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Friday Fragments, Version 5.2.14

Half-Past Kissin' Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got a new bike! It's adorable:


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

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


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


Key West + Friday Night + Spring Break = Insanity


I took, and confirmed with my schedulers, several assignments for Key West for Friday and didn't remember until it was too late not to go that Spring Break season is still in full effect. Good Lord, please let me kept reimbursed for parking fees!!


We stopped for a drink refill and potty break at a Circle K in Key Largo somewhere, and the ladies and I stopped for the all-imporant selfie. Or ussie, as it were?

Speaking of Circle K, they're pretty ubiquitous along the Overseas Highway. Someone must have received a pretty sweet bonus when s/he landed that contract.

Also, the soda refills, mentioned in the previous Sunday Stealing post, are even cheaper (69¢ + tax) at Circle K than at my beloved 7-11. Can you imagine? I can barely hoist my cup, it's so big, and they're almost free. I filled up about eight times yesterday.


And speaking of ubiquitous, you can hardly go anywhere without seeing or hearing a rooster crow. The further south you go, the more you see. I love those crazy chickens.


And speaking of chickens, I did a quick #cockadoodledoo search on Instagram (I'm @Smellyann there, if you want to follow) and found this gem. Rob and I laughed about poor Sally from Mile Marker 12 or so all the way down to MM-0.


About 5 miles outside of the entrance to Key West, where US1 turns into Roosevelt and you can only go either left or right - you know the place, right? - I had to stop and take a nap. I hadn't slept much or maybe at all the night before, and it's a 6½-to-seven-hour round-trip. The caffeine stopped being enough 2¼ hours in. Anyway, the girls decided to pass my naptime by making faces, which I only know because evidently I took this picture. I kind of don't remember a little bit.


After we got into the most westward of Florida Keys, I took Chloë with me on my first assignment. Jack and Sophia were supposed to be wandering around that strip mall with Rob, but they all pretty much hung out in the car the whole time. With the windows down. I had the only car keys, so they had to sweat it out. Methinks we oughtta get a copy made. Or two.

Finishing up job #1 some 45 minutes later, Chloë and I piled back into the car and headed to Duval Street to look for parking. I knew it would be a nearly impossible task, so imagine my surprise when I found a parking spot near the action! Of course, the fee was gigantic, so after I parked and found out how much, we quickly vacated the spot for the guy who was so patiently waiting for that gem.

Little did I know, I shouldda kept that spot. I ended up 0.6 miles from the action, which is nothing, or would have been nothing, except that meant over a mile of walking back and forth to get things done. Rob walks with a cane. (NO, we still haven't gotten the disabled person placard... shoot.) You do the math. The cost wasn't horrible, so we forked it over. 

I grilled Rob as to whether he was well enough to stay with the girls while Jack and I did the shop. He insisted, and seemed lucid enough to say so, that he was. Nevertheless, I gave Chloë specific instructions for what to do in case of Daddy Emergency of any kind. She understood. Jack and I left.

Unfortunately, I was rushing too much and forgot to pay attention to the cross streets where I parked. I had done a walking navigation route to my destination, but when I later went to get reverse directions back to my origin, where the car was, it wouldn't work.


So, Jack and I did this assignment as quickly as possible while still trying to have some semblance of a good time. Fortunately for me, he was pretty scared and ran through many of the exhibits, so I didn't have to feign a reason to have to leave earlier than I wanted to.


Jack's not much of a selfie-taker (ussie), and it took four tries to get this one halfway-decent shot, so he was more than exasperated with me by the time I let him climb those stairs! Also, will that other front tooth grow the rest of the way in, please? He looks ridonkulous.


After we finished my Job #2 of the day, we headed back in the general direction of the car. I thought I knew exactly where I was going, well give or take, more or less, so I wasn't terribly worried. I took a picture of this sign at Rick's on Duval because it's so... severe compared to the general Key West atmosphere, y'know? So serious. So ... strict! I mean, it is still a night club, you guys. Please.

So then, I got a text from Rob insisting that he was okay, but that he fell. He and the girls were just going to sit in the car. I had given him the keys, in case they needed to get back in car for any reason, so I knew they could at least have air conditioning. I hoped, anyway, that after he'd hit his head, he wouldn't forget that part.

I couldn't find the car. I text him. No answer. I called him. No answer. I texted, called, texted, called, and grew ever more frantic. Finally, he returned my call and told me they were on Applerouth.

Now, even if you know Key West, you probably don't know Applerouth, because it's really just a short alley way and not really a full street at all. I walked the length of it with Jack about six times, but no sign of a parking lot, let alone our car.

I texted Rob. I called. No answer. Text, call, text, call. "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, PLEASE BLAST THE HORN FIVE TIMES IN A ROW!!!" I finally sent through the airwaves. But no answer.

A sense of deep dread came over me. I imagined him and the ladies, passed out, possibly dead from heat exhaustion in the car. I was terribly afraid of what I would find. Jack reassured me that the girls were smart enough to get out of the car if they grew too hot. I had to believe him. And yet... and yet.

So I found this tapas place, which doesn't bill itself as much but really is, called 2¢ on Applerouth. A man came out, and I inquired quite vehemently as to whether this was the only Applerouth on the island, or was there another stretch of it somewhere. He gave me a short answer, affirming it was the only one, and I thanked him and turned away.

A tall, blond man came out. My guardian angel must have sent him. (Thanks, Mom.) He told me his name was Chris, he was the owner of 2¢, and asked my name. And Jack's. And said I was looking pretty frantic. And offered to help me.

To say I pinned all my hopes in the world on this one man would have been an understatement. I was picturing my daughters and husband dead in the car, people!!

I told him the problem, and he said something like, "Are you sure he didn't say, 'Angela,' because it sounds like this little parking lot on Angela."

You guys, I had never heard of Applerouth Drive before. It's a really, seriously weird name, in my opinion, and there was really no mistaking that Rob had told me Applerouth. I had even gotten Chloë on the phone, before Rob's phone died and he didn't have the wherewithal to realize that and plug it back in to recharge, and asked her to tell me what she could see, so that I could find them.

"There's really nothing here, Mom," she had insisted then.

"Chloë, this is very important. What can you see? Anything! A street name, a building, a really big tree, anything! WHAT. CAN. YOU. SEE??!"

"There's a small white building. Centennial Bank." 

"Thank you! I will find you!"

And yet, I couldn't, because the closest Centennial Bank I could find on Maps was somewhere way the hell up in Miami-Dade or Broward County.

So when Chris told me he knew where the parking lot was, and Centennial Bank, and that my husband must have said Angela, well, I followed him frantically and prayed the prayer of a woman who did not not want to lose two daughters and a husband, you know what I mean?

(By the way, Jack, famous for being a complainer, was a real trooper. I can count on NO fingers the number of times he complained about the heat, the walking, the being lost, etc. Not one complaint. The kid could sense Mom was in a panic, I guess, and to have complained would have compounded the issue.)

Chris led us the stretch from Duval and Applerouth, which is where Rob insisted he was, up to Angela and Whitehead. And he pointed out a parking lot ahead. And I recognized it, along with the attendant. Oh, my God, I recognized it.

I thanked him - I'm sure I thanked him - and then I took off at a dead sprint for the car.

I'm not a runner, folks. I don't run unless someone scary is chasing me, or I'm about to miss a bus. But I ran as hard and fast as I could. Thankfully, Jack followed me.

And I opened the car door, and looked inside, and there sat my husband, blinking back at me. And I looked in the backseat, and there sat my daughters, blinking back at me.

And all the dread and fear and worry of the past 70 minutes came flooding in, and I don't know exactly what I said, but I do know one thing: I was LOUD.

Panic over, relief set in, I made sure everyone was fine, and then I did the one thing I could do at that moment, other than yell.

I took another nap. For an hour and a half. Maybe two hours, I don't recall. I slept.

Thank you, God, thank you. My babies are alive. My husband is alive. <----- Last thought before falling asleep, first thought upon waking up again.

I missed Job #3 because of the fear and the nap, but I was determined to go do Job #4. I had to go by myself, which sucked, but this time, I made damned sure I knew exactly where the car was at the time. And I gave Chloë her dad's phone.


This time, this walk, I could enjoy the sights and sounds of beautiful, zany Key West. Like this chicken crossing the street. (No, Julie, I didn't ask him why he did it.)


Like these shakes, a Strawberry Banana Protein no-sugar one for me, and a Nutella Espresso one for Rob, at a local café instead of the Haagen-Dazs across the street. Because local is so much better than big box, y'all.


Like this barefoot musician and his faithful dog, playing Pearl Jam for tips on a Duval sidewalk. The sticker there reads, "Wag more, bark less." I loved this whole little vignette.

And then I was finished. The kids were all right. Rob was all right. 

We headed home. It took three hours. I drove straight through, stopping only for potty breaks and refills.

Of course, it rained. It rains every time we drive home from Key West. Every. Single. Time. But this wasn't a driving rain, and it didn't last the duration of the trip. Just a sprinkle from Key Largo to Homestead.

When we arrived home, I had to go pee, and the kids were all asleep. I ensured Rob was all right, and got them into the house to go to bed, and then I went to use the bathroom. 

When I came out, Rob was still outside, so I went to help him into the house. He was sitting in the parking spot next to ours, stunned. He'd fallen again, and this time he said he'd hit his head on the grass. 

Dammit, damn, damn, damn.

I'm glad it wasn't the concrete, but...

I helped him unsteadily to his feet and led him inside, to the couch. He's been up to pee and get meds since then, but otherwise he hasn't moved. I will be calling to make us both a doctor appointment first thing on Monday morning. 

Speaking of insanity.

This is how our life goes.


Sunday Stealing: The Bonus Questions Meme


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

Bonus Questions Meme

From Friday 5Bonus Questions


What’s your favorite frozen treat on a stick?


No stick needed!

Once in a while, I will still cave in and have one - maybe one a year - but then I get really ill afterward. So I wait until I forget just how sick, and that takes about a year, before I have another. [P.S. Homemade are better.]

What’s your favorite lollipop?


I'm not really a fan of hard candy in any form. I have to be hard up for something sweet to go that route. Espcially now, when sweets are few and far between for me.

When you passed notes during class in high school, who was mostly often the recipient?

I'm offended that you think I'm too old for having texted my way through school instead of doing that ^^ - not. I kid.

Usually it was my good pals, Dr. Lisa, Shana, Stacey K. or others. Girls. Rarely would I pass notes with a guy, but it happened! ;)

Who among your high school friends was the first to get his or her own car?


I got my car first, I think, amongst my group of friends. However, I never got to drive it without permission! That's another twisted story that illustrates how dysfunctional my family was. If I haven't shared it before, I will have to get to that another time, because I'm in too good a mood.

Who’s the black sheep in your family?

We used to say it was my sister, Stacey, because she was so different than the other three of us. However, I'm the only one who doesn't still talk to everyone else (except her of course), and maybe that means it's me. You know what? I'm fine with that. I've jettisoned away from all that negativity.

Who’s the family historian?


Again, that would be me. I like to keep track of everything and encapsulate each moment. I hope that my children will appreciate that some day, the way I love looking at pictures of my parents and their youths, and sometimes, even my own.

What was the last thing you sprayed from a spray bottle?


Probably Windex - and I need to do it again. My bathroom mirror is 'sgustin'!

What was the last thing you sprayed from an aerosol can?

Maybe not this brand, but it was definitely sunscreen. We went to the beach twice while Rob's brother and his kids were here last week. No, wait, I think I sprayed the toilet with some gunk a night or two ago. It stains easily and looks gross, and I clean it at least twice a week because of that.

When did you last make reservations for something?


I have to do it fairly regularly for my shops, so I think it was the last time I went to the tapas place. Good stuff, that.

What’s your next upcoming appointment?

I have to schedule an MRI for this week. I mentioned it in Friday Fragments a few posts down, but a CT scan revealed a lesion on my left temporal lobe, and we need to find out what, exactly, it is. I'm not freaking out. I'm not freaking out. I'm not freaking out.

What store’s departure from your preferred shopping mall most saddened you?

Maybe I'm not normal, but it would sadden me more if such a silly thing saddened me. Really? I don't even get this concept.

What’s good to eat at your preferred shopping mall?


Dude. I don't even have a preferred shopping mall, let alone know what's good to eat there.

I'll tell you this, though: When we go to a mall, almost always for a shop, we (my family) enjoy making the food court circuit and getting a hundred samples to eat. It's a free, full meal for me and the tiny kids, and it's a good snack for Rob and Sophie.

What services (as opposed to goods) do you pay for at your preferred shopping mall?

What's with all the mall questions? I'm, like, getting a headache and stuff.

Okay, my attempt at answering this question will be: no, can't do it. I'm not a girl who gets her hair and nails did at the mall, and I can't think of any other mallular services.

What’s a store you’ve never been inside at your preferred shopping mall?


Ten points if you can guess how I arrived at this ^^ picture!

I've probably mystery shopped 95% of the mall stores of which you've heard, and I've probably been in the other 5% of mall stores of my own volition. Oh, I know! I've never been inside the smoke shop. A store just for tobacky? Kill me now Count me out!

What kind of store would you most welcome in your preferred shopping mall?


My ideal mall doesn't exist, but if it did, it would be unrecognizable as a mall. I don't know what kind of person I am, to give you an easy label, but generally speaking, if it fits in at a regular mall, I probably wouldn't go there.

What did you most recently purchase at an office supply store?

Office supplies. "That's kind of a 'duh'!" as my older daughter would say. (But it was probably printer ink. I go through a lot of it.)

What did you most recently purchase at a book store?



Well, I won't "duh" you and say it was a book. I'll tell you: it was an SAT study book, thick as anything and full of potential, for Hubs. Then he got sick, and, well, that $30 book is probably never going to get used now. You want it?

What did you most recently purchase at a drugstore?

Drugs, duh! 

Last night, when we were in Key West, I got hungry. I went into the Walgreens there and got some Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers. I knew I wouldn't eat them all, and I wanted to get something I knew the kids would enjoy.

What did you most recently purchase at a convenience store?


That's my home-away-from-home, I swear. I'm currently re-addicted to caffeine and diet soda. For $2.66, I can get an enormous 52-oz bucket cup refill and four yummy mozarella sticks with marinara dipping sauce. I get some every day, sometimes a half-dozen times. Today though, after Key West, I'm poor, so I just got the 99¢ soda refill on my way home from church.

What did you most recently purchase at a thrift shop?


Hey looky, I made it through a Sunday Stealing images post without a "KEEP CALM AND..." picture! You're proud of me, I know.

Hmm. I love thrift shops. I'm currently looking for a cool, matched-or-not set of chairs to replace the ones that we currently don't have. Huh? you say. We have two or three wooden ones at our table for six, but I don't know what happened to the rest when we moved. We currently use folding chairs from the card table set, and I'm super tired of that.

Thanks for stopping by, y'all!




Saturday 9: I'll Be There For You

I'm thinkin' these are going to be some good questions! Join me here, won'tcha?

1) This song begins with, "So no one told you life was gonna be this way …" What do you wish you knew five years ago about your life now?

I wish I knew how hard it was going to get. I might have prepared better. I might not have, probably wouldn't have... but now I'm not prepared at all for this.

2) This is, of course, the theme from Friends, which is frequently shown back-to-back on TVLand and TBS. Have you ever "binge-watched" a show, catching episode after episode?

Dexter, a few years ago on Netflix, and The L Word. I think that's it, but probably not?

3) On the show, Monica and Rachel shared a beautiful 2BR/2BA Soho apartment with a private balcony. It's estimated that such a pad would cost at least $3500/month in today's real-life New York. Describe your dream home.

Mobile, because I'm a nomad, and always close to water, because I was a mermaid in a past life - and it would come with a cleaning crew, because I've turned out to be quite a crappy housekeeper :(

4) Of the six main characters, only Chandler was an only child. Do you have any siblings? 

I have an older half-sister I've never met, and an older sister I love dearly. I had two step-sisters for 10 years, or 15 depending on how you count the time. I don't talk to those two anymore. Toxic.

5) Gunther was the barista at Central Perk, the coffee shop where the Friends hung out. He had an ongoing, unrequited love for Rachel. Are you crushing on anyone right now? Does he/she know? 

I'm married. 'Nuff said.

6) Currently Matt ("Joey") LeBlanc stars in the Showtime series Episodes, playing a character named Matt LeBlanc. If there was going to be series based on your life, who would play you?

I don't think anyone but me could play me. I wish someone else would take over for a while, though. I need a break from me.

7) Courtney Cox, who portrayed Monica, has the Twitter handle @CourtneyCox and has 628,000 followers. What was your last tweet?

@Smellyann: "I walked 15,000 steps today and got a badge with Fitbit! http://www.fitbit.com/user/2FQ2WS #Fitstats"

8) The creators of Friends were massive soap opera fans. They named their characters after recurring characters on All My Children and had Joey appear on Days of Our Lives. Have you ever been hooked on a daytime drama?

My mom used to watch AMC. My grandmother, she liked game shows more. My sisters all liked Guiding Light, so I watched that. I couldn't care less, really, and I probably haven't watched a daytime soap in 20 years.

9) The band who performed this song, The Rembrandts, took their name from the famous Dutch painter. Can you see any artwork from where you're sitting right now? Tell us about it (and yes, a school painting by your 7-year-old nephew counts).

I can see the Britto. It's a giclée we bought on our long-awaited honeymoon, a Mediterranean cruise, in 2008. As soon as we saw it, we knew it was so "us," though we didn't know who Romero Britto was at the time. "Deep Night Romance" depicts two fish underwater, smitten with each other. I was a marine biologist before Rob, and he's a retired sailor, so saltwater runs through our veins instead of blood, and the sea connects us to each other. I'm a huge Britto fan now, and I'm delighted to find myself living in the city decorated from Britto's touch on everything from payphone booths to ATM machines to huge sculptures in South Beach... LOVE.


Friday Fragments, Version 4.11.14

Half-Past Kissin' Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jack: "Wait, what was levitating?"

C: "Nothing was!"

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

C: "UFOs, geez!"

M: **laughs**

{End scene.}

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

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


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

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


Go Fish!




I gotta hand (heh, heh) it to my great pals, Marc and Jenna (aka Team Fried): they gave us a terrific gift recently! Marc works for the University of Miami - Diabetes Research Institute, and sometimes he's able to score wonderful things like tickets to the MLB's Miami Marlins vs. San Diego Padres game during Opening Week. They have young twins, so they can't be out until midnight like we were Saturday night. Team Fried gave us those tickets, and off we went to have a great time. It was UM family night, so naturally, I had to paint my nails orange-and-green, amiright?!


We arrived at the appointed hour of 1700, for the UM family activities. See all those balloons over there? That was our destination. Sophia willingly posed for this picture, right before we realized the sun was blazin' and Chloë had forgotten her ballcap back at the car. We went back for left-behind items maybe two more times.


After getting our faces tattooed with Sebastian the Ibis on one side and the "U" on the other, my lady-babies and I posed for this selfie. The official UM shutterbug insisted on photographing this selfie moment and asked permission to use the pictures. Of course I said yes, but I felt a little silly holding my iPhone up there for two minutes while he took 37 snaps!

(Speaking of selfies, I love that song by The Chainsmokers. Cracks me up every single time, and then I can't stop saying, "That's so ratchet" about EVERYTHING!"


I don't know if UM or the Marlins put out the bouncy thingies, but my kids killed an hour playing, which was good, since we had that much time to waste before taking our seats inside the stadium. Rob and I sat in the shade. Did I mention how hot it was?! We actually bought a $4 bottle of water for everyone, and you know that killed me, right?


Oh, all right, some of us (me) had more than water. I love that Family Night included, in large part, a bar. Really? No soda for Hubs, but plenty of alcohol. Oh, but look! UM-themed silly bandz! I haven't taken mine off yet. (I'll admit it, I love my alma mater.)


Sophia, who will be freaking nine on Sunday, looking beautiful and every bit as old as she is


I look better in the selfie-with-ladies pic, so please, just look at Jack here. Jack, who needs a haircut and is sporting 70s-style wings, is much cuter, no?


Chloë and Sophie wanted to pose with a couple of Marlins cheerleaders dancers Energy Team girls, and we started a huuuuge line of followers. Who says I'm not leader material?! (Me, that's who.) 


Our game tickets included meal vouchers for 'dogs, drinks and chips, so Team Odette ate on the cheap, at least, thanks to Team Fried. Of course, I don't eat frankenweenies, so I had a hot pretzel. It was terrible. This ain't Philly, after all.


I behaved myself and did not take any photo or video during the game itself, unlike many a fellow fan. However, I will give you a few salient details about that part:

1. Baseball players are hot. Hello, José Fernandez, I'm your newest fan!

2. I somehow did not lose my voice while helping to cheer the Fish to a 5-0 shutout against the Padres. WOOT!

3. My dad remains, and my grandparents were, huge fans of the Mets. I grew up going to games at Shea Stadium. Dad always fell asleep next to the television, newspaper in hand, reading glasses sliding down his nose, while games were airing, too. All that being said, Saturday night's game was the most exciting one I have ever watched. It was so fun!

4. Jack grumped about wanting to go home after Inning Four, but even he had to admit that we all had a blast.

5. Did I mention the players' butts? Oh em gee. So cute! Shh... I can look.


I tried forty-nine three times to get a clear picture of this girl from The Clevelander. She was on mega-high stilts and dancing like she was barefoot. I wonder how long she had to practice before she stopped falling on her face? She got everyone's attention. No one could get out the door, because everyone was gawking - myself included!



Rob, still visibly affected by the steroids he's taking, and moi in yet another selfie


Thanks for the super-awesome fun night, Marc and Jenna! We you guys!


Sunday Stealing: For Old Times' Sake


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

From For Old Times' Sake 

The For Old Times' Sake Meme

When was the last time you swam in a pool? 

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

 Do you like to party? 

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

Describe the shirt you're wearing? 

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

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

If Ernest went there, I hated it.

Would people describe you as happy? 

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

Sleep with or without clothes on? 

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

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

Does it bother you if people swear around you? 

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

Do you prefer Wednesdays or Thursdays? 

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

Like to travel? 

Is the Pope Catholic?

Does a bear shit in the woods?

Do I like to swear?

Yes, dudes. I live to travel.

Think you're attractive? 


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

Are or were you a good student? 

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

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

Are you currently happy? 

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

Colored or black-and-white photo? 

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

Do you consider yourself the life of the party? 

Not without major chemical assistance, no

Do you drink? 

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

Do you make fun of people?


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

Do you think dreams eventually come true? 

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

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

Favorite fictional character? 

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

Go to the movies or rent? 

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

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

Have you ever moved? 

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

Have you ever stolen anything? 

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

How's the weather right now? 


Last time you cut your hair? 


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

Last person you talked to on the phone? 

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

Last time you showered? 

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

Loud or soft music? 

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

McDonalds or Burger King? 

I prefer Panera.

Night or day? 

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

Number of pillows? 

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

Piano or guitar? 

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

Current longing? 

I just want Hubs to...

Current disappointment? 

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

Current annoyance? 

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

Last thing you ate? 

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

Last thing you bought? 

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

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

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

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

Pick a movie quote...


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

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

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


Our First Annual Pilgrimage to Virginia

So, I disappeared from this-here blahg for a few weeks. Here's a brief timeline:

31 January 2014: We meet with neurosurgeon Dr. Jacques Morcos for the first time and are told that Rob needs immediate brain surgery to remove his cavernoma.

5 February: Thirteen hours of operating later, the cavernous hemangioma, along with a goodly portion of mineralized brain tissue (read: gelatinous goo) are gone from Rob's head.

Remainder of February: Lots of ups and downs in this long road to recovery.

1 & 2 March: Team Odette decides to make a trek up to our former homeland of Hampton Roads, Virginia. We had planned to go in April, to visit the numerous friends we had made over the prior ten years of living there, but a request for Chloë to audition and do a photo shoot prompted us to change the dates quickly and, sadly, ill-advisedly. 

Traveling wasn't kind to Rob, who pretty much vomited the entire 20-hour trip up to the Norfolk area. I called Dr. Morcos to explain what was going on, and while he had approved this travel, he also said it might necessitate an emergency room trip. He changed Rob's med dosage over the phone, and that seemed to settle things down. The rest of the trip, Rob did GREAT and even walked on snow and ice without his walker. Maybe not the smartest idea in the world, but you know, he did okay!

That same day, Sunday the 2nd, I went to a big meet-up of lots of friends I met in the six or so months before we moved here to Miami. It was great, and I even made about as much money as I needed to cover gas for our trip!

Afterward, my good friend Lisa and her husband hosted a fantastic cook-out for Team Odette. I met people I'd only known before online, and we hung out for hours with great, great folks. I had a blast and was so grateful Lisa made it happen.

3 March: The day of the supposed audition, our formerly balmy Virginia weather turned vicious. Roads were closed, and the snow and ice prevailed. We skipped the audition entirely and spent the whole day in our hotel room. Big. Huge. Bummer. That night, we were supposed to have lunch with Stephanie, Tim, Luke, and Vinnie, but no sooner did we get on the road and get down to the corner, but the car started spinning and spinning on the ice, out of control. Though I grew up in Syracuse, NY, I never actually drove in that crappilicious weather, so I was ill-equipped to handle it. I really learned how to drive here in Miami while attending college, so I can handle the driving rain, but ice? No way! We turned around (and around and around) and went back to our hotel.

4 March: We drove down to northern North Carolina to hang with my pal Saritah and her family.


Here's Sarah's youngest baby, Charlotte, who is the cutest little Cabbage Patch Kid, right? 

That was a fun day, because Team Odette adores Team Branham, and the feelings are mutual. [However, it wasn't all sunshine and puppy kisses, because Sarah filled me in on some un-fun things that I cannot tell you about here...]

5 March: On Wednesday of that week, we went and had lunch with Stephanie and her kids, to make up for the failed dinner attempt on Monday night.


Sophia was so cute. She went out in the backyard with Stims' dogs, Rosie May and Wazowski, and she was dancing with Rosie:


Steph and I took a selfie together while the kids watched Frozen on her iTunes account:


We gathered up our five children and had a photo-op on the couch. Of course, it's hard to get five kids to cooperate for pictures, so this was my best shot:


Vinnie, the little allergy baby, is near and dear to my heart because I knit for him and he has such a great, sweet little attitude despite being physically miserable so much of the time. Steph nursed him to sleep:


and then I held him while she did some things around the house:


After our visit with Stephanie, we had planned to go out to the Virginia Beach Farmer's Market to visit my favorite fishmonger, Uncle Chuck, and get some of his crabcakes. They're the best in the world, and I know, because I'm something of a connoisseur! However, we didn't get a chance, because it was to head to another awesome friend's house for dinner. 

Kassandra made spaghetti and meatballs with garlic bread, and we brought a salad. Before dinner, her little girl, Ava, played with my kids. Sophia, who never went anywhere without making an instant friend, played with Ava in her room, so sweetly:


And of course, Kassandra and I took a selfie together:


Us and our piercings, lolz...

That night, it was a redeux of Steph and Tim (Stim) and the boys, as they brought bathing suits for Team Odette. We all had a jolly good time at the hotel pool (which was decidedly NOT heated as advertised, but hey, the hot tub was hot enough for both of them!):


Tim with Lucas & Vincent


Rob and Jack in the hot tub


Steph cuddling Jacky


Sophia floating in the brrrrr-cold pool


After we got back to the room, dried off and warmed up, I snapped this photo of Team Goetsch, minus Luke. Luke was SO cute, telling me all kinds of adorbs little four-year-old things, and we had a great time hanging with everyone that day and night.

6 March: I snapped this photo of Jack and his dad in the bed after we went down for breakfast while the girls continued to snooze:


I was supposed to have lunch with a sweet friend at the Olive Garden that day, and then go to Uncle Chuck's before heading back to see Lisa and some more friends that afternoon, but a necessary trip back to North Carolina prompted me to have to cancel the remainder of our plans. I can't say that trip ended well for everyone, but we headed back here Florida on Friday, March 7th, and we arrived back at home in the morning on March 8th. I napped about six times on the way home, since Rob can't drive and I was super tired.

All in all, it was a fun-filled, eventful trip back north, but I probably should have waited and gone in April as planned after all. I do think we were brought there for a very good reason, though, and that will have to speak for itself... 

Thanks for stopping by; have a wonderful day!


Saturday 9: As Time Goes By


Link up here if you're a latecomer, too!

 1) This is the theme song of Casablanca, generally acknowledged as one the screen's great love stories. In honor of Valentine's Day weekend, what's your favorite movie romance?

"Baby" and Johnny in Dirty Dancing!

2) Even though he was only 5'8 and had a receding hairline, Humphrey Bogart was a popular leading man. What movie or TV actor or actress makes your heart skip a beat?

Matt Damon is just plain yummy!!

3) Sweethearts are those little heart-shaped candies that are printed with messages like, "Be Mine" and "Kiss Me." Do you like how they taste? 

No. I never have. I almost bought a bag of Cadbury Mini Eggs tonight, though, but I refrained, remembering the last holiday lbs I'm still trying to remove...

4) Valentine's Day is a big day for florists. When is the last time a floral arrangement adorned your table or desk?


Hubs had his brain surgery on February 5th. The next day, after I picked up the children from their sitter and we subsequently visited him in the hospital, we were driving home and spotted one of Miami's ubiquitous street vendors (and I mean middle-of-the-road, dodging traffic) selling flowers. I'm the spontaneous sort, so I pulled right over and let the kids choose a bouquet for their dad. He was recuperating on the 9th floor, the Neuro floor, with shades drawn to protect his head from pain. They decided on these sunflowers, now all but dead, to bring the sunshine to him without hurting him. Sweet kids, we have. ♥

5) Do you think an e-card means as much as a conventional card in an envelope?

In the sense that it's the thought that counts, sure, why not? They're thinking of you, so what does the medium matter?

6) Despite what you see on Valentines, the human heart isn't bright red. It's really a brownish shade of red, like a brick. Now it's your turn. Share some trivia that's been rattling around in your head.

A male shark will bite the female shark with whom he's mating in order to help hold on and get those claspers into her cloaca. In the female, the flesh is thicker where the males typically bite, to protect her from pain.

7) When is the last time you thought your heart would break?


On Monday, Hubs pushed himself so hard, too fast, and as a result was in so much pain, I sobbed and hyperventilated just watching him suffer. That was pretty heartbreaking, and on Valentine's Day, I had to get him readmitted into the hospital.

8) What is the most recent thing to lift your heart?

005 (2)

The same night he was readmitted, Friday night, I talked to the children on the two hour-long drive home about needing to give me extra help around the house while Daddy was recuperating. I told them I would take care of the dishes, laundry, and the rest of the house, if they would just clean their rooms and bathroom. After we returned home, I was more physically and emotionally weary than I can ever remember being in my entire life, and I had to ask Chloë to switch laundry loads for me so the clothes in the washer wouldn't get stinky. I started to apologize for having to ask her, but she interrupted me to say, "Mom, it's okay: I understand." Two kinder words have never been spoken.

9) Who is the most "hard-hearted" person you know?

My dad is pretty embittered by his circumstances. He's difficult.


So This Happened: #GruesomeButAwesome



Apologies for those of you with weak stomachs. If you don't like the looks of this, though, consider how the patient feels!

(And yessssss, I have his permission to post this picture, so get off my back, will ya?!)

Surgery, to remove the cerebellar lesion near the peduncle connecting to the brain stem, lasted about 13 hours on Wednesday, February 5, 2014.

On Friday, Rob got out of bed and walked!

On Sunday, he came home:


On Tuesday, he had his first shower in a week. (PHEW!!)

On Wednesday, February 12, 2014, he went double the prescribed amount between pain med doses.

Today is Valentine's Day, 2014, and I would like to say to my amazing, fearless husband who perseveres and rarely complains:

I'm so impressed with your courage and tenacity. While I worry, you keep plugging along in your rough recovery. I can hear your aches and see you in pain, but your standard line is, "I'm fine."

When I tried to lie down with you on the couch, but we couldn't manage it without hurting you, I went to bed. What did your silly @$$ do but crawl from the couch to the bed, in order to lie down with me.

Soon, this will all be behind us. Your hair will grow out again, you'll be off all those prescriptions... Hell, maybe you'll even drive again! Whatever happens, I'm here. I'll always be here for you.



The Denouement Of A Cerebellar Brain Tumor Saga

Or, "Getting Inside My Husband's Head!" (I have a million more, but I'll spare ya!)


This was Rob in October 2013. See? Skinny, hairy, mostly functional.


This was Rob just four months later. A week ago, in fact.

The backstory synopsis: In 2010, he had a cluster of headaches that brought him to various Virginia Beach-area Emergency Departments multiple times. Finally, they did an MRI and CT scan, which revealed an old TIA (Trans-ischemic attack, or a mini-stroke) of unknown origin. He was admitted to the neurology department at Portsmouth Naval Hospital for further testing, which coincidentally revealed a probably-congenital cavernous hemangioma on his lower cerebellum, near the peduncle that connects to the brain stem. (Don't worry about what that means other than that, because it was benign, asymptomatic, and in a dangerous spot, they decided not to touch it.)

Fast-forward to May, 2013. Rob retired after 20 years in the United States Navy. Having given two decades of his life to his country out of the need to provide for his wife and kids, we moved to the Miami, Florida, area so that he could pursue his dreams of going to college for a BSN and becoming a trauma nurse. However, the tumor had other plans for him, and one day I noticed him exhibiting a whole host of odd behaviors that brought us to the Emergency Department yet again. And then again, and then again, until I finally sought out a neurosurgeon at the University of Miami, Dr. S. 

Dr. S. looked at the scans we'd brought to him and told my husband that he COULD operate, but that he would NOT operate because it was too risky. Alternatively, he recommended Rob go to Dr. F., a radiologist-oncologist who would perform Cyberknife radiation surgery to blast the tumor. Because it was benign and slow-growing, they said, it would be even slower to resolve, but Cyberknife should do the trick.

Turns out, after five Cyberknife surgeries in June, that not only did the tumor not shrink, but in September, I started realizing something not-so-funny was going on with my husband again. Back to the ER, more MRI, more consultations with both Dr. S. and Dr. F., and three stays in Neuro-ICU revealed that the site of Cyberknife radiation had bled in his brain, and the surrounding, formerly healthy tissue was swollen. Inflamed. Damaged. Dr. S. told us the tumor was gone, but the bleeding and swelling were obviously a problem, so they put Rob on a lengthy course of Decadron, a steroid routinely prescribed for brain tumor patients.

Over the succeeding four months, Rob gained over 40 pounds on his slight frame. He started having to walk with a cane, shuffling slowly and painfully around while the rest of his family constantly waited for him to catch up. He got in a motorcycle crash and was banned (by me) from riding, and then he was banned (by Dr. S.) from driving at all. He had a lot of dizziness, confusion, memory loss, and so many other problems. It was ridonkulous. Basically, if it was a side-effect of Decadron, Rob had it. Poster child, much?

The two doctors were no longer in agreement about how best to treat him. Dr. S. insisted the tumor was gone and he would not operate; Dr. F. said it was still there but Rob was doing fine. I turned to friends in-the-know to track down another doctor for a second opinion, which led us to the office of Dr. Jacques Morcos on the morning of Friday, February 1, 2014.

After his residents took a history and did a brief neurological exam, Dr. Morcos walked in and shocked us to the core. He told us that not only was the brain tumor still there, it was operable. He was the one who could do it, should do it, and needed to do it NOW before another, probably catastrophic brain bleed occurred. After a barrage of questions, mostly from me, we left the office thoroughly stunned, scared, shaking, and crying, to discuss it and leave Rob to make his decision.

That afternoon, Rob said "yes" to surgery. He cut off his long, curly hair, and we started to make the plans and arrangements.


On Tuesday, February 4th, we dropped off the children to a babsitter we'd just met, not knowing when I would be back to get them. We checked Rob into Jackson Memorial Hospital, where Dr. Morcos said he needed to be for his condition and this surgery. I went to get him sushi, which he referred to as a condemned man's last meal. We were preparing for the worst, but hoping for the best. We prayed. We called everyone. We hugged, kissed, and held hands. And then we waited.


Around 7 PM on Tuesday, Dr. Angela Richardson, the resident of Dr. Morcos who had done his intake on Friday, arrived in his room to shave his head in preparation for surgery. As you can see, we were in good spirits. Hopeful. Light. We knew were in good hands, in the right place now.


Dr. Richardson applied the fiducials to Rob's head, letting me mark their locations in case any fell off. Then he was whisked off for a pre-op MRI, with the fiducials in place, so that Dr. Morcos and his surgical GPS would know exactly where to go the following morning in the Operating Room.


Early Wednesday morning, around 0530, Rob and I were collected and delivered to pre-op to prepare for surgery. Anesthesiologists, nurses, neurosurgeon, neurosurgical residents all came to see Rob and do their last evaluations. I took his glasses, kissed him goodbye, and was escorted by a hospitality representative to BUPA, the International Hospitality suite (for VIPs, I guess, I don't know) to wait. Dr. Morcos had told us on Friday that the long part of surgery would be getting in to the depth of the brain, about 15 mm, where the tumor was situated. The actual extraction of the tumor was the easy part, he said, and would only take about ten minutes. On Wednesday, as I was leaving, he said the whole thing would take about three hours.

At the time, I thought that seemed like forever.

I was able to get updates from the OR, via the hospitality staff, every two hours. Two hours took an eternity to pass! I was there at the desk, by the phones, exactly 120 minutes after the official start time of surgery, which was four hours after I had said good-bye to my husband. He was supposed to start at 0730, but it was 0924. At 1124, I was told that it would be another two or three hours, but that things were going well.

At 1324, hours into surgery and roughly six hours into anesthesia, I was there again. I had napped, unable to do much else but wait. This time, I was told there were still hours to go, but that things were going fine.

What in the world was going on?! I had no idea. But I was shaken to the core.

I checked back again and again and again, updating family and friends as I learned new information.

Finally, nearly 13 hours after I was escorted out, I was visited by another resident of Dr. Morcos. Don't ask me his name; I'd know it - and him - if I saw it - and him - but it's a long Indian name and I was physically and emotionally exhausted at the time. He was smiling and friendly. I was not.

"WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG?!!" I demanded right away.

He was expecting that, fortunately. There is a significant difference, after all, between three hours and thirteen

Rob was prone on the operating table, with Dr. Morcos and his tools entering through a long incision from the crown of his head to the middle of the back of his neck, for hours and hours under general anesthesia. They had expected to be able to get in and scoop out the tumor fairly easily. However, the Cyberknife radiation had fused the tumor into the brain tissue, essentiallly gluing it in place in the brain, and the neurosurgeons needed to slowly and tediously chip away at it, piece by piece, bit by bit, as carefully as technology allowed.

But they got it.

Now, it's Saturday afternoon, some 2½ days after surgery ended, and I am preparing to go up to visit Rob in the hospital with the kids. He's having some issues with his vision, his electrolytes, and his blood pressure. He's been out of bed walking, with the aid of a physical therapist and a walker, which he'll also need when he comes home. His head is heavy on his weak neck now, and he lists to his left side. His appetite is also weak... but his mind is strong.

He's still MY Rob. He's still mentally there. He's full of piss and vinegar, humor and wit, and also, love and affection for us. Time will tell how this will play out, but I am faithful and confident that he will be well again. Healthy, functional, and happy. Smart. Funny. Agile. My Rob.

I'm so thankful to Dr. Morcos and his team. So grateful. Dr. Shifforbrains... well. Never mind about him.


Saturday 9: Why Don't We Get Drunk?

Hey folks... I realize I've been absent again, but once more, we are dealing with Hubs' brain situation. He had major surgery on Wednesday, which lasted all day, and I've been back and forth at the hospital since then. I'll post about that shortly, but please please forgive me for being such a bad blahgger and an even worse visit-backer!!

With that said, I'm going to play today. So let's, shall we?


Link up here if you, too, are in it to win it!

Saturday 9: Why Don't We Get Drunk?

 Unfamiliar with this week's song? Hear it here.
1)This week's song was once named the favorite love song of Bud Wiser, the godfather to this humble blog. With Valentine's Day coming up, what's your favorite love song?
That's hilarious... Mine is our wedding song (and about eleventy billion others', but so what?), Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight."
2) When this song was first released back in 1973, the "Why don't we get drunk and screw?" refrain was considered shocking. With the explicit sexual content in many of today's songs, it now hardly raises an eyebrow. When is the last time you were shocked? (Not just by a song, by anything at all.)
I was completely shocked - probably not in the way you mean, but stunned out of my gourd nonetheless - a week ago yesterday morning. After 9 months of being told my husband's brain tumor was inoperable, we sought a second opinion from a much more highly qualified neurosurgeon who told us that not only was it operable, but that it MUST be done IMMEDIATELY. Five days later, he spent 13 hours in the operating room having his cerebellum hacked into (if one can carefully "hack"). Cue the tears!
3) Buffett named his first daughter Savannah, presumably after his favorite city. Tell us about your favorite city.
I have a love of travel, so I can't. My favorite Northeastern US city is, of course, and will always be New York (specifically Manhattan). I'm not a big fan of the South, but I adore Charleston, South Carolina. It's completely charming. I haven't spent enough time in the western US to evaluate that; I'm an East Coast girl. I love my home city, Miami, to pieces. Abroad, I think Venice is the coolest, but I'm pretty fond of Nice and Barcelona, too. Hm. Tough question!
4) Mr. Buffett opened a Margaritaville Casino in Atlantic City. Have you ever gambled in Atlantic City? What about Las Vegas?
I have been to Atlantic City numerous times as a kid wih my grandparents. Grandma LOVED to play the slot at Trump Tower, usually, while Grandpa and I - and my sister, if she was with us - strolled the boardwalk and took in a show. We always got salt water taffy. I still have my playbook from A Chorus Line there. I haven't visted AC as an adult.
As for Vegas, I went there for a week or so  --  coincidentally when my Grandmother died and I therefore couldn't make it to say goodbye or go to her funeral -- with my quadriplegic friend, Marc. I was his nurse, so I had to stick by him all the time. He did let me go toss $20 or so into the Treasure Island coffers at one point, though. I had no clue how to play Texas Hold'Em at the time!
5) Saving Florida's manatees is a cause near and dear to Jimmy Buffett's heart. If we were to make a $100 contribution to any charity in your honor, which would you choose?
I'd split it four ways among diabetes research (for my mother), an environmental group, an animal rights group, and Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome research (for my son).
6) If today was your birthday, your astrological sign would be Aquarius. How often do you check your horoscope?
I don't really check it, but I do listen when my morning radio program tells what the daily Virgo 'scope is. I'm a true Virgo, and it's usually pretty accurate... but I hardly live by it or anything.
7) On this date in 1974, the show Good Times ("Dy-no-mite!") premiered and, much to Sam's confusion and chagrin, still enjoys an audience in syndication. Tell us about a pop culture phenomenon that you just never got into.
First of all, I wasn't alive when that show opened, so ha! Sorry, I'm feeling old lately, so that had to be said. ;) As for me, I could never understand the appeal of Jennifer Lopez. J.Lo may be gorgeous and a good singer, but her acting is only so-so, and I can't stand her singing.
8) Is there a home improvement project on your list of things to do?
What's with that segue?
Mainly, I need to organize, organize, organize! We still haven't finished unpacking, and we've lived here over 10 months!! Of course, with Hubs being largely out of commission during that timeframe, I have a bit of an excuse... but not much!
9) A warm-weather choice to consider on a February day: Ice cream sundae or banana split?
Neither, because even the thought of ice cream turns my stomach anymore. Here's what I'm craving right now: A slice of whole grain toast, topped with vegan cheddar "cheese" and avocado slices, drizzled with fresh lemon juice. Yum!
Thanks for stopping by. Please keep Rob (Hubs) in your thoughts and prayers. He's doing well, but we have a long row to hoe.

Upchucking Puppies And Other Odd Schtuff


So remember Pepper got butchered neutered on January 11th, and it didn't go well? You can read more about that here

Welp, between getting the cat fixed and necessary car repairs, we didn't have the money to take him to an *ahem* real vet to get looked at, once the almost-obvious infection set in just two days later, on Monday, 13 January. I was chatting online with a friend about my concerns, and that friend - y'all, I have some amazing, terrific, wonderful friends - sent me the money immediately to get Pepper seen.
So we took him to a vet uptown, and we waited, like, no lie, five hours in the waiting room.
We made a lot of buddies in the waiting room, like this fellow, Chiquito, who licked the crap out of Sophia's face. Friendly little guy, mangy, but super cute just the same!
Then there was this little adorable Pomeranian puppy, Melody, who I wanted desperately to steal and take home with us, but alas, I don't t'ief me some puppies. Is she not the cutest thing EVAR?!
This quartet of pups, just a couple days old, had to go home without their mommy. They broke her pelvis coming out, poor thing. The dude had to go pay the vet bill and asked me if I would mind dog-sitting them for a few minutes. Would I mind?! Um, no, not hardly, sir. (I'm a dog person. We have five cats, and I'm a dog person. I was in animal-lover heaven over there, y'all.)
At last, it was our turn, after visiting with every other animal in the waiting room, and even after I went to the Publix nearby and shopped for a quick meal of bananas, granola bars, Babybel cheeses, and flavored waters. We kind of got the stink eye from other waiting room patients, but you know what? I did not care. MY babies were hungry, and I shared with the toddler-sized owner of Melody. So bite me, stink-eyers!
So anyway... Chloë and I went into the exam room with Pepper, and there we met the vet tech, whom I'll call Chuck. Chuck was super-smiley, and friendly, and caring. The vet, a woman (woohoo!), came in, and Chuck held Pepper down while she examined his poor, sore bally-sac (technical term there, ya know). Then she left, after giving me the spiel about what he needed (antibiotics) and what, thank the good Lord above, he did not need (a re-neutering, basically). 
So Chuck, who was fresh from Cuba, overheard me talking to Chloë in Spanish, and we had the following conversation in that language:
Chuck, to me, about Chloë: "Oh, does she speak Spanish, too?"
Me: "No..."
C: "But... you do...?"
M: "I've forgotten a lot, but I'm working on it."
C: "Are you from here?"
M, thinking he meant Miami, "No. I'm from New York."
C: "You're from the United States?!!?!"
M: "Yes...?"
And then he switched to English, excitedly, as if he had just made some amazing discovery: "But your accent, and your grammar, were perfect! I thought you were Latina! I didn't know what country you were from, but I thought South or Central America!" blah-zay-blah... 
Long story short, I was immensely flattered, and my head blew up to 490 times its normal size. He told me he was looking to improve his English, and we exchanged celly numbers to talk down the road and help each other out. I was pretty damn excited.
Oh, and Chuck? Actually a vet in Cuba, who had recently taken his boards to become licensed in the U.S. For whatever that's worth to ya.
The next day was a cold one. We stayed in, did school, and looked after Pepper and Rob. I say Rob, because he's had his share of medical drama lately, too. He had his MRI the same day I met Chuck, and we went to the neurosurgeon on Wednesday morning. 
As far as that goes, it turns out that he still has the TUMOR. What the what?! Rob has been going in to see Dr. Neuro by himself, while I sit out in the parking garage with the Littles, so I haven't been privy to their conversations, but... Just exactly how muddled does your thinking have to be that you can't remember the doctor telling you that you still have a TUMOR in your BRAIN? And, in fact, remember him saying that it's gone? Really, now. Pretty dang muddled, apparently. (So, for those of you who have been asking yourselves, like my dear father did recently, if Rob is all better and is ready to "hit the ground running in the new year and get a job and/or go to school," the answer to that is a big fat hell-to-the-NO.)
So he can't work, can't go to school, can't drive, can barely walk, rarely functions, sleeps 34 hours a day, and yeah. Fun times for Rob. :(
The good(ish) news is that he was ordered to start stepping down off his horrible horrible meds, but the downside to that is he feels like total crap. Crap, crap, and more crap. Bear with me while I say it once more: CRAP!
We went to Cyberknife that afternoon, per Dr. Neuro's orders, to get another consult with the Radiation Oncologist. No-way, no-how did he want to do another Cyberknife, but he and Dr. Neuro are at odds on that score. So... we're going with the Rad-Onc's wishes, but we'll be seeking a second opinion soon. He did agree about stepping off the meds, so that's what my babe is doing. Miserably, but somewhat happily so.
That Friday, I audited a grocery store down the road. It took over two hours, and you know what? After staring at food for 135 minutes, I was pretty damned hungry. I went home and whipped up my former signature mashed potatoes: along with the regular butter and milk, I added sautéed onions and garlic, corn, shredded Cheddar cheese, and maybe, after taking this Insta-pic, I added a small dollop of sour cream. So delicious. I have no business eating that many carbs, but I'm careful to eat just a tad and then pass the rest of my bowl to Rob...
Saturday, I ran up to Hialeah - a good hour's drive from home - and did a bunch of home improvement store shops. Not one of them panned out the way they were supposed to. I try to remember that it really doesn't matter, because I'm just there to report what DID happen and not really care whether what was SUPPOSED to happen did, in fact, happen, but I came home rather annoyed. When that happens, I take a nice break and calm down, so that I can report objectively. I sat outside in our beautiful, sunny Miami weather and surveyed my surroundings. And my feet. I know. I have ugly feet and minuscule toenails. In college, my friend Jorge Alarcon (Are you OUT THERE, Jorge?!!) asked me once, seeing my painted toenails, "Are you trying to show off what you DON'T have?!" Hilarious.
Sunday, I did more grocery store and home improvement audits around our hometown, and then I went off to visit my new friend Chuck. I had intended to bring him home with me, for reasons I won't go into just yet, but that didn't work out as planned, so I stayed there and practiced my Spanish while he worked on his English. We talked for, like, two - maybe three? - hours, animatedly, sometimes stiltedly, about a wide variety of rather intense topics. It was pretty great. Pretty, pretty great.
Inspired by my renewed zest for all things Spanish, I cleaned the kitchen on Monday and cooked with Mojo Criollo. Of course, I told Chuck about it, and he was all "guau!" which is, duh, "Wow!" in English.
Along with a pork loin in Mojo, I made rice and, because I didn't soak the red beans for long enough, green beans. Then I completely forgot about the red beans soaking in a pot until two days later when, in Rob's words, they turned into "a hagfish." Seriously, gross. I had to throw out the whole freakin' pot. Ugh. Good thing that was a cheap bag of beans, but I absolutely abhor waste of any kind.
While the kids hung out upside-down on Tuesday morning, I went down to the Upper Keys to do a couple more grocery store audits. Those managers weren't too happy when I showed up after a holiday weekend in the Florida Keys, as all their stock was wiped out, but I had no choice. It's lovely, always, to go into Monroe County. I love it.
What I also loved on Tuesday was that I went to work rockin' my first ponytail since buzzing off all my hair over a year before! Woot woot! It was long enough to all go in and, more importantly, stay in! Hey, I'll take any kind of victories I can get.
I worked all day Wednesday, in between giving assignments to the kids, and then I came home, took a bath, and sported a mud mask. See? Muddy, muddy mask. My face is sooo soft now! Wanna feel? Here, rub the screen.
I've got nothing else inane to report for the mo', so I'll sign off. I have to head to my glaucoma appointment in an hour anyhoo, so have a splendid day!

Wine Me, Dine Me...


Christmas lights in Miami's South Beach, 23 December

It's been a whirlwind, the last week for Team Odette! Phew! Let's see:

  • Dozens of mystery shops to complete, and the matching reports to write
  • Our 13th anniversary on Thursday
  • Same night relapse (maybe??) for Rob's brain tumor issues, with successive trip back to the neurosurgeon and the wait for another MRI while the local machine is down
  • Trips from Fort Lauderdale to Key West

Yeah. We keep busy here, and it's not about to let up anytime soon! Here are a few things we've done, which involves a lot of eating and drinking. Sirrusly, if I get chubby again, blame the job!


On Boxing Day, we went up to Fort Lauderdale to visit our friends, Erica, Kevin and their daughter Kira. The four of us grown-ups chatted away for hours, and the kids played in Kira's room. I fell asleep for a couple hours at one point! So rude, but so needed. Jack and Chloë zonked out on Kira's bed, too! Sleepy time for us, I guess.


Selfie with Chloë, 27 December


Two days after Christmas, we visited The Cheesecake Factory with a large gift card I had received. I had a lovely salad, here, and...


... a way spicy bowl of bean and rice something or other to eat. And, oh, yes, there was cheesecake! 


The kids shared this slice, and Rob and I took home a Kahlua slice for later. I didn't like it much, though, so I stopped after a couple of bites. He didn't much mind.


We still have tons of unpacking to do, so we decided to plunge in before the new year and dig the kids out of their rooms. Rob and Jack worked on the boy's room, and I spent an evening, all night, and the entire next day working on the girls' room. Of course, they helped me when they were awake, and this is the result. I wish I had taken a 'before' picture, because there was a tremendous difference! They are SO happy to have a nice room now!


Jack's room remains a work in progress, but they're almost finished. I love this photo of Jack peeking out of one of the giant moving boxes!


Selfie with Jack, 29 December


On 30 December, we headed back to Key West, about a 7-hour round-trip from our home, for four back-to-back high-end mystery shops. Here is the obligatory chicken picture. We stop at the same Circle K outside of Key West every time we go down there, and each time, I am possessed to take a chicken picture. I can't explain why.


We had major babysitter issues in the Keys for that trip, since I had two bar shops to do and couldn't have the children with us, but eventually we worked it out. I even called Stephanie up and asked for her input, and she telephone-interviewed a couple of folks for me, which is fantastically helpful! I wish I had gone with her final choice instead of what I did, which was call the nanny service recommended by the concierge of a top hotel in the area. The sitter we ended up with was nice enough, but a bit brain-dead, overpriced, and well, I just don't think we'll use her again. So we sat and had a Corona for Rob and a piña colada for me - okay, two each, while the kids ran around Duval Street with the dim-witted nanny.


We had to eat there, too, so Rob had wings, and I had a delicious quesadilla. I made it festive for, you know, the holidays and such. Silly me.


Rob posed for me next to the beautiful pool, at the tiki bar I evaluated in Key West. Looks delightful, huh?


On our way to the second bar shop, we passed a yacht or two. We'll call this shot our pipe dream...


Selfie with Rob in Key West, 30 December


We were supposed to have two more mystery shops in Key West that day, and another in Key Largo, but none of the three panned out. One of those was for a dinner at a world-class restaurant, but I had needed to make reservations about a month in advance. My shop didn't allow for that, though, so I was out of luck, no matter what I tried. I spoke to the manager of the hotel, who gave me his business card and told me to call him personally the next time I was going to be in town, and he'd get me a table there. Then he told us that Stevie Nicks had been there recently, and I had to hide my disdain. Ask Rob: I am not a fan! Here, Rob posed for me next to a classic car (I forget what kind) in the garage on the way out of that experience.


On New Year's Eve day, the five of us headed up to Coral Gables, toward Miami proper, for a fancy lunch shop. I had a Cosmo with my lunch, because a drink was expected of me. It was delish, which is more than I can say for my lunch:

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Appetizer 1

Don't get me wrong, my crabcake appetizer was delicious, and second only to Uncle Chuck's crab cakes (he of the famous Virginia Beach Farmer's Market), in my not-so-humble opinion.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Appetizer 2

Rob loved his tuna tartare appetizer, as well as...

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 2

... his yummy lobster ravioli. Mmm, lobster. On the other hand, I lost out of my lunch.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 1a

See, the scallops I ordered looked beautiful, right? But what's that in the risotto? Oh, it's pancetta. I don't eat meat, other than certain sea creatures and only on occasion. The pancetta wasn't in the menu description, so as requested by my shop requirements, I sent it back to the kitchen.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Entrée 1b

When it came back, it looked like this! Full of red pepper sauce. I don't do spicy - I just can't handle it - so I didn't have a bite. Not one single taste. Ugh. I was so looking forward to it, too!

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Dessert 1

We ordered creme brulee for dessert, and that was tasty. I was still semi-grumpy about my scallops, though.

123113 Coral Gables Neiman Marcus Mariposa Dessert 2

We also ordered chocolate lava cake for dessert. Hey, two desserts spread amongst five people is not outrageous, right? I didn't have any, but it was devoured by the rest of the fam.


I had to visit the ladies' room there, and check out the foyer before the actual restroom. The ladies' room was almost bigger than our house. Man...!


We ran the kids home, got our babysitter and changed clothes before heading out for a New Year's Eve bar shop at a tapas restaurant, again up in Coral Gables. I had a rum runner or something, but the drink was not as memorable as that enormous slice of lime!


Rob had some prosciutto or some other thinly-sliced cured meat, and I had Caprese Tomate tapas, which were, in a word, incredible. I can still taste them; I crave them, and I will definitely order those again!


Still hungry, we shared some bread with cheese and fruit tapas after that. Delicioso!


Selfie with Sophia, 31 December


"Happy New Year!" selfie, taken around 2300 before the year changed to 2014. By midnight, I was asleep. I think it was the first New Year I didn't ring in since I was a baby. Am I getting old on me?!


On New Year's Day, we went to the fair down the road from home. Oh, my word, you guys. I got hit on a hundred times, more or less, by the carnies working there. Rob was standing right next to me half the time!! And the carnies, of course, shared three teeth among the bunch of them. One guy was completely drunk and would not leave me alone to go operate the ride we were on, and I was with the girls. Gross. Another carnie winked at me and told me I was cute. He and a third guy, who stunk horribly, told me to come back and visit him alone that night... crazy hilarious. As if!!


Aside from that mess, though, the kids had a fantastic time at the fair, as did their parents. That's what matters the most. I took a lot more pictures, but I'll just stick with these two from the fair for now.


The next morning, January 2nd, was our 13th anniversary. However, it was Chloë I took with me for breakfast in Key Largo, as promised. We had a mystery shop there, and boy... it did not go too well. But my mommy-and-daughter time with Curls was worth the trip.


That day, I took Jack to get some pet fish, as we'd discussed the previous night. They're in their aquarium now, but I haven't taken photos of that yet, like I know you're anticipating. Meet Taco and Rocko! He's super excited about his pets - and the girls were, too. So much so that they pooled their saved allowance money and bought themselves an aquarium set-up and each a fish, too. No pictures yet of Wiggles and Multi, but those will come down the pike sooner or later, unless the cats eat them first. Ha!

010314 BJs drink

Rob had his episode that night, so we had to abort our dinner shop for that night right after we got there. We're still waiting to get him in to the imaging department at the local hospital for another MRI, so in the meantime, we did a lunchtime shop at a brewery yesterday. I had a weak Mai Tai to drink, and I think my report was so scathing that the bartender will get severely reprimanded, if not fired. I'm trying not to feel bad about it, remembering that if he did his job well, my job wouldn't have hurt him.

010314 BJs food

We had the calamari for an appetizer, and that was the one good thing that happened on that shop!

On that note, I have to go see about getting ready for more evaluations today and tomorrow. I have a bunch lined up, and as long as Rob's brain wants to behave, I better go do them. TTFN, folks!


Friday Fragments, Version 11.15.13


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

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

Well, an update:

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

Lowe's Build & Grow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






Music Monday: I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself

"I Just Don't Know What to Do With Myself" by The White Stripes

So this is a new meme for me. It's (and you may have already figured this out, oh, brilliant you) "Music Monday," and it's hosted by this quintuple (?!?) threat:


Callie of Jamerican Spice;


Stacy Uncorked;

 Reading Challenge Addict

X-Mas Dolly;


Cathy of Cathy Kennedy's Blog; and,

Naila Moon of Just The Stuff Ya Know.

* * *

So I just found out about this blog hop about a half-hour ago, and I've been poking around, trying to figure out exactly what I'm supposed to be doing and... I'm still not quite entirely totally a hundred percent sure I'm doing it right!

I think there are supposed to be themes, but I don't know where to find the current one. I think you can go theme-less and pick what you want, for whatever is relevant to your life at the moment, however, and so that is what I am choosing to do!

* * * * *

You may think that is why I have chosen The White Stripes' song for my Music Monday tune this week, but no. You would be wrong.

I've mentioned about, oh, three or four times in the past just-as-many posts that Rob (aka, the Husbeast) is back in the hospital.

{For those of you new to Smellyann's Blahg, here's a super-quick back story: Rob was diagnosed with a cavernous hemangioma a couple of years ago. It's benign and was asymptomatic until this past May. He developed myriad symptoms, which led to five Cyberknife Radiation Surgeries in June/July. A couple of weeks ago, the site started bleeding, and swelling was pressing into the 'good' brain tissue. He's been on a heavy course of steroids since then, but yesterday - Sunday, September 29th - saw him landing back in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit for the third time this month with more symptoms. Now you're caught up! Read more here.}

Now, when this happens, I get energized, generally speaking. I've gotten tons of housework, knitting, running around, take-chargey-ness done on the prior hospital stays, and this time I expected no different.

Except, it is. It's different.

I don't know what it is, or why, but I'm just unable to figure out what to do with myself while Rob is gone.

For once, I'm not scared he's going to die, so that's not it. I have complete faith he'll be fine and coming home in a few days as planned.

I have tons of stuff to actually do, so lack of plans is not prohibiting me from being productive. It's payday, rent is due, food needs to be shopped for and prepared and served to our three kiddos, I need to homeschool that trio, I have lots of knitting to do, and so on and so forth. No, I've no shortage of duties now.

So what? What is it that's keeping me from focusing?!

I tried to clean up the kitchen, but I cut my thumb (not intentionally, I promise) and assigned that task to Jack instead.

I tried to do the laundry, but I kept mixing up dirty and clean, and well, that's just no good, so I delegated that job to Chloë.

I tried to straighten up the living room, but I found myself totally unable to figure out what the heck to actually do, so I requested Sophia as a replacement.

I ran out of kids after that, so I stopped trying. Mostly. I have taken no fewer than four (FOUR!) baths - two to wash, two just to soak and sit there, reading a magazine - in the past 12 hours. And then the tub got funky, so I scrubbed that and, while I was in the throes of spraying cleanser, the toilet. One of our cats kept running up and down the length of the sink counter to watch me, so I left that alone. No sense killing the poor fuzzmonster, after all.

* * * * * * * *

But mostly, I've come back here, blahgged on this page, read emails that I never answered, looked at Facebook, and just... sat here. Doing nothing. Saying not much. Thinking... everything. I miss him. Plain and simple, I MISS HIM.

Please don't  - DON'T - do the whole, "Oh, it could be worse. He could be in [insert war-torn foreign country here]. He could be divorcing you. He could be dead. Get over yourself. Blah blah blah."

Yeah, I know.

But you know what? I see people do that to each other every single day on Facebook, and I can not, for the love of all that is fresh and juicy, stand it one bit. My friends do it to me, their friends do it them... why?

For one thing, it's not helpful. At all. It just serves to make the person having feelings feel guilty for having them!

For another, it's mean!

I could go on with what it is, but let's stop there because that's not where this post was supposed to be going. Just don't do it, m'kay? I know, I'm not stupid, I have feelings, I'm occasionally rational, and whatever. I don't care. I'm entitled to miss the man I love with all my heart while he's not home with me, where he should be. For whatever reason that is.

In the end, I'll go visit him, we'll talk to his neurosurgeon, his radiologist/oncologist (whose name I am forever getting wrong, but he's probably used to it), a billion nurses, ten more nurse's aides, the cafeteria lady who hates me because I have no cash EVER and somehow using a debit card is stealing from her paycheck (huh?!), the guy at the front desk who checks my ID and issues my visitor pass, the guy at the garage window who takes my six bucks for daily parking, nineteen people my kids annoy in the elevators... and if you've been to a huge hospital in a major city before, you know this drill.

And then he'll come home. And we'll try to resume normal life. Which for us, is anything but normal, but you know.

I think, what I'm most worried about right now, after thinking about this, is that it won't end here. This won't be the last visit. He'll go back in two weeks, or a month, or even in March, but he will go back. Won't he?

I don't know.  

And in the meantime... what do I do with myself?! Without him?




In Which I Make Up For It

Rob, aka Bob, aka Hubs, Roger, Ronald, Ribbon, Rupert, RuPaul, and a million other things I've called him over the last 13 years... is back in the hospital. The kids are asleep, the cats are passed out, and the house is quiet. I can't sleep, and I can't seem to focus enough to get anything else of import accomplished, either. 

And so, I am going to catch up on some memes I missed this summer. Feel free to skip over this post if you find those boring, but I promise you some entertaining answers to follow...!

The Autumn Meme

First of all, is autumn your favorite season? Why or why not? 


Heck, no. In order of favorites, they are: Summer, Spring, Autumn, Winter. I hate the cold, and I hate the impending cold. I am fairly certain I suffer from some degree of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Thankfully, here in Miami, it matters little anymore. Dodged that bullet!

Is it ‘autumn’ or ‘fall’, to you?

It depends on whether I'm in a snooty mood or not. "Fall" is for the layman, is it not?

What kind of weather does your area get during this season? 

As mentioned, we live in Miami now, so if memory serves (and, admittedly, I haven't lived here in Autumn since - gosh! - 1997), it's pretty much just Late-Summer weather. In other words, more sun, more rain, more heat. I went outside last night at 2200, when it was still 83ºF. I can live with that!

Were you born in an autumn month? 


Sorta-kinda. I was born September 8th, so not really, but yeah.

Do you pay attention to any ‘fall fashions’?

Ha. I was just "lamenting" this to Rob the other day. I have oodles upon oodles of free magazine subscriptions, and of course right now they're all filled with the latest Fall fashions, none of which apply to me. I look, but I can't touch, y'know? It doesn't really interest me, anyway, other than to flip pages quickly while I knit. Someone who is a slave to fashion is most probably not one of my very best chums.

Which leaf color is your favorite? 

I like them all, except green. Nothing wrong with green, but it's like the ubiquitous white walls of an apartment. Change is good.

Is it still fun to rake the leaves and jump in piles of them? 

The day I get tired of that, shoot me dead.

When can you really tell that it’s autumn? 


Well, around here, it's when the calendar says so. Anywhere else, I'd say it's when the stores stop filling up with berries and drupes and start filling up with apples and gourds. (What? I like produce.)

Do you enjoy carving pumpkins? 


I love it, but I have no particular talent for it. I'm always looking for something new to do with pumpkins, though. The year we did the puking pumpkin, we got a lot of neighborhood attention. People loved our stolen idea! I have thoughts about this year's pumpkin(s), too, but I'm not spilling yet!

Do you eat the pumpkin seeds? If so, do you put any kind of flavoring on it?

Yes, and no. I love roasting them, and except for salt - and not even always, then - they're good enough on their own. I never did understand eating something solely as a conduit for other flavorings.

Are you planning to go to a pumpkin patch this year? 

I guess I better get on Swagbucks (okay, Google, for you regular folk) and investigate! I lurve a pumpkin patch; it's probably the kids' favorite annual tradition.

Which was your favorite Halloween costume to wear? 


I was a dancer as a tween, so I always loved to wear the previous recital costume(s) when I went out, whether to parties or trick-or-treating. It was simple, after all.

Are you planning to go trick-or-treating? Why or why not?


If Rob is home, he'll probably take the kids. I adore staying home and passing out the candy. I'm a control freak; I love to make sure each handful is evenly dosed. Aside from that obvious nonsense, I love seeing all the cute kiddos! (And yes, I get annoyed by the teens in their daily street clothes.)

Are there any county fairs or festivals held nearby during this time?


I don't rightly know. Our county fair is in February, but who knows what goes on down in the Keys, just a few minutes south of here?

What is your favorite dessert for this time of year? 


There is absolutely NOTHING better, in my mind, than a Dutch apple cream pie. Oh, my God. I can't even wait! ::drool::

Is your Thanksgiving Day in October or November, if you even celebrate it? 


We do, in Thanksgiving. Who doesn't celebrate it? It is (or can be) completely secular. What's not to love about having gratitude for one's blessings?!

If you do celebrate it, where do you usually have Thanksgiving dinner? 


I can't remember a Thanksgiving we had with anyone but ourselves, at home, aside from a disastrous attempt to share it on base when I was pregnant with the boys, in Guam. We went home and fixed ourselves some chicken and sides and called it good. Best Thanksgiving ever that year!

Do you remember any crafts you used to do that were autumn-themed? 


You mean aside from the obvious hand-turkey drawings and pilgrim hats? As a kid? No, but I do get into it with the kids each and every year. I can't wait until Tuesday! We took a family vote: spread Halloween out over the whole month, day by day, or splurge at the end on one big hurrah? The former won by one vote. Yay!

Are any of your favorite bands doing a fall tour this year? 


(Just kidding!)

I don't have TV, I don't have any budget for that, and so yes, I'm sure they are.

Which new TV show are you looking forward to this season?  


Boohoo. Still no TV since the last question was answered.

How does autumn typically make you feel? 


Wistful for Summer, until late October when holiday fever kicks in

What color do you always associate with autumn? 


oranges, yellows, golds, and deep reds - falling leaf colors

Is there a song that always reminds you of this season? 


"Wake me up when September ends" has been going through my mind all month!

Do you have any seasonal traditions? 


Like I said, our best tradition is visiting the pumpkin patch. We always make sure to hit a hayride, do a cornfield maze, pick our gourds, have some warm apple cider (heh heh), and do the petting zoo thing. Not sure what Miami will visit upon us in that vein.

Do you spend a lot of time outside during this time of the year? 


As much as at any other time, I guess. We love the outdoors - Rob, especially, is eager to get us more "hotel-friendly" folk (ie, me) into camping (ugh), fishing (blah), hunting (nope), and stuff, but he's just as happy going hiking, mountain biking or -climbing, and all manner of grizzly stuff by his lonesome. Well, with a buddy...

How can you tell that fall is over?  


If there is a tree taller than my head in the living room, it's a sure sign that Winter has arrived.

What is a typical autumn outfit that you wear?


Here we go again. Hey, down here, you're lucky if I throw on shoes. And a brassiere.

Describe a perfect autumn day:  


Let's pretend I'm in Central New York again, but this time I'm a parent, and my family is a happy one. We'll go do all the pumpkin patch things mentioned above, then go home and huddle in front of a fire, roasting chestnuts we picked up at the farm. One last glass of cider before baths and tucking in the kids, and that's a happy day.

Do you hate it when stores start promoting Christmas early? 



To be honest, I'm pretty indifferent about it. I don't hate it, but I do think, REALLY?! Who are they kidding? I haven't bought my Halloween candy yet and you want me to buy ornaments. Crazily enough, this year, that's just what happened... ha!

What is your favorite thing about this season?

I'm going to take a stab at being healthy-ISH and stable-ISH now that SAD isn't going to be quite so, oh, over-taking this year, so I'll just say being with my family and celebrating the wonderful things that come with Autumn. I adore my little babes, and my guy, and just being together, no matter the season. <<mushy gushy>>

* * * * * * * *

Waking Up in Vegas


Thanks to Cat for recommending Katy Perry 

1) As she sings about her night in Las Vegas, Katy wonders if she "got hitched last night dressed up like Elvis." Tell us about the last wedding you attended.
My BFF, Lisa, and her husband Faris, had a pretty traditional Arabic wedding. It was, in a word, AWESOME. Lisa was carried around on a chair, there was bellydancing, and the music! Wonderful. I loved every second of it and was sorry when it ended.
2) Whenever Crazy Sam visits Las Vegas, she stays at the Paris Hotel and Casino. Have you ever been to Las Vegas, Nevada? What about Paris, France?

I've been once, with my then-roommate, Marc. His parents sent us, and we stayed at the Treasure Island. We saw Cirque du Soleil's "O," which was amazing, and got comped for tons of meals. It was fabulous.
I have yet to go to Paris.
3) Do you enjoy gambling? Have you had any success at it?
I don't enjoy it; it's not fun to me to throw away money I don't have. When I turned 18, I bought a lotto ticket. I won $3 or $4! I bought a ticket the following week, too. I won nothing. I didn't buy another ticket.
4) Las Vegas is served by the RTC Bus Service and the Vegas Monorail System connects many of casinos on The Strip. When was the last time you rode a bus or a train?

In April or May, we took the Metrorail from the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables to Coconut Grove. We had fun running around in CocoWalk there, and then we took the bus back to the station, where we road the Metro back to UM. It wasn't much, but the kids adored it and keep begging to do it again!
5) It's not unusual for the mercury to hit 100º in Vegas in August. Which are you more comfortable in -- extreme heat or bone-chilling cold? 

Answer your question? ;)
6) As a little girl, Katy Perry sang nothing but gospel. Do you remember any church songs from your childhood?

That was probably my favorite, along with several little-known hymns by Mary Baker Eddy. If you personally know any, color me shocked.
7) She made her film debut as the voice of Smurfette in The Smurfs (2011). Who is your all-time favorite cartoon character?

"Just keep swimming!"
8) Do you consider yourself a picky eater?
I'm not picky. I just won't eat:
- raw tomatoes
- mushrooms
- mustard
- most salad dressings
- mammals
- most birds
- any sea creatures that I have ever studied
- any other animals
- baked beans
- anything BBQ
and probably ten billion other things I'm forgetting.
9) You receive an invitation to a party that starts at 7:00 PM. When will you arrive?


It depends.

If it's a small gathering, I'm there by 7:15 PM. If it's a huge shindig where no one will notice whether I'm present or absent, I'll just get there whenever I can and slip out early unless I'm having a terribly good time.

And now I'm going to soak in a tub and read the latest issue of People.


Sundays In My City: From Here To The Everglades

Unknown Mami

Link up with the Unknown Mami if you want to show us around your place today!

It's been a while since I've participated in SimC, but since Rob (Hubs) is back in the hospital as of this morning, for at least a coupla days in the Neuro ICU, I'm sitting at home twiddling my thumbs [read: avoiding housework] and thought I'd catch up. Here goes:


I'm supposed to be taking a break from knitting doll sweaters for Itsystitch and returning to real-life person sweaters for my friends' son, Vinnie, who's allergic to everything. He can't wear anything but pure wool, cashmere, silk, and ... I forget the fourth thing. But nothing synthetic, no plant fibers, and not very many from Kingdom Animalia, either. He's an expensive kid to dress and feed! So I help Steph out where I can. I found a good deal on yarn, she bought it, and it just arrived. It's really orange and blue, not purple as it looks, and I have bunches of the latter. I'm going to make him a sweater and hat, or socks, or something, and send the remainder to her for another person to make his longies (long pants). I just find that sizing longies isn't my forte, so I'm happy to pass along that job.

Oh, but my point is (and I do have one, to quote Ellen D.), of the billion cajillion needles I have, none will work for this jobby. Suck! I bought a new one, but it's still too long. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate knitting in the round?!

In case you're thinking, well, that's nice and everything, Smelly, but what's that got to do with your city? um, to you I say, there's our front patio. Heh. Moving on...


We got some real, honest-to-God produce and, for everyone but me, meat in the house recently (food has been scarce 'round here, but we should be fixed up for that now), so Rob stuffed peppers with (what else?) rice and ground cow flesh (sorry) (not really) for himself and Kid3. They actually tried it, to my utmost surprise. I'd rather have given them purty purple and orange and red bells, rather than everyday green, but Wal-Mart seems to be lacking on that front.


I got a birthday card (only about 2½ weeks late, but I'll take it) with a free drink offer from the Dunkin' Donuts down the road (ah, now we're getting somewhere!), so I took Sophie with me to go do that and run a coupla other errands. (First up was Michael's, the arts & crafts store, where I'm sloooooowly stocking up on supplies for her planned artist-themed birthday shindig in April; I spent a whopping 83¢ on a plastic paint palette, if you're keeping track of our finances...) (and yes, I know I ramble, but at least it's written down, so you can't call it intelligible) (doing it on purpose now) (I know I'm obnoxious) (at least I don't use hashtags on this-here blahg) (where was I? Oh, yeah) So when we got to DD, she figured she'd be getting a doughnut, right? I mean, she is a normal 8-year-old American girl.

Only, Mom had just spent 83¢ out of her last dollar, so doughnuts were not to be had.

She pouted.

It was 7:45 PM, and closing time was 8 PM... meaning, everything made had to be tossed or taken home by employees soon, I'm guessing.

Can you believe, after pouting instead of cheerfully accepting her fate, the shopkeep rewarded her with a bag full of various MunchkinsTM? After telling her that making pouty faces wouldn't get her a doughnut?

She did thank him a billion times and, in return, reward him with huge smiles, but... well, I think I've made my point.

So let's shove off that topic, shall we?


Speaking of that Sophia, once she got home and divvied up the MunchkinsTM with her siblings, she was, natch, on a sugar high. No sooner did she finish her dinner then she went diving into the cache of Halloween costumes from years past. She doesn't even remember the show JoJo's Circus on The Disney Channel, but you do, right?! So this was her outfit for the evening, wherein she pretended she was being French. Only, she spoke in a British accent. Because French is HARD,  people!!


Later, she came out wearing my former Mrs. Incredibles costume from back when I was still super-morbidly obese. And the JoJo wig. Ha! This kid, if you could have seen her, would have made you laugh and laugh. She is hysterical. I promise.


And now, we come to the heart of the matter: We finally visited the Florida Everglades! A mere 10 minutes away (at least, the southern tip), yet we hadn't quite ventured down the ol' South Dixie Highway to get there as a team yet. (I'd been there long ago, with my then-college summer-housemate, Dr. Jasper Lament of The Nature Trust of British Columbia, now, and Ducks Unlimited fame, formerly.) ANYWAY, it was free on Saturday, so we finally made it. Woot!


We started at out the Ernest Coe Visitor Center way down at our end of Miami-Dade County, where there were lots of neat-o mosquito interactive exhibits, a photo essay on the dangers of the changing climate, and of course, a gift store. We made nary an expenditure there, however (see aforementioned 83-cent splurge).


That's my super-cute son, Jack, finding our very first (and, so far, last) geocache! We did all kinds of research on Geocaching.com the night before, set up Rob's Garmin GPS, downloaded the free version of the app on my iPhone, yadda yadda, only to have none of the stars align after we found this cache. I brought along a notebook and recorded The Find, did the same in the app, and did a little happy dance with the kiddos before exchanging some swag from the box for a trinket of our own. The exhilaration was shortlived, though, because the app no longer showed us any more hidden cache locations, and Rob couldn't get the GPS to register the lat and long he was inputting. We decided instead to hike some trails, which of course, is not a bad Plan B!

Only, THIS mom fell asleep in the van before we found any trails and was deliriously tired when awakened to join in when one was finally discovered. The 'Glades is a huge park, y'all, and lots of stuff is going on there. I just... didn't see any of it yesterday. No matter. There will be more chances.


That's me. I know, not city-related either, but I'm here and I'm typing and that's what you get. 

You see, Rob (the Hubs) was feeling quite dizzy again this morning, and the last time that happened, we (meaning his neurosurgeon) discovered a cerebellar hemmorhage (yikes!!), so I called said doctor and was told to delivered him back to the hospital post-haste.

I did that, forgetting to grab my purse along the way. We arrived at the hospital and discovered the omission, which meant I could neither obtain a visitor's pass nor pay for parking. SUCK. I had no choice but to drop Rob off and head back home: a two-hour tour, round-trip.

I've been pretty much sitting here ever since, alternating between putzing around on the computer and playing with Sophia, while Jack and Chloë take extended naps. And that's when I got looking at the hair on my head and thinking it was looking rather shaggy.

Bring on the scissors!


Yep, I did that. The last time I took a pair of scissors to my head, in November 2012, I ended up bald. No lie, bald. So I think it's pretty awesome that I ended up with this boyish little pixie instead of, you know, a wig and a ballcap like last time, amiright?


Sophia's reaction was to say, "Why did you DO that? Don't you know long, blond hair is 'in' this season?!!"

She kills me. She makes me die. I die, I die, I die, I'm dead.

(Name that flick.) (Yeah, I paraphrased that, too.)


P.S. Thanks for stopping by, and yes, I know, I am weird. Aren't we all? 

Bzz, Bzz: Kashi Hummus Crisps #GotItFree #ProductReview

OMGarsh, y'all. I am a bad BzzAgent and a bad blogger.
Why? you're asking. (Go ahead, ask. I don't mind!)
Because, you guys! I received a bag of Sea Salt & Olive Oil Kashi Hummus Crisps the other day, and I never took a single picture.
I know! I slapped my own hand!
Here's what happened: Rob was in the hospital again two weeks ago for the first of two Neuro-ICU visits in a row for Ye Olde Lovely Braine Tumore. (heh) (I know it's not funny. Give me a break, will ya? Humor helps.)
The doorbell rang as I was packing up for the hour-long commute up to the hospital from home.
I grabbed the box, opened it, saw snacks and probably thought to myself, "Ooh, yummy!" and stashed the bag in my hospital gear. Off I went.
At the hospital an hour later, I was grabbing my teddy bear, my bag, my big ol' keg of the drink du jour, and spotted that bag of Kashi Hummus Crisps. I was starving by that point - you don't tend to eat a whole lot when you're visiting the Neuro Intensive Care Unit, you know what I mean? - and ripped open the bag.
Oh, my goodness, y'all. They were good!! I munched all the way from my van in the parking garage, up to the hospital, during the ride in the elevator, and down the hall to Rob's room. I even struck up a conversation about them in the elevator and handed out a coupon (Want one? Let me know in the comments)!
I think they were all gone by the time I reached Rob's room on the 5th floor, but I can't remember. He can't either, so he must not have gotten one. Because I PIGGED OUT and ate them all.
They were air-popped crisps, with a crunchy texture, and I loved that. But more importantly, the taste! I believe I have made it known in this blahg before how I feel about hummus (YUMMUS!), and Kashi did not disappoint. I can't wait to try the other two flavors, Caramelized Onion and Tomato, Basil & Feta. Do those not sound amazing? To me, they do!
This picture makes me laugh. You'd think I'd realize the words would be reversed, but no. Anyway, that's all I have to show for my delicious bag of Kashi Hummus Crisps. Gone-in-a-flash is what they should have been called, if you ask me!
Of course, Kashi doesn't disappoint when it comes to nutrition, either. The crisps are made with whole grains and real chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), so you know you're getting plenty of fiber and protein in this snack. Both are high on my list of dietary priorities, so I'll be munching more - soon!
What else?
  • At least 3g fiber
  • At least 3g protein
  • At least 5g of whole grains
  • No partially hydrogenated oils
  • No high fructose corn syrup
  • No artificial anything! 
In the final analysis, I have to say, I honestly prefer these Kashi Hummus Crisps to, say, a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos. They have all of the delicious flavor with none of the guilt. I feel good about eating them!
Full Disclosure: Kashi and BzzAgent provided a bag of Sea Salt & Olive Oil Hummus Crisps to me for review and sharing, but all opinions expressed herein are, as always, my own. I received coupons, too, but not for free product. You can rest assured you'll always get my honest feedback!

Sunday Stealing: More Meme, Parts I, II, & III


Link up here if you're playing along today!

I've been absent for the past couple of weeks, since Rob's been in the Neuro ICU with his brain tumor drama again, so I'm catching up. For the players' sakes, I'll start with Part III and go backward from there. Enjoy!

Part III

Most daring Dare you have ever done? 

Hmmm. I don't recall, but we still "Dare" each other to do things, Hubs and I, except we call it "Ten Bucks" from the show Ed of a few years back. "Ten bucks if you go do XYZ," we'll say. Neither of us ever whips out a ten-spot, though! Recently I got ten-bucksed to call up a local seafood restaurant and ask how much their she-crab soup was.  I thought it was going to be around $20 a bowl, but it was pretty reasonable, so the call didn't turn out to be that funny. Wish I had something more entertaining for you!


When is the last time you did something you knew was wrong? 

Probably about a month ago. There was chocolate on the counter at the store where I'm always going, and I suddenly craved chocolate... so I took one. The cashier wasn't there and never returned, and I had to run, so I didn't get to pay for it, either. I've felt horrible about the 50¢ ever since!


What was on your mind most today? 

Well, it's only 0335, so the only real thing on my mind so far is my sore lip! One of our cats laid it open while I was sleeping and caused quite the commotion in our house. Hurts like the dickens!


Have a best friend? 


I do. My hubs, and my BFF Dr. Lisa are my two best friends. She's been my bestie since sixth grade, and I love her to death.

If you were upset, who’ s the first person you would go to? 

Absolutely, it would be Rob, my husband - whether he likes it or not, he gets to hear about all my woes. And the good stuff, too, of course.


When was the last time someone yelled at you? 

Maybe it's happened more recently, but Rob's nurse at the hospital the last time we dealt with his brain drama, back in June, really tore into me for coming in around 0600 and being too loud, waking up other patients. He was an asshole; I was really worried about Hubs and the care he was getting there, so... whatever. I insisted that nurse be taken off Rob's case. You don't need to yell at me and get in my face for being scared.

What have you done today, so far? 

So far, I've finished knitting a doll sweater, taken a shower, gotten my mouth booboo fixed up by Hubs, run to the store for a soda and donuts (I did wake everyone up, so I had to feed them!), dressed and typed up this and the Saturday 9 memes. Not bad for before 0400, huh?


What did last weekend consist of? 

We had a reprieve last weekend between intensive care visits, so we drove around much of Saturday and Sunday redeeming our birthday freebie coupons. My oldest kiddo, Chloë, and I had back-to-back birthdays.


What are you listening to? 

"Irreplaceable" by Beyoncé on IHeartRadio, on my iPhone


Who were you last in a car with? 

Hubs and our three kids, who went to the store for donuts with me - Rob carried Sophia in and out of the car, since she's in footy PJs and the ground was wet. Even though she's a ginormous 8-year-old, it was pretty cute!


Have you ever been called cute? 

Yes, mostly by me, because I am! ;)


Describe how you feel right now in one word: 



Has anybody ever told you that you talk too fast? 

Ha. Yes. I grew up in New York, and when I moved to South Carolina between high school and college, I worked at the Winn-Dixie down the road from my dad's apartment. I had to call on the microphone for stamps, manager approvals, and whatnot, and they were forever telling me to SLOW DOWN, because they couldn't understand me! I thought it was hilarious.


Did you have fun yesterday? 

Not really. I came down sick Friday evening and spent all of Saturday huddled in bed. Not how I wanted to spend this weekend with Rob finally out of the hospital, but I suppose it could be worse.


Do you like to cuddle? 

I do, but only when I'm in the mood. If someone's huggin' on me when I don't feel like it, I do get annoyed.


Do you think someone is thinking about you? 

Rob is, because I just asked him to reset the internet. Our internet is FOREVER "going down," so to speak, so we are constantly resetting it. Truly obnoxious. #FirstWorldProblems


Are you stubborn? 

About as stubborn as they come, I am!


Is there a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or ex that you will never forget? 

There is, but I don't think it's uncommon. Doesn't everyone have that person?


Thinking back, are there people you have no idea why you hung out with? 

Kind of. There were people who were a bad influence on me and made me behave in a way I'm not proud of. I'm actually still friends with most of them, and we're all different now. We don't hang out as a group anymore, though, which is probably a good thing.

How’s your heart? 

It's good. My husband is home from the hospital and feeling fine, which is a huge relief. Yeah. I'm good.

Are you easily amused? 

I would say I'm easily entertained. It takes a lot to make me really laugh, though; I appreciate anyone with an intellectual sense of humor. If you can make me laugh, you're in like Flynn!

Do you speak more than 2 languages? 

More than two? No... I can speak bits and pieces of about 15 different languages, but I can really only speak and understand English and Spanish well. My youngest kiddo, Sophia, was actually shocked to learn that I'm not Latina recently - she thought I was!

Are you doing anything tonight? 

It'll be Sunday night, so I'll be planning out our school week for my homeschooling kids. We took the past two weeks off to run around, back and forth to the hospital to visit and take care of Rob, so we have a bunch of catching up to do.

Is there a person of the same sex who means a lot to you? 

There are several! My sister, Dr. Lisa (BFF, mentioned above), my daughters, ... and many more. Not necessarily in that order.

Is your hair naturally straight? 

Like a stick! People are always asking where Chloë got her wicked curly hair, and she always proudly responds, "From my daddy!"

What happened at 10:00 am? 

I haven't a clue. It hasn't happened yet today, and I was dead to the world for it on Saturday.

What were you doing at ten last night? 

Same thing, sleeping. I've felt like crap!

Have you made someone happy today? 

I have. The kids got to ride to the store and pick out doughnuts in the middle of the night. Pretty cool for them, eh?

Is it hard for you to get over someone? 

Hm. It depends on the situation, but as far as exes, I'm almost always the one who does the breaking up, so there's some crying and then it's over. As far as people who die, I don't get over that very easily at all.

Think it’s disgusting when girls get really wasted? 

I don't know if "disgusting" is the word I'd choose to use. Probably more like "sad," if it's a frequent occurrence, especially one that goes on and on for years... There's just so much more to life. And why does it have to be for girls only? It applies to guys, too, IMO.

How long did it take you to get over your last ex? 

My last ex would be Jamil. We were engaged and lived together. He hit me, and I landed in a bookshelf and broke my two front teeth. I kicked him out after that, obviously breaking up with him in the process. Within two weeks, I had met my now-husband. Two months after that, we were married, and very shortly after that, I was pregnant with Chloë. I have given Jamil very little thought since the teeth incident.

When you are home alone do you still close the door when you shower?


Decidedly not. I don't even shut it when everyone's here, unless we have company (which we never do). I can't stand the bathroom and mirror all steamed up, so I leave it open.

Meh. I guess I'll do Parts I & II later. I need to get back to my knitting. Cheers!


So Chloë Is Twelve, And I Am Old.


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

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


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


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


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


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

And how cute does she look in that dress?


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

Moving on...


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

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

Ah, the love.

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

Birthdays And Other Blessings


At the tail end of August, Rob turned 41 years old. That was on Friday, the 30th. By Sunday night, he was back in the hospital.

If you're a regular reader here, you'll remember that he has had a cerebellar/peduncular brain tumor that has been quite naughty in the past several months. He had five Cyberknife radiation surgery treatments in July, which we thought would be the end of the trouble, but we were wrong.

He's been quite dizzy since he finished treatment, and then his headaches came back with increasing severity and frequency. He'd had a cold and thought he was dealing with a sinus infection and inner ear trouble, so we didn't rush back for a follow-up like we should have.


On Saturday, the last day of August, he started driving Team Odette to Miami's South Beach for a visit with my longtime internet friend, Kellee. It was the first time we were going to meet in "real life," so of course I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

However, he was swerving all over the road right from the beginning, so after two or three swerves, I demanded he pull over and let me drive. He insisted he was FINE, DAMMIT, but I knew. I just knew. I called Dr. Shaya, his neurosurgeon, and let him know. Monday was Labor Day, so he set up an appointment for first thing Tuesday morning.

He seemed pretty okay at the beach, but after we returned home that evening, his behavior became a little "off" like it had been back in June. Not as bad, and nothing I can specifically put my finger on, but something was up. I told him we were going to head over to the local emergency department for an MRI to check on things. I wanted to have the image anyway, to bring to Dr. Shaya, so he could determine if Cyberknife had done what it was supposed to do.

Well, it wasn't good news. From the sound of things at the ER, Rob was in dire straits. His brain was bleeding, and there was inflammation and swelling pushing on the rest of his brain from the site of the cavernous angioma that radiation had treated. Indeed, when we talked to Dr. Shaya the following morning at the University of Miami Hospital, where they quickly transferred him, he told us that, "When they called me, I thought [he was] dead."


At UM, Rob was put in the Neuro ICU for observation and further testing. He had an MRI and an MRA, along with a CT scan. Our medical bills were mounting, and since Rob continues to search for post-retirement employement, we can hardly pay our household bills, let alone anything additonal. His sister Gail set up a fundraiser for us, and between the amount that has been raised and the prayers from all over the country - nay, the world - we have been beside ourselves with gratitude. It's amazing.

On Wednesday, Rob was taken out of the N-ICU and put in a regular bed, and then he was released this past Thursday afternoon. Or maybe it was Thursday and Friday; I don't know, because the days run together when you're in hospital, don't they?


Cyberknife takes three full months for the patient to receive the full benefit of treatment, unless progress is interrupted by a bleed. Unfortunately, the latter situation is what happened in Rob's case. Dr. Shaya and his radiologist oncologist, Dr. Fayed, discussed the case at length before deciding how to proceed.

They determined that the bleed had happened about two weeks prior, and there was nothing to do but watch him closely for another couple of months to see how the remaining time since Cyberknife would go. In the meantime, he has to take steroids to reduce the swelling and conquer his dizziness, get MRIs to track progress, and have his symptoms tracked (by me) and reported to his doctors. If anything else happens, we're to report back to UM Hospital immediately. Do not pass "GO," do not collect a paycheck.

This past weekend, Birthday Season continued for Team Odette. Chloë turned 12 (TWELVE!!!!) on Saturday, and my 37th birthday was the following day. I'm so thankful the five of us were able to be together for the birthday fun that ensued, which I'll report on in a separate post.


Rob's dizziness continues, along with some nausea from the steroids and extreme tiredness from I-don't-know-what. He has slept endlessly when we haven't been on-the-go for birthday fun. Other than that, he's doing pretty well, considering.

Anyway, folks, that's why I've been missing in action yet again. I'll post soon, if not immediately, with pictures from the joint birthday I share with my older daughter!


An Open Letter Of Thanks To #Campbells

Dear Campbells,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I thank you, and my husband thanks you.



Susie Homemaker Visits The Garden


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

(Yeah, I probably will.)


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


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


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


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



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



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


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


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


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

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


Saturday 9: Dedicated To The One I Love

At least this time, I'm only a day late, instead of three or four. Or five. Link is here if you're a latecomer like me!
Thanks to Diana for recommending the Mamas and the Papas. (You can listen to the song here.)

1) The lyrics include the line, "Love can never be exactly what we what it to be." Are you happy with your love life?


I am ecstatically happy. Marrying Rob was the one sure thing, the one thing I got right in this life.
2) Another lyric is, "Each night before you go to bed, whisper a little prayer for me." Do you say your prayers?
I do pray. When I thought my husband was going to die two weeks ago, and when my son was really dying, are the hardest, most earnest times I've prayed. I mostly pray thankful as opposed to asking prayers, but they all count.
3) Mama Michelle and Papa John were married in real life. It didn't end well -- not for the couple and not for the band. Do you believe you could work successfully with a romantic partner?
I have done it, and it was okay. Sure, I think it's doable. Maybe it didn't work in this case, but that's just one example.

4) After the band broke up, Michelle tried her hand at acting and eventually became a regular on the nighttime soap, Knott's Landing. Of course, she could live off of her music royalties while she learned her new craft. If money was no object, what career would like to try?

If money were no object, I would arts and crafts as my working-hobby. I mean, I do ply my hand at it in my Etsy shop, changing my wares with my whims, but I haven't been too successful. I do it for fun more than anything else.
5) There is a famous rumor -- completely false -- that Mama Cass died while eating a ham sandwich. Can you think of another urban legend? 

I can think of a hundred at any other time, but man, you put me on the spot and they disappear! I think my sister-in-law did her thesis on urban legends, or something like that - ask her! ;)
6) In the 1960s, every high school girl wanted to wear her hair like Michelle and Cass -- long and straight. Can you recall a fashion trend from your school days?
It was the 80s. Come on. High hair - high, high bangs with a can of hairspray in it. Ugh. I played along, too. It was not so pretty.
7) With the Fourth of July falling on Thursday, are you able to enjoy a looooong four-day holiday weekend?

I guess you could say that, yeah.
8) Many communities have parades to celebrate Independence Day. Have you ever ridden on a float or marched in a parade?

I have. As a Brownie, and later as an adult Girl Scout leader. Also in the 4H club as a kid and... for something else I can't remember. Dancing, maybe?
9) In honor of the Fourth of July, name your favorite Founding Father.
I think Ben Franklin was my favorite. I'm pretty fond of electricity... 
Well, onto Sunday Stealing. "BRB," as my girls like to say!