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Happy chappy


So, that tiny little scrap of humanity they allowed me to bring home from KU Med Center back on July 13 is now 26″ long and 16lbs, 4 oz. Quite a bit of progress from his starting stats of 17.5″ and 4lb, 14 oz.

What Joseph likes is: his feet, being carried around, sitting up like a big boy, chattering in his own little language, his octopus toy, food, and we’ve just recently discovered something else he enjoys:

1991 Trek 850 hitched to a circa 2000 Burley D'Lite.  This is pretty much THE BEST THING.

Riding in the Burley is good times as far as the youngster is concerned. He seems to enjoy hanging out back there, usually playing with one or another of his toys, waving his hands and feet around, or just watching the scenery roll by. We made it down to the season opener of Bike Friz this past Monday, which was pretty much the hard test of Burley-ing it. Google Maps tells me that it’s 6.5 miles, which sounds about right to me. So, that’s a fair jaunt in the trailer, and he was contented and mellow all the way down. He had a little bit of a meltdown on the way home, but that was less about the trailer than it was about it being past his bedtime. However, after an initial burst of fussing, he sensibly fell asleep, and was sacked out so well that when we got home, I was able to transfer him from trailer to crib without waking him!

Here’s a sample of Joseph’s verbal repretoire.

That video was taken over a month ago, and he has added a range of new noises and syllables to his vocabulary. The following is his weirdest noise to date:

The first time he busted that one out, I thought, “wow, he’s got a demon infestation!” It really is a singular and alarming sound to hear coming out of a face like that.

And of course, I had to include the obligatory “baby covered in pureed carrots” photograph. Pretty much every parent with access to a camera has taken this photograph, and I am no exception. There is something inherently hilarious about children learning to eat real food.

Joseph is particularly excited about carrots specifically, though he has thus far proven to be fairly omnivorous.
He’s most fond of apples, carrots, and sweet potato but he’s game for just about anything. He goes flippin’ bonkers over carrots, though. Like he tries to wrest control of the spoon, and then worries it like a terrier killing a rat. That’s enthusiasm in my book.
Moments before this picture was snapped he had the bowl gripped in his jaws, not unlike Snoopy in the Peanuts strips.

Actually, he does a number of Snoopy-esque moves. He does this crazy little head waggle which is usually accompanied by a general wild kicking of feet and waving of hands which looks like a horizontal version of the Snoopy Happy Dance. If you watch the first verbalization video, he does it a little bit from time to time.

I’m getting such a kick out of this kid these days. He’s getting more and more interactive. He was matching tones with me this morning – I’d sing a note, and he’d imitate it. It seems he has pretty good pitch. He’s starting to try to imitate sounds sometimes, too, which is fun. He’s getting closer to talking and I am really excited about that. In the meantime, I’ve gotten to know the moods of his noises, and I can tell a happy babble from a frustrated babble, from a “look, buster, I’m about fifteen seconds from having a full on meltdown, so you can either deal with it now or not, but I’m not afraid to start yelling, see.”

From time to time I’m just amazed at what a neat little guy he is. Basically a pretty cheerful little fellow, pretty good at going with the flow, but not afraid to speak his mind when he does need something. He gets the sillies now, where he gets in a mood to giggle, make faces, play peek-a-boo, squeal, and blow raspberries. It’s one of my favorite things, when he wants to get goofy. I always oblige him in sillytime. I have a half-formed theory that lots of smiling, laughing, and general rumpus is likely to be good for his sense of humor ultimately. Among the things I want for my child, the ability to wholeheartedly have a damn good time is well up the top-ten list.

Super-Secret Bat Cave

Complete with bat, of course.

Here is my new sewing room.

Is it not glorious? Let us revel in the glory. Rev-rev-rev-rev-revel. Aaaah!

It is also where my computer and excessive collection of shitty romance novels live. For if-and-when I re-acquire the free time to re-start my shitty romance novel review blog.

Right now, I share the space with a crapton of bicycle wheels and tires, a 1974 Honda CB350 that needs its carburetors rebuilt, and all the rest of the normal basement stuff – washer, dryer, freezer, beer fridge, camping equipment, off-season clothing, bale of Costco toilet paper, canning and homebrewing crap, etc. A metric shitton of etc., honestly. Eventually, the 1959 VW will also be crowding in, and the motorcycle will (hopefully) go out to the shed that Joel built for motorcycles and gardening equipment.

I bet I’ll be the ONLY woman in the world whose sewing room doubles as her garage. It will be EPIC.

>This is Joel’s line whenever he does something deliberately to annoy me. That masculine impulse to pester and tease apparently never goes away. From age 10, when they wipe a handful of rubber cement across your arm and pretend it’s snot, to when you’re 36 and they sneak up on you while you’re cooking and stick a wet finger in your ear. I guess I have to find it charming-ish, ’cause if I didn’t, I’d be cheesed off all the time.

As you’d expect, I don’t go in for the bigtime hearts-n-flowers hullabaloo. Firstly, I find cut flowers terribly depressing. Secondly, my rather dry sensibilities just don’t absorb mushiness very well. We “celebrated” Valentine’s Day by grouching gently at one another whilst moving all of my sewing-room shit out of my sewing room and down to the basement so we can convert the sewing room to a spare bedroom for Joel’s mother, who’ll be staying with us in the interim between selling her condo and finishing the renovation on the Little House. Later, once she’s comfortably ensconced in the Little House, the spare bedroom will become Joseph’s room. It’s already painted in a lively green-and-orange theme, which should make up quite nicely as a kid’s bedroom. Possibly less desirable to a 79-year-old woman’s tastes, but I’m sure she’ll cope!


I did a little bit of old-fashioned valentining this year, though, and made up a few clumsily-fashioned, glue-laden greeting cards for a few special people in my life. I love making stuff, and it’s a great deal of fun to just kind of let my brainmeats boing around while I try to collage up something amusing. So, this was the result of my foray into “graphic design” for the holiday:

jacqui resized

christi connie resized

G E resized

I am going to pretend that spaghetti and astroturf are traditional symbols of affection and all that.

OMFG, there’s this guy on Tumblr who does comics about his D&D adventures and he is one funny, twisted, deranged man.

This series, which ends on a fucking glorious pun, had me cackling out loud. Like hopeless, leaning against a wall, whooping, wheezing, losing-every-bit-of-my-shit laughing out loud. I don’t think you even have to be a recovering D&D freak to find it funny, though I’m sure it helps to be tainted with a faint whiff of basement-dweller.

Other things which will probably never stop being funny:

This tale of poop.

This tale of puke.

And a song about pornography.

I am such a child.

Snow Days


So, we got a little over a foot of snow on Tuesday.

I had a bunch of running around I was supposed to have been doing on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but was able to re-schedule all of it. It’s not that I can’t drive in the snow. It’s that I don’t like driving in the snow and I sure don’t like how other people drive in it! If I can possibly get out of it, I do. When I can, I’ll take my bike or the city bus before I’ll fire up the car.

I grew up in northwestern Nebraska. Part of learning to drive was learning how to drive in the snow. Much like the art of parallel parking, it was one of the things my Dad took me out and trained me on until I could do it competently.

There was a marshy area in our west pasture near Dad’s famous scrapyard where by mid-winter, it would transform into an admirable ice field. We went down there with his old Rabbit and he had me get used to steering into a slide. He had me practice taking off in second gear to minimize wheel spin and taught me how to brake gradually so that I could get a feel for exactly how long it takes to get a car stopped on an icy surface.

He also taught me the joys of ice-hooning, of getting the car up to about 15 mph and jerking on the handbrake and of cramping the steering wheel and giving it a bootful. On a nice ice field, a front-wheel-drive car without power steering transforms from a trundling little runabout into a surprisingly competent means for raising hell.

But, just because I know how to drive around in shit weather doesn’t mean I’m willing to do so if I can get out of it.

While I was still in high school, even after I’d gotten my driver’s license, if the weather report looked shitty, I’d catch the school bus. This served a dual purpose. Firstly, I didn’t have to drive in the snow and ice and risk wrecking my car or my Mom’s car. Secondly, the school buses generally took FOREVER on snowy days, because they had to go up and down all sorts of unpaved back-country roads. Sometimes the bus would even get stuck. If you took the bus to school on a snowy day, the chance was good that you’d get to school late. Very. Sometimes, the school would close early if the weather turned too nasty, and so you’d turn around and get right back on the bus. When you are a lazy teenager, there is nothing better. I’d pop my Walkman headphones on and go the hell to sleep. Didn’t matter there were a herd of grade-schoolers hooting and hollering and jouncing about all around me. I couldn’t give a shit. Most of the lifestyle choices I made in highschool centered around getting out of class, and riding the bus on winter storm days was definitely one of them.

As much as I hate cold weather (and that is a lot) I do like riding my bike in the snow, though by February or March-ish I am so done with the weather. I’ve been building up a hell of a cabin fever this winter being as Joseph is still too little to go in the Burley trailer. At this point, three sweaters, a balaclava, my windfront tights, a pair of lobster gloves, and my big, clumky insulated boots are seeming appealing.


Patio table – it looks about like one of my sketchy cake-baking experiments. I am not known for the aesthetics of my culinary attempts.

mohawk snowman
Here’s an old photo from the archives – my sister and I in 8th grade and 10th grade respectively. We had a snow-day off school because the county roads were snowed over so deep, so we spent the morning building whacky snowmen on and around our old swingset. This one had a mohawk, the one on the slide had two heads, and one had been built to sit on the swing and it had an extra-large butt.

This is a few years’ older snow-cat. With our arms

And heads



A few years ago, I picked up a couple of yards of this crazy printed cotton jersey and made myself a dress:


There it is on the dressmaker’s dummy.

Quite possibly the first time in history anyone has ever said, "And my helmet went PERFECTLY with my dress!"
And here it is, on the dressmaker.

I was rummaging through my scrap bag the other day looking for a piece of red corduroy I needed when I came across the scraps from this dress and in looking at them, realised there was enough left over to make a onesie for Joseph. So, I did:


I made it about a size too big because it is very awesome fabric and I wanted him to get maximum wear out of it. I’m about tired to bits of him outgrowing a onesie just as soon as I have got the snaps fastened. So, here he is, basically rattling around inside of his new shirt:


That’s okay, though. I know he’ll totally grow into, and then out of it in pretty much no time at all.

We won’t tell him his onesie is made out of old dress fabric, okay?

Many years ago, I had a job I hated. Granted, I have had many jobs that I have hated. I majored in English in college which outfits you for specifically NOTHING. Also, pretty much everything’s a bit of a comedown after you’ve studied metaphysical poetry about morning-wood. I’m just sayin’.

Anyway, I had a joyless job with a company the management of which appeared to be the inspiration of Office Space, The Office, and the entire Dilbert back catalogue. Every day there seemed to be a fresh snowfall of managerial flakiness sprinkled over the hordes of khaki-clad office serfdom. One day, management sprung upon us the news that we were to undergo mandatory Myers-Briggs psychological profiling. My suspicions were that this was to mark out potential troublemakers. I also suspected that I’d test out as mentally dodgy, and really didn’t want to submit myself to the whole ethically dubious process.

Those of us who dared to question the necessity or indeed the legality of the testing were informed that it was compulsory and that our employment was at-will. HR told us to get stuffed. There was a system of informal disgrace that we all called “imaginary demerits.” It was when you pissed off a superior, but it wasn’t anything that merited a write-up or could reasonably be addressed by an actual reprimand. One’s conduct was unofficially noted for future reference.

So under duress and in bad odour with the authorities, I took the stupid personality test. Given the state of barely-suppressed rebellion I was in at the time, I’m sure they had me clocked as a homicidal maniac.

Anyway, eventually, they churned up the results of our supposed psychological profiles and the whole thing blew over. It went in my official HR records, and to be totally honest, I don’t even remember, after all that drama and foot-dragging, what my stupid Myers-Briggs code was.

Which is a pity now, because The Myers-Briggs Asshole Index has come to my attention, and I wouldn’t mind knowing what kind of an asshole they think I am, though I am not bothered enough to dredge up the attention span to re-Myers myself.

Now realistically, I don’t believe there’s much actual value to the Myers-Briggs test, or indeed any of the rest of that psychobabble. It’s about as useful as your horoscope, an Ouija board, or that thing where people think their blood-type is a predictor of their personality. If you are so inclined, you can take the test to intentionally skew the results. Or, if you are like I was some dozen years ago, you can take the test in such a foul state of mind that you unintentionally skew the results.

I’ve seen a number of people take their Myers-Briggs type to heart and think that it really means something. Much in the same way that a dedicated astrology-addict will tell you that you shouldn’t date a Taurus rising on the cusp of the full moon when your sanguine humours are in the House or the Rising Sun. Except people who really cherish their Myers-Briggs score, I have noticed, are usually the type who also are very interested in what their IQ number is, also. I distrust people who believe their personalities can and should be quantified by Scantron.

Anyway, I suppose I already know what sort of asshole I am. Suspicious, impatient, hard-headed, and prone to injudicious flippancy. Also, grandiloquent as all fuck.

1959, 1995, 2015?

So, in 1993, I was a the wee slip of a girl you see above, clambering joyously aboard a car-hauler to inspect her Very Own Car. Most teenagers dream of their first set of wheels, and have quite specific ideas about what their dream car is. Most never do get their hands on their dream car. I, however, was a very, very lucky girl. Lucky in that I dreamed on an accessible scale, and that my Dad was running a VW repair shop at the time and tended to have his ear to the ground as regarded any vintage German steel on the market. I’d hoped someday to own a vintage VW (pre-’67, in those days). We got the glorious beast you see above (and below) for $500 from a neighbor who’d originally bought it thinking it would be a father-and-son project for his boy. His kid, however, was not even slightly inclined, and so the car languished in a barn for a few years before our neighbor gave up and sold it in disgust. He knew that it was going to an appreciative party. This car, a 1959 Type I, was everything I’d ever hoped for and more…it was even green(ish). My favorite color!

I was trying to imitate some of the pinup girl poses in Hot VWs.

Please forgive me: I was trying to imitate some of the pinup girl poses in Hot VWs. I was 18, and obvs. v. v. proud of my car and my horrible hand-made halter-top thingy.

The first year that I owned it, it was largely un-driveable. The original 36-horsepower engine was using oil and had a LOT of endplay in the flywheel, and rather than risking spinning the main bearings we left the car parked while a fresh, new 1600cc single-port went up on the engine stand. Part of the whole deal of my having this car was that I had to have sweat-equity in on it. I considered it a privilege, an honor, and a treat to get my hands dirty. I’d been earning my pocket money for some years by helping out in the garage. When I was just a little rat, Dad would have me sorting bolts, wire-brushing crud off the halves of engine cases, or doing other low-stress chores. When I was big and strong enough to manage the bulky air impact wrench, I got to un-bolt connecting rods from crankshafts. I LOVED doing that chore. There’s something innately pleasing to me in the sound of the airgun. That ba-ba-ba-ba-brrrrrrrrrr. Loves it! I moved on from knocking off connecting rods to actually stripping old engines for core.

That was always an adventure. Sometimes you’d be able to postmortem the engine failure, where a head stud had backed out of the engine case or a valve had floated and shattered on the piston. Most of the time, though, it was just boring old quotidian wear. Worn out rings, scored cylinders, slow, miserable engine decline. Bleh.

Once, though, I was tearing down an old Type III engine from the junkyard, and in its time out to pasture, a mouse had crawled down the carburetor, through an intake manifold, found an open valve, made a nest in one of the cylinders, and then died. When I started on that engine, I thought, “man, something smells kind of weird.” The smells just kept getting worse and worse as I worked my way down the engine. When I finally pulled the offending cylinder head off and found a wad of fluff and a decomposing mouse carcass, I seriously almost barfed. The smell cannot be underemphasized. It was unspeakable.

So, after tearing down plenty of old engines, I got to put one together. Under supervision, of course, but I personally got to assemble an entire Volkswagen engine at age 17. It was kind of a big deal to me.


Another consideration with this car was that it started out with 6-volt electrical system. As a teenager, I figured I would want a stereo at some point. As a parent, my Dad wanted my car to have decent headlights and indicators. So, a large part of the summer of ’94 was spent in the junkyard scavenging up the appropriate wiper motor, turn signal switch, horn, and starter motor. I plunked down for a pricey pair of halogen headlights, which were the big deal in technology at the time, and which met with considerable parental approval. I dorkily spent a blissful summer evening with the headlights on, pointed at the side of the house, aligning the beams with a screwdriver.

Between my Dad and I, we had the thing up and running before the start of my Senior year of highschool. In 1995, the car looked like this:



It had kind of a bald patch on its roof via its former owner, who had tree branches overhanging her garage. Every time she pulled in or out of the garage, the car got a pine-needle sweeping, which eventually played merry hell with the finish.


Most people looked at it and saw nothing but a shabby old Volkswagen in a dodgy shade of green, but to me, it was about as close to perfection as I could ever hope to get. More importantly, it was mine.

Most of the time I drove my car with the respect that it deserved, but like most teenagers, I did show off occasionally. I learned that highschool boys are uniformly unimpressed by girls who do burnouts. Nor do they rise to the bait of a third-gear scratch. Boo to that. I found that effecting a third-gear scratch took a considerable great effort. You really have to hop off of the clutch pedal with a quickness and be quite aggressive with the accelerator. It became, like the successful application of a good cat’s-eye eyeliner, a private triumph.

My favorite trick, though, wasn’t a trick at all. I just liked seeing how smoothly and cleanly I could run up through the gears. There was a stop sign on the way in to town, with the speed-limit (60 mph) posted a ways off, and my daily ritual was to try to hit the speed limit by the time we passed the sign. I could only do that if I hit all of the gear changes just right and didn’t waste a scrap of the lordly 53 horsepower at my disposal. Same thing held for downshifting when slowing for a stop. It gave me a certain satisfaction to downshift at just the right speed for each gear so that you could feel a gentle pull of deceleration, but the engine didn’t get yoinked up to uncomfortably high revs.

I enjoyed driving that car pretty much daily my Senior year of highschool. Then, I went to college, and what with living in town (a town of less than 6,000 at that) I hardly drove at all for the next four years – just once in a while to get out of town to visit my folks. Then, I wa gone for a year abroad studying. When I got back to the US and moved to Kansas City, the ’59 was put back in action for a couple of years, until the humidity and salty winter streets really started to take their toll on the poor old beast.
spring 2003
Finally, in 2003, I decided to spare the sheetmetal, and drove it back up to my folks’ place in northwestern Nebraska, and took posession of a wonderful/horrible 1981 Scirocco. That car was the fount of a lot of fun and a lot of trauma, depending on the day. It had…gremlins. They lived in the fuel injection system, principally and rendered the car deeply unreliable and expensive to care for. Eventually, I sold that car, fecked around with other stopgap measures, and finally, in ’06, said “fuck it” and quit driving altogether. Had I not had a baby, I’d probably still be living in “fuck it” territory. I don’t like to waste fuel, and I don’t like to drive cars that aren’t fun. Joel’s Toyota Tacoma isn’t that much fun. His mom’s Honda Civic is, but I tend to scare her when I drive it, so I’m sort of banned from the Civ.

But, as I say, I need to schlep Mr. Kiddo around town from time to time, and what with my car all disassembled in northwestern Nebraska, awaiting rust repair and a paint job, I was in a quandary. What worked out was the longterm loan of my Mom’s old Superbeetle that she’d quit driving:


The loaner-era end is sort of in sight, however. The last time I talked to my folks on the phone, my Dad was happy to report that the fellow we’d lined up to do the rust repair on the ’59 had finally hauled the old hulk off to get started on it. I’m not sure how long it’ll take him to patch the car back together and lay down a few beautiful and protective layers of paint on it, but I’m guessing that sometime this coming summer I’ll be heading back up to the Panhandle to start re-assembling. It’s going to be one hell of an undertaking.

Back when I parked the car at my folks’ place in ’03, Dad and I started stripping the car down. Pulled all of the interior, removed the bumpers, running boards, and fenders, started un-wiring it. We put in several solid days work and got it to looking like this:

I knew these things existed, but it was doubly depressing to view daylight through the body of my car:

Still, could be worse. Most of the car doesn’t have holes through it. The floorpan is solid. The heater channels, largely so. The aprons are in good shape. The worst of it is the rear quarter panels, where the fender meets the body at the floorpan. There’s a little damage in the right front quarter, too, though left side is clean. There was a lot of sand built up in the right front heater channel and that had retained moisture, hastening the demise of the body panels there. Anyway, that’s all Kevin’s problem now. I’ve saved up the money to pay him to deal with all of that horror.

Someday, in the reasonably-foreseeable-future, this car will look better than it has since sometime in the 1960s, I’d guess. I’m so excited about the prospect of having my car back, and done up the way it ought to be, that I just about can’t think straight. This is the culmination of a dream I’ve had since I was about 14.

There’s still going to be a lot of work to put it all back together. I mean, it’s basically re-building the car in entirety. Wiring harness, interior installation, all of the little chrome strips in the window rubber…just everything. Plus, the ball joints were going to cock when I parked it, the transaxle boots were getting leaky, it was showing general wear and tear in a dozen places. It’ll be a while before it’s actually on the road again. All the same, I’m excited to get my hand back in the game.

The imaginary deadline I have for the car is summer 2015. That’ll be my 20th highschool reunion. It would be pretty sweet to rock up to the old shithole in my freshly-restored first car.

Car of the Future

Last night, to end a very silly not-argument about the word “recidivist” and its proper spelling, I took to Joel’s gigantic dictionary, a Webster’s New Twentieth Century Unabridged Dictionary from 1972. After I’d won the argument (heh) I spent a bit of time just thumbing through the tome, because I like dictionaries and just randomly discovering words. What I discovered yesterday, however, were two sections of color plates one of which contained the following images:

This is the full page of Automobiles. The bottom row caught my eye:
Initially, I’d been charmed that Webster’s saw fit to feature an AMC Javelin and a Jensen Interceptor, two cars of roughly equivalent merit from their respective countries.
I’d kind of glossed over the “Car of the Future” at the time, dismissing it as a flight of fancy from a bored illustrator.
Unbidden, it kept resurfacing in my brain. It looked like it had to have been some kind of Italian supercar concept from the 1970s. A little bit of Google action very swiftly turned up some proper information. This was a Pininfarina-designed Ferrari concept car from 1969, the 512 S Berlinetta Speciale concept. For a multi-view photogallery, click here. And for a view of that fashion model’s leopard-spotted bottom, there are a few more photos presumably from Pininfarina’s archives on Tumblr. This concept car was sufficiently exciting to make it to Hot Wheels scale, apparently, but the actual car was never put into production. I kind of think we might have had that particular Hot Wheels car in a little bin of toys at my elementary school when I was a kid. It really, really looks familiar.

I don’t know what it says about me as a person that I would, could, and did turn up images and information for an obscure supercar concept design after viewing vaguely-labeled thumbnail illustration in a 42-year-old dictionary, but there it is.

Oh look, a thingy!

Haha, it’s the Winter Solstice and true to form, I am desperately sick of my hairdo.

To be fair, I decided about a year ago, when I was first pregnant, to just go ahead and let it grow out as much as it could while I was all aflush with hormones and prenatal vitamins. And grow it did. Went from this:

to this:

in the span of about a year.

And now, because I have a short hair-attention span and a yen to do unfortunate things to my barnet in the wintertime, I am just itching for a new haircut.

I told Joel I am going to hold off making any decisions until the Vernal Equinox, not because of any astrological superstitious crap, but because I know I’m not quite right in my head until the days are longer. But what I am pretty sure is going to happen is that I am going to revert to my old standby, the Sue Perkins haircut. Short, choppy, side-parted, and kind of tufty, this has ultimately been the best-to-live-with sort of haircut for me.

sueperkins1 sueperkins2(good for girls with short attention spans!)

Yep, I’m pretty sure this will be happening.

Which is a darn sight better than this IMG_4609

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