Alright, as promised here is a recap of one of our recent family summer vacations. Now it’s a bit long but it was such a wonderful time for our family I couldn’t leave much out. Later this week I will have a list of tips and tricks for traveling with a toddler compiled both from this vacation and our recent camping trip.
In late June our family of 3 along with Todd’s parents, grandmother and brother traveled from California to Bloomington, Illinois. This is where Todd’s grandparents grew up and where my father-in-law was born. Todd’s grandfather, Andy Schapmire, passed away in January. Part of the reason for the trip was to bring Andy’s ashes back to where he was born and raised. Andy was the only one of five siblings to move away from the small town, and although he only has one sister still living he has two sister in laws, two brother in laws and many nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews who welcomed us all with open arms. This was my and Gianna’s first time to Bloomington, but Todd and his family had visited many times growing up and the Cave family (Andy’s sister’s family) had come to California to visit as well.
The service for Grandpa Andy was held at the cemetery across the street from the neighborhood he grew up in. So close in fact that his plaque faces the house he was born in, as well as the house a few doors down where his sister-in-law still lives today. Many family and friends gathered to honor and remember Andy. It was truly beautiful to see our little girl there amongst all those family members and friends. They all knew who she was as she and her young cousin held a very special place in their great-grandpa’s heart. The words spoken at the service by husband’s grandmother, his father, his brother and he were heartfelt and a true testament to the amazing man Andy was.
Now the service was a big reason for our trip to Illinois, but we were there also to spend time with family and we had a wonderful week doing so. Here is a list and some photos of some of the highlights.
1. Bloomington Parks – This is a total nerdy mom thing, but it seemed around every corner as we drove through the town’s neighborhoods and subdivisions there were parks. And not just your run of the mill swing, twisty slide, walking bridge and climber. No these parks were all different, all brightly colored, all beautifully kept up and with cool equipment many of us had never seen. We stayed at our cousin, Greg and Shelly’s, house and they had an awesome park two blocks from their house. We hit that up most evenings and Gianna loved it.
2. The Weather – This isn’t really a highlight, but worth mentioning. If you’ve ever been to Illinois in the summer you know what I mean. Most days it was 90 degrees with 90% humidity, not the usual for us California folks. This meant my hair was crazy (I have very thick, curly hair but I straighten it…this was pointless there), there was lots of sweating and outfit changes, and a need to stay hydrated…who says beer isn’t hydrating?
3. Hangin’ in the Garage – Every night we would hang out, cousins, aunts, uncles, old and young in Greg and Shelly’s garage. We would drink and tell stories, share laughs and lots of love! My favorite dinner was actually cooked right in the garage. It was a catfish fish fry and then we used the fried fish in fish tacos. It was quite a treat!
4. Nap and a Pabst – I spent 2 hours of the gathering after Grandpa Andy’s service with G asleep in my lap in a rocking recliner in the back bedroom of Todd’s Great Aunt’s house. Luckily my little one will still fall asleep on me and as she was in desperate need of a nap this was the best option. Once she fell asleep I texted Todd this picture and said “she’s out bring me a cold beer please”. I was immediately delivered an ice cold Pabst (one of Grandpa Andy’s favorite beers) and nap time was very relaxing for both of us.
5. Duck Calls and Baby Dolls – Greg and Shelly were so welcoming and hospitable to us and our little one and I think really enjoyed having Gianna around (as they are recent empty nesters). They even pulled out some special toys for her to play with. Shelly pulled out her girls’ old baby dolls and Greg pulled out a duck caller which he taught G to use and then sent home with us…thanks a lot…
Gianna playing with cousin Greggy.
6. The town of Normal – Normal is a college town right near and considered the sister town to Bloomington. We spent one afternoon there and found something for everyone. Todd very much enjoyed The Pub II, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Pub-II/223090677499, (I enjoyed a beer there as well). Later in the week he returned and met the bartender who is Jake, from the “Jake from State Farm” kahki wearing guy from the State Farm commercials. Total local celebrity!
Jake’s famous Kahki’s Todd’s dad, Jake and Todd
Gianna enjoyed playing at the local children’s discovery museum with her grandma and great aunt and great uncle.
I spent my afternoon in Normal shopping at a super cute boutique called Apricot Lane. Check out their website http://www.apricotlaneusa.com/ as they do phone orders and post new looks on their facebook page.
7. Anniversary Night in Chicago – Last but not least my in-laws very kindly offered to keep Gianna for a night while Todd and I traveled into the city of Chicago for a day and night to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. We had a really fun time, here are a few of the best places we stopped for food and drinks.
* Lunch – Purple Pig: wine, cocktails and small bites. Must order the muscles, and ask for extra bread for sopping up the yummy broth. http://thepurplepigchicago.com/
* Before dinner drinks – The Aviary: known for its theatrical cocktails. Todd’s cocktail came in a plastic bag inflated with lavender air that they popped at the table! http://www.theaviary.com/
* Dinner – The Girl and Goat: owned by Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard. This was our second time to this restaurant and I can guarantee it’s a meal you’ll never forget. Simple, but one of the best things I’ve ever eaten is the pretzel bread. The sugo dish is unreal and this time we tried the house specialty, goat, in the form of goat meatballs and they did not disappoint. http://www.girlandthegoat.com/
* Brunch – Longman and Eagle: a gastropub and inn with incredible food. They serve great cocktails appropriate for any time of the day and you must try the chicken and waffles. http://www.longmanandeagle.com/
All in all it was a wonderful week with a family that filled us with love, laughter and great memories and that we very much look forward to seeing again soon!