Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Finally.....our Windy City recap

We've been home for almost a month now and I figured it's past time we get to our Chicago Vacation Blog. Things have been a bit crazy and I'm a little disappointed that it's not going to be the blog I wanted (because quite frankly, I'm just too damn tired and it's been too damn hot - over 110 this past weekend) but a blog is a blog.

So here we go.

Week One - June 24th to June 28 (that's the kids at the airport)

Tuesday afternoon Skippy drove us to the airport. Our bags were packed, our DVD player was charged, backpacks were stuffed full of snacks and crayons and play-doh for the plane, and we were ready to go. Skippy was melancholy for a good part of the trip. I think it really hit him that he was going to be "bachin' it up" for over a month without the day to day craziness that is life with three small kids.

We pulled up in the kiss and fly lane at PDX and got the kids out. Then the bags. Then the car seats. Then we shuffled the whole mess over to curbside check in and got ourselves all squared away. Then the kids said goodbye to Daddy. Then *I* said my goodbyes. I swear that for a split second I thought he was going to pull a Banana and start sniffling. But then he hopped back into my minivan and peeled away from the curb, so I may have only been imagining that part.

We landed at Midway around eleven o'clock Chicago time. Mom, Jack, and Jax were waiting for us and I was never so happy to see their smiling faces. My children had defied the laws of nature and multiple time zones by NOT sleeping a wink the entire flight and I was exhausted. After sitting in traffic for two hours, we finally made it to my Mom's house where we promptly crashed and crashed hard.

(Aunt Jax with Chunk at Mom's BBQ)

The rest of the work-week was a flurry of unpacking, settling in, and preparing for Mom's BBQ bash with family and friends, which took place on Saturday. THAT was a fun day. The weather was beautiful and there was tons of food and tons of visiting. My grandparents were there along with lots of family and even though a lot of folks had other plans that day, almost all of my closest college friends made it over, including my girlfriend Jen (she arrived and surprised me with Jax), who I hadn't seen in years. Even after my family trickled out, Jax, Jen, and Seth continued to hang out and visit and it was really the perfect day. We went to bed that night feeling like our visit was off to an awesome start.

Week Two - June 29th to July 5

(Banana and her Popsicle)

The day after Mom's BBQ we were up bright and early again for a day at Blackberry Farm in Aurora. The hospital where both Mom and Jack work was hosting their company picnic and it promised to be another full day for the kiddos and me. After a quick breakfast out with Aunt Jax and Aunt Jen, the kids and I met up with Jack and we were off to meet Nana (who was helping to set up) at the picnic.

Blackberry Farm has been around forever - I can remember going there with my little sister Sarah's preschool class! They have a merry-go-round and pony rides and big old historic buildings with actors giving demonstrations of life in early America. So we ate ice cream and got the girls' faces painted and rode the ponies and went on the merry-go-round at LEAST four times and had all sorts of exhausting fun.

After that the remainder of the week passed in a complete and total whirlwind of shopping for my cousin Erin's wedding, which was the original reason for our whole visit in the first place. There are eighteen grandchildren on my Dad's side of the family and even though I adore all of my cousins, Erin and I have always been especially close. There was no way I was going to miss her big party. So after days of combing the mall (only to finally borrow a great dress from Jacquie), we finally wound down our week with the arrival of the Fourth of July.

Growing up, the fourth was always one of my favorite holidays. It was always just a day off when everyone stuck around the house, there was no question that we'd be grilling, and about an hour before dusk, we'd troop out to the high school to watch the fireworks. When we first moved out to Oswego, they didn't even HAVE their own fireworks but once they started, they got better and better with each passing year. I used to go every year with my folks, and then later with Skippy and eventually it's where we took both Banana and Kbear for their first fireworks displays...which I believe both of them slept through! So true to form, everyone stuck around during the day, we grilled, and then we trooped out to the high school to watch the big show. The kids and I made some awesome firecracker hats too and I only burned my fingers once getting a sparkler going for Kbear - one of those many moments on vacation when I missed having Skippy with me!

And after yet another late night, we were up early on the fifth for Erin's big day. If I had to sum up her wedding in one word, it would be.....I don't know. Gorgeous comes to mind. So does elegant. Flawless. And beautiful. She and Jon threw a hell of a party and she looked absolutely stunning. The girls attended the ceremony with us (where Kbear whispered in awe that Erin "looked like a princess") and then Jacquie saved the day as she always does and took all three of them back to Mom's house for the night so that I could enjoy the reception. I had an opportunity to visit with my family from all over the place and with the exception of a few very emotional moments related to my Dad's absence, it was an amazing night. I was incredibly happy to be there and to be a part of it and I am so grateful that I didn't miss it.

More to come!!!

Monday, August 18, 2008

True friends....

Before I really begin this blog post, I have to take a moment to say Happy Birthday to my very BEST girlfriend, my Mom. I hope it was a great day Mama and I love you!

During my month in Chicago, everyone had at least one question in common - they wanted to know if we've made any good friends out here in the wilds of Oregon.

I've had a lot of time to reflect on my Oregon and Illinois friendships since my trip - some recent reconnections on face book and other experiences since arriving back in Oregon have made me do a lot of thinking about the life that Skippy and I have begun to build out here. And I can honestly say that without my Oregon friends, this would not be even close to the fantastic home it has become.

I mean, I have friends who will watch my kids at the drop of a hat, or who don't hesitate to call if they need a hand with their own. That's just what we do - it's not about money or favors or "I'll pay ya back" or any of that - it's just how we pitch in to keep each other sane.

I have friends to go to movies with who introduce me to the insanely yummy idea of dumping your M&Ms into the popcorn (try it, it's good!), friends to go eat ice cream brownies with, and friends who yell at me if I don't go to the gym after going to the movies for M&Ms popcorn and eating ice cream brownies.

I have friends who don't hesitate to take my own offspring to the potty with them when they are taking their own - after all, what's one more butt to keep track of right?

I have friends who step up in a crisis - who will keep my girls overnight without any hesitation when my baby gets sick and I'm stuck in the hospital and my husband is out of town. These are the kind of friends who tell you to breathe, and not to worry...and you actually listen because you trust them with your most precious cargo and suddenly the whole mess isn't quite so scary any more.

I have friends who are always up to split gas for a road trip to Portland specifically to have lunch at Red Robin - friends who don't care if the day ends up being something slightly different from what we had envisioned because it's just fun to hang out and be together.

I even have friends who worry when the temperature gets to a hundred and thirteen degrees while my husband is out of town and I'm melting in the house with limited air conditioning and three children. These are the friends who invite us over and won't take any excuses - the kind of friends who feed us dinner and give us room and board for the night in their air conditioned house, all for the price of ice cream sundae fixings.

I have friends who hold my hand, say prayers on my behalf, come to my kids' birthday parties, love my family like an extension of their own, bring meals in times of need, hold out hope for my triumphs, mourn my losses, support my endeavors, and love me for the scattered, unorganized, and hopelessly emotional mess that I am.

So yeah, I have some pretty darn good friends.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Calling for abundant sunshine

And temps that rival the seventh circle of hell.

I am not kidding people. Today when we went by the bank, the clock/thermometer said it was one hundred and four degrees. And it felt like it. Even in Home Depot and Subway (our two stops for the evening, in search of window fans and dinner) the air conditioning has a hard time keeping up with the heat outside.

Tomorrow's forecast? *Only* expected to be 105 folks. And Saturday we're going to have a slight warm up to a hundred and six. But hey, our heat advisory expires at 8p.m. on Saturday night and we cool off to a balmy 100 by Sunday.

Everyone tells me "at least it's not humid here like in Chicago!" At least in Chicago everyone has central air. After a lifetime of being spoiled by the magical cooling vents, this 1970s wall unit stuff sucks.

Dry heat my ass. There comes a point where hot is hot is hot. And it's hot.

Stay cool boys and girls. I've got a Chicago-recap in progress - at this point I'm tyring to remember everything we did! Drink your water and sit tight.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A moment stuck in the past...

Last night I stayed up late watching the Olympics. Watching the women's gymnastics team lose the gold and clinch the silver but even more excitedly watching Michael Phelps grab first one record-breaking gold medal, and then another. I love to watch the Olympics - I've even been letting the girls stay up late to watch some of them with me because I believe that it's an important part of our world-culture to experience, if only through the TV; so many purely emotional human moments happen during the games in the midst of all that competition...it's really something to see.

After I watched the men's relay, I got to thinking about an old crush from my childhood - not an old high school sweetheart but a JUNIOR high school infatuation - really the first serious crush I ever had. His name was Mike Revers and I thought the sun rose and set around him when I was in the seventh grade. I was in heaven in eighth grade when he asked me "out" - which if you don't remember, in eighth grade pretty much means writing notes and holding hands in the lunch room...he broke my heart in a NOTE just a few weeks later; my first absolutely crushing heartbreak. I sobbed for hours and like any good ex-girlfriend, resolved to his suggestion that we "just be friends."

He had always been a swimmer. Not just a swimmer but a really GOOD swimmer. My freshman year in high school, I attended every swim meet I possibly could, mostly because my fourteen year old heart fancied itself still in love. Oddly enough, we really DID become friends - or maybe I was just part of his high school fan club...looking back I don't really know but then again, I didn't really care.

My last day at Waubonsie Valley High School was a sad one - my parents were moving us 12 miles down the road to an itty-bitty town called Oswego...which isn't so itty bitty any more but back then, it was NOWHERE. Mike snuck me off to a practice room in the music department and kissed me goodbye and I remember feeling elated and heartbroken all at the same time. Even after we moved, I continued to attend WVHS swim meets, sitting by his parents with a few of my other giggling girlfriends and screaming my lungs out while he swam. His parents were always so good to me, so sweet. He was their only son due to the loss of a younger brother years ago and they doted on him and in turn, doted on his friends.

Inevitably over the years I lost touch with him as I settled into life at my new school. I made new friends. I got my first real boyfriend and finally put that old childhood crush to rest. But every so often, even through college, I thought about Mike and wondered how he was doing. After all, these were the days before email - I knew that he had gone on to Notre Dame and that he was still swimming. But beyond that, nothing. Eventually he was just another memory - an old childhood friend from a long time ago.

So I'm not sure what made me plug his name into Google last night -- something about watching the Olympic swimming stirred some old memories. His name popped up in my mind and I found myself wondering if he was still swimming; wondering what he was up to.

I mean, don't get me wrong - I've googled lots of ex boyfriends. That's part of the fun of the Internet! Hell, I've googled most of Skippy's ex-girlfriends too, because I can be a snot about stuff like that sometimes. But I'd never even thought to Google good old Mike Revers until last night. It's been at least ten years since we last talked, maybe more.

The first link that came up was a blog about cancer. And in it, was a copy of Mike's obituary. I sat there in stunned silence, thinking that it couldn't possibly be the same person....then I got to his parents' names, to the blurb about how much he loved to swim, and I knew that it could be no one else. He died last year at just 28 from melanoma.

It's strange to find yourself feeling grief for someone you knew so long ago, someone who was a friend but not a friend....someone who played the role of your first love -- before you even knew what love really was and only thought that you did. There is a profound sadness in a discovery like this - that your lives took such different paths and that after so many years he should end in a few written words that try to sum up the man he became after the smiling quirky athletic teenager you once knew. He kept on swimming and he got married and like the rest of us, he grew up. I'm sure he was a very different person from the one I remember and yet, I doubt he was THAT different.

He is in my prayers today, as are his parents and his wife. I doubt his folks would even remember me, but I remember them very well - the cookies they brought to swim meets and the teasing they gave his "fan club" and the way his dad used to whistle to help keep him on pace while he swam - the way his mom used to hug me and how deeply they loved their son. I can only imagine how much he is missed.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Is it even worth it?

I mean seriously - I get it now. I screwed up big time by not taking time out of my Chicago restaurant eating-mulitple mall shopping-sunny day swimming-family and friend visiting Windy City extravaganza to blog just a little bit every day. It was a HUGE mistake and now I forgive any of you who sent me a snarky email or a cross instant message. I'm flattered that you missed me, and disappointed that I haven't managed to write it all up yet. I mean at this point, it is even worth it to tell ya all about our trip?

Granted, life has been pretty boring since we got back. We've made a trip into Portland, hosted my niece for a few nights, BBQ'd with friends, picked TWELVE POUNDS of blueberries, and done the usual grind around the house - dishes, laundry, kids, rinse, and repeat. It's been quiet. I've seen new babies and visited with old friends and just enjoyed settling back into life in Oregon; Mostly I have realized that I have come to take the landscape (and life out here in general) for granted - the clear blue Columbia and the gorgeous hills and mountains that surround us are new to me again - and I've come to realize that this really *is* home. Chicago will always be a huge part of who I am - after all, it's where my story began, as they say. I see that skyline in a movie or hear a news story and my heart beats a little faster for my first home. But here, with my children and my Skippy....here I've really realized that home is wherever we are together, and that is all I really need.

Admittedly it was somewhat discouraging to come home to a busted computer. The one drawback to having a wonderful, smart and resourceful GEEK for a husband is that there is no such thing as 1-800-DELL in a geek's universe. Oh no my friends, real geeks build their own computers. And when something (inevitably) breaks, a true geek will tinker for hours on end to find the culprit, much like a mechanic who devotes his days off to working on cars for fun. It's endearing and infuriating for those of us who aren't tech savvy, but for the time being, my very own marvelous geek has managed to get me back online. We'll see if the band aid holds.

I'll be back tonight with a Chicago recap - at the very least a Chicago vacation timeline. Right now I have to help Skippy pack and get out the door - his new role at the Goog officially began today, and he's already being packed up and sent out of town. Such is the life of a busy father. In the meantime, the kids and I will bide our time here at home like we always do. Such is the life of a busy mama.

Edited to add that I totally lied AGAIN. I am so totally going to bed. But if the computer stays on, I will be back on it tomorrow and I WILL get this Chicago blog out of my system!