Sunday, March 24, 2013

Writing Prompt # 7: Favorite Movies

I'm a little behind on my writing prompts because I've been doing more writing for my Creative Writing class.  That, coupled with the fact that this prompt made my mind shut down like it used to when I was about to take an Algebra test.  I thought about tossing this idea out all together, but I'm going to try to muddle through this prompt.

First of all, this prompt seems so cliché -- like something college kids might talk about on a first date, not something you really write about.

Second of all, I'm not a huge movie buff. I enjoy movies, but I easily get bored watching them. In high school, I always fell asleep watching movies.  Now, I find myself being more interested in "House Hunters" than a movie rental.  

Third of all, I get confused easily.  I forget most plots, I can't keep characters straight, I sometimes mix up what plot happened in which movies.  I never know what my husband is talking about when he quotes movie lines.

And lastly, I can't ever remember what we've seen, especially when asked about my favorite movies on the spot.  If, however, someone happens to be talking about a movie and how much they enjoyed it, it might jog my memory enough to participate in the conversation.

But as I promised, I'm going to try to complete this prompt.  So here goes.  Let's break it down.

My favorite movies when I was a kid/growing up:
*  Sesame Street's "Follow That Bird"-- holy tear jerker!!  Cried my eyes out in the theater.
*  Mr. Mom-- always reminded me of my dad taking care of Sister and me when mom was in college
*  E.T.--for obvious reasons.
*  The Little Mermaid-- I think I thought I was part mermaid as a kid
*  Dirty Dancing-- the raciest thing I'd ever seen as a fourth grader!  oooooo-weeee!
*  Sixteen Candles-- oh my gosh, Jake Ryan, you are still so cute.

Favorite Movies in high school and college:
*  Dead Poet's Society-- Oh Captain my captain!
*  Titanic-- Mr. Jack Dawson, you stole my 20 year old heart.
*  The Breakfast Club-- I related to every single character on some level.

Favorite Movies as an adult:
*  Harry Potter Series
*  Slumdog Millionaire
*  The Blind Side

But my very favorite movie has to be Love, Actually.  It's the only movie I really wouldn't mind watching every day. I love the message of love being all around and  I feel like I would be friends with every one of the characters. There's also the fact that it's a Hugh Grant movie and well, I just adore Hugh Grant.   The movie has become special to Mason and me as it's part of our Christmas tradition-- watching it on Christmas Eve together. I've seen the movie probably a hundred times and every single time I cry during the opening airport scene.  Yes, it's a chick flick.  Yes, it's a romantic comedy.  But at some point, this little romantic comedy became my favorite movie.  And sometimes, when I am particularly surrounded by nasty stuff, I try to remind myself that love really is, all around.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen, Introducing Binga

Several  months have passed since I've written about one of Charlie's dearest friends, Binga, who just so happens to be a figment of his imagination.  You may recall that Binga frequently started popping up in conversations last spring and summer, and he's continued to be part of this family.  Interestingly enough, Binga's life tends to mirror Charlie's.  Sometimes, I hear Charlie scolding Binga and putting him in time out.  A few times last fall, Charlie tested out tattling on Binga-- especially when Binga was using bad words.  A specific incident involved Charlie telling me, "Mommy, Binga said Dammit. That's a bad word."  Of course, I told Charlie that he is not allowed to say that word-- which he quickly reminded me that he actually didn't say it, and that it was Binga who had uttered the word.  Charlie was just the innocent reporter.  After that, we had a dinner conversation about which kinds of friends are allowed in our house-- we decided that if Binga was going to choose to use bad words, he could not play here.  That squelched Binga's potty mouth.  When Maddy died, Binga's dog died.  When Charlie had a fever, Binga had a fever.  When Charlie's mommy is mean, Binga's mommy is nice.  Obviously, I've gotten to know a lot about Binga.  But yesterday, I was playing with the voice recorder on my phone and decided to interview Charlie about his bff.  Here's the transcript.  Enjoy.


Me:  Okay Charlie, lets talk about Binga.  Charlie, how old is Binga?
C:  Three- Four!
Me:  Four. Okay.  And what does Binga look like?
C:  He looks like orange, pink, and everything.
Me:  How did you meet him? How do you know him?
C:  I just do.  I just know him.  I know where he lives!
Me: Where does he live?
C:  He lives across the river, that’s his backyard…way over there, that’s his other backyard… and then, that…..  is his baby’s. 
Me:  Oh, that’s his baby’s.  What does Binga like to do? 
C:  He likes to play all the games and drives his trucks all over to cities. 
Me:  He drives his trucks to cities? 
C:  Uh-huh.  And buildings, and a basket-port.
Me:  Hmmmm.  What cities does Binga like to drive his trucks to?
C:  Orange cities.  And bad cities. 
Me:  Orange cities and bad cities? 
C:  And good cities. 
Me:  Oh, and good cities too. 
C:  Yeah. 
Me: What’s Binga’s favorite thing to do? 
C:  He likes to play.  In his house.
Me:  Oh.  What color house does he live in?
C:  He lives in a red and orange and pink one.
Me:  Wow.  Does Binga have a mom and a dad? 
C:  Yeah. 
Me:  He does? 
C:  Yeah.  His mom is named, like, kinda your name! 
Me: Kinda like my name?  What is it?
C: Kinda like your name, but not.
Me:  Oh, do you know his mom’s name?
C:  Menah. 
Me:  Menah?
C:  Uh-huh.  And his dad’s name is like my dad’s name. 
Me:  What’s his dad’s name? 
C:  Moonah. 
Me:  Moonah?  Interesting.  Mehan and Moonah.  Does Binga have any brothers or sisters? 
C:  Yeah.  Loodle-doole-woodle-loodle. 
Me:  That sounds silly.
C:  It’s Lela and Lula.
Me:  What happened to Lela and Lula? 
C:  They just sleepin’ all winter. 
Me:  Hmmm. 
C:  I’m gonna go check on em right now!
Me:  Okay.  Anything else you want to tell me about BInga? 
C:  Well, he likes to catch fish from the river. 
Me:  Wow. 
C:  Yeah.  And he likes to bend over and stick his toes in the river. 
Me:  Oooh.  I bet that feels good. 
C: Yeah.  Just two of them. 
Me:  Well thanks for telling me about Binga.  That was fun!
C: Yeah.  


Monday, March 18, 2013

Adventures in Winter Driving

Last Tuesday morning started innocently enough.  The sun was shining, the wind was calm, the roads were good.  I dropped C off at daycare and headed over to get my hair cut & highlighted (I told her to make it as blonde as possible without going crazy-- I needed as much summer thinking as possible these days).  The plan was to meet my mom at the half-way point and lovingly place Charlie in her care-- where she would take him to his "Spencer Vacation" at their house.

Unfortunately, as often happens in Iowa, Mother Nature had different plans.  (Really stupid plans if you ask me)  The sun went away, the wind started howling, the snow started falling, and we found ourselves in the midst of some terrible weather.  Schools in Northwest Iowa were dismissing early and travel north and west of us was not advised.  I talked with Mom as she tearily explained that she had to turn around-- the roads were getting worse and she was very uncomfortable traveling alone with Charlie.  It was obvious that she was upset and disappointed but we had no choice other than to go with Plan B.  The only problem was that we hadn't thought to make a Plan B so we were left scrambling to come up with one.

Our Plan B ended up being this:
* Mason leave work immediately
* Hastily pack up all of our stuff that might be needed over spring break
* Toss thrown together items into the back of the pickup
* Brave the elements and travel on the travel-not-advised roads, all the way to Spencer.
* Find alternative route to Conover, WI from Spencer, IA

So, basically, we drove roughly 400 miles out of our way, on terrible roads to drop off Charlie.  As I re-read that sentence, it sounds absolutely crazy.... and it probably was.  I'd like to justify the craziness by mentioning that:
a.  Mason is an excellent driver
b.  Having two adults in the vehicle sounded like a good plan-- especially if we did run into trouble
c.  Driving a full size pickup with 4-wheel drive seemed much safer than the minivan

Honestly, the roads were okay until about the half-way point.  After that, we started seeing cars and trucks and even a few semis in the ditches.  Mase drove slow and steady the entire way.  Charlie was such a great trooper-- not even crying too much when he spilled his entire water bottle and ended up sitting in a soaked car seat for a couple hours.  Our only hiccup came while driving in Hwy 71, in the middle of nowhere, when Charlie piped up that he had to go poopy.  Mase & I glanced at each other and knew there was nowhere to stop for miles, and at the pace we were going, it might be a long wait.  We explained that he would need to hold it-- it then dawned on me that he's never been denied immediate access to go.  He looked at us like we were crazy but he settled back into his soggy car seat for a good five minutes before saying, "I really can't hold it anymore!"

So we did what any good Iowans do when traveling the boondocks:  We knocked on a farmhouse door.
Mase ended up taking C to the bathroom at a really kind woman's house, and of course C lost his interest in pooping, and was more interested in the chicken coop, the goats, the ducks, and the horses on the farm.  He also wanted to know the name of their dog, why their house smelled bad, and how they could have ducks without having a pond.  Somehow, Mason was able to answer all of his questions and corral Charlie back into the pickup without the cat (named Larry) coming along for the ride.

We puttered down the highway, eventually reaching Spencer without any other incidents.  We stopped and visited for awhile before taking off toward the cottage.  The roads were not getting any better and the two of us were exhausted (I hadn't even driven a mile) so we stopped in Minneapolis for the night.  The next morning, we packed up our things and headed over to the cottage-- an easy five hour-mostly interstate drive, that actually passed pretty quickly.

When we arrived Up North, two feet of snow, bright blue sky, and a huge yellow sun welcomed us.  Even though we were still a bit sleep deprived and white-knuckled, it suddenly all felt worth it.  We had arrived.      


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

T Minus 5 Hours

(On my way to pick up Charlie so apologize for the lack of editing in this.... read at your own risk)

It's that time of year friends.  (Spring Break!)  Honestly though, after all the snow days and delayed school due to weather, we aren't really in need of a break, although we are definitely in need of spring. This year, for whatever reason, I have cabin fever so badly.  I've never longed for my flip flops like I have the past few months.  Every day seems to greet us with another tunnel of hazy fog and colorless white/grey sky.  On the rare occasion where the sun actually peeks through the clouds and teases us by revealing a tiny patch of blue sky, I can immediately feel my spirits lift.

Typically, I'm very ready to hole up inside and enjoy a few days to myself over spring break.  My parents are eagerly looking forward to hosting C at their house for a few days, and for the first time (yes, I'm going to admit that), I'm having some real anxiety about leaving him.  I'm worried about missing him and I have the slightest feeling that he's going to grow up in the next four days-- in the absence of my watchful eyes.  So this year, between the weather and the part where I leave my kid, I'm desperately trying to be excited about the potential of spring break.  I have my scrapbooking totes and tools ready, new magazines checked out from the library, a half-finished audio book, two paperback books I've just begun to read, a puzzle with a bright photo of tempting donuts, and three knitting projects already on needles, gently tucked into baggies-- all of this is ready for our journey up North.  Judging by my packing list, you would think I'm going into solitary confinement for a month.  I'm hoping to be productive with my time-- in leisurely ways.  Does that make sense?  

But as I mentioned before, what I really need right  now is spring.  I need some sun.  I need some air.  I need some open space to walk and run and jump and stomp and explore and play.  I need some connecting with the Earth time-- geeky and crazy as that may sound.  (There's a reason my college roommate's hubby always called me "Nature Girl")  So, in addition to the supplies mentioned above, I have my snow pants, boots, hats, mittens, gloves, snowshoes, and cross country skis packed up too.  This year, Eagle River has received over five FEET of snow-- actually, the snowfall has been something crazy like 69"-- and you wonder why it's called the snowmobile capitol of the world?  With all this snow, I'm hoping that I'll be motivated to hike, snowshoe, and ski during the next few days.  These adventures outdoors will be bittersweet this year, as we are quite obviously missing our four legged friend who would have loved this much snow.  We are bringing Maddy's ashes with us, to scatter among her favorite places.  The thought of this makes my chest tighten a little bit and the realization that I'll be trekking across the lake independently makes me need pause and take in a deep breath.  

This trip may be different.  The scrapbook tote may remain closed, the puzzle may remain tightly wrapped in shiny cellophane, and my hands may only knit and purl the soft yarn while we ride in the car.  Perhaps I won't be as 'productive' as originally thought, but if I can snowshoe my way though spring break, then maybe I'll reconnect to this Earth and return with a bit more optimism to get me through these final weeks of winter.  I'll keep ya posted.  :)  

Winter of 2006 (??), the last time we saw a huge amount of snow up at the cottage. If you peer closely at the photo, you will notice that the basement has a walk-out garage under the deck.... yep, the snow had fallen all the way up to the deck.  Well over three feet was actually on the ground.  Ah, Wisconsin.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Writing Prompt #6: A Picture of Something That Makes You Happy

I love this prompt, but my first thought was, "A picture?  As in, one singular, lone, independent picture?"  Of something that makes me happy?  I don't claim to be the eternal optimist, but honestly, I have a 32gb flash drive that is filled with pictures that make me happy.  And believe it or not, I even took a few photos before Charlie was born!  So sorry friends, but I couldn't narrow it down to just one photo.  Instead, you get to see a few of my absolute favorite pictures taken within the past five years.  (I'm tossing around the idea of doing this same prompt for other 5-year incriments.... that sounds fun)

Okay, so here we go:

Photo #1.  Our Wedding Day:
Why it makes me happy:  Aside from the obvious fact that it was our wedding day, I just love everything about this picture.  I love the positioning of us, I love the ocean behind us, I love the shadows over our faces, and the bright sky. I love that it's not "perfect" in terms of photography.  I love that you can see the little rhinestones in my veil and can tell the way I had my hair done.  More than anything, I love the look we both have on our faces.  Can you tell that I was giddy with excitement?  Can you tell Mase was on the verge of tears?  Tears.  Real, wet, salty, tears.  From my husband.  That's why I love this photo.


Photo #2:  Me standing on Berthoud Pass, on the Continental Divide (July, 2009) 

Mason and I traveled out to Colorado the summer before Charlie was born.  We wanted to do a big trip with stops in the Black Hills, Yellowstone, and then Colorado, but the idea of a two week roadtrip suddenly sounded really daunting after learning I was pregnant.  Instead, I convinced Mason that he needed to let me show him where I spent two magical summers in college, Granby Colorado. This photo seems to pour out feelings for me; happy, free, excited, energized, loved, hopeful, inspired, healthy, adventurous, happy.  happy.  happy.  Berthoud Pass, and it's windy switchbacks, steep curves, and majestic views leads you from I90 up into the mountains.  The Frasier Valley, where no horizon exists, the sun rises late and sets early, and is home to the best pizza on the planet, holds many memories for me.  I'll forever be a midwestern girl, but the Rocky Mountains will forever occupy a special place in my heart that I'm sure will never fade.  

Photo #3:  Mason, relaxing in the sage field at Camp Chief Ouray in Granby, CO  (July 2009)

If you've never camped out under the stars, in just a sleeping bag and stocking cap, in a fragrant open sage field, I encourage you to add it to your Bucket List.  There is something so magical about the smell of sage, wafting through your dreams, as you snuggle deeper and deeper into the goose down that separates you from the ground.  Without getting too spiritual, I have to admit that those camping experiences gave me a feeling that I can only describe as knowing where I came from.  Everything seemed peaceful.  Everything seemed as it should be.  Everything seemed right.  Then I fast forward eleven years, and visit that same magical sage field, only this time with the person in my life with whom everything seems peaceful and right and as it should be.  And the result of that click on the cheepy point and shoot camera turned out to be one of my all-time favorite photos for just those reasons.

Photo #4:  Maddy and Charlie watching birds on the lawn.  (Spring, 2011)



Everyone reading this blog probably remembers the video that was taken the same day as these photos.  (It is, perhaps, my favorite video of the nine million videos we have of Charlie.) I love so many things about these photos.  In fact, getting them enlarged and framed is on my long "to do" list for the near future.  I think the photos speak for themselves, no need for me to try to explain why  think they're so sweet.  I love love love these two babies.

(I promise to update this when/if I figure out how to embed the bird watching video!)

Friday, March 1, 2013

Life Lessons. Lid Up.


Nine out of ten times, I am the one to get up with C in the middle of the night when he needs to use the bathroom.  If you know my child, you know that he's part vampire and super sensitive to light.  In fact, he hates it.  It makes him squirm and whine and cry.  So, naturally, in the middle of the night, we do everything we can to avoid light.  Even when it comes to making the potty call.

When it comes to nighttime bathroom duty, C and I are like a well oiled machine.  He whimpers, I instantly wake up like a firefighter called to duty.  I fly down the hallway and scoop him up out of bed, while he is still whimpering and making incoherent sounds.  We rush to the bathroom, careful to make sure Bunny or Puppy or stuffed animal of choice lands on the floor and not in the toilet. (yes, I realize this is probably really gross but it is what it is)  I swiftly tug down his pants and undies and gently "aim" him in the general direction of the toilet.  Sometimes, I know my aim is dead on because I hear the instant sound of the water.  Other times, I know I'm aiming a bit high or low-- when it's silently hitting the bowl instead.  I mentally keep track of how often I have dead aim-- it's about 50/50.

Last night, C called out around midnight and M was out of bed before I could even react.  He took care of the whole bathroom duty.  Awesome.  3:00 rolls around and he's bathroom needy again.  This time, I'm the one up and at the helm.  Before I know it, we're in the bathroom, taking care of business.  I listen to the stream hit the bowl and silently note that my aim is not dead on this time.  Dang it.  0 for 1 tonight. We scoop Bunny off the floor and he's back in bed in probably less than 30 seconds.  

Before I know it, the alarm is sounding and our morning routine is in full-blown "go mode".  Teeth, shower, Clarisonic, flat iron, Clinique, clothes (jeans Friday!), coffee, oatmeal, keys (where are my keys?), Charlie....

C had trouble waking up, but eventually we made our way into the bathroom to brush teeth and get dressed. M came in to grab something and was stopped short.  "What the Hell!?" he asked, staring at the toilet.  And then I saw it.  A perfectly round puddle of golden pee pooled on the lid of the toilet.  I think I made a face like this:


"Did you forget to put the lid up?"

Again, my face:



And then my answer:
"It appears so."  (pause)  "Why was the lid down?  Now that makes zero sense."

Yes friends, this is the shit that happens in Spahnville.  He looked at me like I had lost my mind, rolled his eyes at me, wiped off the puddle with as many paper towels he could hold, and hustled out to the kitchen to grab his coffee and head to work.  This situation could have been maddening.  It could have been annoying.  It could have been super frustrating.  But I kinda thought it was hilarious.  Pee on the lid! Ha!  I guess I needed a good excuse to really deep clean the bathroom.  (And honestly, had the lid been up, my aim would have been dead on.)