Tag Archives: summer

Embrace the awesome

When you drive into downtown Joliet, there is a sign. It reads, “If it’s fun, it’s in downtown Joliet!”

For real.

Now, not to speak poorly of Joliet. It is, after all, home to the Rialto Square Theatre, where Jim and I were married. And most people say, hey, that’s where Peter Brady was married! No no no no no no no. It’s where JIM AND I were married. Peter Brady and his gameshow wife just had their reception there. Celebrities and wannabe celebrities have a way of ruining my stuff. Peter Brady took over my Rialto. Of course, the day I got married there was the same day that Entertainment Tonight covered the wedding of one Mary Kay Latourneau to her rape victim, Villi. Same exact day. Then Tom Cruise and his wife Joey Potter were rude enough to produce their weird little mini-me on the SAME day I had George. Rude rude rude.

Back to Joliet.

The sign reads that it is where the fun happens. And last week’s Joliet Jackhammers game was no exception.

Example:

Check out the main man in the sweet plaid shorts there behind Hank. He’s making rock star hands — devil fingers — you mess with the bull you get the horns — whatever you call it, he’s doing it. On purpose. In public. But that’s not even the REASON I planted young Hank on this spot to grab this photo. There’s more:

Oh. My. God. That is so AWESOME. I covered his eyes to protect his identity (not that I know him) but also to protect myself from what I can only assume will be a David Lee Roth style butt-kicking if he were to ever find himself on my blog. I envision this guy wrapping himself in “Just a Gigolo” spandex and figuring he might as well jump (JUMP!) on my face for embarrassing him. I think he even has a perm. So so sweet.

Sadly, the Jackhammers were eliminated last night in the playoffs, so we’ll have to wait until next year for the next new round of downtown Joliet fun.

At least Hank caught a grand slam — from our team even!

That is fun! See you next year Jackhammers!

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Summer’s last blast

It was a familiar sight this morning. The backpacks. The fresh haircuts. The shiny new shoes. The refusal to listen. Ah, yes, back to school time has arrived.

I love summer with a passion that few people understand. Sure, everyone seems to enjoy the warm weather and cookouts and lazy weekends. But more people seem to look with disdain on the chores of mowing and weeding and watering and would rather wrap themselves in the manufactured cool air comfort of the air conditioning than spend 15 minutes on the back deck in 90 degree temperatures. Not me. I love a good drippy sweat down my back and a breeze through the house, even a hot one. My husband and children, on the other hand, do not. So, on goes the air.

But sooner or later, it has to end. Even if the heat stays, the official “school’s out for summer” season ceases. Today was that day, but we didn’t let it come without the children getting one last night of fun. Enter the Joliet Jackhammers!

The Jackhammers are a non-affiliated minor league team. And man are they not good. If there were 1,000 people at last night’s game, I would be shocked. This year’s schedule was AWFUL, they were out of town most weekends. Despite the fact that they play teams with awesome names (like last night’s rival the Kansas City T-Bones, and the Edmonton Crackercats, former home of Canada’s favorite baseball son, Stubby Clapp), people simple don’t show up. Which is a shame because the stadium is nice and family friendly and there’s BEER there. Even this wasn’t enough to draw a crowd last night:

That’s right, the San Diego Chicken was in Jackhammers country for the last night of summer vacation!

That’s Hank running down to try to get a ball. I tried very hard to take pictures of The Chicken on the field, and every one of them turned out like this, even when Jim took the camera and got closer. Like The Chicken watched that video from The Ring at some point in the past seven days. See:

I must confess, he was funny. Did all the old gags. Held up the eye chart for the ump. Engaged in a water balloon fight with the opposing team. Bit the ump on the head. Good times.

Not to worry, we did get one good shot:

That’s George, terrified out of his mind, getting an autograph with his Poppy. Thanks The  Chicken!!

The game also had a few other notable memories, like Hank getting his very first ice cream in a helmet cup:

Just like when you were a kid, he shelled out a full $5 for a helmet ice cream, only to get the Marlins. Is there any other helmet out there? Maybe KC? Maybe? Seriously, why don’t they just stock local ice cream places that serve helmet ice cream with LOCAL teams. Is it really too much money to print up a Jackhammers logo, if nothing else? Freaking Marlins.

Anyway, the night was a fun success, the kids had a blast and everyone came home with autographed photos from The Chicken. Jim, however, declined to bring his to work, stating that hanging it next to his ginormous White Sox World Series photos and Blackhawks Stanley Cup paraphernalia would be “weird.” Whatever.

Now, Hank is at school, and George is apparently sleeping off his sugar hangover:

He’s still wearing last night’s clothes, because that’s just how I roll as a mother.

Speaking of, I would be remiss to not mention my two mother-of-the-year nomination worthy moments from last night.

First — Slug Bug. Upon leaving the game, a silver Beetle drove past. Naturally prompting me to yell out “SLUG BUG SILVER” while delivering a swift punch to Hank’s arm. Right in front of a Joliet cop. “That was a pretty hard hit,” the cop says to me, raising an eyebrow. Not skipping a beat, I snap back, “He knows the rules.” That’s parenting!

Second — To be filed under “I can’t believe I just said that to a child, my own child for that matter!” Out in left field there was a small cage, inside of which were two small goats. Like a mini-petting zoo for the family friendly park. Children were petting the goats, giving them crap to eat, that kind of stuff. When I say children, I mean other people’s children. Not mine. Because that’s nasty. If I wanted my kids to pet farm animals, I’d live on a farm. They are livestock, not kittens. Anyway, two of the customer service type gals opened up the gate and went into the cage, where they pet the animals and showed them off to the children around them.

“Mom,” Hank says. “Mom, those girls are in the cage with the goats!”

Before I could stop the words from coming out of my mouth, I said to Hank, just 8-years-old, “Wow, you usually only see that in Tijuana.”

Let’s hope that’s not the first thing he tells his little friends about during the first day of school. Happy Back-to-School season everyone!

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Dads, daughters and dookie

It all happened several summers ago.

There we were, enjoying the Happy Place. For those of you unfamiliar with the Happy Place, it looks like this:

This is Lake Jordan from my point of view, former home of the fabulous Clearwater Resort, current home of fun, sun and Karaoke Bob. Those are my feet. If you look closely, there is something on my big toe. If I had to guess, I would say it was food. The Happy Place is also the messy place.

This is what children look like in the Happy Place:

George

Cece

Oh my God how HAPPY is that?? You can see why we call it the Happy Place, eh? Check out how my brother feels about it. Spoiler alert: HE LOVES IT TOO.

In case you were wondering, The Happy Place is in Wisconsin. So all those folks scouring the globe for a place of peace and happiness and parties featuring rude beer and roasted pigs, stop looking in tropical or exotic locations. A little bit southeast of the Wisconsin Dells is all you need to know.

Anyway, back to my story. It all happened several summers ago. There we were, enjoying the Happy Place. Now, it’s important to know that over its history as a vacation destination, the Happy Place once hosted two resorts and one campground. The campground remains, but the resorts have all given way to more upscale lakeside homes (which may or may not always come with more upscale residents). But on any given weekend in summer, the lake is crawling with boats, jet skis, swimmers, fishermen and other water babies. On any given weekend in winter, the lake is packed full of ice houses and fisherman who, for some demented reason, think that it is fun to drill a hole in the ice and sit there until a fish grabs hold. Clearwater Resort is gone, in its place (but at the top of the hill instead of lakeside) is the tacky and lovable Boondock’s Bar (home of the aforementioned Karaoke Bob. Don’t put in too many songs, he won’t call you).

It is safe to say that upon the thousands and thousands of bodies that have taken to the water over the years, sooner or later, someone is going to have a little dookie. You know what I mean. Number two. Pinch one off. Doodie in the pool. A dump, if you will. In the water. In its history, an Illinois politician who shall remain nameless may have been one of those who took the Browns to the Superbowl at the back of the lake, only, you know, the Browns were a poop and the Superbowl is Lake Jordan. You probably didn’t need me to explain that.

Anyway, as we enjoyed the back of the lake that hot summer afternoon, I heard a familiar voice call for my attention.

“Hey Kid!”

It was my father.

My parents have five children. Carrie, Tommy, Laura, Amy and Marney. And in his lifetime, my father has actually used those names only a handful of times. We are all called, affectionately, Kid, Stosh, Gertrude or Ike. In trouble? Thy name is Clown. In super trouble and about to get hit? You’re called Pal, and you better duck. Call out any of those monikers while we are together, and all of us will turn. But, I was being called Kid, so clearly, I was not in trouble.

“Hey Kid!”

I turn.

“Catch.”

*toss*

In slow motion, I saw it. Being hurdled at me. Brown. Stiff. Log-like.

*smack*

It hits me.

“Dad just threw dookie at Marney!!!!!!!!” Laura shouts.

There was the evidence, floating in the water. My father, upon spotting dookie in the water, thought, “Hmmmmm, what should I do with this? Oh look, there’s my youngest child, I better throw it at her.”

And so it was.

Thus began the family legend of how my father threw dookie at me. Now, to this day, he SWEARS it was just a stick, and I suppose that is possible. Water-logged branchery submerged in Lake Jordan is plentiful, and certainly takes on a dookie-like appearance. And of course, after being doused with dung, I screamed like a little girl and swatted it away, so I certainly didn’t inspect it a la Bill Murray.

Still, I prefer to say that my father, when listing his life achievements, can put “I threw dookie at my kid” somewhere near the top. Or, perhaps, the bottom (bah-dum-dum).

My father turned 71 years old this week. Brought into this world on August 17, 1939, he’s still as sassy as ever — dookie throwing abilities and all. So when you see him, wish him a Happy Birthday.  But be careful at the Happy Place. He’ll throw dookie at you, too.

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The daze of summer

I love summer. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. And again. And again. There are few things in this world that make me as happy as a hot sticky day. I absolutely adore those few nights a year when it’s so hot, the cover of the night sky cannot even bring the temperature down. Sitting on the porch in 85 degree temperatures at midnight just makes me smile. I don’t think I belong here in Illinois. It’s flipping cold in winter. But at the same time, I do think that the dreary nastiness of winter makes me far more appreciative of a little summer sweat.

This is how Jim feels about summer:

How classy is that? The truth of this picture is, Jim, despite being a ripe, mature 36 years of age, has no idea how to react when you point a camera in his direction. Doesn’t he look pissed? He told me the other day that he HATES summer. I think I will never forgive him.

Well, despite my husband’s inexplicable anger at the only good time of year, I do not fear the sun and the sweat which accompanies it. Last week I took the kids to a baseball game, but despite my intentions, we did not make it to the Taste of Chicago. So yesterday I put them on the train and away we went….

On the train. I was afraid George would not like it, but he was so excited. They made me sit up top.

Super lame blow-up games aren't so bad when they are free! Thanks Mayor Daley!

At the Millenium Park fountain.

I'm not totally sure how I feel about the fountain "sculpture." If you've never been there, the faces change. And then eventually, they purse their lips and water spits out, like they are spitting all over the children. Which of course, the kids adore. I tried to take a picture, but I needed new batteries and the camera clicked off. Stupid cheap AAs.

 Of course, a day in the city is not complete until you see something disturbing. Enter the other sculpture at the park that caught my eye:

I walked around this work of “art” looking for a title, but found none. So I can only assume this is entitled, “great big dong wrapped in foil.” In a park designed for children no less! I seriously should have been an artist, because I am certain I could have designed this nonsense.

All in all, it was a perfect summer day. I’ll let the boys sum it up for you:

Happy summer everyone!

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Redeeming qualities? Who needs ’em!

I have been known from time to time to acknowledge my love for all things completely and utterly useless.

I get excited each week when my “Star” magazine comes in the mail. I watch trashy TV shows. My husband and I have a drinking game revolving around when David Caruso takes off his sunglasses. We cannot make it through the weekend without “The Soup”. And of course, there’s my time spent watching GleN Beck. If that’s not proof that I enjoy the ridiculous, what is?

Enter these fine folks:

Oh looky loo, it’s the cast of “Jersey Shore.” And let me tell you… they are AWESOME.

I wholeheartedly admit, we tuned in to this show for one reason and one reason only. We saw the preview when Snookie, the tiny little one on the right there, got decked right in the grill by some drunk guy in a bar. We HAD to see this. Of course, in the week between the time they showed the preview and the time the show aired, MTV realized that maybe showing physical violence against women in an effort to boost ratings wasn’t the best idea. So they scrapped the footage… the footage that by that time had been seen on multiple news and entertainment shows and was a YouTube sensation.

So here’s the deal. These young folks got picked by MTV to live in what I can only describe as the crappiest beach house ever for the summer. They drink and invite strangers over for random sex and then they sleep until 3 p.m., then they repeat it. In the meantime, there are awesome conversations about “creeping” and “juicing” and “Guidos” and “Guidettes.” Everyone they see is called “kid” and the men in the house will throw a punch at anyone EXCEPT for the drunk dude who popped Snookie right off her bar stool (he was arrested though, but not a one of these guys even grabbed him. I’m pretty sure Jim would have knocked his drunk butt on the ground, and he’s not exactly Mr. Bench Press. Seriously guys, someone hits a woman, it’s kind of your JOB to hit him. I’m just sayin’). There’s a lot of fuzzing out of female body parts while ladies dance. There are size 2 clothes on size 6 girls. And of course, there is the mantra:  GTL — gym, tan, laundry. The boys of Jersey Shore do NOT go a day without accomplishing these three things.

Apparently, some Italian Americans were upset at how the show portrayed both Italians and people from New Jersey. Seeing as I am an Irish-Polish chick from the suburbs of Chicago, I cannot relate. But I can say this: I don’t care.

These people are awesome. One of them is called “The Situation.” How awesome is that? Not just a nickname, but one that starts with THE. I mean, who pulls that off? The Donald. The Hulk. And The Situation. That’s some mighty fine company, there. Jim and I were so impressed with their nicknames, we tried to come up with some of our own that also start with THE. Which reminds me, from now on, I will only answer to “The Oscillator.” It represents how I catch everyone’s eye when I walk in a room, my head scanning the crowd like an oscillating fan. Nice.

The cast of the Jersey Shore is reportedly asking for more money. A lot more. From a few hundred bucks an episode up to $10,000 an episode. And I say, GIVE IT TO THEM. These people have absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. They are shallow and weird and slutty, every last one of them. Young Snookie was planning on sleeping with a guy one day, noting that he was handsome, so “he must be clean.” Dude — YOUR MOTHER IS WATCHING. The Situation had sex with a drunk girl in the hottub, and she was so schnockered, I’m surprised she didn’t press charges in the morning. The big punchy guy (I don’t know his name, he clearly doesn’t have a cool enough nickname) chased after a guy and knocked him out cold in the street, then acted shocked that he got arrested. And instead of bailing him out, everyone else went home and went to bed!

No. Reedeeming. Qualities.

Yet still, I watch. Sometimes, you just need a mind numbing escape. Thanks cast of Jersey Shore. See you next summer!

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There it goes…

A brutal truth slapped me in the face this morning when I stepped outside to check the weather: It’s just not summer anymore.

I know very few people who view the brutal, sweltering heat of summer the way I do — I LOVE it. Love it love it love it love it love it. Nothing makes me happier than a good summer sweat. Certainly there is a limit. No one can be comfortable in 110 degree weather with no cooling prospects in sight. But this particular summer was like a three month long 83 degree dream. For all the complaints I heard about how it wasn’t all that warm this summer, I found it to be pretty much beautiful all around. We only ran the a/c for a total of maybe two weeks the whole time. I got lots of lake time. There were a handful of hot nights (my ABSOLUTE favorite — nothing beats the feeling of near 90 degree temperatures when the clock slowly ticks toward midnight. LOVE IT!).

I assume my affection for the heat comes from summers crammed into a three bedroom trailer in Wisconsin. While I only have a few scattered memories about when we used to stay in the cabins at Clearwater Resort on Lake Jordan, I can smell that trailer, purchased by my parents when I was around 8 years old, as clearly today as I could back then. Just close my eyes, and BAM, I can smell the mixture of dust and crisp Wisconsin nights and wet towels and taco salad and Russel’s meat market and of course, moth balls. Those summers when we crammed as many as 22 people inside that little trailer were the best memories of my childhood and early adult adventures.

Clearwater Resort is long gone, and the trailer literally fell apart after we left it, but our summers at Lake Jordan remain, thanks to Mom and Pops and their awesome lakeside hacienda. My sister Amy and I refer to it as “The Happy Place.” You cannot blame us:

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This is Hank and Danny on the boat, the view from the beach at the house.

And when we are at the back of the lake, we see this:

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Or, often, we see it like this:

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There is no shortage of laughter and joy in the Happy Place. And I found this summer to be a particularly nice one. There were, of course, the obligatory self-portraits.

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You know I must love the Happy Place when I absolutely adore a photo like this one of me and Hank, despite the way it completely and totally highlights each and every ginormous sized pore and splotchy skin discoloration flaw in my face.

And this summer just FELT so good. Check out this photo:

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I cannot for the life of me imagine what Hank is saying to Tim, but look how hard he has Tim laughing. Must have been a good one.

And of course, there’s just all around good times:

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You just cannot argue with the likes of hanging out with Grandpa, catching frogs while wearing a shark hat, and the “ska-do.”

Nights are nice too.

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Look at that! I’ll admit, this particular night was slightly marred when the full moon made one Mr. Glockenspiel go out of his ever-loving mind and attempt to hike back to Chicago all while cornering the market on parental love. If you don’t know what I am talking about, consider yourself lucky and enjoy the moon over the water. If you do know — sorry Laura!

Anyway, back to my point. I love summer. I love hot sticky summer. I love Wisconsin summer. I seriously could use up all of my space available on this blog simply posting my favorite pictures from Wisconsin summer. And it’s gone.

Every year, after Labor Day, I PROMISE myself that I am going to get back to Wisconsin one more time in September. That I am going to look fall in the face and tell it where to go and how to get there. That I am going to get out for one more boat ride and one more back-of-the-lake swim. And every year, I fail. The weekends come too quickly, the priorities get rearranged, the commitments pile on. The next thing you know, September is out of weekends, and here I sit in Illinois. No more Wisconsin summer. Even if I can get to Wisconsin in October, I’m a minimum of 8 months away from my next dip in Lake Jordan. That just makes me so sad.

Don’t get me wrong, the Happy Place is always happy, even in the dead of winter. With winter comes ice skating and snow tubing and hopefully, if the lake is frozen through from end to end, auto races on the lake. Karaoke Bob still shows up at the Boondocks on Friday nights, even in January. The Pizza Pub is open all winter. And with the invention of the indoor water park, there’s always something to do in the Dells, even go swimming should you so choose to blow your entire tax return on a single weekend.

Jim has successfully gotten me interested in college football, and I do love the smell of fall. I love Halloween and Christmas and my birthday (January 4 for those of you who forgot, Mom). I’ll get through the lull of cabin fever and summer will be here again before I know it. But today, it’s clearly over.

It’s a sad day today.

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The weight of it all

I have a love-hate relationship with my bod. Mostly, I love to hate it.

I am not qualified to speak for the majority of women in this town, this state, this country or even this world, but I am going to take a guess that many or even most of us feel this way. We look at a picture of ourselves and think, Sweet Mother of Mercy, where the hell did all that SKIN come from? Lord.

My love-hate relationship with the way I look has kicked into high gear these days. You see, according to  the scale the worst invention ever made, I currently weigh as much as I did in May of 2002. The problem with that? In May of 2002, I was full term pregnant with my first child. God.

Six weeks ago, Jim and I decided to start a weight lifting program. Which is good. But the problem is that to build muscle, you must eat the proper amounts of calories, which means, no deficit. But without a deficit, there is no weight loss. Simple science says to lose weight, calories burned must be higher than calories consumed. And not only have I been mostly even on my burn-consume ratio, but some days, I consume a little too much. Hence, I can now see muscles in my arms and my butt is starting to look better, but my actual WEIGHT suggests I have an 8 pound 3 ounce child in my uterus, which I do not. To sum it up — Ugh.

But the biggest problem, of course, is how this affects my daily life. Take for example, some memories from Lake Jordan (aka, the Happy Place) in Wisconsin this summer:

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My sister Carrie took this photo, and it is freaking hilarious. That’s me, reading a smut book called “Goldie Locks and the Behr” to my son Hank (left) and my nephew Danny. The writer named the lead male character “Angus Behr,” probably for the specific reason of giving the book that title. Genius. Look at Hank’s face. LOOK AT HIM. He is absolutely fascinated at this deeply involved piece of American literature. But what did I see when I clicked onto this photo when she put it on the Face Page? My thighs, followed by my stomach roll.

And there’s also this:

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This is a photo of grown people having a water fight. That’s Kelly at the left, shooting at Tommy (with the beer), Tim (the headless one) and me. Dudes… LOOK at my shoulders. I’m not even FLEXING. Dare I say it, but those are some sculpted shoulders. But nooooooooooo… all I saw when I spotted this gem was my back fat, my belly fat, my huge ass and those THIGHS again.

The worst offender is this one:

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That’s me and my Pops. Isn’t he adorable? I love my Dad. He’s my hero. I want to blow this picture up to poster size and frame it on my living room wall. Dad = awesome. But when I saw this photo, did I think of how good it is? What a sweet and enduring memory it is? How I will be able to hold on to this as a memory of what a ridiculously good time we all had in our Happy Place this summer? No. I saw my big, fat, saggy boobs, trying to wrangle their way out of the picture and into the water.

What the hell? The worst part of it all, is taking a second look… I’m not even that big. I’m overweight. I’m not obese. Well, not yet, anyway.

Now, in my OWN defense, all of these photos involve me and a swimsuit, and it’s difficult to not be overly judgmental of yourself and your bod when wearing what basically amounts to second skin. And this little number is a Sears special, bought more for its ability to hold up my girls (though even in that respect it often fails) than for its high state of modern fashion. It’s a granny suit, frankly. Sure, they tried to make it hip with those sassy pink flowers, but still. There’s no arguing it when you bought the most chic suit available in the women’s section at Sears. I mean, really.

But still, my relationship with my own body is ruining my memories. It’s taking over the way I look at things. I show a picture of a perfectly happy time, and all I see is… fat. And I don’t know how to fix it.

I’m trying, these days, with weights. But let’s say a year from now, assuming I stick to my current program, my body is tighter, more defined. Let’s say I lose 20 or 30 pounds of flab. Then what? Then is it time to attack my stretch marks? Will I hate the size of my butt even if it is firmer? The lines on my face? The grey hair that I have recently embraced, will THAT start to haunt me if I tone up this vessel that carries me around this world? Somebody, for the love of God, tell me WHY? Why am I not good enough for myself?

I suppose that for women, it’s something most of us seek, but few of us ever find the answer.

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