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Dude spent the past five days going to a morning day camp for 3.5 to 5 year olds.  It was an art camp, it was 4 hours long, and he came home covered in paint and rainbow colors, and it was awesome.  He did incredibly well, and I’m so glad we enrolled him.

1. To avoid scrambling, plan ahead

I got smart and went to Costco last week to buy things to pack his lunch. It’s a peanut-free camp, so PB&Js, the best sandwich for packing lunches, was out.  I’ve been sending him some chopped ham and cheese sticks, grapes and carrots, goldfish crackers, and apple juice along with his water bottle in his fancy Ninja Turtles lunch box ($5 at Five Below!) and he’s totally thrilled. Done.

2.  Other adults are capable

On the first day of camp, I spent the four hours checking my phone for missed calls and watching the clock.  Guess what? No one called and nothing happened and I wasn’t late to pick him up.  It was fine. Everything has been fine. My Dude is great, and I knew he’d be fine, and this week has reminded me to chill out.  This camp has been around for years, the teachers are total pros, and everything is fine.

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3. It is okay to be delighted to have “me time”

Four hours a day for five days all to myself? I loved it.  And it’s cool. It was good for my kid to get some time away from me, and good for me to get some time away from him and the whole specter of Mommyhood.  I went to the gym, I went to the grocery store, I went to the library, I drank too much coffee, I had lunch with a friend, I came home and spent a few hours just being alone in my house.  It was a nice mental break. – my summer vacation, if you will.

I’m so glad we sent him to day camp. So glad, in fact, we might just do it again before the summer is out. :)

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The best part of the school year, according to my own public school education, was summer vacation.  That time of year when the warm weather could be fully enjoyed and appreciated before the cold months settled in again.

So we’re on “vacation” –

Of course, learning doesn’t stop.

This summer, we’ll –

  • Likely visit all the great Chicago institutions we love.
  • Spend loads of time at the beach. (Why live on the Great Lakes if you don’t?)
  • Take a road trip to South Dakota
  • Take a weekend jaunt to the House on the Rock
  • Take a trip to visit family in Michigan and see the new dark sky park – The Headlands
  • Visit a Renaissance Faire
  • Attend street festivals and concerts
  • Read every single day/Work on real-life math/Look at bugs/Listen to music same as we’re accustomed to doing.

Happy Summer, everyone! It’s hard to stay inside when the world around is so lovely.

Beach Day!

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I have been bursting to be able to go to the beach, yet Chicago’s weather has foiled my attemps thusfar this spring.  This morning, in cohoots with one of my favorite Momfriends, we packed up our Goobers and their beach stuff, grabbed some iced coffees, and headed to the lakeshore. It wasn’t a perfect weather day, but it was warm and mostly sunny and our kids had an incredibly great 2 hours of sun and sand and mud before we packed up just as it started to sprinkle.

It’s nice to have kids old enough to play together, supervised but doing their own thing.  They checked in with us for snacks and little things, but mostly played happily together at the edge of the lake with buckets, shovels, and trucks.  My kid even wandered into the water up to his thighs, and was delighted to scoop buckets of water and drop them on the shore. We had no arguments and no meltdowns and it was a pretty darn perfect morning.

Nature is the coolest. I live on the Great Lakes for a reason, you know.

After a week of non-stop family activities, we spent Memorial Day weekend in and around our apartment. We grilled, and saw some friends, but the farthest we wandered was the neighborhood Target. Call it vacation hangover, if you will.

I did manage to read five of the books on my epic “books to be read” stack. I’m a book hoarder by nature, and recently I’ve brought home enough books to fill my nightstand, so over the weekend I lay down and read. I’ve always been a super fast reader, and it serves me especially well on lazy weekends like the one we’re just coming out of.

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1. “Frog Music” by Emma Donoghue

I’ve decided that Emma Donoghue is one of those authors that I will follow. When she writes a new book, I will buy it and I will read it and I will likely never be disappointed. Her “Room” remains one of the most vivid and mind-blowing books I’ve ever read – I recommend it to anyone – and so I picked up “Frog Music” on Independent Bookstore Day. I devoured this book. From the first page, it’s a crackling historical crime novel set in a hot summer in San Francisco during a smallpox outbreak, and it’s full of characters you love and love to hate. There’s cross-dressing, murder, sex, disease, a baby farm, and it’s a whirlwind of a book, but at the end it’s really the story of a woman falling in love with her child.

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2. “The Movement of Stars” by Amy Brill

Two things that delight me: Nantucket and Astronomy.  Brill’s gorgeous book is the story of a girl astronomer searching for a comet and trying to navigate being a woman and falling in love with someone unexpected while living in a strict and patriarchal society.  I loved every word of it, and have put it on my shelves next to Sena Jeter-Naslund’s “Ahab’s Wife” to keep forever.

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3. “The Fugitive Wife” by Peter C. Brown

While I’m always interested in a good “scrappy woman goes to new territory and starts new life” book, this one didn’t blow my mind. I appreciated the story of Essie, a woman who leaves her no-good husband back in Minnesota to sail off to Nome, Alaska with gold miners, and the book is written so well that it feels like you’re really on the ship and in Alaska, I never connected with Essie or the characters around her, and so the ending felt… meh. Still, I’m glad I read it.

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4. “Playing the Rake’s Game” by Bronwyn Scott

[Yep, it’s a Harlequin. Judge away, book snobs.;)]

Now, I read a lot of historical romance. I also happen to write western historical romance. I love the romance genre, but it sometimes feels like there are only five time periods – Vikings/Highlanders, Medieval, Regency, Westerns, and occasionally Pirates – that historical romance hangs out in. This book – the first of two from Harlequin – takes the smoldering looks and heaving bosoms and transports them to a sugar plantation in the Caribbean, and it’s refreshing. Bronwyn Scott is a pro at writing romance, and this book is a pretty perfect little romance novel. I’ll totally seek out the other/second book in the mini-series.

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5. “The Memoirs of Elizabeth Frankenstein” by Theodore Roszak

Being a huge Mary Shelley/”Frankenstein” fan – like, the type who debated getting a grad school degree in literature so I could be a lit professor and teach the book to the next generation of great minds – I saw this book at Open Books and snatched it like I’d found the Holy Grail.  The idea of the story of “Frankenstein” being told from Elizabeth’s perspective thrilled me, and upon reading that it’s an “erotically charged” and “feminist” take, I was there. While I liked the book, and I’m going to suggest it to my Franken-friends, I’m conflicted.  First, there are a few departures from the original novel that bothered me – namely, the whole William/Justine thing is never mentioned at all, and if you’ve read the original novel that’s a huge deal and something Elizabeth’s journal would probably mention at least once.  Second, I’m not sure I can get behind the book’s portrayal of Victor Frankenstein. He’s kind of a toolbag, and there’s a certain event that happens in Roszak’s book that I don’t entirely buy.  That said, if you’re not addicted to the original work, you might enjoy it more. (Witchcraft! Kama Sutra! Monsters! A woman living in the woods!)

Whew! That was a lot of reading for a long weekend. Not that I’m stopping. I’m moving on to “Outlander” next, and then I’m a couple “A Song of Ice and Fire” books behind. So many books – so little time!

Family Days!

We’ve had my husband’s family in town from Texas for the last week, and I think we crammed seeing as much of Chicago as possible into the past six days – Millennium Park/The Bean/the new Maggie Daley Park, The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Science & Industry, Michigan Avenue, Navy Pier, the Chicago Children’s Museum, an Architecture Boat Tour, multiple restaurants, playing with cousins on scooters in the park and in the sprinkler in the backyard, and a movie night for the kids and grandparents while the parents took a neighborhood walking tour/”pub crawl” (3 beers over 5 hours were consumed) — Little dude loved playing with his (bigger) cousins, and burst from his bed each morning ready to play.

No wonder I’m exhausted today.

It was all brilliantly fun and really nice to spend some serious time with our farthest-away family members! But that’s where I’ve been. I’ve barely even checked my email the whole week.

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PS Chicago Parents – If you haven’t been to Maggie Daley Park yet, you’re missing out. It’s not even complete yet, and it’s a showstopper.

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You guys know how I feel about books. So, get yourselves to Half-Price books this weekend and go nuts. Me, I’m still drowning in books (which is not a bad thing) from my mid-April haul, but book hoarding is a totally legitimate hobby.

Assorted.

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Ah, spring. When you can actually see flowers out in the real world and not just in photos and grocery stores. This month, since we’re all about nature, we’ve been working on  identifying the plants and critters that surround us in our daily lives.

So far, we’re pretty good at:

Flowers

  • Tulips
  • Daisies
  • Wood Violets
  • Lilacs
  • Japanese Maple/Regular Maple trees
  • Dandelions

Insects

  • Worms
  • Bumblebees
  • Wasps/Hornets/Yellowjackets/other things that sting
  • Flies
  • Ants
  • Caterpillars
  • Roly Polys
  • Spiders
  • Fireflies *These are of particular interest to my dude,  and so I’m working on locating some. Last summer, we had a bunch in our garden, but they might still be a few months out*

Also, did you know you can watch entire episodes of The Magic School Bus on youtube? Here’s “The Magic School Bus Goes to Seed,” a current favorite episode of ours.

This weekend, we’re celebrating a friend’s 3rd birthday and then welcoming family from Texas to Chicago for a week of adventures and fun. Of course, I’m cleaning like a madwoman to get ready. I’ve finished a second draft of my book – 71.5k words – and it’s being read by a trusted friend before I do a final draft, so that feels really good. Also, we’re gearing up for our July camping adventure to the Black Hills of South Dakota, as well getting our summer 2015 calendar together – Chicago comes alive in summer, and there’s a festival every weekend it seems.

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