Affordable Adventure #2: Eschewing the F-ing Jump Zone

Hey!  I promised that I would write about an affordable adventure at least once a month and here it is the end of December and I haven't done it yet.  And it's only my second month.  Shameful.  Anyway - I actually wrote this a couple months ago - before the blog had launched.  And while it does mention a particular Chicago-area destination, I think it's an adventure that could be found anywhere.

Bunny and Pip teach me lessons all the time.  They have to – it takes me forever to learn anything.   The kids have a week off from school and, while I have been trying very hard to not spend money, I did relent to the request to go to the Jump Zone.  It is $8 per child but I thought – well, if they stay for the full time, that’s 2 and a half hours so it ends up being about $3 an hour or something (I can’t do math) and that is pretty good if it means I can sit in the corner while they play and figure out the financial junk about this divorce.

The kids were overjoyed that I was taking them to Jump Zone and could barely stand the waiting in line part.  I settled myself on the floor (they could really do with more of those cushy, leather chairs) and began my paperwork.  A half hour later, a sweaty Bunny showed up and told me she was tired and hot and wanted to go home.  I said “Bunny!  $8 for a half hour is not cost-effective!  Now, you get back out there and jump and you LIKE it!”  Maybe not exactly that – but something sorta halfway effective.  I did manage to get Bunny back out there but each time the intervals between her visits (and subsequent complaining) got shorter.  We stayed for two hours through sheer force of will on my part and it was, I think, a moderate success.  Pip had a ball.  Bunny found a number of things to be disgruntled about.   The tab ran a bit bigger than the $16, of course, because the kids got thirsty and I let them share a vitamin water ($2!) and then they knocked out on the way home and slept in the car a bit so then I needed to get Lily to chorus and wouldn’t be able to get her upstairs to the condo for a snack so we went through a drive-thru.  Sigh.  It was easily a $30 day.

On the way home, however, we passed an entrance to a forest preserve called Miami Woods and it was pretty and I said “Hey!  Let’s go exploring in those woods tomorrow!”   And that was the start of this affordable adventure.  Miami woods is a long stretch of forest preserve in Morton Grove that can be found along Caldwell between Oakton and Dempster.

Bunny and Pip ADORED Miami woods.  It is lovely and, for a couple city kids, kinda wild.  If I had a nickel for every time one of them said “This is So AWESOME,” I’d have, like, 20…maybe 25 cents.  Did you think I was going to say I’d be rich?   Let’s be reasonable.  Isn’t 4 or 5 times enough?  It was for me.

There isn’t much to the area of Miami Woods we adventured in.  It was just kind of a thin strip that had a woodsy area where we discovered mushrooms and various other bulbous things growing on logs and Bunny talked me into moving a large log out into a small marshy area so that she could walk out on it.  Bunny, it turns out, takes on a whole new persona in the wilderness.  She is a self-proclaimed “Adventurer” and she, my little blonde princess who screams if apple juice accidentally dribbles from her chin or a plop of yogurt lands in her lap, turned to me after I gave my warning that if she were to fall in, she’d be wet and cold for the rest of the outing and said “Mama, I’m an Adventurer.  Adventurers get dirty.  It’s part of the job.”  Well, OK, then.

Bunny and Pip balanced on many, many logs.  It is, apparently, a marvelous thing to do.  Then we walked along the bike path for a bit which was “boring.”  Then we found the river.  It was “awesome.”  Then we found another brambly wooded area where someone had built some sort of lean-to that I chose to find charming and pushed all thoughts of the Blair Witch Project out of my head as they played in there.  We climbed a hill that ended up putting us onto a busy street.  Bunny and Pip found it wonderful to be peeking over the tall grass right next to cars that were whizzing by.  I didn’t like it at all and I made a fuss until they headed back down.  Pip still has a very tenuous level of respect for moving vehicles.

At the bottom of the hill and through some more woods was a narrow bike path bridge that went over the busy street.  I was amazed that neither of my adventurers had any desire to go over it and peer down at the cars and see what was on the other side.  They almost lost their adventure licenses on that one but I insisted we try it out.  Pip was impressed to be up above the cars like that – Bunny was not - but the real find was on the other side of that bridge.   We found a tiny path that led down to what felt like a secret.  It was on the bank of the river which seemed, at that point, more like a stream…or a creek?  A babbling brook?  Are there official differences amongst those things?  Well, you get the picture.  It was green and quiet and completely hidden from the bike path above.  And, most miraculously, the area was completely covered in lush, thick, soft groundcover.  Bunny settled down into it and announced she would be taking a nap.  It was a pretty wondrous feeling.

We vowed to return soon to our secret nook with a picnic.

There was really nothing of note there in that section of Miami Woods.  Just, you know, some woods.  And there were no large inflatable alligators to slide down or pirate ships to bounce on.  It’s hard to describe as a destination of interest.  But we found butterflies and mushrooms and balance and imagination and adventure and curiosity and a bit of fearlessness.  And a lean-to.

Free factor: $0

Fun Factor: 9

Filed under: Uncategorized

Tags: Jump Zone, Miami Woods

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