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Monster Pictures

Last night was Littlest Monster’s big night:  she graduated from kindergarten!  Here are a few pictures from the big event.  My Dad – aka Papa from Mexico (he worked in Mexico for about two years when the monsters were little and the name stuck) drove all the way back down here for the event (1 1/2 hour drive one way) despite being in Springfield earlier in the day to take my Grandpa to a doctor’s appointment.  Princess Monster isn’t pictured since she had her first Karate for Christ lesson last night.

Littlest Monster Graduates from Kindergarten
Littlest Monster Graduates from Kindergarten
Middle Monster hams it up
Middle Monster hams it up
The Monsters love their Papa
The Monsters love their Papa
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Happy Mother’s Day!

Sorry, I’m late, I know.  It’s been a busy weekend.

Last night, Princess Monster sang with her honor choir on stage at the Baldknobbers in Branson.   It was such a great experience, and we all had a great time.  However, that meant we didn’t get home until really late, and earlier, we had a lot of prep.

The monsters gave me my gifts yesterday.  Princess and Littlest Monster each picked out an outfit with Dad’s help, pink and orange respectively (their favorite colors).  Middle Monster surprised me with her gift:  makeup, the bare minerals kind at Wal-Mart.  Of course, the best part of the gift in her opinion was putting that makeup on Mom before the show last night!  And of course, I let her put some on too.  Mom looked very spiffy for the show.

They each also colored cards and handmade things.  Princess Monster made a poetry book; Middle Monster wrote me a really cute letter; and Littlest Monster drew a picture of me and her going to a coffee shop.  Do they know me or what?

Today, we were at the in-laws.  Sigh.  Not my idea, but oh well.  They wanted me to bring Settler’s Beans, but with not getting home until late last night, and it being Mother’s Day today, I just didn’t want to cook.  We picked up chickens and a fruit plate at Wal-Mart; others brought KFC fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and cole slaw.  The fruit was a big hit.  I wanted chocolate dipping sauce, but couldn’t find any, so I settled on dark hot fudge.  Ooooh, it was so good!  I brought an extra container of strawberries, and then Aunt S donated more when we ate all of ours.  Grandma also made homemade ice cream.

That Man and I came home around 4 PM to work on laundry, and Uncle T brought the monsters home around 6 PM.  I also talked with Granny, my mom, and folded 3 loads of laundry so far.  The only thing I haven’t done much of this weekend:


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Home Again

The monsters had a blast.  Mom and Dad are broke and exhausted.

Oh, it wasn’t that bad.  It just always costs more than I had planned, and Branson is sooooo expensive!

We decided to somewhat splurge on the hotel and then at most, allow one show.  We carefully picked a hotel with an indoor pool and a full kitchen, thinking we could eat most of our meals at home.  We stopped at Wal-Mart soon after hitting town and stocked up on frozen pizzas, pop, yogurt, cereal, fruit, bagels, etc.  That was probably the smartest thing we did, because each time the monsters got out of the pool, they fell on the food like a pack of STARVING wolves.

The hotel itself scored high on a few items, but not so high on others.  Indoor pool – score.  Master bed – sucked.  Literally, we were both stiff and sore each morning and I’m exhausted.  The mattress was a slab of marble, and the pillow, a pancake.  The master jacuzzi (macuzzi, as the monsters call it) – score.  All of us tried it out, and it was big enough for me plus two monsters at once.  Indoor pool – score.  Only catch, we had to walk outdoors 70 yards or so to reach it, but it really wasn’t bad until we were wet and had to rush back to the hotel to change.  (Remember, it was cold enough they were calling for snow.)  Wi-Fi – sucked.  As advertized, the hotel did have Wi-Fi — but not in the rooms.  I had to go downstairs to the basement “lounge” which I never had time to do.

Other than the beds, I would stay there again.  We had a nice balcony off the master — but couldn’t use it because it was too cold.  It had a lovely view of the covered outdoor pool and the wintered grounds.

The trout fish hatchery was cool (and free!) – except it was sooo cold and wet Saturday.  Our hands were frozen but that didn’t stop us from feeding the fish.  The Table Rock Lake dam was cool, and we made the big loop Saturday afternoon through the Ozark mountains and lakes.  There were red buds in bloom – gorgeous.  However, it was too cold to take any of the trails from the lookout points.

We splurged on one nice dinner out, a sort of tradition the few times we’ve gone to Branson.  Landry’s Seafood is That Man’s favorite place to eat (even though Famous Dave’s BBQ finally came to the Branson Landing).  However, it was extremely expensive, and not that good this time.  The kids’ meals were ridiculously overpriced.  That Man was happy with his food, but I ordered the (hopefully) healthier broiled platter, and ended up eating 2 shrimp, 2 scallops, and a tiny bit of the tilapia that was fried, not broiled, and tasted like muddy catfish.

Saturday night we decided to do one show.  It was between the Acrobats of China and Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede.  Of course, horse-loving Middle Monster was dying to see the “Dancing Ste-pee” as she called it.  They do have the stables open to the public so you can meet the horses, and she went on and on about Nico the gorgeous black Fresian and Midnight, a smoky gray quarter horse.  She dragged us there three times to see the horses, and since that part was free…. We went.  However, the show itself is probably the most expensive show in town because it includes dinner.  We went back and forth, and finally decided to do the Stampede.

We had such a blast.  Middle Monster was riveted from the first horse’s appearance.  The only one who didn’t have the best time was Littlest Monster, who cried at one point because it was too loud.  It didn’t help that Mom was cheering loudly at the time.  (I can have a big voice when I need to.)  The show is loosely based on the Civil War, and we were on the North side.  So each time the gray soldiers galloped by, we were supposed to boo.  It’s a very interactive show, and I missed parts because we were eating DURING the show and one monster or the other had a question or needed help.  They served a massive amount of food – score.  No silverware – sucked.  Try three monsters eating their cornish hen and “drinking” their soup with no silverware.  Ugh.

Anyway, it really was fun.  We were parked in the next to last row (we’d gotten there too early – so Middle Monster could meet the horses again – and the previous show hadn’t let out yet, so the lot was full).  We expected to be stuck in traffic forever.  However, by the time we all hit the potty again and stopped at the gift shop (Mom and Dad are such suckers), the lot was mostly empty and we had no problems exiting. 

[Aside:  back in the “good old days,” exiting a Branson show was a nightmare.  There was only one major road through downtown, called “the strip”, and shows lined up and down steep hills.  All the shows got out at the same time, and all traffic had to pass through the strip to get to the camping areas, Shepherd of the Hills, and Silver Dollar City.  Talk about nightmare!!!  As a kid, I remember sitting in the car (no air conditioning in July) in front of the same show trying to get out of town for 45 minutes without our car moving an inch.]

We had to be out at 10 this morning.  The monsters were hoping to swim one more time, but we just couldn’t fit it in.  They’d swum about 3 hours Friday night, and 1 hour Sat. night.  We’d planned to stop at a “Chuck E Cheese” sort of nightmare place, but it had gone out of business.  (Thank God.)  We stopped at a nature thing on the way home, threw a few rocks in the creek, and finally hit home.

Within 10 min. of unloading the car, we had company and I blew more money on a really good cause.  (Aunt BB and Uncle J have started a new home business to fund an adoption.  I just hope I’m not allergic to the essential oils we bought.  Most perfumes close off my throat and make me sneeze like crazy.)  By the time we did dinner, got the monsters’ baths done, etc. we’re both collapsed on the couch and trying really hard to not see the mountain of laundry waiting in the next room.

Only book I successfully finished was Desire Unchained, which I loved.  We had too many monster-driven activities for me to read as much as I hoped.

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Weekend Mini-Vacation

Since the monsters are on spring break, we decided to take today off from our Evil Day Jobs and plan a little mini vacation for them.  They *love* to spend the night in a hotel, and we haven’t gone anywhere since the urgent St. Louis trip last year when FIL was hospitalized.  Originally, we planned to drive back to St. Louis and see Grant’s Farm, but two things made us change our mind:

  • Possibility of 6 (or more!) inches of freakish snow tomorrow, with a four-hour drive home the next day!
  • Grant’s Farm is closed until April 18th.  :mad:


So we decided to go to Branson instead.  It’s only 30-40 min. away, so if the weather gets bad, we can get home without too much difficulty.  We don’t go to Branson often because of horrendous tourist traffic and it’s EXPENSIVE.  However, this is still the off season, so we found a nice condo-style hotel with an indoor pool just off the strip that was pretty reasonable.  We’re going to drive around the lake (free), find a beach so the kids can get close to the water (free), maybe go see the fish hatcheries (I think that’s free too), etc.  I doubt we’ll do any shows, because I’m guessing that would cost closer to $100 for a family of 5.  Yes, the prices are ridiculous.

Mostly, we’re going for the nice hotel and pool. 

We’re leaving sometime today (got to sleep in a bit and bum around the house since we didn’t have a four hour drive!).  The only thing I’ve packed?

My reward books.   I’m taking:

  • Desire Unchained by Larissa Ione
  • New Blood by Gail Dayton
  • Clockwork Heart by Dru Pagliassotti

I think that should get me through the weekend.  Although I might take one more just to be safe.  I don’t read…I devour.

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Cookie Monsters

It had sounded like such a good idea….

To thank the Upward Basketball coaches for a great season, I thought we’d make homemade cookies.  Aunt Molly (my beloved Sis) made really cute decorative boxes for the monsters this Christmas, which inspired me.  I could totally see lovely painted boxes filled with delicious homemade cookies!  Oooh, we could put the Upward star on the lid, too…

The first hitch was that the two coaches liked different cookies (peanut butter and chocolate chip).  And of course I didn’t have time to start any of this until the night before the last get-together.  And I didn’t have enough brown sugar — so we all trooped to the grocery store.  I also didn’t have a tried and true peanut butter recipe, so I decided to use the one off the Jiffy jar (I was making Tollhouse cookies anyway).

Meanwhile, we had the decorative boxes to paint.  Two coats because I wanted to be fancy.

One monster opened the paint when I wasn’t looking.  I’m sure you won’t need three guesses to say it was Middle Monster (and you’d be right).  Immediately, she got paint on my island, her shirt, and her toe.  Don’t ask.

Then I forgot and used my Air Bake pans.  I don’t bake cookies often enough to remember that I despise those @Q#&$* pans and I can’t bring myself to throw them out because they cost so much.  I can NEVER get cookies done!  The peanut butter ones didn’t do too badly, but the Tollhouse ones smooshed as soon as I tried to take them off, even after I let them sit a few minutes (and even though I added an extra 1/2 c. of flour).  Grrrrr.  I barely had enough that didn’t look like monster mud pies to include in the box.  The pb cookies aren’t the greatest, either, although they’re not bad.

(I love me a good pb cookie.  One time I lived on them an entire weekend when my high school band teacher dropped me off alone at an All-District Band concert with no transportation and everything on campus was closed.  Thank you, Lord, for Grandma’s PB cookies in the vending machine.)

Then Princess Monster drew the Upward star on top with a black marker and wrote the coaches’ names out.  I wanted the star bigger, but it looked cute the way she did it.  The boxes didn’t look half bad at all.  Even messy monsters can sponge paint!  Hopefully the cookies were a big hit with the coaches.  I know That Man and the monsters looooooved the messy, sticky lumped up Tollhouse cookies, even if it did look like something they made out of clay!

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Busy, Distracted, and Stinky

Sorry for the unexpected blog holiday.  I’ve been a bit scattered the last week and life has been busy.  No, Revision Xibalba is not going well.  I wrote a couple of hundred words, realized I had started the scene in the wrong place, and deleted them all.  I wrote several pages of notes at basketball practice, but I’ve been too busy to get them written into a scene, and I’ve been too tired to get up Dark & Early.  Argh!  It drives me nuts when I let life distract me!

Today will be no better, with basketball this morning and a possible road trip the rest of the day.

Now for the stinky…

Last night Uncle J and Aunt BB stopped by for dinner and then we helped them get a large gorgeous piece of artwork home on the other side of town.  We were on the freeway headed home behind a semitruck.  That Man noticed a dead animal in the middle of the road but we couldn’t swerve with cars on the left.  Besides, it was dead, right?  What harm could it cause?

Well, evidently it was a FRESHLY killed SKUNK, so fresh that it managed to spray the van. 

Now no one enjoys the smell of a skunk, except maybe another skunk, but That Man cannot stand “country” smells.  (You should see him driving by Iowa pig farms in the heat of summer with no air conditioning.)  He was gagging and retching, the kids were moaning like they were dying, and I sat there with my mouth shut tightly because if I opened it I could taste the skunk.  Ugh.  It really was strong, but it was funny listening to their reactions.

We started looking for a car wash.  I kid you not, we hit three and all three were closed.  *boggles*  It’s only our luck!

We had to circle all of town smelling like fresh roadkill skunk before we finally found a car wash next to the monsters’ old daycare.  We did the works, the $8 complete package, and then we parked the van outside overnight so it didn’t stink up the garage.  That Man cracked the windows, too, so hopefully the smell will air out.

I swear, I still smell that skunk, even after sleeping all night.  If the van still reeks, we will NOT be making the 3 hour roundtrip car ride to celebrate That Man’s parents’ wedding anniversary after basketball today!

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The News

I didn’t know that Ann was prophetic.

Before Christmas, she mailed me the coolest goodies.  Inside, I found signed Larissa Ione books (fan girl squee!), shells, and RT swag, including dozens of postcards, bookmarks, and a big comfy red blanket.

Of course, I didn’t get to keep the blanket for long. 

Princess Monster snuggles
Princess Monster snuggles


Someone was always stealing my blanket! 

Middle Monster hugs (chokes) Littlest Monster
Middle Monster hugs (chokes) Littlest Monster

Then some wonderful news came.  I danced and yelled down the hall and the monsters came running.  When they heard the news, they grabbed the red blanket and raced around the house shouting and waving it like a banner.

You see, Conn and Rae of Letters to an English Professor have found a home at:

Samhain Publishing

Conn’s story will be getting a new title too.  So if any of you have read snippets or my blabbering about the story and have a title suggestion, shout it out!

Thanks to everyone who has read Letters in its various incarnations and provided feedback; who gave me the courage to send out such a spicy story; who talked me off the cliff once or dozens of times; and a huge thank you to Angela James and Samhain for giving Dr. Connagher a chance for more pop quizzes and smoldering poetry lessons!

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Catching Up

Sorry I’ve not been posting as regularly as usual.  I’m running so low on energy that it’s an effort to do anything, and this has been a very busy weekend.

Yesterday was not only the first day of Upwards Basketball for all three monsters (all playing at different times), but it was also Middle Monster’s 7th birthday.  All three girls had a great time at the games, and as I went with each kid after her game, waited through the “award” ceremony, snacks, etc. then the three hours on the bench went by very quickly.  The two youngest monsters’ games were scoreless — every kid is a winner — but they do keep score on Princess Monster’s games.  Last year, her team lost every single game (8 weeks) and it was so hard to keep upbeat and positive.  It was a terrible — but great — experience for her.  She had to learn to play anyway, even when there’s no hope of winning, and still do her best, as well as losing gracefully.

This year, she had an excellent game from what I saw of it (she played second, so I missed part of it while helping Littlest Monster after her game).  She made several baskets, and thanks to her height (even though she’s one of the youngest on her team), she made several key rebounds and blocks too.  Her team won their game by about ten points, against some really great athletes we’ve met over the years.

Since it was Middle Monster’s birthday, Papa from Mexico made it down, and then went with us to Branson for her birthday dinner at Famous Dave’s.

She asked for a Build-A-Bear for her birthday — gasp, a trip to the dreaded mall! — and she picked out a Scruffy Puppy who’s adorable.  I’ll try to take a picture later.

We planned to go to church this morning.  We’ve missed a couple of Sundays because I’ve been sick.  Unfortunately, I was up most of the night coughing, this time bad enough that I got up and dozed on the couch so everyone else could sleep.  Three doses of Vicks 44 and half a dozen cough drops, I finally got the spasms down and went back to bed around 4 a.m.  Needless to say, we stayed home again.  My cough is even worse today, very chesty and nasty.  The clinic called to see how I’m doing, and she admittted I still sounded bad, but to give it another day or two.

I don’t know how I can possibly work if I’m not sleeping.  I’m exhausted today, despite sleeping in this morning.  I guess I’ll see what kind of night I have again.  I hate calling in to work for a sick day because of a “cold” but this is getting ridiculous.  Even though I won’t infect anyone (I telecommute from home), my brain power is just not there for the level of work I need to be doing right now.

Writing has been beyond me, but reading has been fine.  So I finished the paper-pass on The Road to Shanhasson and got that back to my editor today.  I’m reading a critique for a friend today while watching football.

And trying not to cough up a lung.

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Thanksgiving Prep

My to-do list today is insane.

  • get the monsters to school
  • run by the bank
  • take the dog to the groomer’s
  • run by Wal-Mart for thyme and a few decorative items
  • unload and reload dishwasher
  • throw a load of sheets in the washer
  • change the filter in the heater
  • make pie crust for 2 pies:  while making the crust, I realized I’d bought Eagle Brand (sweetened condensed milk) instead of Carnation (evaporated milk), so add:
  • trip to the store to buy Carnation evaporated milk
  • pick up the dog from the groomer’s
  • pick up the monsters (early dismissal)
  • continue making the pumpkin filling and bake the pies
  • get Flarp out of Middle Monster’s hair
  • wash Middle Monster’s hair to get out the rest
  • referee my monsters and their two friends from school
  • keep starving kids from eating each other as snacks
  • throw sheets in the dryer
  • peel 10 pounds of potatoes for Granny’s “heavy potatoes” including sour cream and real butter to be twice baked tomorrow
  • dice celery, onion and saute for stuffing
  • dice 13 cups of bread for stuffing
  • make fudge
  • make 2 loaves of chocolate Amish Friendship bread
  • what’s for dinner again? (chinese takeout)
  • make second kind of stuffing (cornbread)
  • bake ham for the turkey haters
  • strip our bed and wash another load of sheets
  • fold 2 loads of laundry from last night (Princess Monster helped!)
  • clean dorm-sized fridge in garage for overflow (That Man did this for me)
  • WRITE!
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RX Day 22, 23

I’ve made it semi-dark and early two days in a row but I don’t have a lot to report.  I’m editing previously written sections and smoothing old and new together.  Night Sun Rising is up to 106 pages and I’m getting ready to decide what section kicks off Chapter 6.

We’ve had another scare with Middle Monster.  She threw up in her bed again the other night, but didn’t wake up.  No one knew she’d thrown up.  Of course, immediately I envisioned her choking to death in her sleep.  We bought a baby monitor (our old one was sold in a yard sale years ago) last night, but it picked up every little sound with tons of static, and the bunk beds are really, really squeaky.  At 1 AM, That Man finally turned the damned thing off so we could sleep.  I checked her as soon as I got up this morning and all is well.  We’ll have to tinker with the channel and placement of the monitor so it’s not quite so annoying, yet can still protect her if she does get sick again.

The Evil Day Job is really ramping up this week.  I’ve got a project to turn over for testing by the end of this week and more demands on an even larger one that have waited while I get this other one done, and a little project that has delicate timing moving into production on Monday.  Oh, and I’m out two days next week, which throws a monkey wrench into everything.  It’s amazing, I still have to get my work done even if I’m not in the office.  I still have obligations and deadlines, but now even less time to meet them.

And then I wonder why I still have 120+ hours of vacation to use.  :roll: