Tuesday, September 27 2022

emergencies, build-a-bear, and the bears game

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to Tuesday. How are you feeling today?

It's another perfectly chilly fall morning. While I brewed coffee, Marissa tiredly leaned against the front window, waiting for the bus to pick up Rodney. Rodney was waiting in a new spot today on our side of the street. He claims that his teacher instructed them to hold off on crossing the street until the bus driver has a chance to stop and wave them across. That's all fine, but Rodney happened to pick a spot behind a tree where it would be impossible to spot him.

"He's not gonna see you, honey," hollered Marissa through the cracked door. "Just... just cross the street like normal."

So far I've learned that first grade is the awkward time where you have to learn to trust your kids to relay all the important things they're hearing at school. We hear about his homework assignments, upcoming events, and new rules indirectly through Rodney, and sometimes he leaves things a bit muddled. Last week, they gave the kids a refresher on how to exit out the back of the bus in case of an emergency. But the version we heard went something like, "did you know that the bus will crash on the road? And we have to jump out the back door". Rodney was similarly spooked by the fire drills they practiced in kindergarten, and I'm noticing a theme. He doesn't yet understand the difference between simple preparedness and, um, inevitable impending doom.

Where's my coffee...

Sip. It's my birthday week. Since it falls on a Thursday this year, I decided to take Monday and Friday off and split the festivities into two days. This Saturday, Marissa and I are going to grab dinner downtown at a secret location of her choosing. Last Sunday, we went to a Bears game. But before all that, we finally made good on our promise to take the boys to Build-a-Bear workshop.

The tired workhorse of the Schaumburg economy, sometimes I worry about the future of the Woodfield Mall. Next time I have these worries, I'll have to remember to simply try to find parking there on a Saturday night. Circling the lot for ten minutes, scanning each stall, I felt a little relieved that the Woodfield Mall was still a profitable, hectic bazaar where it is impossible to find parking.

We wouldn't linger. There wouldn't be more stops. We walked directly into Build-a-Bear where Miles and Rodney got to work. First they had to pick a "teddy bear carcass", as I like to call it.


Next, the teddy bear carcass is filled with stuffing. At the base of a giant, swirling, cloudy chamber of moving cloth, two friendly employees helped Miles and Rodney inflate their dinosaurs into real stuffed animals. They each planted a ceremonious red heart in the middle before it was sewn shut.


"That red heart will be a fun little prize for Minnie to find when she rips these things to shreds," I said quietly to Marissa.

Two naked stuffed dinosaurs from Build-a-Bear weren't so expensive. But word to the wise, the accessories are where they get you. Even holding Rodney and Miles to two small shirts and a skateboard to share, the final bill was steep - like buying a steak dinner for two, but all we had to show for it was these two goofy looking dinosaurs.


The sweet, albeit expensive trip to Build-a-Bear was their time. The Bears game was our time. Marissa and I painted our faces. She borrowed a Jay Cutler jersey from my closet.

"If you really want to act the part, just walk around asking Where's that hot guy from Very Cavallari," I teased.


Even though I had only been to one Bears game myself, I did my best to recreate a staple gameday experience. We would take the blue line into the city, then transfer and get off at Roosevelt. It was almost a flawless arrival. We missed the transfer and had to close the last bit of distance with an Uber. But we still got to make the iconic, winding walk through the park that connects the Shedd, the Field Museum, and finally Soldier Field.

Why does crossing a single street and walking to a football field need to be so complicated? We filed across a bridge, under tunnels, down stair cases - the long, winding walk takes you in all four cardinal directions before you even get to the base of Soldier Field. But the pounding of bucket drums and the barking of ticket scalpers while following a school of waddling Bears fans just helps build anticipation.

"That's it?" laughed Marissa. "It looks... like a mistake." An honest reaction to the charming monstrocity. It's true that Soldier field looks a lot more beautiful from the inside.


In a weird way, it was the perfect Bears game. It got hot, cold, and rainy all in the same half. Our offense played atrociously, but we still managed to win with up-the-gut running, defensive takeaways, and a game-deciding field goal. Bears football, baby!

With a few more hours to kill before dinner, we took a walk through the Shedd aquarium. Maybe that's why they put Soldier field so close to the aquarium - what else are you going to do with the rest of the afternoon after watching a football game?

It's funny how each time you visit the aquarium, something new grabs your attention. For me, this time it was the jellyfish - serenely floating in a big, circular tank with no rocks, reef, or decorations. Just breathing, undulating in pure water. "You think the jellyfish get bored in their?" I commented.


Marissa's Shedd favorite has always been the belugas, but they seemed different this time. "They're... lumpy," she laughed. "It's like their skin isn't filled up all the way." I wondered if she was subconsciously thinking of that metal tube that inflated animals at build-a-bear.


That's what I got today. Thanks for stopping by, and have a great Tuesday, everyone.