Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Fun Side Of Chicago

So you heard about the crazy side of Chicago, and now it's time for the fun stuff.  Because we did have a lot of fun playing tourist.

Thursday we went to the Aquarium.  We saw lots of fish.  Lots of lots of fish.  So many fish that near the end of our visit, Joy said that she never wanted to see another fish again.  And we spent the rest of the trip teasing her that we were going to go back to the Aquarium which made her throw up her hands in the air and yell, "NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!"  The rest of our party enjoyed the fish a lot more.

Waiting for the Dolphin show with Dolly the Dolphin and Bubbles the Fish

Touching a real starfish.  They're spiny.

Standing in front of the shark tank

Friday we went to the Dead Museum--I mean the Field Museum.  Growing up we always called it the dead museum because everything is, well, dead.  For years we have talked about Sue the T-Rex and how we would one day take the kids to see a real dinosaur skeleton.  They were suitably impressed.

Joy and Sue

Saturday we went to my favorite museum, the Museum of Science and Industry.  All I can say is that it is nothing--nothing--like I remember it from nine years ago.  It was way cooler.  In the other two museums, the kids had to drag the parents away from exhibits.  At the S&I, we had to drag the kids away if we had any hope of seeing everything.  So many things to play with.  Things that shot tennis balls across the room.  Tubes that sucked up balls like the deposit tubes at the drive thru at the bank.  We went to a science experiment show and learned about liquid nitrogen and got to eat ice cream.  We watched another experiment where they dropped a pumpkin and a water balloon from the third floor to the second--they both went splat.  If we only had time to visit one museum in the future, the S&I would be it.

Lizzy in the wind chamber--80 MPH

David in the human hamster wheel

David and Hubby playing mind ball--the quietest brain wins

David making a party horn blare with liquid nitrogen

We ran into my uncle and cousin by accident at the museum

Saturday night we threw a party.  We went to my favorite restaurant ever, Barracos.  I dream of eating their pizza.  I want to scoop it up and move it to Michigan.  Before my kids got to try the deliciousness of Barracos pizza, they asked me if it was my favorite restaurant.  I said I couldn't say that as it's been years since I've sampled it.  Maybe the recipe has changed.  Maybe my taste buds have changed.  I am happy to say that my memory lived up to reality--the pizza was amazing.  But I digress.  We all went out for a big family dinner to celebrate the birthdays of my Grandma, my Aunt, my Niece and David.

Yummy pizza with my big Italian family

Sunday it was time to say our good-byes and head for home.  But I wasn't quite ready to just go home, so we swung by the Brookfield Zoo first.  I grew up going to this zoo more than my own local zoo.  Despite that, I had no memory of the zoo looking the way it does beyond one of the restaurants.  It makes me wonder if they've changed up the whole zoo since I've last been there.

My kids were very disappointed upon learning that the dolphin shows were cancelled due to the birth of a new baby dolphin.  We thought well, at least we'll be able to see a baby dolphin, if not the show.  But the baby was not on display.  Maybe when we make it to the zoo again in another eight years, we'll be able to see the dolphin show.

But we did get to see some really big dinosaur replicas.  They moved and roared and were pretty cool.  We even learned that some dinosaurs, like juvenile T-rexs, had feathers.  Nothing like a big, feathery dinosaur to brighten your day.

Fluffy raptor--So scary:)

Eek!!!  Don't eat me!!

They had these signs up.  I asked Joy, what do Herbivores eat?  Plants.
What do Carnivores eat?  Meat.  What do Omnivores eat?  Hamburgers!

Waiting for Dad to buy a real Chicago hot dog (it looked disgusting)

We all had a great time with our family in Chicago.  It was fun to see our out-of-town relatives and share our old haunts together again.  We had our share of adventures--both good and not so good--but they all added up to one awesome vacation.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Our Trip To Chicago aka: Man Plans--Satan Attacks--God Protects

And I even packed light!

I grew up going to Chicago for almost every major (and not so major) holiday to visit my Grandparents.  I loved going to visit my Grandparents.  The hugs and kisses.  Getting their undivided attention.  Cooking in the kitchen.  The big meal spreads.  Going with my Grandpa to visit one of his grocery stores.  Going into the city.  The high quality theater.  Window shopping at the super expensive stores.  Eating out at "exotic" restaurants.  The pizza--oh do I love the pizza.  And then...my Grandpa passed away six months before I got married.  Eventually my Grandma moved to live near us in Michigan almost eight years ago.  I have not been back to Chicago.

We talked about doing a big family reunion in Chicago with the Michigan branch and the Colorado branch meeting up.  But life got in the way and a trip never happened.

A few months ago my Grandma received a phone call from Grandpa's old high school.  Grandpa was to be inducted into the school's Hall of Fame, a very big deal for the school's graduates.  A big banquet was part of the deal.  Grandma was for sure going and wondered if anyone would be willing to drive her there.  Um...we all would?!  And thus a big family trip was arranged.  Hotel rooms were booked (through much pain and suffering on my Aunt's part as she had to deal with an incredibly incompetent hotel staff who could. not. get. the. details. right).  Airfare was arranged.  Vacation time was requested.  We were all headed for Chicago (except for my favorite--and only--female cousin who already had plans to go to Disney World that weekend).

And it wouldn't be a Chicago trip without at least trying to get free tickets to a pro sports game from my Grandma's bank.  She scored eight sky box tickets to a Black Hawks game, which made the men (and a few of the gals) very happy.

I prayed about the trip ahead of time.  We all did.  We prayed for safety.  Good health.  Good weather.  A fun time.  But mostly for good family relating.  Sometimes the Italian blood in us all gets the better of us and tempers can flare.  Sometimes we sit around saying, What do you want to do?  I don't know, what do you want to do?  And then it's noon and we are no closer to a plan for the day than when we started.

Waiting to see T-Rex in 3D

Some would look at our vacation and declare it a complete flop.  We choose to see it differently.

Thursday night while at the hockey game, my nephew ate crackers containing nuts.  Which led to an epipen shot, paramedics, and a trip in an ambulance to the ER.  The hockey game goers decided ahead of time to all go in one van.  Which was great for parking, but not so great for people getting to the hospital.  My Mom and Uncle took the van to follow my brother in law and nephew to the hospital leaving my cousin and his wife to get David and my 12-year-old cousin home in a taxi.  In downtown Chicago.  At 10 o'clock at night.

Between the 8 of them, they had one--ONE!--charged cell phone.  My 12-year-old cousin's phone.  My mom's phone was charging in the van.  My uncle's phone was dead.  My BIL's phone was back at the hotel so he took the one working phone.  My cousin and his wife both had phones with about 25% charge left, which was quickly sapped while trying to get a taxi.  Meaning those of us back at the hotel--the mother's of said children--were pretty much left in the dark about what was happening with our boys.

My nephew ended up fine after the epipen shot and a prescription for prednisone.  The stranded people got a taxi and got back to the hotel around 11:00 pm.  My mom and uncle came home shortly after the taxi.  My BIL and nephew got back at about 4:00 am after my uncle went to pick them up.  And all the phones were kept charged for the rest of the trip.

Friday my mom got an email from her sister letting her know that my Grandpa wasn't doing so well.  He spent a few days in the hospital back in August because his hemoglobin dropped to the point that he needed a transfusion.  His iron levels came back a bit but recent bloodwork showed that his levels were dropping again.  Friday night he asked his neighbor to drive him to the ER where he was admitted with heart problems.

Saturday we learned that he was to have heart surgery Sunday morning to put in a pacemaker.  And this is the part where God-coincidences played out.  Our plans were to goto the Museum of Science and Industry on Friday and the Field Museum on Saturday.  Due to the ER visit, we switched them.  My SIL posted pictures on Facebook of our visit to the Field Museum which my aunt who lives near Chicago saw, commented on, and told us that my uncle was taking one of his grandkids to the Science Museum on Saturday--the same place we were going!  Of course we arranged a meet up.

So as we were learning about my Grandpa's condition and his need for surgery, my mom and uncle were in a position to discuss a game plan face-to-face.

My dad had a conference all last week so he didn't fly into Chicago until Saturday afternoon.  He arrived just in time to attend our big family birthday meal at my most favorite restaurant in the whole world--Barracos--where they have the best pizza ever.  He and my mom decided they would leave early and drive back Saturday night to be at the hospital with my Grandparents for the surgery.  Which was fine, except they didn't have a car.  They were planning to go home with my brother.  Meaning they had to rent a car at the last minute.  Price checking online proved that it was going to be expensive.

This is where my brother stepped in.  He had a free rental day that had to be used by the end of the year.  So my parents were able to get a rental car at the last minute for a grand total of $8.20.  They made it home safely and were there with my Grandparents for the surgery, which he pulled through successfully.  We are still waiting to see if the pacemaker is enough to fix the problem or if he will need future valve replacement surgery.

My cute little penguins at the aquarium

It is very obvious that the devil did his best to interrupt our plans and divide us.  But our family pulled together and proved up to the challenge.  What could have led to fighting drew us together.  I almost had a "mom-who-tears-up" moment when I thanked my cousin for taking care of David at the hockey game.  What a potentially traumatic experience.  But all David said was that it was cold and boring standing outside for over an hour waiting for a taxi, but he never once felt scared.  My nephew cheerfully told us about his ER visit the next morning and had no lasting fear from it.  My parents made it home safely despite both having a full day.  Grandpa did just fine with his surgery.

And we now all have a great story to tell of how the Lord took care of us on our family vacation.  Of course we did lots of fun things, but I will tell you about that in another post.