Sunday, July 30, 2006

Cottage Living Idea Home

I really want to go to the Cottage Living Idea Home in Evanston. But this is one activity that I think will be much better done on my own.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Race Relations

While we were at The Corner Bakery today, The Boy was coloring the front of the menu/coloring book with a red crayon. He fiercely colored over the face of one of the cartoon people on the front, saying that he didn't want him to go over to another cartoon person's house. I looked over and the face he had colored over belonged to what was supposed to be a black person. It may not have been related or even a race thing; The Boy seemed to think that the Latina cartoon person was OK. But it got me thinking.

Although I consider our neighborhood to be fairly diverse, it isn't of the black/white variety. There are lots of brown folks here, but not a lot of Asians or Blacks. In fact, in my musing this afternoon, I could only come up with one black resident, a man (married to a white woman, with two small children just older and younger than The Boy) in our immediate neighborhood. I am on a "hello" basis with the family, but nothing further. I am on only a "hello" basis with most of my neighbors. However, in this case, I don't want to deepen the relationship at all. This has nothing to do with my neighbor's race and everything to do with his recent place on the registered sex offender list.

I've concluded that The Boy just must not see a lot of black folk. I think we need to change that because it kills me to think of my child excluding anyone, whether it's for reasons of race or otherwise.

It's A Hot Time in the Old Town

This time, we cannot pin the guilt on Mrs. O'Leary's cow and instead have only ourselves to blame. It is 97 degrees fahrenheit outside today and while I should take this opportunity to take the kids to the beach or Millennium Park to play in the fountain sculpture or even to Portage Park's zero-depth pool, I just can't manage it. Too hot and, since it is Saturday, too crowded. And, since it is Saturday with a 3:05 p.m. start Cubs game, too much traffic. All I want to do is sit on the couch in my freezing living room, drink iced tea and zone out in front of the boob tube.

Unfortunately, The Boy had other ideas. He's been bugging me for Cranky the Crane, which parents of boys will recognize as yet another character in the Thomas the Tank Engine series. The Boy calls all of the Thomas branded stuff "trains with a face" and has gotten quite picky about with which train cars he'll concede to play.

Anyway, last night, he repeated his request for Cranky and I told him that if he started wiping his own bum when he went potty, I'd get him Cranky. I have discovered that offering The Boy some trains with a face is an amazing motivational tool on the potty learning front. I gave him Spencer right after he started pooping in the toilet about 6 weeks ago and we haven't had a problem since then. So this morning, The Boy woke up, ate his oatmeal, went to the bathroom, wiped himself, and demanded that we keep our promise.

So, with The Girl, out we trekked in the 97-degree heat to buy Cranky. Although I am normally quite a fan of small, independent toy stores like Timeless Toys, Toys and Treasures, and Building Blocks, I just dropped no small amount of cash at one of them yesterday and so decided to take advantage of big corporate by buying Cranky the Crane (and nothing else) at the Niles Michael's with a 40% Off One Item coupon.

We also had lunch at Corner Bakery, where I was again so nicely complimented on my children by an older woman who told me that they were adorable (and patted The Girl on the head) as she left. She didn't say anything about their behavior, but they were really well-behaved in the restaurant. We all sat there, quietly coloring, for a good 10 minutes after we finished eating.

Pre-K, Part I

The issue of what to do for pre-Kindergarten for The Boy has been pressing on my mind a lot lately. I didn't get into the whole preschool frenzy that some of my friends and many of my online acquaintances did. It hardly seemed worth it to stress over which program, which philosophy, which school was the right choice for a 2- or 3-year-old. Not to mention that while we probably could afford to pay preschool tuition of $300+ per month, I'd rather spend the money on something else, or save it for his high school or college education.

But now, with pre-K applications due in December 2006 (for the fall of 2007 -- eek!), I feel that I should get on the ball. I don't know if I am a disadvantage compared to my research-heavy compatriots or not, because we've decided that our children will attend public schools. This decision makes us anamolies among upper middle-class urban parents; most parents, it would seem, would prefer to send their children to private schools. But my husband and I feel strongly that we should employ the public school system, for several reasons:
  1. I'm a product of the public school system and although I am not a rocket scientist, I feel that I received an excellent education that has prepared me for work and life.
  2. I feel that if we are going to live in the city and enjoy the benefits of urban life, we should put "our money where our mouths are" so to speak. This is our community; one way to make the schools fit our ideals is to get involved by enrolling our children and working from within to effect change. Related to this is that our local school community will be more reflective (than private schools) of the diverse community in which we live.
  3. My husband went to parochial (Roman Catholic) school and disliked everything about it. Incidentally, my own father went to (Roman) Catholic school from K-8 and my mother went to (Roman) Catholic school from K-12, and their experience is part of the reason that I attended the public schools.
  4. Cost. We're paying for the public schools in our property taxes. As I said above, while we could find ways to afford private school tuition, I don't want to. And I certainly don't want to get into a situation similar to one I read about in a magazine, wherein the author's daughter's education was paid for by grandparents who were suddenly unable to meet their obligation. The author had to scramble to pay her daughter's tuition herself, but didn't want to pull her child out of the school that she and her husband otherwise couldn't afford because of the stigmatization and lack of continuity her daughter might experience.
To be continued...

Friday, July 28, 2006


We had a busy morning in Lincoln Square today. Lincoln Square is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the city. It has been established for awhile, but the amenities/shopping have really exploded in the past four years. I could easily spend (and have spent) hours bumming around that area of town. The Boy and The Girl really like it, too.

Our reason for visiting today was The Boy's art class at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I suppose that it is a bit odd to take an art class at a music and dance school, but they seem to offer reasonably priced classes for children under 5. (Plus, they aren't all about branding him. If my kid recognizes brand names, I'd prefer that he learned them from me at this point.)

Before class, we made a quick trip to the Marie Sulzer Regional Library, to return and renew books, and check out some new ones for this week. I find that checking books out of the library is a good way to preview what The Boy and The Girl like to read. If a library book is often requested during its three-week stay with us, I'll buy a copy to add to our collection.

The Girl and I feasted on a snack of hummus (fabulous!) and pita from the Old Town School Cafe during The Boy's class. After class, we all went to the toy store. The Boy played with trains, as usual. The Girl liked just about everything. We got another set of Magna-Tiles, which I cannot recommend enough. My brother and sister-in-law got The Boy a set two years ago for Christmas and it is consistently a hot toy among my children and visiting ones. We made one last stop to The Book Cellar to pick up two books I had ordered, favorites from the previous round of library books, Jazz Baby by Carole Boston Weatherford (for The Girl) and If I Built a Car by Chris Van Dusen (for The Boy).

Although the kids were tired, hungry, and hot, we had to stop at Trader Joe's. This is one of the brands that The Boy knows and recognizes. Indeed, he shouted out "There it is Mama!" as we approached the parking lot (although I think he recognizes the more prominent CB2 logo that is adjacent to TJ's). We got everything on our list and then skedaddled home to enjoy lunch and the blissful cool of our air conditioned house.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006


Yesterday, we took a trip to IKEA in Schaumburg. I know that the mecca of semi-disposable furniture IKEA is not a "destination" for kids, but it is in this household. (In fact, it was The Boy's first outing.) It's got Smalland, a restaurant, and lots of little play stations around the store for children. And The Girl loves to climb up and down on the sofas, chairs and beds although, yesterday, because we were with friends, she did not.

Yesterday's trip was somewhat difficult with two independently minded 3.5-year-old boys and a 15-month-old who wandered off unconcernedly. Plus the store just remodeled, changing the layout (that I had memorized) and that, combined with all the new 2007 catalog items, made for an overwhelming trip. We will have to go back again soon to check everything out. The new kids' section is really cool. And The Girl needs a bookshelf for her room.

The parenting highlight of the trip came when a man, who had been sitting at a table behind all 4 kids and my friend and me, walked by and told my friend that she had very nice/well-behaved children and that I did, too.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The List

Before the summer started, I had a mental list of all the things I wanted to do with the kids. It's now late-July and I'm not sure we've done half of them. Some of them will keep until next year or even the fall, but maybe recording them will keep me focused.
  • Ravinia
  • Kiddieland
  • Train garden at Chicago Botanical Garden
  • Beach
  • Kids garden at Morton Arboretum
  • Centennial Beach in Naperville

Brookfield Zoological Park

The Boy woke up this morning and asked, as he does every day, "What are we doing today, Mama?" My initial response (go to daycamp at a program in our neighborhood) elicited tears and whinging, so I gave it up (he's been protesting camp since its second week and I'm sick of convincing him that he wants to go, even if he has a good time once he gets there) and suggested that we go to the zoo instead.

"Which zoo, Mama?"
"Do you want to go to the face-painting zoo or the other one?"
"The face-painting zoo, Mama."

And, after loading the car with the double stroller and bottles of water, we went to Brookfield Zoo.

Brookfield Zoo is an amazing place. It is quite a bit larger than Lincoln Park Zoo and it's not hard to imagine ladies in white dresses and parasols walking primly around the grounds with their flannels-clad escorts admiring the center fountain and wildlife, stopping to rest on the benches under the big oak trees lining the wide sidewalks. Today's 90-degree heat made it difficult to imagine being one of those women, however. I'd have swooned in all those layers and boning. I was nearly swooning in my t-shirt and capris, huffing around with 2 heavy children in a 30-pound stroller.

Due to the fact that I never seem to have actual cash on me, we went through the North Gate, with the masses. When we got there, The Boy insisted on holding the map. We were all attracted to the newly open, but still vaguely under-construction Carousel. But, since I was still without cash, it wasn't an option. Next time.

First up, we saw a brown, hairy tarantula (not its actual name) from Costa Rica in a box with a pink lid. The docent/zookeeper kept saying that he was excited that the creature was actually awake, as tarantulas are normally nocturnal. I was skeeved out, but The Boy was vaguely interested. We agreed that it looked like the spiders in Harry Potter 2. The zookeeper asked if we had any questions about the spider, but The Boy didn't seem to have any. We walked away and the first thing he said was, "Where did the spider come from, Mama?"

Next, we walked over to the Seven Seas area, to see when the next dolphin show would be. It was at 11:30 a.m. and though it was still half an hour until it started, The Boy insisted that we go into the unairconditioned auditorium. The Girl was not happy about sitting there for so long, especially once it became crowded and I would no longer let her sit on the concrete steps instead of the plastic bleacher seats. The show started and The Boy was entranced. I thought it was better than the dolphin show at the Shedd (shorter and more splash/tricks), but The Girl was terrified at the dolphins jumping in the air. (She felt warmer than just too-hot-from-the-weather-warm while we were sitting in the auditorium and, sure enough, was running a fever when we got home, so that may explain her fear at the show.)

After the dolphins, we wandered past the bears to the Hamill Family Play Zoo, which is probably his (and mine: it's air conditioned and indoors) favorite part of Brookfield Zoo. We saw the bears on the way. The Girl was somewhat animated watching one sleeping in a corner and The Boy had a good view of one playing in a pool of water.

At the Hamill Play Zoo, The Boy waited patiently for his turn in front of the mirror and painted his face pink, green and yellow. He later told his daddy that he was a lion. We looked in on the Hissing Cockroach, gecko and snake. Painted water colors in the Activity of the Day section (The Girl painted, too, clever little monkey. I helped her for awhile and every time I put the brush down, she would pick it back up and hand it to me), and then sprayed the plants in the spray room.

I was ready to go home after that, but The Boy insisted that we have lunch there. I had been planning to go elsewhere because while there is more to do for little kids at Brookfield, the food is much better at Lincoln Park Zoo. And, for what you get, it's pretty expensive at Brookfield as well. But, to go elsewhere, I'd have to put them into and take them out of the car again and it was already past The Girl's naptime, so I decided that The Boy had a point. We went to the Safari Grill, where The Boy had an Animeal(r) of 2 mini cheeseburgers, fries and milk. The Girl and I split an organic turkey + cheese sandwich. I brought out the fries last and The Girl ate quite a few dipped in ketchup.

I got the kids loaded up into the stroller and walked back to the car. The Girl was asleep before we got to the car. The Boy fell asleep before we got home. A bit of traffic on the merge from the Ike, but not too bad otherwise.

Another day, another adventure.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Yesterday, after The Boy's class I took both kids with me to The Red Balloon Co. annual sale at their location in Bucktown. On the way, I called my husband to check in and told him where I was going. The Boy perked up at "Bucktown" and asked me more about it:

"Will there be buckets there, Mama? Do they have shovels there too? Is it a sandbox?"

We talked about the buckets and shovels of "Bucketown" all the way down to the store. He was sad when we got into the store and there were no buckets, shovels or sand.

Alas, there were no great deals there either.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Introduction: About This Blog

Welcome to my Blog for Chicago parents and kids.

Having grown up in Chicago's south suburbs, it was my life's goal to move to the city itself. After 27 years, I finally made it, and became a bonified City of Chicago resident in 2002. With my husband, I'm now happily raising 2 little Chicagoans on the Northside. Although I stay at home with The Boy 3.5y and The Girl, 15-months, I am not a mom who likes to actually stay at home. We are constantly out and about, exploring all that this city has to offer. And it offers quite a lot for the under-5 set. This blog is my attempt to detail our adventures in and observations of city (and sometimes suburban) life.