27 December 2007

And the winner is....

So I took the comments from post #100 in the order they were received, then added Kathleen as #8 (see post #102). The Random Integer Generator, which hasn't let me down yet, has spoken.

Random Integer Generator
Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2007-12-28 03:22:10 UTC

This means Emily, Scott, and August are the winners of the contest! Whee! Before the end of the year, I'll be sending a special surprise package. In fact, since Emily's mom will be around this weekend, I'll probably send it home with her (if that's okay with you guys. I never promised I wouldn't try to skimp on postage). Then I'll post pictures, so the seven of you who didn't win will know why you're crying in your beer.

This was very exciting for me! I was nervous, I really wanted everyone to win...I guess it's a good thing I haven't been nominated for an Oscar or a Nobel Prize or anything.

Congratulations to our Esteemed Winners. Rock and Roll.

24 December 2007

Last minute gift ideas

I know most of you come here for shopping advice, so here you are. My comprehensive list of gifts that will not generally annoy or upset the recipient. You may need to use your own judgement, at times, of course: #8 would be lousy for your recently on-the-wagon friend, and #6 won't do for that gambling addict you're hoping to get a date with. But otherwise, hurry up and shop. Time's awastin'.

9. Beta fish with food and water treatment stuff. Not for the petaphobic or those who lack the ability to really care for themselves. But they're pretty.

8. Pennsylvania Dutch Eggnog

7. New socks. Everybody loves new socks, even if they're cheap ones.

6. $20 in scratch-off tickets, all different denominations/varieties

5. Free childcare for those with children, or free pet-sitting for those with pets. Be specific, so that they are more likely to take you up on this. Instead of "One free night of childcare" offer "One free night of childcare any Friday in Jaunary or February with at least 48 hours notice". See the difference? If you don't, send me an e-mail and I will explain.

4. Pudding. Everyone loves pudding.

3. A good unscented lotion, like Aveeno. Don't give scented things like candles or lotion to people who may be either A. too sensitive to them, or B. Unable to smell them. If you're unsure, go unscented, or with #4, 2, or 6. A is worse than B in terms of offensiveness, but if I couldn't smell and someone gave me lemon verbena lotion, I would question their motives. But maybe that's just me.

2. A funny picture of yourself in a very nice frame. Make sure and point out that they are welcome to reuse the frame for a picture of their choice: not everyone's home decor remains dorm-like, so they may not want a photo of you in your floppy plaid cowgirl hat on display.

1. A lovely magazine (just one issue, if you like) in their area of interest that you're pretty sure they don't already subscribe to. This falls under the "indulgence" quality I discussed in my last post. For example, for my newly engaged friends, I might buy them one of those ridiculously ad-packed bridal magazines. It's not practical, and most of my friends wouldn't spend $8 on such frivolity, but it's also really fun to look at if that's what your mind is on. Check out Shinder's if you're in Minneapolis or any sizeable bookstore for a dizzying array of options.

There. Don't you wish I had posted this earlier? Me too. But now I can just link here for next year. See how I plan ahead?

Consider also: pomegranite juice, expensive apples, help in next spring's garden planting.

Avoid: bingo palace gift certificates, lead-based paint, and shopping while angry at recipient.

23 December 2007

Holiday Shenanigans Part I

First, let me congratulate everyone who's commented so far on the last post. You're all winners in my heart (though there can still be only one "real" winner. Otherwise it wouldn't be a contest). And let me also remind all of you who are still on the fence that it is a random drawing, so you have as much of a chance as anyone (and right now it looks like about a 20% chance), and I promise the prize will make you laugh, feel shiny and new, and maybe confuse you and those you love. So please, if you haven't commented yet, do so (unless you're in Moscow bringing home your new son, because that's the only real excuse to not comment).

In other news, G a n y o Christmas round 1 just ended. So many presents, so much taco dip...here are just a few of many highlights.

V's noisiest present so far: Squawkers McCaw. We can rename him/her, according to the adoption certificate, so feel free to offer suggestions. I tend to gravitate toward names like "Hank." Discuss amongst yourselves.

Like V, Squawkers loves to dance and repeat back whatever people say. I'm still trying to figure out how to explain to V that we didn't have the internet when I was growing up. How will I tell her that I didn't own a robot? Ever?

In related news, have lots of theories on presents, but let me summarize by saying it is always a pleasure to exchange gifts with people who know you well, people who like you and want you to be happy, and for whom you feel the same. I got some amazing (and shimmery) lotion, some hand-dyed wool yarn, and a very fancy multi-colored pages journal. I mean, those are all things I just adore, really, and am way too cheap to buy myself. Is that what Christmas is all about? Kinda.

Last night we rocked out with Fat Daddys, Uncle Bill's kick-ass band. Um, hello, but I really think the guitar player needs to live in our basement and make me breakfast on weekends. He is just the sweetest cutest boy in America. Next to Shaun, of course. Anyway, we went to the Park Rapids Eagles Club, paid our $3 cover, and enjoyed music and family time all in the company of the Park Rapids locals. Sometimes my anthropologic side flares up and I just enjoy watching people, how they interact with each other, and how this all changes over the course of several $6 Bud light pitchers. I feel so removed from the bar scene (not that I was ever all that into it...) that it's a lot like seeing a whole different species interact.

After the show, I went back to the in-laws and had some delicious Pennsylvania Dutch Egg Nog, and watched late-night cable. If you like sweet and creamy liquor, I would recommend this eggnog, but only if you chill it well first. Few things are yuckier than warm eggnog.

Ew. I just made myself gag.

Ah, liebchens, I must go rest up for Christmas Round II. I wish I hadn't left the eggnog in Park Rapids (though I hope Aunt Joy gets to drink the rest of it), but perhaps I can stop at the Bottle Barn on our way to Hendrum tomorrow. If you have other liquor suggestions, or would like me to bring you anything if you'll be in Hendrum tomorrow, too, just let me know. It's no trouble. Really.

May your holidays be pleasurable, your lights sparkly, and your eggnog cold. I'll be back with Round II updates and reflections on the whole sordid thing in a couple of days. In the meantime, why not leave a comment?

PS: Hey, Dave, is this a better font? You're my first official complaint. Congratulations. Let me know what you think.

18 December 2007

It is finished. And this is post #100!

I just hit "submit" on the last of my grades. Instead of writing this, I should be hightailing it out of here in case any of my soon-to-be unhappy students are nearby and come looking for me. Though I've done this more than 20 times, each time I submit grades I am amazed at the weight I feel lifted from me. I know, too, that in less than 3 weeks, the weight will certainly return...but for now, oh, glorious now, I am free! Free, you hear me! Free! Where's the Southern Comfort?

Also, though, I'm done early for once, so I should probably pipe down, lest my colleagues join the mob of students looking for me. I intend for V and I to wander by here tomorrow with treats and humble good wishes, because it is so rare for me to finish before the deadline, and so many others have not. Shaun is the one to be congratulated on this semester's triumphant wrap-up: he encouraged me to grade night after night after night these last three weeks. Sometimes I would bring him home a cheeseburger, or breakfast from the Fryn Pan, but often I brought nothing, came home crabby at 10:30 or 11, and went to bed soon after. Marrying an English instructor is more work than he realized, methinks. It's more work being an English instructor than I realized, too, for that matter.

So this is what a 100th post feels like, eh? Kinda manic and rambling...yeah, that seems about right. I know when TV shows do their 100th episode, they get a big sheet cake. Maybe I should go get us a cake. Mmm. Cake.

Oh, one more thing before I go home to my much-neglected family: since many of you are new visitors thanks to some shameless self-promotion on the Ganyo holiday card, and since this is post #100, for crying out loud, I want to encourage/ask/beg/demand that each of you reading please comment. Shaun truly believes he and I are the only readers, though I keep telling him otherwise. Let's rally and show him just how many brave Languishing readers are out there. You can chose to be anonymous, if you like, or link to your own blog/website/pyramid scheme. Follw the prompts, take your time (for those of you new to the world of comments) and only hit "submit" once. I will use the Random Number Generator to chose one of you to receive a very exciting prize. Probably involving corduroy in some way, and maybe a book-like thing, but that's all I'll reveal right now. C'mon! You know you can't win if you don't comment, and you can't comment if you don't read this, so...erm...C'mon!

To help you understand, I have an elaborate analogy! Each post is sort of a performance (often mediocre, granted) and if no one comments, it's like being at a concert and not applauding. Even if the band's a little off key, or they're playing a song you don't particularly like, you still applaud, don't you? Don't you? Well then, comment. I need to hear a little applause now and then, too. And if you don't want to applaud but would rather boo, at least I'll know you're out there.

If you are one of those people who doesn't applaud if they don't feel like it, go ahead and don't comment. I wouldn't want you to win my special prize anyway.

Commenters, you have until December 26th at midnight, after which time I will close comments and chose a winner! If you suspect I don't have your current mailing address make sure I can track you down via e-mail in case you win the super special prize.

Stay classy, San Diego.

16 December 2007

Handmaid's tale

The child, she learns quickly. I don't think she even knew the word "finger" until September 28; but she learned it right quick.

And almost as quickly, she healed. Not quite, I suppose, but the fact that her finger looks this good relieves me beyond belief. What? You can't tell for sure which finger it was? Exactly. Hence my relief.

I didn't mention in the original post that another thing that kept me awake at night was a deep sorrow of potential loss: I kept thinking "She'll never be a hand model!" as if that was what I had always hoped she would be. And those corny wedding photos with the couple's hands showing the wedding rings? Ruined. I smushed her wedding ring finger. And don't even get me started on my panic over her piano and guitar careers...though my friend Crystal cheered me up when she said Jerry Garcia was missing that very finger.

I still feel awful, by the way. Every time we go through a door together I hold my breath and peer at each of her appendages to make certain she's clear. But at least, if she wants, she'll probably be able to have that corny wedding photo after all.

I really must learn to enunciate.

Location: In bed
Time: Just waking up this morning, 15 minutes before the child wakes. I throw an arm over my beloved and try to act casual.

Me: Mornin' sweetie.

Shaun: Mm.

Me: You know, I had an erotic dream about you last night.

Shaun: So? All your dreams are neurotic.

13 December 2007

I Like You Too, Amy Sedaris

So Amy Sedaris has stolen my book idea. Seriously. Well, maybe she just wrote the book I wish I had written. Anyway, it was my first Christmas gift this year and I've already read it. All 304 pages. And a lot of it is a cookbook. Who reads a cookbook? Me, I guess. I found her humor exquisite, the photographs glorious, and she made me crave some serious cheeseball.

I highly recommend this book, but it is not for the prudish (she explains some interesting hygiene tips) or the people who honestly aspire to be Martha Stewart (she cares for googly eyes a great deal). Look at the photo above: do you find this kinda pretty, kinda silly, and does it kinda makes you wonder where you put your kohl eyeshadow and your strappy heels? Then this might be the book for you. It's certainly the book for me: I swear she is my long lost big sister. It was a wonderful, exhilarating 304 pages, and I'm gonna read it again, probably before Christmas. After that, you can borrow it if you like. But I am gonna need it back for that cheeseball recipe.

Holiday Photo

Since Shaun likes for us to all be in the picture, (because when we get photos of our friends' kids, he growls and says "I'm not friends with their KID!") we generally have to find outsiders to take a shot of all of us. Last year(left) it was done during Thanksgiving at Myra's.

This year we begged and pleaded until Dan and Tenessa agreed to help. Here are some of what we had to pick from (this is clearly more of a reflection on us than it is on them, by the way).

Do you think we're in a rut for poses? Me too. I'm actually not even including the one we did choose: some of you will get one in the mail shortly, and I'd hate to totally spoil the surprise. If you DON'T get one in the mail shortly, it means one of three things: 1. I don't have your current address and have a stack of mail here for you that keeps coming back to me, 2. I don't know who you are, or 3. I no longer care for you. Of course, it's possible that the mail carrier lost it, too, and if that makes you feel better, go for that.

We almost went with this one, because I think it would be reallly funny. (that's V with Dan and Tenessa, for those of you just joining us). Maybe next year. Or when she hits puberty.

When Shaun and I first started dating I found his insistence on making stupid faces endearing. This quickly moved to annoying. He did act nice for the wedding pictures, and soon after I came to understand that he was otherwise physically unable to look like a normal human in photos.

It still infuriates my mother.

11 December 2007

Light at the end of the tunnel: Santa?

This is my last week of classes. Next week is finals (I have just one, and it's for handing in a take-home exam), then I grade until my eyes bleed and try to have everything in by the 21st. Grades aren't due until the 26th, but lemme tell you, nothing ruins a perfectly good holiday like grading.

Except maybe the stomach flu.

This year, like other years, will be a mix of in-laws and Hendrum and here at home. V is so close to knowing, really knowing, about how exciting this all is, but not quite. I wanted to do an advent calendar, like these (scroll down) or this, but it will have to wait until next year. By the time I found all my good wool felt, it was already December 4 (it was in the attic in a box marked "Christmas: fragile." Of course). So no advent joy (the anticipation, it is killing me) this year.

The other day, V and I were talking about Santa Claus. Let me say, before I go further, that it was really hard for me to decide to go the Santa route. I just really, really, really didn't want to ever be untruthful to my child. But I remember how breathlessly magical Christmas morning was for me during those first years, and I don't want to deny her of that. Still, it feels an awful lot like a bald-faced lie, and that's what makes it difficult. (Those of you rolling your eyes at this can stick it in your ear. These choices are hard for me!). At any rate, it felt less like lying when she was littler, and couldn't ask any questions. But the other day, when V and I were talking about Santa, it became clear she doesn't know much about him. She recognizes his picture and knows that he brings presents, but that's about it. I said something like, "And then on Christmas Eve, Santa will come. And what will he bring for you?"

"Prezants!" she said, beaming at knowing the answer.

"That's right," I smiled calmly, patting her on the head. I decided long ago to leave out the part about being good because of a horrible story I read once where this little girl who was from a poor family got only one measley doll and her neighbor got the Barbie Dreamhouse and limo and a chia pet and her own monkey and the little girl cried because she figured the neighbor girl must have been much more good to get so many fancy presents.

"Grandma bring Santa?" she said. Again, more sing-songy: "Grandma and Santa."


"Grandma bring Santa."

"Erm, no. Grandma won't be bringing Santa. See, Santa has his own sleigh, see, with 8 magic reindeer, and sometimes Rudolph if it's foggy, and he flies down from the North Pole to bring toys to all the...girls and boys who...believe in him. And he comes down the chimney, or, ah, through the window....erm...He has elves who help him make toys and other things that he brings to you and lots of other children."

"And Grandma."

I couldn't bear to tell her the whole filthy elaborate societal lie again. So in our house, I guess Santa gets a ride with Grandma. They can compare notes, I suppose, on who's been bad or good...I don't think the reindeer would fit in the Ford Focus, though, so they're on their own.

10 December 2007

Terrible Twos

I need ten more posts to have as many this year as last year, so just sit back and enjoy how verbose I can be if I let myself.

V's other new thing, aside from KISS, is screaming. All-out, full-body, top-of-my-lungs, help-me-you-idiots screaming. I imagine I probably did this as a child, too, as I am known throughout Hendrum for my temper. (I exaggerate. Or rather, my mother does). But I was suprised to see the Johnson rage rear its ugly head so early with my offspring. We are managing, through a three-pronged approach of ignoring, distracting, and drinking heavily, to weather this storm. Now normally, Jess and I can compare notes when the kids hit a certain stage. Teething? Walking? Will went first. Talking? V's arena. Sweet-tempered Will, however, has not inherited the Johnson rage, apparently, but instead his father's observant tendencies. In their carseats in cold December sunlight, this makes for a lovely contrast.

Love changes everything

Our dear dear friends came up for the weekend. The theme was mostly "Hey remember before we had kids when we could have a grown up conversation and the only one screaming was Jen?" We miss those days.

They live in The Big City 230 miles away, and despite continuous promises/threats to one another that we will again live in the same location (or at least less than 230 miles apart), I'm slowly coming to realize that this is unlikely. They both have good jobs where they are, and I love my job, and we both own houses and .... you know how it goes. For a long time this idea of not ever living in the same city again made me so terribly sad. It still does, sometimes (like last night after they left to go home...), but I try to remember that throughout my life, my mom has kept in touch with her best friend from college, and they travel together every summer and see each other often throughout the year, and they live 260 miles apart. My sister and I love Kathy's children still (and we're all grown up, now, even the baby Mark), and our mothers met over 40 years ago. And Myra and Kathy didn't have blogs or cell phones for most of those 40 years. Why, with free minutes alone we should be able to know a lot more of what's going on in each others lives.

In other, non-related news, have I mentioned V's love for KISS? It's quite upsetting, actually. I put in a DVD of the Muppet Show a few months ago (she was just barely two). I love the Muppet Show and hope she will, too, one day. As I sat back down to enjoy it with her and her father, V started screaming, "No, KISS! KISS!" I glared at Shaun, because he's the one in the KISS army, not me. "I didn't do anything!" he swore, but then added "Except tell her they're the best band ever." Still, for a two year old to remember that and demand to see them instead of Muppets strikes me as remarkable.

Because we are easy to persuade, we took the screaming to heart and put in a KISS concert from the late 70s. Now before ya'll call child services, we fast-forwarded through the blood-spitting parts. And she danced and danced and sang and danced.

Now she knows every member of the original band's name, what they play (her little toddler voice saying "Peter Criss, drums!" just kills me), and has an inordinate fondness for Gene Simmons. In fact, last week, we were talking about her favorite TV shows, and I asked her which she liked better, Dora or Blue? "Gene Simmons," she said.

Next time you see her, ask her what Gene Simmons does. I promise you won't be disappointed (unless you're child services).

01 December 2007

Happy December Fool's Day

We had big plans of spending our Saturday with Auntie Jess and cousin Will. We were going to have homemade pizza for lunch, dance around to Christmas records, and try to do a photo shoot for Grandma Myra's holiday card. But then winter showed up.

For years I commuted 72 miles each way to work. In five years, I missed perhaps 3 days due to weather: a remarkable feat, considering how close we are to Canada and therefore the artic circle (please don't correct my geography. I'm writing for effect, not accuracy). Sometimes I had to hold my breath and hope the road was under me; once, a semi jacknifed right in front of me, crossing into my lane before slamming into the ditch.

I was proud of this driving record: I could drive in anything, and I told my students as much repeatedly. As a college with 75% of the population living on-campus, this school NEVER closed for weather, and I didn't want them to get out of class because I chose to live far away. But in 72 miles, I had to drive through three counties, each of which viewed plowing differently (the middle one felt it was completely optional. All season). For a time, when I had a sweet Honda CRX, the floor had rusted through, so the only thing between me and the elements was a thin piece of carpet, which quickly soaked through and froze to my pantsleg during the winter drive. Every day was an adventure, and I had no cell phone, either. I imagine these are the stories I'll use to convince V she has it easy in about 12 years.

The daughter changed all that, of course. I'm no longer willing to take risks like I did when it was just me, and not much seems worth venturing away from our cave-like home. We have the luxury, of course, of not having to use outside childcare, though this means it can sometimes be days before V goes outside at all. This winter, I'm working to fix that, with big plans of boots and snowpeople and just plain winter shenanigans.

But today, our first big storm of the year, at most we'll venture to the backyard. Pizza with the Auntie and cousin will wait, while we adjust to our transformed landscape and snuggle up in front of the tree.

Any normal blogger would now post a lovely wintery photo to show you the aforementioned landscape, but I haven't gotten that far yet today, so instead you get this: proof that we encourage all kinds of bad habits. Right after this photo, she had a whiskey sour and a cigar while cursing the 18 year old age limit on casino gambling.

Stay warm, dear friends, and may all your scratch-offs be winners.

25 November 2007

It takes a village

This is from a day or two before Thanksgiving. As I was strapping her in, I realized this shot represents a myriad of families who contribute to our whole. V’s jacket and fancy red pants were her cousin Zya’s; her hat was knitted by my Aunt Beverly; the tent (yes, we have a tent in our backseat. in November) belongs to Aunt Jess and Uncle Brad, and the pink rain slicker in the far corner came from Grandma Myra. Behind her head, just out of the shot, is the DoodlePro, from Grandma Mary and Grandpa David, which is one of her very favorite toys, so it stays in the car to keep her entertained, on short trips or long.
These are just a few of our active connections, and each of them (and all the others not pictured) help so much to make this parenthood carnival ride a little less scary.

Post-Thanksgiving (we hosted, which was great but also tiring, of course), I’ve been working on these, inspired by SouleMama and Rosie Little Things and this collection I found through a flickr search. They will be gifts for many of the wee ones in our lives, and V has been enthusiastically alternating between picking out selections for her loved ones (for Will! and Jess! and Devon!) and then taking two and whacking them together.

Mostly she does the whacking with the Mommy and Daddy dolls (can you guess which ones are us?) I found the blank dolls at Michael’s (most expensive), Hobby Lobby (best selection), and JoAnn’s (least expensive but terrible selection). The best paints have been Dreamacoat, hands down. I’ve also found my Sharpie collection to be most useful for face details, and Elmer’s Paintpens for little decorations (belts, polka-dots).

15 November 2007

Get the lead out

I had lots of punny titles for this post: Unleadened bread, leadless horsemen...I went with the obvious. But notice I didn't HAVE to go with the obvious. I chose to seem less creative.

First, let me say that my ideal winter holiday, truly, would be one where everyone gets two shiny pennies and an orange. Or some such thing. Maybe a whistle Pa whittled for you out of that old pine tree branch that fell down out back in the storm last fall. And that's it. But, as my Shaun likes to point out, in my family presents equal love, and the amount of love is directly proportionate to the cost of the present. An orange and two shiny pennies=the love you feel for your ratty old slippers that you never really liked but wore anyway because they were there.

My dearest friend, Tenessa, and I have overcome this cost of presents=love thing by buying many thrift-store treasures for each other. We find it thrilling to surprise one another with presents that cost less than $5 yet seem incredibly indulgent. But not everyone shares this passion for bargains.

Having V has also heightened my senses about the holidays considerably. I don't want her to be greedy, nor do I want her to be buried under a pile of toys she doesn't really love or use. At the time, I recognize that she would both adore and play with a Dora the Explorer doll, but something about this product placement in our lives creeps me out. Also, though, it's hard for me to stand up and say "Hey! World! Nothing with batteries, okay? And nothing made of plastic." Because that pretty much eliminates most of the places the people I love like to shop. Also, I didn't realize until recently how much I didn't like the plastic stuff, so it's sort of like changing the rules of a game in the third inning. I'm not ready to do that. But I am ready to reflect on the upcoming hoildays in a mindful way, and direct people who might be looking for direction to some places I think seem really cool.

Normally I try not to think about gifts until Thanksgiving, but the toy recalls have me really kinda bothered. But .... it's the holidays, a time when I can't control (much) what comes in to our toybox. At least, I don't feel like I can, yet. Beyond our own influx, I also want to give gifts to children I love: our family and loved ones and friends turned family, and of course V and Will. On the one hand, I can't afford to be all "here ya go, cousins..." fourteen times. But I do believe that gifts made not of plastic, with less likelihood of being covered in toxic crap, can be found, often affordably and beautifully. To that end, I've been compiling some links that you can share with people who shop for your wee one, if you have one, or where you can shop for wee ones you like.

Stump Pond Toys: This is through etsy, an online conglomeration of independent salespeople, many of whom sell handmade wares. This guy is just one of many, but I like the name "Stump Pond" a lot.

Palumba: Another etsy seller. Palumba is just fun to say.

Willow Toys: Lovely castles and dollhouses. Really lovely.

Quiet Hours Toys: Um, yeah. Here. Now you're done shopping forever, and me and V will love you everytime we play with this.

Casey's Wood Products: I hesitate to put this one on here, because I intend to use this in my own shopping. If you think you and yours might be one of the aforementioned 14, just skip the rest of this. Otherwise, Casey's is not just a toy company, at all, this is a great place (with great prices) to buy supplies. They have doll forms and fruit and little boxes and acorns. You can get 100 acorns for $16! If you were 4, wouldn't you swoon a little over a handful of those? Well, I would've, anyway.

Rosie Hippo’s Toys: Rosie's got lots of great stuff. I use this site for inspiration sometimes. I wish someone would make us or give us some of these. They just look like fun.

I'm also going to make gifts this year. I write this down for several reasons, but one of them is to warn the blessed fourteen that they may be receiving some slightly wonky plush toys from me this year, instead of purchased things. This was hard for me to decide, actually, because I am still a moderate sewer, and to give something as "the" gift that was handmade, even with love, seems cheap to me, still. It's not, of course: I finished one toy after 2 evenings (about 5 hours) of sewing by hand. Even if I pay myself a moderate $9 an hour, this is a $45 gift even before materials. And I do sew with thoughtfulness, considering the recipient and stitching with positive energy inasmuch as I know how. In the end, I had to think of it this way: if a dear friend of mine made a gift for V, how would I feel? Would I think they were being cheap? Not at all! I'd be touched and excited and moved. So in the end, if anyone doesn't feel that way, they can take their handmade gift and stick it in their ear.

Of course, if you've already shopped for V, and you've purchased the Deluxe Plastic Stuff boxed set, I'm sure she'll love it and it will be fine. Please don't feel bad.

This post is obviously very wishy-washy , which is one of my greatest flaws. I have a hard time being firm about anything, and not just my abs. The only place I'm firm is in the classroom, actually. The one thing I can firmly say, though, that if you buy us that wooden barn stable, I will thank you with all the wonky fabric toys you can carry.

05 November 2007

Why I had a daughter

9. Bangs.

8. Shaun and I couldn't agree on that circumcision question.

7. To prove that girls can like sports (she loves to yell "Oh....Football!" whenever it's on).

6. We didn't need to count testicles.

5. So many tiaras, so little time.

4. She can birth me some grandchildren.

3. Two words: Beauty Pageants.

2. Wonky clothes

1. Pig Tails.

What's the buzz?

Here are our Halloween Delights: Once she got into this costume, she kept saying "Buzzzzzzz!" to nearly every question. We took her to the Civic Center, where police, firemen, and EMT people, among others, handed out candy, most of which she is too little to eat (like laffy taffy and root beer hard candies and lots of bubble gum). There was a DJ and a light show and a lot of inflatable things to jump in, none of which she was very into.

She did like a few of the pumpkin games, with the lanes of hay. She puttered around and laughed and looked cute. Mostly, though, she wanted to look behind the inflatable things or hide out behind the ambulance, dancing with her zoot-suited daddy.

I cannot tell you how much it delighted me that Shaun dressed up. He came went upstairs and came down dressed up: I was totally surprised. I assumed that if he did anything for Halloween, he'd draw a swastika on his head and go as Charles Manson, as usual. So this was quite the improvement. Someone at the Halloween Bash said of us "Oh, he's in yellow, she's in black, and they made a bumble bee." This color coordination was not intentional, but it gave me HUGE amounts of joy. (I can't help it that I'm a dork.)

I get overwhelmed by groups of people and unstructured time, so this whole shin-dig got a bit irritating to me after about half an hour, but Shaun and V had a great time, esp. with this funny little basketball game.

Afterward, we only went to one house, the Jensen's, so V doesn't have a real feel for what Halloween's all about, but she does yell "CANDY!" several times a day now. It's much, much less cute than it sounds.

28 October 2007


Well, it's not pretty, still, but at least we can see the floor, and V can get her oven open. I ended up relaxing more than working, but it recharged my batteries in a most needed way. Today I did a lot of sorting and shuffling, moving crap from one corner of the living room to the other. It's actually much more progress than is apparent; at least, that's what I tell myself. It makes me feel better. And once the basement craft room is more in order, everything you see here that's not child related will be there.

There's still lots to do before Thanksgiving, but we'll get there. And if we don't, I'll just hang a big gold and brown table cloth over the largest piles and call it a Thanksgiving sculpture.

27 October 2007

Halftime report

No photos (out of shame/lack of noticable progress), but an update for those of you keeping score:

Papers graded: 20 (out of 80. gross.)

Midterm grades calculated: 20 (the last 20! Whee!)

Thrift stores visited: 4

Thrift items purchased: 2

Loads of laundry done since last night: 5

Loads of laundry put away since last night: 0

Songs on the radio sung along to loudly: 2 (long black veil and when the saints go marching in)

Trash bags filled from the living room: 1

Donation boxes filled from the living room: 1

Hours until I'm no longer home alone: 20 (or so)

The last time I was home alone, which was just a couple months ago, when I was working on the garage sale, I had so much to do I didn't think much of it. The time before that, about a year earlier, I was so tired I just needed to sleep a lot. But today, I feel completely torn. On the one hand, it is fabulous to go thrift store shopping and not feel rushed to get home, and I love watching just the crappiest TV and eating junk food without having to wait until naptime or negotiate (or share) with anybody. It makes me pine, just a tiny bit, for the year I was single before I met Shaun, when my time was my own and I was as balanced as I'd been in a long time. But it also (as absences should) makes my heart grow fonder: I miss V's voice and tiny hugs, and I like to sleep beside Shaun so much more than to sleep alone. Which is good.

That reminds me, I have some caramel rolls to eat up before tomorrow. And a room to clean. And miles to go before I sleep.

26 October 2007

Are you in the house alone?

The subject line was the actual title of a book we had in our house while I was growing up. It was probably my dad's, and it was a pulp stalker mystery...but even looking at the cover (a thin blonde, peering past a curtained window into the dark) could keep me up at night, terrified.

This fear has mostly passed, partly because I'm hardly ever home alone anymore, and partly because I try not to think of that book. Ever. So now that I've brought it up, I need to find something to distract myself. Home alone for the weekend, I have several things to keep me busy: the GameCube, grading (loads and loads of grading), a wee halloween costume to sew, a nice hot bath...but I also want to be productive and not just in the grading arena. To that end, and to Shaun's certain dismay, I want to make a little progress cleaning in up our livingroom/V's future play room. And because my personal road to hell is definitely paved with good intentions, I am prone to lots of happy plans and hardly any progress. So here, for the record, are the before pictures. Above, facing north, below facing south. See you by Sunday for the dramatic, breathtaking after pictures. At least, that's my intention.

24 October 2007

Girl in the hood

V got this black hoodie last Christmas from prospective-aunt Johanna, and she loves it. It's velour, with lace trim, and it's surprisingly difficult to find little girl clothes in black. It's also a 3T: almost all of V's 3T stuff is too big, except this. I assume it's because clothing manufacturers want 3 year olds to be sexy. You know, cause that's what little girls are into.

I'm really glad I put this on her now, because I'm pretty sure, unless she develops a serious coffee drinking habit, she'll be nowhere near this hoodie at 3. Sexy is as sexy does, I always say. I don't know what it means, but I always say it. Actually I've never said it in my life. But maybe I'll start now that I thought of it.

This here one is my new favorite picture. It's so dramatic, like something really important (or really distasteful) happened just out of the shot. And also it's of two of my favorite people.

In other news, we went to the hand doctor again today, and we'll see him again in a month, but V's splint and bandages are off (the stitches came out two weeks ago). The hand therapist wants us to work with her to help her start using her finger again, but figures once she forgets she's been protecting it (like when she gets into the play-dough full force) she'll be fine. We still don't know if a nail will grow back, but it's healing well, and she should have full function. Aside from the emotional trauma, of course. Mostly my emotional trauma, but still....

22 October 2007

makin' your way in the world today takes everything you've got

Autumn is here. I really want to go for a walk in the woods with the child before hunting season starts, but things have been very very wet lately, so it's unlikely to happen. Instead, we play made up games in our driveway, and she squeals "outside? outside! OUTSIDE!" every time we come home from running errands. The trees are just passing their peak here, with more leaves on the ground than up above.

I was listening to MPR yesterday and they were re-running a story about the noise in our life: how we only have a few generations now who have grown up with constant noise. It was a complicated story about how this guy's fridge hummed a constant B flat, but his microwave hummed at a C, which was a bit jarring, and then the dishwasher brought in a minor fourth and...well, you get the idea. (I spent 15 minutes trying to find it to link to it, but I can't, for the life of me. Send it if you know what I'm talking about). Most kids in the US today have never been without (or away for extended periods) from that constant buzzing.

When I was a kid, maybe about 7 or 8, there was no place I'd rather be than out in the woods, usually by myself, with a picnic lunch. I'd follow deer trails, look for mice, examine spiders and tree rot and leaf skeletons. It was quiet, and I was not afraid. I have to remember this part of me, and take myself outside (outside! OUTSIDE!) sometimes so I don't lose that quietness. I feel it most of all around midterms, when we're in to this semester hip deep and the end seems so far away.

I'm off to go grade papers, probably at a bar or a restaurant with flourescent lights, a jukebox, several TVs, many fridges and microwaves and blenders and all sorts of dissonance. But maybe, after supper, I'll take V to the park, where, if we get far enough from the road, close enough to the river, we can hear a little less buzzing and a little more quiet.

Or maybe we'll just play in the driveway.

08 October 2007

Oh, shoot.

Language acquisition is in full swing around here. Maybe the finger accident bumped something loose, but I swear the child learns a new word every fifteen minutes lately. Even better, though, are her intonations. Her favorite phrase, overall, is "Oh, shoot." It fits everything: when something's not quite right, she'll say it. At the end of a long, hearty laugh, Oh shoot. If she's just a little overwhelmed with happiness, like one day in the toy aisle at Target? Oh shoot.

Last night, we were driving back home from Grandma's, and we got behind a beet truck going about 40mph. Normally this would tick me off, but it was dark, and V wasn't fussy, so I just stayed back a bit (to avoid falling beets) and started talking to our verbose child.

"That's a beet truck," I said. "It's going to take the beets to be made into sugar."


"Yep. Your Grandpa Dewey used to drive a beet truck when Mommy was a little girl."


"He was married to Grandma. Sometimes she rode with him, and sometimes I did, and sometimes Auntie Jess did. It was fun"


"Uh-huh. Beet harvest happens every fall. It makes me miss Grandpa Dewey."

"Oh," she says, with lots of what I perceive to be sadness, which makes me start to cry.

"He would've loved you so much, sweetie. Oh! He would've played with you and sung to you and thought you were the best thing ever."


"Yes, like Grandma does."

"Oh." She nods, knowingly

"Grandpa Dewey was my Daddy, and that's why I miss him."

"Daddy Shaun?" She's just realized that her Daddy has another name, and sometimes uses it, often to hilarious effect.

"Yes. Shaun is your daddy, and Dewey was my daddy, which would make him your grandpa. And Grandpa Dewey died, and I wish you could've met him, and I miss him very much." And I stop, because I just realized I've brought up death for the first time ever to my two year old, and I'm pretty sure I didn't mean to.

She's quiet for about five seconds, and then says, "Oh, shoot."

Which pretty much sums up the whole thing.

06 October 2007

Land of 10,000 Nightmares

A week ago, I closed the bathroom door, and my 2 year old daughter’s tiny hand was by the hinge. At first I thought she was crying because I wouldn’t let her play in the toilet, but then I saw her, pinned by just one finger. I threw the door open, but it was too late.

Blood poured, so much blood from one small girl. I called her father, screaming at him to answer the goddamn phone. By the second ring, he did. You have to come home, I said. I’ve hurt the baby. I’ll meet you at the ER, he said. He was not angry.

The two miles to the hospital felt like thirty though I hit every single light green. “Oh, honey, it’s gonna be okay, I’m so sorry” I kept saying over and over, begging her to stop screaming.

It is not as bad as I’m making it sound, I suppose. She lost the fingernail (it was mostly off when we got to the hospital)and it might or might not grow back. It took five stitches to reattach her fingertip, pull it tight against the rest of her finger with that angry black thread. She has several more stitches inside, knots
of dissolving sutures that will last until her body knits itself back together.

When I was in fifth grade, I broke my arm, badly, and both my parents told me that if they could, they would trade places with me, take the pain themselves. I thought little of it, wondered why on earth they would rather have a broken arm than me. I know now that they desperately wanted to; to take away my daughter’s hurt, I would’ve slammed my hand in that door ten times, given all my fingertips.

For me, this is primal. That I caused her this hurt is almost unspeakable even though it was in the truest sense an accident.

She will bear these scars all her life.

In many ways, I feel that I will, too.

I wrote most of that the night it happened; sorry if it's overly dramatic, but damn, it broke my heart in 8 places. Flustered and queasy, I ran in circles in the kitchen, looking for my car keys, hoping she could make it two miles without hurting herself further. She did: she's been amazing through this whole process, crying only when we change the bandage, and even then only a little. She is one strong, brave, little sprout.

For the first three nights after, I hardly slept. I'm pretty sure it was the adreneline working its way out of my system, but I was obsessed with Andrea Yates and Susan Smith, women who both drowned their own children (Yates in the bathtub, Smith in a lake). I fixated on these women not because I felt kinship with them. On the contrary, though when their crimes were committed I knew they were heinous, it wasn't until I actually afflicted significant injury on my own child that I knew just how disturbed these women must have been. Smith, in particular, is beyond my ken. Yates, I believe, was mad enough, truly believed her children weren't safe in this world, to make her actions almost maternally protective. But suddenly, having hurt V and feeling the guilt and shame and heartache associated with it, I was really pissed off at mothers who could choose to hurt their babies.

Mostly I'm sleeping better now, as she has resumed her usual silliness, but I am trying to be more careful and alert in all ways. Last Friday, at the ER, I told Shaun through my tears that we'd have to take all the interior doors off the hinges, but he patiently said "Honey, I don't think that's practical." In so many ways, Shaun's been what held this house together while I was enjoying OCD insomnia. If he had done this, I know that there would be a part of me really angry with him, even if I knew that it was a true accident. In that way, if V had to have a fingertip crushed, I guess it's better that it was me than anyone else.

She'll heal up quite well, the hand specialist tells us. Actually, his PA told us that: the doctor himself said "It'll never be normal. The chip of bone will be reconnected through scar tissue. It will be thicker. We don't know what the nail will look like. Many people have fingers that have been injured and are therefore different."

I blinked at him. "It'll never be normal."

Then, in the bandage/splint department, the kind woman was apologizing it was taking so long, but, as she said, "We hardly ever get anyone this small in here."

Right. Sorry I'm a bad mother. (I really don't think she meant this at all. But that's how I took it. I suppose she could be saying V is small for a 2 year old, but I don't think that was it). It broke my heart for the ninth time.

She will finish her antibiotic today, and on Wednesday we go back to see the friendly Hand Doctor. I know that in the grand scheme of terrible things in this world, this is pretty minor, but it shook me up right well. I so wish this hadn't happened. Ack.

Here's the walking wounded, relaxing in her Little Mermaid chair, near her Wiggles guitar, watching Dora the Explorer. It's amazing how silly principles like "Less TV" go out the window when a mother feels guilty.

24 September 2007

Really Two

I have visions of handmade birthdays at home with all our family and friends together, where Laura gets smart-alecky and Carrie drops a glass of milk and Pa plays his fiddle.

Instead, we had the grandparents, an aunt and cousin, The Glee family, and the three of us at Chuck E. Cheese.

I did make her a crown, which she wore a lot longer than I expected, and the cake, though from a mix, was baked at home, and I made the frosting from scratch. She loved the creepy "band" at Chuck E. Cheese, loved her pedal car, loved having all these people around who love her back.

It's not Little House on the Prarie, but it's close enough.

06 September 2007



Tomorrow you will turn two.
24 months ago we still hadn't met you;
still assumed you'd have brown eyes
could not fathom what enormous change
you would bring with you to our lives.

Two years ago tonight, on my fourth
day of pitocin, I begged you to give in
and be born. You refused to the end.
When they finally cut you from me
My relief was immediate and immense
even through your angry cries,
not yet ready for this world.

There is no preparing for that day,
for you or for us. You came into
this world all legs and elbows and screams.
But your father brought you to me
and though you didn't quiet in his arms
I knew you were really ours.

The whole universe shifted two years ago.
All we knew before slid over
to make room for you.
We would put you on the bed between us
and whisper to each other,
"What have we done?" as you held
our fingers in your tiny, powerful fists.

Since our first moments with you
in the hospital, we've fallen
more in love with this new world, this shifted universe.
More in love with you than anyone ever told us we could.

29 August 2007

Why I teach

I teach because there is no real living to be made as a poet these days. I teach because my mother taught, and three of my aunts taught, and my grandmothers were teachers of a different kind, and it is how I process the world.

Today I asked 20 young people in my classroom, all under 30, all over 18, to name one female supreme court justice.

Twenty Americans of voting age.

No one could even come up with part of either name. Now I know there have only been two, and perhaps when I was in college....no, I know that's not true. I have known the name Sandra Day O'Connor since she was appointed in 1981. I was 8. Ruth Bader Ginsberg missed an awful lot of limelight being second. But they both have nice long names, and I was so hopeful that at least part of one of them would come up in class.

This is almost as bad as last semester, when I asked three separate sections of students, totalling 75 people, to tell me the year the Civil War ended. Someone got as close as 1850, which is pretty close, considering many thought it was around the time Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.

At any rate, I teach because I want people to know things. I want them to know why it's important, and how good it feels to have context. Of course, I can lead the horses to water, but I can't hold their heads under and make them drink: so I try to be satisfied just getting them close to the water and hoping they figure it out.

In other news, my latest attempt at an extreme closeup. I love wood. I love how it ages, how it changes color. As I was putting these together, the oldest one crumbled a bit in my fingers. I love how that feels.

Next spring we'll set up a little clothesline for the daughter. It's high time she learned to do some chores.

25 August 2007

She's an angel straight from heaven!

Like many new parents, during our pregnancy and for the first two years of our child's life we have often quoted Raising Arizona. From "show the tattoo" to "I think I got the best one" to "he's a little outlaw, he is" the movie has provided us commentary when we were too tired to be witty on our own. And sometimes I get a photo that makes me think of the film, and I must share.

In other news, one of my oldest non-relative friends just had a baby girl. Her sister's daughter was born a few months ago, and to have these two women, whom I've known all my life, have babies my daughter's age is really profound. Their brother has twin boys, who are even closer to V's age, and this, too, gives me goosebumps. I don't know why: it means a lot to me that my sister and I had children in the same month, but that seemed natural, as we've always done things at a similar pace. But Joel, Jennifer and Emily, our big city friends, becoming parents along with us? Suddenly I'm ten years old again, standing neck-deep in South Twin Lake, talking with the girls about why it's just as bad to say "damn" as "Goddamn." Our children, if they come to know and love each other (and I so hope they do) will be the third generation of our families to be friends, despite the fact that most of the time we have lived over 200 miles apart. It's all very...cosmic, I guess. Serendipitous and cosmic, and I am ever so excited to meet Zoe and August, and hang out more with Noah and Oliver, and provide V with her own big-city friends.

In baby-turns-toddler news, V's recent vocabulary expansions:
oh, no!
digeradoo (kinda)

A fabulous mix. What else does one need to know, really, but tuba, pizza, and digeradoo?

And more than anything, the child loves to play the drums.

16 August 2007

Because Laura Ingalls didn't have any pink plastic toys.

I love Amy Karol: her book on sewing, her blog, her projects...but lately, I've especially loved her rants about plastic things. Today she posted about the scary toy recalls and offered fabulous solutions (that's my favorite part, the solutions), and you should all read this and take it to heart. Even if you don't have children, you know small people, or you might someday have your own, and plastic crap just crawls toward your house once you have an infant.

Just my opinion. I mean, we have more than our share of plastic crap, indeed. V is fond of plastic crap, and I myself have a healthy collection of crappy plastic. But I have been lately making a collection of soft food: I find it challenging to make and hilarious to play with, and V grooves on it. Here's my professional-looking photo shoot. Hopefully you can tell, but here we have bread (with butter), chocolate cake with pink frosting, a tiny slice of watermelon, a carrot, some celery (go Wonderpets!), and an egg with two fancy pieces of bacon. Brilliantly (or perhaps because I am a disgusting packrat) I had an extra metal lunchbox so V can tote her new food hither and yon. Meanwhile, enjoy my delicious picture. And feel free to suggest other fairly-simple-to-translate-into-fabric food stuffs. I'm actively searching for inspiration.

31 July 2007

V's hobby of the month

Actually, she's done this a long, long time. She's just getting better at it. Here, she chooses another pair of her parents' underwear from the clean laundry basket.

And another.

And here she is dancing while wearing over a dozen pairs of her parents' underwear. When she dances a pair off, she simply steps out of them and puts them back on over her head. Obviously.

We really need video of this, becuase she just seems intent on putting on every pair of underwear she can find and then dancing. That's understandable, right? Right?

In other news, her favorite word of late is "pizza," which she says as a command. "Pizza!" Sweet. Also, in bringing laundry in tonight, I couldn't carry everything, so I handed her two diapers. She carried them all the way from the backyard, into the house, up the steps, and into the kitchen, even though she has to lay down to roll up stairs. Finally, I'm getting some work out of this expensive little pizza eater.

I realize that the above is normal childhood development, but damn, it made me proud. V helped mommy! Whoo hoo!