Thursday, January 29, 2009

MN creativity

A disproportionate amount of the world's creativity resides in Minnesota, and our household is no exception. The state has given birth to more edible snacks on a stick than the rest of the world combined, and there are more hotdish recipes in MN than there are Johnsons (and the 2000 census folk gave up trying to count 'em all).

Soulmate is 100% Minnesotan (and 50% Johnson), so creativity oozes from her every pore. We were reading Parent Power! and got an idea to help Katie ease into bedtime a little easier by making her a going-to-bed book.

First, our rationale for the book: since Katie came to us after 11 months in a Chinese orphanage, we had decided up front to cuddle her and spoil her just a little for our first 6 months together. We rocked her to sleep every night, and if she woke up, we got up and rocked her again until she went back to sleep.

I made a goal of beginning her transition to going to sleep on her own starting when she turned 18 months old on Jan 1. Soulmate couldn't bear the thought, though, so we shelved the idea for a few weeks. Last week's trip to Rochester ended with Katie sleeping really well on the way home, so when we arrived at 9pm, she wasn't the least bit sleepy. Two and a half hours later, mommy had back spasms from rocking, and daddy got hornswaggled into playing the sandman.

A half hour of fruitless rocking led to a bit of an epiphany, and I laid Katie in her crib, kissed her and patted her tummy, said "it's time for night-night now", and left the room. 20 minutes of blood-curdling screams continued non-stop from the closed door, and I almost expected Jason or Freddie Kruger to burst out of the bedroom, but instead the screams stopped abruptly.

I waited a minute or two, but fearing for her life, I cautiously crept into the room and used my cellphone to illuminate my way. Lo and behold, Katie was asleep near the head of the crib, with one leg partially out and one hand still clutching one of the bars. I think she stood and cried until she lost consciousness, then slid slowly down the bar into a piteous crumpled pile of tears and blanket sleeper. If Soulmate had seen it, the experiment would have been terminated immediately.

We bought Katie a small aquarium the next day, and filled it with water, plastic plants, and 4 baby goldfish, offspring from our goldfish pond this summer. We leave a little nightlight on behind it so she has something to look at while she's falling asleep (or screaming bloody murder as the case may be). Katie is trying really hard to fit in with the new ritual: when we tell her it's time for night-night, she squinches her eyes shut hard and pretends to be asleep in the sweetest way.

When it comes time for the real deal, she still screams when we get up to leave the room, but it doesn't last as long as before. So, in order to ease her progress toward somnolence without hysteria, Soulmate made her a book, using all her Minnesota Johnson creativity. Here's a video tour of the newest parenting best-seller:

Sunday, January 25, 2009


Katie got a new hat from our friend and gardener extraodinaire Chris Z. When she's not coaxing beautiful things to grow in our zone 3 climate (like now when it's 20 below zero), she is knitting cute caps for preemies at the NICU. Here she has knit a perfectly delightful cream cap with a pink stripe (hard to see the pink in this crummy cellphone pic) to keep Katie's head warm in this beastly cold. Katie, in turn, seems delighted to be wearing it.

Over on the left coast, this sort of accessory is all the rage for its aesthetic value, but here in the heartland it's all about warding off frostbite. That being said, we don't all dress like the sheriff in Fargo (or talk like that either, yah sure you betcha).

We took the Katiemobile on a trial run down to Soulmate's cousin in Rochester, and it was a complete success in every way. Easy to drive, decent gas mileage (15mph give or take), and a perfect napping location while mommy visited the famous Mayo brothers for a checkup. Katie scored a 3 hour marathon nap on Wednesday, lulled apparently by the propane furnace (which belted out perfectly toasty air) and the generator, which supplies an almost imperceptible vibration that added an additional soporific effect.

Here's Katie playing with her cousins' toys. She especially took to the Minnie Mouse ears that matched her outfit.

Big Jim says he's giving up bike racing in order to spend all his time remodeling the house next door. I don't believe it for a minute, although right now he seems to be addicted to breaking down plaster and lath walls. For all you competitors who hope he's out of shape with lungs full of construction dust: don't count on it. I hope to borrow the Katiemobile for a trip south in February to find some real hills to hammer. By April he'll be hurting you all like usual.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Katiemobile is Ready for Action!

First a caveat: I have never in all my 48 years wished to own an RV. I will admit to riding in one a couple of times, and even having a pretty good time on the road, but I've never actually slept in one. I've always been a silent sport type guy, except for football, which involves a lot of grunting and crashing. Motors have never held much allure for me.

My father-in-law has always been a little disappointed in me whenever the snowmobile and 4-wheeler are out, because I've never really been into driving them. He, on the other hand, has always enjoyed motorized toys, especially motorcross bikes, snowmobiles, 4 wheelers, and boats. And Soulmate inherited his love of motors.

I will confess right now that in shop class in 9th grade, I was not able to tear down the lawnmower engine and get it running again. Soulmate, on the other hand, was able to tear down her Kawasaki 175 and put it back together again (at least that's how I heard her story). Anyway, she always loved RVing in their little Cortez, which was one of the first mini-motorhomes ever made.

I'm getting a little loquacious at this point (when am I not?), so I'll shorten it. Since Katie has arrived on the scene, we have curtailed our travel to some extent, not wanting to coop her up in a child seat or on an airplane. So last fall, as we began to plan for the spring, Soulmate brought up the idea of a mini-motorhome to get out camping. Given my anti-RV bias, I was naturally a little cool to the idea.

Then Soulmate made the fateful promise that started it all: "if we got a little RV, Katie and I would go to more of your bike races."

I only needed to hear it once, and immediately threw myself into researching our options. Fortunately, my father in law had already done most of the research, having looked at almost all the "class B" (conversion van) RVs available. He had come this close to buying a Roadtrek, then decided on a pull trailer instead, since he already has a nice Dodge Ram pickup (yes, I know I've ranted about pickup drivers in previous posts, but several of my friends and family have them, and I've come to terms with that now.

Anyway, after pricing new Roadtreks, I realized that they were pretty much out of our budget, so I started tracking used ones on eBay motors and on other RV websites. I almost bought a 1997 model for a steal on eBay, but the sellers pulled it after 1 day, probably because someone told them they were way underpriced.

Then I saw a posting on an RV bulletin board for a 2002 model located in West Fargo, ND. Most of the RVs I've researched are in AZ, FL, and CA, so I read this ad with interest. The price was in budget, so I called Todd and checked it out. Soulmate and I studied the pictures Todd posted on PhotoBucket and decided on the spot to buy it. Since I'm on call this weekend, Todd volunteered to drive it down with his wife for one last road trip, pulling their Pacifica on a trailer so they could drive back.

After lunch with Todd and Darcy at our favorite Chinese buffet, we had a short shakedown ride and a full orientation tour to discover all the goodies this baby offers. I was pretty sure this was the one, so I had a cashier's check ready, and off they went back to West Fargo. Soulmate has spent the weekend shopping and collecting stuff from around the house to stock the new MMH (mini-motor home).

We have a shake-down ride planned tomorrow night: after I get back from my clinic in Alexandria, we're leaving for Rochester, a 3 hour drive. Soulmate has some appointments at the famous Mayo Brothers place on Tuesday and Wednesday, so we'll stay with her cousin and family on Monday and Tuesday night, and drive back Wednesday evening.

We hope to do some weekend camping this summer, and I'll try to steer us close to my bike races when possible, since it's an ideal staging vehicle for getting ready for races and for cleaning up afterwards. Cost to GrandStay riders using the facilities: $0. Value of watching other teams eat their heart out waiting with 250 other racers to use the portapotty: priceless.

For you Katie junkies who made it this far hoping for a glimpse, here here she is wearing my new waterproof gloves:

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ho hum

I have nothing to report.

OK, just to make you southerners happy, it's currently 10:35am in MN, and the actual temperature is minus 17 degrees F. Today's high just might rise above minus 10 F. We have gotten several feet of snow this winter, and almost all of it is still sitting on the ground.

I plan to take my next bike ride when the temp reaches 10 degrees above zero, which may come by this weekend. Until then, I'll be watching a lot of movies on my trainer downstairs. Thank goodness the new season of "24" has started. It looks to be another good one.

How long 'til spring?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Katie Goes Sledding

And daddy gets some really good aerobic exercise. I blew off my bike workouts (sorry coach!) for most of the week, opting for a huge amount of year-end work at the clinic and in surgery until New Year's eve, then we headed up to the cabin for more family time.

Here's Katie's first tobogan run with daddy steering the two of us down the hill and onto the frozen lake. Auntie Sue is filming, and cousins Joshua and Jenny are assisting. We've had a ton of snow this December, and the sledding, skiing, and snowshoeing is fantastic. Now if I could just find some time to do anything during daylight hours...