Visiting the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

On a trip to Chicago, the kids and I ventured to the Lincoln Park area and visited the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum on a very hot and muggy afternoon. The museum was perfect for escaping the heat and learning about nature during our two hours there.

1st Floor Highlights:

We sort of few through the Riverworks and then paused a bit more to see the live reptiles and amphibians. The exhibits are very much hands-on, reminding me more of a children’s museum. Both my four and six year old enjoyed the Hands On Habitat area, designed for kids age seven and under. They played in various animal habitats, went down a “tree” slide and even played dress-up in animal costumes.

2nd Floor Highlights: the Butterflies!

The butterfly haven really stole the show at this museum, though on our way there, we did walk through the taxidermy areas that showcased Illinois ecosystems. Most of my pictures are from the butterfly area. I just love this oasis – it’s so peaceful and relaxing to watch the butterflies flutter around the greenhouse.

So many butterflies

I loved the Blue Morpho Butterfly, upper left. My smartphone camera took some decent shots!

Butterfly collage

Upper left – feeding time, a butterfly by the fruit plate. Upper right – turtle hanging by the pond / waterfall. Lower left – a Blue Morpho butterfly landed right by my kids!

The circle of life is represented in this habitat. In the picture above, lower right corner, there is a quail and below a bird that both eat dead butterflies.

Bird in the butterfly exhibit

Pretty bird. Must eat a lot of butterflies too…

After hanging out in the butterfly haven for some time, we made sure that none were coming with us (not one butterfly landed on us), and left the greenhouse. Outside we could see the chrysalis with the next crop of butterflies for the garden. I think the lifespan of these butterflies is about one month in the garden, so I can imagine how many have to hatch to re-populate this beautiful exhibit.

hatching butterflies

Hatching new beauties

We spent some time in the weather exhibit, having the most fun with the green screen! My daughter did pretty well reading and keeping up with the lines.

Fun with the green screen and reporting

This line was perfect for the HOT weather we were experiencing that day. 

You could choose between fast or slow reading (we chose slow for my soon to be 1st grader), which was nice. I think all kids (adults too) enjoy seeing themselves on camera! \

After one more visit to play in the under age seven habitat area, we briefly hit the gift shop and cafe. While there are many tempting and exciting items (my kids wanted a lot of the stuffed animals), we managed to each buy a drink and then leave the building to hike the nature trail outside.

My kids found some ducks and scared them into the pond.

Enjoying a hike outside the nature museum

Ahh – noisy kids, better swim away!

It was a really nice, shady nature trail that hooked up with a larger park, so we could have kept on walking if we wanted. Instead we cut our time short and headed back to the car. This was our view as we left:

View of the Chicago Skyline from Lincoln Park

All in all we enjoyed our visit to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum! It is a nice, manageable museum in Chicagoland that is not in the main museum campus near the lakefront, so it was relatively easy to find. I think it was perfect for my kids, though it seemed people of all ages were visiting. I’d recommend checking it out if you’re in the area.

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5 Lessons from Summer Vacation

The busyness of summer leaves little time to sit back, reflect, and blog! I have been writing blog posts in my head, many of them continue to reside there, never making a debut on GoMamaO.com. Alas, here’s a stolen moment online to share 5 lessons from summer vacation:

  1. You WILL forget something! This goes for something on the way to your destination OR leaving something behind. Check & check to both of these scenarios. When we went camping, we were packed and ready to leave on time. Here’s the expert packing job by Daddy O. below:
    SUV packed up for camping

    All packed up with everything we need for camping…or so we thought.

    One and a half hours into our journey we realized we had forgotten our air mattress and tarp. UGH!  On to Plan B (or #3 below).

  2. Kids will get antsy in the car. No Matter What! Sometimes they even want the thing you forget. On our last road trip, we just brought our portable DVD player, which is a huge hit. The Fox and the Hound and The Fox and the Hound II were new found Disney favorites.
  3. Improvise. Go with the Flow. Since we forgot our air mattress and tarp, we made a stop at Wal-mart before getting to the campsite. We opted NOT to buy a tarp and fortunately were fine without it. As for kids getting antsy in the car, Daddy O. resorted to playing the Star Wars soundtrack that he has on his phone. It really is quite entertaining (thank you to the composer, John Williams!), though my son interrupts every minute or so, asking “Daddy, what’s happening now?”
  4. Bend the rules. Similar to #3, we have to just let go a bit & let the day take us where it may. During camping the kids just have to stay up later because it still is light out, and they want to enjoy the campfire with s’mores. Daddy O. took big sister swimming past her bedtime on a recent hotel stay, and I took both kids for a quick morning swim before starting our day. In all cases, we managed with less sleep and some good naps in the car (myself included)!
  5. Relax and have fun! Sometimes I get frustrated that we are not “on time” or stressed that plans are not unfolding as I had expected, so I have to remind myself to just chill out! Our kids no longer nap, so we can handle doing more on vacation. On our last trip, we had some downtime at the hotel to rest before dinner, and it was just what we needed to re-charge. When we arrived at the restaurant, a bit later than I had hoped, we had to wait about 20 minutes…which wasn’t ideal. Fortunately, we were able to walk around outside and explore the riverfront to make time quickly. We ordered the kids’ meals right away to stave off any hunger induced whining. And Daddy O and I enjoyed a microbrew while we waited for our food…and we did relax & enjoy our family vacation time.

What lessons have you learned from vacation? How do you pack in summer fun & balance it with chill out time at home?

Cheers & happy summer!