Friday, May 30, 2008


I've been spending a lot more time at home lately. I don't know if it's scheduling (always have to drop off or pick up some little person) or the price of gas ($4.50/gallon -- eek!) or something else, but I can't seem to find the time/motivation to go on many excursions with the kids of late.

Today, we jammed with Julie in the morning. Although The Girl initially wanted to stay for the second class, when she saw all of her friends leaving after the first class, she changed her mind. The Baby was in desperate need of a nap and was taking chunks out of my shoulder with his teeth, so we skedaddled at the start of the second class. But not before I had a chance to catch up quickly with Lynn A., who runs the OIPA parents' committee, sits on the Belding LSC, and has generally been very helpful on the schools front. She's also a fellow Illini alum. Her son and The Girl are the same age.

Caroline D. called to tell me that her son moved out of his #2 slot on the waitlist for Disney II and had been accepted. Hooray! I hope this means that the #1 slot holder also got in; if so, The Boy will know at least four other kids next year. It's certainly not a requirement to know someone before K, but it will ease the transition for my slow-to-transition Boy. Also, I got an e-mail this evening saying that The Girl has been accepted into the free/state pre-K at Disney II. She will be thrilled. She has been quite upset that she doesn't get to go to Disney until she's 5, which seems a long time away when you've only just turned 3.

I unwisely look three kids with me to Sears to pick up a new rotator belt. We also checked out digicams, washing machines, and refrigerators. The Baby was very interested in the bank of TVs showing music videos. He kept wandering over there at every opportunity.

On the way home, we saw a giant white Dunkin Donuts inflatable cup hooked to the top of the new Mobil station at Irving Park Road and Pulaski Avenue. The Boy and The Girl and I speculated that its presence means the Dunkin Donuts/gas station is opening soon. We are very excited about this prospect. If a mom & pop donuts-and-coffee shop opened, we'd gladly give our business to them, but if we can only get chains, we'll take what we can get in this neighborhood.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The end is nigh

The Boy has 3 days left of school before summer vacation begins. Talk on the playground at pick-up has dwindled away from fall 2008 matriculation and toward summer vacation plans. I have so many things I want to do this summer, although I'm sure that I have not adequately prepared for any of them:
  • join a pool
  • go to Kiddieland
  • rent/borrow a beach cottage in Michigan/Indiana/Wisconsin for a week
  • hire a babysitter once/week
  • visit Super Grandpa in Indiana
  • visit family in Michigan on Lake St. Clair
  • go to Minneapolis-St. Paul to visit The Girl's birthday twin and her parents
  • take the water taxi between Navy Pier and the museum campus peninsula
  • go to lots of museums and parks
The Boy and The Girl are going to daycamp through the park district (at different parks) for 6 weeks. And The Boy and I are going to Seattle to visit Uncle Chris for a weekend in June. How is it that summer is upon us already?

Add a few more to the pile

The pile of "To Read" books on my nightstand grew by two books this evening -- Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu and Gregory Frost's Shadow Bridge -- after I attended an author event featuring both (and Jennifer Stevenson) at The Book Cellar. All the authors did readings and then they opened it up to an audience Q&A. I couldn't help myself: I asked a million questions (well, three -- out of the four asked by audience members in sum). It was like being in college again! My cobwebby brain was so happy.

On the way back to The Great White Moose, I stopped at Cafe Neo for a yummy goat cheese-fresh spinach crepe and an iced tea. Although there was a stack of high chairs in the back, a changing table in the bathroom, and a "babyccino" on the menu, that place is so not kid-friendly.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I guess I really am an introvert

I love spending time with my children, but every once in awhile, a mama needs a day off. Today was that day. The Dad took the day off from work, giving me a vacation day of my own. Rather than spend it shopping*, I took advantage of the silence in my head to enjoy experiential pursuits by myself. It was bliss. I guess I really am an introvert.

I took the Blue Line down to Kendall College to have lunch at The Dining Room. I ordered from the prix fixe menu. It was delicious. The waitstaff were all very attentive, but some dishes were slow coming out of the kitchen and left me a bit anxious that I would be late for the matinee at the Oriental Theater. Still, at $18 for three courses, it was a fantastic deal. I ordered everything from the specials menu: spring pea soup with creme fraiche and mint; grass-fed beef tenderloin stuffed with goat cheese, spinach, and mushrooms, served with fresh beets and a cream sauce; and a trio of orange: orange-vanilla panna cotta, chocolate-dipped mandarin orange slices, candied kumquats, and an orange sorbet. I greatly enjoyed the food, service, and the time to leisurely read my book.

After lunch, I walked to Halsted and Grand Avenues to flag down a cab -- a rare indulgence for me these days -- and got to the Oriental Theater for Wicked just as the entrance tones were ringing. Sarah had told me about a deal for reduced-price tickets, so I got a great seat -- Row X, seat 109, which was smack in the middle of the row, on orchestra-level -- for less than $40. Several rows in front of me were empty, so I moved down to Row T (same seat) after Intermission. I have not read the book, but I really enjoyed the musical. The story was basically the classic unrequited love/love triangle/high school popularity contest, played out against the backdrop of Oz. I liked the way they tied things into the Wizard of Oz so that the original story/musical would still make sense. It made me laugh, and the ending even made me cry.

I clapped loudly with the rest of the audience, and then beat feet to catch the L. I just missed a train at Clark and Lake, but managed to snag a seat when the next train showed up. The blue line is back (mostly) to its rapid transit time, so I got home within 20 minutes. The Dad and kids were playing in the front yard with the neighbors as I rounded the corner; they all ran for hugs as soon as they saw me. The Baby was particularly glad to see me, but I wasn't as exciting as La Villa's pizza man, who arrived 10 seconds later (this is what happens when The Dad is in charge of dinner).

* Although I did go to the Treasure Store this morning for an hour by myself.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


With the price of gas over $4/gallon, we stayed in town for the 3-day weekend. And spent much of it doing much-needed chores around the house. The Boy even got in on the action, by helping The Dad wash the windows in the front of the house. (The Baby helped, too, by letting them do it.)

Our big outings of the weekend were to Home Depot, Whole Foods (to stock the larder), and Chicago City North 14 movie theater in Logan Square (to see Speed Racer). The Boy was really into the movie, which was like live-action anime with garish colors. The Girl was kind of bored, given how many times she had to go potty during the 2-hour film (seven).

It was a nice weekend of family time.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Golden Nugget of a Different Sort

My brother, Uncle Chris, expects to join me in the world of parenting in October. When I told The Boy and The Girl that they are going to have a new cousin, they immediately wanted to know this little person's gender and name. I explained that Uncle Chris and Aunt Jenna didn't know yet and suggested that we come up with a nickname, such as "nugget" for the baby while s/he's in utero. The Boy suggested "Golden Nugget" and it stuck.

Bongo Girl

The stars aligned this morning, allowing The Girl and I to make it to Jammin' with Julie's Advanced Music class. As we were walking in, she said, "I hope Hanna is there!" And she could even specify which Hanna she meant when I explained that there were three in the class. None of them were there, although several other familiar faces were there. The Girl does really well in this class; she isn't the annoying, pushy kid in the front, and she isn't the kid who refuses to participate, but she is a good student, in my opinion. She is enthusiastic and responsive without dominating.

Other than that, we stuck close to home again today.

The Girl fell asleep in the afternoon, and since The Dad worked from home, I left her napping while I got The Boy from school. I took him and The Baby to Starbucks after school for a little boys-Mama playdate. The Boy told me about his day (chasing Caitlin, a kindergartener) around the playground, while The Baby sat up nicely in his chair at the table, impressing the people at the next table over. We played a bit outside on the sidewalk before getting into the car again.


Thankfully for me, The Baby can now tolerate more milk-based products. So we all indulged in a little custard at Just Indulge. This is my standard reward for the kids for putting up with a trip to the Treasure Store. Fortunately, we can just indulge without breaking the bank. Three kiddie scoops of custard with sprinkles (chocolate for The Boy and The Girl, raspberry for The Baby/me) and a small bag of cheese popcorn ran me just over $7. Plus, they have a very nice restroom for washing our hands, a must after a trip to the Treasure Store.

Closer to Home

I had a very full day yesterday. While The Boy was at school, The Girl, The Baby, and I met our friends Cheryl and Amelia at the Curio Cafe for coffee/breakfast. I love that place. They are so nice and accommodating of small children, and the food is really good. I had the pretzel bun with housemade strawberry cream cheese, while The Girl got the kiddie pancakes and The Baby had an egg and toast. He squawked up a storm when I didn't give him enough of my coffee. Afterwards, we walked around the block and the next block over, letting the babies (Amelia is 2 weeks older than The Baby) explore a bit. The Girl wanted to hold Amelia's hand, but she asserted that she was a "big" kid too and could walk alone.

Afterwards, we went back home so that The Baby could take a nap. The Girl did an art project; I started laundry (it's neverending in this house). Then we went to Home Depot for a replacement set of Allen wrenches, and to pick up The Boy from school. After fetching The Boy, we made amazingly good time down to Lincoln Park, to get our hair cut at Snippets. I got my hair cut, too. Total cost for 3 cuts and tip? $80. A bit pricy for a kid cut, but not bad for a bill that includes an adult's shampoo, cut, and style as well. And we all got lollipops for being good in the stylists' chair.

Je suis fou

I've never met little Remy Lichtenstein, but whoever he is, he's well-dressed. Yesterday, I picked up a few more of his castoffs at the Treasure Store -- most of it is European-made Oilily or Petit Bateau in excellent condition (save the name labels stuck onto the waist/neckbands). And the Treasure Store guy put the "children's clothing reduced to 50 cents/piece" sign up right before I checked out, so I got a huge bag of stuff for less than $16. My neighbor calls the Treasure Store "retail therapy." I know I talk about the Treasure Store a lot, but it combines three of my favorite elements: shopping, adventure (especially when accompanied by 3 kids), and fantastic bargains.

Speaking of adventure... as if shopping the Treasure Store in late afternoon with 3 small kids wasn't adventurous enough, I took them all to Wicker Park's Piece pizza afterward. I've said before that I often find myself in situations where I'm the only person with small children in a given establishment. Maybe the problem is not my children, but my taste/proximity. I often go to Wicker Park because it's easy to get to. But it just isn't a kid-friendly or kids' neighborhood the way Lincoln Square is. Still, I was there yesterday and while our destination was actually Penny's Noodles, with the chilly weather, no stroller, and three tired kids, we stopped at Piece instead because it was 4 blocks closer than Penny's and a friend in our MDO co-op had recommended it.

As soon as I walked in the door, I realized my mistake, but we were already inside and I was tired. I even said to the host, "Oh, I we are so not in your target demographic." They were pretty nice about it and lead us back to a table above the main floor. Along the way, we passed another baby and a stack of highchairs, both of which were somewhat reassuring. Still, last night, The Boy and The Girl were the only kids in the place (the couple with the baby had only one and she was definitely a baby, about 6-months-old or so). The upper-level banquettes were set up to look out over the main floor through "windows" in the wall at the end of each booth. This amused both The Boy and The Girl. The Baby couldn't seem to get an edge in.

Our server was pretty nice; he showed The Boy where the bathroom was when he had to go. Piece serves New Haven-style pizza. I am not a pizza connoisseur (I didn't eat it at all for about 10 years straight), so I don't understand the differences between it and Chicago thin crust, but everyone, including The Girl (who also doesn't like pizza) ate it. I ordered a small, with fresh basil and goat cheese on one half, and plain cheese on the other. Between the four of us (and three trips to the bathroom!), we managed to finish it all. Since I had to drive home, I didn't sample any of Piece's microbrews. The pizza, tax, and tip came to just over $20.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A sheltered life

Unjustly accused of losing The Dad's keys, I spent the morning combing the house, car, and garage for them. Rather than showering and taking The Baby (and The Girl) to one of the last jammin' with Julie classes of the session, I alternately helped him search and consoled a cranky Baby. (I found the keys where The Dad had left them: stuck in the garage door.)

After dropping The Girl off at MDO, The Baby and I spent the day entertaining The Dad's cousin James. He charmed the heck out of The Baby, but he's really in Chicago to find a job in accounting/finance. We left The Great White Moose in the lot and walked along uncluttered sidewalks lined with leafy trees through the neighborhood to Starbucks for vanilla lattes and baked goods (The Baby took over my apricot scone with raspberry jam print; I'd post a review [we're already frosted sugar cookie addicts], but I hardly got any.)

James told me about some of his experiences as a Chicago newbie. I have to admit that some of them shocked me. On some level, I am aware that such things/people exist, but the Chicago I know, work, live, and play in is still scrubbed pretty clean of the underwordliness that The Dad's cousin saw. And I suppose Mayor Daley likes it that way. Corruption is one thing. The revival of the Levee is another.

Later, The Baby, The Girl, The Boy and I headed to Uptown for playgroup. Today's cute kid story is brought to you by Aqua, the Danish pop group from the 1990s most known for its song, "Barbie Girl." The Girl asked to put in the CD "with the blue bubbles," so I popped in Aquarium. The Girl, of course, loved "Barbie Girl" and asked me if "the Barbies" were singing it; she then asserted that this was true. I didn't bother to disabuse her or The Boy of that notion. The Boy said that he was going to (pretend to) be the boy singer because he liked his voice. He then asked what the boy singer's name was. I told him "Ken."

By some miracle, we made good time driving to Uptown and back. We spent 2 hours playing with our friends at playgroup. Our friends from the suburbs even drove in for it, so The Boy and I got to marvel at the spaces in two of his friends' mouths, as they had both lost teeth. I don't think any of The Boy's teeth are loose, but I should find out what the Tooth Fairy's going rate is these days.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

A rare day at home

Well, we spent most of the day at home. The Girl accompanied me and The Boy to his school this morning, and then we all stayed to do an art project. The other mom had only brought enough supplies (terra cotta flower pots) for the class, so The Girl had to do mosaics on squares of paper instead. She was fine with that for awhile, but there's only so many little squares that a just-3-year-old can glue on rectangles of poster board without getting, well, bored. She did really well, lasting about 2 hours.

When we got home, we puttered. Had a snack, cleaned up the house (The Girl is an amazing cleaner-upper), did laundry, reorganized a few rooms (I re-arrange my house on a near-weekly basis), and made cookie bars. The Dad took The Girl and picked up The Boy from school. They went to MicroCenter to pick up a cable (to complement the 3,452 cables we already have), and then came home.

The kids all played outside for a bit, and then we changed and walked up to McDonald's for an early dinner before tee-ball practice at Athletic Field Park. Practice was on the diamond, so the kids got covered in brown baseball dust. The Girl spent much of practice, face down in the dust, making swimming motions in it. Yuck. The Boy mostly played, until he didn't like the drills the parent-coaches ran. The Baby walked around the field, picking up all the balls and throwing them 1-2 feet.

The Dad walked over to the field and met us, and took the kids home after practice. I was going to attend Athletic Field Park's advisory council meeting, but I mistakenly thought the meeting time was half an hour before it was, so I caught up to everyone else on the walk home.


My neighbors just listed their house on the market. I am sad that they will be moving.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Gas Guzzler

Yet another reason to be thankful that The Boy can walk to school next year: the price of gas within the city is the highest in the country. I spent $73.10 to fill up The Great White Moose this morning, and it's only an 18-gallon tank. Between the price of gas and construction on the Edens, I don't want to drive anywhere ever again.*

It's a good thing that I've found more activities for the kids to do in and around the neighborhood. On Saturday, we spent nearly the whole day on foot. In the morning, The Boy, The Girl, The Baby and I headed to West Walker's annual community garage sale. It was a successful trip on two fronts -- we found a made-in-Illinois Radio Flyer wagon (for $15) and a 20" bicycle for The Boy (for $10) -- and we saw lots of our neighbors and friends on a beautiful spring morning.

My plan had been to walk directly over to ARCC for The Girl's ballet class, but our stroller was too laden with stuff to make that feasible, so we first headed back home to drop off our loot. We stopped to talk to a neighbor, which made us too late to walk.

Once she was decked out in head-to-toe ballet pink, The Girl joined her ballet class, and The Boy, The Baby and I joined our friends at Starbucks for some coffee (the moms!) and a snack (the boys -- both big and little). The Boy and Enver had a great time being utterly silly together, while The Baby alternately begged me for coffee or cried because I was drinking it. The Dad, who had been visiting a friend in Aurora, walked over to meet us after his Metra train arrived. Then we all trooped back to pick up The Girl.

We spent the afternoon hanging around outside, talking to and/or playing with neighbors and generally enjoying the day. Our former neighbors came to check up on their house, and stopped over to say hello. The Boy was thrilled to see them.

* Which is not to say that I won't. I do, after all, have lots of good friends and relatives in the 'burbs.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Best Line Ever

I'm currently reading Ted McClelland's The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers, Long-Haired Ojibway Painters, and God-Save-the-Queen Monarchists of the Great Lakes. As a near-native Midwesterner, I've found it an interesting read thus far. I particularly enjoyed this quip:

"If Florida is God's Waiting Room, Lake View is suburbia's."

Admittedly, I've never lived in Lakeview, although I really wanted to when I was 23-24. The Dad spent 4-5 months in the spare room of Uncle Bad's Boystown flat when he was 23-24, but I was there only on the weekend and never as a resident. And another admission: our neighborhood is suburban-like. To me, it combines great suburban attributes: green space, wide leafy streets, single family houses, clean lawns, easy street parking with great city ones: proximity to public transportation, walkable shopping, close neighbors, and easy access to culture and education.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


Last week at tee-ball practice, I was bringing The Girl back from the bathroom when I witnessed an exchange between a mom from another team and her 2-year-old daughter about "stranger danger." The tot wanted to play around the corner from her sibling's practice area, preventing her mother from having direct line of sight supervision. In an attempt to convince her daughter, the mom said, "Do you want Stranger Danger to come get you?" To me, it sounded like stranger danger was a person, not a concept.

It is an interesting topic to me, as most people perceive living in the city as more dangerous than living in the suburbs. Having been raised in the suburbs (by, ironically, parents raised in NYC themselves), and seeing the kinds of things that happen there, I think the city's bad reputation (as compared to the 'burbs) is undeserved. Still, as The Boy approaches the age where he is more likely to be swiped by a random stranger, I am starting to think about how I am going to teach my children to protect themselves against "bad people."

I have always been rather laid-back in supervising my children in public, and also in instilling fear of the unknown in them. I've read the statistics; it's exceedingly unlikely that The Girl or The Baby is going to be swiped by a random stranger at the park. I don't want them to be unnecessarily or overly anxious about something that really isn't a huge risk in their daily lives. But obviously, I want to protect their privacy -- I wouldn't use pseudonyms on this blog if I wasn't concerned.

Yesterday, I spent an hour on the playground at Mayfair Park with Allison and her kids, and Caroline and her kids. As much as moms can while chasing 8 kids around the playground, we talked at length about "stranger danger," The Gift of Fear (Gavin De Becker's book, which I have not read), and the likelihood that our children would fall victim to a bad person or know what to do in those situations.


My hands are shaking as I type this. Gaby, our mail lady, has already been by for today. In today's mail was notification from CPS about Disney II. AND The Boy got in!

I'm now sending all good thoughts that everyone else we know got in also.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

CPS strikes again

There was a Local School Council meeting of Thurgood Marshall Middle School tonight at 5 p.m., which is a crummy time for parents of small children. The Dad had a late meeting, but I had planned to attend, so The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby had no choice but to accompany me to the meeting. I loaded up a backpack with a few coloring books, crayons, some snacks, and a few toys that could be used for quiet play, got everyone into their shoes, strapped The Baby onto my back and walked over to the school. They buzzed me in and I walked into the office only to find out that the meeting had been canceled. I was a bit disappointed (The Baby is heavy!), as were The Boy and The Girl, oddly enough. But it was nice to see the inside of TMMS. I had never actually been in the school side of the building before. The Boy was impressed with the large aquarium tank full of fish in the foyer, and I thought the display of art-project masks was pretty cool.

I need to be more aware of (and make a better effort to find out) what is going on in my neighborhood schools, even if my children don't attend them. Going to today's scheduled LSC meeting was an attempt to do so. I'm hoping GIPNA will let me know when the meeting will be re-scheduled, as the person I spoke to at TMMS did not yet know (possibly in 2 weeks, she said).

The Boy and The Girl asked me several times why the meeting was canceled, and we tried to come up with some reasons while we walked over to the park to play instead. Everyone took a ride on the swings -- The Boy and The Girl on the regular ones ("super high, Mama! Push me super high!") and The Baby in a baby swing. Then The Girl met a new friend (it amazes me how little girls can see each other across the playground for the first time and be holding hands 5 seconds later!) and had a great time running around with her. The playground was filled with little girls today, and The Boy was wearing flip-flops, which are hard to wear while playing on woodchips, so he didn't seem to have as much fun as The Girl and The Baby. I did catch a snippet of The Girl's conversation with the other little girl:

OG: Let's play house.
TG: OK! I'll be the mommy and you be the daddy.
OG: No. I'll be the mommy and you be the honey.

That just cracked me up. I needed it, as The Baby gave me a series of mini heart attacks while he crossed the suspension bridge and tried to go down the stairs. He is still figuring out how to go down, so it was particularly hair-raising for me to watch my baby go feet first over square metal steps with bruise-inducing corners.

On the walk home, The Girl was clutching herself and saying she had to pee, so we stopped at our neighbors' house to use their bathroom. Their house is going on the market, so it was clean and beautifully staged. If I could afford it (and I didn't have to sell a house), I'd be interested in it myself.

Free for a Week

Good lord, I use the "shopping" tag a lot. I have always liked shopping, but working full-time precluded me engaging in it on a regular basis. But as a mostly stay-at-home mom, I often have a lot of time to kill. With three kids (and three kids' scheduling constraints), I often find myself running errands or shopping during the snippets of time I have rather than going on culturally enriching outings. But, once upon a time, that was not so. If the stars aligned, I could take advantage of Chicago's vast activities calendar to bring the kids to a free program every day of the week. In the winter or during inclement weather (summer affords us more/better options), these activities might include

Monday - Morning Glory Mondays @ Garfield Park Conservatory
Tuesday - Story hour @ Pottery Barn Kids Market Square
Wednesday - Little Red Tot Spot @ St. Edward Church OR day @ Lincoln Park Zoo
Thursday - Free day @ the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum
Friday - Story hour with Neely @ Book Cellar in Lincoln Square


Now that The Girl is potty trained, IKEA has new appeal. Both she and The Boy can go into Smalland, leaving me an hour to shop with almost full use of my brain. I pulled The Boy out of school today at the half, and we trekked up to Schaumburg to meet some of our best friends for lunch and playing/chatting. I borrowed my friend Becky's method of shopping, which is to put everything in your cart -- and then take out what wasn't on your list in the first place. I had a return to make also, so I spent only $30 for 2+ hours of entertainment for 4 people, plus the cost of lunch (and gas, which at today's prices, is no small consideration).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Pink polka dot pajamas

This morning, after I dropped The Boy off at school, I took The Baby and The Girl with me to Dunkin Donuts for coffee, a bagel and a couple of donuts, and then to Home Depot. All while wearing my pink polka dot pajama bottoms (and The Dad's polarfleece). I was styling. My fashion standards have slipped so far that this is actually not the worst combination that the counter clerks at Dunkin Donuts have seen me wear.

At Home Depot, The Baby and The Girl rode in one of the racecar carts. The Baby loves sitting up like a big kid and steering the wheel like his big sister (or brother). I dislike pushing those giant things, especially for errands like today's where I needed a single thing that I could have easily carried without a cart if I had been there on my own. But the kids enjoy it and it makes shopping with small children much nicer.

The Girl went to MDO today. The Baby took a nap, had lunch, and accompanied me to on our weekly Treasure Store trip. We ran into my Treasure Store stalkers. It's funny, because I don't always go on the same day each time, but I always see the same people there over and over. Half of them are from the co-op.

The Girl and The Boy went over to their friends' house after school, while I took The Baby to Target for such exciting things as dishwasher cubes and deodorant for The Dad. When we got home, The Dad took The Baby, The Girl, and The Boy outside to play with the neighbors while I made dinner.

CPS, you are killing me

I just called the Office of Academic Enhancement again to see what's going on with the Disney 2 notifications. The woman who answered the phone told me that they lotteries are being run now, letters should go out this afternoon, and we should know "no later than Friday." Tuition-based and free preschools' classes have already been assigned, but I asked whether today's lotteries were for certain classes or the whole school. She told me that it was for the whole school.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day

This year, Mother's Day was not all about me as a mother. But that's OK. It was a nice day anyway.

The Dad's 35th birthday happened to fall on Mother's Day this year. And his octogenarian grandmother was visiting from Florida, so we skipped our usual Mother's Day brunch at Ina's Kitchen in the West Loop and went out to the suburbs for a huge family gathering at the Holiday Inn instead. I was a little frightened when I walked into the hotel and saw large rounds and other tables scattered around a cavernous banquet room. But the food was good for what it was (mass buffet), and the dessert table was even better. Uncle Bad Influence riled up The Boy, The Girl, and their second cousin, while The Baby snuggled on Uncle Fuzzy's lap. The Dad and I got a rare moment of peace (but only a moment!) and some adult conversation.

Afterwards, we headed back into the city to clean the house before The Dad's friend and former colleague, Ranga, came to visit. Ranga used to be a software engineer, but now does IP work for a respected Silicon Valley firm. He was in town to depose an expert witness for the defense (his client), so we talked about people and places we used to know back when The Dad and I lived in San Francisco. We ordered Chicago's famous stuffed pizza and, afterward, had an ice cream cake to celebrate The Dad's birthday. The Dad took his friend back to his hotel and I put the kids in bed.

New Places

Despite the recession, there are new restaurants, cafes, and retail places popping up all over the north/northwest side of the city. I have passed several that I want to try. Because my brain is a sieve of late, I'm posting this list in the hopes that I can remind myself to check out these places in the coming weeks:

Papa Nicholas Cafe on Milwaukee & Montrose
Ladybug Book Cafe on Irving Park & California

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Blast from the Past

This evening, I took The Baby, The Boy, and The Girl with me to Lincoln Square to get dinner and a birthday present for The Dad (he turns 35 tomorrow!). On our playdate last week, The Boy and I had spotted a cool Star Wars pop-up book that we thought would be perfect for The Dad and went back today to get it. Of course, both The Boy and The Girl asked me to buy various books for them, so I suggested that next time we make a family outing "to the bookstore," we'd go to that bookstore. The clerk ringing us up agreed, and gave me a list of store events. As I scanned the list, I found a name I recognized: Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu. A long, long time ago, Nnedi and I were friends. I'll have to add her novels to my list of books to read. I currently have a huge stack on my nightstand and am in a book-buying moratorium.

We dropped a fair bit of money in Lincoln Square this evening. I stopped at City Mouse and bought The Baby a cute Tea Collection outfit, and found a baseball t-shirt for The Boy. We had dinner at Costello's, and in addition to the bookstore run, I spent a small fortune on an ice cream cake at Stone Cold Creamery. The Boy and The Girl each got a kid's ice cream, although The Boy decided he did not like the mint ice cream with white chocolate chips on top that he had to have, and threw it out. Which annoyed me, because The Baby would have happily ate it.

Busy, Busy, Busy

One of these days, my life will slow down. But if I am honest, I am not sure I want it to, as I generally enjoy being busy. However, there are some times when it's just too much.

Today, I saw the dentist, got yogurt at Whole Foods, bought clothes at the Salvation Army flea market event, took The Girl to ballet class, had a coffee date with The Girl and her friends and their mothers, and took two little girls to the park -- all before noon.

We met the boys at the park, and I took The Baby and The Girl (and her friend) to meet our friends at the Curio Cafe, while The Dad and The Boy walked up to the Golden Nugget for a reprise of last night (for The Boy, anyway). I got the plato tipico at Curio, and it was really good. Afterward, I attempted to go to the organic plant sale at Kilbourn Park, but the sale had closed for the day by the time we got there.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Friday Frenzy

I am beat. It has been a long day and a long week.

The Dad took The Boy to school this morning, and brought me home a coffee. I was going to go back to bed, but I sat in it and read last week's paper instead. Then I put The Baby down for a nap, left The Dad working in the basement, and took The Girl to Julie's 11 a.m. Advanced Music class. She had a great time learning about the different "families" of musical instruments.

After music class, we stopped at the Farmer's Market Garden Center to pick out some plants for the garden. The Girl was very excited to pick out plants. We got some pretty purple annuals for the front planters, which she then helped me plant when we got home.

The Baby woke up, we had a quick lunch, and picked up The Boy from school. We went over to Ethan's house for a playdate.

By the time we got home, The Girl was exhausted. She passed out on The Dad. I put The Baby to bed also, and The Boy and I had a little date together. We went to the Golden Nugget for dinner (his choice) and then to his school's art show. Service was slow tonight, but the food was good as usual. I got the short stack of pancakes (I always liked their pancakes over Alp's), and The Boy got his usual order of chicken fingers and chocolate milk. Our old neighbors were sitting in the next booth over. As an "art mom," I found the art show rather anti-climatic, but The Boy had a good time running around with his friends and showing me his stuff.

And now, I am exhausted and going to bed.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

Today, I had planned to take advantage of my relative proximity to my morning's destination/activity (playgroup at Becky's house) and walk there. But fatigue, timing, the weather, and a to-do list a mile long conspired against me and I ended up driving the 1.3 miles to Albany Park. The Baby, The Girl and I had a good time with our friends, and we stayed until it was time to pick up The Boy from school.

On the way, I stopped back home to pick up the mail, although of course there was nothing there from Disney 2. The Girl fell asleep in the car on the way, and although I had volunteered to string fish from the ceiling, I bailed on that plan in favor of letting The Girl get a good sleep. She did, and by the time she woke up, it was too late to go back.

I made up for my gas guzzling of the morning by taking The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby to McDonald's on foot for dinner, since The Dad was working late. We then walked down the street to Athletic Field Park for the kids' Tee Ball game.

It was our first "game," which consisted of letting all of the kids on each team (we had to "give" four of our players to the other team to make two teams of eight) go up to bat and run the bases while the other team tried to catch and/or throw the ball to their teammates. Good thing they're not too serious about it. I can imagine a bunch of 3, 4, and 5-year-olds in hysterics over "losing." The Girl spent much of the game time in the bathroom at the fieldhouse, singing loudly and deliberating over whether or not she needed to pee. In fact, the game was over by the time we got back to the field.

After the kids went to bed, I left them all with The Dad and ran out to do a few errands that took no time at all in my childless state: The Book Cellar to pick up an order (Sears' The Vaccine Book). While I was there, I also grabbed our book club's selection for next month, my friend Jen's boyfriend's book, The Third Coast: Sailors, Strippers, Fishermen, Folksingers ... of the Great Lakes. And then I went to Trader Joe's. On the way home, I nearly got clocked by a fire engine screaming down Irving Park Road (on the wrong side of the divider) on its way to an emergency, and that was with paying close attention. I got over right away, but it was the second fire engine I saw, and about the fifth moving emergency vehicle with its sirens/lights on that had passed through the Irving Park Road/Lincoln Avenue/Damen Avenue intersection. About ten seconds later, a paddywagon passed by as well. I wonder what happened?

Vienna Beef

Yesterday, I took The Baby to the Vienna Beef Factory Store & Cafe for lunch. It's one of our new favorite destinations because it's on the way to the Treasure Store, it's fast, and we can split an order of 2 Chicago-style dogs and fries for $4.25. The Baby loves hot dogs. Perhaps because it's at the factory, the dogs often have unsealed-at-the-ends casing, which actually works out well for me, because that is the part that The Baby has the most trouble eating, and I can just peel it off.

He sat in a regular chair pulled up to the table, although two people offered to get me a highchair for him. I assured them that he'd be fine in a chair, and he was. He looked so little and so grown-up at the same time, sitting there in his rockstar guitar t-shirt, baggy Boden jeans, and baby Cons.

We brought the paper boat of fries with us, and he ate them happily while sitting in his stroller at the Treasure Store as I looked through the racks for jeans and pants for me. I ended up with a pair of Buffalo by David Bitton jeans, bright green J. Crew pants (that I plan to cut down into Bermuda shorts), and pale green Limited dress pants (with nobody inside 'em!*). All for a mere $13. By the time we got upstairs, however, The Baby was done with the Treasure Store. He was only slightly impressed with the original Fisher-Price, made in the U.S.A., plastic horses ball I found in the housewares aisle.

The rest of my day was fairly busy as well: I volunteered to prep art projects for hanging for St. Bart's art fair on Friday, so I spent the morning stringing fishing line into different fish art pieces for hanging. I took all three kids to Target after school to buy new Big Girl Underwear for The Girl. I did laundry. And I went to book club at Elephant Thai (my entree was great, but I didn't really like the chive dumplings) and the Chocolate Shoppe (weird service, good ice cream -- I tried about 4 different kinds before settling on maraschino cherry) in Edgebrook (cute neighborhood, seemed more like Evanston than the city).

* Does anyone else recite snippets of Dr. Suess books in their head at odd moments? The reference above is to his story, "What Was I Scared Of?)

And so it goes...

More waiting for the folks at CPS. Although families were supposed to receive notification of acceptance into Disney II by May 9, 2008, that isn't going to happen. After checking my mailbox with increasing mania all week, I called the Office of Academic Enhancement today to just ask if The Boy is on The List. The person who answered the phone told me that they have not yet finished all the lotteries for Disney II and she expected letters to go out "on Monday or Tuesday next week" at the earliest. Sigh. The anticipation is killing me.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Two down, one to go....

Yesterday, The Girl decided that she was going to potty train herself. And she did it! She peed on the potty several times, including a few times at home, once at the Shedd Aquarium, and once at Athletic Field Park.

She also pooped at the Shedd. Grandma Naperville was suitably impressed with this feat. The Boy, who took about a year to be comfortable enough to poop in public places, was not. Such is life.

Because she now meets the requirements, The Girl is eligible to go to preschool "camp" at Athletic Field Park. So I signed her up. She'll be going with at least one of her friends and is very excited about being a "big girl" now.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Cheap Day at the Shedd

Ah memberships to museums, how I do love you.

Today, I pulled The Boy out of school for a special treat: a day at the Shedd Aquarium with me, The Girl, The Baby, Grandma Naperville, and Super-Grandma. I dropped $2 in quarters in the parking meter, spent $1.75 for popcorn inside, and that was my total expenditure for the outing (plus gas, of course, which at $4+/gallon, is no small expense these days).

We met the grandmas there about 10:30 a.m. While there were lots of school groups, it was still significantly less crowded there than it is on the average weekend (the only other time we've really gone). The Boy wanted to see everything and we did our best to accommodate that desire. There was a bit of fear of missing something that he wasn't always able to fully enjoy (or let us enjoy) whatever we were doing at the moment, but we did get to see pretty much everything (except the IMAX movie, which I always skip because I find them nauseating).

First, we saw the old-fashioned aquarium bits: the center tank (The Baby was entranced), the frogs, fish and iguanas. The Boy really liked the wave machine in the iguana habitat. Then we went down to the Coral Reef to watch the sharks. The Baby was scared by the wave machine down there, so we quickly moved on. They were cleaning the coral, so there were several divers in the tanks, their pates exposed by the water's motion, scrubbing the habitat's rocks with little bristly brushes and wiping down the glass of the tank that is in the ceiling. A couple of them waved to The Boy, so now we know that the fish can see us just as we see them.

After the coral reef, we went over to the Oceanarium to check out the penguins and belugas, including baby Miki. It was quite peaceful to see the belugas swimming around in the underwater viewing area, Miki swimming just under his mother and, at one point, nursing. I thought that was rather neat, being a nursing mother myself. Super Grandma treated us to lunch in the Bubblenet Cafe. Then we sat down to wait for the Dolphin Show to begin. The Dolphin Show was quite different than the ones we've seen thus far; it was more about how they train the dolphins to do "tricks" for the crowds.

At that point, I was pretty tired, and so were The Baby, The Girl and Super Grandma, so we did a quick tour through the Dragon exhibit and called it a day. It was a good one.

Tee Ball

The Boy and The Girl are both playing in the Avondale Park (satellite)-Athletic Field Park's Tee Ball league this spring. The Boy is somewhat into t-ball, at least in theory. He can throw a bit, and sort of catch, and he went through a heck of a lot of drills the few times we made it to the serious, no-parents-allowed, learn-to-play-t-ball clinic at Horner Park during the winter session. The Girl, OTOH, is totally confused. She likes the running the bases part, but generally singsongs in the outfield, or plays in the dirt with her friend Peri or Kathy, another little 3-y/o teammate.

The league is incredibly cheap, which means that it's basically run by parent volunteers, with a few pointers from the park district coaches and a bag of loaner equipment from the same. Our team, the Giants, is lucky enough to have several dad-volunteers to run drills and organize practices. They're pretty good at it! I'll admit that except for the availability of the dads, the timing of it all -- 5:15 - 6:15 p.m. -- is pretty crummy for the 3-5-year-old set. We practice on Tuesdays and play games on Thursdays. My two have yet to make a game, either due to rain or laziness on my part.

However, it is rather fun to see all the different teams practicing along the perimeter of the park, figuring out how this baseball thing really works (or just having fun running circles in the dirt). Jessica's son is in the same league, and as I took The Girl to the bathroom, I saw her, standing in the dirt and yelling plays to Lil E and her team. Cool.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood today. The Baby, The Boy, The Girl and I headed east to Buena Park to attend our dear playgroup friend Antonia's 5th birthday party. The Boy and The Girl ate pizza, ripped open a Tinkerbelle pinata and filled treat bags with candy, and ate a yummy cake and ice cream. The Baby admired Antonia's 17-month-old twin brother and sister, and played with toys.

On the way home, we stopped at the sports store to pick up a left-handed peewee mitt for The Girl. As I found out earlier this week, they don't carry left-handed mitts for little people at Target. I have a feeling that it won't be the first time that the family lefthandedness makes things more difficult.

When we got home, we did a kid-parent split. The Dad and The Boy ran errands at Home Depot and did chores, while I took The Baby and The Girl to GIPNA's Fine Arts & Crafts fair at the Independence Park Fieldhouse gym. We bought a necklace from Sharon Sears and a cool apron. Then we played on the playground for nearly an hour before heading home. The Baby had great fun giving a dad (not ours) woodchips from the center of the bouncy teeter-totter.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Busy Day

Today was a very busy day for me. As soon as I got up, I took The Baby with me to the Swedish Bakery in Andersonville to pick up petit fours for The Girl's birthday tea party. I also got a couple of donuts to bring back for The Boy, The Girl, and The Dad.

When we got home, it was time to take The Girl to her Saturday ballet class. She had a fantastic time with "Miss Jen." I went across the street to Starbucks and got some work done.

After ballet, The Dad took The Baby, The Boy, and The Girl to our neighborhood greasepit, Munchies, for hot dogs and gyros, while I prepped for the party. We all had a bath and changed into our party clothes.

And then five little girls and their mothers came over for tea!

Grandma and Grandpa Naperville

After we left Maria back at her hotel, instead of heading back into the city in Friday afternoon traffic, we headed southwest, to Naperville.

We had a playdate with Grandma and Grandpa, had dinner, and they had a mini birthday party for The Girl. Since I didn't have to make dinner, I got to play two rounds of Candyland with The Boy and The Girl. We ate cupcakes and ice cream, and The Girl opened her present from Grandma and Grandpa, a Dora Big Wheel.

Then it was time to go home. Mercifully, they all fell asleep on the way home and The Dad and I were able to transfer them all into their beds.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Oakbrook Terrace

Got lost on the way out to Oakbrook Terrace today. The Great White Moose's gas gauge was on empty, so I got off at Highland Avenue to look for gas before heading to the Staybridge Suites to meet my cousin. I drove down Butterfield Road for quite some time before I happened upon a Mobil station, which was completely out of gas. Ran over to the BP; they weren't, and $67.10 later, we were back on our way. Headed all the way back down Butterfield and found my cousin's hotel.

We picked her up -- she looks so much like my mother, it was disconcerting. She looked great, and was lovely with the kids. Later, The Girl asked several times if 'ria (Maria) could come over again. Maria lives in Japan, so it isn't likely, but maybe Maria will be stationed stateside again soon and we can see her. I've never met her husband or her two children.

Anyway, we were all hungry, so we headed to the mothership for lunch. Afterwards, we left the car in the lot, and walked across the street to Oakbrook Center. The Baby liked playing in the dirt of the tulip beds while The Girl and The Boy enjoyed through 1Y pieces that Maria had given them to throw into the fountains. And she and I caught up on family news, etc.

We went into the Land of Nod to change diapers and play, and to Hanna Andersson so that I could make a return. We stopped for 3 milkboxes, 3 cookies, and an iced-tea lemonade at Starbuck's, then made our weary walk back to the car.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Birthday Butterflies

Today is The Girl's birthday. She's three. How did that happen? I had always pictured myself as a Mom of Boys, but she has been such a joy in my life. I can't imagine not having some girlie in our lives.

In honor of her birthday, we "hosted" playgroup at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. I had thought that because their Butterfly Ball is tomorrow and the museum will be closed, it would be fairly quiet in there. But I was wrong. The school groups were notably absent and it was not crowded, but they were working on the installation of their new special exhibit, so it was loud in the Hands-On-Habitat. Which kept scaring The Baby.

I did get to catch up with my friend Sarah and her little ones -- we talked about schools and real estate, of course. Her husband and his business partner are building a mixed-use green building adjacent to Giddings Plaza in Lincoln Square.

After the museum, we ran a quick couple of errands in Lincoln Park: exchanging a broken table leg at Pottery Barn Kids and buying butter and eggs at Treasure Island to make a pink birthday cake for The Girl:

Long lost relatives

The most notable thing about my day was getting a call from my cousin Maria. I haven't seen her in about 15 years. She lives in Okinawa with her husband and children, but is in town for a convention. The Kids and I are going to drive out to see her Friday afternoon. I'm sure traffic getting back into the city will be hairy and awful, but seeing my favorite cousin from my youth will be worth it.