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Disney World Moms Panel Conquers the Windy City

To borrow a line from my favorite Doctor – Seuss – Oh the places you’ll go as a member of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel! 

Having felt pretty well bonded after our training experience, the idea is bandied about a few times about the opportunity for a bit of a reunion.  Well, we are scattered like fall leaves across continents, so reuniting hardly seems feasible.  But we’re talking Disney Moms.  And we all know that all things are possible with a sprinkling of pixie dust and some Mommy determination.

What better time to choose for a reunion than Mother’s Day weekend?  We are, afterall, Moms! 

I won’t bore you with the planning details, because, quite frankly, unless you get into the planning aspect of things, you’ll want to put a noose around your neck by the time I finish the ins and outs of how we get half of the Walt Disney World Moms Panel to the Midwest.  In the end, Kay and her wonderful husband Ron offered to host a few of us, so Diane and her daughter Jen and I head to Casa Kay; Margaret lives in the area and joins us for most of the festivities; and Cathy and Joanne bunk at Casa Cathy’s Brother.  Diane and I arrive on Thursday; Cathy and Joanne on Friday; and Margaret and Kay – well, obviously, they are there already!

Kay’s home is filled with a lot of things.  Her warm and wonderful home shows an enormous love for her children and grandchildren; her Green Bay Packers; and Disney.  But the one thing you notice her home is filled with right away are dogs!  Thor, Xena, and the international doggy phenomenon, Packer, are a lovable bunch who didn’t seem the least bit annoyed that their normal routine was dramatically interrupted by a houseful of company.  I know Packer is the celebrity in the family, but you can’t help but fall in love with Kay’s gentle giants, Thor and Xena.  They are absolutely wonderful dogs!  I miss them almost as much as I miss my Disney Moms!

Thor and Packer
Thor and Packer

We had lunch at a creperie somewhere near Kay’s home (What?  You thought I’d go to Chicago for a few days and suddenly get good at directions?).  You would not believe what they will put inside a crepe!  JD’s Crepe Company featured crepes that had everything from what you might suspect you would find in a crepe (gooey, delicious cheese; fruit; chocolate) to things you would expect to find anywhere BUT a creperie.  I’ll review later, but I will tell you that you have not had a crepe until you’ve had one stuffed with pulled pork!

Dinner that evening was expertly prepared by Ron, who showed true culinary capabilities as he grilled some delicious steaks and chicken for Jen.  As good as the dinner was, however, the best part of the dinner hour was getting the chance to meet Amy and Carson, Kay’s daughter and her beautiful little boy!  Amy is smart, warm, friendly, beautiful, AND, for my single male readers – available!!  And Carson – you just go look adorable up in the dictionary, and you’ll see that happy little face staring back at ya!
We all turned in pretty early, given the fact that we were all up at oh-dark-thirty to get to the airport.  Diane, Jen, and I were on East coast time, so our schedule was a little off anyway.  I vow to stay sleeping until at least noon on Friday to catch myself up.
So at 5 AM on Friday, I finish my book (Water for Elephants – PHENOMENAL read!), but stay quietly in my room so I don’t wake anyone up who has the committment necessary to really sleep until noon.  After a while, I hear feet padding about, so I venture out to the kitchen to find Jen and Diane. They decided if Kay was asleep, they were going to wake her up for sure by playing air hockey!  Not sure who won, but they are both fierce competitors.
Ron, bless him, runs out and gets a wonderful selection of doughnuts and pastries, and we hop on the computer to do our Walt Disney World Moms Panel due dilligence.  We tackle a few questions together, which was fun – even if I did have to make sure my censor button was working!  It’s one thing to say something to get ME in trouble, but something else entirely to get a good percentage of the panel in trouble! 
After time to chill and chat, we get a tour of Kay and Ron’s hometown en route to the Round the Clock Restaurant!  What a way to make a Jersey girl feel at home!  This place is a diner, just like we have at home, complete with an awesome soup (lemon chicken and rice), delicious salads, and breakfast “round the clock”.  Definitely Good Eats!
By the time we finish lunch and eat up our allotted 12 minutes of parking time in the downtown area with a quick stop in a 12 minute parking zone, we have to hop right into the shower and get ready for our big evening out!  We are meeting Margaret, Joanne, and Cathy in Chicago to have dinner and see Jersey Boys (yes, I, a Jersey Girl, went all the way to Illinois to see Jersey Boys).  The celebration started in the car on the way to Chicago.  Kay thought of everything!  Packed in the limo was ice cold champagne, the Jersey Boys soundtrack, the Walt Disney soundtrack that she had Amy (her gorgeous, intelligent and available daughter) make for us, and snacks.  That Kay is a one woman celebration!
We arrive in Chicago at the famous Harry Caray’s Restaurant.  Margaret is waiting outside for us, and it is so great to see her – even though I did see her just a couple of days before!  We decide to head in and have a drink before dinner while we wait for Cathy and Joanne.  Okay, the potato chips here – let’s just say, who needs dinner?  The chips are so good, you could just sit at the bar all night and never go into the dining room.
Cathy and Joanne arrive, and after some hugging and a quick catching up, we move into the dining room.
People, there is something we did not previously know.  Margaret is some kind of Chicago celebrity.  Once they noticed this was Margaret’s table, freebies started pouring out of the kitchen!  They all recognized Margaret from her frequent visits to the restaurant, and we were given a selection of appetizers thanks to Margaret’s famous face!  I browsed the walls for a photo of Margaret among the many other celebrity photos they have here, but she must dine in cognito, because I didn’t see her.
After dinner, we enjoyed a nice walk to the theatre.  I’m usually pretty cold, but the air certainly got a little warmer when Kay stopped in the middle of the block and did the infamous We Must, We Must, We Must Increase Our Bust cheer.  It was a beautiful thing, and people were so awed by the performance, they stopped dead in their tracks to witness the spectacle.
In a word, Jersey Boys was incredible.  In multiple words, it was feckin’ incredible!  Loved the music, loved the behind the scenes story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, and thoroughly loved the company!  Kay’s daughter Amy and her friend Rose joined us for dinner and a show, and I hope they were comfortable with us.  We laughed a little too loud and acted a little bit outrageous, but we were so glad they were able to join us.  Rose is a Jersey girl – we bonded over the fact that the rest of this great country has crummy deli sandwiches, mediocre Italian pastries, and too soft rolls.  Diane’s daughter Jen won’t be recommending the show anytime soon, but apparently, she doesn’t have a grandmother that plays the cursing game with her.  All three of my girls have been using language like they used in the show since they could hold a phone to their ears for my mother to teach them the world of foul language.  By the time they are 6, they even knew some curses in Gaelic.  If ever one of my children tells you to kindly Póg mo thóin, don’t thank them.
The show came to a close, and so did our fun as a group.  Margaret the Celebrity was joining us back at Kay’s house for the night, so we drew straws to see who would take the first shift to stay awake with our own Moms Panel Energizer Bunny.  I apparently missed the straw drawing thing, and as a result, I got the first shift.  It wasn’t too bad though.  I gave her an Ambien laced pizzelle, and she wandered up to her room not too long after we arrived back at Kay’s! 
We got up super early Saturday morning, packed our bags to get them to the hotel in Chicago, and enjoyed a delicious breakfast casserole, prepared by both Kay and her husband Ron, who stayed up late the night before cooking sausage.  Ron took us all to the train station, and we ogled the train conductor for the hour long trip into Chicago.  We so wanted to keep him as a souvenir for Joanne, but we didn’t get a chance to ask him how old he was, and we weren’t sure if there was an age limit to transport men into Canada or not 🙁
Okay, my Chicago pictures mostly depict my fascination with tall buildings and fountains, so we’ll take a few minutes to indulge my fascination….
So we arrive in the city, meet Cathy and Joanne, and decide to do the $40 bus tour of Chicago, which allows us to get on and off as we please to see and do things that we want to see and do. This works great for all of us – for $40, you get coupons for a free bag of popcorn, a free Hershey bar, and a free t-shirt.  You can almost earn your money back with all of those freebies!
We tour a short bit of the city, then find ourselves drawn to the free Garrett’s popcorn.  But the catch to the free popcorn is that once you are in the store, smelling the delicious caramel, licking the cheesey taste off of your lips from the cheddar cheese corn, “free” means you get in line, spend $30 on other popcorn, and walk away happy with your generous free sample, plus the bags of popcorn you have to bring to friends and family.  And let me tell you – 6 women, walking the streets of Chicago wearing bright pink jackets with mouse ears on them get stopped a lot – and asked where we got our bags of popcorn.
After whetting our appetites with delicious Garrett’s popcorn, we decide it must be time for lunch.  We also only have Margaret for a short while, and we don’t want to lose her without eating!  We head to Petterino’s – sort of by default, as it’s the closest restaurant to us.  It really turns out that the most important thing about any of the meals that we’ve eaten together is the fact that we’re together.  And here are our happy faces at Petterino’s…
After enjoying a really lovely lunch, we head back out to the frozen tundra – I mean Chicago spring time – to get back on the bus. 
Margaret has to get going, so she is only on the bus a short distance before she has to head back to the train to get home to her boys.  We really missed having Margaret with us for the rest of the afternoon, but we looked forward to seeing her at the hotel.
Our next stop took us to the one place we had hoped we would score a man for Joanne!  It was our mission this weekend to find the most handsome and eligible men from which she could make a selection.  Where better to seek out men then Navy Pier – where we might find some Navy dudes.  And as luck would have it…..
  Okay, the big flaw here is obvious – he’s barely out of diapers, let alone boot camp; but he was such a sweetie, allowing us to not only take our photo with him, but obliged when his mother insisted he take his coat off so we could see him in his full uniformed glory.  Next time, we’ll have to aim higher when seeking out potential suitors for our Joanne.
The Navy Pier was awesome if for no other reason, they had a Starbucks!  So when I got back on the bus, instead of freezing my arse off, I only froze one cheek off!  Woohoo!  Thank you Starbucks latte!
Look for the trip wrap up in the next day or two!

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