Thursday, October 4, 2012

go for the balloons, stay for the plants.

We are trying to make the most of our weekends, lately.  Now that there aren't so many settling-in projects to be done around the apartment, we want to take advantage of all the cool things going on up here on any given day, especially while the weather is nice.  There is so much to choose from, it's almost overwhelming.  So this past weekend, we picked two things.

The first was on Saturday, it was called Hike and Seek and happened at Bemis Forest Preserve in Western Springs.  Put on by the National Wildlife Federation, Hike and Seek was a mile-long hike with 5 stations along the way, with various activities for the kids.  They made bird calls out of straws, painted rocks, made sun prints, stuff like that.  Some of the activities were fun, some were a little below their age levels.  But we had a good time on a gorgeous afternoon, and discovered a beautiful new woods that we would like to go back and explore more.

On Sunday we decided to check out an art installation called Half the Air in a Given Space.  A couple different locations in Chicago are hosting versions of this installation by artist Martin Creed.  Basically it is a room full of balloons.  We went to the installation at the Garfield Park Conservatory.  When we first got there, we immediately went to the balloon room, as we called it.  There was a nice girl on duty at the installation, she looked college age.  She gave us the spiel about how this was art, it wasn't a ball pit, and asked that we be gentle while we were in there.  She seemed confident enough that we could do this, and so I wasn't too concerned.  There were already people in the room, and they were only letting five people in at a time.  So rather than split up and take turns going it, we decided to come back later and try to go in all together. 

I wasn't sure how much the boys would enjoy the rest of the conservatory, but it is free, so we went on in to pass the time while we waited our turn for the balloon room.  The boys enjoyed the plant rooms more than I expected.  They had fun picking out their favorites, going down the slide, looking at the sculptures.

So after some time spent in the conservatory, we headed back to the balloon room and it was unoccupied.  We were excited to go in.  Another girl had joined the first who was watching the installation.  She didn't realize we had been there earlier and had already been given the "be careful, be gentle" speech by the first girl.  She started to give us the same speech, but we sort of just brushed past her and went in, because we had already heard it from the original girl and we were anxious to go in.  I don't think the second girl liked that much.  She was sort of hollering after us as we went in, "Don't hit the balloons!"

We entered, opening the door just a crack and squeezing in so none of the balloons came out of the room.  It was full of huge white balloons, as promised.  The boys loved it, they were walking and swinging their arms.  I didn't think they were being too rough, but the second girl opened the door a few times to shout at us for not behaving properly in the balloon room.  This was super annoying to me.  They weren't being that rough, and there is no way she could have seen what they were actually doing.  I was in the same balloon-filled room with them and I couldn't actually see them most of the time, except when they passed right by me.  They were completely covered by the balloons.  When I did catch glimpses of them I could see them doing sort of a soldier walk, swinging straight arms and legs as far as possible.  They weren't hitting the balloons, but the way they were walking was making the balloons fly up into the air as if they were being hit.

The thing I don't understand is, how are people supposed to interact with this installation in a way that differentiates it from a ball pit?  It is basically a ball pit, but with bigger and lighter balls.  And if they are so concerned about their precious balloons, why allow kids in the room?  How do they expect children to act in such a setting?  I mean, seriously.  Ugh.  I don't think the two girls watching the installation were on the same page.  I think the first girl was more understanding and realistic about what would be happening.  I wish we had gone in when it was just her, because the second girl stressed me out and made me angry.  She almost ruined the experience for me.  But the boys were unaware of my stress and oblivious to the girl's reprimands.  They had a great time.  We were in there for probably about 5 minutes, during which time the boys had a blast and I got some fun pictures.

 After we were done with the balloon room, we went to explore the outdoor gardens.  The boys had fun running around.  There is a fantastic big open field in the back of the conservatory.  I wish we could have stayed longer, but we were meeting some friends for lunch.  We'll have to go back soon.  It's pretty unbelievable that the conservatory is free.  It's such a wonderful gem in the city.  I hope we'll become regulars.

After our fun morning at the conservatory, we had lunch at Milk and Honey, yum, and I got to see one of my favorite small people.

A good, full weekend.  xoxo

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