Field Museum’s World Fair Exhibit

Museum memberships are great for families like us.

If you go to a pay-to-play space, each visit will cost you around $10 per kid, and sometimes the play time is limited to less then 2 hours.

A museum membership often cost 3 times the cost of 1 visit, so if you visit more then 3 times in a year, you’re saving money!

The cost of a family membership to the Field Museum is $110 for the year, that includes 2 adults and all the children in your household.

Plus museums often change their exhibits so you can see different things each time you go. Instead of being bored to our gourds in a bunch of kids toys, there is a chance Adam and I might actually find something interesting for ourselves as well.

Today we decided to check out the new Opening of the Vaults, Wonders of the 1893 World’s FairDSC_0606

I’ll admit it take a bit more work then just plopping your kids in a completely kid friendly play space, but I’m always surprised how much they find to do and how fun they find each visit.

And maybe, just maybe, they will learn something educational as well…DSC_0613

There are lots of interactive parts to every exhibit…DSC_0619

Even if sometimes they don’t interact with them in the way the exhibitor probably intended…

Sam kissing 'homo sapien'.

Sam kissing ‘homo sapien’.

This time around we took Adam to Evolving Planet, which has the most incredible journey of life on earth starting from 4.5 million years ago until the present. As you can see, Sam really enjoyed the part of the exhibit that showed where our species, the hominid, came into being.

Most people go to the field to see Sue the Dinosaur, but I find Evolving Planet ten times more exciting. I hope everyone reading gets a chance to see it if they haven’t already!

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Winter Wonderfest

Today we had one of our sitters, Daniella, watch the twins while Adam and I took the older boys to Winter Wonderfest.DSC_0569

I was amazed how much I learned today.

First I learned that Jack is a complete dare devil. He has no fear and kept trading off between queasy parents to accompany him on dizzying, stomach churning rides.

Adam and Jack on the "Cliff Hanger"

Adam and Jack on the “Cliff Hanger”

Jack is in the yellow top with red pants, I’m to the left in the purple shirt….

Jack and I in the "Gravitron". I squeezed his hand the whole time and screamed while he laughed at me.

Jack and I in the “Gravitron”. I squeezed his hand the whole time and screamed while he laughed at me.

I also learned today just how deep Ben’s aversion to transition is. We had to strongly suggest and encourage any new attraction and when we finally did get him on board, he wanted to do it over and over again. When we tried to move him to another attraction he would flop on the floor. Poor little guy. He is so articulate but has never been able to articulate why transition is so difficult for him. I must try harder to be mindful of this.

It’s hard to imagine that someone with so much love of life, someone who is so full of laughter, can have this major difficulty that he has to deal with every moment. Life is full of change.

This is not to say he did not have a great day.

He enjoyed the train ride…DSC_0542

He enjoyed many of the bouncy house rides…DSC_0595

I also learned by watching Jack and Ben together, without parents, that even though Jack can tease Ben relentlessly at times, he is a very good big brother to him. He held his hand or hugged him every time they were in line together. And because it was his beloved Jack, Ben was very well behaved.

And he loved his favorite McDonald’s lunch followed by ice cream…DSC_0574

In fact, we ALL enjoyed ice cream.DSC_0571

Finally I think the most important thing I learned today was watching Adam parent. He was completely on his game today. Patience, understanding, positive. That sort of stuff is contagious. It made me want to stop sighing so much, stop yelling so much, stop jumping to so many conclusions. After all, our kids model themselves after our own behavior and the best way to make them good people is NOT to yell at them to be better, but to be a good person yourself.

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Lincoln Park Conservatory

Every winter I forget about this little gem…

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The Lincoln Park Conservatory. In the winter it is an excellent way to clear out your sinuses.

They have a winter train exhibit that the boys get a kick out of.

DSC_0467They also have a room with about 20 dinosaurs hidden in it that Ben enjoyed so much we had to pull him out of it kicking and screaming. DSC_0473

If you can find street parking, it’s completely free and open daily from 9-5. And as a bonus, on your way out you catch a glimpse of the Chicago skyline.

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Illumination

Sunday night we headed out to the Morton Arboretum to see their new display, Illumination. It’s an interactive lighted tree exhibit.DSC_0423

They have nine interactive light experiences placed along an illuminated, circular path. Some of the more fun ones included singing to black walnut trees and watching them change color, projecting your face onto 30-foot-tall evergreens, and being a ‘tree hugger’ – when you hug the tree, it lights up.

It was really well put together. I could see how much effort and thought went into every piece.

I thought the kids would also find it amazing. Dancing, changing lights delighting them at every turn. Hot chocolate stations and open fires. All these seemed like really exciting ideas for the kids to experience. You never know what will hit them.

Jack was cold, he thought something smelled like poop (I told him we were in nature, city boy!), and he didn’t like the warming stations because he didn’t like the smoke.

Warming station.

Warming station.

Ben sat in the stroller or on Adam’s shoulders for the entire walk, when he wasn’t crying about his foot hurting.

The twins made it about half way before they were crying to get out of the stroller. They are so young I’m not even sure they noticed the lights.

DSC_0417In fact, I think the only thing they all enjoyed was visiting the winter train exhibit afterwards, the Enchanted Railroad.

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They were pretty excited for drive through McDonald’s as well…

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Anna Hart Totes

I’m starting to feel a little inadequate when I see what all my friends are doing around the globe.

Last week I saw my friend Fionnuala Hanahoe’s awesome new interactive iPad book, Scribbaloo Pigs.

This week I’m decorating my girlfriend’s Anna Hart’s new tote bag.

Anna and I at Petra and Ryan Comerford's wedding in Phuket, Thailand.

Anna and I at Petra and Ryan Comerford’s wedding in Phuket, Thailand. Circa 2001

I seriously need to find some lower achieving friends to make myself feel better. I was thinking getting all the laundry done and food on the table today was a major feat of fantasticness.

But Anna’s energy levels always out did mine, even back in the day. And I knew Anna for a long time. I probably consider her my closest and longest friend from my days in Hong Kong. She ended up marrying one of those strapping South African men I mentioned living with from my Scribbaloo Pigs post and now lives in Singapore with him and their three kids.

Anna and I at one of the most incredible parties, Teena Goulet's 40th murder mystery. Anna's character was "pregnant" which went over well in Lan Kwai Fong later that evening, especially dancing with our friend David whose character was a priest.

Anna and I at one of the most incredible parties, Teena Goulet’s 40th murder mystery. Anna’s character was “pregnant” which went over well in Lan Kwai Fong later that evening, especially dancing with our friend David whose character was a priest.

When I left Hong Kong she was working as the office manager for my ex-boyfriend. I think she still works for him, remotely. He started a research company called GaveKal. At the time it was 4 people but now it’s grown into 4 countries and 45 employees.

Anna has also done a number of incredible things, including publishing a book called The Organizer and being the founder of the Singapore chapter of the charity Room to Read.

And as if that isn’t enough, she just started selling her own line of tote and handbags!DSC_0386

Here is my tote. I filled it with pictures of my family and some quotes because 1. My family is what my life is about 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 2. I’m not very creative. But having the bag and thinking about the best way to fill it made me want to strive to have other interests so I could look more interesting to the rest of the world when I carried it around!

If you look on her website you start to realize there are all kinds of ways people can use this. Sports fans, dog lovers, creative types can all personalize it the way they want. She had her daughter do some art work for her. So far, none of my kids have that sort of dexterity. Perhaps what this bag is really trying to tell me is that I should strive to teach my kids fine motor skills instead. Fine motor skills will make me more interesting!

Either way, I love the idea. The bag is very well constructed, snaps everywhere and the photo pockets very smartly have a fold over flap to protect the contents. They also have the signature Anna Hart bright color scheme which was a joy to see, even though it now it sadly lives half a world away from me.

Not good with measurements but she sells them in two sizes. Mine is the bigger one and it is about this big…

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Holiday Train 2013

Friday night was one of the last nights of the year for the CTA Holiday Train. Throughout the month of December it runs on different lines in the city. This past week it came by our house via the purple line.

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It is a special train that they pull out each year, the entire thing is decorated head to toe both inside and out. They take out one of the trains in the middle and have a real santa riding a sleigh. I don’t envy him on cold days.DSC_0395

They play holiday music and an elf greets you with candy canes when you enter. I like how you can stick your face in the pictures. I wish I took one this year!

They even have the seats done in special santa claus fabric. This time around I noticed the special holiday advertisements…

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My favorite was the “Northstar Bucks Coffee. For good coffee and a good constellation. Now available at Aurora Borealis Grocery.”

The cost is the same as any other CTA ride.

It’s cheap and easy way to do something fun and different with your kids. I’m always amazed how excited they get about it. As Adam said while we were riding, “Sometimes its the simple things in life…”

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Scribbaloo Pigs

Yesterday a friend of mine, an old flat mate of mine from my days in Hong Kong, sent me a link to her new app.

Fionnuala and I with HK Magazine co-workers Ben Henshaw and Lawrence Jang.

Fionnuala and I with HK Magazine co-workers Ben Henshaw and Lawrence Jang. Circa 1996

I met Fionnuala Hanahoe while I was working my first job in Hong Kong at HK Magazine. We worked in ad sales, one of those first jobs where our salaries were such that we could either go out for drinks or eat dinner that night. Often we chose the former. We were inseparable back then. Fionnuala rented a room on Lamma Island and often missed her ferry home. She slept over my place so much my other three strapping South African male roommates thought we were lesbians. I managed to find a place to live close to work, but it was so small that it only fit a bed. Often I would wake up next to Fionnuala with my entire wardrobe, which hung above my bed from wall to wall with a flimsy shower rod, on top of us. The rod couldn’t handle the weight of the clothes.

Eventually Fionnuala and I moved into a real flat, with three rooms with our friend Vanessa…

Fionnuala and I with our other roommate, Vanessa Vettier, Louis Gave and Bruce (last name?)

Fionnuala and I with Vanessa Vettier, Louis Gave and Bruce (last name?). Circa 1998.

I’m sitting there laughing at what screw ups we must have looked like back then. Who would have thought we would do anything with our lives?

Still, even back then Fionnuala was a hard worker. Eventually she got a more technical job, then she decided it was time to move back to Ireland. The economy was looking up, and she still had the dream to pursue her art work.

Over the years I’ve watched her from afar living out her dream. She has exhibited many times and recently she got married. She now has a one year old, also named Ben.

When I got the facebook message about Fionnuala’s new app, my first thought was, “Oh no.” I was worried that it was going to suck, then I was going to have to try to find something nice to say about it without lying.

Still, I dutifully downloaded it and handed it over to my own Ben.

Luckily, I had nothing to worry about. It kept him occupied for hours. After that, I had to take a look at it myself.

Having four kids of my own, I’d like to think I dabble in this sort of thing more than most moms. I was very pleased to see how well the app worked. A very clever and interactive book. I’d rate it even higher than some of the most popular books out there, like Mr. Brown Can Moo, which I feel they could have done so much more with. In fact, I likened it to one of my favorite interactive iPad book apps, Barnyard Dance, by Sandra Boynton.
Here is a picture of Ben’s pig that he dressed…
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He called it, “My momma”. I guess long hair and a chef’s hat defines me.
All of the other costumes in the background can be used as well.
Each page has a different activity for your child and it was perfect for Ben’s age, though I suspect even a year younger than him could do it as well. And I know Jack, age 6, will have just as much fun as Ben did with it.
If you have a pre-schooler, I highly suggest you try it! I hear Scribbaloo Trains is already in the works…
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Fresh Picks (Jan 11)

This week we received Green Cabbage, Rainbow Carrots, Sweet Potatoes, Candy Onions, Baby Leeks, Red Beets, Purple Turnips and Brussel’s Sprouts.

DSC_0352I was able to pull the rainbow carrots, sweet potatoes, red beets, purple turnips and brussel’s sprouts together along with garlic, the thyme and sage from previous fresh picks deliveries, olive oil, salt and pepper in a big batch of roast vegetables that I’ve been eating my way through all week.DSC_0356

The onion got used in my lentils with cauliflower, potato and spinach dish I found in my Forks Over Knives Cookbook.DSC_0378

Finally, the leeks and cabbage were also used in another recipe from the same book, millet and cabbage.

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Holiday Show

The more years Jack attends his elementary school, the more impressed I become.

Jack attends a fine arts magnet here in Chicago. When I was doing my Magnet Applications for Jack last year, my system was to find magnets with A ratings within a 5 mile radius of our house, then continue to spiral out until I reached the maximum number of 20. If I got too far out, I would start again at the 5 mile radius and add magnets with a B ratings.

I found his school that way. It is a small school that many parents have not heard about unless they are in the arts themselves. Still, even without all the hype, there were still 1000 people applying for 14 spots. Out of twenty, it was also the only school we won the lottery for.

Last year I was blown away with the Kindergarden Graduation. But that was nothing compared to this year’s holiday show!

Mimes…DSC_0368

Many, many incredible piano solos. And so much more! Clever and funny plays like this one where the kids were dressed as snowmen…

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There were dances. Ballet dances, modern dances, and african dances…

DSC_0361And bands! This school has their own kid bands! Here they are performing smooth criminal…

DSC_0376 But of course, my favorite was the first grade dreidel song…

Jack is in the top row, all the way to the right.

Jack is in the top row, all the way to the right.

I never would have picked fine arts over something like math and science, but since it we luckily got the slot at this school, I’m starting to see what benefits performance arts can have on a kids confidence and creativity levels.

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This Week’s Highlights

And I use the term highlights loosely. These events were either the zenith or the nadir of the week. I’m still not sure.

1. When Stan first arrived to our house Ben decided to strip down naked then jump in Stan’s lap and ask him to smell his hand. Which smelled like poop. The naked theme did not end there…

2. During the 18 month check up for the twins we were asked to strip them down in order to measure them. While Adam and I were both holding a naked baby in the hallway, Ben, who was suppose to be sitting in the examining room waiting for us decided to strip down naked, run into the hall, jump up and down giggling and ask to be measured as well.

3. Aaron developed an annoying habit of having a bowel movement right after dinner. Unfortunately after dinner is bath time.

4. When Ben announced one morning that he didn’t want a Mom, but preferred to have 2 Dads instead.

5. The realization that not one but both twins know Papa’s name and call for him all the time, and have for WEEKS, but they still don’t know my name.

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