Saturday, December 19, 2009


The second annual Chicago Mama cookie-decorating party was this afternoon. Because we know so many little kids and have such a small house, I had to keep the number of invitees down. A few people could not make it, so we ended up with 11 little munchkins (including The Girl, The Boy, and The Tot) to decorate homemade sugar cookies with brightly colored royal icing and sprinkles, non-pareils, and more.  

Here's the calm before the storm:

I gave each child a holiday-themed tin, marked with his/her name, and pre-filled with 1/2 dozen sugar cookies. Note for next year: 1 dozen! Each child got to decorate his/her cookies and/or eat them. 

As everyone arrived, they split off into groups to play. The girls and The Girl got all dolled up from our dress-up bin, wearing fancy dresses + a pair of wings each. Some of them, like The Girl, kept this get-up on while they decorated cookies:


Afterwards, the boys went upstairs to play Lego and the girls and the tots stayed downstairs to watch 1969's Frosty the Snowman: 

For my part, I got to drink spiked coffee and chit-chat with the moms about school, books, Boden, and other topics of interest.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Queuing Up

From Blogger Photos
Yesterday, I had a completely new parenting experience: queuing up to get good seats at The Boy's and The Girl's holiday concert/show at school. The photo above shows the line stretching around the corner as we eager parents waited for 1/2 an hour or more in the 6-degree weather for a seat in the gymatorium. I don't think I've ever waited in such conditions for anything, having been blissfully unaware of the music scene until well into my college years, at which time ticket-by-phone was available. 

But: Elfis and the Sleigh Riders was well-worth the wait. My space in line gave me a seat in the third row, so I could see everyone fairly well. The Boy had a tiny speaking part, and both The Girl and The Boy sang one or more of the 5 songs in the set. It was very cute.

I took the day off of work to see the show, but I also got to have coffee with my friend Becky in the morning and take a long nap in the afternoon. The Girl was wiped from the show, so we all settled in for a long afternoon nap.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Two for Tea

When I was a child, my family's get-dressed-up-during-the-holidays event was a trip to the Walnut Room in Marshall Field's. For my children, it may very well be tea at the Peninsula. I took The Girl there on Sunday for our first fancy-schmancy mama-girl playdate. I have been to the Peninsula a few times with friends and there have always been groups of fancily-clad little girls with their American Girl dolls, but until ChicagoParent came out with its list of holiday tea spots, I knew that I had to take The Girl. You can see us in the photo to the left. We were terribly overdressed, even for The Lobby/Avenues restaurant at the Peninsula, but I attribute that to the gradual casualing of America. I made reservations before Thanksgiving, but they were not able to take us until 5:30 p.m. on a Sunday. I was a bit disappointed, because when we arrived, the maitre d' took us into Avenues, which was stuffier and also emptier than The Lobby. They reassured it me that it was just as nice as The Lobby. And the service was good, as was the food, but it was just not as festive as The Lobby, with its two-story windows and giant Christmas tree, was. Oh well. Better luck next time. 

For her part, The Girl was a dream. She was perfectly mannered, nicely dressed, and excited to be there. She drank tea--not the proffered hot cocoa--black, without sugar. The older couple dining next to us found her charming and cute. They kept asking me how old she was, etc. I told her that in England, they have "tea" for dinner, which she seemed to find interesting. We were both hungry, and enjoyed our little meals. The Girl ate most of her kids' tea:

From Blogger Photos
And part of mine as well. She did not like the lemon curd or the cold salmon, but she liked the curried egg salad on pumpernickel and some of the chocolate desserts. It was definitely a splurge--$18 for kids' tea, $38 for adult tea, plus $23 in valet parking, but I consider it part of The Girl's Christmas present, and it was pretty fun.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

When Blogging and Real Life Collide

Today, as I was resting on a giant leather sofa at the Starbucks closest to my office on a mid-afternoon caffeine run, I looked over and there was a cute blond toddler in a red Bumbleride screaming his head off. I laughed--not because I was taunting the child or teasing his parent, but because I have so been there. And then his mother popped up and I smiled at her in that way that mothers who have survived toddlerhood will recognize as the secret-club handshake of mothers...and realized that she is the genius behind Big City Fuzz and Big City Suds. Cool. Now I want some lemongrass-scented soap and recycled wool mittens.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Santa, Baby

The Boy's homework project for this month is to write a short chapter book all about his family holiday traditions. It can be any holiday, but given The Dad's  and my own respective Roman Catholic/Episcopal upbringing, we are lapsed Christians who observe the secular Christmas.

One of our holiday traditions happened last week: the Santa breakfast at Morton Arboretum with Grandma & Grandpa Naperville. We have been doing some version of this since The Boy was two. First at Marshall Fields with his cousins and, once they aged out of the breakfast and toward symphony dress-up events, at the Morton Aboreteum. As The Girl and The Tot tot were born, they came too.
And they put on a nice event for the breakfast at the Arb: they close the Gingko Cafe and have Mrs. Claus visit tables of kids and grandparents--some dressed to the 9s, some wering jeans and Santa sweaters--while they eat pancakes and quiche delivered by waitstaff. The highlight of the breakfast, of course, is the jolly old man himself, who arrives by walking down one of the Arb's many walking paths, dressed in attire reminiscent of Father Nature or St. Nicholas than the typical red-suited cad. He carries a giant walking stick/staff and wears a crown of leaves and branches. By the time he is seated in his oversized chair, a line has stretched the full length of the room and pancakes, sausages, and orange juice lie abandoned everywhere. It has been like this every year we've gone and 2009 was no exception.

The Boy and The Girl were quick to jump into line, but the tot had one destination on his mind: the train set up in the plant clinic across the way. He was not interested in the suited, bearded man that his memory is too short to remember from last year. And after The Boy's two- and three-year-old reactions to Santa, I'm perfectly OK with that. Truth be told, I have a hard time actively promoting the Santa myth.

So The Tot happily went to the trains with Grandpa while Grandma and I waited with The Boy and The Girl for the photo-and-tell-me-all-your-wishes opportunity. The treat bag at the end (Smencil, giant iced cookie, candy canes, mini coloring book and Christmas temporary tattoos) helped too.
From Blogger Photos
We got our free tickets to the train area and headed over to join The Tot and Grandpa. The theme this year was Hansel & Gretel, with lots of Necco Wafer-adorned roofs on the gingerbread houses lining the track. The Tot was beyond excited, but we had to exit after his excitement turned a bit possessive: he was pushing newcomers to the side, touching babies carelessly left in bucket seats, etc. He did not want to leave and took off his jacket three times before I gave up and took him out anyway.

Monday, December 07, 2009

And the winner is...

My random number-generator was The Boy. At almost 7 years of age, he can count to 100 and beyond, so he was a good candidate for randomness. And so, the winner is:


Thanks to everyone who participated in my first Sew, Mama, Sew Giveaway blog and commented on my post. Happy holidays and happy crafting! 

Saturday, December 05, 2009

GEAP Test, Check

So, I thought I'd be all bad-ass urban mama and take The Girl on the L to her GEAP test yesterday. And then I realized:
- the test is at 3:30 in the afternoon, which is not the best time for a 4-year-old to be at her best
- it was a school holiday, so Natty didn't need the car to pick up The Boy
- and it's 30-degrees outside

So we drove to IIT instead. Earlier in the day, Natty had taken The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot to the Shedd Aquarium before picking me up at my office (I took a half-day's vacation), so The Girl was pretty wiped out. I left at 2 o'clock, leaving myself a ton of time to get there and hoping The Girl would fall asleep in the car on the way down, but she wrote her first and last name on a piece of paper and counted to forty instead.

We got there way early, at which point I realized I needed cash to pay for parking, so we drove back up to the Jewel-Osco at Roosevelt Road for cash and snacks: Veggie Booty, grapes, and a snack-sized package of bite-sized brownies. Back down to IIT to park, scurry across State Street in the bitingly cold wind, and upstairs to the psychology department in the Life Sciences Building. The Girl was in and out in about 1/2 an hour. She, like The Boy two years ago, couldn't or didn't want to tell me anything about what she'd done during the test. And that's fine. Until recently, it hadn't even occurred to me that someone would prep their kid for the test.

The head of the department was there to answer questions about the process. He couldn't reveal anything about the test CPS uses, or how it's scored. But he did say that the norms they use to determine the standard are actually taken from test data from four or five years ago, which I found pretty interesting. He also said that they score everyone taking into account their actual age, within the month. So The Girl will be scored against all the other 4-year-and-7-month-olds. We'll find out in March how she did.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Bag Tutorial

A huge THANK YOU to all of you who have read my blog today. I'm always happy to capture an audience's attention, if only for a day (or five). A few of you asked for the link to the tutorial. Although I've found and loved and used many Sew, Mama, Sew tutorials, like this rice heat therapy bag and this pretty garland, I used this Craftster tutorial to make the bags (using this method of strap construction) in my Giveaway post. 

These are my latest projects. I'm so excited about the Oliver + S pajamas I'm making for The Boy, The Girl, and The Tot for Christmas morning. Liesl has some fun tricks for waistbands and hems that have made construction so much easier. These are the pair I've finished for The Tot, using a trains flannel print + red flannel trim:

And these are the pants I've done for The Girl, with a white snowflake dot on red background, with a funny red and white trim repurposed from an old baby blanket. I wasn't quite sure how the reds would look against each other, but I'm thrilled with the way it turned out.

Kicking Off the Season

My friend Becky once said that she feels like she's not a "real" mom unless she makes her children's Halloween costumes. I feel the same way about Christmas presents. If you are so inclined, you should check out the tutorials under Sew, Mama, Sew's Homemade Holidays label. (However, if you are on my giftee list, you should not check out the tutorials). And if you are a regular reader or here from Sew, Mama, Sew's Giveaway Day, I'll cut to the chase.

I love these bags, created from an online tutorial. They are a beautiful alternative to plastic grocery sacks and even store-brand poly sacks, and hold about 3 times as much as well. I keep a stack in my car and one folded up in my purse. I'm giving away a set of two coordinating cotton bags:

To be entered to win these, simply leave a comment here. Be sure to include your e-mail address so that I can contact you. I'll choose a winner randomly, and I'll ship to Canada and within the U.S.  I'll leave comments open for this contest until December 6th.