Friday, July 28, 2006

Summer rerun

The 19 Minutes home office is on its annual decompression trip to the mid-coast of Maine. But, so that the liquid donut business doesn't top our news for the next week-and-a-half, here's a rerun from Sunday, March 27 - for no other reason than it was the entry that popped up at random when I went looking for a rerun. Please note that my daughter is no longer 9 1/2 months old, and as a result, her experience at the Chicago Hyatt this evening (en route to Maine) will likely be a bit different.

Resort living vs. a room at the Inn: a report

So as I mentioned, we went to Tucson last week, allowing our daughter to take a vacation from the stress that's involved in being 9 ½ months old.

We stayed at the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, thanks to the generosity of some key relatives of the 19 Minutes staff. But for purposes of this post, let’s pretend we paid the $279/night that our room would normally go for. That’ll make the comparison with the $46/night Holiday Inn Phoenix West work a little better, anyway. We stayed at the Holiday Inn on the trip back north.

Let me start by saying that the Loews is a very nice hotel. The service was extraordinary, and it’s tough to beat having a saguaro cactus literally just outside your door (unless you’re a sleepwalker, I suppose). But I’ve always been a little skeptical about whether I could actually tell the difference between a humorously expensive hotel room and, well, a humorously not expensive hotel room. At least I wondered whether, at $279/night, the Loews was really six times sweller than the Holiday Inn.

Our comparison breaks down into several areas. Here goes.


The Loews is located, as is everything in Tucson, roughly 75 miles from anything else. The trip off the interstate gives you a good feel for what your trip to Tucson will be like – roads that go on seemingly forever, lined with expensive brown adobe homes wedged onto the hillsides and strip malls that pop up at random intervals. It definitely discourages the riff-raff from interfering with your stay. Their cars would never make it that far.

The Holiday Inn is located a convenient 75 feet from Interstate 10, meaning the sounds you got used to on the drive will follow you into your room. The marquee out front reads “Welcome Riff-Raff.”

The pool:

The Loews has a recreation pool, a lap pool, an outdoor hot tub, and a “cooling off” pool replete with waterfall. The smell of mesquite from the surrounding desert wafts over the entire area. There are dozens of deck chairs around the recreation pool, giving vacationing investment bankers plenty of room to read the Wall Street Journal and bark at their surly underlings via cell phone while keeping one eye on their kids and another on the bikini-clad women in the neighboring chairs.

The Holiday Inn’s pool is located under an overhang at the front of the hotel. It’s walled off from the entry driveway, but even the wall doesn’t keep out the wafting aroma from the fast-food joints across the street.

The room:

Our room at the Loews had a king-sized bed, a couch, an easy chair, and a desk. The mattress had seen better days, or at least wished it had seen lighter guests. Reading material included Condé Nast Traveler, Tucson Living, and USA Today on the one day they got around to delivering it.

Our room at the Holiday Inn had a king-sized bed, an easy chair, a desk, and a refrigerator. The mattress was relatively new and pretty comfortable. Reading material included the guide to the hotel amenities and area attractions. This hit all the hot spots, including the Phoenix Zoo, the world-famous Heard Museum, a nearby batting cage, and the Garden of Jesus’ Suffering.

The bathroom:

No real complaints about the Loews bathroom, unless you count the poor audio quality on the bathroom phone. The Loews bathroom also featured a TV (though it was one of those little ones you’d take camping and not a 50-inch plasma job). It also included a humongous tub, in case our 9 1/2 –month old wanted to get her lap swimming in, as well. Nice soaps/shampoos/mysterious lotions, though for some odd reason, we were never provided with soap for the sink. Enormous towels.

The Holiday Inn bathroom had working fixtures.


Loews – grand piano and lounge singer in the main foyer.

Holiday Inn – Friday night was some sort of a special “dress up like pimps and hookers” night at the sports bar just off the main foyer. Not that anyone at the Holiday Inn was calling it a foyer.

Kind of a Hobson’s choice, actually, between the two places.


Both places noted that the parking lots were under some form of surveillance, but one got the feeling that it only actually mattered at the Holiday Inn.


When it comes down to it, both places served their purpose – the Loews gave us a bed and a relaxing (well, as relaxing as it was going to get with a baby around) respite from the everyday. And the Holiday Inn gave us a bed and was, on the whole, somewhat safer than actually sleeping on Interstate 10. Was the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort six times better than the Holiday Inn Phoenix West? Pretty close, actually. Though the Holiday Inn would catch up pretty darn quickly if they put that 50-inch plasma TV in the bathroom.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

And now, this fine dining tale

It's 8:45 am. I've forgotten to bring my packet of oatmeal to work (and besides, how many days in a row can a person eat oatmeal, even if it is of the maple and brown sugar variety?). A brisk walk up Wisconsin Avenue to the Milwaukee Bagel Company. There's a handlettered sign on the door, noting they're closed for the week. I kind of appreciate the fact that there's a bagel place in the middle of downtown that's small and funky enough that the owner can take off for a week, but for Pete's sake, I forgot my oatmeal this morning.

So I go next door. Okay, next door is a tanning salon. I go one more door down. Dunkin' Donuts. Get in touch with my inner New Englander. Shades of "Good Will Hunting" along the Milwaukee River.

Whatever. I order an iced French Vanilla coffee. Large. I'm given the option of cream and sugar. I opt for both. Extra sugar, actually. It comes back a lovely tan color.

The first sip comes through the straw accompanied by a healthy measure of sugar crystals. It takes just one more sip for me to figure it out. I'm drinking liquid donut.

This is the most perfect drink ever concocted.

Of course, I'm never allowed to drink it again.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A low interest rate

One of the spiffy things about being a journalist is getting to ask nosy questions. Or at least feeling empowered, when I see something that piques my interest, to ask what the heck is going on. I do this, as long as I have a microphone with me, or at least a notebook that says "NEWS" in large letters. Otherwise, I feel like just another schmuck bugging people to know what's going on.

Anyway, the side effect to this is my inability to countenance a lack of curiosity. I don't understand the mindset of someone who - given a situation in which there are barricades, dozens of emergency vehicles, protesters holding signs, and traffic backed up for miles around - goes about his business seemingly oblivious to the scene unfolding around him.

And yet, that was the scene on the bus the other day (and here you thought I was constructing a brilliant-yet-hypothetical scenario), as several people approached the driver to ask a) why the busses were all running so late, and b) why the route had been moved to a different street than usual.

The answer, of course, was that the President of the United States was going to a fundraiser at a downtown hotel (which for some reason necessitated closing a street on one side of the hotel, but not the other). The driver claimed to have no idea what was going on - leading me to believe he either thought he was performing some sort of national security-related function by not divulging his knowledge of the situation, or he honestly hadn't bothered to ask why his route had shifted and the traffic had backed up and the protesters were spilling into the street and there were a thousand police cars with their lights flashing just down the block.

One of the less-spiffy things about being a journalist is feeling the need to inform strangers on a bus when you actually know the answer to what's happening around you.

But there are plenty of would-be reporters out there, and so I let one of the would-be journalists on the bus handle the situation. I thought about giving him my notebook that said "NEWS", but then he got the facts of the story wrong.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

In case you weren't streaming

We get plenty of e-mails here in 19 Minutes World Media Headquarters via that spiffy e-mail link that shows up on my profile page. Most of them, of course, are for offers for Cialis - or, as the e-mails like to call it, C!@l1s (as though spelling the name of a prescription drug with an at-sign and an exclamation point makes it seem more legitimate). But in our parallel e-mail universe, our readers are clamoring to learn what's happening in the interview wing of the 19 Minutes office complex.

This is especially key since our departure from our past headquarters rendered our podcasts inoperative. One of these days we'll get the 19 Minutes technical team to remove the outdated links.

In any case, to appease the screaming and teeming masses from our parallel universe, here are some of the highlights from our radio existence in the past few weeks:

Pauls Toutonghi has written an entertaining, mainly fictional account of a first generation Latvian-American growing up in 1989 Milwaukee. He was also a terrific interview, especially as he read from his book, "Red Weather", noting his interpretation of the protagonist's mother was based on his own mother's accent, which he conceded sounded a little too much like Count Chocula.

Hazel Barton is something of a rock star in her field, which of course you already know is the microbiology of caves. She's one of the cave explorers featured in the Imax film, "Journey Into Amazing Caves", and speaks articulately about why studying organisms called "extremophiles" is important. But she's equally eloquent about why caving will never be an "extreme" sport - mainly because no one can see your brightly colored spandex when it's underground and covered in mud. And she notes that scientists can also wear nice clothes above ground, too. Really. She said that.

In an effort to interview only people with "Hazel" in their names who like nice clothes, we also spoke with Robin Hazelwood, a Wisconsin native who managed to attend an Ivy League school while simultaneously working as a fashion model. She's also written a mainly fictional book called "Model Student" about, well, a Wisconsin native who manages to attend an Ivy League school while simultaneously working as a fashion model. To my knowledge, the book's not nominated for a Pulitzer, but it is most definitely an engaging read, and Hazelwood was a witty, candid, and thoughtful interview. We're thinking of instituting a new policy of only interviewing former fashion models.

Richard Russo's "Empire Falls" did win a Pulitzer. He was a fantastic interview, and one of the rare people who's done a million interviews and still manages to remain introspective, or at least pretends really well. I'm sure it wasn't the first time he'd noted that "the first thing an author does when he wins a Pulitzer is get Caller ID," but it still sounded fresh. We're rerunning the interview tomorrow, but if you just can't wait, the original interview is still archived, along with its spiffy picture of Russo with me. Plus, the movie adaptation of "Empire Falls" is worth checking out, though unlike our streaming audio, it's not free.

And also in recent weeks, we interviewed Minneapolis-based musician Brianna Lane, who stresses the word "music" is at the end of her URL, so that it's not confused with a former porn site. Unfortunately, the part of the interview where we attempted to justify the music wee had on our respective iPods was lost to the cutting-room floor. But her album, "Radiator", is fantastic if you're into acoustic guitar-based stuff (actually, it's fantastic regardless of your tastes), and the interview's music clips should at least whet your appetite.

From there, we're on to other important topics, like figuring out how to use "whet" in another context.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Looking for some surreal estate

Sunday's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel ran an article about a new trend in the real estate industry - wherein home-building companies, to show off their model homes, hire actors to portray a "typical" family living in those homes. The idea, presumably, is to help potential buyers better visualize what living in these homes would be like, at least if they were better-looking and had nicer taste.

It kind of surprised me to read this story, because it was a tactic that seemed decidedly unWisconsin-like, unless things have changed radically in the four months since I moved here. But a closer inspection revealed it was a reprint of a New York Times article, datelined Santa Clarita, California. This was less surprising, considering current trends in the California real estate industry include charging $950,000 for a refrigerator carton under the 405 Freeway, plus forcing prospective buyers to write a love sonnet to the current owners, plus free pedicures for life, plus the sellers get to jump up and down yelling, "Big money!", as though they're on "Wheel of Fortune". (My wife and I considered all these options when we were considering a job in California last year, and decided moving to Jupiter was a more cost-effective option, especially considering I ended up not getting the job.)

Of course, hiring actors to hang out in Wisconsin houses might be a shrewd move, when you consider some of the houses we looked at in the Milwaukee area. For example, there was the house that was still being used as a "day care center", which meant as we were looking in the linen closet, the woman who owned the house was hanging out on the couch, smoking a cigarette and watching soap operas while the two kids in her charge slept on the couch next to her.

Most of the houses we looked at were empty, though, which meant that there would have been plenty of room for actors to ply their trades. And so in case we decide to look at houses again in the near future, allow me to help the real estate actors of the world find their motivation, because acting like the 19 Minutes household would require some specialized acting talents.

For starters, the husband and wife would need to spend much of their time debating whether it would be worse to have lace curtains in their bedroom, or no curtains at all. The husband would spend the rest of his time on the front steps, playing an incomprehensible game with his two-year-old daughter. The game basically involves taking small rocks and placing them in a plastic cup - but God forbid he tries to put the wrong rock in the plastic cup, because then all the rocks are dumped back out on the ground and the game starts over. The wife would also be in the yard, pulling weeds, then second-guessing whether they were weeds or plants that would have yielded beautiful flowers, had they only stayed in the ground for another week.

For her part, the two-year-old would divide the rest of her time between discovering the miracle of sock fuzz between her toes, and asking her dad to tell the "t-shirt story", which was the exciting story he made up on the spur of the moment about his t-shirt ("Once there was a mommy and a daddy. And one day they went to a store called 'Sam's Club' in a place called Flagstaff, Arizona...").

But there's probably a good chance that whenever we go house hunting again, the trend of hiring actors will likely have passed. And that's why I'm polishing up my sonnet writing, just in case.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Not soaring gently into that dark night

And speaking of the Copper Peak International Ski Flying Facility, we've recently learned that the eagles and raptors are apparently the only ones enjoying the hill's updrafts, since skiers haven't launched themselves off the jump since 1994.

There's an interesting website that decries that fact, noting that Copper Peak should be the US ski jumping equivalent of Yankee Stadium, Lambeau Field, Churchill Downs, or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Meanwhile, the organization that maintains Copper Peak as an observation tower in the summer has its own website, with an important message from its president.

If nothing else, at least it's not the ski jumping equivalent of Tiger Stadium.

Soaring gently into the collection

I have some strange hobbies. Most of them don’t take up much time. My business card collection, for example, continues to exist much as it did when I was 15, only now it's in the basement of my own home, rather than taking up bookshelf space in my highschool-era bedroom between the Bloom County books and Spenser novels. (As an actual working person, I tend to accumulate more business cards than I did at age 15, but I'm not considering the cards strewn around my desk as part of my collection yet.)

But the more relevant hobby (to this column, anyway - it's not really relevant in any other way, shape or form) reared its head over the weekend on a trip to the western edge of Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

I like picking up the tourist guides printed by local chambers of commerce. Partly, this is to find interesting stuff to do when you're in a place like Ironwood, Michigan. But more frequently, they provide a great opportunity to peruse some of the most tortured syntax in the history of the English language. Today's entry comes courtesy of the Adventure Guide published by the aforementioned town in Michigan:

On any given day, one may see a pair of Eagles or other Raptors soaring above the hillside of Copper Peak International Ski Flying Hill. Regardless of the direction of the wind, there is always a gentle updraft on the 600 foot landing slope of the only ski flying facility in the Western Hemisphere which enables these birds of prey to capture air under their wings and soar gently above the hillside.
(There are countless other ski flying facilities in the Western Hemisphere, of course, which allow the birds to soar aggressively above their respective hillsides.)

Thursday, July 06, 2006

And now for something vaguely different

I was never really part of the drug scene at any of the colleges I attended. This was largely because I never actually used any drugs. But I had friends in college that experimented with a variety of controlled substances (including one who used his occasional marijuana use as an excuse to his parents for his poor grades, despite the fact that the real reason was that he was spending too much time with his girlfriend. But I digress.), and they often liked to have me around as they were going through whatever they were going through. That's because I had, and continue to have bizarre thoughts like these:

It's time for Chinese restaurants to freshen up their placemats with some new zodiacal years. I'm tired of having been born in the "Year of the Rooster", though it was nice of them to swap out the word "cock" and thus eliminate 90 percent of the fun junior high school students have at Chinese restaurants. But if they can make that change, there's no reason they couldn't do something more radical. And that's why I'm proposing the following new Chinese years over the next decade:

2006: Year of the Anvil.
2007: Year of Top Soil.
2008: Year that Won't Stick to Most Dental Work
2009: Year of the Bug that's Flying Around in My Floor Lamp
2010: Year of Excedrin
2011: Year of Mucilage
2012: Year of Hogan's Heroes reruns
2013: Year of the Al Stewart hit, Year of the Cat
2014: Year of farfel
2015: Year of Pueblo, Colorado

We'll wait a little while before we propose the drawings that'll appear on the placemats.

Bizarre Thought #2: Imagine you're from a country with no tradition of cable TV. Say, Burkina Faso. Now, pretend you've traveled to the United States and are looking for educational programming on television. And now, imagine that you get confused and believe QVC is actually a university, and not a shopping channel. Think of all the wackiness that ensues when you write to pitchman Bob Bowersox and suggest he ask for a sabbatical.

(And just a reminder that rum and Cokes were the strongest thing to enter my system in college...)

and finally, Bizarre Thought #3: Wouldn't it be just incredible if Kenneth Lay died mysteriously before he could be sentenced for his role in the Enron debacle? I think that would be terrific, because it would give people something to talk about with the Vincent Foster conspiracy buffs.

But that one's way too far-fetched.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

What I did on my wife's summer vacation

Here in the 19 Minutes Home Office, we're around 32 hours into our latest Solo Dad experiment, while my wife is reuning with some college friends halfway across the great state of Wisconsin (well, 70 miles or so). It's not the first time we've solo'ed (note the entertaining use of the first person plural connected to the word "solo") for multiple days, but it is the first time in a while we've gotten around to blogging about it. So let's dive right and recap the weekend, and while we're at it, take a couple of gratuitous swipes at the military:

Saturday, 1:45 p.m., Madison, Wisconsin: The transfer of power officially takes place in a parking garage along State Street. There's no lowering of a flag, just my wife putting Sylvi in her car seat and kissing her on the forehead, as I drive back to Milwaukee.

Saturday, 1:50 p.m.: Sylvi may have fallen asleep, but I'm not sure, since she's wearing sunglasses and still clutching her sippy cup.

Saturday, 2:00 p.m.: I'm pretty sure she's fallen asleep, since her head is now slumped to the side and she's dropped her sippy cup. The downside to her napping on the ride home is it eliminates the possibility of my own nap later. The upsides to this are a) at least she's napping, and b) I can listen to whatever CD I want on the hour-and-a-half drive. So why am I still listening to "The Backyardigans"? Okay, just one more repeat of "A Pirate Says Arrr", and I'll switch.

Saturday, 3:25 p.m.: We're approaching Wauwatosa, and our exit. Sylvi's still asleep. There's no way I'll be able to accomplish the Car-to-Crib Sleeping Child Transfer. I may have solo'ed many a time before, but I must have been absent on that day of Parenting College. So we'll drive towards Lake Michigan - if Sylvi wakes up, she can check out the big bridges, giving the trip the veneer of a Cultural Experience.

Saturday, 3:28 p.m.: Sylvi, naturally, wakes up half a mile past our exit. She spots an airplane out the window, which gives me a great idea: "Hey, Sylvi - do you want to go watch airplanes at the airport?" She does, and we're rewarded with an observation parking lot adjacent to the runway, and which I never knew existed. Alas, the wind is blowing around 40 mph, and the takeoffs and landings are few and far between. There's also a sign advising us we can hear the planes by tuning into 88.5 fm. I do this, and tell Sylvi, and then realize that "hearing planes" for her involves a noise like "Vrrroooom!", and not the sound of people saying words like "niner". After 15 minutes of this, I decide to get the car washed.

Saturday, 4:00 p.m.: Sylvi deals with the automatic car wash pretty well, considering the enormous floppy brushes resemble Muppets from Hell (or at least Elmo after a tragic Cuisinart accident). She's fine right up until the rinse cycle, which makes sense, considering she's fine with baths right up until it's time to rinse.

Saturday, 6:00 p.m.: After a couple of Tivo'ed Mr. Rogers episodes, it's time for dinner. Just before dinner, I make the mistake of calling the Kopp's Frozen Custard flavor line, and find out the Flavor of the Day is "Sprecher Root Beer Float". This is a mistake because I'm going to be impatient for Sylvi to finish eating her dinner, whatever it turns out to be.

Saturday, 7:30 p.m.: Sylvi finishes eating her nine bites of macaroni and cheese and half a bowl of raisins. I had planned to make myself dinner after she finished eating, but at this point, I settle for the rest of her macaroni, and we set out for Kopp's.

Saturday, 7:31 p.m.: I lift her down the stairs to go out to the car and puzzle over why her pants feel wet. Perhaps it has to do with the pungent odor emanating from her posterior. Hmmm.

Saturday, 7:32 p.m.: We're back to the drawing boa- er, changing table, as we discover the World's Largest Poop has overwhelmed her Pampers and forced a last-second pants change. Sylvi requests a skort, but settles for shorts when Dad's not absolutely sure whether her skort matches her shirt, and he's pretty sure Mom has spies throughout the Milwaukee area who will rat him out if he takes his daughter out in a mismatched outfit.

Saturday, 7:40 p.m.: We're out the door. On the way, instead of asking where Mom is, she inexplicably calls for Kristi, one of my wife's college friends, whom Sylvi has basically just met today.

Saturday, 8:00 p.m.: Against my better judgement, I order two scoops of Sprecher Root Beer Float in a dish. I do this because I love both root beer floats in general and Sprecher Root Beer in particular. As it turns out, as a frozen custard flavor, Sprecher Root Beer Float is a little disappointing. Sylvi and I finish it anyway, which has me a little concerned about her readiness for bed when we get home.

Saturday, 9:15 p.m.: Apparently the custard effects are offset by her shorter-than-usual nap, and she falls asleep without even so much as one verse of "Zamboni", which, honest to God, is what she wants to hear every night.

Sunday, 7:45 a.m.: After a pretty lame edition of the Weekend Edition Sunday puzzle on NPR, I get out of bed, which isn't easy, because I celebrated a successful day of Solo Dad by watching an Atlanta Braves-Baltimore Orioles game that I recorded for no good reason, which got me into bed around 1:00 am. Sylvi probably won't wake up for at least another hour, so that gives me a little time to read the Sunday paper and take a shower without ducking my head out from behind the curtain every 15 seconds.

Sunday, 8:45 a.m.: Bingo. Sylvi's up. "All done sleeping," she announces, repeatedly, until I can make it into her room, roughly 20 seconds later.

Sunday, 9:30 a.m.: Super Solo Dad has kicked into action. We've gotten her dressed, fed her raisin bran (with a few spoonfuls of Dad's Apple Jacks, just to allowe her to appreciate the finer things in life), and we're starting to pack up for the zoo.

Sunday, 9:40 a.m.: We're in a holding pattern as I stop and try to figure out whether the name "Apple Jacks" is, in some way, clever. It seems like it ought to be a play on words of some kind. I try reversing some letters. "Japple Acks". "Ajjle Packs". I can't figure it out. This is what Will Shortz should have quizzed the puzzle contestant about this morning.

Sunday, 10:20 a.m.: Amazingly, we're closing in on the zoo. This is going to be great. It's Summerfest weekend in Milwaukee, and besides, it's only 10:20 a.m. Who the hell is going to be at the zoo this early?

Sunday, 10:22 a.m.: There's a huge line of cars waiting to get into the zoo. People wearing blue shirts with American flags and the words "Operation Freedom" are directing traffic into the parking lot. Gee, there sure are a lot of cars with USMC stickers on them. And mine with an NPR sticker. Finally, I reach the entrance booth. A teen, who looks as puzzled as I do, reports, "It's Eye-rack-ee War day at the zoo. They're expecting 17,000 people today." Great. Maybe we'll just check out the hippos and go home.

Sunday, 11:00 a.m.: There are, indeed, a lot of people at the zoo, celebrating our dubious success in Iraq by checking out the turkey vultures. And really, what are we fighting for over there, anyway, if not to preserve some people's inalienable right to smoke just 25 feet from the sign noting the "Northwestern Mutual Family Farm is a smoke-free environment"? [Gratuitous Swipe at the Military #1 follows] Anyway, our dubious success in Iraq probably shouldn't be a major surprise, considering the difficulties some of the people were having deciphering the zoo map today. On the other hand, it was a largely polite crowd, and I didn't worry about terrorists taking over the Seal and Sea Lion show.

Sunday, 1:00 p.m.: Sylvi's a huge fan of the Seal show, actually. I was sort of hedging on whether to try to wrangle her in line for 15 minutes without some parental backup. But as she usually does, Sylvi surprised me, and spent the 15 minutes entertaining everyone around by doing an interpretive dance to the Cher music blasting from inside the seal arena. (Or was that the Seal music blasting from the Cher arena?) This worked especially well, because the two-year old boy next to us in line was busy having a meltdown, which further reinforced Sylvi's image as Perfect Girl. We are rewarded with front-row seats at the Oceans of Fun show, at which we're informed that all the exhibits at the zoo attempt to accurately portray the animals' natural environment, after which we're reminded that the Oceans of Fun show is sponsored by Miller Beer, which explains the big sign but leads me to wonder what the natural environment of an Atlantic Harbor Seal actually looks like.

Sunday, 2:00 p.m.: After all the running around at the Zoo, we're primed for a nice, long nap this afternoon, which will hopefully accommodate a nap for me, too. Sylvi starts drifting off to sleep five blocks from our house, but I just manage to keep her awake...

Sunday, 4:00 p.m.: ...for the next hour and 40 minutes. Actually, I change her diaper and get her into bed with no problem. She then proceeds to have an animated conversation with whatever stuffed animals will listen. By 4:00, she's still chatting loudly, and punctuating it with loud kicks on the side of the crib. Finally, she starts calling out, "Mommy! Mommy!" I think about boycotting her until she remembers which parent has been on duty for the past 28 hours, but relent.

Sunday, 4:45 p.m. We go out to get dinner. Boston Market. I'm pretty sure we went shopping on Friday so that I could feed myself and Sylvi this weekend, but to this point, I've come up with macaroni and cheese, raisin bran, applesauce (at the zoo), and dinner out. On the other hand, she blasts through her mashed potatoes, some (yes!) more macaroni and cheese, some of my roasted chicken, and a large piece of cornbread. She falls asleep on the ride home.

Sunday, 5:30 p.m.: But as tempting as it is, there's no way I'm letting her nap at 5:15 p.m., so I wake her up, and get out the miniature soccer goal she has, along with two soccer balls. She proceeds to demonstrate that she could have beaten Brazil yesterday, as she somehow manages to dribble one ball with each foot and kicks them both into the goal. Satisfied that her full-ride scholarship to UNC is secure, she goes off to collect little rocks in a plastic cup, which she will then stir with a stick and announce "Sylvi is making smoothies." (Everything she says is in present progressive tense these days, which gives the impression of having a conversation with a Russian just learning to speak English: "Daddy is having cold coffee now...", or "Sylvi is having big poop.")

Sunday, 8:00 p.m.: We've dragged out the evening to the point I'm pretty sure she'll be off to dreamland soon. We get her changed into pajamas and she requests a longish book, "The Happy Lion", which she's figured out I'm a sucker for reading. I like the book because a) there are lots of French names (Monsieur Dupont, Madame Pinson, etc.) and I enjoy putting into use the accent I picked up in six years' worth of French classes, without having actually learned any French; b) Sylvi has already figured out how to say bonjour, which is worth the price of admission; [Gratuitous Swipe at the (French) Military #2 follows] and c) there's a great scene where the Happy Lion goes wandering down the street, cheerfully saying "Bonjour" to everyone, and the French military band immediately beats a retreat to the alleyways and sidewalk cafes. I read "The Happy Lion", sing one rendition of "Zamboni", and she's asleep.

Sunday, 10:27 p.m.: She's still asleep, despite the fact that our various Wauwatosa neighbors have decided this is a good time to shoot off fireworks, despite the fact that IT'S JULY 2nd, YOU IDIOTS! WHY CAN'T YOU GET YOUR DAMN FIREWORKS OCCASIONS RIGHT?

Of course, the better question is, why haven't I gone to sleep?