Sunday, December 22, 2013

Happy Holidays

The first semester of school is a done deal for me, the 7th grader and college coed. Talk about fast! If time keeps rushing along this quickly, I'll be dead before long.

I've had a variety of things to post on the blog, but there just aren't enough hours in the day to get everything done. Oh sure, I could just go ahead and lose my mind trying to do it all, but what's the point. They can put me in the local looney bin, but that doesn't get the clothes washed or the clean dishes put away. 

Below are some bulleted highlights of November and December that my fuzzy, middle-aged brain can recall without checking the calendar in my planner…
  • the coed was accepted into a short fine arts study abroad class that will travel to Ghana to teach art to school children in May once the spring semester ends
  • we traveled to NYC for the fabulous Macy's Day parade, scratching another item off my bucket list
  • I booked us on a spring break trip to Turks & Caicos, much to the chagrin of my husband when he found out how expensive it is to visit the pristine white sands and turquoise waters of a more exclusive resort that isn't frequented by college kids or low end cruise line ships
  • I shed 20 lbs this semester the old fashioned way by eating sensibly and exercising regularly
  • temporarily losing my mind, I decided to host both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day here at our house, mainly because we've had to travel back to Texas the past two years for Christmas and I wanted folks to come to us this year instead of us traveling around to other people's houses once again
I know there's more - there always is thanks to the perimenopausal haze that keeps my brain foggy these days - but at least these are the highlights. I hope every one of my family and friends are blessed with a healthy and peaceful Christmas celebrating the birth of our saviour. And may your blessings continue into the new year!

Happy Holidays from Radio City Music Hall

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Parent's Weekend 2013

I need to go ahead and blog about parent's weekend at the University of South Carolina before I forget everything we did since it happened over a month ago. Time flies. Gets swallowed up. Disappears in the blink of an eye when you're working full-time again. And thus I'm back to wishing my life away to some extent, looking forward to the next big school holiday.

On Friday, we all played hooky from work and school in order to fly to Charlotte at the crack of dawn. I don't know where everyone else and their dog was flying that morning, but Terminal B at the airport was swarming with people. The security line twisted and turned and backed practically up into Terminal A. The straight shot flight to Charlotte was uneventful. We got our rental car and hit the road for a pleasant drive to Columbia. We checked into our hotel, let the coed know we had arrived and toodled over to campus to meet up with her. She has an afternoon Spanish class on Fridays, so after we got checked in for parent's weekend at the student center, we found a shady bench on the historic horseshoe to wait for the coed to arrive.

As we were walking in between two buildings, with the 7th grader about a yard in front of us, all of a sudden something fell out of the tree and landed on the sidewalk right in front of the younger daughter's feet. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's a poor squirrel with crappy balance and worse luck that obviously feel from a branch way up high. After landing with a really loud thud (OUCH!), it hopped up and scrambled into the bushes. I swear the daughter and I almost had a heart attack. 

The four of us went out to dinner that evening to locally owned Lizard's Thicket with their down home country cooking. You know you're in the south when you see fried bologna on the menu. We grew up eating fried spam and potatoes, which seems kinda high falootin' compared to bologna.

We also made a run through the bookstore to get a t-shirt in order to represent at the game the next day. Aggies get shortened to Ags. Longhorns get shortened to Horns. And Gamecocks get shortened to Cocks… which makes me want to giggle even though I'm middle-aged. I did NOT purchase the shirt below, but rather a vintage design. 

After we returned to our suite that evening, we all piled up like lazy dogs to watch TV or check email. The girls had fun surfing shopping websites, with the younger daughter giving her opinion on potential clothing purchases to the older daughter. Awww!

The next day, we took the coed shopping at the mall in Columbia. It's miles from campus and since the coed has no driver's license or car, it has greatly curtailed the amount of retail therapy she has been able to do since she headed off to college.

After a late lunch at Cracker Barrel - more home cooking - we headed back to campus so both girls could get manis and pedis. Rotten, much? Then we went back to the hotel to spruce up and head to the football game. Here are the husband and girls in front of the famous USC Cockabooses. Some guy towed a bunch of run down cabooses onto the stadium site back in the '90s and now they're the ultimate tailgating venue. You can snap one up for a cool $300K!

The sun was setting while the football players wrapped up their warm up and were getting ready to take the field.

The picture above was taken by the coed at an earlier game in the season. This is the students only section. For parent's weekend, we were sitting in the end zone directly across from the students on the second to last row of the third deck. Talk about bird's eye view. And not even a whiff of wind in the humid still-warm-as-summer night on bleachers that had us all crammed together like sardines. I didn't mind the lady seated in front of me who kept madly swinging her USC towel so that I was forced to duck multiple times to avoid a slap in the face because at least it provided a bit of much-needed breeze.

Since it was the start of breast cancer awareness month, they shot off pink fireworks whenever the team scored. Plus the players were wearing pink gloves and socks - really cool since the coed's sorority's philanthropy is Think Pink, breast cancer awareness and education. What a worthwhile cause.

And, finally, I couldn't help but include the crowing rooster sound they play in the stadium. This is just a smidge of it, but you get the drift. HILARIOUS!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

One More Can't Hurt

OK, so I lied. I told my husband I wouldn't buy one more Santa anything after packing up part of my collection when we prepped to move home to Texas. And then seeing the rest of my collection once we made it back stateside. That's a whole lotta Santa stuff! I've been collecting jolly old St. Nick for 20+ yrs and have racked up a nice variety of items. Ornaments, plates, stockings, figurines, snow globes, tablecloths, bowls, cups. You get the drift.

I just couldn't resist yesterday when I was snooping through a local shop looking for a ceramic rooster to place on the eat-in-kitchen table and stumbled upon the most darling collection of themed Santas. This one really called to me because I intend to put out my Kathe Wohlfahrt pyramids. Aren't they cool?

Herr Santa will be a perfect accent piece in the same room where I display my lovely pyramids, most likely the formal dining area. Right across from the cuckoo clock I purchased in the Black Forest. Just too danged cute, I tell ya!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Birthday to Ollie

On September 24, Ollie turned two. In human years, that makes him about the same age as our 7th grade daughter. Thankfully, he doesn't behave like an adolescent. The little guy still has a lot of energy - he is a Cairn Terrier - but in general he minds his P's and Q's.

This morning we rolled out well before dawn to get the coed off to the airport for her return flight to college after a super short fall break. I'm the sort that can never fall back to sleep once I'm up, and so I decided to get a few things done at 5:00 am this morning after the husband and daughter hit the road in order for her to catch her plane. The first thing I did was load the dishwasher. Then I started on the pile of dirty clothes in front of the washing machine. Next, I sat down with my current seating charts and created new ones for the second nine weeks that kicks off tomorrow at school. I rearranged student desks Friday after dismissal, so it's fruit basket turnover at the start of every class tomorrow.

About the time the sun hit the horizon, I bathed the dog after I fed him and took him out for a little walk to take care of business. He's tolerant of a bath. In typical canine fashion, it's the bit after he's clean that is a real show. 

It's obviously a desperate situation. Must.remove.clean.smell. No matter how much he begs, I don't let him go outside off leash all day because that's just inviting a roll in the grass and dirt that will undo all of the shampoo applying, scrubbing, rinsing, drying and brushing I just accomplished. I'm a pro at ignoring his pleading looks while he longingly gazes out the back door.

Thursday Night Lights

If you're in high school, football games in Texas are usually played on Friday nights. However, if you're in middle school, then it's a Thursday afternoon ritual which kicks off at 4:30.

The 7th grader is a member of her school's pep squad. It's a combo cheer and dance group. Her older sister, the coed, was also a member of the team when she was in middle school. The coed was a great dancer, but because she's shy she never really seemed to enjoy it as much as I would have hoped. However, her little sister is really into the whole pep squad scene. 

My only complaint thus far is the danged placement of the football stands, making it kinda miserable for the spectators. In the five years since the coed was in middle school, I had forgotten this little fact. They face west straight into the sun and so we all need to slather on SPF 50 just to enjoy a little pigskin every week. It was especially fun in September when the temps were hovering around 100 while we sweated our butts off in the unrelenting heat. 

The coed flew home on Thursday for her very short fall break of three nights before she headed back to South Carolina this morning, but she arrived in time to see her sister perform. We're keeping the pep squad/team mom tradition alive and well in our house.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Tying a Knot and Holding On

It's not that I don't enjoy teaching. I missed it terribly while we were living in England and I'm glad to be back in the classroom. However, the one thing I didn't miss is the need to go up to my dark, non-airconditioned school building every Sunday for about 3-4 hours in order to stay on top of the demands placed upon teachers. Six day work weeks are no fun, especially when you factor in the salary I receive for my efforts.

Oh sure, I enjoy getting paid during the summer when there are no classes. And yeah, we get a 45 minute planning period every day. But every week we have at least one meeting of some sort during planning time. This past week I had a meeting on 3 of the 5 school days. My students may not have any science homework most nights, but I certainly do.

Right now what's keeping me motivated is travel. At Thanksgiving, we'll be in NYC for the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. Over the Christmas holidays, we'll be traveling with the 7th grader to California while the college coed visits a friend in England. At spring break, we'll head to Turks and Caicos for a relaxing beach vacation. June will find us touring the east coast while July will be busy with an Alaskan cruise. 

As they say, you can't take it with you when you go and so I intend to enjoy the fruits of my teaching labors by traveling with the family every time we have a holiday from school. You hear about folks toiling in the work trenches their whole lives, only to up and get sick or die as soon as they retire. If that happens to me, I won't have any regrets because I plan to rack up the travel miles from now until the Lord calls me home.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

My Second Home

So it's not a ski chalet. Or a lake house. And it sure aint a beach condo either. But it's where I spend a good chunk of my time for nine months out of the year. It's my classroom.

I chose a safari theme for my classroom many years before I actually went to Kenya in February, and so it's convenient that I could return with some of the things I purchased from the Maasai tribe we visited and use them as decor.

It's not some cutie patootie little kid look - more like a comfy family room. However, it suits me just fine. And I might as well feel at home because that's where you'll find me for at least 9 hours every Monday to Friday, from mid August to early June. And weekends... can't forget you'll find me there on Sunday afternoons for at least the first six weeks of any given school year trying to stay a step ahead of the kids. Fortunately, I can say it's all worth it.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Just Another Manic Sunday

What is it about Sundays? When I was in college, Sundays were the worst. I wondered what fab homecooked meal granny had whipped up for the rest of the family. I knew I should have washed clothes Friday or Saturday but didn't and now I'm hoping I have something clean in the back of my closet to wear tomorrow. My project for class that's due in a few days didn't magically finish itself, so there's that. 

Now that I'm middle-aged, I find I kinda feel the same way about Sundays as I did when I was a college student. I should have worked out on Saturday or Sunday, but I rolled over and slept until 7:30 since that seems like a luxury compared to the rude 5:30 am alarm Monday through Friday. I should have done everything on my school to-do list, but after 4 hrs on campus this weekend I threw up my hands and came home. I should have taken the dog for a long walk, but I never got around to that either.

What I did do was buy a ticket for the college coed to come home for a long weekend next month. I let the 7th grader invite several friends over for swimming and a meal Friday after school when my fanny was dragging after Parent Orientation Thursday evening at my campus. Plus I washed every piece of dirty clothing in the house, so we all have clean undies to wear tomorrow.

As much as I love teaching, I'll still do the countdown to next Friday when we're staring down two more precious days of freedom from the workaday routine.  

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Goodbye, Summertime

So goodbye summer, but not adios to the heat. Yesterday it was 100˚ during recess at 2:20. Many of the students as well as teachers did their best imitation of cattle in nearby pastures, finding a tree that would offer a spot of shade from the unrelenting Texas sun. What I wouldn't give for a late October cool front right about now. Or some mild English weather. 

It's hard to believe summer is officially over. The new 7th grader and I returned to classes Monday. Right now I'm in survival mode, madly paddling to keep my head above water. It's the triple whammy of new campus, new grade and new curriculum. I'm enjoying the first two aspects of my return to teaching, but the third (science) not so much. It's hard to fake a love of something that doesn't particularly interest you in any way, shape or fashion. But alas, I'll persevere and hope for a change of subjects in 2015 when sixth grade makes the move from top of the elementary pile to low man on the totem pole in our middle schools. My dream job is social studies or English.

Before I officially started inservice on August 19, I spent the week before that in Columbia, South Carolina, getting the coed moved into her dorm. It only took $2,000 plus four separate trips to both Bed, Bath and Beyond as well as Target to get her dorm essentials. Our daughter and her roomie opted to loft their beds and have a surprising amount of floor space for a TV stand, futon and fridge/microwave. 

In the first pic is an exterior shot of the daughter's coed dorm. She's on the second of three floors, so it was a do-able hike for me since the husband didn't accompany us. And wasn't that wily of him to dodge what turned out to be a rather gut wrenching event for this momma that has never been particularly sentimental. In the bottom pic is the South Carolina statehouse, located just a couple blocks off campus. I found it to be a more manageable Austin, minus the drag worms and hippies.

Here is a shot of the coed at Wal-Mart, where we picked up important things like toothpaste and deodorant. Our local Wally World store carries the University of Texas and Texas A&M team items. The stores in South Carolina are all about the USC Gamecocks and Clemson Tigers. However, in Columbia it's mostly about the garnet and black - Go Cocks!

We paid to fly four large suitcases to Columbia with the coed's wardrobe and cosmetics. And thus we did our part to support South Carolina's economy by purchasing everything from pillows to makeup remover wipes to hangers in Columbia. Below you see the teen loading up her dorm chest of drawers with clothes.

Above is a pic of the historic horseshoe at the center of the USC campus. Everything was so green, explained by the fact that Columbia receives the same amount of annual rainfall as Houston. The highs there were lower than you'll find at this time of year in the Texas hill country, but it's much more humid in Columbia. The horseshoe is where the coed attended bid day on Sunday. After more than a week of sorority rush events, she pledged Zeta Tau Alpha. In the pic below, she's the brunette in the middle with white shorts and her cellphone peeping from the back pocket. And this is why we carry insurance on her phone - one pop out of her pocket away from a shattered screen or easy access thievery.

On the trip home by myself, I sniffled through airports in three states as I backtracked our flight path through Atlanta. As soon as I arrived back in Texas, I threw myself into school prep and that has kept me from moping around wondering what the newly fledged chick is doing. We've fallen into a family routine that seems to bump along just fine without her, as if she has been away at college for years. But then I'll catch myself wondering what she wants to eat for supper. Or if she needs me to buy her anything at Wal-Mart when I swing by there after school... and then I find myself missing her all over again. They grow up and get out and life goes on for everyone. And that is exactly what happened.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Pardon Our Dust

And pardon the boxes, packing paper and stuff stacked most everywhere. The sea container was delivered Monday. Thus far we've unpacked/put away about 3/4 of its contents. Several of the rooms are more or less done, minus pics on the walls. Probably the worst part of the house is the very front, where the formal dining and husband's office are located. 

Due to a certain family member's hoarding tendencies (cough, cough, the husband), we were up to our eyeballs in boxes of books. After a good cull, we donated eight boxes of books to the town library. And when we found more boxes of books in the garage, we ended up with another four boxes of books that also need to be dropped off for donation.

The husband's secretary is moving, so she's taking some of the boxes and packing materials off our hands. The rest of it is living on the back porch until the moving company returns to pick it up on Tuesday. That's our deadline - we have until then to get everything unpacked/shuffled to where it needs to be.

Forget Calgon taking me away. I picked up the ingredients for margaritas at the grocery store when I unearthed the blender in a storage box. Now I just need to stop off at the liquor store for some tequila as well as triple sec and then I'll be all set. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Shining Moment... and forehead!

Yesterday the sea container arrived and was unloaded. By 9:00 last night, I was so sore and tired that I could barely move from going up and down the stairs to note placement of furniture and begin a bit of unpacking. We spent today doing some serious unpacking and put away enough stuff to furnish the whole neighborhood... or so it seemed. We donated eight boxes of books to the local library and have four more to take to them tomorrow. I've also collected several items to take to the local thrift shop. I swear I'm not going to buy another piece of home or Christmas decor unless a tornado wipes our property off the map. The husband overhead me and asked to get that in writing. But seriously - I look around at all of our stuff and am just flabbergasted. 

This morning, I had to go up to the district's administration office for new employee paperwork. It was all about making sure I've turned in my required documents and getting enrolled with medical, dental, AD&D, life insurance, etc. Since the girls and I are covered through my husband's work, it didn't take long to decline everything. However, the one thing that did happen which I wasn't expecting was getting my district ID badge. Of course, that involved taking my pic. I jokingly asked the badge lady if she had an edit button on her computer to help me out a bit.

Honestly, anything after that is going to be an improvement. I was wearing a bright pink exercise shirt and some black stretchy lycra workout shorts. Not one bit of makeup. And my hair pulled back into a ponytail because I knew I was coming straight home to wrangle boxes. It's a good thing my 6th graders don't know what a mugshot is - or most of them, anyway - because they would no doubt liken my employee pic to one. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Metal Mouth

This morning, the 7th grader spent 1.5 hrs at the orthodontist's office to kick off the process of straightening up her jack o' lantern grin. She put a lot of forethought into the selection of turquoise and purple bands, something we didn't get to do when I wore braces about the time Noah was building some big ship out in his backyard. We had no choice - just an ugly gray color. 

Our resident brace face was excited for the first couple hours after she emerged ready to set off the airport's metal detector, posting pics for her friends to see and running her tongue around her mouth to check out how they felt. We zipped over to the local Chinese restaurant to get her some wonton soup. This was more of an anticipatory move because she had taken some ibuprofen right before the appointment and felt fine.

It's almost 5:00 pm and she has piled up in front of the TV with a pillow and blanket after popping a couple more ibuprofen because her mouth is sore. No pain, no beautiful smiley gain. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Last Leg

I've about decided I'm getting too old for this moving business. And it's especially fun to do in Texas' July heat. Seriously - tired of toting and shifting and carting stuff either up or down the stairs. The new carpet was finally installed yesterday. The storage pod was unloaded today. The good news regarding the pod is that there were only two casualties - a barstool and floor lamp. The bad news is that the bulk of the pod's contents were just shifted to the garage since the sea container doesn't arrive until next Wednesday. I can't put out lamps, place decor and hang pictures until the furniture gets where it's supposed to be. I will be so terribly glad when the final leg of our repatriating is finished.

And on a totally separate note - today the husband and I celebrated 20 years of marital bliss, AKA the day he didn't run fast enough or far enough from the altar to escape my clutches. Some days it seems like we've been married a few months, while other times it seems like two centuries. I decided long ago he's a keeper and I'm danged lucky to have him. He's a great husband, father, son and all around good person. He loves me despite my many faults. And I adore him even though he thinks a 55" TV screen located a mere 8ish feet from the sofa looks just right and totally appropriate for the space. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tinkle Toes

Yesterday I took Ollie to the vet for his canine influenza booster. Dogs here in the US should never catch a thing because it seems there is a shot or pill for every possible malady. He was also getting a bath because the husband hasn't attached the hand sprayer to the tub spigot yet. And so the first time I bathed him here in Texas, it was a plastic cup affair that took forever, with me bent over the bath tub trying to get the beast's dense coat completely soap free.

I attended a little school get together early in the afternoon at a team member's house to meet some of the ladies at my new campus and didn't make it back into town to fetch Ollie until a bit after 4:00. When they brought him out to me in the reception area, he was dancing a jig and I knew why. He has this bad habit of not going potty in unfamiliar places. I figured his bladder was about to burst.

As soon as he cleared the vet clinic doors and walked onto the grassy area, he squatted to tinkle. And tinkle. And tinkle some more. And with such a strong stream that he hosed down his front paw with doggie pee-pee. Great... now his foot reeks of urine. Since I didn't have a towel in the car and refused to stand around until his tinkle soaked foot dried, I put him in the front passenger seat floor board. By the time I got around to the driver's door, he had hopped up onto the seat, walked across the console and had his pee paw on the driver door to look out at me through the glass.

Lovely - wet little piddle tracks all over my less than a month old leather seats in the first luxury vehicle I've ever owned, the one I'm afraid of getting dirty or dinged. One of the girls recently got a floor mat dirty and I just about lost it. So long new car smell. Once we were home, I busted out the premoistened bleach towelettes and wiped down the areas where he tracked pee in the car. From now on, I may have to borrow the husband's truck to get Mr. Shy Bladder home from the vet.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Fun Continues

It's hard to believe we've been back in Texas less than three weeks. Thus far we've visited the dentist and orthodontist. Tomorrow the 7th grader gets two permanent teeth pulled in preparation for her braces to go on July 25. She has never been one to suffer in silence and I imagine we won't get stoic from her over the course of the next couple weeks where her mouth is concerned.

The coed has spent her little bit of summer depleting our bank account. She has been busy registering for college classes, ordering a loft for her dorm room, purchasing her bedding and getting a new retainer since her old one no longer fits. She never wore it at night as instructed by her ortho, allowing her teeth to shift so that it no longer fits. That's 4K for a beautiful smile I refuse to see thrown down the drain and so I ponied up for a new one to keep her teeth from doing too much moving.

Around lunchtime today, I finished painting a third room in the house. The carpet should arrive later this week and I wanted to get all of the rooms painted before the new bedroom flooring gets installed. The husband's portable shed thingy he just HAD to have will be installed Friday. That means we get to spend our weekend loading up a trailer at the in-law's house where we have things stored and bring them over to our house. In the almost 100˚July heat. I'm thinking dehydrated with a capital DUH, as in why didn't we move home in the fall or winter to avoid this incredibly hot weather. 

This time two years ago, we were headed to Barcelona for a bit of touring with Texas friends before we set sail on a cruise in the Mediterranean. I could use a bit of European weather, culture and relaxation right about now. Below is a pic I took in La Boqueria, Barcelona's large public market that dates back to the middle ages. I would definitely enjoy a cool and refreshing fruit drink right about now.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Chillaxin' in the Backyard

Yesterday afternoon when we arrived home from errands in the big city, we let Ollie out into the backyard for a potty break. The coed followed him out and flopped down onto the grass with him. Both the dog and older daughter have a negligible amount of body fat and thus never seem too bothered by the heat. I snapped this quick pic of them with the camera on my phone. In the background you can see Max, my mother's pug, trotting by with his tongue lolling out of his mouth. Max resembles a bowling ball with legs, so he gets hot and starts panting the minute his fat butt clears the door to go outside.

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Furriest Member of the Family

Ollie, our Cairn Terrier, is adjusting well to life in Texas. He absolutely adores the back yard. His favorite thing is to throw himself down in the grass no matter what time of day it is so he can soak up the fresh air and sunshine. And then refuse to come back into the house unless we lure him with a treat or toy. We're all seeing the stubborn little soul he truly is when let off leash to roam at will in the yard.

This is a cute pic of Ollie, figuring out that he can do a lot of mooching in the car after we've been through the drive-thru window. After we picked him up at the Houston pet cargo facility, he seemed a bit shell shocked. He guzzled up a bunch of water and ate a bit of his dog food I had packed in my suitcase. On the drive from the airport to the west side of the city where we hit the interstate, he sat in my lap and stared out the window. We stopped on the city's outskirts for a potty break and some food, whereupon Ollie perked up at the smell of American beef. 

Then he became the same little spoiled toot we know and love, staring up at us with his chocolate brown eyes in search of a handout. Until today, the day our air shipment finally arrived with his kennel in it, he has been sleeping between me and my husband... in a double bed we borrowed from my in-laws. That's a whole lotta human and dog on a smallish mattress - to us, anyway - when we're accustomed to sleeping on a king bed with the dog tucked away in his kennel.

Last week, we took Ollie to meet his new vet and get a few shots. He also had an appointment with the groomer, and boy did she go to town on him. Shorn like a sheep, I tell ya. But I would swear he's glad to be rid of all that fur. He seems more confident and has a bit of pep in his doggie step these days.

Frustrating Friday

I ended last Friday with a few margaritas. It was either that or lose my mind. The day started out just fine when I took Ollie for his usual morning walk. I got dressed for the day, ran a load of clothes and was waiting around for the carpet measuring guy to arrive. He had called that morning to give me the window of 11:00-11:30, but didn't actually show up until noon. That's when the day headed south.

I opened the door for the carpet guy and Ollie shot past me out into the yard, an area with a car width wide gate that was wide open. I knew exactly where he was headed - freedom and the open road full of cars that would run right over him - so I dashed to the fridge for some bait in the form of lunch meat. By the time I raced back out the front door, Ollie was nowhere in sight. I told the carpet dude he was late and to just get started already since I had to catch the escaped dog.

I spent the next five minutes walking down our street towards the big road at the end, shaking the lunch meat bag and calling Ollie's name. He's such a little stinker with no common sense and beneath the panic of him getting hit by a car, I was filled with anger. There I was in meeting-my-friend-for-lunch mode, looking presentable, while our precious little pain in the ass pet had me worried sick. As I jogged up and down the road in my cute little sandals with sweat sliding down my face and trickling between my shoulder blades in the noon sun with temps set to break records that day, I wanted to strangle our beloved dog.

Giving up on that direction, I turned back towards the cul-de-sac end of our street and spied the little devil sniffing around on the neighbor's porch. Dashing over there, I know I looked as if I had just escaped from the nearest insane asylum, calling Ollie's name in a sing song voice while promising bits of tasty treats as my makeup ran off my face in rivers of perspiration.

After a whole lotta coaxing, I finally pounced on the little SOB and grabbed him by the collar. I can only hope the neighbors weren't at home and missed being witness to me spanking and calling Ollie every bad name in the great cursing book. After I got our resident pea brain back into the house, I caught up with the carpet measuring guy. He was taking his sweet old time while I tapped my foot in aggravation since he was a half hour late and I was supposed to be meeting my friend for lunch right about then. 

My mobile phone rang and I dashed downstairs to answer it. Once finished, the carpet guy yelled downstairs to ask me if he could use the toilet. I said sure and then flopped onto the couch, beneath the family room fan, to cool off before heading to lunch. I heard one of the toilets upstairs flush a few times, but thought nothing of it. About that time, though, the poo smell wafted downstairs. It was painfully obvious, in the stinkiest sort of way, that the carpet measuring twit had taken a big ol' dump in our toilet that was perfuming all 3400 sf with eau de outhouse.

It figures - about that time my friend arrived at Stinkville our house to pick me up for lunch. Carpet guy with the obvious stomach issues finally shuffled outta here, whereupon I immediately wielded the can of room spray and apologized to my friend. The next time some blue collar workman asks to use our toilet, I'm gonna tell them it's family policy that they use the one at the nearby convenience store or fast food restaurant chain.

Thus far this Friday has been an immense improvement over last Friday - shopping with the coed for some pj's to take to college, lunch at Pappadeaux's with the husband, girls and my mother, mailing off graduation gift thank you cards the coed wrote and having a variety of things delivered. The new bar stools for the counter height island look great, as does the 7th grader's new bedding. Plus the air shipment from England was finally brought out to the house after languishing at the moving company's storage facility for the last week. This is just a taste of what we'll be faced with when the sea container and storage pod arrive later this month. Even though we're busy seeing doctors, dentists and orthodontists while getting the house into better shape, I realize it's the calm before the packing paper storm arrives.

Party in the USA

For the past two summers, we've been in the UK for the 4th of July. We kicked off our first Independence Day back in Texas by celebrating with some friends at their ranch, located in Medina County about an hour's drive from our house. 

In case you're looking for a place to host a family reunion or to do a bit of hunting, you can't beat this location. If you go for no other reason than the outdoor pavilion, then it was money well spent.

In case you want to check out out this hill country escape - Still Fox Ranch - here is a link you can follow to see what it's all about.  Still Fox Ranch website

It was a stress free holiday for us. The kids entertained themselves on the golf cart, riding across part of the 400+ acres under high fencing. With exotic hoofed critters, it's like having the set of "Wild Kingdom" on your doorstep. When the two-legged varmints got tired of cruising around, they had the chance to fish from the dock of the stocked pond, relax in one of several hammocks under the shade trees, do a little archery practice or swim in the pool.

In the pic above, you can see the covered rock cooking pit in the foreground, with a precious little stone chapel on the other side of the pool. We feasted on barbecued sausage, ribs and chicken with all the fixin's as the sun started its descent into the tops of the trees. 

Once it got full-on dark, the kids were busy setting off all the fireworks their dads were conned into purchasing the day before at the local stand. While the middle school crowd set off the tamer fireworks from the dock, the older crowd set off the big, showy ones. This time of year, the hill country is usually suffering drought conditions. Luckily, the burn ban was temporarily lifted so that individuals were allowed to shoot fireworks without fear of setting off a massive blaze.

Here are a few little videos I made of the display put on for the adults. Check out how the first little clip looks like a smiley face when it initially explodes. Happy Birthday, America!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Manual Labor

Since moving back to Texas, I've been busy doing a few things to get the house prepped for our household goods sea shipment next month. I selected some new carpet, had rooms measured and then paid for it yesterday. The carpet should arrive in about two weeks and then be installed before our furniture arrives. 

That was the easy part, paying someone else to do the work. The other part - painting - is all on me. Thus far I've finished one room and have at least two more to go. It's not that painting is difficult. With little furniture in the house to move, and existing carpet that will soon be ripped out and replaced, it's pretty easy to prep for the painting. Taping off the baseboards, doors and windows isn't exactly taxing. 

However, the constant, repetitive motion of wielding the paint roller and then brush tends to aggravate my compressed cervical vertebrae. Thanks to several hours of painting, my right arm and hand now tingle. Thank heavens I don't have to do this for a living.

When I removed the light switch and electrical plug covers, I saw bits of the original lime green the coed had in her room when we moved in over six years ago. She picked out the color in 5th grade while we were building the house and we moved in during 6th grade. Then two years later, she was going into high school and wanted a new, more mature color to last her for the next four years. That's when we went with a light sky blue.

Now that the coed is heading off to college in a couple months, we decided to give her original bedroom/bath to the now 7th grader because it has a full sized vanity with great storage space. The coed will move into the pink bedroom formerly inhabited by her little sister, with its smaller attached bath. And thus that means there's another bedroom to paint. 

The 7th grader has decided that the old sky blue her sister chose just won't do. She absolutely must have Tiffany blue on her walls. Oh well - at least it's a darker blue going over a light blue and thus will only require one coat of paint with no primer. Small favors.

I snapped a quick pick as I was putting on the much better Tiffany over the inferior sky blue. Sitting on the floor to paint above the baseboards. Climbing up the ladder to edge near the ceiling. I may not be able to move tomorrow, but the result has pleased the 7th grader to no end. It's kinda bright and doesn't seem particularly restful to me, but she absolutely loves it and that is all that counts.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why did the critter cross the road?

What's up with all of the roadkill in Texas? After living in England for a few years and seeing few dead animals on the roads, I'm appalled at the squashed critters I've seen since arriving home. Squirrels, birds, armadillos, opossums, skunks, raccoons, deer and even a porcupine. 

Is the British wildlife just more road/traffic savvy? Do Texans, in their gargantuan pickup trucks and SUVs, not even slow down for four footed animals who cross their paths? I imagine I would put my vehicle in the ditch trying to avoid hitting any local fauna. I know there are always more dead deer on the roads during the fall rut when the bucks are chasing does across lanes of traffic on Interstate 10. Risking their lives for a piece of whitetail... so typically male.

One theory I have is that the heat makes the local critters a tad dazed and they're innocently stumbling across roads in search of a water source before they fall out from dehydration. They just need to shuffle along a bit faster or learn to look both ways before crossing. Run, forest critter, run!


Exactly one week ago, the movers were loading the contents of our house in England onto a 40 foot sea container for a ride across the Atlantic. It's supposed to cruise into the port of Houston in mid July to clear customs and then get trucked to our house here in the hill country. I hope the ship has smooth sailing so the contents arrive intact. 

Here are some pics of the boxes stacked all over the house as we lived through two full days of packing and one day of loading.

I asked the moving company guys about the significance of the cat logo and their slogan "the purr-fect movers". It was explained to me that the company was founded in Catford.

I love the pic above, a box labeled coats and brollies. That's an obvious sign our packers were Brits. 

We looked like squatters, holed up in a part of the formal living/dining room for three nights with our items for the plane ride, camping out on our blow up mattresses with bed linens we planned to donate.

The rose bushes in our back garden were in full bloom when we left England - just lovely. It's easy for them to thrive in the moderate temps. I haven't complained (yet) that it's really warm here in Texas and getting warmer, with predicted highs hovering around 100 for the next few days. Sweat city. Must purchase the heavy duty deodorant to keep the BO at bay. And shine blotting paper for my face.

For our last night in England on our residence visas, we said goodbye to the house and stayed at a hotel in nearby Weybridge.

That final afternoon, we walked down to The Minnow pub for some refreshments and raised a glass of iconic Pimm's to toast our time in the UK.