It’s My Not-A-Box

By on Nov 17, 2014 in Chicago, Life With Three, Parenting, To Do With Kids | 1 comment

My kids, like most kids I assume given the fact that we have two books about kids playing in cardboard boxes, love to play with and in and on top of cardboard boxes. Both books are fun and I highly recommend them. Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and The Birthday Box by Leslie Patricelli. We always have a stream of boxes in our house from Amazon. Especially with the Amazon Mom (which… why is it called Amazon Mom and not Amazon Parents or Amazon Family or Amazon YouWantADealOnRepeatedItemsYouNeed…anyways I digress) diaper and wipe delivery. The box from the wipes and diapers are especially awesome because they are bigger and the kids can get in them and pretend they are whatever they are pretending. Robots? Cars? Whatever. When I was a kid my Dad and Stepmom got a new dryer and so we had a huge box in our house. I was older than my kids are currently but I fucking loved that thing. It was everything. I painted it so that I could camouflage the eye holes that I had cut in it to spy on people. Ok fine it wasn’t so much camo as much as it was I spray painted the whole thing white and then were the eye holes where I spray painted it black. SO SO SO clever. That box lived in our dining room in the corner until my dad bought me a drafting desk that I spotted and wanted for Christmas one year. I did not want to get rid of that box for the life of me, but a new super cool artist-y desk made me forget all about it. So kids love boxes. So what’s a mom to do when there is an Abt delivery van outside an apartment building with several large refrigerator boxes sans the refrigerator?  A mom carrying a baby in a carrier (which by the way..LOVE LOVE LOVE the Beco Baby Soleil…Love.) with two cold, tired and hungry kids? This mom talks to the Abt guy and asks if she can take one of the boxes. Sure he says, but I can’t empty it for you (it was full of styrofoam). I picked it up and said, “No worries, I can carry it. I’m only a block and a half away.” I think he thought I was out of my mind as he offered a few times to bring it around for me but I declined. Mainly I knew the kids needed to get home and eat lunch and I knew I could muscle it home. So muscle it home I did. The excitement of the box stopped the sadness that was happening. And the dangling of the carrot of being able to play in the box if you finish your lunch actually had the kids finishing all of their lunch. The kids helped me empty the styrofoam which we stacked into the office (a nice job for dad when he got home!) and they went to town. “Wait, I have to get the stool to climb into it.” Even on the stool the box still stood above Lucy’s head. “But Mom, how are we going to get in it?” I tell them they could just lay it on it’s side and you could use it like a tunnel. They really wanted it upright though and so we cut a door in so they could get in an out. Later in the afternoon we cut some windows in it. So now they have a giant not-a-box. The first thing it was, was a jail. But then it was a jail and the hospital, “because we don’t have a lot of boxes to be the city we only have one, so the whole town and all the buildings have to be within the big box.” So now we have a new addition in our living room. I wonder how long it’ll be around. And I wonder what other things it’ll become.    ...

The Zoo as Five

By on Nov 2, 2014 in $20 and Under, Chicago, Life With Three, Photography, To Do With Kids | 0 comments

Movin’ on up (to the 400’s)

By on Oct 27, 2014 in Chicago, Cubs, To Do With Kids | 1 comment

Who’s excited about the Cubs around these parts?  Yes, the same Cubs that had to scratch and claw to 89 losses last year (which, sadly, was progress).  Yes, the same Cubs that have finished in 5th place for the past five years.  Those Cubs.  Why are we excited?  Let me count the ways (spoiler alert, I’m going to count to three): Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, and Javier Baez will all be stud rookies (or close to it in the case of Baez) next year, joining Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro to form the sort of murder’s row that’s going out of style these days. Free agents will be signed, money will be flowing soon, and a dynasty-level system is on the way.  For the first time in my life and – I don’t know who’s reading this, but I can say confidently – in your life too, the Cubs are doing everything right.  And, on top of all that… Joe Maddon, the best manager in baseball, is on his way to the Cubs. It’s just a matter of time before it happens. So, with all that being said, when we went to pick tickets for season tickets this year, I considered it choosing our seats for the World Series.  Sure, we only have two tickets so watching them win isn’t going to be a family affair, but tough noogies kids.  They’re going to grow up with a lifetime of the Rickets family as owners and will only have read about the stupid goat curse in the history books.  They’re going to grow up rooting for the Yankees of the National League. Yeah, that’s right.  Book it, baby. In the end, after some discussion, we settled on seats in the 400’s (433 to be exact).  The 400’s have a fantastic view of the action and we have a legitimate chance at catching a foul ball.  Great tickets to for watching a bunch of grown men jump up and down after recording the last out to clinch the first World Series title in well over 100 years.  If you’re getting misty eyed, don’t feel ashamed.  That was an emotional win for all of us. For the both of you non-Cubs fans that are still with me and haven’t closed this to emphatically (and perhaps a bit too aggressively) unlike us on Facebook, let me explain a bit about the 400’s.  They are the portion of the upper deck seats in Wrigley Field that aren’t under the overhang and aren’t behind any support posts.  Moving from the 200’s, we’re losing some protection from the rain and gaining some sun, losing the proximity to the family bathroom and gaining and unobstructed view.  We’ll bask in the relative warmth on the cold days and apply sunscreen to the kids every inning on the sunny days.  But, more importantly, we’re moving a few stories up. And we’re in the third row. The third row from the edge, in case that wasn’t clear.  The edge of the bowl that’s a few stories up. And we have a kid named Rocky.  I almost couldn’t pull the trigger.  It was very hard for me.  All I can see is him running full steam down the stairs towards the edge of seats where a far-too-low railing would attempt to stop his tumbling momentum.  It terrifies me.  I’m fairly scared of heights, but in a very rational way.  I fear falling to death, either mine or a loved one’s.  I’m not sure I’ll be able to unclench my sphincter for all 9 innings.  He might just not get to go to a game until I feel confident he won’t take a header over the edge. Maybe 8th grade. Or maybe I’ll get a...

Why I haven’t introduced my daughter to Star Wars

By on Oct 22, 2014 in Parenting, To Do With Kids | 1 comment

For those who know me, it’s generally well known that I’m pretty huge Star Wars fan.  I’m not saying that there aren’t bigger fans out there – I don’t follow the expanded universe and I don’t collect toys – but I will say that I scored plenty high on the “How well do you know R2-D2” quiz.  So, it’s not surprising that Leah has, on more than one occasion, asked me when I plan to introduce Lucy to Star Wars.   It’s a good question and one that I’ve wasted a bit more brain power on than I probably should.  So, what’s up?  Why haven’t I shared my favorite movies – the ones that have had the biggest impact on my life (oh, that’s so sad) – with my first born? I’ve force other potentially embarrassing things on her, like my Cub fandom.  So why not this? (btw, if you’ve come here expecting the usual light-hearted post dotted with humor, you can just turn around and go home.  This is serious fucking business) By the way, before I get into my list of reasons, I’ll address the elephant in the room.  I know everyone’s thinking, in what order does one show the movies to a first time viewer of the series?  There are those who argue for chronological order in the Star Wars timeline.  I won’t say that those people are idiots, but I will say that they are wrong.  That’d be like watching Temple of Doom before Raiders of the Lost Arc because Temple of Doom happened to be pre-Nazi.  It just isn’t done.  Another option is the “flashback” method of viewing as suggested by this guy.  Certainly reasonable and pretty brilliant if you’re already viewed all the movies, but wrong for children.  The correct viewing order is: Original trilogy (New Hope et al) followed by enough time for kids to age sufficiently to realize that the Phantom Menace is a terrible movie. And then let them let them learn about Episodes 1-3 on the street, the same way they’ll learn about sex. Getting back to the original premise, here are five reasons I haven’t introduced my daughter to Star Wars. My daughter’s movie watching experience has been almost entirely Disney based Little Mermaid, Tangled, Lion King…they all have one thing is common (other than princesses, something Star Wars does not lack): musical numbers. Star Wars is devoid of musical numbers, unless you could the music playing at the Mos Eisley Cantina.  And that number ends with a bear-man’s bloody arm laying on the ground.  Not quite as dark as the beginning of Frozen, but certainly grosser (although I would love to hear her walking around singing “Do deet do deet do deet do do do deet do do do do”). Sand people These guys pop right up on you in the middle of the frame and are scary as shit, waving their staffs around with their weird, horny faces.  But it’s not so much that I’m worried they’ll scare her, but rather that they *won’t* scare her.  So far she’s made it through the sea-witch Ursula and the death of Mufasa and barely blinked.  If she’s not scared of the Sand People, then there’s a good chance she’s a serial killer.  And we certainly can’t watch this with Rocky around as I know he’ll be scared shitless.  He was scared of a wooden crow in a game about an apple orchard. Murder.  Storm Trooper-y murder We aren’t even out of the first act and we already see the charred, smoldering skeletons on Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru.  Those two moisture farmers never had a chance when the Storm Troopers came looking for a couple misfit droids. Between the smoking corpses and the bonfire of Jawas, I think it’s just a bit much for a kid this side of her fifth birthday. Terrible acting Luke’s hideously distorted face as he learns that Darth Vadar is [spoiler alert] his sled [oops, wrong spoiler].  No child should be subjected to acting that bad. Too much reality for a 4.5 year old If Uncle Owen doesn’t need a droid that speaks Bocce, then Luke never buys C3-P0, who never speaks up for R2-D2, which means Storm Troopers never kill Luke’s family.  Then there’s no reason for him to join the rebellion until after the harvest, by which time the empire has already destroyed the rebel base on Dantooine.  Does our fate truly rest in such a delicate balance? A question like this will lead Lucy to examine her own existence.  Think if she had been born just one month later.  She would be a completely different person.  Hell, she might be a boy.  In fact, there is an almost infinitely higher probability that she doesn’t exist than that she does.  Do I really want my daughter to have to confront that reality? And that doesn’t even touch on the gross lolling tongue of a dying Jabba the Hutt, or the scary-as-shit visage of the Emperor.  No, these just aren’t kids’ movies, at least not for another year or two. I will show my kids Star Wars eventually.  Of course I will. When they’re ready  to appreciate it fully and not distracting Daddy with questions.  When they’re old enough to appreciate it without fear.  And when I can get the original theatrical cut on...

Find Dad. Find Art. Don’t Starve the Baby.

By on Oct 20, 2014 in Chicago, Life With Three, Parenting, Photography, Stay at Home Mom Days, To Do With Kids | 2 comments

Lucy is only in preschool Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday during the week, meaning she gets to stay and play with us on Mondays and Fridays. Fridays are reserved for the Forest, which leaves Mondays as totally open ended time for me and her siblings. I also want to use this time as a way to do some activities with Lucy since I’m relatively disappointed with the preschool program that Lucy is in. She’s having fun and likes it, but when I see what they are doing I just want to beat my head against the wall. It’s just very very traditional and in my opinion very, very lame, but she has friends and plays and gets excited to see said friends and play with said friends. She’s also learning sign language and doing a lot of things with letters which she’s really into. But come on teacher, how about one less coloring book printout page and let them put some of their own goddamn PAINT ON THE FUCKING PIECE OF PAPER. See this all caps, which is me yelling in my head (or honestly at Jason..not yelling, just speaking in a loud voice), is the reason I probably can’t be a preschool teacher. Thus I’ve deemed Mondays “Mom and Kids Adventures in Chicago Day”. Given that Baby V is still just over two weeks old, today it was Mom and Kids and Grandparents Adventures in Chicago Day because I knew I would need some help corralling all the kids on this particular adventure: visit Dad at work. The building he works in is right on the brown line, so before we went Lucy and I spent some time looking at maps of the city. Where our house is. Where Jason’s work is. The train lines that go near it. When we got past the Merchandise Mart, the train voice let us know that Washington & Welles would be the next stop and Lucy immediately said, “Mom that’s it, that’s where Dad’s work is!” So yay! She remembered something. We had lunch at Corner Bakery where the most exciting thing that happened (aside from seeing Dad obviously) was that Rocky pooped in the potty there. ***Sidenote*** Oh my god potty training this kid = way harder than potty training Lucy. Maybe we are lazier, or he really is more difficult or like Jason mentioned yesterday, since he has gotten more candy in general in his life than Lucy, the bribery of M&Ms or Reese’s Pieces isn’t enough to make him take a leak or put some turds in the potty. I mean literally last night he peed in his underwear while standing on a stool and after Jason said, “OK, buddy let’s change your pants,” he said, “But why…they aren’t dirty!” Ok then. Just sit there in your urine soaked underwear. After lunch we walked to Daley Plaza where we checked out some Korean dancers/music as well as the Picasso statue. From there we raced to the train because I realized the baby was coming up on three hours since her last feeding. And, while she had spent the entire trip in the Moby strapped to me (except for a 10 minute lap stay on the train when I had to tighten up the Moby) and sleeping, I was worried about a) her waking up and realizing she was starving and b) my boobs getting mad at me that the feeding was getting late and explode on me. Since she’s going 3-4 hours between feeding, it really wasn’t a big deal and there was no reason to be rushed like a lunatic. Plus a) she’s a third born and she will probably have to get used to waiting 30 minutes for things and b) I could have fed her on the train if it really got crazy. In the end she didn’t wake up until we got home. A fun day downtown on a beautiful day. Always fun to see Jason in the middle of the day and an awesome way to start off the week. Check out the pictures from our trip! On the train ride home, Rocky was cracking up my Dad and I with his incredibly loud and crazy talk. I mean I think my Dad was crying laughing so...

The woods

By on Oct 15, 2014 in North Park Village Nature Center, To Do With Kids, Uncategorized | 2 comments

I grew up in what looks to be the last generation guided by the principle of “be home for dinner.”  Shoo’d from the house to go play and come back later, we’d leave my parents to do the things parents do.  The boring things that allow kids the freedom to play until play time is done.  This was the last generation before the 24 hour news cycle saturated our culture with fear of the improbable: kidnappers, perverts, pedophiles. For me, those days were spent in the woods.  I grew up in an apartment complex comprised of clusters of apartments dotting a sea of parking lots, all cement except for a small park in the middle.  Just beyond the concrete, though, Indiana’s nature took over.  The apartment complex was carved out of an old woods, and the remnants of that woods still lined the edge of where we lived.  And that’s where I spent my childhood. The woods comprised of a single path that lead back to a creek, shallow and spanned by one fallen tree.  The path continued on, but it was understood that the younger kids stopped at this point, the creek our playground.  We would build little damns against the fallen tree, waiting and watching as the current slowly broke it apart.  We spent the summer building up the courage to cross the creek on the tree, straddling the log and scooting out further and further on our butts.  I’m not sure if I ever had the courage to stand up on the log and risk falling in the creek.  I wouldn’t be surprised if I never did; I was a bit of a weenie. Eventually as we got older we continued down the path.  I remembered not wanting to stray from the path into the surrounding thicket.  There were three trees down off the path that crossed at angles and formed a triangle; I was worried that triangle was actually a portal to another time.  Granted, I didn’t actually think that it was, but once the thought was in my head I wasn’t quite confident enough that it wasn’t to try my luck. So we would continue on down the path and loop around back to the end of the path where we found the holly land: a garbage dump.  Old shopping carts, chains, milk crates, bricks…there was nothing this place didn’t have, piled up thirty feet high and all free for the taking.  I can’t imagine this was an official garbage dump; it was probably started by the contractors that built the apartment complex as an easy way to haul away garbage and continued from there. I probably spent three years of my life there, from about age 9 when we moved to Colony Bay apartments to age 12 when my best friend moved away and I transitioned to watching sports and the magic of the wood faded.  I was surely remarkably dirty at all times and had any manner of squirmy things in my hair at any given moment.  I don’t remember running naked through the woods shouting “I’m a wood nymph, I’m a wood nymph,” but I wouldn’t put it past me.  I was a weird kid. In my mind, the woods was huge and thick, but I’ve already confirmed for myself that my memory of these sorts of things is a little suspect.  My wife and I went for a run when I went to visit my parents and part of that run took us through the old apartments.  “We’ll get a mile or two looping around the streets of the complex.  It’s a pretty big place,” I said confidently.  Turns out we got less than a half mile and that was with some effort, looping and doubling back.  So, I’m guessing the path into the woods was probably 100 feet long and the creek actually a drainage ditch, but who cares.  When you’re small it doesn’t take much to have an adventure. So when I took Rocky to the woodland area at the Nature Center, I was excited.  To be able to see my kids in the woods despite living in the city was something I didn’t think would be possible without driving out to the suburbs or beyond.  But here it was, three miles away and free to anyone.  Rocky led me down the walking path to the woodland play area, a clearing filled with all sorts of fun things: swings hanging from trees, a tree fort, a big pile of bricks, logs to climb – what more could you ask for.  It wasn’t huge, the clearing maybe the size of a football field – maybe more – before continuing on as a path through the wood. But to the under-5 crowd? Well, I can certainly imagine them coming back with their kids (because of course our kids will have to live in Chicago): “What the -” Lucy says to her brother as their kids run out ahead of them to climb a low-limbed tree. “This can’t be the right place.” Rocky scratches his head.  “The tree fort is way too low.  There couldn’t have only been three steps. I remember being able to look down on everyone.” “And it ends right there,” Lucy says, gesturing to where the play area tapers off and the rest of the path through the forest continues on.  “That’s…man.  Crazy” “For real.  Hey,” Rocky says, raising his voice....