Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Biking to Work

It's back to school and back to work time for me (I'm a teacher! and a writer! and a mom!) - and I've been taking advantage of the nice weather and biking to work once again.

I consider myself so lucky to be able to bike to work: It's only a little over 3.5 miles each way. It takes me the same amount of time to bike as it does to drive to work - on my bike I can take shortcuts and avoid traffic. I save money on gas. I combine my daily workout with my commute which is a win/win in my book. I feel 100 times better starting my day with a workout. And best of all, biking is a peaceful mode of transport for me.
We love our Topeak toddler bicycle seat!
I have a little bicycle seat for my two-year-old daughter, so she rides along with me - I drop her off at daycare or preschool along the way - and she just loves riding to daycare/preschool by bike. We talk and sing and watch the city wake up before our eyes.

Yet another thing I am thankful for is the route that we take: we ride around Logan Square, along the historic boulevard, then down Milwaukee Avenue, one of the most diverse, scenic and bustling streets in the city.
Taking a break from biking with the kids at the monument in Logan Square

I'm going to try to bike to work every day - barring rainy days (I don't want to risk slipping with my daughter in tow). This morning I explained to her that pretty soon God would be painting the trees, and I look forward to seeing the seasons unfold before our eyes.

Biking through Humboldt Park

Monday, August 27, 2012


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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Review: Santa's Village Azoosment Park in East Dundee

Last week, the kids and I headed to Santa's Village Azoosement Park in East Dundee.

My kids are 2 and 11, and I worried that amusement park/petting zoo would be filled with attractions that were too "little kid" for my son and yet still too "big kid" for my daughter. The "fastest" and most "thrilling" ride my 2-year-old has been on is the carosel in Lincoln Park Zoo, whereas my son has been on every thrill ride in Disneyworld and loves the feeling of butterflies in his stomach. In the end, this park was a hit with both of my kids!

We were greeted at the gate by none other than the man in red, Santa Claus himself. Chiara was dumbstruck. She was just floored that she was actually face-to-face with the legendary man from the North Pole.
Chiara kept it calm, cool and collected when she was in his presence, but
afterwards, she was jumping for joy over her celebrity sighting.

We picked the perfect day for a visit: many of the suburban schools are already in session, and there were no lines to speak of - we were able to waltz on to every ride without waiting. Chiara was over the moon to ride the mini boats, the hot air balloons, the race cars, and Santa's trucks. We worried that she'd be scared of the Tilt-a-Whirl, but she simply adored it (and we went on it over six times...) - yes, she is officially one of us. The three of us worked hard to lean in the right direction for maximum whirls, and I'm not sure if I've ever seen my kids (or myself!) laugh so darn hard.

Daniel loved reliving his early childhood by accompanying his lil' sister on many preschool-oriented rides (that he still met the height requirement for...).
Daniel helps Chiara battle aliens in this ride, a Kiddieland original

Daniel also went on the Pirate Ship maybe 6+ times in a row. Brave little Chiara rode on the Pirate Ship too - she didn't cry at all, but spent the duration of the ride with a hilarious, wide-eyed expression. Afterwards, when I asked her if she felt little butterflies in her tummy, she responded matter-of-factly, "No, I had BIG butterflies in my tummy!"

I liked this park because it was shady with lots of trees and the rides were just right for a preschooler's first amusement park experience. There are also animals everywhere: we spent time just watching the tortoises ramble around their home, pet the sheep and goats, and Chiara enjoyed a pony ride.

The one thing I disliked about the park: the dining options. Everything seemed to be fried, fried, fried and fried again. 95% of the lunch and snack menu item were deep fat fried. I ordered the garden salad but it was wilted and it was inedible. Next time, I'll be packing a picnic lunch - there are shaded picnic grounds.

Santa's Village Azoosment Park is located in East Dundee. Check out their website to save $2 of admission!

Monday, August 20, 2012

#makesmesmilemondays baby joy

Saturday night we celebrated the impending arrival of another little human being with friends, fun, laughter and so much love and joy. I'm so thankful to have a group of supportive and loving mothers sharing my motherhood journey, and it's just a gift to be able to welcome another young mother and baby into the fold. 

Creating a belly cast...a future remembrance of big bump days past

It was wonderful to see Chiara so keen to participate. This is the first time she's really
been around a pregnant woman and she marveled at the fact that babies lived in
tummies for a spell, but yet told me that she remembers living in my tummy. 

Hello, Baby!
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Italian for Kids @ Insieme a Chicago

This summer, Chiara participated in a wonderful Italian language program right here in Chicago. Every Monday, she was ecstatic to hop on over to her "scuola", where she could sing, dance and play; I'm not sure that the fact that she was singing, dancing and playing in Italian even phased her, but I am certain that her fun mornings with her wonderful teacher have strengthened her language and social skills. Whether you speak Italian at home or not, why not consider giving your child the gift of the beautiful Italian language?

I'm happy to share Insieme a Chicago's fall schedule!

Fall 2012 Class Schedule
8­‐week season: September 10th­‐October 29th
Il Nido (1‐3 years old)
Il Volo (3­‐5 years old)
Monday 9.30­‐10.30am
Monday 10.45am‐12.15pm
Monday 4.30­‐5.30pm

3759 N. Ravenswood Ave, Suite 119, Chicago 60613
Insieme a Chicago Tui:on-­‐8 weeks:
Il Nido: $160 (60 min class) Il Volo: $240 (90 min class) 10% sibling discount
Registration begins August 9th To register contact Barbara at:

Monday, August 13, 2012

#makesmesmilemonday Amish Weekend in Shipshewana and Kayaking the Pigeon River

We spent a lovely weekend in Shipshewana, Indiana.

Less than two and a half hours from Chicago, this small Amish village took us back in time. We stepped out of our car and into a horse and buggy, and rolled over the hills to a dairy farm run by an Amish couple and their three beautiful girls. The kids climbed bales of hay, played with the barn cats, fed two-week-old calves their baby bottles, milked cows with their own two hands, and then drank a cup of that fresh, raw milk.

King of the Barn 
My son has a whole new appreciation for the milk in the fridge.
I am fascinated with the Amish culture, so this was an amazing opportunity for me: the chance to catch a first-hand glimpse of Amish life. I felt like a wide-eyed child as I spent time in the barn with an Amish woman my same age but with a life so very different from mine, and yet we live less than two and half hours driving distance from one another. Thelma shared with me a typical day in her life: waking up at 4:30am, milking the cows with beside her husband and children, carrying on with the rest of the farm chores, milking the cows again in the afternoon, spending most evenings quietly reading with her family before going to bed early. I was impressed with the manner in which her three daughters went about their tough farming duties with absolute grace, wearing their beautiful yet simple pastel dresses while carrying through with some pretty dirty and difficult routines. I want to thank Kenny of Buggy Lane Tours for arranging this special horse and buggy ride and farm visit for our family!

We spent the night in a rustic, small cabin in the woods, overlooking a farm. 
Sunset view from our cabin. 
We fueled up for our Pigeon River trip with a breakfast of
Amish bakery fresh blueberry pie!
The next day we headed 20 miles east to Mongo, Indiana, where we set off to explore the scenic Pigeon River on a ten mile canoe/kayak trip. Daniel piloted his own kayak for the very first time! Chiara even helped paddle with a long stick. About 8 miles into the trip, just when my arms started to feel like Jello, I thought to myself, "Yep, we should have signed up for the four mile trip!" 
Daniel was an awesome kayaker. Chiara even chipped in by paddling with a stick.
The river was empty but for us, the birds, fish and sunbathing turtles. Such a quiet, peaceful, clean river! 

Three hours later we landed and celebrated with lots of high fives - though my arms were pretty much out of commission for the rest of the day and are still hurting me today! I was so proud of both of the kids for taking on the challenge - they both did great! As a mom, seeing my children be open to new adventures and better yet, take them on with gusto, just warms my adventuresome heart! 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Chiara @ preschool

My baby girl started preschool today. She happily ran right up to join the other kids with a painting project and waved "Bye, Mamma!" 

post signatureAnd so begins the academic career of Chiara: I pray that she approaches elementary, high, college and grad school with the same sense of confidence, security, and best of all, excitement!

Monday, August 6, 2012

#makesmesmilemondays Last Days Here: The Fall and Rise of Bobby Liebling

I began watching this movie and debated turning it off: I was convinced that I truly was witnessing a man's last days. But there was a glimmer of hope, and so I kept on watching this tale of the fall and troubled rise of Bobby Liebling, lead singer of the almost-mega-superstars Pentagram. How this man managed to pull himself up from a rock hard bottom is a true story of triumph.

Don't miss: Last Days Here, available on Netflix instant play.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Joe's Barbershop in Logan Square

Thank God for our corner barbershop! It has a cool retro vibe and is apparently the only barbershop in the city that seem to "get" my son's style. This is a good thing also because I don't always get my son's sense of style: He likes for his hair to be short on the sides and tall on top, slicked back with pomade, a la Elvis in the 1950's. 

Joe's Barbershop offers traditional and vintage cuts and hot lather straight razor shaves (not needing those yet, thankfully). It's a family run business and well, it's quite simply a classic. 

Here is Daniel modeling his latest haircut by Chuck the Barber.

Joe's Barbershop - Check it out! - at 2641 West Fullerton in Chicago.
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