Saturday, May 31, 2014

Vacation Day 6: And seven and eight ...

On the sixth day of vacation we hiked up Horseshoe Bend, an uphill curve that looks like a) like a torturous bit of sidewalk and b) "Colorado!," according to Ma Pista. It's the kind of 2.5 mile uphill battle that requires whatever those back leg muscles are and a 2.5 mile downhill glide that requires a vice grip, a cinched safety strap for the stroller, and solid knee joints.

Then we went to Bayfront Festival Park and kicked a soccer ball back and forth while the PBG shrieked and bucked like she had front row seats for ... something far cooler than her middle aged parents kicking around a mini soccer ball. (Yet, she was comparatively nonplussed by the DPD's fleet of patrol horses, which clomped through the park and came to rest at a trough where the stage usually goes. 

Teachable moment: "What does a horse say?" Points at horses and says "dada"). 

Realized that though we had slathered enough sunscreen on the PBG to make her look like she was the highlight of the Rolling Thunder Revue, and though I'd goaded Chuck into SPFing the shit out of his forehead, I'd done nothing but apply a tinted lotion with moderate SPF, a sample from Birch Box, as a sort of tryout while mouthing the word "Cosmetics" in the bathroom mirror. 

Here's a special hell: sore legs and a 10-month-old bent on pinching your burnt chest skin. 

On the sixth day of vacation we had Harvey Wallbangers, listened to Juice Newton and ate a mix of pretzels, Sun Chips and Cheetos. 

We couldn't have predicted that our daughter would go on to sleep like The Joker of Jerk Nation. 

On the seventh morning of vacation, Chuck whisked the baby away so I could sleep a little longer. 

"Are you sure?" I asked, rolled over and woke up 2 hours later. 

We went for a walk by the Lake. We ate Snobby Joe's. We yawned. 

In the parlance of the 83 year old neighbor who tends to our yardwork: Our asses were dragging. 

Mostly we wanted to go to bed. Not watch a movie. Not refresh Instagram. Maybe hold each other and rock in terror over the sleepless monster we've created. 

So we had a margarita. Then a Harvey Wallbanger. "What if we saw someone walking down the street chugging from a bottle of Galliano?" I asked.

Then we went to bed while the sky was just freshly dark. 

The PBG woke at 1 am. Then 2 am. Then 2:50 am and 5 am. There was a 6:55 am-er and then the final one at 8 am. 

"Is this where we spank it?" Chuck tired-joked, pointing at her mini keister.
On the eighth morning of vacation I snuck upstairs for a nap, still a little too gun shy to fall too deep.  

She never used to do this. Our champion sleeper has regressed back to something she never was. Maybe if she had been like this at 4 months, we'd be in shape for it at 10. 

"It's like running a marathon without training," I woe-is-me'd. 

Chuck returned to work and I spent all day shivering in fear of bedtime. I also went to Target. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Vacation Day 5: 6 Little Chompers ...

Unacceptible. On the fifth day of vacation the Morning Lark stood in her crib chirping full sentences AN HOUR EARLIER THAN NORMAL.

Somehow I coaxed her into a few more Zs in our bed. This is usually impossible. She's someone who might say, when she's older, something like "Up 'n At Em!" "Daylights A Wasting!" or something equally Energetic and Bullshitty and Awful to Encounter in Morning Hours. 

That extra 23 minutes gave me just enough time to work out the cobwebs, so I was totes ready for the morning choreography:

Change diaper
Dress child in seasonally appropriate attire
Brush her 6 little chompers
Set her in her exersaucer (AKA "The Poop Chair")
Make coffee/drink coffee/make more/drink more
Hand the reins to Chuck whose first duty is always, literally, a dooty. 

There were times in my old life when I wouldn't know if I was going somewhere for sure until I walked in the door. Maybe not even then. But I can tell you right now that 10 hours from now I'll be wrestling a 10-month-old into an ironic onesie with the help of a stuffed toy distraction device we call Diaper Dog. So things change, huh?

We had some errands to run and as we walked out the front door and gasped: 

"It's like 9:30 a.m.!" I said. 
We cackled in disbelief. 

We hit Target. We made tracks to Home Depot. We kicked up dirt en route to the garden center.

Hanging with the PBG dangling from a Baby Bjorn is like running with a celebrity entourage. She waves. She points. She'd high-five, if you tried. Her "Hello" is a laugh, but backward. She sucks in air instead of blowing it out. It's weird and chokey and it charms 9 out of 10 recipients. 

We ate lunch in Cloquet, then gave the girl a taste test: birthday cake ice cream or chocolate? She sided with me. 

We took a family walk to the grocery store, and Chuck did an impression of the PBG with a speech impediment looming over the bed and watching us sleep. We'd wake, for instance, to her saying:

"YOU CAN JUST KEEP SLEEPING," he said in his creepy baby voice. 

I collapsed on the sidewalk. 

Dinner included asparagus. The beer was a pale ale. We cashed out "Mad Men."

I woke at 4 am to the girl watching us from her bed. 

"You can just keep sleeping," I thought. "YOU CAN JUST KEEP SLEEPING."

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vacation Day 4: Now with more lingonberries! ...

On the fourth day of vacation we went to IKEA.

We timed our departure from Roch like we were baby experts. Or at least experts in *this* baby. Barely hit the city limits and she was sawing logs. It was a real "We Got This" victory, though probably more luck and coincidence. 

"I think I'm going to have a shrimp sandwich," I tell Chuck as we roll. 
"Ok," he says. "I'll drive while you shit out the window."

I like IKEA. I guess everyone does, huh? I like to imagine Roxette ringing up my tastefully simple, life improving purchases, Swedish flags applauding our good taste. 

We bought baby things and kitchen things then squirted Lingonberry juice into the girl's birdish maw. 

We had meatballs. Loads and loads of meatballs. They pile your plate with them. So good. So terrible. Pieces of meatball kept sneaking back up my pipe. We traded off ughs and Chuck said: 

"This horse meat keeps repeating on me."

We started talking about the concept of meatballs, a food that doesn't really specify which animal will be rolling around in gravy.

"We never said it wasn't horse," Chuck said, imitating a meatball manufacturer.
"We said meat," I added. "Could be cow. Could be ... goat." 
"If you wanted cow, you should have asked for the cow meatballs," he said.

We scavenger hunted some beer Fannie recommended and then the PBG conked out again for the rest of the trip back to Duluth. Awards!

Back at home I reorganized our cupboards. Found an old Heath bar that I'm going to use as Break-Open-in-Case-of-Emergency fare. 

Drank a single beer. Got a titch bit goofy. Watched "Mad Men." Slept the sleep of champions. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Vacation Day 3: Wait, that was Day 2 ...

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- This guy runs toward us with red-white-blue adornments and no shirt. He pitches to the side of the path and sits down, bent at the waist.

"Are you okay?" I ask him.
"No, I'm going to die," he says.
"Do you need water?" I ask.
"No," he says. "I have water. I think I've run 29 miles."

It's hot, man. Wicked hot. Like, when you stand still you can feel your blood's rolling simmer. The old man got lost running the Med City Marathon. Now, all these hours after the complimentary fruit has been put away, he's planning on finishing regardless of if his soul is still connected to his body on the homestretch. He got lost, he says.

"I think it's over?" I tell him.
He shakes his head. "I don't even care."

Okay, that really happened on Day 2. But still. It happened on our vacation.


We take the PBG to a zoo near Byron where there are things like Canadian Lynx, Bison and Deer. She's nonplussed about a Bear so big and fur-filled that it seems like his Rawr would blow your hair back. The highlight is a goat, which she pokes at with her pointer finger before he laps at her leg.

Hand sanitizer, meet leg.


Vacation is exhausting. The PBG has an unprecedented level of mobility and refuses to be contained, be it in arms or strollers. She's examined every cranny of this house and now is tripling back to some of her favorite things: glass candle holders, potted plants, a CD collection that she likes to consider disc by disc.

(Turns out Ma Pista is hiding a Mandy Patinkin collection).

We fall asleep on the guest bed. She's barricaded by a wall of pillows and me, holding her foot in my sleep.


Worst park ever. The makers of this space have dumbed down the swings so they are slow and jerky. I blame American Parents. The PBG hates it. No wind in her hair, bugs in her teeth. Just the rubber-y creak of boredom.

We set her on the top of a slide and take turns dropping her into the other's hands. She shrieks at the top, looks pensive at the bottom. It's like she's a fun-taster, a slide connoisseur, rolling the experience around on her tongue.


I get carded at Trader Joe's.
"Seriously?" I ask, genuinely excited.
She nods.
I pull out my ID.
"Oh. I bet you card everyone," I say.
"No," she says. "I don't."
(Must always wear bib overalls).


The PBG hates grass, loves wind. This heat is oppressive.

Ma Pista has begun collecting photographs of the PBG, which she has filed on her iPad and turned into a slide show. Every time I send her a photograph I hear her chuckle at the image, followed by the beginning of the song "Beautiful" by Carole King.


TV news has a story about Smart Phone Finger and Mouse Tendonitis.
"I have Kindle Foot," Chuck says, his toes spread wide.

Vacation Day 2: Fistfights and zombies ...

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- On the second day of vacation we crashed a wedding.

It was on a farm on the outskirts of town. In this corner, the vows happened (before we got there). In this corner, so many desserts (which we scooped up on our way out). In this corner, a bunch of teens played ping pong. Over here, a pack of tots talked about getting the zombies. Christmas lights circled the top of a silo, an apartment.

Deep in the barn, the bride's father's band played sing along songs. Everyone circled the bride with stray tambourines and blocks and danced to "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock and Roll." (I didn't actually know her, but I met the groom in 1981. She was lovely).

Had a meteorite landed, it would have knocked out about 75 percent of my dates to high school dances -- and the only person I've ever coaxed into a fist fight. Every few minutes I saw the friendly face of someone I hadn't seen in a very long time. I hugged the groom's father and felt warm fuzzies for his mom.

A woman stood in front of me and said: "Remember me?"
A just-gorgeous girl, someone you'd trust to perform surgery or manage your money or teach your child French. She cackled when I went wide-eyed and said her name. (The groom's sister, who was a kid the last time I saw her).

Then: Brian Pista. No relation, but we grew up together. Our dads were besties growing up; Our moms were besties growing up. Then everyone got married to each other. This meant summer days with Brian, drinking Pepsi and playing with the Starship Enterprise while our moms slathered themselves in a quarter inch of Coppertown and laid on lounge chairs in the yard.

We got in one of those playground Fight!-Fight!-Fights! in fifth grade. I remember trying to land punches while he kicked my shins. After the Playground Lady (that was the official title in those days) broke it up, I put my head on Stephanie's shoulder and cried.

Our teacher took us into the hall and said we had to stay there until we'd apologized.

"Sorry I kicked your ass," I said, and spun back into the classroom.
It was the 1980s equivalent of #sorrynotsorry.

So he was there. I told him I heard he'd gotten into painting. He showed me a collection of paintings he made before he got bored of it and took up violin instead.

"I think that guy's wearing my suit," he said. "Hugo Boss."

There was B, who looks no different than the second grader whose feet didn't touch the ground. He would sit at his desk, swinging his legs. (Freshman and junior year homecoming).

There was K, who wrote our prom theme in high school. He got up and played an impromptu mini concert with Journey, Poison, and a commercial he wrote in the 1990s. (Senior year homecoming).

J (junior prom) barely even said hello, just burst toward us and said: "With 4-year-olds comes a WHOLE NEW LEVEL OF INDEPENDENCE."

"Where is she?" I asked.
"I HAVE NO IDEA!" he said.
Later I saw her traveling with a pack of zombie hunters.

Adam (sophomore turnabout) speaks with a Hawaiian accent, which I guess you can catch after living almost half your life in Hawaii.

It was all very awesome and just as we were going to double back and dig a little deeper into the lives of these people I like so much, we got a text from Ma Pista back on the Baby Front: Major Meltdown.

The PBG's a good little sleeper, but when she's not, she's not. She likes to coat her face in snot and tears and buck her body like a bull rider. This can go on and on and on. Last time it happened, a few weeks ago, I have the distinct image of her on her hands and knees on our bed, barfing right where I put my head.

So Major Meltdown was our cue to leave.

So many questions remain. Good thing we have our class reunion this summer. Duh, duh, duuuuh.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Vacation, Day 1: Mint leaves and St. Pius yearbook ...

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- On our first night of vacation, we were blurry and spent. It's hot here, like real hot. In Duluth, just as you're about to overheat, a lake wind blows and you can mostly forget about summer. We'd run all over town, visited a great-grandma, cruised the mall, chased the baby to every cranny of my parents house. Now we were full of grilled bratwursts, potato salad and going comatose to the sounds of Twins' baseball.

"Let's just go out for one drink," I yawned.
"It's Cocktail Saturday," Chuck yawned.

The place is Prohibition-themed, as should be all bars below street level. The drinks are the thing and the bartenders hunch over beakers and get real science-y as they combine gin, lemon, some other stuff. One wore an apron. Chuck ordered a Manhattan. I got something called the Steve French.

After much fussing, our bartender eyed his creations. He frowned.

He picked a mint leaf, set it in his palm, squashed it like a bug, dropped it in my pale yellow drink.


The thing was delicious. Light, summer-flavored. The world could get real tilty after a few without ever wincing to the tell-tale alcohol-induced trachea burn.

On our way out of the bar -- we were headed somewhere rooftop-ish -- we pass a signature jawline backlit as it cruised down the steps. I made a grab for the guy behind him just as Jawline stopped, turned around and said "Christa?" Two guys I've known since first grade on Jaw's wedding/birthday weekend.

Whenever we come to Rochester, I hope for a random sighting. The girl we saw at Target doesn't cut it. Seems like she unfriended me on Facebook and that I didn't notice suggests it doesn't matter and we will all be okay. I just wasn't meant to know which 1980s sitcom family is most like her family. ("Full House," probs).

But these guys: This is the mother load. A reason to come to Rochester. This is the best sighting you can hope for. It's Jaw's wedding weekend and his he pulled a wedding party straight out of the St. Piux X yearbook. He listed off invitees, people who might even stop by the bar, and I got giddier and gidder.

At one point I wondered: Why can't we be invited to this all-star event?

We spun back into the speakeasy, talked about letter jackets, the internet and architecture. We hung out just long enough to get invited to the wedding. Can't wait to see if we go.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Focus ...

Chuck's car zips. Zero to 30 with a nasally rev. It's a windows down car, best driven barefoot. His floormats want to be gritty with pebbles, but this is the kind of thing Chuck doesn't let happen to his car. He's got a handmade Dylan mix in the CD player, decades-worth of music in no specific order. Here Dylan sounds strong; Here Dylan chuckles mid-song; Here Dylan sounds like a moped; Here Dylan is mad-sad or maybe sad-mad.

Fact: You cannot comfortably fit a car seat into his car.

Your car makes me want to drive fast, I tell him. Your car makes me think I'm a person who does shots. Tequila. I never have to pay for them. Your car makes me feel free. Your car is a totally different life, like I split in half at a fork on a country road. Left likes Adult Contemporary or MPR and totes a tot who is forever gumming a giraffe named Sophie and cannot get from Point A to Point B without removing her shoes and socks. Right is zipping around in this car, this speed racer, listening to "Visions of Johanna" and zigzagging the country from open couch to open couch.

"Don't go running off," he says.
"No way," I say. "These things are only fun in your head."

He kind of knows what I'm talking about. He's felt the zip. He's involuntarily rolled down the window. He knows the score. He's the one who made this mix.

He sums it up:

"When I'm in that car, it's just me."

Monday, May 12, 2014

We're just talking here ...

Oh Hey, You.

Two weeks ago I was so busy that I forgot that blogs (including my own) exist. At all. In any capacity. It was like the 2004 part of my brain got buried in an avalanche and had to survive until the thaw by eating its own face. After the busy-ness waned, I stretched and yawned and clicked an app on my phone because I couldn't remember what it was for. That app was Feedly. Duh.

I went straight to Jodi because if I had to be stranded in an avalanche with one blog, it'd be I Will Dare. She had a fresh post about how she hadn't really posted lately but that it's not like the old days. In the old days when you didn't post people got all 911-y. I was glad she opted to not post during the week when I forgot that blogs (including my own) exist. Jodi said during a non-writing period you can always find her saying things on Twitter. For me, I think the thing is Instagram. It's really my happy place. It hasn't gotten Facebook'ed to Death with Opinions and Memes and Virals and Comments. If Instagram was a thing in 2004, I'd have secretly hoped to become Instagram Famous. As is, no one will ever again be famous for living life on the Internet. Though, maybe someone could become famous in the future for not living life on the Internet.

I use Twitter wrong. I just kind of walk into Twitter and yell things into a loud room full of people who are already talking to the people they want to be talking to.

I was busy because there was a music festival. I split my time between my Daily Obligation, My Baby and The Music, sometimes creeping into the house at 1 a.m. ears still buzzing from a 20 minute song that made my appendix vibrate. On the final night, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had a hunk of meat stuck in my hair. I'm still wearing the wristband, for whatever superstitiously lazy reason.

One night I took The PBG. Baby's first Music Festival. We saw Old Skool folk singers in a room at least 50 people past the Fire Chief's Recommended Capacity. First she tried to touch another baby. His mom yanked him out of reach. Then she pulled the long greyish hippie hair of a festival attendee. She quacked and chirped along with the singers and people smiled either kindly or tolerantly. It's so hard to say. She tried to yank a pair of dangling earrings from a kind woman's lobes. She was perfect. I stole this photo from the festival director's Instagram feed.

We've also started going to Baby School, which is interesting because the PBG really hadn't met another baby until I set her on the floor next to a Cool Cucumber of a 7 Month Old. She tried to poke his eyes and touch his face and eventually just pointed at him and screamed a quick curdling burst. According to something I haven't signed yet, what happens at Baby School stays at Baby School. So I'll leave it at that.

Well, there is one other thing. She licked every toy in the room and now we're both sick.

Also: Chuck and I have started doing this fun thing where he makes a new different cocktail on Saturday nights and we have a special themed food to go with it. This week we drank El Presidente and ate these Cuban Toasties that included Hot Mayonnaise, a dealbreaker for those with refined tastes.

This week we got wicked ramped up about this song from the 1970s. I was telling Ma Pista about it later and she was very excited and encouraged me to listen to the entire album. I mentioned that I might write about the song and she got quiet.

"Oh. I only really like it when you write about (the PBG)," she said.