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Like Food, Drinks, Fun, and Shopping? Go To Rosemont!

If you know me at all, you know that I don’t hesitate when offered a chance to travel somewhere and spend a night in a hotel room, even if it’s close to my house. That’s why, when the Village of Rosemont in conjunction with the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel, recently invited me to do just that, I responded within seconds of reading the email.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary accommodations, food, and drink during our overnighter. I’m sharing my own experience here, and all opinions and photos are mine.

Rosemont, which is only 2.5 square miles in size, is located about twenty-five minutes away from my house (and thirty minutes from Chicago’s city center), right outside of O’Hare airport. Even though it’s tiny in size, Rosemont is jam-packed with all kinds of things to do, places to stay, and things to eat, geared towards locals and travelers alike. The village, which just celebrated its 60th anniversary, is home to the Donald E. Stephens Convention Center (which attracts more than 200 million guests to tradeshows, conventions, and public events each year), the Allstate Arena (which hosts concerts, sporting events, and family programming), and the Rosemont Theatre (which hosts more than 100 performances each year).

Rosemont sign

Our first stop was at the Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel, where we checked in for the night. It was no surprise to me, having stayed at the downtown Loews twice before, that our room was beautiful and luxurious. Staying at a Loews hotel means you’re getting spoiled. Oops, I mean I’M getting spoiled.

Loews Hotel O'Hare Rosemont

The Loews Chicago O’Hare Hotel has 556 guest rooms and its very own art gallery. It is also home to The Ashburn (named for Chicago’s first airport, the Ashburn Flying Field), a gastro-pub that features modern takes on classic dishes, micro brews, and signature cocktails like this Snowbelt, featuring Tito’s Vodka, Di Saronno, apple, and cinnamon. Okay, I admit it: I enjoyed two.

Snowbelt cocktail at the Ashburn

The Ashburn serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner and is open until 1:00 a.m.

After hanging out in The Ashburn for a while, we boarded the hotel shuttle to check out MB Financial Park, which is the 200,000 square foot entertainment district in Rosemont. MB Financial Park is home to eight awesome restaurants (soon to be nine with the addition of Lettuce Entertain You’s Bub City), iFLY Indoor Skydiving, and Zanies Comedy Club as well as Big 10 and the Muvico Theater complex. The restaurants surround a 30,000 square foot Great Lawn, on which you’ll find concerts and festivals during the summer and ice skating, hockey, and tubing during the winter (“Frozemont” is going on through February 28).

Jim and I hit up MB Financial Park now and then when one of us is picking up the other at O’Hare. Popping in there for dinner on the way home from the airport (and waiting for rush hour traffic to subside) is a rather delicious idea, don’t you think? Hofbräuhaus Chicago and Fogo de Chao have been our go-to restaurants but after the whirlwind restaurant crawl we experienced, we have plans to change it up with ALL THE RESTAURANTS.

When our group was told that we’d be doing this restaurant crawl and trying food and drink at every single place in MB Financial Park, I was pretty excited. I’m glad I arrived hungry. Should’ve worn comfier pants though.

Our first stop was at Sugar Factory American Brasserie. Sugar Factory has an “MTV meets Willy Wonka” feel to its restaurant, chocolate lounge, retail store, and goblet/daiquiri bar. Those smoking goblets. OMG.

Lollipop Passion Goblet and Ocean Blue Goblet

On the way out we were given little candy buckets to fill. Best goody bag ever!

Sugar Factory

We enjoyed caipirhinas and mini sliders at Fogo de Chao, fish and chips (and some of us, beer) at Five Roses Pub, pretzels (and some of us, beer) at Hofbräuhaus Chicago, flatbreads, mac and cheese, and cocktails at King’s Bowl, Irish Soda and Peach Sangria at Park Tavern, guacamole made tableside and drinks at Adobe Gila’s, something else at Muvico Theater’s Bogart’s Bar and Grill…I mean, I can’t remember it all. I blame all the cocktail samples and my neglect in taking good notes.

Hofbrauhaus Chicago

Summary: EVERYTHING we ate and drank was delicious, no joke. I thought I’d never be hungry again…and then it was time for us to choose our evening entertainment. The choices? iFLY Indoor Parachuting, bowling at King’s, or a stand-up comedy show at Zanies. Jim and I choose stand-up comedy over just about anything, all the time, so Zanies was it!

Zanies Chicago

Every seat in the house at Rosemont’s Zanies is great, and the room was jam-packed when we were there. The headliner that night was James Davis, and he was a riot: we’d love to see him again! There is a two-item minimum for all guests, so I checked out the drink menu. I love a drink menu whose items are all named after people. By the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the drink named for Kathy Griffin. Twice. Ahem.

After all of that fun, we waddled (funny visual but SERIOUSLY) back to the hotel shuttle so we could get a good night’s sleep. And sleep we did! Did I mention how cozy the beds are at Loews hotels?

In the morning we enjoyed a superb breakfast buffet back at The Ashburn before heading out to the shuttle again, for the short ride to the Fashion Outlets of Chicago.

Breakfast Buffet at the Ashburn

The Fashion Outlets of Chicago is a two-level indoor shopping center that has more than 130 designer outlets. It’s anchored by Bloomingdales’s The Outlet Store, Forever 21, Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th. You can find world-class brands like Tory Burch, Michael Kors, Prada, Gucci, Swarovski, and so many others (Banana Republic, The Art of Shaving, J. Crew, Burberry…I could name names all day!).

Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Full disclosure: I’m not a clothing designer brand person, so Jim and I “skimmed” the clothing stores and mostly visited other categories while at the Fashion Outlets of Chicago. Lolli & Pops is a neat candy store that carries a good variety of international brands, and my day was made when we found REAL Caramello bars made by the REAL Cadbury company, in England.

Lolli & Pops at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Le Creuset is a top-notch kitchen brand and I could swoon over their products all day long. We watched a stir fry demo that caused me to put their wok on my wish list.

Le Creuset at Fashion Outlets of Chicago

Something I found extremely unique about the Fashion Outlets of Chicago is their Concierge Services, which is like a regular mall’s Information Booth on steroids. Here, the Concierge Services will answer questions of course, but also make restaurant reservations, check coats (and LUGGAGE for travelers who are burning up a long layover by shopping; by the way, there’s a Go Airport express shuttle running between this shopping center and the terminals at O’Hare!), and assist with other assorted needs to enhance the shopping experience of their visitors. Other travel services include printing boarding passes, exchange of currency, and translation services. Shoppers can even text their questions to 847-957-4600.

After a full evening of eating and drinking, a night of great sleep, and a morning of shopping, we left Rosemont rested but energized and planning our next visit with intention. I definitely recommend that you check out the village for yourself: there’s something for everyone!

Many, many thanks to the Village of Rosemont, MB Financial Park (and all the venues there), and The Fashion Outlets of Chicago for an incredible experience and honestly, one of the most well-planned media tours I’ve ever enjoyed.

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Chelsea Does…Netflix #StreamTeam

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

I have been a fan of Chelsea Handler’s for years. She’s known for being a “shock jock”-style comedian, host of “Chelsea Lately”, E! network’s late night talk show (2007-2014) and author of several books including Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. She’s sarcastic, inappropriate, and completely hilarious.

When I read that Chelsea was going to do a Netflix Original Documentary Series, I was intrigued and excited to watch. “Chelsea Does…” is a series of four documentaries in which she immerses herself in learning about Marriage, Silicon Valley, Racism, and Drugs.

Chelsea Does

Each of the four documentaries can easily stand on its own; for the purposes of writing this post I went ahead and binged all four at once.

What all four installments of “Chelsea Does…” have in common:
1. Footage of a conversation she has about the given topic with a few of her friends (comedians and actors; the group is different in all four)
2. Footage of Chelsea talking to her psychologist about each topic
3. Chelsea travels to further investigate each topic (Marriage–Las Vegas, Silicon Valley–Silicon Valley, Racism–the Deep South, Drugs–Peru)
4. Chelsea’s dog, Chunk

I found all four fascinating, and had some laughs watching Chelsea ask questions that many wouldn’t ask themselves. The footage of Chelsea asking children about their thoughts on marriage was priceless, and the app idea (“Gotta Go”) she pitched a Silicon Valley company had me in stitches. The Racism installment brought me to tears and the Drug installment made me a little uncomfortable, but I learned so much while being entertained at the same time.

Chelsea’s not for everybody (and I don’t think she gives a &#$*, either!), but “Chelsea Does…” is definitely a must-see, especially if you like your documentaries on the unique and funny side. By the way, like anything else Chelsea Handler produces, “Chelsea Does…” is not recommended for children. Not by a long shot.

Have you watched yet? What did you think?

I’ll end with this programming note: just a little more than two weeks until “Fuller House” hits Netflix! The new trailer is HERE…Mark your calendar for February 26 and let’s binge-watch together!

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Missy.

In case you didn’t hear me shrieking yesterday during Super Bowl 50, Missy Elliott followed me on Twitter.

Yes, THE Missy Elliott.

One minute I was tweeting a reply (“I’d like to see Missy Elliott back up there!”) to Sirius XM’s question about who else I’d like to see on stage with Coldplay, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce, and the next minute, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott herself was following me.

Missy Elliott followed you

And that’s when the evening took on an ALL CAPS flavor. (Apologies to my friends. I know how annoying that is, but MISSY ELLIOTT, YOU GUYS.)

I was so excited about it that I was doing a little bit of tearing up and sweating, very much like when Christopher Knight and Florence Henderson spoke directly to me the day before my birthday a couple of years ago.

I mean, MY LIFE.

I fully realize these people put their pants on one leg at a time just like I do. And heck, I have lots and lots of friends who are also doing spectacular things professionally just like celebrities: they just aren’t in industries that shine a bright spotlight. (A bunch of them should be, though!) I shouldn’t go weak in the knees at being noticed for a fraction of a split-second by somebody famous. But I do. I have. I did. Not sorry at all.

It only took a few minutes for my sass to kick in and tag Missy:

My new follower Missy

And then after I recovered a little bit, I started thinking about those marionettes in the “WTF” video.

Missy Elliott

By the way, I do believe I am responsible for approximately 2,435,821 of the 33,000,000+ views this video currently has on YouTube. (I wrote about it in November, here.) Make that 2,435,822.

Twenty-three-year-old D returned home from the Super Bowl party he attended and was more impressed by my new Twitter follower than perhaps anything else I’ve done in the last ten years (even though I didn’t “do” this). I had to show it to him so he would truly believe me, and then he started screaming too, and then he said, “WAIT, you can send her a direct message now??” and I said, “Yep!” Then he suddently started barking out messages that he wanted me to send to Missy Elliott on his behalf even though as far as I know the only time he’s ever listened to her music was when he used to ride in my car and I put him through listening to her album “Under Construction” on repeat for months and months. It’s okay, though. That prepared him for this day.

Anyway, I may not always remember that the Broncos won Super Bowl 50, but I will always remember that it was on this Super Bowl Sunday that one of my favorite artists in the whole wide world, of all time, followed me on Twitter. It was a good day.

Now…Monday, whatchu got?

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Candy Girl

Over the weekend while at a candy store I came across some Spree candy in a bulk container and paused for a moment. I hadn’t enjoyed Sprees in years, as in “I can’t REMEMBER the last time I enjoyed Sprees but I think it may have been the early eighties”. Honestly, I couldn’t even remember what they tasted like other than my childhood. After standing there for a moment staring at the colorful disks, I reached for the scoop to put some in one of those “fill-your-own” buckets.

When I was six or seven, I attended the birthday party of my cousin, who’s just a year older. My aunt came up with a scavenger hunt game to keep the party guests busy in the basement—now that I’m a mom, I really want to know what the adults were doing upstairs, by the way—and we were very excited because we were told that we would be searching for candy.

Okay, now that I think about it, it couldn’t have been THAT extensive of a scavenger hunt. Like me, my cousin lived in a small townhouse. The basement was fairly tiny.

ANYWAY, I vividly remember that guest after guest found candy bar after candy bar, and I was becoming frustrated. Finally, I opened the washing machine and—WAHOO! I had to climb up onto the washer in order to reach inside, but I claimed the brand-new roll of Sprees and then did a little victory dance. Although we lived only a couple of miles apart and visited frequently, I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about what my cousin’s bedroom looked like, but I remember finding those Sprees in the washing machine like it happened yesterday.

Candy is just like music for me, in that it has the power to take me to another place. (Sentimental much?) It may stem from the fact that, ever since I can remember, my mom has always checked dessert menus before the dinner menus when eating out. This way she can plan how much (or how little) she wants to eat for the main course. She doesn’t like to eat too much, should there be some amazing chocolate creation available afterwards. SWEETS ARE IMPORTANT TO MY FAMILY.

Take Heath bars, for example. Those chocolate-covered bars of toffee goodness were my late Grandpa’s favorite. I will grab a Heath bar on a road trip or anytime I’m feeling a little sentimental about that amazing man. Heath ICE CREAM bars? Oh my gosh. Love those.

When I was a kid, $100,000 Bars were my favorite, in taste and name. (I’m still angry that Nestlé got lazy and changed the name to 100 Grand.) I usually buy a bag of these along with all of the other kinds of Halloween candy I plan to hand out to trick-or-treaters but then hide the 100 Grands in the back of the kitchen cabinet because “Oopsie, how did we miss THAT bag? Oh well. Guess we’ll have to eat them.”

Traditional Caramello bars (as in, from the eighties, and they don’t make ’em like that anymore) remind me of Jim because every single time we would stop in a gas station to pick up candy when we were dating, he would grab a Caramello. We found the ones made by (Real) Cadbury in (Real) England over the weekend and scooped up a few, for old times’ sake.

Almond Joy has been my favorite candy bar for years. It happens to be Liz’s too. (#Twinsies) Ever since we had that moment that went, “What? You love Almond Joys? I LOVE ALMOND JOYS TOO!” we’ve been ritually snarfing down Almond Joys late at night when we travel together, and taking occasional “Look at me, I’m eating an Almond Joy. Jealous?” selfies, which we immediately text to the other. Yesterday on her train ride home she found a forgotten one in her bag that was leftover from the Los Angeles trip and she sent me a picture of it.

Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don't.

Sometimes you feel like a nut; sometimes you don’t.

Indeed I was immediately jealous and actually went to my kitchen to see if I had one stashed somewhere, but my search was fruitless. Or Almond Joy-less. Sigh.

Now that I’ve reminisced about my favorite candies, I need to go grab the rest of those Sprees. What are your favorites, and why?

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The Netflix #StreamTeam: Taking It Back. Way Back.

Netflix Stream Team

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam and will be happily sharing monthly tips and stories about how my family uses Netflix on a regular basis. (Okay, that’s an understatement. I should say CONSTANTLY. We use Netflix CONSTANTLY.) This post is sponsored by Netflix, of course!

One of my favorite things about Netflix is the ability to go back and rewatch television shows from when I was much younger. Or just a little younger. (or to watch television shows that I missed the first time around, frankly.) I’ve written about this before: some of my best TV memories are right THERE waiting for me, and I can access any episodes I’d like to watch at any given moment with just a couple of clicks. Since Netflix is adding new (and old) stuff all the time, I check regularly and am constantly updating My List.

A few that reside on My List right now?

The Munsters
A Different World
Emergency! (OMG YES! Randolph Mantoooooooth)
The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries
The Wonder Years
Cheers
Friends (of course)

Also, Mad Men will forever and ever be on My List as long as Netflix carries it, amen. In fact, I was texting with a couple of friends the other day about Don Draper’s adventures; one of those friends had just finally finished the series. It made me long to watch the entire thing all over again. Fun fact: when the second half of Season 7 was originally broadcast last spring, we hadn’t yet gotten our cable channels back and I ended up buying all of those episodes as soon as they were available even though I knew Netflix would get them eventually. I was impatient. No regrets. That said, the second half of Season 7 will be on Netflix starting February 5, so if you need to see (almost all of) those storylines wrapped up into a neat little bow, mark your calendar.

And February 26? Have mercy!! FULLER HOUSE, a Netflix Original Series, will be available for our viewing pleasure. I CANNOT WAIT. The original “Full House” was one of those “warm and fuzzy with a side of cheeseball” sitcoms that I absolutely loved, and I’m thrilled that the entire original cast is back for this update. Well, with one (two) notable exception(s): Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen will not reprise the role of little Michelle. I’m a little bummed that we won’t get to hear either of them exclaim, “You got it, Dude!” as adults, but I think Uncle Joey still feeling the need to exclaim “Cut! It! Out!” in 2016 might make up for that. Will you be watching?

All I know is, I’d better figure out how to make some more time for streaming in my schedule.

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I Love L.A.

I just returned from a visit to the site of the #BlogHer16 conference in Los Angeles. I love L.A.

I. LOVE. IT.

Of course, my rose-colored glasses were deeply tinted on this trip, what with the “late January getaway from Chicago winter” and the “spending three and a half days with the most awesome team ever” elements. Los Angeles was a dream, and I wish I could’ve “slept” a little longer. Literally and figuratively.

On the way out, I got to walk through my favorite corridor at O’Hare airport.

ORD neon

Of course, when I was sitting at the gate in the middle of a flight delay that would last nearly two hours I forgot all about that neon happiness. Glad I took a picture.

Finally we took off and, after meeting Liz at LAX, we made our way over to the JW Marriott at LA Live right in the center of downtown Los Angeles.

The next couple of days were extremely awesome. I love my job. I love my co-workers. Getting to work in the same room is very rare for all of us: it only happens a few times each year. It makes me giddy, quite literally. It was better than ever this time, thanks to the fact that we have a newly-expanded events team, and I will tell you that if you have not purchased a ticket to the conference because you’re on the fence for some reason, just buy it now while Earlybird pricing is still in effect. No, I was not asked to plug the conference. I just happen to have a lot of work pride and having a seat in the meeting room where so many magical ideas were presented, I’m really just doing you a favor. Plan to attend. It’s going to be the best BlogHer annual conference yet. YES WE SAY THAT EVERY YEAR, but we also mean it. (Register here.)

Me, my sistuh from anuthuh muthuh, and my lil Bop Bop

Me, my sistuh from anuthuh muthuh, and my lil Bop Bop

One of the very best things about working behind the scenes on a BlogHer conference is that we have an excellent work/fun balance. We work VERY hard, but there is always always always a lot of laughter plus a few shenanigans sprinkled in there too.

Lori, Jen, Liz, Me, and Kathy  (Mwah!)

Lori, Jen, Liz, Me, and Kathy
(Mwah!)

There’s not a lot of sleep, however. My body happens to HATE the west coast, refusing to reset its clock and thus making me wake up at 3:30 am Pacific, each and every day. I was able to get a couple of short bursts of sleep beyond that but definitely not enough. Anyway, it was totally worth it.

New fave pic of Liz and me.

New fave pic of Liz and me.

Liz and I immensely enjoyed unwinding each evening on the patio that was outside our hotel room. Definitely a favorite part of the trip.

Having a patio outside our hotel room did not suck.

Having a patio outside our hotel room did not suck.

As for the rest of the hotel, it’s also amazing. It’s spacious with lots of places for bloggers to hang out, connect, and laugh together.

JW Marriott at LA Live lobby

The pool area is gorgeous, too. I know it’ll be a popular hang-out spot.

JW Marriott at LA Live pool

We checked out where the sessions, expo, and keynotes will take place. We are super excited for this conference, but I said that already. I hope to see you there.

As for the area surrounding the hotel? Well, it’s Los Angeles. It’s beautiful and spacious and full of palm trees and sunshine.

I love L.A.

Is it August yet?

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Partying Like It’s 1986.

Since Jim and I had a pretty relaxing morning and afternoon—including going to see “Joy”, starring Jennifer Lawrence and by the way you should go see it right after you finish reading this post—I’m trying to get some work stuff checked off my list this evening.

I can get into a zone and mostly ignore what he’s watching on television as long as it’s something I don’t care about or something I’ve seen before, so he put on “Top Gun” and that pleased me. It was released in 1986, the year we were married. Jim was in the Navy back then, which made the movie doubly interesting. I think I’ve seen it about five hundred times.

1988, close enough.

1988, close enough.

A few observations:

1. “Talk to me, Goose” is one of my most-used movie quotes in life. TALK TO ME, GOOSE. Gold.
2. I love “Top Gun” because it was made before Tom Cruise jumped on the couch. Most people still thought he was a promising young actor and not yet a nutjob.
3. As a die-hard fan of the group Berlin, I do experience a little rage during the love scene when “Take My Breath Away” comes on, for two reasons. First, I read an interview with Terri Nunn (lead singer) and John Crawford (bass player who caused me to swoon uncontrollably for a few years as a teen) in which they said that they hated that song and didn’t want to record it because they didn’t write it and it sounds nothing like them. Second, it’s my least-favorite Berlin song from their entire catalog: I totally agree with them.
4. I like watching this movie with Jim because he talks about the minor inconsistencies, Navy-wise.
5. Meg Ryan was adorable in this film, but it wasn’t her hair’s best.

Wait, I’m supposed to be working so I guess I’m done making lists about “Top Gun”. Tell me: what movies have you watched hundreds of times but could still watch again and again?

top-gun-movie-

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So Long, 2015!

Another year is gone (I think I have whiplash!) and Jim and I will be spending another New Year’s Eve like boring older people. In fact, last night as we were discussing our exciting plans (basically watching movies on Netflix), our older son, who is headed to Wisconsin to do a bar crawl with friends, was sitting there thinking, “That is such a LAME New Year’s Eve.”

No, I’m not a mind reader but his eye roll and head shake told me all I needed to know to make a good guess regarding his thoughts.

Good thing he won’t be around, I guess. I mean, Netflixing IS a really good way to spend the last evening of 2015, for us. It’s peaceful. It’s exactly what we want to do. Right before 11:00 we’ll turn on Ryan Seacrest in New York’s Times Square so we can ring in the New Year on Eastern time, and then we’ll be going to bed.

Speaking of the Big Apple, we’ll be enjoying another kind of apple, too.

Cashier: "Any big plans for New Year's Eve?" Me: "Just this apple."

Cashier: “Any big plans for New Year’s Eve?”
Me: “Just this apple.”

(By the way, in case you have little ones at home and want to trick them into an earlier New Year’s Eve bedtime, Netflix has six themed New Year’s Eve countdowns available to stream whenever the heck you want. 6:30, right after dinner? GO FOR IT. Check them out here.)

If you’d like some reading material, I have curated my favorite posts from this year. It’s interesting to me that my favorites fall into three main categories:

1. Inspirational/Go get ’em
Invest in Yourself Because Life is Too Short
Invest in Others! Here’s Why.
Enthusiasm is Contagious. Let’s Spread it Around.
Lean on Me.

2. Bittersweet/How quickly they grow
Back in Time, If Only For A Moment
They Come Back.
To Infinity and Beyond
I Let Go.

3. Rants, Melisa-style
Control Freaks Shouldn’t Take Train Trips.
When Better Late Than Never is Not Okay

I am looking forward to 2016 because of all of its potential. We’ll be experiencing some changes in this house as the year goes on (including J’s college graduation at the end of the year, woo hoo!), and those who are nearest and dearest to me could also use some fresh starts and gorgeous, wide-open potential. However you decide to spend the last hours of 2015, whether it’s Netflixing like Jim and me or bar crawling like D or taking in once-in-a-lifetime experiences like J in Israel, I hope you enjoy yourself. I also hope you and your loved ones have an abundance of love, health, fun, and prosperity in the new year. XOXO!

Happy New Year 2016!

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It’s Like Groundhog Day, But On Christmas.

Same thing, different year!

The Wells family will continue our Christmas tradition of going to see a movie and dinner prepared by Jim. (We’re having Green Curry Chicken, which is Thai and not Chinese, but still Asian. Close enough.)

Our movie? The new “Star Wars” flick. FINALLY.
Thank YOU, internet, for not posting any spoilers. This has to be a new record because I totally expected to know what I was getting into more than a week ago. I can’t wait to see this movie, spoiler-free!

Besides that? Well, you know:

Merry Christmas to all of you who are celebrating!

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I Let Go.

I just dropped off a piece of my heart at the International Terminal for a once-in-a-lifetime Israel excursion. Sending my kid halfway around the world while I stay home is a completely nerve wracking experience but I did my best to keep it in check. My biggest hope is that he has a safe, fun, life-enriching trip. Now hold me.

That was the caption on a picture I posted last night, right before I drove my car away from Parking Lot D at O’Hare airport.

J just began the experience of a lifetime, a Birthright trip. This amazing organization provides Jewish young people aged 18-25 with a ten-day excursion that is meant to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel.” Birthright wasn’t around when I was his age; if it had been, I would’ve jumped on the opportunity as well. His itinerary is jam-packed, featuring activities like visiting the Western Wall, spending the night in a Bedouin tent, floating in the Dead Sea (FLOATING IN THE DEAD SEA, I MEAN TAKE ME THERE RIGHT NOW), just to mention three of his action items.

Without me. Without Jim.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I’m usually pretty casual about stuff involving my boys. While we love our kids dearly (of course!), Jim and I have never been the type of parents who coddle: we’re the opposite of Helicopter Parents. We have always tried to empower our boys to make educated decisions and choices rather than hovering. We’ve tried to avoid giving them detailed road maps and projecting our own feelings and ideas on them. We’ve often answered their questions with questions. Because of that, they have grown up to be extremely well-adjusted guys who are smart, thoughtful, and productive adult-types.

Unfortunately, that easygoing spirit flies out the window when you’re dropping your “kid” off at the Turkish Airlines ticket counter to check in for a trip he’ll take mostly with strangers, excepting one long-time friend from religious school, to a small country that is rife with conflict and acts of violence.

While I never thought of it until I was going through it myself yesterday, I imagine this must have been similar to what my parents were feeling when they dropped me off at the airport for a month-long stay in Germany when I was fourteen.

CISV

If they had less to worry about regarding actual safety, I’m sure my young age more than made up for that. It’s not easy no matter how you slice it.

Dropping him off yesterday was harder than taking him to college for the first time, even though I know he’s going to have fun, I know his life will be enhanced/changed for the better, and I’m reasonably certain that he really will be safe (not only because I have confidence in the organization supporting the trip but I believe in odds, too).

College is right…over there. It’s two hours away. It’s close enough to home that should my presence become needed for any reason, I can grab my purse and go. There’s security in proximity.

Israel is waaaaaay over there. It’s on the other side of the world. While he’ll have the ability to text us and post pictures (THANK YOU, TECHNOLOGY), he’s so far away.

Believe it or not, I have been reversing my anxiety over the possible dangers of my kid traveling through Israel by reminding myself that the United States isn’t exactly the safest place right now either. This is what our world is coming to. It’s ridiculous.

Over the last three days I can’t tell you how many times I talked to him about keeping track of his passport and his camera and his wallet and his phone and his cash and how he should have fun but completely keep his eyes open to his surroundings and the people around him. Being an American in any foreign country is hard enough when you’re a fully grown adult with lots of travel experience. Being a twenty-year-old on a whirlwind tour of Israel with a bunch of other college kids requires a little more diligence and focus, and I can’t do it for him.

All of this thought and anxiety and worry, just from delivering my son to the first stop on what is going to be one of the most amazing trips he will ever take in his life.

After he received his boarding pass and handed over his suitcase, I asked him if he wanted me to wait with him while the rest of his group went through the line. I told him I was happy to stay but I didn’t mind if he wanted me to leave. He said, “I’m fine with you leaving but thanks for taking me this far.” It was all a little poetic. I smiled and sputtered out a couple more reminders about his passport and safety abroad while we were hugging each other goodbye and then, as difficult as it was, I let go.

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