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Smelly Socks: Every mom needs her 'girly' time

July 4, 2013 at 2:04 a.m.

Johanna and Anita enjoying tea at the historic Drake Hotel.

The school year ended, and before all of the various summer camps and family vacations got underway, I was granted a reprieve.

John suggested (with the help of my co-columnist and dear friend) that I take a few days to myself and visit my "sister," Anita, at her beautiful home in Chicago.

The idea of a quick trip sounded wonderful, but with John working and two active boys who have suddenly come alive now that they are on summer vacation, I was concerned about how to cover all of the bases.

With a little pleading and begging, it was Mimi and Popsy to the rescue as they offered their services. It was arranged that they were to watch Austin and Jamison during the days that John went to work.

So, with only a little "motherly hesitation," I prepared for four days in the big city - "Chicago-land here I come." I was leaving the ranch life behind for some city life and a welcomed change of pace.

It was extremely unusual planning for a plane trip knowing that I wouldn't be rushing to catch a plane holding all sorts of my boys' paraphernalia through a crowded airport.

My job normally consists of sorting out their Nintendo DSs, iPods and iPhones while they intently search for lost DS cartridges at the bottom of their overflowing backpacks, all while popping chewing gum in everyone's mouths to avoid the usual chorus of "my ears hurt."

Everything has to be located so that they will be comfortable and entertained on the plane. However, on this trip and airport experience, I knew that I could leisurely stroll through the airport, sip my Starbucks coffee, buy a Vogue or Cosmo magazine and not hear a fight over who gets the Guns & Ammo magazine or who gets the Hot Rod Magazine.

I got to people watch at the airport and be completely selfish, only having to be responsible enough to make sure that I got on and off the correct plane.

Traveling always seems to involve struggles, and this trip was to be no different. After a third gate change, it was announced that the plane was overbooked and all carry-on luggage would have to be checked in, a major hassle because I am frugal, and I refuse to pay to check luggage in.

When I finally stepped on the plane, it was sweltering.

The plane was experiencing some "slight" air conditioning troubles; we were assured it would "be fixed as soon as possible." Right after takeoff, as I got my magazines out and settled into my "without children" travel mode, wouldn't you know that this sweet older couple across the aisle from me decided to get out their lunch.

They produced eight hard-boiled eggs and began to carefully de-shell them. With the heat and then the smell of hard boiled eggs, my relaxation came to a halt, and I spent the entire flight just trying to maintain my stomach.

Anita was the perfect hostess and planned our "girly time" brilliantly. We went shopping downtown, had tea at the historic Drake Hotel, followed by more shopping, strolling through an antiques fair, spending too much money while shopping and antiquing, enjoying being foodie, getting a haircut at the Aveda salon. The crown jewel of the trip was hearing Sting perform live at Ravinia.

Except for a slight wardrobe mishap of packing summer dresses while Chicago was experiencing an unusual cold snap coupled with rain and, of course, Chicago's famous wind, the trip was near perfect. I kept texting John pictures of everywhere that we went, everything that we ate and everything that we saw.

I marveled thinking at what we did before cellphones and texting. I spoke with Jamison and Austin each time I called, and they each replied, "Yes Mom, we miss you. Yes, Mom, we love you. Yes, Mom, we are fine. Oh, here's Dad. He's reaching for the phone. He's pulling the phone away. Bye."

I knew that John wasn't reaching for the phone or pulling it away, and I could tell that I was much more sentimental about being gone then they were about me being gone. I heard all about the road trip to San Antonio that Mimi and Popsy had taken them on and all of the fun things they saw and places they went.

They seemed unimpressed with the Hancock Tower, the Ralph Lauren store or this certain singer named Sting. "What stung him anyway?" my 12-year-old, Austin, asked, quite impressed with himself.

It never fails that when you are super excited about something, something always seems to go wrong. Halfway through my four days of "girly" bliss, I woke up at 3 a.m. with a very sore throat. I loaded up on my allergy medicine, and we proceeded to be shop on.

However, after a concert of sitting outside in the coldest June weather imaginable with sweaters, jackets and blankets wrapped all around us, I was done. We arrived back to Anita's house just in time to catch the overtime of the Blackhawks game and for my 101 fever to hit.

Sunday morning, I flew home. I wasn't happy about leaving my "sister" or for a trip that I had been planning for so long to be over. However, when someone is sick, home is just where you want to be. John, Austin and Jamison pulled up to the airport, and I jumped in the truck and took a deep breath.

The Texas heat was a nice welcome, and as I looked into the backseat, I smiled when I saw the familiar scattered DS cartridges. John explained that they were a little late due to an unfortunate "lost retainer that ended up in the trash" at Whataburger, where they had stopped for breakfast.

I smiled at the situation as the retainer was recovered, and everything seemed under control. When we got home, there were no dishes in the sink, and the laundry was done and folded. Aside from a few things being out of place, the house was maintained beautifully.

I started feeling a little sorry for myself that I wasn't as important as I thought I was. All this time, I was under the illusion that I held our house together, and after four days away, everyone seemed to have managed just fine. Right then, I stopped for a minute and smiled to myself.

This is what I have been working toward ever since Austin and Jamison were added to our household. They have actually paid some attention to me and have learned to take care of themselves.

They are growing up fast, and it is good to know that they are getting to the point where they can be more independent. I feel blessed to be their mother and see how much they grown.

Johanna is a proud seventh-generation Texan. She lives on her family's South Texas ranch with her husband and two lively boys. Email Johanna Bloom or Anita Spisak at smellysocks@vicad.com.

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