We spent a four-day weekend for the Fourth of July this year in the Chicago suburbs, mostly visiting family, but also going to a Wellesley-MIT wedding for friends. It was a great weekend--Marcus had a ball the entire time. Robert said he felt like a neglectful daddy because he barely played with Marcus at all this weekend--our baby was too busy playing with his big cousins Emily (8) and John (9). Jennifer, Joe, John, and Emily (known as "Girl!" or "Memmy!" by Marcus, and the first person he would ask for every morning there) hadn't had a chance to meet Marcus before, so we were really happy to have this time to spend with them. We had great flights there and back on Jetblue, with just small delays on the return flight, and Marcus played with a baby in front of us on the way over and slept through the flight back--he also had great fun climbing on the airport seats, as you can see (at right).
We also got to see Uncle Max and Uncle Don and Aunt Loretta, as well as Dave and Candy again, and we saw Judy and Bill briefly before they flew off for a European adventure. Marcus was really entranced with John and Emmy, as well as their cats and their toys. Throughout the weekend, we had several stops at Culver's for frozen custard, lots of outdoor play, and some happy late nights.
We spent Friday night at the Naperville Ribfest, complete with parking and shuttle bus snafus, but made up for by the amazing ribs and the lovely evening. While Dave stood on an hour-long rib line and Robert and Jen took John and Emily on some rides, I lay down in the grass under the swing ride with Candy and Marcus. Candy and I talked, and Marcus nursed wide-eyed, staring up at the flying lit-up swings over us, and it was a beautiful 75-degree breezy evening. The next morning I got to make "rib omelets," with shredded rib meat (and some beef brisket) and cheese--a pretty good coda to the night.
Saturday we drove up to Rockford for Diana and Jason's wedding, and we got to hang out with Debbie and Chris and also get some fun swimming pool time in between the ceremony and the reception. The reception had 10 infants, 14 kids, and another batch of pre-teens and teenagers, so it was definitely a casual, family-friendly event, and Marcus had such fun playing with the gaggle of babies. I got to dance in my first-ever mother-son dance with baby (in the sling, of course) to Carole King's "Child of Mine." Marcus took the picture at left below when Diana and Jason visited our table. He was really insistent about it, and actually got them (blurrily) in the frame by himself.
On Sunday we ate at the Machine Shed Restaurant, a small local chain, for great service, tractors everywhere, and huge plates of very good country-style food. Robert and I split one breakfast, and the waitress plated it up separately, so we each had a good-sized chicken-fried steak, sausage gravy, a fat moist biscuit, a fried egg, and cheesy hashbrowns--truly heaven on a plate. Marcus was plyed with a toy tractor and some Fruit Loops, so he was quite happy too.
Back at Dave and Candy's we had another breakfast with Don and Loretta and Candy's parents Cookie and Joe: more biscuits and gravy and cheesy hashbrowns that we brought with us, plus yogurt smoothies and a mountain of scrambled eggs, plus bacon (Marcus devoured two full slices), plus humongous and delicious yeast-raised frosted cinnamon buns from the Machine Shed. Marcus loved playing with Buddy, Dave and Candy's dog, and then napped on the drive back down to Jennifer's.
Sunday night was fireworks at the Bolingbroke Country Club with Joe and Jen and their kids and Christine, Fabio, and Yasmine--our baby was asleep in the car on the way there, slept through the transfer to the sling (see above), opened his eyes briefly at the beginning of the fireworks, then put an arm over his head and went back to sleep through the rest. We finished off the night with sundaes at home.
Above you see fun with water with Auntie Jen and Emily on the porch; fun with Robert-Daddy; a Friday afternoon nap while Robert and Jen drove Judy and Bill to the airport; and a Sunday afternoon nap while Robert, Jen, and Christine chatted outside. Below you see a pose with Uncle Max, who wasn't fond of the 90-degree heat on Monday; and a group shot of the cousins. John isn't sad--with three kids, it was impossible to find one shot that had all three of them looking at the camera, though.
Monday morning I made donuts for breakfast, at Robert and Emily's request. All in all, it was a great, and tasty, weekend--we always have so much fun, and feel so much family love, when we visit Illinois, so thank you, Jennifer, for a lovely time! We leave you with three brief movies of Marcus and his cousins: first, Marcus climbing up to and down from the "treehouse" part of John and Emily's swingset; then, Emily and Marcus very seriously looking for the right size screwdriver (at Marcus's request) to fix a broken GuitarHero guitar; and finally, Marcus, Emily, and John in a puppy-like pile of cousins on the couch.
And here, for the record, is Robert's take on the Fourth:
The 4th was eventful. We got up early after the wedding in Rockford. I had a sampling of the local donuts at the free hotel breakfast (1st breakfast), but saved room for a place renowned on the internet for country breakfasts (The Machine Shed). We were not disappointed by the platter of cheesy hash browns, eggs, biscuits and chicken friend steak (2nd breakfast). In fact, we liked it so much, we brought a big breakfast over to Dave's (pancakes, biscuits and gravy, cinnamon buns, and, of course, the now famous cheesy hash browns), Candy invited her parents over, which inspired Dave and Candy to make an additional enormous breakfast of scrambled eggs, while Candy's parents brought over a big platter of bacon and sausage... we had plenty of food (3rd breakfast).
At Dave's I had a great, but somewhat shortened, visit with aunt Loretta and heard stories from my childhood I'd never quite heard before. Christina and Marcus stayed for the full visit and were later driven to Jeniffer's by Aunt Loretta and Uncle Don. I'm sure fun things happened, but I was off to Fabio's to pick up Chris. I drove over, begged forgiveness for 45 minutes, then we two had a baked dutch pancake and a large skillet of corned beef hash with eggs at a local upscale pancake house (4th, and final breakfast). Afterward, we went back to Fabio's where Chris showed me her new apartment and Fabio made real Italian coffee (black espresso for me). So Chris was content. I drove back to Jen's and was relieved to find no one upset with me there. Also, Uncle Max had arrived! It was nice to see him after so long, but everything seemed familiar to me.
Marcus was busy entertaining us with his newly learned ability of daredevil climbing up the ladder to the play house. Emily (aka “Memmy” or more often “Girl”), Marcus’s favorite person in the world, said he actually touched a cat. Chris picked up Yasmine and brought her to Jen’s in time for us to all pile into cars and go out to the fireworks. Joe had scouted the perfect spot for the family—an undeveloped street with foot bridge access to the golf right where the fireworks were being launched. Jennifer had the fun idea of making ice cream in a bag with rock salt while watching the fireworks. The kids frolicked, spun, and rolled, and we all shook ice cream in bags while watching fireworks that were recorded in 141 pictures and movies by Emily with my iPhone, and a similar number by Yasmine with Chris’s. The fireworks were a little too close for Christina, who fled to safety across the stream, and the ice cream never went past the milk shake stage, but we had a great time. We went home and made ice cream sundaes to end a great day.