Yesterday, Bob was headed up to Chicago for a meeting with one of the nuns (his company is owned by the Franciscan Sisters of Chicago), and he invited the rest of us to tag along for the day. Of course we said yes.
We had an uneventful 2 1/2 hour drive up there, though Lucy only fell asleep shortly before we arrived, and Caroline didn't fall asleep at all. Then, we parted ways: he to his meeting, and us off to find some lunch. Of all the opportunities for good food in Chicago, I think (hope!) this was the crappiest. Nonetheless, it fit my criteria, since I'm 34 weeks pregnant, not so full of energy, and pushing an awkward double stroller: it was relatively close, there were no steps to get in, and it wasn't too crowded. That should have been a clue. Ugh. I actually called my mom after lunch to complain about how bad it was, from the food, to the environment, to the other customers, etc. (I mean, really, if you were the only customer, and you hadn't sat down yet, and a pregnant lady struggled in with a double jogger, would you STILL take the only table, rather than sitting at the bar-height counters with backless stools, where, clearly, a responsible parent could not seat her young children??? Would you? Tell me you wouldn't.) (Clearly, I'm totally over this already.)
Then we walked to a delightful little park where I sat in the grass, in the shade, and watched the girls run and burn some energy. They had a great time, and they definitely chased their fair share of pigeons. We even fed the pigeons (shh! don't tell!) the rest of the girls' crappy sandwich from lunch. The pigeons liked it.
At that point, I was feeling like I was wasting my time in Chicago ... I can get bad food and sit on grass at home! So we headed off to Tiffany & Co. Thankfully, Caroline fell asleep, and Lucy had a great time (lots of shiny things to see) while we waited for them to clean my ring. I go in once or twice a year, and it's amazing how shiny my ring is when they're done with it. That, or I just think it is, since I know they cleaned it...
Bob called then, having just finished his meeting, so we headed over to meet Sister Frances Clare, who was very sweet. You have to like a nun who gives you a hug immediately and is clearly sincere. She told us how the valet parking guy never knows what to call her, so her car is usually listed under The Nun. Sometimes The Nun Clare.
And then... after a quick trip to Starbucks to get the girls some whole milk (for Lucy) and soy milk (for Caroline), we got on a bus and headed up to the Lincoln Park Zoo. I'd looked up bus routes, and I thought I had a pretty good idea of where we were going; nonetheless, I'm sure it was obvious that we aren't from Chicago. I didn't have correct change, getting the stroller on and off the bus was less than smooth, and we weren't exactly sure where to get off. But, since I didn't feel like walking a mile and a half there, then strolling the zoo, and then walking a mile and a half back, the bus was a great option. And cheaper than driving there and parking.
The Lincoln Park Zoo is free. This was nice, as we were trying to keep the cost for the day pretty low. However ... Bob and I both agreed that if they charged about $15 or so for admission, the experience would probably be a lot better. Too many people! And some of the adults were behaving as badly as the children. I could not believe it when I saw adults banging on the glass of the exhibits, trying to get animals to look at them so they could get a good picture. Wow. We also concluded that they'd probably have more funding to fill some empty exhibits if they had an entrance fee... All that said, however, I loved it. It was beautiful, the animals were incredible, and Caroline had a great time. Lucy finally fell asleep, so she didn't see everything, but it was definitely worth it. I may have enjoyed the landscaping more than the animals, but that's ok with me.
The plan was to then walk down to Navy Pier, where the Children's Museum is free on Thursday nights. However, it started raining, and we took refuge under some scaffolding, and finally, I got tired of being on my feet, so we just headed back to the car. We drove out to Oak Park and ate at a fun little Italian cafe (pizza, followed by gelato), and then headed home. What a day. Exhausting, but oh, so memorable, and fun. I think my favorite part (and I wasn't even there! I was sitting on a bench, resting...) was when Bob and Caroline were exploring the Waterfowl Lagoon at the zoo, and all of a sudden, she got so excited because she saw some flamingoes. Bob didn't see them, but he followed her, and sure enough, there they were. She was in heaven, even though Bob said they reeked to, well, high heaven.
Next time we go, we're going to ride the El. I know a certain almost-three-year-old who would love it. As it is, she keeps talking about her ride on the bus yesterday.