Random Thoughts: The High-Low-High Chicago Edition

First High: Visiting with friends.

On Sunday, we went to visit a college-era acquaintance of mine and her family. (The bright side of social media — she wrote about it here.) We hit the Midsommer’s Day Festival in Andersonville. It was a wonderful stroll through a Chicago neighborhood that we otherwise would not have seen. Kim, her husband John, and her two children were lovely and fun hosts. The children got their faces painted, climbed a wall, and ate french fries and chocolate frozen bananas. I believe her oldest and my two girls have a life-long bond formed in Minecraft.

Katie with face paint.
Katie Cat.

We also spent much time with my friend Erin and her husband Brian. I have dubbed Brian The Angel of Chicago for all the logistical help he gave us. They are both wonderful with our children, and if I had to guess, they have big giant soft spots for Kate especially. We stayed with them Sunday night through Tuesday. Monday morning they absconded with the children at 7 a.m., enabling Dan and me to sleep past 9 a.m. for the first time since we had arrived. They could not have been more welcoming or generous.

Angel of Chicago
Our guide and friend with a sassy M.

The Low:

We lost some stuff, most notably my debit card and — for about two hours — Dan’s phone. He must have gone to put it in his cargo shorts pocket as we were getting off the train on our last day (Tuesday), and he dropped it instead, and didn’t notice until the train pulled away. It was… panic inducing and infuriating, to say the least. Dan leapt into the car (with my phone, from which he had texted, “I am texting from my wife’s phone. If you find this, please turn it into the lost and found.”) The Metra conductor found it, and held onto it until Dan got to Harvard, IL. I mean, he held the train for 20 minutes to return Dan’s phone. He was a hero.

So, Metra, the conductor of the Harvard 5:33 express on Tuesday June 16, went above and beyond to help an out-of-towner. He wouldn’t even accept a cash tip as a thank you.

And, as I mentioned, logistics were tricky. I love the city of Chicago, but driving there is a nightmare, parking is outrageous, and we only navigated the Metra because The Angel of Chicago helped us.

The Other High: Pretty City

The ferris wheel at Navy Pier.
The ferris wheel at Navy Pier. No filter.

Chicago is such a photogenic city. If I had a real camera, I would’ve taken a thousand pictures, half of them at Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) alone.

Cloud Gate
Cloud Gate, aka The Bean, and aside from Legoland, M’s favorite.

All-in-all it was a good trip. It had its ups and downs, and despite two attempts, we never did get through the doors of the Shedd Aquarium. We walked *a lot*, and the children feel they didn’t get to swim enough. Driving home overnight on Tuesday was brutal — because of the phone fiasco, aside from the hour he was at Erin and Brian’s to eat a little dinner and finish packing, Dan was in the car for nearly 14 hours — but worth it to be at home getting organized to return to our regularly scheduled program.

Buckingham Fountain
Buckingham Fountain on low because of the wind.

What city could you spend hours walking around?

Random Thoughts: The Vacation Wrap-Up Edition

The five-day trip to Seven Springs was a nice little getaway for the family. The kids had a really good time. Dan and I did, too, although the only downside to the trip was that Dan and I didn’t get to spend much time together. We split POD time, and between naptimes and bedtimes, one of us was usually at the place while the other was either out with the other kids or visiting other family.

Saturday night we had thought to go up to the Rib and Wing Fest (yes, I know, the irony of a vegetarian at a Rib and Wing Fest) to see Bill Deasy. And we did go, but since we also went up with my parents and the kids, we spent a little more time with the kids than watching Deasy. And then although my mom was going to stay at the place with the kids after bedtime, Dan was wiped out from a late Friday night (or should I say Saturday morning?), so stayed there, too. I went a’visiting since it was our last night.


Michael napped, and Michael slept through the night (except on Sunday, when he decided at 5:30 a.m. he wanted to sleep with/on me). That made a huge impact on the trip, the fact that Dan and I could really sleep (or, during naptime, take turns chilling). One morning, Flora even came in the room and got M out of the pack’n’play without waking Dan or me up! So when (if) we didn’t get adequate rest, it was our own fault. Of course, Thursday night I was so tired that since I was POD, I went to bed at 10 p.m. Whoo, vacation party time!


Let’s see. We swam, played mini-golf, and played games in the arcade. We had waffles and pancakes with my sister-in-law and the four boys. The children ate a lot of mac’n’cheese and french fries. Flora got WAY too tired, and had a couple of melt downs. (Yeah, Flora, my eldest child.) We took the family photo. All-in-all it was great to catch up and see everyone. Dan had two nights out, and I had two nights out. Everyone commented on how adorable M is (it’s true, he is).


The girls loved going to the pool, of course. M was ambivalent about it. He went in a couple of times, but was content to sit on the side of the pool with me and some snacks.

I don’t really like swimming with the kids. I’m not really crazy about swimming in general, so although I am able, it’s not something I do unless I have to. Thank goodness for swim lessons.

On Saturday, after the family photo and lunch, M went in for a nap, and I took the girls to the pool. They swam for nearly three hours straight. I sat in a lounge chair or on the side of the pool and watched them. My parents were on me a little bit about letting the girls go in the water alone, but I was keeping track of them. And, they weren’t really alone. When we go up to Seven Springs, we pretty much take over one of the pools. So Flora and Kate were in the pool with about a dozen or so of their cousins, with lots of adults watching.


I did not take many pictures. I’ll have to look around and steal some from Facebook or see what my mother emails to me. However, I did capture a little of the family photo chaos:

The photographer is up on the ladder. We’ve already taken the BIG family photo, and now he’s getting a shot of the people who were not in the picture we took 12 years ago. That included a couple of spouses (like Dan) and most of the kids, whom we refer to as the 3rd Generation.

Here’s Kate and Michael during a pause in the action, and Kate’s expression pretty much says, “Now what, mom??” But she, Flora, and Michael did very well during the photos, which took about an hour, hour and a half. Thank goodness, once more, for snacks, including (at the end) red velvet cupcakes for a birthday.


My sister traveled from North Carolina with her husband, her teenage stepdaughter, a friend of the stepdaugher, and two dogs. In a Honda Civic.

Her dogs are Boston terriers, and one of them, Buddy, is at least 15 years old. Maybe 18, I forget. And is literally on his last legs.

I cried when I said goodbye to him. I’m sure it was for the last time. He’s been a good dog, and he’s probably literally saved my sister when she has been in dark places.

We’ll never forget you, Buddy.


Did I mention the arcade? While there are a few video games and pinball machines, the arcade at Seven Springs is largely given over to games that award tickets (skee ball, Deal or No Deal, a game where you can torpedo boats). By the end of the day Friday, Flora had 2500 tickets, and Kate had 800. Mostly through pure luck — it didn’t cost nearly as much as you might think. One machine had a 1000 ticket space — and Flora hit it twice. Kate got lucky on a couple other machines, plus shot the rainbow boat.

I helped them “shop” before we left on Sunday. They didn’t do too terribly (meaning I steered them away from the worst of the plastic junk).


What do you like to do best on vacation?

Random Thoughts: The We’re Outta Here Edition

Vacation starts at 4 p.m. today.

Flora has been out of her mind with excitement for a week now. I’ve had to channel her energy into many constructive projects: Arts and crafts to give to Nonna and Pap-pap! Packing the toy bag for the car and condo! Today I have the sitter helping them put clothes aside for the trip. I had to put the kibosh on the TWO LAUNDRY BASKETS OF STUFFED ANIMALS she and Kate wanted to bring with them.

We’re going for five days, kid, not moving there.


Thanks to Holly at Eyetique in the Robinson Mall, I have contact lenses for vacation.

Thanks to Van Salon in Sewickley, I managed to fit in a bikini wax as well.

I never did get around to a pedicure though. I’ll have to polish the piggies tonight after the kids are in bed.


Somewhat on a side note: Finding a new place to get waxed is a big, giant PITA.

For the longest time, Ulta was up at the Pointe; they had Sunday hours, and I could get lip, brows, and bikini line waxed all in one appointment without worrying about childcare (Dan could handle it). The aestheticians were great, too, friendly, skilled, appropriate.

But then they moved, and got rid of the private waxing room. Now, if you want your brows done, they do it in the middle of the store at the Brow Bar. I am not a fan. And, obviously, they aren’t going to do bikini line waxes there.

So I started getting my brows and lip done at a place near work. It’s only a five minute drive away.

Well, I scheduled my last bikini wax there as well, thinking, “One stop shop!”

Not so much. The aesthetician was a horror of a bikini waxer. Too much wax, all over the place, and she left bruises.

Bikini waxing should not leave bruises, people.

So I took to Twitter, seeing if people had recommendations. Someone mentioned Van Salon, and with a little assistance from my ILs, I got there on Saturday. (They had to watch the kids for about 45 minutes.) Van Salon is a lovely little salon/spa in Sewickley, and I plan to go back to take advantage of their facials and maybe a pedicure some time, too. They have great hours, too — open late on the weekdays, and 9 to 5 on Saturday.


Our vacation experience with kids has been somewhat uneven. Let’s face it, it screws with the kids’ schedules and routines in a big way. I’m hoping Michael does better this year than last, when he woke every night, and was up between 3 and 6 a.m., wanting nothing more than to sleep on me.

I’m less worried about the girls, although I do hope they don’t get too run down between EXCITEMENT and exhaustion. Fingers crossed!


Have a great week. I’ll probably be tweeting poolside on occasion, but I’m mostly going to swim & play with the kids, nap (I hope), and read crappy books. Yay!

Random Thoughts: The Vacation Wrap-Up Edition

We all survived vacation travel. The time in Topsail Beach, NC, was all really great if a little hectic (combination of a wedding to participate in/attend, plus traveling with children).

Two things I would do differently as far as travel: We should have rented that minivan, and we should have brought a nanny/babysitter with us. Both would have stretched our resources, but I think the payoffs would have been worth it.

For one, the Cadillac, while a nice ride, really was not spacious enough in the back seat to accommodate our three kids and all their stuff (car seats, diaper bag, bag o’ snacks & drinks, backpack of entertainment, blankets, pillow pets, and stuffed animals). A minivan would have made for less jammed up travel.

For two, bringing a babysitter with us (and we did have one willing and available to travel) would have relieved a lot of evening tension for Dan and me. Having to absent ourselves to put the baby to bed when the rehearsal dinner and wedding were happening was kind of a pain. The night of the wedding, we just pretty much let the girls pass out in front of the TV, and moved them to their beds around 10 p.m. (Vacation parenting at its best!)

I do have to add right here: Dan stepped up like a champ. While I played support for Dr. Sis, he did the bulk of child care without complaint. He fed, supervised, bathed, and put to bed most of the vacation. I think I put Michael to bed the night of the rehearsal dinner, but I may be wrong. I *know* Dan put Michael to bed the night of the wedding. (All events took place at the vacation house rented by my parents.) My SIL K was also a big help, although with four boys of her own, she was busy enough! She managed to get Michael down the first night we were there, and Dan called her the Baby Whisperer the rest of the vacation.

Flora’s favorite thing: Getting a manicure and a pedicure the day before the wedding. (Also, Flora lost TWO teeth on vacation. The Tooth Fairy only made the trip once, though, so here’s hoping the Tooth Fairy remembers to bring a little something for tooth #2 now that we’re home.)

Kate’s favorite thing: All the swimming.

Dan’s second favorite thing: Helping out before the events, such as running for ice and helping set up the bar areas. He loves that kind of stuff.

My favorite thing: Seeing my little sister get married. The smiles on the faces of everyone involved were just the best — from the mother of the groom, to my parents, to all the family and friends. It was so joyous!

Other than that: Much fun, family, and good food. The weather was very cooperative, the kids were well behaved, the wedding ceremony on the beach was beautiful, and the reception was a lot of fun. We all got home in one piece. You can’t really ask for much more.

The only question now is, when are we going to see Dr. Sis and Uncle Dr. Sis again?

Random Thoughts: The Wedding Anxiety Edition

I’m kind of freaking out. And I’m not even the bride.

Next Wednesday — a week from today — we are planning on starting our eastward journey to Topsail Island, NC, for my little sister’s wedding.

I don’t feel ready.

I don’t feel ready, and I don’t know when crossing things off of my to-do list is going to make me feel ready.

I ordered Flora’s headpiece and basket, and had it shipped to Dr. Sis.
I reserved the rental car — a minivan, in point of fact — and Dan is set to pick it up next week. Canceled rental; we’re borrowing the IL’s Cadillac.

I still need to:
Write a toast.
Buy a tie that matches my dress for my groomsman.
Buy Flora shoes, and ship back the shoes I bought her that don’t fit.
Buy wraps/light jackets for the girls in case it’s chilly on the beach.
Buy foundation garments for me.
Write notes to Flora’s and Kate’s schools to excuse their absences.
Have my hair done.
(It was scheduled to be done last Sunday, but my stylist was ill.)
Have the girls’ hair cut.
Uh, pack for at least four people. (Theoretically, Dan will pack himself.) Figure out *what* I need to pack for Michael.
Email a shopping list for groceries to my parents.

I have a couple other anxieties about this whole thing.

For one, my eyes and contact lenses have not been compatible. Allergies seem to be making it blatantly impossible to wear my new soft contacts. Regardless of my eyedrops.

For two, my tooth. My new tooth.

It’s the wrong color.

And there’s nothing I can do about it.

The disappointment I feel about this is… keen. I mean, yes, it’s a first world problem and all, but after taking the leap to finally change the one single thing that made me horribly self-conscious, and being initially very, very excited about it, it’s very difficult to deal with the fact that all the money, discomfort, and, yes, even pain, DIDN’T pan out ultimately.

The tooth is a good looking tooth, but it’s darker toward the top. So, still wrong. It’s not AS BAD as it was, but it’s still not good.

I’m trying not to dwell. Nothing’s going to change, not before next Wednesday in any case. (No, whitening won’t work.)

Plus, you know, there’s that whole full-time work thing I got going on, and a few projects I’d like to get off my desk before we hit the open road.

Oh, AND, I need to buy leotards for the girls by SATURDAY because they started gymnastics this past Saturday — and they LOVE it — but I don’t feel like shelling out $30, each, at the class. Updated: My MIL found and bought leotards at KMart, $14.99! God bless that woman!

I need a personal assistant. And a tall margarita.

Best of 2009: Best Trip

(based on Gwen Bell’s Best of 2009)

I’m not 100% sure of the guidelines to this Best of 2009 Blogging (I was unable to access her website when I posted this — will update later), but the one site I saw said the Question for Dec. 1 (that would be today) was: What was your best trip of 2009?

As much as I enjoyed our trip to New York wine country for Dr. Sis’ graduation, the best trip we took this year was our week-long sojourn as a family in Cape Cod. It was not without its challenges (conclusion: next time we’re flying), but it was a great, great time.

The girls’ favorite spot was undoubtedly the Trampoline Center. And, really, can you blame them?

I suspect Dan’s favorite spot (aside from his daily symposium) was Arnolds.

My favorite thing? I can’t decide.

That the girls were not sick.
Exploring. Finding fun stuff to do. (Even if I got us lost a little bit.)
Having our own little cottage to ourselves.

Actually, I think the best thing about the trip was that we were on vacation as a family of four (instead of an extended family of 10 or 50). Don’t get me wrong: I have vacationed with Dan’s family, and with my own family, extended and otherwise, and I have NO complaints about doing so. It was just a change of pace to be on our own. A good change of pace.

I had my guidebook, and I wasn’t afraid to use it. We weren’t waiting for anyone, and we didn’t have anyone waiting for us. Aside from picking Dan up each day (usually after lunchtime), there was no co-ordinating, no synching of watches. That was nice.

Really nice. It was, definitely, the best trip of 2009 for me.

(Updated to add: The guidelines of the Best of 2009 are here. I am wavering about doing them all, although I think a “Best of” or “Year in Review” would be fun for me to do in December. I just don’t feel like committing to anything. I’m overcommitted as it is!)

Whoops II

Oh, hey, that wasn’t another pony ride. That was the third most fun my children had on vacation (especially Bun).

Having spent the weekend in a whirlwind of grocery shopping, house cleaning, party hopping, parent hosting, and zoo going, blogging has taken a back seat. I hope I can get this video thing worked out, but if not, rest assured: Bun, too, rode the pony.

Honestly, though, I think she had more fun chasing those chickens.

Cape Cod 2009: Last Day

DearDR got his fried clams, and I don’t think he was disappointed at all.

In case you couldn’t tell, that’s a cemetery across the street. DearDR laughed every time he saw this sign at Arnold’s:

They also had this massive, 100-year-old lobster.

We headed down for a little walk on the ocean shore.

The water was freezing, but I wish I had brought a change of clothes for the girls (or the their bathing suits), because they got drenched. I have some wet sandy clothes to deal with upon our return to Pittsburgh.

We are getting on the road today. I hope we get the majority of the driving done today, but I’m going to try not to fuss too much about it. We are going to stop someplace, maybe catch some fireworks before crashing at a hotel.

It’s been a good trip.

Cape Cod 2009: Wednesday and Thursday

The rain and mist blew back in Wednesday afternoon.

We spent a little bit of time at a playground, which had the weirdest swing I have ever seen.

As well as the usual:

Thursday morning we went to the Red Barn Game Room, where the three of us collected 375 tickets. And Monkey ate a piece of pizza as big as her head.

This is Bun telling me off for taking pictures. Doesn’t she know she has to get used to the paparazzi?

Although she’s probably quite peeved that I took a picture of her in these.

The rest of the afternoon and evening consisted of an indoor pool, temper tantrums, meals of leftovers, and laundry.

Oh, and our second trip to, as Monkey calls it, Ben & Murray’s. You know, those nice Jewish fellows from Vermont who make ice cream.

Update from Vacation

We made it. As I texted my father on Sunday: “We all survived. Now we have 7 days to recover before we do it all over again. Backwards.”

I have some super pictures that I am getting uploaded, and even more super video. And it’s only Tuesday!

DearDR seems psyched about his symposium (get it?). The best part: It’s over by 12:30, so we can actually spend the bulk of the day as a family.

We love our cute little cottage. It has a couple of strikes against it, but comfort is not one of them. Bathing the children in the stand-up shower, however… yeah, not so fun.

Monkey has been a delight; Bun has been challenging — but fun. And funny.

I miss writing every day. I miss my blog/Twitter/plurk peeps. It’s weird to not be plugged in, or at a computer for 8 to 10 hours of every day.

That said, I’ll take my kids’ amazement at every thing we are doing. The pay off is unbelievable.