Monday, July 23, 2007

Here and BUSY!

Oh, my! I'm clearly bad at blogging. We flew in on Tuesday, drove to Milwaukee, and were back in Chicago on Thursday. Now it's the last day of the conference and I'm finally at a computer. The conference is wonderful, exciting, stimulating. . . also exhausting and overwhelming, especially with two 5 year olds who are doing a great job letting Mommy and Daddy participate, but really need more activity and room to run.

I've been attending mostly CE sessions and I promise to review them, but probaby when we get home. I signed up for sessions based on speaker names - oh, I know THAT name, I want to hear that person speak. So far I've been pleased with my sessions but I am starting to hit brain overload. I am going to do one last exhibit hall run before it closes (there aren't enough exhibit hall hours!).

The conference rooms are cold, cold, cold. I am carrying 2 sweaters and wool socks to put on during my sessons. I look like I'm bundled up for winter, not July in Chicago.

It's been wonderful to meet Leaders from all over the world. I've especially appreciated putting faces to names that I only know from the Community Network. No one ever looks the way I picture them.

Off to the bookstore and to enjoy my last day!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Day 1, Friday July 20th

Cheri has a bit of a problem with insomnia. This gets worse when we travel, stay in strange beds, or gets excited about an upcoming LLL conference. Needless to say, she was up WAY earlier then the rest of us. That gave her a chance to find a grocery store only 2 blocks away, hit it, and return so we could awaken to fresh OJ and cold milk on our cereal. HURRAY for mommy.

So, after eating and dressing, something we don't do quick, she headed off to a tour of nursing related art work at the Chicago Institute of Art. That left me and the kids to find our way. Several years ago we started sharing family choices by having something called "X's first day". We spend more time on this when the kids are stressed or excited (which they just happen to be right now), so we're sticking to it. Fiona has odd days and Kieran get even (by the way, she tries to change whether she's odd or even depending on which is most advantageous; dad was the slowest to catch on, but it's now official and published on the internet, so don't let her tell you otherwise). Kieran then got to pick what we did...and he already knew what that was. He wanted to go to the Shedd Aquarium.

Well, that meant a short (~30 minutes with stops and climbing on things) walk and we got to a HUGE line waiting to get into the museum. After some trepidation, I overheard one of the workers asking if anyone was in line and wanting to do the "City Pass". Well, we'd already decided we wanted to get in on that, so after a brief filing of a slip of paper, we where in the museums buying our tickets. This will eventually get us into the Shedd Aquarium, Alder Planetarium, Field Museum, Hancock Observatory, and Museum of (technology and industry?), all while skipping lines and for a cheap price. Definitely worth it for our family.

Once in the Shedd, the kids demonstrated an amazing amount of cooperation, sticking to the Kieran first day principle as well as helping each other find cool things to see. We spent about 4 hours by the time Cheri showed up and pointed out that even though we'd had a great time, we'd missed the best parts. So with her accompanying us, we headed off to the Oceanarium and the Wild reef seeing Beluga whales, dolphins, and lots of sharks and rays. Very cool. We are members of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and this was different enough to make it a great day.

About the only problem we had was Kieran became fixated on buying these cheap plastic scuba/sub set that neither Cheri nor I wanted him to get. We had them save their allowance for the past 4 weeks so they had money, but we just didn't want him to get that item. This resulted in total thermal meltdown in the gift shop, and several escalating blow ups on the walk back. We managed to get him calmed down, but he was dead set on returning then next day to get the set.

Saturday would be Fiona's first day, so he started a campaign of talking her into going to the Planetarium, which placed the Aquarium gift shop on our path. More on that soon :)

Fiona says "The turtles were really neat"
Kieran says "The gold colored fish were my favorite"

Day "0": Thurday July 19th

Well, despite the date of this post, I wanted to back track a little and tell you about our first day in the windy city.

We drove down from Milwaukee with what we thought was plenty of time. We left at a little after 11 am for a TWO HOUR TOUR (with cheesy Gilligan's island theme)...I mean drive. Now, we while we don't live in the LA basin, we have visited it occasionally. LA has nothing compared to downtown Chicago. We drove to the heart and was averaging some awfully slow speed. At least in LA they have carpool and express lanes for traffic not getting on and off anytime soon. Not so in here. It's slow in every lane, and it doesn't get better anywhere.

Once we got to the hotel, I returned to Midway airport to return the rental car, something our GPS thought ought to take 15 minutes, but really got me to the airport barely in time to avoid extra charges. The Metra trip back to the hotel was very pleasant in comparison. Note to self: don't drive in Chicago anymore.

By the time I got back, 2 hours had past. 2 hours in which the kids had already unpacked and hit the pool...got to love that enthusiasm!!! They where definitely ready for an extended hotel stay.

We'd asked for a refrigerator, which the hotel had limited numbers. We managed to snag one, which made me reconsider the 2 portable coolers we had picked up. However, by the time we got up Friday morning, it was warmer in the fridge then outside of it. Back to plan A for keeping our milk, cheese, and lunch meat cold. Course, took the hotel another 36 hours to actually come and take the defective appliance away, but that's efficiency for you. We ended up showing up with 2 full coolers after my grandmother got done giving us food galore. Now we just have to empty the ice machine twice a day!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Big list of Things!

As promised here is a big list of things we've gathered from email lists, blogs, and websites in no particular order.

Museums

Art Institute Art museum that is a short walk from the hotel. Huge selection of art from different periods. Something for every art lover.
Shedd Aquarium A long-ish walk from the hotel.
Adler Planetarium A long-ish walk from the hotel.
Museum of Science and Industry Bus or cab ride needed.
Field Museum of Natural History. A long-ish walk from the hotel.
Chicago Children's Museum Bus or cab ride needed.
Terra Foundation for American Art
Museum of Contemporary Art
DuSable Museum of African American History
Peace Museum
Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum
Spertus Museum exploring Jewish learning and culture. Short walk from the hotel.

Zoos

Lincoln Park Zoo Bus or cab ride needed.
Brookfield Zoo Train or cab ride needed.

Tourism and Transit

Chicago Transit Authority This link provides lots of information about traveling via public transportation in the Chicago area, including a trip planner that will help you plan your trip to the hotel from airport, train station or other location. Whether you travel by subway (we call it the "El" in Chicago), bus or train, this is the place to find information. The hotel is accessible by El from both Midway and OHare airports.
Borders Books & Music 150 N. State St., Chicago, IL 60601, (312) 606-0750 For those interested in the new Harry Potter or other books not available in the Conference bookstore.
Chicago Office of Tourism
Chicago Park District Provides information about park activities and facilities available in the Chicago area.
Top Chicago Attractions An overview.
All Day Weekend Family Metra PassUnlimited Travel$5.00All day Saturday & Sunday*Not applicable on the Chicago South Shore & South Bend 3 children free per fare paying adult. CTA Visitor Pass The CTA 1-day Visitor Pass is just $5.00, and allows unlimited rides on all CTA buses and trains from time of first use. Additional savings on 2, 3 and 5 day passes. Passes can be purchased online at www.transitchicago.com Union Station (Amtrak ticket counter), Sears Tower, RTA office at 11 S. Wells (weekdays), Navy Pier, Hot Tix booths and other locations.

When taking public transportation from Midway Airport to the Hilton Chicago Take CTA ORANGE LINE TRAIN (ORANGE LINE - CLOCKWISE)to STATE/VAN BUREN CTA (BRN/ORNG/PRPL). Take CTA BUS # 62 ARCHER SOUTHBOUND from VAN BUREN & STATE. Arrive: BALBO & STATE. Walk 0.2 mile E to 720 S MICHIGAN AVE.

Stuff to Do

Hilton Chicago on Michigan Avenue you can walk easily to the Lake front. It's a bit too far for an easy walk to Museum Row or to Navy Pier or to Water Tower Place.


DANCE IN THE PARKcommunity event, dancing under the stars, during summer only a few blocks south of the Hilton Congress & MichiganJust south of Congress hotel on Lake side of Michigan Ave.Every Thursday, Fri. & Saturday evenings during summer and Sunday afternoons too.

Millennuim Park is walking distance (just go north) of the hotel and has great free music all summer. The lineup during the Conference:
First I'll mention for all you getting there early, that a band my son is in (the Friday, July 20, 6:30 pm and Saturday, July 21, 7:30 pm -- Bernstein's Broadway--the Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus celebrate the music of Leonard Bernstein
Check out www.millenniumpark.org and www.grantparkmusicfestivalcom for more info. SEE below for free “Wait Wait Don’t tell me” show.
For the concerts, there is some seating and then there is a huge lawn area where people bring blankets and picnic while listening to the concert. You can come and bring food and the kids can run around.

The family fun festival is actually a summer long event. The show I mentioned on the 17th is about an hour. But there are performances every day at 2:00 pm—mostly music but storytelling on Thursday. On Wed., Fri., and Sat. there are repeat shows at 4:00 pm. And every day there is Wiggleworms at 10 am –a local music school leads activities for babies and toddlers,including songs, finger games and circle dances.

Quest Days – New! •July 21, 11 am - 1 pm •Northerly Island - on the Museum Campus, 1400 S. Lynn White Drive •Free Is your family ready for a challenge? If so, we recommend the 2007 Park Quest. The Park Quest is a little Treasure Hunt, a little Amazing Race, and a lot of fun! During these programs you will find clues, solve problems and discover what is unique about the nature in your local park. You may have to read a map, use a compass and solve riddles about the natural areas in the parks listed below. Complete more that two Quests this year and receive a Nature Oasis patch. Families are encouraged to pack lunches and enjoy a picnic in the park. No registration is required.

For those arriving early - NPR's news quiz show "Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me" is taping at Millennium Park in Chicago on Thursday evening, July 19. The show is free. I don't know any other details yet, but my family and I plan to go! See http://www.npr.org/programs/waitwait and look under "other live appearances."

Food Leads

Giordano's Pizza. You're about 1/2 mile from either 135 E. Lake or 225 W. Jackson. The walk to the Lake St. location is very pleasant. Just stroll North on Michigan Avenue, turn right (east) on Lake and go about 1 block and you will see our location. The other location is in the West loop, right by the Sears Tower if you want to go see that. Head north on Michigan again, turn left (west) on Jackson and go about 6 blocks.

They both open at 7 am:
Printer's Row Farmer's MarketLocation: Dearborn and Polk (36 W – 800 S)Saturdays-------this is by far the closest to the hotel, less than half a mile
Federal Plaza Farmer's MarketAdams & Dearborn (230 S - 50 W)
Tuesdays------------a little over half a mile

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Count-down

Between end of preschool (yippee! That's ANOTHER volunteer job finished for me!), beginning of summer, our local NCa/HI conference planning, and the recent severe illness and death of our dog, this blog has been sadly ignored.

And now somehow it's less than a week before we leave and I'M NOT READY!

I'm a list-maker. And I tend to enjoy making the lists more than doing what's on them. Currently, I have about 4 different conference lists, from what to pack, to what to do in Chicago and what I need to get done before leaving. Actually, there are a couple of "what to get done first" lists and I'm adding to them faster than I can check things off. I'm on the LLL Community Network Conference list, which has been amazingly busy the last couple of weeks. From that, I have a list of restaurants, grocery stores, museums, and activities near the hotel (I'll post it here in the next day or two). I've also got our long packing list printed out and ready to start.

I really hate packing, even more so with children since I'm now packing for 3 people (James can fend for himself!). I don't want to spend my time in Chicago doing laundry, so I'm trying to figure out how to take the minimum # of suitcases and still have enough clothing for us for 10 days. At least I know what to expect at the conference - over-airconditioned rooms, so I'll want slacks and sweaters. And when we're out and about, we'll need light-weight clothes and sun protection. My daughter has been telling me daily what needs to come with her. For a five-year old girl, those items tend to run towards notebooks, pens, dolls, multiple hair ribbons, makeup, and way more clothing than she'll need. We'll be paring down tremendously! My son will be happy with some Legos and his cowboy boots.

What I'm looking forward to:
meeting Leaders from all over the world
putting faces to names I only see on emails
the bookstore (James, don't read this. . . I hope to need an extra suitcase for my purchases)
the exhibit hall
all the CE sessions

Off to start gathering suitcases!