Having the freedom to pick up and go with Keith on business trips--anytime if not anywhere!
We recently took off for a 3-day trek to Milwaukee and Chicago leaving Gabe behind with Keith and Nicole--before the arrival of Vince, of course. (I think it'll be my turn to do the babysitting for them next time--bring it on!)
We learned many years ago that purchasing an annual family pass to our local children's museum and one for the Science Center (of Chicago or St. Paul) will get you into any coordinating museum in the country, and there are hundreds. We went to four different museums on this trip (not the stuffy-don't-touch places that only I would enjoy, but the hands-on, try-it-out kind that the kids love) and were able to use our memberships from other places for all four. In this case it was about a $150 savings.
We left Keith to his business meeting in the hotel, (sure I let them peek through the crack in the door)
and headed for the Milwaukee History Museum. Our first stop was the butterfly room where we were surrounded by butterflies. The boys and I loved it; but Lisa, along with just about every child under the age of 3, was consumed with a skittish aversion to the ever-so-fierce winged creatures. It was SO hard not to laugh. She even realized how unfounded the fears were and laughed at herself, though, so I felt free to throw in a chuckle or two myself.
We also loved the miniature "Streets of Old Milwaukee" where we visited the old time candy shop, selling candy for modern time prices.
We wandered through the ethnic neighborhoods representing the many European countries that made up the city and had to get a picture by the Portuguese fountain for Mendo.
Later, as we toured other parts of the world we stopped off in Thailand and remembered Light!
I was amazed at how much everyone enjoyed our time, fully expecting that a history museum would be boring for these guys from the get-go.
Even so, one of their favorite activities was riding the escalators with Bryce and Owen trying to see how far they could reach their legs on the steps.
Next, we walked over to the Discovery Center and everyone kept busy...discovering! What an accurate name for that place. Lisa was thrilled with the sailing vessel (yep, I forgot what it was called) in the aquatics section. It was an actual ship, not just a replica, and when Lisa heard the guide say, "you can touch ANYTHING," she did! Her favorite place was the cabin where she 'built a fire,' cooked a meal, and settled into the ever-so-comfy, hard-as-a-board, made-to-fit-an-8-year-old bed.
They even kept with the shipping theme--aquatics and shipping being a major focus because of the city's and the center's location on Lake Michigan--going with the display of weights and levers and pulleys. We got to try to lift a 300-pound ship's bell with several methods to demonstrate physics. Lisa proved that with enough pulleys, she could lift the bell faster and with greater ease than her almost-teenage brother, Bryce.
In the lower level there was a hands-on tank and a display of freshwater and saltwater sea creatures. The saltwater fish were there to help visitors connect the lake with the entire Great Lakes chain and St. Lawrence Seaway on out to the Atlantic Ocean. But I really think they did it because sharks and stingrays and jelly fish are so much more interesting and touchable than walleye, carp, and bass!
Our main mode of transportation was our feet. We kept the car parked at the hotel and walked the less-than-a-mile distance to all of our sites. I think the walking was one of the best parts of the trip. You don't really see a city unless you get out of the vehicle. Our hotel was on the river so we got to enjoy a bit of the river walk as well.
Lisa and I especially enjoyed all of the sculptures along the river. Of course, we had to see the Bronze Fonz (if you don't know what I'm talking about you are probably under the age of 40), and Lisa loved the many bronze ducks along the walk.
Our final stop in Milwaukee was the Children's Museum. Lisa loved the mechanic shop and proved that she does NOT share her mother's complete lack of interest in anything automotive.
The news room was a big hit all around but the best part was playing with the green screen and making some interesting video!
Our time in Chicago was short but these guys made the most of it with two trips to the hotel pool and a walk to Navy Pier and another Children's Museum. They fought fires, built homes, climbed the rope course (much more fun than the stairs), and set a museum record on the water works exhibit.
You've wondered what kind of record could be set, right? Here's the water works exhibit. It is a series of pools and a 'river' with wooden slats to be used to dam the river and a small lock to demonstrate how ships can navigate the rapids. There are toy boats to float along the system and it's all fed by a large water wheel at the top.
My boys got the idea of blocking all of the dams, letting the water build up, putting their boats on top, opening the dams, and watching them race madly down the river. The trouble was, they weren't racing very madly. They were still just leisurely floating down the river. They tried a second time and then on the third try they figured they'd make sure there was plenty of water to swoosh those boats. They got two people on the hoses that fed the water wheel and opened all the valves. When these two got tired Mom filled in (I believe I was later referred to by Museum Staff as "Accomplice #1").
It seemed like I'd been holding the ropes for quite awhile when I asked what they were waiting for. They told me they wanted the water to spill over the edge of the lock. It was pretty obvious that the water couldn't spill over the lock without overflowing the upper pond so I told them to abandon that idea and prepare their boats. The boats were put in place, the water valves were left, and they began pulling out the wooden slats at the top of the system.
What we didn't consider was how much water we'd put into the upper pools and how it would have nowhere to go with the lower pool completely dammed up. We figured it out as the water began pouring over the sides of the middle riverway. The attendant just stood there with her mouth open as I directed the boys to pull the slats! She just shook her head in disbelief and kept saying, "No one's ever done that before."
Thankfully, the place is made for water and getting wet and there are floor drains everywhere. Within seconds there was no evidence of the wondrous feat we'd just witnessed. However, we decided to take our leave and not give them any more reason to tail us through the museum.
I said nothing more to the children until we were out in the hallway. Then, I called a huddle and quietly said, "I had to wait until we got out of there, but I just wanted to tell you, that was impressive. Give me fives!"
Sure enough, in keeping with the water theme, we walked out the museum doors and into the indoor garden where Keith was to meet us and what did they have decorating the place? Fountains. And water sprays. And what better place to see how high you can jump!
Last stop on the way home--a Jelly Belly tour. Be good and you get free Jelly Belly's. There were no records set here!
What's with the attitude and the jelly bean love bug--rather oxymoronical!
We packed about as much into three days as was possible and I felt like it! I think it took me an additional three days to feel rested again. It's hard to feel productive during a regular day when so much learning and exploring took place in those three days. I've always said if I could have $9,000 a year per student (a conservative estimate for what the public school spends) we would travel, travel, and travel. It was wonderful to be able to see and do so much so very close to home and to have so much fun together doing it.