Bath Fun

The girls have, for a few months now, been playing a bizarre game called, “Note-nen, Bee-sa, Menny.” Vivi so loves this “game” that she often starts requesting it as they march up the steps after dinner. It’s simple and – did I mention? – bizarre: they sit sideways, next to each other, with their backs against one wall, feet against other wall, and knees bent. Then they loudly chant, “Note-nen… bee-sa… menny!” and, on the last word, abruptly straighten their legs, creating a huge splash and a great deal of laughter. Then they repeat the game again and again, faster and louder each time.

Wife & Mama, PhD

On Friday, Shannon was elated to receive our copy of the fall issue of the Macalester Today, which includes her lovely essay, “Mama, PhD.” Apparently the alma mater doesn’t have enough dough to put the magazine’s contents online, so we put up a scan of her essay. I hope you like it as much as I, a wholly unbiased reader, do – and maybe join me in congratulating her on the accomplishment!

Autumn On and On

Having had quite a bit of fun on our this autumn’s two previous farm outings (alpacas and pumpkins, you’ll recall), today we went to a lovely little farm on the western edge of town for more of the same. We were joined there by a family with girls the same age as ours, and proceeded to have a ridiculous amount of fun. A sandbox filled six inches deep with corn kernels! Gourd sculptures! A “hayride” that was actually a long wagon-borne tour of the farm! Cows! Gorgeous autumn colors everywhere! Suffusingly warm sunshine! A haybale maze that was also an excellent climbing/balancing thingy!

In short, it was a fantastic time.

Vivi on the Haybales

Julia on the Haybales

The Scene

Hoofing It

Today, in my new role as the coordinator of Carleton’s part of Northfield’s (and the country’s) United Way campaign (“Live United”), I schlepped all over campus to deliver more than a thousand pledge packets to every last employee – or actually, to the diligent volunteers who will get the packets to the actual employees.

Though this task took the better part of the day, and proved that those plastic USPS mail trays are meant to sit on carts, not to be carried around, it was actually a fun job. I probably met 20 people whom I didn’t know, explored some of the campus’ interesting corners (or non-corners: Goodsell Observatory is a very cool, very round building), and felt like I was contributing in some small, stair-climbing way to the campus campaign

I also witnessed the raging insanity of Family Weekend. What a madhouse. Current students with their parents, prospective students with their parents, (probably) prospective parents with their prospective students. Campus maps on a third of the eye-level vertical surfaces. Free food everywhere, much of it being consumed by tired-looking adults standing in the middle of the sidewalk. Audiae, Mercedeses, Acurae, and Lexuses crowding the streets. Young kids trailing after mom, dad, and the big sibling, taking advantage of the others’ distraction to help themselves to that free food. (Caramel-covered apple slices and ice cream!) Grown men and women attired unflatteringly like their children. Kids attired flatteringly like their parents. Britney Spears songs blasting from speakers in front of the campus center. The pleasing smell and sigh of damp leaves. Grown-ups standing perfectly still except for their swiveling heads, trying to figure out where the hell they were. Endless Carleton swag flying out of the bookstore. A lot of people looking pretty happy with the whole situation, and with the college.

Leafed Out

An old friend delurked today to fill me in on her life since the last time I talked to her; among other interesting features, this life includes finishing three marathons. *sigh*

I can’t run that far once, much less three times (gawd, I hope she hasn’t run all three this year – or this summer!), but I can offer a slideshow of the scenery in the Carleton Arb last weekend. Tell you what: ambling through this sort of beauty makes the ambling a lot easier.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Surprises at the Mall

I had to take the car to the shop today ($800 repair, covered by the warranty: thank god for a consumer economy) and occupied myself during the repair by making the short trip over to Burnsville Center. Apart from having dinner at the Mall of America with a blog friend a while ago, this was my first visit to a real mall (note: the “Faribo West Mall” in Faribault does not count), and I felt a little bit like the hick in the big city. A few surprises:

  • The myriad oppotunities for free ear piercing.
  • The prominence of lingerie in shop windows.
  • The ubiquity of Packers gear.
  • The thorough co-branding.
  • The law office near the Cinnabon.
  • The Somali-based workforce.
  • The prevalence of kiosks.
  • The prevalence of kiosks selling cell phones, sunglasses and accessories, and dubious-sounding health care “solutions.”
  • The sheer number of vending machines, although they only sold Coke and Coke products.
  • The high prices.

Little Post about Jack & Diane

For whatever ’80s-cosmic reason, I have heard John Cougar Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” twice in the last week. Good god, what a fantastic song. From the metallish guitar riff that dissolves into those stark chords to the miniaturist verses, it’s a perfect few minutes of song. I remember thinking, in my 20s, having heard this song my whole life, that the aphoristic line at its heart was painfully true: “Oh yeah/Life goes on/Long after the thrill/Of living is gone.” Now I think it’s irredeemably, adolescently maudlin – and still more than slightly true.

Little Pumpkins

Just like we did last year around this time, today the Tassavas headed out to Thorn Crest Farm, a lovely little homestead southwest of town. Once the littlest member of the family emerged from her post-nap funk, we had a blast trooping around the piles of pumpkins and gourds, choosing a few apples for later, petting the cow and the horse, and generally soaking up the fall-on-a-farm ambiance.

Meeting Bessie
Meeting Bessie

I’ll leave to Shannon a more detailed account, but suffice it to say that the girls were happy to find some pumpkins for the house

Julia and Her Pumpkin
Julia and Her Pumpkin
Genevieve and Her Pumpkin
Genevieve and Her Pumpkin

while I had to make do with a couple of nuts.


Faster Than a Dodge Grand Caravan!

I realized a second ago that today marks the beginning of my fourth year at Carleton. I started my job here on October 3, 2005, which seems both a long time ago (I only had one kid then!) and not really that long ago (I only had one kid then!). It’s been a great three years, I must say. When I have another three years under my belt, I might finally stop feeling like a newbie.

I celebrated this milestone by inadvertently resolving an issue I’ve been considering as long as I’ve been riding my bike to and from work: is it faster to bike than to drive? I’ve thought so, but never had the chance to actually test it, since I can’t really race myself.

But this morning, pedalling up the street, I saw one of my neighbors, a professor who works one building away from me, getting into his car. Gentlemen, start your engines! Or your lungs, as the case was. I adjusted my speed so that I passed his driveway just as he finished backing up, giving us a more-or-less equal starting point.

I rode to campus at my usual speed, expecting his Grand Caravan to zoom by on my left at any second. As I approached the turn onto the the straightaway to my building, he hadn’t yet caught up, and I thought that I just might beat him outright – and right there he passed me, trying to break my spirit. But I had a plan – beyond even the application of superhuman willpower. Oh, yes: I would still be riding when he had to make like a hominid and start walking.

So I maintained my speed, and sure enough, I passed him back in the parking lot, where he was getting out of his car for the short walk to his building. 200 yards later, locking my bike to the bike rack, I looked back down the sidewalk to find him still strolling toward his building. Two wheels good, four wheels slow!

Signs of the Times

Sorry for the crappy cell-phone picture, but I had to post this: a big old maroon Cadillac, parked outside the union this noon, wearing a Dominos roof sign. It looks like a way to get cheap pizza, but it’s actually a metaphor for the American economy – something about ridiculous ostentation culminating in the hollow satisfaction of pathetically simple needs.

Dominos Cadillac
Dominos Cadillac

Process of Elimination

Shannon had a rather bad experience at the park today, one which involved the Elder being rather difficult and then having an accident right there on the play structure. Thank god for UV radiation and rain.

Not willing to leave me out of the fun, the girls convened the Committee on Elimination at bathtime. First, Genevieve peed in the tub. Par for the course around here, this resulted in nothing more than a hurried bath in the water at the clean end of the tub. Yeah, I said, “the clean end of the tub.” The fundamentals of the tub were sound.

As I wound up the scrubbing, Julia announced she had to go to the bathroom. Trying not to be amused (it’s still funny to hear her use that euphemism, plus we were in the bathroom), I hauled her out of the tub and plopped her down on the potty chair, then turned back to Vivi. I toweled her off and set her free for her usual naked runabout, at exactly which time Julia asked for parental help addressing the sanitary demands created by a #2. I did my duty and told her, to her usual disappointment, that no, I wouldn’t take care of the potty chair, that it was her responsibility. (She handles it without problems all the time.)

Just then, from the other room, I heard Vivi shout, “Oh no!” I jumped up and looked down the hall, to see her standing over a large turd of her own. I yelled, “Vivi! Run to the bathroom! Run down here right now!” and turned to grab the container of diaper wipes. She started to sprint to the bathroom, jettisoning two more turds on the way. Julia, doing her level best to clean out the potty-chair bowl, was now calling, “What’s going on, Daddy! Where are you running?” as I poop-scooped in the hallway.

I had just used a healthy stack of wipes to deposit all three items in a snatched-up garbage bag when Vivi yelped delightedly from the bathroom, “Daddy! Potty!” Reversing course, I ran to the bathroom, where Vivi was sitting on the potty chair, grinning the grin of the successful potty-chair user.

Only Julia was still rinsing the bowl, which meant Vivi had gone all over the inside of the potty chair. Luckily, everything had landed in the basin that usually holds the bowl itself. This would have made for relatively easy clean-up (= a couple big wads of a toilet paper and many, many Clorox wipes), except that I had to use one hand to hold on to Vivi so she didn’t wander off to wreak more havoc.

Anyhow, I got that done, then cleaned up and diapered Vivi (for those keeping track, this is two #2s cleaned up in about two minutes); checked in on Julia, who was nearly done with her chore but still bewildered by the commotion; and went off to use most of a can of carpet cleaner on three surprisingly small spots o’ floor.

I think that post-bath naked-time is on hiatus for a while.