Monday, March 31, 2014

Chicago - Field Museum

On Saturday we took the kids to the Field Museum.  We got there about 10am.  There was no line and we ended up becoming members because it was less expensive for our family of five.  So check that out when you go to museums.  Again, it is best to take a taxi to get there if you can.  All of the museums, aquarium, and planetarium are in one area so you could walk from one to another, but that would take a ton of energy to see more then one museum in a day!

The Field Museum is of course home to Sue, the largest, most intact T-Rex in the world.  We actually saw a 3D movie about Sue and I was astonished by the entire story.  It made seeing the remains in the flesh that more impressive!

The kids walked into the museum and immediately thought it looked like the museum in the movie, Night at the Museum.

The museum is so expansive that we did not make it through all of the exhibits and even though it was filled up we didn't feel crowded because it is so spread out.  We hit the exhibits that interested the kids.  There were a few that I would have liked to see, but the kids were pooped by the time it was my turn!  Tyce, Jackson, and Lola really liked seeing the 3D movie of Sue.  Tyce was a little scared at first because the T-Rex actually rips another dinosaur apart to eat it and they show the flesh and blood.  It isn't real, but the 3D makes it appear more real.

Being captured by a gorilla hand!
Hanging out in a wigwam
Bodies in motion

Oh we are soooo scared!!
Hatching out of a bug shell
My suggestion is to get there early and see the special exhibits first because those tend to fill up the fastest.  The 3D movies have specific times and you need to get tickets because the shows do sell out.  Decide what you really want to see and go from there.  I think it is close to impossible to see everything in one day!
The 3D movie!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Chicago - Shedd Aquarium

The last times I have been in Chicago have been without kids and the focus has been shopping so I had to do a little digging to determine what activities I should invest in to keep them busy.

We arrived on a Thursday afternoon and headed straight to the Shedd Aquarium.  My initial impression was not a good one.  The signs directing visitors to the aquarium were so small and not very clear.  Parking was impossible to find and outrageously expensive.  If you are staying downtown I would recommend taking a taxi.  It cost us the same amount to take a taxi there and back as parking cost and we didn't have to walk a mile to get there!

The entrances were not clearly marked.  All the doors led to the same spot, but we were directed by staff to go to the bottom of the steps and walk through the tunnel.  I can understand if there were a line outside to get in the establishment, but there was no line outside.  The line inside was not very long, but it was the slowest line ever!  Seriously, I could have taken each child individually to the bathroom in the basement during the time it took to move two places in line.

The anaconda
The aquarium itself was set up well.  You are able to walk in an entire circle and see everything.   Lola liked the beluga whales the best and Jackson liked the sharks.  Tyce said his favorite thing was the anaconda snake because it made mom scream and jump.  To be fair, I did not really scream loud.  I did jump because the thing gave me the creeps!  It was HUGE!!  I thought the belugas were really fun to watch because I have never seen them before and they play like dolphins!  The otters were fun to watch and I really liked their jelly fish exhibit.

Jelly Fish
Beluga Whale

A lot of hands on activities

You can easily spend an entire day at the aquarium depending on if you stop to see the shows performed by the animals and the 3D movie.  We had a great time and spent about four hours there without the shows or movie, but we did eat lunch there.

We didn't encounter a lot of crowds so that was really nice.  When we looked out the window on Saturday of the Field Museum the line was past the tunnel and extended around part of the building outside!  Best to try to not go to the aquarium on a Saturday afternoon!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Chicago - The Lap of Luxury...

We went to Chicago last weekend because Ryan had a conference. It's been a few years since I have been to the Windy City and I felt my palms sweat as we walked past clothing stores I have never heard of.  I'm not a huge shopper, but I would have liked to drool over beautiful clothes I can't afford just for a second!

As it was, all of the kids came with us so I took one day to "shop" with them.  It was more of a perusing of the Disney, Lego, and American Girl doll store and the rest of the time was spent walking the street peering up at the huge buildings and watching the people.  We also stopped at Ghirardelli's to have a treat to reenergize after seeing so much culture.

Ghiradelli treat!
What I would like to look like as a Lego
 (excuse the nails - with all the kids in and out of the house lately I haven't had time to redo them!)

A gallery in the Old Water Tower

We were fortunate enough that the people who set up the conference hosted us in one of the best hotels I have ever been in!  We stayed in the Peninsula Hotel.  We had a suite to accommodate all of us.  It was huge!  There were three stuffed bears set out for the kids, as well as robes and slippers for all of us!  The small robes and slippers were the cutest things ever and the kids wore them every chance they got!  A treat was delivered to the room for the kids as soon as we arrived and I think they all thought we were in Disney world while they stared at the gummy bears, jello, popcorn, and cookies that were delivered for them!  The hotel was so nice in fact that the kids wanted to go back there all day long!  It takes me forever to get Jackson to take a shower and he will not take a bath, but he begged for a bath each day of our trip.  There was a television in the bathroom that you could control from the bathtub!  Oh the luxury!!

The hotel wasn't the only cool place we visited.  There are so many cool places to eat in Chicago.  I was advised to try the Hard Rock Café, Rainforest Café, places for famous Chicago pizza, and restaurants owned by famous sport's heroes.  There wasn't enough time to go to them all so we just hit a couple.

We were invited to Mike Ditka's restaurant one night as part of Ryan's conference and wow was that food amazing!  It was a buffet, but I have never had such fantastic food from a buffet!  The filet mignon just melted in your mouth.  The staff was also amazing!

My children were not a thrilled with Ditka's as Ryan and I were so I decided to take the kids to Ed Debevic's.  I remember going here as a teenager and thought the kids would get a kick out of it.  Little did I know it would be the highlight of Lola's trip!  The diner is decorated like a 50's diner and the staff is all decked out in crazy 50's wear.  Lola was stunned to see a lady with oversized glasses and rollers in her hair serving food!  The staff is sassy and rude, although our waiter was really nice to us and treated us well.  The table next to us didn't fair as well and our kids laughed like crazy listening to our waiter yell at the patrons.  This is all done in fun, but our kids had their chins hanging down in astonishment!  The staff even did a dance number while we were there.  One of the waitresses clearly did not want to join in and our kids thought that was the greatest because of her half hearted attempts and faces she was making!

The food was plentiful and great!  It was really dinner and a show!  We arrived about 3:30 for a late lunch and by the time we left it started to get really busy so pick an off time to venture in.  It is worth it!  The kids are still talking about it!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Of Lice and Men

Just the mention of the word lice and my head begins to itch.  (it itches right now in fact)

I endured many years of having children in my classroom show up with lice.  I had one year where we had a case of lice almost every day!  One of my fellow teachers was kind enough to give me a kid's book about it.  That year I wore my hair up every day and had the nurse check my head each time she came into the room.

That experience was nothing in comparison to how I felt when I received a call from the school of my foster daughter to say they had found one live louse on her!  My scalp began to itch without reprieve!  On top of that did you know all of the things you have to do to be sure that there are no lice in your house?  Ironically, the Thursday before I got the call Ryan and I had watched an episode of Modern Family which talked about lice.  We laughed so hard at some of the methods they used to keep an infected child away from themselves.  It wasn't so funny when I considered doing that myself!

I packaged all of the pillows, stuffed animals, and blankets in the house in garbage bags and put them in the garage.  I vacuumed the entire house and furniture.  Lice apparently don't burrow so the vacuum should pick them up easily.  I washed all the sheets, blankets, pillows, and comforters on everyone's beds.  I also had to wash all the outside clothes in case a hat or coat had lice on it and was thrown on top of someone else's.  That was the same with the girls' clothes.  I had piles and piles of laundry!  Ugh! I also bought special spray to spray on the car seats and in the house to kill any lice that may have escaped the vacuum. I did this all in a frantic rush while itching the skin off of my head!  It was overwhelming!

And that was just tackling the house!  I called a neighbor who lent me some lice remedies.  I used Lice Killer.  This stuff worked great!  You just have to be sure to comb all of the nits out as thoroughly as possible.  I made that mistake with the second foster daughter who came into our house with lice.  I didn't see any lice on her so I didn't take the time to comb out nits as I didn't see any and it ended up she had some!  (although I think it was just dandruff, but can't be too careful!) We had to do another treatment on her.  I now give each child that comes into our house a treatment as soon as they walk in.  You just never know!

Thankfully, no one had an infestation and no one else got lice even though I continued to itch for two weeks and had Ryan look through my hair about twice a day!

At least now I know how to battle the little buggers and have a supply of Lice Killer on hand just in case!  And yes, all of the pillows and blankets from the couches are still in the garage.  I don't think that any lice could have survived the freezing temperatures this last month, but better be safe then sorry (and better to claim that then to say I am just too lazy to retrieve them all and put them away!) 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Five New Kids in Three Months!

Yes, my life is a constant swirl of change and activity.  Since January we have had five foster children with us!  Not all at the same time.  A few did overlap, but never more then two at a time! (I don't have enough room in my car to fit that many children at once!)

If we did have the room I am sure we would get calls constantly because so many children are coming into the United States to be reunited with parents.  If you have ever thought that maybe you could take care of a child for two weeks to a month let me know!  You can tell the agency when you want to accept children, how many, the gender, and the ages.  If you are going to go on vacation you can let the agency know and not accept kids until you are ready.  The kids have their own school that they attend every day and the staff is very lenient if have to drop off early or pick up late.  After doing long term refugee foster care and domestic foster care, this short term refugee foster care has been the easiest for our family.

Anyways here is a brief summary of what has been going on.... Back in January we had B who was 11 who left after being with us for 5 weeks.  He had not seen his mother since he was 7 years old so I'm sure it has been a big adjustment for him.  After about two weeks we had T who was 8 join us.  His family was actually here in Michigan so he only stayed a week before being reunited.  He was such a smile bug!  I think he smiled all day long!  T left on a Friday and S, an 8 year old girl came on the following Tuesday.  Lola was thrilled to finally have a girl in the house!  The majority have been boys so she was happy to share her toys and room finally!  S stayed with us for two weeks.  While she was here another 7 year old girl, D, joined us.  D came on a Tuesday night, S left on that Wednesday morning and that Thursday afternoon we welcomed a 4 year old boy!  Is your head spinning yet?  Mine wasn't until I walked in to retrieve J, the 4 year old boy, and I saw the looks on the case workers faces!  They were expressions of pity for me already!  Not a good sign!

Let me tell you a little bit about J.  He is was not your typical foster child in this program.  He just turned 4 in January and was a street kid.  He had been raised by his teenage brother and it showed in his language and mannerisms.  He had no fear, no manners, no sense of right or wrong, was demanding, stubborn, had the vocabulary of a trucker, and bolted from adults any chance he had.  He also loved to snuggle, give hugs, and had the most amazing smile ever!  We called him our sour patch kid because he was so sweet one second and sour the next.  He was with us for a week, but he was the equivalent to three children and needed constant adult supervision.  I mean constant!  I turned around to get him clothes from the floor and he was already on top of the stairway banister!  The child tired me out but of course I cried when he left!  We also had D with us during the time J was with us so we had five children in our home!  11, 7, 7, 6, and 4.

So J left last Friday morning and D left this past weekend.  We are now back to our original three until after Spring Break.  I did get a call to take another 7 year old girl, but we can't take the kids out of the state so the timing just didn't work out! (we were in Chicago over the weekend)

During this past weekend while it was a little quieter with just three kids I was able to read a book that is a true story.  It was so interesting I couldn't put it down.  It followed a family and their journey from Honduras to the US.  I highly recommend it for an interesting read and just to understand these kids that we foster.  I hear snippets of their story, but it is hard to wrap your head around exactly what they are fleeing from.  The book is called Enrique's Journey.  (I read the version adapted for young people to see if Jackson could read it.)  It is very close to the journey one of our older boys took to get here!  To give you an small idea of what kind of journey these children endure, look at the shoes one of our girls was wearing when she came across the border.  There are no soles.