Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Hidey Holes

And lest you think I didn't photograph every place I hid a letterbox. Here are those too...

The Woodbine CemeteryThe bell tower of the old Woodbine school houseAt the foot of the Alpine SlideGrant Park in Galenaand last but not least (well, maybe also least) Millennium Park in ChicagoI launched a few hitchhikers along the way too. I even took one with me that I'd found here. But I carved three more. It'll be fun to see where their travels take them.

Letterboxing Illinois

If you've read some of my previous posts, you already know that I did a lot of letterboxing on our trip. I was joined, on occasion, by various other family members, but the drive to find little rubber stamps hidden around the landscape belongs almost solely to me. And that's probably a good thing inasmuch as my children haven't inherited every ounce of my eccentricities. Instead of telling you all about each of the boxes I found...which would probably be against letterboxing ethics as much as it would bore you to tears, I thought I nice photo montage of different places we found boxes might be better. All told, we looked for 20 different boxes and found 16.

Tooth Fairy jurisdiction issues

Before we left for Chicago, just the day before Smunch's last day of school, I noticed that he finally had a loose tooth. It seems like most of his friends have already lost their first tooth and many have lost several, so this was a big deal. Shortly after I noticed his tooth was loose, I noticed that the permanent tooth was already in behind it...leading to a progressively greying tooth in the front of his mouth. It was icky. Seriously. But Smunch was excited. He tried to tell everyone he knew that his tooth was loose. About half those people couldn't understand him, either because he was stuttering or just because his articulation is so poor. Still, it was cute. It's hard to remember being quite that excited about things, so it's fun to witness it.

During our wait at O'Hare, the moment finally came. The icky grey tooth was barely held in there and Daddy reached in and picked it out.As you can imagine, this creates a little bit of a problem. Smunch lost his tooth in Chicago, but we had to make sure it arrived safely at home to put under his pillow here.

The next morning, he found two notes under his pillow with a White Sox cap (to complement the Cubs shirt we'd bought in Chicago) and a dollar coin.He was one happy camper...although he didn't recognize the dollar coin. I guess I'd failed to introduce him to one of those since he understood money.

Thank goodness Smunch doesn't have a clue what a White Sox cap goes for at the airport or the Tooth Fairy, Chicago affiliate would be in big, big trouble for setting a very bad precedent!

Home again, home again...

We had a pretty relaxed morning before heading to the airport. Nothing quite like the homey feel of a Starbucks, so we walked down the street to the nearest one for breakfast...and I bought one of their city mugs because, well, it seemed like it'd be way cooler to have one that said "Chicago" with the Chicago skyline than one that says "San Jose".

In an effort to be careful to make it to the airport on time, we got there early. That was fine. We spent a lot of time in the check-in line, where Mam was very helpful with the luggage.Then we had a long walk to the terminal, down a hallway fully of neon artwork...Finally, we arrived at our gate where Smunch could finally look at real airplanes. And after all that beautiful weather we had, it started to rain...The rain didn't hinder our flight any, although something did. After we boarded, we still sat on the ground for 45 minutes, but alls well that ends well, I guess. I skipped the most exciting part of waiting for our flight. It really deserves its very own post...

We arrived home to 105 degree weather and some kind of critter that had died in the wall of the playroom (Gack! Let's go back to Chicago, honey!). Fortunately, it's cooled off since then and we're back in the land of swim lessons, babysitters, gymnastics and summer camp. *Phew* At least until our next adventure, coming soon...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Wet stuff

After a day of science and industry, I was really ready for a day of critters and being outdoors. The weather in Chicago remained beautiful during our entire stay. It was kind of a bummer to be inside the entire previous day. So, we went to the Shedd Aquarium, which is right on Lake Michigan.It's a pretty neat aquarium. It includes a huge area made to look like the Pacific Northwest, including dolphins, beluga whales, sea otters and a sea lion. It was packed on the day we were there. Lots and lots of day camps obviously spend some time in the local museums. The kids' favorite thing at the museum was the dolphin show.But there were lots of other neat things...a big lizard exhibit, including a huge Komodo dragon. There were penguins and sea turtles, sea horses and eels. We had a great time, but we were also glad to be done shortly after lunch.

Our last destination for our Chicago stay was Millennium Park. Aunt Susan told us we had to take the kids there, so we took her seriously. Although we'd taken the subway and a free trolley to the aquarium, we walked to the park, through another park. We ran across Buckingham Fountain...pretty impressive. You can see Smunch there in the foreground for a sense of scale.It turned out to be a long walk, but I think the kids had been feeling like caged animals being in museum-type places for so much time. They ran most of the way and didn't complain once. Of course, we'd also promised they could get soaking wet at our new destination. First, we ran across the park's "band shell", the Pritzker Auditorium. It looked so interesting that I was sorry we'd missed the show that day.Next, we came across this sculpture, which I later learned is called the Cloud Gate. It's a big, jelly-bean-shape, stainless steel sculpture that reflects everything, including the skyline and anybody standing near it, or sitting under it...Our final destination was Crown Fountain, a truly bizarre piece of art, but a whole lot of fun. Not only did the kids have a great time, but we had a great time watching them. This fountain is two towers of glass bricks with a giant video monitor behind them. The videos that play are of the faces of various, nameless Chicagoans. They blink and twitch. And if you wait long enough, their mouths form an 'o' and water gushes out. At other times, water cascades down the face of the tower and collects in a rectangular area where kids going splashing around.It was the perfect way to wrap up our visit to Chicago. It may not have kept the kids from insisting on a trip to the hotel pool that night, but it was a great last day. Maybe next time we'll make it to Navy Pier and the Sears tower...

A Day of Science and Industry

We spent our first full day in Chicago at the Museum of Science and Industry. Despite spending most of the day there, we still didn't see everything. The place is huge and includes full-scale models or actual restored trains, planes and even a real U-boat, U-505, captured by the U.S. during WWII. You can tour the inside and everything.
Naturally, there was a big space exhibit too, with lots of information on the Apollo missions to thrill Smunch. Mam was more thrilled by this...Mostly, this visit cemented something I'd long since forgotten. Museums aren't really my thing. They're big, they're overwhelming, they feel like work. I'm pretty sure I won't feel the need to go to another big museum for at least several years!

There was a nice children's area with a large water feature. It was very much like a museum here that we often go to...but then, it didn't matter one bit to the kids. They were just excited to interact with things...and get soaking wet before the ride back to the hotel!Oh, and after stopping for dinner, we made one last stop before walking the kids back to the hotel. A special little trip down Michigan Avenue for Daddy...


It's hard to believe that trip to Krape Park was an entire week ago already. The very next day, we all had super-yummy cinnamon roll breakfast. Then we headed out to check out some tornado damage at a farm down the road. Hey, it's Woodbine folks. This is top notch entertainment. And really, it was pretty fascinating!As soon as we got back, we took a few final photos...and packed into the car for the long drive into Chicago. Daddy and I have been through O'Hare lots of times, but neither of us had really been to Chicago before. It seemed like something we should do. So this time, I booked a hotel in downtown Chicago for a few nights. I probably should have known that going from Woodbine to downtown Chicago would result in whiplash.

We didn't bother renting a car in the middle of the city, but that meant we had to quickly figure out both the public transportation system (which is great) and how to maximize the walking abilities of two small children.

After saying goodbye to our fantastic Woodbine family, we set out to see what we could see around the city...on foot. Fortunately, we quickly found the river and a boat going on an "architecture tour". It sounds kind of dull, but the weather was beautiful and it was actually pretty interesting...unless you were Mam. She fell asleep about halfway through the cruise.Although there are tons of impressive structures in Chicago, I think my favorite is the Chicago Tribune tower. It was built in the 1920s as the United States' entry into an international most-beautiful-building contest. It won. It's not hard to see how. In addition to the kinda cool architecture, the outer walls of the building are studded with stones (and a few other items) from notable historic sites all over the world. Pretty neat stuff...There was a stone from the Great Pyramid in Giza, Edinburgh Castle, California's Petrified Forest, even one from the moon...

A Day in the Park

Aunt Susan graciously planned a day at Krape Park in Freeport. Part of this is her amazing hostessing abilities. Part of it is their annual excuse to pick up Kentucky Fried Chicken. Of course, the KFC is never enough. Susan also made potato salad and cake and brought watermelon. It was chilly out when we got there, but it was still a magnificent feast. And the park is really lovely, with a carousel...paddle boats...which have to be experienced with all possible adults doing the work... and a great playground.It looks like I spent a lot of time there taking photos, but I spent a ridiculous amount of time off looking for the six letterboxes that are resident in that park. It was a mistake. I would have had a much better time just hanging out with everyone else. I need to remember this stuff when I need to control my letterboxing compulsions. Still, it looked like everyone was having a good time, particularly Mam...