Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Today, we braved the weather* and flew to Houston from O'Hare. The Tot flew as a lap-child and did remarkably well on The Dad's lap during takeoff. He even napped a bit toward the end of the flight. The Girl and The Boy were both excited about take-off, and watching Chicago get smaller outside their respective windows.

We landed in Houston a few minutes ahead of schedule. And it's warm here! Grandma and Grandpa Texas picked us up from the airport. W00t for warm weather!

*The five most dreaded words in the traveler's lexicon: There is weather in Chicago.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Today, The Dad took The Girl and The Boy to Schaumburg's Legoland Discovery Centre. The Boy has been begging to go to Legoland since before it opened. Allison had taken her crew to visit earlier in the fall and pronounced it a nightmare for the toddler crowd, so The Tot and I stayed home to pack, nap, and rattle around the house together.

The Dad got there at 10 a.m. when it opened and reported that the place was mobbed, with an entry line that stretched around the corner. He had a coupon for discounted entry, bringing the total for the 3 of them to $34. You can also buy tickets online for about the same price (plus a $3.75 convenience fee), which I will likely do in the future if we go again, as print-at-home tickets allow you to skip most of the entry line.

Since I wasn't there, I cannot report on the best parts of the center. However, The Boy really liked the make-your-own racecar and race-them exhibit. The Girl and The Dad liked the dragon ride. The Dad also reported that there is a cafe within the center, serving yummy sandwiches (and probably other things). Total for lunch was about $20 for the three of them, which seems about par for museum things.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I lied

I did not stay home today. But I did not take the kids sledding either. The Boy woke up in the night with some goop in his eye, and I have been wheezing pretty badly for the past month, so I took us both to Urgent Care in Six Corners. The Boy was quickly diagnosed with pink eye; it took a bit longer for the doctor to determine that I have pneumonia. Now we can rest.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Karma at Northbrook Court

Today, I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot with me to Northbrook Court to (finally!) pick up the photographs from our post-Thanksgiving photo shoot. It was surprisingly empty at around 10:30 a.m. when we arrived and pretty much remained that way until we left around 2 p.m. The Tot spilled orange juice all over his pants and The Girl had a wee accident, so I stopped into Gymboree to buy replacements for both; the sales associate confirmed that it had been slow, but seemed to think that it was too early for crowds.

No problem with me. I was able to get The Boy and The Girl in for haircuts at Snippets with only a short wait (which we passed around the corner at Hanna Andersson, looking for requests [and coming up empty] for the CC girls). We finally made it to the LEGO store at The Boy's request (although he was sad that we did not buy anything -- I told him that he could put it on his birthday wish list). The line at Corner Bakery went quickly, and we had no problems finding a table adjacent to the center treehouse at which we ate our pesto cavatappi (The Tot and The Girl), Santa Fe Ranch salad (me), and kids' PB&J (The Boy).

After lunch, the kids played at the treehouse for close to an hour. I witnessed my first instant-friendship moment that moms of girls have always told me about: The Girl walking around with another little girl who I've never seen before in my life, holding her hand. It was quite cute, actually. At one point, they were deep in conversation about god-only-knows-what. The lady next to me's toddler found my planner and pen while I was distracted by The Tot, who was busy pulling on the mitten strings on someone else's stroller.

But then... then... I have to rant for a bit on holiday rudeness: this woman plopped herself down on the bench that I was sitting on, invading my personal space so that her friend -- who showed some degree of manners by saying that the empty bench she was on was fine (or at least I think this is what she said; they were speaking another language [I would guess Farsi] and I could only judge by body language what was actually said) -- could sit down. This was annoying, but was not worth saying something or ruining my day over, but I ran into her again as I was waiting in the long line at the tiny Banana Republic just off the center court.

She sidled in to look at a sweater on a table just to the left of the one line and then proceeded to stand there with her item as if she was in the check-out line. As there were about 8 people behind me at that point and I found her behavior unaccountably rude, once I realized that she meant to cut in line, I said something to her, loudly: "Excuse me, but I and all the people behind me have been waiting in line to pay. If you want to get in line, it ends back there." She immediately started yelling, saying that she was in the other line, that she had been waiting, that I was lying, etc. Unfortunately, I was irritated and my kids were tired, so I continued the escalation instead of just letting it go. As The Boy said, she was a "liar, liar, pants on fire!" Fortunately, the BR people believed me, told the rude lady that there was only one line, and a manager showed up to defuse the situation. The lady who was in front of us confirmed that I was, in fact, telling the truth, when the rude lady called into question my honesty. What really made me mad about it was when she told me that my behavior would come back to me. I try to let stuff like this go and not harp about it, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way.

At least it ended up a teachable moment for The Boy and The Girl: this is why you use good manners and tell the truth. Even The Boy knew that she was lying as he later told me that Rude Lady had asked him to move over so that she could get to the table with the sweaters.

After that, we left the mall and headed to Glenview in the snow and slush to buy more groceries at Trader Joe's. TJ's was crowded and The Tot was crabby, but the TJ's employees were festive and engaging. One man even brought The Tot a balloon to cheer him up. It took me 45 minutes to get home via Waukegan Road, Dempster, and I-94. And I'm not leaving the house until noonish on Christmas Day, for the long-haul drive to the 'burbs*.

* OK, I might take The Boy and The Girl sledding tomorrow morning. But only if The Dad has the day off to watch The Tot.

Late-Night Crafting

The Girl asked Santa Claus for necklaces and rings. While I suppose I could go out and buy her these items, it's much more fun to make some. I was inspired by this garland, which I had admired weeks ago from a link on Sew, Mama, Sew, but didn't have the supplies (or the patience) to create a 6' long felt garland. For some reason, however, I'm willing to make the effort for my dear child. The necklace was pretty standard, but the rings (I made two) were more of a challenge. I'm rather proud of my handiwork, such as it is. I just hope The Girl feels the same come Christmas morning.

From Blogger Photos

From Blogger Photos

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Girl Has a Crush

...on N., who is The Boy's age. And for his part, N. is happy to accept The Girl's affection/attention. N. and his sister, M., (who is also 3.5) came over this afternoon for a little playdate. The Boy was a bit of a pill, but the girls and N. all had fun playing Candyland, dressing up, building with Magna-Tiles, and watching a movie. Many giggles were heard in our house this afternoon.

It was a nice addition to our day. The Dad took The Great White Moose out to the 'burbs today, so we were completely housebound. I have not left the house since Saturday evening, and although a pajamas-and-housework day was rather nice, I am ready to go somewhere tomorrow.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


This afternoon, The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, The Dad and I hosted a crowd of little kids and their mothers (and a few fathers) for our first (annual?) cookie-decorating party. It was great fun!

The Kids and I spent the morning rolling, cutting, and baking Alton Brown's sugar cookies in holiday shapes (The Tot was disappointed that I would not let him eat the cookies as they came out of the oven). And when our guests arrived, I set out bowls of royal icing (colored with India Tree natural food tints), Wilton sugars and nonpareils, chocolate hips, waxed paper, knives and all the blank-slate cookies. The kids made cookies, ate cookies, and ran around the house together while the moms chatted. We were going to watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but everyone was having such fun in free play without it that we skipped it. I think a good time was had by all (except maybe The Tot, who needed a nap, and Cara, who didn't know my crowd of city-mom friends).

The Girl and The Tot fell asleep on me after most of our guests left, and The Boy was in bed, again, before 7 p.m. tonight!

Let's Bowl!

Last night, The Dad and I got a sitter and out went out! It was kind of a date-night and kind of a night-with-friends. In any event, we went bowling at Lincoln Square Lanes, an old-school bowling alley if there ever was one. Most reviews refer to the establishment as a dive, and that is probably pretty accurate. However, I find its no-apologies, blue-collar aesthetic rather charming.

We met my group of college friends there. I drank a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon, ate several bags of pretzels, and beat The Dad in our round of bowling (neither of us cleared 100, however, despite my strike and spare). I scored our game manually; it seems odd to me that reviewers would complain about also having to do so. This must be where my age shows -- self-scoring lanes are relatively new to my memories of the game. Manually scoring bowling, life without cell phones, rabbit ears, and retaining my ability to hear -- all things anyone under the age of 25 will find strange.

It was a great night.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Crossing California

The Boy, The Girl, The Tot and I had a Crossing California afternoon. We got all suited up in our outdoor gear, loaded up The Great White Moose with sleds and the bilibo, and headed north to the new sled hill at Warren Park.

The bilibo did not work as a sled, as it turned out, but The Boy and The Girl went down many times on our old red plastic sled. They were so cute -- they'd go down together and then carry the sled up the stairs, The Boy leading and The Girl holding the tail end of the sled. The Tot was not such a fan of the sledding; I knew that going in: he's really too young yet. I went down twice with him. The first time, we fell off (although he never fell directly into the snow) and he screamed the whole second run. The kids sledded for about an hour before the combination of annoying oblivious-to-anyone-else teenagers, The Girl's fatigue, The Tot's hunger, and The Boy's cold pushed us on to something else.

That something else was hitting up Wolfy's on Peterson for hot dogs and fries, with a cheeseburger for The Boy, who said he was really hungry. The Tot's mood improved considerably once he got some food in his stomach, although The Girl was really tired and kept spilling -- her drink, the ketchup, etc. No one fell asleep in the car on the way home, but they all went to bed by 7!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lincoln Square

The Tot has thrush. One of the best cures I've found is gentian violet, which is available at Merz Apothecary. So The Tot and I headed over there this morning after we dropped The Boy and The Girl at school.

Merz Apothecary is gorgeous, old and smells great. But it's a nightmare to visit with a toddler. It's been so long since I've been there, I managed to forget this fact. Many of the bottles are displayed right at his level, so he wanted to touch them, take their caps off, etc. I got what I needed, fiddled around for too long picking out a lip balm, and got out of there.

I also forgot how much I enjoy Lincoln Square. We went across the street to Cafe Selmarie to buy a gift certificate, officially marking the last gift/person off our holiday list. As soon as we walked in, The Tot's eyes widened at the sight of the pastry case. He kept staring at the cupcakes saying, "cookie! cookie!" What is a mama to do in the face of such cuteness? Yeah, so I got him a cupcake (and me a cup of coffee) and we sat in the window for about 10 minutes, enjoying our snack and watching the world go by. We got down from his stool to stare at a little boy about his age in a stroller. I chatted briefly with his nanny -- I was impressed that she got a 20-month-old to wear mittens and a hat. She said that she refuses to leave the house if he takes them off. I don't think that will work with The Tot, who rarely leaves the house specifically because he wants to. They left to go to Starbucks, where the boy could be let out of the stroller to roam, and we left as well.

I ended up stopping next door (Enjoy) to look for some mittens for The Tot (score - stretch toddler mittens at $4/pop) in the (futile) hope of getting him to wear them without crying. I also bought a wind-up frog that made The Tot laugh ($3), and some hot-pink mitten clips ($4) to put in The Girl's Christmas stocking.

As much as I would have loved to shop the rest of Lincoln Square, I had a more pressing need for sunflower butter, so we loaded back into the car and drove down Lincoln Avenue to Trader Joe's before we needed to pick up The Girl from preschool.


At Jammin with Julie yesterday, a little girl came in wearing a Chicago Bears cheerleader outfit. Miss Julie commented on it, and asked if she knew where the Bears were. The little girl responded: they're at the zoo!

Jammin with Julie

Yesterday, I asked The Tot if he wanted to jam with Julie. He nodded "yes" very enthusiastically. We got there for the tail end of the 10 a.m. class and stayed for the beginning of the 11 a.m. class. The Tot was very participatory in the classes, which is extremely unusual for him, but Miss Julie commented that she was happy to see it!

This week marks the end of the fall session, but you can sign up for the next session, held January 7 - April 22, 2009 at Irving Park Lutheran Church, by calling Julie Helenius directly at 773-267-7607 or e-mailing her at The 16-week session is $192, which represents a bit of a price break over the Old Town School's Wiggleworms classes ($240 for a 16-week session), which are similar to Miss Julie's classes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

This morning, it was just cold and icy -- no snow -- so I headed up to Bed, Bath & Beyond in Niles to buy a slipcover for my ultimate bargain occasional chair. It was the easiest location for me to get to, but I needed help and the manager was S.L.O.W. The Tot was getting pretty bitey-grabby by the time we left and I couldn't really blame him for his restlessness.

Afterwards, because The Tot needed a snack and I still had a Barnes & Noble gift card in my purse left over from The Tot's birthday, so we headed over to the B&N in the same shopping center to use (part) of it. He enthusiastically ate half a chocolate cupcake and drank some juice, sitting up so nicely in a chair and closely observing the two other patrons in the cafe. I drank half my marshmallow latte, and then we headed over B&N Jr. to check out the books. Not surprisingly, The Tot made a beeline for the Thomas the Tank Engine section. We have many of these books already, including the complete book of Thomas stories by Rev. Audry; we ended up with Barton's Trains book instead. I let The Tot putter around the book section for about 1/2 an hour before we left to pick The Girl up from preschool.

I really need to make a book wishlist for the kids; while we were browsing the kids' section, there were several books that I was tempted to get for The Boy or The Girl, but don't have the budget for it right now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Upcoming: Bungalow Restoration Project

Community Meeting

Tuesday, December 16
5:30 - 6:30 pm
in the
Independence Park Bungalow

Here is a chance for you to meet the architect who will be handling our project. Bailey Edward Design is a firm recognized for their historic renovations and experience with green bungalows. Brendan Daley, heading up the project from the Chicago Park District, will discuss the project process going forward.

There will be a short q & a period. Coffee will be served.


I am hoping to go.

Chicago Park District

What I love about the Chicago Park District: classes are generally inexpensive and you can register online.

What I hate about the Chicago Park District: you have to watch the countdown ticker at 9 a.m. on the day of online registration and be quick with the mouse buttons and keyboard.

That said, I got everyone in our family into our desired classes for the winter session. The Boy is taking gymnastics at Peterson Park Gymnastics Center. The Girl is taking a similar class at the same time. The Tot and I are following in his older brother's footsteps and taking a parent/caregiver and tot class at Independence Park. I'm reprising my Thursday wheel pottery class at Athletic Field Park. And I even got The Dad into the act -- he's taking a woodworking class at Brands Park.

What a difference a year makes

During The Girl's ballet class this morning, I spoke with Beth T. about the neighborhood, schools, and Australia. She had gone on a tour of Disney II yesterday, and reported that she saw both The Girl and The Boy happily engaged in their respective classrooms. Our conversation reminded me how stressed I was last year over applying to and visiting schools, The Boy's Options for Knowledge Test date, etc. While next year, I may very well be back in the same boat*, it's been nice to be blissfully ignorant of the flurry of activity occurring right now in rising-kindergartener households all over the city of Chicago.

Disney II is on course to be a good, sought-after school. Beth shared that the school has already received 550 applications -- and there's still a week to go before the December 19th deadline. So far, I am happy with the level of education that The Boy is receiving. His teacher, Mrs. Callaghan, is phenomenal. I'd like to see her nominated for a Golden Apple award, but I don't want the school to lose her for the year that she'd be on sabbatical as a result. He's halfway through the year and I can see that he'll be reading at the end of it.

The Girl is an enthusiastic preschooler. Her teacher, Mr. Manesis, has nothing but good things to say about her behavior and interest in the various activities offered by the Preschool for All program. She is eager to go to school each day, and was more upset about missing school last week during a bout of mycoplasma than she was about feeling crummy for 5 days straight.

As for me, I've joined the school community wholeheartedly. Although it's difficult for me to volunteer in the classroom, I've gone on a field trip with The Boy's class, volunteered at the fall book fair, and am serving on the newly formed Disney II PTA. For those reading who are looking for involvement opportunities at Disney II, there is also an Interim Advisory Committee (IAC), which is a precursor to the LSC.

* Although there is a sibling preference system in place at Disney II, it's still a lottery system when there are more siblings than there are holdback spots for them. With many of The Boy's peers' siblings set to enter kindergarten in the fall of 2010, like The Girl, there's bound to be competition and angst over available spots. In addition, I'd like to have The Girl tested for gifted/classical schools, adding another potential element to the decision.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's New?

I have not been posting lately because we have not been doing much. There are two reasons for this. The first is that “the economy” has highlighted my own budgetary shortfalls. The second—and bigger—reason is the logistics of three children makes it difficult to plan outings. With The Girl in preschool everyday for just 2.5 hours, The Tot needing a nap every afternoon, and The Boy in school until nearly 4 p.m., there's no time for adventuring. Compounding the issue is that I dislike crowded places and have been spoiled by 5 years of going to museums during quiet weekdays; it's hard for me to muster the energy to schlep through a crowded museum on a weekend afternoon.

I've been spending my mornings running errands, taking The Tot to the occasional class, and puttering around the house with The Tot. And my afternoons watching Dora episodes with The Girl and performing miscellaneous household tasks while The Tot naps, with playdates (either hosted or drop-off) thrown in here and there to mix things up. By the time The Boy gets home from school, there's enough time to do a load of laundry and a sinkful of dishes, start dinner, and supervise homework before dinner and bedtime.

Partially because of this -- and partially because I've realized that there is so much in Chicago for little kids that I don't know about -- I've decided to shift the focus of this blog. I hope that doesn't bother my readership -- all five of you! I remember how disappointed I was when a blog I had been following -- American Expat -- shifted its focus from a subject I was interested in (Americans living in The Hague) to one that I wasn't (Ukraine adoption). I still plan to post about our adventures in Chicago, but I'll also include more information about our daily lives -- so if you're still reading, consider this fair warning of impending boredom. :) If nothing else,* it will give me a nice record of my days as a harried mother of 3 small children.
* My mother is decidedly not among my readership. She thinks that blogging is the worst sort of egotism.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

One of a Kind

Yesterday, Cara and Grace came into the city; we all headed down to one of my favorite Chicago buildings (and I say this every year*), the Merchandise Mart, to attend our friend Melissa's booth at the One of a Kind Show and Sale. We had gone (without the girls) last year, but it was a Saturday and much busier. This year, whether due to the weather (freezing!), the economy or something else, it was much quieter. We both bought beautiful chainmail necklaces from Rapt in Maille for ourselves, and cute wooden necklaces from Steinvika Designs for Gracie, Lily, and The Girl. I also picked up a pair of lobster-style mittens from Zola Jones Designs. The Girl had been getting over a cold and The Tot was past naptime, so we were pretty much done after a quick cruise around the booths surrounding Melissa's booth.

Before we headed up to the 8th floor, we stopped into Au Bon Pain for lunch. We arrived just before the lunch rush, thank goodness, as the crowd of well-heeled designers was not happy to see two moms and three little kids invade their space.

After we were done shopping, Cara and Gracie headed back to the car, and The Girl, The Tot, and I got on the L. The Girl was decidedly not happy about taking the train, but managed to calm down for a bit once we boarded the Brown Line, taking it the long way around the Loop to the Blue Line station at Clark/Lake. It turns out that The Girl was having one of her occasional (usually) crowd-related panic attacks about taking public transportation, despite the fact that the trains were not at all crowded. The Tot rode in the stroller (and fell asleep) and I held The Girl in my arms and managed to soothe her public transportation anxiety this time.

The Dad, who was working from home, very nicely came to get us at the station. We all headed over to school to pick up The Boy, then headed home.

*Maybe I will remember this next year when I am looking for a good (indoor) Chicago backdrop for our holiday card photograph.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Today, Santa Claus came not to our town, but to Lisle. Close enough. We met him (and Mrs. Claus, and Grandma & Grandpa Naperville) at the Morton Arboretum for breakfast. It was a nice time. The Boy ate his pancakes, The Girl didn't like hers, The Tot ate everyone's sausage and bacon. We saw Santa Claus walking up the path and got to sit on his knee (well, The Tot screamed bloody murder when Grandma held him next to Santa Claus). Mrs. Claus came over to say hello.
From Blogger Photos

After we had full tummies and had put in our requests to Santa (necklaces and rings for The Girl, a play gas station for The Boy), we went across the way to the train room, which The Tot loved. He did not want to leave when The Dad came to pick us up 15 minutes later.

Monday, November 10, 2008


The Dad hosted Football Sunday this week. I used The Great White Moose to drive to a lovely new-construction house in Lakeview to attend a children's clothing trunk show. It turned out to be a trunk show not only for the children's clothing line, but also for a home goods company that makes the prices of Pottery Barn's linens seem reasonable. To say that I was out of my league is a gross understatement. I browsed a bit, submitted my extremely modest order and hightailed it out there.

After I left, I realized that I was 1/2 block away from Julius Meinl, so I waited for 20 minutes for a table and had tea and a nice little lunch. My playgroup used to go there quite a bit, but I have not been there in 6 months to a year. It was mobbed when I first arrived, but as brunch ended at 2 p.m., the crowd thinned out as well.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Green Bungalow

The Dad and I managed to secure a babysitter for the kids this evening. We're going to GIPNA's 3rd annual wine-and-cheese event to benefit the Independence Park Bungalow Restoration Project. I've wanted to go every year, but have always had a conflict of one kind or another up until now.

Edit: Or not. I just got an e-mail that they are sold out. Maybe I will make it to the 4th annual version instead.

Friday, November 07, 2008


The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I observed today's CPS professional development day, which gives The Boy and The Girl the day off, by going on an old-fashioned museum outing. We met Cara and Gracie at the Museum of Science and Industry, using The Boy's first-day-of-school voucher to gain admittance to the museum gratis.

As usual, parking on Hyde Park's streets was easy to find, so we skipped $13 underground museum garage and trekked the block or so to the museum's main entrance. Fortunately, my kids are pretty used to my cheapskate ways about parking; they didn't even complain about the walk, although it was quite cold on the return trip. The landscape of the area -- LSD dividing a treeless lakefront from the wide lawn of MSI creates a wind tunnel: it is always blustery and windy down there. It was also overcast and the temperature dropped all day, so it was windier and colder than usual today.

We had arranged to meet Cara and Grace in front of the Jollyball, but ran into them in the elevator instead. The Boy was thrilled to see that the Jollyball was fixed and all 4 kids spent the better part of 1/2 an hour glued to the rail in front of it. It was The Tot's first real viewing of the contraption and he took it in silently, pulled up to the railing with a serious look on his face. Meanwhile, I enjoyed a cup of coffee from the nearby Brain Cafe and marveled at the lit and decorated Christmas trees already dotting the interior of the museum.

After my cuppa, we went upstairs to The Great Train Story exhibit, otherwise known in our household as "the choo-choo hall." It is an area that can (and has) easily occupy The Boy for most or all of our visits. The Tot, who has just discovered trains himself, was similarly enthralled with the trains. Unlike The Boy and The Girl, however, who run from step to step around the exhibit to see the trains from different vantage points, The Tot was content to watch everything go by from a single location.Alas, the girls were not content to watch trains all day and we moved on to the Genetics exhibit to watch the baby chicks come out of their shells. The Tot liked this as well. There were a few small school groups in the museum and one of them had named all of the hatching chicks, which was kind of cute. One of these days, perhaps on a future football Sunday, I'm going to have to go back to these museums without the kids so that I can actually explore the exhibits on my own timetable. The kids were completely uninterested in learning about the double helix structure of DNA, genes, genomes, etc. All in good time, I suppose.

Next, we went downstairs to the Idea Factory, which was mobbed. They were at maximum capacity, so we actually had to wait a few minutes to gain entry into the area. I barely saw The Boy once he got in -- he was quite happy "running the factory" toward the back of the exhibit. The Tot spent most of his time getting utterly drenched, taking balls out of the river and putting them into the air tube.

We all had lunch and then did a quick twirl through Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle. Twice (for The Girl -- Cara, Gracie and the boys checked out the fireman's area just outside of it). By then, we were all pretty tired so we decided to call it a day. On the way out, The Tot noticed the Silver Bullet/Zephyr; I told him that it would have to wait for another day.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Tower

Today, I went on a field trip with The Boy's class to the Sears Tower. It was a field trip that is only possible in the city; it was very different from the field trips of my youth, which invariably involved a sack lunch and a big yellow schoolbus. Instead, 50 kindergarteners, 2 teachers, 1 aide, and about 30 other parents walked two blocks from the school to the Metra station and climbed aboard a fairly crowded train to Ogilivie Station. We disembarked downtown and walked the 6 blocks to the Sears Tower. I had charge of two kids -- The Boy and another little boy in his class (J).

It was great fun to parade through the city to the Sears Tower. There was a huge caravan of kid-parent-kid trios; our party took up most of the length of a city block. Our walk was primarily through the financial district, so we passed a lot of suits. They didn't seem particularly amused, but when the market is in the can, it may be hard to appreciate a bunch of little kids taking over the sidewalk.

It was gray and overcast so the Sky Deck wasn't particularly crowded, but there were a lot of turnstiles, etc. to go through before we could actually reach the big, bad elevator. We went through security, had tourist photos taken, watched a (really very interesting) video (by the History channel) about the Sears Tower's construction, and waited in line before we finally made it up to the top. Most of the kids were pretty hungry by the time we actually got to the top so it seemed like a very short visit up there.

The Boy's teacher, Mrs. Callaghan, had prepared a worksheet of things the kids should look for when they got to the top. When we initially got out of the elevator and out by the glass, The Boy was pretty scared. He did not want to go near the windows. J., on the other hand, was crawling under the railing to lean his body directly on the glass. The Boy warmed up to coming to the railing a bit later. He and I had great fun finding the landmarks from the worksheet -- Marina Towers, Buckingham Fountain, the United Center, Wrigley Building, Merchandise Mart, etc. My other little charge, J., pointed out the boats along the river and the trains. The field trip was the end note of a unit on community. The height of the tower allowed the kids to see just how big their community really is.

By then, everyone was hungry and the kids were having trouble maintaining a good behavior standard. We hauled back to Ogilvie Station to have lunch at McDonald's in the food court on the first floor. Unfortunately, it was 12:30 when we arrived and the food court was packed with office workers, so it was hard to get seats. However, we did manage to get all the kids seated and eating their McNugget meals. The Dad came over from his office to meet us and I dashed over to Arby's to get something for myself. I bought both The Boy and J. a cookie from Mrs. Field's to eat on the train, inadvertently sparking a trend among other parents on the trip.

We managed to score most of a car to ourselves for the train ride back. With full tummies, the kids' energy returned and the ride back was noisy with the energetic chattering of 50 happy kindergarteners. It started to rain just as we pulled into the station, so The Boy, J., and I raced back to school before the sky really opened up. It was a lot of fun.

Monday, November 03, 2008

I am not a tourist

...but going downtown makes me happy. Today was a Football Sunday, which meant The Dad took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot out to the suburbs to watch the Bears' game and play with their cousins. I had the afternoon to myself. So I did what I used to love doing in the days before I had children: I went shopping.

I took the bus eastward and transferred to the Red Line. Rode the Red Line down to Chicago Avenue. The Dad bought me an iPod Nano last year for my birthday, but I use it so infrequently that I didn't have it charged. Also, I must confess that after listening to non-stop chatter whenever I go anywhere with my children, it's nice to listen to the regular city sounds of the bus, the train, etc. when I am using public transportation. I suppose if I still commuted everyday, I'd want to shut out the sounds of the world and listen to music or audio books, but for as rare as a solo trip on the bus/L is for me these days, I am just as content to do the Trib's Sunday crossword puzzle during the 1 hour trip from my house to 900 North Michigan Avenue.

Although I had been feeling under-the-weather this weekend, the 4-block walk to my destination was envigorating. I love Chicago all the time, but it was especially beautiful today with the warm, sunny weather and fall foilage. There were tourists pushing strollers, peaceful demonstrators handing out pamphlets about Palestine and Israel, suburban moms with big hair and shopping bags, and impatient hipsters in low-top Cons and skinny jeans.

My destination within the Bloomies building was this store; with my nursing days nearly behind me, I'm ready for a change. Ten minutes and $200 later, I was ready for lunch. I browsed in Williams-Sonoma for a bit (I'm lusting after the 3.5-qt Le Creuset dutch oven), got a not-very-good, overpriced sandwich from the coffee bar on the first floor, and walked across the street to Water Tower Place.

I hadn't realized that American Girl Place had moved from its old digs on Chicago Avenue to the northwest corner of WTP. It was cute to see all the girls and their dolls. I've never been inside the store, but I've heard that it's crazy inside. When The Girl was a baby, I was dreading the inevitable trip to AG to buy a doll and have tea. Now that she's getting closer to the age when I might get her a doll, I think it might be fun to take her to AG on a weekday outside of the holiday season.

When I was in junior high school, WTP felt like the destination along the Mag Mile. Back then, there weren't as many flagship stores and there certainly weren't as many shopping centers along Michigan Avenue as there are now. I remember when getting safari t-shirts at Banana Republic was all the rage; the store is still in the same space -- all airy and modern with signs announcing its 30th anniversary. When I looked at it, I could see a closed-in space with fake palm trees and bush props from 20 years ago in my mind's eye. The rest of WTP looks the same as it did in 1988
(all chrome and glass and glare).

As part of my self-improvement day, I went to Sephora to pretty up my face. I have never been a make-up girl, although I've made various essays over the years. Another random memory: going to the Estee Lauder counter at Marshall Field's on State Street when I was 13 or so. I ended up with a 4-product combination that I think I can get on my face every morning, and left a happy, tired woman.

I stopped at the world's stuffiest Starbucks on Chicago Avenue for an iced tea on the way back to the L. I took the more direct route home: the Red Line to Washington to the Blue Line and back home.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Playgroup Reunion

This morning, we had a reunion of sorts of our playgroup. The occasion for the get-together was Ben C.'s 3rd birthday party at Pump It Up in Lisle. The Boy and The Girl had a fantastic time bouncing on the huge, generator-powered inflatables. The Tot also seemed to have a good time, although he could only climb up (and slide back down) the triangular wedges at the base of each unit. The Dad mainly helped him. Truth be told, I should not have been there as I was feeling under-the-weather.

Meanwhile, I caught up with three moms (and one dad) of our original playgroup. It's weird to think that two of our playgroup families have been suburbanites for longer than three years. It also seems strange to me that the original kid members are now all in kindergarten; it was interesting to see how much the kids still recognized and related to each other.

We all had pizza and cupcakes after the jumping bits, and then headed back into the city. We took the Eisenhower back in so that The Dad could stop by Red Eye Eyewear to pick up his new glasses. Everyone (save The Dad, who was driving) passed out in the car on the way home. When we got home, I took a much-needed 4-hour nap.

Chicago Mama, Exhausted Mama

We celebrated Halloween in our neighborhood this evening. As usual, a ton of trick-or-treaters visited our house in search of candy, and the neighborhood was filled with happy little groups of costumed kids and their parents. Our friends Stella and Frances came over with their mom and little brother to go T-o-Ting with us. We made it just a bit further than we usually do, but after a trip down our street and the street just east of us with 5-6 kids, I was pretty tired. The Tot was in a crabby mood, so we dropped him off after the first block, leaving him with The Dad to hand out candy.

The Dad ordered a pizza for us all; it was a nice antidote to all that sugar and red dye no. 7.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Treasure Store

I went to the Treasure Store (this time the Unique in my neighborhood) twice this week. Once on Monday because it was 1/2 price day to look for accessories for The Boy's Halloween costume (score! a cream turtleneck for Luke Skywalker for 75 cents), and again today to look for a warmer jacket for The Tot (no dice; there isn't much in warm, stylish jackets for either boys or girls).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Disney II PTA

Disney II PTA has been formed! Tonight, I attended the office meeting to charter the Disney II PTA. It was a long meeting, with a lot of discussion about member dues.

I'm Secretary of the new organization. Now that that's out of the way, you can click beyond to read more about the rest of the meeting.

Ruth Johnston (RJ), Chicago-area Field Service Representative for the Illinois PTA organization, called the meeting to order at just after 6 p.m. About 70 parents, teachers, and Disney II Principal Chkoumbova were present at the Disney II gym/auditorium, 3815 N. Kedvale, Chicago. Renee -------, interim PTA planning chair, was also present. Caroline Bilicki served as Secretary Pro Tem.

Employing Robert’s Rules of Order, RJ began the meeting with a brief introduction of her background, role, and PTA mission.

Renee gave a brief recap of the October 14 planning meeting, outlining the group’s goals for tonight’s meeting, including establishing an executive board for the Disney II PTA and setting up committees.

RJ reiterated PTA’s mission/background (see 10-14-08 meeting minutes) and asked audience members to state their reasons for coming to the meeting tonight. She said, “You have a voice! We want you to be active and have a part in this. Our mission is parents coming together to advocate for children.” Steve K----, Sandra B-------, Lisa G----, Tiffany O---, and Rachel C---- spoke.

A Name to Make it Official

With no more questions about PTA, RJ moved to the first order of business: establishing a name for our group. This is a necessary step in establishing our organization, filing paperwork with the national organization, and receiving non-profit status

After a brief discussion, there was a motion from the floor to name our PTA group Disney II PTA. Seconded. There was a motion from the floor to waive future discussion and go straight to a vote on name. Seconded. Both motions passed by a show-of-hands vote.

We are Disney II PTA.

A Membership Drive and Dues

RJ led us to our next (and most contentious) order of business: establishing membership dues. A lengthy discussion ensued amongst many audience members. RJ reminded us that $3.25 of each member’s dues will go to the national organization. Dues are paid on an academic year. Other schools/groups structure their dues at $20 with 2 membership cards, $15 with 2 membership cards, $12 with 2 membership cards, $10 with 1 membership card, $5-6 with 1 membership card. She said that PTA is not a fundraising tool in and of itself. There is no proxy voting allowed according to PTA national by-laws (Disney II PTA will establish its own by-laws during a November board/by-laws meeting).

Motion from the floor to make 1 family = 1 member. Later rescinded.

Motion from the floor to make 1 membership fee = $10 with board discretion to waive fees in cases of financial need. Later rescinded.

Motion from the floor to establish dues of $10 per person and$20 per family (with 2 membership cards). Motion to vote. Seconded. In stand-up-and-be-counted vote, motion is defeated 29 to 26.

Motion from the floor to establish dues of $5 per person as a suggested minimum donation. Motion to vote. Seconded. In stand-up-and-be-counted vote, motion is passed 40+ to 4 with several abstentions.

Election of Officers

The next item on the agenda was to elect officers. RJ called for additional nominations from the floor. Initially, there were none. RJ presented the candidates by reading their statements. They were:

  • Tony M---, President
  • Brenda D---, Vice president
  • Martina G---, Vice president
  • Caroline Pollock Bilicki, Secretary
  • Steve K----, Treasurer

Each stood up to identify him/herself to the audience.

Motion from the floor to consider making 2 VP positions on the board. RJ led discussion. Motion to table discussion of succession of power from president to 2 VPs. Motion from the floor to name 2 VPs to executive board. Seconded. Move to vote. In show-of-hands-vote, motion is passed nearly unanimously.

RJ reiterated call for nominations for PTA President. None. Nominations closed.

RJ reiterated call for VP nominations. Tony M--- nominated Ron S----, who accepted the nomination. Ron lives in the neighborhood, has a son in the tuition-based preschool at Disney II, has experience serving on non-profit boards, and wants to maintain a high quality of life for our children.

The other VP candidates also had a chance to present themselves.

RJ reiterated call for nominations for PTA Secretary. None. Nominations closed.

RJ reiterated call for nominations for PTA Treasurer. None. Nominations closed.

Motion from RJ to vote by show of hands to elect President, Secretary, and Treasurer. Seconded. All candidates were voted in for these positions.

Voting commenced by paper ballot for the positions of co-VPs. Renee, Caroline D., and Helen administered ballots. Brenda D---, Martina G--- elected co-VPs with 40 and 43 votes, respectively. Ron S---- received 23 votes.

Membership Drive Commences

With voting out of the way and time slipping away, RJ invited members-to-be to pay their dues and get their official membership cards.

Fiscal Year Vote

After the break, RJ moved to the final agenda items, including determining the organization’s fiscal year. Motion to forgo discussion and vote on July 1 – June 30 fiscal year. Seconded. Motion passed unanimously by a show-of-hands vote.

What’s Next?

Tony M---, new PTA president, called for volunteers for a by-laws review committee. This meeting will take place sometime in January. Please contact him if you’d like to help with this task.

The new PTA board will work with Ms. Chkoumbova to determine a date in December for a general PTA meeting. With that, Tony adjourned tonight’s meeting.

Copies of these meeting minutes can be found on the PTA Google group or with Ms. Santiago in the school office.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Annual Apple (Pumpkin) Picking Trip

Today, we trekked up to Woodstock, Illinois for the 4th annual Chicago Mama apple-picking trip. Unfortunately, all the apples were down, so it became a pumpkin-picking trip only. The Dad and I knew about the apples before we left in the morning, but The Boy and The Girl did not learn this until we arrived at the apple orchard and learned that the shop was closed. (The Dad and I did not know the shop would be closed; we were hoping to at least buy some apples.)

It was just as well that the picking season was over. It was darn cold today, with a fierce wind. The warmest part of our day was walking through the corn maze at the Red Barn on IL-Route 47; the stalks of dried corn provided nice protection from the wind. The Boy and The Dad went through once while The Girl got her face painted. Then we all went through together, finding letters at various turns to form an anagram. Thanks to my nascent addiction to Facebook's Word Challenge, I didn't have much trouble forming witch hat out of the letters. We had lunch and pie/cake/cookies at the Red Barn also, and picked out pumpkins. The Tot was so cute trying to pull the wagon full of heavy pumpkins through the gravel on a very blustery day.

We pulled into Homestead at about 1 p.m., but the barn was completely locked and even the "Honk for Service" placard was hidden from view. We took the briefest of strolls to see the trees, and sat on the swing bench to take a family photo. Then we headed back home. The Dad obligingly swung through the parking lot of the Huntley outlets, but there wasn't anything remotely appealing on the directory list, so we headed back into the city.

Cut Rate Toys

My adventure for today was a trip to Edgebrook's Cut-Rate Toys. The purpose of my visit was to purchase a Radio Flyer Runbike to give to The Girl for Christmas. The Boy is incapable of keeping a secret (which is a good thing for a 5-year-old, in my opinion), so I brought The Tot with me on the errand.

Despite Saturday traffic, it only took us about 15 minutes to drive there. I drove up Central Avenue, which proved to be gorgeous as it wound through the Forest Reserves. Finding a metered parking spot along Devon Avenue was easy-peasy. I even let The Tot walk across the street (holding my hand, of course).

My neighbor had told me that Cut-Rate Toys was a dingy little store, but I didn't think it was that bad. It was actually quite spacious and I felt less enveloped by stuff as I have in boutique toy stores like Building Blocks Toys and Timeless Toys. It was also refreshingly not a Toys R Us imitation; that place gives me a headache after about 5 minutes. CRT had a good mix of toys -- Darda cars, Melissa & Doug sets, Lego, Brio, Fisher-Price and some party-supply quality things as well.

I found what I needed right away while The Tot discovered the train table. Cut-Rate Toys has at least one aisle of wooden train accessories (tracks, locomotives, cars, etc.), most of which are Thomas the Tank Engine or Brio. The Tot zoomed into the train table and did not move much during our 45-minute visit to the store. He cried for quite a long time when we left; he did not want to leave the choo-choos.

I had been planning to take him for an ice cream at The Chocolate Shoppe, but he wandered into a salon just before the ice cream parlor and the owner gave him a dum-dum sucker. He forgot about the trains and was a happy camper for the drive home.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Abt Comes to Visit

The lovely and always polite service people from Abt Electronics paid us a visit today. While they are always polite, they don't come to visit merely out of kindness. Instead, they came to install our new range and microhood. The range part went well -- it is so nice to have a working oven after 3+ months without one. The ignitor on our old one went kaput (again!) at the end of July as we discovered when making cookies for the neighborhood garage sale. Of course, I had just mixed up a triple batch of cookie dough when this happened. The Girl and The Boy were disappointed; The Tot was apoplectic when there were no cookies at the end of that interminable (for a 1-y/o) wait.

But today, they came, they installed, and we now have a fabulous oven! Unfortuntately, we were not so lucky with the microhood. I should know by now, but still have yet to learn after 6 years of doing projects in my 105-year-old house, that whenever I take on a project, it is going to domino into more side projects than I had originally anticipated. Such is the case with my microhood project. I now need to re-route my vent-to-outside ductwork further up the wall; anyone know a great HVAC person for this? It's such a simple thing; I feel like I should be able to do it myself, but fear becoming what I've grown to hate (as an owner of a home that is 105-years-old): a DIYer who does it badly.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Me, The Tot and .... not many others

In August, I signed The Tot up for a couple of classes, including Jammin' with Julie and the Park District's Tot Spot at Mayfair Park. I had hesitated taking The Tot to the Mayfair Tot Spot class because he seemed to be having such a hard time with Ms. Julie, a woman he's seen and heard on a near-weekly basis since birth. Plus, the weather has been nice, the class fee was extremely low ($10), and well, I just plain forgot about it a couple of times. However, today we went.

And The Tot did really well. When we arrived, the classroom was not set up. The only PD employee I saw explained that her superiors had told her not to even bother setting up the room since only 1 person had shown up for the class in the past few weeks. She showed me where the toy closet was and The Tot and I went to town taking out the PD's toys. Within about 10 minutes, another little girl and her babysitter showed up. She was the same age as The Tot, but an only child. That may seem like superfluous information, but it was really apparent in the way they both played and related to each other. If they were interested in the same toy, The Tot often desisted and went to play with something else until she became bored with the contested toy; then he circled back to pick it up again.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Choo-Choo Train

It occurred to me recently that as I pass through the viaduct under the L and Kennedy Expressway every day -- even multiple times each day -- I really ought to take The Tot and/or The Girl on it and go somewhere. Today, we did.

After dropping The Boy and The Girl off at school this morning, The Tot and I rode the blue line four stops southeast to Logan Square. Unlike his older brother at a similar age, The Tot found the train to be a very curious thing -- although he much enjoyed his train-platform-view of the cars stuck in traffic on the eastbound Kennedy at 9 a.m. this morning.

It only took us about 10 minutes to get to Logan Square, so we had a lot of time to kill before our destination -- The Gap Outlet -- opened at 10 a.m. I took him into Pierre's Bakery for a cookie and some coffee. We were pretty much the only boolays in there. I ordered a cherry empanada, but they had a huge selection of traditional Mexican/Latin American pastry. I want to go back to try a concha, which a man was selecting just as I was leaving -- he said that they are great. We sat at a table near the bank of windows looking onto Milwaukee Avenue to eat our snack.

At 10, we headed up to Gap Outlet. I needed to return a sweater for The Dad; the sales assistant gave me a hard time about it, mistaking the natural flubs in the knit for dirt, missing the (still attached) tags, and claiming it had been worn. She did take it back, but said she'd "damage" it out. It wasn't damaged, but whatever. It was annoying. I did try on two pairs of jeans at the recommendation of the merchandiser who happened to be in the store today, although I didn't get either. The straight legs were too low in the waist (mama of three needs something to keep in that stretched out middle) and the flare legs were too much like the jeans I already own (for which I paid $4 at the Treasure Store).

We finished up and walked back to the L stop at Spaulding, stopping along the way at one of the miscellaneous cheap-junk/household goods shops. I got a pair of tweezers for less than $1 and a resolve to go back next time I need glass canisters for anything. Except for some large die-cast cars, the toys and baby gear were crap, but they had a decent (and cheap) selection of kitchen goods.

After we got back to our neighborhood (The Tot was the object of attention from several of our co-riders on the L), we capped off the morning with a round of swing at the playground before picking The Girl up from preschool.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Northbrook Court

The elf had some shopping to do, so The Tot and I headed directly up to Hanna Andersson in Northbrook Court after school drop-off this morning. I made excellent time on the Edens, so we got there well before the stores were open. I let The Tot explore a bit -- he dug the escalators, of course, as well as the water feature near the elevator. We swung past The Corner Bakery for a latte and a Monster cookie for The Tot (He's learned how to say "bite," which is the cutest thing. He'll say it, open his mouth wide, and shove the proffered item into my mouth) and went over to the center treehouse to eat/drink them.

The treehouse was not very busy, and the kids who were there were primarily wee ones like The Tot or 3-year-old girls like The Girl. I was thankful for this as it allowed The Tot to feel comfortable enough to explore the structure while I drank my lukewarm coffee (my least favorite thing about the suburbs: cold "hot" drinks!*). Unfortunately, he didn't get to stay and play for too long; we had to get back to the city by 11:30 to fetch The Girl from preschool, so we skedaddled upstairs as soon as the shops opened. I also accidentally left The Tot's jacket hanging on the fence by the treehouse, so we got to make an extra trip on the escalators. In the span of 45 minutes, I managed to hit HA, Gymboree, and the Stride Rite store for a new pair of shoes for The Tot. And I still got to school well before 11:30.

* in the interest of fairness, I'll note my most favorite thing about the suburbs: cheap(er) gas.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Neighborhood Favorites

I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot with me this morning for "the usual" at Curio Cafe. It was packed. We managed to snag a table (it helps that we can cram into a 2-top), but a party of 5 that came in just after us had to wait a bit. The Tot got into a bit of a scuffle with the little boy sitting next to us; they both wanted the same activity cube. It had been the other boy's toy in a previous life and he did not want The Tot (or anyone else) to play with it. I've had more enjoyable meals at Curio, but that was more a function of taking 3 kids and the ad section of the paper to breakfast on a Sunday morning.

When I got home, Uncle Brian and the cousins came over for Football Sunday. The Tot was in heaven. He loves football. I ran a few shopping errands (Gap Outlet, Kohl's, The Home Depot) for The Dad. Then we took a family walk to the newly unveiled playground equipment at Athletic Field Park, at The Boy's request. It's quite a bit further than the playground at Independence Park, but it's quite nice. They've installed a new water feature between the original covered playground building and the basketball courts. It was obviously not working in 55-degree October weather, but I'm delighted at the prospect of sitting in the shade while The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot frolic in the spray park in front of me.

Plus, Meg and Tracy in park management are lovely people. Meg retrieved my keys from the ceramics studio for me on Friday, after I discovered I'd left them there after pottery class.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


The Dad took The Boy and The Girl to Nickel City this afternoon, leaving me and The Tot at home for some much-needed rest. I took a long nap. The Dad balanced the video games with a trip to Barnes & Noble to read, browse, and buy books. He also took them to Chili's for dinner.

Friday, October 17, 2008


"Back to school" is my favorite time of year. Partially because I love the fall itself -- crisp weather, crunchy leaves, apple-picking, etc. -- but partially because I love learning. Whenever my brain stagnates a little too much, I start dreaming about school. Because The Boy started kindergarten, and The Girl started preschool this year, I preempted my subconscious by taking a class myself. I had wanted to take a French conversation class at l'Alliance Francaise, but it just seemed like too much for us all to start fresh.

Instead, I signed up for a wheel pottery class at Athletic Field Park's ceramics studio. It's challenging in a much different way than French would have been. Pottery is definitely outside of my comfort zone, but so far, I've really enjoyed. I've yet to make anything, but that's not entirely the point. It's both strange and nice to hang out with people who aren't women, parents, or experienced career-people.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

An afternoon nap

Sunday afternoons in football season are usually my "day off." However, with The Girl and The Boy off to Grandma-and-Grandpa Naperville's house for the night and the mercury rising to a nearly obscene level for early October, I was not feeling up to my usual level of home improvement activity. When we returned from the Arb, I took The Tot on a walk to Home Depot for a hacksaw and white wood putty. By the time I got home at 3 p.m., I was ready for a nap. The Dad took The Tot to El Potosi for guacamole and chips (he was thoroughly unimpressed with his cheese quesadilla), while I enjoyed an exceedingly rare Sunday afternoon nap.

Hey Look! It's the Bardoes

On Friday afternoon, The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I headed over to the Bardoe family's house for pizza and playing. Everyone had fun -- even The Girl, who was bemoaning the fact that there were "no girls" (her age) with whom to play.

On Saturday evening, I agreed to babysit for the (sleeping) Bardoe children while their parents went out to dinner. I read Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd and took a nap. They also live within greater Independence Park, so I walked home in less than 10 minutes.

This morning, The Dad ran into the Bardoe family in the parking lot outside the Morton Arboretum. We aren't normally dressed at 9 a.m. on a Sunday, let alone in Lisle on a family outing, but we were meeting Grandma and Grandpa Naperville at the park for breakfast and a walking tour of the decorated scarecrows. Columbus Day afforded The Boy and The Girl a rare weekday off and they were invited to spend the night at Grandma and Grandpa Naperville's house. This is what people who don't watch football do with their autumnal Sundays!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

When Worlds Collide

It's not often that this happens, but this afternoon's activity merged several of my special interests -- stuff to do in Chicago with kids, neighborhood events, and kids' clothing/shopping -- quite nicely. The event which made my mind-meld a reality was the OIPA Parents' Committee's 3rd annual Fall Fest at the playground at Disney II. With help from Jenna E., I organized a kids' clothing swap to complement the event. The clothing swap went quite well, I think. So well that I'd like to find a way to do another one in the spring. I dropped off 3 bins' worth of clothing to the Salvation Army afterward; we gave away 12+ bins' worth of stuff during the 2-hour festival.

The most amusing part of the swap for me was when a couple of 7-8-year-old girls came up and asked me where all the girls' size 8-10 stuff was. When I explained that someone had already claimed it, they looked aghast at the thought. "You mean they just came and took it?!?" Well, yes; that was the point. Apparently, they took the clothing swap for a shopping opportunity.

The Dad came to watch the kids, although Jenna and I took turns "supervising" the swap and hanging out with our families. The Dad was certainly not the only father with babes in arms while mom enjoyed a social moment. I ran into several people I know, which always gives me a sense of satisfaction at community events. It's so nice to be a part of something.

The park was packed with little kids; I know that The Girl, The Boy, and The Tot certainly got my money's worth ($3 each) out of the event. The most popular booth was by far the face-painting/hair coloring area, which had a long line throughout most of the event. The Girl came out looking like a pink-and-green fairy, while The Boy's towhead was temporarily rendered navy blue.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Make New Friends, But Keep the Old

One is silver, the other gold. It's been 14 years since I've been a Girl Scout, and the GS credo is still branded in my brain. Today, I got to hang out with one of my oldest friends, Cara, and her daughter Grace. With her oldest two in school in Aurora, and The Boy in school in Chicago, we don't get to see each other as much these days. We did see each other a few weeks' ago, but parties are only good for catching up if you're not the host.

Grace and The Tot had fun eating Dunkin' Donuts munchkins and playing in the bathroom sink together for about an hour at our house before we all piled into The Great White Moose to pick The Girl up from preschool and go to lunch.

We had lunch at one of my favorite spots in the area: Curio Cafe. When we arrived, a group of (impossibly skinny for just having given birth!) moms and nursing newborns was just finishing up. It turns out that it was the monthly meeting of La Leche League of Lincoln Park. The Lincoln Park must be a misnomer, because Avondale is a long way from LP. They meet the second Friday of the month at 10 a.m. - noon at Curio Cafe. C'est tant pis pour moi; I'm long past the point of needing LLL, but perhaps it will help someone else.

Cara had the steak sandwich; I had the plato tipico and they were both very good. Both little girls had grilled cheese, sliced apples, and grape Honest Juice pouches. The Tot had the alphabet noodles with cheese, which (while good) wasn't up to par, and finished the rest of the girls' sandwiches.

After lunch, we headed southeast to hit the Treasure Store, where we both flipped the racks for cute kids' clothes. I spent far too much money and made Cara late to pick up her kids from school. She did better, scoring a pair of MiniBoden pants in size 7/8 for $2.50. The Tot, The Girl, and Grace drove us nuts by playing in the racks.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Around the Neighborhood

I miss going to museums. These days, we've been sticking close to home. Between The Girl's preschool day and The Tot's nap time, there just isn't a lot of time to go anywhere. In the mornings, while The Girl is in preschool and The Boy is at school, The Tot and I go to thrift stores (last week, I got a fantastic, solid wood credenza [to use as a media stand] for $35), run errands, putter around the house, go to the park, drink coffee at Starbucks, and jam with Julie.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


After The Girl's ballet class, The Boy went over to play at Enver's house while The Tot, The Girl, and I went home to get ready for a birthday party. We were all cranky. The Tot slept for 1/2 an hour and woke up crying. The Dad asked me if I thought The Tot felt feverish. I said no, but then The Dad realized that I felt feverish. The Tot kept rubbing his eye and crying; we had just missed his pediatrician's Saturday hours, so we went to Urgent Care at Children's Memorial Hospital. The Girl stayed home with The Dad.

It turns out that The Tot had only a virus and had irritated his own eye from rubbing it so much. I'd like to point out now how much I am impressed by pediatricians in general, and the pediatrician at CMH who we saw today. They have such great tricks for engaging little people, making them comfortable with the doctor, and thus being allowed to examine the child. For some reason, this amazes me.

Afterward, I cruised through Whole Foods for chicken noodle soup and dinner, and picked up The Boy on the way home. Not surprisingly, The Tot fell asleep in the car and woke up in a much better mood.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


The Girl had ballet this morning at ARCC with Peri, and then we went to a garage sale.


Once upon a time, we went out to the 'burbs on a weekly basis. These days, the school day is much longer and the price of gas much higher and, consequently, we don't make it out as often. Today, however, was a special occasion: Gracie's 4th birthday.

We dropped The Boy off at school this morning, but when the bell rang at 8:50 a.m., The Girl did not run inside to her own classroom, but instead hopped in The Great White Moose with me and The Tot for the drive out to the western 'burbs. Our ultimate destination was the Bounce Town in Oswego, but we made stops at both Oakbrook Centre (for sheets at PBK and in-person shopping for a friend at Hanna Andersson) and IKEA-Bolingbrook.

Until recently, I had never even heard of Oswego. It is far from the city. It is far even from Aurora. It felt like I was driving forever down Ogden, past warehouses and strip malls full of big box stores that used to be farmland and prairie. We got there a bit late, but The Girl had a bit of time to climb on the giant, inflatable structures before we adjourned to the party room for pizza, cake, and to watch the present-opening. The Tot was a bit overwhelmed by all the unfamiliar little people; he stuck close to me the whole time. The Girl hugged Gracie good-bye and we headed back into the city.


Grandma Naperville came to visit today. She watched The Tot and The Girl while I had an appointment, and she stuck around to play with The Boy after school. We stopped at Smoque on the walk home and picked up some BBQ brisket to go. Yum!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Football Sundays

More home projects while The Kids went with The Dad to Uptown.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Mother's Day Out/Co-op is a non-starter for The Tot. He started crying when his teacher, Ms. Becky, said hello to him today, and pretty much continued until I came back for him at 11:00 a.m. The class is filled with boys and they were all setting each other off on crying jags. As much as I would love some kid-free time, he is not ready for MDO at 17-months-old. I had the same debate with myself when The Girl was the same age, and came to the same conclusion. She went happily into the class after the Christmas break; I am hopeful that The Tot will follow in his big sister's footsteps.

For now, he'll get lots of one-on-one time with Mama in the mornings while The Girl is at preschool (and The Boy is in kinder). The 2.5-hours of preschool does not give us a wide enough window to do much or go too far, but The Tot has been happy enough to cruise around Target and Trader Joe's, or putter around the house, with me in the mornings.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Football Sundays

The Dad and his brother are continuing their tradition of Football Sundays. The Dad takes The Boy, The Girl and, for the first time, The Tot, with him to visit their cousins and watch football. One week, my brood goes over to their uncle's house and one week, the uncle and cousins come here. I get the afternoon off. The kids get to hang out with their cousins (two girls: aged 5.5 and 9) and The Dad gets to watch football with his brother. Everyone is happy.

I spent the afternoon at home, puttering around the house. I finished hacking out the useless range hood over our stove, hung a lamp in The Girl's room, and took a walk in the rain to K-Mart and back. I also discovered leaks in our roof, hauling up to the attic to inspect the source and find something to catch the drips. While I was up there, I also found an old kitchen drawer that matches what we have already. Maybe I can use it in my new over-the-range hood/microwave project.

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Our block party was canceled because of the rain, so we needed a way to occupy two disappointed kids (and a clueless Tot). Unlike the rest of Chicagoland, who stayed home to bail out basements and watch movies, The Dad and I loaded the kids into the car and headed north to Glenview this afternoon. The purpose of our visit was to shop for new kitchen appliances at Abt Electronics. It took less than 10 minutes. But we spent over an hour wandering around the showrooms and atrium in the store. The Tot loved the atrium's fountain, The Boy and The Girl were entranced by the bell sculpture, The Dad scoped out the Apple store within Abt. Me? I just wanted the freshly baked, free chocolate chip cookies.

Afterwards, we stopped at Pita Inn for kifta plates, falafel, and lamb kebabs. Yum! The parking lot next door was a giant pool of water and some of the roads that we had taken up to Glenview were closed on the way back due flooding. When we got home, Independence Park was a giant mud puddle, so the kids and I played in it for a bit before heading home for a hot bath.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Pet Store

Perhaps it's because I don't have any pets, but I never think of going to the pet store with the kids. It is almost better than the aquarium -- no crowds and no entrance fee -- for The Tot. He loved looking at the wall of fish, mice, birds, and hamsters at Pet Supplies Plus when we went this evening to pick up guppy food for our new fish.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Labor Day

This year's Labor Day was momentous in that it was the first time that it was the last day of summer for us. The Boy officially starts school as a Kindergartener tomorrow. As such, we had a very low-key, relaxed sort of day.

I made a salad caprese in the morning and we packed it, The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot into the car and headed to Cara's house for a Labor Day cookout. We stopped at Oakbrook Centre so that I could make a return, and to have lunch (Nordstrom Cafe; it was The Dad's first time!) beforehand. We had planned to leave the cookout by 5 or so to ensure that The Boy and The Girl got into bed on-time and with routines intact, but it didn't work out that way. All three kids fell asleep on the car ride home. The Boy was so exhausted that he transferred into his bed, but The Tot came with me to Walgreen's and The Girl stayed up watching TV before she tiring out enough to go back to bed.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


We made our annual family trip to Kiddieland today. We had planned to go on Wednesday, but discovered that they had closed for the workweek on August 23. We've gone the past two years in August as well, sweltering in the heat and sun. Located just outside of Chicago at North and 1st Avenues in Melrose Park, Kiddieland is a small amusement park catering to the 4-8-year-old set. Most of the rides are designed for kids under 48", but there are a fair number that are for older kids and adults.

The park now offers e-tickets, so I bought our tickets online this morning. Ticket prices have increased to $23 for kids over 6 and adults, and $20 for kids 3-6 and seniors. When we arrived, we bypassed the out-to-the-edge-of-the-parking-lot line and went straight into the park at 11 a.m. The Boy wanted to go on the Kiddieland Unlimited first, but it wasn't working properly. I don't know whether it was because it was the end of the season or just coincidence, but "out of order" seemed to be a loose theme for the day. Later, I stood in line for 20 minutes to get a slushie only to learn when I got to the window that the machine was broken. And there was no soap for handwashing in the bathrooms.

The Boy has been begging to go to Kiddieland all summer. He was in heaven when today finally arrived. He and The Dad paired off for much of our visit, going on rides for which The Girl and The Tot were still too little (or too scared): Log Jammer, Scooters, Dip-N-Drop (roller coaster). In addition to these, he enjoyed the Kiddieland Unlimited, Roto-Whip, the pump-your-own-train-car in the Volcano Playcenter, and the Raceabouts. I also took him on the Scooters, which was really fun -- the bumper cars were my childhood favorite ride -- we had great fun ramming into people around us.

Unlike his older sister when we visited the park in 2006, The Tot only tolerated some of the rides and downright disliked others. He seemed to do OK by himself on the tiny racecar ("Midge-O-Racer") ride and was fine in the Kiddieland Unlimited and carousel with me. The highlights of the trip for him were a bucket of popcorn and a Popsicle Cherry Calypso cup.

The Girl's favorite rides this year were pretty much the same as they were on our first visit: the Roto-Whip, Little Autos, Dune Buggies, and the Raceabouts. She also rode the carousel, train, swings, and did the hand-cars once (and then got upset when the guide wouldn't let her go around again because she had had to push The Girl most of the way around the track). Unlike in previous years, she did not want to ride the flying elephants. She was frustrated by being just barely too short for many of the rides, especially since The Boy was finally tall enough to ride them. The Dad and I took turns taking her on the Raceabouts, which she really seemed to enjoy.

For some reason, I overestimate the food every year. My stomach always hurts after an afternoon at Kiddieland -- all that corn syrup, grease,and red dye -- although I managed to skip the Pepsi products this year. Instead, to stay hydrated in the 90-degree heat, we filled and refilled our 3 SIGG bottles with water. Maybe next year I'll employ my brain and pack a cooler lunch to eat in the car.

Other tips from this year: Because it was so loud, The Dad and I mostly communicated via text messages while we were separated. We brought in our wagon, but it was unwieldly and the only person who really wanted to ride was The Tot, so we swapped it out for our stroller and everyone was just as happy -- especially The Tot, who later fell asleep in it.

XRT, Afternoon BBQ

Due to the holiday weekend, ARCC was closed; in the absence of ballet class getting us out of the house on a Saturday morning, we just lazed around in our PJs until noon. The Dad did some repair work on the garage rain gutters. And then I started painting a vanity table and stool in the garage, while rocking out to XRT. I forgot how much I like that station; The Girl wants to listen to Aqua's "Barbiegirl"ad nauseum in the car. It was nice to have some time alone during daylight hours to work on a project.

Later, we got dressed and went out, although we stayed in the 'hood. We went over to Caroline D.'s house for a late-afternoon cook-out. Allison and her kids were also there. It was very nice and the kids (mostly) played well together.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back to School Carnival

On Tuesday, we will officially be Disney II parents. Last night was the "back to school" carnival, a somewhat chaotic, but very fun and neighborly 2-hour event in and around the new Disney II. The Dad, The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I caravanned over to the school at 5 p.m. for the start of the carnival. The Dad pushed the stroller, while I pulled The Boy's filled-to-the-brim blue IKEA bag of school supplies in the wagon.

We saw The Boy's new classroom (a modified "pod" structure that uses a partition to separate two kindergarten classrooms) and met his teacher, and ran our eyes over the class list. I think I knew one person in my class on the first day of kindergarten; The Boy will know five. All summer long he has declared that he doesn't want to go to school, but either its inevitability finally dawned on him or he found the carnival super fun because this morning he told Grandma Texas that he is going to kindergarten on Tuesday. Phew!

The Dad has been volunteering with the technology coordinator in the building all week; he was impressed by how much they had gotten done renovations-wise in only 48 hours. The Girl's classroom was still under construction, so she didn't get to see it. But she did get to meet her teacher, Mr. Manesis, again and ended up playing with his 3-y/o girl on the playground.

We saw the building, dropped off supplies, ran into lots and lots of people we knew, ate food from Smoque and Chicago's Pizza & Pasta, watched the Jesse White Tumblers, and ran ourselves crazy on the playground. The Tot, The Girl, and The Boy were all exhausted by the time we left and got them all into bed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Wanes

We got up and out this morning to meet Cheryl and her kids at the North Park Village Nature Center. When we arrived in the center at 10 a.m., the guide asked us if we were there for the preschool program. We weren't--I did not know there was such a thing--but we decided to join anyway. I wish I had known about it earlier! Sean, the guide, was really good at both engaging and controlling about 15 kids aged 3-6. We read a book about water (The Water Dance) and then went outside to experiment with water and a trough of sand. The Girl was especially entranced by Sean and the outside activity, but The Boy got into it, too.

After about 1/2 an hour, I went back to find Cheryl and her kids in the discovery room. Her son joined in the river fun. Then we all went on a nature walk on the main loop. The Tot fell asleep in the sling during the walk. Around noon, we were all hungry, so we headed back to the parking lot.

I took the kids to Target for lunch and a few odds and ends. Afterwards, we stopped at a small grocery store on Peterson and Lincoln that I imagined was going to be like the Family Fruit Market. It was similar, but much smaller. At first, I thought it would be carry a lot of kosher products, given the number of Orthodox Jews I observed exiting the store, but it turns out that the specialty is Greek. We got some yummy, hand-formed Challah bread, bananas, rice milk, grape tomatoes, cauliflower, and fresh mozzarella cheese.

I took Jersey Avenue south to get home, mistakenly thinking it would turn into Kimball Avenue. Instead, it turned into Kedzie Avenue. The Boy said, "Hey, that's where S. lives!" so we turned down her street and ended up having an impromptu playdate with S., F., G., and their mother. On the way home, we stopped for another unplanned side trip: the gas station and car wash. The Girl has been begging me to go through the car wash every time she sees one or thinks about it, so I took The Great White Moose in for a bath after filling up her tank with gas. The Tot seems to have recovered from his fear of the car wash; he was wide-eyed and curious about it the trailer took us through the automatic car wash, but he did not once cry.

Last day

Today is the last day of summer vacation and I'm feeling uninspired about what to do with it. But in the middle of posting this, Cheryl called to invite us to go on a nature walk at North Park Village. Sounds good.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Errands and other things

Oof-da! What a day! We spent nearly the whole day in Lincoln Park, although not continuously.

In the morning, The Boy and The Girl had back-to-school haircut appointments at Snippets. The Boy got a buzz, The Girl got a gorgeous bob. And The Tot watched intently. The receptionist commented that the kids were really well-behaved. As much as I'd like to believe that's good parenting, I think it's more likely because it was 9:30 a.m. and they were fresh for the day. But, I'll take whatever I can get.

Afterwards, because we were right there, we took a gander through the Treasure Store. The Boy really dislikes the Treasure Store, but after awhile, he stopped complaining and resigned himself to the inevitability of the trip. Today's finds: Charlie Rocket shorts for The Tot, a cute jean skirt for The Girl, and two purses for me.

Then we went to lunch at the hot dog factory (Vienna Beef Factory & Cafe on Fullerton, Damen, and Elston). Although The Tot and I have been a number of times, it was The Girl's and The Boy's first time. They were really excited about it. It seems to be a popular lunch spot for area workers, they don't seem to get a lot of kids in there. Everyone regarded The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot with amusement as they enthusiastically ate their hot dogs, pickles, and fries (and squabbled over whose turn it was to drink the cream soda).

We returned home to let The Tot nap. The Girl, The Boy, and I played a few rounds of Memory while he napped.

When he woke up, we headed back to Lincoln Park to visit the cardiology department of Children's Memorial Hospital so that The Tot could get some tests (ped found a murmur). It was a long visit, but The Girl and The Boy were amused by three consecutive episodes of (the forbidden in our house) Spongebob Squarepants, plus the tech brought them each of the same little toys that he brought to distract The Tot from the ultrasound microphone. We did a quick cruise around The White Elephant on the way back to the car, and then headed home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Green Mamas

The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I were out of the house like a shot this morning to visit the Butterfly Museum before The Tot needed a nap. It, too, was deserted. We checked in our stroller, played around in Riverworks (The Tot was soaked) and then were the only 3 kids in Hands on Habitat for quite awhile. While there, I noticed an informational flyer about the museum's early childhood green programs. Alas, The Boy gets out of school later than the museum's 3:30 p.m. start time for kids 5-7 and The Girl is in preschool during the 9:30 slot for kids aged 3-4. One side of the flyer advertised the "Eco-Mama Cafe," a new class/discussion group for new/green moms. It's for babies under 6 months. I am bummed because I would totally go for something like that if it were geared toward The Tot.

Anyway... I used the opportunity of putting 3 sets of laced-up shoes back on their little feet to start teaching The Boy and The Girl how to tie their shoes. The Girl was really interested. The Boy, for whom this skill is more pressing, was not. Then we walked down the hall to the vending area and had snacks: cheese sticks and apples for The Tot and The Girl, celery with peanut butter for The Boy.

We went upstairs to see the butterflies next. The Boy didn't want to go through the haven, so he stayed in the information area outside the haven while The Girl, The Tot, and I zipped through. The Girl cracks me up because she really wanted to see the butterflies, but once we got in the haven, she showed trepidation about exploring the area: she would not let go of my hand and moved with me the whole time. She was scared of a butterly landing on her. The Tot, meanwhile, found the butterflies quite interesting and didn't mind when one lost its way and fluttered against his neck before flying away. He wanted to touch the butterflies.

We went back downstairs to check out the marsh exhibit, but The Tot was done by that point. He kept walking over to the Riverworks area and would not be deterred, so we called it a day and went home. The Tot fell asleep in the car.