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In case you missed it, here’s part one.
We turned (some) control over the kids and let them decide what we would do our second day, and gave them options to choose from. Mason claimed (falsely) he’d never been to a zoo before so we opted to take the bus to Lincoln Park Zoo, which is entirely free. Boy, do I love kids who choose free entertainment! I had already looked up the animal list online, but Greg had no idea what to expect. He thought “free zoo” meant “barnyard petting zoo”. As we were walking in he said “I hope we see at least one exotic animal.” Wouldn’t you know it, the first thing we saw after getting off the bus was the barnyard petting zoo. “I knew it!” But we carried bravely on, and the first sign we came to inside the zoo directed us to the gorillas. “Gorillas? Really?” After that he was happy as a lark. The kids would stare at any animal for about 30 seconds before they asked to find the next one. Fine by us, it was free and we were just happy to be outside in the Chicago sunshine.
There was a wild colony of Black Crowned Night Herons (tick that box, yo) nesting directly above the red wolf exhibit, and a juvenile had fallen out of its nest right into the wolf den. Unfortunately there were humans in there, too, cleaning or something, so the wolves wouldn’t come out. I thought we were going to see a real life Marty Stouffer moment there! My point is, while checking to see if the bird had been consumed yet, I was shat upon most heartily by one of those damn herons. Mya suffered some splashback from me, but I definitely suffered the brunt of it. But you know what? I didn’t even cry. We picnicked in the shade (free sandwiches from free breakfast) and finished up the rest of the zoo before heading to Mya’s pick for the day- the expansive (and free!) Lake Michigan.
We walked from the zoo toward North Ave Beach, which was utterly littered with folks the day before, so it must be good right? Lolololol. There was a large pond just outside the east entrance of the zoo and we asked the kids if that was the lake they were talking about, and tried to convince them it was. They chased some geese (must be a North Dakota thing) and insisted the pond was not the huge lake they had seen the day before. “I’mmmmm pretty sure this is it.” The pedestrian bridge nearest to the zoo was closed and it was a long, hot, dusty detour to get to the lake. We walked and walked and they never voiced any complaints. These kids, I swear.
The beach didn’t have half the crowds as the holiday, thankfully. We laid out our Sandberg flags as beach blankets and the kids splashed in the water and buried each other in the sand and played football and I took note of all the trash and bodies around me. One girl next to us had her back dimples pierced. What?! Jeweled studs in her lower back! Are those, like, into her bone? People make such interesting choices.
It wasn’t until the kids came back to warm up that I noticed the broken glass all around us. Well, noticed it when Mason picked it up and said “Here’s broken glass”. Mason would earn the nickname ‘Fingers’ on this trip because he couldn’t keep his hands off any inanimate object around him, no matter how dirty or disgusting. Storm clouds were moving in behind us and coupled with the glass we decided to head for home. We had to monitor every step the kids took as they’re not real, like, observant? when it comes to self-preservation? While the kids were rinsing off (I never knew it could be so damn difficult to get sand off a kid, but I think it’s mostly because the minute you rinse them off they go stand or sit in sand again) I noticed a news crew taking video of the beach. Some (I’m assuming) drunk idiots were yelling at the reporter “Can we be on TV? Ayuck!” so I went to ask why they were there. Turns out the beach isn’t always so disgusting, this time it was because of the Memorial Day revelers. Alcohol and glass containers are both prohibited on North Ave Beach, but wouldn’t you know it- a bunch of drunk (I’m assuming) a-holes took a bunch of glass alcohol bottles onto the beach and left them, busted, for innocent children to step on. We were not impressed and I let the reporter know it. She asked if I minded saying all that to the camera. Sure! I wish now I had laid on my thick northern accent “Oh God, you know, I’ve swam in some pretty gross sloughs in my day, but this is the worst. What’s the name of this one anyway? Uff da, it’s huge!” We hightailed it to the nearest bus and by the time we got to our stop it had started to rain and the moment we walked into our hotel it started to pour. Greg and I loaded up on free coffee from the urns downstairs and recharged our batteries before dinner. There was a coffee maker in the room, but if there’s one thing I can’t stand in life, it’s disposable Keurig cups. I take my own cutlery, coffee mug, and plate to hotel breakfasts so I don’t have to waste plastic and worse, styrofoam, so I’m not about to throw a Keurig cup in the trash after one use. Think about it, people. Think about the earth.
We gave the kids their choice of supper (take one guess) and we packed up for the game, though it was still raining when we set out. Now it’s no secret I love McDonald’s, but not as much as I love a good deal. I frequent the McD’s app for the McCafe punch card (buy 5, get 1 free!) and current coupons by location, and after our huge day of walking and sunshine I wanted the kids to have some energy for the game. I know people like to use the excuse “Oh, they’re just tired.” when their kid is acting like a complete Munson, so I didn’t want to get into that situation with these two. My point is this: I thought I’d get them each a Mighty Kids meal so they might have some pop to buck up for the game. You know how much a 6-piece McNugget Mighty Kids meal costs? $4.99. You know how much a 20-piece McNugget costs? $5.00. It doesn’t take a heart surgeon to figure out Happy Meals are a ripoff. Share some fries and a drink if you can’t live without them (I take my own cup into McD’s too, to fill up on ice and water) and skip the worthless toy that will most likely end up in a landfill anyway. Unless… Happy Meal toys are the only toys you give your children, in which case I applaud your courage and frugality. I’ll never buy a Happy Meal again. You can write that down.
It was still raining when we walked to the subway, but wouldn’t you know it, the rain had passed and the sun was shining when we stepped off at the Wrigley stop- typical. We had a minimum spend to meet on a new credit card, and we didn’t want to sit in the bleachers again as the rain had just passed, so we went to the window and bought the cheapest tickets they had ($21). When we found our seats Mason could not have been more disappointed. No foul balls come up to the highest row on the third base line, you know. Greg whispered to me “This is why you don’t start kids out in the bleachers”. We tried to encourage him, but he was inconsolable and I thought we were going to have our first meltdown of the trip. He sat next to me for a couple of innings but after about the thirtieth “We’re never going to get a ball.” I made Mya switch him places so Greg could talk some positivity into him. Gregory is one of my most favorite people to watch with kids, he’s like magic. He engaged Mason into the game and had him eating sunseeds and predicting pitches and I didn’t hear another mention of a ball. Until Greg and Mason went to the bathroom between innings.
Mya and I joked that we were going to buy a ball then tell the boys a foul had come our way, and Mya had caught it. Lololololol. Wouldn’t you know it, when they came back from the bathroom Mason was carrying a ball. Haha, good one boys. Greg told me a man had given it to him, for Mason, as they were walking into the bathroom. “Do you know who that man was?” Harry Caray? “Tom Ricketts, the owner of the Chicago Cubs.” I could tell by Greg’s wide, misty eyes he was telling the truth, then I started crying a lil’ bit from Greg’s excitement. Unbelievable! Mason was pretty stoic. The only way we could relate was to tell him to imagine the owner of the GS Warriors handing him a basketball. At Mason’s lowest point, an angel appeared to him in a collared shirt and gave him exactly what he had been hoping for. What a guy. What a league! Where Gregory loved the Cubs before that, he was head over heels after.
Even though it was another slow game and the Cubs lost, it was an incredible night. The kids were great and there were no meltdowns on the way home, and Mason had the ball he’d been hoping for.
Thank you, Mr. Ricketts! You’ve made a young man’s entire year! And my 8 yo nephew appreciated it too.
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