Monday, November 30, 2009

Hooper's Store

Grandma and Grandpa Texas and Aunt Sam left today. We went to Curio Cafe for brunch before they left for the craziest airport in the U.S. on the second craziest air-travel day of the year. As I have said before, and will continue to say, I love the Curio Cafe. Grandma and Grandpa Texas have been there several times -- Grandma Texas even went once with her friend without kids! When we walked into a full restaurant and I immediately recognized 6 kids and 3 sets of parents, Grandpa Texas commented that he expected Elmo and Oscar the Grouch to walk in at any moment. He meant it as a compliment to Claudia and Lucy; that they've created a neighborhood eatery with good food and good ambiance, where everyone ends up at one point or another.

After we said our good-byes, The Girl and I dropped the boys off at home and headed out to Oak Park, to attend a Leslie B. show. Grandma Naperville introduced me to Leslie B. last year.  It's like Chinese artisan/Etsy with lots of one-of-a-kind stone necklaces, pashminas, scarves, etc. The Girl behaved beautifully in the car and at the party, staying close to me and serving as my fashion advisor.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


With Grandma & Grandpa Texas at lunch with Grandma & Grandpa Naperville yesterday, we found ourselves with nothing to do on a late-fall Saturday. While I'd normally take this opportunity to go to a museum, I think that's what the rest of the non-shoppers would choose also, so The Dad, The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I headed up to Northbrook for our quarterly trip for arcade fun at Nickel City.

It was a slow-moving start in the morning, so we didn't leave until about 11 a.m., which is The Girl's and The Tot's usual lunchtime. Cranky kids + a 25-minute car ride does not for a fun time make. We were all much cheerier after lunch at Panera in Glenview.

We got to Nickel City about 1 p.m. and stayed until just after 2 p.m., playing Skee Ball, Bozo Buckets, Spider Stomp, and various other games. In the free section in the back, I discovered an ancient Japanese game that was a precursor/combination of Bubble Bobble and the iPhone app Bubble Pop and played that for a bit until The Tot and The Dad came to find me. Normally, I get a headache within an hour, but I was actually not ready to leave when The Dad declared that it was time to go. That said, an afternoon at Nickel City is one of my favorite ways to spend $20 and time with my family. We racked up just over 300 tickets between the five of us, enough (with $1.50) for 3 Ring Pops as consolation for having to go home.

The Dad took the kids into Hobby USA adjacent to Nickel City while I ran into Hancock Fabrics (great prices, a massive line for the cutting table and only two people working in the store) for a bodkin. Then we went home - and score! The Tot fell asleep on the way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crafty Chicago

One holiday down, the big'un is less than a month away. Which means that this mama needs to finish up her Christmas projects. Last year, a friend introduced me to the Sew, Mama, Sew blog, and I've been an occasionally devoted reader ever since. In November, I'm a devoted reader of their aggregate Handmade Holidays. In fact, I'll be participating in their Giveaway Day next week.  I've been having fun with the Oliver + S Pajama pattern, making a pair of perfectly coordinated flannel PJs for each of my children. You know, with my copious free time these days...  

If you are short on free-time (or inspiration, or both), however, you can buy the handiwork of artisans and artists this weekend at the Bucktown Bazaar in Holstein Park. My friend Melissa, of Rapt in Maille, will be crammed somewhere in the fieldhouse, peddling her beautiful and funky chainmail pieces. 

And if you miss her this weekend (family in town, stuck in the 'burbs for the weekend, etc.), you can see her (and thousands of other fabulous artists) at the One of a Kind Art Show and Sale at the Merchandise Mart, starting on Thursday, December 3rd.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Flashback with a Twist

With the work-holiday, today was like a flashback to November 2008 -- plus two. After staying up way too late last night to work on my first Oliver + S project, I slept in a bit this morning. Then The Boy, The Girl, The Tot, and I headed out to Aurora to visit Cara and her ever-growing brood (the plus two since last year are Kenley and Tillie).

Cara and I had an an old-fashioned mom-visit, complete with tea and toys and kids running around all over the house. The Girl and Gracie, and The Boy and Johnny started back where they left off, playing Barbies and dolls, and battlefield-stars, respectively. The Tot eventually warmed up to the toys in the living room, and was quite upset when we left around 2:30 because Tillie had to go to the pediatrician's office. 

All three kids fell asleep in the car on the way home (w00t!). When we got home, The Boy and The Tot went on the L with The Dad, while I took The Girl to the Treasure Store. We picked up Aunt Sam, who is visiting from Texas this week for the holiday, along the way.  I love the Treasure Store: this cabinet (in white) for $20, plus the usual clothing deals. The Girl drove our departure from the store, but I want to go back for the mod cabinet and about half a dozen other pieces.

We had planned to go to CBA for dinner, but discovered after we parked and paid our LAX fee that it was closed for the holiday (or maybe it closes at 3 p.m.? I can't remember a time that I went there for anything other than lunch). I was quite surprised, but most of Lincoln Park-DuPaul seemed to be buttoned up for the day, actually.  With rumbling bellies, we trekked up Armitage to Halsted to see what sort of food we could procure that would be as suitable for me, Aunt Sam, and an adventurous-but-messily-attired 4-year-old

...and ended up at Cafe Ba Ba Reeba! I've been there only once before, in 2003, for a moms' night out with our playgroup. On that occasion, we waited for 20 minutes for our reservation. Tonight, we walked in and were seated immediately. Cafe Ba Ba Reeba is definitely tapas for an American (Chicago, Lincoln Park) palate, but it suited The Girl just fine. We ordered a few pintxos, potato salad, baked goat cheese with tomato sauce, artisanal cheese plate, chicken empanada, and fried green peppers. Plus mango sorbet and caramel-almond cake. The Girl is, and always has been, a fantastic dining companion, especially outside the negative influence of her brothers. She eats everything, is willing to try almost anything, and can be entertained with a pencil and paper or people-watching. We sat just opposite the main prep bar, so we had lots to see.

Disney II in the News

Along with the rest of the school and its community, the PR machine at Disney II works. Disney II was the lead in today's New York Times story about parent-led fundraising and Arne Duncan/President Obama's developing push for an extended school day. The Boy's class is pictured in the accompanying photograph.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Trials of the Working Mum #2

Fatigue. I don't know if it's an earlier school time, a later bed time, or just a general lack of time, but we're all just plain tired in our house these days. The Tot, who still takes a 1-3-hour nap, is the glaring exception to this. But The Girl is a disaster most days when I arrive home around 6 p.m. and cramming in dinner, books, and at least 1/2 an hour of homework is certainly not helping. The Tot likes to fart around in his crib before he goes to sleep each night--but only if I stay in the room with him. I can no longer recall where I read this (there's that fatigue component coming into play again), but I seem to remember reading a quote from some child-development expert (Burton White? Dr. Sears? Marc Weissbluth?) that no person under the age of 35 can sleep during primetime hours, while no parent over the age of 30 can stay awake during those hours.

However, the immediate post-bedtime hour on a Friday or Saturday evening is really the only time that I get to talk--or listen--to The Boy. How else is a busy working mother with a busy, full-time student (although he's only not-quite seven) going to learn all the important facts about her child? Some things have changed in the first three months of school, some things have stayed the same.

The Boy: An Interview
Favorite color: Red. And blue and yellow and green.
Favorite food: crockpot BBQ chicken sandwiches (thanks Becky!)
Best friend: A. and Enver
Best friend who's a girl: A. and S.
Favorite subject in school: Writing. And also guided reading and science.
What he wants to be when he grows up: To study science and space (Me: "An astronomer?") No, a professor.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Trials of the Working Mum #1

This evening, at the GIPNA 4th Annual Fine Wine and Cheese party, I ran into my friend Meredith, who asked me about my new job, and whether I was still blogging, although not necessarily in that order. She told me that she used to read this blog and feel guilty because I was always taking my children on fabulous adventures, while she was working.

I now understand what she means, as I've neither written for pleasure in almost a month, nor done anything enriching with my children in twice as long. Where I used to have five solid days each week to take my children to museums, on playdates, and to IKEA, I now have but one (the other taken up with football with the cousins until early February). And that day is also the day that suburbanites trek into the city to see the fish, tourists on a mad-dash Windy City trip gawk at the Bean, and all of Lincoln Park/Lakeview goes shopping. Add in my regular chores of laundry, bill-paying, dry-cleaners, menu-planning, Target runs, and catching up on my sleep. Not to mention squeezing in quality one-on-one time with each child (one of whom insists that that time include a ride on the trip and a trip to Starbucks), and well, there's hardly time to breathe, let alone muster the energy to pack three children into a crowded museum for the day.

Yes, I know: this is a uniquely middle-class problem, and I'm fortunate to count myself within it. I've been spoiled by years of visiting the Field, the Shedd, MSI, the Notebaert, the zoos, the Arb, and the Garfield Park Conservatory (not to mention the big blue box) pretty much on my own terms. But: I now understand why people take vacations. I have not worked long enough to feel guilty, as Meredith did, about the adventures upon which I am not or no longer taking my children. Someone ask me in a year if this is still true.