Monday, April 11, 2011

Great Little Traveler

You know who's a great little traveler? Stella.

Knock on wood.

Sure, with the exception of Hawaii two Summers ago, Sarah, Stella and I haven't done any major traveling or vacationing outside of Washington. But, with Sarah's parents in Texas, some extended family in Illinois, and our respective siblings in California, Stella's already been on a plane more times in her first two and a half years than I had by the time I graduated from College. And, with the exception of some squirming and fussing and some trouble with sleeping in strange beds, she's been a complete breeze to travel with.

Again, knock on wood.

Two weekends ago, we had the opportunity to travel to Illinois again. Sarah had to travel to there for work, and so we decided to take advantage of her free flights and downtown hotel room, and make a little mini vacation out of it. It had been the better part of a year since our last visit to the area, and it was a good opportunity to visit with Sarah's family there; and for Stella to see her Nana, Grandpapa, Grandma Geri and, of course, Mia. Stella doesn't have any cousin's yet, and is still an only child (for a couple more months), so its good for her to get a chance to visit with Sarah's large extended family in Illinois and jump into the swirling mob of second cousins that live there.

But, in addition, it proved a fun chance for Stella and I to do something that we hadn't before: Explore a (relatively) new city together. Without Sarah to help us both along.

Stella checks out the bed at our hotel, during out night in downtown Chicago.

After getting in late on Thursday night (and after having to deal with a cab driver "forgetting" to return Sarah's credit card), Sarah had to wake up early the next morning to head to her day-long meeting. After sleeping in a little more, Stella and I got up and got ready for our day together in Chicago. First up: Breakfast!

Dig in! Stella focuses on the yogurt parfait, while I have a selection of eggs, bacon and potatoes. Plus, coffee!

After a tasty, if too expensive, meal at the hotel restaurant; we went back to our room, grabbed our stuff, and made the couple block trek to catch a bus to the Shedd Aquarium. Though the swooping pigeons at the bus stop were a bit daunting to Stella, she seemed to roll with the punches as we boarded the standing-room-only bus. Being a cute 2-year-old though, it wasn't long before she scored a seat, and soon even looked like she would have nodded off, if not the "bumpy road!"

Arriving at the Shedd Aquarium, we discovered that it was Spring Break for the Chicago area public schools, and that a line literally extended around the block to get in. An aquarium employee explained that the wait was an hour and a half long just to get in. Stella, initially seemed undaunted, insisting that she would wait in line to see the fish... but 5 minutes later grew bored of the line and wandered off to look at the giant stone head statue nearby.

Next to the Shedd Aquarium is the Field Museum. I'd already been there with Sarah on our last trip to Chicago, but I knew it was big enough that there would still be new stuff to see, and that it would have enough variety to hold Stella's attention. And, while the Shedd featured mutant-long lines, we were able to walk right in to the Field Museum.

The Museum did end up being a hit! Most of the exhibits seemed interesting to Stella, with only one or two causing her eyes to start to glaze over. And, only one -featuring giant animatronic insets- scaring her. In addition, there was a great toddler area, featuring a family restroom with a child-sized toilet... always a great find with a recently potty-trained toddler.

Anyhow, pictures!

Trying our the saddle at the Horse exhibit.

Playing some music in the children's exploratory area. Notice she took her jacket off, but insisted on keeping the hat on.

Probably Stella's favorite exhibit, a scooter with a ghetto blaster strapped to the back. Pressing one of three buttons would play part of a song. Stella enjoyed dancing to the music for a good 10 minutes or so. I took video, but Blogger is being disagreeable.

Giant robot bug = scary. T-Rex = not so much.

Leaving the Field Museum. Little girl, big steps!

As Stella began to grow more and more tired looking, I realized it was time to head back to the hotel to meet up with Sarah. Unfortunately, while the bus to the aquarium and museum had come nearly right away, the bus back took about 20 minutes to arrive, and Stella and I found ourselves packed into a crowded covered area, waiting for it to arrive (we'd brought the Seattle rain with us). One of the nice things about traveling with a little kid is that people who would usually be inclined to ignore a bearded 35-year-old suddenly become your best friends; and I soon found myself chatting with other tourists, as middle-aged women snapped Stella's picture like she was one of the museum exhibits.

Then again, who wouldn't want a picture of this?

Back on the equally crowded bus, Stella stood, wedged against my legs, gripping the pole and looking like she'd rode the bus a million times before. It was only after we were reunited with Sarah, and she was safely and snugly situated in her stroller that she finally dozed off. Which was probably the best, since Sarah and I spent the better part of the next hour pushing her around downtown, lost while trying to find the car rental place.

So, yeah, mine and Stella's little half day adventure wasn't anything spectacular, but it was just another reminder of what a great little traveler she is. (Knock on wood.) ...Which is a good thing, because in a little over a month, Sarah, Stella and I are going to go on Stella's first international adventure: A week long trip to Mexico!

I have to admit that I'm personally, really, really excited to be making the trip. And, I know that after all her hard work both professionally and as a mother, Sarah deserves this vacation. But, even Stella seems to be looking forward to it, stating daily that she "wants to go to the beach!" And, picking up our guidebook, and announcing "Want to go to Mexico!" So, we're all looking forward to this last big adventure before the arrival of our latest edition to the family!

Speaking of which, here's Sarah at 26 weeks!

Also, between now and our departure in mid-May, we'll be making another quick trip to the Bay Area. Again, Sarah has to go down there for work, but we are going to parlay that into a quick visit with her brother and sister-in-law. The big adventure for me on that trip is that Stella and I will be flying down in a separate flight than Sarah.

Wish me luck.