Monday, October 3, 2016

I forgot about the keys ...

Today I took both my keys and Chuck's keys to work, leaving him with no way to take Chach to preschool or himself to work. But before I knew that, I plugged my meter with two hours worth of coinage. I walked from downtown to Canal Park, enjoying the last licks of the live episode of "My Favorite Murder." I was smiling the whole time, which I think should make other people happy to see. Happy Woman Walking.
I got the text right as I settled into my appointment with a 14-seat passenger van.
No keys, no problem. Can the Norwegian Wonder just drop you at work? I wondered, then remembered preschool. Oof.
The van operator offered to take me home to West Duluth, but I could tell by the air in the van that it would be asking a lot. How about back downtown, he asked. But just as we were getting the logistics sorted, which included rescheduling the 14-passenger van, Chuck texted that the Norwegian Wonder was on her way and he could always take his other car, the Freedom Mobile we haven't tried to sell yet.
So Chach got to preschool, Chuck got to work, I kept my appointment.
I should probably get an orange fob for my keychain.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

I forgot about the tape ...

I forgot about the tape. I forgot, until I saw a sprinter holding a shoulder's-width white strip of it in front of her on national TV, that running a relay requires it.
The tape marks the spot where, once your relay teammate hits it, you start running as fast as your shoes, the wind, gravity, cheers, your legs and arms will take you. Just before her whirling body threaten to tangle with your whirling body, she yells "hand!" and you reach backward, blindly, defying the biological laws of shoulders.
It's about so much practice, rehearsing this exact millisecond, over and over and over. You know how many steps, heel-to-toe, it takes her waning speed to match your waxing speed. Baton in her left hand, passing off to your right, matching up like puzzle pieces or cogs.
And you're off, so much speed in one small lane, until you hit someone else's tape. You yell "hand." You pass the baton. Just like you practiced.
I can't believe I forgot about that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

I'll Stop the World and Run with You (A Musical) ...

Scene: The first mile of a 6-mile run on the Munger Trail. The Chach character is riding in a Bob stroller with a journal, a pen, a water bottle, bubbles and a toy Iron Man. Behind her, pushing the stroller at a trot, is a sweaty character named Me, wearing running clothes and a baseball cap.
Map My Run has just informed the Me character of our first mile split. It's sub-par.

Chach: What did Siri say?
Me: That wasn't Siri, it was Map My Run.
Chach: What did Siri say?
Me: She said we're slow.
Chach: Why are we slow?
Me: Because it's like 85 degrees out, sunny and I'm pushing at stroller that is at least 31 pounds.
Chach: Can we run faster?
Me: Maybe when we find some shade.
Chach: Are we in the shade?
Me: No.
Chach: Are we in the shade?
Me: No.
Chach: Are we in the shade?
Me: No.
(After a few minutes)
Chach: Are we in the shade now?
Me: Yes.
Chach: Are we running faster?
Me: It feels like it, yes.
Chach: What did Siri say?
Me: She said we are running a little faster.
Chach: Because we're in the shade?
Me: Probably.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Vacation Day Everything Else: Poop Cramps, Camels, The Summer of 2016 Black Out ...

Dinner was a disaster. First of all, we didn't even want to be there. After 7 days of vacation that included things like nachos and Bloody Marys al fresco, pizza on a deck in Woodland, co-op picnic food on a rock, tacos and empanadas on a patio in Minneapolis, I had huge plans to season some root veggies with miso and begin Operation Clean Living. Then the power went out on our half of the town, no stove, and here we were back in a restaurant -- this time inside.

"I'm just going to get porridge," I sighed dramatically, so tired of other people's food.
(I didn't.)

One of us, not naming names, had to poop. And when Anonymous has to poop, he/she fights it with the strength of a thousand sphincters. Rather than pooping, like all animals everywhere always, Anonymous succumbs to poop cramps. He/she emits spontaneous screams. Then he/she insists on going to the bathroom. Once Anonymous crosses the threshold of the bathroom, he/she no longer has to go. Until he/she is about four steps away from the bathroom when he/she banshee yelps again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

So dinner was a nuisance meal, taken simply so no one's stomach caved in and started eating itself. And the Poop Screams were just ... what. Is it weird to say dessert?

Finally we just had to GTFO. Chuck paid while I took Chacha to the car. When we got there, she refused to get into her carseat because her baby, 0 pounds and 0 ounces of bouncing baby air, was sitting in her car seat. She buckled him (her?) in. So I removed the pretend baby from the carseat and fake-set her on the seat. Chacha made a grab for air baby and tried to buckle her back into the seat and I, once again, removed her. This time I seemingly zipped her into my sweatshirt.

Chacha made a grab for her and there we were in a tug-o-war for air. She was laughing through tears, I was making a maniacal cackle that I'd never heard before.

This is how Chuck found us.
"Your mom's not Stay at Home Mom material," he said to Chach, sliding into the front seat.

I'm making vacation sound more intense than it was. It was mostly on Chach-time, no muss no fuss, so it was pretty fun, slow-paced and relaxing. We took her to the Minnesota Zoo, where she rode a camel. (It went like this: "Do you want to ride a cam-" "YES.")We hit up the YMCA's Kid's Club. We visited a baby. We wandered like tourists through Canal Park.

At one point we were driving to Target and the song "Hello" came on the radio.
"What's Adele's last name?" she asked.
"Good Q," I said.
"Probably Adele Smith," she decided.

She turned her new alarm clock and new nightstand lamp into living, breathing creatures.
"And this is Lamp," she said, patting the shade with both hands. Then, without pausing, in a different voice, she said "Don't hit me."
"I'm sure it was an accident," she pretended the alarm clock said, in yet another different voice.
I died.

The beauty of returning to work, though, was knowing that for 8 straight hours -- at least -- I'd only have myself to wipe.

On my first day back I rammed my car into a pickup truck while trying to parallel park. While trying to remember the etiquette on note-or-no-note where there is no damage to the other vehicle, I failed to noticed that I'd completely scraped and dented my own car. So, goodbye series of luxury items for myself, hello Arrowhead Auto Body.

Also: I took Chach to McDonald's for a Kiddie Cone -- a long story involving her own actual feces landing in a toilet -- and they didn't charge me for it. When they explained at the Pay Window that it was free, I was sheepish. When I got to the pickup window, I was downright apologizing. Like "I'm sorry, sir, that you had to go out of your way to make a tiny 2-inch cone for my daughter so that she will become addicted to your gross product and always, constantly insist that we eat at your food forever and then she'll addict her own kids." And that was silly.

Also, also: I finished the cone and it was amazing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vacation Day 4: Air Intake, Spirit Animals and Ominous Doorbells ...

On the fourth day of vacation, I replaced a busted left front blinker on my 2012 Nissan Rogue with just a flathead screwdriver and YouTube because I'm Jo Freaking Polniaczek. My neighbor had recently had his replaced by a professional blinker repairer and spent $45 on it.

"I'm going to figure out how to fix mine, then I'll do your other one for $40," I told him, barely kidding.

First I watched a very informative vid.
Then I bought a two-pack of bulbs for $5 from a kid at Napa.
Then I popped the lid and went inside the house to scare up some tools.
I showed Chuck a portion of the vid and he handed me a screwdriver.
I tried to remove the air intake, then watched the vid again, then removed the air intake.
I unscrewed the old bulb, unpacked the new bulb and swapped 'em out.
I tested my work by starting the car and triggering the blinker.
I am told I whooped.
It worked.
I replaced the air intake and slammed the hood.

By then Chuck and Chach came out to see My Greatest Victory.
"I did it!" I yelled, a little too loudly or maybe not loudly enough.
I showed them how, when I pushed the blinker down it made the left front blinker blink.
(It wasn't a valve.)
"I'M GOING TO BUILD A CAR!!" I freaked.

Also on Vacation Day 4: I watched "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" on a treadmill at the YMCA. It feels a pretty tacky to gawk at Taylor Armstrong's domestic crisis knowing that her husband is T-minus how many episodes from hanging himself in the garage. But, honestly, Lisa Vanderpump is my spirit animal. She's part Charlie's Angel-Part Queen of England wrapped in a florescent pink bra. Also, any wheels that were on in Season 1 are suddenly off and who are these people.

We had a picnic on a rock.

We finally turned Chach's bed from a crib into a toddler bed, a much-delayed project that didn't seem to matter because she didn't seem to care that she was still sleeping in a crib. Bedtime kind of went like this:

She went into the bathroom, went, grunted her pajamas back into place and walked into the hallway.
"I went potty," she said.
"You didn't wash your hands," I said.
"Aw!" she yelped.

Five minutes later, she came out again.
"What are you doing now?" I asked.
"I'm going potty," she said.
"You don't go potty every 10 minutes," I said.
"Oh," she said, and went back to bed.

Anyway, this went on and on and on.
She didn't fall out of bed, but I did come in to find her on her stomach, legs on the floor and body in bed.

Later I would have an epic nightmare involving a very tall and silent man wearing a brown robe, gunfire in the distance, hungry journalists, ominous door bells and trying to keep a child safe. It. Was. Terrible.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Vacation Day 3: Kick Moves, Pool Potty and Hot Dogs Sliced the Long Way ...

On the third day of vacation, I decided to get back on the ol' treadie. I've got my sights on a 5-miler that's a month away and I'm not going to get any faster by sitting around reading mass market true crime about handsome serial killers.

I planted Chach at Kid's Club, where there was just one other boy, approximately 8 years old, plowing through foam mats. As I was walking away, he said to her "Let me teach you some fighting moves." The staff quickly interceded and pointed out their age differences and blah blah blah. In the time it took me to leave the room and walk around a corner to a window, Chach was at his elbow seemingly tuned in to a lesson that involved kicking a mat.

I hopped on the treadmill and right before I cranked it up, I wondered if this was a good idea. I feel about 90 percent normal, but I'd imagine there are hidden dangers with immediately launching into another workout schedule three days after a half-marathon. So I Googled and, sure enough, Hal Higdon calls it Week Zero. You do, literally, nothing. So I queued up "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and walked for 30 minutes.

Sure enough: "Want to see my kick move?" Chach asked when I picked her up.

We went to swimming lessons, which is 30 minutes of me pretending that every kid in that pool isn't constantly unleashing a flood of urine. This week we really nailed the Jump From the Ledge of the Pool and Into My Arms, but failed in the Scoop Your Arms and Blow Bubbles at the Same Time. We did not suffer any of the anguish over the swim suit dryer that we encountered last week, when I stood watching a red-faced toddler and wondered if this particular health club employs anyone with the ability to perform an exorcism. I'll call it a victory. I treated her (I mean me) to a grilled cheese sandwich from Toasty's (mine: Ariba Ariba; Her's: Hot dog, sliced the long way, and cheddar) where everyone needs to go eat right now because it's awesome and I try to get there once a week because I don't want it to ever leave. Try the burgers.

Also on Vacation Day 3:
We had a play date with a girl from Chach's class at ECFE. Her toys are far superior to Chach's, so we won. Chach and her friend have a ton in common, disposition-wise, including that they both need to be carried everywhere. We called them The Ladies of Leisure. They dabbled in hugs and hand-holding and it was adorbs.

I set aside Ted Bundy and got out of bed when I remembered that the moon was doing cool things.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Vacation Day 2: 4-Way Stops, Criminal Minds, Baby Joan ...

The second day of vacation was Father's Day, so we presented Chuck with the only gift that could possibly convey our gratitude for another 366 days of kick-ass daddery: A Timex Indiglo. The vintage watch, best remembered for the way its digital screen was visible in the darkest of movie theaters, is exactly like the one he already has, save for the band. We upgraded him from black plastic to silver, which you might recall, can be spun around one's fingers in a way that mimics the movements of a tank's tires. Ah, the 1980s. So rich!

Then, because the weather was being very show-offy, we went to one of the great patios of Duluth. A place with a bacon, lettuce, tomato and egg sandwich that is simply not too shabby. I imagine there must be tastier items on the menu -- Chuck's Korean Beef Taco's were Zow! -- but I keep ordering this sandwich like I'm the character in a sci-fi movie who must always, always order the same thing, even if she's curious about the avocado tacos. It's gotta be the runny egg. I'm pretty obsessed with eggs right now, which always changes as soon as I encounter a bloody yolk. Until then, I'll press on.

Anyway, this place will henceforth be referred to as Our Favorite Norm Core Restaurant.

We hit a 4-way stop on the way home, landing at approximately the same time as the car directly across from us. I went to make a left turn at the same time as the car across from me came charging out of the gate. The driver gestured like a fevered conductor and I rolled down my window so that as we passed I could say, "Oh, geez, calm down lady." She spat some harsh words about using one's blinker and I remembered that, oh yeah, that guy was on the fritz a few weeks ago. Guess it didn't magically heal itself.

(I still think she needs to calm down, though.)

For this vacation, I have an ever-increasing to-do list that ranges from cleaning out entire cupboards to checking out the Ali Wong comedy special on Netflix to painting Chach's nails so they look like ladybugs to returning a dress to Target.

Still a little pained by Vacation Day 1, I hit the to-do list with some mega-cleaning. The Girl helped a bit, enthusiastically at first, less so later. Then it was Toddler Roulette: Will she throw away this dried up ball of Pla-Doh from behind the couch or will she sing NOT YET in her sing-songiest of sing song voices?

I asked her to put away her socks and this is was her artistic interpretation:

1. I found a bunch of Thank You notes that I never sent to people who gave us gifts when Chach was born ... almost 3 years ago.

I guess this is probably the decider.
Q: Is she ill-bred?
A: Affirmative.

2. I found this drawing of the cast of "Criminal Minds" circa 2010 that I never showed anyone. Priceless.

I watched "Ali Wong: Baby Cobra," an hour of standup comedy delivered by a preggo at about what-say seven months. I totally dug it. Very funny, very out there, very real. She twerks. Watch it at an adult slumber party.

In all his excitement over the Timex Indiglo Watch, Chuck forgot to take his wallet to work. This had me clock-watching as it crept toward 11 p.m. and he was still at work.


Turns out he wasn't going to go to Superior, Wisconsin for last-call whisky, I was. As soon as he walked in the door, I slipped into my running shoes and made a break for it.

Reader(s), have you ever been to a liquor store in Superior, Wisconsin at 11:55 p.m. on a Sunday night? About 900 pickup trucks zig-zagging through the parking lot, coming to a dramatic stop and then truly hardcore liquor enthusiasts dang-near sprinting toward the store. Meanwhile, there was either a parking lot fight, or else a bunch of loud-talkers had simply gathered to dish insults. Either way.

By the way: Chacha has named one of her dolls Baby Joan, which is simultaneously hilarious and super-flipping weird. This is just more evidence that she was sent here from the 1950s to do ... something yet to be determined. Also, somehow she knows my mom's maiden name and she keeps talking about Bloody Marys.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Vacation, Day 1: Arm Pits, Omelets and The Biggest Sleep

On the first day of vacation, I ran a half-marathon. I did it the exact opposite of the way I've done it in the past. Reader(s), I trained. Take everything you know about me, about gravity, about the world, and wad it up in a McDonald's wrapper and chuck it from the window of your 1989 Ford sedan. The brown one with three hubcaps. While going 53 MPH on a two-lane highway. Just git the heck rid of it.

Actually, it started last year when I just didn't stop running (or, more often, ellipticalling) after the half-marathon. I decided I liked how running put the kabosh on all the queasiness and nervous brain-chatter that comes with being an adult person. And other reasons, including, mostly, I JUST LIKE RUNNING, OKAY? WHY DOES IT FEEL SO WEIRD TO JUST OWN THAT.

So long story short, I followed a training guide, mostly, with small instances of swapping this for that. On the day I did my 9 miler, it was sunny and, like, 90 degrees in a city that likes to max out in the low 70s. My breathing felt weird and echo-y, and I started to believe that the urban legend Runner Poops Her Pants was about to gain a "It Happened To Me: Munger Trail Edition." I decided to squash the long runs for the next month and focus on speed.

Then, the next weekend it was 53 and misting and all was right with the world so I shelved my ban and went for a 10 miler that was, literally, the best run of my life. The kind where every mile is a little faster and I raise my hands in victory and perform a karate chop at a fictional finish line. The kind where I do that thing I haven't done in eons: spend an entire drive home interviewing myself about my heroic return to running at, gasp, age 40.

Two days before the first day of vacation I woke up super fluttery and nervous. Turns out training for something is investing in it and if you fail, that 12 weeks of fartleks, all the cheese you didn't eat is, like, a total wash. As a person whose preferred state is "half-assin' it," I'd not recently encountered this sort of feeling. Also: I've been reading Ann Rule's book about Ted Bundy. The death count is high and the killer's techniques are quick, brutal and unfortunately clever. So maybe this anxiousness had nothing to do with running at all.

For the first time ever I didn't almost oversleep. For the first time ever I had time for a shot of coffee, a shower and a peanut butter and banana sandwich all at a leisurely morning pace. For the first time ever I barged in front of a bunch of well-behaved people standing in line at the DECC and just boarded the damn bus.

I spent the first three miles mad: At the Porta Potties, at the starting line, at the congestion of runners. I spent a lot of time jut-jogging this way and that. At four miles a gust of hot-hot armpit-like heat blasted me in the face. After that I got into a groove. There was a breeze. Much Beyonce. It's literally the only album on my iPhone. I didn't devil-talk to myself until about Mile 8. A demonic, "Why are you doing this? You can be a person who just runs like 5 miles, you know" echoed in my noggin. Around this time I started Math-ing and realized that, barring face plant, I was going to hit my goal. My knees hurt and so did my hips. I'd moved into "Lemonade: The Movie," which meant poetry and long pauses. But still.

So I finished in 1:59.20, a mere 40 seconds ahead of schedule and about 25 minutes faster than I've ever, ever run a half-marathon ever. I got very fizzy-nosed about it at the Finish.

"Would you have been happy if you'd finished in 2:05?" Pa Pista asked.
Yeah. It would have been close enough. It still would have been faster than ever.
Around mid-day I got all wide-eyed and started wondering if maybe I could run even faster ...

"Careful," a running fiend had said to me at the Y last week, after reminding me 90 times to relax on game-day. He had seen me doing a long run on a treadmill and I can only imagine that my shoulders were stuffed up close to my ears. "You might catch The Bug and want to be good," he said.

Maybe so. That would probably mean lifting weights, stretching, more quinoa, sleep. It might mean admitting that I give a rip.

On the first day of vacation, I also:
Ate an omelet with corned-beef hash and half of Chach's Mickey Mouse-shaped pancake for breakfast;
Drove to Great Lakes! Candy Kitchen in Knife River and found my new happy place (Knife River and Great Lakes! Candy Kitchen);
Wore a romper in public (and was totally cool with it and then later Googled more rompers and better rompers);
Ate Polenta and Pork Shoulder and a cheese plate and drank a glass of wine with Chuck at Northern Waters
Drank a glass of wine at Zeitgeist;
Went to "The Lobster," but couldn't get comfortable or keep my eyes fully open;
Slept the sort of sleep that sleepers dream of sleeping.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Not about lawn jarts ...

I won a sizable gift card to a chain sporting goods store, which resulted in me in a mess of neon trying to decide between statement spandex pieces. I tucked a pair of purple tiger-striped Nike pants and its tank top counterpart under my arm, Chach's hand into my hand, and then reconsidered.

What about a Camelback, one of those backpacks that carry water and have little mini hose spouts. Perfect for my dream life as a trailrunner. An employee pointed me to the display on the back wall of the store.

I tugged at tags and squinted at prices, wondered if a Camelback was the sort of thing that would end in our
Shrine for Forgotten Hobbies beneath the basement steps. And then, quietly, Chach said to me:
"Mama, what's this?"

I looked down to see her holding a broken red condom, innocently testing its elasticity.
"DROP THAT," I said with my calmest version of an authoritative roar.

Reader(s), I lost my ever-loving mind. I went Mom-Mad.

Mom-Mad, which does not require that one be a mother I don't imagine, is that special kind of rage directed toward a world where someone would carry a condom in a pocket so shallow that it might fall out on the floor of a sporting goods store and attract the attention of a 2 1/2 year old who loves to find things she's never found before. Especially in the color red. Mom-Mad. It could lift a bus, crush a watermelon with its bare hands, start a fire with its white-hot intensity. I recommend giving its powers a whirl.

Anyway, we quit the Camelbacks and scared up Chuck, who had wandered over to the canoe-kayak zone. I needed a second opinion on whether it really was a condom, or if it was some weird piece that shook loose from a set of lawn jarts. He, too, identified it as a prophylactic.

That's all the prompting I needed to march-stomped, dragging Chach like a Raggedy Ann doll behind me, toward a 20-ish employee who gave me a friendly "how-can-I-help-you" smile.

"Could you come over here and tell me what my 2 year old daughter just picked up off the floor of your store?" I asked him.

I led him 12 feet and then pointed, my finger a laser.
His face dropped and then he responded in all-business robotics:
"I'm going to go get a rubber glove and pick that up right now," he said.
"How about instead you tell me where the bathroom is so I can wash her hands," I suggested, still using the most adult version of my voice I've ever heard echo in my own head. (What a waste, I see now, to use this voice here, rather than in a major television studio's pitch room.)

He took us on an awkward 45-second maze through fishing equipment, knives, shoes and boating accessories. I double-lathered Chach's hands then double-lathered them again.

We met Chuck outside of the bathroom and I ditched my Nike tiger-wear on a random shelf on our way to the exit. Oh yeah, dirtbags? I said in my head. Re-shelve this!

I couldn't stop another thought, the one that always occurs when something terrible happens in a retail space: "Is this one of those 'Get something free' circumstances?" I wondered. It probably was not, though I'd like corporate to at least keep an open mind on it in case it ever happens again. Still, is that tacky, to put a price on gross? "If my kid is going to touch a condom that was on the floor of your store, I'm going to need to be compensated with a tackle box, three oars and a macadamia nut Clif Bar. Throw in a Wild jersey and I won't even hint about it on my blog."

Listen. I get that in all likelihood, this thing came off a customer's shoe or fell out of someone's pocket. I am not Mom-Mad enough to believe that the store's employees are having a contest to see who could plant the grossest thing on the floor by the Camelbacks. But I am also hugely in favor of stores being Open Condom Free Zones, even if it means adding an employee or two.

I spent a lot of time kicking around whether to post this story and ultimately, I just couldn't not. I'm a writer, see, and there ain't no writer in the world who can sit on a story about the time they encountered a condom on the floor at Dick's Sporting Goods. It's almost too easy. If it had been REI, we wouldn't even be having this conversation.

Post-script: Chach loves to play doctor. In addition to looking in ears and listening to heartbeats, she likes to do the paperwork part.
What's your name?
How old are you? 
Where do you live? 
All while pretending to log the responses on a computer.

A few days after this happened she said to me, the patient:
"And what's your daughter's name?"
"Chacha," I responded.
"And did she touch something gross on the floor at the mall?" she asked.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Dilated ...

A few minutes after my whacky eye doctor did a PSA for reading glasses, he tilted my head back and dripped Day Ruiner straight into my shiny eyeballs. I had a schedule, man. A Monday free from a Daily Commitment. I'd gotten my hair cut and colored and there were still muddy streaks along my bangline. I popped in for a spontaneous eye exam at 1:58 p.m. and they told me they could get me in at 2 p.m. What luck, I thought. Appointment, sha-pointment.

The rest of my agenda was like:
1. Use gift card on new running pants from Dick's;
2. Use other gift card on summer shoes from DSW;
3. Get pedicure so I don't have to cut my own toenails;
4. Run 8 miles to make up for running 0 miles while I had a 10-day plague that fell, inconveniently, in the middle of half-marathon training.
5. Set alarm so I remember to pick up cheeky tot from Norwegian Wonder.

But then, suddenly, my pupils were dilated.

I squinted my way out of the doctor's office and stopped into Eddie Bauer. I was drawn to a table of colorful spandex, but no matter how much I squinted and swore, I couldn't read the price tags. I searched the blurred faces around me and wondered if any of them were guide dogs.

I also couldn't:
1. Read text messages
2. Send text messages in English
3. Google "how long will my pupils stay dilated."

The last one got ugly. I pulled up into a corner and said into my phone, "Siri? How long will my pupils stay dilated?"
"I think I've found something on the web about how long pupils stay dilated," Siri responded.
"Siri, read it to me," I asked.
"Hmm ... there's nothing to read," Siri said.

I wandered through DSW and Old Maybe. I wondered how in the heck I was going to get home and who what constitutes a foot talon. Finally I realized I could see things in the distance and I remembered that most of driving doesn't involve miniscule fonts. So I broke for the parking lot, cursing like a vampire as my enlarged pupils ate every single stray ray of sun. So, whatever, I got home. But nothing great really happened after that, so I was wrong about the luck. Further proof: I dropped the grocery bag that contained the eggs.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Pebbles ...

Every day I think "I'm going to start paying attention to things so that I have something to write about on my long-neglected weblog." Back when I wrote on said site with any regularity, fodder was everywhere, though mostly in the science of my body changing from a burrito warehouse to a temporary baby yurt.

I guess if I had to notice something today, it would be this story that starts out strong and then noticeably fizzles. I know it lacks punch because I interrupted the workflow of my cube-mates to share it and then felt, immediately, that I'd really wasted their time.

Anyway, I've started eating lunch at the same place every day, as has been my style since I started embracing my Inner Creature of Habit. Incidentally, this place is next door to the place where I *used* to always eat, which means I sometimes make awkward eye contact with people who knew intimately of my zest for two thin strips of Mystery Sriracha Sauce running down the center of my Turkey with Cheddar on Italian Herb and Cheese. It also means that when the wind blows a certain way, I get a stale whiff of puffy loaf that almost makes me buckle with nausea.

Woman was not meant to eat the same sandwich for upward of 600 days in a row.

The spot next door was shrinking into oblivion until, one day, it randomly opened a salad bar over the lunch hour. Now it thrives. It thrives! It is arguably the best salad bar I can reach quickly powered by my own two feet. Now, every day for lunch, I load an Earth-irresponsible container with the following:

Three tongs worth of Romaine
Two tongs of Spinach
A scoop of peas
Hardboiled eggs
Red onions
Black Olives
Green Olives
Green peppers
Sunflower Seeds

And I fill a corner of it with strawberries for dessert.

This haul costs $5.99 per pound, with the Game Show-style novelty of getting the salad for half-price if it weighs exactly 1 pound. I'm always super close, tenths off, and a lot of the time the cashier will let me have it for the Victory Price.

I feel a little bad about this. I like to win things, but I like to win them for real. I don't like to be "close enough." I'd never kick a golf ball into the hole or use a dictionary while playing Scrabble. I want to see the scale say 1.00 and not a fraction more or less. I also like eating approximately a pound of salad for half-price, so.

Today the cashier added a pebble to the scale to give me the edge. I felt the guy behind me in line glaring holes into the styrofoam. Luckily, I was wearing headphones, which always makes me feel a little invisible, so I was able to ignore it mostly. I paid my $3-whatever and walked away and heard the sound of the stone being dropped to the counter.

It sounded like the end of a cheap salad.


The other thing I would like to say is that I set a personal record running my first 5K of the season and it wasn't necessarily so-super-duper fast, but it was:

1. Almost 10 minutes faster than I ran in 2014, which is crazy because it's only 3.1 miles, which doesn't seem long enough to get 10 minutes faster;
2. About three minutes faster than in 2015, which still seems mathematically impossible;
3. A few seconds faster than my last 5K of the season last fall.
4. It was also close to a time that I saw a runner friend had run last year and went "HOW CAN SOMEONE RUN THAT FAST."

In the aftermath of setting a personal record in the 5K, I realized there is no outlet for this kind of information. I mean, who cares? I got a nice kudos from the aforementioned friend, who finished about the same time. My family thought it was cool, though Chach assumed I'd be the one to break the Finish Line tape so it must have been, secretly, a big bummer for her. I told my parents, but it was buried between funny Chacha stories. I didn't want to post it on Facebook, because it's not like I broke the sound barrier, I just ran faster than I usually do.

These things are anticlimactic at Age 40, I guess. I've always been such a "GUESS WHAT I DID?!" person. Must. Find. Inner. Back. Patter.

Also: I made a pizza with cauliflower crust and it was awesome.

Monday, March 21, 2016

How to put a 2-year-old to bed: a memoir ...

Before you even start to think about putting your 2-year-old to bed, you must warn your 2-year-old that you might start to think about putting her to bed.

Then, when the jingle alarm goes off on your iPhone, you assume an identity of her choosing, likely:

1. You might have to be a doctor, who will guide his (you're a "he," okay) young patient to the bathroom so that you can help brush said patient's dirty teeth.
2. You might have to be a mama (here you're a "she") whose tiny baby doesn't even have teeth, but will stand for getting her gums brushed.

If you've incorporated any kind of Big Girl Potty negotiations, this is the point at which you will strip your 2-year-old down and plop her, naked, on the pot. She'll clutch your arms and grin maniacally. She'll ask if you see any potty coming out. This has yielded liquid gold just once, but you are an optimist. (An optimist who must have her child potty trained so she can go to preschool in September, so maybe "heavy wisher" is a better word than optimist.)

Once she's wiped the nothing, wasted a flush's worth of water, and washed her hands, you will dress her in footie pajamas, guide her to the Reward Sticker Drawer where she almost always picks a smiley face, bring her back up the steps -- you're still the doctor, or you become the doctor, at this point -- and plop her on a footstool in front of the sink.

While you load up a toothbrush with pink gel, she will turn her head to her right shoulder and assume a pinched lip position that allows you no access to her teeth. If you are cursed with a Cheerful Resting Face, you have to try really hard to make sure your features say: "This is not a funny inconvenience, like the time you yelled 'MEOW' into my ear for seven minutes straight while your grandma tried to tell me a story. It's an annoying inconvenience."

Kid time measures differently than adult time which, in this case, works to the latter's advantage. After she has done this clenched teeth standoff for what certainly must feel like 4 years (about a minute and a half in your world, phew) she will let YOU wield the brush. DO NOT let this child hold her own toothbrush, as she will pitch it across the room where it will always, always land brush-side-down in the grossest part of the grossest corner of your most high-traffic bathroom. No. Steel yourself: You will just brush her teeth until she is old enough that you can threaten her with taking away her driver's license if she tosses her toothbrush ever again.

Teeth clean. Jammers on. Toilet treated like a decorative ornament. Now you have to get her into her bedroom.

She will say: "Does the doctor want me to go in my bedroom?"
Nod. Nod like you are a novelty bobblehead dog in the back window of your trashiest friend's car.

You probably used to read her books and there are probably a whole bunch of them piled around the pink recliner in her bedroom. "Green Eggs and Ham," "Jamberry," "The Pout Pout Fish," and, oddly, "Little Matchstick Girl." These days, your 2-year-old prefers to sit in the dark and watch "Wid-e-views."

This means "videos," but you prefer her interpretation of the word. You don't blame her. It's fun to say.

You tell her: "Okay. You can watch two wideviews tonight."

She will always pick "Old MacDonald." She's a connoisseur of all the variations on the song that exist on YouTube. In the beginning she would watch any of them. Now trending: one starring grown people dressed as farm animals. You have developed theories about the Pig and the Chicken. They stand just a little too close; Stare just a little too hard. You and your 2-year-old both agree that the cow is the family favorite and, luckily, she makes cameos in other vids, er wids, by the troupe.

After that she might want to see the wideview for:
1. "Mr. Roboto," though she's come to prefer a version that appeared on "Glee," which is a remix that morphs into the song "Counting Stars."
2. This creepy-ass "Twinkle, Twinkle" starring a character who looks like Elsa, but is very obviously a simulacrum.
3. Sia's "Chandelier," "It's a Heartache" (Bonnie's version) and a take on the alphabet song that was clearly created for children learning English as a second language. The giveaway: the letter zed.

If you don't turn off the phone immediately following the second wid, she will grab the phone and try to fire up a third wid-e-view, hack into a high-ranking government official's email or order a jet ski from Amazon.

If you manage to sneak your phone to a safe place beneath your thigh, it just signals to her that you've moved on to the next part of the ritual: The finger biting. For the next three minutes, you have to let her pretend to eat each of your fingers and then yell "HEY, I NEEDED THAT!" after each one is fake eaten.

Then your 2-year-old will move to a new part of the ritual: Climbing into the bed from the pink chair. This requires a level of bravery and dexterity with climbing over a railing that is all new-new-new, so you encourage it and give her a little boost, like you're both 13 and you're helping her into a second floor window of the old school so she can change her math grade in Mrs. Whatever's red grade book where, luckily, she records all grades in pencil.

Once in the bed, your 2-year-old will realize she's been duped.
OUT. She'll howl.
OUT. OUT. OUT. She'll bay.
I understand, you tell her. I hate going to bed, too.
OUT. She whimpers.
"But it hurts so good," you tell her. "You love sleeping. I sneak in and watch you do it. You're always smiling."

Eventually she lets you cover her and her 14 favorite stuffed things beneath six heavy blankets. It helps if you call her a Burrito. You sit next to her bed in the dark. You rub her back. You sneak in some games on your phone while she sings to herself in Norwegian.

She will eventually flip over and say: "When I grow up will you teach me to play Dice with Buddies?"
You should just sigh.

Before you can leave you must:
Kiss her like she's corn on the cob.
Kiss her like she's a lemon.
Kiss her like she's a raspberry.
Kiss her like she's a frozen pea.
Kiss her like she's your beautiful baby girl.

Then you leave and shut the door barely. Open it a little, no close it more. Open it wide. No, less. No, more. Just close it tight.

Elapsed time: 48 minutes, if you're lucky. And, mostly, you are.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Super into this week: Mostly just Vanderpump ...

A few things that have happened since I was last Super Into This Week:

Chach got skis for Christmas. 
1. I've traded in Old Fashioneds for Martinis with three olives stuffed with jalapenos and cheese.
2. I got my child to sit on a toilet seat without pants and emit a single dribble into it. Once. Weeks ago.
3. We started a Tub of Hummus a Night habit.

"Fates and Furies" by Lauren Groff
Funny story: Somewhere in mid-December I published a list of the Top 5 books I'd read in the past year, which felt like a lie because I was up to my neck in Groff's "Fates and Furies" and I knew-knew-knew it should be on my list, but I wasn't going to be done with it before my deadline and I'm rules-y (with some things).
So I fudged a bit. (But, turns out, I shouldn't have worried about it.)
Here's my review.

Chach's preferred outfit.
"Vanderpump Rules": I am obsessed, just obsessed, with this Bravo show about sexy 20-somethings (well, some are in their 30s, not that they'd admit it) who all work at a West Hollywood restaurant-lounge known for crunchy chicken, goat cheese balls and braless servers. They all run in the same circle and date the same people and do terrible things to each other and it's hugely entertaining. It all starts with Stassi and Jax, a sort of Barbie and Ken, whose relationship crumbles within the first few minutes of the camera focusing in their direction. This is bad for business, since Stassi's squad is dating Jax's bros. But, never fear, everyone's sleeping with various bottle service girls in Vegas, so. Anyway, now I'm almost done with Season 3 so I'm going to have to BUY the current season because we don't have cable but I don't even care because It's So Freaking Good.

(Does anyone want to talk about "Vanderpump Rules"? I kind of want to start a secret Facebook group that will deconstruct it like it's the finest of literature.)

Also: I've completely stopped watching "The Good Wife" because of this show and;
Also Also: Don't listen to Stassi's podcast. Yowsa. Zzzz. And I'm a great Stassi apologist.

Chach and one of her best friends.

"The Blunderer" by Patricia Highsmith
Patricia Highsmith's old-school suspense novel opens with the perfect crime. This book has a very distinct 1950s crime novel smell, but I guess I turned the pages quickly.
Review is here.

Here's my column about how I have no time for anything but "Vanderpump Rules."

"Everest": Okay, this movie about that oft-talked about Everest expedition where a ton of bad things happened is good, fine, whatever. But have you ever noticed that all men with beards and North Face look exactly alike? It's tough viewing, friends. Also: I was ruined by one of the deaths for days, DAYS, after seeing this movie even though I read Krakauer's book and knew everything (that I hadn't forgotten) already.

Meghan Daum on "Making a Murderer": I know we're all done talking about the Netflix Original Series, but I never got a chance to double back and retract all my "whoas" and then insert some "uhohs" instead. Regardless, Meghan Daum, my favorite writer, did it for me.

"Straight Outta Compton" made me wonder what in the heck I was doing in the mid-1980s. I liked rap, why wasn't I listening to NWA?

Note: One thing though, and this is for all moviemakers, STOP MAKING MOVIES SO LONG.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Revisiting Vacation Day 7: A dumb way to spend $50 ...

The first sign that this was a bad idea: As soon as I said the name of the restaurant, I sort of unintentionally recoiled. The last time I was there, I'd eaten a chimichanga that seemed a close relative to a boiled tube sock filled with chicken parts. The sauce was tomato-textured water.

That was years ago, though.

I just really wanted nachos. And I really wanted to leave the house. I'd been cooped in this coop for too many days in a row. First, Chach's ears were infected, then as the temperatures dropped, she stopped responding to winterwear. ("Which hat do you want to wear?" Flings both options across the room.) She was content to roam the same 40 square feet day after day after day after day. I've seen variations on the story of The Grinch 30 times in 10 days, and while I don't mind Boris Karloff or Jim Carrey's version, it's still The Grinch and it's still 30 times in 10 days.

Nachos. In public.

The other nacho purveyors in town were dismissed for various reasons ranging from location to location, and after further scanning Chicken Sock's menu it was decided we would just go there. No frills, no fireworks. We didn't need a dining experience that would inspire Instagram footage and  a Facebook check-in. Just a nacho appetizer followed by something bean-filled, cheese covered, with a spicy kick for an entree.

Listen. This is a big deal. I'm pretty plant-based and mostly dairy and gluten free. I've been meat-light for as long as I've been making my own meals. But once a week I lay aside my super obnoxious list of things I will and will not eat and replace it with complete lawlessness. I've learned that cheese tastes otherworldly when you don't eat it by the 4-inch slab every night before bed, as was my old way of confronting a block of cheddar and a fresh sleeve of Zestas.

So, nachos.

The second sign this was a bad idea: We found a great parking spot and on our cold sprint to the restaurant, passed two or three more great parking spots. Through the windows, plenty of open booths. The ebbs and flows of the food industry, right? Maybe on a Wednesday. But at 5:45 p.m. on a Friday night at a restaurant close to Amsoil Arena, where UMD was hosting St. Cloud in about the amount of time it would take to consume a dinner, one would think this place would be teeming with jerseys chasing a pre-game Tex-Mex high.


A half dozen members of the restaurant staff greeted us when we walked in. It was like a commercial for customer service. "At the Chicken Sock, we boast a 4:1 employee to customer ratio. You won't be able to wet your fork without our attentive staff making sure the tines are a dental match with the curvature of your mouth." We were whisked to a booth near the other empty booths and happened past a table where two young people were pushing more than half-filled plates of food back at the server. Or were they half-empty plates? Uh-oh, I thought.

The nachos were incredible. A mound of evenly distributed nacho ingredients -- though I'm not sure there were any of the advertised jalapenos -- spread across thin, crispy and lightly salted chips. On one half, a good sized splat of guacamole and on the other half, sour cream. Reader(s), we demolished it.

We should have stopped there. If we had stopped there, this post wouldn't exist. We would have had this pleasant plate of nachos and gone home satisfied, crave fulfilled. It might have changed my Pavlovian response to merely hearing the restaurant's name. It might have become a Friday night nacho hangout, where I shared loads of laughs with my gal pals. I definitely wouldn't have said about 100 times in the past three days: "Some restaurants seem to get away with selling slop because they have primo real estate." Soups on, tourists.

But, the entrees.

"It's meat," Chach said, looking at her plate. That was the third sign. Technically it was what she had ordered. But it was a soft shell taco filled to the rim with a greasy mess of oily red ground beef. Later it would fall open and I would see a hint of lettuce, maybe the place where a tomato might roost. It had all gotten muddied and lost in the concentration of double meat doused with meat doused with grease.

"It's spicy," she said, though it wasn't.
"If it's anything like mine, that's the salt," Chuck said.

I ordered a chicken chimichanga again, thinking the Shitty Chimichanga Lightning couldn't possibly strike twice in the same place. But there it was again, a sad and soggy lump of gooey tortilla wrapped around mediocre chicken. The sauce was probably seasoned with the scorch marks on the bottom of a pan. The pinto beans were dry; I didn't touch the rice.

"How is everything tasting," the server asked.
"Yes," I said, because it was, technically, tasting.

I ate about one-fourth of my food, Chuck and Chach managed just less than half. We assured her we didn't need a box for any of it, no-no, really. Then I paid more than $50 to just get the plates the hell away from us -- though the smell of Chach's taco somehow got embedded into my skin.

So that was pretty awful. My worst meal for as long as I can remember.

Here's the thing: I wasn't looking for an artful stack of organic things grown within a 20-foot radius of the kitchen. It didn't even need to be great. It just had to be not awful. The next day we drove past a sign advertising Taco John's and that, I realized, would have been far, far superior. How hard is it, really, to make inauthentic Mexican food?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Vacation Day 1: Orange is dead ...

The power went out 35 minutes into my elliptical workout. I can't even remember what was happening on "The Good Wife," it was all so traumatic. Suddenly dark. The furnace quieted mid-gust. The equipment no longer erasing calories. I used my phone's light to walk upstairs, where I found Chuck lightly asleep in bed.

"The power went out," I said, when he moved.

The wind was loud. The cold already sneaking in the windows. I watched the house across the street, dark save for a beam from a flashlight bouncing around an upstairs bedroom. No streetlights, no cars. Freaking freaky stuff. Freakiest of all: My phone's battery at 43 percent.

"I'm at 10," Chuck said and I got a case of the dreads. Nothing stresses me out more than a low phone battery.

The head lamp was burned out, but I found a flashlight on the floor behind the toilet. Chuck found a lantern and a portable light. I cowered under the covers reading Patricia Highsmith getting colder and colder and colder. The story is just getting juicy. The power company's website estimated we would have electricity by 1:14 a.m.

I purposefully did not do the math on how long it would take before our pipes would freeze.

Then the carbon monoxide detector started going off. A single beep every few seconds. We both Googled hard. It seemed pretty obvious that it had something to do with the lack of power, but it also seemed silly to never again regain consciousness just because we understand Ocaam's Razor. So then a whole firetruck pulled up in front of the house and three firefighters gave us a PSA on CO detectors, checked our levels, complimented our cat and left.

We ate a bunch of hummus and agreed that we didn't feel dumb about calling at all.


A man and a woman were at the grocery store together. Every time he picked up an item, he smiled at it. It was like the apples were talking to him.


Chach had a screaming fit because I wouldn't carry her here and there and when I finally got around to picking her up, she put her head on my shoulder and fell asleep. Rare. No nightly bedtime battle. I didn't miss it a lick.


Chuck made us ramen for dinner. Favorite foods include: miso, chili oil.


The Rock Star Amy Abts alerted me to an interesting obituary and I spent the next two hours reading, Googling and texting. So vague!


We watched about 90 episodes of "The Great British Baking Show," which is such a pleasant bit of theater. In between, Chach would stand in front of the TV and perform with her ukulele. Picture: Toddler in her pajamas and a winter hat.

"One. More. Song. One. More. Song," we'd chant after each song, so she would play another.
"Old MacDonald had a penguin," she began.

At one point she put the kabosh on our adoration.
"I'm not going to play one more song," she said. "I'm going to take a bow."  
So she clutched her hat in one hand, the uke in the other, and she crossed her legs and bent at the waist. A sort of Oliver Twist era street performer.


Lunch was tempeh reubens and salad. Chach ate peanut butter toast and blueberries.


My hoodie-footies were too hot this morning, so I stripped down to shorts and a tank top. Chach looked at me sitting next to her and exclaimed: YOU DON'T HAVE ANY PANTS ON. YOU JUST HAVE LEGS. (Pause) YOU GO PUT PANTS ON!

We spent much of the morning at the kitchen table. Chach created an elaborate city made of her paint containers.

"Orange is dead," she said. "I better take him to the cat place."*

* We told her that Chuck took Hal to "the cat place" instead of saying he was sick and going to the vet.

On the eve of ...

It was cold on the eve of the first day of vacation. Our daughter resists winterwear and so is rushed to and from the car with a coat draped over her like a celebrity out on bail. But even she agreed to put her actual toddler arms into her winter coat for the frigid block walk to dinner. We stood on a corner waiting for the light and she burrowed against me and laugh-screamed in cold, cold agony.

The host tried to seat us at a sore thumb table in the middle of the room, but I nudged her toward a newly vacated table by the window. Chach colored with complementary crayons.

"What are these?" she asked, shading with green.
"Tattoos," I said, which must have been confusing. She knows a dog named Tattoo, and that's all she knows of the word.

We had an appetizer of focaccia, pesto and goat cheese to be dipped in red sauce. The server snuck Sriracha onto the corner of the table, which wasn't a bad idea at all.
We had a large pizza with Italian sausage and garlic. Chach took one bite.
"Spicy," she said, then slurped down a bunch of strawfuls of milk and pretty much ate nothing else.

After dinner I emptied the aisles at the co-op and Chuck scared up some vermouth. We got home late-ish, put Chach to bed and retired to the basement to drink martinis and listen to records well past curfew.

Chach woke up at 6 a.m. in need of an emergency diaper change. Chuck did the heavy lifting, then I swept into the room without opening my eyes and carried her into the lounge where we shared a futon for four more sweet, sweet hours of sleep and the First Official Day of Vacation.