Category Archives: Writing

The Epic Saga of the Pineda Flypocalypse 2017


Autumn is my favorite time of year.  I love the cooler weather, getting to wear sweaters, watching the leaves turn, and all the pumpkin spice stuff. (Yes. I’m one of THOSE people.)  But, as much as I love it, this season has its drawbacks. Well, one drawback, but it’s a big one. 


Every September, they get thick in these parts and my trusty swatter sees extensive use over a couple of weeks, to keep the suckers at bay, but this year was a whole other story.  I chronicled it in an email to my mom, which I share with you here:


Hi Ma,

So, yesterday, I had to drive Ellen and Calvin to and from work and of course they were each scheduled to arrive and leave at separate times, and in too short a span to bother going home in between, so I spent a few hours in town…with not even enough time to wander the aisles and window shop between my chauffeur duties.  Instead, I just shuttled between my kids’ two fast food establishments, gorging on junk.  I bought a full meal from one place and a good sized milkshake from the other.  I am going to weigh 400 lbs if this keeps up.  Meanwhile, Julio spent the day at home working in the garden, then running 12 miles.  This means the other kids basically had to fend for themselves all day long and did and ate who knows what.  Also, because the temperatures dropped significantly over the past few days, it’s been very nice outside and Julio decided to air out the house. He opened up Calvin’s bedroom windows (both of which have no screens in them) and I came home to a HORDE of flies all over the ceilings and walls in every room (except mine and the little kids’ rooms—those doors were shut, thank goodness!) ‘Tis the season for flies and they are usually pretty bad around here, but never before beyond the use of a good swatter over a few days.  But this—?

This was FLYMAGGEDON. The buggers were EVERYWHERE, ceilings, walls, door frames!  Ellen even commented on it when we got home, deadpanning, “Someone needs to tell Pharaoh to let our people go.” 

Julio had texted me while I was still in town, to please pick up some fly strips.  I have NEVER, NEVER needed to use those disgusting things—but I have friends who have—and I gotta say, it is a revolting sight, seeing eighteen inches of mucous colored, glue-y ribbon dangling from the ceiling and dotted with frantically buzzing sky raisins.  When Julio asked me to get these and I asked why—the picture he sent made me throw up a little in my mouth. I can’t even pull it up on my phone without wanting to hurl, so I’ll spare you the image. You’re welcome.

I got the fly strips and we decorated like it was an entomological version of Christmas. We hung approximately 17 of the things JUST on the main floor, while flies buzzed in our faces and bopped against our pinched mouths and tried into our noses and ears.  I was forcibly reminded of Hitchock’s film The Birds.  Have you ever screamed with your mouth shut?  Within five minutes of the fly strips going up, and much waving of brooms and towels to flush the flies off the ceiling and towards their sticky doom, the fly ribbons were COVERED with flies.  The buzz of the collective fly terror was unnerving, like stumbling upon a rattlesnake.  Calvin’s room was by far the worst hit last night, followed by bathroom, and then Ellen’s room . Both kids fled to the library to sleep that night—the only other room to survive the onslaught of pestilence and plague. 

When I got up for church this morning, the fly strips were so full of flies your could barely see the eleventy million ribbons we’d put up.  It was gross. So gross. But also grimly satisfying.  Flies aren’t our bullies. No, ma’am.

My gloating didn’t last long, however.  The intelligent flies, having seen their fellows succumb to the La Brea glue strips, had made their way downstairs to the kitchen.  It was World War Fly down there. And, of course—the designated dish-doer children hadn’t done their dishes at any point during the previous 24 hours, so the flies were partying like spring break in Cancun.  Crawling on the ceiling and walls, plinking against the window panes, dive bombing us as we walked past the pantry, whirring up in cyclones from the sink full of dirty dishes.

What Gary Larson’s The Far Side horror show WAS this?!

No one ate breakfast, because no one had the stomach for it.  We went to church, wherein we had the Primary program, and I could only sit up there in the choir seats with my Primary kids thinking how narsty my kitchen was and how we are all probably going to contract some fly-borne illness and spend three weeks taking turns puking our guts out. Then, Julio texts me that the home teachers are planning to come over at 7:00 pm.  Now I’m thinking about bacterial infections and all the flies still buzzing cockily around like they own the place, and I just couldn’t do it. I imagined the home teachers trying to give a spiritual message while also being carried off by millions of Musca Domestica, and I nearly lost it. I texted Julio back during the final verse of I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus, with “Hell. No.  Cancel.  Unless the home teachers know how to exorcise these demons or otherwise strike them down in Biblical fashion, THEY SHALL NOT CROSS MY THRESHOLD TODAY.”


Following the Primary program, I had to then go teach my Sunday School class and then sit through Sharing Time.  Between dealing with the big kids’ car wreck and the flies this week, I hadn’t even bothered to look at the lesson for the day.  I ran to the church library, grabbed a bunch of colored paper, glue sticks, and scissors and threw them at my class. “I will read today’s lesson to you while you make paper airplanes and glue your fingers together. This is so fun.” I forgot my lesson manual in my haste to get out of my infested house and to the Primary program on time, so picked a lesson at random from my phone.  Midway through reading about God creating the animals and saw they were good, I received a text from Julio saying “Went to buy more fly strips. See you at home.” 

When church was over, I corralled our  kids, who claimed to be starving and wanted to know what was for lunch.  I said I didn’t know, because the flies had probably mutated into giant super bugs, bent on world domination and were using the kitchen as their headquarters.  I was right.  Julio had already put up yet another bazillion fly strips—but these were the smart flies—the cunning, wily ones who knew enough to lie low and wait for their weaker comrades to clear a path for them through the labyrinth of gummy streamers.  The kids and I spent a good hour battling flies with swatters and waving them with the broom off the ceiling towards the sticky strips.  Hydra like, for every fly I killed, ten more replaced it.  We were smashing flies so fast there wasn’t really time to wipe up fly guts off the wall or avoid crunching their crushed bodies under our feet.


I made the mistake of taking my shoes off, so every time I felt one crunch underfoot, I shrieked like I was being murdered–making the kids jump and shriek like they, too, were being murdered. Tensions were high. And we were squicked out beyond measure. Undaunted, we went Mel Gibson in Braveheart on them.  You have never seen such carnage as we did. Finally, we had done all we could—the remaining flies were hovering about the ceiling, and the floor was COVERED in crunchy black specks.  The walls were covered in swipes of juicy bug guts.  Calvin, ever stoic about taking on the dirtiest of jobs, got so heebie jeebied sweeping up fly carcasses that he had to quit and go outside to dry heave.  Gloria staunchly picked up where he left off.  I started scrubbing down walls, cabinets, and counters with hot water and soap, trying to rid my kitchen of the evidence of a full scale fly massacre.  I went to check on Calvin, who remarked on how bug free the out of doors was, and that if he could stay outside, he might be able to eat.  And by the way, what is for lunch? 

Mother, I have sinned.  I ordered Dominoes pizza on the Sabbath.  Julio and I went to go pick it up, stopping first at the local farm store to see about a more effective way to kill the second wave of flies that were already taking over upstairs.  I remembered a friend of mine who had grown up on a dairy farm tell me once that every year when the flies got super bad, her mother would not only bug bomb the barns, but the house.  Well. I wish I’d remembered that sooner.  It was time to go nuclear. We brought our industrial dairy sized canister of insecticide home along with the pizzas.  We ate outside in the yard, planning our attack.  We had to move the pets to an area of the house that wouldn’t take any direct spray from the fogger, so holed them up in the safe rooms, with excellent (screened!) ventilation.  Calvin decided that, as bad as his room was, he wasn’t sure he wanted it doused in insecticide and decided to start sucking up live flies into the canister vacuum.  I reminded him that this didn’t kill the flies, only gave them a quick ride and a nice, cozy place to cuddle until we opened the vacuum to replace the bag.  I fogged his room. Then I fogged the vacuum.  The kid bathroom and Ellen’s room were next.  I may have gone a little overboard, because two hours later, both Blythe and Ellen told me that when they went upstairs to check the bathroom, their eyes started stinging.  So. Looks like we will be airing those rooms (with SCREENS IN THE WINDOWS, JULIO!!!!) and washing bed linens and clothes before moving the kids back in. 

Our dwelling is now back to a normal autumnal level of house fly bother.  Tomorrow, I will take down the umpteen fly strips and dispose of them—maybe even burn them—because I read a thing on the internet that said flies will breed on top of dead flies and their maggots will feed on the dead fly carcasses.  I’m screaming with my mouth shut again. 

What’s new with you?

Love, Marissa


Three books worth your time


I love reading and I especially love memoirs. I love reading about people’s experiences growing up, or in far off lands, or in their garden, or otherwise living their lives. Here are some of my absolute favorites:


Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver: This chronicle of novelist Barbara Kingsolver’s family spending a year committed to eating only locally produced foods, and raising their own made me think more about where my food comes from and to see the value in supporting local farmers and businesses. Kingsolver admits that they were not rigid about their commitment, and that it was a journey. Her insights about their experiences are thought provoking, but not at all in an accusatory way.  She just tells it how it was for her family. Her husband and daughter get in on the act, too, writing scientific snippets and sharing recipes and their own experiences eating local.  This book made me want to break out my gardening gloves and go plant some tomatoes.  The audio book is exceptional, the author reads and her Southern voice is soothing and calm. Listening, I felt like we were sitting at the same table, having a friendly chat.


Love in the Driest Season, by Neely Tucker: Foreign correspondent Neely Tucker and his wife are working in Zimbabwe, when they meet a tiny, abandoned, malnourished infant girl, and try to do the impossible, adopt her. The story chronicles their experience as foreigners, trying to adopt in Zimbabwe, a country that does not allow their children to be adopted out of country. I first heard about this book via NPR, during an interview with Mr. Tucker.  At the time, I was researching adoption, and was eager to get my hands on any first-hand accounts of adopting abroad.  The audiobook for this is quite good, too.


The Language of Baklava, by Diana Abu-Jaber: I picked this up from the library when I was part of a book club related to food and foodie memoirs. The author is of American and Jordanian descent and her memoir focuses on her experiences growing up in Upstate New York and Jordan, with lush descriptions of the foods from her childhood (recipes included!)  She is tender and astute in describing her family and especially her father, a gregarious Jordanian, making a new life in America with aplomb. After I finished this book, I tried my hand at making baklava, hummus, baba ganoush, and several other dishes that I’d previously been too intimidated to try, opening my mind and enhancing my appreciation for good food from far-flung places.


What do you like to read? Have you found any memoirs you’d recommend?


How (and where) to eat all the tacos (just in time for Cinco de Mayo!)


My favorite kind of date night is the kind where we go out to eat. I don’t have to cook or clean up, and I can just sit and shoot the breeze with the man I love best. I am pretty dedicated to making sure one of these kinds of date nights happens weekly. Julio loves sushi and barbecue and I love Asian fusion, so I assumed for last week’s date night we’d hit one of our favorite places. To my surprise, Julio suggested tacos. Julio does not love tacos and only puts up with eating them a few times a month because I love them so. Corn tortillas, flour tortillas, soft, crunchy, chicken, ground beef, beans, cheese, tomatoes, onions, allllll the salsas and sauces! They are so easy to throw together on busy nights and because they are customizable, I don’t have to listen to my kids whine about how much they hate dinner.  What’s not to love? My refrigerator is a virtual taco shrine—jars of wicked hot salsa stand on doilies of Mission tortillas, flanked by containers of shredded cheese and offerings of tomatoes and heads of lettuce. Hail Tortilla, full of carne asada… 

So—why would we go out to a restaurant for something I can make in infinite varieties at home? Because my husband loves me and wants me to be happy.

  Date night

Julio had heard about this place downtown called Tin Roof Tacos, and thought it sounded interesting, so off we went to the “fast-casual” place on 115 S. Broadway, in Boise. Tin Roof Tacos is located in a small strip mall and the place was HOPPING, like, we had to fight for parking, HOPPING! The line was out the door when we arrived at around 7 PM. Fortunately, the line moved super fast, and the menu for all the Texas street-style tacos and beverages is plastered in large print on one wall, so while Julio waited in line, bantering with the other taco pilgrims and with the friendly staff, I set off to wrangle a couple of seats at one of the long, family style tables packed with college kids and families.

Julio went for broke and ordered one of each of the 14 varieties because they looked small, but really it was because I asked him to.  I figured we could take some home for the kids, but really I meant me.


We ate and ate and ate. We divvied them up, took a couple bites of each, then traded. There is something sublime about tacos and Coca Cola together. It was street food heaven. Fajita chicken, BBQ pulled pork, fried chicken, ground beef, black beans, corn, veggies, steak, brisket, shrimp, and a blizzard of cotija cheese! I am not ashamed to admit we ate alllll the tacos.  I think I heard angels, or maybe it was just The Fitness Marshall videos I turn on to distract Hulk Smash whenever I overindulge. Whatever. We all went away happy. We were too stuffed to consider dessert, but if I had ordered dessert, it would have been more tacos. (Though I hear the rice pudding is delicious.)


Julio said he was so full that he didn’t think he’d  want tacos again for a year, but surprise! We went back three days later for more (but we stuck to a more reasonable three tacos each, this time. You know, moderation and all that…)

As I write this, I realize that Cinco de Mayo is just a day away, and though it has nothing to do with commemorating the unlikely defeat of French forces by the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862, if you suddenly find yourself in Boise, with an urge to celebrate a foreign holiday, Tin Roof Tacos is a good place to start.

Note: This post is an independent, non-commissioned review, and I was not compensated for it.  It’s just me, sharing my taco love.

empty tacos

Musings on mid-life


I turn 40 this year. I have been dreading it a little bit, because this is the culturally expected norm, and it seems the accepted thing to do.  I am officially not young anymore.  I’m not really OLD, either, though—which is good, but also kind of bugs me, because I am really looking forward to being the cranky old lady who swears too much and doesn’t give a rat’s arse about what the church people and neighbors think.  Of course, my attitude may be slightly ahead of schedule…

Who Cares!

At any rate, I have decided to declare this year my mid-life crisis year, and do some of the random things I have always thought of doing “someday” or haven’t considered because KEEPING UP APPEARANCES. I don’t have a bucket list, per se, and most of the things I want to do are pretty mundane. and not stereotypical of midlife crises. I have decided not to take a lover, for example. But, letting my kid draw all over her bedroom wall? Sure, why not?

Ellen's Dragon

Most of my midlife crisis will likely be acquiescing to my limitations rather than fighting against them. I’m tired of fighting the inevitable. A few months ago, I quit dyeing my hair to cover the gray, and when I came back from the salon today, my kids were visibly relieved that I merely cut it. “I’m glad you’re back to your natural color,” my 17 year old daughter tells me, “you looked kind of scary when you dyed your hair.”  My fifteen year old son agreed. “When you dyed your hair, you sort of looked like you were trying too hard.” The knotheads.  But, they were right. While I miss having the well defined, expressive eyebrows that coloring gave me, I am cool with my fading red hair.

my hair then my hair now

(Farewell, eyebrows. Hello, new-old me!)

I spent the first part of this year decluttering the house as part of a Lenten challenge. I don’t even celebrate Lent, but I have thoroughly enjoyed off loading a bunch of junk.  Sentimental items I’ve kept for decades really hold no meaning to me anymore, and I had to laugh at some of the things I’ve held onto. She-Ra paper dolls, anyone? Since Lent and the challenge are over, I’ve quit the laser focus decluttering, but I have developed a habit of picking up things as I move about the house and getting rid of whatever I am tired of moving from place to place. There is still a lot of stuff I’d like to get rid of and downsize, so I will likely continue to move them slowly, but steadily out of my home and out of my life.

I am reading more now than I have in the previous few years.  Most books I’ve read in the last seven years have centered on educational philosophy and other non-fiction. I have plowed through several novels since January and it feels so indulgent. When reading fiction, I feel the same way I do when eating a dessert while trying to lose weight. “I am so bad. I should be making better choices.” Nom, nom, nom. Check out this great reimagining of a romance novel cover, by The Wonderful World of Longmire:

For the Love of Scottie McMullet

Oh, but there’s more!

I am also bingeing on my favorite movies and TV shows—because I can.  Folding laundry is fun again. Yes, again.

I am tired of making goals and chasing dreams. I’m not done doing those things, I’m just taking a breather, a sabbatical, if you will. My midlife crisis year is a season of comfort and rest, rather than pursuing the elusive essence of whatever.  I’m settling in and looking forward to being fat and happy.

I regret nothing

It’s just a phase…


My eldest child just got her driver’s license. My husband and I had to kind of push her into getting it, because she was perfectly content to sit shot-gun and read novels while I did all the driving, but, now she’s got it.  I wonder at her hesitancy to venture to the edge of the nest. She wants to be treated like a grown up, but she also still wants to be a kid.  She’s responsible and quite mature in some ways, but in others, she is still very, very young.  I find it both endearing and a little annoying that she still wants to throw herself across me on the couch and have me scratch her back. This is a very strange phase of parenting to navigate. 


Ellen driving

I realized the other day, that I am truly out of the “little kid” stage.  My youngest child is six.  She can do most things on her own. Yet, she too, still wants to sit in my lap and be read to.The similarities between the six year old, and my seventeen year old are striking.  They both want to be big, but they both want to be little. 

Neenie in the rain

Homeschooling has given me the unique opportunity to really SEE and experience my kids’ growth and development.  When I was a new homeschooler eight years ago, I asked a veteran homeschooling mama what the best curriculum was. She replied, “Let them be little.” Thinking she was referring to some kind of method book, I pressed for more details.  She replied, “Kids grow up so fast. Don’t be in a hurry to get them there. It comes soon enough.” She wasn’t kidding, though I didn’t really believe her at the time.  The days are long, but the years really are short!

Why I started blogging.


I’ve always loved to write and I feel more at home writing to an “audience” than to myself. In fact, as a kid, I kept a diary and wrote each entry as a letter to my favorite actor at the time, Lou Diamond Phillips. Yes. Really. In my diary, we were besties and I could tell him anything (and also swoon over how amazing I thought he was.)

Lou Diamond Phillips

I spent hours gazing at this picture of LDP—from the cover of our VHS copy of Young Guns II. Such a tortured soul. Le sigh, le purr.

Eventually, I got over my infatuation with Lou Diamond Phillips, but I still kept a journal, and out of habit, I still wrote my entries in letter format, to LDP.  Then, I discovered Erma Bombeck, and although I was too young to truly appreciate the topics of her books and essays, I really liked her style—and I started mimicking it until I found my own voice.

Erma Bombeck

Odd combination of muses, I suppose, but whatever.

I started blogging, because I still like to write, and though I have always dreamed of writing the Great American Novel, I figured blogging was a faster and cheaper way to get my ideas out into the world. Also, instant gratification.