In which the existence of beavers is doubted

art by falldowntree

Yesterday I brought my Burmese ESL student on a field trip to Fort Snelling State Park to learn about the niceties of hunting licenses, poison sumac and why we probably don’t want to eat snapping turtles. Our guide talked about all of these things while walking us through the park, pausing to point out things of interest.About half an hour into our walk, we happened upon a tree that had been gnawed down by a beaver. In rather complex and fast English, he explained the tree-felling/dam-building process. I turned to my students and attempted to “translate.”

Me: “One animal bites this tree and then makes a house with the tree.”

Skeptical Student: “A big animal, teacher? Elephant like tree.”

Me: “Oh no. This animal is a brother to rabbit, squirrel. Like this:” I make the universal sign for rodent, hands tucked under my chin and making clicking noises, exposing my front teeth

Student: “Ummm, no, teacher. A rabbit cannot eat a tree and make a house.”

Me: “It’s like a rabbit. It lives in the water. It takes the tree in the water and then makes a house.”

Student: “Ummm, teacher. No. A rabbit cannot swim.”

Me: “It is like a rabbit. It has a big tail (universal sign for beaver tail here) and it swims and then makes a house from the tree it bites.”

Student. “Sooooo, it is a fish rabbit that can bite a tree and make a house?” (totally incredulous)

Me: “Yes. Yes. It is a fish rabbit. It is a fish rabbit that bites trees.”

Student: “Oh yes. Okay. I know.”

He nods as if this now makes perfect sense and heads off to impart this knowledge to his classmates.

God help them if kangaroos ever come up.

The Parenting Tactics of Mom Von

photo by hownowdesign

My dear wee mom is exactly what you imagine when you imagine a Midwestern grade school teacher. Are you imagining red elastic-waisted pants? And appliqued sweaters? And holiday-themed jewelry? Now imagine all that plus a steely will, a dark sense of humor and a button nose. This is the recipe for Mom Von.Growing up with two teachers as parents means that you can pull approximately nothing over on them because a) they have spies everywhere b) they have heard it all before. One of my mother’s favored response to any Kid Von whining was “Oh, you’re fine. I think you’ll live.” Oh really, Mom?! I’m fairly sure my life will actually end if my nightly phone call allotment isn’t extended to 3 hours!!!

Her other top five:

5) “Well, whose fault is that?”
Seriously, Mom. This is gold. I fight the urge to say this every blessed day to people in my life. The Lean-Cuisine stealing co-worker for one.4) “We’ll see, depending on your behavior.”
Ahhhh! You slay me! The perfect catch 22! A ‘yes’ is not certain and I have to be good until you decide! That’s a long time to be good.

3) “You think so, huh?”
Usually said in response to any bossy or slightly inflammatory remarks uttered by wound-up Kid Vons. For example “I’m going to stay over at Kristin’s on Sunday, I don’t care what you say!” “You think so, huh?” or “I’m going to move in with that questionable boyfriend and spend the summer waitressing at Rick’s Cabaret!” “You think so, huh?”

2) “It’s not necessary”
Ooooh, Mom! Always with the airtight argument! Sure, it’s not strictly necessary that you drive me to Duluth so I can buy over-priced incense at the Electric Fetus. But bathing isn’t necessary either.

1) “We don’t (verb) in this house.”
We don’t hit in this house. We don’t talk like that in this house. We don’t eat cheesy poofs in our underwear for the entirity of Summer vacation in this house. Jeez, Mom, you’re no fun.

And, yes. I now use nearly all of the above phrases in my daily life. What were your parents’ favorite lines when you were a kid?

For the love of Argyle

“Hmmm, where shall I scoot to today? Perhaps a golf course or a British pub where my Argyle will be truly appreciated? Yes, I think I could go for a cuppa and some biscuits, followed quickly by several pints of cider. Indeed.”As previously noted, I’m going to refrain from regaling y’all with the fact that nearly everything I own is from Target. Because that’s just embarrassing.

However! The jeans you see here? All dark and slim and slightly hipster-y? You will not believe what brand they are:


Did you, like I, secretly covet this brand in 8th grade? While I was relegated to Lees, all the cool kids were rocking their Girbauds, complete with that weird button loop. So finding these for $15 at TJ Maxx was something of a teen dream come true.

Now, if I can just get my hands on a 26 Red t-shirt my life will have come full circle.

Character Sketches: The passengers of Bus 94B

photo by publicenergy

For the entirety of September, I was sans car and spent an hour every day bussing it to St. Paul and back. And despite my sulking, it was been an excellent opportunity to engage in minor anthropological studies. A look at my favorite bus characters …
  • The Tiny Italian. His bus-riding paraphernalia includes: a tiny water bottle, a walker, and a hugely overloaded backpack. His preternaturally black hair in complimented by a rosary tattooed around his right wrist and a bowling shirt with gold embroidery, boasting the name “Tony.”
  • The Petite Sophisticate. She possesses The World’s Greatest Bob and somehow manages to look pulled together standing at the bus stop everyday at 6:45 a.m. Despite being at least 55, her knowledge of Ipod navigation far exceeds mine.
  • The Whisper Singer. The Whisper Singer totes around a Discman and a leather cd-case that houses at least 25 cds at any given time. Judging by the songs he’s whispered in my vicinity, I’d judge his musical taste falls under the heading of ‘hair metal.’ There is something to be said for having ‘November Rain’ being whispered in your ear after a long day at the office.
  • The Sass. The Sass apparently reserves all of her phone conversations for the bus. I personally enjoy this, as eavesdropping is probably my third favorite pastime. Thus far I’ve discovered that 1) her parenting M.O. is “as much work as I have to do and no more, mmm’kay?” 2) Her romantic partner is both “fiiine” and “good at what he do” 3) Her job is making her “lose her damn mind.”
  • The Kenyan Lawyer. I’m not sure that he is actually either Kenyan or a lawyer, but he look delicious enough to be both. Yummmm.

Who are your favorite public transportation characters?

Notes on Show-going

photo by jere-me

Dear Minneapolis Hipsters,
Did you know that when are you at a concert, it is considered acceptable, nay encouraged, to occasionally engage in dancing? An intermittent knee-bob, a head-nod and even a shoulder wiggle are all baby steps in the right direction! It breaks my heart when I see you standing quietly in your skinny jeans, staring at the stage. I will be the girl in the back, booty dancing to indie folk pop.
Dear Liam Finn and The Veils,
Please don’t be disuaded by the crowd’s lack of dancing. We’re Minnesotan, we can’t help it. And Liam? You are my second-favorite small, bearded, joyful man. Consider yourself warned.