Almost spring!

Pitchers and catchers report to Mesa on Monday. Meanwhile, Ryno should be arriving in Clearwater any day now, if he hasn’t already. I’m not sure about the reporting date for the Ironpigs, but the Phillies pitchers and catchers report tomorrow, so the minor-league affiliates should be along directly.

I need to get off my butt and figure out the Isotopes’ schedule so we can plan some trips to Albuquerque this summer.

On a related note, Grant couldn’t find anybody to coach baseball this spring, so he’s doing it himself. Meanwhile, Lil Miss informed me that the softball coach is a 22-year-old first-year art teacher who played one season of coach-pitch softball when she was in second grade and only agreed to take over the team because she is inexplicably terrified of Grant and will basically do anything he asks, whether she has any business doing it or not. Coaching softball, Lil Miss assures me, falls into the category of Things She Doesn’t Have Any Business Doing, as she knows almost nothing about the game, so I tagged along with Lil Miss to practice this morning (the past two days, incidentally, have been much warmer than the last couple of weeks have been) and offered my services as third-base coach.

I am pleased to report that Coldwater High School’s head softball coach now knows how to keep score, fill out a lineup card, and give signs to the pitcher. She still plays ball like a girl, but given sufficient practice, I think Lil Miss and I can cure her of that.

Wisely, I think, I elected not to tell Grant about my latest volunteer project until after I’d cleared it with Dr. Scherer.

Grant, predictably, was apoplectic. He is under the impression that “pregnant” is a synonym for “invalid.” I explained to him that when I played summer ball in junior high, my coach — who had been the star pitcher on her college team — threw BP for us in the middle of June, while she was eight months pregnant. Her daughter was born perfectly healthy, after less than three hours of labor, and grew up to lead her high-school softball team to the state championship four years in a row, with the lowest ERA in school history.

Grant remains unconvinced.

I remain unconcerned.

The girls’ home opener is March 14, if anybody’s interested.

— Sierra

So much for the January thaw.

It is currently 12 degrees outside, with a windchill of five below zero, four inches of snow on the ground, and more falling.

Our rooms are full of stranded travelers who lost their nerve when the snow started blowing across the interstate. I fed them chili mac and sent them off to bed with big mugs of hot chocolate topped with marshmallow creme. Lil Miss came by after school, but by the time Grant got out of the building, the temperature had dropped about 20 degrees and the roads were starting to get slick, so he sent her home and followed her in the Volvo just to make sure she got there OK. I worried about him until he got back, but I really shouldn’t have; as he pointed out, a decade in Flagstaff will teach you a thing or two about driving in the winter.

When he got back, Grant spent most of the evening playing Pac-Man with Joey while I made a batch of chocolate-chip biscotti. They’re planning to make ice cream out of snow tomorrow morning.

At this writing, Grant is asleep on my shoulder, Harvey is asleep on my foot, and the cats are asleep in a big, furry pile on my lap while the snow falls softly over Freed’s Garage.

Despite the general crappiness of the weather, life is very, very good right now.

— Sierra

Nerdtastic.

Dr. Scherer called me today and told me to bring the truck to the district storage building behind the middle school. Joey was helping the janitors clean a bunch of surplus equipment and books out of the building, and they found a seven-foot-long slide rule buried under a mountain of other obsolete equipment. It’s all dirty and scratched up, and some of the numbers are worn almost completely off of it, but the head of maintenance showed Joey (who is having a devil of a time with long division) how it worked, and he was so enthralled with it that Dr. Scherer told him he could have it if I’d come and haul it home.

Grant and Joey and Lil Miss are now sitting in the middle of the floor in the lobby, using it to do Lil Miss’ algebra homework and trying to figure out the best way to mount it on the wall. Because if there’s one thing I need in my lobby, it’s obviously a seven-foot-long slide rule.

Lil Miss has promised Joey that she will help him refinish it and repaint the faded numbers and tick marks this weekend.

Between that and the coin-op Pac-Man table in the corner (my Christmas present to Grant), I might as well change the name of this place to the Nerdway Motor Inn.

— Sierra

Whining, or: Things That Would Totally Rock

You know what would rock? Not having to drive all the way to freakin’ Tucumcari to see an obstetrician on Grant’s provider list.

You know what else would rock? Good decaf. Good decaf would rock like a Jimi Hendrix concert.

You know what would rock most of all? Not feeling gross. Not feeling gross would rock harder than Joe Perry, Jimmy Page, and Angus Young put together.

OK, OK, I’ll stop whining. I really don’t have any legitimate reason to whine. It sucks to drive 30 miles to go to the doctor, but I probably shouldn’t bitch about it, because I’m making the drive down Route 66 in New Mexico, in a late-model SUV manufactured by a company whose entire reputation is built around its stellar safety record.

My insurance coverage might be a little spotty and inconvenient because of Coldwater’s rural surroundings, but at least I have it.

And despite the fact that I feel totally gross about half the time,  the doctor says Rugrat and I are doing just fine. I definitely need to remember to be grateful for that. Healthy babies totally rock.

Here is something else that rocks: Joey and Lil Miss bought me a Space Invaders ice cube tray, a Tetris ice cube tray, and three big jugs of orange Gatorade for Christmas, so I now have an old rainbow sherbet tub full of Gatorade mini-popsicles in the freezer. Orange Gatorade mini-popsicles aren’t as nice as cappuccino, but they’re pretty good — especially when they’re shaped like Space Invaders.

It also rocks that the doctor told me I’m not supposed to change the litterbox while I’m pregnant, which means that job is officially Somebody Else’s Problem from now until August. That most definitely rocks.

— Sierra

Nothing doing

I wish I had something exciting to share this evening, but Coldwater is quiet, except for the yipping of the coyotes somewhere out beyond Hank Freed’s property line and the creaking of a speed-limit sign that’s trying to work itself loose from its post in the New Mexico wind.

Lil Miss spent this evening wrapping presents in the lobby with Joey and three or four members of the Coldwater High School FFA chapter. The kids organized a gift drive for the residents of the Coldwater Nursing Center, and I told Lil Miss she could use the Tumbleweed as a staging area for their project. My lobby was completely covered in wrapping paper, ribbons, and giggly teenagers for several hours this evening. The kids stacked all the presents in Unit Four when they finished. They’re going to load them into Lil’s truck and deliver them to the nursing home on Christmas Eve.

I was busy thawing out frozen pipes in Unit Three when the kids showed up, so Grant took over the kitchen and made some peppermint bark, a batch of chocolate-chip cookies, and a huge bowl of popcorn for them to munch on while they worked.

Not to belabor the point, but I think Grant may be the most awesome principal in the history of high schools. Sandy raised her boy right, and Coldwater was lucky to get him.

Speaking of Sandy, she’s supposed to be rolling into town next weekend. I can’t wait. I’m not sure what I did to deserve such an awesome mother-in-law, but I’m glad I’ve got her. She is one of the few people in the world who not only tolerates my quirks but understands and encourages them. I am blessed.

— Sierra

Giving thanks

I have a million blessings to count tomorrow, but the one I’m savoring the most at the moment is the simplest: a flock of brown construction paper hand turkeys decorated with tempera paint and embellished with gold glitter and red, orange, and yellow marabou feathers. Sandy and Lil Miss helped Joey and a pair of 4-year-old twins from Minnesota make them as decorations for the lobby this evening.

I cannot begin to explain why construction paper turkeys made by tracing around children’s hands delight me so much. They just do.

— Sierra

Another evening in Coldwater

Grant and I were sitting on the couch, watching TV, this evening, when he happened to lean over and kiss me during a commercial.

Lil Miss chose that exact moment to come in from the kitchen, where she was making apple-spice cake to serve with coffee tomorrow morning. She walked into the lobby with two slices of cake and two mugs of coffee, took one look at us, and shuddered.

“Five units, vacancy sign’s on, and they still can’t find a room,” she muttered. “I’m just gonna go Clorox my eyes now.”

I have never seen Grant laugh harder.

— Sierra