Monday, August 6, 2007

Post-Conference Blues

It's always hard to get back to your mundane boring life after a vacation. This is even more true following a great one like our trip to the conference. I had to work the very next day after returning, and I was pretty much useless :)

The second week was a little better, and I think I can get a full week's worth of work done now. Updating the blog has really made me reflect on what a good time we had and appreciate all the work that must have gone into putting that on. I can't imagine how many volunteer hours we took advantage of between the chance to dance and the kid's play room. I'm glad we could pay a little back in the form of our blog, albeit a little late :(

My understanding is there are no current plans for the next LLLI conference, and I feel saddened by that. I'm sure Cheri got much more out of this conference then I did, but I still loved the experience. Seeing all those kids just doing great being flung into a strange environment makes me appreciate our parenting style and choices better. Meeting so many people who share our parenting philosophies is also reassuring. And of course, celebrating the magic that is LLL is very uplifting. I know it takes a LOT of work, but it means so much to so many people that I hope we can do this again.

We've already decided we need to return to Milwaukee every other year, so then next time it's in Chicago, we'll definitely be there!

I've also really enjoyed reflecting on our trip via this blog. Not sure if anyone else is reading it or cares about how many time we hit the pool, but it has helped me realize the magic of this trip. My kids are still talking about things we did.

Thanks and take care.

The last day

Well, we usually try to leave early in the day, so the last day doesn't have much fun in it. This trip we had a late plane out, so we asked each of the kids what they wanted to do on their last day. Fiona wanted to go swimming and Kieran wanted to ride the subway. I know why the pool, but wasn't sure how the subway made the list of highlights, but so be it!

So, we started the day with a VERY cold dip into the pool. I ended up spending most of the time in the hot tubs, which seemed to be back to there expected use, so they where doing better. Kieran and Fiona bounced back and forth between tub and pool. Then we said our fond farewells to the pool area. Meanwhile, Cheri and managed to get our packing finished up, so we sent out bags to storage and headed out to the city one last time. Cheri and Fiona hit the Chicago Art Institute, where they seemed to have a good time. Kieran and I rode the Red line North (subway) and took the Brown Line through the downtown loop (elevated rail). Pretty cool for both of us. Then we returned to the Red line to the Chicago Ave. stop where where hiked over to the Hancock Observatory. Kieran wasn't all that keen on it until we got to the 94th floor, then he raised his opinion of the stop! What a view! While we looked down on the windy city, Kieran spotted a beach to the north of the building and asked if we could go to it.

"Sorry, but that's in the wrong direction Kieran. But we can walk back along the water way if you'd like".

"Well," said Kieran, "how about that one?"

Well, I can't argue against that one, as it's kinda along our way. So we headed over and wading into Lake Michigan, daddy up to his ankles and Kieran up to the bottom of his shorts. Played there for about an hour then started heading back. After trying to walk south past the Chicago River (no good pedestrian walkways) we ended heading back to the Red line for one last subway ride back to the hotel.

Then we grabbed out bags, met our shuttle and head back to Midway Airport. Our flight was delayed by an hour and a half, so I was glad we had games we could play on the gate's floor. It was very crowed at the gate and people began lining up close to an hour before our SCHEDULED departure! People, that's really not necessary. We ended up being trampled, so we moved and where glad to hear pre-boarding included families with children under 8. We'll take that! It was a later flight, so we got a little shut eye on the ride home. Note to self, don't take the back aisle seats as they don't recline because of the bulkhead behind them! So much for taking advantage of pre-boarding!

After events

So Tuesday was our first day to be together again. So, we headed off to the Museum of Science and Industry. VERY COOL. We saw an Omnimax presentation about the Egyptian Mummy's which the kids where luke warm about, but Kieran got a lot more out of as we'll see later. Right outside the theatre we saw an actual Apollo command module and a practice mock up of the Lunar Lander, which Kieran just LOVED after spending the last 3 days playing with his Apollo model! Another of Kieran's favorites was the U-505 exhibit, which is the actual sub capture during WWII. We spent the extra $5 per person to walk through it, and it was worth every penny. I think this was the highlight of Kieran's trip besides seeing great-grandma before hitting Chicago. Also got to go through a mock-up of a coal mine, which was interesting and depressing. Glad we don't have that job.

Wednesday we headed off to the Field Museum. Kids are definitely getting input fatigue as they did not do so well here. They like seeing Sue, the worlds largest and most complete T-Rex (especially since we'd seen "Night at the Museum" the week before). Both also enjoyed the underground adventure, we you are "shrunk" to half an inch and explore what the soil looks like from that height. Kieran also enjoyed the Egyptian section, especially being about to be inches from an actual mummy. Turns out he got a lot more from the Omnimax movie then I thought. Cheri and I ended up taking turns in the museum while the kids played outside. The museum campus is so well done that kids can spend hours on it without every entering the museums there! I ended up taking the kids back toward the hotel where they played amongst one of the art works nearby (, photo does not do it justice. Then, back to the pool!

Tomorrow we pack and head home, but not until we have one last chance to do stuff. More on that soon.

Day 4, Monday

You might have guessed that we are not doing a great job of posting while at the conference. Especially as these are being posted 2 weeks after it! That's not from not wanting to post, but rather there just being to much great stuff to do here. About the only way I could have posted more at the conference was if the tech room had extended hours (like 10-midnight after the kids go to bed) or I had my laptop. I hate flying with laptops (worrying about someone walking off with it) and the hotel is a little outrageous with daily connection fees, so that's not an option. I'm up anyways reading Harry Potter, but I couldn't imagine asking the conference hosts to put more effort forward. This conference has been great, and except for the food and temperature, I think Cheri would agree!

So, today we played some more in the kids room (last chance before it closes), spent more time in the pool, and I attended my second session. Gosh, I think I need to do better with that area! I'm usual not good about talking to strangers, especially other guys, but that becomes a lot easier when the other men are LLL dads. Hence the good feeling coming out of the "Fathering Open Space" session. We had some international representative from WABA. Really nice to have your thoughts and experiences reflected in the stories of others. We agreed we should continue this idea post conference, so I just joined the LLL Dads yahoo group. It's an open invite, so take a look at it if you're interested.

It was sad attending the closing ceremonies. Food seemed better this time, but just because I asked for the meat plate doesn't mean I don't like at least a little bit of vegetable matter! Turns out some folks have been getting sick following there visit to the conference, but we've managed not to get anything. Guess it helps to do more meals in the rooms!

Day 3, Sunday

Well, managed to get to my first session this morning! I'd had others I'd thought about the last 2 days, but it just didn't seem to work out. Got up, took Fiona to her chance to dance practice and sent Kieran off to mommy's session and went to "Philosophy of Advertising and Brain Development of Children" by Douglas Gentile, PhD. Very nice presentation. Speaker was funny and engaging while still scary the heck out of parents. Very glad our kids don't watch much broadcast TV. Now I just have to convince the grandparents about that!

Then it was lunch time and Fiona's chance to dance in front of 2000 people. I may be a little bias, but I think she did a great job! Cheri reminded me why the kids had to sit on our laps ($30/kid), so I let that one go and enjoyed lunch with a head in my face.

After lunch it was off to the play area where Kieran played matchbox cars and Fiona got her face painted twice along with an arm painting. The woman doing body painting was very talented and patient. More Kudos to the play room folks. Meanwhile, dad was being a bad dad by reading more Harry Potter. I can't help it, I'm an addict and that was my last chance for a fix. Must say I'm enjoying this book!

After that, it was off to the pool for a couple of more hours (seeing a theme yet?). Just one more day of the confernce left!

Day 2, Saturday

So, continuing the "my first day" theme, Fiona got to choose our events today. She started by going to the "Chance to Dance" event. Turned out to be a practice for an actual performance during Sunday's lunch. She loved it. Needless to say, she tends toward extrovert! While she was off doing that, Kieran and I got our first chance at the play room. Whoever is in charge of that needs some Kudos! Lots of cool play areas/stations (kitchen, house, construction, castles, art, camping, karaoke, toddlers, etc). Kieran spent his time in the castle play area where someone had loaned a really cool wooden castle with a ton of playmobile and bendable wooden figures.

After practice, it was off to the pools for 2+ hours. You might notice a re-occurring theme with the pool. Hotel's pool was a tad on the cold side for us. They also seemed to have problems keeping the 2 hot-tubs in working order. They where either too hot, too cold, or empty. I don't think they are used to 30+ kids getting in for 5 minutes then getting out again, carrying a ton of water with them.

After a brief stop in the room for food - did I mention we picked up a toaster oven so we can heat up food/make toast/toast bagels/make grilled cheese sandwiches in the room. Good tip for going cheap when you have kids that may eat 1 bite or chow down and you don't want to take the chance on 1 bite with an expensive restaurant. Anyways, after lunch we walked over to the Adler Planetarium. VERY cool. Kids had been to another planetarium near our house, but it was nothing like this. They got to pilot a shuttle around Mars, play with venting gas in a moon like environments, see a planetarium show, visit an early version of star gazing (Atwood sphere), and of course the store. Atwood sphere was a highlight with the kids. Basically it's a giant steel sphere constructed in 1913. You ride a small platform into the sphere, then it rotates like the night sky. It has wholes drilled into it where stars would be, so the light from outside the sphere allows you to imagine you where seeing the night sky. For my part, the store was the best part because I got Kieran to let go of the previous day's must have in lieu of a nicely made model of the Apollo spacecraft complete with detaching rockets, lunar lander, command module, and free-standing astronauts. He was really happy he waited and spent his money on that.

Then it was back to the hotel where I past the kids back to Cheri for dinner while I headed off to Borders to pick up Harry Potter 7. Also met with my area's conference reg chair so we could discuss the website for upcoming conference. Not sure I'm ready for another conference!