The cat is enjoying the yuletide lights

I am flying through the city of brotherly love on yet another trip to DC. I have to say that if Philadelphians are going to stick with that slogan, they should really reevaluate how they treat people. Take this plane ride, for example. The overhead compartments filled up almost immediately so we were left with a line of people trying to figure out what to do with their bags. Add some non-native English speakers to the mix and we have a bit of a delay. Apparently that was a signal to the two jokers in my aisle to start yelling things like, “they aren’t giving out idiot awards today” and “sit down…what is wrong with these people? How could they have gotten on the plane with bags that don’t fit?” at the standing passengers. They then moved on to cruder insults delivered in a more hushed (but still very audible tone.) Wow, such comedians. They are, however, giving out dick awards today, and these guys won by a g-d landslide.
Why am I going to DC (really rural VA)? With a layover each way no less? Because we organized a staff retreat and had to use up our credit at a meeting center by the end of the year. Nothing spurs brainstorming about the future of your company and/or good morale like scheduling a meeting smack in the middle of the holidays. I guess no one else really cares since it’s a regular work day for them, but for us Swirleys (who have to travel) it cut into our celebration of baby Jesus’ birthday with the Ds and G. Oh well. At least I have a jobby-job and we will be enjoying a southern-style buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We did have a great time in St. Charles. Ellis was once again the star of the show and continued to receive rounds of applause throughout the weekend. The G drove up from Missouri and we finally figured out a way for all of us to coexist on the same floor and watch a movie – wireless headphones! Yes! No longer does the volume have to be turned up to 10 million decibels because the G refuses to replace his hearing aide. Now he can wear headphones that adjust the volume and the rest of us can enjoy our eardrums not being ripped to shreds. It’s a Christmas miracle!
And that moose was my friend…
EK loves is Auntie Tory

Ellis also peed on the floor while at Mrs. D’s. I reassured Uncle Scott that urine is sterile, but I am not sure if that made splashing around in a puddle of urine with your hand any less gross.

Santa was on the schedule for a weekend visit but the snow and my general lack of enthusiasm for standing in line with a 1.25 year old in the cold won out. Instead we took a few pictures of Ellis and Mr. Swirley running around the backyard in a hand-crafted sled.

EK and Hannah take a stroll in the fresh snow

Papi in EK in the ole’ handmade sled

“Taxi, oh taxi!”

Swingen xmas photo 2011

We of course had a few good quotes over the weekend. Maybe you had to be there to really appreciate them, but I thought I would share:
Scott: I think I am going through “the change”.  I am so hot all of the time.
Mr. Swirley: Britney Spears in engaged ?!?
The G: (immediately responds) Well that dashes my hopes.(then turns a page of the newspaper)
The G: Tory, your number is associated with XXX-XXX-XXXX in my phone
Mrs. D: That’s not my number.
Ho-Ho: One of my old nurses was named Tory. She left though. Maybe that is her number. I know lots of people named Tory
Ho-Ho: (re: Bandit the cat in a box under the tree) Leave him alone. He is enjoying the Yuletide spirit.
Me: Mom, what are you looking for? (as she poked around the pantry)
Ho-Ho: I’m hungry!
Mrs. D: No carbs, Ardie. They won’t fill you up.
Ho-Ho: I don’t want carbs! How about a pop-tart?
We enjoyed a very nice Christmas dinner, a round of gift opening and legally blonde. I think the last event was the G’s favorite. I got him a crockpot and slow cooker cookbook because he doesn’t cook much for himself (with the exception of soup). We’ll see if he breaks it out. What do they say about old dogs?
Tuesday I return to Chicago from our Nation’s Capital and hit the ground running. EK and I head up to Lake Geneva (our first time) for the night to visit KJY and the Dashos. Back Thursday and have just enough time to destroy the house before we head to Wisconsin on Friday for round two of Christmas celebrations (Madison and La Crosse). It should be and exhausting, fun and eventful few weeks.

Our office is full of ninjas

Mother’s Day was an exciting  time filled with last minute packing and a two hour wait on the tarmac. I eventually arrived to DC just in time to change into my dress in the airport bathroom, put my make up on in the cab and show up with 15 minutes to spare for our semi-annual board dinner. After we got over the shock of booking a private room that offered knee walls instead of full walls (I know, very dramatic) we went ahead and gorged on delicious pastas and tasty wine. Such activities made my first time away from Ellis tolerable. Well, more than tolerable. You should try the pasta and what I like to call “dessert” steak at Acqua Al 2 on Capitol Hill. You might just keel over and die it’s so good. I didn’t tell Mr. Swirley about this fabulous meal because while I was eating a five course meal filled with carbs and deliciousness, he was up and down with Ellis all night. Too bad.

I once again stayed at team Turner’s place in the Car Barn (our old condo building) and was instantly transported back to 2008. It didn’t hurt that I only listened to my old mixes (e.g.,  Cold War Kids, Ting Tings, Tegan & Sara, Scissor Sisters) and walked the same route to work as I used to from 2005-2008. Even our garden gnome hasn’t moved. 
And our garden is still doing its thing. Unfortunately I missed the tulips and hyacinths but I trust they were lovely a few weeks ago.
I have a few self-imposed requirements when I visit DC. Call it my AFPC rider. 1) I must be able to walk to work. Thus, I stay at friends’ houses that are located on the Hill. There is absolutely no other option. 2) I must restrict my “visiting radius” to 1.5 square miles from the office. This means I will venture into SE but the world of NW DC might as well be Tokyo. 3) I must break my dark soda fast. Just because. 4) I need to eat at La Loma. I would eat at La Lomita but apparently it burned down. There are numerous other musts, but you get the idea. They are fairly banal yet incredibly critical to me dubbing each DC visit a success.
It was 75 degrees and sunny the entire time I was in our nation’s capital. It’ s like God wants to rub in my face the fact that we moved back to a cold and dirty city filled with potholes and enormously high tax rates. I also spent much of my time topless in my boss’ office. No no, he wasn’t there (though in DC you should probably assume that kind of stuff happens more often than not.) Since I am still nursing I decided to pump while in DC. This meant pumping on the plane, in restaurants and in my boss’ office. Sherman was very considerate and let me use his office since everyone is crammed into a space the size of Ellis’ nursery. I kept the bottles in the mini-fridge with everyone’s lunch and folks kept their comments to a minimum. Very impressive.
On to the new office. OH MY GOD. We have been working in some way or another on our office expansion plans since, I don’t know, I was 12? In 2005, my organization moved from DuPont Circle into a humble row house on Capitol Hill (Mass Ave. and C Streets, NE to be exact). We then spent THREE years working on plans to expand an historic building in a generally residential area. Thank God for the Massachusetts Avenue commercial corridor and a reasonable Historic Preservation Review liaison. Then came the fun act of actually doing the work. By the time they broke ground we sadly had already moved to Chicago so my colleague Rick was tasked with everything from dealing with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (imagine a zoo run by aliens) to making sure the contractors install opaque glass in the second floor atrium. Yes ladies, the contractors were going to install clear glass blocks. He deserves a plaque, vacation and a high-five from our little company. Oh, and a fat raise. Let’s all give a here-here to Rick. 
My colleagues are such team players that they have been working on a former yoga studio for over one year. One room and one additional office that is so small my boss has to shimmy past his desk in order to get to his seat. They have most definitely earned their beautiful, light-filled office. Can you tell I am jealous? I was also informed that they were or are all ninjas and keep bayonets in the office. The things I forget about now that we have moved away.
Below are some pictures for you to enjoy. I know you are envious too.
The newly landscaped front. Bay windows restored to their pre- crappy Home Depot renovation days.
None of this existed 12 months ago. It’s awesome.
View from first floor looking down into atrium. Custom bookshelves nearing completion and cinder block wall to be covered with tiles.
Looking up from cellar. Glass floor is opaque – currently covered with paper while the contractors paint the second floor. Light streams down from the skylights into the basement making it a very workable space.
Capitol Hill office. Garden view. Private balcony. Sick.

Sorry about the dust.Contractors finishing up the roof-top deck. Sherman wants to put a kegerator up here.

Skylights and atrium. Remind me again why we moved
After a few days in DC, it was definitely nice to come home to my little man and in-laws. Apparently, in the four days I was gone Ellis learned to pull himself up onto any and everything. Oh, and get really angry.
Then I remembered how to make him happy: Feed him and cuddle. Private balconies are overrated anyway.
Yes, he is wearing plaid shorts with a belt. What of it?

This weekend starts the Summer of Crazy; we will be home for approximately one hour of one weekend until the end of July. Here we come 90th birthday party! Aunt Margaret is going to get down and dirty on the North Shore. Holla.