Monday, August 31, 2009

I ♥ Faces--Before and After

Photography is a great passion of mine, and I frequently add pictures to enhance my freelance writing.  This week at I ♥ Faces, the photography theme is Before and After, and features a photo from this August compared and contrasted to a past photo.

pirate catapult 2008
pirate catapult 2009

I still have plenty to learn about Picnik and photoshop and making the most of my manual camera settings.    But I'm thoroughly enjoying the learning process and  I ♥ Faces has been full of good tips and tricks.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Colorful KinderCones Celebrate School Kids, Especially Fabulous 1st Graders

Sagezilla was uber excited to receive a giant, German KinderCone, or Schultute, to celebrate the start of 1st grade.   We spent the summer reassuring her that 1st grade would be great, but she still looked anxious and worried, on the first day of school, as she moved up.

That's why I was especially happy to come across KinderCones at Andersonville's Midsommerfest and again at Old Town School of Folk Music.    

We needed a happy, positive spin, to celebrate Sage and school and how fabulously exciting it is to be entering first grade.   It was especially cool for us to embrace and learn about this tradition, since we're half German in heritage, albeit back a number of generations.   We still love to introduce German and Swedish customs to the kids.

Local Chicago Mom, Vivian Lie, has not only found time to parent her four daughters, but she's also rolled out a creative, small business, in these tough economic times.   ChiIL Mama caught up with Vivian and her charming family, at their home, last week.   The family's fervor for KinderCones is contagious.
 At this point, Vivian still writes personal notes to everyone who orders a KinderCone, and she and her daughters lovingly check over each cone before it goes out, to make sure it's perfectly round and nothing has settled in shipping.   It really is a family affair.

Her oldest daughter, who is entering 6th grade, beamed as she told me she's manager of the inventory and the best bow tier, among a host of other duties.   She was also a huge help at all the fests.   Vivian exclaimed, "I couldn't do it without her!"  That's an impressive resume for a tween, who is also already a world traveler, and fluent in German.

They were all a bit "fested out" when I saw them, after an ambitious summer of working the festival circuit, to introduce KinderCones to the greater Chicago area.    But their hard work has paid off, with an e-newsletter list that now exceeds 500.       

Vivian's excitement is evident, as she dreams of possibly making a KinderCone US Tour next summer in a Karli Cat RV.   For now, a number of local shops are stocking KinderCones, and Vivian will ship anywhere.

KinderCone is making it's philanthropic mark, as well.   When 1st graders returned to Robert Emmet Elementary, an impoverished CPS school in the violence plagued Austin area, they had a surprise waiting.   KinderCone paired with DirectEffect and the Emmet School alumni group, F.O.R.E.S., to bring backpacks, and basic clothing necessities to the kids..........and KinderCones!   Among the utilitarian donations of basics like socks and underwear, the KinderCones stood out as something bright, funky and fun.  The kids were thrilled.

Vivian said, "It's so much fun to give the cones away."  And she'll have another chance soon.  All the first graders at Bell Elementary in Chicago, will be generously gifted with KinderCones this year, in an elaborate moving up ceremony, this September.
Me, Myself and First Grade Journal............

 Karli the cat (a sweet snuggle with a messenger bag, for those anxious moments).   Her bendable, poseable legs were a big hit..........
A numbered, limited edition certificate............
and Karli cat pencils and tattoos rounded out the fun set.

The following excerpt is from the web site:
KinderCone LLC , is based on a German tradition dating back to the early 19th century. Oftentimes, the first day of school can be a bittersweet moment in a child’s life, but in Germany and Austria it is marked by a day of celebration and appreciation. On that day, families present their first grader with their very own Schultüte. Inside, the child finds little gifts, treats, and school supplies. KinderCone wants to inspire every family and their young children to enjoy learning by celebrating this special event in their lives.

Vivian Lie founded KinderCone in 2008. Vivian was born and raised in Munich, Germany and lives in Chicago with her husband and four young daughters.

Two years ago, when Dugan was about to start 1st grade, I heard his earnest little voice from the back seat of the car.   "Mommy," he said, "About this whole going to 1st grade thanks.   I'm not going."

It was one of those poignant moments where I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.   All his heartfelt fears and uncertainty mixed with excitement just about broke my heart.  We had lots of reassuring talks that summer, and he met his new teacher and had a great tour of the space, all of which helped to allay his fears.    It really is a time of passage from being a little kid to being a BIG kid.
Now we're going through it again with Sage.   It's so hard to see a beloved child agonizing and stressing about those necessary next steps.   And moving upstairs to 1st grade--literally and figuratively--is a doozy.   

It's an especially big step in Montessori schools, since Elementary I encompasses 1-3 graders together, and Sage was used to being the big kid in the early childhood class.   She worried all summer that she wouldn't be a strong enough reader yet, and that everything would be monumentally harder in 1st grade.   But her KinderCone made her feel like a special, big kid.

So, whether your new 1st grader is raring to grow or a bit anxious about what elementary school will bring, KinderCone is sure to ease the way, and bring a big Cheshire cat grin to a special little face.  

Check out the impressive KinderCone web site to order from their on line store, sign up for the newsletter, find local retailers, run a school fundraiser, or read recent KinderCone news coverage.  

Make the Best of the Last Weekend of August

There's so much going on this weekend in Chicago, that again, we can only hit the best of the last.   Look for ChiIL Mama at Bucktown Arts Festival which runs 11-7 daily. 
All ages are welcome, under 8 is free.   Above 8 is $4 and adults are $7.  The show is in conjunction with Girls Rock Chicago.   Here are the details.

Girls Guide to Rocking show at the hideout--teen girl bands Fatal Attraction and Circular Convention from 1:15-1:30, then Jessica Hopper reads from the Girls Guide to Rocking, then Glass Bricks, spooky sister duo Ghost Bees (Nova Scotia) and Katie Stelmanis &band (from Toronto).
 If the kids aren't ODed on music after 4pm, we hope to duck down to the heart of Logan Square to see our favorite punk marching band, Mucca Pazza at 5:30.   We haven't made it there yet, but I've heard great things about Logan Square's new outdoor performance series, Summer Sessions on the Square.

Sunday at noon, Chicago Children's Theatre mounts a free performance of The Selfish Giant in Millennium  Park.   We've already seen it--Check out past ChiIL Mama post The Selfish Giant , but it's well worth checking out.
We're aiming to be in Millennium for performances on Monday, Aug 31st-Robbert Bobbert and Bunny Clogs, Thursday, Sept. 3rd-Jazz-Benny Goodman Centennial, Friday, Sept. 11th-Stars of Lyric Opera, and Thursday, Sept 17th-The Joffrey Ballet.   Check out the Millennium Park web site for details.
And we're off.............

Friday, August 28, 2009

Lollapalooza Sunday--Last Day of Fun Day 8/9/09

Our 3rd day of Lollapalooza 09 began again with the kids area, for early afternoon music, art,

hand painted tattoos

and colored hair fun.

Sagezilla watched the skateboard demo with rapt attention and showed off her skate skills, when kids were called to line up and get mini lessons.   We saw fellow sound guy, Matt Vogel, workin' the kids area 2 different days.

 Zilla's wearing another DIY shirt with Dug in 1995, sporting a giant mohawk as a NYE joke.   It reads ......but Dadda hadda mohawk!


We had another Mr. Z sighting, with the extra bonus of his wife and daughter, Ava.   

Again, I'll include a Snapfish link for anyone who wants to see more pixs than I can include in this post.

By 2:15 we were able to duck out and see Cage The Elephant.   The kids scored a great roll out Playstation mat to sit on, from some cool people who had an xtra.

We did a quick explore and picked up 2 more bags for collecting recyclables.   Then we saw an excellent set by The Raveonettes.

It was back to Kidzapalooza, then, for the final lottery of the year.   The kids both won harmonicas.    We were sad to miss Neko Case--Du even wore his Neko tee from Hideout where we saw her perform both days last summer.   But sometimes Lolla is too much of a good thing--all happening simultaneously.

 From there, we went back to the north end of the grounds and staked out a good spot for Lou Reed, Band of Horses and Jane's Addiction, with a bunch of people who've been our friends since BC (before children).

 Chris Fabian, and her long time boyfriend, Hank, stand out in the crowd.   Hank is a good guy to know, since he's head and shoulders above most, and easy to spot....especially useful for the directionally impaired or easily lost.


Dorothy and Dan are parents now, with a newborn at home.   Sebastian will be Lolling it up with the rest of us, after he learns to hold his head up.   For one last year, our kids still have a monopoly on Dan's attention.

He's no relation to Dug, despite the matching curls, but the kids have adored  "human jungle gym" Dan, all their lives.   He's a teacher, who has the same effect on my children, I'd imagine, of ingesting large amounts of chocolate covered espresso beans....   

It's fun to watch... while my brain says, woo hoo, it isn't me being pounced on, for a few minutes!

Former housemate Anna...

Cameramen Anthony Flores & Mark Niedelson...

and guitar winning Trevor's Mom, all made appearances, too..........and the rest......... here on Loll again Island.

The kids collected 2 more bags of recyclables, by the end of Lou Reed's set and we traded them in for super fun tees featuring a bunch of monsters rockin' out and a full listing of the bands on the back.  Saturday both kids got the 3 guitars forming the recycling logo tees.   They're the kind of kids who pick up other people's litter on a regular basis, when we camp and hike, just because it's the RIGHT thing to do.  So it was extra fun to see them rewarded for their efforts.


When Jane's Addiction began the final act of this year's fest, there was somewhat of a battle of the bands, when Band of Horses refused to cut their delayed set short and played over Jane's Addiction for several songs.    In the middle of the dissonant, sonic clash, Du-Jay decided he REALLY needed more space, so the whole family moved together to the back of the lawn.   
The kids needs really do come first.  I was already proud of them for being able to hang with the big kids every year, for 3 full, exhausting days of rock.   And sometime a little breathing room trumps great sight lines.   

I was sad to leave all our friends who had put down blankets with us, but we could still hear everything well and see OK.   But family sticks together.   The upside of the back o the lawn, was space to swing our glow in the dark poi balls.
My favorite quote of the day came during Jane's Addiction's opening number, when I held a rocking Sagezilla on my shoulders so she could see.   When the screens showed a large close up of Perry Farrell, I pointed him out to Sage saying, "There's Perry.   You hear him play every year in the kids area.  Remember, he signed your program two days ago and talked to you.   Now look.   He's that tiny speck, far away on the main stage being a rock star!"

Zilla thought about that for a few beats while she rocked out in my arms, then replied, "This band is BETTER THAN Perry Farrell." 

Yep, Sagezilla.   In rock bands, like life, the whole IS sometimes greater than the sum of it's parts.   That's why we stuck around.   And it was good to the last note, when we hustled out (one step ahead of the hordes), to race home, tuck in the tots and check off the new school supply list one last time.    Till next year.