Monday, July 22, 2013

Something for everyone: from Pitchfork to Shrek

Kate took this pic
This weekend had a little something for everyone, grown-ups and children alike. First, Josh and I took the kids to Union Park for day 2 of the Pitchfork Musical Festival on Saturday. It was decidedly for us versus for them, but after a lot of initial whining from Ada ("It's hot. It's loud. I hate this place."), they enjoyed their free ice cream and sunglasses. Ada rocked out to The Breeders with me and Zoe brushed up on bad words by wandering around, reading the t-shirts and rings for sale in the craft tent. ("There was the F-word and the S-word...")

 Sunday, we tagged along to a kid show, seeing Shrek The Musical at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre at Navy Pier. And just as our children ultimately had a good time at Pitchfork, Josh and I enjoyed Shrek almost as much as Zoe and Ada. I hadn't seen the movie in many years, but this live stage performance brought it all back: the farting, burping ogre; his jive-talking donkey sidekick; the diminutive Prince Farquood and all the other mixed-up fairy tale characters. Only Puss in Boots was missing in action.

It's a funny show and fast-paced--the whole thing is only 85 minutes (no intermission). I brought a picnic lunch for us to enjoy afterwards in the gardens outside of the theatre, but Ada saw a few wasps on the flowers and completely flipped out. Instead of riding the carnival-style swings as planned, we had to hightail it out of there. Which is kind of a shame because CST offers the best parking deal on Navy Pier--about $14 for the whole day.
Mom's lap/bug defense zone

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Happy 6th birthday, Ada!

UntitledAda, looking at your lean limbs and confident stance, it's clear you're growing up and ready for 1st grade.

This year you became a more capable reader and excelled in your Montessori kindergarten. Just this summer you learned to ride a bike and aced the summer camp swim test, earning the coveted green wristband of freedom. My little thrill seeker, you'll jump at the chance to hurl yourself off the diving board, go down a water slide or ride a carnival roller coaster by yourself.

You're also a ham. The only thing you like more than attending musicals is being in the spotlight yourself. You loved your dance and theatre classes at SCAW (Summer Community Arts Workshops), and you're forever sitting me down on the couch to watch an over-the-top performance in which you gleefully play all the roles--director, narrator, dancer and all the roles.

And you're pretty good, too. You stayed in character for the overly long SCAW play, you recognize and sing along to pop and rock songs on the radio, and you can pick out a lot of tunes on the piano, having started lessons this past winter.

You are a true extrovert. You make friends wherever you go and are outwardly affectionate with all of them. When I visited you at camp, I marveled to see so many other kids run up and hug you and say hello. You had a sweet way of intertwining your arm with theirs and leaning in close to whisper in their ears. And be they family, friends, teachers or counselors--you love to sit on people's laps, hold their hands and touch their skin and hair. 

If I had a wish for you this year, it would be that you expand your limited palette (like your parents) and learn to love books (as much as your sister), but keep nurturing all those other fabulous qualities that make you uniquely Ada.

Happy 5th birthday, Ada!
Happy 4th birthday, A!
Happy 3rd birthday, A!
Happy 2nd birthday, A
Happy 1st birthday, A

Friday, July 12, 2013

Interview with an (almost) 6 year old

Ada and Oscar, buddies.

Although I'm not 100% consistent, I like to interview my children around their birthdays. Since Ada's birthday is fast approaching, here's an update from the inside of her head.

What's your favorite color? Blue.
Your favorite animal? Bunny.
TV show? Phineas & Ferb
What's your favorite toy? American Girl Dolls.
What's your favorite book? Rapunzel.
Do you have a favorite song? Ode to Joy.

What's your favorite thing to wear? Dress.
What's your favorite sport? Piano.
What's your favorite restaurant? Salernos!
Your favorite cereal? Kix.
Your favorite food? Pizza.

What do you like to do at school? Draw pictures.
What are your best friends? Aminatta, Jenna and Lyric. And Ella!

Where would you like to go on vacation this year? To Australia where there is penguins.
What do you want to be when you grow up? A hair salonist.

Where do you want to live when you grow up? Oak Park.
Do you plan to have children? Yes.

How many? Two.
Boys or girls? Girls. That are twins. Wait, I mean a boy and a girl that are twins.
Will you have pets? Yes. My pet is going to be a cat.
If you could change your name, what would you pick? Violet.

What do you love about Mommy? She is soft and warm and chubby.
I'm chubby? Yeah. I mean look at your arm, it’s all chubby!
What do you love about Daddy? He’s grumpy, dark and he looks like me.
What do you love about your sister? It’s hard to think of my sister. She’s funny.

What would you like to do when you’re 6 years old? Get my nails done.

Do you have a birthday wish? A new flashlight, because my flashlight’s gone.
Fearless swimmers!

Interview with an (almost) 4 year old -- Ada
Interview with an (almost) 6 year old -- Zoe
Interview with Zoe on her 8th birthday

Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Jungle Book at The Goodman Theatre

"Hey Zoe, since I took Ada to Oliver! you get to come with me to see The Jungle Book!"
"Is it at the middle school?"
"No, it's at the Goodman Theatre, near my office downtown."
"Then I don't want to see it."

Zoe missed out.

Almost 6 year old Ada and I had a wonderful time seeing Mary Zimmerman's new musical adaptation of "The Jungle Book," which is based on both the Disney animation and Rudyard Kipling's book. It's been updated with Indian-inspired music, dance and costumes for a delightful, eye-popping show that could very well follow in the paw prints of Broadway's The Lion King.

I loved every minute of the show, but the highlights for me were seeing (and hearing) "Colonel Hathi's March (The Elephant Song)," "I Wanna Be Like You," and "Bare Necessities." "The Jungle Book" was one of my very first records and I spent so much time looking at the record sleeve I can close my eyes and picture it. Now I have new imagery to recall--like the undulating hoops of Baloo's costume that helped actor Kevin Carolan lumber in a very convincingly bear-like fashion; the wolves' tails, which popped straight up when they were alarmed; and the elephants, essentially upright soldiers with large gray ears and wrinkled boots. I should note that all of the animal costumes were suggestive rather than realistic (think an orange striped maharaja-style outfit for Shere Khan), but the actors brought them to life through such convincingly animal-like movements and gestures. Look out for the scene when Kaa hypnotizes Mowgli--the snake is actually a mesmerizing dance performed by the ensemble with children's plastic balls.

The Jungle Book is appropriate for all ages, but at 2 hours 15 minutes long, it probably is best for kids old enough to sit still for extended periods of time.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Our weeklong test drive of the Ford C-MAX

20130627_192443Josh and I are slowly readjusting to our 2005 Honda CR-V after spending a week behind the wheel of a brand-new Ford C-MAX. Frankly, going back to an older, unsexy, non-hybrid car is hard. I'm suffering from withdrawal.

A little background on the C-MAX. It's basically Ford's answer to the Toyota Prius. Unlike the Hyundai Sonata or the Honda Civic, you don't get to choose between hybrid and traditional gas engines (paying a premium for the former). The C-MAX is all-hybrid (regular hybrid or plug-in hybrid). It's heavier and roomier and way more fun to drive than a Prius, but both Josh and I were disappointed we never quite reached the lofty 47/47 mpg promised.

In fact, driving like a cautious old lady — easing out from a full stop, gliding slowly to a halt, and generally adhering to the speed limit, with few exceptions —  Josh was once able to average around 40 or so mpg, and that factored in 10 minutes of circling around O’Hare, waiting for me to get off my flight from San Diego. Driving like a normal human, we got closer to 30mpg, which is not bad, but not great, given that is around what the much bigger and more powerful Toyota Highlander hybrid supposedly gets.

Boo: 29.1 MPG, Yay: 3/4 tank after 1 week of driving
That said, there’s something noble about a car that rewards better driving habits with better mileage. Sure, that holds true for conventional engines as well, but our CR-V would never get close to 30 or 35 mpg no matter how carefully we drove. Dashboard graphics make getting better mileage into something close to a game, and a fun one at that.

The environmental appeal of hybrids is very attractive, at least as far as emissions go (materials/battery production/disposal is another matter). But there are other positive environmental considerations as well, such as the quiet driving and idling, which cuts down on ambient street noise. We've also heard stories of hybrid drivers getting 500k to the car, which is incredible. (I believe the premium pays for itself once you make it to 75k, or somewhere between 5 and 10 years.)

Josh had read horror stories about the operation of the hands-free trunk opener, but it not only worked for us, it frequently came in handy. I loved walking up to the car with the key fob in my bag and having the doors unlock. Then, a quick kick under the rear bumper and the liftgate would swing open (or closed). Very handy for a parent carrying a child or an armload of groceries.

The backseat was spacious for two children in booster seats and quite comfortable for the two adult friends I put back there for the 30 minute drive to and from King Spa.

I miss navigating the car's large touchscreen to control the climate, browse through satellite radio and access the built-in navigation system. My next car will definitely need to have Sirius, push-button keyless start, voice command, and Bluetooth connectivity with my phone. (I should mention here than as much as Josh also enjoyed exploring satellite radio, he thought the stereo was "boomy and boxy.")

I would also like my next car to have the responsive handling and fun-to-drive pep of the Ford C-MAX. It reminded me a bit of the VW Jetta and Beetle.

But here's the rub: our next car really should be a 6 or 7 seater. With two elementary-aged girls, we're right in the thick of car pools and play dates and as nice as it would be to enjoy the C-MAX's bells and whistles...It is actually a bit smaller than our current ride. We ought to go bigger. And the pool of hybrid vehicles from which to choose is really small. It's basically the Highlander. Which is nice and all, but a whopping $20k more than the C-MAX and not nearly as fun to drive.

I guess it's a good thing we won't be making a car purchase until we close on our new home. If we wait long enough, we may end up seeing some new car options come onto the market.