Travel Progeny

By 2g1c2 girls 1 cup

26 February
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A train to Chicago

I had to go to Chicago this sum­mer to work so I thought I’d take the kids along and make it a long week­end.  Like most lit­tle boys G loves trains.   I’d been want­ing to take the kids up on the train and this was the per­fect opportunity.

View from Nike Town, ChicagoThe Train ride:

It’s about 5 1/2 hours on Amtrak from St. Louis to Chicago’s Union Sta­tion by train– about the same as dri­ving.  Plus, you can’t beat the price– some­times no more than $23 bucks and 1/2 that for each child!  (That is less than the gas it takes or a cab fare from the air­port if you fly.)  Even with­out kids I like to take the 4:35am train that arrives into Chicago around 10.  I thought that would be a good choice with the kids. I envi­sioned them going back to sleep as soon as the train started mov­ing but they were so excited they didn’t go back to sleep until about 45 min­utes before we pulled into Chicago. What a ter­ri­ble mis­cal­cu­la­tion!  They each had their back­pack packed with a blan­ket, bob­ble­heads or cars, note­book, crayons, water bot­tle and snacks. That stuff, games like I spy and the chang­ing view from the win­dows kept them enter­tained.  The best deci­sion I made though was to sit in a car with a hand­i­cap acces­si­ble restroom. It was huge!  Big enough for us all to fit and not touch any­thing unnec­es­sary. What I appre­ci­ate most about the train is that the kids didn’t have to be strapped into a car seat for hours on end and could even get up move around.  They enjoyed their train ride and often ask to do it again.  My father wants to take them on an overnight train adven­ture.  I think they’d love it.

Our time in Chicago:

We stayed at the W– Lakeshore. The loca­tion was great as were the views.  We had wanted a suite but that didn’t work out so we just had a typ­i­cal king room. Turns out that worked per­fectly because of the big daybed by the win­dow. The house­keeper gave me sheets and pil­lows and we turned it into a bed for the kids.  House­keep­ing even made it up every­day when they cleaned the room. Ser­vice was great.  My only com­plaint was that we were charged full price for a 3 and 5 year old for Brunch on Sun­day– ridicu­lous in my opin­ion con­sid­er­ing what they ate.  The other annoy­ance was the loca­tion of the ele­va­tor.  It’s right by the front door and although there are plenty of cars, the hall­way to access them is so nar­row that there always seemed to be a bot­tle­neck with peo­ple get­ting on and off.

The hotel is almost right across the street from the Ohio Street Beach. The kids could see it from the win­dow and that is all that they wanted to do. We went the first day and I couldn’t get them to leave.  It turned out that was good because it became rainy and unsea­son­able cold later in the weekend.  I wasn’t expect­ing to spend so much time there– I wish I had brought some sand toys. Luck­ily they met some local kids who were will­ing to share.  The water was a bit chilly but the kids didn’t care.  There was a bit too much trash and bro­ken glass on the beach for my taste so while the kids played and dug holes with their new friends I col­lected bro­ken pieces.  I was not alone. Many other par­ents were doing the same thing, so after awhile I felt a bit more con­fi­dent that my chil­dren were safe bare­foot.  Dur­ing our stay we came back a cou­ple more times for shorter stretches.

Also in walk­ing dis­tance was Chicago’s Navy Pier.  We could have spent most of a day here tak­ing boat rides, going to shows, eat­ing at dif­fer­ent restau­rants or going on rides at the mini amuse­ment park. Instead we just walked around a bit, did some peo­ple watch­ing and ate.

Rainforest Cafe, ChicagoWe ate at a cou­ple ran­dom lit­tle restau­rants but the kid’s favorite was the Rain­for­est Cafe.  It’s full of auto­mated ani­mals hang­ing from the ceil­ing and tucked into the walls in their “habi­tats” com­plete with sound.  There are also big fish tanks all over the place.  The kids were delighted to sit next to the ele­phant fam­ily and cheered every time they snorted.  Food is typ­i­cal: burg­ers, sal­ads, chicken ten­ders, etc…

There are two other places we ate that I would recommend:

Big Bowl:  60 E Ontario, Chi­nese and Thai.  It was good, but it was also rea­son­able, really fast and kid friendly.

Kame­hachi:  240 E Ontario, Sushi.  Although we did not eat in one, they do have lit­tle pri­vate rooms that can be a life­saver with kids.  It is cer­tainly a more adult place but they do have high­chairs and our wait­ress was happy to ban­ter with the kids. There were other fam­i­lies there with small chil­dren but the major­ity we cou­ples or groups of friends.  I’m not a sushi lover but I was with some­one who is and he really enjoyed his meal.

Pitchfork FestivalOne of the cold days we went to Pitch­fork Music Fes­ti­val at Union Park.  It took quite awhile to get though the gates so once we were in the kids were kind of over it.  They were momen­tar­ily revived when they found an inflat­able ball, a dusty field and new lit­tle girl to get dirty with.  That gave us a chance to lis­ten to some music.  It also gave us a chance to get a restau­rant rec­om­men­da­tion from the lit­tle girls par­ents.  After walk­ing around the rest of the grounds we walked to Wish­bone (1001 W. Wash­ing­ton) to eat. It’s “south­ern recon­struc­tion” and very kid friendly– a good choice.

Museum of Science and Industry, ChicagoAnother day we did get a chance to meet an Aunt at the Museum of Sci­ence and Indus­try. They had gone to see the Harry Pot­ter exhibit. We opted out of that but had fun explor­ing every­thing else.  G and ES were excited by all of the choices and had fun wan­der­ing through the many exhibits.  We spent a long time watch­ing the model trains weave through their lit­tle cities, and watch­ing the lit­tle chicks hatch from their shells.  ES and G enjoyed every moment.  They were pro­pelled though the place by the pos­si­bil­i­ties of the next room.  It was fun to see. Thirty-five dol­lars well spent.

We had a great week­end. We’ll def­i­nitely do it again.

24 February
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Fear of the Chinese Lion Dancers

Face of the Dancing LionIf you live in St. Louis you know that St. Louis is really St. Louis City (where I live) and St. Louis County and that St. Louis County is made up of all of these other lit­tle cities– Clay­ton, Kirk­wood, Ladue, Uni­ver­sity City, Mary­land Heights, Fron­tenac, Floris­sant, Olivette… The list seems to go on and on but the lines that sep­a­rate them kind of blur into one place.  Each of these lit­tle munic­i­pal­i­ties has their own com­mu­nity cen­ters and parks. As in cities every­where these com­mu­nity cen­ters hosts events.

Sun­day we went to the 9th Annual Inter­na­tional Cul­tural Arts Fes­ti­val at the Mary­land Heights Cen­tre.  This lit­tle fes­ti­val had eth­nic food offer­ings, ven­dors, a kid’s room and two stages of enter­tain­ment.  The smaller room where the smaller stage was always so crowded we could never fit but we could hear the fun music com­ing from inside.  The stage in the larger room hosted peo­ple per­form­ing dif­fer­ent styles of dance from around the globe.Coloring flower pots courtesy of the STL Art Museum

First we saw the Irish Dancers from a local school.  They were danc­ing in dresses that had sequins and iri­des­cent designs so ES was sold and wants to sign up.

Next came the Shaolin Lohan Pai Lion Dance Troupe–Southern Chi­nese Lion Dancers & Dai-Tou-Fut.  H and G acted like they were not so impressed because appar­ently the danc­ing lions had come to their school ear­lier in the week.  ES was excited but S was very ner­vous.  He was sus­pect when they were on stage but the sec­ond that they started to move among the crowd he pan­icked.  He strug­gled from my arms and clam­bered under the chairs, pop­ping up on the other side, keep­ing his eyes on that beast but hold­ing tight to the chair.  It was sad and so funny.  When they went back on stage he came back to his seat, but when one came down our isle he was back under the chair and this time had to hide under the coat draped over the chairs back.  When the per­for­mance was over and the lions were gone he came out reluc­tantly and we went to get some­thing to eat.  We made it as far as the lobby but who was there block­ing our path–two danc­ing lions. Poor, S.  He was on edge the rest of the day. Every time he heard a drum or cym­bal he was cer­tain a huge head that was out to eat him was close behind.watching some of the dancers

We finally made it though, ate, and then headed to the World Encoun­ters area where the kids painted flow­er­pots, played, and made pup­pets.  On the way out we stopped at the main stage one more time and caught the Afro-Cuban & Afro-Haitian Dancers.  All in all it was a good way to spend a rainy win­ter day.  Oh, and I for­got to men­tion that with the excep­tion of the food it was all for free.  Thank you Mary­land Heights and thank you to all of the amaz­ing per­form­ers for shar­ing a bit of your cul­ture with my chil­dren.  We will see you again next year!

06 February
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The twins’ day @ The Magic House

listening to a story--the only time they were still all day

lis­ten­ing to a story–the only time they were still all day

When I was lit­tle I too loved the Magic House– who doesn’t remem­ber the first time you get to touch a giant metal ball and make your hair stand on end?  What is was then is noth­ing like what it is now.  It’s recent ren­o­va­tion and addi­tion has taken the place to a whole new level.

It was a sloppy day today: rain to snow, not to men­tion a sched­uled day off from school for many. I thought it would be packed but the kids never had to wait to play or explore.  We got there early for preschool play­time and stayed into the after­noon to explore the rest of the museum.  Not too long ago some of the exhibits were phys­i­cally to large or sim­ply just not inter­est­ing to them, but today they tried every­thing and loved it all.  They played in sand and water, slid down foamy slides and many-storied metal ones, stood in bub­bles, unknow­ingly exper­i­mented in a few sci­ence labs, lis­tened to a story, played music in ran­dom ways and even climbed a beanstalk.  My favorite part of the day though was after we left The Magic House.  G cried on the way to pick up ES from school because he couldn’t take her there imme­di­ately.  Not because he wanted to go back today but because he knew she would love all of the amaz­ing things he and H had discovered.

We were there for about 3 hours.  They were enter­tained for that whole time and so was I. They could have stayed longer.  We didn’t eat there but they do have a cafe with seating.

Go visit: www.magichouse.org

See more images from our day at The Magic House : Flickr slideshow

28 January
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Sleeping on books

My chil­dren are ter­ri­ble sleep­ers.  They are now and they always have been.  As my sister’s chil­dren pass out on their own for long after­noon naps and again at a rea­son­able night­time hour my chil­dren linger on. Rou­tines, hours out­side hard at play, nap removal– noth­ing has helped.  I’m stick­ing with the rou­tine and hop­ing they catch on.  I don’t know what else to do. Right now G sits in his bed read­ing, fid­get­ing, and wait­ing for any­thing but sleep to happen.

Sleeping at last

Sleep­ing at last

ES has night ter­rors.  Not so long ago she would wake up in the mid­dle of the night, eyes open, scream­ing, talk­ing or cry­ing about some­thing that made no sense.  Some­times she would be walk­ing around.  It was so con­fus­ing until we fig­ured out that she was still asleep.  Then it all made sense.  I have those crazy dreams and I have as far back as I can remem­ber.  They are vivid, in color and I remem­ber them when I wake up.  They seem more tem­pered now but maybe it’s because I bet­ter under­stand what they are. Maybe it’s just because I’ve sorted out a way to cope. When I was lit­tle my mother told me that hav­ing dreams was just like watch­ing TV– that if you didn’t like what was on all you had to do was turn the chan­nel.  You turn the chan­nel flip­ping over your pil­low.  I know I did it and it com­forted me so I told ES. She’s a believer.  I heard her telling G that he didn’t need to be wor­ried about bad dreams because all he had to do was turn over his pil­low and the scary things would go away.

Last week I thought ES has fallen asleep read­ing and passed out on the open book rest­ing on her pil­low.  I go to remove it but she pops up and starts fran­ticly telling me that she needs it so that she won’t have bad dreams.  Appar­ently, if she sleeps with her head on a book she only has good dreams.  Okay.  Cleaver.  Who told her?  She says: “No one told me. One night I fell asleep on a book by acci­dent and that night I had good dreams.“  So, tonight, ES is asleep in her room on The Greedy Bee.

Maybe they are more phys­i­cally or men­tally exhausted when we travel but some­how the kids sleep bet­ter on the road.  Although my kids never had a favorite stuffed thing they car­ried every­where, I always pack a blan­ket of some sort in their back­pack.   I think it com­forts them to have their own smelly thing to cud­dle up to as the drift off to sleep. Plus it’s nice to have on a cold, ques­tion­able clean, air­plane, or train.  I guess now though I will also have to make sure we have a book.  I hope size doesn’t mat­ter.  I won­der if a mag­a­zine will work?  As always… what­ever it takes.

Sweet dreams everyone.