Thursday, February 21, 2008


The Chicago Sun-Times reported that IPMS area residents would get 50% entry into the proposed new magnet school.

Busy Day

The Boy and The Girl had school (and MDO) today. The Baby took a nap, and then he and I went to lunch with The Dad. We went back to Curio Cafe. It was good, as usual. The Dad initially ordered the steak sandwich again, but they were out of steak, so he had the Authentic sandwich instead, which he pronounced really good. I will have to try it next time I go. I got the grilled veggie sandwich again. And tea.

The women who run the cafe are so nice. The owner said hello to The Baby, asking him in Spanish how he was and flirting with him. For his part, The Baby was interested in her--but he was more interested in the three toddlers playing in the center section after eating lunch with their mothers.

After dropping The Dad back to work, The Baby and I headed north to the Land's End Inlet, to find jeans for The Boy Who Keeps Putting Holes in the Knees of His Pants. Then we picked up The Girl, and then The Boy, and then had a playdate with our neighbor and his mother.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Secretary of State's Office

I finally paid a visit to the Illinois Secretary of State's office today to replace my driver's license. The Girl and The Baby came with me. It wasn't horrible, but the wait was quite long and I had stupidly not brought anything with me to amuse the kids. Fortunately, we managed to have fun anyway, watching the numbers roll by and seeing the people around us, and playing monkey bars on my legs, and various other small amusements. At long last, they called my number and it took about 10 minutes after that. My photo was still in the computer from last time, so I washed and blow-dried my hair this morning for naught.

The new licenses are really pretty. I'm just glad it's done. I hope not to have to return to the DMV for a loooooong time.


The Boy was supposed to go Sunday night at his grandparents' house, but he spent Saturday night on the bathroom floor, so his visit was postponed. The Girl, who was the first of our family to get the stomach virus earlier in the week, went anyway. As consolation, I took The Boy on an outing on Monday. He got to pick where we went and what we did.

He choose "the train museum," by which he means the Museum of Science and Industry. So, yesterday afternoon, The Boy, The Baby and I all headed south to MSI. I can't stand paying $12 to park, so I nearly always park on the street and walk the two or three blocks to the museum, even in the frigid temperatures and wind like we had yesterday. And yesterday, we parked on 56th Street and walked, although we ran across the open field in front of the museum (The Boy "won" the race; I was hampered by The Baby strapped to my front).

Our membership to the Notebaert has lapsed, so we had to pay the full fares to get in--$8.50 for The Boy and $12.00 for me, a discount of $1.50 for Chicago residents. I also rented a stroller for $2 to haul around our stuff and give my shoulders a break from schlepping around The Baby.

The Jollyball was experiencing difficulties, so when the ball got stuck, we went upstairs to the train hall. And stayed there for quite some time--over an hour, I think--watching the model trains go around, delighting in the details of the huge exhibit, and discovering new facets of the exhibit. The Baby nursed for a bit on the bench behind the streetcar, and later fell asleep in the mei-tei. After we were all done watching the trains, I let The Boy get a train from the Mold-O-Rama in the train hall.

We spent the next hour of our visit exploring various parts of the museum. Many favorite exhibits were closed for renovations, including the Coal Mine (although The Boy has never been), historical street with its ice cream parlor, and the Idea Factory in the basement. We did, however, get to watch a baby chick hatch out of its egg in the incubator in the Genetics exhibit, and see all the previously hatched chicks run around, eat and drink on the other side--The Boy really liked that.

We headed downstairs to let The Baby stretch his legs in the Idea Factory, but discovered that it was closed. We wandered around the corner through a circus exhibit and through the Eye See hall (also partially closed for renovation), and then to see the U-505 sub. We never made it to see the actual sub, because The Boy was scared by the darkness and ominous sounds leading up to the sub itself. I don't think I've ever seen the sub myself--it wasn't the sort of thing that I was interested in when I was a child on one of our many excursions to that museum. However, since I have read Shadowdivers, I now really want to see it. I told The Dad afterward that we should go back just the two of us sometime so that I can check it out.

We then headed back in the other direction to see the ships and the racing cars (also partially under renovation). We spent a good deal of time talking about the parts on the model ships and what they were for. I let The Baby down for some exercise and he was so mad that he couldn't get through the glass to touch the model ships!

The virtual simulation of the 1893 World's Fair exposition was going on over the weekend, but the tickets were all sold out/booked up by the time we got to MSI at around 1 p.m. I would have liked to have seen that, but perhaps they'll bring it back.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Letter to the Chicago Board of Education

As a 5+ year Irving Park resident, member of both Greater Independence Park Neighbors Association (GIPNA) and Old Irving Park Association (OIPA), and parent of a child entering kindergarten and another entering preschool in the fall, I have a vested interest in the Chicago Public Schools' proposal to merge Irving Park Middle School (IPMS) with Thurgood Marshall Middle School (TMMS) and open a magnet school in its stead.

Although I live near Independence Park and blocks away from TMMS and will no doubt feel the impact of the proposed merger much more keenly than my neighbors in West Walker, Old Irving Park, and The Villa, I am absolutely in support of the conversion of IPMS into a magnet school to serve the elementary children of our community. From statistics quoted by Lynda Olander and Heather Aitken of GIPNA at a 2/8 meeting, I believe that the children from IPMS will pose no more of a threat to our neighborhood than those currently in attendance at TMMS. I don't look forward to the increase in playground destruction and vulgar language use by TMMS students loitering at Independence Park (where we often go to play) before and after school, but I don't know that CPS can do anything about its students' behavior outside of school hours and grounds.

As products of public school ourselves, my husband and I are strong proponents of the public school system. Since we moved to Chicago in 2002, we've planned to send our children to CPS. But, as the time grew closer for our eldest to enter kindergarten, I attended CPS open houses and talked to parents of older children. Most of them told me that they investigated the schools in our immediate area and found them lacking; instead, they chose to send their children to either local parochial schools or standout CPS schools in Lake or Northwest side neighborhoods.

I loved walking to school and back with my neighbors as a child. I want that for my own children. But with very few area parents sending their kids to Murphy and Belding Schools and without a standout school nearby, it seems unlikely that my children will have that experience – and they might suffer a sub-par education that leaves them ill-equipped to become critical, liberal thinkers and unprepared for the rigors of high school and college. I am loath to spend a good portion of my children's day in the car or bus commuting to school.

In conclusion, I am very excited about having a magnet school in our immediate community and fully support CPS in its efforts to bring it to the current IPMS facility. I look forward to the day that my 5-year-old and his two younger siblings will attend a nearby school with their neighbors and friends.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Today was pretty much a disaster. As The Dad said, it's pretty sad when the best part of your day was sitting in the dentist's chair having your teeth drilled and your cavities filled.

The Boy was invited to a classmate's birthday party, which was held at Go Bananas in Harwood Heights. I took him, and both The Baby and The Girl tagged along. I had never been there before, although the birthday boy had told me that it was like Pump It Up and Chuck E. Cheese. When we arrived, I realized that it was most like Aurora's Enchanted Castle, which The Dad has dubbed "enchanted headache."

It was an overstimulation special. Everything there was done to the hilt - music, games, rides, flashing lights, candy, kids running around. An hour into it, I had a screaming headache and was wondering how I could make a graceful exit. (Un)fortunately, The Girl gave me the out. After spending $9 for a toddler wristband so that The Girl could ride the flying banana ride, she freaked out and was inconsolable for a good 20 minutes, through pizza and cake and singing to the birthday boy. So, we had to cut out of there.

I think the trouble started with the flying banana ride. At the end, the attendant took everyone else out, but left The Girl strapped in. She could not get out herself, and it was too loud in there to get the attendant's attention. The Girl was also at the furthest point from the exit, so few people could see her. I heard and saw her crying, but it took about a minute until the attendant could go back to let The Girl out. She perked up a bit when it was party-specific time, but she basically cried for 20 minutes straight and just wanted to go home. I was going to take her outside and leave The Boy in the care of the birthday party parents, but he freaked out about that, so we all just left.

On the way out to the car, The Boy asked me if he could have his birthday party next year. Um, no.

Thurgood Marshall Middle School

Last night, I attended GIPNA's community meeting about CPS' proposed merger of Thurgood Marshall Middle School and Irving Park Middle School. The public hearing about it is next Friday. In my opinion, it's going to happen whether we like it or not. And, honestly, having heard the statistics that the community organizers quoted, it sounds like the "problem kids" are not the kids who take the bus, but the kids who walk to areas just outside our immediate neighborhood. One organizer, who our neighborhood CAPS rep, said that were were 107 9-1-1 calls related to TMMS in 2007. At IPMS, there were only 40. So, really, if our neighborhood hosts an additional 300 middle-schoolers who take the bus here, it's not really going to affect us that much.

I'm way more excited about the prospect of sending my children to a magnet school that is walking distance from my house (assuming, of course, that they can get in). And, outside of Greater Independence Park, I think that's what everyone else is thinking as well. Because, honestly, everyone else who is affected by the proposal can take a NIMBY view because it's NITBY.

I left the meeting when they started to brainstorm "alternative proposals" in response to CPS' proposal. While that might make the people opposed to the plan feel better, it was an exercise in futility in my opinion. Unlike GIPNA, OIPA is a force to be reckoned with; it is big, fairly cohesive, and well-established. I can't imagine that they'd be OK with the alternative of making TMMS a magnet school and pushing all of the TMMS students over to IPMS. And to be honest, that plan makes no sense to me. TMMS is a land-locked school with no outdoor space. IPMS has 1/2 block of athletic fields and a brand-new playground adjacent to its lot. Seventh-graders can wait 6 hours to run around; grammar schoolchildren cannot. The other alternative plan they came up with involves redistricting feeder schools for CPS to push the "problem" kids into another school, which just doesn't seem fair either. I didn't hear any of the other alternatives because I left.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

One Is Silver, The Other Gold

When I moved to Chicago 5 1/2 years ago, I had but one really good friend--and she lived outside the City. Now, I have a whole crowd of them within city limits. I feel so blessed. Thank you, BP, CD, AM, PC, SL, RH, CB, DA, MG, MA, and MS for making my life richer.


I went to the Belding LSC meeting tonight. It was my first LSC meeting. I learned a bit more about the way Chicago Public Schools really work, met the principal, and learned that The Boy will be on the waitlist for a K spot for next year. The principal said the odds are "good" that he'd get in, but with their K classes as they are now, to avoid overcrowding, they are waitlisting the 25 out-of-area applicants.

One last thing

I saw a sign for a new restaurant opening up in my 'hood: The Blue Line Grill & Bakery. I hope it's the kind of place that I would go to!

We are obsessed

Everywhere I go, everyone I talk to, it's all the same: schools, schools, schools. We are in the 3-month wait between application submission and acceptance notification for Chicago Public Schools. And, as mothers, we are all obsessed. It's nearly all we can talk about. I'm planning to attend an LSC meeting tomorrow night, and a meeting about the proposal below on Friday evening.

Another school-related discussion in my world of late is CPS's proposal to transfer all the students from Irving Park Middle School to Thurgood Marshall Middle School and turn Irving Park Middle School into a magnet school with a 30% holdback for area students. We're all abuzz. I am curious to see if CPS plans to expand the local attendance boundary for the new school. If so, and it includes my area, I'm all for it. It would be an every so slightly longer walk for The Boy and The Girl to attend the new school than it would be for them to attend our local elementary, Murphy, to which I have no intention of sending my children, sadly. However, if the boundary remains what it is, I'm against the plan, because my neighborhood will be rife with bused-in junior high schoolers and I get to deal with all the crap without any benefit.

The Boy has his GEAPs test in a few weeks. We'll see how it goes.


Yes, yesterday was the election. And Mardi Gras. But it was also my birthday. It was a good day for me as well as for my fellow (non-native) Chicagoan, Barack Obama. Last week's incident notwithstanding, I feel very blessed. I have a wonderful husband, loving parents, cute and funny kids, and great friends, most of whom called me or sent me birthday wishes throughout the day yesterday.

One of those birthday wishes came from my friend B., in the form of an invitation for dessert and coffee at Julius Meinl on Addison & Southport. We went after all the critters were in bed and it was great. Although we used to go there fairly often when we all had only children, I hadn't been to Meinl in quite awhile. The menu has expanded significantly since I was there last. I got two jam crepes and they were quite good. I ordered a very decadent latte, to which the lightness of the crepes complemented nicely. And I love that they still serve coffee drinks with a side of water because I am always thirsty after drinking coffee. My one and only complaint about it was that, although they close at 10 p.m. on weekdays, the staff did everything in their power to clear the restaurant at 9:30 p.m. -- dimming the lights, putting them brighter and brighter, killing the music, etc. I was annoyed primarily because I rarely get to go out in the evening with the peeps!

Monday, February 04, 2008

Around town

With The Boy safely at school and The Girl safely deposited at Mother's Day Out, I spent some of my mainly kid-free time today running errands in Lincoln Park. First, I returned to the scene of the crime for a little shopping. This time, I brought in only cash in my pocket, my cell phone, car keys, mei-tei, and The Baby. No great scores today, but found a few name-brand things for both The Baby and The Girl, including most of what I had to dump last week, and a $3 cashmere Banana Republic sweater for me.

Because I never remember to eat breakfast and because The Baby always to nurse at some point during the morning, I was starving after my trip. So we went to Sunflower Market to pick up lunch and groceries. To my great disappointment, the store is closing. To be fair, I am not terribly surprised as they were competing with the big boys of Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and Treasure Island all right down the street, and they were constantly running promotions on the goods. Those promotions were part of what I loved about Sunflower Market (also liked that they came from the Minneapolis area, which just seems like a fun, quirky, middle-America kind of place [although I've only been to the Twin Cities a handful of times]), but I could see how discounting your sales could seriously hinder your ability to make a go in a market. That place was never busy or crowded. I picked up a little of this and that, but was still starving by the end.

I still had a bit of time before I needed to get The Girl from MDO, so The Baby and I got back in the car and headed a few yards south to Trader Joe's. While I was there, I ran into a neighbor, a lady I remembered seeing at the Recycle Center yesterday, and Bethany Souza, from HGTV's Designed to Sell (who was really nice and told me that they always need people to be on the show from the Chicago market -- hmm, if only I could convince The Dad!). I'm such a nerd, seeing her at Trader Joe's was really cool. She told me that she's not really that mean!