Since I’ve Been Gone…

Last Day at the Hospital, originally uploaded by Yano.

I became a mom again! I didn’t just have her - I had her in August. Her name is Cecilia and she’s the sweetest little baby - once she’s fed and has had her nap!

More on her later…

Annual Pumpkin Carving

Changed out the layout in honor of my favorite holiday!

Last weekend we had our annual cousin pumpkin carving night. Every year more and more people come, which makes for a good time, even though we’re all fighting for table space to work on our creations.

This year was the first year that most of the kids could actually help out with the carving, and they were all pretty excited. We had a whole gang of people surrounding the table! Ben was pretty hyped since he’s seen so many jack-o-lanterns on TV lately. He was pretty picky with our design - he didn’t want it to be too scary, but not too boring. He settled for a mischievous little devil.

Because they’re lazy, they’re men (boys?) and they like to play with power tools, the guys used a power saw-thing to cut the tops off their pumpkins (I have a picture somewhere, but forgot to upload, maybe I’ll do it tomorrow). I prefer the old-fashioned way - using the dinky safety knives to start out my pumpkin. Ben was really interested in the process until I took off the top and he saw all the pumpkin innards and seeds. Too gross for mr. clean! I asked him if he wanted to help me clean out the inside of the pumpkin and he said No, then proceeded to hop off the chair and head towards the toys, telling me to call him when the pumpkin was done.

After a couple minutes, the rest of the kids were bored with the carving, so it was just adults after a while. Poor Maui is always left every year doing Jillian’s pumpkin, which means it would be something extremely girly -this year it was Princess Jasmine.

So below you’ll see our creations (click on the thumbs to see a bigger picture - hover over the left or right to get navigation arrows). As always, it was a great time - the food was AWESOME (nothing better than Brazilian chicken pot pie), I got to hang out with my cousins and we managed to get in a game of Apples to Apples, which Marilyn brought. I assume that she brought it because she’s played it before and thought she’d school us, but I had an early lead. We poked fun at Dave for not having any cards at all mid game, but he ended up kicking all our butts at the end!

Little Devil Tinkerbell Grim Reaper Spooky Face
Darth Vader Ghost Dragon  

Halloween costume pictures to come this weekend!

The Convention Formerly Known as WWC

Supergirl and Supertoddler!

So a couple of weeks ago, it was the annual Wizard World Chicago comic book convention, or as it’s called now - Chicago Comic Con. Which I believe was an attempt to a) put it in the same stratosphere are the San Diego Comic Con and b) get the “Comic Con” name BEFORE their big competitor comes to town next year, another comic book convention actually held IN the city of Chicago rather than in than the suburb of Rosemont, where WWC happens. I think the change of name is silly, though it’s not like it happened before. No matter what the name of the convention was, I was going to go, just like I’ve been going for the last decade or so.

This year’s convention came up pretty quickly. I’ve been so busy with work that I didn’t realize that the convention was coming up. My sister Fatima wasn’t able to take vacation on Friday, so it was some alone time for me and Ben. I had heard rumors that there was another convention coming to town next year, but I didn’t care too much about that. But what did worry me was that the big publishers - Marvel and DC, weren’t coming to the convention. That’s like having a soda convention and not having Coca Cola and Pepsi not show up. It’s just not the same. Fortunately, Aspen comics was there, and it was great to see the same old faces and some new ones.

Not as Packed as it Used to Be!

There were a couple other things that showed the effects of the economy (or at least, that’s what I attribute it to). Since most of the big publishers weren’t there, a lot of the sellers who usually had stands in the back got stands in the front of the convention. There were a TON of Z list celebrities there, selling autographed pictures of themselves and photo ops. There were only half of the workshops and panels that they usually had. Last year, (or was it the year before?) there were so many artists in the artist’s alley that there were actually two alleys. This year, the back of the convention hall was barely filled.

The thing that gets me the most is in previous years, we got little name tags with holders to keep with us all weekend and we’d show them to security to let us in. This year, we got these cheap paper-ish wristbands that I’m assuming they expected us to wear ALL WEEKEND, which is ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS! Seriously, Wizard, you couldn’t spend 30 cents of the already inflated entrance fee to get some name badge holders? Come on! There was no way that Ben was going to keep that wristband on him all weekend, so we cut them off at the end of the day and just taped them back on the day after. You can probably see people wearing those cheap pieces of crap in my pictures.

With that said, I sadly have to say that there’s been a major decline of quality for my favorite convention - I was really disappointed.

Adrianne Curry as Every Fanboy’s Dream

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a great time. As I said before, I got to see my favorite people at Aspen, as well as the other faces that I’ve come to see every year. Fatima and Melanie (and our teenage cousin and his friend, but they don’t really count and just thinking about it makes me want to keep Ben as a little boy forever) came on Sunday and it’s always fun when the girls are there. Also got to see Todd Bridges, Christopher Knight (Peter Brady) and his wife Adrianne Curry, Margot Kidder, Michelle Rodriguez (LOVE HER), Lou Ferrigno (the standard) and a bunch of other almost celebrities….and Taylor Dayne. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking - Why the hell is Taylor Dayne at a comic book convention? I have no idea. I didn’t go up to any of them, except for Leyla Milani from Deal or No Deal (for Dave) and Edward James Olmos, who Melanie is a fan of because of Battlestar Gallactica and me because of American Me. Let me tell ya, even though we didn’t buy the autograph from EJO (it was $40 or $50 or something like that), we decided to just go and say hi, and he was the nicest guy ever. It was like talking to a friendly old neighbor, he made all of us feel comfortable and like we were friends. I can’t say enough about how awesome he was!

I also got some great sketches, which I’ll post and write more about later, once I get them scanned.

All in all, the weekend was just “ok”. Because of my experience, I am definitely going to check out the competing convention next year, who I heard does a great job for New York’s annual convention. I’ll still probably go to WWC (which I will always call it) but I won’t be expecting much.

Here’s some pictures from the weekend (hover on the left or right for navigation arrows)…

Green Arrow Jack Sparrow A Free Ride on the P Train Knowing is Half the Battle
Lethal Leia Whatchu Talkin' 'bout, Willis?!? Taylor Dayne Um, Scary!
Cartman Elemental Spirits Adrianne Curry Gets in the Spirit Tiger Hat
Peter and His Girls With Micah Gunnell Fata Yeti Hat Me and Vince
Aspen Guys DC Heroes A Sad Scarab Something for Dave

Click here for my full flickr gallery…

Where the Fun Never Ends…til 2010

A couple weekends ago, we decided to go to Kiddieland, since we’ve heard good things about it and Dora the Explorer was going to be making an appearance. Kiddieland is a small amusement park in Chicago (actually Melrose Park) that’s been open since the 1930’s. This year is its last year - I did a little research and found that there’s a family dispute about the land (half of the family owns the park, the other half owns the land) and Kiddieland is not getting a lease renewal, most likely to make way for a more profitable gig, like a Costco or Sam’s Club. It’s a little sad - we just discovered this place this year, and it closes at the end of September, FOREVER!

That said, we’ll probably be going there a lot this summer, since unlike Six Flags, there’s a LOT of rides then Ben can ride here, on his own. He totally had a blast and didn’t want to leave. His favorite was the Mushroom ride, which is kinda like the Teacup ride at Disneyland. I couldn’t ride it more than two times in a row because I’d get so dizzy, but he got a kick out of all the spinning. I thought he was going to love Dora, but I don’t think he had anticipated that she’d be taller than Dave, which freaked him out a little, which is why he’s so far away from her in the picture…

Here’s some of our other pics from the day…

The kids in the back totally make me laugh.

More pics here

Woody Lives Another Day

My father in law came over this morning to fix up our sump pump, and he told me that he was out in the backyard, and he saw that there was a rabbit caught in the trellis under our deck. “A rabbit?” I asked, thinking it odd that a rabbit could get stuck under there since they’re so small. “Um, you know, that one that lives under your deck”. “A raccoon?” I asked. “Yeah, a raccoon.”

So I went outside, a little freaked because I was out in the backyard earlier that morning with Ben and didn’t notice anything. Sure enough, we had a prisoner stuck under the deck.

Now, it wasn’t a raccoon, it was Woody the Woodchuck, who you may remember me mentioning before. We’d always wondered who lived under our lower deck - we knew there was SOMEONE under there because one day when my dad brought his dog Ewok over, he went crazy barking in one specific spot of the deck, and when we looked between the wood slats, we could see little beady eyes staring up at us. At the time we thought it was a raccoon, but now I’m pretty sure it was Woody.

So anyway, I see this guy with his head stuck in the fence, much like little kids get their heads stuck in banisters. I saw him trying to get out, using his little clawed paws to push against the fence, but to no avail. I didn’t want to get near him (the pic was taken with my zoom lens) because I’m always freaked about rabies. I decided to call animal control to come and help him out, since I knew that their people would have experience with this kind of thing.

I hopped on the internet to find the number for the local animal control center, and couldn’t find it, but saw that most police departments handle this sort of thing. So I called our PD, told her that we had a woodchuck stuck in our fence. First thing she asked is if it was alive, which I guess makes sense - being the difference of having someone clean up vs. someone to battle with the beast. She asked for my address, and said that someone would be over.

Not more than 10 minutes later, the doorbell rang and a police officer was there. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I think I was expecting someone in a full, padded body suit, like the ones you see on TV where people are training attack dogs. This cop was just wearing his regular uniform.

I led him to the backyard and he once again asked if it was still alive, and I said yeah. When we came out and he saw him, the woodchuck wasn’t moving so I thought maybe he had died, but then he started blinking so I knew there was still hope. The cop looked at Woody and said, “Man, how’d he get stuck in there like that?!?” It was this comment that started me thinking that this was going to be pretty interesting.

As Ben and I stayed on the top deck, Easy on the Eyes Officer 1 put on his long, thick, animal proof gloves. (had to mention that he was easy on the eyes because seriously, I have yet to see a cop in my hood that’s your stereotypical donut loving chubster) He stared down at Woody for a bit, and tried to put his hand on Woody’s head to push it back through the hole. Woody wasn’t having any of that, though, and started to squeal and growl, basically going apeshit ballistic and trying to bite. This caused us all to jump back a bit. It was then that I noticed the raw skin on the back of Woody’s neck, making me believe that he’d been there much longer than the early morning since all his fur had rubbed off from where he was stuck.

From my deck I could see that the cop parked in the parking lot next to us, and saw another cop car pull up. Thinking that this Saturday morning was probably a slow one for crime, I still found it a little funny that they sent in two squad cars to take care of a woodchuck.

So Officer 2 comes in the backyard, asks, “How’s he get stuck like that?” and tells Officer 1 to just push Woody’s head through the hole, and we tell 2 that Woody’s fiesty and isn’t making it easy. Officer 1 tried tucking back Woody’s ears, but that didn’t work and Woody just got angrier. “There’s so much fur!”

By now, this thing is totally turning comical, with these two young policemen trying to figure out how to get this fat woodchuck out of the hole, and Ben on the deck saying, “Help him! He’s stuck!” and “Where’s the police?” Finally, Officer 1 asks if he could just saw some of the wood out to get Woody free, so I go in the basement to get a saw. As I’m in the basement, Dave’s dad was talking to the cop out the window and telling him that he bites.

I come back to the backyard and Officer 2 is still trying to give Officer 1 ideas on how to get the woodchuck out. I hand 1 the saw and he looks at the fence. Thinking that there might be some carnage, I tell Ben to look away. I know that the thought of just killing the woodchuck and taking his lifeless carcass out crossed all our minds (except Ben, he just wanted to feed the thing). Then Officer 2 tells Officer 1 to try and pull off one of the wood slats, rather than cutting into it.

Officer 1 tries that, and with a loud *pop* and an “Ugh!” of effort, pulled off a slat of wood.

…and Officer 2 runs away.

It was hilarious! I guess he thought (as did we all) that as soon as that woodchuck got free, he’d go all crazy and kill us all, so when Officer 1 got the piece of wood out, Officer 2 just booked it outta there. However, Woody didn’t get it. As soon as that piece of wood was out (the bottom left piece of wood in the picture), he tried desperately to move forward, which he didn’t have room to do. Me and Officer 1 were both giving Woody encouragement, like, “Go! Run to freedom! Backwards! Back it up! You’re free!” but it took him a while figure it out and I know that Officer 1 was thinking to himself, “Damn, what if this thing goes after me? I don’t have a full, padded body suit!”

Finally, Woody figured that if stepped backwards he would be free, and as soon as he did that, he scampered back to his burrow under our second deck. We all jumped back at this because he was so freakin’ fast, and I immediately picked up Ben and put him back in the house, which he wasn’t too happy about. Officer 1 came up the stairs to get my name for his report, and we all (including Officer 2, who had come back from wherever he was hiding to see Woody’s scamper to freedom) had a good laugh about the whole situation, and I *think* I said thanks for the help, but really, things were going so fast by then I have no idea what happened.

So thanks, Officer 1 and Officer 2, for coming by to help a woodchuck in need, not killing him, giving me a good laugh for a Saturday morning and letting Ben have a grand adventure.

Ben and His Friends

It’s been a couple weeks since we got back from Disneyworld, and I’m putting up pictures in record time. I took about 1400 pictures, which I narrowed down to about 200 to post my flickr.

Ben was really excited to go to Disney to meet his favorite characters, especially Mickey Mouse, who we managed to see several times while we were there. Going to Disney this time around was very different - in my other trips there we only saw characters when we were walking around, but this time we made an effort to see them. Ben loved seeing the characters - he developed a little routine when he saw them - say “hi”, say “cheese” to take a picture, give a hug, give a hi five and go. Most kids had autograph books, but we decided he was a little young for them…maybe next time.

So here’s my first set of pictures to share, enjoy!

With Pluto Meeting His Idols Mickey and Friends With Buzz Lightyear With Chip and Dale
Hugs for Chip and Dale With Goofy Donald's Little Follower With Donald With Mickey
A Mickey Hi-Five With Daisy Hugs for Daisy With Baloo and King Louie Hugs for Baloo
With Bears With Pooh With Eyeore With Tigger Tigger Hi-Five
With Stitch With Lilo Hawaiian Mickey Breakfast Parade With Pluto
Dancing with Lilo Hugging June With June and Quincy With McQueen and Mater With Handy Manny
Hi Fiving Frozone With Frozone With Bolt and Rhino    

If you’d like to see all my Disneyworld photos (which also has descriptions), you can see them here

Christmas Pictures!

Christmas was a little different this year. Since Dave was backup for work, we couldn’t attend our annual family Christmas, so we just stayed longer at his family party (which isn’t as far from the hospital as where my family party was). Ben scored a TON of presents, though his favorite was the Betty Crocker food and pan set that I got him. We’ve got a little chef in the making! He got a lot of puzzles - he loves to figure them out, with our help, of course. He even got a present from his godfather’s dog - Brody. We also took our annual family pictures - it was pretty funny this year since we tried to get Brody in some of the pictures. It was easy to get Brody to sit still, not so easy to get Ben to do the same! My dad, step-mom and sister also came to the party, and it was great to have them there. They left a little later on to go to the other party. I missed the big family shindig - going to midnight mass, coming back to the house with piles and piles of presents waiting, someone playing santa and handing them out, then opening the presents in one big flurry of ribbons and wrapping paper.

I tried starting a new tradition at our house - leaving cookies and milk for Santa. Ben didn’t really care for it much, but he was pretty excited when he woke up on Christmas morning to see that Santa had brought him presents - one of his favorite puzzles that he always plays with at the library and a Little Einsteins musical instrument set. He had asked Santa for “bells” and I think what Santa gave him was pretty close.

We then headed out to what was left of my family party (because you may remember that my family parties are often a 2 day affair). Ben had another load of presents to open there, including a remote controlled robot from his other godfather. He’s a little young to play with it (it’s made for 6 year olds) so us big kids got a kick out of trying to figure out the 30 key remote and chasing the little kids with it. Later on, Fata busted out her new Monopoly game - one that doesn’t use fake money…it uses credit cards and little credit card machine. It was pretty cool - well, VERY cool since for the first time, I actually WON a monopoly game. The game is really fun when you’re the one getting all the money!

So here’s my pictures from the holiday…I’ve got a lot more from our activities after Christmas, which I’ll post later. (hover in the top corners to go to the next picture)

With Mickey Silly Faces With Cousins 122708_ 113 The Puzzle Master
The Estacios The Felicianos Best Friends Look At Those Lips! Brothers
Alone Time with Hippo This is Her Trademark Face Winky The Food, Pt. 1 The Food, Pt. 2
Joking Around He's a Big Kid Sparkly Pooped! Listening to Music

For more pictures, check out my flickr set.

4th of July (Vote for Redpac!)

This is several months late, but there’s a point to all this…

In July, we went to Detroit (well, a little bit outside of it) to visit Claudine and Dan for 4th of July weekend. Their neighbor across the street always puts on a good fireworks show. It was a pretty awesome show, except for the time that the cops came by and told them to stop. No big accidents, just a little law breaking. We had a great time, and some DELICIOUS bratwurst that Dan picked up while driving around in Ohio.

What was pretty cool is that Dan got his party sponsored by Greased Lightning. He got a party kit, complete with plates, napkins, t-shirts, foam lightning bolts, temporary tattoos - all the fixings for a fun party. All he had to do was submit a video to enter their contest. So click on this link to see (and vote for) the video that was made - that’s Johnny and Frank singing Greased Lightning, and my sister Fatima who’s spelling out the words with sparklers (I took the pictures). Make sure you vote for Dan’s video to win!!!

Here’s all the letters strung together:

Greased Lightning

Here’s more pictures from the weekend:

Redpac's Beer Stash Ice Wine is Awesome Tambourine Boy Carnivore Heaven The Band
Playing for Food Our Heavenly Bratwurst He Likes Rocker Chicks Party People II
Party People Fireworks Party's Over! The After Party With Lolo
Making S'mores See Steve Jump Disco Dancing Sparkler Circle Playing with Sparklers

Autumn Leaves

One of the things I loved doing as a kid, walking home from school, was listening to the rustling of leaves as my feet shuffled through. I think it’s something that’s built into our brains - see leaves, run through, throw them in the air. Yesterday Dave and his dad got to work on raking the leaves in the backyard. Dave’s dad brought over Justin’s dog Brody, who eventually had to be tied to the hammock because he was getting too crazy. Ben was getting a little crazy as well, running from pile to pile and later picking up bunches of leaves and throwing them into the air. He was in heaven.

Simple things like that make for wonderful memories.

Seeing His Work Undone Walking Through the Leaves With His Best Friend Rolling
Clearing off the Hammock Diving in the Pile Helping Out Keeping an Eye on Him
Overhead Shot Leaves in the Air, in the Face Brody Gets a Leaf Shower He's Coming for Me!

Two Weddings, Whirlyball, Disney and a Pumpkin

Last weekend was a BUSY weekend - I knew that it was going to be a marathon, but it was seriously exhausting.

It started off on Friday with a trip to Woodfield. We decided to eat at Red Robin and ran into an old friend from college, some we hadn’t seen in more than a decade. It’s weird to run into people from college now - before when it would happen, it would be at clubs or bars and we’re out socializing anyway. Now, we’re at the mall or eating dinner at family joints and we’re introducing our spouses and kids. We then spent the rest of our time there hanging out at the Lego store.

Saturday morning I overslept, which made me off for the rest of the day since I had a plan for what I was going to do. After getting the family fed and Ben ready for his grandparents (where were taking him for the day) I was able to get ready. Dave was on call that day, so he was stuck at home while I made my rounds.

First off was Deo and Laura’s wedding. I actually got to the wedding on time, and it was a quick, beautiful ceremony. There were a lot of people from college there, it was nice to see people and catch up a bit. I got a little nostalgic during the ceremony, remembering how young we all were and now most of us were married, with kids or with kids on the way. Life goes by so fast!

Right after Deo’s wedding, I drove back home, changed into a t-shirt and jeans, put my hair up and ran back out to head out to Tall Steve’s whirlyball birthday celebration. I love whirlyball…I would say it’s my best sport. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically lacrosse played on bumper cars. It takes a bit for beginners to figure out how to maneuver the cars (because it’s not your normal bumper car steering wheel) and learning how to score (it’s easier to score with a gentle flick of the wrist than to whip it at the target), but once you figure that out, and how important teamwork is to win the game, you can be a master! Its a lot of fun and a great way to bring people together. We played a lot in X-Systems. Anyway, it was Tall Steve’s big “really old” birthday party, and it was nice to see old faces lugging around their new babies.

We left whirlyball early (after 1 too many games, but what could I do, we went into overtime!) to go home and change. My sisters came over and we all quickly changed, got into my car, and headed for Chinatown. We ran into some frustrating traffic on the way (why?!? it’s saturday!) but got to the Vince and Kim’s reception before too many people were there (Fata was in charge of bringing the wishing well for cards). Luckily, Claudine and I found some pretty good, legal parking on the main street. Although we’d been to Furama many times before - mostly for parties, this was our first Chinese wedding. Ten courses is a LOT of food! It was pretty much delicious (except for the cauliflower/broccoli in sauce - but veggies aren’t my thing). It was a good time, with some great music. By the end of the night my feet were aching and I was exhausted!

Whew - that was just one day!

On Sunday, we went to church, then headed home and watched the first quarter of the Bears game which ROCKED! Then we headed out with my cousin and her kids to see “Disney Playhouse Live!“. At first, we couldn’t tell if Ben was having a good time - he was so serious and intense as he was watching the show, he didn’t move at all and didn’t want to be touched. But then when intermission came, he yelled, “More!” and after we told him they were coming back, he kept on pointing to the stage and saying, “They’re coming back soon!” He was so happy and active during intermission, but as soon as the lights went down, he was back into serious statue mode. In the end, he loved it. He kept on talking about it and asking if we could go back to the show.

photo by gavin.fulmer

After stopping home for a bit, we went to my cousin Trully’s place for our annual cousin pumpkin carving night. Every year (except for last year, I think) we get together to carve pumpkins. This year was our best turnout every - we had about 16 people (not counting half people) come with 11 pumpkins carved. Carving pumpkins is pretty hard work, and we had joked that we didn’t have to use pumpkins as an excuse to get together - it was too tiring! However, I think it’s something that we all look forward to at this time of the year. We didn’t even bother with the kids - we just let them run around and fend for themselves.

Cleaning out the Insides Working on the Template Ready to Connect the Dots Dave Carves Taking Extra Care Marilyn's Posse
Ghost in the Graveyard Vampire Chick Alien Fata's Bats Little Reaper Bats
Pumpkin Face Grim Reaper Evil Clown Frankenstein Stitch 102008_ 120

So it was a pretty busy weekend for us! I’ve got a lot more pictures from Deo and Kim’s weddings, I’ll post them up eventually. (meaning probably never, but we’ll see!)