Thursday, January 31, 2008

Ice Skating at Millennium Park

The afternoon after our New Year's Eve breakfast with Eric, Sarah, Ian and Avery, we headed toward downtown Chicago. We were supposed to meet some friends to go ice skating at Millennium Park.

When I took this picture of Sam, at the Belmont stop, waiting to transfer trains, I just thought he looked grown-up. Now, I can see that he may also have been a bit tired.

It makes me happy to see these two so happy together.

Cam and I often talk about how we think Chicago would be a nice place to be an adolescent. Having the train to get around and so much to do and experience. But we are happy where we are now too. Who knows what the future will bring?

When we got to Millennium Park, the estimated wait time of the line to get skates was one hour. We considered scrapping the plan and calling everyone and just meeting at a restaurant or something but we didn't really have a good alternate plan. In the meantime, the line was moving. We were getting closer to skate.

Two of my friends arrived. Priscilla (in the middle) and I spent weekend mornings together in the call center of the National Runaway Switchboard, collaborating to offer crisis intervention to at-risk youth.

Larissa and I met at one of my transition jobs. We were both there because the job allowed us the flexibility to work when we wanted to and have the rest of our time free to pursue other interests. Larissa is a professional photographer, artist and musician. On this day, she gave me a necklace she had made.

In an, "It's a small world moment," my two friends realized they had met each other before. It turned out they have played music together through classes they have both taken at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

While I was catching up with my friends, Sam started fading fast. He sat down in the line and said he wasn't feeling well. He'd been excited about ice skating but we realized that if he was too tired to stand, he was likely too tired to skate.

A couple of our other friends were supposed to meet us at Millennium Park but because of a cell phone glitch, we didn't get their message saying they were running late. Since it was after the meeting time and we hadn't connected, we thought that something had come up and they probably weren't coming.

Cam offered to let me stay and catch up with my friends while he took Sam back to the hotel room to rest. I was sorry to see them go but happy to be able to stay.

I've only ice skated a few times and can just about skate around the rink without being afraid of falling. I don't skate well but I do OK. The first time I tried to skate, Sam was 4 or 5. I thought I'd be able to do it since I could roller blade but it didn't seem that similar. I fell a lot and wasn't really competent at all. I'd only had a few successful attempts in the 5 or 6 years since.

For me, this afternoon was more about being with friends at a marvelous location, reveling in the novelty of falling snow than the ice skating itself.

Priscilla had never tried ice skating. Larissa had her own skates and had skated as a child.

She and I encouraged Priscilla to give it a try. Larissa waited patiently for us to get our skates and get out on the ice.

I decided to stay with Priscilla for her first lap around the rink. Larissa would skate a lap, check in on us and then skate another lap.

Suddenly, there were Adam & Kate. It was such a pleasant surprise to see our friends had made it after all. I hope they know we were so much more than "willing" to see them.

Of course, the line for skates was still an hour long. We'd just gotten out on the ice and Adam and Kate couldn't join us w/o skates. We talked a bit over the rail of the ice rink.

I encouraged them to try to catch Cam and Sam but they'd already made it to the hotel. They talked about maybe meeting up to watch a bowl game with them at Eric and Sarah's before Sam and Cam took the California Zephyr back home.

While I was talking with Adam and Kate, Larissa, with her impressive backward skating moves, led Priscilla away from the railing.

Before long, it was time to go. I wanted to check in on Cam and Sam and everyone else had somewhere else to go too.

I'm so glad our friends came out to see us even though we were only able to be together for a little while. They are all such good people.

Rather than try to find change and get on a crowded bus, I decided to seize the day and do something I'd been wanting to do before I left, walk up Michigan Avenue.

A couple of pictures from the walk are interspersed above. This Flickr set has other pictures from the walk.

Here is the one I took of the Christmas tree at the base of the Hancock where I had an encounter I wrote about before.

Tonight's the night the world begins again.

While Eric & Sarah were cooking...

A month ago today, we woke up in Chicago and headed to Eric & Sarah's house.

They'd invited us over for breakfast.

While they were cooking, we enjoyed more time snuggling with the babies.

The food was wonderful but what we enjoyed most was the company.

It was nice to have this relaxing morning with them.

Visit this Flickr set for more sweet pictures.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Traversing Chicago w/Tori & Dianna

After our brief time with the Erenberg's, we walked over to Lincoln Avenue then headed north, towards Irving Park and Dianna and Tori's. It was the first time we'd seen their new place. They had a lovely tree. We bundled up for a winter walk said goodbye to Tori's older brothers, Tyson and Taylor, then ventured out again.

The plan was to continue exploring and remin-
iscing on foot. We'd talked about walking up to Wrigley Field then having lunch at an Ethiopian restaurant Cam and I had been to once, enjoyed and wanted to try again. But since we hadn't eaten much breakfast and had taken our time back on Waveland, we thought of trying Wishbone. It was a bit closer and a favorite of ours.

While we walked, the boys enjoyed palling around. The adults talked and exchanging stories. Dianna told us about exciting developments in her life. We told about our latest adventures. Everywhere I looked, I saw things that brought back memories.

It turned out that we weren't the only ones who thought Wishbone was a good idea. The wait was long. We'd been enjoying the fresh air and mild winter day. Rather than stop our momentum by waiting, we decided to keep going. Let's go to the Ethiopian restaurant after-all, we decided.

We had to back-track a bit on Lincoln to get to Addison. We walked past Caroline & Debbie's place, up to Wrigley. There, we turned south again, on Clark but we never saw the restaurant. We didn't remember the name and hadn't researched it online. It may not have made it.

So we kept walking. Cam saw and suggested we stop at Pick-Me-Up Cafe. Our lunch there was enjoyable. Afterwards, we were heading to Lincoln Park Zoo for Zoo Lights. We were meeting Eric and Sarah there later but Cam thought that if we wanted to see the animals in the daylight, we should get before it was too late.

We hopped on a 22 bus and got off at Clark & Belden (memories again). This intersection was where we caught the closest bus from our first Chicago home. There was the grocery store we walked to and the 7-11 Sam would sometimes walk to on his own to pick up a gallon of milk for us.

Before going to the zoo, since we were less than a block away, we walked over to our old apartment building and took some pictures in the courtyard. We joked about ringing the doorbell of the grouchy neighbor who'd moved in shortly before we moved out. He'd told the property management people that a deaf person couldn't live below us. (We were on the 3rd floor, the blue arrow shows our home. The red arrow is the mean man's home.) We had so much natural light and I loved the view of the courtyard.

It would have been nice to have had time to walk around the old neighborhood more but since most of what we did when we lived there was head east, towards the lake, the park and the zoo, that's what we did on this day too.

At the zoo, it was fun to see camels where the elephants had once been.

Our old friends, the polar bears were still there. Cam, Dianna and I marveled at their wonder and splendor.

Sam and Tori scampered around, playing tag and throwing snow. We talked a bit about the tragic events that had transpired so recently at the San Francisco zoo then walked over to see these big cats. Walking past the tiger's cage, we wondered what it would take to make one of them scale even a 12-foot moat.

We didn't see any tigers outside but snow leopards were active. Inside the cat house, I turned around and was startled to see a life-sized tiger standing in the walkway, staring right at me. Thankfully, he was just part of a holiday decorations display. It had stopped my heart for just a second. We didn't see any live tigers but the lioness was so impressive even regal.

We walked past the seals. I enjoyed getting to see them up close since out here we sometimes see them in nature but usually only catch a glimpse. Just before we moved, they opened a new area with wolves and black bears. We'd enjoyed it at least once back then and went back now.

The wolves walked soundlessly around. The bear was sleeping. Sam and Tori were more into playing than looking at the animals so we decided to take advantage of the new children's play area.

The climber looks so fun. I wish they had an adult-sized one. The boys made their way from one side of the maze to the other a few times before we decided to go. Eric and Sarah arrived. They went with Cam to see the polar bears while the kids were playing.

The next stop was the ice sculpture area where it looked like they were getting ready for a demonstration.

At our first Zoo Lights, Sam was fascinated by they guy making ice sculptures with a chain saw. I thought it was fine but didn't want to stand out in the cold of that night for too long. Kindly, Cam stayed with him for the whole demonstration while Patience and I enjoyed hot chocolate inside with the big cats.

I don't know if Tori had even seen an ice sculptor before but he and Sam were engrossed in this demonstration too. I didn't want to draw them away but when Eric, Sarah and Cam were ready to go see something else, I appreciated Dianna's willingness to stayed with them while I strayed a bit.

The weather was perfect for this zoo lights. Big, fluffy flakes of snow were falling and the temps were mild. Our group walked over to see the chimps and gorillas. I caught a quick glimpse then headed back to be with the boys.

When the sculptor finished the ice ram, we were ready to go. We walked to the buses together and said our goodbyes.

Sam asked Tori to join us for New Year's Eve. He and I had talked about that possibility before I saw our hotel room.

It was fine for sleeping but not for a sleep-over with two rambunctious boys who would want to playing until at least midnight.

I thought we might see Dianna and Tori again before we left but that didn't happen.

I'm so happy we had the time with them that we did.

Here is a link to the Flickr set of our time with Dianna & Tori.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Flowers for Eileen

We crossed the street at 2020 W. Waveland and entered the home of our friends, the Erenberg's. We care about them so much, it is crazy that we have hardly spoken during in the year and a half we've been away.

We were so focused on catching up that we didn't take any picture this time. But Cameron recently rescued some wonderful ones of Sam and Luke picking flowers for Eileen off our old computer. I'll use those pictures for this post.

We were with them for less than an hour. Probably only about 30 minutes.

We chased the kids and spun them around and hugged them then let them run off the the playroom in the basement. Cam and I sat in the kitchen and caught up with Eileen. Mike was out. We're sorry we missed him.

At one point, Luke and Sam entered the kitchen. Luke was shooting Nerf arrows, with suction cups on the end of them, out of a glow-in-the-dark gun, onto the glass door which leads to their amazing backyard play yard. The gun and the way he handled it was cool. They weren't obnoxious at all. Just sharing. Then they were off again.

When I went downstairs, a bit later, to find Nikki, Sam was in the swinging seat being tickled from all sides. He always had so much fun playing over there and we were thrilled whenever the kids came to our house to play too.

We were all hopeful that we'd connect again before we left the city but alas, everyone was busy with other plans. Maybe they'll come visit us in California someday.

Click here for the enitre Flickr set of Luke & Sam picking flowers for Eileen.

Feels like home to me.

We were happy that Cass & Malcolm wanted to meet at MoJo's, since it was so near our old neigh-

After we said goodbye to them, we walked north, up Oakley to Alexander Graham Bell School. (We didn't take any pictures on this walk. But recently, Cam rescued some, from the spring before we moved, off our old computer. I'll use those for this post.)

Sam finished third and fourth grade at Bell and I worked there, as an individual aide for a fifth grade boy who has Autism, the year before we moved to California.

Lots of memories.


But I was distracted. I still hadn't heard back from our dear friends, the Erenbergs. We weren't going to be in Chicago too long and weren't able to fit in real visits with everyone we wanted to see. But, in an attempt to at least see some of our friends, I had sent out a message saying, we are planning to do this activity on this day at this time. Asking them to let us know if they were interested in and able to meet up.

I'd sent a second message to Eileen, the night before, saying we were going to be in the old neighborhood and would love to see them but I hadn't heard from her.

Finally, when we were at Sam's school, just blocks away, I called and she picked up the phone. She hadn't been checking her work email account during the holidays and didn't have any idea we were coming to town. She was excited to hear from us and wanted to connect.

I wish they'd have been able to just run out the door and up the street to play with us in the snow at Sam's school yard but she said Luke had a bit of a fever. It didn't sound too bad since they were still planning to go ice skating that afternoon.

We were supposed to meet some other friends shortly to grab lunch and head to the Lincoln Park Zoo. If they couldn't join us, we didn't really have time for a visit but we couldn't be this close to them and not stop by for a hug. We decided to go to them.

I felt bad that I had been on the phone the whole time we were at the school and had missed a chance to play in the snow with Sam. But if we wanted to see our friends, we had to keep moving. So, we left the schoolyard and walked east on Waveland.

So many times on this trip, it felt like we were going home.

We love Chicago. It was a wonderful place for us.

It is where we met Cam and the three of us became a family.

It is where we shared our first home. We had many amazing adventures and made fond memories exploring the city together. We have dear family and friends there still. Walking up Waveland, a walk taken hundreds of times, seemed especially familiar.

When we got to our old place at 2020 W. Waveland, the blinds I'd purchased and hung, the spring before we moved, were still hanging in the window. The paint and spackle Sam and I applied that February was probably still on the walls.

I was surprised to see my wind chime still hanging from the porch ceiling. Cam reminded me that the hose, on the side of the house, was one I'd bought to water the flowers I'd planted. It still seemed like our place.

And across the street, out their front door, the Erenbergs were coming, smiling and waving.

It felt like we were home.

See the entire Flickr set of our last spring at 2020 W. Waveland.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

MoJo's with Cas & Malcolm

In addition to time with family, another goal of our time in Chicago was to revisit old haunts, reminisce and reconnect with friends.

So, on the morning of our second day, we took the El north out of downtown and got off at the newly refurbished Addison stop on the Brown Line.

This was the stop that took us to our last Chicago home, the first home we shared together.

Our neighborhood, St. Ben's is just north of another charming one with much character, Roscoe Village. It was in Roscoe Village, at a coffee shop called MoJo's, that we met up with our friends, Cas and Malcolm.

It was great fun to catch up. Cas introduced us to the idea of ordering steamed milk with vanilla. Yum.

Malcolm was in Sam's third grade class but I think we first met them through the Boys & Girls Club. Cass was just finishing her master's from the Jane Addams College of Social Work. I was trying to transition into more meaningful work. She has always encouraged me in that area.

I was intrigued to hear about her first full year of work in the field and share my experiences with CASA. Cam told about his new gig.

Malcolm and Sam played cards and exchanged stories about what fourth grade had been like, their fifth grade classes, friends, teachers, video games, train rides, movies, etc.

This Flickr set has a few more pictures of our time at MoJo's with Cas & Mal.
We are happy they came out to see us and are thankful they are our friends.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Later that night.

After eating too much pizza, we chilled out for the rest of the evening. In this Flickr set, you will see more pictures of us helping with the last feeding, watching the kids doing their tummy time and enjoy their independent play.

Thawing out with Ian and Avery

After Sam and I returned from kicking balls of ice into Lake Michigan, we thawed-out at Eric and Sarah's house.

I was hanging out with Avery.

While she was sitting on my belly, leaning against my legs, I took some close-up pictures of her.

Check out this Flickr set to see the other folks in the background, resting, relaxing and waiting for the pizza to come.

Kicking balls of ice into Lake Michigan

Traversing a snowy field with the Snow Striker was a bit of an arduous journey.

But once we arrived at Lake Michigan, the real winter fun began.

Sam discovered that the edge of the lake was littered with thousands of balls of ice.

We were captivated by them for almost an hour. Sam liked to break them off and throw them into the lake.

In my tough winter boots, my favorite thing to do was to kick them loose and directly into the lake.

They floated there awhile.

The lake is such a lovely backdrop. It wasn't too sunny, which gave us nice diffused light every-

I took a bunch of pictures. Check out more pictures of Mary & Sam kicking balls of ice into Lake Michigan in this Flickr set.

Beware the Snow Striker.

After spending a few hours getting to know Ian and Avery, Sam was ready to play in the snow.

Check out this Flickr set of him as the Snow Striker.

Friday, January 18, 2008


The main reason for our trip back to Chicago was to see Eric and Sarah and their new twin babies, Ian and Avery.

Cam had gone back once before and met them, shortly after their birth, but Sam and I hadn't had the opportunity yet.

If you read Cam's blog, you've likely seen many pictures from our time with them with them already but I tried to tell the story from my perspective through titles and captions in this Flickr set.

I also included some low-light shots. Pictures taken with the flash are so harsh. Some of the ones taken in natural light came out really nice with a little photo editing.


Sunday, January 13, 2008

Thanks for all the gifts.

Twice recently, I said we didn't need gifts.

While I stand by those state-
ments, I also want to genuinely thank you everyone who gave gifts.

Check out the new Flickr set to see how much fun we had opening some of them on December 26th.

When my Dad was here for Thanksgiving, he brought his very nice camera and offered to give it to me to replace the one I dumped in the ocean.

Digital photography has many advantages over film but I still miss the non-digital SLR I bought when Sam was three and we moved to St. Louis. Before it stopped working, shortly after we moved to Chicago, it allowed me take pictures I felt were remarkable. We may invest in a digital SLR someday but until then, I appreciate having another nice camera to use. Thanks, Dad.

Thanks to everyone who sent monetary gifts and holiday greetings. Happy New Year.