My terrible horrible no good very bad morning

There’s no pictures in this post, because, trust me, you don’t want to see the horrors I saw.

Our apartment has a cockroach problem. Oh, they’re the little German roaches, so it’s not like I have four-inch monsters climbing my walls or anything. I’ve sprayed, put down diatomaceous earth, left bait traps, everything. They’re breeding under the dishwasher, and I can’t get to them. So I clean house as best as I can and leave it at that.

Anyway, the past month or so, we’ve had a lot of fruit flies around. I always have piles of fruit on my counter for the kids to snack on, so I figured that was the source. The thing is, the fruit is completely gone by the end of every week, so I couldn’t tell where, exactly, they were coming from.

Then there was the smell. I’d been battling this sewer-smell for weeks–I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned, and it never seemed to go away. I cleaned my trash can and scoured the fridge for stinky leftovers, and anything else I could think of. Nothing helped.

This morning, when I pulled the trash can out from under the sink to take the trash can out, there were a bunch of roach egg pods underneath it. “Aha!” I thought. “I can clean these up and remove most of the next generation in one fell swoop!”

I started pulling stuff out from under my sink in preparation for cleaning. Among the various odds and ends under there, I had a mop bucket that I use mainly for storing cleaners.

It had an inch of black water in it. In the water were piles of roach corpses, and hundreds of fruit fly larvae. Thousands. The source of the mysterious smell had at last been uncovered.

Down the toilet the water went. I scrubbed and swept and stomped survivors, and threw away just about everything.

By the end, I just wanted to throw up. Or scream and run away. I took the kids to the park and sat out in the clean fresh air for a long time.

But as I recovered, it was with a growing sense of satisfaction. The insect population in our apartment is going to drop dramatically for a while.

Also, I don’t know where that black water came from. Did my garbage disposal leak? I couldn’t get it to drip when I was under there cleaning. Either way, we have a problem I need to make sure gets fixed, pronto … I just have to figure out what in the world it is.

Monsoons and stuff

This past weekend, we had parts of Hurricane (typhoon?) Dolores pay CA and AZ a visit. As I was driving, I snapped a few pics of the threatening clouds.


You can actually see the rain falling out in the distance, there.


Sure looks promising, doesn’t it?

As it turns out, the storm hit LA, the central valley, and western AZ. Phoenix got some clouds and nice breezes. It was lovely and cool, but we got zero rain. I thought it was kind of a dud, then I saw this news story.

I-10 bridge collapsed near Desert Center due to flash flooding.

So, I’m glad it didn’t hit Phoenix. If it knocked down bridges out in the desert, think of what it would have done to the metro area!

Otherwise, it was a very pleasant weekend. Any time we get a break from the sun is really nice, especially in July.

July lethargy

Can you believe that it’s already July? Out here in AZ, school starts in a month. I’ve been planning our next school year … slowly … because it’s so hot, it’s hard to function.

This is one of the places I’d rather be right now.


Welcome to Oregon! From InterfaceLIFT

Barring that, we’ve hit the pool every morning before it’s gotten too hot. That’s pretty much been it for summer activities … when it’s 110 every day, it’s just hard to summon the desire to leave the air conditioning. I see why these southwest societies sleep through the heat of the day and stay up half the night. That’s the only time you feel alive, man!

I read these homeschool books about exposing kids to wonderful music and art, and letting their creativity flourish. So I get these grandiose ideas about teaching my kids the ways of Mozart and Beethoven, and maybe having somebody be a breakout music protege … and we wind up listening to Raffi for hours. (Ring ring ring, bananaphone!)

I read about letting them be bored so they invent things to do with their imaginations. What that looks like in practice is play > arguing > fighting.

Me: Why don’t you guys play the new Terraria update?

Sigh. Good intentions.

Nine years!

Today’s our anniversary, and my hubby and I have been married nine years. He was laughing that we now have been married longer than we knew each other before we were married (which was eight years).

When people say to marry your best friend, they’re not kidding. Ryan’s always simply been my friend. Lately we’ve been playing a Minecraft modpack called Hubris (the world is tainted! Use magic to fix it!) and having an absolute blast. Last night we watched Guardians of the Galaxy, which was major for us, because we haven’t watched a movie together since the last season of Doctor Who ended.

We’re also kind of behind on movies, as you probably guessed. 😀


I was hanging out with my eight-year-old son, and wondering where all these kids came from, anyway. I know I was there when they were all born, it’s just that that gets kind of distant when you’re all discussing the biology of ants, or cleaning viruses off a kid’s computer.


I wouldn’t change any of this for the world.


Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll go check the ribs and cook the corn on the cob. 🙂

A good thing is a bad thing when it’s forced on you

Dave Ramsey is a good guy. His ministry has helped millions of folks get out of debt.

But my extended family has used him and his materials to beat my husband and I over the head for the past several years. We’re even doing Ramsey’s system, but that’s never enough. We get to hear allllllll about Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey, Dave Ramsey, until we’re ready to vomit at the sheer mention of his name.

So last night, they cajoled and planned and arm-twisted until they got us to go to the Smart Money seminar, which was here in Phoenix. Late on a Wednesday night. They even offered to watch the kids while we went. So here’s how it went:

3:30. The boy I babysit is picked up early. We jump in the car and head to the family members’ who have forced us into this.

4:00. We arrive and drop off the kids. The family have added a stone stream bed to their front yard, as well as a new front walk and resurfaced the porch a bright sunflower yellow. We express wonder to each other about why work on the house like this if they’re moving.

4:30. We get to the park-and-ride metro down in Tempe. Parking is extremely expensive downtown, especially with a Phoenix Suns game, as there was last night. The train arrives about 4:38.

5:05. We arrive downtown. There are skyscrapers. There are weird traffic lanes. There is tons of window shopping. We eat dinner at a burger joint. There are far too many French fries involved.

5:30. We hike a couple of blocks down to the Symphony Hall, where there is a line of people around three sides of the building. They’re all holding Dave Ramsey tickets. Our hearts sink. The line begins moving as we get there, so we get inside fairly quickly.

6:00. We are seated inside plush, cushy Symphony Hall. It’s the kind of theater with a bottom level and a balcony, and it was sold out. We sat toward the back, under the balcony. There were smoke machines and a laser show.


6:30. Dave Ramsey’s announcer comes out and starts the preshow. They advertise health care and life insurance. They play money-related games like the Price is Right. In general they keep the audience entertained. Ryan and I are moderately amused. We’re also somewhat concerned about the amounts of beer being consumed around us.

7:00. Dave Ramsey’s segment starts. The theater goes dark. There is an impressive light show via the smoke machines. There is a DVD intro for the “Smart Money” seminar thing. It’s slick. When Ramsey comes out, people are screaming and jumping up and down. I’ve been to concerts with less enthusiasm. And beer.

Ramsey says “Spend less than you make”, and that’s the extent of his wisdom. The rest we know from his various books/videos. He’s entertaining, but we don’t really learn anything. The crowd is completely fanboy.

8:00. One of his co-hosts comes on. He’s a black guy named Chris with a really deep voice, and I enjoy him on the principle that he hasn’t been shoved down our throats.

8:30. The seminar breaks for intermission. The class will resume at 9. We have a 30 minute train ride and a 20 minute drive back to get the kids, then another 20 to get home. We bail without remorse.

9:00. We are on the train, listening to people arguing about whether the speed of gravity is faster than the speed of light. Ryan and I listen and shake our heads at the sheer amount of stupidity. The main guy in the argument looks like Jack Sparrow, complete with beads in his hair.

9:45. We pick up the kids, who have spent 4 hours watching Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends. Apparently this is what the parent in charge deems entertaining. Second-youngest is asleep. We haul everyone home. I’m very glad to have my kids back.

10:15. We finally get home, exhausted.

This morning, my husband and I have tried to figure out the point of this exercise. We’re doing the Ramsey debt snowball thing. We’re managing our money with a budget. We own all his books. Why isn’t that enough? These relatives of ours will never be pleased with us.

Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Even Dave Ramsey.

Kids and a short story

It’s been a busy week around here. Fortunately I snapped pictures to share our doings.


Here’s the table during recess, with all of our books in mid-school. They get very wiggly after a while, and rather than deal with tears and whining, I dispatch them to run around a lot. Always helps their moods.


They didn’t know I was taking this pic–candid camera! Those are the best. Look at their thoughtful expressions.


Here’s the baby in my big chair (where I was attempting to dry the denim). She climbed up there all by herself, and she was so proud.


A tobacco moth had decided to spend the day on our porch, so I snapped a pic of him. They’re so huge! It must totally be spring, if these dudes are out and about. They make those great big tomato hornworms that are so stripy and spiffy.

I also released a new short story this week! Well, actually, it’s an old story, but it’s been spiffed up for internet consumption.


Portal to Freedom: A magical girl who can turn into a fox, and a dragon who must eat spicy food in order to breathe fire, attempt to escape the Zoo that holds them prisoner.

A dollar on Amazon, and free on Smashwords!

Feeding ravenous kids

It’s a warm, breezy afternoon here in Arizona. I tried to get a picture, but it’s hard to get pictures of the wind.


President’s Day took me by surprise. I was expecting to get up and do school today … then it turned out that every other child in our apartment complex was out and wanting to play. So I kicked all five kids outside.

We also built Legos and did other fun stuff. Basically, it was a vacation day. I feel like I should make some kind of special dinner, but I can’t think of cooking when my fridge is full of leftovers. Does that ever happen to you? It’s like writer’s block, only … chef’s block. I think it will just be leftover night.


Yesterday I made hamburgers using a meatloaf recipe. I was afraid my little package of hamburger meat wouldn’t feed us all, so here’s what I did:

1 lb hamburger
1 cup leftover stuffing
a vigorous shake of garlic powder and diced onions
Several good shakes of Worcestershire
A hearty drizzle of steak sauce
1 egg

I mixed that all up, made the patties, and fried them in my trusty iron skillet. The stuffing disappeared into the meat, and the burgers tasted wonderful. Because of the stuffing, they were also a bit lighter than burgers usually are. It was a perfect dinner. I also made potato wedges and a fruit and veggie smoothie on the side.

As the weather warms up, and the kids are out in the sun more, they’re starting their summer growth spurts. And they eat like CRAZY. It’s like feeding black holes, seriously. Cookies? Gone. Grapes? Gone. Box of eight yogurts? Gone. Oranges? Gone. Apples and bananas? Gone. I try to ration one kind of snack for each day, so we don’t go through them so fast. But man, by Friday, I’m frantically cooking extra cookies and handing out peanut butter pops. (This is a scoop of peanut butter on a spoon, covered with raisins.)

If you have kids, how do you keep them fed?

A little too much excitement

A strange wasp I found on our porch. Anybody know what it is? I mean, I assume it’s a wasp.

It’s been an interesting week or two. As you can see from these photos my son took, we actually had fog following a big storm. Fog in Phoenix! It might as well have been snow–it freaked out everybody trying to drive in it.


Here is my son’s “Oh no look at the fog!” face.


Here’s our little porch with all the chairs.


Clover with lots of dew from the fog.


Looking out from our porch, across the green.

Anyway, when my son got his bed, for reasons unknown, he didn’t get a box spring. So his mattress has been precariously perched on this IKEA wooden rack thing that rested on the bedframe and held up the mattress. Except when you get five kids dogpiling on a bed, flimsy wooden slats tend to break. So his mattress has been a saggy mess lately.

I kept saying that I’d watch the dumpsters around here, and as soon as somebody tossed a box spring, I’d grab it. (Provided it was in decent shape.)

So today, I took the kids out for a walk to release their wiggles. We got allll the way down by the front of the apartments, when I spotted a box spring and mattress beside the dumpsters. SCORE. We’d just carry it back home, and …

Wait, box springs are heavy. And I have the upper body strength of a wet spaghetti noodle. The boys and I lugged and dragged and rolled that box spring the five hundred feet or so back to our apartment building. Just as we reached our sidewalk, my strength gave out, and we stopped to rest. As we were sitting there gasping, a man in gym-like clothes drove up and said, “Would you like some help?”

I gratefully accepted. Screw feminism–I couldn’t lift my arms anymore. The guy picked up the box spring in one hand and carried it to our apartment like it was a slightly inconvenient mattress-sized rectangle. I was able to drag it inside and get it on the bed.

So now my son’s bed no longer sags, and the kids bounced on it all afternoon with no ill effects.

But I still can’t lift my arms. :-p


My daughter’s Minecraft house, which for some reason wound up in my camera.


Frowny baby.

New kid bed get!

Over the weekend, we finally picked up and assembled my son’s new bed, gifted from his grandparents. This had precipitated a major rearranging of the kids’ room.


The girls now have the bunk bed, and the crib is available for the youngest, once she’s weaned.


My son’s selfie. This is what happens when I send him to his room with the camera and say, “Take some pictures for my blog!”


And there’s still room to play! All in all, a satisfactory arrangement.

A day in the life of the Carrolls

So I sat down to write one of these day in the life kinds of things–and then we had a NOT-typical day. Argh! But it does go to show the way life works around here.

This was our Monday, yesterday:

5 AM. I wake up and nurse the baby back to sleep. My stomach is acting up. While I wait for it to calm down, I do my devotions, then get in some revisions on the book I’m working on.

6 AM. Hubby doesn’t feel good. I wrap up writing, and we jump in the shower so we’re dressed when the boy I babysit arrives.

7 AM. Kids got up when they heard the shower. Neighbor boy arrives. I explain that we’re getting back into a school routine, and there will be no computer games until that afternoon. Groans. Whining. They all go off to play. They make paper money and build little shops in the bedroom, and sell toys to each other.

8 AM. The kids eat all the apples, and proclaim their boredom. We sit down and do money math. It’s a big hit. They return to their shops.

9 AM. Hubby is sicker, and beginning to be anxious about going to work. I grab the girls and make them do their reading. They can read, especially the 5 year old–they just need more practice.

10 AM. I hide away with my ipod and check internets. The kids gallop outside to enjoy the sunshine. My son claims he is not bored, loudly, in the vicinity of the computer. I give him an oral spelling test. He escapes afterward and runs off to play.

11 AM. I feed them macaroni and cheese, and make them clean up their abandoned shops. My babysat ward is picked up by his mother and taken to preschool.

12 PM. I set up a new game for the kids–it’s called Trove, and it’s a free to play adventure Minecraft kind of game. Hubby now has the full-blown flu, and calls in sick to work.

1-2 PM. Naptime. The two youngest take naps, hubby takes a nap, I lie down but don’t sleep much. The older two play Trove. After a while, I get up to supervise, and embroil myself in Pokemon.

3 PM. Babysitting ward returns. I let the kids play games to keep them quiet because hubby is still asleep. There are a lot of hungry bees on the porch trying to get into the open window. We set out a small dish of honey for them. The kids sit outside and watch them, once I explain that bees don’t want to sting you. They keep count of the visiting bees. Son proclaims that he wants to be a beekeeper.


My beekeeper

4-5 PM. Hubby finally wakes up. I obviously can’t feed him the beef fajitas I have marinating in the fridge, so I make French toast instead. Babysitting ward is picked up for the night.

6-7 PM. The kids watch some of their current favorite Youtube show, which is a playthrough of Starfox Adventures. When they’re done, we go in their room and start a new book–A Wrinkle in Time. It’s sufficiently weird for their tastes.

8 PM. I go to bed, write, and chat with friends on my ipod.

9 PM. My son runs to the bathroom and barfs about a gallon of stuff all over the toilet, the floor, and the cabinets. I mop up for a solid fifteen minutes.

10 PM. My oldest daughter barfs all over her bed. Sheets are stripped and dumped in the washing machine, and she is supplied with fresh blankets. Buckets are handed out to everyone.

11 PM. I think I might have finally fallen asleep by this point. But YEAH it was a FUN day. Not exactly typical, but … YEAH FUN.

Christmas cookies
The best thing about this picture is the little photographer in the reflection.