Friday, September 30, 2011

I love midday updates like this

Josh sent emailed me this from his phone today after picking up Z from school. Made my afternoon.

A: I know what private school is! It's a school where you're not allowed to show your privates.
Z: No, that's not what a private school is. A private school is a school you have to sign up for where they give you a code to open the door.

Incidentally, A claims she forgot to put on underwear this morning.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Extreme Makeover: Home and Garden Edition

You know what's a match made in heaven? A friend of a friend looking for odd jobs and my very overgrown garden and a cluttered garage. I practically wet myself every time I pull into what is now the world's most organized garage. Heck, there's enough room for a second car in there!

These photos doen't really do justice to the transformation Courtney visited upon our property, but they're still something to marvel over.
Garage, before
Garage, after
After, tools
Every tool has its place
The garden, before
Garden, before
After, garden
Garden, after

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Apple picking

2011-09-24 10.36.56We left Oak Park in a rain shower, but the weather was 90% perfect at County Line Orchard in Hobart, Indiana. A cross between Cracker Barrel, a farmer stand and Costco (the place is HUGE), County Line's parking lot stretched on and on. But with plenty of orchards boasting lots of apple varieties, a substantial children's farm, a pumpkin patch, corn maze, live music and restaurant that filled an enormous barn, it didn't feel as overrun with city folks as it obviously was. As if the attraction of this place needed more proof, I ran into an old colleague from 4 years ago among the Gala apple trees and my friend Kate saw a co-worker in the parking lot.

We went with two other families, which tripled the fun. And now we have $30 worth of hand-picked apples to eat. I got a head start this afternoon, turning 3 lbs of apples into a delicious homemade apple sauce.

My Applesauce
Peel and slice apples thin. Place in a heavy saucepan. Add the juice of one lemon, a cinnamon stick and 1/4 cup water. Cook on low heat for 20 minutes and add 1/4 cup of sugar. Cook one more minute. Mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. Pour into cleaned-out glass jars and refrigerate.

2011-09-24 11.16.16
What is it about pictures of kids with pumpkins?
Z asked this dude to marry her today

Friday, September 23, 2011

A reason to see Blue Man Group again

Blue Man Group enthralled me when I first saw it about a dozen years ago. Since then I've largely forgotten about the long-playing art-theatre-concert-comedy show, throwing it in the same category as Navy Pier and Brazilian steak houses--cool the first time you go, but pretty much just for tourists.

But Blue Man Group has reinvented its show for the era of iPads, text messaging and Lady Gaga. Josh and I went to see it Wednesday night and laughed pretty consistently throughout. It's a delightful performance (if a little heavy on the texting jokes) that flies by in flurry of audience participation, physical humor, pounding beats, flying marshmallows and a finale that includes dozens of rolls of toilet paper, dancehall lights, loud music, hi-def video and giant balloons.

I can't wait to bring my second grader. It is going to Blow. Her. Mind.

Disclosure: I was invited to see a press and concierge night at the Briar Street Theatre and my tickets were comped.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Zoppe: A real family circus

Zoppe Circus
On the recommendation of a friend, we headed into the city Sunday afternoon for pizza at Coalfire and a free afternoon performance of Zoppe, an old-fashioned Italian family circus.

The big top was set up at the pitifully underpromoted Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements festival in West Town, and we stood outside the tent in a steady rain for half an hour before showtime as the performers (relatives ranging from 17 months to somewhere north of middle age) danced with kids, performed a few silly tricks and drummed up interest for the show.

Outside Zoppe Circus
Finally, we entered a smallish tent lined with wooden benches that smelled of rain, infield dirt and buttered popcorn. The show itself was magical. As was watching Z and A's faces as the dozen members of the Zoppe family clowned around, tight-rope walked, swung from the ceiling, and performed other acts of bravery and balance. I was particularly impressed by the twin ponytailed 8 year old boys, who shimmied up a 20 foot pole balanced on their dad's shoulders and stood on their heads at the very top.

As we drove home, I asked A what her favorite part was.

"Every single part was my favorite."

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Oak Park Pride

Our idyllic inner suburb boasts more than good schools, a beautiful library and sky-high taxes; Oak Park is also home to a lot of really interesting people. Oak Park Temple's Friday night services included a talk by temple member David Ansell, physician and author of the acclaimed County: Life, Death and Politics at Chicago's Public Hospital. He spoke about how lack of access to quality health care has created a 20 year life expectancy gap in Chicago and urged us to advocate for single payer health care.

The very next night we headed to the Lake Theatre to see The Interrupters, a documentary about Cease Fire, a highly-effective organization that sends street-smart ex-felons into rough neighborhoods to diffuse violence. The filmmakers, Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz, are also locals and the same guys behind Hoop Dreams and There Are No Children Here. It's been honored at multiple film festivals and for good reason. It's an incredibly powerful, moving documentary. After the screening, James, Kotlowitz, a leader of Cease Fire and one of the film's subjects appeared for a 30 minute audience Q&A.

But there's more to come. Another Oak Park Temple member, David Sokol, has written a book called Oak Park: The Evolution of a Village and our friend Kevin Schultz wrote Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Post-War America to Its Protestant Promise. Both of them will be making appearances at our synagogue in the near future.

And it wasn't just authors and filmmakers making our hometown an interesting destination this weekend. Happenings around town included Oaktoberfest, a Pagan Pride Festival, a party in Barrie Park and an arts festival along Harrison Street.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

All apologies

I stepped out of the shower this morning and both girls were up on Z's loft bed, chatting happily and looking at books. It was an idyllic scene.

I knew it couldn't last.

Sure enough, I'd no sooner put on my jeans when the shrieking began. It was laughing at first, as A was sitting on Z's back. "Don't worry, Mom. It doesn't hurt," Z reassured me.

But my shirt was scarcely over my head before the real screams started. A had clambered over her sister and was dangling one of Z's books over the side of the bed, threatening to drop it. I warned. I counted. A stared me down. And threw the book.

So I put her in her own room and shut the door. After letting her howl for a few minutes and then cuddling her as she continued to cry, I asked her to show me how she was feeling in her book "How are You Peeling: Foods With Moods." She pointed to the sad, guilty looking vegetables with the most plaintive expressions. "Would you like to write Z a note? Tell her you're sorry?"

A nodded. She dictated the following note, which I transcribed and she signed and hand-delivered:

I'm sorry that I accidentally dropped one book. I'm sorry I pulled your hair. I'm sorry that I almost sat on your head. Thank you for playing with me on your bed. I'm sorry that I did all those things."

And to her credit, this is how Z responded: "It's OK. Just don't do it again. P.S. I might by a donut for you."

Not sure what makes me prouder. My children's capacity for apology and forgiveness or Z's correct use of apostrophe on it's? (It is cut off on the photo, but so very there.)

Friday, September 09, 2011

New family pictures

Here's a peek at some of my favorite pictures from the session we had last weekend with Paul Goyette. I think he captures my kids' personalities so perfectly and I really like his eye for unexpected backgrounds. The shots were taken at Oak Park Village Hall and on the Lincoln Elementary playground on a very cool, blustery morning. And you can hardly tell my kids were being total P.I.A.s.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Here's something cool: glass straws

Glasses of milk are being finished and breakfast smoothies enjoyed* thanks to something I didn't even realize existed 2 months ago: glass straws.

Made by Glass Dharma, our new collection of 4 glass straws range from small to extra wide (perfect for said smoothies). One is slightly bendy and two are decorated with colored dots. All are easy to clean and in constant rotation.

Historically, I've kept a bag of IKEA plastic straws in the corner cabinet, but due to their inherent wastefulness, we've felt guilty about using them and only doled them out on special please finish your milk I'll even add chocolate syrup occasions. With the glass straws, I can always say yes to a straw. And while the straws are labeled as dishwasher safe and guaranteed for life,** I've found a quick rinse in very hot water is good enough most of the time.

Although I expected my kids to love the straws, I was surprised to find how much Josh and I enjoyed using them. The glass has a smooth, substantial feeling that is so different from the sharp edges and flexible sides of a traditional straw. The glass mouthfeel together with the wider width makes drinking even plain water a real pleasure. Weird, but true.

*Today's smoothie: 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, 1 1/2 tbsp Trader Joe's Organic Crunchy Peanut Butter, 1 banana and 1 tbsp Trader Joe's Organic Midnight Moo chocolate syrup

**At first I ran all of the straws through the dishwasher using the utensils basket, but the smallest of the straws broke in half. True to their word, Glass Dharma exchanged it. But they acknowledged the smaller-sized straws require more careful handling in the dishwasher.

Disclosure: I provided with free samples of Glass Dharma straws to review. All opinions are my own.

Monday, September 05, 2011

A long, long Labor Day weekend

Playing with the interactive iPad at the Smart Museum
I know it's been a long weekend when I find myself struggling to remember what I was doing each day. And looking back, we did a lot.

Friday I had the day off, but Z was at school. I enjoyed a lazy morning recuperating from my crazy week of travel by simply hanging out at home with a friend (when does that ever happen?). Then in the afternoon I took A to the Gap to find some coordinating clothes to wear for our family pictures, which Paul Goyette took this morning. (The kids were highly uncooperative, so it will be a miracle if we have any loving sibling shots.)

Friday night we let one of our youngest babysitters (she's almost 14) tackle a nighttime gig (she only had to put one kid to bed) and we went to see Tributosaurus do Bruce Springsteen at Fitzgerald's with another couple (also Kleins, no relation). It was a great time, in spite of the heat and humidity, which only began to let up when the sun went down, and even then just barely.

On Saturday we spent the day in Hyde Park, starting with the Smart Museum of Art, enjoying a picnic lunch at the playground across from Z&H, exploring the Quads (which have changed quite a bit since the late 90s, and for the better), and finishing the afternoon at the Oriental Institute (mummies!) and Robie House (which A and I skipped, because she was getting a little wobbly).

We escaped the south side just as a thunderstorm rolled in, but it turned out the storm had already taken out most of its fury on Oak Park - the electricity was gone when we got back. Fortunately the lights came back on in time to make a whole wheat pasta, kale and bacon dish, my contribution to a last minute bbq invitation.

Sunday was the highlight of the weekend (and may just go down as the most beautiful day of weather the city of Chicago has ever seen). Josh and I left the girls with the babysitter again and went to Lincoln Park for brunch at Perennial, which we followed with a stroll around the Lincoln Park Zoo boardwalk. Sunday afternoon we went to a tomato-themed backyard party, which was really fun partly because we didn't know most of the guests - but enjoyed those we met tremendously.

Today, Monday, I was starting to run out of steam. A cold that been percolating since Friday went full running nose. The kids didn't make our family photo excursion enjoyable and our initial evening plans were canceled due to someone else's sick kids. Fortunately a long afternoon of hanging with friends, sorting through bins of winter clothes and watching my children entertain themselves kept me content. You may find it amusing that Z, after being told (repeatedly) that she couldn't hold a lemonade stand (it being 64 degrees and windy), spent an hour in the basement drawing pictures so that she could hold an "art stand," and (supposedly) sell her work to passerby for 50¢ a pop.