Once upon a time, a long long time ago, when I was newly married and newly transported to South Bend, Indiana (a mere 2 hour drive from Chicago land) I had dreams of a romantic getaway with my husband, just the 2 of us-- lots of eating, lots of drinking, lots of sight seeing and walking hand-in-hand along Lake Michigan. It was a nice dream, but then a mere week after we moved here, morning sickness from our honeymoon conception kicked in and by the time it was gone the high-pressure intensity of Mike's new academic program made it something we needed to wait on. Fast forward a year or so and another pregnancy and more morning sickness and less money because, more babies. Then another year and a move and another academic program and more babies and I think you're getting the picture that my dream of the Chicago getaway faded and was replaced by sweet, more reasonably priced getaways to places where Mike was going for work, or to another Lake Michigan hot spot, but not Chicago.
I didn't let the dream die entirely though, and after 8 years of life so close to the windy city, I finally prevailed on Mike to take me (plus 4 kids) for a day and while the plans of romantic wandering were replaced by plans of big parks, pizza and zoo trips, Chicago happened. And it was great.
We hit up Saint Mary of the Angels church to start and the girls were pretty in awe. It was definitely one of the most beautiful churches I've ever seen.
Bernadette begged me to take a picture of this statue that she particularly loved and since I'm not evil, I obliged.
Then to the giant bean on our way to eat, because it's what you do:
We went for Chicago-style stuffed pizza next, and while they advertised on their menu that it takes 45 minutes to cook (a tidbit I would have liked to have advertised nice and big on a sign outside the restaurant) the kids were great and the pizza was greater.
Then we headed to the giant, incredible, amusement park-like playground at Millenium park and I really don't know how the girls will ever abide a normal park again. It was something else.
Lastly we trotted off to the Brookfield zoo, and again, I am not doing poor South Bend zoo any favors by exposing my children to the likes of Brookfield, it was incredible.
All in all, it was a beautiful day. I saw lots of different couples eating uninterrupted meals together without any other mouths to feed, or walking the city hand in hand with no little bodies to look after lest they plunge themselves into crazy Chicago traffic. I saw all the pretty hotels downtown that I used to daydream about and lots of fancy restaurants but there honestly wasn't even a twinge of disappointment about being there with kids in tow, regardless of the monumetal amount of work that it was. Obviously getaways are really important for husbands and wives, and we've had our fair share, but it just so happened that Chicago is something we did all together and I wouldn't have had it any other way.
If we had gone before Naomi was born, we wouldn't have heard her giddy excitement over "how huge the sky scrapers are!!". If we had gone before Bernadette was born, we couldn't have watched her face light up at the sight of the dolphins at the zoo or heard her various exclaimations that this was the "best day ever!!". If we had gone before Lucy was born, we couldn't have seen her fly down the most giant slide she will likely ever see as a 3-year-old or heard her little made up diddies about Chicago. If we had gone before we had Joe we couldn't have heard his enthusiastic grunts at the awesome grisly bear and enthusiastic grunts at the fake animals in millennium park and so on.
You get the picture. Life without kids is easier, and trips without kids are WAY easier, but life with kids is full of love and a self giving that is ultimately more fulfilling that anything I've ever experienced and trips with kids are full of a type of wonder and excitement at the newness and hugeness of everything that I don't experience as adult anymore.