the things the kids enjoy the most at CEC is feeding the ticket muncher machine. They fight over it! I'd get in the fray, too, if it wouldn't be juvenile, because that thing is F.U.N. With their 20 tokens - half spent on rides and not games - they managed to earn exactly 50 tickets. Not too shabby.


It's hard to divvy up 50 tickets amongst three children, so without my even asking, the ticket redemption counter guy said he would round it up to sixty, to make it even. Thank heaven for small favors. (Although, 50 doesn't really "round up" to 60, but I'm not complainin'!)


Sophia picked a 20-point pink rubber spider (hence the scary face). Chloƫ chose a sweet tarts a top, and Jack opted or sweet tarts and a sticker sheet. Hey. They were happy, and once again, you can't beat free!


We ran across the street after that, so I could redeem my birthday coupon for a free Homewrecker (well, that's what I chose, anyway) from Moe's. Welcome to Moe's! Love that place.  It took me three or four sittings to eat that thing, and I think I puked every time anyway. Le sigh.

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The fun wasn't over yet. We stopped at AC Moore so I could run in and redeem my free birthday coupons there, and I managed to get these Crayola markers and glue sticks for practically nothing - both hot commodities around here, so woot!


Our last stop of the night was at Chili's, to get our free birthday brownie sundae. It was mine, by rights, but I gave it to Chloƫ, who shared it with the rest of Team Odette. Except me. No thanks, can't do it! Here she is, eagerly awaiting the treat.


I had to take this picture fast. The brownie sundae disappeared in a flash. Oh, hi, iPhone.


That was the end of our freebie tour for the day. Chloƫ wanted to go home and, indeed, so did I! There were mini cupcakes leftover from the PJ party that morning (and I got some ribbing for bringing store-bought cupcakes when I'm supposed to be the baker!), and I wanted to do candles and sing to her, so we did that. Only Jack and Sophia had a cupcake, though Sophia probably had three when I wasn't looking...


She's either praying or thinking of a wish. Or both.


I hope ALL your wishes come true, Baby Doll!


It wasn't really intended as a birthday present, but since I'd gotten the flute at the co-op party that morning (to be paid for later, in installments - and I got a good deal to boot) from another homeschooling mom, I presented it to her as such. She's been wanting flute lessons. I'm going to try to find a tutor from one of the local colleges, for cheap lessons, though the same mom gave me a lesson book from which to learn, too.


All you musicians out there are cringing at this picture, eh? We have lots to learn. Lots. Although I did teach her how to put her mouth and lips, because this was killing me!

All in all, it was a splendid day, and she proclaimed it, as she does every single year, "The Best Birthday EVER!" but, "And this time I mean it!"

As for me, I spent my 35th birthday yesterday writhing in headache pain, lying down and letting the kids chill, until it was finally time for me to get up, shower, and prepare my plan for the Daisy meeting two hours later. Thankfully, Rob came home early, so Jack could stay home with him while we girls headed to Girl Scouts for the first meeting of the year. I thought it went really well, all things considered. I only have five girls (so far) this year, which is a much more manageable number than the eight and nine we had at various times last year! I do miss my "old" girls, but I love having my five familiar little ones back again, too.


The headache lasted throughout the evening and into the night, but I was cheered considerably by the sight and sounds of Sophia reading to Chloƫ, with minimal help from Big Sis. And when Big Sis did help, she was pleasant and considerate, not bossy or critical. It was absolutely a wonderful sight to behold, and I loved every minute of watching and listening to them. Sophia's reading has improved by leaps and bounds in the past month, and I know she is so proud of herself, as she should be!

And that, my friends, is the end of the birthdays for 2011. Thanks for reading and commenting as a birthday present to me! Hehe - see what I did there? ;)




Charleston, Revisited


A few weeks ago, we headed back down to South Carolina. When we were in Missouri in February (about which I still need to post!!!), we got an offer for a timeshare presentation in Charleston with incentives so great, we couldn't turn down the offer. So we accepted. Funnily enough, the location was for the place I had mystery shopped back in November, which made me feel a little odd, so I checked and got permission to go from the scheduler for the shop. Anyway, here's me driving and doing my gorilla face for The Bob.


First, we dropped Jack off at his grandpa's house (my dad) in Aiken, before heading over to Charleston for a couple of days. I don't have any pictures of Jack's time, but he had loads of fun. Dad took him to a train museum with a huge, cool exhibit; to see Cars 2; out to eat numerous times; and more. And since Dad has a pool, Jack spent every spare second swimming and was even given a set of snorkel gear after having a blast with his gran'pappy's. A bit spoiled, he was! 

Here's ChloĆ« crashed out on the chair in our Charleston suite, shortly after we arrived. The girls took baths, and I think maybe Rob took them to the pool that night, but I can't quite remember, but that's about all we did after arriving. It was a long drive for me, but that didn't keep me from staying up late and banging away on some pouches for my Etsy shop, which you can see here. Perfect if you have a pet elf, leprechaun, or Smurf in need of a place to sleep...


Rob and I were supposed to, um, have some *adult* fun - always a joy in hotel rooms, no? - but he lay down with Sophia to get her to konk out, and he soon joined her in slumber. Was I surprised? No. Was I disappointed? No, because we still had another night, and I was having fun with my li'l ol' craftin' in the other room.


The next morning, we got up early and went to our timeshare presentation, which was actually kind of fun and low-pressure, and we got out of it quickly when I indicated that all of our travel was pretty much free and they couldn't save us any money on that! So we started roaming around downtown Charleston in search of a trolley stop - it's free to ride, if you visit! - when Sophia decided that this giant chain was just for her to sit upon. 


Once we got on the trolley, we had fun riding until we got to the Apple store, where Rob needed to trade his new iPhone 4 in for, like, the 2nd or 3rd time. Some element or another on the phones keeps not working, and he's been having a dickens of a time with it. The girls knew right where the kids' center was, and they raced over to it and started playing games. I see Apple computers in our future...


See the little girl in the picture at the back? I struck up a conversation with her parents, who literally own every Apple product ever made, about the ease-of-use factor for kids, since I do want to make the crossover to Macs from PCs when we can afford it (heh). Anyway, that led on to other parenting discussion, and it turns out that our kids have so much in common, and long story short, I was reassured once again that many of our kids' annoying habits, quirks, and behaviors are normal and common and stuff. Always good to know.


We wandered up the road and had lunch at the Pita Pit, which was awesome (our first time), and then wandered over to more window shopping before finding the large hotel in which the Godiva shop was located. (It also houses the store that sells household Britto goods, so I showed Rob some of their things, since we are fans and occasional collectors. I really wanted a Britto wallet, but since I didn't NEED it, I passed. For the time being.) Anyway, I went into the Godiva shop to get my free truffle for being a rewards member (sign up here), and of course, I had to buy some more chocolates for the gang. ChloĆ« loved the macadamia nut truffle that she picked, but Sophia, as you can see, was not so fond of the strawberry creme one I chose for her. Eh, you can't win 'em all!


I was trying to take a picture of the Godiva bag for the blog, because for some reason I deemed it blog-worthy (hey, it's Godiva, and it's gold, I dunno), when a hotel employee walked by and offered to hold it up for me. She gets me, people. And she had cool nails.


Since Rob is a huge fan of black-, rasp-, and blueberries, of course I had to get him the rather large treat that featured all three. And I chose correctly. He was in chocolate heaven. My words, not his. He would never say nor admit to that.


After those shops, we walked down to the big open-air flea market for which Chucktown is famous. Our first stop was at this woven basket stand, where a woman was literally making the baskets for sale RIGHT THERE ON THE SPOT! I mean, kewl. Sophia was transfixed by this, and you should have seen her elation when the lady actually let her help make the basket by pulling the straw or whatever it is through its hole TWO TIMES. Oh, my word. She felt like she was really part of things, I could tell. (Neglected to get a picture; too busy actually watching.)


Then we stopped at this hat shop, because Rob's looking for a hat he can fish and kayak in without getting his head and ears burnt. The one he picked out looked atrocious on him, so I vetoed that. But the girls had fun trying on hats. Sophia loves to pretend to be a cowgirl!


And is this not the cutest hat on ChloĆ«?! I wish we could have bought it, but it was too much money, not enough utils. Actually not true - plenty of utils, just not enough money in the budget for it. I did pick up a few things for the kids in other stands there: a box of snappers for 50Ā¢ each for the kids, a Smencil for 99Ā¢ for each of them, and also a half-dozen mini rubber tree frogs for our friend Ashley, who collects them. Haven't decided what to do with those yet, though. I also got a Christmas present for each of the girls: A kimono and matching pants set for the American Girl doll ChloĆ« will get for her upcoming 10th (!) birthday, and a charming little tea set for Sophia, who talks about it every day and can't WAIT to get it.


My good chum Erin, newly engaged!!, from grade school, collects post cards (email me if you're distant and would like to send her one), so I was on the hunt for a locally-made one. I happened upon this shop, and since I'm very much about supporting local artists, I had to go in and check. No luck there; no luck anywhere. Sorry, Ernie. :( But it was still a cool shop, and if I'm back in The Chuck, I'll have to stop back in and pick up a couple little things I saw and desired. Assuming funds are available for that, natch.


Horse-drawn carriages are everywhere in Charleston, but we didn't partake on either visit, because they are pricey. Sophia insisted I take a picture of some horsies, though, so here you go, Toots!


This is Tim. Besides being very hawt, Tim was also very sweet and nice. Here's what happened: The girls were both getting blistered feet and couldn't bear to walk any further, let alone all the way back to our parking garage, so I approached his pedicab to inquire about the cost of getting us down there. It wasn't far, so instead of charging his regular $18 rate for four passengers, he agreed to take us there for $12. Well, when Rob came up from where he was browsing, I asked him about it, and he said, no, I don't think we have enough cash for that AND to pay at the parking garage. So I told Tim thanks, but no thanks.

Well, not to be outdone, he said he would take us there for nine bucks. I knew the garage wouldn't cost us more than $11 (all we had was a $20 in cash, and I didn't want to pay $3 to get out more money from the ATM), so I accepted his offer. We had a very fun ride down to the garage, during which the girls kept urging Tim to go "Faster! Faster!" - and he did, saying we were much lighter as a group than his average fare - and then paid him his $9. He agreed to pose for the picture, which makes him even more awesome, and then we bid him adieu.

After getting settled in the van, we got down to pay and were charged $8 for parking, leaving me with $3. Rob and I quickly decided we would hunt Tim down and give him the extra $3, because he really deserved it. Well, we drove up one street and down another, with no luck finding him... until, he just happened to cross in front of us with another passenger. I tootled him with vigor (Lisa, if you're reading this, please tell me you know the reference!), and he stopped by my window. I gave him the three dollars, thanking him again for being so great to us, and he thanked us in return and said it was really cool of us to track him down. I gave me such warm fuzzies, the whole thing, that I didn't stop smiling for at least an hour. So, cheers to Tim!


We went back to our hotel after that - but not before losing Sue, my trusty TomTom GPS, who fell from her perch and cracked, rendering her useless. Sad times for me. At least I had my wonderful iPhone to get us back to the hotel, so I navigated thusly - and were just in time for the evening snack once again. The night before, we'd enjoyed sodas, crackers, pretzels, chips, and a huge abundance of the most delicious guacamole and salsa. I mean, I must've eaten ten peoples' shares of guacamole, it was so good. SO GOOD. I could die just thinking about it. We were hoping the fare would be the same the second night, but this time, it was hummus instead of guac. Everyone else was disappointed, but of course, I was completely ready to engorge myself once again. And I did. So yum!

That night, Rob AGAIN crashed out in the living room of our suite with the girls, while I AGAIN banged out more pouchies for my Etsy shop. I made eight of them in those two nights. I don't know why - they won't sell - but they're fun to make, and so I persisted. 

The next morning, we checked out and headed back over to Aiken to collect our boy.



Here's "Mommy Dog," the stray dog who has pretty much taken up residence at my dad's house. She's had two litters of puppies so far, and he and the neighbors have taken care of them. He's adopted one of them for himself at the moment, having rehomed the rest. Anyway, Mommy Dog is the SWEETEST girl, and I wish we could provide a home for her, but four cats is enough for now.


Jack was so happy to see us, and us him. And the girls were excited to be at Grandpa's, too, especially when he gave them some pressies. Chloƫ received this bead weaving loom set, and a book, after I told Dad she loves reading and crafting.



Sophia, in turn, was given a book and a Barbie set, since Barbie is all the rage among the six-year-old set in our house. Jack was given a book, too, and something else beside the snorkle set, but I forget what. Eh, well.


After that, we all went for a swim in Dad's pool. I have a ton of pictures from that, but I'll spare you looking at all of those. I didn't get a good one of Jack with his snorkle gear on, and Rob always wears a mask when he swims, so no good pictures of him, either. And no, you don't get to see me in my bathing suit!


Taking a break from the pool, Grandpa and ChloĆ« rested on the futon bed they have set up outside next to the pool, and she looked through her new book. She has a habit of being involved with three or four books at a time, and rotates them according to her mood. I am so not like that, but to each her own!  While Jack was with his grandpa, they slept out here on the futon both nights. Jack loved that!



Here's Cheyenne, the "keeper" pup of Mommy Dog, having a rest. She did a lot of that, as wee doggies do.


And here's Megan in her bed, being sweet and calm for once. Most times, she's very excitable and in-your-face! There are two more dogs in the household, but they are spoiled and pampered by Wife #5, and they didn't come out of their bedroom to be sociable. Feh.



One last pic of Cheyenne, with Sophia, before I let you go. That was it for our trip, besides a mystery shop dinner in town before leaving, and a mostly-uneventful drive home. It was fun, and short and sweet, just the way I wanted it to be. I'm glad we went.

Maybe I'll get busy and post about Missouri later, after I finish these shop reports for our dinners tonight!


The First Weekend In June

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

So that was Saturday.

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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


Friday Fragments: Smelly Returns!

Wait. "Smelly Returns" could mean a lot of things, couldn't it? Well, don't sit and think about it too long! It means I'm going to try to get back into FF after a long absence, not... those other things. Just be forewarned that I'm listening to Bob FM online through my ear buds, very loudly, so if one of my fragments suddenly turns into song lyrics, well, that's why.

Another forewarning: This is going to be long. I have a lot of stuff to unload. Feel free to, you know, NOT read it!

Friday Fragments 

Link yourselves up right here if you're fragmenting along with the awesome Mrs.4444 (who is not so awesome at Words With Friends - aka Scrabble - on the iPhone, it turns out. Heh heh heh)!

And away we go!


The past two weeks have been insanely busy for me, so I'm pretty much going to post about the goings-on then. For starters, Rob (The Hubs) was in the hospital for 8 days, starting on Tuesday last week and ending on Tuesday this week. He's all right now and stuff, but he didn't plan that visit too well for me, timing-wise. I guess I'll forgive him, but our bank account may never recover from the amount of babysitting I had to pay for during his absence!


For starters, it was crazy Girl Scout Cookie week last week. Tuesday morning, I had an hour and a half of mandatory Leader training for that (I'm my younger daughter Sophia's Daisy scout leader). In the evening, there was the monthly Leader meeting, which, uh, I missed, because... we'll get to that. Thursday afternoon was our regular scout meeting, and Friday night was the big Cookie Rally. My co-Leader and I had to keep track of all 13 of our scouts by ourselves (8 of whom are 5 or 6 years old), because no parents were allowed. (It was insane!) Saturday, the cookie sale started, but it's been too freakin' cold out for us to go around the neighborhood, so I've been spared that for the moment. Still, I'm a little Girl-Scouted out at the moment, know what'm sayin'??


And yes, I will be happy to send you six cases of Thin Mints... if you pay for the shipping. ;)


After the cookie training last Tuesday, my Cookie Chair took me to BJ's, where she has a membership. We had to bring fourteen #10 (the huge ones) cans of veggies and fruits to Friday's Cookie Rally - one for each of our girls - for donation to the Food Bank. Our local council is really pushing the Food Bank this year. Which is great and all, but those things are 'spensive! ANYway, not the point. I did get some groceries for our household while there, and I decided I'm going to get a membership on payday. The pantry has been slim pickin's around here lately. Every time the kids turned a corner and found more giant containers of delicious-looking food, they would yell, "JACKPOT!" It was funny and sad at the same time. They were really relieved (and excited)when I told them not all that food was going to the Food Bank, and some of it was coming home with us...


So after I finally got home, schlepped all the groceries up to my door and got the kids out of the van, it was with an unimaginable amount of dismay that I discovered the water shut-off notice on the front door. Yep. Went in and checked: no water. None. I literally went berserk. I had forgotten to pay the bill last cycle, yes, but as soon as Rob got the notice on the door one single day before, I sent the payment. Online. Which takes a couple days. I didn't know they only gave you one day of notice to pay before shutting it off. Gulp. I sent the kids upstairs to play in their rooms so they wouldn't hear me fall apart on the phone with the water people. I was in tears and threatening to do things that would put me back in the Psych Ward I visited in December. You just can't have three kids at home with no water. Can't cook, can't wash dishes or yourselves - can't FLUSH. And have you seen what three little kids put out? You must have The Flush. Needless to say, I got them to come turn the water back on within hours, after swearing on a virtual stack of Bibles that I had, indeed, paid that %^&*( bill.

That was definitely not the highlight of my week.


I just don't get to say "schlepped" often enough. It's a fun word.


Moving right along...

Wednesday, I saw my shrink for the second time since I got out of the Looney Bin. It was a good thing. My bipolarity has me swinging off the chandeliers one moment and contemplating slicing up my wrists the next (not kidding). It's been pretty hellish inside my brain lately. He changed one med, increased another, and refilled the third. Fingers crossed that this is the combo that works.


Jack was supposed to go to his Urologist on Thursday morning for a follow-up after his surgery on September 1st, but uh, it took me so long to get him scheduled that his referral expired. Stupid, sucky Mommy. (He had a bilateral orchiopexy.) Yet another thing lately on which I have dropped the ball. Hopefully by next week's Fragments, I'll have scheduled the appointment to get a new referral...


Thursday afternoon was, at long last, our Girl Scout Christmas party. The girls each exchanged gifts. Sophia completely and totally embarrassed me when she opened her present (from my Cookie Chair's daughter, no less), saw what it was, threw it, looked like this:

Sophia pouting 

for a few minutes, and then burst into tears. Why?? Because it was Tinkerbell/Fairy goodies, and she thought *I* had given her MORE Tinkerbell stuff. She had all Tinkerbell things in her stocking this year, and Chloƫ got Disney Princesses stuff, and she wanted Princesses, and here was more Tinkerbell, and ...ugh! It was mortifying. I had to take her out of the room, lecture her once again on the proper way to receive a gift, and then put her in the corner when she was STILL being bratty. And then go apologize for her behavior. I'm still embarrassed!



The Cookie Rally on Friday night went really well, and I didn't lose a single Daisy. (The chemist in me thinks of my troop of Daisies as a whole lot of excited valence electrons, if that's any explanation!) Sophia was probably griping here about not getting more cookies... See her red shirt? One of the troop parents had the bright idea to put all our girls in the same color, and we chose red. Worked like a dream.


Saturday and Sunday, the kids and I spent pretty much all day at the hospital with Daddy. Thankfully, they provided crayons and paper to keep the little ones busy. It helped. Mommy and Daddy got into the drawing and coloring for a while there, too. It was pretty therapeutic. I smuggled in some chocolate for the patient, even though no outside food was allowed. It was most appreciated. I smuggled in my new iPhone 4 for him to "ooh" and "ahh" over, too. Daddy likey.



So far this school year, I've been working a ton with Sophia on letter sounds. She kept getting them mixed up, and she found the whole process rather boring, so we didn't really graduate beyond that - until December, when things suddenly clicked for her, and she began to read! Still, I didn't go back to the Hooked on Phonics program we'd been using, because we did so much traveling last month, and because I wanted her reading skills to develop more informally in that period. We went back to HoP on Monday, and she did a beautiful job with the program, even reading her first three stories to me, unassisted. So she finally got to put her first sticker on her reading chart, which has been up on the wall since September. It was a momentous occasion, so we all did the Happy Dance! Yay, Sophie!


Monday night was dance class for Chloƫ and Cub Scouts for Jack, so we didn't get to visit Daddy at the hospital. That sucked, and we all missed him like crazy. I may have cried a little.


Tuesday was nuts. I had to go to the mall to get an eye exam (yes, for a mystery shop, but I really needed it). My vision has jumped another big step, for the worse. Awesome. Not that you care. After that, I stopped in at The Children's Place to check the clearance racks. Score! I got over two dozen pairs of good, quality pants for less than six bucks each - half for the girls, half for the boy - since they've all been in high-waters lately. Imagine that, my kids actually grew! Now to take the 3Ts and 5Ts to the kids' consignment shop...


In the afternoon, I still hadn't heard when Hubs was getting out of the hospital, and I was starting to panic. I had to take Jack and Sophia to gymnastics (the boy joined his sister in class last week, too, and he's Ć¼ber-enthusiastic about it) in the afternoon, and then spend four hours at the Girl Scout council doing my CPR certification class, and I really didn't want to get another sitter for that... plus I wanted him HOME, of course! I called the head nurse, his command, his chief (because he had to be released to the command, not his wife, argh), and finally found out they were discharging him in the next 20 minutes. Really? You couldn't keep me in the loop?? I dropped The Littles off at the gym and then raced my tush over to the Naval hospital to scoop him up, before rushing us back to the gym to pick up the little gymnasts. In rush-hour traffic, both ways. Normally, that should have taken me about 2Ā½ hours, but I did it in an hour and 15 minutes. Go me.



Tuesday night, I spent four hours learning CPR, for the first time. I meant to do it after I had my first kid, and then the next two, and then the last one, and then... I never did. Now that I'm a scout leader, it's time. It was an adrenaline rush, for sure. I've been on the lookout for an unconscious victim ever since. Next month, I'm going to take the next step and take the course to be a Red Cross CPR instructor. I'm doing it for free through the Girl Scouts, in exchange for teaching a couple classes a year after that. I'm nervous and excited!



Wednesday night was our monthly Bunco night. I almost forgot to make my cupcakes! 1700 rolled around, and I finally got started... or at least I did, after I sent Hubs out to pick me up some eggs. Well, I wanted to make some really cute cuppies, only all the Wilton food color gels I wanted to use had dried out. So I had to use blue. I tasted some of the blue frosting... can you tell??


Then, I put the tinted frosting in the fridge so it wouldn't be soft and melty like it was in the tub, while I showered and got ready. Only, I left it in there so long, it got TOO hard, and I couldn't use the swirly tip I wanted to use. So I ended up doing these slapdash basketweave cupcakes, in blue, and getting exactly nothing like I wanted. Apparently they were good, though, and I was asked to bring cupcakes every single time.


This morning, I had my two-year check-up with my gastric bypass surgeon. Hard to believe two whole years have gone by since I weighed *gulp* 341.3 pounds. I've lost about 205 of those lbs along the way, dropping from a BMI of 62.xx to somewhere in the mid-20s (hard to tell with all the extra floppy skin I'm still lugging around). I'm happy, but I'm not finished yet. I look okay in clothes, but when I take them off, it looks like I'm 92 years old. No lie! So Plastics is in my future, and I'm okay with that. Just don't touch my face, because I'm pretty adorable. Ha!


Tonight, I went for the follow-up to my CPR class, which was the First Aid portion. I aced my test. Well, I did get one wrong on the child first aid portion, because I read the question as a CPR one instead of a choking/abdominal thrusts one, der. That'll teach me to rush to be the first one done! (That's a lifelong habit I've had, so dumb.) It was a good class, and I'm seriously glad I've had it. My only complaint - and a major one - is that there was waaaaaaay too much joking around and talking during the instruction and videos. A little laughter is fine. The entire six hours? Not so much. Not when some of us aren't taking it for the 7th time and actually want to learn this stuff! Now I need to stock a first aid kit to bring with me everywhere I go!!


Well, I could bore you to tears for another hour, and THEN share some cute-and-funnies from the kids, but I shan't. This has gotten long enough, and I know you agree. Have a fantastic weekend, and send me any extra gauze and band-aids you have in the house. ;)


P.S. Scroll down and read my Poop Story, if you missed it. I'm told it was a good story, anyway.

Ketchup And Mustard, I'm Behind!

Phew. Another busy week.

Besides the usual (school, 3 dance classes on Tuesday & Wednesday, Brownies AND Cub Scouts - the latter of which we ended up missing AGAIN because the boy-child could not stay awake past 1800 and the meetings aren't until 1900 - on Thursday), etc., we've had lots going on.

I had a fun time collecting the money from all the other Brownies and finishing up the troop paperwork to finish the cookie sale this week. I finally made all the deposits and turned in everything yesterday, so I'm hoping I did it all right. We'll see. Last year I messed up the patches, and I'm not entirely sure I did things correctly this time! So now it's finally, finally over... well, except for the last few boxes our Leader still has, to sell. But we received enough in donations to cover those in the meantime.

Also on Thursday, we went to the Scholastic Book Fair at the kids' school. I volunteered there on Monday (think I told you that already) and was looking forward to picking out our favorites last night. I was going to buy ONE book per child, but I ended up buying 9 total!

Here's our list:


Hot Wheels: Stunt Show - (which I can't even find on the Scholastic website; weird) a level 1 Reader for Jack to read to ME. He keeps saying he can't read, but he can. He's just soooo stubborn.


Ouch! How your body makes it through a very bad day - which is NOT the same cover as the ones pictured on all the links I Swagbucks-searched for, but they must be related somehow, eh?  Jack is totally digging this book; he's very "into" what goes on inside the body and what all the parts look like and everything. I picked out this book for him at the volunteer session on Monday.

Old lady 

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick! - which Jack and Sophia both picked out, independently.  


Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones - Had to get this; these books are so funny, and I opted to get The Pout-Pout Fish last time instead. I'm still wishing I'd just gotten both! 


Duck at the Door - Rob picked this book for the kiddos. I haven't read it yet.


Barbie in A Mermaid Tale: A Storybook - most obviously picked out by Sophia, who is having a love affair with Barbie right now, and also with stickers, which it contains. She's always loved stickers, though, and she sits and goes through my sticker box whenever she thinks she can get away with it!


Fluffy and Baron, another book Sophia picked out, which I also haven't read yet. Apparently it's based on a true story.

Wimpy kid 

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days - ChloĆ«'s BFF, Sammy, told me about these books at the Fall Book Fair, and I missed out, running to the library after the books had all been packed up. I really wanted the school to get credit for the purchase, so I held out until this Spring Book Fair. Sammy really likes the books and thought ChloĆ« would enjoy them, too. I told her she could pick out two of them, since they have AR tests associated with them, and although she always has her nose in a book, she infrequently takes the AR tests at school. I'm always pushing her to do so, but it seems she couldn't care less! 

Allie finkle

Allie Finkle's Rules for Girls: Stage Fright  - Instead of a second Wimpy Kid book, ChloĆ« begged for this one. Since there was an AR test attached, I relented and let her put back one of the others. She's been reading BOTH books ever since, even though technically I only gave each of them one of their books, planning to save the other for their Easter baskets! So, I stole it back tonight and am making her read Wimpy. :P

In all, the nine books cost us an average of $5.10, after my $5 credit for volunteering on Monday. I guess that's a pretty good deal. Hopefully Sophie won't take her Barbie book into the tub with her and rip it to shreds, like she did the last time!!

Speaking of ChloĆ« and BFFs... she came off the bus completely sobbing yesterday because another BFF, "K," had written about her that she was annoying, in her diary, and ChloĆ« saw it. The way she describes it, it almost seems like K had meant for her to see it, which I thought was a little too "mean girl" for 3rd grade! I don't know, but we really didn't handle it at all. She came running into my arms when Rob brought her back from the bus stop (he's on days since Wednesday), and I just held her while she cried her heart out. Rob and I just looked over our shoulder at each other, while I mouthed, "I don't know what to do!" and rubbed her tiny back. She eventually ran out of steam and has seemed to forget about it, so I don't even know whether I should bring it up again. Thoughts?

Let's see, what else...

Oh! I subbed Friday afternoon, 1200-1500, for the first time. A pack of wild fifth graders, about 80% of whom were bigger than I am, or at least as big. How does that happen? I'm used to little ones. I daresay I was far less intimidated than I was a decade ago when I subbed in Tampa, freshly out of college and not yet a frequently-yelling mother, but still, it was hard to keep this class quiet. At first, they were shouting at each other, using all kinds of filthy language, and threatening to throw chairs and stuff. I even got hit hard by one kid, but it was accidental, so I didn't really do anything about it.

But all it took was starting to write names on the board - and threatening to skip lunch! - to get them back under control. By the end of the day, several of the kids proclaimed that I was the "best" and "most fun" sub ever, because I actually did things with them instead of just yelling and throwing more busy work at them. Indeed, when we got our work done early, I let them go outside and run for 20 minutes. I could tell they really needed it. And another time, when work was finished early, I let them go in front of the class and read a poem they'd written, or do a silly dance, or whatever. The whole class was cracking up, even me. So, it was an okay day. But I definitely earned my keep!

Linda and I went out on a lunch shop together on Wednesday, and the family and I did another shop for dinner that night. Both were really good; I'm trying to keep my hand in that, even with everything else we've got going on these days.

Sophia had a field trip to - of all places - Krispy Kreme on St. Patrick's Day, and they had a "green day" party. I was supposed to send in a green snack, but all I could find were Del Monte jello and fruit bowls in the snack stockpile. I'd forgotten until it was too late to go out. Apparently no one ate them, and the teachers stuck them in the fridge; I kinda wish they would send them back home, so I could feed them to MY kids!!

Also on Wednesday, I took Chloƫ and Jack to the dentist. Jack had two of the eight cavities filled and seemed to do well. I haven't heard him say a single word about it, so I guess it didn't hurt too much or anything. Chloƫ had her orthodontic records started - molds of her teeth taken, pictures, etc., - because she has a crossbite that we need to get fixed. Then, she had a frenectomy, to cut the extra thick upper frenulum she has/had (the tissue connecting the gums to the lips), which was causing her teeth to grow in funny. We had to shell out beaucoup bucks for that visit, and we're only just getting started! So I'm kind of nervous about that...

The only other thing I can thing to mention is that I'm now down 170 pounds!! I've lost about half my old self, now.  I need to get down to at least 164 before I can schedule the abdominoplasty, but I plan to lose 10 more before I even go in to try, to account for clothing and eating /drinking that morning. Hopefully another month or so will do it!

And that is the week that was. Tomorrow's another busy day!



We learned this song in music class in elementary school: "I am slowly going crazy, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 - Switch!" Did you?

So both the crazy part and the switch part fit, in that this was another crazy evening, and I have switched something pretty insignificant but nonetheless mentioned here several times: My shower! Y'all might remember that I ā™„ taking cold showers? Well, no longer! I have switched over to taking steaming hot showers. I don't know if it's because the weather changed, and I'll go back in the late Spring, or if it's because I get cold so easily now, but yeah. Hot showers for me!

Anyway, who cares? I only mentioned it because I needed a blog title. Hee.

I slept all day again today. Well, almost, it was after 1 when I woke up. I hadn't meant to do that, but it doesn't really matter, because I had nothing but more cleaning on my plate today. I think I'll do some later this evening... And I only woke up when I did because the Schwan's guy rang the doorbell. I was annoyed and foggy-headed, so I didn't even answer the door. I didn't want anything anyway, and he always tries to talk me into something. Can't stand that.

So, I promised bootie pictures:


I had planned on using clothespins to take a cute picture of the socks hanging from a tree branch, but I dug through all my yarn bins, where I know I put them, and couldn't find them. Okay, so I only pawed through the top three bins, and it's probably in one of the bottom three. So here they are on our front porch. Or stoop. Whatever it is.


So here they are! Aren't they cute? I messed up and made the cuff 5 cm instead of the prescribed 4 cm, but I figure that'll just help them stay up on widdle Baby Luke's legs better. Can you believe he's already a month old?!


Other than the cuff, I made no modifications to the pattern, other than to screw up the toe decreases on the second sock. It's minor, though, and I don't think baby boy - or his mother - will notice. (But if you do, tell me!)

And so they went. Hopefully I'll cast on for the pants before the weekend, knock them out before he grows out of them, and be on to something else. I'm ready for a new project!


While I was taking pictures of the socks, my reward package from the Nielsen Homescan program arrived, and I figured, what the hell? I'll throw pics of those on the ol' blahg, too. This here is a little something I redeemed my Homescan points for baby Luke. I'm calling it his Christmas present, although I'll give it to Steph as soon as I see her next, so he can start playing with it right away.


And this was a little somethin'-somethin' I picked up for Tiger Lily: a chew/pull toy by Coleman. Jack wanted to throw it around for her this afternoon, so I let him give it to her early instead of for Christmas. She seemed to like it. It held her interest, but only as a throw toy. When he stopped, she ignored it. But she's never been huge on toys, at least since she was a puppy. Seems pretty durable, though. If you want to become a Nielsen Homescan panelist, let me know and I'll hook you up with some linkage. They have decent rewards, and the points accrue quickly.

As I mentioned earlier, this afternoon & evening were crazy. Here was the schedule:

3:00 - 4:15 Math tutoring after school for Chloƫ

4:00 - 5:00 Brownies meeting for Chloƫ

4:30 - 5:30 Soccer practice, for Chloƫ!

5:00 - 8:00 Book Fair Family Night at school

6:00 - 8:00 Soccer party for Sophia

7:00 - 9:00 Cub Scout meeting for Jack

Well, we didn't make all of that, obviously. Some thing(s) had to go. At first, the only thing I crossed off was Chloƫ's soccer practice, since that's twice a week, PLUS a game on Saturdays, and other stuff is less frequent.

And so at 1600, the Littles and I went off to school to pick up Curls from tutoring and take her to Brownies. We didn't get there until 1630, so she missed half the meeting. I can't wait until this soccer bullshit business is over, and we can get back to our regularly scheduled lives! Not that it hasn't been fun. It has. It's just very take-overy, time-wise!

At the meeting, the girls spent time planning their holiday party. They're going to cook for us and entertain us, just like last year, so it should be fun. I let the Littles play outside while I talked to the parents about the soon-to-end Fall Product sale, and then I chit-chatted. I completely and totally forgot that I had two small children playing outside, in the near dark!!! OMG, as soon as I remembered, I raced outside to check on them. They were playing exactly where I told them to, calmly and mostly quietly, and were just fine. But dang, did I give myself a heart attack! Stupid, stupid, me.

One of the moms, who also had weight loss surgery before I did, gave me a bag of her grown-out clothes. I can't wait to try them on! I gave away my clothes to a different, pre-surgery? Brownies mom, so what goes around, comes around, I guess!


From Brownies, we raced over to the school to get in some Book Fair time before the soccer party. My plan was to let each of the kids pick out a special book, and then I was going to choose a book for each of them for Christmas, from their wish lists. And that's what we did. Sophie chose a Barbie book with stickers, Jack chose a Cars book about Mater, and ChloĆ« picked something about Bad Kitty. I forget what it's called, but it's a chapter book. Then I sent them away to look at other stuff while I picked their Christmas gifts. And I got a few 99Ā¢ stocking stuffers at the counter. ChloĆ« saw me picking them out, the little stinker.


While we waited a few minutes for the door prize drawing - which we have won in the past but not this time - the kids harrassed Midnight the Panther, their school mascot. Sophie has historically been afraid of him, but not anymore! She was all over the poor blue beast.


We rushed clear to hell and gone for the soccer party at Chuck E Cheese, arriving only a few minutes late thanks to traffic. The kids played for 20 minutes or so before Coach corralled them to the table to eat their cake and get their trophies and certificates. None of the parents would move out of the freaking way so I could take a decent picture, so here's what you get - the side of Sophie's head and another parent's sleeve.


Yay, Sophie gets a trophy too!! She was so excited about it - much more so than soccer itself - and kept canoodling with it during the party.


The soccer cake - and is that Sophie eating her own cake, or a bite out of the main cake? Gosh, I hope it was the former, but knowing her...!


Soap pausing for a picture with her coach. Isn't he a cutie?


Sophie's soccer trophy, yay!


Our pizza took forever to come (yeah, they had cake first. Not my idea. Silliness), so I launched each of the kids into the play zone with their own cup of tokens. I only gave them five or ten at a time, so they wouldn't go crazy. It's a good thing, because once, I saw Sophie handing hers out to some other, random kids, and another time, I saw a little girl come along and dip into Chloƫ's cup. Um, no. My tokens!!


Sophie being Sophie


And a typical Chloƫ pose


Jack had a lot of fun tonight, and he scored the most tickets by far. One time, he came up holding a five foot long stretch of tickets from one token! I couldn't believe it.


This little teammate shares the same name as my kiddo, so they often buddied up together on and off the field.


No clue who this kid was. Jack just totally usurped his ride. He kept doing it to other kids, too. Every time I turned around, there he'd be, on this "ride"with some strange kid!


Jack was pretty pissed when I made them stop and come eat some pizza. "I don't WANT any pizza!" But when I told him he had to eat or I wouldn't give him any more tokens, well, boy howdy, he gobbled that whole piece down pretty quickly!

And then my camera died, so no more pictures. Really, how many do you need from CEC?

Oh, and both Jack and Sophie decided they wanted their next birthdays there (oh, yay), so I guess I'll try and throw them a joint one at the beginning of April or something. Of all the places...

By the time we got out of there, and would have made it to Cub Scouts, there would only have been about a Ā½-hour left, so we decided to skip it. Plus it was late, and ChloĆ« still had a ton of homework! What the hell, she is eight, not sixteen!

We did Jack's homework, while I baked cookies for tomorrow's lunch snack, and sent the Littles upstairs for a shower before bed. Then Chloƫ, who had already done her language and spelling homework, sat with me to do her science work. We breezed through that pretty quickly, but only because I stayed right on top of her. Otherwise, she would have fooled around for an extra hour or two. That kid!

And so ends our busy Thursday night. I'm going to go clean up. And then maybe cast on for Luke's trousers. And then...

Slowly going crazy am I, 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1, Switch!


P.S. According to Chloƫ, she only missed three on her math test! yay!

P.P.S. Unbeknownst to me, she also had a science test today. We didn't study for that, but she says she thinks she got those all right. We shall see, Mom can dream, right?

A Return To Freedom

So now that I have Vanna back, of course we need to take advantage of it and not sit at home, right? Right. Plus, the air conditioning repair guys arrived at 0900 to take out our old, crappish air handler and replace it with a sleek new version (I really have no idea if it was sleek or not - I didn't see it - but that sounded like a good word), so I wanted to get the kids right out of the house and out of their way.

Our first stop was to the library down the street. Chloƫ has been begging me to take her, so we could do their summer reading program. No sooner did we jump out of the van than some carpenter-types hollered over to us that the libe was closed until sometime in September. Well, shoot.

So we ran over to the adjoining playground (Tabblo above) to let the kids burn off some steam. I mostly sat on a bench in the shade and took pictures; it was too dang hot to do much else. They didn't seem to mind and pushed each other on the swings for once. It was a good time. When they started complaining of the heat, we left.

Next, we drove to Central Library on the Boulevard. I've been past it dozens - if not hundreds - of times but have never actually gone in. Woo, it's nice. And big! I spoke to the kids repeatedly about proper library behavior, but somehow they still managed at times to be loud and to run. Argh. No one else seemed to mind but me, though.

Inside, I renewed my card and then, to his utmost joy, got one for Jack. "I'm old enough to have a card now?!" he squeaked. Of course, he doesn't own a wallet, so the card currently lives in Chloƫ's purse... We went upstairs to the children's section, and they had a blast picking out all sorts of books they wanted to read. I capped them at three apiece, reminding them that we would be back next week. I hope to make this a regular Monday thing, or so.

Then I got my own books. I picked A Thousand Splendid Suns and The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. I'm thinking KR will be first, since it was written first, but I have yet to crack open either. After some knitting (I haven't been knitting in days, since I didn't want to sweat all over the lovely yarn), that is.

(I italicized those book titles instead of underlining, by the way, because otherwise TypePoop was underlining the entire paragraph, and I couldn't fix it.)

Then we headed to a certain ghetto mall in Norfolk to do a certain pretzel store mystery shop. The kids were again running and yelling, and making me look like the most ineffective mother ever. I tried not to mind, but I did. Anyway, we got to the pretzel place, and there was a no-credit-cards sign on the counter. Guess what? All I had were my CCs. So that shop didn't happen and we wasted that time and gas. Dismay all around.

I'd gotten my monthly text message from Redbox with the free Monday code, so I promised the kids if they behaved at the post office, then we could rent a couple movies. I had two thick envelopes to mail to overseas Navy bases with expired coupons, and they did behave.

When we were finished and about to go to the Redbox, Steph called or I called her, I forget - and we decided the kids and I would drive out to see her and her nieces in Chesapeake instead. I put it to a vote, and they unanimously chose to go see "Auntie Stevie." One of them, I forget whom, asked, "Can you come with us, too?" No, kid, I was going to hand over the keys and wave you off...

We stopped home so I could get my knitting, and the AC guys were standing in our driveway with their shirts off, drinking Gatorade. Apparently it was 1,000Āŗ in our attic, poor guys. I'd thought they were almost finished when we'd left three hours earlier, but not quite.  Anyway, I got my stuff, and we headed to East You-Know-Where.


This cutie is Steph's 2yo niece, Carolynn (sorry if I spelled that wrong, S). She was napping when we arrived but woke up shortly after for some lunch. She's so adorable and playful; I just ā™„ her!

The kids all got along well and played for a couple hours while Steph and I chatted and discussed about a certain knitted abomination she'd received. I still say she should accidentally knock over a candle onto it...

When my kids kept begging Steph for some food, I knew it was time to head home to feed them! No sooner did I put the kid music on for them than Sophie and Jack knocked out. Chloƫ spent the long ride reading her library books to herself. I stopped at Redbox before home and rented them three movies, and I was chagrined to find Rob still not home from work at 1800. That's a long day for him, and I missed him.

The AC was blowing hard when we came in - but the guys didn't shut the kitchen windows, so it was a huge waste!! Argh. I got those closed, made the kids some quick (yes, Trader Joe's) mac & cheese for dinner, and settled in myself with some yummy TJ hummus. Rob finally arrived, and quickly konked out. As I type, he's dead to the world on the floor behind me...

Oh, and I got a call today about doing some daycare for three kids starting later this month: a 3yo, 5yo and 9yo. They happen to live right across the street, so the mom came over to hash out hours, prices and other terms with me. She's really nice; ChloĆ« and I sold her cookies earlier this year, so she knew me as "the Girl Scout mom."  I lowballed myself on the weekly fee, but it's really not that many hours, and every little bit will help. She's a single mother, so I quoted her a price lower than I normally would have. I start on the 24th!

And that's our Monday. Hope your week is off to a good start!


Memorial Day Weekend

We've had a busy few days, filled with lots of mystery shops. I think I'm done with those for the rest of the month, so I'll have a good little break before they start up again in June. Here's a bit of what we've been up to:


Rob had the day off! Yay, that always makes me so happy. He still had to go in the morning, but only for a dentist appointment.  I primped, coloring my hair, while he was gone, and I like the results. Nothing worth showing, though - I stuck with my usual auburn, just a different brand.

We parents and the Littles (ChloĆ« was still at school) went to our appointment with Jack's teacher, occupational therapist, special services provider, and the Veep at the school at 1400. The meeting lasted about an hour, and covered his IEP goals met for this year and new plans for next. There was lots of good news. He has made great strides since the beginning of the year and especially since Spring Break, when we've really been working a lot harder at home, too. Everyone was just gushing over him. So he's dropping down to once a week - instead of two - with the OT, but keeping the Ā½-hr per day with Special Ed. He's getting an extra 15 minutes to complete assignments and tests, even for the gifted testing later next year.

What's that, you say? Gifted testing for someone in special ed? Yep, students can be twice exceptional, both gifted and disabled. Which brings us to Chloƫ. You may remember she's in the gifted program at school. She's an awesome little reader, has always been highly capable verbally. But as for math... she just doesn't get it. It isn't clicking. There have been lots of frustrating moments for all of us, lots of tears for her. So we discussed it at the meeting, and next year when she's 8, we're going to have her tested for a math learning disability. It won't surprise me at all if she is... twice exceptional, that is.

By the end of the meeting, school was letting out for the day, so we ran to the front of the building to intercept her before she got on the bus and came home to an empty house. We found her, phew. She was SO excited to see us there. It's always a little thrilling for me to see that much joy on one of my kids' faces.

Afterward, I ran to the bank to deposit a few mystery shopping paychecks and the donation to CARE Package from ASIS Pharmacy, to the grocery to return our free Redbox movie, and then dropped everyone off at home. I had to run to do a carwash mystery shop. I was pleased to get that one, because we have long needed to clean out the inside of the car - and that was included in the $14 reimbursement! So for free, I got someone else to do it. Joy.

When I finished, I picked everyone up at home to sprint to the airport for a dinner shop at a chain seafood restaurant. (I'm trying not to name names of the businesses I do anymore, in case they search and find my blog! But if you want to know, shoot me a comment and I'll share.) The timeframe was extremely limited, so we had to hurry and get up there. Well, the dinner absolutely sucked. It was by far the worst meal evaluation and report I have ever done, and that's out of hundreds. It wasn't the food but the service that was abyssmal.

We came home and, that night, I had to do my monthly online charity thing with my crochet buddies. I had to host the first two hours, which I never do. Usually I'm in the wee hours, so for once I had a roomful of guests instead of the sparse attendance to which I'm accustomed. It was lots of fun, and I stayed there until the wee hours anyway, hoping to win a chance at the big monthly prize. (I didn't win.) I maybe shouldn't have, because it has really thrown off my sleeping plans.


I was supposed to get up bright and early for a breakfast shop at Sonic (so much for not naming names), but I had to reschedule. Way too tired to drive at that point. Back to sleep!

But not for long, because we had to take Tiger Lily to the vet for a mystery shop. It was an excellent visit; the vet was awesome with both the kids and the dog. And the white patches that she's had on her muzzle for about three years now, which the breeder told us was "Tidewater Itch," a fungus? (She's been to the vet in that time, but not for that...)The vet declared that her skin was absolutely fine, and that the change in color is due to aging! She's only 5Ā½, so subtract three years from that, and we never would have guessed that. But he says he sees it in 2-year-old larger dogs all the time, and anyway, she never scratches or anything. What a relief!! I'm still overjoyed that that is the case, although I am sorry there's nothing we can do about the discoloring of her pretty face. Oh well, it's not like she was ever going to be a show dog!

When we got home, I needed a nap, and I slept for hours. Guess what Rob did with the kids in the meantime?

He took them FISHING! At the lake behind our house. Do you think he took the camera? Nope! For their first fishing expedition, I have not one single picture, nor did I get to experience it in person. Major bummer for me. But they had a fantastic time, and are still happily telling me that they caught 8 fish: two crappie and 6 catfish. None were keepers, so it was just for fun. Not for the fish...!


That morning, after lots of sleeping on Saturday, I was able to get up and do that breakfast mystery shop. I went home and snoozed some more, because why not?

I had to get moving again in the afternoon, though, because I had four more shops to do.  I took everyone with me. We had another Sonic shop, so they shared that food. I'm not eating it. Well, maybe one tater tot... but that's it!

We drove out to MacArthur mall for the next two shops. There are lots of jobs located there, but I rarely go unless I'm going to be reimbursed for the parking fee. (Paying for parking at the mall drives me crazy.) I still wasn't, but since I was able to stack two jobs together for the same day and time, for two different companies, I decided to take them.

The first was at a kids' shoe store. I took Chloƫ this time, instead of Jack. They did a horrible job. The next was at a candle shop, where I'm using the required candle purchase for a Bunco prize. I picked all beach-themed scents, which is appropriate for our town, I think. Back to the shoe store for the return portion, and then we left before Gymboree called my name. I passed by several stores selling Webkinz, but I resisted. It's not hard when you don't have the money, anyway.

We had a dinner shop right after that. It was a last-minute assignment, but I took it because it's for fast pay, within the week, and because Rob loves that place. They did a great job, and our meal was excellent. And that was our entire day.


No shops on the agenda for today. I had originally scheduled one for Rob at McDonald's at the base where he works, and he was happy to go do it, but I canceled it. I didn't want him to have to "work" on his day off, and I really didn't want to be away from him.

I did have to go over to the Brownies troop leader's house to go over the year-end financial report. I spent an hour-and-a-half figuring and refiguring, and we are still off by a dollar! Which is fine, we won't get in trouble with the council for that or anything, but we do want to find it and fix it. Can't do anything about it until the bank opens tomorrow, because neither one of us ever got that month's statement. We signed Chloƫ and me up for next year, too. Her registration is free, because she earned the pass from cookie sales. Go, Chlo! And the troop is paying for mine, because Nikki "voluntold" me to be the Fall Product Chair, Cookie Chair, and Troop Treasurer again for next year. She likes my work. Even with the missing buck. Hee.

As soon as I got home, everyone donned their swimsuits, and we went off to the pool! They actually opened on Saturday, but we didn't have time to go and besides, today feels more like the day one should, right?

The water was c-c-c-cold, and Rob barely got in the water. The Littles wanted to stay in the baby pool, so he sat in that area with them, while I went in the big pool with Chloƫ. She's technically too old to be in the baby pool, even though she's smaller than the four-year-old who was in there. When they called adult swim, though, I relented, and we were all in the baby section. I hate the baby pool. I want to be covered, up to my neck, and feeling weightless - not sitting in a bunch of kid pee! Ew.

It started to rain, so we left much earlier than expected. All the kids were shivering anyway, so we'll just have to go on a hotter day.

At home, I went upstairs to work on the long-neglected laundry... and fell asleep. For hours. I woke up when Sophie crawled up on the bed with me and whispered in my ear, "Mom, we're going to bed, good-night!"

And now I'm here. Ready for my big 2-oz dinner.


The Longest Day

Whew. I am bushed.

Our day started at 0530, which is crazy early for me. The last time I woke up that early (on purpose) was... okay, well, it was one month ago today for my surgery! I'm a month out! I didn't get to weigh in this morning, because we had to run, so I'll do it tomorrow.

Anyhoo, I first woke up Chloƫ, so I could get her in the shower with me in order to floof up her curls. Jack woke up in the process and dressed himself, thinking he was going to school. He was on autopilot. Teehee, it was cute.

We woke Sophia last; she's so adorable when she's just been awakened from a sound sleep.  Rumpled hair, squinty eyes... too cute.

After I showered and dressed and ascertained that all the children were dressed and ready to go, I ran downstairs to get them shod and coated. Then I made them each a bag of "breakfast blend": a mixture of Cap'n Crunch, Rice Chex, and Golden Grahams, along with a sprinkle of chocolate chips. No, I don't normally give them chocolate for breakfast, but I was feeling generous.

And off we went, for the two-hour drive north to Aylett, VA. I had to get gas first, and somehow managed to fill up for under $30. Sweet! I'd forgotten my debit card at home, though. Oopsie.

Nobody slept in the car, unforch. I had hoped they would, so no one would be a crankypants at the shoot, but no one was. I didn't know it at the time, but Chloƫ read 30-something pages of her Beezus and Ramona book on the drive up; I'd thought she was just being grumpy! I didn't realize it was because she was busy, Mooom.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Rob was having the beginning of an absolutely miserable day. He was supposed to do his 2-day motorcycle course, starting this morning, on the Navy base... but the bike wouldn't start. Hindsight is 20/20 - we should've started it before I left, but he was able to start it last night with no problem and assumed it would be the same today. Nope. I was already on 1-64 West when he called, and I asked him what he wanted me to do. What to do, what to do? Turn around and give him a boost? And be late for our call time in Aylett? Or keep going and be on time for the shoot?

In the end, he told me to keep going. I've regretted it ever since. I should have turned around. I could have pretended I got lost or something.

So he never made it in. Oh, he got the bike started eventually, but he only drove down the road a short piece before it died again, and wouldn't restart at all. It was gone. Damn thing! So he walked back home, leaving the 'cycle where it was all day, and fretted. His work wasn't happy. He couldn't get in. I'm flabbergasted that no one could take off for the 20-minute drive to come and get him?? I could have picked him up on my return. He contemplated renting a car, but I vetoed that idea for financial reasons. So he spent the day at home.

I'd have bitched about the kitchen still being a disaster when I got home, but then, he could bitch about the same thing in every other area of the house, and there would go that argument! And so I didn't.


Back to the NOVEC shoot. Our call time was 0830, and we got there ten minutes early. The director, Eric, pulled up at the same time as us, and he opened the back door to find Sophia absolutely covered in chocolate on her hands and face. I was mortified! Haha! He said, "Oh, my, you have been eating something good, haven't you?!" He was amused when he found out her name, as it's the same as his own daughter's.

I apologized for having the Littles with me, saying I couldn't get a sitter, and then let Chloƫ out to meet him. She ran up and gave him a great, big hug, and he was smitten with her! She has always been a man's child. She loves men. And they love her. Yes, I'm worried about ten years from now - heck, seven!

I spit-shined Sophia's hands and face, and then we and the suitcase went inside to stand around and look stupid. The shoot was at a model home in a new development, and so I was on the Littles like white on rice to keep them from touching a single solitary thing. And there were lots of knick-knacks and decorations, so I was kind of antsy! Plus it was my first time on a real, professional shoot, so I was nervous about my own comportment. Eric eased the way, though; he had called me the other day to let me know what to expect and to assure me that they were a fun group. And they were.

We met Terri, who played Chloƫ's mom in two of the commercials (there were three; Chloƫ and Mom were in the first one, all three with Dad in the second, and Chloƫ and Dad in the third!). When Terri finished hair and make-up, Chloƫ went in. She looked gawjus, dahlink. Just adorable. I'm saying this from a completely objective, unbiased, non-bragging point of view: that is one good-looking kid! (Are we sure she's ours?)

Anyway. The crew was setting up for the shoot upstairs, so Eric offered us breakfast in the kitchen. The Littles were all over that, although they'd demolished their "breakfast blend" in the car. They ate bagels, muffins, and granola, and drank half the bottle of prop OJ from the stocked fridge for the third spot! He said it was okay for them to have anything from the fridge, as long as we didn't empty it. I didn't allow them anything else.

Gosh, I'm totally rambling. This is going to be one long post. Sorry. And I forgot my camera, so the few measly pictures I have are on my cell, and I don't feel like dealing with that at the moment. And none of the Supah Stah! Jeepers, Melanie.

Then the NOVEC Client appeared and introduced herself to us. She was fancy and business-like, but also nice and pleasant, and I liked her. At the same time, Terri asked if Jack and Sophie were twins, and I said no and told her their ages and all that. Then Sophie piped up for everyone who was downstairs at the time to hear, "And Robby is in heaven because he died!" Oy. I hate it when they bust that out in front of just anybody! Eric said, "Who?" And I gave a wry smile and said, "Our son, my son." He and the Client and I don't know who else gave me that look and said they were sorry. Sigh.

So finally it was time for the first shoot. The Littles and I were banished from the house, so their noise wouldn't carry upstairs into the filming. We played in the backyard for at least an hour and a half, and I was so mad at myself for forgetting to take our coats outside! Brr. It was nippy. They played so hard that it didn't really affect them, but mostly I sat in the lawn and watched them and was cold. There were a ton of leaves in the yard, and they had fun with that.

Oh, the yard. It was wonderful. They had a grand time playing out there. It was a good-sized yard, with surrounding woods, and a deck under which they could play in the leaves and dirt. Really, the Nons had a ball, and Jack kept asking if we could move there. He even said, "Daddy can come to visit us here!"  Hahaha. He wanted to know if we could move all their toys and things to the house, since nobody else lived there. And that was mostly because of the fun they had being outdoors all day in the spacious yard. Breathing fresh air. Playing in the dirt. Scuffling in the leaves. Even getting pricked by the thorny vine he kept calling a "cactus plant." It absolutely breaks my heart. (What little yard we have, and I mean it's minuscule, is the dog's potty. And we don't scoop back there, ever. So no romping.)

Whenever I get my van back - and I hope it's next week - I vow to take them to the park every day!!

And definitely, our next house will have a yard. It's a must.

Finally, Terri the Mom came out to get us and let us know we could come back in and get Chloƫ changed out of her PJs (by the way, remind me not to get things together at the last minute like that again; the pink jammies we brought had yellow paint all over them! Embarrassing! But we had a back-up set) and into summertime clothes for the next ad.

I coudn't whittle down all the cute choices of Gymboree tanks and shorts, so I brought a whole mess o' summer clothes. They had a hard time picking, too! We finally settled on something, and then selected her winter outfit and outerwear for her quick change operation, for the second half of the shoot. She went back into hair and make-up to have her locks recoiffed, and then we were banished again.

By the by, we brought ten stuffed animals, a framed photo, and my cell, iPod and Palm for the first shoot. They didn't need any of them. Eric said, "I couldn't remember whether I'd asked you to bring them." Urgh. Uh, yeah, you did. But that's okay, I'd rather have it and not need it than the reverse.

This time, I took the Tots out to the van, because they were shooting downstairs now, and I wasn't sure if they'd hear us out in the yard. I was constantly having to remind the kids not to shout or stomp the first time, and I didn't want to get yelled at! So I let them loose in the back of the car while I knitted in the front seat.  They got back into their cereal and rice cakes, and now I have smashed Crunch all over my vehicle. Glorious.

I made it all the way up to the last 20 or so minutes, when I started stockinette-stitching myself into a coma. So I made the kids buckle into their seats, lest they get out and get hurt, and I put my seat back down. Jack fell asleep before I did! I don't know if Sophia ever slept, but by the time I dozed, it was only a few minutes before Eric was knocking on the window. When he woke me up, my right hand was tucked into my pants! Heehee. Again, embarrassing! He gestured and said, "Uh, sorry about that!" and I don't know if he meant waking me up or catching me that way!

It was lunchtime at last. We trooped into the house, where ChloĆ« was already dining on chips, cheese, and cherry tomatoes. She goes for the alliterative meals, I guess.  I tried getting veggies and dip for the Bitties. Nope, not having it. Sandwich? Nope. What, then? Jack wanted some prop yogurt, but I put my foot down. In the end, Sophie agreed to some cheese, and Jack wanted some ham (ew). I made a turkey and cheese sandwich to share with Sophie, and pulled some extra ham on the plate for Jack.

We joined most of the crew out, and the grown-up actors, out on the deck for lunch. Sophie refused her sandwich and immediately, to my chagrin, started going up to each person and pointing to their plates, saying, "Can I have that? Can I have a bite?"  She's such a little piggy! I was so mortified, and kept calling her name to chastise her, but they were all enamored of her and shared their food! Aagh! Don't encourage her, people! She scored some celery and dip, some chips, some carrots, and Lord knows what else.  She did attempt to share some of the food she'd scored with other folks, which made them laugh.

And I made a mistake: I took two bites of the sandwich, bread and all. Oh, it was a yummy-looking (and tasting) onion roll, and I just couldn't resist. Well, two bites was all it took. I thought I was going to start puking right there on the deck, in front of all those people! I learned my lesson on that, for sure. I waited a few moments and then continued eating the cheese and turkey and was fine. But I will mourn bread.

After being given a chocolate chip cookie each, I washed the kids up and then it was time to get ready for some more filming. I sent the little ones out to the backyard to play (I watched them from the back door the whole time, and there was absolutely NO traffic except for our own group anyway) while I stayed in and watched the goings-on. First, they filmed Chloƫ's hand up close for the second ad, changing the thermostat. Amazing how long that little bit of acting took! How many shots, how much set-up and adjusting and discussion. Very interesting.

Then she went back into wardrobe and hair and make-up for the final ad. Terri the Mom left, as she was finished, and the extremely nice NOVEC Client took her leave as well, thanking me for Chloƫ. Eric had told me previously that she'd beaten out a lot of other kids for the commercial and had had to get the approval of a lot of people before being chosen. Proud Mama!

I was able to watch half the filming of the second ad, through two of Chloƫ's three wardrob and hair changes. At one point, she was supposed to pick up the jar of pickles and express her disgust. Well, she's such a ham; between takes, she kept going on about how she hated pickles, they were disgusting, etc. They told her, that's okay, you don't really need to eat them. She replied, "Oh, no, I really do like pickles. I was just acting!" OMG. They roared, and I was rolling. Hilarious!!!!

The Littles insisted on coming in at that point, so I let them stay for exactly ten seconds before Eric gave the "I need quiet on the set!" and I rushed them back out to the yard. I'd been assured that they couldn't hear us playing out there, so we stayed. By then it was beautiful out, so no need for coats.

We ran around, playing, and I lay on the ground and let them bury me in leaves. I got several in my mouth, blech. We were still rolling around on the lawn when Eric came out and said they were finished with her. He told me what a great job ChloĆ« had done, that she's gotten a little tired at the end but did fantastic for such a long day of shooting. (She'd been up since 0530, and it was 1530 by then!) Most kids would have had a meltdown by then, in his experience.

I asked him about the commercials, since it's for a non-local-to-us power company. They're going to edit them tomorrow and email them to me sometime next week! And I can share with you and anyone I want, as long as I don't charge for the privilege. (Rats!) He and the hair lady helped me with our bags and stuff, and she fetched a string cheese and cookies for each of the kids.

And finally, at last, we were on our way home again. Rah.

We were maybe, possibly, a mile down the road before I looked in my rearview and saw three floppy heads in the backseat. Sound, sound asleep. As soon as I heard "I Kissed a Girl" come on the radio, though, I knew I had a problem. Sure enough, Sophie popped out of her deep sleep and said, "MOMMY! Is that Katy Perry?" She has a bit of an obsession with her. Heh. She didn't go back to sleep for the rest of the trip!

Jack and Chloƫ snored for quite a while, and then finally Curly woke up and started reading B&R again. She always loves to tell me what page she's on, what chapter, and what the action is. I love that she is so thrilled with books. "Mommy! In Chapter Four, Beatrice turns TEN! That means she was NINE for the first three chapters!"

We got to around Williamsburg with no problems, and then the late-afternoon sunlight striping the road started to affect my eyeballs. It makes me sleepy, and I had touch-and-goes all the way home from there. We ran into several accidents that delayed our arrival by at least 20 minutes - not bad, but I was dying to be home and crash. And not crash, myself. But we made it.

The rest of the night was pretty standard, with a little play, a little Noggin, dinner, baths, etc. Nothing exciting.

So if you made it all the way through this novella, bravo to you! It was a fun, fun day, and I'm so glad she enjoyed it and did so well. Next up: her movie shoot on Sunday!


On The Real

I'm going to try and make this a quickie, because Shana wants to go to bed, so I need to get out of her hair.

Our visit is going well. I'm glad she came, though it's so short: she'll be leaving tomorrow afternoon already. Sophia (well, all of them) keeps forgetting her name, so she calls her "The Lady." Which cracks my ass up!!  "The Lady said I could have more goldfish crackers." "I want The Lady to feed me my dessert," etc. Too funny.

Shana gave them some Tic-Tacs yesterday, and Chloƫ asked us to let her breathe in our faces afterward. "I want to freshen your nose!" So we keep saying that.

Also, she renamed Shana "Cicada Pomegranate"!

Jack just likes it when Shana performs the "Tickletastic" on him. The boy loves a good tickle!

When we were driving today, Sophia said, "Jackie, Jesus!" Shana said, "Sophia! That's not a nice thing to say," or something to that effect. Sophie returned, "But I LOVE Chuck E. Cheese's!" We totally misheard her. It was hilarious.

At Toys 'R Us, Sophia and I happened upon a man sword-fighting with a little girl, using a giant plastic crayon bank. Sophie stopped, hands on hips, and demanded to know what they were doing. The man replied, "Sword fighting! Haven't you ever done that before? Grab a crayon!" She said "okay" and started sword fighting with the man! It was hysterical; I so wish I'd had my camera with me. Then she insisted I get a crayon, too, so we were all sword fighting together. It was so fun!

While Chloƫ and I were at dance class, Shana cleaned the kitchen and made dinner (she's a keeper!). There was pasta, sauce, and mixed veggies. Oh, and mandarin oranges. But she called it "worm stew." The kids kept laughing and talking about eating worm stew all through dinner. Jack ate all his worms!


So, like I said, our visit is going well. I'd tossed and turned all night, so I was still very sleepy after all the kids got up, and the Bigs went off to school.  Shana took Sophia and the dog out for a walk and let me sleep for a couple more hours. Nice. I needed that.

Then we both showered (not together, you pervs!) and hung out 'til Jack came home. Shana fixed the kids some lunch, and then we ran errands.

Our first stop was the pet store, to get a new water dish for Lily. We went to the big fun pet store with all the critters in it (where we got Bounce last year), and the kids ran amok visiting the rays, fishies, rodents, reptiles and birds. They could spend the day in there, I swear. But we had more to do, so I purchased my bowl, and off we went.

Next was the bookstore. Before we even got all the way in the door, I found two books to go with two others MIL had already given the kids, and had to have them. (Mom - the ladybug and monkeys books with the bumpy animals? I found fish and chicks ones!) Shana was off to find the next book in her series, and I was in search of more Junie B. Jones for ChloĆ«. I let the Littles play with the train set while I looked, until we heard a crash. "Uh-oh." That had to be one of mine. Nothing major happened, but I kept them next to me after that! No Junie B., so I got her Beverley Cleary's Beezus and Ramona instead; both Shana and I read that at her age. And I chose a Go, Diego Go! beginning reader for Jack.

Lastly, we went to Toys 'R Us, just to play. I didn't even bring my purse in with me, so the Nonnies knew they weren't getting anything. Shana bounced some balls around with them, and then we found some giant koosh-like balls that were really fun to squeeze and throw around. But Jack had a mission: He wanted to see whether they had the same black Cadillac as his at home. After our sword fight, we made it back there to find they had not one but TWO identical Caddies on display. He was in shock! The kiddos tried out all the trucks, and then it was time to get home for Chloƫ.

We started cleaning up the kitchen, and Shana really got into it, cleaning out the grunge and gross stuff from all the nooks and crannies. I stopped to read the new books to the kids and get Chloƫ ready for dance. Rob came home, and Chlo and I slipped out.

Dance was boring and uninteresting - at least for me, since I'd forgotten to bring anything to read or knit. I went down to Taco Bell for some pintos and cheese, and that's pretty much all the calories and protein I've had for today. (I've taken in less than 300 calories both today and yesterday; not good!)  I went back and ate it, and then I went inside to let Miss Sally know that ChloĆ«'d be missing from ballet tomorrow. While there, I talked to miss Darlene and told her all about the acting/modeling work ChloĆ«'s been getting, since she sponsored her iPOP trip last January. She was excited to hear!

Oh! I forgot, Chloƫ landed another gig! It's a commercial for the Northern Virginia electric company. We recorded her doing her monologue over the weekend and submitted it through her agent, who called today to say they loved her. Yay, Chlo!

At home, dinner was ready, and I made pudding for dessert. All the kids ate a great dinner; they put away way more than I expected! Must have been that awesome worm stew. I wouldn't know; I just sipped my water and looked longingly at the pasta... *sigh*

Jack didn't have homework, and Shana helped Chloƫ with hers tonight, so Sophia and I went out to rent a Redbox movie with our free Monday code. We chose Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa. Rob loaded it up when we came home, and the six of us sat and watched it. It was really cute, I enjoyed it. They'll probably want to watch it again tomorrow before I return it.

I did my 20 minutes on the treadmill both last night and tonight, but I had to break it up twice tonight because of my back. Nooooo! Say it ain't so! Hopefully things will be better tomorrow.

So I think I had more, but I've already lied about this being a quickie, and I must go.



Moving Right Along

Today was Bunco day, so the kids helped me make cupcakes during the day.  I had camnesia, so no pictures, but they turned out pretty. We made spice cakelets with orange buttercream frosting. As usual, they clamored over who was going to lick the beaters and who would get the bowl (strange - the bowl has a lot more, but no one wants it).  Since they'd each eaten a good PB&J or PB&Nutella lunch, I let them have a frosted cupcake for a snack. Oh, boy. What delight they get from such a simple pleasure!

Shortly afterward, the girls dressed for their respective dance classes, and away we went. Chloƫ brought in her cookies order form, and each of the three teachers bought a box from her. She was thrilled that they did. Sophia kept insisting, as she always does, that Miss Jessica is her teacher and Chloƫ can't have her (even though she's Chloƫ's tap teacher on Mondays), so of course she protested her selling to Miss Jessica. I know the Miss Darlene is a healthnut, so I was surprised she deigned to buy a package, but she's nice like that.

Jack and Sophie played and giggled in the back of the van during Chlo's jazz class, so I was able to read my book most of the time. New Moon is getting better. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but I reached the sad part in chapter three and was crying my eyes out when Stephanie called. "Ooh, where are you in the book? Tell me exactly what's happening," she wanted to know. So we did our little Twilight chitty-chat. I'm getting into it more. It was the same with the first book; I couldn't get into it at first, but once it picked up, I was hooked.

Back at home, I had little time to do anything but shower and dress for Bunco, so I was glad I had already frosted the cupcakes.  I've been to that house, oh, four times, but was still confused when I got there. I stood on the porch and called the hostess from outside to make sure I was at the right place! How silly.

Soon after the games began, I received a phone call from ChloĆ«'s agent in L.A. They wanted her out there tomorrow for a national (SAG) Volkswagen commercial. Sigh. And then, he asked me, "What are we going to do about Miss ChloĆ«?" I asked what  he meant, and he told me that apparently she is getting all kinds of attention, that people are constantly asking for her, and he doesn't let me know because we're so far away. What can we do? Right now, with this surgery, my hands are tied.  It really sucks, after we worked so hard to get her out there and get started, not to be able to actually go now when she is in demand. If there was anything I could do about it, we'd go. But, it is nice to know that the work would be there, if we were!

Somehow, some way...

But I've got to focus on the surgery, now just a week and a half away. I go up there Monday and Tuesday for all kinds of appointments and pre-labs and hospital registration, and then, bam! It'll be the 26th before we know it. I'm getting stoked. Jack is asking a lot of questions about it. He's very curious. Relax, though; he's matter-of-fact about it, not sad or worried or anything.

I think I'm going to go knit and catch up on some DVR'd TV. I finished the back of the roll-edge coat, but I do believe I will run out of yarn before I finish the rest. I thought I had more, but I only have five balls of it, and I'm on the third. Yikes. I hate to leave a project unfinished like that.

We watched the movie 21 last night. It was very good; I suggest you see it. It was fast-paced and kept my interest the whole time, and the ending was great. Good flick!

Chloƫ was given the book Heidi by my dad for Christmas. She's excited to be on Chapter 21 now! She loves the book and is always carrying it around the house, or having her nose buried in it in the car. I'm glad she's such a reader!

Ta for now.


One Of the Classics

Today was a git 'er done type of day for us.

ChloĆ« and Jack had absolutely decimated their bedroom, so they spent a good three hours up there cleaning it up.  They kept coming down and saying, "It's done!" And we'd ask, What about under the bed? What about your dressers? What about your closet?" And they'd run right back up to their room to clean some more. They did a good job! It's an ongoing process, though, as are all [our] housekeeping chores.

Rob went out to Home Depot with Sophia during that time, and they spent a good long time there looking at flooring and new shower options. I guess it'll be a few weeks before our new shower comes in, so we're stuck bathing in the kids' bathroom in the meantime. UGH.  I grumped and complained to myself as I trouped in there with all my shower stuff. Can I just move to a hotel?

I have a huge ton of stuff in the office right now. All my new (and old) crafting stuff, all the birthday party stuff, all the stuff from the hall closet to fix the leak, just tons of crap. I've decided we're going to sell the leopard-print fainting couch (recamier) and maybe a few other bits of office furniture to make room for a crafting table and/or some organizing bins! I can't wait. It'll be great.

I've also decided it's time to get rid of a LOT of toys so we can (a) see the bones of our living room again and (b) get new ones (ugh) for birthdays and Christmas. Chlo's birthday won't be too crazy - from us, she's getting a real working knitting machine thing that she picked out at Michael's, and a live butterfly kit. Don't know what they'll get for Christmas yet other than a ride-on Power Wheels toy for Jack, but we are going to sell al lthe Geotrax, all the Little People, and all the Peek-a-Blocks. So other than the blocks, we pulled out ALL of the other stuff and photographed it, and I just listed it on our local Craigslist. I already have a decent offer for the Little People! I'm trying not to be sad or sentimental about the toys, since I'm really trying to do away with all plastic crap from China right now.

There were a bunch of things they just don't ever play with, so I bagged everything up and listed it on Freecycle.

I can't wait until everything is gone! They kids aren't even upset about it, surprise. As long as I put it under the explanation that we need to make room for NEW toys for CHRISTMAS, they were cool with it.

So today's highlight was this:


Chloƫ is published in this book! We submitted her recipe:


months and months ago, and I'd completely forgotten about it until a free copy of the book came in the mail today! It's a really nice book, and all the entries are hilarious. I was told I could get a 25% discount off the $20 price when they put it in their new retail section on bobsyouruncle.com, so if you're interested, check it out! I have the name and phone number of the guy if you need it to get the discount...

Oh! I also made some more things for Etsy. A crocheted dish towel and washcloth set (Steph, and everyone, let me know if I should change the price on that, I got a range from $10 to $25 suggested, oy), some barrettes, and my serf booties and jester hat. Check 'em out (button is on the sidebar on right)!

Off to do more office cleaning.


Out Slumming

Welp, because I was up all night being sick to my stomach, I was pretty much worthless during the day today. I wanted to do something crafty with Sophia, but I just felt weak and not up to it. I'm afraid we watched entirely too much Noggin today.


In the afternoon, the mailman rang the bell and dropped a box on my porch. It was for the CAT, the monthly charity crochet-a-thon that I do. This month, CARE Package is a co-sponsor, so we're getting some handmade donations. These are the first, from Linda G. in New York. She made two blanktets and three sweaters. They're beautiful, thanks Linda!

By the time Chloƫ came home from school, I was feeling more revived. I wanted to go out and do some things, but I didn't have the energy yet to go upstairs and take a shower. So I took my nasty-ass self out, with no bra on, no shower, no teeth or hair brushed, with the kids - Sophie still in PJs, no less - to the public library to sign them up for the summer reading program that started today. We've never done it before, but now that I have a reader, it's time! I didn't know reading to littler ones counted too, so I signed them all up. When they complete ten hours of reading time, they get prizes and incentives! It should be fun for them. Steph, will you keep up the reading for us whilst we're in Europe? Only two more weeks to go!

By the way, it was over 100 degrees out, and when I haven't showered, I sweat even more. So I know exactly how gross I was and that I should be embarrassed for my ghetto behavior. I was!

Sewing mosaic

After the library, Rob called to say he was home. Perfect! I swung over to the house and picked him up, and then we five headed to the fabric store. MIL has created a monster; now I want to do more and more sewing and learn wth I'm doing. I'm not going to make all their clothes from now on, oh no, but it will be fun to make them some matchy-matchy stuff.


I bought six different kinds of patterns, each with multiple variations, and the fabric and 'notions' for four of them:

100_6980 This little dress will be made with the blue flowers for Chloƫ and the pink flowers for Sophia. Otherwise, except for size, they'll be identical. What's cute about this fabric, which you can't see because it's folded inside-out, is that there are little sparkles all over it. The girls love it!

100_6979 This will be a pretty little ruffly dress for both girls. I'm going to be working with lining and netting, so I'll probably say a lot of bad words over this one!

100_6978 With this cute little froggy fabric, I'm going to make some adorable little scrubs-type jammies for all three of the kids. I can see using this pattern again and again!

100_6977 With this cool green batik fabric, I'm going to make matching shorts for all three kids and the bandanna head covering for Jack. I'll probably just buy matching tank tops (or whatever) so I don't have to mess with stretchy knits.

How'd I do, Mom???100_6974

Rob surprised me by giving me these "made by Mom" labels to sew into the kids' clothes. I thought that was really sweet of him!

100_6976 After we did all that damage in the fabric store, we headed to Michael's. A gentleman in the blogosphere has purchased a scarf, the kind I still have up on the fundraising page for CARE Package.  I sent Rob in there, with the 50%-off coupon, of course, while I ducked into Panera next door, with the kiddies, to order dinner to take home. It was already after 8 PM, after all. I was finished and back in the car before Rob got out of Michael's! Men.

Turns out they didn't have the colorway of yarn the man wanted for his little girl, so he had to buy the next closest thing. We'll see if it passes muster. In the meantime, between that, all my sewing goodies, and the little sundress I just started crocheting tonight for Steph's little niece, I have my hands full with projects!

Now I think it's time to take that shower...


P.S. At the fabric store, I found shawls and wraps on sale for $2.50 each! So I bought three for the cruise, in pink, black and ivory. Sweet!

P.P.S. Confidential to MIL: There were NO Jodi Picoult books at my library! I'll have to wait awhile if I want to read My Sister's Keeper. Bummer.

Hot Damn!!!!!


I am literally jumping up and down. Okay, I was, before I sat down here.

The most unexpected letter came in the mail today: Chloƫ is gifted!!!!! She is going to start receiving 'gifted' services at school!!!!!!!!


We've always known she was a smahty. I've just been so worried that that hasn't translated well at school. Hot damn!  I feel like we just won the lottery!

{Of course, there is something nagging at the bag of my head (LMAO, I'm keeping that typo in), asking me why this matters to me so much. I don't know whether it should, but it does, and I'm freaking excited, and I'm not going to defend that.}



Chloƫ B. Jones

100_4595_3That's what I like to see. My little six-year-old daughter, in her jammies, cuddled up reading her Junie B. Jones book from her grandma, on the couch. The thrill of her being able to read is unrivaled and, so far, undissipated by time.

100_4594Evidently Junie B. has some surprises for Chloƫ!

So yesterday, we were supposed to go to the Silver Diner for a breakfast mystery shop. We didn't. We overslept. Surprise! The Odettes oversleeping? Nah. Never happens. So we'll have to do that tomorrow morning instead.

Then I went to Michaels for a rare adventure: Black Friday shopping. I never go. Literally, never. But Rob just gave me that Cricut machine for an anniversary/Christmas present, and now the cartridges for it (and the machine itself, but let's not think about the $170 we could have saved if we'd waited just another week or if I could find the effing receipt!) were on sale. He let me get six cartridges! Lots of different fun fonts and shapes for scrapbooking. I'm so excited about it. Not Europe excited, but in the ballpark. So I went home and ordered a bunch of pictures (hey, I had 200 free ones coming my way, thanks to Coke rewards!), so I can use my new toy soon.

After that, we headed to the Ghent section of Norfolk for a Panera lunch shop. We heart Panera. Have you eaten there? You should. It's good stuff. I got a Tuna on Focaccia half-sandwich, broccoli cheddar soup, and a piece of French baguette for dipping into my soup. Rob got something with bacon and Gouda and turkey, and the same soup. The kids shared ours, since Rob had just stuffed them with pancakes while I was on my little shopping spree. I actually managed to get out of there without dropping any soup on my shirt, which seems to be an enduring challenge for me.

In the evening, we went out to Lynnhaven Lanes for some Xtreme bowling. Another mystery shop. Yep, I know. Broken record. Whenever we do the bowling shops, we follow pretty much the same routine: Sophie stays in the stroller, Rob bowls with Jack and I bowl with Chloƫ for the first game, then just Rob and I bowl against each other on the second game, and we get a small pizza combo. Last night was no different. Now, we are terrible bowlers, but it was a bit amusing last night when I bowled better with a six-year-old than on my own. I think I knocked down maybe 33 pins. Rob fared much better. He got into the 50s. We are quite a team. No wonder our minds are always in the gutter, eh, Stephanie? We can't get out of them!

Today, Rob had to stand watch. Ugh. My favorite words are, "I'm coming home early." Least favorite? "I have watch this weekend." Hate it! So he worked 0600-1400, and Jack woke me up at 7:30 to tell me ChloĆ« was puking in the bed again. Again??! That's, like, the fourth or fifth time in a month. Rob's starting to wonder if her reflux is coming back. God, I hope not. I just think it's all the snot and goo and the coughing and coughing she's doing. I think I'm going to take my bottle of Clorox Sanitizing Spray and disinfect every surface in this house. It's been a bad month. I'm convinced I've moved on to pneumonia myself. Anyway, so I ran in and pulled her out of bed, sent her to my bathroom to finish puking, and assessed the scene. Not bad. I checked on my poor schweetie, heaving over the toilet, and then cleaned up the bedroom. Jack was pretty pissed when I sent him back to bed, but that's early for him.  ChloĆ« crawled weakly into bed with me and fell sound asleep.

I didn't have the heart to wake her at 9:00 when the alarm went off for her auditions class at the acting school. I looked over, and she was snoring softly and completely knocked out. Nah. She's going to get her sleep.

Which is good, because we did make it to the acting school at 2:00 for her regular acting class - the last one, the "showcase," I thought, hardly anyone was there. They came from the back to tell me that there were no classes on Thanksgiving weekend. Oh! Really? I must have missed that. Well, good, because I hate sitting there for hours on my own, let alone with Sophie and Jack in tow, bored out of their gourds.

So we headed to Sears. I'd gotten a call that my glasses were ready and I could come pick them up. Yay! Clearer vision, here I come. I went from 20/200 to 20/400, if you must know how blind I am. :p When they say "read the sign on the wall," I say, "What sign?" So I read my report, since this was of course part of a mystery shop, and we picked up las gafas. (I'll be dropping some more Spanish on you between now and June, just so's ya know.)  Then we went around to housewares to see if I could find a new pre-lit fakety-fake Christmas tree, since the lights went out on our current one, and I don't want to deal with that BS this year. They had some, sure, but they were more than twice what I wanted to pay, and they ended up not having the one I chose in stock anyway. Rats.

And since Rob was asking me whether I wanted my cruise or Christmas lights put up - such is the amount he loves doing the lights - I thought I'd make it easier on him and find some battery operated Christmas thingies to put out in the yard. Cord, cord, cord, cord, cord. Nothing but corded stuff. We don't have any outlets outside, so I bagged the idea and left with just my glasses. And my babies.

Rob was home when we got home, so he gave the tots some food while I worked on my shop reports. ChloĆ« wanted to make her own PB&J sandwich. It took  her ages upon ages, but the girl got it done. Whether she ate it or not is a different story.

After 6 pm, Stephanie and Tim came over to watch the kids while we went out to dinner at Phillips, at the Norfolk airport, for another shop. Only, when we got there, it was closed! Closed! During the time the shop said to be there. Odd, very odd. So we stared at each other, twiddled our thumbs, and decided to go to Moe's ("Welcome to Moe's!") instead.

We also heart Moe's. You get a huge, filling meal, and it's way not expensive.  We got our grub on, Rob fussed at the news for showing stuff about Kanye West's mother (who cares? he says. Who cares? I say!), and then we went to the movies. I had cashed in more Coke rewards points for two free AMC tickets, and I really wanted to see Dan in Real Life with Steve Carrell. It was a good flick! I blubbered for no reason for pretty much the entire movie, and we laughed. Worth what we paid for it, as Rob said. No, he liked it, too.

So that's about it. Oh, I forgot to tell y'all what Jack did/said at Thanksgiving dinner. He asked me if Christmas was after Thanksgiving. I confirmed that it was. So he pushed his plate away and said, "I'm done! It's Christmas time!"  Pretty fricking hilarious.