Nov 29, 2010

Shutterfly Rocks!

I love Shutterfly! I've ordered cards, mugs and gifts from them for years. They always have great discounts and incentives and the final product is always superior. After ordering my Christmas cards (see sneak peek on the right) I got a great offer to receive $25.00 off on my next purchase if I post our card on my blog. Who can beat that? I still have more mugs to order...and photo books.... fa la la la la la la la la.....

Washington Oaks Gardens State Park

Ok. Seriously folks. You didn't think you were off the hook with just a few vacation photos did you?

In the olden days when The Genius and The Artist (here we go again...) were young and we were on the way home from our trips to St. Augustine where we mostly shopped and ate our way through old town, we would often drive along route A1A. It was during these times that we discovered places like Washington Oaks Gardens State Park.

Times that bored The Genius and The Artist to tears.

Now it's one of The Artists favorite places. Sweet vacation maternal justification!

Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Matanzas River, this property was once owned by a distant relative of President George Washington. In 1936, the land known today as Washington Oaks Gardens State Park was bought and given to Louise Powis Clark by her husband Mr. Owen D. Young. Clark was a designer from New York and Young was an attorney and industrialist who had been chairman of the board of General Electric Corporation and RCA. He was named 1929 Time Magazine "Man of the Year." The house, built in 1938, became a winter retirement home for Clark and Young.

Must be nice to have that kind of moola.

Mrs. Young donated the property to the state of Florida in 1964 following the death of Mr. Young.

Live oak trees like the one below are estimated to be between 200 and 300 years old and have withstood the test of time, hurricanes...

and small boys.

American Indians once used the water's edge as a rich food source. Now days the waters edge is a paradise for family exploration. We hiked the Mala Campra trail on Thanksgiving Day. The Mala Compra hiking loop is a one half mile (.5 mile) loop that explores the ecozone between the coastal maritime hammock and the estuarine tidal marsh along the Matanzas River.

Treasures of the tidal marsh abounded like this skeleton of the Crucifix Fish:

Raccoon tracks and river water. What more could anyone ask for?

How about "The Secret Garden" discovered by The Teenager.
I was tickled when she was jumping for joy by her discovery and actually associated the scene before her with one of her favorite books.

"Can I go in? Can I go in?" She was so excited!

The Boy, who prefers animal scat to literature found his own amusement in the secret garden:

At the end of the day we weren't terribly hard for the park ranger to locate. After all, we were the only car in the lot at dusk when he scurried us along.

I spent a lot of time while watching the Secret Pepper Family explore Washington Oaks pondering how we really do it all wrong most of the time on vacations. Yes, I love Disney as much as the next person but there is so much more to life than paying a monetary fortune to be amused for a few hours.

When you ask The Boy what his favorite part of the vacation was he replies, "The jungle." Jungle...tidal marsh....close enough.

When you ask The Teenager? "The Beach."

Just don't ask The Baby.

Get me out of this bug infested swamp. N-O-W!

She may be the one Pepper family member to prefer Disney over the call of the wild.

If you are ever in St. Augustine do yourself a favor and skip the touristy St. George Street and head out to one of the many beautiful state parks in the area.

You'll be glad you did!

Blogger Templates

Nov 28, 2010

St. Augustine Thanksgiving

One of my favorite destinations in Florida has always been St. Augustine. Since The Artist lives there now it only seemed fitting to plan an invasion visit. She was gracious enough to accommodate us.

On the 2nd day she asked, "Is it 5 pm yet? Time for a glass of wine?" Um, no. It's 10:00 am.

On the 3rd day of our visit her friend from work called and asked her if she'd like to join him and some friends at a local restaurant after "the family" was tucked in for the night. She informed him she was exhausted. "But it's only 9:30 pm?" he laughed.

On the 4th day she stated, "I never realized how quiet my life was until..." And then she drifted off. Mentally.

People who glimpse snippets of my life ask me why I don't get away more often. I believe that's obvious, don't you? Besides lack of available cash and refusal to charge
anything there's this reason:

Here is one musical instrument I will never be encouraging The Boy to play

and this reason:

The teenager discovers she prefers the Gulf Of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Too cold! Too cold!

and this reason:

We discover on this trip that The Baby hates everything to do with "nature."

And the giant, hairy reason on the left:

The Artist with Vanna White and Abigail

It was a lot easier in the olden days when The Genius and The Artist were young and I drug them off to St. Augustine. There was no need for wheelchairs, high chairs, emergency splinting material, pain medication for fractures, seizure medication, diapers, medical records, special food (human and canine) or a giant dog crate.

Before this current group of rug rats I had a little red sports car which I adored. Now I have a van. This week it was packed to the ceiling and on either side like a big, white, sardine can. On occasion it smelled like one as well.

When The Artist and The Genius were younger we listened to music on our road trips. This week we listened to Christmas carols played by The Boy's arm pit farting which continued during our entire visit driving The Artist to the brink of insanity.

"You don't suppose this is some kind of weird tic do you?" inquired The Artist.

Days after that question I am still laughing out loud. I can't get the mental image of The Boy's wedding day out of my head.

"I do....pppffffffttttttt!"

I informed The Artist my ONE goal for this week was to get a family photo for our annual Christmas card. Because she is, well, an artist she agreed to do the photo shoot as one of her (many) artistic talents is photography.

I believe this was the winner:

The only thing accomplished by my relentless desire for a family Christmas photo was that The Baby learned a new word which she is repeating over and over. Couple this with the arm pit farting and we have a weird kind of vacation rap thing going on in our house:

PFFFFT! Cheese! PPFFFT! Cheese! PPFFFT! Cheese! PPFFFT!

Is it 5 pm yet?

Blogger Templates

Nov 22, 2010

Driving Miss Dasiy?

Photo from Google Images

I went back to work today. Because we are planning a trip for Thanksgiving to visit The Artist, Popi, my 90 year old dad took my car in to the garage since I have never been back to get my dirty transmission fluid flushed. Whatever that means.

Yes, Popi will be 91 in 2 months and is still driving. And yes, he is still sane alert. And yes, he still does manual labor. Construction. Tree climbing. Yard work.

How did this hard drinking, red meat consuming, cholesterol clogged, Pearl Harbor, Battle of Midway survivor, type A, obsessive-compulsive perfectionist make it this long? Is there no accounting for life style anymore? Here I am Ms. Organic and I can hardly walk. The arthritis in my foot is so bad the orthopedic surgeon informed me I need an artificial joint. I am one day away from being one of those little old ladies who wears those beige orthopedic shoes with a big ragged hole cut out of the side to accommodate their giant "bunion."

I mean seriously people. I. Just. Don't. Get. It.

So I borrow Popi's car for work while he takes mine to the garage. Picture this...

I can't adjust his car seat so my knees are resting on the dashboard. I am much taller than my father, obviously.

I can't get the windows to roll up so I'm riding down the interstate with all four windows down. People are passing me and staring. A receipt blows into the car. An aluminum can from a truck just misses my head.

Why exactly did I hot roller my hair this morning?

I keep realizing I'm going 80 mph in this powerful little car but that's ok because my father has a "fuzz buster" installed since he likes to go on road trips and he never abides by rules of any kind.

He sits with the seat so far back I feel like I'm in a Lazy Boy recliner. I can't adjust it so I have to ride to work in this manner. As I explain to my clients from Trinidad on my second stop that this is my father's car they exclaim, "He drives like a teenager, mon!'

I have to remove his panoramic rear view mirror because it's making my Menieres' go berserk. I feel nauseous.

I arrive at my first clients home. We've known each other a very long time. She tells it like it is. I realized there must be someone else in the house when she politely looked at me and states, "You look a little windblown." I was correct. She had a visitor. The Guardian Ad Litem for one of her foster children was present.

Because her normal response upon seeing me would have been...

"What the hell happened to you?"

After work I gladly returned Popi's car informing him only of the window issue.

"You need to work these things out BEFORE you get on the road."

I could have pounced on him and pounded him into the ground.
But I let it go.

I am no match for this man.
Blogger Templates

Nov 20, 2010

Considering The Lilies

My new living room

I dwell in a pink and white, shabby and chic mindset. My favorite magazines are Romantic Homes and Romantic Country. I am drawn like a moth to a candle to frilly, lacy fabrics in impractical white's or ecru's. I love china with rose patterns. I like candle light and fresh flowers in crystal vases. If I had money I'd be armed and dangerous in a Rachel Ashwell aisle.

However, I have three children, an emotionally disturbed cat, an enormous fluffy dog who has a wee wee behavioral problem, a three-legged frog and a kuhli loach. There is nothing , I repeat NOTHING frou-frou about the critters I dwell with.

When the cat peed on the arm of the love seat (no, never before!) call it a road to Damascus revelation or a gestalt shift. Call it anything you like. All I know is that I looked around my bare naked living room and suddenly realized something.

I liked it. I liked it a lot.

Two of the most beautiful memories of my fairly uninteresting life were touring Lancaster County Amish farmland and the Hancock Shaker Village in Massachusetts.

There is exquisite beauty in simplicity.

Jesus knew this. You'd probably never know this unless you study His words as He's been given a bad rap by too many over the years but if He dwelt on earth today He would probably be embraced as the numero uno guru of today's minimalistic movement.

Case in point: "Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these."

How true.

The words of the Shaker hymn Simple Gifts have been swirling around in my newly minimalistic head all week. It was a relatively unknown song written by Shaker Elder Joseph in 1848 until Aaron Copland introduced it to the world in his musical score for Martha Grahams ballet, Appalachian Spring, first performed in 1944.

Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain'd,
To bow and to bend we shan't be asham'd,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come round right.

The Shakers were known for their taking in of orphaned children, celibacy and simplicity. Heck. I'm already two-thirds of the way there in my current life style.

I do believe I may be coming around right.

To listen to the song go here

Blogger Templates

Nov 18, 2010

How Was Your Week?

The week in brief:
1.) I was finally able to shampoo the barf out of The Baby's hair since she was feeling better and discharged from the hospital on Friday. When i was done braiding it I was startled by the colored balls and barrettes I had chosen. Reds, greens, tangerines and yellows. Obviously, I had needed a color pick-me-up after our drab hospital week from hell. She looked embarrassingly like Carmen Miranda.

It wasn't until The Teenager gave her a peck on the cheek on her way out to lunch with Iris that my suspicions were confirmed. "
Goodbye my little fruit bowl head."

2.) We spent Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday in a disgusted pediatricians office getting I.M. Rocephin for the crackles in The Baby's lungs and infected ears on all three days. Yes, still! When I asked her about Acidophilus she replied, "
I AM VERY HOLISTIC." A two fisted M.D with a syringe in one hand that cures everything from Syphilis to lung crackles and Spirulena in the other hand. God, I love this women.

She wants us back in one week. I'm hoping to be out of town.
3.) The Teenager had a dental appointment today. I would have canceled it due to my illness but it would take 6 months to get another appointment. We went. " Mom! No, cavalries!" Thank God for that, dances with wolves.

Photo from Google Images
After a quick mystery lunch at the hospital we headed next to the eye doctor for The Baby's eye exam. I would have canceled it due to my illness but it would take another 4 months to get an appointment. The Baby is slightly nearsighted. Aren't we all? After holding her down with all of our might and prying her eyelids open while she fought maniacally (as usual) the eye doctor said she looked great. Being on oxygen last week no longer a concern for her preemie eyes as she is well past her due date. Follow-up in two years.

4.) I have come to the conclusion that parental illness is a luxury.

5.) We attended The Boy's Thanksgiving festivities at school. I called Mrs. M to ask if there was food involved since The Baby and I had been on the road all day. "Food involved for what?" she asked innocently. Her daughter, like The Boy, does not bring home notices from school and she had no idea today was the day for the Thanksgiving school program.

We met at the school and enjoyed the parade of students bearing gifts of canned food and packages of rice to baskets for the needy. I noticed three of those baskets had been donated by me and obtained at the Weigh n' Pay and Freecycle. I was cracking up until Mrs. M's son got a horrific nose bleed. "Pinch his nostrils together" I hiss-pered. The nurse in me always becomes bossy especially when there is blood involved.

"I can't breathe I can't breathe!"

So much for mouth breathing. Exit Mrs. M and one bloody, anoxic toddler. She returned later asking me if I was done with our Burger King Bag. Why? "I want to put our bloody tissues in it."


There is nothing more affirming than being with the moms of other children with special needs. When one mom was told she would be able to take her son home early she informed the teacher, "Not until you give him his 2 PM behavior medication." I had to laugh. I felt renewed.

Tomorrow we have nothing scheduled. I know. I know. I can hardly believe it myself.

Tonight I received a phone call from a dad of a foster child that lived with us years ago. We still keep in touch. I sat on the only piece of furniture remaining in my living room and began sniff, sniff, sniffing something. Someone had peed on the love seat.


The Boy and I drug the love seat out back. I phoned my neighbor and asked him to haul it away.

I have come to the conclusion that furniture is over rated.

From this day forward I am going Shaker-style.

But maybe not as elaborate as the above photo.
Blogger Templates

Nov 15, 2010

I'm Done

Follow-up at the Pediatricians office today who was not happy with the fact that the hospital gave one dose of Rocephin in the emergency room and never followed through. I questioned them numerous times receiving answers like, "One dose will do it," to "it's viral." They did come after me on three separate occasions mentioning they would give her the flu shot while in-patient but I refused figuring RSV, a 103 temp for 7 days and having to be on oxygen was enough stress for one week.

Now, ten days later The Baby still has an ear infection. Today she was given an injection of Rocehpin. When I asked about the flu shot the pediatrician said, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!
" Back tomorrow for a third shot of Rocephin.

Well allrighty then.

Even as a very old seasoned pediatric nurse it's hard to know who to listen to in times like this.

Now...I've got it. Sore throat started days ago. Congested. Feeling awful.

Just canceled tomorrows clients and that will be 2 weeks without pay. Looks like we're going to have a slim pickens Christmas as there is no time or energy for even handmade at this juncture. Good thing I did some shopping earlier in the year.

I have no strength to clean so my house would probably make me a candidate to audition for Hoarders.

After the Pediatrician I went to the fruit stand and to the grocery store. This was the baby's first outing in over 10 days. You could see the life draining out of her at our second stop. Home for lunch but she was un-glued at this point throwing her bowl of food at me. Nap time.

Times like this when you're weary to the bone you tend to lose sight of your blessings. It's often difficult to see them clearly through the fatigue, funky finances and snot fog.

This keeps me grounded.

And this.

And this.

And the knowledge that we live in a country where we probably won't die any time soon from dehydration, simple diarrhea or a wicked virus helps a lot as well.
Blogger Templates

Nov 14, 2010

Putrid Pets And Jabber Jaw Gnats

After this week I needed a good chuckle. My fascination for Engrish never lets me down.

Nothing worse than a hyperactive monkey. What IS that smell?

Mystery stank solved. Don't anyone light a match:

Exactly what is it with this fart obsession?

I mean even the humans appear fixated on fumes! BTW, don't ask this guy to be your prom date:

This gives new meaning to the mom mantra, "Please wash your hands with soap and water. Lord knows where that finger has been":

I know. I know. Everyone loves a wormy beagle:

I wonder if the parasitic infestation has an impact on his law practice, though?

I haven't decided which is worse? Worms? Flatulence? Or those blasted chattering winter gnats:

Next week. Children's clothes.
Blogger Templates

Nov 13, 2010

Of Seizures And Wheezers And Heads Beating Like A Drum

I wonder what happens if I pull this cable?

Thursday morning when I walked in to the hospital The Baby greeted me with a big smile. The first smile in 7 days. She was obviously feeling better as evidenced by the photo above of her yanking on every wire and cable in her hospital bed. She was also dangling over the edge head first on a few occasions. I grabbed Nurse G in the hall way and informed her it was time to put The Baby in a crib. The Genius had spent the night with her on Wednesday but on Thursday night The Baby would be going it alone. If she was indeed, feeling better she would never stay in the above bed.

Thursday afternoon the fever spiked again and the smile vanished. Seven relentless days of high temperatures.

The Genius saved the day and volunteered to spend the night again on Thursday. When I arrived on Friday morning I was greeted by this crib:

Zipped in on all four sides, The Baby was pissed. I prefer to keep this blog rated G even though at times I'm thinking R-rated thoughts but pissed sums up her attitude so nicely.

And then it occurred to me. Why this looks just like Cinderella's carriage! I love your Cinderella carriage!

Surprisingly, she bought it. Problem solved.

Still not eating or drinking The Genius struggled with The Baby the entire night on Thursday and with help from the nurse was able to get about 3 teaspoons of juice in The Baby. It had been 7 full days without one bite of food. Her only source of fluid was her 50cc/hr continuous IV.

The Genius arranged the bed chair to face The Baby Thursday night. This is the scene she awoke to:

Ah, what a sweet picture I commented to The Genius. Yeah? Check out the finger. "I think this sums up her current attitude towards me trying to get her to drink last night," replied The Genius.


After the medical team made rounds expressing concerns to The Genius about The Baby's lack of fluid or food intake I arrived armed with Pomegranate applesauce, organic yogurt, organic oatmeal I had cooked that morning and an organic banana smoothie. The genius brought up fresh blueberries, cantaloupe and honeydew melon from the cafeteria. The Baby downed it all. I mean think about it people. When you have refined taste buds like The Baby do you really think you would ingest hospital food? gag.

Fortunately, Dr. Friendly, a physician I have known for years, arrived to listen to The Baby obviously following up on his little medical student ducklings. We discussed The Baby's highly evolved palate. Favorite foods being Indian Curry and stir fried tofu from our favorite spicy Thai restaurant. Oh, and McDonald's french fries. (I mean who in their right mind does not like those salty, greasy, hot little bundles of artery clogging tater strings?)

I informed Dr. Friendly that at this point the aversion to fluids was purely behavioral having spent enough sick days with this pint sized twerp to recognize sick vs mule headed.

It's not what you know. It's who you know. Dr. Friendly (still chuckling over the curry) told me I knew where they were if we got in trouble at home and penned the discharge orders.We were home by noon.

Today The Boy has a fever of 101.4. I have the sore throat from hell and am honking green snot.
The Genius is vomiting. At 4:42 AM I awake to The Teenager crying out on the baby monitor.


Because it only lasted two minutes I did not have to break out the Valium rectal rocket.
While I'm sitting next to her waiting out the seizure, The Baby instantly needs a nebulizer treatment. I am up and down the stairs for one hour.

This morning, The Teenager wakes up and yells, "When I have a seizure my head beats like a drum the next day."

"Oh...did you have a seizure last night?" I ask innocently.


I dish out Motrin to the entire family like M and M's.

Home Sweet Home!

Blogger Templates

Nov 10, 2010


Yes, The Baby is in there somewhere.

Friday The Baby
developed a temperature which continued over the weekend. On Monday morning I took her to her pediatrician who diagnosed an ear infection but when she began vomiting I knew I was defeated keeping her hydrated so off to the emergency room on Tuesday morning.

Emergency room medicine seems to be a lot different than it used to be. Instead of running a CBC and Chemistry Panel they did what they call a GEM which is actually the name of the machine that analyzes blood gases and electrolytes. In spite of a 103-104 temp for 5 days and vomiting the electrolytes came back within normal limits. I was also informed the chest x-ray was normal and they planned on sending her home without admitting her if she could keep Pedialyte down. She hadn't eaten since dinner on Friday and at this point was already looking skeletal.

Fortunately, she did not keep Pedialyte down. Why fortunately? Because after 10 hours in the ER we were transferred up to the floor where she immediately crashed. Oxygen saturation's plummeted from 100% to 89 % and oxygen was started. A nasal swab was done for RSV and came back positive. One of the nurses spilled the beans unknowingly. The chest x-ray showed atelectasis. It was not "normal" after all. I can't imagine what would have happened had we gone home.

RSV is a very common virus and is a leading cause of lower respiratory symptoms in the general population but can be deadly among the medically complex child and especially high risk preemies. There is absolutely nothing you can do but supportive care, i.e., oxygen and IV fluids.
This is the crazy maker. Moms always want that quick fix.

Thanks to a wonderful support system and good friends Mrs. M and Iris I was able to stay at bedside with The Baby until around 8PM tonight. The Genius came after work and is spending the rest of the night at the hospital while I tend to the older kids who are traumatized by The Baby's absence. I am adamant that every patient no matter how old or young should have an advocate at the bedside at all times, especially when that patient can't speak for themselves.
The Genius and The Artist have always been available to camp out at the hospital with their adopted siblings, foster siblings and grandmother during times of illness and hospitalizations.

I worry least about The Boy who is and always has been quite outspoken. On the few times I had to leave him he has not hesitated to call me and tattle on nurses. I'll never forget one nurse begging him to take some pain medication after one of his many surgeries. There he lay in his hospital bed, legs crossed, arms under his head obviously annoyed that his tv program was being interrupted by this well meaning Florence Nightingale. "NO THANK YOU! Just bring me coffee and bacon." He was 3 years old.

The hospital staff keeps reassuring me. Day #5 and day #6 are the absolute worse with RSV. "It will get better." Tonight when I left her temp was 103.2

Tomorrow is Day #7.

Please keep The Baby in your prayers.

There is a bright note. The new hospital is a thing of absolute beauty compared to the crowded conditions of the old hospital. Private rooms. Two beds for parents. Tv for the patient and an individual tv for the parent. Refrigerator. Room service. Valet parking. And beautiful views from giant picture windows. Brasilia summed it up nicely for me.

"Enjoy yourself. This will be the closest you ever get to a five star resort."

Nov 7, 2010


I love reading other blogs. It seems that many of them have chosen certain days to blog the same catchy creative features each week. Wordless Wednesday, Haiku Thursday and Friday Featured Product of the Week come to mind. I'm sure there are many others that are equally as interesting and creative.

What about Engrish Sunday? Nothing says funny like the errors made in Japanese advertising written in English Engrish. And while we all sit facing having to go back to work on Monday wouldn't a little Sunday evening pick me up be nice?

Because I've been contemplating joining Weight Watchers this week I was particularly attracted to the following Engrish food adds:

Of course I couldn't give this to The Baby because it contains gluten but it does sound oh so tempting

Is this a blackened chicken on Oxycontin?

MMM! This sounds light and fluffy!

What's for dinner, Mommy? Why, fried horse crap with lime and a nice salad, kids. You can even put the leftovers in your Bento box tomorrow for school. This would go over well with The Boy who has to smell everything before he touches it.

And aren't fries everyone's dream? I know they're mine. That's why I'm contemplating joining Weight Watchers this week.

So what about it? Engrish Sunday? What topics would you like to see featured in the world of Japanese advertising next Sunday? How about fashion?