Interstellar Adventures

May 30, 2006

Out in the West Texas town of El Paso…

Filed under: Interstellar Travel,Mr. Wonderful — by InterstellarLass @ 10:22 am

…is where I spent my Memorial Day weekend. Nick and I flew out Friday evening on a very full American flight. Packed in like sardines, as they say. I’m not a good flier, but once we made it past the take-off, I was able to relax. I also got some really good shots of the clouds and the sky while in-flight. The landing was also, fortunately, uneventful and we made it back down to the ground with no issues.

The El Paso airport is actually quite convenient, with the baggage claim and car rental areas directly across from each other. We ended up with a Ford Freestar. Nick kept insisting it was a mini-van. It’s not a mini-van. I asserted. It doesn’t have a sliding door! It can’t be a mini-van! We went back and forth for a while, before agreeing that it looked more like a station wagon on ‘roids.

Pop looked just like he did when we left him in February. Joe Boxer pajama pants, well-executed comb-over, cane, white Reebok tennies, and a button down-shirt. He was so glad to see us. We went to La Casita for dinner, where I feasted on the Verde Casita special. A ginormous burrito, with cubed beef, potatoes, green chile sauce and more chiles. Fantastico! And, to make it even better, the Mavs won game 3 to go up over the Suns 2-1.

Saturday morning I woke up earlier to hear Nick on the phone, talking to his Uncle Larry. We were going to meet him for breakfast. I’d never met him before, and he’s rather estranged from the rest of the family, so we had to go before Nick’s sister arrived. Uncle Larry turned out to be a sweet man, and I hope I get to hang out with him again. Sadly, this sweet man has a battle with the alcohol demons, a lot of stories, and not much else to show for his years. Still, I liked him immensely.

We picked up Nick’s dad and took him out to see the house in which Nick was born. I didn’t take a picture of it because it was just too sad. A lot of the neighborhood had deteriorated, and despite the neighbor’s house being pristine, Nick’s house looked awful. Shutters torn off, Christmas lights still hanging, a single bush in the yard, and lots of dirt and weeds, the house needed a paint job and a lot of work. But, there was a new Camero in the drive! Nick pointed out a set of house numbers hanging from the front eaves. “My dad made those.” Yeah? I said. Do you want them? He said he did. I grabbed $5 out of my purse and jumped out of the car before Nick could stop me. I walked up to the door and knocked. After a few moments, a hung-over face looked out the window at me and motioned for me to wait. After a minute, he opened the door, standing in a ratty blue robe, dirty bare feet, and I don’t want to imagine what (or what not) underneath.

Hi. My husband was born in this house. His dad made those house numbers hanging there. His father is now very old and ill and we’d like to see if we could have the house numbers he made.

The man stared at me with a very confused look on his face. I paused a moment, before repeating my story, more slowly this time, and re-emphasizing Nick’s father’s age and the fact that he made the house numbers with his own hands. Would you mind if we took the numbers?

The man stared at me again, wondering what the hell I was going on about. I was just about to offer him the $5 for them, when he said The numbers? Yeah, you can take them. Thank you very much I gushed and turned around and didn’t hesitate to get the numbers off the rusted J-hooks. I high-tailed it back to the car and told Nick to step on it. Around the corner, we stopped for a minute and gave Nick’s dad the numbers. He was surprised and couldn’t figure out how I’d got them. Warm fuzzy for the day.

We then stopped at the Fort Bliss National Cemetery to visit Nick’s mother’s grave. As the spouse of a retired military man, she had priviledges to be buried there. As we drove in, I gasped and immediately teared up. The cemetery was decorated with American flags. Large flags lining the main drive, and in front of each headstone, a small American flag had been placed in the ground. The effect was immediate and emotional. As we walked through the section where Nick’s mom was buried, his dad spied a fallen flag. He immediately shuffled over to the flag and picked it up, returning it to it’s upright position. Nick was so moved by this, as was I, and we shared a special moment there together.

Back at the house, Nick’s sister finally arrived. It was a bit tense at first. She’s not exactly a warm, fuzzy person right off the bat. But, after we all relaxed a bit and chatted over dinner, the mood lightened. I taught them all to play spades. We played boys vs. girls and the girls came back and won.

Sunday was more relaxing. After an attempt at running in the desert air, I nearly was sick. I couldn’t control my coughing and I really thought I was going to lose my cookies. Even 20% humidity (compared to a usual 70%+) wasn’t enough to keep my breathing moisturized. A nice, hot, steamy shower made me feel somewhat better.

We had breakfast, then made a run to the book store. I had to scout around the store for a comfy chair for Pop, which I finally found. Nick’s sister shopped, and I watched Pop and did my Sudoku. Back at home, we went through some of the shelves in the garage, and threw out a bunch of Nick’s old junk memories. We selected a few items to bring home, and a few to put aside to be brought home at a later date. Photos, Christmas ornaments, and more photos.

One of my co-workers is also from El Paso. He’d raved about this place called Chico’s Tacos. They’re only found in El Paso. Believe me, this is a good thing. I’d begged Nick to take me. He assured me I’d want to get it to go once we got there, but I stuck it out. Nick and I turned out to be the only white people in the place. The review I linked to pretty much says it all. Our order was exactly as is noted there. Except I had a root beer to drink instead of water. The people are better to watch than the food is to eat. The guy in the white wife-beater, the guy in the black mesh t-shirt, the guy with the excellent ink (read tattoos) and the table busser with the completely bald head except for the little tuft on the back of his neck. Yes, stereotypes exist for a reason.

Monday, all the ‘good’ places to eat were closed. One restaurant even closed down for an entire week for vacation. I’ve never heard of a restaurant closing for a week for vacation! “This is El Paso” is all Nick had to say. We ended up opting for Village Inn, which is like a Dennys or an IHOP. Except VI has great chorizo dishes for breakfast.

We cleaned up a few things around Pop’s house, then headed for the airport. Being a holiday, we had no idea how the security was going to be. Turned out it wasn’t that bad, plus our flight was delayed because of thunderstorms at DFW. The best part about the flight back was that we got upgraded!. I’ve never flown first-class before, and I certainly never want to fly coach again. Alas, I’m sure I will fly coach more often than first. But it was great. First off the plane even!

On our way home, we picked up the kids. It was late and they were tired and we were tired. I also got a bit of, um, news. Last week the Brilliant Ex was out of town for a week on vacation. A cruise evidently. Where he asked the Girlfriend to marry him. Best of luck to both of them.

Now I’m back at work, back to the grindstone, and back to this. I missed ya’ll! I’ll be around sometime in the next couple of days to catch back up. I have some work to do on the photos from the trip, but I’ll have them up and done soon too.

May 26, 2006

I swear I’m not a bad mom!

Filed under: Elle & Zed,Mom Life — by InterstellarLass @ 9:26 am

Last night Elle and Zed were both wearing on my last nerve. School was out on Wednesday and their regular after school program 1) doesn’t provide any care until next week, and 2) has gotten outrageously expensive. So, I found another program to put them in for the month of June. It’s through our local sport authority, and is better because a) it’s less expensive, b) it provides care when I need it, c) the program includes lunch, and d) it’s all sport related, so the kids are running around a lot and they get to try a lot different sports. Since his dad left over a year ago, Zed has gained a bit of weight and getting him to be active is hard sometimes.

So, when I picked them up yesterday, the first thing they did was whine about why I picked turkey sandwiches for them rather than hot dogs. Duh! The point is to be more healthy. You can have hot dogs and pizza once a week. The other three days you’re getting ham or turkey sandwiches. I told them. So did you like it better than Program A? Well, except for the 8 year old that tried to intimidate Zed into giving him a bat (when the kid already had one bat), he liked the day. And, except for the mean 3rd grade girl that called Elle a brat and told her she was the “worst hula hooper in the world”, Elle thought it was ok. But there was no arts and crafts. Gee darn. Does this mean I don’t get “art” to hang on my fridge? Oh, and I forgot to give them money for “snacks”. Can I get no credit here for anything?

So, last night, I told them if they wanted money for snacks, they had to earn it. Zed unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher. Elle picked up all the newspapers and took them out to be recycled. They cleaned their bathroom and brought all their clothes out to the wash. Then I let them watch the end of Drop Dead Fred. Then they wanted to watch another movie! No! Go outside and play until it’s dark. I don’t want to see you until it’s time to get in the bath.

So, they did. They played catch together. I went out to check on them, and realized Elle has a really good throwing arm, and Zed was using his smarts and rolling the ball to his sister, considering 1) the glove was too big, 2) she does’t catch well because she’s never learned, and 3) all of her other bumps and bruises on her face are finally almost healed.

Uh, what was that? Yeah. She had:

A bruised cheek. Her Brilliant Father let his quickly-growing French Mastiff, Rocco, chase our daughter around his apartment. She fell and hit the side of her face on the coffee table. It was swollen, knotted, bruised and slightly scratched. I took her to be examined for nerve damage in her face because her smile was slightly off, over a week after the indident. She’s ok, but if she hadn’t have been, he would no longer have nards.

A black eye. After the soccer swim party two weeks ago, she was in her room taking off her suit and hit her eye on the corner of the dresser. Gave her a nice shiner from the outside of her eye to the inner corner.

Another semi-black eye. Zed was taunting her, she grabbed the finger with which he was taunting her, and he hit her. Gave her a small bruise on the outside of her other eye. He got in big trouble for that one.

A busted lip. She got hit in the face with a baseball last Sunday and it busted her lip. I’m CPS’s worst nightmare.

But aren’t they CUTE!

Have a great long weekend!

May 24, 2006

Gimme an “H”

Filed under: Memes & Quizzes — by InterstellarLass @ 8:52 am

For “Hell Yeah”! I’m so glad for the comments I received yesterday. Not because everyone agreed with me, or because my point was proven or anything like that. No, exactly the opposite. I humbly shared my opinion, and you shared yours. THANK YOU! That’s exactly what I wanted.


And as a result of yesterday’s post, Miss Poopie bestowed the letter H upon me for the Alphabet Soup game. The rules for this game are: You take your assigned letter and then write 10 words that start with that letter and explain why they are important to you. If you would like to play, let me know in the comments field – and I’ll assign you a letter.

Handy – I fancy myself a pretty handy gal. I can fix things myself, and I know how to use quite a few tools, even power tools. I often say “I can fix that” and I usually can.

Hysterical – People tell me I am anyway. Maybe I just have a funny way about me. Not that I’m a comedian. But I think the way I see things and what I choose to comment on about something can be a little off-kilter. Oh, wait. You mean it’s not good when people shake their head at me and laugh? Strike that then. Not funny.

Heart – I have a big one. I love deeply, passionately and completely. My husband, my kids, my family. When I look at the three people I live with, when they’re hugging each other or me, when my daughter begs my husband to tuck her in and my son has questions about Superman that can only be answered by his step-dad…well, my heart squishes with love.

Hammer – I’m associating this one with work. I work hard, especially physically. I’ve done many a days hard work and manual labor. I love getting my hands dirty and being able to see that at the end of the day I’ve really accomplished a lot.

Heat – I hate it. But I live with it from April to November. Sometimes more intensely than others, but still, if you go a summer day in Texas without getting hot, well, you’re spending too much time with your head in the freezer.

Hokey – I’m a big goofball. I don’t take myself too seriously. I laugh at others that think they’re so important and that make a big deal out of everything. I can be just as silly as my seven-year-old, and just as goofy as my ten-year-old.

Hillbilly – I’m a Southern girl. Took me awhile to admit to it. But now that I have, I embrace my twang and my blue jeans and my boots.

Highbrow – Closest H word I could think of that came close to meaning cultured and refined. I love the Arts – Ballet, Opera, Symphony, Museums, Theater. I’ve studied and read the great writers of the past and present. I love learning new things. I’m a Highbrow Hillbilly. How ’bout that.

Heteroclite – Go on. I’ll wait for you to look it up… I don’t follow the rules. How else do you think I got to be a Highbrow Hillbilly? I do what I want when the mood strikes me. You can dress me up, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll behave.

Hilltop – I’d love to just sit on a hilltop, looking at everything around me. Watching how it changes. Enjoying the sun on my face, the wind in my hair, and the sounds of nature in my ears. I’ll run from the bottom to the top, and then ride my bike back down the side. I’ll put up a tent and sleep under the stars; eat beans from a can, cooked on a fire.

Your turn.

May 23, 2006

Baghdad ER

Filed under: Rants & Opinions — by InterstellarLass @ 9:36 am

Baghdad ER premiered Sunday night, but I forgot until I turned on the TV to watch the Sopranos. Fortunately it was on On Demand, and I was able to watch it last night.

I’ve been against this war from the start. I don’t get it. Yes, Saddam is crazy. He was a bad man. He’s gone now, and that’s probably a good thing. I still don’t see that he was that big of an international threat but more of a nuisance than anything. But now that he’s gone, what’s been accomplished? We’ve provided a centralized location for terrorists to play, and our boys are dying for it.

I’ve heard a proposed solution. “Nuke the place and let A**ah sort them out.” A quick and dirty solution, yes. But not one that I endorse. Yet watching this documentary last night, seeing young men come in with limbs dangling or completely blown off, watching as the amputated limb after limb, and zipped up body bag after body bag, I have to wonder. What the hell are they doing there? It’s the same thing over and over. Nothing is changing. Day after day, the bombs, oops, excuse me, Improvised Explosive Devices (yeah, let’s give it a fancy name, that makes it better) go off, tearing into the Humvees, ripping the occupants to shreds.

The soldiers can’t tell the difference between friend and foe. The bad guys don’t give a crap if they blow up 20 of their own, including children; if they can get a US soldier, it’s worth it. So they walk into crowds, blowing themselves up, taking down innocents and soldiers alike. Then, when help arrives, a second wave blows them up. Soldiers are sent on missions, such as delivering chow to their fellow soldiers and are blown up for it. (This was a scenario from the documentary.)

How long will this go on? How many fingers, legs, eyes, lives have to be lost? What’s the plan? How are we getting out of there? All the news reports I read say the same thing. Yeah, we’re training the Iraqis to defend their country, but they’re just as big a target as our own soldiers, and we doubt if the ones that aren’t killed can really stand on their own.

I recommend watching this, if you can stomach it. It’s ugly. It’s bloody. I can’t imagine being one of these field doctors. They live in a revolving door of death and traumatic injury. Maybe a quick and dirty solution would be better after all. I still don’t know.

Hawkeye: War isn’t Hell. War is war, and Hell is Hell. And of the two, war is a lot worse.
Father Mulcahy: How do you figure, Hawkeye?
Hawkeye: Easy, Father. Tell me, who goes to Hell?
Father Mulcahy: Sinners, I believe.
Hawkeye: Exactly. There are no innocent bystanders in Hell. War is chalk full of them – little kids, cripples, old ladies. In fact, except for some of the brass, almost everybody involved is an innocent bystander.

May 21, 2006

I’ll take 5th place

Filed under: Poker Nights — by InterstellarLass @ 10:17 pm

On Saturday, I competed in my first-ever poker tournament. Well, two tournaments actually. The first was a “ladies only” event, with about 18 other “ladies”. I won a couple of awesome door prizes, a new bag and a totally gaudy, but perfect for my poker friends, straight-flush poker hat.

The second tournament was at a sports bar I’d never been to. I was kind of scared, going in by myself and not knowing anyone. But, when I got in I recognized a couple of girls from the earlier tournament. I signed in on the sheet and waited for my table assignment.

There were many characters there. Quite a few women, and older and younger men. The older guys were nice. The young guys were mouthy. Spouting statistics, yammering about games that they’d played before. Talking about their strategy after winning or losing a hand. Here’s one free look a jackass mouthed off two hands before he checked on the turn, checked on the river, and then called my $1,000 raise to see my pocket queens match up with the river queen to make three pretty ladies that beat his two aces. He was pissed. Stupid. Don’t check twice then call a huge raise to see what I have. Two hands later, he was out.

I got pretty low on chips at a couple of points, but worked my way back, playing far fewer hands than I’m used to. I called a couple of hands that I shouldn’t have, and I knew it before I did it. But hey, that’s why it’s called gambling.

I ended up at the final table. There were eight of us. The blinds were $2,000/$4,000 at this point, and I managed to double up twice. But doubling up off $2,000 to start with isn’t that great at the final table. Not when people have seven times the chips you do. Two guys and another girl went out at the table before I did. The top 5 were all girls. I had to go for it on my last hand where I was the big blind, and, I missed the king I needed. Oh well. For my first sanctioned APL tournament, 5th place out of 54 ain’t bad.


Sunday was spent doing laundry. Lots of it. And cleaning out my linen closet. I took Elle to the store to shop for dinner. I bought for Sunday and Monday night since I was in a hurry. And when I got to the checkouts, the lines were long. I had less than the 15 required items for the express self-checkout. All four machines were lit-up, indicating they were available, but only three of the machines were in use. By people that shouldn’t have been allowed to use self-checkout. Searching every item for the bar-code, waiting for the machine to tell them to place their item in the bag, trying to decide what to scan next. I groaned internally.

Then I figured out why one of the machines wasn’t in use. A woman with at least 10 cases of Coke, 10 Healthy Choice frozen dinners, a half dozen two liters of orange drink and some other objects was browsing through the weekly circular, arguing with the self-checkout checker, and holding up the 4th machine. Why the hell is she even in the express lane, much less the self-checkout lane?

The people who shouldn’t use the self-checkout machines finally mananged to pay for their purchases and move out of my way. See, I’m the professional self-checker-outer. I can ring myself up and get out before any of the paid-checkers could do so. I know what to ring up in what order and bag it all together, heaviest items first, ending with bread and eggs. I know what order the machine will ask me questions and exactly which buttons to press so I’m out the door in the fastest time possible. I’m busy people, and this woman was holding up the line!

Once she finished arguing with the clerk, she sat at the machine, trying to figure out how to ring up and pay for all the HUGE items she had in her cart. I turned to the clerk and asked loudly Why is she checking out in this lane? She obviously has too many items. The clerk muttered something back to me that I couldn’t understand. I don’t understand why she’s taking up the express-self-checkout lane when she obviously needs help. The clerk muttered something again while I grabbed my receipt and Elle and headed out the door, throwing a nasty look over my shoulder at the ditz-oid with the year’s supply of Coke. While I was loading my three bags in my car, I thought about going back in and speaking to the manager, asking why they weren’t enforcing the 15-item limit. But then I chickened out. I was short on time too.

Maybe next time I’ll get my courage up to confront where I see stupid people breaking the rules.

May 19, 2006

Graduation Night

Filed under: Elle & Zed — by InterstellarLass @ 12:56 pm

Graduation night went off without a hitch! Elle behaved, Zed walked proudly, his pictures were cute, he got nice gifts and even picked a good restaurant! I’m so proud of my boy!

Amazingly though he can go from “cool” to “goofy” in 2 seconds flat.

May 18, 2006

Graduation Day

Filed under: Elle & Zed — by InterstellarLass @ 9:24 am

Tonight, my baby boy graduates from 5th grade. He has exactly one week of elementary school remaining before joining the middle school ranks. On Tuesday, he and I met with the band director to select an instrument for Zed to learn. We tried the trumpet, the trombone, the option of euphonium, the french horn, and the saxaphone before finally settling on the clarinet.

Zed will be 11 in just two weeks. Marching toward being a teenager, still acting like a goofy kid sometimes. Wavering between being trustworthy and not-so-much. Wickedly smart, he’ll be in Honors Math next year. He’s a scientist, an aspiring astronaut (or professional basketball player), a big brother (begrudingly at times), a cousin (so gentle with his 3-year old niece), a sensitive soul.

He’s starting to smell like a teenage boy, with stinky feet and hair. He still (thank goodness) doesn’t have much interest in girls. He loves Jurassic Park, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and lately Superman. While I sometimes have to pry him off the couch with a crowbar, he loves to play outside, any kind of chase or ball.

He’ll hold my hand in the car, or cuddle with me on the couch, but in public I’m the ultimate embarassment. “Mom! You’re embarassing me! Stop it! Look at all the people around here!” Even if he doesn’t know a single soul.

I remember his first day of kindergarden. The blue plaid shirt and khaki shorts that he wore. The little tennis shoes. His hair all done and sprayed down, just the way he liked it. His Star Wars backpack. I walked him in to the classroom, and although he’d attended daycare for some time, it was so hard to leave him. But he sat down on his carpet square and was ready to learn. Cue my exit to leave, yet I lingered. Watching my boy begin his learning experiences and his first steps toward being not such a little boy.

May 16, 2006

Pinch of the Personal Trainer

Filed under: Training — by InterstellarLass @ 12:57 pm

Well, at least I don’t need help lifting my wallet anymore. Yesterday I went and joined a gym again. I need to balance my outdoor running cardio with weightlifting and get a boost at getting in shape. Well, a different shape then I’m in now anyway.

The company I work for has a number of discounts at different gyms, and I selected one close to my house. The trainer I met with was about 5 inches shorter than me, looked like he might have been on ‘roids, had shaved everything, and smelled like baby lotion. (I love the smell of babies and all, but baby lotion just gets to me for some reason. Baby powder and all the other sweet smells are one thing, but ewww! that pink stuff is gross.)

Anyway. The monthly dues are low, but damn. I’m in the wrong business. I need to be a private personal trainer. Sessions run between $52 (discounted) up to $75 an hour at the gym. Can you imagine what some people pay for trainers to come to them? Then comes the personal cookbook and training regimen, and then the big bucks come flowing in…

I’ve got to call my assigned trainer, LaShonda, back today and make an appointment with her. I’m sure there will be weighing and measuring and whatnot going on. I’ll probably tear up a bit. Then, in 9 weeks, after 2 sessions per week with the trainer, there will be more weighing, measuring and whatnot going on. And hopefully by then I’ll be smiling.

May 15, 2006

Happy Mother’s Day!

Filed under: Elle & Zed,Mom Life — by InterstellarLass @ 11:26 am

I hope you all had as good a Mother’s Day as I did! It was a gorgeous day!

Nick and I picked up Elle and Zed from TheEx, then went to brunch with my family. I love the Blue Mesa brunch. It’s fairly priced, the food is good, and the brunch price includes all you can drink mimosas (champagne and orange juice) and poinsettias (champagne and cranberry juice).

After brunch, I took Elle by James Avery to have some new charms added to her charm bracelet. She also browsed all the charms and made a ‘wish list’. Now I know what to get her for her birthday!

Then she and I went bowling. I had wanted to something more ‘mommy/daughter’, but hey, what says “I love you mom” like a bowling alley? She and I had a grand time. In one hour, she and I bowled 2 games, and then she bowled 2 more by herself. And what was even more fun was they turned on the blacklights and played the YMCA! She’s a pretty good bowler, but has a unconventional style.

I then did a kiddo-switcher-oo and Zed and I went back to play Laser Tag and video games. I’d never played Laser Tag before, and it was so much fun!. Zed and I had the run of the place, so the referee put the game play on free-for-all, so there was no “base” or anything. We just got to run around tagging each other. The only downside? I can’t see Zed’s score. So when we’re done, my vest starts beeping wildly, indicating I won. 1830 to 490. Ooops. But then he evened it out by beating me 7-1 at air hockey.

My day ended watching The Sopranos and Big Love. Just when I was really hating Nikki, she stood up for her family and gave the others confidence and brought them all closer. Next week’s episode of Big Love looks sooooo good! I can’t wait a whole week!

May 11, 2006

My Own DJ

Filed under: Married Life,Mr. Wonderful — by InterstellarLass @ 12:09 pm

One of the benefits to being married to Nick? He’s like my own personal DJ. If I’m thinking of a song but need help remembering the artist, or I want to hear a song, he can go over to his little ginormous CD index and find it.

Yesterday morning I got up early for a run, then took a shower and laid back down before getting ready for work. I accidently fell to sleep, but he got the kids up and took them to school. Before he left for work, he brought me a cup of coffee and left me a CD he’d made for me. Just three songs. One to make me smile (Brad Paisley, The World), one to make me laugh (Brad Paisley, Me Neither), and one to make my heart melt (Pat Benatar, We Belong – video).

I’m a lucky girl.

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