Sunday, May 6, 2018

CHICAGO: Days 1 and 2

You guys, I'm here! I'm in my city! My place, the one I found at 22, left at 25, but where a large piece of my heart still lives 10 years later.

You know how sometimes you you'll have a place that lives so brightly in your memories, but when you go back years later you're like oh, this is what that was? And it's all dimmed a bit or you see the flaws more clearly and you realize that maybe it wasn't so amazing after all? Or at least not so amazing for who you are right now?

Chicago is not that for me.

We're here for my 10 year law school reunion and I love this city every bit as much as I did 10 years ago and possibly more. I spent an hour in bed last night from midnight to 1 a.m. looking at real estate listings and school ratings. It is a testament to how much I really and truly love Fort Worth (and my husband, who will not move back here) that I am not refusing to board the plane home in a few hours. I have beamed - BEAMED - every minute of walking through the city streets and my new goal is for one of my children to grow up and move here so I can visit.

As soon as we started walking- in the rain, after a morning of travel delays, I learned that a part of my soul I didn't even realize was dormant will always come alive here.

I love this city with my whole heart and showing it to my kids was everything I thought it would be.

But back to the travelogue: We left Thursday morning. 5 people, 4 days, 3 carry-on suitcases. No checked bags was an important family milestone for me (I never check bags and found it unduly burdensome when baby gear forced me to do so for the last decade) and all the airport logistics went smoothly. The kids are expert travelers by now, each with their backpacks packed with a kindle, headphones, PBJ, cut up veggies, and extra granola bar.

An extra granola bar that came in handy when our plane was grounded for an hour on the runway before taking off because giant thunderstorms blew into Dallas 5 seconds too early for us to make it out. Luckily, we don't have toddlers or babies anymore and this was really no big deal, but I still feel like I should get to complain about it for the record.

"Mom! I need my Wonder Woman stuff! We're FLYING now!"

We landed and had to sit some more (Chicago had storms too and there were no gates open) and then we finally pulled up 90 minutes late. We deplaned and headed straight to the L for babies' first public transportation ride.

The orange line took us straight to a station near our rented condo (thanks HomeAway, as always!) and we walked the rest of the way. "We're walking to our new house?!" exclaimed Cora. "Yes honey, this is the BEST PART of being here." (Cora would later object to this statement.) We dropped our stuff, prayed the rain would hold off, and set out for the city center.


We stopped for popcorn immediately and I was even happier.

We got hot dogs for the kids for a snack and proceeded up State Street, my old favorite place to shop, dashing into Old Navy because we forgot Cora's jacket (I can picture it's precise spot on the counter and feel like it's so sad to be missing out), and getting periodically rained on. City life!

We made it over to Millennium Park to visit The Bean/Cloudgate.

I love the bean.

Moving to this city was James and my honeymoon. We got married on a Saturday in Houston and started driving north on Monday. We pulled up to our new condo in West Loop on Tuesday, James went back to work Wednesday, and I started law school the Monday after that. We didn't know a soul for a thousand miles and it was such an amazing way to start a marriage. We had each other, we had this fabulous city, and at night we'd just walk for miles through it. We didn't have any money, so we never bought anything- we just strolled. I still know the names of every street and cross street in the loop and they all make me smile with some memory or another.

I really truly deeply love it here.

We moved on from my reveries to cross the BP bridge, the kids taking off as always.

And once across we discovered a new highlight - Maggie Daley park! Build several years after we moved, this is the GREATEST park we've ever been to.

We stayed for hours, until finally a starving James insisted we depart. It was nearly bedtime and we still had a mile walk home and a promise of deep dish pizza to fulfill.

Cora decided she was done walking. To be fair, everything is further apart than I remember... mostly because I just love walking so much I never noticed. Landon offered to carry her and she decided that was a splendid idea.

He is the best. As is this pizza.

Yeah baby. Carbs and cheese are my favorite, so I'll take a perfect buttery crust slice of Chicago pizza over any thin crust any day. And it's one of the few foods Fort Worth thoroughly lacks. We walked home the last half mile in the dark, city lights sparkling, with tired kids. We stopped briefly in a Trader Joe's for wine and breakfast foods before taking the last few steps home a good 90 minutes after bedtime.

On Friday morning we woke up bright and early (and I do mean bright- our condo is made entirely of glass and the sun is up VERY EARLY) and decided to more thoroughly explore our new home.

Our condo (which Claire adorably keeps calling a "compartment") is amazing- at Roosevelt & Clark, close to everything, with a perfect view of the Sear's Tower and some rather ridiculous amenities (golf demonstration room? test kitchen that looks exactly like a set from the Food Network... basketball court, raquetball court, "neighborhood bar," library, wine room, business center with stock tickers and free Starbucks machine, giant gym, indoor pool, rooftop deck...).

Obviously, the kids are ready to move in.

Once everyone had their Starbucks from the business center, we headed out, this time to the Sear's Tower to see our old part of town (we lived just two blocks away) and take the kids, who think my 19th floor office is SO HIGH UP, to the Sky Deck.

The Sky Deck is on the 103rd floor and it is "very amazing."

Four big glass boxes were added after we moved, so we'd never experienced stepping out into the air 103 floors up.

I have no fear of heights at all and have to admit my stomach dropped a bit with that first step,

So obviously we decided we should jump up and down.

That's probably our next Christmas card picture.

It was so cool.

Once we made sure we saw all the things from all the sides and all the angles, we headed straight across town to Wildberry, just above the park.

It opened up after we moved and was full of sugar and deliciousness. (All the clappy hands to the Yelp app for telling me there was an hour wait and letting me check in from the 103rd floor of a building 13 blocks over; by the time we walked up, we were next on the list.)

The kids insisted we stop at our favorite park again, so we did that while I booked us tickets on the next Wendella Lake and River cruise. If you're ever in Chicago you really must do one. You learn SO MUCH about the city and its architecture and history and it's just a great way to rest and still cover a lot of ground. The kids loved it - even at 90 minutes long and with lots of talking and facts thrown at them and it was probably the best thing we did the whole trip.

I'd been on the cruise 4-5 times with out of town guests and law firms while we lived here, but hadn't realized James had never been. He loved it.

It was such a gorgeous day (and I'd run into CVS right before our cruise to buy some sunscreen; another benefit to a city vacation, every few blocks is a chance to buy something you forgot!).

After the cruise we took the L home and relaxed in the condo for a bit before our dinner reservation that night. Cora and her "tired feet" took a nap, James worked, the big kids chilled out with their kindles, and I set up shop on the balcony with a glass of champagne and large bowl of Chicago Mix popcorn. Heaven.

And then it was time for dinner. James and I decided not to do the class reunion dinner - we didn't really want to find a sitter and if we had, we would have wanted just a date night for us!, so we decided to do a fancy dinner on Friday night with just the five of us to celebrate my 10 years as an attorney (and working mom!). We did some research, made reservations, packed one set of nice clothes, prepped the kids on the fact the restaurant would not have kids menus (another milestone!), and then walked over on a beautiful evening.

And dinner was AMAZING. So, so, so good. We opted for Siena Tavern in River North and ordered nearly everything: Coccoli, Grilled Octopus, Hearts of Palm salad, Roasted Beets salad, Pappardelle pasta, Pizza, Brick Chicken Diavolo, and a special mac and cheese made just for Cora. Dessert was something called "The Cookie Jar" and involved Nutella Mousse and six Creme Brulee infused cookies.

It was really special. The kids were perfect and enjoyed the ambiance and food. The bill made us choke a little with its insight into what it will be like to take a grown-up family of five out for dinner, but it was worth every penny.

When we lived here, my very favorite walk was to go home along Wacker Drive at night. It borders the river and the lights of the city would reflect on the water and I would just think how crazy lucky I was to live in such a beautiful place. The kids couldn't quite make it all the way home, but we did get to walk a few blocks to the L stop.

My seasoned travelers popped right up the stairs, swiped our fare card, and boarded to head home.

It was simply the BEST day.

Until the next day, but we'll blog about that later.


  1. I just started reading your blog after hearing you as a guest on Best of Both Worlds and then what do you know I think I passed you and the fam by Target!

    I live in South Loop so I’m recognizing a lot in your photos. Hope you have a good rest of the trip!

    1. Ha! How crazy! I love South Loop and am so jealous you're there - keep enjoying my city for me until I can get back!

  2. I clearly don't do blog comments (posted this on the wrong post). Anyways, I've followed your blog since your law school days (also my law school days at a different Chicago law school). Kinda crazy seeing you post a picture from your rental and see the building I live in! Enjoy your time here and thanks for bringing nice weather this weekend :)


    1. Ha, hi Jeff! We all loved our visit so much! Jealous you're still there and glad we got to bring a few days of sunshine!

  3. So fun! That jumping picture made me cringe but it will make an awesome Christmas card!

    1. Haha- I have to admit, the pressure of knowing there was a line behind us is what got us to do the jumping, there just wasn't time to think about it! A pretty crazy and awesome experience, Landon still says it was his favorite :).

  4. you really are beaming there!

    1. I was!! It was just the BEST trip. I love that city so very very much.

  5. We are going to Chicago for the fist time next year- we cannot wait!

    DC is my Chicago- it's where we spent 3 years after college, living together for the first time, having our first grown up jobs, settling in as newlyweds. We'll never move back, but every time we drive the Clara Barton Parkway into the city, my souls sighs a bit and tells me I'm home.

    1. "every time we drive the Clara Barton Parkway into the city, my souls sighs a bit and tells me I'm home"

      YES. Yes precisely this. (Except sub Lake Shore Drive and/or any major L line into the city for Clara Barton Parkway.)

  6. We're taking our clan to Chicago this weekend, so of course I had to look up your post. All these things added to the itinerary. Which deep dish is your favorite?

    1. Giordano's! It's our very favorite, but Lou Malnatti's is also excellent.