Wednesday, December 29, 2010

It has not been a time for writing, so here's a baby in antlers.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


One would think that someone as innovative as Santa could recognize that different talents are necessary to keep a business moving forward. In this day and age, you can't stay competitive with such a backward attitude. While it is clear that Rudolph's nearest associates learn their lesson by the end of this cautionary tale, the revelation comes mainly from guilt and necessity and not true acceptance. One has to wonder if the next reindeer born with a third eye or blue hooves will meet a similar fate if they cannot prove their economic worth.

While societal cohesion and sameness has arguably played its evolutionary role in advancing the species, even primitive societies often venerated those who were different as shaman or priests. And while Rudolph's "red nose," so shiny that one "could even say it glows" could possibly been seen as a birth defect worthy of ostracism from the gene pool, in the cultural environment of Christmas Town, where survival clearly does not depend solely upon passing on desirable genetic traits, is it necessary that he be turned out from the herd?

In the end, it's Rudolph's contribution to the productivity of the enterprise that gains him acceptance and a place in the community.

It's a fun if often infuriating story, much enlivened by the secondary characters of Yukon Cornelius and the oddball population of the Island of Misfit Toys. It should be noted that the happy ending, which awaits the viewer, also includes the symbolic castration of wilderness through the literal de-fanging of a menacing species, giving the most annoying character, the aspiring dentist, his place in society.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Things we need to believe...

I need to believe that daddywhumpus had no idea or hint of the glorious mess he was leaving me with when he went to play music.

That was hands-down, the worst poopsplosion we have ever had in this house, all homo sapiens included. I suppose the only thanks is that it was confined to the smallest human, but it is small compensation for the corny, slimy mess that extended from diaper to neck, necessitating a hose down in the tub, and red-faced screaming and crying which ended in a snotty sneeze on my shoulder and arm.

The smell will linger long after the poop is hosed down the loo.

The memory will linger even longer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Post-pie Administration

I want snacks
I don't want snacks
I want my snacks
no snaaaacks!!!
my snacks...

I want cheese
I don't want cheese
no no NO cheese

I want milk
I want white milk
I want chocolate milk
I don't want chocolate milk

I want pie.

Color me...

They are all there in the green and grey metal lunchbox, jumbled and broken, blunt and peeled. Their existence, dating back decades, makes you wonder why anyone ever has to buy new ones. This lunchbox is here at Gramma and Gran's house, and at home we have two other, similar containers in the same kind of disarray.


The names bring back floods of memories...

lemon yellow
brick red
carnation pink

The dreaded burnt sienna and, for me, blue violet (I always preferred plum and magenta). The names printed on the pale papers, and the waxy smell, even the dull sound as they rub together in the box. These things are evocative of childhood, bringing up both the good memories of how excellently cool the new fluorescent colors were and the envy I felt over those who were lucky enough to have the box of 64 with the built-in sharpener.

We dragged out the lunchbox of crayons and some scratch paper, trying to entice babywhumpus to color. daddywhumpus and I made some lovely pictures. Finn moved crayons from one place to another, bunched them up, scattered them with a flat, flailing hand, and stuffed them down my pants.

Eventually I felt a need to sort. So. Many. Crayons. All over the place. Too much chaos. I could not find colors I needed to finish the barn or the mountain or the bear. Stupidly, I began to sift through them, making piles of greens, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, browns, blues, and greys. I knew it was futile. I worked quickly, as time and toddler would be working against me. I got half way through.

It doesn't matter what it is. Legos. Blocks. Crayons. Dinner. Just give it up. Divorce yourself from any sort of plan. It's not going to happen. You are a parent. Your life, your vision, your dream of the perfect split-level plastic block house with shutters ain't gonna happen. Your child wants the yellow Legos. All of them. He needs to use the crayons to draw on your back and stack on the fireplace ledge. He had one bite of turkey, he's done with Thanksgiving, and so are you.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Story for Ann

I wrote this story years ago... it could be twenty by now. Six years ago today, my aunt Ann died unexpectedly, and this is one of my best memories of her. And one of my best memories ever. I wish she were here today. She'd get a kick out of my little family.

My aunt Ann was coming out to visit. She had always been my favorite aunt. Her imagination was vivid, and she really knew how to play, even though she was fifteen years older than I. As if summer wasn’t already enough of a pre-school overload for me, there would now be an overabundance of girl things to do. This was going to be an extra special treat.

Summer for me was a wild romp through the mountains of south-western Montana. Almost every year contained those six weeks of passionate playtime, surrounded by endless cow pastures and college students who thought I was a cute kid. It was also six weeks without T.V., but I never noticed. The reason for this unadulterated and often unsupervised experiment in childhood was that my dad taught at a field station in the Tobacco Root mountains, and the family came along. I really didn’t know what he did exactly. I just knew that he was a teacher, the students called him the Limestone Cowboy, he tromped around outside all day, and sometimes graded papers. Us kids could, in turn, sell rocks we found on the hill behind the lab, and peddle Kool-Aid to the students after a hard day in the field.

The nearest town was listed as having 32 people, but these citizens didn’t actually live in the town proper. They were ranchers who were scattered about the out-laying areas and up into the mountains themselves. The town was called Cardwell, and the post office, general store, and gas station were conveniently close - in the same building. Maxine the postmaster sat on her stool behind the counter, and gave my brother the stamp collector illegal postmarks from the town.

I usually passed my time running around in those endless cow pastures, out behind our trailers, negotiating sage brush and cow pies, or playing with my extensive collection of Barbie dolls. My brother went around making the sort of trouble that boys make, such as pushing little sisters into creeks and general teasing and badgering. Mom spent her time doing crafts and relaxing. She also had the fun job of keeping Jim and I from severely hurting each other. Ann’s visit was a very exciting addition to an already pleasant routine.

I loved Ann. I was five years old, and she seemed to be perfect. She drew pictures that really looked like what they were supposed to be, loved horses and pretty things, and liked to do my hair with colorful yarn ribbons. She would pick flowers with me, and admire my Barbies. She was almost a better kid than I was.

The morning she was supposed to get in, we drove the one and one half hours to Bozeman, and picked her up at the two-terminal airport. One and a half hours is an eternity in the life of an antsy five year old, and I’m sure that my excitement and anticipation contributed to making me one of the most charming little chatterboxes around. I would imagine that I annoyed my parents with all sorts of trivia, perhaps adding in a song or two as I gazed out the window at the scenery speeding by, wondering if we would ever get there.

The plane landed, Ann walked into the airport, and everyone had their chance to say “hi.” The whole ride home consisted of boring grown-up questions such as “How was your flight?,” and “How is college?” By the time another agonizing ninety minute ride was over, and we were back at the camp.

I wanted Ann to dive immediately into playland. But it wasn’t to be. She had to rest Maybe she was an adult after all; they sleep all the time.

The next morning, I woke earlier as usual, as kids often do when they are overly excited about something. It was better than Christmas. Well, almost better than Christmas. I went out into the small living room as quietly as possible, because that was where Ann was sleeping, and made as much noise as possible. I ate the cookies that dad always left for me, dragged the chairs over the cheap linoleum floor, and banged the cabinet doors. Ann, to my horror, woke up. Mom woke up also, and I found out that Dad was actually in camp grading. Wonderful. Everyone would be home to show me a good time. All I had to do was sit back, be cute, and let them do their best to make me happy.

The day was mine. My father arrived and he, Ann, my brother and I planned to trek all the way across the river to Rattlesnake Butte. A hike! Off we went, I in my embroidered Toughskins, striped knit shirt, and blue children’s hiking boots, was ready to go. We left the trailer and headed down the newly-tarred dirt road, over the South Boulder River, and back up the other side to the mountain, a distance of about a quarter of a mile. Rattlesnake Butte was really not a mountain, it was only a small foothill of a foothill in the Tobacco Roots, covered with brush and outcrops of jagged rock. It was tiny.

It was surrounded by the beginnings of the actual mountain range, which made it look even smaller. The only thing which made it remarkable and lent it its exotic movie-western name was that one of the teacher’s dogs was bitten by a rattlesnake on top of it.

But I was five. Almost everything was bigger than me. A whole hill was huge. And the distance traveled was practically an odyssey, complete with obstacles meant to trip up the unsuspecting wanderer. A system of metal bars two inches wide and four inches apart familiar to anyone in the west blocked our passage to the promised land of adventure: a cattle guard. My father’s Super 8 movie camera caught, in visual proof, my brother actually being nice to me. We were attempting to cross this cattle guard when I hesitated. A better name for these contraptions would be “childrenguards.” Jim went ahead and showed me how easy it was, and returned to take my hand to guide me over the treacherous thing. Once I was safely on the other side, he went across and back just one more time to prove to me that he needed no help. Rattlesnake Butte now loomed over us. We went through the gate into the empty cow pasture over to the slope and began our hike.

It was all easy at first. We went slowly, Ann and I picking flowers as we went, Dad following with the camera, and Jim, once again, running ahead to show us how easy it all was. Then Dad dropped a bombshell. He had to go back to the camp to grade more papers. I suddenly had the choice to stay and go on with Ann and Jim, or to go back with my Dad. It might seem like this would have been an easy choice to make, but I loved my daddy, and if he was leaving, I felt I should, too. After standing on the hill with my dad below me and Ann above me, looking back and forth at both of them, and jumping up and down while shaking my hands, I decided to stay and continue the trip.

We reached the top of Rattlesnake Butte and began to explore. I had been up there many times before, but Ann made it seem like a completely different place. The small pine trees, large rocks, and sagebrush became a hideout for the good guys.

We were being chased by a group of nasty robbers. They were after us because we knew too much. We had witnessed their last heist, and were determined to turn them in. We perched ourselves behind some rocks near the edge of the hill, and looked down upon the dirt road. We were worried-it seemed like we couldn’t be missed, and these guys were ruthless. They would show no mercy, so what if we were kids.

A lone car appeared. It came around the corner on our left, around the hill, a cloud of dust following it. They were driving fast. Was it the robbers? I felt my heart speed up, and a lump grew in my throat. The car passed without incident. Ann held her breath through it all, trying to be brave. I couldn’t handle it. I could never handle fear. I had to go to the bathroom. I retired to the bushes for a short amount of time while Jim and Ann held down the fort. As I returned, another car approached. I was advised to duck, which I did. The car went by. Ann was sure it was the bad guys, she remembered the car. It passed out of sight up the valley.

“Listen,” she said, “They didn’t see us.” She was whispering, even though the only thing there was to hear in this wilderness was a bird, maybe a cow. Her ponytails were almost quivering with fear, “It will be a while before they realize that we aren’t up there. The road ends five miles up. If we make a run for it now, we should be able to make it home before they come back.” Admiration almost poured out of my eyes. She was fearless. She was pretty. She was smart. She didn’t condescend. Ann knew everything. We took one last peek at the road, looked at each other for reassurance - Jim informing us that there was really nothing to worry about, , and made a break for it. We tore down the side of the hill, through a herd of wandering cattle who didn’t even realize what peril we were in, and took off down the road.

We didn’t stop until we reaches our trailer.

“I think we made it,” Ann said, “Let’s eat lunch.”

We went inside. The robbers never found us. Ann was so smart, and she had her priorities straight. Food before fear.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Flu Facts from the CDC

The whumpuses have all had their flu shots. Finn and I had them at the same time, which I hoped he would find fascinating and would lessen the pain for him. It did. He had his then watched me have mine. We were in shot solidarity, and it gave him a story to tell. Pete had his at work, where we have free flu clinics.

Go here for some facts about the seasonal flu and children, like:
  • Each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

I'm Reading A Book!

It's about raising a well-behaved toddler! Yes, once again, I have succumbed to the lure of a quick fix by checking a parenting book out of the library. Previously, they were about sleep, and it ended in a blind rage about the "Sleep Lady" and a vow to never again read a child sleep book, no matter who recommends it. So far, this vow has stuck, even when babywhumpus has a few bad nights in a row (he's in one right now).

Recently, babywhumpus' whiny, petulant moods led me to seek solace in written advice, as I feared that my brain would eventually explode from all the "No I Don't Want To-s" and general high-pitched, incomprehensible wheedling, whinging demands coming from the mouth of my small human.

I should know better. It won't matter. They will offer plans, which we have neither the time nor the fortitude to implement. What I really want, truth be told, is a quick fix, akin to a spell or charm that will end the whining and turn the boy into an engaging, reasonable individual. In reality, there is a spell, but it's not quick. It's time. With patience on top. And even then, as the recent mid-term elections have proven, there's no guarantee that I will get a reasonable individual out of the bargain.

The current book is by a celebrity pediatrician, the same one who wrote "The Happiest Baby on the Block," which I read regarding sleep issues. I was probably so sleep deprived at that point, that much of it flew past me. Like the exclamation points! And the cutesy language! And the mistakes in terminology! Or the assumption that your child is not in day care because you are a wealthy parent in southern California! Or the further assumption that only women are reading this book!

I'm not sure why I am doing this to myself!

Homo Habilus was not Neanderthal!

I am not a stay at home mom!

Dads should start reading these damn books too!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Green With It

Do you ever feel like someone else's life is just better than yours?

It's unfortunate that the subject of my envy lives with me. It would be easy if I could say it was my cats or even my son, but it's not, and that leaves just one person.

Before the baby, I'd say we were about equal. I had friends, he had friends, we had friends. I went out, he played gigs, I usually came along, sometimes with the friends that I had. I could read, write, knit, sew, or draw at my leisure. I still did more of the housework and almost all of the cooking, but there was more time. Oodles of luxurious, lavendar-scented, foamy bubbles of time. We were busy. I, especially, am a busy person--can't sit still to save my life.*

Now, daddywhumpus still rehearses and plays gigs, but it costs $100 to pay a babysitter to join him, plus it sucks extra hard if neither of us gets any sleep. I have one girls' night a week when a friend comes over for a couple of hours and we watch America's Next Top Model, but I still have to help with the baby.

I'm still doing most of the housework and almost all of the cooking.

daddywhumpus tells me to make time, to just do it. But if I do, the housework is still there. daddywhumpus says we should get a studio; I say we can't afford it, and the last thing I need is money worries. It seems like there isn't time for both of us to have a life outside of work and family and get everything done. And when are we a couple? When are we a family?

It's not new and we whumpuses are not unique. I have other friends who are band widows, and we have the same problems. I knew about the music, it's not like he surprised me with it. I don't resent the music. I resent the loss of me, and I don't know how to get it back, how to make time for it. If I am not the one doing the housework, I feel like I am slacking. If I am the one doing the housework, I feel like I am doing all the housework, and I get frustrated. When I am home with the boy, I also do chores. If I am out doing something with friends or for myself, and there are chores left behind, I feel like I am slacking, and I can't relax.

daddywhumpus says that I should just make plans; the chores will still be there.

Yeah, that's the problem.**

*Clearly, if my life truly counted on sitting still, I could make a shift to do so.

**Last weekend was work and chore-filled, and so was the weekend before that. Can't tell by my sunny disposition and positive attitude, can you?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Before and After

Both for the weather and the house.

It was almost 70 degrees earlier in the week, but today, there is much snow.

This is the whumpus residence.

In between those two pictures, we had the garage door replaced and a beautiful patio put in, a fresh coat of paint, a motion detector light, and new storm windows. Inside, we have a new toilet, new plumbing, and a portable dishwasher. Plus a new attitude. Right?

It's like we are almost grown-ups.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Time to Ponder

When you are sitting in a windowless room, in a thin cotton robe that is open at the front, you have time to think. As I waited for the gynecologist, I thought about how I should have done my toes. Pedicures are pretty low on the priority list, behind eating, cleaning, working, and breathing. Should I have carved out time to make my toes look nice for my new doctor? She's not really going to be focusing on my feet. The area of concern is more northerly, and that area looks as nice as it ever does.

For the past two-and-a-half years, I have been to the doctor numerous times, with Finn. For the five-and-a-half months before that, I was at the doctor a lot, for pregnancy. I have not been in for a non-pregnancy visit for over four years. When my old (though young, cute, with excellent taste in shoes) doctor left for a position at the University, I was bereft and did not take the time to find a new one. Finally, I read the bios on my HMO's website, and chose another young, cute doctor. I didn't try to, it's just what happened.

I found myself saying, "Since I became pregnant/since I had the baby" a lot. Since I had the baby, I have had lower back pain. Since I became pregnant, I have had facial redness that resembles rosacea. Since I had the baby, I have not slept well. Since I became pregnant, I am much dumber. Since I had the baby, I have a sex drive of negative 1.

My blood pressure is good. Everything looks good. I weigh 12 pounds more than I wish I did, but it may well be something that I have to accept. In a month, I'll go back for blood work that will check my cholesterol, glucose, and thyroid as well as get an IUD. I also have to schedule my very first mammogram, now that I am over 40.

I'm such a grown-up.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Family Portraits

Yeah, that picture yesterday? I mainly posted that as a little balm to my bitchy Friday post. Really, things are pretty OK, but sometimes it's better to spew a little venom into the ether instead of at your husband, son, or animals. Even when they barf on your rug. (Cat, not husband)

I had a photographer come to the house on Monday evening because we have no family portraits since this one, really:

And it's a little out of date.

Plus, I am rarely in photos of Finn because I am taking the photos of Finn. From the looks of our album, I never spend time with him. Which is totally true, but no one needs to KNOW that.

I found our photographer through a newsletter from a women's shelter.  She had come by to offer her services for free, so the families there could have some portraits done. How excellent is that? I checked out her website and wrote to her. For a very reasonable fee, she came to our house with her equipment and followed us around. It was simple and fun. Pete still had time to get to rehearsal, and Finn got to show off for a new person as well as flex his "Smile for the camera" muscles. He's a ham.

She put up a few photos on her blog, so I'll send you there to look at them if you want to. Her name is Crystal Leipa, and she's going into this business full-time starting soon, which is brave and exciting.

(We hope to have Mattress come by sometime and do some different family photos... we just have to decide a theme... Plus, I hear his fee is astronomical.)

Friday, November 5, 2010

It's always nice to be behind at work, behind at home, have people pissed at you, find the cat in the closet (having ruined a brand-new towel and possibly numerous other items INCLUDING YARN), be by yourself with your candy-demanding child, unable to find the pumpkin that is full of the candy being demanded, and have to clean up cat barf once the closet cat is done re-eating the other cat's barf.

It must be great to be in a band.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Give Me the Chickenpox, or Give me Death

Until it was time to vaccinate my baby before he left the NICU, and I had my subsequent fear-based freak out about vaccine danger, I had no idea that there was such a thing as a chicken pox vaccine. And when I heard, I thought, well, "Meh, why do we need that? Chicken pox is not so bad. He doesn't need that one."

It was part and parcel to my weird reluctance to vaccinate. The fear had gotten to me in my highly emotional state. babywhumpus was extremely premature and in the NICU. Even though we knew relatively early that he would survive, it was still a state of heightened existence. I tried above all to hold it together and not be too emotional. Consequently, I think I may have put all my fear regarding his very real condition into other areas: vaccines, bottle-feeding, toxins in the products they used at the hospital. Though I still have my issues with the bottle feeding and the products, I was hysterical at the time. Not hair-tearing and raving, but overly panicked and fearful about these small things, having denied the emotional reaction to the very large one. And in a situation where you feel you have very little control, you cling to what you can control.

I look back, and it's embarrassing. Let the damn nurses give your baby a bottle when you are away and get him home earlier (I did, eventually). There are more important things right now than the possibility that he might not adjust to the breast. Calm down about the diaper cream and the petroleum jelly. The dose makes the poison, and, again, there are more important things on which to focus.

And then the vaccines. I had this still very tiny baby, who had survived so much, so early, and I wanted him to stay exactly how he was. Those stories about babies regressing or becoming damaged after vaccination had wheedled their way into my subconscious. After all we had done, I was not going to lose a part of him.

Never mind the other side of that coin: pertussis, hepatitis, and other vaccine-preventable diseases that could take all or most of him away.

People can say a disease is not that bad, or that "only a few people die of it every year, anyway," but if it's preventable, then isn't that statement just a little unethical? What if you or your child is one of the few? It's all OK when it's happening to someone else, I guess.

I didn't think about those things back them.

By the time babywhumpus came due for his chickenpox vaccination, he was all caught up and got his shot. Because even though "only" 50-100 people die every year from varicella, I'd rather it be none.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Side by Side

One year in between, walking and talking, truly a little demon.

Hallowe'en pictures

Submitted for your approval...

This was Finn's first Hallowe'en trick-or-treat experience, and the candy monster has been created. This is last year's costume because I did not have time to make a new one, but the adorable-ness translated well.

The candy rationing and bursts of tears begin...

Vaccine Awareness Week (The Evidence-based Version)

This week has been declared an unofficial Vaccine Awareness Week by anti-vaccination advocates, so a bunch of evidence-based bloggers are writing about vaccines. I guess it's taking them at their word, and working to make the public more aware of the facts about vaccination. Many of these individuals were very helpful to me, getting me out of my fog of irrational fear and putting me back on track.

"It's also important to realize that most parents who buy into anti-vaccine views do so out of ignorance, because they have been misled, rather than due to stupidity." - Orac, Respectful Insolence

"Vaccines stimulate and increase the function of the immune system – that’s how they work. They provoke an immune response. Stimulating the immune system is healthy for the system, which needs exposure to antigens to remain active." - Steven Novella, Neurologica Blog

Vaccine Central, vaccine information by parents, for parents.

A post from last year, by Mark Crislip, on the flu vaccine.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Photographic Interlude

Raisin Recall

Nestle is recalling Raisinets.

It's interesting because I would have assumed they were being recalled because they are candied evil, but apparently there might be "undeclared peanuts" in there.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Voting over

It was just for one day, that being yesterday, Wednesday October 20.

Today is another day, and I think I am going to dress him like a devil every single day because we are beginning to be convinced he is possessed.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Miracles DO happen

They are just not what we think they are.

They are tiny in comparison to the larger world.

They should be honored and marveled at, but not be expected to repeat... because they are miracles.

You may remember my thoughts on miracles. Conception is not a miracle. Even my baby's survival is not a miracle. To reiterate, a miracle is:

1: an extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs
: an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment

Again, I do not believe in number one in any way, shape, or form, and number two does not apply to conception, in general or in my specific case, nor does it apply to babywhumpus' survival, as the success rate for his gestational age is now 90%. We are always grateful (to science and his excellent care), and we are often astounded at our two-pound baby but... not a miracle.

But, by number two's standards, what we had last night was a miracle. babywhumpus slept for almost 11 hours straight. This is "an extremely outstanding and unusual event." For the past two weeks or perhaps more, there has not been a single night of even sleeping from 10-5, let alone from 8:30-7:15, and before that, the 10-5's were rare enough.

Tonight, I vow to get him into--actually INTO--the bath at 8, give him a fun 10-15 minute splash, get him out and p.j.-ed, and see if family story time will happen before pillow and bed. The goal being to get him into the crib around 8:30.

This, too, would be a miracle.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Good post on Dr. Bob Sears

Deconstructing Dr. Bob. by ScienceMom.

Note to self:

You do not need new shoes, new boots, new clothes. You can do without new towels. You don't need the 3rd season of Big Bang Theory, the latest 30 Rock, or Medium. Take all that money and just put it in savings toward the new patio, windows, and house painting so you don't owe Wells Fargo anything and don't pay them too much interest because they suck. You have plenty of nice things, and plenty of things to get rid of anyway, so nothing new and personal needs to enter your life. Don't look at shoes online. Don't look at new releases. Just stop it.

Put it in savings. Now.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Kids! Do this!

Charlie's Playhouse is hosting an Evolution & Art Contest, and my kid is too, um, inexperienced in drawing to enter.

You pick an animal, imagine an island, and draw an evolved animal. I already know what I would do if adults were allowed to enter, but it would be political satire, and this is probably why adults are not allowed to enter.

But I have cousins and friends from 4-12, and they should get drawin'!

Friday, September 17, 2010

This Mississippi River You May Never See (cross-post)

I live near the Mississippi River. I work 500 yards from the Mississippi River. I grew up in a town on the river southeast of here. When I moved to this state at the age of ten, I was in awe of the fact that I was living on the western side of a geographical celebrity, lauded by Mark Twain and other artists; a waterway of continental historical proportions. I came to take it for granted, but every once in a while, it hits me again: that's the Mississippi River. This happened just a few days ago when babywhumpus pointed to the river and said "lake." I told him it was a river, the Mississippi River, and he repeated "Mississippi" perfectly. I again felt the pleasant weight of history, and felt fortunate to live here.

For the last four years, the University of Minnesota's Bell Museum of Natural History has been working on a film about the river entitled "Troubled Waters: A Mississippi River Story," and it was due to premiere on October 3.

Not anymore.

(Pay special note to the update in the grey box, because it could be that something fishy is going on at the University, and that's quite simply the last thing we need.)

From an administrative and budgetary perspective, pulling a premier this late means that money has been lost in labor and materials, simply related to the event. That's not even addressing the costs associate with the film itself. Something like this will continue to feed into a public mistrust of government and the University that has been planted and tended by our current governor (himself a graduate of the University). We have enough people taking aim at us without shooting ourselves in the foot.

All this to say: make some calls; send some emails. Might as well flood the president's office and copy URelations. Tell your friends. I don't know about you, but as a citizen of Minnesota, an alum of the U, and a current employee, I'd like to see this movie.

Via e-mail:
Via U.S. mail:
202 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Via phone: 612-626-1616
Via fax: 612-625-3875

Office of University Relations
3 Morrill Hall
100 Church Street S.E.
Minneapolis, MN 55455
Phone: 612-624-6868
Fax: 612-624-6369

Link: Professor P.Z. Myers' post on this issue.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Musing. Fall makes me do that.

I had to run an errand to another part of campus. As I walked  out of the building, I was confronted with a tent poster sale, and I was thrust back over twenty years, to purchasing large-scale images of The Cure and reproductions of Maxfield Parrish prints for the thickly-painted, fleshy beige of my dorm room walls.

I walk across the bridge from which poet John Berryman jumped, and I think about tossing a flower down onto the ice on January 7.

On this errand, I was reminded of the brash beauty of a completely cloudless autumn sky, that people still smoke, and that the incoming class of freshmen could be my kids. On the way back, I watched a crane loading up pieces of the bridge that fell. They have been languishing for three years next to the river. Maybe it's because the law suit has been settled; maybe it's because it's harvest time and someone needs the steel. In any case, it will be nice to reclaim that stretch of riverbank from the ghosts of failed engineering.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Round about August the past two years I have started to notice all the hugely pregnant women there are. This continues through mid September and is exacerbated by the Minnesota State Fair, where every tenth woman seems to have journeyed for the specific purpose of jump-starting labor.

Why not?

That's what I was going to do.

It's a complicated thing, my reaction to full term pregnant women and women who have delivered healthy full-term babies. (If they have also had care free pregnancies and seem to lead uttey charmed lives, the reaction is much less complicated.)

On the one hand, it is marvelous that these families and babies do not have the ordeal of extended hospitalization and uncertainty. I do not wish that on anyone. On the other, there's a mix of jealousy and loss.

I cannot change things, and we have a frankly fabulous son who is thriving, but still I wonder what it would have been like to be that big and to feel all that movement. I think about a birth experience that did only involved the regular amount of fear and trepidation. I dream about being able to hold my baby when he was born and bring him home with me when I left the hospital.

Not every day, not all year. But it's there, and it probably always will, even as I mentally thank all the nurses and doctors who made it possible for me to have the amazing daily experiences I have with our healthy, growing boy.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Damn Kid

As I was walking to get lunch just now, I looked down the street and saw a garbage truck. A big, blue garbage truck. My heart fluttered with excitement, and I thought of how happy Finn would be. I noted that it was a front-loader, and as I drew closer, I wondered, "Is that a McNeilus or a Heil?"

It was a McNeilus.

Monday, September 13, 2010

I Watch Trains

Youtube has created a demon. On one hand, it was sheer brilliance that Pete realized we could stream train videos from youtube to the television via the BluRay, but at the same time, we condemned ourselves to delving into some of the various transportation-related subcultures, which are out there, videotaping your trash.

Trains are one thing, and I knew that there are people out there who trainspot, or “railfan,” as it’s called here in America. (I should look up the difference so that no one finds this and flames me.) I had no idea that we would find edited videos of garbage trucks, complete with captions telling us the make and model of each rig. These are the most boring of the vehicular shorts that now clog the favorites on my channel.

I look like a freak.

Garbage trucks, diggers, trains, fire trucks, ambulances, toy trains, and subscriptions to Lark Rise to Candleford and the Minnesota Zoo sit together on my homepage.

“Garbage Trucks, Part I” has over 1.5 million views, and just under 1.2 million of those are ours from the past five days. I am at leisure to type this because he is currently mesmerized by “Garbage Trucks, Part II.” Make sure you see Part I first because otherwise, you will be completely lost. Both parts take place in Naples, Florida, and from what I can tell, people in Naples don’t recycle, and they throw away perfectly good stuff.

I note that there is a “Garbage Trucks, Part III.” It’s a trilogy, which makes sense because “Garbage Trucks, Part II” is clearly the “Empire Strikes Back” of the Garbage Trucks saga.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


When I went for freshman orientation, an upper class-woman came to speak to us and told us naps were our friends. I didn’t nap in college. Oh sure, sometimes I stayed up all night, went to class at 8:00 in the morning, then went home and went to bed, but that doesn’t count.

When I had a baby, I read that I should be napping: sleeping when the baby sleeps.

Because I don’t nap, I didn’t sleep.

Which is of course untrue, but I don’t get that much-celebrated eight hours of sleep a night. I don’t think I even get six. And that’s not straight through. But sleeping during the daylight hours is practically impossible for me. First of all, I am a light sleeper, so I am easily woken by sound. Party at the neighbors, overenthusiastic dog in the distance, snarfling raccoon just below the open bedroom window, the muffled sounds of death metal coming from the odd neighbor’s basement, and I’m up. During the day, there’s just much more sonic activity, and it keeps me from getting into a good falling-to-sleep groove. Not to mention that it takes me 30 minutes and a good book to begin to drop off. If I am tired enough to nap, it’s pretty extreme, but even then, if I find that groove, and it gets interrupted, I’m done.

One afternoon on The Cape, I was that tired. I had almost gotten into the groove, and Pete came in looking for something. I could have ignored him and tried to hold on, but I knew what he was looking for, and I knew where it was. The groove was not far off, though, so I grabbed a quilt and snuggled down.

That’s when the lawn guys showed up.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

As the sun goes behind an especially picturesque bank of clouds, the nice breeze becomes a chilling one, and I bundle up camera, book, and sunscreen and head up the 54 stairs to the cottage for my last outdoor shower. I leave my glasses on because no one should shower blind outdoors, so I survey the ocean and sky through foggy, droplet-covered lenses, but it would be worse without them. I figure they also get clean. I am a big fan of passive multitasking, which is doing one thing while doing another. Clean the glasses, rinse out the beach toys and the Keens, get a shower. It takes almost no brain power, no real planning, and I can also stash a Guinness on the shampoo shelves to further complete the picture of home economic industry.

We really should have had the plumber put one of these in at our house.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Ashes, Ashes, we all melt down

We as a family are no longer fit for extended public consumption. I say that, but I am only fooling. We are not even fit for abbreviated public consumption. Pete and I can make a shift to appear normal; we understand social expectations and can follow them, but the two-year-old dynamo is quite another story.

We took a day trip to Martha’s Vineyard, mainly to get the boy on a boat and round out the transportation countdown: taxi, tram, plane, escalator, moving walkway, bus, car… boat. Also, Pete wanted to drop off some CD’s with the Black Dog guys. He promised he would, in exchange for using a picture of one of their boats on the cover. Plus, he worked on that boat 22 years ago, a 16-year-old kid, climbing the mast like a monkey, hanging from the rigging.

We left the house at 9:54 and arrived at Vineyard Haven at 11:30. By 1:00, we were done. After Pete changed to worst poopy he had seen in awhile in the Steamship Authority restroom, we went to wait for the next ferry, allowing the little demon time to frolic in the lapping waves of a crappy beach near the dock.

The pictures make it worth it. Plus, I sold a CD to a couple on the ferry. But we are really best sticking close to home. He’s not a placid child who becomes engrossed in things for an extended period of time. Aside from youtube videos of garbage trucks, he doesn’t sit still for much, and even then, it’s “’nother gabbage tuck. ‘nother gabbage tuck.”

We shift-ate through lunch, each scarfing down our fish sandwich and cheeseburger while he either screamed or threatened screaming. We tried to wrangle him in the little tangle of buildings that it the ramshackle center of the Black Dog empire. We attempted to woo him with promises of tee shirts with doggies on them. Slowly, we devolved into Those Parents with That Child. When Pete trudged off with Finn’s poopy butt on his shoulders back toward Steamship Authority and said he’d see me in twenty minutes, I thought, “This is how people wind up getting divorced.” One overly stressful public experience leads to a hissed public argument leads to resentment, and if you had any underlying resentment for that new resentment to mate with, you could be doomed.

This is why I assert that you must like, I mean deeply enjoy, the person you are partnered with before you have children. You must know how to talk to each other. You must know the other’s moods and buttons, not so you can push them but so you can avoid pushing them. The new addition will push them for you.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

There are times, perhaps when you are folding a tiny, orange tee shirt or he turns just so and jumps, his bare feet hitting the wooden floor with a plonk, when you think "Holy shit, I have a child."

Along the way, you think, "How will I ever teach this child to speak, learn his colors, count, do his ABC's, keep him fed so he will grow?"

Fortunately, a lot of it seems to be instinctual. When you are talking to your child, you point out different things. You name and describe. You are teaching as you are guiding him through his day, exposing different layers of his world through the senses, using language to point the way. And he listens. He soaks it in and repeats it back to you, noticing more than you told him, remembering more than you thought he would.

And suddenly, he is asking "Why?" when you tell him that he has to wait to watch videos of garbage trucks on You Tube, and you realize that you are doing a pretty good job.

And that you are doomed.

Resigned to New

I love my International Harvester refrigerator. They only made them for seven years, and mine is a 1952, I think. It came with the house, and I made sure to write it and the 1951 Tappan range into the purchase agreement.

They both still work, and they have been our fridge and stove for the past nine years, rumbling along like the beautiful workhorses they are. This summer, however, the thermostat on the oven went, so I can't bake anymore. (It shoots from off to 500 in a matter of minutes, rendering all cookies dark puddles of carbon.) And I grew tired of emptying out the freezer every two weeks to defrost it. It would be caked with ice to the point of barely opening, and the food in it would be buried like a baby mammoth in a glacier. It sucked the cold out of the fridge leaving bottles sweaty and cool and vegetables flaccid as a... well, let's just say limp and lifeless. With the two-year-old running at peak intensity, there's little extra time for such things as defrosting, and I could no longer remember what I had hauled down to the chest freezer in the basement, causing me to repeat food purchases, laying in a stockpile against some near-future armageddon, perhaps sometime soon after the Minnesota governor's race is decided.

I came to a decision: the stove would have to be fixed. After perusing the new choices, I felt only despair that we seem to have lost all sense of how to make something utilitarian have real style. Plus, nothing had the same usefulness of my Tappan. Coincidentally, an almost exact model showed up at the ReUse Store, so we bought it for parts. It's in the garage. I still have to get the thermostat out and swap, and here's hoping that it works. It's on the list.

The refrigerator would have to be replaced. Almost all the new ones are ugly (I don't like stainless steel, and the white ones are lifeless hulks), and the 1950's-styled models are just a bit out of my rational price range. We settled on one that, while not terribly attractive, has made our lives better in an ineffable and completely materialistic way. It keeps food cold, it has a bottle rack for beers (though no bottle opener on the inside handle latch, like the IH). It's not "femineered" like the International, but what is, really? I put an old metal bottle opener on a strong magnet on the outside of the new fridge, and the old one is, you guessed it, in the garage. It still works, it just needs to be restored a little bit, and I want to find someone who will do so or who will at least use it and take care of it.

Another thing on the list.

But I got to take "defrost" off the list, so it all works out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Vacationing with a two-year-old is a different kind of break. You can't have the same expectations of relaxation and repose that you might reasonably look forward to were there not a dependent though determined small being in tow.

Your routines, as inconstant as they may seem to you at home, help to hold the family together. When you know what to expect, in general terms, things are easier, though they do not always appear so. Away from your normal environment, without the time constraints of work and day care, things can fall apart. People can fall apart. Toddlers often do.

Finn is doing remarkably well, I think, with all the new people and relatively constant activity. He has no schedule because there is no schedule, and we are not structured enough to create one. Naps happen when we think he needs it or, like today, not really at all. He simply will no go to sleep even though he is a complete crabapple and clearly needs a good, long nap. He's expressing his stress and trepidation through an increased demand for "Quiet Time" and "Pillow," which then puts an increased demand on me and removes me from company a lot. More than even I would choose.

We have just sent him off on a (hopefully) long explore with his grandparents. We are having Quiet Time in the form of books and blog. I might even take a shower.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Quiet Time

For a long time now, nursing has been called "Pillow," in reference to the essential item used for comfortable nursing. At home, Finn has a special pillow with an identifiable pillow case. It's just a regular, down bed pillow, but it's only used for nursing, for the most part. The specialized nursing pillows really didn't do much for me. One wound up being more of a neck support for Pete when he would sleep with Finn, and the other we used when Finn was just getting the hang of sitting up--it was a little extra support for when he played on the floor. I donated them both ages ago.

I didn't bring Pillow because we had enough to carry, and when it comes down to it, it doesn't matter to Finn which pillow he uses. Pillow really means Boob, and I always have those. Here at the house, though, in mixed company, I started to refer to it as quiet time, and it's stuck. Finn quickly began to ask for "quiet time," and now it mostly means, "I need a break from all this. Let's go upstairs and do something else. Maybe we will read or play a game on the iPad. Maybe we will look out the window, I just need fewer stimuli."

It's advanced mood recognition, as far as I am concerned. Many, many adults don't understand when they have had enough and instead of taking a break become sulky, childish, or just plain mean. I know I have done it. Now I have a new code phrase to use: Quiet time. It's better than "I have to go 'Number 2.'"

Yesterday was a big, fat party. My in-laws' extended family is large and gregarious. Kind of like seagulls. I like sea gulls. They are graceful and attractive, diverse and interesting, but when you get too many of them in one place, it can be overwhelming. I dealt with it by cooking. I am making family dinner tonight (Pete said, "We should make dinner. You should make chicken enchiladas."), and of course, I have big plans, so I started two days ago by putting together a corn salsa. Then yesterday, I did the tomatillo sauce and the chicken filling. Tonight, I have to assemble them, make rice, and also do up some fish tacos. Hey, we're at the beach, so there has to be fish. It's not like Cape Cod is famous for its succulent, wild-caught chickens.

Last night, as I hung out in the kitchen, putting together the chicken, I got to talk to many people, but in shifts, as they came through and asked me what the heck I was doing. I think that because the dining room table was positively groaning under the weight of a million chicken wings, the largest tub of potato salad I have ever seen (Seriously, you could have bathed a baby in there), hot dogs, hamburgers, salad, cakes, and bars, they were perhaps questioning my sanity. They may have questioned it even further when I said I was working on Monday's dinner, but sanity is a relative thing in most families, so I don't think it matters all that much.

Today, we are vacationing much lighter, with just the immediate family, so it's very quiet. We spent some time on the beach, though the last few days of churning seas have left it completely blanketed in sea weed. Finn wanted to move some sand around, and we also managed to show him a couple of small crabs, a live scallop, and a few other neat things deposited close to shore by the wind and waves.

All-in-all, it's a good day to be on vacation.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

And now, for a geek break

Bird list (Not a very good one. I am not trying.):

American Black Duck (Check their papers. I bet they are illegal and just here to steal jobs from hard-working Mallards.)

Osprey (There must be a nest nearby because we are often treated to a pair, fishing in the bay and hovering just off the cliff.)

Double-crested Cormorant (I love these birds for their dopey-looking wing drying.)

Least Sandpiper (Who you callin' "least"? There are a number of other smallish to medium-sized shore birds that I have not been able to get a good look at. "Least Sandpiper" is a best guess approximation.)

Herring Gull (One stood in the jetty near us the entire time we were down on the beach. Once we were back up at the house and looked down, he was in the seaweed, picking out juicy morsels. Clearly, we were at his table.)

American Crow (Loud, louder, and loudest.)

Black-capped Chickadee (These, along with red-winged blackbirds, may be my favorite birds. Common things are common, but that does not make them ordinary.)

American Robin

Happy Birthday, Gran!

Here's yogurt face...

We'll call later. Skype?

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Hurricane Report

Pete's aunt and uncle showed up, stayed for awhile, then left. Someone set off a small amount of firecrackers. The college kids woo-hooed and cheered. The storm came through slowly, bringing wind and rain, and Finn slept through most of it. We did not. Surprisingly, I could handle the sounds of nature, but the sounds of nature's children were obnoxious. When Kicky McThrashy stirred, we pulled him into bed, as usual, and he did his bed dance. Luckily, we are in a king sized, but he's a sleep hurricane.

It's nice not to have diapers to wash or work to do, but I was sleeping better at home.

The weather is breezy and mostly cloudy, but I bet those clouds will roll over soon.

But it's 6:50 a.m., and SuperWhine is mewling incessantly. Nothing is right, and every circumstance must be met with fake crying. It's about the last thing either of us want to hear right now.

Earl has passed over. Finn is here.

Friday, September 3, 2010


See that yellow, orange, red bit to the east? We're in the middle of that. Truth be told, the map looked worse when Finn and I retired to the basement because the tornado sirens were going off in Saint Paul, but it was much more localized and, well, it had never been a hurricane. Another wing of Pete's family just showed up to get closer to the action, I guess. No better time to party than when Earl is in the house. It's raining, and the wind has definitely picked up, but I believe we have a way to go.

We Will Be Fine... so,

Here's hoping for the best in New Zealand, as they assess the damage caused by the massive earthquake early this morning...

"Parenting tip of the day"

"Parenting Tip of the Day from

Find a quiet place today and take a deep breath. Remember that perfection is unattainable and chaos is reality. Remind yourself that getting down on the floor and playing with your kids is more important than that sink of breakfast dishes, and to carve out time to nurture your body, soul, and marriage."

Blah blah BLAH, blah blah blah.

If I were not on vacation, that would get a big fat "fuck you."

As it is, I AM on vacation, and I am feeling pretty good, so I'll just say, "Oh, please." That kind of statement contains bits that every parent knows, but it is also the kind of statement that would make most busy parents want to punch the statement-maker in the throat. We know that it's more important to play with your kids than it is to do the dishes, theoretically, but the dishes simply will not do themselves. We know that we should carve out time for body, "soul," and marriage (or partnership), but if you can't even get to the frickin' breakfast dishes, from just where is that time going to come?

Yes, I am going to make time to go to the spa, kneel in front of my closet altar and meditate, as well as have a romantic dinner with my husband, just as soon as I get down on the floor and play with my kid and do the breakfast dishes. I'll be right with you.

I have found that it's almost impossible for me to relax at home if there are obvious chores to be done, which is why I am often trying to get so much accomplished, so I might have that time to really enjoy my family. It's why I spent so much time trying to get so much done before I left: I did not want to come home to it. So far, only two days into this trip, I have had to remind myself that I am not at home, so there are no chores, at least not in the same sense, and we don't have to get to work, drive to day care, feed the cats, wash diapers, or be on any sort of schedule. I paid the bills before I left, and I did my best to wrap up work.

I can walk down the 54 steps to the beach and play in the sand with my son first thing in the morning and not have to think that there is something else I should be doing because quite simply, there isn't. I get to enjoy my family. You can say that we see each other every day, and while that's certainly true, we see each other enmeshed in the web of our daily responsibilities, and it's difficult to find any sort of peace during which to relax. It's always either the calm before the storm or it's the storm, and neither are terribly peaceful.

But this is.
Let's go fly a kite...
...once the hurricane passes.

(Yes, we were the people in the local hardware store buying balsa wood gliders and a kite while other people were getting batteries and asking about generators. Weather report: it rained a little bit, then stopped for awhile. Then it poured for 15 minutes. Now it's just cloudy. People report: Finn and Pete are napping, along with perhaps the rest of the house. It's very quiet. I am doing this, Joyce is reading, and GrammaSue is watching the Weather Channel.)


The house we are in is part of a small compound. It's no Kennedy Compound, but it'll do. There are almost as many liberals here as there.

There are two houses, one main house and the holiday house.

We are in the holiday house, which is the smaller of the two, as you might guess. The main house is currently occupied by a group of students from Stanford. Yesterday while Pete was assembling the kite, there was a brief outburst of high-jinks that made Finn point and say, "Running around."

"Oh great," I said. "As if I needed another reminder that I am old and fat," as I watched four bikini-clad, toned women posing for goofy pictures taken by one of the two young men in evidence. Not long after that, there was some sort of game involving water ballons, bowls of water, and, finally, sprinklers. "What are they doing?" said Pete. I looked at him, aghast. "Um, making girls run in bikinis by getting them wet, causing them to bounce and squeal."

I've never been prouder of my gender.

Or of his, for that matter.

That Pete thought there was perhaps a purpose to the "game" going on next door is, I suppose, testament to either his adorable naivete, his higher mind, or just his competitive nature. I'm really not sure.

I was just trying to figure out how two relatively nerdy guys had four attractive women seemingly all to themselves in an expensive house on Cape Cod. I figured it had to have something to do with money.

It's either that, or we are going to be in the background of some sort of MTV reality show as the older, remarkably unhip, and mildly disapproving family just trying to have wholesome fun with their toddler.


It's 10:50 a.m., and it has started to rain. Just a little bit. It would be nothing if we didn't know what is behind it. We brought in chairs and other beachy items, and that's about it for now.

OK, now it's raining a little more.

Hurricane Watch

It's cloudy this morning, but so far, that's it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

So, You're a Hurricane. And Your Name is Earl? Yeah, OK.

I just came in from the beach. I figured I should get in there before Earl has his way with the Cape tomorrow and Saturday. 100 mile per hour winds are projected for the Cape tomorrow.


Everyone needs a little adventure on their vacation. You just usually hope it isn't the kind that makes the news.

Vacation, Had to Get Away

Baby’s asleep, and there’s no Internet. It’s 8:15 Minnesota time, on the first night of our vacation. A real vacation, I mean, away from home, in a different environment—at least for me—for more than a long weekend. Geographically, topographically, ecologically, architecturally, linguistically, economically, nutritionally, we are in a different place.

Sure, it’s not Saint Paul to Cameroon, but even the seemingly slight differences in our own large country matter, and they should be appreciated and savored. We had swordfish and bluefish with our corn-on-the-cob. We are sitting in a shingled cape cod cottage with bare nails poking through the unfinished ceiling. We are on a salt bay beach, complete with sand and shells. We are renting from people with money. Here, we take a baah-th, not a beh-th, and tomorrow, I don’t have to go to work.

And I am going to try not to check my work email.

Not having access to a wireless network will help with that, but then again, how do I blog?

There’s a crib here, but perversely, it’s in the room with the two twin beds. I guess they must figure that anyone with a kid doesn’t want to sleep in the same room as their kid, or maybe they figure that all kids would sleep in that room, and all adults would sleep in others. Yeah, that’s probably it. Didn’t even occur to me until just now. After trying to wheel the crib through the door, I decided that it had been assembled in that room, and that was where it was going to stay. I took out the mattress and put it on the floor in our room, bordered by pillows, and that’s where he is right now. Wiped out and asleep on his back in a probably soaking wet diaper. We’ll pay for it later. I sent Pete back downstairs to be with his family. I’m not done for the day, but I don’t want him to wake up in a strange room by himself, out of earshot. This vacation will probably force us to buy a monitor. We don’t have one at home because our house is like a dollhouse, and we really don’t need it, but this is two stories, and there’s plenty of opportunity and enticement to being outside, under the stars.

I don’t mind. I have things to say. I have a good book. I have two Guinnii. Even without wireless, I think I will be OK.

(Oh, and there's wireless here)