......finding a new home for lutefisk lovers.

(ok we don't love it. or even like it. but we're supposed to.)

29 June 2010

Day 7, 3:36pm

Day 6, 433 miles, Springfield, MA

Tomorrow we'll visit the Eric Carle Museum of Picturebook Art. Although I'm not the children's literature guru I once was, my heart still speeds up a little bit when I see that perfect marriage of creative media, expression and accessibility that is illustration. Eric Carle, for those of you who never went to kindergarten, is the author of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and many many more picturebooks for children.
I once hosted an event with Eric Carle when I was in the book industry. It felt like a god was walking in our midst. It was like meeting Michael Jackson. I tried to be cool around this legend who has been producing international bestsellers for my entire lifetime - I tried to keep my mouth shut as much as I could. So instead I just stood there........with a big toothy grin.
I wanted him to sign one of my books but I was having trouble finding the opportunity. The evening was going on too long and he was getting tired. And the hundreds of rabid first grade teachers standing in line to get their books signed were showing their fangs. No one stands between a first grade teacher and Eric Carle! So when he got up for a break, I followed him, thinking I could catch him before he came back to the crowd. But he walked to the bathroom; I followed him to the bathroom! Which I didn't intend to do! I stopped a little too close to the bathroom door and pretended to study a blank piece of paper...........
And I could hear him peeing. And I thought to myself, "I'm listening to Eric Carle pee." What if you stood outside a door listening to Michael Jackson pee? That would be weird, right? But I was in too far - so I quickly came up with a plan. I heard the zipper, the water running, the paper towel holder and finally the doorknob. I took a few steps to the right and pretended that I was walking by just as he emerged. Ooops! Oh excuse me! Can I walk you back out to the store? Oh - can you quickly sign my book?

28 June 2010

Fun With Car Snacks

DISGUSTING! WHO WOULD BUY THAT??? I WOULD NEVER........unless I'm on a roadtrip and then it's yummy! One of our traditions is allowing Liam to help with the grocery shopping when we pack for a roadtrip. And when I say "help" I mean that I get to forego parenting and say yes to things that normally turn my stomach. It's incredibly freeing. We've come home with some things that even Liam spits out - but you've got to give it the old college try! It's like a great experiment in American Food Culture.
But, actually, I have to take responsibility for the Easy Cheese (which we call squeezy cheese because, really, it makes much more sense). I don't know if it happened one time or one hundred times, but somewhere in my history my mom bought squeezy cheese for one of our many roadtrips in our 1979 Chevy Caprice wagon. And from that I learned "we can get this stuff whenever we drive a distance far enough to require food." It was such a coup! A coup so big that even now, as a responsible adult, I can't let the opportunity pass me by.

Liam calls this "Mount Cheddar."

Just call me Quckdraw McCheesy!

"If you kids get squeezy cheese on the DVD player one more time, I will turn this car around. Do you hear me?"

A special treat or child abuse?

27 June 2010

Car Conversations

Liam: Mom, who do you want to be president next?
Kristin: I don't know.......maybe Hillary Clinton.
Liam: You don't want Dad to be president?
Kristin: No - I want Dad home with us. Don't you want me to be president?
Liam: No. You have koo koo mind.

Liam: Good thing I have this toothpick.
Kristin: WHAT???!!! Where did you get that?
Liam: From my pocket.
Kristin: What are you doing?
Liam: Getting the trash out of my teeth.

Kristin: Oh Liam! Gross! (quickly rolling down all the windows)
Liam: Sorry, Mom. It's what I do.

Day 3 - The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald

Those of you who are my age older may remember November 10, 1975. More likely, you may remember the song that was released shortly thereafter memorializing the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. As a preschooler, Liam developed a fascination with shipwrecks. For a while it was all Titanic all the time; but then Gordon Lightfoot got ahold of him and he became an Edmund Fitzgerald expert. He can tell you incredibly accurate details about the rogue wave that split the ship in two and dragged it to the bottom of Lake Superior. Creepy - but impressive nonetheless.
Today we visited the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum in Whitefish Point, Michigan. The Edmund Fitzgerald went down 15 miles off the coast of Whitefish Point ("some people say they'd have made Whitefish Bay if they'd put 15 more miles behind her") and the museum houses the most complete exhibit dedicated to the tragedy found anywhere. The exhibit includes the bell retrieved from the wreckage that lies 535 feet below the surface of Lake Superior (Superior, it's said, never gives up her dead when the gales of November come early....).
This museum is the reason we designed our route to go through the upper peninsula of Michigan. Because I don't know many people, let alone children, who count themselves as experts on the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. And this museum lies at the edge of the earth - on the way to nothing - and it may be our one and only opportunity to indulge this very specific interest.
For Liam, the experience was profound. He was quiet and reverent (I know, you're all thinking "Quiet?!"). He was quiet and reverent........until he was done being quiet and reverent. And then he was whiny and annoying. I'm sure you've heard this conversation before:
" That's IT. From now on, we're gonna strap you into that car and we're just gonna DRIVE for hundreds and hundreds of miles without stopping! You'll be lucky if we let you out to pee! Why do you think we stopped here? Is it because I have such a tremendous interest in the Edmund Fitzgerald? Is it because Daddy just LUVS learning about the Edmund Fitzgerald? NO! This is for YOU! And if you don't get your act together there will be NOTHING for you on this trip! Do you hear me? We'll spend all of our time at art museums and antique stores and IN THE CAR! So I suggest you straighten up and fly right, buddy!"
Deep breath........ We righted the situation shortly thereafter by going down to the beach. We sat on a log and ate squeezy cheese out of a can (more on that later) and drank Bubble UP and collected some of the best rocks on the planet. This...... could end up being the high point of our entire trip. Aaaaaaaah.

Then we hopped a ferry to Mackinac Island. Had dinner. Hopped the ferry back. Check that box, baby!

26 June 2010

Day 2, 395 miles, Paradise, MI

Departed Duluth at 11:30am. Arrived at the Best Western in Paradise, Michigan (which was neither the best nor in paradise) at 9:15pm. Driving along the upper peninsula of Michigan is like driving through ghost towns to get nowhere. I offered Liam a dollar if he could refrain from saying "are we there yet?" for the entire day. He lasted less than 30 minutes.......we were more than 350 miles from our destination.
By the time we got to Pizza Hut for dinner (sign at hostess stand read "Whoa! We'll seat ya!"), our very friendly yuper waitress assessed the situation and got Liam set up at his own table. It seemed to be in everyone's best interest.
When we finally pulled up to our hotel, Liam said "is this where we stayed last night?" Like maybe we WOULD just drive around in circles with nothing to look at and nothing to do and nowhere to stop for 10 hours straight. Cause it's fun.

Day One, 157 miles, Duluth, MN

We left the tearful goodbye committee and headed the short distance to Duluth. Upon arriving, overheard a man say "yah, you betcha;" never thought that phrase would make me sad. I wanted to grab him by his fleece and scream "SAY IT AGAIN MISTER! SAY IT AGAIN!"

Next morning, I sprayed anti-dandruff treatment under my arms. It's a focus issue, not an armpit issue.

25 June 2010

The Tearful Goodbye Committee

Why is it such a surprise to find out that other people care about us as much as we care about them? It seems logical that it should be a two way street...... but I'm still taken aback every time someone mirrors my feeling. It breaks my heart to leave these people and, it turns out, it breaks their hearts, too. I am overwhelmed and humbled by the words and deeds of every person who bid us farewell. In fact, if these people like me this much, it makes me think that we should all stop obsessing about the minutia of our personal worth.........because these people don't care that I laugh too loudly or interrupt too much or try to tell them what to do or that I tell the same stories over and over or that my arms are fat or that I don't know what my real hair color is or that my kid won't eat a plant-based diet or that I watch Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
I guess this isn't high school where we pine for people who don't love us back. We're grown ups who are all doing the best we can. And when you find someone who gets you, you put that sh*# in the bank, baby, because that is a gift.

24 June 2010

Packing Day

It is hot. Really, really hot. And we don't have air conditioning. And we have a herd of big, sweaty moving men roaming our house packing all of our personal belongings. I carry my "not to be packed" items fearing they will get packed if I set them down. I walk around the house with my purse on my shoulder, a Barnes & Noble bag containing a gift for a friend, a Patina bag full of spendy liquid soaps that the movers won't take for fear of spillage, and a gallon-sized ziploc bag holding big jugs of my preferred shampoo and conditioner. And garbage; there's garbage in my hand because the garbage cans have all been packed. The heat is making me thirsty so thirsty. I just need a quick drink of water - no big production. But I can't find a vessel, let alone a cup, that can hold liquid in a sanitary fashion. So I stick my head under the faucet and schlurp (just like the telephone man in the movie Barefoot in the Park).
Our cars are dramatically loaded onto flatbed (I almost said flatbread) trailers so they can be hauled to the east coast via car transporter. All the neighbors bring their kids outside to watch the excitement and its this total manic depressive experience - drama excitement laughing clenching welling crying.
Now we race to the airport to pick up our rental car; we've opted to ship our cars and rent a tricked out minivan for the all-American family vacation experience. I assume we're driving to an Avis lot NEAR the airport so we can say a nice, leisurely goodbye to my parents who have kindly given us a ride. But we actually go to the actual airport, get dropped off at ticketing so that we can walk through the terminal and board a tram to the Avis rental desk in some secret area of the airport that exists underground. I get out of my parents' car still holding my purse, the Barnes & Noble bag, the bag of liquid soaps and the ziploc full of preferred shampoo and conditioner and bid farewell to my parents quickly - the way you do when someone drops you at the airport. Like the airport police will ticket you for prolonged expression of emotion. I walk through the airport like a wide-eyed immigrant who just fled her obscure war torn country with only a gift from Barnes & Noble and a variety of liquid soaps and high end shampoos to her name.
The friendly Avis rental agent reviews our reservation and says we're all set and we should return our vehicle to Boise. BOISE??!! No, not Boise! I'm not moving to Boise! I would not have agreed to that! I hold my shampoos tightly to my chest preparing to do battle and cry at the same time.
A couple of beats.....just a matter of poor geography skills and ignorance of airport codes. She hands us our keys and says "Have a nice trip!" Have a nice trip.....she doesn't know what kind of "trip" this is. How could she know? But it makes me feel sad and misunderstood and I want to throw my shampoos at her smiley face and run away.
That night, my neighbor Joel calls. He wants to stop by to say goodbye since he'll be at work when we leave the next day. I have to say no......because we're all naked. Our clothes have all been packed, the car has been loaded and the sweaty clothes we wore all day are in the washing machine. Forgot to put aside pajamas. Not the teary goodbye he was expecting, I'm sure.

Tomorrow will be a better day.

18 June 2010

Goodbye Minnesota

When I first arrived in Minnesota in 1975, I was lured by the possibility of meeting Mary Tyler Moore. And walking around her lakes, and casually tossing groceries in my cart (at Lund's, I assumed), and possibly throwing my hat in the air on Nicollet Mall (although I never found a mall). I arrived smitten with this place. We approached the city for the first time by driving north on 35W, craning our necks over the top of the front seats so we could see the same exact skyline that Mary sees out of her windshield. I half expected her to be waiting at our house to give us the key and let us in.

Our new neighborhood had giant trees that formed a canopy over my head. And houses with stairs. And basements! And lots and lots of kids riding bikes with banana seats and high handlebars. In the fall (there was a fall!) it smelled like wet leaves..... which sounds like it should smell bad but really smells lovely especially when you know that it doesn't exist everywhere. It was like landing on Mars. I was home.

It turns out I was a Minnesota girl. Not because I was born here and have always made my home here - but because my soul fits this place like a puzzle piece. I need to see a rippling body of water for my system to function smoothly. Take me away from water and I feel like I'm searching for something or trying to fix something. My system gets moody and stagnates.

I feel a kinship with people who give you extra space on the elevator or turn the music down so as not to disturb their neighbors. Outsiders call this passive aggressive but I feel it as an innate sense of respect for others - even others you don't know. As if everyone is entitled to a modicum of respect just by virtue of being on the planet. I'm easily angered by people in other cities who step in front of you as if you don't matter. They simply aren't accustomed to considering others. And I take it personally and consider it my responsibility to show them the error of their ways. My mother once ran after a man who dropped his popsicle wrapper on the ground at the state fair. When she caught up with him, she pleasantly said, "Excuse me.....you dropped this." And handed the refuse back to him. In another city, she would have spoken sharply using words of contempt or judgement. Which would have made the litterer angry and defensive and evermore determined to litter. Do you know what this man did? He took his discarded, sticky wrapper and said thank you. Passive aggressive you say? Maybe. But I think my way is better.

The first time I left Minnesota, I packed my Mazda pickup and my roommate packed her Honda Civic and we caravanned out of the city on our way to graduate school. Instead of heading straight for the highway, I took the long way and led Martha's Honda on a meandering detour around the lakes. This farewell took her by surprise and she navigated Highway 94 through a blur of tears. I suppose I'll re-trace that path on my next leaving.

So I'm learning that nothing is permanent. There is no final destination because the world keeps turning. But that also means that another chapter comes after the next.....and this place will continue to weave itself into the fabric of my life. Every time I leave, I manage to come back. And it soothes my soul to know that this will always be so.