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The Gift that Keeps on Giving

Should you be prone to Squeemish, you might want to skip this one. You know how I live for a good vomit story. Consider yourself warned.  The following is a post from December, 2009.  In an interesting twist of irony, we’re heading for the cabins again, just prior to Christmas.  Let’s hope that history does not repeat.


Since we all spent Thanksgiving quarantined because of the plague, we thought we’d continue the tradition and contract a stomach flu the week of Christmas.

Which is awesome timing, really.

The trouble began last Friday, when we were to depart from Fort Wilderness at WDW.  Jensen woke up puking at about 4:30 am.  And it continued while we packed up and for the entire 75 minute ride home.

We had taken the middle seats out of the van to house ALL THE CRAP that one needs for camping for 5 people for 5 days.

And by camping I mean that we stayed in a cabin that had running water, AC and heating, cable, a dishwasher, microwave, full fridge, stove, and most importantly a coffee maker.

Oh.  And internet connection.

Anyhoo.  Jensen had to endure the ride home in the back seat sandwiched between two sisters.  Who are not fond of vomit.  And the two sisters had to administer aid to a little brother by holding the throw up bucket (a rubber maid container that could be sealed for freshness), and handing out wet wipes to clean a small boy’s mouth when finished.

He threw up the entire way home.

The girls rose to the challenge, and other than turning green, they did a fabulous job.

A Christmas miracle.

We thought he had contracted food poisoning. Until I threw up that night.  But I seemed to be okay on Saturday, and chalked it up to a sympathy vomit.

But by Saturday night, I hit the floor.

I was sick all night.

And because misery loves company, Cailey came into our room at 4 am announcing that she threw up in her bed.

She lives on the top bunk.

She was covered from the top of her strawberry blonde head to the tips of her fairy pajamas. This was a two parent job, so I rose to the occasion and got Cailey into the bath, while Fiddledaddy took care of the top bunk.

I didn’t even want to know what THAT was like.  I do know that Fiddledaddy got acquainted with Mr. Washing Machine in a hurry.

Since Cailey has a twin sized sleep number bed, and it is light, Fiddledaddy set it up in the family room for her.  It is much easier to vomit over the side if you are closer to the ground.  And you don’t have to worry about hitting an older sister who sleeps below you.  Just sayin’.

She then threw up all the next day.  Sunday was a bad bad day in the House of Fiddle.  Fiddledaddy was our primary care giver, and when he started to feel ill, drastic measures were called for.

He loaded us all into the van and we headed for the Urgent Care facility.  They know us my name.  My sweet SIL met us there, and kept Jensen and Emme in their van to watch a movie.  Emme kept everyone entertained with vomit stories until Jensen announced that he wasn’t feeling good, so the vomit stories had to come to an abrupt end.

We were diagnosed with a stomach virus, and had to ride it out.  Shoot me.  Literally.  When the doctor offered me a shot of something that would bring about a merciful end to the nausea, I leaped up and dropped my drawers.

This is important because I am not a fan of The Needle.  My father loves to tell the story of how it once took one doctor, three nurses, and two exasperated parents to hold me down for a shot.

Cailey wanted nothing to do with the shot.  And she’s even more strong willed than I EVER was, so the parents didn’t have the strength to restrain her.

WE’LL TAKE THE SUPPOSITORY FOR THAT CHILD. (Sometimes revenge is sweet.)

By nightfall, Fiddledaddy was in full STOMACH FLU mode, and I was loopy from the shot.  It’s a wonder we made it through the night.  Oh, and Jensen threw up once more for good measure.  I suspect he was reliving Emme’s vomit stories from earlier in the day.

I haven’t even seen Fiddledaddy yet this morning.  He hasn’t emerged from the infirmary our room yet.  Not a good sign.

I’m actually able to lift my arms to the keyboard, so I think I’ve turned a corner.

And the children are bickering and threatening to vomit on one another as a new fun means of torture, so I think they’re on the mend.

On the bright side, Christmas is a time for celebrating the birth of Christ.  And family togetherness.  And this family is all about TOGETHERNESS this week.

The Stomach Flu, it is the gift that keeps on giving.


Where there’s a will…

Jensen is still on lizard restriction.  It’s been a long long 3 months.  The biggest reason for this harsh punishment (besides the greatly reduced lizard population that we feel is necessary for bug control in our backyard) is that Jensen often has open sores on his hands.  This is a result of his Atopic Dermatitis.  He has come a long long way, and for the most part, his skin is under control.  But the hands have taken the brunt of the affliction, as he has a hard time not picking at the skin when it begins to heal.

His dermatologist issued the edict “no handling of lizards, snakes, bugs, frogs, and alligators.”  We are simply the messengers.  And the enforcers.

We went camping with dear friends to celebrate Emme’s 15th birthday last week.  This is our first time camping since All The Florida Hot and since Lizard Restriction.  Jensen has one of his best buddies with him to do his bidding.  Jensen located the creatures.  His buddy did the capturing.

Jensen did find a way to enjoy the fruits of his labor up close and personal.  I wanted to share the experience with you.



I would also like to report that I left my frozen cocktails at home in the freezer.  Special thanks to Michelle for bringing extra and for the Fort Wilderness snack bar for serving a delightful concoction for a mere $8.25.  WORTH IT.


Camping Hacks

Since Pinterest is my friend, I learned a few new tricks for our longer-than-usual camping extravaganza.  My biggest concern was giving my family botulism from food gone bad on day 5 or 6.  The whole “cooking 3 meals a day for 8 days for 5 people” weighed heavily on me.  OH.  And what luck!  We had decided to all go Gluten Free a couple of weeks prior to camping.  And by “we”, I mean Fiddledaddy, who happened to watch an episode of Dr. Oz on the benefits of gluten free living.

In all honesty, though, as much as I avoid Dr. Oz, I am suppose to be GF because of my Lyme Disease, and I knew it would help Jensen’s Atopic Dermatitis.  And then there’s the teenager and the tween and all the HORMONE SHIFTS.  Perhaps, I reasoned, going GF would put us all on a level playing field.

(It didn’t, but hope springs eternal.)

Anyhoo.  I bought an Igloo 100 qt. cooler to hold everything, and began by freezing two one-gallon jugs of water.  Then I pre-prepared one pot meals, and froze them flat in gallon freezer bags, taking care to label what they were and what day they would be used.

On the day we left, I packed the Igloo with the frozen water (to keep the chest cold during the first part of the trip, and then to be used as drinking water for the last few days).  Then I layered the flat frozen meals with those meals to be used last on the bottom.  I placed gallon freezer baggies full of ice in-between layers of food.  Then I threatened everyone’s life if they opened the chest unnecessarily.  (I did replace the ice in the bags nearly every day, starting on day 3.)

I also have a small Coleman Camping refrigerator that I can plug in, for the dairy products and stuff we need to pull out fairly often.  This is cheating in the world of camping.  But I don’t care.

I also don’t care that I feel the need to bring my Keurig Coffee Pot, my toaster, my crockpot, and my electric griddle.  (I still use my Coleman Propane Stove for appearances sake.)

I added sides to my 10×10 sunshade to make a kitchen.  This came in handy because it RAINED for most of the first 3 days of the trip.


The closet shelf doo-dad was my own personal brainstorm, and gave me a pantry of sorts.  I found it at Goodwill, and just tied a heavy cord through the top to attach it to the metal frame of the Shade.  And yes, I brought my pink rubber gloves for dish washing.  Which brings me to another addition to my camp.


I used one of my 2 adjustable folding tables to create a hand/dishwashing station.  I bought the two tubs at WalMart, and they were the perfect size for washing dishes and pans.  The water filter container was another Goodwill find, and I just used the hose to keep it full so that we could wash our hands often with real soap.  I used my green rinsing tub to catch the hand washing water.  This set-up I could just leave out in the open.

Another Pinterest idea was the use of pool noodles to keep all the children from decapitating themselves whenever they ran through the camp.  This picture was taken after the monsoon like rains we received.  You can see that my new porch rug took the brunt of the abuse.  But we hung it over a fence and it dried quickly.

I also purchased from Amazon, a collapsable camping trash receptacle which zipped up whenever we weren’t around, in an effort to keep vermin out of the trash.  I found evidence of a squirrel attempting to tunnel its way into my soft sided over the shoulder cooler to get at the Smores ingredients.  The chocolate was spared, so I didn’t have to kill the squirrel in retaliation.


My husband’s camping addition was this:


This is where I lose all credibility as a camper.  My husband insisted on purchasing an air conditioner.  He reasoned that well, we do live in Florida.  And the tent did come with an opening for such an appliance.

I have to say that what with my hot flashes, and the humidity after a long rain, I did appreciate his sentiment.

So did our friends who joined us in our air conditioned tent while the 6 children sweated it out playing card games in the not-air-conditioned tent during a rain storm.

My only regret was not packing the sleeping bags and our small heater.  The night time temperatures were suppose to be in the 60’s, but I grossly underestimated the cold night air in a tent.  There were two nights which I dreamed I was freezing to death.  Because I was.  Fiddledaddy took one for the team and drove the hour plus back home to retrieve the heater, sleeping bags, and extra chocolate.

Some of you seasoned campers, who hike 10 miles into the wilderness with nothing but a backpack and shovel are chuckling under your breath.  I can hear you.  I won’t lie, our kind of camping takes some well thought out prep and packing, but it’s well worth the effort.  This non-camping type managed to keep her family alive for 8 days.  The payoff?  Spending awesome outdoor time with dear friends, while watching all of our children frolic through the trees, play games, and spend quality time away from all technology.


And the $8.00 poolside Strawberry Frozen Cocktail Concoction?  Totally worth it.


The Short Life and Death of George


The months of April and May have been traveling months for the family Fiddle.  One of our adventures involved a 7 night/ 8 day camping trip to Fort Wilderness at Disney World.  Our longest camping experience to date had been 3 or 4 nights, so we threw caution to the wind and doubled down.

The memorable experiences were numerable.  And will be forthcoming, as my personal blogging exile as hopefully come to an end.

As per usual, camping is an opportunity for Jensen to hunt and capture wildlife, particularly lizards.  From sun up to sun down.  In lieu of a proper lizard habitat, Jensen turns the provided Disney camp grill which each site comes equipped with, into a lizard jail.

I always feel that I should leave a note of apology on each grill whenever we vacate a site.  Because people, you know, actually cook FOOD on grills.

On our day of arrival, while the rest of his family slaved over the camp set-up, Jensen caught his first lizard, which he promptly named George.  He marched around the camping loop introducing George to anyone who even looked remotely interested.  After George was properly shown off, Jensen made a home for him in the grill.

The next morning, much to everyone’s surprise/chagrin, George was still there.  Jensen took this as a sign that George loved Jensen as much as Jensen loved George.  The morning progressed.  Then as we were sitting around eating a leisurely lunch, Cailey noticed, “Oh my gosh, look Jensen!  A bird just ate your lizard!”  Jensen jumped out of his camping chair in time to see a large blackbird fly up into a tree with George in his beak.

Jensen was mortified.  He stood at the base of the tree yelling up at the blackbird, first in anger, then in a pleading voice, “PLEASE, stupid bird, just let go of George!”

The bird complied, and dropped George at Jensen’s feet.  Well.  Parts of George.  And not necessarily the best parts.

Jensen stood staring down at the pieces of his former friend.  Sobbing.  Then after a suitable time of loud mourning and gnashing of teeth, say, 10 to 15 minutes, he looked back up at the bird, who sat watching the spectacle from the safety of a high branch, threatening to commit murder.

I’m pretty sure that by this time Disney Parks and Wildlife security had stationed extra patrols in our camping loop.

Eventually Jensen moved on to other local lizard life, and then “David” took up residence in the grill.  Which Jensen had rendered bird proof.

Later that night I visited the community bathroom (cleaner than my own, I might add) and while I was in my own personal stall, I overheard two women chuckling about a little boy they had met earlier and how he was walking up to little girls to see if they wanted to hold a lizard named George.

From the sanctity of my stall, I told them that the lizard whisperer in question was my son, and then I told them of George’s untimely demise.   In gruesome detail.  There was a respectful moment of silence.  And then I was left alone in the bathroom.

My master plan.

Rest in pieces, George.  You were a good and faithful temporary pet.


One man’s trash

This morning I overheard a conversation between Jensen and his dad that went something like this:

Jensen:  “Dad, did someone pick up the old shelves that mommy threw out by the road?”

(In my defense, they were old rickety rusted shelves that I had just paid $2 for at a garage sale, but Fiddledaddy put his size 10 foot down for safety reasons.)

Fiddledaddy:  “Yep.”

Jensen:  “Who took it?  A junker?”

Fiddledaddy:  “Yep.”

Jensen:  “Maybe we could be junkers.”

Fiddledaddy:  “We already are.”


Personally, I prefer the term “repurposed treasures” over “junker.”  But it’s true, I hail from a long line of dumpster divers.  My grandparents and my mother were both dealers.  I announced this to a group of wide-eyed women recently and had to quickly back-peddle, “um, ANTIQUE dealers…”

Therefore I was raised on a steady diet of auctions, yard sales, and thrift stores.  I carried this love of ALL THINGS USED over into my adult life, and spent a number of years buying/finding discarded furniture, painting it, and then re-selling at a tremendous mark-up to hoopty ploopty stores in Los Angeles.

Funnest job EVER.

I still haunt thrift stores and yard sales for household items and children’s clothing.

And I’m still a notorious dumpster diver.  In fact, while we were camping at Fort Wilderness recently, I emerged from my tent ready to make a bee-line for the Keurig Coffee Maker (a must-have for roughing it while camping).  I was distracted, however, by what caught my eye at the nearby trash receptacle.  It seemed that someone had packed up and left their campsite in the wee hours of the morning (I knew this because I HEARD THEM, and they had mentioned to Fiddledaddy that they were going to be catching an early flight.  They also shared that they had to go to Wal-Mart to purchase supplies for the camping trip.)

They left some of those supplies in the trash.  Therefore, I netted FOUR SETS of newish twin sized sheets (hot pink and black/white polka dots), 4 new pillows (still in their bags and YES, I washed them), a set of white icicle lights, an extension cord, a canvas folding drawer, a brand new pair of Mickey Mouse flip flops, and a pair of fairly used but still wearable white—ish flip flops (which fit Cailey).

Cailey was lamenting that she was having trouble cleaning up her new used flip flops, so she showed me what she decided to do with them:


Before and after.  She is going through a duct tape craft phase.  Which just goes to show that duct tape is not just for emergency home repairs!

I think my family legacy will live on thanks to this particular child.

Any other dumpster divers out there?  What was your favorite find?


Good dental hygiene goes a long long way

Disclaimer:  I did get permission from my daughter to write the following story.  And I’m now down one quarter.  Totally worth it.

Additional Disclaimer:  I did have more camping info to share, I just became slightly disgusted with myself after realizing that most of my really great camping tips actually came from you all long ago, when I first asked for camping advice.  The mind.  It is a terrible thing to allow to rot.

My girls love to volunteer at church.  I support this endeavor wholeheartedly as it alleviates any guilt I might feel about NOT volunteering at present time.  I put in many many years teaching Sunday School, as well as a good 4 or 5 years leading an Awana group.  I felt the need to stop when I developed a distracting tic.  It seems that between homeschooling and volunteering at the children’s department at church, I may have spent a tad too much time around children.

I took refuge in one of the empty classrooms on Saturday night, as we arrived at church early for the girl’s volunteering duties.  I took the opportunity to grade the previous weeks schoolwork, as I’ve discovered that there are not nearly enough hours in the day for me to get everything done.

The children’s pastor walked by and spied me in the classroom, “AHA, I KNEW WE’D WEAR YOU DOWN AND GET YOU TO VOLUNTEER!”  I chuckled, “Oh no, my friend, THAT COULD BRING DOWN THE ENTIRETY OF THE CHILDREN’S MINISTRY!” And I’m not even kidding.

So I send my minions to do my bidding.

Anyhoo.  Bright and early on Sunday morning I pulled up in the church parking lot to deposit the teenager for duty.  I had stopped at McDonald’s to pick her up a Sausage Burrito as atonement for the lack of breakfast options in our own refrigerator.  After eating, and before facing anyone publicly, Emme has a ritual of flossing her teeth.  Since she’s used to eating in the car, she keeps a spool of floss in the side of the door.  I sat chatting with her in the van during the morning flossing ritual.  It was a one-sided conversation though, as Emme seriously gets into the act of flossing.  She is thorough.  I’ve worried that she might swallow her whole hand at times.

As she finally exits the vehicle on the passenger side, I get out and hear an audible squeal.  It seems that I inadvertently parked beside the only other car in the parking lot.  I watch her as she quickly rounds the back of the van, her face ashen.  In her best inside voice she accusingly whispers, “Mom, you parked next to a teenaged BOY.  Who is still in the car.  AND HE SAW ME FLOSSING MY TEETH!”

Like I planned it.  Which actually would have been brilliant since I strive to put as much distance between my daughter and ALL teenaged boys.  (Which reminds me that I need to call my dad and apologize again for all that I put my parents through when I was my daughter’s age.)

“It coulda been worse, at least you weren’t picking your nose.”


It’s the little parenting moments that bring me the most joy.


A Camping Upgrade

When I began this blog, I was an avowed non-camping type.  Outdoorsy is not a word you would have used to describe me.  I even sent the children out to the mailbox for me.

I find it ironic that I contracted Lyme Disease under these conditions.

The year before my diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I lost the ability to do a lot of the things that I would have ordinarily taken for granted.  Like walking across the room unaided, washing my own hair, doing the grocery shopping, remembering my own phone number.  During that time, I would listen to my children’s prayers, “we just want our mom back.”

I made a decision that when I was well enough, we would become a camping family.  I don’t know exactly why THAT popped into my head, instead of, say, a CRUISING family, or a VACATIONING IN THE MOUNTAINS family.  But, whatever.  I had wonderful memories of camping as a child, and Fiddledaddy did nothing BUT camp for family vacations when he was young (what with 5 other siblings and all).

Our first tent was the kind of affair that you connect to the back of your van, thusly allowing for a “master suite” in the rear of the van.  We quickly learned that the only size mattress that would fit in the back of the van was just slightly smaller than a full size blow up bed, and both Fiddledaddy and I are just slightly larger than a full size blow up bed.

After a couple of years, it was clear that we had outgrown that tent.  We looked for a pop-up camper, but we  a) did not have room to store it, and  b) had outgrown that as well.  I have industrial sized children, two of which are taller than I am, and a third one which could pick me up and hoist me over his head.  (As an aside, just this week we put the stroller out to the curb.  Cailey, who throws nothing away, was visibly shaken.  “Why do you want to get rid of it?”  “Because Jensen is able to fold it up, fashion it into a weapon, and fling it across the yard.”  I’m pretty sure he can no longer fit as well.)

So we bit the bullet and bought a larger tent.  It’s an Ozark, has 3 rooms, and boasts that it can sleep 12.  Only if you’re talking 12 sardines.  It does fit our little family of 5 very well.  There is even an opening for a small air conditioner if one should choose.  I think that’s crossing the line of actual camping, but then I’m also the one who packs her Keurig.


We’ve only been on one trip with it, while camping with dear friends recently, so we’re still working some of the kinks out.  This was our friend’s maiden camping voyage as a family, and they borrowed our old tent. The guest house, as it were.  We may have them sold on this whole camping idea, as we enjoyed watching all of our children frolic in the woods and beyond, with nary a desire for technology.

Camping with friends is one of my favorite vacations.  Sure there’s a lot of (cooking) prep, but once you’re settled, there can be a lot of sitting around the campfire while gleefully chatting WITH ADULTS.  And if a box of wine should enter the fray, well, so be it.

A Camping Tip:  The Floor

I wanted to share a couple of camping tips that I’ve discovered along the way.  But I’m getting wordy, so I’ll share one today, and the rest tomorrow.  And if you are of the camping ilk, I want to hear your favorite tips, so please think up a few.

Anyhoo, (I’m sure I’ve talked about this before, but it bears repeating.)  I bought 8 foot strips of clear plastic heavy gauge vinyl (it is sold from a roll at Hobby Lobby) for the tent floors.  It feels way better on your feet, is easier to keep clean (and yes, I bring my electric broom, do not judge me), and will extend the life of your tent flooring.


Tomorrow I’ll have some cooking while camping ideas.  And none of them involve a bow and arrow, or a well placed call to Dominos.


A camping we will go

Thank you everyone for saving me countless hours lost on google as I tried to find a use for the mystery vegetable, now known as a Kohlarabi.  I had never ever heard of that.  And I thought I was on a first name basis with all of my vegetation.

I am preparing to go blissfully off the grid as I cart my daughters off for a weekend camping trip with their American Heritage Girls troop.  One thing that I enjoy about scouting trips is that much of the food is provided by the troop.  I only need pack snacks and drinks for my own daughters.  But still, that doesn’t stop me from bringing my entire kitchen setup for the brewing of the coffee, and heating up of some food, should I deem peanut butter sandwiches unacceptable fare.  And since Jensen will be spending the better part of the day with me on Saturday, I’ll be grilling him a cheese sandwich, as he’s not allowed anywhere near peanut butter.  Hence yet another trip to Urgent Care.  We’ve managed to stave off a visit there for a good 6 months or so.  I’m hoping they’ve finally forgotten who we are.

For the record, I will be roughing it, as the only electricity will be located in the dining pavilion.  But that will not hinder me from bringing my mini-blender to create my frozen coffee concoction.  Even Ma Ingalls would understand, I’m sure.

I do feel somewhat guilty packing my tank tops for the weekend, when the majority of the country is snowed in.  But please feel free to mock me in the heat of the summer when my Crocs adhere to the asphalt.

Have a fantastic weekend, everyone.

Does anyone find it weirdly ironic that a professed indoor girl who has Lyme Disease loves to camp?  A conundrum. That’s what I am.