Mia's minimalist "Straw House." All it needs is a little name card on the wall and her masterpiece fits right in at the MCA.
There was a soft and jazzy version of a U2 song playing in the sushi restaurant Friday night and as we stepped outside after dinner, I tried to belt out a verse, but Mia was holding my hand to ward off the November chill and Nora, who had skipped ahead, turned around under a neon bar sign to look back at us.
Nora pointed to the ground with amazement where her post-dinner peppermint had fallen out of her mouth and shattered on the ground and Mia laughed and "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" died in my throat.
I have found what I was looking for, although it has turned out rather different and worlds better than what I sought when I was not yet a mother.
We had a great Chicago weekend together as a family. The girls and Randy and me, and all the pleasures of the city we love.
"You're a sweet momma," said the nice lady sitting next to us at Wishbone the next morning and although I demurred at the moment and gave my good girls all the credit, I was milking the complement all day.
"That lady at the restaurant said I was a sweet momma, girls, SO DON'T YOU FORGET IT!"
I'd chosen the restaurant for breakfast that morning for its history.
"The last time we were here was the morning after our wedding!" I told the girls, and then told Taxi Driver #2, and then the hostess who seated us and then again the nice lady and her friend at the adjoining table.
That sunny morning in 2000, my dear college friends Beth and Michele and Dianne had been with us and here we were again, with two other delightful and whipsmart girls.
In the cab on the way over, I had to laugh at how delicious looked all the other breakfast places we passed - I was hungry - but Wishbone was so worth it, not just for the sweet memories and the fulfilling sense of life's circle, not just for the spinach omelet with black beans and hot sauce, but also (not unimportantly!) for the cartoony animal artwork that kept the girls busy with I-Spy and 20 Questions.
"I see a tiny black heart," Mia said. "I see a butt," said Nora. She was talking about the flying fried eggs with faces and legs and ahem. There was a transparent pregnant cow and giant flower light fixtures and we had a great time.
And my corn muffins were made extra wonderful because of an unexpected delay - our cab ride there had been interrupted by the raising of the Randolph Street bridge for three sailboats headed to winter storage. We hopped out of Taxi #1 to get a better look. As the street tilted up at a crazy angle and the streetlights moving into the air reminded me of Paris folding over on itself in Inception, I was so happy that the girls were able to see this special Chicago moment.
After breakfast, we headed over to the Museum of Contemporary Art for their monthly family day. The giant Phone Bone installation was gone from the plaza in front and I had to tell the girls a cleaned up version of the story we'd heard from a friend of a friend about its sale.
"So Penny Pritzker bought the statue," (I refrained from adding, "not knowing what phone bone meant," although that was the story,) "and had to find a place to put it! She had a giant crane moving it around her house and she finally decided to put it in the yard!"
The girls were not impressed, but they did like the abundant crafts and the scavenger hunt and the video about the making of Untitled, Chicago artist Scott Reeder's giant and ethereal painting made by spray-painting dried spaghetti noodles scattered over the canvas. I loved how the museum tied in the children's activities to their current minimalism exhibition The Language of Less. After helping the girls make a 3D outline of a house from neon bendy straws and tape, and then festive banners from cut and glued silver paper, we were all primed to walk the galleries and talk about how amazing things can be created from the simplest of materials.
We split up after the museum - Randy watched the end of the Nebraska game with the girls while I checked out the Exhale spa as part of the launch of Chicago Spa Moms. (You can sign up for a week of free yoga classes and discounted spa services, too! Check it out here, but hurry, the offer is only good through December 3.)
On my way down State Street to Exhale, I walked by a wedding party taking family portraits on the steps of Holy Name Cathedral. The bridesmaids wore wine-red dresses and the family filled up six or seven rows of the front steps. A few blocks down, I spotted craggy-skinned and totally-handsome-in-real-life William H. Macy, wearing a shaggy beard and blond hair to his shoulders.
"Hey! Hi! I love your work!" I said as I passed him and his friend and got a satisfying "Hi!" in return.
My new favorite self-portrait.
Exhale was lovely and relaxing, and the Bears game the next day a very different kind of fun. Movies, Dave and Buster's arcade and some great Italian food were tossed in there too, but the best part of the weekend was just the four of us, making each other laugh, placating the grumpy, holding hands as we crossed the street, enjoying the company.