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The kids provided us a great day, but the weather was questionable for our third day in the city so we gave them the choice of the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum of Natural History, or the Shedd Aquarium. They chose the aquarium. We had heard lines were atrocious, so we packed all our gloves and a football so Greg went to engage the kids while I stood in line for maybe an hour and a half. Note to self: Next time take your Kindle.
For some reason I had it in my head that parts of the aquarium were free, but after we finally made it into the building an employee handed me a price list and I was shocked to see the full deal was $40/adult and $31/kid, and the parts that I thought were free were actually $8/adult and $6/kid. Mind you, that’s not a lot of money, but it was kind of like preparing your palette for Red Lobster and going to Long John Silver’s instead.
I told Greg the prices and he immediately suggested we leave. Well I didn’t take that too well. I hadn’t just stood in line for an hour and half with not one, but two backpacks on, while he played catch with the kids, only to leave the minute we got in the door. By the grace of Jacques Cousteau I maintained my composure and was able to speak calmly and rationally to Greg, albeit through gritted teeth. Well imagine my composure when Greg turned to the kids and asked “What do you guys want to do? Do you want to keep standing in this crappy old line, or do you want to go to the park and have a picnic?!” Cue head explosion. I nearly had a mutiny on my hands until my PMS interjected and I notified everyone we were going to the gd aquarium whether they liked it or not.
Now the thing about kids is, they don’t know what they’re missing until they find out what they’re missing. I don’t understand parents who introduce their children to ranch dressing on fries or extra sugar in cereal. I mean, do you really think they wouldn’t eat cold cereal without supplemental sugar? Of course they would. Until you introduce them to more sugar. I really wanted to see the belugas, but $140 is a steep price to pay for something the kids didn’t even know about, so Greg promised he’d take me back to the belugas one day and we bought the cheapest tickets available. What?! Spend less, travel more! They didn’t know there were dolphins and whales in there, and their favorite thing ended up being the Lake Sturgeon they could pet, so mleh. Seriously, an enormous sea turtle, and an anaconda, and monkeys and stingrays and octopus and you name it, and they spent most of their time, cold water up to their elbows, petting a local fish. Just when you think you’ve got kids figured out, they ignore their new toy and play with the box it came in.
The kids loved the aquarium and were seemingly none the wiser to the other exhibits. They didn’t ask to see anything else, anyway. Nor did they ask for any toys from the gift shop. These kids never asked for a thing! Have I mentioned that already? Greg and I are still in disbelief! We walked from the aquarium along the lakefront (or is it a slough?) through Millennium Park to the Bean.
The Bean held their interest for a few minutes, but they were ready to play some catch. The four of us played under the trees, the kids practicing their pitches, until it was time to go find dinner. We ate McD’s the day before, so the adults got to pick this time. During our last trip to Chicago, Greg and I ate Giordano’s the first day, leftover Giordano’s the second day, Gino’s the third day, leftover Gino’s the fourth day, and we took four frozen Lou Malnati’s pizzas home with us. To save we love Chicago style pizza is a vast understatement, and after testing them all, we’ve crowned Giordano’s the king. In fact, when we renew our vows, it will be at a Cubs game and we’ll exchange personal pan pizzas in place of rings.
Greg walked ahead to Giordano’s while the kids and I perused the Disney Store, and they didn’t ask for a thing. Again. But they did ask if they could pull money out of a fountain. Not coins, mind you, but a ripped up $10,000 bill, which they were convinced was real. Kids. After supper we walked back to the hotel and the adults chugged coffee while the kids shoved each other down into the space between a bed and the wall and smothered each other with pillows. I mean, do kids really need ‘toys’?
Navy Pier has fireworks every Wednesday and Saturday during the summer so we walked there to enjoy a bit of free entertainment. And… the kids finally asked for something: a ride on the Navy Pier Wheel, as Mason claimed he’d never been on a ferris wheel before. It was a gorgeous night and we still had a bit of Grandma’s money leftover so we splurged. Thanks Grandma and Grandpa! As we were circling around, enjoying the views, a foul odor smacked me right in the nose. I hissed at Mason, but he said it wasn’t him. Mya! We were in that tiny capsule with four poor tourists speaking a language we didn’t recognize. Welcome to America! Pffffftttttt. We had to explain that farts could be funny outside, but they were never funny in public or especially in enclosed spaces. Kids.
On our last morning in the city Greg left us at breakfast and took the train north to get our car. In four days we spent just $33.85 on public transportation, while we could’ve spent dern near $150 just for parking downtown. It took Greg about an hour and a half to ride up and drive back, but it was a small price to save some mega dough. I made another round of sandwiches to take to our last game, and I drove north and dropped Greg and the kids off at Wrigley so they could find tickets and hopefully see some players walking in. I drove back to Joe’s street, parked, and walked to Wrigley to meet them.
Greg was going to find tickets on the street but after T.Ricketts gave him the ball Greg was more than happy to support the organization, so he bought four Bleachers tickets at the window. I tell you, he’s a changed man. We found front row seats in right field (Greg was predicting a bunch of lefties) and I stayed to guard our things while G took the kids a’wandering. No BP again for the Dodgers- what the heck? They watched Grimm and Cahill warm up, but didn’t get any balls out of the deal. Luckily it wasn’t as hot in the Bleachers as Memorial Day, and there was a lot more action on the field. The Cubs played a great game, and a Heyward homer landed about 10 people away from us. Bryant hit the scoreboard again and Rizzo landed a bomb in the basket between the Bleachers, which some (I’m assuming) drunk idiot walked out into the hedge to retrieve, security in tow. We never were able to get Mya a game ball, so we bought her one on our way out of the park for being such a good girl.
It was a hot walk back to Joe’s but everyone survived in high spirits. We couldn’t get any more reward nights in the city so we drove as far as the west side of Madison, WI before we stopped for the night at a Country Inns & Suites. We both have a healthy amount of Club Carlson points thanks to their credit card and my new favorite redemption with them is Points+Cash. To pay cash entirely would’ve cost over $120 for the night, and to pay with points entirely would’ve cost 28,000 points. Instead we paid just $68 and 5,000 points, including breakfast. The Club Carlson Visa awards us each 40,000 award points every year, so that’s good for 16 cheap nights on the road, plus we earn 37 points/$1 spent at their properties. For Greg’s $68 stay we earned 2,617 points AND we went through TopCashback for an extra 6% back on our stay. So really our stay cost just $64 and 2,383 points. I swear, Greg and I have stayed in more hotels this year than the rest of our lives combined. And why not when they’re so cheap?
The kids chose McDonald’s for supper again, and they each housed a 10 piece McNugget while Greg and I shared one, the porkers. We swam after supper to burn some energy (and nuggets) off before bed. My maybenothemostsane Grandma Charlotte had it right about one thing- kids need exercise. Kids being brats? Run them. Eating too much sugar? Run them. Trying to stay up too late? Run them. Kids are like Australian Shepherds, they need exercise to maintain their sanity, to maintain your sanity. My mom thinks I want to be boss of the whole world, but really I just want to tell everyone how to spend their money and how to raise their kids. Less sugar, more exercise.
Says the girl who feeds these kids McDonald’s every other night.
After breakfast the next morning we drove north to the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. On the way to Chicago we had stopped at a Wisconsin rest area and I found a brochure for the refuge with a picture of a Whooping Crane on the front. Whooping Cranes? In Wisconsin?! We had to find out for ourselves. Turns out, out of the estimated 323 birds left in the entire world, around 30 of them spend their summers right there. We drove into the refuge and walked around a large lake searching and collecting wood ticks on our ankles. I saw a large white bird with a long neck far, far across the water but without a positive ID we couldn’t count it. We drove up between two ponds, or ‘pools’ according to the map, and as sure as god made green apples, there stood our first Whooping Crane, and our second, and our third. Greg and I were wide eyed, in shock.
From there we carried on to the Sin Cities (aka Minneapolis/St. Paul) to stay with Greg’s extended family for the weekend. While we was happy to hand parenting back to real parents, we were very sad to see our little ducklings go. I didn’t realize how much until I ran into Mason at the post office a couple of days later and I teared up a lil’ bit when I saw him. And kissed him and squeezed him.
I hope these kids remember this trip as fondly as we do. There were no challenges that couldn’t be overcome, and no pizza or McNugget that couldn’t be consumed. Parents, thank you for raising such good kids, and many many many thanks for letting us take your babies so far from home. We big kids couldn’t have had more fun! And Mya and Mason are welcome back with us just any ol’ time they like.
Our trip in a nutshell, for your viewing pleasure:
p.s. After our trip my mother in law asked me if I had ever considered writing fiction. I’m married to Greg Warcken, why would I need to write fiction?
p.p.s. When I was writing the part about the line at the aquarium, Greg asked me why something that made me want to kill him two weeks ago now makes me laugh until I cry. “Because of hormones, and because you’re just so ridiculous.” I love that man.
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