Is there a How to Hide Your Glaring Lack of Knowledge From Your Friends for Dummies, cause that’s one you should’ve bought.

I am finally coming up for air. Sort of. We moved on Saturday and I am pretty sure everyone who helped us isn’t talking to me anymore. Apparently the straw that broke the group’s back was the emptying of the storage unit on the THIRD van trip whereby a cork bulletin board was produced. A.J. Burke literally called bullsh!t and headed out. Whoops. I used it once and feel bad pitching stuff. Sue me. Then there were the stacks and stacks of boxes labeled “not important”; apparently that is a morale breaker. In my defense, those were labeled in 2008 when we first moved to Chicago and had to decide which boxes had to go to temporary housing vs. storage. Still…

Mrs. and Mr. D unpacked the kitchen and made a lot of repairs. Once they left I stopped unpacking and mourned moving away from Bosworth. I know, I know – grill thief, flower thief, neighbor feuds and other shenanigans aside, I finally felt like I fit in somewhere. It’s pretty much DC all over again…settling down to uproot. This time it’s only three miles, but I am so used to waving hi to folks as they walk their dogs, or watching Ellis run towards freighbors as they make their way home from work. It just felt right and yet we decided to move. Do you have any idea what it takes to maintain a house? Because I don’t and am now absolutely TERRIFIED. I have to put my garbage out on garbage day? Wha…?????

Last night I realized that this is the first time I have lived in a home without constant company since I was a tiny person. From as far back as I can remember, we have always had live-in friends…or almost live in. It started with a home daycare that ran from 7 AM to 5:30 PM. One positive take away is that is I was primed to endure children/adults screaming to the point I can still sleep right through it. Once my mom moved out we had a string of roommates include Dauin (sp?) who slurped his food like no other I have ever witnessed, John K. who got me into the Onion and recently sold out (cough cough) to drive fancy cars or something, and a bunch of others I should remember but don’t because I was a cool high school girl (again, cough cough). Then came college with roommates who clinked their bowls with every spoonful of cereal, spent years sleeping in and tried to convince me that fake meat tastes as good as the real stuff. Post-graduation included a cross country move and another roommate followed up by cohabiting with my usually-better half…all in apartment buildings. While I complained about the constant noises of people living above us, threatened to sue other condo owners in DC and listened to the video gaming, opera/band rehearsals and folks going up and down stairs, I now miss hearing other lives go on around us. It’s just so quiet here. I often imagined our life at home set in a musical where the scene was an architectural section of a building …each family living their lives while simultaneously interconnected with those around them; as an infant, Ellis used to fall asleep to my neighbor Ryan practicing his musical scales. It was somehow perfect.

When I try to communicate this odd sense of loss (I know, we are only three miles away…but in a city, two blocks is different community), people are quick to remind me that we will likely make friends with our new neighbors. While I am sure that is true, I am not anxious to replace my old friends (you know, silver and gold and all of that) and am scared that corner chats will turn to polite waves. I know I am being dramatic here – I am just not one for change…especially when I am happy.

That said, Ellis seems pleased (for the most part…he has been asking for everyone) and Mr. Swirley and I are doing are best to get back to normal (errrr…). How the crap do you hang pictures in plaster without the house crumbling around you? And we warmed up Ellis’ room by stuffing blankets in the window. Classy!

Today I moved all of the downstairs furniture and rugs around (think profuse sweating, straining and swearing…alliteration intended) and unpacked 120000 boxes. Let me suggest that you DO NOT try to drag a 10×14 rug and accompanying pad around your house before rolling it up. If you opt to ignore my advice, at least lift from the knees. Or you can be like my gimpy ass tonight and feel like your legs and back are going to fall off. Mr. Swirley came home and, after looking around the house, told me, “I guess that will do.” Oh, and he thinks the giant rug that I lugged around should go back to it’s original home in the living room. Then I poisoned his dinner. Not really, but I didn’t argue when he offered to go to the condo to clean. I am sure that once I review his cleaning job, I will respond with the same apathetic tone because that is how we do in the dirty Midwest. That’l do.

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

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.

Some flies are too awesome for the wall.

If my computer moves any slower I am going to punch it square in the screen. Good G-d, you would think I am trying to back up ten million gigs of data while removing programs, running ITunes and penning a blog entry. Shut your hole.

I don’t know if you heard about it, but members of NATO are meeting in Chicago and according to every news outlet in existance, the city might be wiped off the face of the planet. If that happens, I take back being mad at Ellis for possibly misplacing my tiny external hard drive that contains our ENTIRE music collection. I would also like to take back actually storing all of our music on a tiny hard drive that a toddler can so easily hide.

Oh, so this week’s misspending adventure- $XXX on daycare services that went unused. I am not sure if that really counts as the “getting locked out, losing the car keys, buying a security camera that costs as much as the grill you are guarding” type of situation, but it’s still spending money on “services” not utilized. Why is EK not at daycare, you ask? Because he is one giant scab. Seriously. It is probably the most pathetic thing I have seen in a while (yes, I know children are starving, puppies are drowning, etc. etc.) I would post a picture of EK vs hand, foot mouth round 2 – but it might make you cry (unless you are empty inside). We have spent the past few days consuming a diet comprised solely of ice cream/Popsicles whilst whimpering, snuggling and pretending to work (I am speaking for all three of us). And of course, we have also sequestered ourselves to the house for fear of turning every kid in Chicago into a crusty, drooling babe. It’s great. Has your kid ever told you “mama, I sad?” or “mama, mouth hurt”? If they have, you know it is pretty much the worst thing you can hear next to, ” Mom, I don’t know why my answers on my 12th grade math test look like my boyfriend’s handwriting” (cough cough). So instead of grossing you out, I will instead let you judge me on being an excellent parent by melting my son’s brain on day three of lock down (i.e., allowing him to watching Sesame Street ALL DAY LONG.) I am pretty sure his eyeballs fell out since he stopped blinking around 10 AM.

I think it is fair to say Mr. Swirley is the better parent of the two of us. And I am OK with that fact.

Luckily for everyone involved, EK was healthy this past weekend while he hung out with the Ds and we spent time with family in LA. It was the first trip since last summer that Mr. Swirley and I ditched our child and although quick (and sadly, for the purpose of saying farewell to a beloved family member), it was beyond a blessing to spend some time with family…and participate in/bear witness to conversations like the ones below.

Here is a video of me getting in trouble but I can’t tell you why.

ABCs from the sweetest Italian cousins ever! 

How many Earleys does it take to fill a bathtub? And more importantly, how often did they bathe? Really.

Facts learned/reinforced while in CA:

1. Santa doesn’t exist (whispered to me by a little pixie of a girl who shares Ellis’ name)
2. Public bathrooms are so out in LA. Having to go to the bathroom while in a public place is so in  for me.
3. My family is the best. Insane, but the best. It is actually pretty amazing how eight siblings can differ so much in terms personality yet remain incredibly loyal to one another and their respective families. Touching, actually. So many (crazy) stories that never seem to get old (e.g., tying each other to trees + firecrackers, beans up noses, driving cars from the passenger side seat, etc. etc.), and enough rolled eyes to power a small town.
3.a I need to be more active in maintaining relationships with said family members…a confusing game of dice and talking until late at night (well – 11 is late for us) is much more fulfilling than “liking” a status or a quick email.
3.b. Annual visits to Cali are in the works. Suckers.
4. My uncle Rich is rock-solid. The rest of his family isn’t too shabby either.
5. I am so very grateful to be a part of all of this.

Ms.  Shierra. I drove her crazy the entire weekend.
Uncle Pat, Aunt Donna and Uncle Henry
The entertainment.
Cooking cousins is way better (and more socially acceptable) than kissing cousins.
Hardy hargh hargh. And Dad’s sorta, kinda twin.
Cousins, uncles and “special friends”
Trouble with a capital “T” and they’re minus three.

And three more Earleys will be added to the mix when they move from Italy to LA next month. I would send prayers their way, but I have a feeling they will do just fine.

I just heard from the Guiness rep. He’s not coming. He’s been fired in what he described as the world’s biggest mistake.

Remember that time that I booked a hotel in Norfolk for April when we were supposed to go in May? On Priceline? $90 well spent. A super deal for a fancy hotel, right? Except for when a room goes unused. Then it’s sort of a rip.

How about that time I took the MARC (local train) from DC to Baltimore and shuttle to BWI only to find out my flight was scheduled to depart from Reagan National? And it was leaving in 40 minutes? Add $100 cab fare to my tab.

And what about that Monday in March 2012 when I looked up previously purchased tickets for a May trip to LA and realized my flight left last Friday. LAST FRIDAY! United Airlines gave me the middle finger when I inquired about a credit (rightly so), but Virgin America was much more accommodating and credited me 75% of our one-way tickets. $bitch and moan later we are back on track for our LA trip and Virgin has added another loyal customer to their roster (they have mood lighting on their planes!). And then I punched myself in the face.

Seriously, I have no idea how I have managed to to survive up until now. A lifetime of lost glasses, keys, debit cards, wallets, bags, camera batteries, tickets (I am that person frantically searching through her pockets and as a result, holding up the boarding/event/bathroom, whatever, line). Even today, I simultaneously called both airlines – and representatives picked up 20 minutes later, within 15 seconds of one another. As I pushed a zillion buttons in an effort to answer one of the calls, I ended up hanging up on both agents. Then I cried a little bit and hit redial. I am starting to think Darwin might have gotten it a little wrong with his theory of natural selection.

On to bigger and better things. Like visiting Navy Pier on a Friday in spring. It’s a million times worse than Union Station any day of the year. Plus, I can’t yell at people to get out of my way like I used to in DC because they just stand around in huge groups and I can technically get by them, but it still pisses me off. Side note – Why is it that tourists seems to congregate at the bottom/top of escalators?

Anyway, we visited the Children’s Museum and ran around the Pier. EK invited himself onto a dinner boat, climbed their ridiculously cheesy spiral staircase and checked out the starlit dance floor. It was pretty awesome. We also met some teens who didn’t heed my unsolicited advice to pool their money to buy bulk tickets for the rides. Aren’t their parents teaching them basic math skills? Jesus. Perhaps they are too busy telling their children to avoid talking to frazzled, unnecessarily pushy strangers.

Big top announcer

Peanut butter man

Papi and EK

First carousel ride EVER.

The Pier.

Saturday was consignment sale day which meant Little Miss Krissa and I got up early and drove to Evanston to beat up some moms for some choice Elmo books and two piece pajama sets with the knees still in tact. You have to spend money to  make it – and I made, um, well Ellis got a sick guitar so that has to be worth something, right?

Sunday brought the extra exciting adventure of cleaning Ho-Ho’s apartment. In case you are wondering, she has 10,000 cans of soup, 100 sleeves of saltines and Ziploc bags upon bags of jewelry and other random items. I have yet to figure out why these bags seems to be the crux of her organization system, but she apparently thinks its the best option out there. Honestly, given my track record, who am I to judge?

Then this happened. Ho-Ho is holding her own while Mrs. D carries the chorus. Note the pant-less groupie (good call uncle Rich!) in the background – dude got nuts when they opened up their encore set.

Ardie set up a little Easter egg hunt for Ellis. He searched the ballroom for tiny goodies wrapped in Christmas paper. Loot collected include: sunflower seeds (planted yesterday), Ziploc full of nilla wafers, Ziploc full of saltines since she has a few to spare, Ziploc full of cheerios, individually bagged bubble accouterments and bubble “juice”, three circus peanuts (where did the rest go?) and some other stuff I can’t remember. She unwrapped the Peeps three weeks ago and was surprised that they went stale. It was a pretty cute scene.

So yea. General takeaways from the past few days:
– Don’t trust me with ANYTHING valuable. Really, anything. But come on, you already knew this.
– Ellis is a stowaway
– Ho-Ho likes circus peanuts.

"I love Valentine’s Day. When you’re a kid everyone gets a Valentine. It’s like ‘TO TIM, NICE PANTS, LOVE SCOTT’. It’s Valentines galore!"

I was going to write about how when Mr. Swirley and I went on our second official date (Valentine’s Day 2001), he ordered an open-faced sandwich. Then I realized I wrote the whole story last year. Still, who orders an open-faced sandwich on a second date? That has to be one of the most difficult things to eat in such a setting…next to a wedge salad (which I will never understand).

So remember how I told you that I was giving up soda? Well, I made it 24 whole hours. I know, it’s so disappointing. The temptation started when I waited for my moms prescriptions to be filled at Walgreen’s. All of those cancer-filled bottles just mocking me from their ice-cold cooler. But I RESISTED! Then I got a call from Mrs. D, who told me that Ho-Ho was trying to get Ambien from her PCP. Awesome. It’s not like it can kill her. Oh wait, it can. So I got in touch with Ho-Ho and asked her to have her doctor call me when she came into the room. A few minutes later she does call and I inform her that Ho-Ho has central sleep apnea and refuses to wear one of those Darth Vader mask things. I also told her that it is my understanding that if Ardie takes Ambien, she might die. The MD agreed and said that someday I “could show up and find my mom cold in bed if we go with any sleeping pills”. Yikes….not sure if that is acceptable bedside manner but at least we are on the same page.

Ho-Ho just called and informed me she wants the mask. I predict we buy one for ten million dollars, she uses it for three days and decides: 1) she is allergic (oh yea, she will find a way), 2) it was stolen off of her face while she was sleeping, and/or 3) it doesn’t work and she NEEDS Ambien.

So we are back on the no-sleep obsession again, which I have to say is one of my least favorite arguments. We have circular conversations where Ho-Ho tells me that she won’t die and the sleep studies that she demanded she have (and we pay for) are wrong. And if she did die, it would be better than no sleep. Then she angrily tells me she recently couldn’t stay awake and that she doesn’t want to stop taking 30 mg of Ritalin per day. What? Yes.

While we had the doctor in our midst,  I took the opportunity to review Ho-Ho’s file and saw that she had listed only a fraction of medications she takes daily and made up allergies Like what? Apparently she is allergic to morphine…which she took for ten years. Then she forgot to tell the MD about her terrible fear that she was having a stroke because she had water in her leg. How scared are you if the “unbelievable pain” from your leg is easily forgotten? So there we were, two hours later, bickering while we waiting for prescriptions to print out. Ho-Ho demanded a new walker because her seat has split (purely aesthetic) while I held orders in my hand for a mammogram, various blood/lipid panels and other durable medical equipment – all requiring payment from the family bank. I am sure the lady riding the elevator really enjoyed the three never-ending minutes she was trapped with the two of us. By the time we got home (Ho-Ho lives three blocks from the doctor’s office), I was so annoyed with the general situation that I whipped Ardie’s walker out of the car, got her settled on two feet and then ran up to the apartment sans mom; I was scared I was going to shake the dye out of her hair if I stayed with her any longer.

Then I went and got a burger, fries and soda and loved it while simultaneously hating myself. As I was gorging on artery-clogging deliciousness, Ho-Ho called everyone in the family to tell them that she can handle her own medication and I need to get out of her business. I would have cared except that I don’t. I mean that in the nicest way…I just can’t take this silliness personally or I would have to be heavily medicated around the clock. I also had better things to do like hustle home to finish up Ellis’ valentines for his buddies at school. Why did I decide to make them? And why is he such a slacker?

I took this photo on my way out of the door…post-Valentine making fun. And yes, we still haven’t painted the wainscot.
Notice how Ellis is pretty much only painting the plastic photo cover inside the picture frame?
Usually I don’t really care what other people think of my  parenting style, but in this case I was a little embarrassed as all of the other kids were using their brushes and my little beast was busy squishing all of the paint onto the table.

But then I realized I was being dumb and joined in on the fun.

Track, not football!
Valentine’s wall. Instead of having EK help me put his cards in every one’s bags, I shook him off of my leg while I did it. It didn’t dawn on me until this AM that perhaps he could have helped. Or ripped down the entire wall.

After the party we came home and ate Ellis’ candy (we shared some with him…) and then ordered a pizza and watched the highly anticipated documentary, The Interrupters, on PBS. I am not sure when PBS became the go-to spot for Valentine’s Day, but I was talking about it all week. So that’s our V-Day – a real family holiday.

“I love Valentine’s Day. When you’re a kid everyone gets a Valentine. It’s like ‘TO TIM, NICE PANTS, LOVE SCOTT’. It’s Valentines galore!”

I was going to write about how when Mr. Swirley and I went on our second official date (Valentine’s Day 2001), he ordered an open-faced sandwich. Then I realized I wrote the whole story last year. Still, who orders an open-faced sandwich on a second date? That has to be one of the most difficult things to eat in such a setting…next to a wedge salad (which I will never understand).

So remember how I told you that I was giving up soda? Well, I made it 24 whole hours. I know, it’s so disappointing. The temptation started when I waited for my moms prescriptions to be filled at Walgreen’s. All of those cancer-filled bottles just mocking me from their ice-cold cooler. But I RESISTED! Then I got a call from Mrs. D, who told me that Ho-Ho was trying to get Ambien from her PCP. Awesome. It’s not like it can kill her. Oh wait, it can. So I got in touch with Ho-Ho and asked her to have her doctor call me when she came into the room. A few minutes later she does call and I inform her that Ho-Ho has central sleep apnea and refuses to wear one of those Darth Vader mask things. I also told her that it is my understanding that if Ardie takes Ambien, she might die. The MD agreed and said that someday I “could show up and find my mom cold in bed if we go with any sleeping pills”. Yikes….not sure if that is acceptable bedside manner but at least we are on the same page.

Ho-Ho just called and informed me she wants the mask. I predict we buy one for ten million dollars, she uses it for three days and decides: 1) she is allergic (oh yea, she will find a way), 2) it was stolen off of her face while she was sleeping, and/or 3) it doesn’t work and she NEEDS Ambien.

So we are back on the no-sleep obsession again, which I have to say is one of my least favorite arguments. We have circular conversations where Ho-Ho tells me that she won’t die and the sleep studies that she demanded she have (and we pay for) are wrong. And if she did die, it would be better than no sleep. Then she angrily tells me she recently couldn’t stay awake and that she doesn’t want to stop taking 30 mg of Ritalin per day. What? Yes.

While we had the doctor in our midst,  I took the opportunity to review Ho-Ho’s file and saw that she had listed only a fraction of medications she takes daily and made up allergies Like what? Apparently she is allergic to morphine…which she took for ten years. Then she forgot to tell the MD about her terrible fear that she was having a stroke because she had water in her leg. How scared are you if the “unbelievable pain” from your leg is easily forgotten? So there we were, two hours later, bickering while we waiting for prescriptions to print out. Ho-Ho demanded a new walker because her seat has split (purely aesthetic) while I held orders in my hand for a mammogram, various blood/lipid panels and other durable medical equipment – all requiring payment from the family bank. I am sure the lady riding the elevator really enjoyed the three never-ending minutes she was trapped with the two of us. By the time we got home (Ho-Ho lives three blocks from the doctor’s office), I was so annoyed with the general situation that I whipped Ardie’s walker out of the car, got her settled on two feet and then ran up to the apartment sans mom; I was scared I was going to shake the dye out of her hair if I stayed with her any longer.

Then I went and got a burger, fries and soda and loved it while simultaneously hating myself. As I was gorging on artery-clogging deliciousness, Ho-Ho called everyone in the family to tell them that she can handle her own medication and I need to get out of her business. I would have cared except that I don’t. I mean that in the nicest way…I just can’t take this silliness personally or I would have to be heavily medicated around the clock. I also had better things to do like hustle home to finish up Ellis’ valentines for his buddies at school. Why did I decide to make them? And why is he such a slacker?

I took this photo on my way out of the door…post-Valentine making fun. And yes, we still haven’t painted the wainscot.
Notice how Ellis is pretty much only painting the plastic photo cover inside the picture frame?
Usually I don’t really care what other people think of my  parenting style, but in this case I was a little embarrassed as all of the other kids were using their brushes and my little beast was busy squishing all of the paint onto the table.

But then I realized I was being dumb and joined in on the fun.

Track, not football!
Valentine’s wall. Instead of having EK help me put his cards in every one’s bags, I shook him off of my leg while I did it. It didn’t dawn on me until this AM that perhaps he could have helped. Or ripped down the entire wall.

After the party we came home and ate Ellis’ candy (we shared some with him…) and then ordered a pizza and watched the highly anticipated documentary, The Interrupters, on PBS. I am not sure when PBS became the go-to spot for Valentine’s Day, but I was talking about it all week. So that’s our V-Day – a real family holiday.

This is my favorite song.

Christmas music is playing over our speakers, I have a cinnamon scented candle courtesy of the G burning brightly in the window and a little bug tucked into his bed just a few feet from me. Three years ago today I was in Tucson, AZ with Ho-Ho in the hospital, hours spent in the car driving to and fro, and wracking my brain in the hopes of figuring out how to stop the chaos. I also was searching for my ID so I could buy some beer because let me tell you, a drink at night would have made everything a little better. I know you aren’t supposed to say that, but those were very long days.Very, very long days.

If you haven’t figured it out, Ho-Ho has MS – a disease that affects her both mentally and physically. It is something we as a family have been coping with for over two decades, but she is of course the victim of all of this. Three years ago, things fell apart after the Tucson public aid system removed Ho-Ho from her court-ordered treatment. She was a 5’3″ permed hair ticking time-bomb that exploded with a bang in December 2008. Literally. She threw a lamp through her apartment window because she thought she was trapped. After a few additional incidents at her apartment building, I made the call to have her taken to the hospital where she was admitted for an indefinite stay. Soon after, I pow-wowed with the sisters, flew down to investigate our options and advocate for her within the state legal and health system.

I remember arriving, picking up my rental car and driving directly to the hospital, where I sat for nearly 30 minutes after realizing that I was alone this time. Not to sound dramatic, especially since I have visited my mom in hospitals since I was eight and found it fairly “normal”, but never alone and never with the knowledge that I had to dictate her treatment with the state. It was, as you can imagine, absolutely heart breaking. I brought her bras with the underwire removed, various sundries, make-up …the things anyone needs to maintain some sense of normalcy and dignity in an otherwise chaotic situation.

After a week in the hospital, my mom was discharged to a “step down” facility. I don’t know if you have ever been to such a facility, but you want an advocate working for you because the people who run those places are out of control. Not once but twice I stood in the middle of their office space and refused to move until they distributed PRESCRIBED medications to Ho-Ho. The psychiatrist on-call didn’t “feel comfortable” dispensing her MS drugs. What? That is just wild! How can you expect one’s mental state to improve if you don’t simultaneously treat their physical problems? I can tell you that if was in crapton of pain and couldn’t sleep I would have some major problems coping. Lord, I can’t even function when I have a hangnail.

Mom and I spent the visiting hours addressing Christmas cards and even invited her housemates to join us so they could send a few out of their own. The only activities offered by the facility was watching movies and group therapy. Again, so disappointing. I am not a social worker but it seems fairly obvious to me that if you want to reintroduce people to society after they are stabilized, you should probably provide a little more interaction and intellectual stimulation than watching Lethal Weapon 2 and playing cards with with an incomplete deck (no pun intended).

Between visiting hours, I worked on  my grandpa’s 80th birthday scrapbook (impressed? you should be. I scrap booked the hell out of that piece), met with various public aid officials who said my mom made too much money for assistance (BWAHAHAHA) and traveled across Tucson looking for an assisted living facility that could house my mom while we made arrangements for her to move to Chicago. Let me tell you, there are some very rough places out there for folks with limited income. I looked at one facility that had four women to a room – and  the main activity of the day appeared to be smoking. I mean, I guess it’s better than chewing terbaccy, but still, not the best environment for a person needing a little extra TLC. Another place reminded me of the scene from Breaking Bad where the two dudes are being held hostage out in the middle of the New Mexican desert – in a one room house lit by a bare bulb and filled with a busted old stove, a TV stuck on one fuzzy channel and a crazed meth head running around with a gun. Maybe it wasn’t that bad but you never know. I do, however, have to compliment the “smoking club” on their mad housekeeping skills as I walked right into a glass door thinking it was open.

After losing it a few times and considering stuffing Ho-Ho into my suitcase, I finally found a company that helps place folks needing assisted living. Linda drove me around we found three facilities I thought my mom would like. She was discharged on Christmas Eve and we took a look at all three where as expected, she was unimpressed. The first facility eventually won out, but we soon changed our minds after I looked at their inspection record  (yikes!)  and then began a bit of legal battle to get our deposit back (story for another day). The second didn’t work either so she ended up at an old folks home that served our purposes but wasn’t ideal. It was temporary, whatever. Plus they had a row of lazy boys in the living room which, in my opinion, is pretty sweet.

Mr. Swirley was scheduled to fly to Tucson to spend Xmas with us but was snowed in. This turned out to be a blessing as he returned home to find water pouring down through every light fixture in our house, the alarm blaring and our cats cowering under the bed. Our neighbor’s pipe froze and burst causing what we have come to call the Flood of 2008. This is of course different than the Flood of 2009 that occurred two weeks later. It’s not like we had just moved in and the place was completed rehabbed or anything. Poor Mr. Swirley spent Christmas Eve shopvaccing with my dad and ate Christmas breakfast at the Hollywood Diner. Sweet sweet memories

After Christmas, I called my grandpa and asked him to sub in for me for two weeks while I got everything in order for the move. He of course kindly obliged and spent his days sorting through zillions of books, Christmas decorations, oversize belts and hair products. While he was busy being scolded by my mother for throwing away paperclips, we signed her new lease, organized a one way truck rental from Tucson to Chicago and the Ds, Mr. Swirley and I flew down to Ho-Ho’s house to pack her life up into a 17′ truck. In a little over 24 hours we had boxed a ton of blazers donning shoulder pads, donated a ton to Goodwill and scrubbed her two bedroom apartment from top to bottom. The two men drove her belongings up to Chicago while we got her situated in her temporary home, drugged a cat and found a dirty pair of underwear under our hotel bed.

And here we are three years later. As challenging as things were, I realize how blessed (most of the time) we are to have Ho-Ho close and how wonderful she really is to command such love and commitment (sometimes begrudgingly so but commitment nonetheless) from her family.  This Christmas she is with family, crocheting, drinking half-and-half and watching Monk with the G. She has a little man who adores her and as miserable as she may make herself out to be from time to time, is thriving and all up in people’s business.

I am not sure why I shared this story. It’s so serious and probably too personal for blogging. But it’s a Christmas story that is worth remembering…if only because we convinced her to give up that damn perm.

Ho-Ho – Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas!


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.
(pause)
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.