Monthly Archives: April 2012

When Good Shall Triumph Evil

By: Clare

Lice is a bit of a problem. I don’t like lice. I’ve never had lice, and I most certainly do not want lice. Ever. So when I was informed quite abruptly last weekend that my dear nieces and nephew have been dealing with this problem for the last couple of weeks, I was a bit conflicted. I always look forward to spending Sunday afternoon playing with them…but who wants to tell your freshman class you’re out of school because you have…lice? Not me. Thankfully, I was informed that the kids had been treated again, and they should be done with the pesky bugs. But I was still wary. Oh, was I ever.

As I slowly made my way downstairs, I was immediately caught in a circle of possible-lice candidates. And was it just me, or were they being more friendly than usual just to make me uncomfortable? Poor little Antonia wanted desperately for me to pick her up.

All of the kids were enjoying running outside in the semi-warm weather. I say semi because it definitely was not…well, not exactly leotard-wearing weather…as demonstrated by little Adeline.

Adeline has cut her own hair into an expertly styled mullet. She is almost a professional hair stylist at this point. Ask her dolls.

Speaking of hair we had our own little hair cutting party in the front yard. Complete with barking dogs and screaming children.

But when all the madness dies down, and the fear of lice subsides, order and elegance are left. In the form of tea parties.

We’re lucky enough to grown our own lemonbalm in our garden, meaning homemade lemonbalm tea!

So away Little Claire and I went, on our way to the garden to retrieve some fresh lemonbalm. Claire was fully equipped with her vintage white and purple apron to hold the lemonbalm…

Up through the garden path she paraded with her apron full of green..

From there on the lemonbalm was given a place on our long, Amish-made dinner table to be sorted through by a pair of small, determined hands..

while I set out my great-grandmother’s dainty china.

Within 15 minutes our tea was served, along with some raisin bread, and of course, cream and sugar.

Three scoops of sugar? Yes, indeed.

Cheers to elegance overcoming…lice.

See, good always triumphs over evil, sometimes it just takes a bit..

The Pride of Bloomfield

by Kate

Once upon a time, my brother Rob met a very tall young man from far away California who read the poems of Pablo Neruda in Spanish, played the electric guitar, talked a blue streak, and went to mass on a regular basis.

Hmmn, thought Rob. I know a tall harp playing fast talking girl that this guy might want to meet.

And so, flagrantly violating the Guy Code, Rob introduced his new friend to his big sister… and the rest was history.

Obviously, Rob approved of this tall young man. In fact all five of my brothers approve of my now husband far more than they approve of me. But that didn’t mean that they went entirely easy on him.

Oh, testosterone. It’s a strange and potent thing. It was definitely testosterone that prompted my husband-to-be to challenge my oldest brother Gabe, who had been bodybuilding as a hobby for years, to a wrestling match at his bachelor party two nights before our wedding. To prepare for this epic and dangerous match, my future husband began to dabble in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu a couple months before the wedding arrived. Now, two months of jiu jitsu is not really ample preparation for a slender musician to grapple with a testosterone crazed former bar brawler with the physique of a young ox, but somehow he made it through the fight alive, though narrowly escaping with both eyes, as Gabe wasn’t adequately prepared for the relatively civilized world of MMA, where eye gouging is not allowed. In the end, my now husband survived the fight, got the girl, and went on to pursue a serious study of Jiu Jitsu, earning his blue belt last year.

and ensuring that his brother-in-laws now have no interest in grappling with him, ever again. That’s ok. He’s got lots of other guys to grapple with.

The reason I’m telling you this story today is that my husband is not only a great husband, father, musician, teacher and blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu- he’s also a talented aspiring film-maker, and today marks the debut of his recent short film about a local MMA fighter named Mark Cherico. Mixed martial arts may not be your favorite subject in the world, and it’s certainly not mine, but I found this piece beautiful and strangely engrossing. It’s also a great homage to the Italian neighborhood of Bloomfield, where I spend much of my time at an amazing dance studio. If you’ve got 8 minutes to spare, do yourself a favor and watch Casey’s debut film. You won’t regret it. Without further ado, here is the link:

The Pride of Bloomfield: Mark Cherico Pro Debut

A Pregnant Pose

by Kate

What better way to prove that I do indeed look pregnant than to pose in front of a colorful Pittsburgh mural featuring the largest pregnant woman I could find? Here I am, at 20 weeks, not quite as large as the giant blossoming lady… but getting there.

See? Totally showing. And being pummeled from within on a regular basis. And still (trying to) dance.

Bright, light.

by Kate

This week marks the midpoint of my pregnancy. I celebrated this milestone with a trip to the thrift store. After a full month of wearing beat up low cut jeans with a rubber band strung through the frayed buttonhole on my more sophisticated days and regularly fighting the temptation to wear pajama pants in public, it was time to admit that I needed maternity jeans. In the dressing room, I pulled on a pair and then threw my arms to the sky in exultation. Why, I wondered, did I hesitate so long? In fact, why does anyone wear anything other than maternity pants with a soft elastic waist, ever?! I will know the answer to this a few months hence, but for now I am reveling in dowdy luxury.

Except on formal occasions, like the Legends of Raq Bellydance show I attended last night with my toddler as my date.  On formal occasions, my current policy is to keep dowdiness at bay with brightly printed dresses and high heels- four inch high orange wedges, in this case. Because every six foot tall pregnant woman lugging a squirming 40 pound toddler to a late night live dance show needs high heels.

I do love those shoes. I saw them at Target last week and reached out for them, powerless to resist. I figured they would elevate my maternity style, both figuratively and literally, and I really think the knowledge that I possessed them gave me the courage to reach for the maternity jeans again. Everything else we are wearing came straight from a long and productive morning at the South Side Salvation Army. My maxi dress was inspired by my gorgeous sister-in-law Nicole, who is also six foot tall and due to have her baby any time in the next two weeks, and the general explosion of color was inspired by my husband, who recently informed me that wearing all black at all public events is not always sophisticated and is often boring, and also by my bright curly haired toddler who is VERY proud of her fingernail polish and was a delightful date at the dance show.

And finally, my recent sartorial brightness is definitely a result of the spring and the flowers and the light pouring into the world. The world is bright, these days.

Mirror, Mirror

by Kate

Once upon a time, I lived in a cabin high up a rugged and rutted gravel road on a green Appalachian mountainside. The cabin was one room with a wall of windows where I could watch the clouds roll in and away again. I was in my mid twenties, had a job I loved, and had just begun taking my first serious dance classes. Late one night, hopelessly lost in the back streets of downtown Asheville, I pulled into a parking lot to figure out how to find my way home, and saw the glint of several huge mirrors that had been ripped out of a hotel renovation project and left out for the trash collectors. Any new dancer knows that a good mirror is crucial to private study, so I enlisted a friend to load them up and haul them to my home. The first one shattered, and the top of the second developed a jagged edge, but we managed to wrestle two of them into the vehicle, over the mountains, and into my life.

After a year in my solitary mountain studio I became a city girl, living in the heart of downtown Asheville. My mirrors came with me.

When my sister Mary visited the big city, the mirrors witnessed our sister spats and ridiculous bouts of Goodwill inspired dress up.

My mirrors reflected the transformation in my life after I met the tall half Mexican guitarist who would quickly become my fiance, and served as the backdrop for the pictures and stories that got us through a year of long distance engagement.

And when I married and moved across the country to the smoky grey industrial city of Pittsburgh, the mirrors came with me, adding light and beauty to the dark apartment where we spent our first year of married life.

There is a mysterious and magical quality to those silvery mirrors, doubling and deepening the light in any room and transforming any space into something more. But oh, those jagged edges and the sheets of heavy glass balanced precariously against my wall. My toddler loves to dance in front of those mirrors, for hours… and that is why it is time for those mirrors to exit my life. I’m listing them on craigslist, today, in the free section, in hopes that some young artist with a big truck to transport them and a studio with no children wants to spirit them away. Meanwhile, I’m headed out to the thrift stores, in search of a safer sheet of glass to reflect my current life, which is still full of dancing and dress up- and now includes small dancing dressed up children as well.

Ladies, Babies, and Little Girls

By Mary

A few weeks ago a stack of pink envelopes with baby shower invitations were sent out to invite people to Nicole’s “Surprise” baby shower. Neither my mother nor myself are particularly shower throwing nor going people. However, having one in honor of the newest addition to the family seemed like a most fitting thing to do for Nicole as a gesture of our love and support to her, and as a way for her to score some useful new things that the baby can put to good use. Before Nicole came over for a supposed visit with me; Clare, Mom and I banished the males from the house and got ready for the party. There was much cleaning to do. Naturally, I was more inclined to focus on the flowers and food than scrubbing floors and doing dishes.

My sister Clare made signs for the food.

My niece Claire made signs for Nicole.

After a frantic morning of cleaning and putting the finishing touches on the quilt that Mom and I have been working on together, things were in functioning order.

Ladies, girls and babies started showing up. The guest of honor coincidentally had her mother in town for the week. What a fantastic addition it was to have Elaine Naugle celebrating Nicole’s soon to be motherhood with us.

A special guest was this little one. Pearl Rose was born to my friend, Mary Marks only a few weeks ago. Isn’t she just a gem of a baby?

A bonus of having a spring shower is enjoying the weather.

Time spent outside in the clean spring sunshine was enjoyed by many.

Well perhaps, not everyone. These girls look like they are having a lovely time. Though in reality, some hardcore Girl War was going on which included tears, cliques and eventually adult intervention. The solution? Dress up of course.

Once the costuming came outside, the fighting died down and imaginary games in the garden proceeded.

When Nicole opened the gifts, the girls all crowded at her feet and jostled for the honor of handing her the presents.

The dual efforts of Moms quilting and my experimental cross stitching was revealed.

Before we knew it, the gifts were all unwrapped, the ice cream, scones and brownies were melting or gone, and there was a trail of dress up clothing lining the garden path. Soon enough the afternoon hours were dissipating and it was time for the ladies, girls and babies to head back to their homes. The only one that stayed firmly put is the little one in Nicole’s womb. Very soon though, he or she will be just as physically visible as the rest of and it will be fun to meet Nicole’s non-baby shower “surprise”. The question is, will it be  Felicity or a Lucus? Time will tell!

Sooner Sister

By Mary

Nearly one year ago I flew to Oklahoma to spend a few days with Nicole before she officially joined the Slattery family and relocated from her Oklahoma roots to the soil of the mid-west, here in central Wisconsin.

After an April wedding, and a May honeymoon in Texas, Nicole settled both herself and her worldly possessions into the apartment that she shares with Robert in Saint Joseph’s Ridge.

St. Joseph Ridge is an unincorporated town running along Hwy 33 with a population of about 500 people. Oklahoma City may be a larger city than little St Joe’s; with it’s population being around 600,000. Even if you were to take a head count that included all the dairy cows surrounding the nearby pastoral area, St. Joe’s still would be a far cry from the census count of Oklahoma’s densely packed city and metro area.

Over the past year, Nicole has done a fantastic job of adjusting to the cold northern winter, to the dark earth, and to the lifestyle and ways of our clan. After the full four seasons cycle, she’s been inundated.

Despite the inundation, there are drawbacks to living in such a rural area. Making friends can be quite a challenge. Back home my Sister-In-Law was accustomed to being surrounded by a group of classy suburban southern friends who she could watch TLC and buy snow cones with. Here we don’t even sell snow cones, and she has to watch sports with Robert instead of TLC.

Nicole did more than bring her material things to Wisconsin though. She also brought with her a wonderful sense of humor and a Sooner heart that is full of love, and open to both humor and adventure. Growing up in the Bible Belt, I bet she never imagined living a life in the Midwest as the wife of a carpenter. I know she always imagined having lots and lots of babies, but really, I dare to say she probably would have thought about having experience like the urine jug saga. I doubt she ever thought that pregnancy pictures such as these would be taken after the traditional post Easter Vigil powwow at Leo and Leona’s.

Initially I must state, this little impromptu photo shoot was designed to highlight the heels she was wearing (she knew it would make Kate proud). However, I got a little carried away and decided that my water chugging Sister needed to show off how fantastically photogenic she is. What better place is there to take pregnancy pictures than behind the bar?

Of course one picture is not enough: especially when the bartender wanted in on the shoot.

Even with her pioneer sooner spirit, Nicole got a bit overwhelmed by the last invisible shoe shot. Maybe it was just baby related acid reflex, I dunno….

After last weeks pow-wow I owe that sister-in-law something special. She’s made life here more complete, and I hope that I have made her life here a bit more full too. If only I liked TLC and was able to buy snow cones…..

Chinese Ping-Pong Torture

By: Clare

As the weather warms, outdoor activity becomes tolerable again, and each family member finds their own amusement in the outdoors. Mary is usually in the garden, or in her room having her daily “Heartland” marathon. Have any of you ever watched Heartland?

If “yes”, oh boy, please, Mary would delight in hearing your opinion. If “no”, please, don’t start. Because you will never stop. You’ll quickly become engrossed  in Amy and Ty’s complicated relationship (which Mary and I, serious anti-hopless romantics unlike some certain other two Slattery sisters, can not stand). You’ll laugh with Malorie, the spunky, silly neighbor, and you’ll laugh AT Lou, the dramatic, ridiculous, city sister. Oh, wow, whaddya know? I think I know someone who matches that city sister description quite well. Are you thinking what I’m thinking?  Anyway, you’ll hear more on Heartland later, I’m sure.

My personal  favorite outdoor activity would be violently thwacking a tennis ball against the front of the house. This is torture to all those inside the house, but I hear screams and shouts of frustration and intensity coming from the back of the house…what could this be? Only one thing. Ping-pong.

Summer is fast approaching. Meaning ping-pong mania. Crazy ping-pong mania. In which my mother mysteriously disappears from the kitchen and is found in the barn….lured there by none other than one of her very own sons.

Visitors are frequent to the Slattery farm, and believe me, the screams don’t stop for guests. I’ve never actually heard this, but I can imagine. Upon hearing the screams over and over they might ask, “Pray, tell me, what IS going on behind your house??” Dad answers. “Oh, just a ping-pong match. It’s pretty popular in our family. Almost as popular as it is in China.” Visitor: “Chinese, you say? Sounds like some kind of torture to me…we prefer Chinese water torture at our house…” Because that’s the kind of visitors who come to our house. Just innocent organic farmers..or are they?

Mom is a huge ping-pong fan, and she’s quite good at it, as is our father. They’ve successfully passed that trait onto their sons. Oh, yes they have daughters too, who together make up the Sweetridgesisters. As far as I know, none of us girls have developed much of that ping-pong talent.

Actually, I’m lying, I could be quite decent if I tried, it’s just the learning process of ping-pong that I can’t take. Unlike my brothers, I don’t have the patience to practice the spins of the paddle and the twists of the wrist. I am not a patient person, and I don’t practice until I get right. I get it right the first time, or the second, or the third, and if not I am done. Yes. I am occasinally a spoiled brat. Youngest of nine kids. At least I admit it.

But when I do occasionally trudge out to the barn behind our house for a game, I am then left to play against “the masters”, a.k.a, the people have taken the time to work on their skills and are now going to completely crush me. This is where the innocent little game becomes torture for me.

I am a sore loser. This is true. Extremely. I cannot stand to lose. And that’s the whole deep dark secret behind why I abstain from ping-pong. Because of what happens when I lose. When its 20-10 I hit the tiny, round, hollow, plastic ball harder. And then I lose control. The ball rolls away, across the floor. I chase it, but I just can’t catch it! Away it rolls and then STOMP! I smash my foot, hard, and stop the ball. Well, R.I.P. ping-pong ball, you’re squashed. This has happened several times. Torture, it is.

I can just imagine, one day they’ll have a news article on this newfangled type of torture, and they’ll interview me.  And I’ll say, ” There I was, with the barn doors shutting me in. I’m down, 20-12. I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but then the ball rolled off the table and down the barn stairs. The stairs.” Hopefully I’ll get some sympathy.

And so the next time I go out to the barn, I’ll see that ping-pong ball rolling away, floating effortlessly across the floor, laughing at me. It’s saying, “Come catch me, Clare, come and get me! You can’t! You can’t catch up with me! I’m just like that mean old gingerbread boy you hated so much in the storybook when you were young. I’m mean!”

And I’ll say, “Yes, Little Ping-Pong Ball, you are.”


by Kate

Happy Easter from Pittsburgh!

On the night before Easter, my (gorgeous) sister in law Nicole lamented her fate as she attempted to find the best Easter dress to put on a nine month pregnant body. As someone who once attended Easter Mass the day before delivering a baby, I definitely sympathized. I told her my theory involved very high heels and very bright prints. Ideally, a dramatic hat finishes the outfit nicely. Sadly, none of my hats matched the brightly printed dress I chose for my four month pregnant frame this year, but I like to think that my fuchsia heels made up for the missing hat.

Olympia was brightly dressed as well, though somewhat less than perfectly behaved. Suffice it to say we sat in the back pew.

Oh, the excitement of attending a long mass with a child who has just turned two, and then been given an Easter Basket.

It was a beautiful mass however, as I told my husband who missed most of it during a long chocolate fueled ramble through the neighborhood. And it was a beautiful Easter. We were invited to a party full of sunlight and champagne…

Argentinian empanadas and red wine…

Lots and lots of children….

And extremely photogenic babies.

The parents were pretty photographic as well.

I hope that your holiday was joyful, and peaceful, and bright. I’m off to steal more chocolate from my child’s Easter basket. It’s the right thing to do…. right?


This Spring

By: Clare

Sorry. It’s been quite a while hasn’t it. But, NO, actually, I haven’t fallen off the edge of the earth. Because that’s impossible. Some old genius with a big long beard proved it. At least that’s what they’ve taught me in school. School. That’s what I’ve been doing. And homework too. And lots of other things….like checking up on this very blog while I’m sitting in the computer lab supposedly working away on my research paper. School.

I’ve also been been outside.

I’ve been observing…..

Last spring, the plum trees bloomed in May.

This spring, the scent of plum blossoms has already begun to permeate our garden….and its only April!

Last spring’s tulips…

and last spring’s daffodils…

Can’t seem to compete with this year’s….

Last year our family celebrated spring with a familiar friend…

This spring, we celebrate with a new friend.

And this spring, I’m learning to appreciate beauty and change, and the joys of life.

Have a blessed Easter, everyone.