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Elena’s three-and-a-half months old and I just finally took her to Chicago. Not sure how that happened. Or, I guess I should say, how that didn’t happen.

I had high hopes of exposing our child to new experiences. People, places, cultures. But so far, we’ve mostly squandered our time on the couch, in front of the tv. Parenting fail.

It’s not like it’s hard to get into town. I mean, we’re less than 30 miles away. That’s nothing. And it’s not as if I’m short on time, because these days my social calendar remains wide open.

I guess I’m just tired, after long days at the office. And when I have a moment of free time, I want to spend it doing something relaxing. Not navigating heavy traffic, drowning in crowds or hunting for parking spaces.

When I was pregnant, I imagined this first summer with the baby would be filled with all types of adventures: taking her to the zoo, the racetrack, the park, the pool. Then I learned babies can’t wear sunscreen. My six short weeks of maternity leave came and went, and our biggest adventures were Ikea shopping sprees and quick bites at fast food joints, in-and-out lickety-split before baby woke up, fussy.

Our first venture into the city was a quick one, nice and easy. I always get nervous experiencing firsts on my own with the baby, and this was no exception. But I really lucked out. Traffic moved at a decent pace, and we sang along to our favorite songs on Pandora– Elena loves the Beach Boys and I’m partial to Nelly (not sure how much longer I’ll be able to listen to that with her in the car, though).

My GPS lost its signal at the very point where I exited the expressway and didn’t know exactly which roads to take. Atuned to my worry, Baby Girl started to wail. But I fumbled along. My biggest worry was Michigan Avenue, which I crossed twice while searching for a parking space. I absolutely loathe driving on that street (got stuck behind a bus once, and I swear it took 10 minutes just to drive one block). Luckily, it was 6 pm on a Sunday, so I avoided the insane crowds of jaywalking shoppers that would have otherwise greeted me.

Plus, I found a space a few blocks from my destination that did not require parallel parking. I’m bad enough as it is, but I can’t imagine it’s any easier with a screaming baby in the backseat. Another nice surprise: the parking meters in the Gold Coast allow credit cards. Seeing as I never carry cash, the gods were on my side.

hancock

Our drive took us past several Chicago landmarks.

We spent most of the evening in my friend’s apartment, but the baby got some good sight-seeing in: she caught glimpses of the Chicago River, the John Hancock building, the water tower, the Hard Rock Cafe, and the MCA.

Once we were out of the Jeep and on foot, she experienced a true taste of the windy city: she was wind-whipped by some big gusts and listened to the sounds of carriage wheels and horse-hooves clopping down the street. And lots of horns. She just bopped along in her Baby Bjorn, taking it all in.

I want to take her lots of places and explore lots of things. I can’t wait for all the fun we’ll have. Please share your suggestions for awesome local baby experiences, if you’ve got any!
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