8.16.2014

PART TWO OF CHICAGO
























This was one of my favourite days as the weather started out a little yucky and quickly turned into one of the warmest days of our trips.  We also got to explore several of the it places for our family and probably other families as well.

When we booked this trip, we failed to realize that it was Lollapalooza weekend.  It is a big tourist weekend for the city and we were told to avoid Millennium Park and Grant Park like the plague, at least on the weekend.  We took this advice to heart and ventured there when it was a bit quieter.  The start of the day began with a visit to the Bean.  It was really cool and much bigger than I imagined.  The reflection and inside of the Bean was magical and reminded me of some spaceship from out of this world.  The babes loved it because they ran free.

We were drawn into Grant Park by really beautiful music.  We followed it to find the Orchestra practising for free in the park for a free show they were to put on later on in the week.  It was a lovely treat.  I got to rest (I was really feeling pregnant this day).  The girls did cartwheels on the grass.  It was so lovely to see their free spirits soar in a place that they didn't call home.  In a matter of minutes, it seemed as though the weather changed.  The clouds disappeared and the sun shone with an intensity that was blinding and a bit uncomfortable.

Needing a change and food, we found a delicious restaurant on the outside of the park.  The soup, fresh bread and lemonade hit the spot and gave us the motivation to return to the park.  It was such a good idea.  Kids were frolicking in this amazing fountain.  On either end of the park there were these tall fountains.  On them were projected the faces of people.  They would slowly awake and then "spit" water on the kids.  The girls raced around in there undies...until a security guy on a Segway told them they couldn't.  We got in a good half hour though.

From there we went to the central library to relax our minds and bodies.  It was interesting for me because my favourite place in the world is my town library.  It is where my mind is calm, free and happy.  This library gave me really weird vibes.  It was really uncomfortable, literally and figuratively.  No bean bag chairs or spots to just cozy into.  I noticed the library being very forceful and dismissive when people asked questions.  The roaming security guard packing heat was a bit frightening as well.  The babes didn't seem to notice but I wouldn't head back there again.

The day ended with a trip to the Chicago Diner.  Meat free since '83.  Everything we ate was freakin' awesome.  I got a spicy "chicken" seitan burger with waffle fries.  I am not sure which spices they use on those fries and how on earth they made their dressing but it was stellar!  The Papa ordered a soul bowl.  Gorgeous huh?  The babes got Chocolate Chip milkshakes and Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip milkshakes.  Best ever.  We finished with dessert:  "cheese"cake and carrot cake (our favourite).  It was such an experience...that we returned two more times (to be explained in more detail on my Travelling with Vegan Kids Post).

Good day!  Wouldn't you say?

8.13.2014

CHICAGO PART ONE



















Our first official non-jet lagged day of the trip led us to the Lincoln Park Zoo.  At first we were hesitant.  Most vegans do not believe in animals being caged and put on display for the sheer entertainment of humans.  We are of this belief.  Before we made our decision, we researched the zoo to see if we could be swayed.  We wanted to ensure that their were health and rehabilitation initiatives in place for some of the endangered species and all animals in the park.  Our eldest babe, has also been fascinated with polar bears for years.  As you can tell by her expression in the first photo, she was super excited to have witness a polar bear (who was rehabilitated and saved) frolic in the water and then quickly retreat to a cool cave.  Throughout our visit the babes commented on the beauty of the animals and our responsibility to protect them.  Although we will probably not go to another zoo again, we were pleased to see our children foster a deep respect for the animals and concern as the day we visited was particularly warm.  The zoo is open to all and free.  There is a beautiful carousel that features carved endangered animals and gilded poles.  There is a store to buy stuffies and such.  We avoided that like the plague.  There are also expensive concession stands.  The restaurant offers organic options, which surprised me.  And because it is in a park, there was very little gawking as the animals retreated when they felt they needed space and many people were just Chicago residents going for a workday jog or lunch walk.

We spent the other part of the day visiting the Navy Pier.  Due to poor weather, the ferris wheel which we intended to sit on, was shut down.  Instead we went to the Children's Museum.  Let us just say, it was a really tourist thing to do, we spent a lot of money (as children under 2 still have to pay admission - it was $70 for all of us).  It wasn't the most exciting thing to do for the grown ups.  Two of the stations were fun.  The other 10 were boring.  Basically, if this was in Ottawa we would have waited for the free night on Thursdays to go.  The water station is awesome.  The babes got soaked.  The Papa and Harriet built a terrible skyscraper, but had fun.  There was a nature zone where one could project their shadow onto a screen and then computer generated butterflies would land on you.  Pretty cool.

As for the Pier itself:  busy, touristy, obnoxious.  Very little food options for vegans...so pack a lunch. Lots of stalls trying to hock Chicago paraphernalia.  Lots of confusion and no chance to really think to yourself.  It was an experience, but we would pass the next time.

Stay tuned for Part Two of our trip.

PART ONE TRAVELING WITH KIDS: CHOOSING YOUR TRIP



Well we are back from our trip and we had an amazing time.  Chicago was, so far, the best city that we have chosen to visit as a family.  We really didn't know what was in store for us, considering we did little research in preparing for this trip.  All we knew is that we wanted to get away, that the flight had to be short and we wanted to go to a big city.  This post is a compilation of notes we found helpful when choosing a trip to take three young children and a pregnant mama on.  It must be noted that we are a low key family reigned by a mama who is very organized and doesn't like to stray far from my comfort zone (I am working on it!).

1.  Decide on your budget.  This can make or break your decision.  Our budget was in a modest range.  Because of the size of our family, we knew that if we were to fly it would be expensive.  We also have three meals to take care of for five mouths.  Early on we decided that we would eat out once a day and cook the rest of our meals.  One must allow for a little wiggle room in terms of $500.  Unforeseen expenses with regards to transportation, meal costs, admissions, etc., just come up.  One doesn't want to be disappointed or miss exhibitions or experiences because of a strict budget.  But you must know what you are dealing with.  For us, our funds meant we couldn't afford to go to Vancouver and stay there for a week as planned.  So we shifted gears and decided on Chicago!

2.  Big city or quaint little spot?  Our family has the blessing of having a summer cottage that is 25 minutes away and we live in a small town (6000 people).  We love our town but we were eager to introduce the girls to a big city experience.  The papa and I, growing up in the city, we eager to return to our roots and see big things, just enough to settle our wanderlust hearts.  For us the decision was easy and unanimous.  For you a quaint little country spot on the beach could just be the ticket.



3.  Stay in one location.  Unless camping and portaging, I suggest finding that one place and booking a place to stay still in.  We have three small children that at the end of a long day need a place to return to.  Always being on the move can be stressful.  You are constantly picking up and packing up.  When children are away from home, it is so easy to be anxious, irritable and a little homesick.  Having a place for them to retreat too and mimic that safety of home, was super essential to us and their little bodies/minds.  For us, we found the coolest hostel, which I will describe later.  We loved it.



4.  Accessibility.  We are cheap.  We also love getting around and exploring at ground zero.  We were carrying only a stroller and our biggest littles used their feet.  Chicago, specifically in Lincoln Park where we stayed, is super accessible.  We purchased transit passes for a week that got us from the airport, to every destination and back again.  The passes were inexpensive and covered both light rail and buses.  The City Mini stroller that I borrowed from my friend was awesome and could go on and into anything.



5.  Fun factor for kids and adults.  Let's be real.  When you have kids, not everything is about you any more.  Nothing can be more true than a trip.  That is why it is essential for you to choose a destination that ignites you and your children.  Chicago for us had the architectural beauty that we loved mixed with museums, beaches, piers, and exploration that the babes desired.



6.  Food Culture.  All my babes are vegan, which means we need to go to a place that satisfies our dietary needs.  Let's just say we ate amazing vegan food.



I sure hope these six points help when choosing your trip.  Coming up in the travel series I will be showing pictures from our trip and commenting on traveling vegan, hosteling, and surviving the plane rides (we made a lot of mistakes on this one).

8.09.2014

ELDEST BABE'S BIRTHDAY WEEKEND

Charlotte Harlow Laine, my dear eldest babe, celebrated her 6th rotation around the sun a couple weeks ago.  It is amazing to see how much she has grown.  From the tiniest of babes to the vocal, funny girl that frolics about so freely.  With her birth, I instantly became a mother.  She has brought me so much joy through her existence.  To watch your babe grow and transform is sheer magic.

The little hands are a bit bigger.  Her teeth that took so long to emerge are now starting to wiggle.  Her feet sometimes make her clumsy but they are so cute with her sparkly blue polish.  The hair that once was a single curly cue is now luscious.  She wouldn't have it any other way.

My daughter is her own little person with own ideas and thoughts.  I want nothing to dress her in black.  She wants nothing but blue.  I would love her to join a sports team.  She wants to sit in her room and make 100 necklaces and finger knit.  I would love for her to start reading.  She wants us to read to her and decide for herself when she will pick it up.  I want to live on a farm.  She wants me to live on that farm.

Time truly passes by in the blink of an eye.  But I have been fortunate to spend almost every day of her existence with her.  I have had the distinct pleasure of watching her grow and having her shape me into a better person.  Her sensitive nature has allowed me to become more sensitive and patient.  Her smile has lightened my day and load.  Her old soul has grounded me.  

Dear girl, you truly are a gift in our lives.  I can't wait to spend each moment with you.  

My birthday wishes for you:

1.  To explore the world carefree and unafraid.  
2.  To have hope.
3.  To impart your loveliness onto all those you encounter.
4.  To grow strong in yourself, physically, in your heart and in your head.
5.  To remember you are always loved and cherished.
6.  To dance like you don't care.
7.  To care for your sisters and teach them kindness.