Thursday, January 31, 2013

Skunk Ape Research Expedition

As some of you may know, we had a summer bucket list to complete.

It had a lot of stuff on it...this year's bucket list will be shorter. And more relaxing.

One of the items on the list was to investigate the local lore of the Skunk Ape, a creature that may or may not live out in the Everglades.  We researched some of the stories and watched a documentary on the Skunk Ape, collected some vital supplies, and set out to the Everglades to learn more.

(No, seriously, I did all of this. I win Mom of the Year 2012 for last summer.)

We pulled up to the Skunk Ape Research Center in Ochopee, Florida which is truly the middle of nowhere. It was summer so you could see the clouds of mosquitoes, it was 450 degrees Farenheit, and there were drowning deaths from people trying to breathe the humid air. Not really, but I'm setting the scene of the Everglades in summer for you. Anyone with  half a brain doesn't go there on purpose.

But there we were!

We walked into a gift shop and I immediately saw the famous Skunk Ape spokesperson, Dave Shealy. He introduced himself, with the slow easy drawl of a true Florida cracker and a wide smile. I explained that we were there to research the Skunk Ape and he was quick to clarify that he was "the" expert on Skunk Apes and introduced himself again, promising to give us a personal tour and go over his private information with us. He smiled at me appreciatively and I wondered if he was checking me out.

They had some animals in the back you could pay to see and I inquired about admission.

"You from around here?" He asked, leaning against the counter, clearly in no hurry.

"Kind of," I went into detail and he considered that and nodded.

"Hmm." He said. There was an uncomfortably long pause.

"Yeah. It's nice. So, what is the admission for the 3 of us?" I asked with a smile.

He paused again, studying me closely and holding eye contact. "Well...I hate to charge such a pretty lady," he stopped again, maybe waiting for a reaction.

I was feeling amused, awkward, and delighted (hey, I'm old and boring and this situation was clearly harmless and potentially hilarious). My kids were right there, I wondered what they thought.

"Well, sir, you are running a business," I said with a nervous laugh. "I fully expected to pay."

"Yeah, but...I don't know," he trailed off, looking away and then back at me. "You married?"

"Yes, I am, my husb--"

"That will be $15."

I counted out the money and laughed as I did it.

It was well worth it. Our tour guide (Dave handed us off, with a promise to meet back up later) was an interesting guy who loved the animals. There were giant snakes and he excitedly pointed out one that was eating a guinea pig; my kids were disgusted and he seemed disappointed. He let them feed a tortoise and tossed frozen rats to an alligator in front of us. He held a scorpion and let them hold a baby alligator and snakes. little kid was in heaven. Big Kid was a good sport. Rick had some great stories.

We finished looking at the animals and went back to the Skunk Ape man himself, and at this point I was ready for some official data. He showed us some videos and told us everything he knew about skunk apes. He also told me about his many television appearances and possible Hollywood deals in the works. We spoke seriously, with him answering the many questions of the children and with me keeping a completely straight face while we discussed giant mythological swamp monkeys and his life work.

Being alone with the kids for this was a trip--I had no adult to make "WTF" faces at, no one to giggle with behind turned backs, no one who could validate what a strange experience this was.

Dave turned and picked a field guide off of the gift shop shelf and slowly and methodically freed it from its shrink wrap and then just as slowly fished a pen from his front pocket and then in slow, shaky handwriting, he autographed it for us. We hadn't asked for an autograph, but it was an extremely nice gesture.
He asked where we were off to and I told him we were going to Turner River Road to investigate. His laugh was genuine and so was his concern that we be careful, stay in our vehicle, and avoid the alligators. That was my plan all along. He took a look at the beans we brought (Skunk apes love beans. We brought 15 bean soup) and told me about the time he was on The Colbert Show. I told him I saw it. I could tell he liked that.

"You should get a field cam, like a hunting camera," he offered. "You do that and come back here and I'll take you out to my hunting stand and we can catch some more footage. You can stay at the campground I run. You and your husband,"  he added.

I told him that was something to think about and after a round of photos to commemorate meeting a legend (and a heck of a nice guy), we departed for a popular Skunk Ape sighting area. When we got back in the car, little kid asked if I knew that guy.

"No, I don't know him."

"Hm. He acted like he knew you," he said in a questioning tone.

"He also acted like he knows the Skunk Ape," I answered.

Now believe it or not, here is where it got scary. Out at Turner River Road, we really were in the middle of nowhere. Even more frightening was that there were tourists out there too because I guess it's a popular alligator viewing site. Why you'd go out of your way to view them, I don't really know.  But these tourists were getting out of their cars and walking within 5 feet of alligators sunning on the banks, not even a guard rail in between them. Multiple car loads of people doing this to multiple alligators (there were dozens). I had to drive until we couldn't see any other cars because I didn't want my children to witness one of these dumb asses being mauled.

So we sat on the side of the road all alone in the middle of the Everglades, surrounded by alligators, looking for a skunk ape. We threw some beans out and quickly rolled the windows back up, peering into the woods. At nothing. We sniffed the air because apparently they smell horrible. Nothing. For 10 long, slow, miserable minutes.

Except little kid ended up seeing 11 Skunk Apes that day. Which is remarkable because the Skunk Ape legend himself only estimated 7-9 in existence. It was a good thing he saw them too, because I was getting irrationally afraid of running out of gas or cell phone service out there, surrounded by alligators and idiots. After much protest from little kid, I promised we would get a field cam and come back.

But I'm a big fat liar, because we won't.

On the car ride home, I asked what they thought about the existence of the Skunk Ape based on the evidence we had seen. "What do you mean? I saw 11 of them!" little kid said emphatically.

"I don't know," Big Kid said. "I didn't see any."

"Remember how the first person to spot one happened to be the owner of an air boat tour company out there in the '60s? In that itty bitty town in the middle of nowhere with not many business opportunities? Do you think anyone had anything to gain with tales of a mysterious creature in the area?" I hinted.

I always wanted to be Daphne in Scooby Doo but we know I would have been Velma.

"Uh, nooooooooo," little kid insisted.

"Maybe. But that guy we met today sure seemed like he saw some skunk apes," Big Kid mentioned.

"He sure did," I agreed, again regretting not bringing another adult along as a witness to the day's insanity.

So, I guess you could say our research was inconclusive.

And is very likely to stay that way.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Comic Imagination

Big Kid was chosen to draw the comic for the school newspaper and he is elated. He wanted to be on the news crew last semester but was somehow overlooked. Here is his first contribution:

Big Kid, age 9

Now, I know scanning in my kids' homework for you every other day like I have been lately is not blogging. It's lazy. But I can't help that my kids are as magnificent and hilarious on paper as they are in real life, and the internet needs to know.

I'll be back soon with tales of my Everglades Skunk Ape adventure, which I've been meaning to post since last July.

(And have you entered for the HSN gift card? It's right down there below this post.) 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Favorite Things: HSN Giveaway

We're going to start doing an Ashley's Favorite Things weekly post, because I'm all motivated lately and want to be like Oprah. I can't buy you the things (I know--that part is a major bummer) but occasionally there may be giveaways or just really good information. This is all around good news, because it means I plan to spend more time with you all and give (some of you) stuff.

Sometimes these will be product reviews/giveaways from my constantly overflowing blog email inbox. I'll always tell you when it's something like that, and I won't review or promote things that aren't awesome or a good fit for us. Sometimes it will just be random things I like a lot, that I've probably been meaning to tell you about for a long time. All of the time, it will be stuff I think you will like, I promise.

Which brings us to our first Ashley's Favorite Things post: HSN.

My awesome, intimidatingly cool hairdresser is always wearing amazing jewelry and I always ask where she gets it. When she first told me Home Shopping Network, I laughed a little and thought she might be kidding. She wasn't kidding, and I came to realize through her extensive jewelry collection that she is clearly an HSN addict.

I'm going to be completely honest here (and hope HSN doesn't hate me for it) but I was under the impression that the demographic was a far older audience than my trendy stylist. With some skepticism, I checked out their website since I'm not much of a television person and I found all kinds of stuff to buy. Which isn't always a great thing when you don't have a lot of money, but still, totally glad all of that stuff is there for the day that I do! (I always find a way.)

For instance, this:

Heidi Daus "Rhapsody in Hues" Domed Cabochon Ring
Click pic for link

I've had that ring pinned on Pinterest since November and as luck would have it, I see it's on sale today. That's a sign from the shopping gods that it's time for us to be united. 

I also have this pinned:
Style & Go Hair Care Valet by Marcy McKenna

This medicine cabinet/hair tool organizer would save my small bathroom.  I am so tired of all that junk being jumbled up under my only bathroom cabinet and having to untangle the cords. I'm buying that, too. I found it right before Christmas and Mr. Ashley said it wasn't a good time to buy myself things, but I think with the constant counter top presence of the flat iron, big curling iron, and blow dryer, he might be ready now.

So it turns out that HSN has all kinds of good stuff for people of all ages and interests, and I loved them far before they contacted me and offered a giveaway. They are currently promoting their new and improved website format that enables a more social shopping experience; it features social media integration and a user curated "Top 20" favorites feature that will surely help me find new things to buy that I may not have found on my own and gives discounts to those who help decide on the favorites through voting.

They're also doing a sweepstakes now through January 31st, so enter to win that for the chance at big prizes.

But what you've all been waiting for...they're giving 2 of you $10 gift cards! Leave a comment on this post through the end of the day on February 9th for a chance to be entered to win. And when I'm Oprah-rich, I owe all of the rest of you $10 HSN gift cards, don't let me forget. 

And in the interest of full disclosure, they are going to give me a $10 HSN gift card for hosting the giveaway. This did not influence my opinion (it would cost at least $10,000 to get me to betray you all and even then I'd have to use sarcasti-font or something) but it did brighten my day. Gift cards are definitely among my favorite things and I am glad to share them with you.

So leave a comment below and get one of your own! I will choose via random number generator on February 8th. US entrants only, sorry international friends.

And thanks to HSN for bringing us nice things!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Memos from a 6 Year Old

 New Year's Resolution
I would help my family to help with stuff so I can be nice to my family and to be nice to my brother and to play 12 video games and to work hard and my family will be happy.

 We go somewhere fun, like going to the beach. My mom helps me build a sand castle and then we go in the water and then I play with the sand castle and then I try to make another sand castle and then I will make a war and then make a moat for the castles and then I would find wood and then I put the wood on the castle then I go home.

I love my mom. She loves me too. This is true. You deserve $1000 and a big diamond.

That last one's my favorite, obviously. He knows the way to a lady's heart.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Not a Wino

The other day we were in the car and the hosts of a local talk radio show were discussing the difference between alcoholics and winos.

"They think it's okay because they're just having a glass of wine now and then," one of them said sarcastically.

"Right. Winos feel some sort of superiority, like drinking wine isn't a big deal," said the other.

It slowly dawned on me that there was silence in the backseat, and my very impressionable and judgmental children were probably misunderstanding my very infrequent (okay, not very, but infrequent still stands) bottle of wine.

"They're talking about people who abuse alcohol," I explained,"Not like your average adult who might have a glass of wine with dinner some nights."

"Oh, I knew they weren't talking about you," Big Kid said with certainty. Phew.

"Haha, yeah. I don't have a drinking problem." I clarified.

"You kind of do," little kid piped up, and before I could screech "WHAAAAT?" he added, "You have a problem with Coke!"

"Oh. Well, that's true."

"SHE IS NOT A COKO!" Big Kid rushed to my defense. "She doesn't even keep it at home anymore!"

"Coko is hilarious" I laughed.

He seemed a little offended. "What? Why? Like wino? But with Coke?"

"No, it's brilliant. I'm a Coko in recovery. Sounds better than Coke addict, for sure. Which I'm not."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You're Welcome, Future Daughter-in-Law

"When I grow up, if I have $300, I'm probably just going to give it to my wife," little kid said.

I'm raising these boys right. 

Saturday, January 19, 2013


I have to preface this by saving I love Anthropologie. I have one near my house and I am there so often (not buying things) that I joke that they will have to give me a job or a restraining order to keep me out.

I've been buying one of their pretty aqua bowls each week. Mr. Ashley thinks we have enough serving ware but I think it's time to start replacing some of it and no one can complain about $5 so I've been sneaking them in gradually. But I like to go in there and gawk at stuff and try things on so this works out well for everyone except the staff of Anthropologie.

I was looking at their website yesterday, though, and saw this:


Those are popsicle sticks, Anthropologie. For $16. And I know you know they're popsicle sticks. And I know you know we know they're popsicle sticks. I mean, there are birds stamped on them and all and that's cute, but still. These are popsicle sticks.

And the other day I was in there and their sale rack had little mason jars with a little plastic Christmas tree inside and some glitter.   Like the 9 zillion homemade snow globes on Pinterest.

No, just no.

Leave Pinterest on Pinterest, you are too good for it, Anthropologie! Please get off of Pinterest and go make me a bowl, or a hammock, or some jewelry, or an outfit I can't afford but will enjoy trying on and will seriously consider buying.

Thank you. I'll see you tomorrow.