Saturday, December 27, 2014

Gonna Get to You Girl ...

On my first day of wearing a teal Fitbit flex on my left wrist I didn't even leave the house. I've walked only 2,760 steps -- and about 56 of those happened 30 seconds ago when I went downstairs to the kitchen to cut myself about 1 1/2 inches of Havarti, slices I centered onto six original flavor Zestas and then ate in bed like some kind of animal.

You'd think, well whatthe. Certainly you must spend all day chasing a fleet footed toddler around. Au contraire, mon frere. I spent most of my day lying on the kitchen floor, where she covered me with a dish towel (or a "bit" in her imagination nation) and told me through a series of grunts, gestures and mispronunciations, that it was time for me to take a "map." Tucks a Grover ("Vuva") doll under my arm, smacks her lips to say "Bop" in lieu of a kiss.

I had planned on detonating the calorie counter, too, even typed in the details of BFB (our weekly Big Family Breakfast): eggs, toast, hashbrowns, fake sausage patties, Sriracha-as-frosting. But sometime around 4 p.m. I let loose all Jekyll-like on a box of homemade almond bark, peanut brittle and chocolate-peanut pieces made by my sister-in-law's sister and realized I could never account for every calorie caked in my molars so I just decided that I'd start behaving like a civilized human being next week. After I clean out that pesky tin of popcorn and the chocolate pudding cake has been exorcised.

We drove back from Rochester yesterday and I dropped Chuck off in front of the house and he ran inside and quickly scattered a bunch of packages while we inexplicably drove around the block listening to "Blank Spaces" all so that The Girl and I could walk in the front door and I could scream: OH HOLY NIGHT! SANTA MUST'VE BOUGHT THAT KICKASS SLED FROM MENARDS AND LEFT IT HERE FOR YOU! YOU ARE THE LUCKIEST LITTLE GIRL IN ALL THE LAND!"

There is no snow, so Chuck laid a blanket beneath the runners and pulled her back and forth across the wood floors while she cheered "Weeee!" and even sounded sincere. We got her mostly books, but also a stuffed Grover and an Abby Cadabby to go along with the Elmos she already has. But instead of getting a little misty-eyed at the way we've build her her own Sesame Street family, once all the boxes had been demolished  The Girl looked up at us and said:


(Translation: "So then where is Cookie Monster?")

I must have been possessed by some sort of parenting manual from the 1970s when the words "Well maybe you'll get him for your birthday" zipped out of my face.

Last night we sampled from Chuck's bottle of Irish Whiskey, a gift, and all of a sudden it was really hard to follow the happenings on "Twin Peaks," which we are currently marathoning.

We went to a movie on Christmas night. "Big Eyes." It was okay. The last time we went to a movie together I was large with child and spent much of "Spring Breakers" shifting uncomfortably in my chair. The Girl has yet to reveal whether any of the James Franco-isms were absorbed through the placenta. Maybe nuances from the film will rear within her personality as she gets older? I'm not a scientist. Anyway, the last time I went to a movie, just me, I saw "Annabelle" and I sat alone in the dark with a lap full of nachos grinning through a cinched hood.

Ma Pista made game hens for Christmas, so we were each greeted with our own delicious bird, seemingly struck-down mid-backspin and then stuffed with carrots and the like. I made it about 1/2 way around the bird before my stomach sealed itself.

Chuck's refrain for the next two days, became: "Yeah, well, I just ate a whole chicken."

On the way down to Rochester, Chuck confided that he had packed just one pair of socks.
"I'm assuming someone will give me socks," he said.
I'd only brought two pairs. But I planned to steal some from my mom, who has acres of socks paired together in a drawer and somehow manages to keep her whites such a brilliant shade of white. As a houseguest, I'm always really into sampling shower products and toothpastes and mascara. But at their house, the sky is the limit.
"I think all the sock-givers are dead," I said, thinking.
But he stayed strong.
"I'll get socks," he said.
The first gift I opened was a pack of wool socks. I looked at Chuck and he had a similarly-shaped box.

On Christmas Eve we went to one of those big huge family gatherings where you eat things like pickled eggs and creamed herring and meatballs -- and then steal the white elephant gift your cousin is super stoked about: A bottle of Jack Daniels, a bag of Lays and a bar of chocolate from Trader Joe's. As far as I'm concerned, I won Christmas Eve.

Meanwhile, back at home, the girl wakes up every day and immediately asks for the whereabouts of Santa. It's going to be a long trip around the sun.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Roger ...

We also took The Girl to see Santa. This is how she looked at this exact moment.
Literally 30 seconds later she was eating a cookie and laughing at the video of the failed encounter. 
Lately The Girl has been talking a lot about Roger. Who's Roger? Good Q. According to her, he falls right into a line of the VIPs in her life, which includes (in no specific order): Mama, Dada, Elmo, Papa, Norwegian Wonder and her two daughters, Grover and our cat Hal. She starts chanting these names the second she wakes up -- I hear her on the monitor, whimpering herself awake and immediately saying "Elmo" -- and it continues to do it throughout the day. It's like she's memorizing family flashcards for a big test.

As for herself, she throws her hands into the air and refers to herself as Cha-Cha! (Her exclamation points, not mine.)

So this Roger thing has been really weird. We don't know anyone named Roger, but she keeps talking about him. I texted the Norwegian Wonder this morning to see if maybe he was one of their friends. She doesn't know a Roger, either.

This could also be some sort of word bastardization. She's big on that. Smoothies are "Muddahs!" (again, her punctuation) and "Aduh-Aduh-Aduh" means "again." Horses are "EEEEs" and cats are "SSSSS."

Chuck showed her a Christmas card from The Great Archivist and Geo Girl. She pointed at the picture of the former, decked out in a fur hat, and said "Roger."

"I just hope we don't find out Roger was Margaret's husband," Chuck said, referring to the original owners of our house -- a couple who bought the place in 1923.

I'd had the same thought. I'm glad I'm not the only one in the family whose first instinct is the supernatural answer.

It's got to be a weird pronunciation, we decided.
"Is it someone fringe on Sesame Street?" I asked.
"Say Christopher," I said to The Girl.
Her response didn't sound like Roger.
"Say Oscar," Chuck prompted.
"Ocar," she said.

Chuck found a cast list for "Sesame Street" and quickly scanned it.
"Say Cookie Monster," Chuck said.

She looked up at us and cheered:


Monday, December 15, 2014

Photos of the back of people's heads ...

Today I saw a cockroach. I've already rewritten history and in the new version, it chased me out of a restroom I frequent and down a hallway, where I flailed and shrieked the word "cockroach" until someone came along with a shoe and squished it. BUT IT CAME BACK TO LIFE (like all horror movies) so he squished it again, then gave it a viking burial.

Actually, we were more parallel when we left the bathroom. I probably held the door for El Senor Roach. We stayed stride for stride. My friend, a witness, noted my pitch did not shift too much higher. And here lies my only bit of dignity in the whole matter.

There are concerns that a pregnant roach crawled into my gym bag and is now starting fresh in West Duluth. It's not so much a gym bag as a Free Bag with Purchase that I got from Lancome and now it smells like socks. Did you know that cockroaches are one of the main things standing between me and moving to a major metropolitan address? Did I say cockroaches? I meant laziness.


Last night we watched the movie "Ida" which was so, so good. When it was over I turned to Chuck and said "I forgot what it was like to watch a super good movie."

(Two days earlier we'd watched "Saving Silverman," which Ma Pista has anointed "probably the worst movie I've ever seen." Correct.)


You're probably wondering why I would even consider bringing a 17-month old to see "The Nutcracker." Answer: Because if it would have worked, it was going to be awesome. A lot of The Girl's favorite things would be happening in that hall: dancing, clapping, music, clapping, people. I knew the odds were stacked against me. Namely, kickoff was at naptime. But it was a matinee show, which I believe makes for a slightly younger, rowdier audience. I thought she might blend in.

This might be the first time a kid looked at the stage and yelled "Elmo!" though.

We crawled into the very last row of the building and she promptly kicked the kid in front of us in the head. He ignored it the first time, as we got situated, but the second time he whipped around and said to her:

"Stop being a Halfway Herbert," he snapped.
"I'm sorry," I said to the kid, then turned to his dad. "What's a Halfway Herbert."
He went on to explain that it's a character in a children's series who does everything halfway, like brushing his teeth. Only the top (or is it the bottom) shine and sparkle.
"Ah, a literary reference," I nodded.
"Anyway, Halfway Herbert is just very rude," the dad said before turning around again.

I took that opportunity to find a different seat on an aisle with no one in front of us.

The Girl was at max antsy when the lights went down, and then, like that, she was immediately into it. Still, every muscle in my body was clenched as I waited for her to dish out one of those shrieks that bore straight into an eardrum. But she was hanging in there. Three minutes, six minutes, eight. Everytime the audience clapped, she clapped and looked around smiling like "ARE YOU PEOPLE GETTING A LOAD OF THIS?"

Then she went a little crazy, so I took her out into the lobby to buck off some energy.

Take 2 went okay for a few minutes. She wanted to sit on the wall and lean forward with her mouth resting on the railing, but didn't lose her shit when I pried her off of it. Once again, she was loving it, clapping, and then she nose-dived straight into Shity Audience Member.

At that point we just left. Twenty three minutes of "The Nutcracker." We were total Halfway Herberts. Not even Halfway. Just Herberts, I guess. We'll try again next year. I mean two years after that.


The other day The Girl learned to crawl up and stand on the chairs at her tiny table. She stood there, balanced, chanting "Yay Yay Yay!"


Ma and Pa Pista were in town to babysit while we went out Friday night for Chuck's birthday. On Saturday we traipsed through a highly decorated Christmas display. Not the one that tens of thousands of other people were headed to. No, the other one.

This required an upper level of navigation that resulted in us never being stalled by traffic. At least, not significantly. Not enough for road rage. I had to take some super turns here and there, and hot damn if I wasn't proud of myself.

After seeing the lights we went to this Mexican restaurant I'd never tried and I ordered the combo that included a taco, burrito and chimichanga. Instead, I was served about four cups of ground beef and some soggy corn tortillas. Gross.


First stop Friday night was the company Christmas party, where I won a gift card literally 4 seconds after saying to Chuck: "I'll probably win one. I'm really lucky today." Then we went to The Birthday Rally in Spirit Valley. Unfortunately, no drink could penetrate the wall of red meat that I'd consumed. Not beer. Not something called a Peppermint Patty, which included Schnapps and Hot Cocoa mix. So I just kicked back and watched the night unfold.

Later, after we'd left the American Legion, Chuck noted a group of 20-somethings at the next table.
"You know what's weird?" he asked. "West Duluth hipsters."


We started Chuck's birthday weekend on Thursday night by making a bunch of cookies. The Girl sat in my lap under the guise of helping, but really pulled the sprinkles, one at a time, off of the sugar cookies. She also stuffed wads of peanut butter cookie dough into her mouth, hands faster than a card shark.

As for the cookies in a baked state? She's all Meh.

We also put up the Christmas tree and listened to "Serial," which has become way too boring.

Meanwhile, less than 2 hours after I'd left the neighborhood grocery store a woman was murdered in the store's bakery. A random act by a man who had walked in there with a knife. I slept with my eyes wide open that night. I haven't been back to the store since, mostly because I haven't needed to go there and the one time we did need stuff, Chuck went.

I can't decide if, when I do stop in, I'll have to a) go to the bakery to try to imagine what happened or b) stop eating bread completely. You just never know with these things.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's Monday & I'm Boring, too ...

This is what we had for dinner tonight. It was decidedly school lunch, circa 1983.
I just read Jodi's "It's Monday & I'm Boring," like literally curled up on the couch under a blanket specifically to read it*, and then decided to write my own. I'm sitting in our living room where we have two options for lighting: Overhead, with a dimmer that Pa Pista installed and these cool vintage-looking light bulbs that Chuck found somewhere in the world or lamps -- one there and one there.

As a couple, we always go lamps on, overhead off. The Norwegian Wonder goes overhead on, lamps off. I have a deep dark: I think I prefer the overhead. It casts a warm-n-cozy. When I come home and the Norwegian Wonder has them on, I leave it that way for a while. But, since Chuck is about to come home from work in a few minutes, I just switched to the laps to maintain a united front on this v. important topic. (Obviously I'm feeling very confessional today.)

All day I have imagined that at some point I would sneak in a workout. I just need 28 minutes of burn so that I can listen to a podcast featuring Joyce Carol Oates reading a short story by Cynthia Ozick and the subsequent convo between Joyce and the New Yorker fiction editor. But here I sit, wrapped in this blanket, lying about which light fixtures I prefer.

"Just do 15 minutes," Fannie recommended via iMessage.
I was careful with my response. I didn't want to say for sure I was going to do it, so I responded "good idea" which it was. Then I mentioned something vague about having to put on a bra first.

Honestly, my whole day has been thrown off course. The time I usually get to sprawl on the bed and stare at the ceiling was eaten into by a vicious, tantruming toddler and her out-of-character refusal to go to sleep. She usually loves going to sleep, but tonight she showed a preference for crying so hard that I didn't know where the tears ended and the snot began.

So we spent a lot of time in her room, sorting through the issue. It all ended with her head propped on my shoulder, her staring at me for an uncomfortably long time while I rubbed her back and sang an a capella version of "The Diarrhea Song" in my prettiest voice. Actually, it didn't end there. There was another whole chapter. At one point she took her tiny man-hands and pinched my nipple so hard that I yelped. Anyway.

I wrapped prezzies.
I cleaned the kitchen.
I put away a floor's worth of plastic thisses and stuffed thats.
I found someone to take on mounds of slightly used baby goods. Victory.

 Speaking of prezzies: Last week at Baby School a mom told everyone that her birthday is coming up on Thursday and that she is going to be, wince, 28. Chuck announced that his birthday is Friday.

"He's going to be 29," I told the roomful of ladies.
Then he and I cackled.
"I'm going to be 42," he told the Birthday Mom.
"Let me tell you all a little something about Advanced Maternal Age," I began.
At that point the instructor cut me off. I don't think she wanted us to scare anyone. But not before the Birthday Mom told Chuck that her dad was 45.

Meanwhile, I'm writing a tome about why being Advanced Maternal Age has its benefits. So get ready to be convinced to dust off those eggs, ladies.**

* No fooling. I really did cry when I read "The Beast." I've never been so mad at Jodi in my life. You'll know what I'm talking about when you read her novel.
**I'm not really doing this.

The "It's (fill in the blank day) and I'm Boring" series is something Jodi and I do to pay homage to the beauty of old-school blogging. Diggit.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Things we would talk about if you were sitting across the table (and insisted we talk about me) ...

1. I was filling my water bottle in the kitchen and heard a bang in the living room. I came around the corner to find The Girl sprawled on her back, an X-shape, holding the remote control. I'd never wish it on her, but she looks hilarious after she falls. She takes up as much space with her body as she can and then just moves her eyes as she tries to figure out what happened between her feet failing her and landing like this. It's like a cartoon version of What it Looks Like to Fall.

Anyway: "Shake," she said, still on her back and pushing the remote toward me. Translation: She took a digger trying to grab the remote control so she could watch the video for "Shake it Off." But now I was here to help her.

2. She's started saying "oh, sure" in response to everything that doesn't get an automatic no. The "oh" comes like she's surprised. She's like "Do I want Applesauce? From the cupboard that is filled with various flavors of applesauce that I eat every single day? Oh! Sure!"

The "sure" sounds more like "shoe-er." The Norwegian Wonder pointed out today that it sounds very Minnesotan. None of us know where this came from, though I heard Chuck use the word "sure" in the same context a few days ago. His, though, is more of a reluctant "sure." A "Do I want you to make me a smoothie? Well, I guess, since you didn't offer to make a chorizo omelet. Sure."

3. About a hundred years ago I read the book "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz and loved it with all of my might. Funny, tragic, great characters with great voices. And then I never finished it. I had less than 100 pages left. Maybe fewer than 60. My guess is that something shiny and newer came along and I opened it with the plan of sampling the goods and then sunk in way too deep. Lather, rinse, repeat with other shiny new books until I'd lost the gist of "Oscar Wao" and it would be too hard to pick up where I left off. It's been on a shelf at the top of our steps for eons.

Chuck recently read it, dug it, and so after he finished it I decided to crack into it again from the beginning. So here I am again, laughing, gasping, loving these characters and ...

My copy of Meghan Daum's "The Unspeakable" came in the mail. Quick bit of info: This is one of my Favorite Writers in All the World, and her first book of essays "My Misspent Youth" is one I still think about pretty regularly and (insert glowing review that harkens back to my OWN misspent youth here).

And so, millimeters from the last dog-eared page in my copy of "Oscar Wao" I'm afraid I might not finish again. HELP.

4. So. About that photo. I'm not sure the circumstances. I must have been in seventh or eighth grade, according to the sweatshirt -- which was likely paired with a pair of black faded Bugle Boy jeans, if I know me.

I love this photo. I'm a little bummed that I'm just writing a quick note about it because I could write 1,200 words about it and then add 1,200 more. One thing that always cracks me up after posting one of these late-80s pics (#tbt) is that my seventh grade boyfriend always *likes* them on Facebook. He only really knew me for one or two years of my life, but they were pretty solid years. Maybe if someone said my name to him now, this is what I would look like in his head. It makes sense because in my head he's wearing a crisp white Vuarnet T-shirt, teal Chuck Taylors and riding a skateboard.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Weakly ...

I've not put words on this internet space in like two weeks, so I thought I would take this op to sip my Friday night sipper (It's called Purgatory and has Whiskey, Green Chartreuse and Benedictine and it's yuh-uh-um) and, ala Sarah Koenig, try to remember one thing I did each day since the last time I posted blog words.

I overheard a little girl announce to a long line of kids who were waiting for luke warmed chocolate and a cookie: "That wasn't really Santa Claus." As the adults around her tried to reason Sure it Is! and His Beard Just Hasn't Had a Chance to Grow Yet, He's Still Got Time! she tempered her skepticism with: "Well, maybe he was the real Santa, but he was a little fake."

On our way back from Eden Prairie, we yanked the car east in Hinckley to get burgers from Hardees. The Girl had been lights out until the car slowed and then she murmured a bit and Chuck looked in the backseat and sure enough she was awake. Before we even got to the drive thru window he staked his claim: "I'm not giving her any of mine," he said. This wasn't about sharing. This was about the tedious process of pinching bite-sized pieces off of a greasy, special sauce-coated slab of meat. No one wants to eat something that you've gotten that close to.

Back in the northbound lane, we struggled to eat these burgers in a respectable way. A major condiment fell into my coat, another slid between the seat and the door; Chuck, meanwhile, reported "I've already eaten so much paper." We disagreed on the quality of the special sauce, (Me: Pro, Chuck: Con). Then we resumed listening to songs like "America" by Simon & Garfunkel, "Good Vibrations" by the Beach Boys and "Stay," as interpreted by Low -- among other songs.

We decided to have one drink and adjourn to The Atomic Lounge where we could work on our novels: Chuck at the desktop, me making words on the Chrome. He poured us an Adam & Eve, a mix of Rye Whiskey, Sugar, Angostura Bitters and (get this noise) GALLIANO.

It. Was. Delish.

So I wrote and wrote and wrote a graduation scene set in 1994 and sipped the drink and laughed aloud and wrote some more. Chuck spun around in his office chair to ask me a question and something in the way he phrased it caused for pause. He sounded ... drunk. Meanwhile, I noticed I was basically typing with one eye closed.

One drink wonders.

So I made us a bunch of popcorn so we could collect ourselves. I meant to sprinkle mine with nutritional yeast and chili powder (my doctor's idea) but accidentally used nutritional yeast and smoked paprika. That wasn't great.

We watched "New Girl" and I waxed hysterical (in my head) about how much I love Queen of Comedy Zooey Deschanel.

OH! But the bigger thing I did: I went to war with our neighborhood grocery store.

A few weeks ago I bought 2 32 ounce cartons of soup (one vegetable broth, one butternut squash). Both have a two-part opening procedure: Twist top, puncture foil. In both cases, after twisting the top I noticed that the foil was already punctured.

Kitchen rage ensued.

I called the grocery store to tell the manager that someone was slipping cyanide into the soup cartons and he told me "Ho, ho, ho. That old problem? No, no. When you twist the top, it automatically punctures the foil!" he assured me.
"No," I said.
"Yes," he said.
"Well, that's dumb and it's never happened to me before when I've used this soup," I told him.
He assured me that the soup company was in the process of redesigning its really stupid packaging. In the meantime, he said I could exchange my soups.

I finally got there, two weeks later, and a cashier told me about another woman who had experienced this and blah blah blah.This lady returned 10. Not only that, she went to the soup aisle and opened them all to see if the foil was always punctured. "It's supposed to say on the package that this happens," she told me, but neither of us could find that small print.

Later I wandered over to the cheese aisle and found six slabs of expired Monterey Jack. I grabbed an employee and said "I just cleared out the expired cheese from this section."

He mumbled, picked up a hunk, looked at it, walked away. I decided this is who I am now: Grocery Store Police.

It's on like Donkey Kong.

I talked to my mom on the phone.

I had like zero minutes to eat lunch, so I stuffed an original roast beef sandwich from Arby's into my face while parked next to a mail truck in the fast food parking lot. Hell yes I got Horsey Sauce.

I returned a pair of boots to DSW and bought The Girl a bunch of cute things in fleece.

We went to Target and I had a coupon for $10 off, but we didn't spend enough money to use it.

Went to the Christmas City of the North Parade, but The Girl didn't last long enough to actually see a single float. Meanwhile, a man air-wrestling with his 9 year old was taking up a lot of space in the lobby of the Skywalk.

Turns out we went to college together. Except he was college popular and played football and I one time forgot to side-zip the denim dress I borrowed to wear to work at my internship. I would've walked into the magazine office half-naked if Minneapolis parking ramps didn't have mirrored exteriors.

Anyway, he said I looked familiar, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Live blogging a return to one of my favorite gross things ...

A long time ago I had a favorite indulgence that seriously skeeved my life partner. This kind of made it all the better because it meant, as a goodwill gesture, I'd only crank it up when he wasn't home. Sometimes it's fun to have stuff like that, especially when you like almost everything the other person likes. In turn, if I had to guess, I'd say he watches out the front window until my brake lights disappear and then he queues up Netflix for dinosaur movie marathons.

Anyway, he'd see the fixings on the counter on his way out, cringe, and know he was better off at work. The smell alone.

The recipe: Smoked oysters on crackers with a dash of hot sauce. Best served with beer while wearing your grossest robe. I learned about it from a man named Tex, a twangy fellow who worked with an ex-boyfriend at an oil change shop.

This is exactly the kind of suspect junk I couldn't eat when I was preg. And then, when I wasn't anymore, I forgot all about it. Anyway, the important thing is that I remembered it, again, and here I sit with 3 ounces of Crown Prince Naturally Smoked Oysters, a box of Back to Nature Crispy Wheat Crackers, Sriracha and Lucid Dyno Pale Ale. The Pale Ale came in a gift bag from Fannie's wedding and only survived this long because it somehow got pushed behind a bunch of cans of prune juice in our refrigerator.

I am, of course, wearing the robe.

I bought the oysters yesterday and I was really excited about the prospect. But just 10 minutes ago, as I laid in bed playing Words with Friends against my brother (and roaring in delight at some big money rounds) listening to a soundtrack of The Girl's sleep sounds (as heard through a monitor) I wasn't really in the mood anymore.

Aren't oysters gross? I wondered.
I honestly couldn't remember. It'd been at least two years.
A: Yes-ish. And no. We had a term for this in high school: Dirty sexy. It was someone literally unattractive who seemed attractive. Example: Someone who transcended having a face mangled by hockey helmet acne.

These smoked oysters, I'd say, fit within the parameters of that metaphor.

Aside: Tonight while I was making dinner, The Girl lined four stuffed animals up on the bottom step. Then she laid each animal down. She covered Lamby with a kitchen towel. I couldn't tell if she was tucking him in or diapering him. Then she went down the line. "Elmo," she said, bent over and kissed him on the nose. Lamby, Snoopy, Rawr the Pink Teddy Bear. When she finished tucking them in, she did it again. Fiddle, semblance of a name, jibberish-ish conversation, kiss.

(I'm not sure where she learned this. Our bedtime routine is different than this. I'm also not sure how she knows what to do with a landline. The other day I took her into work and tried to type something while she sat in my lap. She picked up my phone, held it to her ear and said:

"Helwo?" She's obviously been sent here from the past so that she can study our ways, then go back in time and invent brain internet.)

Aside over.

Before the aside, we were in my bed where I'd just scored a 60-plus point word against Brother Pista.

I caved. Sometimes you have to pop the top of the oyster tin and let the fun follow. Write that down. Truth: I mangled the top of the oyster can and ultimately had to risk tin slits in my thumb while I jimmied the sucker with a butter knife. The first waft of smokey oyster smell told me I was doing the right thing. Though I spilled some oyster juice on the countertop and near the garbage can and that's why the cats have created a figure 8 loop that connects these droplets and my plate.

We were out of the traditional hot sauce, thus the Sriracha. A happy surprise. It's actually better. This beer, too. Yum. This is a good treat. This is a great treat. This robe is so gross.

Orin has returned. He's nosing at the Sriracha bottle. Now my beer bottle. Having favorite foods in common with my cat makes me feel like I have a pretty unsophisticated palate.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Clapping and crying (a cute kid story) ...

The Girl is a clapper. She claps when other people clap whether they are on TV or in a hockey arena. On Sunday night we watched some fire dancers and she smacked her hands together, bayed at the moon and looked around at the other spectators, hey face all: "ARE YOU SEEING THIS? DOES SHE HAVE FLAME RETARDANT ARM HAIR OR WHAT?"

She claps when she masters a feat. She claps at the end of an especially profound diaper changing. She claps at the end of "Twinkle, Twinkle" (every single time).

Mostly, though, she has a Pavlovian clapping response to the words "Good job!"

So. Today we were at her 15 month doctor's appointment. We found out she is still very tall, she knows a good amount of words, and it's okay that she only likes orange foods but we should continue to introduce other flavors from the rainbow.

Then came the shots: One in the chubby little right thigh, two in the chubby little left. She did a pre-howl while the nurse cleaned her skin and gave a full-on molar show after the first needle poke. It doubled with the second shot, but stayed steady with the third.

I hugged her close as the nurse stuck Tasmanian Devil band-aids over her shot holes. I rocked and cooed "Good job, baby girl. You did a good job."

So there she was, real-live tears streaming down her face ... clapping. My poor heart. Annihilated.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The long lost arts ...

Hello, Flaming Urethra. Long time, no pee! (This makes no sense, but it's so clever it seems like it make sense.) After more than two years of UTI-free living, it's back. The author comes to you from her bed, where she is propped against an excessive amount of pillows and wrapped in all manner of sweatpant material. Her hood is up.

To her left:
*Water bottle.
*AZO urinary tract relief pain pills.
*"The Virgin Suicides" by Jeffrey Eugenides, a reread that was meant to be research for the author's own attempt at a coming-of-age novel, a coming-of-age novel idea that she ditched because she is secretly afraid of vindictive ghosts. So now she is just rereading the book because it is good and she can reach it without twisting too far.
*At least five active games of Words With Friends and a couple matches of Dice with Buddies.

In front of her:
*A Chrome Book that she can use to:
1. Write smart things in her online diary;
2. Watch "Gilmore Girls," her current marathon of choice;
3. Click every link that appears on Facebook;
4. Write a different coming-of-age novel that has nothing to do with her original idea for a coming-of-age novel;
5. Catch up on writing book reviews for Minnesota Reads: "Consumed" by David Cronenberg and "Sister Golden Hair" by Darcey Steinke;
6. Toss aside so that she can nap away the infection.

To her left:
*Plenty of napping acreage.
*Yet another pillow.

The Girl left with her babysitter about 45 minutes ago. They had plans involving nature. The author feels sad and guilty because here is time that she is not at her daily obligation, but she is also not with her wee one.

Fact: Her wee one is exhausting. Her favorite sport is jumping on the couch. Her second favorite sport is orbiting the author like the latter is a May Pole. Her third favorite sport is throwing handfuls of baked squash like it's parade candy. Her fourth favorite sport is pointing at everything in the room and saying "dat.dat.dat.dat.dat." Her fifth favorite sport is ... you get the idea.

Fact Two: The author peed six times between noon and 1 p.m.

Fact Three: The author's doctor told her to start consuming cranberries, putting lemon and lime in her water, going nutso on greens. The doctor told the author to avoid cheese, bread, and chicken. The author just read a bit about getting into The Alkalines and discovered that Victoria Beckham swears by it. Or at least swore by it.

Confession: The author really just wants to zone out and come to consciousness when her urinary tract is again ignorable, but these days she struggles with what was once her greatest skill: The Art of Leisure.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The man in Lane 10 ...

I have a favorite cashier at my local Big Box and it is, like, no contest. I'd guess he's in his 60s, nice face, white hair. He's charming, he's quick and he hasn't bought into that trend where he puts each item in its own separate bag. Also, he doesn't overcompensate for said trend and put everything in a single bag so it feels like I'm carrying a carnival prize to the car. He seems to get a kick out of my kid, so we have a ton in common.

He's the foil to some of the others:

1. The one who complains about back problems when there are heavy purchases to be scanned;
2. The one who is perfectly fine at her job, but always throws me off with skin-tone leggings;
3. The one who uses shame as a sales tactic, re: the store's credit card spiel.

So: Saturday afternoon I'm cruising toward the checkout and see that he's working Lane 10 and just as I'm about to ditch left to get into the line, one of those Greeters/Traffic Cops tells me that Lane 4 is open. But I don't want Aisle 4, I want Lane 10 with the Nice Man. So I speed up and ditch into women's clothing, where I perform a half-assed search for T-shirts.

I give it a minute and double back toward Lane 10 and once again, a beaming 20-something with an official-looking clipboard directs me toward Lane Not-10. I give her a (probably accidentally dismissive) smile and make toward Pet Supplies. There is a huge picture of a dog over there and The Girl likes to point at it and bark. So we made a few passes, she's a good kid, she deserves it.

Attempt 3: A group of like five teens, who probably won't even appreciate the goodness of Lane 10, just kind of lazily end up in front of me and, you guessed it, I'm redirected to another lane.

I sigh and face the facts: It just isn't going to happen with Lane 10. And, frankly, I'm starting to feel a little dumb. Like, I just spent an extra 12 minutes at the Big Box in hopes that I'd get the Varsity Squad cashier.

The new cashier doesn't even look at me. She autopilots her way through my purchases, pausing briefly as she considers whether the diapers are mine. I pay and leave without a single word exchanged. On the way out of the store, I overhear a cashier working the store credit card angle and I think:

"Hm. That girl didn't even try to sell me on the card."

Friday, October 24, 2014

The most boring story in modern history (now with free shipping) ...

I am super loyal to a specific multi-surface disinfectant spray. I like how it works; I like how it smells. Target has stopped carrying it. They carry the brand, but not the kind I like. Our neighborhood grocery store carries it, but the bottles on the shelf are dusty and the labels still make claims about this stuff knocking out H1N1. I don't really sit around and worry about the expiration date on multi-surface disinfectant spray, but truthfully I haven't been to that grocery store in eons.

Amazon carries it. But if you want to purchase it on Amazon, it's part of this service where you get a flat shipping rate and you can put as much kitchen junk in the box as you want. I could order like 30 bottles of this very specific multi-surface disinfectant spray, but I understand this flat-rate box is duping me into buying more. That makes me annoyed.

I was in the car yesterday when I heard on MPR that Target is offering free shipping during the holidays to compete with Amazon. Everything is free shipping, even just a tube of lipstick, it was noted in the story. Starting yesterday. Friends, I am not kidding that my pulse quickened.

I could order my multi-surface disinfectant spray from Target online -- where it is still in stock -- and have it delivered to my house for free. YOU JUST BEAT AMAZON IN THE FIRST BATTLE, TARGET. I went home and ordered three bottles (the limit) ... (and a package of long-sleeved white onesies).  

After I'd completed my order I thought of all the other things I could have bought:

This awesome pumpkin yogurt I stumbled on last week.
Magic Erasers.
Black leggings.

Of course, the rub is that I actually enjoy going to Target. It will be interesting to see which me wins out as we move toward the holidays: The me who enjoys ordering all the creature comforts of Target from my pajamas and being granted the honor of free shipping or the me who lazes her way through the aisles on a Saturday afternoon.

*Sadly, this post is sponsored by no one.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Barbie and the Big Red Dog ...

I have had a photo saved in my phone of a naked man's keister with the legs of a Barbie doll sticking out of it. I wasn't proud of it, but there it was among the endless pictures of The Girl on swings and What I had for Lunch.

That's a lie. I was terribly proud of it. It's from a scene in a super stupid movie that seemingly borrowed liberally and poorly in tone and format from the TV show "Scrubs." This was one of the medical situations dealt to the characters in the comedy. We were in some kind of mood when we saw it. I laughed myself turquoise and had Chuck pause the scene so I could capture this image and text it to CHRISSIE!

She never really got into it -- not the first time I sent it, not the 12th time I sent it and none of the times that Chuck sent it to her either. In fact, I have to imagine that she thought it was annoying, this stark hairy butt and those tan little doll legs kicking their way to freedom. Again. Again. And again.

Sometimes it's only important that I think something is funny. Actually, usually.

I realized recently that I didn't have the photo anymore. It had been accidentally deleted. Luckily Chuck had a copy, so he re-sent it to me so I again had it at the ready in case I needed some high comedy.

Tuesday's storytime at the library was a big one. There was an event tie-in, so the place was crawling with toddlers and Clifford the Big Red Dog and Champ, UMD's mascot, made an appearance. This isn't the kind of thing I consider a photo op. I knew The Girl wouldn't stand next to either mascot alone and I didn't want to be all selfie about it. Plus, aesthetically speaking, this just isn't my jam. Fun, yes. Keepsake photo, meh.

Still, every other parent was going cray so I started to feel a little awkward about not caring. I pulled out my phone and when I went to the camera, it said I didn't have any storage left to take a photo. I wasn't surprised. I started deleting indiscriminately. About this time one of the librarians asked if I wanted her to take the picture of The Girl and me with Clifford.

"No," I said deleting faster. "Well, yes."

I was still deleting when she lifted the my phone from my fingertips.

And there, in full glory on my screen, was the photo of the naked butt with the Barbie legs sticking out of it.

The world stopped for at least 3 minutes. I grabbed the phone from her (in slow motion) and shoved it into my purse while stammering:


(One of the other librarians took photos using her phone and emailed them to me. Because they are nice family-friendly people and I am some kind of sicko. Anyway, I deleted the Barbie-butt thing again, though I stand behind it as comic genius. It makes me feel a little better knowing that Chuck still has a copy.)

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Some quick cat fanfic ...

We had been gone a couple hours and when we got home I took The Girl upstairs to change her diaper. I heard soft mewling, like an adorable kitten humbled by a terrible mistake. I turned to see Orin sitting on the changing table and shooed him toward the door.

The shy little cat yelps continued. I followed the sound to the closet, where a box of toys was askew like it had either fallen off a chair or, shrug, had just been left like that. Reader, I freaked. I assumed it had fallen and in that case, I knew that under that pile of Playskool Plastic was a now paraplegic cat.

I backed out of the room and called for Chuck. I can do a lot of things. In fact, right now I'm making squash bread -- a recipe that required ingenuity when it came to finding a substitute for eggs. One thing I cannot do: I cannot be the person to discover that our cat's spine is irreparably damaged because of a Rocktivity Piano.

Chuck thought the cat cries were coming from the linen closet. Hal has been known to hang out among the old pillows and fitted sheets. He wasn't there.

"He's in her closet," I insisted, but I edited out the horrific visual playing in my head.

By then he had stopped in front of her dresser and opened the second drawer to find the cat nestled into a mix of T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts. The drawer open, Hal jumped out and scurried out of the room.

How did Hal get into the drawer? Good Q.

Both cats can open drawers. They proved this back when we kept their treats in a drawer in the kitchen.

But how did the drawer then get closed? Also a Good Q.

I like to think that Orin opened the drawer, lured Hal in, then pushed it closed. A demon cat who learned at the elbow of Macaulay Culkin.

"What would have happened if we'd like been on vacation?" Chuck asked.

Ugh. We would get home after 10 days of fun and sun and I'd go upstairs to get a hoodie for The Girl. I'd open her second drawer to find ... I shuddered. The smell alone.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

You are everyone ...

This whole we-have-a-kid thing can feel very special and First Man on the Moon-ish until, like today, you make a spontaneous decision to go a special family-friendly Halloween event at the local zoo, turn on to Grand Avenue and realize that 4,999 other very special astronauts had the same idea.

There are cops directing traffic.
There are nearby residential neighborhoods so packed with cars, that you can barely toss a Slim Jim down the street without nicking a side mirror.
Meanwhile, there are mini princesses and tiny Scooby Doos hiking in from miles away.

"The ... hell?" you might whistle under your breath.

I've never said this sentence: "Oh, The Great Archivist and Geo Girl? They live over there by the zoo!" Still, we ended up parked on their street.

The place was lousy with kids: pirates, super heroes, brown bears, Monster High Dolls and lions.

"There's nothing funnier than a visibly angry child in a butterfly costume," Chuck observed.

Some dude in front of us lost his mind because he had purchased advance tickets, but his sister didn't so now he had to stand in line anyway when he actually could have just slept in an hour later. He punctuated his discontent with sulks and snarls and eventually his friend, who'd only called him over to offer him a line jump, shuffled his feet and responded:

"I'd like you to meet my grandmother and my mother-in-law."

We got in quickly and made for the white skunk before hitting up the monkeys, bears, tigers, etc. We wrangled a cranky puppy who didn't want to sit in her stroller but did want to sit on the path and try to liberate the stones that are embedded in the asphalt. Her shoe fell off like eight times.

Random thought: It's cool for the parents to dress up, but that guy with the scythe kind of seemed like he was at the wrong Halloween party.

Another random thought: Are suckers still dangerous, or did they lose that stigma after kids stopped running and playing?

It's weird to look around at all these people and realize that we never knew this scene existed. It's like a sci-fi movie where a door opens to a parallel universe that has always been there and always will. Old us probably heard the words "Boo at the Zoo" at some point, but could have never guessed that it required a guy in a beret repeating to drivers again and again: "There's no parking ahead; It's just for drop offs. There's no parking ahead; It's just for drop offs. There's no ..."

Old us would still be in bed, I told Chuck. Old us would have blasted way past a single Rusty Nail on Friday night and closed down the evening with an cashed bottle of Drambuie. New us were up at 8:15 a.m. New us had family breakfast, though one of us just gorged herself on hashbrowns and whipped scrambled eggs to the four corners of the room. New us keeps getting our minds blown by this parallel universe.

Anyway, we performed a pretty half-assed tour of the zoo before plopping down in damp grass to feed our kid a Macaroni & Cheese Eggroll. I distracted her with animal crackers so I could have the second-to-last bite.

"Actually I amend that," Chuck said, eating his Southwest Chicken Eggroll. "There is something funnier. A visibly angry adult dressed as a Whoopie Cushion."

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bright white blue ...

The Norwegian Wonder regularly sends me a bunch of photos from how the day was spent.
Here's one of my favorites from today at Enger Park. 
I overslept today. Like, majorly overslept. I overslept like a guy with a beard and mustard stains. I overslept like someone who is later seen carrying a cardboard box out of a cubicle. I overslept like beginning of a montage in a rom-com.

We were up late-ish watching "Transparent." We went one episode too far, then I chased it with like 20 pages of the Cronenberg.

I woke up at 7:57 a.m., peed, and decided to snuggle in for one more minute of quality Zzzs before my alarm went off. Then it never went off. I woke because the battery on the baby monitor was beeping -- and hour and a half later.

"Whoa!" I yelled, waking Chuck, who matched my "Whoa!" with his own.
I found The Girl sitting quietly in her crib holding her stuffed dog.


I was scrubbing the bathtub with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, thinking about what I'd Tweet if I was more active on Twitter.

Something, something, Magic Eraser, I thought, struggling to find the right declarative words to match my enthusiasm for this product. I mean, this thing is literally magic. The tub was starting to look like I'd just painted it bright whitish blue.

Then I started thinking: What if I was that kind of blogger. Like, the kind who said sassy things about my Magic Eraser like "Seriously, you guys. I'm totally scribbling Mr. Clean all over my Trapper Keeper." Or, "I'm not sure what's in the recipe for a Magic Eraser, but I'd give up margaritas forever for the answer. Just kidding! But kinda not. Just kidding. Maybe. Ish."

And what if I had a blog catch phrase, like, "It's Wine O'Clock Somewhere!"

I'd be a regular guest on "Ellen" and I'd be like "What time is it?" and the audience would say "Wine O'Clock!" and I'd say, "Did you say Wine-Thirty?!" and everyone would laugh and boo. And then finally we'd all say in unison:

"It's Wine O'Clock Somewhere!"

And then Ellen would dance.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The wet fish movement ...

For a while we were feeding them wet food. Hal had a bunch of kidney stones, was probably too nauseated to eat, and we had to get him interested in food again. He was so bony and light that it made it a little harder to hate him every time he butted up against a kitchen cabinet, shook his haunches and unleashed a stream of pee.

The wet food didn't do much -- for him. He would lap up the gravy and leave the chunks for the other cat. Orin gained about 5 pounds and a lazy unwillingness to stalk even the slowest of spiders. Eventually Hal was miraculously cured and returned to dry Iams and we hid the leftover wet food far, far away in the darkest recesses of the cupboards. But wet cat food does something to you, man. It put us off tuna, neither of us could stomach the idea of it. Even eating sushi became a thing that might never happen again.

A certain food pickle has me ripping through my recipe archives to find something to feed an unpredictable dinner companion. Well, there is one sure thing. Consider this story from earlier in the day: Chuck told The Girl it was time to eat lunch, so she crawled under the kitchen table to hide. Then Chuck told her he had made Macaroni & Cheese and she backed out, smiling. Like, "Just kidding, dad. Of course I'll eat. LOL."

Aside from that, she does a thing I call The Zamboni. She uses her teeth to push the offending food off her tongue -- a sort of resurfacing -- and onto her bib. It's fascinating to see what will pass the test. She will eat a noodle. But she will zamboni a noodle slathered in a sauce made from nutritional yeast and mustard, even if the cookbook insists this is a viable substitute for cheese. She will eat peas; She will zamboni broccoli. Oatmeal is for eating; Eggs are new to the zamboni treatment.

I decided to make Tuna Twist. This recipe comes from the heart of the 1970s, a place where every dinner was made possible with the help of Campbell's Cream of Something Soup. (In this case, I used Cream of Celery.) I got the recipe from Ma Pista when I was pregnant and hungry for all manner of nostalgia food. Aside from that, it's tuna, green pepper, onion, cheese, Bisquick, milk, cheese, etc. It's not, what you'd call, gourmet. It's like landlines and pea green hand mixers. It's an apron and a wrench to change channels on the TV. It's a Tab diet and feathered bangs.

I made Tuna Twist because it seemed like something an almost 15-month old would like. There's cheese in it. A bread-like quality. The flavors are muted. The green pepper would count as a vegetable, the tuna as a meat. It seemed like if it was listed in a food group, it would appear alongside Macaroni & Cheese.

This is all just to say that when I opened the tuna cans, the cats pounced. They were, like, feral. They crawled up my pant leg and clawed at the cupboards. At first it was funny. But, frankly, the whole thing freaked me the eff out. It felt like being dropped in a snake pit, the way these things wound around my legs. Wet fish. Wet fish. Wet fish.

So The Girl loved it. But, sorry, we're never eating Wet Fish-based foods ever forever never again.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

You make me feel like a ...

After two years out of the game, I got my you-know-what yesterday. One minute I was minding my own business, living life, the next minute I was staring at a Pollack'ed item of intimate apparel, confused until I remembered:

"Oh yeah. Periods."

That would explain that uncomfortable sensation in my stomach. It would also explain why I audibly cried three times while accidentally* watching "The Voice" on Monday night. If there was a certain inadvertent sharpness to my tone when I suggested that Chuck manage the tot's 1:40 a.m. rally cry, this, too, could be explained.

Truthfully, I was a little excited. It was like getting a visit from an old friend I'd not really missed. In the past two years, whenever someone complained about cramps or bloodlettings, I just nodded sympathetically and groaned "ugh" before checking myself and thinking "You fraud. These days you wouldn't know a cramp if it twisted your uterus into a pretzel and slapped you across the face."

First I sent Fannie a text:
"I just got my first period in two years!" I said.
"Congrats," she responded. "You're a woman now."
Then I sent a text to Chuck:
"I just got my period!" I said.
"You're a woman now," he responded.
I guess it's unanimous.

I rifled through the nooks and crannies of our bathrooms in search of supplies. I found some of this and that, dusty behind the Mega Pads required to sop up the effects of the pregnancy wound. In the end, I went with one of the Mega Pads. It seemed retro and cool. I could practically hear myself twisting a phone cord and sighing lazily into a landline: "What? Oh nothing. Just sitting around in a pair of sweatpants wearing a pad and crying about 'The Voice.'"

The novelty wore off today when I realized I'd lost my ability to do the math problem that involves absorbency, flow and time.

My last period struck about this time in 2012, while we were inconveniently staying in a hotel in Minneapolis that was accented in such crisp whites. I demolished a pair of yellow jeggings that weekend, if I recall correctly. My last first period hit about 27 years ago while I was running wild at a hockey game with a girl named Gina.

"There's a blood moon," Chuck said when he walked into the house tonight after work.
"For me?" I squealed.

* I don't, like, rush home from my daily obligation to watch "The Voice." My TV just happened to be on and it just happened to be turned to "The Voice" channel and The Powerful Toddler Girl likes songs and then I got distracted by Judge Gwen Stefani. So.

Also: I can't remember if it's weird to write about periods, but I decided that I threw modesty out the window the day that I decided to give a detailed account of what it's like to have a baby.

Also-Also: I was assured by two nurses that it is perfectly reasonable for a Bfeeder to not get her P (slang, yo) while Bfeeding. Bodies, man.  

Sunday, October 5, 2014

A few things I didn't know about pedicures (until recently) ...

1. Anything. I didn't know anything about getting a pedicure. I know that Ma Pista is some sort of spokeswoman for them and seemed to find my own ambivalence to be a character flaw. What kind of woman doesn't want a pedicure. Shrug. I don't know. Maybe the kind who has figured out how to turn her pajamas into business casual?

2. Where to go. JCrew answered this by revealing a still fresh month-old pedicure and stage-whispering: "Go to (redacted). Seriously. They use a bunch of illegal tools like cheese graters, but they're fantastic." Sold? I said with my eyebrows. "You have to pay cash," she added.

3. That my feet are so grotesque. I guess I knew this. My toenails are thick and yellowed talons strong enough to pop the top of a soda. My heels and the balls of my feet have a matching thick, cracked rind. The pedicurist's stoicism in the face of my feet could mean only one thing: She was a professional, capable of stifling the strongest urge to recoil in horror. Not even a twitch.

"Is this your first pedicure," she asked politely.
We both knew that we both knew.

4. That it would tickle, getting grated and watching it snow parmesan sized flakes of skin into this woman's lap. And it was the kind of ticklish that forced a fake-sounding, cartoon-like, laugh. I literally curling my toes and saying "TEEHEE! TEEHEE! TEEHEEEEE!"

5. That it would hurt, having my nails shaped, wayward skin flaps tugged and clipped and my cuticles tamed. "Virgin feet," I said with each wince. "Careful with the virgin feet."

6. That this isn't just a foot thing, pedicures. This involves everything south of the knees. The threat of that exfoliating mud gumming up my leg hair had me in a brief tizzy until I remembered this would be much more pleasant if I unclenched my calf muscles.

7. That the muted movie playing on a couple different screens in the room would hold my attention so completely. That, at one point, I'd Google "Fresh Prince of Bel Air as matchmaker" and realize I was watching "Hitch." (Confession: And then, days later, I'd stream it again to see how closely my version of the silent film matched director Andy Tennant's one with dialogue.) ((Speaking of Andy Tennant: In this photo he kind of looks like alternate universe Don Johnson. Like, if instead of "Miami Vice," Don Johnson had been shuffled to the "Ernest Goes to Camp" acting track. That's all.))

8. Etiquette involving toenail dryers, disposable flipflops, tipping. I would have wondered how my shoes and purse would get from Point A to Point B, but a sort of Cruella-ish Real Housewife of Hm ... Duluth? (I guess) snapped her fingers at a man who was carrying her shoes and purse to the drying station.

"Young man. Young MAN!" Snap. Snap.
"Those are NOT my shoes," she said.
He smiled, her friend was a kidder and he seemed to think this was an extension of her friend's charming personality. It wasn't.
"I'm SERIOUS," she said, hobbling along, her hot-pink weapons leading the way.

9. That the meaning of $30 would change so drastically in 45 minutes. Pre-peddie me would have said "Hm. That seems like a lot of money for four coats of greenish-grey-black and a go-round with a cheese grater." But watching the pedicurist clean up her station afterward, wondering if my skin and nails had ruined her lunch or maybe even clogged the station's drainage system -- that made me think that $30 is nothing. Nothing at all.

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Great Amnesia Incident of 2014 ...

When you are a regular blogger, the bloggable moments really jump out at you. Every day. You're like: "Holy Crap. Is that an old man using his fingers as a scoop to eat Top the Tator in the corner of Subway? I can't wait to tell tens of people about this." But when you don't blog regularly for a spell, large chunks of fodder fail to form a cohesive narrative. It's just not there, you know? You could go to your 20 year high school class reunion and have just half-formed sentences about the two day Eagle fest.

Blerg. Rusty writer.

So we had our class reunion. On Friday, we drank beer out of yellow Solo cups in the parking lot before the homecoming football game. On life's cool scale, this probably exists somewhere between: Age 25, wearing a high school letter jacket and watching the big game from behind a fence so you don't have to pay admission and Age 25, attending high school prom with a senior. (I've done neither of these, but I bet people do).

I had to imagine that at least one high school student was like: Hey, I didn't know you could drink beer in the parking lot before the game ...

Chuck's response to that: "You can do whatever you want if you don't give a shit." He said that as we walked back to the Space Shuttle to steal the bug spray out of our baby's diaper bag, so, punk rock, yo.

Then we went to an old friend's new digs on land on the outskirts of town. We toured a haunted silo and ate S'mores and I took Chuck in a Best-of-Three ping pong series. We got home at 1:30 a.m. like some kind of wild maniacs.

So composed beforehand. Who could've predicted a shit show?
As for Saturday night, we had drinks and apps at a downtown restaurant and then I caught amnesia. An entire 60-person street brawl was just ramping up as we were whisked away by cab (I'm told). I think it shows great maturity that I don't have an iPhone full of photographs of the various players involved in the skirmish and, more importantly, that the white woman arrested at the scene was not me.

This night wasn't all bad, apparently. Chuck said he looked at me at one point and my face was so slack that I looked 10 years younger. Boozy muscle relaxers. Now I'll never drink again forever I guess.

From what I remember, it was good fun and I had a lot of chuckles with my old friend Griff and I did not take the bait to a) leave the party in search of a long lost ex-boyfriend -- which I would categorize as something akin to visiting a zoo, and b) I did not dance, see also: zoo.

Wheels still on at this point. 
Slept a lot yesterday, but not enough. Traded in the promise of grilled meat in favor of Papa Murphy's. After the bodily healing began, the social shame took over.

In other news, Pa Pista pushed a spicy snack pack in our direction and now I'm gaga for Jalapeno Cheddar Cheetos.

The bigger news, though, is that The Girl has officially become A Walker. She could walk before and she would do it briefly here and there, reluctantly, like a musical phenom who hates that she has this pesky talent and is constantly asked to perform "I Dreamed a Dream" during her parents' dinner parties. So we'd play the walking game from me to Chuck to the corner of the couch. A few rounds of that and she'd be like "Oh, look, there's my stuffed Elmo" and she'd crawl away.

But here. Here she has really mastered the art. She can walk anywhere, she can stand up unassisted and she can fake out two grown adults who thought she was doing laps around the couch. She'd actually made a break for it. She was found on the third step, where she'd made off with one of her rainbow shoes.


Also, she loves Made Rites and taught herself how to use a spoon so she could get the Pumpkin Pie Blizzard into her face faster.

The end.

Loose meat.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vacation-ish Day 1: Missed the boat ...

Chuck is on vacation, but I'm not yet. This is pretty confusing for me because I'm no match for his mental forcefield. So if his brain is in leisure mode, if he's set his work shoes aside with a declarative "I WILL NOT PUT MY FEET INTO THESE FOR TWO WEEKS, SO HELP ME ...," then all of a sudden I find myself holding a grudge against any situation that requires more effort than sweatpants.

So I guess I'm on Vacation-ish. Or Vacation Lite. Or Pre-Vacation.

Yesterday we went to Fall Fest and the PBG hi-fived everyone on the bus on the way to Chester Bowl. We entered in a frantic Ergo Carrier, unnecessary sweatshirts, sunscreen, where's-my-purse swirl and didn't have our recommended $2 donation at the ready. "Have a nice time," a volunteer seemed to sneer. We lunched on gyros and cheese curds. I swiped at JCrew's face with her brand new mittens. The PBG touched a dog's nose and then hi-fived everyone on the bus away from Chester Bowl.

We went to a used bookstore and all I could see in my head was a tower of mass market mysteries toppling with a single King Kong-ian swipe by The Girl.

The PBG fell asleep in her stroller as we walked toward the Hot Air Balloon Festival at Bayfront so just inches from the gate we veered left. It seemed pointless to enter if she was going to miss it. We wound around the back of the entertainment center, knocked on the side of a beached art installation that failed to float. It was a gorgeous day and we looked at the water before hiking back toward the car we'd ditched about 3 miles away.

Only later, in the Papa Murphy's parking lot, did we learn that we'd missed this. A massive freighter missed a turn and damn near took out Bayfront. It had been a mere parks-length away from where we shrugged, disinterested, and opted out of the festival. I hate missing cool shit. So we raced to one of the highest points of West Duluth and peered East but couldn't see a lick of it. Blerg.

Then we watched a half-dozen episodes of "Californication" -- the Rick Springfield season.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Maid of Honoring in 28 Easy Steps ...

Two Friday's ago I stood on the uneven square of acreage on farmland outside of Minneapolis and looked at the spot beneath my phantom bouquet. A black cat. He'd wandered in from somewhere, a field probably, winding his way through the feet of the wedding party as we rehearsed. The 5-year-old next to me gave a little shriek, she didn't know this snaky creature was on the loose until the fur brushed her ankle. Now he'd moved on to terrorize me.

We went eyeball to eyeball.
I knew that cat's look.
I braced myself.
"No," I said mostly to myself, but also to him.
And he leapt up on my body (did he think I'd catch and cradle him?) and sunk his claws into the Ralph Lauren dress that had been discounted down to damn-near nada.
I screamed and bucked him off; He moved on to the next victim.

And that's how we kicked off my favorite friend Fannie's wedding weekend. Here is a list of other things that happened:

1. The rehearsal dinner was at Kieran's in Minneapolis and included drink tickets and a table of appetizers with fare ranging from celery to the richest of rich fish-something-yum-stomach ache-ouch-ate-too-many and pot roast sliders.

Princess Linda, Fannie, Me, Phantom Summer Sausage
2. At one point the happy couple collapsed into a super-intense private conversation that included a lot of nodding and eye contact. We imagined he was revealing the painful details of a super-secret second family he is keeping in Japan. Fannie seemed to take the news extraordinarily well. In actuality, someone forgot the gifts for the parents.

3. We drank, we mingled and complete strangers harassed me about my decision to cover my dress with a hooded sweatshirt (Forever 21, $17). Listen. I like layers upon layers. I'm working on it. I've recently showed toe in public. About a month ago I wore shorts and a tank top to the grocery store and said to Chuck, "Can you believe I'm just, like, wearing shorts and a tank top to the grocery store?"

4. Every time I burped, which was happening involuntarily, I'd blow a gust that smelled like Summer Sausage, though I'd eaten nothing Summer Sausage-like. Chuck would get a whiff and raise his eyebrows and mouth "Was that you?" and I'd nod sadly. Finally I went outside to let the wind take it away. As I deflated, I watched buskers drum on buckets for Twins' fans leaving Target Field.

5. We moved the party and closed down the hotel bar. Fannie ditched the future Mister and was like a freaking celebrity and we all cooed and cackled.

6. Chuck and I crept back to our hotel room where The Girl was asleep in a Pack 'n' Play, a successful night routine completed in a Doubletree by her grandparents, who were asleep in the adjoining room. Though there had been a text message earlier that hinted the Young Little Missy has a few "character flaws" -- strong words from a Grammy. "I bet that means she threw her bottle," Chuck predicted.

7. Chuck struggled with sleep. Our bed was the size of a Barbie Hammock. Every time he twisted, I felt like I was training for "American Ninja Warrior." Plus, we were keenly aware that we were a single cough or toilet flush from summoning the tot. None of this made for quality shut eye.

8. Chuck left for Duluth in the morning. He had to work. The Girl was given to the Parents Pista, who I'm assuming dressed her like a pilgrim and enrolled her at Benilde St. Margaret's.

Sweatshirt by Forever 21, $17
9. Hair was updid. Eyes were lined. Mimosas were drank. Underwear or no underwear convos were had. The bride expressed a quick regret about forgetting to put her breasts into her dress in a certain way -- but she quickly moved on to the next thing.

10. Saturday was gorg. Perfect weather, perfect kind of light, perfect everything. The kind of day that falls on someone who firmly believes in a religion called The Luck O' The Irish.

11. Fannie was so so so lovely and calm and collected and never once shrieked, sulked or sweated. And every time she asked her personal attendant to fetch or fix something, she did it with an amused smile -- like she was still getting used to this whole bride-as-co-boss-of-the-day thing. Later she'd get the same look when she realized she could ask the server for a bottle of wine for the head table. It was all very What Would Princess Di Do.

12. The photographer was a fellow long and triple jumper and I believe he anchored the LHS boys' 4x400 relay. I can picture him taking a handoff and cruising along the backstretch all those years ago. "I wasn't any good," he said when I told him this. "We just didn't have enough boys on the team."

13. I scratched notes for my toast on pieces of hotel stationery, sucking the pen cap and using my phone for a hard surface. "You look like a reporter," the triple jumper told me.

14. The bride's brother was the officiant and he talked about the examples of love who were sitting in the audience. Things got a little teary. The bride and the groom held hands and he kept breaking into huge grins. They vowed and kissed and then they were married. They reversed back up the aisle triumphantly. Did she raise her bouquet and shake it? I think so.

I have a daughter. Her face is just the best. 
15. I lazed in the grass with the Parents Pista and my shell-shocked child and drank a few G&Ts.

The Bride and Groom made a grand entry to the reception. 
16. Dinner was salmon and salad and wine-wine-wine.

17. I gave a toast, Maid of Honor and all that, and achieved all of my goals: One laugh per three sentences. No longer than 2 minutes. No drunken and overly sentimental gibberish filled with inside jokes. The speech had to be about the couple and not about the time my friend and I lit out for Santa Fe with a 1990s cell phone, a $20/day budget and NO FEAR when it came to strangers in strange places. Unfortunately I spilled a glass of white wine down the front of my dress while adjusting the microphone, conveying to the leader of the bluegrass band that I was far more hamboned than I actually was -- albeit less than I would ultimately be.

18. I spent probably an hour, more, talking to Princess Linda's mom and aunt, one of the funniest conversations I've been a part of for years. Eventually I was so cold that I had to go get a sweatshirt (Forever 21, $17). Those women need a podcast. Also, this was time I didn't spend drinking, which might have saved me from getting extra drunker.

19. I don't think I danced. I did try to book the band in Duluth and used "Hey, do you guys know Trampled By Turtles?" as my very agent-y opening line.

I think I read a super spooky short story about something like this
20. I crammed into a bus seat with Princess Linda and Z and we spent the 20 mile drive back to Minneapolis shouting out Duluth landmarks. "GRANDMA'S SPORTS GAR-DEN!" "MILLER HILL MAH-AL." "YOUNK-ERS!" "PROACTIVE KIOSK!"

21. Back at the hotel I changed into sensible shoes and traded out my contact lenses for glasses. Then we hit the streets.

22. Z paid for us all to get into Toby Keith's bar, though I'm not sure why. Then he slipped out the back door and went to bed. Duped.

My fashion sense was questioned. "But I live in Duluth" didn't seem to matter to anyone. 
23. Dong wanted to go to Jetset, but it seemed weird to leave the vicinity of the bride. Still, I found myself lifting Princess Linda into the back of an Uber and we were whisked away.

Dong and Princess Linda went to Homecoming, etc. together. 
24. Things get foggy.

25. Back at the hotel in a strange room with the bride and groom and friends and a kindly woman is heating up burritos, one at a time, in a portable microwave while we all stand around drinking beer and hearing tales of how great these burritos are going to be. I will say they were a success.

26. Crashed at 3:30 a.m.; Baby woke at 7 a.m. I lifted her from the crib, knocked on the adjoining door, handed her to her grandmother and returned to bed without ever opening my eyes. They took her to church while I performed the ritual cleansing required to make a 39 year old body not feel like asscakes after drinking for a double-digits amount of consecutive hours. Maid of Honor, and all that.


27. Fannie sent me nightly photos from her French honeymoon.

28. The next week I missed my high school friends so much that I didn't quite know what to do with myself.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Uniform ...

"What are you going to do when you have to change out of that," he asked me Monday morning, nodding at my TribLoons T and wind pants ensemble. "Probably just stand it up in the corner so it's ready for you when you get home?"

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

How we live now (a tale of four days) ...

Ace pterodactyl caller
On Friday I was part of a competition that involved Team T's and a raw baked bean eating contest. I filled in for a guy who probably would've taken the Loon Call title. JCrew, meanwhile, eschewed the loon call in favor of her signature pterodactyl call -- and managed to avoid last place in the process. As is, I held my own in the Portage Race, swinging two backpacks behind me as I passed my own teammates saying:

"Did that guy look like Philip Seymour Hoffman?" and "Move over, Princess" respectively.

By the time we got to the baked beans, there was no way Team Tribloons was going to win. I stared down Greener, who was on an opposing team, til she choked on stone cold bean juice.

Eat up, Greener
Later that night we had JCrew and Sea Dawg over for a cocktail party. We drank Negronis, ate cheese and said awful things. It was great fun.

On Saturday I took The Girl to Pride Fest where she knew instinctively when to clap during a set by a local singer-songwriter. I had to work extremely hard to keep her from coating herself in a layer of horse shit left behind by the Horse Cops that live in the park.

Cousin Mel found the right word to describe The Girl's hair,
which has Qs in back and nothing in front. "It's a mullet," she said. 
After that we had dinner with the Brother Pista Family. The Girl got all blotto on sugar, came home and rip-roared her way around the living room. She bounced from cushion to cushion and buried her face in my back.

Her eyes tell the tale:

Portrait of a Tot with Ice Cream Eyes
Sunday was my birthday, so we ate cake and opened presents and then Chuck went to work. The Girl and I went to Target and the mall and at both stops I looked at people and thought "Would you believe that today is my birthday? I'm 39."

We went to a bubble festival at the children's museum, but we'd totally missed out on the free T-shirt so we really half-assed the rest of the visit.

Chuck says she looks like the MC and I look like her Hype Man.
I decided that she and I would go out for Indian food, but the restaurant was closed. I decided that maybe instead we would go to a sort of fancy place.

"There's never anyone there," I reasoned aloud to myself. "And, 'sides, it's my birthday."

The bartender pshawed my question. Of course I could bring a baby into the restaurant.

"The white table cloths just make us seem fancy," he said.

This is probably true. One night Chuck and I ate our dinner with a view of a man wearing a robe who was checking his Gmail in the hotel lobby.

The Girl was fine through the cheese plate. She was really getting a fever for the flavor of Havarti. She might have caught a small bone in the white fish and I think she flicked the caper.

I caught the plate just as she was about to fling it across the room.

She grabbed a ring of onion off the top of my salad and seemed to put a lot of muscle into ripping it apart. She pointed at my olives. She shook her head at the tomatoes. She almost ate a piece of chicken, but squirreled it away in the corner of her mouth.

I quickly had the server bring the check and a box.

When we tried to leave it was pouring rain.

I put her to bed and ate the salad straight out of the carton while watching "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" on Hulu. It was actually fun.

Neither of us had a daily obligation on Monday, so we went for a walk and ended up at something that is oddly referred to as The Mom Beach. We buried The Girl's feet in the sand and swung her out over the water and then lazily headed back civilization.

We ate dinner at Endion Station and just barely got back to the car before it got dark.

Later, summer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A day at the races ...

I ditched my car in the first spot I saw on Park Point. I was in a dead sprint, or what constitutes as one these days, before my second foot hit the ground. Whoop-whooped the lock over my shoulder, chugged along.

I'm used to 6 o'clock meaning "sometime after 6," shrug, yawn. But the Norwegian Wonder called at 10-to and wanted to know if I'd get there in time and suddenly I was all, Oh. I suppose this starts at 6 p.m. The *real* 6 p.m.

I was going to miss my baby's race.

I finished what I was doing and bolted. There was a U-turn. Some indecisiveness among my peers at a 4-way stop. No you go, no you go bullshit. Then, of course, I got bridged. Stalled in front of an Old Chicago, imagining my tot zombie-walking her way toward her first finish line.

"You and your sailboat," I thought. "I hope you're real happy. I hope you're the happiest blasted sailboat owner in all the land."

I imagined a solution to this problem of getting tall boats under the bridge and through the canal without leaving drivers trapped, left to simmer in the essence of chain deep dish. What if they built a taller bridge? The incline could start way back here. It would be steep, but. Then I saw the new bridge coated in ice, Subarus cartwheeling off of it and into Lake Superior. Dangerous.

Finally those fun-loving, carefree sailboaters passed, the bridge locked back into position. I crossed it and wound along the point. An electric sign announced a low threat of rip currents and that there was a lifeguard on duty at the next beach -- 3.3 miles away. I did an approximation of math. At 30, ok, 40 miles per hour it would still take more than 3 minutes to get there.

I took a deep breath and thought: "You are so calm, they'd have to wake you up to put you into a coma. Your arms are feathers. Your spleen is a leaf in the wind."

More winding and all of a sudden, standstill. Waiting for an elderly woman with a free flowing mane of grey and her reusable tote to cross the street. Park Point is a character-driven plot of land. It's practically its own country, I decided. It's like the whole place was sprinkled with muscle relaxers. Are shoes even legal?

Toward the end of the Point, cars were stacked along the edge of the road. Not good. It was the finale for Wednesday Night at the Races, in which kids run from Point A to an inflatable Finish line however many meters away.

Technicality: The PBG isn't walking yet, per se. Nothing a sports psychologist couldn't right. She's too in-her-head, you know? If, say, we were walking and my hand slipped out of her hand, she would continue two steps, realize she was alone and drop to a heap on the floor. So for now she would need an assistant for the race. But, it's not like it's Olympic time trials, so.

So I sprint toward where I think this thing is happening. A man in business attire angles in, also sprinting, on my left.

"Where is this?" I heave.
He points.
"That yellow thing is the Finish line, I think."
We continue running, jumping over obstacles, dodging trees and pedestrians.
"We look like a commercial for working parents," I say to him.
"We're just trying to find some balance in our lives," he said.

I veer off and see the Norwegian Wonder and the PBG -- fresh from their finish. The girl was cutely wrapped in a too-large T, clearly flushed with a runner's high. I know the look. A thick dribble of sweat rolled down my back.

The PBG heard everyone clapping, the Norwegian Wonder said, and stopped just before the Finish line to clap along. Our girl loves to contribute to applause, that's the truth.

Anyway, it was all pretty informal, so I grabbed her and managed to sneak into the final heat for another race. (Just before it started, a woman told the PBG not to touch her kid in case she had germs. LOL). I mostly carried her, but let her pass under the inflatable finish line with just a little assistance.

Photos by my friend Alicia and the Norwegian Wonder.