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We’re going through a rainy week in Chicago, which actually works out for us since this month’s learning is weather-centric.  On Monday morning, my kiddo ran into our bedroom, jumped on me, and asked if we could go to “the park with the red truck” meaning Margate Park, which we used to go to frequently at our old apartment but haven’t been to since we moved.  I obliged, and we got into our rain gear and headed out, getting a good lesson in rain and fog along the way.

We hopped a bus to the very north end of Lincoln Park on Foster Avenue, and walked through the park to the requested playground.  Along the way, we blew dandelions, talked to some very friendly squirrels, and marveled at the thick fog that make the skyline barely visible.

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Of course, we played at Margate Park’s playground for a while.  It’s one of the cutest little parks I’ve been to, with cool features like a red wooden truck for climbing and sprinklers in a lagoon in the summer months.

IMG_20141013_133425084We played until kiddo was exhausted then headed for home, and he took a 3 hour nap – once again proving my theory that outdoor play is the BEST. :)

This week has been a whirlwind of fun and rainy weather. We’ve listened to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons,  watched a Nova special about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, and have introduced Sid the Science Kid.  The kid is very into weather, and has been pretending his trucks are getting carried away by a tornado. ;)

In which my kid turns 3.

IMG_20141005_095215858_HDRMy kiddo turned 3 last week.  As anyone with kids will tell you, a kid’s birthday is a big deal.  We had a pirate party and Grandparents in town and a gaggle of toddlers, babies, and big kids over for an afternoon of playing, snacks, and a special storytime from our good friend Amanda who also happens to have an amazing gift (and extensive background) in children’s theater and education.  It was a blast – and exhausting.  So we’ve been laying low these past few days and dealing with stuff – but we’re back!

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For the first two birthdays this kid celebrated, I went big with the party planning. This year, though my stress level was still high – I have anxiety, I’ll always deal with stress – things were smaller, and better, and my kid had just as much fun.  Rather than trying to squeeze in the baking and decorating of 2 dozen cupcakes into our hectic days, I went simple – and let the good bakery people at Mariano’s do it for me.  We bought 2 dozen chocolate and vanilla cupcakes, and they were delicious.  So delicious that my Mom returned to the store and got another half-dozen to take back to Michigan.  Kiddo was delighted, I saved some time and mess, and everything was good. On his actual birthday, we returned to the bakery at Mariano’s and let him pick out whatever he wanted – and it was this crazy Elmo cupcake.

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Ridiculous, right? He loved it.

Lesson learned: Your 3 year old does not care if you bake his cupcakes/cake.  If baking is your most favorite thing in the world, do it and do it with love and have fun.  I love to bake, but was totally fine with handing this off to professionals.

Having the party was great, and kiddo loved seeing his friends and opening his presents – everything from LEGO to Duplo to My Little Pony and Transformers and books and games.  He also had a blast having his grandparents around for adventuring.

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Happy Birthday, Little Goop.  You’re the coolest! <3

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Don’t buy a MotoX phone.

Real quick – I have this phone, and it works great most of the time. However, the geniuses that built it apparently decided that simply being able to plug your phone into your computer and remove photos was too old-school or something, so they made a complicated mess of things. So now I have 400 photos on my phone from the last month that I cannot get off my phone.  I plug the phone into my computer and… nothing happens. My tech-savvy husband can make it work, but by myself I can’t. When my previous phone – the one with the “unbreakable” Gorilla Glass – got a shattered screen, I went to the Andersonville Verizon store and told them I needed a basic (BASIC!) phone.  The salesdude I got sold me on the MotoX by telling me it was “the most basic smartphone available” – when in reality it’s not. I don’t use a million apps and I don’t care about NFL scores and I use my phone to utilize the internet, maps, text, and mainly as a camera.  This phone takes great pictures, but I can’t get them off the camera and I’m ready to throw it across the room.

GRRRR.  I’m enlisting tech-savvy wonderful husband to do a removal shortly, but I’m super disappointed in Motorola and Verizon, and my trust is gone.

So yeah. That’s why I haven’t yet posted any photos of my son’s wonderful birthday weekend/party or our recent adventures.

Working on it.

melissa

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Talk about utilizing your resources.  Today, a friend and I and our two kids traveled to the Museum of Science and Industry and spent three hours going crazy and roaming around, largely in the weather-focused “Science Storms” exhibit.  From a frugal stand-point, we checked the Kids Museum Passport out of the Chicago Public Library and parked in the pay-to-park south lot, so the admission and parking cost us a grand total of $3.75, which is astonishingly awesome.

But anyway – WEATHER! The kiddos had a great time learning about avalanches, weather balloons, lightening, waves, and magnets through a variety of hands-on activities.  My son, who has been scared of the exhibit in previous visits (it’s dark and there’s lightening demonstrations) totally enjoyed himself and even told me the lightening was fine. “Mama, it’s fine. It’s good and fine.”image

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imageVisiting MSI was a great way to kick off a month of weather-related activities. It’s one of Chicago’s true gems, and I will always visit happily and I always find something I haven’t seen before. I look forward to my next visit – especially to see the “Numbers in Nature” exhibit opening on 10/8!

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Today is the last day of September, so we’re wrapping up our Apple Harvest unit by watching the Disney “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” which features perhaps the most prominent apple ever in a movie.  Tomorrow, we’ll start our October unit, where we’ll be focusing on (obviously) Halloween and all it’s assorted awesomeness, but also on weather.  Pictured above is Rainbow Dash from “My Little Pony”, who will be our mascot for October.

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Reading: Tons of books about weather – fiction and non-fiction.  We went to the library today and pulled a bunch of related books.  Also, I’ve been finding themed books at resale for a few weeks now, including David Shannon’s “The Rain Came Down” and “The Magic Schoolbus” hurricane book.  There will also be tons of Halloween books, and I might even read this abridged version of “Frankenstein” I’ve had forever.  We’re currently working our way through “The Haunted Library”, which is pretty cute.

Listening: Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” – “Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head” – “Stormy Weather” – and my head is swimming with songs from musicals I can utilize, like “Soon it’s gonna rain” from The Fantasticks.

Visiting: Museum of Science & Industry’s Science Storms exhibit, the Art Institute to go on another art hunt, and perhaps also the Field Museum.  Also, going to a pumpkin patch and Trick or Treating, as well as to numerous Halloween/Fall activities.

Making: A daily weather chart, a rain bucket to collect rain, and so many Halloween decorations for the apartment.  Tons of pumpkin food.

Watching: I’m still working on a list of movies with a weather theme, but “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs”, “Frozen”, and “The Wizard of Oz” are quickly coming to mind.  There are also a wide variety of (largely Discovery) weather/storm documentaries streaming on Netflix, like “Raging Planet” and “Storm Chasers”.  For Halloween, we’re going to watch some classic horror films, and also some more kid-friendly things like “Toy Story of Terror” and perhaps even “Hocus Pocus”.

I feel like October is a good month to learn about weather, as here in Chicago the days of fall can encompass a whole spectrum.  Yesterday it was hot enough to wear shorts, and today we were chilly even in our lined raincoats.

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This is also the month the kiddo turns 3 – can you believe it? So the first part of the month will be very birthday-centric, too.  We’ve been reading Dr. Seuss’ “Happy Birthday to You” and kiddo digs it.

It’s National Coffee Day! Go to your closest Dunkin’ Donuts and get your free medium coffee.  (There are tons of other coffee places doing specials as well, but DD is my closest. ;))

Celebrating coffee, BuzzFeed – that wonder of wonders, posted this article.  As someone who drinks daily coffee and just throws away the grounds, and is also into natural cleaners and the like, this interested me.  (Come next spring, I plan to use the grounds in compost, but winter is coming and that’s not an option for a while.)  So I tried a few.

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FIRST, Can coffee grounds help diminish under-eye circles?  #30 on this list, and one popular Pinterest Pin say so.  Inspired by this lady, I’m going to give it a shot.  The basic principle, that your skin benefits from a caffeine boost, is being marketed by many cosmetic companies as a way to sell new products as present, so maybe this would be a less-expensive and less-chemical-based way to achieve the same results? Maybe?

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I’m not saying it didn’t work.  I’m also not saying it did.  What I know is that it was messy, but smelled delicious, and I feel like the skin under my eyes is a bit tighter than it was pre-coffee.  I put them on for 15 minutes and went about my life, and then removed them with warm water.  It’s probably not meant as an everyday thing, but maybe over time it would make a visible difference. I went to a Natural Beauty seminar a few years ago, and they gave me a recipe for a coffee/chocolate powder/yogurt face mask that was heavenly, so maybe I’ll make that if I can dig up the handout.

SECOND, Make a Mud-like Coffee Play-doh.  My toddler loves construction and dirt, so this seemed like it’d be right up our alley.  I made a half-batch, to save on wasting flour and salt if it didn’t work out. Mine didn’t turn out as dark as the original, but I also didn’t have any instant coffee to add to the mix.  Whatever. My kid is 3. He’ll be fine.

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It reminds me a little of when I was younger and I’d go up to my Grandma and Grandpa’s house with my cousins.  My Grandma’s alternative to store-bought Play-doh was to mix up a little extra bread dough while she was baking, and let us kids use it to make whatever we wanted.  She’d cover the table in flour and let us shape and roll and cut and do whatever until the dough was grubby and we were all done. She’s a frugal lady (children of the depression tend to be) and if it was good enough for her it works for me!

THIRD, I added coffee grounds to the container of a Kale plant seeding I got at the Chicago Botanic Gardens.  Coffee grounds improve the soil, and have tons of other garden benefits.

FOURTH, I used coffee grounds to clean a really dirty pan.  Their abrasive nature makes them ideal for scrubbing, and they worked about as well as baking soda does.  If this is a cleaning method you’re going to add to your rotation, I’d suggest designating a specific rag or sponge to coffee – as it stains white fabric.  I used a regular old cleaning rag made from worn-out pants, and it was fine.

Before

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After

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I’m convinced enough that coffee has skills that I’ll keep a container of grounds in my fridge.  I won’t collect every coffee ground I ever brew, but it appears they have several uses and why not save on expensive cleaning products if I can just utilize what’s around, right?

*Also, for those who maybe don’t brew at home but would like to try working with them, Starbucks will give you free grounds if you just ask!*

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