Thursday night I got home around 9:30, put the kids to bed and then sat down with Paul to see if we could find a hotel room in Chicago... for the next day. Hey, don't ever accuse me of not being spontaneous!
We were supposed to go to a friend's house on Norris Lake this past weekend. However, the beginning of the week delivered the bad news that their boat was going to need a new engine. That tripped got scratched.
Paul's job has been asking us to do a summer training program with college students in Chicago (hard to explain summer training programs). We thought maybe we should go on a fact finding mission and check out Chicago. We need to give them an answer and so it seemed this would be a good weekend to investigate.
For the record, let me just say that I am a huge fan of summer training programs for students. I am not a huge fan of summer training programs for the wife of a campus ministry guy who leads the summer training program. For the most part, the wife tries to figure out what to do with 4 kids in a strange city all summer while her husband works.
How do I know this? I have already done 2 of them. We spent 10 weeks in Myrtle Beach when the kids were 1, 3 and 6 and 10 weeks in Myrtle Beach when the kids were 2, 5 and 7. While there were lots great things that came out of those programs, great students we met, great memories and most importantly... great things that will impact lives for Jesus and for eternity... it was a very lonely, exhausting time for me. I have no desire to do another one.
I am just being honest.
Back to the finding a hotel....
There weren't any hotels available. Uh, could it be that it because Chicago is the 3rd largest city in the US? Could it have been the Air Show in Chicago this weekend? I don't know.
We had just decided we'd go Sunday and stay until Monday. Paul went to brush his teeth and I yelled, "I'm just gonna try Priceline real quick! I'll put in a ridiculous amount!"
30 seconds later....
"We're going to Chicago tomorrow!"
I put in $125 for a 4 star hotel and we got it.
That was at 11:35 pm.
We were on the road by 8:30 am armed with one suitcase for a family of 6. Yes, one suitcase! And it was not a very big one at that.
I feel very proud of myself for that.
We got stuck in traffic getting into the heart of Chicago, but that wasn't really a big deal. The Thunderbirds were practicing for the air show and we got to be the audience. We all loved it!
We found our hotel and put our one suitcase and 20 pillows in our room. THE CLAMPETS TAKE CHICAGO! I'm not kidding about the pillows! It was ridiculous. We had so many pillows I was embarrassed. We could have opened up a pillow shop! It was kinda my fault. I ALWAYS bring my pillows and those people I live with always try to steal them from me. Every time we take a trip, I say, "If you want pillows you need to bring them. You are old enough to do that now!"
They brought their pillows alright... all of them!
About 4:30 pm, The Clampetts leave their 4 star hotel and all their pillows behind to take on downtown Chicago. We decide to first catch a bus and take it all the way to the Hancock building.
I know this is going to come as a real shock to those of you who really know me, but I do not belong in a big city.
We hop on this bus trying to drag the big ol' honkin stroller in with us... hello tourists. We are all standing. I am holding Emme; Paul is wrestling the stroller. The bus, of course, is very crowded. All of a sudden, I hear some lady talking and I am pretty sure she's talking to me, but I can't really tell. She has a hat on with some scraggly hair sticking out from under it and she has on these HUGE black sunglasses. Their not stylish sunglasses. As a matter of fact, I thought for sure she was blind... until she started yelling at me. "There's a seat right there. You need to sit. You have a baby."
I was like, "What is going on?? How does this lady know I have a baby?" But, being ever the peacemaker, I promptly sit.
I'm still trying to figure out what's going on when she turns to me and says, "There's a seat open behind you. You need to have your daughter sit there."
I am still thinking she's blind and I am desperately trying to figure out how she knows all this is going on. I know when one loses a sense the other senses become hypersensitive, but this is bordering on downright freaky.
So, I tell Shelby to sit.
Then, she starts talking again.
The man behind you is going to get up in a second. Have your son sit there. Then all your kids will be sitting.
How on earth does she know that man is going to get up in a second? My head is spinning. Some crazy lady it talking to me. And, what's worse, I am doing everything she tells me to do. I am glancing nervously from kid to kid to kid. Meanwhile, some big man gets up and she grabs my arm and says, "Look! He's asking for money!"
Yep, he sure is!
Then she starts telling me about this man that sat beside her once and started rubbing her leg. She said, "I started yelling, 'WHY ARE YOU RUBBING MY LEG! STOP RUBBING MY LEG! THIS MAN IS RUBBING MY LEG'." She continues, "Then he got up and went and sat by a young girl who was probably 13 years old. I mean did he really think I was going to let him get away with that?" So, I started yelling again.
All I can think this whole time is... how in the world do I get myself into these messes? Does anyone else have things like this happen to them?
My thinking is interrupted by this lady yelling, "BUS DRIVER!! I NEED A ________ STOP!!!"
"DID YOU HEAR ME! I YELLED IT THE OTHER DAY AND THE DRIVER DIDN'T HEAR ME. I NEED A _______ STOP! "
I don't know what kind of stop she needed. I never got the word. I was just so thankful she was getting off the bus.
We made it to our stop and I was done. Let's go home! This has been a great experience, but the answer is 'no'.... I can not live here a whole summer. The Holy Spirit has spoken. As a matter of fact, we can no longer do campus ministry because I need a couple of really strong drinks right now.
Paul never listens to me though, so we continue on this insane adventure.
Instead of strong drinks, we settled for real smoothies made from real fruit! Yum!
Even Emme was paranoid! Can you see the look in her eyes?
After the smoothies, we went to The American Girl doll store. Gracie begged for one... to no avail. She has 2 or 3 at home... from Grandma and a dear friend. She never touches them.
We went into some other stores and walked and walked and walked. It was a LONG way back to our hotel. We finally decided to rest and we sat down to watch some street performers who were getting ready to do a dance. It was hard to see from the front, so we moved around to the back. The kids sat on the stone planter that was behind the performers. The show had just started and we were all really into it, when all of a sudden this African American drunk, homeless man... who was holding a new, unopened can of been came over and grabbed Jackson by the arm. My eyes grew as big as saucers. I started yelling, "Paul! Paul!" but he can't hear. I look back and notice that he now has Jackson standing... Jackson with the fear of death on his face. I started yelling at Paul again. We both look back and now the homeless man is sitting in Jackson's seat... watching the performance.
We left the performance.
Surely now my husband will take us home... right?
We walk and walk and walk some more. We walked at least 3 miles. Now is 8 pm, we are in a city full of restaurants and we can't find a place to eat. I not kidding. We found about 48 7 11 stores, 86 Starbucks, 24 Subways Sandwich stores... but good heavens, where are the restaurants?
Finally about 9pm, dehydrated and exhausted we found some really authentic Italian place. We drank about 15 gallons of water and ate. Jackson laid down on the bench in the restuarant and fell asleep. Then we walked some more back to our hotel. It didn't take long for everyone to fall asleep. We were exhausted.
In the morning, one of my favorite people and best friends in all the world, trecked downtown to spend the day with us. My friend Gina, her husband, Nick and their son, Anthony... who we all call Arthur (long story!) The live in a Chicago suburb.
They had passes to the Shedd Aquarium which allowed 4 adults and 4 kids admission. So, we all went to the Aquarium.... free.
While at the Aquarium, thanks to Facebook, we ran into some people we have not seen in about 14 years. Ready for this story?
I'll make it quick.
In my church youth group, I grew up with a guy named Danny. He was 3 years older than me and I had a big crush on him. Paul grew up and dated a girl named Jane from his church.
On our first date (mine and Paul's) we were talking about his college, Bob Jones. I told him that I only knew one guy who went there. He asked who it was and then about died because I told him it was Danny. He and Danny were roommates Paul's freshman year. How weird is that? Well, Danny ended up marrying Jane's sister, Jenny and Paul of course married me. So, Danny married someone Paul grew up with and Paul married someone Danny grew up with. Did you follow that? If not, it's ok... The point is... we met up with them at the aquarium in Chicago. They live in Columbus, Ohio.... weird, huh? All because of Facebook status and phones.
This is a picture of the kids outside the aquarium.
Paul loves to visit any kind of local dive when we travel so we went to Al's. GOOD FOOD!
Gina and her little family had to head home to go help out at church after eating, so we went exploring.