Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy 2010 from ChiIL Mama

For the first time in nearly 20 years, we have a blue moon on New Year's Eve. So at ChiIL Mama, we wish you a fabulous "once in a blue moon" new decade full of wonder and joy. We've been taking a cozy break with family and dogs, around our new eco friendly wood burning stove.

The holidays have brought us visits by two mythical creatures in one week--both Santa and the tooth fairy!

Mayor Daley's Holiday Sports Fest at McCormick Place was a huge hit.  The kids' first tumbling competition was held there, as part of the fest.

Dugan won a 2nd place medal and Sage won a 3rd--which was very exciting, being her first medal! 

In the coming days, check back for a big recap of  some of our favorite events of 2009.  But tonight, relax and enjoy a once in a blue moon new year.  

What's a blue moon?  If you happen to look up at midnight, you may see the second full moon of the month, AKA: a blue moon.

The last NYE blue moon was in 1990, and it won't happen again until 2028. My kids got a kick out of figuring out how old we'll all be by then (Sagezilla will be 25 and Du-Jay 27!) Of course, a blue moon isn't literally blue. The name implies the rarity of two full moons in a month and spawned the saying "once in a blue moon."

"There is nothing scientific about it, and it has no astronomical significance," said Mark Hammergren, a staff astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago, Illinois, when asked about this NYE blue moon. "But I believe it does give us some insight into history and makes us think of how our calendar system has derived from motions of objects in the sky."

Our lunar months are pretty close to calendar months, so most years have 12 full moons, with 1 appearing each month.  But the solar cycle, or the time it takes Earth to make one trip around the sun, provides our calendar year. This means a year is not exactly divisible by lunar months, so every three years or so there are 13 full moons.

So enjoy this rare blue moon occurrence with some true blue friends and family. And we'll see ya next year.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Look For ChiIL Mama This Weekend: ChiIL Holidaze Part 2--Winter Solstice, Redmoon, Kids' Language Fair and Twas the Night Before Christmas

It's astonishing, but we are rapidly approaching the last weekend before Christmas!    We're in a "year round" school with a six week summer break and a sweet three week winter intercession, so we've already been out of school since last Friday and we've been making the most of it.

We joined friends and ice skated at Midway Plaisance Park in Hyde Park.  Most city rinks have free ice skating if you BYO skates.

We also thoroughly enjoyed Adventure Stage Theatre's production of Gossamer.   Check out their web site for Holiday Drama Kids workshops Dec 28-30th.

December 13th, Santa Lucia at The Swedish Museum was beautiful as always, but unbelievably ,wall to wall, standing room only-crowded!   I've never seen it like that.

December 6th, Dance Along Nutcracker was better than ever, with a circus theme and little contortionists from The Actor's Gymnasium.

We've sent our letters to Santa and checked out the Macy's holiday window display.
Here are our favorites for the final weekend before Christmas:

The center for performing arts at governors state university presents a CHARMING new musical adaptation of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” as part of the “especially for kids” series saturday, December 19 at 11 a.m.

Theatre IV performs a Christmas Classic, inspired by the timeless holiday poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas"

UNIVERSITY PARK, Ill. — The Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University presents the touring children’s theater company Theatre IV with its new musical adaptation of the timeless holiday poem, "A Visit from St. Nicholas," or as it’s more commonly known ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” on Saturday, Dec. 19 at 11 a.m. This enchanting show is part of The Center’s “Especially for Kids” series, providing an enjoyable morning of entertainment appropriate for families with children ages four to 10. “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” features a script with endearing characters portrayed by an ensemble of live actors and wonderful puppets.

Multilingual Chicago Kids Language Fair

Come on out in the snow and warm up your brains with a free Kids' Language Fair on Saturday, December 19, 11:30-1:30.   Multilingual Chicago will offer 15-minute activities for kids in Spanish, French, and Mandarin, as a way to get a taste of our programs and see our space.  We'd love to see you there!

Multilingual Chicago is a new language school opened in October 2009, located near the Central Park/Milwaukee intersection (2934 N Milwaukee, Suite C--in the 5th/3rd bank building).  Starting in January 2010, we'll be offering Spanish, French, and Mandarin classes for children ages 1-8, and for adults.  We're also planning an array of cultural, language, and community events for the space (2 classrooms and a really nice Language Cafe w/ free coffee, tea, and wifi for waiting parents or for tutoring sessions).

In their first round of classes, they had great success using the neighborhood as a learning tool--students practiced their Spanish by ordering lunch at an Ecuadoran restaurant, for example.  They're hoping to continue that and offer even more cultural events next year.

It's about time Logan Square got a cool, multicultural, off-the-beaten-path space.  We're all about celebrating and promoting the diversity of the city....and supporting new, local, Mama run businesses.

Winter Solstice Festival at North Park Village Nature Center
 Tonight, see a softer side of the city as the wood are alight with luminaries.   Meet wolves and creatures of the winter forest, make edible ornaments for the birds, and enjoy fresh chestnuts roasting on an open fire.   Solstice Fest has been an annual family tradition of ours for the children's whole lives.

The Chicago Park District’s North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski Rd., welcomes winter with a special annual event, the Winter Solstice Festival, which celebrates the change in season on Saturday, December 13 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Since opening in 1980, the North Park Village Nature Center has offered a variety of programs geared toward educating children and adults about nature and the environment. Some of the Nature Center’s current offerings include teacher training programs, school outreach programs, and festivals. For a list of great nature-inspired events and programs at North Park Village Nature Center, go to or contact (312) 744-5472 or TTY/TDD (312) 744-3586.
Redmoon Theatre's Winter Pageant is another of our long running family winter traditions.    

This weekend will be especially magical,
as Redmoon collaborates with CSO.   
This weekend only--4 performances. 

 There are only two weeks left before the show closes.
Du Jay and Sagezilla play with Redmoon actors before the performance. 
Gallery | Home B
Call for tickets today.   This one's not to be missed. 
Tickets are selling out fast! 
Redmoon Theater / 1438 West Kinzie Street Chicago IL 60622 / 312.850.8440 / 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I ♥ Faces--just pets

Click on the chimp to enlarge

The contest at I ♥ Faces this week is just pets.   But it seems that humans aren't the only ones who like little critters.   We were at Lincoln Park Zoo, checkin' out the chimps when we came across this guy and his small furry friend.

It was one of those awkward zoo moments, like walking up on rutting zebras with your preschooler.   My kids were fascinated and amazed the chimp was fast enough to catch a rabbit, darting through his enclosure.   And they shrugged it off as part of nature, with the wisdom of seasoned zoo campers.  As I snapped a few shots, it became one of those dark humor moments.

It was a busy day, and loads of families came out the ape house door and exclaimed things like "Oh how cute.   Honey, look.  The monkey has his own stuffed animal."  and "Lookie Sweetie, that chimp has a snuggle, too!"   We were all cracking up as they got a closer look and realized the truth.

It was a great study in human nature.   Some parents were honest with their kids and used it as a teachable moment for a biology lesson.   Others freaked out or worked to hide their own revulsion and backpedaled, or hustled their kids away fast.

Of course, being a book and theatre dork, myself, all I could think of was the character "Lennie", in John Steinbeck's "Of Mice And Men"

"I will name him George, and I will hug him, and pet him, and squeeze him"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Gymnastics Fun

ChiIL Mama took a little break from the Holidaze madness this week and made a foray into the world of kids competitive gymnastics.  Both and Du-Jay and Sagezilla had their first regional meets on Monday and Wednesday respectively.  

Du qualified for a city wide meet on Saturday by winning 2nd place in rings and 3rd in floor.  He also won a 5th place ribbon in vault.

Sagezilla won 4 ribbons--4th in vault, 7th in floor, 8th in beam and 8th in all around.   The kids have taken gymnastics since they were both one.   But we were pleased and surprised to win anything, since it was our first attempt at a competition.

Because of the big Saturday meet, we were a bit sad to miss Breakfast with Tomten (Swedish Santa), a tradition of ours for the last 3 years.   And we missed the first Polar Adventure Day of this winter--but there will be more.   

 Mostly, we were proud of Dugan's hard work and all the practice that went into winning his medals.   He was so happy and excited.   It made missing a few seasonal events well worth while.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sodastream Stems the Tide of Bottles and Cans Flooding Landfills

When we first met the Sodastream guys at The Chicago Green Festival, my husband was hooked.   We're old pros at reuse and recycle, with our rain barrel, composter and our blue recycle bin that we dutifully fill each week.  However, we still need to work on that first, most crucial of the R's--reduce.

It's a bit hypocritical of us to claim green family, eco-conscious status, while we continue a couple case a week San Pellegrino habit, with it's attendant bottles and cans.  In 2010 we've vowed to reduce the packaging we discard, and get that blue bin a bit less full each week.   With that thought in mind, I did the comparison research among home soda makers and was easily convinced Sodastream was the way to go.  They have an excellent web site full of rave reviews and product details.   

I was excited to think we could stop lugging heavy cases of fizzy water and burp juice (as Sagezilla calls soda).   We could save a ton of money and space.   And we could do something positive for the earth at the same time.

Reviewers claimed the Sodastream models were simple to assemble and use.   But I'm a Mother to young children.   Were they talkin' simple, as in, my six year old can make her own?   Would I need to call tech support to attach the CO2 tank?  It's not easy to read and retain a three inch thick assembly and operations manual for any gadget, with kids clamoring for your attention and crises to be averted.   

So, ChiIL Mama took it upon ourselves to test and compare the Sodastream Penguin and Genesis models.   We were extremely impressed with both.   The best surprise of all was how much fun we had with the whole process.   
There was much laughter as Sagezilla, Du-Jay and our friend Daniel tried out each model by themselves.   The process was easy for the 8 year old boys.   And even our 6 year old tester could do most of it herself.   The Penguin required parental help only in the final unlocking phase.   All the kids could handle the whole process with The Genesis.   I was pleased that the initial assembly on both units was simple, and could be done with little reference to the slim and easy manual.

***One note....DO follow the directions on how to add the syrups to the carbonated water SLOWLY and into a TILTED bottle.   Ignore that one at your own risk.   I can vouch from personal experience, that adding it upright and faster will cause a giant eruption like those grade school baking soda/vinegar volcanoes!   (Great fun for the little scientists helping you mix, but not so fun for the Mama on clean up duty!)

Penguin love:   This sleek black and silver bird gives a charming chirp when the bottle's carbonated.   The bottles are glass, which is nicer to drink from directly, but a breakage hazard with littles.    And the glass bottles are smaller and hold less than The Genesis' plastic counterparts.   We'd highly recommend it for the adults on your gift list and those with older children.

This was the favorite of the adults....and of our 100lb Akita, who was entranced by the chirp.   He barked at The Penguin when it first peeped and stared at it, cocking his head from side to side, for the whole first day.   Don't worry Nakama, you haven't been replaced by a new pet.

The Genesis Geniuses:   Genesis proved to be the most kid friendly.   All of our testers found it simple to use.   The bottles are heavy duty plastic and can handle being dropped.   They hold more than the glass bottles.  Also, since the bottle isn't enclosed during the carbonation process, like it is in The Penguin, the kids got a kick out of watching the bubbles.   This one doesn't give a little whistling peep, but it gives more of a honk, that sent the kids into spasms of laughter.

We all had fun taste testing 12 of Sodastream's flavors.   The kids were regular scientists, mixing up flavors.   And after they tried all the official ones, they mixed and matched and had a blast creating their own hybrids.   Root beer was the hands down favorite.   The kids claimed it tasted like there was ice cream already in it.    But wow, did it make even better root beer floats later!   The kids also enjoyed orange, lemon lime, pink grapefruit, and that "every once in a while" treat--burp juice.

The adults' favorites were the My Water fruit flavors.   The berry, orange and lemon lime can be added a few drops at a time, for a splash of flavor that's not too sweet.

Check Sodastream's website for a complete listing of local retailers or order on line.   Orders placed through 12/21 are guaranteed for Christmas delivery.  In Chicago they're carried by many Macy's, Sears, Sur La Table, and Williams-Sonoma.

 So here's to a Green Christmas and reducing waste again in 2010.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I ♥ Faces--Sweet Dreams

I ♥ Faces--Sweet Dreams  

Ahhh.......childhood.   When you could crash out any time anywhere.   If you're facing a long holiday wait in the airport, softside luggage can double up just fine as a cot (or at least a pillow) for an impromptu nap.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Look For ChiIL Mama This Weekend: ChiIL Holidaze Part 1

Sandia Rocks out at Dance Along Nutcracker
Whew...........and you thought all the Halloween stuff was crazy busy............

In the upcoming weeks we will feature a myriad of events and favorite happenings around Chi Town, green Christmas gift ideas like Sodastream and Nasopure, some funky, fun new kids tunes and even free give aways.   Since we do full features and photos, we'll pick a few of our favs and get in depth with the events.  

In the mean time.  Chicago is always hoppin' for the holidays.  So, if you want a more comprehensive listing of Holiday happenings, including the burbs and commercial events, hop on over to our friends at GoCityKids, ChicagoKids, or CrazyKids.   But if you want to get beyond the touristy and check out the real gems, stick with us and we'll see you out there.

Once again, there are far too many great choices for the weekend to humanly hit.   Here are a few of our favs.


Home Depot's free first Saturdays workshop is happening from 9AM-Noon.   We've had great fun building a bean bag toss, fire station bank, and sweet tile trivets.   Now we're on the wagon this Saturday.

We're also off to our big NaNoWriMo "Thank Goodness It's Over" party where we can happily claim our winners stickers and lots of fun raffle prizes.   All winners who managed to write 50,000 words in 30 days, get a free, bound paperback copy of their own novels.   And I'm jazzed for the 50% winner's discount on Scrivener writing software for Mac.

If you don't have an insane writers' party to attend, we'd highly recommend the following:

 Julmarknad at the Swedish Museum in Andersonville.  Starting Saturday, Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and continuing on Sunday, Dec. 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the Museum's annual Christmas Bazaar will kick off with many traditional Scandinavian and modern handicraft and more for sale! 

Santa will visit the Children's Museum as well and games and crafts for the whole family.  Other entertainment includes a kaffestuga, Lucia procession, and folk dancers.  Admission is $2 per person.

Later in the month, they also have a fabulous breakfast with Tomten (Swedish Santa), Lucia events and numerous other holiday festivities.   Check their web site for details.

Chicago Waldorf School is also having their lovely Holiday Fair.
If dragons are more to your
gifting taste.........
our long time friend, Jenny, is helping provide a market for indigenous artists in Oaxaca to sell their art here in Chicago.  She has tons of dragons, which are very traditional- they're guardians of the home).
They're available on the website,

There are no prices listed, but the art starts at about $30-40 and up (up to several hundred- they're huge pieces though).   She will also be at the Images Gallery's annual Christmas market, from 10 am-5 pm on Dec. 5 and 12 (the next 2 Saturdays) - 1823 W. Wilson. So if you're inclined you can swing by and see the stuff in person!

It's the final weekend to see Holes at Merle Reskin and Gossamer at Adventure Stage and for the grownups.... check out our friend Andy in the final weekend of The Audacity of Nope at Strawdog Theatre.

Once you've seen the big bellied, white bearded man in a red suit, with a sack overflowing with toys, come roaring up Western Avenue on a Harley, all other Santa parades pale in comparison!    Toys for Tots starts at 83rd street at 9:30AM and ends at Lane Tech.   It's something to see. 

What's not to like about this parade? Every year more than 10,000 motorcyclists and 100,000 spectators descend upon Western Avenue to deliver toys to kids in need. This year marks the 31st annual Toys for Tots parade.
The 20-mile parade, which runs north along Western Avenue, often lasts up to five hours. It's billed as the largest motorcycle parade in the world.

Riders are required to bring a new toy and spectators are encouraged to do so. (Please, no stuffed animals.) The Marine Corps Reserve will distribute them to those in need.

After the parade, Sunday's can't miss event is the always fabulous Dance Along Nutcracker at The Chicago Cultural Center.   We've gone for years and the kids eagerly anticipate it.   This year will be more fun than ever, as they add a "circus style" theme.
There are two shows only, this Sunday at 12pm and 3pm, with workshops before each performance.   It's also a great opportunity to walk over and check out the Macy's windows, giant tree in Daley Plaza and Christkindlmarket.   The hot spiced wine comes in adorable ceramic boot mugs, that are perfect kids' size for a winter's worth of hot cocoa later.  You're welcome to use the excuse that you're doin' it for your kids as you're two fisting the mulled wine.  

Monday, November 30, 2009

I ♥ Faces-Tooshies

In our family, we have what's known as opposite land.   When the kids say something like.... "I can't do it.".. or "My picture's ugly."...   we reply "In opposite land".

This week's contest at I ♥ Faces is in opposite land.   This week, instead of featuring faces, they wanna see Tooshies!   So here's future rock star, Sagie Contagious, at Lollapalooza 2009, with her airborne tush.  And here's her big bro's rockin' tush, too.   At age 8, he already has the rock star hair.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving and The Birthday Party of Death

This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for the usual--friends, family, etc.  

But, I'm also thankful for getting in to see a doctor at the last minute, yesterday, to get eyedrops for my double conjunctivitis (pink eye--in layman's terms) an annual and oh so fun fall tradition in our family for 4 years running.   Woo hoo--November, time for turkey dinner, pink eye and school head lice infestations.   Still, these are minor inconveniences compared to the major health and economic crises facing so many families.

I am also thankful to have kids with a great sense of humor.   They crack me up daily.  I have a sweetheart of a boy who would do anything for his friends and who is not afraid to dress up and be goofy--a trait lost in so many 8 year old boys who are suddenly too cool for childhood.   You've gotta love a boy who'll wear a silly hat.

And, I am thankful for my rough and tumble girl--my tomboy in a tutu.   She takes ballet and tackles (and takes down) 10 year old boys!   Sometimes parents of young girls OD on the cute.   There are too many 6 year old girls obsessed with pretty princesses and pink ponies.   I'm soooo thankful my kid isn't one of them.  

I relish the dark humor when I can find it, and she has a good appreciation for the macabre, too.   She was recently invited to a gymnastic birthday, where the release form was so grim, I had to read it aloud to my husband, and laugh about the "Birthday Party of Death" we were sending our darling daughter off to.

When I realized, much to my chagrine, that Sagezilla had overheard me from the next room, I quickly backpeddled and explained it would be perfectly safe and fine.    They were just covering their butts from sue happy parents.   It's just like Jump Zone and inflatables place waivers.   No big deal.   I worried for a second, that she'd be fearful to go.   Instead, my little punk rocker gave a wicked grin and exclaimed, "Cool!   Maybe I'll break my arm there and get to go to the hospital!"

........Finally, I am thankful neither kid has broken any bones, yet.   And I am eternally grateful that our sue happy society provided us an afternoon of great amusement.   I'll conclude with the "Happy Birthday Party of Death Release Form".    Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving and enjoy the dark humor where you can get it.

Dreams Gymnastics Club, Inc.

Party Participation Informed Consent and Waiver

I, _____________________________________ the undersigned, on behalf of my child,

____________________________, and my child’s father/mother (circle one)

______________________________ consent to my child’s attendance at and participation

in the activities, including, but not limited to, bouncing on the 30 foot long Tumble Trak®,

swinging on the rope and/or bar into the foam pit, jumping into the foam pit, floating under the

parachute and participating in the obstacle course and other activities offered at the Dreams

Gymnastics Birthday Party.

I understand and acknowledge that my child’s participation at the Birthday Party is an inherently dangerous activity and I acknowledge that, Dreams Gymnastics, Inc. has taken every precaution

required to avoid injury to participants in Dreams Gymnastics Club Inc.’s Birthday Party. I

further acknowledge that despite the precautions taken by Dreams Gymnastics Club Inc., my

child’s participation in the Birthday Party, may result in injury to
my child, including but not limited to: minor to severe bumps,
bruises, cuts and scrapes, minor to severe joint sprains to the shoulders, elbows, knees, ankles, feet and hips, minor to severe ligament and tendon sprains and tears, broken bones, minor to severe head injury, minor to severe neck sprains, and/or spinal cord damage which may result in paralysis. I acknowledge that I understand the inherent risks associated with the Birthday Party, including,

but not limited to the above mentioned injuries, and consent to my child’s participation in the Birthday Party.

I understand and acknowledge that Dreams Gymnastics Club Inc. is not responsible for any items

lost, stolen and/or left at Dreams Gymnastics.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I ♥ Faces-- Sun Flairs

What a warm and bright subject for this week's contest at I ♥ Faces.  We had some sweet sun flairs at the ocean, from our Portland vacation, but though stunning, they seemed kind of cliche.   So, I'm posting this one of Dug hiking in the Pacific Northwest.  

We're dedicated city dwellers, but it's good for the lungs and the spirit to go where the trees are taller than buildings, at least a few times a year.   We love the wilderness.