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.