The First Lady Of Leisure

The life and times of Arielle

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CPS is starting!

Chicago Public Schools officially open tomorrow morning!  I feel like for the last few weeks my Instagram feed has been filled with everyones back to school photos and parents jumping in the air as their kids board the bus.  Meanwhile, our iPads are working overtime because Sylva caught an end of summer cold.

When asked if she is excited to start 1st grade, Sylva responds “Not really”.  Apparently she wishes it could be summer camp all year.  I spent several summers as a camp counselor in college, and I am pretty sure if the rapture ever happens, super sinners will be spending eternity in summer camp.

Anyway, here we are preparing for the start of the school year, but honestly it’s sort of anti climactic.  When I was growing up you went back to school shopping, parents spent a mortgage payment on new clothes and school supplies.  Besides ordering a new backpack online, there hasn’t really been much more we need to do.

Our school has this awesome system where families pay $50 and all the needed school supplies are provided on the first day.  Every student has the same supplies, and no student goes without even if they cannot afford the fee.  In addition, there is a free breakfast and lunch program.  No child goes hungry during the school year, and for many families, this is a necessity.

We didn’t have to go school shopping because my best friend, sister in law, and I have also worked out a great system.  There are 7 little girls between us ranging in age from 7 to 2.  At first clothes were transferred between homes neatly folded in labeled bins.  Now they are transferred stuffed in garbage bags with multiple sizes as things that haven’t fit in several years are found in the back of closets.

Like every mom though, I am worried about my daughters first day of school.  Who will she eat lunch with?  Will someone be mean to her?  Will she be mean to someone?  Here’s what I do know for sure though, I will be taking the photo of my daughter holding her first day of school sign like all the other Etsy loving moms, but don’t worry, I will totally forget to print it out and it will never make it into her non existent scrapbook…

Water Heater Rocket Science

Last night as I ran the bath for the kids I realized there was no hot water.  I sent my husband into the basement to look at the water heater.  Upon inspection we realized that the pilot light was out, and so was the computer that runs the pilot light.  So we do some googling and figure out that part needs to be replaced.  No big deal right?

We actually had this water heater installed in 2012.  It should be noted that our house is only about 10 years old and it’s on its second water heater, because it’s true, they don’t make things like they used too.  The company that installed it is called Service Experts.  So I call them up at 7:00 this morning thinking I’d easily get someone out today or tomorrow.  The joke was on me though, because they only install water heaters they don’t repair them.  I am sure the customer service rep loved that I yelled “but you are the SERVICE fucking EXPERTS, what do you mean you don’t service them” because she told me a manager would be calling me with a plumbers number.  The manager never called.  This has us wondering back to 2012.  The company had originally come out because we called them for a repair of our old water heater (which was only a few years old at the time).  We were told it had to be replaced.  So either back in 2012 they used to do repairs, or we were totally scammed into buying a water heater by a company who claimed to come out to fix something they had no intention of fixing.  It should also be noted that within a 5 year period they also replaced an air conditioner and a heater in the house that they said could not be repaired.  Clearly we will no longer be using Service Experts because they don’t service and don’t seem to be experts…and I need to do better research when shit breaks!

After waiting a few hours I called a plumber I found online.  I sent him pictures of my water heater as well as close ups of the part that crapped out.  He called me back and said that it wasn’t really a plumbing issue, it was a technical issue, and I shit you not he said “you don’t need a plumber, you need a rocket scientist”.

I am now waiting for 4 other plumbers to call me back.  In the meantime, I have located the part online and while I am not a rocket scientist I did find a youtube video that shows how to replace it.  Fingers crossed one of the plumbers I called also knows how to use youtube and finds the video because I’d rather they play with the water and gas line…but if it comes down to me attempting it I’ll be sure to post pics of me before I accidentally blow up the house…in which case the water heater won’t really be an issue anymore!  Or if any of you know a rocket scientist that can swing by and repair it I’d gladly take your recommendations…

Galena Bound

As the summer comes to a close, we decided it would be fun to take our kids away for a few days.  Since my kids watch too much Peppa Pig they keep saying we are going on “holiday” …literally for the last week it is all I’ve heard…how very British of them!  My husband thought it would be fun to take a road trip to South Dakota.  Mind you we have a yet to be potty trained 3 year old and a 6 year old who has an iPad that only works with wifi.   So I vetoed South Dakota until I feel confident with my kids rock climbing abilities and end of cliff awareness.

Instead, I reasoned that we should keep it to a 4 hour drive from Chicago.  After considering a few places, we decided on Galena, Illinois.  On the banks of the Mississippi River, Galena is basically the north west corner of Illinois, and a 3 hour drive from home.  Apparently I was there as a little kid, but since I have no memory of going I figured I would do a little research.

I never would have guessed that from the 1830’s through the 1870’s, Galena actually had a population that surpassed Chicago.  The Mississippi River was a major waterway for steamboats and Galena flourished as a main port between St. Louis, Missouri and St. Paul, Minnesota.  During the 1850’s the Illinois Railway Company built a hotel that is still operating today as the Desoto House.  President Abraham Lincoln gave a speech from its balcony in 1856, and while Ulysses S. Grant was running for president, he used the hotel as his campaign headquarters.  It is also rumored to be haunted, so we opted not to stay there, though we will be stopping in for a visit.

While the population is nowhere near what it once was, they still get around a million visitors a year due to the communities’ beautiful natural surroundings as well as its historic significance.  There are over 800 properties (about 85%) are on the National Historic Registry.  As much as I look forward to showing my kids the beautiful bluffs of the Mississippi River, seeing all those historic homes and buildings is what I am looking forward to the most.

Another interesting fact about Galena is that it is named for the Galena Ore which is a lead that was mined by local Indian tribes for hundreds of years.  Settlers showed up around the 1820’s for what was considered the first major mineral rush in the United States (predating the California Gold Rush by about 20 years).

So there you go, we have about an hour left till we arrive.  Hopefully we have nice weather and the kiddos are up for some walking, but if not, we are staying at a resort on the outskirts of town that will hopefully have lots of activities to keep them busy!

Toddler Dating

Last night I got a text asking if Macey would like to get slurpees after dinner with her friend.  This friend is a little boy who my 3 year old adores, and since his family has been gone most of the summer she hasn’t seen him in weeks.  So I asked her if she wanted to go get slurpees with her friend and she immediately says she’s going on a “date” with her “boyfriend”.

As if that wasn’t traumatizing enough for me, she then grabbed chapstick and started applying it to her mouth/face while telling her sister “I’m going on a date and you aren’t”.  My 6 year old responded with “I’m older than you, so I should be going on a date, not you!”  Here I am naively thinking that I had at least 9 more years before they started going on dates with boys!

So my 3 year old applied her chapstick, asked me to put her hair in a bun, and picked out her favorite boho chic dress (it’s not actually bohemian at all, simply says boho chic…pretty sure if I tried to put a flower crown on her she’d destroy it and stomp on the flowers…or play a game of he loves me, he loves me not).  As we walked to get slurpees, these two toddlers thinking they are teenagers held hands.

Since her “boyfriend” lives a block closer to 7-11 we walked them home first.  As this little boy ran to his gate, Macey got mad and yelled “MY DATES NOT OVER YET!”  Being the asshole I am, I told her she’s correct, “because a gentleman always walks a lady to the door after a date.”  Of course since this gentleman is only 3, and had to go potty, he decided the date was over and left!  So what does my little girl do?  She shrugs her shoulders, yells “I LOVE YOU!” and turns to start walking home.

When we got home, she proudly told her daddy and sister all about her date as she finished her slurpee.  Here I am thinking my little girl is growing up way to fast…but it was hilarious to watch…and I hope she is always this confident and assertive.

And a note to her future boyfriends: Always walk her to the door after a date because she will gladly point out your error in etiquette…but clearly still love you.

Wedding Proposals: 6 Year Old Edition

There is a little boy that my 6 year old has known since preschool.  All last year, he would tell her he was going to marry her.  At first, I thought that it was so sweet but as time has gone on I have noticed something in myself that I wasn’t expecting.

This whole time, I have been telling my daughter that she should be nice to him and try to not hurt his feelings because he really likes her.  These kids are now together for camp and apparently he said to her “Will you marry me tomorrow?  What about next week?  Next month?” and she says this caused her to yell “No!” and run away because she was embarrassed by his line of questioning.  The same day, he also saw me at pickup and came over to tell me my daughter was his girlfriend.

Why am I telling my daughter to “Be nice” and “Don’t hurt his feelings”?   Sure at 6 it is innocent enough, but this is clearly not the approach I would want her to take at say 16 with a boy who is making her uncomfortable with his proclamations of love and devotion…so why am I setting a precedence that goes against what I want her to go long term?  And we sure aren’t doing that little boy any favors long term.   Again, I realize these are 6 year olds, so a kick in the balls and a restraining order are probably not the way to go.

So the light bulb has gone off and I now have to regroup.  Where is the chapter in the parenting manual that explains how to tell a 6 year old to handle persistent love interest?  For now, I think we will stick her with screaming “No!” as she runs away from him.

Sorry, another light bulb just went off…here is a real life lesson we should teach our children.  If a person makes you uncomfortable it is always ok to say “No!” and remove yourself from that situation as quickly as possible.  Uggh, the answer was so simple…and it only took me 5 paragraphs to figure it out!  Go Team!

‘Merica…Fuck Yeah…

When American children are taught about the American Revolution we are given a glossy story written by the victor.  We envision every colonist with musket in hand tossing tea in the Boston harbor united in our desire to be freed from the tyranny of England.  But I figured in honor of the day we celebrate independence I would give my readers my simplified history lesson on how we actually gained our independence.

In the 1750’s, the British controlled most of the east coast of the country, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean, and west of that was controlled by the French.  The British colonists saw that the French had a successful fur trade with the Indians and wanted in on it and in 1754, George Washington led an army to take over, and he lost.  This led to a meeting of the British colonies and a declaration of war against the French.  The British back in the motherland then had no choice but to send additional troops to help the colonists fight a war (today called the French and Indian War) that they didn’t even want.

In 1763, the British and the French ended the war with the French handing over Canada and most of the land (The Treaty of Paris).  This angered the Indians and eventually the British signed a proclamation giving the Indians the rights to the land and did not allow the colonists west of the Appalachian Mountains (Proclamation of 1763).

So basically the colonists were back to square one.  Only now, they have the homeland pissed about spending so much money on a war so they started imposing taxes on goods.  The Stamp Act of 1765 placed a tax on goods such as sugar and tea.  Mind you, the colonists never actually paid any taxes to Britain, instead the colonies united to fight the very country that swooped in and saved them during the French and Indian War.  Over the next 10 years, Britain would try and impose different taxes, and the colonists only became more angry and united in what we now know as the American Revolution.

On July 4, 1776, the American Patriots declared their independence from the British with the words “all men are created equal”, but basically saying “We aren’t children anymore, Mom!”  After that, we teamed up with France, and after fighting off a few British invasions, Independence was won.  During the next 10 years, the constitution was written and the groundwork was set for our modern day government (minus all the corruption and bj’s from interns).

There you go, a brief history of how we gained independence…by being the naughty child of Britain…

Fun Fact: I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.  This is a genealogical society dedicated to preserving the legacy of those who fought in the American Revolution.  To be eligible for membership you need to be able to trace your lineage to someone who participated in the actual revolutionary war, and must provide three forms of documentation for each person in the blood line (documentation being things like birth certificate, death certificate, census record, etc…).  My ancestor was a Quaker who for religious reasons could not fight in the war so instead paid someone to fight on his behalf.  That’s right folks; my family has been buying their way out of things since at least 1765…

Side note: A friend and former history teacher over for a BBQ suggested that I add the fact that our fight for independence was made possible because of the Age of Enlightenment which began in the mid 1600’s.  Philosophers of the time felt that men deserved certain freedoms, including the separation of church and state.  One influential philosopher of the time, John Locke wrote “Government being for the preservation of every man’s rights and property…” (Two Treaties of Government: First Treaties, Chapter 9, 1689). Google him, he basically gave Thomas Jefferson his model for the Declaration of Independence.

Block Party 2016

Sunday was our annual block party.  It’s the one day of the year where everyone on the block comes out, socializes with neighbors, and our kids get to play in the street.  We brought out our Step2 roller coaster thinking we were so cool…then suddenly 2 other neighbors came out and lined up their identical roller coasters with ours.  The next 6 hours were spent grilling food, chatting, and having epic roller coaster races.

At one point, an overly friendly woman joined the party with her son.  Apparently she lives a few neighborhoods away, but a friend in our neighborhood had invited her to join.  From my super judgmental standpoint, I was unsure if she was married, but she seemed to glom on to my husband and stay at home dad friend.  As they worked the grill, cooking hot dogs for the masses, this lady was laughing away and occasionally touching their arms as she squealed with glee.  Seriously, by the end of the night these two guys had more compliments and flirty touches than their wives give them on their birthday (minus the bj which probably would have been a nice touch though).

My first impression was to hate her for laughing at their dumb jokes, and then she asked if I had any sunscreen.  I brought over a spray bottle of the same stuff I had just used on my own children…and this bitch looks at me and says “Oh, this is so bad for you.  It can get in their eyes, and it leaves a cloud when you spray it.  You really shouldn’t use this kind.  I only use organic lotions on my son.”

I took a deep breath, then suggested she borrow someone else’s, or simply spray it on her hand then apply it to her kids face.  I should probably note that a few minutes before, while applying it to my 3 year olds face I realized that she has not mastered the art of closing both her mouth and eyes at the same time.

At the end of the day, when she went to take her son back to her own neighborhood she ended our encounter by air kissing me.  While I appreciated her not breaching my personal space, the air kiss made me hate her even more.

So, clearly I suck at making new friends, but if you are interested in applying please note the following rules:

  1. It’s ok to judge the non-organic snacks I give my kids when you see them eating cotton candy dipped in Slurpee’s, but don’t call me out on my sunscreen.
  2. Do not attempt to hug me, and for fucks sake, do not attempt to air kiss me.
  3. Do not flirt with my husband, or any of my married friends. However I will wing man all day for a single friend.
  4. I perfer to spend the majority of time either in my house, or within a 5 block radius of my house, so you have to be willing to come to me.

Somehow I don’t think I will be getting many applicants, but as I always say to my 3 (not related to me) friends, “Its quality over quantity”.  Obviously they don’t listen to me, or they wouldn’t be friends with my crazy ass…

Father’s Day

My dad has a medical history like no one I have ever seen.  Any non-essential and some essential organs have been removed for various reasons.   So many different ailments, surgeries, hospital stays, etc…and through it all, he always followed the doctors’ orders and would somehow pull through without complaints.  He would never complain about pain or discomfort and trusted his doctors.

Last summer he began a treatment to cure Hepatitis C, which he contracted from a blood transfusion in 1978 during a procedure for Crohn’s Disease.   Given his medical history, there were no test subjects during the drug trails that even came close to him, so it was unknown how his body would react but the knowledge that he could be cured of something was worth a try.  He pretty much had every side effect known for this drug…then he began to hemorrhage…a lot…

The doctors performed a surgical procedure to control the bleeding, which was successful because it stopped the bleeding, but during the procedure the doctors used a contrast dye to ensure they fully stopped all the bleeding.  This contrast dye has a rare side effect of causing your kidney and liver to begin to fail…there is a cocktail of drugs that can be given to combat it.  From my research at the time it was 3 drugs given 3 times a day for up to 15 days.  My dad’s Harvard educated doctor administered 2 drugs, once a day, for 2 days…and she did not like me or my research.  She offered to simplify it for me by saying “It’s like the smell test, if 100 doctors walked into the room they would all say he was going to die”…they gave him 3 days to live at most.  Yeah, that actually happened…and it’s not even the worst fuckup of that summer.

Many other mistakes were made.  It was a disaster of epic proportions.  The second time they sent him I remember standing in the hallway outside my dad’s room with my mom and around 20 doctors from different teams.  The doctors had all just said there was nothing more they could do and they were sending him back to hospice for the second time.  I started to argue that they were giving up and pointed to each one while saying “You’re killing my father…you’re killing my father…you’re killing my father…”

Turns out, I was right!  Like the badass that he is, my father defied the odds.  He made it out of hospice a second time, we got him to a different hospital with doctors willing to give him a change, where he made it through months of intense rehabilitation, and finally moved back home a few months ago.  Obviously, there are many more details that I left out, and I will share more in future posts, but my dad is here today.   If as his family we hadn’t fought the doctors, and merely accepted their initial plan of action, he would have literally died of starvation within one week of being in hospice the first time.

We fought for him, which gave him the chance to fight for himself in rehabilitation, and now we get more time with him, my kids get more time with their grandfather, which is pretty amazing.

Happy father’s day!



“Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changing ocean tides?”

-Stevie Nicks (Landslide)

It seems my neighbors have become hyper vigilant about community safety.  On Tuesday, a community member was driving home and thought he saw a man wearing body armor and carrying a gun case.  So he called 911, and posted it on Facebook where others reported similar sightings, and therefore also encouraged to call 911.  The original caller never could have imagined the chain of events that followed.

Two nearby schools went into lockdown just as students were leaving school and police swarmed the area.  A helicopter could be seen and heard overhead.  Anyone with a police scanner heard that the police were searching for a male suspect with a mask, white shirt, and a gun.  The area included our 100+ acre nature center senior housing, park district building, and park.  Our favorite park district teacher got a call from a co-worker about the information from the police scanner.  She was alone in a three story building and ended up hiding in a locked room till I convinced her to use the park district line to call the police to ask for an escort to lock up the building with her and get her to her car.

Meanwhile, I called a neighbor who lives across from the park to see if he had heard anything.  His daughter and nanny were at the park.  So he did what any concerned parent would do, and ran to the park and cleared it out by yelling that a gunman was on the property.  Other concerned parents called additional neighborhood schools which at this point had already dismissed their students and those playgrounds were also cleared out.

I even got a call from my parents because there was a quick breaking news story on the police search…yeah mom I know I’m less than a mile from a possible gunman but don’t worry the police will get him…

I then get a text from the park district teacher that said “Yea they legit gave up and assumed it was a prank call because they didn’t find anyone”…I’m sorry what?!?  People were on lockdown, mothers running from the park clutching their children, and the cops gave up because they couldn’t find the guy?

Nothing else has been said on the news, the alderman’s office and local police station both said it was a false alarm.  The mommy gossip says the police found the guy and it was just a weight belt and gym bag.  Regardless, I have to wonder at what point do we cross the line from vigilant citizen to simply crazy fear mongers.  Have we reached a point where our worst suspicions of people COULD be true so we better report it just to be sure?  Meanwhile, the 911 callers are patting themselves on the back, and countless people are terrified by the reality that yes, it can happen in our neighborhood too.

My daughter came home from school yesterday and said something surprising.  They have a school wide peace walk to show solidarity with Orlando and to let our community know that they want peace not violence.  Her teacher said “there was a man who didn’t like people who were different so he killed them, and we want peace not hate”.  In my head I immediately thought of a million ways I would have preferred her teacher explain this…I thought about sending a letter to her teacher and principal about why I thought that conversation was wrong, but then I remembered I was hearing this from a 6 year old with no context of the conversation.  So instead of sending a letter condemning, I say thank you.  None of us want to have this conversation because it makes us sad and uncomfortable.  We want to believe that everyone holds themselves to the same moral code that we do but they do not.

So here is what I told my daughter:

“You know how in the movie Mary Poppins the mom is a suffragette?    That was because there was a time that women couldn’t vote because men didn’t think women were smart enough to pick the president.  There was a group of women, called Suffragette’s, who thought that wasn’t fair.  So they got together and demanded that things change, and because enough of them came together they made change happen and women proved they were smart enough to do everything men can do (I may have  added that just 96 short years later we may actually have a woman for president).    So when your class is doing your peace walk I want you to think about how if enough people could come together we can make change happen.”

Oh and there are no monsters under your bed…sweet dreams…

Life In The Big City

I have noticed that people find me very approachable.  Apparently I give off a warm, friendly vibe that draws people in…that is of course until I speak.  When words start to come out I am actually socially awkward, a bit standoffish, very sarcastic, and usually offend people within the first 10 minutes (so I try to extract myself after 5 minutes).  I prefer no physical contact, and have anxiety around other humans.  When we bought our house 6 years ago I had an infant, a roller coaster of hormonal issues, and years of untreated anxiety/panic attacks that ultimately caused me to become agoraphobic for about 7 months.  With the help of a ruthless psychiatrist, and a supportive group of family and friends I was able to slowly become slightly less crazy and I haven’t had a panic attack in over a year.

It’s been a long road to finding my place in our little neighborhood.   In the process of meeting new people, I have actually started to learn more about the area I call home.  For example, there is a 100+ acre piece of land that once housed a sanitarium for tuberculosis.   While I knew that, and was aware that many of the buildings in use today were originally built around 1910, I was not aware that many of the original building and landscaping plans are readily available online.

After just one hour of google stalking, I was able to come up with enough history to lead a tour of the grounds…except of course for the fact that I am totally awkward around others.    I found out that what I have always seen as a quiet little pond with strange dried up grottos was actually the original pool for the residents of the sanitarium.  I was even able to find the drawings for the original chlorinator…which now makes me think I should start a petition to restore it to its former glory as a pool!

I also learned that back in the 1980’s the old property was subject to commercial development, and thanks to members of the community, the land was given a 90 year easement.  This is why today we have an awesome park, gymnastics center, nature preserve, park district, countless summer sports, etc… (and future restored pool once my petition gets going) instead of a Target or Costco.

So with the summer just starting, I am meeting new people, giving myself history lessons, and finding a new love for my little nook of the city.  Maybe in the process I will become more comfortable with human contact…but my personal bubble remains firmly in tact…no hugs please…

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