Saturday, July 30, 2011

The good, the bad and the ugly in Chicago...

Two weeks ago (actually, that's not quite accurate. I began this post on June 9th and just now finished it!) we took a long weekend trip to Chicago. An adventure I wasn't at first willing to have but was some what forced into. Morgan and I had been talking about going to Chicago for awhile. As in a few years. Morgan is more action oriented and I'm more talk oriented. At least when it comes to traveling. I don't like to travel. I can enjoy myself when I get there but the getting there causes me a lot of stress and anxiety. Enough so that I would, for the most part, prefer to just stay home and talk about traveling. I know what you are thinking. "Wow! This does not sound like the out-going, adventure seeking Heather that I know and love!" Okay, that is totally not what you are thinking but sometimes I like to think that I'm am not as predictable as I am. I digress...

Morgan planned the trip to Chicago. He did the research on how we would get there (Mega Bus) and where we would stay (Hostel). I laughed in his face and told him there was no way I was staying in a hostel and sharing a bathroom with other people! And I'd have to do it alone since the rooms (dorms essentially) were same sex! No thank you dear! And let's not forget that Owen won't sleep with out a cuddle from his mama. So Morgan did more research and found out we could get a 3 person suite and stay together. Okay. Fine. I'll stay in the hostel. It was after all $400 or so cheaper than the cheapest hotel we could find downtown. the bus part I was mostly okay with. I had fond memories of a bus trip to Grand Rapids with my mom when I was a child. I'm sure she doesn't have fond memories of it since she was older and wiser and probably realized taking the bus was like being trapped in a car with people you know and will soon come to not care for. (Incidentally Owen's favorite part was the bus!) So Morgan booked the trip. Which I found out one night when I came home to find confirmation e-mails in our inbox. I was a little irate when I found that he had scheduled us to leave on Owen's last day of preschool. Irate enough to wake him from his cozy slumber with a jab in the chest and a, "why are there confirmations for a trip in our in box on O's last day of preschool!?" To which he replied, "I didn't think the last day would be that big of a deal." Fortunately Morgan was able to reschedule us to leave the following day. Everyone remained unharmed.

We took the city bus from about a 1/2 mile from our house to downtown Minneapolis where we caught the Mega Bus. Because of all this bus travel and walking we packed light. One suitcase for the three of us and one backpack for each of us. I managed to pack Owen's backpack too full because he fell down when he tried to carry it. I hope he grows a bit before he has to carry too many things to school in it!

It's an 8 hour trip to Chicago. By bus or car. For us by car it would probably be 10. It was nice to have someone else drive. The seats were mostly comfortable. The wi-fi did not work. Probably because traveling through rural Wisconsin there is limited wi-fi signal to the bus. But we kept ourselves occupied. The bus was a little cool but the three of us would rather be cold than too hot. However, that was not the case for the woman who was sitting three rows up from us. She was not happy. And thus the rest of us were not happy. First, because she complained loudly. And second, because the bus driver tried to please her by turning the air off. And by off I mean the AC and the circulation of the air. Then when the people in the front of the bus (baking in the sun shining in the window) complained they were too hot the driver turned the AC back on. And the lady back by us started her bitching again. Hopefully she was able to get her money refunded, as she loudly proclaimed she would be attempting to do, because if not, she's bothering someone else about that!

Once we arrived in Chicago it was raining. We had one umbrella. Owen lasted on his feet for about 1 block. The hostel was .8 miles from the bus stop. Our adventure had begun. Morgan carried Owen on his shoulder and pulled the suitcase through the rain while I carried my backpack and Owen's and tried to keep up. And figure out if we were going the right way to the hostel. Incidentally, I am getting an iPhone. My phone is only psuedo-smart. And at that moment it was not smart enough for what I wanted it to do! Fortunately we were headed in the right direction and did find the hostel.

The hostel is right downtown just east of the Buckingham Fountain on E Congress Parkway. And right next to the El. It's quite a nice building and is supposedly one of the largest and nicest hostels. It is not a hotel. And it doesn't boast that it is. But it was clean and well maintained and we only saw the other people staying in our shared area maybe 3 times. There was never a wait for the bathroom or shower and it was mostly very quiet. Except for the El. But that noise didn't really bother me.

We did a lot of walking. A LOT. Morgan could have done more. And I probably could have too. But Owen was only going to do as little as he could get by with. He spent a lot of time riding on Morgan's shoulders. Our explorations were mostly confined between the lake, just east of us and State Street to the West. Then down to the Field Museum and up to Navy Pier. We spent a fair amount of time exploring the parks. We visited the Shedd Aquarium one morning. It is a huge and fascinating place but in my opinion quite over priced. It is also a little disorganized in terms of how they admit people. If you don't have tickets you have to wait in line. An hours long line. I don't know about you but I can think of nothing I'd wait in line for hours to see. Especially fish. We had purchased our tickets online so we didn't have to wait in line to either buy them or pick them up. However, no one (staff) seemed to be able to guide us in the right direction. Eventually we did get in and didn't wait long but it was still rather disorganized. When we left the aquarium there was a line probably 3/4 of a mile long of people waiting, in the rain, to get in. It was crazy!

I loved the buildings and the parks. Buckingham Fountain was just amazing. As well as the gardens around it. The first full day we were there it was still a little rainy and quite foggy. Which made the city interesting and beautiful. Since it was still rainy and we didn't all fit under my umbrella Morgan decided he needed to get his own. A huge one. Fit for a man. So off we went into Macy's to find him a manbrella. The bigger the better. (Of course). It took some searching (and two sales people) but we eventually found the manbrellas. Once Morgan settled on one that was sufficiently big enough that we could all (and an elephant) fit under he went off to pay for it while Owen and I perused the over priced office accessories. It was probably the nicest Macy's I've ever been in. Which is a compliment considering I think Macy's is the Wal-Mart of department stores. Of course while we are terrorizing, I mean perusing the office accessories Owen comes to the realization that a #2 is coming down the pipes and we need to find Morgan and the bathroom stat! Off we went to find both. We gathered up Morgan, asked for the nearest rest room and hastily made our way to the lower level where Morgan rushed Owen off to the rest room. I sat down in the food court to wait for them to return. After about 5 minutes I see Morgan rushing out of the hallway toward me with Owen on his arm and one of his (Owen's) shoes in his hand. He looked at me as he walked by and said, "We have to leave NOW!" and kept right on going. I quickly gathered up my bag, umbrella and the excessively large manbrella and trotted off after him as quickly as possible. I could only just keep him in my sight as he rushed up the escalator and through the store to the exit. At the time my mind was wondering why on earth we needed to leave so quickly and exactly how fast we could get back to the hostel to clean up whatever mess had been made in Owen's pants! It hadn't occurred to me to bring extra clothes while we were exploring! Now, when I look back on this, I'm amazed at how quickly Morgan exited the store because he has a very distorted sense of direction and gets turned around quite easily.

Once we all arrived safely outside the store, the boys first then me, to find Morgan putting Owen's shoe back on, I discovered it was not Owen who was the culprit but Morgan. He had mistakenly gone into the women's rest room. He didn't realize his mistake until an older woman came in. When she discovered him in the women's restroom she yelled at him, "Get out of here!" Well, since Owen was busy dropping the load of the day in a stall while Morgan waited patiently on the outside he couldn't just leave. It was at this point Morgan realized his blunder and told the woman he must have accidentally come into the wrong place and he couldn't leave because his son was in the stall. She replied, "GET OUT NOW!" Morgan looked at the irate old woman and yelled, "You get out now!" In another stall was a woman who worked in the store who overheard the exchange between Morgan and the old bag and radioed for security stating, "We have a 529 in the women's rest room". Upon hearing this Morgan quickly wiped Owen's backside, hoisted up his pants, and hauled ass out of the rest room before security could arrive. Which at the time seemed much easier than hanging around to try and explain how he had ended up in the wrong rest room in the first place. And that is why we can never go back to the Macy's in Chicago again!

That was after we had walked a mile that seemed like 5 to go to Pizzeria Uno for dinner only to discover that the wait was an hour and a half. We ate dinner that evening at a lovely PF Chang's. And that was just the first evening of our adventure!

The weather cleared up the third day we were there. We had a rather short visit at the Chicago Institute of Art. It is not a family friendly museum and they watch children like hawks. Every time we turned around one of the guards was telling us that Owen shouldn't be doing something. Now do get me wrong. Owen can get into stuff. And I know this. I also know how to behave in a museum, we have a few here in Minneapolis, and I know how to keep Owen in line in a museum. He was not doing anything that would necessitate correction at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a museum we've visited multiple times without incident. A classy, well stocked museum of fine art. But after and hour in the CIA we had to leave. I couldn't take the stress if making sure he wasn't going to accost another information plaque or attempt to touch the cording preventing him from getting too close to a piece of art or, heaven forbid, Morgan putting Owen back on his shoulders. Which he had done to keep Owen from touching another single surface in the museum but that was apparently a safety hazard. So, CIA guards (aptly named I think) you may kiss my A$$. We have some decent art here to.

And now, since it's been six weeks since I began this post, I think I will wrap it up. The bus ride back to Mpls. was thankfully uneventful. Oh, wait, I'm wrong. I was eventful. Because of the man sitting in front of Morgan and Owen who decided it would be a good idea to carry on a Cuban cigar IN HIS HAND onto the bus. And then fall asleep with it IN HIS HAND. And then wake up and not be able to find it because he was sleeping with it IN HIS HAND! So he and the guy (who supposedly was his friend) looked all over for it and it was no where to be found. Gee, I wonder if he asked the guy sitting next to him!? The guy proclaimed loudly several times that if whoever took it would just return it then all would be forgotten. Hmmm, funny that it didn't turn up. OR that the guy didn't wait until everyone was off the bus so he could look for it again. Oh, and then there was the creepy guy on the 5 back to our house from Mpls. Who still had his discharge papers from the loony wing of the county hospital downtown. Yeah, if you are going to ride the bus it would be a good idea to not act weird carrying hospital discharge papers and wearing the ID bracelet from the hospital. It might be easier to blend in. But then again, probably not. Since he was acting loony for most of the ride and standing right in front of us talking to Owen like he was much younger than 5. Some of you who live here may know about the 5. Or THE 5. It's the bus that runs from Brooklyn Center all the way through North Minneapolis, downtown, South Minneapolis and to the Mall of America. It's an *interesting* ride almost any time of day. And that night it was packed to the gills. At one point there was a mostly high man making gay slurs at another younger man who was standing up near the high guy (because there wasn't a square inch of seating on the whole bus). I don't like bullying. And I can handle it when it is children. I know what to do. But when it's adults I'm not sure when, or if to step in. The younger man was on his way to a night class, presumably nursing since he was wearing scrubs, and did not appear in anyway unable to take care of himself. He was just quiet and keeping to himself. And the mostly high guy appeared as though he could kick the crap out of someone, if he weren't high, and I really don't think it would be a good idea for me to get into a rumble on the 5 in North Minneapolis. Eventually a couple people cleared out and the younger man was able to sit down away from the high guy. I don't understand why people think they can say whatever they want to whomever they want. And freedom of speech is not a good argument for that.

Despite those quirky bus rides we did make it home safely, all in one piece and have lovely pictures to show for the trip. Which I will post another time. Hopefully not six weeks from now.

Our next family vacation adventure will take us to Custer State Park in South Dakota (where I've been car sick before) and then on to Montana to visit Morgan's parents. Where hopefully it won't be hot as blazes or on fire. Either way, it won't (most likely) be humid.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A short post...

I haven't posted in ages, although I do have a long post in process about or trip to Chicago. That happened about a month ago! It was only a 3 day trip. You'd think the post wouldn't be that long. Oh, but we travel in a big way!

So here are a few observations of our life right now...

  • Owen will be starting kindergarten in 6.5 short weeks. He is not ready. And neither am I. I cried to my mom on the phone this morning about this. He's been very emotionally lately about going to daycare and starting kindergarten. He doesn't want to go to daycare lately. Even though on our day off he's over there right now playing with the kids. He doesn't want to go to kindergarten everyday. Just some of the days. And he doesn't want to wear the uniform shirts. They have buttons. And the buttons have edges. And he does NOT CARE FOR THAT!
  • We are in the midst of one hot as hell summer. The heat index has been up over 100 for about a week now. Good ol' MN weather. Hot as hell in the summer. Cold as the north pole in the winter. While I am a person of extremes in most everything, I do not care for the weather to be as such.
  • I am in the midst of refinishing a dresser for Owen. It's almost...done! If it weren't so hot all the time it would have been done before now!
  • We are still transitioning from me being a mostly at-home-mom to me being a mostly working-mom.
  • O is really into Phineas & Ferb right now. It's a cute show. However, the format is the same for each episode. Ho-hum.
  • We signed up for Netflix. There are not enough hours in the day for me to watch all the shows and movies I want to see. There are a ton of documentaries in my queue.
And now I need to make a picnic dinner for our kindergarten playdate tonight. Hopefully meeting some of his new classmates will help Owen feel better about going to kindergarten.