Friday, July 29, 2011

Hotel Darby, at Your Service

I had no idea we'd become so popular when we moved to Chicago, but people keep coming and coming. Okay, so maybe it's Chicago that's the cool place and not so much our little condo, but either way we've been so happy to have freeloaders shackin' up with us over the summer. Thank goodness the couch is so comfy.

Our sweet Poppaw and Bebe kicked off the summer with a visit at the end of May. They couldn't have come at a more perfect time because I had just quit my job and had a few weeks to get adjusted to staying home all day with two little monkeys. And I needed a break. Whew.

I tried to do a better job of actually getting out into the city with them this time since I feel like we usually just stick around the neighborhood. We attempted to go to the Lincoln Park Zoo on Memorial Day (ha haha hahaha, along with everyone else in the city), and after sitting in traffic in the car for over an hour (the zoo is only a couple of miles from our home, by the way) we decided to just go back to the park in our neighborhood. Sigh.

The next day we were able to try again, and I'm so glad we did.
There is plenty of room to roam around in the zoo, so it was fantastic to have to extra folks help me corral Mimi in when she wandered a little. One of Mimi's favorite parts of the zoo is the farm. And I'm sure it was Old MacJerry's also. Here they're checking out the new little piglets.
Or is that my children when they're eating a snack? Hmm . . .
And the rest of the trip I basically handed the children to my mom, kicked my feet up, and drank a beer. See, she's a natural. He he.

My dad even helped just a little. He didn't seem to mind.

And then came the two most hip visitors -- my fourteen-year-old neice Jean-Nicolette and her buddy Sylvia.
In a plane. By themselves. Wowzers.
So we ate Chicago-style hot dogs and deep-dish, we saw the Bean and the beach, we rode the train, and they even got stuck in a revolving door. They shopped on Michigan, ordered Chinese take-out in little boxes (per Sylvia's request), and saw tall buildings. But that was not what they came for. What they came to see I could never give them. They came . . . for GLEE.

The girls had fantastic tickets (like, 5th row, I think) and a fun little VIP pass, and I was able to take them to the concert (but I didn't go in because I was letting them be cool) and witness more skinny teenage girls in the tiniest little shorts ever (When did it become cool to wear shorts so short that pockets hang out the bottom? I'm so old). But they had a blast, and I'm fairly certain that nothing else in their teenage years will be half as exciting for them as this concert. No football game, no cute boy, and no "let's sneak out and roll yards" kind of sleepover. This was pretty awesome.

They came back to show Mimi their moves, and then they basically sat on our couch and watched the entire first season of Glee the rest of the weekend. Oh, to be young again. But they were responsible and mature and I'm hoping my big brother lets them come again next year.:)
Then we had Neal and Brian and Louisa and baby Harrison. I got absolutely no photos of the entire weekend (which was pretty awesome and consisted of Clint performing a cartwheel on a downtown sidewalk and Brian heckling a cab driver) except for a few of Mack and his new little buddy. They loved each other and will hopefully be more mature than their dads. Nah, maybe not.

And then came the wildness, otherwise known as JR Bolton. Gah, I love this kid.
Clint's sister Mary Claire and her children stayed with us for a long weekend, and my kiddos were in heaven with all the entertainment. They loved waking up and having cousins to play with all day. Clint and I were able to go on an architectural boat tour with Mary Claire and Olivia, something that we've been wanting to do since we moved here. It was amazing -- I totally recommend it. Even though it was a little chilly, they still loved the sprinklers at our neighborhood park.

A few weeks ago a good friend I once taught with in a former life (I cannot believe I was a teacher) and I haven't seen in about five years came to Chicago and had a day to play with us. We took her and her daughter Madi (along with Madi's Flat Stanley that Mack made friends with) to the aquarium.
It was ridiculously hot and the aquarium was nice and cool and calm. Well, the fish were calm, but my children were crazy. Mimi ran all over the place (imagine that), and Mack wanted to crawl everywhere. Thank goodness Madi is a mature little thing, or I might have lost my marbles.
Mack loved the Beluga whales. Mimi did some ballet moves for them.
Whew, so I finally cleaned the house and washed the sheets, so feel free to start booking ahead for next summer. I can't guarantee those sheets will still be clean, but the cook makes some fine banana pancakes.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The First Child

Before there was a Mack or a Mimi or even a Ruthie, there was a Spike. I met Spike the first time I went to Clint's home in Germantown, and he sniffed me and walked away. I tried without avail to get him to play with me, but he just wanted to lie in his bed or run around the backyard peeing on everything. As soon as I had some food in my hand, he pretended to be my best bud, but I knew he had other motives so I decided to play hard to get. That night I heard a scratch at the door of the bedroom I was staying in and then was frightened to death when that little peculiar creature decided to hop in the bed with me, made me scoot over to give him space, and then walked around in a circle until he got as close to me as possible to spoon. And then I knew we were cool.

That's where my story with Spike begins, but the real story begins when Clint was about 14 years old in Batesville, Mississippi, and his father and brother brought home a tiny little Rat Terrier they decided to name Spike. I've heard stories about him following Clint to school, running into the gym and onto the court of church basketball games, being fed honeybuns out of vending machines, and fighting off dogs three times his size.
He reminded me a little of a cat because he made sure he was always in control of when he allowed people to give him attention, and then he would sneak away to his bed when he had enough. Spike was the kind of dog that could be let out of the house and would come back whenever he was ready. He knew how to sneak a bite off anyone's plate by staring with sad, longing eyes. Although he was normally very gentle, he had no problem letting people know when he was tired of being messed with.

When I met Spike he was about 7 or 8 years old, but he already had the personality of an old, ornery man. He didn't want anyone bothering him too much, and he was very set in his routine of eating, sleeping, and peeing on things. Let me reword -- peeing on EVERYTHING. He was never neutered and there were several times I caught him casually walking down a hallway and quickly lifting a leg. When he got in trouble he innocently looked around like he had done nothing wrong. I mean, it was his world and we were just living in it, right?
When Spike moved in with us, I tried my best to be a good stepmother. I fed him and bathed him and took him on walks and let him sleep on my side of the bed at night. And he still didn't really treat me much differently.

Then we decided to add to our little family and give Spike a sibling . . . and along came puppy Ruthie. She was sooo tiny and cute and scared to death of absolutely everyone and everything . . . except Spike. She quickly warmed up to him and followed him around the house, and he absolutely hated her from the start. Like a said, Spike was more like a cat and couldn't stand another dog invading his space.
I tried my best to make them bond -- you know like sweet little dogs that you see snuggling together in front of the fireplace, but uh-uh. Not happening. I think Ru would have obliged, but Spike had zero interest in taking part in anything that had to do with Ruthie.

So then came Mimi, and I was so nervous about how the dogs would react to her. We placed Mimi on the bed, and Ruthie happily sniffed her and checked her out. Spike then jumped up on the bed, sniffed her, and then gave her a look that said, "Oh, shit. They've gone and gotten one of these things. He then stood at the edge of the bed waiting on Clint to get him down (although he could still hop up on the bed, he had trouble jumping off onto the wood floor). After that day, I can't remember him ever attempting to snuggle with us at night again.

Within Mimi's first year, I really began noticing Spike's health deteriorate. I don't think it was because of her -- I mean, Spike was fifteen years old at this point. I can remember taking him to the vet and seeing the surprise on their faces at what good health this old guy was still in, but we never had great vet visits after his fifteenth year. His teeth and eyes were getting worse, and his arthritis was bothering him. It was becoming a little harder for him to go up and down the steps on the back porch, and you could forget him attempting to jump on the bed or couch. He had trouble chewing his food at times and would occasionally run into things he couldn't see well.

When we made the decision to move to Chicago, we also had to make the decision to leave Spike behind. He absolutely hates cold weather and there is no way he could climb up and down three flights of stairs to go on walks. So he went to live with Clint's parents, and we knew that he would probably live out his last days with them.

On Thursday around noon, Clint sent me a text message telling me that Spike had to be put down.

My first reaction was to worry about Clint and his parents who had cared for Spike for so long, but before I knew it my eyes were filled with tears as I began remembering all the car rides and Beggin' Strips and snuggling on the couch while I was pregnant and exhausted. He was absolutely the most peculiar little dog I've ever met, but he definitely grew on me and made me love him . . . and all that time I was worried about whether he loved me or not.

So my hope for Spike is that he is in heaven taking the best car ride ever and gnawing on as many Beggin' Strips and he can. I hope he has a fantastic little bed and loads on honeybuns. I hope he can lay on a porch and stare at the sun all afternoon. We'll miss you, Itty Bud.

Spike Darby
July 4, 1993 - July 14, 2011