Tag Archives: Spin Cycle

Picnicking {Spin Cycle}

Our family loves a good picnic; or as Fancy Nancy would put it, we dine al fresco! Every once in while, I’ll call Ed and tell him to meet us at the roller slide park after work. I make pizza pasta salad* and buy Cheetos, and the girls and I arrive early so that they can play on the playground before Ed gets there.

Most of the time, our picnicking happens during a road trip. I pack sandwiches, fruit and veggies so that we can stop at a picnic area to eat lunch instead of eating fast food.

Sometimes, the weather doesn’t cooperate and it’s a bit cooler than we expect. We just bundle up and eat outside anyway.

roadside picnic

Sometimes, we can’t find a picnic table. So we pull over in a turnaround on the side of the highway to Fairbanks, Alaska, and eat in the back of our rental van.

picnic in a van

alaska picnic

Sometimes, we can’t find a picnic table, so we use a rock instead.

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, CO

Hiking in the Rocky Mountains, CO

Lunch at the Grand Canyon

Lunch at the Grand Canyon

And sometimes, there’s nothing like a hot dog in your own backyard!

hot dog

*I don’t have a recipe; I just make some rotini noodles, throw in some pepperoni, grape tomatoes, mozzarella cheese chunks, onions, green peppers and black olives, and toss it all with a vinaigrette. Voila, pizza pasta salad!

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Growing Up Together {Spin Cycle}

I like to tell people that I grew up with my cousins, but that’s not necessarily true. The ministry had scattered the family on my dad’s side all over the country; from Alaska to Ohio. I never knew my dad’s parents, in person anyway. They died before I was born, but they live on in stories told frequently by my dad and his brothers and sisters. Despite death and distance, the sisters and brothers remained close. Our families met, when we could, twice a year, at Thanksgiving and at The Lake.

Our family took  a week-long vacation at a lake every the summer. The Lake changed from time to time; we started renting cottages at Lake Huron, then one summer rented at Duck Lake (yucky, only lasted one year), Lake Hemlock (a camp, which was cool because the cousins stayed in our own “chalets”), and now, a large house on Lake Michigan. I’m using the term “growing up together” loosely because we didn’t live around the block from each other, much less the same town. As cousins, we loosely grouped ourselves into age groups. We had an older group that all of us younger cousins loved hanging out with, but as you can imagine, the older cousins did their own things away from the younger cousins. Occasionally we would do things together, such as act out plays for our parents or walk to the gas station to buy candy. And cards. We loved to play cards. Our cousin Mark taught us the finer points of the game 500, such as going in the hole just to keep the other pair from getting the bid. (His brother plays the same way.) Mark drove us to the movies. (Spaceballs one summer.) He played the game of Risk with his brother and teased his little sister unmercifully.


Playing 500 (Mark is on the left.)

As we became adults, the age groups dissipated. Jobs and families scattered us apart, from California to the United Kingdom, but we still kept up with each other. Out of all the cousins, we probably prayed for Mark the most. He was a West Point graduate, and the Army sent him all over the world. We prayed for Mark to safely come back home, and he always did. But then Mark was attacked by an enemy that we didn’t expect. Cancer.  We all prayed even harder for Mark and his wife Kathy, and it looked like he was winning the war.

When the email came from my cousin that Mark had died, I didn’t quite believe it. I had to call my dad just to confirm the news. It was a quite a shock to us all.

The last time I saw Mark was at my mother’s funeral. He was in uniform; probably the only time I’d ever seen him in uniform. We usually saw Mark on vacation; out of uniform. My cousins and I were so lucky to grow up with Mark. He was well loved, and he will be missed. Especially when there’s a good card game going on.

Playing 500 (Mark is on the right)

Playing 500 (Mark is on the right)


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Kicking Off!

It’s the first full week of summer! Lily and Emmy have been out of school for almost three weeks now, and we’re slowly adjust to summer’s routine. I should write “lack of routine,” which is both freeing and horrible at the same time. We can sleep late, there’s no homework, and we can watch TV in the middle of the day. And we can also lie on the floor moaning about how bored we are and how no one will play with me, watch TV until we’re zombies and then not want to go to sleep at night because we’re not tired, and whine at the grocery store even though the cupboard are completely bare at home.

Yes, summer’s wonderful!

Our summer routine includes:

1. Swim Team for Lily. She has two hour practices every day, which wore her out at first. She’s becoming a stronger swimmer and has been working on diving off the block and flip turns. She was really looking forward to her first swim meet last week. Unfortunately, dark clouds rolled in and the temperature dropped into the 50′s, so it was cancelled. We were looking forward to her second swim meet on Wednesday…and then dark clouds rolled in and the Thor guard went off, and it was postponed. Ah, summer in the Midwest! Finally yesterday, Lily was able to swim in her first swim meet!

Lily swimming with her team during warm-ups.

Lily swimming with her team during warm-ups.

She was so nervous, but she did fine! It was a home meet, and the coaches asked for parent volunteers to time the swimmers. I’ve never done it before…but I volunteered anyway. I figured if Lily was brave enough to do something new that made her nervous, I’d go ahead and do the same thing! It turned out to be an easy job, and I was able to meet one of the other swim team moms.

2. Vacation Bible School was this week! This was the first year I was not the VBS director, and I have to admit it was a welcome change. I can’t stay away from VBS, though, and I was the Bible Story Teller. When I started helping with VBS, I was pregnant with Emmy. Now both my girls are in the oldest groups for VBS! How did that happen?

Emmy VBS

Emmy came down with “leprosy” during VBS.

3. Daily Visits to a Playground: This was one of my goals for the summer, and while weather and schedules have interfered somewhat, we’ve gone to the park a lot! We’ve also been trying to eat plenty of ice cream to make sure we have energy to go to the park.

How are you kicking off your summer? Link up your summer posts here or tell us in the comments!

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Debunking the Myths of Suburbia

Several of my friends and relatives live in the city of Chicago. I, however, live in a suburb of Chicago. Some people who actually live in the city proper would get upset with me when I say that I’m from Chicago, because technically, I’m not. When I’m traveling or at a conference, though, saying I’m from Chicago cuts to the chase. Take, for example, the following conversations.

Stranger: Where are you from?
Me: Chicago.
Stranger: Oh! The Windy City!


Stranger: Where are you from?
Me: Illinois
Stranger: Oh, where in Illinois?
Me: Mount Prospect
Stranger: I’ve never heard of it. Where is it?
Me: By Chicago.
Stranger: Oh! I love IKEA!

(Myth #1: IKEA is in Schaumburg, not Chicago.)

I’m not much for small talk. I prefer the first conversation, even if I don’t actually live in Chicago.

So, yes, I live in the suburbs. Some in the city criticize the ‘burbs for being a boring place to live. Stereotypes abound about suburban life. However, life in the suburbs is not all they say it is. Here are some myths that simply aren’t true in my neighborhood.

  1. Myth: You have to drive everywhere. While it’s true that I do have to drive to get groceries, there are many places I can walk to; we walk to the elementary school, the playground, and to friends’ houses. We can also walk to the community center where Lily and Emmy have taken many dance and music classes. Our park district pool is in walking distance, along with the middle school my girls will attend. But the most exciting place to walk to in my neighborhood is Dunkin’ Donuts, which is right across the street from the preschool where I teach.
  2. Myth: There’s no public transportation. When I went to high school, I lived in a nearby suburb and took the public bus to school. Here in Mt. Prospect, we can walk to the bus stop and to the train station. In March, we took the train downtown to go up to the ledge at the top of the Sears Tower. You know, the same ledge that cracked just a few weeks ago.
  3. Myth: There’s no night life in the suburbs. Last weekend, Ed and I went on a date night in the neighboring suburb of Arlington Heights. We had reservations at a local Italian restaurant named Carlos & Carlos, where the bartender was cheering for Italy at the World Cup and Ed was watching a chef make fresh pasta. Oh, the pasta was so delicious! The last time I ate a cream sauce that authentic was at a little Italian place in Boston.
    Big Anthony

    Strega Nona by Tomie dePaola

    After Ed and I stuffed ourselves like Big Anthony, we went to see a play. The Last Five Years is a musical which will soon be a movie, and it was surprisingly good. We then sauntered over to a place called Big Shots. Ed and I call it the Piano Bar because we always forget the real name of the place. They have a very entertaining piano player and singer.

    The best part of the evening? Parking was free! I dare you to find free parking in Chicago.

  4. showimage_lastfive

  5. Myth: There’s no diversity. Yes, the suburbs used to be a place for only white people to live. Times have changed for the better. We are surrounded with a variety of cultures and languages, and my children are growing up in a rich environment.
  6. Myth: Everyone drives a minivan. Well, this is still mostly true, unless you drive an SUV.

swagger wagon
What is your neighborhood like? Are there any myths about your neighborhood that need debunking? Let us know in the comments or by linking up your own blog post!

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Happy Father’s Day, Ed {Spin Cycle}

Ed was thinking about our children long before I was. When we began looking for a house soon after we got married, Ed had some specific requirements.  All the cute little houses I liked were no good. He wanted room to grow, a basement, a big backyard, and a playground within walking distance. He also wanted to live in a neighborhood with sidewalks so that we could walk safely to the playground with our kids. Our house was going to be our lifetime house; the house where we were going to raise our family.

When I write “lifetime house,” I do not mean our dream house. These are two different things. I’ll describe the dream house for you another day. The lifetime house that we bought has three bedrooms, a basement, an attached garage and is walking distance from both the elementary school and the playground. It was built in the 1960′s, decorated in the 1980′s, and we are still working on updating it. Ed knew what he was looking for, and we found a great house for raising a family.

About a year after we bought the house, Lily was born. Ed was thrilled to be a Daddy. He changed Lily’s first diaper and walked around with her for hours while she cried and while she slept. He gave Lily her first bottle when I couldn’t produce enough milk, and we tag-teamed feeding her. I breastfed her during the day, he gave her a bottle at night.

Ed holding Lily at the hospital

Ed holding Lily at the hospital

When Emmy was born almost three years later, he was just as thrilled and stayed in the hospital with me and Emmy for four days while I recovered from a c-section. He changed her diapers, I fed her. He slept on that green chair in the picture below every night so that he could help me get Emmy when she cried.

Ed with Emmy and Lily the day Emmy was born

Ed with Emmy and Lily the day Emmy was born

We were a team.

We still are.

When Emmy is having one of her meltdowns and I’m about to lose it, Ed steps in and calms her down. When the girls want to go to the playground, Ed is never too tired to take them. He is always available to read a book or play a game. And he is the best at surprising them with a trip to the ice cream shop.

He’s not the perfect dad, but I’m not the perfect mom, either. Somehow, together, we seem to make it work. And there’s one thing I know for sure.

He’s always thinking about his girls.


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