Monday, December 31, 2007

Peggy Notebaert

I have no idea who Peggy Notebaert is or was, but I love her Nature Museum in Lincoln Park. It is one of my favorite places to take The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby. It is small, with several small child-friendly exhibits and a dedicated place to play for the under-7 set. Our membership expires at the end of January, but I plan to renew. They have food in a small cafe, and their serving pieces are all compostable. Speaking of which, since it is the eve of the new year, one of my goals for 2008 is to get a standalone composting bin.

Today, The Boy had been housebound for long enough that he was making me crazy, so I loaded him, The Girl, and The Baby in the car for an outing. I had originally intended to go to Pottery Barn Kids on Clybourn to "browse" while the kids played, but traffic was so light, we decided to head to the Nature Museum instead. Apparently, I was not the only mother going nuts with small boys in the house because The Boy spent a good hour running around the under-7 area with twin 5.5-year-old boys. The Girl, who normally holds her own even with 4- and 5-year-olds, decided that she could not play with them because they were boys. The Baby alternately nursed and crawled around.

We split two organic cupcakes and a bag of pretzels from the cafe, then went upstairs briefly to look at the reptiles exhibit. I patiently read the names of each turtle, snake or lizard to the kids and we looked in each window to locate the reptile. The Boy knew that the Jolly Roger sign on some of the descriptions meant that that reptile was dangerous or poisonous to humans. Smart kid.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Isn't it romantic?

I forgot to post this!

Grandma and Grandpa Texas came to visit this weekend. After I picked them up at O'Hare (in the snow), we stopped briefly at home and then went on to the Loop to get them checked into their room at the Palmer House. The Boy, who has become quite a hermit since he started preschool full-time, stayed home with The Dad. And The Girl, The Baby, and I went with my parents to check out the windows and otherwise enjoy the festive atmosphere of the Loop at Christmas. As former Chicagolanders, my parents have fond memories of the city at Christmastime, my dad especially so, as he spent nearly 20 years working for an engineering firm located between Monroe, Adams, and Wabash, and knows that area quite well.

After Grandma finished her tour of the Macy's (formerly Marshall Field's) windows with The Girl, she spotted a really big ring in the southeast corner window. I noticed a few people in the back of the window, peering over and with cameras. I assumed that they were on some kind of special Macy's tour, but then I noticed the couple walking in front of us, in front of the window, and the man who turned, got on one knee in front of her and she started crying. I didn't see the rock, but it was apparently in the window with a sign asking ___ to marry ____.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007


OK, so not only do I enjoy doing things with the kids in and around Chicago, I also enjoy the hunt for cute clothing for me and the kids. Today, while The Boy was in school and The Girl was at Mother's Day Out, I took The Baby, drove up I-94 and went to a townhouse in Park Ridge for the Boden trunk show sample sale. I tried on lots of things, but only bought a cute jacket for me, a t-shirt for The Baby to match a previously purchased shirt for The Boy, and a few cute things for The Girl. Ah, nothing like shopping on a rainy Monday morning!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Family Day

In honor of the Bears' byweek, we got out of the house on an outing. The Boy made a special, if odd for him, request of going to the butterfly museum. So we went. I'm not used to parking in Lincoln Park on a weekend and our Lincoln Park Zoo membership expired, so we had to scout around for parking more than usual. We did manage to score a spot on Cannon Drive, thanks to The Dad's watchful eye. It was a bit further away from the museum than I am used to walking, but we followed the path past North Pond and the playground and it was quite a lovely little walk there and back.

First up, because we were all starving, we got a snack. Unfortunately for all of us, I am not used to going to museums on weekends and the cafe was nearly emptied of all its usual delectable organic snacks. Still, we found a few things and ate them. Then we did our usual tour of the butterfly museum: the waterworks, the slide area, then upstairs to see the butterflies themselves. Although we have been members of the Notebaert for two years, The Dad had never been to the museum before. At around 1:30 p.m., we were all starving so we left.

We walked back along the path in front of North Pond. I told The Dad that one day, we will have to get reservations for the restaurant and find a babysitter to watch our brood. It seemed an idyllic spot for lunch or brunch. We didn't stop at North Pond today, but we did stop at the playground at The Boy's request, letting The Boy and The Girl ride the swings and climb on the equipment.

I dropped The Boy and The Dad downtown so that they could have lunch together and take the train home. The Girl, The Baby and I headed out to the suburbs to go to a Lia Sophia party at a cousin's house. The Baby started screaming inconsolably around the merge from the Ike onto I-88, so I pulled off into McDonald's showcase at Oakbrook. We still hadn't had lunch. The Girl had chicken nuggets, I had some chicken selects, and The Baby nursed.

We went to the Lia Sophia party in Naperville and had a good time. The Baby crawled around and pulled up on the sales consultant's bins, charming all the ladies there. The Girl looked at jewelry and then played with her second cousin. She was over-the-moon with happiness because her great-aunt and uncle gave her juice for the car ride home. We all had a good time, and then it was time to go home.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

It's a Date

Today, The Boy and I had a mommy-son date. We "doubled" with our friends C. and J. The four of us went out to lunch and then to the AMC Cantera to see Jerry Seinfeld's The Bee Movie. I was disappointed in the movie. It was only 90 minutes long, but there was a very long half an hour in the middle of the film where I was thinking, "when is this going to end?" but The Boy had a good time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fossilized Boo-boos

The volunteer docent at the Field Museum yesterday pointed out that Sue, the museum's Tyrannosaurus Rex, had a boo-boo in her leg, which fossilized along with the rest of her. It is a fitting theme for our trip to the museum.

The Boy stayed home from school and I took him, The Girl and The Baby on a field trip to the Field Museum with our playgroup. It had been such a long time since we had done an outing and The Boy was really excited. He has been to the Field many times with his Grandma Naperville and so had an agenda for the day. His friend S. had other ideas however, so we didn't follow The Boy's usual agenda.

Instead, we focused our explorations to the new Crown Family Playlab, lunch, and a brief tour of the perimeter of the second floor. I was immediately impressed with the Playlab; our friend Cheryl was its project manager during development. Once, she asked everyone what we thought about family bathrooms. Now that I've seen how fabulous the final potty design is, I am positive that the development folks at the Field put in as much effort with every other aspect of the Playlab as they did with the bathrooms. It's a great space, and ideally suited for the 2-6-year-old set, just as its marketing materials say.

Our visit to the Playlab was marred a bit by an injury The Boy sustained to his ear cartilage after falling into the corner of a drum in the Rhythm Section. He had a bruise for over a week and wouldn't let anyone touch it for nearly that long. He was quiet and stayed close to me for about 10 minutes, refusing to play. Poor kid. He eventually rallied to dig dinosaur bones in the Dino Field Station. Everyone had a good time in the Art Studio. In fact, S.'s mom, B., joked that it was worth it just for the Art Studio -- someone else could get out the art supplies and clean up the mess! I've generally not been a huge fan of the Field, but with the Playlab opening, I want a membership!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Impromptu Adventure

Today, after picking The Boy up from school, we went on an impromptu adventure. I had planned on taking the kids out to lunch at Panera, but there was mutiny in the ranks. I did not want to go to McDonald's, so I suggested going out for noodles as a compromise. This lead to the inevitable question:

"Mama, can we take the train there?"

It's been awhile since we've had any type of adventure, so I said yes. Since we were all in the car anyway, I parked closer to the train station and we walked over to the stop. On the train ride, I suggested that we could either get noodles or pancakes. The kids picked pancakes. So we went to The Bongo Room for high-end flapjacks.

Yes, that'd be me: challenging the bounds of Wicker Park's conventions. I knew from a previous visit that The Bongo Room had highchairs, so despite the predominantly hipster crowd that makes up its clientele, I knew that the restaurant had made some concessions to families. Plus, the acoustics in the restaurant are so bad that even if my kids had started shrieking, they'd be no louder than any other diner. Of course, as I walked in the restaurant with two children and a baby in tow, we got the once-over from the many childless single women in their 20s and 30s midway through their meals. Fortunately for me, it went fairly well. The women sitting next to us were older mom types who were happy to flirt with The Baby. As we waited for our meals to arrive, I suggested that The Boy and The Girl pass the time by stacking the creamer cups and butter packets in different configurations. And then The Girl tried to put the melamine bowl on her head as a hat. Our party did receive a few approving and amused looks from neighboring diners as we waited.

I had to eat fast, but I greatly enjoyed my flapjacks with white-chocolate and mixed berry compote sauce. The Boy and The Girl split an order of strawberry-banana pancakes with fresh fruit and a strawberry whipped cream. The Boy liked them, but The Girl was skeptical and mostly ate the fruit and cream. The Baby ate the bananas, and happily gnawed on banana pancake. I had ordered a side of hash browns and they were not so much hash browns as herbed breakfast potatoes, which was actually an improvement in my estimation. They were good, although I was really too stuffed from pancake to eat much of them.

We paid our bill ($25 with a generous tip) and skedaddled. The Boy had asked to go around the corner to Cold Stone for ice cream, but I nixed the idea since sweet pancakes for lunch was enough sugar. Besides, I was stuffed to the gills and The Girl was quite tired from all that walking on her short little legs (which are long for a 2-year-old, but still not able to withstand lots of walking, stairs, etc.).

I stopped to get cash at one of Wicker Park's many convenient doorway ATMs, and put $20 on my CTA Chicago Card at the train station. My favorite CTA guy was there -- he is the nicest CTA guy ever and is always incredibly friendly and sweet to the kids. I think he's part of what makes a trip to Wicker Park with small children in tow enjoyable. A nice face before the somewhat sneering looks of 20-somethings as you invade their turf with the products of your breeding.

Friday, October 12, 2007


When The Dad and I lived in California, which was also before we had children, we used to go out to lunch together during the work week at a Pho noodle house. The Dad would call me and simply say "Pho!" when I answered the phone. It is not quite the same thing, but now we say "Noodles!" in the same manner.

Taking the train down to Bucktown/Wicker Park to eat noodles at Penny's Noodles is one of my favorite outings in Chicago. We walk the 4-5 blocks to the train station, hop on the Blue Line and disembark at the Damen station. Penny's is located just south of the tracks. Larger than the Wrigleyville original, Penny's in Wicker Park is a bit more kid-friendly (and also has a liquor license, unlike the original). Every time we go, a quick glance around the dining room reveals a cross section of Chicago's population: gay men, older teenagers with black spiky hair and rings in their facial cartilage, families with small children, hipster couples, and couples who just qualify for an AARP discount.

The waitstaff always creates kid-friendly chopsticks out of the disposable chopsticks and a rubber band, not that The Boy or The Girl ever use them for anything other than playthings. The Dad and I get our regular dishes while The Girl and The Boy split an order of plain vermicelli rice noodles and cold broccoli with a ginger-mustard sauce. Then we pay the ~$25 (with tip) bill and head back on the train. Sometimes we head over on North Avenue for an ice cream at Cold Stone Creamery, but we usually just get back on the train and head home with bellies full of noodles, vegetables and meat.

It's a win-win for all involved. The Dad and I get to eat yummy noodles. I don't have to cook. The Girl and The Boy get to ride the train. The Baby gets some snuggle time in the sling. And no one has to drive.

Sunday, October 07, 2007


And with the fall comes the annual hunt for school. I'm in it for real this time, as The Boy will start the big K next fall. A few weeks ago, I attended the open house for Belding in Old Irving Park. While the school did not blow me away, I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. It's currently on the top of my list as a local option. Although its test scores were not as good as Murphy, our local school, Belding goes to a higher grade level and its student population is more diverse. Still, I have a huge list of schools to consider further. I have marked with an asterisk those schools where I know someone (parent, child, LSC member).

Chicago Academy
Norwood Park
Oriole Park

Sunday Highlights

The Boy, The Girl and The Baby had a photo shoot with Fernanda Schwartz this morning. She shot at Montrose Beach, which I had never been to previously and should definitely remember again for the future as both the beach and the green parks surrounding it were expansive. She did some of all three kids in the grass under some trees and then we headed to the water's edge to take a bunch of sun and sand photos. Yes, in early October. She said she'd be back in November to take holiday shots -- good thing because I don't really want to send out photos of my kids in shorts and polo shirts as a holiday greeting. The Boy balked at taking photos in my planned outfits of long pants and polo shirts, so he wore shorts instead. The Dad and I just went along for the ride; we're not in the photos. I'm looking forward to seeing some shots on Fernanda's blog soon.

However, as fun as the photo shoot was, I have to say that the highlight of my day was meeting Audrey Niffenegger at the farmer's market this morning. She lives a block away and although we have little in common other than home-ownership and its challenges, I was really excited to meet her. She said that other neighbors have not really gushed over her; they find out that she has neither dogs nor children and the conversation stops.

In other news, we ate McDonald's from the drive-through in the car after our photo shoot. Partly because we were all starving, and partly because we were meeting Grandma & Grandpa Naperville so The Boy could sleep over and we were running late. After dropping The Boy off at his grandparents' house, we went to Colonial Cafe for ice cream. The Baby seems to have gotten over his severe aversion to dairy products, and I can now eat ice cream and cheese again. So I had my first ice cream sundae since May 1st. Chocolate and peanut-butter ice cream with butterscotch syrup, whipped cream and a cherry. The Baby let out some giant howls, so we gave him some strawberry ice cream out of The Girl's bowl. Probably not the best choice, but he wanted to eat.

And I took the kids to the farmer's market this morning. It was the last farmer's market of the season, although no one was much in the mood for pumpkins and squash in 80-degree heat and humidity at 8:30 a.m.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Football Sundays

Today, The Dad took The Boy and The Girl with him to watch the Bears lose to the Lions at their uncle's house in Uptown. The Baby and I took a walk to our local Starbucks. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon in the early fall. We ran into a couple of neighbors and chatted a bit. Their 15-month-old was intensely interested in The Baby, who tolerated her fairly well.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Leaves Are Falling, Falling...

It's fall and we are all settling into the new rhythm of the school year. The Boy is in preschool every day from 8 a.m. until 11:30 and on Mondays and Wednesdays until 2:30 p.m. Despite the fact that half his class has transferred into a new classroom because his teacher is new at the Montessori method, he loves preschool. He's also taking an arts & crafts class at the park district on Friday afternoons. Mama missed the registration boat for soccer.

The Girl is in Mother's Day Out on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Like her brother, she loves school. She is upset on days that The Boy goes, but she does not. She and I are also taking a Jammin' with Julie class on Friday mornings while The Boy is in school.

The Baby comes with us to Jam with Julie, but otherwise is unscheduled. He is sitting up already and is in that stage just before crawling -- he scoots backward, which frustrates him as he moves further away from the toy he'd like to grab. He just started eating table food as well; unlike his siblings, he likes jarred baby food. He knows what to do with the spoon and helps me move it into his mouth if I do not offer the spoon fast enough for him.


We have not done much of interest lately. The Boy is now in preschool every day until 11:30 a.m., which does not give us much time to take interesting outings. We have been sticking closer to home and filling our days with more pedestrian child/motherhood pursuits: trips to the playground, drawing with chalk on the sidewalk, running up and down the street with our neighbors, playdates with schoolmates, indoor play with toys, and arts & crafts at home.

However, yesterday, we had an adventure of sorts. As we only have one car and had two places to go at the same time, I joined Zipcar and drove a Mazda Matrix3 to get The Boy, The Baby and I where we needed to go for 4 hours yesterday. The process was really easy: I reserved the car online. The Boy and I took the blue line to the Logan Square stop, went up the escalator, turned the corner and got into the car. We installed his carseat, then went home to pick up The Baby and his carseat.

A quick trip up I-94 got us to our destination: Chuck E. Cheese's. We had not really been to the mouse's entertainment palace, but I have a feeling that that is about to change. The Boy had a fantastic time. Unlike older kids, he was oblivious that some of the games shot out tickets, which can then be traded in for prizes. He just had fun playing, even more so when his friends showed up. He was a bit scared of the mouse himself when he showed up at the table to sing "Happy Birthday" to the birthday boy.

I had flubbed the birthday time, so we had to leave promptly at 1:30 to get the car back to its parking spot in the city self-meter lot at Emmett and Kedzie. I made it back to the lot without incident, but getting home was a bit more work as I had two carseats, a stroller, and The Boy and The Baby to keep track of on the train and home again.

Next time, I am renting a MINI.

Sunday, September 02, 2007


This is what The Boy calls Kiddieland: Cat-land. The Dad and I have tried explaining to him that the "kiddie" in Kiddieland is for little kids, like him, and not about kitty-cats, but he keeps missing the point, perhaps deliberately ("But, I'm not little, Mom. I'm big!").

Un/fortunately, our friend J. was sick on August 23, the day that we had planned to make a joint family outing to Kiddieland. It was just as well that we missed it on the 23rd with the weather in Chicago that day, as Kiddieland does not offer rain checks or refunds. But, since we had such fun there last year, I didn't want to let the summer end without a trip to the amusement park. So The Dad and I took The Boy, The Girl and The Baby there today to spin in circles, eat greasy food, drink free Pepsi-Cola products, and inhale gas fumes.

Although I never went there as a child, going to Kiddieland is one of my favorite summer things to do with small kids in Chicago(land). It is a small park, within 20 minutes' drive from our house, and everything is geared for small children. It is not as big as Great America, but honestly, that is part of its appeal to me. At $22.75/ticket for adults and $19.75/ticket for The Boy (The Girl and The Baby were free), it is not a cheap outing, but watching The Boy and The Girl enjoy themselves thoroughly was well-worth the price of admission (and lunch).

The Boy remembered going to the amusement park last year, and his first question/comment was whether he was tall enough to ride the bumper cars ("Scooters") this year. He was, and he rode them with The Dad. Not only was The Boy tall enough to go on more rides this year, he was more adventurous as well. He rode the Little Dipper roller coaster twice, the small/cage Ferris Wheel, and capped off the visit with a trip down the log flume ride.

The Girl, The Baby and I stuck to tamer pursuits for the most part. (I did take The Boy on the Little Dipper and am such a scaredy-cat that I was shaking after the little drop on the 24' tall ride.) The Girl really liked the vehicular carousel and rode it about eight times. She also rode the racecars, drove the antique cars (twice, initially under duress), and sat in the bench in the carousel with the rest of us (even The Baby!). The Girl, The Boy and I rode the flying elephants all together, and also rode the Kiddieland Unlimited train. The Boy talked The Girl into riding in the mini Ferris Wheel with her, but she was really scared and got out after about two revolutions. After that, she was really tired and asked to go home.

There were lines everywhere at Kiddieland today, including buying tickets and getting in, but it wasn't too bad. There were longer lines for many of the rides that The Boy wanted to go on, which was good because he had more patience for such things. We stayed for about 4.5 hours; I feel like we got our money's and the kids' stamina worth out of the park.

Friday, August 31, 2007

What's His Name? How Should I Know?

He's an imaginary rhino.

On Sunday, the whole family went out to Morton Arboretum for the Justin Roberts concert. Unlike our attempt to see the same tour at Ravinia earlier in the summer, we made it to the Arb in just over 30 minutes and were a bit early for the 3 p.m. show. It was a fantastic concert! Although it was hot and a bit muggy (lots of mosquitos after all the rain last week), the venue was perfect -- a large grassy field with lots of room for bouncing around and playing -- and it was not too crowded or fussy. We sat near the back of the field, and because we got there too late to score any of the tree-shaded spots, pitched our beach umbrella in the grass to give ourselves some shade. We ate lunch at home, but I brought a snack of fresh blueberries and yoghurt pretzels and water. The Arb had a few food/drink tents set up, so I bought a strawberry smoothie to share with The Boy and The Girl, and The Dad had a beer.

The concert was the final one in a series of family concerts put on my the Arboretum. The marketing guy who introduced Justin Roberts referred to him/the group as The Real Thing -- a professional band that was of the early pioneers of kid-rock that appeals to the parents, too, and
a group of people who really bring passion to their work. I wholeheartedly agree. Everyone in our family had a great time at the concert -- The Girl, The Boy, The Dad, me, even The Baby enjoyed himself! We all danced and ran around and enthusiastically sang along with the band (as a consolation prize for missing all but the last 2 songs and the encore last month at Ravinia, we bought the new Justin Roberts CD, Meltdown, and memorized all the words within a week). We bought The Boy an overpriced concert tee ($15, but The Dad pointed out: "What concert tee isn't overpriced?") and he has worn it every other day since then. It's an almost-neon green; at least he's easy to spot in a crowd.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007


Today, we had a playgroup outing to Lincoln Park Zoo. It was a small crowd, which was a good thing because it gave me some good catch-up one-on-one time with R. and M. and their kids. I hadn't seen R., and her daughter, A., in quite awhile and as she is a college professor as well as mom to 8-month-old twins (and a 4-y/o girl), she always has good stories to tell. So does M., for that matter, and he delivers them in a wry manner. So it was a good time.

We started out at the zoo in the farm, and went directly into the barn to climb on the tractor (which M.'s son cleverly calls "John," as it is made by John Deere) and look at the bees through plexiglass, and compare our weight to the weight of pigs, goats and cows, and dig in recycled auto tires for plastic vegetables. After all that excitement, we walked over to the adjacent Green City Market to get some lunch. The Boy was not impressed with his jam crepe, although The Girl ate a good portion of her Butterkase and herb crepe. I gobbled my fresh peach crepe, and then polished off most of The Boy's lunch as well. I bought cookies to share, so The Boy basically ate sugar for lunch. Unsurprisingly, he was pretty crabby later. The Girl finished her crepe and then took off to run races against herself across Lincoln Park. It was funny to see her say "Ready? Set. Go!" to herself and take off running. The Baby slept peacefully in his stroller through most of this.

M., E. and A. had to take off after lunch, but R. and A. stuck around. We went back into the farm to see the goats and the cows, then meandered over to see the gorillas and ride the carousel ($2.50 per person, kids under 40" must be accompanied by a [paying] adult). The Girl did not want to ride the carousel, so I rode once with The Baby, The Boy and A. Since I had an extra ticket, The Boy and A. rode again. Then we all had a snack and some water on the benches around the carousel, kissed our friends good-bye, and went home.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

On Readership

Sometimes, I debate posting new and interesting things that we do around Chicago, for fear that these destinations will become overpopulated. But then I think: no one reads my blog. I recently discovered that this is not, in fact, true (Hi M&C!). Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Mama Yoga

During a quick run to Target today with The Girl and The Baby, I ran into Kristen, my prenatal yoga instructor. Kristen herself is 37 weeks pregnant with her first; I hadn't seen her since I was 37 weeks pregnant with The Baby, having no occasion to go back to yoga class to show off my infant. Kristen told me that starting in October, the prenatal/postnatal yoga class at Galter Lifecenter will run on Wednesday evenings from 5:30-6:30 p.m. So pregnant women can come after work, or take advantage of the childcare facilities at the gym. I may actually be able to make a class on Wednesdays! I am no longer a member of Galter, but the non-member fee for pre/postnatal yoga is pretty reasonable and they do offer drop-in per-class rates.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Yesterday, I had a date with The Dad. We went to see the Cubs beat the pants off of the Cincinnati Reds at Wrigley Field. The Baby came with us and was alternately asleep on my lap and scared witless by thousands of screaming Cubs fans when they made a good play. Which, during this particular game, was quite often.

I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that this was my first Cubs game since returning to the City five years ago. But hey, I've been busy having and rearing babies, and despite the fact that baseball started out as a sport for the common people, Cubs tickets are (a) expensive and (b) hard to come by. I "won" these tickets in a silent auction that benefited the kids' Mother's Day Out co-operative program. In addition to this, I grew up on the south side (suburbs), so as a child, I defaulted to White Sox fandom, as Comiskey Park was much closer to our house and we therefore went to many Sox games. I was nearly 18 before I attended my first Cubs game - I still remember sitting in traffic on the Ike and craning my neck to see the field from the absolute last row/against the fence seats we had.

Before this game, my favorite thing about baseball was sitting in the sun, drinking beer and eating hot dogs and various other bad-for-you foods. I am not enough of a baseball fan to watch it on television. However, yesterday's game was quite riveting. We had great seats -- on the upper deck, just below and to the left of the announcers box. We were basically right behind home plate -- and could see everything except pop flies to left field. The weather was not typically Chicago-in-August weather; instead, it was in the low 70s and overcast.

I also really enjoyed the all-stadium sing-along, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," a Harry Carey original. I think The Boy would love it. Maybe next year we will take him to his first Cubs game.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Keeping Cool

Yesterday, The Boy, The Girl, The Baby and I splashed around the water park at River Park, located near Foster and Francisco, across the street from the Galter Lifecenter and Swedish Covenant Hospital. It was such a nice change from the water park and zero-depth pool at Portage Park, where there is invariably a line, a crowd and a trio of cranky lifeguards. In contrast, the water park at River Park featured an open gate and no lifeguards -- just a handful of kids romping in the sprinklers above a foam floor painted bright blue and a big red button on the side to turn said sprinklers on.

The Boy had a fantastic time. He was quite waterlogged at the end, after playing slip-n-slide through the center fountain with a pair of 8-year-old boys. We went with both our neighbors, D. and H. and their grandmother, and our friends B., S. and F. D's grandmother brought a zippered pouch full of sand/water toys, and the kids had a great time altogether with the toys, bringing us moms buckets full of cold water to pour on our feet while we supervised from a wide black bench located within the gates of the water park. The Girl, D. and S. were all running around holding hands, as little girls are wont to do. We all had a picnic lunch on towels spread out on the grass just across from the water area; all the kids ran races in their bathing suits. The Baby cried every time I went through the misters to cool off. Next year, I predict that he'll be toddling through the sprinklers like a little mad man.

We walked over to this park from B., S., and F.'s house, a distance of about a mile, so I got my exercise -- pushing a stroller with two kids in it while carrying a baby strapped to my chest -- in as well.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sundays With The Boy: The Circus

As our family has grown, The Boy has gotten less and less one-on-one time with his mama. I'm trying to correct that -- after all, The Boy is my original partner in adventure -- and so The Dad and I have decided to spend our Sunday afternoons in the company of the child with whom we spend the least amount of time. He hangs out with The Girl in daddy-daughter bonding time and I take The Boy on adventures, just the two of us. Yesterday was my third such adventure in the Sundays With The Boy series. We went to the circus.

The Baby came along for the ride. It was The Boy's first time at the circus and he had no idea what to expect. Neither, quite frankly, did I, as I haven't been to a circus since I was about 10 and it was always Ringling Bros. or Barnum & Bailey. I don't know if it's age (mine) or the direction that the medium is going, but the circus seems to have lost its vaudevillian aura. With all the crap on the Internet these days, the bearded woman and a man riding a motorcycle across a wire don't seem that strange or mysterious anymore.

Again, perhaps it is also related to becoming an adult, but the threat of running way to join the circus doesn't seem so scary or stigmatized any more. Although the Carson & Barnes circus was run out out of Oklahoma, most of the non-clown performers were Hispanic or Latino.

Yesterday's show was put on by the Rotary Club of Skokie Valley. I would like to say that Rotarians, as a whole, are among the nicest people I've ever met. They sent me to Europe as an exchange student in the early 1990s and I have a big soft spot in me for Rotary-sponsored events. So I only grumbled a bit when they charged me $5 to park in the Niles West High School lot. But then I bought my tickets at the Rotary booth and paid only $12 for an adult ticket and $6 for a child's ticket (The Baby was free), saving me $6 over the published, at-the-door rates.

We got there a full 30 minutes before the 1:30 p.m. start time, but The Boy and I found it easy to kill time while waiting for the show to start. It also gave him a chance to warm up to the clowns, who were walking around the grounds and the tent doing small performances (juggling) and posing for pictures. We stayed for the first half of the show, but left during the intermission. I don't know whether The Boy wanted to leave because he was bored, overwhelmed, or because I had run out of money to buy more snacks (popcorn $3, snow-cone $2.50, hot dog $2, pickle $1 - we didn't get the cotton candy $3 or peanuts $1.50)! I also bought him a light wand for $5 after the souvenirs seller handed it to The Boy, forcing me to pony up the cash or have a tearful 4-year-old on my hands. He thought the acrobats were pretty cool, and laughed at the clown trying to make a tightrope out of a small length of rope and two stepstools that kept collapsing. My favorite part was one gymnast supporting himself and another gymnast, both completely horizontal and supported only by one set of feet.

The In-Between Times

It is not all fun outings for our Little Shoulders. Although I do like to take the kids out a fair bit, none in our party can really take out-of-the-house adventures from 9-5 every day. So what do we do in the in-between times? Paint, read books, watch TV, run around the backyard, play in the sand table, splash in the kiddie pools, do laundry (they help me move it into/from washer and dryer), draw with markers, make cookies, clean, take baths, knead play dough, go the park, run up and down the block with our neighbor, eat snacks, take naps (in The Girl's and The Baby's case), pull weeds, draw with chalk on the sidewalk, build Lego or Magna-Tiles, race cars or trains, put on dress-up clothes and vamp, dance to music.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Playing Tourists

Yesterday, The Boy was invited to visit his great-grandfather in Indiana yesterday. So today while he enjoyed boating, fishing and general gallivanting around a small, country town and its twin lakes, The Girl, The Baby and I went downtown to play tourist in our city.

We had a great day. The weather today was fantastic for such an adventure, neither too hot (or humid), nor too cool, with quite a lovely breeze near the Lake. We took the train downtown with The Dad this morning. He deposited us at the farmer's market, which is held in the Chicago Federal Center each Tuesday. We admired all the fruits and vegetables and bought an apple from a Michigan orchard. The Girl ate the apple whilst riding in the stroller through the Loop; we walked across Adams and up Michigan Avenue. We were going to explore the Art Institute for a bit, but sadly, it no longer offers free admission on Tuesdays and a 2-year-old doesn't have the attention span to justify the $12 suggested entry donation. So we rambled elsewhere.

As a treat to myself, we walked up to Starbucks. The Girl drank a chocolate milk and people-watched out the window. I choked down a blueberry-white iced tea (which I do not recommend and only drank because I had paid $2 for it) and ate a seasonal cookie, and nursed The Baby.

We stopped at Walgreen's on Michigan Avenue to buy hats for The Baby and The Girl, as I had forgotten to pack some in my bag and it was quite sunny in the park. Each child got a Chicago baseball hat, completing our role play as tourists. So equipped, we meandered over to Millennium Park to the Family Fun Activity tents. This week is XXL Games week, offering blown-up Twister and Checkers game boards and a giant crossword puzzle. The Girl played with a hula hoop and a walk-on piano, and colored with markers. She was a bit frightened of the man on stilts. We went to see the bean, which The Girl thought was really cool.

My stomach then went from zero to starving, so instead of hitting the play fountains, we walked across the street to My Thai. The Girl had plain rice noodles. I had vegetable spring rolls and a mild yellow curry with chicken and rice. Yum! The last time I went to My Thai, my friend J. worked at the 'Toot and I was pregnant with The Boy. It's still there, still pretty good and still pretty cheap. Lunch for the two of us was $15 with tip.

After lunch, we headed crosstown to visit The Dad at his office. We eventually made it there, but stopped twice along the way. Once at a going-out-of-business fabric store on Monroe where I bought 3 yards of fabric for a quilt cover for The Girl. The owner assumed that I was a tourist and made a comment to that effect. And again at Sears to buy a paint roller. I also bought The Baby a romper for next year and a few outfits for next spring for The Girl from the Land's End Shop. We used the restroom while there to change diapers, and since The Girl's outfit was filthy, to change her outfit as well. She promptly destroyed it with dry-erase marker at The Dad's office. Oh well, she looked cute while it lasted.

I tried out my baby carrier with a toddler on our way to visit The Dad's office. The Girl rode on my back while The Baby was in the stroller. It worked, but I prefer to use it to carry a 15-lb. baby on my front than a 32-lb. toddler on my back. At The Dad's office, we looked out the window, drew on and cleaned the dry-erase board, and met some of The Dad's colleagues.

Finally, we took the free trolley at The Girl's request before getting back on the L to go home. The L was pretty crowded; a man got up to give us his seat. Why is it always the men who get up? Not sure, but thank goodness that some chivalry is still alive. The Baby, The Girl, a stroller, a diaper bag and me were all crammed into one small seat. I was dead tired by the time we got home, but it was awesome to get into the Loop and wander around the areas I remember best from my childhood and early working days.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Steam Bath

On Monday morning, I woke up with no plans for the day. So I asked The Boy what he wanted to do. He said that he wanted to go to the place with the cacti. I translated that to mean the Garfield Park Conservatory. So I packed a picnic lunch and The Baby, The Boy and The Girl into the car, and off to Central Park between Franklin and Lake Streets we went.

Obviously, I didn't think it through very well. It was hot and humid outside, and even more humid inside the conservatory. The conservatory currently has a special exhibit, Niki in the Garden, featuring the mosaic sculptures of Niki de Saint Phalle. Due to Niki, the suggested donation is now $5 instead of $1 (although I never donate and feel justified in this as a city resident and taxpayer). I think the exhibit has improved attendance at the conservatory; it was pretty crowded when we were there, which I think is unusual for a weekday.

The easiest route to the Children's Room was blocked off due to renovations in one of the rooms, so we took the roundabout way to the Children's Room, stopping off for a tour around the Fern Room, which was beautiful, but extremely humid, especially with a little heatbox (The Baby) strapped to my chest. We did make it to the Children's Room, where The Boy and The Girl did a little project with Morning Glories, the Garfield Park Conservatory's Monday morning program for preschoolers (I did contribute the suggested donation for these). Then, since I was dripping in sweat, we wandered down to the events hall, which was cooler and open to the outdoors with a nice breeze, and had lunch on one of the tables just across from the Moroccan fountain.

After lunch, we wandered out to Monet's Garden and then found another couple of kids, Aidan and Elise, and their nanny underneath a large tree beyond the garden. The Boy and The Girl played with Aidan and Elise for about an hour, and then we all walked out to the parking lot together.

Streets & Sanitation was repainting the crosswalk lines on Franklin as we left, so I drove straight up Central Park instead. Garfield Park is pretty blighted, which is a shame because the facades of the houses are gorgeous. I love the wide boulevard-type streets. And there is so much space. It doesn't seem dangerous so much as empty. I mused about the area on the whole drive back. But then I watched the 10 o'clock news and was instantly reminded why I don't want to buy a place in Garfield Park, gorgeous as they are. (The story originally reported the incident as having taken place in Humboldt Park.)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Family Fun

One of the things that I enjoy about Chicago(land) is that we have family here. The Dad's brothers, parents, cousins and a couple of sets of aunts-and-uncles all reside in the Chicago area. Grandma and Grandpa Naperville are really only an hour's drive away, making them active participants in The Boy, The Girl and The Baby's lives.

Today, The Mom (that would be me) got a wee break from her job as chief activities director for The Boy and The Girl. The Dad took them both to see their grandparents for lunch. Their cousins and uncle were also at lunch, so they had a great time eating chicken nuggets and broccoli and running around with K. and Z. Afterwards, they both attended a birthday party at Pump It Up in Lisle. The Boy, The Girl and their peers seem to think that Pump It Up -- a carpeted cinderblock warehouse painted bright colors and filled with giant bouncy castles and air-filled slides -- is a slice of heaven. It tires them out. Heck, it tires me out. It tired The Dad out, too. He reported that he and The Girl played stop/go for 20 minutes straight, racing from one end of the room to the other. The Boy spent most of his time in the bouncy castles.

Meanwhile, back in the city, The Baby and I hung out. He nursed and napped. I took advantage of everyone else being out of the house and mopped the wood floors. Afterward, I strapped The Baby into my Catbird Baby and walked over to a friend's house in Old Irving Park to attend a home-show MLM extraordinaire party (purses, Arbonne, Lia Sophia jewelry). Normally, I loathe going to buy-something parties, but I like this crowd so I went. One exhibitor was selling purses made by Lola and Dreamworks, both of which manufacture their goods inside the city of Chicago, a practice that I respect and would like to support.

By the end of the party, The Dad and crew was back from the suburbs. He picked me up in The Great White Moose. I dropped him at home so that he could take a nap and took The Boy, The Girl and The Baby to an ice cream social and jam with Julie session at Kolmar Playlot. It was a mini Mother's Day Out reunion at the playlot, and despite the fact that we live about a mile east of the park, we knew many of the people there. The Boy dug in the sand with some pals from MDO. The Girl spun in circles during Julie's singalong. The Baby alternately slept, nursed and cried, although he did let my friend P. hold him for a bit. During Julie's set, I looked around and saw many happy moms and dads playing with or snuggling their kids, singing along, or chatting quietly with neighbors. It struck me as very middle-America. If it had been photographed, few people would believe that the scene was at a park in the third largest city in the United States.

Rainy Day

Yesterday was rainy and cold. The kind of day that is perfect for reading a book, taking a nap, watching a movie, having a cuppa -- a lazy, laze-around-the-house day. The kids do not normally allow for this to happen, but yesterday I hit the jackpot when all three of them took late-afternoon naps. So I got a snooze on the couch myself. Heaven!

The Girl, The Baby and I also went to her last art class at the Old Town School. It was a bit awkward because Greta, her teacher, was absent and had arranged for a substitute, so the 2-year-olds, who had all only just gotten used to Greta after 7 weeks, were all freaked out by this new, strange woman. They made dinosaur stickers and crowns. The Girl threw a small fit when The Boy put it on this morning; she ended up wearing it to a birthday party.

After art class, we went to Trader Joe's for groceries. With no list. We'll have some interesting meals this week! For the first time, I accepted the "Would you like help out to your car?" inquiry from the checker and the guy whose wife is a doula pushed my cart out to the car while I held the baby and steered the girl. He also put the groceries in The Great White Moose for me, and brought the cart back to the corral. Cool. I think I may start using this service more often.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

The Baby

The Baby is two-months-old. We spent part of the day in the pediatrician's office, discovering that he really is a moose. No wonder my back is sore: he has gained more than six pounds since birth and has grown four and one-half inches. The Girl spent the entire time in the ped's office telling anyone who would listen:

"No shots! No shots!"

She didn't get any, but The Baby got two: IPV and pneumoccocal. He cried a bit, but not as much as I expected.

We were done about 11 a.m., which was exceedingly early considering the usual duration of pediatrics visits at this particular practice. I had an appointment in Skokie at 2, and was set to drop The Boy and The Girl off at a neighbor's house at 1 p.m. To split the gap, we went to Target. The Girl, especially, likes to make me chase her through the store, so it's always a good way to kill some time. We had lunch while there -- I am digging the new organics lunches offered by the Target cafe. Picked up a Razor scooter for The Boy, who has been asking for one for several months, and birthday presents for a friend. The Girl got a new bathing suit, which she demanded that the neighbor put on her (despite the gray, cool weather) after I dropped her off.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Why didn't I do this before?

I have managed to live in the same house for nearly five years and birth three children without ever hiring a real babysitter. That has now changed.

JA came today. It was supposed to be her trial day, wherein I stayed in the house and did projects while the kids got used to her. But my friends M. and C. closed on their new suburban house today and I agreed to watch A. and E. for them while they signed paperwork out west. So JA stayed most of the day and entertained four children instead of minding a mere two. She basically did all the things that I didn't want to do: sit in the hot and sunny backyard and watch the kids scribble with chalk and play with sand, fill up water balloons with the hose and teach the boys how to use them, cut up hot dogs, wash fruit. It was wonderful. I should have done this years ago!

She's going to come every Thursday (except next week) for four hours to play with The Boy and The Girl so I can get things done around the house.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

South Suburban Adventures

Today was playgroup day. Our hostess was S. and her darling redheads L. and E. They all moved to Italy two years ago with S.'s husband, but are in town for the summer and staying at S.'s mother's condo in Palos. We all piled in The Great White Moose and headed south/southwest to have lunch, listen to the cicadas and hang out. I haven't been to the southwest suburbs in years -- not since I lived in the south suburbs -- and despite the huge area that remains preserved forest, the southwest 'burbs have experienced a huge population/development explosion. S.'s mom's condo was huge -- arguably bigger than our SFH in the city -- and the kids had fun playing while S. and I chatted. Before her expatriate days, S. worked as a chef at The Peninsula Hotel here; I have always enjoyed going to her house because she serves great food. Lunch today was no exception.

After lunch, we all piled in our respective cars and drove about 2 miles away to a local playground, which had a large cicada population and no other child visitors in the 45 minutes that we were there. S. says she has seen other people at that playground exactly twice in the month that she's been here already.

Around 3, L. and The Boy were having more scuffles than peaceful playing, so we packed it in. S. went back to her mom's condo, and the kids and I headed SE toward Homewood, to visit a friend of my mom's. As I told The Boy, she has known me since I was his age. The Boy and The Girl played with her vintage 1970s toys and we chatted. The Baby nursed. Then it was time for us to go home. We stopped at a local fast food joint called Pop's to have dinner before we hit the Ryan. By the time we got on the highway, traffic had cleared -- even at the nearly-always-hairy Circle -- and we made it home in 40 minutes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Eight Years Ago

Eight years ago today, The Dad and I got married. Of course, he wasn't The Dad then. And I wasn't a mom. He was a computer guy working at a technology start-up in Silicon Valley. And I was a writer working at an investment/finance trade magazine in San Francisco. Now we're thirtysomething parents of three small children and live in the city of Chicago. (The Dad is still a programmer at a computer company and I'm still an occasional writer for a software company, but that's not really relevant to this blog.)

(Neither, really, is this post, but if we didn't get married, move to Chicago and have babies, this blog would not exist.)

We got married in Flossmoor at my childhood church. We had our wedding reception in the city, at the University Club of Chicago. The Ryan was also under construction back then, although not to the extent that it was in 2006 and is in 2007. Part of Grant Park was also under construction, making its transformation to Millennium Park. No one really noticed. If they looked outside, it was at the fireworks launched just past Navy Pier. The weather was very similar to today's weather: temperate and sunny.

In 1999, I was in love with my husband and the city of Chicago. Eight years later, not much has changed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

We're missing you... the Lincoln Park Zoo. The advert campaign is old -- from my childhood -- but it is an apt description of our zoo attendance over the past several months. That is changing as it is summer, we have no organized plans (aside from playgroup) and we have paid memberships to both zoos. I hope to go to a zoo at least once per week until school starts in September. So we went last week, and again today. We'll go to Brookfield in July, once the cicadas have gone back into the ground, or wherever they go.

We met our friends, B., S., and F. at Lincoln Park Zoo to see the animals and have a picnic lunch. S. and The Boy and F. and The Girl were really cute together -- holding hands, hugging and otherwise showing affection. We saw the lions, the seals and sea lions (a precocious and unabashed little girl corrected me and B. when we asked our children to say good-bye to the sea lions -- they were seals, she said), the children's zoo, and the bats/lizards. S. was a climbing maniac on the enclosed climber in the children's zoo; she had told The Boy that she would help him through it, but he was too scared to go much beyond the third or fourth platform and she wanted to move too quickly. The Girl was transfixed by a tank with a moving snake in it. I am not particularly fond of the zoo and would not go if I didn't have children, but I love watching my children view the animals and exhibits with awe and wonder on their little faces.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Northbrook Court

I took the kids up to Northbrook Court this morning. Largely because I had a couple of things to exchange at the new Hanna Andersson store, but also because the mall has a wonderful play structure, in the form a tree, in its middle court. The treehouse, as The Boy and The Girl call the structure, is entirely fenced in with benches around its perimeter, making it really a very pleasant and well-designed place for children and their parents.

Today, it was not at all crowded. The Boy wanted to take off his shoes to play, although I asked him repeatedly not to. Then the security guard came by on his rounds and told him that he had to put his shoes back on. Why is it that my authority as an adult means nothing, but a total stranger can say the same thing and reduce The Boy to tears? Well, at least he put his shoes back on. The Girl also had a bit of a run-in with another child at the treehouse today. A little boy of about 3 repeatedly ran her over on the way to the slide, repeatedly slid down into her (and his little sister) and at one point, started to hit her because she was sitting at the top of the slide on one side and his sister (who was about 1) was on the other. His name was Sam. I know this because his dad responded to all of these actions by telling him to be careful. I said nothing about it until Sam got between his sister and The Girl at the top of the slide and put his hand in The Girl's face in a "I'm going to hit you" action. She hit him in response, but wouldn't you? Sam hit her and it continued that way until I told The Girl that it isn't nice to hit, even if someone hits you first. After that, The Girl went to play in the play kitchen on the other side. I nursed The Baby.

The new Hanna, by the way, is pretty nice. Because it is a new store, it was still well-stocked for the sale, with lots of dresses and t-shirts left in The Girl's and The Boy's sizes.

After we visited the treehouse, we went to Whole Foods to buy groceries and have lunch. The Boy and The Girl each had macaroni and cheese from the hot bar; I had sesame-fried vegetables and brown rice, and two chicken potstickers. It has taken me awhile to find something I truly love in the prepared foods section of Whole Foods, but I think the potstickers are it. Each walking child got a small chocolate gelato from the gelato bar before leaving as well. One day, when I can eat dairy again, I look forward to trying some myself. Sorbet just isn't the same.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Custer Street Fair

Custer's Last Stand was held in Evanston today and yesterday. I know this not because we went, but because I forgot about it and got stuck in its detours and parking snafus this afternoon when I tried to take The Girl and The Baby with me to Vogue Fabrics on Main Street. I pulled over to nurse The Baby after an exhaustive search for legal parking, but then ended up turning back around.

Art Class!

Before our little ER trip yesterday, I took The Girl (and The Baby) to her art class at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Her art class is a 45-minute session with an art teacher and up to five other toddlers. The class always follows the same order of events: drawing on the table, a story, a look inside the "mystery table," and completion of the day's project. Yesterday, we read a book about vegetables and fruits and the alphabet, and The Girl was instructed to draw cherries, lemons, bananas, and oranges with scented markers. She also got to create bananas and cherries from colored magic dough and stick them on her paper, and combine yellow, red and white paints to paint on the paper.

After class, The Girl requested a snack and I desperately needed caffeine, so we headed over to Starbucks. The Girl had her usual Horizon chocolate milk, I tried an orange mocha frappucino and we split a season cookie. Seasonal cookies are back! One of The Girl's classmates was sitting behind her at Starbucks and they spent a good 10 minutes talking to each other and flirting. It was very cute.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Lincoln Park, Emergently

Stupid Mommy Trick: yanking your child up by the arm to keep him/her from falling or running away. When the child is around the age of two, this is nearly sure to cause nursemaid's elbow. I have managed to cause this ailment in both of my older children. I did it to The Boy when he was around 20 months of age, on the day that I learned that I was pregnant with The Girl. We drove to Children's Memorial Hospital's ER; 45 minutes and $75 later, he was fine. He managed to pop it out twice in the following year, but having watched the simple maneuver made by the ER docs, I knew what to do: dose him with ibuprofen, offer him a lollipop while holding the good arm and pop it back into place.

So I was surprised to learn that nursemaid's elbow was the diagnosis given by the docs at Children's this afternoon when I took The Girl in after pulling her away from licking the glass at the Post Office this morning. I was nursing The Baby in the comfort of the P.O.'s air conditioning when The Girl decided that licking the glass of an empty display unit was a good idea. I asked her to stop, and then pulled her away with one hand, while using the other arm to hold and nurse The Baby. She tripped over her shoes and almost fell, and I yanked her up. Felt a pop in her wrist and then she started crying and refused to move her arm.

After dropping The Baby off at home with The Dad and conferring with The Girl's pediatrician, I took her into the emergency room. Down Fullerton in full-on Cubs/hot summer day traffic. While waiting for the traffic light to turn green at Racine, I spied a new barbershop concept for men: SportsClips. It appears to be modeled on the idea spawned by Snippets, KidSnips, Cookie Cutters and the like: that young men, like children, do not like having their hair cut and sitting in front of a TV while the service is performed will make it more palatable.

At the ER, she screamed bloody murder. The nurse forced ibuprofen down her and the diagnosis from the docs came quickly. Popping the elbow back in proved a bit more difficult. They tried it twice before it took. The nurses and pediatricians were all very nice, and assured me that I could not have broken my child's wrist simply from pulling her up.

When The Girl was pronounced fine and free to go, we were both starving. The Boy had gone with The Dad to the park and McDonald's and in our brief stop at home, The Girl had seen his Happy Meal toy. So we walked up Lincoln Avenue to the DePaul McDonald's for a late lunch. It started to pour while we were there, so we sat at McD's for about 45 minutes in sum. We stopped briefly at The White Elephant, the Children's Memorial resale shop, on the way back to the garage; I had never been and wanted to check it out. In fact, I donated our dining room table and chairs to the store a few months ago. It was not in the store, but lots of other treasures were, including some very nice designer clothes for women. I will have to go back again.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Being Neighborly

The Dad, who worked from his basement office today, generously offered to take over supervisory duties of The Boy and The Girl this afternoon so that The Baby and I could take a nap. So we did.

When we woke up, The Boy and The Girl were shrieking around the back yard in their bathing suits with D., our 3-year-old neighbor; her 10-month-old brother, H., and mom, and The Dad were nearby. D. did not want to go home, so we offered to walk with her, going a distance of a whopping 80 feet north to her house. Then her dad came home from work and we spent the next hour watching D. and The Boy sprint up the street in bare-footed races and chit-chatting with D.'s parents and tenant about the weather, small children and life in the neighborhood.

City Crunchy

I packed up the car this morning with The Boy, The Girl, The Baby and the recycling. Then I drove to the North Park Village Nature Center to drop off my recyclables at the recycle center contained therein. I have been doing a version of this for about the past year. I feel good about this effort to save the environment, although I try not to think about whether driving around in a minivan in 90-degree heat negates whatever environmental impacts I've made in recycling paper, cardboard, glass, aluminum and 1 & 2 plastics. Still, I have more confidence that I actually am recycling than I did when I participated in Mayor Daley's Blue Bag program.

After dropping off the recycling, we headed to the nearby suburbs of Niles and Skokie to look for pajamas for The Boy at Land's End (strikeout) and buy paint cups and markers at U.S. Toys, a hidden gem that offers all kinds of interesting products for kids, parents and teachers alike. We hit Cubs traffic on the way home, and when I rolled up to my house at 1 p.m., all three of my passengers were asleep.

Lincoln Square Concert

Have I mentioned on this blog how I love Lincoln Square?

I love Lincoln Square.

It has a great central business district with restaurants/bars and shops, parking, access to the Brown Line, a fantastic library, a giant park, and the Old Town School of Folk Music. The German presence of earlier settlers to the 'hood is still felt in some of the bars and shops along Lincoln Avenue, giving the neighborhood a European, cultured feel. It is one of my favorite areas to go to within the city, and I suspect that that'd be true even if I didn't have children.

Tonight, The Boy, The Girl, The Baby, The Dad and I visited Lincoln Square to attend a free folk concert in Giddings Plaza, the little plaza adjacent to Cafe Selmarie. We found out about the concert from a mom in our playgroup; her husband used to work for the Lincoln Square Chamber of Commerce and is, in fact, developing a condominium building on the other side of Giddings Plaza, in the former Martin's Big & Tall retail store and parking lot.

I was unprepared for how well-attended the concert would be. When we showed up at just after 7 p.m., Giddings Plaza was crowded with people sitting in portable lawn chairs, on blankets spread along the cobblestones, resting on curbs, and milling about. Kids played in the plaza behind the stage in the center of the lot. Chicago Brauhaus had a tent selling beer and brats.
We ran into The Boy's former MDO teacher and her two children. I chatted briefly with Kerri and Zach, co-owners of Bloom Yoga Studio in the Rockwell Crossing area of Lincoln Square. We later caught up with our friends; S. and I nursed our babies while sitting underneath a tree at the edge of the plaza while her older son, The Boy and The Girl went with The Dad to romp around with the other kids in the plaza during intermission. The Dad bought a beer from the tent; I bought The Boy and The Girl each a cupcake at Cafe Selmarie. We listened to the folk group; I greatly enjoyed a sweet song about adopting baby girls from China.

Later, The Dad took The Boy and The Girl home to bed. The Baby and I stayed and met my friend B. for a beer at 42 degrees N. Latitude. It was the only bar that had patio seating available on the north side of Montrose, such is the popularity of Lincoln Square on a temperate summer evening. I've been to the bar on several occasions previously, and although it's beer list is mostly of the uppity import variety, the kitchen rolls out some good stuff. I lamented my inability to eat cheese while reading the menu tonight. However, it was nice to get out without the kids, although B. and I spent much of the evening talking about our children.

I had great public transportation karma/timing getting home. I walked straight down Lincoln Avenue, which was well-lit and well-populated--although I (perhaps naively) wonder who would mess with a woman with a newborn baby strapped to her front--to Irving Park Road and then caught the 80 bus home.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

School's Out!

Yesterday was the last day of Mother's Day Out ("school") for both The Boy and The Girl. The Boy will go on to pre-kindergarten at Parkview Lutheran School next year, so yesterday marked the end of his year and of his time at the program. The Girl goes back again next year. I spent my last four-hour block of kid-free time buying a new carrier for The Baby at Be By Baby, going to Trader Joe's, and doing some things at home. The Baby has gained about one pound per week since his birth. He was eight pounds at birth; he's nine-weeks-old. You do the math on that one. And then think about carrying that around for hours every day. Ouch.

After MDO, we hosted playgroup at our house. It was so much fun! Our playgroup has been pretty disjointed this year, as the first generation of kids all started preschool this year. Two of The Boy's playgroup friends were in his MDO program at the start of the year, but one left mid-year to attend tuition-based pre-K at Ravenswood. Plus, of the original seven member moms, two are now in the suburbs and one moved out of state. We have invited others to join in their stead, but many of them have moved or are in the process of moving as well. We now have almost as many members outside the city as we have inside its borders.

But summer is the great equalizer for playgroup, and based on yesterday's turnout, summer has begun! July marks the fourth anniversary of our playgroup's formation. It was great to see all of The Boy's and The Girl's little friends and The Baby's future friends, and catch up with my friends. I had snacks and drinks, and the kids played inside with toys and outside with the sand table, water table, and climber and slide.

Jam with Julie June 24th!

Hear Julie Helenius perform at the Kolmar Playlot on the Northwest side of Chicago, on Sunday, June 24th around 5:15 p.m.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Lincoln Park Zoo

This morning was my first major outing with three kids. We went to Lincoln Park Zoo for a couple of hours. I am not really a zoo person, so I used to think that Lincoln Park Zoo was just fine and never bothered to schlep out to Brookfield Zoo. Then someone gave me a free pass to Brookfield Zoo and I discovered how much it really does kick LP Zoo's butt as far as zoological parks go. We are members of both zoos, but have been going to Brookfield more often over the past year. My membership to Lincoln Park is set to expire in August, and in order to justify renewing it (I confess that I am a member mainly for the free parking as parking in the area is hairy and the lot is adjacent to the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum and North Avenue Beach), I need to make better use of the pass this summer. However, LP Zoo's drawbacks are also advantages, so because it is closer and smaller, it was our morning's destination.

It went OK. Because school is already out in the suburbs and at most private/parochial schools, the zoo was pretty crowded. Even at 10:30 a.m. when we arrived (buildings open at 10 a.m.). The zoo offered all kinds of new "services" to attract children--face painting, air-brushed temp tattoos, etc., all for the low, low price of $5/pop. The lions (or "roars" as The Girl calls them) were conked out the whole time we were there. The Boy commented that the male lion looked dead--and he did! But he was just asleep. We also checked out the sea lions, the Pritzker Family Play Zoo, the monkeys, and the bat/reptile house. At the Pritzker Family Zoo, The Boy valiantly tried to climb the structure, but decided that he'd wait to try again "at [his] next birthday." He is a bit scared of those giant enclosed play structures like you'd find at McDonald's Playplace, etc. The Girl liked looking at the turtles, frogs and snakes in the small exhibit in this part of the zoo. She wanted to see the otters and the beavers, but they were hidden away from sight. The Girl really liked the monkeys, especially the gibbons, which nearly always seem to be playful and interesting. The Boy's favorite part of the day was when we left The Baby asleep in the stroller and had a 3-way race down the little knoll to the lamp post and back in the green just south of the cafe.

We drove home up Lake Shore Drive, which not only is one of my favorite drives, but now has become one of The Boy's favorite ways to go as well.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Movies on the Mag Mile

Yesterday, I did something I almost never do: I took the kids downtown. My mother and sister were in town, so we all piled into the Great White Moose (a/k/a our minivan) and trekked down to the Magnificent Mile to pick up sheet music for my sister, and catch a movie at the Loews on Michigan Avenue.

My general reluctance to go downtown on a regular basis has less to do with the amenities offered by the area and more to do with my aversion to paying through the nose to park. Yesterday's trip ran me $21 for 3 hours in a garage. But oh well. It's not every day that my mom and sister are in town.

The Boy and The Girl had a fabulous time going to the movies. We parked in a garage on Wabash and Chicago, then walked up to McDonald's to have a quick lunch before the movie. (Mom and Sis went to Jimmy John's.) The Boy ate all of his cheeseburger. The Girl, I am sorry to say, ate only her fries and then demanded the Happy Meal toy. After lunch, we hauled butt to the theatre. The Girl was both tired and very interested in what was going on around her, so she walked quite slowly, dragging her hand against the sides of every building we passed. I ended up carrying her and The Baby for much of the walk to the theatre; my wrist was about to fall off from half-dragging her behind me.

We saw Shrek the Third at the Loews at 600 N. Michigan Avenue. Save one couple, we were the only patrons in the theatre. They had risers for the kids to place on the seats, and The Boy happily sat on one between Grandma T. and his aunt. The Girl snuggled on Grandma T.'s lap during the movie, which ran about 90 minutes and was the perfect length for small children. The Baby nursed and fell asleep during the film, so he did not disturb the other two adults in the theatre.

After the movies, we all headed back to the car. I drove my sister down to 400 South Michigan Avenue to get her sheet music. On the way, both The Boy and The Girl fell asleep in the car, so after my sister got her music, my mother took the sleeping kids back home in the car, and my sister, The Baby and I walked over to H&M on State Street. My sister tried on a ton of clothing that looked good on her. I tried on about five things that looked hideous (H&M is not designed for the newly post-partum body) and nursed The Baby. We hopped on the L to return home. Although the cars were madly crowded, at least two people offered me their seat, so I did not have to stand in a crowded L car with a baby strapped to my chest for the 40-minute ride home.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Jammin with Julie

Yesterday was The Girl's second birthday party. We had a great backyard party with lots of kids and their parents: friends, family, neighbors. The Girl had a fantastic time, as did most of our little guests. The highlight of the party was a "jam session" with Julie Helenius. She came with her bright red guitar, a bucket of shakers, and conducted a 45-minute sing-a-long. The Girl was enraptured, as were most of our little female guests.

Miss Julie, as she is known around here, has been a fixture in this area for at least 15 years. She runs several music classes in the neighborhood, from parent-toddler sing-a-longs to beginning drum classes for preschoolers and guitar lessons for older children. She also teaches Wiggleworms classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Both The Boy and The Girl have taken classes with Miss Julie; her classes are among our favorite "things to do" with kids in Chicago. You can contact her at (773) 267-7607 or for class information or to book her for a party.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Hanging Around the Neighborhood

Before The Baby made his appearance, I washed and re-oiled the wooden bench on our front porch in a fit of nesting. Now that the weather has warmed up, we've been making good use of the bench. Mr. C., The Baby and I sit on the porch after dinner and/or after The Boy and/or The Girl have gone to bed. The Baby seems to like the ambient noise of the City. I like watching and visiting with neighbors and friends as they push strollers, walk dogs, come home from work, or head to the park.

I love my neighborhood. Although I do like to take my children on outings in and around Chicago, I also enjoy just hanging around the neighborhood in the spring, summer and early fall. It is small, friendly, and has a fair number of desirable amenities - I could use a couple of more restaurants, but it's probably better for my budget that there aren't a lot of choices. I love the green space and the architecture of the houses that my neighborhood offers. Also, people are generally friendly here. They are also generally long-time and/or committed residents. Although some houses do turn over rapidly, most do not. We have little old ladies for neighbors on three sides. Not only are they nice little old ladies who care about my kids and my family's general welfare, they've also lived here for 60+ years.

There are many kids in the neighborhood and we see quite a few on their way to the playground. Yesterday, The Girl "made friends" with a toddler girl who was walking with her mother past our house the the park. We all ended up at the park at the same time, and she and The Girl played with each other (mostly chasing back and forth on the bouncy bridge). We also ended up walking to/past our house at the same time and The Girl cried when the other girl had to go home. Today, The Girl played with a neighbor's 8-y/o for a long while; I am hoping to "hire" little L. to come play with The Girl and The Boy for a couple of hours/week over the summer so that I can do laundry and housework.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Baby Does IKEA

We took advantage of staying "in town" for the Memorial Day weekend by taking a trip to visit my brother-in-law in the suburbs today, with a little side trip to IKEA. It was The Baby's first non-utero visit to the big blue box.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Downtown for Mother's Day

Today was my first Mother's Day as a mother of three children. The Boy, The Girl, The Baby and Mr. C. and I went to the West Loop to have breakfast at one of our favorite places, Ina's Kitchen. Located just three blocks west of Harpo Studios, Ina serves several reliable and tasty dishes in an atmosphere that is warm and friendly. Her restaurant is incredibly kid-friendly, although the touches are subtle -- white paper and crayons over the tablecloths, an abundance of highchairs and boosters for the littlest ones, sliced bananas served on a plate before the meal arrives, kid drinks served in lidded coffee to-go cups. She also takes reservations, which cements her rank as my favorite breakfast place. Because anyone with kids knows that children are not likely to wait patiently with mom, dad and the throngs of coffee-toting hipsters standing outside The Bongo Room or Orange.

Afterwards, we headed over to Grant Park. We managed to snag street parking on Wabash, and walked over to Grant Park to check out what ended up being a rather lackluster display promoted as urban green gardens. We meandered around Grant Park for awhile, past Buckingham Fountain, which The Boy and The Girl had never before seen up close. Buckingham Fountain is one of the landmarks I remember most from my own youth, but Grant Park was much more of a happening place back then.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Birthday Flowers

The Girl turned 2 today. Since The Baby just recently made his appearance, we celebrated her birthday with a trip to the Morton Arboretum to play in the Children's Garden. Although Mr. C., The Boy and The Girl had all been to the Children's Garden before, I had not. In fact, before today, the only time I had visited Morton Arboretum altogether was at an online meet-up in 2003.

It was very nice! The Boy and the Girl had a fantastic time exploring all the different areas/scenes within the garden. The Boy did better in the treetop/ropes course-type areas. The Girl preferred the water elements. Despite being early spring, it was quite a hot day, so both kids found reprieve from the heat in the water areas of the garden. They both had a great time activating the statue-fountains in the lower part of the garden, to the point that they both got soaked and I had to go buy them each an arboretum t-shirt. There were lots of school-aged children on field trips visiting the garden that day, as well as plenty of toddlers and their mothers. The Children's Garden had many amenities for the moms-with-kids crowd: benches, a picnic area, clean bathrooms with changing tables, and water/Gatorade vending machines.

We will definitely visit the garden again this spring/summer. At $7/person, it's pretty cheap as far as Chicagoland attractions go.

Afterwards, we went to the Colonial Cafe with Grandma and Grandpa Naperville for lunch, presents and the best part of Colonial: ice cream!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

And Baby Makes Three

This blog now has a new character: The Baby.

The Baby, as it happens, is a boy. But since this blog already has a Boy and a Girl, he will have to remain The Baby for now. He was born on April 19, after a day spent walking around the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum with The Boy and The Girl. We played in the slide area, the river area, went up and saw the butterflies (The Girl calls them "flies!") in the Butterfly Haven, had lunch, and saw a turtle, a frog and a few snakes up close when a handler had them out on a table along the swamp exhibit.

The staff at the Notebaert were unusually friendly that day, perhaps because I was walking around the museum at nearly 40 weeks pregnant and looking quite as if I was going to pop. Whenever anyone inquired when I was due and learned the answer, she was quite taken aback at the answer and looked scared, as if I might have the baby within the museum itself.

Such was not the case. Although there is a hospital only one block north of the nature museum, I did not need it. Instead, I delivered The Baby at Swedish Covenant Hospital. Delivering at Swedish was a world apart from delivering at Northwestern Memorial Hospital downtown, where both The Boy and The Girl were born. I highly recommend it, and the midwives associated with the hospital, one of whom delivered The Baby.

Monday, March 05, 2007

CoCo Key

Back in March, my mother-in-law elected to make her 60th birthday party an event that small children would especially enjoy. She hosted her four grandchildren, their parents and her other son at the Sheraton Northwest Chicago, the principal attraction of which is the CoCo Key Indoor Water Resort.

At the time of the booking, the resort was brand-spanking new, and it was quite nice from a child's perspective. The resort's claim to fame is that is always Florida inside the water park, and my experience was reflective of that, although my initial reaction was that CoCo Key was very much like Great America on a crowded summer day. Despite the steep ticket prices (weekend day passes were $34) and the upscale suburban location (Arlington Heights), the crowd was fairly downscale. Although maybe that's just how everyone looks in Florida.

I will admit that my experiences were largely colored by the fact that I was 8-months pregnant at the time and could not enjoy many of the water park's more adventurous attractions. I was looking forward to a leisurely float down the lazy river, but a man repeatedly pulled the "spray a total stranger 10 feet down the river" chain so that I was blasted on the head with a spray of very chilly water and my enjoyment of the park came to an abrupt halt. He was unresponsive when I pointed out my condition and asked him to stop blasting me. After that, I hung out with The Girl on the edge of the zero-depth entry kiddie pool.

The kiddie pool area was quite nice, with a latched gate cordoning it off from the rest of the park. In addition to the zero-depth entry, the kiddie pool area had two slides, some spraying water elements and a high chlorine content. There was also a large screen playing the Disney channel, which is either a nice amenity or a cheap attempt to market to young children, depending on your perspective. The park had poolside cabanas available for rent; these were located along the kiddie pool and were fairly nicely appointed with TVs, refrigerators, mini-safes, and cushioned loungers and chairs.

The Boy had a fantastic time going down the water slides with his cousins and dad. They had a giant tube that went outside the building and back in again. Mr. C. went down it alone and reported that the tube was pitch black on the inside and fairly scary. Another open-air water slide dumped water on waiting patrons every fifteen minutes or so, given the shrieks that punctuated the air every so often. The Boy and The Girl's cousins tried out the lily pad jumps and water basketball in the activity pool.

Towels at the resort were plentiful, although at the time of our visit, they were also left behind in abundance as well, given the mounds of used, wet towels found behind most of the white plastic pool furniture. Although we rented a cabana on the second day, we were left to duke it out for a limited number of pool chairs and loungers on the first day. The park also featured a full bar, where my childless brother-in-law could be found when he was not going down the slides with the kids, and an A&W Root Beer stand, which served up fried goodness in the form of fried cheese curds and hot dogs, and root beer floats -- quite refreshing when you are tired and hungry and shriveled from too much time spent in water.