Category Archives: Loft Living Column

Woof-Woof, Where are you?

This morning Little L and I saw her***! At least we thought we did. We saw a shadow near the door right before the lights went out. 

Was it Woof-Woof? Or a new sofa?

Now that the leaves have fallen, we can see the house across the way.

Aren’t they pretty much asking us to keep tabs on their dog? 

Little L’s first winter, I remember spending a lot of time rocking her in front of the window, looking out on the world below – yes, it still existed. One of the sights was a dog rolling around in the leaves and snow.

Last year we shared this sight with Little L. Just beginning to make words that people could understand, she referred to our furry friend, with her shiny black coat and white-tipped tail, as “Woo-Woo.” 

Then around New Year’s when my dad came for a visit, we wanted to show him Woof-Woof… but we hadn’t seen her for quite awhile.

“That’s because Woof-Woof might be… AAAACK!” Axel made a gesture hypothesizing that Woof-Woof was no longer part of this world.

“Woo-Woo Aaack! Woo-Woo Aaaack!” Little L ran around saying. Whoops.

But a few days later, we saw her. Woof-Woof was not, as Axel had stipulated, aack.

All summer we didn’t see Woof-Woof, but with the leaves on the trees, we can’t get a clear view of her backyard or living room. There was one possible spotting as we were walking down the street; I was relieved that Woof-Woof’s people didn’t seem to recognize us.

Eagerly peering across the way, I’m reminded of weekend mornings with my childhood friend, who I’ll call Lauren, with a spy notebook in hand, observing the neighborhood happenings. “Golf ball on street,” we wrote. “Where did it come from?” Little L and I should start taking notes. “Lights on at 7:02AM,” we would record. “Movement downstairs?”

“Once the leaves fall, we’ll be able to see Woof-Woof’s house!” I told Little L as fall approached. Although Little L no longer calls dogs woo-woos, the name had stuck.

And just as I’m starting to doubt myself, this morning, in the early morning dark with the lights on inside Woo-Woo’s house, I saw something hovering near the door.  

Could it have been? 

Little L and I had pulled an ottoman up to the window to make ourselves comfortable.

“Where is Woof-Woof?” she asked me.

“What do you think? Maybe sleeping? Eating?”

“Woof Woof’s sleeping,” she said, sliding down off the ottoman.

Last winter Little L had a Woof-Woof on loan for a few weeks. It wasn’t long before she realized we should be walking our Woof-Woof down to the lobby to take it out, like all our neighbors do. “She really knows how to care for this thing!” I thought. And then, after about one day of walking Woof-Woof, she handed the leash over to me. “Mama! Mama!” she demanded.

And then I spotted a black formation near the glass door that leads outside. 

“Little L! Look!”

She scampered back over.

“Do you think it’s Woof-Woof?”

She laughs. “Yeah,” she said.

But then the people turned the lights out, and we couldn’t see Woof-Woof anymore, even though we knew she was there, and perhaps she’d seen us too.

“Where is light?” Little L asked.

“Oh, the people probably turned it off to go to work,” I surmise.

Or else they’ve seen us and just want a little privacy.

But as the days go by and I’m able to get a clearer view into their house with the ever-falling leaves, I’m not totally convinced that we’ve seen Woof-Woof. Maybe it was just a new sofa.

I’m not giving up hope, though, and neither is Little L. It’s not even winter yet. We’ve got at least six more months to search for Woof-Woof before those pesky leaves grow back.

And search we will.

***Because I do not know if Woof-Woof is female or male, I am referring to her here as a “she.” Why do so many books and songs automatically default to referring to all animals as “he?” Come on, modern culture! Get with the times!

Pooled!

“There’s no water in it!” Axel said as we approached the park, having dropped off our knives to be sharpened at the Farmer’s Market, much too his excitement. Our knives and my tweezers, which to Axel’s surprise, the knife guy had been more than willing to sharpen.

“What? No water? Yeah, right,” I said. I was not falling for that one.

But as we approached, it was, indeed waterless.

Little L was all suited up in her flowery blue swimskirt and turtleneck.

A sign on the pool stated the obvious: “POOL CLOSED.” To ease the potential tantrums of parents and kids alike, it listed the addresses of two nearby pools.

Disappointed and hot, we convinced Little L that swinging would be a good substitute to swimming. Then we stopped back into our lobby for some refreshing water from the gym and I asked Little L if she wanted to try another pool.

“Nother poo-wew,” she responded.

She and I set out on our own this time. Axel was content with his sharpened knives. “I’ll start getting lunch ready,” he said with a big smile as he pressed the button to take the elevator upstairs.

As we approached the second pool, a tiny doubt entered the back of my mind. A bystander at the park said that the wading pool near his house hadn’t opened yet because it was next to a school and school had just ended yesterday. This pool, too, was next to a school…

But why would they have listed Holmes Pool if it weren’t open?

Yet, as we approached, I didn’t see sparkles or waves.

“Let’s see if this one has water in it, Little L!” I was having flashbacks to the Great California Park Search.

Again, the pool was empty. I sighed. “Oh, that’s so silly!” I said, trying to show Little L that we could both take this all in stride. Life doesn’t always give you water in your wading pool, right?

But even worse than disappointed, I was hot. If you’ve ever been outside with me on a day above 80, you know I get very crabby when I’m hot.

“We’ll figure something out,” I told Little L. “Let’s go home and talk to Daddy.” We needed to get my phone to look up nearby pools and grab the car keys – I was NOT walking to another pool in this heat.

Little L was probably hot too. Or just disappointed. Or impatient. She was fussing as we approached our building.

“Will Daddy wonder why we’re home so soon? We should say, ‘You won’t believe this!'”

I unlocked the door.

“You’re home!” Axel said.

“You won’t believe–“

“The pool was closed!” Axel deduced. “And get this – we didn’t get your tweezers back with the knives.”

“Ah. So we have to go back to the Farmer’s Market too.”

I started searching the Minneapolis Parks website. Turns out there’s a whole page where they let you know pools’ statuses – both pools we tried today appeared as yellow dots on the map.

At least we’re not a red dot! But a 3:1 ration of green to yellow? I see why they created this website!

“Let’s just give her a bath,” Axel said.

“But I told her we’d go to the pool!” I say. I am nothing if not a woman of my word.

“She’ll love it.”

“Little L, you want a bath?” Axel called to her.

“Baby take baff!” she scampered into the bathroom, still dressed in her swim turtleneck.

“I’ll give her a bath while you go pick up the tweezers,” Axel said.

I sighed and refilled my water bottle. Then I changed out of my swimsuit, because wearing a swimsuit is actually quite hot when you don’t have the cooling effects of the water to combat it.

“Maybe I’ll take a post-it note and put it on the sign at the park.”

It may be the nearest pool, but it sure isn’t the one with the most water!

30 minutes later, I was back home, sweaty and crabby. But I had my tweezers and I had done my civic duty.

I could hear Little L laughing in the tub.

With any luck, we would find an open pool another day, or our yellow dots on the map would turn neon green. Until then, I was tired and sweaty from all of this pool-searching.

Maybe I could take a bath. But would the tub be open? I’d learn my lesson. I got out my phone and made sure the bathtub was marked with a green dot before walking the extra 20 feet to the bathroom.

RECYCLED!

On Christmas Eve, my brother presented Little L a homemade holiday card in lieu of a gift. Scrawled in black sharpie, it said, “I know one day when you’re older and able to read, you won’t have this card because Carissa will recycle it tonight.”

That wasn’t exactly true – it took me a few weeks to go through the holiday paper accumulations. I scanned the card. And then rather than dropping it in the recycling, I sent it to do a pre-recycle stint in Little L’s Purple Box of Paper (she takes after Axel with her love for shuffling papers). She can look at the photos and cards that came this holiday season before they meet their fate.

Like my brother, who is wise not to spend more than 3 cents on a sheet of printer paper for his holiday wishes, I am quite aware of what happens to cards. For most people, at least. My friend Thom, upon seeing Little L’s Purple Box, told me he keeps his holiday cards.

“Every year?” I asked.

“Yup,” he answered. “But I could be convinced otherwise.”

While that’s not my job, per se, I do hope he starts some sort of holiday card plan. He has a large basement for storage, but after a few more years of this, he might need to build a storage locker in the backyard or start a Second-Hand Holiday Card store. He has a lot of friends and family.

One day last week I took the recycling down to the garage. I opened the second bin from the right – the middle one is usually full, so I always go for the one-off.

I was about to pour my recycling in when I saw it.

Was that a card… from me!?

I would recognize my cheap Target cards anywhere. Plus the not-really-cursive and not-really-not-cursive mix of capitals and lowercase looked quite similar to my signature scrawl (I was known as the Poster Queen in high school for my stellar sign-making skills).

Upon a bit of closer inspection, it was indeed a sympathy card that I had written for a neighbor who had lost a pet.

I told Axel about it later.

“Well, I mean, you didn’t expect them to keep it forever, did you?”

“No, no.”

I mean, I was actually proud of them that they had thrown it out. So promptly, too. They really were on top of their stuff.

“It’s just – you don’t expect to see your own card in your own recycling bin.”

“Makes you think twice about writing paper cards, doesn’t it?” Axel pointed out.

card in recycling bin
Reenactment of finding the card in the recycling – I was too stunned in the moment to gather the evidence. This is actually a card that I was recycling. Not from a neighbor, I will add.

I like my paper cards. I don’t want to stop giving them or getting them. I also don’t want to keep them indefinitely.

Some of you may have been thinking it was going to be a card I had given Axel that he dropped in the bin. For a few reasons, that wouldn’t be.

A) Axel is a bit of a paper shuffler. I doubt he would be downsizing his own papers without my prompting.

B) Axel lives with me. I often downsize his papers (with his permission of course). A card I had written to Axel would likely have been scanned – by me – and have been in my recycling bag, not in the bin.

C) Axel knows what a snoop I am. In a situation where A and B didn’t ring true, he would take that card to work and recycled it there.

Now are you wondering if the neighbors scanned their card? I was concerned about that too, especially given the quick turnover. Just in case they had overlooked it, I snapped a photo and texted it to them for good measure.

Just kidding. At least I hope you think I am.

The Polar Vortex…Continues?

“You’ll probably actually have to work most of this week,” Thom texted me on Tuesday.

“Most?” I responded. “Do you mean most, like my four normal days? Or do you mean most of my four days?” I didn’t try to hide the excitement in my words.

Since my last post, I had been alerted to the fact that Thom had spent much of then Polar Vortex week with not just his baby, but with his toddler who had stayed home from daycare because of the weather. “It was 20% fun, 40% hard, and 45% so hard that I lost my mind and can no longer do math.” 

This is why you don’t ask someone on paternity/maternity leave how their “vacation” is going.

This week was Thom’s last week home on paternity leave. For his sake, I hoped that there wouldn’t be another unexpected day off that he had to use his sick time for. 

But for my own sake, I hoped there would be.

Come Wednesday, there was talk of lots of snow! I heard a student at school ask the principal if school would be canceled on Thursday. “I don’t think so,” she said. “But it’s always a good idea to check.” 

To me, that meant a probable no. I have no evidence to support this, but I think there must be some undercover email chain for principals and office staff that lets them know ahead of time what is most likely going to happen with school cancellations. I remember the secretary at my former school smiling at me conspiratorially one day and saying, “Oh, I think they’ll cancel tomorrow.” They did.

Wednesday evening the snow began. I kept checking out the window, hopefully. Was it coming down hard enough? 

And then, around 6PM, as I was heating up some sweet potatoes for Little L’s dinner, the phone rang. 

It was a Minneapolis Public Schools number!

Jumping up and down, I answered.

“Please hold for a message from the Minneapolis Public Schools.” 

Oh yes! I could wait seconds to hear the good news!

“Hello families,” my principal’s voice said. “I want to remind you that tomorrow morning is Family Involvement Day.” 

I sighed. I had been duped. 

I woke up at 4:30AM the next morning as Little L coughed a bit in her crib. I checked my phone. Minneapolis Public Schools had a message on its website: “School WILL be in session on Thursday, February 7.” 

I checked the forecast. I had an acupuncture appointment at the U that afternoon and I would need to drive. 

“Do you think I should cancel?” I asked Axel. 

“I don’t think it’s supposed to be that bad, is it?” he asked.

I hadn’t made it to the gym that morning, so I hadn’t seen Sven Sungaard’s local forecast. 

But at 11:30 at recess duty, the snow was still coming down – hard. In fact, I could barely see the other side of the field. Did I really want to drive in this? 

On my lunch half-hour, I saw the art teacher. “Congrats on your commute!” she said. She lives near school too. But much of the staff would be driving to the suburbs, or further even, South Minneapolis.

I told her that I was going to maybe drive to acupuncture. “I think it helps me stay calm. But driving in this makes me anxious. So…” 

As I filed through my phone to call and cancel the appointment, the art teacher leaned in and smiled. “I think they might call it for tomorrow. This is supposed to continue all night and the windchill tomorrow morning is -35.” Negative 35 windchill is the requirement for a school cancellation!

“Really? You think? Oh wow, that would be way better than having needles stuck in me!”

A district email said that all after-school activities had been cancelled. Then the assistant from prekindergarten came up to my room and asked if I wanted any help this afternoon because the afternoon prekindergarten class had been cancelled!

Things were looking quite promising. 

I trudged home from work, thankful indeed for my short commute on foot. 

I was again checking out the window for snow and heating Little L’s sweet potatoes, when I noticed a missed call on my phone.

It was from the Minneapolis Public Schools. 

I dialed into my voicemail, and there it was. 

“Colleagues, there will be no school tomorrow, February 8.” The message was significantly shorter than the previous FOUR messages for snow/cold days. They didn’t even state the reason, though I later read on the district’s Twitter account that the combination of snow/ice and -30 degree windchill was enough to make them think it would be dangerous for students to be waiting outside in the morning for likely delayed buses. 

Little L saw me do my No School Dance yet again. 

I had gotten 80% of the Snow/Cold days. Fair enough.

Thom texted me. “Okay, this is starting to sting.” 

I texted my friend Alissa, a former Minneapolis teacher who had moved to another local district a few years ago. “No school tomorrow!?!?”

She texted back. “I know! I’m so happy for you! We’re still waiting to find out!”

I was impressed by her ability to feel sympathetic joy — i.e. happiness for someone else’s happiness — for me. I also got texts from Joanie and Ana who had seen on the news that I had won yet another day without school. “Yay! Enjoy!” they told me.

Last Friday Alissa and I went to Happy Hour after my long one-day Polar Vortex workweek. She told me about how last Monday when all of the other schools were closed, her school district already had a staff-only day on the books; staff was still to report, but two hours late. The teachers were in a  training that was supposed to end at 4PM. At 3:45, everyone’s phones began ringing and they got the news that school would be closed for the next two days. 

“Everyone was laughing and jumping up and down and screaming!” Alissa told me. “The presenter tried like three times to get us back on track, but we were so wild that he eventually said we would just end early.” 

Both Alissa and I lamented that this “Teachers Find Out They Get Two Unexpected Days Off” moment was not caught on video.

This morning I was down at the gym watching the school closings, I mean, the news, while I worked out. They got to the “R”s and Alissa’s district was not on the screen. When they cycled through, her son’s district was! Ana’s son’s district was closed too! Ana later told me her son said, “What? Again!!?” when he found out.

I of course gave a hoot when Minneapolis Public Schools flashed up on the bottom of the screen, which in retrospect may have looked to the other early-morning exercisers like I was cheering for whatever piece of bad news was on at the time.

On my way back upstairs I pulled up Alissa’s district’s website. I so wanted her to partake in this unexpected windfall (snowfall?). “IMPORTANT MESSAGE!” came across the screen along with a pop-up window.

This was it!

“School WILL be in session on Friday, February 8,” it said. 

It made me wonder – when Alissa decided to change districts, did she look into their data on snow/cold days? It could play an important factor for a potential student/family/employee. 

I found out later that although Joanie and Wendall’s son’s preschool was also open, they decided to keep him home that day. I’m sure the teachers who did have to teach that day didn’t mind their reduced class sizes. Joanie and Wendall, we hope to hang out with you again someday, but now Little L is sick. Go figure.

The highlight of this Snow Day was when Little L and I spotted a mini-plow cleaning the sidewalks on the street below. Snow was shooting out the top, at least 30 feet high! “Look, it’s a plow? A snowblower?” What was this contraption called? Then I saw its logo. “It’s a Bobcat,” I told her.

When Axel came home, we were still looking out the window. “Tell Daddy what we saw,” I coaxed her. 

“Bah-cuh.” 

“Books?” Axel guessed. 

“A Bobcat!” I told him. 

“Like with no tail?” He seemed puzzled. 

After we’d cleared up the confusion, we continued to watch for more Bobcats – they cleared the two bridges in the distance as well!

We have to clarify when people came over. To the untrained ear, it seems like Little L wanders around the living roo, asking us to lift her up so she can look for a “vaca” or a “vodka” out the window. 

“Bah-cuh, bah-cuh!”

Now that Thom is back at work with the rest of us, we’ll see what the rest of winter brings. It would be greedy for me to hope for more days off for myself. I got my 80%, fair and square.

But to have a friend’s best interests in mind? 

That’s just generosity.

This post was intended to be posted on the day it was begun, last Friday on my actual Snow Day off. It should be noted that a Snow Day caring for a sick toddler is much different than a Snow Day on one’s own. Hence the post a week later. Enjoy.

Once Upon a Polar Vortex

“Are you going to write about this?” Axel asked me as I sat on the floor as Little L played with her “zoom-zooms” and the microwave clock counted down the minutes until nap time. 

“I wasn’t planning on it.” 

“You should,” Axel insisted. “Your readers will want to know.”

Monday morning: While working out in the gym in my building, I see the school closings flashing across the bottom of the screen. We start in the Ns and since my workout isn’t that long, we are only to Lakeville by the time I leave the gym again. At this rate, they should just post the ones that are in session.

I check my voicemail as soon as I get back upstairs. Minneapolis Public Schools called last night after I was asleep. Ugh.

You see, usually I would be thrilled with a snow day. But I don’t work on Mondays. And so the Monday Snow Day makes me think that it’s less likely that we’ll get any Cold Days later in the week, something there’s been talk of. 

However, it is fair. I work four days a week, so I shouldn’t get to take part in all of the snow days. I should get 80%. 

I text my friend Thom who is on paternity leave. “Ugh. Snow Day. From the only other teacher in Minneapolis not happy about this.” 

“I’m going to file a grievance,” he texts back. All that sick time he was using up for his leave and school isn’t even in session…

For some reason, Little L sleeps in, giving me a sort of Snow Morning. After I shower, I get to drink coffee and write in my journal for almost an hour. I write about how it’s not a snow day for dads on paternity leave or stay-at-home moms or part-time workers who don’t work Mondays.

Little L’s music class is cancelled, which I’m partly disappointed by – what will we do all day? – but mostly relieved by – we won’t have to drive in the snow. 

I text my new friend, who I’ll call Veronica. She and I met earlier this year on the street. We were both pushing strollers at 7:30AM on a Saturday and she crossed the street to continue the conversation I had started when we had first passed each other. It was friendship built on the early-morning desperation of wanting to interact with another adult, which is as good a reason as any. Veronica is at home with her one-year-old and I guessed that not being able to go outside was making her a little stir-crazy. 

“Music is cancelled! Want to come over? You can park in our garage!” 

She was there half an hour later with Baby D, who ate his breakfast at our counter while Little L partook in a second breakfast of some baby puffs that Veronica brought to share with her. 

Sadly for us, they left after just half an hour – Baby D’s nap was coming up. Little L and I had the whole day in front of us.

Little L went down for her nap around noon – she’s been toying around with just one nap these days. I had my fingers crossed that it would be a long one. While reclining on the sofa in the media room, I thought to text our nanny who comes on Tuesdays, just to make sure she was recovered from the sickness she’d had last week. 

She said that her flu had turned to a cold but that she could function. 

Uh-oh. Have I mentioned that we are germaphobes?

Plus we’ve been waiting to see Joanie and Wendall for weeks now – their kids have been off and on sick. We need to stay healthy for the sake of our friendship.

Now, I had been fantasizing about no school on either Tuesday or Wednesday because of the projected negative 50 windchill. If it was going to come on Wednesday, I would stay home with Little L and Grandma S would get the day off. If it was to come on Tuesday, well, we have the nanny that day and I planned to take advantage of some alone time. I was thinking I could brave it to get out to my favorite café for a couple leisurely hours then walk home to my car and go visit Thom and his baby for another few hours. Maybe I would end the day with a visit to my brother, who works from home, for a quick cup of free coffee from his lobby.

But this was just a fantasy since I figured school wouldn’t be closed both Monday and Tuesday. I was sure we could get a grandma in here to sub, so I told the nanny that she should take tomorrow as a sick day. 

But a sub wasn’t needed because shortly thereafter my friend Kole texted, “closed tomorrow and Wednesday.” 

They were announcing today that we were getting two days in a ROW!? This was unprecedented. But it made sense – students had been off last Thursday and Friday for staff work days; at this point parents with day jobs must have been desperate figuring out what to do with their kids. I guess the thought was to give them a little notice.

“Staff members should NOT report to work,” the phone call said an hour later. I danced around the kitchen as Axel and Little L listened along with me on speakerphone. 

I was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t get a day all to myself, but it was actually better this way – staying out all day in the negative 40 temps just to get my money’s worth from the nanny seemed a bit brutal. Little L and I would get some extra time together at home where blankets and extra layers of clothing abound. Plus I would get to lay down during nap time.

I texted Veronica. “School’s cancelled. Wanna come again tomorrow?” 

“We’ll be there at 8:30,” she texted back.

I texted Thom. “You must be mad.” 

“I’m at peace now,” he wrote back. 

Tuesday was much the same as Monday. Except that because Monday’s nap had only been an hour and a half, I decided to try an earlier nap time. 

“I want her to sleep longer,” I told Veronica. “And I want her nap to be later. But she’s only been taking long naps when it’s earlier.”

“Well if she’s only going to sleep longer when it’s earlier,” Veronica said, “maybe you should try that.” 

This was exactly what I’d been thinking, so I gave it a go. Little L got her earlier nap and slept… fifteen minutes less than the day before. We hadn’t even reached noon, and I would have no more naps to look forward to.

Axel, however, lucked out, because he had been hoping we’d give him a ride to his meeting on campus. Driving through the university, I saw students completely bundled, only their eyes peeping out between their hoods and scarves. I also saw several youth wearing nary a hat.

I so wanted to call their moms and tell them.

Little L and I returned home and it was still only 1PM. 

Little L, however, had some fun up her sleeve. She took some plastic bowls, a spoon, and a little container to a spot on the dining room floor. “Bay bih, bay bih.” 

I had no idea what she wanted. 

But then she patted her chest. 

“Oh, you want your bib?” Baby bib.

I put her bib on her, and she sat there on the floor, spooning imaginary food from the trough of her bib to the bowl, for like minutes in a row without getting up. 

I tried to sneak off to do some kitchen cleaning, but this was not part of the game. 

“Mama!” She took me by the hand and led me back to this spot on the floor. Perhaps there was an imaginary table there that I couldn’t see. She patted the floor. “Mama.” 

Later when I snuck off she came over saying “ma sih! ma sih!” She wanted music! I turned the stereo on.

She patted the ground. Mama sit.

So I was part of the entertainment. I sat there, and then laid there, yawning. I had used the first hour of nap time to scan some papers that had been building up. But then there was only one hour of nap time, so I never got around to the highly important part where you get to lay down. 

Little L was so excited about her plates, bowls, and spoons that she spent almost an hour playing with them. She was so happy just to sit next to me and pretend to eat egg out of a plastic container and hand me her spoon once in a while.

My friend whose alias I can’t remember insisted that I get the IKEA kids’ dish set. I resisted at first. But today, I am SO glad I gave in. Also, you know who you are. What’s your alias!?

I thought, this is so nice. 

I also thought, this is so boring.

I decided then that there would be an afternoon nap or at least a rest period. I put Little L in her crib around 3:15. She was wide awake, but I was not. I laid down on my bed and read all the while listening to what sounded like a gymnastic routine on Little L’s monitor. Around 3:45 I went back to get her, slightly rested. I like to think she had benefitted from her Alone Time too.

We went with our neighbor across the hall and her baby down to the lobby where we sat and chatted and Little L bounced up and down on the ottoman and let a few dogs lick her. One dog, who we’ll call Squash, was wearing a bright yellow padded coat. 

My neighbor Barb and her husband came by, all bundled up, going to Ginger Hop for Happy Hour. 

“Stay warm!” I told them. 

“We will! The real fun is tonight when we’ll go on a two mile walk.” 

I laughed. 

“Every year we pick the coldest night of the year and walk two miles.” 

Wait, they were serious! I couldn’t decide whether this was an incredibly dangerous or somewhat endearing tradition. Probably both.

That night I told Axel that we should open a bottle of wine. It wasn’t every Tuesday that you didn’t have to work the next day. Because that’s right – at this point the university had cancelled not just classes but work for all employees the next day too! 

My friend Alissa invited me out to listen to an author reading this evening, but after first using Little L’s bedtime as an excuse, I eventually told her it was just too cold for me. She and another friend went though – Hardcore Midwesterners!

We were both going to have a Cold Day!

“I still have to work,” Axel told me. “But from home.”

“What? How?”

“I have a call. Plus I have a lot to do. But they sent an email saying that if we work we get comp time later.” 

“So we both have off and I’m watching Little L and you get comp time? Do I get comp time too?” 

“You’ll have to talk to Grandma S about that,” Axel said. She was getting Wednesday off from her Grandma duties. I didn’t get the impression that she was really all that excited about it.

On Wednesday morning I pull up Little L’s shade to find circles of frost covering the window.

“Uh-oh. Ay ay ay,” Little L remarks.

She grabs one of her washcloths and starts to “kee” the windows. But it will be another day until the frost begins to melt even a little. 

Veronica and Baby D come over again. Later we sweep and eat lunch and look at books. Her nap is slightly longer. 

During nap time Megan texts me from Oregon and asks if I am staying safe. I tell her that I am and that we are only going to venture out to go to Whole Foods, which has an underground parking ramp, so we won’t be out in the elements at all – from covered garage to covered garage.

“Wait? What? No. That worries me. Can’t you get groceries delivered?”

“Ahh, I’m sorry to make you worry,” I text back. “That’s why I didn’t want to tell my mom! Amazon stopped delivering groceries. I’ll bundle us up. Don’t worry.”

It was about this time that I got a phone call. And you know who it was, don’t you? It was Minneapolis Public Schools telling me that schools will remain closed on Thursday and that all non-essential staff should NOT report to work.

“We WILL have class as scheduled on Friday, February 1. We look forward to welcoming all staff back to finish the week strong.” I ran into the bedroom where Axel was on a call, pointing frantically at my laptop where I had pulled up the MPS website showing “No School on Thursday.” His eyes bulged in jealousy and astonishment.

Soon after, Veronica texted. “Minneapolis is closed again! Does that mean you’re off?” She must have gotten a call because she and Baby D take classes through Minneapolis ECFE.

“Yes! Want to come over again? If you’re not too sick of us yet?” 

“If you don’t mind us coming again we’d love to!”

“You are really lucky you met her when you did,” Axel tells me. It seems unlikely we would have met strolling the streets this week.

On Thursday I get up early to go to the gym downstairs again. It is currently 23 below air temperature; the wind chill is colder. My body is starting to ache from the lack of moving, I think, or I guess possibly the cold. I see on the news that many people have lost power and that crews have been working – during the night!? – to fix it. They show images of workers wearing masks.

I also learn that local churches have opened up their doors to provide more beds for people who are homeless – how could anyone sleep outside in this? Then I see an unrelated bit about a local man who is sleeping outdoors in a hammock just for fun. 

When “Minneapolis Public Schools” flashes on the bottom of the screen I do a raise-the-roof dance on the treadmill. 

After Veronica and Baby D’s visit, Little L and I go out for a walk in the halls. We check the mail, which we haven’t picked up all week, but alas, our box is empty. The saying about “snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night” does NOT include the polar vortex. Rightfully so.

Little L and I have a good day and in the afternoon Nana J stops by – she and Grandpa J got the day off from Little L-care, but she still wanted to see us and bring us some food. I cleverly schedule the visit for after nap time and before dinner time – the time of day that seems to go on and on. After further consultation with Veronica, naptime will now happen around noon, because short or long, that is the time of day when I need a break.

All in all, I’ve done pretty well. I got to take advantage of 75% of our four unexpected days off, which is pretty darn close to my part-time appointment. The only way to make it perfectly even would be if Minneapolis called right about now to say they changed their mind about Friday.

But I’m not banking on it. For now, I’ll bundle up and head to work and finish the week strong. And with a one-day week, it shouldn’t be all that hard.

Which at this point, shouldn’t be all that hard.

Be Good-at-Humor

Little L received her first parking ticket last Friday.

After a tiring week, finding the parking violation made my evening. 

Just because you run out of gas, it doesn’t mean you can desert your car.

Right away I texted Dana and Jon to see if they were the traffic enforcers. They don’t live on our floor of the building, but perhaps they had been up here for humor’s sake?

Who is the mastermind behind Little L’s ticket? Someone who carries Scotch tape with them; that’s who!

“I wish! That’s hilarious!” Jon responded. 

“I wish we could claim that!” Dana chimed in. 

I asked some neighbors on the floor – including a new couple who moved in with a baby – and they weren’t able to claim the joke either.

I was thinking maybe it was Maria, but then she left me a note about the new composting program. The handwriting samples didn’t match. 

What about the note leaver from the Sunday Morning Scandal? They also don’t have reason to be patrolling our floor, but if it was them, at least Little L hadn’t left her half-eaten pizza in the hall that evening.

I’ve stopped asking around, because I kind of like that it’s a mystery.

It’s comforting knowing that there is someone hilarious lurking amongst us.

Better watch where you park your car.

Be Good-at-Heat

Anyone who has spent a toasty summer day with me knows that I don’t take the heat very well. 

“Are you hot?” Axel asks me on the way home from the Farmer’s Market as I snap at him for walking too slow.

There was a lot of heat-induced crabbiness during the four-day stint this summer when the A/C went out in our condo building. 

Because the layout of the condo doesn’t allow for great airflow and because we don’t have window unit A/Cs installed, it was hard to get the temperature inside to lower than 80 degrees. Thank goodness I was able to borrow two fans from my brother and Silvie. 

For some reason, the air conditioning was working in the hall. So we propped our heavy front door open with my pastel pink flip-flop, which, ironically, was a gift from Silvie many years ago. Silvie was really winning at keeping our condo cool-ish. 

fans from hall
Thanks for the fans!

Other neighbors followed suit – using granite paperweights or heavy plants. Bonus! You could walk by and see what was going on inside someone’s home (if you walked slowly enough)!

Little L enjoyed it too. She takes after me in the people-watching department; we recently had a dinner where she rubber-necked to see three girls and their parents sitting behind us so much so that I considered just turning her high chair to face them so that she wouldn’t strain her neck. 

From her high chair perch at the kitchen counter, Little L had the clearest view to the hall; I was more than a little jealous. She jerked her head every time she heard a noise. Sadly I found her reports about the hallway happenings incomprehensible. 

On one particularly warm afternoon, Little L and I met up with our neighbor-friend Jon in the hallway and his two dogs. Soon we were greeted by a neighbor Maria and another neighbor Shelly and then Barb joined us too! “It’s like we’re in a dorm at summer camp,” Maria observed. I brought Little L’s toys out into the hall. We got invited in to Kelly & Glenda’s apartment and met their “mew-mew” (that’s kitty-cat to all you adults; meow, meow, get it?).

view from hallway
This toy is better enjoyed with a little A/C and a lot of people-watching.

I remember the days when I carefully avoided neighbors; I didn’t have time between feedings and naps to socialize. But now we have the time, and Little L and I don’t mind a little interaction with others during my summer break. We always have an excuse to cut the interaction short – dinnertime! nap time! lunch time! and the ultimate, bed time! – so we know we’ll never stay out too long. 

But sadly, since that fateful day when I returned home and noticed that Maria’s door was no longer being held open by her ficus tree and the A/C was back on (goodbye sleeping in the 80 degree heat, hello no neighbors to gawk at!), there aren’t many neighbors congregating in the hallways.

That’s not stopping Little L, though. Now she points to our front door. She wants us to go out there; she remembers the good times we had. She also wants to eat the pink flip-flop that has returned to its home in the closet.

We head down to the lobby. I reason that at least half of the neighbors in our building have dogs, and deh-dehs, like kids, need to go out. 

Little L wants to people-watch? 

I’m more than happy to oblige.

Sunday Morning Scandal

“Woah! Pizza!” Axel said, spotting a Pizza Luce box in the lobby as we headed out for our 7:15AM walk with Little L.

He carefully opened the lid – half an uneaten pizza! 

Since it wasn’t vegetarian, we didn’t have to decide how gross it would be to take a piece.

When we returned an hour later – okay, half an hour; let’s be real – a man got off the elevator and speedwalked towards the pizza. He hesitated just a split second, then he taped a piece of paper to the box and turned back towards the elevators.

He saw us see him. 

“Hey, Axel, let’s check the mail,” I said, so that we wouldn’t be expected to board the elevator with Note Man. We definitely needed to see what was on that piece of paper.

Turns out, he probably didn’t care. He had signed his name to the note!

My question is: did he expend more energy going upstairs, writing the note, coming back downstairs, and taping it to the box than he would have, say, pitching in and throwing the box out himself?

I had considered throwing the box out, but now that the note had been placed, I couldn’t interrupt the social experiment.

Upstairs, I realized my photos hadn’t taken. So I went back downstairs, looked around quickly to make sure I was alone, and snapped these.

Axel asked me the name on the box. I couldn’t remember. 

This time Axel went back down and discovered that the Pizza Lover lives on the same floor as our friends Jon and Dana. 

I texted them immediately to ask if they know Pizza Lover.

“Was he the guy who left that box of pizza downstairs?” Dana responded. “Was there any left?”

You can see why we are friends.

When we went downstairs to get our Instacart order around 11AM, the pizza box was no longer there.

“They should put it in front of his door,” Dana said. “He probably slept through the whole thing.” 

The next day as we were getting on the elevator, the Note Man was getting off. “Hello!” he said with a friendly wave. “How are you today?” 

This is the most he’s ever said to me. 

Perhaps he’s gotten some pushback for his note and he’s trying to up his approval rating? 

Or maybe his friendliness is to call our bluff… I mean, who really needs to check their mail at 8AM on a Sunday?

Either way, it was an exciting day. 

Next Saturday night I’ll set my alarm for midnight and wander downstairs to see if there’s any pizza sitting around.

Fingers crossed it’s veggie!

Look at me!

On Super Bowl Sunday I showered and ventured out – as far as I would likely go for the rest of the day. I was headed to the recycling bins in the parking garage.

If it had been trash, I wouldn’t have had to go further than the trash shoot down the hall. But alas.

Boarding the elevator, I looked down at myself and laughed. It had been only a few days since I had emerged from the bathroom at school and walked into the Staff Lounge. A group of younger teachers were eating their lunch and discussing things of interest – i.e. not diapers.

“What’s so funny?” one of them asked me.

I had just seen myself in the bathroom mirror. “I mean, LOOK AT ME!” I gestured to myself, particularly to my head.

They all burst out laughing.

My hair was in a bun so high it might have hit the ceiling. There were at least three pens and mechanical pencils adorning the unkempt poof of snarls.

“The thing is, I don’t think they noticed until I pointed it out, because I probably ALWAYS look like that!” I told my husband later.

Another day, I set out for a walk with Little L only to discover that on this almost spring-like day, I was wearing two scarves. Maybe Little L’s “ha-da!”s as we were getting ready were not a sign of excitement about getting outside given our Condo Fever, but a warning cry about my fashion blunder.

I guess it’s not too early to start embarrassing her.

Back to the elevator. I noticed that, although my hair was clean, it was again up in one of those “I didn’t look in the mirror when I did this” styles.

Worse, my new cute black hoodie was full of carrots, peas, and bodily functions. Not my own, I promise.

“I hope no one gets on,” I thought to myself as the doors closed and my descent began.

And then on Floor 3, the elevator stopped. Some Guy got on.

Some Guy and I greeted each other. He too was carrying recycling, but looking much more put together than I was for a Super Bowl Sunday afternoon. Maybe he would even be leaving his apartment again later  that day – a hot date with the mailroom perhaps!?

Since Some Guy and I were clearly headed to the same spot and since I had gotten on first, I wondered – will he let me exit first?

It was Little L’s nap time and Axel and I were both in a rush to get as much done as we could.

The elevator door opened.

Some Guy did not hesitate. He slipped out the door.

I judged him for it. Silently.

But then – but then! – he veered from the path to the door to hit the automatic opener switch. Because both of his hands were full with recycling.

What did I do?

I wish I could say I waited gallantly, since, well, two don’t have to play this game.

Don’t judge.

I slipped through the door, conveniently open now. I walked quickly towards the recycling room. I opened the door and propped it open with the doorstop.

He approached.

I made eye contact, not sure what was going to happen.

“You go ahead,” he said. “I’ll wait.”

We would have both fit in there at the same time, but I went ahead anyway. Within 10 seconds I had exited the Recycling Room, was headed back to the elevators, and was on my way upstairs.

Some Guy would have to catch the next elevator up.

Did I feel bad about my behavior?

Definitely.

But I like to think he understood why I was trying so urgently to get back to the safety of my own apartment.

I mean… LOOK at me!

Make Your Own Rules

One day this fall, Axel, Little L and I were walking through the park to discover it was closed for an event—

Or was it? 

hand-made sign
This sign looks official, doesn’t it?

You had to admire the ingenuity of the folks who put the sign up. Some people probably stayed away from their game of frisbee just because they said so. 

Maybe.

Then in South Minneapolis, looking for parking, we spotted this. 

They don’t want you parking here.

And as we parked the car, we actually tried not to block the walkway. 

“Who are these people to make their own signs?” I wondered, somewhat indignantly.

And then I remembered that on the day Axel and I got married, my friend Hermione, who was key in planning the event, insisted that we have a parking meter reserved for us near the ceremony site. The Parks Board people told her they couldn’t do that. 

So she did it herself. With a handmade sign and some balloons, she reserved a meter for us, and it worked. 

Maybe there’s something to this. 

I’m thinking of all the signs I could make in my everyday life. 

“Not a shelf,” obviously.

“Don’t touch the baby until you wash your hands.” (I actually saw a printed version of something like this attached to a carseat!)

“Lights out at 8PM.” Sorry, Axel, but I need my sleep.

But maybe I’ll take it a step further. Maybe my signs should be similar to the signs I have posted in my classroom. 

You’re taking a break? There is a printout of what it should look like, sound like, and feel like at the break desk: feet on the floor, head down, silent, calm.

If applied to lights out at 8PM: 

Looks like: People sleeping in bed, darkness. Sounds like: Relaxed breathing, maybe snoring. No talking. Feels like: Restful end to the day.

Need a place to park? A private venue for a party?

Post your own rules. You never know, people just might follow them.