Before we even got to the entrance ramp to the Kennedy, The Girl asked, "When are we going to get there?" The battle cry of an impatient 4-year-old (has anyone ever met a patient 4-year-old?!?). Sadly for all of us, the Kennedy traffic sign reported 36 minutes to downtown. A stop into Vogue Fabrics on Roosevelt for oilcloth ("Sold out. Check Evanston.") added another 1/2 hour onto the trip due to my clouded understanding of city streets after 7 years of northside living. The southside of Chicago does have an east side -- and it gets larger the further south you go. So a simple drive down Canal Street became a long drive east through lots of blight before we reached Hyde Park's leafy antiques.
Parking near the museum was, as usual, easy-peasy. Why anyone spends $16 to save themselves 3 blocks and a light is beyond me. Though perhaps I should be glad everyone does and that no one reads this blog my parking secrets revealed to a mass audience and I may have to eat it at Standard Parking. Today, although spots were easy to find, we were especially lucky with street cleaning, which had already come, gone, and ticketed. At noon, the signs were already removed along 57th Street.
The Boy was happy to see the R2D2 postal box is still near the museum entrance. I was happy to see that 1 adult and 3 kids can gain entrance to the museum for under $16 with Peggy Notebaert membership. We come to MSI about 3-4 times/year; at those prices, it makes little sense to shell out $118 for a family membership. Maybe when my kids are old enough to read the museum text and be mildly interested in genomes. On the ride down, The Girl asked a lot of questions about how babies -- human and chicken -- are made and born, so our visit included a stop at the chicken hatchery on the 2nd floor. Once there, all the questions stopped; she was more interested in tapping the glass to make the fluffy chicks come to peck at her hands on the glass, which is exactly how it should be when you're four.
Our tickets purchased, and wanting to avoid a repeat performance, I laid out a few ground rules for our visit. Then we went in. Straight to the bathroom for The Boy, then the cafe for a much-needed coffee for me, and finally to a table smack in front of the Jollyball for lunch. Which The Tot, The Boy, and The Girl ate only during the machine's 60-second breaks between runs. Most of the time, they were pulled up against the railing, wathcing the giant metal pinball make its rounds through refurbished junk-heap Switzerland. Oh, and back to the bathroom for The Girl as soon as our lunch was all spread out on the table. Any tips for taking 3 kids to potty in public places? Besides, asking them to go all at the same time, which backfired this time.
After 1/2 hour at the Jollyball, The Boy was ready to go upstairs to the train hall (The Great Train Story), an exhibit that captures the rapt attention of The Tot and The Girl as well as it does The Boy.
Down again to see "the girlie show" per The Girl -- Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle. She listened intently to the full audio tour. The boys were more interested in pulling down all the audiophones and fleeing to the exit and the ancient fire engines at every opportunity (The Tot).
Finally, we spent our last 45 minutes at the Idea Factory in the basement. Mobbed with daytripping daycamper when we arrived at 2:10 p.m., the Idea Factory was closed to new guests until they left the area. They were all lining up to leave as we approached the gate, so there was room not only for us to enter, but to enjoy our time there. The Boy and The Girl were hardworking factory employees, making the balls go down the river, where The Tot retreived them and put them in the air tube to be zipped back down to the factory base with The Boy and The Girl.
We headed home about 3, giving ourselves enough time to hit the bathrooms and a rare trip to the gift shop before picking up The Boy's swimsuit at home in time for his 4 p.m. swim lesson at Independence Park. (In the end, we needn't have rushed; lessons were canceled because some kid pooped in the pool and they needed 4 hours to ensure that it was properly cleaned.) My favorite part of the trip home from MSI is the stretch of I-55 that leads to I-90/94. I drive it so rarely these days, but the memories of driving home from the Loop with my parents when I was a child are strong. After years of hearing my mother's voice telling me to take the way to Indiana, it's hard to ignore it to take the way to Wisconsin.