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.

Dustbunny Ranch

If you ever visit, you will likely receive an email similar to the one below. Basic take away is that I am the world’s worst hostess.
Dear Thornleys –

What up? So I just checked your arrival times (I like to wait until the last possible moment to know any details about people’s visit) and I see you get in at 4:25 PM Thursday. So I should expect to see you Saturday sometime in the late afternoon.

A few things you should know:
       –   Although I have known about your visit for the past however long, I will wait to clean until you are wheels down. Thus, fingers crossed Libby won’t have to wade through dustbunnies to get to her bed but I cant promise much more than that. 

        – Our walls are covered in marks. It may look filthy, but many of the marks are from me trying to clean smaller marks off. Note to shitty developers – don’t use flat paint. Note to stupid buyers – don’t buy from scumbag developers. Moreover, don’t be so stupid.

         – We have 12 gallons of milk in our fridge. Don’t ask why.

 … Santa sightings blah blah.

 John Hancock – we can go up to the top and have an 8.00 beer and take in the views.
 …. more tourism ideas.

Or we can just sit around and stare at each other.

Hugs and kisses,
Annie

Things I neglected to do prior to/during the visit:
– grocery shopping. Yes, not like it’s crucial for a hostess to feed her guests. Ellis pitched a fit in the produce aisle so that is far as we got.
– make dinner. I diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce, and fried up some taco meet…only to have it taste like garbage. Failure. 
– put the duvet cover on the comforter. I count this as a half-failure because I:
1. washed the duvet.
2. put clean sheets on the bed.
– use my turn signals. I am a real jerk driver.  I decided my guests should know about this as I repeatedly signaled one millisecond before it was time for us to turn. I am pretty sure they hated me for that.

I am sure they can point out more of my mistakes, but those are the one that really stand out to me. 

I did arrange for a sitter for Friday night and proudly announced that to our waiter during dinner. So that was a minor success. But in general, if you come to visit in Chicago, keep your expectations low and everyone wins.

I just gave Ellis an early Christmas present (his own pots to bang together) because he is being so annoying. Maybe he is just trying to get my attention as I am sitting at the computer.

Hey Mikey! Come over here and give me a big wet lickery kiss.

I am currently eating potato salad out of a pyrex storage bowl and loving every minute of it. I am also resting my feet on a cooler filled with beer bottles and juice boxes. Class-ay. Why do I have all of this goodness, you ask? Because this weekend we celebrated Ellis’ birthday for the second time. AJBurke and JWaller were kind enough to open their house (and roof-top) up to us, and helped feed all of the guests. We had a great time making sliders, eating various summer salads and making babies cry. Well, just one baby. Ellis didn’t really enjoy his dinner or 30 people singing “Happy Birthday”, but the other kids fared much better on a diet of apple juice, burgers and sugary goodness.

Pre-half marathon feast.
Norm and I. She is a real snugglebug. Just not with me.

Skyline views. And a pony keg.
“Show me your tongue.” Seriously, that is what was going on.
Will.
Ms. Fi
GM’s masterpiece!
Pre-freak out.
Banner still in tact.

Ellis finally got to meet his Uncle Andy and Aunt Andrea – who traveled all the way from Dayton to watch him cry, throw his cake on the ground and go to bed without presents. We also had guests who came from Madison, Milwaukee and Oak Park. As for presents, this kid is spoiled. Books, bonds, stuffed animals and trucks to name a few. We are so lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives and I hope they know how much we appreciate them – even if I leave parties without saying goodbye (cough cough.)

Sunday wasn’t as fun of a day for obvious and not so obvious reasons. After saying goodbye to JDold et al (much too short of a visit), we picked up a house full of wrapping paper and were stoked about having a free day to roam about the city. It was also the fourth anniversary of my grandma’s passing and surprisingly enough, for the first time in years, I was able to cope. I don’t know if it’s the existence of Ellis, the time/distance from her death, or perhaps a combination of the two, but for whatever reason September didn’t bring on the darkness and anxiety as it had in previous years. I think she would be happy about that. I also think she was messing with me as I received a call at around 10 AM that Ho-Ho’s flipper (tooth) had been stolen again. If you are keeping track, this is the third time this has happened (though we weren’t charged for the second flipper) in one year. This most recent appliance was picked up LAST WEEK. At $300 a pop, this clearly isn’t working. Brimming with a level of frustration that I cannot even begin to articulate, I asked Mr. Swirley if we could go about our day as planned before we go to Oak Park to ransack her place in search of finding a tooth. So to the hipster craft fair we went.

It wouldn’t be a Wicker Park event without: 1) mustaches, 2) photo booths and 3) photo booths with mustaches.

On the way to Wicker Park.

Ellis lived it up at the park and I am sure we were judged by many of the parents present for EK’s lack of shoes. We are still learning, people. Cut us some slack.

I hate you blogger…. Ellis climbed the mini climbing wall solo. Crazy.
So happy.

Don’t get me wrong. We had a great time looking at crafty things (I’m not entirely sure I could identify a purpose for many of the items being sold) and the park was awesome. But Ho-Ho’s gap-tooth smile was weighing on me the entire time we were trying to relax and take in a lovely late summer afternoon.

Mr. Swirley was kind enough to accompany me and Ellis to Oak Park in the hopes that he could temper my reaction to the situation. It sort of worked except when I found out Ho-Ho has used the money I gave her for a haircut to instead buy perfume. Is this what it is like to have a teenager? If so, it’s time to start saving for one of those great East Coast boarding schools I hear so much about.

In tearing the place apart we found: 1) an earring, 2 ) hair roller and 3) pill box – all of which were also stolen at one point or another. After unmaking her bed, searching under furniture and going through her garbage coffee grind by coffee grind, I came up with nothing. Maybe she is right; somehow someone broke into her room while she was napping with the deadbolt and lower lock locked and chain across the door and removed the flipper from her mouth or the bedside table (she can’t remember if she took it out). BLARGH!!!

We also came across soda, french fries and an empty bag of chips her garbage – but she insists her weight gain is due to medication. And just now she called me saying that someone stole all of her batteries (I bought Costco packs and foolishly left them at her house). I try so hard to remain centered when I visit, and when I find myself snapping at her, I know that it won’t help but I can’t stop myself. This results in me not only being frustrated by the loss of material items, the general decline of her mental state, and the added work/cost any given situation will create, but I am disappointed in myself for letting it affect me to such a degree that I cannot bite my tongue. Would I yell at Ellis in the same manner when he is older? Probably not. How do you hold someone accountable while not making them feel bad about themselves? How do you accept that  things will only get worse? This is by no means a pity party – just real questions that I can’t seem to answer. And at 32 would think I would be mature enough to figure some of this out.

She obviously doesn’t mean to lose these things, and has created a  frightening world where she is a victim of a conspiracy that I can’t even begin to understand, but we have to coexist and it is getting more and more challenging to do so. A new flipper is out of the question, a bridge (which includes 3 teeth) is $2400 and an implant is over $3000. What do I do? The gap is so visible and it clearly will affect her self-esteem…but $2400 is a lot right now. And on top of that I resent her for bad choices stemming from a disease she can’t control. There are clearly a lot of decisions that will have be made regarding her long-term care and I suppose it is good to at least accept that fact now, when the issues aren’t as dire as needing 24/7 care, etc. It’s just a lot to take in. 

I suppose it’s stuff like this that makes makes me miss my grandma the most – so perhaps it is appropriate that this happened on the anniversary of her passing. Maybe that sign I saw in Wicker Park with no attribution is some divine message from her. Or from someone who knows everyone has a crappy day once in a while.

Luckily we had a little comic relief at home when young Ellis decided he was ready to eat some cake. So after my lengthy rant, I will leave you with a few pictures of a happy baby because everyone loves babies and puppies. Unless you are dead inside. Then I have nothing to offer you.

First taste.
“They’ve got Mississippi Mud and they’ve got Chocolate Eruption!”
Dad is on bath duty tonight. Sucker.

His elephun attacked earlier in the day, leaving a tiny red dot on his face. He clearly was traumatized.

Everything was a little better this AM…especially after a 30 minute snugglefest with the stinkpot pictured above.

After the storm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yet again I’m hustling, hustling, hustling

I lost my wallet again. AGAIN! This makes, God, I don’t even know how many times I have done this. There was that one time I left it on a Metro bench in DC, the time I lost it on our first day on our honeymoon and the zillions of times in between. In college it got so bad that my Madison bank started charging me for replacement cards. I really don’t mean to be irresponsible but it just happens. And things have just gotten worse since I have had Ellis. What is most stressful is that my wallet held my mom’s prescriptions for August and September. Prescriptions that have to be picked up in person. Prescriptions that have to be reported as lost to the State.So I am pretty much blacklisted in her doctor’s office. I guess the silver lining is that I haven’t lost Ellis as of yet (knock on wood). And no, that time in Kohls’ doesn’t count because he was only gone for maybe 45 seconds.

Bad news aside, last weekend was awesome. First, Ellis spent all Friday shopping with me. Like the entire day. It was 75 and sunny out and he slept in his stroller. This is a rarity. Like a shooting star or Michelle Bachmann making sense. There were a few questionable decisions made by yours truly (e.g., letting Ellis crawl around the changing area while I was essentially nude), but overall it was a great day that didn’t end in me throwing the baby at Lee and fleeing to the basement with a jug of wine. Not like that ever happens. Oh, and we almost got hit by a car that drove up onto the sidewalk. Almost.

Then on Saturday we met BUCKY!! Yes, people Bucky Badger was once again in Chicago. Last year was his first time visiting Will’s Northwoods Inn and now it is an August tradition.

August 2010
August 2011 – bump is now a baby!

Mr. Swirley spent Saturday celebrating the last days of BPugh’s bachelorhood which included a roof-top bbq, a limo ride (?) and whirleyball. The old men made a pit stop to celebrate with the badger band and we totally ruined their “macho man vibe” ( note the tiny child in the photo below).

I realize this is a crappy photo but I wasn’t about to ask Bucky to move.

I was really happy that Ellis got to meet a lot of his other FWC uncles and can’t wait to hit them up for jobs for EK when he is a bit older. 

I love this shot. Just two guys hanging out. I wish Ellis had feet.

The rest of Saturday was spent with the ladies over at Susie Q’s digs. Ellis kicked it with his new friend, Scarlet, and I am she praying didn’t get sick from the germs that just emanate from his general person. Susie Q made us an amazing meal and we talked about girl things like how our significant others don’t clean the bathroom. Dude, we got karazy. It was really fun, especially after Ellis spilled my drink all over me and then finally decided to go to bed.

Sunday was yet another beautiful day and we just hung out and took pictures of Ellis. Before we had a baby I took a lot of photos. They aren’t great, but I like to document things. I now take the same number of photos, but all of Ellis. It is not because I am obsessed with him – well, I sort of am. I more obsessed with the idea of stopping time – I am desperate to be able to remember what he is like at this age – so small and cuddly and crazy. I also have a lot of photos of him because the free time that I do have is spent with him and he is such  a baby about letting me do anything else.

We often threaten to put Ellis in the smokestack when he is naughty. If we don’t have time for a smokestack time-out we can throw him in baby jail out front.

Work release from baby jail

Swingens are in town this weekend and the Air and Water show is gearing up to destroy my eardrums.