Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Beach Day

On Friday, Heidi and I took our kids to the beach. We slopped on the sunscreen at home, loaded them in the car with Pop-Tarts, and headed south to Pass-A-Grille.

Heidi prefers not to go to the beach with her children alone because she's afraid the huge Gulf waves will sweep her children out to sea:


But this isn't a blog post to make fun of Heidi and her miscellaneous paranoias. She's a good mommy who looks after her children and keeps them safe. And she teaches them all about those little sea creatures who have tongues that come out of their shells and dig back into the sand:

She kept the kids entertained for an hour looking for the little varmints.

Heidi is also a muy excellente professional photographer, so her blog post regarding our jaunt to the beach has muy better photos.

And when you check out her post, you will see that Mace did not spend the entire day cheesing it up for the camera.

Just most of it.

And because Heidi did not humiliate me by showing everyone what I look like in a bathing suit these days, I photo-shopped (isn't it funny how we make verbs out of nouns?) her out of that picture with the big wave up there. And I have also decided NOT to post the video of Heidi running around in the water chasing fish, though by far that was the single most entertaining thing that happened on the beach last Friday. Yes, you are welcome, dear friend.

Look behind Mace down the beach in that shot. Note that there is almost no one else on the beach. That is either because 1) we're in a really bad economy and no one can afford to vacation; 2) the money BP gave Florida to advertise the fact that there is no oil on our beaches is wasted money if there is actually oil on some beaches (but not ours on the West Coast . . . yet); or 3) it's still 10:00 in the morning and the beaches don't fill up until almost noon. My guess is that it's a combination of all three. By noon, there were more people on the beach, but it was nothing like what you would expect on a Florida beach in the summer. So if you are indeed contemplating a vacation to Florida this summer, come on down, there's no oil on our west coast beaches.

But there are REALLY HUGE WAVES you should watch out for.

This concludes my effort to bolster Florida's economy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Way to Go, Rocket!

For almost a month, Flamingo Joe and I have been awakened intermittently at night by the sound of a voice saying, "Way to go, ______!" There's a blank there because we couldn't tell what the voice was saying. I was convinced it was Diego saying "Way to go, Falcon!" But I wasn't sure why Diego was encouraging a falcon and I could not remember any toy we had where Diego encouraged anything, much less a falcon.

But the voice sounded just like Diego's.

Several nights, either FJ or I would actually get up out of bed and go in search of the voice. When it was me, I would stumble into the playroom and stand there, sort of swaying with my eyes half open, waiting for the voice to speak. I felt a little like Samuel.

It wouldn't speak, so I would start rummaging through bins looking for a Diego toy. We have a Diego Field Journal and a Diego Nature Center, neither of which could I ever get to recreate the "Way to go, _____!" sound. Regardless, I would take both of those toys downstairs so that if Diego yelled again, we wouldn't hear it. It made me feel better. And for a few nights Diego wouldn't wake us up and the toys would eventually make it back upstairs.

Two nights ago, Diego was at it again, but instead of being content to encourage falcon or whomever only once or twice. He encouraged five or six times -- once every three minutes or so. I dragged myself out of bed, stumbled to the playroom, grabbed the Field Journal and Nature Center and took them downstairs. Then I went back to bed and fell asleep.

For five minutes . . . until I heard, "Way to go, _____!"

But since I didn't know where the noise was coming from (and it obviously wasn't coming from the Field Journal and Nature Centere which were now out of earshot), there was nothing I could do but sleep for three minutes at a time until morning.

When I got up and went downstairs in the morning, as I was passing by the couch I said something really upbeat and positive about the horrible night I'd had, "Stupid toy! It won't shut up! What is it even saying? 'Way to go, Falcon?"

Casey, who was sitting on the couch, said, "Mom, it's saying, 'Way to go, Rocket!"

"What?!" I said. I had asked Casey several weeks ago what he thought was making that sound, but I think the toy never woke him until two nights ago.

"It's that toy that has a maze on it and it has Diego on one side and Little Einsteins on the other" he informed me.

It took me a few minutes to figure out which toy he was talking about because we don't own any toy that has Diego on one side and Little Einsteins on the other . . . but we do have a toy that has those weeble wobble characters on one side and Little Einsteins on the other.

So I went off in search of it and sure enough, I found it and was able to recreate the sound:

"Way to go, Rocket!"

And then I threw it out.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Coffee Post

You may recall that over Memorial Day weekend Dez, the boys, and I spent the long weekend at my parents' house in Douglas, Georgia. The morning we left, we stopped at a convenience store in the middle of town to buy coffee.

As a rule, I kill my coffee before I drink it by choking it with sugar and flavored creamer. At home, that takes two teaspoons of sugar, half a packet of Truvia, and almost a quarter cup of french vanilla creamer. At a convenience store, killing my coffee requires 8 packets of sugar and 4 to 6 french vanilla creamers. So killing my coffee at a convenience store takes quite a bit of time . . . and it's a little embarrassing to be putting that much stuff in your coffee when there are a couple of truckers waiting to just get to the coffee spout and put their mouth underneath it. This means that I usually try to hurry along the coffee preparation by opening three packets of sugar at a time and moving very fast.

On this particular Memorial Day morning, I volunteered to go in and get coffee for both Dez and I while she sat in the car with the boys because as soon as I started describing to her how to make my coffee, she retreated within herself and went to her happy place. So I went into the store and proceeded to the coffee counter. Immediately behind me, stocking shelves, was a store employee who was chatting it up with another customer. I fixed Dez' coffee first -- it was easy: one creamer and a couple of sugars, I think. Then I started on mine -- five minutes later I had opened the last creamer and dumped it in the cup.

Before I continue, let me describe this coffee counter -- it was about four feet deep and six feet long. It had two coffee machines sitting on it and various other machines, baskets, and buckets for sugars, creamers, etc. It was a big counter that I'm sure the store employees dreaded cleaning every night.

So after dumping my sixth creamer into the cup, I reached for a lid and knocked my full cup of coffee over onto the counter. I stared in horror as the coffee quickly covered the entire counter, winding its way underneath the coffee machines and bins. There were, of course, NO napkins whatsoever on or near the counter because that's one way convenience stores save money -- by not providing napkins for people. The store employee standing behind me (and with her back to me) did not hear my gasp of horror or the blood rushing to my face, so I stepped over to her and said in my most humble voice possible, "Um, excuse me, do you have some paper towels or a rag? I spilled my coffee over here and made a huge mess??" She turned around and looked at the counter without a word to me and huffed off -- really, she huffed. I just stood there waiting to see what would happen -- I felt like I was waiting for my punishment, really. She came back with a roll of paper towels and handed them to me, so I started cleaning. Of course, by the time she had gotten back to the me with the paper towels, the coffee had become a surface area science experiment and had miraculously multiplied its volume by 6 and spread all the way to the back and across the length of the counter. A man came in about that time and said something to the woman about the big mess, and she said something along the lines of "Well, at least the lady that done it gon' clean it up. They us'ly don't." So the man pitched in and started helping. That made the store employee feel bad, so she started helping too.

It took three of us twenty minutes to clean up all that coffee -- we had to move the machines and the storage containers and wipe underneath -- it was awful. I knew Dez was out in the car wondering what in the world I was doing, but she couldn't come check without bringing the boys in.

And here's the really humiliating part -- after we got the coffee cleaned up, I had to make another cup of coffee and of course it took twice as long as it took to make the first cup because this time, I had to be very very careful lest I spill it again. So I knew those people were dying to talk about me and were having to wait until I put my 8 sugars and 6 creamers in -- they just watched me fix it, waiting, no doubt to comment on how it was no wonder the counter was so sticky considering all the sugar I put in my coffee. I finally killed it, paid for it (the woman at the register wouldn't let me pay for the cup I spilled, so that's something, I guess) and left.

I blame Starbucks, of course, because none of that would have happened if Douglas, Georgia had a Starbucks.

Monday, June 21, 2010

An Electrifying Cautionary Tale

I'm not sure if we've covered this topic before, but I did not really want to live in Florida. But I'm here now and rather like it. Granted, there are way too many strip malls and you can tell just how many too many there are now that most of them are sitting 90% empty and yet we all still manage to find places to buy our pool supplies and get our hair cut. If I had any say in the matter, there would only be one strip mall per 10 square miles and as a condition of leasing out the strip mall, the developer would have to plant full grown oak trees up and down every parking row so that there was adequate shade for everyone to park in the shade.

But one of the things I like most about Florida is the rain. (Seems like I posted a rain video last year, but I couldn't find it in my archives and Blogger is having video uploading issues, so I'm sorry but you won't be able to fully immerse yourself in this blog post about the rain.) Two items of note in the picture above -- 1) the dead Expedition that is delighted we do not live in a subdivision because it would have been carted off to a junk yard by order of said subdivision's HOA in light of its state of disrepair and immobility; and 2) the trench running from the house to the "oasis" area in the middle of the yard -- this is the trench where the electrical wire for the pump lays -- Flamingo Joe has clearly marked the open trench with shovels and post hole diggers standing straight up so that my clients (or Flamingo Joe's wife) don't drive across it and collapse it -- it's now full of water so I'm not sure if that means Flamingo Joe's job finishing up the project will be harder or easier, but I can tell you that while I was washing dishes tonight during that thunderstorm, I was a little nervous with those lightning rod shovels and post hole diggers stuck in the trench right next to the electrical wire for the water pump that was laying in a trench full of water. Maybe it was just me, but the situation seemed ripe for a disaster that would serve as a cautionary tale to all the other wives of men who stick shovels in electrical wire trenches and leave them there in thunderstorms:

Woman #1: Did you hear about that lady who got electrocuted during a thunder storm while she was washing her dishes?

Woman #2: {Audible intake of breath, just short of a gasp} No! What happened?

Woman #1: Well, I guess her husband had been working on the electric wire that went to their well pump and left the trench with the wire in it open. He marked the open trench with shovels and post hole diggers sticking straight up out the trench. Lightning struck one of the post hole diggers and traveled from the post hole digger down the wire to the well, which electrified the water coming into the house and ZAP she fell over dead.

Woman #2: {GASP} My husband leaves open trenches with electrical wires in them and shovels sticking straight up all the time!! That could have been ME!!

So let this be a lesson to us all -- never . . . I mean . . . always . . . I mean . . . just let that be a lesson to you about something.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weedon Island

Here is the Flamingo Family off for a little family bonding on the water:

You'll recall that the Expedition went ka-put so we now have to take two cars when we want to go anywhere that will require hauling something behind (like a trailer or boat) or above us (like a kayak or canoe).

Our trip to Weedon Island started like most of our little day jaunts -- Flamingo Joe woke up early, did all the heavy lifting, and then woke me up to brush my teeth, pour some coffee, and stumble to the car, dragging the kids behind me. Grandma did think to pack us some snacks and drinks, thank heavens, since none of us had eaten breakfast. We stopped at a gas station on the way and Flamingo Joe bought power bars for himself and the boys and I bought a honey bun. I did not get any coffee at the gas station because I am still scarred from my last gas station coffee-fetching, but that's ABPA (maybe tomorrow?).

But I digress.

Weedon Island Nature Preserve is a 20 minute drive from our house and it's free. So it met all the requirements for a Flamingo Family Outing in this Summer On The Cheap. We've never visited there before, though when I put it on the list of free stuff for us to do this summer, Flamingo Joe drove through there and checked it out for age appropriateness -- not that we were expecting cursing park rangers or anything, but three year olds are very impressionable and tend to spook at large bodies of water with sharks in them.

We took the one-man kayak and the canoe. When we put in, Casey insisted that he wanted to be in the kayak even though he would be by himself. If you know Casey at all, you will be thinking to yourself right now that Casey must not have actually understood what we were planning to do today when we left the house. But perhaps he understood and was tired of cowering down to fear -- so he embraced the warrior within and got right into that kayak and even paddled out a little ways. Then he figured out that he would have to actually keep paddling in order to keep up with us and that was the end of that. So we turned around, went back to the dock, and I switched places with him. He ended up in the front of the canoe and you never would have known, by his 20 minute panic attack, which began the moment he got into the canoe, that he was the same boy who just a few moment previous declared that he was going all by himself in the kayak:

That's how Casey looks at me whenever I take a picture of him in mid-panic attack.

(Please note: Flamingo Joe has requested that I remove him from all pictures for this post in which he appears shirtless. We had about 30 minutes worth of fun trying to eliminate him from this photo with the clone tool in Photoshop, but in the end saved our marriage by just cropping the photo. Flamingo Joe is one hunky dude, but we are both of an age now when all we see when we look at a current photo of ourselves is the body we had when we were 20 years younger. This explains why you rarely see me in this blog at all. That being said . . . I have decided to exercise my editorial license and just not include closeups of Flamingo Joe shirtless in this post because every single photo I took today features Flamingo Joe and his two sons in a canoe, so without a shirtless Joe, there would be no post at all. Sorry sweetie.)

Weedon Island Preserve encompasses a large area of protected mangroves in Tampa Bay. The county has created a canoe trail through the mangroves and kayaking/canoeing through the trail is easily one of the coolest nature things I have ever done. It starts like this:

But then all of a sudden you're here:

And then all of a sudden, you're doing an "Austin Powers" in the middle of the mangroves and need someone to rescue you:

I would estimate that about 60% of the canoe trail is through the mangrove tunnels and the remaining 40% looks like this:

The water is no deeper than three feet or so at any point along the trail and when you are paddling through the open areas, if you sit still, you can see all kinds of fish swimming along underneath you (to be fair, I couldn't identify any of the fish, so it may have only been one kind of fish in different sizes and not all kinds of fish).

In the interest of fair play, I post this picture of me in the kayak -- granted, I am not shirtless and therefore I'm sure Flamingo Joe will not think that we're really even, but he can take that up with me in marriage counseling and you don't need to be caught in the middle.

Mmmm . . . pretty girl who rolled out of bed to get in a kayak . . . wonder if she remembered to put on deodorant, cause it looks like she might even smell a little.

Despite his initial panic attack, Casey settled down and enjoyed the trip -- he started enjoying it shortly after Flamingo Joe responded to his whiny, "I want to go hooooome" with "You are going to have fun whether you like it or not!" Mace had a great time. He figured out how to dunk your hat in water over the side and then put it back on your head to keep cool, and he kept us apprised of wildlife by pointing out the little crabs on the mangrove branches.

Look how well I did photoshopping Flamingo Joe out of this picture:

Just kidding -- Flamingo Joe was letting the kids float out in the ocean by themselves again. And don't be fooled -- just because Casey is holding the paddle in this picture doesn't mean he ever helped paddle. Near the end of the trip, he was getting a little fidgety so FJ told him if he wanted to do something, he could PADDLE. That was the first hint that maybe FJ was getting tired of paddling 120 pounds worth of children around the bay. Fortunately, the dock came back in sight about that time. All total, we paddled for about 3.5 miles I think.

Speaking of paddling for 3.5 miles, I won't be able to move my arms tomorrow, so forget about me promising to tell you about my last gas station coffee-fetch. I can already feel my shoulders cramping up.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Musical Theater Camp (Updated with Video Embedded)

The video of Casey's closing day performance at Music Theater Camp is uploaded here. Because it's almost ten minutes long, blogger wouldn't upload it directly into this post, so if you want to see the performance, Casey's the one in orange. The most entertaining part of the video is the first song, so don't feel compelled to watch the whole thing unless you are Casey's blood relative. (Did I link to it enough for you to find it?) [Disregard that nonsense -- I figured out how to embed the video from YouTube]

My readers (okay, only one of them) have asked for Flamingo Joe to guest post for this particular entry (can't imagine why). But as you know, I have a bit of a control problem, so I initially decided to ghost-write Flamingo Joe's guest blog post. I was going to ask him thought-provoking questions and transcribe his answers word-for-word into this post. That way, I could control the typing and insert appropriate editorial comments as needed. This proved to be a less than ideal method of capturing Flamingo Joe's thoughts because sometimes it's tough to get Flamingo Joe talking and he has already used up his spoken word quota today. So in the end, I wrote out the questions and left blanks for him to fill in the answers. Then I handed the computer over to him. I think this proves once and for all that I am overcoming my control issues. So, here we go:

Me: When I told you I wanted to send Casey to Musical Theater Camp, what did you think?

FJ: How much is this going to cost?

Me: Why didn't you say that out loud?

FJ: I did - you were texting Dez at the time.

Me: We can discuss that later with our marriage counselor. What were you hoping Casey's reaction to Musical Theater Camp would be?

FJ: He would want to run the follow spot.

Me: What did you think about Casey's performance today? Please tell us what your favorite parts were.

FJ: He pays attention and tries to do what is directed. My favorite part was the grapevine, front tap, spin, jazzhands finish on one knee.

Me: I'm considering sending Casey back to Musical Theater Camp for two more weeks this summer. Is that okay with you?

FJ: Not if it costs $600.
Me: Is there anything else you would like to say about Musical Theater Camp?

FJ: If it scores a 9 out of 10 on Casey's fun score, it's not all bad. I always picked the camps that had a 10 to 1 Girl to Boy ratio when I was his age too. Target rich environment.

Me: Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?

FJ: Not if you're going to edit everything before posting it.

Me: Party Pooper.

There you have it -- Flamingo Joe's tru "feelings" about Musical Theater Camp. Stay tuned for Flamingo Joe's next post, which is sure to be soon and also sure to be unauthorized, now that he now has my blogger login and password.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Sport that Doesn't Require Lace-Ups

Sometimes, as parents, we must face up to and accept unpleasant truths about our children and make the best of it. My own parents, for example, had to accept the fact that by the time I turned seven, I had already perfected the art (i.e., annoying habit) of sarcasm -- but my sarcasm was balanced out by a desperate desire to please people. This odd pairing made me a teacher's favorite so long as when I raised my hand in class, my biting observations of whatever we were discussing didn't reference anyone in the room. But that's ABPA.

As to my own children, I am having to accept the truth that Casey has very little manual dexterity (he's seven and can't tie his own shoes) and a fear of trying new physical things (he can't ride a bike and flat out refuses to actually try). Because he can't tie his own shoes, I have to limit his involvement in certain sports -- you know -- he can't participate in all the ones where he would have to tie his shoes. You may think that this problem is solved with velcro-fastened shoes, but it's not -- for two reasons: 1) the selection of velcro-fastened shoes is minimal to non-existent once you get out of the little kid sizes; and 2) velcro-fastened shoes lose their shape sooner and get very loose very quickly; and 3) I've never seen velcro-fastened cleats. So that means Casey can be a gymnast (he's 7 and weighs 87 pounds, so that's probably not happening), a wrestler (I'm sorry, but I refuse to go to wrestling meets and watch sweaty boys in unitards wallow around on the floor) or a swimmer. We picked swimming. Or rather, I picked swimming, mainly because he'll get a one hour workout four days a week and that can't hurt, right?

At Casey's first swim team practice two weeks ago, I was really impressed with how well he did. His only instruction in swim strokes has pretty much come from me -- though Joe did help him refine his crawl one afternoon at Heidi's. He's very relaxed in the water and he's fast. Joe says that's because he's so buoyant, but to me he seems really natural.

Casey's the one in the middle of the photo, closest to the yellow rope. Thursday is conditioning day so the kids swim a length, get out, do push-ups, get back in, swim a length, get out, do jumping jacks, get back in, swim a length, get out, do squats, and on and on for an hour. There are some whiny girls on the swim team who don't like conditioning day, but Casey doesn't complain and does whatever the coach says right away. I told him this afternoon that I was very proud of him for that -- he is showing respect for the coach.

That's his coach right there in the red shorts. Nice guy, patient but firm (especially with the whiny girls). So far, so good with the swimming.

The jury is still out on his other summer activity, Musical Theater Camp. It wraps up tomorrow, so hopefully I can give you an exciting summary of his MTC experience that does not include Flamingo Joe dropping his head into his hands every time Casey does a spin and flashes "jazz hands." But I wouldn't get my hopes up if I were you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Brilliant Legal Mind at Work

That's me. Bigshot Attorney. I call that particular photo my "Come Hither Headshot." Flamingo Joe likes it, but I don't think it made it to the firm website (back a year or more ago when I was at the firm where the picture was taken).

I post that photo here so that you can have a visual of what I looked like in court today. I don't like court that much. I limit myself to bankruptcy court these days and only go there if I can't avoid it. Today was one of those days.

I had a hearing scheduled for today on a motion I prepared and filed to obtain certain relief for my clients. Opposing counsel was one of the staff attorneys for the chapter 13 trustee's office. As I had filed the motion, there was really no getting around the fact that I had to show up. Several weeks ago when I had prepared the motion I thought I probably had a 50/50 shot of winning some of what I asked for.

Then I did the research. Today.

I pulled and reviewed the applicable case law and saw pretty quickly that I was going to lose this hearing in a big way. It was going to be a humiliating defeat and not only were all the other attorneys in the courtroom going to be laughing at me and rolling their eyes, but the judge might actually yell at me for daring to file such a motion where the case law was so perfectly clear -- how dare I waste her time? So I spent the three hours prior to the hearing agonizing over how to state my argument in such a way that I would not appear to be as much of a moron as I clearly am.

On my way to the hearing, I started thinking that I could avoid the humiliation by conferring with the staff attorney beforehand and maybe get her to agree to throw my clients a wee little bone and then we could just announce to the judge that we had come to an agreement and that my clients were going to get a wee little something of the big thing I had asked for and I wouldn't have to make any of my humiliating argument at all.

So when I arrived at the courtroom approximately 10 minutes before the 3:00 docket, the staff attorney was already in a conference with someone else, so I watched the minutes tick quickly by while the long-winded attorney holding the staff attorney's attention droned on and on. If he didn't hurry up, I was going to have to get yelled at by the judge for being so stupid. At 2:58, the staff attorney was finally free, so I swooped in, my stomach in knots, and started in on a good grovel. My head was down, I started out with a remorseful sounding "ummm . . ." and then the staff attorney noticed me and kind of smiled. I said, "Umm, hi . . I'm here on the X case . . . " The staff attorney said, "Oh yes. Hi . . . I don't have any objection to your motion. We can announce it when the case is called."

I was stunned, but tried so so hard NOT to look like it. I tried to appear as though I knew all along that my motion, of course, was so perfect, legally-speaking, that by all means I knew I would win. I thought maybe the staff attorney had gotten it wrong and misheard the case I was talking about, so I waited on pins and needles for the case to be called and the staff attorney to say, "We have no objection to the motion, I'll submit an order granting it." And she did!

But the problem with the wonderful outcome at that hearing today is this: I have no idea why I won. I couldn't ask the staff attorney why ("Tell me, staff attorney, what was the key fact or legal argument, as it were, that caused you to concede defeat?") -- because I should know why I won, right? I had researched the cases, though, and none of them supported me. And I know that the trustee's office knows those cases inside and out, which means that I must have raised the one exception to the cases.

But I don't know what the exception is.

I will admit, though, that winning and not knowing why is waaaay better than losing and not knowing why.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Here on the Edge of Civilization

When you live on the edge of civilization like we do (i.e. right in the middle of a subdivision, but across the street from the county water supply line that said county won't bring across the street), you have to be prepared for outages in your water supply due to extreme weather conditions, tractor incidents, and rodents chewing through wires.

We're not sure why the wire from the house to the junction (pictured above) went bad at around 11 a.m. yesterday, but we know it wasn't due to extreme weather conditions, tractor incidents, or rodents chewing through the wires. I myself suspect the raccoon of sophisticated sabotage -- he's been very angry with us ever since we moved the trash cans under the house. I'm fairly certain he's responsible for placing that dead mouse in the Rubbermaid storage bin right beside where I was trying to help Joe pull apart wiring insulation last night ("What's that smell? Bleeeeeck! There it is! Aaaagh!").

So the good news is that Flamingo Joe was able to fix the water (my guess is that Flamingo Joe will be "fixing the water" at least 4 times a year for as long as we live in this house). The bad news is that he was not able to fix the upstairs air conditioning, which either has another bad coil or has also been sabotaged by the raccoon. I'm pretty sure I heard the pitter patter of paws in the attic last night, so I'm betting the raccoon was up there chewing holes in the coil.

So the boys camped out in the den. Flamingo Joe slept in Grandma's room (she won't be home until Wednesday -- please note how I have not whined at all about Grandma being gone this time), and I slept on the wicker chaise lounge my aunt gave me -- which also happens to be the same wicker chaise lounge I slept on for several nights in Memphis after my nose job the summer after my junior year in high school.

But that's ABPA (Another Blog Post Altogether) and your "take away" (who's responsible for that stupid made up phrase?) from this post is to never underestimate a raccoon -- because if you make him mad enough, not only will he find a way to turn your house into a sweat lodge, he will also find a way to keep you from showering off the stink.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bye Bye BoBo

Perhaps you can guess what happened here:

I myself am still so traumatized by the death of BoBo that I can barely speak of it without dissolving into tears. It has taken me until now to be able to post about it and I'm taking frequent breaks to blow my nose.

As you know, I allowed the BoBo situation to linger on waaaay too long -- by approximately two full years. By the time Mace reached three years old he had developed an obsessive attachment to the BoBo such that we kept having to hide the BoBo on higher and higher shelves during the day so that he couldn't get to it. The rule was that he could only have the BoBo when he was sleeping. The reality was that he had the BoBo whenever he could climb up and get it.

I am ashamed that I let the situation go this far and, of course, blame Grandma. He's too cute and Grandma has a hard time saying no to him. You can't fault her, really. He is cute.

But the reign of BoBo has come to an end. By the time we returned from our trip to Georgia over Memorial Day, the BoBo pictured above (only still with its nipple attached -- I'm sorry -- all of your internet filters at work will not allow you to see this post now that I've used the "n" word, but there was really no way around it) was the only BoBo left. (I'm not sure where all the BoBos went -- over the last three years Mace has lost at least 15 BoBos. Ten years from now I'll be looking for a pair of shoes to wear and will probably find all 15 of them hidden in a pair of boots.)

I had promised myself (and everyone else) that when the last remaining BoBo pictured above died, that would be it for the BoBos. I don't think I really meant it, but because I had said it out loud, other people were trying to hold me to it, namely Dez and my own traitor husband. Let me set the stage: it's bedtime the night after we get back from Georgia; I have found the BoBo in the suitcase but have realized that it is torn badly enough at the base that Mace would easily suck it off in his sleep and then choke on it in the night. I panicked and told Joe to go buy another BoBo at Walgreens. Joe said, "Maybe this should just be the end of it, don't you think?" He knows better than to hold my own words against me -- we've been married for almost 14 years. But Dez happened to be leaving us to go back to her apartment and she actually backed him up and said, "Just do it. Do it tonight. No more BoBo." Then she left -- because she did not want to hear Mace screaming for the BoBo -- it would have made her cry. Like it did me.

He was so inconsolable over the death of the BoBo that I eventually had to just tear off the nipple at the base of the BoBo and give him what was left of the BoBo to hold while he slept. It was heartbreaking -- you should have seen the look on his face when I ripped his BoBo apart. I don't think he'll ever forgive me.

After he went to sleep, I went into the bathroom and cried into a towel.

Mace still carries what's left of the BoBo around. Last night he fell asleep on our bed watching TV sucking on the handle part of it. It seems cruel to still call it "BoBo" though, so we've renamed it.

Now we call it "Nub."

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Brooker Creek

I'm trying to come up with a catchy name for this summer season -- it will be known in the Flamingo Family History as a summer during which, when asked by her Flamingo chicks if they could do X, Y, or Z, Mommy Flamingo would always say, "Well, is it free? Cause if it ain't free, it ain't being done." (Mommy Flamingo believes that one effective way of teaching her chicks proper grammar is to sometimes be a prime example of how not to do it, thus highlighting how icky poor grammar sounds -- that, and poor grammar is fantastic for emphasis. And fun.) So I can't decide between "Summer on the Cheap" and "Where Oh Where Are Our Disney Passes."

Mace's last day of school was Thursday, so on Friday I looked up a bunch of free stuff to do in Tampa and settled on a visit to Brooker Creek Preserve. By the time I was finished with whatever it was I was doing in the morning around the house and we could leave, it was 2:00. Which means it was already 90 degrees. But I read on their web page that they have an education center, so I figured we could kill at least an hour in there and then if the trails were shady enough we could take a short hike before leaving.

The Preserve is in Pinellas County and encompasses 8500 acres. It took us about 25 minutes to get there, but only because we went around our elbow to get to our thumb. When Casey, Mace and I got there, we stuck to the plan and visited the education center first. It's very well done -- the exhibits are great for kids -- there is a 15 minute film in a theater designed to look like the inside of an old barn and is a high tech holographic extravaganza. Okay -- that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it's really really good. I was impressed by all the exhibits and kept thinking, "How is this FREE?"

After spending almost an hour in the education center, Casey wanted to take one of the trails that led to the "Bird Path." We'd brought our Birds of Florida book and binoculars with us (seriously, shouldn't I be homeschooling???) and Casey was anxious to get to the Bird Path, where surely hundreds of birds were waiting to be identified. So we sprayed ourselves down with bug spray, pulled out the binoculars and set off down the boardwalk into the swamp.

We made it 50 feet from the Education Center before being attacked by these:

The Diachlorus Ferrugatus -- aka the "yellow fly" (horrid creatures sound more menacing if you use their scientific names). We have some trouble with these at our house and nothing works to get rid of them, though it does help a little if you spray pure deet around the yard (which explains why Mace has that sixth toe on both of his feet). As we were setting off on our hike Friday afternoon, we were attacked by three or four or six hundred yellow flies and I swatted and danced and ran around trying to shake them so that we could keep going before giving up altogether after about 3 minutes and making the kids run back out to the car.

I confess I felt a bit like a failure of a homeschool mom wannabe on our drive back home.

Which is why, on Saturday morning at 8:16 (exactly one minute after I'd woken up), I allowed Flamingo Joe, who had not gone with us the day before and who was desparate to crawl through a man-sized gopher tortoise burrow, to persuade me to go out to the Preserve again.

So here we are at 9:20 a.m. Saturday at the entrance to Brooker Creek Preserve:

Note that, despite Mace's sexy midriff-revealing pose, the children are in long pants. I figured that, should we be attacked again, it would be easier to only have to swat yellow flies off of the kids' bare arms and necks. Flamingo Joe was going to have to fend for himself.

We decided to take advantage of the cooler morning weather (88 degrees) and take the short Education Center Trail (can't remember how long it was, but less than a mile) before taking Flamingo Joe to see the exhibits in the Education Center.

This is the boardwalk that leads to the Education Center and Trailheads from the parking lot:

Lots of flora. The only fauna I saw were squirrels and butterflies (are butterflies "fauna" -- I suppose an argument can be made that they are actually "flora," but as this is not a nature writing piece, let's move on).

The boardwalk at the beginning of the trail takes you through the swampy creek area. It's gorgeous and on Saturday morning, all the yellow flies were sleeping in and leaving us alone.

Again -- lots of flora, no fauna. Unless you count dragon flies because there were hundreds of dragon flies. Are dragon flies fauna? I see I need to do a little research on the actual definition of fauna.

Here is Mace trying to spot some flora and fauna. He saw some flora -- there were trees with magnolia-like flowers on them about 150 yards from where the platform stood, but they weren't magnolias. We didn't bring our Trees of Florida identification guide because I don't have one. The 800 page Southern Living plant guide was too heavy to bring with us. Again, however, no fauna. Unless you count lizards, because there were plenty of lizards.

Are lizards fauna?

When we reached the pine flatwoods portion of the trail, I walked a little ahead to make sure we were on the right trail and turned around to snap this picture -- Flamingo Joe said, "pretend like you're walking" to the boys. Casey said "huh?" and Mace said "where?" and bent over to look at an ant.

Surely ants aren't fauna, though, right?

But spiders who paralyze their prey with a bite to keep them "fresh" have to count as fauna, I'm thinking.

Poor little paralyzed beetle.

We made it back alive to the Education Center, Flamingo Joe having carried Mace only halfway around the trail, and Flamingo Joe immediately satisfied his life's dream.

Casey was a little freaked out by the rattlesnake noises piped into the gopher tortoise burrow. Mace wouldn't even stick his head in there.

Which leads me, of course, to my final scientific conclusion -- gopher tortoises surely count as fauna. Right? Because we saw three of them on our way out of the park.

I'm going to get right on that "fauna" definition. A good homeschooling mom wannabe would have known the definition before leaving the house.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Belated Memorial Day Weekend Post

The boys, Desiree and I took a little trip over Memorial Day weekend to Douglas to see my parents. My parents have taken a shine to Desiree and pretty much insisted that she come with me when I expressed some interest a few weeks back in the boys and I visiting them over Memorial Day. Sometime at the beginning of week before last I had decided against going because our recently-acquired car (note I did not say "new" -- it's a 2001 Toyota Corolla with only 50k miles on it that we got after the Expedition stopped running) is rather small, particularly in the backseat where two boys are well within striking distance of one another. But then Dez, who had responded to my first invitation to join us with certainly polite, but less than enthusiastic, eye furrowing, realized that no, Flamingo Joe would not be coming on the trip with us, so no, she wouldn't be crammed into the backseat with two boys on either side of her and an ice chest between her ankles, decided that yes indeedy a trip to Douglas sounded like just the thing. It was a good thing, too, because when I called up my mom on Wednesday afternoon to say the boys and I would be coming to Douglas after all, the first thing she said was, "Is Dez coming with you?" I didn't ask her whether we were still welcome to come if Dez wasn't coming too, because really there are just some questions I don't want to know the answers to.

On that Friday, we couldn't leave for the trip until Dez got off work at 4:00, so we left town pretty close to 5:00 and made decent time on the interstate until we exited for dinner around 6:00 somewhere south of Ocala at a Cracker Barrel. When we were leaving the Cracker Barrel, I looked left toward the Interstate and saw that it was now a parking lot, so I whipped out my phone (I looooove having GPS on my phone -- I can find Flamingo Joe anywhere now, thanks to the handy dandy latitudes function), and found an alternate route that would take us around the accident. Unfortunately, the Traffic application on my phone doesn't tell you whether the road you have found to skirt around the problem on the interstate, once it intersects again with the interstate, actually has an entrance ramp to get you back on to the interstate. So we ended up on what we at first thought was a dirt road (but soon determined was just a really dirty road) that took us straight through the Withlacoochee State Forest and then back to some road that eventually got us back to the interstate. The good news, though, is that when we got back to the interstate, no one else was on it because they were still stuck back behind the accident.

On Saturday, we took Dez to see the thrilling sights of Douglas, GA. Dez had actually researched what there is to do in Douglas, GA on the internet and found exactly two things: the Broxton Rocks and General Coffee State Park. Well, you can't just walk right in to the Broxton Rocks anymore -- though I distinctly remember friends of mine in high school doing that all the time -- apparently now you have to have a botanist guide take you on a tour. So there was no tour of the Broxton Rocks this trip.

But we were able to visit General Coffee State Park and Dez learned lots of things about what life was like in Coffee County back in the day.

People apparently kept their turtles in big plastic tubs behind their houses before turning them into soup. These turtles were definitely trying to make a run for it.

We were able use Casey as an object lesson at the sugar cane press exhibit. He was the mule:

And this family of ducks adopted Mace:

They were really hoping to get the cracker crumbs on his pants, but he kept running away when they got too close.

The best part of this state park, though, is its trails. We took the boys on the East Swamp River Trail and it looked like this pretty much up until we turned around because I couldn't carry Mace on my back anymore:

After the park, my parents took us to see Douglas, GA's claim to recent fame:

That's right -- we got to visit the actual site where our water comes from. We burst into the lobby Geraldo Rivera-style and demanded an immediate tour of the facilities and a full explanation of "reverse osmosis." We were promptly carted off by security and taken next door:

Well maybe that last bit didn't happen, but not because Dez didn't offer to demand a tour. She really wanted to, but I wouldn't let her because Belk's was having a sale and we didn't want to miss it.

Other highlights from our trip included:

Taking baths in YaYa's big bathtub.

Adopting the neighborhood stray for YaYa to take care of. Casey named him Skippy the Chihuahua and Mace called him "Skippy Wa Wa." He was cute, but probably flea-infested, so I didn't let Dez bring him back to Tampa with us.

This moment was not so much a highlight as it was really really disturbing.

Ooh -- but look at that -- super cheap gas! Dez wanted me to fill up a bunch of empty Yoo-Hoo bottles with gas and take it back to Florida with me so we could sell it, but I just couldn't think of one thing to spend extra money on, so we didn't do it. But we did get back home to Florida for a lot less than it took to get to Georgia.