Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer [weekend] Of the Universe: Adler Planetarium

If you follow me on twitter or Instagram, you know that we had a pretty amazing weekend. You may have even told me that you were jealous and I probably replied that I understood because, well, it was an amazing weekend.

Last month, I received an email from the public relations manager at Adler Planetarium inviting my family and me to spend a weekend in Chicago experiencing Adler. Shane and I actually went to Adler on our first date and hadn't yet taken the boys, so I thought this would definitely be a good opportunity to take them--as well as an opportunity to let them experience Chicago as tourists. Since we live close to Chicago, we don't normally stay overnight. I knew that this offer would let us see the city like tourists and I was pretty (okay, REALLY) excited.

The best part of this weekend was that although we were given several different vouchers for things in the city, we weren't told when to do these things. It was designed to be a self-guided experience, and I can't say enough what a great idea that was. As anyone with young kids know, it's sometimes tough to keep to a strict schedule and is much easier to work with them instead of against them. The fact that Adler let us do that really means a lot and made this weekend that much more enjoyable.

So, what DID we do? As I said, we got to shape our weekend, so we left early Saturday afternoon and headed to the Swissotel Chicago. We opted to do valet parking, which was a quick and easy experience and upon checking in, we were given a great gift bag from Adler. The boys were so excited at their new goodies, but they were equally as excited with this view.
That little head in the picture is Tommy's. He didn't move from the window for at least 20 minutes. I cannot rave enough about our accommodations. We stayed in the classic double room, a perfect size for us. The room itself was gorgeous and very clean. I especially loved that the bathroom had a separate bathtub and shower, which is not something you often see in hotels. Once we tore ourselves away from the incredible view, we decided to head to dinner. What's nice about the Swissotel is that it's very close to Michigan Avenue, but there are also always taxis at the ready if you want to go further. As we were going a little further and didn't feel like the long walk with the boys, we decided to take a taxi. It was so nice to be able to step outside the hotel and get right into a taxi. And the boys? They were thrilled at the prospect of their first ever cab ride!
Although I've eaten my fair share of Chicago style, deep dish pizza, I'm ashamed to say that I'd never eaten Lou Malnati's.
It's safe to say that we all thought it was some of the best pizza we've ever had and we stuffed ourselves silly.
I also can't rave enough about the service. Despite it being a very busy location and it being a Saturday night, with a wait for seats and a wait for pizza, our waitress was so on top of things. She refilled our drinks constantly, brought out the food as quickly as she could, and had a smile on her face the entire time. Even when Tommy, of course, had a pre-food meltdown.

After dinner, we snagged a taxi to Navy Pier and hopped on a different kind of taxi--a water taxi. Before this weekend, I was unaware that Shoreline Sightseeing water taxis go between the museum campus and Navy Pier. It's only a short 10-15 minute trip and you get the chance to view Chicago from a different angle. My kids loved the boat ride and we all loved the sights.

After our boat ride, we headed back to the hotel, where we ooh-ed over our view in the dark.
Then we hit up the swimming pool, located on the 42nd floor. I also want to note that the Swissotel has what appeared to be an awesome fitness center with great views of the Lake. Luke noted, "Mom, you could run tomorrow," but I'd already done my run and was planning on being lazy! As luck would have it, we got the boys out of the pool, bathed and settled in just in time to watch the Navy Pier fireworks. We had a pretty good view, I'd say.

I want to rave over how quiet the Swissotel was. I know there were people all around us, yet I didn't hear a peep. The rooms appear to be spaced apart so well that you don't even hear TVs filtering through the walls, as you would in other hotels. This is huge to me.
When we woke up in the morning, we... well, we raved over the view. Are you surprised?
After a great breakfast at Eggys, which a twitter friend recommended to us knowing how close to the hotel it was, we reluctantly packed up and checked out of the hotel.

The trip from Swissotel to Adler was pretty quick, even with the air and water show going on this weekend. I have to say that the view from Adler Planetarium comes pretty close to tying with the view from our hotel room in terms of amazing.
What I love the most about Adler are the different shows that they have in the theaters and I couldn't wait to show the boys. I wasn't sure what would be best for them, but the man at the desk was really helpful in going through the different choices with me and helped me choose the two earliest shows that they would probably enjoy the most. Luke was absolutely enthralled with the way the shows worked and was excited before they even began.
Tommy was a little more skeptical, but he enjoyed them once it started and he settled in and watched it. Luke loved the way the cameras would zoom and circle and go really fast from one point to the next. I loved watching his face and watching him absorb every little bit of it. I have to say that the new Welcome to the Universe show is incredible. We were all in awe of what technology can create and it's definitely great for all ages. We also loved Night Sky Live!, which is a live show that changes seasonally and explains what stars you would be able to see in the night sky tonight and why you only see certain stars at certain times of the year.

After taking in three shows, Tommy was starting to get a little sleepy so we thought we should explore a little more. Luke really enjoyed the Telescopes exhibit. You were able to look through several different telescopes and view early concepts of telescopes, as well as see yourself through infrared. Both boys really liked that!
They were also huge fans of Planet Explorers, which has three different plays areas and is meant to inspire imaginations and learning. I like how Adler does a good job of balancing the "hands off" type of exhibits with hands on. In fact, I felt like there was more for the boys to touch and do than there was that they couldn't touch. Even in the theatre, we felt like we were a part of the shows, due to the way the screen surrounds you.
We were hardly out of the parking lot before this little astronaut was asking when we could go again--I believe that speaks for itself!

Parts of our weekend were generously provided to us by Swissotel, Shoreline Sightseeing, Lou Malnati's, and Adler Planetarium, but opinions are all my own

Saturday, August 18, 2012

half marathon training... again!

Way back in January, I blogged about training for a half marathon. Because I'm crazy and because half marathons are like childbirth and you forget what they're like, I've decided to gear up for another one in November. This one makes me even crazier because my training will coincide with going back to school. This may actually kill me. Time will tell.

I've decided to follow the Own It plan in Train Like a Mother, which is a little more intense than the last plan I did, as it has speed work and hill work and runs that are longer than 13 miles. What am I doing?! I was concerned because the hot and humid weather made me slack on my long runs this summer, but I read an article on Runner's World that said that speed 5k training in the summer is the perfect base for a fall half and that's exactly the training that I did this summer (crazy enough, a comfortable 5k pace now gets me a sub-30 5k).

I was a little lazy last week and only ran once, but I biked twice. I knew that I would have to get serious this week and for the next 11 weeks... so I wanted to give myself a week off. I think that's okay. This week for half training, by far the easiest week--outside of the tapers--consisted of a ladder workout. This was my first ladder. Basically, you start out with a 10 minute warmup run, then you do intervals. 1 minute in zone 4-5 (this is a fast pace), followed by a 2 minute recovery, 2 minutes, then 3 minutes, then 2 minutes, then 1 minute, then a 10 minute cool down run. It sounds confusing on paper, but it was pretty simple once I got into it. There are more ladder runs in the plan and the run time will increase as the plan goes on. The next day I did a tempo run. I HATE tempo runs. I don't know why, but I do. This was a pretty easy tempo, though. 1 mile warmup, 1 tempo mile, recovery, then another tempo, and a mile cool down. Both of my tempo miles were sub-9 minutes, so that was good. Unfortunately, there are more tempo runs throughout the plan and none of them are this easy, so that is not good. The next day, my legs were pretty beat, but I just had to do an easy 3 miles. I ran it at a comfortable pace for me, which is now a 9:30 average. This used to be a pace that would kill me! It's amazing how speed work really does work.

Then I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with a viral infection, so I rested Thursday. Friday called for 8 miles. I haven't done anything more than 6-7 miles in awhile because blah blah, summer heat and humidity, so I was a little nervous. I've also forgotten how to pace myself, so I was a lot nervous. I tried to do my best to listen to my body and only look at my watch at the mile markers. I was a little nervous when my watch kept showing a pace around 9:30, but my breathing felt controlled, so I kept going. My legs felt heavy and achy, so this was a little disappointing. I wish they'd felt better, because I did feel like I was fighting against tired legs a little--and I'm not back to work yet! How am I going to hit those double digits after I've been teaching all week? I had to make two traffic stops and felt pretty strong until miles 6 and 7 when I hit some steep hills. Those were brutal and it took everything in me to not walk up the hills, but I pushed through and managed to finish with a pace around 9:30, which is definitely a pace that I never dreamed that I could maintain for that many miles! I know that I'll need to start scaling my pace back when I start running longer, but it was great to see that kind of pace for that long of a run. Now let's just hope that I can maintain this strength when the back to school exhaustion hits!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hanging Out and Hanging On

To our last few days of summer. Shane is back at work already, so there's no denying that I can now count my days left on one hand. And that, my friends, is sad, but we've had a great summer. I'll recap our to-do list soon, but we've knocked out most of it and lived to tell about it with smiles on our faces.



We plan to go out in style this weekend!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

City Days

Not too long ago, my online friend Jo (for more cute pictures of yesterday, click that link!) announced that she was moving from Brooklyn to the Chicagoland area. I did a happy clap because Jo seemed so warm and inviting online and I was excited at the thought of getting to meet her.

Yesterday, we headed to the Millennium Park splash pad and met up with Jo, Kate, Martina and Megan. I've wanted to take the boys here all summer, so the change to go and meet up with friends and make new ones? Perfect!

My kids love water, so they dove right in as soon as we arrived. They were impressed with the size compared to our tiny little splash pad!

I love how little kids will all bond over a ziploc baggie of Goldfish crackers. It's an adult version of happy hour.


After a ridiculous amount of splashing and jumping and running and cracker eating and kissing, we dried off and went to the Bean.
We walked past on the way the splash pad and I promised the boys we could go back after we played in the water for awhile. Sometimes living as close to the city as we do, we forget to do touristy things with the boys. Maybe these things need to be on next summer's to-do list.
They loved it! After the Bean, the kids were all famished. If you follow Jo, you know she has the most delicious baby girl. As if the hand on Luke's thigh wasn't funny enough, she definitely tried to make a move for his hot dog. Luke told me later that this was his favorite part of the day, followed by holding Megan's baby.

The boys were having such a great time that we stayed a little later that I intended. Luke likes pretty ladies, so this happened.
After this, Tommy started to get a little crazy tired because we were about two hours overdue for his nap, so we packed up and started the walk back to our car.

I want to pat myself on the back for walking Tommy several city blocks without him dashing into traffic or jumping over an overpass. Yes, I decided to forgo a stroller entirely because I am slightly insane, but we did it and lived to tell about it. The boys hung on awake for the first 25 minutes of our drive, then they passed out. We got home and I put them directly into the bathtub, because they were filthy... which is kind of the sign of a good day, yes?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Luke's Lemonade

Way back in May, after my surprise party, Luke decided he wanted a lemonade stand with our leftover lemonade and cups. One of the few things I like about where we live is the relative lack of car traffic. Because we live at the back of a subdivision on a street that is bookended by two culdesacs, we don't get much traffic past here at all. I didn't want to go through the trouble of setting up a lemonade stand only to have Luke disappointed. I told him we would do one in August on the day of the town wide garage sale, when I knew we would have more car traffic than usual. August seemed an eternity away, yet here we are (sigh).

In my mind, a lemonade stand involved a table with a poster board sign. In Luke and Shane's mind, a lemonade stand involved a trip to Menard's, purchasing plywood, and digging out white and yellow paint that we'd used in the nursery and on the porch. We used my friend Leah's cricut to make letters for his sign and even though it wasn't what I envisioned, I have to say... it's one of the best lemonade signs I've ever seen.

Luke painted the white boards while Shane painted the yellow. Leah showed him how to use the cricut, so he picked out the colors and pressed all the buttons for the letters and numbers.

We set up bright and early (as you can tell, I'm using the term bright literally here) Saturday morning because you know how people are about garage sales! Luke was disappointed about the slow traffic at first, but I assured him that it would pick up soon.


I taught him to wave and smile at each car that drove past and it was funny to see people turn their heads, smile, then turn around in the driveway next to us and come back, because really? Who can resist a cute kid with a lemonade stand? I sure can't. His second customer of the day handed him a dollar and told him he didn't want any lemonade, he just wanted to wish him good luck at his lemonade stand. The best part of having a lemonade stand, I've learned, is that it really brings out the good in people.

Like I told Luke, traffic definitely picked up and he started to get lines. We had to refill and make more lemonade quickly for him. Despite the line, he wouldn't let us help him fill the cups and he always made sure they were filled the brim so people get their money's worth.


When it was all said and done, we shut up shop shortly after noon because Luke was starting to get hot and we were about out of lemonade. By then, Luke made $25! All we bought were lemons, as we had cups and ice leftover from Tommy's party so with very little put into it, I'd say his little lemonade stand did very well. Most of all? He had a good time and he's already planning for next summer. He'd like to expand his sales into hot dogs or cookies!