Monday, October 20, 2014


Every October, the Minnesota teacher's union has a conference, so all the Minnesota public schools are closed for three days. Even though the union changed its name to Education Minnesota a number of years ago, the break is still mostly called "MEA," after the union's old name, Minnesota Educators' Association.

About a month ago, one of my coworkers went to Washington, D.C. with her family. I was super jealous because I knew they'd have a great time with their kids seeing all the great museums and sights. I wanted to do that, too! But then I thought, hey, we could go to Chicago over MEA! So, we did! The girls were SUPER excited about the trip, and were counting down for days. On Wednesday morning Ella woke up at 5:45, saying "It's time to go to CHICAAAAAAAAAAGOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!"

We'd decided to fly, instead of driving. I found super inexpensive tickets on Spirit - I'm sure it ended up costing less than gas + roadside food. Plus, that way it only took us an hour to get to Chicago! The girls were excited about their first airplane ride.
(Technically not Maisie's first, but since she last flew when she was not quite 2, she didn't remember it at all.)

Ella was more excited than Maisie, who was super concerned about her ears popping and asked a bunch of questions. What does it sound like? why does it happen? will it hurt???? The actual ear-popping experience was pretty anticlimactic once it actually happened.

I know a lot of people have negative things to say about Spirit, but for what it's worth, both our flights were great. Their thing is the "bare fare" - your ticket gets you and one personal item from Point A to Point B. Nothing else is free... no free drinks, no free carry-on, no free nothing. The personal item has to be able to fit under the seat in front of you, so it can't be larger than 16" x 12" x 14". That was plenty big enough for us! The girls each had a backpack, I carried an old diaper bag, and Aaron carried a messenger bag. We filled them up but it was totally enough room for us for everything we needed for the trip. Aside from that, the flight attendants were sweet to the girls and the flights were on time. No complaints from us, and we'll definitely fly them again!

Once we landed, we hopped on the blue line train...

And headed off to meet my mom's cousin Cathy at her office! She and her husband Jim live on the south side of Chicago, and they very kindly offered to let us stay with them during our trip. We were happy to accept! We dropped off our bags at Cathy's office, and walked over to the Art Institute!

We only had an hour and a half there before they closed, but even in that short amount of time we saw lots of beautiful and famous artworks.

After that, we stopped by a comic shop where the girls picked out some comic books. Then it was time for dinner, and back to Cathy and Jim's for bedtime. Everyone was exhausted!

The next day we had great plans. First we went to the Shedd Aquarium!

We saw dolphins and Beluga whales, a giant puffer fish, seahorses, an octopus... so many interesting animals! Ella spent a long time at the tidal pool where you could touch starfish and sea urchins.

We spent a few hours there, stepped outside to admire the view...

Then we walked over to the Field Museum!

There we saw lots of cool exhibits. Aaron's favorites were the Hall of Gems and the jades. Ella's was the insects, and Maisie's was the ancient Egyptian artifacts. After a few hours it was back to the Shedd for more!

That evening we met up with Cathy, Jim, and their granddaughter Iris at Giordano's for AMAZING Chicago-style deep dish pizza. Iris is 2 and completely adorable. Ella was completely smitten, and I think it was mutual. :)

Friday may have been the girls' favorite day of the trip. We waved goodbye to Jim and Cathy, hopped on a train and then a bus, and landed in Schaumberg. We were going to Legoland!

We got there a little early, so we had a little down time at Starbucks.

Once we were there, we were off to the races! There were awesome Lego sculptures everywhere...

There were rides, and play areas, and of course a store.

I recently re-read Thinking, Fast and Slow, which discusses brain processes and how your brain can be "primed" for certain activities by seeing certain words. So, the prominence of the word SHOP made me laugh. It was literally the only word on this play structure. GO SHOP NOW! EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP!

Maisie enjoyed building with the giant soft blocks - this is her Christmas town.

Ella liked the Duplo pool!

We were leaving pretty early Saturday morning, so we spent Friday night in a lovely hotel (O'Hare Renaissance) right by O'Hare. We swam! We watched cartoons! We went to bed really early because we were all tired! And then we were home by noon on Saturday, so we had most of the weekend to relax before heading to work/school Monday morning. :)

So, it was a very full three days and lots of fun. The girls are great little travelers - there was a bunch of hurry up & wait which is sort of the nature of public transportation, and it gets tiring, but they were very patient. They did great. I should add that we got our admission tickets through the Go Chicago card, which was really convenient. I had them electronically delivered so it was right on my phone. Super convenient and definitely a money-saver, plus you get to jump the lines!

Thank you Cathy and Jim for your hospitality!

We are already thinking about our next trip. The Museum of Science & Industry and the Children's Museum are definitely on our list... it turns out we all love visiting Chicago!