Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Master J had a tough day at school today. He didn't drink most of his coffee this morning, didn't drink any of his coffee for lunch and somehow got a hold of gummy bears. The lack of coffee makes him act out enough, add in the high fructose corn syrup and dyes in the gummy substance and it's pretty much all over but the crying. At one point, Master J told a fifth grade teacher and her entire class to "Get out of my way!" because he wanted to cross the hall. Needless to say, he'll be spending recess tomorrow writing an apology note to the teacher. Here's where it gets fun...

Me: So you know, you probably shouldn't be rude to any teachers, but especially not one you could end up having as a teacher later.

MJ: What do you mean?

Me: I mean, what if the teacher you were rude to ends up being your fifth grade teacher?

MJ: She won't remember that it's me.

Me: Teachers have really good memories you know. She'll remember you.

MJ: But she doesn't know my name.

Me: Dude, everybody knows your name.

MJ: No she doesn't. And I quote "I don't know who you are, but you can't talk to me like that." So she doesn't know my name.

Me: Ok, but don't you think she's going to figure it out when you write that apology note to her tomorrow?

MJ: I'll just sign a different name.

I think I'm raising the next Frank Abagnale.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Spike wielding spiders

Over the weekend Mister C and I were sitting on the patio talking. Master J was around the side of the house playing. Eventually, Master J wandered near us and informed us that he had killed a spider. And of course there was a conversation...

Me: Why would you kill the spider instead of just letting it go about it's business?

MJ: Because it was looking at me like it was going to attack.

Me: What do mean "like it was going to attack"?

MJ (striking a pose with legs spread and hands up in "attack mode"): You know, it was looking at me like this, like I was it's prey.

Me: Aren't you kind of big to be spider prey?

MJ: Well it looked like it was going to attack. And you know (voice now sounding like he's reading from a book) some spiders have spikes on their legs and when they feel threatened they can throw those spikes at the eyes, mouth and nose of their attacker."

Me (trying like hell not to laugh): Where on earth did you hear that?'

MJ: In a book.

Me: Well okay, but don't kill any more spiders okay? Just leave them alone and they'll leave you alone.

MJ: Okay. But it was going to attack.

Like it's not bad enough to live in the land of scorpions and rattlesnakes, now I have to worry about spiders that throw spikes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A grand entrance by any definition

Lately I've been getting up about a half an hour before Master J in order to have some quiet time to myself before I start my day. I usually drink my (no longer sugared) coffee and check my emails to see what emergency came in over night. Then I start putting together Master J's lunch and coffee thermos for the day. This is usually about the time he comes wandering down the hall and greets me.

This morning, as I was futzing around the kitchen, I heard his door open up. And then I heard his music get decidedly louder. So I popped my head into the hall to see what Master J was up to. I'm not even sure I could adequately describe what was marching down the hall, but I'll give it a shot.

On his feet were his boot-style slippers, which the pant legs to his pajamas were tucked in to. He was wearing his green hooded sweatshirt with the hood pulled up and sunglasses. Around his neck, and flapping behind him as he walked, he had tied one of his blankets, the one with Pooh on it.

Master J was striding purposefully down the hall to the beat of the music. When he got to the bathroom door, he executed a smart right turn into it and flipped the door closed without looking at it.

So which song was playing for his grand entrance? Why, the theme music that's played every time Darth Vadar is striding somewhere of course. God I love that kid!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

What kind of week has it been so far?

Today's best accomplishment? Finally sitting down and reading Sunday's newspaper. That kind of week.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Not to Sell Your House

Leave minor maintenance jobs until they become major ones. This rotted fascia board is caused by a roof leak on the patio overhang. It would have taken about fifteen minutes to fix what was probably a missing shingle or two. Now it's a roof repair and fascia replacement.

Be sure and leave unusable items (aka "junk") laying about. Buyers always have too much stuff to store at their old place, why else would they move? Now they know exactly where they can store their old tires and scrap metal in their new home.

Cause permanent damage to your home in order to make it "fit" your needs.

Don't bother with litter boxes or with house training your pets. Besides, that overpowering smell won't be so noticeable so long as the temperatures stay down. What's that? Oh, we live in Arizona and summer is coming? Huh, I guess we never noticed because we always had the a/c on but now that the power is off...

When you do take on a home improvement project, always make sure you do it half-assed. Why bother taking down the blinds to paint? Is it really worth the effort when nobody will probably notice anyway?

Never, ever clean. People won't think twice about the fact that they can see a perfect outline of filth around the areas where your dog kennels were kept.

This could be a really cute home and it's in a great neighborhood with excellent schools within walking distance. It's also a short sale, which means the owner won't put another penny into it and the bank won't either because they don't own it (yet). Someone will buy it, but it will most likely be an investor who will pay bottom dollar and then flip it. I can't judge what's happening in someones life to make them want to live like this but I can tell you that some people are just not responsible enough to be homeowners. Come to think of it, I probably wouldn't want them as tenants either.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

I still miss her

I was sorting through my tons of digital photos and came across this picture of Nora and Lu catching some rays in our old house in Nebraska.

It reminded me of how nice it was to have an older dog with brains instead of the young idiot we have now in Izzy. I think Nora misses the peace too.

Friday, March 19, 2010

They're back!

Mister C requested that I trim back my hibiscus several months back. It had been beaten down by the strong winds in some of our recent storms. I cut back about a third of the plant, the part where the flowers are.

About two weeks ago, Mister C requested that I trim it back again because he felt it was still too big. I refused, because I wanted to see it bloom again. We went round and round with this discussion on multiple occasions. I kept stalling. The truth is, it makes me happy to walk out my back door and see the huge blooms.

How could it not?

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What the hell happened?

I am very capable of baking a decent birthday cake. Every year since my child was born (except one) I have made him some sort of decorated cake. They haven't all been fantastic, but I try my best and it's usually passable. For example...

This was for his fourth birthday. It's nothing too exciting, pretty basic technique and less than stellar results. But passable.

For his fifth birthday, he requested a big train cake for the adults...

and an individual mini-train cake for each child.

He was really into Scrabble when he turned seven. I messed around with a Scrabble game until I figured out how to lay out the words properly. I then took a picture of the game and used it as my reference for decorating the actual cake.

This bucket of popcorn was our compromise for his eighth birthday. He wanted to incorporate Transformers, a bucket of popcorn and tornadoes. We decorated with Transformers and I made this cake.

Apparently I saved the tornadoes for this year, because here's this year's attempt at basic, non-decorated cupcakes.

The best part was he got them the day after his birthday.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Biting off more than he can chew...

This is Elvis

Elvis decided to consume a baby blue zebra. More like a teenager actually. Maybe the teenager was mouthing off, telling Elvis he was an idiot and generally behaving as teenagers do. Maybe Elvis just had a sudden snack attack and couldn't control himself. Either way, when I got up yesterday, the above picture represents how I found Elvis.

At first I wasn't too worried about it. Fish are not notoriously picky eaters. The only criteria that food really has to meet is that it fits in their mouth. I regularly lose babies to the bigger fish in my tank and I'm okay with that. Circle of life, extra protein snack, whatever, it's all good.

But Elvis apparently either over estimated the size of his own mouth or under estimated the size of the other fish. Because he swam around with that dead teenager in his mouth for hours. Like, twelve of them.

I started getting a little worried after the first five or six hours. At one point I even netted Elvis and tried removing the dead one by hand. I know right? Who lives the life of Riley? Who? That's right people, I do. Unfortunately, when faced with his insane keeper trying to "save" him, Elvis chomped down harder on his prize and refused to give it up. So I tossed him back in the tank and resigned myself to losing him when he finished choking to death on his snack. Honestly, I'm not even sure fish can choke to death what with their gills and all, but you get my point.

Twelve hours after first seeing Elvis in his predicament I saw him swim into the plants and come up with an empty mouth. I immediately checked the tank and saw the dead fish laying behind the plants. Yay! I scooped the body out and deposited it into the appropriate burial location. Yes, the kitchen trash can, wrapped in paper towel and stuffed in a plastic bag. Then I went to check to see how Elvis was doing, and had to laugh. Because now he was swimming around with his mouth wide open like he couldn't close it. I started wondering if that was going to be permanent, him swimming around looking like a slack jawed idiot, but this morning he's back to normal.

So at the end of the day, what have we learned? Fish are gluttonous half-wits with no spatial comprehension. Guess that's as good a lesson as any.

Monday, March 15, 2010


Got the email at 2:40 today to let me know that the sale was complete and had been recorded. After three and half months of back and forth, issue after issue, the trailer of doom finally closed. Awesome. Just, awesome.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Amazing cichlids

Do you see the little yellow fish in front of the big yellow fish? That's a baby electric yellow (or Labidochromis caeruleus). It's also one tough little fish. There are two more just like him/her. Why do I think they are so tough? Because they are survivors extraordinaire.

On Friday I realized that one of the two filters I have on my big tank was running pretty poorly. It wasn't pushing out hardly any water from the outflow and I knew I needed to clean it out. The thing is, I hadn't cleaned it out in quite some time and in addition, it's been getting a tad overcrowded what with all the breeding going on in the tank. The thing that pushed it over the edge for me was that one of my females had apparently died and someone (or someones) had disemboweled her. Which is horrifying enough in it's own right, but in this situation was even worse because she was full of eggs. So, yeah, eggs everywhere and a filter that's barely working forced the issue. I shut down the filter and removed it to the kitchen sink where I could work on it.

To say it was "dirty" is kind of like saying a Hell's Angel is a tiny bit anti-social. It was filthy, disgusting, filled with sludge and downright abusive to my fish. So I spent about forty five minutes completely cleaning it out before putting it back together and starting it up again. After spending an additional fifteen minutes cursing at it to get it to start back up again, it worked a whole lot better.

At this point, I knew I needed to clean out the other filter. I mean obviously it's in the same tank and was most recently cleaned at about the same time as the other filter. But I was tired. It takes a lot out of you to curse out a filter while trying to get it started. So I decided to wait another day and tackle it Saturday.

Saturday rolls around and I spent the better part of the day avoiding the inevitable. I just had no motivation to deal with that filter. I knew it was going to take another forty five minutes to an hour to do it. I knew I was going to end up smelling like fish water. I just. had. no. desire.

Eventually though, I run out of other things to do and start the process all over again. I shut down the second filter, detached it from the hoses and got it to the sink. I pulled the lid off and was greeted with the same horrifying mess as the previous day. I cleaned the motor part up and then started on the next layer. These filters have three layers of "baskets" that hold filter media. Each layer holds filter media that is more dense than the one above it in order to get more filtration. I pulled off the top layer and start running water through the big rocks that are this levels media.

As I'm running the water I see something moving and my first thought is that some bug has flown into my filter. It only takes a second to realize it's actually a baby electric yellow. I immediately call Mister C because he is the fish catcher, not me. I love to look at my fish, but I don't generally touch.

Unfortunately, it quickly becomes obvious that I'm going to have an easier time catching the little guy than Mister C, so I force down the skeeviness factor and gently start working. I get him out from between the rocks and take him back to the tank and toss him in. He swims off kind of spazzy and hides in a plant. Awesome! I am so happy he survived his little adventure!

I start up the cleaning process again while Mister C and I discuss the amazing fact that the little guy even survived his trip through the filter. I pull out each remaining basket and clean out it's media, checking carefully to be sure no other babies are in it. When I look into the bottom of the now empty filter case, I notice movement. Looking carefully, I realize there is not one but two more babies in the filter. We try to net them but that brings up too much filth. Mister C suggests pouring the water through one of the baskets and then plucking the babies out by hand. That works very well and within about a minute we have two more confused babies hiding in plants.

I finished cleaning up the mess and as I'm putting it back together I realize that there is no way those three fish got through the filter's lid & basket at the size they currently are. Not alive anyway. The only possible way for them to be the size they are, in the location they were, is if they went in smaller than they currently are. Which means they most likely have been living in my filter for at least two weeks and possibly up to a month. Those poor babies!

Which brings me back to the beginning where I refer to these babies as being tough. To have survived the vortex of the trip into the filter itself was amazing enough. To have thrived on whatever food debris came through the filter and actually grown while they were trapped is beyond amazing. Then to be tossed into the big tank with all the bigger fish and still be swimming around today like nothing happened? Incredible.

I haven't done a thorough check yet, but I'm fairly certain these little guys probably have tattoos of a bulldog and pin-up girls somewhere on their little fishy bodies. I'm not sure how else to explain it other than these guys are the Marines of the fish world. Tough and resilient, thriving where they had no business being and coming out of the ordeal with an attitude.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Citrus Crop

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I'll be back!

It's been crazy busy lately. I haven't posted in over two weeks and it's not for lack of fodder. As soon as I have a few minutes and some energy I'll tell you all about the concert, the newest clients, the weather, the critters and the child. Maybe I'll even have an update on the trailer of doom. We'll see. Until then, go do something productive, stop sitting in front of your computer and get out there and enjoy life!