Musings · Recent Family Adventures

In Defense of Spontaneity (Madison and Chicago 2016)

Heidi-ho my friends!

As summer hits its full post-4th-stride, I hope you’re feeling like you’re making the most of these lovely, fleeting sunny days.  Fact- I don’t always feel that way and it freaks me out.  Because I know what’s coming (winter, people. Midwest winter).  June always holds such promise and anticipation- 3 whole months! So much sunshine! So much time to do all those summery-things!  But there’s something about passing Independence Day…I almost feel this rising panic of the days getting shorter (it’s true, Dad, they really do!) and Labor Day looming on the calendaric horizon.  As a summer gal/go-out-and-doer/outdoor lover/fan of heat and humidity (its the curly hair) I really (desperately) want to schedule our summers well.  Because they truly do go by quickly, and no matter how hard I try, the “Summer Bucket List” always goes partially unchecked.  So the Hugg calendar-o-summer-fun starts fill up. And before you can say “pictureperfectpicnic”, the calendar is chock-full of fun appointments as well as the everyday/every week must-dos. There are so many plans made, there’s no room for, say, a quiet day at home or an unexpected project or a spontaneous play date or a last-minute road trip.  But by golly, we’re going to have a lot of fun.

 

My loving sweet adoring patient husband of 14 years and I have some differing opinions on how full to keep our leisure/social/fun schedule- especially when it comes to weekends.  Its been a surprising source of conflict the past couple of years as we’ve navigated the waters of how to structure our fun/work/leisure/travel/social/adult-responsibility schedules.  I always feel like there’s one more fun thing out there we could squeeze in while keeping exhaustion (mostly) at bay, while he likes to keep things a little more open for activities like Sunday afternoon naps after a long work week and cleaning out the garage.  Boring, right? 😉 So we’re still learning how to compromise and honor each other’s unique perspective and submit to one another when it comes to this stuff.  Basically, I’m waiting for him to realize I’m right haha. Mawwwwiage!  Our June was crazy-full between the necessities (home improvement projects + all the regular-life stuff) sports camps (British Soccer, basketball, ATA…) birthdays (3 of the 4 little Huggs are June babies) and the early-summer activities (pool parties, lake days, and yes, picnics).  So here comes July…I plan to keep things a little more loosey goosey and fancy free to welcome the lazy days of summer and to maintain the wellness of my marriage. 😉 The calendar is wiiiiide open (for us anyway!).

 

So you can imagine my surprise when the following exchange took place in our front porch over coffee Wednesday morning….

Me: “You know what, babe?  I just had a totally perfect idea. Remember when I told you like last month that Betsy was doing a jazz show at this super-cool venue in Madison tonight?  Well, I really want to go!  If we leave by 1 we can get there in time and we can drive back after or Priceline a hotel or something but we don’t have anything else going on today or tonight and I’d just really loooovoe to take a road trip and surprise her and it would totally work.” (And if you’re wondering, yes, this is me keeping things more unstructured ha!)

Matt: “Ok let’s do it.”

Me: “What? Wait- did you hear what I said? Maybe you were thinking of something else. Were you on a conference call? Voice texting? Are you kidding?”

Matt: “No- I think we should do it.  Better get packing baby!”

 

What ensued was a whirlwind, unplanned, fly-by-the-seats-of-all-our-pants  mini getaway of summertime travel fun.  It was glorious.  And exhausting.  Brownie points: my husband chose an opportune moment to scratch my wanderlust itch (not as weird as it sounds!) and we got to make some great summertime memories with not just our family but some dear not-seen-oft-enough friends.  I know it doesn’t work like this for many of you (jobs with set hours/vacation days and little itty bitty children being the two most likely very good excuses!) but the flexibility we have with Matt’s job and our kids’ ages/activities/schooling makes doing things like this a reality for our little clan right now.  So we went!

 

Drive to Madison: A crazy-pouring-cats-and-dogs-visually-imparing rain storm.  That’s one way to stay awake while driving! Luckily we had our trusty electronic gadgets, old-fashioned-print-on-paper books, work phone calls and plenty of good road trip tunes to get us there in one piece.

rain wyphonejessbookcar mattdrivingmadison

Madison: We arrived just in time to park and speed-walk up the lovely capitol-front streets to the Dreambank, a rad space for performing arts/brainstorming/happiness boosting/Madison-y goodness just in time for our dear friend to start her fabulous jazz quartet show.  She seriously rocks.  Check out her originals, event info and more on her site www.betsyezell.com. Her vocals are so smooth and her scats are so funky- I could listen to her sing all day!  Totally worth the 4 hour drive.  The kids listened intently too and I think they were impressed we knew someone so talented.  Plus there were free cookies, so, you know, they were happy. 🙂  We didn’t tell her we were coming and if the amazing show wasn’t enough, the look on her and her awesome husband’s faces when we showed up were well worth it.  Such fun to pull off a surprise like that!

 

{Side note- we love having dear friends in many places around the country, even though we wish you lived in our little town with us so we could see you more than once or twice a year.  But we love visiting you in your fabulous hometowns and its super sweet to know locals in so many fun and funky places!}

 

Local benefit #1- our friends had already nabbed a picnic spot complete with wine and delish homemade treats for the after-show-show, the Concerts on the Square live music series on the lawn of Madison’s capitol building.  So we headed over there with them for some lovely classical tunes and even lovelier conversation with thousands of Madison’s finest.  Local benefit #2- hospitable friends with spare bedrooms and bunk beds and toothbrushes and a sense of spontaneity.  Local benefit #3- the all-important “where to get good morning coffee” question answered.  The scones and “attic” at Lazy Janes and the cortado/view at Colectivo Coffee were amazing.  Yelp certainly has its place, but REAL personal recommendations are tough to beat.

 

Speedwalking to the Dreambank in Madison to catch the jazz show!  betsyshow  dreambank  capitolselfiemadison

picnicatmadison mattandchristian Madison 2016 capitolfrontcoffee

 

The Spontaneous Road Trip Gets Even Weirder…Day 2: Chicago

We’re caffeinated up and about to head home, and Matt’s all like,  “Hey baby,  I’m going to call my contact in Chicago and see if we can meet up for lunch.  It’s only 2-3 hours from here.  That ok?  You like Chicago.” And I’m all like A- do we have enough clean underwear B- can someone go feed the cats C- awwww helllll yeah! 😉 I hop in the driver’s seat so he can get some work done (calls/texts/emails/not crashing!) and off we went.  Almost 3 hours later (construction traffic ugh) we pulled into Chi-town and dropped Matt off at the offices of his customer and went exploring for somewhere to get a late lunch.  As I want to give an honest tale of our travel adventures, I’ll tell you that I was a bit of a bumbly-messy leader of my pack for about a half hour as I chased down a place to get lunch (based on Yelp reviews, natch) in a not-super-duper part of town.  Every place I found looked a little more sketch than I was comfortable with upon drive-by.  Finally I saw on my GPS that I was close to the United Center, so I drove past it and just kept driving toward the tall buildings and away from the…well…less seemly area I was in.  Soon I was in a hipster-revival area between UnC and downtown and found a lovely little place called the Little Goat Diner where we parked it and enjoyed a super-tasty meal- the kids were so hangry they would have eaten a plate of brussel sprouts at that point.

underelchicago littlegoatdiner littlegoattuna laylaburgerchicago

 

After Daddy’s bringing-home-the-bacon work meeting was over, we Priceline’d ourselves a fabulous deal on a 4 1/2 star place down on Lake Shore Drive- the W.  So fancy. I’m 95% sure our crew stuck out a bit in the swanky lobby but you know what, it’s not the first time and won’t be the last.  I’ve found that the staff at hotels like that are usually very friendly, welcoming and helpful to our clan.  Upon arrival I ordered Matt and I a cocktail- gin and tonic, extra lime for him (always) and a seasonal/local/bartender’s recommendation for me- a lemondrop with elderflower this time.  What can I say, I like variety! 😉 We dropped our bags and headed for Navy Pier to ride the recently remodeled (100th Anniversary!) Ferris Wheel.  The W was a great location for walking the city- seriously don’t be scared to try and Priceline these nicer properties- even with 4 young car-ride-bedraggled kids in tow! Just don’t forget that parking is often not included and if you valet at the hotel it will run you almost as much as your room.  If you’re frugal and Dutch 😉 there are lots of self-parking options nearby for a lot less.  So we parked and walked to the NP- after the Ferris Wheel we walked to the end and back (apparently that’s almost a mile each way!) and then over to Millennium Park (across the river…almost another mile) to see the mirrored bean.  We stopped at Molly’s Cupcakes (a Cupcake Wars winner!) for a super-tasty-cupcake-for-supper stop to refuel.  Once we reached MP there was a lovely little samba band playing at the large stage at sunset…tell me that’s not a summertime dream come true!?  The bean, or Cloud Gate if you wanna be fancy, is such a fun stop for kids old and young- great for people watching and selfie taking and crazy face making.  All kinds of fun.  The walk home brought a gorgeous sunset through the awesome architecture and winding river with just the right amount of wind. 🙂  Ready for pictures? Lots and lots of pictures?

 

wdrinkswroomlightsferriswheel2navypier1  ferrisswheel1 cityscapechicagocupcakewars    mollyscupcakes

 

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Tip alert!!  Our kids have been trained to walk with us in public down those hustley-bustley-busy city streets in an intentional way.  There is always a ton to see and its easy for the kids to get distracted by their surroundings and, of course, there’s an added element of stranger danger as well as street-crossing-craziness, biker-side-swiping, tree-running-into, dog-poo-stepping-in, or random-piece-of-pre-chewed-gum-consumption.  Cities are scary. 😉 So we have the kids walk between us- either Matt or I in front and the other in the back.  They’ve been taught to keep their heads up and to move around people/bikes coming at them and to stay very close to Mom and Dad all the time.  And for heaven’s sake don’t pick anything up off of any surface and put it anywhere near your mouth.  Start with that…its not perfect but the kids have definitely be coached/trained/bribed/threatened into street-smarts while in a big metro area, and yours can be too. 😉

 

Following our heavy-on-the-walking evening in the big city, we ordered some yummy pizza delivered to the hotel and watched a Netflix movie and let the kids stay up way too late.  Despite a short night, I found myself up and att-um around 6:30 so I snuck out while Matt and the kids were sleeping for some coffee and pastries from a yummy local place down the street.  First I had a famously bittersweet mocha from a coffee company that has been operating in Vienna since the late 1800’s which I was happy to enjoy while I walked to a little shop Yelp told me about, Dollop.  Here they had every sort of coffee confection a connoisseur could want and some yummy almond and ham/Gruyère croissants which I was more than happy to bring back to my hungry little baby birds who had just woke up back at the hotel.  The drive home was quiet and uneventful as the kids basically slept off their city hangover the whole way home.

 

In the end, we filled an otherwise quiet summer week at home with two and a half days of spontaneity, giving up time we could have done more local summer-bucket-list activities or focused on some extra housework or summer school our DIY projects.  Don’t get me wrong- those things are good and (most of them!) will get done eventually.  However, there will never be enough days or hours of the luscious lemony-fresh summer sunshine to satisfy all of the go-gettumy-ness I tend to rock.  The bucket lists will remain only partially complete at the end of the day, season, or life.  And taking time away from the everyday necessities of work (housework/kid work/bacon-bringing work) always means a little extra time and effort to catch back up when we return to that reality.  So it’s a shaky beam I find myself walking on as I try to balance my daily duties/obligations, the positive necessity of Matt’s work, the kids’ needs for both structure and freedom, and the big, wide world that awaits our discovery.  Some days feel like victories, some leave me itching for the next adventure, and some are sweet in the contentment of cherishing little things that add up to really big things.  As we navigate the final 5-7 weeks of summer together, I hope you find and keep your balance, as I continue to strive for mine.  That will look different for each of us (ah-hem honey!) but I sincerely hope we can agree on a few more “let’s do it’s!” because the reward will be a richer, fuller experience of whatever season we find ourselves in.  And if we fall off that beam?  Well, you know what to do.  Get back on, take a deep breath and improvise! 😉

 

It’s good to go my friends.  See you out there.

 

Jess

One thought on “In Defense of Spontaneity (Madison and Chicago 2016)

  1. Looks like so much fun! What a great opportunity for your kids to see the sights and sounds of the United States!

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