Monday, September 24, 2012

Where does your library card take you?

When we first moved to Oak Park, I get myself a library card. I recall being told, while signing up, that I could take out "no more than 100 books at a time." One hundred books? Pre-kids, I couldn't fathom checking out more than a handful.

Oh, little did I know. Now the only reason we don't hit the maximum is that even our extra-large Lands End tote can't hold that many. And stuffed as it gets, I can barely lift it.

Yes, Oak Park has an award-winning library. The service is fantastic, the online reservation process is simple and we usually have about 50 books and CDs checked out at any one time.

Since I had a book on hold, I took the girls this past Saturday morning. And we saw something new happening in the lobby: a green screen photo studio where you could pose with an oversized library card and tell the librarian "where the library can take you."

Zoe had lots of ideas, but apparently "next to Hermoine on the giant chess board at Hogwarts" was harder to for the library staff to mock up than "under sea, with a giant squid."

Ada had just checked out the Hairspray soundtrack, so she said "on stage in Hairspray." The image emailed back to me takes some creative license with that, but it's perfectly apt because my dramatic little kindergartener will be in a production of Hairspray in January. Rehearsals start next month!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Our first camping trip: beginner's luck

UntitledAt the urging of friends, we finally took the family camping last weekend. And I'm happy to report it wasn't the disaster Josh worried it would be. Why? Good people. Good weather. Good scenery. And reasonably good kids.

We drove up to Kohler-Andrae State Park on Saturday morning, stopping for a surprisingly good Belgium brunch at Benelux in Milwaukee on the way. The organizing family, having come up the night before, was already there. We pitched our borrowed tent, checked out the nature center (where they were having a presentation on rescue dogs) and headed down to the beach to wait for the rest of the families to arrive.

Untitled Kohler is just about the perfect place for novice campers. The campsites are lovely and wooded enough to offer a sense of privacy. Composting toilets and a water spigot were a one minute walk away and the flush toilets and showers were only a few minutes further down a path.

And the beach. It's absolutely beautiful. Soft talcum powder sands, reeded dunes and not a piece of trash in sight. Yes, it's still Lake Michigan, but seemed so much cleaner than North Avenue beach and more remote than Northern Indiana, with its views of factories and power plants.

Untitled We were one of four families sharing two campsites, and as the kids ran off in a pack and the grown-ups gathered around the fire with drinks and snacks, I was struck by a sort of present-day nostalgia. I had inadvertently recreated my youth for my children. My family frequently went camping with other families when I was grade-school age, and I recall running off with the other young ones for hours, getting dirty from falling in the woods, smelling of bug spray and campfire, my shoes perpetually soggy.

My memories were further triggered from the fact that I was using many of my mom's original camping supplies. The hammock, the campfire coffee drip-o-lator (which I used to make 5 batches of coffee Sunday morning), my old red plastic Looney Toons lunchbox filled with mismatched utensils, her Euro-fabulous white plastic picnicware and a purple washing-up basin--all items I pilfered from her basement last summer and put to use for the first time in what might be decades.

The kids stayed up way too late and woke up way too early, and I spent a good deal of the dark time in between in a not-quite-sleep as I listened to my children breathing, the wind blowing and animals making sounds. Yes, it took two nights of going to bed early to catch up on shut-eye, but it was worth it.

I'm gonna buy a tent.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

How I told the kids we're going to Disney World

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Happy kids at Crown Fountain
YouTube is full of videos in which parents surprise their kids with a trip to the Mouse House. Sometimes the kids are opening presents on Christmas morning only to find out their gift is a trip to WDW. Sometimes the parents load their kids into the car for a "drive to Grandma's house" that's anything but. (And I saw one in which the kid cries upon hearing he's not going to see Granny after all.)

Although Josh was all for not telling Zoe and Ada about our upcoming trip until the morning of, I felt we needed to spill the beans earlier (but not too early) so that we could maximize the fun of anticipation and demonstrate that we weren't missing birthday parties and a family friend's bat mitzvah for no good reason.

So we waited until we were one month from departure and I delivered the trivia quiz that would reveal our plans. (See the quiz below, which inspired a similar reveal by Rookie Mom Heather.) The girls were a little weirded out by the challenge and totally stumped by "Orlando,______" having never heard of the city. But eventually they answered the questions, spelling all the answers correctly. Then Zoe quickly unscrambled the boxed letters to spell "Disney World," but she was so confused by the way I'd written the dates that it took her a few minutes to understand we were going this year--this month in fact!

I then handed the girls a gift bag with Disney autograph books, t-shirts (purchased for $5 a piece at Target), luggage tags and a "vacation planning" DVD Disney sent me way back when.

The videos on Disney World's website do a much better job of showcasing the rides, attractions and hotels than the DVD, but suffice it to say the girls are now really, really excited.

I live “under the sea.”
_ _ _ _ [ _ ]

I’m a nanny who’s “practically perfect in every way.”
_ _ _ _   _ [_ ] _ _ _ _ _

I tasted a poison apple.
_ _ _ [ _ ]   _ _ _ _ _

I have two mean step-sisters.
_ _ [ _ ]_ _ _ _ _ _ _

I’m a skilled archer and the impetuous daughter of Queen Elinor.
_ _ _ _ [ _ ] _

I’m Mickey’s girlfriend.
_ [_ ] _ _ _ _

I am the princess of Agrabah.
_ _ [ _ ] _ _ _ _

I sing “There must be more than this provincial life!”
_ _ _ _ [ _ ]

I star Woody and Jessie and Buzz!
_ _ [ _ ]   _ _ _ _ _

What’s the name of the newest Rapunzel movie?
_ _ _ _ _ _ [ _ ]

Orlando, _ _ _ [ _ ] _ _ _

Write down all of the letters in the boxes. Unscramble those letters to find the answer to where we’ll be 9/29-10/4.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

In sickness and in health

Goofing around in the block party photo booth
The last week or so has been a blur. I didn't write about our annual summer block party, something I've traditionally memorialized on my blog. (Thanks to my ever growing, ever more independent kids, it was more fun and relaxing than ever.) I also neglected to write about a super fun sushi & skating girls night outing to Lombard Roller Rink for their Monday night R&B skate, which is a sight to behold (imagine moonwalking and breakdancing on skates + an angel in a white dress and gold skates).

But Josh had been under the weather even back then, running a fever, sweating and coughing. His illness stretched on and on, and finally he saw a doctor on Thursday. Some blood tests and a chest X-ray later, he was diagnosed with pneumonia.

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She was performing a musical number. How soon can I enroll her in stage productions?
Which means I've gotten a good taste of single parenthood over the last few days. And hats off to you folks. Running a household is a lot of work for just one parent. But I've made good use of my time home with Ada (who doesn't start school for a few more days). We gave the refrigerator and all the kitchen cabinets a thorough cleaning. We disassembled the shelves and drawers of the former and ripped out and replaced all the old contact paper in the latter. We freecycled kiddie plates and cups and never used or duplicate kitchen utensils. We even found some dinosaurs lurking in the way back of some cabinets, the oldest being a box of corn muffin mix that expired in 2006!

We also combed through both of the girls' drawers and pulled aside clothes to consign and donate. It's been said before, but Gymboree clothes really wear well. I found a bunch of stuff that both girls have worn (and worn a lot) that still look and feel great.

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Playing in Crown Fountain
The girls and I have had some fun, too, running car pools and hosting play dates and attending curriculum night at Zoe's elementary school. And as the temps soared back into the 90s yesterday, we hit the pool, where Zoe met up with her BFF and talked the girl's mom into having her over for dinner. Today it cooled off considerably and we headed downtown to look at art and frolic at Millennium Park. Josh even rallied a bit, joining Ada and I for a quick bite at Falafill yesterday evening and the three of us girls at Piece in Wicker Park for a late lunch/early dinner today.