Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Are We There Yet? Sweet Home Chicago


Aaahhhhh!  It’s so nice to be in a home rather than a hotel.  And to be with family.  We totally sprawled out.  I had piles of clean clothes here and piles of dirty clothes there and oh the joys of a washing machine!  And a place to leave the dogs where we didn’t have to worry too much about strangers and escapes.  It took the dogs a little while to sort things out with Cousin L’s sweet pup Cora, but they all tolerated one another fairly well after the first day or so.  Ruger and Cora actually became fast friends.  Charger is more of a snob and was stuck in the dog house, so to speak.
As day ten fell on a Sunday, we drove into the city to go visit Grandma and Opa and accompany them to our old ward for church.  It was so nice to see old friends and take a trip down memory lane.  Every few blocks we were exclaiming to the kids about our favorite restaurants and where we used to take them.  And we drove by our good old house in Chicago’s south side neighborhood where every other door houses a cop or a firefighter.  Needless to say, crime is not too much of a problem around there.  Our old neighbors were outside and spotted us driving slowly around so we stopped to chat.  It was fun catching up and realizing how much is different but yet completely unchanged.
At Grandma’s house we enjoyed one of her famous smorgasbord dinners and some delicious, ginormous cupcakes with homemade frosting from a new recipe. 
Then the kids went off to explore the magical nature of Grandma’s attic.  It’s so full of old toys and various other amazing discoveries.  The youngest three had a delightful time up there with Opa before they wandered downstairs to be mesmerized by Grandma’s shell collection. 
J was over the moon about the fact that she let him keep some shells and a “real live” (as in dead and dried) seahorse.  S got lost in an art project. 
K tie-dyed some t-shirts.  There was pez for all.  And this is why I love Grandma’s house.  And why I truly miss being able to take the kids over there on any random day.  J said to me, “She IS really nice.  She’s the nicest person in the world!”

And that’s why we stayed much, much later than we were planning.  Because how can sleep and schedules compete with such positive, worthwhile experiences?  Especially when those experiences are shared with family that is seen so infrequently?  I think everybody was out cold by the time we got back to Uncle J’s.

During the planning stages of this road trip, we meant to do some sightseeing while we were in Chicago.  We had ambitious plans to go downtown and visit a favorite museum and the American Girl store.  But we’ve been feeling so tired and all of our other sightseeing has us stretched so thin that we decided to bail on all our plans.  And.  Just.  Relax.

So when day 11 rolled around, I did a lot of laundry.  And organized a lot of stuff.  And baked a cake for little miss almost two-year-old’s birthday party.  And went grocery shopping.  And forgot my wallet and made my SIL pay for all my things.  And found some shoes for K.  And frosted the cake in such a hurry that I didn’t bother to trim it or even add frosting in between the layers (ironically, I didn’t even realize that I had skipped that step until we cut into it).  And sat down to start adding M&Ms as decorations while asking Shaggy for some artistic advice.  Advice which was rather good, so I pawned the cake decorating off on him.  And then I went off to finish cleaning and organizing and dressing and combing. 
Aunt R was busy making the table beautiful for the party. J and cousin L were in charge of the flowers. They did a pretty great job, I must say.
 And while we waited for Grandma and Opa to arrive, I got to be a happy little shutterbug.
This was an entirely low key affair.  Which was just right. 
Balloons, painting, presents, and the very best part—DEEP DISH PIZZA!  I will never stop missing deep dish pizza.  Or the highly entertaining conversations with family that go along with gathering for deep dish pizza.  During this particular conversation, we all came to realize just how crafty Aunt R truly is.  Crafty, like a fox.

It may not sound like a very relaxing day.  And while I have certainly had many a day that was more relaxing than this one, the thing that makes this day stand out is how comparatively novel it was to just be ‘home’ doing regular things.  It was a respite from the frantic travel/sightseeing pace that we’ve been keeping.  And it wasn’t a chore cleaning up the mess with Aunt R and my two best helpers.  It was nice.  And relaxing.  And normal.

Which is probably why Aunt R and I stayed up into the wee hours of the night chatting and laughing and reconnecting.  I am excited at the prospect of living closer to Chicago and I hope that we will have many, many such chances in the future.  I think I am so lucky to be able to call this lady my sister-in-law.  She gets me.  We can finish each other’s sentences.  Things that the rest of the room doesn’t find all that funny, we both find hilarious.  And yes, she is crafty.  Oh, so crafty.

Day twelve rolled around and everybody went their separate ways.  Uncle J and Aunt R whisked K & S off to the waterpark with cousin L.  Shaggy took J & R back for another dose of the magical nature of Grandma’s house.  I stayed home with little B and did yet more laundry, and repacked our bulging suitcases.  That was depressing.

But the exciting part came when I gave B a real, honest to goodness, full length nap.  And I got to be alone.  And collapse on the sofa.  And do nothing.  It was beautiful.

When B woke up, I got her all fancified so I could take advantage of the amazing backdrops Uncle J’s house had to offer.  I love doing portraits when there’s not only good lighting, but good scenery as well.  Aunt R was a little puzzled at who could be creeping around in her bushes when they came back from the waterpark, but it was just me.  I sometimes find myself in some humorous situations when I’m taking pictures.  You have to have a certain disregard for how you look when you’re trying to catch the right shot.  Either that, or make sure no one is watching you.
We spent the rest of the day exploring the property and having burgers fresh from the grill and s’mores as big as J’s head.  The kids had so much fun with cousin L. 
And then the rest of the evening was hijacked by a missing item.  Not your average, run of the mill item.  A very important, you’re possibly going to get fired if you lose it, sort of an item.  Not to alarm you or anything . . .

After we searched high and low, near and far, in the trash and under beds, all while maligning poor little B with accusations, we finally gave up and got the little kids tucked into bed so we could play a board game.  I’m not sure how long it actually took J and cousin L to fall asleep because they were telling each other silly stories and reading books.  Cousins are amazing things.  They don’t miss a beat, no matter how long it’s been since they’ve seen each other.

At some point during a very restless night, Shaggy was struck with inspiration.  The missing item was tucked safely away in the most responsible place it could possibly be.  No wonder we couldn’t find it.
I am partially dreading what tomorrow will bring.  I am ready to be done with this road trip.  But the only way out is through, and we’re certainly not there yet.

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