Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reunited... And it Feels So Good!

We last traveled to Kansas City in November of 2009. Then, there were only two reasons for us to visit - my brother Leon (AKA Ree) and his wife Claire. Now, there are four more reasons to visit - my nephew Cristian and the Ilardi family -Sheila, Marco, and Benjamin's long lost love Kayla!
Benjamin dressed for the occasion by donning the pilot uniform that Kayla got him for his third birthday. Not wanting to be left out, Calliope filched his pilot's cap, but the Boo still looked plenty official.

Official enough to get him into the cockpit, anyway.

At the KC airport, I got to meet my nephew Cristian for the first time. I'd only seen him in pictures and videos sent by his mama Claire, but in real life, he was even more adorable - a sturdy little guy with a thick shock of black hair and an impish smile. Though only a few days older than Calliope, he seemed far surer on his feet. In fact, Ree and Claire excitedly reported to us that Cristian took his very first steps in the airport while they were waiting for us to disembark!

We collected our bags and drove to my brother's place where Sheila, Marco, and Kayla would meet us and bring us to their home. I don't know what I was more excited about: seeing my good friend Sheila or watching Benjamin and Kayla be reunited after so many months apart. I envisioned tears of joy followed by a slow-motion run into one another's arms. I'm talking about Benjamin and Kayla here, not me and Sheila. What happened was a little different:

In case you didn't catch every word, here's a transcipt:

Kayla: Ben Ben!

Benjamin: Kayla!

Kayla: Doggie!

Benjamin: Doggie!

Painful separation notwithstanding, I suppose they are just three years old with three-year-old attention spans.

The next morning, all three families plus matriarch Hao Po met for breakfast at a cute little spot called Cafe Europa. As soon as we walked in, I saw the white tablecloths and porcelain plates and thought, "Oh, sh*t, this is not going to be good." After all, fine dining and rambunctious toddlers don't mix. Lucky for us, there was another table of diners with children even less well-behaved than ours. Yeah, yeah, I know that sounds petty, but come on - you parents out there know you secretly hope for the same thing when you go to a restaurant with your kids!

After breakfast, Marco and Sheila took us to see the house they just purchased and would soon be renovating (or "Sheilafying," as Vince put it). I snapped a picture of the beautiful family in front of their beautiful new home.

A beautiful Boo insisted on getting into the picture, too.

The house was very, very Sheila - classy, sassy, and Filipina. No, no that's not right! What I meant to say is that the house was spacious, modern, and had a great flow to it. It had huge rooms and large windows that looked out onto gorgeous front and back yards. As we walked through the house, Sheila rattled off the list of Sheilafications (renovations) she was planning. I was quite pleased to hear the bit about the guest suite that would be going in the basement. Yes, guest SUITE. Sweet!

That night, we had dinner with Vince's cousin Kathleen and her three kids Samantha, Tanner, and Trevor. In true Calliope form, my daughter spent the dinner making huge googly eyes at Trevor. How can a one-year-old already be a such a flirt? I'll admit that it was pretty adorable, but hopefully she'll cool it before she's a teenager.

The next day, we moseyed over to downtown KC to spend the morning with Claire, Ree, Cristian, and Hao Po. My mom was over the moon to have quality time with all three of her grandkids.

It was fun seeing how well Cristian and Calliope got along. Cristian was such a good sport about how his new playmate drooled over all his toys - both figuratively and literally!

After spending the day at Ree's, we met up with the Ilardis at a restaurant called Fritz's. Fritz's food is your run-of-the-mill diner fare, but the way in which the meals are delivered to the tables makes for a really neat experience:

I could tell that Benjamin was wondering if we could install one of those train/dumbwaiter thingys in our own home for his meals. Maybe for your birthday, Ben Ben. Ok, not really. But maybe you can convince Kayla's mommy to include it in the list of Sheilafications slated for her new house.

The next morning, we met up with Leon, Claire, Cristian, and my mom at that most American of establishments, Cracker Barrel. I love Cracker Barrel. Looove it. LOOOOOOOVE it! Truth be told, I love it so much, there should be about two thousand "O's" in there - one for each of the calories in their typical meal.

We worked off our huge breakfast at Zonkers, an indoor amusement park in a nearby mall. There were plenty of fun things for the kids (and grown-ups) to ride on.

There were a bunch of kid-friendly games to play, too.

In the end, Benjamin and Kayla won enough tickets to trade in for some prizes - a pink skateboard for Benjamin and a gold ring for Kayla.

Zonkers zonked us all out, so we went back and relaxed in the Ilardi's home theater. Sheila assured me that the movie posters on the walls belonged to the owners they're renting from, and not to her. Whew! We can still be friends.

Later, Benjamin, Kayla, and Calliope convinced Vince to start a band with them. They should be called Vince and the Pips. I managed to capture this clandestine rehearsal:

Hmmm, it looks like Kayla's the one calling the shots in this band. Maybe they should be called Kayla and the Pips. Or Kayla and the Chans.

We met up at one of the best pizza spots I've ever been to for dinner, a place called SPIN! Yes, the "!" is a part of the joint's name, and it is, indeed, supposed to be written all in caps. I wonder if I can legally change my name to LILY! Chan.

We started off our final full day in Kansas City with a trip to Oak Park Mall, where Benjamin and Calliope (with Sheila's assistance), rode the carousel. I guess the carousel wasn't exciting enough for Vince, because he decided to take a gander at this:

So the real reason he did this is because he was trying to convince Benjamin to do it, but after watching his dad in action, Benjamin opted not to.

"Too scary for me," he said. And who can blame him? The thought of being jerked 40 feet in the air by rubber bands attached to my groin area is pretty scary to me, too!

When we arrived at my brother's place, my mom had a delicious lunch of made-from-scratch Chinese dumplings waiting for us. Mmmmmm! They were the perfect antidote to the freezing weather. Calliope and Cristian wolfed down their portions then insisted on having seconds:

After Cristian and Calliope went down for their naps, Claire, Ree, Vince, Benjamin and I went down to the Plaza for a walk.

In case you can't tell, it was pretty darned cold! But no worries, because the Boo figured out a way to stay warm.

Yes, folks, he is dancing in the streets. His moves were so slick that we should've set out a tin can from him. He even had the stank face going on:

Work it, Boo. Work. It.

At dinner that night, Benjamin presented Kayla with a ring that he'd won at an arcade earlier in the day. Is it just me, or does the look on Kayla's face say that she's not quite ready to make a commitment? I don't blame, ya, Kayla - long-distance relationships suck!

After Ben Ben and Kayla were done eating, we sent them downstairs to play so the rest of us could eat in peace.

Well, relative peace, anyway.

We had to get up bright and early the next morning for our flight back to LA. Kayla put on her best princess dress for the farewell. Perhaps it was the dress, or perhaps it was just the knowledge that he was going to be parting from his best bud, but our departure was very, very hard for the Boo.

I sent Sheila this clip, which she showed to Kayla. Kayla's response? "He doesn't want to go back to LA because he wants to stay here and be my prince." All together now: AWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!

On our way to the airport, we met Leon, Claire, Cristian, and my mom for one last meal together. By then, Benjamin's sorrow over leaving Kayla had abated enough for him to be a total terror at the table. Unfortunately, none of the other kids in this restaurant were worse than ours. We scarfed down our meals, apologized for the mayhem that the children had left behind by way of a big tip, and fled to the parking lot so we could say goodbye to my family. It was really, really hard to leave them, and if it weren't for the freezing cold, I would have hugged them forever.

Before we knew it, we were back in the sunny climes of Los Angeles. As we drove home, I thought about the past week and how wonderful it had been. Meeting Cristian, spending time with friends and family, catching up with my homegirl Sheila... It's hard to pick which part of the trip was my favorite. It's even harder not to be sad thinking I might not get to see them again for a long time. Luckily, we've got email and phone calls to tide us over, not to mention pictures and video. Like this gem:

Leon, Claire, Cristian, Sheila, Marco and Kayla, thank you so much for your love, hospitality, and friendship. We can't wait to get together again for more fun and hijinks!

1 comment:

Sheila Ilardi said...

Thank you guys for flying out & braving the cold! It was such a great time w/ you guys, we won't be able to wait too long before we see you again. It was also so much fun hanging out w/ your family, that was a nice bonus. Love you guys & talk soon!! Sheila