Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Super into this week: Pajamagrams, lentil soup, murder ...

Things that happened this past week:
1. I received the best gift of my entire life: A pair of hoodie footie pajamas from Pajamagram. And they are even more fan-flipping-tastic than I had imagined. There are even little thumb holes in the long sleeved arms.
2. Chach said to me: "Does Elsa have nipples?"
3. I found out that neither Chach nor I have strep throat.

"I'm Having a Friendship Affair" by Kim Brooks, New York Magazine
I'm not totally like this, but I'm enough like this that it made me want to drink wine and braid someone's hair. Also: Then I started following Kim Brooks on Twitter.

"LA Lately" by Israel Nash: 1. If I like a song and the song mentions Los Angeles, I will like it even more especially since I haven't been there for years and I've been watching "Transparent" and some of the generic city views make me woozy. 2. This song reminds me of another song that mentions Los Angeles, "Black Lexus" by Joseph Arthur, which was the first official Song that References Los Angeles that started me liking songs that reference Los Angeles.
Aside from that, this one has this big swirling sound and is a little Pink Floyd-y and a little Neil Young-y, but I'm putting heavier weight on the Joseph Arthur for the sake of my pride.

Megan Tan is a recent college graduate who isn't sure of her next move, so she decides to make a podcast about figuring out what's the what. Lesson One: She gets an email from the Los Angeles Times asking if she's interested in applying for an internship making video for the paper. She hems and haws and interviews friends and ultimately decides nah, she doesn't want that to be her job. She's into radio. She wants to do that.
Pause, suffocate a little: Wouldn't a person interested in telling stories get some huge value from learning from other photo journalists at the Los Angeles Times, even if the medium is different? Answer: Yes so hard.
Anyway, I've decided to swallow my shock and remember that I am a tourist in Millennials-ville, so. Here is a decision that A Millennial made, Old Lady Gen X.
Anyway, five episodes in. I feel like I could stop, but I'm not going to and then, soon, I won't be able to.

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon: This is like Lentil Soup for the person who has no faith in Lentil Soup, like, for instance, me. I've tried lots of Lentil Soup in my life and, yum, hot texture. This one requires some accessorizing -- like, add that lemon juice, olive oil and Cayenne pepper --  but it's super good and one of those things I can just happen to have the ingredients to make in my kitchen AT ALL TIMES (well, usually). So welcome to my second favorite homemade soup.
PS: This week I realized my tomato paste had lily pads of mold floating on it, so I just substituted Trader Joe's Roasted Garlic Marinara and then got to feel pretty smug when it didn't suffer. Boom.

I'm halfsies on this season. Bowe is no Adnan. I'll probably listen to the whole season, but I probably won't, like, slip into a robe every week and sit in a dark living room sipping whiskey while we listen and then shoot looks of shock, horror and surprise at each other and wish the next six days away.

I wrote this thing about how I probably ran over someone's Christmas presents.

"The Living Room" episode of Love + Radio
This is a fine, fine piece of storytelling. A woman secretly watches her young neighbors live a very sexy life, until something changes. Then she watches that, too. So great.

"Making a Murderer"
Now THIS is "Serial."

Monday, December 21, 2015

Super into this week: Pea soup, Janet Jackson and animal encounters ...

Things that happened this past week:
1. I had the worst sore throat in the history of my throat and stayed home for two days complaining about how much saliva hurts. It now occurs to me that strep is something to consider, but when.
2. We went to a birthday party for a trio of 3-year-olds at the zoo. There were animal encounters.
3. I thought I had been a victim of identity theft and then I realized that I'd signed up for Apple Care and forgotten and been charged for it. So now I don't have a working debit card because of the way I really jumped in there and took care of business with my bank. Way to go, Adult Me.

"The Bedford Stop"
I'm such a sucker for this kind of thing: In this case, it's like 3-minute episodes about twentysomethings living in Brooklyn. It's like "Tinder-brunch-Tinder-Tinder-Got-So-Drunk-brunch-Tinder" and it's fascinating.
Sider: I'm absolutely obsessed with Tinder culture. It's easy. It's fast-paced. It turns the whole game on its ear. The idea that these women could go on a date, technically, every single night with a new person. In one episode, a girl shrugs and is like "Whatever. Free dinner." FREE DINNER.

"Control" by Janet Jackson
We were in the middle of a dance party that started with "No Diggity," segued into "Shoop" and then was headed toward MC Hammer when I decided to veer left and listen to Janet Jackson instead. And then we just kept listening for as long as it took to Swiffer two rooms. Even though there is no place in modern times for this album, it's still fun to listen to. The voice is so sassy and insistent about its strength and independence. Then, randomly, there is "Let's Wait Awhile," which is achingly big-eyed and earnest. It has always been, for me, the theme song to Sweet Valley High, Book 23: "Say Goodbye." I think this album was playing every day of elementary school. It made me want to write a letter to my old friend Betsy.

Split Pea Feel Better Soup
(I'll probably not be taking food photos anymore in my life. There is just no way to do it without looking like my meal jumped off an apartment building and landed on a plate 20 floors below.) But, this is the best soup I've ever eaten. If you make it, mind your herbs and seasonings. Don't approximate, they are crucial to the end, flavorful, warm-belly finale. Best if served with homemade gluten-free bread, made my someone else's dough-slopped hands.

This show is just so, so, uggghhh-noise. Aside from Mora, and sometimes not even her, everyone always does and says the exactly wrong thing and it's so messy and great. And I love Gaby Hoffmann and her character and love to think that everything she does and says has been informed by being the opposite of Kevin Costner, her earliest of costars. My favorite line, mid-Season 2: "I can't have real emotional intimacy with someone who hasn't suffered under the patriarchy." So serious. Anyway, I love this show better than anything else right now.

I've been listening to NPR's Songs We Love, which is a mix of like 31 hours of music as selected by public radio music people from all over. Then I've been yanking out my own faves from that list to make my own mix. It turns out I don't hate country music. And other mysteries.

Here's a column I wrote about taking Chacha to "The Nutcracker."

Thursday, December 17, 2015

What it is like to call in sick (at this point in my life) ...

Last night: Throat feels like it has ballooned, leaving something the size of a pinhead to swallow through. Head, cottony. Tolerance level for a toddler who firmly believes that what's mine is her's (my phone, the bread for my tempeh reuben, the space I'm standing in) and, hey! can I play with that knife: Low. Eschew elliptical workout in favor of "Fates & Furies" while tucked into the body pillow I've snaked around my person. Shiver. Feel cranky. Dose self with Nyquil and morph into a snoring lump of dead weight.

I had a dream I was in Austin, Texas, visiting the daughter of my mother's best friend. She wasn't Her-Her, but more of a hybrid: a mix between her and another girl I barely knew in high school, the neighbor of one of my good friends. So complicated!
Our plane was late.
She seemed to resent our arrival.
Though she lived in a very large house, we all slept in her bed.
I heard her complain about us to the neighbors and when she served us spaghetti and beans for dinner, mine slid off the plate and onto her carpet. I ate it anyway, while she looked on with disgust.
"I like your mom," I told her, trying to find a point of entry.
"I don't usually make small talk," she said.

Wake to Chacha's morning mantra, a somewhat weepy: "Mamamamamamamamamamama." Feel Chuck wake, remember that I'm sick, slide out of bed and pad down the hallway. They both return, Chacha with Abu the Elephant and Honey Boney, the perpetually sleeping soft baby who came with her own sleeping bag. One tucked under each arm.
A fit is had. She wants me to go downstairs and watch her eat oatmeal. I want to conk out and dream of a place where I don't have to think about my throat everytime I swallow. Calm voiced negotiations occur and her father whisks her away.

More sleep.

Wake at 11 a.m. to a fresh smoothie, which feels amazing, and coffee, which also feels amazing. A sore throat, it seems, needs temperature fluctuations.
Consider options:

1. Go to work.
2. Stay home and sleep.
3. Stay home and work-work and home-work.

Lean toward 2 while thoughts of 3 creep in.
I could sleep, but also do some laundry.
I could sleep, but then go to the grocery store later.
I could sleep and also read Fates & Furies.
I could listen to podcasts, paint my nails, Christmas shop and get in a good, long workout.

Remember that I am home because I am sick.
Babysitter arrives, takes away child for a few hours.
Crawls into bed.
Can't. Stop. Typing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Super into this week: Bathwater barfing and Girl podcasts ...

Chach, pre-Nutcracker. 
I like to get a jump start on my New Year's Ressies, and one of them is going to be writing more even if that writing is just making a weekly list of what I'm: SUPER INTO THAT WEEK. This feels necessary as I can no longer remember what year I was super into, for instance, the Shout Out Louds (and other great Swedish bands) and apparently I wasn't keeping track of STUFF I WAS INTO when I made this great Bean Sandwich Mousse and now I can't find the recipe.

Things that happened this past week:

1. Chuck's and Chuck's Fanny's annual Birthday Rally in Spirit Valley, in which, yesterday, I realized I'd gotten a phone number from a woman at the bar who just moved to town and has a 2-year-old and we were going to have a playdate. Eeps. It's all kind of a blur of bumbling with the karaoke microphone and hitting the Taco John's drive thru. This is all very strange, as I was drinking beer. It reminds me of a time I did The Worm at the bar and this girl I knew said "You did the worm on beer?"

2. Sum it up this way: Have you ever been so mad you barfed pizza in your bathwater?

3. Chach, Ma Pista and I went to "The Nutcracker." Right before the end of the first Act, Chach stands up and yells "Cock-a-Doodle-Dooooo!" and the turns around and smiles. We made it midway through Act 2.

3. An orthopedic surgeon told me about all the innards of my shoulder that are torn and I decided to rehab instead of having surgery because I have a flailing toddler and can't be handicapped by a sling at this point in my existence. 

4. Chuck and I drank absinthe (and nothing happened.)

So, here's what I'm super into this week:

Slate's "Double X Gabfest" Podcast
Simply enough: I like how these women talk. Hanna Rosen, Noreen Malone and June Thomas, an in-the-news podcast. I like the word choices, timbre, and sentence structures, the ideas and the questions they ask. It's Women Yes, topic-wise, but not exclusively. Recently: "Carol," suicide clusters in Palo Alto, a somewhat personal essay by Katy Waldman about anorexia, the curious case of Tashfeen Malik. Listening feels like having supersmart, inquisitive friends who arrange words well responding to the ongoing conversation in your own head.
Also: Each episode ends with endorsements ranging from books to Tiny Desk Concerts.  
(Full disclosure: I hate the word "gabfest.")

Annnnnd ... on the other side of the Three Women Talking About Stuff Coin there is this. If Double X Gabfest is like listening to NPR, this one is like shotgunning episodes of "Sex and the City." I hadn't heard of any of the women before I randomly downloaded the podcast in a Mad Podcast Download Binge that occurred when I upgraded my iPhone and got more storage. I guess they must be famous because they do things like go to work in their pajams and have someone else apply the pretty or have slumber parties with Lea Michele or take spin class one bike away from Ruby Rose. But, frankly, I'd listen to them even if they were only as famous as a trio of gals working the desk at my orthopedic surgeon's office. I don't even care that they interviewed "The Bachelorette." She seemed nice. They're funny and they make period jokes The only downer is that their between-segment audio sounds like car commercials and it hurts my ears.
The only other downer is the word "fempire," which could go on a list with "gabfest."

Here I come out of baby-induced review retirement to barf gobs of chortles and groans all over Minnesota Reads for the first time since that time in September when I got all hopped up on ultra-marathon running. We've got some novels, some memoir, some collections ... and one official No Can Do.

Play it As it Lays by Joan Didion
I thought I had read this, but I had not. And now, finally, I can in good conscience claim to be the fan of Joan Didion that I've always said I was.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

At three percent ...

I come to you waist-deep in bed covers with the computer battery in the red zone and a romantic question:

What if I just set this computer aside, scooched a little lower and fell asleep right now at 9:36 p.m. on a Wednesday night, 4,000-plus steps shy of my FitBit goal, a dirty kitchen, clothes done drying in the drier and ignoring the two unread New Yorkers, a Sloane Crosley and "M Train" next to my bed?

What if.

A few weeks ago I was talking to another writer friend about writing and she responded to my question with " ... I don't know. How are YOU using YOUR creative time?"


"On an elliptical machine," I told her.

Which is pretty true. It gives me an excuse to watch an episode of "The Good Wife" and still feel productive. By the way, Will Gardner died in the middle of my second-to-last workout. I had to Kubler-Ross my way to the finish line. It was brutal. This is probably why I have PTSD about going back into the basement and queuing up the post-Will Gardner era.

So sleepy.

Anyway, this is all bad for business because I finally after a thousand million years found a writing group. We have our first meet up in two weeks and all I have to show for myself is:

1. An ill-formed novel idea.
2. Stray sentences tucked here and there in my brain.
3. An essay to rework because I think I'm supposed to read something in public sometimes somewhere eventually.
4. A TV show I want to write.
5. A curiosity about one-woman theatrical performances.
6. A FitBit.

A few days ago my blog got linked to. Like, remember when people used to have little blogs and then a bigger blog would link to it and the little blogger's site meter would explode and the little blogger would be like "FINALLY I ALMOST HAVE A FAMOUS BLOG." And then that night the little blogger would stare at her little blog and think "The next thing I write has to be amazing."

This isn't like that at all because blogs are dead, yo. But some of the muscle memory remained. I went straight to my site meter and sighed contentedly. Hi, new reader. I like your hair.

We put our cat Hal to sleep and, for the most part, we managed to do it without saying the words "sick" or "hospital" to our toddler. Instead, Chuck took Hal to "the cat place" and he's not coming back because he's dead. She never liked him, so it's no big to her, though now she has sort of romanticized him.

"Hal's over there," she'll say, gesturing toward the door.

We're so haunted.

(Battery at 3 percent.)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A hundo ...

I received a gift of $100 and I decided that I was going use it on a series of small things for myself and that I was going to be very directed about it. I was going to develop a want, nurture the want, burst with the want, then plunk down the plastic and buy the thing. I was going to keep a record of these purchases, so that after the money was gone I could say: LOOK AT EVERYTHING I GOT! and feel a shiver of thrill.

First it was going to be Jonathan Franzen's "Purity." But then I was lying in bed and I needed a new book and I was holding my Kindle, and it was just easier to click Buy It on Amazon than to go downstairs and type in this temporary credit card information. So. I just bought it myself.

Then I became obsessed with Toms. Everywhere I looked, strangers were wearing them. A Twitterer I look to for social cues mentioned them. It was like everyone at Toddler School had a pair: Solid colors. Stripes. Everywhere. My spirit shoe. So I went to a boutique within walking distance of my desk and they didn't have my size. A few days later, at the mall, I had the opportunity to hold a shoe in my hand and I didn't like the sole. I could imagine it slipping across the surface of the grocery store or dampening quickly when I inevitably stepped into a puddle. Then I was like "I'm not going to wear a pair of Toms in the winter anyway."

A pair of tall brown boots.
A massage.
My iPhone upgrade.
A haircut.
A Twins cap.

This is going to be like that hand lotion, Chuck predicted, as I continued to not buy anything.

A few years ago, JCrew and I had a free makeup consultation in this woman's basement, which she had turned into a parlor/office. She was very-much a woman-woman, the kind with skin so soft you could leave your fingerprint in the flesh of her cheek. The kind of woman who leaves you in a wake of powdery floral smells. She had a flattering hair style and could walk in shoes and she'd earned the pink car. She was fascinating and good. So good.

She did this multi-part thing to our hands that involved washing, exfoliating, lotioning and then extra-lotioning, that left my hands feeling like fancy sheets. I fell hard.

I bought the whole set up. I performed the cleansing-lotioning-lotioning ritual using Chuck's hands. We basked in the aroma of pure peach.

Then I never used the stuff again. I was saving it for occasions. It was not to be trotted out willy-nilly. I caught him using one of the hand lotions once and almost choked. You didn't just use the lotion. You had to do the process. Whatta waste.

Whatta waste, indeed.

So, anyway, right now I'm in the process of building up a want for Patti Smith's new book.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The one where she loses a tooth (in a pretty prominent location) ...

Last week Chach took a digger on one of the more routine obstacles at the park, caught herself, mostly, but came down on her front teeth. She cried a bit. Insisted on being carried halfway home from the park.

Chuck gave her a medicinal popsicle when they got home, which went well, until he heard something that he described as sounding like a Tic Tac drop on the kitchen floor. Then there was a gush of blood and that was that: She's down to one front tooth. And her baseball-style T-shirt now has a pretty memorable blood stain.

She still has the right one. It's more pronounced now, without its partner in crime, but it's a pronouncement befitting the double chew-duty it has been assigned. The left one, and it's massive root, are in a baggie on top of the refrigerator while we iron out the logistics of a conversation we hadn't planned on having with our daughter for years. The one about the Tooth Fairy. [One would think this would be easy. It's like Santa with wings monkeying with your pillow and leaving shiny circles while you sleep before he (she? I've lost track) flitters out the window. But Chacha has recently begun referring to the Easter Bunny as Bob The Easter Bunny, so we will just let it the Tooth Fairy business rest for a bit.]

If I've learned anything from reading Dooce, it's that when a kid has a dental sitch involving baby teeth, no one is going to do anything about it. Still, when your kid gushes blood from her face hole, the inclination is to go to Urgent Care.

So we did and, as expected, a very smug doctor looked at us like we had asked her to give our kid a head transplant (read: Throw away the old one! Start over!) and said:

"You know we can't do anything about this, right?"

And so I, equally smug, replied:

"Yes. And I'm sure we aren't the first parents to bring you a kid who knocked out her front tooth."

To which she answered in the affirmative.

It took a bit to get used to, it has increased her comic stylings, like, tenfold, and she can no longer say words that start with the letter S. But she's happy, despite the impolite gesture she keeps making with her tongue.

"All else is otherwise normal." -- Bob Easter Bunny

Monday, September 14, 2015

Vacation Days 7-10: The Rest of the Story ...

"It is easier to resume a habit of not-blogging like it's 2004, than to resume a habit of blogging like it's 2004." -- Wham!

We were in a bit of a state on Friday morning. A real Oof-er, if you know what I mean. It started with a glass of wine at dinner on Thursday night, followed by the quiet reading of new Jonathan Franzen and a sneak peek at the September Mixtape I'm making for Chuckers. We sipped responsibly, but we sipped far into hours neither of us have seen in our current status as Adults with a capital A.

Unfortunately, there is no way to convey to a toddler that Mama invented a post-midnight snack involving sauerkraut, Thousand Island dressing and a cheese alternative that I won't say will assuage the stigma of lactose intolerance, but certainly makes dietary restrictions taste pretty freaking good -- especially when paired with sauerkraut and Thousand Island Dressing at 3 a.m. after a couple of Gin Old Fashioneds. So, anyway, Chacha woke at her regular time (singing, of course, a montage of hits from the movie "Frozen" and things with the same tune as the Alphabet Song and classic Styx) and we stared at the ceiling.

The day was already set to be a Choose Your Own Adventure of sorts. My friends would all be spending the weekend on Gull Lake, near Brainerd, for our annual Gull Lake Weekend. Both my parents and the Norwegian Wonder weren't available to babysit our Pet Monkey. But there was chatter among the friends that maybe Chach could just ... come with us. To an adult getaway with a handful of other people who have kids, but wouldn't be bringing them along because they are polite.

It was hard to tell if the invitation was sincere or if they were saying: We'll offer it, but you're a real jerk if you take us up on this because YOU CAN'T TAKE A BABY DANCING AT ZORBA'S.

So we hemmed and hawed and sometimes we were going and sometimes we weren't. Then, for a while, we were going to stay at a hotel in nearby Nisswa so we wouldn't rain on the drinking games and 90s tunes and Simon Says dance party that could potentially erupt, but we could stop in and say hello and return in time for the pontoon ride the next day. Then we just stopped thinking about it and sunk into the couch to do something we have literally never done in years:

TV marathon. With non-animated TV.* Adult TV where sometimes someone swears when they flub a Mystery Box Challenge. We queued up MasterChef Season 6 and ordered two zas with gluten-free crust from Papa Murphy's.**

Ohh, it was the most delicious bit of gluttony. Until, after about 3 hours of this, Chacha finally went over to the TV, turned it off and started crying. The jig was up.

Around the same time, the friends sent a barrage of texts and reiterated that it was okay to bring The Bug to Gull Lake. So we looked at each other, shrugged, and hit the road.

I had, fortuitously, gotten Chach's life jacket from the Norwegian Wonder, which makes it seem a lot like fate.

We got to the area around 10 p.m., stopped to pick up snacks, and the only Rice Crackers available in the grocery store had expired in June 2014.

We were greeted by a festive crew at the cabin, though, and Mr. Z. performed all manners of hi-five with the tot and the friends even added "Mr. Roboto" to the playlist.*** I tried putting the girl to bed after a chocolate chip bar and mega attention and it didn't take too well. By the time she conked, everyone else was lights-out, too.****

On Saturday we took a pontoon around the lake. Chach stood at the front of the boat in a very Winslet way and snacked on something called Beanitos that left an orange rind around her lips. We sipped and basked***** and got back to the cabin just in time to watch the sun start to set.

We left that night with a load of new iPad games that Mrs. Z. recommended, including one with robots ("Domo. Domo.") It didn't seem like her presence salted anyone's game.

The vacation was over for Chuck on Sunday, so The Girl and I went to Target and went for a run and went to the park like normal, non-vacationing people do.

Today we wore out our welcome with each other just in time for my vacation to end.

1. We left the park.
2. I didn't leave the park in the direction she wanted to leave in.
3. I did not have a bar for her to snack on in the stroller.
4. Our neighbor R wasn't on his porch and I didn't know where he was.
5. I had no intention of making Noodles and Peas and Sauce and Toast (because we had that last night)
6. I only let her watch two episodes of "Word Girl"
7. She fell asleep while I was running, so she didn't know we had gone running.
8. She didn't want to go to the Co-Op.
9. She DID want to go to the Co-Op.
10. She didn't want to ride in the shopping cart.
11. She didn't want to walk.
12. I wouldn't carry her through the store.
13. She wanted to get out of the cart.

But we were pretty much cool after that for the rest of the night.

* We aren't complete monsters. First we watched "The Last Unicorn."
** Long story, this gluten-free thing, involving a thyroid. As for the crust: Is it supposed to stick to your teeth? I'd totally order it again.
*** Though when they played "Let it Go," Chach looked around as though she expected Elsa to glide into the room on ice and turn the cabin into a castle.
**** We were awarded a King-sized bed, still everything people tell you about sleeping with a toddler is true, between the mid-night face slaps to the bed hogging, to the reality of sleeping as a family sentenced to create a letter H. She also woke at the crack of dawn and when she saw me open my eyes, she pounced on me with: "We go on boat now?"
***** And ate all sorts of stuff including REAL LIVE CHEESE.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vacation Days 5 & 6:

It sounded like a creepy kitty-caller, wandering around in the middle of the night. A cackler with a steaming pot of green brew.
"Did we lock the door?" I asked Chuck.
"I think so," he said, already unwrapping his legs from blankets. "I'll go check."
I heard it again while he was gone and then the thuds of him sprinting up the steps. He ripped open the bedroom door.
"You have to look outside," he stage whispered, then went on to describe a scene resembling the slick poncho-wearing feral personality from "The United States of Tara."

We turned off the lights and I peered out from behind the shade.

She was crouched on the sidewalk studying the contents of our Little Free Library. She had hair down to here and so many legs. When she finally stood up, I saw that she had selected a pre-Scott Pilgrim Bryan Lee O'Malley. She tottered a bit. She walked away with a drunken tilt.

Stupid gravity. But nice get.

Also: I saw a snake today (in its natural habitat).
Also also: Chacha has a mega-mosquito bite that is big enough to host its own mosquito-bitten face.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Vacation Day Four: $14 ...

Captain Stubing
It all started with a time machine. A 92-foot, 3-deck modified yacht with a distinctly 1980's flavor, which was only enhanced by the busload of senior citizens from Bemidji who helped fill it to capacity. They were rumored to be a class reunion.

"What if I yelled BINGO?" I whispered to Chuck as we settled into a table with a view of sweet, sweet Lake Superior.

A table full of woman had already raided the gift shop for sequined caps in an array of colors. They were killing it. Someone bought the YOLO sunglasses from the spinner next to the Fritos. As soon as we boarded, a bunch of men made for the bar -- purchasing full rounds of beers for tables. They were inspiring.

I saw celery salt and said two words that improved an already great situation.

"Bloody Mary?" I asked Chuck and his face lit up. It was 12:15 p.m. somewhere.
The bartender asked which vodka I wanted and I said "whatever is a step up from gross."
He mixed in a shot and poured from a pre-made mix poured from an oversized Tabasco container. He asked if we wanted the fixings and I answered in the affirmative.
Pickle. Olive. Cheese cube. Salami. Celery Salt.

"This is the best day of my life," Chuck confessed.

It was amazing. Could have used a snit of something lukewarm, but carbonated, but shrug. A singalong soundtrack played, they sounded the horn and we made for the Aerial Lift Bridge for a 75 minute tour full of Duluth history and deep sea winds.

Chacha only tried to jump out the window once.

This was so much freaking fun.

Bed bugs, probably.
Somewhere near a grain elevator I received a piece of great news. I noticed a charge for $14 from my student loan company, and wondered if someone forgot a digit in this month's auto payment. Then I stopped, startled: I'd paid it off. Finally. Twenty years later. I'd paid off my final student loan. I remembered that day in my mid-30s when I realized it wouldn't be paid off until I was 40. And now, well, I'm ... 40.

So, yeah.


Drum solo
We had sushi, which was on my Vacation To-Do List, but it wasn't great sushi, so blerg-diggity.

Mixed response on the avocado role, A-plus on the soy sauce, tho. 

Charlotte and I had a talk about how she is growing up and how she can run fast, jump, eat pizza, paint pictures ...

"Do puzzles," she added.

... and so she's not a baby anymore. So maybe I don't have to carry her everywhere.

"I little," she argued.


Crap. I just Googled to see which season of MasterChef we're watching and saw who wins it in a headline. I HATE MY LIFE RIGHT NOW SPOILERS HELP NOT COOL.

In other news, if anyone wants to see a pretty sweet impression of Cutter from Season 5, please stop by. Chuck has it on lock down.

"This is spare rib, with toothpaste in it. Seemed like a good idea to me." Shrug.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Vacation Day Three: Wet pants ...

The third day of vacation can be summed up with this:

A mere toddler sprawled, truly pained, on the living room floor, face smooshed into a pouf ottoman, bare legs kicking at air and screaming with such sincerity:

(bedtime ensued.)

Also: I ran on a trail on purpose. Not this trail, a real trail with rocks and dirt. And I made chickpea burgers with guacamole.*

* We bought 2 more pounds of sauerkraut, so watch out world!

Vacation Day Two: That's my fun day ...

The air felt armpit-ian this morning, as though we were living among the droplets that collect in the wiry strands in the concave of an athlete's arm. Thick, dewy, hot. Though I had abstained from the abuse of cedar gin that felled me the morning before, I was reluctant to leave the bed.

There is this daily morning conundrum: The almost-uncomfortable bladder. The "I could pee, but I don't have-have to." It's like being on a road trip and stopping at the Little Store in Hinckley so one's companions can go, then retreating to a stall to push on one's lower abdomen to hurry along the function that, without this self-force, will strike in North Branch. It would be hard to fall to sleep again, but to void means shaking oneself from the hazy-laziness of waking.

Ultimately, I expelled the fluids and, of course, was never again able to find my sleep-spot.

The Girl slept on. She's become a teenager in her sleep patterns, pushing her wake-time to dang-near 10 a.m. I opened her door to hasten it, then again returned to our bedroom to listen to her first gusts and groans through the monitor.

It wasn't Chacha who woke, it was Witta, Chacha's alter-ego. A tiny puppy in a state of constant panting who requires an imaginary red leash and frequent bathing. This is nice. Witta does all sorts of things that Chacha will not easily do: teeth brushing, diaper changes, baths.

"You pet my fur?" Witta asks.

A few days ago, I was standing over her bed when she woke. The first thing she did is stick her tiny tongue out of her mouth and begin her doggy breathing. I laughed so hard I scared her and she began to cry. Anyway, this is how she woke again today. I can hear her quick pants as Chuck lifts her from the bed.

When she comes into our bedroom, she refers to Chuck as her "puppy dada."

Over lunch we work on a family version of the song "Manic Monday," but Chacha, she's Chacha again, refuses to be a backup Bangle.

"I sing Alphabet Song," she suggests.

Chuck and Chacha play imaginary hockey, which has complicated imaginary rules.
We eat Tempeh Reubens because now we are addicted to them and maybe we'll eat them every day.*
Chuck goes to work and Chacha retreats to her bed with the iPad to watch PBS Kids while I do laundry, fill her pool, empty the dehumidifier and otherwise allow her to be babysat by Word Girl & Company.

It becomes impossible to leave the house. I want to exercise, but Chacha wants to stand in her kiddie pool dumping water on my foot. She wants us to race from a slab of rug to the front door and back again. Again and again and again. She wants us to put together dinosaur puzzles, which she refers to as "my work," and spends most of the time muttering under her breath about missing pieces.

"Don't throw puzzle pieces at me," she says. "It hurts my boobs."

Time out: It's weird when she says things that I know she must have gotten from me. I will admit that I've told her to maybe stop stepping on my chest because it hurts my boobs. But worse than this one is when she wanders around the house and uses a sort of dizzy tone to ask "Where's my phooo-ennnn?"

Time in: We go for a walk-run and at every other corner she tells me to "ready, set, readysetgo!" and we take off. We stop in the park just long enough for the sky to turn ominous, like Destination Oz-ian and I sprint a half-mile home to avoid an important lesson about lightning.

There is a bath.

As I'm rubbing Chacha's back before she goes to sleep I hear her tiny voice say: "Get out."


Chuck gets home and now we're both on vacation.


* As a family, we've eaten two pounds of sauerkraut in the past few weeks. Has anyone -- other than us -- ever finished off a 32 ounce jar of the stuff? It seems unlikely. Possible we hold world record?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Vacation Day One: No dignity ...

On the first day of vacation we woke up very late, probably because we were overserved cedar gin on the eve of the first day of vacation. By me. I overserved us. There we were, zombied out on vintage "Master Chef," and leisurely sipping when I suggested one more drink to KEEP THE NIGHT ALIVE NEVER SAY DIE, NIGHT. (And then there was another.)*

Also, I'd accidentally turned off the Toddler Monitor, so I wasn't awoken by the chirpy version of "Let it Go" that usually sounds from the room down the hall. So we ate breakfast at lunchtime and lunch at late-lunchtime and after Chuck made us very delicious Tempeh Reubens**, the world felt a little more bearable. I had the opportunity to create a new state of mind: Hangxiety: hangover-induced anxiety.

I met Chuck and Chacha in the Rose Garden and we coaxed the girl into her stroller with the promise of train viewings and horse sightings. Then we wound our way to Bayfront Festival Park for Pride Fest. Chacha, Bounce House curious, couldn't pull the trigger on this balloon-shaped fun factory. She was on the threshold when she began flapping her hands no-no-no:

"I too little," she said.

She fell asleep millimeters from the car, lost her mind when we transferred her to the carseat and then was rewarded with a $1.11 ice cream cone from McDonalds.

I put gas in my car.
Chuck bought the makings for ramen.
I ran back into the store and bought eggs and after we got home I went back to the store to get broth.
We ate delicious foods and my nose ran from chili sauce abuse.

I changed into my pajamas while Chuck laid on the bed and suddenly I became aware that I was performing a robotic dance version of the classic song "No Diggity." In my head I looked cool. Sort of retro. My moves felt fresh.

Chuck showed me what my face looked like. Ouch.

So I Dubsmashed it and it looked like a lost scene from "Beetlejuice." I fired it off to Fannie. Her anniversary is tomorrow, so she deserves nice things. So far: No response.

"More like 'No Dignity,'" Chuck said.

Now: Tube Time.

* Still not sure who was booted from Season 5, Episode 6.
** These sandwiches are, without a doubt, the heroes of The Summer of 2015.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Just a Slice: Purple Popsicles ...

Today Chacha ran in her third 200m dash of the 2015 racing season and improved to better than fourth-to-last place. Her first week in the 4-and-under category she finished last, with much coaxing and a big smile. Last week, she was second-to-last and I smiled at the last-place finisher's mom and started to tell her that we'd been in her shoes -- but decided not to. You never know how moms are going to respond to me in the wild. Like today when Chacha pointed at a girl in her heat whose white hair was twisted into a French braid.

"Elsa," she said.
"Right, like Elsa," I agreed, then turned to the girl's mom. "She's thinks your daughter looks like Elsa."
The mom beamed and told me that's the Goal Every Day: To Look Like Elsa.
We laughed.
"Do kids prefer Elsa?" I asked her.
"Mine do," she said. "I like Anna better."
"Me too," I agreed. "Although, I guess I do like some things about Elsa ..."
I imagined that scene where she is singing "Let It Go" and building her isolation castle from ice crystals and she stomps her foot and a circle of gorgeous icy floor builds around her.
"She's the most powerful woman in the world," I always say wistfully to Chacha, for reasons that still aren't quite clear.
Anyway, back at the track I looked at the mom and said:
"What if you'd told us in 1994 that someday we'd be standing on a track debating the merits of Disney princesses?"
And then there was polite laughter, so I exited via the trap door.
(Trapdoor=Actually, I just kneeled down on the track to Chacha's eye level and re-tied her hood and wondered why making small talk with other parents always takes an awkward turn.)

So she ran, anyway, and I ran backward in front of her reminding her to use her arms, which she alternately straightened and swung and then bent and shadow boxed with no relation to her leg movement. Today's life lesson: There is a such thing as thinking too hard about running. She saw the Norwegian Wonder at the turn and veered in toward her, but I got her back on task.

She went home with a new ribbon, a shirt covered in purple popsicle and big tears because I'd decided we were NOT going to stop at the Co-op.

"Go to the Co-op! Go to the Co-op! Go to the Co-op" she sing-song sobbed until I distracted her by asking her to count how many dogs we saw on the way home.

*I just invented a new series in which I spend 15 minutes typing and zero minutes thinking about what I'm typing. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Taste-testing toothpaste (and other grocery store disasters) ...

Cake was finally eaten, but there are, admittedly, some lingering apprehensions about fire and frosting. 
In the months leading up to the Powerful Baby Girl's birthday, I had decided that all I cared about was that she have a cake decorated with an image of Champ the Dog, the ma-cos (mascot) of one of the local universities. Rather than go into great detail about her affinity for Champ, I will just concede that I sometimes go miles out of my way to drive past his likeness on the side of the hockey arena and endure the ensuing run-on sentence that is her repeating "champthedog champthedog" for upward of an hour because, well, I like her so much.

As her birthday neared and I ran out of time to find someone to make this specific cake, I decided I would bake cupcakes inside of a cone, then fashion the frosting into something that looked like a scoop of ice cream. Still cool, without the will-she, won't-she surrounding eating a piece of dessert that had been carved out of her favorite character's bulldog face (using a sharp and dangerous weapon.)

Then, at midnight on the eve of her birthday, I found myself at the local grocery store -- not even the fancy grocery store -- trying to decide between a pre-made "Frozen" cake and a pre-made "Sesame Street" cake and opting for the latter because it included a mini Elmo and a mini Big Bird each in its own mini vehicle.

I couldn't decide if this was the most pathetic trip to the g-store in the history of my existence (it would rival the time Fannie and I taste-tested toothpastes at Barlows before settling on Close Up), or if it was proof that I am a woman who understands my own limitations (and how to buy back two cake-baking hours of my life.)

On game day none of this really mattered. I'd not quite prepared the old girl with intel about the heat of candles. A major oversight. I have been quite self-congratulatory about how I showed her both a thunderstorm and fireworks on YouTube before she encountered either in real life. But the words: "Candle. Hot." eluded me, so I knelt in front of her and we all sang her "cake song" and she reached through the fire to grab mini Elmo. Then she drew back quickly and gave me a pained and confused look like Michael Jackson certainly must have once given Pepsi Cola.

Chin trembled. Refused to eat cake at all.

We had a good sized party with a lot of friends and family and friends who feel like family. We served a buffet of Chacha's favorite foods, including Macaroni & Cheese, goldfish crackers, hummus and a fruit bowl. She sort of skittered around and kept saying "your turn!" to whoever was trying to give her a gift. Eventually she dissolved into a no-nap, weeping mess of stoplookingatme and everyone took that as a cue to leave.

We got our girl back when she matched us slice-for-slice at Vitta Pizza.

This is right after she told me there were boogers on the table.
The night before the party, I ran a 5 mile race on Park Point in like 89-ish degree heat. All along the route, the Park Pointian's directed sprinklers and sprays in the direction of the runners. I spent 48 minutes house shopping and imagining life with a closet full of terry cloth swim covers and pothole sized straw hats. I'm pretty sure my family requires a small beach house filled with window nooks for reading books by Judy Blume and the "Valley of the Dolls" series. 

Anyway, I managed to finish faster than a few people I'd marked as targets, including: the sexy late-teen in matching bun-huggers and sports bra, the woman who kept jockeying with me for position and the guy 10 strides in front of me as the finish line neared. The running season has been a good one so far. Must find my next race. 

You're probably wondering if I could have made my kid a birthday cake in the time it took me to run 5 miles. (I guess we'll never know.)

On Sunday night, Chuck and I assembled a Melissa and Doug kitchen set, using an incomplete set of instructions and zero booze. She woke to find this waiting for her and was thrilled, though she thinks it's called a "chicken," so there is still work to do. 

Chacha's actual, real-live birthday was on Monday and Chuck and I both canceled our respective Daily Obligations so that we could have a family fun day. We went to the zoo. We threw rocks in the lake. We ate burgers at Fitger's Brewhouse and then came home and tried the whole cake-song, candle thing again. 

Bear cave moments

She thinks that first O looks like her cat Hal.

Handsome dad on the zoo train.
French fries were had.
On the way to Brighton Beach, the little bug says says to us, from the backseat. 

"I found the remote control! ... No, wait. That's a booger." 

And then, as though to prove we need to document everything that comes out of her mouth: I do this thing where I tell her about everyone she knows who poops. This includes the entire roster from baby school ("Ahnika poops, Cooper poops, Miriam poops, Elsa poops, other Elsa poops") and relatives "Grandma poops, Grandpa poops," and neighbors "Lloyd poops, Russell poops." I'd added " ... in a toilet" to the end of this little mantra and when I said to her: 

"Dada poops in the toilet" she said "Oh! No. No. He goes in the litter box." 

(Speaking of: Last night when I went to bed, I locked our cat between the front door and the screen door. I have so much to say! It's been a month! I beat the Mayor of Duluth in a write fight one night! I also ran a 5K over the noon hour. Today I got a quick IM from one of my favorite friends and now all I want to do is write great sentences. 


Monday, June 22, 2015

Ice cold ...

It all started on Thursday morning when I was gums-deep in an everything bagel. I felt this strange sucking sensation in the left side of my mouth and at about mid-chew I realized that the crown on my molar had disengaged. I poked around at jagged tooth fragment with my tongue while drooling swear words and dialing my dentist.

("People still eat bagels?" he would later ask me. Touche, Dr. B.)

Turns out it was my lucky day. It was just a temporary crown, a placeholder while my real crown was being crafted into a porcelain facsimile of a tooth by a team of dental artisans with tiny, nimble fingers. So instead of getting on some sort of emergency visit list, I decided to tough it out through one weekend and one half marathon until my followup appointment on Monday.

This wasn't necessarily the right decision, but what's life without a few spine shaking temperature shocks on an exposed tooth nerve or whatever.

So I was still in the Porta-Potty when the race started. This was a better position than it should have been. I'd pulled one of those look-clueless, insert-self-toward-front-of-line tricks that work so well in crowds of passive Northern folk. So I'd graduated to about fifth in line when they sang the official "Star Spangled Banner" and I was singeing my nostrils with strangers' high-fiber runner waste when the start-horn blasted.

This was the first time I set out to run 13.1 miles without considering that I wouldn't finish or that the whole thing would end with me in with a Saucony-sponsored body bag. I won't say I trained-trained. That was derailed about midway through the 12-week pre-race period. Even though I wasn't running-running, I was still using the elliptical machine and sometimes working out for the duration of two episodes of "The Good Wife." I considered this the equivalent of about a 7-8 mile run. I'm not ridiculous enough to believe that cruising on an elliptical and running on Scenic Hwy. 61 have anything in common and I'm not going to waste my I-Have-A-Toddler card on explaining how it's tricky to get away to perform something that more accurately represents a long run. I knew I would finish. I had no idea how long it would take me. I bored myself by repeatedly saying to well-wishers, "I haven't trained, but I'm in better shape than I usually am."

I planned to smile, point myself west and go.

So that's what I did. Except, for the first time in my personal history of half-marathons, I was cranky. My socks were too thin and my foot was sliding around in my shoe. Some women were wearing matching T-shirts with matching cocky runner statements -- but they were walking. Someone running behind me said to someone else: "So how are your summer classes going?" and then they talked about that for too long.

Some dude chugged up the middle of the road and yelled:

"WHAT'S COOLER THAN BEING COOL?!" And there were a few half-assed "Hey Ya"-approved responses ("Ice cold.")

I spent two miles trying to remember how I knew the woman who had just passed me. I was pretty sure her name was Lisa. We'd met under circumstances that were athletic. Grr. I figured out eventually that she was part of a story I'd written earlier this year, but not before wringing out every ounce of my brain.

I had to dart around parties that ran three-wide and the miles weren't passing as quickly as I'd hoped.

Every time I chugged a drink at a water station, and I hit them all, the liquid blasted my absent molar-spot and made me yowl in pain.

And did I mention my feet, sliding around in my Nikes?

The only part that was working was this mist-o-rain that was absolutely terrific and should accompany every half-marathon. That was incredible. And despite it's corniness, seeing my people parked beneath the Skywalk gave me a nice boost, too.

I finished 15 minutes faster than last year, but about 10 minutes slower than when I last opposite-of-trained and just stayed up all night so I didn't miss the early morning start. I couldn't find my way out of the gated runner area. Chacha insisted on being carried by me for the mile-plus walk back to the car. My socks had holes and were bloodied and, rookie error, I'd forgotten to cut my toenails so my toe skin was shredded into something far more festive looking than a foot.

Then I ate the best omelette ever. I've been limping for two days.

Chacha ran her first race of the season on Friday. She did not win. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Half and half ...

I come to you from my bed where, in true pre-half marathon fashion, I've opted to submerge myself in cozy blankets rather than use the elliptical machine in the basement in a way that resembles running. I always lose by zsa zsa zu for running well before race day. I've got a weird cold that feels like my lungs are getting squished and I recently found out that it is impossible for me to win the 7-week fitness challenge I'm competing in, so motivation is at an all-time low. Plus, if all this running has taught me anything, it's this: I miss writing things.

To that end, just before this, I wrote a very non-reviewish book review that looks more like a journal entry, which was fitting because it was a review of Heidi Julavits' diary. So. In case you were wondering, I liked the book.

Anyway, while I was at the doctor's office (the lung thing, he prescribed me an inhaler) I ran into this woman who announced her arrival by telling me she'd just finished MOWING THE LAWN. THAT'S WHY I LOOK LIKE THIS. When her 3-year-old charge scurried off toward the toys, she yelled after him:

"Come back, J! Grandma has to get a mammogram!"

Which made my day. I love it when people stay in character always and forever. And, truth, I'm pretty sure she told me she's his aunt and not his grandma, so this whole thing is getting really weird.


Chacha told me the other day that she'd just burped in her neck.
(She's also told me that she tooted in her butt.)
She called me "Big. Mama."
She told me the only boy in her ECFE class is "cute." (But when he hugged her at Transportation Night, she didn't even pause to stop chewing the sugar cookie.)
She calls the "newspaper" a "zookeeper."

The other day at the park, she and some other park rat rode down adjacent slides at the exact same time and when their feet hit the sand they turned and looked each other and laughed so hard they must have stretched their mouth skin.

And she always goes wildest when she's wearing a tutu.

She got to put her hands in clay and mess around with making a pot, but it was all nullified when I prematurely allowed her access to a Bounce House and she was nearly trampled by a sock-footed 6-year-old with extra high hops.

Today she wanted to put some Ketchup on her eggs, but I know how that goes: She pinches fistfulls of Ketchup and places it deep in her mouth until her fingers are stained red and you never want to eat again.

Except she forgot what Ketchup was called. So she considered the sound it makes and the shape of the bottle and asked me for "Lotion."

"You don't put lotion on eggs," I told her in my most theatrical voice.
She shrugged off the want and I was able to eat without barfing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Probably the worst thing I've done (so far) ...

Chacha and I were monkeying around, playing a game where I'd close my eyes and she would pat my shoulder and say "Wake Up!" and I'd bounce upright and yell "Ta-DAH!" We were taking a breather when I decided to tell her about Thursday.

"We're going to a farm," I told her. "Do you know what's on a farm?"
"Anna and Elsa," she answered, a finger stuck in her cheek, her brain forever stuck in Arendelle.
"Nope," I said. "Probably not the cast of 'Frozen.' Guess again."

I'm not really sure what's on the farm we're visiting with her class from Baby School, but I took a few safe guesses that included cows, horses, pigs and agreed with her about the cat.

We did one more round of "Ta-DAH!" and she scooted off to put on her pajamas with zero complaint. There were a few stalls once we got to her room. She did her Norwegian diaper dance, for instance, but skipped her usual bucking and choke hold reenactment of "The Exorcism" during the diaper change.

"What a pleasant toddler," I almost thought.

I zipped her into her pajamas and she skipped off to the bedroom door -- and then came to the Doc Marten to the guts: She thought we were going to the farm tonight. I realized this about the time she realized that we weren't going to the farm tonight. And, Oof. Tough call on who felt worse.

If you'd looked in her bedroom window you would have had a doctor's eye view of a red-faced toddler's uvula and her desperately sad mother hunched in a pink chair.

I solved this, kind of, by showing her a video of Super Grover 2.0 and when it was over I asked if she was still mad at me.

"Sad," she said.
(Uh, sad?!)

I laid next to her bed and rubbed her back for a bit, but by then she had shifted to something complicated and teenage-y.

"Leave," she said, segueing into emotional manipulation.
Then I felt better.

Anyway, this is all just to say that I LEARNED SO MUCH TODAY.
Lesson 3,956: Let everything always be a surprise.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A few things that came up in a loud conversation with a stranger in a quiet place ...

1. Whether I plan to have any more kids.
2. How her sister had a baby when she was in her mid-40s.
3. Did I set out to have just Chacha or had I always wanted more kids or did I even want kids at all.
4. Where our house is located.
5. But where on that street.
6. How close are we to [our next door neighbor.]
7. Look at her foot.
8. It's probably a spider bite.
9. She's going in.
10. It's not a tick, ticks leave behind body parts.
11. She shouldn't have worn sandals in the yard.
12. She just had surgery on her rectum.
13. Do I know what it's like to poop out of something that's like this. (Indicates small exit using her fingers.)
14. If she scoots forward like this on the toilet, she can go.
15. Whether Chacha has eaten dinner yet.
16. Do I rummage sale.
17. Why don't I rummage sale.
18. She's gotten great stuff at rummage sales.
19. I should rummage sale.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Like, not at all ...

ChaCha was in the Atomic Lounge and she crawled under the computer desk to wrestle up this red sweatband that was originally purchased for 1.) an adult human to wear 2.) with a thigh length jersey and roller blades as a Halloween costume/excuse to wear roller blades to the bar. She slipped it over her wrist and we went downstairs.

"Okay," I told her. "It's time to go see The Drummers. Go find your coat."

We slipped her into the fleece and zipped it and she raised her arm and squawked. I dug up the arm of her jacket and pulled off the wrist guard. She took it back from me and slipped it back on, over the outside of the jacket.

Because it's Homegrown Music Fest week+1 day, I guess, and even the toddlers feel the tug toward eccentricities? Anyway, she wasn't the only person I saw wearing a sweatband in my travels.


This is so boring, but it happened and it consumed me and I'm forever changed: On Friday night, after pulling my first 7-mile run in eons, I received a FitBit Challenge from Brother Pista who invited me to a weekend-long step off.

You know the gist: Who can cover the most steps on Saturday and Sunday. Whatever.

It was bad timing since I'd already done my long run for the week. (I'm testing this new thing called Training for a Half-Marathon. It's not as sexy as not-training and pulling every human muscle on race day, but I'm older now and much less colorful than I was last summer in my youth.) But I agreed because ... contest.

Then I got another invite for another weekend-long step off by an old friend who was once the arm wrestling champion of The Pioneer Bar. If I close my eyes, I can still see the barbed-wire tattoo on her upper arm bulging with victory. I agreed to that one because I was already going to be shooting for big numbers, so why not.

You're probably wondering, so: It's 650 steps around our block.

So within 24 hours, after I'd gone for a 4-mile run, walked around the block about 6 times and closed out the night with a quick 15-minute session on the elliptical, I realized that Brother Pista was out of contention but that his friend Todd was going to be a thorn in my Nikes. And Old Daisy was primed to, metaphorically, bust my ulna.

I forgot I was like this.

As midnight neared, I found myself doing six-block loops in downtown Duluth. This morning I woke up and it was over and I won't keep you in suspense. I won both challenges. But I was a little embarrassed. Like, why was I on an elliptical at midnight on a Saturday night? Why do I have to win this thing that ultimately just gets us all in better shape? Anyway. I took like 45,000 steps over the weekend. I want to say that's more than 20 miles.

I can probably retire now from competitive stepping.


Me: Hi. I just went through your drive through and ordered a lentil bowl and when I got home, the broth was all over the floor of my car and I'm super pissed off about it.
Manager: Ohhh, yeah. I'm sorry about that. Our lids are really unreliable.
Me: ...
Manager: What would you like us to do for you?
Me: I want you to reimburse me for my meal and I want you to put something on your menu that says 'Our lids are unreliable.'

A few other things of note:
1. Super obsessed with "The Good Wife." I'm just starting Season 3. Super secret truth: A few days ago I purposefully dressed the closest I could get to a Kalinda outfit given the limitations of my closet.
2. Can't stop reading "Born to Run."
2a. Thinking of becoming a trailrunner slash ultramarathoner after this year's half-marathon. I like the idea of always having smears of mud on my calves. Subject to change.
3. I can't have more than two hobbies at a time and one hobby will always be sleep so right now I'm not writing a novel at all.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

That Saturday ...

1. I put on a pair of capri-length shiny pants before I've usually roundhouse kicked the snooze button for the first time in the morning. It is impossible for me to put on capri length shiny pants early in the morning without stepping into some sort of mental time machine and wading through the Honey Weiss snores to tell a former version of me that I'm up early and off to do something supremely athletic.

"I mean," I said to Chuck in the car. "If I'd run this 5K in 2004, I would have had to stay up all night to make it to the starting line on time."

That's the kind of punk rock super stupid junk I did.

2. I ran a 5K and, to the best of my knowledge, I don't remember a moment during the race where I considered quitting or asked the sky to unleash something, anything to put an end to this madness, i.e.: lightning, grasshoppers, acid. I did wonder if I might barf at the end, but I think that's my Pavlovian response to crossing a finish line.

Lest anyone care, here is a stat: I finished 5 minutes faster than in 2014. Here is a fact about that stat: No one should ever run a 3-ish mile race so slowly that they are able to finish 5 minutes faster the next year. It's unseemly. Still, if I finished five more minutes faster next year, well then I'd be damn near back to Lourdes Eagle territory.

Last year my body was still a little creaky, through no fault but my own laziness with post-preggo care, and I remember that my hips felt like the joints of a Barbie doll that has repeatedly been dismembered. I am, dare I say, back to normal aside from having the biceps of a bouncer (and the mouth of a trucker.)

3. We ate breakfast at a beloved neighborhood diner where they will actually open a can of hash and pour it into an omelette and serve it directly to my face. In fact, it's the diner's signature omelette. I love it so much that I actually let myself eat it even knowing what I know about the nutrition label on the side of a can of hash.

I wish that I'd never compared it to eating dog food, though. I have to really mentally put myself on a tropical island while I'm eating to keep the Purina flashes at bay.

4. We left Duluth within 30 minutes of our designated leave time and got to the Mall of America during The Girl's second REM cycle. The Parent's Pista were going to spend the afternoon with her while we attended a Co-ed Happy Hour Baby Shower (Flower Power Cower Bower).

Listen. I know that the Mall of America is whatever it is. I also know that it's the only place in the state where My Own Personal Shark Fanatic can stand in a darkened tunnel and watch sharks swim over her head. In fact, she's so smitten with the whole Sea Life setup that she actually thinks Sharks live in the sky. Ask her about sharks and she points up.

I digress. Also: TheMallOfAmericaHasUrbanOutfittersandDuluthdoesn't. (Nothing.)

5. On the way to the Co-ed Happy Hour Baby Shower, we stopped at Trader Joe's. Some day I would like to go into Trader Joe's and buy $300 worth of Trader Joe's brand things and then hide in my car and eat it all. Trader Joe's also makes me want to buy wine. I settled on a tub of pub cheese with horseradish flavor and some wheat pretzels, which I ate somewhat responsibly but not really if you consider a serving size.

6. The party was fun. Many of my favorite people gathered around a tray of devilled eggs and the strange knowledge that some people in my life don't even want to try a devilled egg. (These were made with Wasabi.) I won a prize because I found a fingernail sized plastic baby in the popcorn trough and knew to yell "OH BABY." I was rewarded with a $10 gift card to Anthropologie, a candy ring and a box of chewie somethings in a package that seemed a little racist.

7. Back to the Mall of America to find the Tiny Tot getting wheeled around Level 2 in something shaped like a race car. Fresh from a meal of Mac & Cheese and French fries. About to consume more than half of my Jamba Juice -- a fresh mix of kale, lemon and ginger.


Her shirt was covered in Jello colored splotches and her grandparents had sprung for the souvenir photo at the Aquarium. She was all Zs by Forest Lake, tucked into a blanket and surrounded by some of her favorite stuffed creatures, a water bottle between her knees. I had car-comfort envy.

8. Back home by 10:30 p.m., where we limped around and tried to remember how many days it had been since I ran that 5K and ate that dog food.

9. Whenever I have a day like this I secretly refer to it as Being A Participant in The World. I spend a lot of time not participating in anything except Target. This was a run, family, friends, a toddler sticky with Mall germs. Participating in The World.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Chain ...

In the olden days I might have at least pretended that we were going to the Chain Italian Restaurant for anthropological reasons. Log entry No. 1: A server named Chad slides into the open chair at our table and nods his way through our order rather than jotting any notes. Note: Potential friendship? It's not unheard of. One time I drove around town to every grocery store in the city under the guise of critiquing the store samples for a blog post. (Spoiler: So much banana bread.)

But today, in 2015, I'm a big enough person to admit that in a community where it is very cool for restaurants to grow their own ingredients in the parking lot, I've just had a hankering for this junk in all it's fresh-from-the truck mediocrity. I have three words for you: Breadsticks for Infinity. 

"If you want to eat at the (Chain Italian Restaurant) ironically, I'll do that. But I'll be doing it seriously," I told Chuck.  

We spent Friday afternoon pretending that we weren't actually going to eat there. Although, we both knew The Girl would love it. Her second favorite food is noodles, her first favorite is parmesan cheese. This shop has built an enterprise of rearranging these two ingredients in a menu's worth of ways. Once the family was loaded into the Space Shuttle, it's where the car just naturally went. I could tell you that it was just easier than making a decision about somewhere real to go, but this is really where I wanted to go. 

Here's the thing: A long time ago, The Chain Italian Restaurant was my favorite restaurant. At this time, it didn't exist in my hometown, so its accessibility in my young adulthood felt like a bit of urban privilege. I had narrowly escaped attending college further from civilization (Winona) and now I was going to reap the rewards of big city living (bottomless bowl of salad.) I lived in St. Paul for four school years and it never occurred to me to try a St. Paul-based restaurant born of a lifelong St. Paul resident. Not only did we not "buy local," we left the city to do it. My preferred stop was in Roseville, just a gnocchi toss from the Chain Restaurant with Peanuts on the Floor.

I always ordered the same thing: Classic Lasagna and Raspberry Lemonade; I've always followed the same game plan: Fill in every fold of my stomach with breadsticks and salad, then quickly ingest as much lasagna as I can until my stomach threatens to split like a $2 boiled hot dog from a vendor in a strip mall parking lot.

The second-to-last time we ate at the Chain Italian Restaurant, we had one of those aforementioned Chads as a server and his chipper familiarity caused a sort of Morse Code tick formation within Chuck's primary forehead vein. The last time we ate at the Chain Italian Restaurant, we had just found out that we were having a girl-baby and Chuck would have eaten anything anywhere surrounded by a thousand dancing Chads performing scenes from "The Lion King."

I have this theory right now about how chain restaurants are going to enjoy a surge of popularity among millennials, a sort of hipster trend I've predicted to begin soon-ish. Maybe May. It will start with ironic kamikazes during ironic happy hour, but will be nourished by a non-ironic enjoyment of, say, Asian Chili Sweet & Sour Bone-In Wings. Within weeks, everyone at the bar will be shirtless beneath denim vests, have inexplicable Sponge Bob stickers stuck Manson-like to foreheads, fingernails dirty with miso paste. (More on this later.)

On this occasion, the Chain Italian Restaurant felt like a step into an alternate reality. I felt damn-near regal. That they treat you like family is not hyperbole. I went in ahead of my people and snagged a booth in the bar with a view of an important hockey game. I sent a message that there was no waiting and when I dove out of my seat to snag my family when they walked through the door, the host held up his hand and said:

"Is that your kid in the zebra hat? I'll go get them."

I didn't recognize a single face in the joint, which made it sort of feel like maybe we really were in Tuscany. The Girl graffiti'ed the children's menu with breadstick stickers and every three minutes turned toward the TV and used her most surprised voice to say:

"Oh! Hockey!"

I oinked out on breadsticks and salad and got three free refills of Raspberry Lemonade and ate a responsible amount of just-better-than-okay lasagna so that I'd have a meal-sized leftover. In the olden days there used to be this pretense behind the whole thing, this "Oops, I accidentally ordered another round of breadsticks, but I don't think I'll be able to eat them. (Wink. Wink.) Would you mind sticking those in my to-go box?"

Now, it feels like this place will see your breadstick over-order, raise you two extras and give you a special to-go bag with instructions on reheating them in the oven. They're enablers.

"And did it seem like our server was uncommonly handsome? Like, a handsome not usually seen in Duluth?" I asked Chuck on the way home.
"Hm. Not really," he responded.
"He wasn't? He seemed handsome," I said.
"Must've been your bread goggles," he said. 

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cat blogging ...

1. Walked to the bathroom, pushed the door open and this, like, nine pound *thing* fell literally on my head claws first. Hal. He had been practicing his high-wire act and in my hurry to void my Morning Water, I shook him loose. On my head. First thing in the morning.

2. Had a dream last night that I had to dry shave the winter hair from my armpits. It was impossible. Some swipes were super satisfying. Some simply pushed the hair to a horizontal position and I'd have to come at it from another angle. Regardless, it all burned.

3. Within the same dream, I was cast in the role of Anna for a community theater production of "Frozen." I felt ok-ish about everything, despite not rehearsing, and just kind of assumed that when the show started I'd notice my cues and the right words would fall out.

Then I just trusted that whoever cast me must have believed I could do it. But I really did wonder if I knew all the words.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why your face looks like that ...

1. The Girl woke up for the day at 2 a.m. She's like the X-Games of Daylight Savings Time dysfunction. You found her standing in her crib crying. Until she saw your bloated pupils, at which point she beamed and ran down a list of requests that included bubbles, "Frozen" and hockey.

2. It was impossible to leave her room until well after 4 a.m. when she finally conked out with her head on your shoulder and her feet stuffed into the corner of her pink recliner. If the words "let her cry" have flittered anywhere near the vicinity of the tip of your tongue, just zip that thing back in. This girl eats Battle of the Wills for breakfast, then she cries so hard that she barfs it into the hard-to-reach corners of her crib and all over her blankets.

Aside: You keep accidentally calling her crib a cage.

3. Once you've been held captive in a toddler's bedroom for 2 hours on a night when you have to wake an hour earlier than the earliest you ever wake, sleep does not return easily. Rather, one might lie, tensed for the caterwaul that indicates she noticed that you stopped rubbing her back and no longer seem readily available to, say, draw her an elephant with a purple crayon.

Note: Chuck had remained in perma-tense mode the whole time you were gone and hadn't slept either.

4. Around 4:30 a.m. she starts in with this fake cry noise. It sounds like a moose imitating an ambulance. You both agree to let it go. Maybe she will moo-siren herself to sleep. You blast past 5 a.m. and it's still going on and no matter how hard you try to imagine the rhythm of your running shoes on a well-worn path, you cannot block out the zoo.

Chuck says forgetit. He's getting up.
You feel like you're being tortured and you can't stop yourself from crying out (something like) "Please be quiet please."
You hear Chuck go into her room. She quiets. He comes out much later.

You must fall asleep at least a little. When your alarm goes off you decide to skip the shower. Last night's post-elliptical shower will have to suffice for today. When your next alarm goes off, you decide you'll wear a hat today. When your next alarm goes off you decide to head straight for your meeting instead of making a stop you'd planned. When your next alarm goes off, you decide it probably takes only 22 minutes to get across town instead of 35. When your next alarm goes off, so does The Girl.

And it's her normal waking hour, so here she is awake.

A lot of boring domestication happens after that, but suffice to say that you get dressed in the living room with the words to "Do You Want to Build a Snowman" itching deep in the crevices of your brain. You spend the day with your face looking like it was exfoliated with slumber party crumbs. You go for a run, but it's slow. You suspect you're going to regret staying up late enough to put words on the internet.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

It was the weekend and I was boring, Sriracha edition ...

The first thing I did on Saturday morning is accidentally feed a toddler a liberal dose of Sriracha. It's a long story, how it got in her mouth, but suffice to say she ran out of eggs so I scraped the excitement off of mine and dumped them on her plate. I missed a glop of sweet-sweet spice.

She made noises. Her face when from zero to bright red in half a blink. I think she whinnied. Did I imagine the wing-flapping?

It was nothing that whole milk couldn't fix, but now she probably has PTSD about yolk-based foods, so. It's so weird how *some people* have shiny new taste buds, all sharp and reactive.


There is this thing that happens at our neighborhood coffee shop. This man, who is more muscle-y and Chili Pepper-ian that one would imagine for someone in his position, wears animal ears and plays children's songs. He packs a family-band worth of instruments: triangles, xylophones, microphones, percussion sticks. Some kid berated him because the guitars don't run on batteries, rather, they run on imagination.

Fun fact: Lots of parents took advantage of the shop's liquor license. Confusing. What do you do with a midday wine buzz at a childrens' concert? Flick a Bic and request "Puff the Magic Dragon," I guess. Anyway, our kid fake strummed on a fake guitar, which means she totally knows how to show up an elementary school-aged battery addict.


I let the kid free range at the mall. She asked me to identify every single thing currently in stock at Younkers. Then we paid a buck to let her ride the duck in a mall carousel.


We ate pizza with dill and ricotta and watched a movie about a fiery red-haired Scottish lass with a dexterity with a bow and arrow. So many bear fights.


Did I mention that now, after nine years of knowing Chuck McChuckerstein, we finally have a day off in common? Good times ahead.


The Girl woke up at 4 a.m. and was ready for the day. Like, ready-ready. I used every trick in my arsenal, and finally just brought her into our room where I thought she would maybe get knocked to sleep by the powerful Essence of Sleep. And she did. Out cold. I thought. Until she tapped my face and says, awake-like, "Nose."

Then she quietly pointed at Chuck. Quietly pointed at me. Quietly pointed at herself. Repeat.

Eventually I made a nest of blankets and pillows on the living room and fell to sub-awake levels with Elmo influencing my every weird dream-thought.


We went to the lake to see all the ice formations everyone is all Look, Art about, but we were a day late.

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.