“Mr. Muffin” (A Short Story by Vivi)


Mr. Muffin was waiting for customers at his bakery. It had been a long day yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. He hoped he could relax more today.

A bald man with only a beard walked up to Mr. Muffin and asked, "Do you have any muffins here?" "Oh, yes, of course, that’s my name!" Mr. Muffin slowly got up from his creaky wooden chair and looked at the old man. "Look in the case." He pointed at a glass case – a big one that was on the table.

The old man squinted to see through the glass with his old glasses. "My name’s Fritz," he said, "and I don’ approve o’ bagels!" He looked behind himself as if he were going to leave without a muffin. "I wan’ a blueberry muffin," he said.

"Sir, that’s a chocolate chip muffin. Do you want a chocolate chip muffin or not?" asked Mr. Muffin. "Oh, yeah, sure," said the old man. "But I only have four dollars. That enough?"

"Plenty," said Mr. Muffin. The muffin was actually eleven dollars but Mr. Muffin was poor, so he didn’t care.

Eight weeks later
Mr. Muffin now had a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot of money. The past month had been very successful. He had sold millions of goodies, and millions of cakes.

One night Mr. Muffin was taking a walk when he what looked like a cozy apartment to spend the night in. Huddling under his umbrella, Mr. Muffin walked in the door. He walked straight to the manager and asked where he should sleep. "Oh, up there in room 1768," he said. "Nice old ladies up there. Good night now!"

Mr. Muffin went up the stairs on his right and looked around. Ah! There was room 1768! As Mr. Muffin walked closer and closer to the door, he heard singing. When Mr. Muffin walked into the room, he saw a huddle of witches singing a scary song. Mr. Muffin silently closed the door and got out of the apartment.

He went next door to the hotel. It was tedious, but it was much better than having to sleep with witches all night!


I’m pretty lucky in that Shannon makes a from-scratch dinner almost every day – even on pizza nights.

Today, I came home ravenous to find a veritable feast: almond-crusted salmon, a barley-feta dish she improvised, a spinach salad (on which I put one of her great salad dressings), and roasted potatoes (left over from last night). Needless to say I cleaned my plate, for the zillionth night in a row.

They’re Crazy – No Offense

Somewhere, Julia learned how to end a semi-rude statement with "no offense." (I suspect she acquired this "skill" at school, along with lattice math, information about current pop music, and the ability to do the monkey bars.)

Since she’s a good-hearted person, she mostly uses this to comedic effect, but it is still a little weird to hear her – and now Genevieve, who has of course picked it up – use such an adult-seeming phrase.
+ "Daddy, your hair is messy. No offense."
+ "Kurt Vile is a terrible singer. No offense."
+ "Your fatbike is pretty odd. No offense."
+ "That shirt looks bad. No offense."

I’m waiting for one of them to use the phrase in an undeniably rude way. In the meantime, it’s fun to throw it back at them. "Judging by how long it takes you to clear the table, I’m starting to think you’re lazy. No offense!"

Sleigh Bells Ring

When I’m out in "bad" weather, I think a lot about how much time my grandfathers – a farmer on my dad’s side, a trucker and logger on my mom’s – must have spent outside in horrible conditions, doing their jobs. I’m lucky that I can choose to go outside and enjoy (not just endure) the experience of being outside, no matter temperature, precipitation, wind, etc.

Of course, both grandpas knew how to enjoy winter, too. Here – at a Christmas in the late 1990s – is Grandpa Jauquet at the reins of his sleigh, pulled by his two Belgian workhorses and laden with grandkids, including me, Shannon, my sister, and a bunch of my cousins.

Sleigh Bells Ring

Little Drummer Girl

Vivi’s brain is always going at full speed, and on Wednesday night it impelled her to use some ribbon to tie a loop around our bouncy ball, making it into a kind of wearable drum, and then use two wooden spoons as drumsticks.

Little Drummer Girl

After marching around for a few minutes, singing crazy and funny made-up songs, she grabbed a sheet of paper and a pencil and wrote out a song:

Vivi's Drum Song

She then marched around some more, playing this composition. Creative, funny, and loud – pretty much Vivi in a nutshell.

Thursday Music

My streak of good music finds continued on Thursday at the elementary school choir concert, in which Julia sang. The whole performance was good, but the highlight was the last song: Stevie Wonder’s amazing “Heaven Help Us.” A ’70s protest song sung by innocent fourth and fifth graders?


Tae Kwon D’oh

Tonight the girls started a tae kwon do class through the local community-education program. It’s kind of a departure for them, as neither girl has done much sports-related activity except for swimming. They’re good at that, and love it, but have only dabbled in soccer and tennis so far. But since they were excited by the prospect of tae kwon do, we enrolled them.

They came home from the first class on Monday night in a high stoke. Vivi said she hadn’t liked it, but she could recite chapter and verse of the instructor’s instructions, which is a sure sign that she really did like the class. And Julia, usually so tentative with physical stuff, raced into the house to show me the front kick they’d learned. She came up to me, pulled her right leg back, and kicked me right in the groin.

I’m glad she has the strength of a nine year old girl, or I’d have spend the night in the hospital. As it was, I just had to lie down for a couple minutes.

They’ll be white belts in no time.


I love November. Though its thirty days seem to get written off as transitional at best and miserable at worst, I think November has a lot going for it.

For a number of reasons, November tends to be a little quieter at work than the previous two or three months. As in past years, I’ve had to let a lot of stuff slide during September and October, but I’m now cleaning things up quickly. Having the sense (even if it’s partly delusional) that I’m "caught up" is good, and sets me up for a productive last couple months of the year, in the office and out of it, when I attend one of my field’s two main conferences. Attending that meeting is usually worthwhile, and this year’s conference looks to be better than usual.

Lower stress at work makes it easier to enjoy the many excellent things about November away from the office. Thanksgiving, for one thing. I love Thanksgiving more and more as I get older. Shannon always puts on a a spectacular meal, and I do love the chance to eat too much. This year, my mom is coming down from the frozen north, which will make the holiday even better.

Thanksgiving is nice in its own right, but I also like the way it kicks off the holiday season. Everyone seems a little more cheery in the five weeks or so from Thanksgiving till New Year’s Day. I like that, even if I’m not that big a fan of Christmas. The past few years, I’ve taken some time off from work between Christmas and New Year’s, and had a lot of fun with the girls.

A lot of that fun centers on good winter weather: cold, at the very least, and snow at best. November is the first month that we here in Minnesota can expect snow in serious quantities. This year we had a "winter" storm in May, but that was six months ago already. Winter’s return is always a happy prospect for me. The snow covers up the autumnal colors that peak early in November before turning to a dull palette of grays and browns, but snow also offers all kinds of new fun: sledding, snowmen, snowball fights, skiing, and of course fatbiking.

This year, I’m going to jump on two other November-focused bandwagons: "Movember," when men grow out their moustaches, nominally to raise awareness of men’s health issues; and various "30 days of writing" projects – novels, academic writing, etc. Participating in the former entails simply not shaving, which is easy but also satisfying. Participating in the latter requires a little more effort, but I’m going to try to carve out 30-60 minutes a day to work on an article on fatbiking. I hope I can put down about 200 words a day, so that I end up with a 6,000-word piece that’s part essay, part history.

Miss Councilwoman

Miss Councilwoman

Last week, just a day or two after the first day of school, Julia said that she’d decided to run for her elementary school’s student council, which gets to work on some of the fun all-school events throughout the year. Her class (and, I’m guessing, the other fourth grade classes as well as the fifth-grade classes) could elect one boy and one girl to the council. Each candidate had to give a short speech, which Julia read and practiced this week. The election was held today, and Julia was elected! She was very happy, and – I hope – proud of her accomplishment. I know I am proud of her!

True to her personality, she started musing about what she’d get to do on the council. "I wish we could meet more often than just once a month. And it would be fun to be talk about more important stuff!"

Next year, kiddo. Or when you’re president.

Making Hay

Late-summer rides often pass by fields where farmers are haying. I wish I remembered more about haying on my grandpa’s farm in the U.P. I didn’t participate in the haying very often – maybe five times – but I remember driving the big old truck up and down the rows. I was in elementary school, so I could barely see over the dashboard. I remember how we’d freeze water in washed-out milk jugs so we’d have cold water to drink in the fields. I remember how the hay got into everything – clothes, shoes, hair… The warm, dry smell stayed with you for days.

Hay Field


Shannon’s parents spent a couple days with us this week to celebrate Vivi’s birthday. In the evenings, my father-in-law regaled me with stories of his recent trip in his restored 1952 Studebaker pickup truck to a Studebaker “meet” in Colorado Springs. It took him and his brother three days to get there from his home in Moorhead, Minnesota, since the pickup can only go about 55 mph. I say “about” because the vehicle lacks an odometer and a speedometer. The trip sounds like it was great, full of relatively tame adventures and lots of time talking with other Studebaker aficionados at the meet. Here’s Dad beaming in front of his beautiful truck:

Father-in-law and '52 Studebaker pickup
Father-in-law and ’52 Studebaker pickup