We’re on vacation!

We’ve been here, there, and everywhere. OK, actually, we’ve been to:
1. Grove City, PA to have lunch with college friends
2. Wadsworth, OH where we stayed with college buddies for a few days. The boys visited the Football Hall of Fame and the girls (and Daniel) had a lovely tea
3. South Bend, IN, where we visited an awesome bookstore (only a homeschool mom’s husband truly appreciates a good bookstore!) and the campus of Notre Dame
4. On to Strawberry Point, IA for five days with good friends from Seminary. Daniel got to meet his godfather for the first time, and we got to visit many places, including a Laura Ingalls Wilder museum, the Effigy Mounds National Park, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s homes, and the Dubuque Aquarium. The last day was my birthday, and it started with breakfast in bed, a bounty of homemade cards, and an “Angel of Learning” Willow Tree figure from my family. We had ice cream cake the day before.
5. Chicago, where we celebrated my birthday by visiting the Chicago Institute of Science and Industry
Ah, but it was not simply for the interactive exhibits that we came and bought a family membership. It was for the Harry Potter Exhibition.

Unfortunately, this was the only Harry Potter artifact we were able to take pictures of. There was a strict “no photography” policy, but the Flying Ford Anglia was out in the lobby and fair game for pictures.

I took three of the four kids in with me– my ten-year-old son, eight-year-old daughter, and extremely distractable five-year-old son, whom I threatened with loss of a treats and a days stuck in the toddler’s stroller if he did anything to cause us to be removed from the exhibit. He behaved, and didn’t touch anything he shouldn’t have, which is more than I can say for myself.

There was Harry Potter trivia in the entrance line, and my two oldest children acquitted themselves very well. Then Michael and Nicholas both got to try on the sorting hat. I was so upset that I wasn’t allowed to take pictures. After, in the gift shop, a nice lady came up to me and showed me a picture she had taken of Michael. I gave her my email addy, so hopefully she’ll send it. *crosses fingers and toes&

There was a little video-type dealio, which was cool, although it freaked out my five, who hasn’t seen anything past the second movie. We got rushed past the Hogwarts Express, which made me crabby, but from there on it was sheer magic.

The detail was absolutely amazing. I may have touched some stuff that, strictly speaking, I wasn’t supposed to touch. I loved how they kept the magic– they didn’t dissect things or bring them too much into reality. My kids got to pull up mandrakes, throw the Quaffle through the hoops, and sit in Hagrid’s chair.

The workers were all friendly and helpful. One told us that Remus and Tonk’s costumes had been removed (Remus’s was replaced; Tonks’s was not) and sent back to England for filming. They answered my kids’ questions (and mine!) with grace and good humor, which, as a mother, I always appreciate.

The only thing that disappointed me was that we weren’t allowed to take pictures. It isn’t even really that I wanted pictures of the exhibit, but I wanted pictures of my little ones enjoying the exhibit. And the website said there would be postcards of the Exhibition available in the gift shop, and there weren’t. The post cards were just movie post cards and not of things specifically in the exhibit.

On our way out, we noticed this sign advertising the Half-Blood Prince movie at the IMAX.

I broke my own rule and took Katie Grace even though she hasn’t read the book. She didn’t see the two PG-13 movies, but she really liked this one, and we both loved enjoying the movie in the IMAX format.

We bought a family membership because, even had we only gone one day, it was less expensive to do so. We decided to go back a second day rather than going to the children’s museum as we originally planned. We didn’t even come close to seeing everything the museum offered in one day.

But the best part? The very, very best part and the most wonderful birthday present ever?

I got to go through the Harry Potter Exhibition again, by myself, with the audio tour. It was wonderful. As detailed as the Exhibition was, there were a billion more details with the audio tour. The attention to detail that went into making the movies took my breath away. I’m truly in awe at the human drive to create. The only downside was that, after listening to some of the commentary, I’m still not convinced all those involved with making the movies have actually read. the. books. Case in point: the costume designer referring to Hermione as “the school sweetheart.” Blargh.

Still and all, it was an amazing experience, and definitely one of my best birthdays ever!