Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Mrs. HM's Imagination Is Expecting To Be Paid Time-And-A-Half Tonight

I rushed to the post office after school today.

Yes, it WAS the dead-mouse-smelling post office. I knew somebody was sure to ask. While I was there, inhaling the dead-mousiness of the place, I overheard a conversation between two customers at the counter. I was getting a little nervous. You know how things go when you eavesdrop.

MAN:  "...I just can't do it. Not tonight. You wouldn't believe how many they dump off. Forty or fifty, at least. I can't afford it anymore. I decided I have to put an end to it."

WOMAN:  "I understand. My sister says it's getting ridiculous at her house, too. She wastes at least a hundred dollars on it."

MAN:  "Huh! A hundred dollars wouldn't last twenty minutes!"

POSTAL CLERK:  "I'm going to hide tonight."

I'm sure you have picked up on it. You of the amazing social skills. Attuned to the moods of the masses. I, on the other hand, sometimes have a bit of a handicap in these matters. A differently-abledness.  I jump to conclusions without considering all the angles. Perhaps that's why I have only served on a jury one time.

Here's what I surmised. MAN was having trouble with people dumping baby animals on his property. You know. Puppies. Kittens. Thinking he'd take care of them. And he tried, our dear, sweet Mr. MAN, until he could not afford to feed any more. Or have them neutered. So I swear I thought I heard him say something about killing them. But not tonight. He couldn't face it at night. So he was planning to do it tomorrow.

WOMAN said her sister had the same problem. That it cost her a hundred dollars. You know. That's what it costs to spay and neuter a dog around these parts. So I figured her sister was trying, but times are tough, and she can't take care of strays the way she used to.

POSTAL CLERK must have heard MAN talk about disposing of his newly-acquired baby animals, so he was frightened, and joking that he was going to hide, lest MAN get ahold of him, too.

I was almost ready to chime in about how people dump animals at my mailbox, and I have three cats and three dogs from such pet harvests. Good thing I didn't.

They were talking about candy for trick-or-treaters who are driven into their neighborhood.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Re-Gruntling of Mrs. Hillbilly Mom

I have a bone to pick.

"Oh, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom," you say, "that is SO unlike you!" Yes. I must take a break from my cotton candy world of unicorns and kittens and heave a heavy load off my chest. Stop with all the namby-pamby political correctness and say what you mean, by cracky! Do not be afraid of hurting somebody's nose-disjointed feelings, or of making somebody madder than a wet hen. You can't please all of the people all of the time. So stop trying. The meeks are inheriting your wishy-washyness!

Allow me, if I may, to speak for the meeks. THEY'RE not going to try and stop me. They're meeks, for cryin' out loud!

Ahem! Tap tap tap! Is this thing on? Here's the deal. If we all need to take a CPR course, just tell us that from the get-go. Don't start all apologetic-like with a form to fill out for those working after-school programs, a form wanting to know the maximum level of education achieved, and which programs you work how often, and when your CPR certification expired. Because you can bet that one of the meeks who doesn't work any extra programs will timidly raise a hand and ask if everybody should fill out a form, whether they work extra programs or not. And that meek will expect an answer. Not a shrug and an inquisition like, "You don't work any after-school programs?" until that meek replies that perhaps the meeks can fill out a form anyway, just to have on file.

Furthermore, don't profess that nobody is being paid for the two hours of school-hosted CPR training because, in essence, you are doing us a favor, allowing us the chance to earn huge dollar amounts through Career Ladder or special grants by meeting this requirement in order to supervise those after-school programs. You are kowtowing to the agenda of the squeaky wheels. Every one of us knows that our contract contains a clause that requires us to perform extra duties as needed. We have to stay for insurance meetings, and nobody is paid for their time. We have impromptu faculty meetings as issues arise, and nobody is paid for their time. It's not like we have a union to put you over a barrel and picket until you give in. We know that nobody has to pay us for this time.

Likewise, make it clear that everybody is expected to participate. You never know when a goofy hipster doofus might try to wash her hair in the faculty restroom, and get her head stuck under the spigot. Don't let that gray area seep into the meeting room and curl up into a ball on the shiny, laminated wood tabletop like a cat taking a nap. Because then a meek will have to come right out and ask, to be certain, "So if I don't work any before or after school programs, I don't have to come to the CPR training?" That makes it rather jarring when you forcefully announce, "The Head Guy wants ALL faculty certified in CPR." Alrighty then. You should have just said that in the first place. Here's a little hint for next time. All faculty members are expected to attend the mandatory CPR training in the main campus cafetorium from 3:00 to 5:00 on Octovember 32, 2020. There. See how easy that was?

I think I might have a future traveling the state and hosting workshops on Speaking for Meeks.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My MENSA Application Is In The Mail

The scofflaws are trying my patience.

This afternoon, I smelled an illicit smell within the four walls of my hermetically-sealed classroom. Even with the AIR CONDITIONER pumping away on the roof, freezing us out with the icy drafts in order to keep that room at 72 degrees, though most of the day the furnace struggled to keep the heat at 70 because of outside temps in the forties...I smelled it.

Fingernail polish. Puhhhhlease! This class knows better. It's not our first rodeo. Or nail salon. I immediately looked to the biggest complainer. Funny how I have a sixth sense like that. The dude behind her had moved up beside her, and was sitting sidesaddle on the chair. Kind of like his first rodeo.

"Dude. What are you doing there?"

"Just chillin', Mrs. HM."

"What are you doing?"

"Just chillin'."

"WHAT are you doing? Because I smell a bad smell. And I'm not accusing YOU of smelling bad, Dude, but I have a feeling the two incidents are related."

"Okay. I'm getting my fingernails painted."

"Not anymore. Move back to your seat."

"But it's Red Ribbon Week neon day! That's why I'm getting my fingernails painted. See? They're all different colors."

"Do it on your own time, not mine. You both know the rules. Don't pretend you've forgotten. You're pushing your luck and taking advantage of my good nature."

"But only eight of them are done!"

"Too bad, so sad. Now stay in your right seat, and put your hands on your desk so I can make sure those two fingernails stay unpolished."

"Whoa! How did you KNOW that? How did you know I had two left to paint?'

"Well, Dude, I'm a genius, and a future member of MENSA, the genius society, because I figured that you must have ten fingernails, like most people, and you already told me only eight were done, so I used my mad math skillz and subtracted eight from ten, and because I'm so smart, I know the answer is TWO!"

"Oh. You're really smart."

Let the record show that his buddies found it hilarious that Dude didn't know how I figured out his unpainted digits. It's so simple to outsmart some of the students some of the time.

Like taking fingernail polish from an eleventh-grader.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Oliver Wendell Douglas Would Fit Right In

A perk of living the country life in Hillmomba is that the citizenry is relatively safe from harm.

Sure, there's the occasional low-flying helicopter or two that may hover over your Mansion around 10:00 p.m. Or thieves who steal your outgoing bills from your mailbox and write their name in place of Dish Network and then cash the check. Or roving portable meth-labbers who dump their paraphernalia on your gravel road at 3:00 in the afternoon. Or those two folks last week who discharged firearms into the walls of neighboring apartments. But with the exception of occasional accidental heroin overdoses, Hillmombans generally survive until they expire of old age.

The law enforcement officials pass the time by setting up speed traps behind the local high school. And by searching vehicles in which the driver has nodded off over the steering wheel, usually at a stop sign, or in the parking lot of The Devil's Playground. Which cuts down on the accidental deaths by heroin overdose.

You know when you pick up a pizza at Casey's General Store, and see two town police cars at a nearby apartment complex, that your chances of being apprehended for speeding when you let your T-Hoe coast at 50 mph in a 45 mph zone on the way to the city limit sign have just been reduced two-thirds.

Country livin' is the life for me.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

I Met My Old Student In A Convenience Store Last Night

"Holy sh*t! I haven't seen you in forever!"

Yes. That's the greeting I received upon stepping from behind a Monster energy drink cooler and a towering pyramid of Busch cases to approach the soda fountain for my 44 oz. Diet Coke. Let the record show that it was not followed by outstretched arms, nor a cordial smile. More like a controlled grimace.

I knew the exclaimer immediately. First AND last name. Even though it's been five years since he was in my class. That would put him at around 22 years of age. An age at which most people would realize that swearing in a place of business where you have just been hired is kind of an unwritten deal-breaker. Then again, most people adhere to social mores and do not have a FTW attitude.

The purveyor of my free refills was assisting Potty Mouth in wiping down the soda fountain and stocking the cups. He greeted me politely, as usual. Potty Mouth acted like he had gotten away with something. Like I have never heard the word sh*t before. Like I would say something to him about it. Like I gave a rat's posterior what he had to say. Like I had to be polite to him and cajole him into behaving in a socially acceptable manner so he would stop his childish attention-seeking behavior.

I spoke to Mr. Nice Guy and drew a draught of my beloved caffeinated beverage, then proceeded to the counter. What Potty Mouth was slow to realize was that, like ticket-scalper and self-proclaimed ladies' man Vic Damone in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, I had adopted the attitude that I don't care whether he comes, stays, lays, or prays. We are no longer forced inhabitants of the same small world. He is of no more significance to me than the puddle of fluid that is a constant fixture under the Monster cooler. An item of which I am wary, and tend to avoid, lest an unpleasant interaction result.

Such is life in the post-public-school world. Burned bridges do not reconstruct themselves. And drivers rarely give them a second thought as they go about their business using an alternate route.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Eavesdropper Speaks

With a day off from school, I braved The Devil's Playground by myself this morning. The Pony was cooling his heels on his grandma's short couch, having spent the night. I have no tales of horror to share with you today. I have them. But I'm not sharing. Here's a window into the state of Hillmomba theses days.

I was trying to get from the health and beauty section to automotive. The reason has to do with a request from the #1 son, but that's a tale for another blog. My original plan was to zoom down the aisle between the fully-stocked Christmas center and the toy department. Of course that path was blocked by a granny and grampy camped in the middle, prying a large, boxed toy from their grand-offspring's hands while telling him he would enjoy a Lego village more. Though I can speak from experience in declaring that his mother would not.

Two more aisles in the toy department proper were blocked by browsers. I don't fault them fully, because The Devil's aisles have grown more constricted over the past several years. I heaved a heavy sigh to make sure all the middle-of-the-aislers were aware of my displeasure, and turned completely around. You understand, I'm sure, how Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's legs have a finite number of steps in them. Like each puff on a nicotine stick takes minutes off a life, each unnecessary step takes a possible slot machine jackpot out of Mrs. HM's pocket on her sporadic casino visits.

Of course it goes without saying that the aisle back to health and beauty was now blocked by an elderly couple. I'm not sure of their age, only sure that they were older than me. The mister had the good sense to drop back behind his wife, letting go of the giant plastic yard candy cane he had been fingering. As I passed, I overheard a snippet of conversation from the missus. "I am so excited."

I thought she was happy about the upcoming holiday season. Giddy about early gift-buying or lay-awaying. But I was wrong. She went on. "It just made my day to hear that he got a job." Here now! Don't weep! Not even tears of joy. That little old lady was SO HAPPY. Because apparently, her son or grandson got a job.

Folks in Hillmomba don't ask for much.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Technically, It's Not In The Student Handbook

The kind of conversation to which normal folks are not privy, working their nine-to-five jobs in Cubicleville:

"Can I wear a Bob Marley wig to school?"


"Who says?"

"It would be like wearing a hat."

"It's not a HAT! It's hair."

"It's not real hair. You'd get in trouble. Unless it's dress-up day for Red Ribbon Week."

"They can't tell me I can't wear hair to school."

"Yes they can. You already HAVE hair."

"I'll shave my head bald. Then I'll wear a Bob Marley wig."

"You can't do that."

"If someone has cancer they can wear a wig."

"You don't have cancer."

"I'm going to ask Mr. Principal if I can wear my Bob Marley wig to school."

Hope springs eternal in the un-Bob-Marley-wig-covered freshman brain.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom Does Not Clown Around

My students LOVE to tell me stories. I tell myself that it is NOT because they want to delay the lesson. They just want to share their lives with me. They're selfless like that. So this morning, before I even made it to my desk after the tardy bell, a loquacious lass raised her hand.

"Mrs. Hillbilly Mom? Can I tell you something? It's not really about science."

"Well, you can tell me while I hand out these papers."

"Okay. So...I'm deadly afraid of clowns. And I'm afraid of showers. I guess I've watched too many scary movies. So every time I take a shower, I'm afraid there's a clown behind the shower curtain. I leave it open a little bit. My mom gets mad at me for that. When I'm done, I leave that shower curtain pushed back so nothing can get behind it. Every time I go in the bathroom, I make sure to push that shower curtain back. Oh, and I'm also afraid of the dark."

"I'm guessing something terrible happened."

"YES! Last night, my mom told me to go in the bathroom and get the conditioner. It was dark in there. I turned on the light, and the shower curtain yanked open, and THERE WAS A CLOWN IN THERE! I almost peed my pants. I ran out of there screaming. My dad had got all dressed up like a clown, with makeup and everything, and hid in the shower just to scare me! I was freaking out."

"Did they record it? Like to put on YouTube, or send in to one of those shows?"


"That's sick! They went to all that trouble just to scare you? Without even recording it to laugh about and show their friends? You poor thing."

"I know, right?"

Toward the end of the hour, when it came time to watch a Learn 360 video about the space station, I felt a little bit guilty when I turned out the classroom light. Let the record show that the storyteller of the hour moved to a seat up front...directly next to the window, with its paltry stream of light.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

This Is SO Not Fair

That danged ol' convenient care clinic is not very convenient. And they sure don't care. I have a cough that I picked up there on Saturday when I took the boys for a flu shot. I'm sure. I haven't been anywhere else to catch this disease.

It's not a regular runny nose cold that moves into your chest. It started in my chest. Last night. Unless you count my ears. Which were kind of hurty when I swallowed on Sunday. But now I have a cough down in my chest that produced a glob of green goo this morning. With the sweetish kind of taste down in the division of my throat/chest area. I hate that.

Seriously. I always wash my hands with Germ-X if I'm out and about, and have touched door handles and pens and things sick people might touch. I turn away and hold my breath when a sicky coughs by. You can't tell me I picked this illness up on accident somewhere else. It had to be the five-times-ear-infected baby at the mercy of the broken otoscope. Or the little gal on birth control with a two-day fever of 104 and unabated tachycardia. Or the older man with chest pain and a cough.

I have called my doctor to ask if he will call in some medicine. I don't know if he did. Because I was at school conferences until seven and the pharmacy closed at six. I haven't checked my answering machine. Hopefully, some meds will be ready and waiting for me after school and my parking lot duty tomorrow.

Until then, I'm making due with Vicks VapoRub and the dregs of some cough medicine from 2009. I'm sure it's still good.

Monday, October 22, 2012

This Old Dog Despises New Tricks

Sometimes, I long for the days of yesteryear. The days of the male custodians.

Sure, the bathrooms rarely got cleaned. A squirt of bleach made fixtures LOOK like they'd been scrubbed. Wastebaskets were dumped. The perimeter of the classroom was plowed by a small dry push mop daily. What more could we ask for? Any broken desks were hefted to the furnace room for hoarding. Loose screws were tightened, and tight screws were loosened. We were sympatico.

This morning, horror of horrors, I arrived to find that my entire stable of desks was askew. Oh, they were still in rows as straight as plebes at West Point. But they were OFF. Half a tile off per row. That means that the back row was EIGHTEEN INCHES BEHIND WHERE IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN! Yeah. That's a big deal. Kids push their chairs away from the desks. Toss their bags in the back aisle. There is no pathway across the rear of the room unless you strap on some hiking boots, whittle a walking stick, and imitate a surefooted mountain goat. So I moved all twenty-five desks back to their rightful places. Where the students had set them on Friday afternoon. It's not like I leave the room with furniture willy-nilly. A place for everything, and the students put everything in its place. That's the Mrs. Hillbilly Mom way.

To add insult to my own personal injury, the women's faculty bathroom was out of toilet paper this morning. That's what happens when you devote your time to mopping the classrooms without being asked. Because there was no toilet paper, the paper towel dispenser ran dry. Oh, and just before class change between fifth and sixth hour, the floor of both the women's and men's faculty bathrooms were mopped. MOPPED, I TELL YOU! Complete with a yellow plastic watch your step or you might die upright sign.

Anybody who's ever been privy to schoolteacher restroom habits knows that class change is the time we all make a mad dash for the facilities. Especially those of us who have morning planning periods. I'm shocked that some of us heathens didn't simply plop down on a wastebasket. It would have been safe. The wastebaskets were full of the paper towels that disappeared when the lack of toilet paper was noticed.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not fond of change.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eat A Bowl Of Chowder For Me

Farmer H is off to Massachusetts this week. Don't plan on robbing me. I have three dogs. And way more guns than dogs. So just don't. Plus, I might truss up the #1 son and send him along with you. Hope you're familiar with The Ransom of Red Chief.

Farmer H's company is buying out a factory. So Farmer H has to go through it and see how the machines are hooked up and how they run and mark the pieces and dismantle them and get them ready for shipping. Then he will most likely have to go back in a few weeks to make sure they are loaded correctly. The bought-out plant is supposed to furnish him with the labor to accomplish this task. But since they are a union shop, and their factory, after all, has been bought out by Farmer H's employer, he's not real optimistic about the effort he will receive. He says the one person he's talked to so far seems like a stand-up guy, but he's not sure of the others.

Let's hope he doesn't puzzle me with his reports from the east coast like he did last time. The time he told me he visited the big boss two houses down from the house of Betty, the famous author who had just died. Who turned out to be Katharine Hepburn, dead two years already. And Farmer H's boast that he was looking out across New York Sound kind of stumped me, as well. Because what he meant to say was Long Island Sound.

But he's really good at taking apart machines and putting them back together.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Giving Credit Where Service Is Doo-Doo

I took the boys to get a flu shot this morning. They're lucky their arms are still attached.

We could have gone to the County Health Center, where flu shots are free for kids up to age 18. But they close at 4:00, and we are usually tied up at school until then. Monday is the shot clinic day, when they're open until 6:00, but the wait is usually over an hour. In a room with screaming two-, four-, and six-month-olds, plus high school sophomores. I nixed that idea.

In years past, I have made an appointment with the boys' regular doctor. Who moved from our town to one twenty miles from home. And last time billed me for one boy's shot, and gave the other for free.

I got mine at my pharmacy on the day I took off. But the pharmacy only gives flu shots from 8:00 to 3:00 on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Newmentia is going to offer flu shots to the faculty for free, because our insurance decided they will cover flu shots this year. The needle technician will bill en masse. Faculty children may also be shot, as long as they are on the teacher's insurance plan. Which my kids are not. seeking alternatives, I decided upon the local convenient care clinic. I even checked out their website. Saw that flu shots were offered on a walk-in basis. That insurance would be billed, and home billing would ensue if the shot was not covered. Plus, I called to make sure they don't give that darn flu mist to kids, or the attenuated virus, which is live flu virus, people! You are getting the flu injected into your arm if you get that. So you actually get the flu in order to fight off the flu. Go figure. I was assured they were giving the inactive virus vaccine. Which means dead. No chance of catching the flu from that shot. The Saturday hours were from 9:00 to 1:00. These conditions were acceptable.

A bigger cluster-cluck you'll never find than our flu-shot experience today. Well. Unless you work in the public schools of Missouri. Where you will find such situations daily.

When we walked in, there were two people in the waiting room. Together. The receptionist at the window asked why we were there. "I brought my two boys to get a flu shot." She told us to have a seat. No insurance card-taking. No name-asking. No paperwork-giving.

We waited. And waited. I could hear a screaming toddler in the inner exam room. And very clearly the voices of the nurse practitioner and the mom. The kid had a rash due to an allergic reaction to an antibiotic for the fifth ear infection that wouldn't clear up. Also, the otoscope was broken, wouldn't hold a charge, had been on the charger all night, and was dead. A bulb had been replaced in it yesterday. When it worked. A call needed to be made to another branch to inquire as to a back-up otoscope, or the delivery of an alternate otoscope. Kind of a problem when examining a toddler with an ear infection.

The receptionist fiddled about the otoscope. The NP asked for batteries. "Oh, there's some batteries in a cabinet back there." The NP got on the phone herself and called about a back-up. All the while, we sat. The waiting room patient, professed to have a fever of 104 for the last two days, waltzed back and forth in front of us. I held my breath as much as possible, having learned from her mother's cell phone call that she was not herself, and needed a flu swab.

Meanwhile, as we sat, a lady wandered in from the mini mall parking lot and asked if this facility did lab tests, because her insurance had changed, and she needed one within forty-eight hours of seeing her doctor, which would end at 9:50 a.m. Monday. Receptionist told her that indeed, they did do lab tests, but specimens were not picked up on the weekend, but only on weekday afternoons, which was no good for Wanderer. Who inquired as to whether there were any facilities in Arnold that could send off her specimen today. So Receptionist fiddled and faddled on her computer. Then called the NP out of the toddler room to ask. Then told Wanderer no. Who then asked if there was some facility in Festus that would send off her specimen today. So Receptionist fiddled and faddled on her computer. Then called the NP out of the toddler room to ask. Then told Wanderer no. Who then asked if she knew any facility short of a hospital or in St. Louis who could send off her specimen today, such a general question that Receptionist was stumped for a good ten minutes. All the while Patient Zero was standing behind Wanderer, entirely too close to me, shedding her fevered lung-borne respiratory droplets for me to inhale. In order for Receptionist to ignore us paying or insurance-paying patients to assist a woman off the street who was in no way, shape, or form bringing any revenue into the facility.

Finally Wanderer took her specimen-giving butt out the door. Patient Zero handed in her paperwork and paraded back in front of us to her waiting seat. By now we had been sitting for 23 minutes. Receptionist went into the toddler room and shut the door. NP came out and said someone should be with us shortly. Then she went in the toddler room and Receptionist came out. Five minutes later she called me to the window to get names. Asked if both boys had been there before. Yes. Took the insurance card. Gave me the vaccine checklist and permission form. Then told me they were having trouble with the computer system.

NP came out to find some antidote for the toddler spots. Receptionist asked her what was with all the people coming in lately wanting lab tests sent off. NP said, "That's Obamacare for you." She went back in the toddler room. Receptionist came out and handed me TWO CLIPBOARDS with FOUR PAGES EACH for patient information. I said, "I could have been doing this for the last half hour instead of just sitting here." Receptionist apologized. Because it was the computer's fault. And I could leave the insurance part blank. She would scan the insurance card.

A new diseased man came in complaining of fever, congestion, and chest pain since last night. His wife was given a clipboard forthwith to fill out information. She was done before me. Toddler was sent on her way. Patient Zero was called back. We could all hear clearly that she had tachycardia that was not improving. That she was on birth control, which made her susceptible to blood clots. That her rapid strep and flu swab were negative. That she needed to go to a real ER and get checked out.

NP came out and Receptionist darted into the patient room. NP came out to the waiting room and rolled her eyes. Apologized to me about the wait. Said things had been going this way all morning. Went back into the exam room. Receptionist came out. Patient Zero breathed her way past me out the door. NP called the local ER to report that she was sending a patient their way, and not to slough her off, she needed a thorough evaluation.

The Diseased Man's wife asked if she knew me. Said she used to play softball on a team with me. Whee doggies! She was right. We reminisced for a minute. I told her we had been there forever before getting our paperwork. She was lucky to get hers right off.

I finished my multipage patient info documents. Got my insurance card back. Heard NP telling Receptionist that nobody used those kind of needled any more. But that they would work for a flu shot. NP took a phone call. Patient Zero and her mom were headed to the wrong ER. Back and forth about should they turn around and go to the one that was expecting them, or continue to the other one that might dismiss her as just a fever. Thank the Gummi Mary for patient confidentiality, huh?

Finally, NP called the boys back for their shots. Sixty seconds for each.

"That was quick!" grinned my former teammate.

Cluster. Cluck.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Leaving The Smarties In The Lurch

The Pony has been gathering a team to play Trivia at his band fundraiser Saturday night. Roping in recalcitrant participants might be better terminology. He had his loyal friend, a fellow Academic Team member. But attempts to enlist other smarties was like pulling teeth at a Missouri Meth Manufacturers' Convention. Nigh on impossible.

On Tuesday, a colleague tracked me down after school to join his team. I used to be a regular, but Trivias around here became few and far between for a while. It might have something to do with the ten dollars per head that it costs to play, and teams of eight to ten being difficult to field. I had thought about playing, since I would have to drive The Pony and wait on him to finish. But since I hadn't received the regular email soliciting our team members, I let it slide. When Mr. Captain asked, I agreed. But I stipulated that if The Pony's team evaporated, I would not be coming.

Mr. Captain expounded on the fact that one of our regulars had recruited a beaucoup of wisenheimers to join the brainfest. In fact, he allowed, they had enough people for almost two whole teams. Upon later consideration, I wondered if he had only sought my mental might at the eleventh hour. But it made no nevermind to me. Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is happy to spread her seeds of knowledge any time and any place. As long as she has time to kill when she would not rather be sitting in front of her computer.

When The Pony declared Thursday that his team was kaput, I emailed Mr. Captain my regrets that I would not be at Trivia, a contest sucking two-and-a-half hours from my life, along with an hour of drive time. My weekends are mini-vacations to me these days. No need to plan an itinerary. I knew it wouldn't hurt the team, what with so many extras on the roster.

Today after school, the Captain-man came a-lookin' for HM. "I'm really sorry that you can't make it Saturday. Is it me? Because we could really use you. Our regular buddy decided that she can't make it, and everybody she recruited faded away. We only have seven people now."

I did not bend. I like my time off better than Trivia. We have played with only five people before. The rule is not hard and fast that a team must have maximum memberage. They will survive.

In other news...I am thinking about renaming my garage band Maximum Memberage. There's no Truth in Band Nomenclature Law, is there?

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Some Vegetables Are More Equal Than Others

From the If That Don't Beat All department:

Today at lunch, the cafeteria ladies served up turkey and gravy and green beans and broccoli and wheat rolls and some kind of fruit salad with apples. That's not remarkable. It's not Thanksgiving yet. But kids like the turkey, so it gets a rotation on the menu. Sure, it's the first time this year. It must be a 2nd Quarter thing. Today was the first day.

Do you notice anything missing from that Thanksgivingy menu? Anything? The kids sure did. There's about to be a revolt. Because kids love their mashed potatoes. Of which they got none. But here's the rub...the cooks had a clandestine stash of mashed potatoes for the teachers! It makes no nevermind to me. I have not partaken of a school lunch all year. I'm still smarting from that time the menu promised chocolate cake. Chocolate Cake which I smelled baking the day before. Chocolate Cake of which I had NONE, after paying for a tray and enduring the other offerings. That's right. The Chocolate Cake cubicle on my plastic lunch tray was bereft of Chocolate Cake. But we're not here to discuss Chocolate Cake now, my friends. It has been barred from the school lunch program. Even though they serve up Pop Tarts and Hostess Powdered Donuts for the free breakfast that every student gets if they wish to go through the line. We are here to discuss SECRET MASHED POTATOES.

Oh, the students caught on. One cook motioned with a sideways crick of her head. Of course it was to a man teacher. Who didn't catch on. And made her go through an Olympic-caliber charade workout, before almost shouting, "Oh! You have mashed potatoes for the teachers?" And she shushed him! That cook shushed Mr. Oblivious for letting out her secret. At the lunch table, the teachers who dared take a styrofoam dessert bowl of mashed potatoes endured the glares, the stares, of pairs of eyes. One teacher offered hers to her son. He wisely refused. Even though I'm sure he died a little inside. Because he knew he would be torn limb from limb before he could enjoy a taste of the starchy nectar of the spud.

According to an expert on the school lunch program, the cooks are only allowed to serve mashed potatoes twice a month to the students. But they can serve rectangular pizzas every single day in the alternate line. I say they should serve mashed potatoes a la carte in the alternate line. The revenue would be off the hook.

It's No Use Crying Over Trapped Snacks

If you are a high school girl standing in the middle of the teacher workroom after school, bemoaning the fact that your packet of M & Ms has become lodged between the plastic curlicue dispenser and the front glass of the snack machine...Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not the person to expect to remedy the situation.

Pardon my total lack of concern. Even when your large-boned boyfriend starts shaking that machine like an ape testing American Tourister luggage. I will not be advising you on how to exact a refund. I will not be reaching my arm up inside the snack-food bandit. I will not be tilting my head sideways and suggesting other acts of brutality that might dislodge your illicit after-school treat.

Likewise, my teaching buddy, Mabel, who wanders in to use the faculty women's bathroom after me, will be of no assistance, either. Let this be a karmatic lesson for you all. The teacher workroom is off limits to students. Mabel and I are not of the contingent who shrug their shoulders and joke with you as they run copies and retrieve highly confidential information from their mailboxes. That contingent numbers in the fingers-on-one-hand neighborhood. The rest of us have routinely complained to the powers that be. Too bad, so sad if one of you should happen to be injured by a toppled snack dispenser, become pregnant due to lack of supervision, incur legal fees for perusing classified information, or go into a diabetic coma from the ingestion of clandestine carbohydrates.

Just because we are in the building, working after hours, does not mean we are here to supervise this room 24/7. You are not supposed to be here. Failed attempts to control your plunder have resulted in our ridicule. We can no more stop your invasion than we can stop a stampede of lemmings over a cliff. Than we can obliterate a roach infestation by stomping individuals one at a time. Than we can rid the walls and crawlspaces of an abandoned farmstead of mice by trapping them one by one.

The village needs to put you children on a shorter leash. Or barricade the most enticing venue in the village. We have tried to do our part, and failed.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

I Need A Catchy Snippet Of Music Like The Indiana Jones Theme

Today I took my life in my hands when I approached the teacher lunch table. I am not sure which faculty faux pas I have most recently committed. But for some odd reason, I was in for an eye-lashing. That's like when somebody undresses you with his eyes. Only different. He stabs a dagger through your heart with his eyes. But leaves you fully dressed.

Then Arch Nemesis rolled up and commanded me to check my email. Which I do on an as-needed basis. Meaning I log in each morning, then close it out. Sometimes I check it on my plan time, which is over at 10:00. Then I check again after school. Apparently, Archie had sent me a notice that she was missing a national treasure. And I was so unkind as to not only refuse to respond, but to go on about my business without solving riddles, trespassing, stealing pieces of history, and exploring underground lairs. The very nerve of me!

As Archie came down the hall after lunch, I accosted her from my watching station. The whole world will pass by if you wait long enough. "Have you been trash-talking me this morning? I would ask if you have been trash-talking me in general, but for the love of Sweet Gummi Mary, let's keep this to a manageable frame of reference."

"No. I don't think I have today..."

"All right. I'll just have to dig deeper for the catalyst for my eye-lashing."

"I lost my important book. With the answer key. Do you have yours? Can I borrow it?"

"What makes you think I haven't lost mine? And IF I have it, why would I loan it to a loser?" Okay, I didn't say those exact words. But I alluded to them. In a cipher. Because I'm all about protecting national treasures. I spent thirty minutes looking for that tome. And finally found it. In the last place I looked.

I called Archie and asked if copies of the answer keys would be enough. Sure. So I copied them on my classroom copier, one at a time, twelve pages, and then sent them by foot messenger to Archie's room. Because that's the kind of gal I am. All of us. We will assist our worst enemy for the good of the cause.

Because a teacher is powerless without her answer key.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Teachers. A Modern Day Pony Express.

Hold the presses! Here's a hot tip on the helicopter goings-on over the Mansion on Saturday night.

Apparently, a girl from the high school that my boys should be attending rather than slurping off the Newmentia teat as a favor to one Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, teacher, was injured in a 4-wheeler accident Saturday night, and air-lifted to a city hospital. I hope this day finds her on the mend, and proud of herself for planting another conspiracy theory into Mrs. HM's head.

Farmer H figured out the place it happened. It's just down the blacktop road from the mailboxes. They had a homemade sign by their personal low-water bridge, advertising their annual pig roast. I can see the helicopter pilots' confusion. The cloud ceiling was quite low, so they had to fly under it, I imagine. And we have two cleared fields, and dusk-to-dawn lights by the Mansion and the BARn. So the pilots probably flew over looking for the accident scene. The fact that #1 and his guest were running out into the field, looking up at the helicopter, probably did not help matters.

Don't think I found this scoop in the local paper, or on the radio, or on a local news channel. Nope. I was enlightened at the teacher lunch table. Teachers know everything. None of them live in my neck of Hillmomba. But they knew the facts, Jack. It's our business. We are the eyes and ears of society.

If you want information to be dispersed, you can telegraph, telephone, or TELL A TEACHER!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

I'm Sure There's A Perfectly Conspiratorial Explanation

Last night, we had some excitement around the Mansion.

Perhaps I should say OVER the Mansion. The #1 son and his overnight guest were chillin' in his room about 9:45, when up over the roof there arose such a clatter, they ran out the front door to see what was the matter. A helicopter buzzed the Mansion. It was treetop height, according to the boys, and shining a beacon. They reported that the beacon did not splash across the ground, but shot out in front. This helicopter came from the nowhere side of Hillmomba, over the Mansion, and headed toward town.

They tromped down the stairs and broke the no-trespass zone into my office. My ire was quelled by their animated demeanor. "There's a helicopter outside! Right over the house! No higher than the treetops! What is going on?" Because, you see, I would know. What with me sitting in my dark basement office, blogging, oblivious to the goings-on in our air space. I told them I, the mushroom, biding my time in the dark while being fed crap, did not have a clue. They went back upstairs to research the matter on their own.

Around 10:15, I heard them stampede outside again. The Pony trotted after them, the miniature version of their Clydesdaleness. I hustled up the stairs in my slow-motion manner and stepped onto the porch. The boys were out in the field. If they'd been turkeys, and the still-to-come downpour was already occurring, they would have drowned from the deluge that would have poured into their open mouths.

I heard it. A helicopter. It was coming from town. The boys shouted that they could see the light over in the barn field. Then it appeared. Treetop level. It came from the BARn side, and passed over the house. I could see three colored lights on the bottom, but no beacon. Farmer H arrived home from the auction. He also gazed skyward. He reported that there were no auto accidents between town and the Mansion. We sometimes have the Life Flight helicopter pass over on the way from a nearby trauma center to the city.

Then I heard another. This one was in the direction of town. It never flew over, but we could hear it. Fairly close. I know the sky was overcast. So the  cloud ceiling would keep helicopters low, perhaps. And the storm might have been aloft already. Winds were gusty. A night fit for neither man nor beast nor helicopter. I have no idea what was going on. We live about four miles from a Level 5 maximum security correctional center. I presume the aerial activity had something to do with that facility. I saw nothing on the local news channels. Nothing on the website for The Daily Hillmomban.

If anybody has a clue, fill me in.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Every Woman's Crazy 'Bout A Sharp-Sworded Man

You'd think throwing away an old piece of styrofoam that had been included as packing material for a desktop computer would be relatively simple. Unless you had my relatives.

I told The Pony to put that piece of awkward white waste in the dumpster. The Pony reported that the dumpster was full, and that the lid was barely closing on the trash bags. Enter relative #2, the #1 son. "You need to take that over to the BARn. The Pony says it won't fit in the dumpster."

"All we need to do is burn it."

"We're not burning it now. Wait until your dad has more stuff to torch. Take it to the BARn."

#1, shirtless, in a pair of track pants and shower slides, entered the kitchen holding the slotted styrofoam slab. "I feel like I have a shield. Hey! Pony! Do you have a sword?"

That's like asking Farmer H if he has a chicken. Of course The Pony has a sword. Or, as The Pony put it, "I have one of every type." He went on to list them. And their relative merits. Furthermore, he informed #1 that he had a helmet. A Roman helmet. Which led to #1 parading in front of the mirror, shirtless, wielding a sword in one hand and a styrofoam shield in the other, while wearing a Marvin the Martian style helmet.

He's going to be eighteen in two months. I fear for the world when he moves out on his own.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Drawing The Line In The Aisle

The We're Not At School Now Girl reared her muddled head first cat out of the bag this afternoon.

"Hey! Mrs. Hillbilly Mom! I was gonna beat you up at Walmart yesterday."

"I did feel a need to call security. But I thought I could take you."

"OOH! I don't think so!"

"Hey! We're at school now!"

"Good thing for you!"

That was all before class even started. As she walked into the room. Then back out. Then back in. I'm like catnip to these crazy cats. Our school relationship was back in effect. The balance of power was in my court. We're Not At School Now Girl was back to her old jovial self. Which was quite a relief to this old gal. After taking roll, WNASNG continued to relive yesterday's chance meeting.

"I saw you on the produce aisle. That's why I went up it. To mess with you."

"And there I was with my baby! And I was even NICE to you. I backed up to let you go past that beeper-cart lady squeezing potatoes."

"That was my plan. To make you back up."

"I can't believe that's the thanks I got for being nice. You telling me, 'We're not at school now.' I felt threatened. Bro." WNASNG calls me that. Bro. She thinks it bothers me, because it bothers a man teacher that she says it to. I don't mind at all. So I toss it back at her. She cracks up. Unlike the #1 son, who forbids me to say redonkulous. I like to show that I'm hip to the kiddo lingo.

"Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, if you were a man, and you weren't so old...I would date you."

Sweet Gummi Mary's in the microwave, and all's right with the world. Except that WNASNG left out the most crucial criterion. "If you were a man, and you weren't so old, and you weren't my teacher...I would date you.

Kids. Say the darnedest things that need clarification.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Kids Are Confusing Little Critters

The Pony and I did business with The Devil today. We wanted to get a jump on the weekend. While there, I ran into a couple of students.

You'd think people would be civil, wouldn't you? Perhaps nod. Smile. Make small talk. That's certainly what I expected. I have a pleasant relationship with this student. She is courteous and polite. Jokes around. Is always in a good mood. Greets me in the hall. We've never had a kerfluffle, in the three years that I have been acquainted with her.

I saw her go down the main aisle as I was harvesting two loaves of bread from the shelf. "Hey, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom!" I smiled and waved. Went on about my business of stuffing The Devil's coffers. And we met up again on the produce aisle. I had just dug a sack of onions out from under the beat-up ones. Here she came along the baby carrots. I backed my cart up so she could thread her way past a beeper-cart lady squeezing potatoes. Thought I was doing a good deed. Being polite.

"Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, we're not at school now." She breezed past, her accomplice in tow, giving me the eye.

"No. We're not. Neither am I, you know." I just had to point that out. Because what is it with these kids? They see a teacher out in public, and act like they are grinding the axe for the entire body of students who have ever studented since Socrates refined his method. What was that supposed to mean? We're not at school now. Was she going to flip me the bird? Give me a noogie? Slap me with a pair of gloves and challenge me to a duel? As if I could do NOTHING do defend myself? I don't get it.

That's the problem. Teachers get no respect. In the mind of the student, we are fair game. Punching bags. Stripped of our power when out in public. Objects of derision. We are not people. We are a subclass of humans. Teachers. I've heard several students over the years talk about wishing they could see Mr. So-And-So out in public. Heavens to Betsy! Those boys were going to SWEAR at him! Or flip him off! Or holler out his first name! They'd show HIM who was boss. Like that would make Mr. So-And-So swoon from fear. They don't understand that they are not a perpetual part of our universe. That we don't go around obsessing about ways to exact revenge on them. Okay. Bad example. But seriously. Out in public, they are simply other members of society. Speak if you know them. Or ignore them. All we ask for is the same treatment.

The Pony said she was just joking. It didn't sound like that. I've heard her joking many a time. Tomorrow, in class, I might sidle up to her and say, "Hey. We're at school now."

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Tasting Of One's Own Medicine

The #1 son and I are having a difference of opinion. I know. Mark your calendar.

He seems to think that it is perfectly okay to delve into The Pony's after-school snacks. He is gorging his way through a bag of Buncha Crunch and a box of Scooby Doo Fruit Snacks. His past targets have included a package of Chips Ahoy, individual bags of Cheetos, and cans of Pringles.

The Pony is disappointed to go to the file cabinet and find much of his stash depleted. He looks as downtrodden as Old Mother Hubbard's dog. But he doesn't complain. Because he's The Pony. That's his nature.

I regularly chastise #1. It goes in one ear and out the other. Sometimes, he even laughs. Repeated askings of what he wants from the store go unanswered. "I don't want anything. I just take what looks good. There's no need to buy me anything. I wouldn't eat a whole box of Scooby gummis. You'd be wasting your money."

I told him the only alternative is to stash The Pony's stash in secret locations. Whoa now! That wouldn't be FAIR, according to #1. "Nobody does that! Normal people don't hide food!"

Normal people don't take what another person is counting on being his snack because he requested it and it was bought for him and he carried it into the school and put it away.

I'm thinking of bringing the ONE item #1 asks for on a regular basis, Lay's Flaming Hot Chips, to school and sharing them all around. Surely he won't mind when he goes to eat some, and finds that they have been devoured.

Because I saw those chips, you know. And they looked good. So I took them.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Elusive Status Quo

I am feeling a bit queasy at the moment. It could be related to that throbbing vein on my forehead, just above my left eye, that could eventually land me a starring role in a commercial, with the guy who has a confidence head sprouting out of his shoulder, or a gal whose second head is chillin' out in her bouffant hairdo. Or it could be related to Farmer H's Eggwashing Station.

Farmer H has been warned numerous times about flinging chicken poop willy-nilly about the almond-colored Mansion sink. For a short time, he rinsed them outside at the hose faucet that springs from the ground near the well head. But since early summer, he's been up to his fowl tricks again.

This evening, I prepared supper for the Farmer and the boys, and set a pan of leftover vegetable beef soup on the back burner for myself. It was the dregs of the cauldron. Nobody wants it after the second day, when it has reached the peak of flavor. Because last night's soup feast was somewhat of a debacle, mine being barely lukewarm by the time I was ready to feed, I conceived a plan for tonight's meal. I ran the sink faucet until it was hot, and set a heavy cup under the flow. I was heating the cup to hold my soup. To keep it warm until completely consumed. I put the soup remainders in a saucepan with a lid, and heated it on medium, then left it to simmer on low. I wanted that soup scalding.

Last night I had issues with the #1 son washing his hands at the kitchen sink. Not only did he turn the water to cold, he shed soap lather into my soup cup. By the time I rinsed it and tried to rewarm, my efforts fell flat. And cold.

Tonight Farmer H was running about thirty minutes late. Not that he bothered to call. I knew when I looked at the clock and noticed that he had not yet come blustering in. I fed the boys. I finely tuned my soup cup by running in even hotter water. I retreated to the master bathroom to change my clothes. All the while holding my breath, willing Farmer H to stay away from the kitchen until I had reaped my soup crop that I had so painstakingly sown.

You know what happened, right? I returned to the kitchen to find the egg basket empty, and black flecks floating in my hot-watered soup cup. Farmer H denied pooping up my cup. Said, "Whatever. That's not chicken poop." Even though the water was crystal clear upon last inspection. When the eggs were still in the basket on the counter by the sink. But it gets worse.

As I was washing my soup cup with soap, and carefully rinsing all detergent from it, and running the water again to get it hot, to fill my soup cup and re-reach that optimum toasty temperature...Farmer H reached over his supper on the front burner, lifted the lid to my soup dregs happily bubbling away, and said, "Do you want me to turn off this burner?" LIKE HE WAS THE ONE WARMING THE FOOD ON THE STOVE!!!

"That's MY SOUP!" I snarled, not unlike Chris Farley dressed as Cindy the Gap Girl in the SNL skit where he ate David Spade's fries while giggling coquettishly, then growled in his baritone, "Lay off me! I'm starving!"

Farmer H dropped the lid and ran like a scalded cat. How the worm has turned. Just last evening, he was riding high on a cloud of Hillbilly Mom's good will, having performed a requested errand like a world-champion errand-runner.

I knew it was too good to last. I'm sure Farmer H knew, too.

Monday, October 8, 2012

If The Devil Wants To Find Work For Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's Idle Hands, He'd Better Take A Number

You know that teachers have an hour of plan time scheduled into their school day, right? Actually, it's fifty minutes. With four minutes of hall-watching time on either side. And for elementary teachers, that fifty minutes may not all be in one chunk. Or even every day. But you can bet your sweet patootie that their time averages to 250 minutes per week. At least at Elementia. Those shrewd pedagogues are a force to be reckoned with. Excuse me. I meant to say, "Those shrewd pedagogues are forces with which to be reckoned." Don't tell on me, okay?

You would expect a teacher to spend plan time planning lessons, right? Or grading papers already turned in that morning. Or eating bonbons in the teacher workroom and gossiping about the students, if you are a throwback to the good ol' days. But you would be wrong, my friends.

Life is what happens when you're having plan time.

Sheryl Crow wanted to use my idea for a song. But I told her to stuff a sock in her gaping yawp and go soak up some sun. You'd think a fellow teacher like Sher would stop trying to plagiarize the ideas of another. I told her she'd never get ahead that way. I wonder what ever became of her, that fellow Bootheelian...

I have the unavoidable fortune of second hour plan time. I know, right? What's the point? You just get rolling and some nervous passenger pulls the emergency brake. You can grade one set of papers. Or maybe copy things ahead of time that won't be needed until tomorrow. But usually you barely have time to fill out assignment forms for absentees and the recently incarcerated rule-breakers, or observation forms for IEP students, or grade make-up work from last week's absentees, or discuss recent test results or updated evaluation procedures. It's not like you can take your shoes off to let the dogs air out, expel a bit of silent gas, drink some water that's in no danger of being spiked, blow your nose without an audience, or make a trip to the bathroom without fear of appearing on the evening news after being charged with abandonment.

Today, I had just entered my room from the hallway observation deck when my mom showed up. I was expecting her. After all, I had to share some of yesterday's delicious canned soup. What I was not expecting was the death of my mini-fridge, my long-time companion, of natural causes. Did you know a corpse can still run a fever? Even when you disconnect it from life support? So I gave Mom the soup that had been warming its heels in my cabinet for lo on two hours, and encouraged her to execute the ol' 23 skidoo.

As soon as I sat down with my assignments from first hour, to peruse, perchance to grade...the #1 son showed up with his laptop. That's his independent study hour for the physics class he has to take through Mizzou because Newmentia does not offer it. #1 wanted a critique on his essays for college applications. No sooner had he flipped his lid than Mabel, my teaching buddy from another hall, strode in. She had a recommendation for a certain student that she wanted me to type. Because she has not typed anything since her college days. And this is her thirty-sixth year of teaching. I find it hard to say NO to a grizzled veteran such as she, one who has shaken, not stirred, the hand of Wernher Von Braun. That's important to us sciency people.

I tried to protest. to inform them that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, contrary to the opinion of the masses, has a JOB to do around here. They poo-pooed and snickered. As if I was joking! Then they proceeded to tell me HOW to type and format such a letter. As if the blind could possibly lead me better than I could find my way without such leadership.

Sweet Gummi Mary! There went my bathroom time, my Googling for a mini-fridge time, my bill-writing to Sirius XM time, my checkbook-balancing time, my DVD-loading time, and my shoe-changing time.

People are taking advantage of my good nature.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

It Seemed Like A Lot Of Work To Serve Canned Soup

I whipped up a steaming cauldron of vegetable beef soup today, in honor of the cold snap putting us twenty degrees below normal. Such a simple task. It usually takes twenty minutes. Not today.

When I did the shopping on Thursday, I paused momentarily on the soup aisle. I normally use a pouch of vegetable beef soup starter. Most people just add water and call it soup, I suppose. But I doctor it within an inch of its pouchy life. I knew I had a packet of soup mix on the next-to-top shelf of my pantry. So I walked on by. I was actually looking for a can of diced tomatoes. Would you believe they were not on the soup aisle? Not on the canned meat and chili aisle. Nor were they on the spaghetti and sauce aisle. Nor the green bean and carrot and potato and other canned vegetable aisle. Where can The Devil possibly be hiding them? Those were the most logical places to look, I think.

I ran in Save A Lot yesterday for some milk, diced tomatoes, and hamburger. They don't carry packets of vegetable beef soup mix. But that was of no concern to me. Because I had a pouch of it on the next-to-top shelf of my pantry.

This morning I got right to work. I put the hamburger on to fry. Tossed some stale bread in there along the edge to soak up the grease as it oozed out. Dogs love that stuff, you know. Sorry chickens. No stale bread for you today. You'll have crackers and chocolate Teddy Grahams. I went to the next-to-top shelf of my pantry to grab the packet of vegetable beef soup mix. It had turned into a packet of Lipton Pasta Sides Alfredo! Don't that just beat all? Such a clever masquerade.

Lucky for the Hillbilly family that I had a can of Save A Lot Vegetable Beef Soup, and a can of Campbell's Chunky Sirloin Burger Soup. See what I did here? I used SOUP to make SOUP! I'm a freakin' genius! To those two cans, I added two cans of canned carrots, a can of canned green beans, a can of canned diced tomatoes, two cans of canned tomato sauce, and...NO CANS OF CANNED POTATOES! I was out of canned potatoes! Such a shopping faux pas has been a long time coming in the Mansion. I had a bag of red potatoes, so I tossed some into a pan to boil. I continued adding to my umpteen-ingredient vegetable beef soup. Two handfuls of elbow macaroni. Some Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, hickory barbecue sauce, steak sauce, Heinz 57 Sauce, a squirt of minced garlic from a convenient squirt bottle, some fresh-ground black pepper, some water, and I forgot the Splenda!

Too late now. We've already eaten some soup. I usually add a couple packets of Splenda to take the twang out of those tomatoes and sauce. Too bad, so sad, nobody noticed the change in my recipe.

I guess that's what happens when you used two cans of soup to make soup.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The Cow And The Chicken, However, Are Expendable

From the Some Animals Are More Equal Than Others file:

One of my classes is studying population density and population distribution. How living things compete for resources. How some show an exponential growth curve, while others exhibit logistic growth until carrying capacity is reached. Being kids, their minds wander. A mention of a specific animal brings a tale of their own experience.

"I almost ran over a turtle, but I swerved at the last minute."

"Dude, my buddy runs over them on purpose. He swerves to hit them."

"That's not very safe."

"Yeah. They'll pop your tire!"

"I almost hit a squirrel. I'm glad it ran away at the last minute."

I had to interject. "When you're driving, sometimes it's safer to keep going in the same direction, at the same speed, even if it makes you hit a squirrel. You could swerve and hit another car head-on. Or you could slam on your brakes, and get rear-ended by the car behind you. Don't worry about the squirrel. There'll be four more born to take its place."

"Way to go, Mrs. Hillbillly Mom. Why don't you just say, 'If a person is in the road, just keep going. Another one will be born to take his place.'"

"Oh, come on. You know it's not the same thing. Animals have adapted to lose some of their offspring. Mother Nature has planned ahead. They're all not going to live until they die of old age."

"Well, it shouldn't matter. You should be careful not to kill them."

Give me a break. These same kids would be the first to screech, "A ROACH! A ROACH! KILL IT!" Yeah. They're not going to encourage me to scoop up a roach on a piece of paper, and let it go out the window. Same way with spiders. And Sweet Gummi Mary forbid that they see a scorpion or snake in the building, which have been all the rage down at my end of the hall this year.

Kids. If they had their way, all the cute animals would be hobbling around on canes, gumming gruel, dragging oxygen tanks behind them, playing gin rummy in the old creature's home.

Friday, October 5, 2012

These Lips Ain't Made For Walkin'

I am harboring a fugitive.

Well, not so much harboring a fugitive as holding a captive. He's in my bathroom. Right next to my office. I normally leave the door open. But not tonight. He's not getting out any time soon. I've had enough. If that door had a lock, I'd turn it and throw away the key. Okay, that might be a bad idea, what with those 44 oz. Diet Cokes sometimes making for an overactive bladder. But I'd WANT to lock it up and throw away that key.

My captive is indignant. He is most likely, at this very moment, rubbing his nasty little hands together, plotting an escape. I can almost hear him carrying on in there. The closed door helps silence him. But when I visit his NASCARed prison, I can't hear myself think. His incessant sounding-off makes my skin crawl. Just the thought of him makes my skin crawl. Maybe that's because he has been found crawling on my skin more than once.

Nobody needs to notify authorities concerning the Geneva Convention. I stashed my prisoner in what he must think of as a luxury suite. He has running water. Artwork on the walls for his big ol' eyes to gaze upon. A seat. A wastebasket. He doesn't eat much, so I don't have to worry about feeding him. In fact, feeding him would make him vomit. Sure, he'd rather be loose, following me around the house. He's kind of a stalker. I can't get away from him. His favorite activity is walking around on my lips as soon as I doze off in the recliner. I'll get him one of these days. I keep a weapon at the ready.

No need to notify those Geneva Convention hosts and hostesses. Or even Jeff Goldblum.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Feeling Their Mairzy Doats

After my optometrist appointment this morning, I met my mom and sister at the bank to sign some papers for Mom's safe deposit boxes.

It's a small bank. Only ten or so parking spots out front. Mom had backed in, and there was an open spot between her and the parking lot entrance. So I, too, backed in. I left room to open T-Hoe's gigantic door. It has two stop settings, you know: malnourished waif, and everybody else. I am forever trying to hoist myself in and out while holding onto that door so I don't slam somebody's car. It even hits the wall of the Mansion garage.

Sis, safe inside Mom's Chevy Blazer, gesticulated wildly. She held her hands apart like describing the fish that got away. I opened the door and climbed out. When she exited, she stomped around to the front of T-Hoe. "People are probably going to run into you when they turn in the parking lot. Huh. Your back tires are against the curb. So I guess you're far enough back. And you're just on the line there. You're not parked as bad as I thought."

"Well, you saw how close my door came to Mom's car. I always park like that. I don't care. I want room to open that door all the way. When I'm retired, I will have time to travel the county and criticize everybody else's parking skills."

Sis dismissed me with a wave, and headed for the bank door. She's a real take-charge person. A former kindergarten teacher. This is her first year of retirement. "We don't know what we're doing. But we're here to sign some papers." Mom added that she'd gotten a letter about her safe deposit boxes. We were directed to wait in the middle of the lobby while a desk woman finished a phone call. "We're probably on camera, you know." I suppose Sis thought that would make us behave.

The desk lady called us over. "I've been typing these up all morning." We looked at each other. It was now after 10:00. Was she a slow typer? Did Mom's business require such detail? Mom looked worried. I told her it was probably because a lot of people got those letters. Only two chairs were available at the desk. Sis relayed that she DID have a bum knee that swelled up on occasion. I motioned for Mom and Sis to take them. I'd been sitting all morning while various technicians peered deep into the windows of my soul, and shot an air cannon through them.  Desk Lady pushed two papers over to Mom. "Read over these and make sure the information is correct."

Mom asked me if my name was spelled wrong. Like I picked it out myself upon emerging from her womb. "Yes. You can see it's wrong. There's no E in it." Desk Lady took it back for correction.

Sis looked at the other paper after Mom. She threw herself back in her chair. Rolled her eyes. Frowned at Desk Lady. "Do I LOOK seventy-eight years old? She leaned over and put her head against Mom's. We can be sisters. Can you tell us apart?"

"You can be Abby and Brittany," I said. Because I'm a sucker for a TLC reality show about two girls with one body. And besides, Mom and Sis both have red hair, so they match.

"I know! Mom asked me if I watched that. Only she said, 'I think it's called Abby and Abby.' So I had to tell her, 'They are two separate people! Only together. They can't have the same name!' "

Desk Lady emitted her own special sigh. She took back the second paper for a re-do, while Mom signed the first and passed it to me. "How am I supposed to sign there? You looped your Y and J all the way down past my line!" Desk Lady gave Mom the second updated paper. So much for a morning of work.

Sis grabbed the second one after Mom. "I'm going to sign before SHE gets it! I'd like to see her fit her name in now! Wait a minute! I need my reading glasses. I think I'm going to have to get real glasses. These Walmart ones don't work anymore. When I put them on, I see better FAR AWAY! That's not right, is it?"

"Let's not forget that you ARE seventy-eight years old. The eyes of the elderly change quite a bit. I'm really glad I let you have that chair. You and Mom had better link arms as you toddle out to the car. Wouldn't want one of you to break a hip."

Desk Lady looked at Sis. "Do you want me to get you a walker?"

I'm can't be sure. But I think the employees held a joyous celebration when we left the bank.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

We're Putting Those MIT Aspirations On The Back Burner

Sometimes, like Gordie LaChance said about his buddy, Vern, digging under the porch looking for a jar of pennies he buried at the beginning of summer, you don't know whether to laugh or cry.

I was in a rush this evening. The boys had Academic Team practice, and the #1 son said he might be going to work with his robot team afterward. So I stayed after school to make sure The Pony had a ride home. I wanted to be sure to see Survivor. I told the guys yesterday that we were only having hot dogs for supper. Not just any hot dog, though. Giant, Save A Lot hot dogs. I slid a pan of them into the oven while I washed dishes from last night.

When they were ready, I slapped one on a bun for The Pony, mustarded and ketchuped it, and sent him on his way to eat it in front of the TV. I set the pan back in the oven. The Pony does not like black char lines on his dog. Same way when they are grilled. But the others like them a little more incinerated. Farmer H was on the tractor when we got home, his goats running free on the gravel road, eagerly awaiting an accident of their own making. I figured he would come in when he was good and ready. That left only #1 to call stoveside.

He arrived as I was taking the pan out of the oven. The buns were not of the preferred level of freshness for him. In my defense, the expiration date was only September 28. He ripped one in half trying to open it. I told him there was another bag in the cabinet. That he could throw the damaged on away. I showed #1 the proper way to use a pair of tongs. Because knowing him, he would grab the dogs with his fingers.

That boy is more accident prone than Michael Skupin on Survivor. In case you're not a Survivor aficionado, Skupin is the one who fell into the fire in Season 2, Survivor: Australian Outback, and burned the flesh from his hands. If that's what you call strips of skin hanging off his finger bones while he wails in agony. He's back, you know. He's already bashed a gash onto his bald head, cut his hand without knowing how, and sliced his foot open on the sandy ocean bottom. Oh, and I was not at all shocked later in the evening, when I saw that he was crying tears of blood, having shattered a diving mask on his face in a challenge.

The #1 son had seen me take that pan of immense, roasted hot dogs out of the oven and set it on top of the stove. He took the tongs and placed two of them on his buns. Squeezed a little ketchup on them. Picked one up and bit off a fourth of that behemoth while still standing at the kitchen counter.


He sounded just like Flayed-Fingers Skupin. "They're right out of the oven!" I reminded him. Perhaps a bit too late. "I don't know how you're going to survive your first year of college. I hope I can get a refund by the end of September. With you no longer attending classes, you know. It's the least they could do."

So much for his score of 35 out of 36 on the ACT, and his National Merit Scholar commendation certificate. I need to enroll him in the School of Common Sense.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Little Something To Call My Own

Sweet Gummi Mary, please grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, the wisdom to know the difference, and the self-control not to strangle the #1 son.
I was whipping up four different suppers tonight, and I asked The Pony to fill my water cup with ice from the the left door of Frig. He did so, then handed me the heaping cup. "Wait a minute!" The Pony fished in the top layer, and extracted a particularly enticing cube, which he immediately popped into his mouth.

"Hey! I don't want your hand juice all in there."

"Oo ate." Which I took to mean, "Too late."

"Hand me some sunflower seeds to put on top of my salad."

"Ere ill I ind em?"

"In the little pantry, behind you." As he was fetching them for me, the #1 son took time out from feasting on his Blazin' Chunks buffalo chicken to inject his two cents.

"Aren't they on the counter, right in front of you?"

"No! I put things away!"

"Well, they were there a couple of weeks ago. Because I found them. I wanted a snack, so I ate some."

"I envision you sticking your tongue down in the bag, like an anteater scooping up ants."

"How did you know?"

Nothing is safe. Nothing is mine. Every item I possess is defiled with boy DNA.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Cats Can Be So...So...CATTY!

Farmer H is not pleased with our felines.

They have eaten all the fish out of his fish pond. Not a real fish pond. A plastic fish pond with a pump, and a landscaped little area he made with flat creek rocks and not-cheap lava rocks, and a tiny wrought iron Mr. and Mrs. Frog sitting on a bench, and a ceramic turtle, and a completely out-of-place miniature bear on a log ceramic figurine.

Farmer H started growing his Devil's Playground goldfish when the #1 son was in preschool. He won a fish at the school carnival, and that blasted thing refused to die. Two years we fed and housed it. While it got bigger every day. Went through three fishbowls. Then Farmer H said he wanted it to live outside. So he bought Devil's Fish Pond 1.0, a fake granite block plastic rectangle. He also invested in a few goldfish now and then. A year or two later, he graduated to an asymmetric curved kidney shape in black plastic. It does not look as hideous as it sounds. But it IS empty. Now.

In its heyday, the Farmer H Fish Refuge was teeming with 10 to 14 big 'uns. At least six inches long. Some a foot. I don't know when the cats became master anglers. It has to have been within the last year. Because I remember watching Farmer H feed the fish. How they thrashed for the pellets of food.

The cats liked the pellets of fish food, too. They would "accidentally" knock the canister off the garden bench on the side porch by the garage. And of course they cleaned up the mess of pellets with their tongues. When Farmer H foiled their little scam, they would sit beside the fish pond, and scoop wet pellets over to the edge with their paws. Masterminds, they were. One probably snagged a fish on accident, and then rode an accelerated learning curve like Caesar the chimp in Rise of Planet of the Apes.

Farmer H is thinking of restocking. The cats are biding their time.