Tuesday, April 24, 2012

the windy city

Months of little white lies, deceptive planning, and just in case password changing, my dreams of surprising Jimmy with a birthday from the movies came to fruition last Thursday.

Keeping mum wasn't hard, save for coming up with a few creative lies, in the beginning, but just as a kid nearing Christmas is, I had a hard time keeping my tracks covered as time drew to a close.

I slipped out early Thursday morning for what I can only imagine looked like a shady transaction in front of the local coffee shop.  Exchanging various baby paraphernalia before nervously driving off to head home and inform my love that he needed to pack.

I was met with hilarious bewilderment, begging to know what we were doing in Denver, and very brief protests regarding that fact that he has to work.

As we neared the airport, the silence was deafening; there was an occasional plea to release all information I had, but I couldn't give in until we pulled into a parking lot meant only for long term parking at the airport.  I texted him a picture of the Cubs logo and the Are you SERIOUS?! on repeat was almost enough to make me just squeal.  And okay, in man language, pack for a couple days obviously means throw a few hanging shirts in the car and do NOT PACK A SUITCASE.  I could have died when he walked out with the tiniest bag known to man (for his shaving kit) and was ready to go.  I insisted he go get another pair of jeans "just in case" (I packed him other shirts and such).

And can I just tell you - - packing for two small children, myself, and the dogs without letting out a peep is no small feat.  This whole double life thing is not for the faint of heart - I'm actually not sure how I pulled it off, and I swore the day before I would probably never do anything like it again because the stress of keeping quiet was something I wasn't quite anticipating.  Then his reaction changed everything, and in an instant, months of secret contacts, careful research, and lugging my phone around like it was an appendage was very worth it.

We made it to the Windy City around 6:30, paid out the nose for a cab to our hotel, and then headed off to dinner.  There were a few exclamations of disbelief thrown in for good measure.  We ate at the most amazing Italian place I have ever been to.  Italian food, meat sauce, and positively alarming amounts of mozzarella cheese would become a trend.  I'm currently in search of the nation's top Carb Detox Facility.  So dinner - Quartino's - I can't stop thinking about any of it.  Thin crust pizza, linguini with clams and white sauce, fresh bread, prosciutto wrapped dates with honey and gorgonzola cheese.  Did I mention the molten chocolate cake with vanilla gelato?!  I walked back looking 27 months pregnant, and it was more than worth it.

Jimmy has always talked about going to Chicago because a) he has never been, b) he's a stinky Cubs fan, and c) he works closely with the Chicago Board of Trade.

We took the opportunity to go see the CBOT up close and personal.  To be that close and personal, we couldn't wear jeans which meant I was dressed in a dress and sandals for blowing rain and freezing weather.  We bought an overrated umbrella to prevent my hair from going all seventies on me, and that broke in less than five minutes.  Thanks, wind.  I nervously messaged my sweet friend Pepper who might be called into sainthood for keeping Eisley for not just one night, but four.  I gave firm instructions to disregard sugarcoating and tell me how much of a nightmare it was, but I am fairly certain there was still some sugarcoating involved.

We spent more than four hours hearing about the things Jimmy does for a living.  It was very interesting for about...thirty minutes and I tried very hard to be a good little student and listen to what may as well have been Chinese, but my feet were killing me, and my legs still looked like someone had whipped them repeatedly.  Also?  No food or drink allowed in there which means no breakfast.  We didn't eat until 2:30.  I was determined to jump on one of the pizza bandwagons before leaving - Friday was a great time to start (Giordano's).  Jimmy went to sit with me for a manicure because I stupidly painted my nails before becoming completely dead to the world the previous night...and well, we all know how delightful sheet printed and bubbled nail polish is.

 hungry faces/Giordano's Pizza

We walked on Michigan Avenue for awhile, mostly in search of winter clothing for ourselves, and then we headed back to our hotel to get ready for 7:00 dinner reservations.  You can imagine my surprise when I find out they are actually at 8:30 - I should have paid more attention to his sister's messages.  All in the name of timing for the best surprise, I told him our reservation was actually at 7:30, but that there's actually a 20 minute window, so it's very likely that 7:30 means an almost 8:00 seating time.  I'll just be honest - I have no actual idea how I came up with this atrocity of a lie, but I think what's worse is that he just took my word for it.

The timing worked out in our favor and we looked around in the restaurant gift shop before he was surprised for the second time with ten people from his family showing up to eat dinner with him.  I think I recall sneaky and liar exiting his mouth like rapid fire.  We ate dinner At Harry Caray's Tavern on Navy Pier - to die for cheese sauce with their pretzel sticks, and sinful Snickers peanut butter pie.  It was so nice to hang out with family for the remainder of the evening.

We made a brief jaunt to Dunkin Donuts in preparation for Saturday's breakfast, and then we walked to our hotel.  Mostly on accident, because we couldn't get a cab that close to Navy Pier, and we reasoned that we needed to walk off our indulgences.

 three Cards fans, and a Cubs fan

Saturday brought the Cubs game.  Donned in varying degrees of Cardinals attire underneath plentiful layers, the ten of us sad and froze.  I am sad to say that I watched the Cubs pull off a win, even with two trademark little league errors; I am even more sad to admit that I paid to see such a thing.  But seeing Wrigley Field was worth it.  We had Lou Malnati's for lunch afterward (the salad there was my favorite), and headed back to the hotel that everyone else stayed in.  We passed the time with so many stories, waitress bloopers, and drinks - it was sad to say goodbye, but we had an amazing time with them.  We spent the remainder of our night at Bin36 - a wine and cheese place next to our hotel.  It was nice to feel like I was on a date rather than the main act at the circus, trying to keep two small children entertained as not to disrupt others.  For the record: I still just cannot get into goat cheese.  Expensive goat cheese and cheddar goat cheese taste the same as normal goat cheese to me.  I just can't do it.

Sunday brought more walking, shopping, cupcakes, skygazing, and pizza devouring - this time at Gino's East where we penned the girls' names on the floor along with the other graffiti decor.  We made it to the Hancock Observatory for drinks and picture ops.  Ninety-six floors above ground, and my ears popped!  We walked back to Navy Pier, nearly froze, came back to find that all the shops close at 6:00 pm on Sunday, and then walked to Ditka's for dinner where Jimmy accused me of being a ninety year old because I could hardly keep my eyes peeled.  We made it back to find a maid that had decided she'd cleaned enough and put the Do Not Disturb sign outside our door to cover her tracks, rude neighbors, and a telephone that rang at 3:33 am.  Walking, eating, and energy expending had caught up to me, and I called it a night early.

 Billy Goat Tavern


Millenium Park - The Bean

Hancock Building, from the ground up.

 best popcorn I have ever eaten, hands down.  Also the messiest.  Also, I almost lost it when we had the brilliant idea to go on a roller coaster simulator.

Monday - our last day.  We loaded up our things, handed them over to the valet services, and left for last minute shopping, eating (Chicago Dogs!)  Jimmy managed to twist his ankle on the way to the train  which made for an interesting remainder of the day - he'll tell you the sidewalk was uneven, I'll tell wasn't.

We made it home smoothly and were welcomed by the two sweetest faces in all the land.  I will never forget the way Ruby yelled for us both, and the way Eisley lit up and flashed her smiles.  My favorite part of the welcoming party was the nighttime snuggles, the tackling hugs, the dances parties, and pancakes we had for dinner tonight.

Windy City - you've been checked off or our lists.  And I'm maybe, probably, very likely fatter than ever.

For inquiring minds; I'm a Giordano's bandwagon hopper all the way.

And randomly: I had two homeless people tell me I had beautiful hair (Thanks, Marylin!); we had one homeless person yell to us, "Y'all look GOOD together!  I need to find me a WOMAN!"  And then a few days later, we would hear something similar from another person, only this time, he shouted after us down the street that we were both so good looking that no one had to carry any extra weight in the relationship.

Good to know.

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