Squeaky Clean!

Ok, so this post is actually a jump ahead in my Spring Break story that I started here and here.  But it is quick, so I thought I’d insert it here and explain the bigger story of how it all started later.

First a few quick pictures:

What is all that, you ask?  It’s table cleaner, that we use now at the end of our day!  You should also see water in the picture, but I figured I could just mention it.  I found a recipe for healthier household cleaner here and have been using it at home for a few weeks and LOVE IT!  So once I got back to school after break, I figured we could use it there, too!  We were already in the routine of wiping down the tables daily anyway, but now we’re doing it in a safer way.  Plus it smells really good because of the pomegranate soap I used.

All of those wholesome things went from there to here:

I also picked up some cleaning cloths, so that we don’t use paper towels and have to throw them away every time.  We’re so much “greener” this way as we wash out our cloths and reuse them!

Then when they’re done with the cleaning, the goodies now live here:

I LOVE how organized and clean this cabinet is now.  Unfortunately I always forget to take “before” pictures so you can appreciate that, but believe me–this cabinet was fill with at least 10 years (or more!) of cleaning and science supply junk.  I even found things with the name of a teacher-friend of mine on them who taught at least that long ago.  Apparently I don’t open this cabinet very often.  But I sure will now.  🙂  The only thing that it’s missing is labels.  I hope to get those on there soon.

I mentioned at the beginning that this is a sneak peek of another part of my Spring Break fun, and that’s true.  Can you tell what else I may have been doing around my house during my time off?  Stay tuned to find out!

The Windy City

Or “Spring Break–part 2.”

So hopefully you caught the first part of the Chicago adventure story here.

After we got back from the museum day, we rested in our hotel (or at least we wanted to–but we have two small, active kiddos, so not really sure how much resting happened…) and then headed out to Big Bowl for dinner.  We love Asian food, and this was especially yummy.  If you’ve been to Pei Wei or Stir Crazy in St. Louis, it was kind of like that.  While the meal was great and the time was enjoyable, the best part for me was when we got up to leave and we heard “Are you Mr. Bearden?” from a table as we walked past.  Turns out that there was a family from my husband’s school eating there, too, and they had been having a whole conversation over dinner about whether or not it was indeed Mr. Bearden.  They were right, and we were able to chat for a few minutes with them.  They were on pretty much the same trip as we were: they had taken the train, were staying downtown, were eating Big Bowl for dinner and had visited the museum that day.  Love it when things like that happen.  Small world, I tell ya.  Small world.  🙂

The next morning we had planned on visiting the other museum in town, but honestly the price scared us away and we opted for more free entertainment around town instead.  We enjoyed breakfast at Xoco that morning, which is one of Rick Bayless‘ restaurants.  Do you know who he is?  Pretty famous chef who makes pretty great food in my opinion.  I highly recommend the churros and the empanadas there.  And my boys would say that you should dip your churros in the hot chocolate they have.  Double yummy.

After breakfast we walked.  And walked.  And walked.  That’s one thing we love to do:  not head to anywhere in particular, just walk and see where we end up.  This day we walked all around Clark St. and saw what there was to be seen.  We found a grocery store at one point whose sign said something about it being the “most European market in the city.”  That was our kind of place, so we wandered in.  It was really just a supermarket, but fun nonetheless.  We’re weird like that and can have fun looking at food.

Eventually we ended up back on Michigan Ave., and found another mall to visit.  What’s next is what happened when Riley asked for the camera.  Here’s what he wanted to remember from there.  Pretty funny how the mind of a 4YO works:

  

  

  

  

Later that night we ended up back on Clark Street again, and at Xoco again.  I told you it was good, right?  This time we had tortas (like Mexican sandwiches), and they were amazing.  Can’t you tell by how happy we look?

  

I know many people would say it’s a little strange to go to the same restaurant twice in the same day.  But I say it’s just how we roll.  We know what we like, and we stick with it.  It’s kind of the same thinking behind why we vacation at Disney World every year.  It’s just kind of like home. 🙂

Here are two more bits of cuteness and then I’ll finish the story:

            

That night we enjoyed a Cable Car sundae at Ghiradelli (another family favorite, both in Chicago and at Disney World.  We went here twice, too!) and then headed to bed since it was our last night.  We had to get up early (although not quite 3 o’clock this time) to catch our train home.

The train ride home was much easier because of an amazingly nice woman who let us have her first-row seat, which meant extra leg room and baby-can-crawl-around-here space.  Plus it was right next to the door to the snack car, which made for quick escapes if we needed a break.  Also the fact that it was daytime and we’d done it before made this ride a tad more relaxing than on the way up.  At least for me. 🙂  Riley didn’t notice and enjoyed it all.  Just look at that smiling face! (Although I’m not sure if it’s the train or the iPad game that made him smile like that….)

Overall, we had a great time and definitely enjoyed ourselves.  Perhaps my favorite part of the trip, though, can be summed up in this picture (which hopefully is clear enough to see):

It’s the last few moments before we arrived home again in StL–see the Arch out the window?  And it’s also right when Allie decided to finally…fall…asleep.  Pretty funny. 🙂

Chicago is For Learners

Or “Spring Break–part 1.”

I have to let you in on a little secret.  Promise you won’t tell anyone, but teachers look forward to Spring Break as much (or maybe even more!) than students.  Yep, we love the time off to play and recharge and do all the things we might not have time for when we’re busy with school work.

So this year, like most others, we started planning what our Spring Break would look like.  My husband, who is also a teacher, had the same week off as me (which thankfully happens most years), so we looked at going somewhere together as a family.  This time around it was Chicago.

The idea for this trip really started back in November.  Grant and I were lucky enough to take a weekend-getaway there right before Thanksgiving, to celebrate my birthday and just enjoy the city.  We’d been the once before, but it had been quite a while and it was time to go back.  The kids stayed with their Mimi and Pop, but all the while we kept thinking that many of the things we did would be a big hit with our son, Riley, who is 4 1/2.  He LOVES to travel (and has since he was a baby) and so he was a little sad when we got to go away without him.  Needless to say, he was as excited for this Chicago trip as we were.

When we went to Chicago in the fall, we drove to a train station near O’Hare Airport and then took the El into the city.  Then, during our stay, we either rode the train or walked where we wanted to go.  This time rather than driving, we decide to take Amtrak, because of both its ease and cost-effectiveness, but also because we have a 4YO son.  I mean what 4YO boy wouldn’t LOVE to take a trip on a train.  He had been studying transportation at school, and so this fit in perfectly with that, too.

I was excited about the train ride, but I have to be honest that I wasn’t excited about this:

What’s that, you ask?  That’s what time I had to get up to get to the train on time.  And yes, that’s AM.  Our train left at 4:35 in the morning!!  (Sorry about the quality of that photo.  Guess my camera was a little groggy at that time of day, too!)

Here’s my seatmate for our ride:

See how tired she looks?  That’s because she woke up at 3:20, too, and never…went…back…to…sleep.  Bummer.  That made for a hard ride for her, but luckily Amtrak was spacious enough that we could walk around if we wanted, and it had a snack car that we could escape to if baby needed a change of scenery or something to eat.  That made the trip a little more manageable with a 15MO.  🙂

We got into town around 10, and headed across town to our hotel (we found a great place just off Michigan Ave.), hoping to leave our luggage and head out for lunch, but luckily our room was already ready for us!  What a nice surprise.  The rest of Sunday we spent walking around the Magnificent Mile and checking out the sites.  Riley really liked the mall at Water Tower Place that was right next to where we were staying.  For dinner we headed to Gino’s East for deep dish pizza.  Legendary place, really, and lots of fun.

The next day we headed to the Field Museum.  It’s the Museum of Natural History, and we were most excited about seeing Sue, the big T-Rex in the first part, but we also experienced many other fun and informative things.

I love this picture.  It pretty much encompasses our trip.  Family fun in the city. 🙂

          

Eventually we had to stop and look at the map, because other than “south,” we didn’t really know where we were going.  That’s another thing Riley loves–looking at maps and trying to figure out where we’re going.  I don’t think he really understands how they work just yet, but some day he will totally be our navigator.

     

Thanks to my friend, Johanna, and the Beco baby carrier she lent us, this was how Allie and I spent the walk to the museum.  This was so amazing, because we didn’t have to worry about a stroller around town, and baby girl got in a little rest–this made all the difference in her mood during the second part of our journey. 🙂  Ignore my angry face–it’s just what happens when I try to take pictures of myself.  Somehow I figure it’d look silly if I smiled at myself and said “cheese.”  I really was having a great time. 🙂

      

I love how tiny my littles look in these pictures.  That really is a big place!  The last one is especially funny to me, too, because Allie was so determined.  She was going to crawl all the way up those steps to get her Bubba.  Well if I let her.  Which I didn’t, in case you were wondering.

Ok, so this picture is totally staged.  But after all that walking (it took us at least an hour to walk from our hotel to the museum), we needed a break.  This was Riley showing me how tired he was.  After this we sat for a while and had a snack before heading out into the museum.

    

That first picture up there is from the 3D movie all about how they found the T-Rex, Sue.  But we’re not watching it.  Baby lasted about 1 minute, and after the first dinosaur roar she started screaming.  So we just played in the lobby with the glasses instead.  The second one is a picture of Riley inside a giant cicada shell in the Underground exhibit.  You go through a shrinking machine and get to experience what it would be like to live in the world of dirt.  The last one is a little snapshot of Daddy taking his turn with Allie in the Beco.  After carrying that little girl all the way there, my shoulders and back needed a break.  For being so little, she sure is heavy.  Pretty cute, right? She seems to be loving it. 🙂

There’s the family with Sue.   Riley really was excited about the dinosaur, just not the picture.

Another picture with a dinosaur.  Hopefully you can see it–we couldn’t really get any closer to it than this, but he really wanted a “long-neck” picture to show his friends. 🙂

                                   

After the museum, baby took a ride on my back, and then we took a ride on the train.   Obviously he loved it.

Ok, so I realize this is becoming a really lengthy post.  I’ll finish in another one next, to give you a break from all this Spring Break goodness.  Don’t forget to come back and read it, though!