Saturday, January 28, 2012


Wisconsin is a recreational wonderland in the winter! It's non-stop skiing, skating, and sledding here during the cold months and there is always plenty to do outside.

Ha, you didn't actually fall for that, did you? That might be the official spiel from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, but very few people here prefer winter to summer. I grant you, there are the occasional individuals who think the fact that you can cross country ski in the winter somehow makes January somehow more enjoyable than June, but those people have had their neural cortexes damaged by extended exposure to severe cold. Very sad.

Here's one bummer about winter: Chilblains!

See those red spots on Stella's poor hands? Those are chilblains, which happen when exposure to the cold bursts capillaries, usually in your hands or feet. You don't hear the Wisconsin Department of Tourism mentioning chilblains too often. (New possible tourism slogan: "Come for the great ice fishing, stay for the damaged capillaries!" If that won't draw tourists from Illinois, nothing will.)

Chilblains are annoying but fairly harmless and go away by themselves. However, this means my beautiful daughter is damaged goods and we probably won't be able to get much of a dowry for her. Maybe just one cow.

Now, I don't want to make a Wisconsin winter sound like a total bummer. Winter can be fun, but in my opinion Wisconsin totally overdoes the winter thing. I mean, I like to skate as much as the next person does, but it's hard to get your kids excited about hitting the pond when it's 8 degrees out. And the amount of time and resources that must be devoted to getting the kids dressed in their winter coats, snowpants, mittens, etc, is positively obscene. Everything would go much more smoothly if we could have winter in, say, May.

Here's some proof that we actually do go outside on occasion in the winter and recreate:

See? We ice skate. If there is a more wholesome activity than ice skating, I do not know what it could possibly be. However, I am an extremely unskilled skater, and when I am with Stella I spend most of my time trying to convince her to not hold on to me for support, since with her flailing she would likely bring us both down. Stella loves skating -- for about 15 minutes. Then she makes a beeline back to the warming hut and tries to get me to buy her hot chocolate.

We did not get hot chocolate afterwards. But we did go out for pizza. Here are two incredibly good-looking people waiting for their pizza:

So I guess winter isn't so bad after all, at least not if it means you get to go out for pizza afterwards. And I am fully confident that once Stella's hands heal, we'll be back up to a two-cow dowry.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


If it's January, then that means I must be panicking about going to New Zealand! Many years at about this time the kids and I head to the southern hemisphere to visit my father, who lives in the Land of the Long White Cloud. In fact, we go to New Zealand so regularly that I plan to start saying that I "winter" there. And yes, I realize this may make you want to punch me in the face. Heck, it makes me want to punch me in the face. 

This will be Stella's fourth trip to New Zealand. Can you believe it? She's only six years old! Let me put it this way -- Stella has been to New Zealand more times than she's been to McDonald's. Is that fantastic or what? Please, please, please, never let this bubble pop that we're raising her in. 

By the way, I had a potluck party recently, and among the guests were a vegan couple. I let the other guests know about their dietary preferences, but I didn't want to make the vegan couple to feel self-conscious, so I just told all the guests to not bring any meat or dairy in their dish to pass because DAN and BECKY would be sitting in judgment of those of us who ingested animal products for the sheer joy that comes from being cruel to other sentient creatures. 

My point is that for the potluck dinner, my vegan friends brought what they called "fake chicken nuggets," which were actually breaded seitan nuggets. Stella loved the "chicken" nuggets and ate several of them. She is going to be so incredibly confused when she first encounters chicken nuggets of the McDonald's variety. Maybe not as much as I think, though -- It's very possible that Chicken McNuggets and seitan nuggets both include exactly the same amount of chicken. 

Let me be clear that I am looking forward to our trip to New Zealand. But I am not looking forward to the travel to get there. And what makes it especially tricky is that Baby W will be sitting on my lap for the entire trip, since I am not buying him a ticket. Keep in mind that he is nearly 6 feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. 

Even though Baby W does not have a seat on the plane, he still has to pay hundreds of dollars for the privilege of sitting on my lap the whole way. Can you believe it? That seems a little unfair to me. When the flight attendants come around with peanuts, I am so totally going to take two packets to make up for the cost. Then won't they be sorry!!!

Here are two photos from the last time we went to New Zealand. I show them to you to give you an idea of why, despite the difficulty of travelling to the other side of the world with two children in tow, the trip will be worth it.

Plus, that extra bag of peanuts is major incentive too. If that isn't reason to travel to New Zealand, I don't know what is. 

Friday, January 20, 2012


I just looked at the calendar and realized it's been over a week since I last gave an update. I'd give a reason why it's taken me so long, but it basically boils down to Baby W's terrible sleep patterns, and the internet is already way, way too full of parents complaining about their kids' poor sleep, so in a totally uncharacteristic move I'm going to hold my tongue for once. It may be the only time ever, in fact, that I do so, so you might want to write down the date or something.

Sometimes I think about 90% of the internet is devoted to parents bemoaning their lack of sleep, with another 9% devoted to people chronicling the tiny details, in the most public way possible, of their most recent sinus infection. The last 1% of the internet is people on Facebook sending messages to ask for sheep or bricks or whatever they need for their game. Sometimes I think Al Gore should take back the internet and we should all go back to reading War and Peace or whatever it was we did before Angry Birds was invented.

And, speaking of War and Peace, guess what publication we are now getting at our house? Yes, it's my least favorite magazine of all time:

We had some frequent flyer miles that were about to expire, and you know how the airlines then let you trade your expiring miles for free magazine subscriptions, which sounds great on the surface, but most of the magazines available have names like Golf and Lots o' Golf and Seriously, We're All About Golf and How Is It That People Ever Have Time to Actually Golf When They Spend So Much Time Reading All These Golf Magazines? Well, among the limited array of magazines I could get for free, the Economist seemed the most appealing. Golf Fashion Weekly was a close runner-up.

Clearly, the Economist conceives of itself as a magazine for smart people. Personally, I happen to conceive of the magazine as a sleep aid. Even the font the articles are printed in have a decided soporific effect on me.  David likes reading the Economist and takes the articles seriously. I, on the other hand, feel the need to rebel against having such a highbrow publication in the house (even though I am the one responsible for bringing it into the house in the first place). Yesterday, I saw a Justin Bieber singing electric toothbrush at Target, and it was all I could do not to buy the toothbrush and place it next to the magazine in a taunting gesture. See, Economist? You may have articles about Iran's threat to the Strait of Hormuz, but can you fight cavities and inspire a major hairstyle? I don't think so.

By the way, I don't understand why many of the presidential candidates say we need to "make America great again." If we live in a country where you can buy Justin-Bieber themed oral hygiene tools, aren't we almost by definition living in the greatest nation that has ever existed?

To sum up: We're subscribing to the Economist. I'm trying not to complain about how Baby W has woken up every two hours for the last six months. And I am really glad I didn't buy that Justin Bieber singing toothbrush. I'm holding out for the Lady Gaga version.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


I just finished up paying our quarterly self-employment taxes online, and I am happy to report that both the federal and state government have made it shockingly easy to give them a whole bunch of money. Don't get me wrong, that's good. There's nothing worse than trying to give somebody a whole bucketload of cash and them not wanting to take it. I remember when we were trying to get bids on a huge house remodeling project, and contractors kept coming to our house, looking at our project, and then disappearing forever from the face of the earth without getting back to us, even though we wanted to give them tens of thousands of dollars. We were basically following the contractors down the sidewalk, flinging dollar bills at them, and they wouldn't take it.

Fortunately, we don't have the same problem with the government.

By the way, even though I referred to "our" quarterly self-employment taxes, really this is work I am doing on behalf of David, since he's the one who is self-employed. I wouldn't say this is the nicest thing I've ever done for him, but it probably ranks in the top ten. And I suspect this favor I've done for him will drive him crazy with sexual desire for me, or if it doesn't then by golly he better have the sense to fake it reasonably well.

Taxes! I wouldn't mind paying them if I could request that they be directed towards a particular purpose. I would request that my thousands of dollars of federal taxes be tallied, converted to pennies, and then dropped en masse on U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner for referring to Michelle Obama's "large posterior." Sounds like Rep. Sensenbrenner needs to learn what I think of as the 11th Commandment in our household which is Thou Shalt Not Diss Michelle, Seriously Do Not Diss Her.

Changing the subject: We're putting away our Christmas things, but not before I get a chance to share pictures with you of our Very Special Christmas Ornaments. We have several ornaments that I'm sure will be family heirlooms, passed down to the following generations. There's this one which I think is an original Wedgewood design, in a color I will call "cornflower," because it sounds fancy. 

And truly, doesn't the ornament below get you in the holiday mood? If a mangled piece of salt dough shaped vaguely like a hat doesn't immediately make you think of the birth of Christ, then you are probably an atheist. A hat-hating atheist no less, which is the worst kind.

We have lots more ornaments like this, ones that are works of art. Take the ornament below, for example. Constructed in an almost self-conscious homage to the primitivism school of sculpture, the flat, yet three dimensional ornament plays with our perceptions of space, and -- dare I say it -- time. Either that, or Baby W broke off the bottom part of the ornament and tried to feed it to the cat. Not sure which.

So it's time to pack away these precious heirlooms until Christmas 2012. I need to drag the Christmas tree out to the curb, put the stockings into storage, and pack away the tree stand. And then I need to get our federal taxes converted to pennies. I have a plan.

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Back several months ago when we first started taking beginning adult gymnastics class, my sister and I came up with something we called The Handstand Plan: We wanted to be able to do handstands at the same time on the beach during our Florida vacation, and have pictures to prove it. The only thing standing between us and the successful completion of The Handstand Plan was that we would need to be able to hold the handstand for at least 1/10 of a second so that the photo could be taken. Clearly we had our work cut out for us.

The thing is, handstands are hard. I don't know if you know this or not, but handstands actually require propelling yourself into an upside down position. That just seems fundamentally wrong at a very basic level, doesn't it? Rick Santorum probably thinks handstands are an unpardonable sin against God. I'm not so sure I disagree with him.

By the way, I noticed that somebody found their way to my blog by googling the phrase "why don't we vomit when we handstand?" I don't know, but Rick Santorum probably has an opinion on that.

And as hard as handstands are, cartwheels are a lot harder. You might remember my video from this post where I show off my poor cartwheel skills. Cartwheels are particularly frustrating because many eight year olds can do respectable cartwheels, and as a reasonably high-functioning adult, I expect to be able to do most of the things an eight year old can do AND make mortgage payments at the same time. I'm proud to say that over time and after a lot of hard work, my cartwheel has improved to the point where I look like a frog having only a mild seizure.

Back to The Handstand Plan, a phrase I'm going to copyright as soon as I get around to it. The number of family members interested in participating in The Handstand Plan grew to four, which meant it would be that much harder getting a picture with us all up in a handstand at the same time. But having four people participating also made the story of The Handstand Plan that much more compelling, and I figured it increased the chances our little adventure would get made into a movie. I would like to be played by one of the Olsen twins, ideally Mary-Kate.

Here we are in Florida, trying to put The Handstand Plan into action. From left to right is my sister-in-law Margaret, me, my sister, and my sister's boyfriend Casey.

On your marks, get set....OUCH. In the photo below, I leaned over too far and had to go into a forward roll, which is no big deal on a padded gym floor but is not as much fun when you do it on concrete-like wet sand. That is why you should always wear a helmet when you go do gymnastics on the beach.

This time we're going to do it!....or not.

One last time...and we're up! The Handstand Plan is complete!

It's not perfect. My sister has a weird cross-leg thing going on and Casey has never really figured out how to get completely straightened out in a handstand. But we are all unequivocally doing a handstand on the beach in Floirda, and that's what The Handstand Plan was all about.

My handstand in this picture, of course, is practically Olympic caliber. In other words, it's almost as good as an eight-year old's. Even Rick Santorum would agree with that.