B.Y.O.B.: Helmets

Bring Your Own Blessings:

Full-Face Bike Helmets.

Razor PowerWing Caster Scooter (Black)While it doesn't look too terrible, this is the broken helmet Aidan was sporting when the other four kids and I finally made it down the hill near Starring Lake Park. He had apparently lost control on his crazy scooter (a Razor PowerWing) and I found him huddled up in the grass, sobbing in his blood and broken ego. On close inspection, he had no major injuries outside of the helmet's visor (thank goodness!) and only required about half an hour cleaning to get the gravel out of his knees, elbow, back, bum, shoulder, etc....but nothing on his head and face! Woo hoo! Go gigantic-oversized-full-faced-helmet-that-is-technically-meant-for-extreme-sports-and-motorbikes-bought-only-because-I-am-a-mostly-risk-adverse-person-and-didn't-want-to-take-any-chances! (Thanks for that gene mom!)

I also just want to say what a blessing it is to have seen Madeline's little skull when she was just a wee little thing because, you see, now I tend to stay calm and collected when I see blood all over. How much easier was this to handle all by myself when my greatest concern quickly became trying to avoid getting bit by the mosquitoes while we got Aidan back to the car! Love the perspective a few half dozen ER visits bring.

Where have you unexpectedly been blessed by previous decisions or foresight?


Leapin' Lizards (Florida Review)

I'm fairly certain my mom wonders why I give Florida such a hard time. (Hello? Alligators!) It's not that I want to, it's just that, well, here's a snapshot of a one week segment during our Florida trip:

So, the kids had been swimming a lot and wanted to take a break. I suggested they go out to play in the sandbox. Lily was super excited and ran inside to try to convince the others to join her while I went to check for gators clean the sandbox up a bit since it hadn't been played in for a while. There were sticks and leaves, and water filled buckets (i.e. mosquito sitting on their nests, just waiting for their new brood to hatch and coming over ever so often for some sweet human nectar to hold them over till they could teach the next generation to feed on us...) and other such debris in it. I first started by getting rid of all the big twigs and leaves. I then dumped out a bucket full of water and as I was doing so I happened to notice a suspicious looking spider hanging up under the corner seat. Always on guard in Florida, I dumped the water on the spider. It landed in the sand and lo and behold it had a HUGE RED HOURGLASS on its belly. So I did what any responsible parent would do, I used the closest sand toy to fling it out of the sandbox toward the other side of the yard. Nope, no deadly spiders here, you can't prove a thing....la-ti-da.

Well, as luck would have it, Lily couldn't get anyone else on board anyway because it was so hot, so we all went back to the swimming pool. It hadn't been two hours since I found the lovely widow spider when I heard Madeline shout, "A Snake! A Snake!" as she jumped back into the deep end and swam quickly away.

Sure enough, there was a lovely snake trapped in the pool area trying to wiggle out of the screen. My mom studied it to make sure it wasn't poisonous (something we don't have to do here in MN I might add) and we caught it in the pool net to take it out back to meet up with the spider still on the loose.

Well, then the kids got the bright idea that lizards would make great pets; after all, they are a dime a dozen around the pool. The girls were so excited when they had caught the first one.

Which soon became two....

And then 5.....
And then 8.....

I had to put a stop to it because, well, really, how many lizards does one bucket need? I was just glad they weren't shooting them with a b-b-gun like my brother used to do. Ick.

A few days later we were at my grandmother's house in Lakeland, FL and we were fortunate to catch a sighting of the house gecko. You see, there has been this rather large spotted gecko living outside her house for years now....it makes a lot of noise but I have to admit, it is pretty cool.

So, once we got back to my childhood home, we had a good friend over who is about to make a trek to Africa. She told us about all the things she needed for her adventure, like vaccines and mosquito nets etc. I asked, "Oh, so did you rent the mosquito net or buy it?"

"Oh, I bought it," she said. "I can use it here when I get back. It will really come in handy in my house."

She was serious.

And the night before we left, as I was debating in my mind whether the most recent (massive) mosquito bite on my leg looked more like a skunk, or a squirrel or "no, I think it definitely looks like a cat," I realized it was certainly time for my departure as I was getting eaten alive. One day, they will recommend all tourists visiting FL to bring mosquito nets. I wish I had! While everyone knows about the infiltration of the humans in the innocent mosquitoes' natural habitat, I wish we knew how to make them head south for the summer....or forever.

But even worse than the dozens of bites I seemed to come in with daily (which really is only an issue because there is always the possibility of them CARRYING WEST NILE VIRUS!), was the roach that crawled out of the box I was holding and ran up my arm. If you have never had a roach with those scratchy, brittle little legs crawl up your arm you are surely missing out. There is nothing quite like it. Thank God. (We don't have those here either.)

So, you see, it is rather easy to give Florida a hard time. As beautiful as it is, there are simply too many strange, wild, crazy other creatures sharing the space. Have I mentioned the alligators?



While visiting my family in Florida, I had the wonderful opportunity of reading an article seemingly written to debunk the myths surrounding alligators. Now, I want to admit my bias upfront. Short of claiming you can tame a gator, in my mind there are no myths. It is all possible, it is all true, the things you have heard have all happened; no wait, they are probably still happening as I type! Alligators.....sheesh.

You see, when I am in Florida, my mind is constantly on alligators. It is my answer for just about anything.

Friend 1: Hey, ya wanna go skiing this weekend on the lake?
Me: Um, hello? Alligators!

Friend 2: I went air boating this weekend with my uncle.
Me: You mean, with the Alligators.

Friend 3: I want to take you deep sea fishing.
Me: Sharks....AND Gators. (Ok, this might be pushing it a little. But only a little. It is Florida after all and strange things seem to happen there.)

Cousin: Went to coach the swim team and guess what I had to drag out of the pool?
Me: An alligator. (True story, he really did.)

So, you don't want to drive too close to me on the highways in FL because my eyes sometimes wander from the road as I glance to see if there are any gators in the swampy areas, or lakes, or retention ponds. You just never know. I almost missed seeing a beautiful American Bald Eagle fly right over my car the other day because I was trying to determine if the log I saw was really a gator in disguise. (It wasn't, but it could have been!)

All that said, here are my answers to SpaceCoast Living where they had written these facts on the American Alligator. They start off with a little alligator history:

The American Alligator is an unusual success story of a species that came back from the brink of extinction to a species that is now thriving in the Southeastern United States. 

Oh, thank goodness.  I was so worried we might lose the flesh eating monsters! Seriously, I won't take the time to argue the definition of success story, but all I know is WE DID THIS! We dumb humans decided we couldn't live without Alligators and now they are THRIVING....really and truly. It does make you wonder if Darwin was wrong. How did we ever make it as a species when we are constantly saving the creatures that CAN EAT US?!

Myth 1: Alligators will eat humans. 
Fact: Although rare, alligators are opportunistic eaters.

Well, DUH! What about that mouth would make you think otherwise?

Picture of a stuffed gator at a rest station in North Florida. 
 Myth 2: Alligators will grow to over 20 feet in length. 
Fiction: The largest alligator ever claimed to be in existence was 19.8 feet.

Oh, 19.8 feet.  That makes it SOOO much better. For a minute there I thought we REALLY had something to worry about....seriously, a few inches from 20 feet long. Think about it. SO WHAT IF NO 20 FOOTERS HAVE EVER BEEN FOUND? Alligators. Sheesh.

This one was only about 10 feet....pretty sure it could still eat you.

Myth 3: Alligators will eat anything in their path.
Fiction: Alligators, especially healthy ones can go months between meals....

Oh, ok. Let's be friends and just hope that they ate yesterday. A little Gator Roulette is always fun. Hello? Why would you even give people the idea that they might be able to get close to one, so long as he isn't hungry....I'm mean, it is Florida and people's brains are a little sun-fried....they might just take up that challenge!

Myth 4: Alligators cannot run from side to side.
Fact: Gators can only run in a straight line so if one starts chasing you, run in a zigzag pattern. 


Actually, this is a well-known fact to all children growing up in Florida. They teach it right along with tying shoes and not sticking fingers in electrical outlets and staying out of the shower in a thunder storm. I have known this for as long as I can remember. I have even had nightmares about being chased by alligators....more than once...in my adult life. (Yes, I have alligator dreams frequently, maybe once a month, even still....) Seriously. Zig zag. Don't forget! (And just so you non-natives know, alligators can also jump REALLY. REALLY. HIGH! I wonder why this writer decided to leave that little fact out? Seems like it might be important, unless of course, he's trying to weed out the riffraff...)

Myth 5: Gators are only found in freshwater.
Fiction: Gators are mostly found in freshwater, however....

"Mostly!" and "However...." Need I say more? Seriously, they sometimes are found on the beaches because they get swept out in the tide at the inlets. These big buggers are no laughing matter. You can't even swim at the beach in safety. If the sharks or jellies don't get you, who knows, there could be a 19.8 foot gator waiting. But don't worry, at least he's not 20 feet and can only run straight. (You just better pray he ate a shark on his way out to sea, mate.)

Myth 6: Alligators will not stay submerged underwater for long periods of time.
Fiction: Alligators can stay submerged for several hours....

Really, does this even matter? Here's a little clue: if you are going to Florida, just assume that there are gators in any and every body of water. Thriving. Hiding. Waiting for their next meal. It could be you. Beware. I warned you.

Or better yet, skip going south and come to MN where nothing in our lakes will eat you. And you can drive on them half the year. For the fun of it. Because, frozen lakes are totally awesome.....(Hey, at least there aren't alligators!)


Free Range Chicken Poop

Jamie decided if she were to make a lip balm it would have to be called Chicken Poop™, inspired by her grandpa's sense of humor. If one was to complain of dry lips he'd say, "put some chicken poop on your lips so you won't lick 'em".  --- from the company Simone Chickenbone, Natural Put-Ons

Chicken Poop Free Range Chicken Poop Lip Balm 1 eaA dear friend sent me a link to this chicken poop lip balm recently saying it made her think of me (ahhh, so truly, truly flattering, really...) and then just last week my husband was on a guy's trip and saw the same product in some store so of course he had to text me a picture of the logo. I know, I know, he's a romantic, what can I say?! But that's how this story rolls I suppose. I try not to read too much into these things but when twice in one month I have several people mention they thought of me when they saw a product called Free Range Chicken Poop, I do start to wonder: What does that say about me? And worse, what does it say about me that I get all giddy about it?!                                   

Seriously, do you ever feel like you could stand in for Jeff Foxworthy?

"You might be a redneck if.....someone sees a product labeled Chicken Poop and the first person they think of is YOU."

Oh well, if the poop fits.....just don't tell Kurt. I think I still have him convinced that I am a sweet,  young debutante....a true Southern Belle....a, hey, why are you laughing? Surely the Graceful Chicken could....ok, no, I couldn't.  

At any rate, I've decided this must be a sign that I need to host another Graceful Like a Chicken contest. Please, please, sit back down. I know you are super excited but no need to jump out of your britches. Here it is:

One lucky reader will win a sampling of Simone Chickenbone products, curtesy of moi. To enter, add a comment to this blog post telling me what you'd rather see 31 straight days of on this blog: 
a) memories 
b) personal poetry
c) random thoughts
d) a topic of a serious nature (i.e. forgiveness, happiness, love, grace, etc.)
e) you don't want 31 straight days of ANYTHING!

Winner will be chosen at random (your name will be in a hat) and notified via email. Deadline to enter is Sunday, August 14, 2011.  For my email subscribers, you need to go to the website to post a comment. Click on the title of the blog post (Free Range Chicken Poop) that is within the email. Scroll down to the bottom of the post and hit the "Post a Comment" tab. It's that simple. Good luck! :)


The Last Baptism

I figure if Jesus can have a last supper, certainly we can have a last baptism.

Sunday we had the joy of gathering our family and close friends at my grandma's church in Lakeland, FL, to have our two youngest baptized. It is the same church Lily was baptized in a few years back....the same church my parents were married in a century or so ago (hee hee, sorry guys) and our crew just about doubled the summer congregation.

Having never had a talking child baptized before, I spent a little time with Liam in the few days beforehand rehearsing the words and the act of placing water on his head. I was a wee bit concerned because every time I'd tell him he'd be baptized  "in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen" he'd eagerly say: "and the moon?"

I figured if he said that in the moment it would create a memorable one so I certainly didn't fret over it. And when his moment came, he smiled as if he was having the time of his life....like all the world was his stage, or at least this particular church and it went smashingly well. I am surprised he didn't take a bow and thank his "audience" actually. Solomon, having just woken up from a nap, sang and cooed the entire service, especially in the silence, or should I say when it was supposed to be silent since he pretty much filled the entire void.

At any rate, Liam's true colors shined through this weekend. He made many new fans out of family members we don't see often enough, the most notable being my new brother-in-law who told me at the party: "I love Liam. He's totally insane."

Having spent the morning in utter chaos and still feeling rather stressed, I took exception with the comment and said, "He's not insane. He just smiles a lot and is really happy." About that time Liam caught our eyes as he went spinning by in circles with his smiling head twirling quickly around as if he were trying to recreate that sick feeling you get when you step out of a Gravitron or some other crazy amusement park ride.

"Ok, you got me there," I admitted, laughing. "He might be a little crazy."

When the party was over and we found a calm, quiet moment at my Grandma's house, I called Liam over to where I was sitting with my grandmother so that he could open his little present from her. (The tradition is for her to buy each of the grandbabies a sterling silver cup while my aunts get them a sterling spoon.) He immediately unwrapped the two jewelry store boxes and said "Yay, boxes!" before he put them down and turned to play with something else.

"Liam, you have to open the boxes to see what's in them silly," I said.

He came back and opened the first little flat box which contained a spoon wrapped in tissues. He only saw the paper.

"Yay! Tissues!" he said clapping his little hands excitedly: "YAAAAAY!"

For all of you who have never believed me when I have told you my young children need nothing more than wrapped boxes....I stand corrected: you were right. The joy he got from thinking he was getting tissues in that box was well worth putting a little paper inside!

Solomon and Liam

Our Lovely Hostess GiGi (My Grandma with Solly)

The Godparents 

It's my party and I'll sleep if I want to....
Why there should only be one camera at any given photo op
The boys with my uncle who did the baptizing