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.