I don’t do maintenance items that don’t call me “Mommy.”

Rachel and Keith exhibit no such compunction.

Rachel brought bearded dragon “Louis” into the family this summer.  I could not believe anyone would want a lizard as a pet, but darned if she didn’t.  And I have to admit – for a reptile, he’s pretty chill.

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Rachel says bearded dragons are the “dogs of the reptile world.”  They’re usually very receptive to being held, petted, talked to, etc.  In fact – Rachel’s first day of class this fall, when she was gone much longer than usual – Louis’ underbelly had scary black “stress marks” from lack of human contact.  A few minutes of cuddling – he was fine, stress marks gone.

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Rachel keeps Louis’ glass tank at 100 – 110 degrees using a heat lamp.   She wraps him in a “blanket” (soft, cut-up T-shirt) to tuck him in at night.  She hand-selects his greens, worms, etc., and weighs him every Monday (he’s now 213 grams – pushing half a pound.)  She bathes him when he’s in shed.  Louis routinely falls asleep on Rachel, Hannah and Julia.   Spoiled much?!

Keith, of course, wanted his own bearded dragon – a problematic desire since his mean, checkbook-waving wife is always chanting, “Three kids in college!  Three kids in college!”  So Rachel won one for him in a contest sponsored by the much-respected Webe Reptiles.

Keith’s new beardie – Norbert – is a beautiful citrus color, like Louis.  He’s living in his own tank – apparently males cannot share the same space (true across the male species, I believe….)  He was born in Germany, shipped to Webe Reptiles in in Florida, then later shipped to us.  Yes, people ship lizards, and their un-boxing videos are a thing.   Yes, a thing.  Who are we to miss a thing?

I think it’s a little long, but I’ve been assured many un-boxing videos exceed 20 minutes.  You can fast forward to the 2-mimute mark to actually see Norbert.

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Norbert – king of his very Hogwarts-esque castle – is now 75 grams, or about 2.6 oz.  He, too, loves his heat lamp.  He’s watches everyone neat his tank, and responds to sound.  He’s not as affectionate as Louis quite yet, but like Hungarian Horntails, Swedish Short-Snouts and and Chinese Fireballs – he just needs some time.

So now we have two bearded dragons in tanks, and one roaming free through the house…

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…in fact, he’s the one on the left, and he’s my favorite.

Posted in Cyber Life, Family, Serendipity | 8 Comments

Glory Days: 4 Things

This weekend Keith and I attended my 40th high school reunion in Houston.   What a hoot!

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Fajitas almost as good as Keith’s

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Loved seeing my yearbook near the door.   Being yearbook editor taught me invaluable life lessons.  Plus it was just fun.

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My friend Ted and I were Madison’s “Gemco Debate Representatives” in 1974, arguing the heck out of students across HISD.  I took the third place $500 cash prize – an enormous help with college costs.  I think tuition at the University of Houston was then $9/hour. 

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Ted – a long-time State Department guy in Washington D.C. – and I now.  Both of our hairdos are a lot shorter.  Mine is also a lot grayer.

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Patti and I were best buds, often playing tennis at ungodly hours because that was the only time available to each of us.  I doubt she pictured herself in the legal world for umpteen years, and I know I never pictured myself with AT&T for 35 years.  But you know what?  We’re both happy.  

Four Things I’m Glad I Learned in High School

1.  How to organize – thanks to working on the yearbook.  Yearbooks before ours had lost money.  I was determined ours would end in the black – which it did, by a whole $50.  But we did that by meeting all our publishing deadlines.  I will always be grateful to my favorite teacher of all time, sponsor Marilyn Dodd.

2.  How to “cut it by 10%.“  Mrs. Spain – our senior honors English teacher – routinely collected essay assignments, flipped through them, handed them back and instructed each of us to “cut it by 10%.”  She then compared each version to ensure we included the same ideas/points.  At first I bristled.  Then it got to be a challenge.  Finally – a talent which served me well in employee information development, headline creation, quick tweets, etc.

3.  How to disagree respectfully.  I’ve never liked reading Shakespeare, but, of course, there’s no opting-out of the Bard in high school.  We had to read “Hamlet,” and I tried desperately to write the required lengthy essay by parroting all the things I thought Mrs. Spain wanted me to say.   All those “deeper meanings” and the like.   Kill.  Me.  Finally I just stopped and really thought about it.  “If a guy came up to me and started yacking about his father the ghost and his mother the tramp and abandoning his pregnant girlfriend and treating his best friend like dirt, I would think he was a selfish nut job.”   So that was the angle of my paper – Hamlet was a self-centered whackmole.  I got one of two A’s in the class, but mine was the only paper that strayed from the traditional view.  Debate class and intramural debate also helped tremendously.  I didn’t always like arguing “the other side” – but I could do it then, and can usually see it now (even if I don’t agree.)  BTW – Get in my face or ignore me, and I can argue very disrespectfully, too.

4.  Images matter.  Or that picture really is worth 1k words.  Our yearbook photos were less-than-stellar.  Really ate at me.  A year later – when the chance came up to learn to use the nice 35mm SLR Vivitar belonging to the owner of Remco TV Rental – I jumped at it.  Learning to take good pictures has helped me personally and professionally.  (So why did I forget my camera the night of the reunion and have to use my iPhone?!)

Four Things I Wish I’d Learned in High School

1.  Start saving.  I’ve always been fairly thrifty, but I’ve wasted a lot of money, too, that I wish I had now.

2.  Read more and more broadly.  I read a lot in high school,  but it was almost all World War II and Civil War history.  I didn’t appreciate an engrossing  novel until early in college, when my sister Judy and my mom were trading sackfuls of Nero Wolfe mysteries and I picked one up as a lark.

3.  More of the “why” as well as the “what.”  I temporarily memorized buckets of European history dates but even now am uncomfortable fitting them into timelines of modern day events i.e., why do they matter?  I don’t doubt they do matter, but I can’t explain them.  I’d rather know the “why” and look up the date.  Ditto hydrogen orbitals which I can dutifully chant – 1S1, 2S2. 3P6….but what do they mean?  I might have done better in college calculus if I’d ever understand why I wanted to measure the area under a curve.

4.  Stop and have some fun.  My workaholic tendencies have not always served me well.  I don’t care about football, but wish I’d gone to more than one game just to be with my friends.   Money was tight, but I could have gone to a few more movies just to hang out.

Four Things I Do Miss from High School

1.  Saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day.

2.  That wonderful smell and sound of a textbook cracking for the first time.

3.  Christmas break.

4.  And mostly….eating lunch with friends.

Four Things I Do Not Miss from High School

1.  Gym suits.

2.  Green beans dripping from the gloved hands of cafeteria servers.

3.  The “designated smoking area” outside the main building door.

4.   Caring what people think.

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Whew, this blog has worn me out….

Posted in Away from Home, Celebrate, School Rules | 7 Comments

Do the Locomotion With Me

We have three in college this year.  What WERE we thinking?!

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Just before we returned Lois to A&M last week.  Though not a standard back-to-school photo, Rachel said it was “the most accurate representation of our sisterhood you could possibly imagine.”  (l-r)  Hannah is a freshman at UTSA.  Birds up!  Rachel is student teaching in preparation for graduation from UTSA in December.  Let’s Get Rowdy!  Lois is in her middle years at A&M.  Whoop!   And Julia?  Eighth grade, baby.  Last year of middle school.

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Hannah with a few thousand UTSA Class of 2018 buddies on Monday.  She’s the one in the orange shirt.

I held off posting an obligatory “first day of school” blog Monday awaiting happy news from Rachel, which arrived via text a few hours ago.  She got her student teaching assignment….drum roll….envelope, please….she’ll be at NEISD’s brand spankin’ new middle school, Tex Hill.  It opened this week, and is only 5.6 mi. from our house.  It’s the last middle school NEISD will build.   She’s over-the-moon excited to be assigned to the English department head.  We’re thrilled for her.

But in the meantime….speaking of education….Keith and I will be attending my 40th high school reunion this weekend.

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My senior photo which appeared in the All New & Quite Exciting 1974 Madison Marlins Mariner yearbook, of which I was editor – a great learning experience 

So what’s life like with three in college – and a middle schooler?  Julia needs breakfast and lunch made and her gym clothes are everywhere, Hannah wants more Lean Cuisines stocked in the freezer, Rachel dashes in and dashes out leaving a trail of Post-it Notes, the house stops when Lois calls?  Well, it’s a lot of activity to handle.  Reminds me of a song I expect to hear this weekend, because it was my favorite dancing tune in 1974.


Posted in Family, School Rules | 5 Comments

Engines and Freezers and Turtles – Oh My!

Did you ever have a day – or series of days – where little seemed to go right, but everything worked out in the end?   That was our vacation this year – a long weekend at Padre Island carefully arranged months in advance to accommodate the five jobs and two summer school classes that bound our family.

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This is “Middle of Nowhere, Texas.”  Actually – it’s a highway-crossover about 53 miles north of Harlingen, Texas – the location of the closest Ford dealership, which we called when our Expedition made a whirring noise, then stopped.  We were on our way to Padre Island (where Julia got that shirt last year), about an hour south of Harlingen.  It was 102 degrees, but as Bill Paxton quipped in “Aliens,” “Yeah, but it’s a dry heat.”  We saw very little traffic as we waited an hour for the wrecker, but two guys in a pick-up did stop and offer us water.  God bless Texas!

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Huge kudos to Boggus Ford in Harlingen which sent not only a wrecker for our kaput Expedition and Keith, but also a blessedly air conditioned Expedition for the rest of us.  We’d had breakfast but no lunch (planned to stop in Harlingen), so we scarfed up their free popcorn.  They brought water bottles to each of us and invited us to cool off while Keith handled the paperwork.  Mr. Boggus himself – a 1949 graduate of Texas A&M – stopped by to admire my sweat-soaked “Aggie Mom” T-shirt.  They searched for and finally located a rental vehicle big enough to hold the six of us, then helped us unload/reload our small mountain of beach provisions.  We thanked them by allowing one of our bags to slip thereby breaking a wine bottle on their service driveway.  There’s a letter to Ford Motor Company in their future.

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After a five-hour delay, we arrived at Padre in time for the girls to take their traditional first-night walk along the beach.  Keith and I walked the aisles at HEB instead.  We freeze main dishes to bring and buy bread, produce, etc. there.  But this year…omigosh, this year…..Thought I’d bought mixed plastic cutlery.  Nope, it was all forks.  I thought I packed a lasagna.  Nope.  It was a Mexican casserole.  Thought we had corned beef hash for breakfast.  Nope.  It was fajitas.  First thought I had packed pulled pork, then thought I didn’t then the last night realized I had packed it.  Sigh.  Lesson learned – next year, food gets double-labeled “beach” plus what it is.

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We have loved having Lois home this summer.  She goes back to A&M next week, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.  (sniff)  But a quick word about my husband.  Keith is the single best “we’ll figure this out” person I’ve ever known.  When he’s around, I know something like a stopped-dead-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, fully-loaded, pulling-a-trailer-hitch Expedition adventure in 102 degree heat is going to turn out okay.

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We’ve gotten three or four years out of these wave runners (amazingly.)

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Julia l-o-v-e-s the ocean.  Can you tell?!

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Hannah is our “finder.”  If there’s something neat to be found, she’s the one who finds it.  This year, it was a barnacle-crusted coconut which Keith surmised bobbed in from Florida.  Every year, I look for a deal on beach toys, then we leave them by a trash can our last day.  Couldn’t find any deals on beach toys this year, but did find some neat metal gardening buckets and tools at Target on clearance – $3.28@ set.  Perfect!  I saw kids carrying them off as we walked away.

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Saturday we went snorkeling with Breakaway Cruises.  We’d been on their sea life excursion before and loved it.  This one….not so much.   We booked for 9 a.m., got there and were told they’d had engine trouble and had to reschedule to 1 p.m.  Well…okay.  Kind of threw our day off, but those things happen.  But then on the excursion itself, the organization was sloppy, as in they didn’t bring enough snorkel masks to the back of the boat (where we were), and when we went up front after folks starting getting in the water because we were one short, the captain was actually rude about it.  Has she not heard of Yelp?!  We have.

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Very shallow water.  You needed the flippers to keep from stirring up the blinding sludge.

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Again – “Hannah the Finder” – the only one of us who found critters in shells.

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Sea Turtle Rescue is a must for us on every visit.  We missed a turtle release by one day – darn it. 

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I’m sure this is a security thing, too, but what fun to watch!

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This one-flippered turtle fascinated me.   He’s sporting a prosthetic tail, too.  He’ll never be released, though most of their turtles are.

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The staff gives the kids fresh lettuce to throw into one of the huge tanks, which Julia was only too happy to do.  Julia enjoys puzzles, too.  On our way out, we bought a 500-piece turtle puzzle that’s now half-done on our coffee table.

Turns out our Expedition engine blew a rod.  Miraculously – Boggus Ford replaced the engine (still under warranty – whew!) in nine days.  Keith and I completed a one-day-turnaround drive to the Valley last Saturday to return the rental and get our car back.  While we were at it, we crossed the border and ate a fabulouso lunch at the mucho deliciouso Angel’s.

I planned to blog this as soon as we got back, but my laptop fried.  Keith’s spent several days building me a screaming-fast desktop.   It’s a beast.

Even though this vacation didn’t go quite as planned, we did what we wanted to do, which was have a ton of fun w/the girls.   And really – what’s wrong with fajitas for breakfast?!


Posted in Away from Home, Family | 7 Comments