What a week ... As previously noted, "the family" (aka my brother, his wife and their two girls) got in this past weekend. They were supposed to have been in around dinner time on Saturday, but ended up delayed by weather (from Boston), and didn't get in until late.
Now, my Mom is both a super control freak and highly dependant on her "help" (she's in a wheelchair and has pretty near 24/7 assistants), so she'd been trying to micro-manage a schedule for this week for the past couple of months. One of the big "problems" for some reason was last Sunday's breakfast/brunch slot ... why, I'm not sure (it could be due to having to have her table set for dinner). Anyway, The Wife volunteered that we'd have folks over for breakfast, and my mom was much relieved. This, of course, meant that I had to spend a significant chunk of Saturday moving stuff, adjusting furniture (we have a few tables that expand out) and other heavy lifting. Anyway ...
Sunday ... my brother and his family show up at 10am, followed a few minutes later by my Mom. We had put out a big spread of stuff, featuring a big quiche that my mom had ordered from her caterer. My eldest niece has Down Syndrome and for some reason she ends up eating a lot of red meat, especially bacon, so we had a "meatier" brunch than any that I can recall doing. We had thought that my brother and his girls would scoot when my Mom did (around noon), but instead she had her afternoon gal come and pick her up. This left the Boston Tripps hanging out with the Chicago Tripps at our apartment all afternoon ... a situation made chaotic by there being 4 little girls, from age 3.5 to 8, running around the place. Needless to say, we got little if any preperation done on anything else. About 4-ish they took off to go back to their hotel and clean up for dinner, and we migrated over to my Mom's place about 5pm for dinner. My Mom used to really bust her butt on these sorts of things, but since she's been in the wheelchair she really can't cook much, and none of her gals are good for much other than re-heating stuff, so she had the dinner catered ... fortunately the local market here does a nice job for not too insane $$$ and came up with some really excellent beef (and roast chicken for our girls).
Monday ... There is an "Original Pancake House" in the block between my Mom's and our place, and it's impossible to get in on the weekends. Since this was Monday, my Mom figured we'd go there for breakfast. I dropped off Daughter #1 at school, and met up with everybody over at my Mom's place, and then headed down for pancakes. Just about the only thing to recommend about this place are these HUGE apple-cinnamon pancakes ("German" pancakes that are almost more like omelettes) ... which I ended up having (had to pre-order since they take 20 mintues or more to make). My Brother & co. were heading down to the Museum of Science & Industry for the afternoon, and I tried to give them public transporation directions, but the prospect of having to change busses seemed to freak them out too much (they're far-away-from-the-city suburbanites) and they ended up paying for cabs (to their credit, if the direct bus was running ... like in the summer ... they probably would have gone that way). This left me with a few hours to get stuff done career-search wise (I had an "informal interview" scheduled on Tuesday), before having to collect The Girls and meet up with folks. Monday was perhaps the most complicated day. My Mom's friends, the Rices, were wanting to meet the Boston girls, and we were going to be going out for an "adults" dinner. What we ended up doing was having my Brother's troupe head over to my Mom's place, my getting my girls home and dressed and over there by 5-ish, and then waiting for the Rices and The Wife to drift in 6-ish. The concept was, of course, to have a reasonably civilized cocktail period with the Rices during which they'd be able to absorb satisfactory doses of little girl cuteness. Unfortunately, said little girls were muchly preoccupied with whatever it was they were doing since 5 by the time the Rices arrived, so the contact was minimal ... they know my girls well enough, but I don't think they got the full effect of "the grandkids" that my Mom was hoping for. Oh, well. At around 7pm the real "football play" began ... The Wife and I, the four girls, and Mom's gal who had gotten talked into babysitting, all headed down the street to our house (better to trash the already-trashed "house full of toys & videos" than run rampant at Grandma's!), the Rices collected their car from the garage, and my Brother and his wife got my Mom into the wheelchair cab. Once we got everybody settled at our place we hopped in a cab and caught up with everybody else down at the venerable Gaylord India restaurant (a trip to which is becoming a Thanksgiving-week tradition). Now, I really like Gaylord's food, but it is painfully expensive, and every time I've ever eaten there I've done the math on how we could have had THREE meals up at Standard India (which has a great dinner buffet) ... but my Mom's not going to do a buffet, and she's footing the bill, so I shut up and eat the nice curry. The Rices, being big-time food gurus, were assigned to co-craft the dinner with me, which led to a bit of a situation since my Brother and his wife are "picky eaters" and each have one dish they like, so while the rest of us were settling on "combo" dinners plus, we were having to back-fill to make sure they were going to have add-ons like soup and bread and rice. As always, dinner was delightful. We let the Rices go and we started the nearly-always aggrivating wait for the wheelchair cab. At about a half hour into the wait we decided that it probably would be a good idea to let The Wife and my Brother & sister-in-law to go rescue the baby sitter from the horrors of our offspring, which left me and my Mom sitting around hoping the restaurant was not going to close before the cab arrived. It eventually showed up and I got her home and trudged home to deal with both the clean-up, AND getting my stuff ready for an early-morning meeting in the suburbs!
Tuesday ... were it not for all the other stuff going on, this would have been the big day of the week for me, since I had not only my every-Tuesday-drive-to-Hinsdale meeting with the LifeWork folks, but I had a lunch meeting with a gal who worked with my LifeWork counselor, and had a Very Promising Job Possibility coming up. We had many things in common (mystical stuff, network marketing stuff, etc.) which is why the LifeWork rep got us in contact. We'd had many IM/email conversations, but had not actually even talked on the phone until that morning, so it was interesting to get to meet her. Unfortunately, I was really hoping that we were going to be discussing THE JOB that she has opening up there in January, but conversation (when it did get into the "business" realm) kept more to "you should talk to so-and-so", which I did not take as a good sign. I still think that I'm perfect "technically" for the gig, with the only downside being that I've not worked in that particular niche previously. Anyway, had lunch (yeah, like I needed another big meal) at the Papagus out in the OakBrook mall, and then got back downtown in time to make a brief stop at Office Depot (emergency storage boxes!), hand the car back to the rental folks (that was quite a story too ... our local Enterprise was one of the few places with any cars, and they were "borrowing" cars from places half way across the state ... in the morning I had to wait a half hour to get my car, since it was "en route" from another location!), drop my bags at home, and pick up Daughter #1 at school. Tuesday was sort of "half planned", as it was out of my Mother's schedule (we figured it would be good for her to have one night without chaos), and we had first thought of doing a "pizza night" at our place, but that was pretty much what The Girls had on Monday, so we started to think about possible movies, etc. Well, I didn't have my girls corralled until 5:30, and The Wife didn't appear until 6pm, so I didn't get a hold of my Brother until then, which was getting into the "too late for movies" zone with The Girls. My Brother's group was staying across the street from the Hancock Center and they'd seen The Cheesecake Factory there, and thought that might be a good bet. Unfortunately, it was already full-tilt into Michigan Avenue shopping season, so it was a FOREVER wait. The upside is that they're right next to the big toy train setup that the Hancock has been doing in the lower lever the past several years, so while we were waiting an hour and a half for a table, The Girls could at least look at something. Now, The Cheesecake Factory is one of those things that, while geographically "in the neighborhood" has always been on my "For Tourists Only" list (an easy attribution to make given the hoards of not-from-here happy shoppers crammed in there constantly). I was quite pleased to find they had some interesting things on their menu (I had an appetizer of sweet corn tamale cakes and a "Navaho sandwich" which was made with frybread!), and very pleased that my Brother picked up the tab! Some gals having a birthday party gave balloons to all our girls (although my little one immediately lost hers as soon as we were outside :-( ... it was purple, too), and we headed off to home.
Wednesday ... well, it was a half-day for Daughter #1, and #2 was being a bit pissy about going in to her school, so The Wife convinced me to change my plans. We had #2 come with me to drop off #1, and then we went over to the hotel and I handed #2 over to them (The Girls were really wanting to hang out at the hotel). The Wife had assumed that they'd go do something, but they all trooped over to my Mom's for breakfast, and were still over there when I got Daughter #1 from school at noon. The plan was that I was going to "swap" girls, and take #2 home for her nap, but it appeared that I was the only person on that particular page, and everybody else was set on going to the playground. Well, I had a ton of errands to run, so I told them I'd knock a few things off my list and then catch up with them over by the WaterTower. I ended up having to walk about 5 miles in the process, but given the caloric intake for the week, this was not such a bad thing. On the plus side, I got some really cute shots of The Girls when I went to get them. On the downside, instead of #2 going down for her nap at 1:00 as planned, she didn't hit the sheets until 3:00, which meant that she was going to be a bit shy on naptime if we were going to be meeting up at my Mom's place at 5pm. Also, everybody convinced me that #1 simply had to go hang out with them at the hotel, and that they'd get her changed (into some of Niece #1's spare stuff) for dinner there. As it turned out, neither of my girls were in their best form for dinner, as the hose that The Wife had laid out to go with the "pretty dress" for #2 to wear were small on her, and, of course, #1 was in a non-planned outfit. Oh, well ... that's what they get for leaving "wardrobe" up to me (they have to remember, that I'm the guy who "lined" a dress with duct tape just to get #1 to quit bitching about it being "scratchy"!) Anyway, we mobilized around the corner to Bistro Zinc for dinner, joined almost immediately by The Wife, I really enjoy Bistro Zinc and wish that we had the funds to go there with any frequency, as it is only about a block away. They've changed around their menu some since the last time I was there, adding a "monthly" special menu to the "bistro classics". I went the latter route, going for the Escargot in butter, garlic, and herbs, and a sauteed calf's liver dish with big hunks of bacon and a rich dark sauce over mashed potatoes. My Brother did "the honors" with the wheelchair on getting Mom home (I pushed on the way out), and we all tottered off to home.
Thursday ... Ah, Thanksgiving at last. While Wednesday had been beautiful, Thursday looked a mess when we got up. Living 500ft up in the air makes one rely on visual cues a lot, and it looked like it was a lot wetter than it was. The past few years, The Wife has kicked our butts out of the house early, and sent us down to see the Parade. The Girls were butt dragging, so we did not get an early start, and that added to our mis-perception of the weather (I was thinking "sleet" when it was just "cool and misty") led us to getting to the Parade a bit late. This was not a good thing, since the sleet that I was thinking would keep the crowds thin was not in fact happening, so we didn't manage to get close to Michigan Ave., having first taken the bus down to Washington, we worked our way back around Block37 and found a spot between two unmarked Police Interceptors about 1/3 of the way down the block on Randolph. The mounted cops were keeping folks out of the road itself, but The Girls could be right up to the edge of the parked cars (and see over the hood), looking back to the Michigan & Randolph corner. This is the "end" of the parade, and the big balloons peel off east, to get deflated under the el tracks by Fields, the horses and horse-drawn vehicles peel off west (past us), and the rest of the parade moves up another block (and I'm guessing slides out along Lake St.) ... the positive here was that all the horses came by us, including the little ponies made up like Santa's reindeer (plus we got to see Mr. McFeely and Purple Panda from Mr. Rogers). I don't know what was in the air, but as we watched the parade, I got a screaming bitch of a headache ... one of those ones where it feels like a supersized railroad spike going in one temple and out the other. Fortunately, The Girls were losing interest after about an hour and a half and so we stumbled over to Dearborn to catch the bus back home before the masses broke ranks on Michigan. When we got home, I went and laid down, first trying some sinus meds (and sleep), then trying some ibuprophin (thinking it was eye-strain or something) and more sleep. I got about four hours of sleep but still couldnt' shake the headache. I finally got something to eat and threw some Excedrin in on top of the mix of other stuff, and eventually pulled out ot it. Bleh. Not a fun way to spend Thanksgiving afternoon, plus I was feeling guilty about having The Wife do all the prep. Fortunately, most of my stuff comes right before dinner, so I wasn't totally AWOL on helping with dinner. One of the things we do "traditionally" for Thanksgiving is this wonderful Shredded Brussel Sprouts in Cream recipe which has brussell sprouts (shredded in the Cuisinart), sauteed with butter and garlic until tender, and then finished off with heavy cream with nutmeg, white pepper, and salt. It is superb ... and is one of "my things". Most of dinner was again "catered" from the local market, which covered the basics, one turkey, gravy, stuffing, mixed vegetables, and a couple of pies. The Wife added another turkey that she cooked (which is a good thing, since the other turkey, being pre-cooked, was falling apart and a bitch to carve), a mass of mashed potatoes, and a sweet potato thing she'd found someplace. Everybody came over to our place about 4pm and left about 10pm, having stuffed themselves happily.
Friday ... Hey, that's TODAY, so I'm almost done! Well, my Brother and his crew were checking out of their hotel early this morning and getting over to my Mom's by 10am. I had some pics left on a roll of film, and wanted to get that finished up, so I had our girls go over with me (The Wife begged off to put stuff away ... better cleaning than hanging out with the Mother-In-Law!). Unfortunately, I must have left the camera with the flash charging last night, as when I tried to start shooting pictures (my Mom has been ragging on my to try to get a picture of Daughter #2 with Niece #2 for over a year, since I got a very cute one of Daughter #1 with Niece #1 at my cousins's wedding in Montreal a year ago!). Hopefully my Brother got an acceptable shot of them.! They had a car coming to take them to the airport about noon, so we followed them downstairs and said bye. We came home and basically zoned out all afternoon. I got pictures put into albums (I'd been using these free 1-hour processing coupons from Wallgreens to get pics done this week, so I had 3 rolls ready for the binder) and some Pokemon cards filed for Daughter #1 (she gets to have a lot of cool cards ... I get to scratch that obsessive-compulsive "collection" itch!). The Wife and Daughter #2 took a LONG nap, and we're sort of "picking the fridge" for dinner.
Aren't you glad you know all that?