We have spent the last few days in Chicago and are just packing up our bits and pieces to get ready to leave.  Having three nights in the same place has allowed us to shake out the wrinkles from our clothes and get a bit more organized.

On Friday the kids and I made the grand adventure downtown on the train as Jeff stayed in the hotel and wrote 3 tests.  (This is the end of a 3 year Diplomate course for him - lots of brain power used!) As we took the 35 minutes train ride downtown, we spoke to a local man who told us to take the water taxi to Navy Pier for a different Chicagoview of Chicago.  We got off at a different downtown stop than him and his family, so we thanked him and went on our way.  We wandered a bit, ate a snack, got a tad lost, and then eventually found the water taxi stop that we were looking for.  As we approached the boat we heard "Final Call!" so we quicky ran and hopped on. There weren't any seats left, but we were directed to a giant box that held the lifejackets and told to sit there.  We got settled, and as we took a look around we couldn't believe the fact that RIGHT IN FRONT OF US was the same family from the train!  What are the chances of that??  Pretty funny.

We disembarked at Navy Pier and did a little walkabout.  We originally intended on riding the Ferris Wheel, but it was a super hot and sticky day and those little glass boxes looked like torture.  That may explain why the line-up was so short... Instead, we explored a bit and then went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch.  It was located in a little greenhouse oasis that was cooler than outside but not blasting with air conditioning.  It was perfect.  As we finished our meals we couldn't believe our eyes as we saw THE SAME FAMILY walking in to the restaurant!  Seriously!  We all have a giant chuckle about it and they assured us that they weren't stalking us.

Julia really wanted to go to the giant reflective bean (an art structure actually called Cloud Gate) that we had visited when we were here in the winter about 2 years ago. BeanWe took a taxi as it was so hot and we were getting a bit tired.  We took the requistive photos, bought some ice cream, and then decided to head back to the hotel for a rest.  (We kept our eyes out for that family, but it seems like that was the end of our encounters with them!) The train back to the hotel was much busier than the one heading down and we had to stand up for most of the way.  Eventually the 3 of us shared 2 seats, and finally for the last 10 minutes we each had our own seat.  Busy busy!

Friday night was super fun as we went to a great restaurant/bowling alley close to the hotel.  There were 15 of us (including the kids) and we ate great food, had delicious drinks, and bowled our arms off.  (Admission - I think I strained my left glute from all the lunge-bowling!)  It was a lot of fun, and it's nice to have a place where kids and adults can both hang out like that.

On Saturday we hit the Fashion Outlet that is quite near our hotel.  The girls and I went over and did a bit of shopping and then Jeff met us there for lunch after his test.  He had the rest of the afternoon off, so after our leisurely lunch we went back to the hotel for a swim and a nap.  Then we met up with a bunch of his classmates at a Mexican place for margaritas and snacks.  It was kind of happy/sad as it was the last 'hurrah' for them after spending 3000 hours together in this program.  They quite literally have been together one weekend a month for the last 2.5 years - that's quite the commitment for everyone.  There were a few margaritas consumed, quite a few toasts given, and general merriment had by all.  The girls were a little bored but did well considering that we were there for about 3 hours!  Thankfully there was a candy store a few doors down and a giant grassy field for them to play on.  They were little troopers.

As I write this Jeff is taking his final oral test.  We will all be happy and relieved when this is over... I am immensely proud of him and his dedication to this program; he certainly loves what he does.  As soon as he returns we will hit the road and head to Michigan to visit with our good friends the Kowalczyks - we are so looking forward to seeing them!  :)


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