Friday, June 5, 2015

Shiny Dinah

"Here is a shiny choo-choo train. Shiny Dinah is her name.

Choo-choo! Choo-choo!
Dinah, Dinah, Dinah, Dinah.
Shoo! Shoo! Shoo! Shoo!
Shine-a, shine-a, shine-a."

It should not surprise you at all to know that by this point in our parenting journey, Jon and I have become quite the experts on (or critics of) children's literature. (In fact, Jon has been known to hide books from Elsa that he just doesn't want to read any more.) So, when it came time to prepare for our train trip to Chicago, it was a natural step to tie it to one of Elsa's books, Shiny Dinah.

As implied by the excerpt above, Shiny Dinah is a story about a shiny passenger train...that happens to feature a lot of onomatopoeia. Fortunately, Elsa is a fan of this story, so it was easy to sneak it into the rotation leading up to the trip and provided a way to talk up our adventure. And it worked. Elsa was excited and did really well on her first overnight train trip.

Jon and I have made this trip a couple of times before to visit friends who had been living in South Bend, Indiana. The schedule is great for efficiency: board the train in Memphis at night, go to sleep, wake up in Chicago, and do the whole thing in reverse on the return trip. Typically, we would get a roomette with twin bunk beds, although once we had to sit in the coach seats. However, since this was Elsa's first Amtrak trip in general--overnight specifically--we opted to get a family room, which consists of one double bed with a twin bunk above and two child-size beds that could fold down from the side if needed. Quite spacious, really.

Plenty of room to take our obligatory travel auto-photo

Elsa and I shared the bigger bottom bunk while Jon slept above us. This arrangement was fair, considering I've been told that when I was much younger, I used to move around a lot when I slept (sorry to anyone I shared a bed with when I was a kid). Evidently, Elsa inherited this trait from me. She flopped around quite a bit. Multiple times, I had to grab her and pull her down from a standing position. She definitely had the hair to show for crazy night, but all in all she slept well (better than Jon or me).

The adventure continued once we arrived in Chicago. Our friends (and point of the trip) met us at the train station, and the girls headed to the theater for Fancy Nancy. It was Elsa's first show, and she was mesmerized.

                                          By "mesmerized," I also mean "tired"

After enjoying some Chicago-style deep-dish pizza for lunch, we went to the Kids & Kites festival. It was a beautiful spring day, the kind that makes one feel glad to be alive. The festival lived up to its title as the park was full of kids and kites.

A great day to be alive
As an added bonus, I got to see another friend from college, whom I haven't seen in years. Our group consisted of just about everyone I know who lives in Chicago, which was splendid.

We loaded up some tired kiddos (and tired parents) and returned to our friends' house in Naperville to begin the mad dash toward bedtime. Once the kids were tucked in, we had some lovely dinner/wine/catching up time.

Sunday morning was fairly leisurely, so the kids had time to play outside and also get fancy again while we were making breakfast.

Anyone can be fancy
We went to church and lunch, and since our hosts were gracious enough to insist that they drive us to the train station rather than letting us take an early commuter train, I even had to time to attend the Dailey Method class my friend teaches. (For those unacquainted with the Dailey Method--like I was--it is sort of a cross between ballet, pilates, and yoga and features many small movements to stretch and tone the body.) She is a great instructor...I was definitely sore for several days afterward.

And then it was time to get back on the train. Elsa was excited to ride "Shiny Dinah" one more time.

Tray tables do NOT need to be returned to their upright positions
Unfortunately, there were no family rooms available for this leg of the trip, so we had to squeeze into a roomette. We were all so tired from our adventure, though, it didn't really matter that our accommodations were a bit smaller. We had a nice dinner with some interesting folks (meals are included for sleeper car passengers), and then it was time for bed.

Story time on the train
All too soon--literally; the train arrived at 5:30am, ahead of schedule--our train adventure came to a close. Thanks, Shiny Dinah (and Amtrak), for a great trip!

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