Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Works For Me - Birthday Party Games

Each year we host our children's parties at home. It's old-fashioned maybe, but I've never been able to justify spending $100 and up to have someone else do it for me...until this year. I finally decided that I was getting tired of all the work of planning and organizing games. So I offered to my girls that they could have the option of going somewhere like the bowling alley or Pump It Up (inflatables place). They would have none of that! They wanted a party at home. So it was back to planning and organizing.

But two things happened this year for Little Miss History's ninth birthday that made it a walk in the park for her dad and I. Number 1: she planned it all - at least the order and timing of things. Number 2 - her dad found a great website of party games.

We actually had fun just reading through the University of Illinois Extension's list. It brought back great memories of when we were at the University of Illinois and spent Friday evenings with our InterVarsity group playing a lot of these games. Have you ever heard of King Elephant? Instructions are there. How about Wink'um or Honey, I Love You? They've got those too. And there's an Orange game on there, using an orange and pantyhose, that I've never played but it sounds hilarious. There are other tips on this site, but unless you're hosting teen/preteen parties, you probably won't need them.

So armed with a handful of games from the site and her trusty schedule, LMH pretty much ran her own party while her dad and I chatted in the kitchen (okay, I ran the craft and he helped with games...but it was nothing near the work we'd done in years past). I'd say it Works For Me.

For other Works For Me Wednesday posts, head on over to Rocks in My Dryer today and check out the list.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Half Way

Little Miss History turns nine today. Maybe that number doesn't seem so momentous. It's not a decade, like ten. Or new teen, like thirteen. But to me it marks a big point in my journey as her parent. We have hit the half way mark. In nine more years she'll be preparing to graduate from high school and head off on her own, hopefully to college, definitely into adulthood.

So I've been cataloging and calculating:almost 10,000 meals fed to this child and close to that many nightly tuck-ins. I've bathed and dressed and diapered her countless times. She's learned to sleep through the night, eat big people food, walk, talk, skip, do the monkey bars, jump rope. She knows her ABC's and 123's and the length of her small intestines. She can read (and does so voraciously) and write. She makes her bed and her lunch and her sisters mad. She's learned the importance of kindness, respect, honesty, forgiveness.

And there's where I see the bend in the road. She has learned the practical things of life, how to count by two's and tie her shoes. Now more and more will the lessons of these second set of nine be those of the heart, shaping her morals and values. We've given her many of those foundations, but she'll begin now deciding whether to use them. And even though I'll still be here to teach and correct, it will depend even more on what I model, however imperfectly I do that.

It inspires prayer, age nine. It was hard work, physically, to get her this far. To finish well will require hard work emotionally. Am I ready?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

We Need a Dog!

"Come on, Wiggles. Let's go for a ride!" Timid Daughter climbed on her bike after gently placing Wiggles into the pouch on the front of her bike.

Wiggles is her new pet. Wiggles goes for rides on her bike, climbs trees with her and generally hangs out. He has a comfy home she's make for him in a plastic container with holes in the lid, dirt and grass in the bottom and a handle for portability. Wiggles is your garden variety pet, but that doesn't mean he's typical. He's anything but typical.

That's because Wiggles is a worm.

The other day my kids offered to help me in the garden, with selfish motives. They wanted to dig for worms. So I let them clear out the weeds and keep whatever worm(s) they found. They were ecstatic.

Little Miss History named hers Crackers and was momentarily freaked out during a climb in the tree with him when she'd thought he'd fallen from the tree limb she'd placed him on. I was afraid he'd become bird food. But she found him, safe and sound a few inches from where she'd left him.

The pet worms happily occupied my girls for an entire afternoon. I'm not sure where they are today (hopefully NOT in my house). And I can't help but wonder what the girls will do in a few days when their "pets" have come to the end of their days.

And in all of this the biggest question that comes to mind is: is it time to get a dog?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Culinary Travelogue (NYC)

Okay, I'll admit it, I can't stop thinking about the incredibly delicious chocolate frosted, chocolate buttermilk cupcake I had from Magnolia Bakery on Columbus Avenue. Wow! I'm not a big cupcake fan, except for kid parties where it makes total sense. But Magnolia makes them completely acceptable for big people.

Only problem is, Magnolia Bakery is located in New York City, not Naperville. Which I guess I should see as a blessing. If they were located here I'd be bound to balloon a dozen pounds or so. Regrettably (or not, for the same reason), I only got to try them once, on the last night we were there. Perhaps if I'd known how good they were, I would have at least brought home a dozen - in a box, on my lap, on the plane. It would have been worth it. And I might have even shared them with my family so they could experience the bliss.

I also can't stop wondering if there are any chocolate shops in Naperville that make a good thick, Italian hot chocolate like the one I had at Max Brenner's. It was a dark hot chocolate with steamed milk. As thick and rich as it was when steaming fresh, it only got thicker (and richer) as it cooled. After many sips and much analysis, my mom and I decided the only thing that came close to describing it was that it's like drinking chocolate pudding. Really delicious chocolate pudding.

Like Magnolia Bakery, there is no Max Brenner's here. But we do have Ethel's Chocolate Lounge. And something tells me there was a new chocolate place that just opened downtown. But do I dare go there to see if they make Italian hot chocolate? Could my waistline survive it?

My sweet tooth is not so fierce as this post would make it seem. My experience with sweets in New York City was just that over-the-top good. Oh, and the Thai food was good (albeit hot enough to fry off my tongue even though I'd asked for a milder version), the seafood was excellent and the bagels unbeatable. New York style pizza though? I just don't get it. The whole folding it in half to eat it and all. We had mediocre pizza (my fault for getting my sister to try a place close to her apartment). It was floppy and overloaded with toppings. Give me Chicago style - thick crust or deep dish. And I'll take an Italian hot chocolate with that and a Magnolia's cupcake for dessert.

Sunday, April 13, 2008


We are having fun here in New York City. I'm not sure how many miles these feet have logged, but we've been seeing quite a bit.

A few observations about New York from a Chicagoan:
-garbage on the curb. Took me a day or so to figure out that without alleys behind the buildings, the only place to put the garbage is the curb. It's not that bad, but it makes me appreciate how clean Chicago looks.
-no bums or panhandlers. Where are the homeless folks? In Chicago, as soon as you step off the train at Union Station you're greeted by people asking for money. And just about every street you go down, you'll see at least one or two. I think I've seen one in the past three days. Makes walking around here feel more relaxing and less interrupted.
-public transportation here is excellent. We've ridden in a cab a few times only because my sister was tired of the subway. It's fast, clean and gets you around everywhere.
-the hustle and bustle is so exciting, invigorating even. The streets (sidewalks) are full of people, but it rarely feels crowded.
-very tourist-friendly. I've never hesitated to stop and take a picture. There are always people doing that, practically everywhere. I was surprised at how much picture-snapping was going on in SoHo. In Chicago we always notice the tourists, because they're staring upward and they're around in bunches. New York? Tourists make up a decent portion of the public.
-celebrity sightings. They're rare in Chicago. But in New York it seems like it's just a matter of keeping your eyes open. Now I don't watch much TV or see many movies, so chances are I could be standing shoulder to shoulder with a celebrity and not know it. My sister was the one who noticed Hilda from Trading Spaces while we were in SoHo yesterday.

Any New Yorkers care to give their take on Chicago?

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I Love Public Transportation

I just wish there was more of it available here in the suburbs. If I wanted to, I could get into and all around the city of Chicago by simply walking across the street and hopping on public transportation. But to get to the grocery store or the doctor or the library I have to drive or ride a bike, or walk.

I'm thinking of this now because of a trip my girls and I took into Chicago last week during Spring Break. I had asked what they wanted to do over break and they listed four things, two of them being "go to American Girl Place" and "ride the train". So I combined those into one trip.

We had a blast! We got on the train by their grandma's house and rode into Union Station. From there I had found a bus to take us up to American Girl. I was a little nervous about navigating the bus and all with three kids. But we did some prep talks beforehand and everybody was set. On the return trip on the bus I stopped to pay our fare and when I turned to my kids they were already seated at the very back of the bus as if they'd done it every day of their lives.

When our day was over, I asked what their favorite part had been. The answer? The bus and the train! They had enjoyed the adventure as much as I had. I felt so energized and empowered by the fact that we'd made the trip without incident. Pretty goofy, huh? Shows how sheltered this suburban mom's life is.

Question is, am I up for the big time now? I'm traveling to New York City tomorrow for a girls' weekend with my mom and sister. And since sis lives in Manhattan, we'll be doing the public transportation thing all weekend. Woo hoo! Bring it on, I say!

Now if I could just find a way to ditch the minivan once I get back home!