Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Formal Family Reunion.......NOT!!!

Day late and lots of dollars short with this post!! Sorry for not being a 'Johnny on the Spot' blog queen but I'm showing signs of my advancing age. I need a day to recover from these big outings anymore. Besides, my computer protested mightily at trying to download the 200 or so pictures that Peggy and I took at our family picnic on Sunday! Don't worry, I don't plan on abusing you by posting them all but apologies for the random posting order...still lethargic and not up to a 'cutesy' collage of a post. The morning started early for food prep! Some of us wake up with sunnier dispositions than others in the family :)
One of this year's challenges was that the children had to contribute an item to the buffet made by themselves. Julia chose guacamole!
We absolutely lucked out big time with the weather!!!!!! Sunny but NOT hot! It was about as gorgeous a day as one could hope for a picnic. We had the pavilion reserved 'just in case' but it only served as the hub of the activity.
According to the family tree, which acted as an attendance sheet, nearly 100 members made the trek to the picnic grove. Members from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Colorado were here to celebrate the annual reunion!
There were games for the kids who came in all sizes and colors.....
and lots of reminiscing for the old timers....
My Mom and her sister with all their daughters had as much fun as....
the gang of cousins born in 1997!!!
Water balloons found targets both willing and unwilling! Not naming names but one mature adult even led a surprise attack on unsuspecting children trying to play their games...and paid for it with a revenge attack by the above water grenade thrower. Lucky for said adult that Peggy's camera had gone dead by that time and it was not caught on film!
Young and old were armed and on the hunt for 'dry' bodies to target!
Additions to the family tree were recorded while......
the twenty-somethings learned how to read directions for the basic need to eat!
Some cousins came loaded with the creature comforts needed by adults to party the day away...
while some settled for a simple load of chocolate 'puppy chow' to make their day!
Like so many big parties we had to put in a lot of work to carry it off but like all good parties it was over too soon! Too soon also for my Dad to leave again but today I put him on the plane and several hours later he sits relaxing in his Sarasota haven! My life went back to 'normal' as we are now hurrying to gather Julia's supplies together for horse camp which begins on Sunday at the same time as we prepare for the 4th of July! Deep sigh, I've also agreed to let Mari return to dancing.....add another stop to the Mom taxi!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A trip down memory lane....

One of the greatest parts of having my Dad 'home' is getting to spend some quality time with him at some of our old haunts! Tonight we took a trip to the 'old neighborhood' with the girls, Andrew, and Auntie Peggy to get some comfort food. Rainbow Cone on Chicago's south side has been an icon for 83 years strong and given that my Dad is 84 years young one can guess correctly that he had a bunch of memories to share! Here he is standing in the same spot as he stood in 1942 before he shipped out to the war! How many diaries contained passages recalling the delicious combination of five ice cream flavors on a single cone and wondering if they would make it home alive to taste it just one more time?
Here Peggy and I stand in the same spot where we celebrated so many of our childhood milestones with that cold summer treat! Rainbow Cone is one of those seasonal shops that is only open during the summer months. Countless local high school kids can claim this as their first job.
Andrew just couldn't quite bring himself to try the Original Rainbow and the brain freeze from his plain chocolate cone was the cosmic punishment!
I have such a dichotomy of emotions as I look at this scene! I'm so happy to see my Dad comfortably downing his cone even if walking is a challenge but I'm also melancholy at the idea that this could be the last time he's up to making the drive to share a cone with Peggy and me.
We now live pretty far away from Rainbow Cone so one MUST stock up on a couple of gallons to bring home!
This is what happens when you ask a tweener trying to eat a cone to help you pack the take out in a cooler!!! What's that saying about walking, talking, and chewing gum????
What??? Really, I have EIGHT siblings who also celebrated their milestones at Rainbow Cone who would be majorly peeved if they heard we made the trek and didn't bring them home some of the heavenly concoction!!!!
Since we were in the 'old neighborhood' we decided to cruise past some old landmarks for the kids to see.....
The Chicago bungalow that my maternal grandparents built in the 1920's and into which my parent's brought the first seven of their children. I was 9 years old when we migrated to the suburbs and naturally I remembered this house to be much bigger!
This bungalow located just six houses down the block was my paternal grandparent's home! Yep, my Mom and Dad were literally neighbors growing up!!!!
Surely this building has shrunk also!!!! This is the school where I went to 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grades. Thanks to a lease to a private day care, this building has been spared the wrecking ball unlike it's twin that housed the middle grades. It was too dark by the time we circled around to the church where my parents were married and I was baptised to get a good picture as a storm was closing in quickly. Not all of the 'south side of Chicago' is 'the baddest part of town'!!!
Tomorrow we have our big family reunion picnic :) I guess this will be a 'way it was' kind of weekend!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Day/night, hot/cold, black/white.....Mari/Julia!

Seriously! This is no exaggeration! My two daughters are as different as any two sisters have ever been. This subject has carried many a conversation and everyone has their own theory. Some cite the fact that they share none of the same DNA. Some blame the differences in their early life experiences. I believe that it is a deliberate choice on Julia's part! Take today, for example, as I pull in the drive after a series of errands that took waaaaaay longer than anticipated, this is what I see...... Julia filling her time by playing S.W.A.T. Using her toy binoculars to spy on neighbor children and kitted out with her wireless communication headset and GRENADE. Yep, explosives would not be an excessive use of power in her mind.
I guess the 'official' police badge is my clue to get my hands up in the air ? So, as can be expected, the photo shoot attracted some attention! Just like every other sibling rivalry, the senior sibling sensed that the junior was getting more of my time than she and an appearance was made to rectify the situation.
Do I need to say more? Dolled up in pink and white and parked in on the couch for the 'not to be missed' debut of the Disney channel's "Princess Protection Program". I could go on for days about my vegetarian and her carnivore sister, the nester and her foot loose sister, the calm sister who shares a home with a diva, Animal Cops versus America's Next Top Model...well you get the picture! I just wish there had been a chapter in Parenting 101 warning me of the possibility of this juggling act I am currently performing. Being oh so Pollyanna, maybe this is like magnets and my two ladies will someday be pulled together because of their differences??

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wonderfully Warm Wednesday!!

Well I think it's safe to use the word 'summer' now!! So far the weathermen are on target and the 90+ degrees they promised have arrived. A little late for our big family garden plans but not too late to get some benefit from the warmth. Since the seedlings were in serious jeopardy of dying in their peat pots, Auntie Peggy tucked them in among her flower beds in the hopes of getting some bit of a harvest. So while I'm being offered cucumbers from my friends in New Orleans this is a pitiful look at cucumber plants in Illinois!! It's just been too wet and cold for the vines to take off and maybe we will have cucumbers by August. The past couple of days of warm weather have given a good kick in the pants to some of our garden features.....
Day lilies are as tall as Julia and just starting to bloom.......
The Clematis vines thrived and are laden with blooms.........
We have our first crop!!! Fresh beans are such a treat...well for those of us that eat beans anyhow. Now we just need to get enough to feed more than one person.....
Auntie Peggy had the honors of picking and eating the first fruits of our defunct family garden!
The batch of storms which have been knocking our trees about have been causing widespread power outages. Yesterday, as my Dad flew in from Sarasota, my Mom lost her power. The power company reported a transformer fire which would take 24+ hours to repair so a VERY reluctant senior citizen was kidnapped by her concerned family. Mari graciously turned over her nicely air-conditioned bedroom so that Grandma would be spared heat stroke or worse! Some of my buddies are well aware of the situation with my parentals but for my new friends I'll explain. You see, they are still very cordially married but ever since my Dad had his stroke we found that their ranch style home in Sarasota was so much safer than the big old farm house (with countless stairs) in Illinois. Sarasota also has significantly more services for a senior citizen with mobility issues. My Mom just cannot stand Florida! I'm sure it is mostly because all of her children and grandchildren live in Illinois but she will say it's the life style, hah! So they have adopted a system in which my Dad lives in Florida and returns for big family events while my Mom lives in Illinois and goes to Florida.....well okay, she never goes to Florida but that was supposed to be the plan :) I hear comments often from my friends on how they don't understand why a happily married couple would choose to live apart? All I can say is that it has been just grand for my parents who know how to work a telephone and will celebrate 60 years of marriage this September.
Just a co-incidence that their outfits co-ordinated this evening!! Things like that happen after a long relationship....just like the freakish frequency that Auntie Peggy and I show up to events in the same color combos!!!
I'm so thrilled to have warm weather finally that I'm willing to brave the dripping sweat to get out and about......
tonight was "Cool Cars Under the Stars" in our downtown. Every Wednesday, all summer long they block off a couple of parking lots and restrict the curb parking to vintage cars. Tonight's theme was convertibles.
Mari's favorite was not a convertible!! A pink limousine is right up her alley. This one is especially appealing since it takes girls 4-12 to a 'spa' where they feature glamour birthday parties. Mari was sure to point out a few times that her 12th birthday is coming and this is her LAST chance to use this limousine :)
Surprise, surprise but Julia's favorite was NOT pink and featured...what else??? Yep, this lady likes her Mustang convertibles!!!
But they would be able to compromise on this hot rod done in Irish colors 'just for Daddy' if we wanted to buy it for the family....yeah, right. This from two girls who were appalled at the suggestion that the help wanted sign for a hair washer in the salon might be a good first job!! They report not anticipating a 'first job' until they are "waaaay older....like 20 or something"!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Shhhh, you might scare it away!

I almost fear typing these words for fear of jinxing it but I think summer might have actually arrived.....finally! We've had a couple of days in the eighties and today even dipped it's toes into the nineties. My least favorite member of the news team has suggested that we might see 90+ degrees for the next two days....he's wrong so often...hopefully this is one of his more accurate guesses. Here's a little of this and that...... We made it to our first street fair! Snuck this picture of Auntie Peggy and Mari as they ducked under a tent for some shade. I didn't remember to take too many pictures and we didn't stay long due to....the heat:-)!!!
Alyssa will be so annoyed to see this picture of them eating in the shade. Not that she's doing anything embarrassing but just how pasty white her legs look next to Mari's! Lack of pool time plain and simple. Julia's sampling our one 'unique' food adventure, elote. Never have eaten it before but will be adding it to our menus soon!
In an effort to address the lack of pool time there was a full court press to go today! Grandpa is coming tomorrow from Sarasota for our big family reunion picnic on the weekend. He stays with Auntie Peggy because of mobility issues and she was feeling the need to do a deep clean before his arrival. Since the nieces really wanted her to join us they 'volunteered' to help with some housework!?!?! Doesn't happen here....EVER!
Mari getting directions from her P.P.Peggy. The kids call her 'practically perfect Peggy' but the adults know it for it's true name............Obsessive compulsive disorder!!! I can't come down too hard on her though since she not only acts as my mother's saver but she gets them to learn how to do things, the 'right way' according to her. I have no delusions that Mari will ever smooth her top sheet like this but at least I know she could do it if called upon.
Did you know that placing the quilt is really a math problem?Yup, Mari is counting squares to make sure the quilt is CENTERED to P.P.Peggy's standards. Big chuckle since Mari's quilt hasn't layed flat on the bed for more than a couple of hours in it's life!!!
So with the chores completed, we headed to the pool! We've had a couple of impressive storms in the past couple of days.
Branches are down all over! The streets and sanitation guys have weeks worth of wood chopping and hauling ahead of them. So when I saw this cloud rolling up I was thinking the good weather might be temporary...
cool sun rays, huh?? Proved to be alone and ,without his companions, could not muster any stormy symptoms.
Some happy mermaids!!
Hey Vanessa, this is one of the local park district pools I'm always telling you about! Not in this shot are the tot pool and the dive/slide pool which are off to the side of this pool. We've figured out how to get a 'semi-private' lap lane to ourselves so we don't have to crowd into the far open swim end.....pretend to be giving the children swim lessons!!! As long as we were working with the little ones on floating skills the life guard left us alone :-)! Really, the 'we' should be a 'she' since I opted not to get wet today! Thanks Peg!
Now this is how they are sleeping for the night......
sleeping bags on the floor! Why you may ask? Well last year when I tried to pitch the idea of a camping trip I had THREE people look at me like I had multiple heads! Outside where there are bugs and NO air conditioning, electricity, or king sized mattresses??? What kind of wacky idea is that???? Then they went away to Girl Scout camp and came home VERY sure that they did NOT need to 'experience' a family camping trip. So is this 'mock camping'? No, it is a full force pitch to prove to me that they have changed and would now really like to go camping!!! Nothing like a little peer pressure to turn one's mind. See, the cousins went camping this weekend which has suddenly transformed the event into a 'must do' for my ladies. Wonder how long they can keep up this campaign?
Now for a funny shot........see Mari's pony tail in the above picture?
I guess this is my diva's way to prove to me that she is ready for a 'roughing it' camping vacation?!?!?! That would be the ultimate multifunctional clothing item.......her BRA!!!!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

In tribute

While trying to readjust my sleep schedule, I find myself up at quirky hours watching the cable news networks. Normally I avoid anything political on this blog as I want it to be a place where all can feel comfortable coming to visit. Today, however, I would just like to put one short sentiment down in writing. The Iranian protesters are an inspiration! To watch such young people acting on their convictions with such commitment humbles me. Especially when they act with the full knowledge that there is a likelihood of physical harm. I mean I was too timid to even put a SIGN supporting my candidate in my front lawn for fear of my neighbor's reaction. No, I was under no threat of physical harm! I just worried what people would 'think' of me and if I would lose 'friends' for my choice. How lame in comparison to what I am watching on my T.V.!!!!!!!!!!!! Okay, back to a political free zone.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A hanging hang over!

So after a looooong break from my costuming gig I lose my mind and accept three orders all due within a week of each other! Weak moment for me and yesterday and today I'm paying for the mistake. Sleep is never on the schedule during these crazed construction crunches and I'm getting too old to miss sleep these days. The title, for my adoption buddies, is a reference to the very tricky process of 'hanging the skirts' which is a key to the 'look' of an Irish dance costume. Those of you with little ones just starting their dance careers are still in the "I can't believe these cost so darn much!" phase so this is for your edification. The prices you pay are not just for the material costs!!! It takes know how and HOURS of sewing to get the yards of flat material shaped into the nebulous sketches provided by your dance teachers. Then there is the secret life of a dressmakers child that needs to be paid for out of that fee too!!!!!!!!! Can I just say that the local pizza parlour is on my speed dial and that the Chinese delivery man knows my children by name?? Parenting is at the bare minimum to avoid DCFS visits and keep them breathing....like how yesterday I declared it was "Pretending to be an Orphan Day!" The game goes like this: 1) Use your best imaginations to find something that keeps you OUT of the salt mine for anything but blood emergencies. 2) Use your best imaginations to be chef for a day and make all your meals yourself...microwave is okay but no stove allowed. 3)Be sure to check caller ID before answering the phone and get Mommy immediately if one of them says State of Illinois!! All other callers should be directed to call back next week...except Grandma, tell her to call Auntie Peggy! 4) Use your best imaginations to find those just right outfits for playing the Orphan Game and then the just right PJ's for the Orphan Sleepover that follows. This really did work well with this most recent costume batch with the ,hopefully, long term benefit of showing them that Mom doesn't have to do everything! Like this morning, when they were trying to wake me up after 48 sleepless hours to make them pancakes. Suddenly the Bisquick box was discovered along with the eggs and milk so all Mom had to do was roll out and pour the batter onto the griddle. They should be pro's by the end of this week when I deliver the last of the three costumes. Two are gone and paid for...well the cash is paid but my body has paid too. I'm thinking it's time to fall back into bed. Gotta build back up the reserves to get the last dress done by it's deadline on Friday. I do have one picture to post. I can just hear you now Diane! "One, only one picture of two dresses?!?!" Yep, I blew it again! See I cut the deadlines so close and my brain is so handicapped from sleep deprivation that they are out the door with their costume before I remember to get the picture!! As is expected, the new beginner Mom is the only one to follow through on the promise, shouted back over their departing shoulders, to "take one of her at the feis and e-mail it." Literally, the competition just started 3 hrs ago and this dutiful Mom has just e-mailed me a picture of her daughter in her first costume at her first feis dancing for the new Clark Academy of Irish Dance in St. Louis which is confusing since there is also another school in that area with a very similar name! Thanks Olivia and Michele! Glad to hear that Mary Jo likes her new class costumes (again adoption buddies, a dancing term meaning the uniform that everyone in that school will need for team dances). Dancing buddies, it's really a traditional 3-panel that I designed to look like a gladiator panel! Now, it's time to see if the advanced dancer follows through and shoots me out an e-mail...she's at the same feis!!! (Feis= Irish dance competition)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Home, home on the range....

Do not ask me why I am stuck in this corny song genre for my titles...I have no idea! I also have no business sitting here typing this since the weekend is speeding towards me and I have two dancing dresses that need to be done and on a body by Saturday morning!! I just had to show you what I found tonight as I went to close my windows after I tucked them into bed and headed down to the salt mine...... Can I surmise that Julia might have turned the corner on her recovery?!?! We have been in a real rut these past couple of days with her recovery. Every morning a whiny, contrary little lady emerges from the bedroom. After begging, pleading, and bribing her to take her medication and eat something...ANYTHING....she makes up her couch throne and plops down in front of the video valium. After an hour or two the mood has eased just enough to allow negotiations to resume at which time she usually relents and I get my easy going baby back for the afternoon hours. I live in the hope that this may someday become a learning experience in which she discovers the positive relationship between calories, medication, and feeling good. She lives in the hope that this may someday become a learning experience for her Mom who should not have agreed with the ENT on the need to lose those tonsils and adenoids! Can a Mom dream that the reappearance of her horse family is a sign that tomorrow may not bring the same cycle? A couple of quick pics to give you a hint of what I'm up to in the salt mine these days! This picture sums up how frustrating I find the costume side of the salt mine! In order to not lose my ever loving mind breaking needles and/or threads I must REMOVE the glittering sequins that will interfer with the stitching. In my hormonal moments I've even been known to shed a tear or two and my adoption buddies will 'get' why. How many dressmakers and dancers have the perspective we have on how horrible the living conditions are for the women and children who sewed those sequins on for a paltry cent or two?...and here I am cutting them off!! I wonder sometimes about how many beatings were suffered because they were not sewn on quick enough or how many children are left home minding the babies so their mothers can go earn a few cents per day? There have been moments of great restraint on my part when I've listened to a spoiled little dancer whining about aspects of her costume and all I could picture was a little girl in a Guatemalan orphanage covered in burn scars because she was left to cook and clean for the family at the wise old age of SIX! In the orphanage because her poor mother could not afford to care for the horribly disfigured child on her $1.40 a week 'salary' sewing!!! Okay, off my rant and time to focus! The mine is a mess with parts of dresses everywhere!
These cuffs are sitting waiting for me to put on their embroidered edge...and they've been waiting a while....and I really can't afford to let them wait any longer...and I really do not want to go back in the mine for the night shift...and I wonder what my Facebook friends are talking about right now...hmmm.