Spring Break was a Needed Break

Coming off of Spring Break this morning, I woke up early-ish, expecting a difficult morning. After a week of being able to sleep in and enjoy a few “pajama mornings” (as we call them), I was sure it would be tough to get my daughter up and moving. And wow, was I ever wrong.

This morning was delightful!

My daughter woke herself up early.  She was well-rested, probably exhausted from swimming, and a quick bike ride to the park after dinner. Plus, she was just excited to go back to school again. We had talked about it on Sunday night, and I asked what she might do to help get ready for Monday morning. She decided to pack up her backpack, which was another thing done! Breakfast, getting dressed, and packing up all went so well that I even had time to french braid her hair. This was a small victory in our year long quest for a better morning routine and a nod to my New Year’s resolution for less hurry.

Looking back at Easter weekend and Spring Break last week, I do think that the “break” really was needed for everyone in our family. We went to church, visited with out of town family, took a day trip to Madison, and did fun activities throughout the week.

spring break collage

Views of Lake Mendota from Picnic Point Beach, Madison, Wisconsin.

As you can see, we had a bright, sunny day to enjoy a brief hike on our visit to Madison. Aren’t the colors of the lake so soothing? Cool as it was, my son and daughter had fun feeling the sand between their fingers and exploring the shore. It makes me look forward to camping this summer and warmer weather in general. Our spring break started with snow on Good Friday and ended with more snow on April 2, so it goes in springtime in Wisconsin.

The time away from our daily routines and the stress of preparing to move was healing, a way to relax and recharge.

Over the weekend I was able to take my own solo road-trip to celebrate one of my very best friend’s birthdays. Quiet time behind the windshield gave me a chance to be with my thoughts, belt out some of my favorite tunes (without any complaints!), and catch up on some leisure reading during pit stops. A chance to re-connect with my dear friend who I’ve known since elementary school is always a welcome and fun break, not to mention a bit of therapy at times!

Plus the kids enjoyed some of their own time with just Daddy O. I was greeted with hugs and many stories of their adventures together. “I only wanted to hug you eight times,” little brother reported, and so we had to catch up on hugs a bit on Sunday afternoon / evening.  I came back from my road trip feeling very loved and happy to be home.

We didn’t do anything overly extravagant or exciting over Spring Break, but it certainly was enough for us all. I saw this quote at the museum we went to and thought that it summed up my sentiments quite well.


Family Fun & Lessons Learned at the Shedd Aquarium

Like many other families, we decided a trip to Chicago over Spring Break would be a fun idea, and, of course, it was a fun time visiting the Shedd Aquarium and staying with one of my best friends. However, a word of caution – there WILL be crowds on Spring Break!  Here were a few things we learned and a few pictures of our visit:

1. The Waiting is THE HARDEST PART – Tom Petty was spot-on (can’t you hear his song now). We arrived at 11:30 a.m. which was sort of what I expected. A long line was already forming, so we joined the crowd, slowly shuffling our way closer to the ticket line. I packed a lunch, so we ate in line to keep ourselves somewhat occupied. It started to drizzle. It was a bit cold… Ugh, are we there yet?!

2. To avoid waiting, you have some options: Just buy advance tickets, or bring a stroller, so you can use the accessible entrance.  People were walking right in with strollers! With our 3 and 5 year old, we opted to leave the stroller at home. BIG. MISTAKE. HUGE!

3. You think waiting builds character…and maybe it does.  I think I was the grumpiest out of everyone in our family (shame on me), but overall, everyone made the best of it. It was 1.5 HOURS in line, so I was very proud of the kids and Daddy O. (not to mention myself) for keeping it together.

4. While waiting, take in the view. The building itself is beautiful. The lobby had so many sea-themed intricate details that we played “I spy” with our kids. I spy two whales below…

Details of the Shedd Aquarium Entrance

Whales, shells, starfish and more in the main atrium of the Shedd Aquarium.

5. It was well worth the wait! We were able to buy the exact ticket package that we wanted: main admission including the Aquarium Galleries, Wild Reef, and the Oceanarium. This meant we could go everywhere in the Shedd, but skip the dolphin and beluga whale show and 4D movie experience.

6. Our favorites – My daughter and I loved seeing the beluga whales in the Oceanarium. They just floated and zipped through the water so gracefully.  My son LOVED the sharks in the Wild Reef area. The tropical fish and their brilliant colors made me feel like I was on vacation a half a world away without the big, fancy vacation price tag.

This makes me feel like snorkeling!

This makes me feel like snorkeling!

7. No flash photography allowed = play around with your camera settings!  I discovered a new multi-burst camera setting and took a few shots:

Little brother could have stayed here ALL DAY!

Little brother could have stayed here ALL DAY!

This was one picture of Daddy O. and Little Brother that used the burst mode.

This was one picture of Daddy O. and Little Brother that used the burst mode.

Mama O. and Big Sister

Mama O. and Big Sister

So engrossed...

So engrossed…

Big sister cradling the otter by their exhibit. Little brother not interested in smiling...

Big sister cradling the otter by their exhibit. Little brother was not interested in smiling…

Final Verdict – the Shedd Aquarium is a very enjoyable, family-friendly attraction. I would highly recommend checking it out, and with a little more advance planning, I’m sure we’ll be back.