Monthly Archives: July 2015

Hubby Stew


“Who’s feeling brave?”

This is one of Hubby’s calls that makes everyone else in the house cringe. Especially when he’s standing in the kitchen. And definitely when he’s standing in the kitchen the afternoon after we discussed our small garden is producing more than expected. We’ve shared with neighbors and still have a surplus. I love yellow squash, or I used to. Little tired of it now. We carved boats out of zucchini and floated them down the little canal that winds through the neighborhood. They sort of got stuck in the pond, in the middle. Bet the seagulls were happy, but I didn’t hang around to find out.

Back to bravery. The Girl looked at me and shook her head. The Boy is sequestered in his room either playing video games or recovering from marathon video gaming. He’ll show his face in the kitchen in a couple of hours, so he was off the hook. For now.

“Sure, I’m feeling brave!” I answered. No one would, I needed to offer my support.

Wandering into the kitchen, I saw Hubby had made a chunky vegetable soup. Lovely. I saw my tomatoes, bits of squash – still firm from the look of it, onions, and cabbage. Hmm. Usually there’s a bit more to it, but hey, roll with it.

“Looks good, honey. What is it?”

“Cabbage and herring soup.”

“Cabbage and what?”

“Herring. The kids like fish soup, remember?”

From five years ago? Yes I do. I also remember it had tilapia in it.

“Sure. But herring?”

“I have little cans of it.”

“I know.” I wanted to remind him I know because he’s not allowed to eat it around me. The smell of sardines or herring makes me sick. But that would be criticizing the culinary masterpiece simmering on the stove.

“They’re not pickled, they’re packed in oil. Besides, I broke them up so there’s just little flecks.”

Great, so I can’t pick them out.

“Grab a bowl, give it a try.”

I chose the smallest bowl we have. “I’m not really hungry, but let’s give it a shot.”

I gave it a shot. I tried a little sip of broth.

“You don’t have to think of what to say, I can tell by the look on your face,” Hubby said.

I tried again. Picking around little bits of (I assume) herring, I pulled out a piece of cabbage.

“The cabbage has a good texture.”

He took the bowl from me and turned to the freezer. “You were very brave. Here’s your reward.”

I returned to girl-time with my daughter with an ice cream bar. She wasn’t brave so she didn’t get one. It’s important for children to learn these important lessons.

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South Dakota: Mammoths, Floods, Rocks, & Reptiles

Mammoth Site

Mammoth Site

Wyoming and seeing Devil’s Tower was fun. The kids have never seen Close Encounters so they sort of didn’t get it. I feel like I’ve failed as a nerdy parent. South Dakota was more beautiful than I expected. (My apologies to its residents.) It was a busy, busy time, however, and the state isn’t conveniently laid out to see everything in a whirlwind trip, but geology is like that sometimes.

Starting at Rapid City, we caught Reptile Gardens just after opening. Yes, you heard that right, Reptile Gardens – they combine reptiles and gardens – and they do a lovely job of it. Oddly, we spent more in the gift shop there than the national parks combined (they had jackalopes).

What’s a jackalope? A taxidermist trick putting deer antlers (should be antelope/pronghorn but they almost always use deer) on a hare (which westerners usually call a jack rabbit). I was astounded to find some tourists from Idaho looking at them and not immediately know what they were. Someone from the east coast, sure, maybe not, but how can you grow up in the west and not know? It’s like not knowing about Big Foot.

We arrived at Reptile Gardens in time for the snake show, so we went, and saw the cutest little prairie rattlesnake ever! He was rattling his tail at the guy doing the show, posturing, edging away then back toward him, striking even though he was out of range – just full of attitude.

They had some really rare specimens, so that was fun, then it was off to Mount Rushmore and the crowds. Wow, the crowds. You notice the crowds more in the traffic than walking around because the area is made to handle a lot of people. We parked, walked forever trying not to get in people’s photos, snapped a few pictures, noticed someone was standing on Jefferson’s head, hit the gift shop, and left. We offered a helicopter tour to the kids and both declined, I was stunned by that. There is something wrong with my teenagers.

Upon leaving, The Girl realized she forgot her MP3 player in the car so she forgot to play the theme song to Team America (Thankfully! That would have been totally inappropriate and that she even thought of it proves she’s mine) so she was grumpy for nearly an hour. Hubby and I considered the Crazy Horse memorial, then opted against it in the interest of time and not setting off The Girl on another rant about something else she couldn’t change about her imperfect world. We opted to keep her happy, so all of us could stay happy.

The Badlands were a must, but the official entrance was out of the way. I was already told about Wall Drug and decided I didn’t need the headache, so it was easy to cross that off the list of things I ‘had to see.’ The Badlands was more difficult. I did my homework though. A map of the area showed the Badlands extended to a little road by Red Shirt. We didn’t have to drive far down that little road before we got a beautiful view.

The Boy looked at the rough terrain, made note that he still had a data signal on his phone, and returned to his games. The Girl was more impressed with the geology, and all the dinosaur bones that lay still undiscovered there. She grabbed her camera and went crazy. An hour later we had to drag her away or we wouldn’t make it to Hot Springs in time. The Girl had an appointment at the Mammoth Museum to do … something archeology-like. They have classes. She was with a group of Girl Scouts from Ohio and a few other tourists and they uncovered bones buried by the museum and put plaster on them. She was partnered with a seven-year-old, but she had fun.

Google Maps directed us to our hotel via a graveyard access road and hospital parking lot, that was pleasant. Maps is usually really good, but it’d been a long day and Hubby wasn’t really in the mood for that nonsense. Once stuck on a washed-out dirt access road behind the cemetery, I ignored their suggested route (which didn’t exist because the road didn’t exist anymore) and figured it out on my own, navigating for Hubby like people used to do before GPS told them to turn into rivers and such. Good times.

It poured most of the night and my phone kept telling me about flood warnings in this county and that area – which meant nothing to me. Tell me a city name or leave me alone! Worse, it’d been telling me there were flood warnings all day, and we traveled nearly the height of South Dakota while seeing only a few fluffy clouds. No rain. My phone is psychic. It was trying to prepare me for the torrential, tropical monsoon style downpour we’d get that night. I actually took the time to look up county lines on a tiny map of South Dakota, wondering if the car or hotel was going to get washed away before I found an answer, and what I could do about whatever information I found.

It was wasted time. The car didn’t float away, neither did the hotel (which admittedly seemed a ridiculous concern the next morning). The sidewalk was cleaner, and there was a lawn chair ten feet up in the tree across the street.

The trip home was largely uneventful. It rained more (hard), we drove, we had complaints from the back seat about it being boring, we hit several birds, we narrowly missed a turtle, etc. Hubby pulled over for the turtle. I hopped out, ran back, picked up Mr. Turtle, and moved him. Turtles shouldn’t cross the road, it’s absurd.

Upon arriving home, Jingles was waiting for us with many snuggles. She bed-hopped for a couple of nights to make sure everyone felt loved, then disappeared again for a few days. Normal. Glad to get vacations out of the way.

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The Cat Is A B****

2015-06-22 12.07.01

I’m going to put my rant about our family vacation on hold to once again declare our cat is a brat. More than that really, but it’s technically inaccurate to say a cat is a bitch, although the common usage definition of the term would certainly apply to her. Why am I upset with dear sweetums? You know I’m going to tell you.

Let me remind you of her traditional sleeping habits: Jingles comes in every third day or so and sleeps with The Girl or me now. It’s summer and The Boy is up all night playing video games and that disturbs her. She passes through his room to let him know he’s on her mind, but otherwise leaves him to it. Our winter comforter is folded up on my feet – a nice fluffy pile of down for her, a giant kitty-bed. She likes to sleep on feet anyway, so this arrangement suits her nicely. Jingles even likes this better than the basket in my window. The Girl is slightly jealous Jingles has been choosing her new kitty-bed on my feet instead of her lately, but she’s using her down comforter so it’s hard to argue the cat’s logic in choosing my feet over hers.

Then things changed for no reason. One morning Jingles walked up me like usual, except instead of standing on my shoulder to wake me and hint she was ready for me to trudge bleary-eyed downstairs to let her out at 6 am (which never happens, I don’t know why she keeps trying) she climbed onto my body pillow and curled up in my arms. She snuggled with me. I had this little warm pile of black fur purring by my chest, her nose tucked into the crook of my arm, and she fell back asleep like that. It was adorable. I went back to sleep and when she woke me again an hour and a half later asking to go out, I crawled out of bed, followed her furry butt down the stairs, and let her out simply to reward her.

A few days later, she came back in for a night at home and settled on my feet as usual. Then about 2 am, she got up and decided to come snuggle in my arms again. Wild. We slept like that the rest of the night, me holding my sweet little cat and her using my arm as a pillow. I was stiff and sore in the morning from not moving so I wouldn’t disturb her. (I remember that from when the kids were tiny and crawled into bed with us.)

Oddly, Jingles didn’t pester me to go outside. She let me sleep in, got herself up and went to The Girl’s room. The cat conked out with Simon Octavius, her stuffed octopus. (Until she noticed one of his tentacles was on her stomach, then she freaked out, batting it away. After that unpleasant startle was handled, she snuggled in closer between the tentacles and went back to sleep, go figure.)

Jingles stayed in all day. Willingly. She was lovey and snuggly with everyone. Except The Boy, he was out cold after being online all night but The Girl was thrilled with the attention Jingles was dishing out. I was seriously starting to worry what was up. The first thing that crossed my mind was that Jingles was sick. She didn’t act sick and was eating fine. Light rain doesn’t keep her inside, and it was nice out – not even as hot as it had been the week before, so it wasn’t the weather. Then I thought maybe we had an earthquake coming. They say animals sense those things and maybe she wanted to be with her family when the big one hit. That made me mildly paranoid the rest of the day, but nothing happened.

Last night, she lay in her spot by my feet like usual as I climbed into bed. I fell asleep. She walked up me, waking me, then stopped – sitting on my hip. I made a little room for her next to me so she could come snuggle. The little brat turned and walked back to her bed on my feet. Fine. She sat there for a moment. I moved my feet apart, knowing she prefers to be between my feet to just snuggling up to one. Why choose if you can have both? She took her place, assumed the kitty-loaf position, then got up and left the room. WTF? I seriously got snubbed by the cat?

Hubby dutifully went to retrieve the reprobate and she wasn’t getting a drink or eating or using the litter box. She wasn’t curled up on The Girl’s toes or on her spot downstairs (where it is admittedly cooler). She was sitting outside The Boy’s closed bedroom door. As if she really wanted to be in his stuffy room (it’s hot in there, he has a computer, extra monitor, and TV on almost all the time and never leaves his door open for circulation. Plus he only takes his garbage out once a week so it smells like stale popcorn.) All he’s going to do is ignore her in favor of insulting and making witty comments to his friends in the form of crude, incomplete sentences. I’m serious, I do not speak 15-year-old boy and I don’t understand why any of his friends put up with this kid, but I’ve met them and they all love him. That’s a rant for another time.

Hubby returned Jingles to me. I want her, The Boy doesn’t. She left again in favor of sitting outside his bedroom door. Whatever, the cat misses The Boy, but The Boy doesn’t miss her. Maybe. The alternative idea is that she knows he sneaks out of his room in the middle of the night, leaves all the lights off, and quietly slips downstairs to obtain more soda and chips to fuel is gaming marathon. Now, a teenage boy trying to be sneaky, a black cat sitting in a dark hall that previously mentioned teenage boy is having to navigate by memory … perhaps she’s trying to kill him. Jingles is tired of being ignored by her boy and had the devious idea to trip him and make him break his neck. His room is too far from the stairs for it to be a serious risk, so Hubby and I left her to it. Nothing happened last night, and Jingles went out this morning. We’ll have to see if she’s still in a snit in a few days when she comes home.

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Driving through Wyoming

Not Wyoming, but Australia understands.

Not Wyoming, but Australia understands.

I’ve done it before, so I knew what lay ahead before going in: driving through Wyoming. I say that, but I still wasn’t prepared because before I – never mind. This time I had teenagers and it changes everything.

“What time is it?” This is the teenage version of ‘are we there yet?’ They’ve learned the latter will incite insanity in the parental figures, which bodes ill for their chances of fun later.

“This is the most boring road ever!” Clearly The Girl (17) hasn’t completely learned the survival lessons Hubby spent so much time trying to teach her.

I was driving at the time and in a fit of temporary insanity chose to answer her.

“No, it’s not.” I look around: there is featureless terrain as far as the eye can see. On the plus side, it’s green. “Twenty minutes ago we finished thirty miles of construction where I couldn’t pass and had to follow a truck I couldn’t see around at 60 mph. That wasn’t boring. It was frustrating and infuriating, but it wasn’t boring.

“An hour before that we had twenty cars stacked up, all going precisely six over the limit and afraid to pass each other because someone left their radar gun on and everyone’s radar detectors were going off for fifteen minutes straight. There was something amusing about all those drivers and passengers all looking around for an unmarked highway patrol car, plane, ‘your speed is:’ sign, or even a damn automatic door. That wasn’t boring.

“And now I’m on a two-lane highway where I have to wait for a lull in oncoming traffic to pass the car in front of me who, in all fairness, is simply going the speed limit. I’ve waited for miles to pass this guy. Not boring. Do you know when I finish passing him I’ll be going 90 and more than eligible to be ticketed? Again, not boring.

“Plus, we’ve seen one cop since entering the state. One. They’re out there. Where? Not boring.”

“Mom, I think Wyoming doesn’t care about what you do. Lack of cops running radar should tell you something.”

“Then legalize marijuana, it’ll send a clearer message. And raise the speed limits off the interstate, I like 80.”

“Dad, do something with her, she’s nuts.” There was that whine that I’ve tried to beat out of her (figuratively and clearly without success).

“Says the kid tallying roadkill,” responded Hubby. At which point The Girl updated us on her count. On every road trip she tracks the number of memorial crosses she sees by the road. Then it grew to counting wildlife that we hit (I’ll tell you about our cursed vehicle sometime). Now she counts memorials, wildlife we hit (or hits us), and roadkill. Bit morbid, but it’s led to some interesting discussions about animal behavior and interaction with humans, and she also sees how species distribution changes with environment. Not the best way to present that lesson, but it worked.

The Boy has played video games or watched Netflix on his phone the entire drive and had little to say until his sister kicked him and drew him into the conversation. His input?

He looked around. “I’m sort of surprised I can get a signal out here.”

I glanced at him in the rear-view mirror. “Verizon loves you.”

He nodded and slid his headphones back into place. That was it.

I looked around again; the gently rolling grassy hills reminded me of a Windows wallpaper, the one on corporate computers that home users replace. I kept half expecting to see the Teletubbies over the next hill. That was my cue it was time to let Hubby drive. Then I could play ‘spot the living prairie dog’ with The Girl, which she had little interest in.

Soon we got our first deer warning sign, which annoyed me because they didn’t really mean ‘watch for deer’ they meant ‘watch for pronghorn.’ As a point of interest, we had been watching for them already, and had seen many. Mostly alive.

They always use the general ‘prancing reindeer’ sign for the ‘watch for wildlife that could total your car’ warning. Except moose. Somehow moose get their own sign. Cows too sometimes. Cows were plentiful in the area but no sign to watch for them! The really weird thing is that they’re using the prancing reindeer sign in the lower 48 states, where you have zero chance of seeing a prancing reindeer (other than on Christmas Eve). Reindeer aren’t native to Wyoming. Would it kill them to make a sign for pronghorn?

It’s the cost! Sigh. A legitimate argument, sure. Except every time you change counties in western Washington the signs change, at least some do. I’ve seen five different ‘don’t drink and drive’ signs. I swear the state does it to keep artists employed, although it’s entertaining. And those warning signs about trucks and tight corners? Some of those are awesome. Let’s not forget ‘don’t drug and drive,’ those can be fun, especially in rural areas. My favorite is between Redmond and Duvall. If Washington can spring for new signs all over the place, surely Wyoming can print separate pronghorn and deer signs. At least give the drivers a better idea of what they’re looking for. They’re clearly not spending the money on highway patrol (not complaining there, honest!).

It’s not just Wyoming either. South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona are similarly guilty. People who live in those states: tell your DOT people to snap to. Although Northern California has an interesting twist on signage I’ll never figure out. They have which direction you’re supposed to be going painted on the freeway. I’m serious. I saw it on a divided section of the 101 coming from Oregon and it floored me. I just couldn’t see where there could be any confusion, and it reoccurs regularly despite there not having been an onramp or side road. Like I pulled over onto the shoulder to … I don’t know, switch drivers, and Hubby mistakenly did a U-Turn to re-enter traffic? Does that happen much in California? The worst part is there was a reason they had to paint those directional arrows on the road. I’d love to know why.

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A Different Family Vacation


I’ve been largely vacant from social media sites and remiss in blogging regularly lately. I apologize. This is due to a couple of things: First, The Boy & high school – I’ll come back to that. Second, it seemed June was vacation month.

Family vacations are something unique to individual families. Some go to the beach, the mountains, or the desert; others choose specific destinations like parks or cities. I camped as a child, hubby’s family thinks roughing it is a three star hotel.  We try to shake things up for our kids, but there is a specific type of family vacation that comes up regularly: shooting. Specifically, machine gun shoots.

There are several machine gun shoots in the country, Knob Creek is (I believe) the oldest and we’ve never traveled back to that one. Big Sandy is the biggest, although I remember it when was much smaller. There’s an age limit for most shoots (for obvious safety reasons) but occasionally there are machine gun shoots that allow kids.

This particular shoot was a machine gun shoot for charity so it was more of a family-friendly environment. It’s held in a small town every year to benefit some part of the town. One year it was the fire department because they needed equipment and it simply wasn’t in the budget. This year it was the school for the same reason. The town has its own people donate things to raffle and to shoot at. One of the local farmers has a piece of land that’s used for the shoot and for camping. The hotel offers a discount. The grocery store donates meat and one of the restaurants donates a cook to barbeque it and people can buy their dinner each night. They truck in cold drinks and ice for us to buy. All proceeds go to the cause because everyone in town is donating their time, products, and services to get money out of the shooters and spectators. Old beat up cars that would get towed off for scrap are saved and shot up first. We blew up a van this year. I’m serious, there was a reactive target under it and it flipped the minivan and broke it in half. Kind of cool. Sponsors put up prizes to be raffled. Lately even some of the chain sporting stores have been putting in some things to be raffled. It’s good PR.

We all have a lot of fun, see people we only see once or twice a year sometimes, and the town brings thousands of dollars into a depressed, floundering community in addition to what the actual charity rakes in. It’s a win all the way around.

Now, that being said, I was supremely happy to go sit in the desert because I needed a break. Really. The Boy (I said I’d get back to it) had some difficulty at school – not his fault, we confirmed it, but neither was it the sort of thing we could ignore. And the school couldn’t fix it. So he chose to switch to home/online school instead of regular public school. And it was an uphill battle from there.

Actually the first few weeks were fine. Then for whatever reason he decided he needed to be prompted to do anything. I honestly feel like I slid back into high school myself. Seriously, I sat with him through the last half of ninth grade. The thing is, I already passed ninth grade and felt no need to do it again. That didn’t matter. To make him sit through it, I had to do it too. The upshot is: I got next to nothing productive done in the last few months with my writing, although I have had a lot of teen-related angst. I should be angst-proof.

So he finished his classes, barely, and we take off on vacation. The Girl has lost interest in shooting after the first half-day and sat with her nose in a book, enjoying the chance to peacefully read something that wasn’t assigned. I sat in whatever shade I could find frantically trying to finish A Thousand Words #4 because I’m behind where I wanted to be courtesy of her little brother. We both had earbuds in under hearing protection to make it easier to ignore the pop, pop, pop, boom of gunfire in the background and occasional explosion as someone hits a reactive target. The cows didn’t seem to mind, although I noticed the sudden lack of ground squirrels every time the firing line was active. Hmm. Rodents have a sense of self-preservation after all.

The Boy threw himself into the predominate activity with gusto, especially since discovering his back-up plan of playing games on his laptop wasn’t going to happen. There was no internet. No Wifi to connect with his friends at home, and no cell service as a back up to text/call/skype them. I’d love to say I laughed at that last bit, but I was one of the three out of four family members who succumbed to a panic attack thirty miles from the site when service cut out. GPS still worked, but that was of limited interest. Hubby doesn’t live and die with his phone in his pocket, so he was the one who laughed at the rest of his adoring family when mountains finally killed our weak signal. I called him names. It wasn’t my finest moment.

On the plus side, that’s one less distraction. It was just me and my laptop. Until they closed the line for dinner and the ground squirrels came out to play again. They’re cute. (The farmer doesn’t think so, but they are.)

As soon as the shoot ended, we headed home to trade in a very heavy load of weapons and ammo for a lighter but almost as bulky cello and left on Family Vacation 2.0 – Mount Rushmore. Yes, it added a couple of days to our vacation to return home to switch out luggage and head out again, but it just seemed like a poor idea to go to a National Monument armed to the teeth, you know? Besides, The Girl wanted to find the Team America theme song and load it on her MP3 player so she could play it at Mount Rushmore. I saw this as another bad idea, but The Boy sided with her and they so rarely band together anymore I hated to break it up. I had days for that partnership to crumble before nixing her rebellious streak. (That didn’t quite go as planned.)

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