About Us, Family Fun

8 (years)

Grew up in a small town
And when the rain would fall down
I’d just stare out my window


Dreaming of what could be
And if I’d end up happy
I would pray

Trying hard to reach out
But when I tried to speak out
Felt like no one could hear me

Wanted to belong here
But something felt so wrong here

So I prayed (I would pray)

I could breakaway

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes ’til I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I
won’t forget all the ones that I love
I’ll take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Wanna feel the warm breeze
Sleep under a palm tree
Feel the rush of the ocean


Get onboard a fast train
Travel on a jet plane, far away (I will)
And breakaway

I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly
I’ll do what it takes til’ I touch the sky
And I’ll make a wish, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun
I won’t forget all the ones that I love
I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Buildings with a hundred floors
Swinging around revolving doors
Maybe I don’t know where they’ll take me,

but
Gotta keep moving on, moving on
Fly away, breakaway

I’ll spread my wings
And I’ll learn how to fly
Though it’s not easy to tell you goodbye
I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Out of the darkness and into the sun
But I won’t forget the place I come from
I gotta take a risk, take a chance, make a change
And breakaway

Source: MusixmatchSongwriters: Benenate Bridget Louise / Gerrard Matthew R TBreakaway lyrics © Wb Music Corp., Almo Music Corp., Music Of Windswept, G Matt Music, Friends Of Seagulls Music Publishing, Avril Lavigne Publishing Llc.

It was been a wonderful 8 years in Texas, and I look forward to many more!

About Us, Family Fun

July Adventures!

Oh, wow! Where did July go? It has been a busy, fun month for us, with all that we could ever hope for summer to include. As I am getting ready for the back-to-school professional development next week, I thought I would take a break and update y’all on our adventures!

The Fourth (and Our First Time Hosting Since the Plague!)

When we first got married, we lived on a lake. We spent our time hanging out with two other couples, and on the fourth of July, we always invited them over to watch fireworks on the boat with us.

Yes, that is the lake that no longer exists, since the earth dam broke last spring.

The problem is that one couple is not in the picture, which is okay, because they have moved to Texas as well and we took a picture of them this year on the fourth!

We found a good anchorage on the bay and grilled up our dinner. Then this interesting-looking barge anchored disconcertingly close to us…

We realized that they would be shooting the fireworks from that barge. We wanted a front row seat, but we didn’t want to be so close that we had to worry about a hole being burned into to top of our boat! We moved back a little bit, and still got to be right underneath the fireworks.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening!

Summer Camp!

Two days after the fourth, it was time for Iliana and me to take a road trip. Our destination? Camp Blessing Texas!

Ili made a grand entrance, with all the staff cheering for her!

At camp, Ili met Baily, her high school buddy who hung out with her all week, and the two of them went to the cabin to get settled in.

While Ili was away on her adventure, the camp posted daily pictures, so we could follow along!

Days 1 and 2

Days 3 and 4

And then it was time to pick her up! Ili had a great time, and made a lot of friends.

Camp Blessing is located in the same town as Camp for All, so of course we had to stop at Freezy Frenzy on the way home! This time, Iliana drew a picture to put on their wall.

20 Years!

While Iliana was at camp, Rob and I had our own adventure. You see, 20 years ago, on July 7, 2021, this happened:

I decided to begin our celebration with a cake!

Rob approved…

Since Rob had the next two days off, we left early in the morning for an adventure in San Antonio. We got permission to park at our Air BNB early, so that we could explore the town on bikes. We started with tacos for lunch…

…And had lots of fun exploring the River Walk!

We then enjoyed our stay in a beautiful apartment in a cute neighborhood on the Riverwalk.

The next day we arrived at home in time for a beautiful sunset!

Iliana Stays Busy!

Once we got home, Iliana realized that she loves spending time at the marina, and she has been exploring the water in her new kayak.

She also has been having fun with black-and-white film photography. Stay tuned for some of her prints, once she finishes her roll of film!

And tonight she joined us on a bike ride to the food park in Clear Lake Shores. We ate at Okies, which, hands-down, has the best Shirley Temples in town! (I’ve introduced Ili to the joy of the Shirley T!)

And yes, Rob rode his penny farthing, but you will have to wait for Ili’s prints to see that!

Back to School

Not long after our return from San Antonio, I had my first meeting regarding our return to school. I am one of the special education department leads starting this year, so I will be helping to lead a training starting on Monday, and from there on it’s back to career-woman-mode for me! I will still update y’all on my adventures and thoughts, but it will probably only be once or twice a month. I will also aim to check in with everyone else’s blogs that frequently as well.

I hope everyone has had a fun, “normal” summer!

About Us, Health

R is for “Rona”

Spring break is a dangerous time.

In 2017, I went on medical leave starting the week before spring break. (Here is a picture of my first day of freedom!)

My first day on leave, March 1, 2018.

In 2018, I was in a long-term subbing assignment in Deer Park. On the last day of spring break, a factory caught on fire, which led to spring break being extended by a week.

Last year, of course, we went on lockdown after spring break and did not return to school in-person until fall.

So this year, of course, there was an exciting build-up to spring break. Let’s recap, shall we?

Two weeks ago, most of the class I work in, had to quarantine.

And then we had a week off of school, for what everyone here refers to as “Snow-vid.”

After things returned to “normal,” Rob started feeling like he had a cold. I figured he wore himself ragged during the snowstorm and needed some time to rest and recover. He had a low grade fever that went away, and it seemed to be a run of the mill sinus cold. By the end of the week, it was definitely improving. I wore my N95 at work and was very careful about avoiding close contact at yoga, but it seemed like things were going to be fine.

Friday afternoon, Rob sent me a text, saying that he had lost his sense of smell.

So I learned a lot of things. I learned that Covid tests are free, even if you don’t have insurance. I learned that the rapid test was offered nearby. And according to Rob, putting the swab an inch up your nose is more difficult than it seems.

Three hours later, I learned that quarantine for close contact starts the first day of close contact, which for us was the day Rob’s symptoms started. So I will basically be off of work (except for a few things I offered to do remotely) until March 8, and Iliana will be distance learning. She is taking it in stride and already looking at her grades and getting set up!

So no yoga class for yet another week! I don’t have a good track record with doing well in isolation, and of course I freaked out initially. After a texting conversation with my wonderful, wonderful yoga teacher (who reminded me that I can do the videos 24/7 if I want to!), I had a much more positive mindset. I could even see how I had been so exhausted that having some time to rest will be beneficial.

Tonight, we have Rob isolated in the bedroom, and I will be sleeping on Iliana’s floor. But this has seemed ridiculous, because there is a good chance that Iliana and I also have the virus but are asymptomatic. So we are getting tested tomorrow.

Ili has started a new puzzle!

The upshot is that if I test positive, I will likely have immunity until I am eligible for a vaccine. So my days of not being able to hug might soon be over! In the meantime, my focus will be on self-care. If my body is busy kicking the arse of a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, I want to do all I can to help my immune system continue its victory streak!

About Us

Some Pictures from Armageddon

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”
– Bilbo, The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party

Update: Winter is now over in Texas. It is 60 degrees outside and sunny, and the guys at Space City Weather are saying that should be in the 70’s next week.

Our electrical grid is stabilized, and the powers that be are most certainly planning ahead so they are more prepared for the next time a winter storm hits Texas.

We all still have to boil our water before we drink it, but since I mostly drink coffee, that isn’t a major lifestyle change here. Everyone is calling on favors from their one relative who can fix everything, so they can get their burst pipes fixed without having to call a plumber. Not a lot of heat tape available in Texas…(I tried to describe it to my friends! It’s like an electric blanket for your pipes!)

The grocery stores are slowly getting restocked. I cooked up all of my emergency food, so now I have meals prepared for the next week (and then some)! We dumped out our water tank, which, once again, was good insurance. We have now filled it three times and have never had to use it.

Our internet and cell reception is still sketchy, but we have a wired internet connection that is working well enough to upload pictures at the moment!

I could barely walk through the entire adventure, due to an incredibly painful knee. It felt like I had a bruise, so I figured I must have bumped into something. Lidocaine, ibuprophen, and dragon balm sometimes took the edge off enough for me to sleep. After a yin class yesterday, I was able to run and climb stairs with only a little tenderness. Power flow today felt amazing, and I’m still only a little tender. It turns out tight hamstrings can cause knee pain, and cold weather (coupled with not being able to go to yoga for 10 days) makes my leg muscles very tight!

So here are some pictures from our adventure!

Monday Morning: White S— (as my dad always called it in Michigan) on the Ground!

My parents lost power over the night, so they brought their cats over and checked into a hotel.

Since the building owner was planning on shutting off the water (which he did Monday night), I did the laundry and filled two water jugs.

When my parents’ hotel lost power, my dad and brother decided to stay, but my mom came over and became the first overnight guest at our apartment!

Tuesday: The Day We Officially Ran a Refugee Camp!

One day in a cold hotel is one thing, but two is a bit much. On Tuesday, my dad, brother, and his girlfriend joined us!

And then, just as we were relaxing in the evening…

Rob got called into work early in the morning, where he was put to task improving our standard of living!

Iliana could not complete her distance learning activities due to the power outage, but if she read from her novel (Tom Sawyer), she would be counted present for school.

Yes, she did decide to wear her school uniform that day!

I said I was nervous about running out of water, because I did not want to die of dehydration. Except that we had a ton of soda and juice. What I meant was that I was afraid of not having coffee. So as soon as the water came back on, I excitedly began gathering whatever water I could, to fill our 50 gallon tank!

I went to Walmart for more provisions, but there was a bit of a wait…

Iliana put on another school uniform and kept herself entertained with bubbles! And yes, we were back on the grid when I got home!

Time for more reading!

This was the next day–no uniform!

So here we are, back in Texas temperatures! Every year here has had an adventure, and I would have it no other way. Maybe our next adventure will be a little warmer…

About Us

Greetings from “The Day After Tomorrow”

Hello, folks!

I thought I would check in with a quick update!

The day after I published my last post, the ice storm hit our area (and most of the state). We did fine there–it was definitely not my first or worst ice storm!

Of course, I am sure that most people have heard about Texas’s electrical grid and its collapse by now. We kept power and water at first, and I did distance learning on Monday and Tuesday, meeting virtually with the few students who still had power and internet access. Iliana unhappily completed her assignments online and logged into class meetings.

My parents lost power in the storm. My mom stayed with us Monday night, and my whole family stayed with us on Tuesday. So of course that was the night we lost power! By morning, we had lost water as well.

Between the kerosene lamp we had and an electric heater that we powered off a generator, we were able to keep the apartment at 64 degrees. We had 11 gallons of water, which I figured could get our larger group through 2-3 days. I was not happy with that, but it was something.

I had some sweet tea that Walmart had mistakenly put on my order (none of us drink sweet tea), and I used that to cook up large amounts of rice in my instant pot, running it off the generator. This significantly stretched out food supply, so we could feed anyone who happened to be at our home! I moved our perishables to a dock box in the store parking lot, utilizing the Michigan trick of the “outdoor fridge.”

On Wednesday, distance learning was 100% asynchronous, meaning there were no virtual meetings. If students did not have power, they were to read from their novels or otherwise complete low-tech schoolwork. Iliana is reading Tom Sawyer for her English class, so she has been enjoying her reading time everyday! On Wednesday, she wore her school uniform anyway.

We were lucky and got power and water back yesterday evening. I promptly filled our 50 gallon water tank, which is always good insurance. This is my third time filling it, and we have never been in a situation where we have needed it, after filling it!

We are very lucky, because I have friends who have not had electricity or water for four days now. But everyone is finding ways to keep warm, and the stores are doing a surprisingly good job of restocking water.

Today is a day of making preparations. There is supposed to be another storm tonight, before it warms up on Saturday. And nobody knows when the grid will be fixed.

In addition to filling the water tank, I have stocked up on propane, deep cycle batteries, rice, and other essentials. I froze a bunch of water containers, so we can keep some food in the Yeti cooler if we lose power. Everything is charging, and I am getting caught up on laundry. I am even ironing Rob’s work shirts, since our dry cleaner is not doing their run this week! (I joked that I could start a homemaking blog!)

Our Internet access is poor, and our cell phone reception is spotty, due to the towers losing power. I can’t upload pictures right now, but I will have plenty to share after this adventure is over!

I will also get caught up on everyone’s blog once I am living in the 21st century again! And one day, I will return to a yoga class. Between this and my Rona near-miss, it has been ten days since I have been to a class! That is definitely a record!

If any of you are affected by the storms, stay warm! I will catch up with you all soon!

About Us

A Staycation in the Woods, Rob Turns 43, Close Encounters with the Rona, Crab Day, and Impending Snow Days

Happy Sunday, folks!

There was a time when I hated my job and thought it would be wonderful if I could make enough money off of blogging, that I would no longer need to go there. In order to do that, I learned all about things like Page Rank and SEO. The thinking was that if you create titles for your posts that contain numbers and keywords and follow a rather formulaic format, the post will be more likely to show up in a Google search and therefore attract more traffic.

I was pretty decent at it back in the day, although I never did make any money from my blogging. (I found a new job, and that solved my work problems!) But the title I put on this post is a perfect example of what not to do, if you are trying to improve your SEO. So there you go–a free blogging tip!

Anyway.

I have thought that we were long overdue for a picture post and some updates on our life, so of course life decided to cooperate and give us an interesting week! And since I am hunkered down today, enjoying our warm apartment and preparing for the upcoming snow storm that is supposed to hit all of Texas, I thought today would be the perfect day to fill you in on our adventures!

1. Staycation in the Woods

(List posts have better SEO! See how I am numbering my subheadings?)

Last year, we went on an amazing bicycle riding weekend for Rob’s birthday weekend. He only has Saturday off, but I booked a studio in Montrose (Houston) for two nights. We headed there early Friday morning, ate breakfast and showered at the studio, and got our folding bikes ready for our adventure on the Buffalo Bayou biking trail! It was an amazing day of exploring, eating outside (yes, we ate outside before Covid!), and thrift shopping. We slept in the studio, then got Rob home in time for work Sunday morning.

And that, as you know, was our last normal weekend. (And the last time I was that skinny, to date).

So yes, scheduling an outing on the anniversary of our last good time before it all hit the fan, was a tall order. But I really wanted another bicycling trip! And at the time that I booked, the Houston/Galveston area was still in a huge Covid surge, so Air BNB’s were very cheap! I booked us a high rise downtown for Rob’s birthday weekend, and then another for our first weekend of spring break (we will take Ili that time! I wanted to do Elijah’s Retreat again, but they were booked until summer).

Well, first we saw that the weather was expected to be cooler the weekend of our trip. Okay, so we would wear winter coats on our bike trip. Then our host had to cancel, because a relative of his had died of Covid. So it was back to the drawing board.

Since the weather was cold, I decided to look for a cabin the woods. What I found was a nice, huge, RV just outside of Houston, in Conroe. It was the perfect cozy getaway!

I found the best blingy jeans ever, at a thrift store in someone’s house! And a fuzzy, pink, Uggs purse!

2. Rob Turns 43!

Of course, on the actual date of Rob’s birthday, Iliana decorated the apartment and we celebrated properly, with cake and party hats!

3. Close Encounters with the Rona

On Rob’s birthday, I narrowly avoided Covid jail.

We have had very few Covid cases at the school where I work, and when someone has tested positive, it has never spread to anyone else on campus.

However, our administration is very thorough about contact tracing, following the CDC’s guidelines for quarantining after close contact. And on Tuesday, a number of people I work with found out that they were going to be spending the next two weeks at home, due to being in close contact with someone who tested positive.

Being in close contact with someone who has been in close contact does not mean anything, other than I needed to continue with the precautions I was taking. So I went about my merry way, looking very stylish in my TEA-issued teal N95 mask (teachers do seem to be the only group that gets colorful N95’s, so that definitely is a perk to working in my chosen profession!).

So I did not have to quarantine. I did, however, choose not to go to yoga class for the rest of the week, which is normally unheard of for me.

I logged into to Iliana’s Facebook account and enjoyed some of Cass’s previously recorded classes. That was wonderful, but her newsfeed was quite addictive. Most of my friends have not kept in touch since I left Facebook, and I found out that two of them are in the hospital. One friend is doing a lot better, and I have no idea how the other is doing. So now I check that twice a day, until I am sure what is going on for both of them. Meanwhile, all of the negative political posts are still going, and I won’t miss those. I am learning that it is okay if I lose touch with people, and it is okay if I am not a friend that they choose to reach out to when they are going through hard times. Nobody is that friend for everyone. I care, but next time I can’t make it to yoga, I am going to create a throwaway Facebook account with no friends, and only use it for yoga.

Nothing interesting happened with Covid, and nobody else has tested positive. So I was all set to go back to yoga on Monday….until it got canceled due to the snow storm (more about that later).

And of course I gained back the few pounds I lost, after the stress this brought on. But next week is a new week…

4. Crab Day

Valentine’s day is a Hallmark holiday, and after being married for awhile, it becomes a little cliched. (At least for us). So we have decided to celebrate Crab Day instead!

Dinner will consist of fake crab and crab cakes. And of course any decorations must be crab-oriented. And bonus points for walking like a crab while delivering the essentials!

There were, however, some boxes of chocolates involved…Iliana enjoyed hers while playing an intense game of Splatoon! By the way, she did have a Valentine’s party at school, even though bringing Valentines was not allowed (due to Covid). But, in the true Crab Day spirit, her party did involve Chinese take-out for the entire (small) class!

5. The Great Texas Snowstorm of 2021

When I lived in Michigan, snow was a permanent part of the landscape throughout the winter. Our lawn–and the roads, always have a coating of snow. The roads were salted daily, and we just got used to walking and driving through it.

That being said, we did have snow days. Sometimes there was so much snow overnight, that the roads were impassable. If I hadn’t thought to get my groceries the night before, I would find myself trudging through the woods to get to the store, because driving wasn’t going to happen!

And of course those snow days happened frequently and were nearly always forgiven by the state.

In Texas, the state will forgive hurricane days, if we are actually hit by the hurricane. Otherwise, we have to make the days up. And the tiniest bit of ice or snow will bring the whole city to a standstill. And rightly so, because nobody here knows how to drive safely in snow and ice!

I laughed at everyone here, until I found out that we would be distance learning on Monday and Tuesday. I know some teachers love distance learning, but I am not one of them. I set right to work, reaching out to parents and making appointments to meet with my students virtually. Half of my office came home with me!

Time to teach from the kitchen table once again!

I had my schedule made and was looking forward to spending Sunday getting some paperwork done, since I likely would not have time to work on that this week. Then I found out that the water would likely be getting shut off to our complex. So time to make more preparations!

The water is hoarded, the washing machine is running constantly, and Iliana and I have already had our showers. Now it’s time to see what the Texas winter will bring us!

How was your week? Any adventures? Feel free to share below!

About Us, Family Fun

Week 2 (sort of) Away From Facebook: Downhill Toward Break!

So here we are on week 2, a bit late! What a hectic week it has been…

The last week before break is always crazy, but with the pandemic, of course it was crazier.

However, we did have some fun! Each day had a theme, and here are some of them:

Once we were on break, Ili and I did some Christmas shopping, including buying Jasmine a a sweater! I don’t think she loved it…

I played Christmas music on our new piano, and Iliana joined in on her saxophone!

Ili completed another puzzle! I hope Santa knows about her new hobby!

So now we are on the downward spiral to Christmas! Next week I will share pictures of our celebrations, and I will probably write a post about my (slightly offbeat) New Year’s Resolutions. I am thinking of having a non-picture post midweek, when I feel like it.

How are your Christmas preparations coming? I would love to hear from you in the comments!

About Us, Family Fun

Day 4: Celebrate a Family Tradition

This is Day 4 of the writing prompts on Sue at Sizzling Toward 60 & Beyond’s advent calendar.  Today we are to celebrate existing family traditions and consider starting some new ones.

One Thanksgiving, when Iliana was a toddler, we ended up with no family to visit.  We had seen my parents the day before, and Rob’s parents were staying in Florida that year.  We decided to go to his family’s home on Lake Huron and have our own Thanksgiving.  We made all the traditional food and created a beautiful table.

It was very, very, very depressing.

It’s not the food that makes the holiday, it’s the people you spend it with.  It felt so empty to be going through the same motions, without the same fun we were used to having with everyone.

We thought of that Thanksgiving often when we first moved to Texas.  We realized this was a new chapter for us, and we would need to create some new holiday traditions, to keep them from becoming empty and lonely.

We spent our first Thanksgiving at a Yogi Bear Campground, and our subsequent traditions have been equally as non-traditional, at times.

Here are some Christmas traditions that our family enjoys:

Pancakes With Santa

When we lived in Michigan, there was a magical little house downtown, where you could go and visit Santa.  Ili loved the decorations, and the emphasis was on the experience, not on ordering photos.

When we moved to Texas, I could not find such a Santa House.  Our first Christmas, I took Iliana to the mall.  That was a big mistake.  After waiting in line for over an hour, she had a visit that barely lasted 2 minutes, tops.  There had to be a better way.

The next year we moved to the boat, and I became involved with a parenting group on Facebook.  This group hosted a Winterfest in November, and you could reserve a timeslot with Santa, for a price.  We did that.  It was more pricey than I would like, but it was much better than the mall.

Then, when I was driving past the Kemah Community Center, walkable from where we live, I saw an advertisement for “Pancakes With Santa.”  This was a free event, so of course I took Iliana that year.

There were elves, Santa visits with a tiny line (and free photos), photo opps with the mayor and other VIP’s, and, most importantly, Miss Kemah.

Iliana has participated in the Texas Miss Amazing pageant twice, and although she does not want to compete again next year, she always looks forward to talking shop with the reigning queens!  In fact, we refer to this event as “Pancakes with Miss Kemah.”

Advent Calendars

We love advent calendars!  When we first moved to Texas, we made Iliana a calendar that involved socks pulled through a cardboard board.  She would open a sock each day, and receive a toy or trinket.  We even drove to Michigan with this calendar, so she could continue the fun during that visit.

Nowadays, Iliana has discovered the cardboard calendars with the chocolates.  She chose her favorite design and helps herself to a candy every morning.

Additionally, for our craft tonight, we made a Christmas chain, and Iliana and I both wrote down activities for each day.

Christmas Eve

To prepare for the main event, we first make “Reindeer Feed,” with oats and glitter.  Then, before bed, we spread it on the bow, so Santa’s reindeer can find our boat.

As she is falling asleep, Iliana hears the “thud” as the sleigh lands on the boat.  Then she hears sleigh bells, fading off into the distance.

Christmas Morning!

Well, as soon as we all are up, it’s mimosa time!  This is a tradition we carried over from Rob’s family.  Iliana drinks orange juice and sparkling grape juice.

We open stockings first, then do gifts one at a time.

There may be a visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, if we did not visit them Christmas eve.

Then it is time to enjoy all the snacks that we prepared the day before.  With Rob’s family, Christmas involved no meals, just a huge snack table.  We enjoy ham roll-ups, dips, rum balls (adults only!), baked brie, and other treats.  It is a day of eating, lounging, and watching movies.

Now It’s Your Turn!

What traditions do you enjoy?  What would you like to add?

 

About Us, Family Fun

Day 3: Deck the Halls and Decorate

This is Day 3 of the writing prompts on Sue at Sizzling Toward 60 & Beyond’s advent calendar.  Today we are to “deck the halls and decorate.”

Our Christmas decorating fluctuates.  There have been years where we have gone all out, and years where we have kept it simple.  We always have a tree and stockings, but the rest will vary.

I know what I did not want to do, was allow Christmas decorating to become stressful.  Rob and I both have known people who have been so particular about the decorating of their tree, and so concerned with decorating their homes perfectly, that it took the fun out of the process.

When we moved to Texas, we did not have room to bring our ornaments and Christmas decorations.  So that first year, in the apartment, we made new ornaments for our tree.  The ornaments we have now are all either hand made or acquired since we made the move nearly 6 years ago.

While boat have ample room for lights, finding room for a Christmas tree was challenging when we lived on a sailboat.  On our first boat, we removed a cushion from the settee.

On Loco Lobo, however, we have room for a full-sized tree!

Iliana still placed the star.

Rob enjoyed some coffee.

And we played the fireplace video on the TV!

We chose to forego lights this year, but we did put a wreath on the bow.  I’ve set up a decorating activity for Iliana each evening.  Last night she made snowflakes.

And, noticing that our larger tree could use some more ornaments, I had Iliana make sandpaper ornaments tonight!

We will continue making decorations in the evenings, and I still need to pick up some more stockings from the dollar store.  Otherwise, our halls are decked!

Now It’s Your Turn

How are you decking the halls this Christmas season?

About Us, Boat, Family Fun

A Black Friday Story

We have a very cushy life, even though we live on a boat.

We have apartment-sized furniture and appliances, Iliana has her own bedroom, Rob and I share a queen-sized bed, we have our own shower, and, once they are repaired, we will even have our own laundry facilities.  Living on Loco Lobo is a lot like living in a small mobile home.

Yet our lifestyle is not without adventure.

We lose electricity whenever the tide is too high, which usually happens at least once a year during a storm surge.  Last winter we had a deep freeze, which caused us to lose water for many days after the pipes froze.  We take these challenges in stride, because they are just a part of living on a boat.

However, this Thanksgiving, we had an adventure that was equal parts horrifying, baffling, and, in the end, kind of funny.

Meet Popcorn, the (Somewhat Lazy) Cat-of-Prey

This story begins with our kitty cat, Popcorn.  We rescued Popcorn when she was about 4 weeks old, in the Amish country outside of Mount Pleasant, Michigan.  Her mother had been run over, and she was sitting, lost, in the middle of the road.  We posted ads, but nobody claimed her.

After a few years of being an indoor kitty in Harrison, Michigan, Popcorn joined our family on our move to Texas.  A year later, she was living on a sailboat, and we started allowing her to go outside.

At first, Popcorn enjoyed hunting.  Everyone on the pier loved her, because she killed a large number of wharf rats.  Occasionally, she would leave a rat by the door, for her family.  Rob tried to humor her, and pretended to eat the rats, but that was not enough.

In order to better feed her family, Popcorn decided a more aggressive approach was necessary.  On Easter morning, while Iliana was hunting for hidden eggs, Popcorn triumphantly jumped through the open hatch, delivering a dead rabbit and depositing in in the middle of the floor.  Luckily, Iliana was just starting to get into science, and excitedly proclaimed, “Popcorn has captured her prey!”

As Popcorn got older, we moved onto Loco Lobo, on the marina’s very laid-back island pier.  Everyone adored her and started leaving out snacks for her.  A family on a catamaran nicknamed her “Poppy,” and she became somewhat of a celebrity.  Our neighbors keep a box with a blanket in it out on their aft deck, so she can come over for a nap and a snack whenever it suits her fancy.

Loco Lobo came with a cat hole cut in the companionway door, so Popcorn frequently enjoys going outside.  Instead of hunting down rats and bunnies, however, she likes to lie down on the main pier and wait for her admirers to come over the pet her.

In the winter, however, there are fewer people staying in the marina.  So Popcorn has been keeping herself entertained by playing with the rodents once again.  One morning, she surprised us by leaving a litter of dead baby rats on the side deck.  More recently, when Rob came home for his lunch break, she had brought in a still-alive rabbit.  She had lost interest in it before killing it, so Rob let it go and boarded up the kitty door.

The fall is a lovely season in Texas, where we need neither air conditioning nor heat, and we love to leave the companionway door and hatch open most of the time.  Our aft deck has doors on the sides, so our dog can’t escape.  But Popcorn is nimble enough to come and go as she pleases.  We enjoyed a number of pleasant nights, with the boat open as we slept in the fresh, fall air.

A Nighttime Visitor?

The first time it happened, Rob noticed a horrible cut on Iliana’s pinky finger, when he woke her up in the morning.  There was blood all over her sheets.  She had two puncture wounds on the front of her finger, and one in the back.  We googled “rats” and learned that rats  do not carry rabies, but they can carry other bacterial infections.  Iliana had just finished an antibiotic for an ear infection (one of the few antibiotics she is not allergic to), so I continued giving it to her, until we decided what to do.

Our boat has a headliner, like a car, for the ceiling.  In Ili’s room, it was torn in two places, where she had kicked it from her bed.  We in in the process of replacing it.  We figured that the creature who bit her, must have come in through the tear, since it was so cold outside.  There was no evidence of a rat living in our boat, so we figured that it was a freak incident.

We repaired the tear and had Iliana sleep facing the other direction.   We all figured that the problem was solved.

Until Iliana woke us up at night, screaming.

Right next to her eye, she had two deep bites on her face, bleeding a great deal.  Horrified, we immediately cleaned it with an antiseptic wipe and gave her a band-aid.  She brought her favorite stuffed animals into our bed and fell asleep quickly.

In the morning, her face was bruised and swollen.  Which meant that whatever bit her was strong.

Stronger than a bat, was my immediate thought, because bats are the primary carriers of rabies in our area.

That day was Thanksgiving, and we called every urgent care clinic in our area.  Nobody was open until Friday.  I gave Iliana some antibiotic ointment and another dose of her antibiotic.

Black Friday, Part 1

We allowed Iliana one trip into her bedroom during the day, so she gathered up every single one of her Beanie-Boos.  Then we set up rat traps and closed the door.  Iliana surrounded herself with Beanie-Boos and fell asleep in the middle of our queen-sized bed.  The dog and cat took their usual places at the foot of the bed, leaving Rob and me a miniscule amount of real estate.

Which is fine, because I couldn’t sleep.  I woke up at night a couple times, and continued researching rats, rabbits, bats, and rabies.  Which didn’t make sleeping any easier.  What I did learn, is that whatever we did, we had a little bit of time to decide.

Urgent care opened at noon, and Iliana had her heart set on shopping at Black Friday.  In my minimalist blogging years, I extoled the virtues of Buy Nothing Day and urged my readers to “rethink Christmas.”  I encouraged them to make it about more than the mountain of gifts.

And then, in the wee hours of the night, I would make sure that Santa delivered a mountain of gifts to our house.  Because….Christmas….

Back in those days, I also said that only children were not spoiled.  So I was wrong about a lot of things!

Grateful that Urgent Care opened so late, and that an animal bite was not an emergency, I excitedly took my only child to Black Friday.  We scoured the ads ahead of time, and just ended up overwhelmed by it all.  Then I remembered that I had gift cards for Macy’s and Nordstrom’s.  I saw that Kohl’s had a sale on toys, so Iliana agreed that we would look for Beanie Boos there, and if they didn’t have any, we would go to Five Below.

Together, we eagerly hit the mall!

Iliana’s first find was a sequined pillow at Macy’s. She has wanted one for a long time.

Before heading to Nordstrom’s, it was time for some Dipping Dots!

And, of course, a mirror selfie on our way out.

Here is Iliana, all gussied up with her new hair and fashion accessories!

We ended the day with a Happy Meal, and got ready for the next leg of our adventure.

Black Friday, Part 2

While Iliana and I were shopping, Rob texted me, saying that he had done some investigating and found lots of rabbit poop throughout the bilge…and a few newly deposited next to the dog food dish.  His googling told him that rabbits in the wild are very aggressive and territorial.  So it still looked like we were dealing with a non-rabies carrier that was unlikely to spread infection.

We made plans to set a live trap, baited with dog food, and after lunch, I took Iliana to Urgent Care.

Iliana had a lot of health problems early in life, but, before this year, she had only been to the doctor twice since we moved to Texas in 2013.  One of those times was for a check-up and vaccines.

When I left my job, Iliana qualified for Medicaid.  We have been navigating the bureaucracy of that, trying to figure out how to keep her current doctor (which we likely will be able to do).  In the meantime, Iliana has been to Urgent Care twice, with pink eye and with an ear infection.

Doctors become very stressed when Iliana needs an antibiotic, because she is already allergic to Penicillin and Clindamyacin.  She had a mild reaction to the first one, and a serious reaction to the second.  For her ear infection, she was given a Penicillin derivative, which did not cause any problems.  That is what I continued giving her, after the bites.

So off we were, to our third Urgent Care visit, the day after Thanksgiving.  I expected it to be quick, which maybe a Tetanus shot, but not much else.

Of course I had to tell the story about how she got bitten by a feral rabbit in our home.

I told the story to the receptionist when we checked in.

And the nurse who took Ili’s vitals and triaged us.  She was very concerned, and said that this sounded like a rabid animal, and we may need to go to the ER.  She said she would be right back.

Twenty minutes later, we had still not graduated to seeing the doctor.  The nurse returned with a map and Mapquest directions to the nearest pediatric ER, which also happened to accept Medicaid.

Iliana was very displeased.  As we pulled into the hospital parking lot, I reminded her that she used to love going to the hospital.  She went there a lot when she was younger, and she would start smiling and laughing when we pulled into the parking lot.  She loved the nurses who paid attention to her.  I used to joke that she wanted to have her birthday party there.  When we lived in Michigan, Iliana had three ER visits and two hospitalizations, all of which she enjoyed.

Ili wasn’t buying it.  We were scheduled to visit her best friend at 5:00, and Ili remembered how long ER visits often took.  It was already 3:00.

We were triaged as soon as we walked in, and they directed us to a gurney sitting against the wall (next to pirate decals!) in front of the nurses’ station.  I took it as a good sign, that they didn’t expect us to stay long enough to even get a room!

Iliana was unhappy, but I did get her to put on her sunglasses for one “diva” picture…

It was 10 minutes before the (rather attractive) doctor arrived.  I got to tell yet another person our bunny story, and he seemed unphased.  “Well, you did the right thing,” he told me. “We would have prescribed the antibiotic she is taking and given her antibiotic ointment.  You don’t have to worry about rabies with rabbits and rats in this area.”

He made sure there was no bat evidence in the boat and directed me to keep giving Iliana the antibiotic until it runs out.  And he gave us the name of an infectious disease specialist to call if Ili starts having any symptoms, which he said, she likely will not.

10 minutes later, a nurse showed up with our discharge papers, and Iliana and I were on our way!

Here she is, ready to visit her bestie!  She ripped off her hospital bracelet as soon as we arrived!

Meanwhile, Iliana is banned from her bedroom while we try to catch the crazy bunny.  Stay tuned…