Goodbye To Ron Santo

Posted in Sports on December 3rd, 2010 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

People who don’t pay much attention to baseball and the MLB, particularly the Chicago Cubs, might not realize who Ron Santo is or that he is gone.

Ron Santo, legendary Chicago Cubs supporter, has passed away at the age of 70.  Gaining popularity first as a player then as an outspoken sportscaster, Ron Santo became the voice and face of the Chicago Cubs in recent years.  Always saying what was on his mind, Santo’s gravelly voice was the easiest way to find that Cubs game on WGN radio 720 in a hurry.  As a Cubs fan, I will miss it.

Sadly, Ron Santo did not live to see himself inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, nor did he see his beloved Cubbies win the World Series.  If you’d like to read more about Ron Santo or about his crusade against juvenile diabetes, here is an article in the suburban Chicago newspaper, The Daily Herald.

Condolences and prayers to the Santo family.

A Not-So-Cynical Look At The 2009 Holiday Season

Posted in holidays on December 29th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I was thinking about our family’s 2009 holiday season, now come and almost gone already, and I was envisioning words to describe this wonderful season, despite the fact that this year ours was peppered with unpleasant familial dramatics.  But about a week ago, I made what was a conscious decision to pull myself up from the depths of despair I had fallen into after losing a beloved family member just one week before Christmas.  So, in my good humor, I chose 24 of the best words to describe my holiday season, each beginning with a different letter of the alphabet.  Here goes…

Avatar – Saw it and actually liked it, despite my typical sci-fi reluctance.  But I liked Avatar so much that I’m really hoping the timing and budget work out so that I can see it again in 3D at a more technologically savvy theater.

Big Family Christmas – We traveled to Illinois on Christmas Day and got to take part in a huge gathering of my husband’s large extended family.  His 92-year-old grandmother, who speaks with a thick east-coast Connecticut accent (and who smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day from age 16 until age 70!) told many of her infamous stories that had everyone in stitches!  After hearing one of Monie’s stories, I could have used the words Blue Boob for B, but I will spare you those details…  😉

Christ Was Born – We went to a beautiful church service on Christmas Eve to celebrate and reflect upon the entire purpose of the Christmas holiday.

De…  There are two words that come to mind for this letter based upon certain recent events in my life, but I’m not going to go there; this is to be “A Not-So-Cynical Look…” blog post.  So here, D will stand for Dumbledore, since I’m almost halfway through my first Harry Potter book and lovin’ it!

Elf – My favorite holiday movie, and we actually had time to watch it this year!  It, unlike a few other favorite Christmas experiences, did not lose any magic this year.  I still felt that warm and fuzzy “Christmas Magic” feeling after I watched this movie – I’d pull it out more often, but it’s not the same unless it’s Christmas! 
“I love smiling; smiling’s my favorite!!”  – Buddy The Elf

Friends – We are so blessed to have such wonderful friends, and I can’t thank them enough for the things they did and just for being there during this bittersweet time.

Grandparents –  We were able to visit 3 of our grandparents this holiday season!  Even being in our 30’s, we have 3 surviving grandparents among my husband and I –  we were blessed to be able to spend time with all of them this year!

Homemade spaghetti – Best.  Christmas.  Gift.  EVER!!  My mother-in-law sent us home 4 huge frozen batches of her out-of-this-world spaghetti sauce!  AND a large bag of grated Asiago cheese.  AND…  something I’ll save for another letter…

Ice – Drove through plenty of it to reach IL and get back to Ohio on Christmas day.  Luckily, traffic was light and travel for us was smooth and safe.  The kids were good as gold and slept for the majority of both drives.

Jill – Screwed us over again!  This little story begins with Walmart.  Since this is “A Not-So-Cynical Look…”, I won’t go off about Walmart, but I will simply state the facts:  the pump in our windshield wiper cleaner fluid dispenser stopped working after the last time we got an oil change at Walmart.  We didn’t really need it until Christmas night, when we were driving past the city of Chicago, and apparently smog + snow = some sort of disgusting pollution paste.  So visibility is limited, and we still don’t know exactly what happened since we’ve driven this route dozens of times, but basically the express lanes on I-90 seemed to suddenly dissolve into city streets.  So now it’s 10:30 on Christmas night, and we’re wandering around in the city.  We can’t see out the back of the car since there’s tons of Christmas presents, and we can’t see out of the front of the car because of the pollution paste.  This is where Jill comes in – and she directs us straight back to I-90.  Only problem is, our van can’t just jump guardrails; we needed an entrance ramp, and Jill was only directing us to streets that crossed over the expressway and didn’t actually intersect with it.  So we crossed bridge after bridge, and we criss-crossed I-90 until one of those streets had an entrance ramp.  Then Jill freaked out and tried to get us off of the expressway again, but she got her power button pressed – we knew our way from there.

Kalachkies – I have a fun memory of a Christmas years ago when my forgetful Polish grandmother was sitting in her wheelchair, instructing my equally Polish uncle and myself how to make kalachkies, a usually delicious Polish cookie.  The end results were inedible and referred to as “hockey pucks”.  This year at Christmas, my husband’s cousin made homemade kalachkies – real ones, no hockey pucks, and they were delicious!  Thanks Lilly!

Late night drive – One night, we took the kids out in the car in their pajamas with some snacks, and we drove through the snowy countryside to a town  about 30 minutes away for a drive-thru lighted display that’s just wonderful.  Late night drive could also refer to my husband’s and my peaceful drive home (after the unscheduled tour of the city) while the kids were asleep all the way from Illinois to Ohio – nice.

Mashed Potatoes – My mother-in-law is a great cook!  I guess it’s been  awhile since the last time I had her mashed potatoes, because I  didn’t remember how they tasted.  But I told her the truth after Christmas dinner – they were the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had!

Noodles – My mother-in-law’s spaghetti sauce also came with EIGHT pounds of whole wheat gourmet organic pasta!  I love whole wheat pasta – it actually tastes better, and you don’t get the pasta-stomachache / horrible stuffed feeling that can accompany pasta over-indulgence.

Onions – One of my favorite holiday dishes is creamed onions, and it was a nice surprise to see this dish on the Christmas buffet.  Fortunately for me, my husband can replicate the taste of his mother’s creamed onions –  yum!

P.A.S. – Pompous Ass Syndrome – my poor brother-in-law is a victim.  Enough Said.

Quiet – With 4 kids and Christmas celebrations spread out over 2 weeks, there really wasn’t much of this.

Revenge – My brother and sister-in-law gifted our kids 3 little gumball machines.  Cute, but not when you realize how many gumballs needed to be pried out of our candy-obsessed toddler’s little hands, for one thing.  Who would give little kids gumball machine gifts?  Wait, isn’t that what we got her 3 kids last year?!?  I’m all for re-gifting; I really think it’s a smart thing to do.  But maybe next year I’ll choose our Christmas gifts more carefully…

Snow – It’s been snowing on and off for a week and a half here in Ohio.  The Chicago area was unexpectedly blanketed with about a foot of snow on Saturday – thank goodness we left for Ohio on Friday night!

Turkey – We ate it and it was good.

U-Turn – see “J” – Jill the GPS.  Besides the time we were lost in Chicago, Jill caused us to make at least one other U-turn on this trip.

Vile – Odor in Gary Indiana – I don’t care what the Music Man had to say – Gary Indiana STINKS!  Literally!!!

Weather  – I was worried about it all week, but thankfully, it didn’t impede our journey in the slightest.

X-changing gifts –  Ok, that’s too generic?  What else could X stand for, the rating of Monie’s Blue Boob story?  We x-changed gifts many gifts, and that’s all I’m going to say.

Yellow Puppy – When our friends heard about our family’s heartbreak, they gifted us a gigantic (stuffed) dog.  This cute puppy’s headband wouldn’t even fit on my head, and she wears a sweater that could probably fit me – or at least all 4 of my kids in it together…  so cute and so thoughtful, and the kids LOVE her!

Zoo lights – With everything that was going on during this December, I’m so thankful that we were able to make it to  one of our favorite Christmas destinations this year –   the Toledo Zoo for their Lights Before Christmas displays.  Beautiful lights in a peaceful atmosphere, and if you get there early enough, you can see some zoo animals, which is probably my favorite thing to do in the whole world!

Hope you had a Merry Christmas, and best wishes for a great New Year!!!

A New Favorite

Posted in animals, Cool Internet Stuff, Travel on December 13th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

I am a fan of many of the wordpress blogs, especially those written by my wonderful friends here on  But recently, I came across a previously undiscovered (to me)  blog that is right up my alley, and I was surprised to find out that it’s a wordpress blog: – does that sound like my cup of tea or what?!?

This woman blogs blogged (she hasn’t written since July – disappointing!) about her job, which is far from boring – she designs zoos, aquariums, theme parks, etc. for a living!  My dream job calling?  Well, not really, I’m working my dream job taking care of my 4 wonderful kids.  And besides, zoo designers sometimes have to compromise their grand zoo visions, and they go to a lot of meetings.  But it’s certainly fun for me to read about zoo design!  I found this site while researching the history of  Brookfield  Zoo near Chicago, a place I was quite familiar with as a kid.  I ended up finding this, which is a re-design master plan map of the zoo.  If you are at all familiar with Brookfield Zoo, you might find it interesting, along with this blog post about the proposed map.  Many other zoos have re-design master plans, but unfortunately, these plans are forced to be nothing but pipe dreams while this economy has forced zoo visits to be much lower on the priority list for many families.

Lincoln Legends Part II – Robber’s Cave

Posted in History, Travel on September 26th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Living in Lincoln Nebraska was really cool; it was interesting to be in the western part of the midwest and away from the Great Lakes region – there are differences both in culture and in topography.  The story of Robber’s Cave in Lincoln interested me for a few reasons, but especially for the wild-west themes; sandstone bluffs, outlaw hideouts – ok, so I’ve eaten dinner at one of Al Capone’s old hideouts in the Chicago area which is now a steakhouse, but I was talking Jesse James-type outlaws…  Hmmm, interesting, old Lincoln had outlaws, and old Chicago had gangsters, there’s one comparison…

Back from the minor tangent and onto Robber’s Cave – the entrance is a now a sandstone bluff located behind a Subway restaurant.  We did get a chance to visit it and found it quite easily, but by 2002 when we were there, it had been sealed.  In the 1970’s, there was a little old lady who would open up Robber’s Cave for explorers who paid the admission fee.  You would then follow her down a small rickety staircase and be on your own to explore the cave.  I’ve read various reports on the internet about people who grew up on Lincoln and used to go down into the cave all the time –  one person even talks of having kids’ birthday parties down there!  There are tunnels, rooms, a well, and even a natural fireplace with a chimney!  There are also legends of western outlaws (like Jesse James, supposedly, though his presence at the cave hasn’t been proven) that used to use Robber’s Cave as a hideout to count their loot and evade law enforcement after robbing trains, stage coaches, etc.  Before the outlaws took over, it’s said that Native Americans used the cave for spiritual ceremonies.  Robber’s Cave also carries legends of being a stop on the Underground Railroad, an underground brewery, and a tunnel that connected the state penitentiary with the State Hospital for the Insane.  Hmm, that almost sounds TOO haunted to be true – supposedly patients and convicts would use the tunnels to escape.  Then again, when we were there, I did note the State Penitentiary within view of the entrance to Robber’s Cave.   And speaking of Nebraska’s death row, I’ll note that NE is the only state in the country to still have the electric chair as the exclusive means of carrying out the death penalty.

But anyway, Robber’s Cave is a neat place, steeped in many decades of history.  And the reason I’m bringing this up now?  Robber’s Cave is for sale! Well, at least the lot that includes the sealed entrance is for sale – I’m not sure if that then entitles the owner to free roam of all the caves or not if they continue onto other parcels underground.  If you’d like more details about the legends of Robber’s Cave, this is an interesting read.

Furry Babies Sucks!!!

Posted in animals, Pets, Travel on July 2nd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

We began our trip to Chicago last Saturday, and the 3-state, 4-kid, mini-van trip went pretty smoothly.  At some point, we achieved the quadruple-kid-pass-out which is never anything short of a great thing!

We arrived at our hotel in Naperville, Illinois on Saturday afternoon, and we decided to take the girls swimming in the outdoor pool which was really refreshing on an 80°+ day.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been swimming outdoors, and it was nice of my mom to meet us there for a swim instead of us driving the girls to her house for their week of fun with Grandma.  After the girls left with her, we wanted to meet with a friend, but we were staying in the west ‘burbs rather than the north ‘burbs this time.  Both parties had just endured long car rides, so we settled on a halfway point – a mall in the west ‘burbs.  Not really knowing what to plan on doing, we ended up finding such a great parking space at the mall that we just ended up going in to bumble.  And it was fun!  Partly because I haven’t been in a real mall for years, so it was really interesting to see the different techniques that have evolved to try and entice shoppers to buy and visit…  But I also enjoyed my mall visit because of the company we were keeping; it was nice to chat and catch up.  And as you might have read in derek’s blog, we happened upon a glow-in-the-dark indoor mini-golf course that was less than a week old!  It had 56 holes, but I don’t think I could ever play that much mini-golf at once, so we stuck with the traditional 18 holes.  I guess I should add in that I won the round and also had a lucky day with two holes-in-1 😉  And I must comment on how good the baby was – he just sat in the shopping cart and watched the glow-in-the-dark golf balls throughout ALL 18 holes!  There were these small contraptions sprinkled throughout the golfing space – you put your ball in, and it rolls around and comes out glowing brighter – those were fun!  And it was fun to see the mall again.  It wasn’t the same mall I hung out in all the time as a teenager, but I had still been to this one a lot growing up, and it was neat to see how much (or how little, compared to most things in the area) it had changed over the past decade and a half.  That reminds me, speaking of change…  when we arrived in Chicago, err Naperville on Saturday, we took the Naperville Road exit off of I-88 which is an area with which I am used to be very familiar.  Back in the day (did I really just say that?), I would commute through that same intersection to work and back every single day, yuck…  but apparently they’ve completely re-done the entire area in the past few years because the intersection was unrecognizable.  I mean, they added new roads and everything – it was the most bizarre feeling, it felt like I had gotten dropped into the middle of the twilight zone.  We exited I-88, and all of a sudden, we were on Freedom Drive.  Where now?  Freedom Drive?  I had literally never heard of Freedom Drive, they created the street from scratch and plopped it down into this area where I worked and played so many years ago.  As much as I thought I knew where we were going, Jill the GPS was actually quite helpful during this twilight zone adventure, and she got us to our hotel, even though I knew where it was –  WAS being the key word here.  But back to the mall…  we bumbled around some more after getting some pretzel dogs (yummier in Chicagoland, of course, what isn’t?) at the food court.  I heard some lady talking on a cell phone about the “puppy store”, and sure enough, we happened across it.  I’m an animal lover, so I love to see and visit with animals, but I think a side effect of my tenderness toward animals is my loathing of pet stores.  And the pet store in the Stratford Mall in Bloomingdale Illinois is just about the worst I’ve ever seen.  It’s no secret that many of the major chains of pet stores get their “wares” from puppy mills; ie dog breeding facilities with cramped quarters, little food, and animal abuse.  The huge chain famous for bad press, Petland, just closed a bunch of stores, which I believe is a good thing for dogs and dog lovers everywhere.  I strongly believe that people should adopt animals, namely dogs and cats, from humane societies and other animal shelters.  There are so  many homeless pets, so how can it be justified to buy a puppy who is bred for selling when there are so many others bred accidentally who are also looking for love?  I strongly support spay/neuter programs as well, fyi…
So anyway, the new pet store at the mall is called “Furry Babies”.  Their website calls it an “upscale puppy boutique, not just a pet store”, but I call it disgusting.  The puppies were in cribs, for goodness sakes, and along the walls they had a large variety of dog clothes for sale, no doubt at prices that I wouldn’t pay to clothe my human kids.  We inquired about one particular puppy, who was cute but looked to be slightly cross-eyed.  We found out that she was a “designer dog” –  they pretend like they meant to mix two breeds together (in this case a golden retriever and a poodle, thus giving us a “Goldendoodle”), but where I come from (the reality land of logic), we would call it a “mutt”.  And mutts tend to be better with kids, live longer, and are cheaper than purebreds – at least they were until  a few years ago.  Now mutts are these “designer dogs” and they cost a lot of money – in the case of the furry baby Goldendoodle – a cool $1600.  I cannot denounce this place loud enough!  I  also don’t want to spend a ton of time going off about animal welfare nor lose readers by getting political.  This just happens to be an issue I feel strongly about, and I plead that if you are in the market for a family pet, you consider adopting your animal companion from a shelter and also realize that you are entering into  a life-long committment!  That being said, Furry Babies sucks, but the good news is that I can’t see them lasting that long.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the employees wear mock scrubs, in order to imitate delivery room nurses, I guess, which  to me is even more sickening.  But there I  go again…  get me going and I will never stop…  so if you want to read more, here is a link to the forums about Furry Babies on the website, which is an awesome organization – the country’s largest animal sanctuary for homeless pets of all kinds!  I hope to visit them someday in Utah, but until I get over my fear of flying I will just persue their website and I  suggest you do the same…

Now that I’m actually leaving the homeless pet tangent behind…  we left the mall at a decent hour since we wanted a good night’s sleep to rest up for the Cubs / Sox game the following day – the entire reason  we were in town to begin with.  Poor us – that did not happen!  We got back to the hotel (which was pretty crappy for a Naperville Hampton Inn – see my Small Separate Side Post), and the baby decided he was going to go nuts and stay up until midnight.  Then the little booger awoke at 6 the next morning, and he crawled around and caused mischief like dipping my drying bathing suit into the toilet, thanks for THAT.  My husband was nice enough to take him in the bath for awhile and do other various quiet activities with him in the small room so that I could get a little more sleep, and then we all went down  to breakfast – my poor husband was a zombie.  I decided for us (he could not make decisions at that point) that he would go back up to the room while I drove our son over to my mom’s for the day while we went to the Cubs game.  We did that, and it took me about an hour to get all the way out to Aurora (not much traffic on a Sunday morning, but SOOO many stoplights!) and back.  I thought we had plenty of time, but if you read my “A Patch of Blue In A  Sea Of Black And White” post, you’ll see why I  should  have stepped on the gas a little…

Small Separate Side Post

Posted in Travel on July 1st, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

I didn’t really see a place for bitching and moaning in the few posts I wrote about our wonderful trip to Chicago – hence the small separate side post.

First, when we arrived at our hotel, we requested a crib for the baby.  Evening turned to night, and we were still without a crib.  We called down to the front desk, and she kept saying strange things about the missing maintenance guy, but finally he was located.  He delivered the crib and took a look at our ant (!) problem and declared it was no big deal.  Maybe not to him, but I saw the Dateline episodes about the people who got severely bit by the hotel bed bugs!  On top of this, we had a door that would stick so that I’d have to knock every time I came back from getting pop or ice or something from the car, etc.  And then there were the drunken celebrity phone calls…

Not something we did, rather, something we came across when perusing the hotel’s tv offerings.  On the hotel’s video menu, where they usually have movies you can buy, games you can play, and stuff about the hotel, we learned that the Hampton Inn offered some offbeat choices.  First, there was the Hilton Family Channel – 24/7 documentaries about the Hilton family, how they began their hotel empire, and where it is today.  After 10 minutes, I had had enough.  And after those 10 minutes, not a word of Paris, interesting…

Another strange tv offering was under the ‘short takes’ menu.  These seemed to be videos – I know I had even seen a few on youtube.  You know, Charlie Bit Me (the British siblings posing for a picture when the baby bites his big brother, a youtube / talkshow sensation), Office Pranks; I’m sure you’ve come across some of those popular videos somewhere in pop culture, yet here they were being offered for (free) viewing in the hotel room!

Still another strange tv offering was “hot for words”.  And before you get the wrong idea (or is it?  I’m confused by this whole concept), this was not the ‘adult’ menu.  Each ‘hot for words’ video however, looked to be something naughty but was actually proven to be individual dictionary lessons – to increase one’s vocab, perhaps?   But it still seemed to be a strange selection for a hotel tv – I’ve never seen anything like that before…

And lastly, perhaps what is the weirdest selection on the hotel tv: drunken celebrity phone calls.  It was a young adult (I guess?) making prank phone calls to celebrities (supposedly).  But the caller was the only person on camera, and there was no proof that celebrities were even involved – maybe it would have been funny if we had seen the celebrities reactions to being called by some random (drunk?) guy, but there was no proof that he was even able to get ahold of the celebrities phone numbers, and even then, a stretch.  It was a really strange thing to have this kid on our tv, watching him make these really stupid, probably fake phone calls.  What a strange tv offering…  yet it was free, and we bit, I guess…

The final bad thing about this hotel is the ringer on the phone – it sounded like a woodland creature, no joke!  I really wanted to get a video of the thing ringing, but when the baby didn’t sleep that well, everything of least importance was put aside.  Too bad, it was the strangest ringtone I’ve ever heard…  at least it rang for the first time in the evening.  If it had rung in the morning without us knowing it was the phone, I would have been convinced it was some sort of wild rodent loose in our room!

…And Back Again

Posted in Everyday Life, Travel on May 4th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

(continued from the previous post – To Hellinois…)

So FINALLY, after yet another GPS debacle orchestrated by Jill (might be time to change the persona of the GPS again and fire Jill!) we arrived in Aurora, and it’s the first time I’ve seen my parents’ dogs in years.  Loopy is looking a little bit gray in the muzzle, but also much slimmer since last time I saw her.  And Happy… well, Happy is herself, I guess – hyper and happy to see my kids, I wouldn’t expect any less!  We visited with my mom  for a little while, and then it was off to lunch, which my husband and I had carefully orchestrated.  My mom was nice enough to watch our girls so that we could enjoy a little time out with just the baby, and after all that driving + the morning’s (more than) two hour tantrum, boy, did we need some time to ourselves!  So we went to Sweet Tomatoes – a restaurant that specializes in an ultra-fresh salad buffet, my husband’s favorite, and I don’t think he was disappointed!  They also have 6 kinds of soup and 3 kinds fresh hand-tossed pasta – YUM!  We drove around for a few minutes after lunch searching for a dollar store or two – next to zoos and cuisine, “exotic” dollar stores are my favorite things to see while in different areas,  but we couldn’t find one, so we went to a Petland instead.  So I put aside my opinions that Petland is a leading trader in  puppy mill pups, and we went for a visit.  And this Petland had LOTS of animals with very nice habitats.  They did have a huge bunch of puppies though, and almost all of their “getting to know you” puppy rooms were taken (let me just vent real quick by saying – why can’t more people consider shelter dogs so we can reduce the amount of homeless pets in the country!!!)  And I asked the staff members a few questions – some to learn things but most to test their knowledge on subjects – and they passed.  They no longer sell seahorses  because they require ultra-clean water and exceptionally large tanks.  I was glad to see that Petland was no longer putting the lives of seahorses in jeopardy just to make a quick buck, but they lost me when they offered to order me some – oh well.  There were the cutest little Robinsky hamsters – about the size of a silver dollar – and they were in constant motion.  They are so fast that they kept flipping each other over in the hamster wheel and making each other go upside down!  They were adorable, but how anyone could handle having such a busy pet is beyond me – you couldn’t even pick them up since they were so fast!  Here is a picture of someone who actually got one of these things in their hand:


So then it was on to my nephew’s first birthday party – he is only 2½ months older than my son, and the two of them together were SO cute!  My son is on the left, birthday boy on the right:


The party was lots of fun, and it was nice getting to spend time with my family and my sister’s in-laws, who we don’t see very often.  We had to leave a little bit early to try to get on the road at a decent hour, but before we left, my kids did a good job of trashing my sister’s house.  One of them clogged the toilet, one of them crumbled their birthday cake all over the floor (requiring my brother-in-law to haul out his Shop-Vac!), and one of them had too much cake and ice cream and spit up all over Grandma and the floor.  I bet they’re glad we don’t come over very often!  Just kidding, I’m sure it was understood that with 8 kids at one party, something was bound to get messed up – but why did all the messes have to be traced back to my kids?

After the party, I dropped my husband off at a Walgreens for some clearance shopping – his favorite! – cuz I wanted to stop by White Castle and get a case of slyders to bring home.  White Castle is an institution in Chicagoland, and one of the things I miss that we don’t have here.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, slyders are what locals call the little hamburgers that White Castle sells – the secret to the awesome flavor is steamed onions.  My hubby must love me a lot to put up with the smell of steamed onions for the 4 hour drive home!  And no, the frozen ones they sell at Walmart are not the same as the ones you can buy at the restaurants – which is why I try to bring home a case every time I go!  But on Sunday, I kept getting behind slow drivers (what happened to the drivers in Illinois?  I swear, during this trip I was the most aggressive driver I ran into, what’s happened to all the a**holes that used to be on the road over there?  Could it be the red-light cameras?), and then they took forever at White Castle.  And what do I do?  I drive off with only my drinks, forgetting my cheeseburgers.  So I get back in line, and of course I’m behind the slowest lady in the world – I was in line for 20 minutes, just to get food I had forgotten!  By the time I got back to Walgreens, my husband was ready to put out an APB on our van.  And of course the baby cried the whole time because he was tired and wanted his bottle, and I couldn’t reach the spot in the car where he had thrown it.  So I was flustered by the time we finally started for home.  Luckily for me, we achieved a quadruple pass out though, so the drive home was peaceful.  We got home around 1 am, and much to our surprise, our pet sitter and great friend Carol was still in our house!  The kids started to wake up, so we rudely hushed Carol and brought the crying kids upstairs.  Luckily we only had one straggler who stayed up for a little while, and I apologized to Carol for my rudeness (and my stench of coming off a 4-hour drive sitting next to steamed onions with baby spit-up on me).  We were more than happy to share the White Castle bounty, and my husband drove poor Carol home since her car had died and she was trapped at our house – I felt badly getting in so late!  I was so tired that I forgot to call my mom to tell her we made it safely – I don’t think that’s ever happened, oops!

Sunday we somehow got up for church, and we got to see some people get baptized which was a neat experience.  The sermon was about Moses and the parting of the Red Sea, which interested me because I don’t have much religious background and didn’t know the story.  But I learned some useful tools that I think might help me during this ultra-trying time that Samantha has been putting us through lately.  After church, they had a program they call KidStuff – they have it twice a year – and Sunday’s KidStuff was about obedience – perfect!  Just the message we need to drill into our kids’ heads lately!  It was a really cute skit about how it’s important to be obedient, and I thought it was very well done.  There was lots of physical comedy for the kids, goofy characters, an air horn (kids love noisy things!), and they stressed the importance of obedience repeatedly.  And, they gave us an orange “O” to put on our fridge to remind the kids about being obedient!  I was so excited to get home and apply these lessons to real life!  But alas, after the pizza lunch at church for KidStuff, Sammie had to rub it in how much she DIDN’T learn from the skit – our friend is a professional photographer and met us at the park to get some Spring pics of the kids.  But our family picture is minus one – Sammie refused to participate in the picture taking.  Even seeing a robin’s nest up close didn’t soften her enough to be cooperative.  So all my hopes about her learning something, even a little bit, from the obedience skit flew out the window.  But the baby robin was adorable – there were two eggs and one that had hatched, couldn’t have been more than a day old.  I’ve never seen one so little, it barely had any feathers or baby bird peach fuzz!  Awww!

Overall, a great weekend.  I call it Hellinois, but I’m (half) joking.  You couldn’t pay me to live there, but there are worse places we could have to visit!  I think we might be going back sometime soon for a very exciting, awesomely fun event – more on that later!!!

To Hellinois…

Posted in Travel on May 3rd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’m not a big fan of the place and try to avoid it like the plague for the most part, but there are about two times a year I am willing to travel to the place of my birth which I lovingly refer to as “Hellinois”, a nickname for Chicagoland, with its insane traffic patterns and millions of unfriendly citizens: around April for my nephews’ birthdays and also around Christmastime.  Making the 4-hour trek across two states twice a year is doable and definitely worth it so that my kids can have fun and get to know their relatives.  So Friday afternoon, we took off and headed over to the Land of Lincoln.  I don’t understand why it took me two hours to pack our family of 6 for a one day trip, especially because there were plenty of things that were forgotten, but more on that later.  We arrived outside the Loop right about 6:30 on a Friday evening local time, but much to our surprise, we barely hit any backup.  What the?  Unheard of for a Friday night!  But on our way past the Chicago skyline, we did have fun trying to find the new Trump Tower and comparing it to the John Hancock and also to the other new skyscrapers that have sprung up, seemingly over night.  I have to admit that Chicago’s skyline is more impressive than that of New York, at least in my opinion – just for the heck of it, I played tourist and actually took a picture of the Sears Tower.  While I was there, I heard that they’re going to build balconies on the observation deck of the Sears Tower with glass floors.  They got the idea after watching all the tourists bump their foreheads on the windows while trying to look straight down.  I have to admit, I’ve done that myself a few times.  Wonder if I could keep my new-found vertigo in check enough to give the new balconies a try when they’re complete?

We arrived at our hotel and got the kids ready to go down to the pool, and that’s when we realized that we forgot my son’s bathing suit, as well as ALL of my husband’s clothes that had been put in the dryer before we left and forgotten.  So we all had to sacrifice – I had to sleep in my clothes and give my pajamas (sweat pants and a t-shirt) to my husband to wear to the birthday party the following day.  He had to wear pajamas to the party and also roast inside a sweatshirt all day since the t-shirt was ripped.  My son went swimming in his pants – luckily I had learned a little something from the New York trip and brought plenty of extra baby clothes with me.

We were only down at the pool for about 30 minutes, but the kids had fun – my son kept clapping.  We had called fellow blogger Derek to join us, but we kicked him out soon after we got back from the pool since the room was very crowded and the kids needed to settle down for their big day ahead.  We ordered pizza (MMMmmm, Chicago-style pizza!) and tried to get the kids to settle down, but it took a long time.  We got so tired that we forgot to close the drapes, which led to everyone rising bright and early in the morning – big oops.  Our almost 5-year-old Sammie, the handful (putting it mildly) of the bunch, decided to draw a bunch of block letter T’s all over her cousins’ birthday cards.  No problem, until she ran out of room for any more T’s and threw a 2-hour tantrum about it – I am not even exaggerating.  By the time we checked out of the hotel, so many people had walked by glaring at our family; it was not a good way to start the day.  We were so not in Kansas (err, Ohio) anymore.  I  have trouble getting used to that every time I visit other places.  It feels weird to not say hi to everyone I pass, or worse yet, to say hi and get a weird stare in return.

We had decided that my husband was going to take Sammie somewhere else rather than for us to subject my elderly grandparents to her screaming, but luckily she calmed down on the way over to their house.  We had a nice visit, and as usual, my grandma made too much food.  What was supposed to be a light lunch (so we could fit in as many other samples of fine Chicago dining as possible during our short stay) turned out to be a buffet spread of strawberries, black raspberries, cheese, smokies in biscuits, deviled eggs, pickles, cheese spread and crackers, not to mention 3 kinds of dessert!  So anyway, we had a really nice visit with my grandparents, although we were walking on eggshells with Sammie, who got an early birthday present from them, which was nice.  But then fights broke out over the birthday present, and rather than stress my grandparents, we beat a hasty retreat.  My grandpa did manage to make a joke, despite all of his discomfort from the Parkinson’s and who knows what else.  He asked how our 10th Anniversary vow renewal ceremony went, and we said great!  So then he said, “You made the same mistake twice, huh?”  Obviously, I don’t feel I made a mistake once (or twice) marrying my husband, but it was funny  anyway and so  great to see the old tease that is my grandpa back in action.  So we left their house in Schaumburg and headed to Aurora to see the rest of the fam.  After little sleep the night before and the 2 hour tantrum in the morning, I offered to drive so my husband could take some much needed rest.  Wanting to think as little as possible, I turned on Jill the GPS and sat back and let her lead me through the tangle of expressways that is Chicagoland.  Except that Jill had apparently had one too many morning cocktails.  She directed me to stay on I-290 rather than to merge onto I-355.  I knew better than that – I had made that trek many a time when my husband and I were dating.  But my brain was fried, so I lemmingly went along with Jill’s directions, and next thing I know, we’re traveling east TOWARD the city, instead of west toward Aurora!  Finally I saw the toll road we needed – I-88, and now we were finally headed in the right direction, after going 10 miles out of the way!  Oh, well, at least we were running early since my kids had decided to get up at the crack of dawn!

Just writing about this makes me tired.  I think I’ll take a break here, unpack a little and save the rest of this huge weekend for another post!

You Have Now Entered… THE TWILIGHT ZONE!

Posted in Current Events on April 29th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , ,

It’s unusual for me to blog twice in one day, but hey, today itself has been unusual.  First, the swine flu has officially spread to Chicago.  Why does that affect me?  Because we were planning a trip there this weekend for my nephew’s first birthday party.  We were up in the air about going for financial reasons, but we decided to go ahead and do it because we really wanted to.  Plus, my grandparents live there, and they are elderly and housebound, so going to Illinois is the only way I can see them and the only way they can see my kids.  I hated leaving everyone up in the air until the last minute about our visit (we were waiting to hear about my husband’s business deal – no word yet!), so we just decided to bite the bullet and commit to going.  So I called my Grandma and my sister yesterday, and I told my daughter and emailed my mom this morning, and everyone is ecstatic.  But now I see that this dreaded swine flu has hit Illinois – especially the counties where we are going to be visiting.  I don’t know how big of a deal this is – I mean, it seems as if it will be here in NW Ohio in no time as well, but I don’t know that I want to be the family that brings it!  Ok, I shouldn’t joke about it.  But with 4 little kids, it is an issue that makes me reconsider our decision.  I guess all we can do is wait and see where things with this are on Friday or Saturday when we plan to leave.  Darn swine flu!

There were a few other weird things that happened today (surprise 99¢ / gallon milk at Walgreens, for one!), but they are just little things, too many and too little to mention.  Add them all up, and that’s why I’m making a second post of the day.  The other major weird event is this – I got a mysterious letter in the mail today, and I have to say, it scared me.  I think I’ve been watching too many stalker movies (blogging about that tomorrow).  But this letter had my name on it – just my name, not my husband’s name or The _____ Family or anything – just MY name.  And it seems to be typewritten, not even printed on a computer – typewritten.  Seeing a letter in a security envelope with your name and address typewritten on it without a return address is enough to give anyone pause, I think – but I am also a paranoid person.  If I had gotten this letter in 2001 during the Anthrax attacks (someone was sending the deadly material Anthrax through the mail, and people were killed), I  definitely wouldn’t have opened it.  So anyway, I opened the mysterious letter I got today, and guess what was inside?  A thick green piece of paper that turned out to be blank – weird.  Even more strange was that there was a Meijer gift card wrapped in the green  paper.  An activated gift card – the TO and FROM are blank.

So who sent this?  Is it a joke?  An anonymous good deed?  A scary stalker?  I just don’t know…  I do appreciate it, if the generous gifter is reading this, I want you to know that I’m thankful, but I’m also a little bit freaked out.  It’s just a very strange thing to happen, and I hope to get to the bottom of it, at least so the person can get their deserved “thanks!”.  If you or someone you know sent it, maybe drop me a hint…  I am thoroughly confused!

Nightmare On Alumni Street

Posted in Movies on April 28th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As has been the trend lately, they are going to remake a popular horror movie from my youth – Nightmare On Elm Street.  When the movie came out in 1984, I was too young (and scared) to watch it, but the main character, Freddy Krueger, was everywhere.  Everyone wanted to be Freddy for Halloween, and just his picture was enough to scare me silly.  I think even people who don’t like horror movies know who Freddy Krueger is – a burn victim with a hideously scarred face who has knives for fingernails and invades the dreams of his victims.  We tried watching Nightmare On Elm Street as adults not too long ago, and it wasn’t scary – it just came across as dumb.  So maybe a remake IS in order.  I just hope it’s not horrible like Rob Zombie’s Halloween remake.  Actually, the Friday the 13th remake wasn’t so great either.  I did enjoy the Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake though, and I really liked the remake of My Bloody Valentine – two movies that prove slasher films can be successfully remade.  So I hope this Nightmare on Elm Street is on par with the latter two I mentioned.

The reason I’m bringing this up is because I read an article about how they are going to be filming this remake in Chicago, with some scenes being filmed at the high school my husband attended.  The students had a surprise assembly on Friday, where they were told that their high school is going to be used to film a movie and that extras would be needed.  How cool of an assembly would THAT be?  The article mentions that the movie will be out April 16, but it doesn’t specify which year – I’m hoping they mean 2010 because I’m anxious to see it!  I just hope they don’t try to do any funky computer stuff for Freddy’s face or glove.  I think good old fashioned makeup is sometimes what makes things scarier!  Here is the article about the choosing of the high schools.  And just for fun, here is the trailer from the original Nightmare on Elm Street:

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