Monday, June 15, 2009

The Time We Went to Chicago

Ryan and I love Chicago. We've only been there a few times, but we still thought it was amazing. We'd wanted to go to Shedd Aquarium on our last trip there, but never made it. When we decided to go to Moline on vacation, we thought "Chicago is only 3 hours from Moline and could kind of be on the way home, so why not include a stop there on our way back?" The answer for this question should have been "Because we have never before traveled with small children!" but we pretended the answer was.... "Yeah. Why not? Let's do it!"

One of the issues of with traveling with kids is that you have to go to bed when they go to bed because you are in the same hotel room with them and they need sleep and will not fall asleep with the TV, lights, music, laptop, or anything else on. In Moline we had a room with two queen beds so we decided to divide and conquer when it came to bedtime. I slept in one bed with Owen and Ryan slept in the other with Luke. This seemed most reasonable to keep them from killing each other in the night.

After our second night of going to sleep by 9PM, waking up a million times for fear the child in our bed would fall out as he tossed/turned/kicked his way through the night, we got up insanely early to pack up and head east. The hotel we stayed in offered a 'free' hot breakfast (how is it free when you know they just include it in the cost of the room?), so we ate before we left. Well, three of us ate. Owen, the two-year-old, was on hunger strike for the entire trip. I desperately tried to get him to eat something -- anything -- to lessen the pain of the three-hour trek to the Windy City. He ended up eating, with a spoon, eight little containers of Smucker's strawberry fruit spread. Ah.... strawberry extract and high-fructose corn syrup gel. The breakfast of champions.

We headed across northern Illinois, planning to go to the Aquarium first, as our check-in time at the hotel in Chicago wasn't till 4PM. We were going to stop to get lunch prior to arriving in the city so the boys could eat in the car and be (we hoped) happy and well fed for our time at Shedd. However, we did not know that for the last 20 exits prior to arriving in the city there was not so much as a McDonald's (or even a gas station snack shop) in sight. It was all asphalt plants and train yards and constructions sites. Great. The boys were thrilled to see all the construction equipment and trains, but we were not so happy knowing we were going to have to spend triple the amount of money on lunch as we'd planned.

We arrived at the aquarium and all the signs along the road were apparently for pedestrians. They all direct you right up to the drive in front of the building so we had to drive around the circle drive in a long line of other tourists who have done the same thing and get stuck in that traffic before driving forever and paying a crazy amount of money to park in a garage that is far, far away from the circle drive and building. At this point I was totally annoyed that we forgot to pack the stroller (not that Owen would have sat in it for more than 15 minutes anyway), because at least I wouldn't be trying to carry him everywhere since his little legs are so short and he walks very slowly when he knows you're trying to hurry.

Once we finally got to the entrance, there was a line just to get inside the museum to pay for admission. At 11AM on a Wednesday. Seriously? So we stood in the line and Ryan went to get us hot dogs and a bottle of water for lunch from the hot dog stand conveniently located near where the line forms. We spent $18 on a lunch we could made at home for $1.98. Awesome. Owen, of course, took one bite of his hot dog and refused to eat the rest. So I stand in the line for 30 minutes holding the stupid thing, trying to get him to eat it. Why didn't I grab more strawberry spread and stash it in my purse at breakfast??

Shedd aquarium is amazing.... from what I remember. Luke looked at the map and wanted to see the penguins first, which were as far away from the entrance as you could get. Everything between there and the penguins is pretty much a blur. We tried to get him to stop and look at other things, but he was on a mission and just kept pulling on us to keep going if we stopped at any other viewing areas. Of course, once he got to the penguin exhibit, he was done. We had paid too much money on admission to just leave at that point, so we did try to make it to all the other exhibits, but the boys were tired and hungry and cranky (and to be honest, so were we).

After checking in to the hotel, we decided to walk to Giordano's for some delicious Chicago style pizza. On the map it looked about three blocks over and one block up. In reality it was about a mile away. Why don't they show all the streets on maps instead of just the main ones? Overall it was a good experience. The boys loved taking in the city and Giordano's has the best pizza. Thankfully, we sat in a booth near the window so the boys could look out and see the city going by. They were completely fascinated by the buses and taxis and people on bicycles. The evening ended with me falling asleep on a pull-out sofa between the two boys (who were trying to kill each other in the night because we decided they should share the sofa bed since we were tired of sharing sleeping space with them).

By the time we left Chicago I was completely exhausted and felt like it was only a moderately successful visit. Yes, it was adorable when Owen kept saying the Chicago skyline looked like a castle and how much he loved the buses and had to point out every single one. It was cute that Luke got so excited about riding in the hotel elevator and helping Owen spot the buses and just taking in everything about the city. It was fun to see them looking out the hotel window and exclaiming over all the things they could see from up on the 11th floor. But it was frustrating that we spent all that time and effort and money to go to the aquarium when they really couldn't have cared less.

So.... what is the moral of this story? The things your kids are going to love are most likely the things that are free. If your toddler/pre-school -aged kids aren't the kind who can sleep anywhere and everywhere with no trouble at all, they will likely be tired for the duration of your trip. They won't want you to try to make them stop and look at certain things you want them to see. They won't care that you just paid $17.95 for them (and $24.95 for each of you) to see all the wonders of the Earth's rivers and oceans. They will just want to walk in the park and point out the things that interest them, like buses, trains, the boats in the lake, and the beautiful castle that is the city skyline. Just go with it. Enjoy the short period of time in which they want your undivided attention and save the costly field trips for when they are no longer enthralled by the day-to-day goings-on of a busy city.

It does kind of look like a castle...

1 comment:

  1. Trish, I love reading your blog. You write in a way that I wish I could! I'm so glad to be following your blog too! Just another way we can peek into each other's lives from semi-opposite sides of the country. :) Love you.