Back in April of last year, I posted some photos of a new eye doctor place opening on York Street in the Elmhurst City Centre called Spex here on the blog.  If you walk by the place today, you'll see that they've rebranded to "MyEyeDr".

Spex is a chain - you can see the locations here - and so is MyEyeDr -  so I'm wondering if it is a franchise kind of thing?  And the folks in Elmhurst decided to go a different direction?    Here's the new page on the MyEyeDr page showing the Elmhurst location.  Whatever the reason, they've spent a lot of money in awnings in just a year and a half, amirite?
Here's my Presidential voting record.  You may not like it or agree with it, but here's what it has been since I was able to vote.  
  • 1996: First time being able to vote. Fall of Freshman year in college. Bob Dole. 
  • 2000: Just graduated and selling drywall screws. George Dubya Bush. 
  • 2004: In the thick of things working for Tom Cross and the Illinois House GOP. Re-elect Dubya. 
  • 2008: Just married. No kids. Voted for the patriot and honorable man despite Nat being all-in with BO. And, even in the face of 'you-know-who' as his running mate. Proudly voted John McCain. 
  • 2012: Two kids in the suburbs. Voted against the incumbent and hometown boy BO for Mitt Romney. 
Yep. That's right. 5 presidential elections. 5 straight Republican candidate votes for president.  Again, you may not like my votes, but that's what they've been.

Here in Illinois, you have to pick a party (or basically not vote by picking the non-partisan ballot) in the primary. If you wanted to look me up in the voter records, you'll find out that I haven't missed a primary election since I was 18 and have ALWAYS pulled the Republican primary ballot.

I also ran a few times and won the races for Republican Precinct Committeeman in my Township.  Yeah. Seriously.  I put my time and effort in supporting candidates locally.  Thus, I'm a strong, Republican vote and have stuck with my party through thick and thin.  I sometimes disagree with opinions voiced by the leaders of my party.  I've always been a 'big tent' Republican.

My belief is that in the *true* Republican Party, there's lots of room in here for all kids of people.

We're bound to agree more than we disagree- if we focus on what matters to the lives of the people of Illinois and we stand up for some core values of limiting the reach of the government, supporting business growth, protecting the environment, and supporting and protecting families.  Because of that, some might call me a RINO.

That's why, back about a decade ago, I was excited to support and rally folks around (then) Congressman Mark Kirk's "Suburban Agenda" and was eager for my fellow Republicans to latch on to it as a platform.  The Suburban Agenda focused on three concepts: protecting families, improving health care access and financial stability and environmental stewardship.  Those are things that we should be proud to support and stand behind.  How in the world did the GOP let the environment - as an issue - get out of our grasp?  We *should* have been owning the notion of protecting the environment from day one.  But then here are folks who don't believe in science.  

Over the past 18 months, MY party, the Republican Party has gone astray.  For a long time, the party has been under siege by the far religious right - those who oppose marriage equity and label those who support a woman's right to choose "pro-abortion."  But that's not the foe we're dealing with now.  We're dealing with a guy who is utterly unprepared to serve as the President of the United States.  

To be clear: Although I am a through-and-through self-identified Republican, I am #NotWithHim.  I'm sharing this with all of you - not because I think I can change anyone's mind - but because I think it is important to tell my party - or what's left of it - what is at stake.

Since Trump wrapped up the nomination, I've gone around and round thinking about what kind of vote sends the strongest message. Do I just undervote on my ballot?  Meaning decide to not vote in the Presidential election, but then vote for Senator Mark Kirk in the Senate Race and my local statehouse Republicans? And have that undervote be the message? 

Do I join Jeb! and go with Gary Johnson?  Like the Chicago Tribune Editorial Board did today?

Or, do I go with Hillary?

As they say, "It's chicken or fish, man."

The days of saying, "Boy, I really wish there was steak on the menu" or "I really felt like having a steak this fall" are over.  We have to choose.  Chicken or fish.

The decision was easy.  One morning, a few weeks ago, after trolling though Twitter and seeing the continued nonsense from Donald Trump, I decided that I had had enough.   I went on Hillary Clinton's site and (gasp!) made a donation.  Yep.  That's right. This life-long Republican voter - a guy who has only ever voted for Republicans - donated to the Democrat Presidential candidate.  Desperate times call for desperate measures. I picked up a yard sign and a pair of buttons.

One for me and one for Nat.

This photo of my daughter- The Bird- wearing the button this week tells the real story of why #I'mWithHer.  The future is too important to sit on the sidelines.

You're likely asking yourself, like I am, is Hillary Clinton a perfect candidate for President of the United States?

Of course not.

She has flaws and I don't agree with everything she stands for on the issues.

I, do,  think she has some sensible solutions for our country when it comes to immigration, guns, climate change and how to protect wildlife, our great open spaces and the environment.

But, more importantly: Is she qualified and capable of handing the job of navigating our country through the next four years?  (Yes, I said four years.)

Yes, I believe she is.

After this week's debate, I'm proud to stand by the candidate who was prepared.  She spoke on the issues and offered her approach to solving our challenges.  Again, I don't necessarily agree with everything she said at the debate, but of the two candidates we have to choose from, she's the easy choice.    If you haven't watched this Curb-related Tweet, check it out below.  It is preeety, preetay, preetay great.
As a father of two young girls, I'm excited to see the world laid out before them. They need to know that can be anything they want to be.  Even President.

 I'm a Republican and I'm voting for Hillary Clinton for President in November.  So my daughters know that they can be President one day, too.  

In the Venn Diagram that includes Lionel O-Gauge train stuff and Disney stuff, the overlap has been small but consistent over the years.  You can go to any train show (and...yes those things exist!) and find some vintage Mickey the Mouse cabooses and box cars from over the years.

And if we were to map people who would have an interest in that intersection, I'd gladly raise my hand.  As we've talked about before, I grew up with a Christmas Train.  My Dad would break out his vintage post-war Lionel train some time after Thanksgiving and we'd set it up.  Sometimes, around the tree, but at some point, my Mom relegated it to the basement.  That tradition - of breaking out the Lionel train set - has been one that I've tried to bring to my own kids.  And, my Dad fed the beast by giving the oldest girl - The Babe - her own set when she was 1.

So, beside last year - when we were transient during the holidays - we've set up our Holiday Train.  And we're not aiming for realism with our cars and setup.  And that's why Disney cars have some appeal.  My kids (and me, too!) love Disney, so why not bring them together.

So, this year, I was excited when I saw a handful of Disney-edition Lionel cars up for Pre-order on TrainWorld.  I pulled the trigger on two of them.  The first one that came was this Dumbo 75th Anniversary boxcar that you see above.  The box isn't the typical orange Lionel box, which is kinda nice.  The little Dumbo in the corner in cardboard is a really nice touch, too.   Here's the product listing.  From the description:
Experience the wonder of Disney with these collectable train cars. From the celebration of Dumbo 75 years later to the Disney Villains themselves, these cars will have you reminiscing about childhood imaginations brought to life. Our newest Disney train cars will have you transforming your layout from present day reality to the dreams of your youth.
As you can read, there are a few cars coming out (Villains, Pooh Bear, etc) and I *did* order each of the kids one of these various cars.  I forget which ones I ordered, but once they all arrive, it will be clear which one is for which kid/nephew.  I *know* there's a Pooh Bear one coming and that's for the Bird. But the rest?  When those arrive, I'll post them here.  For now, let's look closer at the Dumbo boxcar.  Here's the photo that is on the back of the box:

And here's the side of the box with the product description and item number.

We were at the Babe's school for new parent orientation recently and as we exited her classroom, we were able to see some of the work that the class had done.  And as I looked for the Babe's paper, I saw this above.  Sure...she gives really good answers for what she needs to do in 1st grade.  But, look at the bottom where the kids were asked to color in their own backpack.  She picked the Fighting Illini and the Block I?!?  Yep.  Not Mickey the Mouse.  Not My Little Pony.  Nor Shopkins.  Or her *actual* backpack - which is cute...but probably hard to draw because of the squiggles and such.

Nope.  She went with the orange and blue.  I-L-L!

Proud parenting moment for sure.

Over the weekend, we packed the kids into the minivan and drove around Hinsdale looking at some houses/house features as we work to finalize our own house.  We saw some pretty beautiful places, but we also came across an Estate Sale.  Which.....I couldn't *not* go in, right?  It was a nice, old house on the outside, so my hunch was that there'd be some gems inside.

After waiting for my number to be called ( was one of those Estate Sales.  Where they had you pull a ticket like you do when you're waiting at the deli counter.), I got in and poked around.  Nothing.  At least for us.  So, I went outside to the garage and discovered something!  They had a few cases of vintage 3 1/4" glass ornaments in their original boxes.  That's the side of the box above and the top of the box below.  They say "American Made" from Coby Glass Products.  If you poke around on the web, it turns out that Coby likely didn't make these, they were using Corning blanks.  Coby then decorated them (or in this case, didn't decorate them), put their own tops on them and stuck them in Coby boxes.

The two boxes were $1 for the entire box, so these had to come home with us.  We're not quite in the world of glass ornaments on our tree just yet - what with the savages roaming our house - but I'm thinking that a few of these can adorn one of our trees in the not so distant future.

The first set has a mercury glass look to them.  They're *not* mercury glass, but they have that look.  These are the larger ones, not the little mini globes.  The boxes say 3 1/4".

The second set has some bright pinks and blues and even a few reds.  I think I like the boxes (check out the padding around the edges!) as much as the ornaments.

The calendar may read September, but the folks at Menards already have Christmas on their mind. Seriously.   They have their Christmas stuff up already!  Well...most of it.  The "Enchanted Forest" isn't up yet because the Halloween inflatables are still up.  But, all the lights and lawn items for Christmas - as you can see - are on the shelves.

And think we were excited?  Just look at the Bird running up and down the aisles celebrating Christmas coming soon.  Last year, the Menards in Melrose Park put up their Christmas stuff in early October, so they're a bit ahead of where they were last year.  But, this isn't the earliest sighting of Christmas stuff at Menards on record.  Here, back in 2011, I posted a photo of the Babe with holiday blow molds on September 17th.

Alas, we didn't buy anything from the Christmas section, but we *did* buy a few Halloween items that they still have displayed.

Christmas creep is real and I, for one, welcome it.

We spent a few days up in Twin Lakes Wisconsin and besides the beautiful views and lovely screened in porch, I was glad to see that just like in Coloma, there's a pretty active garage sale circuit that one can run on the weekends.  Maybe it is a 'lake house town' thing?

I found time to stop at one and picked up a few items including this angel above.  She's old, but not *that* old because her head is squeeze-y rubber.  But she's in impeccable shape.  Super bright white.  No dirt or marks on her.  I also bought a plastic blowmold Santa that takes a light in his back.  It is the same one that Nat's parents have on their counter during Christmastime and I *think* it dates back to her Dad's childhood.  Which...means it is from the 1950's - 60's?  But this one that I bought, just like the angel above, was in just about perfect shape, too!

We left the Santa up in Twin Lakes for Grammy and Granddad and who knows?  Maybe he'll get a shot at the big time this year:  the counter!  

I also may have bought a little milkglass vase and stuck it in the pantry up there, too.  *May* have.

I came across this table of mini helmets recently at an estate sale and had a fun time poking around the collection.  If you know guys born in the 60's or 70's that like old, vintage things and have an affinity for sports, they're probably nuts about gumball helmets.  My brother-in-law up in Park Ridge has a thing for gumball helmets.  Has a collection.  Has even made his own helmets, which is kinda neat.  While I can appreciate them, I'm not drawn to them - unless I see an Illini one, of course - and passed on these.  But, I did send the photo to said brother-in-law.  These don't appear to have any age to them, right?  All pretty much modern day versions?

The part that jumps out to me here, though, is the four baseball caps at the bottom of the photo.  They appear to be NFL team hats like Quarterbacks wear on the sidelines.  Those are a thing now?

We saw this three-piece set at the Kane County Flea Market a few weeks back and I stopped to take a photo of it, but didn't buy.   I've used 'teh Googles' about six different ways to try to find a description of this thing, but can't, so I'm not sure what it is/who made it.  But is sure is cute.

If I was a kid, I'd be all over this set and would love how the bowl, mug and plate stack up to make me a cowboy.  It feels like this thing has a proper home and hopefully someone walked by after us and discovered it and brought it home to it's proper place and home.  Someone saved it all these years and it is worth being in someone's life.  Just not *our* life right now.

Despite never getting a trophy showing off a punter during my time in Jr. High or High School or even college down at the University of Illinois, I have NOW rectified that and am the proud owner of this sweet vintage punter trophy!  I picked it up at the Kane County Flea Market during the same trip when we got these Fraggle McDonalds cars and the Chipettes glass.

I had never seen a punter trophy before, so you know the old rule:  when you see something you've never come across before, you need to buy it.  So, I knew I had to have it.  Fortunately, Nat was looking at a vintage book in the same booth and after decided she wanted it, I packaged up the book and this guy.   I think the vendor figured that if she didn't sell this thing to me, she wasn't going to sell it to anyone as the buyers for a 60's era vintage punter trophy are rare, I'm guessing.  So, she gave us a great price for the book and basically threw the trophy in for nuttin'.  Pretty sweet deal.

Now...where should he live?  My office, when we actually build the house, seems like a logical place.  But for now, he's in the kitchen.  Yep...the kitchen.  I stuck him up on these shelves by the sink in my sister's/Equation Boy/Man's place and Nat quickly noticed.  She said something like, "You know...that *thing* can't stay in here..." and I quickly said something like... "'ll end up in my office." And yet?  Still in the kitchen!  Shhhsh!  Here's hoping she won't read this long into the post to realize the mistake and foist the punter back up into the office for good!  *Fingers crossed*