Wednesday, December 28, 2011


I know full well that people in Florida are crazy, but they sure have some nice weather down here. My mother is underwriting a full-family Florida vacation and has rented an wonderful house for everyone, right across the street from the beach. I could see from the moment we landed that this was going to be a fantastic vacation, and I have already suggested roughly a billion times that we make this vacation an ongoing family tradition.

Also, I have an important update about the Handstand Plan. Do you remember what that is? My sister, her boyfriend, and I are taking a gymnastics class, and we set an ambitious goal: that we wanted to do handstands together at the beach at the same time, and document it with a photo. We knew this would be challenging, but we were determined to succeed, and practiced literally minutes a week to hone our skills. But more on the Handstand Plan later.

First, a little something about the house we're staying in. There are a lot of tacky mailboxes in Florida, but even among tacky mailboxes, the mailbox at our house stands out You know you're in an area with high-quality beaches when air-brushed pelicans start showing up on mailboxes.

Another good sign: our rented house came with not one, not two, not three, but FOUR cocktail shakers. However, that's approximately four more cocktail shakers than we need. We're more of a corkscrew crowd.

And one more bit of local Florida character that I want to share with you. Yesterday, a tourist at a beach not too far away found a leg. A leg that was missing the rest of its body. In case you don't believe me, you can check out this article: "Human Leg Washes up in St Petersburg Yard.

That's the kind of thing that NEVER happens in Wisconsin, although there was some news coverage recently when a Wisconsin woman who was fishing happened to pull up someone's artificial leg that had been lost in a lake. And then the Wisconsin woman managed to track down the leg's original owner and return the leg to her! That's just the kind of thing someone from Wisconsin would do! In contrast, I have a strong suspicion that the leg that washed up on the beach nearby is never getting reunited with its original owner.

This Florida vacation has been fantastic. Sadly, however, I'm going to have to wait until next time to update you on the success (or not) of our Handstand Plan. The photos proving (or disproving) the ability of three people with questionable coordination to do handstands on the beach all at the same time are in my mother's camera. I don't have a way to transfer the photos from her camera to the computer to be published here. Unless, of course, I can use a cocktail shaker.

Sunday, December 25, 2011


Merry Christmas from Florida! Instead of celebrating the holidays in the cold and snow of Wisconsin, we're enjoying the white sand beach on a island off the Florida Gulf Coast. This Christmas has been completely awesome, one of the best ever. The weather is beautiful, the beach is nearby, AND there are lizards. Lizards help make everything better.

We got in late at night, and when we woke up the next morning and hit the beach, Baby W was very confused. Happy, but confused. Where was the snow? Why was it so warm? Despite his confusion, or maybe because of it, he charged fearlessly into the ocean. He didn't have a single qualm about wading into chest-deep water. It would not surprise at all me to learn that he has big plans for swimming, including possibly swimming to Cuba. Here's David making sure Baby W stays on American shores and does not display his socialist tendencies any more than is absolutely necessary.

Seriously, I recommend that everyone spend Christmas on a beach in Florida. Except for Floridians, who might find it boring. They should probably head to Wisconsin and go snowmobiling instead.

It is fantastic to be able to walk around in warm weather, without all those layers of winter clothes that we have to wear back home in Wisconsin. I have been walking around with my arms outstretched, trying to expose a maximum amount of my body area to the warm air molecules, letting out the occasionally "oooooh." It's tempting to strip completely and roll around on the beach sand. I won't, though, because I don't want the lizards to see me naked.

How gorgeous is the weather? I'll tell you how gorgeous it is -- today we ran the air conditioning in the house my mom has rented for us, it was so warm. Doesn't that seem decadent? It seems so decadent I'm a little concerned God might strike us down. If there's anything that makes the Baby Jesus cry, it's running the air conditioning on Christmas.

We are staying right across the street from the beach, and today we went to the beach three separate times. We also swam in the tiny swimming pool in the back yard of the house where we're staying. Basically, we're going to be so waterlogged that we're going to turn into raisins by the end of the trip. But we will be very happy raisins. Raisins filled with Vitamin D.

There were a whole assortment of people on the beach on Christmas Day, and most of them seemed to be gay couples. In fact everywhere we went today we saw gay couples, and I started to suspect that today is actually Gay Christmas. I'm not sure when Heterosexual Christmas is. Maybe in March some time. It's probably a very boring holiday.

Merry Christmas from Florida from our family to yours (unless you are one of those godless heathens who destroy our once-great nation by saying things like "Happy Holidays.") And it probably goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway: Merry Christmas from the lizards.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I have found the secret to getting good sleep even when you have little kids! Are you ready for this? Here's what I do: I lay down with kids at 7 PM when they are going to bed, thinking of all the things I will accomplish when I get up. Somehow I manage to fool myself that I am capable of lying there in the dark without falling asleep. Apparently I am very gullible. So gullible I can even be fooled by myself. Hey self, did you know that "gullible" is not in the dictionary?

I last 30 or mayyyyybe 40 seconds before falling soundly asleep and then don't get out of bed until the alarm goes off the next morning. Of course, this means I spend the whole night sleeping in my work clothes, but I prefer to consider the glass half full, and think of this as being already dressed for the next day. It's really too bad I don't wear cosmetics because then I could wake up with a face all smeary and think of myself as pre-mascara'ed for the next day as well.

The result of all this beauty rest is that even though Baby W is a frequent waker, I manage to wring 8 good hours of sleep out of the 11 hours I spend in bed. However, all that time in bed means that very little else around here gets accomplished, including luxuries such as basic hygiene. Humans aren't meant to shower in the winter, right? I mean, hunter-gathers didn't have much in the way of heated hot water in frigid months so I  imagine they were content to stay dirty. Instead of following a Paleo diet, I'm going to start a new trend by following Paleo hygiene.

Anyway, one thing that I HAVE managed to accomplish recently was to get a Christmas tree. I accomplished this by telling David to take the kids and go get a tree. Delegation: how did I ever live without it?

Our family takes an urban approach to getting a Christmas tree. Rather than going out in the woods and chopping down a tree ourselves, we head to a nearby parking lot and buy a tree from a vendor selling a variety of stumpy pines. Last year, I even managed to take both kids to pick out a tree and then dragged the tree home behind us on a sled. This year, though, we have had only minimal snow, probably because God is punishing me for eating all the Thin Mints without letting the rest of my family know we even had any in the house. So we had to use the car to get the tree.

Stella decorated our tree, and hung as many ornaments as possible out of the reach of Baby W. We call this the Occupy Christmas Tree, because the top 1% of the tree is hogging way more than its fair share of the ornaments.

The next thing you know, the lower boughs of our Christmas tree will declare themselves the 99%, and then we will start hearing backlash about how those boughs are basically dirty hippies who need to suck it up and deal with the unpleasant realities of life. While I don't agree with those news stories at all, it's true that the "We Are The 99%" branches probably DO need to take a shower -- unless they're following the new Paleo Hygiene regimen, in which case it all makes perfect sense.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I see how it is. You like dirty vegetable pictures. While I don't have any more photos of carrots getting jiggy, I did run across this somewhat phallic eggplant recently. Is that smutty enough for you perverts?

Changing the subject: I call bullshit on this whole recession thing. Jobs deficit, my finely muscled, curvaceous yet firm, yielding yet sculpted white ass. If so many people are out of work, then why can't I find anyone to take care of my children? Once again, we're looking for someone to provide child care, and I'm disheartened to be revisiting this process once again. Right now, we're relying in large part on students, who have limited availability because -- and this is really frustrating -- they apparently want to go to class now and then. I thought we got rid of the whole "university" concept in the budget! Apparently we short-sightedly retained some fragment of the state's higher education system. How are we supposed to create jobs if we don't get these academic types out of the classroom and into the working world, stat?

The other person we rely on for child care is Maggie, who lucky for us is not a student. She has an infectious laugh, is just all-around awesome, and the kids just adore her. On a related note, David adores Maggie's husband, in part for his fabulous musical skills. Since the kids adore Maggie, and David adores Maggie's husband, I guess I'm going to have to find somebody else in Maggie's family to adore -- maybe her cat, for its advanced hairball hacking abilities.

As much as we would love to have Maggie take care of the kids all the time, we need somebody else to help out as well. And that's where things get tough, tougher than you would think in this economy. We're offering $13/hr to provide child care, yet I'm having difficulty finding suitable candidates! I'm not picky -- my minimum requirements include only a PhD in child development (no post-docs required!), 20 or more years working in a health care facility, and that a panel of theologians has recommended the candidate for canonization or at the very least beatification. It would also be helpful if he or she knows how to make play-dough.

So we're interviewing candidates for child care and revising work schedules once again. Keep your eye out for anyone who might be interested, okay? And in return, I promise to post pictures of any more pornographic vegetables I find.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


The various parts of the family have returned from their far-flung destinations. The kids and I returned from spending several days in Washington, DC, where I am sad to say we were NOT greeted at the airport by President Obama, which shows just how out of touch he is with America. How can he be serious about job creation when he couldn't even be bothered to meet us out for dinner?!

And David returned from attending a film festival in the Polish city of -- no joke -- Bydgoszcz. Ah, Bydgoszcz. Bydgoszcz! I just get a kick out of typing that name. It's almost like a parody of a Polish city name, like somebody sat down and tried to throw together a bunch of random letters and make it look Polish but went just a little too far, because seriously dude, nobody's going to believe that's a real city. But Bydgoszcz is in fact a real city, one that is the co-capital of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship, which I'm sure is a huge spring break destination, right up there with Cancun.

You know how people are always likening totally inappropriate cities to Paris? Detroit is the Paris of the Midwest, Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America, East St. Louis is the Paris of southern Illinois, Baruun-Urt is the Paris of Upper Mongolia. Well, I'd lay good money down that Bydgoszcz is the Paris of the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship.

David reports that he was exposed to a great deal of Polish culture in Bydgoszcz, especially the part of the Polish culture that is related to vodka. He also developed his Polish language skills -- in addition to being able to say "I'd like a beer please," he can now say "I'd like TWO beers, please."

And what did we return to? CARROT PORN. Here's what came in our first community supported agriculture vegetable box after we returned to Wisconsin:

Look, I'm all for local, organic produce we get in our CSA box, but I'd prefer local, organic produce that WEARS PANTS. And did you notice how it hangs a little to one side? I hear that's surprisingly common.

And then there's this gem. For crying out loud! Get a room!

My guess is that these carrots participated in abstinence-only sex ed in high school, and are now on their way to making baby carrots. How is it that the contents of my root cellar get more action than I do these days? I took my resentment out on the little lovebirds by shredding them and baking them into muffins.

Our little family is back together again, and back home, after travelling separately. Even though I'm glad to be back, I really enjoy traveling. The kids are very experienced travelers, and that helps make trips easier. In fact, I'm already looking forward to our next voyage. I'm thinking we need to make a trip to the Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship.

Friday, December 2, 2011



No, don't worry, we didn't get chickens. These are the neighbor's chickens. Urban chickens are all the rage here in Madison but I have the sense God gave a bird louse, and I know that chickens are bad news, no two ways about it. Chickens might be great if you live out in the country, but when you have a postage-stamp sized yard like we do, it makes no sense to devote a decent portion of it to animals that are messy, poop everywhere, and have to be watched closely lest they come to a bad end. I mean, that's what I have kids for. Chickens have all the negative aspects of children, without the tax benefits make the little darlings so appealing.

David was relieved -- very relieved -- to hear that I don't want chickens. For some reason, he was sure that I would want to get some. In retrospect, what I should have done is at least pretended to explore the idea of getting chickens, and then let David talk me out of exchange for getting something I want. "You're putting the kibosh on getting chickens, David? Okay, then how about a third baby instead? Take your time deciding... no hurry...."

We will never have chickens, but thank goodness for neighbors who ask us to chicken sit while they are away. Here are the kids getting out some chicken feed:

By the way, that chicken pecked Baby W's fat little finger and made him cry. I don't blame the chicken -- his finger bears more than a passing resemblance to a worm. But I wouldn't be surprised if Baby W develops a life-long aversion toward chickens. And a life-long love of chicken drumsticks.

I'm always a little nervous taking care of other people's animals. About two years ago, I was taking care of a neighbor's cat while the neighbor was away, and the cat DIED. Granted, the cat was elderly, but it was still a very unpleasant surprise when I went over to feed it and found it semi-conscious. After talking to the owner, I rushed the cat to the emergency 24-hour vet but it died anyway. Now, before I pet sit, I require a veterinarian's certificate of good health and three references. Notarized.

Shortly thereafter, I nearly had a similar experience with a fish. I was feeding a friend's beatta fish while she was away, and the fish was very lethargic and didn't want to eat. Basically, the fish was depressed and had lost the will to live. I was afraid it wasn't going to survive the length of her vacation, but nobody leaves me in charge of a $3 fish and doesn't come back to find a $3 fish, know what I mean? Fortunately the fish's seratonin reuptake inhibitors kicked in and and it perked up. Its survival might also have something to do with the Prozac I slipped into its water.

I'm glad other people living near us have chickens. First of all, I just like the idea of people raising chickens in urban spaces. I also like chicken-sitting because it allows my kids to have fun interactions with chickens with only a fraction of the amount of work that goes along with owning chickens. I hope our neighbors ask us to chicken sit again sometime soon, once they finish getting the veterinarian's certificate notarized.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


This morning, I got on a plane with the kids to fly from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania, to visit my mother. I have many friends who are surprised that I am so cavalier about flying solo with the kids, but my kids are very good travelers. And ever since I took them to New Zealand and back all by myself, I feel like any other air travel is a piece of cake by comparison. In fact, I get so cocky that I almost don't lower myself to bother to pack any entertainment for them for a "short" trip like going to Pennsylvania. Surely I can keep the kids occupied for nearly three hours using only a twistie-tie and the safety information card in the seat pocket, right?

We flew through O'Hare and guess what? EVERYTHING WENT FINE. That's hard to believe. In fact, it's impossible to believe. Maybe there was a rip in the time-space continuum and United actually spirited us away to a functional airport in a parallel universe. That seems way more likely.

I'm still a little conflicted about getting a cell phone, but one big advantage is that it allowed me to document the digital toilets in O'Hare:

Can you see? The toilet has a digital read-out that alerts you when it is finished changing the clear plastic cover on the toilet seat. In this case, it says "Changing Cover." This information is also readily available by actually LOOKING at the toilet. Legroom on planes has shrunk, it now costs big bucks to check a bag, and if you miss a connection it can take you days to get to your destination....but by golly, we have airplane toilets that talk can talk to us. So I guess it's all okay.

And because I just can't let this O'Hare toilet thing drop -- is there some need to have plastic wrap between my butt and the toilet seat? The other 99,999,999 times in life that I've used the toilet, I've just put my bare skin on the seat and managed to survive without getting some dreadful disease (although I do have strange scab I want to show you). I will grant you though, that I am not the most fastidious of bathroom users; of course I wash my hands, but I don't flush the toilet with my foot, and I don't put a paper towel on my hand when I open the bathroom door. I'll understand if the next time you see me, you don't shake my hand.

I don't want this post to be all negative, so I'll make sure I say something nice about O'Hare: um... ...I noticed they had a lot of bananas for sale. That seems healthy.
Actually, O'Hare has a very nice kids' play area, although they apparently don't want anyone to actually find it and play there, because it is quite well hidden. Being the experienced O'Harer that I am, though, I knew right where to go.

The play area has an aviation theme, with a jet (which Stella is exiting, above), boxes of cargo, a little control tower, and a pretend check-in counter. The kids has a blast running all around and pretending to be pilots and flight attendants. It was very sweet seeing the kids having such a good time using their imaginations. Iguess you could call the play area a functional airport in a parallel universe.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


If you felt the earth move this week, it was because I actually entered a retail establishment and participated in the consumer economy. Not for me -- after years of clothing Stella exclusively via hand-me-downs and purchases from second-hand stores I bit the bullet and went to Kohl's to get her some warm winter pants. I fully anticipate that my $32.67 purchase will invigorate the retail sector and give a boost to the economic recovery, thereby creating a significant number of jobs and insuring President Obama's re-election.

 Just imagine what would have happen if I had also bought socks!

This photo has nothing to do with anything, but you
must admit it's extremely cute.
Going shopping was traumatic, but I knew I had to do it before Thanksgiving. The period from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I mostly just cower in my house, crouching and rocking, with my hands over my eyes, muttering "So...much....traffic...." Any time I venture anywhere near the mall during the holiday season, I am flabbergasted by the sheer amount of cars on the road, all vying to get to Old Navy. I think it's because I don't have a lot of contact with consumer culture, so when I am exposed to it, I find it overwhelming. Slower activities are more my speed, like maybe churning butter. Or hitching up the mules to the plow.

We also tried to buy Stella some new shoes. I say "try," because Baby W was in heaven when he saw the boxes of shoes on the shelves, many of which he emptied onto the floor. By the time I had decided that there weren't any shoes that fit Stella properly, he had made such a mess that I considered invoking the Walk Away Clause. This is appropriate when you are in a public place and your child has a head start on making a mess, so while you are trying to clean up, your child is making additional messes. In other words, if you clean up mess n, your child will have created mess n+1 during this time. If this happens, the best thing you can do is pick up your child and Walk Away. Quickly.

I actually did not invoke the Walk Away Clause when it came time to leave, but instead shoved random shoes into random boxes and stacked them on random shelves. If you open a box and inside find a size 2 mary jane and a size 5 sneaker, you'll know we were there. That's Baby W's calling card.

Another cute, random photo
Finally we had selected our merchandise and I went to check out. But then I was offered a discount if I signed up for the store credit card. You know how a bird that is trapped inside a building will beat itself against a closed window? I felt the same way -- so close to heading out the door, yet trapped  at the checkout counter while my desire to flee battled with, and ultimately lost to, my desire to save 15%. I doubt that trapped bird would hit its head on the window so hard if it knew it could also get on the mailing list for valuable coupons.

The bottom line is that I managed to go out and buy my daughter a few pairs of pants at the store, something many people manage to accomplish every weekend. Still, it was a new experience for me. I learned a few things -- for starters, if I ever do this again, I need to bring a stroller to contain Baby W. But I figure I won't need to return to the store anytime soon, hopefully not until well into 2012. In the meantime, I'm going to go darn some socks.

Saturday, November 19, 2011


David has jetted off to Los Angeles for work, where he is busy rubbing shoulders with big shots in the movie industry, sealing deals, and making lots of money. Except for possibly that last part.

His job is really in flux these days, and his income too. We've taken quite a hit to the bottom line, which I am hoping will be temporary. There's something seriously wrong with the picture when I'm the one pulling down the big bucks in the family, considering I don't even work full time, and I work for a nonprofit organization. However, the other day somebody called me a "super-warrior for democracy" in my work role, and although she was half-joking, that gave me at least a couple grand worth of satisfaction.

And if you can stand one more bit of whining, all this "flux" in David's job ("flux" comes from the Latin word for "bullshit") means that we have switched to the health insurance provided by my job, which costs us nearly $1,000 per month in out of pocket premium costs. That's exactly as much as my first job out of college paid per month, but unfortunately my health insurance premium cost does not fetch coffee for the boss OR make photocopies.

This photo is old, and not relevant at all
to this post. However, its cuteness
transcends its irrelevance.
One of the things that David missed by being away was Stella's first-ever dance recital. (It might be more appropriate to say that he "got to miss" her recital.) This was a large, fairly industrial affair, with probably a dozen groups of kids performing one after another. Many of the parents had brought flowers to give to their little dancers afterwards, which struck me as excessive considering that each group's performance was only a few minutes long. But we managed to make it through the entire performance without any little kids either bursting into tears on stage or wetting their pants, so perhaps that's a bouquet-worthy performance right there.

I would say half the time the kids were on stage was spent actually dancing. The other half was spent wandering aimlessly around the stage, trying to remember exactly what it was they were supposed to be doing. There was considerable confusion on stage, interspersed with occasional bursts of manic dancing. The whole scene reminded me of Herman Cain's interview about Libya, where he seems to be trying to remember if "Libya" is one of the women he is accused of sexually harassing.

The other thing that David "missed" is Stella's second birthday party. I'm a firm believer in multiple birthday parties, especially when it involves cute little kids who are turning six years old. (For the record, I'm also a staunch proponent of multiple breakfasts, especially when at least one involves French toast.) Last weekend Stella had her "official" birthday party, with gifts and a bunch of friends from kindergarten; tomorrow, we're having the kids on the block over for cake and ice cream. I was the one who set the dates, made the arrangements, invited the kids, and baked the cupcakes. Stella is lucky that I'm in the picture, because if everything was up to David, he would show up with a doughnut on her birthday, jam a candle into it, and call it good.

David comes home tomorrow, and of course we'll all be very happy to see him. I know he'll be very happy to be back, considering that his time in Los Angeles is often pretty harried. I also know he's very grateful to me for cheerfully and competently holding down the fort when he's away, and taking good care of his beloved children. He better be bringing me a bouquet.

Thursday, November 17, 2011


RRRRREEEE-CALL! The effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has begun. Organizers have 60 days to gather at least 540,000 signatures. To put that in perspective, that's 9,000 signatures per day, or about as many cats as I plan to adopt once David leaves me and I have free rein to become a crazy cat lady.

(David has put a hard cap on the number of cats we can have, at two. I totally respect the limits he has set, except for an extended period when I interpreted the number two as meaning "actually, four.")

In the first 48 hours of the recall, organizers are reporting they have already collected 50,000 signatures, including mine. In fact I started to get a little panicky when I didn't sign a petition on the very first day of the recall period. What if I got very busy and then couldn't find a petition to sign on any of the next 59 consecutive days?! Fortunately one of my work colleagues passed around a petition and put my mind at rest. David, on the other hand has decided he is "saving" his signature for when the organizers "really need it." Feel free to tell  him this makes no sense at all. I certainly have.

The fact that organizers have managed to get 50,000 signatures in the first 48 hours boggles my mind. That is a lot of signatures! Especially in Wisconsin, because perhaps you didn't know, but not that many people live in Wisconsin. There are basically three densely populated areas -- Milwaukee, Madison, and the Fox Valley -- and the rest of the state is inhabited only by nomads with camels. Also, this time of year, people tend to block out politics and instead pay attention to the really important things in life: Packers and deer season. 

They like a nice havarti.
I wonder if you could somehow rig it so you could shoot a deer while you were watching the Packers? And also perhaps while you ate cheese (or the deer ate cheese). That would truly be the consummate Wisconsin experience.

I'm thankful for the organizers who are putting together this massive recall effort, but I don't have any desire to join them. My first job after college involved working for a Congressional campaign, and I found it thrilling for the first two weeks and then deadly boring for the rest of the time. That experience turned me off of getting involved in any other directly partisan activities. Unless you count running my mouth as a partisan activity, which, frankly, you probably should.

And as long as we're on the topic of politics, I hate to admit it but I am mildly confounded by Republican candidates with the similar names of "McCain" and "Cain" running for president in consecutive elections. It's hell getting old.

I'll be curious to see whether organizers can successfully gather the necessary signatures to force a recall election. Of course I am no fan of Governor Walker, so I hope that the end result is a change in leadership for Wisconsin. I hope that organizers get enough signatures, that another candidate runs against Governor Walker and defeats him, and that the new governor takes Wisconsin in another direction. I also hope, one day, to see a deer eating cheese. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011


At one point, was I actually convinced I could post every day for a whole month? That all seems like a bad dream to me now. Apparently posting five whole days in a row really tuckered me out, because I needed a week's vacation to recover. Here's the moral of the story: find a schedule and stick to it. Or here's another possible moral: for god's sake have a little pride and if you vow to post every day for month, then at least make it to a week before you throw in the towel.

Changing the subject -- guess what? My little girl is six years old, can you believe it? Her birthday party was today. She invited a bunch of old and new friends, and it was fun to see some familiar parent faces and meet some new parents. I particularly enjoyed the fact that one parent mentioned that his law firm had five (FIVE) lawsuits pending against Governor Walker's administration, and another little kid came late because his father had to finish up his preparatory training  for the Recall Walker effort.

Ah, Madison.

Here is Stella at her party, blowing out the candles. I have to admit that she originally picked out a blue plaid fleece and pink leopard print pants to wear to the party. I made her change, squelching her creativity once again. When she's in fashion school, she's going to cuss me every which way.

Speaking of fashion, it turns out that if you are a little boy with an older sister, you get dressed up a lot. Baby W enjoys dressing up as well, although he also enjoys flushing an entire roll of toilet paper down the toilet, square by square, so I wouldn't necessarily put a lot stock in his opinion of what is fun.

Here are some of Baby W's best dress-up looks. There's the Babushka Cowboy. He's riding the turnips out on the great prairies of the Ukraine. Actually, if you look closely you can see that he's also wearing beads, so perhaps this look would best be called the Babushka Cowboy Goes to Mardi Gras.

By the way, David and I once had a lengthy discussion as to whether the word babushka referred to an elderly Russian grandmother (which is what I thought) or an attractive Russian woman (which is what David thought.) Of course I was right, but as a result of having the conversation, now _I_ can't remember what babushka means. It's like David has infected me with his confusion. I realize after 15 years together there are bound to be ups and downs but this one is definitely going on the gripe list.

Here's another look of Baby W's. You might call this one Barrette-o-mania:

And a little something called the Jackie O. You can just barely see David behaving like paparazzi in the background. And is it me, or does Baby W have a little sassy cock to his hip? Few people know that Jackie O had a soft spot for Thomas the Tank Engine.

Clearly I wasn't cut out for posting every day. But I've recovered from my brief burst of ambition, and now hope to return to my normal twice-a-week schedule. And then go ride the turnips, out on the range.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Okay, look. I know I vowed to post every day for a month, as part of National Blog Posting Month, but FORGET IT. I'm realizing now that daily posting is far beyond my capabilities at this point in time. I'm going to fall far short of my goal, but I'm keeping in mind the old adage, "If at first you don't succeed...move the goal posts." In that vein, I'm declaring this National Blog Posting Week, or maybe National Blog Posting Couple of Days.

Mission accomplished.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


In case you were wondering life is like at our house, this video pretty much says it all.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Did I say I was going to be posting every day for a month? I think what I meant that I was going to be posting every day for a week. Yes, that must have been it. Because I'm four days into November, and already I'm having problems envisioning how I'm going to keep this up for much longer. It turns out -- and this is something I learned just recently -- that months have a lot of days in them, sometimes as many as 30. Who knew?

And the problem is that I'm busy. I got a shit-ton of things to do, and I'm not even counting laundry. I'm simply blocking laundry from my mind at this point. You could say I've moved it off-budget, much like Social Security. Putting the clean clothes away seems to be the biggest hurdle, so I am proposing that we simply have one giant pile of clean clothes in the laundry room and family members can find their way there when they need to get dressed in the morning. It's what we wind up doing most days anyway, so there's no reason we can't make that the official house policy. 

The other thing that I need to do, hopefully yet tonight, is get David some business cards. There have been a lot of changes in David's professional world recently, one of which is that he has semi-voluntarily cut loose from the company for which he worked for 15 years. He is now a freelance writer, a profession that we're finding pays about the same as ditch-digging but doesn't have the advantage of working in the great outdoors. As part of his new circumstances, he'll need to be rounding up his own business and working to promote himself, hence his need for business cards. I'm not sure exactly what needs to go on the cards, but I think he needs to make sure he plays to his strengths. Here's my first draft:

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I know, Halloween is old news at this point, and we're all looking forward to the next holiday with new and exciting opportunities to eat ourselves into Type II diabetes, but I do have to tell you that when someone asked David what he was for Halloween, he said "an aging hippie."

I have to say he pretty much nailed it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


There's a lot to be said for living in a neighborhood of well-educated liberals, even if they are rabid job killers who want to destroy the American way of life by engaging in class warfare. Many of my neighbors are public employees, like teachers, cops, and scientists. You know -- the people responsible for the current economic downturn.

I myself work in the nonprofit sector, which means I've never been clear about the role I've played in causing the economy to collapse. I don't work for a private business, so I'm not a job creator. Yet I'm not one of the "job eaters" in the private sector. Maybe I could create jobs on Mondays and Wednesdays, and destroy them on Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays I could go golfing or something.

My point is that my neighbors are dangerous, evil thugs. They even admit it.

But damn, they give great candy. My neighborhood is just the perfect demographic for a serious Halloween candy haul. Every doorbell Stella rang resulted in a neighbor dumping literally handfuls of mini-candy bars into her plastic pumpkin. And this was quality material, concentrated at the top of the Halloween Quality Candy Ranking.

Don't know about the HQCR? It ranks Halloween candy from highest quality to lowest quality, like this:
[VERY HIGH QUALITY] Snickers, Milky Ways
[MODERATELY HIGH] Starburst, but only the pink ones, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
[EH] Anything with both chocolate, which I love, and coconut, which I hate.
[SEMI-GRODY] Any candy shaped like a body part. We -- er, I mean the kids -- got candy shaped like eyeballs, ears, and bones.
[ONLY TO BE EATEN IN CASE OF EXTREME CANDY EMERGENCY] Stuff that got squished or was already open.

The great thing is that Stella has yet to develop a thorough understanding of the HQCR. She likes weird shit like SweetTarts best. This allows her guardians to skim off the cream of her stash without significant objections from her. I suppose, as her mother, it's my job to help her learn right from wrong and high quality Halloween candy from the dregs. And I might.

Next year.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


I've decided to participate in a project called NaBloPoMo, a shorthand version of the phrase "National Blog Posting Month." People participating in this project vow to post once every day for the entire month of November. I think this could be a fun, rewarding project, although I admit I wavered between choosing the blog posting project and the project where you spend the month of November trying to win the Nobel award for economics. In the end, I decided to play to my strengths.

Plus, economics was not among the original areas in which Nobel prizes were awarded. Which, to be honest, cheapens the prize. (Just a little, but enough.)

One side effect of posting every day is that my postings will be shorter. See, that's just what the world needs right now -- shorter, more frequent bursts of information. Already this is too long. Did you already check your iPhone to see if you got a text?

I'll say farewell until tomorrow -- but as a parent I would be out of compliance with the Halloween Cuteness Act of 1987, one of the last truly bipartisan acts passed by Congress, if I didn't post a picture of our trick-or-treat activities.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


God knows, I am no clean freak. I believe that a little bit of dirt never hurt anybody, and I don't mind a little clutter. Sometimes, when my bedding gets a little gritty from kids climbing all over the bed while still wearing their dirty shoes, I get out the broom and sweep the beds rather than actually changing the bedding. It's either that, or I convince myself that the grit is actually an expensive skin exfoliant, and I'm lolling at a luxury spa.

Despite the fact that I rarely use one, I do have an appreciation for a good vacuum cleaner. There's just something so pleasurable about watching all the dirt get sucked up. So when I am very rich, I plan to have a very fancy vacuum cleaner. Of course, since I will be rich, I won't actually use the vacuum cleaner myself, but I want to keep the help happy.

Although I don't mind a little mess in the house, it's still disconcerting to come home from the office, to come back to the bosom of my family after engaging in hectic public life, to return to my sanctuary and find this:

I would have thought the house was ransacked, except that we own very little that is worth ransacking for. If robbers came to our house, they would take a look at our lack of big screen television, iPad, Kindle, iPhone, DVR, surround-sound stereo system, and conclude either that our house had previously been robbed of everything of value, or that we were Amish. The kind of Amish that own a dishwasher.

David, who was in charge of the kids while this mess got generated, is much more tolerant of chaos and clutter than I am. He believes that before the kids go to bed, it's folly to make even a minimum of effort towards cleaning up the house, since they will just mess it up again. Of course, using his logic, it's also useless to pick up after the kids go to bed, since they'll just mess it up the next day. Basically, David believes we should just wait until Baby W turns 18 and then set the house on fire and start anew.

His approach does have a certain appeal.

This photo shows our house at its peak of messiness. Normally it's much cleaner than that. Our car, on the other hand, is unrelentingly filthy and cluttered. Once again, David has a narrative that allows him to justify the mess. He believes that it's a good thing to have the car filled to the windows with the detritus of family life, like board books, single socks, crusts of peanut butter sandwiches, and crumpled art projects, because in theory if you were away from home and found yourself in need of a particular object, you  might be able to find it among the 7,000 other objects in the car. In other words, if I'm ever away from home and have an emergency and need a dried-up banana peel and a crushed Culver's cup right away, I'll know where to look. (Under the passenger seat.)

The tornado that went through the house today exceeded even David's tolerance for disorder, and we both agreed that we needed to make a clean space for our family with a minimum of effort. So it sounds like David and I are on the same page: rather than cleaning up, it's probably easiest to just move.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


David and I are celebrating our 15-year anniversary this month. Can you believe it?! I'm still amazed that after all this time, David and I still enjoy each other's company. At least, I think we do. We never actually get the opportunity to enjoy each other's company due to the constant drumbeat of "Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!" but I assume that were we given the chance to actually talk once in a while, we would find it pleasant. If we ever had the remotest chance to slip away alone together and do anything more extensive than talking, I assume I would find THAT more than pleasant too. Well, a girl has to have her crazy dreams.

By the way, one unfortunate side effect of Stella starting kindergarten is that she is learning to spell. This means that David and I are no longer able to use spelling out words as a method of communicating with each other without having Stella understand. So now, David and I have to get really creative, and say things to each other like "Hey, if the kids go to bed early, maybe we can get together and eat spinach," and then wink at each other. Poor Stella -- when she grows up she's going to wonder why her parents had such a leafy green vegetable fetish.

Here's David and I at our 15-year anniversary dinner out on the town:

If you're wondering why David isn't smiling for the camera, it's because he was born in the late 1800s, before smiling in photographs became the cultural norm. Back when David learned to pose for photos, cameras had just been invented and the exposure times were so long that people found it uncomfortable to hold a smile. And if you are wondering why I look a tiny bit deranged in this photo, it's because I've been in a 15-year relationship with someone who doesn't believe in smiling for photographs.

We ate at tiny restaurant in our neighborhood, a restaurant so small that we were the only customers. There was only one person working there, who both waited on us and cooked the food. Unfortunately, the meal was pretty mediocre. And the small scale of the restaurant made it almost impossible for David and me to discuss the poor quality of the food with each other, because the cook/waiter/owner/dishwasher was never more than a few feet away. I almost felt like we needed to use code to prevent him from eavesdropping on us. Basically, it was the same issue that we have when we try to communicate without having Stella understand us, except that Stella doesn't make her caldo verde soup nearly as salty.

After our so-so dinner, David and I went to a movie! Yes! There were TWO grown-up activities on our anniversary night out, brought to us courtesy of my sister, who was babysitting our kids. David and I went to see Moneyball, which I enjoyed very much despite being convinced that watching baseball is technically a form of torture perfected by the CIA to inflict on enemy combatants.

Watching the movie, I felt like Brad Pitt reminded me of someone, but I couldn't quite put my finger on who. Then halfway through, I realized oh! He looks a little bit like David! After 15 years together, if your wife thinks you and Brad Pitt share a physical resemblance, I think things are going okay.

Yes, there have been ups and downs, but I feel like we're going pretty strong considering we've been together for 15 years. We are still able to make each other laugh and we're having fun raising our kids together. And you never know, one of these years we might get even a chance to eat some leafy greens.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Mother Nature has really given us some beautiful weather this fall, particularly on the weekends. This has made for idyllic trips to the park with the kids, crunching through fallen leaves. But as any long-time resident of Wisconsin knows, weather is a zero sum game. There's only a certain number of degrees in the universe, and if we use them all up in October, then we'll have to go without any in winter. A 70 degree day in October increases our chances of having one of those days in January where you're afraid to blink because your eyelashes might freeze shut.

And if we have a 70 degree October day on a Saturday, then we're doubly screwed. That means we'll have snowdrifts well into June.

Whereas normally, the snowdrifts are almost completely gone by Memorial Day.

Wisconsin: Tropical Paradise

I've been checking the weather forecast a  lot online before going out, since it's been so variable lately. Yesterday when I checked the forecast, it said in big red letters "SEVERE WEATHER ALERT!" Really? Like, hail or something? Yet the sky seemed pretty clear. Then I read further and learned that the SEVERE WEATHER ALERT referred to a frost warning. A frost warning, whoa! Put the kids in the storm cellar, and batten down the hatches, Pa! I think the basil's a goner!

Unfortunately I was unable to fully enjoy the gorgeous weather yesterday because I was more or less a zombie from lack of sleep. My precious little Baby W Snookums-Wookums, who is a fantastic little kid, has just one single fault (other than he thinks it's really funny to drink the bathwater after he has peed in it), and that is that he's an awful night-time sleeper.

Mr. 10-Wakeups Per Night

 I've chronicled Baby W's poor sleep (and by extension, my poor sleep) before, and complained fairly extensively about it on Facebook, to the point now where the first thing friends do when they see me is get a very concerned, kindly look on their faces and say, "How ARE you doing?" and pat my shoulder. And the second thing they do is then walk away briskly, because they're afraid they might catch the poor-sleeping kid bug from me. You never know, it might be contagious. I'd do the same in their shoes.

Since I was fairly wrecked by a rough night, David kindly took the kids to the park in the afternoon while I laid down and pretended to take a nap. But I couldn't sleep. What kind of unjust world is this, in which there is suffering and pain, in which evil triumphs over good, in which we are conscious of our mortality, and in which someone is incapable of taking a nap when given the opportunity?

My grandmother always said that lying down with your eyes closed was basically as good as taking a nap. I'm here to tell you that grandmotherly wisdom aside, that claim is completely and utterly bogus. How could lying down with your eyes closed come even close to having the benefit that a nap would? That doesn't even make sense! My grandmother knew how to pluck a chicken, though, so I'm going to give her a pass on this one.

There have been some tiny glimmers of hope. Once every two weeks or so, Baby W sleeps a solid 6 hour stretch, so I know he's capable of doing it. I'm holding out hope that we can find some mutually agreeable arrangement that will improve my sleep, that I will be able to minimize any associated unhappiness on the part of Baby W, and that we can work through this as a family. I'm beyond holding out hope for the basil, though. It's toast.

Thursday, October 20, 2011


Last month I embarked on the most basic of sewing projects: making my niece a hat. This project had two results: 1) a hat, and 2) some really creative profanity on my part. When I dig out the sewing machine, I like to think of it as a fun mother-daughter project I do with Stella, but in reality I spend most of the time beseeching David for help and muttering swear words under my breath. But very quietly. Like this: "Fuuuuuuuuuucccckkk."

You have to admit, though, that the results of this project turned out pretty cute. Now, I grant you, this is already an awfully cute baby, but I think the hat enhances her cuteness by another 1% or so:

What? What's that, you say? You need more cuteness? All right, you asked for it, but don't say I didn't warn you. Here she is again, in the hat: 

Yeah. That was too much cuteness, wasn't it? I didn't think you could handle it.

Yesterday we got out the sewing machine and made another version of this hat for Stella. She was home sick from school, so we did quiet activities like reading, cooking, and sewing. The poor girl was not feeling good at all. I could tell, because she was extra nice to her brother. She just didn't have the energy necessary to give him a good clock on the head. Now THAT is sick. 

This morning, Stella still wasn't 100%, as evidenced by the fact that waited until nearly 7:30 AM to push Baby W down. I let her sleep in but then bundled her off to school mid-morning. If she's going to get into Yale, she can't be lolling around the house.

Actually, now that I think about it, we did do flash cards when she was home sick. That might help make up for the day of kindergarten she missed. Okay, Yale is back on the table. 

And you know what she missed at school when she was home sick? A field trip! How awful is that? The first field trip of kindergarten, which was to a pumpkin patch, and Stella missed it. Instead of cavorting with her peers through a field of pumpkins, Stella had a different kind of field trip: because she was home sick, she had to come along with Baby W, David, and me to the closing for refinancing our house. That's what adults do instead field trips -- we go downtown and sit at a conference table and sign documents for an hour non-stop. 

I'm keeping my fingers crossed that whatever bug Stella had doesn't cross over and infect the rest of the family. I think the chances are good that we can remain healthy, because stomach viruses don't seem to make that leap. On the other hand, when one of the kids gets a cold, I invariably catch it, possibly because when they have colds both kids wind up covered with an inch-thick layer of mucus over their entire face, making a mockery of any modest attempts at hand-washing or other germ-evading maneuvers. Hopefully Stella will be back to her normal ebullient self soon, and back on a schedule where she makes her brother cry no later by 6:30 AM. She'll need to be, if she wants to make it into Yale.

Saturday, October 15, 2011


Well, I haven't humiliated myself in this space for, gosh, days and DAYS. So naturally it's time for an update on how my gymnastics class is going.

I'm taking a gymnastics class for adults, along with my sister and her boyfriend. The class is a lot of fun, and it's a fantastic workout for muscles that I don't normally use. The only disadvantage is that all the spinning and turning upside down, especially when combined with strenuous physical exertion, makes me want to vomit. But I mean that in the nicest possible way.

Out of our gymnastics class has arisen a Plan, developed by my sister. You know it's trouble when a Cornelius gets a Plan into his or her head, and this case is no different. For Christmas, all my siblings, their significant others, their children, and my mother and stepfather are headed for Florida, for a lovely winter vacation underwritten by my mother. My sister has decided that we (meaning her, her boyfriend, and me) should all do handstands at the same time together on the beach, and document it by having someone take a picture. I'm thinking we could get the photo blown up to life size and then mounted on posterboard.

We refer to this course of action as the Handstand Plan. Although my sister had the idea in the first place, I love it and am enthusiastically promoting it. The only problem, of course, it that the Handstand Plan requires that all three of us be able to do decent handstands by December 25th. DETAILS!

To help advance the Handstand Plan, we have been hitting the gym occasionally between classes to help practice our technique. Last time we went, I took along the camera. I had been wanting to take a short video of my cartwheel, to see what I looked like. First I took a short video of my sister's boyfriend:

I call that not too bad. But then again, I believe the red hair means he is part leprechaun, so naturally he is good at tumbling and flipping due to all the tricks he has to perform to lure people away from his pot of gold. Apparently, during the first gymnastics class, the drawstring to his shorts broke right in the middle of a gymnastics maneuver he was completing, and he literally flipped out of his shorts. I'm very sorry I missed that class. It reminds me of my prenatal yoga class, when I missed the session when one woman's water broke right during class.

And then here's my sister and her cartwheel:

Not so hot, right? And then here's mine:

I was really bummed after seeing my cartwheel on video. In my mind, I was doing a half-decent cartwheel. Now that I've seen the video, I realize I look like a frog someone needs to put out of its misery.

So my cartwheel is highly questionable. Big deal. I've got a killer forward roll.

All this talk about cartwheels is fine, but it's the Handstand Plan, not the Cartwheel Plan. So how's my handstand? I'm happy to say that yes, I can do one. Feast your eyes:

Anyone who can actually do gymnastics, please refrain from pointing out the 37 things I am no doubt doing wrong in that photo. I'm upside down, my arms are straight. IT FUCKING COUNTS, OKAY?!?

Whether we'll actually be able to pull off the Handstand Plan is anybody's guess. All three of us can do at least a so-so handstand, but getting upside down all that the same time is going to be the sticking point. In the meantime, we'll keep going to class and practicing our handstands and cartwheels. And if the Handstand Plan proves to be ultimately beyond our reach, I already have an idea for Plan B. I call it the Forward Roll Plan.

Monday, October 10, 2011


Good lord, was that the most beautiful weekend ever, or what? It was almost 80 degrees here, and fantastically sunny. We took advantage of the wonderful weather to go apple picking. If there's anything cuter than going apple picking with two little kids, I demand to know what it is. (Maybe if baby kittens went apple picking....?)

Baby W made it his goal to take one bite (and only one bite) out of every single apple in the entire orchard. And then roll them in dirt.

Last year when we made our annual apple-picking pilgrimage, I picked a whole shit-ton of apples, and then made applesauce. Which no one would eat but me. I like applesauce, and I like the applesauce I made, but I learned my lesson. This year there is no way that I am going to cook up, puree, and then can a whole bunch of apples when the stuff from the store tastes just as good. I just have no gumption in that area. If I lived on the frontier, where you have to do things like can applesauce as a matter of survival, I would probably starve. And I would probably starve with cold feet, because rather than shearing the sheep, spinning the yarn, and darning my socks I would probably just try to buy new ones on Amazon, which of course didn't exist yet. 

Apple picking was especially appropriate because Stella is in the midst of unit in school that is all about apples. This means she counts apples, she practices writing the word apple, and she learns about the uses of apple. Stella's teacher talked about how apples are sometimes peeled, so now Stella is always trying me to get to peel our apples at home. And I refuse to peel apples. First, it's morally wrong to peel apples. Right? It's like cutting the crusts off of sandwiches. You just don't do that unless you lack a serious ethical compass. Second, WE'RE IN A RECESSION. EAT YOUR APPLE PEELS. 

By the way, Stella brought home a little "I Can Read" book from kindergarten, that she "made" by stapling together pre-printed pages. One page proclaimed, "I can read letters," and it had a bunch of letters, and another page said "I can read numbers," with some numbers surrounding it. And another page said "I can read signs," and it had a KMart logo and a McDonald's logo. Gee, thanks, school! You just undid the five years of work I put in into making sure that Stella was one of just 17 children worldwide who did not know the McDonald's logo! I worked my butt off to shield Stella from one of the world's most omnipresent symbols, representing the corporate promotion of unhealthy habits, and then kindergarten goes and blows it in the first week. Plus, KMart? Look, if we're going to brainwash Stella by exposing her to corporate logos in the educational setting, can we at least get someplace halfway classy? How about Macy's?

Anyway, I had a great time apple picking with my two lovely children, at least one of whom does not recognize the McDonald's logo. The orchard also offered horse-drawn hayrides, which we didn't have time for this weekend. We also didn't have time to take advantage of the pumpkin picking. But I'm thinking that next weekend we can head out to another farm for more fall harvest fun. And this time I'm definitely bringing the baby kittens.

Friday, October 7, 2011


My brain functions much differently than it did before I had kids. Now I expend my limited brain power on much different topics. Here's a chart showing the types of things I thought about before I had kids:

And now that I have kids, here's how things stand:

One of the main reasons I spend so much time thinking about sleep is that the sleep that I do get is complete crap. (Would that fall into the "sleep" portion of the pie chart or the "poop" slice?) Despite showing early promise, Baby W has proven to be a very temperamental sleeper, who wakes up at the drop of a hat. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that he wakes at the literal drop of a hat, since the tiniest sound can wake him. The sound of someone dropping a hat in China could wake him, especially if it was one of those bamboo ones shaped like cones, as I imagine those are quite noisy when dropped.

I don't like getting woken up three or four times a night by Baby W, but I am resigned to the fact that he is still very small, and I'm holding out hope that his sleep will improve soon. But I do get quite irritated when Stella adds to the problem by waking me up another time or two. Too many wakeups makes it hard for me to get through the day, and I can only spend so much time dozing at work face down on the keyboard before my boss will begin to suspect something.

After one night when the kids seemed to be in competition as to who could wake me up the most, I staggered downstairs in the morning and wrote out a list of night time rules for Stella. Then I posted the rules on the bedroom door, much the way Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the church door. Or as Martin Luther would have, if he had had access to Scotch tape:

I realize you can't actually read the rules from that photo, so I'll summarize:
1. Don't wake me up in the middle of the night.
2. No seriously, don't wake me up.
3. Look, I'm not kidding. If I don't start getting some sleep around here I am really going to lose it. Do not wake me unless it's an emergency.
4. "My pillow is crooked" is not an emergency.

By the way, when David and I were discussing the new rules, he told me that in school he and his friends referred to Martin Luther's demands as the "95 Feces." David's parents were not well off, but they scrimped and saved and pinched pennies so they could send him to Catholic school, where they thought he would get a superior religious and academic education. Little did they know that he would repay them by thinking up obscene nicknames for important historical events.

As an aside: I have retained very little about Martin Luther from my high school history days, but I do remember the Diet of Worms. "Diet" refers to a type of assembly, and Worms is the city in Germany at which the assembly took place, at which Martin Luther had to defend his habit of eating nightcrawlers. Diet of Worms! Diet of Worms! You know, I could just say that all day long, although naturally I would want to take a break in order to say Imperial Diet of Worms! which, according to Wikipedia, is technically the correct way to refer to the body. I imagine that the sign welcoming visitors to the city of Worms gets stolen all the time. Probably Martin Luther stole the sign himself.

Okay, I feel like I'm getting some blank looks here. Does anybody else remember the Diet of Worms? Anybody? One thing I like about David is that by golly I can count on him to know about topics like the Diet of Worms. Of course, I can also count on him to launch into a comprehensive, not all that interesting description of the Diet of Worms and the effect it had on later...sorry, I stopped paying attention.

Are the new night time rules going to have any effect on improving my sleep? My guess is that I will be able to work with Stella to cut back on the number of times she wakes me up, but I really have no idea as to when Baby W's sleep will improve. Mostly I'm just trying to hang in there and hope that the problem solves itself with time. Until then, I'll continue my over-reliance on caffeine and do whatever it takes to get through the day. And by all means, I'm going to avoid a Diet of Worms.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


There's a new wrinkle in Stella's kindergarten experience, which is that she is being moved to a new classroom, with a different teacher. It turns out there were so many kindergarteners that the school needed to open an additional section of kindergarten in order to make classroom sizes manageable, and Stella got tapped to make the switch to a  new classroom.  Given the size of the cuts in education funding that he championed, I am holding Governor Scott Walker responsible for the overly large size of her original classroom, as well as anything bad that occurs in her school experience, up to and including lukewarm school milk and any gravel she may get in her shoe on the playground.

I had heard that Stella's new teacher was originally from Chicago. Ho ho! Now there ought to be a teacher who knows how to keep classroom order. I figured she'd have any rowdy boys trussed and hogtied before nap time rolled around. Basically, I was picturing Brian Urlacher but with that really nice handwriting that kindergarten teachers always seem to have.

When I finally got a chance to meet the new teacher, I was surprised by how soft-spoken she was. I have heard nothing but good things about her. David is less certain, but I keep trying to reassure him that although he may have suspicions, he has no solid evidence that she is a Bears fan. Remember: innocent until proven guilty.

Here's Stella in her new classroom:

Stella has also been bringing her school work home. It's fun to see her writing skills improving, and always amusing to get a glimpse of how she portrays her home life. The other day she brought home a book that she had made in class, all about her family. As part of the assignment, she had to draw pictures of each person in her family. She pretty much nailed it. In case you've never met David or I, that is exactly what our hair looks like, to the point where here drawing could almost be classified as photo-realism.

I do feel a bit sorry for Baby W, though, who got completely left out of the count of family members, and is represented either not at all in the drawing or by an insignificant doodle in the bottom corner that might also be an orange peel.

And in case you're wondering why Stella drew herself with two arms up above legs down below, I was originally going to say that it is because she is part arthropod. But after looking at the Wikipedia entry, I realize that it would be much more accurate to say that she is actually part hexapod. See, you learn new things about your kids all the time.

Stella's move to a new classroom means she has left some old friends behind, but there will be plenty of opportunity to make new friends. She likes the new teacher very much, and so far from what I've seen, the dynamics of the new classroom seem favorable. My expectation is that she will complete the transition to the new classroom without a hitch. If she does have problems, though, you can be sure that I will hold Governor Walker accountable.

Monday, October 3, 2011


My mom visited this weekend. Here's my beautiful mother:

She's the source of the curly hair gene in our family. Well, she passed down the curly hair, my father passed down the genes for hair that sticks straight out like a mad scientist who put his finger in a lightbulb socket, and I split the different perfectly. Ah, genetics.

The kids were excited to see my mother. I have worked hard to help the kids develop a deep-seated respect for their elders, so naturally they greeted my mother while wearing underwear on their heads. Look, a Tiger Mother I am not.

Whenever my mother visits, she always takes us shopping. This is somewhat of a joke because I intensely dislike shopping under most circumstances, although when I go with my mother and sister it's really quite fun. David was surprised to see me cheerfully head out to the mall, but I told him not to worry, that I'd probably only buy three or four pairs of Mahalo Blaniks. That would probably throw a little more fear into his soul if I actually knew how to pronounce that shoe brand, the really expensive one that people wear on Sex in the City. Mahelo Blahnicks. Maloho Blahinsk. You know what I mean. 

Joking aside, Stella actually does have an eye for fancy shoes. Here she is at Kohls, trying on suede peach platform high heels that had a zipper up the back. To complete the outfit, she is wearing a Cookie Monster stocking hat. Fashion sense like that has to be born, not made.

My goal for the shopping trip was to get a pair of winter boots. REAL winter boots, not those fake Ugg-style so-called boots. Those might work if you're worried about looking good while engaging in some fairly undemanding activity in a relatively mild weather, like checking your IRA balance on a unseasonably cool March day in Dallas, but this is Wisconsin. If you want to keep your feet warm while they trudge through eight inches of snow topped with two inches of freezing rain, you need REAL winter boots. Here are my mother and sister helping me in my search for REAL winter boots, which are surprisingly hard to find, even in Wisconsin. 

And here's an unwelcome development that I just discovered:  Many boots now only come in whole sizes, not half sizes. Is that something new? It sure made it hard to find boots that fit. Perhaps it's a result of the recession. I'm sure the lack of half sizes is Bush's fault, but I have yet to figure out the mechanism by which he wreaked this additional small bit of havoc on the world.

After bemoaning the lack of REAL winter boots at store after store and sounding like a world's oldest, most crotchety 37 year old, I did manage to find a pair of boots that I liked. Kids these days, they're all too busy playing with their jet packs to know what REAL winter boots are.

The kids also got winter hats and mittens. This was maybe just a little bit cute.

After a quick two-day visit, my mother returned to Pennsylvania last night. We'll see her twice more between now and the end of the year -- once when I travel to Washington, DC for a conference and she will come to DC to babysit the kids, and then again at Christmas time. I'm already looking forward to seeing her again, and who knows, maybe we'll go shopping again. I never did get that pair of Maholo Blernicks. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Here's what we have in our foundation.
Times about a billion.
We have a gigantic, and I mean GIGANTIC yellow jacket nest in the foundation of our house. At least, I think it must be gigantic from the number of yellow jackets that I see heading down into the hole. If you stand in just the right spot in the driveway, you can see hundreds of yellow jackets circling the nest, waiting their turn to land. All those flying insects in a holding pattern reminds me of O'Hare, although despite the limitations of their tiny brains, these insects are way more devoted to timely arrivals than United Airlines. Also the yellow jackets are less likely to lose your checked bag in Los Angeles. (And they don't charge you $25 for the privilege, either.)

I find insects very interesting in general but I have an intense dislike of yellow jackets. If I had to make a list of everything in the world and put them in order based on how much I liked each thing, here's how the list would go:
#1: My adorable children and manly yet sensitive husband, none of whom mind that I'm cheating by listing three different people as the top item
#2: Nutella
#3: Caffeine
(Numbers 3 through 999,999,997 go here)
#999,999,998: Yellow jackets
#999,999,999: United Airlines
#1,000,000,000: Yellow jackets actually on a United Airlines flight. Granted, at this point this situation is theoretical, but I imagine that at this very minute, executives at United are trying to figure out how to smuggle nests of yellow jackets through security to install on all their Denver-Dulles flights. Or perhaps instead of serving peanuts or pretzels, which I don't think they do anymore anyway, United Airlines could serve tiny foil bags filled with yellow jackets. Lightly salted.

Compared to yellow jackets, honey
bees are likely snuggly little
Another reason I don't like yellow jackets is that they sting seemingly without provocation. You can just be standing there, minding your own business and not threatening their nectar supply or having fantasies about funneling your car's carbon monoxide exhaust system directly into their underground lair, and they will just fly up and sting you anyway. They don't even have the decency to die afterwards, which seems to me to be the only respectable course of action. And they don't make honey, although if they did, yellow jackets are so vicious that the honey would probably have to be harvested by Navy SEALS. Driving Hummers.

I thought that perhaps we should sneak up on the yellow jacket nest at night when the Evil Stinging Insects from Hell are less active, and seal the entry hole shut with caulk. Problem solved! But after a little online research, it turns out that if you seal the yellow jackets inside, they start chewing their way into your house, and emerge in your basement. And when they do, they're angry. That is, they're even more angry than yellow jackets usually are, which means they're really quite angry indeed. In fact, yellow jackets as a species seem to have some real anger issues. Seriously, vespula maculifrons, you need to chillax.

Speaking of chilling, we've decided to let the cold weather take care of the yellow jacket nest. Hopefully the nest will not be back next year. I realize that even though we live in an urban area, we still live within an ecosystem and should respect the other animals trying to share our space. So I don't mind the odd possum in our backyard or when a raccoon gets into our garbage. But a yellow jacket nest can be quite dangerous, especially if one of the kids should disturb the nest. So I'm really hoping that next year we'll be free from any yellow jacket colonies, or even something worse: an infestation of United Airlines executives.