Sunday, January 30, 2011


In microsoccer, you've really got to get on top of the basics.

Chasing down the pack (whether they've actually got the ball or not):

And elbowing the opposition out of the way:

But conditioning to stay in top form . . .

. . . and looking cool in your soccer socks . . .

. . . can really only get you so far in microsoccer.

You've really got to get a handle on, well, not actually handling the ball.

Mace's strategy at his first microsoccer game last weekend was to get to the ball first so he could grab it.

And then run with it:

But those socks are totally cute, right?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Raising the Roof

We are working on a new project at Casa Flamingo. We have some attic space that shares one wall with our master bathroom and one wall with our master bedroom that until last weekend was inaccessible unless you were a rat. Our laundry room downstairs is in an awkward spot -- by awkward, I mean that it is downstairs and all the dirty clothes are upstairs. It's current location is also preventing us from removing the wall that hides it to open up the den and breakfast room into one large space so that more than three people can watch TV at one time. Our house is large if you count square feet, but it's chopped up into lots of small spaces. So if we move the laundry room upstairs, we can open up the kitchen, den and breakfast room into one large space.

Two weekends ago, Flamingo Joe cut a hole in the wall in the bathroom so that we could start turning the attic space into a laundry room. I'm very excited about this project because it means I won't have to carry baskets of laundry up and down the stairs and I might even have a place to put my sewing machine. I'm so excited, in fact, that two weekends ago when the project commenced, I actually tried to help Joe as much as he needed me. When Joe and I bought our first house about 2 years after we married, we spent a great deal of time working on the house together. We put in hardwood floors in the den, laid a brick patio in the backyard, fenced our rather large backyard, and re-did at least one bathroom. After I finished law school, we bought our first house in Tampa and did a lot of work there, as well.

Once Casey was born, however, Flamingo Joe lost his assistant. I couldn't keep track of Casey and hold 12 foot sheets of drywall over my head at the same time. About the time Casey could start keeping track of himself, leaving me free to help Joe, Mace came along and we were back to Joe getting irritated because he was doing all the work by himself.

But now, Casey is eight, old enough to put to work; and Mace is almost four, old enough to use his Handy Manny tools and pretend to work alongside us. I'm pretty sure this is why God gave us boys -- He knew we would forever be working on houses and wanted to provide us with some additional labor.

Two weekends ago may have not been the very best opportunity for me to jump back in as Joe's assistant. His first assignment for us was to remove all of the old insulation out of the attic space. The insulation in that space is of the shredded newspaper variety and whenever you move it around, it creates an impenetrable dust cloud. I swept, scooped, and dumped pulverized newspaper for what seemed like a couple of hours, but could have been much less. After fifteen or twenty minutes, Joe checked on us and then sent his mom down stairs to the workshop under the house to fetch facemasks. That was about the time Casey quit helping and Mace stepped in:

Someone is going to report us to DCF after this post for sure. Mace really was just the right size, though, for slipping underneath the rafters with his kid-sized rake and pushing all the insulation toward the door. And we did give him the heavy duty mask. He was fine. Really.

After it was all done, I looked like this:

Mmmm . . . pretty . . . nice triple chin.

But my future laundry/sewing/somewhere-to-sleep-when-Joe-is-snoring room looked like this:

It was a good morning's work.

So this weekend -- nay, even as I type this post, there are four men (I have no idea how we ended up with two extra workers, but I suspect they aren't here out of the goodness of their hearts and are expecting to be paid), including Flamingo Joe, up in my future laundry room working away. Yesterday, Jamie and Joe tore off the roof (it had to be raised -whoop whoop):

And today . . . voila!

There's a room where there once was none. Every time Mace goes in there, he points to a corner and says, "Daddy, you can put my bed right there." I'm not sure why he thinks he's moving into that room. That's my room -- I'm going to paint it pink, put in plush shag carpeting and line three walls with bookshelves to house my collection of quilting books. I'm going to blog in there and continue to ignore all those scrapbooking supplies I bought a few years ago before I figured out how to blog.

If you don't mind, let's just keep this between us for now . . . I wouldn't want Flamingo Joe to lose his motivation.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Mud, The Mayhem, The Moms

Yesterday was a school holiday for the kids and they were confined to the house until later in the afternoon because it rained and rained. The very minute the rain stopped, I texted Heidi to see if it was still raining at her house. She took the hint and invited us over so the kids could ride their bikes in the cul-de-sac in front of her house. Grandma forbade Mace from going because Heidi mentioned to her that Ben was getting over a cold. Yes, I know he's my child and I should be able to take him where I want to take him, but had I chosen to argue the point by promising her that we would be outside and I wouldn't let either of the children lick each other, Grandma would have won the argument by pointing out that Mace hasn't actually grown all the way out of his licking stage yet. Just this morning, in fact, I had to tell him twice not to lick the door handle.

So only Casey went to Heidi's yesterday afternoon. As soon as we got the bikes out, the children started riding through the puddles -- remember, it had been raining up until about 20 minutes before we got there. So there were puddles in the middle of the cul-de-sac and water was still standing at least two to three inches deep in the concrete ditches alongside the road. When I saw the kids riding through the puddles and ditches I honestly did not stop to think anything about it. Heidi, on the other hand, was out in the middle of the cul-de-sac with a push broom trying to sweep the standing water out of the puddles. This pretty much illustrates our different parenting styles -- I take a more "how-will-my-kids-learn-what's-fun-and-what-isn't-if-they-don't-try-it?" approach to parenting; Heidi takes a more "holy-cow-my-kids-are-going-to-get-wet-and-muddy-and-ruin-their-clothes-and-tonight's-not-bath-night" approach to parenting. She also worries that her kids might get injured or sick and actively tries to prevent sickness and injury by keeping them clean, bathed, and fed -- I worry about those things as well, but it's usually in the middle of the night while I'm standing in their room watching them breathe, so I would say her approach in that regard is somewhat healthier than mine. I do think that sometimes children have to suffer the consequences of their stupid choices to learn from them, which is why when all of us were out to dinner Friday night and Heidi's husband pointed out that my three year old was cutting up tortillas with a steak knife into eensy-weensy-teeny-tiny pieces, I just shrugged and said, "Well, if he cuts himself with the knife he'll only do it once." (Mace loves scissors and knives, but he also has excellent manual dexterity, which explains why he has never cut himself.)

It's amazing anyone ever leaves their children at my house.

I admit that my approach has its flaws -- both of my children know how to wield a (very dull, but also very rusty) machete and both of them would rather pee in the yard than bother to go inside to the toilet (which embarrasses me mightily when new clients happen to be driving into the yard at the same time). But Heidi's approach can sometimes put a wee damper on the fun.

So as Heidi was out feverishly trying to make water evaporate, I was, of course, mocking her efforts. I pointed out to her that Ben was a boy and those were puddles and that if she thought he wouldn't find a way into them, she had another think coming, so she might as well enjoy watching him get filthy. So she gave up sweeping and came over to sit by me and watch the children's backs and legs get wetter and muddier by the second. We were both surprised, I think, to see Kate, her delicate flower of a child, also zipping through the puddles. I don't think Kate realized that every time she rode through a puddle, her back got liberally christened with mud:

See -- she can't see back there. This photo was taken pretty early on in the afternoon -- by the time their father got home, Ben and Kate were a real mess.

Heh heh heh. It was all Heidi could do not to stop the madness and tell the kids to stop riding through the puddles. I could tell it was driving her nuts to see her kids just getting more and more dirty. I think she called me a bad word rhyming with witch (twice!), which just shows you how distressed she was because I rarely ever hear her say anything worse than "crap." It was awesome.

And she might have complained, but I think really somewhere deep in her heart she was enjoying the mayhem because she was the one taking all these pictures.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Geocaching with Nanny and Nette

Aunt Nanny and Aunt Nette came to see us for a few days and taught us how to geocache. Geocaching is a game/activity using your GPS and tramping-around-in-the-woods shoes to find containers hidden in public places. Some of the containers are large enough to contain "treasures" that kids can swap and some are the size of spitballs, with a few sizes in between. So Friday and Saturday, we spent most of our free time, even after YaYa and PopPop got there, trying to find caches. If you ever need an activity to distract your visiting family from accidentally discussing politics and/or religion, I highly recommend geocaching.

On Friday afternoon, Aunt Nanny taught Casey how to use the GPS in about 30 seconds flat and he took off in search of the first cache.

We had to stop a couple of times so that Casey could confer with Aunt Nanny on direction:

But we eventually found the treasure cache and the boys got to trade their own toys we'd brought from home with toys out of the treasure:

I think they traded McDonald's toys for a couple of strings of beads. If you are hoping geocaching will help you trick your children into unloading some of those horrible cheap toys you pick up at Chuck E Cheese and McDonalds, you're out of luck -- you'll just trade junk for junk.

We actually found two treasure caches on Friday -- the second one was much farther off the trail than the first. When the GPS leads you off the trail when you're geocaching, you're wise to see if geocachers who have come before left a trail through the brush for you to follow. Blazing new trail through pine flatwoods in Florida is not fun and potentially dangerous given Florida's large and varied snake population, no matter how many times you tell your eight year old that it's winter and all the snakes are hibernating.

Aside from distracting your family from engaging in political and/or religious debate, geocaching is also a means to force you into the outdoors so you can rub up against actual wildlife. Now, here at Casa Flamingo we have all the wildlife (dead and alive) that I care to see right outside my door, as you know, but Aunt Nette has apparently never seen an armadillo. By the end of the day Thursday, she had tracked and photographed at least three. Here she is stalking her prey:

The boys kept shouting at the armadillo because they wanted to see it curl up, but I've seen a lot of armadillos since we moved to Florida and I have never once seen one of them curl up into a ball like they do on TV. I'm starting to think that maybe Dora and Diego are not the animal experts they make themselves out to be.

On Saturday, we spent most of the day in Safety Harbor. In the morning we searched for caches in and close to Phillipe Park. I had downloaded the GeoBeagle software for Android on my phone that morning and was trying it out, so Aunt Nanny had to help me figure it out:

The first cache of the day was hidden underneath a palm tree that had fallen over. PopPop found the right tree, but I found the cache by poking a stick under the tree.

Which leads me to another advantage of geocaching -- if you bring your retired parents along, they will not be able to resist tramping around the woods with you in search of an elusive film canister stuck into the dead fronds of a palm tree. And watching your parents, who are in their 70s, wrestle with thickets and vines is just good plain fun:

My favorite find of the day was hanging undetected in the vines that were about even with PopPop's left shoulder in that photo above. I think it was Aunt Nanny who eventually spotted it --

I don't know what she was looking at there . . . she may have just been imagining all the things she would have said had we been sitting around a table at home having a political discussion, but maybe not . . .

Aunt Nanny pointed Casey in the right direction and voila! Easy Peasy, there it was!

What? You don't see it?

Totally cute container. Finding that one almost made up for not finding the "nano" (pinky-sized) cache hidden in downtown Saftey Harbor. We still had fun looking for the DNF (Did Not Find -- I am so hip with my geocaching vocab, right?). We got to see some cool sidewalk art:

Since Nanny and Nette left, Casey and I have found two caches on our own -- a third cache we couldn't find because we were interrupted in our search by some teenaged delinquents hiding their twelve-packs of beer. So I guess you can add that to the hazards of geocaching: thickets, snakes, and delinquent teenagers. But the hazards are far outweighed by the benefit of getting your kids off the couch and out into the sun.

If you'd like to give it try with your family, visit See you in the woods.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A New Year's for Posterity

New Year's Eve this year will be remembered as the year we did not catch the house or surrounding woods on fire by a floating lantern.

I came outside at about this point in the launch:

"What is that?" I asked.

"A floating lantern" they said.

"A wha--? Hey! Where's that going? Oh CRAP! YOU CAN'T SEND FLAMING THINGS INTO THE SKY!!!"

New Year's Eve will also be remembered as the night a gang of children converged on Desiree like a pack of wolves and stole her specially-coated pine cones and threw them into the fire.

It's not that Dez wasn't willing to share, it was just that she got caught up in the moment and when she looked down, all the pine cones were gone:

But they really did burn "purty." Too bad she will have to wait until next year to get more.

New Year's Eve will also be remembered as the night at least 10 people witnessed me "beat boxing" and were laughing so hard no one was able to actually get it on video and post it on Facebook.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Carcass Cleanup Committee

How do you feel about vultures?

I personally have a love/hate relationship with the birds.

I love that they eat dead stuff, but really hate that they eat dead stuff.

I know -- even my conflict is conflicted.

Whether you love 'em or hate 'em (or both), you would have been impressed last week by the sheer number of vultures camped out on our property in this tree:

And this one:

And this one:

And this one:

This is not part of a wake of vultures moving from tree to tree -- this is one big wake of vultures spread out around the trees on our property (aren't you impressed that I know what a grouping of vultures is called? That's why I just looked it up on the internet . . . to impress you.).

Oh, and look -- here are some more:

Want a close up?

This is your typical American Black Vulture. It flies in circles and eats dead stuff. That's pretty much everything you thought you needed to know. What you might not have known is that it has great patience and will hang out for several days waiting for dead fish to wash up close enough to shore to be plucked out and devoured.

About two and a half weeks ago we had a rather large fish kill in the tidal creek by our house. I have determined that the cause of the kill was unually low temperatures coupled with low winter tides that prevented the fish from swimming through the needle grass and other vegetation clogging the outlet of the creek into the deeper waters closer to the bay where maybe they could have survived the cold nights. That's my theory -- and since it was developed with zero scientific research, no consultation whatsoever with actual scientists, and observation from more than 6 feet away (dead fish stink), it's probably completely inaccurate.

But I will say this -- love 'em or hate 'em (or both), at the beginning of last week, there were hundreds of dead fishing floating in our creek . . . and now there are none.

If we'd actually kept Campbell inside all week, it probably would have taken less than a day for the vultures to clean up the creek:

Don't worry, we kept him inside when the coyotes were having breakfast.