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!

If you can visualize a rabbit riding a dragon it increases the chance of winning lotteries.

Get your clucking tongues ready, people! We have now reached a new low parenting – we lock our child in his bedroom (collective dramatic intake of breath). It’s not as bad as it sounds. Well, it sort of is. You can’t really exaggerate when you say you lock your kid in his room. But look, it’s only during the allotted sleeping periods AND we tried to be civilized. We put up his little kid gate, on which he would hang and talk to for 1.5 hours at nap time, and up to two hours at night. After a week of sleep deprivation for the three of us, something had to give. And by something, I mean we created a brightly colored jail cell in which we lock our child for up to 12 hours at night and two during the day. But guess what – he now takes five minutes to fall asleep (in his bed no less!) and the same at night. It’s a Bad Parenting magazine miracle!

In other news, the Swingens visited over the weekend – just in time to see Ellis behave like a sleepy beast. We went to the Children’s Museum, on a riverboat tour, visited the Green City market, danced a little and enjoyed some amazing weather. I was 100% sure EK was going to fall off the boat and kept shrieking and jumping around like a maimed bird every time I saw him move. It was tremendous. In an effort to take my mind off of the possibility of my son slipping through the three inch gap between the bars on the boat and into the murky Chicago river, I took ten thousand pictures.

Three sets of legs.
Walking with grammy.
A blinding hello

And although our neighborhood pool has yet to open, we enjoyed some fun in the sprinklers until Mr. Swirley (accidently?) goaded EK into sticking his face into the sprinkler. Nice.

Wicker Park fun. Seriously, he was having fun. He is just embracing the apathetic hipster n’hood vibe.
Neighborhood mural and Mr. Swirley’s characteristic clenched teeth smile.
Thanks for being a big fat jerk, dad. I still love you more than mom. Not that she notices.
Pulaski Park loving. The smile is likely due to the fruit snacks and donut fed to him mere seconds before the picture was taken.

Then we had breakfast for dinner, did some arts and crafts and finished off our water table cover thing.

God bless ‘merica.


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

Mogę zrobić dziecku płakać

I have been neglecting updating this blog for no reason other than I have better things to do. Just kidding, I don’t really have much to do. I am just lazy. Here is a summary of the past two weeks –

Lou turned two. TWO!!! He was just a baby, like, yesterday. A tiny little squishy man.

He was about 7lbs in this picture. The baby, not the cat. The cat weighs 42 lbs.
I love this picture of him. Love love love.

I don’t know how this happens, but apparently it is unstoppable. You know what else is unstoppable? Me with a camera when there are children in a bathtub. I obviously mean this in the most innocent way. Since both of our cameras simultaneously broke and I don’t care much for our back-up, T-bone loaned us his DSLR for the weekend to capture moments such as these…

Another one to break-out at the rehearsal dinner(s).
So coy.
John Deere + sugar + a little brotherly assistance = deliciousness and probably a stomach ache

Swinging Swingens
Scheduled work break
Lady Jayne wrangles the boys

Cousins. I am a little terrified of what the future holds in terms of boyhood shenanigans.
Swimming with pops. This time we avoided a freak out.

I am very happy we moved back to the Midwest if only to celebrate second birthdays with ice cream cakes decorated by mini-farm equipment.

We arrived back to Chicago just in time to enjoy a little bit of Wicker Park fest. Ellis wasn’t in his most hipster ensemble, but we decided to brave the crowds and hope they didn’t notice our un-skinny jeans and EK’s lack of neon 80s inspired gafas del sol..Ellis also showed off some of his new head-bobbing moves. I don’t know why I am so thrilled he knows what “dance” means, but I am pretty sure he feels like a monkey since I yell “dance Ellis dance” 23 hours a day. I spend the other hour asking him to “eat”,  “wave” or telling him “not for Ellis”. Poor child.

Look – we made it!.
Wicker Park Welcome Committee. Located next to the stage speakers. Very responsible of us, no?

Then another week of zillion degree days and Ellis deciding to wake up and scream for 12 hours in a row at night just because. I definitely played into his antics a bit and was reminded of what it feels like to have a one week old (read: baby sleeping on you or screaming, or both). Except this baby weighs 22 pounds and crushes my diaphragm. Anywhoo, I caught onto his game after the first two nights of restlessness and vertical sleep. My new strategy consists of me rocking in a chair next to the crib while I hum and he looks directly at me and screams at the top of his lungs.. But mom is “winning”…if “winning” means watching your baby cry big fat tears while you sing the chorus to “Yellow Submarine” for an hour straight. I  really should look up those lyrics.

Last Friday we went to Highland Park and met up with Ellis’ newest friend, young Avner and his mama Ms. Lisa B. Um, the Highland Park community pool is probably, no, is the nicest pool I have ever visited. Sorry Shorewood. Lucky for them, I wore my fanciest swimsuit…a stretched out pair of bottoms (I was unaware of my lack of elastic rump support until I slipped them on in the changing room), nursing bra and tank top. You can take the girl out of the city…Yikes. I am not sure they will ever have me back, but it was a good time. And both boys napped! In their strollers. Bonkers. Ms. Lisa B and I drank rum and cokes and pretended to be on a laid back vacation which was almost possible except for the flirting co-eds running circles around our stroller island. I didn’t get called ma’am, so that is a success in its own right, right?

Saturday I got up and ran out to a group garage sale put on by a bunch of attachment parenting moms. They were talking about weaning their kids at age 3.5 and seemed to question my “parenting philosophy” (their words) when I said EK was off the boob at one. Oh well. I hung around the shadows near the table filled with tiny shoes like the stalker I am and waited for the used Ergo to arrive. I was so excited for that sucker and now Ellis hates it. What a surprise. I am hoping it is because he was so hot when we first put it on but am pretty sure it’s because it would make me too happy if he liked the carrier.

Sunday was a day dedicated to all things Polish. By that I mean Pierogifest in Whiting, IN. Have you been? You haven’t? Something is seriously wrong with you. It’s year two for us and Ellis was so excited for his first foray into Slavic cuisine except for the part of actually consuming the food. He stuck with Os and water. Harumph. More meaty-cheesy goodness for me.

Just a quick snack
The Whiting Chamber of Commerce should drop their current slogan and go with: Visit. Here. Next. Year. That’s right, I got my undergrad degree in advertising. It’s obvious, isn’t it?

One year ago – Ellis in the belly with the Babushkas
2011 – They still love EK!

And the biggest news, aside from the debt ceiling agreement, is that Ellis still isn’t walking. He is climbing stairs really fast and can fall down them even faster. I also made a baby cry today and it wasn’t mine! Perhaps that is a hint that I should stop picking up other people’s children. Perhaps.

A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five.

Spring is here! Spring is here! Spring is here! How did I spend the first really warm day of the season? Bent over a toilet throwing up thanks to a nice little bout of the stomach flu. We made it home from Madison without me losing it in the car, so that is something to celebrate. Especially since we didn’t pay $22,000 to have the car upholstery scotchguarded and you know we haven’t done it ourselves. Car ride aside, the real celebration occurred on Saturday when G.U.S. and the rest of us celebrated his fifth birthday.

 I can’t believe it. He was just a little chubby dude…

And now he is heading for kindygarten. Crazy. Apparently he is also a dinosaur.

Sweet Lou held his own throughout the weekend and somehow managed to avoid the illness that took three adults out in a matter of hours. This once again proves my theory that children are plotting to kill us all and take over the world. Based on last week’s budget bill shenanigans, perhaps I should amend my theory to state that they are actually shapeshifters taking over our bodies, not necessarily murderers and they have already completed phase I: Destroy Congress.

Ellis seemed to enjoy all of the activity and only misbehaved when no one was around to see him driving us nutso (i.e., 11 PM – 4 AM Friday and Saturday nights.)

And Mr. Swirley thoroughly enjoyed the weather, personal space afforded by the ‘burbs and the champagne of beers. He was definitely living the dream all weekend.

All in all, the Swingens put on a great show and we were happy to join in on the fun…even if we cumulatively lost 86 lbs on Sunday. Given that I ate three cupcake, a piece of cake, chips, various mayo-laden salads, drank Pepsi etc., etc., it probably was for the best that I couldn’t keep it all down. Gross.

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!

Renegades of Funk

Ho ho is back to her old tricks again. Today’s call went something like this:

Ho-ho: “Annie, I am going to see a new neurologist.”
Me: “Why?”
Ho-ho: ” I don’t like mine. He wants me to take a new medicine.”
*** note it took SIX MONTHS to get her in to this clinic and she calls him constantly to try new meds.
Me: “What medicine?”
Ho-ho: ” I don’t know.”
Me: “Huh?”
Ho-ho: “God blessed”. Rustling of papers and more cursing. Then some name I don’t remember.
Me: “Why don’t you want to take it? What does it do?”
Ho-ho: “I just don’t. I don’t know what it does but I am smart.So I am going to see this new neuro.”

Yep. It was great and makes a lot of sense. 

Aside from shenanigans such as this, we have been having a great time. Ellis got to meet his 25th cousin twice removed (my grandma’s sister’s great-granddaughter) and I finally met my pen-pal (her mama), Anna. Anna apparently loves Puerto Rico and Sen. Reid. I haven’t seen Doug (my cousin) since we were wee little ones in Orland Park. He is now very tall and sarcastic and seems to have married well.

Here we are on the top of the Sears Tower. This is what a $22.00 photo looks like.

The babies really pushed for the trip. Libby is clearly the bravest of us all.She is also adorable.

Sadly the threesome left only a day later…then Mr. Swirley’s parents arrived for some Halloween weekend fun and Ellis couldn’t wait to get into his Halloween costumes. Yes, he had two.He also finally met his Aunt Jess and new friends Anand and Beth who just moved to Chicago from NYC. It was a very social few days.

                                                    Ellis’ second el trip

                                                    Posing with grams on Daley Plaza

                                          Mad at the world

                                                       Hanging out with aunt Jess

Grams and Gramps Swirley headed out Sunday post-Packer game and it was just the three of us hanging out. That meant I could dress Ellis up again. Here he is looking cozy.

EK has been exceptionally happy the past few days which is pretty much the best. The only rough spots are shopping and driving (he has intense bouts of road rage at red lights)…but I am sure we will work through these “challenges”.

He is sleeping now, so I should probably do the same.