The trip to Chicago was, overall, a success. But filled. Filled. Filled with challenges!
We woke up Saturday morning… Jeff is sick. With my grandparents being older and all that… we thought it best he not bring his germs up there so he was now assigned to stay home. Which meant I was about to drive from Indianapolis to the western ‘burbs of Chicago with a 4 year old and a 2 year old all by myself!
This trip was important, though. My mom’s parents are both still living but each year we are all unsure of how much time is left. My mom has 4 siblings. My mom is the oldest. There is also my Aunt Kathy, Aunt Martha, Aunt Liz, and my Uncle Tim. Our gathering was at Aunt Liz’s house. They live in Downer’s Grove, IL and that is where my grandparents retired to several year ago. Aunt Kathy is in San Francisco. Uncle Tim is in Eureka, CA. Aunt Martha is in Lexington, KY. Then my mom is in Cincinnati. As for grandkids- 3 of us the 5 were there. My Uncle Tim has 2 boys- Jason is a newlywed in CA and Ryan is a newly bar-ed attorney in Dayton (he drove to IL for the gathering). My mom has the 3 of us- I was there with my kids and my brother Daniel was there. So this was quite the family reunion!
First off- major, major props to my brother Daniel. My mom had called Saturday morning and I told her Jeff was sick and staying home and she promised to help with the kids. I think she forgot that she had promised to make a white chocolate cheesecake and 2 chocolate cream pies. Those desserts she is famous for and usually makes the day before a holiday gathering. So she was busy in the kitchen and I honestly didn’t see much of her.
Now, I’m a pretty laid back parent in a lot of ways… at home. Our home is set up for our kids. Our kids know and, generally, follow the boundaries here. But in someone else’s home… where there are vases and crystal bowls… I can’t sit back and relax. I have to be interacting with them almost constantly.
I got to the house around noon. My parents and brother were out on an errand and wouldn’t get to the house for several more hours. But once Daniel was there… he was a hero. He played and played and played with my kids. We all played together, they climbed on him, chased him. We played with a giant exercise ball. We slid kids up and down the hallway.
I also handed over the camera to Daniel for a while- and he managed to get 2 shots of me! Proof that I do exist! They aren’t the most flattering but… hey… I was tired and I don’t even think I was aware he took these shots!
I brought some toys- I thought the puzzles would keep Zach content. Even bought him 2 new ones… nope. He’d sit with them a little but there was too much “new” for him to explore! He was a non-stop, non-napping, non-resting bundle of constant energy. Teagan got to be a little adult- helping in the kitchen, hanging out a lot with my Aunt Martha and Aunt Kathy. She even overcame her fear of fire (YAY) and helped Uncle Chuck (Liz’s husband) build a big fire in the fireplace. And the kids and I and Daniel decorated the Christmas Tree.
My kids were great. But it is hard to travel. It’s hard to drive almost 4 hours. It’s hard to manage them both in a restaurant. it’s hard to manage them both in a public restroom. It’s hard to keep them entertained and out of trouble. It was a hard day.
We are a family- Jeff, kids, and I- that eats dinner early. My extended family eats late. So dinner wasn’t ready until close to 7- which was 8 EST. Zach was already in bed. Teagan opted to just have cottage cheese (having eaten 4 bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch an hour earlier- in the pursuit of the toy in the bottom of the box). I showed her all the food cooking, much of which she helped prepare, and asked if she wanted to wait for it to be done and eat with us OR eat something now and head to bed. She opted for “now and bed,” surprisingly. But the menu just wasn’t up her alley. Pork roast (it was awesome), mixed veggies (brussel sprouts, carrots, pearl onions), roasted potatoes, roasted cauliflower with a kalamata vinaigrette dressing, roasted beets. And both desserts involved chocolate so she had no interest in those.
I never eat cauliflower anymore. I was very eager for it. I saw the recipe sitting out- asked if it was being made, was shown the cauliflower roasting in the oven, expressed my delight over how delicious the dish sounded.
I took Teagan upstairs. She went to sleep very easily. I came back down to dinner. Everyone was just getting their plates filled and starting to dig in as I came to the table.
I was exhausted… and exhaustion can make you an emotional mess. I was handed a plate and advised to just get the food I wanted on my way down the table. I got pork. I skipped the beets. I saw the potatoes and mixed veggies… but the cauliflower? GONE.
I set down my plate and went to the kitchen for water, feeling defeated. I went to the water pitcher… empty. I walked to the fridge and it all hit me.
I’d barely spent any time with my aunts and uncle. I didn’t get to talk to my Grandma and Grandpa. I hardly saw my mom and dad. My entire trip had just been slightly off… and then there was no. more. cauliflower.
I stood at the fridge, getting some ice water… and fought back hot, bitter tears and a lump in my throat. I was just so tired. And hungry. And the cauliflower being gone… and no one being concerned or apologetic about it… and no one seeming to care that they hadn’t spoken to me or had time with me… I was just crushed, like my ice.
So I fought back the tears. And went to the table. And devoured my pork and had 3 servings of the carrots and brussel sprouts and pearl onions. I had a piece of chocolate cream pie and a piece of white chocolate cheesecake with raspberry sauce (my mom made sure our end of the table got desserts first since, it turned out, we’d all been robbed of the roasted cauliflower). And I chatted with my Uncle Chuck and my brother and my mom. And not long after dinner, I headed for bed.
I’ll stop my complaining now- I won’t go into the constant noise in our bedroom because we were directly up the stairs from the kitchen where everyone insisted on being social even though there was a comfy living room with a beautifully decorated-by-my-children tree and a warm and cozy fire in the fireplace… or how cold the bedroom my kids and I were in was… Our drive home was really great. My kids travelled well there and back. I am super appreciative of employees who work overnight hours at Dunkin’ Donuts and at the Kankakee Rest Stop. I came home to my husband’s open arms and warm embrace. I got to lay down for a nice hour long nap. We ordered lunch in from Domino’s. Kids are now napping and later… we head to the Indianapolis Zoo to see Santa and enjoy all that Christmas at the Zoo has to offer.
But in the future… if you are at a family gathering where someone has young children… make sure to save them some cauliflower.