July 4, 2014
Owen, age 12
This amazing picture of summer fun in a fire hydrant popped up on my feed. I knew instantly that it had to be Chicago. I grew up in the Back of the Yards on the south side of the city, and open hydrants were as common as sunburns and ice cream trucks. I have memories of using the bathroom in the basement apartment of our two-flat because there was no water pressure up on the second floor where we lived. That’s what happens when just about every hydrant is open in a two mile radius. But more than that, I have so many memories of playing in the water–the whole street, even the kids that hated each other, having fun together. Good times.
I’m sure there are pictures somewhere of me and my brother and our friends in the hydrant on the corner of 50th and Laflin, but they’d be at my dad’s house. What I do have are some pictures of my kids in 2008 when the fire department opened the hydrant on the corner during our annual block party. The kids had so much fun, and I was taken right back to my childhood, as I bet many of the parents were because that’s how the South Side rolls in the summer.
The bleached-blond in the “Go Army” shirt is my oldest son (then 6 1/2). The cutie in glasses and the striped shirt is my middle daughter (then 5 1/2). And the adorable smiling face in pigtails is my youngest daughter (then 2). The rest are old neighbors and friends from the 5800 block of Tripp Ave on the southwest side.
We’ve since moved almost 2000 miles away to the Pacific Northwest where kids don’t know the joy of running barefoot without a care through the flooded streets. Or, you know, not being able to flush your toilet because there’s no water pressure.
My oldest daughter, Meagan, shared this picture on Facebook of her and three of her siblings in 2010 with this comment:
currently my favorite picture of all time. i wish jack was old enough at the time to get in on this, its just so darn cute. me and my lifelong friends. so thankful that i get to live and grow with my best friends
August 2010–we had just moved to this house a week before after a five-day, cross-country trek. In the back: Brenna (7 1/2) and Meagan (10). In the front: Owen (8 1/2) and Nora (4). Jack was a month old.
And here’s the most recent pic I have of all five of them together at Owen’s 8th grade graduation in June.
From left to right: Nora (1o), Owen (14), Jack (almost 6), Meagan (almost 16) and Brenna (13).
Here’s what else Meagan had to say about her siblings:
ive been around these kiddos forever. no matter who walks in n out of my life, these fuckers are the ones who will always stick. i dont even want to think of us all starting our own lives and separating. its scary. ive lived with them my whole life, i hate to think one day i might have a hard time getting ahold of them because we let distance or time get in the way
This from a girl that has always said she hates being at home because there are too many people in the house and she can’t stand any of us. I guess she’s getting wise in her “old” age.
I look at the second picture and can hardly believe these are my kids. Three teenagers–two of them in high school in the fall. Am I old enough to have a sixteen-year-old? When I think about them, I still picture those little kids in the first picture.
Or like this:
Brenna (15 months), Meagan (3 1/2) and Owen (2). So little.
Christmas this year was sparse to say the least. With my husband not working because of an injury, we’re surviving off of his meager worker’s comp. Thanks to food stamps we had a wonderful dinner on Christmas Eve with my dad and brother, but the real test was Christmas morning. I didn’t know how the kids would take getting only two gifts each (one from us and one from Santa).
I think my thirteen-year-old’s reaction sums it up: “Oh my god, this is so awesome; it’s exactly what I wanted. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
He got two small Lego sets that together equaled $30, and apparently, it was the best gift in the world. That was his Santa gift. From us he got a sweater and pants from Goodwill.
Having five kids is always tough money-wise. This past year has been a challenge. Having to admit we couldn’t do things on our own was tough–sitting in the waiting room at social services to get food stamps was a bit demoralizing. We’ve been getting by, though.
I worried about the disappointment I might see on Christmas. In all each kid got an outfit from Goodwill, pajamas, and a $30 gift, plus a couple small things in their stocking (each under $5). We also got two board games for the family which were on sale, and I have an amazing friend online that sent me $50 which I used to buy four movies. I thought about skipping the pajamas, but I’m glad I didn’t because my twelve-year-old wouldn’t leave me alone on Christmas Eve until I gave her hers, even though they weren’t wrapped. It’s a family tradition.
My fourteen-year-old got the least. Her pajamas were just bottoms, her outfit was just a top (with an IOU for pants later), and she got a gift card instead of a Santa gift. Her only comment: “I looked in my stocking and almost died; thank you for the coffee.” I got her a package of instant Starbucks coffee.
Watching them play with their Legos Christmas morning, I realized I was worried about nothing. My kids might be a huge pain in the ass a lot of the time, but when it counts, they are understanding and appreciative of what little they have. They know we’re poor and weren’t expecting much so they were excited for what they got. None of them even cared that their clothes came from Goodwill (might have something to do with the fact they got brands we could never afford from the stores).
We must be doing something right if two small gifts at Christmas made for one of the best Christmases ever.
My Halloween mini-album continues with Halloween 2012 and 2011 (2010 coming soon). These are so much easier to make then a full page, especially since I’m sticking to simple, matching designs. Designing the first page takes the longest. After that it’s a matter of duplicating the page and swapping photos/papers then rearranging them.
I got a bit of a bug up my butt earlier this week. For some reason, I just had to scrapbook something. I haven’t made a scrapbook page since 2010, but my brain insisted that this week I just must. I had forgotten how much fun it could be. Of course, it took away from my school work and the nine page paper I have to write.
I decided to do something small instead of a full 12 x 12 page. So I started with a 6 x 4 space and decorated it based on a scrapbook page I found at designerdigitals.com. At first I just did Nora’s, but I loved it so much I decided to do all the kids dressed in their Halloween costumes last year. The four mini-pages match with the same layout (the boys flipped horizontally), but in different colors that matched their costumes. I also made a lead page with all of them together. The plan is to take pictures from past Halloweens and make pages with them then print them and put them into one of those small photo albums.
Here’s the ultimate question: what do you remember most about your summers as a child?
Is it being chauffeured around town from one organized activity to the next? Did you spend an hour every day doing school packets for extra credit on the first day back? Did you get a couple hours at the park while Mom watched near-by lest anything happen?
If you’re my age, or born anytime before the mid to late 1980s, then probably not. Maybe you did do Little League or went on a scouting camp out, but you probably didn’t have a new activity to do every single day, the rest of the time spent supervised by an adult.
She says, ” I am done with all the forced smile-inducing, uber planned and supervised, over-the-top summer life experiences I am supposed to provide for my kids.” [her emphasis]
I hear ya, Melissa. Although I was just a baby at the end of the 1970s, I strive to give my kids the kind of summers I had in the 80s/90s. Her top 10 list matches mine pretty darn close. I’ll let her explain: Read more…