The weekend getaway

Living in Chicago, we enjoy everything the big city has to offer.  Our usual weekend involves going to a few of the 5 parks within walking distance of our home. We love supporting our local shops and restaurants and seeing what is happening at our local libraries.  Winter months bring with it the joy of playing at one of the many indoor play spaces the city has to offer.  But, what happens when you drive straight down 65 and into Indiana?  For a 2 year old, it's like being in a totally different country.

My family and I ran into a rare occasion where we had absolutely nothing planned for a weekend.  No work trips, no house work to be done, no birthday parties. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity.  So, we decided to make the most of the weekend and took a last minute family road trip.

We didn't go far.  With less than a 2 hour drive, we were able to experience a few worlds that were totally different from ours. While my wife and I enjoyed learning about the amazing things that are close to home, my 2 year old son experienced a totally new world that he only reads about in books.

Our trip started with a stop at the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, IN, A town known for its yearly Pierogi Fest and the home to the largest oil refinery for BP. The museum opened just over a year ago and is a dreamland for any active child. They have everything from indoor sports courts to a t-shirt shooter simulator. My son got to learn about all of his favorite silly characters and was so curious about what teams they belonged to.  Of course, he knew every Chicago mascot.  He got to dress up like a mascot and see what it was like just to dress up and be silly.  As an added bonus, the adults got learn about the history of mascots!

From there our trip continued down to Fair Oaks Farms, IN.  There lies a magical land that kids growing up in the city know nothing about.  As we pulled in, Jackson let out a yelp of excitement exclaiming, "Old McDonald's farm!!!".  As a parent, this was so exciting. In the Midwest, we drive through farmland to get everywhere.  It is boring and makes drives feel even longer. But, when looking through the eyes of a 2 year old from the city, it was a place of adventure.  This is where the cows the pigs and the chickens live! This is what I sing about in school!  Only kids have the power to turn an every day scenery into an exciting expedition.

We had a whole day full of fun activities.  We toured dairy facility where my 2 year old learned where all the milk comes from that he drinks. And I mean that literally. 90% of Fair Oaks milk is bought and pasteurized by Kroger. We saw where 80,000 pigs a year are raised. And not only was it fun to see the animals, but we learned so much about them. How big is a baby pig compared to other animal babies? How do the farmers assist in the birthing process of the pigs and cows? You can even watch the animals give birth as they have cows and pigs born every single day.  We ate at the restaurant where Jackson's mac and cheese was made with cheese right from that farm. Of course, nothing was as exciting as staying in a hotel that looked like a big red barn, or according to Jackson, "where the farmer lives"

The people we met on the tour were just as amazing. During the pig tour, a 10 year old boy was spitting out more information than the tour guide can keep up with.  It just so happens that the family raises their own pigs and the 10 year old competes in shows with them. They wanted to see what "large scale" pig farming looked like.  Why do I bring this up? Living in the hustle and bustle of the city, we forget about how kids are raised in other parts of the country.  While Chicago is definitely a diverse city, we all live a very similar life with similar daily issues.  We forget about exposing our kid to other cultures and ways of living.

A small little weekend getaway made me think about so much as a parent.  I want to point out some of the important things to think about.

  1. With just a short drive, you can expose your kids to a totally different world.  You won't believe what is within striking distance of your home. 
  2. Think outside the box when it comes to family fun.  While something as simple as a farm may seem boring to you as an adult, think of it from a child's perspective. 
  3. Spend time together as a family.  Getting away from home for the weekend instead of playing with the same old toys and watching sports was refreshing for everyone.  
  4. Introduce your kids to people who live and think differently.    
  5. Create some amazing family memories. 

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