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.