A weekend in Chicago

We decided to take our foreign exchange students for their first trip out of the frozen tundra. My husband had a conference in Chicago. We thought we would kill two birds with one stone. Now that I think about it, boy is that a strange expression.

Unfortunately, I had to break the bad news that although we were heading south it wouldn’t be any warmer. We took off after school on Friday. We were planning to stop halfway for supper, but decided to keep going after I saw the big blob of heavy precipitation on the radar. The temps were hovering around the freezing point.

The sooner we could get there the better. This caused some hangry arguments from our daughter. Tears were shed. In fact, all three girls cried before we even got to Chicago for various reasons. That’s life with teenage girls.

We got to Chicago in a torrential downpour during rush hour. Meanwhile, I frantically tried to scrounge up some green for the tolls. They don’t just nickel and dime you anymore. We checked into the hotel Fieldhouse Jones then found a place to eat. Our daughter said her culinary arts teacher raved over a restaurant which we were glad was close to the hotel. We ate an average meal there and left to see a sign that they didn’t pass their health inspection to find out later the restaurant was nothing special, just a chain. Thanks a lot!

That night the hotel didn’t have any open parking spots, so Paul had to drive around several blocks to find an open spot in the rain after dropping us off. I felt like we were visiting Gotham city.

I let the girls pick what they wanted to do in Chicago. The girls were interested in seeing Mean Girls, but the cheapest tickets started at $150. We all thought it was too pricey so we didn’t go. I suggested the aquarium to deaf ears. Estelle wanted to search for something called the bean. Then they wanted to shop until they dropped. Me personally, I would’ve preferred to drop shopping.

We set out late the next morning. Our first stop was the Hard Rock Café for an early lunch. While I was there, I started feeling very light headed. My body started to freak out like it tends to do when I break out of my normal routine. I thought maybe I was dehydrated and started to guzzle down globs of gross chlorinated city water. But after that I felt better.

Then we set off in the rain to find the elusive bean. We circled around the city blocks only to circle around again for another time. Skyscrapers sometimes mess with maps on country folks phones. I created my own detour when we got to a sketchy area I didn’t want to walk down. It seemed unsafe. I didn’t want my nightmare of the girls getting murdered to come true. I felt nervous worrying about their safety because I didn’t even know where I was. With all of the trafficking and crime, you can never be too safe with young girls unfamiliar with our culture. It was a big responsibility.

We finally made it to the bean which was like a huge mirror in the shape of a bean. (See pictures below). We walked and walked some more and shopped. It was a cold, windy, snowy, rainy type of day. By late afternoon we put on 6 miles. It was getting dark and the prospect of walking back to our hotel in the dark was not very positive. The girls wanted to take an Uber back. Again thoughts of murder crossed my mind. An Uber or walking back on the dark rainy streets?

We took an Uber back. Our driver was great. He was a philosophizing theologian. We had an extremely deep conversation about life which was right up my alley. Later that evening Paul, the girls, and I went out for Chicago deep dish pizza. Since I am dairy free, I ordered mine with vegan cheese. It wasn’t the greatest. Vegan cheese looks and tastes like glue when it melts. My husband still makes the best pizza. Sorry Chicago. Everyone else was happy.

Then the next morning we headed out, but not before Paul and I played a close game of air hockey at the hotel. I was very impressed with the hotel. The décor was very unique. Plus we were able to get an affordable two bedroom room. One on the rooms had two sets of bunk beds. The other room had a double bed with an outside wall a couple feet from the El. I thought I would be up all night with the noise, but it wasn’t bad. That says a lot from an insomniac who can’t sleep well in her sleep number bed set to her comfort in her perfectly dark, quiet, and cool bedroom at home.

We thought we were going to have to drive home through a snow storm, but thankfully it never showed up. It’s hard to believe that our time with our foreign exchange students is half over. In a few months I will go from having four teenagers in my house to zero. Our son will be turning 20 the same month Clara and Estelle leave. Then our daughter Arabella is applying to be a foreign exchange student in France living at Estelle’s house. I’m trying to enjoy every moment I can because in the blink of an eye it will be over.

I’ll close with a couple pictures…

 

Gratitude week 2

  1. We spent the weekend in Chicago and didn’t get murdered. The girls and I went to Chicago with Paul. He attended a conference and we went shopping. I had a nightmare before we left that the girls got murdered. I was a little nervous being the “chaperone” of my daughter and our two foreign exchange students. I was afraid because they do not understand our culture and might not know what is safe. All the people that we met were wonderful. We walked 6 miles then took an Uber back to the hotel and didn’t get murdered. I don’t know what I was so worried about. Ah, I am too much country mouse.
  2. We were supposed to get a major snowstorm on the way back from Chicago. Instead we only got a dusting of snow which made the drive a lot better than we were expecting. Gotta love when the weather forecasters are wrong!
  3. I met with my therapist who read my book over Christmas break. She said it was a Christmas present to herself (which is good I told her, since I didn’t get her anything). She thought it was so wonderful she wanted to read it again. She thought I should go deeper with my writing. I am grateful that so far two out of three readers were very happy with my book. I am meeting with my third test reader tomorrow.
  4. I decided to get an even shorter haircut this week. I also am growing out my blonde hair color and letting it go grey. I think it doesn’t look the greatest. However, I got complimented by two strangers on my hair this weekend after wearing a hat on it most of the day. Bizarre. Two people raved over my unbrushed hat hair. Then another stranger complimented me on my new glasses.
  5. I am grateful my son was in a really good mood all week. Although now that I think about it, maybe it was because we were all leaving for the weekend and he had the house to himself. I also found a really cool shirt for him that he loves.
  6. I am grateful to find a beer that I am not allergic to. Also, I am grateful for goat and vegan cheese so I can enjoy macaroni and cheese and pizza. Although we had good Chicago style pizza, I am grateful that my husband makes the best pizza around that I can eat.
  7. Although I love to travel, I am grateful to be sleeping in my own bed tonight with fresh clean sheets.
  8. I am grateful we stayed at a really unique hotel called Fieldhouse Jones in Chicago. The decor was amazing, all antique sports stuff. Our bedroom wall was about 10 feet from the L which was cool. Paul and I played a game of air hockey in the hotel basement this morning. Although he beat me by one point, it’s been a long time since we had fun together.
  9. Although there were periods of rain and snow, I am thankful it wasn’t too cold to walk around Chicago.
  10. I am grateful that I don’t have a lot of plans for the rest of the month and can finally have some down time.

The Chicago drama…

Just a short recap…I got my pants back. Yes! I didn’t have to see Hamilton in PJ’s!

After getting my pants back Friday night, we stopped at the hospital to visit Martha. She was doing a lot better and was moved out of the ICU. I felt a lot better heading to Chicago knowing things were better at home. Plus, I had pants.. There’s that!

I won’t bore you with the trip down to Chicago as it was very uneventful. We checked into our hotel and headed for a late afternoon showing of the Blue Man Group. It was an awesome high energy show.

We took the subway to the show. We stuck out like a sore thumb all dressed to the nines and all. There was a man that wanted money to help Paul get a subway pass. The security guard asked if we were okay. Immediately after entering the subway, we saw a man that had a sign that said ‘Hungry as F*ck’. He appeared to be sleeping. The subway car smelled like piss, but being on it didn’t scare me. I just fear irrational things.

It was bitterly cold in Chicago with wind chills below zero. I broke down and bought myself a hat. I watched the passersby from the window as we ate supper late Saturday night. Young girls walked with streets on their way out in short skirts, high heels, and no coats. There was a group of young guys with pants that didn’t cover their rears. I thought that went out with the 90’s. Guess not? Everyone looked so cold. I finally reached the age were being warm is more important than looking cool.

I had a hard time sleeping at night. I thought I heard someone getting murdered out in the street in the middle of the night. I looked out my window in the morning to see if I could glimpse a body in the dumpsters.

I have also been waking up with nightmares. I have this crazy fear when it is cold outside that I forgot to let the dog back in and he is freezing to death. My son was staying at his friend’s house down the road and was going to be pet sitting. I worried that the dog was out all night. Sometimes at home, I get up to check that the dog is alive and inside. It is a totally irrational fear that I can’t seem to shake.

But you want to hear about the sold out Hamilton?? The musical was greater than I ever expected it to be. Angel sat in front of the computer literally all day the minute the tickets went on sale. She was able to snag tickets for Paul, my mom, her boyfriend Mitch, and I. The tickets had an obstructed view. I had a pole in the middle of my view. Regardless, the show was absolutely awesome. It was worth it!

Then came the long trip back home. We got lost trying to find our car after the show. It seemed like the skyscrapers stopped our navigation from working properly. So we ended up wandering around the streets in our dress clothes in the bitter cold cursing modern technology.

It was so bright in Chicago on the dark night that we failed to notice that our headlights were off. We drove through downtown Chicago and were on the interstate when I noticed that someone opened her car window and was frantically waving at me. It was then that we figured out our lights were off the whole time.

It was at this time that Arabella started calling me. She stayed over at a friend’s for a birthday party and got dropped off at home. She said that she wasn’t feeling well and might have strep. She was feverish and delirious. She complained of being cold. She said that she was going to turn on the oven and open the door to warm up. It freaked me out that she was home alone sick and we were a long way from home.

We finally got home late last night. I checked on Arabella. The house was trashed but the pets were alive. Alex overfed Angel’s fish so that caused a fight. But it was a lot better than our arrival home from Florida last year when our pet sitter was stuck in the snow bank after trying to leave our house that was covered in dog crap, vomit, and urine. Fun times!

I had to take poor Arabella to the doctor today. She does have strep and is delirious when feverish. She was crying and arguing with me about why she should cut her hand off. When asked if anyone else was sick in her house, she responded that the pets were very sick with fleas. She was convinced that the doctor was trying to steal from her. We sure had some interesting conversations.

The saga continues…