Saturday, August 27, 2011

Frolicking Flamingo Has Flown the Coop!

Not really -- I just moved to a new site.  Please find new posts from The Flamingo at: -- see you there!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Hope Springs Eternal Schoolhouse

Casey started third grade today.  We were a little nervous letting him ride his bike to school this morning.

But he said he was ready, so we stifled our overprotective urges.  A child has to grow wings at some point and you just have to let them fly.

He made it to school about 30 seconds later.

We counted once around the driveway as P.E., laughed at our little joke, and headed upstairs to start Day One of Homeschool.

There's our school resource officer standing at the top of the steps.  Honestly, he's not that scary unless you think running straight at your car's front grille while you are driving into the driveway, or once you've stopped, jumping up and pawing at your driver's side window, is scary.  And although he will thoroughly investigate a bag of garbage you sit outside the front door until the next time you can get down the front steps to the garbage can, I can't get him to reveal the source of his fleas.

In all honesty, I was not sure how our first homeschooling morning was going to go this morning.  I was prepared -- I had the Base 10 set out and number discs made and knew exactly what we were going to do for each subject.  But I had no idea how quickly or slowly we would move through subjects and I was clueless as to how Casey would react to  . . . well, pretty much everything.

We started with math.

Those amongst you with a wagering nature should probably place bets now on how many more mornings I will actually make Casey wet down and comb his hair.

Or wear pants.

Casey made a robot with his Base 10 set -- but only after we used it for the lesson.  Do you see the workbook opposite Casey, on the other side of the Base 10 robot?  That saved me when Mace came in before it was time for him to go off to PreK4 and wanted to go to school with Casey.  Mace traced squares and triangles as Casey and I worked through math, so that by the time we took Mace to school, we were ready for history.

Casey read his history lesson in the car on the way to Mace's school, so when we got back we were ready for review questions and narration.  Unfortunately, however, after we got home Casey could not seem to recall why King Charles wanted the pope to declare him Holy Roman Emperor, so next time, maybe I'll turn off the radio in the car while he's reading.

After history, we dissected the periodic table and built some atoms.  The science kit we are using is a Little Professor Science Kit and comes from the Academy of Science for Kids in Lutz, Fl.  Each experiment or activity in the kit is precisely labeled and we had a blast putting together our atoms with the correct number of protons, neutrons and electrons (the electrons glow in the dark -- to remind you  -- they're electric!  Boogie-woogie-woogie!  Don't feel bad, Casey didn't catch the Electric Slide reference, either.).

After science, we moved on to grammar and spelling, both of which were a bit of a letdown after all that running in and out of the master bedroom closet to see the electrons glow, let me tell you.  But we muddled through and then took a break before hitting Latin.

Latin was a short lesson today.  Do you know what the word "toga" is in Latin? It's toga.  See? Latin's going to be a breeze.   We also spent a few minutes reviewing our Latin and Greek root cards that I purchased at the convention.  We had a good time with the cards -- they are going to be great for spelling and building vocabulary.  Not that Casey's large vocabulary isn't troublesome enough already  . . .  a few days ago he told me that he had "plausible deniability" -- and used the phrase correctly.  When I asked him where he had picked up the term, he told me Candace used it on Phineas and Ferb. This is why we prefer Phineas and Ferb to SpongeBob Stupidpants.

After reading Don Quixote (a junior version) for half an hour, it was noon, and therefore time to fetch Mace from school.  We were done with third grade by noon today.  Isn't that lovely?  I have read somewhere that the homeschool day is not done until someone cries -- but no one cried today, thank goodness.

Unless you count that minor breakdown high up on the ropes course at MOSI this afternoon.  But that is fodder for another post altogether and since it did not take place during actual school time this morning, I don't think I have to count it.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Saturday Night: Destination Delightful Dunedin

I'm sorry I'm a smidge late posting my weekly blog summarizing the events of the most recent weekend, but I need for you to just be grateful that I'm posting at all.  It's a lot to ask, I know.  But please just try.  If it will make you feel any better, the reason why I'm posting late may become the subject of another post later this week (if I can arrange to sit for an hour at the bounce house place like I'm doing now).  

We celebrated Dez' birthday on Saturday night -- she was turning 29.  Again.  So we got dressed up and headed to dinner out in Delightful Dunedin (Dunedin's city council must be thrilled that their catch phrase has really caught on).  Just Dez, Joe and I were going to dinner and then we were meeting the other usual suspects at Jollimon's.  We wanted to go to dinner somewhere other than Jollimon's this week for a couple of reasons and they both had long hairless tails.

We were about 5 to 10 minutes away from Dunedin when Lauren called us and asked us where we were.  She had just been dropped off by the bus and was standing on a corner near the hospital.  Could we come pick her up?  She was on our way and it would be nice to have another person at dinner, so we swung by her corner and sure enough, there she was standing on the corner of Virginia and Milwaukee  . . . with her massage table (in its convenient 4' x 3' carrying case).  I'm not sure how she thought she was going to make it from that corner to Jollimon's with the massage table in tow, but I'm sure she probably assumed that at some point she would be able to reach one or more of the ten people heading to Jollimon's with us later and they would swing by and pick her up.  The problem for her, of course, is that, had we not been going to dinner earlier, she would have been standing on that corner with her massage table for an hour.  She can thank the rats, I guess.  As it was, she said of the the four police officers that drove past her standing on the corner, only one stopped.  This was their conversation:

Policeman: Do you need help?
Lauren: No.  I just got off the bus and I'm waiting for my friends to pick me up.
Policeman: (eyeing the table) What's that?
Lauren: My massage table.
Policeman: Oh. Are you a massage therapist?
Lauren: Yes.
Policeman: Can I have your card?

I supposed it stands to reason that the best way to get business as a massage therapist is to hang out on street corners with your massage table.  She picked up some business the same way the next afternoon after her massage class (the reason she was carting the table around town all weekend).  She had finished her class and was calling me from the lobby to come pick her up when a random stranger approached her, asked her if she was a massage therapist, and then asked her if she would give him a massage.  So she did.  (I can actually hear my mother swooning at how dangerous this sounds.  But really, being a massage therapist just seems like a risky thing to me in general.  If it were me, I would alert all customers to my taser hanging conveniently from my waist.)

So as it turned out, there were four of us for dinner.  We went to Bon Appetit.  It's right on the Gulf of Mexico in Dunedin -- a little pricier than Dave Ramsey would really approve of when you are in a debt snowball plan, but the food was great.  Joe had lobster pizza -- it was yummy.  The sun set right as we were finishing dinner, so we got some good pictures:

Doesn't it look like I strategically placed that rose in the shot to hide Lauren's cleavage?

It's a shame someone didn't do the same for me:

After dinner, we had itsy bitsy desserts and Robert, our waiter, said Desiree's name in french -- which is "Desiree" but sounds much more lovely than the way we say her name.

And here's a lovely photo of Dez by the water.  

Dez has lost 20 pounds in the last few months.  Doesn't she look great in her new smaller jeans?

When we got to Jollimon's, pretty much everyone else was already there.  We had asked Adam, who had gotten there a good half hour before us to go ahead and order us a pitcher of Sangria and then took bets on whether or not he would actually do it.  I won't say who bet against him, but I will tell you that he did not get us a pitcher of Sangria and Dez had to pay Lauren $5.  In the end it was a good thing that he had not ordered a pitcher of Sangria for us because it was so stifling hot in the area where we were sitting that the Sangria would have been a light pink Capri Sun by the time we got there.

So as usual, a great night with great friends listening to Shane Mead and the Sound a/k/a  . . . Tito.  Tito was awesome.

And we didn't see any rats . . . unless you count that creepy drunk guy who hit on Lauren.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Hope Springs Eternal Dude Ranch

Several weeks ago Shelya mentioned that she was going to have a pony at her daughter, Keller's, 2nd birthday party.  Shelya's family lives in a standard Florida subdivision where pony rides through the cul-de-sac are almost certainly a violation of their declarations and covenants.  So I offered Casa Flamingo as an alternative location for the shindig.  We are not troubled here at Casa Flamingo by pesky homeowner's associations.  If we want to keep 7 camels and 6 pigs in our front yard there's no one to stop us.

Well, the EPA might have something to say about all that poo in the tidal creek by our house, but our non-existent neighbors definitely would not complain.

Shelya agreed that the amenities at Casa Flamingo would better suit her party plans and I promptly put the matter out of my head . . . until a few weeks later when I realized that both Flamingo Joe and Grandma Elsie were going to be gone the weekend of the Pony Party.  So that meant I was on my own for getting the house clean, moving the patio furniture from upstairs to downstairs, mowing the lawn, and picking up the trash that somehow manages to settle in our yard.  See, when we have parties, I am usually responsible for everything inside the house and Joe is responsible for everything outside the house -- which is why I am always cool and refreshed when you arrive at our house for any event and Flamingo Joe is filthy and sweaty and heading inside to take a shower before firing up the grill.

The division of labor for this party fell like this -- Shelya was responsible for planning, decorations, and actual party set-up; Lauren was responsible for cooking most of the food; and I was responsible for not embarrassing myself or my family by allowing people to see my yard or inside of my house in its natural state (overgrown, weedy, slightly messy and a little grimy).

This party is why sweet Lauren spent the weekend with us -- she had to cook.

Here she is wondering where those children's mother is because she does not feel it is her place to yell at the four year old for smearing sugar cookie dough all over the floor with his bare feet ("But I yike it!").

Lauren made cookies decorated with paisleys, cookies shaped like "2"s and "k"s, apple and cherry mini-pies, and an adorable cake:

 Poor Lauren was up baking until 1:30 a.m. last night.  She probably would have gotten to bed sooner if I hadn't made her and Dez move Flamingo Joe's car:

I was steering.

And . . . here they are pushing from behind:

I had to lend Lauren a pair of shoes in which to push the car because the only shoes she packed were high heels.  I asked her what size she wore and she said anywhere between a 7 and an 8 1/2 depending on how cute the shoe is.  One day I will spend an entire blog post analyzing the ins and outs of Lauren's shoe choices, but today is not that day.

Shelya somehow transformed my office "foyer" into a country jamboree in about 15 minutes, complete with Mason and Ball jars for the kids to drink out of.

And don't forget the pony:

That's the birthday girl.  Isn't she cute?  I think the pony handler lost about 15 pounds in the Florida heat this afternoon in our yard.

(But isn't that freshly-mown lawn pretty?)

Neither Casey nor Mace would ride the pony today.  Their fear of horses is a grave disappointment for Joe's sisters, both of whom own and love horses.  Unlike their fear of beets, they did not pick up a fear of horses from me.  I suppose their fear is grounded in lack of exposure.  Just like the beets.

Somehow, word got around that we were having a party at our house and the usual suspects showed up looking for the adult beverage trailer (which was closed for the afternoon).  We gave them pink lemonade in Mason jars and let them pet the pony.  In exchange, they didn't vandalize anything.

As far as I could tell, the party was a success.  The kids were happy; the pony was happy; there were pink boots and cowgirl hats . . . and the water moccasin stayed under the canoe where he belongs:

Apparently our water moccasin is not a fan of horses.  I'm not sure how he feels about beets.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Flamingo Bucket List: See Hillsong Live

We are in the middle of a jam-packed weekend here at Casa Flamingo.  Flamingo Joe is out of town for his 30th high school reunion (I typed "30th" as a joke, trying to make Flamingo Joe sound old and then I realized it really is his 30th high school reunion) -- so he's in Boise with all his ex-girlfriends.  When talk of the trip to Boise came up a few months ago, Joe wanted the family to go with him, but I wasn't so keen on flying across the country with the entire family so that I could embarrass myself making awkward conversation with people Flamingo Joe hasn't seen for 30 years.  I figured Joe would enjoy himself more without having to worry about me chatting up his old classmates about bankruptcy and homeschooling, the only two topics on which I currently am fully versed.

Shortly after the first discussion about the trip to Boise, however, we heard that Hillsong United was coming to Tampa the same weekend.  I'd skip my own 30th high school reunion for Hillsong United -- though I don't think we need to worry about that since I wasn't even invited to my 20th reunion a few years back.  

So last night, Heidi, Dez, Lauren and I went to see Hillsong.  Here are Dez and Heidi, who both thought that wearing black is appropriate attire for attending the greatest worship concert of all time:

Here they are again on the top level of the parking garage waiting for Lauren.

Lauren lives in St. Pete and usually gets around by bus, though last night I think she got a ride from a friend.  She is staying at my house this weekend for reasons I will reveal to you tomorrow.  When Lauren comes over the bridge to Tampa for the weekend, she has to bring stuff with her, of course.  A couple of months ago, she met us in Dunedin at Jollimon's and was going to ride home with us and stay with Dez for the weekend.  Jollimon's is adjacent to the Pinellas Trail, a paved bike path that winds its way up through Pinellas County.  So we are all sitting outside Jollimon's, listening to our friend Tito play in the band, and here comes Lauren, dressed all cute and in her high heels, walking up the Pinellas Trail (apparently having disembarked from the bus somewhere south of Jollimon's), rolling a big suitcase behind her.  Lauren usually travels pretty light so we were surprised to see her with an actual suitcase.  The band kept singing but kept their eyes glued on Lauren, trying to see where the cute girl with the suitcase was going to end up.  She strolled right past the stage and put her big 'ol suitcase in my car.  Dez' new apartment only has one bedroom now, so Lauren brought her air mattress with her in the suitcase.

So last night we waited at the car for Lauren to meet us so that she could put her stuff in my car.  She was bringing springform pans and a muffin pan with her, so I was really expecting to see her pushing her way through the crowd waiting outside the Ice Palace with her rolling suitcase, but she came with just two small bags this time.  

We got to our seats at about 7:10 and the concert was supposed to start at 7:30.  7:30 came and went and the crowd got a little antsy, but the place was full of Christians, so it was a very sanctified antsy and some kids started the wave.  That kept us entertained for four minutes and then we were back to practicing our best mommy faces.  Heidi won:

"WHAT did you say??"

And then Dez broke the arm off her chair.  But no one came to throw us out.

Then 8:00 came and went and the crowd downgraded from sanctified to just plain long-suffering.  Shortly after 8:00 some weird clips played on the big screens above the stage -- a montage of clips of old black and white TV commercials and shows.  We didn't understand the point and chalked it up to Hillsong United being an Australian band.  Clearly we just don't understand Aussie humor.


The band finally came out at some point close to 8:30 and everyone started singing along and did not stop until the concert was over.  I probably knew about a third of the songs, but sang with the rest of them anyway -- the words were on the screens and the music just filled up all the space around you so there was no resisting the singing.  I have never been in the midst of so many people singing together.  There were points in the concert where the band would start playing and singing and then back off the mics so that you could hear everyone in the arena singing.

It was flat out fantastic worship -- and it was just worship.  The whole night was definitely all about God and not about Hillsong.  No one in the band introduced themselves or anyone else on stage.  Every time anyone on stage spoke, they were either speaking about Jesus or to Jesus.  I found it fascinating that although all of the singers had great voices, none of their voices were so distinctive that you would say, "Wasn't that guy on the end great?"  Everything the band said or did deflected the focus from themselves and back to God.  Exactly how church is supposed to be.

So if you are so inclined to go places Christians go and do things Christians do . . . and even if you're not . . . if you ever get a chance to see Hillsong United live, do it.

Even if it means skipping your husband's high school reunion.

Especially if it means skipping your husband's high school reunion.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Hope Springs Eternal Doggie B & B

Skipper is visiting our house this week month.  For some reason, my friend Heidi thinks that she is allowed to leave town for a month every summer and go visit people that she loves.  It's really quite ridiculous that she takes her sweet children away from me (and my kids) and then leaves her dog in their place as if he is an adequate substitute.  It makes me cry at the beginning of every summer when she makes the big announcement that she'll be leaving for the month of July, so this summer she didn't actually come right out and tell me.  In May and June I kept asking her for how long she'd be going away and she kept saying vague things like, "not as long as usual" and "would you like some more sangria?"  By the end of June, though, she really had to nail down Skipper's reservation at the Hope Springs Eternal Doggie Bed & Breakfast, so she let it slip that she was going for three whole weeks and didn't really know yet when she'd be coming home.  She acted like she had told me several times already when I came flying at her with my fingernails.

So we've got Skipper, Heidi's old chocolate labrador.  Skipper sheds a clone of himself every day:

That's just from the morning sweep.

Skipper is a very good barker and also snores like a freight train.  He has to sleep in Grandma's room when he's here -- it doesn't bother her, because Grandpa snores at almost exactly the same decibel and she's used to it.  She's leaving on Tuesday, so I have to bring in a replacement to sleep with Skipper (Dez).  For his first several visits to our house, Skipper would not eat out of his dog bowl.  It was the bowl he eats out of every day at his house, but for some reason he wouldn't eat out of it here.  We had to pour the food on the floor to get him to eat it.

Whatever he was afraid of (the broom, maybe?) must have been deep-seated because he really loves to eat.  The first time we kept him, he convinced us to feed him three times one morning.  He whined for Grandma to feed him when she got up at 5:30, and then acted like he hadn't been fed at 6:00 when Joe got up, so Joe fed him again.  And then when I got up at 6:30, he followed me around the kitchen, pausing to gaze longingly in his empty food bowl at each pass.  I assumed he hadn't been fed yet and fed him again.

This may be why my eight year old weighs 100 pounds.

It's quite surprising, really, that Heidi continues to trust us with her dog, given my family's sordid dog-sitting history.  Have I told you about the time that we house-sat for our next door neighbors and watched all their pets for them?  By week's end, their dog and their pet rat were dead.  The snakes survived only because neither of us would touch them.  The dog was not our fault.  The rat, however, met an untimely end when Flamingo Joe let it run around out on the neighbor's screened-in porch and it ran behind the built-in brick barbecue and got caught in a rat trap.  Oh the irony.

Heidi knows these stories and yet still thinks we're capable.

Last summer, Skipper was nearby when Campbell almost got eaten by an alligator, but Skipper was fine.  Trust me, I checked him all over.  Regardless, when Heidi's husband came to pick him up two days later, Skipper had a triangular gouge on the inside of his leg.  My blood ran cold when I noticed it that morning because I had no explanation for how Skipper had gotten hurt.  It took ages and ages for that injury to heal, but the important thing is -- and I tried to help Heidi see this -- Skipper was ALIVE.

Yet it doesn't matter at all that Skipper was not actually touched by the alligator -- Heidi and her husband always refer to Skipper's wound from that summer as the "alligator bite."

I'm pretty sure Heidi has blamed me for each of Skipper's ailments since I sent him home injured last summer.  That pesky staph infection, she believes, must stem from the non-alligator wound, not to mention the weird skin thing that for a while was making his hair fall out.  I don't think she can blame me, though, for the fatty tumor on his side.  When Heidi's husband dropped Skipper off with us last week, he also left three vials of pills to give Skipper.  Grandma Elsie has been faithful in giving Skip his pills every day, but I don't know what will happen to the poor guy when Elsie leaves for Durango on Tuesday.

Maybe Heidi should come home early.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

What They Might Not Tell You in Your Couponing Class

A few weeks ago, I went to a TrueCouponing class at a Methodist church somewhere over in St. Pete.  Apparently, some churches will not allow TrueCouponing classes to be held in their churches and my guess is that it's because you can buy newspaper subscriptions and boxes like this there:

For those of you unfamiliar with the small differences in denominations (and before you lose heart, this is NOT the thing that your coupon class may not tell you -- I mean, they certainly don't tell you all this, but I also do not know why they would -- I'm just saying, what you are about to read in this paragraph has nothing to do with the title of this post), allow me this brief aside to explain to you the difference in beliefs among the denominations regarding selling things inside a church -- I call it the "Moneychanger Schism."  Do you remember in the New Testament when Jesus threw the moneychangers out of the temple?  You can find the story in Matthew 21:12-13.  These two verses of the Bible form the basis for many denominations' prohibition on never selling things inside church.  My study Bible's explanation of those verses says that the merchants in the temple were selling sacrificial animals at exorbitant prices and were preventing anyone from using that part of the temple for prayer.  So Jesus was angry and drove them out of the temple.  Methodists clearly don't hold to a strict reading of those verses -- the Methodists nowadays charge $35 for kids to attend Vacation Bible School.  And they welcome TrueCouponing with open arms.

If you would allow me just one more teensy weensy aside --  if your church feels a need to charge for kids to attend VBS, your church cannot afford to hold VBS and needs to skip it.  If your church takes the approach that VBS has become free daycare for parents and does nothing to grow their church, then by all means, please skip VBS.  But VBS is a church's opportunity to teach churched and unchurched children about Jesus.  It is a ministry -- not an opportunity to increase revenue or even "break even".  The church where Mace attends preschool was charging $35 for VBS this year.  If VBS is so expensive for that church that they feel they cannot do it for free, then they shouldn't do it at all.  Because at the point you are charging for VBS, it has ceased to be a ministry.

But I digress (as usual) -- I ran across these TrueCouponing people at the homeschool convention in May.  I came out of a class (I think it was "How to Restrain Yourself from Choking Your Four Year Old") and there was a line of people outside waiting for the next class, which was a TrueCouponing class.  There were probably 100 people in line and they were all carrying big filing bins like the one above.

Then a month and half ago, I saw a Facebook post advertising the TrueCouponing class in St. Pete and decided to round up some people to go with me.  So Dez, Shelya, and I went.  TrueCouponing is not your mama's coupon system (I think I may have stolen that catchy saying from someone at the class, so consider credit given).  No more sitting down with the Sunday paper and clipping and filing individual coupons.  I can give you the system in a nutshell (you can take the free class if you want, but with my Cliff's Notes version, you can probably get on fine all by yourself):

1)   Start buying several Sunday newspapers each week.  The rule of thumb is to buy one newspaper for each member of your family.  If you have an odd number of people in your house, round up to the nearest number.  From the get-go, I broke this rule.  We have 5 people in our house, but I only buy 4 newspapers every week.  So far, that's worked out okay.

2) Pull the coupon booklets and flyers out of the newspapers and file them in a bin (like the one pictured above) in hanging file folders by week.  Make sure you label each hanging folder with that week's date.  For example, tomorrow, July 17th, I will buy 4 newspapers and file the coupons I pull out of them in a hanging folder on which I will put a sticker that says "7/17/11".

3) Get yourself online and sign up on the website.  It's free and you will want to start getting their twice daily emails so that you will know when the "sneak peeks" for the grocery stores and drug stores come out.  At the class, Dez, Shelya and I were trying to figure out how the people make money because aside from selling you the getting started boxes (each box already has 4 weeks' worth of coupons in it), they don't really charge for anything.  I decided they make their money on the ads on their website.  They probably get thousands of hits on their site everyday and they likely generate lots of money from people clicking on their ads.

4) When you get your Tuesday email from TrueCouponing that tells you that the Publix sneak peek list is up, go to the website and look at the list.  Publix has great buy one, get one deals and your goal each week is to buy as many items as you can (that you actually use) that are on sale and that you can use both a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon on (that's called "stacking").  The great thing about using the TrueCouponing site is that they do pretty much all the work for you by listing all the coupons that you could use with whatever item is on sale.  On their list, pick a manufacturer's coupon and a store coupon that you happen to have and cut (or print) those coupons out of each of the inserts you filed for that week (the list tells you which week inserts you are looking for).

5) Go to the store and save a bunch of money.

Here's the underlying principle behind this system -- buy enough of the stuff you need (when it is on sale and you have coupons for it) to last you for 12 weeks, which is the sale cycle on most of the items people regularly buy.

So, you'll need a bigger pantry to store all your fruit snacks.

And you may want to buy a full-sized freezer.

Luckily, at our house we have two refrigerators and a full-sized freezer.  But we already running out of pantry space.  This is the floor of the closet right outside our pantry cabinet:

Because this is what the inside of the closet pantry cabinet currently looks like:

See those salad dressings? I got each of those for .67 a piece.

You do have to be careful not to get too caught up in buying cereal, though.  It seems like cereal has been on sale since I started couponing three weeks ago and it's very easy to get carried away buying Apple Jacks for less than $1ish a box.  There are actually 12 boxes of cereal on top of our kitchen pantry cabinet -- they are stacked two deep up there:

It's also easy to get caught up in the deal you really want and lose sight of your pride's ability to handle the practical steps of getting the deal done.  For example, the first week I was couponing I needed to buy some, shall we say, feminine protection items.  I had coupons that would save me a $1 or so on each and they were on sale at Walgreen's.  They tell you at the TrueCouponing class not to be a slave to brand and these particular items were not a brand I customarily use -- prior to couponing, in matters of feminine protection (hereafter, "FP"), I tended towards the cheapest items on the shelf which were typically the store brand.  I was going to say that after having two children, the difference between a plastic and cardboard applicator is a subtlety that no longer troubles me, but then I remembered I had C-Sections with both of mine.

I have only one requirement when it comes to FP -- whatever the item is, it absolutely, positively, for reasons that cannot be disclosed in a family blog, cannot be scented.

Anyway, back to my shopping trip.  My intention was to swoop into Walgreens, pick up 8 packages of FP and sashay back to my car, coupon victorious.  But as I was walking into the store, the young gentleman behind the checkout counter, gave me a friendly greeting and I realized that I was going to have to take 8 packages of FP to the counter where that young man was going to take care of my transaction.  Hmmm.  My enthusiasm diminished slightly, but I gave myself a pep talk that went something like this, "What do you care if he thinks you are having the worst menstrual cycle EVER in the history of the world, you are saving sooo much money!! Go!! Go coupon diva!!"

So I found the appropriate aisle and the items and was disappointed when I realized there were only 6 packages left on the shelf.  I didn't want to buy them out of FP, that would be breaking a TrueCouponing rule (leave some for the next person), so I decided to just buy 4 packages (my coupons were save $2 on 2 packages or something similar so I wanted to leave 2 in case someone else had the same coupon).  As I was pulling the four packages off the shelf, I realized how bulky and large they were, though their size could have been temporarily exaggerated in my mind as I was envisioning piling them on the checkout counter.  As I was turning away from the shelf, I started praying, "Oh Lord, please let the lady return to the cosmetics counter, please please please."  God answers prayer, children.  She appeared at that moment at the end of the aisle and said she could check me out.

So I piled my FP on the counter, gave the lady my coupons, and paid.  She pulled out an ENORMOUS bag -- honestly, I did not know you could get a bag that large at Walgreens -- and put my FP into it.  As I was leaving my face was shade darker than normal, I admit, carrying this giant bag of FP, but I was victorious.  I had carried out my mission.

There was just one problem.

I forgot to sniff the packages.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Flamingo Farming Update

I have received many inquiries over the past several weeks regarding the progress of our sunflower growing efforts at the Hope Springs Eternal Bamboo and Sunflower Farm.  And by "many inquiries" I of course mean the one time Shelya, in passing, said to me, "So something ate your sunflowers?" After the rabbits (my mom's theory) or the armadillos (Flamingo Joe's theory) nibbled their way through the sunflower plot, we pretty much ignored the garden until Joe finally had to mow it this weekend.

Note the utter dearth of sunflower plants.  Oh wait, here's one:

I think.  I'm really not sure, actually.  But there are three other plants identical to this one randomly placed where the rows of sunflowers were originally planted, so I'm assuming these are sunflower plants.  It is possible that the vicious roving gangs of pointy-teethed bunnies or armadillos who ate our original plants had eaten some other plants before getting to our plot and then, you know, pooped out some seeds from those other plants and now those plants have blossomed, but that scenario seems a smidge far-fetched even for me, the woman who thinks her children are going to grow up to be productive members of society.

Jamie and Jason also planted some baby's breath when the original garden went in.  It's possible that this is the only plant that survived:

But I'm leaning toward calling this one a weed.  I'll give it another week or so to see if it flowers and if it doesn't, I'll wait another month and let Flamingo Joe mow it down.

The picture above is just to prove to you that I can, in fact, grow flowers in my yard.  Ignore the weeds in the foreground.  I was going to take a picture of that bed from the front, but the weeds growing immediately in front prevented me from getting a clear shot.

But in other news of the flora at Casa Flamingo, our bamboo is flourishing due to the fact that bamboo is extremely difficult to kill and not a staple in the dietary needs of rabbits or armadillos.  And since we set our pandas free in the spring, the bamboo has no natural predators in our yard.  Do you remember this itsy bitsy stick of bamboo?

And this giant hole that we made our then-three year old dig (slave labor is actually encouraged when it's your own children you're enslaving)?

Well, here are the fruits of our three year old's labor, one year later:

Not bad, right?  That's about a year and three months' worth of growth.  Here's another clump that we planted the year or so before:

I really hope Flamingo Joe is remembering exactly what each of these varieties is called because that's probably key in running a successful bamboo farm.  Your customers rather expect you to know whether you are growing a faregesia denudata or a borinda albocerea, whatever those are.

Regardless, we have a few more years before we'll be able to quit our regular jobs and live off the earnings of our bamboo and sunflower farm.  That should give us enough time to figure out what we're actually growing.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Mr. Banks, Beast and the Duck

This blog post may or may not really be for general consumption.  If you are wondering whether this post is for you, ask yourself whether, even if the children are not your own, you enjoy seeing them shock the pants off their friends and family by doing things their parents could not fathom.  If yes, please proceed.  If no, check in with me next post.  I won't be offended.

First, the back story.  We signed Casey up for drama camp this summer, said camp to be held at the school he's been attending for the past three years.  Casey has attended drama camps for the two previous summers -- one at Berkeley Prep and one at the Straz Center downtown.  He was only 6 when he attended at Berkeley, and it was definitely a good program.  The summer he was 7, he attended the camp at the Straz Center -- we weren't that impressed with that program.  But this summer, Casey was very excited because he would be attending drama camp with several of his friends from school.

When he came home the first day, I learned that he had been given two parts (the children were doing selected scenes from several different Disney plays) -- Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins and Beast in Beauty and the Beast.  Now, I could certainly see him as Mr. Banks -- cranky and overbearing are character traits Casey can readily draw upon from personal experience:

But Beast . . .  I was a little nervous about Beast because being in love, tender, and reticent are definitely NOT character traits Casey can readily draw upon from personal experience.  As the the two weeks of camp wore on, I tried to weasel out of Casey exactly what he was going to be required of to do as Beast.  He refused to tell me.  Flat out refused.  At one point, I watched the video selection online that contained the song he was going to do and realized that the scene required dancing.  DANCING!  So I asked him if he was going to have to dance and he said no.  He told me he wanted to surprise me with everything he was doing.  I was forbidden by him to attend any rehearsals, so if I showed up early to pick him up and it was his turn on stage, I had to wait outside.

Now you need to note a couple of things about this video clip:

1)  I glued those horns on that wig.  It doesn't matter how straight you glue horns onto a wig if the wearer of the wig doesn't put the wig on straight.

2) Within the first 30 seconds of the video, Casey turned and glared at me.  I don't know why and he doesn't remember doing it.

Drama Camp was two weeks long, but at the end of the first week, Mace was recruited by the director to be Donald Duck.  So starting Friday of last week, Mace started Drama Camp.  Every day, the director bribed him with a car or a dinosaur to continue coming.  Mace was in the Mickey Mouse Club number, so he had to be on stage twice, at the very beginning and then again at the very end.  I felt pretty sure he'd be fine on stage the first time, but the second time was going to be at about 8:00 p.m., approximately 30 minutes past his normal bedtime.  The video clip below is from his second appearance on stage.  The first time on stage he was wearing white gloves, but he apparently lost them in the intervening hour and a half.

He was an adorable bill-less duck and I think he did everything he was supposed to do.  Thankfully, he did not get kicked in the head by the gymnast.

So this morning, we are all still basking in the glow of a successfully dramatic evening.  Casey cried before bed last night because he was sad drama camp was over -- apparently that's an inherent side-effect of drama camp.  It makes you even more dramatic.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Graduation Speeches

I attended a high school graduation ceremony Friday night for the first time since I myself graduated from high school, twenty-mumble-mumble years ago.  It was a large graduation -- 550+ students.  Several students were given the opportunity to make short speeches: senior class president, salutatorian, valedictorian and the class poet laureate (who read a longish poem written in annoying rhyming couplets).  Each of the student speakers naively told their fellow classmates that they had made the best friends of their lives in high school.  Such statements will be, in hindsight, regretful, but I guess it would be perceived as snotty if they said, "Fellow graduates, you have made the best friends of your lives -- so far."

Be honest -- before discovering Facebook, exactly how many of your high school "besties" were you in contact with?

After hearing three painfully shortsighted speeches and an excruciating poem Friday night, my newly-formed and now earnestly-held belief is that high school students should not be allowed to make any speeches whatsoever at their graduation ceremonies.  Given that they have spent the last twelve or more years filling (and subsequently emptying) their heads of facts and formulas that they may or may not need in the years to come, during which time they were given absolutely no practical information about how to live, there is just not enough time in the typical graduation ceremony for graduates to make speeches about going out into a world of which they know absolutely nothing.  If this is the moment these children must "commence" with their lives, time is of the essence -- there is no time for foolishness.

So I propose that only the following categories of people be allowed to speak at high school graduations (and preferably one from each) about their real world experiences:

1.  Individuals who graduated from high school and who are now on probation for drug and alcohol-related offenses.  It is fine if these people are still struggling with their addictions, so long as they can articulate how quickly you can destroy your future by making one or two idiotic choices.

2.  Individuals who worked fast food for three years after high school before deciding to go to college.

3.  Individuals who just knew that they had met their one and only in high school so either shacked up or got married, and four years, two kids, and a divorce later are struggling to pay the bills and/or child support.  (Even better might be the couple who made it, but who would speak honestly about their struggles in sending each other to college, juggling childcare, etc.)

4.  Dave Ramsey.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Hope Springs Eternal Bamboo and Sunflower Farm

We have some friends who own a florist's shop on Memorial (The Family Flower Shoppe, if you're in Tampa and want to send Dad some baby's breath and tulips on Father's Day -- well tulips might not be in season, so you might want to stick with a more masculine flower like some pretty pink gerber daisies) and we found out that their son Jayson (who graduated from high school last night -- collective "whew!") was planting sunflowers in a little garden by their house for his mom to use in her shop.  Apparently one sunflower fetches $1 in the florist business.

Well, I love sunflowers -- any flowers really, so after discussing it with Flamingo Joe (by not actually saying anything to him about it at all), I told Jayson's parents that if Jayson wanted to plant sunflowers at our house and get more bang for his buck, he was welcome to.  [Now that I'm recalling how this happened, I am not altogether certain if that's how the conversation went -- it's completely possible that Joe offered our house for sunflower growing without discussing it with me but when I asked him just now if he remembered how it all went down, he got that look on his face that means he's not sure where I'm going with this and said, "Whatever."  So my version sticks.]

Pardon this short digression, but in addition to the many convoluted and possibly untruthful paths the above paragraph takes, I rashly declared a love for "any flowers." Not altogether true.  Several weeks ago Casey helped me pick out some flowers for some flower boxes on our porch and he chose these:

For some reason, these flowers make me think of sea monkeys, which doesn't really make sense because I don't think they look like sea monkeys, but they look like something else from the same era that you could grow underwater.  Does anyone remember what that was called?  

The real problem with those flowers is that they end up looking like this:

Or worse . . . this:

Ick.  As I recall, that's what always happened to the sea monkeys, too.

But back to my story.  Jayson and his dad, Jamie, liked the idea of growing sunflowers out here and promptly ordered sunflower seeds.  While waiting for the sunflowers to come in, Flamingo Joe and Jamie prepared the plot:

"Preparing the plot" meant Flamingo Joe dug soil up from one area of our property and moved it to another area with the tractor.  No one bothered to remove the weeds and grass (I use the term loosely) from underneath the area where the new garden was going, so weeding the area is going to be a problem that I will gladly allow Jayson to handle.

If you are familiar with our little piece of land, you will recall that there was once an oak tree here:

That oak tree died, so Flamingo Joe decided to cut it down a couple of weeks ago.  At the same time, though, he needed to cut down a smaller oak across the driveway.

This is where the smaller oak was:

And this is where it ended up after Flamingo Joe went after it with his chainsaw:

It suspended itself in the dead tree and refused to come down.

Joe kept trying to pull the smaller tree out of the dead tree by hooking it up to the tractor with the chain, but that little tree was desperate to stay upright and wouldn't let go.  Flamingo Joe kept having to cut sections off the bottom of the tree until he could get it down.

But this post is about the new sunflower division of the Hope Springs Eternal Bamboo Farm.  Two weekends ago, Jamie and Jayson came out and put the seeds in the ground.  Last weekend, I noticed quite a bit of squirrel activity in that general area.  Too much for our Anti-Squirrel Repellent System (Campbell) to handle.  I asked Joe if he thought the squirrels were digging up the sunflower seeds and eating them.  He said no.  I think he was mostly right.

When I went out to inspect the sunflowers that started sprouting up at the beginning of this week, I noticed that there were some sprouts with no leaves (just a little tiny stem sticking up out of the soil with nothing on it) and also some brand new sprouts that still had part of the shell on one of the leaves.  So I think that as soon as the sunflowers sprout, the squirrels are attracted to the part of the shells that are still on the leaves and nibble off the shell and inadvertently take off the leaves.

But it does appear that we may have some sunflowers that may make it past their first day from the soil:

The sunflower is the sprout in the middle.  My vision of an entire yard filled with sunflowers is probably not going to come to pass, unfortunately.  Most of my landscaping visions fall short in the actual execution of them, though.  In this case, at least, someone else is doing all the work.

Flamingo Joe has started making noises about a koi pond -- currently there is an oversized goldfish occupying our small aquarium, waiting for his new habitat to built out in the yard.  I don't hold out a lot of hope for the successful breeding of koi, but I'm supporting Flamingo Joe's newest dream.

I need a place to raise my sea monkeys.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Homeschool Convention

Heidi and I attended the FPEA (Florida Parent Educator Association) Homeschooling Convention last weekend in Orlando and it was a rocking good time.  That could be overstating it a wee bit . . . but we did have fun.  I will be homeschooling Casey in the fall and Heidi's homeschooling future is still up in the air, but we both have been researching like crazy for the past four months or so.  Word to the wise: if you are ever considering homeschooling for the first time, do not let a visit to the annual FPEA Convention be your first glimpse of all the resources available to homeschoolers.  Because if it is, the sight of the Exhibit Hall alone may scare you off the whole thing altogether and you will beat a hasty retreat out into the hot parking lot of the Gaylord Palms Hotel from whence you just came, where you will have to catch the shuttle to take you all the way back to the ESPN Wide World of Sports overflow parking where the Gaylord's employees and others (like me, for example, who arrived a little late in the morning), had to park because there were thousands upon thousands of homeschoolers at the convention:

I took this photo from the very back of the vendor hall so there is no way for you to grasp how many people were at this convention, but it should give you an idea of the number of vendors.  It was very disconcerting to be surrounded by thousands of teenagers and children who walked around as if they had the sense to pull their pants all the way up and did not seem to mind being within five feet of their parents.  I only saw one inappropriately-dressed teenage girl with short shorts on and I assumed she just followed a nice homeschooled boy into the convention hall after he had held a door open for her somewhere else in the hotel.

So we checked out curriculum and I bought timelines and science kits and a Well-Planned Day planner (it took me two full days to get up the nerve to buy that planner -- to actually set myself up for "well-planned" days seemed like a bar under which I was destined to fall short).

There's Heidi buying a box full of Greek and Latin roots.  Wondering why it's relevant? Here's a sample:

Card 1:  Able -- Able means to be possible.
Card 2:  Edible 
Card 3: (cartoon picture of man eating a sandwich on front of card) Edible. Able means to be possible.  Edible means able to be eaten.
Card 4:  Potable 
Card 5: (cartoon picture of drink and lime halves on a tray on front of card) Potable. Able means to be possible.  Potable means able to drink.
Card 6:  Perishable
Card 7:  (cartoon picture of tray with fresh fish beside picture of fish skeleton) Perishable.  Able means to be possible.  Perishable means to be able to become rotten.
Card 8: Navigable
Card 9: (cartoon picture of sailboat on water) Navigable. Able means to be possible.  Navigable means able to navigate or find your way.

You get the idea? How helpful would those cards have been when you studied for the SAT?  If you would like a set of those cards for your very own, go to and I'm sure they'd be happy to send you a box for about $20.  I tried them out on Dez and Shelya the other night and they both stared at me like they were waiting for the punchline, but they're all grown up now and really can't feel the excitement lurking in Greek and Latin roots -- it's a forgivable (able to be forgiven) offense, really.

We also went to several helpful sessions at the convention.  We attended the Orientation to Homeschooling session and there did not appear to be any misspelled words in the Powerpoint presentation.  

Because of our extensive research, Heidi and I pretty much already knew everything presented in the orientation, but we were glad we did the class because then we knew we hadn't missed anything in our research.  And we got to look around the room and see about a hundred other skittish faces, so it was comforting.  

I also attended the "10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Homeschooling" session.  You may be surprised to learn that "you still have to bathe your kids even though they're not going to school the next day" was not on the list.  I was.

During our downtime, we explored the hotel.  The Gaylord Palms is incredible (not able to be believed).

That's the atrium area.  It's ringed by restaurants and shops (and a large movie screen that showed family-friendly movies all weekend) and in the center is a miniature fort, complete with live alligators:

If you wander around long enough in there, you'll also find the Everglades:

(I'm going to stay in that room up in the tree next year -- if the tree is scalable [able to be climbed].)

You'll also wander into Key West if you're not careful and find yourself split in two. 

Heidi's divisible. 

Able to be divided.  

Help me, please, I can't stop myself.