Sunday, October 28, 2007

Fun weekends

We have been doing some fun things with the boys over the last few weekends, in addition to a couple of birthday parties and flu shots for the boys (although, Luc wasn’t so keen on this one!) Chicago is very well set-up for activities and destinations for children. 

Recent trips have included the following:  

An annual festival by the lake, children were able to make and decorate their own kites. Children were given a large paper bag was filled with a reel of string. With printed directions, cut lines and markings, some artful scissor-action some sticky taping and string tying, the bag became the kite! Children were then able to decorate their kites, add colorful tails and fly the kites. Despite a rather breeze-free morning, there were some very successful flights. The serious kite-enthusiasts were out in force with some stunning kites.   

Paul’s first visit there, and an opportunity to see some of the expansive and very impressive Impressionist collection. We are waiting in anticipation for the opening of the new Modern Art section- It would seem that Luc has a bit of a thing for modern art and sculpture, and the modern collection has been safely stored away for some months now. 

As members of the Aquarium, we were invited to a special viewing opportunity of the new Beluga Whale baby. This provided us an opportunity to see the baby swimming with its mother before it went on public display. The boys really like the reptile collection with a Komodo Dragon and other lizards including colorful chameleons. 

Nic did not like this so much – except for building a magnetic rocketship and the sensorial video display relating to conditions on the moon (complete with simulated wind and heat). Luc, on the other hand – a geek in the making – loved the Mars rock-sample-seeking robot and the movies about the planets. Paul was determined to take some emphasis off ‘fantasy’ science fiction (Star Wars et al), and to show to Luc what ‘real’ space travel was all about. This visit further fueled Luc’s obsession with space filght and black holes. He has been talking about the Planetarium lots! He still wants to be an astronaut. 

Pumpkin Patch & Luc’s School’s Halloween Fest: 
We are currently amidst Halloween season. We revisited the Pumpkin Patch in Oz Park. Exceptional weather this year ensured that it was very busy – but boys were still able to choose and decorate their own pumpkins, go on a hay-ride and play on some bouncy toys. Luc’s Halloween school fest allowed the boys an opportunity to dress in their Halloween costumes (in daylight hours), play on some more obligatory blow up bouncy playthings, see a ‘spooky’ marionette show and participate in some more pumpkin-seeking-painting. Paul and I took turns to help out children with pumpkin decorating. 

This included a selection of (eleven) international films in a session specially devoted to the 2 to 5 year old age group (in the morning while children are still fresh). We saw some wonderful films, followed by a question and answer session with several of the film makers. The family favorite was Astons stones – a poignant Swedish film about a young dog who finds ‘special’ stones and takes them home- all the more special given Luc’s penchant for stone collecting. I loved the Knuffle Bunny film – an adaptation of one of my favorite children’s books. Written by Mo Willems, it is based on his own family and involves a story about his daughter Trixie’s firm attachment to a stuffed bunny named Knuffle, the impending disaster when Knuffle bunny goes missing and utmost relief when it is found. 

Willems wrote and did animation for Sesame Street for some years and has written some other favorite books including the Pigeon series, Knuffle Bunny Too, Edwina, The Dinosaur Who Didn’t Know She Was Extinct and many more. He wrote one of my favorite lines “She went boneless” to describe that moment when children, in a rage, lose all ability to stand up and behave like a dead weight. Love it! 

Picture: At Montrose Harbor Kite Festival

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

On the move

Well, what have we been up to? 

We finally have a car. It took only two mornings for Paul to deliver Luc to school, before announcing that we really ought to have a car. Luc’s school is a 20+ minute walk from home (at a brisk pace with both boys in the stroller). The idea of a three year old walking that distance, trying to get a reluctant student dressed, breakfasted and there by 8am, plus the impending winter (where walking a mere 100 metres can be brutal despite being gloved, hatted, coated, layered and snow-booted), was enough to make a decision for us. That, and a very rare (paid) parking position opening up just near our home. 

When we first arrived in the US, I noted that a VW Jetta might be the right size car for us (medium size, larger than my preferred Golf, European – and therefore suited to snow). After going through all the permeations of car, origin, internal space, and features (everyone steered us away from buying an American car), Paul went to a VW showroom in search of a Passat. He came home nervously suggesting a Jetta that he had found, before realizing that this was the car I had suggested in the first place! He didn’t have to convince me too much.

Last Wednesday I got my driver’s license. All people planning on living in Illinois need to get themselves an Illinois license within 90 days of arriving. Our car insurance wanted us to pay some $200 extra for excluding me from the policy, so there was some degree of urgency! I was not feeling at all prepared and was a little flummoxed by all the information I needed to prepare for the exam…. Let alone driving on the wrong side of the road. 

The examiner at the counter made a big deal of congratulating me for scoring 100% on the written test. I didn’t think the exam was actually too difficult - given it was largely multiple choice, and my initial concern that I didn’t fully remember all the cases for license, suspension, revocation or cancellation or all the various and numerous penalties for DUI… first offense, up to fourth offense - varying by age group, blah, blah, blah.  I did however, notice a large stream of people being informed that they had failed the test and were being given instruction on how they could re-sit the test that day should they want to. The cost of sitting a driving test (including instruction and issue of license) is only $10. I remember it being a costly exercise in Australia (one that you really didn’t want to mess up). 

The driving instructor, who happened to know a little something about Australia, spoke about football (soccer, AFL, Gridiron, Rugby, Union), cricket and baseball the entire driving test… He was still chatting at the end, and hadn’t given me any clue as to whether or not I had passed! I was surprised that no parking component was included as part of the test, to my relief…. but given the high extreme shortage of parking in Chicago, and the need for people to touch park, it did seem a little remiss. 

After we took possession of our car, we travelled out the suburbs and visited the Kohl Children's Museum. This is an excellent indoor resource for children, with a variety of themed rooms / areas for children to be active or involved in imaginary play. Nic loved the car room with a gravity-powered racing track for lego-type cars, a car wash and the outdoor adventure garden. Luc adored the mini Dominick’s Supermarket (like a Safeway), the Potbelly Sandwich shop and the water play area. At the end of our visit, we visited a Pretzel cafĂ© and Luc made and decorated his own pretzel. It was such fun. We became members of this museum in anticipation of returning sometime soon. 

Photo: Nic running through the prairie grass maze at the Kohl Children’s Museum