JJ and Elena Sitting in a tree…

My brother got married.

THAT is a weird sentence to write.  Only because he was so anti for so long, it was like, “Yeah, we get it, you don’t want to get married.”  But he did.  He found a sweet girl that puts up with his shit.

It is funny to type that.  Because he’s actually a nice person to live with… he’s super considerate and pulls his weight with stuff. At least he did on the few occasions that he has lived with us.  Of course, maybe he knows I would put the hammer on him if tried NOT pulling his weight.  It’s hard to say really.   



In any case, they decided to get married.  She is from Germany/Italy, and her family couldn’t make it.  And JJ is anti, as we’ve discussed, so it was small.  Just us and our Washington Aunt Judy.  Plus one of JJ’s friends.

JJ works in marine carpentry; right now he is working on the Swiftsure, the oldest remaining lightship.  Which is really cool.  I got to tour the old boat when I got to town.  Really kind of annoyed I couldn’t get a t-shirt or a coffee cup or something.  Can you imagine it on swag?  It would be brilliant!


The next day, we headed to Pike’s Place for flowers and to walk around.  I haven’t been in over 20 years, so it was cool to see it.  Still still still love buckets of flowers.  Honestly, I could live my whole life and never get tired of buckets of daffodils, lillies and tulips.


Nicole and I were also on the prowl for gifts for our kids.  I hit the jackpot with a complete set of baseball cards from 1989.  Nico was all in on that, you can bet.


JJ’s soon to be mother in law treated us to a fancy dinner the night before at a place on the lake.  Like an idiot, I didn’t bring any other jackets with me to Seattle.  I had my black adidas travel jacket, but that was it.  And it rained a lot… so… I ended up buying a windbreaker from target to keep the rain off of me.  But it meant that I went to dinner looking like a hick that doesn’t know how to dress for fancy restaurants.


I have decided that my sister is the Barney Stinson of us kids.  She photographs well and always looks like a million bucks.  For traveling, she throws on Adidas trainers and a FSU hat over loose wavy hair and looks like an influencer on instagram.  I wear a hat on a plane and people assume I am a man with poor manners. Also, I don’t know if my face is just permanently swollen, but you can pretty much never see my eyes (FAT… its fat, I just have a fat face?). Also, I have come to realize that my face isn’t very symmetrical.  Due to my broken nose and my partially ground down teeth (from grinding my teeth when I sleep).  What is kind of remarkable is that I don’t even see how messed up my face is anymore.  That is what my eyes have done.  They have automatically applied a Facetune edit so I don’t notice on a daily basis on not symmetrical my face is.  So, at least I have that going for me.  SUUUUUUUCK.

The ceremony was a small justice of the peace deal on Sunday morning, which is something I can’t recommend enough.  I didn’t realize it, but the court house was basically closed.  They let us in for the ceremony, but no one else was there.  So it was nice to be able to get pictures without random people being in the way.

After the ceremony we headed to fisherman’s terminal for some pictures.  As he has done for 35 years of his life, JJ was intent on ruining a lot of them, with his face and his general “JJ-ness”.  LOL Elena, joke’s on you, he is yours now!

While at Fisherman’s terminal, we had brunch at Chinook’s, which was fantastic.  It was the best meal I had there.


After brunch, we scooted to a light house for a few more pictures before JJ whisked Elena off for a surprise honeymoon.  He actually got in touch with her boss to get her a couple of days off so that they could go, which I thought was really cool.

When they split for that, Nicole and Aunt Judy and I went to the Chihuly exhibit, which is at the base of the Seattle Space Needle.  It was pretty cool.  I wasn’t REALLY interested in hitting the exhibit, but we had like 10 hours still my flight and 6 for Nicole’s so, we were like, “Sure”. I was blown away by the intricacies of the work.  So, I was glad we went.


Hard Words

My mom died.

It’s weird to type that.  Even though I knew at some point that it would happen, I really didn’t think that I would ever type that specific sentence.  My mom died.

I think I am handling it well.  Or maybe I’m not. I haven’t started doing drugs.  I haven’t started drinking more than I used to.  I have been able to get out of bed to go to work. I haven’t started to engage in risky behaviors and I don’t think I am “flying off the handle” any more or any less than I did when she was alive.

I have played soccer games and gone to the gym.  I have moved offices at work and donated books to the little free library in my neighborhood.  I have watched my kid play soccer.  I have taken naps.

I’m just a little sad.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I am not a kid. Technically, I am not an orphan, so this shouldn’t be traumatic for me.  I mean, most of us are going to lose our parents.  Most of us will bury our parents, with our children and partners by our side (or not).  When parents die, mostly, we are grownups, capable of handling such an earth shattering event, dealing with it, and continue to put one foot in front of the other.


“Ship in turbulent sea” by Franz Müller-Gossen

There is a lot about her death that I just flat out object to; things that I don’t feel were right or that I felt powerless to stop or effect.  I am only two weeks into this situation and I can promise you that I have an opinion about some stuff.  Feel free to hit me up for advice when the time comes.

But there are also some things that were good about it, if there really is such a thing as a “good” death.

She was a hard person to love. While she loved us kids fiercely and ferociously, she was from a different era, when spoiling your children was to ruin them, for certain.  She was harsh in the sense that she saw the floundering and failings of children as reflective of their parents.  In her book, there was very little that a person could do in life to make up for raising a terrible kid.  I think she honestly thought that she would be judged by how we turned out.  She wanted us to be capable of hard work, of discipline, and sacrifice.  The result was that while each of us kids has our different emotional baggage, we definitely did walk around like we were better than everyone else.

Spoiler Alert: We were.  We were smarter, better students, better athletes, harder working, and generally more agreeable to be around than all of our peers.  That is a fact.  Sorry haters.

However, there wasn’t a lot about our childhoods that was easy- there weren’t a lot of hugs and hearts and flowers in our house.  Some days it was easy to think that she didn’t love us. I remember days being dropped off at school in the morning and being so upset and angry and anxious that I was glad I was late so that I could calm the fuck down before walking into class.  And while we did walk around with an air of superiority (despite all available evidence to the contrary), she inflicted onto each us our anxieties.

But here is where the sword cuts both ways; while she is directly responsible for most of the emotional baggage that her kids carried with them as young adults (and maybe some of it that we carry to this day), she also gave us the things that we needed to leave.  Each of us was absolutely unafraid to go out into the world, to leave the nest, and have 100% confidence that before we hit the ground, we’d figure out how to fly. We knew how to work, to plan, to sacrifice, and to be disciplined.  We were fearless, each of us in our quest to make something of ourselves and to go out in the world away from SW Florida and do something. And while each of us are figuring out what this is, we haven’t let fear of leaving and the unknown stop any of us.

My mother was 20 when her mother died.  She’d already lost her father when she was a kid, so when my grandmother died, mom and her brothers were orphaned.  In addition to her older brother, there were also two younger brothers, one of whom was still  in high school.  But when her mother died, some of my mom’s dreams died, I think.  She’d set aside some of her goals and plans to work and keep her family together. Two years later, she’d be married and two years after that, she’d give birth (to me).  She seemed hell-bent on ensuring that we were comfortable outside of our comfort zone, so we wouldn’t be afraid to leave.

My grandmother’s death, was not a surprise, as she was ill for 6 months and spent the last month in hospital.  And while she would never have said it outright, I think Mom resented those last six months, having to keep the house together and being forced to be responsible for everyone else.  On many occasions, she made it clear that she didn’t want a long drawn out death.  She didn’t want to “ruin” multiple years of holidays with her impending death.  And in many ways, she died like she lived: quietly and without a lot of fuss.  In fact, if you told me that she invented the Irish Goodbye, I wouldn’t doubt it.  Not for one second.

Her death, while horrible and absolutely not in line with what I would have chosen for her, wasn’t really that bad.  It was quick- she was in hospice for less than a week.  Her brothers, my sister, brother and I all got to spend time with her in her final days- Nicole and I were there for the first few days, then Nicole and JJ traded.  We filled the room with talk about the old days and outrageous tales of when she and her brothers were younger.  Her room was quiet and dark and us kids kept the music going; Springsteen, Goo Good Dolls, Garth Brooks, and Counting Crows.

And it wasn’t a surprise when it happened. She just slipped away.

Even if the nurses hadn’t said so, I had a sense that it was close.  She had gone from being in a sort of agitated anxious state the first night, talking and responding to us to less agitation, less angst, smaller responses. Less.  She was still.

The last night, her brothers headed back to their hotel (after our dinner of pizza and Coke in the room).  Mom, while she wasn’t engaging, I think sensed we were there.  My dad headed back to the house.  JJ and I were settling in for the night (they let us stay with her in hospice).  A couple of our favorite nurses were like, “it won’t be long.”  I think Mom settled when the room quieted down and decided it was time.

I have seen things about death and how much of an honor it is for someone to let you be in their presence when they die.  Some argue that a soul will hang on as long as necessary for the right time to depart.

Now, I don’t know about that.

But, when she passed, it was the way she would have chosen, slipping away quietly, without a lot of fuss.  Just JJ and I were there, listening to Springsteen’s Broadway Album.

Obviously, I’m still processing this.  But I am so incredibly thankful that I was able to be there with her in the end.  The one thing that I wanted when she got sick back in November was that she wouldn’t die alone.  And she didn’t.  In my book, that was good.


Thanksgiving in Florida

Thanksgiving was really fun this year.  Morning of, we flew down to Miami super early.  We got in town just in time for Thanksgiving dinner with Dave’s parents.  
It got chilly fast in Chicago, so it was really nice to be in the sun.  So much so that Dave and Nico got some swims in at the pool.  The water wasn’t heated (LOL).  Nico did not mind.  Dave did, a little.  I was excited to read and relax in a chair in the sun.  
On Saturday, the boys went to do judo at a big judo place down there.  I got to see one of my good friends from grad school (Ursula) who lives with her family in Cooper City.  We got our nails done and had a blast just hanging out.  

We also spent the afternoon with a family that Mike and Gay know.  They have a pretty sweet house with a pool and 4 kids, three of whom were pretty close to Nico’s age.  Of course Nico had a blast.  We also got to see Dave’s best friend and their family.  They have a son who is about Nico’s age.  They hit it off.

It is comforting to know that we can take Nico places and he can figure out a way to get along and even have fun with other kids.

The Fair

We’ve been trying to squeeze in as much fun as summer will allow, in the last couple of weeks of August.  Granny You was in Michigan for a longer trip last week, so Nico and I headed over for a couple of days to hang out.  We did some work on the family tree, which required a road trip out to the Drake aka Baker Cemetery in Amboy Township.  
Friday Gran took us to a community fair in Hudsonville, which was actually quite large, for being a community fair.  Nico got a little helicopter time in before we headed to the barns to check out the animals.  

Uncle Scott was with us- so we hit up some rides.  Here we are on something called the Glider.  True story: I don’t think I like rides.  During this one, I kept my eyes closed.  

Uncle Scott rode this one, called The Magic Carpet ride. It goes up in the air and around.  Or as I like to call it: NOPE.  

Nico had his first go at bumper cars.  He wasn’t big enough to go himself, and not quite tall enough to reach the pedals.  So I did the driving.  So it probably wasn’t as much fun as it would have been if he got to drive himself.  Maybe next time, kid. 

And then these guys.  So the last time we did a fair, Nico didnt even get close to winning a fish.  So, stupidly, I thought it would be about the same now.  That was false.  Nico won two goldfish.  He named them Little Fin and Guppy (don’t ask me which is which).  So I guess we now have to get a fish tank set up.  
This weekend, Dave went to the first soccer meeting of the new year.  He got uniforms for his team- which is cool.  They are being sponsored by Fox Sports this year, and their uniforms are green with a white stripe across the chest.  Nico is super excited about it.  He is going to try to get the team name to be the Dingos, but I am holding out for the Super Worms.  

Birthday Weekend

Nico’s 6th Birthday Weekend turned out to be pretty fun.  Mike and Gay got in town on Friday morning.  Dave scooped them up and headed to Nico’s last day of camp celebration (read: “talent” show).  His little group ended up doing a little dance, which was fun.  I got it on video- but frankly it was kind of lame.  Nico was in the back corner, so you can’t see him very well.

Saturday was the Ginsa festival.  I had to shoot an event at CrossFit and headed to a birthday party for Jen (good southside friend).  Dave and Nico participated in a judo demonstration-which was pretty sweet.

There was a part of the demonstration where the two boys (there was another one aside from Nico) who each did some throws with their dads.  It was adorable.  They took turns being thrown by their dads. 
And throwing them:
Sunday was Nico’s actual birthday and when we opened most of the presents.  Dave and I ended up getting Nico a big lego set that he has been wanting for a long time (the mega Police Station)- which was a big hit.  We also ended up buying him a bunch of weapons (a bow and arrow, a catapault, and a slingshot).  I’m not sure really, how that happened.  
The birthday boy wanted pigs in a blanket, macaroni and cheese, and chocolate chip cookies for dinner.  No cake for this kid. Which is fitting, I guess- since last year he was obsessed with pineapple upside down cake and this year it is chocolate chip cookies.  Just goes to show how much kids change.  
I can’t believe its been six years.  Like I can, but I can’t.  Every day, Dave and I are blown away by something he says or something he does.  He’s using the word “obviously” a lot lately- which makes me laugh.  He’s growing up fast- he rarely has fits anymore- which is great.  But he’s also starting to understand the world around him a lot more- which is fun.  But it makes me a little sad.  
My boss’s son just graduated from high school this summer- and he has definitely been feeling this. It’s made me think about how parenthood is really just a long goodbye.  Building to the day when you take your kid off to college.  And how they really feel like they are leaving you.  But it’s hard- because you know that it’s time.  And the fact that you are at a place to be able to do that says that you’ve done your job as a parent.  And you know how much they are going to love it.  They just really need you to let them go.  My boss didn’t feel like he was ready.  
I don’t feel like I can ever be ready for that.    
But then there was the trip to the Lego store.  Now, this started a couple of months ago with an email that Nico sent to Dave’s mom saying, “When are you coming up?  Mike (Dave’s dad) and I are going to the Lego store.”  Which is actually a funny thing to say in an email with no greeting.  
At the lego store, Nico ended up with the Mobile Police Command Unit- a big trailer and truck rig that is awesome.  With the station- Nico is well equipped for a while.  I mean, since we aren’t doing what I want to do (which is put Kragl on all of it- but that is apparently not how we play with legos in this establishment).  
Worn out after the LegoStore.   He isn’t too big to snuggle on mom.  

It was a great weekend.  It is always fun to have family in town- and I feel like we are lucky to be at a place where we can offer a place for family to stay.  And that we aren’t working so much we can’t see them.  Its nice that Nico likes his grandparents so much.

Dog Days of Summer

Not much going on around here- we are just trying to soak up every bit of summer possible.  This past weekend, Dave had to cover a SOX game (sucker!) so Nico and I went on a little adventure in seek of Blackberries and swimming at our friend’s Grandparents house.  The blackberries were a bit of a bust.  In that we showed up to this supposed “Grandma’s Berry Patch” only to find there were no blackberries to be had (DAMN YOU INTERNET!!).

But we pushed on- swinging by Kevin and Jen’s Grandparents house.  The grandparents belong to Jen and were so gracious to let us come hangout in their pool.  Kevin cooked us Chicago style dogs.  You know what is up.

Randomly, check out the video of Nico playing catch with Gordon.

I swear- I thought Gordon was going to end up in the tub!

The One with Cousins

This weekend was really fun- Nicole and Emerson came from Texas. We definitely had a big weekend- trying to squeeze a lot in.
Nicole and Em got into Midway on Thursday.  Since the weather looked kinda crappy, we decided not to do all of the things until Friday.  In hindsight, this was a bad decision, because Friday was the hottest day of the year and all the things we wanted to do involved being outside and walking. A lot.

So Thursday night, we just hung out at the house and did some coloring.  Friday we got started pretty early, making our way to Maggie Daley park (a huge new park down by the Lake).  It is a pretty sweet park- but it’s huge.  And the trees are still little- so there wasnt much shade to be had.  In fact, the slides are all made out of metal- which made them quite hot.  But the kids didn’t seem to mind.  At all.  Check out this video of Nico coming in hot and losing control of his landing. To be fair- the slides were super fast and he wasnt the only one to wipe out on the landing!

After that, we walked by CloudGate (the Bean) on our way to grab lunch.

We made our way to Navy Pier so we could ride the Ferris Wheel.  The Ferris Wheel is kind of famous because it is apparently, the one in Ferris Bueller’s Day off.  Also, it is going to be replaced soon.

Friday night was pretty chill at the house.  Nico and Em had a good time hanging out with each other and watching TV.  Saturday morning we went to a nearby Barnes and Noble, where Nico reminded me of all the things that he wants for his birthday.  We ended up with a new book about battleships and aircraft carriers.  It is pretty sweet.

Saturday afternoon, we headed out to Lisle for a Red Stars game.  Julie Johnston, Christen Press, Lori Chalupney, and Shannon Box (USWNT) play for the Red Stars.  Karina LeBlanc, Adriana Leon, and Melissa Tancredi all played for the Canadian National Team for this World Cup, which is cool.  Nicole got in touch with the facilities guy for Benedictine University (where the Red Stars play) and he let us on the track for pre-game.  We were standing there when the players walked by.  When Karina LeBlanc and Michelle Dalton (GKs for Red Stars) walked by, Michelle Dalton fist bumped Nico and Em- which was basically the highlight of the day.



The game ended in a tie and the kids were gems.  Nicole and Em left on Sunday.  Nico and I kinda moped around the house for the rest of the day.


The One When Aunt Judy Visited

Last week Aunt Judy came to visit.  It was pretty fun- I think Nico liked having someone else to wear out.  And Aunt Judy had no problem wearing Nico out! Nico and I headed down to the train station to pick her up on Friday night.  Dave had Lou Malnati’s and beer waiting for us when we got home, which was very nice.

Saturday morning, we took Aunt Judy to Nico’s soccer game.  He had a really good game- the kid scores at will.  As much as I hope that he will be a goalkeeper- I think he likes playing defense too much.  And let’s be honest: defenders who attack out of the back and are legitimate threats are rare.

Saturday afternoon, we got Nico dressed up as Captain America and headed to Lincoln Park for some type of Halloween Spooktacular Fest… where kids trick or treat at businesses in the Lincoln Park area.  Aunt Judy and I may or may not have had macaroons from a french bakery.  After, we grabbed a couple of pints and lunch at an Irish place called Gallway Arms.  
Sunday was pretty chill: we wanted to try a new restaurant in the neighborhood, so walked up there while Nico rode his bike.  After, Nico and Aunt Judy had a water fight at the park while I sat on a bench and knitted.  I’m not sure how that happened, but I think Aunt Judy didn’t realize that Nico would hold her to it.  She was a terribly good sport.  After, we took her down to the Loop so she could catch her train back to Michigan. In all it was a really fun weekend.  


We are having a blast this summer.

Nico being home from school on Tuesdays and Thursdays has been fantastic.  I have been able to take a vacation day here and there in order to hang out with him.  Yesterday we managed to just hang out at the house.  I went to the gym in the morning while Dave and Nico headed to the Y.  When we got back to the house, I ran out to drop my computer off to the computer guy (DO NOT EVEN GET ME STARTED.  Note to self, if you ever hear me talking about buying a new HP, that is your clue to stage an intervention.  Worst debacle ever).  I swung by to get some icecream and headed to the park with Nico.  While we ate our ice cream, we watched some older kids to a soccer practice.  Which was cool.  But then we got on with our main reason for being at the park: gk training.  It’s a bummer that little guys’ soccer doesn’t have gks.  He’s looking forward to playing actual gk for a team in a game.

Even better, is that we have started having a go at each other in the form of one on ones.  Only Nico doesn’t call them that.  He calls them “tustles”.  Which is hilarious, since I use the word “tustle” like this: “Nico Royse, if you pop me in the face with that sword you’re swinging, we’re gonna tustle, so I’d stop if I were you.”

We are going to try to sneak up to Michigan tomorrow to see Uncle Scott.  I wanted to get up there earlier, but just couldn’t make it happen.  Other than that, not much else is happening.

I have a CrossFit competition next weekend (on the 17th).  I haven’t done a competition before.  The previous competitions my gym has held, I’ve been like, “Oh, Damn.  I’d like to.  But who is going to take pictures?”  Or my personal favorite, “Oh, I meant to sign up for that one in Arlington Heights, but registration is closed.  Bummer.”  In all honesty, I am kind of nervous about it.  It’s a team competition, so it shouldn’t be too much of a grind.  As far as our team goes, there is another girl who definitely has a motor, but isn’t probably as strong as I am.  The two guys each have their own strengths… I just don’t want to be in a place where the team is counting on me to full snatch 95 lbs.  Because that is just not going to happen… unless the competition calls for me to fail horribly.  Because I am all over that 🙂

In any case, I asked Nico if he was going to cheer for me.  He said yes, and I asked if he had any cheers for me.  His answer: “Allez la putain!” Which is not nice.  Not nice at all.  To be fair, I taught him this accidentally in the car… you know how it is.  It’s french for “Go Whore!”  But he also knows Allez is GO.  So, I can understand the confusion.  I hope he doesn’t really cheer like that.  That would be terrible.

Been around the world…

We had a fantastic trip to Florida.  Seriously- it was just what we needed.

We left late on Wednesday night (after I taught), but we settled into the drive quite nicely.  Nico went to sleep right away and I dozed till Indianopolis, where I took over for Dave, who was quite tired. I got us through to Nashville over night (in terrible rain) and Dave took over.  We pulled into Tallahassee late on Thursday to stay the night with G and LJ, (Nico’s good friends from Creative Preschool).  I was a little nervous that the boys would be awkward- like suddenly they would think, “Why did we hang out so much together back in the day?  You’re lame!”

But my fears were unfounded.  In about 45 seconds, they had picked up exactly where they’d left off.  Which was fantastic.  Nico was a scotch bummed when we left the next day to head down to Ft. Myers Beach, which makes me think that they are still good friends after all.

We got to Ft. Myers Beach around mid afternoon.  My mom and dad have a week in a time share on Ft. Myers Beach, at Spring Break, which is why we were that far south.  Once we got there, it took us about 20 minutes to get in the pool.  Seriously,we swam for probably 2 hours.  It was fantastic!!

We ended up doing some shelling on the beach and Granny made us smores (in a kitchen- NBD).  Nico even entertained by singing his rendition of “Let it go” (from Frozen- which is just weird… normally he is pretty shy about things like that, with people who are not Dave and me).  Saturday morning, we checked out and headed over to Miami to see Dave’s parents and Aunt Rosie.

We didn’t do much there- except hang out and swim.  Grandma and Grandpa got Nico a toy heliocopter, which required some playing.  I got sunburned at the beach.  We went to bed late and slept late.  It was really restful.  I am so glad that we got to go and the weather was nice.  

We left Monday night to head back.  Yeah, we ended up driving 4 days in a car, to stay 3, but I really liked the trip- mostly because I like road trips.  If we were on vacation, I wouldn’t do much more than I did in the car (read, listen to music, talk with my boys, and eat snacks).  The car had XM radio- so we blasted Radio Margaritaville and The Bruce Springsteen channels pretty much the whole way.

I should add, that save the 10 minutes while we were leaving G and L’s house and 10 minutes just outside of Louisville- Nico was an absolute gem.  Seriously… I am reluctant to breath mention of it… but we might have turned a corner, which I will talk about more later.