31 October 2008

So Jesus, Medusa, and Buzz Lightyear with an alien head walk into a bar...

Six weeks ago, V proclaimed that she wanted to be Buzz Lightyear for Halloween. Luckily, Tenessa had a Buzz Lightyear costume lying around, so that was easy. Then, a couple of weeks ago, V and I were in a thrift store, and she found a mask, put it on, and walked around saying "I am an alien" in a low, freaky voice. It made everyone at the thrift store laugh, so we bought it, if only to entertain ourselves. But then V decided she needed to wear the mask for Halloween, too. Rather than change her plan, she adapted, and decided she'd be Buzz Lightyear with an alien head. Behind her is, um, Jesus. Well, it's Shaun dressed as Jesus. Perhaps I should explain a bit. See, Shaun's main priority in Halloween costuming is ease. For example, the first time I had a conversation with him was at a Halloween party in my apartment, and he had taken a ballpoint pen and drawn a swastika on his head, transforming himself into Charles Manson. Last year, he went as a guy in a funny yellow suit, because he happened to have that in his closet. So I turned to him about a couple of weeks ago and said, "You know, you kinda look like Jesus, with your long hair and long beard." And this year's Halloween costume was born.
I...I worry that folks will find this offensive, but if you know Shaun, you understand the spirit this was meant in. So I'll just leave it at that.

As per the post title, I was Medusa. Earlier today, as we were getting ready to go out, I told V I had to put some snakes in my hair.
"Snakes? Can't you do something else?"
"Why?" She's never been afraid of snakes before, and I couldn't understand what her issue could be.
"I don't like snakes. Isn't there something else?"
"Well, no. I'm Medusa, and she had snakes for hair."
"Maybe you could be Jessie"(the cowgirl from ToyStory 2).
"I don't have a cowgirl hat."
"You could get one."
At this point, she was almost pleading, which is really odd. Suddenly, I realized what she was thinking.
"Oh, honey, I'm not going to use REAL snakes."
"You aren't?" She seems incredulous, and full of relief.
"No! Here, look. Just little plastic snakes."
"Oh, okay. You can do that then."

So I did.

29 October 2008

Family is as family does

When I went to college, I experienced the usual culture shock: for example, I could not believe that I lived on a floor with people who had never tasted lefse. More significantly, though, is when my floor mates referred to family, they almost always meant their nuclear family: parents, siblings, maybe the dog. But when I talked about my family, I meant the whole thing. Mom, Dad, and Jess, but also grandmother, 9 sets of aunts & uncles, 22 first cousins, and, by the time I was in college, 10 first cousins once removed. Because I grew up in the town where my parents grew up (they were both born in that town, population 300), and because 8 of the cousins and 4 of the cousins-once-removed grew up there too, “family” applied to a lot of people in my daily life.

Beyond that, though, twice a year or better most everyone on my mom’s side of the family would get together, usually for a family reunion in July/August and again at Christmas (or Easter, or perhaps Thanksgiving). In between, it seemed we were always spending the weekend in Brookings or Eagle Bend or White Bear Lake. When we weren’t gallivanting to see the aunts and uncles and cousins, they were coming home to see us (and the grandparents we shared). Even the California cousins, the ones we knew the least, were never far from our thoughts, because our dad had been really close to them while they were growing up (long before he thought he’d be a father himself).

Many of my college friends/friends in general couldn’t name all their cousins without help; I can give you most of their middle names and birthdays. Five cousins in particular, all boys, were especially important while I was growing up. My family had a very fertile year in 1970-1971, and so I had these five boys two years older than me. All my life, they had gone out into the world, just ahead of me, and reported back on what they found. Even when they weren’t personally reporting back, their mothers were reporting to my mother. I had this whole posse of big brothers, without the conflict that comes with real big brothers. Jonathan, Nathan, Chad, Deron, and Patrick, you guys had more impact on my life than you’ll ever know.

As our shared grandparents died, and we all grew up and married and had families and careers and mortgages of our own, many of our traditions fell away. It’s not as simple as a weekend trip anymore, though all five of them live in Minnesota (well, close enough, Nate) now. The family reunions are more sporadic, and holidays together (can you imagine having 40-50 people over for dinner? We were crazy then. And now it would be closer to 100) are something my mother misses deeply every year. I’m not in close contact with any of my cousins anymore, not on a regular basis. Still, my heart is connected to each of them, and especially these boys, now men in their mid-to-late-thirties.

Since I was a child, we’ve known that Deron had cystic fibrosis. My mom organized bike-a-thons every spring, and my sister and I rode in them. If anyone had a fever or ear infection or sniffles, Deron had to stay away (or, on one memorable trip to Brookings, we stayed in a hotel, because my sister had developed bronchitis on the way down) for fear of infection. Otherwise, though, he was just like the other boys. He played with us, outside and in, and judged coloring contests (fairly, I might add) between his sister and me. For the longest time, it seemed, we knew his life expectancy as 12. This disease was a looming, scary part of his life, but it was also just part of reality. Chad has brown eyes, Nathan has blue, Deron has CF.

There have been frightening turns, from any time Deron had a cold to the more serious, hospitalization-requiring infections. The life expectancy of CF patients has increased over the years, but Deron is nearing the edge of that number once again. He’s near the top of the list for a lung transplant now, and blogs about it and other things here. When I first found his blog (through his comment awhile back about twins) I was suddenly horribly self-conscious. How can I blither on about shopping and coupons and Vegas when he’s blogging, quite literally, about life and death?

Turns out, I can’t. I mean, I can, and I will, shortly, revert back to blithering. It’s what I do best. But I really struggled with this. In the end, the only thing I can do is to ask you, dear readership, to send as much positive energy as you can spare toward Deron. He would rather you pray for him, I imagine, but I know some of you don’t do that, so I’m asking for whatever you have to offer in its stead. Good vibes, karmic light and hope, wishing on stars, whatever you can muster. Check out his blog, if you like. And if you and yours aren’t organ donors yet, for the love of pete, get on that. I hope truly that no tragedy ever touches you, but it will, and when it does I hope you will choose to donate all organs possible to those who need them. It’s not enough to have it on your driver’s license. Tell your parents and/or spouse and make them pinky swear that they’ll follow through with your wishes if it ever comes to that. Because otherwise, if while we’re here we can’t even learn to share what we no longer even need, what hope do any of us have for this life or the next?

26 October 2008

Late autumn/early winter plans

I am famous at our house for having big plans and then getting terribly disappointed in myself when those big plans don’t come to fruition. In many ways, I epitomize my Grandma Minnie’s saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Anyhoo, I thought I might be more likely to actually accomplish things if I wrote them down and shared them publicly.

· Think of something easy and impressive for Shaun to be for Halloween (hint: send suggestions. Stat).
· Make this lovely blanket. My sister’s allergic to wool, so she won’t steal it from me, and that’s always a plus. I have some already, but also welcome your donations of sweaters that are at least 75% wool. In case you were wondering.
· Get the air conditioner out of our bedroom window. You’d think I wouldn’t have to write this down, since it's almost November. But you’d be wrong.
· Meet Violet, my friends Josh & Tami’s daughter, who was born in freaking May (“freaking” because I cannot believe how bad of a friend I am, having not yet met this child).
· Make curtains for the family room. (We have nasty bent up blinds right now, and they have really started annoying me).
· Write at least two blog posts a week, with a few about crafty things I’m working on.
· Make some Christmas gifts, and only post about ones for people who don’t read this blog.
· Clean the house: we’re hosting Thanksgiving.
· See my cousin Deron with new lungs. And my friend Heather. Then figure out why I know two people waiting for lung transplants.

This last one isn’t really in my control, but it’s something I’m desperately hoping for, so I’m listing it anyway. I’ll post more about Deron in the near future (unless he objects).

Okay, I think that’s it. Thanks for listening. And feel free to hold me to these with enthusiasm: badger me, ask me in public, demand results. That’s why I told you, after all. Help me help myself.

And keep your hands off my wool blanket.

20 October 2008

Nobody cares what you had for breakfast

As it gets colder, I get a hankering for hot creamy food. My mom's bean soup, or dumpling soup, or scalloped potatoes, or...well, you get the idea. The easiest hot creamy food to make in this world is Cream of Wheat. So I made some. Then I added a little butter, a little milk, and a lot of brown sugar. Mmmm. Hot, creamy, and sweet. There is nothing wrong with that.

When I was a sophomore in college, after I'd moved out of the dorms (and into Christus House, actually), autumn came along and again I felt like having some hot creamy food. I bought a box of one minute Cream of Wheat, made up a double batch....and something wasn't right. I followed the directions exactly, stirred and timed and used fresh brown sugar and butter and milk...but since it still wasn't right, I did what every self-respecting 19 year old woman would do: I called my mom.
"Hi Mom. Listen, I made some Cream of Wheat, and it's good and all, but it's just not right."
"What do you mean? Did you burn it?" This was a reasonable question, sadly.
"No...it's just...it's not like yours."
"Well I don't know what to tell you. I used that same kind at home." My mom is a brilliant cook, and learned to cook from her mother, who learned to cook from her mother...I didn't have her skills, but she was good at talking me through things when I needed her to.
"But, I mean, I followed the directions and stuff, and I even used a wooden spoon like you do, but...how do you get your Cream of Wheat to have those lumps in it?"
She hung up on me.
But I was serious. I still haven't managed to make lumpy Cream of Wheat like my mother used to.

15 October 2008

V and I watching the last Presidential Debate

These are the actual conversations V and I have had so far, 30 minutes into the final presidential debate. Before they started, I wanted to explain a little bit of what was going on.

"So, V, in this country, the United States, we have one leader of the whole country. This person has more power than anyone else in America, and gets to help make and enforce laws, and decide how we as a nation spend some of our resources. Every four years, we as a country get to go and vote and decide who will get to be the president."
"Mm-hm. Is Columbus the president?"
"Uh, no. When Columbus was here, we didn’t have presidents yet."
"Okay. I hate Columbus."
"I hate him."
"You hate Columbus?"
"I don’t know."

"Who’s the red guy?"
"You mean the one in the red tie?"
"That’s Barack Obama."
"Who’s the blue guy?"
"That’s John McCain."
"John McCain is grown up."
"What do you mean?"
"He’s big."
"You mean old?"
"Yes. He’s old and big."

"See those two men?"
"Which of them do you think would make the best president?"
"Barack Obama."
"Because I love him."
"Why do you love him?"
"Because he is tall."

14 October 2008


I like mushrooms. Mostly, I like the idea of a little mushroom house, like the Smurfs had. La la lalalala… Anyway, out at the lake this weekend I was very excited to find a wide variety of beautiful, enthusiastic mushrooms growing in the in-laws yard.
Big wet mushroom pile. For mushroom surfers.
Little umbrella, for gnomes to hide under.
Pretty white shelfy shell type mushrooms. For fairies to walk up.
Leaning mushroom. For the Pisans.
Look at this! How fancy, thick and foldy. I really like taking pictures of the underbelly of mushrooms, I guess.

More underbellies. These are the most phallic of the bunch, but they are also the color of caramels. Hm. Maybe I shouldn't've said either of those things out loud.

This one is my very favorite. Look! It's a turtle! No, it's a mushroom! It also sort of resembles an over-roasted marshmallow. Who on earth has seen a mushroom like this before? (I know, probably lots of people. I don't care).

Here's my turtle mushroom's underbelly. See? Perfect size for a Smurf house. Now who wants to come over for some smurflate cake?

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf's a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I get this poem stuck in my head every fall, but it's not until I see it printed that I remember how freaking melancholy it is. Robert Frost had some heartache in that old white soul of his.

The photos are from this weekend, many in my in-laws backyard, more still from a drive I took with my mother-in-law. I adore autumn and dread it all at the same time, and Frost explains it exactly right.

More fancy photos of fall to come. Soon.

07 October 2008


As part of our campaign to keep V from being that kid at school who teaches all the other kids the bad words, we've been trying to get her to use less...um...vulgar language. Goofus or doofus are two examples, and they seem to be getting at least as much play as the Seven Words You Can't Say on Television. There are other issues, too, though. The other day, when Shaun dropped her off at school, he heard three excited little girls call out "V!" One of them asked "What did you have for breakfast?" My daughter, who has eaten a vegetable for breakfast every day of her weaned life, who also enjoys toast and waffles and sometimes fruit in the morning, said, "I had a bowl of sticky eyes." And then they all laughed and laughed.
So maybe you guys all figured we'd have a weird kid before she was even conceived, but I'm still getting used to it.Goofus.

05 October 2008

Fightin' fire with fire

At Shaun’s suggestion, V and I walked over to the fire department’s open house today. It was cool and kinda rainy, but it’s only three blocks away, so we toughed it out. Plus, we’ve lived here 6 ½ years, and I’ve never made it to one of these here open houses, so I figured it was about time. V loves stairs, and this place didn’t disappoint. There was an upstairs AND a downstairs. There were also free hotdogs, chips, soda, and cookies, all of which V is also a fan. Outside, they had various demonstrations: how to rescue someone trapped in their car (I think they used the jaws of life…we were fixated on something else. Probably a puddle); a chance to sit in the driver’s seat of the big fire engine; hold a hose to see how powerful the water is; and a mini-house where they gave a presentation on fire safety in the kitchen and in the bedroom. While we were waiting to get into that last one, V said to the pudgy kindergartener ahead of her, “I’m a firefighter.” They were both wearing their new firefighter hats with that cute elastic string tucked under their chins. “Nuh-uh,” Mr. Kindergartener said. “You’re not a firefighter.”
“Yes I am,” V said, rather vehemently. “I told my mama, and now I’m a firefighter.”

“No,” Mr. Dreamsquisher insisted, louder this time. “You have to have training. And be a grownup.”

V was unphased by this, though, and simply restated her earlier point, matching his volume. “No. I told Mama, so now I’m a firefighter.” Then she shrugged her shoulders and looked the other way as Mr. Kindergartener rolled his eyes at his mother. She whispered “It’s pretend, honey. That’s okay if she wants to pretend.”
I rolled my eyes at V and as she took my hand, I told her she could be a firefighter if she wanted to. She said, “I know.” Then we wandered away to jump in some puddles together.

04 October 2008

Blue River of the North

I used to spend hours and hours in the woods when I was a kid. Practically whole days. And autumn was hands down the best time there: the river is down inside her banks, it's just cool enough to get rid of mosquitoes, not too muddy, and leaves and critters and dappled sunlight all made it feel like home to me. So I brought my daughter to a nearby park yesterday. Here she is drinking her after-school milk. In the woods. By the river. In the dappled sunlight.
Though she hasn't been fighting the name of this river much lately like she used to, she did insist it was blue yesterday. She pointed up the river and she was right: the sky was reflecting just so.
One thing I love about V is she isn't scared of bugs yet. "Oh, there's a bug, Mama."
"Ooh, hold still, honey. Let me take a picture."
"Okay." And she did. Shaun would've been squealing like ... something squealie. I was gonna say "a little girl," but V IS a little girl, and she obviously doesn't squeal like that.

The she climbed a rock, slid down it, and we went home. It was a fabulous day.