I fully intended to finish this yesterday, but I was narrating by day and momming by late afternoon and evening. Not a lot of time in there to do any of my own stuff. So. We got to Chicago and went directly to the Field Museum. By this time we were already a little tired from a three-hour road trip, but the kids were excited.
(Getting the kids anywhere is always exhausting. I tell my students to avoid words like ‘anywhere’ and ‘always’ but here it’s valid. I’m constantly saying things like “Come on! Let’s move! Let’s go!” I feel like I should wear a whistle and a tacky track and field outfit.)
We parked in the belly of a parking structure. It was dark and moist and dripping with humidity. There were also plenty of shadows. I figured there were probably a dozen or so creepos lurking so I started saying things like “Let’s get out of here fast! We won’t see any dinosaurs unless you move it! Come on!” Finally, we got the kids upstairs, walked to the museum, paid $50 for admission and there we were: Big Sue looking down at us.
I don’t know what I was expecting. I knew that our family vacation wasn’t going to be this perfect vacation of bonding and cheering and general high-fiving. I knew there’d be tantrums and stress and all that. I just didn’t know I’d be the one having a tantrum or feeling stressed. Mostly I just felt old. And fat. So I wrote an opening to a story. Maybe I’ll use that somewhere.
The kids pulled us from exhibit to exhibit. We saw lots and lots of taxidermy animals. That’s a little creepy if you think about it, so I tried not to. Still, the size of those things were pretty staggering and I started to slip into this whole writer-mode thing that sometimes happen. I imagined these animals alive and in their environment and what happened to them and who shot them and what time period was it and was it a safari or an architectural dig and where are those people now….and then Simone had to use the potty.
We loved the evolution exhibit and the animals and the dinosaur bones. My favorite was the skeleton of a giant sloth. I mean, really? They were that big? Crazy to think about.
While the kids tugged us around, I looked at other parents. All the parents had the same expression of fatigue and stress and I could hear random things like “Hurry up! Let’s go! Let’s move it!” and “Don’t touch that!” and “Put that down or you’ll poke out an eye!”
There was a younger couple making out by the stairs and it was nice to see at least two people in the museum not utterly stressed out. (Or stressed out, but in an entirely different way.)
Then we had to take the kids to the gift shop. A mental cash register started tinging off in my brain: Lunch: $50, Tickets: $50, Gift Shop: $30, Parking: $16….and that was just in two hours. That doesn’t include hotel, gas, parking, restaurants, the Cheesecake Factory, and The American Girl Store.
I can’t tell you how much we spent in Chicago. Let me just say that Illinois should thank me. Please send me a ribbon.
The rest of the vacation is your normal family stuff. Lots of walking, tired kiddos, lots of eating and waiting, and jumping on the bed in the hotel.
I took Simone to the American Girl Store and I was horrified at all the creepy dolls in display cases. At least they didn’t all scream “Mommy!” in that scary-doll-voice I sometimes hear in my head. Uhm. Yeah. She loved it though, and I guess when you’re a parent, you do things that make you uncomfortable. She got her first grown-up doll. I talked her into the Emily doll because I liked the 1940s dress. Then I got freaked out because I was actually into that doll and her dress and a little table and cute tea set that you could buy. We didn’t, but it was a close one.
Kealoha took Louis to see The Blue Man Group. Louis came back to the hotel buzzing with delight.
Finally, we came home. Kids passed out in their rooms. Kealoha and I sat on the couch. “Hi,” I said. “I know we were just in Chicago together but I feel like I didn’t even see you.” I guess that’s part of the whole family vacay thing too.
I have to say, even though it was overpriced and exhausting and stressful, I still loved it.
When I was a kid, we were really poor. I cringe when I say things that hint at my poor childhood and some of the stuff that went on. It’s all very old-school Oprah. But it’s true. We never went anywhere and there were too many other issues to ever have a family vacation. It may be average, and everyday and a little bit boring, but this trip was a big deal for me. I was able to give my kids something I never had: a family trip.
We’re going to go again in another six months or so, or a few years, depending on when we can save up enough money.