I Always Feel Like... Somebody's Watching Me!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chicago - Hosting the Abells, not the Olympics

Sorry, Chicago. I thought our visit last weekend would have secured your bid for the Olympics! I did everything I could to help out.

Last weekend, we took a road trip (we are gluttons for punishment, right?) to Chicago to visit my first college roommate Sara, her husband Shane (who often hung out in that dorm room) and their beautiful daughter Evie. It was a visit that was loooong overdue. The last time we saw each other was when they lived in Philadelphia in 2005 - all before the life-changing experience of having children. It was becoming shameful that I hadn't met their baby, quickly growing into a little girl, when we are only a day's drive apart.

On Friday morning, we packed the car and the kids, stopping only a few times along the turnpike. It has become a habit to take our fast-food lunches outside and "picnic" in the grass. Whatever grass is available. Sometimes we have squeezed in between shrubbery on an island in the middle of a parking lot. But it feels so good to feel a breeze, however warm, and let everyone stretch if only for a few minutes.

Our drive was as non-eventful as possible. Despite the $25 in tolls! (I remember driving through Chicago when I was in college and painfully broke. Every toll-booth and sign indicating another $3 to pay was agony. Why is that, Chicago?) Ayla did have a meltdown over my offering a hard-boiled egg that was missing a piece, but luckily, Gregory can appease those kinds of problems with movies on his cell phone.

Upon arrival in Hyde Park, we got to see Sara & Shane's condo. I always love to visit homes that are unique - anything but your cookie-cutter, post 1980's modernly built home with white walls and zero personality. They live in a renovated building, in a growing neighborhood. My favorite kind of neighborhood, like Leetsdale. For example, they have long walls and extraordinary long windows (which Sara explained were a challenge to get curtains), but at least it's interesting.

Ayla had been anxiously awaiting meeting Evie. Even though they are a year apart (and when you're little, that can be such a big difference), they were instant friends. I do have to say that we were all won over when Evie was willing to share her amazing play room. A slide, blocks, musical instruments, a kitchen set, puzzles, fake food (my personal favorite). As f0r my poor boy Jackson - he's so happy to meet anyone. But Evie took her cue from Ayla, the occasionally gentle older sister, and they promptly ignored him for the rest of the weekend. They only noticed him when he came close to whatever toy they were enjoying and then screamed for him to get away. Such is the life of a 16 month old.

The beauty of visiting friends with children is that they understand exactly how much can be accomplished (or not accomplished) in a day. We weren't expecting to hit the hot tourist spots and check off items on a list. It was relaxing to hang out, catch up on all the details of the last four years and let our kids nap or play.

We saw the local farmers market and the community garden. We enjoyed great meals cooked by Shane. We listened to an outdoor concert at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival - where the kids cared more about sharing popsicles than the cool Caribbean jazz music.

For the more touristy options, we took a train ride downtown (good job, double stroller!) for a "hipster" breakfast at Yolk and to visit Shedd's aquarium.

On Sunday night, we were invited over to my cousins' (and his incredible girlfriends') condo for an amazing dinner. God Bless them for inviting everyone into their trendy, adult space and risking the damage of three toddlers. While Khaylen was slaving over home-made macaroni and cheese, pork loin, salad and peach pie, I caught Ayla jumping on their bed and Jackson pulling medicine out of the bathroom cabinet. (I think Evie was perfectly behaved, of course, while watching the Abell destruction crew. What more entertainment could she need?) I apologize profusely for the spit and handprint damage inflicted on the sliding mirror closet doors. That's just too irresistable, as these pictures show.

It was a great weekend trip, catching up with some very important people in my life. Thank you, Shane and Sara, for hosting us. And thank you, Austin and Khaylen, for rushing back from Cleveland to see us if only for a few hours. And your neighborhood smelled like chocolate chip cookies - the smell alone could entice me to come back to that city!

I understand that South America deserves a chance for the Olympics, but I still see your beauty, Chicago. (Especially when I don't visit during the winter months!)

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