Windy City Weekend
I guess they call Chicago "the windy city" because "the blizzard city" was taken. Kelly was in Chicago on business so last weekend Lola, Locke and I went up to spend a few days seeing the city, shopping, and attending the gymnastics competition that Kelly was there for.
Our first stop was the Museum of Science and Industry. I was told that it was an impressive place but that the kids may still be a bit young to appreciate it. Well, I'm here to tell you that there's more for an almost-4-year-old to do there than you'll have time in which to do it all. We spent almost 4 hours there and we didn't see half of the museum. There were tractors to ride in, intricate model ships to peruse, racing cars to see (some from the Lola Racing Company of England - bonus for Lola), space shuttles to walk through, and an iMax movie about the Wild Oceans which we loved but managed to make me somewhat queasy (don't they do any still shots in iMax movies any more?). We could have spent 2 more days there. But we had to make it to the 'burbs by dark.
After a 2-hour drive through Friday rush hour traffic (shouldn't it be rush HOURS?) we made it to the hotel, a chic oasis in what I can only describe as Supersuburbopolis. Name a chain. Any chain. It was there. But the hotel made us feel like we were in the middle of the city, and that we didn't need anything from Target or Chili's.
We had a nice dinner with Kelly and then nestled into our comfy, cozy hotel beds.
We woke up the next morning to a minor blizzard. It wasn't the amount of snow that was troubling, it was the 40-mile-an-hour winds that was delivering it very rapidly to your cheeks like tiny icicle daggers. That stinging brought back memories from my childhood in the northern peninsula of Michigan. Youch! Luckily Chicagoans are prepared for this kind of weather so the streets were plowed and salted as quickly as the snow fell. Live goes on in Chicago, even on a Saturday blizzard.
We had a nice breakfast and then lounged around the hotel until we had to leave for the competition. Lola and Locke liked playing in the mod swivel chairs by the hanging fireplace in one of the conversation pits in the lobby. They also liked making different shapes with the chrome bead curtain wall of the coffee shop. They're at home in the modern world. And we got to say hello to Olympic gold medalist Nastia Liukin, who was waiting for her ride in the lobby.
The competition was in a giant arena in the middle of nowhere in a blizzard. I expected no more than a dozen people to show up. What kind of crazy would venture out in this except someone who's getting to sit in a suite and might catch glimpses of their significant other - or daddy - who's busy working there?
The place was packed. I didn't see an empty seat. I couldn't believe it.
As soon as Lola saw the bright pink leotard of one of the gymnasts, she became her biggest fan. She always watched for "the pink girl" and cheered after every apparatus. It turns out, the "pink girl" was Jordyn Wieber, the newest darling of women's gymnastics. She won the competition. Hmmm. Maybe Lola should become a judge. I'm just not sure if her method of scoring, based solely on the color of the athlete's leotard, would hold up through time. And the men would never score very high since they rarely wear pink.
Locke was very interested and engaged throughout the competition, except that his attention was focused on an arcade machine in the concourse walkway that had stuffed animals you could win by positioning the crane just right. Every time we walked by it, he tried to pull me over to it. I've never seen anyone win at the crane game, but it just looks like an easy score to a preschooler. No time to explain right now, we're rushing back to our seats.
After the competition, we went to a place called Legoland. Also known as Preschooler Paradise. We could have spent 4 hours there too, but we had an after-party to attend.
We met up with Kelly for dinner, then went to the event after-party, which was held at a giant arcade. Lola got to see her new hero Jordyn up close this time. She wasn't wearing pink so the effect was slightly subdued, but you could tell she was impressed because she smiled as she peeked at her from behind my leg.
By this time Lola and Locke were beyond tired so the lights, music, videos, games, people, and sounds were a bit overwhelming. Oh, don't get me wrong, they LOVED it. But we mainly just walked around while Lola and Locke pointed wide-eyed and said, "Look at that!" a lot.
The next day we had a nice leisurely breakfast and then ... the shopping portion of the weekend began. The snow had stopped but the wind chill was still a bit of a challenge.
I had looked online before our trip to see if my beloved store Zara was in Chicago. Bingo! It was there, at some mall called Old Orchard Center. Armed with my trusty Mapquest map, we drove to Skokie. When we arrived at the "mall," we discovered that it was an open air shopping center. Why in the world would Chicago have an open air shopping center? Optimism, I guess.
Kelly took the kids to the book store and then the Disney store, while I shopped at Zara. It was too cold to shop around, even though there were plenty of people walking around window shopping like they were in the coziest indoor mall in Texas (I'll never understand Chicagoans). After meeting for lunch at Frontera Express (a fast-food version of the Rick Bayless restaurant Frontera), we headed home.
It was a great weekend. And coming from a cold-resistant person, that's saying a lot.