Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The end? Yes! Yes the end!

I know. I know, I know, I KNOW!!!

Y'all have lost complete faith in my haven't you? I have been a complete and utter failure about my blogging for the last oh....three months or so. I mean, since Chicago we have gone to pick blueberries and started school and gotten into soccer and who knows what else and I haven't been able to talk about ANY of it, all because I was too busy in Chi-town to keep my blog updated.

So in the words of my loving husband, "No more multi-part blogs babe. You suck at them."

In all honestly, I've been putting off the last Chicago blog because it has actually been really difficult to put that whole trip into words. We had such a wonderful time and did so many different things, and I really wanted to do it all justice and there never seemed to be adequate time to do that. But after being home for over a month and a half, I steeled myself to the task this morning and realized that I absolutely had to finish this. Plus, who wants to do laundry anyway?

After the BBQ at Bernie and Jeff's house, we really only had two more big events left that we squeezed into our agenda in between all of the visiting and running around and swimming and health-clubbing. They really capped off our trip beautifully.

First, we took the girls to Country Thunder USA to see their favorite band, Sugarland. Then, the kids and I went to the zoo with some of my cousins. It was yet another exhausting weekend, but also some of the most fun I can ever remember having.

Country Thunder is a huge Country Music Festival that takes place every July during the dog days of summer up in Twin Lakes, Wisconsin. Mom and I first went (with Jax) about seven years ago I think. It is an absolute blast - hotter than hell, with cowboys and bikini-top clad country fans EVERYWHERE. You eat a bunch of junk, you drink too much, and you rock it out all day and all night to your favorite acts. And the timing couldn't be better this year, with Sugarland headlining because not only are they one of my favorite groups, but the girls just love them.

So after leaving Chunk in the care of Jax, Sarah, and Jack, we trekked up to Twin Lakes early on Friday morning, checked into our hotel, grabbed some lunch, and then prepared to introduce the girls to the country concert experience, Country Thunder Style. We spent the day wandering around and having all sorts of fun.

We bought water guns.

We tried on hats.

We took a picture of the kids with Waylon Jennings......wait. That's not him. That's cardboard. But it looks creepily LIKE him doesn't it?

And eventually we ate some dinner and then settled back into our lawnchairs to await the headlining act!

Finally, much later that night after a day spent in the sweltering sun with two impatient little girls, Sugarland hit the stage. I'm not sure what Banana and Kbear were really expecting until the lights and the sound cranked up and they both realized that it was REALLY them, right there where they could see them play and sing. By the time it all really started to rock, my girls were t-i-r-e-d but also completely enchanted. We danced and we sang, and Mom and I put them up on our shoulders so that they could see and it was honestly one of the best experiences I've ever had with my girls and my Mom, and I think it's something that all of us will remember for a long time.

Once the show finally wound down (sometime after 11:30 I think!) we made the long trek back to the car and then back to our hotel. The girls were completely exhausted and it didn't take much to slip their dusty little shoes off of their sweaty little feet and put them to bed. It took even less time for me to put myself to bed, where I promptly passed out until breakfast the next morning. After a quick swim in the hotel pool, we said good-bye to Mom (who was heading back for day two!) and made our way back to Oswego, to Mom's house, and to the Chunker, who took very good care of Jack while we were gone.

You would think that would be enough for one weekend - taking the girls to their first country concert and all. You would THINK....until my cousin Erin called and demanded that we make our talk of the zoo a reality. This zoo business was serious stuff. I mean, Erin had called me from the airport when she was waiting to go on her honeymoon to make sure we were still going to find the time to go. That's serious zoo business man. So after a mere 24 hours to recuperate from our Country Thunder extravaganza, complete with dinner at IHOP with Jack and a night spent snug in our beds at Nana's house, we hopped a train (as seen in the picture) into the city for a day at Brookfield with three of my favorite cousins, Erin (and new hubby Jon), Aileen, and Jill.

The kids LOVED taking the train. They sat down on the bottom and they sat up on top and they made new friends and had a snack and all sorts of exciting fun. Chunker enjoyed looking out the window and managed to completely (and foully) fill his diaper while contemplating the scenery, which gave *me* a new experience - changing a wiggly baby's diaper and clothes on a moving train. So it was a new endeavor for us all! After we finally disembarked at the zoo stop and tracked down Erin, Jon, Aileen, and Jill we slathered on the sunscreen and prepared to do battle with Brookfield in the heat.

Brookfield Zoo is spectacular. And it's HUGE. If you ever have a chance to go when you're in the Chicago area, you really should because as far as zoos go it's totally awesome. We played on the playground and had a picnic lunch and saw about a million animals - I couldn't even begin to list everything we did -- and we barely scratched the surface of the zoo grounds! But we walked and walked and WALKED and had the most fantastic time. I pretty much grew up with my Collins cousins and even though I love all of my cousins (there are 18 on my Dad's side plus another handful on my Mom's) the Collins kids were the ones we spent the most time with growing up so I think we are especially close. And since all of us can remember days spent at the zoo as part of big extended family visits, I think it was really special to us to share a day there together with my kids.

The quote of the day from the zoo comes from Kbear. I stayed outside with Chunker while the rest of the gang made the long and humid trip through the Ape House. After Chunk and I had a snack and shared a bottle of water, we decided to go wait for the rest of our group at the exit of the exhibit. As we walked up, everyone else was walking out and when Kbear saw me, she ran over to us, yelling "MOM! WE WENT TO AFRICA!" Cute huh?

The zoo was really just the icing on the cake. It made me realize that no matter how far away I move with Skippy and the kids, I will always have an amazing bond with my family - not just my mom and my brother and sister, but also with my extended family who gives us the most incredible love and support. It brought back a ton of memories from when I was a kid, and it was something special to share with my munchkins. Jill took a million pictures with Erin's awesome new camera, and you can see those here:

After the zoo we were officially in the home stretch. During that last week we went and visited with my grandparents (my Dad's folks) and we swam a bit and hung out with Jacquie a bit, and just kind of tried to savor the last few days of our trip. A pesky toothache hit me mid-week with kind of put a damper on things (I cried to Skippy that it hurt so bad, I'd rather be in labor!) but with the help of some super pharmaceuticals I slogged through it. One of the best things we did was to take my Mom to have her picture taken with my kids. We got everyone decked out in Cubs gear and got some stellar professional shots taken - it was the perfect way to end our vacation - with an awesome picture to add to our memories.

And all of a sudden, just like that it was all over. On that last Saturday we went out to breakfast with Mom, Jack, and Jacquie and started the tough process of saying goodbyes. Mom drove us to Midway where they got even harder but somehow, we managed to finally walk through security with a teary-eyed Nana waving and watching us go. And finally, after a 12 hour travel day, complete with two planes, snacks, playdoh, a movie, tired kids, and a Salt Lake City layover, we landed in Portland late that night. I was so excited to see Skippy that I actually had butterflies! And despite the wonderful, amazing, busy, action packed vacation in Chicago that we spent with some of the people I love more than anything in the world, when Skippy walked up to us in that airport and the girls squealed with delight and the Chunker reached out his chubby arms to Daddy and I finally got my kiss, I realized that I was really and truly back home.


Marcy said...

Mike and I leave for Chicago on Wednesday morning, and we are excited to get there. Mike is especially excited this time, because it's also his 40th year class reunion. Oh my gosh, I was only 3 yrs old when he graduated. I think going to the Zoo sounds like FUN. I haven't been since I was a little girl. If anyone in Chicago area wants to go this next week, call me please. Love that photo of kids and your mom. Gives me great ideas!! Great blogs, love reading them. Wish you guys could come visit us.
Love Uncle Mike and Marcy

Anonymous said...


kat said...

lol, yes that was me :-)