Monday, December 31, 2012

My Hillmomba For A Meter Stick

I have spent a snow-filled morning chasing wild geese.

Don't think Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is a newly-dedicated ornithologist. She has been chasing the elusive kind of goose. Might as well make her squat down in the dark woods holding a gunny sack and tell her to wait for a snipe to run into it.

The trip to town was meant to be a sortie to the dead-mouse-smelling post office, and a mission to capture a wild 44 oz. Diet Coke. But the #1 son had other ideas. He found it befitting that his very own personal shopper venture farther afield. Twice as far, in fact, to obtain the elusive tennis ball. Did you know that tennis balls are not carried by Save A Lot, Country Mart, or the Dollar Store? Not even by the gas station chicken store. I know that comes as a complete surprise. I'm sure city people can step out the door and find a tennis ball shop on every corner. Not so here in Hillmomba.

Mrs. HM had her trusty Pony in tow. A Pony capable of dashing through The Devil after being dropped at the door, picking up a can of balls, paying cash, and homing in on T-Hoe in the parking lot. Simple enough. Except when #1 is called to inform him of the mission, and he replies that he also needs a meter stick. What's with that boy? He suddenly needs balls AND a stick?

Do you know where to find a meter stick? Europe, perhaps? Oh, gloat about it, city people. I'm sure there are meter stick stores in the middle of every block, keeping the tennis ball shops from running together. But here in Hillmomba, meter sticks are yardsticks, and yardsticks are given away free at lumberyards for advertising purposes. I have never seen a yard/meter stick without advertising upon its narrow back. And front. This was not a mission to spring upon The Pony. He of minimal interaction with members of his species.

I parked. A surprising number of people seek The Devil on New Year's Eve in a blizzard. I suppose they require bread and milk for their New Year's celebrations this evening. T-Hoe was tethered over halfway up the parking aisle. The Devil has a stunningly large investment in real estate.

So...have you formulated and answer yet? About where to find a meter stick? The office supply section, you think? No. Hardware? No. Lumber? Ahem. We are at The Devil's Playground, not Lowe's. There is no lumber at the Playground. Because Mrs. HM knew that she would be combing The Devil's maze for these items, she called #1 and told him to get on the phone to The Devil's people, and ask if they harbored meter sticks, and in what department. She then dispatched The Pony to sporting goods for the tennis balls. She made a beeline for rulers. A meter stick IS just a big, overgrown ruler, right?

A meter stick in office supplies? No dice. And no meter stick. Luckily #1 called back. He was indignant. "It took me FIVE people to figure out what a metric system even WAS! And finally some lady in Fabrics said they have one." Well. As you can imagine, my cold, cold heart bled for put-upon #1. How hard it must have been for him in the warmth of his room, sitting in his cushy office chair, in his sock feet, Facebooking, to Google The Devil's number, punch it in his phone, and wait while being transferred from one clerk to another. Oh, how hard it must have been to explain five times the description of a meter stick. And its uses!

I headed to Fabrics. Looked up and down the aisles. Stumbled upon a frazzled fabric-cutter. And inquired about a meter stick. "Yes. We have one right over here, Honey." She led me to it. Slipped it off its hook, hidden against the back of the pegboard, one of only two in stock. I thanked her and placed it in my cart, next to the can of tennis balls The Pony had just deposited, having searched aisle by aisle to find me after discovering me AWOL from office supplies. That meter stick promptly slipped through the wire lattice of the cart. The Pony grabbed it for me.

"Um. This is NOT a meter stick. It is only thirty-six inches long. I'm sure a meter stick is longer than that. This one only goes to ninety-one centimeters. A meter stick should have one hundred centimeters."

"Well, it is clearly marked with centimeters. It will have to do. That's the best we're gonna get around here."

"But technically, #1 asked for a meter stick. And this is not a meter stick. It's a yardstick. A meter stick has one hundred centimeters. It's longer."

"OKAY! Can we just drop it now? Let's go pay."

A terrible tragedy had occurred during our shopping. The speaker system called for a housekeeping associate to report to the liquor aisle. Oh, the humanity! Also, a call was made for checkers to report to the front. Uh huh. Lines were even longer than normal. We were not our usual seventh in line. Plus, an old lady behind me stepped up and interrupted right before I was to put my two items on the short checkout counter. She asked if, even though she and her husband had way more than twenty items in their cart, could they check out here. Seriously? SERIOUSLY? The poor checker agreed. I'm sure they're forbidden to forbid extra items.

When we arrived home, after taking an alternate Hillmomba route, due to snow cover on our regular blacktop pig trail, the #1 son welcomed us with open arms. All right. That's a lie. He took one look at the merchandise we risked our lives for, and said,

"That's not a meter stick."

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Like Safety In The Bank

Farmer H is a saver.

Sure, sometimes that can be synonymous with hoarder. But not in this case. We're not talking about his collection of chicken figurines, or Coca Cola memorabilia, or out-of-business-breweries beer paraphernalia. Nope. We're talking about putting something back so it will be ready when you really want it. A saver.

When I was in high school, our volleyball team was really good. Second place in the state tournament good. Before schools were divided into classes depending on enrollment. We had special socks with our school colors. Pardon my fashion faux pas by today's standards, but the sock of the era was the tube sock. Ours had alternating red and royal blue stripes around the top. They were a status symbol of sorts. A thick, white, knee-high athletic sock with blue/red/blue/red stripes above the calf. Only the volleyball team had them. Each player had two pair. Don't think the school GAVE them to us. We had to pay. They were socks, you see.

I decided I wanted to save one pair. For my glory days. To remember that special time. My mom was quite accommodating. Even though we played at least two games per week, she washed my socks so I could reserve that second pair. They lay folded in my top drawer, near the back, out of the heavy traffic area. Every now and then I would take them out and stroke them. Perhaps hold them to my cheek. Revel in their championshipness. But then a funny thing happened. Along about my senior year of college, my socks lost their mojo. I tried them on, and discovered that THEY HAD LOST THEIR ELASTICITY! They were almost brittle. With a sickly yellow tinge. The elastic had given up the ghost. My socks were old. Useless. Jaundiced. Not special anymore.

All along, I could have been wearing the bejeebers out of those hosiery. Showing the world my special socks. When they were in fashion, even! But I had wasted them. Shut them away until they turned to dust.

Farmer H is a saver. He volunteered to drive T-Hoe to town in the deep snowfall yesterday morning. As we headed up the driveway, I asked if he had put my loyal vehicle in 4WD. I do that, you know, in times of snow-packed roadways. Even with a dusting. Not to mention the seven-plus inches we were plowing through.

"No. We don't need it."

"Yes. We DO need it."

"I don't know where it is."

That was a blatant falsehood. Farmer H was simply putting me in my place, because he had tried to put my precious T-Hoe into 4WD before backing out of the garage. I told him that he would not be able to turn the tires in 4WD. That I always waited until I was headed up the driveway. Also, that you are only supposed to switch from regular 2WD to automatic 4WD or 4W HIGH while the tires are rolling. And that doggone Farmer H tried to tell me that you are only supposed to switch it when you are stopped. GIVE ME A BREAK! It is my car. I have driven it since 2008. I read the manual that first winter.


So then, Farmer H proceeded to fumble around and tell me he put my precious T-Hoe in 4W AUTO. Which means the wheels will switch into four-wheel drive if the tires spin. Of course, first you are riding in a vehicle with spinning tires, THEN you have four-wheel-drive to try and save yourself.


I argued that we bought a car with 4WD so we would have a way in and out of our remote hilly enclave in times of snow and ice. What was the point of NOT using the 4WD? It was already paid for. It wasn't going to wear out. The conditions were exactly what we had purchased the 4WD for. All he had to do was turn a dial the size of a fifty-cent piece, located to the left of the steering wheel.

Farmer H is a saver. He is saving that 4WD for some mystical purpose. He even went so far as to tell me, "This here automatic four-wheel-drive is all you will ever need."

I explained that I always put T-Hoe in 4W HIGH when driving on snow. That one year, coming up the big hill, a tiny sports car coming down had refused to move from the middle, and ran me off the right side. There is no shoulder in Hillmomba. I drove with T-Hoe canted at a 45-degree angle, two tires in the ditch, until that tiny sports car passed. Luckily, my 4W HIGH pulled me right up the hill, and allowed me to claw my way back onto the road.

THAT is why we don't save our already-paid-for, easy-to-use 4WD when Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is piloting T-Hoe through seven-plus inches of snow. The condescending chuckle of Farmer H will not change my beliefs.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

A Milestone Is Achieved

Today marks a milestone in Hillbilly history.

The Pony shaved his chin whiskers. They've been multiplying. When there were just a few, he enjoyed stroking them like a wise man contemplating an earth-shattering decision. Then they got longer. And more numerous. So much so, in fact, that The Pony himself asked for a shaver. Sweet Gummi Mary! Don't even mention a razor! We can't have The Pony hacking himself to bits.

A few months ago, The Pony and I bought him a shaver on one of our weekly trips to The Devil's Playground. Or so we thought. Nobody made an effort to show him how to use it. And by that, I mean neither of the two be-whiskered males in the Mansion attempted to take The Pony under their bushy wings. I even heard The Pony pleading for guidance. But it was like a real-life Cat's in the Cradle lesson courtesy of Harry Chapin.

The device sat on the living room end table for eons. Finally, this morning, I commanded Farmer H to show the hirsute Pony how to groom himself. Hmpf! It seems that stupid old Hillbilly Mom bought The Pony a trimmer, not a shaver. Excuuuuuuuse me! I think a trimmer would work perfectly well on chin only. There was even a picture on the box of a dude shaving his chin. The Pony helped me pick it out. But no. We are imbeciles.

I persuaded Farmer H to drive T-Hoe to The Devil's Playground. We have seven or eight inches of unforecast snow, you know. And while we were there, I made sure that Farmer H and The Pony picked out a suitable shaver. Norelco. Same as Burl Ives, the bowler-hatted, plaid-vest-wearing Snowman rode down the snow-blanketed hill in the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer network broadcast.

When we got home, and merchandise was packed in and stowed away, Farmer H plugged in The Pony's new shaver to show him how it worked. I took a picture of the soon-to-be-harvested chin whiskers. Then, to the horror of The Pony, Farmer H committed and act that made me downright apoplectic. HE SHAVED HIS NECK WITH THE PONY'S BRAND NEW SHAVER!

I know, right? HOW DARE HE? Can a Pony have nothing to call his own? Who wants old man graybeard clippings in his new shaver? Not ME, that's for sure. And, I suspect, not The Pony. Though he hides his emotions better than I. He nodded. With a sickly expression. Then whisked his new shaver off to the bathroom to denude his chin in private. When he returned, that chin was soft as a baby's butt. He even let Farmer H cop a feel. Funny how the #1 son declined the offer.

The Pony left his pencil-thin mustache in place.

Friday, December 28, 2012

I Got 99 E-Mails But A Pic Ain't One

We are in the midst of a blizzard that was not exactly forecast to the best of my knowledge. I could be in error, what with being holed up in my basement lair until 11:30 last evening due to the guests that wouldn't leave.

This morning, I could swear I heard the weatherpeople on the local channels state that some black ice or freezing drizzle might appear for the morning rush. And that there was a slight chance of flurries overnight. But what to my wondering eyes should appear at 5:00 p.m. but a rip-roarin', down-home, Hillmomban blizzard!

According to the #1 son, it started around 2:30. He took off to a basketball tournament to take yearbook pictures of what turned out to be an upset victory for #9 seeded Newmentia, who demolished the #1 seed to move on to the semi-finals.

I stepped out on the porch to try and snap a picture for posterity. That last batch of snow, the ALLEGED six to nine inches, came in the wee morning hours. That's because it was trying to hide its inadequacies, being a mere two inches of actual measurement. Just my luck that our resident photographer was absent. My old-fashioned, almost-a-Jitterbug, phone camera would have to suffice. I tried a tall picture and a wide picture. Wouldn't you know it? I handed the phone to The Pony so he could email them to myself. Now the tall one is in my inbox, but the wide one is fashionable late. How fitting that I am sitting at 99 emails. That's only because I cleaned out my inbox last night. What else was I going to do? I was trapped at my computer for HOURS! In fact, last night, I had over 600 emails. I'm a hoarder. And also a procrastinator. Now it stands at 271, but 99 are unread. And one wide photo is missing. It'll get here. Sometimes they take a while.

Speak of the it is now. I'll be right back.

Please accept my apology for the quality. I know you can't see the snowflakes pouring down. But that's not a meteor striking our dusk-to-dawn light. It's a halo caused by fat snowflakes. As you can see, the tree limbs are bearing the brunt of this stealthy storm. I'm hoping no brittle limbs collapse on an electrical wire. You can see the faint hoofprints of The Pony from his trip to gather The Egg. We've only been getting one a day. Farmer H blames the glossy-coated curs for snacking on his hen-fruit before the evening harvest. I say he needs more than circumstantial evidence.

The chicken pen and goat pen are behind those low-hanging limbs. That's a faint trail to the BARn. It's normally big enough to drive a car through. And my poor rose bush is starting to slump beside the porch. I'm glad that #1 is spending the night with a friend, and that he has already checked in to say he is under their roof.

Farmer H just called from town. So unforecast was a storm of this magnitude that he was caught unawares. He drove his regular Pacifica to work today. Rather than his 4WD Ford 250 that he just had repaired for navigating such road conditions. The one he drove Wednesday and Thursday. He thinks he can make it back to the Mansion, with the exception of the last gravel hill. If need be, I can drive down to that area and pick him up in T-Hoe to save him a half-mile hike.

Because I'm generous like that.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Mansion Is Under Seige

The #1 son is having friends in tonight.

Actually the friends have been here since shortly after 2:30 this afternoon. And another just arrived. At 9:00 p.m. I am being held captive in my basement lair, so as not to embarrass the Crown Prince of Hillmomba. The spare heir is holed up in his bedroom. Not that it's a hardship. He has a TV with 150 channels of DISH Network, a laptop, internet, a Kindle, a Kindle Fire, all his books, and too many assorted weapons to count. Farmer H escaped to the bowling alley, but I expect him home any minute. Where they will stash him remains to be seen.

Hark! What heavy tread through yonder ceiling tromps? Farmer H has returned. We shall see if he flushes the covey of nerds from their living room nest. They have alternated between there and the basement big-screen, though they have been playing games all the live-long day and night. There had been talk of watching a movie or two. A dalliance that would end at 8:00. That's not happening. Oops! I just heard Farmer H settle into his La-Z-Boy. We'll see what develops. Ha! Less that sixty seconds from Farmer H to basement. That's got to be a record.

I do not begrudge #1 his gathering. He is overdue to wear the hosting hat. But his bossiness was grating on my nerves yesterday. A day in which he left the Mansion at 9:30 a.m., and did not return for twelve hours. Then demanded to know why The Pony and I had not been cleaning up for his impending visitors. Even though we had been gone from 10:00 to 4:00 on a quest for Convenient Care and glasses repair and package pickup. Not to mention the fact that it was HIS shindig, and HIS junk as well that needed cleaning.

He's not really holding me captive. He asked me to come out and meet his friends, two of whom I am already familiar with. Oh, I know his friends from OUR school. But these are from surrounding districts, and two colleges. A bigger nerdfest you could not imagine. At least I know where he is. And who he's with. I suppose I should not be concerned that they were screaming about black tar heroin. It was part of a game, I was told.

Surely these youngsters have a curfew...

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Fat Of The Sheep

Hey! Only 364 days left until Christmas!

I really need to start my preparations earlier next year. Like that time I had everything bought and stored away by October 31. That was great. I don't know how I did it. I think it was when my kids were teeny-tiny, and it was easy to pull the wool over their eyes. Figuratively, of course. Because I have an allergic reaction to lanolin, and my boys might as well, and that would not be good for their peepers. It could draw the shades on the windows to their souls.

Maybe they aren't allergic. I found out when I used Eucerin cream as a moisturizer. Anywhere except my hands, I break out from it. But I originally bought the Eucerin cream upon recommendation from Baby #1 Son's doctor. He said it was great for baby's butts. Kept the diaper rash away like a champ. It's no wonder. That stuff waterproofed the babybuttcheeks like Rain Dance on an automobile hood. No moisture was penetrating my boy's nether regions. No way, no how. And it was great for my hands. But stray one iota, and it's itchy wrists for me!

Now I use some kind of vanilla bean cream in a milky lime-green color that my sister gets me every Christmas. Farmer H was befuddled when he hopped into T-Hoe to drive us to the Christmas Eve party. Thought he smelled cookies. But it was only me. Much to his dismay, I am sure. Even though he can't eat cookies. Taking away the very anticipation from the smell is probably doubly disappointing.

This has been a wasted day, running around on errands, navigating the treacherous roads of Hillmomba. I hope #1 learned how to drive on icy snow this morning, and returns unscathed from the basketball tournament he went to this afternoon. He even called me to report the road conditions before my erranding. Not good. He should be fine, though, until our gravel iced pig-trail. He has instructions to call when he starts for the Mansion.

At least Farmer H is home to pull him out of a ditch.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I Am No Champion, My Friends


The gamesmanship at last night's Christmas Eve shindig did not disappoint. I am sorry to report that I was NOT a winner. I was off my form, what with my sinus/tooth issue flaring up intermittently. Thank the Gummi Mary, we did not have to unwrap a gift encased in 1078 layers of different wrapping paper while wearing oven mitts, with a time limit of fifteen seconds per round. The Pony won that game last year. By using his teeth. I cried shenanigans, as his teeth were not enclosed in oven mitts. The powers that had been did not see fit to disqualify that cheating child.

This year, my sister enlisted us to participate in a rousing game of Who Am I? That's what I call it. She purloined parts from the game Headbands to use for her little contest. We played a variation of this game another year, when Sis slapped signs on our backs and we had to wander through her house, interviewing each other to determine our identities. That was the year I was near to last on discovering that I was a candle. All because my mom steered me wrong by answering YES to the question, "Do children like to play with me." Along with nodding her head vigorously. I cried shenanigans again, but apparently Sis is akin to Tom T. Hall in her affinity for old ladies, children, and not Hillbilly Mom's whine.

Here is last night's cheater:

Oh, yes. HM knows a cheater when she sees one. Especially when one picks up one's phone under the guise of taking pictures, but the phone is pointed out across the table surface, not at people's heads. And when a Gingerbread House asks questions such as, "Do we have one? Am I edible? Is there candy on me?" Yeah, right. Totally random questions to ask each round. After the outcry of cheating, initiated by Ginger's own mother, and rousingly chorused by the other Christmas items, Ginger dumbed down her line of inquiry, and fell on her own serrated knife.

Some of the best moments came from the #1 son, aka Wise Man, who asked, "Am I alive? Do I give gifts? Do I work in a retail store?" And from Chimney, who wanted to know, "Do we have one? Do we have to put it up? Am I made of wax?" And, disturbingly, from Manger, who queried, "Do people burn me?" I finished second behind that darn Manger, who came just ahead of me in the round, by deducing my identity in four questions. I was not alive, not found inside, not possessed by many people, and I touched the ground. VOILA! Easy peasy. I was a Sleigh. Okay, so I had help when a short outburst occurred between The Pony, aka Mistletoe, and Sis. The Pony said a lot of people had me, and Sis remarked, "I don't know of one person who has one these days." I am an opportunist, Give me more that the standard YES or NO to go on, and I will make your rue the day you did not DQ The Pony.

In the left/right game, the continuing saga of the Wright family and their comings and goings, where everybody has a gift bag that is passed left and right during the story...I won this:

It's Hermey the dentist from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. And he's a dog toy that squeaks! I TOLD you that I bought the most awesome prizes this year.

Tomorrow, I start training for the 2013 Games.

Monday, December 24, 2012

An Evening Of Competition Awaits

Whew! We're off to my sister's house in a couple of hours for her regular Christmas Eve bash.

Can you believe she put ME in charge of the gift bags this year? The gift bags that people win by playing games she has devised? I think it's a conspiracy to keep me from wanting to win. There have been official complaints lodged, you know. About me winning every year. Can I help it? I refuse to hide my MENSAness under a barrel. Surely others would not want to win just because I threw a competition or two! My grandma taught me that. Right after she landed against my croquet ball and put her foot on hers and whacked mine over the blacktop road and into the woods. I was eight.

So...The Pony and I found the BEST gift bag prizes at Big Lots. Sis gave us the bags she uses every year. All we had to do was remove the staples so nobody comes down with a mysterious case of lockjaw from a wound. Apparently, Sis told me last Christmas Eve that I should only spend $1 on each item, except for the GRAND PRIZE, which should be $10. We did okay on the grand. But I thought she said $2 on the others. Now she is a bit perplexed. Doesn't want people to think this year's prizes are rockin', and that she's a cheap-butt. EXCUUUUUUSE ME! So I didn't remember correctly something I was told 364 days ago!

I still need to wrap presents for the boys. I guess I'll be up all night. It won't be the first time.

Have you heard? Hillmomba is due for 6-PLUS inches of snow tomorrow evening! I'm fine with that. As long as we have electricity. We are going to my mom's house, and it's less than ten miles away. We can leave as soon as the precip starts. Just snatch up some leftovers and hit the road. Come home and play with our Christmas swag. Mom can settle down and work puzzles in her new crossword book that I'm giving her. Shh...don't tell.

I'm stoked for tonight. Ready to go bust some chops in Christmas trivia. I certainly hope we don't play the game where you unwrap a gift while wearing oven mitts. The Pony won that one last year. He cheated. Teeth are not allowed. I'm going to make sure that has been added to the official rules.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Miracles DO Happen

All hail The Devil's Handmaiden!

Did you notice the skies part this morning? A golden shaft of sunlight piercing the cloud ceiling? Hear trumpets? The angelic voices of the Vienna Boys Choir?

My checker at The Devil's Playground was a master bagger! So much, in fact, that not only was I almost happily unaware of what she'd put in which bag...but the thing that caused me to notice was something POSITIVE! Above and beyond the call of duty.

Master Bagger did not merely bag my things as I had grouped them on the conveyor. She put like shapes with like shapes. All cold items together. Cylinders with cylinders. Boxes with boxes. Soft with soft. I call for a special Nobel Prize for Bagging. And I nominate Master Bagger.


So I didn't have to comb through and re-bag in the back of T-Hoe, in an effort to hang on to the last thread of suspense for my growing boys on Christmas morning.

All hail The Devil's Handmaiden!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Do Not Taunt The FedEx Man

The #1 son has an axe to grind. And he wants to grind it into the FedEx man.

I have tried to tell him that this will be frowned upon by the FedEx Corporation, the FedEx man, and society in general. Don't get me wrong. The Hillbilly family has several FedEx bones of contention stuck in their collective craw. But the tactics #1 proposes will not resolve the issues.

Here is his plan: leave a hateful note on the front door, in large print, as large as our printer can print. The proposed note would say something to the effect of:

"Since you are too stupid to read the note that has been on the door for four months, maybe you can read THIS. 'Put the package in the garage so the dogs don't eat it' does not mean to leave the package on the porch. Where there are dogs. That will eat it."

He called me on my way home from school Thursday to tell me that. I decreed that no such note would be left on my door. And that he needed to talk to his dad about that, because I was sure Farmer H would agree with me. #1 leaves the Mansion after The Pony and I are long gone. So I didn't want him sneaking any note out there when I was unaware.

Our problems with FedEx are fivefold. It all started with a pair of bowling shoes that took six weeks to arrive. I have no idea where they were cooling their heels while they were in limbo. The company showed they were shipped, and FedEx showed they were in transit. Then they suddenly appeared. Six weeks later.

The next issue was some special piece of electronics that the #1 son ordered. I don't remember if it was for his phone or computer. But it was important to him, and he followed it daily. It was on New Year's Eve. Around 1:00 or 2:00, #1 ran out of his room, at the front of the house, where he had been eagerly awaiting his package, to say the FedEx site showed that delivery was attempted, but could not be completed. He hit the roof. Got on the phone, and discovered that the driver said we were a business, and that we were closed for the holiday. #1 gave the dispatcher a piece of his opinionated mind, and declared that he had paid for express delivery, and HE WANTED HIS PACKAGE NOW! The dispatcher contacted the driver and chewed him out, apparently. Sent him on his merry way to the Mansion. Where he parked at the end of the driveway, one-eighth of a mile long, and waited for #1 to walk to the end and get his package.

The biggest issue was the time the driver backed into the front yard to turn around, instead of using the concrete area as big as half a basketball court, with an adjoining gravel area big enough for four cars. Not only did he back into the yard, he gleefully (I'm sure) spun his wheels until two twelve-inch-deep ruts, longer than Farmer H laid down, were left for posterity. Farmer H called FedEx headquarters, and was, after a several-day runaround, told that the driver admitted to "getting stuck" in the yard, and that Farmer H could hire a landscaper and send them the bill. Yeah. Like we had time off from work to deal with a landscaper. Farmer H just told them he wanted the shenanigans to stop, and to save other people from having their yards dug up by this maniac.

Another time Mr. FedEx wouldn't leave a package with nobody home, even though we'd left the signed note as instructed from the previous day's nondelivery. That time I had to drive #1 five miles chasing the FedEx truck to a local business to get the package off the truck.

So...this latest infraction involved Farmer H's delivery of two loaves of pumpkin bread and blueberry bread from The Daily Bread. A perk of doing business with a supplier at his job. The happy accident that the dogs didn't eat it before we got home was, most likely, and oversight on their part. That was the morning we spied the ribs and neck of a small-deer-sized carcass with meat still clinging to the bones in the front yard.

I am not in any way clearing FedEx of wrongdoing. But I keep thinking of the last time I had dealings with the FedEx man. This was the good guy. The one who told me that he thought there was a dog IN the garage. Because he saw eyes in there. So he tossed in the package and closed the door. Yeah. That guy looked like he was deathly afraid of dogs. He has come to the Mansion before, with #1 meeting him on the porch, assuring him that the dogs don't bite.

I would not want to hurt his feelings. The eyes in the garage must have traumatized that fellow.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom DOES have a heart. Cold though it may be.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mrs. Hillbillly Mom. The Freakin' Genius.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not known for her electronic acumen.

As the #1 son says, "Technology is not your friend." I am the bull in the china shop of intricate electronic systems. I know how to plug a device into the wall outlet. I know how to push a power button. Anything else is taxing my limited knowledge base. It took me thirty minutes to figure out how to re-connect both mouse and number pad to my laptop, after somebody so kindly hooked them up wrong overnight.

From the start, my classroom speakers had issues with some strange kind of feedback. They were connected to my towering tower of accessories by #1 at the start of the school year in which they were installed. So I know if they were ever going to work right, they would work right. He's a wiz at that stuff. According to #1, and one just like him the next year, the problem lies in the amplifier box. I just call it the black box that sits on the bottom of my tower. It has a knob for something I do not know, a knob for volume when playing the VCR or DVD, and a knob for volume when playing sound through my school laptop. Both wizards went over that rig with a fine-toothed comb. Both declared: "Your speakers are crap!" Both suggested the only option was to turn that unknown knob up to MAX, to control feedback. It sort of worked a little bit.

Several weeks ago, the buzzing of the speakers became intolerable. Student eardrums would have been safer on a runway at Chicago O'hare, right under a 747 engine, than in my classroom. I gave up. I showed the educational DVDs, or the holiday movie, by playing it on my computer. Not an optimal situation, because then I cannot accomplish other work on the computer. And when a student grade is requested, I cannot look it up without stopping the video, because I certainly can't project the gradebook program onto the screen for all to view. Confidentiality, you know.

With today being the last day of the semester, I was certain grade information would be needed. So I started a holiday movie in my DVD player. Oh, the tympanity! So horrific was the buzzing that the audio of the movie was barely discernible. One young lass shouted, "My ears are bleeding!" I would have chastised her for being overly dramatic, but I fear that in this instance, she was accurate.

Fed up with the whole shoddy equipment debacle, I turned my amplifier around. Just slightly, though, lest I dislodge the frayed copper wire ends that run into it from the long wire that snakes down the wall. Fed up. I looked at the four cables hooked into that amplifier. Just as I do every time the speakers have issues. Like when I check them all to see if they're completely plugged in. And they always are. Fed up. I grabbed the nearest red one, and yanked.

The buzzing ceased completely. A cheer of admiration went up. "You FIXED it!"

I will eagerly be checking the mail for a union card from the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Designated Hugging Day In Hillmomba

Today was Designated Hugging Day in Hillmomba. Newmentia facility, to be precise. The day my teaching buddy, Mabel, and I exchange gifts. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not a hugger, my friends. Her philosophy on nonfamilial shows of affection is this: Neither a hugger nor a huggee be. But once a year, she humors her bestest friend, Mabel.

Because we live in Hillmomba, Mabel and I deal in livestock. We exchange cows and horses. Cow Parade cows and Painted Pony horses. Ms. Mabel has even gone to the ends of the Earth in past years to procure just the proper pony. Or at least sent her representative to the Dixie Stampede, for a very special Dolly Parton pony that was not available at any other venue. That's because Mabel is generous like that. And we all know how much HM loves the esteemed Dolly Parton.

Also part of the exchange were tasty treats. Homemade candy for HM, including Oreo balls and chocolate-dipped cherry delights, and peppermint bark. Of course Mabel was a recipient of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's World-Famous Chex Mix. Four barrels of it. We will both be foundering ourselves forthwith. Well, I can't really speak for Mabel. She exhibits more self-restraint. Did you know she still has Chex Mix left from her birthday in November? But then again, she has been known to let PEEPS age several weeks before eating them. That is just wrong. They don't last a day around the Mansion.

I had a close call at a bookish event in the city a few weeks ago. Such a hugfest I had never seen. I was lucky to escape with my nerves intact and my lid unflipped. My stack unblown. Never having hit the roof. Apparently, city folk have never heard of Designated Hugging Day!

With the end drawing near (of the year 2012, silly, NOT the end of the world as we know it tomorrow), I can safely declare another Designated Hugging Day in the books for posterity. And relax for 364 days.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Playground Hath No Fury Like A Minion Scorned

I'm a bad-butt all right. I pulled a fast one at The Devil's Playground. Actually, I didn't. But somebody THINKS I did. And THINKING is nine-tenths of perception.

There I was, Ponyless, pushing my cart to the checkout. I needed my fix. My weekly dose of not-so-reliable news. A Globe. And an Enquirer. Without my right-hand equine, I had to gather those mags for myself. Did you know that The Devil does quite a bit of business right before the holidays, and righter before the end of the world? It's true. That establishment was packed.

I wheeled my cart near the checkout lanes. I wanted to cut through a gap on the main aisle to get at my newsy papers. But my way through, between a battery display and a movie candy display, was blocked by a battleax and her cart. I moved on down the main aisle. Sweaved a bit. Grabbed my pulp fact-or-fiction, and wheeled into my favorite checkout.

The blood leaking down my neck from the burn seared into the back of my head made me curious. I turned around. To see Battleax glaring at me. MOI! Like I was a line-jumper. Oh, so sorry. EXCUUUUUUSE ME! (Put a little Steve Martin flair on that for me). You snooze, you lose. Loser.

If you park your cart between two displays on the main aisle, waiting to see which of three lines are going to move the fastest, you deserve to be caught looking when a spot is taken. I did NOT turn and ask if I took her place. I did not. She was clearly waiting.An opportunist. Make that an INopportunist.

Advantage. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Call The Whaaaaahmbulance! I Have A Toothfake!

I am battling a sensitive tooth.

Oh, how tired I am of skirting the issue. Walking on eggshells around that tooth. Ignoring the elephant in my mouth. Watching my every move, lest I hurt his fillings. Such a needy emo is he.

The NERVE of that tooth! I think, perhaps, he is faking.

The best I remember, I had a root canal done on that tooth. Had him all fixed up short of the crown, because the insurance ran out what with root canals being $2500 a pop, and the insurance company declaring that the crown was not part of the coverage. So...if the roots have been pulled out on the end of a sharp, pointy poky thing, and then the canals sealed with dental cement...WHAT IS THAT TOOTH'S PROBLEM?

It has only been a couple of days, but this intermittent disabilitating pain is wearing on me. I stopped drinking out of a straw last night. You know, in my big bubba cup of ice water. Thinking that the cold or the suction was the instigator. But then this morning, sitting there in Farmer H's La-Z-Boy for my chair nap, that throbbing pain returned with a vengeance. If I turn my head just right, I can make it go away after several minutes. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is magic like that. Unfortunately, students look askance upon a teacher whose head is askance. And I can't whip out my vibrator in front of them. It always makes me feel better. The vibrator I ripped out of a neck massage donut thingy. I can put that on my forehead, and the tooth quits hurting. I can use neither tactic while driving. On the way home tonight, that pain was so severe that it branched down into my lower teeth.

I'm starting to think Toothy is being set up by my sinuses. Made the scapegoat. In order to send me to the dentist, not the doctor, who might put Siny in his place. My BFF Google says that sinusitis often mimics toothache pain.

This was an issue throughout the month of August. I was starting to think I was a tooth grinder. It often hit right after a bout of recliner-sleeping. A headache, too. Then the pain went away after I was given antibiotics for a lingering cough.

I will give it a couple of days. As long as I can walk around with a vibrator, with my left ear pointed at the sky, my pain will be under control.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Huffing And Puffing

Did you ever have one of those days? Where it just seems like everybody's gettin' on your case? From your teacher all the way down to your best girlfriend? Oops! That was Brownsville Station. Not me. I'm not gonna get caught smokin' in the boys' room. Everybody knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school. And the boys PEE ON THE FLOOR in there!

My one of those days started this morning after three hours of sleep. I was up until 2:00 typing a practice EOC test to give my students for their final. Not that I can count the actual scores. It's stuff they have not covered yet. A mid-year pre-test, if you will. But data needs to be gathered. For later compiling, to see if students learn in my class over the course of the year, of if I am some tricked-out blob of dark matter in human form, sucking knowledge from their very noggins. I gave one first quarter, but need three more. Who knew that there are four quarters in one year?

It's a pain to compile a test for the DESE strands. Sure, I could have done it sooner. But that would mean that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has turned in her procrastination card. I DID make a 60-question test last week for one course. But this one has been giving me fits. And you surely didn't expect me to used my weekend time for job work, did you? Weekends are for Mansion work. Chex Mix baking. Shopping. Laundry. Online gift ordering. Fudge eating. And chair napping.

So...I arrived at Newmentia with this test that was supposed to be taken 5th hour. Perfectly doable. I had 30 questions done. Correlated to the strands. All I needed were 25 more. I figured I could work on it for 40 minutes before first bell. And during the video I was showing my first class, who does not take their already-printed and copied final until tomorrow. Then I would have 50 minutes of plan time. More video time for another class that has their test tomorrow. Put the finishing touches on my answer sheet while 4th hour took their final. And BOOM! All done. Ready to go at the time I needed it.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom plans. The denizens of Newmentia laugh. The #1 son popped in for a bottle of water. Of all the days for him to want to maintain proper hydration! I forgot that my already-copied tests had not been stapled, because that function makes Kyocera  move slower than a government worker in a public-employee standoff. So I stapled them to be ready for 4th hour. Put in my flash drive and opened my file, which, THANK THE GUMMI MARY, was NOT corrupted like it was last time I tried to open it, resulting in retyping from the lone hard copy I had printed in a fit of disaster-preparedness.

I did a short review with my class before pacifying them with a video. Got ten questions done. Patted myself on the back. Made a call to a resource room for a heads-up on the test. Agreed to bring copies at beginning of 2nd hour. Made a call to my duty-reliever and arranged payment for her service in my stead at tonight's athletic contest. Supervised the hall. Took a copy of the newly-minted answer sheet to Kyocera, only to find that traitor canoodling with another, another whose plan time is way later in the day, but insists on dashing in to monopolize the copier during my scheduled time. Started into the bathroom but was beaten by another. And another. Finally gained access to the facility, only to step out and find the door out of the teacher workroom blocked by a conversationalist conversing with my teaching buddy, Mabel, who wanted me to look up a document from October and email it to her as soon as I got back to my room. Even though my time was spoken for. And who also wanted another word for humility, like I am a walking talking thesaurus.

Back in my room, I commenced to formulating and typing, only to be visited by Mr. P, who brought a ballot for Student of the Month. I rushed through those questions. Stole five from my other test, about the scientific method. Printed the first four pages, collated, so I did not have to hike back to see if Kyocera was available. Greeted my 3rd hour at the bell. Videoed them into submission. Found an error that required me to hand-write a phrase on the test pages already printed. Stacked and stapled.

The bell rang for lunch, so I heated my sandwich, plopped it on the cafeteria table as a place holder, dropped off my SotM ballot in the office, took some ISS work down the hall to a teacher who acts as courier, paid the bounty to my reliever, and still made it back in time to sit down and enjoy the ambiance of the freshman lunch shift.

Fourth hour was interrupted by the #1 son, who came bearing gifts to himself in the form of a giant gift bag of candy. No wonder he needed more water. I barely looked up from my finish stapling. When fifth hour students entered the room, I handed out their test like it had been cooling its papery heels in my out box for weeks. That's the way a master does it.

Seventh hour, I mistakenly handed The Pony a biology test instead of his rightful physics test. A minor detail he did not notice until he ran out of questions at 52, leaving a gap in his 60-blank answer sheet. The bad news is that I had to give him another test to start all over again. The good news is that he scored a 93% on a test for which he had not received instruction, and had not read the book.

Sittin' in the classroom. Thinkin' it's a drag. Taking double tests just ain't The Pony's bag.

I hope he knows that smokin' ain't allowed in school.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I Had A Horse In This Race

The Pony had his first-ever high school academic match last Saturday. It was a tournament involving eight teams. Some of the schools were two and three times as large as Newmentia.

The Pony is the workhorse of his team. Though only a freshman, he is the go-to guy. The one who stays in every round. One of the sophomore girls is also a team staple. But it's The Pony they rely on to guide them. That said, he was disappointed when they lost all three matches Saturday morning. Upset that they did not make it to the afternoon round. He didn't say it in so many words. But I could tell by his demeanor when he arrived home. I know my little Pony.

Monday morning, I was graced by a visit from Mr. Principal. It's a rare occasion when he drops by my classroom, unless it is teacher fake payday. That happens two days a month, when he makes the rounds, dropping off fake paychecks to the faculty. We have direct deposit, so it's merely a formality. The giving of the stubs. Oh, and there was that time when the mothers of a certain Hillbilly boy's ex-girlfriends got into a kerfluffle on social media, a conflict about which I was happily ignorant, taking no part in the social media circus, and one called Newmentia and asked Mr. P if he was going to talk to me about it, and when he asked why, she said, "Well, she's a teacher there, isn't she?" Because obviously, I control the minds of the progenitors of my son's former flames, over a year removed from any sort of companionship with him, as a part of my every-night scheme to try and take over the world.

However, last Monday, Mr. P dropped in to tell me that the academic tournament school had called. The Pony won an individual medal, 6th Place, for his overall average on correct-question-answering. Mr. P caught The Pony in the hall and told him. The medal was in the mail. The Pony was pleased as punch. The next day, he was publicly congratulated via the school announcements that are read out loud at the beginning of 2nd Hour.

The medal arrived on Thursday. Mr. P, who doubles as academic coach, presented it to The Pony at practice. The Pony pranced up the hall to my room, that medal thumping on his chest. He trotted back to the corner where my desk is ensconced in a T with a table bearing a nest of wires that drop from the ceiling, an ersatz control center, one to rival the bridge of the Starship Enterprise.

"See the medal I won at the academic tournament? I wore it all through practice. It's cool." Indeed, it WAS cool. Heavy metal on a wide ribbon. I inspected it closely. Even though it never left The Pony's neck. He hurried out to use the bathroom next door to my classroom before we left for The Devil's Playground. I heard him showing his medal to Cus, who was lurking in the hall.

Upon climbing out of T-Hoe on The Devil's parking lot, The Pony yanked his door open again. "Oops! I guess I'd better not wear my medal in the store!" He was so proud. He knew that once he took off the medal, it wouldn't have quite so much significance when he put it back on. The celebratory mood would have faded.

I wonder if Secretariat felt that way about his garland of carnations, after cruising through the Belmont Stakes to earn the Triple Crown.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Cake-Taker Of The Week

I am still incensed as I type this. And a whole twenty-four hours has passed. A cooling off period. During which I became even more heated. My blood is boiling. I am hot to trot. In the way my teaching buddy, Mabel uses that expression. Not in a good way.

I have been falsely accused of having the worst room at my end of the hall!

That is poppycock! I take exception. The retired room-cleaner, Ret, used to tell me I had the BEST room on that end of the hall. "You can tell," he philosophized, "which teachers let their kids run wild, and which ones make them mind. You never have paper wads and broken pencils all over the floor. I hardly have to sweep." Ahh...that dear man. I am almost sorry I complained about him sucking ten minutes per day out of my plan time to chat. He could, you see. Because he didn't have to sweep. That once-around-the-room swipe with the short mop that he did every day, whether it needed it or not. Forget going between the rows. That was totally uncalled for. And if, on some fluke, there was a used Band-Aid or an earring-back under a desk, he fished it out during his revolution.

But now, oh, NOW I have become Public School Enemy Number One! It all started as I was leaving on Friday. I knew it was time, because Cus, the new cleaner, was pacing in the hall. We are in the way if we remain past 3:10. There are floors to mop and rooms to sweep and personal items to go through. Oops! Did I say that? I'm not implying that anything has disappeared, other than my laptop keyboard mousy roller dealybobber. Only that boundaries are crossed. But we won't go there today, what with me feeling so sullied already.

"I was going to have you put up your chairs so I could mop," said Cus. "But I don't think I'll have time. Those black marks are driving me crazy. Your room is the WORST!"

By this time, I was already halfway down the hall. I could barely turn my head to respond, what with the hair on the back of my neck all raised up to defend myself. "I take full responsibility!" I called over my shoulder. Some well-versed in the passive-aggressive style of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom might have detected a note of sarcasm in her tone.

"Oh. It's not your fault." A statement that sounded a bit too half-hearted to me. "You need feet on your chairs."

"Yeah. For however long they would last." I was not implying that I would allow my charges to rip them off and fling them willy-nilly in a rousing classroom game of noggin'-knockin', until the time when all chairs were footless, waiting to be pitied by chairs who had no shoes. I was merely referring to the runner-legged chairs in the cafeteria, who'd had  four floor-protectors each, all rubber and yellow styrofoam, which lasted less than a semester. Our chairs don't slide right because somebody bought a buttload of wax that was either the wrong kind, or was stored at the wrong temperature. I heard all about it from Ret, the fall before he retired.

Sweet Gummi Mary! You would think that I was letting those kids gather in groups of three and slide the chairs back-and-forth like Olympic lugers trying to maximize their takeoff. Or that we hosted clandestine clogging tournaments for traveling West-Virginians without the common decency to put down plywood. When in fact, the truth is that my classroom has desks with separate chairs, and hosts over a hundred students per day who pull out, scoot up, push back, and shove in those desks every hour. While the other rooms on that hall include a special class with few students, a foreign language with one-piece desks, an art room with stools and a FACS room with one-piecers that are both occupied only half the day, a science lab, a science room with one-piecers, and a science room for the upper echelon, with limited studentage. So it only stands to reason that my floor shows wear.

I can't wait till Cus notices that square of speckled asphalt tile that is peeling up. I might have to take one of my personal days so I can blame a sub.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A Case Of Misteaken Identity

On Wednesday evening, Farmer H wanted to take the #1 son out to eat for his 18th birthday. He chose a local hole-in-the-wall type place. He and I had been there years ago, but since then the original building burned down, and the restaurant moved across the street to some storefronts that had once housed an optometrist. But enough tales of our charming Hillmomba burg.

Upon arrival, we saw by the blackboard sign on the sidewalk that the special was an 8 oz. sirloin dinner for $9.99. You can't beat that with a stick. Even The Pony eats steak. We walked into the bar-and-eatery, and were almost overcome with smoke inhalation. A server asked if we wanted to sit in smoking or nonsmoking. Heh, heh. Like there was a difference in that low-ceilinged establishment with no discernible ventilation system, and ceiling fans circulating the smoke of ten thousand cigarettes from one end to the other. Before we sat down, we had each assumed the odiferous persona of a three-pack-a-day smoker.

Here's where you all holler, "Hey, Grandpa! What's for supper?" Except I'm Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, not Grandpa Jones, and I don't know how to play the banjo, and I don't live in Kornfield Kounty. But I can tell you what was for supper Wednesday night. The birthday boy had a sirloin, medium, with a baked potato and potato-cheese soup. The Pony had a sirloin, well done, with a baked potato, butter only, and nothing else. Farmer H had a sirloin, rare, with a baked potato and a salad. I had the chicken livers and crinkle-cut fries and potato-cheese soup. You might be wondering why all the detail, and whether I'm going to entertain you with my shopping list tomorrow. No. Here's the deal.

The food was good. When we were almost done, what with Farmer H and #1 having about three bites each of steak left on their plates...Farmer H looked at #1 and said, "Boy, I think you have my steak." Indeed. Blood had formed a pool around the remaining chunk of sirloin. The #1 son was sawing off a bite as the Farmer spoke.

"Yeah. I wondered about that. But it's really good. So I didn't mention it."

"I thought mine was a bit overdone. But I wasn't going to complain."

They both continued to eat what was on their plate until it was gone. So observant, those menfolk. I suppose they would have eaten the tongue out of a Jethro Bodine clodhopper boot if it came with a baked potato on the side.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Quick! Somebody Haul Russell Dalrymple Out Of Davy Jones's Locker!

What a day. So much of nothing happened, I would swear it could be a Seinfeld episode. Except I don't have such colorful friends hanging out in my apartment, waiting to be offered a Snapple.

The day began with a future recipient of a Tim Whatley regifted Label Baby Jr. asking to go brush her teeth. On MY time. No. Not happening. "But Mrs. Hillbilly Mom! I know my breath stinks. I need to brush my teeth."

"You should budget your time better. Do it before school, or do it after class. But not on my time. Put that toothbrush away. You are NOT going to brush them dry in my classroom."

She was the last to leave after the bell. "Hey! Why don't you hustle on out there and brush your teeth now? I could smell your breath all the way over here at my desk!"


"You're right. I didn't smell it. I'm just messin' with you."
On my plan time, I had happily gnawed through one-fourth of the two pieces of delicious gift fudge that I took to school. That's half a piece gone, for you folks who don't like word problems. I was on fire, typing up questions for a Common Core practice test I'm giving on Monday. That's right. No need to get things done too early. In fact, I might as well put it off until the weekend, what with the world ending Friday and all. Anyhoo...I was interrupted by a visitor, so I had to visit. The day went kind of downhill from there. I never regained my typing stride, and here I am at home entertaining the masses rather than working on that test.
Third hour I was graced with some words of wisdom from an urchin wise beyond his years. "THAT'S what I got on the test? Let me see the ones I missed. Oh. I only missed the ones I didn't know." I daresay he finds missing items in the last place he looks for them, too.
Lunch was filled with talk of reindeer games, a finale to our school talent show next Wednesday morning. And the cooks served chicken with a bone in it! That has not happened nigh on twelve years now.
Fourth hour, a girl patted me on the back while I was writing on the board. Necessitating a command of "Please don't touch me." It's not that I fancy myself the Queen of England. Nor that I have sensory issues. I just don't think it is proper. It is overly-familiar. And above all, it makes me feel ooky.
Fifth hour was a battle royale of science knowledge. I fought the class, and the I won. It was an online Jeopardy style contest from the Scholastic Science World website. Of course, some may say I had a tiny advantage, what with science being my profession and all.
Sixth hour I hung seven tests with scores of 1005 on my Wall of Fame.
Seventh hour I had to tell all the kids who think they are OH SO CUTE that I don't find them cute, and that by this time in the afternoon, my tolerance level for cuteness is very low, so jumping out of your chair and knocking it over to run at me, rather than raising your hand like other volunteers who would like to pass back papers, is not a sound judgment call.
I waited on The Pony to finish academicking for an hour after school, and finished a performance event series of questions for my test, complete with data table and graph.
At our post-school invasion of The Devil's Playground, I was seventh in line. A perky young checker came out another aisle and said, "I can help you on Lane 7." Woe were the pitiful people trapped in mid-line. I wheeled my cart right on over to Lane 7, feeling a little bit bad that I had just walked up and was being served first. Yeah, right.

Had I been in the middle of the line, I would have elbowed those waiters out of my way faster than George Costanza knocking over old people after smelling smoke at a child's birthday party.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Only Yesterday

Twelve twelve two thousand twelve. The eighteenth birthday of my #1 son. A milestone.

It seems like only yesterday that he was getting kicked out of daycare near his fourth birthday, on the day before their Thanksgiving dinner, for telling his daycare teacher, "You are not the boss of me!" The stomp on her foot might have been a mitigating factor, though she explained that it was because she could not take care of him if he would not obey the time-outs. Poor little guy. Wailed, "I want my pumpkin piiiiiiiiiiiiie!" all the way home. And when she said she would give him one more try after a week of banishment, #1, always of the glass half full, said cheerfully, "I bet she saved me some pumpkin pie in the freezer."

That might have been my fault, the no-boss issue. As the Parents as Teachers worker used to tell me, "He responds like an adult. So I have a feeling you must talk to him like an adult, not a kid." True. I did not baby-talk him. But in no way did I treat him like he was an equal. Which he seemed to consider himself.

Yes, it seems like only yesterday I was telling the three-year-old #1, he of the argumentative speech, "You are going to be a lawyer when you grow up." And #1 replying, "I am NOT a LAWYER! YOU are the LAWYER!" Because even a three-year-old little genius sometimes missed the nuance between lawyer, and liar.

Only yesterday, he was a kindergartener being diagnosed as gifted. Fretting because he did not do well on that verbal test. Only to find out that he missed exactly two questions. The first being Where does the sun set? With his reply, "It sits in the sky." And the second What is bread made of? With his answer, "Dough and water."

Only yesterday, he was a kindergartener asking to wear a vest and tie for his school pictures. A third-grader jumping out of bed exclaiming, "This is the day I have waited for my whole life! The day I get to take the MAP test!" A third-grader fixing his gifted classroom's computer. A fourth-grader driving a stick-shift Toyota. An eighth grader being named middle school student of the year. A ninth-grader splitting his head open at basketball practice. A tenth-grader with a neckful of clanging medals from academic tournaments and WYSE competitions, taking the school's first robot team to a state competition. An eleventh-grader going off to Missouri Boys State.

Soon it will be tomorrow, and he'll be a twelfth-grader graduating valedictorian.

It's going to be hard to let him go.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Modern Technology Ain't All It's Cracked Up To Be

I drove T-Hoe to work this morning, under the watchful eye-in-the-sky of Google Earth. I was careful not to rush through a red light in my haste. Because even in Hillmomba, we have cameras mounted on the stoplights.

When I drive in town, I make sure that I guide T-Hoe between the lines. No sweaving for me. I don't cut off others in traffic. Because you never know when somebody will hold up that phone they've been gazing at, and YouTube my bad motorist manners. It's amazing how some folks can multitask while steering a two-thousand-pound machine with one hand.

At school, I backed T-Hoe into our regular parking spot, next-to next-to last. Even so, we were within range of the roof-mounted cameras. I climbed out. Looked right and left in case Google Street View had their camera car in the vicinity. Then I walked down the long, long sidewalk to the middle of the building. That's because I have no master key, so the end doors are off limits to riffraff like me. As I stepped toward the back entrance, my surveillance was taken over by the hall camera on the wall by my room, positioned to look down that T of the entrance hall.

It's almost impossible to find a place to pull your granny panties out of a body crevice these days.

Monday, December 10, 2012

A Commercial Proposal

The Febreze folks are missing out on a major marketing niche: teachers.

Friday I had the misfortune of harboring first hour the progeny of the Seinfeld parking valet. He of the B.O. that permeated everything its molecules came in contact with. That required Elaine to take a tomato sauce shampoo.

My guy must have forgotten his deodorant that morning. My room usually takes on the aroma of smoky feet, or the primate house at the zoo by afternoon. But first hour most often lets me escape unscathed. Then I have relatively fresh air for my plan time. But not on Friday.

I thought it would dissipate, the eau de armpit. After five minutes, I knew it would not. I hastened along to the teacher workroom. Into the women's faculty restroom. Grabbed the can of Febreze that had a harvest leaf motif on the label. Hurried back to my room and made a grand round. I pushed the button and walked an entire lap around my classroom, spraying Febreze all the while. If it works for fish heads and soccer socks and a metal city dumpster, it should work for a single case of two armpits worth of B.O., I figured.

Ten minutes later, my teaching buddy Mabel waltzed in. I stopped short of blindfolding her to see if she would announce that she was in a painted maple-and-oak-leaf forest in New England. I asked her if my room stunk. "No. It smells really good. What is that?"

Thank the Gummi Mary. I would have hated tossing her the key to my classroom and walking away from the best job ever.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

How Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Became The Victim Of A Nutty Cereal Maimer In The Mansion Kitchen

Quick! Somebody call the whaaaaambulance! I've been cut. Sliced like the fat on a beef brisket on a cooking show, although I am not, at this moment, soaking up marinade.

This morning I carefully set out the ingredients for Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's World Famous Chex Mix. I have been making a batch every weekend, in order to keep up with the holiday demand. My moves are so old hat that I could do them in my sleep. Set out the three pans. Layer the ingredients. Douse with flavorings. Pop into the oven and stir every fifteen minutes. Voila! MHMWFCM.

Today I nearly lost a thumb. I was not careless. I followed the usual protocols. It was time for the cashews. I picked up a can from Save A Lot. That J. Higgs should have his nuts examined. The foil covering under the lid is deadly. No woman should be subjected to the loss of her hitchhiking digit while trying to free J. Higgs's nuts. That's just wrong.

I'm not sure exactly how it happened. That's probably because I became a bit woozy with the loss of blood. Less blood means less hemoglobin, and less hemoglobin means less oxygen, and less oxygen means less smarts for Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's brain cells. What? You didn't think I was going to do finger bone connected to the hand bone, did you? It's not like Oscar Goldman had to rebuild me.

I grabbed that little silver tab and pulled the foil can-covering back. At the halfway point, I twisted that shiny agent of death so I would not send J. Higgs's nuts spewing across the Mansion kitchen in a perfect parabola after the final release. That's when it sliced me. On the booger-picking-finger side of my right thumb. What? You mean civilized people call it the index finger? How quaint.

Thank the Gummi Mary, I was NOT holding J. Higgs's nuts over the raw ingredients for MHMWFCM. That would be unsanitary. None of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's life fluid leaked into that clamored-for savory treat. Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutters and threw up the sash. Wait! No I didn't! I was bleeding to death. I rushed into the bathroom and tried to tear open a Band-Aid while trying not to throw up from the pain and ickiness. Which is kind of hard when your thumb is dangling by a shred of flesh. After daubing away the kickball-sized drop of blood that welled up through the rent in my flesh, I wrapped my thumbkin and got back to work preparing to provide pleasure to the masses.

Did you know that all of the ingredients for MHMWFCM are highly salted? And that hot dishwater has a way of finding any openings in your epidermis? And that apparently skin is some weird sort of insulator for nerve endings to keep them from feeling like they're on fire when they are put into the oven, even in a mitt? It's true.

Don't worry, should you be an upcoming recipient of MHMWFCM. The treat managed to retain its integrity.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Smart Tournament

I'm like a discombobulated baby.

I have my days and nights mixed up, what with diving right into this blog business at the crack of 11:00 a.m. But don't you worry about Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. She has a comforting styrofoam cup of 44 ounces of Diet Coke at her left elbow.

Normally, I don't get to my basement lair much before 2:00 p.m. on the weekends and neverending summer vacation. But today, I had to take The Pony to his very first high school academic tournament. It's a JV tournament, with a lot of schools. His middle school team was moderately successful, coming in second in the conference. This is a bigger meet, with schools from far and wide.

Poor Pony. He couldn't sleep last night. He lives for academic team. It's all he's talked about since the first day of school. Last night, he stuck his head in my office and said, "I'm glad I'm not sick. Like that time I threw up from the stress of getting a flu shot."

There is excitement, and then there is undue stress. I told The Pony not to worry. "You are a freshman. Nobody expects you to carry the team. They are not going to be mad at you."

"Oh. I suppose they're going to blame Sophomore Gal if we lose? I answer most of our questions. She only answers one or two."

"They are lucky to have you. Do your best. It should be fun."

This morning, The Pony ran into the bathroom as we were ready to walk out the door. "I want to go one last time. I don't want to have to go during the competition. Besides, I don't know where the bathrooms are there."

"I'm sure they'll be marked. You coach will show you. On the way in, just ask. 'Hey, where's the bathroom around here?' They'll make sure you know."

"Being a little bit nervous is a good thing, I think." 

He also wanted to take an ibuprofen and an acetaminophen in his pocket, just in case he started to get a headache. I put one of each in a baggie with a note: 1 ibuprofen, 1 acetaminophen. I told him that under no circumstances was he to give one to anybody else, and that nobody should know that he had them, and if he needed one, to take it in private. Schools are pretty strict about drugs these days.

I dropped him off at the competition school, because that is way closer for us than driving him to Newmentia to ride back to the competition school with the team. It saved us about 40 minutes of drive time. On the way, we reviewed literature.John Milton, Toni Morrison, Dylan Thomas, Joseph Conrad, Jules Verne...that is what The Pony requested. It's his weakness. He's got science, history, and mythology locked up, and can do most of the math in his head.

It will be a tough competition. The questions are not adjusted for freshmen and sophomores. They get the same fare as seniors. It might be a low-scoring affair.

The Pony was happy as a clam when his team arrived a couple minutes after we did. They jumped out, chattering away at me and at him.

I think he's going to be okay.

UPDATE: The Pony is back home. His team was not successful in their bid for an afternoon berth in the final eight. It probably did not help that two of the three schools they competed against have enrollments of 936 and 1241. Newmentia has 303.

I am proud of my little Pony, no matter how his team fared!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Today's Cake-Taker

Every now and then, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom shares a tidbit of absurdity from her day. A day deep in the trenches of the education battlefield. Tidbits which embody the spirit of Abraham Lincoln's quote: Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt. 

Which is not to imply that the youth of today are fools. No indeedy. They are some pretty sharp cookies. But sometimes...oh, sometimes...they speak before thinking their statement through. Today, for example.

We watched a National Geographic video about man's interference with a polar bear migration route in Manitoba. The video began with an overview of the polar bear. How large and powerful they are. How most people have never seen one except in captivity.

During the voice-over of Jason Robards, a group of second- or third-graders observed a polar bear from behind a plexiglass window. The polar bear was standing in a water tank, eating a fish, inches away from the faces of the students. Their viewing platform put them right at water level. You could only see most of them from the neck up. Water sloshed against their window as the ten-foot bear moved closer. And one of my watchers raised her hand and asked, 

"Are they in a zoo?"

The class fell silenter. You could have heard a pin drop if Jason Robards would have shut his gaping yawp for a moment. They turned to look at Zoowonder. Then at me.

"No. They are standing in a pond, up to their chins in icy water, inches away from a wild polar bear eating a fish."

From the miniscule snort that she emitted, I'm pretty sure Zoowonder recognized the outlandishness of her query. 

Kids these days are really smart. You just have to set them up to realize it.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

This Act Ain't Goin' On The Road

If there's ONE thing I've learned over my many years of teaching, it's that sometimes, a kid's story shows promise, then meanders aimlessly and peters out without a proper punch line or reveal.

Because I'm tired of enduring such torture all by my lonesome, I'm going to share one with you now.

Yesterday, a girl pulled a reindeer-head-on-a-stick out of her purse and waved it at me. Not a real reindeer head, silly! That would not be considered normal. Everybody knows that reindeer are not indigenous to Missouri. She pulled out a chocolate reindeer head. Just to show me, and tell me that her mother bought it for her. Because she knows she can't eat it in my class. But she was proud of it.

Sucker Head has a bit of a fractious relationship with one of her afternoon teachers. They are like oil and water. He never mentions her, but she speaks about him on a regular basis. She bears him no ill will. She merely wants him to lighten up. She tells ME that all the time. I am not offended by it. It gives me a chance to reinforce my will upon the class. To explain that I CAN'T chill out. If I did, they would overtake me, and no learning would occur. We agree to disagree.

Today, Sucker Head stopped at my doorway and asked if she could bring her afternoon soda into my room. "No. You'll have to save that for Mr. Man's class. He's wearing a Christmas tie today. Maybe you should compliment him on it."

"Oh! He wore a Christmas tie yesterday. It was all of Santa's reindeer. I took my reindeer-head sucker out and started eating it in class. He walked by and said, 'I can't find Rudolph.' So I said...

Now, here one might think that the story is going somewhere. That perhaps Mr. Man was joking with her. Saying he couldn't find Rudolph, because she was eating a reindeer-head sucker. That would be a clever little joke between the two of them. But no. Here's how it went:

"...'Duh! He's the one with the red nose!' I can't believe Mr. Man didn't even know what Rudolph looked like."

So much promise. So little reward.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Nobody Puts The Pony In A Cosy

Newmentia is having a book fair. Today after school, teachers were allowed a sneak preview. The Pony ducked his head and mumbled no when I asked if he would be checking it out. He's usually rarin' to go, the first one out of the starting gate when book fair time rolls around.

"What's wrong? Don't you want to look at the books?"

"I do. But I'll just wait until tomorrow when it opens."

"When will you have time?"

"After school."

"You have academic team practice. The last one before your first meet on Saturday."

"Oh. I'll look before our coach gets down there."

"Are you afraid to go today because the announcements said it was a preview for teachers?"

"Not really."

"Isn't there Open Library on Wednesday afternoons anyway?"

"Usually. But today the librarian is going to teach people knitting!"

"Oh, yeah. I saw that in the announcements. So you don't want people to think you're there for knitting?"

"Not really."

"They'll know you're there for the book fair! You're ridiculous."

I went to my parking lot duty. Then stopped by the library on the way back to my room. It was me and two other teachers. No knitting. The librarian said the knitting student stood her up. As I was browsing the books, my phone rang. My mom was in my room, having brought some snacks for The Pony. I told her I couldn't talk. I was in the library. And that it was only me and two other teachers. No knitting. She relaid the message.

The Pony was there within 30 seconds. He found two books. We agreed that they will be for Christmas. The Pony high-tailed it back to my room. The librarian fears that he doesn't like her, because he never comes to the library. I explained that he has his own books and authors, and rarely strays from them. She thought maybe he didn't like to touch books that everyone else touches. We have a teacher like that, she said. I assured her that's not the case. She found a science fiction magazine they get every other month. "Take this to him. He might like it. We have more if he does."

The Pony seems interested. And relieved about the absence of knitting.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My Love Has Found Another

My rescued doggie, Juno, is my special buddy.

I have mentioned the lovefests we engage in upon my return from the big world beyond back to her safe haven. She is ecstatic to see me coming down the driveway. Sometimes, she runs into the garage before I can climb out of T-Hoe. While I would like to think it's because she's so eager to reunite with me, common sense tells me it's that mouthful of cat food she steals before I can stop her.

Juno has not been herself for a couple of weeks. She incurred an injury, I suspect at the jaws of the black german shepherd, Ann. They are pals who wrestle and nip and bump and chase on frosty mornings. I had gone out to feed them before school, when Farmer H was gone to Massachusetts. Both dogs were hale and hearty. I poured a cup of dry food into each of the three metal pans, well-separated, for each of the three dogs. Rumbling growls erupted. As usual. They eat and growl at the same time. When The Pony and I went to the garage twenty minutes later, Juno was limping. She would not even put her right rear foot down.

We thought nothing of it. She has been hurt before, and bounced back. But this time is taking longer. Farmer H thinks she has something wrong with her foot. I think it's her back knee area. We can't really take her to the vet, because Tank the Beagle also has a leg issue, and his happened first, and, well, they're getting around on three legs, chase Farmer H over hill and dale on his Gator, don't appear to be in pain, and doggie x-rays and surgery and therapy and whatEVER costs more than my kids' doctor bills. The kids who need to go to college pretty soon. So we're resigned to having three-legged best friends for now.

I though my Juno was in pain. She had been on three legs a couple months ago, but Farmer H said she just forgot to use that leg once it was well. He was right. For a good two weeks before her recent injury, she was as good as new, romping and feinting and chicken-chasing for sport.

Last night, Farmer H was home when The Pony and I arrived. I asked him again about Juno's leg. "She's not hurting. Let me look at her foot again." I held onto her front end, because Juno is a feisty little gal who does not stand still except for our lovefests. Farmer H picked up her back leg. He folded it up like an accordion, put Juno's foot up under her belly, pulled that leg out like stretching a piece of warm taffy. She didn't whimper or try to pull away. Just stood there and let him manipulate it. Yet she still won't put full weight on it, although she WILL rest it on the ground now. We'll see what develops. little buddy Juno has plunged a dagger through my heart. My special love. Our one-of-a-kind bond is not so unique, it seems. Last night, after laying her head on my chest, with her nose on my neck, huffing with pleasure at my full-body hug off the side of the porch...Juno went to Farmer H. Leaned against him. Put her nose under his chin. Gave a little mini-huff of pleasure.

I think it's because he threw her raggedy Nerf football once on Sunday on his way up the steps into the Mansion. Love is so fickle.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Future Photographer

This evening I was thinking about when the #1 son was a young 'un. Either a toddler, or right after he started school. Every time we drove into town, he had to see a special house. To him, it was special. To me, it was a run-down rat-trap with a broken window.

The house was on the main road, on our left, just as we passed the city limits. It was probably the third house in. Just past the house that Farmer H and his older boys walked to when they ran out of gas one time, where the owner said they were welcome to come in, but he didn't have a phone for them to call anybody. And next door to the house that had goats running around in the side yard, with a dog to herd them. And just before the house that had a display of woodworking projects in the yard for sale, the most notable being three narrow coffins around Halloween.

#1's special house was pink. Not salmon, not beige, not a faded rose. PINK. The shutters were hanging at odd angles. Paint was peeling. Some old free penny-saver papers lay rotting on the porch. But #1 loved it. He would turn his big noggin clear around until it went out of sight.

"It has to be Mimi's house, Mom! But she's never home."

Then it dawned on me why he was so fascinated with that hovel. He thought it belonged to the character Mimi on The Drew Carey Show. #1 loved Mimi. He truly believed she was the most beautiful woman in the world.

I suppose that was an early manifestation of his photographer's eye for color.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Hillmomba People Problems

All I wanted was a serving of Tater Babies. Big fat wedge fries. A special treat for my lunch.

The Pony and I sat waiting at the newly-installed stoplights of downtown Hillmomba. A design so poor that even directionally-challenged Mrs. Hillbilly Mom could have whipped up a better plan on a napkin with a toothpick and a single packet of ketchup in the span of fifty-nine seconds. There sat T-Hoe, seven cars back, blocked from the straight-ahead green arrow by the left-turn awaitees. A bare expanse of straight-ahead lane mocked us.

"Darn this stupid light. I can see my very special parking space, empty, just waiting for me to pull in. Watch some yayhoo grab it before I can get to it." The lefties inched forward. I gassed T-Hoe. And our straight arrow turned into a red ball. A club cab truck whipped into the parking lot of the gas station chicken store on the other side of the intersection. So close. But yet so far. "Watch him take my spot."

Miraculously, Trucker took the spot beside my chosen parking space. I like it because it's level. The one closest to the door. The others are on an incline of about 40 degrees. It is hard to heft open T-Hoe's heavy door against the pull of mighty gravity. So hard that it saps the energy provided by a serving of Tater Babies. But I had my spot. I was headed through the intersection toward it as that truck unloaded a short little driver, a pudgy mama, and two tweenage boys. "Watch. I bet they're going to get chicken." Chicken that resided behind the hot glass with my Tater Babies.

I was on a timetable. The Pony needed to be at the bowling alley at noon. My mom was meeting me there to receive the hand-off of a 44 oz. Diet CHERRY Coke. I run on a schedule like the railroad. No traffic to throw me off like a cross-town bus. No fog to stack me up in a holding pattern like the airlines. I had budgeted a cushion of time for a monkey wrench thrown into my plan. But that had just been used up in an extra stop for Chex Mix pretzels. I could not afford to wait behind inexperienced chickeners. I entertained the thought of foregoing my Tater Babies. Momentarily. No. It was Saturday. I wanted my treat.

When I stepped through the portal of the gas station chicken emporium, my worst fears were realized. There stood the Trucker family in front of the hot food case, mouth-breathing, discussing the merits of various fried fowl selections. One junior Trucker wanted sixteen hot wings. Diminutive father Trucker wanted two legs and a wing. Mama Trucker wanted nachos and a cup of cheese sauce. Junior Trucker Part Deux two wanted a two-piece dinner.

Seriously. Who brings the whole family into a cramped convenience store to stand at the hot food case like it's an all-you-can-eat buffet? The aisles are narrow in that place, my friends. Space is at a premium. And when it comes to floor tile, like toilet paper in a women's restroom, there is not a square to spare. Customers sucked in their guts and inched between the Trucker family and the liquor shelf in order to approach the line at the register. I remained at Mama Trucker's left elbow. Nobody comes between Mrs. Hillbilly Mom and her Tater Babies.

After a consensus of one decreed that they would NOT be waiting for twenty minutes for the frying of the hot wings, only seven of which were currently available, Mama Trucker banished the boys to the truck. There was a brief kerfluffle as she chastised the lad behind the counter for the discontinuance of cheese sauce for her nachos. Then she and Tiny Trucker commenced to jawing about the cute moonshine jug that rested on the top shelf behind them, a brown earthenware Jed-Clampett-looking vessel about six inches high. Tiny Trucker wanted the jug, but not the alcohol in it. Mama Trucker declared that she would not spend that much money on such a jug, even with liquor in it.

The dilemma was cut short when the chicken-grabber finished rounding up the Trucker order. Thank the Gummi Mary, they did not want Tater Babies, only three orders of which were left.

 A woman can only take so much.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Balance Must Be Restored

At this typing, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is anxiously waiting for the other obscenely-large clown shoe of Even Steven to drop.

I took The Pony to his bowling league at noon. But first, we made a stop at Save A Lot for my World Famous Chex Mix makings, a stop at Country Mart for the pretzels that Save A Lot was out of, a stop at the gas station chicken convenience store for a treat of Tater Babies (which are nothing special, just potato wedge fries), and a stop at the eighty-cent 44 oz. Diet Coke refill convenience store.

I was on a mission. I was picking up a 44 oz. Diet CHERRY Coke for my mom. She was meeting me at the bowling alley to hand over some items she had picked up for me in The Devil's Playground. She didn't want anything from Save A Lot, but I bought her some honey-roasted peanuts just the same. She loves those things. And I gave her some sweet-and-sour sauce from Farmer H's take-out meal last night. Nothing goes to waste in Hillmomba.

The cherry dispenser was coughing up air, so it took three gasping squirts to make Mom's soda to her specifications. That was small Tater Babies compared to the fact that PotMo was not on the premises. However, the older lady at the counter might have been the one he was cussing about the last time we convened at this convenience store. I set my two styrofoam cups, lovingly rinsed after each usage, on the counter. "I have two refills today."

The older lady stood with her arms crossed. Made no motion toward the register. "You have a nice day."

I looked at her. Raised my left eyebrow? "No!"


"Thank you very much. You have a nice day, too!"

As I was waddling out the door with the two kegs liquid gold, my regular Free Boy popped his head out from behind the second register. "See ya, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom." It's who you know, people. It's who you know.

Even Steven and I were all tallied up, I figured. In exchange for an extra stop looking for pretzels, and a bloggable-at-a-later-date experience at the gas station chicken store, I had received two free sodas. A dollar sixty ain't nothin' to sneeze at, you know.

A few minutes ago, Farmer H invaded my dark basement lair to crow that he had gone to one of his regular indoor flea markets to buy three Christmas gifts for The Pony, and the clerk had only charged him for two. "I got out to the car, and I knew it wasn't enough. It should have been ninety-something dollars. But it was only seventy. I know what she done. She didn't take the tag off that one. I thought about going back in, but if she's too dumb to ring it up right, that's not my fault."

"Well, it was on the credit card. That would have been a big mess to straighten out. But now she's going to have to pay. And it's Christmas. And we can probably afford that twenty dollars way more than a clerk at a flea market. They'll still have to pay the vendor. And it will probably come out of her pay."

"It was the owner's booth. He'll be the one who's mad. But he's the one who hired her."

"Still. She'll have to pay."

"They close at six. I guess I can stop by there tomorrow with the tag, and explain it, and pay for it then."

"Yeah. That should fix it."

I am hoping that she doesn't scam our credit card. You listen to ME, Even Steven. The matter is being remediated. So hold onto that shoe.