Again with The Shedd?

So yesterday was Father’s Day, my 39th as a son, and my 3rd as a Dad.  Shockingly, I did not go golfing on Father’s Day this year, though I did partake of some of the ongoing stop and start of the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black.  I slept in a little, then had some scrambled eggs for breakfast, courtesy of my 2-year old, Xavier.  Yes, he actually cracked and beat the eggs a bit.  My Mom came in from Naperville, and we spent a good bit of time at the park with Kerry and the kids.  Kerry (I am choosing to believe) unintentionally dressed Hayden in an outfit that claimed “I Love Mommie!” on Father’s Day…hmmmmm.  Later, we had yet another showing of our condo (listed for sale since mid-September with nary an offer), which required the usual 2 hours of cleaning and arranging.  The rest of the day was nice and generally calm, topped off with a small ice cream cake from Baskin-Robbins.

Today, we gave the Shedd Aquarium another shot.  After our rough go at it last week, I discovered that my Dad had become a member, so is now afforded 4 adult and 4 child admissions with each visit.  We immediately took advantage, and asked him to host us as a day-after Father’s Day outing for the four of us.  What a difference it made going on a normal admissions Monday versus a Free Thursday.  No line, and no cost removes the worry of taking young children who are bound to get bored before getting your money’s worth.  Normal price for the full experience, which includes the Oceanarium and the Wild Reef (really the only attractions that make the Shedd worthwhile in my opinion), is $29 for adults and $22 for any child over 1!  That is $80 we “saved” today without waiting in a 2+ hour line.

Xavier enjoyed the fish for a while, but quickly bored of that, so we took him down to the Oceanarium to see the Beluga Whales (cool) and the Dolphin show (cooler).  The only issue we had there was that toet g a good seat, they suggest arriving about 15 minutes before showtime, then they started about 10 minutes late, so by the time the dolphins came out, Xavier was in near meltdown mode.  He barely settled down in time to see the dolphins jumping, which is really the only part of the show he enjoyed anyway.  Despite the pre-show tension, watching the smile of awe take over his face when those incredible creatures fly out of the water made the entire trip worth it for me…and hopefully, for him as well.

After the dolphin show, we did some diaper changing, and had a small snack that Kerry had packed.  We headed up to the Wild Reef where they have a true to life shark tank with several varieties of small-ish sharks.  Now, of course they don’t have Whites, Blues, Tigers, or Makos in there, but they may as well have been to Xavier who was ecstatic to see those sharks swimming virtually all around him.  I am sure he will want to go back again, and now, thanks to my Dad’s generosity, we can do so for free.

Well, almost free.  Kerry couldn’t resist the urge to buy him a pack of small shark figures for the tub.  I am certain they will be a big hit tonight!

So, Dads, share your Father’s Day fun with everyone here by leaving a comment (heck, you Moms can leave one here too…just don’t forget it was Father’s Day).

Be well!

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A Walk in the Park?

Well, since the last time I posted here, my life has changed somewhat dramatically, and for the better…I think.  On Monday morning I was laid off from my job at Rand McNally, the company for whom I have toiled for the last 14 years of my still young life.  It wasn’t a surprise, and in my opinion it won’t be much longer for the remaining employees anyway…the sad story of the demise of a Great American brand.  In any case, I am now home, so can spend more time here and there with my wife and kids.

Well, yesterday while talking on the phone with a friend of mine, he asked if we would be going to the Shedd Aquarium this week to take advantage of the free admission.  What?!  We have been waiting for two years to either find the free passes available at the library, or actually realize they have a free day at the Aquarium in time to go.  After all, the Shedd is a fortune to attend with a family…and that is before you even pay for the Oceanarium portion.  So, I checked it out, and indeed, all this week the aquarium is free, though you still have to pay for the Oceanarium, but at a discounted rate (not shown on their website, of course).  I talked to Kerry about it and we decided that we should go.

So today we awoke and took care of the usual business of breakfast, Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and Special Agent Oso. Kerry packed a bag, gathered up Hayden and the stroller while I herded Xavier out into the hall.  We hopped on the El (we are only six stops from the Museum campus on the El) and Xavier got to enjoy the sights along the ride.  Xavier is starting to remember the names of the streets we go over in the Loop all the time, a good skill for the future.  We stepped off at Roosevelt and began our slow trek over the the Aquarium…about 1/2 mile I think.  A 1/2 mile is not too far a walk, unless you are a 2-year old, and one who is fond of trains at that.  So, Xavier dilly-dallied his way along until we arrived at the Shedd Aquarium just before 10 (it opens at 9).

WOW!  Imagine our surprise when we saw the line stretch outside of the Shedd all the way along the front side of the Field Museum.  For those not familiar with the Museum Campus in Chicago…that is a LONG line!  I probably should have known better having lived here so long, but I did not anticipate that.  We also had made the mistake of really talking up the aquarium to Xavier, as it was one of the few Chicago museums he has yet to see.  By this time, he was all too excited to see Nemo and some sharks.  So, Kerry and I saw the line and quickly shared that look needing no spoken words to understand that there is no ef’n way we are going to the aquarium today.

I picked up Xavier, showed him the line and calmly explained to him that I was sorry, but the line was just way too long for us to get in to see Nemo or the sharks today.  I then showed him the nearby lakefront with all the cool sailboats just bobbing away on this sunshine-filled morning, and tried to sell an amble up the lakefront as being equally as fun as the aquarium would be.  As he looked at me visibly working out what I was telling him, I quickly mentioned that we could try it out again on Monday when we would have to pay for there to be no line.  He bought it, and off we were to look at some boats.

Xavier checking out the cool boats!

Xavier checking out the cool boats!

So, sounds like the end of the story, but that would be just too easy, right?  I mean, if everything just worked out, then why would I write about it?

Hayden will be 10 weeks old tomorrow…that’s 2.5 months to the normal non-parent.  She is smiling now with regularity, and really likes looking at herself in the mirror on her swing (much more than Xavier ever did).  Hayden also like to be held, a lot.  Hayden’s other noticeable trait?  Boy can she ever cry.  Y’know, I never would have guessed it, and maybe this is because I am a guy, but there is definitely a difference between a baby girl’s cry and a baby boy’s cry, at least there is with my two kids.  Xavier would cry, but generally he just wanted the offer of a boob, and all would be well until he fell asleep – full and content.  Hayden likes to eat, don’t get me wrong, but that is just it…eating is eating for her, and sometimes the offer even seems to offend her, making her cry more than ever.  Her cry has a shrillness that Xavier’s did not.  It is a shrillness that suggests “DO NOT EVEN THINK OF TRYING TO CALM ME DOWN!  CALM ME DOWN WILL YOU?  I’LL SHOW YOU CALM!”

She is a very pretty baby girl, but has that way of making both Kerry and I lose that piece of our mind known as sanity.  It is a cry that makes us say the craziest things to each other…things we know we don’t mean.  So, cry she did; boy, did she ever cry.  We tried holding her, feeding her, rocking her, and just pushing her in the stroller, but to no avail.  She cried all the way from the aquarium up to the Buckingham Fountain, another sneaky long hike with a 2-year old in tow.  She cried through the mini-lunch that Kerry had prepared for Xavier.  She finally calmed down and went to sleep when I strolled her over the bumpy grass along noisy Lake Shore Drive between the fountain and Jackson St.  And with her descent into restful sleep, a peace fell over Chicago’s lakefront, and for the briefest of time, all was well.

Spending time at the Buckingham Fountain

Spending time at the Buckingham Fountain

We backtracked a bit so Xavier could at least spend some time looking at the always impressive Buckingham Fountain up close, like you should.  We walked through the rose garden just to the north, and even got some good pictures of Xavier and Kerry enjoying the sun.  On the way back to the El, Xavier had a chance to check out some more Metra tracks…a past-time that never seems to get old.

Kerry and Xavier in the Rose Garden

Kerry and Xavier in the Rose Garden

So, like many things when you have an infant, the simplest of plans most often goes awry.  While we suffered through the “on-the-fly” change of plans and the seemingly unending crying of a baby, we got to spend a beautiful morning together as a family outside on Chicago’s lakefront, and that’s a good thing.

I’d love to hear of similar events you have had, so please feel free to comment back with stories of your own…good, bad, and ugly accepted.

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