Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Now and later

Zoe's first days of schoolToday was Zoe's first day of 3rd grade and the neighborhood and schoolyard was teeming with tiny kindergartners--some who seemed even littler (well, less mature) than Ada.

Ada, now 5, is kindergarten age and going to school, but she's going to do her K year at her Montessori school. The school asks families to commit to a full 3 year cycle when enrolling, but sadly most of her classmates parents pulled their kids out in favor of free K at the local elementary schools. I felt a twinge as all of Ada's future classmates (and many of her current friends) marched off with their giant backpacks and matching lunch boxes, but I feel like Ada will get more out of a final year of Montessori (being a leader, doing science projects and working independently) than she will in a traditional kindergarten classroom.

Untitled In other news, Zoe grew into the 20" bike I bought at the police auction last summer. She loves it and spends every spare minute tooling round the block in search of her neighborhood buddies. The bigger wheels also help her keep up with us; we biked to our Temple picnic, which was all the way at the north end of Oak Park.
Ada's still on training wheels, but she's picking up speed and happy to ride in the trailer for our longer jaunts.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Sky High Sports: I might as well jump

One small view
Lest you think our weekend was nothing but a Renaissance Faire orgy of pizza, pickles and chocolate crepes, I did take the girls to an indoor trampoline park way up north in Niles on Saturday morning.

Sky High Sports is roughly the same size as Melrose Park's Monkey Island (imagine an airplane hangar), but jumping around is about where the similarities end.

Unlike MI, which is a warehouse full of sticky kids-only bouncy houses, Sky High Sports is a sleek, clean warehouse of continuous trampolines that all ages can jump on. It was virtually empty on a Saturday morning at 10am.

Somewhat annoyingly, the trampoline areas (which are huge!) are divided by 7 and up and 6 and under--which splits up my kids. Fortunately, the age limits are not as strictly enforced as the sternly worded rule posters might imply. My small 7 year old was able to jump both with her 5 year old sister in the kids zone and with me in the adult zone. Adults, however, are only allowed to "gently bounce" on the kids' trampolines.

In addition to the basic trampoline areas, Sky High had trampoline tracks that led into foam pits (the bigger you are, the harder it is to climb out of) and trampoline courts for dodgeball. ("No way!" said my girls as they watched a dozen 10 year old boys pummel each other.)

Admission is $11 for the first hour and $3 per hour thereafter. We were pretty sweaty, thirsty and out of breath after our first hour, so we left.

And promptly pigged out on hot dogs and fries at Superdawg, an original drive-in just a short drive away.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Huzzah for the Renaissance Faire

UntitledThe Bristol Renaissance Faire was not on my radar at all until a colleague told me how much she and her boyfriend enjoyed the event.

So today we drove one hour north to the Illinois-Wisconsin border with Jay and Kate and their three children--game as usual for any adventure we suggest. We arrived shortly after the fair - I mean, faire - opened at 10, and the grassy parking lot was already filling up with cars. 

We paid our admission (about $50 for the family, including a coupon discount) and headed in, where we immediately went on sensory overload. The costumes, the faux Old English accents, the smells of cooking food, incense, horse poop and dust. Admission covers the cost of the entertainment, which included a fire whip stuntman, short plays, acrobats, trained falcons, jousts and plenty of bawdy fare that we stayed away from given the small children with us. However, even though we did our best to arrive at one of the dozen stages in time for a scheduled show, the day's best moments were unplanned. At one point an elaborate parade marched through, heralding the arrival of "Queen Elizabeth," and some of the participants surprised Kate and my girls with fresh flowers. Faire regulars were involved in elaborate roll play debates, arguing fictional points about land rights or engaging one another in duels. Forest sprites climbed trees. Pirates laid traps. Later in the day, we wandered into the royal court and a finely dressed lady beckoned Ada and Zoe over. She indicated she'd just returned from abroad with a box full of fine gems. She opened a brass box and offered the girls a "precious jewel" to keep. 

Chocolate crepe with strawberry ice cream and fresh berries
What wasn't included in the admission was...everything else. There were shops selling costumes and occult books and magic wands and soap and weapons and whatnot. There were food stalls hawking barbecued turkey legs and brats and ice cream crepes and pickles on a stick. And there were plenty of "thrill rides," all human powered. 

Zoe and Ada loved it. And Josh and I loved their utter lack of whining. Toward the end of the day Ada asked for one of the floral and ribbon wreaths many attendees were wearing and we agreed to buy her the $12 souvenir. Zoe wanted a costume or magic wand, but because neither could be procured for less than $30, she cheerfully headed home empty-handed. And thanked us for taking her.

I can't imagine heading to the Renaissance Faire more than once a year, but I definitely think we'll be back on another mild day in 2013.