We leave for Panama tomorrow morning.

And it was exactly one week ago today that I had a rare moment of clarity. An awful, stressful, panic-inducing moment of clarity.

It was about 10:30 PM and I had gone to bed. I was lying there thinking about everything I needed to do to prepare for our trip. And, coincidentally, feeling rather self-congratulatory at how organized I (thought I) was.

As I was falling asleep, however, a disturbing thought crossed my mind. A horrible, dread-inducing, heart-sinking-ly terrible thought: Passports.

I knew, knew in that very instant, that Madelina’s passport was expired. I jumped out of bed, to check, and sure enough, I was right.

I have been suffering mild anxiety attacks ever since.

I can’t breathe. Can’t. Breathe.

What to do? Well, thank heavens Chicago has a passport office. (The next closest is located in Washington D.C. Or Houston, TX. Or Denver, CO.) And we found a telephone number to call to make an appointment for passport emergencies. Luckily we could get in right away, so we dropped all other plans and headed to the Windy City the next day.

Madelina was happy, because she got to skip school and make a trip with her parents to the Big City. And the Big City to a country bumpkin like Madelina is pretty darn exciting. She was all “Wow, look at that!” “Whoa, mama, look at that!”

So I gave her my camera and let her take pictures of whatever she wanted.

Here’s Country Bumpkin in her natural habitat, after climbing down the rope from the hay loft:

Here’s Country Bumpkin on her way to the Big City:

Here’s what she found exciting about the Big City.

A pretty church.

Airplanes flying over the highway. This was a BIG highlight.

The El train.

And graffiti.

But then.


Then she saw something wondrous.

Something incredible.

Something unimaginable.

She saw the Oscar Mayer Wiener-mobile.

With an Irish theme, no less.

And then, well, then this Irish Grove Country Bumpkin felt right at home.

And I dare ask, who doesn’t wish they were an Oscar Mayer Wiener?