Saturday, July 31, 2010

Honey, Take This Knife And . . .

You are going to think that we live in a dangerous, varmint-filled world here on our little acre and a half in Florida, and maybe we do. But it doesn't really feel like it to me most of the time. Alligators, snakes, coyotes, and yellow-flies are troublesome, but none of them strike fear into my heart like mice hiding amongst the life vests stored under the house. Mice aren't as bad as fruit rats, mind you, but either way, if I see one I scream and convulse uncontrollably. About once a year, we end up with a mice or rat problem in the storage area under the main part of the house because the area is not totally sealed off from the outside and if we start putting things down there without making sure they are in sealed bins, the mice (or rats) will move in. A few weeks ago, I went into the storage area to find a beach umbrella and had to leave screaming because a mouse ran across the top of one of the bins I was reaching for. I told Flamingo Joe about it and he decided to tackle the problem. He started last night.

He took all of the bins off the shelves, opened up anything that was in a non-regulation bin, and cleaned out a nest a mouse had made in a plastic garbage bag that was "protecting" something really important -- like the ski pants we haven't used since leaving Idaho fourteen years ago. Flamingo Joe said when he picked up the bag about a cup's worth of mouse urine poured out onto his chest. He told me this while sitting at the dining room table in the same shirt he'd been wearing while working down there. There was not food on the table at the time, but still.

On a side note -- last night, FJ made me watch two episodes of Man Woman Wild with him. The show is about this couple who are set down in dangerous places and the husband, a special forces dude, teaches his wife, a former news anchor in Australia, how to survive. He makes her kill animals and saw legs off wildebeasts freshly-killed by lions who are just off to get a drink of water before coming back to finish their kill. Last night the husband made the wife kill a possum for lunch after they'd been dropped into a Louisiana Bayou with nothing but a parachute, their knives and a half-empty water bottle. After killing the possum, the woman broke down and cried. This woman is a real trooper, but sometimes her husband says things to her like, "Now honey, while I hold the head, I want you to take your knife and stick it right behind the crocodile's skull and move it back and forth, back and forth, until the head falls off." And she looks at him with her eyes all big but then sticks her knife in the crocodile's head and does what he tells her. So after she killed that possum I really felt for her and just cried right along with her. And then I told Flamingo Joe that if he ever wanted to be on a show like that he could just get my body double to do the actual on-set stuff and we could just dub in my voice because I don't care how much money the Discovery Channel was offering to pay, it wouldn't be enough to induce me to chop a possum's head off and then roast it on a spit for lunch.

So this morning, Flamingo Joe says, "What are your plans for today?" And knowing what he had started working on last night, and what we had been watching on TV last night, I feared the worst. I was absolutely positively not going anywhere near the mice and I certainly wasn't going to be cutting any of their heads off and roasting them over a fire for our breakfast. I answered him truthfully, "Uhhhhhhh . . . " Then he tells me he wants me to clean out the "mechanical closet" (it's a closet under the stairs where the air handler for the a/c is, so for some reason we call it the "mechanical closet" to distinguish it from the "Christmas closet" which is a closet above the stairs where we keep, well, you can figure it out). He wanted to put the boat cushions, which the mice had been chewing on underneath the house, up into the mechanical closet and so someone had to make room for them in there. I was so glad not to have to kill and eat mice for breakfast, I hustled down to the closet before he could change his mind.

Here's my neat and tidy mechanical closet:

And then I was on a roll, so I cleaned up the front room so it would look nicer for Flamingo Joe and Dez' birthday party on Saturday:

And then I went to check on Flamingo Joe and he had mostly cleaned out the downstairs storage and pretty much moved it out onto the driveway. I was glad to see that he was not employing his usual method of cleaning out the storage area which typically entails him bringing 10 or 12 rubbermaid bins upstairs to the porch and telling me to "go through" them and see what I can "throw away." Poor deluded man -- if I wanted to throw that stuff away, it wouldn't be under the house in the first place. I usually wait a few days then take the bins right back downstairs and put them on the shelves without opening them. Today, he only brought me furniture:

When he first brought it up to the porch we had a discussion about selling it or giving it away, but after Grandma and I thoroughly discussed the matter, we decided we would keep all of it and put marine varnish on the dresser and vanity and let them stay on the side porch to store outside tableware in. We would restore the 1924 Model 66 Singer Sewing Machine to its former glory and I would piece quilts with it. We would move the desk (which weighs an enormous amount and is incredibly awkward to carry) up into Casey's room and move his furniture around up there so it would fit. And by "we", Grandma and I of course mean "Joe." So that will teach him to bring us furniture.

But he had accomplished quite a bit underneath the house:

You see that spot back there with the shelving all the way to the back and the left? That's the spot where I saw the mouse. I'm hoping Flamingo Joe got to that section already because right this minute, I am sitting at the dining table, which is directly above that spot and I just heard the scampering of little feet right below me. I think the varmints are looking for their nest.

I really hope they go away to someone else's storage area because I don't have my knife on me.

And I'm not hungry.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Face Plants and Cake Balls

We've had a pretty uneventful week here at Casa Flamingo. I didn't think purchasing a new engine for the Expedition from Advance Autoparts, and school supplies from Target, was really worthy of a blog post, so I didn't waste your time. And I didn't think I could squeeze any more posts out of the shrinking beef lung on a hook until an alligator actually eats it -- I'm already losing credibility after having devoted three blog posts to it last week. So I've waited around all week for blog fodder to rise to the surface and as it happens, today was full of fodder (it's feast or famine with fodder as we're all familiar).

Mace and I ran errands this morning. We went to see The Computer Guy, then to the Post Office, and then to the banks (we usually have to visit two). Mace is a great car companion. He typically carries on incredibly fascinating conversations with you in the car about all his imaginary adventures. Today was no exception, but his complicated tale about some dump truck work he had to do later was interspersed with a persistent request to go to the bank first -- cause that's where you get the suckers. And because we normally visit two banks, he can wrangle two suckers out of the trip and sometimes even three because the bank where I keep my business account always gives me suckers for the kid who's not with me at the time.

Sometimes we make it home with that third sucker, sometimes we don't.

I like grape.

And I include that seemingly pointless anecdote (can it be an anecdote if it's pointless?) so that you will know that Mace did at least have a small measure of happiness in his sucker this morning before his day took a nasty turn.

This afternoon, I made Mace take a nap so that we could go swimming at Heidi's. I had to wake him up at 4:00 so that we could leave, so he was still a little groggy when we were leaving the house at 4:15. As we were heading down the front steps to go to the car, he tripped on the third step from the bottom and face-planted into the concrete. It was awful -- I had already stepped off and away from the stairs by several feet when I heard his Crocs catch the stair and I turned and watched him fly face first in slow motion straight down to the concrete. Poor thing, he cried and cried. This picture was taken tonight before bed, so he had recovered from the initial trauma and hadn't actually seen his face yet in the mirror.

When I showed him his face in the mirror a few minutes after I took this picture, he looked absolutely shocked and raised his eyebrows up as if to say, "Well no wonder my face hurts so bad!" He didn't lose any teeth and the worst bruise is under his hairline, so we're trying to get him to say, "I had a fight with the alligator -- you should see the alligator" when people ask him what happened, but so far, he gets hung up on "alligator" -- it sounds a little like "I figh' aganalator."

But the worst tragedy of the day was my attempt at making Red Velvet Cake Balls. It was a test run of the recipe because I wanted (note the past tense) to make them for Joe and Dez' joint birthday party next weekend. It's a six step recipe that takes about 12-15 hours to actually pull off. I made the cake this morning; waited an hour and a half for the cake to cool completely, then crumbled it into a bowl and mixed a can of cream cheese frosting with it; then I made 35 balls with the cake/frosting mixture and put them in the fridge to chill; several hours later I started dipping the balls into the candy coating and that's when it all went to poo:

See, when you work with white chocolate candy coating and red velvet cake, you end up getting little red velvety crumbs in the candy coating and ruining the whole effect:

So you can switch to milk chocolate coating, but I will warn you that the coating process is still a horrible experience:

The moral of the story is: when you see a link to a recipe on Shelya's (that's right girl, you know this is all your fault) Facebook status update that directs you to the recipe on a cooking blog and all 165 of the comments underneath the recipe say stuff like "Sounds delicious! Can't wait to try it!" or "I had some of these at a party last Christmas, they were great!" -- but none of the comments say, "I made these last week -- super simple and the balls were sooo easy to coat!" -- then don't bother even trying because you are not a professional chef and yours will look like little piles of poo when you are finished.

And if I show up to Keller's sweet little one-year old birthday party on Sunday and her mommy Shelya has made perfect Red Velvet Cake Balls that bear no resemblance to piles of poo, I will probably throw a temper tantrum.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Here's what I know about trapping alligators: nothing.

Now, Flamingo Joe has (more than once) offered to trap the alligator(s) hanging out in our creek, but I have heartily discouraged him for two primary reasons: 1) if Mace sees Daddy doing it, he will only start trying to trap alligators on his own based on FJ's example; and 2) it's illegal and we need his income to keep us in Ovaltine and Ding Dongs, so we can't have him serving a stint in the pokey.

Which is why we called the alligator trapper.

As you know from my two previous posts this week, the alligator trapper came and staked out the bait:

We were very excited thinking about the impending thrill of watching the trapper wrestle the alligator out of the water and hauling it off. We assumed it would be within hours of setting the bait. And although the alligators swam by, hung out, paid their respects to the bait, none of them bit.

We were either naive in our expectations or we have really super-smart alligators who have seen their friends fall victim to such contraptions and somehow know that swallowing that delicious maggot-y beef lung will only land them (or rather, part of them . . . done up nicely as a purse) on a shelf in a high-end boutique in St. Armand's Circle.

So we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Last night . . . this is what the bait looked like (watch out -- you're about to see what a beef lung looks like after dangling from a string for five days in 94 degree heat -- you may just want to skip this photo):

Bleecch. Are those not the largest flies you have ever seen??

Even Campbell has lost interest in the beef lung at this point. I still have hope, even though the lung continues to shrink, because the trapper hasn't called or stopped by to check on her trap. I can only assume that this means she is accustomed to a trap taking a week or more to actually catch an alligator. But I can't see how a beef lung that has now dried to the point of beef jerky would be palatable to an alligator. I'm thinking we're using the wrong bait -- these alligators clearly like dogs, so we should cover a beef lung in dog hair and splash it in the water by the bank until the alligator comes.

So to sum up: 1 rotten beef lung + 6 days = 0 alligators. I may send Flamingo Joe out with a fishing pole and a BB gun tomorrow and we'll see who the real alligator trapper is. I'll just keep Mace in the house so he can't watch.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Someone Needs Sleep Therapy

Not to sound too much like everything's all about me, but I am too old for one of my children to not be sleeping all the way through the night. Sure, I should have thought of this before I signed on to have the second one, but why would I have when the first one was sleeping through the night at 3 months old?

For the last several months we have suspected that Mace actually sleep walks at times. When we first realized it, we put chain locks way high up on all the exterior doors of our home (it took some time, too, because there are nine of them) so that just in case he was wandering in the night and we didn't wake up, he wouldn't be able to let himself outside. At the beginning, he would get out of bed, walk to the door at the top of the stairs and start to open it. Then he started just going to the playroom and getting a toy and going back to his bed. But for the last three months or so, he's been getting out of bed anywhere between 1:30 and 3:30 and coming into our room and climbing in our bed. If he didn't kick me in the head and back every morning at 5:30, I don't think I would mind this development as much since it doesn't require me to leap out of bed in a panic and run around trying to find him before he falls down the stairs or gets to the knife drawer in the kitchen.

We've been trying to pinpoint the cause of his restlessness. I don't even bother taking him back to his own bed anymore and a couple of nights ago, I was so desperate for a full night's sleep that at 11:00 I suggested to Flamingo Joe that he go ahead and get Mace out of his bed and bring him to ours so that he wouldn't need to walk in there and climb in at 1:30. Flamingo Joe wasn't going for it, though.

We thought maybe Mace's naps were getting too long and late in the day so we tried adjusting them, eliminating them, etc., so that he would be more inclined to sleep heavier during the night. Whether he has a nap and at what time, however, does not seem to make a difference in his waking in the middle of the night. And he has trouble making it all the way to bedtime without a nap.

Yesterday, we tried putting him down for a nap at about 2:00. Flamingo Joe went upstairs and laid down in the bed with him. FJ promptly fell asleep, but when he woke up an hour or so later, Mace was still lying there beside him wide awake. When I got up there at about 3:30, FJ was in our bedroom watching TV and Mace was still in his bedroom, laying in his bed, playing with a lightbulb. Apparently he'd gotten bored laying there with nothing to do and decided to dismantle the lamp.

So I told him he could get up and he went downstairs to play with Casey. On days when he hasn't napped, I know better than to let him sit on the couch and watch TV after 4:30 because he always falls asleep and then we can't wake him up for dinner and he wakes up at bedtime ready to play. But I wasn't paying close enough attention last night and thought he was upstairs playing with Casey. Grandma, however, because she pays attention (unlike me), knew he was sitting on the couch and decided she'd better get some food in him before he fell asleep. So she checked on him at about 6:00 and he was still awake. She went back in the kitchen to make a plate for him -- but while she was still working on it five minutes later, Flamingo Joe came in the kitchen to get his phone so he could take a picture:



It was very distracting yesterday to have to pull myself away from work to walk outside to check that the fly-covered meat was still on the string. But you know that's what I did. Upstairs in the house, the kids posted themselves at the picture window and watched for an alligator to jump out of the water and get the bait.

So all of us basically spent the day yesterday watching a beef lung rot on a string.

Including the (wrong) alligator.

Monday, July 19, 2010


The (big) alligator tried to get Campbell on Saturday, so we called the Alligator Trapper, who came out today and set a trap:

She (yes, "she" -- she's a 48 year old woman) told us to call her after the alligator took the bait. Well, no less than half an hour after she'd set the bait, an alligator started stalking the bait:

See it up there at the top of the picture? Well, that's the wrong alligator. Just so you can distinguish the Casa Flamingo Alligators for future reference. Here is a picture of the alligator that tried to get the dog:

And here's a closeup:

Here's a closeup of the wrong alligator:

It's obvious the difference, isn't it (perhaps to your untrained eye, it may be difficult to see, but you have to trust me on this)? That puny thing right there did not attack the dog. It was the big'un. I'm going to be aggravated if the wrong alligator gets the bait and hauled off and then we have to get another permit from animal control to get the right one trapped and removed.

I know you're going to be worried about this all day, so I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Meet

Casey participated in his first swim meet yesterday. He approached the meet with the same laid-back attitude he approaches most sporting events.

Me: "Casey, are you excited about your meet today?"

Casey: (shrugging shoulders) "Meh."

I was very proud of him -- he had to swim five events: backstroke, freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and the 100 IM. There's quite a bit of waiting between each of the events, but we camped out in a shady spot and soaked in our first swim meet (pun sort of intended) . . . which was really much less tedious than the karate tournament we went to last fall . . . I think primarily because we weren't stuck entertaining a two year old at the top of some bleachers. We took our own chairs to this event and left the toddler at home.

Here he is at the start of his first race, the backstroke:

That's his coach on the right in the khaki shorts. He's good with the kids, very laid-back, but keeps them on task. It's kind of a weird team experience, though. So far, every practice we've gone to, there has been a different set of kids there because you can basically pick up to four practices per week out of the twelve possible practice times. We've pretty much stuck to the same schedule, but apparently everyone else flits around the practices. I've only met two other moms at two different practices and then never saw them again. It's like a twilight zone team where Casey is the only team member that stays the same, but the rest of the team roster changes daily. It's baffling to me. The only constant is the coach and he is at least remembering Casey's name from practice to practice, so that's good enough for me. Just remember who my kid is and don't let him drown -- those are the standards I have set for our swim coach.

For the first race, I stood there at the start -- for all the other races I stood at the other end and screamed for him. Not too much screaming in general by the audience at the swim meet, so I really did try to restrain myself. There were only two or three screamers at the meet even though there were probably three hundred people there. I don't understand why that is -- I suppose everyone else realizes that the kids are underwater and can't really discern that it's them you're screaming for, but I wasn't screaming for him so much as I was screaming to let out all of my pent-up emotion.

This whole kid performance thing is very nerve-wracking for me. I was on the verge of tears the entire morning but it wasn't because Casey was nervous or upset or that I had high expectations. It was just plain hard to let him go out there on his own and try to succeed. And it was a completely new experience for me. I wasn't a swimmer as a kid so I had no idea how the meets work. I don't do well in new situations . . . I'm sure it's a control thing.

The good news is that Casey didn't seem to pick up on all of my angst. When it was time for him to swim, he reported to the "clerk of course" (for a lawyer, that sounds a lot like "clerk of courts" and is odd to hear 100 times in one morning) and got in line. He swam his races, walked back to our spot with me, asked for a hot dog, was denied each time (I had to have some motivation for him to finish the meet, didn't I?) and then waited for his next race.

He did really well considering that he's only been swimming official strokes since June and that I'm not sure he could have swam the length of a 25m pool at the beginning of the summer without stopping. So the fact that in one month's time he can swim the 100m IM at all in a respectable time is astonishing to me. When he finished that last race, I was so proud of him and kept telling him how great he did.

And all he said was "Now can I have hot dog?"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Naming Your New Dog -- 3 Simple Rules

Last November, we lost our wonderful dog, Chance, to a spleen tumor. He was a mighty good dog and I can still work up a good cry thinking about those last few days with him. But we live somewhat isolated from neighbors and don't have a doorbell, so we like to have warning when someone drives into the yard. We made it as long as we could without getting another dog until about a month ago, when even Flamingo Joe couldn't stand the big gaping hole of doggy love left in Chance's wake and started looking on for a new dog.

I didn't realize FJ was ready for another dog until one day at work I started getting little instant message pings and links to various dogs on the Petfinder site kept popping up on my screen. Eventually, he found a pair of dogs at a rescue in Winter Park -- one was an English Setter, the other a Gordon Setter -- both had been owned by a woman who died of cancer back in March and had been placed with the rescue. They were both five years old and the description said they were both "fully house-broken." That pretty much satisfied all our requirements. So FJ contacted the woman at the rescue, but by the time we were ready to go and pick up the dogs a few weeks later, the English Setter had been adopted out.

So we got Campbell:

Campbell is a great dog . . . and he really is "fully-housebroken." He has no noticeable neuroses at all, in fact. He doesn't chew shoes or children's toys. He is not afraid of his food bowl. And when it thunders, he begs to go outside so he can play in the rain. Of course, he's only been with the Flamingo family for a week, so I'm sure in time he'll develop all the usual Flamingo dog neuroses.

For now, however, he's definitely a keeper.

I don't like his name, though. It's pretentious, I think, for a dog to be given a multi-syllabic name without a "y" on the end. Which leads me to my three simple rules for naming dogs:

1. Dogs should have one-syllable names like "Buck" "Grits" or "Sam."

2. OR if "Buck" "Grits" and "Sam" are the names you used for your first three children and naming a dog the same thing would be confusing, then you may name the dog with a two syllable name only so long as the name ends in "y". For example: "Roxy" "Skippy" or "Lucky".

3. OR if you insist on naming your dog with a multi-syllabic word like "Beauregard" -- the name must be easily shortened for actual day-to-day use. In the preceding example, the name "Beauregard" is marginally acceptable (in the South, anyway) because it can be shortened easily to "Beau" for everyday use.

The name "Campbell" violates all three of the above rules and that troubles me, primarily because I have control issues. In the meantime, to see Campbell's reaction to being let out in the rain, watch this video (there is a long pause in the middle where you will want some action, but just wait for it -- I think he was stalking the storm):

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Happy 4th of July (Ten Days Ago)!

I would like to tell you that the reason I have not blogged in almost two weeks is because I was on an extended tour of Italy.

On a bicycle.

All by myself.

But sadly, that is not true. I was here at Casa Flamingo or at the Y or at . . . well, that's pretty much it. But let's pick up where we left off and you can just fuss at me in the comments for leaving you hanging for so long.

At Casa Flamingo, our July 4th capped off an entire week of rain. And I don't mean normal Florida afternoon thunderstorms -- I mean morning until night rain. On Saturday, the 3rd, we celebrated July 4th Eve like all good Southern Baptists, who are prohibited from imbibing spirits or shooting off fireworks on the 4th if it falls on a Sunday, because shooting off fireworks is a lot like dancing and imbibing spirits is a lot like drinking unless you capitalize "Spirits" (like so) and then you are worshipping like a charismatic, which is also prohibited. But I digress. And I also make up stuff.

The real reason we shot off fireworks on the 3rd was because we purchased the fireworks on the 3rd.

And there was no break in the rain, so why not have a little fun?

And my husband and youngest child cannot wait to set things on fire.

Flamingo Joe, to give him credit, tried to restrain himself by only setting off things that made a lot of smoke and no actual fire.

That's not fog. It's smoke.

"And the rockets red glare . . . the bombs bursting in air . . ."

Then Flamingo Joe brought out the heavy stuff:

After a couple of near misses, we decided the children should probably have shoes on:

Those are really my shoes, but we seem to have six or eight pairs of shoes sitting outside our front door (with all the shoes outside the house, you'd think there'd be no dirt inside the house, but you'd be wrong) so Mace put mine on instead of going in to find his.

On Sunday night, we shot off the big stuff and noted all the appropriate warnings:

I just can't believe any merchant is allowed to sell a product whose label states: "WARNING -- SHOOTS FLAMING BALLS". And "close adult supervision" is not really a very precise instruction when the adult shooting off said flaming balls is as excited as a four year old shooting flaming balls into the sky. The warning label should really be more specific and limit supervision to actual firemen. Not that the flaming balls set anything on fire (unless you count the top of that tree -- but it was raining, so no harm, no foul). Fireworks are against the law in Florida unless they are purchased for "agricultural purposes." So when you go to the fireworks stand you have to sign a form that says you are using the fireworks for agricultural purposes.

Here we are using fireworks to fertilize our weeds:

Happy Belated 4th!