My Little American Girl

Six years ago, we went into the hospital with a whittled-down list of three girl names for our soon-to-be born little girl: Lindsay, Tana, and Tala (having vetoed each others choices for Page, Hailey, Tenley, Tayva, Ava, and ton of others that are on a list in her scrapbook. KaShawnti being one of our fallback options).

Lindsay (also now known as Binz or LG) turned 6 this month. That’s a whole hand plus a finger. Woah.

As all your Facebook & Instagrammers already know, we spent her birthday at the American Girl doll store in Chicago. Linds got her first doll (Julie) for Christmas and was all about this birthday idea. Kudos to the American Girl doll enterprise for getting little girls excited about a day of shopping on Michigan Avenue.

Chi-town is only a four hour drive from Cedar Rapids so the four of us hopped in the car on her birthday morning and made our way there. We checked into our hotel a few blocks away (& free thanks to an ever-traveling hubs) then hailed a cab to the store. This marks the first official city cab ride for both kiddos…and I didn’t even get a picture!

We arrived in time for lunch at the American Girl Cafe & found ourselves walking through a store with scenes for all the dolls, past the bitty babies section, up an escalator, through more dolls and accessories, past the hair salon, hospital, t-shirt shoppe, and pastry shop before arriving at the restaurant. I’m pretty sure Disney is kicking themselves for not coming up with all of this first.

The cafe seats everyone at the same time. They clearly have it down to a science. We, along with the group of 150 or so giggling girls and surprised parents, filtered on in to our seats.

The large room has an air of whimsy and luxury combined with style, a kid-friendly atmosphere, and, well, pink. Everything pink. Including the daisies on the lampshades and server’s aprons. Oh my. Huge windows frame downtown Chicago. We walked in just as tons of big fluffy white snowflakes began to fall outside make in feel like were in a very pink dreamland.

Julie (the doll) got her own chair to sit at the table as did Curious George. American Girl does not discriminate.

Don’t you dare try to take George’s food away though. That makes a two-year-old angry.

The American Girl Cafe menu is pretty straightforward. I set my expectations low and was pleasantly surprised. For the price, it’s not exactly what you would find at a typical upscale restaurant, but the atmosphere definitely makes up for it. The part that shouldn’t have surprised me was how often the staff sang “happy birthday” to different tables. Apparently this birthday idea is pretty common :)

They brought out a beautiful cake and we all sang.

After lunch, we headed back through the store to pick out her bday presents.

Lindsay had a set spending limit which was increased thanks to a nice gift card from grandma and papa. This process took at least two hours. I have to give them props for the set up for each doll—they each tell a story of a time and place. But where was Samantha??? The 1980s version of me doesn’t understand why they still promote Molly but not Samantha. This is the 70s doll, Julie’s, “room.” My daughter is a total hippie chic.

Linds opted for a new doll named…drumroll….Saige. And speaking of names…

I found that little gem when I was looking back at what we had on our list (by the way, I never ever delete emails. evah).

Binz also picked an outfit for Julie and a bag to carry it all in. If you stand around long enough, they invite you into the personal shopping area to checkout and give you a poster. Surprise surprise, there’s even more pink in there. Linds told me I had taken enough pictures by this point and refused to pose…oh my child – what about the MEMORIES?!?!?!

Afterward we hit up the lego store and stopped for drinks in the tower place cafe then proceeded to chair dance to the loud music knowing we would never again see any of those people ever again.

Back out on Michigan Avenue, I diverted my eyes from all of the places I wanted to go and we made our way to the less-than-impressive Disney store to spend the remainder of the bday girl’s dinero. Afterward, we popped the kids up on our shoulders and trucked it back to the hotel for a bit of downtime because that toy shopping stuff is exhausting! I’m pretty sure one of my favorite memories will be walking through the crowds on the street in the freezing cold with our little people on our shoulders :)

We did dinner a restaurant at the pretty dead-this-time-of-year Navy Pier.

Rex decided he’d rather run around the entire restaurant than eat so we did our best finding the highest bidder for him taking turns walking around and eating in between. (Sidenote: Once both kids are older, we will be repaying them the joy of dining with people acting like total a-holes. Mark my words.)

Back at the hotel Rex pretended to be an Asian visiting Kramer (name that sitcom).

Linds complained that this was the worst hotel room ever because it didn’t have a mini bar full of drinks (apple? tree?). Apparently these two have jaded opinions of typical hotel rooms and I have no idea why

Snuggling up in our pjs, we hunkered down in front of the luxury (to us) that is cable TV, then proceeded to grind the leftover chocolate birthday cake into the carpet. We even ate some of it.

On our way out of town the next morning, we stopped at the “Bean” in Millennium Park mostly because the only way we ever get any full family pictures is if there’s a reflective surface involved. The Bean is great for selfies.

Happy-as-a-clam Lindsay ran around and played in the melting snow while Rex hid his face in Shawn’s neck. Two is such a young age to start being embarrassed to be seen in public with your parents but whatev.

Rex also got his picture by a fi-ah twuck (must be said out loud with big round eyes).

At home, Lindsay had a present on the doorstep for her and her dolls that she put on immediately. Thanks aunt Shan! These went right along with the other new American Girl doll outfits from Ami & Gpa and Jen & Toby—that hippie dolls is stylin’.

At 6, Lindsay has request to be called Linds. So much for choosing her name :)

I can’t believe how fast six years has gone. Instead of feeling sad about my kids getting older, I celebrate. Every year marks new experiences and a special time in their lives that we must enjoy to the fullest. It represents more opportunities to learn and grow. Lately, amongst the stress of day to day life (laundry, dishes, groceries, dinner, and everything in between), I’m reminding myself how this is all only temporary. Bad and good (like stressful mornings and watching Linds & her brother make each other giggle uncontrollably) this phase of our lives is going by quickly. Remembering this helps me keep a cool head in some instances and fully appreciate the wonderful moments. Shawn and I love to talk about how young we will still be once they’re out of the house and all of the things we will still be able to do…but that stance doesn’t help me live in the now which is more important. We only have so long with our little people that we need to make it count.

Enjoy your 6th year Linds!