Tuesday, November 30, 2004

More snow, just not here

There seems to be this bizarre aura that we Piffles carry with us. I can't explain it, but it has held true for untold years. We repel snow. Specifically, Charles repels snow. Cases in point:

1) He works / schools in Portland: Minimal snow for years except during weekends and school holidays.

2) He gets a job teaching in Longview, WA, but we continue living in PDX: It snows lots (well, for Portland) and there are several snow days in PDX but not a single one at all in Longview for 5 years, meaning he still has to drive the hour in to work, actually getting up extra early for the commute.

3) We move to Bellingham, WA, and he drives to Vancouver, Canada, for grad school: Not more than a whiff of snow all winter in Bellingham but blizzards in Vancouver and in Portland that year.

4) We move back to Portland and he works / schools in Portland: Minimal snow for those years in Portland, of course. He attends more grad school and has not a single snow day. He works as a principal for a year, still no snow days, none at all for that year.

5) We move to Freeport, IL, and he works in Freeport: 1st year, LOTS of snow. (But, no snow days as, well, this IS the Midwest and we don't close school for routine snow.) Ensuing 3 years, little snow for the area. No snow days. To be honest, 1 or 2 days called for cold but that doesn't apply to principals. He still gets to drive in. (I still think that 1st snowy year was a fluke.) We watch the winter storms all swing north and hit Monroe, WI, and points north.

6) We move to a blip on the map a bit north of Monroe, WI, last Feb and Charles continues working in Freeport: Today, had unexpected rather heavy snow in Freeport and (gasp! shock!) No snow at home. It all stopped as we hit the outskirts of Monroe.

Personally, I think he should hire himself out to traditionally snow inundated cities for the season to give them a break. For a fee. But then, I remember our mantra: We are never moving again. So bugger that. And I really don't think I want to live in Buffalo.

Finally, how many creatures does it take to put up lights outside of the house 'o Piffle (you know, the Holler place)? No. Seven. 2 small ones to run around squealing, 2 large ones to chase the squealing ones, 1 (with long nose and tail) to chase those chasing, 1 to chase the tail-Piffle, and 1 to put up the lights.

The lights look so lovely in the non-snow.


Sunday, November 28, 2004

First Snow

Dance a little jig! We just had 1st snow yesterday. I will never get tired of snowy winters. Never. I will never be like every other person in the rest of civilized White Christmas country and say, "Oh. Yeah, it's snowing. Pass the potatoes." Or worse, "Oh, damn, it's snowing. I hate it when it snows. Pass the potatoes." I will always get a sappy grin on my pus and stare out the window in true distracted former Portland school girl fashion until said snow stops falling. This is what happens when you spend your school years in a snow-impaired city where less than an inch of the lovely white stuff is enough to close the whole metro-area down. A city where some years it didn't even snow at all. Just rained for months on end with the lows at 35 degrees except for some days when the wind was from the east and the 20 degree days were sunny and dry. So cruel. Winters spent on end glaring at the thermometer with but one thought: If it were 2 degrees colder, it would be snowing buckets. Two. Stinkin'. Degrees.

But sometimes the temperature and precipitation would mis-step and one would catch the other by the tail and we would get that inch or 2, sometimes even more. And the news would come on the radio that the schools were all closed! Such rejoicing! Yes, go ahead and laugh. Yes, laugh all the way to the bus stop while we were home trying to make wee snow people and have snowball fights with recycled snowballs (not enough snow for fresh ones each toss, you see). But we were home. As in not at school. And so I still get all giggly with each snow fall, at least until April, but that is another story.

So we finally, after several false forecasts over the past several weeks, had snow. And what did we do? Well we dashed outside and started putting up Christmas lights, for what is 1st snow without lights? And then we went inside and had much wine and pasta dinner. And more wine. For what is snow and Christmas lights and very cold fingers and all without much wine? When all was said and done, none of the snow actually stuck and all is clear and bare today, but that doesn't matter. After breakfast, we will get all bundled up and go out in the lovely sunny day and put up all the rest of the lights so as to be ready for the 1st real snow, the one that sticks.

Giggle, giggle, jig, jig. And pass the potatoes.


Friday, November 26, 2004

Don't Ring, Just Holler

As is the custom in the country, houses are not known by their address or by their proximity to landmarks like the bakery or fire house, but by the former owners. Thus we live in the Holler place. The house is only 7 years old and I don't think the Hollers have lived in these parts for untold generations, never-the-less, it is the Holler place and will be so until we move on to that big cow pasture in the sky and the place is sold. (Remember, we are never moving again.) It will then cease to be know as the Holler place and will then be known as the [Piffle] place. Such is the circle of life.

At this point, though, there is yet one more reason to know our house as the Holler place, as the name "HOLLER" is literally set in the stonework facade of the front of the house, next to the doorbell, in large, indelible, recessed black letters. In order to remove this name tag, we would have to remove the stone facade (not an option in my book). Thus we are faced with 4 options that I can see: 1) Just leave it as it is. 2) Carve / paint our surname under / above / next to it as a sort of owner's log. 3) Cover it with a plaque of our name or catchy phrase. 4) Just leave it as it is.

So far #1 and #4 are tied for the lead.

In other breaking news, we had a thoroughly delightful Thanksgiving with as much gluttony as each desired. We went traditional and Cathy and I cooked for 2 days, off and on, making homemade everything. The fridge is now crammed with leftovers and we still have one pie left. Now that is something to be thankful for. Just making a loaf of bread to put the turkey sandwiches on and then I think I am done cooking for a while.


Monday, November 22, 2004


For the past week I have been paying the price of being a, well, shall we say a "shoddy" housekeeper. My house is not frighteningly filthy but there are always so many other things that I'd rather be doing than scrub. Things like reading, playing with the kids, or napping. Important things. Each week I usually mop, vacuum and clean bathrooms. Monthly (or less) I dust the obvious. Then every 4 months or so we have houseguests.

That is what keeps me honest in the whole hausfrau role.

I feel compelled to actually clean for company.

Nevermind that our company is either family or friends close enough to us to know full well what my house normally looks like. If you come to sleep in our guest room, I must actually shove furniture around when I vacuum and get down and clean the corners of the tile floor with damp paper towels and toothbrushes. This I must do fully realizing that, having a large shedding dog, mere minutes later said corners will be obliterated by drifts of dog hair and the crud so carefully removed would have been covered anyway. Also, all finger marks so carefully rubbed away with breath and lint-free cloth will magically reappear as if fashioned of the same stuff as those trick no-blow-out birthday candles. This is because I have 2 small children.

You see, it doesn't matter, because I know I did it. I really did clean and don't have to do it again for 4 more months. Guilt free.

Believe it when I say, "No, no, thank you for coming," that I really, really mean it from the bottom of my little temporarily cobweb free heart.

Call it penance served.

So, thank you, Dad and Cathy, for coming out.

Now, who's next? Wisconsin in March? It's for a good cause.


Thursday, November 18, 2004


So, there I am yesterday in the 15 item express lane of the Pick 'N Save with no more than 8 items in my little shopping basket, cheerfully and lawfully checking out. There are actually 2 people on the other side of the conveyer belt, the poor checkout minion and one with keys, complex portable cash drawer, and super-large name tag with the title "manager" on it. Up she comes, 80 and formidable. "This isn't too many for the express lane, is it?", she asks. "Weeeelll, you see, this lane is for 15 items or less", explains the manager person, eying her shopping cart skeptically. I join the visual assessment and count 40 items before giving up. "It's only over 15 items if you count every single can," my new hero declares. And, by gum, she may be right as the cart is 80% canned goods.

Neither the manager person or the poor minion say anything else as my hero starts loading up the conveyor belt with her cans. The minion refuses to let me catch her eye with my joyous grin.

Of course, all the other unlimited-item check-out lines were empty.

I giggled to myself as I danced to el minivan.

I want to be just like her when I grow up.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem

Oh God. This is just so difficult. But I know if I get it out, I will feel so much better. You see, a week ago last Friday, we finally caved in and did it. We have been making noises about doing so for a while, initially in our individual private heads, then, each feeling the other out, skirting around it together. Finally, it became clear that the need was overwhelming and we broke down and did it.

Yes. We bought a (whispers) minivan. No, no. If I am going to accept myself for what I am, I must do this right. WE BOUGHT A STINKIN' MINIVAN. We are a 2 kid family with a dog, living in a ranch house with a minivan. We grocery shop on Saturday morning. We watch TV on the couch at night after putting the kids to bed with their stories and blankets. Our furniture is colored in navy blues and olive greens. We have a pantry full of cereal, pasta, canned goods, juice and dog treats. (Well, and wine, thank God.) We are suburbanites kidding ourselves in rural America. Our other car is an SUV. We are planning a car trip with kids and dog to the East Coast next summer and if that falls through, a car trip to Northern Wisconsin.

But the minivan was the last straw.

Heck, our parents never had minivans and they did just fine. Although they had those big-ass American sedans of the 60's and 70's with bench seats front and back that could fit 8 if need arose. And that's one more than the minivan. So, I guess, we are actually making do with less. Yeah, that's it. Less.

You see, we really needed one. Really. And the poor old stodgy navy blue Volvo was needing more and more costly repairs, repairs that could only be done at the garage 45 minutes away at fees that one would expect from the only Volvo repair place in 100 miles. And they were practically giving these Toyota vans away. Well, practically. And, hey, same gas mileage and even better safety than the poor old Volvo. So it's not like we really had a choice, right? Right. It wasn't cliche. It was sensible. Now, when our nearest and dearest come to visit, we can all pile in one car, not split up into two vehicles. So much nicer, you see.

So now we have a shiny, new minivan complete with automatic doors, 52 cup holders, and 18 outlets for plugging in all forms of personal entertainment devices so we won't as a family actually have to talk to each other on these proposed car trips. It also has roof rack and, ahem, seat warmers. Which I did try out a couple of nights ago and found to be rather... What is the word?.. Lovely.

So there it is. The ugly unvarnished truth. We have lost all pretense of being cool middle aged parents. But at least we have one shred of dignity to hang on to, deluded though it is. At least the minivan is an exotic foreign car. Made in the oddly named Japanese Provence of Tennessee.

Fight the power.


Tuesday, November 16, 2004


I have been quoted a statistic that in the southern Wisconsin county in which I live, there are 75 deer per square mile. 75. I don't know what the people-per-square-mile tally is but it would shock me if it were in the double digits. This is a county where, I believe, the largest town is around 10,000 folks. Whew!

Given that, you would assume the deer have it all figured out, at least on the survival front. True, no wolves, but lots and lots of fat guys in orange with really big guns at the ready. Also, lots of other guys in camouflage and really big bows. Hunting bows, not the other sorts (although the frilly ones would be more amusing). Plus, cars have been around in our little corner of heaven for at least 80 years, right? Nothing new. And those cars pretty much follow the same beaten, paved and clearly marked path. No surprises. (Well, except for the slowly moving farm equipment and all those pickups pulled into the stubbly cornfields, used to transport said orange and mottled-olive attired heavily armed hunters.)

So what do those supposedly savvy deer do? Well, first they wait for long periods of time for a car to come along. A car that can be seen miles away. A car well lighted. Next, they leap, stroll or dash into the middle of the road and then, instead of exiting stage left, they turn and head down the middle of the road in front of the car, like a little old lady on a Sunday drive. Well, maybe a bit faster, say at a good bound and trot. Yes, they pull out in front of you. Without signaling. Now, let's go back 150 or so years, before the horseless carriage came to WI, and the wolves roamed. What does a predator do when confronted with a deer, rabbit, or stick that jumps into its path and then runs ahead in the direction the wolf was already going? Is it possible for the wolf to do anything but chase? Hell, wolf doesn't even have to wheel and change direction. Or think. Just ask our dog.

Turns out that the drivers of minivans also have that same instinct. Apologies to the 2 separate deer that found that out on the drive home last night along the County H. You were just asking for it, you know. And Charles DID slow down when his Super Ego managed to overcome the instinct of his Id. (Note to those with concerned hearts: No deer were hurt, scared, or even vaguely worried in the above incident.)

Stupid deer. Too dumb to die, I guess. At least they are pretty. Sorta like some people.


Saturday, November 13, 2004

We have met the enemy and he is us

Most Saturdays we have a tradition of getting up, hopping in the vehicle and heading in to that mecca of Wisconsin, Madison. We go to the same bakery, order the same thing and then go run our errands, visiting the same stores. Grocery shopping is universally on the list. (Yeah, we drive 30 min to go grocery shopping. You'd do the same if that were the only place to get such haute cuisine items like shallots and turkey breast other than the pressed sort.) We usually frequent this one Sentry because, well, good food, and it is near the bookstore. There is a down side, though, and that is that it is frequented by huge numbers of the most atrocious band of shoppers imaginable. And by that I mean the worst breed of all, the Oblivious Aisle Blockers. You know the ones. Usually there are 1 or 2 in each store you go to, but they can be avoided by simply going to the part of the store furthest from them and proceding from there. This tact does not work, however, if every bleeding shopper is an OAB. What is it about that Sentry grocery that lead to so many complete dunderheads shopping there, especially at 9 am on a Saturday. I mean, why are they not in bed like the rest of the civilized world? Today, the answer became clear. Over and over again, of it's own volition, our cart kept blocking the aisle. There seemed nothing we could do to stop it.

That's when it came clear. It is not the shoppers but the store. Some malevolent, twisted entity turns these otherwise considerate people into rude monsters when there.

There remains just one question: Is the OAB transformation temporary or are we destined to be shopping assholes forever? I am nearly out of pressed turkey and iceberg lettuce. Guess I'll find out at the local Cub Foods Wednesday. Consider yourselves warned.


Friday, November 12, 2004

Good thing he has good self-esteem

As every parent knows, each birthday heralds a trip to the pediatrician to get that all important check up. The big question is always: How many shots? So this morning we loaded up and hit the road. We have a marvelous pediatrician. He is warm, very knowledgeable, and, if possible, seems even more concerned about my kids' health than I am. (Not more than my husband, mind you, but that is another blog.) And he lights up the room when he walks in. I dare you not to smile in delight when you see him, as he makes you feel like your coming to see him is the best thing to happen all week.

Sara at 2 is immune to the charms of delightful Dr P.

He tried his level best to get the slightest glance and when she did remove her face from my shoulder, it was to glare at him with the suspicion of 1000 CIA agents. CIA agents you came across while carrying a bag marked in Arabic letters, that was ticking, as you ran past multiple airport security guards. It was not pretty. But Dr P never stopped smiling or trying. And in the end, Sara did accept a sticker from him. Gravely. No shots, either, not until she is 5.

Of course, she held that sticker in her hand all the 45 min drive home (yes, he is worth driving 90 min to see) and when we pulled in to the garage announced that she, "Saw Doctor!" and wanted to, "See Doctor again!"

Little goofball.


Thursday, November 11, 2004


When Sara is done with something, say, eating, she hollers, "OOOOOOoooooooDONE!" until you come and let her out of her highchair and let her scamper off to her next project. For the last 2 weeks, between 1 and 2 am, she wakes, screaming "OOOOOOoooooDONE! SLEEPING! MOMMY!" She is not kidding. So, up I get and rescue her from her crib, tottering back to bed and prayers of resumed sleep. If I have let her cry for a few minutes before getting her, she usually snuggles up and drops right off. Too soon and she is too playful and it will be hours. Too late, she drops off but I am awakeawakeawake and it will be hours. As with most things, timing is everything. Can't say I am sad, though. The snuggles are lovely. Poor Charles, though, usually ends up with her feet drumming his flanks. Off to the couch for him. Good thing the new couch is so comfortable.

Yesterday I did my monthly afternoon working for the county family planning clinic. Very busy, very fun in a seat-of-the-pants sort of way. All the more so as we linked it to the STD clinic last month. Yesterday I was scheduled every 15 minutes. There were 6 patients scheduled for the 1pm slot. One of the nurses working with me (usually I have 2-3 nurses running with me) was horrified. She is new. She was worried about the schedule. She will learn. Sort of like parenting. So, we ran, laughed, helped people get what they needed, went through many a speculum and culture swab, dispensed contraceptives of various nature and kind, and educated until our tongues were stretched to our knees. We were always horribly late, but not as late as we should have been. One of the things I love most about that clinic is that is is so collaborative and there is always a way to get something done. That and the people are just so damn funny. Wipes you out, though. Went home, kissed the kids and got them to bed and crashed myself. That is until 1 am.



Wednesday, November 10, 2004

That's Just Wrong

The scene: Driving home from work last night with Charles, passing through a WI town.

Small talk about the funny and stupid of our respective days, about to stop to pick up bread and toothbrushes. (Sara had run off with Colin's toothbrush and hidden it yesterday. Of course when one child gets a shiny new toothbrush, the other must, too.) And, suddenly, there it was. Wreaths, lights, maybe even fake Santas in the yard. And over 2 weeks until Thanksgiving. At least it was the only one. So I did my part and glared at it through the car window. And then mocked them in my head.

Can't say I don't take a stand when it counts.


Tuesday, November 09, 2004


So, here we are. A blog, all shiny, clean and new.

I have taken this plunge after musing it over for a year mainly as a hope that I can keep in touch with all my nearest and dearest who I have been hopelessly neglectful in e-mailing over the years. I think of you often, I just suck as a correspondent. Now, I can simply and lazily blog, leaving it up to anyone who cares to read about what is going on in the Land of Piffle to do so. How I do love being lazy. I work hard at it. I also realize that, just as I have stumbled upon the blogs I love to read, others may come across this. Some may even want to stay a while. Please, come in. All are welcome as long as mean, nasty and personal attacks are avoided. I love dialogue and welcome debate. I would also love to hear from you, so please use the comments section.

I am also a tech moron, so bear with me.

Today my daughter, Sara, turns two. For those of you who do not know Sara, she is headstrong, hilarious, happy, and blindingly intelligent. In short, a typical toddler. She has a fascination with the alphabet and knew all her letters by sight by the time she was 18 months and her numbers to 20, by sight and sequence, 1-2 months later. She has understood the concept of counting for 3-4 months and is now working on advanced differential equations from my old calculus book. Hah, just kidding. I certainly did NOT keep my old calc book but sold it right back to the college bookstore for enough money to put a down payment on a pack of gum. But the rest is, sadly, true. My husband, Charles, and I have already penciled in dates for future sessions in her principal's office. She is the sort to take the world by the ears and shake until it gives in and gets her what she wants. Fortunately, her parents are even more stubborn than she is and control the car keys. For now. She adores her blanket and her brother.

Colin, our son, is turning 6 next month and is her temperamental opposite. He watches then wades in rather than jumping in the deep end (a very sensible approach, in my timid view). He expects to do things perfectly the 1st time. He is very shy but gregarious, generous and goofy in typical kindergartener fashion once he is comfortable with you, say in 3-4 months. He is also stunningly bright with the whole academic thing and a whiz on computers. It frustrates him that he needs occasional help on planning cities playing SimCity and in managing finances playing Roller Coaster Tycoon. Sheesh. He belches really well and adores things JRR Tolkien and his sister. Really.

Charles and I moved out to the Midwest from Portland, OR, 4+1/2 years ago looking for less stress and more play. I found it, he didn't. But it is his choice. We then moved up the highway from Northern IL to Southern WI last winter, and are now living in a house built for comfort on 8 acres of rolling hills surrounded by farms, cows, deer, tractors, wild turkeys, corn and hawks. We do not blink at the 40 min commute (guilt over gas consumption not withstanding) as it is the 2nd shortest commute of both of our lives. We also drive to and from work together, creating some much needed "together" time. We are never moving again. We have used that phrase 3 times in the last 9 years, meaning it with all of our soul each time. But this time we really, REALLY mean it. We are both morning people and he makes my world shine. He also makes great double lattes that we sip on over the commute.

So, there it is. A start. Let's see where it leads.