Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Little girls are weird and can be mean

My niece Marisa celebrated her 5th birthday while we were in the US. She had a kid party at her house and Lily had a great time. It was a luau and after the formal party broke up, the neighborhood kids stuck around to do makeup.


Hartrich Alert

Lily and I rented a car (no family car available on this day) and went to see the Hartrichs in their new home. We were fed and given beds and the kids were all very well behaved, so who could ask for more?

We took a walk to the high school and the kids were entranced by the practicing marching band pit/percussion. We stopped to listen...

I thought Theo's cool mohawk made him look like a sweet little frog, which I mean only as a compliment.

Assorted cute photos:

Lily and Simon playing every kid's favorite game: "Go to sleep, Wake up".

Three kids eating well together! Incredible! Call the papers!

A lovely scene. Straight out of the 'Happiness Machine' chapter of Ray Bradbury's Dandelion Wine (Synopsis: After trying to build a machine that you can step in to become happy - it rather resembles a TV in a small room - Leo Auffman is surprised to find that it actually makes people unhappy because it shows them things they'll never have in reality. He realizes he has no need for such a device because he already has one. The chapter ends with him smiling at the fluid movement of the real happiness machine as he gazes in through the front window of his home, watching his family go through their pre-dinner routines.).


Oh, urban family. You are missed. I hardly got to see you and failed to see other key friends. 

In any case, I did manage to go dancing twice at Bar Chicago, which in all likelihood, is the worst bar in Chicago. But....the music was good and Jay Majetich was game. I don't think Jay knew he liked dancing before, so I'm glad he now knows. A big thanks to him for going out with me (twice!) and staying 'til 5 in the am, even though it was he who took the bull by the horns the first time and hailed that cab. I will never forget that midget on the bar, even though it did take us two days to remember that he was there in the first place.

Bacchanalia aside, I had a great time in Palmer Hall eating this breakfast that I made (because I obviously can't do that back in Barca). In all truth it was lovely to sit around for three hours eating breakfast as different people stopped by and joined us at the table.

Look at that classic Taylor pose.

There was also a BBQ at PH, but the only people who turned up were Colin, Jay, Brian and I....and then Colin had to leave at 9 for the Late Ride.  Chris Martin and Co did turn up with about 10 people at one point, but after 5 minutes, they got back in their cars, leaving us a 24-pack of beer. Weird. Here's a picture of Brian because there's just not enough pictures of him on the Internet.

Also sat out with Janice all day on a Sunday trying to sell her possessions before she moved to California. Dave Lam joined us (who, by the way has subsequently moved back to the UK and will be visiting us in BCN soon) and together we BBQed (or at least I did, and poorly) recovered from hangovers, and sold nothing. We never did figure out why, but every person we spoke to hated us, responding with witless insults. One lady, a real garage-saler came by looking for electronics, was dismayed by the single boom box for sale, and left muttering, 'Well, there's a moving sale around here somewhere and I'm a-gonna find it.'


An absolutely perfect day at North Avenue Beach with my sister, Nick, mom and the kids.

Wisconsin Dells: Chicago's French Riviera

Ah, the Dells. A Midwestern institution.....washed away by flooding. Actually, only a levy was washed away earlier this year by heavy rains, but that also meant Lake Delton, the central and original attraction, went with it.

No bother, the go-kart tracks and indoor swimming pools were still intact, and the Tommy Bartlett stunt show was able to cleverly alter the sign at their entrance by crossing out the 'on' in their slogan 'The best show on water.' Lucky for Tommy he also runs an 'Imaginarium', whatever that is.

In any case, Lily and I went there with all my family in July.

We spent a night near the House on the Rock, the sprawling home/warehouse begun by a man named Alex Jordan in the 40s and still growing today. I went there as a kid and the fact that Alex clearly took loads of drugs and held massive orgies on the red shag carpet in the Japanese style cave house while the automated orchestra played, giant carousel of psychotic animals whirled, and angels made of life-size mannequins flew overhead seemed to have gone right over my head. This time, that was all I got out of the visit. Here's a picture of my bro, sis, niece and nephew in the Infinity Room that hangs out over a cliff. (It doesn't actually go on for infinity, which is pretty disappointing.) If you've never heard of it, see the official site or the wiki article.

Oh! I can't remember the name of this place!!! It was classic. The lady at the front desk of our hotel suggested this as the best family restaurant in the small town we stayed in near the House on the Rock. It was a small-town bar where the music stopped when we entered with three kids. We asked if there was a patio and they led us here: the fence was falling down, bikes were rotting under scrubby pines, and someone may have contracted tetnus from the table. My chair also broke while I was in it. Buuuut, the service was great, the pizza good, and we drank a lot. Like, a real lot. I've never really drank with my family before and man, it makes it easier.

Here we all are on one of the famous Dell Ducks. The jokes told on the tour are as much antiques as the war ducks themselves. Pretty certain they were the same when I went as a kid.

The best part about the tour was getting to see where the levy broke. The Ducks were sent out to help try and prevent the breakage before it occurred and our guide was actually on the lake heading back in when the levy broke. I'm obviously cool by association. A two-lane highway used to cross the bit of land that used to be where you see the break in the trees below. Lake Delton is on the other side; we're on the river.

For two days we stayed in the Great Wolf Lodge and swam in the indoor and outdoor pools, rode thousands of water slides, and conquered the Howling Tornado slide that shoots you down a vertical slope into a huge cone that you roll around in until you come out the other end. My butt got sucked into my inner tube and hit on the slide and the friction burned a hole in my suit. It was awesome. I went 10 times. We had so much fun that I took no pictures.

On the way home my sister wanted to stop at a Shakey's she had seen along the highway. Did anyone else go to Shakey's as a kid? It's a buffet restaurant, the highlight of which is getting to make your own sundaes. 
To my sister's disappointment, we found this note in the window:

So we went to Hooter's instead.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

America: All the memories that don't fit anywhere else

Fresh from the airport (and an eight-hour flight) Lily settled right into my parents’ house. She loves the cats and couldn’t understand why Poquita didn’t want to play, even when offered Doritos.

A child’s swing was moved from the wasp-infested swing set to a tree in the back yard; only issue was the extreme height of the branch, which yielded an extremely high swing. Kids loved it. This swing was later moved to a different tree and replaced with big-kid swings, which my mom took to utilizing.

New rain gear has been procured: an umbrella to go with existing wellingtons and raincoat.

The 60th Ruiter Family Reunion took place in Indiana this year. A good time was had by all. The highlight for Lily was the gross rubber chicken she got as a prize for the game her age group played. Lil was being a bit fussy but when she realized that when squeezed, a translucent globule filled with a fake egg yolk squelched out of the chicken’s nether region, she perked up and asked, “I can take this home?” Lucky another relative let us take his niece’s home too since numerous kid squabbles were later quelled by producing that second chicken. My nephew Jake won a fish patterned bandana that he now dons regularly. Way to pass on that Ruiter style, game organizers. Otherwise, reunion was all ice cream and rainbows.

We were lucky enough to be in the USA to celebrate its Independence Day. Lily was well patriotic. It’s enough to bring a tear to her British daddy’s eye.

Lily caught her first fish! A sunfish? I think. I don’t think she gets that the fish are hurt by the hook. She treated it as a social visit: “Hello fishy! Oh, ho ho [That’s her ecstatic laugh]!” Nick was gladdened by how quickly she got addicted to the sport.

My nephew got to play in the All-Star game for his little league, um, league? Division? I’m not sure what they’re called in little league. In any case, here he is being a monkey in uniform, and there’s my brother-in-law Nick.

This is me and my siblings. Oh, DNA.

And finally, the kids love when Nick plays with Photoshop. Here’s one of his creations.