A Look Back at the Summer of 2009

It’s been a busy summer full of  “Fun Fridays” and “family adventures”. There were dance classes, swimming and swim lessons, multiple trips to the Brookfield Zoo and Airtastic, a visit to Pirate’s Cove, the Shedd Aquarium, All Aboard Diner, “Thomas Days” at the Illinois Railroad Museum, and even a trip to see Grandma and “papa” in Buffalo. And let’s not forget riding the rollercoaster at Kiddieland!

Dance Class – We enrolled Sean and Annalise in a beginning “Creative Movement” class this summer. Each Saturday, Annalise would dress up in her ballerina outfit, complete with ballet shoes and we’d head out to the “Naperville Dance Academy” for “Miss Lisa’s” class. The highlight of the class — especially for Sean — was the last 5 or so minutes of class where they would do the “animal dance.” He’d frequently spend the preceding 20 minutes requesting it!

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Airtastic - A favorite after-dance family activity was visiting the “bouncy place” just down the street. A few times after dance we’d have a lunch at Culver’s and head off to “Airtastic.” For an hour-and-a-half the kids would jump and fall, climb and slide and generally have a blast. The “boxing ring” was a favorite because it allowed all of us, Mom and Dad included, to play tag. Great fun, but exhausting!
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Shedd Aquarium – It was a dreary, rainy day and Mom and Dad were feeling a bit ambitious. So we packed up the kids and trekked into the city to the Shedd Aquarium. The 360° Caribbean Reef exhibit is beautiful and amazing. The kids had a great time and we were all wiped out by the end of this adventure!

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Pirate’s CovePirate’s Cove is described as a “Children’s Theme Park” and I suppose it is, though I must say I was rather disappointed at the rather limited number of rides. There simply isn’t enough there to fill an afternoon. The kids did have a good time, though, riding the train over and over again.

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All Aboard Diner - Suzy found an ad for this unique little diner in our local newsletter. The kids are big fans of “Thomas the Tank Engine” (aren’t pretty much ALL kids?) so what could be better than a diner where your food is brought out by train and where Thomas episodes run continuously? We’ve been back at least 3 or 4 times since and will certainly visit again!

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“Day Out With Thomas” at the Illinois Railway Museum – What could be better than a train ride on a full-size Thomas the Tank Engine? The museum features a number of barns organized into categories. There were old “L” trains, horse-drawn street cars and modern diesel passenger trains. On the day we were there, we were able to walk through an old passenger train, complete with numerous styles of sleeping compartment with very interesting and ingenious fold-away beds and cots. With the kids running short on patience we weren’t able to fully investigate every barn or read many of the historical notes accompanying most of the exhibits…something I’m sure we’ll do the next time we visit when the kids are a bit older. This is a fascinating walk through the history of rail transportation and a great place to spend a summer afternoon!

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Buffalo, NY, July 23rd – 27th - In late July we took a trip back to Buffalo to visit grandma and grandpa Jaromin, other family members, and friends. We apparently “lucked out” by picking one of the only (near) rain-free weekends in WNY this summer. Suzy and I took in a couple shows: “Buddy” at Musicalfare and “Julius Caesar” at Shakespeare in Delaware Park. We also managed a visit to the Buffalo Zoo.

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Kiddieland! – With Kiddieland closing at the end of this season, we had to fit in at least one trip. Thankfully, Aunt Bethie was ready and willing to help us out — without her we’d have never been able to take the kids on their favorite rides – the rollercoaster and log flume!

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“Animal Houses” at the Morton Arboretum – One day at the pool, a parent had mentioned to me that the Morton Arboretum’s Children’s Garden was a great place to bring the kids. We’d also heard of a limited time attraction — “Animal Houses” — that sounded interesting. So, we decided to spend a Sunday afternoon at the arboretum. The kids certainly had a great time pretending to be frogs or just running around the rope bridges, but I was a bit disappointed in both the “Childrens Garden” and the special “Animal Houses” exhibits. The former was a bit sparse — there simply wasn’t enough there to fill even a couple hours, and the later was inconsistent. I was expecting a more realistic learning type experience. Instead there was a  “Wile E. Coyote”-inspired coyote “house” with little to do and no educational value. Ditto the “Ant Colony.” The “Beaver Lodge” and “Heron Rookery” were seemingly modeled after the real thing, while the “Skunk Den” was more cartoon-ish, though certainly also more fun than the rest due to the slide (do Skunks really have slides built into their dens?). The day was capped with dinner at “Cheeseburger in Paradise” where Nathan, due to Daddy’s poor feeding method, puked all over the place. Even so, it really was another fun family “babenture!”

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All-in-all it was a great Summer. I look forward to having even more fun next year!

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