Saturday, May 30, 2009

Pizza Art Moms

Last night, I went out with the ladies from my playgroup for a rare treat: Moms' Night Out! We went to Pizza Art Cafe in Rockwell Crossing. Most of our original and morphed group made it for the evening. We ate pizzas, drank wine, and laughed at our waiter, who wanted us to have a spokesperson for our table to order for everyone. Um, isn't that your job? Yelpers said the same thing. I love my playgroup, and hope to see everyone more often over the summer.

Friday, May 29, 2009


No, not the 'Barn, which does not, in fact, sell much pottery. But pottery class. After 3 sessions, I'm still at it. And I'm still an abysmal potter. I've made lots of wonky bowls that hold change at my front and back doors, a small column that holds pins for sewing, and not much else. Still, it's an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours, and the weekly 4-hour class ensures that I get some regular time of out the house to myself.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Mommy-The Girl Playdate

The Girl was pretty jealous of my field trip with The Boy yesterday, so we took advantage of The Dad's work schedule to take a Mommy-The Girl playdate this afternoon. I had once suggested to The Girl that we get her nails painted on one of these dates and that is indelibly stamped on her brain as the thing to do with me for one-on-one out-of-the-house times.

So we went to get pedicures and a manicure at Lee Nails in Six Corners. The best part of the experience for her may not have been the bright pink polish they put on both fingers and toes, but the Dora flip-flops that I bought her for the ride home so that the polish did not smear in her shoes. Once done with the nails, we still had an hour left in our time allotment, so we walked over to Marshall's to browse around. I tried on dresses (because somehow it's easier to go shopping with one child) and we found a new bedspread for The Girl that matches the color theme in her room (lavender and green) perfectly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Field Trip

Today, Grandma Naperville came in to care for The Girl and The Tot. And I took a field trip with The Boy's class to the Kohl Children's Museum in Glenview. 50 kids, 20 adults and way too many bagged lunches on a smelly yellow bus. As a child, I always lived within walking distance of school, so the thrills of the yellow school bus were reserved for the rare field trip. Fortunately for my children, the same is true for them. I managed to forget how ill a ride on the school bus can make you. Fortunately for me, I was in the first 3 rows and it was not hot.

The Kohl put on a good program. We got there, ate lunch in a program room, had an hour to explore in groups (I asked child in my group to pick one area that s/he really wanted to explore and we hit all 5 in our free time), had a 45-minute session with the museum-provided educator, and then had 1/2 hour of free time again. During our education session, the kids read a book about birds' nests, drew bird's nests and made bird's nests out of clay and bits of string, feathers, etc. They were totally grossed out by the clay; they should see me when I come home from pottery: I've usually got clay in my hair, on my face, all over my clothes, stuck to the bottom of my shoes. It was a fun day, but tiring.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Small Change and Small World

The Dad came down with the 24-hour stomach bug today, so I found myself on day 2 of a 3-day weekend with 3 rambunctious children. Plan A was to take Metra downtown to the water taxi, and take that over to Chinatown for lunch/walking, but The Girl, who has a pathological fear of train stations and crowds, nixed that plan. Onto Plan B.... Nickel City.

Nickel City, in Northbrook, just off the Waukegan Road exit from the Tristate, has heretofore been an outing to which The Dad takes the kids. A national franchise, Nickel City is an arcade that bridges 80s video-game parlors and Chuck E. Cheese. Thankfully for me, it's brighter than the 80s video arcade and quieter and less frenzied than Chuck E. Cheese. A $2 entry per kid (The Tot was free; this worked out to the owners' advantage as all he really wanted to do was feed nickels into the slots -- he'd take off before the game started) and $10 worth of nickels bought us about 2 hours of video fun -- the most I could stand before my head was pounding. Between the four of us, we racked up 150 tickets, which we used to "buy" useless plastic crap -- the kids were not to be deterred into my idea of trading tickets for a bag of M&Ms to be split 3 ways.

We briefly stopped into Hobbytown USA in the same strip mall, where The Boy played with gorgeous Quadrilla sets, The Girl looked at arts & crafts kits, The Tot manned the train table, and I eyed gardening and science kits. We bought 4 pieces of wooden track and went home, stopping briefly at the Starbucks in Northfield for iced tea-lemonades for the hot and thirsty crew.

Once home, boredom quickly set in so we went to Target to spend the kids' saved-up allowance. The Boy, who gets a modest $3/week, has been saving for a Bakugan case. The Tooth Fairy visited last week for the first time, and left him enough money to advance his cause. While wandering the toy aisles in search of Bakugan, a small doll for The Girl, and a Matchbox car for The Tot, we ran into Jenny Barron-Fishman. It took Jenny and I awhile to place each other, but when we did, I realized how small Chicago really is. Jenny was the proprietor of Sweet Pea's Yoga Studio. Without her, I wouldn't have found my playgroup in spring 2003, during a mom-and-me yoga class. It brought the point home to me again: the longer I stay in Chicago, the smaller and tighter my world gets.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

May Flowers

Last fall, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum started offering one-off classes for preschoolers and early elementary-aged kids. I pulled The Girl out of preschool, and took her (and The Tot) down to the museum this morning for the second of their spring-summer session classes for 3-6-year-olds. Today's class, May Flowers, was engaging and informative, and great fun for The Girl. It was also a good value, at $7 ($9 for non-members). In the class, they read books, picked dandelions outside and used them to make stamp-pad art. Then they opened up the class to revolving stations within the room; The Girl pounded fresh flowers to make art, used fresh flowers to make "stained glass," decorated flower stems on a paper wall, and made a rainbow flower collage. The Tot and I played with a giant bin of fake flower petals, tossing them up in the air and at each other and giggling.

After the 1-hour class, we went downstairs to play in the slide area, which wasn't as crowded as the rest of the museum, which was hosting two large school groups during our visit. After about 45 minutes, we headed out to Panera for lunch, and stopped at Gymboree to get some clothes for the boys with the 30% off Circle of Friends coupon that Gymbo mailed me.

The Tot fell asleep on the way home, and I dropped The Girl off at a friend's house for the afternoon. The Tot and I are watching WTTW and having a wee cuddle on the couch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Legalizing the Loophole?

I read this morning on NPN's site that Mike Fortner and Mary Flowers have introduced a bill into the Illinois legislature to change the cut-off age/date for entry into first grade. This attempts to legalize the loophole that many parents now use (or try to use) to get around Illinois's kindergarten entry cut-off date. CPS does not honor the year, and will make young kids repeat the kindergarten year if they come into the system in 1st grade after attending a private school for kindergarten and they were born after the September 1st cut-off date for that academic year.

I think it's a dumb bill and I disagree with it.

When I was a kid, Illinois's cut off for kindergarten was December 1st. I know someone with that birthdate and her mother held her back so that she entered kindergarten a few months before she turned 6. They changed the law soon after that in Illinois. I don't know why the cut-off date was changed in the early 1980s, but I think it's a waste of time and resources to argue the point in the Illinois legislature. That said, given the academically rigorous program of many kindergartens in Illinois, I can see why educators want kids to be older and more mature than they were in the 1970s. That whole kids getting older, younger thing.

When I was in high school, my after-school job boss, Jean, had grown up in Chicago in the 1920s. She told me that Chicago schools used to have 2 entry dates/classes. One class started in February and another stated in September, so they started all the kids at a developmentally appropriate age. I think they evened out the academic years sometime in the upper elementary grades. I can't imagine such a thing flying now with the educational resources we have now, but it is an interesting concept.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


Tonight, I took The Boy and The Girl to the Disney II PTA's movie night at the gym at Disney II. The movie was Bolt, which was the national PTA's choice, not ours. It was a bit mature for the crowd of 3-8-year-olds. I was not a fan of the opening sequences, which were cartoon versions of heavy spy-action films. That said, the kids had a great time. There was lots of popcorn, running around (although I told The Boy and The Girl that if they wanted to do so, we'd go home), and general silliness. Some kids raptly watched the movie. I was amazed that they heard anything. The sound system, combined with the room's acoustics, were terrible. There are plenty of other complaints other parents have about their schools, so the sound system is of relatively minor concern. However, the movie night convinced me that we could really use the sound system that the Disney II PTA is hoping to buy with the proceeds from our spring auction and social.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Pig Strikes Again

This afternoon, The Girl, The Tot and I drove up to IKEA in Schaumburg ("our IKEA" says The Girl) to meet Cara and kids for lunch. Cara and I had planned to put 3 of her kids and 1 of mine into Smaland, but we were thwarted in this plan by giant signs in front of the Smaland entrance declaring that they'd closed the play area as a precaution against the influenza problem. So, we basically ate our way through IKEA and didn't look at anything. Which I suppose is fine, because I can't spend money that way. I did manage to snag a new MALM tabletop paper roll holder for $5.99, which I think is brilliant. Stick that in your eye, $50-for-the-same-thing PBK!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Yesterday, I had a craving for a really good, but somewhat inexpensive, lunch. I also had a bunch of little errands to run at destinations within close proximity of each other, but nowhere near our neighborhood. I picked up The Girl from preschool, and we headed southeast to Lincoln Park. The Tot fell asleep in the car on the way to pick up The Girl, so I was able to run a quick in-and-out errand on the way to lunch.

We had lunch at CBA on Armitage. This is probably not a destination for anyone not immediately in the neighborhood or as a post-class lunch spot after Wiggleworms class, but the pull of The Wrigley Fielder draws me in a couple of times each year. The Girl wanted something with salami on it (she's a weird kid), so she got the E-Town Express, which she loved. The Tot commandeered half my Wrigley Fielder. Total for 2 bagel sandwiches, 2 chips and a bottle of Nantucket Nectar was about $15.

After lunch, we ran errands: Gap Kids for returns, next door to the busiest CVS I've ever seen for postage stamps, back into the car to the Carter's Outlet off Clybourn and next door to Sur la Table for Mother's Day treats. We got back home about 2 p.m. and left the TV off, making chocolate chip-M&M cookies instead.

The ballet-soccer Monday Mania wasn't as bad as it has been, although I made the mistake of walking to ARCC, over to school to watch The Boy's soccer practice, and then back home again, so The Boy and The Girl were pretty much exhausted.

Monday, May 04, 2009

What Makes a School Good?

Disney II's first academic year is only 6 weeks away from its conclusion. Acceptance letters have gone out for next year's class of kindergarteners, and I find myself fielding questions about what the school is like by their parents, when I happen to meet them at neighborhood events or via Facebook connections. Is it a good school? What makes a school good? What makes a school bad, or just adequate? These are hard questions for me to answer. I don't yet have the perspective of time and experience to make a good judge. In addition, Disney II is my first real experience as a parent with a CPS school, so I have nothing to which I can compare. And, I've already invested a significant amount of time into Disney II, with plans to do more, so I am biased in terms of its virtues.

What I really want out of any school The Boy attends, and what, in my Philistinistic opinion, makes a school good is its ability to foster its students' love of learning. I don't know that Disney II has done that yet, but The Boy told me about 2 weeks ago that he loves school. I'll take what I can get out of a child who cried every morning at drop-off for the first month of kindergarten.

From talking to friends with children at other up-and-coming CPS schools (Skinner, Nettlehorst, Ravenswood, to name a few), it would seem that the universal standard that CPS seeks to attain in kindergarteners is to get them reading-ready, if not actually reading by the end of that first year of elementary school. As this author points out, the kindergarten of my youth, which involved learning learning not to eat the paste* and introduced the idea of children-in-groups to my only-child (at the time) personality, disappeared somewhere in the 1990s. Although some relics of Kindergarten Past remain (shoe-tying is a progress-report item on The Boy's list; my mother-in-law remembers that she received low marks in skipping in kindergarten), the emphasis of kindergarten at most northside CPS elementary schools, including Disney II, is on literacy.

As an avid reader and formerly "gifted" child myself, I struggle with the early-reading component. I did not learn to read well, by which I mean I was in the high/advanced reading groups, until I was in 3rd grade -- and even then, I had problems with reading comprehension in some areas (my strong aversion to Greek myths persists 20+ years after Miss Commandella's unit on the subject) in 5th grade. And yet, I am living proof that early reading can mean very little in terms of future success: by trade, I am a reader and a writer. These activities are my passion in life; I would and, indeed do, practice them even in the absence of payment.

At the end of the day, I can say with confidence that The Boy likes Disney II and is doing well there. His progress is on-par with those of his peers, and despite the pressure I feel for him to be reading already, I'm confident that he will read (and tie his shoes!) on his own, internal development barometer. He likes the school, he likes his classmates, he likes his teacher. He is exposed to music, art, and technology. He gets to run around every day, and I reserve time for him at the end of the school day for more open/free play. In today's society, with our economic means, that is the best that we can achieve for/with him.

* For the record, I've never tried it.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Crafty Flop

The GIPNA Fine Crafts Fair was a bit of a bust. I don't think it was just me. My neighbor has exhibited at the show since its inception and has usually done well; she made $22 after the table fee. I made $14. I'm not sure whether to be discouraged--people do not like my bags as much as they claim to, or chalk it up to any one of a number of explanations: the recession, the weather (temperate and sunny), or the location (hot, stuffy gym inside the Fieldhouse).

On the upside, I got to see lots of neighbors and friends, some that I saw last week, some that I hadn't seen in many months. I also bought some yummy-smelling soap from Big City Fuzz.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Independence Park Events

As with last weekend, there are about 8 million events this weekend that I'd like to attend. Unfortunately, I'm already fully booked, so some of them will have to go on without me. If I didn't have The Girl's birthday party tomorrow morning, I'd be interested in this:

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Thinking Inside the Box:
Planting a Window Box for All Seasons

Saturday, May 2 · 10:00am - 12:00pm
Independence Park Bungalow, 3901 N. Hamlin Ave
To make a reservation please call (312) 642-9900 or email

There is also the GIPNA Fine Crafts Fair on Sunday at the Independence Park Fieldhouse from 12:30 - 4:30. I'll be selling these bags for $12 each, or 2 for $20:

From Blogger Pictures

From Blogger Pictures

From Blogger Pictures

I will also have my initial and number tees, and bean bags:

From Blogger Pictures

Hope to see you there!