Saturday, November 30, 2013

Leveling The Feeding Field

The wages of thievery came due this morning.

The #1 son sprawled on the long couch, pretending to be uninterested in the wisdom spouted by Hillbilly Mom. He was only on the long couch because I claimed Farmer H's recliner right out from under his butt. Just because absence makes the heart grow fonder does not mean a reunion upsets the pecking order.

HM: "I'm off to The Devil's Playground for a few things. We're going to see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire tomorrow, so I'm getting the shopping out of the way today, while The Pony is bowling."

#1: "Yeah, yeah. Blah blah blah."

HM: "Do you need anything to take back? Pop Tarts?"

#1: "No. Those are on the cutting block. I've been saving them."

HM: "Are you sure?"

#1: "Yeah. Wait a minute! Did somebody eat them? PONY! Come up and see if I have enough Pop Tarts." This is a common tactic for #1. To lay on the couch, and call The Pony up from the basement to go in the kitchen and look for stuff. Or to go in #1's bedroom and bring his phone or laptop. For some reason, The Pony does it. Lately, The Pony has been feeling his oats.

THE PONY: "No. If I remember correctly, there are two packs of Red Velvet, and one pack of blueberry."

#1: "ONE PACK! Did you eat some?"

THE PONY: "Yes. You ate my Soft Batch cookies."

#1: "I'm going to need more blueberry Pop Tarts. Get the big box this time."

Heh heh. The look on #1's face was priceless. What he doesn't know it that while in town, I went in Save A Lot and bought The Pony some more Soft Batch packs. Which I put in the bottom of a bag, and whispered to The Pony to hide them when we unpacked the groceries.

It shouldn't have to be this way. But we have to level the feeding field.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold Out Of A Paper Wrapper

Have I mentioned that the #1 son has been here all week?

How do you know when your college freshman is home? The special treats you bought for him still sit on the cutting block, and stockpiles of snacks requested by other inhabitants of your Mansion are sorely depleted.

The first day he was home, I caught him noshing on a Little Debbie Cosmic Brownie right after lunch. "Those are for The Pony. He eats one every morning."

#1: "Yeah, well. I wanted something sweet after lunch."

HM: "I'm making my grocery list. I guess I need to add brownies. Hey! Pony! Do we need brownies?"

The Pony: "I don't think so. There's almost a whole box."

HM: "Your brother just ate one."

The Pony: "I think we're okay."

#1: "Actually, this is the third one I've had since I got home."

HM: "What? You've eaten three of them in less than 24 hours? At this rate, we'll be out of them tomorrow."

The Pony: "Hey, Mom! I think we need to add brownies to the shopping list!"

Furthermore, the #1 son helped himself to a box of Sour Patch Kids off the coffee table in front of the big screen TV, thinking they were The Pony's, though in reality they were bought for #1 on his last home visit when he had guests. In addition, he snarfed up a Big Grab bag of Salt & Vinegar chips from the same general area that had laid unclaimed for about four weeks. I didn't have the heart to tell him they were not spoken for. But it was the last straw when, after midnight on Wednesday, he ripped open a pack of four Soft Batch chocolate chip cookies that definitely belonged to The Pony, our little steed having specifically carried them down for safekeeping from the marauder.

"Those belong to your brother. I bought them just for him."

"But I love them!"

"You never ask for them. I get them at the checkout at Save A Lot."

"Mmm..." #1 stuffed the last one in his mouth. "And you know what the best thing about them is?" He was a bit garbled due to the half-masticated baked good rolling around in his wide-open trap. "They taste even sweeter...because they are stolen!"

We are all fat and sassy tonight, because #1 has vacated the premises for some carousing. A couple of hours ago, The Pony appeared in the door of my office. I swear. Sometimes he's like Gary Oldman as Dracula, gliding up without a sound or discernible motion.

"Hey, Mom! Look what I've got for a snack!"

It was a blueberry Pop Tart. From the stash #1 has been hoarding to take back to college.

I tip my hat to the young Pony. He's a fast learner.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

We Talk Without Speaking

Perhaps I mentioned that I have needed to rearrange my classroom furniture when I arrive at school in the morning. Not to be all artsy-fartsy or feng shui-ish. Just to survive. To put things back like I left them the previous afternoon. In working order. A place for everything, and everything in its place. Wednesday was Day 3 out of the last 4 that I had to re-do. It will probably come as no surprise to you to hear that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom was not a happy camper.

I repositioned my student rear-end receptacles so that we had clear ingress and egress on all four sides of the classroom. I mentally shook my fist and vowed that Cus would pay for this uncalled-for invasion of my territory. Seriously. Nobody wet-mops a room three days out of four. Nobody. My arrangement allows ample access for the short dust broom. I see this escalation in our battle of wills as a thumbing of Cus's nose to my sovereignty. A kingdom divided by an extra 12 inches cannot stand.

There I stood, minding my own business, scanning the halls for huggers and runners, at the start of the school day. My students entered. The hallway traffic ebbed. And I heard it. The click of a door handle. I saw the bar turn downward on the side door to the kitchen. And out stepped Cus! Cus does not work mornings! Cus comes in at 2:00. Or 1:30. Did you know that Cus is an overachiever? Anyhoo, there stood Cus, anachronistically.

It was like the calm before a gunfight on a dusty frontier town main street. Like a duel begun by an aspersion cast upon one's ladyfriend, escalated by a white-gloved slap across the kisser, ending in a staredown at 20 paces, just before the bang-bang. Like divorced parents eyeing each other across the gymnasium at an elementary school Christmas concert. Cus looked me in the eye. I looked Cus in the eye. Cus knew that I knew that Cus knew the desk-moving shot across the bow had been discovered. Cus dropped the gaze and went about the business of starting a job that should not have started until six hours later.

I went into my classroom as the bell rang. Did my teacherly duties. Watched the hall again 50 minutes later. Graded some homebound work on my plan time. Ran a week's worth of copies for two subjects. And shuddered as I heard the wheels of Cus's trash can coming down the hall. I sat very still, like a rabbit under a hedge as the hounds ran by. My automatically-shutting-off lights had turned themselves off. Maybe Cus wouldn't notice me in the dark room. Wait! That's not good! Cus might come in and rearrange. I waved my arms over my head wildly. Rolled three feet to the right. Waved like the signalmen flagging in a jet on an aircraft carrier. The lights popped on. The wheels went on past my rented piece of real estate.

When the bell rang to end my plan period, I went back to supervise the hall. Here came Cus. "Hey, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom...when is your planning period?" AHA! Cus wanted to clean my room early. Even though it had been cleaned last night, and only ONE class had been in there since then. Well. The joke was on Cus.

"Oh, I just had my planning period. Now I have classes every hour until we're dismissed." Heh, heh.

It was a bit distracting to look up several times the rest of the day, and see Cus's face in my door window. Too bad. No amount of yearning can make a class disappear from a classroom.

Score one for Mrs. Hillbilly Mom.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Do You Think I'm Kidding?

"I hate her stupid Germ-X!" proclaimed the cognitively dissonant girl as she slathered the stuff halfway up her forearms.

Of course I heard her from my hallway monitoring station at just outside my classroom door. "Oh! Don't you worry! I won't bother to spend my own personal money on any more of that stupid Germ-X for you students to use. In fact, now that I know how much you hate it, I will remove it from the classroom during your class period. You can sit and stew in your own microbes all hour. Far be it from me to expose you to a stupid substance that you hate."

"What? Are you serious? That sounds so...bad. Stew in our own microbes! I don't have anything against Germ-X. It's how it shoots out. YOU go get some. It hits you in your bellybutton."

"ME go get some? From the common bottle? I don't think so! I have my own bottle right back here by my desk. See? So what if it's almost empty? It's mine. All mine. I couldn't bear to throw it away."

"Hey! It's the day before Thanksgiving! We get out early. What are we doing in here today?"

"Oh, I don't know. Maybe you can just stew in your own microbes."

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

And Don't Even Think About Asking To Borrow A Handbasket

Neither a borrower nor a lender be. That is Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's personal motto. Well, that, and people piss me off. Perhaps because both end with prepositions. Of course, that borrower part is not really meant for myself. I sure don't want to get the reputation for being a lender. But if I need something, I can suspend my personal beliefs for one day, as long as I can find a willing lender.

Today a Smart Guy came into my classroom to ask if I had a car. This is a multi-level faux pas. First of all, nobody enters Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's classroom on a whim. She is that old recluse peeping out her curtains, shaking her fist at lawn shortcutters, murmuring to her 100 cats that the young whippersnappers of today are up to no good. Abandon most hope, ye who enter here. Especially if you are the last interruption of the day.

Secondly, do not play fast and loose with your questions. Be specific. Of course I have a car. What kind of legal adult does not have a car to traverse the highways and biways of Hillmomba in order to earn a living? If what you're looking to procure is a toy car, you need to ask if I have a toy car.

Thirdly, DO NOT ASK OBVIOUS QUESTIONS TO WHICH YOU ALREADY KNOW THE ANSWER. Since you used such cars on ramps in my class two years ago, in order to gather data and construct graphs, of course you know I have them. What are you, some kind of wise guy, trying to catch me in a fib?

Fourthly, don't juggle orange and yellow Nerf darts in your hands while inquiring. That makes it look like my little cars will be made to pay for my persnicketiness.

Fifthy, upon return, do not walk right past the cabinet from which you excavated my tiny car, across the entire classroom, to place the borrowed tiny car on Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's desk! Put it back in the recycled Hot & Sour Soup clear plastic container from whence it was extracted. Then nod a silent thank you, add a little salute, perhaps, and make your exit.

The youth of today are sorely in need of structure.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Has A Limited Number Of Cheeks To Turn

Sweet Gummi Mary! I'm getting too old for this. I do NOT enjoy rearranging my classroom back to my seating chart configuration every morning as I arrive for work. This is Day Two of the subtle game of mouse and mouse that Cus and I engage in concerning who has dominion over my furniture.

Actually, I am not actively engaging. Yet. I simply respond. React. Set desks straight so I can flow seamlessly through the day, without having my back aisle progress impeded by backpacks, sprawling six-footers, and needy button-pushers.

Don't think I don't notice. Cus knows I notice. It's a passive-aggressive battle. I am the master of my domain. Not like that. My layout must serve my purposes. Not Cus's purposes. Now, if Cus asks for a larger gap in order to mop, I comply. I have the kids line up the desks and pick up the chairs. And I reposition them myself the next morning before school. What I'm talking about here is clandestine rearrangement. Like I won't know that the back row is displaced by 12 inches.

What's up with this? Taking the extra time to move my cheese desks, while not dusting my laptop screen or scooping out my desks? Not that I feel that is the job of Cus. I never expected any other custodians to dust for me, or clean out desks. I did that myself. Yet Cus has made a big show of scooping out those desks in my presence, with a special homemade tool. Along with the comment, "Wow! Your desks are really messy today." And seriously, it is not necessary, nor acceptable, for Cus to wipe out the insides of my mini fridge and microwave. Some things are personal.

If this battle continues, I must retaliate. It would be terrible if I borrowed a key to Cus's closet, and turned empty buckets upside down, switched the order of mops hanging on the wall, and rearranged the bottles of cleaner. Yes, it would be terrible. But fair.

Fair is fair.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's The End Of Holiday Work Life As We Know It, And I Feel Fine

Just in case my best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel hasn't heard...there will be no faculty turkey dinner this year. Sayonara, loaf of bread and bag of frozen corn in the freezer. You won't be missed.

Oh, we had more than that. There's a rich history to our little gathering. Only a chosen few are privy to the details. But I'll fill you in. You know how a pot luck goes in the workplace. There's that guy who always brings a loaf of bread from the day-old bread store, and spends the next three days asking, "How was the bread? Did you like the bread? I brought the bread." Sweet Gummi Mary! You'd think he planted the seed, harvested the field, thrashed the wheat, ground the flour, did whatever else you do to make dough, and baked that loaf, taking care to procure a machine to ensure identical slices of his magnanimous contribution. Because surely he must have done something to work up such a huge appetite for the broughten food of other bringers.

Then there's the gal who waltzes in at the last minute, tosses a bag of frozen corn into the home ec room freezer (yes, I said HOME EC, not family science...a five-year-old Duggar knows how to do this stuff, it's not brain surgery) and says, "Here's some corn if anybody wants to cook it when it's time for lunch." Which you can be sure the support staff/office jobbers don't want to do, what with it being a thorn in their side that they must come set the food out on the table and warm up the heatables before the first lunch shift arrives. Excuse us for having the audacity to spend that time in a classroom with 25 adolescents as our contract requires, rather than in here sticking a thumb in each casserole, licking our fingers after touching each dessert.

Don't forget the accusatory glances, and sometimes hot pink poster board signs, from later lunch shifts, claiming that the firsties ate every morsel, even the crumbs much too small for the other Who's mouses. Or the sweet-teethers who grab a slice of every dessert, even going so far as to hide portions before school the next day to make sure they get their fair half.

Yes, I am no fan of workplace pot lucks. The turkey-cooker was never properly thanked or reimbursed. Folks who devoted Sunday afternoon and evening to whipping up a delicious side dish were treated with less respect than Rodney Dangerfield. So stupid were they, when all they had to do was grab a tub of Presidential Potato Salad off the shelf of The Devil's Playground. Mabel, your green beans were fabulous. You buddy's creamed corn casserole...not so much.

Over the years, I contributed special treats. Like my famous deviled eggs that took a couple hours time from my valuable Sunday schedule. At least the Bread Man still talks about them every holiday. He truly appreciated my evil chicken fruit. Then there was my fabulous Oreo Cake, baked from a box with love, only to be declared storebought by the disgruntled coven of plate-setter-outers. Because obviously, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is a dirty unkempt pigeon lady who roams Central Park, the winged vermin feeding off her hat, waiting for the Home Alone boy to give her half a necklace, and incapable of putting together a tasty, visually-appealing dessert. And, adding insult to emotional injury, was the shock of walking in on The Coven feeding on large slices of that "store bought" cake before school the next day, and dumping almost half in the trash when the bell rang.

Furthermore, the 18-minute lunch period is not conducive to proper digestion. Only 14 are left by the time one figures out whether the meal is being served in the teacher workroom, just past the bathrooms, next to the Kyocera, or in the HOME EC room, where students in the classroom side turn to watch, one begging every 30 seconds, "Hey, can I have some? That looks good. You have plenty. Just let us have a bite."

No. I won't miss that awkward feast. I miss Mabel more.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

May The Odds Be Ever In His Stable

The Pony had his first academic meet of the season today. Rather, the varsity team participated in a tournament. The Pony was chosen to accompany them, and play in two quarters per game. To say he was excited would be an understatement. This is one of the few things that get The Pony rarin' to go.

The Pony is an odd duck. He prefers solitude to companionship. Tranquility to hubbub. A behind-the-scenes role to the spotlight. The annual team breakfast at McDonald's, on the way to the tournament, was not The Pony's cup of tea. He detests tea. Thank the Gummi Mary! You don't want to see The Pony on caffeine. His team was traveling by coach's car to the tournament, which happens to be located midway between the Mansion and Newmentia. The Pony was allowed to meet the team at the tournament site at 8:15 a.m. Being a recluse, he only had the phone number of one teammate, the one who recently got a new phone. Though the coach had told me they would meet him at the gym doors, The Pony was a bundle of nerves. He wanted to get there 15 minutes early. Just in case.

We arrived and speed-bumped through the parking lot. On my final turn, I said, "Hey! Isn't that your coach's car over there, just pulling in?" I shoved T-Hoe's PRNDL into P, and squinted. "I think that's them getting out. I see your school colors."

"Is it? It's THEM! I guess I'll see you later." The Pony hopped out and galloped across the lot to the circle drive at the academic entrance. He pranced in place as his teammates made their clown-car exit. Some opened up the hatchback, and handed The Pony a large suitcase, suitable for a ventriloquist dummy, or an academic team buzzer system. My little beast of burden brought up the rear, lugging his designated luggage.

What were the odds of that? The Pony arriving the exact moment as his team, who entered by a different door, dispersing within 60 seconds of arrival? I guess that makes The Pony a lucky odd duck. He would have been a wild-eyed nag shying away from the starting gate had we missed them. Taking the initiative to enter unfamiliar areas and ask someone for assistance is not The Pony's forte.

The #1 son is home for the week, and went to attend the tournament. After sleeping in past the first match, of course. He kept me updated on the proceedings. The Pony's team won their first two matches, then lost the third by ten points. Which is one question, if I remember correctly. They headed off to Subway for lunch, where The Pony had, as is his style, not a sandwich, but a mini cheese pizza. #1 transported our little steed to and from lunch, and hauled him home after a trouncing in the fourth match.

I believe our little Pony would say that he had a good day.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Human Turducken

Sweet Gummi Mary! Can the world stop conspiring against Mrs. Hillbilly Mom for 3.9 seconds?

First cat out of the bag this morning, I had to move 25 desks and 25 chairs. Okay, technically, it was 25 desks and 25 chairs minus 7 desks and 7 chairs, because my first row was lined up properly. Our dear Cus decided, I suppose, that my furniture would better suit Cus's purposes in an alternate seating chart. I've a good mind to beg a key to the custodial closet, and rearrange the supplies in Cus's custody. How'd ya like THEM apples, Cus? Turn about is fair play. What's good for the goose is good for the gander. Payback is a witch.

After moving furniture for free, without even a tossed bottle of grape juice for my trouble, I sped into the teacher workroom to make a few copies of my very special secret alternate test. That's because a few of my charges have earned it, two versions of an examination not being enough to discourage roving eyeballs. What to my beady eyes should appear but my lunch colleague at the better Kyocera. I waited. Nobody is EVER there at 7:25 a.m. In fact, I've had to turn on the copiers any other time I'm the early bird. Of course Kyocera was out of staples. So I had to connect my pages the old-fashioned way, with my own personal maroon Swingline, which has been choking lately, what with the new box of staples I procured, printed with the same staple code as the old box, but obviously of a different quality.

Lucky for me, a student in a later class rushed through her assignment, and asked if she could help me grade papers. Ahem. That is out-of-bounds. Off limits. Verboten. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has never in her life allowed one student to grade another's paper. Not even in the "everybody switch papers" manner. Grading is for the teacher. Not apprentices who have no stake in the outcome, unless it is a secret vendetta. So I pushed the lesser babka, paper-stapling. Problem solved.

Lunch led to a rousing brimstone-spitting condemnation of a recent news item, just proving my suspicion that sheeple are an actual species. I remained mum, so as not to show what some might term stupidity. Or to give them a trumped-up reason to ship me off to the old conspiracy theorists home.

Just before lunch, I had time to check my school email, and saw that I had a vital piece of electronic equipment awaiting installation. Yes. By all means. Come do it now, never mind the room full of kids taking a test. Oh, and to the substitute lesson-disturber manning the office phones, I must say, you are quite sly in letting my phone ring and ring whilst I do my between-classes duty in the hallway. In fact, you could have seen me standing there, the reason for not answering, had you only turned your head 90 degrees to see me on the surveillance camera.

My new electronics were hooked up. At the price of my laptop display being altered from full screen to a square box. Yeah. Like I know how to get it back. I even asked the kids. That's who you call for electronics problems, you know. I started out with, "Who knows a lot about computers?" Modestly, they ducked their heads. So I tried again. "Okay. Who knows more about computers than Mrs. Hillbilly Mom? Don't everybody raise their hands at once!" Three stalwart techies approached my desk. Oh, they had various solutions. None of which worked. So I had to call the book lady. She fixed me right up. But now I have to switch the resolution every time I want to use my electronic device, or all on-screen people have wide fat faces.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. The equivalent of Charlie Brown swallowed by Al Bundy swallowed by Rodney Dangerfield. A human turducken.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Has A He In Her Bonnet

Please, please, please! For the love of Sweet Gummi Mary, MAKE IT STOP!

One would prefer, when one comes home from a hard day at work, and warms up some supper in the oven while heating a bag of vegetables in the microwave, that one could enjoy some quality computer time in one's dark basement lair as a reward for contributing to society in an acceptable manner.

When one instead is treated to unsettling sound of a significant other stomping willy-nilly o'er the Mansion on legs that seeming have no feet, one grows petulant. When that significant other brings the hubbub downstairs THREE separate times, and indulges in some ritual on the other side of the wall shared by the lair and the basement workshop that sounds as if the Property Brothers are remodeling the Biltmore Estate, one contemplates one's future.

When Farmer H and I both retire in 2.5 years...somebody's gonna need a restraining order.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some Calls It A Stinker

Whew! It's been one of those days. I feel like Wile E. Coyote after firing off a truckload of ACME products at the Roadrunner.

This day has been a literal pain in the neck. Right side. Posterior. Okay, so I had the neck pain before the day actually got underway. I simply forgot. Because the ActiveOn I slathered on it before leaving home did a good job of keeping that neck pain at bay. Until 10:30. Then that bundle of muscles was stretched tighter than a novice picker's banjo strings. Tighter than Scrooge McDuck's purse strings. Tighter than a youngster's first-loose-tooth's doorknob-attached string. I tried to turn my head 90 degrees, and that ol' neck sinew twanged. I popped an acetaminophen at lunch, which helped for a couple of hours, but now the ache is back.

It must have something to do with my work day. Which was actually work today. I must multi-task every day, but this one was extraordinarily chock full of distractions. Late papers from the less-than-motivated, absentee makeup work, homebound work turned in for half the quarter, traveling office worker assignment sheets for today's absentees' work, future work for kids out the rest of the week for club activities, the creepy leaf-blower dude outside my window again, who gets right up there behind my desk to the extent that the kids turn and watch, like a staredown, until I spin around, with my sore neck, mind you, and he suddenly changes his path and acts like he was just routinely passing by.

Yeah. I'm glad this one is over. On the Even Steven side, two new ne'er-do-wells joined the ranks of the on-the-roster-but-never-seen club this week. One lasted all of two hours at the club, and was summarily dismissed.

Newmentia. Always striving for excellence.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When I Think Back On All The Stuff I've Seen In Mom's Kitchen...It's A Wonder I Can Sleep At All

There are some things one doesn't want to see in a person's kitchen. Here are a few examples:

A used Band Aid next to the cutting board.

A cat walking across the counter, just above its litter box.

Andrew McCarthy flicking his cigarette ash into your wok as he stirs dinner.

A golf ball landing in a vat of soup.

Poppie patting out dough for a pizza.

George Costanza eating pudding skin singles.

You may think those are some of the worst things one could see. But you'd be wrong. Last Friday I stopped in to visit my mom on the way to the eye doctor. More accurately, I stopped in to use her bathroom after dropping The Pony off at school. I sat down at the kitchen table to chat for a few minutes.

I'm no stranger to my mother's kitchen. Did I not grow up there, from the tender age of 13 until I left for college across the state? I know that she has a penchant for saving garbage scraps in a 44 ounce styrofoam cup on the kitchen counter. Just until it's full, of course, at which time she takes it out to dump beside the creek and marvel that stray animals come to her porch. I know that she uses a plastic bag from The Devil's Playground, hanging on a drawer handle, as her wastebasket. I know that at certain times of the year, vicious black ants invade through the window behind the table, and meet their demise on a sticky puddle of Terro Ant Killer. I know that every now and then, a mouse gets in, and Mom uses the kind of cardboard catcher that doesn't kill the rodents. The kind you have to pick up, hearing that critter's scritching and scratching claws in a last-ditch panic to excape, and carry it outside. And that Mom usually waits until Farmer H or the #1 son comes out to empty it. There are few surprises in my mother's kitchen. Until last Friday.

As I sat chatting, my eye fell on a bag leaning against the chair next to me at the table. I don't know how I could have missed it. It was as big as a bag of dog food. Maybe that's why my subconscious let it slide. When the conversation lagged, as I started to take my leave, I noticed what was written on that bag.


Yeah. It was a horrific discovery. Not only was there a dog food sized bag of GrubEx next to my mom's kitchen table...IT HAD A PICTURE ON THE BAG! To leave no doubt what that product was for. Like this:

Oh, yes. The fabric which weaves a very special nightmare. Apparently, Mom has a grub problem. I'm hoping that it's outside, not in the kitchen. I've never seen grub one in her yard.

What she really needs is MoleEx.

Monday, November 18, 2013

I Fear The Two Of Them Cannot Be Left Alone

I was distracted today, coming up the driveway after school. I had to count downed trees (3), scan for missing chickens (0), make sure Ann the black shepherd was not the missing canine advertised on a homemade Found: Black Dog sign taped to the mailboxes (she wasn't), fold in T-Hoe's side mirrors (done), and pilot that LSUV through the garage door opened by The Pony with the remote on the passenger side sun visor.

I said pilot that LSUV through the garage door opened by The Pony.

That's when saw it. The ugly reared head of bullying.

My sweet, sweet Juno had galloped from the porch, around the side of the garage, and straight to the brown metal garage door. She occasionally runs in, you know, to sample a bite of Meow Mix from the giant roaster pan filled for the cats. She's just testing it, I'm sure. In case it might be bad for those feline fleabags. Juno is selfless like that.

So there she was, my spirited lithe silky black feathery-furred doggie, nosing under the door as it rose...AND THEN IT CAME CLANKING DOWN! Nearly severed the rubbery proboscis from her soft, soft muzzle. Juno scooted back, a hurt look on her nearly-human face. If I was a pet psychic, I would swear Juno was saying, in one soulful gaze, "Mommy why Juno no snack Mommy mad at Juno Juno love Mommy sorry Juno go to porch." Yeah. Juno speaks to me somewhat like a recent arrivee at Ellis Island in the early 1900s. That's why I'm not a pet psychic.

The Pony laughed. Maniacally, some might say.

"What are you doing? You nearly cut her nose off! That's cruel! It's okay, Junie, my little Sasquatch. The Pony is just messin' with you. He didn't mean it. Mommy didn't do that."

"I really didn't mean to. I didn't think it was opening, so I hit it again. And it came down. I can't help it her nose was under there."

"Exactly! Her NOSE was under there! What am I supposed to chew on if you sever her nose?"

"Her tail."

"Huh? No way! I can't believe you did that!"

"Look. She's fine."

Nobody knows what nightmares will invade Juno's sweet cedar sleep tonight. Nobody.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Etiology Of A Spat

Do you ever talk to yourself? Yeah. Me too. That's because I have a rapt audience. Sometimes, I also have an uninvited audience. A eavesdropper. Or so it seems.

This morning, I wanted to get a jump on the Devil's Playground excursion. Last I heard, a storm was due to arrive around 9:00 a.m. I figured The Pony and I could leave an bit earlier, and be home by then. Of course the best laid plans of Hillbilly Mom always go awry. I did not get up until 8:00. I hollered to The Pony that I was making a list, no time to check it twice for naughtiness or nicety, and that we would be leaving at 8:45.

Farmer H chose that time to arise and muddle around underfoot. Any other day of no work, he would lay abed until 9:30 or 10:00. Unless, of course, I wanted to sleep in, in which case he would be up clanking his belt and bobbing his butt on the bed like a trampoliner getting ready to send me into the stratosphere while tieing his shoes. Farmer H acted like he was doing me a big favor, traipsing through the living room in his saggy tighty-whities on the way to take a shower in the boys' bathroom. I finished up loading the washer with The Pony's shirts, and went to the La-Z-Boy to make my shopping list. I could hear the water running in the boys' bathroom.

I knew that water had been running for 15 minutes by the time I was ready to step into the shower. Forgive me for talking to myself. I wanted to let myself know that the hot water would probably be all used up before I was through, so I should skip the hairwashing part of my toilette at this juncture. No big deal. It wasn't as if I would be having high tea with the Queen this afternoon. When I exited the shower, while I was running around putting on socks and grabbing my list, Farmer H stated from the short couch: "I heard you say I was using all the hot water."

"I was talking to myself." I continued in my rush to depart from the Mansion and forge toward The Devil's Playground.

"I did not use all the hot water. You're always badmouthing me."

"I was talking to myself."

"I heard you through the door."

"You know we always run out of hot water. You'd been in there 15 minutes by the time I got in. I didn't want to finish with cold water."

"I was NOT taking a shower for 15 minutes! I was on the toilet."

"I was not even talking to you. I was talking to myself. If I wanted to talk to you, I would have yanked that door open and yelled at you on the toilet that you were using all the hot water."

"I don't know why you're always fighting."

"You are the one who is fighting. I just came out to put on my socks and leave. You started in about the hot water. Not me. I didn't say anything to you. I was talking to myself. How was I to know that the minute I closed my bathroom door, you would jump off the toilet and run across the house to listen to my private conversation with myself? And seem to have completed your shower."

"I'm sick of this. All you ever do is accuse me of not doing what you want."

"You're the one talking and complaining. I'm ready to leave." I went to the laundry room to hang The Pony's shirts. Unfortunately, I forgot to apply the ActiveOn to my sore neck. I stood on the other side of the kitchen counter, by the door, waiting for Farmer H to get his sausage biscuit out of the microwave. I keep my ActiveOn right there by the stove, where I charge my phone. It doesn't behoove one to gallivant through The Devil's Playground with a sore neck.

"What are you doing now?"

"I'm going to put on my ActiveOn before I leave."

"HERE! I can't do anything! THERE! All you had to do was say something!"

"I was only waiting until you were through. I didn't want to say anything. Then you would have flipped out. Like you are now."

Farmer H threw up his hands like an 8th grade drama queen. He always escalates the most innocent situations into a scene worthy of a Razzies award.

I have no idea what goes on in that man's head. But I do know this: I have a blog. And he doesn't.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Music, Man!

We've got trouble, my friends. Trouble, right here in Hillmomba. Let me tell you what I mean. We've got one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight songs at a concert. With a capital 'C', and it rhymes with 'G', and that stands for geezer. All night long our Newmentia youth be fritterin'. Fritterin' away their suppertime, homework time, bedtime, too. On a Thursday night, and that's trouble!

Okay. Maybe I got a little carried away with The Music Man. I think you'll see why.

The Pony had his first band concert of the year. It's part of a celebration for veterans. I knew there would be a dinner, then a performance by our band and choir, and a canned-music slide show tribute to local veterans. The dinner always starts at 5:00, and the concert at 7:00. We're out of there before 8:00, everybody thankful and teary-eyed and patriotic. Until this year. Far be it from Mrs. Hillbilly Mom to wag her sharp tongue over such an uplifting event. However...

The Pony was required to arrive at 6:30. We provided a ten-minute cushion, just in case the best-laid plans of Pony and parents went awry. Imagine our surprise when we pulled onto the upper parking lot and found it as jam-packed as graduation night. The Pony pranced in ahead of us. Farmer H and I could hardly breach the cafeteria front, as a plethora of veterans and spouses clogged the venue. Normally, they have fed and fled, leaving the cafeteria nearly empty except for stragglers or vets with a really good appetite. And...these captive ex-servicepeople were playing bingo. I saw right away that Farmer H and I would not be able to grab a purple plastic chair to put behind the bleacher rail. I figured we would wait until the feeding/bingo frenzy was done, and then snag two seats still warm from the freedom-fighters' well-fed butts.

Imagine my surprise when we walked into the gym and saw ten or fifteen purple plastic chairs already set up behind the bleacher rail. The man in charge greeted me, and offered a cerulean blue program, which I had already liberated from a black music stand by the door. "Did somebody bring in these chairs? Are they saved?" He replied that they were for the veterans. Judging from the turnout, I'd say they were just about 145 chairs short.

I complained to Farmer H that I did not want to descend the shaky bleacher stairs, with only the wobbly hollow metal pop-in handrails with four-foot gaps between them. However, the lower rows of bleachers on the gym floor, that could be reached by the concrete stairs, were marked off with taped paper signs for the band. Oh, the insanity! I spied an empty short bleacher, four rows down from the top, on the opposite corner from where the band was set up. An opal miner in the Great Rift Valley of Ethiopia, rappelling to his cliff-face mine with a frayed rope, where one person per week is killed toppling off the four-inch path, was safer than Mrs. Hillbilly Mom braving the unstable pull-out-bleacher stairs.


So we sat down, on a row in front of my old English teacher, and proceeded to become boxed in over the next 40 minutes. Was it not bad enough that Mrs. HM was surrounded by coughers, sharp knees, loud-talkers, and straight-backed knee-room inhibitors? No. There were also folks leaning directly over her from the rail by the cafeteria entrance to the gym. Leaners who breathed their virusy breath to settle down upon Mrs. HM's head like a fine mist in a boreal forest. AND, she had to share her program with Old English and Farmer H, for programs had they none.

And then the direness of my situation was compounded. Right there on the program was a list of four songs by our choir, four songs by our band, and FOUR SONGS FROM A COMMUNITY BAND! No. That has never happened before. It couldn't be. Why would a third act be added to the program? I call shenanigans. Well, I tried to call shenanigans. But Old English told me, "Oh, it'll be over in no time." She would not have lasted 10 minutes as an employee of Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends Network.

The Newmentia choir went first, for 15 minutes. They were excellent, as always. The Newmentia band was second. Again, a right proper 15-minute performance, not to be sneezed at. Then came the cavalcade of veterans, a 20-minute slideshow. And it began. The community band took 10 minutes to weed out and add in chairs to their liking. We sat. They played 5 minutes of warm-up scales in an artsy-fartsy fashion. And slammed into their first selection, which lasted 8 minutes. Their director stepped forward to tell of a vaction he had taken to Gettysburg with his son. How they had walked the fields. Kind of a little history lesson that was totally lost on this history simpleton. The veterans, none of whom were at Gettysburg, began to shift in their seats. "Every time I sit on these bleachers, they get harder," said one of the three in front of me. Another yawned. The community band launched into their next number, a 10-minute snoozer that supposedly sounded like the beginning/middle/end of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Let the record show that our crowd was quite polite. No cell phones went off. No babies cried. No kids talked. The choir sat on their reserved purple plastic chairs, faced the community band, and feigned interest. Though they did shift numerous times in their purple plastic chairs. It was as if we had abandoned all hope, we who entered there.

I felt somewhat comatose. Like that kid in Ferris Bueller who fell asleep on his desk, with a puddle of drool on his desktop. The audience around me eagerly watched the progress of a toddler who was carried out to the bathroom, and then returned. I was trapped like a rat in a maze, without even the hope of hidden cheese. How I longed to escape, like that choir girl had done right after their performance, slipping off her heeled black shoes, hiking up her robe tails, and barefooting it up the far concrete steps under cover of the acoustic shell. I felt sorry for the veterans, who had been lured in with the promise of dinner, and were then forced to sit two hours for bingo, herded into the gym to fight for festival seating, left on the hard, hard bleachers after being stuffed with bacon and onions, and tricked into waiting past their honoring to hear a community band.

The best part of my evening occurred just then. We heard a clicking sound. Up behind us. On the mezzanine where the purple plastic chairs had been set to receive veterans. We craned our necks, but saw nothing. The clicking stopped. A flash of motion up to the right caught my attention. CUS WAS WHEELING A STACK OF PURPLE PLASTIC CHAIRS TOWARD THE CAFETERIA ON HER DOLLY! Dear Sweet Gummi Mary! Time to go! Cus was ready to clean up. Darn the community band and full speed ahead! The clicking started again. Cus was stacking more purple plastic chairs. Until the Supreme Commander of Hillmomba Schools climbed those wobbly steps to tell her to cease and desist with doing her job while we were all trapped like cheeseless rats.

Then it started. When the little conductor stepped out for another speech, this one about his merry band of oldsters and youngsters who tooted the light fantastic, folks leaned forward. They were not demonstrating attentiveness. Once the LC turned back to jab his baton at his community band, they shot up the steps like Olympic sprinters out of the blocks. Like rats off a sinking ship. Like thieves carrying soda out of a convenience store. A good third of the audience made a getaway. We envied them their spryness.

After two more songs, for a total of 40 minutes for their performance, the community band retired to rest on their laurels. I turned to call Old English a liar.

Here's the deal. It seemed like the community band came to show up our very own students. Of course they had a big sound. They had a wider variety of instruments. And people who had been playing for 50 years, not three. And they took up way more time than our kids were allotted. That is akin to a person leaving longwinded self-serving comments on other people's blogs. Oops! I do that. Never mind. This was not at all like that.

The point is that people came to hear their kids perform, and honor the veterans. Not listen to a community band. Even Old English agreed.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Eye Bone's Connected To The Arm Bone

I took a day off from school to visit my optometrist today. Not that he's a shut-in. I went to his office in the proper way, had air puffed into my eyes, looked at the red barn down at the end of the long driveway, clicked at wavy lines, and told him which was better: one or two, three or four, five or six, seven or eight. That guy really has problems with indecision.

I was not happy that my appointment was for 8:30, and when I tried to enter the establishment at 8:25, the door was locked up tighter than my best old ex teaching buddy Mabel's cabinet full of rulers and giant yellow glue sticks. Like Glen Campbell as LaBeouf in True Grit told that squirrel-headed b@stard to be careful eating the chicken and dumplings at the Monarch Boarding House because it would hurt his eyes (looking for the chicken)...I would like to warn all of you to be careful getting your eyes checked at Total Sight Care, because it will hurt your arm (trying to enter the office).

The appointment itself got underway around 8:50, after the counter help mined all of my medical information and sloughed me off on the instruments of torture technician. She turned me over to a licensed professional, who said, "I see that you avoided the dilation last time. Do you have a driver with you today?" Um. No. Because the girl who made my appointment told me to bring my prescriptions and my insurance card. Nary a mention of a driver. I didn't know a dilation was planned every exam. Silly me for not being hip to the ways of the ocular inspectors.

Ten minutes with the doc himself, and I was free as a bird to cough up some cash for new sight implements. I had three sets of frames with me, and opted for two sets of replacement lenses. Much to the consternation of the staff, who must be on commission selling frames. By now it was 9:00, and I was not happy to see my seller smacking her Dell, grousing that it was not even on yet. Really? REALLY? You open at 8:30, but don't bother to turn on your laptop until you sit down with your first customer? She got up and smacked a Dell on a neighboring table. Then came back. Poor Dell. That woman was whacker. Instead of pecking like a normal person when she typed, she hit each letter with the force of a mole-whacker. AND THEN, she had the nerve to look at me and complain, "Can you believe this thing skips letters? I hit it and look at the screen and wonder why my letter isn't there." Yeah. You probably knocked it right out of Dell's throat like a Heimliched piece of steak.

I'll be danged if that gal wasn't still abusing the keyboard at 9:20. And I wasn't even trying on frames. All she had to do was enter the number on the side of my old frames, the prescription, and hit enter. The counter girls had already input the insurance information.

Thanks to The Whacker, I was almost late for my rendezvous with Mabel on the Hardee's parking lot. More on that at later date and a different place.

Right now I need to go apply some ActiveOn to my arm.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Halls Are Alive With The Smell Of Pot Roast

I will stop short of twirling around with my dress floofing tastefully, arms outstretched toward the upper hallway-wall concrete blocks, even though “How do you solve a problem like Mrs. Hillbilly Mom?” is frequently on many lips around my workplace.

Yesterday, the halls of Newmentia were permeated by a miasma of epic proportions. It was not the usual afternoon odor, the funk of sewer gas, enticed, or forced, out of the drains by a dry trap. That’s Farmer H’s theory, though he’s never set foot inside the hallowed halls while the malevolent mist is present. He does work with such entities, though, so he might actually know of what he speaks.

No, this nostril-tickler was a horse of a different color. I actually found it pleasant. Like a Sunday afternoon at the childhood home of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. A Sunday afternoon when the meal of choice was pot roast, simmered with onions, carrots, and potatoes. Apparently, today’s youth have not had the pleasure of 52 weeks of deliciousness.

“Ew! What’s that smell?”

“It always stinks so bad in this hall!” Note: this is usually stated when the proclaimer is directly across from Mrs. Hillbilly Mom in the hallway.

“I smell hot dogs!”

“I hate this smell. It’s so GOOD!”

Yes. The majority of students could not distinguish between food being prepared for tonight’s Veterans’ Dinner and sewer gas. That is so very wrong. And may or may not be a statement of the quality of food preparation. I choose not. Because it sure smelled like food to me. I would have put my money on pot roast. Not that it’s a traditional veterans’ kind of meal. But because that’s the memory my nose cooked up. Not that I have any money to put on anything, what with buying two fundraiser candy bars a day this week. Caramel. One for The Pony, and one for me. I have a standing order with my supplier.
Today I found out that yesterday’s smell was actually onions sautéing with bacon and garlic powder. Such a disappointment. No pot roast for the veterans. They’re getting turkey and ham. And, apparently, a side of bacon and onions.

That’s where I am right now. Not eating dinner with the veterans. That was earlier this evening. Not that I ate. They did. Their turkey and ham and bacon and onions. I am at the patriotic concert, listening to The Pony slide his trombone, and assorted students lift their voices in appreciation. Not for The Pony. For the veterans.

We may be a few days late, but it’s the thought that counts.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Pony, ACTing Out

Hey, diddle diddle...time solved the riddle...The Pony is over the moon.

ACT scores were posted yesterday. On his first official attempt, the sophomore Pony clinched a composite score of 33. Perhaps over the moon is a bit of a stretch. The Pony is shooting for a perfect score of 36. Best of luck to him. He's going to take it again in the spring. Too bad he won't have had a trigonometry course by then. That was his low subject, with a 27. Thank the Gummi Mary, his English, Science, and Reading were all 35s to balance him out.

Another Newmentia student, a senior, also scored a 33 composite. Which speaks well of our little Hillmomba educational institution, with its enrollment under 300 for 9-12. I only regret that my little Pony did not have my best old ex-teaching buddy, Mabel, to curry him in math.

The Missouri average composite score last year was 21.6, which is near or slightly over the national average, I believe. You can check out ACT stats here.

Hillmomba has a good school system. Really. That's why I drive my kids there with me, rather than send them to the bigger think-tank where we reside.

HooRah, Newmentia!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Pony And I Are Sometimes Not On The Same Page

Well, Hillmomba narrowly avoided being smacked by that falling GOCE satellite Sunday. Narrowly, as in about 1/4 of the circumference of the earth away. The Pony was blessedly unaware that the sky had been falling. His response yesterday, to the fact that we were still alive and kicking: "Huh."

"Oh, Pony. We're all just dinosaurs, living out our boring lives until the big one strikes, making us extinct. Just dinosaurs."

"Well...some people more than others."

"That's not very nice of you, saying I'm such a dinosaur. I know I'm old."

"I wasn't referring to you. You are like...the thing that comes...AFTER the dinosaur."

"Whew! For a minute there, I thought you were calling me the thing that comes OUT OF the dinosaur!"

"No. I mean like the small burrowing creatures that survived."

"Oh. I'm a furry catlike horse with toes? How comforting."

"Noooo. BURROWING. Not furry. A burrowing creature. Because you are not exactly a dinosaur like the people who don't understand technology. You understand just a little bit of it."

I call that a ringing endorsement. But I'm most proud not to be a pile of what comes out of a dinosaur.

Monday, November 11, 2013

"H" Petty And The Heartbreaker, Don't Do Her Like That

Haters gonna hate. Green-eyed enviers gonna envy.

Sweet, sweet Juno. My much-maligned four-legged furry life-partner. The Pony accused her of molesting the bags from The Devil's Playground on Saturday night. That's poppycock! I was right there the whole time, my arms hugging that dear little nose-jabber. Her muzzle was nestled in the folds of my neck. When I pointed that out to The Pony, he said, "Yeah. But look at her tail." Uh huh. Because Juno was wagging her feathery tail with joy, it came in contact with the arched handles of the plastic bags sitting on the side porch. Juno's tail is not an elephant trunk, nor a prehensile monkey tool. Shame on The Pony for his false accusations.

But that's not the worst!

Farmer H bought the cedar chips Sunday. I put the fear of Hillbilly Mom into him. According to The Pony, Farmer H filled all three doghouses. Including Juno's. While she was inside. I call shenanigans! How dare he try to bury my sweet Juno alive! The Pony says it was not intentional.

"Hellooooo! Black dog? Black hole? How was he supposed to know that Juno was in there?"

Methinks Farmer H's minion doth protest too much. What kind of cretin dumps a bag of cedar chips into a doghouse without politely knocking to inquire as to whether the occupant is in? The Farmer H kind of cretin, that's who! Without regard for life or limb or feathery black fur. Farmer H is not home yet. But when he arrives, he's got some 'splainin' to do.

It's not like sweet, sweet Juno could make a shingle to hang out, saying "The doggie is IN." She has no flying experience, so she could hardly snag an OCCUPIED sign to put over her entrance. What did Farmer H want her to do, give that little territorial "cough, cough" that signals somebody is in the bathroom stall? He should have looked. Even if that meant strapping that head light I gave him last Christmas for feeding the goats after dark onto his noggin, and crawling into Juno's abode like a Miner Forty-Niner prospecting for treasure.

Juno greeted me this afternoon when we returned to the Mansion from school. She smelled OH SO SWEET! In fact, some shavings of cedar were clinging to her left haunch. I motioned for The Pony to come closer. "Smell her! Take a whiff of Juno! She smells fantastic!" Can you believe that boy refused? He was on his way to gather THE EGG. Yeah. We're only getting one a day now. When he came back from the chicken area, I was waiting in Farmer H's La-Z-Boy.

"Did Juno's coat look especially sleek today?"

"Yes. Why do you ask? You saw her."

The Pony raised his new wire auction egg basket. It was completely empty. "Does THAT answer your question?"

I don't think I like that insinuation.

Enviers gonna envy.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Sweet Smell Of The Mess

WooHoo! Cold weather is moving into Hillmomba Monday night. We've already had a couple of mornings down to 24 degrees. The frost is beautiful on the weeds during sunrise. There is supposed to be a 30 percent chance of precipitation. Let's just say that I am NOT stocking up on bread and milk. Too early in the season for that. However, my mom mentioned that she was making a run to Aldi's this afternoon, before the weather gets bad. I can't speak for her shopping list.

I commanded Farmer H to procure cedar chips for all the dogs' houses. He frowns on this because, being dogs, they turn around and dig at the bedding, and the chips fall where they may. Which is mostly upon the porch, outside of all the dogs' houses. I don't know why he cares. Two houses are on the BARn end of the porch, outside our bedroom window. We don't walk around there. That cedar can't be bothering anyone. Just scoop it back into the houses.

The only one that should matter is Juno's house, just outside the kitchen door. It's a prime piece of real estate, in that little "L", its back to the wind, under roof, hole facing the kitchen door to monitor human traffic and snarf up tossed-out leftovers. Unfortunately, Ann and Tank seem to be appraisers well-schooled in doghouse property values. They try to take over, to root out Juno. They were a couple before she arrived. She's the outsider, the youngest, the easiest to boss. While Juno is top dog in my book, she's the underdog in their pecking order. Sometimes she takes possession of her own home, and refuses to come out. We can even hear her growling in the kitchen, when she thinks the other canines are on the prowl for a home invasion.

So I ordered Farmer H, for the second time this month, to get the cedar chips. He tends to prefer hay, which is not good for the doggies, as I've heard they can get ringworm from straw and hay. I don't know if it's true. But it's what I've heard. So it's a good enough argument for Farmer H. Never mind that Tank the beagle used to dig his way into the middle of the Halloween hay bale shrine built by Farmer H. I prefer to think it's only because Tank didn't have cedar chips in which to rest his weary bones.

"Make sure you get some cedar chips for the doghouses. It's going to get cold Monday night. And cedar chips will make Juno smell so sweet when I embrace her during our lovefest every evening. She already smells good, her fur so shiny, with the aroma of sunlight from sleeping in the front yard all day. It's so sleek. Like she eats a couple of dozen eggs a day." Heh, heh.

"That's because she's been eating my eggs!"

Did you know that sometimes, Farmer H has a vein on his forehead that stands out?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Let The Record Show That This Apple Rolled A Long Way From The Tree

I believe that somewhere, sometime, I mentioned that The Pony is not at all interested in helping people. We found that out when he registered to take his ACT, and completed the interest inventory. "Would you like to help someone injured in a tornado?" NO. So much for a career in the human services field.

A couple of weeks ago, there was an incident at Newmentia. One of our newbies, who had only been with us for several weeks, grew fractious. Came in with the opinion that it was perfectly permissible to toss out an F-bomb, take a nap, address me in terms of a nutritious frozen dinner that we'll call an Intelligent Single Unit, and proceed to fling items about like detritus caught in the swirling currents of a cartoon Tasmanian Devil.

I do not take such affronts personally. When, in the course of educational events, one of my charges engages in behavior I see about once per decade, I respond per policy. Though some might like to don the trucker caps of judge, jury, and executioner, I leave those duties to the ones who make the big bucks. A discipline notice with a detailed description serves my purpose. Over and done, let the chips fall where they may.

Anyone working in the halls of higher learning realizes that such behavior is simply the nature of the adolescent beast. They are grooming themselves for independence, challenging authority, preparing to make the break from parents and teachers. That's how kids grow up, so you're not strapping a 30-year-old into a car seat and wiping his butt after spoon-feeding him three meals a day.

The response from the eye-witnesses was encouraging. Ones who had originally seen this transfer from a more relaxed school setting as a breath of fresh air, a cool dude, drew the line at such antics. They first advised cessation of the drama, then refused to be a receptive audience. When the spirited scoff-rule removed himself from our paddock, and kicked-up his heels on the trail to the office corral, other members of the herd grew overly compliant. Supportive, even.

It came as no surprise that two hours later, the rumor mill had churned out a headline to rival one fit for the Weekly World News. After all, nobody is better at playing the game of telephone than teenagers. I chose to absorb the fuel from their fire, only answering direct questions with "Yes," "No," or "I can't discuss another student with you." Reports that my right leg was hacked off by a madman yielding a machete were greatly exaggerated.

After school, while grading papers, I looked up at The Pony typing on his laptop at the corner desk. "Hey, did you hear anything about my day?"


"Were you worried about me?"

"Not really."

"Seriously? Not even a little?"

" might say I was...anxious."

"When did you hear?"

"Fifth hour."

"What did you hear?"

"That a kid hacked off your right leg with a machete."

"And you didn't even come check on me? You were right next door!"

"That's what CuteNFunny said. 'Pony! Don't you want to check on your mom?' And I said, 'Eh...not really.'"

"Well, I should have known. You really have no desire to help people. EVEN YOUR OWN MOM!"

"Hey, I tried to tell you that when I filled out my ACT interest inventory."

Yeah. No surprises there. It's a sad day when the kid I bandied words with all last year, making sure he knew, in no uncertain terms, that I did not fine his behavior cute-nor-funny, was more concerned about my well-being than my own son.

Perhaps it's his way of cutting the apron strings. Nah. It's just the nature of The Pony, making sure the world knows he's not a people person.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The Things They Think Are Tasty I Can't Understand

Your briefly lasting lunch hour
You can see it fading fast
As you rush into the bathroom
The hallway seems so vast
You wouldn't eat that again
If they promised, "It's free, Ma'am."
The things they think are tasty
I can't understand

Are you kneelin' in the john
Throwin' up the whole time
Are you barfing like your peers
Have you had enough this time

They've been tellin' us they're chefs
Like we are seventeen
In all the time we've known them
They've always been this mean
The new sunflower butter
Didn't turn out like they planned
The things they think are tasty
I can't understand

Are you kneelin' in the john
Throwin' up the whole time
Are you barfing like your peers
Have you had enough this time

We spend a lot of money
And get little time to dine
Those moldy meat hamburgers
Are still etched upon my mind
Of all the things we've ingested
I'm shocked we're still alive
The things they think are tasty
I can't understand

Are you kneelin' in the john
Throwin' up the whole time
Are you barfing like your peers
Have you had enough this time

No. I did not eat the school lunch. Are you crazy? I swore off those long ago. The precipitating incident was the promise of chocolate cake on the menu. But when I got through the line, there was no chocolate cake! Is that any way to run an in-the-red business? I think not.

I don't even venture in for a grilled cheese anymore. The food is not pleasing to the eye, nor the palate. I'll be darned if I'm going to throw away $1.80 on a meal! We can't even have the peanut-butter-and-Karo-syrup sandwiches on chili day now. Not for the last three years. I wash my hands of them. The school lunch department.

Earlier this week, we had "Teriyaki Chicken." You know what folks were expecting. Those plump breaded blobs of breading that were served the last time we had Teriyaki Chicken. But no. It was a tray rectangle filled with some slivers of dark meat chicken floating in a bath of brown water. And three teachers ate it! I think they're jonesin' for an award at the end of the year. Or workers' compensation. Nobody actually ran to the bathroom, but something tells me that chicken was trying to peck its way out of their large intestines by 1:00 o'clock.

As one ingester said, "You'd think maybe they could have thrown in a little bed of rice or something to soak up that liquid."

Nah. That might have been too many carbs, what with the little powdered donuts and the Pop Tart and the chocolate milk they served the kids at breakfast. You'd think we were training marathoners.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Just Take That Old Mushroom Off The Shelf

There's a fungus among us.

Yesterday, as we were entering the home stretch leading to the finish line of the Mansion, I spied a beautiful sight. It was nearing dusk as T-Hoe coasted down that last hill to the row-house that EmBee calls home. I pulled as far as I could to the right. People out here stop in the road to get their mail, you know. Now that our county road is no longer an autobahn-like detour due to bridge construction, we can do that again.

There it was, just behind the mailbox condominium. A warm orange glow, near the ground. Was it a spray of autumn leaves? We'd seen some striking ones in town. So orange. Like a block of cheddar cheese. Or, perhaps, an orange. I craned my neck, but couldn't quite see it. I jabbed my cell phone at The Pony. "Here. Take me a picture of that things. It's so pretty."

The Pony snapped me a thousand words. Though I rather like words, myself. And a thousand is really not all that many. Still. You might get more out of the photo than out of my many words.

This phone photo does not do that fungus justice. It looks more like a stack of flapjacks here. But I swear, that opportunistic decomposer was the color of a campfire when the embers are ready for marshmallow roasting. The color of a jack-o-lantern with a candle inside sitting on the dark porch at 10:00 p.m. The color of a yolk inside an egg just laid by a yard chicken.

The real name for this beauty is the Sulfur Shelf Fungus or Chicken Mushroom. Supposedly, it tastes like chicken! I would never attempt to capture and eat a wild mushroom. But some do. Here's a whole bunch of info about this fun guy.

It was real, and it was spectacular.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Bit Of An Indelicate Matter Concerning Wipes

"I have your wipes."

That's the text I received from my loving significant other yesterday after school. Such a silver-tongued Lothario is he. My wipes. Like I'm a poopy-butted baby. A drooling hunchback of questionable hygiene. A preschooler just in from making mud pies. Wipes. Indeed.

I texted him back. Even though I despise texting like Rene Zellweger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain despises a floggin' rooster. Except I don't decapitate my texts and tell Nicole Kidman, "Let's put 'im in a pot!" I told Farmer H that I HOPED he was talking about my windshield wipers for T-Hoe. The wipers that he had tried to replace the day before, with wipers that did not fit.

Farmer H was sure they would fit. He told me so as he entered the garage. "I just picked them up. Of course they'll fit. Yes, I'm sure. Or Steve gave me the wrong ones. But it says on the receipt they're for a 2008 Tahoe."

They didn't fit.

"Huh. Steve has some explaining to do. I'll go by tomorrow and return them."

The second-time-around wipers fit T-Hoe like two rubbery thin gloves. My windshield was spotless this morning in the rain. According to Farmer H, the AC DELCO wiper blades were different, because he didn't specify if they were early-model or late-model. Huh. Good think he took a picture of the faulty wipers with his phone, because Steve didn't want to believe him, and said they WERE the right wipers. I guess he was schooled by Farmer H. Better him than me.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. She has trouble finding wipes to fit her.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Real Life Is Never Quite As Much Fun As TV Commercials

Alas, the poor Pony. He is my personal Sasquatch. My own messin'-with target.

Today I let him out at the end of the driveway to pull the trash dumpster back down to the Mansion area. I let him go ahead of T-Hoe. He runs like the wind, towing that green dumpster like his own unoccupied rickshaw. He would be the first one chosen during an Amazing Race roadblock or detour. Juno scrabbled out to meet him, darted to the garage, scrabbled out to meet him again, and continued her routine until that dumpster was parked.

You know that term scrabble, right? Like in Thunderhead, that sequel to Mary O'Hara's My Friend Flicka. Poor Thunderhead, Flicka's son, who was unofficially called "Goblin" because of his hideousness, had a choppy gallop that would never make him Ken's longed-for racehorse. And that choppy gallop was called scrabbling. Juno did not gallop choppily. But she dashed to and fro with such purpose. Like a border collie herding sheep, perhaps.

Anyhoo, Juno is not really part of this story. It's about me taking advantage of The Pony. Much like I used to honk the horn at the #1 son when he got the mail out of EmBee and started back to T-Hoe, making him jump out of his cat-listening skin. Only this time, I did not honk. I pulled into the garage. Choppily.

On dumpster days, The Pony waits on the safe side of the garage green people-door, with his nose pressed against the fake-paned glass. Once I stop, he enters the garage to carry in our school-day accoutrements. Only today, I inched forward, stopped, inched forward again when I thought The Pony was ready to enter, stopped, inched forward some more. It was like a game of cat-and-mouse, with me being the cat, toying with mousy Pony's entrance.

Finally, I stopped. I had to. I was about to drive through the front wall of the garage. The Pony ran in. "Messin' with Sasquatch!" I crowed when he opened the passenger door.

"What do you mean, 'Messin' with Sasquatch?'"

"You know. Like the commercial. I was messin' with you. Inching forward. Psych! Not letting you come in each time you thought I had stopped."

"Oh. You did? Because I really couldn't see anything except for blinding headlights."

So much for messin' with Sasquatch.

Monday, November 4, 2013

If It Weren't For Bad Help, I'd Have No Help At All

The Helpful Bungler has struck again.

Perhaps I've mentioned how Farmer H doesn't really help out with anything unless he is actually not doing it right and making more work for me. I swear the ratio of help to hindrance is virtually 1/1, and could not be pure coincidence.

Last night I left the leftover corn muffins in the muffin pan. I clearly told The Pony, right in front of the stove, within earshot of Farmer H, "I'm going to leave them in the pan, so they can get a little stale they won't be as moist." We like our muffins with a little brown crust. Since I had taken them out of the oven (a faulty warmer was I) a little early, they were yellow and moist. I actually blame our fresh brown eggs, which are bigger than the standard white-shelled store-bought egg. They are like Grade A XXL eggs. With a yolk of deep pumpkin-hued orange, not one of those yellowy-orange store-egg yolks. Never mind that I always leave muffins in the pan overnight. Corn muffins, blueberry muffins, strawberry muffins, apple-cinnamon muffins...the entire menu of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Gump's Muffins. Farmer H has never molested them before.

This morning I arose to find six muffins stuffed into two ziplock baggies. Not merely covered with a loose sheet of Saran Wrap. Hermetically sealed in plastic. They were suffocating, those muffins. Asphyxiating in their own juices. Oh, but it gets better. And worse. Were my choking baked goods resting upon the burgundy countertop all lined up in a row? No. They were laying akimbo, ass over teakettle, stumps above the tops, on a piece of foil. A piece of foil I had pulled off the pizza pan upon which I had warmed The Pony's crispy fish portions last evening. Foil that I figured could be used another time for other warmings. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is a friend of the environment, you know. That half of the foil with a slight greasy patch would not matter for future warming. Guess where those muffin baggies rested. That's correct, you gosh-darn psychics! Right in the middle of the greasy foil half.

Where are Buck Owens and Roy Clark when you need them? Let's start tuning up without them. Turn to page 1 in your Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Song Book and join me in a rousing chorus of Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

You're A Crooked One, Farmer H

This evening Farmer H jumped up from his seat on the long couch and straightened a painting hanging over the fake electric fireplace mantle in the living room. "Huh," you say. Humoring me in the way of people who do not really understand where the conversation is going. Let me fill you in. There are several levels of huh-ness going on here.

To start with, Farmer H was not in his La-Z-Boy, even though he spent most of the day on his knees on the back porch, replacing rotten boards. Not replacing rotten boards with other rotten boards. That would be kind of stupid, even for Farmer H. He was replacing rotten cedar with new Wolmanized. Not womanized. Wolmanized. Pressure-treated dead wood that lives a long time. Even after this day that brought him to his knees, he let me sit in the La-Z-Boy for seven minutes while I was waiting for the corn muffins to finish baking. What a gent.

Farmer H has a thing about selected items in disarray. He cannot stand for a door to be left partially open. Like when you just push it to, yet don't latch it. Like the kitchen pantry. Why do I want to yank on that lever of a French handle to open the pantry every time I am seeking some foodstuffs to warm in the oven or heat in the microwave? It's so much easier to pull it open and skip the yanking. Of course, it doesn't bother him to leave the bathroom door and the bedroom door semi-open. As in not pushing them back against the wall when they're open, but leaving them in no-woman's-land where I ram into them in the dark. He also has a thing about lights being left on, unless they're the lights in the garage which he forgets to turn off. And about water being splashed around the big triangle tub in the master bathroom. Ahem. It's a tub. Shouldn't he have made it splashable when he installed it?

Now, to address our art collection. Farmer H used to frequent a certain private club bar before we were married. Before he even met me. Let's just call that place the Community Tavern. He would stop by every evening, have a bar pizza, perhaps consume an adult beverage, and put his dollar in for the daily drawing. The owner/bartender was also a painter. Farmer H believes in supporting local businesses, so we have a couple of her works strung up around the Mansion. It's not like she's a Rembrandt. But there's a story to go with the painting.

Anyhoo...getting back to The Straightening. I was shocked that Farmer H made this move.

"Oh, come on. You're probably just moving it from straight to crooked."

"No. It didn't look right."

"I don't recall any catastrophe causing that painting to slip."

"NOW it's straight."

"You know, don't you, that every light switch plate and electrical outlet plate in this house is not straight, right? That they all slant at the same angle? So you've just made your painting slant at that angle, too."

"I don't know, sometimes when I get to looking at stuff over in the BARn..."

If you think he was going to admit that things he installed were also crooked in the BARn, you've got another think coming. He went off on a tangent about how simply buying insulation instead of piecing it together from sections he salvaged would have actually been cheaper that free, what with it costing about $150 for the new materials at Lowe's.

Welcome to my life.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Sometimes, I Suppose The News Is Accurate

I guess there must be something to this food stamp reduction thingy. Today in Save-A-Lot, I saw three tottering old couples I've never seen before. And by "saw," I mean got behind them and had to plod along like Tim Conway as The Old Man. Not that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is speedy, of course. But they were slower than a snail on benadryl towing a pallet of lead across January molasses. And it's not even Sunday after-church shopping day. It's the 2nd of the month. So I think the oldsters were trying to get the most bang for their electronic food buck.

You could tell they were not familiar with the store. The old women zigged and zagged, perusing the canned goods, then the dairy case. The old men started down the aisle behind their womenfolk. Remained when the gals crossed over. Then became anxious. Looked over their shoulders. Made a beeline for their brides. Woe was anyone trying to complete the circuit in accordance with a pre-made shopping list.

Actually, I was lucky. I did not get behind the slowpokes until I had to go back to the beginning to find the Great Northern beans. How dare Save-A-Lot move them since the last time I bought beans! It was like getting sent to Jail in Monopoly. Do not pass Go. Go directly to Jail. Instead of rolling doubles to escape, I cheated. I turned around and went backwards when thwarted by the blue-haired cardigan-wearers.

I hope they were able to fill their cart with staples. And learn the lay of the land for next time.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Signs Of Lean Times

You know times are tough when your classroom is not littered with Halloween candy wrappers on November 1st.

This is kind of a first. Where are the Dum Dum sticks, the Tootsie Roll wrappers, the Skittles bags, the Nerds boxes? My desks were not stuffed with sweet-tooth trash today. In fact, I found nary a scrap. No Smarties on the floor. Nothing. It was like a regular day. Better than a regular day!

I blame the economy. I certainly heard kids talk about going out trick-or-treating yesterday, even though they tower near the six-foot mark. Childhood is a tough place to leave. They already had costumes, by cracky. But I guess folks couldn't afford to hand out a lot of treats. So the kids must have eaten their meager take, or left it at home instead of sharing it around for brief classroom popularity. Or the bowl of hand-out candy at home was depleted, and they had no leftovers to bring.

It seems the tricks were curtailed, too. I passed nary a TP-ed yard on my 30-minute drive to work. Have you seen the price of toilet paper down at The Devil's Playground? No soaped windows. Not even smashed pumpkins. Did meanness take a holiday as well? Or did the bad apples turn into good eggs because they know how much folks had to fork over for those pumpkins?

Times. They have a-changed.