Just got back from spending two weeks in Illinois visiting family.
We spent one week in Rockford with my parents, and a week in Libertyville with Kyle's parents.
Owen and Stewart were very easy and well-behaved the whole time and were surprisingly good about napping and sleeping in their away-from-home beds.
Owen nearly peed his pants when we finally boarded the plane because he'd been anticipating it for so long. He was also thrilled that we got a "blue one!"
As we strolled down the ramp, he jumped up and down in his little Old Navy sandals shouting "We're riding on the blue plane!" Then one of the flight attendants took his hand and helped him on board (while I dealt with Stew and shut down the stroller) and he lept into his seat, buckled his seatbelt, and literally sat there for the next two hours, looking around him in wonder and occasionally expostulating "I'm riding on a plane, Mommy,", or, "Mommy, I'm right here on the airplane." All in all, it was the most adorable thing I've ever seen.
Stewart slept for most of the flight there and back, after gulping down milk and reading Curious George.
Highlights of the trip include Magic Waters with my parents (Owen loved the waterslides), a train ride to Chicago with Kyle's, and trips to Chuck E. Cheese's with both.
We also enjoyed the Midwestern delights of backyard wading pools, swingsets, and fireflies at dusk.
Owen also made repeated trips to my parent's basement to "look at the spider." The spider in question was the giant wooden Charlotte (of Charlotte's Web) that my grandfather carved for us when we were little.
Holding my hand or Grandma's, he would creep down the stairs (as Stewie stumbled along after), turn on all the lights, and then stare at poor old Charlotte in terror as if she were a real spider.
If Stewart (who is blissfully unpossessed of an imagination at 20 months old) ran over and knocked her around on her "web", Owen would gasp and shriek, "MOMMY! HOLD STEWIE!" as if afraid for his life.
We had to do this about 15 times a day. Maybe more.
At the Ford's house, the biggest hit with the boys was Gary's Roomba vacuum. They called him "Roomba" or "Robot"- and looked at him in his charging stand about ten times an hour to see if his light was red or green.
If it was red, Roomba was "sleeping", if it was green, he was "awake", and that meant that he could vacuum!
And boy, I have never seen two little boys so excited about vacuuming in my life! They ran around after it like it was a dog or a person, laughing when it zoomed toward them, and appeared to chase them, laughing when it hit walls or doors or furniture. Stewart was most hilarious, screwing up his fists in excitement and screaming "ROOMBA" and blending it into a laugh so it sounded like "ROOMBAHAHAHAHA!"
Needless to say, we vacuumed three or four times and day and both Pat and Gary agreed that their floors had never been so clean.
We left early Sunday morning after a wonderful trip. I can't wait to go back again because we all had so much fun.
Now, for the negative spin.
I used to think that people in the Midwest were friendlier than people here, but I now believe it is all a lie.
I had three bad experiences with Midwesterners this trip who I mistakenly thought would be friendly.
The first happened here in California, when Owen and Stewart and I were waiting for our (delayed) flight to Chicago. Stewart tried to play with a redheaded boy, but he kept running away from him and screaming "Go AWAY! No!" at him. The parents of Red thought his behavior was just hilarious (I didn't, but I figured maybe they were just too tired to deal with it at this point). I thought maybe they were on our flight, and since they were parents dealing with kids, too, they'd want to chat and kill some time. I smiled and asked if they were on their way to Chicago, and got a curt yes and nothing else. A few minutes later, as they were laughing at their son's adorable behavior to Stewart ("NOOOOOO! GO AWAY, BABY!!!!"), I said jokingly, "He's used to that because he has an older brother." Their laughter died immediately and they both ignored me, at which point I just gathered the boys up and moved to another seat.
The next experience was at Chuck E. Cheese's in Libertyville, where a little boy of about 2 was running around with a token in his mouth and trying to climb up the slide.
First I told him to get off the slide because I could hear kids coming down the slide and I didn't want him to get pummeled. Then I noticed the coin in his mouth and told him to be careful and hold it in his hand, not his mouth.
His mom appeared a second later and asked me what was going on. I explained about the token (in a very friendly, non-judgmental way, believe me- my kids do this stuff all the time) and she gave me a mean look and walked away. And it wasn't my imagination, because my sister-in-law Joanna was there and she noticed the rudeness and commented on it later. All I can say is that if it were my kid, I'd rather someone said something than that he choke to death on a coin.
The final experience was the worst- I actually went to an "estate sale" with Pat. I've never been to one before. The whole house was open and all the furniture and things were labeled with stickers like a garage sale. Apparently, an old man had died and these were the things the relatives didn't want. There was a long line to get into the house and I felt a little guilty, like a vulture, as I stood out there in a summer shower, waiting for glimpse of a dead man's furniture and bric-a-brac.
After a quick spin through the depressing old house filled with overpriced junk, we ended up in the backyard where I saw an old Asian lady pocket a pair of $1 gardening shears. One of the Dead Man's relatives came forward to harass her, shouting, "Are you going to pay for those clippers you put in your purse?" I was disturbed both by the fact that she would bother to steal a $1 set of gardening shears, and that the relative would bother to confront her about it. Jeez, it's a BUCK. The whole thing was a bit unsettling, and I got that feeling again of being a thief or vulture myself, as if just by being around these people I was tainted.
Well, Pat found a cute old filing cabinet next to the clipper thief, and she bought it for $5. However, it was full of old files, which we warned the relatives about so they could go through them. As a blonde lady who had been Dead Man's neighbor put the files into boxes, Pat nicely offered to bring back anything else we found inside it just in case it was important. "Yeah," Blondie said flatly, "unless it's a hundred dollar bill, right?"
Another insinuation that Pat and I were thieves, this one clearly SPOKEN! Pat insisted that she had been joking, but I don't find that funny at all. I call that an insult.
So, at this point I was ready to get out of there, but Pat had to bring back the van because the filing cabinet wouldn't fit in the truck.
I waited by the curb with the filing cabinet for ten minutes or so, blocking Pat's parking spot so that when she arrived, we wouldn't have to move the cabinet again.
Everyone seemed to understand what I was doing and avoided the parking spot until someone came along who was too fat to walk an extra ten feet.
She yanked her SUV up to me and screamed "HELLO!!!" out the window while gesturing me out of the way. No "Excuse me, but is this spot taken?" or "Do you mind if I park here?", merely a shrill "HELLO!!!!" (subtext, "get out of my way, you idiot!").
I explained to her that I was waiting for someone to pick up the cabinet, and she yelled back, "Well, I'm trying to park here! I'm pulling in! Get out of the way!" And she pulled her truck right into the spot and if I hadn't moved, she would just have run me over. I'm not kidding at all.
Well, as she was getting herself and her fat daughter out of the car, I had plenty of time to think about what to say to her. I was in an absolute rage at being yelled at for no reason when I could have been politely requested to move, and at nearly being run over to boot! But, as is typical for me, I can't accept the reality of someone being that rude. It's so far from the way I would treat anyone that I can hardly fathom it- so I thought that perhaps I had imagined it all.
Perhaps she said something polite and I didn't hear it? Perhaps she thought I gave her a mean look? I therefore decided to try and correct the mistake by being polite, hoping to end our encounter on a good note.
I smiled at her as she exited her car and explained "I'm sorry, I was just waiting for someone to come and pick this up."
She clearly understood that I was going to have to move the filing cabinet again because of her insistence on having the spot, because she said, "Well, it doesn't matter. If the spot's empty, I can park there! And you were standing RIGHT in my way!" And she wamped off to the estate sale.
So anyhow, Pat and I had to hold up traffic and carry the file cabinet into the middle of the street, which wasn't a pretty sight. If a nice man hadn't come along to offer help I don't know what we would've done.
Well, those were my bad Midwest experiences, and I told Pat I was convinced that people in L.A. were nicer. She kind of laughed and said there were good and bad people everywhere, pointed out the nice man who helped us with the file cabinet, and just generally thought I was taking things too seriously.
But I knew it wasn't my imagination when we arrived at Midway airport, got in line for our flight to L.A., and heard a tall, tanned gentleman say, "Hey, how's it going? Two little ones, eh? You've got your hands full! Are you going to L.A.?"
"Yes," I said. "And you, are you from L.A.?" I asked, knowing full well what the answer would be.
"Yep, going home," he said.
"Me too!" I said, glad to be returning to the world of good tans and cliched chit-chat and politeness, even if lots of it is phony. After all, I'd rather have the phony kind than none at all.