Floating heads, dogs in costume, longing gazes: I’ll never beat this year’s holiday card

We created the best family holiday card ever this year. Plus our friends are still living with us which, in my book, is a very happy thing! Check out the card and such in my newest ChicagoNow post!

“You cannot use pledge wipes as bathroom wipes” and other conversations with my mom

Below is an example of a “normal” converasation with my mom:

Me: Mom, what are you doing?
Ho-Ho: Knitting.
Me: You ok?
Ho-Ho: Yes, just mad.
Me. Why are you mad?
Ho-Ho: I’m not mad. I’m tired.
Me: Why are you tired?
Ho-Ho: I’m not tired

Oh yea. Check out my newest ChicagoNow post for more of this goodness.

So what you call insanity, we call solidarity!

May movie madness

And a little conversation where Ellis reveals he is a Republican and I once again prove just how terrible my Midwestern accent truly is (focus on my pronunciation of the words “both” and “pony” – Hell, it all sounds ridiculous.)

Feast your ear tongues on these memory pops.

This past weekend marked the high school graduation of my cousin Carly. This, combined with my upcoming 15 year high school reunion, has put me into a nostalgic vortex of (possibly exaggerated) memories and general disbelief about the passage of time. I know it’s cliche, but Carly’s transition to college has further reinforced my denial of how quickly life seems to be moving.

First, you should know that  up until 12 hours ago, when I think/talk about Carly, these are the images that pop into my head…

Fall 1993 – Luckily her neck was strong enough to hold up that round noggin.
Sweetness and her dad (still with hair!)
2 years old. I think she has a total of four teeth at this point.

May 1997. This is the photo I think of most of when I hear her name.

Last night her high school soccer team won the super sectionals. For those of you unaware of high school sports tournament lingo, this means she and her teammates are headed to the state championship. Carly likes to mock my ignorance when it comes to sports. I like to mock her in general. However, after seeing her play last night I realized that up until that very point, I have allowed the images above to dominate my perception of who she is today. Perhaps this happens to everyone?  I don’t know. Is it impossible to allow kids to grow up? Am I just immature or unprepared for this reality? Regardless, I feel as if I haven’t taken her as seriously as I should. It’s embarrassing to say that out loud, but it’s true. Not that I don’t respect her, or that I am purposely condescending, but just that in my mind, it’s still 1997 and she she three years old. However, in reality, she has graduated from her obsession with the terrible movie that is the Pussycat Dolls to a four year class schedule matrix to ensure she fulfills all of her major, program and general ed requirements. Her soccer, school and social schedules are more complicated than Iran nuclear talks; her life is pretty much insane.

One page of an excel spreadsheet laying out the next four years.

And on top of that, teenager stuff aside (messy room, dirty clothes, rolled eyeballs, laziness at time – you know it, Car), the level of maturity she displays both on and off the field is remarkable. She is a natural leader who does not crave the spotlight -a unique combination of skills and attributes, no doubt.

Can you pinpoint the exact moment where you had a stroke of insight/realization? Just something as simple as Carly running full speed from the goal (with an injured hip) towards her teammates in celebration of their victory triggered the realization that she is an adult. I am not when this change happened and it terrifies me. You know what else is terrifying? My recording skills.

Strange that something so everyday (well, not every day since it’s State and all…) can elicit such a strong emotional response. I am sure she has come to terms with this transition as it has been a constant source of discussion for so long, but to me, it’s a shock. I will miss her so incredibly much and I didn’t even realize it until it slapped me across the face last night.

Just so you can miss her too, let’s take a trip down memory lane…

First time Mr. Swirley met Car and Kenz. They thought he was just OK. 2001

Mr. Swirley’s second Thanksgiving with the Ds. He was 100% committed to the family at this point. Thanksgiving 2002

2004 – Christmas in Branson. Christmas Country Jamboree here we come!

Living large in 2004 with Lee in the Show Me State.
Reaction to finally understanding the slogan on her apron – “It isn’t pretty being easy”  –  2005

Spending the day with the ladies in Madison – pretty wedding 2006. Mine, not hers. That would be weird.

Dancing with the groom – her moves already surpassed those of Mr. Swirley

Lovely ladies – 2006
Madison wedding family photo. Another stellar pose from the G.
DC all the way – 2007
Car, Flat Stan and their new BFF – DC 2007

Crashing a congressional office – DC 2007
Birthday celebration – Labor Day 2007
St. Patrick’s Day 2009 – Excellent photo all around.

Mr. Swirley and Carly have a death wish – May 2009 – Sears Tower. Yea, it’s the SEARS tower.

Tory’s birthday celebration and general mayhem – October 2009
Maternity panties. I am not going to id the owner, but her name might rhyme with Rory. May 2010

Meeting her hour old second cousin – August 2010.
Little does Ellis know the girl who is holding him is the same girl he can’t stop talking about a year later. November 2010

Brookfield Zoo with her beau – 2011
No caption necessary. November 2011
Fostering creativity and rashes. April 2012
Post- Ho-Ho’s application of sunscreen – 2012

Cold water friends – 2012

Graduation day 2012

See, now you will miss her too. Terribly so. I don’t have any siblings, but I imagine this mixture of humility, pride and loss is what many must feel when a sister or brother moves away. Oh, and worry. Lots of that too. If only she knew how to use a computer like the rest of her generation so we can keep in touch (COUGH COUGH) and I can live vicariously through her amazing 18 year-old life. So, Carly, if you haven’t figured it out yet, I am so immeasurably proud of you – we all are.

The G and Mrs. D react to the North Stars’ win – May 2012

How in the heck can you wash your neck

Turkey Day 2011 is over and I can prove it by my ever expanding waist line. Similar to tricking myself into thinking soda is healthy, I am thoroughly convinced that holiday gluttony is a requirement and all those smarmy know it all MDs nagging about saturated fat is crap. I ate pie for breakfast two mornings in a row…so you see how I have to rationalize my behavior or risk the realization that I have shortened my life by three years after consuming 12 lbs of cream cheese over the course of the past four days.

Ellis was of course the star of the weekend. It would take about ten hands to count how many rounds of applause he received for various activities. Examples? Eating gets you the laughs/claps, falling too. Picking your nose? Yep. Sharing your Sesame Street characters? Obviously. Etc. etc. He is clearly going through culture shock at home now that we don’t high five him for pulling out all of the Pyrex and slamming them together. But I can’t really complain because the Ho-Hos and Dietrichs love him so much. And they let me sleep in.

T-Bone joined us for the holiday as well as the Great G, Mikey, Kenz, G&G S&G and a few other fun members of the clan. Uncle Don even slept in the garage! And Ellis was considerate enough to wait until everyone was in bed to scream his face off. Whatever, it’s not like 14 people were sleeping or anything.

Ooh, and yes, we (me and two teenagers. what?)  did go out at 5 AM on Black Friday. However, since most places opened at midnight it wasn’t all that exciting. I did get a door buster deal on a vacuum. First, I want you stop and think about the fact that I went out at five AM to purchase a vacuum. Who am I? If anything, I struck fear into the respective hearts of an 18 and 19 year old as to what the future might hold for them.  But then I injected a little bit of “Annie” into the situation and came home with three vacuums. How is this possible? I purchased one, realized it wasn’t the vacuum on sale and tried to return it. However, in the 12 feet from the register to the customer service I lost the receipt. Sweet Baby Jesus was just laughing at me – Christmas isn’t about door busters! It’s about eating pie for breakfast with your family, fool! Carly and Kenz were out in the car wondering why I was taking an hour to get refund and I was sweating bullets because I felt so dumb and could feel all of those already embittered Target staffers judging me with their oh so sleepy eyes. So $700 something later,  I purchased two more vacuums because that is what one does when you have entered crazytown…and hoped Mr. Swirley would like one of them. Luckily Target can look up receipts by credit card number after close of business so I was able to return two of the three yesterday.  Still, seriously? I am an idiot.

Here is Ho-Ho and Carly showing off their pirate smiles. Carly is 18 and will most likely be annoyed that I posted this but how you can you let me take a picture like this and expect me to keep it to myself? Plus she and our cousin Kenz watched 41 hours of Gossip Girl in four days (this is not an exaggeration) and deserve to be called out for their ridiculousness.

EK loves his Carly

Three generations enjoying Grover

EK and EK engage in a Sesame Street face off!

But the best part of the weekend (no, not when the Great G took the Elmo and Big Bird puppets and made them fight – “I don’t like you!” ” I don’t like you”…then the sound of plastic eyeballs smacking into each other) was when I captured this little diddy from “Grandpa Peanut Song”

A few more pics to document the holiday weekend…

Mike. Say it ain’t so.

Cousins hard at work during the 12 minutes they didn’t spend watching Gossip Girl.
Mr. Swirley and EK enjoying the unseasonably warm Nov. weather.
A tiny badger in Michigan gear? An angel just lost it’s wings.
Also, on a side note, during our traditional Black Friday shopping trip, Mrs. D and I spent so much time in the changing room with a topless Ho-Ho that the image of her ta-tas are forever singed into our memories. She got her bras and we got a shared nightmare to relive until our dying days.
Gobble gobble.

After the storm.

The windows are open, Ellis is in bed, Mr. Swirley is bowling with co-workers (next think you know he will be sporting a mustache) and I am listening to electro-pop remixes of hipster bands.

Summer is coming to an end; you can already smell it in the air. Too bad that is about as much insight as forecasters can offer when it comes to weather. Take hurricane Irene for example. I heeded warnings, canceled tickets and stayed in Chicago while the Goose got married in NYC. I was imagining a wedding album full of rain boots and yellow umbrellas. Here is where it gets complicated. I didn’t actually want the hurricane to hit NYC (or anywhere for that matter), but the fact that it didn’t pissed me off because I canceled my ticket in vain. Chew on that one. I feel like a terrible person for 1) missing the Goose’ s wedding, and, 2) being disappointed that it didn’t rain like they said it would. What is wrong with me?She is currently smoking long cigarettes and wearing a scarf in Paris so I don’t feel too bad. Haugh haugh haugh.

So instead of New York I spent the weekend with the family in Chicago. Tommy D came to the city on Friday and took Ellis out for some quality pappy time. Mr. Swirley and I bonded over day drinking and first birthday party planning. Everybody won! Dad even got to walk down memory lane with EK and took him past our old digs on Sedgewick and Webster across from the pastel painted mansion. Oh you know the one….they give out full candy bars on Halloween. At least they did 25 years ago.

EK likes long walks on the lake shore path, pinto beans and blocks.

For some reason he looks like a giant baby in this photo

Saturday was a hang around the n’hood day and Sunday marked the Chicago triathlon. Johnny Mic and Jenner were two of the approximately one bazillion people participating. Not only did they do an amazing job, but were even enthusiastic both during and after the race. I sat and ate crackers the entire time they were racing so that made me feel pretty good about myself.

proof that Ellis is a super urban baby.
I contemplated not posting this photo because it will likely embarrass Jenner, but I don’t think he reads this so whatever.

Yes, he is wearing a Schlitz biking jersey under his wetsuit.
Ellis owns exactly one more piece of Georgetown regalia than yours truly. And by one more I mean a total of one. Oh, and he plays peek-a-boo now. Suck on that.
Sunday ended up being a bit of a long day because Ellis refused to nap and I was sort of down the latter half of the afternoon. It took me a few hours to realize that I was so sad because he was turning one on Monday. I shouldn’t be so sad, I mean, he is alive and that is a huge accomplishment for us. Well, he spends three days/week at day care so they deserve some kudos too. He has learned so much – walking, babbling, peek-a-boo, how to climb into the storage cabinet under the stove – all crucial survival skills.
We have survived this whole parenthood thing (yea, yea, I know we only have one, but Ho-Ho is like 1/2 of one, right?)  which is something I honestly doubted was possible during certain points during the last 12 months. And I know it’s so cliche to say, but it’s all so fleeting. I have always been a person who is thinking about the future instead of relishing the now – but with him it’s like I can’t get enough of yesterday, let alone thinking about next week. Except when I do get enough and all I want him to do is get out of that damn oven cabinet.  I hope I don’t sound like a smug mom; I would say I am more of a desperate one.

Last weekend we went to Ukraine fest where they didn’t have one piece of literature in English and I am pretty sure we were eating kielbasa and borscht during a Sunday morning blessing. Regardless it was g-d delicious.

Uncle Austin did indeed share his platter with young Ellis. As far as I am concerned, you can’t start a kid on Slavic food young enough.

Er, I mean tak.
The menu really helped me know what I was ordering. I just pointed at the $14.00 option and figured I would get a little bit of everything.

I was a little sad we missed the Ukrainian group that covers Katy Perry, but since I couldn’t read the schedule I figured it was a crap shoot as to what time they played. We did, however, say a prayer for our friends in Ukraine while Ellis stuck his hand in our amazing food platter and squeezed a cabbage roll…so I feel pretty good about that.

Ellis gets his one year old shots on Thursday and then we prepare for his first birthday party ever. It’s going to be sick!

Do I have to change Ellis’ blog tag from baby Swirley to toddler Swirley? This is all so confusing.

p.s. I am an aunt!! I can’s post photos but  know that 1) her mama (KML) is a bad ass and, 2) you are jealous. Ms. Mary is awesome, and chubby and really excited to meet Ellis and Homer T. Cat.

Mogę zrobić dziecku płakać

I have been neglecting updating this blog for no reason other than I have better things to do. Just kidding, I don’t really have much to do. I am just lazy. Here is a summary of the past two weeks –

Lou turned two. TWO!!! He was just a baby, like, yesterday. A tiny little squishy man.

He was about 7lbs in this picture. The baby, not the cat. The cat weighs 42 lbs.
I love this picture of him. Love love love.

I don’t know how this happens, but apparently it is unstoppable. You know what else is unstoppable? Me with a camera when there are children in a bathtub. I obviously mean this in the most innocent way. Since both of our cameras simultaneously broke and I don’t care much for our back-up, T-bone loaned us his DSLR for the weekend to capture moments such as these…

Another one to break-out at the rehearsal dinner(s).
So coy.
John Deere + sugar + a little brotherly assistance = deliciousness and probably a stomach ache

Swinging Swingens
Scheduled work break
Lady Jayne wrangles the boys

Cousins. I am a little terrified of what the future holds in terms of boyhood shenanigans.
Swimming with pops. This time we avoided a freak out.

I am very happy we moved back to the Midwest if only to celebrate second birthdays with ice cream cakes decorated by mini-farm equipment.

We arrived back to Chicago just in time to enjoy a little bit of Wicker Park fest. Ellis wasn’t in his most hipster ensemble, but we decided to brave the crowds and hope they didn’t notice our un-skinny jeans and EK’s lack of neon 80s inspired gafas del sol..Ellis also showed off some of his new head-bobbing moves. I don’t know why I am so thrilled he knows what “dance” means, but I am pretty sure he feels like a monkey since I yell “dance Ellis dance” 23 hours a day. I spend the other hour asking him to “eat”,  “wave” or telling him “not for Ellis”. Poor child.

Look – we made it!.
Wicker Park Welcome Committee. Located next to the stage speakers. Very responsible of us, no?

Then another week of zillion degree days and Ellis deciding to wake up and scream for 12 hours in a row at night just because. I definitely played into his antics a bit and was reminded of what it feels like to have a one week old (read: baby sleeping on you or screaming, or both). Except this baby weighs 22 pounds and crushes my diaphragm. Anywhoo, I caught onto his game after the first two nights of restlessness and vertical sleep. My new strategy consists of me rocking in a chair next to the crib while I hum and he looks directly at me and screams at the top of his lungs.. But mom is “winning”…if “winning” means watching your baby cry big fat tears while you sing the chorus to “Yellow Submarine” for an hour straight. I  really should look up those lyrics.

Last Friday we went to Highland Park and met up with Ellis’ newest friend, young Avner and his mama Ms. Lisa B. Um, the Highland Park community pool is probably, no, is the nicest pool I have ever visited. Sorry Shorewood. Lucky for them, I wore my fanciest swimsuit…a stretched out pair of bottoms (I was unaware of my lack of elastic rump support until I slipped them on in the changing room), nursing bra and tank top. You can take the girl out of the city…Yikes. I am not sure they will ever have me back, but it was a good time. And both boys napped! In their strollers. Bonkers. Ms. Lisa B and I drank rum and cokes and pretended to be on a laid back vacation which was almost possible except for the flirting co-eds running circles around our stroller island. I didn’t get called ma’am, so that is a success in its own right, right?

Saturday I got up and ran out to a group garage sale put on by a bunch of attachment parenting moms. They were talking about weaning their kids at age 3.5 and seemed to question my “parenting philosophy” (their words) when I said EK was off the boob at one. Oh well. I hung around the shadows near the table filled with tiny shoes like the stalker I am and waited for the used Ergo to arrive. I was so excited for that sucker and now Ellis hates it. What a surprise. I am hoping it is because he was so hot when we first put it on but am pretty sure it’s because it would make me too happy if he liked the carrier.

Sunday was a day dedicated to all things Polish. By that I mean Pierogifest in Whiting, IN. Have you been? You haven’t? Something is seriously wrong with you. It’s year two for us and Ellis was so excited for his first foray into Slavic cuisine except for the part of actually consuming the food. He stuck with Os and water. Harumph. More meaty-cheesy goodness for me.

Just a quick snack
The Whiting Chamber of Commerce should drop their current slogan and go with: Visit. Here. Next. Year. That’s right, I got my undergrad degree in advertising. It’s obvious, isn’t it?

One year ago – Ellis in the belly with the Babushkas
2011 – They still love EK!

And the biggest news, aside from the debt ceiling agreement, is that Ellis still isn’t walking. He is climbing stairs really fast and can fall down them even faster. I also made a baby cry today and it wasn’t mine! Perhaps that is a hint that I should stop picking up other people’s children. Perhaps.