Living it up in Chicago

I love Chicago! I love how busy it is. I love riding public transportation and walking every where. I love the shopping and the museums. I love how close it is to home. And I really love the food!!

I had only been to Chicago for work so this was the first time I was able to take my family. To make it even better, we got to visit one of our favorite families – the Konc family. The Konc’s used to live a few doors up from us and since we have kids around the same ages we all became very good friends. Then they moved to Minneapolis. So we flew out to see them and explore Minneapolis. Then they moved to Atlanta so we drove to Atlanta to visit them and explore the city. And now they live in Chicago so we packed up the car and drove to Chicago.

konc fam

Holland, Elliot, Roman, Andi, Joey and Winston – Friends for Life

We spent the first night at hotel in Lincoln Park. We arrived in the mid-afternoon so we decided to check out the hotel and freshen up. My son Joey has trained and worked for a circus since he was about 10-years-old. We had heard quite a bit about CircEsteem in Chicago so we scheduled a visit for him. While he was there, we drove around and let Andi take pictures at places that are in the show Shameless. It rained a lot that night so we decided to grab dinner at a diner close to our hotel and call it a night.

The next day we hit the Museum of Science and Industry. We spent several hours at this amazing museum. There were a lot of hands-on exhibits that even entertained me, my husband and two teenagers. My favorite part though had to be the U-505 Submarine. It’s a real submarine. My husband was in the Navy so it was amazing to see something like this up close.

That night we headed to the Konc’s homestead where we spent the next three nights with Amanda, Deacon, their four children and two dogs. The live in the Wrigley Field neighborhood. This neighborhood is really cool! I noticed the amazing architecture as we walked around. The Cubs Stadium was obviously my favorite. The neighborhood is also filled with cute shops, restaurants and bars.

We visited the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) and walked out on the Skydeck ledge. The view from the ledge was beautiful. Heads up though: the wait to get to the Skydeck and the ledge can be extremely long. We waited about 90 minutes to get to the Skydeck level and then about another 30 to go out on the ledge. It was worth the wait though.


Hitting Millennium Park is a must. Cloud Gate (the Bean) and the Crown Fountain are extremely unique and worth seeing. This is also a fun way to spend an afternoon without spending any money. The Shake Shack is a great spot to grab lunch and is right across the street from the Bean.

We also visited the Lincoln Park Zoo after having breakfast at Yolk. The zoo is small compared to Cincinnati but it’s free. We have also made it a tradition to visit the zoo every time we visit the Konc’s. BTW, Yolk was delicious too.


We rode the Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier. I was a little nervous about this but it was actually a lot of fun for all of us to be in the cage and look out over the water together.

The Art Institute of Chicago was inspiring. I will be honest though… the adults enjoyed this much more than the children. Andi, who is 18, and Holland, who is 15, pushed for this to be on our agenda but were done after the first hour. The boys were only into it for about 30 minutes. It is a very large museum and took quite some time to get through but I had hoped they would enjoy it as much as I did.

art museum kids asleep

We enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Portillo’s one of the nights. This was definitely our cheapest meal of the trip but one of the tastiest. I had a Chicago style hot dog and fries. I probably could have eaten two hot dogs but I didn’t want to wait in line again. This place gets really busy and is not a sit-down kind of restaurant. You wait in line, order and then wait for your number to be called. You want to send one member of your party to grab a table while the rest of you wait. It is absolutely worth the wait.

We also got Chicago style pizza one night and I honestly can’t remember where it was from. It was good but it was not Giordano’s. Giordano’s is definitely my favorite place to get pizza in Chicago. Note that there is usually a wait there as well but you can order while you wait.

All of the activities were a lot of fun and the food was great but the best part was being with our friends. Honestly, we can just sit around the house with them and have a great time. The next time we visit, I want to hit the River Walk and take a boat tour!



Sometimes You Just Have to Say No… Even to Grandma

grandma and andi

Andi and grandma making ravioli

My parents are incredible grandparents. Whether I want to go out with friends, need to work or just need some quiet time, my parents are usually willing to jump in and help. They will even call and ask for the kids for outings, just to come over and sleepovers. My 13-year-old and 11-year-old will sometimes call them and ask if they can go over and they usually say yes. I know you are all envious and wish your children had grandparents like mine do. I don’t blame you. I’d be envious too if this was not my situation.

But… sometimes you just have to say no. My kids and I have a busy schedule between school, Girl Scouts, soccer, Odyssey of the Minds, Chess Club, speech team, working full-time, the dog needing exercise, homework, etc. Between all of that and Monday night dinners at my parents’, we have some where to be every night of the week except for Tuesdays. So, on Tuesdays, I like to have dinner at the house as a family and take time to get chores done and maybe watch a movie or play a game together.

This definitely doesn’t happen every Tuesday because my mom often takes all the grandkids to the Library on Tuesday nights. I love that they get library time but it does mean another night away from home.  So this last Tuesday, the library was taking a break from storytime so I expected my kids to be home. I had been asking them for a week to clean their bedrooms and play area so I could get the carpets cleaned. I knew Andi had studying to catch up on and Joey could just use at-home time. Plus, Tuesday night is their night to make dinner. It can be as simple as a sandwich or as complicated as they want but they are in charge of dinner.

I was at the pediatrician with Joey when Andi called while walking home from school. She wanted to know if she could go to grandma’s house to hang out and if I’d pick her up later. I thought about it for a minute and then said something Andi rarely hears; “NO!” She acts as if she’s in shock asking why. I told her that I needed her to do her chores because we would be busy the rest of the week. She tried to bargain with me explaining that it’s important I let her be with family and asking how I could keep her from grandma. Now remember, we had just had dinner at grandma’s the night before. I again say no and explain that I need her to do what’s expected of her.

I receive a text within just a few minutes from my mother that says “can she?” I wanted to scream at this point (love you mom). I responded, “no, this is the only night this week she is home and she has stuff to do.” She said okay. Once I got home I explained to Andi that I did not appreciate the follow up from grandma after already being told no.

The next night, I ran into my parents at the grocery. My dad immediately tells me that I need to stop being so hard on Andi (love you dad). I feel like I’m pretty easy on my children. Andi is expected to do the dishes, keep her room clean and help keep the kids’ bathroom and the play room clean. Joey is expected to take out the trash and clean off the table, keep his room clean and help keep the kids’ bathroom and play room clean. They both have to help take care of the dog and make dinner one night a week. I, as a single mom, get them everywhere they need and do all the other mommy things like make meals, clean up, do laundry, tuck them in, etc. They both have friends over quite often and are not forced to do any sports or other activities that they do not choose.

So I want to know… do you think it’s wrong to say no to grandma? Do your kids have chores and what is too much?