Sunday, August 31, 2008


We made our annual family trip to Kiddieland today. We had planned to go on Wednesday, but discovered that they had closed for the workweek on August 23. We've gone the past two years in August as well, sweltering in the heat and sun. Located just outside of Chicago at North and 1st Avenues in Melrose Park, Kiddieland is a small amusement park catering to the 4-8-year-old set. Most of the rides are designed for kids under 48", but there are a fair number that are for older kids and adults.

The park now offers e-tickets, so I bought our tickets online this morning. Ticket prices have increased to $23 for kids over 6 and adults, and $20 for kids 3-6 and seniors. When we arrived, we bypassed the out-to-the-edge-of-the-parking-lot line and went straight into the park at 11 a.m. The Boy wanted to go on the Kiddieland Unlimited first, but it wasn't working properly. I don't know whether it was because it was the end of the season or just coincidence, but "out of order" seemed to be a loose theme for the day. Later, I stood in line for 20 minutes to get a slushie only to learn when I got to the window that the machine was broken. And there was no soap for handwashing in the bathrooms.

The Boy has been begging to go to Kiddieland all summer. He was in heaven when today finally arrived. He and The Dad paired off for much of our visit, going on rides for which The Girl and The Tot were still too little (or too scared): Log Jammer, Scooters, Dip-N-Drop (roller coaster). In addition to these, he enjoyed the Kiddieland Unlimited, Roto-Whip, the pump-your-own-train-car in the Volcano Playcenter, and the Raceabouts. I also took him on the Scooters, which was really fun -- the bumper cars were my childhood favorite ride -- we had great fun ramming into people around us.

Unlike his older sister when we visited the park in 2006, The Tot only tolerated some of the rides and downright disliked others. He seemed to do OK by himself on the tiny racecar ("Midge-O-Racer") ride and was fine in the Kiddieland Unlimited and carousel with me. The highlights of the trip for him were a bucket of popcorn and a Popsicle Cherry Calypso cup.

The Girl's favorite rides this year were pretty much the same as they were on our first visit: the Roto-Whip, Little Autos, Dune Buggies, and the Raceabouts. She also rode the carousel, train, swings, and did the hand-cars once (and then got upset when the guide wouldn't let her go around again because she had had to push The Girl most of the way around the track). Unlike in previous years, she did not want to ride the flying elephants. She was frustrated by being just barely too short for many of the rides, especially since The Boy was finally tall enough to ride them. The Dad and I took turns taking her on the Raceabouts, which she really seemed to enjoy.

For some reason, I overestimate the food every year. My stomach always hurts after an afternoon at Kiddieland -- all that corn syrup, grease,and red dye -- although I managed to skip the Pepsi products this year. Instead, to stay hydrated in the 90-degree heat, we filled and refilled our 3 SIGG bottles with water. Maybe next year I'll employ my brain and pack a cooler lunch to eat in the car.

Other tips from this year: Because it was so loud, The Dad and I mostly communicated via text messages while we were separated. We brought in our wagon, but it was unwieldly and the only person who really wanted to ride was The Tot, so we swapped it out for our stroller and everyone was just as happy -- especially The Tot, who later fell asleep in it.

XRT, Afternoon BBQ

Due to the holiday weekend, ARCC was closed; in the absence of ballet class getting us out of the house on a Saturday morning, we just lazed around in our PJs until noon. The Dad did some repair work on the garage rain gutters. And then I started painting a vanity table and stool in the garage, while rocking out to XRT. I forgot how much I like that station; The Girl wants to listen to Aqua's "Barbiegirl"ad nauseum in the car. It was nice to have some time alone during daylight hours to work on a project.

Later, we got dressed and went out, although we stayed in the 'hood. We went over to Caroline D.'s house for a late-afternoon cook-out. Allison and her kids were also there. It was very nice and the kids (mostly) played well together.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Back to School Carnival

On Tuesday, we will officially be Disney II parents. Last night was the "back to school" carnival, a somewhat chaotic, but very fun and neighborly 2-hour event in and around the new Disney II. The Dad, The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I caravanned over to the school at 5 p.m. for the start of the carnival. The Dad pushed the stroller, while I pulled The Boy's filled-to-the-brim blue IKEA bag of school supplies in the wagon.

We saw The Boy's new classroom (a modified "pod" structure that uses a partition to separate two kindergarten classrooms) and met his teacher, and ran our eyes over the class list. I think I knew one person in my class on the first day of kindergarten; The Boy will know five. All summer long he has declared that he doesn't want to go to school, but either its inevitability finally dawned on him or he found the carnival super fun because this morning he told Grandma Texas that he is going to kindergarten on Tuesday. Phew!

The Dad has been volunteering with the technology coordinator in the building all week; he was impressed by how much they had gotten done renovations-wise in only 48 hours. The Girl's classroom was still under construction, so she didn't get to see it. But she did get to meet her teacher, Mr. Manesis, again and ended up playing with his 3-y/o girl on the playground.

We saw the building, dropped off supplies, ran into lots and lots of people we knew, ate food from Smoque and Chicago's Pizza & Pasta, watched the Jesse White Tumblers, and ran ourselves crazy on the playground. The Tot, The Girl, and The Boy were all exhausted by the time we left and got them all into bed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Wanes

We got up and out this morning to meet Cheryl and her kids at the North Park Village Nature Center. When we arrived in the center at 10 a.m., the guide asked us if we were there for the preschool program. We weren't--I did not know there was such a thing--but we decided to join anyway. I wish I had known about it earlier! Sean, the guide, was really good at both engaging and controlling about 15 kids aged 3-6. We read a book about water (The Water Dance) and then went outside to experiment with water and a trough of sand. The Girl was especially entranced by Sean and the outside activity, but The Boy got into it, too.

After about 1/2 an hour, I went back to find Cheryl and her kids in the discovery room. Her son joined in the river fun. Then we all went on a nature walk on the main loop. The Tot fell asleep in the sling during the walk. Around noon, we were all hungry, so we headed back to the parking lot.

I took the kids to Target for lunch and a few odds and ends. Afterwards, we stopped at a small grocery store on Peterson and Lincoln that I imagined was going to be like the Family Fruit Market. It was similar, but much smaller. At first, I thought it would be carry a lot of kosher products, given the number of Orthodox Jews I observed exiting the store, but it turns out that the specialty is Greek. We got some yummy, hand-formed Challah bread, bananas, rice milk, grape tomatoes, cauliflower, and fresh mozzarella cheese.

I took Jersey Avenue south to get home, mistakenly thinking it would turn into Kimball Avenue. Instead, it turned into Kedzie Avenue. The Boy said, "Hey, that's where S. lives!" so we turned down her street and ended up having an impromptu playdate with S., F., G., and their mother. On the way home, we stopped for another unplanned side trip: the gas station and car wash. The Girl has been begging me to go through the car wash every time she sees one or thinks about it, so I took The Great White Moose in for a bath after filling up her tank with gas. The Tot seems to have recovered from his fear of the car wash; he was wide-eyed and curious about it the trailer took us through the automatic car wash, but he did not once cry.

Last day

Today is the last day of summer vacation and I'm feeling uninspired about what to do with it. But in the middle of posting this, Cheryl called to invite us to go on a nature walk at North Park Village. Sounds good.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Errands and other things

Oof-da! What a day! We spent nearly the whole day in Lincoln Park, although not continuously.

In the morning, The Boy and The Girl had back-to-school haircut appointments at Snippets. The Boy got a buzz, The Girl got a gorgeous bob. And The Tot watched intently. The receptionist commented that the kids were really well-behaved. As much as I'd like to believe that's good parenting, I think it's more likely because it was 9:30 a.m. and they were fresh for the day. But, I'll take whatever I can get.

Afterwards, because we were right there, we took a gander through the Treasure Store. The Boy really dislikes the Treasure Store, but after awhile, he stopped complaining and resigned himself to the inevitability of the trip. Today's finds: Charlie Rocket shorts for The Tot, a cute jean skirt for The Girl, and two purses for me.

Then we went to lunch at the hot dog factory (Vienna Beef Factory & Cafe on Fullerton, Damen, and Elston). Although The Tot and I have been a number of times, it was The Girl's and The Boy's first time. They were really excited about it. It seems to be a popular lunch spot for area workers, they don't seem to get a lot of kids in there. Everyone regarded The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot with amusement as they enthusiastically ate their hot dogs, pickles, and fries (and squabbled over whose turn it was to drink the cream soda).

We returned home to let The Tot nap. The Girl, The Boy, and I played a few rounds of Memory while he napped.

When he woke up, we headed back to Lincoln Park to visit the cardiology department of Children's Memorial Hospital so that The Tot could get some tests (ped found a murmur). It was a long visit, but The Girl and The Boy were amused by three consecutive episodes of (the forbidden in our house) Spongebob Squarepants, plus the tech brought them each of the same little toys that he brought to distract The Tot from the ultrasound microphone. We did a quick cruise around The White Elephant on the way back to the car, and then headed home.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Green Mamas

The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I were out of the house like a shot this morning to visit the Butterfly Museum before The Tot needed a nap. It, too, was deserted. We checked in our stroller, played around in Riverworks (The Tot was soaked) and then were the only 3 kids in Hands on Habitat for quite awhile. While there, I noticed an informational flyer about the museum's early childhood green programs. Alas, The Boy gets out of school later than the museum's 3:30 p.m. start time for kids 5-7 and The Girl is in preschool during the 9:30 slot for kids aged 3-4. One side of the flyer advertised the "Eco-Mama Cafe," a new class/discussion group for new/green moms. It's for babies under 6 months. I am bummed because I would totally go for something like that if it were geared toward The Tot.

Anyway... I used the opportunity of putting 3 sets of laced-up shoes back on their little feet to start teaching The Boy and The Girl how to tie their shoes. The Girl was really interested. The Boy, for whom this skill is more pressing, was not. Then we walked down the hall to the vending area and had snacks: cheese sticks and apples for The Tot and The Girl, celery with peanut butter for The Boy.

We went upstairs to see the butterflies next. The Boy didn't want to go through the haven, so he stayed in the information area outside the haven while The Girl, The Tot, and I zipped through. The Girl cracks me up because she really wanted to see the butterflies, but once we got in the haven, she showed trepidation about exploring the area: she would not let go of my hand and moved with me the whole time. She was scared of a butterly landing on her. The Tot, meanwhile, found the butterflies quite interesting and didn't mind when one lost its way and fluttered against his neck before flying away. He wanted to touch the butterflies.

We went back downstairs to check out the marsh exhibit, but The Tot was done by that point. He kept walking over to the Riverworks area and would not be deterred, so we called it a day and went home. The Tot fell asleep in the car.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


To compensate for our disastrous afternoon yesterday, I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot to the Field Museum this afternoon. It's not The Boy's favorite thing to do, but I parked in the lot by Northerly Island and we all walked over to the museum together. We walked along the lakefront, which was really quite pleasant, although I bored the kids by telling them yet again that Mama used to come down to this harbor when she was a little girl to go out on Grandpa Texas' sailboat. (The Boy: "Mom, you told us that last time.") The weather was lovely -- sunny, warm in the sun, cool in the shade with a nice breeze. We stopped to admire the view of the city:

before continuing on to the museum. As we flashed our membership, there was someone in front of us with her kids who I knew, but I cannot remember from where. We ran into them repeatedly throughout the museum today. The museum was a ghost town.

First up was a visit to the Crown Family Playlab. The Girl misheard me and wanted to know where the playland was. After I cleared that up, we had a great time inside the playlab. The Girl, The Boy, and The Tot had great fun in the Pueblo, moving corn cobs from room to room. The Tot, who loves corn on the cob, repeatedly tried to eat the different pieces -- maybe he was hoping that one of them would be real? We also played the drums in the Rhythm Section and read a book in the book corner before we moved outside the lab to have a snack.

While we were sitting on the living room suite outside the playlab, eating our cheese sticks and cookies, Jessica and Lil E walked by on their way out. Everybody's museuming before school starts!

After our snack, we went upstairs. The Boy wanted to see Evolving Planet, The Girl wanted to see the gems. Neither wanted to go to the other's choice. But we did both, plus a gander at Sue. The gems hall is missing several gems, plus The Tot did not want to be held and I did not feel comfortable letting him wander around a dark room alone, so it was a rather mad dash through the gems hall. Or as mad it could be with The Girl asking me to read every placard. Then we went to see Evolving Planet, although The Boy did not want me to read any of the placards and he went racing through.

The Tot was getting to the end of his rope in Evolving Planet, so we skedaddled. I carried The Girl most of the way back to the car, while The Tot rode in the stroller. It was a chilly walk. The Tot fell asleep in the car. We stopped at Trader Joe's in Lincoln Park on the way home.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mission Aborted

That was a disaster. A friend once said about life with two kids: "Some days work, some days don't." Unfortunately, today wasn't a day that worked.

We ran errands in the morning--the Recycling Center in North Park Village, Family Fruit Market to re-stock the empty larder--with the promise that after The Tot's nap, I'd take everyone on the train downtown to see The Dad's office.

It was a non-starter. We ran to catch (and missed) the L, which freaked The Girl out. She had one of her signature panic attacks: crying, trembling, and refusal of the usual comfort measures. Poor love. I tried to get her to calm down as much as I was able, but it was difficult with the noise of the highway, trying to keep The Tot from going over the edge of the platform, and reining in The Boy's bossiness. The Girl's panic ebbed a bit once we got on a south-bound train, but started again as soon as we descended into the tunnel at Belmont. She asked to go home repeatedly.

What could I do?

We got off the train at Logan Square and waited for the next north-bound train. The Boy plead with The Girl not to be scared, but it was no use. Going back home was not a happy decision for The Boy; on the 3-stop train ride back to Irving Park, I had two crying kids in place of the one I had previously. The Girl was still freaking out about the train ride and The Boy was upset that we turned around. It was the longest 10-minute train ride of my life as everyone in the car around us turned to stare.

By the time I got them all home, I was so tired that I admit to using the TV as entertainment/babysitter. I plopped them all in front of Scooby-Doo on HBO so that we could all recover. The Dad ended up working late, so I had them all in bed by 7 p.m.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


GIPNA's third annual gourmet pancake breakfast was this morning. Despite what someone thinks, I volunteered to help at the event. I was assigned to oversee the kiddie table, so I could rein in the sugar frenzy. The food this year was, as usual, awesome. The pancakes themselves were pretty good, but it's the toppings that make this fundraiser (for restoration of the Women's Building, where the event was held) worth the $35 entry (for our party of 5): maple butter, mixed berries, and brown sugar bananas. Plus eggs topped with an excellent chopped caprese, sausage links, coffee and orange juice. Yum. I had two servings of everything and was full until about 3 p.m. Best breakfast I've had all summer.

Friday, August 22, 2008


My kids don't go back to school until September 2. However, most of the suburban districts as well as the Roman Catholic schools are already back in session. Which made today and the next 5 days the perfect time to go to Chicago's museums and other attractions (we plan to make our annual pilgrimage to Kiddieland next week).

This afternoon, we met Allison and her kids at the Museum of Science & Industry, undoubtedly my favorite Chicago museum. In fact, I think I need to go there one day by myself so that I can actually explore the exhibits in a way that allows me to gain something from them. My big brain challenge of today was trying to remember all the element symbols on the "chem time" clock in the Idea Factory (in addition to keeping track of 6 kids all wanting to go in different directions). I really want to see the Green + Wired and Glass Experience exhibits.

Thanks to the museum's fee special right now (until September 1), I paid only $12 to enter the museum. Street parking in the neighborhood directly adjacent to the museum is pretty easy to come by, so that and my $2 coffee and chips were my only expenditures for today's outing*. Although I'd love to join MSI, I'm maxed out on museum memberships right now. My Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum membership gives us 50% off at MSI through a reciprocity agreement; in the future, entrance to MSI will be $15 for me and 2 kids (The Tot is still free).

My kids can spend hours in The Great Train Story exhibit (it and the Jollyball are must-sees for every visit), but today we spent most of our time in the Idea Factory (the Jollyball wasn't working). The Tot immediately dumped about 5 bucketfuls of water down his front, soaking his shoes, shorts, and shirt. Then he had great fun putting balls in the air tube connected to the "factory river." It was such a joy to see him work out how to reach up on his toes to put the ball in the hole. He didn't get it every time, but when the older kids (non-siblings and friends) didn't rush to grab his ball, he'd go after his ball and try again. He smiled every time he saw his ball go up and over in the tube. By 5 p.m., he was wiped from all that work and just wanted to be held.

Allison took The Girl and her girl to see Colleen Moore's Fairy Castle, which they both loved, while I stayed in the Idea Factory with the boys. We also saw Farm Tech briefly -- just long enough for The Boy, The Girl, and Enver and Peri to "drive" the ginormous John Deere tractor -- and went back up to The Great Train Story before heading out at around 5:30, closing time.

* And $11.13 for 3 McDonald's Happy Meals on the way home as it was dinnertime as we left and a week's worth of single parenthood had dwindled my supply of easy-fix meals.

Suburban Errands

Out of house by 9:30, Oakbrook, playgroup with beebalm, IKEA, home

Monday, August 18, 2008

Day 1

Today was really the first day that I felt like I was flying solo with The Dad out of town. While Grandma Naperville took her first L ride to the Art Institute for the day, I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot to Trader Joe's to stock the larder. When we arrived, there was only 1 kiddie cart available, so we left it for the next family to squabble over. Mercifully, The Boy and The Girl were OK with that decision, although The Tot was pretty upset at having to sit in the cart while we shopped. A banana and cookies mollified him a bit.

After TJ's, we headed home for lunch and a nap. We had planned to go to Adams Playground Park with Becky and S&F, but of course The Tot took a super long nap and by the time he woke up, it was too late to haul ourselves down to Lincoln Park (especially as Becky and I had planned to take all 6 kids on the L rather than park 2 minivans in that area).

Instead, we spent the late afternoon running around the spray park/splash pad at River Park. The Boy and S. and The Girl and F. were ecstatic to see one another. They all played quite happily in and around (The Girl, The Tot) the area together for about 90 minutes and in the middle we had a snack of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, chocolate milk, cookies, and blueberry cereal bars. Toward the end of our visit, an older boy was deliberately knocking over The Boy as they slid through one of the water elements. It was the kind of move that was deliberate, but made to look accidental. Since it didn't seem to bother The Boy, I refrained from stepping in.

We headed home about 4:30 to see Grandma Naperville and have dinner. The Boy and Grandma had a nice cuddle and talked about K before he went to bed. She had wanted to see his new school, but he'll have to show her another time.

Sundays with The Boy

Last summer, I was pretty good about getting one-on-one time with The Boy. Time and scheduling conflicts have interfered with my "Sundays with The Boy" plan, but I am able to sneak in a few dates with my boy. Thanks to Grandma Naperville, who came in to spend today and tomorrow with us while The Dad is in Cali, I was able to do so this afternoon.

We went to the 2008 Chicago Air & Water Show to watch the Red Baron do loop-de-loops and an F/A-18 buzz the beach. Despite the fact that the Air Show is the military's recruiting tool and propaganda, I am a sucker for it. I blame it entirely on being a midshipman's daughter; I grew up sailing on Lake Michigan and watching the air show every year.

The Girl emphatically did not want to see the airplanes and I feared that the engine noise would scare The Tot, so The Boy and I left them behind with Grandma and hopped the L to Oak Street Beach. The Boy insisted on holding my hand the entire trip down there, which is uncharacteristic for him. It was very hot on the beach when we got there, but we managed to find a place on the concrete step to sit down, and later, a bench in the shade. We stayed for about an hour before The Boy decided that he had seen enough and asked to return home.

On the walk back to Chicago Avenue, I stopped in H&M to look at some pants for The Girl. It made us a bit late, so we cabbed over to the blue line. The Boy was very excited to take a taxicab ride. We normally do not take cabs with the kids because of the carseat issue, but I felt safer with him in a cab today than I did when I had to take The Tot with me in one to the hospital last year.
The Boy was pretty tired by the time we got home; I carried him on my back for part of the walk back to our house.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

California Dreaming

This morning, The Dad left for 6 days in San Francisco. I'm jealous. Although I love my life in Chicago, I've been missing San Francisco a lot lately. For me, San Francisco is inextricably linked to life before children. It's not just The City's great restaurants that appeal to me these days, it's getting to eat a leisurely dinner at 8 p.m. in one of them.

The Tot, The Girl, The Boy, and I brought The Dad to the airport, took The Girl to ballet class (and had Starbucks with Allison and her boys), and then managed to find parking near our playgroup friend's place to have a Saturday playgroup. It was R.'s birthday, so we had lunch, cake, ice cream, and the kids even beat a pinata open (a silly gift from a silly friend of R.'s). We saw our Italian playgroup friends, who we hadn't seen since August 2007. Rather unusually for him, The Tot sat on S.'s lap for quite awhile during lunch.

I had planned to take The Boy over to the lakefront to see the air show, but The Girl didn't want to go, and The Tot would have been frightened by the noise/people/constriction, so we went home instead.

We got home around 3 and were pretty much slugs for the rest of the afternoon.

Friday, August 15, 2008


It's been about a month since we've been to IKEA. So we went today. The purpose of the trip was to meet Michele and her daughters, and Gina, two Internet friends, but we squeezed in a little shopping as well. The Girl was quite taken with Michele's daughters; she wanted to bring them home with us!

I was hoping that The Girl and The Boy would go into Smalland, but for the first time ever, they didn't want to go in. It was totally fine, though, as the kids watched Robots while eating their mac & cheese, leaving the moms to chat (and The Baby to eat his meatballs and mashed potatoes, and then demand my coffee). Afterward, we went to play in "the berries" area on the third floor, which they've expanded with a bigger floor area, additional seating, and more kids' IKEA play furniture. The Tot had great fun throwing balls out of the pit, while The Boy and Michele's daughters threw them back in. Then I had a surreal "urban legend" experience: I found a pair of scissors (ornate, small, looked like they were sewing scissors) in the bottom of the ball pit. So I was quite relieved when The Boy, The Girl, and the other girls decided to go down to the touch-screen kiosk in the couch section (I had direct-line view of them from my bench).

It was getting late, and with the Air Show set to start at 3 p.m. by the lake, we said our good-byes to our friends, did a quick cruise through the store (rug pad, lamps), and skedaddled. The Girl did not want to say good-bye to the girls and had a little meltdown. Not surprisingly, she fell asleep within a few minutes of climbing into the stroller. I put The Tot in the sling and he fell asleep, too. I was pretty annoyed when a PYT cut in front of me at the registers. Of course, I said something -- hello? I am waiting for the next register with two sleeping kids, a stroller full of crap, and another kid -- and she apologized and explained (but not really).

The Boy was pretty patient with me and helped me at check-out, so I got him an ice cream cone at the end. It took us about an hour to get home.

Moving on up

Signs that my neighborhood is moving up in the world:

1. Mario Greco is building a place here.
2. Starbucks is opening a new store at Addison/Elston/Kedzie.
3. Ripley's Gift Store is opening in the 3900 block of Irving Park Road. I have no idea what it is, but anything that isn't a church/ministry, greasy spoon, or laundromat is probably a welcome addition to that stretch of Irving Park Road.
4. Walgreen's opened last year.
5. ARCC opened on Irving Park Road.
6. Tippy Toes Shoes is coming back.
7. Smoque BBQ, next to the train, does a hoppin' business.
8. Hot Woks/Cool Sushi just opened next to the train. I'm not a sushi fan, but I am pleased to see something go into that prime commuter real estate, and also pleased that it's already been reviewed by the Yelpers.
9. Dunkin' Donuts opened in two locations: one in the Mobil at the Pulaski/Irving Park Road intersection and one in the strip mall across from the YMCA.

Here is the beginning of my post. And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

One on One

Today was a lovely day. I started out the day by taking The Boy to his STEP UP literacy assessment at Disney 2. I chatted with some other moms, including Ms. Sandra from CFC, as we waited for our almost-Kindergarteners to be assessed. Afterwards, I extended our one-on-one time by taking The Boy to our neighborhood Starbucks for a lemonade and seasonal cookie (him) and latte and seasonal cookie (me). There was a kid with his tutor at the next table over, and The Boy was more interested in what was happening over there than in talking much to me, but it was a nice day and we were sitting outside, so it was cool to just spend easy time together. Then, Mario Greco, our old Realtor happened by. I hadn't seen him since 2002. He and his wife left Lincoln Park to build a place in Old Irving Park. It was nice to see him and catch up a bit. I feel like the fact that Mario is moving to my neighborhood is a sign that it's no longer up and coming, it is there.

We bummed around at home for a bit. The Tot got a nap. We all had lunch. And then I took The Tot, The Boy, and The Girl to run a bunch of errands, including a trip to Costco for ice cream, to Office Max for school supplies, and to Gymboree to exchange The Girl's first-day-of-school dress.

After errands, I dropped The Boy and The Tot back off at home. And The Girl and I went on a Mommy-The Girl playdate. It wasn't much -- just dinner and a bit of shopping at Target. But it was fun to go out with The Girl alone. She is very chatty, and also enjoys helping me (thank you Eloise Wilkin's We Help Mommy). Plus, when left as the director of an outing, she's much more likely to listen to what her body is telling her; at 7:30, she told me that she was ready to go home and go to bed. So we did.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Something is sinking in

...from our outings. In their play, The Boy and The Girl just had a discussion about whether they wanted to take Wacker or Foster. I know that these are nowhere near each other, but it amuses me that they're picking something up about their surroundings from all of our outings together.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Things'll be great when we're downtown

I was told that I was an adventurous soul by at least 3 people during our day's adventure. The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I took the Metra downtown, walked 1/2 a block, took the Wendella Water Taxi down the Chicago River, and disembarked at the last stop, which was Michigan Avenue. I've since learned that the Wendella Water Taxi (black and yellow boats) makes 3 stops along the river during the week (Ogilvie Transportation Center, Clark/Lake, and Michigan Avenue by the Wrigley Building), and goes to Chinatown on weekends only. Its competitor, Shoreline Sightseeing, drives blue boats and goes to Navy Pier and the Shedd as well as to the Mag Mile and Union Station. Still, at $4 for a day pass, the Wendella was a better deal (compare it to the $34 it would cost our party of 4 to travel on Shoreline). Our big goals for the day were to take the Metra and the Water Taxi, so I was at a loss for an activity once the traveling part was over. If I were going to shop the Mag Mile (which I haven't done since about 1997; I'll leave 10.25% sales tax to the tourists), I certainly wouldn't do it with 3 kids in tow.

I took the elevator to the Shops at North Bridge, intending to use the mall to cross up to Michigan Avenue and wander from there (the MCA? Seneca Playlot?), but The Boy started complaining as soon as we got into the mall part. I suggested to him that there was a Lego store and his mood brightened considerably. Along the way to Lego, we passed a Sanrio store, which immediately attracted The Girl with its various walls of miniature knick-knacks with Japanese anime in pale colors.

At Lego, The Tot was happy to move Lego from one play table bin to another, while The Boy marveled at all of the Star Wars, Speed Racer, and other licensed Lego sets. The Girl, meanwhile, repeated, "I want to go to the Hello Kitty store" ad nauseum. The Boy "needed" another set of Duplo (we are holding off on Lego until The Tot no longer wants to eat them). After Lego, we headed straight to Sanrio, where The Tot immediately found the plastic console filled with candy in the middle of the store. I was able to steer The Girl into a Hello Kitty lunch/bento box, and The Tot got a package of gum that he chewed his way through while we were in the store.

With that, we headed to lunch. I had asked The Boy whether he wanted to try a new place for lunch, or go with something familiar. Not surprisingly, he chose the old. We ate at Nordstrom Cafe and all had "the usual" (Cilantro-Lime Chicken Salad for me, chicken strips for The Boy, mac & cheese for The Girl, and The Tot shared with all). We headed back toward the Water Taxi entrance, but then veered off on a series of side trips.

We hopped the free trolley to Navy Pier. The Tot nursed and fell asleep, so we rode the trolley for awhile, switching to another line after doing the whole loop. The second trolley was headed, as we were, toward the train station. But when it passed the Howard Washington Library, we got off at the next stop and walked back. I have always wanted to go to the Howard Washington Library Center; whenever I search the catalog, it is the library branch that seems to have everything. It was gorgeous. It's one of those places I'd like to explore more sometime when I am kid-free. As it was, we visited the Children's Library on the 2nd floor, which was nearly empty at 2 p.m. on a random August Tuesday. The kids and I had a good time picking out and reading books in the S-Z section. I even found a book that seemed to be written for The Boy: Beatrice Doesn't Want To...

By then, we were all tired and the kids were rambunctious -- not a good combination with a quiet library -- so we left. We walked up State Street, stopping at Garrett's along the way for an afternoon snack of caramel and cheese popcorn, which we ate on the walk back to Ogilvie Transportation Center. Our fingers were stained yellow-brown and greasy from the popcorn. We arrived at the train station 15 minutes before the 4:05 train and were back home by 4:30.


Is it sad that I am totally geeked about meeting the chef-owner of Moto? His kid will be in the same co-op (although not the same class) with my children.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Crazy Long Day in 'Burbs

Had a crazy long and hot, but fun day in the Western 'burbs today. I had three reasons for going out that direction today. The first was that I partook in the Best Brands Resale consignment sale, leveraging my love of both bargains and kids' clothes, and my drop-off appointment was at 10:00 a.m. in Wheaton. The second was that we have barely seen Cara and her kids this summer, so we had planned to spend part of the day together. And finally, The Boy and The Girl had a sleepover at Grandma-and-Grandpa Naperville's house.

After we dropped off my Rubbermaid bins of clothing, I made the mistake of getting on the express lane on I-88, thereby missing the Morton Arboretum exit. I had to turn around a couple of times before I resigned myself to driving on surface streets to get there. The Tot, The Girl, The Boy and I shared a yogurt-granola parfait and a coffee before we went into the Children's Garden. Last time we were there, we never made it into the Treetop Walk, so we started today's visit up there. The Tot was amazing; he was unafraid about walking through the rope maze and eventually did it all on his own, "racing around and about again every minute or two"* with his big brother. Cara & the kids met us up there and they raced around as well. We gradually made our way down through the sections in the garden, although we were all quite hot and sweaty (and Cara's kids were soaked!) after catching tadpoles in the swamp section, so we decided to get lunch.

We caravanned over to the Colonial Cafe in Naperville to have lunch. The place was crowded with moms and kids eating lunch in the air conditioned cool -- so much so that we had to wait 10 minutes for a table, even at 1 p.m. Even in such an environment, I think our party of 8 (6 kids, 2 moms) overwhelmed our waitress. It was loud and chaotic, but everyone ate fairly well and we all got ice cream (frozen yogurt for The Tot and me) afterwards.

I took The Boy and The Girl over to their grandparents' house for their sleepover, then circled back to meet Cara at Fox Valley Mall (my least favorite Chicagoland mall) to shop the Gymboree sale. Cara and I were supposed to go to the BBR pre-sale at 6 while Cara's husband watched her kids and The Tot, but he was late getting the train and The Tot was pretty tired. So I took him with me to the sale and Cara met me later. Afterwards, I realized that I was starving, so I took The Tot over to the Wheaton Town Center to have dinner at Potbelly. It's so rare that I get to spend one-on-one time with him, but it was really enjoyable. Across the open patio area were a couple of large dogs (collies, I think) and although The Tot is usually quite scared of dogs, he wanted to go up to these dogs (but didn't want to pet them).

It was a long day. We didn't get home until about 9. Grandma Texas and Aunt Sam showed up from Texas (in for Lollapalooza) about 10.

* Dr. Suess' The Sneetches. "They kept paying money, they kept running through. 'Til neither the plain nor the star-bellies knew, whether this one was what one, or which one was who." Does anyone else find that lines from children's books seem to commentate on their daily lives?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Life's a Beach

Thanks to the generosity of my mom's best friend, who loaned us her "cottage" for the length of our stay, our family just returned from a 4-day lake vacation in Michigan. It was heavenly. This cottage is a 3-bedroom house in the woods about 1/2 mile from Weko Beach -- the house is bigger than our Chicago Foursquare and decorated in a unique combination of painted shabby chic-vintage and original 60s and 70s Danish modern, with comfy couches and tons of magazines. No TV, no Internet, no phone. It's perfect. If I could afford a lake cottage, it would look like that. We read books, napped, played in the sand, body surfed (The Boy and The Dad), ate ice cream, grilled out, made s'mores, visited picturesque South Haven, and generally took it easy.