Family Fun

Back to School!

In the most normal of years, the beginning of the school year is akin to crashing a boat into a dock. But it has been a long time since I have seen “normal.”

The 2017-18 school year began with Hurricane Harvey and ended with me going on medical leave.

In the fall of 2018 I began my break from full time teaching and started subbing in two districts. In the spring, I accepted a long term subbing position, which was interrupted when a factory caught on fire. During the fire, I worked at Odyssey, where I was later hired as a behavioral interventionist for the next year.

I began my new position normally enough in the fall of 2019, and Iliana started attending school at Odyssey as well. Then came March 2020, which was anything but normal.

We began last year virtually, then had a week off for a hurricane that turned and missed us at the last minute. By September I was teaching full time again. The year was a weird combination of virtual and in-person teaching, with a two-week intermission when I finally caught the plague. At the end of the school year, I was offered my new position, which means that I began the year as an aide and ended the year as department lead.

And so, welcome to back-to-school 2021!

Last Hurrah: A Bike Riding Trip in Montrose

The last weekend before school started, we decided to get an Air BNB in Montrose. It was an adorable little historic apartment!

We packed our folding bikes and headed downtown, where we easily found the Buffalo Bayou trail.

Downtown had more businesses open, than they did on our spring break visit. However, there were more restrictions due to the Delta variant.

2. The “D” Word

It hadn’t surprised me that downtown was stricter, but then Ili and I decided to visit Armand Bayou nature center, once of our favorite woods-walking venues. It was beautiful…

But it surprised me that they had tight restrictions! Some made sense, like wearing a mask when you walk up to the payment window. But others seemed overly cautious for an outdoor place. It was starting to make me nervous.

Then our state entered into a weird battle over masks in schools. Our governor has banned schools from enacting mask mandates, but a local judge ordered one anyway and it was upheld in a higher court. Which means that the schools, who really have no interest in taking sides on political things like this, are strongly encouraging mask wearing.

Personally, I have mixed feelings on the whole thing. I am fully vaccinated and have had the virus, and I have researched the chances of me catching it again. It is a small enough risk, that I am willing to take it. I am definitely not going to stay home or change how I am living my life in a major way.

And yet, I kind of get the reasoning behind requiring the masks at school. Most of the students can’t get vaccinated yet, and kids are getting sick with the Delta variant. From what I have read, the chances of me being contagious are small, but we don’t know for sure which adults have been vaccinated, who has had the virus, etc. So I got myself a shield with pink glasses and created a rhinestone tiara above it! And Iliana got a new set of sequin masks.

While I understand the reasoning behind the masks, I am glad that school is being held in-person this year. There has been a very significant slide, both academically and emotionally, from the year and a half with no in-person instruction for a number of students. Right now, with what we know, I think the benefits of being in school definitely outweigh the risks. I will be glad when the children have an opportunity to be vaccinated.

3. Two Cute Iliana Stories

This has been a year of growing up for Iliana. We recently went to our storage unit and found a leopard print parka that Iliana enjoyed wearing for years. It doesn’t even come close to fitting her now! I asked Ili if she wanted to donate it, and she hesitantly agreed, although she wanted to take a picture of it first.

The next day, when my grocery delivery arrived, the young lady who brought them, surprised me with a bouquet of flowers that had been on clearance. On a hunch, I asked her if she had a little girl. She said yes, she had a 5-year-old. And it turns out that her daughter needed a new winter coat and loves leopard! So Iliana was delighted that her coat went to a good home, and she enjoyed the flowers in her room.

Iliana is loving school this year, and she is taking an extra science class, as well as attending science camp through NASA. She has dutifully studied her chemistry lessons every night, and on Friday her teacher excitedly told me that Ili had gotten 100% on her test! We celebrated with ice cream, of course!

Have a wonderful week, and I hope your fall is starting out well!

Family Fun, Health

Vacation Adventures (and One Misadventure)

An Early Start!

On the day that the calendar for Elijah’s Retreat opened, it filled up. I was not able to get us our usual spring break adventure, but I did book a few days for us in June.

Usually, we leave right after Rob gets out of work, make the 3 hour drive, and arrive late in the evening. This time, however, Rob had Thursday, the day we were scheduled to arrive, off of work. We decided to leave Wednesday night and stay at an Air BNB in Conroe, which would put us on the other side of Houston for the drive the next day.

We found the most elegant garage apartment I have ever seen!

Ili, of course, had to do her algebra class in the morning.

Off to Elijah’s!

As soon as algebra was over, we made the drive to Elijah’s. Rob and Ili flew balsa wood airplanes in the field by our cabin.

Iliana test drove a couple bikes.

Dinner was hot dogs over the campfire.

And of course I took a walk down my favorite trail!

Friday morning meant one more algebra class. Ili needed to go to the activity barn for wifi, so she settled in, in the sensory room.

Animal feeding time, of course, was a favorite!

It was, of course, beautiful everyday!

Saturday meant feeding the animals again.

Later on that day, Iliana treated us to her baked s’mores!

It was definitely different visiting this time, with Ili getting older. Iliana noticed that she didn’t get as excited about some of the activities, but she talked to Miss Cheryl, who showed her how to lead the horse and told her she can be a volunteer next time we visit, and help the other kids while they are horseback riding. Ili was excited about that and didn’t want to leave on Sunday.

And the Misadventure

We had a few misadventures during this trip as well. I enjoyed having the time to walk and get lots of steps in, and I did a lot of this walking while exploring the woods. After doing some exploring away from Elijah’s property, I came home and took a shower, only to find a tick on my belly. Disgustingly, ticks love my fatty skin, and they always freak me out. I have a lot of moles, but I always look very carefully for ticks. This one blended in surprisingly well and I almost missed it.

So yuck, but Rob was the hero and removed the gross, black bug. It looked like it had just gotten there, which was a good thing.

Then there were my eyes. On Friday at some point, my left eye got really itchy and red. By Saturday they were both red. I figured it was allergies and bought eye drops. They helped a little, then by the time we got home, my eyes were red and angry. I Googled it and decided they must be sunburned. They cleared after a couple days once I was home, although they stayed light sensitive and itchy.

Then there was the heat exhaustion. I have gotten heat exhaustion every year we have been in Texas, and my sore, sore muscles and inability to regulate my body temperature told me that I had done it again. However, this time was worse, as a day of rest did nothing to help. By Wednesday, after we were home, I was beyond exhausted. Wondering if I was dehydrated, I drank Poweraide, which helped a little. I went to bed early and still woke up tired and sore.

And still the allergies! I had the worst sinus headache.

The last straw was the ringworm. On my left hip was an angry red bump, with the telltale white circle and red circle around it. I bought some cream, and in the morning the outer circle was less red, the bump was brighter and angry, and the outer rash had grown a quarter of an inch larger. I put more ointment on it, because it had to be ringworm, right? Nothing else looks like it. How many other rashes look just like a…target?

Oh crap.

Over on my tummy, the tick bite had swollen up, looking just like the angry red bump in the middle of the “ringworm.” And a red circle was starting to spread around the bite.

After a text conversation with a dial-a-doc, complete with pictures sent, I had a prescription for 20 days’ worth of Doxycycline, which, interestingly enough, is also what our dog is taking for her heartworm treatment. So I will not have heartworms and the dog will not have Lyme disease!

Yes, Lyme can be every bit as scary as the Rona, however it has the wonderful feature of being treatable, especially early on. In fact, we will never know if it is Lyme or STARI, which is spread by the lone star tick and not nearly as dangerous. Whatever it is, it is getting nuked by the antibiotics before we even have time to see what it is!

So today I have had my first two doses, and I actually have the energy to write a blog post for the first time since we got home! I even did the dishes and took out the trash, which also had not happened. The angry bumps are less angry, and the bullseyes are barely there anymore.

I have decided to create a new drink, called “The 2021.” It will be a glass of Corona with a lime in it…

Family Fun

Summertime Fun!

In case you don’t live in Texas, I will tell you that you are looking at an armadillo. Our neighborhood is home to the most adorable armadillo family, and they like to greet us on most of our evening walks.

In addition to our new animal friends, we have more adventures to share with you this month:

Birthday Ceramic Painting

When I was pregnant, I didn’t want to find out the baby’s gender until they were born. My friend Jocelyn, however, had a dream that I had to leave her daughter’s second birthday party because I went into labor and had a baby girl.

I never made it to the birthday party, but our daughters do share a birthday! They have always been good friends, and we decided to take them out to paint ceramics shortly after their birthday.

Our adventures included shopping, and I found yet another pain of blingy jeans!

Iliana decided to end the day by baking some cookies, using the teenager cookbook my mom got her for her birthday.

One Last Ronavax Encounter

Okay, we’re a little done with rona in this house! Iliana got her last dose of Ronavax this month, so none of us have to worry about that virus eating our brain, ever again…

It wasn’t a school day, but she wanted to wear her school uniform anyway. I loved her choice of mask!

Iliana made sure to wear her Pride month visor that she made at camp back in April!

When we got home, we found a lazar tag set from her Uncle Chris and Aunt Kelly!

Shopping Trip and Another New Neighbor!

After meeting the armadillos, our dog, Jasmine, was happy to meet another friend on her walk.

Yes, Rob snuck a picture of me into the series!

Iliana has been formulating her own sense of style, especially in the summer when she does not have to wear her school uniform. She and I decided a trip to the mall was in order!

Ili decided that I could go to Forever 21, since I had been good! I found a peasant cropped top that made her roll her eyes…

Otherwise, Iliana is keeping herself busy with her summer algebra bridge class, which she is taking over Zoom. (Since she is going to be taking algebra for high school credit next year, she has to take this class over the summer). Luckily, she enjoys it!

And of course there is more cooking…

And trips to the dog park!

Alligator Camping!

Sometimes armadillos and turtles aren’t enough. Then it is time to spend a weekend at Brazos Bend State Park. Their mascot is an alligator, and the park map contains a section titled, “Alligator Etiquette.”

My parents joined us, in their new camper!

We had our usual accommodations…

I started my day with my usual celery juice.

And we had lots of adventures!

Iliana met a baby alligator and a snake.

We saw a poster explaining that a Jeep running over an armadillo is a part of the carbon cycle.

Oh, and did I mention that it was gorgeous?

So those were our adventures this past week! This next week will bring us a trip to Elijah’s Retreat, which will definitely be fun, relaxing, and welcome.

I hope you all are having a wonderful summer as well!

Family Fun

Ronavax for Ili, End of the School Year, and 14 Years of Awesomeness!

More Ronavax!

Ili is going to summer camp in July, and we received an email recently that said every camper needed to have either a positive antibody test, proof of vaccination, or a negative Rona test a week before attending camp. We thought it would be great to avoid the hassle of subjecting Ili to a nose test the week before camp, so we decided to take the easy route and do the antibody test. It was April, and all three of us had had the Rona back in March. Easy peasy, right?

Some research online indicated that CVS had antibody testing available, and the nearest place listed was in Friendswood, 20 minutes away. I scheduled an appointment with plenty of time to spare before yoga class that night, and we made the drive. After arriving early and killing time in the dollar store, we checked in, only to be told that the computer system was down so testing was not available that day.

After some online research and calling around, I learned that the CVS next to the school where I work (which is MUCH closer to home than Friendswood) offered testing, had a functioning computer system, and had an appointment available in 20 minutes. With just enough time to make the drive we arrived at the store.

After an uncomfortable finger prick, we filled the nurse in on Ili’s history while we waited for the test results. If you remember, Rob and I tested positive at the end of February. Ili tested negative on February 28, but a few days later she started showing mild symptoms (very low grade fever, muscle aches, fatigue). We called the school nurse, who said that it was our choice whether to get a test, but that a positive test would not change her required quarantine days or return date. We decided not to get a test but just assumed she had the virus. So she snuggled with us and we all chilled together.

Well, it turns out that Ili’s symptoms could have been caused by many things…but definitely not Covid.

The nurse said that there was absolutely no way she had Covid back in March, if her antibody test was negative so soon after. So back to the drawing board.

Luckily, I received an email two weeks ago, that vaccine appointments were available for kids ages 12 and up, and that slots were set aside for students at our school that very afternoon. Ili is usually fine with shots, but during that surprise appointment, it took three nurses to accomplish the mission. Now we’re good until dose #2 on Thursday.

End of the School Year

Well, we made it through the year of craziness! This was an especially emotional end of the year for a lot of the kids.

Iliana kept busy. She shared a poem during her class’s poetry slam, and she danced to “Bang” in the school talent show. Here she is, doing some sun salutations to warm up!

The end of the school year, of course, meant state testing. This year, it has been emphasized that the testing is mostly for our information, so that we can see how much students have fallen behind, due to the pandemic.

Well.

One morning, my boss couldn’t wait to talk to me, because Ili’s scores had come in. She had aced the math test, which was no surprise, because she has never not aced the math test. However, she also aced the reading test! So next year Iliana will be taking algebra and pre-AP English. We are very proud of her!

Iliana Turns 14!

The year Iliana was born, I worked right up to the last day of school, then went to the hospital the next evening (she was born 22 hours later!). So that means that every year, her birthday is always right before or right after the last day of school. This year, it was the day after.

We decorated our apartment for the occasion…

Iliana’s big present was Mario Kart Home edition!

And of course, we had to set the Roomba loose on the track!

Instead of a party, Ili wanted to do a weekend get-away at a hotel with a pool. So I found us a suite in the Energy Corridor. We swam, I went thrift shopping, and our high point was playing the Oregon trail card game!

But then of course this happened….

So happy summer everyone! I hope you are having a fun, dysentery-free Memorial weekend!

Family Fun

Ronavax, The Ring, and Happy Easter!

Good morning, folks!

I thought I would share some updates and pictures this week.

Ronavax

Rob and I decided that the vaccination rates would probably go up if they named the vaccine “Ronavax” and had a picture of a dead virus on the bottle.

Ronavax! It kills the rona dead.

So I got my second dose of Ronavax on Tuesday. The fun thing about having actually had the rona, is that they actually know very little about it. I have read that you probably have full immunity after one dose if you have had the virus already. And that you have a stronger reaction to the first dose than most people, because your body goes crazy making antibodies after the first dose.

I got my first dose on day 10, which in the rona world (for those who don’t know) if the first day out of quarantine. I couldn’t tell what symptoms were from the shot and which ones were just from me still feeling crappy from being sick. But I figured that was my big reaction, and shot #2 would be a piece of cake. Right?

Wrong. For me, shot #2 of the Ronavax was worse than having the rona (although much shorter lived). My temperature went crazy over night, just as it did with the rona, although a got a lot hotter. I woke up freezing, with a temperature of 97. My back and legs were on fire, and I knew that going to work was not going to happen. Lots of texts to my boss and my team, and then I headed off to yoga. (Yes, the nice thing about Ronavax is that the side effects are not contagious! I double-checked on CDC’s website, just to be sure).

Yoga, of course, helped with everything. I had some relief from my building brain fog, and I made it through class without any weird muscle twitching or tingling, which was another plus. Just like when I was sick (I did yin on videos then!), yoga bought me a couple of good hours to enjoy the sunny day.

Then I crashed. It was off to bed, but when I woke up, I felt no better. This was a difference from having the actual virus. When I was sick, I could sleep a couple hours, then have a couple of good, somewhat-alert hours before the next crash. This time, I slept all day, until I felt somewhat less crappy in the evening.

The next day the muscle aches were gone, but the twitching and tingling were still there, with a little brain fog. Two more yoga classes finally cured that!

So now I’m back to my normal post-rona self. I get tired a little easier, and if I allow myself to get too stressed, I crash. Otherwise, it is fine, as long as I keep my head on straight! I’ve started eating an anti-inflammatory meal plan, which has absolutely hit the spot. Lots of fish, nuts, and (my favorite!) berries. I’ve got to get myself into shape, because I have a feeling that real 5K’s are going to happen this summer, and I am determined to break 10 minute miles!

My tiara didn’t make it through the race!

The Ring

Back in 1999, Rob and I were 21. He was making $800 a month working at a grocery store, and I was a full time student, substitute teaching a few times a week for $65 a pop. Rob occupied his free time fixing up this 1979 Impala, which was the bane of my existence–mostly because I would much rather go on a date than watch him work on the car…again…

One day, the owner of a used mobile home lot came into the store, eager to rid herself of an engagement ring. Her ex-fiance had bought this ring from a discount store called Best that had since gone out of business. Fortunately, that same day, Rob found a buyer for the Impala. And double fortunately, the price he received for the Impala was also the asking price for the ring!

I didn’t know that he bought the ring, of course. All I knew was that the car was gone, which was already a win for me. And then, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Rob got down on one knee on the ice over Lake Huron, and the ring set off on its new–and more successful–adventure!

So we bought a mobile home from a used car lot (sadly, not the mobile home lot owned by the previous owner of the ring) for $1000, got it towed to a lake that no longer exists, and began our adventure together!

Fast forward 18 years and 60 pounds, and I found myself needing to have an MRI. All metal jewelry needed to be removed, and my ring was a little…um…stuck. I tried every trick in the book, but my finger just swelled up. Finally, our only option was to cut the ring off. We kept it safe, deciding that we would wait to get it repaired, until I reached my goal weight. Oddly enough, through numerous mess-ups in the medical bureaucracy, I never did have that MRI.

Well, even though I am currently 16 pounds above my goal weight, I am very close to the weight I was at my wedding! My size will not change significantly when I do get back to goal, so we decided it was time to get the ring fixed. The setting for the large diamond needed to be redone, and one of the small diamonds had fallen out and needed to be replaced. But the end result is that it looks better than new, and is quite happy to be back on my finger!

Happy Easter!

I spent a lot of money on Easter 2020. Life was really depressing at that time, we were still in lockdown, and the marina had decided that the bathrooms should only be open from 8:00am-8:00pm. (Because the rona can only spread at night? I don’t know.)

Iliana had 5 Easter baskets, I set up a whole snack spread for the day, and I insisted that we all get dressed up. Of course, it was not the magic I had been hoping for and was kind of depressing.

This year was much lower-key, as Easter usually is for us. And that was just fine. Yesterday, Iliana orchestrated a white elephant auction.

After that, it was time to decorate the eggs. I was much more into it than 13-year-old Iliana!

Following the egg decorating, it was time for the traditional drinking of the blue egg dye. Rob started doing this one year when his mom was still alive, in the hopes of shocking her…It was a rousing success and has been repeated every year since! Here is the picture from last year:

This year, we decided to make a video of the big event.

Of course, the bunny came overnight! There was one Easter basket this year, plus lots of hidden jelly bean eggs.

We concluded our day with a visit to my parents’ house. My mom tried to freak Ili out by eating her Easter grass (Ili did not know it was edible). However, Ili nonchalantly grabbed a handful and ate it herself!

It was a fun visit, and I was able to hug my parents for the first time in over a year!

Happy Easter to all who celebrate!

Family Fun

Week 3 (not really) Away from Facebook: Merry Christmas!

What a fun and crazy week!

This is the seventh Christmas that we have celebrated in Texas, and it was definitely the most fun.

We started out the week by dressing up, decorating our adult tricycle, and piling on it to look at the lights on Clear Lake Shores island. Of course we brought music and hot cocoa!

The next day, we allowed Iliana to open one present early!

At the last minute, I ordered Christmas cards! Then I made one special card, from our Roomba (named Jojo) to my yoga teacher’s Roomba (aka Big Ben). Big Ben appreciated the gesture!

We met up with my friend Jocelyn and her daughter, Ava, Iliana’s best friend, at the Shard Yard, where we made creations out of repurposed glass! It was a wonderful time, especially since we haven’t seen each other since March.

Christmas eve, we celebrated with my parents. My brother, Jon, cooked dinner…

Then we opened gifts…

And then we played a game where we unwrapped a ball of plastic wrap for prizes. It was a crazy fun time!

That night we had a visitor in our apartment! Good thing he wore a mask!

Ili and I wore our matching pajamas the next morning, but Rob had his own style…

I poured us the traditional mimosas (made from sparkling cider!).

Iliana was very excited to find a pair of heelies under the tree!

And we had great fun digging into the mountain of other gifts!

Rob and I took my new camera out to the walking trails later in the day…

And I was treated to a breathtaking sunset that evening!

I hope your holidays were equally as magical! Here’s wishing you the best for the end of such a crazy year!

Family Fun

Week 1 Away from Facebook: Christmas Prep

Wow, so it is Sunday already…

It has been strange being away from Facebook. I have gone off of social media before, but this time I can definitely see how I was using it to numb emotions. And going back to teaching, during a global pandemic, can definitely cause one to have many emotions to numb! I am grateful for my yoga practice and working on sitting with emotions, rather than trying so hard to escape them.

One thing that I have really noticed is that I am becoming more focused on solutions and less defensive. I have been thinking of ways to meet my own needs while still looking out for everyone else. Being away from the polarized environment of social media has led me to begin to stop feeling guilty about taking care of myself, which has in turn led me to get out of the tunnel and stop being so focused on my own needs.

Once we put on our own oxygen mask, we can think more clearly to help those around us.

While it would be a lie to say that our lives have been stress-free, we definitely have been having fun getting ready for the holidays! This will be our eighth Christmas in Texas, so we have had many years of celebrating with just us and my immediate family. While we were sad to have to cancel out on some of our friends and miss out on work and marina parties, overall, we have had to make very few adjustments due to social distancing.

We began the week by getting matching pajamas!

We make a cookie house every years, and I found a pre-assembled one that took the stress out of the project!

We made hot cocoa cookies…

Iliana sang in the school choir! They recorded their performance and wore matching Christmas masks. Ili sings alto, like her grandma.

Iliana has been counting down the days with her advent calendar….

And doing puzzles!

And our week ended, of course, with us buying a piano! Getting it up into our upstairs apartment was an adventure!

So that has been our week! We are now in the last week before Christmas break!

How has your holiday prep been going? Let me know in the comments!

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…

 

 

Frugal Living

Mommy-Daughter Beauty “Date”

Today I shall tell you a shory about hair.

I really like my hair.  When I’ve liked nothing else about my body, I liked my hair.  It’s thick, baby-fine, and super soft.  It doesn’t like to curl in the humidity, but it otherwise behaves well with minimal maintenance.

Before I moved to Texas, my hair looked like this:

before

The very day this picture was taken, I had decided that, since I had an impending job change, I should have short hair, in order to have a more commanding presence.  I had a great stylist in Michigan, and she did this for me:

after

After moving to Texas, I wanted to continue with that look, so I went about the gruelling work of finding a salon.  Most salons where we lived initially, could not deal with short hair.  So I eventually walked in to a TCF.  The stylist attempted to cut my hair dry, but was surprised at how thick it is.  She kept spraying it with a squirt bottle and saying, “My lady, my lady!”  I wanted it no shorter than chin length, but she ended up having to go shorter, in order to even it up.  The end result added 20 pounds to my face and looked like it had been cut by a lawn mower.

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So I grew it out.  And then dyed it red.  Then candy apple red.  Then I started wearing pigtails and hair flowers.  And finally dyed it pink.

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Last fall, I decided that I needed to grow up and be more professional.  So I stripped out all the red and pink, which caused damage that still persists to this day.  And I found a nice salon, where my stylist gave me a proper bob.

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I dyed it ash, and we were good to go!

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I returned to this stylist a few times, to recreate the magic, then I found a nearby salon that could do the same.  Then, I quit my job and money was tighter than it had been.  It was then that I started investigating beauty colleges.

I had gotten my hair cut at a beauty college a few times in Michigan, with meh results.  But I wondered what would happen, if I were very specific with the student stylists?  And at least the teacher would not let me walk out with the TCF fiasco!

I researched, and found some beauty schools that were cheaper than upscale salons, but too much, in my book.  Then I found a salon at the local community college.  $8 for a haircut, $13 for cut and style, and $18 for more advanced styling.  Definitely worth a try!

I was paired with a student named Alexis, and she artistically created a beautiful bob!  I asked when she would be in school again, and made a follow-up appointment.  Unfortunately, after that, she flew away and I would have to meet a new student.  I made an appointment anyway.

Happily, I am not the only one on Loco Lobo who likes hair.  Iliana has decided that she might want to be a hair stylist when she grows up.  I thought it would be fun to schedule appointments for both of us, with students whose stations were near each other.  So today I picked her up from day camp early, to do just that.

Ili was really excited when we arrived on campus, and she declared, “This is my future!”

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She excitedly pushed the elevator buttons…

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And waited patiently while I signed us in!

Her stylist was Miss Tanya.

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She enjoyed getting shampooed!

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And we both loved our results!  Kudos to our star stylists!

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Here I am with my stylist, Keira, who rocked the bob!

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Iliana took that picture, by the way.

And after our day of beauty, I took Iliana to Barnes and Noble to pick up a book she has been desperately wanting.  Yes, she wants a book!  Today was wins all around!

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And now, a take-away!

Tips for Becoming Beautiful at a Beauty College Salon

 1.  Bring a picture.

Find the picture that is very close to what you want.  If you want a haircut replicated, take a picture of your previous cut and bring it.  Today, I thought I was getting Alexis, so I did not bring a picture, but fortunately the teacher looked up pictures on Pintrest and had me choose the front and back pics that were the closest to what I wanted.

2.  Be very specific about what you want.

Learn the lingo.  Do you want a blunt cut?  An angled bob?  Look online and learn the right terminology, and your experience will be easier.  I got an angled bob, with the front no shorter than chin length, with the back textured.

3.  Shop around.

A haircut at the Paul Mitchell school in our area is $14-$18, which is much better than the $30 I was paying at my salon.  However, more research led me to discover that a haircut at the local community college was only $8.

4.  Give feedback during the process.

If you are not happy with the way things are going, speak up, before you end up with a haircut you don’t like.  I like my hair very short in the back, so I will let my stylist know that she can cut it shorter.  It’s a lot easier for the stylist to fix things early in the game, and they can even call the teacher over to help get things back on track.

5.  Get to know the teacher.

The teacher at this salon knows my haircut, so she can help the stylist get started with it.  She is also more able to give feedback throughout the process, because she is familiar with what I want.

6.  “Splurge” on extras!

When the haircut is only $8, why not get it styled too?  This time I got it blow dried and curled with a flat iron, for a total cost of $13.  Last time, I got it curled into fun, bouncy ringlets for $18.

7.  Be a generous tipper.

Remember, these are college students who are probably living off of Spaghetti-O’s.  I tip 25%-ish, but never less than $5.  And it’s still way cheaper than a salon.