Wordful Wednesday: Chicago Summer Fun

::patting sweat from brow:: Is summer over yet? Cause I’m exhausted.

No really, it seems like the summer just flew by in a haze of weekend trips and rain storms and car rides to Detroit.

We squeezed a LOT of action into a few short months. And we were supposed to do so much more. Sadly we got uninvited from a friend’s annual trip to her parent’s cottage in the Canadian wild. Apparently having my kids there would have greatly cramped their style. It was shitty and my feelings are still a bit bruised, but we made the best of it. We took the days off that we had already scheduled, packed up the car and headed to…

CHICAGO!!!! to visit my Bro-in-law André and his super sweet bachelor pad. Neither of us have seen André’s place. And sadly we hadn’t been to Chicago together since before we were engaged. SMH. As Cedella would say “Not cool dude, not cool.”

Now for those that haven’t already heard this here’s a little tidbit about Michael and I. We both lived in Chicago at overlapping times, he was there first and left before me and I was there a bit longer then we met a year after I moved home. Even more coincedence? We both worked on Halstead Street during that overlapping period of time. Who knows how many times we sat on the train together or passed each other on the street. Or waited in line at that same Dunkin Donuts for a coffee before work.

Isn’t that crazy? We discovered it on our first night getting to know each other. It still fascinates me and makes me love for a Tardis to take me back and discover all those small passing moments we were almost together, but not.

Anyways…we both love the city. Love. Chicago is the town I would live in again in a split second. I adore Chicago. I want to live there again some day.

So needless to say getting booted from the Canada trip was a blessing in disguise and just what we needed as a family.

Now for the picture overload…

We arrived on Thursday went to André’s and checked out the view. And it didn’t suck one little bit.

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After being floored by the view we rested for a while and then braved rush hour traffic in cab to make it to the Children’s Museum on Navy Pier because it was FREE that night. But this free museum night is not a secret. That place was bananas. Fun but totally chaotic.

As it turned out our good friend’s from Lansing were there playing too. Nicole and Randy and their little ladies Nia and Imani were a welcome sight in the mad crowds.

Izzie and Imani rolled around the baby area.

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Check out Nia, Izzie and Ella getting their groove on.

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My beautiful friend Nicole and I. (P.S. We really needed a flash for this picture! lol)

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Uncle André met us there after work and endured the ‘creeper’ pass just to hula hoop with his nieces. The ‘creeper’ pass is this bright pink badge they make you wear in the museum if you’re a solo dude with no kids in tow. André just screams creeper in his Brooks Brothers, doesn’t he?

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Check out my Mighty Girl. She was totally digging this workshop area. Just a screw driver and some screws and she was engrossed for 35 minutes. Remind me to add a workbench to the playroom, huh?

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On the way home from the museum we were starving and decided to try this little spot in André’s hood. Big & Little’s. Featured on Diners, Drive-in’s and Dives. Gotta say…it was slammin’!!

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They’re schtick is awesome tacos and po’boys. And they do them very very well. This Bahn Mi Fried Shrimp Po’Boy was incredible. Like lick your fingers and ask for more incredible.

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Isora loved the food so much that she only woke up once the food was served. She slept through the wait.

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Cedella and her Uncle appeared to have loved it as well. We may have ordered 1,000,000 tacos. Seriously. That good.

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Then we took a stroll back to the crib. And the view pretty much sucked. Not at all brilliant.

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But then you turn the corner and…the last remnants of Cabrini Green housing projects. A sad reminder that gentrification is a messed up, complicated, sad and yet wonderful thing.

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The next day we hit up the Field. Cause you have to do at least one of the big museums when visiting. Well, at least you have to if you’re in our family. I never met a museum I didn’t like.

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And there she is, hiding in the back there behind that glorious elephant, Sue the Dinosaur. I remember being so impressed with Sue when I was a kid. Cedella was underwhelmed. But she loved the halls of taxidermy animals and was fascinated and disturbed as to how these animals got put behind glass and how they’re not alive anymore.

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I adored this exhibit on Africa. I want so badly to ride on this bus.

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Ella got to cruise on a motorbike with a jambox on the back.

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And I got to hang out and rest in Grandma Linda’s favorite spot in the Field. The Pawnee Lodge. Me and my baby in a papoose were right at home. I even got to do a quick woven wrap demo for some curious mamas.

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And I just love this photo. Outside the museum. Such a sweet moment.

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We had a lot of time in this trip to just relax, cook, visit and take it easy. This was Saturday morning while we were making breakfast. 21st century Saturday morning cartoons…on the iPad.

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That day we loaded up a cooler with drinks, sandwiches and snacks and hit up the 31st beach. It was incredible. The beach was populated but not crowded, and there was a gorgeous view. Thanks to my girl Kasey for hooking us up with this ‘hidden’ gem in the city! Seriously, best cheap family day in the city yet.

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Me and the girls. And André catching some rays.

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This view doesn’t suck either.

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An even better feature of this beach? A really cool playground we burned off some energy at before heading home for the day. This kid is a big fan of swings. Big fan.

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Pretty sure these white dudes are vampires. Just sayin’…

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My sweet active sweaty lovely adventurous girl.

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The next day this mama wanted to do some shopping. I needed a Zara and H&M fix so we headed down to State St. And then this happened. We used a Picasso as a slide. I know, I know, everyone does. And anytime I’ve been to Daley Plaza I have done this. But it never ceases to amaze that this is a Picasso statue.

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Then Cedella found her inner drum circle hippie and danced like no one’s business for this man’s drums. I really wish I could share the video, it was epic. But it won’t download from BIL’s HTC phone. Boo.

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Izzie and I found our bliss in the middle of H&M. She was the perfect little shopping buddy until the second I went in the dressing room and she decided she was starving and wanted Mama and Daddy wasn’t cutting it. She’s such a Mama’s Girl.

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But then I wrapped her up and all was right with the world. Don’t we look ready for a few more hours of spending?

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Sadly my girls are not interested in hours of shopping. So we grabbed some Garret’s, hit up the Disney store and then headed back to the apartment to pack up and head home.

We waited until late afternoon, when both girls were tired, and had a fairly uneventful, though stormy, ride home.

So we may not have gone clubbing or had any 4am hotdogs with a side of obscenities but we had a really fantastic trip!

Can’t wait to go back later this year. Chicago at Christmastime with a dusting of snow is magical. And there are so many things we didn’t get to do this time that we just have to get back sooner than later.

Thanks André and Chicago for hosting us for another incredible memory-making trip!

Where did your family go this summer? Any tips for great urban places to check out with little ones in tow?

Happy Wednesday wordless, wordful or however you spend Hump Day!

Wordful Wednesday: The Cottage is the Thing Pt. 2

We had such a fun time up north in Oscoda with my family and Michael’s family this summer. You can read and check out all the sights in this POST.

Late in the afternoon on Father’s Day Michael and his family drove back home (cause they all had to work). So it was just my mom, my two sisters, my two daughters and me.

We had 7 incredible days of just the ladies. It was heavenly. Nothing like living with all your female relations to remind you that this is why people stayed close to home and lived in the same villages if not homes as the rest of their family. It DOES take a damn village to raise your babies and if that village is populated with people you love and trust…well…then Mommy gets to drink a lot more Lime-a-Rita’s and whiskey on her vacay.

Seeing my daughters interact with my sisters is just incredible. And I’m reminded of how lucky I am not only to have sisters, but to have MY sisters. Tracey and Kylara are like my twins and yet totally different from me. Tracey knows me better than I know myself. And to see them with Ella & Izzie…how much they teach them, how much the girls love and cherish each moment with their Aunties.

I mean Kylara just LOVES these kids. And she helped me out so tremendously. I’m so proud of the responsible and caring 17 woman she’s become. She is just the sweetest and most loving Auntie ever. Oh yea, and they call her Ky-la-la.

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And then there’s this…Grandma and Iz. They are so funny together. This makes my heart swell. I love them so.

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Every time we go to Oscoda we go to Dinosaur Gardens. If you’ve been there once you understand. There’s something so off and yet so fun about it. Sure there’s a random statue of Jesus in the ‘heart’ of the Brontosaurus and sinners in it’s tail (I know…that’s not even a real dinosaur which makes it even better). But it’s kitchsy road-side-attraction at it’s finest. If Neil Gaiman had visited here it would have been a setting in American Gods.

Turns out the good folks over at Connie’s Cafe have bought Dinosaur Gardens and are revamping the place while still keeping it’s original campy charm. Which means the place was sprayed for mosquitoes…

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But there’s still these awesome nude-butt cave men. Win. Win. And yes…I touched the butt.

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How cute are me and Ella with our babies in their carriers? It was really cute. Until she didn’t want to carry her baby anymore and had a meltdown and threw Mia and the carrier and I threatened to throw them in the garbage. Ugh. That sucked. Someone really needs to teach this kid that you can’t just put your baby down when you’re tired of her. Sheesh.

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I’m telling you…special bond between these two. And they walk at exactly the same pace. SLOWEST.

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That’s a T Rex y’all. Look out!!

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After Dinosaur Gardens we headed for lunch at Connie’s Cafe. Home of the GIANT cinnamon rolls. Also home of the Best Pot Roast Ever (according to pot roast lover Grandma). It was so so yummy. Glad to have finally had a meal there and enjoyed meeting Connie and her husband.

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We took another day trip to Ocqueoc Falls, the ‘largest’ falls in the lower peninsula. Yea…it wasn’t really what we had pictured.

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But we enjoyed the scenery for a while.

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And even took a mini-hike through the woods. In our Converse. Yea…we really weren’t planning ahead for this day.

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And of course no family of proper Librarians could miss a trip to the local library on their trip.

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Nothing like chillin out and reading books on the beach…

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Izzie grew into her Pisces soul on this trip. She IS a water baby, just like her sister. Freezing or not they loved it.

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Playing in the perfect sand. She could dig all. Day. Long.

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Don’t mind the ‘Assests’ folks. This swimsuit top was perhaps a bit obscene for a family day at the beach, no?

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I love her. I really do. Except there are times I want to choke her out. Kidding… Sort of.

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But what we did a whole lot of is what we do best as a family. Eating and shopping. Seriously I think our entire days revolved around what we were going to eat. It was awesome. Also, I think I went to the local Goodwill 3 times in 7 days. I will forever call it ‘Best Goodwill Ever’. I found Hanna Andersson and Tea Collection dresses for $1 and a brand new Target purse for $12. SCORE!

Spaghetti dinner was a big success. Even Cedella ate her pasta with gusto.

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And played little mommy helping clean up her sister’s face.

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The most special part of the day though is the camp fire. My Mom lives for the camp fire. She’d have a camp fire every single day of her life if she could.

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Most nights we went down to the fire pit after the girls went to bed. We had some proper mother/daughter/sister bonding time. It was really nice. You just sit, enjoy the trance of the fire and tell stories and eat marshmallows. Love these ladies!!  IMG_2781

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But I really wanted my girls to experience the fire, learn some safety and dig on some S’mores. And then Cedella had her first squishy fire-melted marshmallow. And this happened…

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Total freak out. It was hot and melty and sticky and she was thoroughly grossed out and upset about it. What little kid doesn’t like S’mores? My kid. Weirdo.

But she rallied and really enjoyed the Hobo Pies and other fire roasted yummies.

How awesome to be able to have this uninterrupted time with my girls and my siblings and my Mom. I am one lucky mama.

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Hope you had fun going on our Up North adventure with us. If you’re looking for a really lovely place to stay on Lake Huron please considering renting a place from Perfect Landing. Their units are all clean and up to date and their beaches are pristine.

I mean just look at this place…Our little slice of Pure Michigan heaven.

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I already can’t wait for next year!! What is your summer family tradition? Do you have a place or cottage you go to every year?

More summer travels to come next week for Wordful Wednesday as I recap our family trip to Chicago!! Happy Wednesday folks!!

 

 

 

 

The Cottage is the Thing Pt. 1

Summer for Michiganders consists of many small grievances. Mosquitoes, construction zones, humidity and firework season. But for all those hot weather annoyances there is one sweet bit of relief we can all share.  The Cottage.

Being the Great Lakes State is pretty awesome when you think about it. We’re surrounded by 3 incredible bodies of water in our country. And all along the banks of those lakes are beaches. And just beyond the sand there are cottages. Where there is beach and lake front in Michigan a cottage is not far away.

Everyone has their own little piece of ‘Up North’ (what Michiganders call anything 40 minutes north of where they live). Be it a campground they spent their childhood summers at. Or the cabin their great-grandpa built by hand. Some prefer the Michigan side, others head for the big inland lakes like Houghton and Torch. And a few brave and intrepid souls wander all the way up to Superior every summer.

Our family? We go to Huron every summer. We’re a Huron kind of family. Our beach is the pristine and uncrowded stretch in Oscoda. Our beach is the one that the entire country sees in our famous ‘Pure Michigan’ tourism commercials. It’s lovely.

I can’t even remember how many years now we’ve been coming except that my dad never came so it has to be within the past 10 years. And I never remember being there without Michael, so that narrows it further to 8. That’s a lot of memories. And so many more to come.

And it’s only gotten better and more important now that I have kids. To give them this time, in nature, out of the city, with their extended family. It’s such an important tradition to me.

This year we added to the tradition by inviting my inlaws, Jiddo John and Teta Hilda and bro-in-law André to share the Father’s Day weekend with us. And I’m so glad we did. It’s the first time both sides of our family have spent this much time together since our wedding. How lucky are we that they get along and enjoy each other’s company? Everyone had a great time.

Our lovely stretch of Pure Michigan. Isn’t it stunning?

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It was cold. Even cold for Up North. But Cedella could not stay away from the lake.

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Miss Isora discovered a natural affinity for digging. She did so for hours.

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Hours of digging made Biz hungry and exhausted. Breastfeeding on the beach? Win. Win. So glad I have these beautiful photos to remember our breastfeeding relationship.

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And…passed out. The beach is the perfect spot for a nap. Don’t mind André, he’s a beach-posing pro.

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Fun times around the fire circle. My Mom lives for a good camp fire. S’mores and beers and whiskey and wine and laughs and oh yea…fire. What’s not to love? I think my FIL and MIL loved the fire as much as we did. We had some really good laughs and told lots of stories. If it hadn’t have been so damn cold we could have stayed out there all night.

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So when it got too cold outside we packed it in and poured some drinks and started out playing a game called Apples to Apples. Which was all very fine and funny and PG-13. Clearly we needed to step it up and take it to an NC-17. Enter Cards Against Humanity. Officially it’s a game in which a question is asked (black card) and the person with the best answer wins (white cards). It’s totally arbitrary based on the person reading the black cards taste and sense of humor. Though it had the potential to totally offend the old folks they had a blast. In fact my FIL John won the first game and my MIL Hilda won another game!! We laughed so hard we cried. And we got my Mom to say “Motherfucking Sorcerer” (Thank you Kylara for masterminding that one). If you are looking for a good time and every one is over 16, get Cards Against Humanity. You won’t regret it.

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Cold and rainy days require lots of good things to read. And lots of folks to read them to you. Uncle André put in some time reading fairy books with Cedella.

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While Isora did a little light reading catching up on the goings-on in Westeros.

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Beers and walks on the beach. Works for us 😉

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The Grandmas and their wiggling silly Granddaughters.

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Bedtime with Jiddo.

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Thankfully by Sunday it was quite a bit warmer so the beach was the thing. Besides, this kid couldn’t be deterred from the water. See LOVES the lake.

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Jiddo John and Uncle André had a blast flying kites with the girls.

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Shells and tadpoles and a million little creatures captured Dad and Ella’s imaginations.

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Braving the icy cold waters of Lake Huron.

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My sisters chillin’ on the beach.

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The Mansour guys and the Mansour little ladies. A handsome bunch, no?

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Father’s Day lunch was delicious. We made beef and pork kabobs, salad, asparagus and of course lots of delicious watermelon.

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We managed to find a Father’s Day version of the best. Card. Ever. It’s a Hamburger that sings a really obnoxious song. And it makes all of us laugh ever time we play the song. Ella found it at Target. She was so pleased with herself to give it to her Dad.

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The whole gang (minus a sleeping Izzie). All these people I love, that love each other, that love my babies. God, I just really love this picture.

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Have you taken a trip with both sides of your married family? What are your family summer vacation traditions? Are you a Michigander? Which Lake is yours?

Well that was quite a photo bomb…but guess what? There’s a LOT more. Coming up is Part II…our day trips to Dinosaur Gardens & Ocqueoc Falls and other spots in the great Up North.