Sunday, October 31, 2010

Hypnosis and Babies, Part II

I have a very good friend, Sheetul, from law school who got pregnant in our third year. She was frequently miserable and slept with about 16 pillows because she couldn't get comfortable at night. We loved to tease her relentlessly by telling her that certainly, without a doubt, she was the first woman ever pregnant. I felt really bad about how we treated Sheetul when I got pregnant myself the first time because, compared to me, Sheetul was indeed a valiant warrior unfazed by the horrors and gassiness of pregnancy.

I was a truly awful pregnant woman.

A total wimp.

I was nauseous from almost the moment I found out I was pregnant until I delivered. But in hindsight, I never threw up or had to be admitted to the hospital like other women I know. I did gain 50 pounds with my first pregnancy and got a nasty nasty rash in a bad place (not that bad place . . . the other one . . . under my [if I use the real word here, my site will get blocked when people want to see it from a library computer or at work, so insert a word here that rhymes with "rests"].) There's a good reason only one photo exists of me when I was pregnant with Casey. I looked like I felt and I whined and whined and whined. Such a shame that I just could not locate that photo to post with this riveting narrative.

Hand in hand with misery, in my case, went abject terror . . . of childbirth. So pretty early on I decided that I wanted to use all possible tools at my disposal for getting through childbirth -- drugs, birthing tub, drugs, lamaze, drugs, a doula, drugs, hypnosis, and drugs. Unfortunately, you can't use drugs and have a water birth (though doesn't that sound absolutely perfect?), but you can combine drugs with a doula and hypnosis. A few months into my pregnancy, when it was time to talk to my obstetrician about the actual birth, he asked me if I'd thought about a birth plan and I told him yes, I wanted to try hypnobirthing. He looked at me sideways and tried to keep a straight face as he encouraged me to keep an open mind and not rule out drugs altogether because I wouldn't know how I would really feel until I was in labor blah-bitty-blah-blah-blah. I interrupted him and said, "Oh no, you misunderstand . . . I want to use hypnosis AND lots and lots of drugs." So he shrugged and said the doctorly equivalent of "whatever."

Flamingo Joe was a good sport and went along with the hypnobirthing plan. But wouldn't it be strange if he wasn't up for any plan where he learned how to hypnotize his wife? I found a hypnobirthing center in south Tampa where we could go learn how to hypnotize me for labor. A doula taught the class and she was . . . well, do you already have a picture in your head of what a woman who calls herself a "doula" and teaches a hypno-birthing class looks like? That's her. We were in the class with two other couples, I think, but I only remember one of the couples because they seemed semi-normal and I was surprised. They were both accountants.

The "center" had its own birthing room (that under no circumstances did I intend to use) where moms who wanted a truly peaceful, natural birthing experience could walk around humming and listening to soft music while their baby came into the world with no screams or tears sporting an extremely high IQ.

The doula basically taught me how to relax myself into a stupor. If you are wondering how that helps you in childbirth, this is the theory: the more uptight you are, the more pain you feel because your muscles are all bunched up, and the more pain you feel, the more uptight you get, which just means you feel more pain; so if you can totally and completely systematically relax all the right muscles you will feel no pain whatsoever and your baby will come skipping into the world ready to explain the theory of relativity.

To practice this form of hypnosis, the doula gave me cassette tapes with some music on it and a woman talking with a soothing voice. First, the tape instructed me to breathe in and out very deeply in certain patterns. Then, I was invited to imagine myself floating on a strawberry colored cloud and then I think my cloud changed colors as I was floating along. Next, the voice instructed me to systematically relax my body starting with the top of my head and working my way down. If I remember correctly, the tape was about half an hour long, but after I got really good at following the instructions on the tape, I was out like a light in 3 minutes or less. I rarely got all the way to the first strawberry cloud.

Given all the discomfort I was feeling in my pregnancy, practicing hypnobirthing was the highlight of my day. I started putting myself to sleep every night by using the hypnobirthing tape. I would put a Breathe Right strip on my nose, pee three or four times (by the time I was 8 months along I couldn't make it back to the bed from the toilet without feeling like I needed to go again), put some baby powder under my word that rhymes with "rests," adjust the 7 pillows, put on the headphones, turn on the tape, and three minutes later it's possible I could have had triplets and wouldn't have realized it.

But I wasn't really sure . . . would the hypnosis work in the delivery room? I figured I could use the hypnosis to get me through the early stages of labor up until the point I could get the epidural. The problem was that in the class with the doula, epidurals were pretty much roundly blamed for ADD, ADHD, childhood obesity, and freckles, so it wasn't like I could ask the doula whether, for example, the hypnosis would work too well and that I would be so relaxed that I simply passed the point where early labor became hard labor without noticing and missed my opportunity for drugs. I did not want to miss my opportunity for drugs. This doula, I should tell you, does not use drugs for dental work -- she uses hypnosis -- so she was not going to be cutting me any slack on the epidural. So I just kept hypnotizing myself to sleep every night and hoped for the best.

Casey was due between Christmas and New Year's Day. On the day after Christmas, I went to the doctor for my weekly visit and noting that I had gained even more weight in the preceding week, the doctor sent me down the hall for a sonogram. The sonogram revealed that Casey was enormous, well over 9 pounds they thought, and that he had not turned, much less dropped. He wasn't budging. The doctor was mildly alarmed at the thought of coming back from his ski vacation (scheduled to begin the following day) and finding me still hanging out, growing an elephant, so he gave me the following options: 1) wait until he returned three or four days later and if Casey had turned head down, he could induce labor and I could attempt to deliver an extremely large baby; or 2) schedule a C-Section for the following morning before he left town.

That night, I used my hypnobirthing tape for the last time to ensure that I would be well-rested for my C-Section the following morning.

Hawwoween Identity Crisis

Tonight I went trick or treating with Jeff Gordon, Harry Potter, and an astronaut.

Dora came too. And after I took these photos, a mysterious girl wearing what she called a "beggar's skirt" flitted around our group pretty much avoiding the camera completely, but in the picture below, she's the blonde.

Dora's mom and the beggar's mom also came because it's okay for Dora the Explorer to run around with only her map, a monkey, and backpack in Nickelodeon land, but on the tough streets of Tampa, she needs some adult supervision.

Not that this adorable astronaut couldn't have protected her.

I love the picture of Harry Potter below. See his lightning-shaped scar just below his hairline? And note the palm trees reflected in his glasses -- how totally Florida!

We kept Harry's hair long for two weeks longer than we normally would have just so it could be messy like it's supposed to be for tonight. But even Harry is insisting on getting it cut tomorrow.

Our astronaut pooped out after about 20 minutes of trick or treating and decided to hitch a ride in the wagon, where he proceeded to eat a good bit of his candy. I didn't realize how much candy he'd eaten until I was cleaning out the wagon and found all the empty wrappers at the bottom.

Sweet Dora was actually sooooo cute as Dora that we all promptly forgot her real name and started calling her Dora from the moment she put the wig on. Everyone, including complete strangers, called her Dora, all around the neighborhood all night long. It was, quite frankly, impossible to call her anything else. Not too long after we started trick or treating, she ran up to her mom and said, "Mommy! Evwywon thwinks I'm the WEAL DOWA!!" But she sounded a little stressed out by it, as if she was afraid she was actually turning into Dora and wouldn't be able to turn back into herself. Later in the evening, when a woman saw her and said, "Oh hi Dora!!" She said, "No, I'm not weally Dowa . . . onwy for Hawwoween." When she got back home at the end of the night, you could tell she was just emotionally spent from worrying she was actually Dora. Once the wig came off, I think she was so relieved when she realized that no, she was not going to have to have a monkey for a best friend and rely on a talking map to tell her where to go for the rest of her life.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Hypnosis and Babies, Part I

Flamingo Joe and I were married for 7 years before I became pregnant with Casey and there was a good reason we waited so long . . . two good reasons, actually . . . Flamingo Joe wasn't so sure he wanted to have kids there for awhile and then in about year 5, we decided we'd like to adopt a little girl from China and started that process in year 6. At the time, adopting from China took about 18 months. In hindsight, neither of those reasons were particularly valid considering how much we love our children and that, because we waited so late, Flamingo Joe will be 61 when Mace actually goes off to college and I will be 56. I really should be working out more.

I had been on birth control for those first 7 years and was starting to be concerned about the side effects of the birth control (not that I can remember now what those were), so I bought a book about using natural fertility planning to prevent pregnancy (go ahead and start laughing now, you know you want to). I had been out of law school and working at a large Tampa law firm for about 8 months when my careful fertility planning fell through and I got pregnant while I was specifically planning not to.

On the day I realized I might be pregnant, I was going to a fund-raising dinner with a friend from my law firm after work. I had confided in her that I was afraid I might be pregnant at some point during the day so she insisted that before going to the dinner we pick up a pregnancy test and go to her condo and see if I was actually pregnant. If I had been thinking clearly and not in a state of sheer terror, I would have refused and gotten the test later that night and taken it in the privacy of my own home. Flamingo Joe was traveling at the time and I could have taken the test in private, processed the info, and then called him and he would have been the first person who knew.

But as I said, I wasn't thinking clearly and went along with my friend's plan. We purchased the pregnancy test and went back to her condo. I can remember sitting there in her bathroom after having peed on the stick and waiting for about 10 seconds before the line popped up just as bright as anything you've ever seen. I started feeling faint and moaned something like, "Uh-oh." My friend, sitting outside the door, started squealing and laughing. We barely had time to chuck the test in the trash before we had to leave for the fundraising dinner, which was about three blocks away. So as we were walking, my friend was chattering away about how exciting it was that I was pregnant and I was numb with terror and thinking I really needed to call Joe because it wasn't right that he wasn't the first to know, but how could I? I only had about two minutes before I would be sitting in the dinner, so I decided I would call him when I got home -- I rationalized that my friend knowing first was okay since she happened to be there when I took the test. I would just get through the dinner and get home and call Joe. It's not like anyone else at the dinner was going to find out.

As we got close to the venue for the dinner, we ran into my friend's father, who just so happens to be a sitting federal judge here in the Middle District of Florida, and my friend's stepmother. I believe I had met the judge once before, but had never had a real conversation with him. As soon as we approached the judge and his wife, my friend re-introduced me and blurted out, "She's PREGNANT!" I almost fainted dead away. A federal judge I didn't really know and his wife knew that I was pregnant before my own husband. (I'm certain that my oldest child's inclination to judge a new experience before he actually tries it is somehow a direct consequence of my stupidity that day.)

I barely made it through that dinner without throwing up. As soon as it was over, I dashed back to my friend's condo, picked up my car and sped home. When I got home, I let the dogs out and then sat in the dark on the stairs and called Joe:

FJ: Hello.

Me: Hi -- how was your day?

FJ: Okay -- how was yours?

Me: Well -- you know that birth control method I was using to keep from getting pregnant?

FJ: Ummm -- it's not working?

Me: Right.

FJ: Let me guess -- it failed miserably?

Me: Yes -- I'm pregnant.

FJ: Well that's fine -- that's good -- are you okay with that?

Me: Sure, I'm fine. I'm scared.

I did not tell Flamingo Joe that he wasn't the first to know until later and that a federal judge actually knew before he did, but when I did tell him, he wasn't really upset as far as I could tell. He may have been as numb as I was, though, and didn't actually hear me. For all I know, this may be the first time Flamingo Joe actually hears this story and we'll have to take it up with a marriage counselor next week.

[To be continued . . . ]

Monday, October 25, 2010

Our Tiny Vermin Solution

I have gotten at least three direct mailings from these people:

I'm concerned.

How did I get on this mailing list?

What must my postman think? He probably puts latex gloves on every time he drives up to my mailbox.

Is there a national database of families who have frequent head lice problems and somehow we (erroneously, mind you) ended up on the list?

Or, worse, did my kids' doctor or dentist sell their mailing list to the head lice people? They aren't really allowed to do that, right? I mean, isn't that what HIPAA is for?

Or even worse, did one of my kids' schools refer us to the head lice solution folks because we just seem like the kind of people who would be a magnet for tiny vermin? I've heard that lice are attracted to clean hair, not dirty hair -- so I assure you, my children's heads are not hospitable habitats for lice.

And finally, just how reoccurring does your head lice problem have to be for you to need a solution to it as opposed to just a treatment?

[As an aside, the Google Ads that appear on this post are apparently generated by post topics. For example, when I post about camping, RV ads come up. I can't wait to see what ads this post will generate.]

Saturday, October 23, 2010

This Year's Selection at the Pumpkin Patch

Our family just returned from the pumpkin patch at the local Methodist Church and I am excited to tell you that the Cub Scouts have a varied offering of styles and colors in pumpkins this year.

Specimen #1 -- a perfectly lovely vericose vein variety:

Specimen #2 -- a pumpkin alien giving birth to a piece of pinwheel taffy:

And Specimen #3 . . . our family's personal favorite . . .

Harvest Moon.

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Today Mace decided that the inside of the dishwasher was in desperate need of a thorough cleaning . . . so he emptied out the racks and commenced the scrubbing:

He was very pleased with his work:

On Sunday, he was a tool for measuring the proper depth for a bamboo plant.

As someone who struggles with achieving a healthy balance in life, I'm starting to appreciate the way he lives his life.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Camping with the Flamingos: Day 2

When Mace joined Flamingo Joe by the fire on Day 2 of our camping trip, they were in for a bit of a wait while the rest of us took our time rolling out of the trailer. While they were sitting out there waiting in the dark, Joe and Mace messed around with the fire, which meant that Mace inevitably ended up getting burned. Something Joe put into the fire fell out, Mace grabbed it to put it back in and burned the tip of his finger. Joe said Mace cried . . . I -- alert, conscientious parent that I am -- slept through it snug and warm in the trailer. But when we emerged an hour or so later, poor little Mace had his hand curled into a fist, clutched against his body and refused to let me see it.

He was okay -- four days later when he opened his fist, I saw he had a small blister on the tip of his finger.

And may I say . . . it is not a good idea to allow your children to run around a fire without shoes on. Not that he burned his feet, but still . . . what kind of parenting is that? Seriously . . . where is that child's mother?? It's a good thing DCF wasn't out at the campground monitoring fireside parenting on Day 2.

And one more thing about the photo above -- if you are going on a camping trip and plan to cook over a fire, take real full-of-fat oinky bacon . . . and cook it in butter. Turkey bacon sizzling in the frying pan sprayed with fat free cooking spray smells nothing at all like real bacon cooking over a campfire in a cast iron skillet. I'll remember that next time. I think I'll take real eggs, too, because we all know that Better n' Eggs are in no way, shape, or fashion actually better than eggs.

After eating turkey bacon and fake eggs, we decided to go canoeing on the river. Given the number of alligators we saw on the river the night before, none of us wanted to be the one to have to take the kayak. That normally would have been me, but I was not keen at all to be close enough to the water that a twelve foot alligator could just open its mouth and I would slide right in. We'd brought one canoe with us, so we decided to rent a second.

The canoe rental was back up the river about a quarter of a mile, so we piled in the car and drove up to rent the second canoe. When you rent the canoe there, you have to go ahead and put in there at the river as well, so Flamingo Joe and Casey (I'm not sure what happened to my skittish child who couldn't bear to be separated from me by more than 8 feet) got in the rental canoe and headed downriver to meet us at the campground's canoe launch. When we all met up again at the boat launch a few minutes later, Flamingo Joe looked nervous. He got out of the canoe to help us get the other boat down to the water and said, "I don't think you guys will want to do this . . . we just saw a huge alligator on the bank back there." I asked him if he thought the alligators would really bother us and he said no, but I know he thought Dez and I would freak out and want to come back. I was offended. So I handled it like any good wife would.

I ridiculed him for being a chicken and put the three year old in his boat so that if the three year old got eaten I could blame him.

Some of us on this canoeing excursion had long and varied outdoorsy histories full of camping and canoeing and others of us had heretofore lived lives completely devoid of any interaction with the outdoors whatsoever. I will not name names, but said inexperienced canoeist sat in the front of my boat and in order to actually get anywhere on the river that did not involve me having to untangle my hair from a tree, I just had to tell her to stop paddling.

At least she minds well.

And let me tell you something about canoeing on the Hillsborough River -- or at least the section of it that runs through the state park:

When you are not distracted by grown men wearing too-small hats . . .

. . . or your 7 year old inexplicably clinging to trees . . .

. . . you will find that the Hillsborough River is a wonderful, quiet, and lovely place that can only truly be appreciated in a canoe (though I did see one brave woman all by herself out there in a kayak). It was absolutely beautiful.

Look . . . turtle with a big leaf on its neck:

See the alligator back in there?

It's okay if you missed that one, we saw like, 25 or 30 more. See, here's another one:

After a while I had to stop taking pictures of all the alligators because every time I tried to snap a photo, the canoe would drift off course and Dez and I would end up lodged on a rock or stuck in the branches of a tree.

When Casey and I were taking the rental canoe back upriver, we saw this, too:

A red-shouldered hawk (you too will learn these official names when you start hanging out in state parks). Casey is still talking about how close we were to that hawk. Don't get me wrong, we live by water that provides us with all the alligators, herons, snakes, turtles, fruit rats and hawks that we can handle, but something about being in the middle of the woods, on a river, in a canoe, so close to a hawk that you could touch him with your oar, is amazing.

Later on Day 2, everyone but me did a little fishing.

Mace, as you might expect, didn't catch anything with his SpongeBob fishing pole. He kept trying to talk to the pre-teen girls that were hanging around. It was a little embarrassing to watch him walk up to girls, start talking, and be completely ignored. But he didn't seem to mind too much.

Joe caught a catfish for about 4 seconds:

It's hard to document these things when you only have four seconds to snap the picture, so you'll just have to trust me when I tell you that he caught the only fish of the day by just placing his worm on the fish's head right as Dez was telling him, "You can't catch a fish just by putting the worm right on top of . . . OH OH REEL IT IN REEL IT IN . . . dang."

By evening, we were tired, but we managed to cook some chicken over the fire, make some more s'mores for the kids and roll into bed. Mace fell asleep while sitting on my lap and it wasn't hard at all to convince Casey it was bedtime pretty soon after that. Dez slept in the tent the second night and the rest of us slept in the trailer. I wanted to make sure Dez fully experienced the outdoors on this camping trip, so when she volunteered to sleep in the tent, I didn't argue too much with her -- that would have been selfish of me.

On Day 3, as we promised the ranger, we packed up our stuff and left. When we got home, I took a shower and then laid in the bed and watched 8 hours' worth of movies on TV.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Camping with the Flamingos: Day 1

Casey had two days off school at the end of last week for parent-teacher conference days, so we decided to go camping. Before Thursday, the Airstream had not moved for over a year for various reasons, the main one being that for several months our weekends were completely consumed by leading music in a Saturday night worship service. Nowadays, however, Flamingo Joe plays drums at a church across town a couple of Sundays a weeks and the rest of us sit quietly in church and try to behave (it’s not easy). So it was high time the Airstream hit the road for adventure.

It was my job to find a suitable campground and though that may sound easy, the person we’re really trying to please here is Joe. Flamingo Joe looks down his nose on campgrounds in general because they are, as he says, “Ridiculous.” He believes that if you are going camping, you should be dropped off along the edge of a wilderness somewhere with your backpack, a bedroll and a snakebite kit and arrange for someone to meet you on the other side of said wilderness a week later. Campgrounds where people pull in their $35,000 -- $150,000 campers and park right up next to some other people and their campers is not his idea of roughing it and I really don’t think he sees the point, which is, of course, forcing parents to spend time with their children where SpongeBob and his silly square pants cannot intrude.

So when looking for a campground I try to select one that is 1) actually in the woods and 2) has more wildlife than our own property. That usually means we camp in state parks.

I started my search for the perfect campground on the Florida State Parks website and was really looking for somewhere only a couple of hours away that maybe had a spring or something else interesting we’d never seen or experienced before. I had decided on Blue Spring State Park, which is over on the St. Johns River, and looked to be 2-3 hours away, but I didn’t make reservations because Flamingo Joe often changes his mind about how far/where/if we’re going at all the day before we leave and since we were going on a Thursday, I thought we’d be certain to get one of the “walk-up” sites even if we drove over without a reservation. Sure enough, on Wednesday, I told Joe where I thought we should go and he said, “Isn’t there anything closer?”

So on Thursday morning (it was really more like noon by the time we had everything packed up and ready), we drove all the way across town to Hillsborough River State Park. It took us 35 minutes to get there. I didn’t think we’d have trouble getting a space because when I checked availability on Wednesday night it looked like there were plenty of spaces available. By the time we got there on Thursday, however, the park had filled up, reservations-wise, for the weekend beginning with Friday night. If we couldn’t get a space for the second night, we would basically have a 24 hour camping trip. And it would be my fault.

So I had to plead with the park ranger and stand there at the counter and humbly acknowledge that yes, I was indeed familiar with the Reserve America site (where I should have actually made reservations), but that I didn’t make reservations because we had decided to come to this state park instead of Blue Spring rather at the last minute. Lucky for me, there is apparently a bit of healthy competition among the various state parks in Florida and when the ranger heard that we’d opted for her park instead of Blue Spring, she found a spot for us that we could occupy for two nights instead of just one, but she made me promise that we would definitely leave on Saturday. “Yes ma’am,” I said, “we will definitely leave on Saturday.”

When I reported to the group that we’d gotten a spot for two nights, I’m pretty sure I heard Flamingo Joe grumble, “We wouldn’t need reservations if we were really camping” as he walked back to the car.

We invited Dez to come along with us on this trip, and 5 people in the camper was going to be a little cramped, so Joe also brought the tent that we bought 5 or 6 years ago, but had never actually used on a camping trip. In fact, prior to this trip, it had been set up exactly twice: 1) for a sleepover in the backyard with the Yak Yaks and their kids; and 2) when a former co-worker of mine took it to Key West and set it up for all of ten minutes before the rest of his group made him take it down because it was so big it took up all the available space on their reserved site.

It’s actually a pretty easy tent to set up, especially since the directions were still in the bag and also because Flamingo Joe was doing all the assembly:

We (i.e., Joe) had the tent up in less than half an hour.

Though it may look like Dez is reading the directions and helping with the tent there, she’s actually reading through the campground rules, two of which Flamingo Joe has already violated -- we’d been on the site for all of 45 minutes. He tied one of the tent’s ropes to a tree, violation of rule number 3, and he put up a tent larger than a “pup” tent on a site that also had a trailer on it. That was violating rule number 5, I think. When informed of these violations, Flamingo Joe muttered, “If we were really camping, we could tie whatever we wanted to trees” as he removed the rope from the tree and staked it to the ground instead. The tent however, stayed up for the duration of our stay and we weren’t cited by the rangers for our violation.

After setting up camp, I asked the kids if they wanted to go for a hike on the Rapids Trail and they both jumped all over the idea. The Rapids Trail started about a half of a mile back up the road, so we piled in the car to drive there and Casey and Mace started talking about what we were going to see on the trail. Casey was excited in general just to be done waiting to do stuff and was wondering how big the rapids would be, but Mace seemed really really excited about hiking the trail. Seeing as how he ends up getting carried for 70% of most of our hikes, I wasn’t sure why he was so excited until we were pulling into the parking lot and he said,

“I wan’ to touch ‘dem.”

“You want to touch the rapids?”


“Baby, we won’t be able to touch the rapids, we’ll have to stay on the bank.”

“But I wan’ to touch da bunny rapids!”

Ohhhhh. Yeah, he was a little disappointed there were no bunny rabbits at the rapids.

There were only some Class 2 rapids, which in Florida is apparently noteworthy:

We hiked along the river on the trail for a while and saw quite a bit of wildlife:

Nice bird, though a bit blurry. How about another try:

Hmmm . . still pretty blurry. I took four pictures of that bird and walked a little further down the trail to shoot another picture before I noticed that I’d actually been taking a picture of this little fellow, too:

He is in all of the pictures I have of that bird. Dez said there was some metaphor for the Christian life contained within that picture, but whatever it is, she’ll have to work it out on her own blog.

The alligator hiding in that picture was the first we saw on our hike, but not the last and definitely not the biggest:

There are two in that picture – the one up on the bank in the sun was at least ten feet long and looked full. The state park people will tell you that there has never been an alligator attack on a human within the park boundaries since the park opened, but those gators are eating something bigger than turtles and that’s all I’m saying.

Our hike went well until Mace fell down, skinned his knee, and then insisted on being carried for the rest of the hike.

Poor Mace, it looks like he’s really suffering, doesn’t it? He seems fine up there, but the minute Joe put him on the ground he just moaned and cried and carried on like his leg was falling off.

So he rode in comfort all the way back to the car.

When we got back to the campsite, it was time to start supper. Our choices were to cook over a fire or fire up the propane stove in the camper. I was fine with either option, so Flamingo Joe made the decision to cook over the fire, I assume to hold on to some semblance of feeling that we were really camping out and not just staying at an outdoor hotel.

Flamingo Joe and his children love fire. By the second night, Dez also loved fire and was trying to burn everything that wasn’t currently being worn by someone. But the thing about cooking over a fire is . . . well . . . a fire is really really hot and you can’t control the temperature and if you’re not careful, you’ll burn your dinner. And we did, but not too badly that we couldn’t eat it.

After dinner, we made s’mores and then commenced negotiations over who would be sleeping in the tent. Joe wanted the boys to sleep out in the tent with him and I fully expected Mace to want to be with him, and Casey to want to sleep in the trailer with me. That’s just our family dynamic – Mace sticks to Joe, Casey sticks to me.

Especially when it’s dark and there are weird sounds in the woods.

But Casey surprised us and was eager and willing to sleep in the tent with dad. So Joe got the air mattresses into the tent with the sleeping bags and went in there with both boys.

Mace lasted half an hour.

Casey lasted about two hours.

By midnight, Flamingo Joe was all by himself in the tent and Dez and the boys and I were in the trailer. Casey brought his deflating air mattress with him and put it on the floor of the camper beside where Mace was sleeping on the table-turned-bed. I thought that would work well because I knew there was a strong possibility that Mace would fall off the table-turned-bed in the middle of the night and I figured if Casey’s air mattress, or Casey himself, was there to break his fall, it would alleviate the guilt I was already feeling for not having Mace sleep with me on the sofa-turned-bed where he surely would have kicked me in the head all night when he wasn’t elbowing me in the kidneys. At 1:30, Casey woke me up to tell me that his mattress was almost all the way deflated and that Mace was about to fall off the table-turned-bed. When I looked, Mace was bent over backwards with his head and torso touching the floor and his bottom and legs still on the bed like he was doing a very precise backbend dismount off the bed. About the time I got up to try to lift him back onto the bed, he completed the dismount, kicking me in the head in the process and falling on top of Casey.

Mace ended up in bed with me and Casey ended up on the table-bed.

Joe stayed in the tent until 5:30 a.m., when he got too cold and/or uncomfortable to sleep and went out to sit by the fire. I was glad to see that he was getting to enjoy an authentic camping experience. Being too cold and/or uncomfortable is exactly the reason I shun authentic camping experiences.

[Tune in tomorrow for Day 2 of Camping with the Flamingos]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Balancing out the Snake Karma

I returned home from dropping Mace off at preschool this morning and parked my car on the concrete pad by the steps. Campbell (the dog with the horrible name) ran up to the car, already soaking wet, apparently having already taken a dip in the creek. I hopped out, went inside, made some tea and heard Campbell start barking rather insistently. I figured he was beside (or in) the water barking at a turtle or frog he'd cornered, so I ignored him for a few minutes. When I headed downstairs to the office, I saw that Campbell was feverishly trying to squeeze himself underneath my car. Not more than 15 minutes earlier I had parked that car in that very spot and there was nothing strange on the concrete pad when I pulled in. But now, apparently, 15 short minutes later, something was under the car. If you are not shivering in anticipation, you haven't been reading this blog long enough.

So, keeping well back from the car, I knelt down and looked:

Hmm . . . snake. Being the incredibly brave woman that I am, I took the dog inside and called for Grandma. I told her to keep the dog inside because there was a snake under the car and she nearly ran to the door so she could come outside and see it for herself. Grandma and I have a history with snakes (sorry, I tried to find the link for that post, but after 30 minutes of re-reading some extremely silly blog posts I gave up). The last time we (and by "we" I mean Grandma) caught one, we killed it, only to find out later that it was a harmless corn snake and I felt awful. This snake, upon closer examination (with the camera's zoom lens -- said camera being extracted carefully from the car itself when I realized there was something to actually photograph), was much larger than that sweet little corn snake we killed in cold blood:

Wicked. However, having lived in this wild and untame outpost of suburban Tampa, Florida for the past 5 years, I have learned that if that snake was indeed a water moccasin (which is what we would expect it to be, being so near the water and given its dark coloring), the dog would already be swollen and twitching and in desparate need of $1800 anti-venom that I was not going to get for him (no Dave Ramsey envelope for anti-venom, sorry) because he would have been bitten on the nose while trying to get to the snake underneath the car. This snake was calmly biding his time until he could safely get away -- that is not a moccasin-like behavior.

I was just going to leave him there under the car until time to go back and get Mace at noon, in the hopes that he would just slither away, but Grandma threw out the challenge, "I wonder if he would leave if you moved the car?" So I ever-so-quietly got back into the car and backed it off the concrete pad.

And Grandma, as always, was right.



And gone:

He went straight back to the water where he belongs and I wasn't even tempted to kill him. I'm hoping this evens the score for me in snakeworld.

Monday, October 11, 2010


Mace has been volunteering to pray before dinner for the last week. For a while now we've been trying to get the boys to participate in the dinner prayer but Casey, who is 7, resists mightily and will tell you it's everyone else's turn but his until he is threatened with losing dessert, and then he'll cave in and mumble an extremely resentful prayer. I'm pretty sure his resentful blessings are the reason I'm hungry again an hour after I eat dinner -- an improperly blessed meal never satisfies. Up until a week ago, we couldn't even get Mace to pray at all. He is 3, after all, and it's easier to just say the prayer yourself than to wait for a 3 year to pray when he doesn't want to pray.

But lately he's been volunteering to pray every night, even when we decide it is actually someone's elses turn. Last night, he volunteered once again and this is how it went:

Mace: "Deaw Jesus, t'ank you fwoh Daddy [Daddy always gets top billing in Mace's prayers.] T'ank you fwoh Gwan'ma. T'ank you fwo Ya-Ya and Pop-Pop. [looking up] Ya-Ya and Pop not here."

Grandma: "That's okay, you can still say thank you for them."

Mace: "Ok. T'ank you fwoh Casey. T'ank you fwoh . . . [burp] . . . I burped."

Grandma: "That's okay, just say 'Excuse me.'"

Mace: "Ok. Excwuse me, God. [Casey started giggling uncontrollably about here.] T'ank you fwo Mommy."

[long pause here. Mace has trouble wrapping his prayers up.]

Me: [whispering] "Thank you for this food."

Mace: "T'ank you fwo food."

[another long pause]

Me: [whispering] "Amen."

Mace: "The end."

Me: "No, 'Amen'."

Mace: "Amen."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Boating With The Flamingos

Last weekend, Flamingo Joe got the boat ready and decided we needed to actually take it out on the water. Not sure really where he's coming from, but I try to be supportive . . . and by supportive I mean not let it show on my face too much how little I want to go out in the boat. Don't misunderstand me . . . being on the boat is awesome, once it is in the water and someone is driving me around. But now that we don't actually live on the water and can't just lower the boat lift, hop in and take off, taking the boat out is a bit more of a chore -- for Joe mostly, but he does expect me to participate a little bit by 1) getting food, towels, and drinks ready; and 2) getting the children all excited about going, and by children, I mean Casey. But last week, Flamingo Joe had handled all of the food, towels and drinks part while my kids, Heidi's kids, my parents and I went back down to Largo Central Railroad (that's ABPA, though, and we'll get to it in another post, maybe).

So I got back with the kids at 2ish and all I had to do was change my clothes and the kids' clothes and convince Casey that going in the boat would be fun. This is how the conversation went:

Me: Casey, do you want to go in the boat?

Casey: Are you going?

Me: Yes.

Casey: I don't want to go. [Contrary to how that sounds, i.e., rude, Casey's preliminary question in regard to almost all outings is to ask me if I'm going because if I'm not going, his reply is often an automatic "no." In this case, he was just trying to lay a foundation.]

Me: Okay, you can stay home with Grandma.

Casey: Are you going to go fast or slow?

Me: You will think it's fast, but we'll really be going slow.

Casey: I'm only going to go if you promise that you will go slow.

Me: I promise we will go slow for us, but it may still seem fast for you. How about if I promise you can swim off the back of the boat?

Casey: Okay, but I want to go slow.

Casey, as you can see, is not a fan of the boat, which tends to lead to some family conflict while we're in the boat because Casey will be screaming, "NOOOOOO! NOT FAST! SLOW DOWN!" While Mace screams, "FASTER DADDY!!! FASTER!!"

Dez went with us and it was her job to hold Mace's hand because, although he has a need for speed, he appreciates the comfort of someone's hand while flying across the water.

Flamingo Joe is not a fan of slow. But he really wants Casey to like the boat, so he usually caters to Casey for a little while and keeps the speed down, but then tries to gradually increase the speed without Casey noticing. Casey is not easily fooled and has an uncanny sense of exactly how fast the boat is going at any given moment. This trip, he picked 15 mph as the threshold speed above which the world would come to an end, so whenever he felt we had exceeded the 15 mph mark, he would scream "FIFTEEN!! DAD!!! FIFTEEN!!"

I think Flamingo Joe was praying for patience in that photo.

We boated around for an hour and a half or so and then before heading back to the boat ramp, we anchored the boat in shallow water so the boys could swim. Mace jumped right in . . .

. . . but for some reason Casey, the boy who can now (thanks to swim team) swim 100 yards without really trying, was nervous about jumping in the water.

I'm not sure why he thought it was deep:

Cause it wasn't. He did eventually take the life jacket off.

So after the boys swam for 20 minutes or so, we decided to head back to the boat ramp, which was only about 100 yards or so from where we had anchored the boat. The boys piled back in, Flamingo Joe started the boat, put it in gear and the boat shut down. He started it again, put it in gear, and again the boat shut down. And so it went for five minutes until Flamingo Joe announced that we had gotten sand in the impeller. By this time, the high-pitched beeeeeeeeeep that signals that the engine is overheated was going full blast. Keep in mind that the only way to get sand in the impeller is to operate the boat when you're in water that is too shallow. So while the beeeeeeep was piercing our eardrums I heard Flamingo Joe say, "I should have pushed the boat into deeper water before trying to start it." I don't know about you, but that sounds like an admission of guilt to me and we can safely say that we were stuck and . . .

. . . it was all Joe's fault. [If you feel that I'm being too hard on Flamingo Joe, I have at least two other boating stories to tell you -- one that involves our running the bow of our rented sailboat into the broadside of a much larger, seventy-times-more-expensive sailboat and another one that involves our sailing our small sailing catamaran (like a Hobie cat) around the wrong, too-windy side of an island and not being able to get back, forcing us to walk, in our life jackets, to a country club, where the nice man who met us in the foyer let us use his phone to call a cab. So yes, I have some latent boating resentment toward my husband.]

Joe decided to let the engine cool a little and then try to make it to the boat ramp. We made it as far as a channel marker about 50 yards to the boat ramp before the beeeeeeeep started going off again. Joe made me tie the boat off on the marker and lifted the engine cover. We waited another 10 minutes while the engine cooled and Flamingo Joe ominously pronounced, "We're going to gun it to the ramp so hold on."

Poor Casey didn't even have time to react to the announcement before we were going waaaaay over the 15 mph threshold.

He started screaming at the top of his lungs, "STOP!!! STOP!!! TOOO FAST!!! FIFTEEN!!! FIFTEEN!!!"

And both Joe and I were screaming, "JUST SHUT UP CASEY!!!"

Not our finest parenting moment, I admit.

The beeeeeeep started about 10 yards from the boat ramp, so Joe slowed down and told me to get to the front of the boat so I could tie us off at a cleat as soon as we got close enough to the dock because the engine was about to die.

I was being a very good wife, not asking questions (like, "What's a CLEAT?"), only taking instructions, and moved to the front of the boat, grabbed the rope, and got ready to jump, when Flamingo Joe added:

"We're only going to have one chance at this . . ."

Um, I'm sorry -- I needed extra PRESSURE?

I'm happy to tell you that I successfully tied off the boat and we all made it home in one piece thanks to my heroic efforts (never mind that Flamingo Joe was the one who managed to actually get the boat up on to the boat trailer without the benefit of a running engine).

On the way home, Casey announced that he was staying home with Grandma next time.