All this week, my husband and I have been traveling around the Midwest in search of fun and absolute relaxation before we bring Baby into the world in the fall.
We planned a fun-filled week in Minnesota, packed with visits with friends and family, and ending with a wedding in Chicago. What I was in search for was time with my husband and a chance to kick my feet up. Since my friends and family live in downstate Michigan, we asked if they were interested in meeting us in Chicago a few days before the wedding.
The first half of the week flew by. We spent a few days bumming around the 'burbs of Minneapolis, frequenting stores we can't otherwise access and sampling the likes of our favorite Japanese steakhouse and Olive Garden, a vacation staple.
My in-laws even let us unleash the beast in their home for the first time - and when I say that, I'm referring to our gentle, doe-eyed, sweetie pie cocker spaniel. Right away, she made a home in their nice, cool finished basement and I was excited to see her cuddle up to them when they arrived home from work.
She has proven to be a good houseguest, so I wasn't as wary to leave her with them when we pulled out of the driveway early Thursday morning to head for Chicago.
We flipped on the radio and perused countless stations to listen to news updates and odd combinations of songs. What felt like hundreds of miles of cornfields later, we were making our way into Wisconsin where we saw a semi truck flipped on its side and scoured our pockets for the change we would inevitably need for Illinois tolls.
Zach, who was born in Illinois and lived there only briefly, introduced me to the "oasis" food court over the expressway and I eagerly awaited our arrival to the Windy City. See, I've been infatuated with big cities since I was a little tyke, and although I've been to Chicago a handful of times, I was excited to roam the city again.
But at six months pregnant, I wasn't quite prepared for our "relaxing" vacation.
The trains were an experience alone. A melting pot of people hopped on board and we were en route to downtown. Trying not to look like outsiders, we tried to find the street to our hotel by ducking in between buildings and pulling up our maps. Five hours, 3 miles of walking and two hormonal meltdowns later, we were winding down in our room somewhat dreading another day in the big city.
I take solace in knowing we'll soon pick up our dog and head back home. And as our vacation comes to a close, I'm excited to be in the Upper Peninsula, where I don't have to fear getting off the train in the wrong neighborhood, missing the last bus or becoming just another face in the crowd.
In fact, when I get home, I hope to finally kick back and scratch one more vacation destination off my list.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org