Happy Halloween!

I’ve never been much for dressing up in costumes for Halloween, but it’s so much fun to see the creativity that goes on each year.

My friends Marc and Fausto of Feast of Fools invited our friend Michael Lehet to join them to dress up as pandas this year, and they are having quite a lot of fun with it.  They’ve been doing some really great videos this week on the Feast of Fools website while dressed in their panda outfits and makeup.  Here’s one of all three of them doing the “Panda Dance” to the song “Jung Hwa Ban Jum.” I have no idea what it really means, but it’s hysterical to watch.

And while I’m at this, if you would be so kind as to vote for the Feast of Fools gang for the annual Podcast Awards, I’d greatly appreciate it. They are up for Best GLBT Podcast and People’s Choice (Podcast of the Year) this year. They’ve won Best GLBT Podcast for the past two years, and I really want them to win BOTH awards this year!!! I’m an occasional guest on their show (here my most recent appearance), so this award would mean a lot to me as well. Vote every day, once a day!

And if pandas and podcasts aren’t your game.. here’s something you might enjoy: My nieces, Abby (the flower) and Emily (the kitty), dressed in their first Halloween costumes. If that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings for all that’s CUTE in the world, I don’t know what will!  Happy Halloween!

Feelin' Good!

The past couple of weeks have been a little rough for me.  I fought off bronchitis two weeks ago and this week I feel crappy again -probably due to the changing weather and all the leaves falling off the trees.  Allergies suck, don’t they?

But it’s autumn in Chicago and it’s starting to look and feel beautiful around here.  I love the cooler temps and the bright colors on the trees.  Sadly, I know this gives way to nasty weather ahead– but that’s the price you pay when you live in Chicago, I guess!

This past weekend I visited my mom and my sister and her family came up for a visit.  We went to Jerry Smith Pumpkin Farm in western Kenosha with the twins and had a great time.  The weather was beautiful and the girls seemed to enjoy the sights and sounds… though Abby got cranky with it all pretty quickly.  They’re 8 months old already.  I can’t believe how quickly they’re growing up, and how cute they’re getting!

Afterward we went to my mom’s and the girls played with some toys while we all relaxed a bit.  Watching the girls play and seeing how much they have changed from those little tiny beings I remember seeing earlier this year just amazed me.  They’re developing such distinct personalities – Abby is a bit more fussy but extremely attentive; and Emily is more social and easygoing.  They are both able to sit up on their own and are becoming more independent as each day passes.  It’s so interesting and exciting to see.  

Sometimes I feel a little sad that I may not experience parenthood for myself.  I’m enjoying watching my nieces grow up, but even though they are rather close, I still don’t get to see them all that often.  Even though we are family, we all have our own lives, and we have to invest our time wisely.  But I do feel a part of their lives, and as they grow up, they’ll know me as “Uncle Rick,” and not just some guy who comes around every now and then.  I can’t wait for that to happen.  

Until then, I’m the guy with the camera, following them around all the time.  My sister said she feels somewhat like a celebrity because of all the clicking of the camera wherever they go.  What can I say… I like taking pictures of my family. 🙂  And the end result is worth it. 

So, then, here are some pictures from our weekend together.  Hopefully as Autumn settles in I’ll start to feel better… until then, I have some nice memories to keep me smiling.

Abby meets a calf

Emily meets a big bull!

Well, hello there!

Busy girls

Does this hat make me look cute?

Hi, Emily!

Picture Post: Labor Day Weekend

Gettin' Smiley

Labor Day weekend usually, for me, involves taking a trip somewhere — be it Saugatuck or up north in Wisconsin, or just about anywhere else.  It rarely involves staying home.

Well that’s just what I did this year… and a lot of my friends did the same.  We tried planning a trip somewhere, but in the end we all decided to have a “Staycation.”

And that was definitely the best choice.

On Friday I joined a few of my friends in lovely Hammond, Indiana to see Sarah Silverman live at the new “Venue” at the Horseshoe Casino.  She was funny, and I enjoyed her set a lot.  After that we headed back to Chicago for a few drinks.  The next day was day one at Hollywood Beach.  I hadn’t made it to the beach once this summer, and I was determined to do so before the summer got away from me completely.  I’m so glad I did.  The weather was perfect, the boys were plentiful, and my friends were there and we had a simply wonderful time.

The plan for most of my friends was to make it a three-day beach weekend, but I had other plans.  On Saturday night, after I got back from the beach, I grabbed my things and headed up to my mom’s in Kenosha.  I spent the night up there, and the next day my sister and her family came up and we spent the day with my adorable nieces.  They’re almost 7 months old now and growing cuter and funnier and more lovable by the second.  Abby recently cut her first teeth, and Emily is not very far behind.  Being their Uncle has already been so wonderful and rewarding.  I love those two little angels.

I headed back to Chicago on Sunday night and on Monday it was “Back to the Beach” again.  And while I was mingling with friends, laughing, enjoying the sunshine and the warm air, my friend Jeremy and I decided that this was one of the best Labor Days we ever had.  Gorgeous weather, gorgeous boys, and right in our own backyard.  We didn’t have to drive or spend a lot of money.  Can’t get much better than that.

The weekend capped off a really great summer for me.  I feel happier, calmer, and better than I have in many years.  After the pain of 2006 and the readjustment of 2007, 2008 has shaped up to be a pretty great year.

Grandfathers

So often I find myself feeling just a little jealous of other people who knew and had relationships with their grandfathers.  Whether they have one or both in their life, they always seem so lucky to me.  They get one (or two) more person(s) to dote on them, send them cards, and tell them they are loved.  

I didn’t know either of my grandfathers.  My Grandpa Anderson died on New Year’s Eve 1968, and my Nanu Aiello was gone shortly after that.  And I was born in 1970, so I just missed them both.

I was thinking about this on my cab ride home from work tonight.  Funny how being at the mercy of someone else’s crazy driving gets you thinking about things like this.

My sister and I never knew our grandfathers, and now, her daughters will not know theirs.

My brother-in-law’s dad died some years before he met my sister.  His mom remarried and is still with him today, so the girls do have a step-grandpa.  And, of course, our dad died in 2006.

All throughout our lives, my sister and I have only had pictures and memories from our parents and grandmothers to help us understand what our grandfathers were like.  We never heard their voices or their laughs, or got to hear them say our names.  It was like something was missing.  

My cousin’s Grandpa lived through most of her childhood and through her teen years.  He was the only grandfatherly figure in my life.  I remember when I was very young– probably about 6 or 7 at the most– I was talking to him at a family gathering, and I distinctly remember asking him, “Will you be my Grandpa?” 

I remember him responding, “Why sure, Ricky, I would love to be your Grandpa, but I can only be your pretend Grandpa, because you will always have your real Grandpas.  Can I be your pretend Grandpa?”  

And I remember saying, “Sure!” and he shook my tiny hand, and the deal was sealed.

Years later when he passed away, his wife came to me and reminded me of that story.  “He was so honored that you asked him that,” she said.  “He never forgot it.  He loved you kids (my sister and I) as if you were his grandkids, just as I do.” She asked if I would be pallbearer at his funeral — the first time I had ever done such a thing.  Of course, I said yes.

Now with my nieces just about to turn three months old, I think of how unfortunate it is that they will never know their grandfathers.  They will have lots of pictures to show them what they looked like, and lots of stories from their parents, uncles and grandmas; and at least on our side of the family, they will even have family movies and a few audio recordings of my dad’s voice so they can know what he moved and sounded like.   But that won’t take the place of actually having a grandfather in their lives.  

So they have loving and doting grandmothers, two crazy uncles that are as crazy for them as they are themselves (yes, I am one of those uncles), and a step-grandpa who is related only by marriage, but undoubtedly loved completely.  I’d say they’re two very lucky little tykes.  

The girls are going to Grandma’s house for the first time this weekend, and of course we are all excited. 

I’ve always said that our family is small, but it’s mighty.  Some things, I guess, never do change.

Baby Update!

I just realized I haven’t talked much about my baby nieces lately. It’s not because I don’t want to share- I have just been so busy with things lately I haven’t been so good at keeping up. So here are some pictures to keep everyone up-to-date.

Rick feeding Abby
Me feeding Abby- three weeks

Emily mid-feeding
Emily, mid-feeding with Grandma- three weeks

Rick smooching Emily
Me smooching Emily- three weeks

The girls asleep in their pack n play
The girls, asleep in their pack n play- three weeks

The girls are now two months old and so very healthy. They are growing by leaps and bounds. Every time my mom and I have visited, we’ve been amazed at how quickly they’ve grown and how much their personalities have evolved. Here are a few pictures from our most recent visit, the week after Easter.

The whole family
The whole family (Roxie included!)

Abby and Emily
Abby (l) and Emily (r) – Look at those little chunker cheeks!

Emily
Emily, just shy of two months

Abby
Abby, just shy of two months