Thursday, June 30, 2011

Remains

Stella and I found the remains of a baby rabbit in our back yard. My guess is the rabbit was a victim of a cat, although not our cats, since we keep our cats inside for a variety of reasons. A lot of people say that outdoor cats are a contributing factor to the decline of songbird populations. I'm not sure I buy this, especially because I've noticed that a lot of the people who advance this theory have two-acre lawns and commute 30 miles round trip every day in their SUV and don't see the connection between their own lifestyles and decline of wildlife. But what do I know -- maybe songbirds eat that shit up.

Why is it we never
find this kind of rabbit
in our backyard?
Anyway, Stella saw the fly-covered haunches of a baby rabbit in the yard and was dumbstruck. She contemplated the maggoty remains for a long time, and then said, "Look, Mama! A rabbit's foot! It's good luck!"

It must be great to be five.

I wound up scooping the rabbit remains into a plastic bag, knotted it shut, and threw it into the trash. In the process I trapped several flies in the bag with the decaying rabbit. Can you imagine how happy those flies are? It's like fly paradise in that bag. Throw in some dog poop and it would be nirvana.

Looking forward to the day
when I find a rotting piece
of this bunny in our yard.
If it's great to be five, it must also must be great to be one. Sometimes I think my main purpose in life at this point is to hand Baby W something -- anything -- that he will find interesting for at least two or three seconds. His baby-length attention span is completely exhausted at the end of that brief period, and then it's my job to hand him another something that will interest him for another two or three seconds. If I fail in my duties, he lets me know and my dereliction of duties is noted both in my annual performance review (since he's only one year old, I've only had one so far) and my permanent record, in the form of this comment: "waaaaAAAAH!"

As I keep handing Baby W things to hold, and as he ditches the previous items that no longer hold his attention, the result is a growing pile of discarded materials in a sort of corona surrounding the baby, including things like a whisk, a toothbrush, my watch, a spatula, my keys, and some abandoned toy of Stella's that she needs back right this instant. Sometimes it's hard to discern that an actual child exists under the pile.

The poor guy is actually somewhat under the weather today, with a fever and general crankiness. This provides an excellent excuse to sit and nurse Baby W for hours while drinking strawberry lemonade. Because of course if the baby is doing all that nursing, I need to replenish my fluids so as to produce more milk -- and really, strawberry lemonade is the classy way to rehydrate. Water is so plebian.

No worries, though -- I'm sure the baby will recovery quickly and be back to his normal ebullient self soon. After all, we've got a rabbit's foot for good luck.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Read

For Christmas, my sister gave me Jonathan Franzen's new novel, Freedom. I was pleased to get the book and I set it aside for when I might have a little more time to read, like 2012. Or maybe when the kids finish up graduate school.

Now here's a book I could
find time to read.
I used to read dozens, maybe even hundreds of books a year. Now my time to read is very limited. This means that when I do sit down to read a book, I tend to choose something that is not very challenging. That is my excuse for why I like to read young adult literature. Of course, I enjoyed reading young adult literature even before I had limited reading time, and I'm not sure what my flimsy excuse I managed to come up with then.

Because I enjoy young adult literature, I thought I might like the Twilight series. I picked up a copy at the library, and in case you are one of the three people in the farthest corners of the universe who have not actually formed an opinion of the Twilight series, let me tell you it is awful. I know it's hard to be a teenager -- why would we make life even harder for them by foisting this type of book on them?

Another really bad, really popular book is The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, which for a while there was inescapable and had the American public keeping an eye out for murderous Jesuit priests everywhere, including the dairy aisle of the grocery store. My father, who I have never seen read a book for pleasure, told me he had decided to finally pick up a novel, and the one he chose was The Da Vinci Code. Why did he have to choose that particular book?!? It's as if you've somehow never seen a movie in your entire life, and the first time you buy a ticket, it's to go see The Garbage Pail Kids Movie!


This is what my father does
during movies.  
My father has seen a movie before, although he often falls asleep when watching them, and whether he has actually seen a movie the whole way through to the end remains an open question. I remember one time going to see the movie Eyes Wide Shut with him. That was Kubrick's last film, and it got pretty weird in spots, and turned out to be too kinky of a movie to comfortably watch with a parent. During one hot and heavy moment, I snuck a look over at my father to see how he was handling the film. Fortunately he was a very quiet snorer.

I was a little apprehensive about starting my book, because I have so little time to read these days that I only want to read books that are going to be worth my while. Fortunately, Freedom so far has turned out to be excellent. It's a very funny book, full of white well-educated liberals in the Upper Midwest, who are comically self-absorbed. I'm trying very hard not to see my own self reflected in this book, because I'm not comically self-absorbed, am I? Am I? Am I am I am I am I?

I'd forgotten how pleasant it is to sit down for a few hours and plow through 200 pages of a good book. I think I need to set more time aside for reading in my life, and I've started a list of books I want to read. I already have the next one picked out: Garbage Pail Kids, The Book. 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Strawberries

We decided to go strawberry picking on Sunday, just me and the kids. Sunday was also Father's Day, and so I told David that since we would be out strawberry picking, we would not be providing him breakfast in bed. Instead, his Father's Day present would be that he could sleep as late has he wanted. Since his normal weekday wake-up time is around noon, he never gets to "sleep in" in the sense of sleeping later than his schedule normally allows. That's because at 12:01 I am usually pounding on the bedroom door yelling HELP HELP HELP ME WITH THE KIDS! ALSO THE BABY IS FLUSHING ALL MY PERCOSET DOWN THE TOILET.

Going strawberry picking is a summer tradition in the family, in the sense that we went last year. That's the great thing about having little kids. It's so easy to call something a tradition, even if you've only done it once before. After all, we've gone strawberry picking every summer since Walter was born. It's a tradition!

For reasons which made sense to me at the time, we decided to go strawberry picking at a location two and a half hours away. I wanted to visit the farm from which we get our CSA (community supported agriculture) vegetable box, which was hosting a strawberry picking day. If you don't know what a CSA is, it's a sort of subscription to a farm, which in our case means that we get a weekly box of organic, locally grown vegetables for nine months out of the year. We've found that having a CSA has transformed our eating habits for the better, and we always have a fridge chock full delicious vegetables. On the negative side, having a CSA means we are forced against our will to encounter the occasional eggplant. But it can't all be rainbows and sunshine.

So we drove up to the CSA farm to strawberry pick, and thankfully there was minimal interference between Stella and Baby W in the back seat on the way there. She's pretty hard on him, but the good news is that when Baby W grows up, he is going to be a fast runner in part based on all the practice he gets trying to flee from Stella's abuse. (As an aside: I remember English teachers encouraging us to avoid the passive voice in writing and speaking, but I never really understood why until the other day when Baby W suddenly started crying very loudly, out of the blue. What happened, I asked Stella. She explained: "His hand got bit by my mouth.")

We made it up to the farm without anybody in the back seat losing a limb or any of their major organs. There was a potluck at the farm, including goat tacos, which were made by the men who work on the farm. The tacos were delicious -- delicious enough that I seriously considered ditching this budget analysis gig I have and becoming a Mexican agricultural laborer instead.

We also got a wagon tour of the farm, and here you can see Stella on the wagon giving her normal loving embrace to Baby W:


The wagon tour was fun but lasted forever. You can only see so many fields of kohlrabi before going a little stir crazy. Stella got bored pretty quickly, but entertained herself by taking pictures of her favorite subject:



Finally it was time for strawberry picking! But by that time, Walter really needed a nap, Stella was tuckered out from all the activities, and even I was ready to go home. So we quickly picked two quarts of berries, not including all the ones that went in our mouth, and hightailed it out of there. One of the quarts of berries we ate on the car ride home, meaning that by the time we got back to the house, all we had to show for five hours of driving was a single quart of berries (which was gone by the next day). 

Still, it was a fun outing, and I'm hoping we can go strawberry picking -- at a closer location -- at least one more time this season. After all, it's a tradition.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hawaii

Oh, great. Now we're never going
to get Stella to bed.
David is upstairs putting the kids to bed, and I can hear Stella trying to stave off bedtime by talk talk talking to David, and being super cute about it. Apparently her efforts are working, since it is way past her bedtime. Stella is something of an expert on manipulating David. Her favorite technique, when confronted with bed time, is to bat her eyes and say, "Daddy, will you show me your lap steel guitar?" Oh, sure, like David's going to fall for that incredibly transparent attempt!

Then forty minutes later I have to holler, "David, Stella, seriously, quit with the guitars already -- is really truly time for bed!"

David is also something of an expert when it comes to what he calls "defensive talking," by which he means doing a lot of talking in a desperate attempt to avoid an unpleasant or boring activity. Stella is doing defensive talking to try to avoid going to bed, but the best example of this occurred when David and I went to Hawaii several years back and attended a presentation about a timeshare. We had no interest in purchasing a timeshare but wanted to get the discounted helicopter ride they offered us. As I'm writing this, I'm really wondering about the wisdom of our course of action at the time, because a helicopter ride is not necessarily the best place to cut corners and go with the cheapest option. I'll buy the generic toilet paper every time, but when you're buying a helicopter ride it might be better to go with the name brand.

The timeshare presentation consisted of an agent who verbally bombarded us with the advantages of a timeshare, for two hours. I actually got a little worried because I know David likes to be able to tell people "yes," and we were certainly getting subjected to coercive sales techniques designed to get us to say yes.   And if we were going to blow a lot of money on something almost completely useless, then instead of a timeshare I would like to get a pony. And an in-house masseuse named Ralph.

Maybe the next time I try to put
Stella to bed, she'll ask me to tell her
about Hawaii.
At some point David got tired of being subjected to this verbal barrage, and started responding in kind. Only instead of trying to sell a timeshare to the agent, he started reminiscing about his time on the farm growing up, back in Fond du Lac or Stratford-on-Avon or maybe it was Terra del Fuego. I don't know, because I wasn't listening. I was crouched in the corner mentally covering my ears as the two talked past each other.

In the end, we managed to get out without buying a timeshare, and I was relieved to find out afterwards that David wasn't even considering capitulating. As part of the transaction, we got a discount on a fantastic helicopter ride over a volcanic crater and brand-new lava fields edged with black sand. We also got years -- I mean years -- of pleasure out of mocking the real estate agent's incredibly high pressures sales technique. In retrospect, the time share sales presentation was such an enjoyable part of our vacation that perhaps we should have paid her. Either that, or save up for a really high class masseuse, one named Sven.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

One

Happy birthday to Midwest Potato, which turns one year old on June 17th. And thank you to the seven people who read it. Eight if you count my mom.

Good blogging material,
right here.
One year ago, I was marvelling at how much more work a four year old child was compared to an infant. These days I'm always surprised at how much more work a five year old is than a one year old. I'm going to go way, way out on a limb here and predict that in June 2012 I'll find it hard to believe how much more work a six year old is compared to a two year old.In fact, I'd bet good money that in 2042 I'll be bemoaning how much more demanding a 37 year old is compared to a 33 year old. And I know first hand how demanding 37 year olds can be, since I am one. (By the way, you would not believe how long it took me to do the math to find out what year Stella will be 37 years old.)

I guess I thought kids got easier as they grew older! I am not sure how I got that idea. That might be one of those falsehoods deliberately foisted on would-be parents to help encourage them to have more than one child. If we all knew the truth, we'd stop reproducing and there'd be  no way the human race could survive.

Another one of these myths that is foisted on parents is that the kid will eventually sleep through the night. That's BULLSHIT, my friends. They NEVER sleep through the night. And if they do, it is only for a brief period to lull you into bragging to all your friends about what a great sleeper your genetically superior baby is, before dramatically switching gears and waking up every 45 minutes all night long. (Yet still managing to take four hour naps during the day.) This is known as sleep regression, and it's typically just a stage, one that in my kids' case lasted somewhere between two and 936 weeks long.

There was also a lot
of this over the
past year.
Anyway, over the course of the past year, I've written about finding a dead bird under our recliner, travelling to the Southern Hemisphere and back, junkpicking an Elvis cookbook, and learning to sew. Mostly, though, I write about family life. That's in part because my family can't fire me if I say something bad about them. (By the way, for my family's sake I finally signed up for life insurance -- after literally a year of having it on my to-do list -- and let me say this: holy shit, buying life insurance is depressing. It is also somewhat disconcerting that I am now worth more to David dead than alive. I am watching my back.)

Thanks to you for reading over the past year, and for leaving comments (and yes, I know the comments don't always work; Google runs Blogspot and even though Google seems to do everything else in the world and inner planets of the solar system perfectly, they still make it difficult to leave a comment). I've got some goals for the next year of this blog, including increasing readership. I'm thinking I could go as high as fifteen, or even twenty readers. Twenty-one if you count my mom.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Callous

I was a little anxious about going to my gymnastic class for the first time. Although the class description said, "no experience necessary," I was concerned that it would actually be full of semi-pro athletes who would do back handsprings while I fell off the balance beam. I was the first person to show up for the class, and it didn't help matters when the second person to arrive heaved a big sigh and said, "I can't believe I'm old enough to qualify for the adult class now!"

It was at that point I noticed I had put my shorts on inside out.
Me, practicing the jumps.

After I fixed my shorts, I met everyone else in the class, which was made up of 12 white women and one black man, who had just graduated from the University of Wisconsin where he ran track. He was in fantastic shape, and graduated to doing backflips in about 15 minutes despite having no previous gymnastics experience. I kept waiting for him to get too warm and take his shirt off. Hopefully next time.

Most of the other participants had either a moderate amount of gymnastics experience, or none at all. The exception was one tall, stunning woman who looked a lot like Julia Roberts and immediately started doing back walkovers. I think the rest of us in the class are going to get together and key her car.

We started off with a combination of jumps and stretches on the floor. Did you know that a gymnastics floor is extremely bouncy? It's almost got some trampoline-like qualities. I don't mean to nit pick, but isn't that cheating a little? No WONDER those gymnasts can do back triple-half gainer twist front handsprings! The floor is bouncy!

Next we moved to the bars. The first skill to master is actually getting onto the bar, which you have to do by kicking your legs up and over so that you do a back somersault over the bar. Not surprisingly, I can't do this. But you really can't go on to the next step until you master this one, so I repeatedly tried to get up on the bar, dozens of times. And I'm happy to say that by the end of class, all that hard work had paid off and...I still couldn't get up on the bar. But I had improved! By probably one or even two percent!

I'm a little more familiar with
this type of bar
I also got what I found out is called a "rip." This is when you swing on the bar for a while and the friction causes a previously formed callous to tear off your palm, leaving a bloody spot underneath. I'm thinking I will wrap my hand in an Ace bandage to protect the sensitive spot, and when people ask what happened, I could just mumble something about it being no big deal, I just incurred a little GYMNASTICS-RELATED INJURY, ON THE BARS NO LESS. Not that I'm proud of it or anything.

It's now the morning after gymnastics class, and I'm definitely sore. Mostly in my back and triceps. But I learned a lot, got a great workout, and I'm already looking forward to next week's class. I'm going to take a little different approach next time, though, based on my experience this week. For starters, I'm going to wear my shorts right side out.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Pommel

I'm not sure these
people's backs work the
same way mine does.
I'm really looking forward to my gymnastics class, which starts next week. You may remember that my sister and I recently talked our way into a back handspring clinic at a kids' gym, despite no gymnastic ability at all and despite big signs all around that said "Absolutely No One Over Age 21 Allowed." We had an absolute blast. Don't tell their insurance company, okay?

That clinic was also an excellent workout. That's what I kept telling David all day -- "That clinic was an excellent workout!" -- right up until when I pitched face forward onto the couch, unconscious, due to an involuntary nap that I needed to take right that minute due to previous mentioned excellent workout.

The next day, everything in my body was sore. Including my eyelids. Heck, especially my eyelids.

Both my sister and I were excited to do more gymnastics -- and by the way, I keep typing "gynmastics," which must be something your doctor chews while you're getting a Pap smear -- but we didn't think we could count on the kids' gym letting us participate again. Luckily for us, there's a gymnastic studio in town that offers adult classes! And I read somewhere that it's becoming very hip for adults to take gymnastics classes, which made me even more interested. (Of course, it became hip for adults to carry a cell phone since about 2002, and I've never let that bother me, but at this point I'm hoping that soon things will come full circle and it will become hip to not have a cell phone. Yes, I realize that's going to be quite a wait.)

So I registered for the class and it starts on Monday! My sister won't be attending, but if I like the class then she'll take it with me again in the fall. That means, though, that I will already have 10 weeks of gymnastics under my belt by the time she starts. So she better be warned that I am going to seriously kick her ass on the pommel horse. Once I figure out what that actually is.

Later, in private, we'll
pretend that I am
Mary Lou Retton
and David is Bela Karolyi.
The description for the gymnastic class said "no experience necessary," which is right up my alley. I also need a gymnastic class with no coordination necessary. It remains to be seen whether this class fulfills all my criteria.

According to the description of the class, we're going to focus on the five gymnastic events represented in the Olympics. Hear that, everyone?!?  I'm going to the Olympics! I think it's in Rio de Janero next time, so I better brush up on my Portuguese. I think those five events that we're going to be working on are floor, balance beam, dancing around with a ribbon on the end of a stick, being 4 ft 9, and having abdominals so strong you can crack a walnut with your belly button.

I'll keep you posted on how the class goes, providing the muscles in my fingers are still working well enough to type afterwards. Maybe some of you would even be interested in joining me in taking the class in the fall! I'd like that. Until then, best keep your walnuts away from my belly button.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Glue

Whew, it's hot! And sunny, so I slathered the baby in sunscreen before I plopped him into the sandbox. Did you know that that sunscreen has a lot of the same properties as glue? Baby W now has sand stuck all over, to the degree that if I put a handle on him I might be able to use him to refinish the floors.

Then Stella threw a bunch of "cotton" on him, the kind that drifts down from cottonwood trees, and the result is that he looks like someone tarred and feathered him. However, I can rest assured that he is well shielded from the sun now, since there is no way harmful rays can penetrate the layer of protective matter stuck to his skin. I'm not even sure I can tell which end of the baby is up.

I think I saw one of these
on my laundry.
I just dropped Stella off at preschool, and the baby is taking a nap (at least I think it's the baby -- something sandy and fluffy is taking a nap) which means I have a couple minutes to myself before the babysitter comes and I have to go to work. I surveyed the mountain of laundry, the wreck of a house, and a dishwasher full of dishes that need to be put away, and instead decided to write a blog post. Household chores can wait, and why pass up the chance to create some small work of art in a 500-word blog post? (The answer to that question, by the way, is "because I would like to be able to wear clean underwear tomorrow.)

I ride Stella over to preschool on a tagalong bicycle, which is the kind where a little kid can ride on a bicycle that is attached to the adult's bicycle. I also have a seat for Baby W on my bicycle, so we're quite a parade when we go anywhere. Three people on one bicycle is a lot, and it's somewhat precarious, but it works pretty good as long as I don't have to perform any complicated biking maneuvers. Like turning. Or stopping.
You'd need one of these to get
up my mountain of laundry,
unless you're one of the goats.

And on the topic of kids, let me say that for humanity's sake I hope that Baby W never falls into the hands of the federal government, because they would be sure to use him to inflict torture on enemy combatants, primarily in the form of sleep deprivation. I myself have been subjected to such treatment and stand ready to confess all matter of involvement in Al-Qaeda activities.

I'm actually quite impressed with myself that I'm holding down a challenging job and managing a household all while getting woken up every 90 minutes by Mr. Cutiepants. And no, that's not what I call David. (I call him Sir Cutiepants.)

Life goes on, and we are enjoying the summer. We've been visiting the beach a lot, where Walter improves his hand-eye coordination by shoving fistfulls of sand into his mouth as fast as he can. (He's still got a ways to go in the hand-brain coordination, if you know what I mean.) We've been riding our bikes around, running in the sprinkler, and having a great time. The only thing missing is clean underwear.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Cactus

I've recently been having some problems with a cactus spine in my foot, a spine that I originally stepped on when I was in New Zealand in February visiting my father. While I was there, I cut down a huge sagauro cactus in his yard. My father has a fairly large piece of property with beautifully landscaped gardens that he can't possibly keep up with, so every time I visit him, I do a lot of gardening. I don't have a green thumb, but in New Zealand there's only one cardinal rule of gardening, and that is CUT SHIT BACK.

Actually, I take it back. There are two rules of gardening in New Zealand. The second rule is CUT SHIT COMPLETELY DOWN (IT WILL GROW BACK).

Thanks to Liz A for turning me onto
http://www.morguefile.com/, where you can
get free, and occasionally disgusting,
photos for your own use.
Here in Wisconsin, you have to tenderly nurture each seedling, make sure you don't plant things too early or too late, keep things watered, and protect plants from the harsh winter. In New Zealand you just throw a seed on the ground and then go hang at the beach.

Yes, this means that New Zealand is a lush semi-tropical paradise, but before you pull up stakes and move there, you might want to know this: some of the gardening work I did involved cutting down a tree near the bedroom window of my father and his girlfriend, so that it would be harder for cockroaches to crawl up the tree, into their window, and then into their bed while they slept. So don't file for permanent resident status quite yet.

Anyway, I cut down a giant cactus at my father's request. And despite the thousands of spines on the cactus, I wore sandals while I cut it down. Why? I think it comes down to the fact that I was visiting New Zealand from Wisconsin, and it was February, and I was so desperate for any warm weather that I insisted on wearing summer footwear no matter how inappropriate for the job. Seriously, the neighbors are lucky I didn't cut down the cactus completely naked, although now I am thinking that approach could yield spines in worse places than my foot.

Yes, sandals are definitely
the way to go when you
cut down something
with this many spines.
So I cut down the cactus, and in the process got a spine in my foot, which was intermittently quite painful but only intermittently. The pain went away after I returned to Wisconsin, but then when it got warmer and I started wearing my sandals again, I could really feel that cactus spine. I looked at the bottom of my foot but couldn't see the actual spine, so I called my mother for medical advice. She's a nurse practitioner, and I strongly recommend having a nurse in the family because it means you can call for free medical advice whenever you need it. How handy is that?! I also wish we had an IT professional in our immediately family, and maybe an attorney. My sister is still single, and she better marry a plumber.

My mother's medical advice was -- as her medical advice to me almost always is -- "Ignore it and it will go away." So I resigned myself to intermittent foot pain, although I noticed that the spine only seemed to bother me when I was wearing my sandals. The same sandals that I wore to cut down the cactus. Do you know how long it took me to realize that the spine was actually stuck in my sandal, not in my foot? WEEKS! WEEKS! Weeks of walking around, wincing every 20th step because a cactus spine was jabbing into the bottom of my foot!

At first glance, this would appear to be an indicator that I am somewhat intellectually challenged (ie, dumb as a box of hammers). In my defense I would like to say that I did quite well on my GREs. But in addition to being culturally biased, that test apparently doesn't measure whether or not you are a moron.

At any rate, the offending cactus spine has been removed from my shoe after weeks of walking around on it. I hope to blame the kids for having sucked so much brain power out of my head that I couldn't put two and two together. And the next time I go to New Zealand, I'll be sure to wear better shoes, both for working in the garden and stomping on those cockroaches.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Clubhouse

I asked David if I could gently make fun of him in a blog post, and he looked puzzled and said, "Well, sure. I guess I thought making fun of me was one of the central reasons you started the blog." I have to admit I thought it was a little egocentric for him to think that I set up a whole blog to poke fun at him! Geez, that really that only makes up 40 or maybe 45% of the content! There's also a lot of in-depth descriptions of the toilets in O'Hare!

Here's a photo Stella took of the
sidewalk. She's like an urban
Ansel Adams.
Anyway, I wanted to let you know that David has coined a new term that may come in helpful: pre-guilt. This is guilt that you feel before you have done anything wrong. For example, David is going out of town for work and then when he returns he has a lot of band obligations that will take him away from family life in the evenings, so he is already feeling pre-guilt. Go, on guess what religion he was raised in! Guess! (Hint: starts with a C, not a J.)

You know how Eskimos in theory have so much snow in their lives that they need 20 different words to describe all the different kinds? That's like David and guilt. Not only is there pre-guilt, post-guilt and in-the-moment-guilt, but there's also the guilt you feel when you don't think you've done something wrong but everyone else seems to, guilt when you get away scot-free, and the guilt you feel about not feeling more guilty than you do.

Unfortunately for Stella, the play house has no potty.
But, David gets a pass on guilt for now, because he (and others) recently helped move the world's awesomest play house into our back yard for Stella. Take a look at this house! Our neighbor built it for his daughter, and we were lucky enough to inherit it. It's made out of wood with real shingles and screens in the windows. It even has a porch! This play house has nearly as many amenities as our actual house, although I've noticed that the water softener in the play house doesn't really work properly. (The repairman is coming out tomorrow, sometime between the hours of 9 AM and 2 PM.)

We were excited to take ownership of the play house, but actually transferring it from one yard to another proved to be daunting. The thing weighs several hundred pounds, so it's not like a couple of burly guys could get together and carry it across the street. After much discussion about logistics, we decided it might just be easier to swap actual residences than try to move the play house. A plan was hatched that involved three men, two wheeled dollies, two giant sheets of plywood -- and most importantly, disconnecting the hot tub -- and the house was successfully moved across the street.

I'm at least as excited as Stella, and possibly more, about her fantastic new play area. She can pretend it's an ice cream shop, a boat sailing on the ocean, or a clubhouse. I hope she lets me play with it too. I'm planning to pretend it's a toilet in O'Hare.