Monday, July 02, 2007

Back in Chi-town

We are back in Chicago after a weekend in DC. Lots of fun was had, which we sadly did not document because I forgot my camera. Argh! Our friend Peter (from Rob's law school days) hosted us in his new condo, which we want to steal from him because it's so awesome. We got in on Friday night -- a bit too late to go out, but we hung out on Peter's awesome roof deck for a while. Saturday morning we headed to my uncle's place in the suburbs to sort through some boxes of stuff we still have there. (Amazing how we seem to have left behind a trail of things in various places in the DC area.) Then Rob headed to his friend Jason's house while I headed to the Mall to meet Carly at the Folklife Festival.

The Folklife Festival was about Northern Ireland, Mekong, and Virginia roots this year, and it was as random as it sounds. The Cantonese wedding songs were kindof cool. The Vietnamese opera was hard to follow. The NorthernIreland football (that'd be soccer to us on this side of the pond) exhibit was just a few jerseys, although there was an area for kids to kick soccer balls around. The staged reading from Great Expectations was just odd. With not much actually to do at the festival, we headed into the National Gallery for air conditioning and plopped down with some gelato in the basement cafe there. Much more entertaining.

Afterwards, Carly and I stopped in the gift shop so I could buy a birthday present for Rob's and my nephew Daniel, who just turned eight on Thursday. (I thought we'd be seeing Daniel the next day but he and his dad were at an Orioles game while the rest of the family gathered in Virginia on Sunday.) Then I realized I really needed presents for all five nieces and nephews since we aren't great at sending birthday packages, so I couldn't show up with presents for just one of the kids. Kids have eagle eyes about present evenness! This significantly extended our time in the gift shop as I stressed over the right presents for kids ages 2-8. I remember not comprehending, at age 7, why my aunts and uncles would buy me toys I'd recently outgrown. Didn't they know how old I was? Well, I know how old my nieces and nephews are, but I still don't know what's age-appropriate, let alone cool. Plus, I get very concerned about buying toys that are too passive or perpetuate stereotypes or who knows what other thing. This is always a dilemma for me with our older niece Lauren because she loves princessy things, but I can't bring myself to buy any of it, yet I still want to get her things she likes. In the end it was a book about castles for Daniel (8), a make-your-own flower magnet art kit for Lauren (6) (art projects are often my default with Lauren, since she loves them... my sister-in-law Kyle teases me for buying "aunt presents," which I believe means "presents that make a mess for mom when the aunt's not around" ;), a shared set of foam MC Escher lizards that can be linked and unlinked a million ways for Aidan (5) and Bryson (4), and a book with faces and colors for Lillian (2). I swallowed my worry about castles and lizards for the boys versus flowers and colors for the girls, knowing (hoping) that the castle book would make its way to Lauren and the lizards would make their way to Lillian as toys usually get handed down to the younger siblings. Then, realizing that Aidan and Bryson would still want their own presents, I picked up mini kaleidoscopes for all of the kids so everyone could have something to call "mine." End of shopping.

For dinner we dragged Carly and Peter with us to Brasserie Beck, a French/Belgian restaurant downtown. Super delicious food. I walked out so full I thought I was going to explode. I had an interesting (in a good way) herbal-tasting sauvignon blanc with my meal and a great grilled trout filet. Then we settled into some tables at Buffalo Billiards to hang out with friends who popped in and out through the rest of the night. Randomly, my legal writing instructor was with a group of friends at the same bar, sitting right next to us. So he and I caught up for a few minutes. Small world. It was great to see friends and it made me nostalgic for our DC days, especially with so many friends heading to DC to settle there in the coming months. My cousin Angela, my friend Elliot and I played one of the longest games of pool ever because we were all so terrible, which was highly entertaining. Around 1am, Rob and some of his friends were ready for another bite to eat while I was ready to collapse. So Rob and Peter and I took a cab to Peter's, where they let me out, while they headed on to The Diner to meet Becky, Ben and Brian, who took their own cab. (Just noticing we divided up alphabetically. Weird.) And I went to sleep.

Then up a 7:30am to get to my uncle's by 8:30am to have breakfast with him since we were so rushed on Saturday morning. My uncle had slept through his alarm after staying up all night finishing a puzzle (something very M-narik about that), so it was more like a morning hello than actual breakfast, as my uncle had to go to his morning softball game at 9:30am. Rob and I headed out for a Pezold family day. Rob's grandmother was in town visiting with Rob's sister Tori and her family, who live in Leesburg, and Rob's dad and his wife Teri, who live in Alexandria. So we all converged upon Bob (Rob's dad) and Teri's house in Alexandria, with Tori and her family coming over and Rob's sister Kyle and her daughter Lauren coming down from Wilmington, to spend the day hanging out. It was perfect weather and we had a great bbq.

As always happens, I was reminded that hanging out with my nieces and nephews rocks beyond words. The older three serenaded us with song after song for a while, with Lauren and Aidan making up new songs for us by the end. So much fun. Lauren and I engaged in some "walking on the ceiling," which means I carry her around upside down, holding her around the waist, and she has her arms outstretched, hands skimming the ground, feet pointed up into the air, and we sing "walking on the ceiling, walking on the ceiling, walking on the ceiling...." I did this once with Lauren years ago and she insists we "walk on the ceiling" (yesterday, though, we "walked on the sky" since we were outside) every time she sees me even though she's now 6 1/2 and it's getting harder to lift her upside down these days! Only a few months left, I'm afraid. It cracks me up that she has from the beginning remembered the little melody for singing "walking on the ceiling" that I made up and she starts singing it as soon as she gets flipped upside down in my arms. Yesterday, Aidan and Bryson also got turns "walking on the sky." Needless to say, after a few walks with each of the three kids, my arms were very tired.

We headed to the airport around 5pm and finally got home around 10pm last night. Very tired and happy to be back.

Oh, and the presents were all a hit. Especially the kaleidoscopes. Phew!!!

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