Entries categorized "Trips Afield" Feed

January '16 Wrap-Up


Black-and-white portrait of the man I love, Robert Allen Odette

So, I haven't blogged as much this infant year as I had planned, because I became even sicker than I had been all throughout the latter half-plus of 2015. That sucked. Basically, I had my iron infusion chemotherapy on December 21st and 28th, and I did not react well to it. I had a semi-kinda-fake-it-'til-you-make-it rally on New Year's Eve, when we went to South Beach for the big par-tay. And then I rested a whole bunch on New Year's Day, before we drove up to Orlando on the 2nd of January to celebrate Rob's and my 15th wedding anniversary.

Well. That sucked. That was actually for a mystery shopping assignment and fun though it was, I almost did not make it home. I had to stop and rest several times along the way, once for several hours, because I was in excruciating pain again. I never did complete that report. That was a Sunday.

By Tuesday, I was calling my father and my BFF, "Dr. Lisa," to say my good-byes. No, I did not call my sister yet at that time, because I knew she would rush down if I told her that I needed her to come help with the kids and Rob after my demise, and I was hoping for a Hail Mary.

Well, obviously, I got my Hail Mary! We still aren't sure what happened yet, because my ER lab results and my primary care doctor are calling it iron toxicity from an overdose of the chemo, but my hem/oncologist swears that I received the correct dose. So, I have no idea, other than that my death definitely seemed imminent but was clearly averted.

Whew. Anyway!

I spent a ridiculous amount of time lying on the couch recovering from that episode. I felt like I got NOTHING accomplished for the whole month other than recuperating. I did, however, manage to take a bunch of pictures of stuff, and lo and behold, as I discovered last night, that means I actually did stuff worthy (at least to me, so, good enough folks!) of that photography. I'm going to share it all here because, uh, that's kinda the purpose of this interwebular space, amirite?


Black-and-white profile of my sleeping beauty, Sophia Lorelei


This is from the 8th of January, when Sophia was feeling poorly from a yucky cold virus, and I was feeling poorly from all the aforementioned whatever-the-feck. We were lying together on Rob's lap, if you can discern his camouflage trousers in my sepia tones. A selfie? I asked. Of course, she responded. Snap


I rarely wear jeans, and never wear boots - certainly not leather ones - so when Rob pulled out my man-made pleather knee-highs from the depths of our closet, I decided to go for it and rock the cowgirl look at one of Sophia's showjumping lessons. Or something. No stetson atop my head, though. The big accomplishment here, though, is that I was up and about, ready to attend her lessons again!


That night, I felt like crap again and learned that my recovery would not come all at once but in slow bursts and small backslides each day and night. I rested and kvetched about how miserable I was... so much so that my awesome hubs asked what he could do to make my awful night better. Five minutes later, he was giving me his first pedicure. Not a bad job, either! ā™„

IMG_20160117_190523  IMG_20160117_191248

Puppy love from Otterbox (Otto von Dieter) and the Doodle (Paco)


Rob and I, starting our 16th year of wedding bliss, are connecting on a whole 'nother level lately. Our marriage has had some really high highs and some really low lows, but right now we are absolutely soaring. It takes work, every day, absolutely. But we are both crazier about each other now than when we first began this story of true love.

January 2016

Rob and Jack both received NERF guns from Grandpa Al & Grandma Denise (thanks, y'all!) for Christmas, and Jack received several more from Ye Olde Maw an' Paw, so the boys were thirsting for an old-fashioned (water) gun fight! Okay, so that wasn't truly an accomplishment of mine, per se, but at least I got up off my duff and out the door to take some piccies!


On Wednesday, my neighbor drove Sophia and me to see my hem/oncologist. Sophia had a lesson right afterward, and I could not drive. The visit went well, I had blood drawn, blah blah blah. Afterward, our vecino, Frank, insisted us taking to the Sports Grille next door for a bite to eat before her lesson. Selfie time for me and Sophie!


And here's that neighbor, Frank, with me watching Sophia's lesson that day. He absolutely loved watching her ride Buddy. Frank clapped and cheered, and he called her a champion! It was really fun watching it through his fresh eyes, and it's true. On Wednesday, Sophie really did an amazing job!



Sophia walking Buddy to get saddled up


Buddy doesn't like to get his riding gear on, and he gets a little nippy. Once ridden, though, he's a gentle giant. He loves Sophia, though - and that might be due in no small part to her bringing him a treat at the beginning and end of each lesson!

DSC_0007  DSC_0008

Sophia had achievements in January, too. She and buddy jumped together for the first time, and she got up to a canter, too! Way to go, kiddo!



It looks so freeing...


This is the only picture I have gotten of Sophie and Buddy jumping so far, but there been many perfect jumps since then. Gosh, I'm so proud of how far she's come in just four short months!


Sweet sign made by one of the other 'horsey moms'



Craftiness happened this month, too. I was bound and determined not to let the extreme pain in all my joints stop me from doing what I really love and find so calming: knitting. So... I started with this top for myself (and yes, some champagne might have been involved in a few mishaps there):


But, they're fixable.


I'm pretty happy with it, even though I would do a Small instead of a Medium next time, and extend the belly ribbing so it covers more of my, uh, mommy pooch... lol. But it's good. I might even wear it out one day?!


All the kids got onboard with Mommy knitting again, and all have asked for projects for themselves. We had a bit of a cold snap there, and Sophie already loves gloves and mittens, so together we picked out a pattern that's a combo of both.


Meet Tatiana. Yes, there are booboos and it's a bit tight, but my fingers are out of practice and frankly, my eyes just don't see as well anymore! But Sophie is happy and that's what matters. Now to work on the bottom halves some...

DSC_0001 (2)

Speaking of craftiness, Jack and Sophia received their Tinker and Doodle Crates for the month, respectively. Their arrival is always a fun day.

DSC_0003 (3)  DSC_0005 (3)

For Jack's project, he had to build a gravity game. He really enjoys doing the Tinker Crates along with the YouTube videos for each one, so his tablet was trotted out for the assist.

DSC_0007 (3)

I told Jack that if he could get the ball into the 50-point hole at the end, he could have a day off from Math work. Guess who had the next day off from Math?!

DSC_0002 (2)

Sophia's project was about Watercolor Painting, which is something she knows and loves.

DSC_0006 (2)  DSC_0009 (3)

She had to learn about color gradients, which was new and challenging for her. And then she painted some dishes, including my FiestaWare, which, um... was NOT okay with me!!! (But now I can laugh. A bit.)


For a bit more craftiness, Sophia fashioned these awesome sandals out of fallen palm fronds. I got a kick out of it!


 IMG_20160116_112322 20160124_211449-1

I needed a lot of help to get out to Bee Heaven Farm this month, which is where we get our weekly CSA shares, but Rob, Sophia, and Frank were happy to help me get there and get our box of fresh, local, organic goods!


You know what fresh food means? Cooking. This first dish, I went pretty simple: Salad. I wilted the kale first and did a stir-fry with some watermelon radish, some kind of pepper I forget the name of, and then just threw it together with pecans and shredded Colby Jack. Meh, it was all right, but Rob had to finish my dose portion.


A made-up dish: fried egg with (also-fried) French Couscous, topped with a conglomerate of stir-fried veggies from Bee Heaven Farm. And Spanish peanuts. I guess I was going for a whole fusion thing? I dunno, but it was tasty.


Kitchen Sink Mashed Potatoes

I don't think any of this was comfort food fare was from the farm, but that's okay. During my recuperation from the chemo debacle, I ate and ate and ate like a mofo! I've never eaten so much in the seven years post-op. And I still lost weight! It was cray-cray. Anyway, I used to make this in my poverty-ridden days as a vegetarian college student: loaded mashed potatoes. I add corn, sautĆ©ed Vidalia onions, cheese (I loves me some cheesy goodness), garlic... and all kindsa' salt, pepper, milk and butter. Mmm. So. Freaking. Good!


I made Ethiopian food for the first time ever! This vegan Gomen Wat was soooo good, I ate like five platefuls. Okay, maybe six? I'm definitely going to make it again. And no, I didn't serve it on a beautious bed of injera, because... um. Because and that's why.

IMG_20160120_105802  IMG_20160120_122838

Southwestern Chili Mac


Chloƫ wanted to hone her cooking chops in the kitchen with me one night when I was too manic to cook, so I somewhat crazily guided her through the recipe from Hello Fresh for Butternut Squash and Sage Risotto with Feta and Pepitas. She somehow, despite my sabotage, managed to pull off a stellar dish! Rob and I inhaled the goodness she made. Way to go, Chlo!


Sophia wanted to join her sister in preparing a meal the kids would actually eat, and she lovingly put together a vermicelli and sauce dinner for the three of them. (There was supposed to be garlic bread too, but Mom forgot to keep reminding her to check the oven and, well, I'm just glad we didn't burn the house down.) Well done, ladies! ā™„


I baked a scrummy loaf of bread, nothing fancy but tasty as all-get-out.


Jack and the girls pal around with the neighborhood kids, so one day while they held yet another NERF gun fight, I baked them up some peanut butter cookies to share with their friends. That plate came back EMPTY. Go, Mom. (Yes, I did diligently check for allergies first.)


PlƔtanos fritos

 I had never fried plantains before, in all my years of living in South Florida, though I sure have enjoyed eating my share of them! We did a quickie grocery trip to Publix and talked about making our own, at which point I just thought, Why not now? Some super-green plantains, a bunch of kosher salt, and a healthy squeeze of lemon, et voilĆ”! Talk about tasty. I'll definitely be doing that again!


One week, our CSA box came with two of the most beautiful, juicy red grapefruits you ever wished to have. Oh. Em. Gee. (NO accomplishment here, I just wanted to drool over it some more. Moving on...)


I had planned on making these Honeyed Butternut Squashes from the CSA box myself, but after chopping up two good-sized gourds, I was petered out. Rob had to finish the cooking for me himself, and he did an amazeballs job. They ended up too sweet for my grumpy pouch, Oscar, and I experienced a lot of Dumping Syndrome. But I swear, I would've eaten them all if I could have!

January 2016-001

And lastly - but surely not least - on the cooking front, I made some of my favorite Artisanal Rustic Pizzas. The dough recipe comes from a back issue of Martha Stewart Living but the toppings are my creation. The kids don't like my fanciful ideas, so I made them a plain cheese-and sauce one. Only, we only had cheddar in the house and no sauce, so I had to improvise and make some sauce from scratch. Jack didn't care for it - he's no cheese fan (tha' heck?!) - but the girls devoured every last piece of Pizza #1.

Pizza #2 was the same but with a bunch of roasted organic scallions from the BHF CSA box on top. I unvented a different homemade sauce for that one. Rob is lucky he had any of that one, because I snatched up every last piece after he had his share!

Pizza #3 was way more unconventional: a third different homemade sauce, using torn-up fresh organo from the CSA box. Cheddar cheese, natch. And for toppers? I threw on chopped walnuts, pea sprouts from BHF, capers, and a drizzle of honey. I didn't think I would like that. My scale says the opposite! (Rob loved it, also.)

Whew. Now I'm getting hungry!



Random January blooms in the neighborhood


Rob and I were startled to find Jack, Sophia, and a neighborhood boy carrying a box with this "abandoned" duckling in it one day. They insisted its mother had left it and gone swimming with the rest of her brood. Of course, I had my camera with me. They took the ducky out of its box, I snapped a picture or two, and then... he waddled off, like a bat out of hell! Ahaha. So much for being helpless.


Here, leezard, leezard... 

Just an anole visitor who ran away from me at the horse farm after I let out a belly-bursting sneeze

IMG_20160119_230528  IMG_20160124_123608

Lest you were thinking you'd get away from me without sharing some puppy pix... heeeeere's PACO! ā™„

IMG_20160117_140420  IMG_20160124_125418

Otterbox is really a beautiful GSD, but he's hard to photograph well sometimes. Anyway, this month, Robert declared that he has chosen ME as "his person," which about blew my heart up with joy. Our previous German Shepherd, Tiger Lily, was supposed to be my dog, but she chose Rob for her person. The exact opposite happened this time. And I love Otty-bot soooo much. He was a bit of trouble at first, but now he is just the most fun, loving, sweet thing, and I'm glad he is a part of our wackadoodle family!

And that's about it for the round-up! Here's another cookie, if you read the whole danged thing.


Wordless Wednesday: Our 15th Anniversary Celebration at WonderWorks Orlando

On January 2, 2016, Rob and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary! To celebrate, we took the kids and headed up north to Orlando, Florida. We spent hours at WonderWorks, a really cool hands-on, science-y museum. We had a great time, but I won't bore you with words, since this is WW. Without further ado, here are a whole LOOOT of photos:

DSC_0002  DSC_0006  DSC_0008  DSC_0010  DSC_0011  DSC_0014  DSC_0015  DSC_0016  DSC_0017  DSC_0019  DSC_0020  DSC_0022  DSC_0023  DSC_0024  DSC_0025  DSC_0026  DSC_0027  DSC_0032  DSC_0033  DSC_0035  DSC_0036  DSC_0037  DSC_0040  DSC_0041  DSC_0042  DSC_0043  DSC_0044  DSC_0045  DSC_0047  DSC_0048  DSC_0050  DSC_0051  DSC_0052  DSC_0054  DSC_0055  DSC_0058  DSC_0059  DSC_0060  DSC_0061  DSC_0062  DSC_0064  DSC_0065  DSC_0066  DSC_0069  DSC_0076  DSC_0077  DSC_0089  DSC_0090  DSC_0093  DSC_0096  DSC_0100  DSC_0103    DSC_0104  DSC_0105  DSC_0116  DSC_0117  DSC_0124  DSC_0134  DSC_0142  DSC_0148  DSC_0151  DSC_0153  DSC_0154  DSC_0155  DSC_0156  DSC_0158  DSC_0163  DSC_0165  DSC_0170  DSC_0171  DSC_0172  DSC_0173  DSC_0175  DSC_0176  DSC_0178  DSC_0180  DSC_0181  DSC_0182  DSC_0183

Whew! That was a lot of uploading... I hope you enjoyed the photos!

Feeling WORDLESS today? Link up here with 5 Minutes For Mom to share your pix!


Road Trippin': Miami To Missouri


Earlier this month, we spent about ten days on the road to Missouri and back. From here in Homestead, Florida, it's a two-day drive. Since I have been really unwell lately, I allotted 2Ā½ days on either end, and it worked out perfectly that way. 

Rob's mother and brother live in Missouri still, and Rob's dad drove down from Michigan to see us, too. We and Mike (Hubs' bro) and all five of our joint kids spent a full Sunday together. Here is our Sophia, aged 10 (on the right), with Elizabeth, Mike's 9-year-old daughter. She looks a lot like her mom, but you can still definitely see the Odette in her!


This picture of 12-year-old Jack getting a good-bye hug from his nearly 8-year-old cousin, Harrison, just breaks my heart. Seriously. I could sob every time I look at it. My kids have wonderful relatives, but they are all far, far away.


Well, hello, locust bits..! cringe

Missouri Trip

Another day, Rob's mom took us to Kehde's Barbecue in Sedalia, where there was so much eye candy everywhere we looked. I had as much as the Littles, and of course even 14-year-old ChloĆ« had to get on the mechanical horse. Truthfully, I tooted that whistle a time or two myself, so who's to talk? The food was wonderful, too. Great fun!


There was a lot of talking going on amongst the adults, but when Chloƫ told me to look over at where she and Jack were playing with the blocks from a game of Jenga, I was thrilled at what I saw. Genetics is one of my favorite parts of all Biology, so to find them making DNA was pretty dang cool for this homeschooling mom.


We headed out after our time was up in Missouri, tempted to visit Mike (and maybe the kids?) again in Columbia, MO, on our way out of the state. However, Mike is chef and part-owner of a wonderful restaurant there, Sycamore, and we didn't want to interfere with his many duties. I know we all would have liked one more hello, hug, and so long for now from Uncle Mike, but... Rob opted to just keep going.

So here are the girls shivering it up at a rest stop in Tennessee. We had bought all their non-Miami clothing at Osh Kosh here - the day we left town! - and I'm glad we did. They would have frozen to death if we had not. (Another plug for the gals, Vivian and Idalia at the OKBG outlet near here in Florida City, because their personalized customer service was outstanding!)

I'm so glad we were able to go!


Wordless Wednesday: Animal Shelter Donations


I had the children write a Summer Bucket List for this past break, and one of the items on their list was to visit the animal shelter and donate some food to the kitties and poochies. Well, we visited the SPCA in Aiken, SC, with my dad back in August as you can read here, but we didn't have any donations.

A couple of days ago, I picked up some Purina ProPlan dog food and all kinds of canned cat food for them to donate to our local Humane Society. Today, during our lunch break, we delivered the food to our nearest office, where it will be distributed to the surrounding areas most in need. And they were most grateful, which was really uplifting to realize.

Yay for crossing something great off our SBL!

Are you Wordless today? Link up here with 5 Minutes For Mom to join in the fun.

Thanks for stopping by!


Field Trip: Everglades Outpost


On Tuesday, we used a Living Social voucher to go visit the nearby Everglades Outpost Wildlife Refuge for a school field trip. We had the place nearly to ourselves, and Jenny was happy to give us an insider's tour to learn more about the animals and their backstories. Zulu, here, was the first critter to come up and say hello.


The mules and Chewy the camel followed along shortly behind Zulu. Chewy was rescued from a habitat in Central Florida where he was beaten up by other male camels, so his previous owners sent him to the Outpost.


Jenny brought out apples for the kids to feed Chewy. He was HUNGRY, and he munched down the snacks gratefully.






Zulu is ready for his close-up.


Afterward, we were given Alligator Nuggets (basically, meat held together with blood - yum!) to feed to the gators.


Our arrival inspired a feeding frenzy, during which it was revealed that far more rescued alligators were living in the Outpost than we could originally see. Holy schmokes!


Kenya the brown lemur was our next visit. His story, as you can see here on his sign, is rather sad. All of his teeth removed?! What the what!


The lack of teeth makes his tongue stick out all the time, and his dietary requirements changed, too. Poor Kenya.


The Scarlet Macaw and... uh, the other birdie-boo, made good pals. LOUD good pals.


I tried to get a better picture of the macaque, but my camera wasn't cooperating. Okay, it was operator error, but so what?


Sabal, the Florida Panther residing at the Outpost, was stunningly beautiful.


The birdie-bird on the left, the yellow guy, was new to the Outpost. They haven't determined his temperament yet, but they would like to pair him with the fella on the right soon.



In the reptile exhibit, we first encountered soft-shelled turtles.


The Burmese python was juuuust a little big. Just a bit.


Venomous rattlesnakes captured Chloƫ's attention for a bit...



A confiscated Gila Monster


This 'gator, Godzilla, doesn't play well with the rest of the gators, so he has his own habitat. We didn't get to feed him bloody meat nuggets. Darn. ;)


I liked the various paintings on trees in the Outpost quite a lot, so, here.


Next, Jenny led us to the alligator wrangling pit, so we could hold a baby specimen.


Jenny kept the baby alligator where... I would not dare to do so.




All of the kids got a chance to hold the baby. His mouth was taped, just in case...!



Our next visit was to the wolves. There were two habitats. Jenny had something exciting in store for us here!




All of us were given a chance to feed the wolves chicken pieces on the long campfire-like sticks. They, ah, wolfed them down quickly. See what I did there?


Jenny took us across from the wolves to meet the Siberian-Bengal mix tigers. They were monstrously huge! We had a few fun surprises in store here, too.




Jenny taught the kids to hold their hands flat against the cage, with nothing sticking inside, lest they - y'know - lose a finger or some such. Chloƫ got licked by the female tiger, and this was such a huge thrill to my cat-loving curly girl!




The "kitties" were still hungry after their little bit of meat that we gave them, but we moved along after being assured that they'd have plenty to eat quite soon. Walmart provides all of the food for the Outpost, which is rather great of this otherwise-eh corporation, right?


The Florida Brown Bear was quite dangerous, having taken a few fingers as souvenirs over the years, so we didn't get to feed him. He was interested in saying hello to us, though! Jenny told us he likes treats, like the occasional sprinkled doughnut, so we may stop over and bring him one this weekend.


Peaches was quite talkative and said hello to us approximately 39 times. Give or take.


After that, it was time to head home and talk about what we'd learned. The experience was great, and we were invited back anytime - particularly if we had carrots, apples, fresh meat, or anything of that ilk to share with the rescued critters. I heartily recommend a visit if you're in the area!


Glad To Go, But Aiken To Leave

Unknown Mami

 Link up with Unknown Mami HERE if you're participating today! (warning: this is a long and photo-rich post)

So on August 8th, after a conversation with my dad, I became sufficiently panicked about there being a life-or-death situation happening in his home that I booked a hotel room for that Monday-thru-Friday for myself and the rest of Team Odette. I booked, then informed Rob that we had to go to South Carolina. Such is not like me, but I was desperately concerned and not sure what I would find. Long story short, my dad was severely depressed, barely eating anything, suffering from a bad case of shingles, and so on and so forth. I was, to put it mildly, worried.


I had two priorities for my visit to see my dad last week: Get him to go to a doctor, for maybe the first time in his entire life, and cook enough to fill his freezer full of delicious and easy-to-reheat meals. He is a major meat-and-potatoes guy, whereas I'm mostly vegetarian, so this presented somewhat of a challenge for me.


For months, Dad had been singing the praises of Aldi to me, but the one time I tried to go, I was not aware ahead of time that I needed a quarter to rent a shopping cart or that I needed to bring my own bags and boxes, so I never even made it inside the store. This trip, however, Dad was determined to get me inside the store, and so I took my father shopping at Aldi in Aiken.


I went up and down each aisle with my dad, who normally subsists on unhealthy convenience foods, explaining about olive oil being a much healthier alternative to other vegetable-based oils and extolling the virtues of getting a well-balanced diet with well-rounded nutrition for his aging body's needs. He mostly smirked in his "Sure, I"ll humor you, Mel" way, but I think some of it got through.


We arrived on Monday, checked in to our craptastic Howard Johnson motel on Whiskey Road in Aiken (if I could give it negative stars on Trip Advisor, I totes would), and I met up with my dad to do the shopping. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I cooked pretty much the whole day. I had to remember he wanted ground beef in his lasagna, so that was different for me. I promise I didn't cringe; I'm a non-judgemental veggie. I did his roast chicken and his pot roast in the crockpot his ex-wife had left behind. I made a shrimp scampi, baked cheesy artichokes with a lemon aioli dip for him to share with Rob one night, and so much more.

The most tempting for me, though, were the giant blackberries in the impossibly enormous muffins I made him. Whilst they cooled, I eyed those things ferociously, but I quickly popped them individually into the freezer before I took a nibble or ten. However, you can bet your sweet patoot that I bought some blackberries yesterday, and I plan on a repeat of that recipe for Team Odette in the extremely near future. My mouth is officially watering!


On Tuesday, while I cooked up a storm and dirtied every pot, dish, and utensil in Dad's meager kitchen, I dropped off Rob and the kids at Richardson's Lake down the road from the house. Despite my urgings, Hubs took not one single photo, so I had to steal this one off of Google Images. The kiddos had the time of their lives, swimming, jumping and diving, while Rob watched from his position in the sand. And still, I cooked, bagged, labeled, and froze the food for Dad.

Equine Rescue 031

Unfortunately, the kids forgot (and Rob didn't remind them) to reapply their sunscreen, so a week later, all are still suffering the effects of sunburnt faces. They look cute with some pink coloring on their faces, sure, but we all know that such damage is no bueno. There's Sophia on my dad's loveseat. I took a few pics inside his beach-themed home to help practice on his little digital camera, with which he was itching to become acquainted.

Equine Rescue 003

Chloƫ, who probably got the worst sunburn of them all, relaxed in Dad's living room after the visit to the lake. The kids fell asleep, all of them, on the living room floor while I fixed the shrimp scampi for their dad and grandfather.

Equine Rescue 028

Jack, of course, is never one to enjoy getting his photo taken. I don't know why; he's as cute as a button, but whatevs. Paco was happy to oblige me, right?!

* * * * * * * *

Equine Rescue 005

On Wednesday, before I got into the big cooking job of the day, Dad wanted to take us down the road from his house to the Equine Rescue of Aiken. They have about 70 rescued horses, among other animals, on acre after acre of beautiful pasture. Forgive my lack of proper terminology here, because I don't really know horse lingo too well, but I was wholly impressed by this privately-owned operation.

Equine Rescue 008

We were given a private tour of the facility by Caroline, who was extremely knowledgeable not only about the horses but also the ins and outs of running the Equine Rescue. I hadn't brought my wallet with me to the shelter, but I definitely plan to make a pilgrimage back to the Rescue every time we go visit my dad from here on out and, not just but partly because Sophia is such a huge horse lover, support their efforts.

Equine Rescue 011

 We had suspicious about why some of the horses were wearing these blinder-thingies, but we were all wrong; it was to help keep the flies out of their eyes.

Equine Rescue 018

I can't remember this woman's name, but she came up to us and offered assistance. Before our complimentary golf court tour with Caroline, she educated us on horses near the parking area. She was great with horses and kids alike, and she took it in complete stride when Sophia pointed out some kind of injury or infection on this horse's leg. 

Equine Rescue 024

On our tour, Caroline took an abundance of questions, mostly from me, with a great degree of both patience and knowledge. She also stopped frequently to let the kids off and pet the horses that were approachable. This one was so sweet; Sophia and Chloƫ bounded up the fence - and would have gone over it - to visit this guy!

The Aiken Equine Rescue visit was incredibly impressive. I'm so thankful my father had the idea for the field trip. We'll definitely be back! You can follow them on Facebook here, especially if you're near the Aiken/Augusta area of the world.

* * * * * * * *


Armed with the knowledge that the Odettelettes are major animal lovers, my dad suggested another great field trip for Thursday. I wanted him to take it easy and not feel like he had to entertain us, since he was feeling awful and I was there to take care of him, but he insisted he was up to it. And so, we ventured out the the Aiken SPCA (here is their Facebook page).


All three kids are enormous cat lovers, so of course they were in seventh heaven the moment we walked up and saw several in the windows. Before we got there, I warned the kids at least twice but maybe thrice that NO PETS WOULD BE COMING HOME with us to Miami!


I loved this sign. It warmed the cockles of my heart.


I don't know who was more active in there, the kids or the animals wanting to be adopted. Photography was not ideal. I don't like the motion setting on my Nikon, so... what you get is what you get.


Chloƫ will grow up to be (and frankly already is) a crazy cat lady, I have no doubt. She wants to be a cat-specific veterinarian, and I'm quite certian she would marry her Maine Coon, Pepper, if interspecies weddings were legal!


Stupid comment, maybe, but I just think itty-bitty Jack with a normal-sized watch on his wrist makes for a super cute image...


"Hi there, please adopt us?"


Sophia had a blast playing with this trio of kitties. They were in a display room that could be seen from outside, and once we discovered we could actually enter the rooms that didn't specifically prohibit it, oh ma gaw. The kids were giddy with excitement.




My dad and one of the SPCA residents, which is funny because he's notoriously not a cat lover


I'm partial to white cats myself. I'd love a Persian or Himalayan someday, but yeah. The expense is something I can't stomach!


The kids get their love of cats from Hubs. He would adopt ALL THE CATS if his wife would allow it.


Oh, somebody discovered El Gato Blanco.


These three puppies got out when we were trying to get in. Hysterical puppy chasing ensued. The volunteer in that area was less than amused. Don't worry; I made up for it.


That's Sophia for you, making friends everywhere she goes!


Finally, we got those puppies back in their room. I stayed outside to help corral them when Chloƫ and Jack emerged from their playtime!


Oops, my corralling efforts were to no avail! At least the volly was in better humor about the escape artists the second time!


I can't remember this pup's name, but she was beautiful, I thought. She was definitely eager to find a new family and home!


This nine-year-old pooch is Mitsy. I fell in love at first sight when I saw her. She needs me. SHE. NEEDS. ME. If she's still there when/if we move to the Space Coast next Spring, count on an adoption!


Another playful pup


Rob is much more a cat-person than a dog lover, but he's an all-around animal lover like the rest of his nonetheless. He prefers large dogs, which makes his deep affinity for our Chihuahua, Paco, all the more strange.



This employee came into the canine quarters to let me visit with Mitsy up close and personal. Holy crap, did we bond. I loved her, she loved me... she NEEDS me, people!!!


Sophia wanted to get into this room, but these two dogs were SO excited by her visit, they started getting jealously snarly with each other. I made her exit the room post haste.


A much calmer resident


We weren't allowed to visit or, if we had wanted to, adopt this guy. I don't know what kind of broken home he came from, but apparently he did not have auspicious beginnings at the shelter. Poor dude. I hope his situation improves.


Jack: "Look at these three puppies, Mom! Can we take them home?"

Me: "NO."


Sophia wanted to visit the trio, too. She implored similarly to Jack. My answer was the same: NO!


There were a number of thought-provoking quotes on the walls of the shelter. This is the one I loved the most.


Remember the three escape-artist puppies from earlier? Their escapades wore them out. It's possible they got even cuter!


On our way out of the SPCA, we noted the kittens were equally, er, fatigued. Three Odette kiddos will do that to ya!

* * * * * * * *


I don't remember ever having been in a Hobby Lobby in my life, but Dad wanted to visit and get some Christmas ideas for the kids. WOW! I'm not sure I agree with their politics, but I found lots of great inspiration for decorating our next home in there. As for Jack, he found what he wanted for Christmas. The boy, he looks his flying machines.


When we passed the art prints, the girls picked this one out of a myriad of images and almost in unison exclaimed, "We did this in Art class!" Indeed, they did make their own versions of this famous Kandinksy work, and I was proud and pleased that they remembered it!

082314 Chloƫ, Artist Kandinksy

Here was Chloƫ's interpretation of the above Kandinksy. I had encouraged them to put their own unique flair in their assignments, and clearly Chloƫ ran with the idea.


I found this photo and had to show it to Rob. I need this in our house! I tease him all the time about his apish, freakishly-long arms, and he returns the teasing about my freakishly-short, T.Rexian limbs. This, therefore, elicited quite a few laughs from us!

* * * * * * * *


Finally, despite a light drizzle (which we're used to during the six+ months of rainy season here in South Florida), Dad suggested we go down to the Augusta Riverwalk to walk around and burn off some steam. In all the 21 years and change that he has lived in Aiken, surprisingly I have never visited this riverfront spectacle. Dad knows I'm never without my camera, so he obligingly posed for some photos alongside the kids.


Rob, Chloƫ, and Sophia looking out over the Savannah River


There was a fountain in the street near the Riverwalk, and since they were already being rained upon, I relented and let them go run over and indulge themselves in further soaking. They didn't want to come out, it was so much fun. They wanted to go in again when we circled 'round and headed back to Miranda (our minivan), but I declined. No towels in the van = no dice.


Also at the Riverwalk was an amphiteater for concerts and other performances. The girls ran up and down the stairs in a vignette that reminded me of Heath Ledger in the movie 10 Things I Hate About You. Am I alone here in remembering this scene?


A soaked Chloƫ by yet another watery feature


There were plaques memorializing those from the area who fought and died in various conflicts. We read them in silent respect, as our family is steeped in military history. My dad, a former member of the Coast Guard, paused for a photo.


Sophia had a mouth booboo, blisters on her feet, and a headache by that time, so instead of lingering, we headed back to the van at last. The Riverwalk isn't big on things to do, per se, but it more than makes up for that in beautiful scenery. I'm glad we went!

* * * * * * * *


On Friday, we drove home from South Carolina. I was feeling as miserable as Sophie, or we might have visited throughout the day before leaving, but I was eager to get on the road. I had even gone to the Emergency Department in Aiken the night before with a severe migraine I couldn't bring under control with my meds, and added to that a very upset tummy, well... let's just say the normally 9Ā½-hour trip took several hours longer! Paco and Henry, our youngest kitty, were certainly glad to see each other again. I think the cats missed us, too...


Not-So-Wordless Wednesday: Ernest Hemingway House

Link up here with 5 Minutes for Mom if you were any degree of wordless, uh, yesterday! ;) 



(Oops, I didn't get a chance to finish the post yesterday. Forgive me.)

Last week, we went on a field trip overnight to Key West, so that we could visit Ernest Hemingway's house there on Friday. 

{Full Disclosure: The staff gave my family of five courtesy passes to visit the property, in exchange for this post. No other compensation was provided. As always, all opinions in this post are solely my own.}

As a lover of literature in general, and big fan of Hemingway thanks to Old Man and the Sea, I was super excited to visit the property. As cat lovers, the three kiddos were delighted about all the six-toed Hemingway kitties roaming around everywhere there. Hubs was thrilled for both reasons and for the history lesson, to boot.

Anyway, I'll try to be less wordy here, and just post some snaps of the awesome sights and scenes we witnessed at the Hemingway House:




















This guy was very photogenic, and he LOVED having his picture taken!









The kids were enamored of all the six-toed kitty paw prints in the cement!









My favorite photo of the day








Hemingway's writing studio was the most wonderful vignette seen this day. Amazing!









We all had a great time visiting the Hemingway House - even Jack, who just did not want to smile anymore for the camera - and are truly grateful to the staff for providing us with the complimentary passes to visit it.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you enjoyed the photos.


Sundays In My City: Miami Children's Museum

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

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

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

Trips Afield: Gold Coast Railroad Museum


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

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

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


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


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




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


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


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




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


Have a seat!


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


Very cool.


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



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


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


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






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


Jack was pretty much in seventh heaven out here.



NASA, the early days


Rob checkin' out the innards


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


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


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




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


This does not look even remotely comfortable!


Well, hello, Rufus.



Yeah, that might not be good.



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



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


Why, hello up there!








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


Girl versus the machine?





Switch operator, Chloƫ


Speaking of Stand By Me...


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




Because Thomas.



Sophie in her babushka


The trainy equivalent of Air Force One. Pretty cool.




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


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


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





Now this one, I coveted. Badly.


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


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



Uh, not a good angle for him!


Tiniest President ever.


My fellow Americans...!







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


What about wheelchairs?




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




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


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

(RIP to the real "Rosie.)


True facts.


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

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

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


Sundays In My City: Chihuly At Fairchild, A Garden Of Glass

Unknown Mami

Link up with Unknown Mami HERE if you want to play along, and "share your city/town/suburb/you name it! Think of this as a photography carnival or photography meme (with or without words) that not only lets you share your part of the world, but lets you visit other parts of the world virtually. If you link up, please link back or post the Sundays In My City button either in your post or sidebar to let people know that other bloggers are sharing their communities too."


On Sunday night, from 6-9 PM, we went to Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden to visit the Dale Chihuly blown glass art exhibit. Disclosure: We were given complimentary passes to the Garden in exchange for this blog post. As always, all opinions on this post are 100% my own.


This was the first exhibit we encountered. That's all glass, floating in the water! How cool, no? You can read all about artist Chihuly here.


The sights and scenery were breathtakingly beautiful throughout the garden.


This exhibit brought new meaning to the term "party boat" for me.


We craned our necks to look at this bird. Heh. See what I did there?




I really thought the White Belugas looked more like the crane than the whale, but what do I know? They were still Teh Awesome.


I hadn't realized the scientific name of Coffee before, but it makes sense in both generic and specific form. To me, anyway, and I drink a lot of the stuff.


ā™« "Walking along. Singing a song. At the bottom of a beautiful, blimey, shimmery, shiny, sea..." ā™«






Chloƫ thought the central blue starry thingy was more like a porcupine, but I was team sea urchin all the way. What do you think?



Please, no jokes about blue balls. I wouldn't dream of making one myself, either.





My girls, especially, seem to have this odd fascination with lily pads. I don't know what it is, but personally, I think they're pretty cool, too.


Electric blue




To me, these flowers in Spanish moss look like baby birds in a nest. Do you see it?


Chloƫ had to visit the restroom, and we were next to the garden cafƩ at the time. I got in line after seeing they had handcrafted tropical fruit sodas. I saw myriad flavors and guessed that the children would probably want to share the mango flavor, since they all positively adore all things mango. I guessed correctly, they affirmed when returning from the bathroom. As for me, I can't stand mangoes or anything flavored thusly. Just not my thing...


I find that plenty of vignettes, such as this one, found in the garden were objets d'art in and of themselves.


The koi pond was a beautiful location for this installation.


I think the blue koi pond, combined with this Chihuly piece, was my favorite, favorite part of the whole showing.



I hope I get an invite!


(Psst: probably my least favorite of the Chihuly pieces. Hey. Everybody's got to have one.)



"Mmm. Chocolate." (...said like Homer Simpson and his donuts.)


That's just bananas!


The edible garden was quite cool. No, we didn't actually get to partake of any fruits.


Got any colada for that piƱa?



Aguacate! YUM.


The honeybees, they matter. Keep 'em around, you guys.


I swear my grandma had this much aloe on her window ledge in her New Jersey apartment. No lie. I remember, like, every summer, at least one of us (my sister or I) would get a bad sunburn at the Leonia municipal pool, and we would break off a piece of aloe to rub on the burn.


This reminds me: I miss our compost bin. It was usefully huge (for our sizable family) and hugely useful. We left it behind at the house in Virginia Beach. Wah.



Speaking of mangoes...!



I love these camo pants on Sophie. Just sayin'.


There are so many different species of palm trees, I swear! I should probably go look up how many. Hang on a sec...

ā˜¼ Intermission ā˜¼

I'm back. Holy crap, according to this Palm Wiki, there are about 2600 different species. Whoa!


Just a spider doing important spider things...



That guy in the hat, admiring the Icicle Tower, was wearing a utilitarian kilt. The kids wanted to ask him about it, but they dared not, so I had to suck it up and ask for them. He got it in Washington State, it's a Utilikilt, and he's not entirely Scottish. He was, however, quite terse, and so that's all I learned. His wife was far more friendly, and she was wearing a pretty butterfly skirt.



I like the name "Buccaneer Palm" better, personally.


"Here, lee-zard, lee-zard!" We saw a rather lot of rather large lizards, including one iguana, at the garden last night.


*ahem* Phallic! *ahem*


That one on the bottom reminded Rob of Stevie Wonder in his beaded-hair days, but I was immediately thinking of Bob Marley, myself.


Love this pic of Sophie carrying her OLDER brother Jack on her back! Love it, love it, love it!


A statue of the great Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, speaker for the Everglades, holding Sophia's hand. Well, maybe vice-versa, but you know what I mean.



Oh say, can you see?


This raccoon was just ambling along, nose to the ground, with nary a care in the world that we were standing there watching him, exclaiming, taking pictures, and otherwise carrying on about his nonchalance.



The Bird of Paradise, one of few tropical plants I can properly identify. Gee, I wonder why?


Sophie tried to get in the fountain, as she is always attempting to do. She has, at times, succeeded. That's life with Sophia!





Team Odette, just being silly, pretending to land tush-first on a giant cactus



A lady, speaking to me mostly in Spanish, asked for "the one that looks like a Christmas tree." I don't know who told her that, but apparently someone did, about this one. I don't see it at all?


I love you THIIIIISSSSSS much!


Jack was pretending to be a statue on a bench, like the one of Marjorie S. Douglas, but to me he looks more like a zombie. Silly.







I joked that this large ball cactus was almost as big as Chloƫ's enormous head. She indignantly exclaimed, "Hey! No, it's not!" Ha. Hahaha.



"The Trash Heap has spoken!" Who remembers Fraggle Rock?

Gotta watch this, whether you do or whether you don't:


Right? D'ya see it??!



The "Apple Blossom" Amaryllis is a monocotyledon. I prefer monocots to dicots. I said so aloud. This brought on an instant Science lesson about the differences in leaf striation between the two, when other people started gathering around to listen, and I got embarrassed and started walking away. Which reminds me, we really need to do a big ol' Plants Unit soon. I've sort of been avoiding it like the plague.


This piece reminds me of a bonfire explosion. Or something. I'm not sure. But I like it.


Back to the back!



"Talent is a flame. Genius is a fire." - Bernard Williams


We interrupted an engagement party, at which all the guests wore white. It looked soooo lovely, and what a beautiful setting for the fĆŖte! I had to know what was in all the goody bags everyone had, so I stopped a woman on the way out. She hadn't even looked in hers yet, so she didn't know! Can you even?! I made her look. She giggled and went right ahead and looked. I know there was a book about Chihuly and some chocolates, but I forget what else. Either way, it was cool to be semi- a part of things. ;)


Chloƫ, ever the dramatic child...!


We didn't, but we did visit the gift shop. It was quite the coolness. I didn't get pictures, but they had blown glass cnidaria ("jellyfish") inside more glass of another color. I wanted one. I dared not ask how much.


We loved this scene spread before us near the entrance/exit, so of course we had to take the photographic opportunity. I tried to get the kids to sing the "Farewell" song from The Sound of Music, but since they've never even SEEN it, they didn't know the song. Yes. I have failed them that much, apparently, since it's among my five top favorite films. Sadness.

In case you don't know that heck about which I am speaking:


On that note, adieu! And merci for stopping by.

Thank you, again, to Director of the Garden, Dr. Carl E. Lewis, and to Brooke LeMaire and the Marketing team at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden for sending us the free passes to visit the garden. We had a wonderful time seeing the Chihuly exhibition and will definitely be back! As always, all opinions are completely mine in this post.


Team Odette Visits @LEGOLANDFlorida Resort

Disclosure: I received five free passes to LEGOLANDĀ® Florida Resort and LEGOLAND Waterpark in exchange for this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

WINTER HAVEN, FLORIDA -- LEGOLANDĀ® Florida celebrates the launch of the first-ever, full length theatrical LEGOĀ® adventure, ā€œThe LEGOĀ® MovieTMā€, with a movie-themed weekend in the park on Feb. 8 and 9, 2014. Guests can head to their local theatre to watch ā€œThe LEGO Movie,ā€ opening nationwide on Friday, February 7, 2014, and then come to LEGOLAND Florida to see LEGO come to life amidst more than 50 rides, shows and attractions and special movie-themed fun all geared for families with children ages 2 to 12. (PHOTO / LEGOLAND Florida, Merlin Entertainments Group, Chip Litherland)

Jack turned 12 (TWELVE?!!) on March 22nd, so for his birthday, we took him to LEGOLANDĀ® Florida in Winter Haven, just about four hours north of our home in Miami.



Jack, who is absolutely crazy about all things LEGOĀ® City and who has been asking to go to LEGOLANDĀ® Florida for the entirety of the two years since we moved to this state (okay, actually longer than that, but incessantly for that timeframe), was the first chap out of the car when we finally arrived about noon on Tuesday.


The girls, who wanted to visit the waterpark area toward the back of the main resort first, insisted on changing into their bathing suits right there in the parking lot. Jack was impatient to GET GOING ALREADY and huffed and puffed the whole time!


Sophie, the little sweetie pie, tied Daddy's shoes when he couldn't do it on our way up to the entrance. Rob had a really rough day that day and, in fact, ended up back in the hospital the following day. He's still there and will be there for at least a few more days, but possibly much longer. I really don't know at this point.


Can you tell these kids were super excited to get into the the park? LEGOLANDĀ® Florida Resort is an interactive theme park where LEGOĀ® comes to life and kids take control. It is a 150-acre multi-day destination offering more than 50 rides, shows and attractions designed for families with children ages 2-12.


Just as soon as we could, I got into the entrance, made a sharp left and rented a wheelchair for Rob. Thanks to issues with his cerebellar cavernous hemangioma, Cyberknife radiation surgery, and craniotomy to remove the tumor and surrounding cerebellar tissue, his recovery and progress has been one step forward, two steps back, two steps forward, one step back, and so on. Right now, we're looking forward but moving backward, so... a wheelchair was necessary.

Fortunately, the LEGOLANDĀ® team members were awesome. They let me park Rob, ChloĆ«, and Jack outside the entrance whilst Sophie and I fetched the chair, and a team member came out with us to wheel him back in and breeze us through the check-in point. The resort is very accessible, and the only problems I had getting him around were a few hilly areas where inertia had us going faster (or slower) than I would have liked. Other than that, it was easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.


We found lots of really cool structures built out of regular-sized LEGOĀ® bricks, in front of which the kids wanted to pose. Naturally, my Nikon and I were ready and willing to point, aim, shoot! The models in LEGOLAND Florida are made up of more than 58 million LEGO bricks! I want to know, who counted?!



Our first stop, once inside, was the marketplace in The Beginning. Jack had birthday money from both of his grandpas to spend, and of course he wanted to spend it here. Sophia and ChloĆ« adore LEGO FriendsĀ®, so the girls had no problems stopping to shop and look around, themselves. Sophie looks so cute posing here, no?

Heartlake City


We'll have to come back this summer, because the girls will love when Heartlake City opens at the resort!

 All the kids really wanted to stay at the LEGOLAND Hotel, but it doesn't open in Florida until May 15th, so we'll have to do that, too, when we go back for another visit. I can't wait! 


Jack was excited, and a bit overwhelmed, by all the LEGO City choices. He didn't know where to start!


Jack just about gave up on choosing, before a nice store team member came over to help him decide. I'll show you what he selected later in the post...


 One of many photo ops in the park, of which we had to take advantage


Kinda like at the Disney Parks, kids can trade LEGO Minifigures with Model Citizens (aka LEGOLAND Employees, who sport them on their name badges). Jack wasn't interested, saying to me, "I keep all mine, Moooom," but the girls were all about it!

Unfortunately, we forgot to bring them, so I bought both girls a four-pack for $14.99 apiece in The BIG Shop in The Beginning. I told them to buy sets they didn't care about, since they likely wouldn't be coming home with those minifigs! Chloƫ chose a LEGO Chima Pack.


Because Sophia chose a LEGO City minifigure pack, Jack took it upon himself to help her set up the four figures. She was happy to let him, maybe because we were there celebrating his birthday, or maybe just because she actually loves the little twerp? I dunno.


At The Grand Carousel in Fun Town, just past The Beginning, we found arrows pointing every which way and took the direction for the Waterpark. Y'know, I personally love riding a beautiful carousel such as this double-decker, but the kids didn't want to waste precious daylight, so we skipped it and never got back to it. Rats!


The lady-babies thought this "old lady in curlers" watering her flowers was amusing, so they "forced" me to snap a picture of her. So much to see at LEGOLAND Florida!


We bumped right on past Fun Town and on into Miniland USA on our way to the Waterpark. The heart of every LEGOLAND Park, Miniland USA is home to seven specially themed areas. Jack, especially, but all the kids were like, "WOOOOOWWWWWW!" when they first saw it. We spent a bit of time at the beginning of our visit on one side, and a bit more time at the end of the day exploring the other side. 


Jack, of course, headed to the track first to watch the mini-races some other kids were actually playing! Miniland USA was pretty cool, you guys.


Of course, it didn't surprise me when Jack found himself at the NASA section of Miniland USA, nor when he stayed a while... he's fascinated by such things. I really need to get him up to Cape Canaveral to watch a launch!


Las Vegas was representin', as you can see. More on that in a bit!


The girls found Manhattan a treat, and they loved that the Statue of Liberty was front and center!


Treasure Island in Las Vegas, where Chloƫ was fascinated to learned I've actually stayed, once upon a time. "Did you see all this, out front, and watch the pirates fighting on the ships and everything?" Yep, kiddo. I sure did.


Jack insisted I take a picture of the Space Needle, another fascination of us.


After Miniland USA, the girls were able to complete their first Minifigure swaps. How fun that was! The Model Citizens were always happy to oblige.


Chloƫ's turn: This Model Citizen happened to have more than one LEGO Minifigure on his name badge, but some only have one - and some have none. Just in case you're going and your Littles want to swap, too, you'll know. ;)


Walking along, past Miniland USA, we found this really cool replica of Earth, with minifigures of various world-renowned iconic places represented all over it. Jack and the girls ran around the whole thing, calling out everything they spotted. It was pretty cool.


One of the kiddos insisted I take a picture of the whales somewhere in the South Pacific, I think. Cool, huh?!


Another fun photo-op


Natch, I had to snap a pic of the LEGO Einstein in Imagination Zone. I mean, really.


This LEGO giraffe peeked out of the other side of Imagination Zone's entrance. Sophie went up for a touch!


Before we arrived at the Waterpark, we found ourselves in LEGO City. Of course, that being Jack's favorite thing on the planet, we had to go! The first thing we did was get in line for the very fun Rescue Academy ride, and the first thing the girls did was conduct Minifigure swaps. Sophie went first.


... and Chloƫ swapped with the Model Citizen who talked them through the rescue operation. He was fun.


Jack chose the police car for their Rescue Academy operation. Small surprise there!


A wasp flew by just before the rescue was set to begin, so Jack jumped out of the police car, terrified as he is of things that sting, and refused to go back. No worries! This Model Citizen stepped up to help the girls get moving!


Team Odettelettes to the rescue! They're on the far left, but I couldn't get close enough for you to be able to see them. Just pretend. They're there, I promise.


Midway back to the beginning of the adventure, Chloƫ stopped for a pose. That girl loves the lens, I tell ya!


Across from Rescue Academy was Ford Jr. Driving School, and inside the shop there was a Model Citizen willing to swap Minifigures with Chloƫ. As you can see, she was smiling. All the Model Citizens were smiling. Not one grumpy Model Citizen in the whole resort. What a pleasant experience we had because of them!


Both girls examining their new Minifigures, post-swap

032415 LegoLand Florida Trip

As you can see, lots more swaps happened in the park until the bitter end! The girls loved it, and they had fun each and every time they swapped.


At last, we made it to the Water Park! Admission is an extra $15 normally, I think, but we had our free passes and got right in, no problem. Rob had opted not to swim that day, and wanting to stay with him in his wheelchair, I opted out, too. The kids headed straight for Build-a-Raft, which as you'll see in a moment, was cool because there were foam LEGO bricks that could be built right ON the raft. Neato-mosquito, eh?!



The kiddos picked up their brick-laden tubes and headed for the lazy river's entrance.


Loose LEGO bricks floated in the lazy river, for kids to snatch up and add to their tubes. So cool.


While the kids were in the river, I parked Rob in his wheelchair nearby and visited the Beach-n-Brick Grill. I purchased a kids' chicken tender meal with fries, applesauce squeezy thingy, and a chocolate milk for Jack, a grape Uncrustables sandwich meal for Sophia, and nachos and a chocolate milk for Chloƫ. Jack had a pretzel and cheese, too, since Daddy ate both the chicken tenders AND the sandwich! He hadn't had much of an appetite for days, so I was just glad he ate, but LOL...

(True confessions: I ate half the fries, myself. Hey, the kids just wanted to swim, anyway!)


The jellies hanging from the inside roof of the Grill were among my favorite LEGO brick structures in the whole entire resort! Guess the marine biologist in me is not dead, after all.


This girl. Sophia, not for the first time, disappeared on me. I could watch the Build-A-Raft Lazy River from the Grill table where I was sitting with Daddy, but only Jack and Chloƫ came out after the roughly 8-minute tour around the Water Park. Well, after two, then three, turns around the River, and still no Sophie, I got nervous.

I went over to a Model Citizen lifeguarding the DUPLO Splash Safari directly in front of me and said, "I can't find my daughter." TWEEEEEEET!!! He immediately blew hard on his whistle, and said another Model Citizen would come right over to help me out.

I don't remember his name, but the MC who came over was right on cue fewer than 10 seconds later. He took Sophia's name, last-seen location, age, physical description, and what she was wearing, and then walked me over to park ourselves on the bridge overlooking Lazy River. He talked Sophia's description into the Walkie-Talkie, and we waited.

And waited.

And while we waited, we watched out for Sophie in the river. And then, boom, my expertly-spotting Model Citizen friend pointed at a child coming down to the ride's Exit. BOOM! That was her! I screamed, "That's her! Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!" as I ran away, toward my girl. 

Sophia walked up to me, out of the lazy river, saying brightly with a broad smile on her face, "HI, MOM!" Um. Okay. Dude. Heart attack city here! We hugged, I admonished her for not checking in like she was supposed to and not staying with her siblings like she was supposed to and for giving me a heart attack, hugged her again, and then brought her over to the table for a bite to eat. She managed one bite of Uncrustables before grabbing Jack and Chloƫ out of the DUPLO Splash Safari and heading for the Wave Pool.

Le sigh. That's life with Sophie.


There's life vest-adorned Jack in the red shorts, heading into the LEGO Lazy River, where his sisters were already waiting for him...somewhere. Thankfully, we brought along plenty of sunscreen. Despite the overcast and sometimes-rainy drive up, the day turned hot, sunny, and beautiful once we were in the Water Park. As my mama-in-law says, "It's a God thing."


Stopping to pick out and adjust their life vests. All of them can swim now, but perhaps they wanted a little help floating in the Wave Pool?

032415 LegoLand Florida Trip-001

[Click to embiggerate] Lots of fun was had in the Wave Pool. We stayed there nearly an hour, I think!


ChloĆ« took a break from the wave pool to steal her nachos back from Daddy, who was still eating, and to wonder, "Mom, why are you taking my picture while I'm eating?" Because, my love, it's what I do.


Somewhere in there, the Joker Soaker, were my children after they finished playing in the Wave Pool. Again, take my word for it, 'cause I didn't go in enough to find them and photograph them. Jack loved the big bucket, which he likened to the one at Williamsburg's Great Wolf Lodge. (Maybe all the GWLs have them, but we've only been to that one!)


Jack got tired of playing in the water and, while he was waiting for his sisters to finish playing in the Water Park and get back to the main LEGOLAND Florida Resort, wanted to look at his new LEGO City sets he'd purchased in The Beginning. But first, I made him show me his muscles. Because, why not?!


With his birthday money, Jack chose not one but two sets The first one was set #60057, the LEGO City Camper Van.


Set number two was #60012 LEGO City 4X4 & Diving Boat.


He didn't want to build the sets yet, and risk losing a piece at the park, but he wanted to look at them and admire the accompanying stickers. This boy loooooves his LEGO City!


Jack thought the canoe in this first set was super cool. I had to agree. It's ONE brick!


The bitty boy decided to twirl Daddy's cane after he finished looking at his new LEGO City sets and before the girls came over to get back to more fun outside the Water Park. Pretty good at it, too!


When we were leaving the Water Park, the girls did another Minifigure Swap. This little boy walked up and wanted to swap with the Model Citizen, too, but he didn't have a Minifigure to swap. I explained about it quickly to the dad, and Chloƫ decided to bequeath one of her Minis to the little boy so he could swap. It made my day!


And thus, the boy completed his first LEGO Minifigure Swap with a Model Citizen. Everything is awesome!


We went back out of the Water Park to LEGO City, and Jack and his sisters made a beeline for the Ford Jr. Driving School. Inside, in the waiting line, there was a stop-and-play area where Sophia quickly hopped in to rearrange the DUPLO Bricks already there.


Inside, the kids learned about the "Stop" and "Go" pedals in their cars, as well as various traffic signals and signs. And then, it was time to drive!

032415 LegoLand Florida Trip-002

[Click to embiggerate] Driving School was so fun! Chloƫ ran a YIELD sign, and got embarrassed when I pointed it out (oops), but other than that, it was smooth sailing for all the new drivers out there. This was a much-loved activity by all.


The kids posed with their new "Driver Licenses," which was a fun touch. For about $15, one could purchase a real copy with their pictures on it, but I had to decline that expenditure.


Sophia stopping for a Photo Op on her way to another ride - this time, the roller coaster she sought since The Beginning! Jack and Chloƫ were too chicken to go, so they decided on a different ride.


At Boating School, Jack drove their dinghy while Chloƫ, you know, posed.


The day turned hot, so Jack and Chloƫ visited one of the misters while we were off in search of rollercoastering Sophie.



The two of them also tried their luck at this "Extreme" knock-em-down ball game, four plays for $10. Chloƫ managed to knock one down, but you had to get two, so they didn't win prizes there. Wah.


By this point, we were in LEGO Technic, the most extreme area of LEGOLAND Florida. Sophia came off the Project X racetrack roller coaster after about three rides in a row, and she went off with her sister on yet another ride there. I parked Jack with Daddy and went off to the Robot Pit Stop for ice cream.




The girls had great fun on the AQUAZONE Wave Racers, dodging in and out of waves - but be forewarned! Passers-by can get quite soaked if they come too close! ;)


Chloƫ chose this patriotic Popsicle for her treat. Yummo!



Still in LEGO Technic, the girls rode on the Technicycle while Jack waited with Daddy. He was starting to get worn out, I think, and frustrated. He didn't want to go to the toddler zone, DUPLO Valley, because, "That's for babies!" He didn't want to go on anything else either, though, because, "I don't want to get wet. The line is too long. I don't like going up in the air. It goes too fast." Yadda yadda yadda. Time for a break for the birthday kid.


Sophia's turn to play a game: this time, a guaranteed-win game. The object was to pick up something like four ducks and whatever numbers they had on the bottom were added up to equal different prize levels. Sophia misunderstood and tried picking up ALL THE DUCKS at once. Hahaha!! Oopsss... #FAIL


Jack wasn't thrilled that Sophie won enough for a prize for each of them, keeping the pink snake for herself, giving him a green one and Chloƫ the unicorn, but whatevs. Can't please him ALL the time, after all, and I'm used to his grumpy nature.


Bye-bye, LEGO City and LEGO Technic! Time for more adventures ahead.



Of course, you may know we collect pressed pennies when able, so Jack was delighted when we found this machine outside Land of Adventure's Coastersaurus, where the girls went. YES! Sophia convinced Chloƫ to go on a real, honest-to-goodness roller coaster. I could NOT believe she went and figured she would either back out or come back out screaming and crying.


You can almost but not quite see them at the back, whizzing by me.


But look. LOOK AT THIS PICTURE. Does that look like a girl who did NOT have fun with Sophia? NOOOOOO. Chloƫ, in red, came off exclaiming, "That was FUN! I want to go again!" and she did! I can scarcely believe that happened. I am still so, so proud of her!


By this point, Jack was in full-on pout mode. I had told everyone that our goal for the day was to make him smile, laugh, and admit he'd had a good time. Uh-oh. Fun was definitely had, and you've already seen the photographic evidence of that, but I was losing this battle. Trust me, it's not LEGOLAND's fault. This boy chooses to be grumpy. Life is not fair. Life is hard. He sees the glass as half-empty. My mission in life, where he is concerned, is to fill up that glass!


The girls, on the other hand, refused to not have fun, despite grumpy Jack's mood. So they continued onward, going on the Safari Trek in Land of Adventure.



Okay, they went on Safari Trek twice. Jack scoffed. Meh.


These LEGO parrot figures actually talked to us! They did NOT want crackers, they told us. Ha!



While the girls went back for their second ride on Coastersaurus, Jack needed another peek at his two LEGO City sets. Just to make sure they were still there, I guess. They were. Phew!


In the Land of Adventure, I found just the cure for Jack's ills: Pharaoh's Revenge. Oh, my word, y'all, it was close to the 7 PM closing time for the Resort, and I thought the day was beyond saving. But then, suddenly, there it was: a play structure where HE could decide what speed to go, whether up or down, in or out, or all around. Did he want to go? YES! He smiled, he DID!


He was all smiles after that. Whew Whew Whew!!! I was so relieved. He even climbed the LEGO Camel for a last-minute photo op!


Sophie decided she needed to climb on the Ship of the Desert, too.


We wended our way back up to Miniland USA to head toward the park entrance, as it was after closing time. But, we kinda meandered a little, taking our sweet time to look at Miami's Little Havana in Miniland, and no Model Citizens rushed us along. Quite nice, quite nice.


We ended up outside Sunny's Ice Cream Shop in Fun Town, and despite it being after 7 PM, they let us in and served us ice cream. Scoops for everyone!

Yes, we totally had ice cream twice that day. What of it? ;)


So, Jack River, did you have fun at LEGOLAND Florida Resort for your 12th birthday? He NEVER voluntarily throws me a thumbs-up sign, so I think this is a very good sign that he did! And he admitted that he had fun. Whoop, whoop! SUCCESS!

Many thanks go to the Model Citizens of LEGOLAND Florida, who made our day, along with the Media Team who granted us five free passes to visit the resort in exchange for my opinions and this post. Also, special thanks to my friends Luis and Samantha Z. for helping us enjoy Jack's special day!



Field Trip: Lion Country Safari


On Wednesday, Sweet Pea Academy took our first-ever field trip 108 miles north to Loxahatchee, Florida, to visit Lion Country Safari.

Lion Country Safari

After we checked in with our Groupon certificates at the entrance, we were given a listen-along CD and directed to the drive-through safari path toward the Las Pampas section of the drive.

We saw all manner of exotic species, from Brazilian tapirs to Aldabra tortoises of Madagascar, the flightless rhea, and several species of ungulates.

Lion Country Safari-001

Sophia, Chloƫ and Jack all agreed that the lions were among their favorite creatures, but Victoria said the giraffes were hers. I loved the entire thing - no favorites for me! However, it was pretty cool to have this male lion pacing just feet in front of us, stopping to examine us inside our car, with nearby mating pairs canoodling in the rest of the Lion Exhibit.


Many places in Ruaha National Park, Kalahari Bushveldt, and the rest of Lion Country Safari had new babies on display, from these impala antelopes to squirrel monkeys and more. They were so cute!

Lion Country Safari-002

The ostriches were one of our favorite animals to watch, because they would gallop around, chasing after each other, as if to give us something fun to watch. And, like the giraffe later, and a zebra, they crossed directly in front of our car.

{My Nikon battery was not charged, so all of the photos are from my Samsung Galaxy S5; it's not the best camera, but it'll do in a pinch!}


Sophia's second favorite were the zebras in Hwange National Park. This one might have been pregnant, as she was visibly heavy on both sides, so it would not have surprised me to learn that she was with zebralet!


It was hard to get a decent picture of the chimps on their exclusive island, because of their blending in well with the habitat. They are not swimmers, so the water around their island keeps them in place.

The zoologists visit all the primates on a daily basis and give them new playthings and puzzles, to keep them active, keep them from getting bored, and keep their minds active. Usually, solving the puzzle meant a food treat for the animals, so they had great incentive to keep trying!


The white-handed gibbon was a bit camera-shy, but I managed to get one or two photos. I'm a primate lover, of course, and could have watched them all day!

Lion Country Safari-003

The giraffes walked in right in front of our car, crossing the street just a few feet from us. It was all terribly cool, and I was fascinated.


We passed these two camels in their closed-for-the-day exhibit on our way out of the drive-through section of the park. The kids were disappointed that they weren't able to ride them, but I was not!

Lion Country Safari-004

After we got out and entered the walk-through safari park, the first thing we did was find some very hungry koi that cost 25Ā¢ to feed a handful of pellets. I gave each of the kiddos a quarter for that, and the ibises swooped in for their share of koi food.

Lion Country Safari-005

The squirrel monkey exhibit was another favorite for the kids. There were two new babies, from August and September of this year, and their antics were just precious. I could hardly tear the children away to see more of the reserve!


We found this enormous rhinoceros iguana that I would have guessed was a komodo dragon, but no! Could've knocked me over with a feather then.


We visited the Education Center after that, and Chloƫ marveled at the softness of the zebra pelt. We played matching games between several species of animals' skulls and their names, and I got about half wrong!


These were a variety of differently-sized eggs, from the largest ostrich egg on the bottom right, to the ruby-throated hummingbird egg just to the immediate left of that, and everything in between. Really interesting to note the various shapes among the species.


Despite their malodorous presence, Sophia insisted I take some pictures of the flamingos. She may be newly a horse-crazed girl, but she's still a bird-lover at heart.


The African Spurred Tortoises lived up to their reputations and moved soooo.... sloooowly. I got tired just watching them.


Another favorite of Sophie's, she was disappointed not to be able to get the Scarlet macaws to answer her!


Chloƫ and Sophia found this little mining exhibit, but we didn't buy the $5-8 bag of gems and rocks, because money's tight right now. Maybe next time. Chloƫ was intrigued by the idea that she could actually go mining for something, somewhere, on her own someday...


I bought a bunch of Romaine lettuce for the goats in the petting zoo and gave a large leaf to each of the four kids. Victoria thought it was so funny when a goat wolfed down her entire piece in one gulp and nearly took her hand with it! Sophie tried to rip hers into pieces to extend the experience, but that backfired when the goat moved on to larger pieces extended by the others. 

After, they entered the petting zoo to brush the goats, and we found one or two females who just had to be pregnant, themselves.



Next, I bought a feeding stick with bird seed and suet for the budgerigars (budgies) and told the kids to take turns feeding them. The attendant said the birds hadn't been fed yet that day and should swarm around the stick quickly to eat. We found them to be quite eager, indeed!


Sophie was so thrilled when a budgie landed on her stick and let her carry it around for a few minutes. The look on her face was priceless. She LOVED that!


Jack had a hard time lifting up his stick to the perched birds overhead, so I ended up having to lift him up myself. We got 'er done, and he was satisfied. All-in-all, for a $1, we definitely got our money's worth of fun.


I had tried to discourage the kids from getting wet, since the air was a bit nippy, but my protests fell on deaf ears. First, they all danced around and got damp in the mister, and then they went over to the water pump and got even more soaked. Sophie even put her head under the dumping water! *tsk, tsk* Crazy kids!


We found another photo-op exhibit where the kids took turns drumming and giving me a substantial headache... but they had fun, so I dealt. ;)


There was this giant lion statue that Jack wanted to sit on, and Chloƫ joined him. He was so freaked out, I was the only one he would let near him to help him down.


Sophia had to take her turn on the lion, too. Naturally.


I enjoyed watching Victoria play the drum, as she was really getting into it!


Next up, we headed over to the paddleboats, which were free to use with the cost of our admission. Sophia insisted on riding with me, Jack wanted his dad, and Chloƫ went with Victoria. We paddled around and around the fenced in laguna, and man, did my legs get tired! I should give up my nonexistent gym membership and just paddleboat all day...


Afterward, the four kids got on their own tween version of a party barge and paddled around in the watery paddock. That was fun... except only two people at a time could paddle, and of course they argued over whose turn it was! :\


All Victoria wanted to do was ride the Ferris Wheel after that, and so we girls made our way to the ride while the boys hung back. Victoria insisted on riding in her own gondola while the three of us girls rode in our own - and she became scared halfway through the ride! She moved into our gondola on the next opportunity.


Two or three - or maybe four - rides on this flying elephant ride followed the Ferris Wheel. They played miniature golf, but the course didn't hold their interest, so they didn't finish that game.


And that was pretty much it! We brought a picnic lunch and snacked during our field trip in the park, and then we stopped for Pizza Hut on the way home to Miami. Good times were had by all, and I look forward to returning some day!


It Started With A Sweater.



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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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

DSC_0102 (2)

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

DSC_0099 (2)

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


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


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

DSC_0105 (2)

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


A second later, his own voice returned the hello.

DSC_0107 (2)

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

DSC_0095 (2)

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

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


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

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

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


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

Thanks for stopping by!



Field Trip: Coral Castle


Today has been a really fabulous day. We got up early and knocked out math lessons - in a new book, since we just wrapped up the last book of Math-U-See lessons, woot! - and did a writing prompt. All three kids took their spelling pre-tests, and then we picked up our pal Victoria to go on a field trip to nearby Coral Castle. Ed Leedskalnin, a 5'-tall Latvian man who built the castle in response to being dumped the day before he was to wed his "Sweet Sixteen," Agnes Scuffs. This is the sign posted at the entrance to the castle, by Ed, and it was no lie.


Jack, Chloe, Victoria, and Sophia ready and waiting for our tour to start


Tom, our tour guide, was fantastic. He was not only great with adults and kids alike, but he was thoroughly knowledgeable about the site. We really enjoyed his constantly running dialogue and trivia.


Tom pointed out that Ed charged 10-cents' admission to the castle back when he was alive. Ed died in 1951, and there are still people alive who remember him, of course. I think that is so cool, considering the castle, formerly known as "Rock Gate Park," has been compared to Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids.


The girls sitting at Ed's Florida-shaped coral table, on chairs that actually used to rock, but were buried to keep people from getting injured. Each chair weighs about a half-ton each, so imagine if someone's foot got caught under it when it rocked. These aren't really coral structures at all, however, but rather limestone. Close enough, eh?


Chloe looking through the handmade telescope. If one looks through the hole in the wall, up to the pillar with the hole in it, one will find Polaris. There are crosshairs that you can't see up there, and depending on which quarter of the circle Polaris falls into, it tells you what season you're in. Amazing, to me.


Part of Ed's tools, many of which were made by hand


More of Ed's tools


Ed bunked down in this small room on top of the tool shed, so that when he slept, all of Florida's nighttime creepy crawlies didn't climb on him.


Sophia said that Ed's bed actually looked "quite comfortable." As her big sister would say, "I could not agree less!"


The three-ton gate is triangular in shape. There are no gears or bearings in the rotating mechanism. Ed balanced the gate on the axle of a Model T Ford with a Coke bottle neck on the end, through which the axle could be lubricated.


Ed's living room


This rocking chair, up high, was off limits for visitors.


Ed was a Mason, and you can see some of the Masonic symbols around the premises, including here in the throne room. Ed never did find another wife to join him in life and died alone of cancer, after suffering from tuberculosis for many years.


You may remember that we make a wish at every wishing fountain we see - of course, this was no different at Ed's wishing well. Jack said his probably wouldn't come true, so I had to know what he wished for. "LEGO sets!" he said. C'mon, Buddy, wait 'til Christmas at least...


Ed's sundial was so interesting, because it not only told a person the time of day, but also the month and season to boot. I can't tell you how much I wish I had had a chance to meet him! (Incidentally, he died at the hospital where Rob's brain surgery was, and where Victoria told me she was born.)


The second of two rock gates. This one also used to spin on a well-lubricated axle, but natural forces from our local salty climate corroded the metal inside. So engineers came and tried to fix it, but they could not. Imagine that! Ed built this place with his bare hands and no electricity decades ago, but modern technology could not replicate what he did. Wow.


The bedroom Ed built for the family he never had


Ed built this part of the castle in homage to the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears.


A little reading nook


This was where Ed did his cooking. The cooker is part oven, part barbecue, and more. The fire is built in the pit; the pipe embedded below serves as a down draft, and the hole in the roof vents the smoke. The cooking pot is the rear end housing of an old Ford and hangs on a pully riding on a rail. Food was placed in the container, which seals itself when taken off the stand and pushed over the fire. It acts as a pressure cookier - another of Ed's hand-made marvels! The tour guide said it holds about a dozen hot dogs, and Ed enjoyed using it for cooking hot dogs for school children on the tour.


I hope you enjoyed this brief tour of something that one must really properly experience in person!


The kids behaved beautifully during our long and long-winded tour. Tom commented on how well they paid attention, and all the adults on the tour were impressed when Jack correctly guessed "gravity" in answer to how some of the rocks were moved. I didn't even know the answer, myself! I bought each of the kids a round of Dippin' Dots before we headed over to the library for our weekly visit.

Stay tuned, as we have LOTS more field trips coming up in future weeks!


Hemingway Slept Here


So, I've started mystery shopping again, as of last week. You may remember I stopped in about May or so when I applied for Social Security Disability... but I got denied, and I just don't have the mental fortitude to appeal. So, working is back on for me, and I'm back with a vengeance.

On Tuesday, the 26th of November (a week ago; I'm a naughty blogger!), I stacked a bunch of mystery shops in the Florida Keys together. We decided to take Thanksgiving week easy on schooling, so the plan was to work my way down and get the shops out of the way, and then play in downtown Key West. For once, all went according to plan. 

We stopped twice in Key Largo for mystery shops. They were quick and easy, and I was able to get us right back on the road according to schedule. We did have to make a few pit stops, naturally, since it's about a seven-hour round trip down to the Southernmost Point of the U.S. (in Key West), but we made good time. I had to buy the children a blanket on the way there - they were freezing in the air conditioning! I stopped, too, to get post cards for my gal pal who collects them, and also to get stamps and send one with a Keys postmark.

Then, of course, there was the stop at the Key Deer refuge and wildlife center in Big Pine Key. You know how some people love to travel by car with their families and make unexpected and unplanned detours when they come across places of interest? In theory, I am one of those people. In practice, I am more of a planner and scheduler. I like Theoretical Me a bit better, so when we were discussing the Key Deer, specificially, and all endangered species in general, with the kiddos, it was just serendipitous that - at just the right time - we came across the refuge.

So, we went.

Here's a tip, if you ever go there: don't expect the volunteers in the center/gift shop to know anything about... anything. Because they don't. The kids kept asking them various question about artifacts in the museum, and they would either provide incorrect information or hedge until Marine Biologist Mom or Outdoorsman Dad would jump in and drop some knowledge. Why, Rob even busted the two older, married vollies for having a pheasant feather from, what?, New Hampshire or somewhere they recently relocated from, in with the Keys fossils and such. Really? What?! Who does that? Nervy. Hopefully they'll remove it now that they've been discovered, because that's just wrong if you ask me.

Which you didn't, so on with our trip:


There's this gas station we've stopped at several times on our various runs to the Lower Keys, and each time, chickens were running amok in the parking lot. I do so love that. Do you know how hard it is to take a decent Instagram of the roosters while they're running away from you? 


After finishing my remaining three shops, one in Marathon and two in Key West itself, we were monstrously hungry. Of course, when one is in Key West and is of a certain age and not exactly a teetotaler, one expects there to be some alcohol paired with one's meals. I had a rum runner, one of my favorites, and Rob... I don't know. Maybe he had a beer. I can't remember. 

Also, of course, when one is in the Keys or any other coastal area, one generally partakes in the local seafood fare. We shared a plate of peel-and-eat shrimp (delicious), and Rob had one of his favorites, conch fritters. I've tried so hard to get back to total vegetarianism this year, but when my protein requirements are so high, it's difficult. And shrimp are some tasty, tasty people.

(The yummiest shrimp I have ever eaten, by the by, were at The Colony Beach and Tennis Resort on Longboat Key in Sarasota. I worked in Catering there while doing my internship at Mote Marine Lab. I could wax poetic about the food we served there... but I digress, as I am wont to do.)


ChloĆ« ordered her dinner - mac and cheese for my girl - and promptly fell asleep the minute our awesome server at Caroline's CafĆ© walked away from our table. She had fallen asleep the day before over her schoolwork, too, but I wasn't concerned since I'd gotten all three kiddos out of bed both mornings to get on with our day(s)! 


(Apologies for the darkness of these next few photos; I just now realized there is an option to turn the flash off on Instagram and I had utilized it at some point. Whoops.)

Anyway, we roused sleepy Chloƫ from her slumber and decided to walk around for a bit while time passed until I could finish the "Return" portion of one of my nearby mystery shops. It has long been a topic of conversation amongst the young trio of Odettelettes in our household that there are six-toed cats at the Hemingway house in Key West. Y'all know about that, right? So we decided to hot-foot it over to Hemingway's place and make a tiny dream come true for them.

The nearby residents must grow so weary of all the people meandering around, looking for that property. I'd been there in college, back in the 90s, but of course I didn't remember exactly how to get there since I was never in charge of directions. As it should be. I had Siri giving us walking directions while Rob looked around at the hilarious signage various Hemingway neighbors has posted, like the one above.


In the words of George Takei, "Oh, myyyy!"

(Side note: my nearly-14yo neice follows my instagramography, and she "liked" this picture. Kind of embarrassing.)


Thankfully, we arrived at Hemingway's home after 1700, so there was no need to explain to the children that I lacked desire to cough up the $44 it would have cost us to go in there to find cats that, naturally, you're not allowed to pick up or touch. We were left standing outside there on the sidewalk with the other author's pilgrims, peering through the wrought iron gates. Would a cat come see us, oh, would one please?


One would. Of course, by the time I got the iPhone raised and steady, the kids' clamoring and squealing had scared the poor thing off, so I didn't get a picture. No worries. You've seen one cat with an extra toe, you've seen 'em all. You get a glimpse of the house instead. Very Keys-y. Ernie loved him some Key West, he did.


We've been down to the Keys some three of four times during our 8+ months in southern Miami-Dade County, and we have yet to make it to the Southernmost Point that is the subject of so many pictures, postcards, and bumper stickers. (I've been there several times myself, but not with my little family.) So, too, is Mile Marker Zero a stopping point, so Rob pointed it out to me to snap when we happened on it. I don't know that I've ever captured a photo of it before, so here it is now. That's the end of the line for US1 (which comes out of I-95 South down the East Coast and is AKA South Dixie Highway in Miami and Overseas Highway in the Keys). You can't go any further than that, folks!


We followed Duval St back toward my remaining shop area and came across this giant cone prop for an ice cream parlor. Hello, photo op!


I left Rob with the kids after that, to go finish my requirements, and this is the scene to which I returned. Jack was still awake, but the girls were Knocked. Out. Cold. Passersby varied between amused and enamored of the girls' napping on a public bench! Good thing Rob didn't look TOO terribly homeless... ;)

On that note, we decided to make our way back up north to Homestead. Our homestead. The kids were all zonked out in the back of the truck SUV whatever-the-hell-a-Chevy-Trailblazer-is, so Rob and I kept each other company through the miserable storm that was blowing a deluge down upon us during the long, somewhat treacherous drive home. It never got quite to the point where I had to pull over and stop, but we came close a few times! 

One time, I stopped to pee and raced from the, er, vehicle to the store. Soaking wet, I stood there looking around until an employee came up and offered help. I asked if there was a bathroom, and she was torn between devilish laughter and sheepish apologies, having to tell me that the restroom was, in fact, outside. That's the first time I put the heat on since we've been in Florida!

Welp, speaking of being cold, I'm going to go soak in a warm bath. I have much more to post about this early morning, so I shall return. If things again go according to plan, at least...


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 2Ā½ 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 83Ā¢ 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 83Ā¢ 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 Chloƫ 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? 

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 ChloĆ« 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.


Chloƫ (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 Chloƫ 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 piƱa 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. ChloĆ«'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!


If It Has A Tail, It's A Monkey. If It Doesn't Have A Tail, It's An Ape.

Thanks to the folks from Veggie Tales for providing the titular phrase today...

Sunday was Mother's Day here in the U.S. (because I have so many international readers, don'tcha know). Rob's stepmom and dad are staying an hour or two away in Florida right now, but not for long, so they came down to see the kids and us that day. We decided to head to Zoo Miami for a fun excursion, since hey, we're members, and the best way to make use of that membership is to actually GO.
You know we're huge fans of Romero Britto, so of course we had to take advantage of the Britto photo op at the entrance to the zoo. Even the kids are getting in on the Team Odette Britto Craze. We collect all things "kissing fish," as we call it, but the girls are trying to talk me into collecting cat things for them, too. Um, no. Moving on.
There were some kinds of bird or another right inside the entrance after that, and Sophia went up to the cage and started poking at the mesh. Imagine her shock when the bird took wing and flew straight toward her at top speed! She was startled, to say the least. And then she was in hysterics. Hm, maybe you had to be there, but it was pretty funny.
sMIL and the girls had some fun, along with the ever-camera shy Jack, feeding the stinky flamingos. For a quarter, you could get an adult-sized fistful of bird grub, and throw it at the birds. It's kind of antithetical to what I imagine the birds usually do for food in the wild, but it was amusing all the same.
It was Orangutan Awareness Day, or something like that, in the zoo that day. What that had to do with Mother's Day is anyone's guess, but it was cool nonetheless. We were kind of rushed through the educational, "awareness" activities, which was suckish, but the kids did manage to glean a few bits of new information. Namely, they learned that gorillas have short, stubby phalanges fit for their ground-dwelling lifestyle, whilst the orangs have long, skinny fingers for climbing and hanging around in trees. Further, they learned about the diets of the large apes and how that fits in with their lifestyle. I wish we'd had a chance to visit the whole set-up on that, but... someone wanted to keep walking, and it wasn't me. 
So what are you gonna do? Move on, I guess.
Can you guess what on Earth Sophia is doing here? Those are supposed to be the lengthy arms of an orangutan she's modeling in place of her own. I always tell Rob he's got freakishly long arms; maybe he's the missing link...
At that point, we girls separated from Rob, Jack and FIL, thanks to extreme asshattery on the part of the boy-child. He does not like to be awakened by someone other than his own brain in the morning, and when he is, he's the grumpiest little butt you ever wanted to meet. sMIL had graciously bought everyone hot dogs ('cept me; I don't eat 'em) for lunch, and he refused to eat. Then he cried for, no shit, literally like an hour, about being hungry. It was driving me nuts, so Denise suggested we let the boys chill by the bears while we girls went ahead to the Children's Zoo. Worked for me.
The lady-babes had fun pretending to be baby birds in these giant 'nests' at the front of the Children's Zoo. I think Sophie is totes adorbs in that top picture.
There was some excavating going on - I don't know what it is with things dedicated to the younger crowd, but it's apparently illegal not to include fake fossils - and then this mountain-climbing you see here. It's funny the way the girls are so different: Sophia climbed up and launched herself off fearlessly in about three seconds, while Chloƫ gingerly picked her way to the top and then changed her mind, taking about six days to get back down.
That was apparently the point where my iPhone died, so the remainder of these photos will be comin' atcha courtesy of Google Images. We went into the House O' Bugs And Lizards next, where we saw some of these Madagascar Hissing Cockroaches (not a fan),...
... a blue-tongued skink, which Sophie spent the rest of the afternoon hilariously imitating,...

... and discovered there was such a thing as lizards without legs. I'm honestly not sure whether I was aware of that, but now I am, and no one's the wiser. Except the two of you reading.
We made our way over the Asian elephant exhibit, where I told my story about being a youngster fascinated by such a creature peeing buckets for what seemed like half an hour once. I don't know why that memory made such an impact on me, especially now when I feel like the size of my bladder compares. I swear it'll be a museum relic if I die an unnatural death and they perform an autopsy, but I digress.
The boys caught up with us by about that point, and Denise was ready to skedaddle. We stopped by the Bengal tiger memorial exhibit (to remember a young girl, not a tiger) to admire the beautiful beast one more time, and then we headed back to the homestead in Homestead.
A long, long time ago, back in my college daze, I used to frequent this amazing pizza restaurant called, what else? The Big Cheese. Imagine my delight when I discovered that a newer one has opened up just down the road from us! We hadn't gone yet, so when Denise broached the subject of dinner, I waxed poetic about the garlic knots there. They didn't disappoint. Completely, utterly garlicky, and she had fun untying the knots. (She's a mathemagician.) I could eat them every night of my life. The pizza's okay, too, but go for the knots, folks.
Shortly after dinner, we bid so long, farewell, and adieu to Al and Denise, and their little dog, Hattie, too. 
Hope you all enjoyed your Dia de Las Madres, too.
P.S. Belated Happy Mother's Day to my sister, Stacey; my mamacita; my BFF, Lisa, and all the other special moms in my life. ā™„ you all! 

Of Doubloons And Dirt Babies...

What the what?! Dirt babies, yes. You'll see what I mean soon enough if you read on, unless of course you already know.

This past weekend, we took a little jaunt up around the Fredericksburg area of Virginia. You know how there are so many Groupon-like deal sites springing up all over the Interwebs? Well, first, I had gotten tickets to the annual Virginia Renaissance Faire (in Spotsylvania) on Certifikid, good for Mother's Day weekend only. It was a great deal, and I'd never been to one, so I didn't want to pass it up. Then, also on the same site, tickets for a family pack to a farm not too far from there popped up for the same weekend, so I grabbed that and a night at a cheap hotel as well, and bam! Mother's Day plans for less than a hundred bucks, with loads of edutainment involved.

The trip up to the Ren Faire didn't go off exactly as planned, because, for one thing, we overslept and got a later start than planned, and for another, I had half a dozen mystery shops planned for along the way to cover our meals on the road. We got lost, we got lost some more, and by the time we finally arrived, there was only an hour left for the Faire to be open, and they let us in without even asking for our tickets. Bah! But, I was determined to make a go of it and have the best fun, so onward we went.


The first thing the kids wanted to do was play this game, so we let them do that. I wanted to make the most of what little money we had with us for the trip - since my credit card number had been stolen the day or two before and our bank account emptied! - while maximizing the experience for the kids. Happy kids = happy Mama, at least in this family. And so, we let them play the game.



None of the kids scored a prize, but there was so much else to do, see, look at, explore, and touch, that they didn't seem to care. We moved right along, stepping lively so we could see everything we wanted to see in our quick 60-minute tour of the Faire.


The girls were each allowed to pick out some inexpensive beaded jewelry - you can see Sophia's bracelet there - and then we were on the search for a Jack souvenir. While looking, Sophia found these, which at first she wore like handcuffs. Hmm. Now, there's an idea...


At first we thought Jack would go for a wooden sword, but then he decided against it. He looked at lots of things that afternoon and rejected them all. He wanted a pocketknife, but it was a double-edged knife, and Daddy said no, that wasn't appropriate for a nine-year-old boy. What do I know about knives? Not much, so that was that.


This lady was most amused by the kids' interest in her mink stole, about which I did my best to hide my disgust. I even touched the thing myself. Wait, no, I didn't, I just peered at it closely. Yeah. I don't do fur. But I did find using the mandible of one mink on the right end as a clip to hold it to the left side quite ingenius...


Oh, heck, I splurged another buck each on these paper fans for the girls to pretend to be ladies on the verge of fainting spells, too. Which meant Jack's budget went up, too. My lady-babies got a lot of joy out of holding their fans up and blinking at each other flirtatiously. Chloƫ was entirely too good at that. She gets it from her dad. He's a good blinker.


Sophia, and then Jack, found these ribbon-stick thingies and spent a few minutes twirling and swirling them around. I expected Chloƫ to do the same, since she wants to join rhythmic gymnastics next year instead of "regular" gymnastics like they're doing this year, but she didn't. It amused me that the boy-child did. But he didn't want one of those, either.


I liked this sign on the recycling bin as much as I liked the fact that it even existed. (Yay for recycling!)

2012-05-13 (2)

I loved these swirly-twirlies as much as the children did, and we stood and watched them spin, fascinated, for a good few minutes before moving on to the next tent. They weren't in the budget, and I have nowhere to put one at this house, anyway, but I secretly wanted one just the same.


At another stand, these mineral butterflies caught my eye. How pretty!


Even the Welsh Corgi at that butterfly stand had a Renaissance costume on, for Heaven's sake! He was a cutie pie. Speaking of cutie pies in costume, check out this young lad's get-up:


Four or five years old and dressed to the nines in period garb! I loved it. Loved it.


Jack finally found a few things, like this ship, that caught his interest, but they weren't for sale. Of course. He was growing very frustrated. And cranky. What, Jack cranky? I know. Hard to believe. Not.


This letter was on the table in front of the ship. Not the neatest penmanship, but amusing nonetheless.

044 045

Jack forgot his grumpiness momentarily while this blacksmith showed him some of the tools of his trade. Jacky wanted to use them, too, but he wasn't allowed. That was okay; he was just as thrilled to watch.


Speaking of grumps, this kid wasn't too thrilled when the kiddos visited his village in yet another tent and started looking at and - gasp! - touching the buildings. What was the point, then? Apparently not to enjoy them, but just to display them. Meh.


Guess who?


(Note: I began this post 1.5 months ago. Oops. Time to pick up.)

Jack tries his hand at hooping it up!


He's not half-bad - nay, he's all bad.


Soon, one of the kids spied this giant hoop - you may have seen a similar one more aptly demonstrated on "So You Think You Can Dance" in recent weeks - and invited the other two siblings to try for a group hoop. It didn't go well, but fun is fun, and this was that!


At the Swelter Shelter, patrons and players alike could take a load off, out of the hot, HOT sun.

May 2012

Shortly after that, we headed out, but not before I snagged a few last pictures of some of the wonderful costumes out for viewing!


In my ongoing obsession with what people put on their vehicles, I had to snap the back of the van parked next to our minivan. I'm only just now reading everything on there!

After the Ren Faire, we stopped at a small flea market and had a look around, but we found nothing interesting, so we headed to our ghetto hotel. The kids were hungry, of course, so we went right back out again, to the Super Target down the road, to purchase some victuals for everyone's consumption. It's been so long, I don't remember how we passed the remainder of the night, except that there was shouting outside in the middle of the night, and I felt a wee bit unsafe...


Mother's Day, the next day, we arose and checked out, had a little breaky, and then made our way to the Cows and Corn farm where I had another Certifikid certificate. I thought it would be much bigger, more well attended, and generally just... MORE... but it ended up all right in the end. And it was nice not battling crowds.


After we checked in and got ourselves situated, the first thing the kids opted to do was make their own butter. It wasn't the kind you make from mixing heavy cream at fast speeds in a mixer; fresh, uh, squeezed milk from the farms' cows, in little tubs, which the kids had to shake! shake! shake! until it turned into butter. Sophia, naturally, was the best shaker, but they all made it eventually. Time for a taste test!


The farmer's wife, whose name I forget, showed us what the butter looked like when it was about finished. Mmm, creamy!


I think everyone tried the butter that the kids made, but Jack especially enjoyed it. Every chance he got, he was back under that tent, begging another crackerful!


After the butter-making experiment, Jack was running tail-over-teakettle toward this gigantic hay play area. It had mazes, towers, pipes through which to climb, etc. I barely had time to catch up with him and grab this shot of him entering one of those pipes; he's fast when he wants to be!


And there he was, jumping out the other side, in no time!


Soon, he was joined by ChloĆ«; Sophia arrived quite a bit later.

  2012-05-13 (3)

Between the hay and the trains, there was no shortage of fun climbing opportunties for the kids. Can you see the one with Sophia's feet sticking straight up? That child... so funny.


Soon, we were hollered at to come join the hayride about to tour the farm, so we made our way, quick like bunnies, over to the launching point. And if you're looking at this picture and thinking, "Daggone! It looks like that 7-year-old child is almost as big as her father!" well, you'd be right. Quite right.


The sisters sat next to each other on the ride; we could barely keep Jack sitting, let alone near us! He was all over the place, a la Sophia.


Sadly - to me, anyway - we were told that the calves were taken from their mamas shortly after birth (3 days? 3 weeks? Three-something) and put in these little calf-hut thingies. They were bottle-fed mama milk and supplements after that, with huge bottles sporting nipples the likes of which (enter no-good comment here), while the cows were kept in the barn for milking.


Soon, we were approaching an area of the farm that housed the manure. It did NOT smell good; I am so glad I captured this image of Jack's reaction to the odor. Priceless!


The cows, showing off their "earrings," as the announcer called them, devouring their feed. That made me sad, too. I think I'd make a very bad cattle farmer. Everything made me sad for them!  I'm sure they're fine, but... and I've done my share of fish tagging, and dissecting, and alladat, but... what can I say? I'm a treehugging librul type.


The yellow brush in the middle remains inactive until bumped by a cow. Then, it starts brushing, rubbing, and grooming the cow as she moves around to get it on all sides. It stops when she moves away. Now that, I liked. Maybe I'll install one in Chez Odette?


Well, helloooooo there, Number 4666!


After the hayride ended, we ran over to watch a puppet show. All the kids complained that it was too babyish for them... until it started. And then, they were leaning forward in their seats to catch every word. Of course!


It was a pretty cute and well-thought-out little demonstration of the difference between mammals - namely cattle - and birds - namely chickens, without being education-shoved-down-your-throat about it. I was impressed.


Of course, all the kids' favorite part was when it ended, and they were allowed to pet the chicken. I forget her name, but the girl holding her said she was 15 years old! (The chicken, not the girl. ;)


Next up: The kids all ran to the cow train and were pulled around the farm by the same tractor driver who drove our hayride. They loved it and wanted to go again and again, but it was a one-shot deal. (Not really, but that's what we told them. Hee.)


True to form, Chloƫ and Jack rode at the front of the 'train,'...


... while Sophia brought up the rear. What fun they had!


At last, after the ride, it was time to go find out what in the heck these Dirt Babies were!


First, they were given the foot of a pantyhose leg and told to scoop compost-rich dirt into it until it was full. This would form the "head" of the Dirt Baby.


Oh wait, my bad. Very first, they had to fill the bottom of the sock, or top of the head, with seeds similar to chia. This would eventually grow, with proper care, into the "hair" of the Dirt Baby.  Then the dirt came into play.


After that, stickers and markers were brought out for making characters out of the as-yet-undecorated DBs. The girls, of course, went all out, while Jack stayed simple. He's our little Minimalist, in so many ways.


Case in point.


I forgot the names of these two lovely ladies who provided us with our next mini-adventure, but the woman was lovely and patient and informative, and the sheep was lovely and patient, too.


Because she was behaving so well (imagine!), Sophia was chosen first to spin the yarn of the ewe, which was freshly sheared and ready to be added to the yarn already being spun for these demonstrations. I, myself, have yet to learn to spin my own yarn, but you can be sure it is somewhere in the top third of my Bucket List. (Well, I would say that about ALL the things on my Bucket List, which is rather well populated with things I really-super-wanna do! But I digress...) Sophia did very well for her first try and was able to produce a nicely spun segment of yarn!


Sophie's yarn was broken off, and she was instructed to select a bead for a bracelet. The goal of the activity was to make a present for the moms, it being Mother's Day and all, but Sophia opted to keep hers. I was neither surprised nor, therefore, disappointed!


Jack had a turn, then, and he was surprisingly adept at handling the fleece while nice, patient lady, woman pedaled the wheel.


He chose the green bead because it's both his and my favorite color, yet somehow Sophie was the first to model the bracelet he made me. I don't remember how that happened, but no worries. I got it next!


I think I was perusing the lovely lady's lovely handspun yarns (which elicited a big fat "NO!" from the Husbeast) when Chloƫ was having her turn at the wheel, so I have no pictures of her big moment. However, I was touched that she chose a whale for her bead for my bracelet, because "it was the closest thing to a shark I could find, Mom." I vowed to keep my bracelets on forever and ever, but you know what? Like all wool, they shrink and felt when improperly (depending on your desires) treated, and once I forgot to take them off before I showered. That was the end of those. I still have them, somewhere, but now they'd fit a baby. Wah, wah, wah.


After the spinning demo, I dug into my satchel and found just enough money left for the kids to share one ice cream, made from the milk of the farm's cows. It was bound to be delish, so I decided to go for it. Off to the wash station we went, for cleaning and sanitizing. It's a constant on a farm - you can bet if/when I run a farm, there will be lotion everywhere for when the dryness sets in. But anyway...


There was a bit of a walk back to where the ice cream shoppe was located, and along the way, Jack and Chloƫ made a game of tossing Sophia's shed flip-flops around. I'm pretty sure the Little Girl participate, too, but she doesn't show up in my pictures. Hmm.


We were allotted two scoops for our one serving of ice cream. Since one kid (Jack) always wants chocolate, one kid (Chloƫ) always wants vanilla, and the last kid doesn't care as long as she's being fed on a near-constant basis, we chose one scoop of each. It's always fun to give dessert to these guys. If you ever do, put it carefully in the middle and then step aside, lest you get eaten in the frenzy, too!


Even though it was the day of moms, it's pretty clear This Dad enjoyed himself, too.

Overall, with getting away for the weekend, my first Renaissance Faire, the farm field trip, and everyone enjoying themselves with minimal fighting, I'd have to rate this Mother's Day amongst the best I've ever had as a mom. Yippy Skippy.

Hm, now I wonder what I should catch you up on next? Will you stay around?


Train Of Thought


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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



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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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



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



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


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


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

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

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


Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

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


Time flies 

Is anyone else shocked it's May already? For Heaven's sake, our pool will be open in 3 weeks already! I can't believe how fast the time is flying. We are so busy all of the time, it's almost hard to keep up with flipping the calendar pages, I swear. Man. I wish I could clap my hands and stop time temporarily, and just... breathe.



I haven't been here in a few weeks, again, because of our packed schedule. Aside from our usual nutso routines, we've had a billion and one doctors' appointment, and Rob's had an accident that has kept me occupied carting him to those, work, and everywhere else, so... I am off my blog routine again. But! I am here now, and that's what counts, amiriiight?



King neptune

If you've ever thought about visiting my town, Virginia Beach, I just wrote this sponsored blog post about many of my favorite places and things to do here. Check it out if you're interested!


002 (2)

I love this cute picture of Jack eating wings during a mystery shop a couple of days ago.  With the watch and everything, he looks so grown up! For a nine-year-old shrimp, that is. I've been doing lots of mystery shopping again lately to make some much-needed extra fundage. It's fun, but man, all the reports! Ugh.



I swear, Virginia must be the vanity plate capital of the world. They're so cheap here, after all. Even I have one! I'm going to start taking pictures of the ones that amuse or interest me and posting them as part of my Fragments posts each week (or month, as it were). Can you see this one that I snapped today? It says "RR M8T." Arggghh, Matey! Hee. Do you have vanity plates?



On Wednesday, the kids took part in the coolest thing. We drove up to the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA, to attend a special event: a ham radio chat - which NASA said couldn't be done - with International Space Station Astronaut Donald Pettit! Here, the kids first learned about the early age of exploration, in the times before, during and after Columbus' life, so they could later relate that Age of Exploration to the current Space Exploration.


Then, we migrated over to the closed studio, where we connected with three classes (in New York, Michigan, and Louisiana) and the astronaut in outer space, about 400 km above Earth, over Italy. Selected students were able to ask questions and hear Pettit's answers in real time, and we learned a lot about living aboard the ISS. Did you know it only takes eight minutes to get up there, but two days to transfer into the space station? Wow. I would kill to have that opportunity. Maybe one day they'll take an old fart like me and see what they can do with me. I'll be like the female John Glenn. Anyway, it was really cool, and my kids - especially Jack up there - got a lot out of the experience. Way cool!



I took Rob in for his Neuro follow-up today, after his mini-stroke scares and subsequent finding of a benign brain tumor back in November. I was hoping for a more thorough check-up than the five minute "How are you? Fine? See you in six months" that he got, but I guess no news is good news. He hasn't had any weird things going on like he did six months ago, even after his accident, so I suppose all is well for now. He'll go back in another six months.



Also today, I went in for a my regular dental check-up, fully expecting to have two new cavities. My teeth have been ultra-sensitive lately, especially in two places, so I thought fillings were going to be the order of the day, if not a full root canal or some badness. But the diagnosis was surprising: I grind and clench my jaw and teeth so much that it's causing my gums to recede, and my enamel to wear, which is causing the pain and discomfort. The dentist said he'd be happy to sell me a $600 mouth guard, or I can go pick one up at any drug or sporting goods store for five or ten bucks and try that. Hmm. Tough choice. But yay for no new cavities!



Stay tuned for a post about our train trip up to Richmond last week; we had so much fun in our two short days. I'm so glad MIL suggested it!



Aren't these newsprint nails so cool?! I am totes going to do this as soon as I find where I put the rubbing alcohol. Hopefully that'll work, since Rob drank all the vodka and stuff. Kidding. There's probably not even a beer in this house. I love this manicure, though. TrƩs cool.



And finally, my 10Ā½-year-old, ChloĆ«, has a "boyfriend," S. Yeah. We've reached that stage. They're mad about each other. I even had to go on a ride with them to make sure they didn't kiss!!! WHAT?! She's TEN, FPS. I'm keeping a tight rein on this one and don't let them hold hands or anything, but S did recently give her a necklace in her favorite color, with hearts on it... oh, my word. I'm not ready for this part!

Chloe 2

Since Chloƫ had a photo shoot for her acting and modeling "career" recently, my friend Saritah - S's mom - was joking about, "Great, my son is dating a model. That'll go to his head..." but yeah. He is. Hee.


Well, I hope you all have a great weekend, and I'll be back in a bit with my Aloha Friday question & some more updates from our latest travels and adventures. Ciao for now!


Wild Horses Couldn't Drag Us Away

Once upon a time, also known as Friday morning, Jenny from The Block, her kids, and my kids, piled into Penelope (my Odyssey) and took a road trip up the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The main purpose of the shop was to do a mystery shop for which I was well-paid, but we got, shall we say, side-tracked, after that was finished. Had ourselves a little adventure, we did. Would you like to hear about it? Good. Grab a seat, your beverage of choice, and your mouse, because you're gonna need to do some scrollin'. For once, I had the Nikon with me and got over my camnesia!


So we meandered down the road a piece and, after talking to the scarcely-toothed manager of a local convenience shop, found our way here. You know the book Misty of Chincoteague? It's about the wild horses that roam this area. Well, I've been meaning to bring the kids up here for the entire, oh, nine years we've been living in the Beach o' Virginia to look for them. Finally, we made it. Too bad our respective Rons weren't with us. (Which is Jenny-and-me speak for "Rob," both our husbands' name...) Eventually, we plan to return for longer than a few hours and do the trip proper justice.


The first creature we spotted wasn't a horse, though. It wasn't even a vertebrate. The flutter-by captivated the five children's attention for a good few minutes before we went hiking in search of the Assateague Lighthouse, our first conquest.


I love watching the kids on a mission. Look how big Sophia is - she's the second-youngest, too! Jenny's kids are peanuts like Jack and ChloĆ«. ā™„


Ooh, looky! There it is, just over yonder!


Oh, whoops. Hang on, Moms. We have to stop and do a kickline together. The kids came up with that on their own, and then the did it about six more times during the day, in various places. Too cute. Especially the way Jack can barely stand up to do it. He's kind of, um, awkward. You should see him run. I can say it, because I'm his mother. The boy runs funny.


In short order, we found the clearing where the lighthouse lives, in all its resplendent glory. Or something.


Jenny and the kids checked out the structure, while I checked out... them.


I love that the cinderblock seemed to have been placed there just for my wee laddie!


Here's what he was so fixated upon: acres and acres of pure, unadulterated Nature. Gotta love it!


Yeah, welcome. Except, what village? I must've missed that part. It was the blink-and-you-miss-it type of town.


More signage. You can read it. I don't need to describe it. It was there, so I took its picture. That's what we perfeshunul photographers do, y'know.


The entrance of the lighthouse was all one-room schoolhouse-looking. I liked it. All old and historical. Pretty cool.


The Assateague Lighthouse. And some other little building. The keeper's quarters? I don't know.


We found a nice lady to take a picture of the seven of us together. Look, you can see the kids doing their kickline again. Hee.



Sophia taking a quick breather... (edited in Picasa for coolness)


Curly Sue had a look-see through the thingamajig, too. Nature at its finest, ready for its close-up!


Sitting on the bench near the lighthouse, Sophia deduced that the logs used for it were cut down by the late Mr. Jones memorialized thereon, and I was pretty impressed by that. Maybe you had to be there, but it was a great example of logic and reasoning for an almost-seven-year-old!


(Click pic to embiggerate) The kids all sat on the bench for another rest, and while they did so, I had them show me all the emotions I could think of. The funny part was, Jack was super-grumpy at the moment (tired), and all his expressions were exactly the same while the other four were being theatrical. Goof.


Hiking back to the van, we spotted this flash of white in the distance. Could it be a pony? We had to go see.


Oh. Nah. It was just a log. A log that proved to be quite entertaining to the shorties for several moments.


Gavin: "Get your hands out of my butt!" Madison: "Get your butt off my hands!" Okay, I made that up. Paraphrasing from the movie G-Force... ah. I entertain myself.


Cutie-pie little Gavin... he's such a sweety-kins!


More walkin', and lookin', and standin' around... And yes, we drove all the way up there and forgot to shoe poor Sophia. I carried her around a lot that day, and she is decidedly not a lightweight. Whew.


Another Gavin capture, looking cutesy-pie


Okay, yet another one, but I just love seeing little kids crouching like that! We were trying to decide whether a nearby plant was poison ivy. (It wasn't.)



All right, back to Penelope, to go find us some horsies!


I just love a van full of bebes!


This was the view out my driver's side window, when we were watching the horses, of which I did not actually obtain one dang picture, because they were so far away and well-covered by the brush and trees. Poopsticks. But it was still cool being out there and watching them. It was like being on safari. For horses. In Virginia. That was my fantasy.


Somewhere, out there, beneath the pale moonlight.. okay, it was daytime, and now I'm going to have that song in my head. Anyway, out there is where the ponies were roaming. We probably saw 6-8 of them. It was all very exciting. I can't wait to go again!


After we left the Assateague/Chincoteague area and did a little souvie shopping, we found the NASA Visitor Center and decided to go in there and check things out. And behold, it was good. A very good idea.


Yeah. The boys were in seventh heaven with all there was to see and do, rocketry-related. It wasn't lost on the girls, either. Fun times!


Curls will pose with any old satellite model if you train a camera lens on her. A born model.


A big ol' NASA balloon model, which is ginormous compared to the Washington Monument model. How come I've never seen one of these floating around? I guess maybe I wasn't paying attention, because, um, they're really big. BIG.


Madi and Gavin checking out a rocket trajectory


Chloƫ was transfixed by the astronaut-guy, who was all Madame Tussaud's-looking. Kind of creepy, but cool. Kind of.


I had fun following Jack around while he ran here-to-there, pointing out all the things hanging from the ceiling. It was too cute!


More walking and pointing. No talking, just the pointing.


At some "point," I wondered if he really cared where he was aiming that finger and just got into the habit of doing it!


A-ha! A center just for the wee folk, in the middle of the museum. There was all kinds of nifty stuff in there for the quintet.



Right after this was taken, Sophia accidentally leaned on that lid Gavin was lifting, while his bitty fingers were underneath it! Ouch! Poor little fellow.


There's Jack, doing his engineer thing, figuring things out, making 'em work. He spent a good chunk of our time there at this propulsion exhibit.


Finally, he had enough and went to go look at models of Naval ships. Jenny's husband works on this kind when he's away... but I'm blanking on what it's called at the moment.



And of course, we have an aircraft carrier here, which Jack stepped aside for me to snap, knowing it was his Daddy's kind of ship.


Then Gavin came over and found the ship his Daddy goes on, whilst Jenny brought over some free educational loot materials for us to use in our respective homeschool pursuits. Sweet!


A quiet moment for Soap


Chloƫ was watching a video about I don't know what, because I was too busy admiring her curls and ringlets.


Sophia kept insisting the two bacteria samples on the right were mixed together to form the color on the left, despite my continually telling her that it was three different organisms. Stubborn girl!


Here's what they actually were. ;)


The kids learning about El NiƱo and La NiƱa


Hey look, Gavin's a pointer, too! Must be a boy thing.


Jenny wanted to pose with the astronaut suit thingy, so I told her to "look spacey," and this is what she did. Ha! She's a hoot, that Jen.


At the end of our impromptu field trip, we stopped in the gift shop. Of course, Jack wanted one of every. single. thing. he saw in there. Little did he know I'd already scooped up some goodies from the souvenir shop we'd visited in Chincoteague, so it was killing me that he waaaaaanted something so badly and I (thought I) had left my wallet in the car. (Turns out I didn't, but that is probably a really good thing, since I kinda wanted one of everything, too!)



What? The back of his head is pretty cute, too - especially since you can tell his eyes are bugging out in the front, right?


*sigh* All right, all right, I can't stand it anymore. I whispered in his ear that I had something special just for him out in the car, and it was our little secret, and I'd show him later, and shh-shh-shh-shh-shhhhhh!


Oops, one more last pointy-point before we headed out to Penelope and back home.


2012-03-31 (2)

When we got home that night, and the girls weren't looking, I gave Jack his pressies. He was pretty excited, so much so that the first thing he did was go show his sisters. D'oh! Jack! Good thing I'd gotten them each a Chincoteague/Assateague snow globe to make up for it, but they (rightly) felt shortchanged. Ah well. I just said it was "late birthday presents," and that seemed to do the trick.

And that was the end of that little jaunt.


P.S. Sophia's snow globe is already broken. Le sigh.

Friday Fragments

Friday Fragments

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


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


001 (6)

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


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



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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


Field Trip: Mattaponi Indian Reservation


The leader of one of the homeschooling groups to which we belong set up this field trip today (Saturday) to the Mattaponi Reservation Museum near West Point, VA, and the price was right, so we decided to go along for the adventure. It took 90 minutes to get there, and it was turned out to be worth every second of the trip. We had an awesome time, and I have lots of pictures to share with you. So sit back, grab a cuppa, and scroll down. We arrived 30 minutes before the rest of our group, all of the rest of whom lived much closer, so we sat and parked at the Reservation church, facing the small cemetery. 

I noted with interest that nearly all of the last names on the headstones was "Custalow," which turned out to be the significant, main last name of the Mattaponi Tribe, which is the last remnanat of one of the 32 tribes once ruled by the great Chief Powhatan. (If that name doesn't sound familiar, it should if you've been reading here, as we learned about him on our field trip to the Jamestown Settlement earlier this school year.)


The girls went on the swings of the Reservation school with some of the other children while we waited on a few more families. Jack hung back, cranky and tired, with his dad.


I really didn't know exactly what to expect from this field trip, other than that we were visiting an Indian Reservation. I didn't know we were going inside what seemed like this teeny-weeny museum, or what else we would be doing. So I just went with the flow. Here we are, entering the Mattaponi Indian Museum, which was much larger inside than it looked from afuera.


As you can see from the sign just inside, on the front door, Custalow was indeed the major last name of the Mattaponi Indian tribe, once ruled by the powerful Chief Powhatan.


A more descriptive explanation of the tribe; George, who you'll "meet" at the end of the post, was the son of the Chief who died in 1969. Two of his brothers later became Chief of the tribe.


I took this picture of Jack examining the bear's head, then listened to him telling me how dry the tongue was, and then noticed the "Do Not Touch" sign he was obscuring. Whoops.


There were several old wasps' nests hanging inside the museum ceiling. The children were very concerned about this at first, until I explained they were no longer inhabited by their former owners, and no stings would be happening this day.


Having touched a much smaller living specimen at the Living Museum a week prior, Sophia was fascinated by this "ginormous" horseshoe crab!


Jack, still unsure about those wasp nests...


A small diorama of a Mattaponi homestead provided interest to the girls. In front of another family's dad, I asked Sophia what she saw there. She said, "It's about Jesus' birth!" and the other dad laughed and laughed. She was so embarrassed, she ran away and hid, almost in tears. He felt bad about it, and so did I, but it was pretty cute.


"Mom, look at all these spears!"


The girls had no reservations (sorry) about touching the mounted deer head, and they were especially curious about touching his eyes and how cold he was.


There was a plethora of relics and artifacts to capture the eye and keep our attention throughout the visit. I'll show you plenty, up close. George "W." Wa-huh-sun-a-cock Custalow, museum curator and son of the chief who died in '69, told us that he kept the museum open on weekends only, unless a large group was coming, because daily opening wouldn't pay enough. He also shared that Richmond government helped pay for the display cases to keep the treasures preserved, since the tribe couldn't afford to do so alone.


The card reads, "Mercy Tomahawk used for mercy killing when braves were wounded in battle" - yowza. How'd you like that?


Spelling variants and errors were common in the museum, because, of course, English was not their, um, native language, and common spellings varied regionally. Anyway, do you remember the picture of Sophia dressed up like Pocahontas at Jamestown, with the necklace and all? We come full circle. I just have found all the learning we've done on this subject this year so fascinating and incredibly, richly educational - for me, personally. I just hope the kids have gotten as much out of it.


Incredible beadwork on a leather bag


I found a few things like this and thought they were, to be quite trite, very cool.


The club Captain Smith was supposed to have been executed with before Pocahontas pleaded on his behalf


A rudimentary canoe, for which Richmond supplied the preserving case


Sharks' teeth found "90 feet below the Mattaponi River Bed" (how??) and some yellow jasper found on the Res.


More sharks' teeth (still, how??), semi-precious stones, and yellow jasper found in Oklahoma in 1962. How they all wound up here was not explained.


I didn't see anything explaining whose skull and bones were in this case; I was just glad they weren't mine!


The card reads, "Statue of Chief Powhatan as he stood on the banks of Jamestown in 1607 to welcome the settlers."


A petrified turtle body, which invited an explanation of the different meanings of "petrified" to the kids


The card reads, "Indian Hunting Outfit: Quivver [sic], arrows, tommahawk [sic] and bow."


More native dress


The card tells us that these ornately beaded moccasins were passed down for three generations over 135 years, the beads were put on with "strip sinews of red deer" and last worn by a Mattaponi Indian princess.


Old coins


An eel pot, which George said they used for catching turtles, a better tasting meat, along with a Pomogan war weapon


The card reads, "Feathered Head-Dress (with horns symbolizing war" worn by Indian Warrior Opechaneough in 1622."


More heavily beaded bags, along with come "Japenese [sic] cigarettes" from 1943, evidently brought back from war by one of the Custalow sons.


Beaded bags; as someone who does handwork, I can appreciate how much time it must have taken to create these works.


Some arrows, weapons and pottery, among other relics


Various tools and weaponry hung from the museum ceiling, near the front.