Saturday, December 19, 2009

Happy Toy Culling to You!



Today was the annual Culling of the Toys at the Flamingo household. Between hand-me-down toys from other families, yard sale toys that were deals too good to pass up, gifts from grandparents, toys we let the kids talk us into while we're in Target "just to get milk" and lest we forget, those quality fast-food toys, the toy situation in our house blossoms out of control once a year. It gets so bad that the kids can't even really play with the toys anymore because there are so many toys piled in so many bins around the house that they cannot find what they want nor want what they find. So they end up going under the house and finding something new to play with:



So the week before Christmas I try to cull the toys. Here are the rules:

1. If it came with a meal, it goes.

2. If it is broken, it goes.

3. If it has missing pieces that by the end of the culling process we have not located, it goes.

4. If it inexplicably reminds of the night we were all throwing up, it goes.

5. If it has been chewed by Chance (may he rest in peace with all the shoes he can chew in heaven), it goes.

6. If it makes a noise I can't stand, it goes.

7. If it smells like soured chocolate milk, it goes.

So here are the two bags of culled toys on their way to the dump:



And here is the new improved play room:



There are no toys whatsoever in any bins in the TV room, front room or laundry room/breakfast nook. In fact I emptied no less than 8 bins of toys today and either tossed the toys or put them in their rightful place. Isn't it lovely and peaceful? Just ignore that box up there overflowing with scrapbooking supplies I never use. It hasn't moved in three years, so it can wait until next year to have a thorough culling.

And don't pull down the red bin on the top over there on the left. It's full to the brim with random Lego pieces, all belonging to different Lego sets, the construction directions lost forever. Too expensive to throw away, but pretty much completely useless to us. And it would be downright cruel to give them to someone whose kid would drive himself insane trying to figure out if all the maroon pieces made a temple from an Indiana Jones movie or a speeder from a Star Wars movie.

But the playroom is now ready for Christmas. Time to wrap all those new toys I have hidden in the closet.
























Thursday, November 26, 2009

Suzann's Green Beans

Our second Thanksgiving as a married couple, I decided to make homemade rolls to take with us to Joe's sister's house (I can't remember what we did our first Thanksgiving as a married couple, but it's possible that we drove to Boise and stopped at that Denny's in Nevada where I played the slots with the change we'd gotten after paying for our meal and Joe said I was throwing the 50 cents away and I came back to the table four mintues later with $30 in quarters -- or maybe that was some other time). We were living two doors down from Joe's sister's family in San Diego, renting the second story of an old craftsman style house near Balboa Park (directly under the flight path of the San Diego Airport -- every morning at 6 am the planes flying 50 feet overhead shook us awake). We had this tiny galley kitchen where Joe taught me to cook. He stuck to the basics -- bake the chicken breasts in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes, make some rice on the stovetop and then steam some vegetables only he would eat. But that year at Thanksgiving, I decided to make homemade yeast rolls to walk over to Julie's house for Thanksgiving. The recipe instructed me to cut out the rolls with a biscuit cutter, which of course I did not have. I had a wine glass. So I cut the rolls out with a wine glass. On the third or fourth roll, the stem of the wine glass broke in half and I stabbed myself below my first knuckle on my right hand with the broken stem. It wasn't a long cut, but it was deep and I bled and bled, and I should have gotten stiches. But I didn't want to go sit in the emergency room for four hours on Thanksgiving Day -- especially when I was making homemade rolls! So I washed it out, bandaged my throbbing hand and continued on with the roll-making. For many years, the scar on my hand from that cut looked exactly like a turkey's head -- that is no lie. But after about 6 or 7 years, the scar changed shape a little bit and now looks like a cross. There is absolutely no reason to tell you that story -- no object lesson here about turkeys that turn to crosses -- just a little Flamingo family Thanksgiving Day lore. I can't even remember how the rolls turned out.

By our third Thanksgiving together, we were living in Macon and I was going to law school. Flamingo Joe had gotten a recipe for Moroccan turkey (was it Moroccan, honey? It might have been some other exotic land). The recipe called for beer and capers, among other things. Beer I knew where to find. Capers, not so much. Neither of us knew what a caper even was, so we didn't even know where to look for them in the grocery aisle. I made a couple of visits to different groceries, and asked more than one clerk where to find the capers and no one knew. Joe finally asked the person who gave him the recipe where to find capers and the woman told him they were in the aisle with the olives. My family was shocked I was actually cooking a turkey after only three years of marriage, but who else was going to do it? My mom had stopped cooking turkeys when the microwave came on the market and Joe's mom wasn't with us for Thanksgiving that year. So it was up to me -- and Flamingo Joe. That was the last year he helped with Thanksgiving dinner -- and you can't blame him at all -- it was extremely stressful. You had to get the turkey done and all those side dishes on the table hot at the same time! Who can take that kind of pressure?? I nearly killed us both running around the kitchen with sharp implements. The Moroccan turkey turned out great and my family was suitably impressed -- but I'm pretty sure we ate cold mashed potatoes and abandoned all efforts at gravy after adding flour, then water, then flour, then water, then throwing out the lumpy gluey nastiness after 20 minutes of effort. I still can't do gravy. Which leads me to my friend Suzann -- cause Suzann can do gravy. And fried chicken. And blackberry pie made from fresh-picked blackberries.

Between the Moroccan turkey in Year 3 and the first-time-ever-brining turkey from last year, I really can't remember every Thanksgiving -- that's nine years' worth of Thanksgivings that have slipped from my memory. Because really, I don't have long-term food memory. I'm not a foodie like some of my friends who can remember exactly what they ate at which restaurant on which day and how it compared to some other meal they had at some other place. I remember when I had real gnocchi for the first time in an Italian restaurant in San Diego and I keep looking for that some gnocchi high every time I see it on a menu, but I can never recapture it -- but that's it. Unbeknownst to me until two days ago, my husband actually is one of those people with long-term food memory. For the first time in our 13 years of marriage, I asked Flamingo Joe if there was anything in particular he wanted to have at Thanksgiving dinner (before judging me too harshly -- the reason I've never asked him before what he wanted for Thanksgiving dinner was that I was afraid he'd ask me to make brussel sprouts or spinach or, heaven help us, beets -- and quite frankly, heretofore I just haven't loved him enough to make beets for him and only barely enough to steam him up some brussel sprouts -- but this year, our love has blossomed and I was ready to make him whatever vegetable his heart desired even if it meant I had to swallow throw-up to do it). So I said, "Sweetest dearest honey, is there anything in particular you would like to have at Thanksgiving this year?" And without stopping to take a breath, he says "Suzann's green beans." Suzann's green beans????

Suzann's green beans go waaaaaay back -- to the first summer we were dating. Flamingo Joe and I met in Idaho -- that tedious love story is another blog post (or three) altogether, but suffice it to say that I was in Idaho getting a master's degree in English and Joe's mom introduced us at church the first spring I was in Idaho. So we had been dating all of two months before it was time for me to go home to Georgia for the summer. Quite honestly, I didn't really think he liked me that much and expected the big romance to fizzle right out while I was away for two and a half months, so I was very surprised when he called me up one day after I got back to Georgia and said he was going to come for a visit. Great day in the morning, I was a nervous wreck! What in the world was I going to do with Joe for a week in Douglas, Georgia?? (If you've ever been there, you know why I'm saying this -- I mean, Douglas is great, but you can only go to Danny's Pizza so many times with your out of town guests before they up and decide they want to go somewhere more exciting -- like Alma). So I came up with a plan where Joe would only have to be in Douglas for a few days -- I would pick him up at the airport in Atlanta and instead of heading south to Douglas, we'd head north to Boone, NC where my friends Suzann and Durema were going to graduate school at Appalachian State. So I picked Joe up at the airport and we got in my little Chevy S-10 pickup, where he promptly laid down across the seat and fell asleep for an hour with his head on my leg. We got to Suzann's and Durema's a few hours later and at some point over the next couple of days, Suzann cooked a meal for us -- it included fried chicken, gravy (naturally), and green beans. And don't forget the sweet tea -- Joe had just met Suzann, but for some reason felt comfortable enough to mimic her all night, saying "Can I have some more 'Swate Taaaaaay'?"

So when Flamingo Joe said he wanted Suzann's green beans, I was a little offended -- that was almost 17 years ago!!!! I've been cooking for the man for 13 years!! And when asked what favorite dish he'd like on Thanksgiving, he picks ANOTHER WOMAN'S GREEN BEANS?!? I tried to warn him off of the dangerous path he'd taken -- I told him that I was sure Suzann's green beens were cooked in a pound of lard and a big chunk of fatback, but he was oblivious and said he didn't care. Hmmph.

The next day, I emailed Suzann and asked her for the recipe, which is quite simple, really. Fresh green beans, beef bouillon cube and some sugar, all boiled in water for 1 1/2 hours. Voila! Suzann's green beans. No lard. No fatback. Apparently I could have been making these for the past 13 years and making my husband happy on a weekly basis. Go figure.



I did have to buy these "fresh" green beans in bags because Publix didn't have any of the long, unwashed variety, but they cooked up just fine and complemented my bacon-wrapped turkey quite nicely.



A few days ago, my friend Ahlem told me about how her inlaws put bacon on their turkey at some point during the cooking process and the turkey turns out very moist. And she was right, by golly! All the fat from the bacon just soaks into the turkey and oh my lands you should taste it -- and the bacon from off the top of the turkey made a tasty little appetizer for me while I was carving up the turkey.

And though it took me 13 Thanksgivings (and two ovens) to accomplish it, everything you see (except the salad, of course) on the table below is hot. And fully cooked.



It's a Thanksgiving miracle.



Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Karate Kid

Casey had his first karate tournament this weekend. I wasn't even going to sign him up for the tournament because he's only been in karate for a couple of months, but some of the other parents convinced me that I should let him do the tournament because then he would be less nervous when he had to get tested at the end of the year for his belt. They then regaled me with stories of how their own children had gotten to their first tournament and panicked, refusing to leave the stands until the karate teacher came and dragged them out onto the floor weeping. Yikes -- we can't have that, I thought. So I signed him up.

So even though he was missing flag football to go to the tournament, he was excited about it. He had been practicing his three-step sparring in karate class for the last four weeks, but I don't think he really understood what the word "tournament" meant until we pulled up into the parking lot and he saw the other children he didn't know with their uniforms on. His eyes got wide and for the first time all morning, he stopped talking.

When we walked into the gymnasium there were probably 100 kids in there, plus instructors and older students helping out, and the kids were immediately ushered away from their parents to sit with their grouping by belt color. More than one kid buckled under the pressure at that point and started crying and holding onto their mom's leg, but Casey took his shoes off and went right out onto the floor.

They practiced for half an hour and then they competed against two other students in their group and were ranked first, second, and third (so everyone gets a medal). I will confess that while I was watching Casey compete against the two little girls in his group, I was praying, "Please not third, please not third, please not third." I felt awful the whole time I was praying that because if Casey didn't place third, it meant one of those sweet little girls would place third and I almost couldn't bear it for them.

But here is Casey's big moment -- he had to wait a looooong time before it was his turn and I was worried he would totally forget what he was doing, but he didn't and I was so proud:

video

He placed 2nd in his group of three -- he came very close to placing first (or I think he did anyway -- the judges held up three scoreboards and you had to add them up to get the total score, and well, you know how I am at math):


Look at all those smiling kids! You know why they're smiling -- it's cause they ALL got a medal! Competitions didn't work that way when I was young. When I went to gymnastics meets, we had 1st through 4th place awards and if there were 10 kids in your age group, 6 were going home without anything but the program. If everyone had gotten a medal at every meet, enrollment at the gym would have gone way up. Once tournament organizers realized that giving every kid an award meant more people signed their kids up for tournaments, they started making serious money. And as much as the "award for everyone" system waters down what true competition is all about and probably makes our country weaker, as a mom of a not-so-athletic kid, I'm on board now because the flipside is discouraged kids who quit competing altogether because they never win anything. And also, if Casey didn't win something I would cry. Really.

It's possible that I'm more proud of that silver medal than Casey is. I've been carrying it in my purse since the tournament looking for an opportune moment to let it casually fall out of my purse so someone else will notice it and I can say, "Oh dear, look at that, I've dropped my son's second place medal. . . what's that? . . . oh, he had a karate tournament this weekend and placed second in his group" -- I would leave out the part about there only being three people total in his group. Why clutter up a simple conversation with irrelevant information?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Two Weekends Ago

Here I am two weekends ago checking my glands on stage (I thought I was fighting a cold, but as it turns out, it was just a three week long allergy attack):



Our Coffeehouse Worship Team played a 45 minute set at The Rock Church's Block Party at an apartment complex. It was a pretty fun day that left us sunburnt and exhausted. Joe and I went to Casey's flag football game in the morning and then over to the Block Party. Dez spent the morning and the afternoon at the Block Party. By the time we all got to Coffeehouse that night, we were very red. Dez hurt for a few days, I think. But the tradeoff for her was getting to play Hokey Pokey (she says it was Red Rover, but I think that girl on the right is putting her left leg out, getting ready to shake it all about):



It was a great night at Coffeehouse that night -- 60 people showed up and we played lots and lots of music. Dez gave her testimony -- the whole night was just great.

The next day at church was Homecoming. In the weeks leading up to Homecoming, Dez and Winnie kept asking me "What is Homecoming?" I tried to explain to them that it's part anniversary of the church's founding and part reunion, but mostly it's an excuse for a lot of people to bring a lot of food and to share it with everyone. It's also a great excuse to get a southern gospel singing group to come in and lead worship on a Sunday morning. I didn't really know what to expect out of Royal City (they're the "Royal City" group from Auburndale, Florida if you want to look them up -- I tried to find a website for them to post here, but apparently "Royal City" is an extremely popular name for southern gospel groups -- I guess since "The Gaithers" was already taken, all the groups said, "Well, what the heck, let's just call ourselves "Royal City") -- but they were really really good. They had a guy who sang bass -- and he sang way way down beneath the bass clef staff -- no, really. We were just giggling in our pews we were so happy to hear that man sing so low! I'm pretty sure that back in the day of the cavemen, the man who could sing the lowest, not the one who caught the biggest woolly mammoth, got the girl. I can't explain that.



After the singing, we headed over to the fellowship hall for the food. Here are some pictures that Casey took with my camera (Casey is just like I was when I was little and we had "dinner on the grounds" at church -- I ate a piece of chicken and some mac and cheese and maybe a roll -- almost everything at a church dinner is mixed up food in a casserole -- there might be an onion or some other unpleasant texture in there, so I never risked it and Casey doesn't either, which explains why he finished eating the four spoonfuls of mac and cheese he had on his plate in 30 seconds flat and started playing with my camera):



A little blurry, but a nicely framed shot I think. Wait -- they get better -- he was just getting warmed up with this one.



Here's Grandma. Again, a nicely framed shot and it's in focus, not over or underexposed (as if I know what that means). But here's the best one:



Casey caught the moment before Mace abandoned the spoon altogether and started licking the chocolate off the plate. So sad when your six year old takes better pictures than you.

This time last year, I was filling you in on all the big Thanksgiving Day preparations. This year, I haven't even planned the menu yet, though there is a turkey in the freezer. We have two ovens in the house this year, so maybe I'll be able to get everything hot and to the table at the same time (cold whiskey-glazed carrots -- not so good). I'll let you know. Let me tell you what I won't be doing -- most of what I did last year. I'm sticking to mashed potatoes, turkey, gravy, green beans and sweet potatoes, plus whatever you're bringing with you.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Game Ball!

Look who got the game ball after his flag football game on Saturday! The Falcons won their game, 36 to 12, and the center (pictured below) performed admirably enough to earn the game ball. He was very excited. In his acceptance speech, he thanked the coach, his parents, the Flag4Kids Football League, and his teammates. He made a plea for world peace and was in the middle of a politically charged statement regarding riparian water rights when the music came on and he had to leave the field . . .



Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Flese

Now that the trauma is over and I've been through therapy, I can share with you what's been bugging (that's a pun even if you don't recognize it) me all summer and keeping me from blogging regularly. It was the fleas.

When I was young, we lived in south Georgia and we constantly battled fleas. Back then, they didn't have those treatments that you could give a dog that actually worked. You just had to keep bathing the dog and spraying and putting Sevin dust in the yard. Since we always had dogs, we also almost always had fleas on the dog, which meant we always had flea bites. And those little boogers loved me. I woke up many many mornings with a ring of fresh flea bites around my sock line. In the winter, we'd have just enough cold weather to make them go into hibernation (or whatever it is fleas do in the winter) until spring, but it was never cold enough to actually completely kill them.

When we moved to Florida eight years or so ago, I had not had to battle fleas for 20 years and was expecting to have to start again because we had three dogs and were moving into the most hot and humid area of the country -- heaven for fleas. But oddly enough, we didn't ever have a flea problem. If we ever thought we might be starting to have a flea problem, we put the dogs on Revolution and they were fine.

However, last year, I had to put the dogs on flea control for the first time in three or four years. Then two of the dogs died/disappeared and only Chance was left. Chance swims in the brackish creek pretty regularly (up until he nearly got eaten by the alligator), so he was okay over the winter. Well, spring hit this year and all of a sudden we had the flea infestation from Hades. So we put flea treatment on the dog, bombed the house (three times), gave the dog regular flea baths, sprayed everything in the house many many times, and treated our 1.5 acres with flea granules (twice and then twice with spray). Over the course of two or three months, we spent hundreds of dollars on flea control products, but poor little Mace and poor little me were waking up with fresh flea bites every morning. It was driving me crazy. Joe, Grandma and Casey weren't getting bitten (why is that?) so when I was at the point of ripping everyone's heads off, Joe started doing some research on the internet about flea control. There are lots of remedies people recommend out there that just plain don't work (trays of water under the beds, garlic in the dogs' food, etc.). We noticed that after we got the yard under control and Chance wasn't bringing fleas into the house, we still had fleas in the house even though we'd bombed the whole house several times. Since we don't have carpet in the house, we couldn't figure out where those little beasts were hiding until I realized they had to be in between the floorboards. So one of Joe's internet remedies was to sweep diatomaceous earth throughout the house so that it would get between the floorboards and under the baseboards and dry out the fleas and their eggs and larvae. We swept it in one Sunday morning all over the house. Two days later, all the fleas were gone. So the flea fix cost us about $4 worth out of a huge $20 box of diatomaceous earth and it didn't stink or poison the children. So your helpful tip of the day: skip the bug bombs and the expensive flea powder and the spray and buy some diatomaceous earth at the pool supply store.

I found out yesterday that I was not the only one traumatized by the Great Flea Infestation of 2009. Casey came home with some papers from school yesterday -- this one was included in a booklet of math problems the children created:


My suitability for parenting is already in question at this school, now what must they think?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloweekend(s)

Well it's taken me until Tuesday to recover enough from Halloween weekend to actually get a blog post up summarizing all the Halloween fun. Let me go back a little further, though, because Halloween for me really started the weekend before Halloween at WOBtoberfest (World of Beer's version of Oktoberfest -- don't worry, Mom, I don't actually frequent World of Beer, but Dez talked us into going -- she's a very bad influence on me and you should really have a talk with her about it the next time you're down). WOBtoberfest is held outdoors and there are really loud bands and really long lines for beer. I don't like beer so much, but Joe doesn't mind it at all, so right before we paid a stupid amount of money to go in, I put my driver's license and money in my pocket. I know you're thinking that this story doesn't really fall under the Halloween category because there are no costumes involved (unless you count the creepy guy taking his shirt off on stage), but it gets really spooooooky here in a minute because while I was at WOBtoberfest, I lost my driver's license. And that's what's spooky -- I did not have one drop of alcohol while I was at WOBtoberfest and I was the one who lost a driver's license. Very weird.

Then on Monday, I lost my cell phone. I don't lose things that often and really lose them -- you know what I mean. I lose my keys sometimes, but since my car is sitting in the driveway I at least have an idea that the keys are somewhere in the house, or the car, or laying on the driveway, or at the bottom of the flower pot on the porch that my son loves to dig in. So the keys are lost, but not really lost. But I really lost my cell phone. And it is difficult for me to survive without the phone. Without the driver's license I can just drive very very carefully, but without the phone, I can't read and respond to email while waiting in line at the bank and I can't text back and forth with Dez about the nut cases at her job. I was in a panic worrying about who might be reading my attorney-client-privileged email. It took me 24 hours to retrace my steps and figure out that I lost the phone at Target. So I called Target and had this conversation:

Me: Hi, I think I left my cell phone there, do you have it?

Target: Hold on, let me transfer you.

(holding)

Target: Can I help you?

Me: Yes, I think I left my cell phone there, do you have it?

Target: They transferred you to the bakery. Did you leave it in the bakery?

Me: No.

Target: Hold on, let me transfer you.

(holding)

Target: Can I help you?

Me: Yes, I think I left my cell phone there, do you have it?

Target: What kind of phone?

Me: Blackberry

Target: Did it have a cover on it?

Me: Yes, a black rubbery cover.

Target: Who's the service provider?

Me: Verizon

Target: Yes, we have it.

Me: Okay, I'll come get it.

10 minutes later I'm standing at the customer service counter at Target and three salespeople plus two managers and 15 minutes later, I am within arms' length of holding my phone again. The manager pulls out some sort of log and writes something down in it (while still holding my phone) and then looks up at me and says, "I need to see your driver's license."

Darn good thing I had my passport on me.

Which brings us up to the actual Halloween weekend. On Friday night at dinner, Grandma suggested we go to breakfast at IHOP the next morning. Either she didn't want to have to cook breakfast or she was craving those pumpkin pancakes. I myself was dying for the pumpkin pancakes, so it was a done deal and Joe had no say whatsoever in the matter. So Saturday morning we all got up bright and early (that's 6:30 for everyone but me -- I got up around 7:15 and only because I knew pumpkin pancakes were waiting for me), piled in the car and drove to IHOP. IHOP is hit or miss -- kind of like Denny's and Steak n' Shake -- if you go on the right day at the right time, you might get good service and decent food, but you should never count on it and always prepare yourself for the worst so that you can be pleasantly surprised. In this case, we managed to identify every flag on the glass above the benches (using my Blackberry's internet access) in the amount of time it took them to get us our food.

If you haven't been to IHOP in the last couple of weeks, you might not know that not only do they have pumpkin pancakes right now, they also have pecan pie pancakes, gingerbread pancakes, and eggnog pancakes. It was not an easy choice. I mean, I really really really wanted to try the eggnog pancakes, but I wasn't sure we'd even get back to IHOP before Christmas so that I could have the pumpkin pancakes later. We haven't been to IHOP in a year -- I didn't want to waste my one chance at pumpkin pancakes! Maybe because she's older and checking things off her bucket list, Grandma stepped on out there and had the pecan pie pancakes. I played it safe and stuck with the pumpkin. Joe (who I think was resenting the whole trip) had an omelot made out of wheat germ and eggwhites or something and then snuck Mace's bacon off his plate when he thought Mace wasn't looking. But Mace was looking and apparently he had come to IHOP for the bacon:


Mean old daddy, eating the little boy's bacon.

Saturday night, we did our Saturday night church thing and then raced over to Heidi's to go trick or treating with Heidi's kids. Look at these adorable children:


Kate was Minnie Mouse, Ben was Lightning McQueen, Mace was Wow Wow Wubbzy and Casey was a goth teenager. Just kidding, he was Batman without the mask -- but doesn't he look like a teenager in that picture? He's like a foot and a half taller than all those kids. He had revealed his true crime-fighting identity before we even left the driveway because it was 85 degrees.

Kate and Mace only actually walked to maybe three houses, then they were just chauffered:


When we got back to Heidi's, the kids stripped off the costumes and started running off their sugar highs. Mace and Ben went cruising for chicks in Ben's Mustang:


Note the boys' hand placement in that photo -- Mace is trying to take the wheel and Ben is messing with the radio. And they say women are terrible drivers!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Playdoh and Party Hats


I'm a big fan of hands-on learning and I think it's important that my children, particularly in their young years, explore the world with their senses. But I am mystified some days at what Mace's preschool teacher sends home. Seriously, what is this? Every few weeks I get a baggie with a spoonful of swirly-colored ooze from Mace's teacher. At first glance, it appears to be playdoh. But why would the teacher send a spoonful of playdoh home? If the kids played with playdoh this week, seems like the teacher would just put an entry in the newsletter about it along with all the other earth-shattering preschool news. Playdoh's expensive -- why would you send it home and not keep it for the next class? And if it's not playdoh, I don't want to touch it. A few weeks ago, she sent home a baggie of greenish-yellow ooze and I thought Mace had sneezed and the teacher wanted me use it for a scrapbook entry ("First Preschool Sneeze"). His teacher is a little OCD -- Mace almost had a panic attack when I got him out of the car on Tuesday because I had left his backpack on the floorboard instead of giving it to him to take into class. ("Baaaaackpaaaack! Baaaackpaaack!") The teacher has this little ritual where she makes the kid kiss you at the door (so you can't come in and engage in long , tearful goodbyes), then the kid is trained to put their backpack away in their cubby and go to a table. No looking back, no whining, no nothing -- gotta get busy making some goo to take home. So when I almost left his backpack in the car, I guess Mace thought that he was gonna catch it from the teacher if he didn't have that backpack to put in the cubby. Hopefully, as an adult, he'll land somewhere in the middle of his OCD preschool teacher and his when's-the-last-time-we-brushed-your-teeth mommy.

But look at this adorable hat his teacher made for them this week:


He's been wearing it now for two days straight, except for when he took it off this morning to make cinnamon toast smoothies:


(Yes, the blades are still in the bottom of the mixer cup, but don't call DCF cause they are very very dull) He put it back on to celebrate R2D2's birthday, however, because what's a party without party hats, right?


It probably took all the self-control his teacher had not to take those stickers off his hat and line them up just so.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Family Values

It's been almost year since I started this blog. In that span of time I've introduced you to the members of my family (dogs and otherwise) and my extended family (a mannequin chained to a flag pole beside the road can be part of your extended family, can't she? If you love her? If you miss her when she's not there?). That begs the question:



Where is Trashy Angel/Pirate/Aunt Samantha?? I keep waiting for her to make an appearance now that the rainy season is over. We're only 6 days away from Halloween! Shouldn't she be out at the pole in her witch costume? The last time we saw her, she was out for Cinco de Mayo. But she's been missing ever since. I did see her laying on the sidewalk one day a couple of weeks ago, but I guess she was just taking a nap. I think someone managed to pry her loose from the pole back in May and took her home as a prank. But no one came looking for her and perhaps the thief got tired of her taking up valuable space on his sofa so he brought her back. If that's the case, he (and yes, only a man would have stolen her [for obvious reasons]) could have at least propped her up against the pole instead of laying her out on the sidewalk like that. Where is she?? I'm starting to get worried that her apartment complex is resorting to traditional marketing techniques like advertising in the paper, putting balloons and signs up, and offering free rent for a month. The mannequin wasn't working? People were offended by her lack of decorum? They refused to rent an apartment where the mascot didn't wear a bra? Ah well, maybe family values are on the upswing after all.



Speaking of family values, we took the boys back to Congo River Golf. Casey beat me by one stroke. And I was playing to win. But Casey's been perfecting his form and I was no match for him.



Strangely enough, he also knew all the golf lingo -- he was correctly calling his shots on any given hole, "par," "birdie," "bogey" and even "double bogey". I have no idea where he picked that up, but I suspect it might be from YaYa's Wii.

Mace was also very into the game -- he lost interest pretty quickly in the ball, but thoroughly enjoyed attacking the bushes and trees with his club ("hammer!") and figured out what to do with the scorekeeper's pencil:



(Joe said, "Hey Mace, put this pencil in your nose." I took this picture about 2 seconds too late -- - he had it dangling there for a while. What can I say? I have very obedient children.)

Speaking of obedience, this is what happens after I say to my son, "No, leave them in the bed. You don't need those."



Note how he upended the cushions of the couch and hunched over so that I wouldn't see him as I came down the stairs and walked behind the couch on my way to the kitchen. Stinker.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Are You Ready For Some Football?

I need to confess -- throughout high school primarily, definitely all the way through college, and even a little during my post-graduate days, I totally faked liking football. I had to pretend to like it in high school because I was in marching band and attended EVERY SINGLE FOOTBALL game for four years straight. You would think that I might have picked up on some of the finer points of the game -- for example, that the players are actually running plays out there and not just running around hoping they'll be in the right place to catch the ball when it's thrown. Nope. I didn't pick that up.

And in college, when I was in Golden Pride and it was my job to encourage my "adopted" football player during the week, you would think that I would have at least paid attention to and learned what he was at least doing on the field so that each week I would have something more encouraging to say in my note to him other than, "Go Lions! Way not to get your uniform too dirty last week!"

And seriously, I dated my fair share of football players (if by "date" you mean "tutor") and one coach (I really did date the coach, though I'm not sure he would totally agree with my characterization of the relationship), for that matter. So you would think that I would have made an effort to understand the game and actually try to like it. But I didn't. It was so boooorrrrring! I have faked it for lo these many years and I feel as though I owe lots of people (men, primarily) an apology for that.

But last night, Joe and I caught the tail end of the Bears/Falcons game -- the last 4:00 of the game (which of course took 35 minutes to play) -- and suddenly, it all clicked. It was fascinating! The plays! The flags on the plays! The drama! It was so great!!! I knew who the running backs were and the linebackers and what the refs were talking about when they doled out the yardage penalties. All the pieces of the game suddenly fell into place and it was like I understood a foreign language I had never been able to understand before.

So to what can we attribute this sudden dawning of understanding?



Casey may still be trying to grasp a better understanding of the game, but I've apparently been hanging on Coach Dan's every word.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waistlines

When my parents were in town last weekend, my mom and I went shopping. I haven't shopped for clothes since probably this time last year because when you go to work in your pajamas two to three days a week, you don't really need too much in the way of new clothes. And I don't like shopping for clothes anymore. I used to love it, I think. It's hard to remember those days before kids when I tried on clothes before I bought them and actually shopped in stores with dressing rooms, as opposed to stores where you just pick the clothes up off a table, guess at the size, and then throw them in your cart with the 72 oz jar of mayonnaise.

In the old days, as women got older, they would start buying pants that had elastic in the back. And then several years after that, those women would move into the pants that were elastic waist all the way around. All in the name of comfort. As a woman's waist becomes a creamier middle, a woman loses all desire to show off her midriff with some sexy low-rise jeans.

This weekend, I found the new fashion equivalent of the elastic waist pants for forty somethings with increasingly creamy middles.



I bought two pair.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Possum Reenactment

It has been twelve days since I last posted. I have many many good excuses for not posting, none of which include cleaning my office, replacing the floor in the boys' bathroom, or catching up on a rather large quilting project for which I've cut all the pieces that are sitting in symmetric little piles on a shelf in Grandma's sewing room. But I got distracted by prime time television, flag football, and fleas, though not necessarily in that order -- and don't forget being a homeroom mom and practicing law. I have toyed with the idea of posting every day for a month, just for the exercise in self-discipline. But do I really need any more self-discipline? I already brush my teeth at least once a day -- isn't that enough self-discipline? How disciplined do we all need to be, really?

A week and a half ago, we had our first taste of fall -- the temps dipped into the 70s during the day and the 50s at night, so the boys got to wear their footie pajamas for the first time.



You may be surprised to learn that you (or Aunt Julie) can find footie pajamas in a boys' size 10. Or you may wear footie pajamas yourself every night and this doesn't surprise you at all. Since that one cold night, though, noontime temperatures have not been back below 90 degrees and it's wearing people's patience thin (diagram that sentence!). This is the time of year when true Floridians will actually complain about the heat -- they stoically persevere during the rest of the summer, refusing to complain when it's 99% humidity and 97 degrees and somehow not raining, because they moved here from Michigan fifteen years ago because they "love warm weather." But when it's getting on into October and the electric bills are still coming in at over $400, it's obvious that even the most die-hard Floridians have really only been holding their breaths for the past three or four weeks just waiting for one night when they can sleep with the windows open and wake up with an allergy headache. But I digress whilst complaining about the heat. So sorry.

Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted the possum video? Well, Chance and the possum decided enough time had elapsed since the first episode to stage a reenactment (by the time I took this video, they had reenacted the first catch and release many times). So here is Chance stalking the trash can. Unfortunately, he's not on point, which is much more fun to see, but he's getting old, so this is really the most bird-doggedness that he can muster:



And here is the possum in the trash can waiting to be rescued by my husband, who happened to be out of town for three days when these pictures were taken:



And here is the video of me rescuing the possum from the trash can:

video

And by "me," I of course mean Elsie.

But do you not find it odd that the same possum is at the bottom of the trash can again? Whose behavior should we expect to change after rescuing the same possum on several other occasions out of the same trash can -- the possum's or Flamingo Joe's? Possum are notoriously not so clever; Flamingo Joe is notoriously clever, so you would expect the dumb possum to keep falling back into the same trash can. But you would think at some point Flamingo Joe would rearrange the trash cans so the possum couldn't jump from the stairs to the cans so easily or maybe Flamingo Joe would even, say, put the lids on the trash cans. I am now convinced that Flamingo Joe was actually conducting an experiment to see how many times he could catch the same dumb possum. He wouldn't come out and admit this when I accused him, but he did get that gleam in his eye and twitch to his lip that he gets when I've busted him. His experiment came to the expected scientific end: you can catch the same dumb possum an infinite number of times up until the point where your wife gets sick of that possum smell and puts the lids on the trash cans.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

For Kendall

Dear precious little Kendall, my prayer for you as you grow from wee wittle weesomeness into a grown woman, is that you will not need three people to run your household, and that if you do, you won't forget how to do your family's laundry when one of the three people running your household breaks her tibia (in her own garage, not yours) and can't come to run 1/3 of your household for 2 months.

I'm sure your parents have other hopes and dreams for you, but none nearly as realistic as mine.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Le Beurre

I went with the girls to see Julie and Julia this weekend at the movie theater. And in case you were not aware, the theme of the movie is . . .





. . . butter. Yes. You may have thought it was something like redemption or pulling yourself up from your bootstraps to get somewhere in life, but that is incorrect. The theme of the movie is butter. Lots and lots of butter.

At the end of the movie, there was a little post-script screen where the moviemakers tell you what happened to the characters after the time period covered in the movie. Did you know that Julia Child (who basically bathed in butter) lived to be 92 and her husband (who ate all that buttery goodness Julia served up) lived to be 91?

So the theme of the movie was: butter.
And the moral of the story was: you can eat all you want.
Apparently butter is the secret to long life. I suspected as much all along.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Flag Football


Last weekend during Flag4Kids Football training camp, Casey was picked to play center on his team (this didn't surprise Joe for some reason). The quarterback didn't want to put his hands far enough between Casey's legs, so the Coach yelled, "Get your hands under there! He's not going to fart on you!"

He's standing on a field full of 6 to 9 year old boys -- can he really believe that?

Aside from living in a dream world, Coach Dan is very good. My son is having fun playing football even though it's still 90 degrees and 90% humidity outside. Putting him as center was a great decision, one I'm sure Coach Dan made within the first three minutes of seeing Casey's version of "running" down the field (Casey's more of a mosey-er than a runner). Casey can snap the ball, take three running-like steps forward and then turn around and wait.

Here is he is on one of his team's first defensive plays of the game:

video


Once he figured out that he had to chase down the kid with the flag, he looked a little more confident. I'm sure in a few weeks he'll be zipping around out there, but for now he's still operating under that first-child strategy of watching and learning so that when he jumps in to fully participate he won't fall on his face.

So we're spending our Saturday mornings at an elementary school field where budget cuts in the school system have apparently caused the elimination of the employee who was responsible for cutting the grass and spreading fire ant killer on the hundreds of fire ant beds on the fields.

And I don't want to be a whiner or anything, but if you're going to have a league rule that anyone caught peeing outside has to sit out the rest of the season, and the school doesn't open up any bathrooms for the kids to use, wouldn't it only be fair to have a port-a-potty around?


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Chess

Flamingo Joe: "Hey Casey, how was chess today?"

Casey: "Good."

FJ: "Did your coach teach you how to lose graciously?"

Casey: "Daaaaad. It was only the first lesson!"

FJ: "Right."

Casey: "Do you want to play chess after dinner?"

FJ: "I don't know -- I don't think I could handle getting beat at chess by a 1st grader."

Casey: "Oh please , I was beating you in kindergarten."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Piggy Prognosis

AN UPDATE ON THE IMPENDING HEALTH SCARE AT THE FLAMINGO HOUSEHOLD:

Joe has been quarantined at home this week because he spent all of last week working in a room with a woman who came down with the Swine Flu over the weekend. Now, if Joe actually comes down with the Swine Flu this week, we will of course stop calling it the Swine Flu and call it H1N1 because I have noticed that changing the name to its more genteel designation is how it works once someone in your own family contracts it.

Joe was very responsible yesterday and did not go to the 1st grade picnic and infect 30 children with a virus he does not have. I know you're relieved.

If any of us actually do come down with the unfortunately-named flu, you will likely be the last to know because I will have had to spend the day calling two schools, Joe's work, the courthouse, the Publix down the street where I bought groceries today, the Hess station where I got gas yesterday, Casey's karate teacher, and the three McDonalds restaurants on Hillsborough where we tried to find Lego Racers this week, so that they can all alert anyone who might have been breathed on or touched by one of us and the victims can go home and not be sick for a week.

This can't be good for the economy.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Bo Bo




We're having some trouble weaning Mace from his pacifier, or his "Bo Bo" as he calls it. By "weaning" I of course mean "not even attempting to wean him from the Bo Bo at all." (I think our nanny came up with the term "Bo Bo", but I'm not sure. My mom calls it a "plug" -- a term I find offensive for reasons I could explain, but won't. This is a family-friendly blog after all.)

Casey gave up his pacifiers around the time he turned one. He had started chewing them off at the nub while he slept, so we were of course worried he would choke. As I recall, one night we just took them out of the crib and he went to bed as normal and never even looked around for the pacifier.

Mace, however, seems to have an unhealthy attachment to his Bo Bo. The rule regarding the Bo Bo is this -- only in the bed. But you have to remember two things: 1) Grandma lives with us, and 2) Mace can run upstairs, stick his hands through the crib slats and grab a Bo Bo before you can turn around from cleaning up whatever chocolate milk mess he has made to divert you from noticing that he has run upstairs, gotten the Bo Bo, come back downstairs and is now standing innocently behind you with one in his mouth. It's a constant battle all day long. We catch him with a Bo Bo and say, "Why do you have a Bo Bo?" And he shrugs and bats his eyes while he either takes it out and hands it to you or runs off squealing down the hallway with it still in his mouth.

If Mace was not the last Flamingo that will be born of the Flamingo union, I would have long ago taken the Bo Bo, tossed it in the trash and dealt with the consequences, in spite of Grandma's pleas that it's not hurting anything, he's still so little, blah blah blah. But he is still allowed to have his Bo Bo when he naps or goes to bed for the same reason that I have not transitioned him out of the crib and didn't get his hair cut until he was two. He's the wee Flamingo.

And I will confess that there's another small reason he still gets his Bo Bo. Casey gave up taking naps when he was about 18 months old. Mace still takes three hour naps in the afternoon. Did you hear me? THREE HOUR NAPS! I'm pretty sure the difference is the Bo Bo and even if it's not, I'm not willing to chance losing those wonderful naps. If your nanny had broken her tibia and hadn't been able to work in a month and would still not be back to work for another three weeks, you'd feel the same way. Trust me.

I do realize that the longer we go without dealing with the Bo Bo situation, the harder it will be to deal with it. But I figure we should be able to get him weaned off the Bo Bo as we transition him into the "big boy" bed. I'm sure the excitement of Casey going off to college will help distract Mace during the transition and all should go smoothly.




Thursday, September 10, 2009

Destination v. Journey, Part III

Who wants to see some ducks come out of an elevator, march across a red carpet, hop into a fountain and swim around? You'd be surprised. Well, you might not be surprised that my kids wanted to see that, but you would be surprised that about 200 or so people show up to see it every day at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis:



And they're just regular old ducks raised on some dude's farm. They're not even hooded mergansers.

Regardless, I remember being very excited about seeing the ducks "march" when I was a child and visited Memphis. My own kids were no different. They thought those ducks were fanfreakingtastic. And after we watched them waddle out of the elevator and down the red carpet, we went up to the roof to see where they live when they're not paddling around the fountain. Their digs used to be really cool, with wrought iron fancy cages. Now, the ducks live in air-conditioned comfort inside a glass room with a pool for swimming and a nesting box. I was so disappointed the cool wrought iron cages were gone that I didn't deem the new ducky abode worthy of a photo.

But we found some other things on the roof worthy of photos:



We found these kids getting ready to jump off the roof. Where is their mother?



Oh. Oops! Wait a sec', those are mine.

We also took a family photo minus daddy:



And the only reason I feel compelled to post it here is because of that look on Mace's face. He had only 2 minutes before tripped over my foot and landed forehead first on the concrete. He was very unhappy with me (since it was my fault, after all) but at the same time he was compelled to come to me for comfort -- it was a tough moment for him. Comfort won out, but only barely.

Nanny and Nette bought Mace a toy duck in the gift shop. Nette discovered, only on the way out of the store (so she says!) that the duck quacked. Three times in a row. Loud enough to hear across the Mississippi in Arkansas. Don't believe me?

video

Funny, I'm not sure that duck actually made it back to Tampa. It may have gotten "lost" in one of the camper cushions on the way home. Poor wittle wost ducky.

Moving on. We took Casey to see the Mississippi River because we had told him that it was a mile wide and he just had to see a river that was a mile wide. So we get there and he is singularly unimpressed. I realized that it was because he thought a mile was much longer than it really is -- I forget that he's six sometimes (and can you blame me, the boy reads words like "outrageous" the very first time he sees them!).



Those three grown-ups there in that photo decided that Casey had not been in enough states in 2 days (FL, GA, AL, MS, TN), so while PopPop and I took Mace back to the camper for a nap, those three took Casey over the bridge to Arkansas. On their way back to the camper, they stopped off by a cotton field and let Casey pick some cotton. Casey came back with a beautiful cotton boll that he took to show his classmates this week.

And try as I might, I cannot seem to work in the phrase, "Hey, now, you just wait a cotton pickin' minute!" into this blog post, so I decided to stick it awkardly onto the end where it has no purpose whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Destination v. Journey, Part II

Friday night, after visiting Mama Dot in the hospital and Aunt Fran at her senior apartment (and eating BBQ at the Commissary), we finally gave in to Casey's begging and pleading and took him to the fair. Again, I could not figure out why he wanted to go because I knew it would be a waste of money -- I usually spend all my time at fairs and amusement parks trying to get Casey to ride even the tamest of kiddie rides ("Casey. Seriously. The bananas are just going around in a circle, they don't even move up and down. Don't you want to ride? No? Really? Fine. Your loss.") But something got into Casey Friday night, starting with the Fun Slide. I cannot believe he walked all the way up those stairs and let that creepy looking guy tell him to get on his burlap sack and slide down. But he did! See --



I was shocked. He couldn't believe it himself, either. Buoyed by our success on the Fun Slide, we moved on to a couple of fun houses -- the Sponge Bob one was particularly lame, but what do you expect out of a fun house themed around a sponge? The others were better -- one had a ball pit in it and my sister, who spent a few years as a Dollywood employee nearly vomited at the idea of Casey jumping into a ball pit maintained by carnies. She said it's not the balls so much that get disgusting, it's what's under the balls. She doesn't have kids, so she's never seen what happens to the inside of a sippy cup half full of chocolate milk after it sits in your car for three days in August. After that, a little schmuck at the bottom of a ball pit doesn't turn your stomach anymore.

But I digress. Casey's next big achievement was riding the race cars. I think he thought they were like the ones at Disney where you actually control the speed of the cars yourself. He got into the car, though, and immediately got this panicked look on his face. You can see that he figured out he had no control over the situation and that freaked him out. That's what freaks him out about all rides (that's my problem with airplanes -- if I'm not flying the thing, then surely it's going to plummet to the earth).



I think the cars ride was the one that got Casey hooked on the adrenaline rush because after that he was willing to ride most anything in the kids' section. He rode:

the monster trucks



the motorcycles



and the airplanes



And then we ran out of tickets and I wasn't willing to buy any more. So all Mace got to ride was this little car we rented for him at the entrance:



If you think he looks kind of dazed, you're right -- it's already 10:00 in this picture. The only thing keeping him awake at this point are YaYa's shoes.

But it wasn't a total dud of a night for Mace. He vanquished some goats with his blow-up sword.



He also vanquished his Aunt Nanny -- but she was fighting with a blow-up guitar, so he clearly had the advantage (and the stance! Maybe he'll be a fencer -- I've always dreamed of having a kid who grew up to fence! Not stolen goods, swords.)



And thus endeth our night at the Delta Fair. I learned that the fair is just as dirty today as it was when I was a kid and that they still race pigs there. Sorry, didn't get a picture of that. But the next day I got some pictures of ducks in a fountain that I'll show you tomorrow night.