Saturday, December 31, 2011

Proper Convenience Store Penny Dish Etiquette

Do you ever leave a penny in the dish by the cash register? Do you ever take one?

Depending on the friendliness of the cashier, how many pennies I already have in my coin pile in T-Hoe, and how many times that establishment has dipped into the penny dish for me, I sometimes leave them. But I never reach in and take them. That's up to the cashier, in case the drawer is low on change, I suspect.

Thursday, I encountered a situation that made me never want to leave another penny.

I was at the gas-station-chicken store, buying a 44 oz. Diet Coke, because I didn't want to drive all the way to Sonic. A man came in with two boys. He didn't really know what he was doing with those boys, if you ask me. Which HE certainly didn't. Or I would have given him a piece of my mind.

Cad Dad got in the chicken line while I was catching my Coke in a recycled cup. Only $1.07 for a refill. He seemed flustered that there was no size chicken order between the 8-piece and the 20-piece. Never mind that you can buy it by the piece. He could have added whatever he wanted to an 8-piece. It's not like the package deal is such a bargain, when you consider that you get pieces that nobody likes anyway.

The boys stood behind him, asking questions about what chicken they were getting. They fingered candy on the counter, and were antsy in a way that made me think they were going to wipe out the liquor aisle across from the chicken counter. Cad Dad told them to go to the next aisle, and pick out something to share. I was glad to get them away from me. The sour-faced but nice chicken dipper got his 8-piece box ready in a jiffy. He moved two steps to the pay counter. I followed. The boys came back around and got between me and Cad Dad. They were within arm's reach of him. He could easily have grabbed them by their collars and yanked them closer. I most certainly would not have objected or called DFS on him.

The kids looked about 7 years old. The were not bad kids. Only kids in need of guidance. To learn how to behave in a convenience store. One spied the penny dish by the unused register. "Take a penny." He grabbed the penny and put it in his pocket. He turned to his kiddy companion, and said, "There's not one for you. It said 'take a penny' so I took it. You don't have one." The penniless kid ran his fingers around the dish, just making sure. The penny lifter smirked. "I got the last penny."

I know Cad Dad heard them. I heard them. How could he be so oblivious to what was going on? Well, you might say, he was a man, after all. But still. That excuse is not good enough. How are these boys going to learn proper convenience store penny dish etiquette if he does not teach them? What's next, they open a snack and eat it because the label says, "Try the new, improved Sweetysmacker"?

Handbaskets. Get them ready. We're all going on a trip.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Choose Your Words Carefully

The #1 son has been driving me crazy this week. Not that he's been home all that much. He actually rises before the crack of noon, and then goes to his grandma's house, and from there to a local basketball tournament. It's the short time that we're confined in the Mansion together that gives me fits.

Wherever I am, that's where #1 is. I swear, he's as bad as his dad. If I sit in the living room, he plops on the couch. Not to have a meaningful conversation. Just to complain about what channel I put the TV on, or to blurt out words of wisdom during a critical quote on my show. Or he's forcing his laptop screen into my face to admire a photo he's taken with his outrageously expensive camera, or shoving his phone under my nose to illustrate some crony faux pas that garnered ridicule.

Yesterday, I was trying to make a cup of ice water. I do it every day. But #1 suddenly needed a cup of ice water at the same time. He stood behind me, tapping his bare, sweaty foot. "You're going to take all the ice!"

I moved to the sink. I turned on the water and held my cup of ice under the stream. #1 thrust his cup above mine, blocking the torrent. "Stop that! I was here first!"


"Get away. I'm getting water."

"Not now, you're not. I'll be done in a minute."

Another time, I came in from picking him up lunch in town to see him wash his hands and sling water all over the kitchen.

"Hey! Stop it!"

"Stop what?"

"You know better. Get a paper towel."

"I don't need one. They're dry now. Besides, we're out."

"Get a roll out of the pantry."

"All right!"

"And don't let me catch you doing that again."

"Doing what?"

"You know what. You slang water all over the floor!"

"Ha! Whaaaat?"

"Don't deny it. You slang it. I saw it with my own two eyes. And don't even try to tell me there's no such word as "slang"!"

"Ha, ha. I know "slang" is a word. But not like that."

"I'll use it how I want. And don't you forget it."

Sometimes, it's tedious to have a 34 on the ACT living under your Mansion roof.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Rough Road To Go

It's that time of year. Pothole time.

I'm not talking about hubcap-loosening indentations in the pavement. This is Hillmomba. I'm talking about craters in the gravel road. Or, more succinctly, craters in the path of mud that we travel from the Mansion to the county blacktop road. In the morning, when temps are below 32 degrees, that's eight-tenths of a mile of pockmarked frozen hardpan.

It's like a real life whack-a-mole course, but without the moles and mallet. Just the holes. I swear that one of them goes all the way through to a country on the continent of Asia. When we have a bit of rain, these bottomless pits look deceptively shallow. But they're not! I always think I have avoided a main offender by driving all the way over to the wrong side of the road. Off on the opposite shoulder a bit, in a rare area next to the creek that has a shoulder. But no. My entire right front wheel is swallowed up. And even at the outrageous speed of 10 mph, it is Pony-jarring.

Oh, but Even Steven lives! To make up for those potholes, to balance out the universe, we also have huge hunks of bedrock that stick up in parts of the road. I'm thinking of hiring out my T-Hoe as a paint mixer for Lowes. He'll shake it up good.

James Bond would like our martinis.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How To Get Ahead In Hillmomba

Farmer H is known for his unique taste in gifts.

The year the #1 son was born, when he was a mere 15 days old, I was gifted with a Red Devil Vacuum. It was one of those handheld jobbers, a bit bigger and more powerful than a Dust Buster. There I sat, holding tiny #1 in my arm, unwrapping that magnificently inappropriate gift with the other, assisted by the young Veteran and Farmer H's Number One Son.

Upon the reveal, I said, "Oh. A Red Devil Vacuum."

Farmer H replied, "Hey! That'll work great in my shop!"

I never saw my Red Devil again.

But the purpose of this post is not to garner sympathy for myself. It is to illustrate the eclectic taste of Farmer H. I've explained how he thought about buying me Auction Meat. And how the mysterious Auction Bread turned up on my cutting block. But this Christmas, Farmer H turned his gift-giving acumen on The Pony.

An oddly-shaped package was hidden behind the tree, next to the light plug-in. On Christmas morning, Farmer H announced, "Oh, there's one more back there. It's for The Pony." The Pony has not yet reached the consensus that a gift from Farmer H is not always a good thing. He excitedly tore into the wrapping. What he revealed left us all smack dab in the midst of a bubble of silence.

It was an 18-inch tall, dark greenish-brown head.

The features were not exactly chiseled. But it had a face. And a ridge on top of its head like a funky hard mohawk, or an upside-down push broom like Marvin the Martian.

"Cool," said The Pony. A chip off the old Pop.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What I Need Is A Genie Monitor

"I wish I could scratch my head with my foot."

Be careful what you wish for.

That's The Pony's most recent desire. I asked him if it was because then he could keep playing his computer game with his hands, and not have to stop to scratch.

"That. And I just like being different. It's fun being different."

"Oh. So you already know that?"

"Hey! I can lick my elbow! Doesn't that make me different?"

Well. I guess that settles it. I hope Farmer H never buys The Pony a really cool oil lamp at the auction, and then The Pony shines it up, and a genie pops out, and grants him three wishes. Because before you know it, The Pony would be wasting his wishes on feats of contortion such as this.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Look And Listen

I am on the lookout for those three inches of snow that are supposed to be coming Hillmomba's way after 2:00 a.m.

My main concern is that I will hurt my eyes looking for the snow, much like that squirrel-headed b*astard at the Monarch Boarding House in the original John Wayne True Grit warned Glen Campbell as LaBeouf to look out for the chicken and dumplings, because he might hurt his eyes looking for the chicken.

The #1 son is out and about in his little Ford Ranger, taking in a basketball tournament and eating up some nachos with a Christmas gift card. I cautioned him to be in by 7:00, to which he replied he would be in by "Sevenish," meaning before 8:00.

Now I hear that there is sleet in the area. I am certain that #1 took off without a one of the three pairs of gloves he received for Christmas. I know for a fact that he left the Mansion without bagging up the trash that I told him three times that I wanted done before he left.

That boy inherited his father's hearing.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best-Laid Plans

We had a sandwich Christmas dinner here in Hillmomba this year. That was the plan, anyway. My mom always hostesses our family shindig, and we decreed that enough it enough. She does not need to be stressing in the kitchen over seven side dishes and two main courses and kid food for the spoiled brats.

Mom planned to go to church, and a 1:00 dinner sounded like too much on her plate to me. I told her that sandwiches were fine. I took some deviled eggs, potato salad, vegetable dip, a chocolate pie, an Oreo cake, some wheat rolls, sugar-free brownies, sugar-free pumpkin pie, and sugar-free Angel Food cake. I bought those last four at the Devil's Playground, but made the other stuff. The last I heard, Mom told me we would eat at 2:00. But last night, my brother-in-law told me 1:00.

We arrived to find Mom darting about the kitchen, muttering that church let out late (gosh, do you think so, on Christmas day?) and that she didn't have anything ready. By anything, she should have meant turkey and ham, that she'd baked on Saturday. But no. She was baking hot rolls and pigs-in-blankets and whipping up some macaroni and cheese and deep-frying chicken fingers. I protest. Mom should have stuck to the plan.

I had informed The Pony before we left that he was going to eat a sandwich. That meant turkey or ham on a roll of some kind. I explained it would be like a chicken sandwich. He could coat it with ketchup if he so desired, but he was going to eat it. Not just dessert. The Pony was fine with that. He declared that he would take some turkey and put in on a roll not with ketchup, but with butter. He's a true Butterton, The Pony.

So I was not pleased to see Mom running around cooking dishes for kids that are grown. Out of school already. Old enough to eat adult food, or say, "No, thank you." Besides, if I am going to sacrifice green beans and bacon with new potatoes, and seven-layer salad, and hash brown potato casserole, and broccoli and cheese, and cauliflower/broccoli/carrot/onion salad, and sweet potatoes, and stuffing...I expect the young-adult-fry to have some skin in the game as well. It doesn't matter that they didn't ask for it. Or that Mom says it makes her happy to give them what they like to eat. They're not toddlers any more!!!

Just sayin'.

I hope that right now, Mom is lolling about in her new executive chair, reading Regis Philbin's autobiography, wearing her new slippers, snacking on some raspberry jelly sticks, sneaking sidelong glances at her new navy blue Berber coat draped over the back of the couch and thinking about having a piece of chocolate pie.

She says she had a very good Christmas.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A Subliminal Message, Perhaps?

I raked in the Christmas swag at school on Thursday. This is high school, remember. None of those sweet ceramic statues and scented soaps and homemade drawings that teachers of the younger set garner. We usually get nothing except a gift from the principal.

But this year, my StuCo Secret Santa gave me four Pilot Rolling Ball Writers. I think they go by another name now, like V5 Stick Ball or some nonsense. But they're Pilot pens, y'all! I luuuurrrrrves me some Pilot Rolling Writers! Red, Black, Blue, Green. WooHoo! Then a sweet little gal gave me a notepad with attached pen, and a little flip-top bin for note paper. Cool beans! I was rakin' it in. AND, we all got a tin of Danish Butter Cookies. I know you can find them in any Dollar Store. But I also luuuurrrrrves me some Danish Butter Cookies.

But here's an odd thing. At the lunch table, Arch Nemesis, in saying thanks for her Danish Butter Cookies, sang huzzahs to her tin covered with snowmen, because they're so festive, and she luuuurrrrrves her some snowmen. Ahem. My tin was not covered with snowmen. My tin had a big ol' NUTCRACKER on the lid. And, the side of my tin was flat, like it had been dropped and dented.

Is someone trying to send me a message? Me? Mrs. Sweetness and Light, Unicorn Wrangler, Rainbow Shiner, Puppy and Kitten Gifter, Hillbilly Mom?

Friday, December 23, 2011

On The Outskirts Of Outer Hillmomba

We've been out late to a pre-Christmas gathering at The Veteran's house.

Farmer H drove us there, but I drove us back. Farmer H likes a nip of whiskey every now and then. He didn't set out to nip. But was persuaded to try a certain brand. Two, actually. I looked over and saw him with a glass in each hand. Thank the Gummi Mary he's not an octopus!

I thought we lived in the middle of nowhere, until I saw where The Veteran lives now. It's like going down winding two-lane blacktop and turning onto one-and-a-half lane blacktop, then continuing on bumpy one-lane gravel, then turning onto a pig trail, then driving through a field that may or may not have had a path trampled into it at one time, then over a wooden low-water bridge, and you're there.

I could hardly wait to get back to civilization and the Mansion.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Get The Milk Cartons Ready

We have two new mouths to feed here at the Mansion. Actually, Goatrude has two new mouths to feed. She had twin kids on Saturday. They're not identical. One is a small boy, chocolate brown, and the other is a bigger girl, white with a couple of cream spots on her head and flank. Sorry no pictures. We've been in the maelstrom of a crisis.

Last night, we got home a bit later than ususal. Darkness had fallen. Farmer H arrived shortly after we did. He headed out to feed his furry and feathered children. When he came back in, he was perplexed. That's unusual. Farmer H is generally pretty simple. Animals. Supper. Recliner. Television. Bed.

"I can't find the baby goats."

"I'm sure they're here somewhere. You lost that other baby goat two summers ago, and after an hour of searching, it turned up in a shed."

"But I've looked in all the sheds."

"You did then, too."

"Goatrude doesn't even seem upset."

"See, they're okay. She's hidden them somewhere."

"They're always with her, or in the lean-to. Now they're not."

"There's no evidence of carnage?"

"No. That fur on the porch is from a deer. They were both here the same night that fur showed up."

"If they got out, they'll get back in."

"If something doesn't get them first. Ann was acting funny in the front yard. I drove by her on the Mule, and she ran off."

"She was afraid you were going to run over her. If she killed them, I guarantee you they'd be out there in the front yard. That's where she drags all her victims."

"One of those hawks might have gotten them. I think they got the checkered hen. She's missing."

"The goats were a lot bigger than a banty hen. These are the biggest kids I've seen here."

"Yeah. Goatrude is a full size goat."

"A hawk could not carry off two baby goats."

"I'll check again later."

There was no appearance of the kids before bed. This morning, Farmer H looked some more. No kids. He thought he heard them, but then saw the previous baby goats. As The Pony says, "Their voices haven't changed yet. They still sound like babies."

Farmer H was ready to declare them dead. Remind me to check on my insurance policy for updates. They were not even missing 24 hours yet.

When we got home from school around 3:00, The Pony went a-huntin'. He was gone over ten minutes. That seemed to be a bad omen. I finally heard him clomping up the steps. No spring in his gait. Not good. He slowly entered. "I found them. They're under the BARn. Way under. I couldn't bend down that far last night with the light."

"Are they alive?"

"I couldn't tell. But Goatrude called to them, and I thought I heard them call back. But it might have been the other baby goats."

After much texting back-and-forth, and two phone calls from Farmer H, The Pony was dispatched to check for signs of life. He returned.

"Are they alive?"


"How do you know? Did you see them breathe?"

"Well, last time I looked, they were under the BARn. And now they're under the feeder. So I'd say they're alive."

We're all relieved.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Bah! Rumpa Bum Bum.

No, that title is not a measure of my Scrooginess. Nor is it a statement about the jobless people trying to get by in this economy. It's what The Pony thinks the title is for The Little Drummer Boy.

That's how he sings it, too. "Bah! Rumpa bum bum. Rumpa bum bum. Rumpa bum bum." He's not THAT far off. But I told him he needs to be in that commercial with people butchering Elton John's Rocket Man.

The Pony did not know they were singing the wrong lyrics.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Matter Of Focus

Is it just me, or are kids today not as observant as past generations?

Maybe it's the constant texting and music-listening. Perhaps they don't see a need to focus attention on one issue at a time. The reason that I ask is due to some startling questions I received during a showing of The Day After Tomorrow. It's a weather-related movie, and we have a couple of days left until Christmas break. As one who gives an assignment every day throughout the quarter, this is my little gift to my students.

There were some good questions. About how such a mega-storm could form. But then there were the questionable questions.

"Is that the dead guy?"
No. He is walking along, tethered to Dennis Quaid. The dead guy is dead. At the bottom of the mall, broken on the escalator, after slicing his own rope to send himself to his death when the skylight started to crack. A walking-along guy is not dead.

"What have the wolves been eating all this time?"
The wolves escaped from the zoo. Perhaps other animals escaped. Or the wolves got into their cages. But most likely, the wolves have been eating PEOPLE. There's no shortage of people. They're laying dead in the streets, or trying to walk to Mexico in the super-blizzard. And all this time is just a couple of days. The title of the movie is The Day After Tomorrow. Get it?

"Is the President dead?"
Yes. That's normally what is meant by, "The President's motorcade didn't make it," when his staff explains that the President will never be arriving in Mexico, after last being seen leaving Washington D.C. by automobile during a mega-blizzard.

"Is that a pregnant woman?"
Well, since he has a distinct beard, an orange safety vest, and no poochy belly, and we have not seen a pregnant woman in this movie, I think I can safely say, "No, that is the police officer/security guard who led people from the library across the frozen bay on a quest for Mexico."

"Sam? Who's Sam?"
That would be Jake Gyllenhaal, the star of the movie, the main character, the identity of whom you have been happily oblivious to for 90 minutes of this 112 minute film.

Seriously. And I expect them to remember concepts that I teach. Me. Not Jake Gyllenhaal. Without special effects.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Where's The Vitameatavegamin When You Need It?

Because Sunday was such a busy day here at the Mansion, the weekly shopping was not accomplished.

The Pony and I dropped in to visit The Devil on the way home from school today. Just for necessities, of course. Sprite and pizza and holiday cake-fixin's and two college-ruled notebooks and six AA batteries and some S'Mores ingredients to go with the S'More-maker I'm giving as a Christmas gift, and some Eggo whole-grain blueberry waffles, and milk, and a plastic cake tray, and four oranges, and some hearts of romaine lettuce, and, well, you get the drift.

I wondered why the 20-item-or-less lines were so very long. We had a smidge over 20 anyway, even though I can't remember all the items at this moment. Two regular checkouts were open at my end, each with two customers waiting. So I got in line. For twenty minutes.

Sweet Gummi Mary on a paper plate! I have not seen the likes of these two young gals since I worked for the Missouri Division of Employment Security. That's the unemployment office to you lay people. They were so slow that I at first suspected a duel of Public Servant Standoff proportions. But they were not trying to outslow each other. They were just slow.

I had plenty of time to arrange my items in the way I wanted them bagged. Because once that anemic checker finally finished with the customer in front of me, that dear lady whipped out about 50 coupons. The checker sighed. She methodically scanned each one. I will never look at Extreme Couponing the same way again.

And in spite of my best-laid purchases, she took her own sweet time to pick and choose from the length of the conveyor, and put items in bags with items that SHE thought went together. So much for the bright idea of keeping my Christmas objects at the end in an effort to total their worth and swap out money from my Christmas savings.

Dang, that little gal was slow! She needed a shot of Vitameatavegamin.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Fie On Dave Murray!

Farmer H and the #1 son have gone to a Blues game. I don't know what they see in hockey. I can't even see the puck. But I can see a squirrel's nest if it's really a bald eagle! Today is Farmer H's birthday. #1's was last Monday. So they treated themselves to a game.

It's been a busy day, what with laundry and cake baking and Chex Mix making and present wrapping and The Pony's band concert listening and dish washing and meal preparing. I can hardly wait until Monday to go back to work and rest.

I'm ready to tar and feather Dave Murray, Channel 2 Chief Meteorologist, for his zero-percent accurate December forecast. He cost me two dollars in the First Snow Day Pool. And he promised three (THREE) winter storms before Christmas, and even told the schools to be ready. PLUS, ol' Dave promised a white Christmas. Fie on Dave Murray! He's not worth the eye boogies that form as my peepers glaze over while watching him on the 10:00 news. Ptooey! I spit on his as-yet-undug grave. If my job performance was as inaccurate as his, I would be given the old heave-ho!

Psst! Davey! If you can promise me a rash of January-February storms, perhaps one every ten days or so, all will be forgiven. We can commence sweet-talking again.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Hillmomba Welcome Wagon Greets A Transient

Here's the photo of the bald eagle we saw yesterday in town. The pic is not much better than my uncorrected eyesight. But you have to consider that it was taken by The Pony on his cell phone out the window of T-Hoe. I tried zooming in, to better see the baldness of the eagle. Indeed, he does appear to be turning to look at his photographer.

Too bad the #1 son wasn't along with his fancy schmancy Canon.

I suppose you can click on it and try to zoom in. I did it in my pictures manager, or whatever that dealybobber is called where you go to save a photo in Pictures. But I didn't save the blurry zoom.

Maybe you can understand why I might have mistaken Mr. B. Eagle for a squirrel's nest. He was so BIG. And thick. He didn't look birdy. The saying, "You don't eat enough to keep a bird alive," would apply to many more people if Mr. B. Eagle was used as the standard.

He was in a little neighborhood. There's a river about a half mile away as the crow flies. I'm sure it's closer as Mr. B. Eagle flies. On the road near his tree, there was a dead squirrel laid out like a cartoon steam roller had flattened him. Perhaps that was the main attraction that drew our feathered friend to sit a spell inside city limits. Guess who's coming to dinner, indeed. It's Mr. B. Eagle.

I am terribly ignorant of eagles. My internet research (and NOT on wikipedia) informed me that they do eat dead stuff. Did you know that a full-grown bald eagle might span 36 inches from beak to tail? Or that the wingspan could be 7 feet? My only other sighting of a bald eagle was in Alaska, on a ferry trip along the Inside Passage. I hear they hang out along the Mississippi as well. Kids may have a sweet tooth, but bald eagles have a fish tooth. It's their preferred food.

Welcome, Mr. B. Eagle, to Hillmomba!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Receding Squirrel's Nest, Perhaps?

You know how sometimes your eyes deceive you? Like when, perhaps, you see a cow lumbering across the two-lane blacktop at dusk, and say out loud, within the confines of your T-Hoe, "Hurry up, you stupid cow, before I hit you!" Only to find, as you draw closer, that it's a woman in a brown sweatsuit crossing the road after picking up her mail? Well, this is not one of those stories.

Yesterday on the way home, still in town, something caught my eye. I couldn't quite put my finger on it. Not my eye. I can put my finger on that quite easily, though it's not something I practice on a regular basis, because that's a good way to pick up a virus or a bacterial infection. I just knew something was different.

My subconscious was being contrary. It was something about a tree. Hm...what's different? Did all the leaves fall off overnight? Were the limbs trimmed? Up there. Near the top. I saw it now. A bald eagle? Naw. I was past it too soon. Probably just a big-ol' squirrel's nest. Big nest, that is. I have no idea how big the squirrel might be. I drove on.

This morning, coming from the other direction, before we got to that tree, I saw another giant squirrel's nest. Right in the top of a different tree. I was slowing for a stop sign. "Look!" I commanded The Pony. "It's a bald eagle."

The Pony contorted himself to get a glimpse. "Wait. I'm going to take a picture with my phone." He snapped two. They were kind of blurry. But when he zoomed in, there it was. A humongous bald eagle. "Mom. I think he saw me. He turned his head to LOOK at me!"

"Where do you think they get the term eagle eye, anyway?"

I have no idea what a bald eagle was doing in that neighborhood for two days, impersonating a squirrel's nest. But he was gigantic. I'll never look at a squirrel's nest the same way again.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Day That Shall Go Down In Newmentia History

I don't mean to brag, but the Newmentia school cafeteria served chicken today. I know. "But Mrs. Hillbilly Mom," you say, "that is nothing to write home about. Or even write a blog about. Because just last year, one of your students declared that your school cafeteria was going to single-handedly cause the extinction of the chicken, what with serving some version of it four days per week."

You don't understand the gravity of this situation. The cooks did not serve chicken nuggets. Nor a chicken patty, chicken tacos, chicken sandwich, chicken and noodles, chicken noodle soup, chicken-chili crispitos, chicken tetrazzini. They served baked chicken! WITH A BONE IN IT!!! Choice of white or dark meat!

I'm surprised we weren't reviving half the student body with smelling salts. It was an historic event.

Side dishes were mashed potatoes with brown gravy, and rice. Yeah. The teacher of the class that cooks and sews but is not called Home Ec had a conniption. Indeed. One of my students remarked that he had mixed his rice in with his mashed potatoes. "Why?" I asked. "Because you were afraid you weren't getting enough carbs?"

The problem with the rice was that it was white rice. No seasoning. Kind of crunchy. And the menu had promised brown rice and gravy, and green beans. Still. Let's leave with a warm, fuzzy feeling because they served chicken. With bones in it.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Somebody Has A Paper Tooth

The Pony and I arrived home yesterday around 5:00. We were greeted by the #1 son, who handed me a package. "I found this on the front porch. That's exactly how it looked."

It was a brown 7 x 10 bubble-wrap-padded envelope with one side chewed out and the top heavily damaged. I can only blame new pup Juno for this carnage. The other dogs have not eaten a package since the black shepherd Ann was an adolescent, and chewed up Farmer H's Case Collector Knife. She ate the box and the Styrofoam and had the collectible box in her mouth when we came up the driveway. "Oh, look. I wonder what Ann's chewing on." #1 jumped out and rescued the treasure just in time.

Juno is that age. She's about four months, all gangly and loosey-goosey and boundingly playful with nobody to play with. The big dogs tolerate her now, give her a polite nose bump with a slight tail wag. But they won't romp with her. If she runs up to them while they're romping and wrestling, they stand stock still and look at her. Like, "B*tch. What's your problem?"

Silly me. I though the 27 assorted gnawing bones and squeaky chicken and rubber milk bone and three-ring rubber toy and mini basketball and rawhide chew sticks were enough. Apparently not. I thought of taking that package and rubbing her nose on it and spanking her with a rolled-up magazine. But I don't know if she has the memory to make the connection. More likely, she would look at me with sad, abandoned, starving puppy eyes while thinking, "Why New Mommy no like me now?"

So I put a note on the front and back doors for UPS and FedEx. "Please put packages in garage so dog does not eat them."

Today, the garage door raised to reveal four boxes. Kudos to UPS.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Wishing You Weren't Here

Dang that numero uno boy!

I was all ready to write the most scathingly brilliant post about our pup Juno's naughty antics today, and here he came with a letter to proofread. Not that I'm not a good proofreader. I rock at proofreading. I'm a world class proofreader. Olympic caliber, even. I thirst for opportunities to strike out and underline. I yearn for them. But it does put the kibosh on my creativity.

I tell myself that in two years time, I will be wishing #1 was here bothering me, instead of off at college, out from under my thumb, loose from the apron strings, where I cannot gripe at him to my heart's content. Hold on a minute. I had something in my eye.

He is preparing a letter for his robot team. They need to solicit donors to help defray the cost of competitions. Yep. It's robot season. Bet you knew that already though. Last year, his team was ranked 12th in Missouri, and made it to the final four of state competition. And it was their very first year. The team has grown from four members to ten. That means more t-shirts, and more cars to drive them, and more food money. The school pays for most of their equipment and robot parts and entry fees and overnight lodging. But they have to pay for the rest, unless they can get sponsors. Guess who's on the sponsor bandwagon? Yep. That would be me. Let somebody else feed and clothe him and buy his fancy gewgaws.

But two years from now, I will be wishing he was here asking me for that stuff. Hey. Something's in my eye again.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Confusing World Of Farmer H

Poor Farmer H. He's the Rodney Dangerfield of the Mansion. He gets no respect.

Sometimes, though, he brings it on himself. The #1 son took a long-sleeved St. Louis Blues t-shirt out of his birthday bag tonight. "I really like this shirt!"

"Too bad they won't let you wear those shirts to school."


"You can't wear it."

"Yes we can."

"Oh. Yeah. It's cigarettes you can't wear."

"The Blues are not cigarettes."

"I know that."

Later, Farmer H asked to look at #1's birthday card. "Made from substantially grown forests. Hmm. See? It's good for the environment."

"Let me see that. It says 'made from sustainably grown forests,' not substantially grown."

"Yeah. I wondered what that meant."

Sigh. I also double-checked on the mystery Dollar Rolls. Auction bread. I suppose the next course of auction edibles will be romaine lettuce. He might as well save his coins. I draw the line at auction food.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Monday is the #1 son's birthday. Seventeen. Gosh. Where did all those years go?

Instead of taking his buddies on a trip for go-kart riding, wall-climbing, laser-tagging, and mini-golfing, he chose to redecorate his bedroom. It was long overdue. He and Farmer H taped off the walls and made some kick-butt large diagonal stripes of white and gray. The front wall, mostly window, facing out on Mansion acreage, was done with a green the color of the hard case for my glasses. I was skeptical upon hearing the scheme. But it turned out well.

They took apart the metal bright red, blue, and yellow bunkbed frame, leaving #1 with a single. His dad took one bed frame to work to blast and finish it in battleship gray shiny paint. Only he didn't. He took it to the BARn, where he worked on it all week. The plan was to put it in #1's room when he went to church, so he would be surprised upon return.

#1 asked for some green sheets to match the front wall, and a gray comforter. I told him I would look when I made my weekly expedition to The Devil's Playground. After he left, I remembered that I have the perfect comforter for that room, a white/gray pinstripe plaid. Alas, Farmer H has spirited it way to parts unknown. I'm hoping that it's just in the attic. Because if not, Farmer H has given it away with a bunch more of my stuff, or used it for goat bedding.

The Pony and I found the perfect green sheet set, and a solid gray comforter with a reversible black side. We called Farmer H on the way home. "If you can stall him and keep him out of the house, we can put the sheets and comforter on his bed, too." Farmer H agreed to the plan. We beat #1 home be about 20 minutes. Farmer H put the bedding on. The Pony acted as porter for the groceries and lookout for the arrival of #1.

Darn that Farmer H! He went outside to piddle around in the yard, and missed the reveal. The Pony and I lurked in the kitchen, then casually mosied to the living room. "I'm making lunch. Oh. You brought home lunch. Never mind." #1 carried his fast food feast into his room and placed it on his desk, next to his TV and laptop. Slowly he turned.

"That is SO cool!" He loved it. The colors matched perfectly. I told him that I would wash the sheets if he wanted, before sleeping on them.

It's getting harder and harder to surprise him as he gets older.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Going Once...Going Twice...SOLD!

Didja ever wake up and find a strange bread product on your cutting block?

That happened to me this morning. It was a bag of Dollar Rolls. I didn't buy them. I do my shopping on Sundays, with occasional jaunts to civilization mid-week for necessities. Dollar Rolls are not necessities. I don't think I have ever bought Dollar Rolls. My mom buys them. But the last time we were at her house was Thanksgiving.

So I'm left with a most disturbing conclusion to draw from that Dollar Roll mystery. Cue the stabby music from the shower scene in Psycho.


I'm leery. It is not sealed. Just a twist tie at the top. A twist tie does not make foodstuffs impervious to the poopy fingers of middlemen. Who bought these Dollar Rolls originally? Why did they not want them? Were they squeezed for freshness? Was one surreptitiously removed and consumed? Was there a railroad car of Dollar Rolls going to waste? Did the sale to the exotic animal farm fall through?

Auction Bread is not quite so scary as the Auction Meat. But it's close.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Pony Leads A Secret Life

We have a curious message on our answering machine. A lady called from Washington University to say The Pony has an appointment on December 19, and she would like us to call back with insurance information.

Short of The Pony leading a clandestine orthopedically-unsound life, and injuring himself secretly and calling a specialist for an appointment...I'm not sure what to make of this message.

It was December 2 of 2010 that he broke his second elbow. After having Wash U physicians splint it and haggle over x-ray diagnoses, he had a follow-up appointment on December 17, 2010. Perhaps those Wash-Uers made an automatic yearly follow-up appointment. The Pony has had no problems with his elbow, unless you count that annoying clicking sound when he wants to gross me out.

I'm not sure he needs to keep this appointment. I'm going to run it by Farmer H. He who would be the driver on this long, strange trip. He's never averse to a day off from work. But The Pony would have to miss school on the fun short week before Christmas break. I think we need to call a family meeting.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Welcome To Anarchyville

We have an ongoing discussion, my students and I. They declare that rules are made to be broken. That a lawless society would be the greatest thing since sliced bread. Well, not in those exact words, because I don't think they realize that unsliced bread is possible. Just today, one asked me what was the purpose of a pager. And another knowingly informed her that it was what people used in the days when their cell phones were like bricks. Um. I couldn't break it to him that they were from a time with no cell phones. Thus, the pager.

I asked them what made them think I knew about pagers. I never had one. A good ol' land line was good enough for me, by cracky! They could not comprehend that somebody called a pager from a phone, and all the pager showed was a number, and that the pager-carrier had to go to another phone and call the first caller. It boggled their minds. Yes, I informed them, it was inconvenient. That's why only people that really needed to be contacted at all times in various places carried them. I did not mention the drug dealer connection. Because they all thought I had a pager. Nope. "What do you think I am?" I asked. "A skilled transplant surgeon in high demand?" That kind of flew over their heads. As do many of my offhand comments.

But we're not here to talk about my mad skillz in the operating room. We're building a lawless society.

"I'm never getting a driver's license," declared one future citizen of Anarchyville. "But I'm going to drive. I know how. And I'm going to have a cool car, too."

"Well, with no laws, good luck hanging on to it. Because if somebody wants it, he'll just come take it. What are you going to do about it?"

"I'll go get it back."

"Good luck with that. You'll be running after a moving car. Because yours was just stolen."

"Huh. I'll have another one out back."

"How are you going to pay for gas? You said yesterday that nobody has to work that doesn't want to."

"I'll just take it. Drive off. Nobody will come after me, because it's not against the law."

"How are you going to eat?"

"The farmers will grow food."

"What makes you think they want to work."

"We'll make them work. And then take the food."

"You know, there's always going to be somebody bigger than you to take your stuff."

"I'll have big friends to stop that."

"You won't have electricity because people that work in the plants won't want to work. Farmers aren't very good at running nuclear power plants. There won't be stores. No movies. Nothing to do. Except steal each other's cars and have big friends fight for your stuff and boss the farmers around. Pretty soon, nobody will know how to do anything, because I doubt the kids will want to go to school. And besides, the teachers won't want to work. So it will be a society of simple people building cars out of wood and using simple tools like the Flintstones. IF they want to work."

"Man. You ruin everything."

Today, one declared, "Look at how thick this book is. There should be a law against that."

"Oh! Anarchyville needs a law all of a sudden!"

"Well, that's the only law we need."

I can't wait until they start to clamor for more.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

They Fry Sausage, Don't They?

The Pony is a chef. A middle-school FACS chef, to be precise. His class is cooking biscuits and gravy tomorrow. Today they fried the sausage. Unfortunately, a member of his group burned the first batch. By keeping Char-ley away from the stove, the second sausage turned out fine.

The Pony made no mention of the biscuits. So I assume they are baking them tomorrow. Or else they just slipped his mind, being all boring and non-burny like that.

I am eager to hear the details of his morning repast.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Buddy Blackfork Jr. Takes On A Challenger

My favorite lunch fork has suffered a grave injury. I meant to toss him in the trash at the end of last school year. But I couldn't. He's very sturdy. At least he WAS, until the unfortunate dismemberment. I seem to have blocked the details from memory. But I think chicken was involved.

The Newmentia cafeteria forks still cannot hold a candle to my Buddy. I call him Buddy, after Buddy Threadgoode Jr. in Fried Green Tomatoes. That's because with his missing tine, my Buddy looks like that Buddy, who lost his arm in a train confrontation.

Buddy Blackfork Jr. lolled in my classroom cabinet for months. Convalescing, perhaps. But today he was called to duty to do battle with a Banquet TV Dinner. I'm tired of ham sandwiches.

It was no contest between Buddy and the Meat Patty. Banquet Homestyle Grilled Meat Patty with Egg Noodles provided me with no grilled meat patty like I'd ever seen. And it was way too soft to be real meat. One of these days I'm going to read the ingredients. But Buddy kicked some major Meat Patty butt. He was workin' with three tines, but he could have done the job with two tines tied behind his back.

I can't get rid of him. Yet.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Light The Torches

I am rounding up an angry mob. Join me, won't you?

Meteorologists must be stopped. They toy with the emotions.

Three inches of snow on the way. Uh huh. Yeah. Saturday night it will start.

No. Wait. It won't be here until Sunday evening. But it's not three inches anymore. It's just a trace. Maybe two inches. Depends on where you live. The city is going to get it. Nothing below that line there by your neighboring town. Uh uh. Nope. None for you. Don't even think about a snow day.

Hey! That path has shifted. Looks like you might get some flurries between two and seven a.m. But the drive will be fine. The ground is too warm.

Nothing here this morning. The precipitation cleared out early. It's across the river. The temperature will rise above freezing today. You're going to school. No getting out of duty this Monday morning.

Oh. Seems that there's some sleet down your direction. What's that? Freezing rain. And snow flurries. But only on grassy areas.

What do you mean there's ice on the sidewalks and your car is frozen shut? It's not my fault you didn't bring a scraper. It's almost winter. You should be prepared. I can't explain that inch of snow. And the ice on the bridges.

I'm just a meteorologist.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Sharpen Up Your Bartering Skills

What's the deal? I go to my bank on Friday, and the ATM spits out TENS! Tens of TENS! Not twenties as usual. So everywhere I go, I have to count out tens. And the clerks thank me profusely. "Thanks for those tens! You're a lifesaver!" Or, "Hey! Tens! We didn't get any tens this week. We're running low."

And last night, I saw on the news that my debit card is being refused all over the nation. Well, not mine, specifically. But my bank's debit card. What's up with that? Checks are fine, but the debit is declined. Somebody's up to no good. I hope all of my personal information has not been hacked by some thirteen-year-old with too much time on his hands. That's why I keep the bulk of my benjamins in a rock-solid savings-and-loan. One that does not sell its loans to other institutions. Take THAT, you prepubescent hacker!

I might just as well invest in socks, so all of you who decide to live off the grid can buy them from me, (or perhaps swap a hen or a piglet), so you will have somewhere to keep your gold pieces under the sod of your back yard.

Hillbilly Mom. Always looking to the future, with one eye over her shoulder for the conspiracies that follow.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Not Exactly Chicken Of The Sea

I stepped out onto the Mansion porch this afternoon, into the 60-degree temperature on this freakish December 3, and spied a curious sight.

Farmer H and The Pony were fishing for chickens.

I had intended to toss some old bread to the fowl. Normally, they peck around in the front yard. But today they were curiously absent. I attributed it to Juno, our adolescent puppy, who purely loves to chase after them all the live-long day while we're at work and school. She hasn't hurt any of them. They're like living toys. Sometimes I think that pup is not too bright. She gambols up to Genius, the most mild-mannered of our cats, and snaps at his legs. Genius is not into canine frolicking, and delivers a hissing right slash to Juno's nose for her insolence. Yet she comes back time after time. Genius stands his ground. He's a patient teacher of puppy lessons.

As I tossed hamburger buns, corn muffins, and the gummy white sandwich bread that teenage boys find so irresistible, the roosters came a-runnin'. But only the roosters. I saw a commotion in the smallest of the chicken pens, the one with a wire roof, where we keep the hens with young chicks. Not the baby chicks. They go in an old rabbit hutch, because the chicks will scoot right through the chain-link dog fence that comprises the chicken pens proper. That stresses the mother hens. They cluck-cluck and pace, while the chicks insolently traipse back and forth in dog-and-cat territory. But I digress.

There was Farmer H, wielding a large fishing net. It was bigger than a basketball hoop, but smaller than a hula hoop. The Pony was the border collie in this herding exercise. It was his job to channel the hens toward the pen, where Farmer H scooped them and deposited them into the lock-up. The purpose is to imprison the egg producers. Farmer H thinks they are holding out on him. He cannot discover where they've been laying. I told him that last December, they virtually quit as well. And it doesn't help that Tank the beagle has taken to sleeping in their chicken house. I think he's eating the eggs. Or at least making the layers nervous.

I figure it costs Farmer H about $.50 per egg when we're gathering eight per day in the summer, and $5.00 per egg during the winter. Of course, he doesn't want to hear that. Or get rid of seven superfluous roosters.

Friday, December 2, 2011

16-Year-Old Smorgasbord

No, I am not channeling my mother, serving up aged foodstuffs purchased at Ye Olde Expired Food Shoppe. I am providing for the nutritional needs of the #1 son, relegated to third lunch shift at Newmentia. Most days, he can make do with the cafeteria offerings. But on Fridays, they run out of hamburgers.

On Fridays, the standard menu is pizza, nachos, or hamburgers. Because we are a bit lax with the lunch count, due to students not wishing to look uncool by raising a hand to commit to a lunch item, the good stuff is eaten up during the first two shifts. #1 invades my classroom on Fridays, to rifle through The Pony's snack drawer in my file cabinet.

I anticipated him today. Last week, he ate The Pony's mini Chips Ahoy, and his Cheetos. Today I bundled the Chips Ahoy and Cheetos into a Devil's Playground bag, and stashed it in my cabinet. I left behind one snack size bag of Cheetos. Then I scrounged up a 100-calorie pack of mint chocolate cookies, and an individual bag of Harvest Cheddar Sun Chips. The last two were a couple months past the Use By date, but nothing like four-year-old Ranch Dressing.

I was quite proud of my provider skills. What 16-year-old boy would not be happy with a three-course lunch? I heard the bell to end second lunch. Four minutes later, I heard the bell to start third lunch.

The #1 son never arrived.

After all that meal-preparation, he forsook my good will. But that's OK. His treats will be there next Friday, waiting for him all over again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let Me Back In The Frying Pan

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

Farmer H and the #1 son are killing me with kindness today. Please make it stop.

Upon entering the Mansion, Farmer H greeted me with the news that the office chair I had ordered for my mom for Christmas had arrived. "#1 already took it downstairs."

Okay. Good to know. I even resisted his inquiry as to how my day went. Because he waits to pounce, like a cat behind the couch, peeping at a mousetrap. And the minute I mention a topic unrelated to rainbows and unicorns, he starts complaining that all I do is complain. I want to underline the word "vent" in the dictionary, and duct-tape it over his breather while he sleeps.

The #1 son came up from the basement. I asked if he left my signature form on the front door for the laser printer I was expecting. "It's still there. The guy didn't take it."

"What do you mean?"

"Your printer is here. I just hooked it up."

Whoa, Nelly! "I didn't want it hooked up."

"The boy was just trying to be nice."

"Being nice would have meant asking me when I would like it hooked up. I bought it as a Christmas gift for myself. I don't want it now. I don't have time to learn to use it. I have stuff all over my countertop. I just put a new ink cartridge in the old ink jet printer. That's wasteful."

"Fine! I'll have him go unhook it!"

"That would be stupid."

"We're just trying to be nice."

More like trying to be dictators and drive me crazy. Hows about I paint #1's bedroom while he's away at bowling league. I know he's been wanting to update the look. I can throw out a bunch of stuff on his shelves, and pick the color of paint, and the design. I'm only being nice.

And when I'm done, I think I'll load up four of Farmer H's goats to sell at the auction. He's been meaning to get rid of some. Which ones? I'll take the first four I can catch. I don't know what a good price is for a pampered goat. But I'll take the highest bid. I don't know whether to promote them as tasty, or as loving. But I'm sure they'll sell. Farmer H will really appreciate me selling his goats for him.

I'm only being nice.