Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Road trip, anyone?

After our run down of Chicago, we loaded up the chicklets and our multiple suitcases, backpacks, snacks, stuffed animals, drinks, and anything else we could shove in the back seat!!! We were St. Louis bound and ready to start the next chapter in the 'Team Lewis, 'Mother Of All Family' Vacations' travel journal!!! Although we were parting from family and loved ones, our hearts were quickly saved by the thought of all the fun times that lye ahead with dear friends, who pretty much fall into the family category because we have known them for so long! That's just they way it is with friends who love you thru thick and thin, never failing to be present in your daily lives, even tho they live 2 states away!! 
No questions asked, we were headed for more good times!!!
The boys were awesome, for the first hundred or so miles... I'd like to think that is because their mom rocks in the department of planning and packing 'cool car activities'?!?! Either way, they stayed hooked up with drawing, writing in their travel journals (yes, I made travel journals... dorky and awesome all at same time)!! We had fun at the rest stops... and yes I mean that in the plural form... rest stops, like 5 within the first 2 hours!! Ha!!! I guess when your mom rocks in the kid's activities department, she also may over feed/water those same kiddos for the sake of her sanity... 
Can you blame a girl??
<a little over excited about a bathroom key>
 <taught boys the 'I am squishing your head" trick>
 <in car bubble time>
<aaaand boredom has set in... candy in the nose, funny yet dangerous?>

I love the drive from Chicago to St. Louis... tons of trees, lots to look at... old barns, farmhouses, factories, miles of planted fields! Great, as far as eye candy goes, for a long drive!! I used to make this drive quite often on my own when I was going to see this 1st year law student I liked a lot... he was well worth the long drive. I mean, in the end I think the trips paid off because he asked me to marry him! Not too shabby of a reward for a girl who braved a couple solo road trips...
<see... eye candy!>
 I have a thing for bridges... covered or not, I think they are cool!!! I would yell out 'BRIDGE"... point until I knew all the boys had properly looked to pay homage! I think I like them because they are massive structures daring you to travel past them... daring you in a fun, beautiful way that is both welcoming and unnerving! Plus it's like a right of passage... you make it across and you know you are one step closer to where you want to go! Just like anything in life, you have to cross over the hard, scary stuff to see the beauty life holds for you... if you don't, you miss half the journey!
<hey, looks who's doing the driving now... that cute law student!!>

After about 4 hours of driving and multiple 'are we there yet' cries... the boys crashed! It was a welcomed quiet peace for me and my handsome driver! We turned on the tunes and enjoyed the tail end of our trek with wide smiles and no words! Don't you love that quiet, unstated peace you can have with someone... you don't have to talk but you know you both are solemnly enjoying the very same thing and savoring it together in silence!?
It's a special kinda connection, I tell ya...

I didn't have the heart to wake the boys up at the Missouri state line... they were out and the rest was much needed! I did think for a millisecond that a picture of us all doing that car commercial leap into the air would have been awesome to have in front of the 'welcome to Missouri' sign... but I resisted that urge and let them rest! It was hard... but well worth it when we rolled onto our college campus and I woke the boys up saying... 'look guys, this is where Mommy and Daddy met and fell in love!! That was a much sweeter moment then a leaping pic on the side of the road!!
We showed the boys where we met, the classrooms were we 'tried' to listen to lectures, tried being the operative word!! We were too busy whispering, laughing, and trying to distract one another to listen to any professor talking about economic debates! I guess that's what happens when two young kids, that are beginning to dig each other, take a History and Literature class together! The boys were a little groggy from the cricked neck sleeping they did in the car... so needless to say, they weren't as in awe as I thought they would be of all the sights! But, sharing this place with them is what mattered most to me, regardless of their initial reaction! Giving them a concrete starting place for them to know where our life as a team of 4 began was my ultimate goal for bring them here. If it weren't for this little (well, not so little anymore) university, and all it's quirky rules, unairconditioned dorms, bad cafe food, and parties that weren't supposed to happen on campus... we would have never met, fell in love, and started a family!!! And in the end, I think they both caught on to that point...
<the switchboard room where we first met... 
he was a lifeguard, ditching hours, and
 I was a smitten girl willing to sign
 off on this 'supposed' hours worked>
<the history classroom, 
and me demonstrating how this cute guy 
would try to look at my paper>
<campus buccaneers, where we'd swing for hours
<mom and dad trying to be cool... 
if you notice big boy's face, 
we weren't that cool obviously!>

I'd say, overall, the trip achieved the status I was looking for... it was a pretty awesome family field trip... if not right up there with 'the Mother of all' family vacation moments!! We arrived in the Lou safe and sound, and began the rest of our trip with a little stroll down memory lane! 
I can't think of a better way to take a road trip... filled with good times and sharing amazing memories!!
Stay tuned... More from the St.L coming right up!!

Always - Abbey

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Chi-town Run-down

May I have your attention, Ladies and Gentlemen... 
The Captain has turned on the fasten seat belt sign, we will be pulling away from the ramp shortly. If I could have your attention and ask you to look at the security procedure pamphlet in your seat back...
 Shortly after we take off and are comfortably cruising at our designated altitude, we will be coming around to serve you a beverage of your choice. 
Until then....
Please... sit back, relax and enjoy your flight to Chicago!
 Let the vacation blogging begin!!
Once I got wind that there was going to be a family wedding this summer, I began immediately planning an epic trip that would have us planes, trains, and automobile-ing it thru the Illinois Chicago-land area and on into Missouri's Lou and surrounding areas! I can see it like it was yesterday, 6 months ago, I gave light to the ultimate trip for my team of 4 that would encompass all the hot spots and beyond for family togetherness... trips down memory lane and tons of other precious experiences, all wrapped into a 10 excursion that would leave us all tired but fulfilled like no other!!!
 But just like any other trip planned months in advance, there were changes and hiccups before we left. The boys and I departed on our journey without an important part of our team. The Hubs had to catch a later flight in the week so that he could tend to some important work items, and who could blame him!? He is our rock and although we would miss him for those 48 hours he would remain back in Tejas, we knew he was taking care of business like he does every other day for this family! So, the boys and I were on our own for 2 flights... bring it on, I said! Bring it on, but umm... could you make sure there is a serving of patience and laughter included, please!!! I would need it.... But many thanks to the big guy above, who I know was watching over us and more than likely giggling while watching me as I juggled 3 suitcases, 2 car seats, and multiple bags full of boredom busting activities thru 3 states and 1 layover!! None the less, we finally made it to the first of many destinations that were to come in the week ahead... Praise sweet baby Jesus!! 
We were all safe, and we were all together (well, all that departed that day), and we were in one piece... Mission #1 of Ultimate Vaca... check!!! 
 Once we unloaded, we immediately began to unwind in true 'I'm on vaca, so all is good' fashion!! The boys embraced their cousins and started playing. 
I took part in my first of many 'mommy vacation beverages'!! The crisp midwest air was a brilliant and welcomed change from our humid, suffocating Texas heat! I sat happily and quietly thanked the Lord above for his guidance in getting us safely to Verde Drive and asked that he continue to bless us with peaceful travels, full of love and moments to be cherished!!!
I love it when I know God is listening...

The next day we had baseball on the brain as we headed to Wrigley Field! This was not part of my master-mind plan, but it was a nice addition that totally upped the overall sum of memorable family moments that were going to be had! There are not enough words that could eloquently put into words what these next photos depict... So I will let them speak for themselves!
 <3 generations at Wrigley Field>
 <wide-eyed and taking it all in>
 Simply put, being there to watch my Dad (a life long Cubs fan) sit with our oldest and retell his childhood stories was priceless! Our big boy is always full of questions, that is how he reasons his life experiences... with questions, he makes sense of every single thing that he comes across. Even though it was loud, and my Dad struggles to hear well on a good day, he answered every single one of the questions our boy threw out there! He shared his life thru this ball park, amazed me with the detail he put into his stories... a once in a lifetime moment. It was a memory that I will store in my heart forever... and I know our big boy will never forget! 

The every next day was wedding day! Back into the city we went, all dress up and fancy, ready to celebrate a new love! We even picked up a handsome addition to our group that finally completed our team of 4 for good!!!
 Even though everything to this point was fantastic and going along swimmingly... when our family of 4 is together, it just makes everything better! Not that anything was bad or horrible, all plans were moving along just fine. But once our guy made it safely to us, things instantaneously got sweeter! We were finally ready to party... and to celebrate in true 'large, crazy Italian' fashion! 
And we did! 
We danced, we hugged, we kissed, there were smiles and tears, there was laughter, music and tons of FOOD!!! Every family, big or small, has traditions that are hard to explain and when people do try to explain them, sound crazy and not that big of a deal! For me, that is how I go about describing my family! We are nuts, we are over the top and often abrasive! We are family and when we get together, it is on, whether you like it or not! Good or bad, long nights and early mornings... we try to make the most of what we have! Isn't that what being a family should be? No matter what, making the best of everything! I should say so!

Once the wedding partying ended... 
Heavy headed and sleepy eyed, we ventured back out the next day for more family time! This time with a new set of fresh faces and more scrumcious, belly filling food!! We spent time catching up with my Dad's side! And again, like no time had gone by since seeing each other last... we talked, laughed, hugged, and shared our lives with loved ones!
I have a much better, in focus picture of this group of my cousins... but for some reason I like this pic!? It shows the smiles and loving good times we shared in the short couple of hours we spent together! Sometimes, even in blurred focus the best of times can be shared given time!

Next up... Yup, you guessed it!!! BACK into the windy city! There were sights to be seen, streets to be walked, trains, boats, and ferris wheels to be ridden, tall buildings to climb, and places to explore! We only had about 7 hours to do it all in, but we got it all done! 
<train trips are amazing, even when your over 8 years old>

The boys kept a pace with minimal whining, the Hubs had tons of city facts to share and point out, and I was armed and ready with 2 cameras to catch every millisecond that we would see! Did I look like a tourist with my camera strapped to my side and my phone in hand snapping pictures simultaneously at times... probably... but I was on vaca, so I could have cared less! Chi-town was about to see Team Lewis, and we were going to rock as many square miles as we could!!!
<the city was our own concrete playground>

If I heard it once, I heard it a million times... 'Mom, why are you taking so many pictures?' Well... how much time do you have for me to explain?? I take pictures because I don't want to miss anything. I want to be able to look back and see things I didn't even know we saw, or have a little sliver of meaning to why it is we do what we do... proof that we were here, that we made it awesome and that we would do it all over again!!! I am not saying vacations are all dandelions and good times... there were tears of exhaustion and times of stressful anxiety! But in the end it was all worth it... and I have proof of it!

To end the day, we hit up Navy Pier. It was windy to say the least, and we were tired and hungry. But true to saving the best for last, it was beautiful and did not disappoint! I think I could have sat on that pier surrounded by bussel all day and not felt a single ounce of remorse! I loved it! The mixture of wind, water, sweat, glorious smells of food in the air, my family walking all around me... I was experiencing bliss and didn't want it to end!
 <did I say it was windy?>

We hit all the hot spots, only a few people cried out of sheer tired legs and sweat filled shirts... all in all, I'd say it was a fantastic trip into the city that never leaves me wanting! We climbed back onto the train and headed home... not only to wrap up our day in the city but our Chicago trip all together!! It was all I had hoped it would be, and above all else it was a superb time shared by loved ones!! Would I lug 3 suitcases and 2 anxious boys, on my own, across hundreds of miles and then squeeze in what should be a week's worth of experiences into 3.5 days??? 
Hells, YES!!!

We were on vacation... there was more to come and I was thrilled with all that we had already experienced!!! So, there you have it... our Chi-town run-down! I am sure I left out tons of amazing details and I know I didn't share all of the bazillion pictures I took in this one city. But that's how it goes... a good time was had by all! We were together and I was as giddy as giddy gets to see what the next 5 days would hold!

Always - Abbey