Chicago: Random Observations

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Ladybug cow walking up a building. Who wouldn’t take a picture of that?

* One of the first things I noticed in downtown Chicago was all the horn blowing. The first day we ate a late lunch and sat at the outdoor patio and I was rather surprised. The streets were narrow, there were cars parked on both sides and there were a ton of pedestrians. I thought drivers would be used to crappy driving conditions.
Over the next few days I observed the honking. Some of the honking was done by taxis. A quick beep letting people know they were available. Buses honked to get cars out of the bus stops. And everyone honked at pedestrians crossing against the light. (Me, I would have ran them over.) I didn’t really see any angry driver to driver honking. All that honking really did seem to have a purpose.

* By far most of the women were wearing flats, but nice flats or sandals. Only tourists seem to wear sneakers or flip flops. (I alternated between my sketchers and ll bean mary janes.)

* Several hotels had bowls of water for dogs near their doors. One even had a bowl of milk bones. (Don’t tell my dog.)

* Pretty much everyone we had dealings with was very friendly. Waitresses, bus drivers, cashiers at Walgreens, all were not just friendly but really helpful. It helped Chicago leave a wonderful impression.

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Beautiful!

* All the green space was such a surprise. In a city of skyscrapers there were not just parks scattered around but most streets had a little green belt. The sidewalks were wide and on the curb side there were trees, small stretches of grass and flowerbeds. Many buildings had flower boxes too that were just gorgeous.

 

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Taken during the architectural boat tour.

 

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It’s off center on purpose to show the DBacks flag.

* I cannot say how much I loved Wrigley Field.  Old school ballparks are the best.  And the fans were lovely.  They stayed until the end even though the Cubs lost 3-2.  The woman sitting behind us told us we were on tv for the seventh inning stretch.  Her husband (she was there with a girlfriend, I think a season ticket holder) was watching the game from home and sent her a picture of us! And this is a little weird but I got a chopped salad and it had the best Italian dressing I have ever tasted.  (I also ate a hot dog and some Cubs popcorn from Nuts on Clark so I wasn’t being crazy healthy, I just needed some greens.)

*At the end of the trip we realized we had used quite a few modes of transportation over the week.  Our truck  -> airplane -> shuttle bus -> boat -> the ‘L’  -> bus -> taxi -> train and of course our own two feet.

Next Chicago post:  The train trip home.

I think there is something in the attic.

Sunday morning dawned cloudy and humid with sprinkles of rain. I took advantage of this unexpected weather to laze in bed awhile. As I was enjoying this rare treat I heard an odd scrabbling noise that sounded as if it was coming from above my bedroom ceiling. After a few moments I got up and checked my office in the next room thinking maybe it was the dog getting into mischief. But the dog was asleep in another room.

Going back to bed I heard the noise again.  It sounded a bit like something I had heard before, a bird clinging to the window screen.  It had been a small bird, it’s claws clasped to the holes in the screen and apparently trying to pry loose a bit to use in a nest.  After a minute or two they gave up and flew away.  This sounded much like that but louder.

That evening I mentioned the noise to my husband who didn’t seem very interested.  I went outside and looked above my bedroom window.  At the top of the roof peak and directly above my window was a vent for the attic.  I could see the screen covering the slat like openings and it appeared to be intact.

I went to bed that evening, tensed for fear of what I would hear.  Sure enough the same scrabbling noise in the same location.  I noted that I did not hear any type of scurrying on the ceiling above me.

I may need to explain about our attic.  It is more of a tall crawl space.  I had popped my head up there during our home inspection six years ago and hadn’t any occasion to look there since.  The access is just a small opening in my bedroom closet ceiling, neither convenient nor easily accessible.  There is no ladder built in as some homes have.  The joist are laid out in such a way that the space can’t be used for storage even if the opening was adequate.

As I laid in bed listening to what I presumed was a trapped animal of some sort I wondered what to do.  In order to access the attic,  shelves in the top of my closet would need to be moved, a task I could not do alone.  I decided to worry about it in the morning.

I fell asleep quickly only to be awakened an hour later by that same scrabbling noise.  As I listened some more I imagined it to be an owl, trying to exit through the screened vent.  But how did it get in?  Even if I could get to the attic hatch there was no way I could see myself opening it and then sticking my head through.  My sleep was restless the remainder of the night and I was happy to rise in the morning.  I did not hear any further noises but I did not linger to listen for any either.

The next evening I did not hear the noise.  I could think of two possible reasons and decided to believe the animal had escaped the same way it entered.  But maybe I will have my husband take a peek up there this weekend.  I suppose one (but not me) should inspect the attic on occasion as part of good home ownership?

Chicago: No Worries, Was Happy

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Look, a flying penguin!

So, everything I worried about before the trip turned out to be non-issues.

Security at the airport,  a breeze.  We had the TSA pre-check because of my husband’s job so we got to skip the insanely long (despite it being 4:00am) regular security line and go through the no line at all pre-check.  We didn’t even have to take off our shoes and I did not set off the metal detector.

Getting from the airport to our condo, easy-peasy.  I wanted to arrange transportation beforehand but my husband wanted to wing it.  We ended up finding a shuttle at the airport and it was a reasonable $54 for the three of us. (It was almost 20 miles from the airport to the condo we rented.)

Using public transit, a piece of cake.  We rode the bus to the Museum of Science and Industry, easily arriving in time for our 10:00 a.m. Imax National Parks film and used the “L” to get to and from Wrigley Field with no issues.

I am a terrible packer.  I always want to bring some of everything “just in case”.  With flying that wasn’t practical and even though I checked the forecast I had no idea if I would have what I wanted to wear.  Turns out I packed perfectly, wore everything I brought and I was perfectly outfitted for the weather, the activity and my mood!  (We did laundry while we were there so I brought five outfits for eight days with mix and match possibilities,)

My biggest worry was about getting over tired or “over peopled”.  A lack of any solitude for eight straight days could be a real stressor for me, as well as being in many crowded situations.  Because I was smart enough (for once in my life) to monitor my own needs I was aware of how I felt and avoided any meltdowns.  For instance at Wrigley Field we opted to walk around the neighborhood instead of waiting with the crush of people for the gates to open.  We got to see some really interesting architecture and gardens and even popped into an open house just to see what the inside was like.

Our condo, fantastic!  Not fancy but better than a hotel and a perfect location just one block from the lake and two or three blocks from Michigan Ave.  Most mornings I got up first and used the shower and then  I could sit alone in the kitchen of our studio condo with my book and journal while everyone else got ready.  (Maybe I pretended a little bit that I was living there.)

 

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The kitchen in the condo

 

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The view out the kitchen window, love the ivy.

I ended up enjoying the trip much more than I thought I would.  Right before we left I had this sort of sucking it up for the family kind of mentality but once there, well, I have to admit I fell in love with Chicago!

 

Next Chicago Post:  Random Observations

Summer Joy List

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Father’s Day banana split

I happily announce that my son and I have found a good rhythm for our days. We are both happy, productive (enough) and not constantly at loggerheads. Our days are dare I say, pretty joyful.

So taking a page from “My Giant Strawberries”  here is my Joy List:

  • Homemade chocolate waffles with fresh strawberries
  • The two new swim shirts Santa brought me (so much better than my last one which stretched out horribly after a few weeks of wear)
  • 90° pool water on a 114° day (yes it really was 114° on the last day of spring and no that is not normal, even for Tucson!)
  • Getting in our outing last week before the really bad heat settled in.  We went to the park, Goodwill, Viv’s Cafe and the library.  I scored some good finds at Goodwill including an eight CD Christmas set and a lovely cardigan to give me hope for cooler weather (in like four or five months).
  • A good stack of library books
  • My hot pink toenails
  • Banana splits for dinner on Father’s Day (it was 114° afterall)
  • Rewatching the “Sex and the City” series from the beginning
  • A nice mix of comedies, dramas and war movies on the DVR
  • An exciting NBA Finals, especially game 7.  Congrats to the city of Cleveland, I am very happy for you.
  • And finally this cute little bin I bought at Target to organize clothes:
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Everytime I open my closet door he makes me smile.

 

Hey, it is officially summer! Happy Summer Everyone!

 

 

Chicago: Prologue

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Last fall my husband mentioned going to Chicago to see a baseball game. I gave him my “are you crazy?” look and said we are not driving 2000 miles all the way to Chicago to see a baseball game. Then he gave me his “are you crazy?” look and said we would fly. Oh. And from there our second trip for this summer developed.

Here’s the thing, the last time I flew was 2007. It was a miserable experience starting with security making me throw away my yogurt and then spending many long minutes with some woman feeling around my back where my bra hooks because the barrette in my hair set off the metal detector. And when I started to get obviously annoyed about it and the woman asked if I was annoyed I answered yes. Then she asked if I was annoyed with her. Uh-oh. So I lied and said no of course not.

And then I threw up all the way across the country. I was three months pregnant. When we got back to Montana I said I was done flying and I haven’t flown since.

The reasons why I don’t fly:

1. Ever changing and inconsistently applied security rules and the rudeness of many TSA employees.

2. The cost. When you think about how airline tickets are priced it feels fraudulent. How would you like it if every time you went to the grocery store the price of a can of peas was different depending on the time and day of the week you were purchasing it? Same peas a woman bought the day before but she paid ten cents less. Ridiculous right?

3. Delays. Flying may or may not be convenient. Used to be you mainly had to worry about weather and the occasional maintenance delay. Now you have to add in computer glitches, security lines and an unattended bag. And not just at your airport but any number of airports could affect your flight depending on where your plane and your crew are coming from.

But I agreed to bite the bullet and fly to Chicago.  We were only flying one way and it was a direct flight. And our flight was in the morning so I was hoping we could get out of Dodge before things went awry.

And thus our amazing Chicago adventure was born.  There is more to come!

Settling into Summer at Home

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Taken at the Amtrak’s Grand Union station the day we left

We are back from our second planned vacation of the summer, an amazing trip to Chicago.  (Look for future posts about the trip.)  For now we are getting used to being home again.

Right now I am debating how I want these stay at home summer weeks to look.  How much structure, how much of a routine do I want to establish?  I have been trying to give my son more freedom and trying not to freak out if all he wants to do with it is watch tv and use the computer (or watch tv on the computer!).

My first thought was to let him have an hour or two each morning and afternoon to do as he pleased.  And what was I going to have him do the rest of the time?  I pictured lots of sulking and whining and both of us being miserable.

And then I thought about flipping that mentality around.  What if I asked him to spend up to one hour in the morning helping with chores or errands and one hour in the afternoon doing learning?  Fun learning like playing Yahtzee to work on his multiplication and addition skills. And the rest of the time would be open to his choices.

Do I trust that eventually he will get tired of all the screen time and join me in the pool or play a game?  Do I trust that he is truly doing what he wants to do?  He is one of those kids that gets obsessed with something for awhile and then moves on to something else.  Right now he is stuck on “Stuck In The Middle”, some Disney show.

 I am planning on doing some sort of outing each week.  Will that be enough of a break from screen time? Of course what I am really hoping is that at some point he will add more activities to his time, of his own volition.

This parenting thing is really hard.  I have no idea what the right answer is for my son.  And that is the key, my son.  I can read all the contradictory advice in the world and still not have the answer as to what is best for my son. 

I am going with my instincts.  I will let him make his own choices for the next week and see how it goes. I will be as patient as possible with the screen time but if his behavior deteriorates or he is overtly bored or unhappy then I will intervene.

Afterall, if I could spend all day doing whatever I wanted it would include some time on the computer and a little television as well as reading a good book.  I am hoping once the novelty wears off he will be more interested in doing other things.

Here’s to the start of a hopefully happy summer at home!

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I had a glazed and an orange chocolate cake donut. (I miss them already!)
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Sweet summer in Chicago!

Sometimes Books Find You

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Playing around with my camera.  I grew this plant from a seed, a rare success for me.

Usually when I go to the library I have a list of books to look for or a pile to pick up from the reserved shelf. Of course this never stops me from a casual browse, no matter how big my pile of books already is.  There are some shelves right by the front door where the staff has some sort of themed display. There is a shelf of recently returned books that sometimes yields an interesting nugget.  And sometimes I just walk amid the shelves randomly pulling titles that catch my eye.

Recently I stumbled onto the book “the gift of an ordinary day” by Katrina Kenison.  An interesting memoir.  At times it was a bit repetitive but still…there were lines that made me stop and think.  She was the same age I am now when she wrote this memoir, though her sons are older than mine but still…I could relate.  Chapter five, “doors” I read twice and wrote down several quotes from.

You never know where a little help is going to come from.  I have been working hard to improve my relationship with my son lately.  Trying to find the proper balance of mothering and letting go. Finding my parenting priorities.  Which battles do I fight?  Becoming more accepting of who my son is.  Many traits of his are not going to change and nagging away at them helps nothing.  I can’t change my son.

But I can change myself.  I can be the mother I want to be. I will backslide and be inconsistent and still have the occasional parenting meltdown.  And when this happens I can retreat to my office and read through all my notes.  Remind myself how to be the mother I want to be.  I trust the universe will send me the encouragement and tips and advice that I need.  All I have to do is walk through the library.

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Experimenting with a spray of water
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and different light.