Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Babies are everywhere!

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s twins have arrived. Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban are finally parents. Even little Jamie Lynn Spears is now a mom. Seems everyone is having babies! I learned last night that another baby has entered the world, ont that I'll actually get to hold – my new nephew! And he was born on his big sister’s 3rd birthday. Let’s see…that makes grandchild #13 for my mom and dad. They have 5 granddaughters and now 8 grandsons. They span just over 3 decades. My oldest niece just turned 30 a week ago. The others are 26, 20, 15, 14, 10, 9, 6, 4, 3, 3 and 1. And I have one more sister who is still contemplating having children, so there may be another one or two in the future. Little Jerry weighed in at a whopping 8 lbs., 15 oz. and 21 inches and he joins two big sisters!!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

There's nothing like a day at the ball park

For someone who was raised listening to Harry Caray and worshiping guys like Ryne Sandberg, Ron Cey, Keith Moreland and Andre Dawson, there’s nothing quite like a day at a ball game – preferably a Cubs game.
My sister has been a season ticket holder for several years, so each year I pick out a few dates to purchase and she gives the three oldest boys each a set for their birthday. And my Dad and I have a tradition of getting there in early April to watch a game in the frigid cold. So, I make a few trips to the North Side each season. At Christmas, I surprised my oldest son by letting him know I had reserved a set to a Cubs/Sox game. He was thrilled.
We attended that game last month and it was great. It was the first in the series of which the Cubs swept the Sox. Then, of course, the Sox did the same the following weekend. Both Chicago teams are having good seasons, boasting thriving bullpens, a strong defense and with some good power hitters on their rosters. They’ve both managed to maintain the central division lead – as of today, the Sox by a game-and-a-half and the Cubs by a hefty 5-and-a-half game lead over the Cardinals. Last year, it wasn’t until early August that the Cubs squeaked past Milwaukee to lead the division. It’s pretty funny to think that this season a Chicago world series is a real possibility.
On Friday, my 9-year-old and I headed up the Friendly Confines to use his birthday tickets. My 14-year-old is a die-hard. He knows all the players and their stats – even the minor league players. Basically, baseball is his life. And it’s not a bad hobby to have.
My 9-year-old is a fan, but not as hard core as his big brother. He was as concerned with catching the peanut vendor as the score (although it’s easy to lose interest when the game is scoreless until the bottom of the 8th.) And when I screamed and cheered at Derek Lee’s double and Aramis Ramirez’ game-winning three-run-homer that was hit way out onto Waveland Avenue, he sat there unimpressed and complained that I was hurting his ears because I was so loud. He did enjoy himself, though, and showed some enthusiasm calling out “Let’s go Cubbies!” and singing “Go Cubs Go” after their victory.
No matter how many times I visit Wrigley Field each year, I still get a sentimental, sappy feeling each time I’m sitting in a seat looking around and taking it all in. It’s usually a bright, clear day (I’m an old school Cubs fan, strongly opposed to night games) with the sun shining, the lake breeze blowing the retired jersey flags on the foul line poles and the occasional sea gull swooping down. Sometimes the Cubs Dixieland Band passes by playing jazzy tunes. The food vendors (who I easily recognize now) stroll by with their $3.75 hot dogs and the $4.00 Lemon Chills – and beers that have now hit, or maybe passed, the $6 mark. The score is changed by hand on the scoreboard and the lack of technology and advertising is something I’ve come to appreciate. I always get teary-eyed as Wayne Messmer belts out the National Anthem and I love to see the whole crowd rise during the seventh-inning stretch, inserting “Cubbies” for “Home Team” in the lyrics.
When I’m attending a game with one of the boys, our post-game ritual involves making our way down to a little pocket of the park where players occasionally emerge on as they make their exit from the game. In that spot, they’ve snagged autographs from Bob Howry, John Leiber, Kerry Wood and others. Then we move out to the fence next to the players’ parking lot, where the kids watch the players get into vehicles, mostly large black or white luxury SUV’s with tinted windows. Sometimes a player will give in to the pleas of the crowd and step over to sign a few balls, cards or tickets stubs for the young fans. Mike Fontenot and ex-Cub Matt Murton are the ones we encountered most recently.
On a good game day, the “W” flags are flying around Wrigleyville and the lively crowds of people seem to linger in the neighborhood. It’s enough to send me home singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” and counting down the days until my next visit.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Feeling a little old, a little young

Nothing makes you feel old like a class reunion.
And nothing makes you feel young like a class reunion.

The realization that last time you saw some of these people you were wearing a size 14 in little girl's clothing can make you feel like an old goat. Make that a BIG old goat - one that's now more a size 14 in women's clothing than little girl's clothing. Reunions can be a bit intimidating. In a way, you're right back in junior high, fretting over your appearance and your accomplishments. And in another, you're now an adult who can appreciate what it's taken for each person to get where they are. Among the group at my recent junior high reunion was an IT Technician, an auto manufacturing factory worker, a social worker, a jewelry maker, a stay-at-home mom. I'm proud of all of them. It's great to see each of them happy in the life they've made.

A junior high reunion can also return you to those pre-teen and teen years. What fun it was before we had real responsiblities. Life revolved around being with friends, going to the mall, doing makeovers, listening to music (on those ancient cassette tapes on gigantic boom boxes), going to the movies, meeting boys, talking on the phone, having sleepovers, passing notes in class, spending babysitting money on stickers, make-up and candy bars. I recall the smell of the nearby candy factory (butterscotch, I think) that would flow into our math class, the Tuesday morning tornado drill siren that always went off when we were in Mr. Buckley's social studies class, the horror of having to discect a frog in Mr. K's science lab, how we tormented Ms. T on her first year teaching in public school by placing gummy bears on her seat that would stick to her butt, the serious poetry I wrote about my 12-year-old dating relationships. There were a lot of good memories and diving into them takes you back to those carefree days of your youth.

The recent get-together of a group of junior high classmates made me feel a little old and a little young and a lot happy. :)

Friday, July 4, 2008


Vacations are not stress free. Not even close. All the planning. All the packing. All the spending. Although it is a good kind of anticipation, I always leave for a long trip feeling queasy and with a dull headache. As we hit the road, thoughts run through my mind about what I forgot to pack and what I forgot to do. It always takes me a little bit to relax, but once I do, it feels so good to be far from the responsibilites of day to day life.

Our most recent trip was to Wisconsin Dells. It was our first trip to that area. Rather than plan out an itinerary, we just set off planning to spend some time in the water and see what else the area had to offer. There was more to do there than we anticipated and we ended up adding an extra night to our stay at the Wilderness Resort, which had a total of 8 outdoor and indoor water parks as part of the properties.

It was a trip the kids really enjoyed and I did, too, partly because there was no itinerary to follow. Because I do a lot of travel writing, I always have a notepad and pen in hand, taking notes at every stop. Much of this trip I didn't have to take notes because I was lounging on a lazy river with a kid in my lap or on a raft battling a wave pool. We did manage to hit several attractions as well, though, where my pen was getting a workout. It really is a cool, kid-friendly destination. The kids are used to me dragging them to museums and historical sites that aren't always particularly interesting to young boys, so this was a nice change.

Because I had never been there, I couldn't comprehend the reports I'd heard about Lake Delton draining. As a tour guide explained to us, a levy break caused the water that was in the man-made lake to flow out into the Wisconsin River. It was quite strange to look down into this big hole of sand with a few puddles, knowing that just a few weeks ago it was an actual lake. The ramps from the Tommy Bartlett water show sat in the sand. Although a few attractions have been affected, most tourist spots are up and running. The Tommy Bartlett water show has obviously ceased, but the stage show is still going. We took a tour on one of the military-produced amphibious vechicles known as Ducks, which had to forego the part of the tour on Lake Delton, but still took us on a nice tour of the area and the Wisconsin River.

One of our spontaneous stops was at a little fishing hole called B&H Trout Fishing and Tackle Shop. It was just north of downtown Wisconsin Dells. For $4 a person, they supplied the nets and poles (perfect for me and the little kids - bamboo sticks with fishing line that were low-tech with no reels) Then you bought what you caught. I've never done serious fishing. I think the last time I caught something was in high school ~ a little sunfish at Wampum Lake. It was thrilling to feel a tug on my line and pull out a 14-inch bass. The boys each caught at least one fish. We're back at home now and as I'm typing this, I'm looking out the back window to see the boys playing with the decapitated fishheads. YUK!

It was nice to come home and then have a holiday weekend, which kind of extends the vacation. There are times we come home from a trip feeling like we need another vacation because of all the driving and rushing from place to place. This time I came home feeling the way I should - rejuvinated and relaxed. Earlier today we enjoyed a nearby parade and the food is now cooking on the grill. We'll end the day by watching fireworks. Happy 4th of July! Enjoy the day! Relax! And say thanks to a veteran!