Thursday, May 10, 2018

CHICAGO: Days 3 and 4: Law School and Beyond

Life is full swing back in the Fort, as it always is, particularly when you get home from a vacation at 9 p.m. on a Sunday night in the insanity that is the month of May for families with school-age children. But before we get back to reality, let's linger in Chicago just a little while longer. I can't believe a week ago today we'd spent our first evening there. It really was such a wonderful few days. Too wonderful really. I can't stop looking at condos and texting links of them to James.

When we left off it was Friday night and I was going to bed with a smile on my face and lots of amazing food (topped off by just a little more Garrett's popcorn) in my belly. Saturday was to be UChicago day - the reunion, the whole reason we booked this trip and had the kids miss school and James leave the swim school right at his most busiest month.

We were supposed to start with brunch at another favorite spot but I woke up unable to even contemplate more food, so we made do with tea (me) and cinnamon bread and cereal bars (everyone else) thanks to the nearby Trader Joe's. Honestly I think the kids were relieved. We usually only eat out 3-4 times a month and even on vacation I generally do a lot of cooking, so we were all drowning a bit in the deliciousness.

We decided to head to campus early and grab our first meal there. Back when we lived in Chicago I drove to school every day. The University Chicago is in/near South Side and the closest L station was 3 blocks south of campus which was a decidedly not great area. With the Obama Presidential Library and Community Center being built, a plan by the city to update that South Side L stop, and the general southward spread of campus and its students and professors, the internet told me the Green Line Cottage Grove stop was perfectly fine to take. And since we had our L pass and I adore public transportation, off we went! To the end of the line!

We got off and walked our 4 blocks up to campus. First stop was the bookstore where I bought a t-shirt I'll probably never wear because I never wear t-shirts but there's just something about being in a bookstore that makes you think you need one. I also got a Christmas tree ornament because I realized last year I didn't have one related to my time at UC.

The kids immediately noticed the beautiful Gothic architecture and ivy covering the buildings. "It's like a bunch of castles!" Claire told me. The flowers, as always, were gorgeous. I loved this campus. Rockefeller did a good job with it.

It was 10:45 and we were finally hungry for solid food again so we headed over to my favorite dining hall. Bartlett is housed in the old gymnasium and the track still exists around the edges of the ceiling. The kids were DELIGHTED by college dining. All you can eat? And you get to hold a PLASTIC TRAY?! What could be better?

Frankly, not much. Especially when it costs $40 to feed your family of five and you have the whole buffet to yourselves because none of the undergrads are awake yet.

Post lunch we moseyed over across the Midway (site of the 1893 World's Fair!) to the law school. It's not the prettiest building on campus, but it's not the ugliest either. Other than the fact it doesn't match the rest of campus, I actually quite like it.

And here I finally got to see some old friends. Reunion banners hung from the ceiling, kids ran about, and a face painter was in residence! Like Take Your Kids To Work Day before it, Reunion Day did not give an accurate look at the law school. The kids think it all looks super fun and wouldn't be able to imagine I spent weeks during 1L year very seriously imagining driving my car into the lake. I mean, I was going to jump out like an action star before it hit the water, I just thought I might get to delay my finals a day or two due to the drama of it all. (But who am I kidding? This is Chicago, I totally would have had to take them on time.) Cheerful thoughts!

Even James got in on the face-painting fun for a bit of advertising. Sort of like what was now stretched across Landon's face. Nothing says entrepreneur like getting free advertising space on your son's forehead.

I wandered around the school a bit, pausing in this hallway (our main one; it's a small school, all four of our big classrooms were here and all my 1L classes were held right here. All my finals were here. All my pre-pregnancy research and obsessive fertility charting was done in those rooms when I should have been listening to corporations and Landon walked with much assistance down this hall my 3L year). So many memories! It didn't seem nearly so intimidating on Saturday. It even made me smile. I have a lot of feelings about this place. It systematically broke down my brain, made me cry, and then built me a better one. I had the most amazing professors and most supportive classmates. I'm proud to have gone. I'm glad to be done.

The kids loved the library and couldn't believe how much I'd sat at those tables to study. (And blog. And read other blogs. But let's pretend it was all studying.)

The water feature required a lot of playing and we got a nice family picture in front of it. James and I had been married for our two weeks when I first showed up at this school. Thirteen years later, perhaps the biggest surprise is that we now live in Fort Worth, Texas. I did not see that coming.

We took the L back around 3, Cora declining to walk really any part of the way. She spent most of Chicago getting piggy back rides from her siblings, with the occasional assist for James or me. Third babies, they know how to work the system. They are also very comfortable sleeping wherever required. Cora took cat naps on the red, orange, and green lines on our trip.

We got back to the condo around 3 and Cora requested a nap, James got to work, Claire chilled with her kindle, and I bribed Landon with the promise of his own bag of whatever popcorn he wanted if he'd walk the 1.6 miles round-trip to our nearest Garrett's so I could get more Chicago Mix. We sported our new UChicago gear and it was super fun to walk through the city with my Chicago baby.

After we all recharged in our own ways (MOAR POPCORN), we headed back out to the city to do some walking and find dinner. We ended up at The Marq which was delicious and not too far away. Though really, anything was too far for Cora.

Poor Cora. Is it really too much to ask to be carried everywhere in a gold-plated and plush sedan chair?

After dinner we made our way over to Millennium Park again. The night was spectacular. Perfect weather, perfect skies... we just wandered slowly about, soaking it all in. People were everywhere and the city was at its Spring best. After a while we headed south, determined to have the kids in bed by 9 (they usually go to bed at 8; life is just better when they get their sleep). Cora was carried by all members of the family and we all paid lip service to the idea that tomorrow we'd make her walk. (No, no we didn't.)

We put Landon to sleep in our room (he had been sleeping on the pull-out couch) so James and I could actually spend some time awake in the main area of the condo after-hours. We hung out, sat on the balcony together, did some work (my version of work being the uploading of our pictures)... it was a very nice last evening. We went to bed about 11 and transferred Landon to his couch bed. He walked himself (I sort of forgot he weighs 88 lbs. when I came up with the "we'll just switch him" plan), but woke up the next morning expressing GREAT shock at having changed beds.

On Sunday we made good on our tasty brunch from the day before and I was ready. Bongo Room was a beloved favorite when we lived in Chicago and we were delighted to find it was still there, right where we left it! And our new condo was only 3 blocks away! The white chocolate and caramel pretzel pancakes were still on the menu and they were still delicious.

I was determined to make it to North Michigan Avenue, so we took the L up to the Chicago stop and walked around from there. We stopped at Water Tower Place, the old water station, and the usual NoMi haunts. Cora was delighted by "her new castle!" and insisted of a picture of her upon it.

We walked to the Oak Street Beach and I fell in love with the city all over again. Building a sand castle in the shadows of the John Hancock Building. I love this place.

It was a perfect chilly morning - back in the 60's - so luckily I didn't have to convince anyone to stay out of the water.

I love a city on a lake.

We stopped at the North Michigan Ave. Lululemon (my kind of sightseeing), waved to the hospital where Landon was born (Northwestern!), and then took the L back. I think I'd pushed the kids about as far as I could on the whole walking thing. Just to check I asked if anyone wanted to walk back with me (about 2.5 miles) and they all looked to James like, for real? Can we be honest? Will this hurt her feelings? DO SOMETHING AND STOP THIS. So the L it was.

We stopped at Stan's Donuts in the floor of our Roosevelt L stop because we'd passed by it 6 times and I'd never let anyone get anything and it's named for my dad, so we felt duty bound to support his franchise. They were incredibly delicious and I was glad I hadn't known that the other 3 days.

We walked over the Roosevelt Bridge a second-to-last time and then James took the kids to swim in the condo pool while I packed up and did laundry.

(Our building! The one that's not the Sear's Tower!)

All packed up, we headed back to the L one more time, now with our suitcases back in tow. Cora had insisted on changing back into her Wonder Woman dress for our second round of air travel. "Wonder Woman FLIES mom," she told me very seriously.

She slept the whole way to the airport on the Orange Line. She really loves a good nap and her life so far has taught her to catch them wherever she can. Especially if a Mama is holding you.

The flight home was good - we all ate some of the granola bars I'd packed in Texas, but no one wanted lunch or dinner. When I added up our charges on the trip I found we'd spent $300 less on activities than I expected because the weather was so beautiful we stayed outside and didn't do any of the museums I thought we would, but we spent $300 MORE on food. That sounds about right and I have no regrets.

We got to the house about 9 p.m. Everyone had some cereal, we put everything away, and the kids went to bed. It was a magnificent trip. I had waited years and years to take the kids to my favorite city, talking myself into and out of trips on a yearly basis. Just wait until 10 years, I'd tell myself. Everyone will be a good age to go and it will be worth the wait.

And it was.

And seeing the city through the kids' eyes was so fun. Maggie Daley Park was by FAR their favorite thing. We spent hours and hours there on Thursday and Friday. They loved the Sky Deck and the River Cruise. They loved riding the L. They loved that we let them have things like "Oreo S'mores Pancakes" and called it breakfast. They loved campus and it was so very special to me to bring them there. Far more so than I expected. The know UT of course. We lived in Austin and have been back a time or two to visit. But The University of Chicago feels collegiate in a very different way and they never had a mental picture for mom's other degree and that time in their parents' lives.

When we were in the elevator going up to our condo after the reunion, Landon was wearing his new University of Chicago Law School shirt (which he also wore the next day after asking me to wash it) and an older man in the elevator looked at him and said, "wow, UChicago Law, that's very impressive" while gazing over at James. "My MOM went there, Landon exclaimed, "and I went there when I was a BABY."

"Wow, Good job mom!" the man replied heartily. And Landon nodded knowingly like, yeah! I know, right?! I had no idea.

It's silly, but it was a moment for me. Landon isn't quite old enough to not think we're smart, but I'm not sure he'd ever particularly thought of us as affirmatively so either. We're just the parents. We handle things and that's what we're supposed to do. But on Saturday, he very clearly, very suddenly and surprisingly, in that morning found me to be impressive, on my own, for something I'd done. So it was a moment.

He's my law school baby. Here we are in 2008 and 2018.

In 2028 he's promised to be the one to pick up me.


  1. Oh man. That last picture is everything. <3

  2. Totally teared up there...

  3. I love that you recreated that photo! And I'm realizing this means I've been reading you for 10+ years now, whoa. :)

  4. That last picture of you and Landon killed me, it totally made me tear up.

  5. Gah, the end of this post! He was just a chunky lil lobster when I started reading this blog. I am not crying.

  6. That last picture is amazing.

  7. Man I love your blog. Thank you for sharing your writing with us!

  8. aww too cute!! and that wonder woman flies bit made me laugh, thank you.

  9. Love that last photo! It took seeing the side by side of you and Landon to realize just how long I’ve been following your journey! Yours is the only blog I’ve read consistently for a decade!

  10. Can't wait to see that photo 10 years from now. What an excellent post.