Summer is here and that means that 5k fun runs are popping up all across America. If you have never run a 5k, 3.1 miles, then I double dog dare you to do one this summer. If running isn’t your thing, then at least walk it or cheer on some of the runners!
We always do the same couple of fun runs each year. The first one is the only one that I am ever competitive in because there aren’t many runners in my age group! In fact, a time of about 24 minutes flat was good enough to get first for my category. Woohoo! I cannot become complacent however because in this particular 5K the older you get the more competitive it becomes!
While fun runs definitely have a competitive aspect to them, there is often a more uplifting camaraderie vibe that permeates the atmosphere. For instance, this year the route was lined with onlookers holding motivational posters that weren’t for specific individuals but rather for all of the participants. Sayings such as, “Worst Parade Ever” and “Run faster, I just farted” helped make it a truly ‘fun’ run.
There are always a slew of races during the 4th of July weekend, so if you don’t have any plans yet, consider getting up ‘early’ in the morning and having fun!
Earlier this year, Shae and I agreed to a goal of camping at least 5 times in 2014. That conveniently works out to camping once a month from May to September. Last year we only got out and camped once, and we felt like we were missing out on some great memories by failing to get out the door.
Shae’s maternity leave ends this week and along with some other travel obligations later in the month and the blissful forecast, we decided that last night would be an opportune time to go camping with our son Frugal Boy. As you probably already know, FB is a little less than 3 months old.
I posted to Facebook about our plans and got the expected response along the lines of, “Good luck, you’re crazy for trying”, but I don’t think it is crazy to go camping with a baby. Think about it. The outdoors is a babies preprogrammed natural environment. For thousands of years, babies have been coping just fine outside of climate controlled, child proofed, brightly colored, electronically monitored nurseries. With that said, it doesn’t hurt to be well prepared. Our packing list was a little longer than usual. (Now where is that kitchen sink?)
The forecasted low for the night was a surprisingly warm 64°. That is about what our house is at night, so we didn’t need to worry about packing too much cold weather gear. One important item we included was a fleece sleeper for FB. Cotton is a poor insulator and is worthless once it gets wet.
There are a number of campgrounds close to us, but we chose Comlara County Park. They actually have two campgrounds. One is RV and car camping and the other is “backcountry” camping. We’ve done the ‘extreme car camping’ version and didn’t feel like hauling all of our stuff a quarter mile out so this time around we chose the main campground.
Due to it being a weekday and school still being in session we had our pick of the litter when we showed up. I counted only 2 other tents and maybe 10 RVs in the 100+ site campground.
Our site, 118, was a 45 second walk from the road, secluded, and had a nice view of Evergreen lake.
FB was happy to hang out in the Boba carrier and supervise the setup of camp.
There was little protection from the wind, but the 88° temperature made it enjoyable.
While FB hung out in the tent to do baby things (eat, poop, sleep), I checked out the surroundings. There was another campsite a little bit further inland next to this old bridge.
The wind was kicking up some good waves on the lake. Can you see the windmills in the background?
Back at camp, FB was taking to the idea of camping splendidly. I guess you can say he was one happy camper! (I’m so sorry, I couldn’t resist)
With the tent and sleeping arrangements all set up, it was time to turn our attention to dinner. In the past we have made meals from scratch over a roaring fire, using a propane stove, eating at a restaurant, and even self contained ready to eat meals. Neither of us were motivated to add the extra challenge of cooking so we brought along some ready to eat meals. If you are interested in learning more about these types of meals, MREInfo.com has excellent information on both military and civilian meals.
Find your Rock or Something™ and let your dinner heat up for about 15 minutes. Shae had chicken and dumplings and I had sloppy joes.
After dinner we had just enough daylight to walk around the campground. The sunset was particularly romantic,
that is until the serenity was interrupted by FB loudly filling his pants. What can I say, it must have moved him. (again terribly sorry, it won’t happen again)
One of the many nice things about camping is that it helps reconnect you with nature. Sometimes you see things that you wouldn’t see if you were driving.
Poor little guy!
Okay, now that I’ve put enough filler in, I guess I can answer the question on everybody’s mind. Did FB sleep at all or did he terrorize the entire campground all night long? Here is your picture proof that babies sleep just as well outside as they do inside, even with howling winds and some random sprinkles (no I didn’t put the rain fly on).
Yep, that was a full night’s sleep for everybody!
You see, camping can be fun with a baby! Here is one more smiley photo to convince you.
After some breakfast and cuddles we packed up and went home.
It was another beautiful Spring day and because we didn’t have any real plans we decided to go for an impromptu adventure. We’ve been to Allerton Park before, but it had been awhile and I was hoping to see some flowers in the gardens. If you’re interested in history, this page has some background on the park.
We struck out on flowers, but there was quite a bit to gaze upon in the formal gardens.
It appears that they grow many of their own flowers on site in a greenhouse.
The coniferous hedge maze provides some greenery year round.
This life sized nude statue is a prime spot to people watch (and listen).
The sunken garden at the end is an extremely popular wedding venue. Maybe it was a good thing that we visited before wedding season starts.
In addition to the formal gardens there is something like 14 miles of trails. You should always take a trail map with you when you go hiking so you don’t get lost! If there aren’t any paper maps available, I take a picture with my phone so I at least have something to refer to out in the ‘wilderness’.
There wasn’t much wildlife visible on the trail and the numbers of people dropped off drastically. The river was slow flowing and the trail was quite smooth.
Anyone who hikes with little ones knows that the most important part of any hike is SNACK time!
and with really little ones, snack time is usually immediately followed by potty time.
We were at about the half way mark of our hike, so it was a good time to switch over to a different mode of travel.
We were coming up to another mini garden / statue but there seemed to be a problem. The map didn’t mention any stairs!
Well, it isn’t called an adventure for just any old reason.
With the stairs conquered, we were rewarded with the statue “The Death of the Last Centaur”.
The walk back to the parking area was easy going. It was nice to find some shade and a nice breeze outside of the mansion. Allerton Park is considered one of the seven wonders of Illinois and is well worth a detour to see.
Frugal Boy properly woke up once he was back in the car for the ride home. He slept through almost the entire outing. I guess that just means we’ll have to come back another day!
It has been a long cold winter here in the Midwest so when the forecast hit a balmy 60° the other day we had to get out and enjoy the weather. One of the cheapest forms of entertainment and exercise is hiking. You really don’t need any special gear. This was our first hike with Frugal Boy and he grunted and slept the entire 2 miles.
Frugal Boy isn’t quite strong enough to hike in a backpack style carrier, so we carted him around in a Boba wrap. It is basically a 2 meter long strip of spandex/jersey fabric that you wrap around your body.
The trails were super muddy from all of the snow melt. That made it really easy to spot animal tracks. Can you identify what left these tracks?
The trail meandered through the prairie before going into the woods. As we walked along we came across what looked like some wind damage.
It wasn’t too much farther and we were back in the prairie looking at the nature center.
It was great getting out for a hike even if it was a little (okay, a lot) muddy. It won’t be long before Frugal Boy can hike on his own two feet and add to our collection of dirty clothes.
That’s okay! Laundry is cheap to do and little boys are meant to get dirty. We were all tuckered out after our short hike.
He won’t remember his first hike at all but we want to get him started early on a healthy and cheap form of entertainment. When was the last time you went on a hike?
This past Sunday we made a day trip up to Chicago to take in some sights. In particular we wanted to go to the Shedd Aquarium and Field Museum. The Shedd Aquarium was running a promotion for free general admission for Illinois residents over the weekend and extending into the start of this week. After seeing the extensive line the last time we were in Chicago, we figured that the best time to go would be on Sunday morning right when they opened.
Neither of us slept very well that Saturday night. I think our bodies knew that we had to be up early in order to make it by the 9am opening time. Watching the sunrise gave us some extra energy as we drove along the interstate. Parking in Chicago is a bit of a hassle and can be quite pricey. One of my uncles who lives in the Windy City knows all of the spots that you can park for free. Instead of trying to find one of those spots, we opted instead to pay to park at a lot on Wabash Street about 1/2 mile away. It was $11 for 10 hours of parking. Shae saw some closer and cheaper spots that we’ll have to use next time.
By the time we showed up to the aquarium the line wasn’t out of the pavilion yet and they hadn’t opened yet either. We didn’t have to wait too long and then we were inside and through admissions. Of course the aquarium tries to upsell you to their dolphin show and special exhibits. We stuck with the free general admission. The free ticket lets you see about 85% of the complex so it is a great deal!
This buck toothed puffer fish was a source of amusement.
The crab was quite imposing with its large size.
The sea dragons are always marvels to look at.
By 10:45am we were starting to feel a bit peckish so we headed down to the indoor picnic area so we could eat our packed lunches. We had made chicken salad the night before and used a cooler lunch box to keep it fresh. Food courts in touristy places such as the Aquarium are usually overpriced. Pack a lunch and snacks to save yourself money. Also, because we ate early on we had our choice of seating. The dolphin show was going on at the same time and the seating area looks into the underwater area of their pen, so in a way we got to see the dolphin show for free.
The line of parked strollers outside the dolphin show was quite impressive. Shae was able to rattle off the prices of each one as we walked by (hmm, I wonder why she can do that). I would feel a bit nervous about leaving a $500 stroller unattended. The $10 umbrella strollers out there seemed to have the right idea in mind.
Once the dolphin show finished around 11am a flood of people descended on the picnic area. It is a good idea to eat outside of the predefined lunch times (11-1). Our seats were snatched up about 10 seconds after we got up. Again, the people watching was superb. Of particular amusement was the mom who lysoled the table, her child’s hands, then put down a BPA-free tablecloth to keep the nasty, scary germs at bay. To each their own, right?
We left the aquarium around noon and the line had grown substantially. It seemed that our timing and estimates of peak visitation was spot on. The Field Museum was decidedly less busy. They were not having a free day, but we do have a membership with another museum that grants us reciprocal admissions to the Field (aka we get free admission at the Field). With this visit, we paid off the cost of the membership so there was no money wasted there. We had purchased the membership to motivate us to get out and see some other museums and to patronage a center of learning.
The Field Museum was enjoyable as always. We skipped a lot of the exhibits because we were getting tired and still had a long drive to get home. We did visit the dinosaurs because they are awesome.
The drive back was uneventful and the whole day’s outing only cost us around $40 for the two of us. $11 in parking and another $30 or so in gas.