Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Windy City

The Scott D. Smallie family LOVES Chicago.  Their bank account, however, does not. 
Carter was the one student at GCHS to be chosen to attend the Illinois Leadership Seminar in Chicago, June 7-9.  (Actually, Rachel was the first chosen, but she couldn't go.  We love Rachel.  She is a great leader.  She was also chosen to go to a camp for our local Rotary and my mom said she did awesome.  Just wanted to throw that out there)  He needed to be dropped off on campus at North Park University at 6:30 AM on Friday, so we loaded up and headed north Thursday night.  Yay! for Carter being a leader!  Yay! for a family vacation!
We chose to stay at Embassy Suites on State St. because, well, that's where we always stay...location, location location!  Two blocks from Michigan Ave, one block from the train, and right in the heart of everything else.  The nightly room rate of $369 hurt my heart, a lot, but Scott's cousin Jenny was able to score us a huge's good to know people!  Of course parking was an extra $55/night, but it was nice to park our car on Thursday and not see it again until Sunday.  It's Chicago people, go big or go home!!! 

And we're off....

We only had one minor incident and it occurred as soon as we entered the city.  Carter had to crap.  Bad.  Really bad.  Like tears rolling down his face bad.  But, it was rush-hour traffic and we were stuck in a middle lane.  So, when he saw a porta-potty parked in the middle of the median, he disregarded all common sense traffic and jumped out of our moving car.  We were yelling at him "Don't jump!" "Close the door!", but he was long gone.  The zillion cars behind us started honking and we had to move on and leave him an IDOT shitter...attached to a trailer... filled with construction dudes.  Ugh.  Scott did his best to move into the left lane, but because of the one-way roads, we weren't able to turn off for a few blocks.  He parked on a side street and I ran back to the potty to see if Carter was still in there.  I dodged cars (very Frogger like) to get to the median and sure enough, he was still tending to his business.  So there I stood, in the middle of the road, during rush hour traffic, next to a Johnny-On-The-Spot.  Awesome.
After what seemed like forever, Carter finally emerged and we ran back down State St. to find Scott and then finished our journey to the hotel.
Carter's Crapper

We threw all of our crap in the hotel room and headed to Michigan Ave to enjoy a night on the town.
I think we have every one of these shoes sitting on the floor of our foyer.  They look much better as a sculpture in NikeTown.

I forgot to tell everyone that the waiters at Ed Debevics are supposed to be rude and sassy.  After our waiter took our order, Cate said "That guy was a huge jerk.  I can't believe he still has a job!" Bahahahaha.

Day 1 (well, first full day)
Bright and early Friday morning, Carter and I grabbed a taxi and headed for North Park University.

Doesn't he look thrilled?!
Ready for a great weekend??!
Super pumped??
Such a good boy for humoring me with a smile (in his non-air-conditioned dorm room)

I left him with specific instructions to break the rules and keep his phone on him at all times so he could text me updates :)  We found his small group and after I was mostly sure he was going to be ok, I made my way to the front of campus to hail a cab back to the hotel 
apparently, the Albany area is not big on cabs and after sitting on a bus-stop bench for 15+minutes I decided to take matters into my own hands.  I walked across the street to McD's, googled 'how in the hell do I hail a cab in Chicago', found a cab company website and ordered myself a ride online.  5 minutes later, my cabbie showed up and off we went. I'm badass, I know. 
The fact that this needs to be posted probably means it happens a lot.  Gross!

My cabbie took the Lake Michigan scenic view and I was seconds away from falling asleep when he started asking me questions about Carter's conference.  "Sounds amazing!" "Such a great opportunity" Blah blah blah.  I was just trying to take advantage of the windows down, radio up, semi-relaxing 'Driving Miss Debbie' ride before I was delivered back to the hotel and my traveling circus.  *sigh*
Lake Michigan is purty

Everyone was dressed and ready to go when I got back (go figure).  Our first stop....Shedd Aquarium!  Cate's favorite book in preschool was about a baby beluga and Mrs. Biewald was nice enough to mention to Cate that we should take a trip to Chicago so she could see the belugas herself.  Cate started harassing us about it in January, so there was little chance we were going to get out of there without visiting Shedd.  Thank you Mrs. B...that cute story and song cost us a small fortune!!! 

People watching.  Scott clearly loves the people of Chicago.

General Admission for Shedd is $8.  I'm pretty sure all you get to see for eight bucks is a few fish and the lobby...that's it.  Of course, the belugas were not in the cheap-o exhibits so we purchased the upgraded tickets (goodbye $192.00) that got us into everything (btw, thank you to whoever suggested we purchase them online before we left so we could avoid the HUGE lines..saved us probably an hour!).  The kids loved the 4-D show, the dolphin show and all of the other extras so I guess it was worth it :)
It seemed like most people (and field trips) didn't have the upgraded tickets, so we didn't run into crowds.  Which is a good thing, because Scott Smallie does not do well in crowds.

Finally, the BELUGAS!!  Cate was so excited!

"Deb! Deb!  Get ready!  Here it comes! Take the picture!  Hurry!"  Um, thanks Scott.  Got it.

I think I heard at least 10 references to Spongebob in the jellyfish exhibit.  Grown men think they're so funny.  But seriously, jellyfish are the coolest things ever.  Besides the stinging part.
All tatted up.  Please God let this be the closest thing she ever gets to a real tattoo.  Pleeeaassseee!

Cate was covered in stingray water and obviously finished with having her picture taken :)
Make that all three of them

Having a moment :)  We named these two dolphins, Brady and Bennett.  Brady swam around so fast doing tricks, jumping in and out of the water, and gave Cate all of its attention.  Bennett laid on the bottom and chilled out, paying attention to nothing.

Dolphin show!
Nothing keeps Bennett from his afternoon nap :)

Ooooh.  Ahhhhhh.
For dinner we headed to Gino's East for Chicago style pizza.  Friggin' amazing.  Two thumbs up.  Food drunk.  It was that good. The kids hung out in the pool for a bit and I waited for Carter to call.  At about 10:30 he finally made it back to his room and said that his first day was 'just ok' but he really liked the dance they had that night and that his roommate was nice enough ("kinda dorky but plays a high school sport so I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt") and that he was exhausted and he'd call me back Saturday night.  So much for the overload of details I was wanting :)

Day 2
On Saturday, Scott and the boys had tickets to the White Sox game.  He contacted an old high school classmate that is a sportscaster for the White Sox and he left tickets at will-call.  Amazing tickets for seats right behind home plate!  Again, it's good to know people.
While the boys were at the game, Cate and I hit Michigan Ave. again.  Our first stop...American Girl.  It's three stories.  And although I was impressed with the restaurant and the extra stuff, I think it holds the same amount of dolls and accessories as our home store in Chesterfield.  Just lots more space to make it feel grand.  Cate got to pick out a doll and finally chose #22 (the blond hair, blue eyed girl).  She named her Caroline (which happens to be Mrs. Biewald's daughters name.  Notice a theme to this trip?!)
I loved walking down the Magnificent Mile with Cate.  No stroller, no agenda...just the two of us, window shopping and taking in the sights and street performers.  F.U.N.  The boys weren't due home for a long time, so we stopped in to Rainforest Cafe for lunch.  She loves the "storms" that move through...

After lunch we went swimming and then she perched in her favorite people watching spot and waited for the boys to get back.
They had a great time at the game and caught three balls during batting practice.  It was also tshirt promotion day so they got lots of 'free' souvenirs!

Ben chose for us to eat dinner at a sandwich shop he saw on Man vs. Food.  It was really good!  The rest of the night they spent swimming while I packed up the room and Carter called about 11pm to say he had a really good day and was happy he was there.  Yay!

Day 3
We had to be at North Park University at 10am for Carter's "graduation". We grabbed our car from the tiny underground parking garage, (how do those guys park that many cars in that tiny of a space??), loaded it up with all of our crap, and made our way to campus.  We had to learn three chants before the new "leaders" came in (we were starting to understand why Carter thought it was 'not really his thing') and then after everyone was seated, a really great motivational speaker took the floor and finally 90 minutes later we were free to go.  Carter loved the speaker too and said he was the best one of the weekend. We both agreed that the camps main MC/leader (not to be confused with MC Hammer) was really awesome too.  He really got the place rockin' and that man could dance!! Overall, Carter had a fun weekend and met some really cool people that hopefully he will stay in touch with.
All of the camp counselors in Carter's group wrote him a letter.  I like this one the best.  (if you click on it, it will enlarge so it's easier to read).  I love that she mentioned his confidence and that he's self-assured.  All of our kids are.  Scott and I work really hard on this and know it's so important for kids to be self-confident.  Last week at Ben and Cate's Dr. appt,  Dr. B mentioned their confidence and said she believes it's a reflection of our parenting.  Control freak, high-strung parents = kids with low self confidence.  And in our case, parents who have completely lost all control and have thrown in the white flag = self-confident kids.  Whatever works!  Ok, back to the letter....I wish I knew exactly what "you especially shined during group reflections" means.  What did he open up about?  That worries me.  A lot. But he's pleading the fifth and unless I find an audio recording, I may never know.

Because Carter basically missed out on our family vacation, we let him decide what we did the rest of the day.  He chose to have lunch at Bubba Gumps on Navy Pier.  It was a beautiful day and he was happy to be back with us (mostly). 

Dippin' Dots always seems to show up wherever we are.  Ugh.

After a few hours, Carter's exhaustion set in and we jumped in the car and headed south.  Scott found our way to IKEA and gave me 30 minutes to make it through my very favorite store in the whole world.  That's about 5 hours too little, but beggars can't be choosers.  I found the perfect bed for Cate but he refused to let me buy it because there was no room in our car.  Bah Humbug.  Sensible people suck.  I'm sure I could have made it fit.  I ended up with a few kitchen utensils and some fabric for Cate's curtains but I reeeallllyyyy wanted that bed.  Oh well, next time ;)
We finally made it home around 10pm and everyone was more than ready to sleep in their own beds. 
love you Chicago,
until next time......

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