Sunday, February 15, 2015

Vacation Day 9: The End. ...

Later, on the eighth day of vacation, I went to bed kind of early. I had visions of tending to a sick toddler every time she cycled through another go-round of REM. Sure enough, I'd cast aside "Love Me Back" by Merritt Tierce -- the shortest book that has taken me the longest amount of time to read -- turned off the light, and settled face down into my pillow when she started crying.

When the doctor checked her ear hole Saturday afternoon, she said something like "Oh yeah. It's bulging" so I pictured my poor babe with infected ear innards ballooning cartoonishly, throbbing and red. I grabbed my glasses, my phone, a sweater, and padded to her bedroom.

She stopped crying as soon as I walked in the door.
"Hi!" she said, bright eyed and chipper. Her forehead no longer hot and the snot spot beneath her nose curiously dry.
I set her in the rocking chair while fiddling about and she bucked her body forward and back.
"Rock. Rock. Rock."

"She's cool," I said to Chuck, crawling back into bed and sleeping eight-plus hours, waking only to hear the sounds of a Three Act contemporary comedy play starring someone named "Poppy" coming from her bedroom in the morning.


1. Abby
2. Monster
3. Abby
4. Dada
5. Cha-Cha (her name for herself)
6. Star
7. Heart
8. Moon
9. Boat
10. Car
11. Grover
12. Abby

1. Elephant

1. Airplane


I walked past the chocolate aisle at Walgreens in time to hear a customer ask an employee if it was ALL on sale. I didn't catch the reply, but spied the sad, sad sight of an elderly man purchasing a Valentine's Day stuffed bear.

The cashier pushed the day-old prize into a plastic bag.
Such an ignominious finale for a once-great gift.

It seemed like there was a Tweet in there somewhere -- I'm trying to think more Tweet-y lately -- but I failed to come up with anything.


I finished "Love Me Back."


We settled into the couch to watch a movie and The Girl let me snuggle with her while sharing a blanket. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE AND EVERY MIGRAINE I HAD WHILE I WAS PREGNANT WAS WORTH IT! (It lasted until the part where Anna and Kristoff encounter the snow monster.)


The Girl and I performed the same choreography for a half hour. It involved her walking in a semi circle, then up the steps and then me helping her walk down the steps on the other side.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Every single time she pointed at my phone and said "Phone" right before she walked down the steps.


She took the little plastic person she calls "Dada" and made him fly through the air while saying animatedly "SUPER GROVER."


She refused to go to sleep without covering my arm in a layer of snot.
Chuck and I ate guacamole and watched "Bones."
I admitted to him an eagerness to return to my daily obligation.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Vacation Day Six (Cont.), Day Seven and Day Eight: The Gouda Burger Edition ...

The sixth day of vacation continued with dinner for three at a family-friendly grill located west of Lake Avenue. I went against my own good judgement to order a Garlic Gouda Burger that Chuck had eaten the last time we went to this restaurant. I'd had a bite that time and thought it was delish. I'd also come home and shared couch-space with him and suffered the aftermath. It's a burger that stains one's innards with a putrid rot that can only be released in gusts of burp that seem to come from a bodily crypt lodged somewhere behind the spleen.

As an act of good will, I considered a simple BBQ cheeseburger that promised to have a far less toxic chemical effect -- but ultimately our server sold me on the Garlic Gouda Burger. I gave Chuck my most apologetic face and a contradictory nonchalant shrug.

He, of course, ordered a Salmon Wrap, which made my Meat Party all the more obnoxious.

Meanwhile, to my left, The Girl gnawed on the rind of a melon and then coughed dramatically. She tried to eat a peel. She squished the banana in her mannish fist. I'd ordered for her eggs and toast with peanut butter and raspberry jelly. She ate the jelly by the fingerful until her hand was sticky and her mouth appeared bloody, like she had been feasting on a deer carcass in the deep woods. Then she moved on to the peanut butter, again refusing to use the toast as a vehicle.

Do you know how hard it is to get homemade peanut butter off a human hand with a dry napkin? She looked like she had a skin condition.
"I'm going to barf," I told Chuck.
Every time an actual piece of egg went into her little mouth, it seemed accidental.

My burger was fantastic, by the way. The garlic was buttered into the top of the bun and I'd opted for raw onions over the caramelized onions listed on the menu. If you're going to make stink, make the biggest stink you can, amiright?

By the time we got to the car, the first waves of bad air were bubbling to the surface. It was going to be a long night.


We do Cocktails on Friday nights. I think I've mentioned this. A new drink each week paired with an appetizer. We make a big freaking deal about it. We call it Cocktails42 and I post it on Instagram and the whole thing lasts like 16 minutes. Tops.

Since we've been on vacation, almost every night is cocktail night.

On Thursday night we drank Monte Carlos: Rye Whiskey, Benedictine and Angostura Bitters. We ate caramel corn and played Scrabble and listened to mix tapes I'd found in my parents' basement.

1. I remember myself as being quite the mixologist, what with my hunger for the alt scene and a highly capable boom box;
2. So why did we stumble on a 120 minute tape with just one song -- "I'm Your Lady" by Celine Dion -- recorded once on both sides?
3. And why did I have recordings of fuzzy, mal-tuned country stations?
4. What kind of mix master puts two Indigo Girls songs in a row -- let alone three?

Anyway this edition of Cocktails42 ended with TWO drinks, a Scrabble victory and Toad the Wet Sprocket playing on Spotify.


David Carr died, which I thought I'd mis-read when I saw the NYTimes story on Facebook. This made for a night of much refreshing of internets. I can't think of another writer who is so consistently readable and enjoyable. I doubled back to an essay about his twin daughters and his drug addiction and I had to stop because it made me ill -- the story, his sudden death, all of it.


I woke in the night convinced that I had the flu. My stomach was pounding and every time I thought about that Garlic Gouda Burger, I heaved. I curled up on the futon, shivering, and prepared to have the worst level of sick in recent history.

It's terrifying to imagine having a projectile-level of sick when you're charged with caring for a toddler.


Chuck prepared The Girl for the day, while I stayed in bed and regretted my every body part, especially my head and stomach.

In the middle of making Smoothies, I noticed that the expiration date on the Coconut Milk was either Jan. 4 or April 4. By now I realized that I didn't have the flu, I had a good old fashioned hangover -- something one would think I would recognize. The Meat Party seemed to be exacerbating it, because every time I thought about that burger I wanted to fold my body in half and lie on the coldest surface I could find.

I went to the store for a different carton of Coconut Milk and the expiration date on that one, stamped in a similar stamp, was April 4. On the way to the store I noticed it was 9:56 a.m. I'm still always surprised when I realize how early I wake these days. On the way back from the store I picked up an Egg McMuffin. The novelty of the breakfast menu compounded with the hangover, and all.


Me: How come you're fine?
Chuck: I didn't eat a big ridiculous hamburger.


I bought four new tires.


"How was your nap?" I say to The Girl. "Did you poop yourself awake?"
She replies: "No poop. Elmo poop."
That's the first complete thought she's expressed, I say to Chuck.
"Yeah. And it was a lie," he responds.


We watched "Nightcrawler," which was super freaking intense and great. Then we watched "Downton Abbey" to recalibrate our nerves.


At precisely 11:30 a.m., on my eighth day of vacation (and Chuck's first day not on vacation anymore), The Girl was blasted with an ear infection that knocked all her good cheer into another county. Drugs were acquired, her nose was wiped twice a minute for about eight hours, liquids were force fed, hair was stroked, and much animation was watched.

It's an epic level of sad. Like, the saddest thing of all time.


I've lost all will to do chores or run errands or climb onto the elliptical for a viewing of "The Good Wife" because my replacement FitBit is still en route.


But it looks like Season 2 of "Broad City" is now on Hulu Plus, so HAPPY VALENTINE'S DAY TO ME! (she exclaimed, loudly to herself, just as she heard The Girl's ear-infection/fever/snot nose sleep cries begin over the monitor).

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Vacation Day Four, Day Five, Day Six: The 'Have a Shitty Thursday' edition ...

It snowed on the fourth day of vacation, so we bundled our little bundle into all her snow clothes. We planned to drag her, by sled, about a mile round trip to check out a new rival Little Free Library on the main drag. We grabbed an extra copy of "The Feast of Love" by Charles Baxter as an offering. We didn't completely iron out the fine details of the walk, like how we'd approach street crossings, but off we went up our street, down the next, the only people on the planet making the first swooshes in the snow --

And then it was over.

The horizontal blow of snow froze her cheeks and landed in her eyes. She put her hands up and said "Out. Out. Out" which actually means "Up. Up. Up." So I picked her up and carried her back to our house, where she kicked along on the sidewalk and watched Chuck shovel until she finally just said "House."


The Girl ate a fruit bar, a newton-style treat that crumbled, caked and dried around her lips and made her mouth smell like blueberry-flavored cardboard.

This is how she approached me for a sip from my water bottle, which requires putting the mouthpiece into her crumb-coated mouth and chewing to open the water hole. Wet crumbs stuck to the straw and she cackled with disgusting glee. I almost barfed.


Sometimes when I'm on the elliptical, I imagine that I'm being interviewed about how I became such a fantastic runner of 5Ks. This has toned down exponentially from even just a few years ago when I still imagined there was a spot in the Olympics for me, if only I could really focus on my training.

My answer goes something like this: "Actually, I have to thank Julianna Margulies, who is Alicia Florrick on 'The Good Wife.' There is something about that show that makes it possible for me to easily annihilate like upward of 7,000 steps."

On this day, I watched an episode, plus the first 10 minutes of the followup and afterward imagined all the super heavy things I could throw and kick with these massively powerful muscles I'm building.

(Then I ate my weight in guacamole.)


The movie "Horns" is like, literally, the worst. It is impossible to consider the Harry Potter kid as anything tough or quasi demonic. There are points of the movie where his voice wrinkles in a pubescent way. Plus, I kept accurately predicting what was going to happen, which either means:

A) They were telegraphing;
B) I should be writing movies;
C) No one should watch movies with me;
D) All of the above.


On the fifth day of vacation, I challenged Brother Pista to a Step-Off. And then, as I realized he either didn't notice, or didn't seem to care, my internal interview sputtered and became less relevant.

Q: What exactly did it take to get 16,000-plus steps today?
A: We went to the mall to look for a magnetic nose ring, but instead ended up doing a couple laps of the perimeter. We parked far from the door at Target. I went to the YMCA and purposefully parked on the sixth floor of the parking ramp and took the stairs both up and down. I ran 4 miles. I did every chore at our house that involved going to the basement or going upstairs or, in the best cases, both.

Unfortunately, if no one feels the burn of your victory, does it even matter?


We ate tortellini for lunch and I sprinkled mine with red pepper flakes. This, I guess, makes me a thrill seeker.
"If she could, your mom would ride a roller coaster to work," Chuck told The Girl.


The Girl is watching a show for babies in which a unicorn paints all these mundane objects like houses and airplanes. We all slip into a trance and are unable to leave the house to go to dinner, like we had planned. No, instead we get a frozen pizza and veggie chips.

Some people consider it a point of honor to never lie to their kids.
I think of this when The Girl points to my veggie chips and asks for one and I tell her they're "too hot."
"Is that bad I just did that?" I ask Chuck.
"I'm just trying to figure out when that's going to backfire on us," he said.


Rookie error: While putting The Girl to bed she says to me "Dada."
"He's downstairs, Bug. Watching TV," I say and then exclamation points shoot out of my ears.
She chants "TeeTee" (TV) as I lift her into her crib. Then she starts crying, points at the door longingly and indicates that what her dad is doing sounds preferable to what she is being asked to do.
And so I clicked reset on The Bedtime Ritual, starting from the beginning again.


The sixth day of vacation started most shittily. I woke to an email from Wells Fargo telling me that it had taken money from my savings count to cover an overdraft. I monitor my checking account regularly and know that the last time I looked, yesterday, I was nowhere near draining my entire checking account. Overdraft? Not in eons.

Turns out there was an error regarding a large-for-me cash deposit I'd made a week and a half ago -- so they just erased that amount from my checking account. Easy peasy for them; A huge hit for me.

I spent 45 minutes on the phone with 4 different people (once I was hung up on) and now they are investigating it. They've returned the money to my account, but they're calling it a "credit." And they didn't replace the stuff that was in my savings account so I have Owl Panic.

(Plus, now I'm afraid to spend any money for fear that they'll decide to take it all away again.)


On the way to Baby School, my Check Tire Pressure light came on and I kept imagining that tire commercial that stars a baby sitting in a tire and the slogan "You've got a lot riding on your tires." It had never made sense to me on this level.

The tires *looked* fine, but I stuck to residential roads instead of the highway.


When I got home from baby school, I noticed that my FitBit hadn't logged a single step since 11:11 p.m. Wednesday night -- after I'd handily beaten Brother Pista in a Step Off (in case you forgot).

I reset it like three times and eventually got into an online chat with customer service.

Still broken.


I took a sip from my water bottle, and the mouthpiece tasted like Kitty Litter.


It seemed like maybe I've been cursed, so I put the girl down for a nap and then laid down.


I woke to an email telling me that a new FitBit is en route, so my luck is changing. Five to seven business days, they say.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Vacation Days 2 and Day 3: The Sharks-Sharks-Sharks Edition ...

On the second day of vacation we brought out the sled and pulled The Girl in a circle that wound above the firepit and down a decent distance from the property line. There were plenty of "weeee"-noises and smiles that turned her cheeks into matching pink balloons.

It had been Pa Pista's idea, but when he got to the backyard with a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle saucer and an attached rope, The Girl was already done sledding. I stuffed her into my lap anyway and he pulled us down a small incline. Then we did it again. By then she was plenty peeved so we quit trying to force her to have some damn fun once in a while.

Back inside the house, Ma Pista made some Luke Warm Chocolate using powder and a mix of Whole and Skim milks. The Girl refused it, probably because we were calling it Hot Chocolate and an incident from earlier in the day involving the word "hot" and a maternal failure in the face of a kitchen sink was still fresh.


I took advantage of naptime to sneak into a storage area that is filled with cardboard boxes labeled with a Sharpie. Things like "Christa's Notebooks."

None of this can be good. It's just stacks of pre-pubescent words written by a major fan of hair band ballads, Lifetime and YA romance. I find a report card with a note from my eighth grade teacher indicating that I seem to prefer writing about fanciful things more than, say, research papers. Makes sense to me. I find a bulging envelope labeled Notes and inside find a hand-drawn picture of an AK47. I know instantly that it was drawn by my seventh-grade boyfriend and I can only assume that I found it to be incredibly romantic at the time. I don't dig any deeper than that. I'm starting to get embarrassed for pre-teen me.

There is, literally, a bound book with a kitten on the cover. Inside are hand-written love poems, complete with a decoder so that I would forever remember who they were written for.


We go to pizza at one of my favorite joints and The Girl is, as they say, raging. She's standing in the booth, one fidgety foot from climbing on to the table. When the server mistakes her for a boy, The Girl leans on the table, looks her square in the eye and grins so big her eyes disappear into half-moons forever setting the server straight.

"Oh yes. Now that I see your face, I can tell you're a girl," she says.
A young, well-behaved boy in a high chair watches her over his shoulder.

On the way home, The Girl is sandwiched between Ma and Pa Pista in the backseat. The trio goes between "Twinkle Twinkle" and "The Alphabet Song," singing and re-singing, over and over, in three different octaves so that they sound like a miniature barbershop quartet.


"These people are just riding on Paul McCartney's coat tails." -- Ma Pista, 2015 Grammy Awards.


We leave on Monday morning, the third day of vacation, and somewhere near Zumbrota decide that we should take The Girl to the Minnesota Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America. But first we eat at a Mexican restaurant that overlooks the mall's central Nickelodean-themed amusement park. Luckily, The Girl doesn't recognize the rides as Things a Thrill Seeker Could Go On To Be Entertained.

She says "Up and Down" many, many times in a row, though.

The aquarium. Is. Awesome.

First there are jellyfish, glowing in front of neon backlights. Then we walk through a dark tunnel beneath schools of fish, giant turtles, stingrays, sharks.

"Oh. Gosh!" she says every time we see the underbelly of a massive sea creature pass over our head.


Chuck and I watch "The Interview" and try this extra-great-super-fantastic drink. The Bobby Boucher has bourbon, cherry heering, sweet vermouth and Benedictine and it just might become my go-to drink.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Vacation Day 1: The case of the mysterious landline ...

We wake to the shrill and insistent reminder of yesteryear: The sound of a landline ringing a foot and a half from my ear holes. Chuck and I look at each other, blurry and pillow creased, and laugh. Saturday morning at Chez Parents Pista, exactly 8 a.m. on the nose. As if the senior discount qualifying caller had been sitting with a clock on his/her right, telephone to the left, just waiting for an appropriate hour to start ringing up friends.


We stand in the kitchen, eating bagels and talking about the early days of a college that, at one point, only admitted women. Pa Pista's friend was among the first men to attend the college, which is also Chuck's alma mater.

Chuck starts to say, how, even when went there, there weren't many men on campus -- and that some of the women preferred it that way. But instead he says:

"Well, even when I went there, a lot of the women didn't want to go to bed with..."
instead of "... to school with."
And I had to hold extra tight onto my bladder and everyone turned a little purple.
"Well, that too," he acknowledged.


We go to this historical society to sit in wooden wagons pulled by massive horses. There are cookies, hot chocolate and after our second go-round, one of the horses unleashes buckets of urine just a few feet away from us.

It's a good reminder to stay away from yellow snow.


I go to the YMCA to get in a run and find a place that doesn't even smell like the YMCA where I spent my high school years. The cardio center has been rearranged. I accompany the worst run of my life with HGTV, muted but with subtitles. Some flippers have bought a house that not only has roach feces in the wall, it also has a lien on it because of some roofing work that was never paid for.

I switch to the elliptical and watch the end of a hockey game.


We go to a super club on Lake Zumbro, where The Girl eats ketchup by the fistful and all-but ignores her grilled cheese sandwich.

The Parents Pista ride home in the backseat with The Girl, who refers to grandpa as "Papa," and Grandma as "Uhn-Uhn-Uhn."


We settle the pajamaed girl in with Uhn Uhn Uhn and fire up "The Gruffalo," then sneak out the door for A Real Live Date. We see "Birdman," probably the best movie I've seen in, like, forever.


We have a favorite bar here. It has a lot going for it: a) you walk down steps to get there; b) it serves, almost exclusively, interesting craft cocktails. On this night, a bouncer tells us they are at capacity and that his manager won't let him allow anyone else into the bar.

Since this is the only bar we want to go to, we stand on the corner and wait for people to leave, then try again.

It's like "The Twilight Zone," an episode in which the characters return to a once-great place to find that it has become The Worst Place in the World. A bar filled with 22-year-olds taking pulls off mini champagne bottles while 90s hip-hop plays at a jarring volume. Dull-eyed strangers sink into couches as they survey the room.

This is a place in which a bartender once carefully pressed fresh herbs on the heel of his hand to create a gourmet-caliber drink. On this night, they're offering up a limited selection of cocktails -- including one called the "Call Me Maybe." Ugh.

We sit near a foursome that is being entertained by a windbag with a lisp, who asks his friend: "Do you like blondes?"

"He likes red-heads," the blonde woman responds.
"I like brunettes," the other man answers, refilling everyone's cup from a small bottle of bubbly.

It's mind-numbingly boring to eavesdrop on this conversation.

As we leave, Chuck overhears someone ask "Why are they wearing winter coats. It's like 35 degrees out."

We decide to return never.


We pick up some guacamole from Kwik Trip and chase it with a Bourbon-Amaretto mix from the Parents Pista liquor shelf.

Thus concluding Vacation Day One.