Monday, August 25, 2014

Books, Family Reports, and Goodbyes

On Friday, August 1st, the first plan for the day was a scavenger hunt. Trent and I really didn't know what to expect since we'd each have to take a kid (we had already been split into teams).  We knew we couldn't bring our honkin' double stroller running around the city and we didn't even think to bring the Baby Bjorn on the trip (big mistake).  We just tried to have good attitudes and headed down to Millennium Park, with the whole family, where we met the guide. Turns out this was an underground scavenger hunt of the Chicago Pedway, a system of underground tunnels beneath the heart of downtown.  The more I was hearing about this scavenger hunt - running up and down stairs and what not - the more I decided this was absolutely not going to work with me carrying Janie in my arms.  My family is pretty competitive and I didn't want to slow my team down.  Then Aiden, who was on Trent's team, had a meltdown and started crying and that was it, I was out!  My aunt Krystal was so kind to walk back to the hotel with me and the kids and help us get situated.  So we had an easy-going morning in our hotel room, which was probably just what the 3 of us needed.

After a few hours, Trent made it back (the scavenger hunt took longer than everyone expected) and we headed out to grab something to eat.  We wanted to check out this neat place called Eataly that everyone had been talking about.  It's basically a marketplace with 23 different little restaurants inside.  You can look them up to learn more.  We only had a few hours to go before dinner so Trent and I each just got a crepe.  Mine was a basic Nutella one with bananas, but it was divine!

Then we had a little time to go shopping along Chicago's Magnificent Mile.  It's always a fun time to shop with my sisters :)

Then we all congregated back at my grandma's room (she got the ritzy Presidential suite) to all walk to dinner together.

Janie with Aunt Amy and Bryn.

My grandma with 2 of her 8 great-grandchildren :)

Funny that Adler and Janie were looking in opposite directions ;)

Jordan and Adler were matching :)

Getting to know one another ;)

Hopefully they'll become close little buddies at the reunions :)

Trying to get them to hold hands..haha.

We had dinner that evening at a restaurant called Bellweather.  Our family took up the whole loft area upstairs.  We were served a wide variety of foods and it was all family style.  It was kind of a fun experience.

Aunt Krystal jumped in front of the camera..haha.

Meg, Jill, Janie, Jen, myself, and Jordan.

Next we headed down to a local bookstore, After-words, to all pick out a book.  This was a tradition my grandpa started where we each get to choose a book at every reunion and it has become a tradition we all look forward to very much.  Thanks to Gram for keeping it up :)

I ended up getting The Book Thief, Trent got The Rithmatist (recommended to him by Krystal) and Aiden got My Friend Rabbit (recommended to us by Scott).

We all headed back to my grandma's room to end out the reunion (it was the last night :( ) with family reports (something we do at every reunion as well).  Each family takes a turn to talk briefly about what each member of the family is up to and involved in.

Here is a picture of just some of the family.  The room was packed with us all.

The next day, Saturday, the 2nd, everyone started to trickle off.  It's always so hard to say goodbye.  Jen, Jill, and Amy headed out that morning with my grandma, followed immediately by the Clark's (besides Bryn and Dayna) and then the Lund's and Jensen's.  Our flight wasn't until 5 so we still had some time to get out and do some things.  First we got all packed up since we had to be checked out of our room by noon.  Luckily Dan and Meg were staying until Sunday, so we were able to leave all of our luggage in their room while we went out and about.

My mom went off to the Art Institute, which we would have loved to check out, but it probably wouldn't have been good to bring the kids. So Amber tagged along with us to the John Hancock Center.  Josh and Tiersha had actually just gotten back to the hotel from a bike ride with their family, so they walked down with us as well, before they had to turn around and start their trek home.  We went up to the Observatory which is 1,000 feet above Lake Michigan.  It's always fun to see the city from up high.

So many boats anchored down in the water.

You can see the ferris wheel in this one on the Navy Pier.

They have this feature up there called the Tilt.  I'm not exactly sure how to explain it, but I'll try.  Basically you stand at this window panel that tilts you out over the Magnificent Mile and Chicago's skyline 1,000 feet below you. You can see a video of how it works HERE.  They tilt you 3 different times and each time you're facing more downward.  It was pretty cool!  And a little nerve-racking..haha.

Before the tilting began.

Can you see here how we're more tilted.  This was after the first tilt.

There was a photographer in there.

This was after the third and final tilt.  It doesn't look much different from the first, but trust me, it was!

Amber had stayed out with the kids and then she took a turn.

She's furthest right.

Feeding Miss Janie.

Aiden had zonked out.

Waking up.  He is so handsome.

The ceiling was mirrored..haha.

Aiden taking a look at the view.

He backed away when we noticed all of the spiders hanging outside the window..haha.

We headed back in the direction of the hotel and made our way to Noodles (which we miss so much in AZ) for lunch.

I noticed this cupcake truck across the street while we were having lunch and had to try one.

They are not your ordinary cupcake, and almost have a cheesecake consistency, but they were still a yummy treat :)

Then we headed back to the hotel, grabbed all of our luggage and were off to the airport.  It was so hard to leave and come home and face reality again.  We definitely hope to make another trip to both Nauvoo and Chicago in the future!

We had such a wonderful time (even if we had to miss out on a few of the activities) and can't wait to see everyone again!  Thank you to Gram for another wonderful reunion!

We were all so wiped out when we made it home late Saturday night :)

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Touring Chicago and Cubs Game

Wednesday, the 30th, we all got packed up to head back to the train station to finish out the reunion in Chicago.  We made sure to go down Snake Alley (right near the train station in Burlington, IA) which was once named "the crookedest street in the world."  Now San Francisco's Lombard Street beats it by several turns.  My mom got out to take this.  And there are our three lovely 15-passenger vans ;)

We made it over to return our vans, only to find out the train was delayed 3 hours!!  So we hung out at a ghetto little mall and had some lunch.  Target was across the street, so we did a little shopping as well ;)  Then we all congregated back near the train stop (you can see all of our luggage in the background).  

The sweetest little lady let us all sit in her yard.  She even brought a whole bunch of cold water out for us.  So nice!

Janie girl just making her rounds with Daddy.

We were feeling pretty pooped when we made it into Chicago.  We got checked into the InterContinental Hotel and were thinking we may just call it a night.

The kiddos lounging on our bed.

Then we got a call from my famjam saying they had walked across the street to grab some dinner at Nordstrom Cafe and my cousin Andrew (from my dad's side of the family) was meeting them there. Andrew is in Chicago with his cute little family this summer interning for United.  We hurried to get over there.  After we ate, my mom offered to stay behind with the kids while Andrew took us back to his place and showed us some of Chicago :)

I took some shots as we walked to his place.

They shoot off fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday night (?) down at the Navy Pier and we could see them from Andrew's balcony.

Meg tagged along with us as well (she had just flown in a few hours earlier).

Andrew's wife and little girl were still off at his family's beach week, but he had to ditch out early :/  Lucky him, we came to town ;)

Trent took a random shot of Meg ;)

It was so fun to see Drew, even if it was brief.

The next morning, the 31st, we got up and got all ready to head out on a double decker tour bus.  We were able to rent one for just our family.

The whole family on top :)

The Art Institute of Chicago.  My mom couldn't wait to check it out :)

Lollapalooza was in town.

Chicago skyline along Lake Michigan.


The whole beautiful family ;)

The tour bus dropped us off at Wrigley Field for the Chicago Cubs game.

We had some time before the game so we all grabbed a famous hot dog for lunch.

We also got Aiden his very own Cubs cap and ball ;)

Oh he's cute!!

The Cubs were playing the Colorado Rockies.

Aiden got sick of wearing his cap so Trent tried it out ;)

Janie girl wasn't too interested in the game ;)

We headed out with the kids around the sixth inning.  There was a fire station right across the street and they let Aiden check out their fire truck!

Cutest dad!

Oh I love him!  So cute!

That evening we all got some fun money to do whatever we wanted. My family all headed to see the Blue Man Group.  We would have loved to have gone with them, but it really wasn't feasible with the kids and we certainly weren't going to ask someone to watch them.  I wasn't too crushed though because I'd seen the Blue Man Group before (gotta love HS Orchestra trips - the only good thing about orchestra..haha).

We had a fun night out though, just our little family ;)  We got ready and just started walking.  We knew we wanted to eat first, so we had our eyes open for restaurants.  We wanted to eat somewhere we hadn't tried before, so when I spotted Giordano's and there was a crowd waiting, we knew it must be good.  They are famous for their Chicago stuffed pizza.  It was really nice out so the wait didn't seem too bad.  And we actually could place our order while we were waiting so that it would already be going when we were seated.

Aiden loved the fountain outside.  He was running around like crazy.

We realized while we were eating that it was our first time eating out at a sit-down restaurant with both kids.  I should've documented  it ;) Luckily Janie slept through the whole thing.

We finished eating and then just continued walking.  We knew we'd stumble upon something.

We made it to Millennium Park and had just missed the free concert for the night.  Darn, our wait at Giordano's was just a little too long!

The pavilion has 4,000 fixed seats and then the Great Lawn can seat another 7,000!

I don't think Aiden realized it was over ;)

We continued walking and just happened upon "the Bean"!  I was so excited!

I'm in this shot with the kids - I feel like I kind of blend in..haha.

Had to try the touristy shot ;)

Walking underneath.

We learned that "the Bean" is formally known as the Cloud Gate sculpture.

Next up was the Crown Fountain.

They are glass brick towers with water cascading down.

There were digital videos going with faces and every few minutes the face would pucker its mouth and water would come spouting out (as seen below).

Aiden loved running around in the water.  It was almost like a splash pad.

Then we made our way back toward the hotel, but enjoyed taking the whole city in.

This used to be the public library.

We made it back...

...and in the meantime Jill was dragged up to the stage by the Blue Men!!  Out of the whole audience..haha.  I couldn't believe it!!  And apparently she had intentionally sat in the middle of the row at the beginning because she didn't want to get chosen!  So, so funny!  I was bummed to have missed it.  Tiersha snuck this picture..haha.