A few days ago after an hour of blowing bubbles on the back patio I'd finally had enough. We reached that We Gotta Get Outta Here place that all parents of young children are familiar with, and so I strapped my kiddos in the car and started to drive. Okay, what else ya' got for me? I thought as I headed toward the neighboring town of Wheaton. I felt better instantly. There is so much to see when you move to a new place. Denver's beauty is stark and dramatic; huge mountains on one side, barren plains on the other. I can't get over how wonderfully gaudy Illinois is in comparison. Every inch of space is crammed with green, green, green, and the wildflowers are relentless, seemingly oblivious to the urban sprawl. I know I write often about the landscape, but what a place looks like so often informs the surrounding culture and how I fit in. In Denver those looming Rocky Mountains practically taunt the locals to walk, run, and climb up them. But it's different here. Easier to get lost without the mountains to tell you where you are. Easier to blend in; it's a completely normal experience to stand in line at a museum with an Orthodox Jewish man behind you and a burqa clad female ahead of you. (I was so tempted to say, Hey, and guess what guys, I'm Mormon. Someone should take a picture because we make quite a trio).
In all seriousness though, I am loving the adventure that comes with moving, striving to gracefully deal with the hard parts and leaning heavily on what is new and exciting. But of all the differences between Denver and Chicago, the one that is the most fun is how easy it is here to find a completely wonderful place to eat that isn't a chain restaurant. During our afternoon wanderings in Wheaton we bought miniature eclairs and madeleines at a french bakery and they were dynamite. There are three Indian restaurants within spitting distance of my house, and I've been surfing urbanspoon.com as often as facebook. Every kind of cuisine is readily available, and it feels as though there isn't a bottom to this particular barrel.
I suspect in a few months I'll feel neck deep in my life here, and the impromptu Tuesday morning wanderings around the city will fade away. But in the meantime, exploring is a happy alternative to feeling instituionalized in this half-empty castle while my four year old screeches MOTHER every eight seconds. No matter the day, we're on our way somewhere. There's a children's museum here in town that is supposed to be amazing. We want to visit the picturesque town of Geneva, the Hemingway museum in Oak Park, and we haven't even taken the train downtown to have lunch with Jeremy yet. I imagine moving is insufferable if you're not willing to get outside and pound the pavement. And it's not always so easy. The humidity is laying on top of us today like a wet wool blanket. Elisabeth claims her stomach hurts every time we step a toe out the front door. Luckily for us there are plenty of things to do indoors too. This is Chicago. There is plenty to do everywhere.