Sunday, December 09, 2012

We are running seriously low on pets around here

Maybe the Mayans were partially right.  Seems like there are loads of AtHomeFamily pets that are not making it to 2013.  Early in the Spring we had to have our new dog put-down after she got an infection during her spay surgery.  That super sucked.

A couple of times this year we had to finish off wounded or sick chickens.  Not real fun, but part of the deal with our backyard chicken flock.

Today was a totally different level of yuck though.  P.K., our 16+ year old calico cat went over the Rainbow Bridge this afternoon.  Six months ago it seemed like her time was up.  We made a diet change for her and she perked up and fattened up nicely for a little while.  Last week I noticed she was getting skinny again, but I also saw her jump over our 8 foot tall garden gate so I didn't think much of any of it.  

Yesterday she was really wanting to just sleep in one spot.  This morning she was hardly moving and laying flat out on the kitchen floor when we left for church.  A few hours later we were taking the drive to the vet, knowing that she would not be returning with us.  The Talker is a stoic little dude and he sat in the waiting area after saying his goodbyes at home.  The Princess was torn up and waited with PK until the vet came into the room.  The Boss Lady and I stayed with our first pet until she was gone.  

15 years or more ago, PK got hurt real bad in a fall from our oak tree that towered over a concrete driveway.  Her herniated diaphragm required life saving surgery.  Her broken leg required that she live in a crate under my desk for months.  I hauled her to work daily and would sneak her into the office before my 75 year old boss would get to the office.  He would frequently let us know that he "heard a cat" but PK was so pretty and perfect that none of my co-workers ever ratted me out to The Man.

Our family is really into our pets.  That is probably obvious to everyone.  Still, even though there are 8 more animals sharing our house these days, we will surely never have another Pretty Kitty.

PK, you were a perfect first pet.  We will think about you often and I'll take care of your girls. And us boys, too.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Don't let me die in a landromat

Or an old Blockbuster's Video store either, for that matter.

This week, while enjoying our week off of school and the start of allergy season, I made several trips around the neighborhood with the family.  The wife's favorite Target store is 3 miles from our house - the fact that they tore down a Home Depot to build this store still has not fully settled with me.  However, land is at a premium along the major roads, so tear-down/rebuilds are now fairly common.

It was on one of our outings to Target that The Boss Lady pointed out a renovation that has recently started a couple of miles from here.  There once were lots of Blockbuster stores.  Then came Redbox and Netflix. After that, the Blockbusters all went away.  Except one.  This poor little store hung in there until last Spring.  Finally the nearby Blockbuster Video store suffered the same fate as the full service gas stations.

The storefront is finally being renovated.  The Boss told me last week that a minor emergency clinic was coming into that space next year.  At first that sounded like a fine idea.  Our closest Hospital ER is not a terrible place to have to go and wait for healthcare, especially considering the other options closer to downtown.  But a private company trying to relieve the wait time for more serious injuries by treating the coughs and flu symptoms sounded OK to me.

Yesterday I drove by and noticed that this place is not billing itself as a 'Quack Shack, a Doc in the Box, a Band Aid Box' or whatever.  They are highlighting their full ER abilities.  MRI machines and all.

I looked over at The Boss Lady and simple said "Don't let me die at the old Blockbuster's, OK?"  Thinking back I probably should have said 'Please".

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Two months. Hope you enjoyed the break...

and there is probably more of the same to come.

Been thinking for a few days, trying to come up with something blog worthy.  Today, driving home from work I hit on a topic.  My total lack of anything interesting to say.  I have already mentioned in the past that I have a lot of 'off-limits' topics.  The kids are getting older and I never actually set out to keep a long list of every embarrassing thing they said. Also it is true that there are the many, many interesting things I see and hear in the hallways at school everyday.  Most that are bloggable make it over to Facebook and go no further.

My classroom is an interesting and exciting place that keeps me on my toes but it is extremely off limits for both Facebook and this blog.  No matter how I try to disguise things, I only have a handful of students and it would be much too easy for the mama tigers to find out that I had mentioned their cubs.  Not worth the hassle!

So today my big revelation:  I am no longer cool enough to write about.  When I was really AtHomeDaddy, I was either interesting or at least different enough from the neighbors that it seemed like a worthwhile thing to document.

Now?  I am just a working schlub.  I  head to work at 7:15 and I come home at 5.  Or 6.  Or 11:35pm.  Whatever it takes.  Just like millions of other medium sized dudes do every day.  I listen to NPR or local country radio or Dale Watson beer drinkin' songs.  And I go to work.

After work we still hang out at home as much as possible, but The Princess plays volleyball and The Talker plays soccer so games and practices keep up busy in the little free time we have.  Add to that, my truck has been packed away for almost two years, my yard looks like it belongs in front of the abandoned house around the corner and we have a few chickens. 

There.  You now have a re-cap and status update of every cool thing I have done in the past half dozen years. 

So there it is.  Nothing.  I still have it.  Or I don't.  I feel confused. 

And judged by the number of schlubs I see on the highway every morning, I may be contagious, too!

Friday, August 17, 2012

the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated

AtHomeDaddy and the whole crew (mostly the whole crew, anyways - more about that later) have indeed survived the summer and we are gearing up to get back to school.

I posted earlier in the summer about our road trip adventures through the central US.  Since getting home from New Orleans we have been busy doing not a whole heck of a lot.  Which really isn't the reason for my lack of blogging.  Let's face it, facebook is easier and the audience is much narrower, so I tend to go there instead.

This blog has been around for 1850 posts and more than 6 yearsWOW! just rechecked my math.  8 years!!!   I just can't put it to bed.  I have gone through periods of posting multiple times a day and times that I posted once a month.  Heck I have a couple of other blogs that get updated quarterly.  If that. 

Anyways,  I feel like a stranger in my own house when I pop back in here. Add to all of that the number of things that are now off limits.  I seldom post about school stuff because I am fairly strong in my opinion that I don't wanna get sued.  At least not for something I write on my blog.  If I get sued because of work, let's make it worthwhile.  I am talking US Air steward jumping out of the plane and sliding away with stolen beers, NUTS!  Of course, it is hard to find an inflatable emergency slide on the first floor of a public  middle school...  Challenge accepted!

Next week I start back for real.  Of course, my first day back this summer will also be my 3rd.  Or my  8th. Or my 12th.  Depends on who is counting.  It works like this.  I am on contract to work 187 days a year.  185 days occur during the school year, between staff training week and the last day of school.  Also, I must attend two full days of specific trainings over the summer months.  But I get to wear shorts and flip flops, so that isn't all bad...

The reality of teaching is that I spend June and part of July denying that school is coming back around.  I generally sign up to take additional classes over the summer, especially if I am changing classes/grades/curriculum areas (which I seem to EVERY year).  I went to about 5 or 6 days of these classes this year.  Still it is better than last year, when I went to 17!  After all of that, I start trying to get my thoughts together and getting my classroom set up ASAP in late July or early August.  Once I get that done, I start planning out my daily schedules and covering the big things.  And I plug all holidays into my calendar! 

Anyways, I mainly work in my classroom because it is easier to stay focused on the upcoming year.  But, by the time teachers MUST return to school, I have been in my room almost daily for almost two weeks.  It shortens my summer, but I can work at my own pace and since I am on my own time, I can pick and choose the important things that get my attention.

Next Monday teachers report to campus at 8am.  It will be a rude awakening for us all.  But, I expect that in a couple of weeks we will all be back in the school routine and  plugging away through the academic year.

Of course, all of this is a lot easier since The Talker and The Princess still really like school.  They get excited at the end of each summer.  But based on the fact that I have given up another half a month of my summer and The Boss Lady has worked almost straight through, it seems that they take after their parents.

An aside - I don't think I ever mentioned the new dog on the blog.  Or the other new dog. The one one that came a month or so after the first new dog died two weeks after we brought her home from the animal shelter.

iLean  hanging out in the big bed, watching TV

In the Spring The Boss Lady let me know that we were prepping for the arrival later that week of a two year old Great Pyrenees girl pound puppy from the city shelter across town.  She had a rough life and was really timid, but we all grew instantly attached to iLean (because she always leaned on whoever happened to be nearest). Anyways, it was obvious in a few days that something was really wrong.  Our best guess is that she picked up an infection during her spay surgery.  So The Boss and I did one of the un-fun parent things and we decided to let our new girl go.  It sucks to have an animal put to sleep but this was one of those "right times".

The Princess was rocked even harder than the rest of us.  It sucks to be 8 and have someone tell you your newest pet is dead.  No doubt.

This summer we paid a visit to an animal shelter down the street from my school.  We went out to look at one Great Pyrenees girl but it was obvious that she was more work than we wanted to deal with.  While we were there, The Boss Lady and I finally told each other that we were individually thinking it was time to look for a small, lap dog that The Princess could really bond with.  Thus, we found Jingles, an 8 pound boy who was tagged as a long haired Chihuahua but we quickly realized was at least partly Papillion.  Best guess, Papillion and Dachshund mixed.  Evidently shaken AND stirred!  This is one crazy looking dog.

Sick in bed with her favorite Squirrel!

Anyways, our nefarious plan has worked almost perfectly.  Jingles was renamed Squirrel! and he is The Princess' best buddy.  This little guy is always just about one shake of a magic wand from being force-dressed in a tutu and tiara.  Lucky boy!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Summer is rolling by

The kids and I still have almost a month until school begins. That rules! We really have not accomplished anything worthwhile in weeks. That rules, too! Nothing much to share. We are hiding inside, 'cause it's hot. That does not rule. Blogging via the new Kindle Fire. The unit rules but typing on it is a hassle. Hassles in summer do not rule.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Road Tripping. Again

The Boss Lady was not able to go on our jaunt to St. Louis and Memphis. Somebody has to keep working to pay for all of this running around, you know!?!  As originally planned, we were going to extend our original trip all the way down the Mississippi River to New Orleans.  Time and the fact that I was driving solo AND keeping the kids entertained finally intervened and I cut the trip off and headed for home as we left Memphis.

Last week The Boss Lady said  she would like to visit New Orleans.  Road trip #2 was on!

My go to trip planning sited this summer have been for rental cars and hotels (Best Western). and google maps for routing.  After about 10 minutes on Costco's travel website, I found a hotel that was in walking distance to most sites that we wanted to check out in NOLA and the nearby railcar system's 3 day passes would get us everywhere else.  Even better, the hotel was less than $110 bucks a night.

Turns out we did REAL good on the hotel room.  Because we only stayed in Best Western hotels on our first trip, we had a voucher for a free night.   Since we had never spent more than $75 on the earlier rooms, I was not sure they would comp us the full value of the room, but a discount would be OK, too.  One of the mistakes we made in traveling to new Orleans was under estimating the cost of parking.  Even our hotel charged $25 a night to park a car on site.

When the hotel comp-ed our room for the first night, they also gave us free parking.  So our total stay for two nights and parking was just over $150.  DEAL!

The biggest mistake we made on this trip was our serious underestimation of the cost of eating.  Sicne that is a big reason to go to NOLA, we knew it wouldn't be free.  We estimated about $40 a meal to eat at family friendly (aka CHEAP) places.  We should have upped that by 50%.  We never even ate at the fancy restaurants where dining for 4 could have been $150 or more.  If I had known we were staying so cheap, we might have gone a little higher-end on one meal.

In the end, we had a blast.  We ate great.  We checked out tons of awesome street artists and we heard a lot of incredible music.

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Home Grown

Somewhere near 4 years ago I started using the same egg carton for storing all of our fresh eggs in the 'fridge. It is a nice, sturdy carton but nothing too special.

When starting out with backyard chickens, I was trying to figure out ways to keep the costs manageable while keeping the flock in the best feed for the money. During that time we tried out a brand called Home Grown.

Though we settled on a different brand of feed, my juvenile sense of humor kicked in and I made all sorts of jokes about 'gathering my "home grown" from the backyard'. One pot joke led to another and soon I was carefully dissecting the feed bag.

I used the label to decorate my reliable egg carton. And it has been in constant use ever since. Just like real 'home grown', I giggle a little every time I put some eggs in the fridge.

Sadly, old reliable is getting worn out so I am retiring the carton. No worries, Home Grown gets a place of honor in the kitchen.

Besides, a guy might need a stash box next to the microwave, right?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Road Notes 5 - The final route

Now that we are heading home tomorrow, our route is ALMOST finalized.  This map shows a 1,555 mile route through the central south.  That does not include several hundreds of miles of running around and a few more miles of backtracking while trying to find the hotel driveway,  Twice.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Road Notes 4 - Upward!

Today was THE big day.  We spent a ton of time at the Arch, checking out all of the exhibits and the IMAX movie about the Lewis and Clark Expedition.  And hanging out with the kids 630 up in the Arch is one of the memories I will cherish.

Still, the Arch may not have been the highlight of the day.  City Museum has got to be one of the coolest things I have ever experienced.  If I were a resident of St Louis, this would be my usual hangout with the kids.  As it was, we spent 3 hours and still did not climb (or see) everything.  The kids were wiped out this afternoon and fell asleep on the car ride back to the hotel, so I know this was a quality experience for them.

Tomorrow we are planning to hit the St Louis Zoo and then we will return to Citygarden with out splash worthy clothes.  Today we were not properly equipped since the Emergency Swim Bag had been left at the hotel room on accident.

After Citygarden, we are heading towards Memphis after a quick detour into Kentucky and Illinois.  Sorry Indiana, you didn't make the cut this trip.  

Tomorrow's proposed escape route:

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Road Notes 3 - Onward!

Today we head into St Louis. We will be visiting Grant's Farm and the St Louis Zoo.

We stayed in Springfield, Missouri, the home of the world's hottest hot tub. Awesome!

Today's escape route:

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Monday, June 11, 2012

Road Notes 2 - Getaway Day

We are sitting at The Queen Mother's House, waiting for our rental minivan to be delivered to the sales office.  Road Mistake Number 1 - I forgot to check the default settings on the Costco car rental search engine.  They plan on all pick-ups to happen at noon unless otherwise noted.  I did not note. 

I think we are in pretty good shape to hit the road within an hour of getting the rental.  I will be outfitting the car with a power converter so that the kids can keep a continuous charge on the DS games and the video system that we are hauling along.  After getting the creature comforts setup, we will hit the road for Springfield, Missouri by way of McAlester, Oklahoma and Galena, Kansas.

Today's alleged route:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Road notes 1

Thanks to some bad luck with our cars, the kids and I left a day early on our multi state roadtrip. We were only planning to stop at my parent's house long enough to drop my car and pick up a rental. Realizing we had a day to kill before even getting a real start, I started looking for something entertaining for the crew.

We ended up at the recreation center nears parent's house. And boy, do I feel dumb. It turns out that this place is exactly what I have looked for on every visit home since the kids were born.

We have just killed several hours in the indoor water park and made use of that necessary road trip item, the emergency swim backpack.

This bodes well for our trip. May the car and scheduling hassles be behind us.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Hey FoF!

Look what I found when I replaced a geocache container last month.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

One more

There is one more thing I want to add to my summer "to-do" list.  Unicycling.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Hanging around.

Each summer the kids and I try to settle on a "thing" to do.  It is sort of like a theme.  Maybe you could call it a mission.  Last summer it was supposed to be biking.  We were going to bike all over our neighborhood and discover what we might about the place where we live.  Urban adventure!

Then I remembered that we live in Texas and it gets to a hundred and millionty degrees during the summer.  And it never rained, which made it hotter and dryer.  Mostly hotter.  In the end, we didn't ride our bikes very much.

This summer we are spending the first part of our time off planning for the Family American Road Trip.  We still have not decided on a summer "thing" for the time after our return.  I am thinking that it might be all about hanging out.  Hanging out at home, hanging out at the library, hanging out laundry, hanging on the monkey bars. Whatever and wherever something needs hung, we will be there.  Unless we are hanging out elsewhere.

Last summer, my first spent as a teacher, was also fairly uneventful because I spent about a month in training classes for a new teaching assignment.  The kids and I did not have a lot of hanging out time.  This year, even though I am facing another new teaching assignment, the required training classes are all scheduled for the first week of August.  And I didn't sign up for the optional ones... So that leaves the AtHomeTrio almost two months to hang out and chill.

And that my friends, makes for a good summer "thing"

Monday, June 04, 2012

OK, so here is the deal...

I got busted on a teacher review earlier in the year for using that phrase too often in front of my classes.  Evidently it is not OK to make deals with the students.  I am just supposed to lay it out for them and they are supposed to learn.

Like my students, I sat through the lecture on my technique and then returned to the classroom to make more deals but no real changes...

It is officially summer.  I have no keys to any public school classrooms and I like it that way.  I have very little work related that I need to do between now and August 1.  Awesome!  The kids and I are leaving in about 5 days on our epic road trip to St Louis and points East.  We will be gone for at least a week, running the roads in the south and central United States.  I bet we find some awesome adventures along the way.

In work related news:  I am officially finished with my tenure as a math teacher.  But I will always have the fond, happy memories.  When the new school year starts I will be back on my same campus.  Neither The Boss Lady nor I ended up taking a job at the new school.  My new class will be much different.  I was responsible for 30 7th grade students last school year as their Tracking Teacher. Supposedly I helped them keep up with assignments and communicated with their parents frequently about individual Special Education needs. I was also responsible for 25 math students in my drop-level math classes.  THEN, I saw about 75 more students in grade-level math classes.

Now I am not great at math, but that seems to add up to about 130 kids a day I was supposed to keep tabs on.  Next year I will have less than 10!  And THAT is math that I agree with.

Of course, there is a downside.  These 10 students (maybe as few as 5) come with lots of medical issues and LOADS of paperwork.  I keep thinking that no matter how much paperwork 5 students can generate, there is no way that it could be more than 130 can cause.  I am also afraid that I am about to be slapped right upside the head with a reality check!

The biggest change of all is that I will need to bust out my managing skillz again.  The new classroom comes with a staff of 4 or 5 that I have to keep corralled.  That will be the biggest job.

So there you have it.  The final installment on the 2011-2012 school year.  Forever to be known as The Year of Mikey Math.

Now let us never speak of it again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The end is near!

2 1/2 school days until summer break! Technically I have 3 full work days but the students have a half day on Friday...

Also, my time as a math teacher is wrapping up too! I have finally received my new teaching assignment. There was a big problem this year on our campus and I stepped in to cover a second class last month. I'll be staying in that class next year. Tons more to come about that later.

The AtHomeTrio are hitting the road in a couple of weeks. We are heading to St. Louis and points undetermined on a week long road trip. The Boss Lady has to work a few more weeks before her two week break begins so I'll be making the trip solo.

That part doesn't sound bad but the maniacal sounds of laughter that the wife makes when I talk about the trip are a lot worrisome.

There is tons to catch up on. Luckily for both of you readers, I will soon have a lot of free time to fill you in.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Job changes and unchanges

I didn't get the new job.

I got a different new job.

Surprised? Yeah, not as much as me.

I am staying at the campus I love and because of some chaos caused by NOT me, I am shifting into a new role already. There are only 20 days left at school, but my new gig is crucial so I have started already in my new class.

Of course I have my old classes to cover too. But that is because I am a nice guy.

That and I am always scared when the Principal's office door closes. Seems that all I can say in that closed office is "yes ma'am".

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I may pray to burn in Hell, just so things cool down around here

OK, that may be waaaaaaaaaaay to far with the title, but this blog is still mostly about making myself laugh like a mental patient on a 3 day bender.

Evidently I am in the running for a new job.  Didn't ask for it.  Didn't know it was being considered.  Wasn't looking but the email exploded into my inbox this morning.  Of all of the cool stuff I have done over the years, two of them were EXACTLY right.  I made for a pretty good AtHomeDaddy for all of those years and I am a really awesome Special Education Teacher.  The Boss Lady has to remind me about that once in awhile because I tend to be a pretty harsh critic. 

Even though the work is sometimes tough and the parents are sometimes a pain to deal with, I do not regret moving into teaching at all.  Some would say I just haven't been around long enough to get really bitter and tired.  Those are the teachers I tend not to spend much time around.

Anyways, our school district is opening a new middle school this coming year.  Some of my current students will be moving to the new school.  Teachers are getting shuffled to the new school too.  I haven't been against moving, but I have not really sought out a spot for myself over there either.  That does not seem to matter.  I was called today to interview for a position at the new school.  The technicalities of the position would bore you to tears, but suffice it to say that if I were to create my dream classroom, it would look A LOT like this opportunity.

So, AtHomeDaddy what is the problem? 

Let's just say that The Boss Lady would love (love might be too weak of a word) a job at the new school. But if I take the teaching gig at the new school then she would not be in the running for a new job over there.

See?  You knew I would get back to the title, right? 

I am officially stuck.  I can chase after this opportunity and cost The Boss Lady a shot at a new job. Or I can tell the hiring people to kiss off (nicely, of course) and never have another chance like this land in my lap.  For now I am going to spend a day or two trying to decide.  Wish me luck.

After all, if The Boss Lady kills me in my sleep and hides my body in my classroom filing cabinet, at least we will end up with an easier decision.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Last of the Lucky Sevens

Tomorrow The Princess turns eight years old.  She is an awesome, kickball playing, doll toting, chicken chasing, dancing, singing, awesome bundle of girly-girl.   

She still twists her hair into knots when she is tired.  She wakes up grumpy every school day.  The Princess is my gardening pal and she is always good for a laugh at my really bad jokes.    She still can't seem to keep her room straightened for more than 15 minutes at a time.  She pretty much refuses to ride her bike anywhere but I think she knows that it is easier to parade down the street on foot.  Makes it easier to visit with any neighbor who might have something interesting going on... 

I could not care less about my birthdays anymore.  Just another year on the clock from what I can tell.  Don't get me wrong, I am all for the presents but I would accept them ANY day.  The kid's birthdays are another thing entirely.  Lots of times I think I might be more excited about the day than they are.

Happy Birthday Princess.  I sure hope it is a great day.  'Cause I know you will be an awesome eight year old!

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Might as well make my beauty work for me!

I have signed up to help raise money for St. Baldrick's, a charity that raises funds to help fight childhood cancer.  I hope to raise $500 pretty quickly.  And the team I am on has a goal to raise over $2000.  The catch?  On April 14 I will get my head shaved at the finale of the fund raising.

You guys may have already seen my beautiful, bald melon.  There are several good pictures and stories about the different times I have decided to shave my head.  But this time I get to collect more than a story and a snapshot.  I am going to collect some cash to help out lots of great kids.

Want to donate?  Here is a link to my St. Baldrick's fundraising page.  Donate a lot.  And often.

Or this guy might haunt your dreams.

 A preview from a few years ago, when I "fixed" my hair real good.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

A whole new level of backyard chicken keeping

Fair warning.

This post and the accompanying links may not be for the squeamish...  It is all about our family taking a new step into keeping a backyard flock of chickens.

Chickens lay eggs and they are food too.  That is your last hint...

In the last few weeks I have become more convinced that one of our newest chicks was not a potential egg laying hen (which are really called pullets), but a potential noise maker and hen hassling roo (which are actually called cockerels).  In a backyard flock of 10 (now 9) birds, roosters aren't really desirable especially by the neighbors.

A few days ago The Boss Lady bought a magazine about different chicken breeds.  The suspected rooster was an Australorp and he had huge, long tail feathers.  The magazine all but confirmed my suspicions.  But conventional wisdom says that you don't know for sure until the bird gives you either a crow or an egg.

That noise I heard this morning when I was walking to the car?  Yeah, that was NOT an egg!

I posted an ad on our local chicken message board, but I knew that this guy needed a new home quickly if we were not going to make the neighbors mad. Yeah, their four barking chihuahuas?  That is another story...   No nibbles on the ad, AND Wednesday is trash day which would make it a lot easier to get the "leftovers" taken care of quickly.  It was looking like the rooster's fate was sealed.

This evening The Boss Lady and I decided to butcher the bird ourselves. So, like all good urban farmers, I hit up Google and found this link:

How to butcher a chicken in 20 minutes or less... 

After a few hours of reading up on how to best process and butcher chickens, I decided that this was the best method for us to try for our first time. We would skin the bird, instead of scalding and plucking all of the feathers and there was not even a small chance I would eat the livers and gizzards...

Cut to the chase.  We did the deed and it took less than an hour, including the times that we stopped to read the instructions I printed out.  Now the bird is in the freezer and we will cook up some chicken and dumplings later this week. 

When we started with backyard chickens, I promised the kids we would not be eating their pets.  But this seems like we are kind of coming full cycle with having chickens and growing our own food in the garden. The Boss and I decided that we will tell the kids about the roo and give them a choice when it come time to eat the chicken and dumplings.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Front yard re-do, Part 2

A follow up to my last post, Front yard re-do, part 1

I'll come back and write up a little more about the specifics of our yard makeover, but I think that the results are worth more than the $500 we dropped on this project.

 After two and a half days of work, we are almost done.

 The focal point pieces of our new flower beds.  Two horse water troughs.

Loving the new look!  No Asian Jasmine and a lot more water conscious!

We will get the planters filled next weekend (or during Spring Break). 

What we started with.  That is a big difference!

One of my goals for this project was to re-use as many plants as possible.  Everything that we had growing is water conscious and either native or adapted to Austin's climate.  Plus, the neighborhood deer leave all of this stuff alone!

Lots of the big shrubs were growing out near the street,  so they moved to a better spot in the new  beds, swapping places with much smaller plants.  Of course, that meant that I am now re-doing the flower beds  out by the street, but that project will not be photographed for a while.  

In the end, we only spent money on the planters, some mulch and a roll of weed block fabric.   I am thrilled with the results.  My yard  chairs are no longer facing the street.  We repositioned them, too, so that we  can admire all of our hard work.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Front yard re-do, Part 1

Our house is in need of some serious TLC.  When I was home full-time I kept a pretty close eye on repairs and maintenance needs around here.  In the last year and a half our 30 year old house has started showing her age.

Next month we are having some foundation work done and I have been really wanting to get the yard back in shape.  Today we started cleaning up and renovating a big flowerbed in our front yard.

The front flower bed.  A mix of 1982 fabulous and a 2005 re-work that is looking a little tired and boring.

After Day 1.  
Lots of clean up and digging out of 30 year old ground cover.

There may not be a lot of obvious progress in these pics, but I have the blisters on my hands to prove that The Boss Lady and I did A LOT of work out there today.   I dug out about a mile of Asian Jasmine ground cover that was here when we bought the house.  This stuff is notoriously hard to kill and even though it is brown and dead-looking in the top picture, I am sure we have not seen the last of it.  In fact, I didn't trash the jasmine, I moved it to the backyard to fill holes left by the dog, kids and chickens.  We have a retaining wall that is a pain to mow or weed-eat, so ground cover will be perfect up there.  

To keep the cost of the renovation down, I am going to move several plants to new locations in the landscape.  When we are done with the cleanup and new pea gravel ground cover, we are adding some large planters.  You'll have to wait for those details though.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

I highly recommend

Taking a cruise back though your own blog.

I was heading to bed two hours ago.  Then I decided to find something really quick that I knew was posted here, back in 2006.  Or was it 2005?

Anyways, I have just gotten lost in stories about my children as babies, long dead pets and many of our great times at home.  It made for a good night and I am sure it will all be worth it when I am waaaaaaaaaaaaaay too tired in the morning.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I need a minute

Or maybe a few days.

This working for a living thing is highly overrated.  Especially the parts that involve rolling out of bed before 7am and back into bed after midnight.  I think I'll be burning a day off this week.  I'm not really sick, but I guarantee I could hack up a lung on command just to make sure that my request is taken seriously. 

I was thinking about taking off Monday, but I have evening meetings that I can't miss.  Might as well go in for the whole day.  Exact same thing for Tuesday.  Wednesday would work except that the students get out early on Wednesday, so that is the first day I can actually head for home at a decent hour.  Don't want to miss that!  Of course we have a meeting with The Princess' kickball team that night, so I won't ACTUALLY be at home very early...

Thursday isn't as good as Friday, but this coming Friday is Friday Fun Day.  On these days I let the students work on hardcore math like strategy games (checkers and chess are big hits) and online math games.  That is a day without a lesson plan.  And that is a good day.  Can't miss that one.

So Thursday it is. That is the soon to be (and much needed) scheduled day for my mental health break.

Please don't call.  I'll be very contagious and weak.  I won't be able to answer the phone.  Or email.  Or faxes.  Or text messages.  Or smoke signals.

If it isn't raining I will probably be found out in the garden.  If it is raining, I may still be found out in the garden.  Stop by and plant something for me.  'Cause I am sick, remember?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

It is cold. Lettuce grow some veggies!

Yes!  Two posts in two days, smartass. Get over yourself.

Yesterday we out running some errands and stopped by Home Depot.  We were looking at flooring options for the kid's bedrooms but the kids and I got sidetracked almost immediately inside the store.  There were racks and racks of seed packets displayed just inside the front door.

I admit.  I am the worst kind of gardening junkie.  I don't eat that many veggies and I have never, ever been able to grow a cucumber or tomato that costs less than the grocery store variety.  I'll take The Boss Lady's word for it that they TASTE better.  What I really like is the planning, the prep and playing outside a lot in the Spring.  As my grandma said, after that it is just scratching dirt and petting the plants.

Last fall I kicked the addiction.  I was planning a big fall garden but my real world commitments won out.  There was no time left.  The chaos that is currently my backyard proves that is true. OK, I didn't KICK the addiction, but I didn't make my gardening addiction worserer.  That is a win, right?

Flash to yesterday, just inside the doors at Home Depot.  I tried to be a good, reformed junkie.  I glanced at the displays, but we were here to find floors dammit and not seeds.  Floors are made of made of hard stuff and colors and hardly ever make you sweat or give you skin cancer.

That is what veggie gardens are for.

The store didn't have what we wanted.  And we were headed out.  But I couldn't resist one more glance at the pretty seed packets.  Junkies will tell you, it is the second look that will get you in trouble.  When I first saw the garden displays my animal brain was like "Look, stuff in small envelopes with pictures. Interesting."  But when we went by the next time my inner garden junkie was all like "C'mon. You can pick up just one.  It is the perfect time to plant lettuce and snow peas.  No one will know.  Just be cool, dude.  I dare you!"  Damn.  A dare.

Thirty seed packets and $25 later, I was out the door with a Spring's worth of work ahead of me and just enough starter soil to get a few transplants ready to go in the kitchen windowsill.  After all, I was there already, right?  No need to waste time making another trip to a garden center to buy seeds.  I was saving time and money by getting my fix.  But right in front of the kids too?

Well, they sort of started it.  The girl was looking for packets of Blue bell flower seeds.  And The Talker?  He didn't help either.  He was checking out all of the cool colored veggies that neither of us will ever eat.  He started it by talking about those cool, purple carrots.

So blame them when I don't answer the phone on the weekends.  I'll be busy, out in the garden getting my fix.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Living life 52 minutes at a time

I have enjoyed lots of cool times in my short 41 years.  Every part of my life seems to have it's own pace, too.

A few years back, when I was home with the kids full time, one day seemed to melt into the next. We all just sort of cruised from weekend to weekend.  We had a lot of fun on Mondays through Fridays, but if you had asked me the day of the week on one of those, I likely wouldn't have had a clue.  But I always KNEW when it was Saturday.  Sometimes known as "Go play with your Mommy day!"

When I was previously working for the man, at the city owned recreation center, the days counted.  A lot.  I had a co-worker that I hoped would die in a fiery crash was not fond of.  Any day that I did not commit murder start a fiery crash drop some arsenic in her drink completed with only a little hassle was a good day.  There weren't many of those, so I cherished the few.

Now that I am fully into this new teaching career, I find that I live 52 minutes at a time.  Why 52?  'Cause that is how long our middle school class period is.  Every 57 minutes a new herd files in.  Then they go away 52 minutes later with the knowledge that I have masterfully imparted unto them. The 5 minute passing period usually gives me enough time to police my room for left-behind supplies and school work for other classes.  But sometimes I spend the 5 minutes sitting at my desk, pondering important questions about life.

I think about things like "How many 52 minute class periods are there between now and Spring Break? How many 52s between now and Summer?".  These are the eternal questions of a teaching mind. 

One of my many, varied jobs over the years was also my first foray into public education.  When I was 22 I worked at a public school Outdoor Education Center.  We had 5th grade students come to our center from Houston ISD elementary schools and stay on a 3 night, 4 day field trip.  They were learning about science, math and history while we incorporated environmental studies into all of the lessons.  Yes, Hippies were teaching your children.

One of the other cabin leaders (who still works at the Outdoor Education Center) was the master of "Camping 10 minutes at a time" as he named his sanity program.  When he had a particularly tough crown to work with for the week, I would hear his watch alarm chirp every 10 minutes, as an audible reminder that the weekend was a little bit closer than it used to be.

I have not gotten to the point where I need a 10 minute alarm several times each class period.  But that bell at the end of the class period does sometimes sound like angels singing to me!  And I MAY have been shopping for a new set of batteries for my nicest watch.  Time will tell.  Ba dum bump...

For the record, I dispensed with the usual "it sure has been a long time" blather.  I know it has been a long time since I actually wrote over here and you don't really care.  So we will deal with it.  I will also skip over the required "I promise to write again soon."  If you saw my schedule right now, you would know that I am not committing to anything else.

See you later.  Probably.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Forgot to mention

I am now fully and officially standardized and certified! I have a certificate that cost about $5500 to prove it, too.

After a couple of months of me waiting impatiently and begging the powers-that-be, my Standard Teacher's Certificate was posted online this week. This meant I could pay another $75 and get my specialty areas added to the cert (and that I could wait another few weeks to see the revised, final copy).

All of this was made even more exciting by the fact that the state waited to post my real certificate until my one year cert had been expired for about a week.

In the end, the final copy was posted in about 2 days. Before I even had a chance to call and hassle the state education office!

Sick days

I haven't taken two sick days in a row in more than 10 years I bet. That streak ends this week. I guess it would be the time I got my gall bladder taken out and I wasn't even 30 years old then.

I went to the doctor today and got a shot to help with my cedar allergies. Cedar trees are everywhere in Austin. So this time of year everybody within 50 miles is sniffling and snorting and rubbing eyes. January is always a great time to people watch around here.

Anyways, I always end up with a sinus infection on The Talker's birthday, which rolls around on Friday. This year I was a little ahead of schedule.

My old doc no longer takes our insurance. I have known this for more than a year but today was the first time I NEEDED to go to see a doctor. Of course I haven't done the leg work to find a new doc so I ended up at a walk-in clinic.

If it were not for the higher co-pay, I would just go here until the next insurance change. Online check-in, and new patient paperwork rules!

The insurance had changed our 'scrip coverage too. Thanks to The Boss Lady for calling around the HR office to get the info I needed. There are some great perks to having the wife work at the same place!

I feel better but these medicines always keep me awake for about 24 hours so hopefully I'll pretend like I am David Melin and I'll snooze the day away while the kids are at school tomorrow.