I’ve never been very good at letting things go. I can’t tell you how many times a fun tug of a war with a dog over a chew toy turned contentious. One of always gets mad.

Last weekend, after Ellis decided to quit it with all of this hand, foot and mouth stuff, we got down to business. Although one of us was covered in scabs, we ventured out into the world which began with a trip to Winnetka. Have you ever been? It’s amazing! You can leave your stroller outside and it’s still there when you emerge from whatever store. People don’t let their dogs poop in the park and there are no parking meters! Is this heaven? Almost. According to the ever accurate Wikipedia, Winnetka is “one of the most exclusive and wealthy suburbs in the nation.” They totally want us to move there.

Because I could no longer sit inside our house for fear I would hurl myself out a window, we also decided to: 
– Hit up the Chicago Kite Fest (underwritten by a relatively unknown group that goes by the acronym NATO)
– Engage in a a stare down
– Take EK’s first dip into lake Michigan
– Play with a new outside toys – a gift from his amazing and generous mom.
– and, venture to the zoo to look at ducks and water fountains. What? Summer is officially here.

EK and Uncle Jeff at Kite Fest. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get our kite to fly. Where was dad? At an all day Frisbee tournament lamenting the aging process and making it all the way to the finals.

Game on, buddy – 30 second stare down.
First visit to Lake Michigan…Jeff and Olive lead the way.
OH MY GOD THIS WATER TABLE IS AMAZING! Papi may think it’s too big and misses his patio table…but mom doesn’t care. I think she is the best even if yesterday she held up traffic because she was too busy poking at her belly rolls.
We (and by we I mean Ellis) also spent a little time thinking about our bad decisions, picking thumbs and looking pretty pathetic. Moments before this photo was taken he was standing on a bench and ignoring his mom’s “tushy or knees” request. Next stop, no fun chair.
Like his uncle John, EK enjoys peeling his thumb like a banana.

Do you know what keywords keep bringing people to this blog”
“labyrinth trash lady”. I am actually pretty thrilled about this little fact. Not because I have anything interesting for them to read, but that people are seeking out pictures of our favorite Muppet. Other common keywords include:
– neck wattle
– goldie hawn, jamie wild, toffuti overboard. YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (all separate searches)
– i recently invested in some shirts at a garage sale

Very strange people wandering around the Interwebs.

When I ask Ellis if he thinks I am fat, he responds, “yes.” There is no mistaking that response – he enunciates as if his life depends on it. When I ask him if I thinks I am pretty, I get silence.

Ho-Ho is sleeping over tomorrow night. I am sure I will have some nice updates. Last time she stayed overnight, she put her shoe-clad feet on my wall to push herself up onto our bed. I have a nice little scuff mark to remind me of this little incident and how I need to purchase espadrilles for her from now on. She also enjoys spraying my perfume all over the bathroom each time she goes in – which is 900 times/day. What else? Oh, Ellis will enjoy the TV blaring from midnight-6 AM in the room adjacent to his as that is the only way she can sleep, but then she tells me she can’t sleep. It’s all so confusing.

Then we have a psych appointment where we will experience a lot of circular logic and I will likely slam my face against a door or something. Recently she has reincarnated one of her old “stalkers” that Mr. Swirley and I laid to rest a few years ago with a fake obituary. Modern medicine! Given this fun twist with regards to her psyche,  “we” also might change her drugs which will likely cause major chaos in the short-term and general disappointment in the long. Wah wah. Upside is the G is in town this weekend for my cousin’s graduation and  family shenanigans which include yelling at the top of our lungs so he can hear us, him mocking our parenting style and probably some sort of missing tooth incident. I can’t wait.

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.

A bunch of weirdos

Turkey day is over but the fun continues. This morning we couldn’t find the remote and I jokingly opened Ho-Ho’s purse only to find it securely placed on top of the pile of stuff she carries around.

I have been keeping track of some of the conversations held over the weekend. Here is a taste of what goes down in St. Charles.

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
the G: Where is Kurt?
Mrs. D: He went to get chicken broth and beer.
the G: What?
Mrs. D: He went to get chicken broth and beer.
the G: What does that have to do with Kurt?
Ho-Ho looking at the sales papers
Ho-Ho: I need a dremil rotary tool kit. It’s on sale for $24.99.
Me: Why?
Ho-Ho: For my feet.
the G watching Carrie Underwood perform in front of a live audience
the G: Look at at these kids. I can’t understand a damn word she [Underwood] is singing and they [audience] know all the words.
George: It could have something to do with your hearing.
the G: It also has something to do with the fact that they are a bunch of weirdos.
Ho-Ho and I were making appetizer trays. Mrs. D told me to watch Ho-Ho since she tends to lick her fingers and stick them back into food.
Me:  You just licked your fingers
Ho-Ho: No I didn’t.
Me: Yes, you did.
Ho-Ho: It’s just my thumb. I’m not using it.
…then she picks up a date and holds it with her thumb while she spreads peanut butter on it.
Me: You are using your thumb. Can you wash your hands?
Ho-Ho: I will wash my hands when I am done.
Me. Gross.
Ho-Ho: Then you can do it yourself.
…then she gets up and washes her hands.

Let’s see what today brings.

Happy Thanksgiving from your neighborhood sociopaths.

and you smell like one too

This weekend marked Ho-Ho’s 52nd birthday and her second spent in FIB country. On Sunday, we Swirleys headed over to her digs to meet up with Mrs. D and Car. We got there early and scoped out the place. Apparently Ho-Ho is back to wanting to smell like a lady of the night and has gone through 1/5 a bottle of perfume in three days. Impressive, even for her. Once the Ds arrived we headed out to lunch. Here is an exciting picture of folks walking in Oak Park.

Mrs. D smushing EK

group shot to commemorate the occasion

What you can’t see in the above picture is that Ho-Ho is wearing not one but TWO belts.One to keep her pants up and the second for flair. If I could pick one word to describe my mom, it would be: pizazz. If I could pick a whole sentence it would be: what’s in God’s name is going on?

Today I called her and she told me she wants to go the “bone doctor” to look into getting her knees replaced. Awesome. We can totally afford that after the $1700 we are spending get her ONE tooth taken care of. Sometimes I think she likes to make appointments with doctors just to tell her story or to make a new friend. I wouldn’t care if we didn’t have to pay 20% of all bills and the taxpayers were picking up the other 80%. That and the fact that she may be making ailments up as she goes.

I also just realized that Mr. Swirley and I missed our fourth second anniversary (second wedding in Tucson). It was on Oct. 14. So happy four year and one month second anniversary Mr. Swirley!

And I miss the G a lot lately. I mean I miss her all of the time, but especially when I think of family events and of course during the holiday season. Sometimes I call my grandpa and hope he doesn’t pick up so I can hear his message:
Hello. We can’t come to the phone right now so leave your name, number, whatever you want to leave and we will call you back”.

The “whatever you want to leave” part is clearly my favorite but the “we” makes me feel better.

And I am pretty much 100% certain she would be absolutely thrilled with this new baby and agree with my description of Ho-Ho. Oh well, someday we will find the old reel videos and transfer them to DVDs so you can too can see just how wonderful she was. Plus you can see Ho-Ho, Mrs. D and Mrs. S show off their sick skating skills circa 1968.

These are two  of my favorite pictures of my grandparents. I know you love them too. I could post a lot more but that would get annoying. Well for you…I like looking at them.

 first post-retirement trip

fun in the kitchen.

You don’t know how to make guacamole

Family fun in the country was the name of the game this weekend. That and sweet presents for baby Swirley. And lot’s of food. Mr. and Mrs. D (and of course Carly) hosted a baby shower for Mr. Swirley and me at their lovely St. Charles home. After an incredible amount of planning and hard work (with none of our assistance), Ho-Hos, Swingens, Earleys, Ds and close family friends came to celebrate happy babies and dimpled knuckles. We were fortunate enough to have guests travel from Wisconsin, Illinois (Chicagoland), Missouri and California to join us for a day of bbqing, yard games, frog hunting and fun in the country. Mr. Swirley and NVS also decided to call each other the night before to coordinate outfits.


Lady Jayne brought Sweet Lou and G.U.S. to show us how cute our baby will be after his alien phase.  It was a reassuring gift since all of the books keep telling us to not be surprised if he arrives smushed and baby bird-like. G.U.S. spent the majority of the day hunting toads/frogs (yes, I know there is a difference – but I don’t really care) while Sweet Lou hung out and had his face eaten by us adults (see below. That is me attempting to eat his face). 
The G made the rounds while Ho-Ho met the Swingens for the first time. It was great. In addition, T-bone attended and he and Ho-Ho even reminisced about big she got while prego with yours truly. It was nice to see them chatting it up and I even got the first family photo taken of us since ever. Well, maybe that is an exaggeration, but not by much. Look, I have proof.
My “fake” uncles Jim and Jim joined us as well. As a side note, I think the use of the word “fake” is really inappropriate since I regard them as kin – but always used it to differentiate for confused friends. Since moving back to Chicago, we have seen much more of the Jims (sometimes for not so good reasons like house floods), which has been wonderful. Uncle Rich, the man who has been present at every seminal moment in my life (from a zero birthday party to officiating our wedding) was sadly not in attendance – but talked about (in a good way) throughout the day. 
Jim & Jim!
My  aunt Jo and cousin Z traveled from the Bay area to revel in Midwest humidity and poke baby Swirley.  I cannot tell you how grateful we were to have both of them share the weekend with us. And Aunt Jo made us a lovely baby blanket to boot. Mrs. S couldn’t make it but we know she was poking baby Swirley in spirit. Other gifts included: blankets and sweaters made by baby’s great- grandmothers (Swingen and Johnson); handmade blankets by Ho-Ho, Carly and our wonderful and very thoughtful cousin in North Carolina, Mrs. T; onesies decorated by those in attendance; and, other sweet little items like clothing, toys, stuffed animals and nursery decorations. Baby Swirley is already so spoiled and he is has only just grown large enough to kick me in the ribs. Dang.

We also decided to share the name of young Swirley with our friends and family – Ellis (aka Lil Swings, “L”) and I think it surprised my gramps for the first time since his 80th birthday party. Hopefully in a good way.

Here we are explaining where the baby currently resides to G.U.S.
And here we all are – post-food, presents and fun.

The weekend ended with the moving of a storage unit and Ho-Ho telling me: “you dont know how to make guacamole. I know how to make guacamole” after I questioned her inclusion of mayonnaise in the the recipe.I suppose I still have a lot to learn before becoming a mom; good thing we have so much help.

The sweet sugariness of first love

Today was full of adventures. The good kind. It started with a plea sent to all Chicago friends and family from my Uncle Mike for a volunteer to take a trip down I55 to Palos Park to pick up his transcripts. After a IM planning session, I jumped in the car and made my way to the south side. Upon arriving at Moraine Valley CC, I received a police escort from Officer 111 to a “faculty only” parking spot next to Building “R” (#1 awesome event of the day),  and waddled inside to negotiate with some very stern administrators (sans photo ID. I know, brilliant). There, I successfully found the three ladies with whom I needed to speak to secure Mike’s transcript. After each one peered over her half-moon shaped glasses at me and inspected my Costco ID (the only photo ID I had with me – and it didn’t even have my correct name listed), they stamped the proper forms in triplicate and finally released the one page report. Though I would like to share the transcript, I will refrain. However, I should mention that Mike must have been focusing on something other than school during the fall of 1973. I also met a girl who after asking me what I was majoring in, told me: “you don’t look that old. Like you are in your 20s or something.”

Since I was already ¾ of the way to Orland Park, I spontaneously decided to take a trip further south to check out my grandparents’ former digs. A left onto La Grange Road, a right onto 144th Place and another left onto Beacon Avenue led me straight to the locale of some of my most favorite memories – 9827 West 145th Place. The mailboxes were still at the end of the driveway and across the street. The trees that cost the three Ho-Ho girls countless hours in raking were still standing and no doubt torturing another generation. And most exciting news: a “for sale” sign was posted in the front yard. (#2 Awesome event of the day)



Yes, for a half-second I contemplated buying it. My email interaction with Mr. Swingen went like this:

“Lee Lee Lee. It’s for sale”

Mr. Swirley’s response:
“Are you going to buy it? It could be our winter home in the south (side).”

So he was considering it. Or mocking me. To sate my curiosity, I looked it up on MLS  while idling on the curb like your friendly neighborhood stalker. And BAM! There is a virtual tour available (#2 Awesomeness continued) online. The Gs moved about 15 years ago, so I assumed major renovations had taken place. After flipping through the photos, I was oddly relieved that not much had changed. Hardwood floors were installed, built-in bookshelves removed and the kitchen remodeled – but the deck and walkway the G and Mr. D. built were still in place and the fireplace looks the same as it did in the 70s /80s when the girls posed for snapshots with their high school sweethearts.


I am working on Mrs. D to schedule a tour with me; She needs some more persuading. You can call me a nosy ninny, or freak. I just want to see if the Sugar Smacks are still in the lower left cabinet next to the fridge, great grandma’s ridged plates are in the cabinets and the smarmy-looking hand-carved sailor is still on the bookshelf. You know, normal stuff.
Since I am talking about the Gs, I thought I would share my two most favorite pictures of them. As Aunt Jo succinctly wrote last year, “Elaine was the best.” And, the G, well he is the G.
(Gram’s fave pic of the G, too)
To round out my trip to Orland Park, I decided to brave my fears and travel to the home of my first love. I continued down West 145th Place, made a quick left and there it was: 7-11. It was the first 7-11 I remember visiting and spent countless hours biking to and fro during the summers spent in IL. I parked and braced myself for the worst. Remodeling, no pina colada slurpee – sky is the limit in terms of what could go wrong. But as I entered, I realized all is right with the world. The friendly 7-11 cashier still working from an island in the center of the store, Slurpee machines to the left and magazines front and center, right where they should be (#3 Awesome event of the day). It has been 15 years since I have stepped foot inside this fine establishment and it’s like I never left.

With an absurdly large frosty beverage in hand (pina colada flavor, of course), I decided it was time to return to reality and headed home. After a quick drive-by of the old haunts (you know antique stores, G’s usual car wash, supper clubs – normal hang-outs for eight-year-olds), I got back onto LaGrange Road and battled the traffic heading north into the city. All the while I thought about how I might be able to use the money we are saving through this refinancing deal as a down payment – baby Swirley needs a yard and I miss gram’s peonies.