Well, I'm finally rested enough not to lay down during Claire's nap time so here it goes!
We flew into Chicago on Wed, June 25th and I had been pumping up flying to Claire for about 2 months so she was SO excited! In fact, she was too excited to nap that day so I was a little nervous because I knew she wouldn't sleep on the plane. Well, she did a WONDERFUL job especially after waiting for an hour delay and an additional 30 minutes sitting on the runway. We had a lot of surprises for her including a stuffed Daddy frog holding a baby frog and her favorite PBS shows with a DVD player that "Aunt" Heather let us borrow. Thank you so much Heather! It really came in handy! By the time we actually got to Chicago it was about 6 p.m. As soon as we took the shuttle and got the rental car, she was exhausted and was out after 5 minutes on the road.
My Aunt Marge let us stay with her in Grayslake, Illinois which was about a 45 minute drive. We had the whole basement to ourselves so it was a great setup for our family. Marge lives in an adult community and it's a gorgeous area. Her back yard is full of wildlife - coyotes, deer, birds of all kind and tons of bunnies! We got to see bunnies while eating dinner and breakfast the next day. They would come right up to her patio! I think this was Claire's favorite part of Marge's house and aside from seeing family, it was mine as well =)
On Thursday, Marge arranged a wonderful day for family to visit so my Aunt Faye and Aunt Evelyn also came into town. My cousins Richard and Mary also came over for dinner that evening with their spouses and it was good eatin'! We had a great time catching up and they loved seeing Claire run around giving them all hugs before bedtime. They were amazed at how social she was and how comfortable she was with them after only meeting them hours before!
Friday morning it was off to Byron, Illinois to get to our Bed and Breakfast, BlackHawk's Inn which was right on a beautiful river. It was a wonderful place to stay. The rooms were a little small and the shower water was temperamental but we would definitely stay there again. We stopped in Rockford on the way to eat lunch and just happened to be so near Eric and Erin that they met us and we got a chance to catch up before the rehearsal that evening. Unfortunately, we got really lost on our way to the rehearsal so we pretty much missed it all! We were so confused and Claire was tired of being driven around. Thank God we finally caught up with everyone and were sure to follow everyone to the park area where the rehearsal dinner was supposed to be. I got to eat my brat and it was SOOOO good! Well worth the trip =) Claire had a great time running around the open grass areas and once again surprised us with how well she did with such little sleep and a later night than usual!
Saturday morning we were at the wedding site by 8:30 to get pictures done beforehand. It was such a beautiful area called White Pines Inn - Wedding Canyon and if I got married again, I'd consider the long trip back! Eric and Erin looked wonderful and there was a big crowd to witness such a blessing. I read scripture and Claire came up with me. She was so wonderful standing up in front of all those people. She just held my hand and stood there quietly. Here are a couple pics I took and one from the photographer that I turned black and white with color:
The reception was nice with a good lunch and we sat with Eric's parents, Alaina Weynard (the photographer) and the Ingrams who had all traveled from San Antonio. They had all the traditional things with the toast delivered by my man (it was really good too!), first dances, cake cutting, garter and bouquet toss and a rose petal send off inside the building since it was raining. We had a great time! We were off to Milwaukee by 3:00 p.m to stay the night with my Aunt Linda and Uncle Jim. We had a relaxing evening home with them along with my 11 year old cousin, Kaitlin and Aunt Barbara.
Sunday was the day Claire found her new obsession: Kaitlin! Anytime Kaitlin was around she had to be holding her hand or sitting right next to her. These two pictures say it all:
That day we went to the Children's Museum in Milwaukee with Linda, Kaitlin and Barbara and had a great time! Claire loved it! It had all kinds of hand on activities for her. We then went to Barbara's place in Shorewood for Claire's nap and a yummy lasagna dinner. My Aunt Judy and cousin Bethany also came by for a little while to see Claire. It was a nice relaxing evening in and we had a great time to really visit and share a meal together.
Monday we drove up to Sheboygan, WI to see my Grandma and found another one of Claire's obsessions: the beach!! She is still talking about it! She had a wonderful time playing in the sand but the water was freezing so no bathing suits for us! It was a perfect day to be out and we had a fun time. That night we stayed at my grandma's and had to watch the Bachelorette and The Mole together! I love that my grandma likes those shows - it's pretty funny to hear her talk about them!
Tuesday was a wonderful day for me... growing up visiting Wisconsin, I have vivid memories of many places in Cedar Grove and Oostburg which are right outside of Sheboygan. Neil has never been up there so this was the day I got to show him all the things I loved to do as a kid. The first and foremost was going to the Walvoord Berry Farm to pick fresh strawberries. I've done it every summer I visited since I can remember and to take Claire there was so special for me. She did a wonderful job but we only picked for about 25 minutes because she liked to pick all the strawberries including the green ones! She helped quite a bit and in that little time we got about 4 pounds to give to my grandma. Oh it was wonderful!!
Then it was off to show Neil where my dad grew up and where I remember the days with my Grandma Walvoord. She was such a sweet woman! I have fond memories of running around on the farm, going fishing down at the river, watching the birds from the kitchen table and I can even remember that musty smell in the basement. My dad owns some of the land so we were able to get out and walk around. The mosquitoes were so bad that we didn't get very far! The woman who lives there now came out and we talked to her for a little bit. They're refurnishing the house and she said one of my cousins had just been by not too long ago. A lot of grand kids grew up in that house so they probably get that a lot!
After that we visited the Gibbsville cheese factory and Oostburg bakery - two of my favorite treats! On the way back to my Grandma's place in Sheboygan I drove by the church my parents got married in and showed Neil the land where my mom's family's farm used to be. Now there's a huge chemical factory out there. All in all, it was a wonderful time reminiscing and being proud of where my parents grew up. That area is so different than living in the city and Neil had never really seen anything like that before! We had a great spaghetti dinner with my Grandma that night and took a drive down by Lake Michigan. It really is beautiful there!
Wednesday we were off to Chicago to catch our plan but before we left we stopped in to see my Aunt Carol and Uncle George who live right next to the Berry Farm. Carol is probably the most talkative person I've ever met but we managed to leave timely to get to Chicago on time. The flight home was just as good as our flight there and Claire was wonderful =) Couldn't ask for a better 2 year old to travel with (even though we all needed a little break!)
All in all, it was a great vacation with cool weather and wonderful memories. I'm so glad Eric and Erin's wedding could get us up there to visit family. It was a positive travel experience but we were all exhausted. Claire was waking up between 5-5:30 a.m. the last four days and going to bed late. The sun comes up early there so she was up when the room would get lighter. We're not used to sleeping in the same room so I was always just a little awake through the night... sleeping on edge! Thank God she stayed with my parents when we had to leave for Galveston on Friday. I don't know if we all would've made it back on Sunday in one piece!
Well, this was pretty lengthy but again, it's really for me to go back and read years from now and remember all those little details!
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