Friday, November 3, 2017

Halloween Everything 2017

Halloween definitely seems to be the holiday around here that just keeps on giving.  This year it started early with me giving in to the kids constant requests to carve a pumpkin.  Cindy carved her Superman pumpkin weeks ago, so Luke had to get in on the action.  Cindy was a champ and helped Luke with most all of the legwork and some of the knifework as well.  Turned out pretty well, Barry Allen.

Next up was the Bartow Halloween Parade, one of our family's most time-honored traditions.  This time Luke decided to wear his costume.  For the longest time leading up to Halloween, he wanted to be Black Panther from the Avengers. I was adamantly against it.  BOR-ING!  It was basically just a black costume with a mask that might kinda tell you who he was.  Thankfully, in a twist of fate, I rented Spiderman: Homecoming last weekend and Luke changed his mind soon after. My spidey senses told me I had dodged a huge bullet.

Yes, those are real muscles. Grandma checked.

This is the literally the best picture we could get of everyone.  Ridiculous.  

Cindy did not have a bag to collect any candy she could get her hands on, so she turned her hoodie around backwards and used it as some sort of low level food trough.  

Take the picture so I can hurry up and murder you.

Fun fact: Spiderman is afraid of clowns and will use his mother as a human shield when he sees one coming.
Please don't see me, Please don't see me...

And now the winner of "The Float That Didn't Quite Turn Out the Way You Envisioned" Award...

It's Winnie the Pooh falling in a beehive. Duh.  

The next day was Fall Festival at the church.  And here is how I felt about that....

Whoo-hoo!  Cindy did a group costume.  Alvin and Chipmunks with Charlotte and Maddie....

I went as a strawberry.  I knew Carmen Stanley would be expecting a fruit costume and I didn't want to let her down.

Pay no attention to Luke's crazy eyes.

Halloween day was actually kind of exciting for me this year.  I decided to participate in the school's teacher dress up day.  We had to be a book character.  So........ Behold! The Magic Tree House!

 I was pretty proud of this little costume!  It didn't take me too long and the kids seemed to really enjoy it.  Yes, I did wear this in car line and during lunch duty.  No, I could not really open doors or Gogurts.  Yes, I was amazing. 

Halloween night we went to our friend's, The Baileys, house as we usually do.  It's such a fun tradition.  I look forward to it every year :) 

This year's crew

My crew

The best part is always the house that gives out full size bars.  Spiderman went with the 3 Musketeers.  Hershey bars were not available this year apparently.

Finally! Something worth stealing from Luke.

And the second best part is returning to the Bailey's to pig out on candy and watch someone play Xbox while Cindy and her friends go around the neighborhood for a second time.

And another Halloween is in the books!  I gotta start thinking of a costume for Luke now.  We can't let a Black Panther situation happen again next year...

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Tales from the Lunchroom

So there is this kid at school I see every day during lunch duty and his lunch always consists of a hamburger bun, a bag of mini Nilla wafers and a small Tupperware container of ketchup.  It's the weirdest combination.  And I know that he is choosing this meal because his mom drives a really nice car and his backpack has a matching lunchbox with his name embroidered on both of them.  I was telling one of my fellow paras on lunch duty about this meal and she just said, "Yeah, last year it was mustard."  Moral of the story: kids are weird. 

AND, in a segment I like to call "Why are you tattling?"  the latest kid to tattle on his neighbor was upset because, quote, "He's trying to change my birthday from October to Saturday."  I can understand your anger. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Super Girl

My girl Cindy has been up to a few things herself.

Like career shadowing on a citrus farm and taking chicken selfies...

Training her cat...

Training is serious business

Helping dad out at soccer tryouts because Cindy actually now attends the high school where he coaches.... I don't have a picture for that, but just let that last sentence sink in for minute because Cindy was THREE when Jacob started coaching at McKeel.  Wait, I found a picture...

Oh my gosh I'm old.

Making awesome grades in school (with ZERO involvement from me)...
Catching the bus every single morning by herself since the first day of school without any incident....
Selling 35 hideously overpriced cheesecakes for her chorus fundraiser...

This is basically my face being all proud of Cindy

And finally she's been celebrating Halloween on her own terms.  With her own pumpkin, that she bought with her own money....

(She only let me take her picture because I drove her to the pumpkin patch.  I love the barter system we have going.  And the fact that she can't go anywhere without my help.)

And then she proceeds to do this with the pumpkin while she was home alone on a Saturday night...

The moral of the story is:  Never underestimate Cindy.  One minute she doesn't understand how to fold a blanket a or use a hanger and the next she's carving a pumpkin like like she's a Disney Imagineer.  Cindy is like an onion.  So many layers.  And sometimes she makes you cry.

Wonder Boy

I don't even know how it happened, but Luke has turned into Mr. Busy.  

He is now officially taking piano lessons....

Playing soccer....

Go Celtic!

Participating in Cub Scouts, Chess Club and Art Club once a week....

No pictures of Chess Club or Cub Scouts, these pears will have to do

And as of today he has been selected out of 176 kids to be on the South McKeel Academy Academic Team.  

No wonder he looked like this on the way home from school today....

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Get Your Seer Stones Ready

Last week while DJing a Single Adult Dance for the Brandon Stake, an older Spanish sister handed me a list of her "requests."  This is why we make the big bucks, people.  

Sunday, October 15, 2017


Ever since we got this kitten, he has had about a thousand different names; Stella Nugget, Oliver, Hurricat, Cat 5, Furface, Satan's Minion, Psycho, Razorfeet, Tigerbilly, Tigerlarry, etc.  For whatever reason, this guy just doesn't have a name that is working for me.  The good news is that he is pretty fun to have around, so I will continue to keep calling him whatever I want until something sticks.


This cat LOVES feet.

He never stops trying to bite your toes.  He hides, he appears, he bites the crap out of your feet, and then he goes back to hiding.  This is pretty much his entire life.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

A Lunchroom Quickie

The other day during my lunch duty, I walked past a table full of second graders and noticed one particularly happy girl unloading her lunchbox and getting ready to eat.  I continued to walk around and as I made my way back toward her table no less than about one minute later, I found her in tears. She was absolutely distraught.  Her fellow table mates were trying to console her and so I approached and asked, "What in the world just happened??"  She showed me a paper towel in her hand that was filled with some sort of gloppy mess.  "I dropped my pie on the floor!" she bellowed.  I didn't know whether to feel bad or laugh.  I patted her back and told her, "I feel the same way when I drop my pie."  Finally after a few minutes of weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, she stopped crying, wiped her tears, looked at the pie and said with a spirit of determination, "You know what, I'm eating it anyway.  It doesn't even look that dirty!" And she took her fork and dug in to the pumpkin pie that hit the floor. To be honest, the cafeteria floor is way cleaner than a second grader's hands, so there really wasn't a risk. 

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Luke Quickie

The other day Luke came in from feeding our outside cats and excitedly told me, "Mom, I think we have baby birds up in our tree somewhere!"  I said, "Oh, yeah, how can you tell?"  Luke replied, "Well, because I heard some chirping that sounded like little babies and then I heard the noise of something throwing up and it was probably the mom putting it in the baby's mouths."  You know, the sound of a bird barfing? It's very common.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Story #5 from Irma

Okay, okay, I lied.  I have one more story from hurricane Irma.  After the storm was over we realized that we needed to cut down the palm tree in our front yard, as it was way too close to the electrical transformer.  We didn't really know when we were going to do it, but figured sometime in the next month or so would be fine.  Well, Saturday morning I got a text from my neighbor saying that her father was coming with a chainsaw to cut some palms in her own backyard and did we want to go ahead and have him chop ours at the same time.  Heck to the yes!  Her whole family basically showed up and helped us take down and then chop up the palm tree.  Took less than 30 minutes to have it completely done!

Thank you, Joyner family!

What a view!

However, as the palm was being chopped up, Jacob noticed that something was living in one of the outside pieces of bark.  This is what we discovered:

Holy crap, what are those things??!

BABY FLYING SQUIRRELS!  And by baby, I mean like born yesterday, baby squirrels.  They were itty bitty, and pink, and fleshy and for a few seconds we thought they were bats!  After the initial shock wore off, we didn't know quite what to do with them.  So what do you do when you don't know what to do about something?  You poll strangers on Facebook, of course!  I posted the pic on the Lakeland Online Yard Sale page and within about 30 minutes I had over 60 responses and names of people who wanted them.  I was hesitant to give them to a regular person who swore they "knew how to take care of just this exact kind of squirrel" and we opted instead to take them to someone's recommendation of Lakeland Veterinary Hospital.  Cindy scooped them up into a bowl and me, my mom and Cindy drove them over.  The five girls working at the clinic were immediately smitten with them and promised they would be totally fine and released as soon as they were big enough.  They were even able to tell us the gender of the squirrels after seeing them for about 5 seconds.  Amazing! These guys really owe their lives to Cindy, who was adamant that we find someone to help them live and did not stop bothering me until a happy ending was reached.  You did good, Cindy :)

Goodbye, little guys! I hope you eat the pineapples
of my enemies

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Story #4 from Irma

I realized yesterday that I was missing one more important story from the hurricane.  On Saturday we started to realize that the path put the hurricane a little more in our direction so we started to gather up and assess our resources a little more seriously.  My parents had a Coleman camp stove that uses propane that they had left out for us, but we were thinking that since we had two full giant propane containers at our house, we should probably just buy a grill to use them with when the power inevitably went out.  Well, all the summer clearance sales on grills had already happened a few weeks ago and you can imagine that Lowe's and Home Depot were completely picked apart by this time as well.  As Jacob was driving home from a very unfruitful grill search at the stores, he was about a half mile from the house when he drove by a man putting a propane grill out at his curb!  He stopped, the man said that it worked fine (missing some little piece that didn't really affect anything) and so he decided to bring it home.  By dragging it in the rode with his left hand, while driving the car (door open) with his right hand.  He got stopped by a police officer in that short period of time, who basically looked at him shaking his head and told him to just "be careful." But now we own a grill! We have used it twice so far and it works fabulously.  As this happened the day before the storm even got here, I should have taken it as a sign that everything was going to work out fine.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

3 Stories from Irma

1.  As we were finishing up our yard cleanup, a man on a giant Dixie Chopper riding lawn mower came riding up the street and offered to mulch up and mow the last of the leaves and small branches Jacob was raking.  Heck yeah!  It was awesome.  He finished up the last of our work in about 60 seconds and then drove away and down the next street to find more people to help.  So cool!

2.  Yesterday the kids and I went to my parent's house to clean up their yard. I drove over with the kids and Jacob decided to run there for his exercise of the day.  As we were driving home he mentioned that he had passed a giant broken limb on the sidewalk that was from an avocado tree and it was FULL of avocados.  We decided to drive back by and see if it was still there.  It was, but there was a clean up crew coming and picking up all the branches, so very quickly Jacob and Cindy picked up as many as they could and now we own 22 avocados.  

3.  Monday while we were sitting outside in the driveway enjoying the cool weather and waiting for our power to come back on, a guy in a truck drove up and parked right in front of our house.  He got out and yelled to me, "I was never here.  You never saw me.  I'm supposed to be home sleeping."  I had no idea what that was supposed to mean, but he then proceeded to get out a yellow extending pole and run it up to the transformer on our electrical pole.  He used it to pull down a little cylindrical part that was hanging off the wire.  Then he went to his truck and got a new part that looked exactly like it.  He put it on the pole, extended it up and snapped it into place.  AND WE HAD POWER! There was audible cheering from the houses on either side of us and our whole family gave him a standing ovation.  I kinda pieced together that he lived in our area and was off duty from the power company but saw our problem and knew it was an easy fix for us.  He kept saying, "I was never here. You didn't see that."  I wanted to take a picture, but I honestly didn't want to get him in trouble.  So there you have it!  The only explanation is either a. He was one of the 3 Nephites or b. I momentarily turned into Brian and something miraculous and helpful immediately happened to me.   

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Irma Aftermath

Sunday there was no church, which was simply weird.  It’s not often that you just don’t have any church at all.  But after killing time and playing games, watching a movie (or sleeping through one, as the case may be- Fantastic Beasts was not so fantastic in my opinion) we were finally waiting for the big show to begin.  It’s interesting because you have been watching the news for DAYS and been given a basic timeline of what to expect and when, and now it was FINALLY time to sit back and see if the weather gods were right.  (Kind of like that whole solar eclipse thing...)  We had been told that massive power outages would occur.  Without a doubt.  By the time 9:30pm rolled around, the winds were definitely picking up and we had had a lot of big gusts, but we were still thinking we were going to get really lucky and be the only ones with power come morning.  Nope.  At about 9:45pm there was a gust and then a big BOOM and then it went dark.  Dangit! We were pretty disappointed, but the lanterns came out and our game of Monopoly continued.  

Now I can lose at Monopoly in the dark!

I love this photo because it was taken at the exact moment Cindy started to realize that a moth had gotten in and was flying around the lantern.  Cindy HATES moths.  

The worst of our weather was supposed to start at about midnight so at about that time we basically weathered the worst by sitting on our couch and watching what we could see out the living room window. 

Mom, we never got closer than this to the window.  Probably.
And yes, that is a TIE fighter protecting our window.

Only the really big gusts made the windows shake and I didn’t really think that they would break, but it still made for a tense night.  Because we have a lot of big oak trees in our yard, the night was marked with constant giant thuds as big branches hit the ground and roof.  One of the first big noises of one ripping off and falling to the ground happened right outside the living room window.  That was the first moment where I thought, “Holy cow, something could actually come crashing through this window….” Needless to say it was a long 2 and a half hours! We were in contact with family and friends through Facebook and texting as it happened, so it definitely made us feel not so alone. The track for the storm had been fluctuating all week and had at latest been forecasted to go over Brandon to our west, however, after making landfall it started traveling due north, which put the eye on track to go directly over Lakeland.  This was pretty much my first real hurricane in Florida and it was a direct hit on Lakeland.  What are the odds?! Very thankfully it was a weak Cat 2 storm by the time it reached us.  I cannot even begin to imagine riding out anything stronger than this storm nor the amount of damage that could have occurred had it been any stronger than what it was.  We were so lucky.

This is a Cat 5 of cuteness.  Know your scale.

In the end we had a lot of downed tree branches, we were without power for about 16 hours, we did use our generator for two really long stretches to power the ac window unit and our fridge (and it worked like a champ) and our school were cancelled until Monday.  Here are some pictures of the aftermath and cleanup...(I don't really have any video of the storm itself.  It was dark and I didn't want my phone battery to die.  Plus, any video would have sucked anyway, seeing as how the storm hit in the pitch black dead of night.

The storm was over at about 2am.  We had the generator up and running powering a window AC unit and the fridge by about 3am.  And this was Jacob on the roof clearing branches at 7:32am.  I'm proud of him for waiting that long.  

Only found one shingle, but I don't think it was ours.

This is a really good before and after of one of our oak trees.  

Poor guy!  But raking all the leaves this February better be WAY easier.

Here is Luke coming up with this idea totally on his own
with no help from his mom.

Important safety tip, Egon.  If you live in Florida and do not own a pair of these, you are doing it wrong.  Not only because they are rain boots and it rains all the time here, but because they are boots! They are great for mild yard work, traipsing about (and who doesn't love to traipse?) and basically avoiding having your legs touch anything remotely creepy or grassy or wet. 
If you don't have some, get some!

I'm posing! I'm in the road and I'm posing!

I survived a hurricane and all I got was this lousy pile of debris.

Bonus story time!  At about 2am when the worst of the storm passed and everything was eerily calm again, we opened the front door to look around and when we looked up at this tree, the front frond closest to the electrical transformer was kind of on fire!  I'm not sure exactly why because it obviously hits the line all the time, but it was a little bit of a nervous moment for sure.  It fizzled out in the wind without too much more excitement, but we decided this big guy is coming down this week.  

Forgive me!

As we drove around town the next day, it was clear that there was extensive damage in some places. Just around the corner on Peterson Road there was this flooding in a very specific low lying area.  So crazy!

And the big giant oak tree in the back of the church building that gave me shade for three summers when I parked back there for primary fell over!  

You served me well. I will miss you.

As my parents were out of town to go see my brand new nephew Bryce, I was in charge of feeding their cat each day.  After doing some cleanup at our house, I drove over to assess the damage there. As I drove down Strickland Ave. it looked like a bomb went off or a tornado had hit.  The amount of fallen trees was incredible!  And as I came over the small hill to get to their street, I saw this:

Night version: (1000% more creepy)

As you may have guessed, they did not have power at their house and it is probably going to be a while before they do :(  And sadly, my parent's roof was completely fine.  (They were really hoping for it to be gone so they could get a new one because it is 1,200 years old.)  However, their fence was totally blown over.

I always wondered what the neighbor's yard looked like

Even though the fence was a casualty, delicious flavor survived!

I'm still alive!

This was the scene down 98 near Winter Lake Road and basically every traffic light in Lakeland was not working either. 

Another common sight was signs blown out.

But you know what?  After all of that, things were back to normal pretty fast for us.  We finished our cleanup by about 3:30pm on Monday.  Not bad considering we all had about 4 hours of sleep and no power.

Here's another good before and after picture of our tree.

The weather was absolutely surreal on Monday afternoon.  Breezy, sunny, cool and 78!!!  We spent the early afternoon sitting in camp chairs in the front driveway enjoying the freak winter temps.

He opened the hatch, there was a box, the rest is history.

You can see our trashcan in the background.  It did not get picked up on Friday
and won't be for another week.  We have added about four bags since then
so we REALLY need Friday to get here soon...

This picture really sums up Cucuface's relationship with Yoshi

I will end this post with this photo:

It's almost like it never even happened....