Monday, January 30, 2012

Final Destination Takes A Holiday In Hillmomba

A near-tragedy was narrowly averted last night in the Mansion kitchen. There I was, frying up some hamburgers for my men, when I made a crucial mistake.

But let's drag out the action a bit, shall we. Let me just toss in a mini-commercial for Save A Lot ground beef. It's delicious. It's delectable. It falls just short of de-lovely. It puts The Devil's meat to shame. So flavorful. My mom raves about my chili, and my spaghetti sauce. And the secret is in the ground beef. Not as big a secret as the BBQ in Fried Green Tomatoes. That would put me in a cross-bars Hilton at the corner of Murderer's Row and Cannibal Circle. But enough of my there but for the taste of Save A Lot beef go I possible murder conviction and incarceration.

I patted out the burgers and cooked up two for the boys forthwith. I put the burgers for Farmer H and me into the hot pan. A nice sear sealed in the juices, making a crispy thin crust on one side. I applied some black pepper, and flipped the burgers. At that point, I dashed into the laundry room to hang twenty shirts. I know. You'd think those kids of mine were runway models, not plain Hillmomba schoolboys. How that many shirts piled up with my weekly 8-10 loads of laundry is a mystery to me. And it was only the dark shirts. The pile of lights will have to wait until mid-week. It's not like my down-low Barbizon clients are going to run out of dark shirts.

Upon return to the stove, I saw that the burgers were poofy in the middle. They needed a good pressing with the flipper. So I did just that. Well, jump down, turn around, pick a bale of cotton! As that spoiled Winona Ryder said to Whoopi Goldberg in Girl, Interrupted. When I squeezed the burger to the pan, a stream of hot grease squirted out the side, jumped up over the edge of the pan, and seared my ample belly through my short-sleeved, button-down, purple-pin-striped oxford shirt. YOWSA! That was a tad painful. I turned to the sink and dabbed cold water and liquid hand soap on it. The shirt, not the belly. Skin will heal, but a grease stain is forever.

That grease shot out the side of that burger like a solar flare bent on setting a record. Like the mashed potatoes in John Belushi's Animal House mouth, right after he said, "See if you can guess. What I am. Now." And punched both cheeks with his fists. I don't mean to ruin the movie for you if you haven't seen it, but the answer is, "A zit."

Such a cheeky attempt by a hamburger to maim Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has never before occurred in the annals of Hillmomban culinary history. Something is afoot. I need to examine my Even Steven ledger, lest karma be feelin' b*tchy.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Former Perfect Attendant

Sometimes, when nature gives you lemons, you have to make snow days out of them.

Thanks, winter, for all you do. NOT! With nary a below-freezing southern storm in sight, I have been forced to resort to a Hillbilly-Mom-made snow day of sorts. Perhaps I've mentioned my stash of 94 sick days. The limit is 100. So when my ten for next school year kick in, I'm facing a loss of four days. Days for which I have been contracted and allotted as a part of my benefits package. It just doesn't pay to be altruistic and drag yourself to work every single day of the year whether you feel like it or not, I suppose.

Normally, I schedule appointments after school hours. In a pinch, I can wangle permission to leave at 2:00 if a willing colleague will step in for me last hour. I am blessed to have such an individual who volunteers to aid and abet my sick-day-saving strategy. But now, I am asking myself, "Why bother?" I have the days stockpiled. The modest monetary incentive for not missing a day all year is considerably less than the money a substitute would receive if I used my ten days each year. About 20% of that amount, to be specific. But money is not the object of my obsession. I simply hate to be away from my classroom.

I had scheduled a doctor's appointment over the Christmas break. It's just a routine six-month appointment. But twice, the doctor's office has sent me a letter rescheduling. Now it is set for February. Week after next. At 9:30 a.m. I could have tried to get it later in the afternoon. All that means is that I might have a two-hour wait once I arrive. But I always take a book, so that's no big deal. Then I got to thinking, "Why should I rearrange my appointment, and find somebody to pick up The Pony after school, and get home around 7:00 p.m. when I can just keep the morning appointment?"

The week before that appointment, I have to go to the lab for a blood draw. With our insurance, it can't be the doctor's lab, it must be the hospital lab. It's open 24 hours a day, you know. But why should I go all day at work without eating and drinking for my fasting lab, when I can simply sleep through the fast and pop in there during morning hours? It's not feasible to do that when I have The Pony in tow, and when I need to make sure I'm at work on time. Hospital labs do not run on a schedule. If something goes down, those phlebotomists run out the door with their box full of blood-suckers and come back when they're not needed elsewhere.

Don't even dwell on the possibility of a half-day of absence. I used to offer that option for consideration, and was told that it is much easier to schedule a substitute for a full day that a half day. Go figure! Apparently, subs want to be able to actually earn some money and not just break even if they're going to get dressed and drive to school and learn the lay of the land and deal with teenagers. So some will decline a half day while awaiting a full day offer from another district. Especially days that are scheduled well in advance, and not on the morning of.

So...Mrs. Hillbilly Mom will be having a four-day week of work this upcoming week, and a four-day week of work the following week, then she will put in an honest five, and partake of another four-day work-week thanks to President's Day.

Not a bad gig if you can get it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ah...The French And Their Odd Customs

Ahem. I have a somewhat embarrassing tale to relate. Embarrassing for me, anyway.

Perhaps you remember my stories of Juno, our live-wire rescue pup. And how I stand beside the porch and hug her every evening. How she can barely contain her excitement, except for the ability to stand stock still while I hug her for about thirty seconds.

Last week, I was in mid-hug, letting Juno bury her face in the inside of my jacket while she trembled with love during our daily reunion. Then it happened. I couldn't process it until it was over. Shows you what can happen in an instant.


A wet, Juno dog nose. She lovingly raised her head to sniff closer to my face, and I was in mid-sentence, telling her what a good puppy she was, talking about her starving puppy days. I think my scream startled her just a bit. She backed off, front legs low, ready to pounce on any opportune object. And I was saved by The Pony. Juno wheeled around and dug her toenails into the cedar porch and shot toward him like a black furry rocket.

I know how Lucy Van Pelt felt in A Charlie Brown Christmas. "I've been kissed by a dog!" Indeed. But I don't think Lucy got a french kiss from Snoopy.

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Slippery Slope

Well, ding dang dong it! All this complaining about having no snow, and now there is some forecast for overnight. ON A FRIDAY NIGHT! That's no good. How's that gonna get Mrs. Hillbilly Mom out of a day of school?

To add insult to injury, the #1 son has to leave home at 5:00 a.m. to go to a robot competition on Saturday. That boy doesn't need to be driving during inclement weather. He's got a bit of his father in him. The gas gas gas brake brake brake part.

This morning, I noticed the county road was icy as soon as I pulled out from our gravel road. The Pony, my traveling secretary, tried to call and warn #1. Alas, no phone call comes between #1 and his morning regimen. So I instructed The Pony to send him a text. That works. He thinks it might be a friend, I suppose, until it's too late and he's read it inadvertently.

This afternoon, I found out that after The Pony and I passed by the closest prison to the Mansion, a wreck occurred. We had nothing to do with it. I swear. I only found out because I was haranguing #1 about screening out my calls.

"You really need to answer my calls in the morning. It might be something important."

"I can't hear it when I'm in the bathroom getting ready. Did you see the people jumping up and down in the road by the prison?"

"No. Did someone escape?"

"No. It was on that little hill just past the prison, right before your turn-off. Every time a car got close, they jumped and waved their arms. When I got over the hill, I saw a car off in the ditch."

"Well, I guess it's a good thing I let you know the roads were slick."

"I would have figured it out."

That's what I'm afraid of.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A-Snoozin' And A-Losin'

Where, oh where, has my little dog gone? Around the porch to sleep under the #1 son's window, apparently. I saw her curled up there last night at 2:00 a.m., when I arose from sleep in my recliner to go to bed. Of course I had to look out in case some freezing rain was in the making. No dice. And no ice. But little Juno was there.

At first I had trouble recognizing her, what with her being totally, completely, STILL. I guess she really does sleep. At least between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m., whether she needs to or not. It was the first time I had seen her not in her dog house overnight. She usually lays in there, poised like a tennis match ball boy, waiting for me to open the kitchen door. She passes the time gnawing on one of her 2079 bone fragments.

Poor Juno. Last night, The Pony tossed her a treat, a Chewnola stick. It looked like a giant sesame-seed covered breadstick. But the wrapper said it was a multi-textured dog chew bone. No sooner had The Pony given it to her than it was ripped from her possession by Ann the black shepherd. That happened when we tossed out some bread and a piece of garlic bread. Ann commandeered the garlic bread, then made a grab at the Chewnola when Juno abandoned it for bread. Stale, whole-wheat, sliced bread.

You snooze, you lose, Juno. Because Ann stacks up items in her mouth and heads to more calm climes to enjoy them. Juno also snoozed and losed in the dog house department. This morning we found it full of Tank, the beagle.

The big dogs are taking advantage of my little girl. I'm looking into a way to remedy the situation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tying Mrs. HM's Hands Behind Her Back

This teaching business is quite the harsh taskmistress. Just when I think I know the ropes, a seasoned professional with many years under my championship belt, I find myself reeling against those ropes, contemplating throwing in the towel.

In this day and age, we are expected to grab the students' attention, and hold it throughout the entire class period. Not so unreasonable, you might say. As would I. Twenty years ago. We have keen competition in this modern era. Drawing on the cave walls does not do it anymore. Heaven forbid anyone tries to give them NOTES. You've gotta produce a mini-series installment every day. Oops! That is OH SO EIGHTIES. What was I thinking? I might as well have said that I need to dress up like Sir Isaac Newton, give him a snappy name, and rap about the Laws of Motion. Dang! That was OH SO NINETIES. What I meant to say've gotta post a YouTube snippet several times per class.

I refuse. Besides, YouTube is blocked on our school server. But I do make an effort. Today, we started a new issue of Science World, just to keep up with science that's going on in the world. Gosh! It's kind of like the name of that magazine! So I had everything set up to show the 2-3 minute video clips that come with my classroom subscription. I do it every time we discuss the new magazine. I previewed it on Monday. But when I pressed PLAY...nothing happened! Ack! That's my lesson plan we're talkin' about. Fail.

So we moved on to the online Jeopardy-style game on the articles. But seriously. We're supposed to use our technology. But our technology is unusable. What's up with that? Lucky for me, I've got a barrel of tricks up my sleeve for such occasions. No one was harmed in the crash of the lesson plan. All students left with their learning intact. And I was no worse for wear.

The kids later in the day said none of their teachers could use streaming video all morning. Some blamed the new wireless internet option that allows students to register their personal devices and use them in the classroom. FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, of course. But an insider told me that is a totally separate server. That one won't affect the other. Like I understand any of that. Others blamed the solar flare. Or the weather.

All I know is, if I'm expected to utilize technology, it needs to be up and running. Just my opinion. And you all know how hard it is for me to express myself. I'm a regular shrinking violet. I'd show you a video clip of a shrinking violet...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What I Do For Love

How do I love my family? Let me count the ways.

1- I make sure to take the silvery seal off the top of the new squeeze ketchup bottle so they don't spend hours squeezing it, fruitlessly, perplexed.

2- I tell them, "That just came out of the oven, " in hopes of warning them that something is hot. Even though one of them just took the tray of french fries out of the oven, set it on the cutting block, popped one in his mouth, and screamed, "IT'S HOT!"

3- I make a quesadilla that is firm enough, and non-slippery-enough, to hold and eat. As opposed to one that is limp and wet and must be eaten with a fork because that internet recipe said you must put oil in the pan, so he poured some in the non-stick skillet, and on the kitchen counter for good measure, and see...that quesadilla didn't stick. And it was really good. But I can make them the next time, too, because it's less work for him.

4- I try to throw away the baloney with only two little green spots on it, just in case one of them might try to make a sandwich before school, and call me, and say, "It only has two little green spots on it. Is it OK to eat?"

5- I remove the entire ice-catching tray and hack the insides with a knife until cubes can flow freely out the door spout, thus keeping my family from standing in front of the open freezer and pounding on the ice-catching tray in an effort to bully it into coughing up a cube.

That's just a partial list. And that's only the kitchen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Call The Grammar Police

Okay, I was just watching Hoarders on A & E. Only for a few minutes, mind you. Just to see the state of their houses. Because I have other things to do before Intervention comes on. It's a rich drunk tonight! I love to watch drunks! I hear that her husband locks her in a closet. Anyway...

There I was, buying into the Hoarders premise, actually believing that those show therapists are going to help the poor hoarders, when I was slapped in the face with a jarring bit of jargon from Dr. Robin Zasio, that stick-thin blond overtanned gal who looks like she needs an intervention for binge/purge issues.

Dr. Robin was talking to Jim, an old dude in California who rolls around in a Rascal, perusing piles of junk he has picked up from swap meets. And Dr. Robin made Jim cry! Poor Jim. He feels bad that he will never punch the beat-up, stuffing-leaking-out Everlast heavy bag that litters his dooryard. But wait! That's not the jarring part.

Dr. Robin had the nerve to say, "C'mon, Jim. That stuff is dilapitated!"

Oh no she didn't!!! Dr. Robin, on national TV, said, DILAPITATED.

Sweet Gummi Mary! Ain't no therapist ever gonna help nobody by making up her own words. Dr. Robin! Yoo hoo! Over here! In Hillmomba! That word you want to use is dilapidated. Uh huh. That's right. Roll it around in your mouth, Sugar. There you go. Now stop trying to help people with your miseducated self.

I'm pretty sure that next week, Dr. Robin might reference the Statue of Limitations.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Give Hillbilly Mom A Scooby Snack

I have a full week ahead of me in the paid work department. The work around the Mansion just keeps on piling up. I would sweep it under the rug, but that is too much like work.

Monday is my parking lot duty before and after school. In addition, it is my turn for lunch duty all week. The Pony will be staying after school until 5:00 at least three days this week for spelling bee and academic team practice. My classes are both starting new chapters in their brand spankin' new textbooks, so I have to amass materials to accompany them, just like I'm a new teacher again.

From the Mystery, Inc. files, I discovered this morning that a check I made out to our insurance company has never cleared the bank. Which is a bit disturbing, what with a later check for the Mansion insurance to the same establishment already draining the funds from our account. Farmer H was concerned that the mysterious mailbox robber had gotten ahold of it and made it out to himself and cashed it. He's been in the local papers lately, but was finally caught. (The robber, not Farmer H, who has neither been featured in the press, nor apprehended for various shenanigans.) I assured Farmer H that the Mailbox Bandit was not the culprit, since I do not put our outgoing mail in the box with the flag up. Mainly because we have no flag, what with using a green-painted metal pipe that is heavily resistant to bashing with a bat by local nincompoops. And besides, the check has not cleared.

I double-checked my dates, and other bills that I mailed at the same time. No other problems. So I backtracked and searched high and low and BEHOLD! There was the envelope crammed down inside my purse. So I had not actually put it in the mailbox on January 2nd as I imagined. I considered mailing it today, but I was curious about how much leeway I had before it was due. I normally mail those insurance checks as soon as I get them, because it's not like we're going to get out of paying them. It's quite unlikely that a tornado is going to blow away a Ford F-250, a Chrysler Pacifica, and a 1980 Olds Toronado in the three weeks before the payment is due.

So...I brought home the missing payment (which I had discovered on the parking lot of The Devil's Playground while waiting for The Pony to muster strength for our expedition by consuming a sausage biscuit and hash brown) and sliced it open with a paring knife. Seems like it was due on January 19th, which was Thursday. So I'm not that far behind. My mom said she can run it by the local insurance agent's office for me on Monday, since I will be tied up at work until 5:00. That will save a few days over mailing it to the company's bill-receiving address. (But you can bet I'll be prying that stamp off the envelope to use again!) I'm hoping there's a built-in "delinquent by" date past the "due date", and that our record of timely payments and the fortune they receive by being our sole insurance carrier will account for leniency. If not, Farmer H needs to drive extra careful until the matter is sorted out.

I, on the other hand, can be as reckless as I desire, because my T-Hoe's insurance is all paid up until August.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

From The Who's On First Files

Farmer H, the #1 son, and I sat in the living room before bowling league, watching Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. Guy was chowing down on a big hamburger. Farmer H piped up, "You know who has good hamburgers? That bar next to Casey's where I get gas."

"How do you know what kind of hamburgers they serve? How many times have you been there?"

"I only went once."

"Mom, he tried to make ME go there with him!"

"Funny. You never told me you were going. When was this?"

"I only went when I had a day off from work. They're having a good breakfast buffet bar there tomorrow."

"How would you know that?"

"I was there last week."

"Wait a minute. When were you off work last week?"

"I wasn't off work last week."

"But you said you only went there when you were off work."

"Yeah. That week I was off at Thanksgiving. I went there for lunch."

"Then how were you there last week?"

"I went to breakfast Sunday."

"But you said you only went once."

"I did."

"Now you say you were there for breakfast on Sunday."

"I was."

"That's more than once."

"You're not listening. You never listen."

"Oh, but I DO listen. That's why you're not making sense."

"I don't know what you don't understand."

"You said you only went once."

"I did."

"But you were there twice."

"Yeah. Once for lunch. And once for breakfast."

"So you only went once, but you've been there twice."


"You guys are hilarious!"

"Do you understand what he's saying?"

"Well, he's not making sense. But you're not listening."

"How can you only go once, but be there twice?"

I'm still waiting for an answer on that one.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Tweenhood Is A B*tch

I feel sorry for our little dog, Juno. She is at that awkward age, an adolescent, not quite a pup, but not quite grown. She is too big to pick up, and too little to stand sedately and be petted. The big dogs have stopped exhibiting their open disdain for her. Now they pose stiff-legged, tails in the air, cautiously wagging as Juno bounds up to them and attempts to touch noses.

When we leave every morning, I stop at the garage entrance and turn to pet Juno, who is up on the porch. She leans into me, calm for a frozen moment in time. Then I tell her, "See you later, alligator," and The Pony and I make our getaway. It's quite possible that Juno thinks her name is "alligator."

In the evening, Juno rushes to the garage area and waits for me to greet her. It's a totally different dynamic than she has with The Pony. She romps back and forth from the garage to the kitchen door as he goes ahead to unlock it. Then she gallops back to meet me. I put down my stuff and give her a two-arm hug. She is so. Very. Still. Like she remembers her starving puppyhood, when I picked her up on my shoulder every evening, and she rooted her nose into my hair just under my left ear. Now she tucks her face under my arm, or up by my neck, and leans her body against me. If I were to move, she would fall off the porch. She holds this position until The Pony comes back out, or I break away. Then she's like jumping beans on meth, all riled up and springy like a border collie who wants a frisbee.

It's so hard to grow up.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Everything In Its Place

I am afraid that I need to start a remedial chair-straightening class.

Earlier in the school year, I lamented how my end-of-the-day class has not grasped the bare basics of chair-straightening. How last year's group was on the road to the Guinness World Record in chair-straightening. They were truly chair-straighteners extraordinaire. Crisp rows of desks and chairs, precisely positioned, as if they had been aligned with the aid of a surveyor's transit and laser range finder. So exact that a Swiss watchmaker would be envious of their accuracy.

But this year's group...bless their detail-challenged little hearts. Their chair-straightening technique brings to mind the machinations of one of Dr. Witt's heavily-caffeinated spiders. A Picasso rather than a Rembrandt. Nursery-school recess instead of Tai Chi.

I can only surmise that they are right-brainers. That each wants his chair to be unique. That he feels as one with the chair. And the chair does not like constraints placed upon it. That each chair should be a veritable snowflake, unparallelled by any other chair.

Yikes! Maybe I am stifling my students.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Game Of Digits

I am SO cold. Winter is here now. I am planning, in the future, to be more careful about what I wish for. This morning, the temperature in Hillmomba was 9 degrees. That's single digits, for all of you who are not mathematically inclined.

And speaking of digits...a student was absent today. Not that it's remarkable in itself. But the kids are always haranguing this dude for so many absences. Well, they would be, if they knew the meaning of haranguing. But they give him a hard time. "How can you miss so much school without being in trouble? I don't get it. I missed way less than you, and I can't miss another day or I get kicked out. You went home early yesterday. Why do they let you leave?" And on and on it goes. They turned to me. "How many hours HAS he missed?"

"I can't tell you anything about another student's attendance. But I'm having trouble remembering how many hours he's been gone. I ran out of fingers to count on. And toes. And fingers and toes on all of my other students.

Which may be a slight exaggeration. Or not.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Sun So Hot I Froze To Death

Remember the Seinfeld episode where George got really smart from not having sex, and Elaine got really dumb from having it? And George's life was grand, while Elaine's was falling apart?

It's like that around here now. Not the sex part. Sweet Gummi Mary NO! M-O-O-N. That spells no sex is gonna happen in Hillmomba any time soon, nohow, no way! For my boys, of course. That's what this episode concerns.

The absentminded professor, the #1 son, has been driving himself to school all year. That means The Pony and I get ready and leave about a half hour before #1. We have our routine down pat. The Pony never puts a foot wrong. We complement each other. The right hand and the left hand know what each other is doing.

So it was with much surprise and consternation that I spied The Pony's lunch still on the counter as I headed for the door. "Um. You lunch is probably better-suited to a trip to town in your backpack, then an afternoon inside your belly than it is sitting on the cutting block alone all day."

"Oh! I forgot. I wondered why my backpack was flapping open."

We got halfway to school when I remembered that it was trash day. And I had not reminded #1 to take the dumpster to the end of the driveway. I told The Pony to call him. No answer. We called back five minutes later. No answer. The Pony sent him a text. Finally, #1 returned the call. "I took the dumpster up before I left. I'm on the road now. You're lucky I'm so responsible."

I'm waiting for the cats to bark and the dogs to mew. The pigs flying has been ruined by that little wee wee wee pig on a zip line, Maxwell.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Give Missouri A Break

Must all the crazy people on TV be from Missouri? Seriously? Can't Mississippi pitch in every now and then, to take some heat off of the ol' Show-Me State?

Just on Survivor alone, for three seasons now, we have had to claim "Coach" Benjamin Wade. And in Survivor Amazon, we had that goofy Heidi girl who stripped for some peanut butter. She was a teacher, y'all! Then we had Randy, that Hawaiian-shirt-wearing weirdo on Survivor Gabon. And Twila the janitor/MoDOT worker who was merely disliked, though not necessarily certifiably nuts.

But now, it's gotten ridiculous. On a show last week about cheapskates, there was a Missouri woman who does not allow toilet paper in her home. It's too expensive. So to save a couple of hundred dollars a year, she cuts up old towels into squares, and uses them for butt-wipers. Are you following me here? She cuts up old towels into squares, and makes her family of six kids and a husband use them for butt-wipers! Then they drop them into a plastic wastebasket (no lid), and she washes and dries them. Because supposedly, electricity and bleach and detergent and hot water are free in Missouri.

I am ready to throw in the towel.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Salt Mine Beckons

Well, we're off to school on Monday. So much for our holiday. I suppose Thursday and Friday off was better than just a Monday. But now I want Monday, by cracky!

I have parking lot duty on Monday morning and afternoon. Now my stuff is not prepared for when I rush through the door to start my day. I always make sure everything is all set up on Friday afternoon. The assignments written on the board, the materials laid out, nothing to do but log on at my control center, and hot-foot it out to the cold parking lot. Because I don't get back to my room until the first bell. The students beat me there. No cushion of time to take off the coat, prop open the door, put away my phone, and unlock my computer. It's a rat race to get started first hour. Lucky for me, second hour is my plan time. I can regroup. In fact, that's the ONLY advantage to second hour plan time.

I don't suppose a phantom freeze will roll in overnight to put the kibosh on work.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Age Of The Jelly Belly Prognosticator

Ah...this has been a downright relaxing four-day weekend. Like Thanksgiving, but without the force-feeding and kitchen clean-up. That smattering of snow Thursday morning put the kibosh on education in Hillmomba.

You know my mistrust of TV meteorologists. So when they called for rain from the south, I figured something was up. Then the forecast changed twelve hours before the event. Looks like there was more of a northern track to the little storm. And the timing looked like rush hour might be affected. At first the snow would get here after ten. Then after midnight. Then after four a.m. I checked outside on my way to bed, when I woke up in the recliner at 2:30. Nothing. I tossed and turned. Because I'd already had a good six hours of chair shut-eye. That's a full night for me. So at 3:30, I checked again. Light snow.

Farmer H woke me with his alarm at 4:40. I got up and went through the motions. I did not make The Pony's lunch. The news showed three of the big school districts of Hillmomba already closed. The districts on all sides of Newmentia were already closed. Yet Newmentia was not. I stalled. No call. No text. No TV notice. I shuffled off to the shower. Farmer H got up early and used the boys' shower. He was prepared. He had gassed up his $1000 Caravan the night before, just in case. It has studded snow tires, and is much better than his Pacifica for winter driving.

Out of the shower, ready for the day, I waited. Finally, at 5:50, our phone tree snapped into action. Which is still pretty early notification. There have been times when we were already at school at 7:30 when it was called. But still. All the others knew. We should have jumped on that early-bird bandwagon.

Farmer H called when he passed I-55. He didn't get on, because traffic was at a standstill. He said the highway was the worst he had ever seen it. Like it had not even been treated. Normally, when a storm is forecast, I can see the lines of salt or other chemical treatment on the pavement in lines as regular as a treble clef. Or a bass clef, as the trombone-tooting Pony would say. Except he says it as bass, like the fish. He's an odd duck, that Pony.

On the news, MoDOT has been taking a lot of heat. I can't really blame MoDOT. I'm assuming they respond based on the forecast. Those meteorologists continue to jerk us around, crying WOLF every time a disturbance appears off the coast of Oregon. Except the one time the wolf actually has his fangs on our collective jugular. MoDOT gambled on saving money, or wasting resources. And lost.

I say we do away with the broadcast meteorologists, and replace them with a different viewer each night. A viewer with charts and mathematical equations and perhaps psychic ability, predicting the number of Jelly Bellies that the Grand Canyon can hold.

They would be just as accurate as the weather forecasters. And more entertaining.

Friday, January 13, 2012

'Sup In Smoke

I was nearly asphyxiated Tuesday night, when the #1 son decided to try out some new invention he had hooked up to his fancy-schmancy camera.

He thinks I understand the gadget, having come to show it to me each step of the way. Not sure what his thinking process was on that. Surely he knows that I am not fluent in gadget, have had no formal instruction in gadget, show no apparent interest in gadget, and, quite frankly, lack even the most basic gadget bone in my body. And surely he does not give one whit about my input. I can only surmise that he was seeking approval for His Royal Gadgetific Majesty.

This, the latest steed in his gadget stable, is supposed to take a flash picture at the instant something interesting happens. I don't get it. That's perhaps the most gigantic understatement in the history of gadgetry. I don't know which comes first, the flash or the instant. #1 gave an example of water dripping off the porch onto the railing. He could get the drop at the instant it hit the rail, he said. But he's already gotten pictures of that, along with the whole sequences of splashing that's involved, with a much cheaper camera and no gadget. So maybe this has something to do with it being automatic, or having a flash. Like he could set up his rig and go annoy his mom for a while and let the picture take itself. I don't know.

So Tuesday night, to test his gadget, he went into the basement workshop, turned off the lights, and lit matches. Yeah. I'm pretty sure it wasn't just some wacky teenage cry for help. He showed me pictures later of gases and flame emitted by a freshly-struck match. I suggested a series of photos. A description of how he built his gadget from a variety of online-ordered parts. And how he could use it as his project in the local Science Fair that he won the Best in Fair prize in last year. Nope. This is nothing, he says. He has another project in mind involving texting and sound and speed of typing.

I fail to see the need for this gadget, unless it is all about inflaming the lungs of elderly women who like to type up their blogs in a smoke-free environment.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From Coolsville To Hillmomba

What's up with my comments section tonight? There's no room for commenting. The only option I have is to delete or reply. Not funny, Blogger. I noticed the same thing on Chickadee's blog. I went there to leave a comment, and all I could do was reply to her other commenter, or her comment to that commenter. So I did neither, as one would make me look like I was appointing myself moderator of her blog, and the other would, at the very least, make me seem out of touch with reality.

Great Googly Moogly! Am I going to have to switch templates or jump through some other such time-sucking hoop to get back to normal? This has thrown me off course. I had a topic all picked out, but now I am grousing about this grand inconvenience. It doesn't help that I fell asleep last night in the recliner before posting, and woke up in the early morning hours just in time to go to bed before I had to get up.

What's an old Hillbilly Mom to do? I suppose further investigation is in order. Perhaps call out Mystery Inc. I hope they have enough gas in the Mystery Machine. It's a long way from Coolsville to Hillmomba.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A Skink, By Any Other Name

We had some time left at the end of class today, and a young lass regaled us with tales of her pet reptile, a skink. She said that she has to clip his toenails, and keep him warm, and not tilt him too much when she picks him up. She said skinks are not climbers, and like to remain at an even keel. So much so that her skink will pee on her if she isn't careful to keep him horizontal. She was quite knowledgeable on the subject. Her skink is a very lucky little fellow to be so well-cared-for.

When the discussion lulled, an earnest lad inquired, "Now what is your pet called again? A skank?"

Thank you. He'll be here all year.

Monday, January 9, 2012

With A Little Help From Novartis

Well, well. Checking out news of the world on Google today, a recall caught my eye.

Did you know that Bufferin is being recalled by the manufacturer? You do now. Also Excedrin, Gas-X, and No-Doz. Since I don't use the other ones, they were of no consequence to me. I'm a regular Rooster Cogburn, telling those other drugs, "Stand clear. I got no interest in you today."

Seems that there was a manufacturing mix-up, and pills or pieces of strong painkillers could have been packaged with these over-the-counter drugs. Painkillers like percocet.

Are you freakin' kidding me?

Isn't that going to make a bunch of people run out and buy those over-the-counter products with hopes of snagging an illicit painkiller or two? Or make others file claims against Novartis, the manufacturer, for alleged incidents of unwanted ingestion?

Or not. Maybe other folks are not as jaded as I am.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Devil Is Killing Me With Kindness

The Devil finds work for idle Handmaidens. I am living, whining proof.

The Pony and I had our cart nearly ready for check-out this morning. It had been a rather uneventful trip to The Devil's Playground. I sent The Pony ahead on a reconnaissance mission to procure a Globe and a National Enquirer. Because I have to keep up with the latest conspiracy theories, you see. I headed for checkout #5, because it's not pinned between two shelves of last-minute junk. It has one side open to the 20 Items or Less mini-checkouts. The Pony knows where to find me there, after I dole out two dollars for game-playing while I'm in line.

As I headed toward checkout #5, edging out a late-comer with an overflowing cart, the Devil's Handmaiden assigned to checkout #4, of the 20 Items or Less grouping, stepped into my path. "I can take you on number four." Dang! In that instant, the late-comer whipped around me and pulled into checkout #5. I muttered. And went to #4.

Do you know how much extra work is required to set out a full cart's worth of items on one of those mini checkouts? They don't have conveyors. They have a short metal shelf, with another short metal shelf. There's a crack between them. You have to set out items, shove them over that crack as the Handmaiden catches up, and then dip back into your cart for more items. While people who actually have 20 items or less fume behind you.

I wanted The Pony to still have his reward. I told him to go on and play his games. "I would. But you didn't give me any money yet." Our routine had been upset. I fished the cash out of my pocket. I gathered the last of my items from the cart. I pointed out a case of Diet Coke so the Handmaiden could walk around and scan it. Because I wasn't about to heft it up and then back into the cart.

I'm sure the Handmaiden was only being nice. Perhaps she was new, and still had a work ethic. But there was no need to coerce me into the short lane. NOBODY was lined up. Checkout #5 was empty when I started over there.

Perhaps my grumpiness at her good deed will dissuade her from inconveniencing future customers with kindness.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Cricket Cup

Anybody a fan of British baseball, or as they call it, cricket? Too bad, so sad. That's not what this post is about, anyway.

Friday morning, I arose at 4:40 a.m. as per usual on a work day, and stumbled to the kitchen. Poured myself a cup of ambition. Oops! No I didn't. That was my idol, the esteemed Ms. Dolly Parton, in 9 to 5. But I did go to the kitchen to prepare The Pony's school lunch. Part of that task involves shoving crescent-shaped ice cubes into a metal water bottle.

I filled the water bottle about a third full of water, then set it on the cutting block while I harvested the ice from Frig. I use a red Solo cup for that. I normally put the misshapen cubes into my big plastic water cup that I take to school. But this morning, I had left it by the La-Z-Boy for hydration during my post-shower morning nap. So I grabbed a second Solo cup from the counter for the overflow.

Let the record show that I re-use my Solo cups. No, I'm not turning into my mother, washing Styrofoam trays to eat on again next Thanksgiving so we don't have to wash dishes. I use my Solo cups mainly as mini ice buckets. I take a cup of ice to my basement lair to freshen my big cup of water. It's only ice. The cup is not dirty. I set it aside on my desk, and have The Pony carry it back upstairs to my Solo cup stash. I'm actually saving the environment. Because I'm selfless like that.

I dropped the ice crescents into the top of The Pony's metal bottle. A frozen mass best described as conjoined triplets would not fit, so I tossed it into my spare Solo. I also use that Solo to drink a cup of water with my morning meds. It's just water.

With the water bottle filled and safely ensconced on the top shelf of Frig until lunch-bag-packing time, I reached for the Solo containing discarded ice. Like I said, that ice usually goes into my water cup. But this morning I though I would have actual cold water to drink with the meds instead of just faucet water. I reached for the Solo, and spied a dark shadow. I yanked my hand back.


Perhaps I've mentioned that I hate crickets with the white-hot heat of 10,000 black leather seats inside a sealed-up black Tahoe on a blacktop parking lot in July in southeast Missouri. I grabbed that cup and shoved it face down in the wastebasket, ice and all. I could not even face that cricket long enough to guarantee its demise. To think that I almost swallowed it gave me the shakes.

I must re-evaluate my Solo cup recycling plan.

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Butt-Kicking By Sandra Bullock Is Still A Butt-Kicking

The #1 son is up to his old tricks again. He has taken his earned money and his contest prize money and his Christmas money and ordered various and sundry electronic items in a quest to build the perfect camera accessory.

I know nothing about electronics. Or cameras. I think he is making some kind of time-lapse flash attachment. Not sure. He's probably building a better mousetrap. Or reinventing the wheel. I happened upon him bent over his desk, fiddling about with wires and switches and laser lights and his laptop. He called me in to show me what he was doing. Picture yourself calling over a stray, mangy mutt, and enunciating clearly, speaking grammatically correct English, while detailing how to build and fly a Boeing 747.

For the life of me, I could not grasp the purpose or the function of the gadget. But I knew I had seen his inventing posture somewhere. It was indelibly etched in my mind. And then it hit me. He looked like Candice Bergen's secret son in Miss Congeniality, making an exploding crown for the pageant winner.

I hope he's not doing that. I SO do not need Sandra Bullock kicking my butt.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

OAAAT For The Pony

I have a plan. A plan that will get my Mansion in tip-top shape before the Spring Cleaning season. All I have to do is work on one area per day. Not even a full room, necessarily. But an area. Maybe it's the kitchen counter. Or a clothes rack in the laundry room. Or the corner desk in my bedroom. One. Area. At. A. Time. I could call it the OAAAT plan. I'm sure The Pony would buy into it.

The Pony is my legs. I sort stuff and plan their disposal. The Pony is my gofer. He brings me cleaning supplies and carts away items. We're a good team. A finely-oiled machine. The #1 son brings production to a grinding halt. He's the squeaky wheel. The unmeshed cog. We have to save our OAAAT for a time when #1 is away. Or face down in his bed.

Here I am, sounding like the Mansion is a Hoarders house. No. Cluttered, but not hoardy. You don't have to walk on dead cats and dirty diapers and piles of thrift-store treasures to get around. You watch Hoarders, don't you? So you can say, "Wow. My house is nowhere near that bad. It's a regular sterile operating room compared to THAT house." Yeah. Me too. I used to watch it on the BBC when it was called How Clean is Your House, with those British ladies, Kim and Aggie. Same premise. Different name and channel. A real feel-good series, but don't watch while you're eating.

Yes, it's quite the clever clean-up plan. I started it on Monday. Okay, so by Wednesday I didn't feel like cleaning an area. Not on the day before going back to work. But still. I think it's doable.

The kitchen nook and counter think so, too. The Pony has not yet weighed in.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ketchup Makes The World Go Round

Ketchup. The greatest invention since sliced bread. None of that catsup high-fallutin' talk around Hillmomba. It's ketchup. Plain and simple.

The Pony would drape himself in ketchup if it were socially acceptable. I think he would actually put it ON sliced bread, and eat ketchup sandwiches. I toyed with the idea of getting him a t-shirt that said, "I put ketchup on my ketchup." However, I was afraid he would actually wear it. The surest way to persuade him to try something is to bribe him with, "You can put ketchup on it." Farmer H got him to eat fried shrimp that way. No cocktail sauce for The Pony. It's ketchup all the way. I also tempted him with pot roast. "Hey! That tastes like steak!" He even ate the carrots and potatoes...dipped in ketchup. That's how he eats his steak, too. As if you couldn't guess.

I, too, enjoy the tasty red elixir. Not on everything, of course. But fish sticks demand it. And a good hamburger if real mayonnaise is not available. I would sooner eat it dry than use that blasted Miracle Whip. It's a miracle I don't whip your butt for offering me Miracle Whip.

One of my old teaching buddies was in her first year. Her husband was still in college at Rolla to be an engineer. He LOVED ketchup. But they were on a tight budget. So I gave her a bunch of powdered condiments that Farmer H's company dealt in. There was lemon pepper, meat seasonings, and different spices. And this giant, industrial-sized bag of dusky red powder. Farmer H told me that it was like ketchup if water was added. Nothing could have been less appetizing to me. But my buddy took it home. Free condiments are free condiments, after all. A couple of weeks later, she asked if we had any more. Farmer H hooked her up.

"My husband just LOVES that stuff. He says it's like ketchup. We have a big bowl of it every meal."

Ketchup makes the world go round. Even fake ketchup.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Modern Appliances Of Hillmomba

The #1 son is up to his old tricks again. I was washing dishes earlier (have I ever mentioned that I do not have a dishwasher?), when he decided to eat some Christmas-day sugar-free brownies that I bought for Farmer H.

Mmm...I need a brownie.

You might want to check them. They're getting kind of old. They expired on December 26th.

That was only five days ago.

I think you need to check your math. (Mr. ACT score of 34 out of 36 possible)

Let's see. The 26th...and today is the's only been eight days.

You'd better look for mold. That stuff doesn't stay good forever.

I don't see any mold.

Oh, you don't SEE any mold. But what about the hyphae?

What about it?

Do you even know what that is?

Not really.

The hairlike roots of the mold that grow down in, before you see the spores.

OK. You talked me out of the brownies. I'm throwing them away. I think I'll have some of Dad's fudge.

Stop cutting it on the table! You'll mar the surface.

I won't mar the surface!

Yes, you will! The other boys did it with a pencil. The metal part by the eraser. Because they didn't want to do their homework.

Yeah, right. That was fifteen years ago. There. It broke off at the bottom. The knife didn't even touch the table. Here.

Great. Another piece of silverware to wash. Do you think it washes itself? Wouldn't it be great if that happened? If you could put your dishes somewhere at night, and in the morning, they would all be clean?

What kind of world are you thinking of? Like that could really happen!

I'm surprised he didn't tell me that I should be thankful I don't have to carry his clothes down to the creek and beat them with a rock.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Calling Out Mother Nature

Dang! I hate the wind with the heat of a thousand burning suns. Which could actually describe the weather Friday and Saturday, all hot and thousand-sunnish, not at all wintery like it should be these days. What's the fun of winter if the temps are springlike?

Don't even hint that this is an omen for the rest of winter to come. Say it isn't so. I need my snow days. Hope springs eternal. There's nothing worse than tuning in to the weather and seeing sunny sixty-degree days stretching ahead for infinity. Or at least for the seven-day forecast.

What happened to those Thurdsay-afternoon snowstorms? The ones that used to roll in right after lunch, when I was traveling between campuses, that caused me to leave school at one building and arrive at the other to discover that WE WERE GOING HOME EARLY!!! Good times...

One year that scenario played out three weekends in a row. Leave early Thursday, off Friday, go back Monday to start the whole process again. My kind of real-life Groundhog Day. Or Groundhog Week.

We are two weeks into winter. Only eleven weeks left to go. Mother Nature needs to get on the stick.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Pressing Engagement

I would love to hang around and chat, but I will not be able to do so this evening. I have a pressing engagement.

The Pony requested and received the DVD of Rise of Planet of the Apes for Christmas. We are having a movie night. An attempt to have the #1 son join us has failed. He saw it in the theater. Even the promise of a popping of his Christmas gift of bacon-flavored popcorn could not persuade him. So it's just The Pony and me.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some ape-watching to do.