Saturday, February 28, 2009

Polar Adventure Day--February

Spring is on the way and we bid you farewell, Winter. The thermometer may still be registering sub-zero temperatures, but Chicago's Polar Adventure day was Winter's last big hurrah. The Husky teams were back with sled pulling demos.

The Flint Creek Wildlife Rehabilitation people were back with a red tailed hawk and a turkey vulture this time. And our old favorites, Nadeau's ice sculpture carvers, risked frozen fingers to meld chunks of ice into creative designs.

A new story telling duo impressed everyone with stories from Africa, including folktales from Ghana.

They brought a wide array of percussion instruments the kids were invited to play. Mad Science had a booth and captivated kids with experiments involving balloons, dry ice, food coloring and bubbles. We had seen them at Midsommerfest in Andersonville and West Fest, where we made our own super balls and slime, but we'd never seen them represented at Polar Adventure Day.We expanded our collection of free Polar Adventure mugs and enjoyed hot chocolate while we heard a pitch for camping in the Indiana dunes and earning Jr. Ranger badges. The kids earned Wisconsin Jr. Ranger badges last summer and two National Parks badges (or badgers as Sagezilla dubbed them at age 3) two years ago, so they were eager to hear how to expand their Ranger resumes.

The kids also made bubble art in multicolored patterns.A fresh blanket of snow provided a scenic setting for the festivities. As usual, we were all happy we made the trek out to Northerly Island. This coming Sunday is the Polar Plunge into Lake Michigan, and then we will be happy to leave all things Polar till next year, for welcome signs of Spring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Selfish Giant, A Gentle Giant

It was our pleasure to see Chicago Children's Theatre's production of The Selfish Giant on Saturday. Children were invited up front, to snuggle up in sleeping bag like sound blankets. From this vantage point, the hulking giant puppets and hand crafted wooden marionettes loomed over the little ones. The costume above encompassed Joshua Holden, Alternate Puppeteer, who peered through the white mesh of the shirt, as the Giant's head towered above his own. The children looked up with rapt attention as a wizened Old Man Winter marionette dusted them with snowflakes, and were captivated as winter melted into spring.

The entire show was comprised of guitar and mandolin songs, composed and played by Master Musician, Michael Smith. He is an award winning author, who has written and performed pieces for Victory Gardens and Steppenwolf, and has called Chicago home for 30 years. It was a gentle score, reminiscent of folk tales around a fireplace, and a refreshing divergence from the frenetic scores of much children's entertainment.

The production's roots in Redmoon Theatre were apparent as the giant manifested as a full sized human with a puppet head and as a smaller wooden character. Blair Thomas, Puppeteer and Creator of all of the show's puppets, co-founded Redmoon Theatre and worked on their large scale spectacles for 10 years. He has brought his award winning puppetry skills, and visionary craftsmenship to life once again.

Families can continue to creatively enjoy The Selfish Giant at home. Programs are written on 11 x 17" coloring pages featuring the giant in his garden and directing children to find and color all four seasons. Original cast recordings of the soundtrack are available for $10. Tickets are available at hottixs for $14 (regular price $28 adults and $18 children).

The Selfish Giant runs through March 1, so take a walk on the (Oscar) Wilde side, and see The Selfish Giant.
Giant Watercolor

Giant Title

January 18 - March 1, 2009
The Museum of Science and Industry

in the Little Theater

57th Street and Lake Shore Drive

Created by Blair Thomas/

Fast Fish Puppet Theater

Original Music by Michael Smith

Adapted from the classic short story

by Oscar Wilde

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Roller Derby Rocks................And Rolls

"I can't wait to see this match," I gushed to the kids as we sat in UIC Pavilion last Friday night.
"It's a bout," the drunk girl with the pom poms behind us yelled over the 80's rock music.
"About what?" I questioned.
"Not a match. A BOUT," she laughed and gave the kids her pom poms.

It was that apparent we were newbies at The Derby. And we had a lot to learn about. Maybe it's because we've been reading Harry Potter and I've had Quiddich on the brain, with keepers, seekers and beaters, but when I read the Roller Derby rules, I felt like I'd slipped into an alternate dimension. And it wasn't just because of The Hell's Bells, Hermione Danger. I eagerly read about The Pivot, Blocker and Jammer, The Flying Squirrel and the 20 ft rule.

The Windy City Rollers were every bit as much fun as we'd hoped. Kids are encouraged to come early and give high fives to the players as they circle the track before the first bout.

They even had a fan table set up
where the kids could make posters.

Our Kindergarten friend, Prix, and Sagezilla were both chosen as poster finalists and sprinted through the circling skaters to the center of the track.There they held up their posters for crowd applause where Prix won a t-shirt and Sagezilla won the grand prize of a t-shirt and 2 tickets to the next bout. Who says art doesn't pay!

These are the people in your neighborhood........... Eat your heart out Mr. Rogers, there's no Henrietta Pussycat and King Friday here. But our intrepid urban urchins recognized a familiar face from Big Hair in Roscoe Village, Mya Ssault from Kuma's Corner on Belmont, and even a teacher in their pre-school with the alter ego Sheik Yerbouti.The kids loved the funky leg wear and playful names, and were entranced by the fast pace of game play. The Moms were happy to have some mighty girrrrl power women as "roll" models for their daughters. Sagezilla, AKA Sagie Contagious, future skater?We ran into some old friends we hadn't seen in 8 years. Their daughter, Violet, who was Sagezilla's age when I last saw her, is a 13 year old, rockin' guitar playing teen now. She was excited to hear Windy City Rollers might be forming a kids league. May I suggest Violet Femme?

Our little friend, Athenia Starr, may hold the honors as the youngest fan in attendance. Her Mom was amused to see one of the players going by the name Athena DeCrime. Sorry, derby baby. You'll have to pick another name if you wanna play the game. Maybe Starr Tinsumthin'.

The next bout is March 21, at 6pm. Groups of 20 or more get a 40% discount. So come see what it's all aBOUT.


Karmageddon (Captain)
Nina Millimeter (Captain)



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Don't Be A Weather Wimp--Last Chance For Polar Adventure Day Fun

Free fun for the whole family abounds at the 4th annual Polar Adventure Days. Try snowshoeing and cross country skiing if the predicted snow accumulates.
It's TIME to stop hibernating and bundle up for the final Polar Adventure Day of this winter. See ice carving............

Meet Huskies and birds of prey. Create winter and snow themed crafts.

Hear storytellers and children's musicians. Last month, Mark Kater, regular Northpark Nature Center storyteller, and Old Town School musicians kept us entranced.

In January, the biggest entertainment for Du-Jay and Sagezilla was their Dad, who was shooting footage of the event.

The Park District even mixes up batches of hot cocoa with free Polar Adventure mugs, for the first 500 people. So, break out the snowsuits and enjoy those last 6 weeks of winter the groundhog predicted.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Manee Thai is BACK

Manee Thai has been our favorite Thai restaurant for years. One of the huge benefits to raising hip, urban children is the prevalent diversity and culture, including fabulous food. We're not raising nugget eatin' suburbanites here.

When Sagezilla was turning 4, she declared, "I don't want my birthday to be crowded. I just want to invite a few friend out for Thai food and then to see theatre." I marveled at her maturity, thinking, is this kid turning 4 or 40?! We did invite friends to Manee Thai, then took the el downtown to see a wonderful production of Go Dog Go by Chicago Children's Theatre, in a tent in Grant Park.

Last spring, we called Manee Thai to order out and the phone rang endlessly. That had never happened before. Undaunted, we grabbed our visiting friend, Danielle, got in the car and drove over to eat there. The building was a blackened hull! Sagezilla sobbed inconsolably all the way home. We later found videos of the blaze on Youtube in an attempt to find out what happened. A burner was allegedly left on accidentally. Fortunately, the fire happened at night and no one was injured.

In the intervening year, both kids have mourned the demise of our favorite restaurant and often hoped it would rise again from the ashes like a mythical Phoenix. Their old building has now been razed and an empty lot sits on the corner of Addison and Pulaski. We've also found that at least two other children we know cried at the incineration of Manee Thai.

But now, kids across Chicago can stop sobbing and celebrate again. The great news is, Manee Thai is indeed back, in a new location at 1546 West Chicago at Ashland. They're decked out with a Grand Opening banner and Valentine decor. And the food is as amazing as ever. We took the kids Friday after school as a surprise.

We joyfully endulged in Baby Eggrolls filled with glass noodles and chicken, Golden Triangles, Sesame Beef, Panang Curry Chicken, Pad Woonsen, Jasmine Tea, and Fresh Fruit Smoothies with giant tapioca balls. Dad was thrilled with the BYOB policy. You rule--with your paper napkin crowns. Welcome back Manee Thai!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Remember September (2008 recap)

Ah, September. Back when a wind chill of 45 below, frozen locks and a hacking cough weren't a frequent reality. Our favorite thing about September is the annual Hideout Block Party, the last great music festival hurrah, before Chi IL is plunged into the deep freeze for another season.

This year included acts from The World Music Festival Chicago, like Little Cow who rocked!

Kids of all ages love those crazy freaks, Mucca Pazza marching band.

And local rockers Wee Hairy Beasties are quality musicians adored by kids and adults alike. It's so refreshing when children's songs aren't annoying to those over 5.

We even witnessed a zombie reenactment of Michael Jackson's Thriller video, and nightly headliner Neko Case who used to bar tend for The Hideout.

This was our third year volunteering for the block party. I believe it's never too early to get the kids doing something philanthropic. The kids are veteran volunteers in the box office of Facets Multimedia.

And they were thrilled to come back and work in the kids area at The Hideout. We're always doubly happy to kick in our time because every year proceeds from the Hideout Block Party go to help Literacy Works, Tuesdays Child and local public schools including ours.

Du and Sagezilla both loved seeing their energy in action as they pedaled a real bike to power a tiny bike on a world wide road trip.And they were exposed to hours and hours of diverse, world class music while creating art, free playing with friends and running amok. As always, there is no charge for kids activities. The play area is always fantastic and this year was no exception. The kids silkscreened their own unbleached cotton bags,

made sensory bottles, and played in the Tuesday's Child staffed Legos, dress up, face painting, temp tattoos and sand dig.

The Puppet bike is always a huge hit with it's oddball art and ratty, threadbare characters who dance and mug to tinny music. The choreography is minimalist and compelling, and in the audience, mesmerized kids could not be pulled away.

We even ran into an old highschool friend of Dug's who also brings his kids to music fests. We'd seen him earlier in the summer at Old Town School's Folk Music Fest. He's a fellow writer and music fan who custom silkscreens shirts with the lineup from each music fest for his immediate family.

This year, Hideout was also a site for Chalk 4 Peace, a worldwide art happening. Many more of my chalk related Hideout pixs are available on their site. Just double click the link below the photo of our friend, Sedona, with her chalk eye.