A lovely, exhausting day started with the hotel breakfast in a meeting room with a view of Grant Park. Basic pastries, fruit, juices, and coffee gave us all energy to face the morning.
We set out to find the Howard stop on the Red Line of the El. We didn’t realize until we arrived that it was a subway train. One of J.Hooligan’s “dreams” was to someday ride on a subway. Both kids were taken aback by the noise and rush of the train, but we whisked north in no time and disembarked at Grand.
We have transit passes, so I don’t know why we decided to walk all the way to Navy Pier. Maybe unfamiliarity made it seem longer than it really was, but it felt as if we walked forever. Furthermore, about halfway there J. complained he needed the bathroom. He didn’t really clarify how badly he needed it, but we found out when we got to the restrooms at the Navy Pier.
Diamondqueen took S.Hooligan to the woman’s restroom while I shadowed the entrance of the men’s room, waiting for J. The girls reappeared and still I was waiting for J. They went off to look around a couple of the souvenir shops, returned, and still no J. I yelled into the bathroom three separate times for him. After the last time, a young custodian came out and assured us, “He’s coming.” (I’d started wondering if we needed to corral a male security guard to go in and make sure J. was okay.)
J. emerged in tears. He’d suffered diarrhea and claimed he’d soiled himself. Thus we started shopping for fresh shorts; J. seemed happy when he learned he’d have to go commando under them.
Diamondqueen settled on the cheapest option, a pair of black, baggy shorts with “Chicago, Established 1837” printed up the side of them. She gave the bag to J. with instructions to take off the old things, put on the new shorts, and stick the old things in the plastic bag and bring them out. He emerged looking happy and quite relieved. He sighed, “Now I’m ready to have some fun.” And the shorts were becoming and comfortable for him besides.
Our first item of business was to ride the enormous Ferris wheel, something Diamondqueen had her heart set on—a kind of tribute to the first Ferris wheel at the Columbia Exhibition. Last week the weather people seemed to predict rain for today, but we lucked out with another spectacular, clear day, this time a little warmer than yesterday. S.Hooligan expressed some trepidation about the monstrous ride, but she went along well enough as we waited in line. However, as soon as they closed the metal doors on our car, S. broke into tears: She was afraid. She literally sat on the edge of her seat the whole time, but the rest of us gushed about the view, the city skyline, the sailboat-specked exquisitively blue lake water, and so on. After we’d gotten off the ride, Diamondqueen and I were astonished to hear J.Hooligan admit, “Actually, I was pretty terrified myself.” He’d done an affable, calm, effective job of hiding his fears, and Diamondqueen expressed her appreciation.
Diamondqueen had purchased a combo ticket, so there were supposed to be three more rides apiece for the kids. However, S. said she was afraid to ride the big swings without her mother, so she sacrified one of her rides so Diamondqueen could ride as well.
Naturally, S. loved the ride and went on again. J. said he wanted to use his rides to go on the Ferris wheel again with his mother. Diamondqueen was thrilled. When they got off the wheel, S. told her mother she wanted to ride the swings again. J. admitted he’d really wanted to ride the carousel. After that, we had lunch at the crowded McDonald’s, perched on tall chairs that sent me “toddling” off them a couple different times. After souvenir shopping and some smashed pennies, we caught a bus to take us back into the downtown area. My back hurt, my feet were swollen—I was not going to hike back up to Michigan Avenue.
S.Hooligan was about to burst, she was so excited to get to American Girl Place. Her grandma had made her and her Kit doll matching pink flowered dresses, so S. and friend were all set for AG shopping and our high tea late in the afternoon. We weren’t sure how uncooperative J. would be on such a feminine expedition, but he was too tired to fuss much. I looked at all the cute vintage-modelled accessories, which is all that interests me about American Girl dolls, then J. and I found some cushioned benches where we could rest our weary hides.
Meanwhile, S.Hooligan and Diamondqueen moved on to the second floor. When they joined us on the cushions for a rest, they said Kit had a 2:45 appointment at the beauty parlor for a facial and hairstyling. J. and I tried to hover nearby and watch the spa-like treatment for kit, but S. wanted the new ‘do to be a surprise and drove us away with a vicious glare. When she ran to us, beaming, with her doll, Kit’s hair was moist and brushed and gathered at the top on each side with pink and purple ribbons, which S. had chosen specifically. We took another break as we waited to be called in to the cafe for our special American Girl tea.
Diamondqueen and I have had high tea at Harrods in London a couple of times; this tea was just as enjoyable and more creative. A hostess led us to our table, bringing along a specially made seat so Kit could sit comfortably as well. Our table was near the long window, with the Water Tower peeking in over J.’s shoulder. The cafe was very feminine and frou frou, with bold flower motifs, black and white striped walls, and dark pink and white swags at the windows. S. took great delight in stating how awful it must be for J. to be doing something as girly as having afternoon tea in such a girly restaurant. (S. really loved using that word “girly.”)
We were served mini cinnamon buns along with our beverages (hot tea for Diamondqueen and me, chocolate milk for J., pink lemonade for S.). Next was a chrome server stacked with plates of delicacies: chocolate chip scones and fruit kabobs on the top layer; pepperoni pastry bites and soy-based PB&J on the middle layer; and cucumber sandwiches and mini brioche rolls with chicken salad on the bottom layer. For dessert, we each received a plate with a chocolate-covered marshmallow and white chocolate-covered strawberry on a skewer, a Jell-o “smile” (gelatin in a slice of lemon peel), and strawberry mouse in a little glass flowerpot with a silk daisy “growing” out of it. S. also got a small piece of cake with a candle because I’d told the server this was part of an early birthday celebration for S.
All these little samples were surprisingly filling, especially since almost nothing interested J., and S. zeroed in on just certain things. I especially liked the cucumber sandwiches and fruit kabobs, and I had several cups of camomile tea. Kit had invisible tea served in a tiny china cup.
We returned to the hotel by bus since we could go across the street from American Girl Place to catch one, rather than hiking around the corner to a Red Line stop. Traffic was heavy, which gave us a chance to sightsee as the bus crawled along.
We crashed for a couple of hours when we reached the room, but the kids really, really wanted to go swimming in the hotel’s covered pool. I’d already been sick on the rich food from the tea and recovered, and Diamondqueen was nursing a similar reaction, so she stayed behind while the three of us went down for a bit of splashing about. It felt cool in the pool area, even though it’s enclosed, and the water was a little chillier than I would have liked, so we stayed only about an hour. We finished off our evening using my netbook’s Web camera to take videos of the Hooligans, including a special birthday presentation to send to their dad, who celebrated alone but in blissful peace and quiet at home.