Chicago Birthday Surprise

Towards the end of February, Chris had to take a work trip to Chicago, so we decided to go as a whole family and celebrate James’ 9th birthday in the Windy City.
A seasoned pro at flying, Ellie sleeps through the flight like it’s no big deal.
We flew in on Saturday morning so we would have weekend time to explore, so after dropping our bags off at the hotel we headed out for a walk down to the Lincoln Park Zoo. James and I had been before but this was Chris’s first time. Unfortunately, our visit coincided with some kind of phone-based game gathering and we were surrounded by a ton of younger people wandering about the zoo staring at their phones and running about. It was a VERY strange experience and I found myself wanting to point out that there were actual real animals right next to them at multiple times throughout the morning. I suppose it’s just a generational difference.
Three out of four with the Chicago skyline. Ellie was asleep in the stroller and we don’t wake babies for pictures.
Our little treehugger.
The lions are probably our favorite part of this zoo. At least, I think that’s what this face means.
As a special birthday treat, we surprised James with the news that Saturday night he would get to attend his first Papa Roach concert! Our friend, Jerry, is the guitarist in the band, and it was a total coincidence that we happened to be in Chicago at the same time as that stop on their tour. He was nice enough to get Chris, James, and our friend, Eli, into the concert that night and James was SUPER excited to rock out to a band he already loves. (Side note: we did warn him that there would be language used there that he was not allowed to use, but the concert also expanded his knowledge with the use of the middle finger as a salute. Ha!)
James enjoying his special seat in the sound booth. Thanks, Jerry! He loved it!
Sunday was a beautiful, sunny day, so we took a walk down through Grant Park to the Adler Planetarium. Such a great place!
A family selfie in Chicago that includes Ellie. She’s thrilled. 
James has Buckingham Fountain to himself.
Me and my boy enjoying the walk on a gorgeous day.
Chris and Jill, taking on Chicago. We love it!
James says “hello” from the shores of Lake Michigan.
After an enjoyable time at the planetarium, we headed back towards the hotel and stumbled upon the amazing Maggie Daley Park. James could have stayed there forever.
Coming down the epic slide.
Our little winter bear girl all bundled up. 
Heading out as the sun starts to set. Just lovely.
Enjoying the great view of the Chicago River near our hotel.
Monday, Chris headed off to work and I took the kids to the Field Museum. It’s one of my favorite museums in the world, and James and I love to spend the day just wandering about. Having been there before, we didn’t really take too many pictures, but we did grab a selfie outside the China exhibit because it’s James’ favorite.
James and I hanging out with the large stone Chinese dog. He guards the entrance. Obviously.
Tuesday was James’ birthday. His ninth birthday! Chris took him down to breakfast, just the two of them, before he went to work and James got to choose whatever he wanted to eat. His choice was waffles with Nutella and syrup. 
Savoring every bite of his delicious birthday breakfast.
Savoring every bite of her delicious feet.
Killing time together while Mom gets ready. 
His choice for where he wanted to spend the day was the Museum of Science and Industry. Although this was not our first visit, we did make it a point to check out some of the exhibits we had missed in the past. What a really fantastic place! We highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to go, it is so worth it!
We watched chickens hatch from eggs! It was amazing!!
(Watching this before lunch meant no one ordered the chicken…)
Look at this sweet little thing trying to take its first steps!
James competed in a Lego challenge. Since he was the only participant, he won.
But it was still a cool experience.
Taking part in a science experiment with foam.
Driving a combine. As you do.
Ellie had a great time at the museum as well. Beautiful smiley girl.
When we got back to the hotel to get ready for our special birthday dinner out, there was a surprise waiting for James. GrandPoppa had sent a basket of birthday cookies and balloons!
Happy birthday, James! Here’s more sugar!
Sharing the 27th as their special day, Ellie turned five months old on James’ birthday.
Five months of awesome.
She loved the balloon, and I love this picture of her watching the balloon.
When you are celebrating your birthday in Chicago, what else can you do but get a delicious steak dinner at one of the city’s many fine steakhouses?! Our choice this time was the Chicago Chophouse and it was pretty good– not our favorite, but still tasty.
All dressed up for our big night out!
Although he wanted to eat the whole thing, he did have to share this steak with Chris.
Although he wanted to eat the whole thing, he did have to share this dessert with Chris and Jill.
Wednesday we spent the day recovering relaxing in the room and catching up on some schoolwork and then met up with Chris and Eli after work for a tasty meal at Gus’s Fried Chicken. The walk took us by a chocolate factory that made the whole area smell so yummy!
Thursday, we went to the American Writers Museum, which is a relatively new museum and one with a completely interactive set of exhibits. It’s not very big, but James and I both found it really interesting and unique. They had a temporary exhibit on Laura Ingalls Wilder that was the inspiration for checking it out and it included the only known audio recording of her voice. Very cool. James enjoyed the typewriter section where you are encouraged to type the start of a story and then the next person can come along and continue it. I would love to see what it looks like at the end of the day.
Giving serious thought to the next great American novel.
As always, we had a wonderful time in Chicago and look forward to going back! It seems we always manage to visit this city in winter, so it would be really great to enjoy it during some warmer weather.
Goodbye, Chicago! Until we meet again…