Saturday, April 25, 2009

Clean & Green

Although our participation in the official Clean & Green events in both Old Irving Park and Greater Independence Park was a bit of a bust, our family did manage to do a little gardening/improvement of our own today. We were hampered by the weather (on and off rain) as well as The Boy's Saturday morning soccer game, arriving at the GIPNA table too late to register or pick up trash bags. Our neighbors had come to similar fates, so we all cleaned the breezeways next to garages instead. I pulled out all the weeds, rocks, garbage and whatnot from the breezeway next to our garage, then installed our rain barrel on the alley side of the fence, leaving a good receptacle for rain runoff from the garage and giving us easy access to the spigot for gardening use when the weather dries up.

We went over to the OIPA potluck picnic about 12:30. My friend CD had asked me to have my bags available for green-minded folk, but when we arrived, the scant population was packing up to leave. So we went to lunch at Target. Despite the snags, it was a nice day.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Meeting Junkie

Since The Boy started kindergarten, I've become somewhat of a meeting junkie. If there is a meeting in the neighborhood, I'll probably attend. I'd like to claim that my motives are purely altruistic, a response to President Obama's call to volunteer, but that's only part of the picture. I often attend community meetings because I am curious. I want to know what is going on -- at school, in my neighborhood, at the parks, in adjacent neighborhoods, with my alderman, in city policy. I'm still trying to figure out specific ways that I can contribute to the actual organizing bit of community involvement, but attending meetings is a good way to determine what the group's actual needs are and how my talents fit in with those needs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Mall

Chicago Mama's cupboard was bare, so I took The Girl and The Tot out for lunch today. I had suggested Panera, as it's right across the street from the Market Square Pottery Barn Kids. But The Girl declared that she did not like that PBK and wanted to go to the one at Old Orchard Mall instead.

In her younger days, before we had to worry about such silly things as school pick-up times and better budgeting, we spent a lot of time at the mall (our favorite, as a group, is probably Northbrook Court, with its giant treehouse in the center court). These days, although every retailer and its cousin is trying to lure us in with sales, rewards programs, and other incentives, we don't go very often. It probably also helps that the screenprint I saw yesterday at the T-Shirt Deli ("I take the fun out of shopping") aptly describes both The Boy and The Tot, thereby rendering shopping an activity best enjoyed without the company of children, and therefore not enjoyed very often by me.

And yet: we went. And despite the rain, it was (mostly) fun. At least The Girl keeps talking about how much fun she had. We went to the infinitely more preferable (than Panera) Nordstrom Cafe for lunch: Lime-Cilantro Chicken Salad ($9) for me, Simple Turkey Sandwich ($5) for The Girl, and The Tot shared with us both. On the way in, we ran into Carrie from Disney II, a mom of a child in The Boy's class, who seems to run in the same social/activities circuit as I do, and her little boy. After lunch, we headed to PBK to spend my PBK card holder rewards coupon. It was hard to come up with something I wanted to buy -- we checked out the stuff at Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma next door before settling on a pink Farmhouse Chair to complete our set; it's the only chair that we didn't buy as a floor model. We took a quick cruise through Gap Kids, where the salesgirl made me feel bad that my 2-year-old wanted to throw every one of the bucket of small playground balls set at perfect toddler height across the store. We stopped at the E-bar at Nordstrom on the way home for a latte (me) and snack (The Girl, The Tot) and skedaddled.

The ABCs

D is for Disney II PTA, E is for Entertainment, F is for Fun

Disney II PTA presents the ABCs: A is for Auction, B is for Benefit, C is for Community, on May 30th. It’s an evening you won’t want to miss! Dancing, cocktails, and an opportunity to mingle with Disney II teachers and staff are included in the $50 price of admission. Plus, I'm going.

It’s as easy as 1,2,3…Contact Stacey Nyman to buy your tickets today.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tot Turns Two

We celebrated The Tot's 2nd birthday today and oh my! I'm not sure that I am ready to say good-bye entirely to the babyhood stage of mothering. The Dad would argue that it's one step closer to the end of diapers. True that, but there's something irresistible about chubby babies tucked into mei-tei carriers or slings.

To celebrate, we had a little party at home for The Tot. Grandma & Grandpa Naperville came in and were joined by two families that The Tot sees most often: Allison, Becky and their respective children. It's probably not what Barbara Kingsolver had in mind with her recent book, but we ate locally: pizzas from La Villa and a wonderful chocolate carousel cake from Whole Foods Sauganash (this buttercream version was delish and comparable in price to those of Dinkel's Bakery, at $25 + $6 for the personalization on a 1/4-sheet cake). We had lemonade for the kids, beer and wine and water for the adults, and I made a simple ricotta-lemon-chive dip as an appetizer. The kids all played happily, leaving the adults to chit-chat.

The Tot wore his new "2" t-shirt from the T-Shirt Deli, which The Boy and The Girl helped me choose from the Andersonville location on our way to pick up the cake. He was in absolute heaven with the Sodor Bay Bridge that Grandma and Grandpa brought, although he first had to be distracted away from the plastic wagon of outdoor toys that Becky brought for him. The Dad and my gifts to him (Duplo Lego) are still sealed in their brown shipping box. We'll get those out on another day of this rainy week.

Saturday, April 18, 2009


I was first introduced to the giant blue box at IKEA-Paris. I was a senior in high school, but I was in love with the giant blue box, the colorful fixtures, the good eats (a requisite in France) and the overall feel. Nearly 20 years later, I still have the same feel-good reaction to IKEA. As you know by now, I go fairly often with the kids, but these outings do not usually include the whole family. But today, I dragged The Dad with me to IKEA.

The purpose of our visit was to try out kitchen chairs. We only have 4 right now, which leaves an odd bum out. Plus, they are no longer made (they were a circa-1999 California Cost Plus purchase), and The Dad has been complaining about them since we moved to Chicago. So after The Boy and The Girl were happily ensconced by Smalland, we sat in kitchen chairs.

We were both quite fond of the padded IKEA Stockholm chair, but at $99/pop, it's a bit steep for our needs at the moment. Plus the oak finish doesn't go with our blonde wood and veneer Scandinavian kitchen table, and while it should be replaced, getting a new table isn't in the budget plans right now. I can't really see buying another table for small children to destroy. The Ingolf was another option on The Dad's list. Although my American Foursquare is not even remotely modern in design or function, I also quite liked the Tobias and Jakob chairs.

For the first time ever (probably because The Dad was with me), I walked out of the store buying only dinner (mac & cheese and mashed potatoes for The Girl, chicken tenders and fries for The Boy, meatballs and mashed potatoes for The Tot, meatball platter for me, and chicken Caesar salad for The Dad), ice cream for the kids at the end, and some fabric for my bags. It was quite crowded when we got there just before 5 p.m., but by the time we left around 7, the place was practically a ghost town. This confirms what I already knew: the best time to go to IKEA is on an early weekday afternoon or a Saturday night.


I love spring in Chicago. It's fickle -- 72 degrees and sunny can turn into 45 and rainy in less than 12 hours and back on its head again soon after -- but after a long winter of snow, ice, salt spray and brown-yellow grass stubble, I'll take whatever I can get!

Today, The Boy went on a field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago, arriving back to school just before 4 p.m. We missed gymnastics, but ran around with the rest of our crew on the Disney II playground until we were all too thirsty and too tired to continue. At which point, we walked the 1/2 block up to Smoque BBQ for some pulled pork (me), fries (The Boy), brisket (The Tot) and mac & cheese (The Girl). Yum! What's better than a spring afternoon? A spring afternoon capped off with super yummy barbeque from the celebrated (it was featured in Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) local spot.

After dinner, we returned to the playground, where I ran into Beth T. and her young'uns, letting the kids run off whatever steam they'd just built up at dinner.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Six Corners

It seems odd that in this economy, customer service would continue to be on the wane. But this morning, I discovered that poor customer service is alive and kicking back at the Sears in Six Corners. I went in to purchase a vacuum, as The Boy ruined our first one in 2004 and The Dad's chosen replacement for it, a canister vac, is not such a great choice for our tiny 1400 sf Chicago house. I've purchased basically the same vacuum in different versions since our initial vacuum purchase back in 1999. Today, I went in to get the same one in an upright, bagless version, which happened to be on sale for just under $160. None in stock and they couldn't order it. When I asked if another store would have it, the gal simply said, "I doubt it." She didn't offer to check or look online. Um, thanks. I am sorry for wasting 10 minutes of your time, lady. Good grief.

And this is probably why I buy most of my appliances either directly through GE or at the expansive Abt Electronics in Glenview.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

GIPNA Fine Craft Fair

Combining my nascent crafting and Chicago happenings, I'm participating in GIPNA's Fine Craft Fair (page 7). I'll be selling some handsewn items, primarily reusable shopping bags in funky patterns free from stores' own logos, as well as bean bags for babies and some initial shirt-and-skirt combos. My stuff is joining wares from some wonderful neighborhood artisans, whose works include stained glass, pottery, knitted hats, cocktail aprons, sketches, and block-printed baby tees. The Girl promises to help me make change. If you're free on May 3rd, I'd love to see you at the Independence Park fieldhouse.

From Chicago Mama

From Chicago Mama

From Chicago Mama

Saturday in Seattle

The real purpose of our visit to Seattle was Baby N.'s baptism, which took place on Saturday evening during St. Stephen's Easter Vigil. The service started at 8 p.m., so The Girl and The Tot were ready for bed even before it began, but The Girl and The Boy managed to get through it OK.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Break in Seattle

Last week was The Boy's and The Girl's spring break from school. We had been planning to visit Grandma and Grandpa Texas in Houston for our annual escape-from-Chicago-winter trip, but Uncle Chris's new baby was baptized on Easter Saturday, so we headed to the Emerald City instead, leaving The Dad at home to work.

Apparently, as anyone who reads this blog already knows, I am a brave soul to take 3 children on a 4-hour plane trip by myself. Especially because, unfortunately, The Tot woke up on the morning of our trip in a crib full of sick. The Dad and I discussed leaving The Tot at home with The Dad, but ultimately decided that he'd be happier with me. He slept most of Tuesday, both on and off the plane, but rallied on Wednesday. Unfortunately, he got sick again on Thursday, and woke up on Friday morning screaming. I took him to see the folks at Wallingford Pediatrics, around the corner from our flat, on Friday morning, and they very kindly squeezed a sick out-of-towner walk-in into their schedule. The doctor we saw, Dr. Hadley, was wonderful with The Tot, getting on the floor to do the exam and waiting until he warmed up to her to let her do the diagnostic checks she needed to perform. I was very impressed, even The Tot's regular peds are not that good. As it turns out, he had a viral bug and no ear infection, and was just crabby from feeling crummy. Unfortunately, he later passed his bug onto Grandma Texas.

Because Uncle Chris still lives in a vertical 2-bedroom apartment, and because the thought of 3 kids in a hotel room gives Mama fits, we stayed in a little apartment in nearby Wallingford. So cute! After we settled in to the apartment, we walked up to Wallingford Center for cupcakes (and a latte for me) at Trophy, and then down to the park to enjoy the rare (so they tell me) warm, sunny day. Only in Seattle would you see a mom nonchalantly nursing a 3-year-old in a public park; Chicago is not nearly that crunchy.

More after the jump.
Uncle Chris picked us up for dinner; we joined Aunt J. and Baby N. at Ivar's Seafood on the pier. It was too cold by then to eat our fish-and-chips outside, but we took The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot down to the drive-in pier to see the boats. The Boy wasn't "so sure about this." And The Girl kept disappearing among the tables on the patio, which made my heart flutter, especially as there had been an attempted child abduction at Pike Place Market only a day earlier.

Grandma Texas arrived on Tuesday night. She had rented a car, so she drove us all down to Pike Place Market on Wednesday morning. I had given each of the kids some spending money, and The Girl was especially excited at the thought of spending it at Pike Place Market. The Boy had regaled her with tales of the market from his trip last year. They both bought stuffed snakes and Seattle market t-shirts. I talked to pottery vendors about the art of throwing while admiring their work and drooled over the beautiful produce. We had lunch at 3 Sisters cafe (The Boy complained), and got mini donuts and lattes at the Daily Dozen. Then we met my old friend Valerie at Seattle Center, where there was an indoor carnival of sorts. The Boy and The Girl tired themselves out on the various bouncy castles ($15 for 2 all-access wristbands? priceless), got twisty balloon shapes, and The Girl got her face painted as well. The Tot took a naplet while Valerie and I talked. We visited Uncle Chris and Aunt J. at their apartment for dinner.

On Thursday, we took the ferry to Bainbridge Island, and drove the 11 miles down the road to Poulsbo, a seaside village with Scandinavian roots. We stopped for pastry at Sluy's Bakery, spent an hour looking at and buying used kids' books at the Book Stop, and had the best mac & cheese in town at MorMor's Bistro.

Our adventure for Friday was to Mecca: the flagship Nordstrom, where we had lunch at the loudest Nordstrom Cafe I've ever been to, and bought The Girl and The Tot shoes. Afterward, we headed out toward the airport to visit the Museum of Flight. Both The Girl and The Tot fell asleep in the car and while The Girl slept for awhile with me in the car when we arrived, The Tot woke up and wanted to go with Grandma Texas and The Boy into the museum. At the museum, we checked out the Blackbird and other amazing planes, made the hot air balloon go up, and test piloted a mini Blue Angel plane. All of the museum's docents were men in their early 60s, wearing khaki pants, blue buttondown shirts and navy blue blazers; an entire docent staff of retired enginerds. For the record, I am very thankful for those enginerds, but it made me chuckle nonetheless.

At the end of the day, Grandpa Texas arrived from his 6-hour flight from Connecticut, and we went to dinner with him, Grandma Texas, and Uncle Chris. Aunt J. and Baby N. stayed at home to work on projects. We ate flat-bread pizzas at the cavernous Bella Terra. The Girl, a normally adventurous eater, does not like pizza, but still managed to try several pieces. Afterwards, Uncle Chris chased The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot around the lawns of Lincoln High School.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Mama-Girl Playdate

Yesterday, we had a family outing in the morning -- to Supercuts in Six Corners for haircuts for The Boy, The Girl and The Dad. The Tot played and I read Nylon. After that exciting morning, we headed up Cicero to Whole Foods - Sauganash to kill two birds with one stone: lunch at the grill and a 1/2 gallon of milk from the dairy case.

Once home again, I headed out again to Jo-Ann Fabrics to buy lining fabrics for my latest large-scale sewing projects: making pretty bags to sell at the GIPNA Fine Arts & Crafts Fair. The Tot took a nap and The Boy wanted to stay at home, so The Girl came with me and we made it a little Mama-The Girl playdate. She helpfully picked our fabrics with me, and then we braved the hail-like white substance that was then falling from the sky in advance of the April snow shower, and hurried over to Starbucks in the same strip mall for a snack. She got kids' hot cocoa with whipped cream and a blueberry muffin. She very nicely shared her hot cocoa with me and we talked about what we were going to do at her birthday party in a month, and what we should do in Seattle this week.

Then we went home. When we arrived at our car on the other side of the parking lot, it was parked to a VW Beetle. A pink VW Beetle. TG: "See Mama! I told you there were pink cars!" This pink VW Bettle had ears and a pug nose on its front and a curly tail on its back. The license plate read "JIMS PIG." She's still talking about it.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Score at the Treasure Store

Sometimes I wonder why anyone shops retail for kids' clothing. Sometimes I wonder why I shop retail for kids' clothing (although I did get The Boy a fabulous t-shirt at Beth T.'s Boden trunk show yesterday). After the trunk show, I met The Fam at the the park and spent a good hour chasing little kids up and down slides. Then I headed to our local Treasure Store to find something for us all to wear to my nephew's baptism in Seattle next weekend.

The purpose of the trip was not to find name-brands, but to find pieces for The Boy and The Girl that would coordinate with an existing outfit (a gift) for The Tot. And I got lucky. Found a dress for The Girl that both has pink in it and coordinates with the yellow and blue of The Tot's set, as well as a pair of khaki dress pants in The Boy's size and an Arc-en-Ciel (name brand) blue dress shirt for The Boy. Also got a pair of cleats for The Boy's new Monday afternoon soccer club and a pair of dress shoes for me to go with the $6 new-with-tags Ann Taylor dress I got last week during my other T.S. outing with Debra.