A memory that I’ll have forever that occurred this holiday season was with my mom, dad, nieces and nephew. As a special treat, I drove down with them from Wisconsin to my apartment in Chicago. The group of us were going to spend the day at the Lincoln Park Zoo and see the Zoolights and then spend the night at their Aunt Rachel’s place.
For those of you who follow my personal Instagram account, you probably have already seen a crazy amount of photos from this past Saturday. It was such a special and magical memory; I know I’ll never forget it. And I will say this, to all you parents out there – you are saints. I love those kids so much I can’t stand it, but I could barely move yesterday I was so exhausted. Have you tried not losing a child, much less three, in an insanely crowded public place? Insert potential heart attacks here.
Here’s how the day went. My mom, dad and I picked the kids up in my grandfather’s mini van (oh yes, we went all out with the family road trip theme) and we drove the three hours to my apartment in Chicago. We brought up the suitcases and sleeping bags that they received as part of their Christmas loot and we made them a late lunch to sustain them for the evening ahead. Then…off to the zoo we went!
We saw the lights, a tiger, sleeping apes and playful monkeys. We even went on the carousel (that was my nephew’s least favorite part but I enjoyed myself tremendously pretending I was 7 all over again)! We ended the evening in the gift shop of course, and had way too much fun playing with the puppets.
I have to say, those kids were fantastic because after spending three hours in the car and then another hour on the drive out of the zoo (yes, traffic was that bad – evening zoo-goers take note!), they did not turn into a group of whiney hellions like I would have become at their ages. Kudos, kids. Major kudos. After the slow and arduous drive back to my apartment, my father and I walked over to pick up dinner. What was for dinner? Why, Chicago style pizza of course! My father can’t visit Chicago without at least taking a half-baked Giordano’s pizza home with him. Lucky for him, I live a mere two city blocks from that exact restaurant.
The kids enjoyed their thin cheese pizza in the living room watching a movie while Mom, Dad and I savored the Chicago style mushroom pizza in the dining room…along with a bottle of wine.
After cleaning up from dinner, it was time to get cozy. I blew up my twin-sized air mattress for my nephew and Mom brought a queen-sized air mattress for the two girls to sleep on. We got them all set up with sheets and blankets and the sleeping bags, and I promptly made the biggest bowl of popcorn imaginable…make that two. My nephew declared it was the best popcorn he ever had all due to the sea salt. Insert winning aunt points here! Yesssss. We all cuddled up in my living room and watched Despicable Me 2 with the kids making sure we paid attention to the parts that were “really, really awesome and funny.”
After the movie and brushing of teeth and going to the bathroom, the kids went to sleep and Mom, Dad and I stayed up in the dining room to chat for a bit…and yes, consume a bit more wine. Then, off to collapse in sleep – Mom and Dad had my bedroom and I slept in the guest room on my daybed. I have to tell you, if you have trouble sleeping, watch three kids for a day. It’ll knock you out like you wouldn’t believe it. A caveat to that however is that young kids wake up early. If you’re not a morning person, this is a jarring experience. I woke up Sunday morning with my niece jumping on my bed giggling and telling me to get up. My cat waking me up in the mornings doesn’t quite compare. But get up I did, and she made sure to tell me how funny my hair looked. And it did, and no you can’t see a photo.
Now to make it even more obvious that I’m not used to having kids around. Before I went home for Christmas, my mom called me and gave me a clear grocery list to make sure I had the food and drinks that the kids liked. I accomplished the goal (I was really nervous I admit…this was a big deal to me and I couldn’t screw it up!) and I now know which grocery aisle the fruit snacks are in. However, when buying the Bisquick, milk and eggs for pancakes on Sunday morning, I somehow didn’t logically think about what condiment accompanies pancakes. Woops.
At the mere suggestion of having pancakes with just butter, tears started welling up. Emergency grocery store run was set into motion! While Mom and Dad prepped the meal, I ran to my local store to grab Mrs. Butterworths Original syrup and Ketchup for my nephew. Mom texted me en route when reminding me of the brand and assured me by saying, “I have faith in you. You got this.” Thanks, Mom; I will conquer the grocery task at hand and deliver the breakfast condiments that my single-person apartment does not have in stock! And indeed, the syrup and Ketchup were delivered in due haste. Breakfast was saved. Exhale now.
After breakfast and clean-up, Mom, Dad and the kids got packed up and we all loaded up the van around 11:30am. I waved goodbye to them on the sidewalk and watched them drive away. Upon walking back into my now empty and quiet apartment, I had that, “Huh, now what?” moment…then promptly went right back to bed.
No matter how exhausted I was after the visit though, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world and am still smiling with how much fun it was to spend that time with them. And for future visits (of which I hope will be many), syrup, I’m proud to say, is now on hand.