A Childhood Recollection

When I was a kid growing up in the Chicago suburbs, not too terribly far from Lake Michigan, I always screwed up the acronym that was supposed to help you remember the Great Lakes. You know…HOMES? Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie, Superior. For some reason, my brain always thought the acronym was HOUSE, and I could never figure out which Great Lake started with “U”, completely overlooking the fact that my acronym ignored the Great Lake most local to me!

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about that a lot over the last week, since Ryan gave me these cool bracelets, each of which have a center bead composed of earth from the shores of Lake Michigan, for my birthday.

Now that I’m an adult, I don’t have any trouble remembering the names of the Great Lakes, and I love that I now have a way to carry a bit of my favorite lake with me, even during a time when I can’t travel to see it!

Mourning a Man I’ve Never Met

I woke up this morning to the sad news that Jim Venincasa, owner of Seamus McDaniel’s restaurant in Dogtown, had passed away last night. To my knowledge, I never actually met Jim, and yet I am saddened today, as though I had lost a friend. You see, Seamus McDaniel’s isn’t just a place to grab a bite to eat to us…it’s part of our family’s history.

When Ryan and I first moved to St. Louis after we got married, we lived within walking distance of Seamus, just a few blocks down Clayton Avenue. It was the first restaurant we went to in the city, and quickly became our favorite. We couldn’t eat there often back then, because Ryan was in grad school and we, as is often the case for newlyweds, had no money. Whenever we did have a few extra dollars and a reason to celebrate, however, Seamus was one of only two restaurants we ever bothered going to, and we relished every bite.

Time moved by quickly, as it does, and I remember going out to eat with Turkey in tow when he was only a few weeks old. Seamus was the restaurant where we discovered that a high chair could be flipped upside down to create a sling for his baby carrier. So he joined us, too small to really enjoy it, but with us at the table just the same…one of our first meals out as a family of three.

We moved out of the Dogtown neighborhood when Turkey was just a few months old, but we have continued to go back to Seamus, watching the table we needed get bigger as our family continued to grow. Moose, in particular, has loved Seamus for as long as we can remember, calling it “Six Fans” (because of the ceiling fans in the dining room in which we usually eat), when he was younger, and speech was still difficult for him. As parents, we were thrilled he was talking and identifying something to us! Seamus even symbolized his successes and progress in spite of autism.

I remember going out for dinner a week before Chickadee was born, and thinking how happy I would be to come back with her in tow, just as we had with Turkey that long-ago day, once we were a family of seven. And come back we have…Seamus is still our favorite restaurant, almost fifteen years after the first time we ate there. Even though we now have to make the drive across the river from Belleville, it remains the place we go when we’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary or just life, or when we simply want the best burger we’ve ever eaten. When friends and family visit from out-of-town, we inevitably gather there…an even larger, louder group, eager to enjoy some great food, great company, and a great time.

I’m sorry that I never actually got to meet Jim, and even sorrier that I never had the chance to tell him what his restaurant means to us. I do hope, however, that the next time we stop in, I might get to talk to his wife, Susan, and tell her how glad we are that she and Jim created something that became part of our family’s story.

The House-iversary

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Today marks the eighth anniversary of the day we closed on our house. We’ve lived here long enough that I guess it’s silly that I still celebrate it, but we moved around so much early in our marriage that I’m still extremely grateful (and occasionally still surprised!), that we actually live here!

I was thinking about my earliest memories of living in this house, other than unpacking boxes, and breaking down boxes, and trying to figure out how we were going to dispose of all of the boxes. Three things immediately came to mind.

  • When we moved in, I was in the first trimester of my pregnancy with Ladybug. I remember making dinner one night, and immediately after serving it, going and laying down on the air mattress that was still set up in our den, surrounded by, you guessed it, unpacked boxes. My morning sickness, which for some reason I always got in the evening, was so bad that day that I actually thought I was going to pass out, and had to put my head between my knees for a bit. I laid there for a good long while before I dared get up, staring at the ceiling, listening to the happy voices of my then three very small, very young children talking to each other and Ryan, and thinking about all of the work I had to do.
  • We moved into our house in October 2006, and Cardinals fans know what that means…World Series time. I remember Ryan and a friend working frantically to get the antenna in the attic set up correctly (we didn’t have cable…it wasn’t even an option then because the neighborhood was so new!) so we could watch the final game of the Fall Classic. And I remember celebrating the Cardinals win, and feeling for the first time that we were truly home.
  • Less than a month after we moved in, Moose celebrated his first birthday. This was the first of many celebrations in our home, and it was special baking a cake and opening presents for the very first time in our very own home. I remember giving him a bath right there in our new, shiny kitchen sink after he dove into his cake, and marveling that the faucet could actually pull out and be used as a sprayer.

These were just the first of many memories that we’ve made here over the years. There have been so many birthdays and holidays celebrated here, so many gatherings (of all sizes) hosted, so many guests we’ve enjoyed entertaining, so many triumphs we’ve rejoiced over, and of course, even some tears shed. But those memories made in the first few weeks of our house set the tone for what our beautiful, loving home would become!

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Scrapbooking

That's a lot of scrapbooks!

One of my favorite obsessions, oops, I mean *hobbies* is scrapbooking. Sure, I have lots of things I like to do in my free time (ha, ha)–some practical, like cooking and baking, some educational, like reading, and some mindless, like studying fashion and watching TV. But the one hobby I have sunk the most time (and money!) into is scrapbooking.

I started my attempt at chronicling events and memories in college. My early attempts were pretty crude, as I had no idea what I was doing, what kind of tools were available, or even what albums were good. Those early attempts got the job done, though–not only do I have the memories recorded, but it served to hook me on this new hobby, and I never looked back.

There were people who laughed at me when Bunny was born, and told me I’d never keep up with it now that I had two children. I heard the same story when Moose and Ladybug were born. Yet, even though I’ve allowed myself to fall behind as much as a full year from time to time, I always get caught up, and I’ve devoted equal attention to all four children’s scrapbooks, as well as our family album, and the special albums I work on from time to time. I really view myself as “family historian,” and given my love of history in general, it should be no surprise that I take this job so seriously.

Baby Ladybug's Hands and Feet

Boys...

...and Girls!

Possibly My Favorite Layout Ever!

I like to think my layouts have improved over time. One thing I know for certain–I love putting the pages together, and I love even more that I have concrete records of the fun times we have shared together.

Making Memories

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Two weeks ago was my birthday. The only thing I really wanted to do was go to Ted Drewes for custard at some point over the weekend. No fancy dinners for me, no extravagant gifts, I just really wanted some custard (it’s a St. Louis thing).

So, on Saturday, we planned to go out, run a few errands, and then treat everyone to a nice frozen treat. But, we ended up getting a later start than we had planned. So, I came up with the perfect solution–custard for dinner!

Yes, I’ll admit that by that point, I wasn’t really interested in cooking dinner. But it also sounded like a really fun, crazy thing to do on a Saturday. I’m sure Ryan thought I was crazy for suggesting it, and I thought my children’s eyes were going to drop out of their heads when I told them what was for dinner. But, we almost never go out for ice cream, and we never, ever eat it for dinner (OK, there was one other time, the night before we moved into our house, but the children were too young to remember it).

So, we had a really fun time, and, I think, made a really special memory. I’m hoping that when they’re older, they’ll look back and remember the time that mom let everyone eat ice cream for dinner. It’s an evening I know I won’t forget!