By Sunday night I had directions printed, two free vouchers for admission in hand, lunches made, travel bag with coloring books and games packed, and clothes set out. Monday arrived and my mom was ringing our doorbell by 8:30 for the first surprise of the day; we were on the road by 9:05. An hour later we cruised into the Soldier Field parking garage and walked the short distance to The Shedd quickly after parking. The lake breeze was in full effect as we hurried along the museum campus, and as we came upon our intended destination I immediately realized that I was not the only parent in the area to have the idea of spending a day off at the aquarium. I'm not great at judging distance, but if I had to venture a guess I would say that the lines snaking out and around The Shedd Aquarium probably would have stretched at least a good half-mile long. Looking down at my shivering daughters, wearing only their lightweight jackets for ease of movement throughout the day, mom and I quickly made the decision to turn our course for fun and educational stimulation toward The Field Museum directly behind us. The idea of standing in line in the cold winter air of Chicago for an hour (and then face the daunting crowd inside an already tight space) was more than I was willing to sacrifice.
Luckily for us, the girls adjusted well to the change in plans. Shortcake started spouting random trivia about Sue, the T. Rex displayed at the museum, seconds after entering the building, and Punkin was comfortable with the decision so long as I promised her that we would not be visiting the bug exhibit which displays robotic insects 100 times their normal size. If I'm being honest, I will admit that I found The Field Museum a little boring. One, over half of the interactive exhibits weren't even working. This was very stressful for a hands on, interactive learner like Punkin. Secondly, I realized I can only look at so many stuffed animals before they all start swimming together as one and the same. Third, navigating a trip with two children who move at very different paces makes it difficult get the most out of that in front of you. I'll give you one guess as to which one is the "glance and dash" girl and which is the "ponder and disgest" girl.
Still, the day was fun. Some highlights:
- Both girls loved the play zone area. They ran between the art studio, music station, and dinosaur bone excavation site multiple times, but it was the adobe house where they spent the majority of their time. They live in a house surrounded by corn fields, and when you take them into the city to expose them to new cultures and ideas they are happy to spend the majority of their day playing with plastic corn cobs.
- Our chosen featured exhibit for the day was The Horse.
For me, it was about as exciting as you might imagine going only on its flashy, highly dramatized exhibit name (not). Although the look on Punkin's face above indicates otherwise, she and Shortcake really liked it though. Both girls especially enjoyed living like cowgirls for a couple of quick photo opps.
- Punkin was not, however, a fan of the wood horse featured at the end of the exhibit.
- The biggest laugh of the day for me came in Ancient Egypt. On the floor was a 12" plexiglassed square cut out allowing you to peer three stories down into a mummy's tomb. Punkin approached this area very cautiously and as she peered over the edge carefully I "accidently" bumped her gently from behind. This in turn caused her to wave her arms frantically in an attempt not to fall into a hole that wasn't actually there. I know it's wrong to tease her, and I know it isn't nice to laugh at her fear. But having an awareness of those facts let me ask you this: if it's truly wrong why did it feel so right?
- If I were to drop off Shortcake at the entrance to the museum, hand her a map, and tell her to meet me at an exhibit two floors away I am certain that she could navigate her way through every exhibit and fulfill that quest with no assistance or fear. That girl's map reading skills are phenomenal.
- If you give each of my children $10 and give them the instructions that they may use that money to buy anything they want, you will then be witness to two of the most opposite shopping strategies in the history of retail. Punkin is nearly frantic, flitting from one corner to the next, announcing "I want this!" as she touches almost every item in the store. She still doesn't have full grasp of how much $10 will buy you, and when she receives change she is under the impression that spending money was no big deal because those cashiers just give her more money! Trying to explain the concept of "change" was lost on her; she was surely convinced that with each purchase she actually walked away richer than when she walked in. Her final inventory: one white shiny rock purchased on the Rockology store, a rock carved in to the shape of a horse at the Exhibit Store, and a pencil filled with amethyst stones purchased at the Sue Store. All purchases are now neatly displayed on her shelf with the rest of her rock collection. Other memorable quotables from Punkin's shopping experience: upon asking for a price check for the tenth time in a 45 second span she finally had a moment of clarity as she declared, "Let me guess. I don't have enough to buy it". Also, the sweet "Here Gwamma, you can have this. I sink you need this at yo house" is actually her attempts at hussling her grandmother into buying an object Punkin desire for herself yet doesn't want to spend her own money on.
- Shortcake, on the other hand, is a very deliberate in her choices. She took stock of gifts at every single store in the museum, mulling over prices and rationalizing about what she might really need or use. There was great inner turmoil between her liking of a particular woolly mammoth and the realization that she already has a large number of stuffed animals at home. Shortcake was also very conscious of what $10 could buy her, yet she was adamant that she didn't want to spend all of her money on one gift. In the end, after much deliberation, she finally decided on a dinosaur excavation kit. I think the experience was actually more stressful for her than anything else.
A day with my girls, memories made, laughs shared, new adventures conquered. A good day from start to finish.