Thursday, December 31, 2009

Propane, septic, and speeding tickets.

"Alright," I thought, "Game ON, 2010, GAME ON." Gritting my teeth, I planned to write down my weight every morning, get up 20 precious minutes early so that I could Tread on the Mill and Boost My Metabolism, and keep a *faithful* journal about what I ate. I scheduled days to blog. I figured out ways to save money. I was SET I had a PLAN and I had resolved on how to resolve to be a better me.

Then the mail came.

Let me say first that this month has been a tough one. Christmas, for one, the first without my dad. And, even though Christmas is wonderful, it is expensive, but hey, ok. Two weeks before Christmas my husband had to buy a new truck (new to us, but still), since his simply wasn't going to pass the Nazi Regime Inspection. I have passed the edict that none in the household shall say the payment aloud. Saying aloud makes it real. But I still smiled and gritted my teeth and determined to keep track of what I had resolved to do.

Two days before Christmas, well into the evening, my husband looks at me and says "oh SHIT I forgot to call for propane. Hon, can you do that tomorrow?" Two. Days. Four hundred dollars for *some* propane, not coming close to filling the tank. "Look," the children whispered to each other, "she smiles but can't talk while she does. It's creepin' me out, man."

The day after Christmas, all the drains in our house simply go on strike - nothing will drain. Um, what? It turns out the septic tank is full. *blink* That can happen? Why yes, it can. And to have it drained, which is just as disgusting and malodorous as the picture your imagination is painting right now, costs 250 dollars. I now twitch when I smile.

Now, the mail.

In the mail is a speeding ticket. The state of Arizona insists that my husband was speeding "approximately" 14 miles per hour over the limit. I must include here that I told my husband that Arizona brooked no nonsense when it came to speeding, from the mobile speed traps, the 8 million patrol cars, and the (this is the important part) fixed cameras on intersection lights. "It must not be me!" he exclaimed. Then he looked on page two, on which there is are pictures of the car coming and going. There is also a picture of the license plate, and a remarkably clear picture of my husband driving. I am so proud that only ONE of the "I told you to slow down"s jostling at the back of my clenched teeth manages to bolt free, and that the "I told you so" did not have a single "you stupid son-of-a-bitch" attached. Especially when he read the part about having 30 days to pay $254.00.

Ah, sweet Jesus.

My new resolve? Besides trying to make it through January without having to eat the dog or sell one of the children for gas money? I really am resolving to be a healthier me, a better me, but now I have added: when I speak, I will be heard. After all, it seems to be expensive to not listen.

For more resolution, head over to Sprite's Keeper.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Silver Linings. They don't come cheap.

A few weeks ago, one of my students piped up in class about hating her mom. From the look on her face, she wasn't kidding, not even a little bit. I said something along the lines of "but it's your mom," but that only increased the vehemence. Her mom wasn't nice, her mom was awful, her mom was wretched. "Whoa down a minute," I said. I had a mom I could not stand, a mom who did not understand me, a mom who disliked me right back. So much so that I moved across the country when the opportunity came. Then she was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. My sister told me that several times a day she would go looking for me in the backyard, towards the barns, calling my name, bewildered and worried when I didn't show up. By then it was too late for "I'm sorry" and "I love you," I told my student. "That's so sad," she said, her eyes tearing up. "Then don't let it happen to you," I said. "You have no idea when that rug is going to be pulled out from under you. When she's gone, she is gone."

I am so very grateful that when my father died on Halloween of this year, I had made regular phone calls home, I had sent my dad pictures of the kids and the chickens, and that I ended every conversation, voice, email, or paper, with "I love you."

I am grateful that my book club pooled their money and sent me home just a few months before he died - that week with him and the rest of my family was one of the best in my entire life. I'm getting old, so that's really saying something. Those memories, so sweet and fresh, are like soft pillows to lay my head down on for just a bit.

I am grateful that when I was home for my dad's funeral, I had opportunities to reconnect with friends: Bill and Susan, who made me laugh so hard my sides ached for days; Debbie, who is a slice of home, a connection to what I thought was lost; and Matt, whose family, love, and faith rocked something very deep inside me.

I am grateful for my family: for Laura, who took care of home - and learned that it was no easy task :o) - I was so relieved to be able to know that the Nut was taken care of with love; for my sister and brothers, who shouldered this grief with me; for Dena making me feel loved; and for my husband. I began life with four parents, two birth and two adoptive, and now they are all gone. He has been my rudder; without him, I would be lost.

But most of all, I am grateful to know that I have been truly blessed and still am, to be surrounded by family, co-workers, and fabulous friends who are simply the best people on the planet.

I miss my dad, but I am so grateful I had one as wonderful as him.

For more Spins on gratitude, head over to Sprite's Keeper.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

So Darn Cute

I just love this picture of the Nut:

And, I just love my immensely wonderful friend, Katie, who happens to be an incredibly talented photographer.

Add the two together and you get this:

Yes. She put my picture on this purse.

Here's a closer look:

Want one of your own? Go visit my friend. Don't be nervous, she's awfully nice.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #12

Here is a jar of bay leaves I recently bought.
Yes, I realize the picture is a little blurry.

But here is the confusing part, when I opened the lid and saw this:

um, what?

Please excuse my double-jointed, alien thumb.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sister, Your Butt is Crushing Me.

Remember in Lilo and Stitch, when Lilo says to Nani: "You rotten sister! Your butt is crushing me." That's how I feel lately, like I am being crushed by the world's butt. I am sure the world means well, but, um, I am still being crushed. By school, by my house, by football season, and, the coup de grace, archery season.

It is my favorite time of year now, and the leaves are everywhere, so gorgeous and whispery and blanketing the yard I should have mowed weeks ago. A total win-win.

Fall is also my favorite time to eat. I love to pull out the cast-iron dutch oven and simmer some chili, slow-cook a roast, stew up some ... stew. This week's Spin Cycle is all about sharing recipes, and even though sharing is an awkward and frustrating concept for me to grasp (despite the intervention of my parents, teachers, and angry bystanders), I am setting the table for more than just me. Tonight I am setting it for Stuffed Pepper Soup.

I love this soup! My kids love it, my husband tolerates it, but I love it.

First, brown up one pound or more of hamburger with a chopped sweet onion and two cloves of garlic, minced.

Then, deglaze the pan with a few rounds of Worcestershire sauce. I had to go pull the bottle out of the refrigerator to see how to spell it.

Here are the last of the garden's jalapenos.

Throw in three or four chopped jalapenos, a healthy shake or two of crushed red peppers, salt, Italian seasoning to taste, two bay leaves, and a pinch of sugar.
The sugar helps it from getting all acidic and bitter.

Add a carton of beef broth, a bottle/large can of tomato juice, and a can of tomato sauce. If you like things chunky, add a can of diced tomatoes. Throw in two large green peppers, chopped. Half of these peppers are from the freezer, so that's why they look a little strange.

While this is simmering, fire up the rice cooker and steam up any kind of rice you prefer (I prefer Jasmine).

Look at how cool this is: There is a removable basin, so when you lift the lid and all the steam runs off the lid, it goes into the basin.

I like to keep my rice and soup separate, since I don't like it when the rice gets all mushy the next day, so when I serve it, I scoop some rice into the bowl and ladle over some steamy, wonderful soup.

No worries about mushy rice if there's any soup left the next day ...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #10

The Peanut with the first egg laid by our chickens.

Well, not this one. He's the rooster.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Claws, fondant, and the Un-Loved Middle Child UPDATED

I tried something new today and I think I may have pulled at least one muscle in my hand.

Wait. That makes this post sound way more fun than it really is.

I tried covering my daughter's (the ULMC) birthday cake with fondant. I hate saying "fondant," since it's nearly impossible for me to say it without sounding like I am poorly impersonating a British butler. Fohndahnt. Plus it had a kind of nasty feel to it, like if Play-doh and frosting had a baby, it would be fondant.

Here are the results:

It's a birthday carrot cake (the ULMC's favorite) from Tasty Kitchen, an offshoot from the Pioneer Woman. The cake itself was very easy to make and smells heavenly - I can't wait to try it tonight!

It's not nearly as pretty, smooth, and perfect as I imagined it would be, so no quitting my day job. Plus, adding the color to the fondant turned my hands into claws. Seriously, I couldn't pick up a pencil for an hour.

If this ends up on Cake Wrecks I will be crushed.

Updated: We ate it and it actually tasted kind of fabulous! Even the ULMC liked it!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #9

This is not my picture - and despite all efforts, I cannot find who took it - but this besmirched angel shifts something inside me.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Chalkboards, wheelchairs, and Christian Slater look-alikes

This week's Spin Cycle challenge is to dredge up the worst post of all, the one that gives you the all-overs when you think about it. I chose this one because it was one of the most awful moments - a moment that gives me the willies when I think about it, which ends up being really, really often since it happened in my classroom. Plus I use words like 'mite' and 'tad,' like I'm an English nanny.

Chalkboards, wheelchairs, and Christian Slater look-alikes.

My classroom was taken over by the uber-geek squad. Seriously, not only were they a computer -installation team of seven, but they even wore matching wind breaker suits. I shit you not. I hadn't even realized that they still even made that material since 1984. Fortunately, one of them looked remarkably like Christian Slater, so I chalked it up as a win.

They bustled in, like a swat-team from Revenge of the Nerds, to install my Polyvision board (which is an interactive white board that hooks up to my laptop and I can do all these crazy educational things. oh, um, wait - who's the geek in this story?). I remained at my desk after greeting them, looking all very teacher-busy on my laptop. The plan was to hang the Polyvision board between my two chalkboards, which was really going along very nicely until I noticed that they were NOT HANGING IT LEVEL TO THE CHALKBOARDS. Anyone with a touch of OCD will completely understand my instant stress. So I ask, "Um, excuse me, but could you, like, hang it so it's the same height as the chalkboards?" The ALL turn to stare at me, the only sound the faint rubbing of nylon. "I don't mean to be a bother," I stammer on, "but, um, well, it leaves like a gap."

There is a long pause. The Christian Slater's stunt-double takes a breath and slowly, since I am obviously a mite on the slow side, "that's so the handicapped children can reach it."

"Gegh" is all I can manage. They turn back to their task as I ever so gently put my face upon my desk, remaining prone until I hear the last power drill and extension cord packed away, and the soft rustle of nylon as they softly click the door shut behind their exit.

And I wonder why I have yet to win Teacher of the Year.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Spinning the Oldies

This week's Spin Cycle is to choose an old post - a favorite. This one is actually my first Spin.

Go here to read about why sometimes I guess I should listen to my husband.


Saturday, July 25, 2009


If you watch South Park, you'll know who Timmy is.

Here is our Timmy (the yellow (Buff Polish) hen:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #7

This was taken on my last trip to the Penn Stater for a conference - I wanted nothing more than to completely ditch my meetings, grab my book and a cup of tea, and spend the afternoon here.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Spin Cyle: Driving Me Crazy

When I read the challenge for this week's Spin Cycle, I was immediately laughing, remembering this:

I had not been living in the Almost-Great-White-North for very long, and this winter was a doozy! There was just no 'easier way' to go; all the roads were snow-packed and sketchy, making me very nervous. This made me mad at myself for being such a ninny about driving on snow, for cryin' out loud, people do it all the time. And they survive. So I made myself drive like a normal person even though it scared the bejesus out of me to do it.

The route to school was full of twists and turns, no berm to speak of, and not a Penn DOT truck to be seen (resulting in no clearing, no salt). Scary, but I had to go to school. I had to.

As I am driving (not creeping - just going a little slow because of the packed snow) and I approaching a sharp curve to the right, a rather large truck comes up fast behind me, and without even a pause, PASSES ME. On snow-packed roads, up a hill, on a blind curve. I was pissed - if there was a car coming, none of us would have been able to avoid a collision. What if the kids had been in the car? All this flashed through my mind in a split second.

So I sped up, just enough to catch him, honked my hard - long and loud enough to get his attention - and flipped him off. HA!

Then I noticed something.

Something that would normally not be a big deal, but something that turned out to be rather significant in this moment.

I was wearing mittens.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #5 aka Better Late Than Never. Possibly.

Painting 101 and a great giveaway link

First. let me say that I took all kinds of pictures to accompany this post, but my camera just said no to uploading to iPhoto. Just plain no.


I have some interesting, yet little-known facts about painting a bedroom. I have been excited to do this project for the Peanut and the UMC (Unloved Middle Child), picking out colors and scheming ideas. The Nut wanted a "mermaid princess room" but, instead of being sucked into the Disney vortex of doom, I proposed creating a room for a mermaid princess and she loves that idea. The walls are painted a green color named 'mermaid,' and I intend to dot her ceiling with fake diamonds, pepper her tulle curtains with gems and sea paraphernalia, and create a top to her dresser with the undersides of the little glass doo-dads you put in the bottoms of vases - flat side up. UMC's bedroom is going to be a creamy khaki color called 'cottage' with mauve accents and an idea for a series of collages that I will only be able to explain with pictures. Ahem.

As I started painting the ceiling, I though in tweets:

rikkifish Roll three: I chose to this *why* again?

rikkifish Roll six: oh yeah, this is why painters wear hats.

rikkifish Roll 37: I love my children I love my children I will finish this I will finish this

The facts I had no idea existed but seriously appear to be true:

1. If you are low on heating fuel, be it oil, gas, or wood, simply opening a can of paint raises the temperature of the room you are painting by 20 degrees, despite breezes, cloudy cool weather, or oscillating fans.

2. It is grammatically incorrect to use the the phrase "When I paint," either before or after the simple sentence "I will be more careful and not need drop cloths."

3. No matter how many rolls of masking tape you buy, you will always be one short.

Nikes and a Ponytail is having a FABULOUS GIVEAWAY - if you go there from here, please tell her so!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Saturday, June 27, 2009

turtles, driveways, and super models

When I was coming back in from feeding the chickens the remains of last night's Italian bread and salad, I found this little guy in the driveway.

We have a pond that is not close to the house, but for some reason all the turtles come and lay their eggs in the kids dug-out which is right by the house and the driveway.

Seems like danger to me. Out of all the places in our yard that I would choose to give birth in, the driveway would be pretty low on the list.

But I'm not a snapping turtle.

See my hands? I'm not that old. Stay out of the sun, kids.

And get off my lawn.

I felt guilty carrying him around, taking his picture, while he looked up me with that judgmental, flat stare that animals and super models have.

That look gives me the willies.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

It's not easy being green. Trust me.

Jealousy is a funny thing. I used to find myself consumed by it - especially when I worked across the hall from a beautiful, young, and extremely popular teacher (who, ironically enough, was one of my closest friends). I hated not being as thin or as pretty as ... well, any girl I saw. Hated it. Fussed and fretted and frazzled myself.

Then I truly realized that it was not only consuming me, this awful bitter feeling, but it was pruning me from the inside out. I was most absolutely wrinkling and shriveling up - someone was going to, in the not too distant future, roll me in salt and stick me in half a lemon.

So I quit.

I realized that no matter what, I was going to be jealous of my husband's ex-wife, that she got to have a son with him, got to have the white wedding, got to have his untarnished first love. I was going to be jealous of gorgeous women with loooong legs and un-frizzy, tangle-free hair, and perfect skin.

So I turned it into motivation instead. I won't have legs nine miles long, but I can have cut calves and firm thighs from hiking through my woods. I find myself looking lovingly, longingly, at the horse farms we drive by. I know that it's out of the question with my salary, but I have been working overtime to save up for a horse.

I refuse to turn into that horrible person we all know - the one who turns every single thing into a complaint, a slight, an issue. Ugh, that person is at every faculty function, at every family picnic, at every damn PTA meeting. Not this chick, no way.

Although I am jealous that my post is not as high up on the list as everyone else's at Sprite's Keeper. I'll bet they're all prettier than me, too.

Monday, June 22, 2009

pygmy jerboa

oh ... my ... I hope this thing is real because I seriously want at least 2,000 running around my yard.

They DO exist! Wikipedia says they do, so it must be true!

He kinda looks like my great uncle Claude.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesday. I'm serious this time.

Yeah, I've got me some mad photography skills.

Spin Cycle: the race

The sun flung intermittent searing rays, dodging the thunderheads that moved with odd speed for the Sonoran weather. The short oval dirt track was tucked behind creosote bushes, probably to keep kids like us from finding it and breaking our necks, the danger of the Mesquite trees clogging the center.

My little painted pony danced next to his Thoroughbred monster, her 14 hands looking inadequate and pitiful – a pipe dream, but I was determined to win. His forearms, good lord, I could not stop looking at his forearms, all ropey with shifting muscles as his horse pulled at the reins, eager to go, ready to run.

The weird breeze, so disturbing when all the days are so hot and still, toyed with his dark hair, twisting it so the sun reflected blue then black then blue, his dark eyes squinting against the sun. The longing of this un-named emotion, this twist in my gut, catch in my throat, clutching in my chest that was so new and deliciously awful fueled my want to be close to him, prove myself to him, beat the snot out of him in this race.

Our friends’ horses’ caught the sent in the air, the competition mixed with the possibility of us, and shifted, tossing heads and swishing tails. “Let’s GO already,” shouted Heather, annoyed as she tossed her white blonde hair, used to being the gorgeous center of everyone's attention.

Lined up to the narrow heel-trench in the dirt, a faceless boy shouted “GO” and we bolted off, my knees and thighs and calves molding against the bare sides of my pony, her withers digging into my belly, her black and white mane whipping into my face, my eyes. I looked over, expecting a looming presence, but he wasn’t there. Over my shoulder proved him to be right on our outside haunch, with him pressing as far forward as the saddle would allow, forearms lost in the whip of the mane.

We rounded the turn, stretching for the line, and I saw the bobbing head of his horse come into my periphery, foaming at the bit and nostrils as wide as they would go. But then the line swept beneath us and IwonIwonIwon, sitting up as my pony slowed, her sweat starting to seep into the seat of my jeans, her heaving ribs pushing against me, and smiling so wide it hurt. I turned to see him, over by his friends, their horses shifting, him spitting in disgust into the dust as he squinted at me. I sighed a little as his tanned forearms flexed, his horse pulling at the reins, then turned to pass through the creosote, redolent with rain.

For more memories, go over to Sprite's Keeper.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

This is really, really hard. I have a nearly irresistible urge to explain that I took this picture on a recent trip to D.C. with my ninth graders, that the detail, the life in this memorial took my breath away.

But, luckily, I have more than enough willpower to refrain from ruining the entire premise of "Wordless Wednesday." Whew.

Monday, May 25, 2009

pound cake, chickens, and toe rings.

I made this cream cheese pound cake today. I had to borrow a bundt pan from my mother-in-law, since I have every other baking dish known to man but this kind.

I just loved how the cake looked in this obviously well-loved pan.

That guy in the back? That's Owen.

While the cake cooled, I went to take some pictures of chicks:

When I opened the door, this is where they were.

Then I called "hey chick, chick, chick," and they all came a-runnin'.

They are in their eighth-grader stage. Their feet are huge, they still have some baby feathers mixed in with adult feathers, sometimes they peep and sometimes they cluck.

Eighth graders.

I learned something new: if you're going to be in a chicken coop, don't wear flip-flops if you have a toe ring on. While I was trying to take pictures, they attacked my toe ring and the poor toe underneath.

This girl (or guy, who knows for sure) is not like the others (sing along ...). McMurray's hatchery throws in a 'rare breed' if you order so many chicks. Well, hopefully they place them in. She's rather special, and not very bright (that's a red flag - I mean, we're talking about chickens) so we've named her Timmy, from the little guy on South Park. We're going to have to get another 'rare breed' so we can make them fight ...

When I came back in, I finished up the cake. Here's the finished product - right before the twelve-year-old boy inhaled it.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

I had no idea what to say.

Today as we were driving to Target to, God help me, buy the Peanut a Bikini Barbie because all of her friends had them and they played at recess and she was the only one who couldn't play Mermaids of the Haunted Castle, we had this conversation:

The Nut was explaining to me that one of her friends was "going to be the mom but she didn't know how to be a mom but I know how to be a mom."

Me: "oh yeah?"

Nut: "Yep! When you're a mom you get to work all the time. And you get to drive alllll over the place. And you get to cook. You get to cook breakfast, lunch, and dinner."

She took a breath here.

"And you get to have all the babies."

And just so I don't get sued by my bff, Katie Mihalak took the Nut's picture above.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

JackJack's girl troubles

There are some new kids in town.

Twenty-seven new kids, to be exact.

This is JackJack's face whenever he is near the chicks. Which is often, since he goes running over every time the chicks make any noise. Chicks make A LOT of noise.

He doesn't want to eat them - he likes to herd them.

Which would be cute if he was a Border Collie or a Sheepdog, but he's a Pitbull, so it's hilarious.

This little girl is quite the pisser. She is always up on the roost, surveying new places to poop, no doubt. If JackJack gets too close, she pecks his nose, which makes him sneeze. Again, hilarious to everyone but JackJack.

JackJack pouting after a pecking.

This little one kept jumping up and grabbing ahold of my camera strap as I was trying to take pictures.

Her name is now Little Shit.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The wind of heaven is that which blows between a horse's ears. ~Arabian Proverb (pets part 1)

My mom would tell anyone who would listen that from the time I could form a thought, I thought about horses. Talked about them, drew them, dreamed of them, even my imaginary friends were horses.

I believe her because it's still true.

I was incredibly lucky as a kid - crazy lucky. I grew up on a small Arabian ranch, surrounded by gorgeous horses. These first two are of a brood mare and one of her colts, Shadda. His name ended up being "Shadda the Shit."

My mom also bragged that I was riding a horse before I could even ride a bike. This is probably because I could care less about a bike; it sure wasn't even remotely equine. I rode every chance I could - even in a play. I don't really remember the whole plot, but I was
the prissy character (there was a 'free-spirited girl' in the play who wore all kinds of lace and no shoes) because I could ride side saddle and had the dress.

Kelly was my last show horse and I loved him with all my heart, but my dad sure didn't. Kelly and I had a connection - I begged my daddy to buy him for me the first time I saw him - I walked into the paddock and he promptly bit a tassel off my coat (hey, it was 1984, if your coat didn't have a tassel or two you simply weren't bitchin'). Turns out he was a one-person horse, loving me but hating everyone else, especially if you were in bite or kick range. If you notice in the picture of Misa and Shadda, the horses had pipe corrals behind each stall. Kelly never, ever did this when I was around, but when my dad was out there alone, Kelly would walk along the corral with his teeth on the top of the pipe, making a horrid screeeeeee noise that rattled Daddy's filling right loose and made his nape hairs stand on end. If Kelly was feeling particularly snarly, he'd trot when he did it.

But the love of my life was Calypso. He was my first real, honest-to-God show horse, and the sweetest thing to ever come into my life. Not only was he amazing, but I now had a horse able to compete in the big-boy shows with my best friend, Karen. I know I don't look happy in these pictures, but that's because I was still nervous when I went into the ring.

But Lippy made sure I was safe. I absolutely had the time of my life between those two, Calypso and Karen. I had to give up Lippers to have the flashy Kelly, and I hated to do it. I hmmmmed and hawed and cried like I had never cried before, but my dad held firm - he said Calypso was a 'starter horse' and I had to stop being so dad-gummed selfish and let someone else, someone who could learn a lot from a horse like Lippers, love him. Yes, my dad really said 'dad-gummed.' Usually only when he was really, really irritated.

Look at his face, his eyes.

I miss you Lippers.

For more pet stories, go over to Sprite's Keeper!