PILSEN — Things are pretty good for the Roller Derby couple, Ska Face and Peter Coffinail.
"I honestly couldn't imagine a better life right now," Mo Pylinski said as she held her 2-1/2-month-old son, Rudy, close to her chest. "Everything is just coming up roses."
There have been some thorny patches along the way for Pylinski, who's better known as Ska Face, a captain and jammer on the Fury roller derby team, which won the Windy City Rollers' league championship earlier this year.
Pylinski served a tour of duty in Afghanistan from 2006-08 as an Army staff sergeant. There, a friend was killed by a suicide bomber.
Her husband, Aaron, also was a staff sergeant in the Army. He was in Afghanistan twice and Iraq once. Among the horrors he witnessed was the grisly aftermath of a suicide bombing outside his base.
They are both extremely thankful this Thanksgiving week, especially after going through the ultimate scare when their son was born after only 32 weeks and 4 days. Rudy Tiberius (yes, after Capt. James T. Kirk) was 4 pounds and 2 ounces after he was born at the University of Illinois at Chicago Hospital on Sept. 10.
He spent 16 days in the neonatal intensive care unit, attached to various tubes and IVs, before he came to the Pylinskis' home in Pilsen on Sept. 26.
"We're thankful that we've had the rough times we've had, so we can appreciate the good times we have now, which are definitely better than we've ever had before," said Aaron Pylinski, who, as a Fury bench coach, is called Peter Coffinail.
Mo, 36, grew up in several Chicago neighborhoods and graduated from Lincoln Park High School and UIC. She met Aaron, 35, who lived around the world as an Army brat, while they were stationed at Fort Bragg, N.C.
He proposed to her on the top of Mount Fuji in Japan. They were married three times, once officially by a Catholic priest, another time by an Imam in Afghanistan and a third time by Fury player Christie Stevens (aka Red Zeppelin).
The Fury are part of the Pylinskis' extended family. When Mo returns to work downtown in December as a member of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Rudy will be watched by two Fury players: Kelly McDowell (Mel Content) and Kristina Rago (SpartaKris).
"I can't wait to hang out with their awesome — and OMG adorable — baby every week," Rago said. "On and off the track, they are just the most solid friends you can ask for."
Said McDowell: "Baby Face takes after his parents. He fought and got himself home ASAP for a preemie, and I can't wait to see what he can do."
They decided to have Rudy only after Aaron had completed a lifelong dream: to hike the entire 2,180-mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. He accomplished the monumental task over 115 days last year, losing 30 pounds, growing a giant mountain man beard and seeing 14 black bears, a moose and countless rattlesnakes in the process.
"It was something I've always wanted to do," said Aaron, who hiked alone for the majority of the time. "When I got back, that's when we were thinking about having a baby."
Rudy joins Aaron's son Julian, an eighth-grader at Finkl Academy, from a previous relationship. Mo said her baby weighs about 8 or 9 pounds now, is a voracious eater and has lungs that "scream to high hell."
Rudy is still only eating breast milk, but his family on Thanksgiving will be dining on an 8-pound turkey that Aaron will be cooking. Mo's contribution will be baking a scrumptious pumpkin pie.
Mo said the dinner table conversation with her husband and children should be just as sweet.
"We have no worries," she said.