Merry 2012! It’s been a lively few weeks here in the Swirley household. Well, here and in ‘sconsin where we celebrated St. Nick’s visit with lots of fanfare, children shaving their faces and gluttony. Unfortunately, Mr. Swirley got sick on Christmas night and we had to forgo our annual Christmas trip to La Crosse to head home to fight a cold and wallow in self-pity. I knew he was sick when he was ok with me driving home; those yellow lines are just general guides, no?

We did have fun prior to the bout of death Mr. Swirley contracted somewhere between the eve and day of baby J’s birth. Below is just a taste of the controlled Xmas chaos.

When I first saw these two, I assumed they asked NVS to paint their faces to look like Mr. Swirley and/or Chuck Norris. However, I was wrong. They wanted to look like pirates
Family portrait!
Excitement. EK was more interested in the slide outside of the pool rather than than the pool itself.
This photo will be taken one zillion more times over the next 20 years.

Ellis lurves Guhhhh.

Lou getting rid of his noon o’clock shadow.

Swingens keep the fondue tradition going strong.

KJY arrived a day later and did her first of 10,000 loads of dishes while staying at our house. I cannot express how appreciative I am of people who do our dishes. Seriously, if you are looking for a best friend, come over and do one load and I will help you move or whatever you need. We also went shopping for sparkly New Year’s outfits and mocked each other until we were hoarse.

Ellis learned how to kiss and say “katie” just in the nick of time!

Our very generous (and preggo) neighbor volunteered to watch EK New Year’s Eve so we could celebrate with friends at a “fire and ice” party. Ice luge? Outdoor heaters (that didn’t work)? Check and check. Dance party? Oh hell yes.

Neck beard anyone?


Fun times.

Weirdest picture of the night.
Second weirdest picture of the night.

We were out until 3 AM. 3!!!! I know you are seriously impressed by our stamina. I certainly am. The last time I was up at 3 was two weeks ago when EK was screaming in my face and refused to sleep anywhere but on top of me.

And now on to the main news of the day. We are scheduled to go to a parent-teacher conference on Saturday. For a second I considered joining FWC members for a day of “shooting guns and drinking beer” in Michigan, but realized that would be irresponsible. Plus, you don’t have to leave Chicago to do that. When I first heard about the conference, I assumed it was like an “all the parents are invited to come  listen to a speaker tell you how to be a better parent” conference. I even asked the school director if it was BYOB. I then realized they meant a one-on-one conference and was just a little bit embarrassed.

To prepare for said conference, today I received an evaluation of Ellis. Why did I panic? He is 16 months. It’s not like they can say he is disruptive or dumb or something. But 18 years of formal education has primed me to be simultaneously excited and terrified when I hear the word “evaluation”. I can say that the evaluation indicated that his teachers are working on helping Ellis transform from a feral animal (eating with his hands, speaking in gibberish, etc.) to a functional member of society – Thank God someone is on his side. So I will report back post-conference as to whether or not this kid has a shot in life

From David Bowie’s “Kooks”

We bought a lot of things to keep you warm and dry
And a funny old crib on which the paint won’t dry
I bought you a pair of shoes
A trumpet you can blow
And a book of rules
On what to say to people when they pick on you
‘Cause if you stay with us you’re gonna be pretty Kookie

тойдың мезгілі

For a second time in five weeks, I decided to ditch my family for some fun times on the east coast. After only a few days at home following our Memorial Day weekend adventure, the Swingens rolled into the Second City and I rolled out to our nation’s capital. Of course, while I was gone, baby Swirley decided to hit another milestone and started to climb stairs (with a lot of encouragement and can only go up.) Still, what? It’s absurd. He also now (indiscriminately) waves. I missed both of these first, but did get to sleep in until 7 AM three days in a row. Jealous much?  Yea, me too. Of Mr. Swirley. However, I would like to state for the record that I left Capitol Hill. Can you believe it? I am maturing before your eyeballs.

Anywhoo, did I tell you our new office building is amazing? I did? Well I am telling you again. It is just that unbelievable. I almost want to stop working at home and set up shop in a second floor office with a private balcony. Almost. I do like eating cereal out of a box in my pajamajams a little too much to give it up (I will give you one guess as to what I am doing right now).

Blogger still sucks so I can only post vertical pictures.

Third floor walkway and rear offices

Atrium – looking up from the second floor
Atrium – looking down from the third floor
What could have been my 9-5 home.

I also visited with my friends Tim and Karin who reside just across from Barrack’s Row. Tim is a marine and slightly bonkers, but in a good way. He told me that although you can legally purchase a gun in DC, there is no longer anyone that can register it for you. Luckily Artem snuck in before the gun guy quit and purchased himself a fancy firearm to set next to him while he watches PTI. For reals. On a side note, he and his wife are heading to Kazakhstan later this summer and I could not be any more jealous.


On to Friday where I hit up Olney, MD to live the dream. I went to a green belt ceremony; hung out at Baskin-Robbins with a bunch of hooligan kids who refused to purchase anything from BR and were subsequently harassed by a rent-a-cop; and, got my ass kicked in a Cage Fitness class. I loved every damn second spent in the People’s Republic of Maryland except for that part where I couldn’t walk for TWO days after the fitness class. Holy hell people. Have you danced your ass off after a particularly arduous work-out? I mean, I know I am (severely) out of shape, but I imagine I felt like Barbie does when you twist her legs round and round 360 degrees at a time.

I love my co-worker’s kids. A lot. Like I would totally call them up to hang out on any given weekday. I hope EK is that cool or else we might have to start all over.

Baller Berman.

Saturday also marked an important day for my colleague and friend, big Rick (aka Richard M. H.) Dude got married to the Cat in lovely church ceremony and now they can have Jamerican babies who will likely be giant engineers with a passion for the Big Ten. Wedding summary – they went through with it and crab cakes were served at the reception. They also misspelled Rick’s name at the reception site which, combined with the crab cakes, helped me enjoy the event from soup to nuts. I can’t decide if I will continue to call Rich – Rick or Richy – I love both names so very much. I also love the couple.People shouldn’t be this nice.

Bliss. If this were a video you would see them posing for the photo, then Rick hugging me and accidentally pulling my already too short dress up a little higher…in front of Sherman (bossman). Yikes.


The years of working with our Russian friends has rubbed off on one of the three guys pictured below. Hint, it’s not the actual Russian.

Berman, Ortiz and Sherman Flirchner

And to document the event for our newsletter – Voila! P.S. That is indeed a dress I am sporting. I wanted to clarify that fact for you, since at first glance you may think it’s a handkerchief. On a scale of zero to tramp I think it’s about a four. Fine, six. 

Apparently I cannot get enough canapes…wedding #2 was scheduled for Sunday. After the crabcake wedding, I took an hour-long metro ride back to DC and had the honor of sitting next to a girl who was telling her friends that she relies on Facebook for all of her news because the regular news is “too depressing.” Although I didn’t drink much at the wedding, I found myself wanting to vomit all over her. I didn’t because, as you might know, that would be grounds for arrest by the Metro police. Fascists. Though I have to say it is an exceptionally clean public transit system. I then took a cab ride with a driver who was texting while driving and I gave him the old one-two. Oh yea, I dropped the “I have a baby at home and don’t want to die line.” Five hours later I was high-fiving team Turner for my DCA drop-off and head to ‘sconsin for some FWC nuptials.

The wedding was perfect. Everyone says that, but it really was. WI countryside + beautiful weather + wonderful friends + super cover band = best night in ages. Plus the Hometown Sweethearts promised to learn “Pony” for the next FWC event. I love me some Ginuwine.

Could she be any lovelier?
some of the Family We Choose
Yes, we match. How ’bout it?
The Andersons roll with their handmade quilts.
What’s on tap for our anniversary weekend? Car repairs and cleaning. Oh yea, we are gabballers. Look it up.

Oh My God Becky

We used to play a lot of schoolyard games at the ole’ Randall Elementary. Four square, recess gymnastics, dodge ball, T-ball (which once whipped around and pelted me in the face, thereby breaking my goggles) and “wall” games seemed to dominate the schoolyard. My favorite was butts up: at some point or another during the course of the game, you would likely find yourself facing a wall while your “friends” pelted you with balls. Ellis and Willis would totally lose.

I even remember our school song.

There’s a school you’ll find on Regent Street,
Randall, it’s Randall
You’ll find this school is hard to beat
Randall Randall School
Shout it loud and clear
A cheer we sing for Randall
We work with a vim and we never give in
’cause we’re here to cheer for Randall!

Vim? You bet we had it when we were pelting balls at those poor third grade suckers.

Hey Dems! Ellis will roll over so you don’t have to!

Our household has been following the proposed WI budget legislation and Ellis has become especially infatuated with the unfolding of events in Madison. So much so that he decided to mobilize and take on the brunt of the concessions for the unions. Yes friends, he rolled over today.

In other news, last night Mr. Swirley and I went out and celebrated his birthday. We enjoyed a delicious Italian meal that included bacon-wrapped figs and Stellas. Because he is so old, he opted for a healthier dessert – a banana pudding cake thing. It sort of looks like a steak with mashed potatoes and a candle…which would be pretty sweet if you ask me.

Then we headed over the the Violet Hour and had a drink in exceptionally tall chairs. It was very fancy and hip. Weird for us, I know.

The GM and CadillacJohnnyMic babysat for us so we could get crazy and stay out until, hold your breath, nine. I got a few text message updates that I think you might enjoy:

1. He is being a bit of a jerkface* but it’s all good. I’ve seen worse.
2. He and G are reading now. Mostly he is just staring at me in a surly fashion.
3. It’s possible he is into Jason Priestly. Shannon Doherty made him cry **
*Edited for polite company
** I gave the GM some 90210 trading cards for her birthday and she was schooling Ellis on the genius that is BH90210.

Ellis is currently biting his Chief of Staff’s (aka Sophie) head off because she won’t do anything to help him battle this budget bill. He is one ticked off FIB.

Here’s a little ditty about Jack and Diane

That song has been in my head for ten years. This is not a lie or an exaggeration. When my mind wanders (which is fairly often), it inevitably comes to the line, “sucking on a chili dog outside the tastee freeze”. Poor Mr. Swirley has been hearing me make up lyrics (since I only know the first few lines) for ten years. Exactly. Well nine years and 364 days.

Want to know how we met? Even if you don’t I am going to tell you because ten years is a long time. It was first semester senior year of college and I first met him at a friend’s house. I decided I had a crush on him and we flirted by stuffing smarties in our respective mouths. But then I forgot. Then we met again at a birthday dinner of a mutual friend. I gave him my number (what?!) on the back of a receipt. However, it was 1) not my receipt and, 2) I accidentally wrote down a wrong digit (it was an accident, seriously). Before leaving the restaurant he dropped me on the ground. Hard. So he called and tried to look up the name on the receipt and then gave up. There was a basketball game in there where I was so nervous that I stuffed my face with peanut M&Ms and made myself sick. And a comedy show. And a run-in at the student union where he told the GM and me that he was going to a talk given by Oscar Wilde’s grandson and I told the GM I was “going to marry that man”. Turns out it was an assignment; he wasn’t going out of his own volition.

But nothing. Then second semester rolled around and KML, KJY and I decided that we had to ask a boy out before the end of the year because we were super lame and had never done that. I couldn’t think of anyone and then Sweet Lady D reminded me that I had a crush on Mr. Swirley. Bingo.

So I called him and asked him to go snowshoeing. Yes, snowshoeing. For a person who hates winter that is a bit step (no pun intended). Then the snow started to melt. So I prayed for snow (a first ever) and there was just enough to go. So on Feb. 12, 2001, Mr. Swirley picked me up in his old beater of a car and we drove to Lake Wingra where we snowshoed. I think we also went out to the Shoe Box where he purchased a God awful pair of basketball shoes, but I couldn’t tell him to pass on them because I barely knew the kid. Then he dropped me back at home at 4:00 PM. Awesome.

Two days later, (black Monday I think we called it), I came home to a bouquet of paper flowers in our mailbox. I didn’t look at the card because I assumed it was from one of KJY’s 10,000 admirers. I called Cass and screamed to high hell about how KJY is always getting the men and how I thought it was garbage. She told me to look at the card to see what putz delivered them and low and behold, wouldn’t you know our engineer friend Mr. Swirley has an artistic side. You may roll your eyes, but after being dropped off at 4:00 PM from your first “date”, it was a pretty big deal. I called him and we went to Ella’s Deli on our second date. He got an open-faced Thanksgiving sandwich and I paid. Not that he didn’t offer, I just didn’t know what to do.

Now we have a baby.

So happy nine year and 364 day anniversary (or 10 year anniversary for me since I was praying for snow ten years ago today).

Rock star Baby

We are back from a whirlwind Xmas tour of ‘sconsin. I have nine million pictures of Ellis. Deal.

If EK was overwhelmed by people squeezing him in November, I can only imagine what he is feeling after this holiday season. Wait, I think this says it best.

or maybe this since it’s so cold out

My old high school friend Becca Dilley is an amazing photographer up in the Twin Cities. Luckily, she was down in Madison for the holidays and agreed to take some shots of Ellis at the Kaiksows’ house. During the holidays Becca asks that folks donate to a non-profit instead of paying her a fee. Baby Jesus thanks her. So does the Foggy Bottom Food Pantry (our non-profit of choice). It proved to be a pretty fun morning with the Kaiksow women fawning over Ellis and Ellis spitting up all over me and getting fairly pissed off by the end of the hour. Becca was incredibly patient so I think we got some great shots.

Is it wrong that I like the crying photos the best? Yes, I think it is.

My nails are so long they make clicking noises when I type.

So the rest of Christmas was a success. We went to a holiday party, hung out with Lady Jayne, NVS, G.U.S. and Sweet Lou and raked in some seriously awesome stuff for Mr. EK. Like what? Oh, I don’t know…how about some cereal and spoons from Santa, musical toys and books galore! Ellis was incredibly enthusiastic about all of his loot.

G.U.S. is particularly fond of Ellis. My favorite xmas weekend quote from G.U.S….
“He looks like a rock star. (Pause) A rock star baby.”

I hope this adoration continues when Ellis is older and has thick glasses and corrective shoes like yours truly (fingers crossed he doesn’t get stuck with both.) In the meantime, I am guessing G.U.S. will continue to squish Ellis like that little girl squishes Penelope the cat in Looney Toons cartoons. And sweet Lou will continue to be sweet. It’s pretty great.

Cousins gotta hug

After the traditional Christmas Eve fondue and wine session, Lady Jayne and I went downstairs and wrapped presents while we drank. That, my friends, is what Christmas is about.

On Christmas morning, Santa delivered with a flourish. He even left a note for G.U.S. The presents of the day mostly centered around dinosaurs and dragons – many of which were loud and required approximately 42 batteries each.  Then Grandpa Tom came over with Sue and Mr. Swirley’s aunt Joann arrived for dinner. It was delicious and I blame the dessert table for the muffin top I am currently sporting.

Mr. Swirley made two pies. Check them out.

Then it was time to head out to La Crosse, Wisco for some Swingen fun. I seriously love La Crosse. It’s peaceful, there is lots of food and wine, and it’s peaceful. I mean really really peaceful. I kind of wish Ellis would stay four-months-old because I am thinking the next time we visit he will be tearing the place up and I will be tearing my hair out. Oh well…we took advantage of it this year and slept in, ate too much and put our feet up.

Another reason to love La Crosse? How about Margaret’s Hip Hop Shop. Holla!

We also had the chance to meet up with members of the Deer and the plus ones.We swam in the kiddie pool and drank beer with olives (gross). I also left Ellis’ hat and my wallet at the hotel because I am responsible like that.

The next day we saw the Hausers – my all time favorite family. No offense to everyone else, but they are the nicest people on earth. Reason 128 why I love La Crosse. Ellis had to go and ruin the visit by getting all tired (babies….), but we had a nice time catching up.

Then it was already time to go drive home. Five hours in the car with a baby is pretty fun. Or not. But Ellis did his baby best, which is appreciated.

Mr. Swirley has the rest of the week off and has decided to spend it sick in bed. Poor bastard.

Happy New Year!

Happy Birthday Sweet Lou!

Today is my nephew’s first birthday. I am sad we aren’t in Madison to celebrate with the Swingens – and to check out their new digs (I am especially excited about the built in recycle and garbage cans. Seriously). Instead, I get to look at pics of Lou and squish him through the computer. I will have to be content with the knowledge that he loves me more than Mr. Swirley.

Happy bday, man.

Papa needs a new pair of shoes

Another Wisco weekend for us. This time we had the pleasure of visiting with Mr. Swirley’s family (in town from La Crosse & Green Bay, WI AND Finland!). I definately consumed way too many calories, but worked most of them off through fits of laughter.

The kids targeted Mr. Swirley with their water balloon shenanigans. In case you were wondering, though water balloons in shoes may clean them of surface dirt, they definately leave a musty odor. Here he is being attacked…

And G.U.S. showing me a little something he saved for Uncle Swirley

We also celebrated  Uncle Jon’s 75th birthday and Grandpa Swirley’s impending (Wed) retirement. Forty-four years at the La Crosse veterinary clinic. Pretty impressive. More impressive is how thrilled he is to retire – congrats Bob! Your son is uber jealous.

We then attended Jess and Z’s fabulous wedding downtown. I have always wanted to go to an event at the “Gates of Heaven” synogogue and finally got my chance. The ceremony was lovely and Mr. Swirley laughed til he cried a few times during the reception. Most of the stories are too long and innapropriate to share – so I will just say that it’s always so nice to see old friends. It is also probably a good thing that I didn’t meet Mr. Swirley until Feb. of our senior year. Not to say he was a troublemaker, but he certainly was around trouble (e.g., fireworks set off in the house, natural gas leaks, etc.)

The former residents (minus three) of 200 South Mills.

We were able to spend a little more time with our favorite Finns on Sunday while frolicking in the hotel pool. I am sad that we likely won’t see these awesome kids for another two years – you can see just how fun they are to hang with.

The pixie…

…and the twins

I just like this one.

perhaps a trip to Helsinki is in the cards? Hope so.

On a completely unrelated note, I am currently wearing bikini bottoms that once had a ruffled edge and now sport a straight piece of fabric. Nice.

Ice Ice & Babies

This weekend marked our second Memorial Day weekend back in the Midwest and was a excellent reminder of precisely why we chose to return to the promise land. We departed Chicago early Friday morning to make it to Madison before an 8 AM conference call with work. After working for a bit, we visited the usual State Street haunts and headed to the Memorial Union or some delicious Babcock ice cream and sitting. After a very energy consuming afternoon, we decided to head back to Ms. Kaiksow’s so I could take a nap while Mr. Swirley relaxed and watched an episode of Magnum P.I. Also of note, Friday marked “take your brat to work day” – more on that later.

Saturday we met up with Tbone for a walk around the Capitol’s Farmer’s Market – then with Katie Marie and One T for a little more of the same. Mr. Swirley took off to watch some ultimate and visit with old friends and we just spent time ogling pretty plants and bitching about the crowd. Later on, we all convened and headed out to Elliot and Brooke’s potluck on Lake Mendota. Given that a number of folks were running in the Madison half-marathon/10K early Sun. AM, it seemed like a great opportunity to load up on carbs, celebrate Elliot and Brooke’s engagement and harass each other in general. As was expected, it was a superb evening. Why? Because pretty much everyone we wanted to see was in one spot with lawn games, grills, a ridiculous number of potato salad options and a pontoon boat to boot. If we could only retire now life would be perfect.

Alas, Friday night had to come to an end and everyone prepared for race day. Early Saturday, Mr. Swirley, the GM, KML, the Jeff, one T, JohnnyMic and I met up and headed to the starting line with our crafty signs. I can tell you how to make one if you want to be amazing friends like us.

7:30 AM signaled the start of the race for runners and breakfast time for us spectators. We then ran to catch sight of our very fit friends at the four mile marker. We found ’em and yes, and they were still going strong (as evidenced below by Mr. Swirley’s mid-stride ultra hip thumbs up)

We then headed to the finish line to await their arrival and I am pleased (and proud to report) that not only did all four runners successfully finish, but met (if not exceeded) their respective targeted pace. They also obliged me in sporting their Madison Marathon medal (which apparently weighed about a zillion lbs) for a few pics in the thousand degree weather.

We all decided that we hadn’t sweat enough during the day and headed to the World’s Largest (only?) Bratfest. It is everything you would dream a Bratfest to be and more. It first started as a fundraiser in the Sentry Foods parking lot -$1.00 brats/hot dogs incl. soda. Pretty sweet. It has now blossomed into a full-fledged carnival with multiple music stages and record setting brat sales (world record set in 2009 with 208,752 brats sold in three days). Don’t lie, you now heart WI as much as I do. Although it was hot, my cankles were totally worth it if only to see our friends’ babies – Fi and Mr. D-K. I want to eat both of their little faces.

Once my own face melted off we decided to rest for a bit out in Sun Prarie. After another round of naps, Mr. Swirley and I headed back down to the terrace for a six hour epic sitting venture with the FWC. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Terrace, it is quite possibly one of the best places on earth. It faces the lake, offers beer, brats, ice cream and other treats and above all, an incredibly relaxed and social environment. My only complaint, and it’s a big one, is that until just recently the Rathskellar (adjacent to the Terrace) boasted the best ice on the face of the earth. I don’t even think there exists an adjective to property describe the awesomeness of the ice there. It was my gold standard to which all other ice cubes were/are compared. And last night, I found out that the machine was replaced. I know, tragic. Shook my world for about 15 minutes. I even talked to the cashier about it but he had no idea what in God’s name my problem was. So, I guess I should let it go…and I will, after I show you a picture of the new ice. I hate it.

All in all it was an excellent weekend – a recharge that was sorely needed and a chance to see friends at their best. We are looking forward to seeing everyone again for our baby shower – a Bastille day themed party to celebrate baby Swirley’s liberation from the womb.