Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Today, we braved the weather* and flew to Houston from O'Hare. The Tot flew as a lap-child and did remarkably well on The Dad's lap during takeoff. He even napped a bit toward the end of the flight. The Girl and The Boy were both excited about take-off, and watching Chicago get smaller outside their respective windows.

We landed in Houston a few minutes ahead of schedule. And it's warm here! Grandma and Grandpa Texas picked us up from the airport. W00t for warm weather!

*The five most dreaded words in the traveler's lexicon: There is weather in Chicago.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Today, The Dad took The Girl and The Boy to Schaumburg's Legoland Discovery Centre. The Boy has been begging to go to Legoland since before it opened. Allison had taken her crew to visit earlier in the fall and pronounced it a nightmare for the toddler crowd, so The Tot and I stayed home to pack, nap, and rattle around the house together.

The Dad got there at 10 a.m. when it opened and reported that the place was mobbed, with an entry line that stretched around the corner. He had a coupon for discounted entry, bringing the total for the 3 of them to $34. You can also buy tickets online for about the same price (plus a $3.75 convenience fee), which I will likely do in the future if we go again, as print-at-home tickets allow you to skip most of the entry line.

Since I wasn't there, I cannot report on the best parts of the center. However, The Boy really liked the make-your-own racecar and race-them exhibit. The Girl and The Dad liked the dragon ride. The Dad also reported that there is a cafe within the center, serving yummy sandwiches (and probably other things). Total for lunch was about $20 for the three of them, which seems about par for museum things.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

I lied

I did not stay home today. But I did not take the kids sledding either. The Boy woke up in the night with some goop in his eye, and I have been wheezing pretty badly for the past month, so I took us both to Urgent Care in Six Corners. The Boy was quickly diagnosed with pink eye; it took a bit longer for the doctor to determine that I have pneumonia. Now we can rest.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Karma at Northbrook Court

Today, I took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot with me to Northbrook Court to (finally!) pick up the photographs from our post-Thanksgiving photo shoot. It was surprisingly empty at around 10:30 a.m. when we arrived and pretty much remained that way until we left around 2 p.m. The Tot spilled orange juice all over his pants and The Girl had a wee accident, so I stopped into Gymboree to buy replacements for both; the sales associate confirmed that it had been slow, but seemed to think that it was too early for crowds.

No problem with me. I was able to get The Boy and The Girl in for haircuts at Snippets with only a short wait (which we passed around the corner at Hanna Andersson, looking for requests [and coming up empty] for the CC girls). We finally made it to the LEGO store at The Boy's request (although he was sad that we did not buy anything -- I told him that he could put it on his birthday wish list). The line at Corner Bakery went quickly, and we had no problems finding a table adjacent to the center treehouse at which we ate our pesto cavatappi (The Tot and The Girl), Santa Fe Ranch salad (me), and kids' PB&J (The Boy).

After lunch, the kids played at the treehouse for close to an hour. I witnessed my first instant-friendship moment that moms of girls have always told me about: The Girl walking around with another little girl who I've never seen before in my life, holding her hand. It was quite cute, actually. At one point, they were deep in conversation about god-only-knows-what. The lady next to me's toddler found my planner and pen while I was distracted by The Tot, who was busy pulling on the mitten strings on someone else's stroller.

But then... then... I have to rant for a bit on holiday rudeness: this woman plopped herself down on the bench that I was sitting on, invading my personal space so that her friend -- who showed some degree of manners by saying that the empty bench she was on was fine (or at least I think this is what she said; they were speaking another language [I would guess Farsi] and I could only judge by body language what was actually said) -- could sit down. This was annoying, but was not worth saying something or ruining my day over, but I ran into her again as I was waiting in the long line at the tiny Banana Republic just off the center court.

She sidled in to look at a sweater on a table just to the left of the one line and then proceeded to stand there with her item as if she was in the check-out line. As there were about 8 people behind me at that point and I found her behavior unaccountably rude, once I realized that she meant to cut in line, I said something to her, loudly: "Excuse me, but I and all the people behind me have been waiting in line to pay. If you want to get in line, it ends back there." She immediately started yelling, saying that she was in the other line, that she had been waiting, that I was lying, etc. Unfortunately, I was irritated and my kids were tired, so I continued the escalation instead of just letting it go. As The Boy said, she was a "liar, liar, pants on fire!" Fortunately, the BR people believed me, told the rude lady that there was only one line, and a manager showed up to defuse the situation. The lady who was in front of us confirmed that I was, in fact, telling the truth, when the rude lady called into question my honesty. What really made me mad about it was when she told me that my behavior would come back to me. I try to let stuff like this go and not harp about it, but it just really rubbed me the wrong way.

At least it ended up a teachable moment for The Boy and The Girl: this is why you use good manners and tell the truth. Even The Boy knew that she was lying as he later told me that Rude Lady had asked him to move over so that she could get to the table with the sweaters.

After that, we left the mall and headed to Glenview in the snow and slush to buy more groceries at Trader Joe's. TJ's was crowded and The Tot was crabby, but the TJ's employees were festive and engaging. One man even brought The Tot a balloon to cheer him up. It took me 45 minutes to get home via Waukegan Road, Dempster, and I-94. And I'm not leaving the house until noonish on Christmas Day, for the long-haul drive to the 'burbs*.

* OK, I might take The Boy and The Girl sledding tomorrow morning. But only if The Dad has the day off to watch The Tot.

Late-Night Crafting

The Girl asked Santa Claus for necklaces and rings. While I suppose I could go out and buy her these items, it's much more fun to make some. I was inspired by this garland, which I had admired weeks ago from a link on Sew, Mama, Sew, but didn't have the supplies (or the patience) to create a 6' long felt garland. For some reason, however, I'm willing to make the effort for my dear child. The necklace was pretty standard, but the rings (I made two) were more of a challenge. I'm rather proud of my handiwork, such as it is. I just hope The Girl feels the same come Christmas morning.

From Blogger Photos

From Blogger Photos

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Girl Has a Crush

...on N., who is The Boy's age. And for his part, N. is happy to accept The Girl's affection/attention. N. and his sister, M., (who is also 3.5) came over this afternoon for a little playdate. The Boy was a bit of a pill, but the girls and N. all had fun playing Candyland, dressing up, building with Magna-Tiles, and watching a movie. Many giggles were heard in our house this afternoon.

It was a nice addition to our day. The Dad took The Great White Moose out to the 'burbs today, so we were completely housebound. I have not left the house since Saturday evening, and although a pajamas-and-housework day was rather nice, I am ready to go somewhere tomorrow.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


This afternoon, The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, The Dad and I hosted a crowd of little kids and their mothers (and a few fathers) for our first (annual?) cookie-decorating party. It was great fun!

The Kids and I spent the morning rolling, cutting, and baking Alton Brown's sugar cookies in holiday shapes (The Tot was disappointed that I would not let him eat the cookies as they came out of the oven). And when our guests arrived, I set out bowls of royal icing (colored with India Tree natural food tints), Wilton sugars and nonpareils, chocolate hips, waxed paper, knives and all the blank-slate cookies. The kids made cookies, ate cookies, and ran around the house together while the moms chatted. We were going to watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but everyone was having such fun in free play without it that we skipped it. I think a good time was had by all (except maybe The Tot, who needed a nap, and Cara, who didn't know my crowd of city-mom friends).

The Girl and The Tot fell asleep on me after most of our guests left, and The Boy was in bed, again, before 7 p.m. tonight!

Let's Bowl!

Last night, The Dad and I got a sitter and out went out! It was kind of a date-night and kind of a night-with-friends. In any event, we went bowling at Lincoln Square Lanes, an old-school bowling alley if there ever was one. Most reviews refer to the establishment as a dive, and that is probably pretty accurate. However, I find its no-apologies, blue-collar aesthetic rather charming.

We met my group of college friends there. I drank a lot of Pabst Blue Ribbon, ate several bags of pretzels, and beat The Dad in our round of bowling (neither of us cleared 100, however, despite my strike and spare). I scored our game manually; it seems odd to me that reviewers would complain about also having to do so. This must be where my age shows -- self-scoring lanes are relatively new to my memories of the game. Manually scoring bowling, life without cell phones, rabbit ears, and retaining my ability to hear -- all things anyone under the age of 25 will find strange.

It was a great night.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Crossing California

The Boy, The Girl, The Tot and I had a Crossing California afternoon. We got all suited up in our outdoor gear, loaded up The Great White Moose with sleds and the bilibo, and headed north to the new sled hill at Warren Park.

The bilibo did not work as a sled, as it turned out, but The Boy and The Girl went down many times on our old red plastic sled. They were so cute -- they'd go down together and then carry the sled up the stairs, The Boy leading and The Girl holding the tail end of the sled. The Tot was not such a fan of the sledding; I knew that going in: he's really too young yet. I went down twice with him. The first time, we fell off (although he never fell directly into the snow) and he screamed the whole second run. The kids sledded for about an hour before the combination of annoying oblivious-to-anyone-else teenagers, The Girl's fatigue, The Tot's hunger, and The Boy's cold pushed us on to something else.

That something else was hitting up Wolfy's on Peterson for hot dogs and fries, with a cheeseburger for The Boy, who said he was really hungry. The Tot's mood improved considerably once he got some food in his stomach, although The Girl was really tired and kept spilling -- her drink, the ketchup, etc. No one fell asleep in the car on the way home, but they all went to bed by 7!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lincoln Square

The Tot has thrush. One of the best cures I've found is gentian violet, which is available at Merz Apothecary. So The Tot and I headed over there this morning after we dropped The Boy and The Girl at school.

Merz Apothecary is gorgeous, old and smells great. But it's a nightmare to visit with a toddler. It's been so long since I've been there, I managed to forget this fact. Many of the bottles are displayed right at his level, so he wanted to touch them, take their caps off, etc. I got what I needed, fiddled around for too long picking out a lip balm, and got out of there.

I also forgot how much I enjoy Lincoln Square. We went across the street to Cafe Selmarie to buy a gift certificate, officially marking the last gift/person off our holiday list. As soon as we walked in, The Tot's eyes widened at the sight of the pastry case. He kept staring at the cupcakes saying, "cookie! cookie!" What is a mama to do in the face of such cuteness? Yeah, so I got him a cupcake (and me a cup of coffee) and we sat in the window for about 10 minutes, enjoying our snack and watching the world go by. We got down from his stool to stare at a little boy about his age in a stroller. I chatted briefly with his nanny -- I was impressed that she got a 20-month-old to wear mittens and a hat. She said that she refuses to leave the house if he takes them off. I don't think that will work with The Tot, who rarely leaves the house specifically because he wants to. They left to go to Starbucks, where the boy could be let out of the stroller to roam, and we left as well.

I ended up stopping next door (Enjoy) to look for some mittens for The Tot (score - stretch toddler mittens at $4/pop) in the (futile) hope of getting him to wear them without crying. I also bought a wind-up frog that made The Tot laugh ($3), and some hot-pink mitten clips ($4) to put in The Girl's Christmas stocking.

As much as I would have loved to shop the rest of Lincoln Square, I had a more pressing need for sunflower butter, so we loaded back into the car and drove down Lincoln Avenue to Trader Joe's before we needed to pick up The Girl from preschool.


At Jammin with Julie yesterday, a little girl came in wearing a Chicago Bears cheerleader outfit. Miss Julie commented on it, and asked if she knew where the Bears were. The little girl responded: they're at the zoo!

Jammin with Julie

Yesterday, I asked The Tot if he wanted to jam with Julie. He nodded "yes" very enthusiastically. We got there for the tail end of the 10 a.m. class and stayed for the beginning of the 11 a.m. class. The Tot was very participatory in the classes, which is extremely unusual for him, but Miss Julie commented that she was happy to see it!

This week marks the end of the fall session, but you can sign up for the next session, held January 7 - April 22, 2009 at Irving Park Lutheran Church, by calling Julie Helenius directly at 773-267-7607 or e-mailing her at The 16-week session is $192, which represents a bit of a price break over the Old Town School's Wiggleworms classes ($240 for a 16-week session), which are similar to Miss Julie's classes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

This morning, it was just cold and icy -- no snow -- so I headed up to Bed, Bath & Beyond in Niles to buy a slipcover for my ultimate bargain occasional chair. It was the easiest location for me to get to, but I needed help and the manager was S.L.O.W. The Tot was getting pretty bitey-grabby by the time we left and I couldn't really blame him for his restlessness.

Afterwards, because The Tot needed a snack and I still had a Barnes & Noble gift card in my purse left over from The Tot's birthday, so we headed over to the B&N in the same shopping center to use (part) of it. He enthusiastically ate half a chocolate cupcake and drank some juice, sitting up so nicely in a chair and closely observing the two other patrons in the cafe. I drank half my marshmallow latte, and then we headed over B&N Jr. to check out the books. Not surprisingly, The Tot made a beeline for the Thomas the Tank Engine section. We have many of these books already, including the complete book of Thomas stories by Rev. Audry; we ended up with Barton's Trains book instead. I let The Tot putter around the book section for about 1/2 an hour before we left to pick The Girl up from preschool.

I really need to make a book wishlist for the kids; while we were browsing the kids' section, there were several books that I was tempted to get for The Boy or The Girl, but don't have the budget for it right now.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Upcoming: Bungalow Restoration Project

Community Meeting

Tuesday, December 16
5:30 - 6:30 pm
in the
Independence Park Bungalow

Here is a chance for you to meet the architect who will be handling our project. Bailey Edward Design is a firm recognized for their historic renovations and experience with green bungalows. Brendan Daley, heading up the project from the Chicago Park District, will discuss the project process going forward.

There will be a short q & a period. Coffee will be served.


I am hoping to go.

Chicago Park District

What I love about the Chicago Park District: classes are generally inexpensive and you can register online.

What I hate about the Chicago Park District: you have to watch the countdown ticker at 9 a.m. on the day of online registration and be quick with the mouse buttons and keyboard.

That said, I got everyone in our family into our desired classes for the winter session. The Boy is taking gymnastics at Peterson Park Gymnastics Center. The Girl is taking a similar class at the same time. The Tot and I are following in his older brother's footsteps and taking a parent/caregiver and tot class at Independence Park. I'm reprising my Thursday wheel pottery class at Athletic Field Park. And I even got The Dad into the act -- he's taking a woodworking class at Brands Park.

What a difference a year makes

During The Girl's ballet class this morning, I spoke with Beth T. about the neighborhood, schools, and Australia. She had gone on a tour of Disney II yesterday, and reported that she saw both The Girl and The Boy happily engaged in their respective classrooms. Our conversation reminded me how stressed I was last year over applying to and visiting schools, The Boy's Options for Knowledge Test date, etc. While next year, I may very well be back in the same boat*, it's been nice to be blissfully ignorant of the flurry of activity occurring right now in rising-kindergartener households all over the city of Chicago.

Disney II is on course to be a good, sought-after school. Beth shared that the school has already received 550 applications -- and there's still a week to go before the December 19th deadline. So far, I am happy with the level of education that The Boy is receiving. His teacher, Mrs. Callaghan, is phenomenal. I'd like to see her nominated for a Golden Apple award, but I don't want the school to lose her for the year that she'd be on sabbatical as a result. He's halfway through the year and I can see that he'll be reading at the end of it.

The Girl is an enthusiastic preschooler. Her teacher, Mr. Manesis, has nothing but good things to say about her behavior and interest in the various activities offered by the Preschool for All program. She is eager to go to school each day, and was more upset about missing school last week during a bout of mycoplasma than she was about feeling crummy for 5 days straight.

As for me, I've joined the school community wholeheartedly. Although it's difficult for me to volunteer in the classroom, I've gone on a field trip with The Boy's class, volunteered at the fall book fair, and am serving on the newly formed Disney II PTA. For those reading who are looking for involvement opportunities at Disney II, there is also an Interim Advisory Committee (IAC), which is a precursor to the LSC.

* Although there is a sibling preference system in place at Disney II, it's still a lottery system when there are more siblings than there are holdback spots for them. With many of The Boy's peers' siblings set to enter kindergarten in the fall of 2010, like The Girl, there's bound to be competition and angst over available spots. In addition, I'd like to have The Girl tested for gifted/classical schools, adding another potential element to the decision.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

What's New?

I have not been posting lately because we have not been doing much. There are two reasons for this. The first is that “the economy” has highlighted my own budgetary shortfalls. The second—and bigger—reason is the logistics of three children makes it difficult to plan outings. With The Girl in preschool everyday for just 2.5 hours, The Tot needing a nap every afternoon, and The Boy in school until nearly 4 p.m., there's no time for adventuring. Compounding the issue is that I dislike crowded places and have been spoiled by 5 years of going to museums during quiet weekdays; it's hard for me to muster the energy to schlep through a crowded museum on a weekend afternoon.

I've been spending my mornings running errands, taking The Tot to the occasional class, and puttering around the house with The Tot. And my afternoons watching Dora episodes with The Girl and performing miscellaneous household tasks while The Tot naps, with playdates (either hosted or drop-off) thrown in here and there to mix things up. By the time The Boy gets home from school, there's enough time to do a load of laundry and a sinkful of dishes, start dinner, and supervise homework before dinner and bedtime.

Partially because of this -- and partially because I've realized that there is so much in Chicago for little kids that I don't know about -- I've decided to shift the focus of this blog. I hope that doesn't bother my readership -- all five of you! I remember how disappointed I was when a blog I had been following -- American Expat -- shifted its focus from a subject I was interested in (Americans living in The Hague) to one that I wasn't (Ukraine adoption). I still plan to post about our adventures in Chicago, but I'll also include more information about our daily lives -- so if you're still reading, consider this fair warning of impending boredom. :) If nothing else,* it will give me a nice record of my days as a harried mother of 3 small children.
* My mother is decidedly not among my readership. She thinks that blogging is the worst sort of egotism.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

One of a Kind

Yesterday, Cara and Grace came into the city; we all headed down to one of my favorite Chicago buildings (and I say this every year*), the Merchandise Mart, to attend our friend Melissa's booth at the One of a Kind Show and Sale. We had gone (without the girls) last year, but it was a Saturday and much busier. This year, whether due to the weather (freezing!), the economy or something else, it was much quieter. We both bought beautiful chainmail necklaces from Rapt in Maille for ourselves, and cute wooden necklaces from Steinvika Designs for Gracie, Lily, and The Girl. I also picked up a pair of lobster-style mittens from Zola Jones Designs. The Girl had been getting over a cold and The Tot was past naptime, so we were pretty much done after a quick cruise around the booths surrounding Melissa's booth.

Before we headed up to the 8th floor, we stopped into Au Bon Pain for lunch. We arrived just before the lunch rush, thank goodness, as the crowd of well-heeled designers was not happy to see two moms and three little kids invade their space.

After we were done shopping, Cara and Gracie headed back to the car, and The Girl, The Tot, and I got on the L. The Girl was decidedly not happy about taking the train, but managed to calm down for a bit once we boarded the Brown Line, taking it the long way around the Loop to the Blue Line station at Clark/Lake. It turns out that The Girl was having one of her occasional (usually) crowd-related panic attacks about taking public transportation, despite the fact that the trains were not at all crowded. The Tot rode in the stroller (and fell asleep) and I held The Girl in my arms and managed to soothe her public transportation anxiety this time.

The Dad, who was working from home, very nicely came to get us at the station. We all headed over to school to pick up The Boy, then headed home.

*Maybe I will remember this next year when I am looking for a good (indoor) Chicago backdrop for our holiday card photograph.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town

Today, Santa Claus came not to our town, but to Lisle. Close enough. We met him (and Mrs. Claus, and Grandma & Grandpa Naperville) at the Morton Arboretum for breakfast. It was a nice time. The Boy ate his pancakes, The Girl didn't like hers, The Tot ate everyone's sausage and bacon. We saw Santa Claus walking up the path and got to sit on his knee (well, The Tot screamed bloody murder when Grandma held him next to Santa Claus). Mrs. Claus came over to say hello.
From Blogger Photos

After we had full tummies and had put in our requests to Santa (necklaces and rings for The Girl, a play gas station for The Boy), we went across the way to the train room, which The Tot loved. He did not want to leave when The Dad came to pick us up 15 minutes later.