Have you ever had your senses jolted awake? Like you’d been living in some dulled out version of reality and then all of a sudden things come alive, colors and textures pop, the air is pungent and the cool breeze sends the hairs on your arms dancing?
That’s what happened to me on our recent trip to Chicago. It was like going from black and white (or rather the brown and yellow that dominates Austin right now) to technicolor. Driving to my parents house from the airport had me dizzy – the greens on the foliage and grass were so bright, textures so lush. You could even smell the green! It was such a sight for sore eyes and it set the tone for our trip – every day was so rich and vibrant and full of new and fun and life. It was exactly what we needed.
There was not one moment that outshone the other. Every day and activity was a highlight. Thinking back on everything we did, I am astounded. It never felt rushed or busy or exhausting, however. There was a good balance between time spent just the four of us, time spent with grandparents, time spent with best friends and even special anniversary time spent just with my husband of now seven years. So here’s the rundown:
- Swam in neighbor’s and friends pools in the brisk 80 degree weather
- Explored the sublime Chicago Botanic Garden’s with Dana and her sweet boys, Jake and Ben
- Flew kites and romped around the tree houses in Barrington
- Rode in a taxi on four separate occasions without car seats (taxi’s were the hit of the trip)
- Spent a rare day with just my best friend, Brandy, hanging in the modern wing of the Art Institute and cocktails at the Trump Terrace (wowsa!)
- Rode the Metra on three occasions to and from the city (Abel could live on the Metra if we let him)
- Leisure rode the Brown Line
- Snuck into Cafe Brauer with the boys (where we were married) the day before our anniversary
- Meandered through Lincoln Park and the brilliant and FREE Lincoln Park Zoo
- Ate lunch at the Choo-Choo Dinner, a major hit where a little electric train delivers your food (and apparently has some of the best apple pie in the midwest)
- Had a three generation mani-pedi party! (the boys each chose, appropriately enough, silver polish)
- Toured the Long Grove Chocolate Factory and had an on-the-house shopping spree in the outlet (thanks to my mom’s boss, Mr. Mangel!)
- Watched a magical rendition of Pinocchio by the Chicago Shakespeare Theater
- Strolled along Navy Pier, mesmerized by magicians and jugglers, and tried cotton candy for the first time
- Fearlessly went to the top of the Sears Tower (I refuse to call it by its new name) and out onto the plexiglass projecting skydeck
- Survived the crowds at the Field Museum during a torrential late morning shower
- Watched the air show with aunt Brandy and uncle E.D. and 2 million other people at North Avenue Beach
- Swam in Lake Michigan
- Explored every nook and cranny of Millennium Park, at which time Abel renamed the mirrored bean, “The Cashew”
- Played family tennis in lee-lee and papa’s driveway
- Romped around the Kohl’s Childrens Museum, where the boys delighted in painting their faces for the first time (best children’s museum EVER!)
- Connected with nature, history and spectacularly odd animals at the River Trail Nature Center and The Grove in Glenview (both are FREE!)
- Ate at our favorite Indian place (Hema’s) and drank Goose Island’s special Belgium Brew, aptly named Matilda (our dog!)
- Cherished the time we spent with my parents, best friends and long-time family friends and neighbors
- Ate deep dish pizza more times than I care to admit
- Spent the day at Santa’s Village, where the boys rode their first roller coaster, and every other ride at least 20 times each (this was the cleanest, best-staffed amusement park for kids I have ever witnessed)
Ten days in Chicago, there it is. I am overwhelmed recounting everything we did (and I even left many things off!), but it was truly one of the best trips we have ever taken. It also gave me a renewed optimism on our families’ traveling future. Before the boys were born, I dreamed of the family trips we would take. Brazil and Argentina, eastern Europe, Turkey, China. All over the U.S.A. of course. The sky was the limit. Or course, infants and toddlers times two puts a quick cramp in your visions of traveling! But now the boys are the perfect age. At 4, they are little adventurers. They are game for anything and everything. They were equally at comfort in the city and the country. They rarely tired but slept like the dead in unfamiliar places. It was brilliant. And they LOVED being in their Lee-Lee and Papa Rick’s home, the home I grew up in. The time they got to spend with their grandparents, exploring their home turf, was irreplaceable.
We came back feeling rejuvenated, full of life and and so excited about traveling again. Thanks mom and dad for making our time with y’all so special. We will be back again soon!