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.