28 February 2011

Trespassers Will Be Shot

Back when Scotland was just a stone throw away, I used to do quite a bit of hiking in the high and lowlands. Scottish law demands that owners of private land allow hikers the right of way. A lovely piece of legislature, opening up the entire Scottish countryside to all who wish to enjoy it. Hikers in turn are expected to keep up their end by staying on the path, picking up after themselves, and not disturbing nature and live stock. This practice is not known in the UP, Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Yoopers do not allow you the right of way, they shoot you instead.

We left Rhinelander early Saturday morning for an impromptu visit to the Keweenaw Peninsula in the UP, just over a three hour drive from the Northwoods. It is still winter up there with several feet of snow. Ryan has traveled there a few times this season, to go skiing with his brother at Mount Bohemia. He wanted to show us this beautiful place on Lake Superior, look at some land, and putz around on snow shoes. And I was hoping to see a moose.

We picked Mount Houghton as our snow shoeing destination. We purchased a topographical map of the area, programmed the coordinates into Penelope - our GPS, and scouted the best place to park Big Blue and commence our hike. About a hundred yards into our ascent we stumbled upon a house. It was clear it was occupied for the weekend but no one was there when we approached. We quickly walked around the house and continued on our way. Ryan was very uncomfortable with this, but I did not see what the big deal was.

On our way down, we noticed a car parked by the house and decided not to barge through the yard but instead give it a wide berth. While we did not speak a word, it is impossible to be stealthy on snow shoes. Snow may fall quietly and muffle all sounds, it makes an amazing amount of noise when you walk on it. Whoever was staying at the house obviously noticed us creeping about. The next thing we heard was a semi-automatic rifle being emptied into the air.

We ran as fast as we could, which wasn't fast at all. The gun-toting Yooper got in his car and followed us. When he caught up to us, he stopped. We were in the woods, about thirty feet to his right. We ducked, feeling awfully silly because in no way were we reducing our visibility by crouching down. He did not get out of his car but drove on and stopped next to Big Blue, parked at the end of the road.

I had left a note on the dashboard with what we were doing, where we were going, and at what time we left, in case something happened to us. We stood at the top of the hill watching the man circle our car. He must have read the note, seen Lola's car seat, and decided we were not a threat. He got back in his car and drove off. We quickly made our way down, took off our gear, and left.

We were more shocked than scared, to tell you the truth. Other than this incident, which reads more frightening than it was, our weekend was wonderful. The countryside was lovely, the snow abundant, and the weather glorious. We even got a little sun burnt. But sadly, no moose.

25 February 2011

Pyjama Party

Lola woke me up in the middle of the night crying for her mommy. I found her in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet. My happiness about her waking up to go potty (it's still hit and miss with lots of laundry around here) quickly subsided when I felt her warm body and heard her cough. She was burning with fever and obviously sick. I tucked her back in and snuggled for a little bit. Just before I went back to my own bed, I told her she would not be going to school the next day. She perked up. "Are we going to make party hats?"

She has been begging me to make party hats for days now. I have no idea why or where this burning desire came from. But what else is there to do when you're spending an unexpected day at home? Party hats it is. We taped some construction paper sheets together and cut out a circle large enough for a hat. Lola went to town embellishing the hat with glitter hearts, left over from Valentine's Day. Of course one was not enough, we had to make five.

While Lola was clearly feeling better by the minute, my health rapidly deteriorated. When it was time for her nap, I decided to take one too, rather than enjoying some free time. She slept until three, I woke up around dinner time. Ryan had come home in the meantime and spent the afternoon entertaining his daughter and looking after his wife.

I am feeling much better now and tomorrow will be business as usual. I will go to work as planned and Lola will go back to school. But at least we got the party hat project out of the way.


A ring around the moon is said to be the bearer of bad weather. Last weekend I learned that is true.

It was white knuckle driving, coming back from Oshkosh. We didn't get much snow up north, and it's almost all gone again. I don't like this in between phase we're in. Either give me some good winter weather with lots of snow or go away altogether and make way for spring.

Make up your mind, winter!

22 February 2011

The Sound Of Silence

When I was growing up, I always listened to music. I woke up to it, I fell asleep to it, I made my homework to it, you name it. I did not like the sound of silence at all. I always needed something going on in the background to help me concentrate. Those days are over. Now I can really appreciate complete stillness around me from time to time.

Unfortunately it is hardly ever quiet at my house. Even when I am home by myself, there is still so much noise. When the fireplace is burning, a fan starts up after a few minutes to distribute the heat. Since we have fourteen feet high ceilings and no ceiling fan, we use a regular fan to move the warm air around and heat up the room a little faster. Our projector TV has a built in fan and the computer has one too. All those fans drive me nuts sometimes.

However, the noisy fans are nothing compared to what we came home to last Sunday after spending the weekend with friends in Oshkosh. While we were gone the insurance company sent over a guy to deal with the flooded basement. He ripped up the carpet, took off the base boards, drilled holes in the walls to pump hot air into, and installed seven industrial fans and dehumidifiers. And they are LOUD, I tell you.

He is coming back tomorrow to restore everything back to normal. I cannot wait. Oh, to listen to the sound of silence once again.

17 February 2011

Indoor Waterpark

It’s been in the high forties and low fifties here lately. The snow is starting to melt away, meaning things are getting messy. The once white snow along the side of the road is now an ugly grayish brown. The spots of grass that are popping up look a little worse for wear. The creatures are coming out of the woods. Twice this week I have had to hit the breaks for suicidal squirrels. The thaw won’t last long. The forecast for the weekend shows dropping temperatures and more snow to cover up all that mud and chase us back inside.

In the meantime, the thaw is an awesome way to find out if your plumbing suffered any damage from the deep freeze of the last few months. Not the main waterline, we would have known that a long time ago. I am talking about the little pipe that connects to the outside faucet. When I turned off the lights in the living room last night, I heard a strange noise coming from the entryway. I followed the noise to the back of the coat closet to find large quantities of water spewing from the wall.

After running back to the living room to grab a flash light and my husband, we discovered the water was not actually coming out of the wall, but from a burst pipe hidden by two Styrofoam boards. We turned off the valve and took in the damage. Not too bad at first sight. Our coats were hanging high and dry and most of the other stuff in the closet was packed in plastic bins. The only object at risk was the vacuum cleaner.

The coat closet connects to the guest room closet and it was easier to grab the vacuum cleaner from that side. I walked around to the guest room and stepped right into a pool of icy cold water, over an inch high. It took my breath away, so cold. There was hardly any water in the closet because it had all flowed into the guest room. As I walked on the carpet, it waved due to the water underneath it. The room had turned into a giant waterbed. Just what you need when you're getting ready to turn in.

Sometimes it’s very convenient not to have furniture to fill up every room in the house. The air mattress we offer our guests floats and the Goodwill finds stored in the guest room are awaiting restoration anyway. The plumber has deemed us a ‘non emergency’ and will not show up for another week. I just hope our landlord can find someone to clean up the water in the meantime.

Or we could pump in some more water, open the downstairs windows and create our own indoor ice skating rink. That would be fun!

15 February 2011

Sweets For My Sweet

Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey... I was singing this song all weekend long while Lola and I made Valentine's Day cards and decorated shipping tags with potato stamped hearts and red and purple glitter. She is not willing to part with the cards she made so there is no point in running to your mailbox in anticipation. Nothing from Lola this year, sorry.

The shipping tags were for the little bags of sweets she was giving out to her friends and teachers at school. Twenty in all. Centering the potato on the tags was a bit tricky and she gladly handed that task off to her mother, as well as adding the little drops of glue. But the glitter job is all hers. She was not going to let me have any fun with that. Her forehead crinkled in concentration, she very carefully tapped the glitter from the shakers over a big plate and then shook off the excess.

The tags turned out beautifully. She was so proud of her work, we made a few extra for her to keep. As for the content, I missed the memo requesting parents not to hand out any candy and filled them with just that. Luckily Ryan caught it in time and I was able to correct my rookie mistake. First thing Monday morning, I was back at the kitchen table, emptying out the artificially sugared chocolate and gummy hearts into a large jar and replacing them with naturally sugared blueberries, strawberries, and clementines.

Sweets for my sweet, sugar for my honey... I cannot get it out of my head!

14 February 2011

Toddler Talk IV

Having a three year old is like having a talking dog. It is just funny. (Heard on the Bob & Tom Show one morning on the radio). I agree, it is.

"I used to be a grandma but now I'm a mom. I was short like a grandma, but then I grew bigger and now I'm a mom. And when I get even bigger, I am going to be a big sister!"

Lola: "I would like to fly an airplane."
Me: "Well, when you get bigger, you could learn how."
Lola: "But I would miss you!"
Me: "But you would come back to me, after you're done flying."
Lola, softly: "But I don't know how to find my home."

Lola: "Remember? When you were a little baby, and I was your mom? Remember?"
Me: "Ummm..."

Lola: "I'm going to draw a picture of papa."
Me: "That's a great idea, he'll love that."
Lola: "But I am not going to give him a pagina." (That is not a typo.)
Me: "Of course not. Boys don't have vaginas."
Lola: "Oh. No, I mean a penis. I don't like penises."

12 February 2011

Making Valentines

An afternoon of old-fashioned potato stamping

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