Sunday, October 22, 2006

Suburban Mindset

Disclaimer: I have nothing against the suburbs. I grew up in one. And, at some point, I will probably again become a resident of a suburb of Chicago.

On Saturday afternoon, after retrieving our car, I took The Boy and The Girl out to see their grandparents, who live in the illustrious suburb of Naperville. I told them about my previous evening. They said, "How did you not know that your car had been stolen? Why did you think it had been towed?"

This must be the essential difference between the city mindset and the suburban mindset. Or it could be the difference between driving a nice car and a relatively junky car. It would never occur to me that my car would be stolen in a relatively safe, well-lit neighborhood (even on the Southside); towing seems a much more likely possibility. Plus, who would want to steal my crummy VW wagon? My in-laws assumed that if they had come back to their car(s) to find it gone, it would have been stolen. This might be more likely in their case, as both of their cars are posh.


What blog about city life would be complete without a rant about parking? It's time for the obligatory post about parking.

Now, I generally consider myself a good little resident of the city of Chicago vis-a-vis parking. I pony up my $75 every June for a new city sticker, and another $78 to renew my state registration every November. My neighborhood does not have permit parking, and I do have a garage, so I generally find parking in my neighborhood to be easy-peasy. Actually, I generally find parking in most areas of the city to be easy. But that may be attributed to the fact that I am not often in Lakeview, Lincoln Park or Bucktown at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night before I go out to party. (I have two little kids; my partying days are over.)

However, in the past month, I've had not one, but two run-ins with the City's Department of Revenue. I find it apt that the business of parking and its regulation is run by a department that openly admits that the whole thing is about making cash for the City. That might explain why every time I get a ticket, it's $50. I can count on one hand the number of tickets I received by the city of Chicago. I usually swear at myself and pay them. But not anymore. I received a ticket at the beginning of the month for parking on a street that was due for street cleaning. There were no visible signs on my side of the street, so I contested the ticket. I just got a notice in the mail saying that my money was due, so I wonder if that means the City disagrees with me over the facts of the ticketing.

And then last Friday, I returned from a lovely little jaunt on the Metra Electric with The Boy and The Girl to visit friends in the old 'hood to find that my car was no longer where I parked it on Stony Island Avenue and 57th Street. It had been towed. I called Mr. C. to ask him to find out where it was, since it was by then nearly 7 p.m. on a Friday and I was on the Southside with two small, tired children and no car/carseats. I could not ask him to pick me up, since we are a small family who lives and works entirely within the boundaries of the city, we've never seen the need for owning more than one car. I was not about to take the Cottage Grove bus down to 103rd and Doty at that hour to get the car out the Chicago Impound Lot, so we went home instead. It only took a 1/2-mile walk, a bus, and two trains (Green line, Blue line) to get home in just under 3 hours. Although quite upset that our car was gone, The Boy was a trooper about the walk, and he and I had fun coming up with synonyms for the rotten luck of having our car towed (terrible! awful! hideous!).

$170 and 16 hours later, I got our car back. Such fun to walk out past the gate on the lot and find the injustice of a $50 ticket stuck to the side window as well. I plan to contest, as there was a huge tree branch obscuring the No Parking Tow Zone sign when I parked the car.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Subtitle Change

In about 6 months, I'll be renaming the subtitle of this blog. It will then be "Three Kids and Me in the City of Big Shoulders." Or possibly, "Adventures in Parallel Parking a Minivan in the City of Big Shoulders."

Kiddie Museum

Last Thursday, The Boy, The Girl and I went out to Naperville, to meet their grandparents for lunch and go to the DuPage Children's Museum. Now, despite the fact that it is in Naperville, making it quite a haul from my house and decidedly not a city attraction, the DuPage Children's Museum is, in fact, my favorite of the three Chicagoland children's museums. And not just because I don't have to pay $17 to park.

Unlike the Kohl and the CCM, the DuPage Children's Museum has a lot of hands-on, interactive exhibits for the under-5 set. They seem to embrace the philosophy that kids learn the most through open play. I love that easily half of the museum is comprised of bins of blocks, balls, Magna-Tiles, and Lego with which kids can dig in and create something. Unlike the CCM, you aren't supposed to just look at an exhibit, you're supposed to play with it. The Girl and The Boy (and Grandma N!) had a great time exploring some of the spaces (there is too much to do it all in one visit) during our afternoon there. Grandma N. volunteers there, so she got us in for free, too.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

PBK's Standards Are Slipping

On Tuesday, The Boy, The Girl and I went up to Old Orchard Mall, in Skokie, for the Pottery Barn Kids Singalong. They've been sponsoring singalongs at their stores for a couple of years now, holding them on some basis of regularity -- some time between quarterly and semiannually. In the past, they've hired some of our favorite Old Town School of Folk Music teachers/singers--either current or alumni--from the school's Wiggleworms program. So I was looking forward to some catchy lyrics and/or folk music renditions from Julie Frost and her guitar.

But instead, they had some guy with a keyboard and a microphone set-up. I should have known that it was going to be bad when the store was not mobbed with high-end strollers. The guy himself was fine. The Boy and the other 10 kids in the audience seemed to enjoy his Hokey-Pokey and other standard (tired) kids' song fare. The Girl was a bit like me and seemed more interested in protecting her PBK Anywhere Chair than in listening to the music.

Afterwards, we had a snack and played on the recently-recovered dragon play structure just outside the store. We checked out the koi at the fish pond on the other side of the mall, and then went home for lunch/naps.

It's Too Hot to Go Apple Picking

I admit it: I think of apple-picking as a very autumnal sort of activity. In an ideal situation, the leaves would still be on non-fruit-bearing trees, but are vibrant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple. Everyone has a sweater on, but we shed our jackets with the exertion of picking apples. The orchard is populated, but not crowded.

Unfortunately, that was pretty much the opposite of what we got when The Boy, The Girl, Mr. C. and I went on Sunday. We trekked up to Homestead Orchard in Woodstock, a small, family-run orchard with diminutive apple trees displaying a decent mix of varieties, raspberries, honey, and that's about it. No gimmicky stuff like a petting zoo, hay ride, apple-cider donuts, etc. Just a couple who love apples and bees. That's what I like about it. It was The Boy's second time to Homestead; his sister was just a zygote when we went in the fall of 2004.

But it was too hot and too crowded. The varietals that I like best were either picked clean (Gala) or not yet ripe (Jonagold). We picked a few runty Empires. The Girl and I spent a lot of time sitting under trees, eating fallen apples that she picked up.

On the way up to the orchard, we stopped at a little place on Route 47 whose name escapes me (despite the fact that I've been there 3 of the last 4 years), to eat our picnic lunch. We splurged on baked goods (apple crisp for Mr. C., different kinds of cookies for The Boy and The Girl, and pumpkin cake with cream cheese icing for me) before going on to the orchard.

The Lap of Luxury

Well, as close as I have come to it as a Chicago resident. Back in August*, The Girl, The Boy and I had the opportunity to spend the morning and part of an afternoon lounging by the pool at Ridgemoor Country Club. I do not play golf, nor does really anyone else in my family, so I am not overly familiar with country clubs in general. I can't comment on the scale of the course itself, and I don't know how well-heeled in general the club is, as the only country club pool I had previously been to was at Flossmoor Country Club, circa 1989.

But compared to slumming it at the local public pool, or even compared to the pool at my gym, the Ridgemoor pool was quite a treat. The lifeguards, while still tanned teenagers, were very friendly with children of regular members. They allow members to bring in and use the club's own pool toys, floaties, and what not - very nice when you go to a pool with four kids under the age of four, none of whom know how to swim. They have snacks and ice cream poolside, and the standard cabana girls will bring you drinks or lunch. We had lunch on the restaurant's pool dining deck and although it was slow coming out, it was very good. I even contemplated, however briefly, a social membership. And then I read this.

* Yes, I know that it's now October.