Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Taking Chicago By Storm: Day 2.5

(I divided Day 2 into two parts, so if you've read through all of this day just scroll down a bit- Day 3.0 is down there somewhere.)

Day 2.5

Where was I? Ah. Getting lost and separated and all that. All righty.

We met up at the hotel again and divided into groups of seven- which was perfect, because the group of seven I started off in at the museum grouped up again and that just worked out really well. To recap- the Seven were Becca, Rose, Mancub, Elise, Renee, SongWeaver, and me. All people I know pretty well (except Mancub, I guess, but what can you do) and am comfortable around (once again...Mancub's hanging around the edge of comfort but he's a Safe Person so it works. I'm learning that there's a big difference between Safe and Comfortable and they don't necessarily coincide.).

Why seven?

Because seven is the magic number, obviously. Music Man explained that we needed to be in groups of seven because our next project was Taking the Subway To A Baseball Game.

I listened and balanced a copy of Les Miserables (by Victor Hugo) on my head because I'm not hugely into sports. I can follow baseball better than football, but it's still kind of a take it or leave it thing for me.

The Cubs were playing the Rockies at 1:20, so we had some time to get organized. One person from each group held the subway card, which was like a voucher that we each had to swipe in order to get down into the terminal. Elise held the card and we swiped our way through, and just as we got down the steps a train (subway? bus? is it all interchangeable?) pulled in and stopped.

Apparently we got on at a really full stop.

The group of us stood there for a second on the platform because obviously it was too full for all of us to squeeze on there at once, so the question was do we get on or not.

Leave it to Becca to make a split-second decision. It took all of three seconds for her to latch on to my arm and haul me into the car on SW's heels.

It took me all of a minute to realize we'd left some of our people behind.

And I didn't know which stop we needed.

I'd never been on public transportation before, let alone a subway, and I was terrified. My brain kicked into overdrive, demanding information like what stop do we need, how far is it, what if we get lost, where is everybody else, and the ever-common (in my mind at least) will there be food when we get there?

I didn't have any answers. And the guy next to me was wearing a little too much cologne and standing a little too close to me and he looked like a Ten Man from The Mysterious Benedict Society, what with his briefcase and suit and mustache. Visions of razor-sharp pencils danced behind my eyes and I clung to my pole a little tighter.

Turns out there's a reason why you hang on in the subway. Those rubber straps and metal poles? They're there for a reason. About two minutes after we boarded, the crazy contraption acted like we were under fire, twisting and jolting and rocking most deviously. I'm pretty sure the driver was trying to terrify us right out of the car.

But all the jolting did us some good- I turned my head just in time to spot a friendly face- Mrs Wood, who was with us because her son was just in a car accident and suffered some pretty severe injuries that made bus trips a bad idea. She drove him up separately and then followed us all over Chicago and was generally awesome.

And she had answers. She knew how many stops we needed and what it was called and as long as she was there, a real bona-fide grownup, we couldn't get lost. Not too lost, anyway.

All in all we rode the subway for...oh I don't know. Fifteen, twenty minutes? It was a blast once I found Mrs Wood and SW. Even Mr Ten Man seemed friendlier, smiling faintly as he got off at his stop.

Upon arriving at the field, SW was in a bit of a frenzy, informing us that Mancub and Elise and Renee had been texting her and they were lost or some such rot. We disembarked in panic mode, ready to tear the city apart to find them...and they waved and smiled from the platform.

Stinkers. They'd known where they were all the time and just taken the opportunity to mess with us.

It seemed, however, that they'd sort of lost me, or thought they had. I'd been with Mrs Wood and SW the whole time, but Mancub and Elise didn't know that, and they're sort of the parent figures in our group. Well, Elise is like the mom, and Mancub has dubbed himself "the crazy uncle that takes care of you all" so I guess they sort of wanted to know where all the rest of us were all the time. It was determined that Elise would walk in front and Mancub in back, and no one, particularly me, was allowed behind him or in front of Elise.

They said that I don't handle well if there's a possibility of getting lost.

I say hey, y'all want to take care of me you can just go right ahead and do it. I'm one of those needy kids that likes to be looked after and taken care of and stuff. I don't mind being told what to do if it's because somebody's taking care of me.

So I stayed in the middle of them.

Except a couple of times, when I got distracted looking at something else and started walking slower. Then a slight shove between my shoulder blades or direction from Mancub reminded me to pay more attention to the people and less to the goings-on. But I didn't get lost, and I have friends that made sure of that, and it was really pretty okay. At that point I sort of switched into 'hey I know you, you're my friend, I feel safe with you' mode.

We straggled along through security and the crowds of people into the stadium and up to our seats. We were waaaay back by right field and pretty high up so to my inexperienced eye it seemed like pretty good seats. We all squeezed in together- SW at the end of the back row, then maybe Renee and Rose and Becca, I think, and then Elise, and me, and Mancub, with Becca and Rose in front of us, if I remember properly. If that's not the right order I'm sorry but it probably isn't super important.

There's us, or some of us, anyway. I actually really like this. Except I forgot to wave, because I'm awesome and awkward like that.

This was my view of the field. It's big!!

SW snapped this... I don't even know. I just don't know. I don't want to know.

So there's the game and some silly people.

Apparently following baseball at home on the telly and following baseball live at Wrigley Field are two different things. I can track with ya just fine at home, when the lovely cameramen are carefully directing my glance and showing me where to look.

Not so much in real life. I'm too easily distracted. Example:

Me: (watching the outfielders shift feet and adjust their hats)

Crowd: (screaming)

Me: wait what?

Mancub: A run, they got a run!!

Me: oh. crap. I missed it.

Over and over and over and over. I can't seem to keep my focus on the little white blur for very long, especially after the hit. Then I'm just totally lost.

But Mancub reminds me in many ways of Captain Dad. One of those ways is his ability to explain everything down to a science to anyone who asks. I got more baseball information poured into my right ear than I have in all the rest of my life. Outfield, center field, right field, left field, infield, pitch. Batter's box. (I still struggle with that. There is no freaking box!!) Et cetera.

I also learned about why the Windy City is called the Windy City: because it's actually windy.

Really windy.

Probably rivals Nowhere windy.

At first I wasn't cold up there, so Elise wrapped up in my coat and the flag blanket that Squirt sewed for me. The sun occasionally bounced off my back and my sweater was warm, and hello, I'm from Nowhere so honestly I can handle wind.

Then it got cold.

It seems that being from Nowhere does not exempt you from being affected by the wind.

And when I get cold, it's violent.

Full-body shakes and teeth clacking and all that jazz.

"Are you cold?" Elise asked.

"I'm fine, it'll warm up when the wind dies down."

"The wind doesn't die down here," Mancub butted in. "That's why it's called the Windy City."

"It has to die down eventually, it can't keep blowing forever. Besides, we're from Nowhere; we can handle the wind."

"Yeah, if you're smart about it. Do you want your coat back?" (Elise again)

"Nah, I'm okay. You keep it."

Two minutes later, Mancub is stripping his coat off and handing it to Elise, who's handing me my coat, because I declined Mancub's (on principle of... I don't know. Borrowing coats from guys is... I don't know. More friendly than I thought we were at the time. Feeling a tad guilty writing this though because dang that was actually a really sweet thing to do...ah well. Moving on.). So she's wearing his coat and I'm wearing mine and we're starting to get warm and now it's his turn to shiver.

Fortunately, the girl next to him had brought a big blanket, so they shared.

It was also a Disney princess blanket.

Mancub, squirreled up under a princess blanket. Now there's a sight. Kudos to SW for snapping a picture or I don't think I could convince you all that it really happened. She texted it to me with the caption: Mancub wants you to be a Disney princess!

I replied, "Mancub wants my fist in his windpipe." Apparently I was aggravated or uncomfortable at the time but I don't remember why.

We left the game at the bottom of the eighth, Rockies up 4-1. I think. Or maybe 5-2. They were ahead. I know that for sure because Mancub is a Rockies dude and every time they scored he would whoop and holler and shout like it was the apocalypse or something.

That happened a lot. I got a pretty even mixture of wild, frenzied rejoicing and frustrated swearing. Could have lived without the latter half, but what can you do? I didn't have any duct tape.

All I can say is, it was fun. It was really fun. I barely even touched my book the whole time (though I heard that Dar'win barely looked up from his...way to put me to shame there, Dar).

We ate supper...somewhere... I think... I don't remember where. I'll double check with my sources and edit this bit. After supper it was off to rehearsal again for another night of Stroope, which was equally fantastic as the first. This time he was speeching at us about all the famous people who have performed at the Chicago Symphonic Hall, rattling off a bunch of composers and conductors and performers that I've never heard of when all of a sudden he's saying, "And then tomorrow, you- yes, you, tomorrow, on April 16th- is it really tax day? What even- you, tomorrow, you get to make history and sing in the Chicago Symphonic Hall and it's going to be great! No really, is it actually tax day?"

We all just about busted a gut laughing. And he laughed too! His sense of humor is the best.

We got back to the hotel and headed for bed...but first, a little fun. While we were at the tower, Mancub had requested that Renee hang onto his phone since she had a purse and he didn't. So she's hanging on to it for him most dutifully, and then she's deciding to put my number in there, why I don't know but she did. Then that got her thinking and she and Elise thought it would be fun if we all just alternately called him that night, like all in a row. Just for kicks, I guess.

So we're in the hotel and Renee calls him.

It goes to voicemail.

Wise move, Mancub.

Wait. What?

His voicemail sounds like a four year old girl. Legit.

Actually what?

So SW calls him.

He answers. Maybe because he figured if Renee called him at ten thirty PM it might be a prank but if she called him and then ten seconds later, SongWeaver called him, something might be wrong. And he showed us (or at least me) repeatedly that we're his people and if anybody's going to mess with us they're going to fight him (no offense, Mancub, but that wouldn't be a very long fight. It's the thought that counts.) so I'm just going to roll with that because it sounds all warm and fuzzy and gentlemanly and I'm all for that.

Anyway. He answered.

"Who's on your voicemail?"

"I'm not telling you."

"Please? Who's on your voicemail?"

"I said I'm not telling you."

Then Becca showed up and started chatting about girl stuff (I don't know if she just didn't know he was on speaker or if she really didn't care...knowing Becca I'd put my money on the latter) and it got really quiet on his end. "Okay I'm just going to hang up now," he interrupted finally.

And he did.

Another wise move, Mancub.

We all just kind of burst out laughing, them probably because he'd had to listen to all that and me because what the heck we just called a random guy twice in a row for no reason and that might be the weirdest thing I've ever done.

And it was late.

And we were tired.

And breakfast was at 6:30 the next morning, and then we were going to perform!!!

So sleep sounded good.

Not so much snuggling, but when your best friend is a snuggler, you do your best.

I tried, SW. I really tried. I love you.

And then sleep happened...for a little too long...

But we'll discuss that tomorrow. Day 2 complete.

I have a little editing to do on this one yet, so bear with me. Hitting publish in 5...4...3...2...



Taking Chicago By Storm: Day 3.0

For the record, 6:30 in the morning is way too early for anyone under 40 ( I say this because both my parents get up by five).

Or at least for me.

I'm sure most of my peeps get up at some unholy hour like 5 AM or something, and if that works for you then go for it.

It doesn't work for me. I can get up at 6:20 on a Sunday morning when bribed with Praise Team Practice with Ninja and Luke, but that's about as good as it gets. I'm a night owl, and as I've said, just because I'm awake doesn't even mean I'm functioning, so Sunday morning practices can get a little hairy occasionally. I tend to accidentally drown out Luke (he plays bass) with my own bass. But that's neither here nor there and I digress so anyway.

Alarms were set Friday night for us to get up at six, because breakfast was at 6:30 or 7. I think Renee and Elise both set their phones to go off.

So I'm not exactly sure how we managed to sleep through them and barely even wake up at six forty-five, but we did, because we're talented like that. Major props to Elise for being the one to drag us all out of bed in a panic, or else I don't even want to think about how late we'd have been.

I mean, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. We could have woken up at eight. 

Actually, we probably wouldn't have woken up. The 'be awake on time' fairies would probably have lopped off our heads in our sleep as vengeance for being so ridiculously inappropriate.

But that didn't happen, and the fairies left us alone, which was great.

Missing breakfast was not so great.

I'm a food girl. I really like food. Really. I kind of just graze all day. Skipping meals is not in any way programmed into my head. I just don't function like that. When I'm hungry, I'm grumpy, and when I'm grumpy people don't like me so much, so I've learned to just prevent hunger from getting too intense. Food is great.

We had rehearsal at the Symphony Center from eight to ten, and then Nowhere High had a sound check at 10:25 or so, and only after that would there be the possibility of food.

Prospects which did not please me.

That'll teach me to oversleep.

So anyway. We stumbled and mumbled our way into some clothing other than pajamas, and Elise and Renee fixed hair and faces and all that stuff, and then it was downstairs to count off before a short stroll over to the Chicago Symphony Center.

Like I said, I loved walking in Chicago.

Not so much at eight in the morning. I don't typically enjoy much of anything before ten, and I got separated from my people and it wasn't terrific.

Then we sort of got lost. 

Not really.

But we walked right past the Symphony Center and had to backtrack a little. Music Man figured it out and it was okay.

I just hung out at the end of the group and played with the fringe on my "Sherlock scarf" that Squirt had sent with me. It's called the Sherlock scarf because it's wide and kind of short and made of cashmere and it kind of resembles the scarf that Benedict Cumberbatch wears on the BBC's show Sherlock. She sent it along so I could 'look cool like Sherlock' or something like that, and it was perfect. My neck didn't get cold the whole trip.

When we found the door (we'd missed it because we sort of snuck in the back door), we were greeted by the girls that had directed us at the shrine for rehearsals and they sent us up to a ballroom (literally, a ballroom) to stash any purses or wallets we happened to have on us. Then it was into the hall to wait for everyone to be ready for rehearsal.


Just wow.

Elise pulled this one for me because of course I didn't take any pictures. She's awesome. :)

It was gorgeous. Rivaled the shrine, but in a different way. The shrine inspired reverence and glory and honor, but this was a whole different ballgame. This was like a performers heaven. Standing onstage, all I could think was, this is where I want to be. I want to sit at that grand piano and play Einaudi till my fingers swell and I want to be here always because this is a concert hall.

And it was! I can't even begin to describe it- I felt absolutely tiny. Totally small and insignificant because this was a place like no other, where countless famous people had stood onstage and wowed huge audiences into standing ovations and shouts of "Encore! Encore!"

About the time I was feeling completely overwhelmed, Stroope started walking the aisles and shaking hands and chatting with us and never have I met someone so instantly soothing. He smiled and shook my hand and said good morning and nice scarf (Squirt's still thrilled about that) and everything just slowed down and relaxed in my head. We were going to perform with this man as our conductor and it was going to be brilliant, I was just sure of it.

They organized us on the risers and settled us in like we were going to perform, and then Stroope made a little speech about 'today is the day! Your mountain is waiting. So get on your way!" only I'm pretty sure he didn't quote Seuss. It was a great speech and we all pepped up a lot. Everyone I talked to seemed calm and prepared and not remotely concerned. He just had that effect on people.

Then we sang.

Oh how we sang.

If I thought the shrine made us sound fantastic...this hall made us sound like angels. I'm not even kidding. I half-expected that stunning ceiling to burst open and doves to descend upon us when we sang Schubert's Mass in G. There were certainly rough spots, and they were more noticeable that morning in the Symphony Center, but for the most part we sounded pretty phantasmagorical. It was like magic, even in jeans and a t-shirt.

But then we really started singing, like for a loooooonnng time. 

About 9:30 he let us all sit down for ten minutes. My feet were legitimately numb, and I wasn't even wearing heels! Apparently I need to work on my standing-for-a-long-time-without-dying skills.

Ten minutes wasn't nearly long enough for my feet, just saying. We finished rehearsing with minimal agony, however, and then it was time to run a sound check for Nowhere's ensemble solo and then hey- lunch!!

Nowhere was one of three groups chosen to perform for ten minutes just us, which was a huge honor and very cool. Our school hasn't done something like that for a very long time because our group hasn't had enough balance. Our dude section tends to be pretty sad- right now my choir has a whopping three tenors compared to like 20 altos. But our tenors are tough this year so apparently we made a good impression during the audition.

On our own, we sang Daemon Irrepit Callidus, a Sanctus written to blue-grass music (which was the coolest thing ever), and the most beautiful rendition of Amazing Grace I've ever heard. We ran through those really quick onstage and then regrouped outside. Music Man had found a cutesy little hole-in-the-wall Chicago-style hot dog place not too far from the Symphony Center, so we walked over there after the sound check.

Hole-in-the-wall is right. It was super cute, but also super tiny. I'm pretty sure squeezing all fifty-five of us in there was pushing the fire code to the extreme.

SW and Mancub and I were some of the last ones in, and she took a glance at the menu before turning to me and saying, "Hey, there's a falafel house next door where there will be stuff I can eat and less people. Want to come with me?"

I don't have anything against Mediterranean food and I could totally see where she was coming from; hot-dog places aren't exactly vegetarian paradise. But I do have a thing about going places without an adult, as in, I really don't like doing it. I get a little ribbing from the peeps about that because they say that I'm never going to learn how to handle myself in the real world if I don't ever go places on my own... I say, 'yo, you were worried about me getting lost at Wrigley Field because you said I don't handle well when I get lost. My sense of direction is pretty much nil, so I stick with grownups who know where we're going and how to get there. It's just how I function." I know they mean well and I see their point, but a city of three million people doesn't strike me as the place to start wandering about on my own, if you catch my drift.

So anyway, I was a little reluctant to abandon ship and go wandering around Greek restaurants, but she put on her hurt-puppy face and I went along. It was literally right next door anyway, and when I was in LA in 2013 my big sis introduced me to pita bread (which I instantly dubbed fluffy tortillas because hello that's what it looks like) and some really good Mediterranean food, plus I'm usually down for getting out of the crowd.

As we were discussing this, Mancub jumped in with a, "Hey, I'll come with you," and so he did (hey, he's got the 'man-of-his-word' thing going for him). We walked out one door, U-turned, and then boom there we were in a quiet little place called Falafel Island, which I also don't have pictures of, because I'm just awesome like that.

A couple of other kids from our group followed us over, apparently seeking refuge from the masses as well. I couldn't blame them.

Mancub and SongWeaver had falafels or some such lovely thing, and then there's me with my salad because honestly the whole time we were gone I just wanted vegetables. Momma must be rubbing off on me, not that that's a bad thing.

All the tables were for four, so we had an empty seat, which meant that I either sat next to Mancub and across from SW or across from Mancub and next to SW. Normally it wouldn't matter except that I have a thing about being close to guys. Pretty much Ninja and my dad are like the only two dudes I don't care about being close to. So across from or next to really aren't great options in my world because I'm not good at the 'suck it up' mentality. I sort of just fix whatever's not okay with me and make it so there's no more problem.

Kinda hard to vanish an entire person, though.

And of course I'd left my wand at the hotel. Not sure what I was thinking there but obviously in the hustle and bustle of oversleeping, it had plumb slipped my mind.

So the struggle remained- which was worse, to sit next to a Mancub, or across from one? Across from meant making eye contact and such. Next to seemed pretty chummy. If I went with across from, SW would be right there and the closer she is the better I feel. If I sat next to him, I could watch SW the whole time and not have to make eye contact or anything.

In the end, closer proximity to SW won out so the arrangement worked out to be SW and I on one side and Mancub on the other. Not exactly even but he held his own.

Anyway. I'm not sure why I spelled all that out for you. But hey, take a peek inside my head and that's the sort of thought process you'll see.

And actually? It was a pretty good meal. The food was great, which is always a plus, and the conversation was pretty relaxed too. I don't remember what all we talked about- SW and Mancub did most of the talking, which is typically how my friendships end up working anyway and I like it that way, and I just sat still and alternated between being confused and deciding to give up on trying to understand them and then trying again and getting confused again.

At one point, SW looked up and declared, "It kind of cracks me up that the two people I've spent the most time with on this trip are you two."

"You  mean you don't think you'd normally hang out with us or what?" I asked, circling around to the Being Confused stage of my mental cycle.

"No- I mean you two are just so different!" she explained.

I glanced from her to Mancub and back. "Different from you?" (apparently my mental faculties were running on Blonde that day)

"From each other, I mean."

That made sense. And she had a point. Still does, in fact. I'm not sure any of the three of us are actually alike beyond being human, but at the same time we're all very much alike in a lot of ways. Well, except Mancub and I. We're pretty much polar opposites no matter how you look at it. SW is one of those awesome people that can literally befriend anyone ever and make them feel normal and loved and appreciated because she's just that cool, so she and I have a lot in common (I think that's why we never fight) and she and Mancub have a lot in common (I think that's why they always fight, go figure) so she literally brings everyone together and it's kind of fun. In a terrifying "I-Think-I'm-Losing-My-Mind-Can-I-Go-Cry-In-The-Corner-Because-I-Am-Not-A-Big-Girl" kind of way. Once I get past the 'pretty sure this is death so where do I go to get out of here' moment, it's a lot of fun. They're my Safe People for a reason, I guess.

Blah blah blah blah. What am I talking about.

Lunch. Okay.

We headed back to the hotel at about 11:45 because we needed to change and get ready and be back at the hall by one. It seems that there was a big blue mailbox outside the restaurant and it really really liked me. Wanted to get to know me on a deep and personal level. Probably was thinking about proposing.

By which I mean it seems that I tripped over it.


Both legs.

I don't personally remember this, but Mancub does and He Who Insists My Memory Is Faulty must be given due credit. Here's his description of the walk home (don't worry, it's brief- he rarely speaks in full paragraphs except when ranting. Which now that I think about it, that happens on a fairly regular basis. Ah well. Moving right along.):

"So there's this mailbox outside, like the upright ones. Big. Blue. Mailbox. Pretty obvious. And you're walking, and ranting about something because you're always ranting, and you trip over one of the legs and bounce off of SW and I. And then somehow you overcorrected or something and you tripped over the other leg. And you're bouncing off of us again. So then all the way back to the hotel you're basically tripping over every frickin' crack in the sidewalk!"

I doubt it was that bad. But whatever. It sounds funny so we'll just go with it.

And now it's time for me to bounce off to bed. But stay tuned- I'll be back soon with tales from our performance in the Chicago Symphony Hall and adventures at the Navy Pier!

Clicking publish in 5...4...3...2...



Monday, April 25, 2016

Taking Chicago By Storm: Day 2 (for reals this time)

Okay. Day 2 officially begins now. Maybe this time I won't write a short novel over one day. :/

We woke up at six and got ready for Day 2, and I actually got ready that day. Renee put the Bush (my own term of not-so-endearment for the dishwater blonde mess residing on the top of my head) into a high ponytail with a little braid-y-thing running across my head that was actually kind of cool. Then she and Elise 'did my face' all up with makeup stuff and I actually liked it. Not that I don't trust their makeup skills; I'm just not a fan of makeup as a rule. Once we were all decorated (or at least the three of us...SongWeaver's not so much a morning person so she wasn't quite as ready as we were) we obviously hit the bathroom for a selfie.

Not typically my thing either but it was okay. It's a good picture too so I'll post it here.

Aren't we cute? The bathroom mirror was super cool and Elise couldn't stop talking about it so that was obviously where the selfie had to happen.

We headed down to the Corner Bakery for breakfast because the school would buy our food there (and who turns down free food anyway?!?)...it was crowded.

Apparently fifty-one kids in one bakery is a bit much. But it wasn't too bad, and we discovered what is possibly the Largest Mug Known To Man. I took a picture of that because Momma is into the mugs and the coffee and that kind of thing- and SongWeaver stuck her hand up there so you can get an idea of how big it was.

The pictures don't even begin to do it justice, but ah well. It was still huge.

I think I had a yogurt thing for breakfast. I was semi-sleepwalking because while I may be able to haul my sorry carcass out of bed at six in the morning, just because I'm walking doesn't mean I'm coherent or functioning, as SongWeaver and Mancub will readily attest to (remember the museum, guys? I could walk!! Ish.)

Yes. It was a cute little parfait thing, pink yogurt and some granola and strawberries and blueberries on top. Actually a really good breakfast and it filled me up. I'm not sure if that was because I was tired or because it was really nourishing...but it tasted good!

Next on the agenda after breakfast was a short stroll down the Willis Tower, which used to be the Sears Tower but isn't anymore and I don't know why. The stroll was nice. I really like walking in Chicago- it's fun to be amid the busy without feeling trampled and at nine on a Friday morning it really isn't that crowded. Chicago is still really Midwesty so there wasn't really even a lot of culture shock or anything, which was terrific. It was just big and tall and fuller than Nowhere, and there was the train racing over our heads, and the lake, and the overpasses upon overpasses upon overpasses.

Anyway. We walked. It was fun. I didn't get lost.

The tower is 103 stories high (I don't know how many feet that is) and that's a looooot taller than I expected. It took us sixty seconds to get to the top in the elevator, and we were pretty much booking it.

The elevator itself wasn't a terrific thing. At least, not for Renee. She doesn't love being in crowds, and that elevator was reeeeeaaaaallly crowded. She ended up being okay but she spent a fair amount of time chilling on her own away from the people at the top. She's a lot tougher than most- if I was as freaked out as she described, I would have bawled my eyes out.

The whole top of the tower was just windows- really thick windows, but windows nonetheless. It wasn't as scary as I thought it would be and I was actually able to get close and take a bunch of pictures. Prepare for picture spam!!

So yeah that's a lot of pictures. But honestly, you can see for almost forever up there. It's huge and wow.

That's about the only way I know to describe it. Just wow. WOW. We can see for a long ways out here in Nowhere, but it feels like so much farther up in the tower. WOW.

And guess what? More pictures! Renee sent some for me to throw in. I might go through the ones up above and remove some of them...but then again I might be too lazy. You never know.

Laying down in the glass box. I was okay standing but laying not so much, if my face didn't clue you in. Everybody else is cute though!

There wasn't a whole lot of conversing or happening craziness in the tower so much as just looking around and being awed. The whole thing was super, super cool but I'm kind of skimming over it because there's not much to tell. Just lots to show.

We regrouped on the main level and browsed around the gift shop for a while. Elise and I both found mugs for our moms- and they matched! It was mostly her idea and it was genius. Super easy and perfect all the way around- El is way better at shopping than I am, so when she suggested that we match it, it was a no-brainer. Perfecto!

Then it was time for lunch. According to the itinerary we were going to head back to the hotel for lunch, but there was a Chipotle down the street and a bunch of kids wanted to go there instead. Music Man said he'd take people there and everyone else could go with Awesome Accompanist Michele to the hotel.

At this point I'd completely lost SW, which was mildly terrifying because she was pretty much my safe person and being without her in a city of 2.79 million people sends me into a nervous tizzy. In the event that she was not to be found I decided to stick with the people I knew and was comfortable with; in this case that was Renee and Elise and Mancub. I turned around and practically ran into them, and immediately informed them that since I knew them and they were my friends, wherever they went, I would go, period, end of story.

Nobody seemed horribly broken up by that and for the next hour or so I really did stick to them like glue. They walked with Music Man down to Chipotle and I bobbed along on their heels. And also, new fact- I can eat faster than Mancub. Possibly because he talks incessantly about everything and anything and nothing, but still. I totally finished my burrito first. By about thirty seconds. But I won! So anyway. We ate and talked and it was pretty cool. Friends are fun things- you can just sort of run up and say, 'yo, I like you so Imma just stick with you,' and they're like 'oh okay sure, whatever' and then they'll make sure you don't get too horribly lost or left behind or anything.

Speaking of lost and left behind...that reminds me of our next adventure, but this post is getting pretty long so stick around for Day 2.5, coming soon!

Clicking publish in 5...4...3...2...



Taking Chicago By Storm: Day 1.5

Technically this isn't all Chicago Day 2 because I didn't finish out Day 1 in the last post...but I'm not honestly going to be that picky about it.


Where was I?

Ah yes. Evening, Day 1.

We checked into the hotel and I took the obligatory snapshots and did my little cry and all that jazz. I think I mentioned those things yesterday.

Supper was on our own- just sort of wander around the block (Chicago's idea of a block and Nowhere's idea of a block are quite different, by the way; one of their blocks is like three of ours, or maybe not quite, but it's busy enough that that's what it feels like.) and find something cheap. The rules were always have somebody with you, the more somebodies the better, and don't leave our block.

There were a couple of restaurants in the hotel, as well as a Twinkly-Dollars place, but they were all more expensive because they were inside the Palmer House Hilton and apparently businesses can get away with a lot under that reasoning. There was a boutique-y place too- right on street level in the hotel. Very fancy.

I personally wasn't all together hungry- crying tends to destroy my appetite, and my insides were still mad about the caffeine, so SongWeaver and I just hung out in the hotel room until 6:50, when we all met in the lobby and counted off before heading to rehearsal.

Counting off apparently is something that our group of highschoolers struggle with sometimes. It's supposed to be really fast and snappy, just 1-2-3-4-5-6 and so on and thus save time figuring out who's where.

It took us three tries to get counted off and loaded on the bus again, but ah well, we were new at this and tired and excited because hello, Chicago, we're here!!! When we finally got settled and headed down the road a ways, I realized that the sun really was shining- but all the tall buildings blocked it and made ground level seem cloudy and dreary.

In all actuality it was a beautiful day and that first drive-through of the area was even more crazy-cool than I expected. We drove right along the shore of Lake Michigan (I'm pretty sure that's what it's called, but you know what I mean. The big body of water that isn't an ocean and is snuggled right up next to the city. Yeah. That.) for a while and the sun glinted off the dark blues and grays of the water in a sort of kaleidoscope effect. We saw the Trump Building (no idea what that is but driving past it resulted in a pretty intense political discussion between SongWeaver and Mancub so hey it's cool. I like talking politics but they're both in speech so they drowned me out and it was more fun to listen anyway. Turns out Mancub is a die-hard Democrat and SongWeaver's a Socialist...nice, guys. Real nice. Not.) and some other Tall Stuff because apparently Chicago people like feeling short amid all their stacky buildings.

I wish I'd taken pictures of that route but between the politics on my left and the water on my right I was pretty captivated and picture-taking was the last thing on my mind.

It took us probably about ten minutes to drive to the rehearsal location- which was the most gorgeous Catholic church I've ever been in. It's called The National Shrine of Saint Frances Xavier Cabrini, and it's built over where she died. More on that later.

The inside of the shrine was absolutely breathtaking. Ceilings swept up in long, gentle curves covered in art and saints and little children. The walls were decorated with beautiful stained-glass windows depicting the life of Christ and some of His miracles. The chapel-sanctuary-place of worship- area was massive.

A nice lady we'll call Mary met us at the door and gave us some directions, like where to sit and all that. Then she called us by name and gave us a letter-number-combination to help us find our seats.

It's the best thing ever, waiting for someone to say your name and watching their face as they realize that your name is totally unfamiliar to them and the pronunciation glares up at them from the page. They turn so red, and they try so hard and honestly that lady deserved an award for actually trying to figure out how to say my name before she started reading it.

She said it wrong anyway, but I'm used to it and she did her best. My spot was G12, with the other Alto Ones. The building was big enough that it wasn't crowded even though there were 187 singers, which was a mercy because I think if I'd been squished up against somebody for three hours I'd have gone mad and murdered the poor somebody. Thanks, God.

I stopped in the doorway to the chapel and stood still for a second. Honestly there wasn't much I could do. The sheer magnitude and architecture of the room sent chills down my spine and reminded me just how small five foot six really is, especially in comparison to how great our God is. That was a welcome reminder, because sometimes I start feeling too big and too much in control and that never ends well. Think back to the 'pushing all the people in a volcano' thing from yesterday.

Once we'd all gotten seated, the Mother Superior gave a little speech about the church and the work of Saint Frances. She seemed like a cool saint- she started a bunch of orphanages and whatnot (sorry, Catholic friends, my memory isn't super great so I don't recall a lot of details about her but feel free to leave a comment if you have more information about her and I'll throw it in here). She died in the hospital that used to stand where the church is now, and not only do they have one of her bones in the altar (I think it's her thigh-bone, whatsitcalled, I don't remember) but they also have a room that's replicated of the one she died in, with the bed and her things and stuff. Mother Superior asked that we be respectful of the building and then we got cracking.

I didn't take any pictures of the church either- it just felt wrong, to be in someplace so beautiful and awe-inspiring and snap a dozen pictures. They wouldn't have done it justice anyway. You could probably Google it if you want to see the inside.

Our choir was one of several selected to perform with conductor Z. Randall Stroope at the Windy City Choral Festival and the Music Man had told us all about how cool he was so I was pretty excited to meet him. He's in some kind of high demand across the country as a composer and conductor- he writes really cool music. He's composed tunes for some poetry by Michelangelo and other poets of old (did you know Michelangelo was a poet? Me neither. Apparently he was a poet before he got famous for his art. That's not quite fair, I guess- poetry is art too. He was a poet before he became famous for sculpting and painting, then.).

Stroope is a really cool person, in all actuality. Famousness aside, he's just cool. He walked around and shook hands with a lot of us and asked our names and chatted briefly before moving on to the next person. Also he's hilarious. His way of getting us all together to practice is to stand onstage and holler, "I'm not Moses, and you're not the Israelites, so stop wandering!" and being the church kid that I am, I love a good bit of Bible humor.

He was just a chill kind of guy, super relaxed and comfortable and easy to work with. We got a lot done in the three hours of that first rehearsal- way more than I thought possible. He explained about the pieces and why he chose them and what's special about them so we have a deeper connection with the song- and then he'll laugh and tease us a little about our goofy singing when we're too legato in a song that he wants to be peppy or whatever.

Also he's some kind of genius because after the first ninety minutes he gave us a ten minute break and let me just say I was ready for that. I'd initially sort of panicked because a three-hour rehearsal sounds like a slow and painful vocal death, but it really flew by and other than desperately needing a stretch and maybe a nap I wasn't too worn out.

We called it quits at just before ten PM but didn't get out of the church for a while after that because there were a lot of buses and people loading up from other choirs so we waited around a bit. SongWeaver was telling me about the Room- the room where Saint Frances died, you know- when Mancub hurtled up to us (I'm fairly certain walking normally is a impossible if you're from the Midwest; there's just too many adjectives to describe each person's specific stride, and he definitely hurtles. Or bounces. He's a bouncy guy. SongWeaver not so much. She strolls, glides, or hovers softly. Much more mild and relaxed and steady. But I digress. Anyway.) and joined the discussion. It took about three seconds for him to determine that seeing the Room was a must, and about two minutes for him to convince me to come along and see. Ghosts, or something, apparently required a second person, and I'm a sucker for anyone who says please.

At first it seemed like any other room, a chair in the corner by the door and a dresser along one wall. It seemed like a narrow hallway with a door at each end- until I got to the other end and turned around to tell Mancub that I really wasn't terrifically impressed with this room because they said it would be just like where she died and there wasn't even a bed so how hokey was that, actually.


There was a bed, and there was a nightstand and there were clothes laid out neatly at the end of the bed.

What I had thought was a wall upon walking in was actually a panel of thick glass. It was a little bit dark in the room and the glass was slightly reflective, and in my haste to just get in and get out and stop wandering around everywhere with Mancub because this was getting a little too friendly a little too fast for my turtle-like taste... I completely missed that the wall was glass.

On the other side of it was a bed and nightstand and bowl of water and it was all so still and dead that I may or may not have squeaked in abject terror.

"This is weird, Mancub. There isn't even a -what in the-"

"Yeah. I know. It's creepy." He stood at the other end of the room and looked from the glass to me and back to the glass, a funny little half-smile dancing on his cheek.

I regret to think he may have been laughing at my unobservancy and blondeness. Moving on.

"It's really creepy," I declared.

"Let's get out of here."

And out we got. Breathless as a cyclist after riding the Champs-Elysees and yeah, I was scared. That Room was crazy cool and a little freaky.

Mancub determined that there was a ghost, and then we got to hear all about a haunted house to the northwest of Nowhere, where apparently the ghost threw ladles or something across the kitchen while people were inside.

Me? I don't buy into the ghost thing. I'm paranoid enough as it is, I don't need to worry about dead people wandering the halls. They're dead. God's got them tucked away someplace and I can promise you they're not out touring empty houses. That's not a thing.

But I'll admit that it was spooky in there.

A few minutes after that whole thing, our bus arrived and we loaded up to head back to the hotel. By then I was absolutely beat- I mean come on, it had been a crazy day at least for me- so I pretty much fell into bed and passed out.

That's not completely true. Elise and Renee and SongWeaver and I sort of stayed up for a bit and chatted, but not for too long. Music Man came around and did room checks, and then it was off to bed for at least me. Alarms were set to go off at six, and I'm not typically a morning girl so I wasn't at all concerned about going to bed too early.

And this post is getting to be super long without even starting Day 2 so I'm actually going to call this Day 1.5 and call it good. Day 2 coming soon, peeps. Hitting publish in 5...4...3...2...



Sunday, April 24, 2016

Taking Chicago By Storm: Day 1.0

So. Firstly I owe you all an apology for being so absent lately. I've got to catch you up on some things now before we get to the real story. Mostly there's just some new people I want you to meet so we'll do some super-fast introductions here.

  • Me! Hi! Call me Scotty. I narrate and overexplain and I'm intensely melodramatic. Words and music are kinda my thing.
  • Squirt: my sis. She might not be on here much right now but she's a huge part of my world (and heart) so she'll pop in and out. I also enjoy planning arranged marriages for her in between writing death sentences to all the boys that dare to look sideways at her.
  • Captain Dad: oy, you guessed it. He's my dad and my rock and my math tutor and my always-makes-time-for-burritos-er. 
  • Momma: crazy and wild and the best thing ever; before seven thirty AM she can occasionally be found in WonderWoman pjs and a baseball cap. She's the Lorelai to my Rory and I don't know what I'd do without her. God did a good thing when He picked her for me (or me for her? whatever).
  • SongWeaver: my courageous best friend since diapers, so called because whoooaaaa her voice, and also she taught me to knit and got me hooked on journalling. Love you!
  • Ninja- it's a long story. Formerly known as Drummy Dude. I'm going to keep him around for a while. He's one of my favorites. We make each other crazy but he also keeps me sane and I love him to death. We hit a lot of rough patches this year, mostly due to my insecurity and tendency to overdramatacize and fly apart, but between us and our mutual stubbornness and God and His overwhelmingly great grace I think we're gonna make it.
  • Doc- my piano teacher. He legitimately rocks and puts up with my crazy musical notations and screaming at my hands and never fails to encourage me and make me laugh and feel confident in everything I do, even off the keys. (you see what I did there... maybe...)
  • Music Man is the choir director at Nowhere High and he's chill. I like him a lot.
  • Elise is one of my best friends who once again I've known since diapers. She's my go-to for fashion and makeup help (which on the days I bother with it, I need a lot of help with).
  • Renee is also lovingly dubbed Lil Mil, because she's the smallest of us all (fun-size, to-go portion, whatever) and fits in the middle of everything. She always has time to listen or just jam on the keys with me.
  • Mancub. Phew. This could get lengthy but I'll try to be concise. I've technically known him since I was ten. He's super musical and very different from me. He was raised under a lot of different circumstances than mine and he's definitely his own unique person because of it. We didn't talk a lot when we met, and then we re-met freshman year in choir and I was terrified of him because he was a lot different from what I'm used to at church. The past month or so things have evened out a little (or a lot, don't ask me how or why because I legitimately don't know) and we're sort of friends now. We talk. Off and on. He's safe.
  • Becca. Total opposite of me but we love her anyway. She overwhelms me sometimes with her neverending energy and capacity to bounce, she's well known for a big voice that comes out of an astonishingly small package, and our Clan wouldn't be the same without her.
  • Elf! My guardian Elf. She and Renee and Elise and SongWeaver and I all kind of pal around and she takes good care of me. Lovingly referred to as Elf because of her sweet pointy ears.

So anyway. I think that's everybody that's crucial for this story or just generally. There are more people, for sure, but I think that's all you'll need immediately. This winter, SongWeaver, Mancub, myself, and the rest of our little sophomore clan (Elise, Renee, and Becca, anyway- Elf doesn't do choir) were invited to join the elite choir at Nowhere High on a trip to Chicago for the Windy City Choir Festival from April 13-17. The elites are all juniors and seniors, but Music Man wanted to take a full bus and some of the elites couldn't go so he invited a handful of sophomore from the slightly-less-elite-but-still-rocking-choir.

It was my first school trip, first time on a bus, first time in Chicago (first time in Iowa or Illinois, period, for that matter but that hardly counts), and I was alternately stoked and terrified. We left in the charter bus a little after 6:30 pm on the 13th and I cried.

For about three miles.

At which point I turned to the SongWeaver and exclaimed, "I'm on a bus!

"Yup," she answered, with only a slightly funny look (she's pretty used to my delayed reactions by now). 

"A real bus. With other people."


From then on I was happy as a clam. We drove straight through all night long (kudos to our wonderful drivers for getting us everywhere in one piece and not losing their minds!!!), so sleeping on the bus was recommended.

I can't sleep in the car.

Elise and Renee and Becca and everybody all declared that I'd sleep just fine and that I had to sleep on the bus.

I understood that once my body got tired enough it would just shut down and sleep.


I'm not a snuggler.

SongWeaver is. So it's nine thirty pm and she's laying in my lap sound asleep (it might have been eleven. I don't know.) and I'm touched-out. Also I can't feel my feet, which are kind of a necessity, like for the walking and the standing and stuff.

I shift out from under her and plop down on the floor (another thrilling thing about buses: no seatbelts!! Whaaaat?!?!?! Made for comfier riding and more socializing though so whatever) between our row and the one ahead of us.

On top of the carry-ons and bags and parcels and poky things.

That wasn't gonna work.

So I did my best to silently shift everything around to beneath the other seat, and then I curled up mostly under our bench and put my head on the pile of things. Nice pillow. No sarcasm; it really wasn't too bad.

Except I'm five foot six and my legs are about twelve feet long. I'm pretty sure I grow three feet every time we go for a long car ride.

So it took about three minutes for my limbs to decide it was time for a stretch.

The bus was not overly conducive to to such behavior.

I got stuck.

Under the seat.

In the middle of nowhere, under a bench seat, with my hip stuck and my leg bent all weird and nowhere to move my head to get unstuck.

And I'm telling you, God was doing a mighty thing on that there bus because any other day I would have blown my top and started screaming bloody murder.

Instead, the first thought that pops into my head (I'm pretty sure God was speaking to me there for a while) is simply, "Don't panic, Scotty.

I could handle that. No panic, that's okay.

Second thought: "Just move back where you were, put all your limbs back the way they were, and try again. No panic." 

It worked! I resettled everything and tried again and this time it worked. I got rolled over to my other side and tucked Richie the turtle under my head.

Then it struck me.

A bathroom sounds nice right now.

Really nice.


It was a looooong night. At one point I think I was accidentally kicking somebody- I thought it was Becca and Rose behind us but in the morning they said that all their feet were up on the seat. So to whomever I was kicking- I'm truly sorry. It was cramped down there and knees don't bend backwards.

We stopped at a rest area outside of Des Moines around 3:30 in the morning. Apparently there had been a Mancub sleeping in the middle of the aisle until then, because he was somewhat disgruntled and stiff upon waking up (I'm sure being stampeded over at three thirty in the morning isn't a great alarm). There aren't a whole lot of morning people in our choirs these days, it seems. As for me, I'm a night owl, but I'd only dozed for about thirty minutes so it was more like I hadn't been to sleep yet and I was still running on all my 'hey, it's night, let's get stuff done' energy for me.

I think I dozed for a total of about an hour on the way to Chicago. Sunrises in Iowa are gorgeous, like the whole sky turns this stunning shade of periwinkle as the white sunlight peers up over the plains and calls to her dear friend Darkness, "Come and play! Come mingle with me and make something beautiful!"

Unfortunately it didn't last long enough for anyone else to be awake and see. Dang, high school kids sleep a lot! I don't mind being the only one up in the middle of the night, but heck, people, the sun's coming up and I'm bored and starting to feel creepy watching you all sleep (you are adorable, though, very sweet) so wake up already!

There are benefits to moms that wake up at the crack of dawn. We texted back and forth for a while, which was nice. Then people started waking up and we stopped in Davenport for breakfast at Wendy's in a truck stop.

I changed out of my USMC hoodie and sweatpants and put on a peach plaid sundress with white leggings. In retrospect, jeans would have been better, based solely on a recurring conversation with Elise, Renee, and Mancub on the bus about my fondness for pants and desire that everyone should at all times be wearing pants... as Mancub ingeniously pointed out, leggings aren't pants. Which I knew. But my rear was covered so it was okay-ish. Fact remaining is that they aren't pants.

Oh well. Anyway.

Since I'd only dozed for an hour all night, my wise Momma who knows all things Scotty recommended that I have a latte from the coffee shop because tired Scotty equals crabby Scotty most of the time and crabby Scotty isn't very cute. Kind of more along the lines of 'let's take all the people and push them into a volcano,' if you catch my drift.

So I ordered a raspberry latte, not decaf because it was seven AM and I was tired and it would be fine.



Not fine. Scotty on caffeine is apparently never a good idea.

Think average person on a couple shots of alcohol.


It's not pretty. I start drinking the caffeine, I stop doing the standing and the walking and the words-putting-into-sentence-doing (with a nod to Lorelai). It was okay at first because it's like four hours from Davenport to Chicago so I was just sitting in the bus.

Well. It was kind of okay. Relatively speaking.

Apparently I slur my words a bit when caffeinated.

Or a lot. In Mancub's words, "You sound like you're chewing on your tongue and your foot and my foot and SongWeaver's hand."

But after a lot of chewing and a lot of being told to just stop talking, we made it to Chicago. First stop was the Museum of Science and Industry, and I have pictures of that for you!! It was about eleven AM so our first stop was the cafeteria for lunch. That in itself was quite the endeavor, as I recall. Something about being a little tipsy and trying to carry a tray with actual stuff on it can be rather difficult.

Originally I started out in a group of around seven- Elise, Renee, Mancub, SongWeaver, Becca, Becca's best friend Rose, and then me. Nice people, all of whom I know and am comfortable with (though in that state I would have been quite cozy in a room with Al Capone, I expect) and it was good. 

That lasted for about three minutes before all except Mancub and SongWeaver wandered off to the bathroom and vanished for a couple of hours. (apparently girls really do take a long time in there. oops.)

At this point I was completely out of it and Mancub had me pretty much propped up on his shoulder (awkward, sorry, remember I was semi-intoxicated, okay, don't kill me) while SongWeaver figured out where we were headed. We agreed to meet the boy in the cafeteria after we split for a bathroom break.

I was bumbling around looking for SongWeaver, who was probably ten feet away but I wouldn't have noticed for the life of me when Mancub came back. He seemed to have an issue with my wandering about by myself and took charge of the food-retrieval operation. 

It was determined after much questioning around the feet and hands and such in my mouth that I like chicken and Chinese food so that was the plan. He steered me around and hopefully I didn't act too much of an idiot before we all got sat down to eat (still owe you for that chicken, Mancub). We ate with a lovely elite choir girl who we'll call Annie. She was convinced somebody on the bus had been slipping me something, which in retrospect is kind of hilarious. Me? Nah. I don't think I have any enemies and nobody seemed to be mad at me. I'm not really interesting enough to cause anyone to want to slip me anything. 

Then the fun began- they actually drunk-tested me. Mancub has some experience with persons under the influence, apparently, so he knows about stuff like that. 

I tried really hard, guys, I tried really hard when Annie said follow the line on the tiled floor.

And I didn't fall.

I might have bounced off a wall or two, but I didn't fall. I'm like that toy thing that little kids play with that sings about 'weebles wobble but they don't fall down.' I wobble a lot but I don't fall so much. I got my equilibrium from my aunt and that's not necessarily great.


While I was bouncing, I'm not sure where SW was but I know Annie was behind me and Mancub was off on a mission. Until he got back I didn't know what that mission was, but it turns out he'd had a kind thought and brought me some milk to clear my head. Annie sampled it and he sampled it and they all declared it to be good.

I lifted the cup and took a swallow and WOW!!!

That wasn't milk.

Well, okay, it was milk.

But that wasn't all it was.

It was also two shots of espresso.

Nice thought went horribly wrong there, Mancub.

I'm still not sure why they thought it would help. Sure, she's drunk on caffeine so let's give her more! I think maybe the idea was to just keep me on the high until we got back to the hotel where I could crash but that's not how it worked.

I crash really fast.

By the time we got to our first exhibit at 1:30 or so, I was completely gone. Mancub kept threatening to carry me (still sorry, I wasn't all there at the time or I'm sure I would have cleaned his clock) and eventually we wound up with my arm over his neck and yeah basically he just pulled and I bobbled around.

The first exhibit was the U-505, the only captured German sub in existence. It's from WW2 and it was one of their best. The museum took us on a guided tour and told us the whole story of how they captured it and stuff and what the details of it were but I'd have to look those up and it's late so I kind of just want to get through this ASAP and hit the sack (I'll post the whole trip in segments so nothing gets interminably long).

I took a few pictures here of the outside of the ship.

Yeah. It's big. It fills up a massive room in the museum and these pictures don't even begin to do it justice. In the second picture, that little sticky thing poking out of the ship is a torpedo, and to put it in perspective for you, it's about the size of SongWeaver and Mancub and I all rolled up together like a Play-Doh burrito (come on, you remember making those). I can't help you picture the length of it, but it was huge all the way around. 

While we were wandering around a submarine, Elaine and Renee were touring fairy castles and they've been kind enough to share pictures of that. I didn't see it so I don't know a lot about it but it looks pretty fantastic.

These are from Elise and I wish I could blow them up for you but that's about as good as my little phone can do. They're really great pics and super cool. I don't know if you can click on them and make them bigger or anything but if you can't, use your imagination. And can I just say...when I get big I'm totally building myself a fairy castle to live in.

Then we hit the Lego room, where we looked at absolutely massive structures built out of those little teeny tiny Legos that get stuck to the bottom of your foot all the time, and dude was that ever cool. They had miniature models of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower and all kinds of fancy stuff. There was also a learning aspect of it, like the earthquake simulator, where you built a structure out of wooden blocks and placed it on a rubber mat and then it would shake like all get out and basically you had to try to build a structure that could withstand their simulation of an earthquake. I think there was one for hurricanes or strong winds too, but I don't remember exactly and I pretty much failed at the picture-taking department for the rest of Chicago Day One. 

Ooh wait, I have one. They also had a build-your-own-racecar part that SongWeaver and Mancub did, where you put together a little car and then you send it down a slidey thing and see if you can beat the other cars. Experimenting with weight and design and stuff.

So there you go. My photography skills are pretty much nil but I tried. I don't know who won the race but I'm pretty sure they both wrecked at the bottom. I was just proud that A) I was standing by myself (Mancub had left me leaning on a wall while he built) and B) I remembered to take a picture of SongWeaver's car.

I think we hit a couple more places but I was so tired and loopy I don't remember for sure. I'll check around and if we did, I'll get notes from people and update this at a later date.

We left the museum at about four and numbered off in the bus. For any of you who are like me and are perhaps unfamiliar with numbering off (I'd never heard of it until this trip) it's where you start with one person and they say ONE really loud and the person next to them says TWO really loud and the person next to them shouts THREE and so on and so forth until each person has a number, and then for the rest of the trip that's your number, so whenever you get on the bus or whatever, Person One will shout ONE and then if Person Two isn't there you'll know because nobody yells TWO. I was 51 out of 52, not including adults because they were too cool to have numbers. Basically the whole thing is just a quick and easy way of keeping track of everybody and being sure you don't leave anybody behind.

We then headed to the hotel, which lemme tell you was it ever gorgeous. We got to stay at the Palmer House Hilton and it's beautiful. They have a room called the Empire Room where people like Frank Sinatra and Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers performed!

I roomed with my girlpeeps, and that was pretty sweet in and of itself because I would have gone absolutely mad with anybody else. As it was my introvert levels were through the roof when we got home but being with those three all the time helped more than they will ever know.

The Panic Room! All of us were introverts so the huge walk-in closet served as our official Panic Room or place to hide and de-people whenever necessary.

It didn't take long for the room to get messy...but at least we tried. Hey look, there's people in this one- that's Renee and SongWeaver. You get to guess who's who! 

And then random picture of the wall and dresser, with SongWeaver. Yay!

The room was gorgeous and super perfect. It didn't really ever feel cramped in there, except in the bathroom- but that's to be expected. Two people can crowd a bathroom.

I cried a little more when we got to the hotel, probably mostly because lack of sleep and then coming back from the loopies and being gone and all that. But SongWeaver is great and Elise and Renee are great and it turned out fine.

Friends are cool. I like friends. And apparently I make lots of friends when I'm loopy. Mancub and SongWeaver never fail to remind me of the eight or nine times I looked at each of them and slurred, "Hey. You're my friend. You're my best friend" or something like that.

I have friends.

You learn a lot about who cares about you when you're in a city of three million people for the first time and absolutely loopy while wandering around a huge museum.

 I like learning about people. They're kinda cool.

I'm starting to ramble now and it's late so I'm just going to hit publish and then hit the sack because I like to hit things late at night. POW! POW!

Good night, everybody! You're my friends.