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Cookout 4 Cari 2022

After a 2 year covid hiatus we brought it back.

The kids wanted it, actually, so we made it happen.

And perhaps for the first time in 10+ years of hosting the weather was supposed to be nice and it actually stayed that way. Normally I don’t like looking at the forecast, even though I do (every day leading up to the party). And each year it goes from 80 and sunny to rainy and 60 to cloudy back to sunny and rainy and then the day of the party it changes again.

Some years we have rain then sun and maybe rain again. Some years it’s cool. Some years dreadfully hot. Once tornado sirens went off (2019). But never has it just been nice the entire time, at least I cannot remember a day like the one we had.

Per the usual in roughly 5 minutes, if that, the kids went through 500 water balloons!

Lots of people showed up too and we’re thankful for that. The first kids got there at noon and the last people left around 8:30 (I’m especially thankful for those who helped cleanup at the end)

This year we featured live music by Murph, an uber-talented friend from the past. We were super happy to have him play. It was different from the years of Frankie Ace Magic but many of the kids have grown so it’s different now. We also had snow cones, cotton candy & popcorn thanks to our neighbors 🙂 … and the usual bounce house which was occupied often by a bunch of teenage boys, and tent. We tried for a bags tournament but it never got organized so maybe next year …

The party setup isn’t too bad. But the couple hours before the party starts is madness. I cooked 30 sausages, 60 hot dogs, 80 wings, 30 hamburgers, pulled pork, fruit trays, pasta salads … and somehow got everything out and ready by about 1pm when the party was set to begin.

I was so hot after this I literally jumped in the neighbors pool with all my clothes on to cool off.

It’s an effort to coordinate and put this on but I think everyone who comes really enjoys seeing each other. Many of these people wouldn’t otherwise get together so it makes everything worth it.

I hardly had a chance to sit down. In fact I didn’t until near the end. I know I spoke with almost everyone but missed a few people for sure. It’s hard to get to everyone but I try.

And despite the huge uptick in covid in recent months we survived the event thanks to the neighborhood spread of it in April, I’m sure.

While we missed a number of faces this year that’s what happens … conflicting plans, illnesses, sports and just life sometimes gets in the way but we our always thankful to see those who come and are looking forward to next year 🙂

May 19th

Always such an emotionally draining day

At 15 and 13 years old grief is different

Both of them, without any input or direction from me, submitted a school writing assignment related to our loss

I’ve include below her poem. a poem about grief, her grief. His a narrative written from my perspective. I posted them on fb today. Tons of comments on both plus lots of tears I’m sure.

I am happy that they are able to express their feelings like this. I am sad that this is our story. But we are who we are because of it. They are two amazing kids. They are unique in their own way. They are smart, strong, talented, motivated, kind, compassionate, loving human beings. I love them with all my heart. They are my life. My love for them is unconditional.

A like years past we planted flowers at her tree
This year we ditched some school and made a picnic of it
85 & Sunny
It was a nice day
The tree’s getting pretty big
It lost a branch at some point over the years
The buddleia’s we planted have gotten big as well
At least the groundskeepers no longer weed wack them

From her …
putting grief into words.
it’s not the easiest thing to do
grief is dangerous
it’s something no one wants to deal with
it’s the stop light when everyone is honking at you to go
its your sleeves falling down as you are washing your hands
it’s something everyone deals with at some point
how do i open a hole in my heart where someone i love used to fill, left and never returned again
i wish that i could say grief has an end point,
That one day my heart won’t sink when i see us together on a screen,
or the darkness that overtakes my mind when i remember that she is gone.
no matter how hard i try,
there will never be a finish line for that pain to cross over,
and no one will ever replace her light
the only way to completely heal is to forget,
and forgetting is the last thing i want to do while grieving
i have to cry when i need to cry,
and heal in my own time
and I have to remember that there never really is an ending point
the pain will always be there,
lurking in the shadows,
waiting for the perfect time to come out
my goal in life was never to be content without her presence,
my goal is to take things one day at a time
and i have to remember that the gap between the two of us,
is only as far as it takes to reach her hand into my mind
and her smile, can always be found in any photo box

From him …
Our Happily Ever After
You Don’t Know What You Have Until It’s Gone

January 4th, 2006 was the day I got married to the most beautiful woman in the world. Cari Lyn Stevens. Well now Cook. She was my purpose in life. Life was perfect and then life got a whole lot better because on the day of February 8th, 2007 we had our first child. Ellie Lyn Cook. Lyn is Cari’s middle name. She was our only child for two years. Those two years were the best two years in my life up until January 22nd, 2009. That day my son was born Carson Robert Cook. Robert after my wife’s brother, Bobby and father, Robert.

Only 4 short months later on the 19th of May while Cari was crossing 47th and 8th with Ellie and Carson she was struck by a car. Killing her later that day. Carson had suffered a fractured leg. I felt as though my life was ruined. “What I remember most about Cari is how much she loved being a mom.””She also had an infectious laugh that anyone who knew her will never forget.”Since my wife was just killed there was only one thing I will ever want following this. It’s for my two kids to be happy.

I keep trying to pretend like nothing happened but there was only so long that Cari could be away. So today Ellie asked “Where’s mommy?” and I thought about how to respond. I couldn’t think of anything except the truth. I explained everything. I explained how she is dead and how much her mommy loved her. The expression on her face killed me. As a normal human being but especially as her father. I can’t just sit there and watch her like this, so I get up and find a couple picture books. This worked for both of us. Ellie was still crying but now she was also smiling and laughing. To be honest, so am I. I can’t imagine how to tell Carson when he gets old enough to understand this.

The memories were fun to look back on, especially with my daughter. The only problem is that that won’t work forever. The problem is still that I don’t have a wife and my kids will never have a mother. Cari would want us to miss her. But she would want us to be together as a family even if it is without her. We have to move on and I have to be strong for my kids. They see their guardian broken. My kids are my life now. They have been since the day they were born but now they need me and I need them more than ever.

Eventually I went to visit Carolyn. My mother in law. I had to bring Ellie and Carson there before I went to work. Plus, I just had to see someone. She helped understand how God did it for a reason, and how it was meant to be. All of this happening has changed my life and perspective. She was the only one for me. I have a very very strong feeling that she will be my only love for life.

“If tears could build a stairway and memories were a lane, I would walk right up to heaven and bring you home again. No farewell words were spoken, no time to say good-bye, you were gone before I knew it and only God knows why. My heart still aches in sadness and secret tears still flow, for what it meant to lose you no one will ever know.” That is what it said on the back of her memorial card and they took the emotions and turned them into words. January 4th, 2006 was the day I got married to the most beautiful woman in the world. To this day, my life has never been the same and I don’t ever want it any other way.


I guess it’s been a while since I posted an update …

This recent April was a tough one. We had a nice family spring break vacation in Mexico. We left and returned midweek to get a cheaper flight. We were super cautious of covid. We had to take a test to return. We got back on a Wednesday. The kids returned to school Monday and by Friday he was sick with it. Likely picked up at school, I was sick next and then she was. He missed a week of school plus a long holiday weekend. She missed a week of school along with a few softball games. It would have been helpful if we all had it at the same time but instead it was more like one right after the other. That made for a long month. It’s mostly just cold like symptoms though so it’s kind of crazy they’re forced out of school for days when other contagious illnesses aren’t treated the same.

He turned 13 this past January! He’s super active in Taekwondo (competing in a state and regional tournament and qualifying for nationals but he’s headed to camp that week). He made the junior high volleyball team and they won their conference but didn’t place in a district tournament, losing to a tough school. Plus he’s busy with soccer as well.

She turned 15! She made the HS softball team! She’s one of two pitchers on the team and has really improved these past few months. Despite missing time with covid she’s continued to improve. We’ve played some really talented teams but she continues to battle, not always succeeding, but always competing.

School is almost over for the two of them. For me it’s sort of flown by, especially when it comes to the 1st year of HS. Only 3 more and she’s off to college and in just another year he’ll be in HS too. Crazy!

For me, after a year of hoping to get a client’s startup off the ground only to be stalled by months of legal wrangling, and a separate minor web startup of my own which requires capital to really make a dent, I’ve landed with another client. Whereas my past long term client wasn’t a consulting company (although they should have managed the business like one) this is a true consulting company and I’m hoping to run with this one for a while. Mostly it’s features and fixes to existing applications now, but that stuff is pretty easy and no big deal. As long as it pays the bills…

Now, I’d consider myself a very laid back non-confrontational person. I don’t care for toxic people. I’m annoyed by micromanagers. I believe everyone should have the right to make decisions for and about themselves. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I think people commenting on the internet provide no benefit to anyone. I believe that being angry about anything is so energy intensive and a waste of time. I try to live each day to it’s fullest and avoid sweating the small things. But then comes a local family who falls into the category of toxic. The wife is known to many as being unfriendly. Neighbors of theirs are quick to say that yelling is the norm in their household. So when the wife decided to unleash that unfriendliness on me I chose to fire back. What she began with as a negative e-mail campaign to a group of people turned into a verbal yelling match. Following by less than friendly e-mails from the husband. I could care less about the whole ordeal. They’re ugly people with hateful personalities. They are not my friends. If I run into them it’s rare. But the family won’t let up. They continue to send nasty e-mails (thankfully they’re writing it down, what dumbasses). I want to fire back in e-mail but I know better. What I would say would probably be polite and sarcastic and only piss them off more. So I let it be. Maybe one day this family, this whole family, will learn it’s better to be kind than hateful? Maybe, but probably not…

Fall Updates …

When nearly 3 months pass and I haven’t posted anything … ugh

A July & August at the Lake … sunflowers, wakeboarding, fishing (or lack thereof) + grandpa went fishing, friends, & family, no blue bird eggs, gnats, sunsets, biking, a broken trailer …

Sports … softball, dance (and then no dance), soccer, taekwondo, and now ice hockey

Starting High School & Junior High

Our garden … mostly a success

Caterpillars and Butterflies

70th Birthday


@ the Lake … the Felten’s & Price’s (so nice to see each other and for the kids to hang out), the Hancock’s, Pantojas’ and Banach’s (finally) and although we didn’t overlap much we did find a way for everyone to see each other for part of a day (and again the kids getting to hang out with each other … awesome), we finally got one Kielczynski out there plus Christian, the Duarte boys too and then the Cook family @ the end of the summer.  We went to a sunflower farm which was super cool.  Went bike riding on the Jane Addams for a second year and as is now potentially tradition got some ice cream at Union Dairy on the way home (we thankfully didn’t kill the car battery this year, but the Pantojas’ did ride with a flat trailer tire making for a slightly more difficult bike trip).  Some of the kids tried out wake boarding.  Some succeeded, some didn’t.  In mid July the fish just stopped biting.  It was a total bummer.  We went from catching a dozen in an hour to maybe one or two.  I even got Grandpa out on the boat, twice, but he didn’t catch anything.  Darn.  I on the other hand caught 3 one day with him, even a big bass trolling back to the marina.  The axle on the trailer broke mid summer, just as the depth/fish finder arrived and began working.  Thankfully our talented Grandpa came to the rescue, found a replacement part, drove out to the lake and replaced it in the matter of one day.  That was pretty awesome!  We didn’t see a ton of the Karam’s this summer because we weren’t on the same schedule but we still got to enjoy a number of days at their lakefront.  When the Pantojas, Banack & Hancock crew were all together, since there were 18 of us, the Karam’s were kind enough to let us use their lakefront and we all enjoyed the day there.  Back at our house, our blue bird homes ended up housing wrens instead of blue birds but I suppose that’s perfectly fine 🙂  We discovered that the large vine going up one of the trees is a massive poison oak vine.  It’s seriously huge…not sure what we’ll end up doing with that thing.  I bought a new firepit, with wheels, and while the first fire was burning it rolled down the driveway, tipped over, and the fire fell out … fail 🙁 The driveway has some issues.  It’s our project for 2021 I suppose.  Every year there’s something.  But it’s sinking / cracking pretty bad in a few locations so we’re on the list to get those things fixed.  What else … oh, on labor day weekend with like 30 minutes until sunset I dragged the family back to the boat.  We barely made it to sunset but we did.  The gnats were swarming, so much so that the picture I took of grandma & grandpa was really good with the sunset behind them, just that 100’s of gnat happened to be swarming in front of them.   The last day we were there on Labor Day I pulled the boat out, parked it in the driveway and cleaned it up … it probably won’t go back in the lake this year 🙁  but I think the kids really enjoyed the upgrade (I don’t plan on buying another one any time soon).

Our garden … it was a pretty solid success this year.  Maybe 50-60 cucumbers.  100’s of cherry tomatoes.  A few sunflowers.  Green beans (I need to grow more next year).  Broccoli & brussel sprouts were failures.  Jalapeno’s, habanero’s, green peppers, various other tomatoes, mint, basil, a ton of dill, romaine lettuce, and some green onions also grew this year.  That’s a lot.  Maybe no brussel sprouts or broccoli next year.  Maybe more onions, some cilantro, definitely more green beans, maybe some sugar snap peas too.  The cucumbers though were such a success.  After a failure last summer it was nice to have so many again.

E made a local travel softball team, partly as a picture as well as an outfielder.  The experience is great.  I think it will really be beneficial come HS tryouts.  She’s got games each weekend plus one practice, then some softball at school as well as weekly lessons.  With homework mixed in.  An active social life.  Some babysitting too.  She’s super busy.  We tried to include dance in there but it just didn’t work, simply not enough time.  But she is still playing piano.  I asked that she do it until the end of Sophomore year and then she can decide what to do after that.

He’s playing soccer, doing taekwondo once or twice a week and recently picked up ice hockey.  He’s in a weekly youth group.  Playing piano.  In boy scouts, and playing the Euphonium too.  All that plus practices, games, homework and some time playing with friends … he’s crazy busy too.

This year we took 12 swallowtail caterpillars inside with a ton of dill and released 11 butterflies.  I don’t know if I thought it was cooler or the kids did, probably me …

And grandpa turned 70 this year 🙂

Hopefully that’s most everything for now …

Camp Owasippe

This week he’s away at boy scout camp for the first time. Camp Owasippe.  The same exact camp I went to when I was his age.

It’s not his first week away.  Except for last year he spent a week at Loras the previous 2 years.

The first year he was away he was only 9 yrs old 😐

I’m not sure why but for whatever reason this week away seems different.

It feels like I miss him more than I would have expected.  It just feels weird.

Maybe it’s because it’s the same camp I went to and all sorts of memories are coming back to me.

I remember the time sleeping in a old WWII canvas tent with mosquito netting.  We needed every edge of the netting closed otherwise more than one mosquito would be buzzing in our ears at night.

Maybe it’s the canoe races.  Or the sailing.  I don’t remember a whole lot more, however.  I do know that I ended up with stitches one year because I decided to run past a fallen tree which caught.  Funny though that today my parents don’t even remember this happening.  I have the scare to prove it, however.

Well, whatever reason it is I do miss him.  Crazy.  Fortunately they’re sending some nightly photos of the kids.  I can’t tell whether or not he’s having a good time.  It’s for sure been hot out these past couple of days.  But I’d really just love to get on a call with him and hear about his day.  I guess I have to wait until the end of the week for that …

In the meantime I was able to spend some extra time with her today.

I took her and a friend to a store on the north side then we grabbed a to-go lunch at a old dining spot in Lincoln Park followed by a visit to the WNDR museum.  We don’t often do things just the two of us.  Despite her having a friend with it was still nice to spend time with her.