Thursday, September 1, 2011


So long Chicago
For three weeks in August we traveled the midwest.  The kids held up great in the car and we laughed that this was a perfect crash course for our trip.  We know the midwest is nothing like South America, but Danny and I sure hammered home the idea of being "flexible."  Every little hiccup we had we tried to remind Harper and Cal that our little predictable life as we know it in Carbondale was on hold for now.  As we listened to the Stones our first day following our trip Harper proved she got the message.  Turning to Cal she said, "It's our song.  Do you hear it?  Remember?  You can't always get what you want..."  As Mick sang I smiled and silently told myself this might just work out.  

We headed out on I-80 across Nebraska and Iowa and made stops along the way to break it up.  For our first dinner on the road we picnicked and swam at a lake in Nebraska in which stood an enormous street light.  It was definitely weird but the 100plus temperatures of the heat wave had ended just a day earlier and it was actually nice.  We passed around food from the cooler and felt like we could chalk up day one as a success.  The next day somewhere in Iowa, Trainland USA surpassed the lake.  An Iowa family's basement over the course of 19 years had been turned into model train track route through American history.  Harper and Cal pushed button after button lighting up windows and operating the little waving arms of the passengers.  We had to take a picture in front of the Colorado ski scene.  We all got a little sad remembering that this year our skis would be collecting dust in the crawlspace. 

After 3 days in the car, we arrived in Madison to visit with Danny's cousin Vicki, her husband Steve, and their daughter, Ana.  Their older daughter, Madeline, was still away at camp and so unfortunately we didn't get to catch up with her.  Steve has been recovering from a stroke he had earlier in the summer and it was great to see that he is doing so well.  Downtown on Madison's campus we sampled ice cream at the union (orange cream with chocolate was delicious!), hung out by Lake Mendota, and walked downtown as Cal collided with almost every single person he passed.  After crashing into a sandwich board and some poor college student it was time to get Cal back to their house where he could better spend his crazy energy playing ball with Ana and rough-housing with Steve.

Pentwater, Michigan with the Hanley clan was the next stop and it was great to be out of the car for a whole week.  Cousin time and ice cream eating were definitely the two top priorities; we visited the House of Flavors as much as possible and Harper got her first lesson in the "dip cone" from Uncle Eric.  Danny and Cal met baby Tallulah for the first time and we all got to do lots of holding and cuddling with her.  Harper, Cal and Caroline spent hours going on "family trips"- imaginary traveling that all began with a plane ride in the upstairs closet.  The kids also experienced their first time go-carting and attempted a round of mini-golf.  The cousins still could use some growing up in these areas but we had a lot of laughs.  Of course, Lake Michigan did not disappoint.  We had great waves and a sandbar right in front of the cottage.  I feel blessed my kids get to experience these Michigan trips like I did as a child.  (We'll see how I feel when the cousins are all teenagers!)  

The culinary adventure that is always our Michigan week included smoked fish tacos, a chipotle salad (that we then made 2 more times over the visit!) and a serious tres leches cake for celebrating Aunt Lauren's birthday.  The much anticipated Argentine  appetizer of provolone on the grill did not quite work out as hoped but we've since consulted with our friend Raul and next year's will be better!

Our next stop was to visit with Shari and John in Delaware, Ohio.  We saw their new house, played in the river right behind it, and spent lots of time with the cats and the bunny.  Harper and Cal put on a singing show up in the loft for Shari and John and were very happy with the response from the audience.  John showed the kids his rock-skipping skills in the river while one of their cats looked on from the grass.  We also ate at the local Greek restaurant one night and Danny got to order saganaki- I think he definitely had his fill of flaming cheese- Opa!

Finally it was back to Chicago for a week of farewells and catching up with old friends.  Grandma Mary celebrated her 60th birthday and the kids decorated an M&M cake in her honor.  The adults celebrated at a rooftop at Wrigley field for a Cubs game and the evening was full of laughs.  Danny requested a quick postgame stop at Slugglers which filled our annual quota of pop-a-shot, skee-ball and the sticky-floor bar scene for a long while.

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