Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Spring Break Getaway

For Christmas, I purchased Joel two tickets to the Chicago Symphony.  2013 is the 200th Anniversary of Richard Wagner, and orchestras all over the world are dedicating programs to his music.  The Maestro couldn't be more thrilled, as he is somewhat Wagner-obsessed.  In fact, his orchestra did its own Wagner tribute a few weeks ago, and Joel delighted in teaching a captivated (or possibly just captive) audience all about the terrible man with the sublime music.  One of my students attended the concert and noted that "your husband has a little man-crush on Wagner, hey?"

Indeed he does.

Which is why I bought him tickets to see Pierre Boulez (famous conductor) guest conduct the Chicago Symphony play Wagner.  Because I am not a Wagner fan and can think of hundreds of composers I'd rather listen to before I sat through a Wagner concert.  But, it was Christmas, and I kind of like the Maestro, so I was willing to sit through it just this once.

Sitting through the Wagner Concert.  Which also included an entire violin concerto by Schoenberg (my brain hurt after that one) and some Mahler, which I liked.

The concert took place this past weekend.  St. Patrick's Day also took place this past weekend.  Now, before you tell me how crazy we were to attempt Chicago on St. Patrick's Day weekend, let me plead my case.

I am not Irish.  If I have any Irish heritage, I don't know about it, and nobody ever made a big deal out of it.  Or a little deal out of it.  Which tells me that I am probably not Irish.

I am also not Catholic.  Nor do I have any Catholic heritage.  I'm a Mormon.  My Dad's family is pioneer stock Mormon.  My mother is a convert, but her family is Protestant.  Her grandparents were Methodist missionaries in China.  Her other grandparents emigrated from Germany, where they were presumably Lutheran (just a guess, I'm not the family genealogist).  No Catholicism in my family!  (Joel cannot claim the same since his father was raised Catholic, but this is my case we're pleading here.)

I have never celebrated St. Patrick's Day with any sort of fanfare other than maybe wearing green if I remember.  It just seemed a pointless holiday to me (see above about not being Irish or Catholic before being offended) and I have enough to do in my life without constructing Leprechaun traps or making sure the Leprechaun leaves us gold.  I don't know when that became a thing, but it isn't a thing at my house.

So, when the traffic became ridiculously heavy about fifteen minutes outside of downtown Chicago, we wondered what was up.  We've done the drive a few times, and generally the traffic isn't too bad on a Friday afternoon. Was it spring break traffic?  Was there an accident ahead?  Was there some big event in Chicago this weekend?  Surely everyone wasn't flocking to the city to see Wagner, especially since the famous Boulez got sick and somebody else was conducting in his place. 

After an hour and a half that should have only taken fifteen minutes, we found a spot to park and we headed straight to the American Girl Place.  Yes, we can't seem to keep ourselves away, even when the girls aren't with us.

Chloe's birthday had been a few days before, and she had been wanting her doll's ears pierced.  So, since we were going to be in Chicago a few days later, that was an easy birthday gift.  We quickly got her ears done and stopped for a brief photo op with Saige (2013 Girl of the Year) and her awesome balloon (which I can't fathom actually buying for my child, because, where would you put it?).

American Girl place

We did a bit of shopping around and then headed over to Ghirardelli where we got our obligatory ice cream.  We do love us some Ghirardelli! (No picture, but if you would like to see Joel enjoying Ghirardelli at other times you can go here or here. Or here!)

It was time to get ready for the symphony, so we drove the less-than-a-mile to our hotel.  It took us forever because Chicago was unusually crammed with people.  We still didn't know why.  While we were inching along, we decided we'd better walk to the Symphony Center, because sheesh!

So we did, and we made it just in time.  (I'm still a little sore from that speed walk in heels, actually!)

Afterwards, we ate a small dinner at the CSO restaurant, Tesori.  MMMMmmmm.  And then we walked back to our hotel.  The thing I love about walking in big cities at night, is that it doesn't really seem like night.  Lots of light, lots of people, who knew it was nearly midnight?

Chicago at night

And that's when we started noticing the unusually high amount of people wearing shamrocks and leprechaun hats.  But we still didn't make the connection.  Not until we walked to a Starbucks the next morning to eat breakfast (because even though we paid fifty thousand dollars for our downtown hotel, they didn't offer a continental breakfast).  The entire city was GREEN.  Everyone in it was GREEN.  We could have even gotten a free green beer at Starbucks if we wanted!  But who wants green beer for breakfast, anyway?  Especially if you're a couple of Mormons who are clueless about St. Patrick's Day.

After a quick Google, I realized that the parade was starting any minute and the river was even dyed green.  We opted out of the festivities, and headed to the temple.  How I love the temple!

On our way down, we stopped in Green Bay for Joel's new recommend, since he had lost his when his wallet was stolen in Seattle last month.  Funny how there's always something that seems to keep you away when you try your best to go, which for us is twice a year, if we're lucky.  Once in Utah, and once in Chicago (7.5 hours away...if you live near a temple, think of me and then get yourself over there!)

But we were lucky (must have some Irish blood after all) and managed to get Joel a new recommend and the temple was open and everything, so we enjoyed a lovely session in the temple. And nobody was wearing green at all, which made me feel better about not bringing my green shirt to Chicago with me.  Because I only have one green shirt.

Chicago Temple

Then we shopped and stuff and just enjoyed being together.  Before we left Chicago, we did have to snag some Deep Dish Pizza.  And they DID have a gluten-free version, though it was thin crust, so I was a happy girl.  I think Joel may have been even happier, though.

Lou Malnati's Love

After dinner we drove to Green Bay and crashed in a stinky motel there.  We arrived around 1:00 am, so we had a nice sleep in, and then headed home the next day.  As always, I'm so thankful to have friends who are practically family and don't mind taking on our children for the weekend!

And since I don't think spring will ever actually come where I live, I'm super grateful that we got to see it in Chicago.  Even if it was over St. Paddy's Day.

snow depth, March 19, 2013
I took this this afternoon.  It's my obligatory please feel sorry for me because I am buried under ten feet of snow photo.  Spring is supposed to start tomorrow, you know.  Obviously, it isn't going to, even though Sophia is sure that the first day of spring means NO SNOW.
Lara Neves
Lara Neves

Lara is mom to three daughters—two teens and a tween. She loves to share her parenting and homemaking triumphs and failures here at Overstuffed! She was diagnosed with Lyme disease in 2015 and has been fighting it ever since. When she isn't working on her mother of the year award, you can find her reading, singing, or taking photos.


  1. I love that shot of you and Joel in front of the temple...with the exception of the goatee on Joel, you both look the same. :)

  2. Wagner, blech.

    And my girlies are really and truly obsessed with Sage and her balloon. Now I can see why!

  3. Looks like a great time! And now I am feeling all sorts of guilty since I live literally 10 minutes from a temple and don't go nearly as often as I should

  4. I had to laugh when you explained about thinking St. Patrick's Day was a faux-holiday. I've always felt that way too, not being Irish or Catholic, as you've said.

    Sounds like you still had a marvelous trip. I'd give a lot for some of that pizza just now. Yum.

  5. What a lovely Christmas gift you gave your husband. Even if it was on St. Patty's Day. Though, why it is such a big deal in Chicago, I still don't understand. Also, not Irish or Catholic. :)