Monday, January 28, 2008

5+ Years

It had to happen. After 5 1/2 years in the City, I became a victim of a crime today when my wallet was stolen directly out of my diaper bag at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. Fortunately for me, I noticed it within 15 minutes when I went digging in the bag to find another item to occupy The Baby in the cart. So I reported it to the police, notified my bank and credit card company, and walked out empty handed. Unfortunately for the thief, I never carry any cash and there were no gift cards in my wallet either. When I got home, I put a fraud flag on my identity with the credit agencies. All I need to do now is get a replacement driver's license (or wait to see if it shows up in the mail in a few days), a new library card, and buy a new wallet.

Surprisingly enough, I don't feel violated. More upset at my own stupidity. I am more skeeved out by the fact that whoever took it had to put his or her hand right next to The Baby to remove my wallet from the bag. He was sitting in the cart, right next to the bag, and I was walking back and forth between him and the racks, a distance of about 4 feet.

Sunday, January 27, 2008


Yesterday, I took The Boy, The Girl, The Baby, and The Dad out for lunch at Curio Cafe, a fairly new kid-friendly breakfast-and-lunch place that opened not too far from our house. I've been there a few times with the kids, and it is as kid-friendly as it claims to be. Any place that hangs the international sign for breastfeeding sign on the wall above two comfy chairs is one that's going to get my business. It's even better than the comfy chair in the bathroom at Cafe Selmarie!

With a kid-sized table, a huge blackboard and bins and bins of toys right in the center of the restaurant, the cafe is quite kid-friendly. They have dedicated kid menus with a small selection of kid favorite, yet healthful dishes -- all for $3.50/pop. The Girl had grilled cheese on whole-wheat bread with apple slices (carrot sticks are also an option) while The Boy had the best alphabet noodles with cheese that I have ever tasted (although he pronounced it "yucky"). The Baby had yogurt mixed with banana slices, strawberries, and granola. It was really good. The Dad had the best steak sandwich he says he's had in a long time, with scalding hot organic coffee. I had a yummy grilled veggie sandwich and drank the dregs of my organic Earl Grey tea (which The Girl took over).

My biggest complaint about the Curio Cafe is that because they are small, with a small kitchen, they don't have a lot of prep done beforehand and everything is made to order. Which makes it kind of a long wait for your meal. Yesterday, the noodles and cheese took an exceptionally long time; they kindly comped it for us, but it was destined for the pickiest, crankiest eater in our party (The Boy).

That said, I've been several times and intend to go again. The food is good and there are things for the kids to do, and the ladies who run it are very friendly and understanding of the mess kids make. It is walkable from our house, but it would be a long walk.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And now we wait...

I spent the last week before Christmas photocopying, filling in little squares, stuffing envelopes and addressing stamped postcards back to myself. Times about 30. The Boy's kindergarten applications to various CPS schools. I've received 18 postcards back acknowledging receipt of his/our application. He'll be tested by GEAP sometime before March, and then the assignments come out. All I can do is cross my fingers, say a few prayers, and hope like crazy that he gets into a decent public school.

IKEA, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways...

It's 20 degrees outside, your eldest child is in school until 2 p.m., there is nothing you need to do today. What to do to entertain yourself and your youngest two children? IKEA!

The Boy is now in school until 2:30 p.m. everyday and while he is enjoying his friends' potty humor, The Girl and The Baby and I are freed up to make longer outings. So, today we met our friend Cara and her Boy and Girl2, at the big blue box for lunch and general meandering through the store.

A cool thing I discovered about IKEA not too long ago? Free lockers! I don't think anyone knows this except for me (Cara didn't), but IKEA provides free lockers for coats, bags, etc. in their lobby. I never put anything really valuable in there, but it's nice not to have to schlep not only my coat, but the hats, mittens, buntings and various other outerwear of my children, throughout the store.

IKEA was a ghost-town today, so The Girl could run around to her heart's content. Cara's Boy and Girl2, potty-trained as they are, went into Smalland for a bit. Sadly, the playhouse area in the kids' section has been removed since the last time we were there. We ate three meals at IKEA -- a coffee and a cinnamon bun just as we got there, lunch -- mac & cheese for The Girl, Swedish meatballs and mash for The Baby and me, and ice cream for The Girl on the way out.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Chicago's Best-Kept Secret

...has got to be the Salvation Army Thrift Store on Clybourn. I hesitate to even post it, but shopping there does require an adventurous spirit and time. Plus, my blog readership is so small that I am not too worried that my beloved SA will be more mobbed than usual on my next visit. The SA figures heavily into one of my new year's resolutions, which is to suppress my inner consumer by buying goods second-hand.

I went yesterday while The Boy and The Girl were at school. Scored brand-name clothes for me, The Baby, and the The Girl. I went last week and found a PBK Anywhere Chair for $6. An Oxyclean soak and it's all good. The Girl's Christmas present? A $15 Land of Nod white wooden refrigerator in near-perfect condition.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Back to School

Hurrah - Christmas/winter vacation has ended in Chicago. The Boy went back to St. Bart's today, and The Girl went back to Mother's Day Out. The Girl got out at 2 p.m., and The Boy got out at half past. Afterwards, we went through the drive-thru at Dunkin Donuts to pick up Munchkins to bring over to a friend's house for a small playdate. It was a long day for everyone, but I was happy with it.

The Baby and I celebrated by taking a nap, a bath, and a festive tour through the clearance aisles at K-Mart.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Beyond Recycling

For the past two years, I've been hauling our household's cardboard, paper, cans, bottles, and 1 & 2 plastics to the Recycling Center at North Park Village. The kids used to hate it, but I've been letting The Boy and The Girl help me sort the items into their bins so the errand has become a bit more tolerable to them.

We took advantage of the warm weather today to empty our basement of cardboard boxes by taking them to the recycle center. The center was mobbed, and the glass/can container was chock full and off to the side, awaiting removal. But with The Boy, The Girl, and The Dad helping, it went faster. After we had sorted all of our recyclables, we left The Great White Moose where it was parked and strolled around the grounds. The Baby rode in my mei-tei. We walked through the Nature Center, but it was a half an hour to close and our shoes were muddy, so we didn't stop to play in the Discovery Room and the center's other play room. We did a partial cruise around the Woodland, Savanna, and Main Loop trails. We could hear traffic and planes, but all we could see was nature.

It was different, and kind of nice. We will have to go back for another family march in the spring when things really thaw. I'll put everyone in rubber boots with a spare change of shoes so we can all have a really good stomp in the mud.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Bookish in Evanston

This afternoon, we headed up to Evanston to exchange a few duplicate books at Barnes & Noble and go to dinner afterward as a family. The Dad supervised the kids as they browsed for books while I returned our books. The Boy and The Girl love going to the bookstore. Actually, The Dad and I love going to the bookstore. It was one of our favorite things to do as a couple before we had children and although it's a bit more expensive to do so now (because everyone has to get a book!), it is one of our favorite things to do as a family.

The Boy chose a book about insects by Anne Rockwell and Firehouse Tales, one of those crummy, badly written Scholastic books that I dislike (and The Boy always wants). The Girl chose Princess Baby by Karen Katz after watching another little girl read it four times with her dad, and a Sandra Boynton board book. The Baby did his favorite thing to do with books: pull up on their shelves and fling the books off the shelves.

Afterward, The Boy and The Girl raced down Sherman, while The Dad and I walked behind, to Nevin's for dinner in their well-lit and pretty-from-the-outside dining room. The Boy had mini-cheeseburgers and The Girl had mac & cheese from the kids' menu. I had a yummy corned beef dinner and a light beer. The Dad had a reuben and a Harp draft. The Baby sat on my lap and shoveled mac & cheese, bread, fries, corned beef, carrots, potatoes, and whatever else was in reach into his mouth. Unlike my previous visits to Nevin's (usually on a Wednesday and with a group of adults), the service wasn't particularly attentive. But the corned beef was really good, and everyone ate their dinners. That's about the best I can ask for on a Saturday night with 3 small children.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Thanks for leaving!

On the way out to the suburbs today, we stopped downtown for lunch. I had a hankering for Portillo's, but I parked about 4 blocks away. On the walk over, we passed Ed Debevic's and since the lot was nearly empty, decided to go in. My childhood is filled with numerous aborted attempts to be abused by the waitstaff of Ed Debevic's. Aborted because the line went out the door and around the corner and no one wanted to wait 90 minutes just to get a table.

But today, because it was a snow-filled New Year's Day, it was easy to get a table. The Boy and The Girl were a bit confused by the attitude in the place. They liked the crazy crap on the walls, and the Rice Krispie treats that accompanied their kiddie meal hot dogs. They, and The Baby, looked adorable in the white Ed's hats the waiter snapped on their heads. But they didn't get the rude-to-customers schtick. And, I have to say: during the portion of the "show" when the waitstaff gets up to dance around, I was disappointed in their lack of enthusiasm. They were all singing and doing the movements, but there was no energy. Maybe because it was New Year's Day and they were all hung over and/or slightly bored. A few of the waitstaff came over to flirt with The Baby. One guy asked me which kid I liked the best. Yikes! What a question. (The Boy said he knew that I like them all "the best." Smart kid.)

I ordered the Route 66 chicken sandwich, which was pretty good. The Baby ate pickle spears and fries. The Boy and The Girl both had hot dogs with fries. The Boy and The Girl split a chocolate malted, made from Mitchell's ice cream. It'd be worth going back just for the ice cream, which I grew up eating at his original outpost in Homewood. The Baby has a milk protein allergy, so I cannot partake of ice cream until he weans or he ends up with flaming red cheeks and a grumpy disposition. I also got a slice of cherry pie, which I ate later and was really good--not too sweet.

All-in-all, I probably wouldn't take my children there again until they are older. I was a bit disappointed in the reality of my experience as an adult; it really does seem suited to a junior high to college crowd. The Girl was kind of anxious about the atmosphere and because we were sitting on an exit corridor, kept getting upset because people were leaving (and thought we had to leave, too). And although The Boy finds potty humor hysterically funny, he wasn't quite old enough to get the playacting rudeness yet. Surprisingly (to me), the back room was filled with little kids younger than The Boy. There seemed to be a kid birthday party there. I saw a 4-year-old in a giant black pettiskirt walk out past our table. It wouldn't be my first choice for a young kid's birthday party. A waitress told another table with two boys under 9 that they were "freaks and weirdos" for not ordering dessert (although I do agree!).