I know you've all been waiting for weeks, hoping I'd post more about our trip to Chicago (right?). Here's what I sent out in my weekly email to the grandparents about it:
Grandma came up and went to Church with us last Sunday, then we left early in the afternoon. Katie was pretty good on the plane and was fairly pleasant on Monday as well. From then on, it was downhill. She had a really hard time sleeping in the stroller and instead of taking two long naps a day, she slept only about forty-five minutes each day. She got rather cranky by the end and the plane ride home was miserable, as she fought sleep and cried for the first two hours. She finally gave up and slept on me in an awkward position, and I tried my best not to move at that point. She was so thrilled to be home and quickly regained her pleasant personality after several long naps the next day.
We stayed in the Chicago Hilton, right across from Grant Park and just a block from Lake Michigan.
While the others were sleeping Monday morning, I got up and ran through the park and along Lake Michigan. I downloaded a free app for my Blackberry called imapmyrun and I love it. I push a button on my phone and immediately it starts recording my run, how long, how fast, and how far. I love that I don't have to map out a route in advance. I can just check it to see how far I've gone and decide where to go from there. When I'm done, I push a button to stop, and one more button to record it on the website. The website will show the map and the elevation gain details as well. I really enjoyed the Monday morning run with the city around me and other runners sharing the route.
After a free breakfast at our hotel, Joey, Katie and I set off for the Sears tower, now called the Willis tower, the tallest building in the world until 1997. We arrived a few minutes early so we had time to duck into a Walgreen's across the street and get a bus pass. Then it was up to the Skydeck, on floor 103, where the views were amazing and a bit heart-dropping. They have installed glass boxes that you can step out onto and find yourself with just glass between you and the tiny little ant-size cars on the pavement below. It was very difficult for me to step out onto that platform, though Joey and Katie seemed to have no problems with it. I had to deliberately not look down.
After the Skydeck, we stopped at a bus stop to figure out a way to get to the Field Museum. We asked a woman there and she said she was going to the Science Museum. We were hoping to go there later in the week, but we figured since she knew where to go, we'd just tag along and save ourselves a bit of stress later on. It was quite a distance, in Hyde park. The museum is enormous, in a grand old building with floor after floor of hands-on exhibits. They claim to be the largest science museum in the western hemisphere. Joey loved riding on a flight simulator in the airplane section, and we watched a chemistry demonstration with different colors and degrees of explosions involved. There were baby chickens hatching in the genetics area, a two-story whirlwind to control in the weather area, and the only German U-boat in existence in an annex.
The U-boat has an interesting story. It was captured by the Americans during World War 2. The crew was also captured and sent to a POW camp, where they were kept apart from the other prisoners and not allowed to communicate with their families, Geneva convention rules aside. The U.S. couldn't allow the Germans to know we were studying their technology. The German government informed their families after a year that they were lost at sea, so it was quite a shock to them after the war when the crew came home alive.
We watched an IMAX film about tornado alley, about several groups who chase the storms and try to capture them for science or film.
There were tons of school groups in the museum but they mostly cleared out by 4:00, when Joey joined a hands-on science experience in a lab there. He dissected a cow's eye and the teacher of the class was impressed at how much he knew about optic nerves and things.
Joey also got to handle pig's eyes that were still attached to the brain.
I'm sure you can imagine how thrilled Joey was with the museum. He's already hoping to bring Michael to Chicago sometime so they can go there together.
On the bus on the ride home, we got to people watch. For a while, we were the only white people on the bus. We passed a gruff-looking old man walking an enormous poofy poodle and we laughed.
Back at the hotel, DH was finished with his conference so he joined us for dinner. We walked about a mile to a pizza place we had a gift certificate for from Restaurant.com. We passed the post office, where the "no parking" signs along the street were being ignored by a half dozen or more cars with their emergency lights flashing. We had a thin-crust pizza that was unique and very tasty.
Tuesday, we walked to the Aquarium and started the day there. It was beautifully done, with lots of exciting animals like anacondas, piranhas, and turtles as well as fish. We met a trainer who showed us a scar on his hand he'd gotten from a bite from Nickel, their giant sea turtle. Katie loved crawling around and climbing up on the fish. She's standing a lot on her own and even took a few steps this week without realizing it.
The Aquarium started filling up with school groups, so we left for the Field Museum nearby. The museum is huge, with more exhibits than we had time to see. We saw Sue, their famous T-rex skeleton, some Native American and Pacific Island exhibits, and lots of large meteorites and other rocks.
We had Chicago dogs from a stand outside the museum and then took a bus to the Hancock Tower, farther north and with much better views than the Sears tower. The building is built with outer "X" braces, so the floor was very open. The views in all directions were lovely and there was a nice sandwich shop there where we bought strawberry shakes. Katie drank most of mine, barely stopping to take a breath or letting me have a sip.
We walked down the street, went to the Hershey shop and the Disney Store, walked through the old water tower, and then took a bus back to Millenium park, a bit north of our hotel. We saw the Gehry-designed ampitheater and the "Bean" statue, then walked across a pedestrian bridge to the Art Museum. I wanted to go through it then, but Joey wanted to go back to the hotel and go to the convention's expo to get free stuff, so we went back.That night, DH joined us and we walked a short distance to The Chicago Curry house, which had Nepalese food as well as Indian. We tried a lot of dishes and their naan bread was fantastic. One dish was so hot we couldn't stand it, but everything else was delicious.
Wednesday morning, Joey spent time at the Expo with DH being cute and collecting free things. He loved it and seemed to have a system. He'd walk up to the table and pretend interest in whatever thing was there until the person would offer him something. He collected six necklaces from one booth for his six sisters. He got a free pedometer, a couple of shirts, lots of candy and mints, a calculator, a bunch of pens, five dart guns, and a few stress balls. And he didn't even go to every table!
We then walked to the Navy Pier, which was further away than we expected. We got tickets to an architectural river cruise included with our three-day Go Chicago Cards and visited some shops. We spent a half an hour in the Children's Museum before we had to get on the boat. The cruise was interesting, as they drove up both forks of the river, pointing out the buildings and sharing information about the history and architecture of Chicago. Joey took pictures and Katie slept through it.
Afterwards, we bought gyros and then took a bus to the Art Institute, where DH met us (the only time we spent with him other than dinner) and we walked through many beautiful exhibits. I enjoyed the Impressionists, tried to appreciate the Modern art, including a bunch of Picassos, and raised my eyebrows at a truly bizarre exhibit about design. DH got a sandwich nearby and we looked at a model of the city and read about the architecture there, saw the historic end of Route 66, and gathered our things from our hotel.
We took a taxi to the airport and headed home. It was a miserable plane trip, but we were thankful to be home and the kids were very welcoming. Allison and Sarah had made us a "Welcome Home" sign and Harmony was thrilled to see us, especially Katie (the next morning, DH called her "my Katie-a-roo," and Harmony got mad, "She's not YOUR Katie-a-roo! She my Katie-a-roo!"
Grandma had done well with the kids and the house was in great shape. We are very grateful for her help. Since it's spring break, she had all the kids all day. One neighbor took the girls for a few hours one morning and another neighbor had a caramel popcorn and movie party another morning.
Back to Life
It was nice to be home. After three days in Chicago, I was anxious to leave. While Chicago was a lot of fun, it really doesn't have the charm of Boston. It's rather gritty and dreary, with very little greenery and tons of smokers on every corner. We came home to our weeping cherry in bloom, green grass, and lovely spring weather.