We are finally settling back in after our two week trip to Chicago-land. The girls and I set off early on a Wednesday morning and just arrived home this past Tuesday. I spent eight days solo with the girls, visiting Alex’s family, until he could fly in the following week to join us. Traveling without Alex is never our first choice, but it was important to us that the girls got to see our family this summer so we made it work. Now we are home and I’ve had time to reflect and reminisce on all the fun we had in Chicago, so here is a little recap of our adventures:
Our first stop was the beautiful city of Chicago! Alex’s sisters Jacqui and Julia both live in the city in the fun neighborhood Bucktown. With everything within walking distance the girls and I soaked up the wonderful weather with long walks and lots of window shopping. We visited Julia at work where we were served an amazing lunch cooked by the chefs at Limelight. Jacqui also took us out to breakfast at one of our favorite hotspots, The Bongo Room. We devoured the most delicious Meyer Lemon and Blueberry pancakes. It was a short visit (just two nights and one full day) but we packed in a ton of fun!
2. Illinois-Wisconsin border
Our next stop was to visit Auntie (Alex’s sister), Uncle Ricky, Cousin Jessi, and Cousin Blaze. They live an hour north of the city near the Wisconsin border. The highlights of our stay included movie night outside with the Incredibles projected onto the side of the house. Eleanor thought that was a blast. We also strolled the streets of Kenosha, picking up goodies in the market and playing on the shore of Lake Michigan. Auntie took the girls shopping for some new clothes and we also enjoyed a cookout with Nene, Uncle Johnny and Cousin Emily.
3. Nene’s house and the most amazing splash park ever!
Early Monday morning the girls and I headed about an hour and a half south to Nene’s house (Alex’s other sister). We enjoyed a wonderful lunch and then loaded up to take the girls to the water park. Eleanor had a blast playing with her cousins Luke and Emily in the water and Ruthie was content to sit at the edge and splash. I headed down some of the larger water slides and enjoyed a bit of freedom and sunbathing. After the sun and water there was only one thing left to do…eat ice cream! Eleanor made a mess of her chocolate cone! Nene prepared an amazing dinner for us before we left for our final stop.
4. Grandad’s House
We stayed at Alex’s dad’s house for a full week. Our longest stop on the trip. I filled Monday and Tuesday with long walks, naps and visits with the the girls’ great grandma. Alex’s dad lives in a beautifully restored Victorian home with walking distance to more than three great parks. It is heaven. We played outside all day, every day, taking advantage of the great weather! Granddad built us a fire and taught Eleanor how to roast and eat a marshmallow too.
Alex arrived late Wednesday night and although he had to work remotely on Thursday and Friday I relished in the help he was able to offer with the girls. Alex’s family was wonderful the entire trip, but there is no one that can take a daddy’s place!
5. Date Night
On Friday night Alex’s dad and sisters, Jacqui and Julia, babysat the girls so we could have dinner with old friends. Rob and Tiff picked us up and we headed to Rockford for dinner at Pig Minds Brewing, a small brewery and vegan restaurant. After dinner we headed back to Alex’s dad’s to enjoy a few beers in his bar as well.
6. Camp Edwards
Our big adventure came Saturday with a trip to my favorite place. We took the girls to Camp Edwards in East Troy, WI. This YMCA camp holds a special place in my heart because it is where I met Alex the summer of 2006. We were both staff, living together in a lofted apartment above the camp’s dining hall. I think Alex and I would both agree it was love at first sight.
After our wedding in 2008 Alex’s dad surprised us with a memento at camp. This giant adirondack chair reads “In honor of the marriage between Alex Kummerow and Tanya Emde, November 9, 2008.” Other family tributes exist at camp including “Lisa’s Leap,” a tube slide in honor of Alex’s step-mom who passed away just before we met and a canoe named the “USS Alex K.”
7. Elegant Farmer
Nearby Camp Edwards is a quirky farm named Elegant Farmer where we stopped for lunch. They are famous for their pies baked in a paper bag so obviously we purchased several. I would venture a guess that Alex’s all time favorite dessert is pie, and Elegant Farmer’s might just be his favorite pie, specifically the strawberry rhubarb. Lunch was also fantastic. Alex had a Rueben piled high on homemade bread and I opted for the chicken pot pie. When in Rome…am I right?
Later that same day Alex and I dragged our exhausted family just another half hour north to Milwaukee- our old stomping grounds. This is where Alex lived during most of our dating years so it also holds fond memories. We walked the lakefront and stopped for much-needed coffees before joining old friends for dinner. We BBQ’d and let the kids play in the yard. It was amazing to catch up! I know that if we ever moved back to Milwaukee we would immediately be surrounded by wonderful friends.
9. One last meal.
On Sunday afternoon Alex’s sister Karina (Nene) and her husband John came over to Alex’s dad’s for lunch. We had a feast of hamburgers and salads, and of course, more pie. After lunch all we had left to do was laundry and pack for the long trip home.
10. Saying Good-bye
On Monday morning we loaded the car and drove home. It is never easy saying good-bye. I often leave trips like this wishing I lived in Chicago, or near my family in Missouri so we could see everyone more often. I reminded myself how lucky we are to have three different places to call home. Also, we can come back anytime we want. Knowing I can handle the drive with the girls by myself reassures me that we really aren’t so far away!