Some sweet time with a niece, the little model

(If you don’t read the snippet of words, go ahead and scroll down to the photos–that’s the real point!)

I had a really spectacular weekend this past weekend. So, so many highlights.

One of them occurred Sunday morning. My parents-in-law had a full house, and I was the first one awake. I took my book and sat on the porch.

Fifteen minutes later, my niece Kate, the second person awake, tiptoed outside and joined me. We said good morning, and she got really quiet and just looked around the backyard (it’s a gorgeous backyard–huge deck, pool, a ton of trees behind which flows the St. Joe River). I kept reading and kept peeking at her, surprised she was so completely content to sit in silence.

Another 15 minutes later, we both started giggling: Somewhere in the trees, someone was playing a trumpet. Not a song–just odd bursts of notes. The strangest wake-up call I’ve ever heard and not what you expect to come out of the woods at 10 a.m.

We spent the next 20 minutes talking about her school, music class, how excited she is to learn to play the recorder, how neat it was to see the group of turkeys moseying about in the field on the side of the house.

When Jeff and I left later that day, in the car, Jeff commented on the long hug Kate gave me when we left.

In short: I adore this girl. And then I get on Facebook this morning and see that she posed for a local photog’s business. LOOK AT THIS LITTLE GEM.

That is all.

For anyone based around Indianapolis, the brilliant photog behind these images is Amanda Matthews. Check her out on Facebook.

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Kate the Great. By Amanda Matthews Photography

The mouse that tried, but couldn’t ruin my weekend

This weekend, I had a girls’ shopping trip planned. The idea was that Amanda in Phoenix and moi would descend on Kelly in near-Chicago, drink her wine, make her take us shopping and find us delightful food to eat.

The first problem that happened is stand-by. It’s a Godsend when you can get it, but when you can’t, your Phoenix gal ends up missing out on the fun.

The first bit of fun Amanda missed? The mouse.

Excuse me, did I say “fun”? I meant “holy Jesus shitballs.”

Cause see this?

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There’s a mouse under it.

It started with us hanging out, chatting in Kelly’s kitchen. I excused myself to go the bathroom, and mid-wipe, Kelly started to shriek. I heard “mouse” but thought … noooooo.

I ran out … and saw the little asshole poke its head from under the dishwasher. Kelly called her long-distance boyfriend for tips on what to do, and I called my husband, who laughed like a fool.

Eventually, Kelly got a bucket. And eventually, the mouse ran from the dishwasher to the oven … and back again … and then he made his fatal mistake: He ran into the bathroom. Kelly cornered the bugger (which we dubbed Motherfucker Jones) behind the toilet. She hovered with the bucket while I banged on the toilet with a rolled up magazine. When he darted out, she got the bucket over him.

Which left us with a mouse under a bucket in Kelly’s bathroom. You can’t just slide a stiff piece of cardboard under there because Motherfucker Jones don’t got no vertebrate; all he needs is a tiny opening and he can shoot out of there.

Naturally, it was time for one of these.

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So, per Kelly’s boyfriend’s suggestion … we taped the bucket to the floor. I think he thought we could suffocate him? No idea. All I know is when we got up in the morning, Kelly was on the phone with her dad. Within two minutes, he was over with heavy duty gloves.

He walked up to the bucket, shook it, and shut the bathroom door. Kelly and I looked at each other and squeaked. Seconds later, Mr. Kelly came out with Motherfucker Jones’ butt pinched between his fingers. He darted outside and came back in, announcing he dumped the bastard in the sewer.

The rest of the weekend was delightful. We perused a nearby, and new, outlet mall, we wandered Chicago’s State Street, and we ate at The Publican, which was responsible for the most amazing meal I’ve ever eaten in my life: porchetta, a fancy name for pork-stuffed-pork. The fatty pork was pinwheeled inside the leaner pork, and it was served with slivers of apples cooked like potatoes, hazelnuts and what had to have been a sprinkle of fairy dust, because seriously, that meal was life-changing.

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Kelly and I split our dessert, which further changed my life, vacherin. I’ll let the menu give you the description: vanilla meringue, whipped cream, strawberries, orange confit, orange sherbet, strawberry sherbet & vanilla ice cream. The meringue was dry and chalky, complimented ideally by the creamy, tartness of the sherbet. Each bite was a little different as I tried to combine different flavors with my spoon. Basically, if one of the waiters hadn’t looked like Adrian Grenier but cute (seriously, Adrian was butt ugly by comparison), I’d have licked the plate.

Seriously, this guy ain’t got nothing on the Publican hottie.

I left Kelly’s Sunday morning and headed to my folks, who live 45 minutes south of her. The day was for Nani, who turned 90 yesterday. We had a big ol’ party with everyone, where “everyone” is a lot of people: Nani has five daughters (my mom’s No. 4, and her younger sister died back in ’05 of breast cancer). My papa has two daughters (he is Mom’s stepfather). Together they created 16 grandchildren. Most of those grandchildren have procreated, creating nearly 30 great grandchildren (two of them are currently cooking). No, not everyone was there. Yes, MOST everyone was there.

This pic s hows all the blood relations who were there. Note Joey and Papa as the only men. Aside from Joey, there are only two boy cousins, neither of whom made it to the party. Nani had five daughters. Papa had two. Needless to say, there are a lot of women in my family.

I heard Nani ask more than once, “What’s the occasion?” She had no idea that hat was on her head. I showed her with my phone, and she laughed — then had to be reminded a dozen more times.

It was a good day, a very good day. She enjoyed herself and smiled a lot, even if I also overheard, “Who are all these people?”

Every time I get around my family, I get to know their kids even more. Like Sophia, who loved my necklace, but not nearly as much as she did my sunglasses.

imageSeriously, we’re talking the happiest baby of all time. After this, she lunged at my dad, cuddled him like he was a teddy bear and squealed, “Daddy!!” prompting her dad to look around in confusion.

After I spent a long weekend at my parents’, I was seriously missing my huny. I think he missed me too:

imageSo Motherfucker Jones … you can suck it. Cause my weekend still rocked.

Giving thanks, when there’s much to be thankful for

I’ve been thinking about my Thankful Post for about a week. I knew I wanted to address this on my blog, but it’s something that’s been hard for me to put into words.

I am lucky; I have never lost someone whose absence has affected the core of my being. One of my aunts died when I was in college, and I was devastated — not because we were close (we weren’t, sadly), but because she was my mom’s best friend.

A few months ago, a friend of mine at work lost her boyfriend in a motorcycle accident. I had never met him, but it hit me very hard. He was so young, less than a year older than my fiance. I feel like every time I look at Jeff lately, I think, “One day, one of us is going to permanently leave the other. Is it going to  hurt more if it happens in 50 years than if it happens in five?” I can’t fathom what my friend is going through, and I pretty much want to run up to her and hug her all the time.

You see, I have everything to be thankful for. Everything. Jeff has worked late a lot recently. I love my time alone, and I love that, after work, or basketball, or hanging out with his friends once a month, he comes home, to me. I love my life. I love my house. I love this man who has completed me in a way I didn’t know needed completing.

One of Jeff and my engagement pics

I love the work at do at my job. Sure, the gig isn’t perfect (whose job is?), but on Monday mornings, I do not dread going to work. In fact, I look forward to it.

I love the work I am able to do on Etsy. I love the people I am able to help find That Perfect Gift, and I love that I have this creative outlet that helps me unwind after a crazy day at the newspaper. I love that a pair of vintage rhinestone screw-back earrings can find their way from Pierceton, Ind., a town with no stop lights, to Paris.

I love my friends. I love that as some of them are receiving their Save the Date post cards, they are calling me, and thanking me, and sharing their excitement. They are texting me notes filled with exclamation points. They are emailing and Facebooking, and it all makes my heart swell. And it makes me happy that I lost, that I’m getting this Big Fat Wedding I never wanted.

The bestie, and maid of honor, sent me a text with the pic of her Save the Date

I love my family. I love that, after every bit of my mother’s patience has been shat on by my darling autistic brother, she somehow finds some unknown reserve.

I love that my brother has been driving her and my dad crazy in recent months because he’s so excited for the holidays. That he goes into the basement about once a week and brings up the trees, decorations and gift wrap. That he’s sick of waiting for Christmastime and is ready for it to BE Christmastime. This is a boy (hell, a man — Joey’s 23) who hides my mom’s new P!nk CD because he doesn’t want to listen to P!nk; he wants Mom to play Christmas music.

Christmas two years ago. Despite the face, trust me — Joey adores this time of year. He’s just not terribly photogenic.

I love that tomorrow, I will get to experience my favorite 20 minutes of the year: When I visit my folks’, my mom and I wake up around the same time. And for maybe 20 minutes in the morning, everyone else is asleep. We turn on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and don’t watch it, but let its noise give the kitchen a soft ambiance. We drink coffee, and go through the ads in the newspapers, and just be. It’s nothing outwardly special, and I suspect Mom would be surprised to learn of how much I love these brief minutes each year. But it’s just the feeling that I love, a feeling of the holiday, of love, of security.

I often don’t feel worthy to have so much to be thankful for. I don’t know what I’ve done to deserve these gifts, but I appreciate them, every day.