Saturday, November 19, 2011

Wined and Dined

Once upon a time, a cute little family of four took a weekend trip to...Cleveland! The husband of said family had a job interview for a great job...that was in Cleveland. So our intrepid band of parents and toddlers/preschoolers winged away to visit the storied realm that is...Ohio....

We arrived under the best of circumstances: at night, on the coldest day of the year thus far, amidst snow flurries. Our preschooler asked, "Mommy, what is all that stuff blowing in the sky?" When told the answer, he said "Daddy will never BELIEVE it!" Once outside, on the way to the rental car at which we still had to install two car seats, J said "Mommy, the snow is blowing on my face! It's getting in my eyes! It's blowing everywhere!" Then as we were driving away after finally getting the car seats installed, he said, "Mommy, why are all the trees so spooky?!" He wasn't quite convinced that that's what happens in real winter, when the trees actually do lose all their leaves instead of just dropping a few in token observance of the change in seasons.

We finally made it to our hotel and had a VERY late dinner in the hotel restaurant because we were to exhausted to find somewhere else to go. I always wondered who actually ate in hotel restaurants; now I know! We managed to get both boys down in the same room, the living room of our two room suite (LOVE that!), a minor miracle, and then we crashed ourselves.

The husband woke up early and left for a long day of interviews. The rest of us got up a little later and headed out for a tour around Shaker Heights with our two guides from an executive relocation company. Who knew these people even existed? We were met with a tote bag full of area information, toys, crayons, markers, and coloring books for the boys, and water bottles all around. They also left us a great gift basket in the hotel room on which we nibbled before we hit the restaurant. Our tour included a visit to a local elementary school, which was impressive. The boys played outside in the cold on the playground for a little while until their hands started to sting from sweeping the snow off the slides. We ended our tour with lunch at a local restaurant where we met another mom and her two year old. Lunch was just what you would expect it to be with three kids under four and ridiculously large forks! J was most impressed that they gave him a triangle of bread dough to play with and later declared "Cleveland is good for little boys because they give you dough!" Okay then!

After we returned to the hotel, the boys went down for naps, though Baby E's nap was rudely interrupted when he threw up all over himself and his crib a little while later. After I got him cleaned up and back to sleep on my bed, I spent the rest of the afternoon until they woke up in the bathroom checking email! That night, we visited a huge and expensive mall that was close by and ate at the food court so we could get plain rice and veggies for Baby E. It must have been something he ate, because he was fine for the rest of our visit.

The next day, the whole family set off again with our tour guides, this time to see University Circle (where the hospitals are), Midtown, and Downtown. To be frank, midtown and downtown Cleveland are the picture of urban blight. I've never seen as many abandoned lots that close to a city center as I saw in midtown, and, for every open storefront in downtown, there were four empty spaces. However, I was impressed with the suburbs of Cleveland, particularly Shaker Heights and some of Cleveland and University Heights. We were staying in Beachwood, a tony neighborhood which we can't afford, but after our tour, we met with a realtor who took us to some homes for sale in the other areas, and we liked what we saw. Mostly. There was the house with a tree stump growing up through the foundation and plaster walls that were so rotted that I accidentally kicked a hole in one when I nudged it with my foot! Oops! Houses in these areas are old but many have been renovated. That said, they are still quirky, with many steps and doors and oddly shaped areas, bathrooms in unexpected corners, usually at least three floors plus basements in various stages of renovation. Visiting these houses was like playing a game of hide and seek from the rest of your party sometimes!

That night we went to Shaker Square and explored a toy store while the boys played on their train table, then headed over to a diner where the boys got to play on yet another train table. (Why doesn't every store have these??) The diner looked out onto the RTA line so the boys also got to see real electric trains, which was even more trilling than the train table!

The next day was Sunday, so we headed off to the local ward to check it out/conduct reconnaissance on the area. It's a young congregation made up primarily of medical/dental residents, law students, and the few doctors/dentists/lawyers who decide to stay once their training is over. Through divine intervention, we found the woman in the ward who used to be a realtor who took us right over to the map of the area and told us in explicit terms where we should and shouldn't live, which schools really lived up to their reputations, what typical housing costs might be, and when this particular market peaks (between February and June, when the old residents are selling and the new residents are buying). We also found out that the previous week the ward had fasted for new members to move in. Gulp. No pressure there! Moving right along....

After church, we headed to the airport for our flight home. We lucked out with our seating, and I had an empty seat next to me for both legs, so Baby E got his own seat each time, which was thrilling for him and a little bit of a break for my lap! Of course, both he and J napped almost all of the longest leg, so both the husband and I got to hold them anyway! Sleeping boys, extra seats? Easiest travel day ever! Huzzah!

And so ended the great adventure in Ohio. Now our cute little family gets to return to regularly scheduled programming and blithely ignore the fact that our lives (not to mention our climate!) could change dramatically depending on what happens in the next few weeks. Tra la la, I can't HEAR you! I'm way over here in Denial!

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