Tuesday, May 22, 2012
All American Girl
It appears that two years ago I started a little bit of a tradition in our house. Following in her sister's footsteps, Punkin has been patiently waiting for her sixth birthday to arrive. She's been plotting and planning and doing a little bit of worrying all in anticipation of a big day in the city with the singular mission of retrieving her very own American Girl doll. With the arrival of her birthday last month, the time had finally arrived.
My mom and I both speak highly of the wonderful day we had in Chicago with Shortcake. The weather was picture perfect and Shortcake was an easy travel companion. I would be lying if I didn't say that there weren't several conversations leading up to Punkin's day where detailed contingency plans were crafted should our second trip be a little less, shall we say, "ideal". While Punkin loves an adventure as much as the next person, she's got a very well documented history of spending a good portion of the time complaining about sore feet, thirst, boredom, hunger, sleepiness, or a lethal combination of any and/or all of the above. Above all else, the day can be going along easy breezy; however, when Punkin decides she's had it, SHE HAS HAD IT. It really cranks the mystery factor up a couple of notches. We spent months - literally - prepping her for the amount of walking that would be required. Shortcake and I pumped her up with tales of everything that she would see while in the city and talked at length about the awesomeness of the American Girl store. Twelve hours before we were set to leave, Punkin exhibited an equal combination of excitement and fear, and voiced several concerns including what to do if she got or Gramma got lost.
Saturday morning arrived and despite oversleeping by over an hour, the three of us made it to the train station with minutes to spare. Immediately Punkin was mesmerized by the tall buildings of downtown Joliet and the thrill of a train ride, but three stops (out of 23) into the trip the whining started. Bless the kindness of strangers, as the man sitting in front of us who handed Punkin a train schedule so that she could mark off the stops along the way very well may have saved the trip.
As we approached the second to last stop and it was announced that we were only ten minutes from LaSalle Station, Punkin started to mock hyperventilate. Then, as we pulled into the station she started asking, "Is this real life? Or is this a dream?". To make the scene even more dramatic, she claimed as we were walking off the train that she thought she was going to pass out. No, she's not at all a little over the top. Why do you ask?
With a light mist falling, we quickly made our way to Bennigan's on Michigan Avenue, our first stop of the day. There Punkin became refreshed, recharged, and instantly mesmerized by the table top game system while I sent The General evil text message pictures of a delicious Monte Cristo sandwich.
Once our bellies were full and our legs were ready we set out for the long trek down the Magnificent Mile toward our final destination. Shortcake had told Punkin all about The Bean so we made sure to make a stop there first.
A reflective surface with which to make ridiculous faces? Obviously she loved this attraction.
The key to success for this day as far as I'm concerned is to let the kid call the shots. We stopped when she found something she wanted to see and we let her take her time at each attraction, only casually encouraging her to move forward when time was running short. We stopped to gawk at the beautiful architecture, make wishes at the fountains, and watch boats travel up and down the Chicago River.
Punkin was so distracted by all there was to see that she had no time to complain about the long walk. It seemed like no time had passed at all before we were at the door of American Girl Place. Cue more drama (hands to mouth, quiet squeals, comments like "No, weally, I think I'm dweaming", etc.).
Literally the day Shortcake brought her doll, Kit, to her forever home, Punkin proclaimed that when her time came she was going to get Ruthie because Kit and Ruthie are best friends. I thought maybe she'd change her mind once she saw all the doll available to choose from, but she wasted no time making her final decision. Ruthie plus Punkin BFF4Ever.
We walked all throughout the first and second floor picking outfits to purchase and making plans for a return trip. When we ran into a little snafu with an intended purchase, we were quickly and professionally whisked away by a personal shopper who took us to a semi-private room where she catered to our every request. My mom and I were highly impressed with this complimentary service. Punkin, clearly, was less intrigued.
When our time was American Girl complete, we spent some time touring Water Tower Place including the Lego Store and Macy's where Punkin and her bath loving Gramma were drawn in to the magic of Lush bubble bath products. On the way back, we meandered down Michigan Avenue revisiting some of the sights we saw earlier with with additional mandatory stops at the Disney Store and Garrett's Popcorn.
Ironically, in the midst of all the chaos and glamor of downtown Chicago, the singular thing that captivated Punkin more than anything else was the disgusting pigeons. She seriously could not get enough of them. I, on the other hand, was rightfully creeped out. They are the squirrels of the sky.
To this point in the day, Punkin had been an absolute angel. Not one whimper about aches or pains, not so much as one incident when I questioned the decision to bring her on such a long excursion. Of course it was just a matter of time before the house of cards fell around us. As we started walking the three-quarter mile walk from Michigan Avenue to the train station, Punkin's enthusiasm drained with each step. Quiet protests of annoyance soon led to moderate level whines of aching feet. One minor mishap in directions nearly led to her downfall, but she rallied for a brief moment. Then, as she was required to muster the strength necessary to lift her feet to climb three short steps her body finally gave in and she collapsed in a dramatic heap on the steps of LaSalle Station with a pitiful moan for that little bit of extra flair. We somehow encouraged her to keep moving, and once she was settled on a seat in the top deck of the Metra car and comfortably sprawled out with her head on my lap and feet in Gramma's lap, we didn't hear another peep out of her until Joliet.
All in all, this kid made me so proud with how well she behaved. It was a lot of walking, and she handled it much better than either of us anticipated. The sights and sounds of Chicago proved to be a great distraction, and I'd take her back again for another day of fun and adventure anytime.
Just one more great day for the memory book with my littlest American girl.