Monday, March 31, 2008

Fishies and Dolphins and Lizards

In honor of The Boy's last day of Spring Break, we made a family outing to the John G. Shedd Aquarium, at his request. Because admission is so expensive, I decided just to join the aquarium. Two more trips and we've paid for it. And because they are closing the aquarium for a bit in September for renovations, they are giving everyone 15-month memberships.

We hit a traffic detour due to the unforeseen Shamrock Shuffle, which was finishing up down Roosevelt Road as we got downtown, but still made it down to the Shedd by 10:30. As The Boy knows, I am cheap when it comes to parking; the meters were full by the time we got there, so The Dad dropped us off and went to park in our secret spot.

The Boy mostly determined our aquarium route. They were doing the diver-in-the-tank thing in the Rotunda when we first arrived, so we watched that for a bit. Then The Girl wanted to see the penguins, so we crossed over to the Oceanarium to see the penguins , whales, and dolphins in the underwater tanks. The Baby toddled around a bit. We watched a dolphin show at 11:30, and then crossed back over to the aquarium to see the sharks in the Wild Reef exhibit. The Baby liked watching the fish if he was with daddy; if I was around, he just wanted me to hold him. We crossed back over to the Oceanarium side again for lunch. It was so crowded that they had opened up a back room for overflow seating, and then the employee lunch room off of that for even more overflow seating.

After lunch, The Baby and I found a quiet corner to nurse and fall asleep while The Dad took The Boy and The Girl through the Dragons exhibit. We went back over to the main aquarium and looked at some of the main hall fish and frogs, but by then, the aquarium was super crowded and we were all quite tired. So we called it a day and went home. Everyone (save me and The Dad) fell asleep in the car on the way home. A sign of a successful outing.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Today, The Boy went to a birthday party at the River Forest Community Center. He was the only boy in a sea of girls, including his sister and the birthday girl, at the party. The Dad called him the MacDaddy. We knew that it would be all girls going in, and he still wanted to go. He had a great time. Even though the cake was Hello Kitty. ;-)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friday, School Chatter

We had a busy day yesterday.

First, The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby and I went to Jam with Julie. We were actually the only family to sign up for the 9 a.m. slot, so she wasn't sure if she was going to hold the class or not. The Baby took an early nap and woke up at 9 a.m., so we didn't make it over there until 9:30 anyway. We were the only ones there, so The Girl and The Boy ran around and I talked to Julie about (what else?) schools until the other kids showed up for the 10 a.m. class, for which we also stayed.

Julie's kids were at Disney until about 4th grade, and then transferred into her/our local school, Belding. I think it's good testimony that someone who is around so many people outside of our neighborhood and in much more influential/tony parts of the City (she teaches at the Old Town School) still sent her children to the local school and has something good to say about the experience.

After music class, we had planned to go to the Butterfly Museum, but it was clear and sunny, so I suggested that we go to the zoo instead. And the kids agreed. We stopped at McDonald's on Fullerton for lunch on the way, and then found street parking on Lincoln Park West (right across the street from Mon Ami Gabi), got The Baby into the stroller and walked on over to the zoo, entering by the Conservatory.

It was a clear and sunny day, but it was also windy and much colder by the Lake than I had been anticipating. We were all wearing polarfleeces and without hats and mittens, and all quite cold by the end. The zoo was pretty empty and many animals were inside, but we saw nearly everything we wanted to see in our 2-hour visit. The Boy and The Girl got to run (The Boy liked screaming and chasing the seagulls, but this random man told him to knock it off: "Kid, stop that!" because the man wanted to feed his popcorn to the birds. Fortunately, The Boy didn't really hear the man and just ran away when he spoke to him. If he had been bothered, I would have said something. Like, "hey, we're in a huge open area in the public zoo, if my kid wants to run around screaming and chasing the birds, you should go elsewhere if you have a problem with that." But he wasn't, so I didn't.)

The Baby really seemed to like the seals in the underwater viewing area. It was nice and warm down there, so we stayed for quite a bit to watch the seals swim around and around. Got to see/hear the male lion wake up and yawn quite loudly. We looked at naked mole rats in the reptile exhibit, and watched the gibbons doing their thing in the monkey house. The Baby took a nap in the stroller. We also took a quick stroll through the gorilla house and ended up at the Farm in the Zoo. The Girl was disappointed that the bees were not there -- a sign said that they were in their more "permanent" home for the winter and would be back later in the spring. The Boy and The Girl got to feed the cows in the barn. The Boy actually fed the cows; I held The Girl's hand and handed the hay to the cow, which stuck out her enormous tongue to get it.

Our visit abruptly ended when The Girl, who is flirting with potty-training, peed all over herself. She was wearing jeans and a dress, so I got her into a diaper, took off the jeans and fashioned a temporary outfit for her using The Boy's extra sweatshirt and my polarfleece vest. And then we headed back to the car. By then, the sun wasn't as high in the sky and we were mostly in shadows on the walk back to the car. With the lack of sunlight and the wind, we were all quite chilly when we got back to The Great White Moose.

Afterwards, we swung by Carter's to get The Girl some new jeans and The Baby some undershirts. Stopped in to Sur La Table so The Boy could pee and I could get some essential oils to make citrus sugar cookies. We rounded out the day with a trip to Costco, where several people commented on how I had my "hands full," most notably when The Baby nearly took a header out of the cart on the way out of the store.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Blue Line Grill & Bakery

Today, I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby to check out the new restaurant in our neighborhood. The Blue Line Grill & Bakery just opened on Irving Park Road just west of the Walgreen's.

It serves Moroccan food. Which I was not expecting. It was very good, although it was S-L-O-W coming out of the kitchen. This is not a place to grab a quick bite before catching the blue line somewhere. Coffee and a pastry, sure. But not a meal. Even a quick one. We got there at noon and we were not done until after 1, which is saying a lot for a place that doesn't have table service. They did have a kids' menu -- The Boy got a chicken tenders meal that could have fed the four of us and The Girl got an amazing cheeseburger -- but the lack of highchairs make the place decidedly not kid-friendly. Which I think is a tactical mistake for a new restaurant to make in this neighborhood -- unless they plan to get most of their business from outside the 'hood. I wonder if it's just an oversight. The Baby was happy to eat on my lap.

I ordered the ground beef kebabs, which were nicely spiced and came on a bed of lettuce and with a side of fries and bread. It needed some kind of sauce, but I had heard from a fellow lunch patron that they were out of it.

They also have an American/Moroccan mixed menu of cheeseburger, skewers, buffalo wings and things like corn on the cob and garlic mashed potatoes.

After lunch, we tried the baked goods. The Boy got a peanut butter cookie, which he didn't like. And The Girl and The Baby and I split a cinnamon roll, which was OK, but nothing special. The diner from above told me that the baked goods were better when they first opened. I will have to go back sometime for a coffee drink and a pastry to see for myself.

The decor of the place is an odd mix. The walls were painted rich, dark colors. And there is a huge back dining room with colorful photos of the Moroccan spice markets on the walls, and a Moroccan "lounge" with cushy banquettes and a couple of tables, neither of which you'd expect from a quick glance in the windows from the street.

The Blue Line Grill & Bakery is located at 4027 W. Irving Park Road. It is open M-F from 7 a.m. - 10 p.m., on Saturday from 10 a.m. - midnight, and on Sunday from 11 a.m. - 9 p.m.

It's official!

Disney II to open at Irving Park Middle School next fall.

And we're off! I downloaded, printed, and mailed The Boy's application to Disney II today. We got 5 new rejection letters from CPS in the mail today. So far, we haven't gotten into a single school to which we applied.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Photos, Schmotos

I've never yet posted photos of us on the blog. But, in online media, photos definitely add a little something to the design of text. Here are two from yesterday.

Date Night!

This blog is about fun things to do with kids in the City. There are doubtless loads of blogs about what the hip and/or childless do for fun in this town. Perhaps I should read more of them, especially on the eve of date nights with The Dad.

Right now, our date nights are uninspiring. With three kids under six, it's an accomplishment just to get them all in bed and be awake enough to leave the house and have a conversation. Still, even during our DINK/San Francisco days, the archtypical date night for us involved going out to dinner and a trip to the bookstore. But, on Saturday, we had one.

Even before the babysitter arrived, we had no idea what we were going to do for the evening. We ended up going to Whole Foods to pick up supplies for Easter brunch, and then out to Tiffin, an Indian restaurant with good reviews in the latest Zagat Guide. It was good, if a bit spicy. We split an enormous appetizer sampler and then Chicken Tikka Masala, Peas Pulao, and the spiciest "medium" Rogan Josh I've ever had. The lamb was so hot that my tongue was on fire.

We talked about going to the bookstore afterward, but it had closed two hours early due to the proceeding holiday. Instead, we hit the 24-hour Walgreen's at Lawrence and Pulaski to scrounge up some Easter Bunny treats for the kids.

Incredible, Edible Egg

Yesterday, I volunteered at and my kids participated in the OIPA 11th Annual Easter Egg hunt. Unlike other events, OIPA's hunt requires community participation. Each parent donates 1 dozen filled plastic eggs per child-participant, dropping them at the coordinator's house in advance of the event. Most of the work of this event takes place before the event; the hunt itself took less than 10 minutes to complete. Perhaps less time than usual this year with 4+ inches of snow on the ground. It was quite odd to "hide" eggs in snowbanks and among icy branches. The kids were quite a sight, hampered in their quest for eggs by snowpants and big boots.

Since I volunteered, I walked over to the site at 9 a.m. The Dad followed later in the car with The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby. He had to dress them all in their outer gear, so The Baby showed up in his fleece bunting without any shoes. He didn't get to hunt eggs, but I gave him some M&Ms and he was happy.

I saw quite a few friends and neighbors, including Jessica, and met some new people as well. It was nice to connect a name with a face in at least one case.

You can see what I am talking about here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"I Know"

A phrase usually uttered by my 5-year-old (The Boy) after I tell him something that he didn't previously know (and most often in response to a question he has just posed). I used to think it was just my kid, but after spending time with Antonia today, I now know that it is a tic that is, perhaps, shared by the pre-K set everywhere. I'd say that Antonia and The Boy colluded, but we rarely see her, so it must be the age.

And, indeed, it was lovely to pal around with Antonia for the afternoon. She is on spring break, but there is only so much Dora the Explorer and Word World a girl can watch, so she hung out with The Girl, The Baby, The Boy and me for a couple of hours. The Girl, The Baby and I picked Antonia up, passing the original Disney I magnet school on the way.

We were all starving, so we first stopped at BK for lunch. BK now has SpongeBob Squarepants toys in its "Kid Meals." Then we headed west to fetch The Boy from school, drive through the "washing machine for cars," and go to playgroup in our neighborhood. Antonia was very concerned about The Girl running through the parking lot at pick-up (the school blocks vehicular entrance to the alley, and thus the parking lot in question) and staying close to us, which I found pretty cute. She also would ask The Girl to let her finish telling a story, which I appreciated as The Girl has a tendency to talk over everyone else in the car.

At playgroup, talk was centered around -- what else? -- schools and real estate.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Oh no!

Found out today that The Curio Cafe is going to be closing at 1 p.m. from now on. Personally, I think that's a bad direction for a kid-and mom-friendly cafe to take. I'd say that they are going to lose part of the lunch crowd.

Edit: I stand corrected. The 1 p.m. closing time was only on Good Friday. I'm sorry for the confusion.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Saturday Shopping

I woke up this morning with the intent of going to my office to get some work done. Instead, I took The Girl on a wee adventure, just the two of us. We went to the shoe store and then out to lunch. A Mama-Daughter date, if you will.

We left the car for The Dad, The Boy and The Dad and took the train instead. I had forgotten about the St. Patrick's Day parade entirely, so the 4-car train was crazy-mobbed with kelly-green clad suburbanites and northwest-siders going down to Columbus for what a fellow passenger called "Chicago's version of Mardi Gras." Fortunately, we were only crammed into the SRO car for 5 or 6 stops before we reached our destination.

We walked down North Avenue to Tippy Toes to get The Girl fitted for new shoes. The owner's daughter, Sabrina, is in The Girl's class at MDO, so we waited patiently while her mother and grandmother finished up with previous clients before helping us. The Girl ended up with a pair of Converse low-tops (love, love, love!) and a pair of pink Aster t-straps on super clearance. So cute. Then we had lunch at Sweet Thang. The Girl will eat anything without complaint -- assuming her dear older brother is not around. She and I split a leek and potato quiche, a pain au chocolat, and a chocolate eclair.

Then we called The Dad and he came to pick us up. And we all went to Border's to buy books.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Our Greatest Adventure Yet

Last week, I took the kids on perhaps the greatest adventure yet of my career as a mother. I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby on The Baby's first airplane trip to Houston, to visit Grandma and Grandpa Texas. The Dad stayed home to work.

Everyone did quite well on the flight down there. The Girl calls taking off "landing off," which I find pretty cute if I do say so myself. She was very anxious once we landed in Houston; she seemed to be afraid that they'd lock us in the plane and we wouldn't be able to get out. She cried and kept saying "Move, people!" which was quite amusing to the passengers behind us. Someone behind me told me that I did a beautiful job with all 3 of them on the flight by myself. It was nonstop getting out and putting away of amusements -- iPod with movie rental, markers and coloring books, little toys, snacks, etc. -- with a several trips to the bathroom in between.

We were unfortunately dogged by illness during our 10 days in Houston. My body seems to need to check out Houston's medical care every time I go down there. This time, I visited my parents' dentist to have a tooth extracted (it had abscessed) and, later, took The Girl and The Baby to Urgent Care with ear infections.

But we did manage to have some fun. My parents took The Boy and The Girl to the park several times, and my mom and I took the kids to the fabulous Houston Children's Museum one day. The Baby and I had a great time in their Tot Spot. I got to visit Andrea at Katy Mills Mall, eat the best tortillas evah at Lupe Tortilla with Julie, and The Baby and Michael oogled each other as his mom and I had a quick breakfast at La Madeleine.

The Girl ate mussels when my parents invited their neighbors over for lunch. She says: "Mama, I like mussels! They're fish!" The Boy went out to dinner with my parents and Aunt Sam. I snuck in a nap or two. The Girl did lots of "crafts" with Grandma Texas. The Boy wrestled with Grandpa Texas. The Baby practiced walking. They all colored with chalk on my parents' patio and dug in the dirt in their yard. The Boy and I looked at worms, grubs, roly polys and other bugs in the dirt. We took baths in my parents' giant jacuzzi tub (The Boy christened it "The Super Tub"). We had a picnic lunch and watched the Cessnas take off and land at Hooks Airport.

I didn't get to Chloe Dao's store, or to walk around The Heights, or to the Rodeo, or to the other things I wanted to do while we were there. But that's OK. The Kids got to spend lots of time with their grandparents. And we got to enjoy some warmth and sunshine while we were there too.

And here they come...

The letters are coming in. According to the results of his GEAPs testing, The Boy is Not Gifted, which is probably a good thing, and therefore he did not get into any of the gifted centers or classical schools. We have also gotten rejection letters from Onahan and Peterson. The Boy is hanging out on the waitlist at Gray, Burley, Edgebrook, Prussing and Belding, although I am pretty sure that he will get into Belding in the end.

Of note, it looks like Disney II will move into Irving Park Middle School to start in fall 2008. I plan to apply for both The Boy (K) and The Girl (PK) as soon as the application process opens. There is a 75% proximity holdback/lottery for next year. Now I just have to hope that The Boy manages to get one of 40 or so spots available in K for neighborhood kids next year; of course, there are about 400 kids entering K from the 'hood next year.

In other news, I signed The Girl up for preschool next year. We're trying somewhere new next year and I really liked the director/teacher.