Saturday, June 28, 2008

Mama-Tot Playdate

Whenever I spend one-on-one time with The Girl, she calls it a Mama-Girl Playdate. Today, I had a Mama-Tot Playdate. It was nice. It wasn't fantastically exciting, but when you are 14-months-old, even mundane errands can be fun.

I took him to Nordstrom to buy (him) new shoes. The traffic on the Edens wasn't too bad, but I was starving when we got there, so we stopped into the cafe to have lunch first. He had had lunch at home with The Dad previously, but he happily ate some of my salad while sitting on my lap. I made the mistake of sitting outside, so there was a huge lag between ordering and getting my food. I finally asked the server when he brought my check before my salad. There were four chatty ladies having lunch next to us, and The Tot enjoyed flirting with them while we waited.

After lunch, we went next door to the kids' shoe department to get a matching (to The Boy) pair of green Keens for him. I also ordered a pair of baby Cons for him, since they didn't have his size in the color I wanted in-stock in the store. He also got a balloon, which I tucked into the back of his shorts so we wouldn't lose it.

I ran down to Gap to return some stuff for The Dad. The Tot rearranged the lotions bottles while I made my return. He was only 10 feet away from me, but I could see where he was going from the yellow balloon attached to his pants. We made our way back through the mall to Nordstrom. I got a snack for The Tot -- chocolate-covered graham crackers -- and an iced tea for me. He wanted to walk himself and had a mind of his own on the best way to go. He was so cute walking determinedly through Nordstrom with a chocolate-graham in hand and a balloon sticking up. When I held his hand to re-direct him, he'd stop and squat down -- his way of telling me that he wanted to do it himself.

Traffic on the Edens looked bad, so I took Route 50 home. I think it took about as much time as the Edens would have.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Walk, Walk, Walk

Camp days have become unofficial stay-at-home/neighborhood days for us. With the timing and location of both The Boy's and The Girl's camps and The Tot's naps (plus gas at $4+/gallon), it just makes sense to hang out around the neighborhood. The Girl did not have camp today, but The Boy did.

After camp, I invited Allison and her kids over to play, and O., who will attend Disney II with The Boy and Enver in the fall, came over as well. There were a few squabbles as Enver and The Boy tried to exclude O. on the basis of her gender or age (she's not quite 5 yet), but for the most part, they did really well. We played in the pool, ate a bunch of snacks, and just hung out.

After everyone left around 3, I put a movie on for The Boy and The Girl and put The Tot down for a nap. By the time I was finished, both The Boy and The Girl had passed out in front of the movie. They all slept until nearly 6. We had dinner, and since The Dad worked late and I needed to tire them out a bit, we walked up to Baskin-Robbins for ice cream.

It was a good day.


Otom

I promised more on Otom... and at last, here it is.

Otom was an interesting experience. I think it would be that way with or without kids, but going with The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot added an element of speed-eating to the experience. I really liked the space -- it had something like 14' ceilings and despite its long, narrow dining dimensions, the effect was airy and light. There were floor-to-ceiling curtains dividing the space into 3 sections - a small dining and lounge section, another one for the bar and bar seating, and a third dining section. We sat in the back dining section, which was mercifully filled with families with small children when we arrived for our 5:15 reservation.

Like its parent and next-door neighbor, Moto, the premise of Otom is to de-construct American dishes and reconstruct them in a new way. Moto specializes in true "foodie" food, but Otom reconstructs "comfort food." I would never think to isolate the flavors within blueberry pie a la mode, for example, and recreate it within another dish. It's basically what I do in my work, but with food. Intellectually, I think it's a pretty cool concept. But while I respect the art behind the work, I'm not sure that I am enough of a foodie to enjoy the end result.

Otom offered a 3-course prix-fixe menu for KRW, but the selection was extremely limited. There was basically 1 adult menu (salad and pork belly) and 1 kid menu (mac & cheese and corn dogs & fries). I liked the salad, wasn't fond of the pork belly (it came in a little square, with "beans" that were actually ground pork and another square of smoked bread). The pepperoni pizza mac & cheese was good, but I thought it needed salt. The fries were teeny, tiny shoestring potatoes and the kids thought they were fun. The corn dogs were good. I also ordered one of the 3 "mocktails" on the menu: the rhubarb "gimlet," a mix of lime juice, crushed raspberries, rhubarb, and pomegranate juice. Everyone liked that.

Service was extremely attentive and everyone from the bread guy to the waitress was accommodating of the little-kid crowd (and their parents -- I must have dropped my fork through the slat on the side of my chair 4 or 5 times). The bread guy offered us slices of bread whenever we ran out, and they quickly replaced the little ramekins of sweet-herbed butter whenever we ran out of those, too. The Tot ate the butter straight-up, and The Girl very kindly spread butter on slices of bread for me (on her own initiative).

Dessert was kind of odd. It was called milk & cookies, but it wasn't. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't what I was expecting: a flat, hard crepe (like a pizzelle, but flat) with baked chocolate-dough dots on it. The Tot was quite confused as to why these things didn't peel off or taste like chocolate chips. The crepe was accompanied by a scoop of ice cream, a dollop of mascarpone, and a few banana slices drenched in caramel.

Our meal total came to $43.19 with my mocktail and 2 Sprites. I left a $20 tip, which probably is not much when you consider that everything would probably have been $100 outside of KRW. As we were leaving, there were 3 or 4 metrosexual business guys at the front, looking doubtfully at the crowd -- they obviously didn't realize it was KRW when they made the reservation.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

9 to 5, and then some

The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I left the house this morning at 9 a.m., headed for playgroup. We rolled back onto our street just before 7 p.m., after dinner out. It was a full day. If it were in an 80s film, it'd be shown as a musical montage.

My favorite part of the day was not dining at Otom (more on that later), or doing a mad dash through the Treasure Store (ditto), but the 1/2 hour I spent picking ripe mulberries out of the trees in Lincoln Park with The Boy and The Girl in view of North Pond.

Stopped at the new Mobil to fill up The Great White Moose, and buy coffee (for me) and donuts (for the kids) at the new, hotly anticipated Dunkin Donuts. Then we were on our way to meet Cheryl and Sarah at the Nature Museum.


We managed to find a decent parking spot on northbound Stockton Drive. It was a tight spot, but I squeezed The Great White Moose in there. I let The Tot and The Girl out to run around while I pulled out the stroller and got our stuff. There was a boy of about 10 or 12 walking down the path, and he came up to me to tell me that The Girl had gone up to the two homeless men sleeping on the benches in the gazebo. I don't think she had -- it is unlike her to go up to any stranger, although she had been sitting on the benches just outside the gazebo -- so I just said, "OK." I suppose I should have thanked him, because he made a face and muttered something about "...disgusting." Oh well. I get that homeless people can be dangerous, but I don't know that something is going to happen to my kids in broad daylight while I am standing 10 yards away.

We made our way around the pond to the Nature Museum and met our friends in the Hands-On Habitat. From there, we went to the green house, Lawn Nation, and to do an activity in the activity/resource area. By then, Cheryl's kids were ready for a snack (as was I), so we headed downstairs to eat something, with the intent of going back to the exhibits. Unfortunately, Cheryl's daughter started to melt down at the end of lunch, so they went home. We attempted to do the same, but got waylaid along the way. I changed The Tot's diaper, and I think I must have left the cloth diaper and cover on the top of the changing table, because I don't have it now. The museum was very crowded with camp groups, so between that and the 7 kids (with 7 different interests!) among the 3 moms, I felt very frazzled. Although I'm happy that they offer a free/donation day, I try generally not to go to the museum on Thursday mornings because it's so crazy.

The Tot, who protested going into the jumpseat of the e3, fell asleep in it five minutes later, on the way to the car. So The Girl, The Boy, and I picked mulberries while he slept in the stroller, parked underneath the shade of the mulberry tree. The breeze blew, and it was quite pleasant to be under the shade of the tree, picking off the fruit in the heart of Lincoln Park. We filled up a half a sandwich-size baggie full of the berries, then walked over to the playground, where The Boy and The Girl played for a bit.

The Tot woke up, and The Girl declared that she had to go potty. Her pediatrician had called earlier in the week to request another urine sample, so we walked over to their office in St. Joseph to give the sample. It was the most frustrating and longest part of the day, as The Girl had performance anxiety about peeing in the cup. We spent 90 minutes in the doctor's office, alternately in the waiting room and in the bathroom before she went. At one point, I had promised ice cream if she went, so when she finally did go, we went off in search of ice cream.

It was hot and sunny and we were all pretty tired, so we walked as far as Pot Belly on Diversey before stopping for ice cream. The Girl had chocolate, The Boy had a vanilla cone, and The Tot had a vanilla frozen yogurt. I sprinkled mulberries in both The Tot's and The Girl's cups. The Tot did a fantastic job of eating his yogurt with a spoon held in his right hand.

This time on the way back to the car, The Girl fell asleep in the stroller. So we stopped to pick more mulberries from a tree on Stockton Drive. The Tot was covered in purple mulberry juice; he repeatedly sat down on the slope under the tree. The berries from the tree on the west side of the park were more ripe, juicier, and bigger than those we had picked earlier.

By then, it was 3: 30 p.m. and I realized that we didn't have much time to go home and change before dinner. Instead, we got into the car and I drove over to the Treasure Store. We did a mad dash through the store to get re-outfitted in clean clothes before dinner. I broke my own rule of washing everything bought at the TS before wearing it, but it seemed necessary. I'm somewhat proud of my resourcefulness in this situation. I could have gone to Gap and spent $100 to re-outfit us all; instead spent $15 that included a skirt (Express) + top for me, polo romper (Polo) for tot, shorts (gymboree) + polo shirt for boy, and dress for girl. We used water and a few cloths in the car to clean up, and changed in car in parking lot.

Then we headed down Clybourn to Halsted and down to Fulton Market, to Otom. The timing was perfect. Our reservation was at 5:15 and I pulled on to Fulton Market at 5:05 p.m.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Coco Pazzo Cafe

Tonight was our first Kids' Restaurant Week dinner. We went to Coco Pazzo Cafe, which is on St. Clair, about a block away from Northwestern Memorial Hospital (which detracted from the ambiance as an ambulance or fire truck went screaming by every 10 minutes or so). I knew going in that it might be tricky, as The Boy woke up before 6 a.m., The Girl woke up from a snooze-on-the-couch just before we left for the restaurant, and The Tot had had a short nap.

We were the first family to arrive at the restaurant -- the valet expressed surprise that I was taking not one, but three children out of the car. I imagine that the folks who came up with restaurant week were envisioning newly minted parents with their 8-month-olds in tow. And that was pretty much the profile of other KRW diners. Oh well. Readers of this blog know that my departure from the expected is nothing new.

They had a special, 3-course menu for KRW patrons. There were 3 options for starter, 4 for the main, and 2 for dessert. We ordered bruschetta (good) for The Boy, The Girl, and The Dad, while I had the vegetalli chopped salad (needed salt). The Tot shared with everyone, although he doesn't actually like the taste of tomatoes. I ordered the fish of the day (Alaskan halibut with olive tapenade over grilled fennel); The Dad had pork chops, and The Girl and The Boy both had, shockingly enough, pasta (with tomatoes and basil -- The Boy ate his on the side). The Girl is either a seafood lover or just an adventurous eater because she asked to try my fish and then spent the rest of the meal demanding bites. The Dad and I also each ordered a glass of Italian rose, which I was expecting to be like Provencial rose -- light, refreshing, the perfect summer drink for dining al fresco -- but it was darker and heavier. The Tot kept asking for sips, and once he had sampled it, could not be distracted by water.

There was a huge gap of time between our main course and dessert. There was another couple with a 1-year-old seated just after we were, and they had finished dessert, paid, and departed by the time we received our 3 fresh strawberry tarts with whipped cream, and 1 sorbet and melon. By then, the restaurant was quite busy, not only with other KRW families, but also with their usual crowd. It seemed we never really saw the same waiter twice, but I ended up in a corner, so I may have missed something. We paid our bill ($69 with drinks) and skedaddled in short order after dessert.

All in all, we thought Coco Pazzo Cafe was OK. We probably would not go back again without children, outside of KRW. The Girl said her favorite part of the meal was my sorbet. The Tot seemed to enjoy the foccacia, and The Boy liked the strawberries (which he scraped off the tart) and whipped cream the best.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Camp!

Today was a crazy day. Both The Boy and The Girl started camp (at different parks), so I spent half my day dropping someone off or picking him/her up. A preview to next year, when I will have two kids at Disney II and one down the street at CFC. But back to today: despite all the running around, I saw lots of people I knew, but hadn't seen since the school year's close. The Boy has a ton of mates at camp, and The Girl shares the 2.5-hour playcamp with at least three friends.

The Boy went home with Enver after camp, so I took The Baby to the Treasure Store. He is just done with TS runs.* While there, I ran into Ms. Sarah, The Boy's pre-K teacher from St. Bart's. I found a pair of shorts and some cool red patent leather flats for me, a toy camera for The Baby (what was I just saying about not buying toys?), and some cute kid clothing.


* He also seems to be going through a growth spurt and losing a layer of baby fat. He looks taller and thinner, and seems to have lost that compact new-walker look. His size-21 sandals, the ones that the sales guy at Alamo Shoes assured me would "last through the summer" are already too small, less than a month later. I think it's time to change his blog name to The Tot.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

TRU

No, not the restaurant. It's not a participant in Kids' Restaurant Week, but even if it were, I probably would not take my kids to Tru, though the Trib has good things to say about Gale Gand (and as a pastry-addict, I'd like to try her stuff sometime). Instead, dear readers, I am talking about a giant, brightly colored, plastic-filled, noise-generating, headache-inducing outpost: Toys "R" Us. Otherwise known as TRU among the parent-set.

I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby to Toys "R" Us this afternoon. It is unlike me to shop for toys (a playroom [including a 5x5 EXPEDIT unit] bursting at the seams, plus toy bins in every bedroom, and the basement have killed that urge), but we had some gift cards to spend. The Boy picked out a new Razor Scooter (he left his old one on the front sidewalk and it had been stolen), The Girl chose a Little Tykes digital camera, and The Baby got a baby stroller (we now have 3; hopefully this means fewer squabbles over them) and a new GeoTrax train with controller (bringing our total of those up to 3 also; I hope this also translates into fewer squabbles). The best part? We still have $26.41 left over for another rainy day toy expedition. I was tempted to spend it on a huge GeoTrax Central Station toy, which was on clearance for $49.99. But although it'd be cool, it would also require more storage space than we currently have, so I passed.

At that point, we were all hungry and pretty grumpy because of it (despite the toys), so we stopped at Target for dinner on the way home. The Baby and I split an order of chicken tenders and a Yoplait yogurt (the kind I don't normally buy because its low fat content is counteracted by high-fructose corn syrup, which bumps the calorie total to an obscene number for low-fat yogurt), The Girl settled on a beef hot dog (organic mac & cheese was unavailable), and The Boy had his usual Pizza Hut personal pan pizza. We did shop a bit afterwards for pantry staples and a new kitchen rug.

Green City, Playdate

This morning, I got up early and took The Boy with me to one of the City's green events, a drop-off harmful substances and pick-up a rain barrel and/or compost bin thing. It was held in one of Comiskey Park's parking lots, just north of the 35th Street entrance to the park. We got there around 9 a.m., about an hour after it started, and we were in and out quite fast. We dropped off old paint, Pine-sol, and about 8 pounds of used batteries. I also picked up a subsidized compost bin from the City for $30. Fortunately, I brought my checkbook, because they only took checks. Not everyone was so lucky, so I wrote a check for the guy behind me, who like a few people only had cash.

When we got home, I traded kids with The Dad, and took The Girl to her ballet class. For the first time, I spent the whole class period in the waiting room, and I'm happy that I did not hear Ms. Jen reminding The Girl of good class behavior -- nor did I see her sneak out of class into the waiting room. After class, I brought The Girl and Peri over to Starbucks, to meet Peri's mother and brothers. This is when the giant (very fun!) playdate that was our afternoon began.

Peri, Enver, and The Girl walked home with me. We stopped at Walgreen's to pick up diaper-rash cream and sliced bread, and ran into Beth T. and her kids. A. is in ballet class with Peri and The Girl, and S. is just a few months younger than The Baby. I invited them to come over as well. When we got home, The Boy and D., our neighbor, were already in their swimsuits to go on D.'s slip-n-slide. I found suits to lend all of our guests, and everyone ran back and forth between D.'s slip-n-slide and the sprinkler that The Dad set up and ran for a bit in our front yard. It was nice to talk further with Beth T. and the kids all had a great time running around and, later, playing inside and in the backyard.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Milwaukee

I didn't go to Milwaukee today. But my brother and sister-in-law did. As The Baby, The Boy, The Girl, and I were circling O'Hare Terminal 3 Arrivals waiting for Uncle Chris and Aunt J. to meet us after their flight from Seattle, they were, in fact, diverted to Milwaukee. And there was much crying (except from The Baby, who was asleep).

So we changed the plan, and went to get lunch. I got horribly lost trying to find Canfield Road from Cumberland, and by the time I realized my error, The Baby was awake and the four of us were grumpy from hunger. We stopped at the Corner Bakery on Touhy for some salad (me), pasta (The Boy), and a ham sandwich (The Girl). The Baby shared everything. Spirits improved immensely. The Boy told The Girl that she was a germ, and that he was a white (blood) cell, gave her a hug, and told her that he was attacking her. Maybe I should rename them The Germ and The Cell?

At the end of the meal, Uncle Chris called to say that his flight had landed in Chicago. And there was much rejoicing! So we skedaddled back to O'Hare and fetched them. We played around in the yard and the house, and then the neighbors came over and there was a mass of little kids running around this side of the block. That was fun!

We took Uncle Chris and Aunt J. to dinner at Curio Cafe. It was our first time there for dinner, and it was really good. Operating on the theory that it's better to do a few things extremely well than a bunch poorly, the dinner menu is extremely limited -- they offer a steak, a chicken, and a shrimp dish, plus the lunch items from their children's menu. The Dad, Uncle Chris, and Aunt J. ordered the steak, served with fresh guacamole and a mound of perfectly molded rice; I had the chicken, served with fresh sauteed carrots (and peas -- my only complaint about Curio is that they use canned peas instead of fresh or frozen) and a huge, steaming baked potato (which I gave to The Baby). Everything came with a side salad or soup of the day; I had the salad, which was served with a lovely cilantro dressing reminiscent of Indian cilantro chutney. Uncle Chris got the soup of the day, which was cream of asparagus and he reported that it was very light and creamy. They are BYOB, and they do not charge a corkage fee, so we split a bottle of white with dinner.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Southport Corridor

Yesterday, The Dad and I celebrated 9 years of marriage by leaving the kids with a sitter (my friend Allison) in the evening and going out. Our plans were nebulous, but The Dad met my request for dessert (after nearly a week of following the South Beach Diet) by taking me to Julius Meinl (the original location, on Southport). We shared a lovely settee in the nearly empty cafe, and each got a decadent coffee drink (decaf for me) and an equally decadent dessert (I had the Vienna Torte).

The weather was perfect - mid 70s and clear, which made it a nice night to be out and about in the city. Apparently, a lot of other people had the same idea because parking was difficult; we ended up in a metered spot close to Ashland, and walked. I was focused on my rumbling tummy on the walk to Meinl, but once my belly was full of chocolate, marzipan, and coffee, I could concentrate on my surroundings on our leisurely stroll back to the car.

Wow - there is a lot of new stuff in that area! When The Boy was a baby, we went to a pediatricians' practice near Schuba's, at Belmont and Southport. But we switched practices when he was around 2, and haven't been back in that area much since The Girl was born. Maybe we should change that, as there are a ton of restaurants, candy stores, and shops (including an Anthropologie in what I remember being an auto-body shop or garage) in the area. The Boy would probably hate everything except Candyality or Bob Tail Creamery, but The Girl, who has absorbed my penchant for consumerism, would dig it. I'll have to go back sometime with the kids.

Suburbs!

Today, we went to visit our playgroup expats in the 'burbs. Darien, to be exact. As I turned onto the highway on-ramp, The Boy asked if we were going to the suburbs. When I responded in the affirmative, both he and The Girl shouted "hooray!" Half an hour later, they asked the inevitable: "Are we there yet?"

The answer was no, but 45 minutes later we were in Oakbrook; I stopped in the mall to make a return and buy a present for The Dad. On cue, The Girl declared that she was hungry. So we all got a healthful snack (Clif Kid Z-Bar for The Girl and The Baby, Organic Ducks for The Boy, a veggie wrap for me) and split a gigantic iced tea from the Nordstrom Cafe. The Girl ate half my wrap on the walk back to the car. That kid will eat anything.

We went over to Beebalm's house for an afternoon playgroup that included lunch, time in A.'s swingset "clubhouse," a crazy game of hide-and-seek, bubbles, and seeing old friends. Plus popsicles and rice-marshmallow treats. What could be better? I took the Stevenson home; they all fell asleep.

I made a pit-stop at Trader Joe's on Clybourn to load up on groceries for the crew. It was a mad shopping trip, with The Boy and The Girl each pushing a tiny cart and The Baby in the main cart squawking for more snacks. But we finished quickly and made our way home. The most interesting part of the last leg was driving parallel to two giant semi-trucks filled with...

bees! The Boy noticed all the bees flying around first. Then the rest of us began gaping. The Boy was afraid that the bees would come into our car and sting him. It was the strangest thing. The trucks were carrying stacks of large white containers, covered entirely with a blue mesh canvas, and each had a swarm of bees visible on the sides, around the canvas, and stuck in large pockets of the fabric near the bottom of the flat bed. The trucks had Maryland plates, which added to this curiosity.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Redemption

The Baby's mood -- and mine along with it -- improved after a nap (for him) and lunch. But The Boy and The Girl were cantankerous, so we had to get out of the house. I called my friend Becky, and she invited us over to play. I took advantage of the nice weather to take the bus over to her house. It took about 40 minutes (the longest part was walking to and from the bus stops) and was a nice little adventure for the afternoon. The Girl asked at every stop whether that one was "our" stop.

The trip back was a bit more arduous, as we were all hungry (stopped for milks for the kids and a tall decaf latte for me at Starbucks on the walk to the bus stop), tired, and cold. I carried The Baby in the sling and pushed The Girl in our lightweight stroller. We all had a good time and got out of the house, which is really all that matters.


Disastrous Morning

Well, that was a disaster. I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby with me this morning to the Green City Market in Lincoln Park/Old Town. After eying all the gorgeous produce on display in Seattle this weekend, I was jonesing for some produce that I could actually take home and eat. Plus, the weather today was perfect for the market -- 70, sunny, with a slight breeze.

Apparently, everyone else with small children had the same idea because the market was mobbed, and parking was difficult to find. We parked on Wells at least 3 blocks away from the market itself (at least the meter was broken) and walked over with the stroller. The Baby was one giant temper tantrum, starting from the moment that The Girl got out of the car and wanted to get in the front of our stroller. He didn't want to ride in the jumpseat. So he threw a tantrum, complete with top-of-the-lungs screaming. I decided to ignore him, which is apparently not done in Old Town. A sales clerk at Handle With Care peeked her head out at him, and not in a sympathetic way. If I could afford to shop there, I wouldn't anyway just for that.

At the market itself, things were not much better. The Girl wanted to get a pastry at Bleeding Heart Bakery, and I got one for The Baby as well. The Boy didn't want anything. We sat down in the kiddie chairs set up by the demo table adjacent to the bakery's stand, but The Baby took one look at The Girl's raspberry bar and went ballistic. Screaming ensued, pretty much until we left the market. While I strapped a writhing, screaming Baby into the stroller, an older, bearded man made a comment that The Baby was protesting his loss of liberty. When I said that he'd been screaming before I put him in, he noted, accurately, that he was just tired. With the wait for a crepe totaling more than 30 minutes, there was little reason to stay. So we headed back to the car. At least The Baby stayed awake until we got home.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Trying on Seattle

This weekend, I took The Boy with me on an extended Mama-Son date to Seattle. The purpose of the trip was to watch my brother, Uncle Chris, graduate from B-School at UW, but we also did some touristy things (Pike Place Market, the ferry to Bainbridge, the Museum of Flight, Seattle Center [where the space needle is located]), ate out, and shopped a bit. And, of course, visited with my sister-in-law, parents, and my friend Cranky. It was a good trip/visit.

Whenever I visit a new city, or re-visit one that is not one I call home, it always seems to be on-approval. I find myself evaluating the whole time: Could I live here? Would I want to? I've been there a handful of times and I'm still not sure about Seattle. Part of me thinks that I could live there, but then I don't want to leave Chicago. And that gets me every time. As far as visiting goes, however, it's a nice place.

Uncle Chris and Grandma and Grandpa Texas picked us up at the airport on Friday morning. We went straight to the Museum of Flight, where The Boy and I went straight to the cafe for lunch (early by Seattle time, but we were hungry!). We explored the museum for quite awhile -- I think Grandpa Texas, a current engineer and former Navy man, enjoyed it more than The Boy did -- until travel/jet lag hit me hard and my body demanded that I nap. Uncle Chris took The Boy to the playground in Fremont while I took a giant nap. After that, I felt much better.

When Aunt J. got home from work, Uncle Chris took us all out to dinner at a Thai place, Jai Thai, in Fremont. We got everything family-style, but the Swimming Ra dish (sliced chicken on sauteed spinach, with peanut sauce) was especially good. The Boy ate a plateful of rice vermicelli noodles -- he even tried them with soy sauce this time! -- and nearly passed out in my lap. He rallied for gelato at a nearby establishment, and even walked most of the way back up to my brother's place. We stopped to visit the troll under the bridge as well.

On Saturday, we visited the Pike Place Market. My favorite part of the market is the Daily Dozen mini-donut and coffee stand. The Boy and I split a dozen mini frosted donuts. (We went back again on Sunday and got 1/2 dozen, of which I ate two and we brought the rest home for the troops, and a short latte for me [good foam].) Then we headed to Ballard to meet everyone for brunch. As Aunt J. pulled into a parking spot near the restaurant, a Thrift Shop was in front of us, so of course I had to stop in! I let The Boy get a Batmobile, which he played with for the rest of the trip.

Brunch was at Volterra, a new-Italian restaurant that has won a bunch of awards. I had the avocado-tomato-cheese omelette with hash browns and toast. Really though, I was so full from the donuts that I managed to eat only the eggs. Afterward, we wandered around the main drag in Ballard looking for Knitters' Circle, which Cranky had recommended. Along the way, I managed to find a shoe store and bought myself a pair of J-41s, my one splurge of the weekend.

On Sunday, we all took the ferry to Bainbridge Island, but The Boy and I left my parents and Uncle Chris & Aunt J. behind there and returned on the ferry to meet my friend Cranky. Despite our attempts to amuse him, The Boy was by this time quite in need of interaction with other kids. As we disembarked from the ferry, The Boy asked if Seattle had any museums. I suggested asking the throngs of kids leaving the pier bound for the Mariners game, but The Boy declined. Instead, we asked Cranky, a native Washingtonian, longtime Seattle resident, and local PBS-affiliate employee, for suggestions. She knew where to go: the Children's Museum at Seattle Center. We walked a bit and then hopped a bus (a curious thing -- you pay only as you exit; there is a free-zone around downtown) to Seattle Center, stopping within the complex to let The Boy run through the foundation sculpture. He was soaked and shivering (but happy) at the end; there is no way you could have gotten me to run through a fountain in 70-degree temps, even with the sun.

The Boy really enjoyed the Children's Museum, and later running around with some little kids at the food court auto zone. I think he just needed some kid time. We spent most of our museum time playing with the balls in "Cog City," while Cranky and I caught up. Aunt J. picked us up afterward and took us to Bothell for a barbeque.

For the most part, The Boy behaved beautifully, despite a time difference, staying up way too late, and being stuck in the company of 5 (and sometimes 7) adults. He rocked Uncle Chris's graduation ceremony, sitting mostly still for the 8 speeches, awards, and presentation of the candidates that comprised the 2+ hour ceremony. At the start of the ceremony, they asked the audience to silence cell phones, pagers, and children (as if they have a power-off button!?!) and despite this preemptive admonishment, a fair number of graduates had young family members present (and loudly unhappy), so it became a running joke among the speakers of the evening. But they had no cause for complaint about The Boy.

Little Moments

On Thursday, I spent much of the day running around, with The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby in tow, in preparation for my weekend trip to Seattle. But there were a few quiet moments here and here in which I got to enjoy my children and the city of Chicago.

In the morning, to celebrate the end of "school" and the beginning of summer for her, I took The Girl to Piggy Toes in Lincoln Square, to get her a pair of sandals. The owner of Piggy Toes was there, along with her 3 kids (who were to be picked up by a babysitter shortly), so it was a somewhat crazy morning of rambunctious boys (her two, The Boy and The Baby) among shoe fittings for The Girl. Her medium-narrow foot width was somewhat of an issue, so we ended up with a pair of sandal-sneakers by German brand Ricosta. They were more than I wanted to spend, but the owner gave me a $20-off postcard. Afterwards, we walked up Western Avenue a bit to the Dunkin Donuts in the Western Avenue Brown Line station, to get a donut each for the kids and an iced coffee for me. We sat on the somewhat awkwardly placed bench just outside the station, to watch traffic go by and eat our donuts. It was a warm morning, but the breeze was nice and I enjoyed looking to my left to see The Baby, The Boy, and The Girl all lined up on the bench, happily and calmly consuming their little nuggets of fried dough and sugar.

We went to playgroup for a bit, and then out to the O'Hare Oasis to meet Grandma Naperville, who was taking The Girl home for a sleepover. Once we dropped off The Girl, I laid the bomb on The Boy: he was coming with me to Seattle this weekend. I had told him to be quiet so as not to wake The Baby, so the look on his face was priceless. It was pure glee.

And the news made our shopping trip at Target that much easier, because we were buying things for The Boy to do on the airplane, and not just a random, unnecessary (in his mind) errand. We went to one of my favorite (but usually out-of-the-way) Targets, which is the one in Rosemont, just in the landing pattern of O'Hare (we actually went over it when we landed yesterday -- it has a giant Target logo on its roof). When it's nice, I like to sit in the parking lot with the kids and watch the planes land. The Baby was in no mood to sit in the cart; he wanted to rearrange everything! It was hot and we were all thirsty when we left, so we ran through the Starbucks drive-through for iced tea on the way home.

Restaurant Week, kiddie-style

Hidden in last week's Trib was a nugget about a kiddie Restaurant Week in Chicago. I wonder if we can eat out every night? I am particularly interested in going to Frontera Grill, One sixtyblue, May Street Market, and, of course, Otom. Ina's is always a fave, although I've never been there for dinner, and I think The Dad would enjoy Olo.

Edit: I just booked a table for Thursday at Otom and for Tuesday at Coco Pazzo Cafe, but Frontera Grill is booked solid (although they said they'd take walk-ins).


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Metra

Today, while The Girl enjoyed her last day of "school," I took The Boy and The Baby on the Metra downtown to have lunch with The Dad. We checked out The Dad's swank new (to him) offices in the Chicago Mercantile Exchange building. It made me giggle to see The Dad in khaki shorts and a polo shirt amidst a sea of men in gorgeous dark suits.

Unfortunately, we left The Dad's office too late to get an outside table at Rivers (which was filled with gigantic tables populated primarily by men wearing a sea of white, pink, and blue starched oxford shirts), so we went to Potbelly instead (also crowded). The Baby ate an entire dill pickle. We didn't have enough time to head east before our train, so The Dad took us to the Boeing store to browse around. I got The Boy a bunch of books on flying and airplanes in anticipation of our trip.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nature Day

It was a beautiful day today. The Girl, The Boy, The Baby and I took advantage of the weather by taking the long way around to the Butterfly Museum. I parked on Lakeview Street, which is one block west of Lincoln Park West, adjacent to the viaduct that led to North Pond. I had packed a lunch for us all, so we arrived and pretty much immediately went outside to have our little picnic.

We are members, so I used the free coat/stroller-check to drop off the stroller and the three of us walked around the mostly empty museum. We saw the butterflies -- The Baby was quite intrigued with them -- and made a craft in the activity room, then checked out the new Lawn Nation exhibit. I found the history of lawns fascinating, and The Baby, The Girl, and The Boy were sufficiently engaged in playing croquet on the astroturf to let me watch the film strip. We spent some time in the slide area before taking the long way back to the car, stopping at the playground next to North Pond to play for a bit.


Sunday, June 08, 2008

Summer Schedule

This is mostly for my own reference.

Monday - Camp in a.m. for The Boy, camp in p.m. for The Girl. Pool and/or backyard time in evening for everyone

Tuesday - Museum/zoo/outing day

Wednesday - Camp in a.m. for The Boy, camp in p.m. for The Girl. Pool and/or backyard time in evening for everyone.

Thursday - Playdate/meet friends day

Friday - Camp in a.m. for The Boy. Pool in afternoon.

And then life gets in the way

My plans to take The Girl to see Justin Roberts play at the Printer's Row Book Fair today went out the window when she woke up at 1 a.m. throwing up.

Instead, The Boy and I stopped at our neighbor's open house and attended the closing program and end-of-year auction at The Girl's co-op.



Friday, June 06, 2008

Morton Arboretum

I joined the Morton Arboretum right before Easter. The Boy has been there quite a bit with Grandma Naperville, and I've taken both him and The Girl several times since I "discovered" the Children's Garden two years ago. I had all these fantasies of taking the kids to the Children's Garden to run around this spring/summer. And then gas prices spiked to $4.50/gallon and a weekly trip to Lisle is suddenly less appealing.

But today we made the drive out there for the first time since mid-March to meet Cara and her kids. (Traffic tip: don't get in the express lane on I-88 after Oakbrook; you'll overshoot the Route 53 exit and there is no exit on the eastbound side. We took a 15-minute detour.) We spent all of our time in either the Children's Garden or the Gingko Cafe (which, mercifully, was air-conditioned) and, despite the humidity, we had a great time. On the car ride home at 2:30 p.m., all three kids fell asleep, which I usually take to be a sign of a good outing.

It was The Baby's first real trip to the Arb; he wasn't sure what to make of it all. Unfortunately for him, by the time he got acclimated to the area we were in and began to explore, the older kids were on to the next thing (or needed a potty-run). When we first arrived, The Boy, The Girl, John, Grace and Lily went into the hedge maze. Within 10 minutes, they were all red-faced, damp-haired and totally sweaty. Given the weather, we spent the bulk of our time in the water areas, including a long time in the "Wonder Pond," trying to catch tadpoles and looking at toads along the perimeter. Much to The Boy's chagrin, did not make it up to the treetop walk in our 3+ hours at the park.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

School Supplies!

I am such a geek. The Boy's Kindergarten preparation/registration packet came yesterday in the mail. In it were a welcome letter for me and The Dad, a welcome letter for The Boy, schedule and run-through of a typical day, teacher name and information, curriculum information, and lists of school supplies. School supplies! I love back-to-school supplies. It's June and he just got out of school for the summer; he doesn't go back until September 2, and yet, I'm totally geeked about school supplies.

I thinkI must have really liked school as a kid. At least the academic/learning part. Every few months, I have a "trying to finish school" dream. It's usually a sign that I need to take a class or learn something new. I've been busy learning how to get my kid into CPS, so I haven't had one in awhile. I just joined Facebook and have noted all the Graduate School Year notations on my friends' names; I really want to go back to school myself, but in my professional field, there is no real point. I've been promising myself a French (conversation) class for awhile; I hope to take one this fall. Once upon a time, I was a fluent in that language. I used to stay current in my French with a trip to France or a French-speaking area every few years, but the American dollar is so weak (and, uh, I have 3 kids!) that I have little chance of jetting over to Lyon anytime soon.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

School's Out for the Summer!

At least for The Boy. The Girl still has 3 days left of MDO. This morning, however, The Boy went to school. And The Girl, The Baby, and I had a full day of errands. The timing of our day worked out nicely with the weather: we ran errands in the rain and then came home to play in the backyard when the sun came out.

First, I loaded up the car with our recyclables and headed to the Recycling Center at North Park Village. The Girl helped me, while I tried to throw bottles in one-handed with The Baby under the other arm (lest he wander into the parking lot).

That finished, we headed up to Schaumburg. First to pick up The Dad's birthday present at REI. And then to have lunch and get a replacement at IKEA. The Girl ate all of her kids' mac & cheese, while The Baby concentrated his efforts on his mashed potatoes. The Girl asked to go into Smalland, so I dropped her off. The Baby and I wandered around for a bit, picking up this and that. We checked out, grabbed our replacement from the returns department, and circled back upstairs to pick up The Girl from Smalland. She had a great time, although she reported watching "a scary movie" in the center. (It turned out to be an episode of Scooby Doo). The downstairs cafe is under construction, so no end-of-IKEA ice cream. We got a chocolate bar instead.

We picked up The Boy (and all of his stuff!) at school, and ran one last errand -- to pick up our pre-ordered, subsidized (by the city) rain barrel (ah, the irony...) from the Crafty Beaver on Montrose. When we got home, it was like unpacking the clown car -- there was so much in there.

The Boy, The Girl, and The Baby played outside -- a neighbor gifted us a plastic Little Tykes picnic table, adding to our collection of backyard plastics -- while I cleaned up part of the basement (the part within earshot of the backyard) and tidied up the lawn.

Just Another Manic Monday

I got The Girl to school this morning, and took The Baby with me to run errands. First, we went to the bank, and then over to the new Disney II to register The Girl for pre-K. The Baby was very interested in the junior high kids currently there (and they, at least the girls, were pretty interested in him as well).

We had lunch at our usual pre-Treasure Store spot: the Vienna Beef Cafe and each had a hot dog and fries. Then we hit the Treasure Store, which was kind of a bust. We went back to pick The Girl and her friend from school, dropped off the friend at her house, and got on the road for the long haul to Naperville, to fetch The Boy from Grandma-and-Grandpa's house.

And that's where the problems started. I'm sure everyone knows the saying about Chicago: There are two seasons in Chicago: Winter and Construction. If there was construction along our route, The Great White Moose and I managed to find it. We got stuck in the construction along the Oakbrook toll plaza, the 3-lanes-down-to-1 problems along 22nd Street in Oakbrook, and the repaving right by the I-355 on-ramp. We also had to take a detour getting to Grandma's house when I realized that the Bailey Road bridge was out. And throughout all this, The Baby screamed bloody murder. My nerves were fried by the time we arrived at Grandma's house.

We played for about 45 minutes at Grandma-and-Grandpa's house, and then they took us to dinner at The Patio. The Girl and I each had 1/3-lb. cheeseburgers (and The Girl ate most of hers!), while The Boy had a hotdog and fries and The Baby sort of had a grilled cheese and fries. Then we got back on the road to come home. I took I-55 to the Kennedy on the way back, and it was a good choice because we made fantastic time coming home. We got back within 45 minutes. The Baby was crying again towards the end, but it was only the last 3 minutes or so of the trip.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Sunday Lie-In

The Boy is an early riser. The Girl, thankfully, is not. Without their big brother around to wake them up, The Girl slept until 8:45 and The Baby until 9 a.m., so The Dad and I enjoyed a bit of a lie-in. Then The Girl, The Baby, and I got dressed and walked up to the park to go to the first Farmer's Market of the season. Unfortunately, with the cool spring and high gas prices, it was a bit of a bust in terms of actual produce. But the three of us split a giant Snickerdoodle from Ideal Bakery and an organic raspberry Zota soda from another vendor. Then we spent 45 minutes or so on the playground.

We spent the rest of the day doing stuff around the house and running errands. The Girl and I went to Trader Joe's and Whole Foods for groceries. Later, The Girl, The Baby, and I went to Home Depot to pick out plants and get ant killer (we tried using the environmentally and kid-friendly vinegar, but it didn't work) for The Dad, who stayed home to sand down the garage (I later painted it). The Baby and The Girl played in the backyard.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

A Strong Community

Can I just say that I love my local community? I've been a resident of my neighborhood for nearly 6 years, but it's only in the past year or two that I've felt like I've been a community resident. Today proved it yet again.

I brought The Girl to her ballet class yesterday morning. I had planned to walk there, but The Boy was limping along, so we had to abort the mission and drive instead. I passed Allison and her kids along the way. The Girl, The Baby, and I waited for them after parking The Great White Moose, but they had stopped to chat with Caroline D. and her family, who were on their way home from the YMCA. So we went into ballet instead, where we ran into Beth T. and her daughter, and a few friends from various other classes. As soon as we got inside, The Girl told me to "go," so I walked over to Starbucks with The Baby and Allison.

Afterwards, I picked up The Dad and The Boy, and we joined Allison and her family at Caroline D.'s house to hang out. The Boy stayed behind to play with the boys, and The Dad and I took The Girl, The Baby, and Allison's daughter, Peri, with us to lunch at our favorite breakfast-lunch spot, Curio Cafe. The Dad was quite cute with the girls, holding hands with each one across the street. I had the Plato Tipico ($7.95), which has become my new favorite CC dish, The Dad had his favorite CC dish, the steak sandwich ($7.50), The Girl got the alphabet noodles and cheese ($3.50), The Baby had eggs-potatoes-and-toast ($3.50), and Peri got the grilled cheese ($3.50). Yum! Afterwards, we came back to our house to let The Baby nap and let the little girls play: kitchen, dress-up, and coloring.

Peri's mom picked her up, and we took The Baby and The Girl and headed back to Caroline D.'s house, where we dropped off the little ones and picked up The Boy. Then we headed to Uptown to attend Uncle Bad's birthday BBQ. The Boy left with Grandma and Grandpa Naperville after about 1/2 an hour; they took him to visit Super Grandpa in Indiana. It was odd being at an adult party! I think The Girl and The Baby may have had a better time attending a birthday party at Caroline D.'s neighbor's house.

It was a great day. I also fell asleep at 8:30 and got a solid and rejuvenating 12 hours of sleep.