Saturday, January 31, 2015

It's Saturday and I'm Boring (the Choo-Choo Edition) ...

Note: Today's "It's Saturday and I'm Boring" post includes recent photographs of The Girl taken by the Norwegian Wonder. The photos have nothing to do with the text, other than that this is my blog and I make the words and like my kid's face (even when she looks like a Chucky Doll.)

Last night we drank Autumn Ash, ate spicy guacamole and watched a few episodes of "Mozart in the Jungle." The drink is one of those pure-of-booze bevs that sort of white-van jacks you and the next thing you know, you're hunkered over a box of chocolates from the dollar store waxing hysterical about the subtleties of the maple filling.

I took advantage of being a little loosey goosey to order a book online in hopes I'd forget I ordered it and find a surprise tucked between the doors next week.

"I've been wanting to read this so bad!" I'd say to myself, hugging it to my chest. "You really do know me so well, Me."

Then I drank about 100 glasses of water so I wouldn't, come the a.m., look like the antagonist from an After School Special.

I made French Toast for Big Family Breakfast.
"I just feel like you make it better," Chuck said, which is the trick I use to get him to make scrambled eggs, so all is fair.
I had to make Choo-Choo noises to get the girl to taste it, but then her eyes crossed and recrossed at the Essence of Maple Syrup and she stuffed fistfulls into every pocket of her face.  
(He really is better at making scrambled eggs.)

We bought a new dishwasher.

That makes us sound so ... something. Our current dishwasher system would fall under the category of a Broken Walkman Situation.

Broken Walkman Situation: (Metaphor) In the 1980s, we would frequently travel between Rochester, Minn., and various Twin Cities' suburbs to participate in sporting events. At about the midway point was a restaurant called Edgewater, where the Minneapolis radio stations were finally accessible via walkman. But before the Edgewater was a dead spot where you would have to shift into increasingly difficult yoga positions to get the walkman to work. Before you knew it, you'd have a foot on the ceiling, walkman held to a corner of the back window, head tilted to a 45 degree angle and you'd be like: How did I get here?

I use this metaphor whenever you're in a situation where you get used to a series of inconveniences before you just finally deal with the problem. In the case of the dishwasher: We have to flip the switch on the circuit breaker in the basement to turn it off.

We learned this by melting all of the plastics involved with our smoothie-making appliance.

So anyway, we bought a new dishwasher. It took about 20 minutes and while Chuck was wheeling and dealing I got to explain to an 18 month-old the intricacies of a washboard.

Me: "... Laura Ingalls Wilder."
The Girl: "Elmo."

After we had left the appliance store, we talked about dishwashers for at least 10 more minutes. Arguably our most boring conversation. But get this. According to to the dishwasher salesman, the number one need for people in search of a new dishwasher is:

Something quiet.

"People used to want something that got their dishes clean," he said. "No one cares about that anymore."

("Consider us old-school," I told him.)

This rapid-fire dishwasher purchase gave us time to go to Target, where all but three carts were in use. We got a new Smoothie-Making Appliance and I bought underwear in two different sizes because I'm straddling a line.

We went outside, but there was nothing to do. Just a little too biting, not enough snow. So we crunched through the yard for about five minutes and brought our cold faces back inside.

As soon as I realized The Girl was going to take a real-live nap, I busted down to the basement to get in a workout on the elliptical machine. I chugged through Season 1, Episode 4 of "The Good Wife" and hit 10,000 steps way early in the day.

This FitBit has been a rude awakening. Turns out I'm a pretty sedentary person. It's impossible for me to hit 10,000 steps by just being alive and doing chores and making dinner. I have to actively *try* to hit 10,000 steps. I have to actually exercise, lest this teal bracelet turn into a Failure Shackle.

My friend Jodi wrote this cool thing and it got all viral and I especially liked seeing it on the Facebook timeline of a high school friend who doesn't know Jodi and doesn't know that anyone she knows knows Jodi, just read it and liked it. I stifled the urge to write, "Hey, my friend wrote that" and just clicked Like instead.

I made salmon, sweet potatoes and peaches for dinner. The Girl ate the peaches and tried to crush my windpipe -- her signature move -- when I dared suggest the Choo Choo game might work with the fish like it did with the French toast.

We played an inexplicable game that involved sticking crayons through the windows of Winnie the Pooh's house, then opening the house and taking the crayons out and shutting the house and doing it again.

It didn't seem to matter who was charged with yellow or who had blue.

The Girl took a bath and then was slathered in a layer of Burt's Bees lotion. She went to sleep easily, but only after many shadow puppets were made on her ceiling. I flipped the circuit breaker so I could wash a load of dishes.

We don't get the new one for a few days.

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. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Thoughts while watching the second-to-last episode ever of "Parenthood" ...

1. There is a certain banter-ness to this convo between Adam and Crosby and it's the kind of banter-ness that proceeds the doom-n-glooms. This is the rib poking hilarity that goes on between bros in the waiting room of a place where something terrible is going to happen. Something terrible is going to happen, isn't it.

THEORY ONE: Millie dies. It's classic slight-of-hand Houdini bullshit. You're so busy watching Coach bent over a rock and wheezing that you don't even notice that someone cut the brakes on that semi.

2. Team Joel. Or as I like to text to Fannie: "LOVE WINS."

3. It's important to imagine Sarah as Lorelai Gilmore in witness protection. Because it's either that, or else one must consider that Lauren Graham is only capable of fast-talk chaos voice and then she's definitely not invited to My Celebrity Pool Party. Meanwhile, Ray Romano is the quintessential boring middle-aged white guy who tinkers in the garage and gets gassy after a bucket of wings every Sunday.

(But Chuck does a great impression of his Kermit croak, and that's really the only redeeming thing about Ray Romano Human Being.)

THEORY TWO: No one is going to die. We've been led to believe the final scene will be this epic flatline, but instead it's going to just leave us hanging so that two, three years from now we see Dax Shepard in some terrible movie and we stop and wonder if Old Coach is still kicking around.

4. For a while I thought that Adam, who we call Alexandria around here, had faked the final break-in to the Luncheonette to collect the insurance money. And I suppose they writers are out of time to explore that plotline, but that's what I would have done. And I don't know if you know this, but I can always-always predict what will happen and exact lines of TV shows. It's how I know that, either, in a past life I was a cigar-twirling NBC exec who squashed terrible sitcom ideas beneath power pumps, or else I've just watched a hella lot of tube in my time.

5. I bet this scene where Lorelai Gilmore pulls a total Elise Keaton and turns this show into, like "Glee" or whatever, was unscripted. I bet the Boss of The Show was at craft services, so Lorelai just grabbed the guitar and went nuts. And then someone who hates Lorelai paid the show's editors to keep it in, and now she'll have to go back to doing Lean Cuisine commercials again.

6. So Coach is listening to his awful family go on and on and on about some old knife fight and he wanders off to rest his ear-pillows and who comes in? His most annoying child, She of the Bad Decisions. So what does she do instead of, like, apologizing for never-shutting-up? She tells him she's getting married, then chokes like "Ha! I bet!" when he tells her he can't wait to walk her down the aisle.

THEORY THREE: Coach and Millie fake their deaths and move somewhere where soundwaves don't travel.

7. I'm sort of making it seem like I hate this show; I love this show. In fact, I love Amber.

8. But did they not give her an epidural? Why is she screaming like that? If this was a real birth scene, she'd be pushing every 2 minutes and watching "Bourne Identity" in between -- all while being vaguely aware that a nurse is discretely removing glovefuls of feces from the birthing bed.

9. I never just tear up watching this show. I actually say, involuntarily, something that sounds like "Boo Hoo" while squishing my face into something that looks like an old gum wrapper.

Until Thursday, then.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Deconstructionist ...

A few nights ago Chuck made this Black Bean and Quinoa Enchilada Bake I found on the Big P and it showed all the promise of being something that the whole family would enjoy. Us, we're easy. But The Girl is has a core of about four for-sure foods -- and this included two of them with corn and cheese -- and everything else gets a snap opinion that is unrelated to any opinion she has ever had about the food in the past. Some days she loves black beans; Some days she squishes them like Dung Beetles, smiles sweetly and says "All Done!" while performing an adaptation of sign language that looks more like she's checking for rain.

So she wouldn't eat it.
We said the words "But this is cheese" so many times that they stopped making sense as Words Spoken in English.
Anyway, we let it go and ate our food and finally, after a while, I picked up her fork and poked up some food.

"Look. Here is a load with two beans, a clump of cheese and some corn."
She opened her mouth and ate it.
"Okay, now here's one with one bean, two pieces of corn, some cheese and an orange pepper."
She opened her mouth and ate it.

It got to the point where I felt that I was playing the role of a waiter in a four star restaurant describing the courses. She had taken to resting her head in her hand and watching me intently as I listed ingredients.

Like this:

And then it got weirder. She started adding "Mm-Hmms" after each ingredient and "Mms" after the bites.
Me: "So there are two piece of corn ..."
Her: Mm-hmm
Me: "... some cheese ..."
Her: Mm-hmmmmmm
Me: "And a whole mess of quinoa."
Her: (Opens mouth) Mmmmmmmm.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

It's Saturday and I'm Boring (the Screen Time Edition) ...

I come to you as the person on the couch who resents the TV show "Parenthood." I'm dealing with this by multitasking (watching+writing), which violates a few Rules for the Weekend I unofficially scribbled into my psyche when I heard the 5 o'clock whistle on Friday.

1. I wasn't going to write anything. I've self-diagnosed myself with either carpel tunnel or arm-falling-off-itis. I was going to rest my limbs and their attachments and maybe even let my brain have time to blossom with new sentences, better sentences;
2. I wasn't going to be weighed down by fake obligations like writing on the internet or "working on my novel" or conquering enough steps to make my FitBit jangle my wrist bone with its victory.

So it's weird to call this watching of the show that is currently tied for first place in my right-now primetime lineup "an obligation," but it feels like one because there are a few other leisures that I'm trying to cram in even though cramming in leisures, by definition, violates No. 2.

Yesterday Chuck texted me that he was lying in the lounge with the body pillow and tea and reading. I want to do that, too. I got a comic book today, first one in forevs, (actually I got two), and this is what I want to be doing. But first, "Parenthood." Fist shake to the heavens.

This morning we went to a staged production starring characters from a popular children's television show throwing a sort of dance party for the kind of kids whose parents laugh in the face of the recommended daily allowance of screen time.

This went way better than the time I took her to see "The Nutcracker." For those keeping track at home, The Girl can say the name "Abby" about 57 times in a minute, but she's limber enough to cram in about 62 "Elmo's" in the same amount of time. The first half of the show went well. During the second half, a lame dad decided to block our view while he swayed his infant into complacency and The Girl decided to sit with a different family, a more fun family, whose 7-year-old boy was completely fine with her repetitious language patterns and occasional pokes in the upper arm.

We didn't get cotton candy, but we wanted some.
We didn't get a balloon, either, because it seemed like we should wait to buy souvenirs for her until she becomes the age that actually asks for souvenirs -- and maybe not even then.

She spent lunch sticking a plastic palm sized cat into a bowl of Macaroni & Cheese then licking the cheese off his face. Neither of our parents would have let either of us act like this in public when we were kids. But we're cool parents, you know, who think its perfectly acceptable to do this kind of thing.

There were other things, like a new unconventional way of drinking water and the like. I held her in her booster seat for the duration of the meal and pieces of macaroni kept falling on to the back of my hand. This, I've decided, could be the most disgusting sensation I've ever known.

"This is really the only way you experience that feeling, outside of Halloween parties," Chuck said.

The Girl fell asleep in the car as we were setting out on our errands, but I was prepared so I rerouted for a drive thru coffee shop and had a book in the passenger seat and a new podcast to check out on my phone and an overdue phone call to make to my mom regarding the awesome slippers she sent that makes it feel like I'm walking around with a pair of stuffed animals attached to my feet.

After she woke, we returned a couple of scarves at the mall. When the girl at the register asked for the reason for the return, I told her I found something better but it was a lie. One of the scarves was so awesome, a sort of Technicolor Dream Scarf. But you know what? At some point you have to put the kabosh on buying scarves. You gotta just say "Enough Knits," you know?

I got my oil changed for the first time in too long and a few blocks from the shop, my car did the tell-tale whomp-whomp-whomp of a flat. I had no idea what to do, so I did the ill-advised thing and drove back to the shop.

A few years ago I knew what to do under these circumstances. I've changed a tire or two in my day. Today, in 2015 with toddler in the backseat begging for a applesauce and a Forever Person at work, I was struck dumb. Would I put the carseat in a cab? Would I abandon my car and take the bus with her? Back at the shop, they fussed over it. They'd just put air in the tires a few minutes earlier so the problem seemed pretty mysterious. They filled it and made sure it didn't empty and then I went to an actual tire place next door and they checked it and said they didn't see a problem.

So I took residential roads home and it worked so who knows. The woman at the oil change shop thought maybe the valve had gotten stuck into an open position when they were putting air into the tire. That's the answer I choose to believe until I can take it somewhere.

Back at home, I stuffed a packet of applesauce into The Girl's face and let her watch the episode of Sesame Street that includes guest star Jimmy Fallon. Then we ate a bunch of couscous and hummus and she pretended like the naan was, well, she called it "Mama" and made it walk around before she took a bite out of it.

I asked her if she wanted me to read her a book and she screamed "NO!" We took every toy out of the toy cupboard and she pretended that she was washing her hands using her Edu Foam blocks as soap. I repeatedly chucked a rubber ball across the room so she could run in circles chanting: "Bounce! Bounce! Bounce!"

Right now she's obsessed with the movie "The Gruffalo," ("Lo! Lo! Lo!") so we watched that instead. Actually we watched it twice, okay? We watched it twice.

First we tried to watch "Ferngully," which I'd never seen. Imagine my surprise. Turns out the star's name is Crysta. It was unsettling. Every time they said it, I sort of jumped to attention and my heart leapt a little.

"Lo! Lo! Lo!" The Girl said.

So now she's in bed, asleep, and I'm doing laundry and running the dishwasher and "Parenthood" just happened to end at the same time as I got done writing this, so now I'm taking my copy of "Ms. Marvel" to the lounge, where we keep the body pillow, and I'm going to do that for a while.

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, January 5, 2015

In through my eyes ...

So 2015 begins with me being super-psychic linked to my favorite friend I've never met. I had just decided to write one of those My Year In Reading posts, revisiting the what-up-books of last year. First I ducked into my Reader and noticed that Jodi had just posted the very same thing. So that's cool.

Anyway, I had planned on just making like a Top Whatever, but I like this Academy Awards thing she did so I'm following suit. I've linked to the reviews I wrote for Minnesota Reads. (Like Jodi's list, not all of mine are from 2014.)

Most Whoas Used in a Single Review Award
"Untamed State" by Roxane Gay
Whoa. This novel is about the American daughter of one of Haiti's wealthiest men. Mireille, her husband and infant son are visiting her family when she is kidnapped by some high-power gun-wielding thugs as they reverse out of the gated driveway. Well she's tortured in ways that are described quite vivid and practically empathetic fear-vomit inducing, her father refuses to entertain the idea of a ransom. Best novel I read all year, but don't read it. It's a lot to handle. Plus you'll be all, "Best novel you read all year, why you sick jerk" and I'll have to defend myself. Exhausting.

Most Triumphant Return of a Favorite Writer Award
"Unspeakable: And other Subjects of Discussion" by Meghan Daum
What-say 15-ish years after publishing one of my favorite essay collections in the history of essay collections, Meghan Daum returned with an essay collection that I hoped would be slightly north of okay. And it was way north of okay. "Unspeakable" is this excellent collection of essays about stuff they don't talk about on the "Today" show: anticlimactic deaths, being butch and heterosexual, Joni Mitchell. Definitely one of my favorite books of the year. (Insert a bunch of thoughts on how MD is sort of the OG of personal blogging, if blogging had only ever existed on paper.)

Huh, I Thought This Would Be Insufferable Award
"10:04" by Ben Lerner
Oh holy night I was prepped to loathe this. (I'm guilty of occasionally hate-reading.) BL has this way of writing characters who look like him and talk like him and wear his coat -- and these characters are sometimes insufferable icks. But then, stuffed into that peacoat is a pretty amazing storyteller who makes you grudgingly say at the end of his book: "Fine, you win again, but this doesn't mean I want to stand next to you at a party." Anyway, the gist of this one is that a writer named Ben has had success with his first book and has gotten a hefty advance for the next one and his good friend wants him to impregnate her.

Most Laughably Disgusting Book (That I Wish Had Just Been a Movie Instead) Award
"Consumed" by David Cronenberg
From the guy who dressed Jeffrey Goldblum in wiry back hair for "The Fly" comes a late-in-life debut novel. "Consumed" is the super yuck story of Philosophy's "it" couple and the did-he, didn't-he story of her death and his maybe cannibalism. Throw in a handful of diseases you don't want to Google Image, a millennial with a wretched set of decision making skills and some tech-heavy descriptions of, like, camera gear. It's worth a read just to see what new and awful ways Cronenberg came make you almost wretch. But this won't be setting any plot records.

Book that Turned Me Into a Mega Fan of the Writer
"An Invisible Sign of My Own" by Aimee Bender
Everything changes for super-runner, numbers girl Mona when her father comes down with some kind of inexplicable illness that is probably more mental than physical. Through a bizarre set of circumstances she lands a gig teaching math at her old elementary school and all sorts of quirky -- the organic kind, not the contrived kind -- stuff goes down. Bender's book is a great reminder that your fiction doesn't have to exist within parameters because it's not real, see, so anything can happen.

Books that I Liked in Varying Degrees, But Don't Feel Like Bleating On and On About (Again) Because In a Few Cases I'm Tainted by Being Fascinated in the Author's Life Awards
"Not that Kind of Girl" by Lena Dunham
"The Vacationers" by Emma Straub
"Friendship" by Emily Gould

Anyway, my 2015 in reading is off to a good start. I've already dished out two high-star ratings: One for "Dept. of Speculation" by Jenny Offill and one for "Rainey Royal" by Dylan Landis.