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My Garden

When we bought our house 6 years ago there was little to no landscaping done, especially in the back yard. Over the years I have slowly plugged away, trying to create a sacred place to enjoy the outdoors. I have made a lot of progress, especially with the fence we had installed this year.

I am starting to prep and make plans for next year. Usually I spend a ridiculous amount of money on annuals to provide bold, bright colors since we had so much shade. I pretty much gave up on vegetables besides tomatoes after two years of the squirrels eating everything that started to ripen. Next year money will be tighter now that we are living on just one income so I need to think of ways to bring in color without spending so much. Plus containers require so much energy with having to water them sometimes twice a day! Shade use to keep me away from some of the flowering perennials but since storms took out a lot of the branches I have more full sun to work with. I also want to put in a vegetable garden to save money. This will require a huge investment of time and money but I think the end results will be worth it-finacially, physically and mentally!

My father has an amazing garden set up and I envy the way he can just walk out to the yard and decide what is for dinner by what is ripe. I would love to have that option here. I love walking around the farmers markets but I usually spend twice as much as I had budgeted for and sometimes things go bad before we even use them. I just can’t resist fresh produce!

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The Gulls

The zoo was packed that Wednesday with kids from summer camps. They gathered on the lawn and ate their lunches. It was interesting to watch them and listen to their conversations. Most children had brown bag lunches of various degrees of healthy. I couldn’t help but think of Jamie Oliver as I analyzed their contents. Lots of lunchables, Doritos, etc. One little girl had what I thought was a great lunch-Pirate’s Booty, a homemade waffle, fruit, etc. But she wasn’t impressed. She was desperately eyeing the lunches of the children who had the money to purchase the expensive items from the zoo cafe. “How much was that?” she said enviously to a young blonde with a tray containing a cheeseburger, french fries and a giant Gatorade. “Oh about $12″ she managed to say casually and boastfully at the same time. I was annoyed both by the fact that the meal was so unhealthy and that she had that much spending money at 11 years old. I also felt bad that the girl who felt that her lunch, that was obviously put together with love and nutritional values in mind, didn’t see it that way.

The seagulls were also not concerned with the quality of the food or how much love went into it, they were just scooping up what they could get. Which was a lot.

These two little girls were at the zoo with their nanny. The woman had spilled the girls $6 popcorn and for some reason was intent on cleaning it up rather than letting the gulls spirit it away down into their greedy bellies.

The girls were enraged that the seagulls might get their popcorn rather than the trash can.

I realize now that I spent most of the trip to the zoo watching and analyzing the people more than the animals.

Canyon played with a stick.

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I Can Has Meat?

On days that we drive John to work I try to plan something fun to do. No point driving down there and just turning around and going home. On Lilo days we go to the lake or the park. On non-Lilo days it’s the zoo.

I had planned on going straight into story time but was distracted by men with a ladder hanging meat from a pole in the tiger enclosure. Oh this would so be worth waiting for. Unlike when we waited for the lions to devour a pinata.

Mr. Tiger did not disappoint. He came sauntering out of the gate and went straight for his breakfast.

I think I might have to send these to icanhascheezburger.

Totally worth missing the first part of story time, especially because the little farm house was way over capacity with kids, moms and nannies. It was packed to the point of being unsafe. We tried to enjoy it but I don’t think we will try it again until the temps drop and people are too lazy to go out.

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Recreation Canyon

One of my favoirite lakefront locations in Chicago is the end of Recreation Drive down by Belmont Harbor. It has great trees, stunning views and is usually not very crowded. Lilo can run, Canyon can crawl and I can relax. Unfortunately they charge $10 to park there from Memorial Day through Labor Day. But for whatever reason this summer I have never had to pay. My guess is that most people weren’t willing to pay and it was worth staffing the booth. This pleases me. Us.

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Running with Rod B

My husband John has been very supportive of my morning swims-helping me get up and out of bed is one thing, but agreeing to do every morning shift with Canyon is really great of him. So one day I decided to break up my work out routine and take Lilo and Canyon to Horner Park for an early morning walk and let John sleep in.


The park is lovely around 7am. The sun is shining but not beating down oppressively. The people who are out are happy to be there, all smiles and hello’s as you meet on the path. As we round the first curve I see a runner approaching out of the shade. I know it’s a runner but all I can focus on is the hair. This amazing mop of hair is bouncing towards me out of the darkness. I stare. When I see the face and body attached I chirp out a shocked, “Hi!” The mouth attached to the hair smiles, waves and says “hello” in his distinctive voice. It’s Rod Blagojevich!

This is the most exciting thing that has happened in ages. I am sharing the running path with one of the most notorious people in the news today, especially if you live in Illinois. It is kind of an electric feeling! He is running and we are walking so he laps us several times. When we pass we both smile and give a greeting. In between meetings I have time to think. “Aren’t you suppose to be in court?” and “You sure like to run. You are going to miss running in prison.” I had imaginary conversations with him. “Dude, what the BLEEP were you thinking?”. “Dude (for some reason I like to start off important imaginary conversations with “dude”) when I use to work on the radio station I would chart albums and sometimes take favors to help out an album. But I got free swag or a trip to New York, not large amounts of cash or people fired! You should have known when to quit!”

Even though I know he is a horribly corrupt nut job I did feel a little sorry for him. I thought about offering to drive him to Mexico. Not that I would seriously go to jail helping Rod Blagojevich flee prosecution but it was a fun little movie in my head. Me, Lilo, Canyon and Rod-on the road. The film would have a great soundtrack, stunning cinematography and a funny montage of different haircuts as we changed his appearance in a wayside restroom. There would be a lot of swearing. Canyon’s first word would be “BLEEP!” We’d all laugh. Maybe a scene of someone farting in the car and we’d all blame Lilo but it was really Rod. More laughter. It would be a classic.

By our 6th or 7th meeting the novelty had worn off for both of us and we just nodded politely. Three little kids, all under ten were super pumped to see him and started running off after him like he was Rocky. “Let’s run with the Governor!” they squealed.

That’s ex-governor, kids.

Rod strikes me as being somewhat of an egomaniac so I bet this post will show up on his google alerts. I wonder what kind of “hello” I will get next time we meet at the park after this.

It felt rude to take a photo of him so I waited until he passed. That’s him in the distance to the right.

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Mommy Like

For years I have said that I wanted to take up swimming as exercise but for years I never got my act together. Then this spring my Facebook friend/neighbor mentioned that it was on-line registration day for the Chicago Park District’s summer programs and I clicked on through to check out what was available for Canyon. Instead I found two things for me-Lap Swim and Aquatic Exercise.

I love them both. When I started in June I couldn’t even handle a lap in the Olympic size pool but now can smoothly do at least one without stopping. I have nifty goggles, resistance gloves, belt and a pair of water dumbbells.

The downside is that the best time for me to swim those laps is between 7am-9am. Yeek! But if I can get up and out of the house on time it gives me about two hours to myself before John has to leave for work and I am full-time mom again. The days I don’t make it I feel a little let down.

On the best days I can swim laps then join in the morning Aquatic Exercise (water aerobics) with the 20+ senior ladies and one or two gentlemen. I feel like I am playing the Steve Guttenberg role in “Cocoon 4″.

On the very best swimming days I can swim a few laps, join the exercise class and about ten minutes into the warm up Ecuadorian Speedo Man shows up. I love those days. Ecuadorian Speedo Man is the most incredible almost naked man in the world. I am not exaggerating. Originally I called him Latin Speedo Man but then one day we were parked near each other in the lot and I saw that his car had an Ecuadorian swimming sticker on it.

He waltzes in around 9:10am. He wears a tiny blue suit with SPEEDO across his butt. It leaves almost nothing to the imagination. And I have a very active imagination. He stands on the deck of the pool, checking out our class while he does a few stretches. Then he slips into the water, puts on his flippers, swim cap, goggles and paddles before starting his series of laps. He does quite a few. Enough for me to be like, “Oh quit doing laps and come out of the water already!” Finally he starts to slow down the pace and then comes to rest. Goggles off, he relaxes along the wall, chest and abs glistening in the morning sun. Then he pulls himself out of the water, stretches in the sun and walks over to the fountain and gets a drink. The dialogue in my head is something like this, “Oh yeah. That’s it. Get a drink. Now stretch. That’s it. Mommy like.” I know I sound like a horrible pervert of Nabokovian proportions but I don’t really care. It’s not like I am ogling some teenager from “Twilight”. I am ogling a grown man. A grown, chiseled, just the right amount of hairy man. I need to sneak some photos of him and then start a website dedicated to Ecuadorian Speedo Man Fan Fiction.

Tomorrow John needs to be at work at 9am which means I will have swum my laps and been back home long before ESM sets foot on the concrete ledge. But there’s always Wednesday…

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Look Out, Look Out, The Canyon Man

This week I broke out the Grateful Dead’s “American Beauty” and bought Canyon a Steal Your Face shirt. From Target. It felt weird and a little dirty to buy a Grateful Dead shirt from Target. But it was cute and only $5!

I like to change the lyrics to include Canyon’s name.

“Look out, look out the Canyonman
Here he comes and he’s gone again.
Pretty lady ain’t got no friend til
the Canyonman comes around again”

And…

“It’s just a Canyon Jay
I don’t know who put him there
Believe it if you need him
or leave him if you dare
But it’s just a Canyon Jay…”

Hmmmm. I might need to get out more.

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Starfish by Eleanor Lerman

oooh new poem to love thanks to the Writer’s Almanac. I just went online and ordered her books from the library. So excited to read more.

Starfish

by Eleanor Lerman

This is what life does. It lets you walk up to
the store to buy breakfast and the paper, on a
stiff knee. It lets you choose the way you have
your eggs, your coffee. Then it sits a fisherman
down beside you at the counter who says, Last night
the channel was full of starfish. And you wonder,
is this a message, finally, or just another day?

Life lets you take the dog for a walk down to the
pond, where whole generations of biological
processes are boiling beneath the mud. Reeds
speak to you of the natural world: they whisper,
they sing. And herons pass by. Are you old
enough to appreciate the moment? Too old?
There is movement beneath the water, but it
may be nothing. There may be nothing going on.

And then life suggests that you remember the
years you ran around, the years you developed
a shocking lifestyle, advocated careless abandon,
owned a chilly heart. Upon reflection, you are
genuinely surprised to find how quiet you have
become. And then life lets you go home to think
about all this. Which you do, for quite a long time.

Later, you wake up beside your old love, the one
who never had any conditions, the one who waited
you out. This is life’s way of letting you know that
you are lucky. (It won’t give you smart or brave,
so you’ll have to settle for lucky.) Because you
stopped when you should have started again.

So life lets you have a sandwich, and pie for your
late night dessert. (Pie for the dog, as well.) And
then life sends you back to bed, to dreamland,
while outside, the starfish drift through the channel,
with smiles on their starry faces as they head
out to deep water, to the far and boundless sea.

“Starfish” by Eleanor Lerman, from Our Post-Soviet History Unfolds.

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