Friday, October 30, 2009

Clownie With a Chance of Brain

November 1-30 is National Novel Writing Month,  AKA:   NaNoWriMo.   Writing a 50,000 word novel in one month equals a minimum of 1,667 words per day...every day.   Mind you, this is a 30 day month in which the kids inexplicably have 15 days off of school!

It kind of feels like sticking your head in a giant, evil clown's mouth.   The National Novel Writing Month was started by a guy named Chris Baty.   And it is a little batty.   But it's also lots of fun.   That's what I'll be doing starting Nov. 1.

Needless to say, ChiIL Mama will be on a bit of a hiatus from daily blogging.   I will still be posting, periodically.  But the vast majority of my daily quota of words will be pouring into the third book of my young adult mystery series.   When I'm on my whirlwind, world wide book tour, I'll sign a copy for you.

Before I disappear into NaNo land for a month, Happy Halloween!   Here in Chi Town, we have a fun filled day ahead.   It goes something like this:


Then we have to find time to chain saw up our beloved willow tree, that split off at the trunk, and fell over in the big storms yesterday, obstructing our whole yard!   Then we have a variety show sketch to write, rehearse, record and make shadow puppets for.....and a mobile stage to build.   And we have homework to finish.   I'll sleep when I'm old.

After all that, we have a quiet, low key Sunday planned.   We'll change our clocks, grateful for that xtra fall back hour, but a bit sad about the extra darkness and steadily creeping cold.   We'll have a mellow brunch with a small group of friends and create Day of the Dead alters from found, natural objects.

In the evening, we'll be back into the fray, with a giant NaNoWriMo Kick Off Party of over 130 people.   The past two years, I've succeeded in writing a 50,000 word novel, from scratch, in 30 days.   It's manic, crazy, hard, and fun....and somewhat addictive.   

They have a young writers version with more age appropriate word count goals and Dugan won last year.   This year Du-Jay and Sagezilla are collaborating, and plan to write another 3,000 word novel, which is pretty rockin' awesome for 1st and 3rd grade authors.   The contest has them excited about writing and provides a wonderful web site full of creative ideas, silly writing prompts, and a safe space for connecting with other kid writers, from kindergarten through high school.   I'd highly recommend both the adult and kids divisions.    

If you work well to a deadline, enjoy a nearly insurmountable challenge, or have had delusions of writing a novel all your life, but kept letting your day job, or endless errands intrude.   NaNoWriMo is worth devoting a month of your life to.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

ChiILoween III--Oct. 30th-Nov. 1st--The Final Frightening Fun of 2009: Haunting in the Square, Trick or Treat Merchants, Nightmare Before Christmas

Many scary movie sequels just get redundant.   But ChiILoween just keeps getting better and better.   Don't be afraid to refer back to ChiILoween I and   our sequal, ChiILoween II.  Some of the featured events are ongoing or still coming up.   But, here's the last batch of ghoulish goulash for your weekend pleasure.

That's the rub, living in a great city like Chi Town.   There are waaaaay too many cool things goin' down, especially this year, since Halloween falls on Saturday.   Here are a few of the coolest of the cool, for this upcoming costume crazed weekend.   

Friday, look for ChiIL Mama at the first annual Haunting in the Square.   We'll be checkin' out Collaboraction's music, art, fire, vampires, marching bands and much much more.   They're set up for family fun by day, ghost stories at dusk and a costumed dance party for adults each night.

Saturday, Merchants are giving a little somthin' back to the community.  

We'd also recommend Lincoln Square with festivities 9am-4pm and Andersonville 3-5pm.  They're both fun, safe neighborhoods to trick or treat the merchants.  

Then, there's Wicker Park/ Bucktown.   We've gone in the past and it looks like this year there will be even more fun stuff goin' on.  There are lots of great events in the park itself (Wicker Park 1425 W. Damen), so I'll give them a plug here.  

That said, one of my pet peeves is the paloozafication of........well...EVERYTHING.   Our school has an annual pastapalooza. I've seen discount stores named lotsapalooza.  There are now festapaloozas and fairapaloozas.  A quick Google search brought up polarpalooza, powerpointpalooza, streetmeatapalooza, reefapalooza,learnapalooza and investerpalooza, to name a few.  I even saw a children's hospital fundraiser with the unfortunate name of cancer-palooza.

The loozas who still insist on naming every event palooza this and palooza that, probably never attended a Lollapalooza in their lives.   These things have no similarity whatsoever to Jane's Addiction front man, Perry Farrell's alternative music festival.   Sorry Boo-palooza.   The name alone, makes me wanna boycott.  

But, in case you don't have the same aversion to the truly scary overuse and misappropriation of the word palooza, here's the line up:

Wicker Park & Bucktown Boo-palooza

Halloween Day
Saturday, October 31st

Schedule of Events:
12pm-4pm-Store to Store Trick or Treaters 
12pm-2pm- Collaboraction Halloween Prowl- Starting at the Polish Triangle
and proceeding north on Milwaukee Avenue to Damen and Wicker Park, join in this
parade featuring the award winning Collaboraction theatre troupe.
12pm Wicker Park- 1425 West Damen

Park Schedule:
12:30pm-3:30pm- Wagon rides
12-4pm- Pumpkin decorating, photo booth, face painting, info booths
12pm-1pm- Monster Mash Music Bash
1:30pm Not So Scary Stories
2pm-3pm Pet Parade (starts at Wicker Park Dog Park)
3pm-4pm Ghost Bingo for Seniors
3:30pm-4:00pm A Musical Treat with Bubbles Academy

12pm-4pm-Store to Store Trick or Treating- all business streets.
Bring your little goblins and ghosts out for some treats and let them show off their
12pm Psychobaby/ 1630 North Damen
The Psychobaby ghoul crew offers Halloween photos, treats, balloons, and arts
crafts activities for kids.
12pm-4pm-Children’s Petting Zoo at Lottie’s Pub- 1925 W. Cortland in
Bucktown. Free petting zoo fun for the entire family!

You can check out the plethora of Chicago Park District parties here.  And costumed creatures skate free at McFetridge Ice Rink, 4:30-6pm on Halloween.   I'm sad we missed the truly cool chance to Roller Skate in costume with the Windy City Derby Girls.   They had a kid friendly Night of the Skating Dead at Orbit Skate Center on the 24th.   But we haven't yet perfected the art of cloning ourselves and that time machine in the basement needs a little fine tuning still.   Next year........

If your Halloween Day is already frighteningly full, Pulaski Park had the genius idea of extending their festivities from Oct. 23rd through Nov. 1.

12pm-16pm- Pulaski Park- 1419 N. Blackhawk
Haunted house, pumpkin patch, hayrides, carnival games, Train rides,
reptile show, inflatables, and arts and crafts.
Halloween fun for the entire family-$5 admission charged. Call 312-742-7559
for details. 

Here's one more Halloweenie show that plays the 31st and 1st, and a thought to send a chill up your spine.   There are less than 60 days till Christmas.   Celebrate with an aerial acrobatic version of The Nightmare Before Christmas, playing two days only. 

Nightmare - A Teen Halloween Circus Spectacular
A Teen Halloween Circus Spectacular!
Saturday, October 31, 2009, 7:30PM
Sunday, November 1, 2009, 3:00PM
At The Actors Gymnasium
Tickets: $10

Join The Actors Gymnasium's Teen Ensemble for this one-weekend-only circus spectacular! A Halloween show the likes of which you've never seen, this circus performance comes alive with story, dance, and breath-taking aerial skills. Based on Tim Burton's
Nightmare Before Christmas, this show is appropriate for all ages.

For more information, visit our website! Reservations strongly encouraged - Tickets are available now at or by calling 800-838-3006!

Stay safe, have a blast, and be creative.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

IT'S COMING..............TONIGHT at 7:30PM

Set your smart phone alarms or grab an old school #2 pencil and the back of a receipt.   You won't want to miss this one.   826CHI Free November/December Workshops are open for registration tonight at 7:30.  And they fill fast.

You can check out the fabulously creative descriptions now, and get those typing fingers limbered up for tonight.   Workshops are for kids ages 6-18 and are broken down by age groups.   See what's new here!

ChiIL Teacher:  If you happen to have a 2nd or 3rd grader, I'm teaching two 826CHI workshops and would love to see you there.   In November, join ChiIL Mama for The Lost Sock, and in December, you can sign up for The Sun Box.

The Lost Sock
One Session: Friday, November 13th
Time: 4–5:30PM
Taught by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara
Limited to 12 students in grades 2–3
Is your dryer a portal to another dimension? In our house, every load of laundry comes out with missing socks. Where do all those mismatched socks go? Today, the ones who got left behind can go to a fun, funky writing workshop and star in their own stories. With a little help from kids in the 2nd and 3rd grades, these socks will become colorful new bookmarks to take home. They will also spark a whole collection of lost sock letters, documenting the adventures of their missing twins. Bring in your mismatched socks and we’ll have a rockin’, sockin’ good time.
Will open for registration on 10/27 at 7:30pm.

The Sun Box: Winter Solstice Myths and Traditions from Ancient Times to the Present
One Session: Friday, December 11th
Time: 4–5:30PM
Taught by Bonnie Kenaz-Mara
Limited to 12 students in grades 2–3
Winter Solstice is coming, Monday, December 21st, in the northern hemisphere, this year. People have been fascinated with the sun for centuries, and have made up lots of interesting Solstice stories, to explain and celebrate the shortest day of the year. In The Sun Box Workshop, we’ll explore these myths and traditions with two yellow sun boxes, full of stories and props, for the kids to pick out.
Will open for registration on 10/27 at 7:30pm.

Moustache-A-Thon 2007
826CHI is a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write.

826CHI     1331 N. Milwaukee Ave Chicago, IL 60622      phone: 772-772-8108      fax: 773-326.3513

Monday, October 26, 2009

I ♥ Faces Halloween Dress Up


It's that time of year again...costume season.   Last year I was thrilled that the kids both chose characters from books over TV.   Here's Du-Jay as The Rusty Knight from one of Bruce Coville's wonderful fantasy books.   He's an elderly, retired knight, who is hard of hearing and mistakes what people are saying in humorous ways.  

Sagezilla was typecast as Pippi Longstocking, super mighty pirate girl, from the Swedish books by Astrid Lindgren.

This year I'm equally excited they've gotten creative with music.  Sage is dressing as a "Punk Kin"--a big pumpkin costume with pierced nose and green hair, covered in 80's punk bands.   Du-Jay created a "Ska Crow", covered in Ska band patches.

Halloween is so much more creative and fun when kids design their own costumes, instead of pulling another Disney Princess off the rack, or donning the latest TV or movie clone.  Whether the materials are found around the house or at the thrift store, or scavenged from other costumes and morphed into something unique, one of a kind costumes rock!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

ChiILoween II--More Hot Happenings before Oct. 31st--CICFF Kids Film Festival, 500 Clown Frankenstein, Parents Nights Out, and Theatre Updates

Here are some of the best, that stand out from the rest, in a packed couple of weeks here in Chi Town.

The 26th Annual Chicago International Children's Film Festival begins today, Thursday, October 22nd and runs through November 1st.   Check out the CICFF web site.   I've been a volunteer at Facets for 20 years, and they are truly one of Chicago's treasures.   If you go to the film fest at Facets on Halloween morning, say hi.  ChiIL Mama, Du-Jay and Sagezilla will be volunteering with the box office and concessions from 9-12:30.

Monday, October 26th--Frankenstein with franks and  steins!

Parents need a night out, too.   And, if you can snag a rare Monday night sitter, or talk your "significant other" into wrangling the monkeys while you have a girls or guys night out.........this is the place to be!   Adrian is not only an acrobatic superstar, but a local Chicago Dad and a friend of ours.   If you've never seen a 500 Clown show, your life is incomplete.  They're wacky, wonderful, and not to be missed!

with franks & steins
Monday October 26
Reserve your tickets now with a donation
party happens between shows
at Galaxie, 2603 W. Barry Ave, Chicago

"Outrageous humor and ape-shit acrobatics" Time Out Chicago

500 Clown Frankenstein came to life in 2003 in a hole in the wall theater in a Chicago downtown building slated for demolition. The show continues to have an active touring life in fancy and not so fancy digs all around the US (with one European stint so far).
Now begins 500 Clown Raw – a series of Chicago-based 500 Clown events that celebrate immediacy, risk, and liveness in small spaces with small crowds.
First up: Shaking up 500 Clown Frankenstein with a new performer line up featuring 500 Clown veteran performer Adrian Danzig partnering with the fabulous and riveting Matt Hawkins and Leah Urzendowski.
We hope you join us on this new and exciting ride, which will take us into 2010, filled with new shows, clown jams, and inspiring action-events building community around the unpredictable power of the moment.
click here for more info and to watch some 500 Clown Frankenstein (click on video in left column)

"Fiercely clever and monstrously funny ...

a bold, compassionate and often dangerous distillation of Mary Shelley's horror novel about arrogance, obsession and irresponsibility." Daily Herald
Donate now to reserve tickets.
$30 gets you
a show, franks & steins.
whaaa? yes.

and more frankenstein...
The Hypocrites' Frankenstein at the MCA
Opening Night Performance & Private Party
Saturday, October 24th, 7:30pm
Only ten tickets left

Call 773.989.7352 exclusively to book now before they sell out

Rocky Horror Show--Another great night out that'll take you right back to your college days....and make you forget about dirty diapers and homework help for a few precious hours. October 22-31only.  Shows at 8PM  @  Athenaeum Theatre  

The Raveonettes were one of our favorite bands we'd never seen, from Lollapalooza 2009.   They'll be at Metro this Sunday at 7pm, with The Black Angels.  

And, if Rocky Horror isn't kitschy and seasonal enough for ya.   Here's another production goin' on this week at one of our favorite venues, Hideout.   Check out Little Shop of Horrors at 8PM tonight through Sunday only.   Tickets are a reasonable $15.00.   Reserve in advance.   It's a small space and likely to sell out.

Finally, Our Kid-Friendly Theatre Update through the end of October:

Special Halloween Treat--two for one tickets to The Hundred Dresses

Buy one ticket, get one free*
for the hottest family show in Chicago!  

Special Halloween performances at Noon and 3pm. Come in costume! Treats and a gift bag for every child!

* One child ticket FREE with purchase of each full-price adult ticket for Sat., Oct. 31 shows!
   Request Treat1 when ordering

Treasure Island at Lifeline Theatre has been extended by two weeks.

Performances are selling out - don't miss your chance to experience Robert Louis Stevenson's legendary high-seas adventure, adapted for Lifeline Theatre by award-winning ensemble member John Hildreth.

Treasure Island runs Thursdays at 7:30pm, Fridays at 7:30pm, Saturdays at 4pm & 8pm, and Sundays at 4pm, through November 15, 2009.

Call the box office today at (773) 761-4477 or order ONLINE.

Treasure Island


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I ♥ Faces-Pink Week-October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

  Donate today, to help find a cure.   Breast cancer doesn't just affect women, but also the men, women and children who know and love them.   Remember, early detection saves lives. 

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Richardson Farm--Largest Corn Maze in the World--ChiILoween Fun Worth the Drive

Are you good at following a map, or directionally impaired?   Can you zip your way through miles of corn maze or not navigate your way out of a paper bag?

The largest corn maze in the world is at The Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, IL, not too far outside of Chicago, and it's worth the drive.

You won't need a handheld GPS, for this one.  Mazes vary in length and even the biggie, which is a whopping 28 acres and just over 11miles of trails, has a number of easy to reach escape routes built in to the maze.

The following features are free with admission to Richardson Farm, unless an additional charge is specified:
  • 50’ tall observation tower
  • 50’ long slide
  • Beautiful wooded picnic area (Reserve a table here)
  • Free Campfires – remember marshmallows (Reserve a table here)
  • 3 wooden bridges (16’ long and 8’ high) in the corn maze
  • Pedal carts
  • Pedal tractors
  • Feed the Goats
  • Corn Cabin (shelled corn sandbox)
  • Concessions for sale (weekends starting Labor Day)
  • Free Wagon ride to the five acre maze (weekends)
  • Group wagon rides ($3.75 per person, $75 minimum for a group) by reservation (Reserve here)
  • Glow sticks and flashlights available for sale
  • Pumpkins and Mums for sale in season
  • Free Parking
The following features are new this year:
  • Larger Pumpkin Patch
  • Pedal Trikes
  • Zip Line - 30' high and 700' long - Now Open! - $15.00 - Signed Waiver Required (View waiver)
    Weight requirement: 70 - 270 lbs.
  • Expanded Kid's Play Area
General Admission

$11.50 Adults ages 19-64
$10.00 Students ages 13-18
$8.50 Children 5-12
$8.50 Seniors 65 and up
Kids 4 and under FREE

Check out their web site for daily hours and group discounts.

If you want to meet up with a group of friends, you can reserve a picnic table in advance--four hours for just $5, and have a free campfire.   BYO s'mores for an a-maze-ingly fun time.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

ChiILoween Happenings: The best of Chicagoween and beyond

Let's face it.   We're all busy, and sometimes the sheer number of happenings in Chicago, on a given weekend,  is daunting!   The Park District alone has over 75 Halloween events goin' on in the next few weeks.   There are great resources like GoCityKids and Crazy Kids and ChicagoKids all telling you where to go.

Here at ChiIL Mama, we try to pick a manageable number of the good ones and get more in depth and visual.   Here's a quick little ChiILoween Guide to our personal favs.   Check the Chicago Park District site for your closest local park events, times and see what creepy fun is afoot this year.

Lincoln Park Zoo's Harvest Days already happened on the 3rd & 4th, but there are free and cheap pumpkin patches sprouting up all over Chicagoland.

Lincoln Park Zoo's annual Harvest Fest with free pumpkins from Whole Foods.
Even the baby chicks' habitat was all decked out with fall leaves, pinecones, and dried corn.

Saturday, there's a Park District pumpkin patch in Humboldt Park at 10am, and there's a pumpkin patch at Athletic Field Park, both Saturday and Sunday at 11am.    

We've gone to Athletic Field's Halloween Fest for years.   In the past they've had inflatables like a giant slide and moonbouncer.  They also have a well lit, cheesy, little, no-scare maze in an upstairs room, where silly costumed characters hand out candy around every corner.   It's short and perfect for preschoolers and kids who are easily frightened.

We may see an advanced screening of Astroboy on Saturday at 10am, but barring that, we'll be hittin' the pumpkin patches.  Then we're off to Tales From the Field with Jeff Corwin at 2pm.  And we wouldn't miss The Windy City Rollers All Star Team Vs. Portland's Rose City Rollers, in the last home bout till January, at UIC Pavillion from 7-9pm.

Sunday, we'll be at Lifeline Theatre's Dooby, Dooby, Moo at 11am and a post show book signing with the author Doreen Cronin and Illustrator, Betsey Lewin.

Then there's the 5th annual Bucktown Apple Pie Contest in Holstein Park from 2-5pm.

If we're not exhausted, we'll check out the hoopla at CircEsteem at 4730 N. Sheridan.   They're hosting a gym wheel weekend, with competition at 5pm and show at 7pm.  Admission is only $5.00.

Next Weekend:

We plan to hit the pumpkin patch at Unity Park Playlot at 10am.   Then we're heading down to Chicagoween's big, ongoing festivities on Daly Plaza.   Midnight Circus always does a fantastic free circus, and Pyro fire shows are ongoing Oct 23rd,29th, 30th & 31st.   

Here are Du-Jay and Sagezilla with Ivana, alter ego of Julie Greenberg. She's a local Chicago Mom and acrobat extrodinaire, who MCs Midnight Circus every Halloween.

Midnight Circus always recruits awesome, world class musicians, to enhance their ghoulish escapades.   Last year, we were excited to recognize Mars Williams, the excellent sax player of Psychadelic Furs fame.

Saturday the 24th, we'll be there at 11am for the costume contest (Home made and creative costumes are strongly encouraged). Then we'll stay for trick or treating and hayrides starting at 12:30, and Midnight Circus at either 11:30, 12:45 or 2pm.   The Art Institute has free costume making, in their new education center from 10-3:30.

If the weather holds and the kids aren't too tired, we'll stay for a free screening of Gremlins at 6pm.

We won't make it, but Redmoon Theatre is also remounting a one weekend only run of The Hunchback, the 22nd-25th.   We've seen it in the past and highly recommend it!   Even the kids loved it.   This version is site specific, and should be especially stunning in Chicago's Rockefeller Chapel.


Halloween Day:

Of course, there will be lots of neighborhood trick or treating.   A safe alternative is Trunk N Trick from 2-4pm, where kids can pick candy from car trunks, staffed by police.

Not big on the cavity inducing sugar frenzy?   Try Garfield Park Conservatory from 12-3pm, to learn about creatures of the night, like bats, spiders and owls.

Whatever you end up doing, the next few weeks will be bootiful.   Despite the cold rain, coming down today, October is one of the most colorful, wacky, event filled times of the year.   The Windy City is not ready to hibernate, yet.   Winter's coming, but we've got a lotta howling and screaming good times to experience first.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Special Discount Tickets for ChiIL Mama Readers: Tales from the Field with Jeff Corwin

ChiIL Mama readers: Get tickets for Tales from the Field with Jeff Corwin at the Center for Performing Arts at Governors State University for only $18! Join Jeff for an afternoon of eco-adventure with wild stories from around the world, video clips and some of his favorite animal guests on Saturday, October 17 at 2pm! To get this discount, visit or call 708.235.2222 and use coupon code BIG.

Scarecrow Building at Northpark Nature Center Kicks Off the Fall Fun Season

What says fall like scarecrows...

Honeycrisp farmer's market apples... and scarecrows...
local candy with honey centers and hot cocoa mustaches...

hot cocoa mustaches... and scarecrows...

 scary ghost stories... and scarecrows...

 hiking in the woods, when the fallen leaves crunch like cornflakes beneath your boots... and scarecrows...

and tiny Hermione carrying a Harry Potter...scarecrow.