Should you find yourself in the Gold Coast area, you’ve gotta swing by a belgian bakery called Hendrickx Bakery. Several of Mike’s co-workers raved about this place and when we visited the MCA this winter, we stopped by for coffee and pastries. You have to be on the look out for it. The bakery is a tiny little spot set back on a portico off Walton street. Macarons, chocolate mousse, beautiful breads… and a small dining area around back. And I do mean tiny. You feel as though you’ve stumbled across a little neighborhood secret… and perhaps you have. The smell from the kitchen is heavenly.
A lot of people, including myself, might not think to take their kids to a contemporary art museum. Seems a little… modern… and funky… and how will I explain to my kids the meaning behind a giant cube?
However, a friend of mine recently posted about the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art’s family day events and I found myself suddenly eager to give it a try. After all, it has FAMILY in the name of the event.
Turns out all my silly misconceptions were just that… silly.
The MCA’s Family Day was an absolute blast.
These monthly open houses are a fantastic way for kids (and parents!) to see how art can mean so much more than traditional paint and sculpture. There were five stations where kids could dig right in and join the projects. From folding paper and stacking it alongside other paper boats to see how one small item, when placed with a hundred others can create its own work of art, to screen printing with a local community printing group, the place was full of kids and families enjoying the process of creating.
In the lobby, our daughter’s favorite exhibit offered up the opportunity for kids to step inside giant three-dimensional cubes. The kid inside the cube would move and the people standing outside the cube would copy the movement. Anna found another sweet girl to work with and the two of them mimed for several minutes before switching roles and trying it again.
Snacks were offered in a multi-media room where kids could watch interesting videos created by artists with images that would morph and transform. The videos got mixed reviews from our kids, but we all appreciated the chance to sit down and enjoy a banana and a juice box.
Now there were signs outside one exhibit that asked parents to use discretion with kids when viewing it. I appreciate that the museum warns parents to potentially graphic content. Regardless of your perspective about what you want your kids exposed to, it’s good to have the warning there. I think one kid wandered in there for a moment accidentally, but that’s our own fault.
I would go to another Family Day event in a heartbeat. The instructors and volunteers did a fantastic job with the kids and everyone walked out energized by the activities. My thoughts on visiting the museum on a regular weekday would really come down to whether we were really interested in the exhibits themselves. Having the interactive program was a huge plus for our family. The current exhibits at the museum might not have been enough pull for our kids.
However, we opened up another avenue for city day trips and it was a good reminder that art can be so much more than our default definitions.
It isn’t easy carving out time, meaningful time, with one child. Grabbing a hot chocolate here and there, snuggles in bed, and an occasional lunch is our typical approach. Even that seems to be less frequent than we would like.
However, this weekend I got a chance to take Anna into Chicago for one night. It was an accidental event. Mike and I had originally planned for all four of us to venture in to the city and stay in a hotel and then hit a museum on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A treat for our hotel-obsessed kiddos. However, some behavior misfires on Sunday led to an abrupt reality check. It just wasn’t going to be a good scene if we all four went. One kid needed to get a better handle on his emotions and stick closer to home. It was a rough day and I’m sure wiser people might have handled it differently, but we felt like we needed to set some boundaries and change our plans.
Mike graciously offered up that Anna and I should still go and enjoy the room. He would hang back. Suddenly, it was a girls trip. Talk about an unexpected but awesome chance for us to get away and spend time together.
We packed our backpacks and headed out to the Intercontinental Hotel on Michigan Ave. I’m not sure I’ve seen a smile so big as the one plastered across Anna’s face when we walked into the hotel lobby. The girl digs hotels.
As we pulled into the hotel, I saw a Dylan’s Candy Bar nearby. When did this arrive in Chicago? The last time I saw one was in New York. But it was nice to see it on Michigan Ave. Walking into this place is the closest equivalent I can envision to entering Willy Wonka’s factory. It is bright, colorful and FULL of the good stuff.
After we dropped our bags off, we marched straight there and grabbed some sweets (and souvenirs for the boys). Tootsie Rolls and caramels for Anna. Sour patch watermelon and peach gummy rings for me. Anna stared in amazement at the sheer volume of candy in one store.
When we had procured enough sugar, we made a bee line for the hotel. A lovely pool awaited us and I’d packed our goggles and swimsuits for the occasion.
It would have been wonderful for the kids to swim and play together. However, with one kid, I really had to get in and… play. Anna is in school all day and I don’t get the chance (or make the time) to just play alone with her very often. Listening to her gab about underwater tea parties (including a fake british accent) and then recite her favorite lyrics and jokes was so incredible. Had Mike and Abe been there, we would have had a wonderful time but I would have missed that time to just absorb her funny little personality.
We took our wet towels and pool hair back to the room, threw on some clothes and headed out to grab dinner. I could smell the chlorine on our skin as we exited the elevator. Who cares? Certainly, not us.
We had dinner and then brought dessert back to our room. As we climbed into bed, the room had two double beds, Anna remarked that it was the first time she had slept alone in a bed in a hotel. Usually she shares with Abe. I asked her if it was nice being alone or if she missed her brother. Both, she replied. Both.
We gobbled down dessert and watched the tail end of some old Sponge Bob movie. An episode of Full House came on. Man, did we have some serious hair back then.
Then lights out. As I fell asleep, I had such an amazing sense of gratitude that we had been able to spend this time together. It was a surprise gift.
We had breakfast and packed up for the Museum of Science and Industry. I almost canceled on that leg of the trip, but I’m glad I didn’t. Anna had such fun and it was so nice to be able to say yes to her requests rather than the long-winded negotiations that occur when two children want to head in opposite directions in a public place.
I’d love to do this again on an annual basis. It was so good for us. Good for her to just get some time with a parent alone. Good for me to absorb her with no distractions. It wasn’t long, but it was just long enough.
I had been on the fence about whether to take the kids into the city today. However, next week is vacation bible school and the following week I will be finalizing the details of Abe’s birthday party. So I thought – why not?
One of summer list items is to take the kids up in the Willis (formerly Sears) tower. It’s such a popular tourist thing and yet I’ve never been myself. So we packed a lunch (not that there aren’t a million great places to eat, but since the gluten free thing began it just seems easier)and caught the train into Chicago.
Selfie at train station!
The Willis Tower is located at the corner of Jackson and Adams (enter on the Jackson street side). It’s very straightforward. Tickets are too pricey, in my humble opinion. Adults $19, kids $12. But our wait was hardly anything which was lucky for such a gorgeous day.
The elevator takes you up to the 103rd floor. A video inside the elevator marks your progress up in comparison to other landmarks. Now you are as high as the pyramid of Giza, now as high as the Eiffel Tower, etc.
And then you arrive. You walk around and that’s pretty much it.
Well, except for the SkyLedge.
Architects designed a plexiglass box or ledge that allows people to walk out into the “sky.” Anna was not at all sure about this but when it was our turn, she shocked me by laying down in a superhero pose as if she was flying over the city!
All in all it was a simple , but fun outing. I’m so happy the kids are old enough to do this sort of thing. Summer is looking good.
Previously posted elsewhere on our family blog on Friday, June 13, 2014