09 February 2011


Two days before I left for Palm Springs, we joined my brother and sister-in-law and my nieces for a short trip to Granite Peak, a ski area a few miles outside of Wausau. It is a fun little ski hill, just over an hour away from Rhinelander. A perfect place for Lola to learn how to ski.

Although she was more excited about the hotel's indoor water park, she was also looking forward to playing in the snow. Like all toddlers, she caught on pretty quick once she got used to having really big feet all of a sudden and figured out how to balance herself by leaning forward. We had her strapped in a harness so she couldn't get away from us.

The second day we enrolled her in a toddler ski class for two hours. She is now a pro. She can make turns, pizza slices, and duck feet. That's really all one needs to know to successfully conquer the slopes. And she loved the ski lifts. Mama not so much once she found out they didn't have safety bars! It didn't bother Lola one bit, but I hung on for dear life.

I could not believe it. I still can't. In this overprotective country where I am scolded for not forcing my child to wear a helmet when she is riding her tricycle, that same child is allowed to dangle thirty feet above ground on a skinny bench with nothing in place to prevent her from falling off. And nobody bats an eye.

Despite this shortcoming, we are returning at the end of the month for some more fun in the snow. No water park this time though. Lola will be disappointed, I'm sure.

08 February 2011

Zoltar Speaks

Do you remember Zoltar? The fortune teller from the movie Big who granted an eleven year old Tom Hanks's wish to be big? I met him the other day in San Francisco. He resides on Fisherman's Wharf and will tell you your fortune for a dollar. I asked him to read mine.

"You may be wondering if now is a good time to travel."


We were not supposed to go to San Francisco. The plan was to fly from Palm Springs via San Francisco to Chicago and then on to Green Bay. However, the Storm of the Century prevented that. And so we came to spend the day in an uncharacteristically sunny Golden Gate City.

After finding a place at the airport to store our luggage for the day, we took the train to down town San Francisco and started walking. We walked all the way to Fisherman's Wharf, where we purchased some comfortable shoes because our feet were starting to kill us, and admired the Golden Gate bridge and Alcatraz from afar.

Then we meandered over to China Town. It truly was meandering because while the map we were given showed a straight line from Pier 39 to Grant Street, there was this little bump called Nob Hill in the way. By the time we found China Town, our feet, our legs, and our backs were seriously protesting.

I loved China Town, in spite of the physical pain I was starting to feel. The markets and shops with little trinkets, the street decor (Chinese New Year had just started), and the mix of locals and tourists wandering the narrow streets. I bought some souvenirs for my loved ones and talked myself out of buying an authentic Chinese wok.

We ended the day at the mall. One of my companions had won some money at the casino which was burning a hole in her pocket. All I wanted to do was visit H&M. We didn't stay very long. After nine hours of walking our comfortable shoes were no longer comfortable and we took the train back to the airport.

We left San Francisco at one in the morning on the Red Eye. Thanks to Laura at the Palm Springs airport we were given seats in the extra legroom section. We returned to Green Bay at 11 AM, dead tired. A two hour drive later, I was finally home. My bed has never felt so good.

06 February 2011

Cheese Heads Unite

Little Cheese Head
It is Super Bowl Sunday today. In a few hours the Green Bay Packers will face the Pittsburgh Steelers to decide who may call themselves Champions of the World. (My protest that to rightfully be a world champion, you should really play a sport that is practiced all over the world will once again go unheard.)

The excitement in Wisconsin is tangible. When Lola and I were just at the store, everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, was wearing Packer attire. We were the only ones still in our street clothes. Not for long though. I am running a load of laundry as I type, containing my very own Packer shirt. And I purchased it myself.

That shirt has brought nothing but luck. Ryan left early this morning to drive down to his home town and watch the game with his high school buddy. They have watched nine games together this season and the Packers won every single one of them. A winning streak like that is not to be messed with. The green and gold beads I scored in Palm Springs were left behind because they have not been part of the equation. Superstition runs rampant.

Hey, whatever works. I may be a Dutch cheese head, I am still a cheese head. Go Pack Go!

05 February 2011

Mama's Home

Lola has never given me a hard time about going to work or taking off for a few days. As long as I promised her I would come back, she was fine with me leaving. Until recently. When I left for Palm Springs she cried so hard. No matter how many times I told her I would be back in a few days, or how many hugs I gave her, she could not stop crying. Heartbreaking.

Today I left during her nap. She knew I had to go to work and asked me as I was putting her down: "Are you going to be here when I wake up?" When I told her I wasn't, she started crying. I gave her an extra big hug and promised her I would kiss her goodnight as soon as I got back. When I closed her door behind me I could hear her sniffling softly in her bed.

I came home fifteen minutes ago and walked into her room to keep my promise. She opened her eyes when she heard the door and gave me the biggest sleepy smile. The kind that makes you all warm and fuzzy inside and so happy to be a mom. We snuggled for a little bit and then I tiptoed out again. She was still smiling when I pulled the door shut. So was I.

I love coming home.

04 February 2011

While I Was Gone

I was in sunny California for the last five days, attending a conference on Indian Gaming Marketing in the desert town of Palm Springs. It was a great conference, very educational, engaging, and fun.

While I was gone:

* The Storm of the Century raged over the Midwest, covering the region in a two feet thick blanket of snow. All air traffic came to a complete stop, extending my stay on the West Coast by 24 hours.

* The folks at XM Radio came to see the error of their ways. We are once again in good standing with them. In fact, our account now shows a mysterious $53.28 credit for future use. They even turned the radio back on after some prodding on our part because that was one detail they overlooked.

* Lola came down with a 24 hour stomach bug, giving Ryan the joy of cleaning our child and her bed three times during the night. When Lola and I talked about it yesterday, she was adamant she did not have a bug because she did not eat one. "Don't say that to me!"

* Despite the airports of both Green Bay and Dallas being shut down due to weather, the Packers made it to Texas for the upcoming Super Bowl. Everything is green and gold here in anticipation of the Big Game. Unfortunately our projector broke and I have to watch the game in the bedroom.

For your amusement, here are a few Texans struggling with Wisconsin city names:

Here's a challenge for the Wisconsinites feeling all smug after watching this: try pronouncing the name of the Washington city Puyallup. It took me almost a year before I got it right.

23 January 2011

Tough Guys

Wisconsin men are tough. They will not let a little snow or arctic freeze get in the way of hunting, ice fishing, snowmobiling, skiing, sledding, or playing football in short sleeves. My husband can currently be found in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, skiing with this brother. Last year around this time, he took off all his clothes and jumped in a frozen Lake Lucerne. Not me, I took pictures, fully clothed.

Holland also has a long tradition of polar plunges. They are called New Year's Dives. They have become quite popular is the last decade. Hundreds, if not thousands of tough Dutch guys and girls run into the North Sea on or around January first. But when the temperature drops too far below zero degrees Celsius, those dives are canceled for fear of injuries and hypothermia.

Not in Wisconsin. This year's Polar Jump took place yesterday. And the temperature may have been sub zero, I am sure there were more than enough tough guys, and the occasional tough girl, who were willing to take the plunge.

22 January 2011

Arctic Freeze

Another sub zero day in the Northwoods. It is gorgeous and sunny but so cold, the inside of your nose freezes the minute you venture outside and your breath is taken away.

It's a day to stay inside, play with your child, and bake cookies.

Ice castle in Eagle River

Recovering The Satellites

It wasn't too long ago I publicly sang the praise of satellite radio. How happy I was with the commercial free stations, the freedom to listen to Bruce Springsteen all day long, or songs from the seventies, or Christmas music round the clock. So happy in fact, we decided to purchase a year long subscription before our trial was even over. 

And so our troubles began. 

Ryan wrote XM Radio a check for $173.27 which was cashed on October first. We thought we were good to go. We were wrong. The payment, as it turns out, was never applied to my account and in December we received our first bill for the same amount plus $2.10 for 'invoice costs' as it was put. 

I called XM Radio's Listener Care department. A cute name but not a very realistic one because neither listen nor care are verbs one associates with this service after trying to deal with it. I have spent hours on the phone with them, trying to work things out with people who have not mastered the English language very well and could not care less about this listener. When you ask for a supervisor, you're disconnected. On my third try my call was routed to a girl that seemed to grasp my problem and she supplied me with a fax number for the billing department. I faxed over my proof of payment and hoped for the best. 

Two weeks later I received a reply: a reminder invoice with another $2.10 tacked on to cover the cost of the invoice. They must have some fancy printers there. I called Listener Care again, only to find out the fax number I was given was not an XM Radio fax number. Really? Where did I send a copy of my bank statement to? She had no idea. She gave me a different fax number, a genuine XM Radio number she assured me. The number didn't work. I tried for two days. It rang but was never picked up. 

And so I called the Listener Care department for a third time and lo and behold, I was transferred to a supervisor without being hung up on. I was given a third fax number. I felt really good about that number because it came from a supervisor this time, someone in charge. "The number you are trying to reach is not in service." Phone calls were obviously getting me nowhere and I decided to write a letter, a very polite one even. I enclosed copies of everything and again, hoped for the best. 

Two days ago I received my response. My service was scheduled for deactivation if I didn't pay immediately. Sometime today they made good on their word and cut me off. I have run out of options. It is impossible to resolve anything with a company that refuses to communicate. When I searched online for an alternative way of contacting XM Radio, I stumbled upon Consumer Affairs' website with 62 pages of complaints about this company. Most experiences, from what I have read, are similar to mine. 

I am ready to throw in the towel and write my $173.27 off as a bad investment. But I learned from Consumer Affairs that XM Radio is not done with me. I have more bills to look forward to, charging me for the six weeks of service between the end of my free trial and the day I was cut off. Plus $2.10 for the cost of the invoices no doubt. Followed by collection calls at all hours of the day, because of course I am not going to pay them. We'll see. In the meantime I am back to listening to regular radio. Not commercial free, but at least it's hassle free.


21 January 2011

Toddler Talk III

I have a funny child, I could record her all day. Here are some highlights of the past months.

After Ryan told her it was our anniversary, that we had gotten married four years ago, she looked at me and exclaimed: "You got married?!?"

And later to her grandmother: "Mom got married!"

At daycare during a nature walk, outfitted with little magnifying glasses: "Connie, I think we have a mystery here..."

"I am so frustrated, I am going to turn into a monster!" And no, we have not been watching The Incredible Hulk. She was just demonstrating she learned a new word that day. Everything was frustrating to her.

There is a lot of talk about bugs going around at the moment. People are calling in sick left and right. Lola knows why: "If you eat a bug, you get sick."

"Row, row, row your boat. Gently down the stream. Mary, Mary, Mary, Mary. Like a spider's dream."

It is almost time for bed and Lola will do anything to avoid having to go to bed. We're discussing the messes in our rooms. I suggest we clean up this weekend. "How about you clean your room tomorrow and I clean my room today. But maybe you need some help with the little things. You know who could help you?" Big smile, pointing at herself. "But only if you listen to me. Do you promise to listen to me?"

20 January 2011

Clean And Shiny

The creature is taking a bath. She has quite the collection of bath toys but she informed me earlier she wasn't sure she wanted to play with them anymore. So I gave her a scrubber instead. And now I have a clean bathtub.

I am brilliant, if I do say so myself.

16 January 2011

One Of Those Mornings

There are a couple of work reports I need to write that I really have to sit down for and concentrate on. However, the daily hustle and bustle of the casino hasn't allowed for it. My intended solution was to go in nice and early and arrive before everyone else. To aid in my early departure I had prepared everything the night before. I prepped the coffee, I laid out my clothes, and all the chopping and browning for my slow cooker meal was done.

I got up shortly after 5 am, got dressed, and made myself a cup of coffee. As I started loading the ingredients in the crockpot, something seemed off. Three cups of rice and only half a cup of water? I looked at the recipe again.

Snag #1: the recipe called for cooked rice.

No problem. I hauled out the rice cooker, filled it up, and turned it on.

Snag #2: sometimes our rice cooker jumps back to the "warm" setting.

When I walked into the kitchen twenty minutes later, my rice was not done. I turned it on again. Why hadn't I just cooked the rice on the stove? By this time, I was running seriously late. Lola had gotten up in the meantime and I dressed and fed her. When my meal was finally ready to go, it was almost 8 o'clock. We decided I would take Lola to daycare and Ryan would pick her up, instead of the other way around, so I could work a little later to make up some time.

I dropped Lola off and was on my way. I was happily driving along, bopping to the music, feeling pretty good. There was no sense in stressing over lost time since there was nothing I could do about it. The sun was shining and the roads were clear.

Snag #3: at the Oneida/Forest county line a power line had fallen onto the road and all traffic had come to a full stop.

For the first time ever since I moved to Wisconsin I was stuck in traffic. I reached for my blackberry to call work and answer some emails while I was waiting.

Snag #4: my blackberry was still sitting on my nightstand.

Since Big Blue has a built-in cell phone, I was able to let my staff know I was going nowhere at the moment and I would be very late coming in. I also called Ryan to chat.

Snag #5: Ryan was not too far behind me, on his way to a dentist appointment that had already been rescheduled three times.

I told him to let them know he probably wouldn't make it. Not too long after that though, WPS pulled the power line back up and everything started moving again. Ryan made it in time and I finally clocked in at 9:52 am. Only three hours late.

15 January 2011

Happy 2011!

I started this post on New Year's Day, hence the title. I could have sworn there was a picture of an eagle here before. You see, as I was sipping my coffee outside on that crisp January 1 morning, there was an eagle soaring overhead. I watched that eagle for a good ten minutes, marveling at its beautiful and graceful movements. What a wonderful sight to start the new year with.

I went back inside to share it with you, only to find the router had crashed, bringing my resolution of posting twice a week to a screeching halt. The problem has long since been fixed but life happened and blogging did not. To bring you up to speed on our adventures, here are the cliff notes.

* The casino's Marketing Director left and I am now pulling double duty. It's been hectic to put it mildly.

* I have taken up belly dancing classes. Every Thursday evening, I shake my pelvis for an hour with four other middle-aged women. We look silly, we feel silly, but our pelvises love it.

* Lola has entered the Princess Phase. In addition to a tiny Cinderella doll with rubber dresses (that I have to dress and undress), she is now the proud owner of pink and silver princess sneakers that light up when she walks. While we were making our way to the cashier after picking them out, she told every single person in the store she had new shoes.

* Ryan and I went on a date this week. Nothing spectacular, just drinks and dinner. We are going to do this every month. I just hope our next dates go better than this one did. We must be out of practice. Come to think of it, we never dated. We pretty much met and got married. We obviously need to do it more often. Practice makes perfect.

* The whole family received ice skates from Santa Claus. We tied them under last week and went skating in the park. It was after dark and we had the rink to ourselves. We didn't skate very long but we had fun. It was Lola's very first time on skates. In two weeks, we are taking her skiing.

* While we were skating in circles, there were two cars parked outside the rink, one with its door wide open. We looked around but didn't see or hear anyone. Very strange. As we were getting ready to leave, a woman came out of one car and got into the other one with the open door. I have a sneaking suspicion we stumbled onto Rhinelander's red light district. Ryan isn't sure.

* There are four business trips in my immediate future. I am flying to Palm Springs at the end of this month, to the Wisconsin Dells in March, and Phoenix and Las Vegas in April. I could get used to this.

* And last, but certainly not least, I have one more trip planned. On March 17, Lola and I are flying to Holland for eight days. Finally I will be able to introduce my daughter to her aunt and her cousins. We cannot wait. It has been four and a half years since I have seen most of my family and friends. Ryan is not coming, he cannot take that much time off work yet.

You're all caught up again. As for the present, I am tending to a sick child. She has a cold, a sore throat, and a bark like cough. Poor girl. I hope she feels better in the morning. We are going to make cupcakes together.

I wish you all a (very belated) Happy New Year!

31 December 2010

Best Ice Fishing Ever

My cousin and his family, the ones responsible for Ryan and me meeting, have come up to the Northwoods to celebrate New Year’s Eve with us. They arrived late last night. Just before we all retired to our beds, the men told us we needed to get up nice and early for the Big Surprise they had planned for us.

This morning it was revealed we were going ice fishing. Interesting choice of activity for four adults, two toddlers, and one infant, none of whom had gone ice fishing before. It was pouring rain outside, too. Clearly, there was something fishy going on. Why did we need to be there at 9:00 AM sharp? Ice fishing doesn’t seem to be that punctual of a sport. And why were all the efforts to get fed, dressed, and out the door on time only geared towards the (adult) women?

L. and I were shoved out the door at 8:40 AM with an address written on a piece of paper, our gps with English accent Penelope, and a cup of coffee for the road. Once programmed, Penelope took us straight to the Woodwind Spa just outside of Rhinelander, hidden in the woods. We were treated to an hour long full body massage, a foot reflexology treatment, and sacral/cranial alignment with reiki. Almost five hours later we left the spa again, fully relaxed, body and soul perfectly content.

Needless to say, L. and I loved ice fishing. You can take us out anytime!

20 December 2010

Elf Help

According to Big Blue’s manual, there is a gallon and a half of gas left in the tank when the warning light comes on. At roughly thirty miles per gallon, that means I can go another forty, fortyfive miles, right?


As I found out the hard way this morning, the manual is mistaken. I had about a mile and a half left and that was it. I found myself stranded by the side of the road, a few miles outside of Laona and the nearest gas station, with the temperature below zero.

I called Ryan, just for some sympathy, since he obviously could not help me from Rhinelander. And then I bundled up and started walking. It was cold, people! But less than two minutes into my walk, a very kind gentleman by the name of Francis pulled over and offered me a ride. He drove me to the gas station, waited while I purchased a gas tank and filled it up, and then drove me back to my car. He even filled up my tank for me. And my favorite state trooper (he once pulled me over for speeding) stopped with his lights flashing to keep us safe while we were replenishing Big Blue.

Thank you for being my elves this morning, Francis and Trooper B! It would have been a very long and cold walk without you. Merry Christmas!

18 December 2010

A Family Tree

We finally finished trimming the Christmas tree last weekend. With the sounds of the season setting the mood, Ryan, Lola, and I hung every last ornament found in the Christmas boxes that have been packed away for so long.

We have an eclectic mix of old and new going on. Mickey, my very first ornament from my grandfather's store, handmade felt and woolen ornaments made by Ryan's grandmother, Dora the Explorer ornaments picked out by Lola, and quite a few Santa Clauses from my ever growing collection.

I love our tree. It is past and present blending together in the most colorful way, to become part of our young family history.

Our family tree

Mickey, who is as old as I am

Made by Ryan's grandmother

Dora, Lola's pick for the season

Jolly Old Saint Nicholas

I am linking up to Cheri's ornament party at Its So Very Cheri.

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