Saturday, May 22, 2010

SSSSSSSSSummertime Visitors

When the Head of My Household and I moved into our house 5 years ago, we were able to buy a lot in our neighborhood that was a larger lot than most and one of the few lots that was not surrounded by other houses.  Our lot backs up to woods (formerly a horse pasture), and we purposely chose to keep most of the trees around our home.  I hate nothing more than to see a contractor come into an area and completely decimate all the natural plant habitat.  I have never and still to this day do not regret our decision to leave the trees and brush surrounding our home. 

Within sight from our front porch and higher ground in our backyard, we can see the lake that runs the length of our neighborhood. 

We purposely did not buy one of the lots actually ON the lake for a couple of really important reasons.

Reason #1: Price - lake lots are ridiculously expensive.

Reason #2: This frightening fella...

This dude's name is Water Mocassin.

Remember please that I am a Liberal Arts major and will do the very best that I can to explain biological matters with as much accuracy as is possible for me and in words that my book loving self can handle.  Thank you.

The most important thing about this snake is that he bites, and his bite is incredibly poisonous.  According to the Mississippi State University website, one person in Mississippi dies each year from this snake's bite.  However, most of the folks who are injured or killed by venemous snakes have tried in some way to either catch or kill the snake. 

In other words, they've lost their minds.

Water Moccasins are common in Mississippi and they love (as their name implies) semi-aquatic environments ( the lake in our neighborhood).

Now, you might as well call me Eve.
Cause I don't like snakes.
Never have...never will.

The Head of My Household, however, is not afraid of snakes.  Now, he's no dummy either...he doesn't try to catch them and he respects their boundaries.  He can, thank goodness, tell the poisonous from the non-poisonous ones.  He doesn't squeal and run when one is sighted in our vicinity.
And, most importantly, he doesn't feel nauseous at the simple idea that snakes are very possibly all around us.
That would be me.

Anyhoo...Water Moccassin dude visited my house Wednesday night. 


Uh-Oh and Beneigt took it upon themselves (as they have on several other snake occasions) to keep us safe from the interloper.
Lord, have mercy.

This past Wednesday night my neighbor came in from church and saw our cats chasing and swatting at something near the end of my driveway...of course it's been raining like crazy and the ditches are full of murky water.
Upon closer inspection and the realization of what was happening, my neighbor introduced Mr. Water Moccasin dude to the sharp end of his shovel.
He actually had to bury Mr. Water Moccassin so that Beneigt would leave him alone!!
My youngest grounded the cats from going outside "FOREVER!"

We were barely over Mr. Moccassin when Thursday after another pounding rain, my youngest and I were in the yard around the pool.  My youngest had walked over to the garden beds (yes, in her bare feet as most all Missisippi kids do).  I was standing by the diving board watching her.

I happened to look down in the grass maybe 2 feet in front of me and saw this:

I almost vomited right then and there.

This snake was

I knew if I screamed "SNAKE!!!" that she would run straight for me.
She had already probably stepped right over the snake once unknowingly (Thank you, Lord)...I knew we wouldn't get that lucky again.

I suggested we check the pool skimmers (which she is fond of doing), and she walked diagonally toward the skimmers instead of the direction of the snake.  I took her by the arm and walked her all the way around the pool sidewalk, passing right by the skimmers, and up onto the deck where I could hold myself together no longer and started squealing, "SSSSSNNNNNNAAAAAAKKKKKEEEE!!!!"
My middle child came running to the door to see what in heaven's name was happening.

We stood up on the sides of the deck to see the snake without going anywhere near it.

It wasn't moving.

After several minutes of wondering what the heck was going on with this snake, and trying to find the Head of My Household, my middle child's friend who lives in our neighborhood who likes snakes, and calling my friend Missie who's husband is a biology major, the snake still hadn't moved. 

I began wondering if it was dead.  

My so-called BFF Missie said, "Take a picture of it and send it to me via Blackberry Message."

I told her she'd lost her mind.

I did, however, like a do-do bird, begin to slowly walk toward this snake with my Blackberry.
I stood as close as I could without getting sick and worked on the zoom of my BBerry camera.
My middle child was right behind me.

While I was zooming, Middle Child said, "Mama"
I looked up at Stranger Snake to notice that his upper body looked a little different than it had when we first saw him.

I said, "Did it move?"
Middle Child said, "It definitely looks different than it did a minute ago, Mama"

She barely got the word "Mama" out of her mouth when Stranger Snake sprinted (if snakes had legs) off into the woods like a 3 ft. Sidewinder.


I'm sure that the neighbors on the other side of the neighborhood wondered who was being axed to death at our house.
Together, my middle child, youngest child and I let out the most blood curdling screams you have every heard in your life as we knocked each other over to get into the house.
My baby was standing in the doorway like the smart child that she is...I don't even think she saw the snake slither away...but she decided if her sister and I were screaming, it was probably a good idea if she did too.

Once the Head of My Household came home, he sat us down and we looked through the criminal photo books of snakes to find our culprit.
According to the MSU snake identification website, our Stranger Snake was most likely a Black Masked Racer.  He is not poisonous, and he will even eat other snakes.  However, the website said "he will not hesistate to bite if he feels threatened or cannot flee."

I need to take my heart medicine now.

I do not like snakes...have I already said that??  But, the Head of My Household has taught me that the non-venemous snakes will actually keep the population of venemous snakes down.  We will have to worry less about Copperheads and Water Moccassins as long as there are enough natural enemies to eat them. If you can stand to look back at the snake pictures, notice that the Water Moccassin's head is diamond or triangle shaped while the Racer's head is not.  This is not a foolproof way of distinguishing poisonous snakes from non-poisonous ones, but it's a pretty good start.

You're not going to believe what happened on Friday.

Are you sure you can handle it?

I went to the grocery store and left the Head of My Household weed eating around the pool and my garden beds.  Even though the Stranger Snake was non-poisonous, the Head of My Household decided that we will keep the grass around the pool very short from now on.  At least that way we won't accidently step on anything that might bite us.

Guess what he found around my beloved garden beds?

Go ahead and guess.

Did you guess????

Now, this is a black Speckled KingSnake, and if there is a good snake, this is him.
The biggest snake we've every seen at our house was early early one morning and was a KingSnake.  
The Head of My Household actually played with him.

Not with his hands, for heaven's sake...I already told you he's not a dummy!

Seems the Head of My Household disturbed King Snake's shady resting spot by weedeating all the tall thick grasses.  I like to think King Snake was hiding and waiting on the other snakes to try and come back in my yard he could EAT them!! 
It's the only way I can make myself feel making up some narrative with a sinister plot, good guy vs. bad guy.

Today there were no snake adventures at my house.
Thank you, Lord because 3 snakes in 3 days is about all I can handle for now.
I need time.

The girls and I went shopping, just in case.
We left the Head of My Household to wrangle the varmints...

Friday, May 21, 2010

5 Question Friday

I enjoy participating in Mama M's Five Question Friday so much that when she posted a sneak preview Thursday night , I went ahead and answered my questions and saved my post.
All I had to do was click "Post" sometime today!
Yay me!!
I'm so organized and ahead of the game!


It is 9:17 p.m. on FRIDAY, and it just occurred to me that I have not posted my saved responses.


I should know myself well enough by now to know that if I feel organized and ahead of the game....

there must be something amiss. I go...better late than never :)

1. Do you have an iPhone and, if so, how do you get apps and what are your favorites?

Nope, AT&T doesn't have much coverage where I live so I'm out of luck.
I have texted on my mom's though and I'm not fond of her keypad...too small.

2. What is your fondest memory of K-3rd grade?

When I was in the 1st and 2nd grade our librarian's name was Mrs. Box.  Her husband was our principal.  I can remember sitting in the library floor on a striped braided rug listening to Mrs. Box read aloud stories.  Now, whether she was just that good of a reader or if I was just that enamored with books even then, I have no idea.  I suspect it was a little of both.  I can see that library in my mind and Mrs. Box holding open that book with one hand while she read just like it happened yesterday.

3. What makes you cringe at the thought of touching?

The snake that was in my backyard today...or any snake for that matter.  My youngest child and middle child and I stood looking at a 3 ft. long snake today that we thought was dead.  I was just getting ready to take a picture of it with my phone to send to my neighbor whose husband is a biologist when the dead snake coiled and then took off for the trees.  I bet our neighbors 3 streets over could hear the three of us screaming as we ran into the house.  I was physically sick.

4. If you could have any celebrity show up on your doorstep who would it be and why?

I just watched the season finale of Grey's Anatomy so it would have to be Patrick you really have to ask why??  I love the character he plays...the handsome, damaged, outdoorsy doctor who is willing to fall head over heels with the love of his life, respecting her career as much as his own.  In real life Dempsey is not one you see in the tabloids on a daily basis...he seems to lay low, and I loved the picture of him a year or so ago holding his baby twins right after they were born.  He looked like he was tired and needed a shave, just like a man should look right after his wife has brought 2 of his offspring into the world...AT THE SAME TIME!

5. What would you say is your best physical feature?

My hair, I think.  It's a good color...I've only had to "gloss" it a couple of times to blend in the few grays that I have at 41.  It's also a natural color that most people don't have.

It really is a fun way to get to know other bloggers. :)

Thursday, May 20, 2010


As I've mentioned before, I absolutely love it when PW hosts a photography assignment.
I've been taking pictures of things for as long as I can remember...but I am not a professional.
I enjoy the warmth and emotion and especially the memories elicited by my photos...that's about it.

Yep, right up my touchy feely, smushy, mushy, try to act all tough but really am a pushover when it comes to certain things alley.

I browsed through the photos on my laptop to see which ones stood out to me as "Happiness" and here are a few:

First day of school for both ...Kindergarten for the little one and 11th grade for her big sister.

My "Wild Redneck Woman Child" riding her Dora Big Wheel around our cement pond...sunglasses, fishing pole and all :)
This picure was taken on one of the first sunny days in the was probably only 60 degrees outside!

My little tiger...
This was her hand-me-down Halloween costume when she was two and had absolutely no hair...She wore this costume year round for almost 3 years and even slept in it!  My youngest has just recently grown too much to get her tiger costume off her head.  We hung it in her closet for safekeepng; I will never be able to give this costume away.

The youngest's birthday...surely I don't have to explain this one.

My firstborn and her first love.

1st Day of School middle child and youngest.

Winter Snow 2010
My middle child and her famous dimples.


Mississippi kid with mismatched socks for gloves riding a Mississippi sled, a.k.a. a garbage can top.

Destin...nuff said.


Children = Joy

Here I go!!  Mommy, are you watching?!

My middle child and her aunt walking the dogs.

Easter 2010, annual picture gone awry.
Wonderful memories.

Easter 2010  - deliriousness sets in.
My girls, my heart, my life.

The things that I've noticed about all of the absolutely stunning photos that have been submitted so far on PW's site are the genuine features on the subjects' faces.  I LIVE for that kind of picture.  A photo that captures "happiness" is truly a "capture," one that can not be posed, and one that brings about a warm feeling from the viewer, whether or not he/she actually took the picture.

Of course if the viewer did take the picture, then watch out...because pictures that evoke happiness are sure to bring about even stronger emotions for the person who actually lived those priceless moments in time.

I've scrolled down the ones I used in this post several times; I don't want to stop looking at them :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Super Saving at Kroger

I used to be a heavy duty coupon clipper in my younger days.  I had an accordian file and the whole deal.  I carried my little folder with me to the grocery store and would take hours going through my folder to see what I had coupons for and what I didn't.  There's nothing more gratifying than being able to buy a product that you normally buy and not having to pay full price.  In our leaner years coupons were lifesavers...and many times enabled me to buy products that I would not necessarily be able to buy.
I was so proud of myself.

All the time I spent on organizing, clipping and shopping came to a screeching halt when I had two children 16 months apart.  For 3 years of my life I was tied to my offspring.  I was either pregnant, nursing or giving birth for those long years that are really a blur to me now, and we were over 6 hours away from our nearest relative.
Coupons were the least of my worries.

Over the years the Head of My Household and I have been blessed with well paying jobs.  The cost of food (while always a concern...especially in today's economy) is not a "worry" per say for us today. 
However, being good stewards of what we have been given and caring about the rest of the world as much as we care about ourselves has become a major worry.  I have also become majorly concerned about the quality of the food my family eats.  We, like many other busy families, spend way too much time in a drive thru...eating preservatives, chemicals and added sugars that have made our country (specifically our children) the fattest and sickest ever.  These concerns have led me to pay very close attention to the ingredients in the food we eat and to try and prepare healthier fresher food at home.

Have you ever compared the price of fresh food to processed food?  Processed food, which is unhealthy, is scads cheaper than fresh food.



Me either.

I'm not sure right this minute that we as a country are being good stewards of what we've been given...and it's going to eventually catch up with us.  But, that's for another post :(

Melanie at Coupon Goddess was the first to get me thinking about coupons again and how they could help me on my quest to buy the best food for my family while spending wiser and being able to give back more.  The time and organization it takes to efficiently use coupons was a little  overwhelming to think about when I first began mulling over how to add couponing to my already overflowing cup of daily tasks.
Could I really sacrifice any more time from my days and nights?

One day Melanie posted about how through couponing she was able to give back to U.S. soldiers sent overseas.  Please read this post and look at the pictures of all the stuff Melanie has been able to pick up at little to no cost.  She sends this stuff in care packages to our soldiers so far away from home.

This post stopped me in my tracks.

Once I picked my jaw up off the ground I made the final decision.  If a little extra time and organization on my part could help my own family as well as my fellow man, the decision was a no-brainer.

I've signed up for several coupon newsletters and blogs that I've read through and watched for a while now.  Several of them even post regularly to tell you where the sales are and which coupons you can use to double up and get things for free...and even make a little sometimes!!  I have been stunned at how much time these ladies spend putting all this info together for the rest of us.  My favorites so far are Coupon Goddess (of course), Southern Savers and Frugal Girls.  I've registered at Kroger and  I can load coupons directly onto my Kroger Super Savers card from the Kroger site and print manufacturers coupons straight off the site.

I ventured to town yesterday to pick up a prescription at CVS and stopped in to see what was happening at Kroger.  I really didn't have time for a major shopping trip, but we needed a few staples like milk, OJ and fresh fruit.  My coupons just happened to be in my purse, unorganized of course, and I figured if I saw something I knew I had a coupon for I would grab it on my way out.

Even on this quick trip through the store, I was able to save $20.18 by using coupons on top of the Kroger Super Saver prices that were good this week. Here's a picture of the things I picked up in my drive by Kroger stop:
Of the items in the picture I was especially proud of these purchases:

Newman's Own Ranch dressing is one of our family favorites; it is all natural and all the proceeds go to charity.  Another no-brainer for me.  The Kroger Super Saver price was $2.99 (regular $3.49), and I had three .50 cent off coupons.  My beloved Kroger DOUBLES coupons, which means each of these three bottles of our favorite dressing only cost $1.99.

Yoplait yogurt is also a staple at my house.  Kroger Super Saver price yesterday was $3.00 for 6, and I had another .50 cent coupon for buying 6.  With doubled coupons, these 6 containers of yogurt cost a total of $2.00 or about .31 cents each.

Tidy Cat was Super Saver price $1.99, and I had yet another .50 cent coupon to make this bag .99 cents.  Uh-Oh and Beneigt will be so happy :)

The major deal of the night was Cheerios.  I had .55 cent coupons for these, and they were Super Saver priced at $2.00 per box.  With doubled coupons these 3 boxes of Cheerios were only .90 cents each!

Now, this might be chicken feed to the lifelong couponer, but a girl's gotta start somewhere.  I go to the grocery store at least twice each week, and if I can save at least $20 each trip, that's $40 per week, $160 per month...almost $2000 per year!!!!  When you think about it like that, every penny counts!!
I'm also going to put 2 of the boxes of Cheerios in our food pantry at church this Sunday and try to make stocking the pantry a weekly habit of mine, if not twice weekly :)  2 items per week is 104 items added to our community food pantry each year (and that's a minimum).  I'm going to let my daughters help me with this project as well.

Thanks, Melanie and all you other smart ladies for paving the way for the rest of us to make our world a better place for everybody and to teach our daughters how to be smart with their money.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Family Vacation

11 days from today we will be leaving on our annual family vacation to Destin FL.
My brother and I particularly live the other 51 weeks of the year looking forward to this vacation.
The phrase "family vacation" can evoke feelings of dread and panic for many families.
Not mine.
Somehow we've figured out a way to co-exist for 7 days spending time together but also giving each other needed space.
I can't really explain it because it's not something we planned.
It just happens.

My mother, the matriarch of our clan and funder of our family vacation, asks each year whether or not we "really want to go."
My brother and I almost have panic attacks at the possibility of not going to Destin.
We have decided that she really doesn't get how much this trip means to us.

Let me get corny for a minute, please.
My brother and I are 11 years apart. 
By the time he was really old enough to be an active family member, I had graduated high school and our parents had divorced.
There was a lot of time that we didn't get to spend together.
I think in some way we are making up for lost time.
Now, I know you can't make up for lost time in one annual weeklong family vacation.
But, I think it's something we unconciously have been doing for some time now.

As I prepare to begin the process of letting go of my oldest during her senior year next year, my brother is preparing begin his family.  My brother and his wife Amanda will welcome their first child into their family November of 2010.
The timing is perfect.

Skin Trade by Laurell K. Hamilton

While discovering a community of book bloggers over the last few days, I've realized that my book "reviews" are not and never will be the traditional kind.  Summaries are difficult, almost boring for me to write.  Don't get me wrong...I enjoy reading others' summaries; I just don't write them well.  It's hard for me to "stick to the facts, ma'am," so my reviews tend to be more book "responses" than "reviews." 

From an academic standpoint I have always been a reader response person, so this little eye-opener about myself as a book reviewer is really no surprise.  I theoretically believe that an active transaction takes place between a reader and a text in order to make meaning.   While a text certainly does have meaning that the author intended, I think a reader can and does experience the intended meaning plus more...or even less...or just different based on the reader's prior knowledge and/or personal experiences.   It is almost painful for me to put the personal aside as I talk about a book...I have to analyze it from my own point of view and how the story touches me...Does that make sense? 

Anyhoo...Even though the previous paragraph is the Reader's Digest condensed version of my views on literary theory and reading comprehension, I'm reminded that this is not an academic blog.  I think there's plenty of room in the blogging world for all of us, so I'll just keep responding to my books and let others handle the traditional reviews :):)

I finished Laurell K. Hamilton's Skin Trade while I was in Boston.  I put off reading it for a while because I knew that I would get immersed in Anita's world and not be able to put it down.  The next Anita Blake book, Bullet, will be released in June though, so I wanted to be ready.  Laurell K. Hamilton tweeted through the writing process of Bullet, so I know that a main character will be killed in the next book...I have my suspicians, but I can't wait to find out for sure!

Skin Trade is the most intense so far, I think, in the Anita Blake series because Anita is the most conflicted at this point of her existence.  She feels as if the one thing she has been determined not to lose, herself, is actually slipping away, and there is absolutely nothing she can do about it.  Life is always a trade one ever gets anything for nothing, even in the metaphysical world.  Anita has inherited powers from Jean Claude and the others in her "family," and together they have created a metaphysical "superpower" of sorts, envied and feared by many others in the supernatural world, but those powers have come with a cost. 

The inevitable and biggest trade off becomes apparent in Skin Trade.  In Skin Trade Anita is almost stolen away from Jean Claude by another powerful vampire who also happens to be a serial killer, Vittorio, because of her choice not to tie herself completely to Jean Claude by taking the 4th mark.  The problem is not so much a romantic one as it is a "save the world" one.  Vittorio means to take over the world once he combines his powers with Anita's. 

Anita is lured out of St. Louis when Vittorio mails Anita the head of one of the Las Vegas SWAT team officers, one of many that he has slaughtered.   (Remember, this ain't Twilight...).   Anita must leave St. Louis during the day while Jean Claude is still sleeping, which is exactly Vittorio's plan.  Ted, aka Edward, Anita's very close Marshall friend and Olaf, another serial killer who has become a vampire executioner and by this book another Marshall, meet Anita in Las Vegas to help hunt Vittorio.  Somehow between examining dead bodies, keeping a safe distance from Olaf, who has decided Anita should be his, trying to safely understand her ties to the tiger clan, and remembering to feed the ardeur, Anita does defeat Vittorio and seemingly the Mother of All Darkness who has been trying to take over Anita for several books.  Anita is able to defeat Vittorio through further understanding of her own power and combining that with the others around her.  She is becoming conflicted though with the amount of legal killing she is called to do and wonders if it's time to quit. 

The intensity of their emotion for one another and Jean Claude's ability and willingness to accept Anita exactly as she is despite the fact that she does not think she is capable emotionally of every "truly belonging completely to him" is what makes me consistently root for Jean Claude. Jean Claude is not pushover; he just recognizes reality...when he wakes to find Anita gone though, he responds with an anger that we've yet to see from him.  His anger, however, stems from his fear of something happening to Anita.  Anita's attachment to Jean Claude is almost unbreakable at this point...Jean Claude would like nothing more than to "marry" Anita to himself through the 4th mark; however, neither he nor Anita are exactly sure how that final step would affect their powers, their relationship, nor those around them. Anita and Jean Claude's partnership is the first of its kind, hence Vittorio's and others piqued interest at stealing their combined powers. 

Unfortunately, to make matters even more complicated, Anita's well being and existence is so closely tied to others that she loves, particularly Nathaniel, Micah, and Damien, that by choosing to remain her own person, she actully has put the lives of others in danger as well. As tough as Anita is, even terrified vampires call her "Executioner," she would never sacrifice the life of another for her own.

The only other love of Jean Claude's life, Julianna, died centuries earlier waiting for him to save her.  Jean Claude knows that Anita will save herself before waiting on him.  Her ability to take care of herself is what I think is the major draw between Anita and Jean Claude.  The one thing that keeps them from becoming truly one seems also to be the one thing that keeps them together.  Confusing huh?? 

In order to stay alive and to keep alive those she loves, I believe Anita may be forced to give up some of her independence.  Whether or not she will be able to live with herself if and when that happens remains to be seen.  I also think Anita is going to get more involved in politics; she is very tired of the shoot to kill laws that exist and would like to find ways to save rather than take so many lives.  This was one of the best Anita Blakes yet.  The pace and depth of the novel acually overpowered the violence and sometimes almost more than you take descriptions of Anita's world.  Even in a world of supernatural beings including vampires, werewolves, psychics, etc.  the real life dilemmas take precedence...I could truly feel Anita reaching a place in her life where she will have to make some incredibly difficult decisions in order to continue. 

I hope that Laurell K. Hamilton will be able to come up with compromises that we can all live with.