I’ve loved you since there was only one Soviet Union and one Damon Wayans.

2010 – Year 1 of Bucky at Will’s Northwoods Inn
2011 – In shock of Bucky’s awesomeness
2012 – Solo mission to see Bucky. EK told me, “Mama, I love Bucky.”

Since EK is an August baby, it seems obvious that the best way to document his annual growth is via Bucky’s late summer annual trip to Chicago. My hope, of course, is that one day he and Bucky will be one in the same…at least for one season.

Clean up on aisle busted.

I am terribly behind in posting banal details about our life. Apologies.

Here is some news, Ellis now only responds to the name, “Charlie”. You can attempt to get his attention by calling, cooing, yelling, etc. “Ellis” and you get nothing. You say, “Charlie!” and he responds immediately. It works at stores AND at home. He also told me he is going to be 16 in August.

We spent July 4 up in the Northwoods of Wisconsin. We had a great time except for the fact that Charlie has learned how to escape from his pack and play which means he tried to kill himself pretty much every night. Cabins are a little more difficult to childproof, so we spent one to two hours each night trying to get him to sleep AND bid farewell to naps for the holiday weekend. I suppose it was fitting given it was Independence Day, but let me tell you, we ripped that freedom right out from under his feet the second we returned home.

Our favorite Finnish cousins spent the weekend with us asking millions of questions including: “Why do you live in Chicago?” – “Why is your hair so soft?” – “Is that your bathing suit?”(it’s a tankini and apparently the most foreign thing they had ever seen) – “Why is he crying?” (this was a common one) – “Why won’t he let me hold him?” – “Have you heard of this Britney Spears?” – “How do you change Ellis’ diapers?” Unfortunately they didn’t volunteer to help out with the diaper changing but were continually fascinated with the process. And, they did try to squeeze the ever living life out of him for 72 hours straight…much like Looney Tunes’ Elmyra Duff

It was hilarious. Plus they were incredibly helpful with keeping him occupied.  As with any other event post- August 2010, I neglected to take into account the work involved with transporting and entertaining a child while constantly trying to prevent his demise. I was semi-successful with regard to my duties as a parent; EK got a swift smack in the face with a regulation weight horseshoe. I was worried about the post-shoe release and completely forgot about the windup. Yikes.I felt pretty great about myself after that.
G.U.S. and the rest of the kids basically lived in the pier. I tried to stay away because, as indicated above, I was SURE that something terrible would take place. I never thought I would be one of those moms, but I totally am. So I lived in my bubble of ignorance and freaked out every other minute or so. Everyone survived and I looked like a jackass. What’s new?
Night fishing. I can tell you that life could not get any better for these children that this moment right here. A dirt cake came in a close second, but couldn’t beat this.
This is what happens when you give a kid a smartphone. You are welcome, Lady Jayne.
You know you are up north when…
Cabin reading
Grandpa’s escape vehicle
Twin 1 tries to push twin 2 into lake. Twin 2 retaliates. Uncle Bob laughs.
Safety first.
Johnson ladies!


Cousins and probably some ticks.
Do you ever watch Storage Wars? It’s the best show ever.

Thanks but I’ll have to get a second opinion from someone in my basket weaving class.

A brilliant plan has been hatched in the Swirley household by one Mr. Swirley. It goes something like this.

– Pack everything for our trip “up North”. Like the entire house into our RAV-4, in 12 minutes at 4 AM.
– Mr. Swirley drives to work and loves his life.
Then the fun begins.
– EK and I take the bus to school. I take the bus home and make it to my desk by 8 AM…and hate my life.
–  Fast forward four hours and I am on the Ashland bus again – by this point, probably full of rage.
– Wake EK up from his nap and walk in 1200 degree heat to the Metra.
– Take a double decker (read staircases EVERYWHERE) train 45 minutes with a cranky toddler and get picked up by Mr. Swirley.
– Drive one hour and fifty-nine minutes with EK falling asleep at 1:58.
– Arrive at the Swingens’ door two hours into the trip.
– Play with cousins until Ellis’ eyes fall out. Go to bed.
– Get up early and drive four years to get to the cabin.

This is how I predict things will go:
– Pack the entire house minus the essentials in 20 minutes.
– Mr. Swirley takes the train to work.
– EK and I drive to school and back
– I pack the car so no one can see out any window and passengers must use their body as leverage to open and/or close any door.
– We drive, like the civilized middle class family that we are, to pick up Mr. Swirley.
– Mr. Swirley sucks it up and take two hours off of work instead of getting to work at 4 AM.
and the rest of the night will go on as laid out above.

Will I criticize Mr. Swirley’s plan to his face? No. I have agreed to this hair brained scheme. BUT, I did lay a little egg of doubt in his baby head when I inquired about the status of food left in a cooler in the car (on blacktop) for 12 hours. Passive aggressive much? Or merely rational? I know, it’s rare I am the rational half of our little duo, but this just may meet my quota of one decision per year.

With all that being said, I am really pumped for the holiday weekend. Happy America day!

You know what Mr. Bag? I will have a nice day. I’m gonna hang you in my kitchen and fill you with other bags. You will eat your family.

Ellis is currently taking a nap. I should be happy because:
1. He is actually sleeping. In his bed.
2. I have been mad at him all morning for getting up so early.
    2. a. This is pretty unfair of me because he is a child AND because I went to bed at 6:30 PM last night. No lie.
But I am unhappy because he will be up in 15 minutes (11:45 AM) and it’s 12,000 degrees outside so we are stuck messing around inside all day. We have six hours to fill until Papi comes home and I pretend like he hasn’t worked for 12 hours..and hand off Ellis. Stellar attitude, I know.

Today, we went to a coffeeshop and hung out for an hour. It was awesome. I haven’t visited Filter since Ellis started walking because I was scared he would go on a rampage and break 22 hipsters’ Macs. However, not only is the owner really friendly, but the place cool with kids wreaking havoc. Plus, he and his family are neighbors. So while Ellis bothered a girl studying to be a Physicians Assistant (at one point he had her reading him an Arthur book), we talked about neighborhood shenanigans that I don’t want to repeat here and our upcoming bombass block party.

EK looking like how I feel. And are those eyebrows growing right before our eyeballs?

Guess who is awake. Told you.

p.s. Today I got a new (to me) office chair off the back of a truck. Literally off the back of a pickup truck. For free. My legs are itching a little, but I am trying to ignore the possibility that I might have welcomed someone/thing terrible into my home.

UPDATE: We got out to the pool and ice cream shop today – lost a billion calories walking but it was worth it. Especially because it was the only way I could keep EK in a diaper/pants. In an effort to fulfill every toddler boy cliche,  his two new favorite things are telling me no and stripping down to his birthday suit.

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.
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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I don’t think it’s very nice to walk around my head all night.

Time to complain. When is it not time to complain?
Last Sunday after some fun at Maxwell Street market (which, incidentally is no longer on Maxwell Street), we headed over to Pulaski pool to revel in -50 degree water and maybe lap up some chlorinated water like a puppy dog.

In case you are wondering, below is a list of things not allowed at the pool:
– chairs
– flotation devices of any sort
– rational rules (will elaborate in a bit)
– fun (see above items)

As you can probably guess, Ellis didn’t really enjoy being immersed in frigid water. As he screamed in anger while Mr. Swirley tried to set him down to splash about, I looked longingly at all of the kids running around and yelling with delight as their brothers/sisters/friends shot them in the face with a water cannon. Maybe not yelling with delight, but at least they wanted to be in the water. Because that is what you do when you go to a pool. But not young EK. So there we sat, on the hot pavement while he licked cement and splashed around just enough to make me feel like we were sort of having fun.

Serious cement sitting. See that massive green and blue thing in the background (i.e., a float). It’s not allowed.

“Mom, this is as far as I will go before I decide to make your life miserable.”
Angry. Very very angry.

Don’t get me wrong. We are going back. I don’t care if he doesn’t enjoy it. I have already learned to pretty much ignore Ellis’ cries of protest.

This is what gets me. Every two hours, Pulaski pool life guards kick everyone out of the pool. Not like, “Hey, let’s do a dead body check and take a break. Everyone sit on the cement because you aren’t allowed to bring in chairs (which is just crazytalk, if you ask me) while we take a break.” No, no. It’s “You have to pack up all of your junk and LEAVE THE POOL AREA while we lock the gates and you mill about in the park. We will be over here laughing and pointing at you from our chairs while we flirt, I mean, take a break.”

I am sure that I was the first person to tell the lifeguards it’s an asinine policy and they should stagger their breaks. They seemed fairly indifferent which went over like a ton of bricks. I took this “break” as a cue for the Swirleys to head home and we marched out. We didn’t bring a towel for our baby, but I still felt superior to the guards who I am sure flipped me off as I shook my fists and yelled at Mr. Swirley. Once we arrived home, I printed out the pool schedule and waited until Monday to call the Chicago Park District. The next morning I was on the horn bright and early, not sure what I was going to say. Chicago Park robot lady told me to press some numbers and I left a message. I called again today, left some messages with other robot ladies and got the number for the Park Supervisor. I left a message with  him and sent an email. I doubt it will change anything, but at least I feel better.

Today we awoke to another Honda Fit with two missing wheels. Sometimes I hate my neighborhood.

On a more upbeat note, I picked up a craigslist purchase and wasn’t murdered. Additionally, former Gov. Rod Blago was found guilty on a majority of the charges filed against him so he and former IL Gov. Paul Ryan can be bunk mates.

This morning I thought I had a caffeine headache so I drank two cups of coffee and a coke. Turns out I was just hungry and now my eyeballs feel like they are going to fly out and punch you in the face.

Last week I almost got into an argument with a policeman while I was parked in front of a fire hydrant. Guess who was parked in front of that same hydrant yesterday. It rhymes with a nozing schmoficer.

We saw Cage the Elephant perform a Lolla a few years ago and thought they sucked. Now, every time I hear on of their songs on the radio I think to myself, “Damn, that is a catchy tune.”

I wish I spoke more than ten words of Czech.

Tak čau