Classy.

Posted in Current Events on December 1st, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Family brawl erupts at children’s pizza place
Deborah Donovan | Daily Herald Staff
Contact writer


CHICAGO:
Arlington Heights police are investigating a “family ordeal that got out of hand” Sunday night at the Chuck E. Cheese restaurant, 955 W. Dundee Road.

According to Sgt. Tom Boggs, a family was apparently celebrating the birthday of a young man in his early teens when other members of the family showed up, and an argument began.

“There was a pushing match and things were thrown,” said Boggs.

One person was taken to Northwest Community Hospital with a cut below an eye and another person went to a clinic for a cut on a hand.

“We tried to talk to everybody there last night,” Boggs said. “It’s hard to say at this point whether there will be charges.”

Boggs said he believes some of the participants had been drinking. He is not sure how many people were involved, but officers talked with five or six Sunday night.

While the altercation created a mess in the restaurant, no physical damage was done there, the sergeant said.

Boggs said the people involved were from the Northwest suburbs.

The restaurant has pizza, arcade games, shows and other things that appeal to young children.  A woman who answered the phone Monday afternoon declined to comment on the record.

In The Eleventh Hour, Evil Intentions In The Basement Of The Dead

Posted in Travel on October 25th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

As you may have read in my previous post, we took a trip to Illinois to visit with  family and also tour the area’s haunted houses.  Well, I’m done whining about my painful mouth, so  here’s a run-down of the fun parts:

Got to visit with lots of family in the short time we were there.  We had nice visits with one of my husband’s father’s only living blood relatives, his niece Lilly.  Lilly is a really sweet person who  has been going through a few tough life experiences lately.  We don’t get to see her often, so it was great to see her on  Saturday.  We hope to be able to get her out to Ohio for a visit soon!  We stopped by my mother-in-law’s house where we also got to see my husband’s sister and her family.  Our kids had a ball playing with each other; there are 7 of them altogether!  After that, we also got to see where my Grandpa moved; it’s a very nice place with a cute little main street area for visiting, complete with ice cream shop.  We discussed the Chicago Bears (no comment as of the game’s unfortunate status right now in the 2nd quarter – poor hubby!) with my grandpa and told my grandparents of things like the kids’ awesome grades at school.  Afterward, we had a really great 40th wedding anniversary for my parents at my sister’s house.  The kids had such a great time that they  refused to leave – literally.  My sister’s family had to literally lock out my kids, which was slightly embarrassing, but mostly just a humorous result of their incredible come down from their awesomely fun weekend – also known as a fun-down.

The family stuff was Saturday, so Friday night we were lucky enough to be joined by 4 friends (3 all the way from Ohio!) for some haunted house fun!  We went all over the ‘burbs, with a goal to complete a huge square if you plotted our stops on a map.  Because of an hour-long line in a cramped basement tunnel in Elgin, we did not make it to the Aurora stop, but we cajoled my mom (even though it was her anniversary party) into watching all 6 kids on Saturday so we (along with fellow tangenteer derek who made the drive south for the second consecutive night) could go to the haunted house with my sister and her husband, who hadn’t been to a haunted house in probably about a decade – FUN!  Here is a run-down / rating of the Illinois haunted houses –  haven’t made it to any Ohio ones this year, don’t know that there will be time for that!

Haunted Mansion and Asylum 13 – Bolingbrook IL – Saving the best for last would mean the worst is first, right?  This haunted house was definitely the worst of the lot.  It had lots of actors, not much else.  Average costumes, not much scenery, blasting music not relevant to the theme of the haunted house…  the only noteworthy and the most enjoyable part of the entire thing were the live chickens in the ‘crazy hicks’ scene.  Seeing Drew Peterson’s house in Bolingbrook might have been creepier.  Grade: C-

Eleventh Hour – Elk Grove Village IL – This haunted house is located at Berthold’s, a family-owned plant nursery and is actually  4 attractions in one.  The corn maze is small but succeeded in losing us, even if for a short time.  The haunted house was actually a string of 3, but it wasn’t really clear when one ended and another began.  Eleventh Hour had some really cool haunted house concepts, along with the obligatory chainsaw guy and spinning tunnel to walk through.  The scenery was REALLY cool, complete with (SPOILER ALERT!!!) moving staircase and refrigerator door that both actually became passages to walk through!  And, they had a live zombie band performing in a separate room while we viewed them through little windows –  now that is something I haven’t seen in a haunted house before.  A very cool haunted house, and without all the same old tiresome gore.  Prize moment when an extremely creepy little girl made my husband scream like a…  well, that seems like a mean thing to say about a guy who’s been doing nothing but wonderful things to help out during my illness.  It was hilarious, that’s all I’m going to say.  Grade: B+

Evil Intentions – Elgin IL – This one also had a few very unique fright concepts, but they really need to work on the wait time –  we waiting in a dingy narrow basement hallway for over an hour!  After that, they separated our group of 3 guys and 3 girls into individuals and put us each into a casket!  Mary and I  lucked out and got to share one since there were 6 in our group and only 5 caskets, but it was still terrifying knowing that they were probably going to do something sudden and scary to us in the casket.  SPOILER ALERT!  They pretended to show us a movie on a screen in the casket, but the screen went to colored bars and made the high-pitched beeping noise, which was creepy, but that’s all that happened.  They really should have lengthened the movie or banged on the casket or something, anything.  This, like a few of the other concepts in this haunted house, really needs to be better developed in order to heighten the fear factor.    You take a bunch of people and put them in a haunted house with only 5 caskets for them to queue thru, and of course you’re going to have a huge long wait to get in.  The makeup in here was average, there seemed to be a relatively low number of actors (all of whom seemed to have the same mannerism of getting right up in your face – how many times can that be scary?), and I would consider the scenery downright bare – they definitely could have highlighted the building’s casket company history in the scenery as well as they did in their marketing.  The guide ghouls are particularly fond of separating the groups of patrons, especially isolating the women from their men, a concept I sort of hated and also really enjoyed at the same time – it was weird.  If I factor in the wait time for this one, you don’t want to know the rating, so we’ll just pretend I’m rating this as if I walked right in like I did in the previous two rated houses.  Grade (not including wait time): C+/B- (hard to forget that awful wait time!)

Basement of the Dead – Aurora IL – Because we had to wait an hour for Elgin on Friday night, this one had closed and we didn’t make it.  But as I said earlier, my mom, dad, and uncle graciously agreed to watch the little ones so  that us sisters, hubbies, and a friend could venture to downtown Aurora – a frightening experience in itself, haha.  Seeing the line outside was daunting, and one character said the wait would be at least an hour.  We were about to leave since my brother-in-law had just come off a double work shift and hadn’t slept in 36 hours, when intrigued by the totally awesome looking makeup on the characters wandering outside, my husband inquired about the wait time at the ticket window.  We took the gamble, and it paid off when we were admitted after only about 15 minutes.  During our stay in line, we were entertained by a few of the haunted house escapees; including a super-tall, slow moving dude who had a habit of very creepily and slowly inhaling the scents of patrons of his choosing.  The guy’s build kind of reminded me of an Ohio friend, but I won’t mention who, even though I know he’s not a reader of my blog.  There was a KISS rocker meets clown guy who succeeded at making his makeup and mannerisms really creepy also, and a blank face guy (a nylon stocking on his face, I would guess?), and a guy who moved quickly through the bushes on all fours, kind of like an ape.  When it was our turn to go in, the scary clown slob manning the door burped and blew it in my face which was not scary, just stupid and rude, and if I get his H1N1, I will consider a lawsuit.  Kidding, but it was still gross.  He made me go first into the haunted house.  Whatever, I would just let my husband ahead of me when we got in the door anyway, except that when I got in the haunted house, they shut the door on me and someone came running up and told me to go through it alone.  I flat out refused – I’m not going to PAY to do something I don’t want to do, and they reluctantly let in the rest of our group.  Sorry I foiled their plan, but I would not enjoy the experience alone; that’s not really my thing.  It was fun to see my sister and her husband in the haunted house since they hadn’t been in one in years, but we quickly lost them in the dark mazes and didn’t bother trying to find them.  We figured they wanted to hang back and enjoy the startles they would get if they weren’t so close to us.  When  we got back outside, we waited and waited, but two groups emerged before the rest of our group, and when they came out, my sister was white as a ghost.  Hilarious, and I  think they had fun – most people can benefit from venturing into a haunted house once in awhile, especially parents who can go without their kids – it’s nice to just have only yourself to worry about for a little bit 🙂  The makeup in this one was stellar, best I’ve ever seen.  Scenery was good, if a little dark for my taste since it was difficult to see some of the blood and guts.  Also a few good animatronics and lots of blood and gore, which was actually a a change of pace from the others we’ve seen this year.  Grade: A

At Least She’s (Physically) OK

Posted in Current Events on August 28th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

There’s really not much to say about the following article – someone did something extremely stupid, and I thought I’d share.  At least no one was seriously hurt…

CAR SET ABLAZE AFTER JOLIET WOMAN USED LIGHTER TO CHECK GAS CAN LEVEL
By Lee Filas | Daily Herald Staff

A 27-year-old Joliet woman is suffering from second-degree burns after using a lighter to check the fuel level in a gas can she was filling while the can was resting inside her car.

Police officials said the woman drove into a 7-11 gas station at 1609 E. Cass St. at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday night and climbed out of her car.

She then placed the gas can on the passenger seat of the vehicle, pulled down the nozzle of the pump, and began filling the can.

About halfway through, the woman ignited a lighter to shine some light on the gas can, apparently to see how full the can was, officials said.

The can ignited from the lighter’s flame and exploded, setting the vehicle’s interior ablaze, officials said.

After the fire started, the woman pushed the car away from the gas pumps to apparently ensure the fire didn’t spread to the gas pumps itself.

Officials said, when police and fire officials arrived on the scene, the car was located about 5-feet from the pumps and was completely engulfed in flames.

The woman was transported from the scene to Silver Cross Hospital in Joliet with nonlife threatening injuries to her wrist and thigh, authorities said.

And is it any wonder why it doesn’t list the woman’s name?  I can’t decide if it’s a nice thing that the press spared her the humiliation or if they should have included her name so the rest of society can watch out for her!  I don’t really understand how someone could do something that dumb, and then turn around and remember to push the car out of the way so it didn’t ignite like the gas can!
Thank God there weren’t any kids in the car!

An Old Friend, A New Perspective…

Posted in Everyday Life on August 17th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , ,

A few weeks ago, we learned a friend from way back was going to be in the area on his way from Illinois to Florida with his family, so he came by and brought the fam.  That in itself was very unusual – after 10 years of friendship and various business associations and partnerships, we had somehow never gotten around to meeting his family in person.

But on this day earlier this summer, they all stopped in, and his wife and two kids (the oldest was off on some kind of school function) were really very nice, fun, and interesting people – we had a great day together.  Their kids, although quite a bit older than my kids, were nonetheless kept entertained by my kids, especially their pet rats.  Overall, it was a great visit with a nice family –  we really should have gotten together sooner!

And I have some advice for our friend: appreciate what you have, buddy.

I don’t know why he does some of the things he does, but he sometimes acts, um, I’ll call it restless, and now that I know how awesome his wife and kids are, it’s going to be that much more difficult for me if I continue to hear about any more dumb choices on his part.  He seems to be going through some sort of mid-life crisis, so I can only hope that he finds what it is he’s looking for without hurting those wonderful people who love him!

Down And Out In Shipshewanni

Posted in Travel on July 8th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, life is back to normal, I guess you could say, whatever “normal” is.  My 3 girls were with their Grandma in Illinois for over a week, and they had an awesome time.  Our house was quite quiet and empty without them, so we made it our business to not be in the house much at all.  We were constantly on the go, getting to do  lots of fun things with  just the baby and even some things just hubby and me  – great times!  More on that later since I need to finish writing about our trip to King’s Island, and hopefully entice some people to come along when we go back close to Halloween.  But for now, here is a re-cap of our trip to Shipshewanni – I’m respectfully poking fun at my mom, who has a tendency to sometimes mispronounce things – love you Mom!

So Monday, instead of driving to Illinois to pick up the kids, we met them and my parents, uncle,  sister, nephews, and brother-in-law in Shipshewana Indiana for two days of fun in an indoor water park.  Anticipating this trip for months, I was sure I was going to have a fun blog to write – a family trip with 7 adults, 4 kids and 2 babies sounded like fodder for a National Lampoon movie.  But strangely,  especially considering this group of people – you know who you are 🙂 – nothing bizarre happened; no one in the group got crazy (except for our baby, but that will be addressed later on…), and we all had a blast!

I have to be honest and say that when we got to the water park, I was a bit disappointed to see that there wasn’t a swimming pool.  But as time went on, I became happy with the small size of the place since it was easy to keep tabs  on the kids and find other members of the family to catch up and chat.  There were two large water slides where you go down on rafts, and we had an awesome time taking turns going down with everyone racing each other.  You could go down one or two-at-a-time, and after a while, our oldest got brave enough to try and found she LOVED the water slides!  Same with her cousin, and the two of them went down together – it was adorable to  see the two of them work together to carry their huge raft up all those stairs.  I wish I had a picture, but it was impossible to have a camera in the water park – and please, with my camera luck, do you think I could have taken pictures in the water park and still have had a camera when we left?  Doubtful.  But anyway, we (exhaustively!) made our way up all those stairs time and time again to race our daughter and my nephew and even my mom and dad down the water slide.

They also had a kids’ pool with lots of things to play with and a soft floor for the babies to crawl on.  There was also a playground with 4 water slides –  the kind you go down without a raft – and I liked those too until I mistakenly went down one before it was cleared…  My husband was standing at the bottom of it holding our two-year-old, and I slid right into the back of his legs, bowling them over.  Thank goodness no one was hurt, and I’m sure it was an hilarious, stooge-like display of idiocy.

They also had a lazy river – my favorite.  You just grab a raft and float on down the river, and my 1-year-old son fell asleep because it was so peaceful to float down the river in my arms.  When we are rich, we are going to build a lazy river at my goat farm where I will play with goats, make cheese, and relax in my lazy river 🙂

We split up for dinner, and my parents and uncle were nice enough to watch the kids so  we could go out to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law.  We took the babies with us (our youngest sons are 2½ months apart), and they allowed us sisters and husbands some much-needed catch-up time; I think it’s been over 5 years since we went out together which is too long!  We went to an Amish-style restaurant, and at first I thought it was going to be a gimmick.  You know, yucky Sysco food disguised as Amish style food…  but thankfully, I was wrong.  The food was SO good!  The roast beef was incredible, the mashed potatoes homemade and not out of a package as so many are, and the chicken and noodles tasted like the noodles were also made from scratch.  Everything was all we could eat, served family style – YUM!  I highly recommend the Blue Gate restaurant!

So then we went back to the water park for a little bit until it closed, and then it was time to try to get the kids settled down for the night.  My parents were gracious enough to splurge (the entire trip was a Christmas gift from them) and get us a room with some extra space for our large family, and the two oldest girls had their own little bunk bed area with a tv and nightlights in their beds.  They were out in a jiffy.  Not the case with the younger two – our two-year-old Disney had to bunk with us for lack of beds while her one-year-old brother had a crib.  Disney  and I caught up on life and her week with Grandma while whispering under the covers while Daddy tried to get the baby to bed.  Soon, Disney was asleep which just left one standing…  and standing…  Christopher refused to go to sleep.  In a hotel, especially in a room adjoining my sister’s where they also had a fussy trying-to-go-to-sleep baby, we could not let him cry it out, so  we took him down the hall to the mini-arcade – at least I could read my magazine and my husband could play some Madden while the baby crawled around.  Ha.  All he wanted to do was crawl up and (fall) down the stairs, so no fun for us.  I thought about taking him downstairs so we could at least sit with my dad and uncle and enjoy the evening air, but one of us had to stay with the sleeping girls.  Since our goal was to be able to spend some time together, this was not an option.  We ended up sitting outside of our room for awhile, letting the baby crawl, but soon he got crabby and we realized we were just assaulting my sister’s family from the other side of the room with our noise.  Finally we put him back in his crib and hid out in the bathroom so we were out of sight, and this did the trick – 4 down!  Except that now it was too late to do anything together, so we just watched a few of those weird youtube-like videos and went to bed.  Apparently the baby woke up again in the middle of the night and also early the next morning, and my awesome husband took care of him, even though he was dead tired by the time we got home the next day.  I didn’t sleep well either, especially with Disney in our bed who kept kicking me.

So the next morning, we were up for breakfast, and I couldn’t eat anything because I was so tired.  No problem; I’d get lunch later when I was hungry and at the very least, we had big plans to pick up some gourmet cheese from the awesome cheese shop before we left town.  We split up for the day since my husband didn’t mind taking the older kids to the water park again, and the rest of us had had enough water park, so we went to the flea market instead – what a madhouse!  I don’t know why it’s only open 2 days a week because for those 2 days, the area is MOBBED with tons of traffic!  But anyway, the flea market is huge and has a wide variety of things for everyone.  Before I left, hubby said to make sure I bought myself something, so I did – isn’t he awesome?  He takes most of the kids for the day AND tells me to buy myself something, awww…  (and this is why I obliged to let him try out for a play – he is a giver; he deserves to do  something HE wants to do.  Of course, being in a show takes months of rehearsal and prep time –  oh, man, what did I agree to???)  But anyway, I got a black and white vintage photo of Wrigley Field in 1946 – how cool is that?  I bought a Bears Superbowl frame and some hot sauce for hubby, and we left the flea market before seeing all of it – is that possible to do in just one day?  Then it was time to go home, and our oldest was really upset to see Grandma go – she has a Grandma addiction, so the more time she spends with Grandma, the more sad she gets when it’s time to leave.  But she got over it, and we achieved the coveted quadruple-kid-pass-out on the way home.  Overall, an awesome time, and I think we should definitely do something again next year.  As fun as the water park was, I might suggest a different location next time – maybe a campground or another place where we would have more sit-down time to really get together, catch up, and maybe even play some games.  My sole complaint is that I arrived home cheese-less 🙁  There was an awesome cheese shop, and we were going to stop on the way home, but the kids were just too crazy and the traffic too thick in Shipshewana for us to stop – dangit.  I had been looking forward to that cheese for two days!  Bermuda onion cheese, yummmm…
(drooling….)

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 bestfriends.org 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…

…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:

roblovski-hamster

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:

ryans-first-bday-5-2-09-004

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!!!

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!

One Of The Worst True Crime Stories Ever…

Posted in Current Events on March 10th, 2009 and tagged , , , , , , , ,

Those of you who know me are aware that I’m a true crime buff.  For all of you many (I hope!) new readers – I am a true crime buff!  I like to read about true crime, so I guess you could say that I have a hidden agenda when I ask my brother-in-law (the cop) how his job is going.  A few years ago, there was an incredibly shocking crime in my brother-in-law’s jurisdiction of which he was forced to be a part, and it was terrifying for the entire community.

In July of 2004, Anson Paape decided to have an 18th birthday party for one of his kids’ friends named Michael Murray.  The party was at Paape’s home in what is normally a quiet suburb of Chicago, Illinois.  For some reason, he decided to supply the teenage party-goers with alcohol.  Even worse than that, he decided to round up some of the teenagers and take them down to his basement for a poker game.  The reason I say that the poker game was worse than furnishing the teens with alcohol is because this was a poker game with a deadly twist – Russian Roulette.  Paape distributed bullets to each of the teens, and the person with the winning hand was supposed to load his bullet, put the gun to the head of the player to their right, and pull the trigger.  As if playing this so-called game (and with teenagers!) wasn’t crazy enough, Paape decided to mix it up, and he kept changing the rules.  When Michael Murray won the hand of poker, Anson Paape picked up the weapon, held it to Murray’s forehead and pulled the trigger before Murray could even react enough to push it away.  Michael Murray was killed instantly on his 18th birthday.  The other teenagers fled the house, and tracked down some police officers who were on patrol.  When they arrived at the crime scene, Anson Paape was no where to be found.  He was gone for two days before finally being apprehended, and he was tried, convicted, and will spend probably the rest of his life in prison.

It’s an insane story – it defies all reason.  I can’t imagine what this man was thinking.  And what a tragic outcome.  Not only did a young man lose his life, but Anson Paape’s 5 children are now without a father.  They were also witnesses to the horrifying event, along with other teenagers at the party that night.  It’s just so sad.

The reason I’m writing about this is because I remember when this happened.  My brother-in-law had to work overtime to help man the SWAT trailer they had to set up while Paape was on the lam.  I think everyone in Chicagoland was relieved when they caught him.

MISSING

Posted in Current Events on March 2nd, 2009 and tagged , , , , , ,

I like to read the news stories on dailyherald.com  – probably because they have much more interesting news than my local newspaper.  But hey, that’s not a complaint since more interesting news = more crime to write about.  But I grew up in the Chicago area, so when there are interesting stories on dailyherald.com, I know where the town is they’re talking about, which is another reason why I frequent the site.  Today’s edition had an interesting (but sad) story:

Naperville police are desperately searching for a missing 12-year-old child who allegedly took the keys to his family car and left the home.

Cmdr. Dave Hoffman of the Naperville Police Department said the child is 5-feet, 8-inches tall, about 140 pounds, has wavy brown hair and brown eyes. He is believed to be wearing gray cargo pants and a white T-shirt and a green winter Army jacket.

Hoffman said the boy allegedly took the keys sometime after 2 a.m., left his house, backed the vehicle out of the garage.

Hoffman added the boy also has a history of sleep walking, but has no history of taking the family vehicle for rides when sleep walking.

The vehicle missing is described as a light blue, 2008 Hyundai Santa Fe with an Illinois registration number of A744198.

Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to call the Naperville Police Department through 9-1-1 of or contact your local law enforcement agency.

Hopefully this kid is going to be alright.  Does a 12-year-old know how to drive, especially in his sleep?  At that age, it’s quite possible that he decided to run away also, but he does have a history of sleepwalking.  The article fails to mention how they KNOW he took the keys and left – was there a witness?  I know where Naperville is; in fact, I used to live there.  It’s a nice town, but it’s a dangerous world.  I am hoping they find this kid safe and sound.  It’s a sad story, but let’s hope there’s a happy ending.  I know some of you loyal readers know people who sleepwalk and have interesting tales – let’s hear them!

*UPDATE* – The kid was found safe and sound at O’Hare airport.  Apparently he was not sleepwalking but was trying to run away.  How a 12-year-old was able to navigate the expressways to get to O’Hare I don’t know – but thank goodness he is safe.