Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I'm a whore.

You know, with Tiger Woods getting caught and all his ho-bag sex partners girlfriends popping up all over the place, I am feeling the need to make a confession.  I'm a whore.  There.  I said it.  Oh, I should clarify - I'm a COAT whore.

I cannot go a winter season without buying a new coat.  Sometimes two.  Sometimes THREE.  I thought for sure, after the last few years of buying several coats, I would refrain this year.  But like any addict, it is impossible.  I literally ran into a store last night for five minutes to look for a shirt to go under a cardigan sweater.  Really.  FIVE minutes.  I was on my way to meet some friends for coffee and eventually beer.  I was walking out of the store, empty handed, when this wintery looking thing caught my eye.  I said to myself "That can't be a coat.  There cannot be another coat in my closet.  I will keep walking."  And I did.  Then I turned around and decided I would just try it on.  Just a little try on.  What can that hurt?  Next thing I know, I am in line and buying the damn thing.  Oh, but is it cute.  I love it.  Goodness knows it's cold enough to wear.  The good news is, I have a scarf that matches perfectly.  That scarf definitely needed a coat to go with it.  Now, if I only had a pair of dark brown leather gloves.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Post Christmas blues

There is always that little letdown for me when all of the presents have been opened, the food is eaten, the leftovers packaged up and the guests have gone home.  I don't like to take down the Christmas decorations.  The house seems so bare without all the greenery and ribbons.  Maybe I should leave it up all year.  Ok, I'm not that wacky.

Besides, this post is not about my post Christmas blues.  It's about the bug that made its way through two family members.  Sous Chef tossed his cookies all over our leather chair, the blankets he had on him while sleeping in the leather chair, the floor and he even managed to hit the couch while trying to get to the trash can that was, I thought, strategically placed next to the chair.  I placed it there shortly after he said "I'm not feeling well and I think I might throw up."  That was on Saturday night.  It was gross.  Really, really gross.  I am so thankful to have Bissell carpet cleaner which cleaned the carpet and the couch very quickly and doesn't require me to touch anything gross.  The leather chair was a different story.  The blankets went right into the washer for about four rinses before finally being washed.  I am happy to say it was a one time event for Sous Chef and by Monday, he was back on his feet.

About 3 o'clock Sunday morning, MG was hit with the same stomach upheaval.  MG appears to have gotten a more virulent strain of that nasty bug, as his was truly a hurlfest.  It was for him, too, though a 24 hour thing and he is back to work today.  He says he's not 100%, but definitely better.

As for Christmas Day, we ended up with 32 people at our house for dinner. Besides coming up for beverages and food, the kids pretty much stayed in the basement.  In fact, one of my cousin's sons I only saw for a total of ten seconds.  I am NOT kidding!  The adults hung out upstairs, playing crazy card games that we used to play when I was a kid.  I have already been asked to host Thanksgiving next year.  We'll see.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

It's a Christmas miracle!

About two years ago, I lost a diamond earring.  It was on a European hook and obviously became unhooked and dislodged from my ear.  MG gave me those earrings our first Christmas as a married couple, which was 1994.  We had just moved here and had new insurance and I was just sure the insurance company would think I was taking advantage of them and committing insurance fraud.  I swear, I was not.  I added some cash to the insurance money and upgraded my new earrings and also had them put on screwback posts.

Yesterday, after a day of running errands, having lunch with my husband, having my kids return home from being gone for a couple of days, I looked in the mirror at about 8:00pm and realized I was missing an earring.  CRAP!  I was in a total panic for I was just sure the insurance company was going to say "No way!  We are not reimbursing you again for a 'mysterious disappearance' of an earring."  (Did you know that's what they call it?  "Mysterious disappearance.")  I remembered rubbing my earring and trying to get my hair from being tangled around it, but I could not for the life of me remember if I managed to untangle it and I couldn't remember where I was when that happened. (Proof again, that my pre-menopausal, mommy-tired brain is working as inefficiently as it is supposed to.)  I started looking through my clothes, through my winter scarf and my coat.  I was thinking "SHIT, I just vacuumed the family room" and I was NOT going to go through the vacuum cleaner bag of muck.  I searched the kitchen floor.  I then decided to try my car.  I went out and did a quick look of the driver's seat.  I then looked down and I am not kidding you when I saw that lovely earring sparkling up at me from the garage floor I did a little dance!  I couldn't find the back, but I will be swinging by the diamond broker's today to see if they have one laying around that they can give me!  Yippee!

Merry Christmas everyone!  Have a safe and memorable day.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Go see it.

While the kids are away, the parents will play.  I bet you think this is going to be a blog entry about all the naughty things that go on when parents find time alone, without kids but with a cat furiously meowing at the bedroom door.  Sorry to disappoint you, it's not.

MG and I went out to dinner (yummy, Indian food!) and then went to see Up In The Air.  Obviously, we have heard all the good reviews this movie is already getting and I expect to see it again when I go with my friends to the movie marathon of the Top Academy Award Movies (this year, there will be ten movies instead of five and it will be a two day movie festival!  We can't wait!).  But there is an even more important reason we went to see this movie.  We have a friend who is in the movie.  From the beginning of when she auditioned, I have been anxiously awaiting it's release.  So we went to see it and thoroughly enjoyed it.  It was a little sadder than we expected, but there are definitely some funny and touching moments.

It was all I could do not to stand up and scream "That woman is a friend of mine!"  At the risk of embarrassing my husband, I managed to refrain.  I did however get all excited with "Here it is! This is it!  This is her scene!  There she is!  That's her!  That's Cari!" and I was rubbing my hands together to keep from clapping, though I think a standing ovation was due.  We then waited to see her name in the credits.  So cool.  It was a fun evening.

You can read more about Cari's role and a couple of others HERE.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Secret Santa Soiree

I had fun participating in the SSS this year.  I missed joining in last year, so I was really excited this year when the sign up rolled around.  I hope Georgie and Amy run the show again next year!

I thought for sure I had found my Secret Santa.  The return address label said the package was from North Carolina and I found a participant who was from North Carolina, so I e-mailed her.  Turns out it wasn't her and my search must start again.  Unless, of course, anyone wants to volunteer the information!

Oh, and if you want to participate in a little holiday discussion, check out the BlogFrog Community Forum to the right.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I'm too busy.

It must be the time of year this thought comes up. There's not even a trigger this year, I've just been thinking about it. I wrote about it around this time last year HERE.

This is a busy time of year for many, if not all, of us. Gifts to buy and wrap, parties and family gatherings to attend, pictures to take, cards to address and send. It can all get very overwhelming. And there are days when I think I can't do it all. But I do get it done. If there is something that doesn't get done, it's generally not anything anyone but me will notice.  And there are times where I choose sleep over other things.  But I will admit it, I won't blame it on something else.

So this time of year, for whatever reason, my thoughts are about the excuse we so often hear all year long when someone can't/doesn't/won't do something - the "I'm too busy to ..." excuse. There are times when that excuse is 100% legitimate. There are times when there is JUST.TOO.MUCH.TO.DO. But it seems more often than not, it's the easy way out. And those who use this excuse, often exclusively, lose their credibility. Honestly, I would rather just hear "No thanks" or "We won't be able to make it" or "My boss won't give me the time off" or even "I don't want to." When I repeatedly hear "I'm/we're too busy," I often feel the flip side of that is an implication that people must think that I/my family am/is not busy at all, that I am a lady of leisure, otherwise I wouldn't be asking others to do X (fill in the blank with an event, show, gathering, party, family/life milestone, etc.).

I have really been monitoring my "busy" meter. I have people often tell me "I don't know how you have time to do that." I have realized recently it is NOT about HAVING time, it's about MAKING time. Did I have time to take care of those 100+ Christmas cards I sent. Not really. But I MADE time for them. I actually took them to work so I could get some of that project completed during any down time. I had no down time, but it was a good idea. The things that I could say "I don't have time for" I really am not making time for because it's not high enough on my list of priorities to get into the "make time" category. And sleep often does make it into the high priority category!  That's ok, but call it what it is.

So from now on, when someone tells me they don't have time for something, depending on where my bitch level is measuring at that moment, I may respond with "No, you don't want to MAKE the time. No one HAS the time." Really, who has time just laying around, waiting to be used? I don't know anyone that has that luxury.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Sous Chef!

Today, my middle son turns ten.  I officially have two kids in double digits. 

Sous Chef entered this world in a 30 minute rush of chaos.  Thankfully, I was already staying the night at the hospital to be induced the next morning.  Because of him, my doctors had "talked us through" and prepared us for a home birth with baby #3 (CJ).  Thankfully, none of that ended up being necessary.  Sous Chef weighed in at 9 lbs. 9 ozs. at birth, which is neither the lightest nor the heaviest of my kids.  He is in the middle for birth weight and in the middle of two brothers.  He was and continues to be an awesome sleeper.  We know how much I love to sleep, so I was thrilled when he started sleeping through the night at six weeks old!

Sous Chef challenges us every day with a level of intellect that I sometimes cannot keep up with.  During an evaluation when he was three years old, a school psychologist, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist stared at me in amamzement with wide open mouths.  All I could do was shrug my shoulders and smile.  I explained his daddy has a genius IQ and that was all they needed to hear.  They wished me luck in keeping him challenged throughout his educational years.  They were right.  Most days those challenges are awesome, other days they exhaust me because my brain can't wrap itself around what he is talking about.  Many, many years ago I talked with a medical intuitive about my health issues at that time and we also talked about my family members.  I gave her Sous Chef's name and birthdate.  She gasped a little and said, "He is going to do something amazing some day.  Remember I said that."  I have never forgotten she said that.  Thank goodness for an incredible gifted education program in our school district.  Recently, one of the gifted ed. instructors told us Sous Chef is in about the top 1% of kids she has taught.

He is not an overly affectionate child - he likes to receive my hugs and kisses, but he does not always return them.  He will sometimes, though, walk by and say "surprise hug!" and stop and hug me.  When I tell him "I love you" he always says "Ditto."  I love it.  He is sweet and kind, compassionate and caring, and sometimes sensitive to the point of tears.  The first time we watched Racing Stripes he cried and cried because the baby zebra was left behind.  From then on, every time we watch the movie, he fast forwards through the beginning scene where the zebra is left off the truck in the rain.

One of my all time favorite comments he has ever said was when he was about four years old and he was on the toilet doing his business.  He was stinking the bathroom up and he yelled for me to come and turn on the "pooper heater" to clear out the bathroom.  That still cracks me up to this day!

Happy Birthday, Sous Chef!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's a beautiful day.

If you've been around these parts long, you know I am not a fan of winter.  Not just because it's cold, but because here in SW Ohio, winter equals wet and grey.  Not snow and grey or just cold and grey, but wet.  It seems we spend a great deal of the winter in the 33 degree range with rain.  It's absolutely miserable.  I do enjoy a cold, crisp day when the air feels good in my lungs and the sky is blue, but that is rare.  So since we rarely have the cool, blue skies, I am always wishing for it to be cold enough for that rain to turn to snow.  Imagine my happiness this morning when I saw this!  It's not a ton of snow, but IT'S.SNOW!

All night long I was like a kid on Christmas Eve.  I kept getting up to see if the snow had started.  Once it did, I kept getting up to see if it was sticking, how much was on the ground, if it was STILL snowing.  It's morning and the snow has started again.  It's a good winter day!

This picture of CJ has nothing to do with snow, but I took it the other day while he was playing in the bath tub and just love it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

He thinks I'm having a breakdown?

My husband told me the other night that I seem to be "more stressed than usual."  He said he was a little concerned.  The only response I could come up with was "Do I?  I don't think I'm any different than any other time."  (IE:  I'm always a screaming lunatic!)  He assured me I seem to be going over the edge.  I think we can all agree, one thing you do NOT tell an apparently stressed out person is that they seem stressed out.  Thankfully, this one time I took the opposite approach from what a normally stressed out person would do, which would be to rip off the head of the offender, and I recognized that maybe I am screaming more than usual, flying off the handle more than I should and about things that I shouldn't.  I took a deep breath and laid down for the evening.  I have cut back on my caffeine, so maybe I am feeling the effects of that.  If it doesn't correct itself soon, I always have Xanax.

Wednesday I decided we would be having leftovers for dinner.  I had family over for dinner on Sunday and had some lasagna left over that we needed to eat otherwise it was going to be in the trash for trash day.  Last night, I made tacos for dinner, but opted out of eating to go finish up some shopping.  MG made a little batch of tacos for his lunch today and then remembered they were having a department lunch and he would not need them.  They now qualify for "leftovers" in my book.

When MG got home from work today, he asked about dinner.  My response "Leftovers."  He said, "Good, I was just asking in case you wanted me to fix something.  But I'm not hungry."  Remember those words "I'M NOT HUNGRY."

As I was heating up some lasagna, Sous Chef and I polished off the three tacos as a little appetizer.  They were good.  Then we each had a small piece of lasagna.

As Sous Chef and I are eating our dinner, MG starts rooting through the fridge.  "Where are those tacos?"  Sous Chef and I confessed to eating them.  You should have seen MG.  He went on and on about how he packed those up "just how I like them" with all his favorite fixins.  That he set them aside for him.  (Sous Chef and I agreed he did a good job with them and they were very yummy.)  He then went on with how we should have asked if we could eat them and on and on.  I had to remind him that when, 45 minutes earlier during a conversation about dinner, he said "I'M NOT HUNGRY" and that the implication to that meant he would not be wanting to eat dinner.  Oh my.  This (fairly friendly) conversation went on the entire time I was eating my dinner.  He then retreated to the bedroom.  When he came back downstairs, he stopped and said, "Aren't you even going to say something like 'I'm sorry, I didn't know you were planning to eat those tacos?'"  So I said it, in my ever so sarcastic tone.  And then I started cracking up.  Are we really (fairly friendily) bickering about fucking tacos?  Of course, he started laughing, too.  I reminded him again about his words "I'M NOT HUNGRY" and let him know from now on he might want to put a name tag on "his" food because in the past, whatever is in the fridge is fair game.

And he thinks I'M stressed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Merry Christmas from the Jo Family

Merry Christmas!

If you want a really good view, you can click on the photo (or maybe double click?) to enlarge it.  Yes, we know Big E has hair like a 1970's Robert Plant.

For a very few of you, you will be receiving your very own copy in the mail.  For the rest of you whom I never had the chance to meet IRL, this will have to do.  I know you are crushed not to have your very own copy to hang on your Christmas photo holder and then eventually move us to the refrigerator for the 2010 year.  Feel free to print it out, though.  Oh, and this little tidbit would also come in your card if I were sending you one.

2009 Top Ten Events
  1. We welcomed a new family member. Ace, the cat, found us in August when he was about eight weeks old. We LOVE him, and that “we” includes MG, whose cat allergies get better every day! It was a little touch-n-go at first.
  2. We had two different family friends visit from Kansas. We loved having them and look forward to more visitors!
  3. MG continues to love his 1963 BMW motorcycle. I continue to remind him of its antique status and that he IS the same age as the bike, possibly making him an antique, as well. He is at an R&D site at X&Y and loving it. He is working on a top secret project and if he told you what it was he would have to … well, you know.
  4. The boys, a friend of Big E's and I went to St. Louis to meet friends from KS. A total of five moms, one grandma and 14 kids were on this trip. We are not sure if the most exciting part was outdriving a tornado (it’s true!) or running screaming from our hotel to another hotel in the middle of the night, in our pj’s, because we discovered our room had bedbugs. Due to a lot of precautions, we remain bedbug free in our home.
  5. I went to Hawaii (majority of time on Maui, a few days on Oahu) with my best friend, LQ, who is currently living in Guam. I can’t even go into all of the things that had us laughing until we couldn’t breathe and often resulted in people staring at us.
  6. Big E, 7th grade, turned 12 yrs. old in May. He loves middle school and is becoming quite the Ultimate Frisbee and Disc Golf player. He played in his first “adult” tournaments this year. He also still enjoys basketball and baseball.
  7. Sous Chef, 10 yrs. old on Dec. 20, is in the 4th grade. He is now in intermediate school. He loves the computer and reading. He can’t get enough of swimming.
  8. CJ, aged 6, is in Kindergarten. He loves school and says it’s his favorite hobby. We’ve only had one phone call from the principal, which if you know how cutely ornery CJ is, you would know this is an accomplishment.
  9. Minus a “boot” for MG's Achilles tendonitis, three stitches in my thumb and a foot and leg cast for Big E, we’ve had a pretty healthy year and are very thankful for that!
  10. It’s been a great year!

Monday, December 14, 2009

It's a Secret Santa Soiree!

Yippee!  I got my Secret Santa Soiree gifts today.  What fun it is to get gifts not just from a Secret Santa, but from someone you've never met before - at least not in person and probably not even through the blogosphere

The excitement started like this:

Then moved on to:

Notice those two Snickers bars?  Already, I'm down to one.

From here came:


Can't see everything?  Well, my gifts include votive candle holders and a candle, Gourmet Spice scented foaming hand soap from Bath & Body Works (Yum!), Thank You Notes (maybe I'll send one to my Secret Santa since her address is on the box!), a Koozy holder (perfect for my summer outdoor drinking festivities!), a Snowman lotion/soap dispenser and a Christmas tree ornament with my name painted on it.

Here's a close up of the ornament.  It looks great on the tree!

And this little guy is perfect.  I am wondering if my Secret Santa snuck into my bathroom and discovered this is the place that gets decorated with snowmen?  What better place for a snowman soap dispenser than a bathroom decorated with snowmen?

Thank you Secret Santa!  I look forwrd to finging out who you are!

And thanks to Amy and Georgie for organizing this little party for all of us!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Holiday Buzz

Unfortunately, we have not been to any Christmas parties yet this year, so the alcohol induced kind of buzz is not what I am talking about. 

What I am talking about is trying to get it all together for THE.BIG.DAY.  Gifts bought and wrapped, menu prepared (we have over 25 people coming to our house for Christmas Day dinner and festivities), food bought and then food prepared.  Thankfully, the folks attending are helping with the food, but I still have the main dish and some other items to take care of, not to mention cleaning my house.  Yuck.

So far, I am doing pretty good.  I got my two packages in the mail and they will arrive on time (that is, BEFORE Christmas, usually my stuff gets where it needs to be AFTER Christmas).  I have purchased some gifts for the kids and the hubs and I continue to fall more and more in love with online shopping.  We only get our kids three gifts for under the tree - three gifts were good enough for Jesus and so it is good enough for my kids.  We do put additional items in their stockings.  We don't sign their gift tags as being "from" anyone.  When they were little they just assumed the gifts were from Santa.  Oddly, they never asked "What did YOU get us?"  Now the older two just play along with the "Santa" thing for CJ. 

So the buzz is on.  And next weekend we are attending a party.  Maybe I'll get a real buzz that night.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas at Chez Jo

I am still getting into the swing of how to decorate this house.  I think I have discovered it takes at least three years of decorating to get it right.  But then that means I should have it "right" since this is our third Christmas in this house.  I am not going to count the first year, though, since we had lived here less than six months and though we were all unpacked and "settled", I was still trying to figure out what to do with my shit.

Anyway, I love seeing photos of how others decorate so I thought I would share with you what Chez Jo looks like this year.

I had to be careful with this picture because the floor was covered with dirty socks, blankets, unfinished games and other kid crap.  I really didn't need that in my picture!

This tree is in the entryway.  I'm not overly happy with the ribbon and will be changing it to match the ribbon on our big tree.  Have you heard me say before that Ace pretty much goes wherever I go?  Look on the stairs in between the banister rails to the right of the top of the tree.  There he is.  And I had to take him off of the table when I took a picture of the centerpiece.  He's not even allowed on our tables or counters, but what can I say.  He's like the other people in this house who don't always follow understand the rules!

Notice the little creature who has now followed me into the family room.  He is at the right of the bottom of the tree, going from the tile to the carpet.  He blends in pretty well, but if you look closely you will see the back half of his body!

Ace loves the tree and the ornaments and lighting wire.  I think that could be a little dangerous.  Sometime soon maybe you'll see a picture of a big, fuzzy, smokin' Ace.

Here is his new favorite place to sleep.  Way back in the corner where no one can get to him.

On an unrelated note, CJ lost TWO teeth in one night.  I made barbecued ribs and he chews those suckers to the bone and then some.  Out came one tooth and before the dinner was through, the second loose tooth came out!  Notice all the bbq sauce all over his face.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I can't go there without overspending.

Do you shop at Costco (or Sam's or some other warehouse club)?  Sometimes I go there knowing I am going to spend a ton of money.  Other times, I think I just need one or two bulk items and that will be it.  Today was that day - I just needed some ribs for dinner on Tuesday.  Oh, and those mega bottles of ketchup because for Big E, ketchup is a food group all its own.  So over $150 later, I was walking out of that place.  And I didn't even buy much - ribs, ketchup, Skyline Chili, a couple of things for wrapping Christmas gifts.  Oh yeah, some frozen broccoli, popcorn chicken and extra virgin olive oil.  That place is impossible to spend a few bucks in.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

When did it happen?

This morning, I was writing a note for my 7th grader - my 7th grader! - to get out of school early for an orthodontist appointment.  I swear, the wind was practically knocked out of me.  Not because HE is IN the 7th grade, but because I HAVE a 7th grader.  It seems like yesterday MY mom was writing notes for me to get out of school early for the orthodontist. 

This morning, I felt like I was playing house, playing mom and that I am really still a child myself in this grown up body.  I feel this way occasionally, as I think all grown ups do.  It's not always about being a mom, either.  Sometimes it's when I am at work - the fact that I am on my second career, that I am OLD ENOUGH to have a career at all, let alone my second one (third, really, if you count motherhood!).  It happens sometimes when I am grocery shopping or at the doctor.  I am this little girl out in the big world, playing grown up.

How did I get here?  When did all of this happen?  And then the reality that it is not going to stop.  That I can't turn back time, I can't press the button on the stopwatch to stop that little timer from counting the time.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Deck the Halls

I decided it was time to get in the Christmas spirit here at my place.  I have my house all decorated and now my own little place in the blogosphere is also decorated!

I might be forgotten, but I'm not gone!

There just hasn't been too much going on here.  My hubs was out of town for the week, I decorated the house, I worked, I napped a little. 

I have spent a lot of my time this week shaking my head over the Tiger Woods saga and really wish our society would realize we do not own this man (or any other famous person, politician, etc.), it's not our place to "forgive" him and he and his wife can hash out their marriage in private, however they choose, paying off whoever they want.  When he does something that hurts me/you directly, then we can talk about it all we want.  I do like Tiger Woods and I thought he was one of the good guys.  It turns out he is human like everyone else and his wife should consider kicking his ass to the curb.  Oh, wait, she already tried that.  Never mind.

I had my annual gyno exam and I no longer weigh what my driver's license says I weigh.  I have weighed the same or less than my license for the majority of my life and now I don't.  I'm in a panic and think I better get to work on this.  After Christmas.

My roots were so obvious that when I had a friend over the other day while I was talking to her she kept looking at them.  She's very polite and was all flustered when I said, "You.  I just saw you staring at my roots.  You tried to look quickly, but I caught you!"  She giggled and was all, "Did I?  I didn't know I was doing that!"  Then when MG got home from his week long trip, we were talking and he did the same.damn.thing.  I said the same thing to him about looking at my roots.  He then said, "Yes, I was.  You need to do something about that."  It was quite humorous because all these years I have been telling him he needs to pay attention to what is going on around him, notice more things, etc. etc.  It figures, he takes my advice when it comes to my grey roots!  I colored my hair last night and it's awesome.  I also did my eyebrows, which I've never done before.

So that's it.  I'm still here, even if you have forgotten about me!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Penguins and mice, oh my!

Thankfully, it has been many, many years since I have had to look for an apartment to live in.  I hated the digging through the newspapers to find a place in a part of town you want to live in, that looks and functions in a way that is desirable to you and all at a monthly rental fee you can afford.  Then going to look at the place only to find out it is nothing like the classified ad stated.

Notice I said "digging through the papers" up there?  Apparently, now a days, you can just drive around and look for the waving mouse or the waving penguin who is holding a sign that says "Luxury Apartments - first month's rent free" or "Want to live here?  We'll pay your utilities!" or some other budget teaser.  I realize that in the 18 or so years it's been since I've had to apartment hunt, that things have changed.  I would have guessed the improvements would have been made with the benefit of techonology - online rental sites, online maps to see exactly where the place is located and even Google type searches where you can often find a picture of the exact property.  But waving penguins and mice?  I can't imagine being out one day, doing my errands and seeing a waving animal and saying "Wow, I think I want to live there" and pull in, sign a lease, make my down payment and then going home and getting my things.  Do these little gimmicks work?

And really, we don't have to just focus on the rental properties doing this.  What about the pizza places, car dealers, furniture stores.  Where does it end?