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  1. I was a theater major (turned banker), so naturally I enjoy music and performance, and my husband is a big opera fan. We're also parents to two toddlers, so music is an essential part of our family life. Before kids, my husband and I used to go to a dozen shows each opera season, and now we still go to half dozen shows as a date night, sans kids. (I know some who have parents tried, but personally I don’t think it is wise to take kids under five to the opera.) While my kids are too young to step inside the Civic Opera House, we often play opera for them. There are numerous studies about the "Mozart effect" on brain development in children, so I won’t go there. For me, there are simply three benefits to exposing my children to opera: They learn to focus Most of the opera shows have dramatic voices and movements and fancy costumes, which catch kids’ attention. In the digital world of overstimulation, I always wonder how our kids are going to learn if they can hardly focus. Some operas have unbearably long pieces, so start with one you like and truncate them into a 3-minutes spans to play for your kids. Here is my playlist of four well-known pieces I play for my kids often. My almost three-year-old practices her vocals after I play them every time. They learn another language If you are type A or multicultural parents (or both, like me), you're likely keen to start the second language as early as newborn. Studies show early childhood foreign language learning provides higher academia achievement and positive cultural enrichment. And almost all the opera masterpieces are in Italian, Spanish, French or German, so besides learning to count in Spanish from 1 to 10, kids can also learn words from master composers. They learn about romance Opera is all about LOVE! Our country need it so much, especially in this political climate. All operas somehow involve romance. A tenor could sing for 15 minutes about how much he adores the eyes of his lover (who does that now?). Unfortunately, somebody has to die at the end of the story, for the big love sacrifice.
  2. It’s that time of year when there is pumpkin-flavored EVERYTHING and the weather is absolutely perfect for exploring before old man winter comes and sends us all into a seasonal depression (c’mon, I know I’m not the only one who goes crazy being cooped up inside with energetic little ones, right?!?!). So make the most out of fall in Chicagoland and create your own family fall bucket list. Need some inspiration? Here’s what is on ours—and be sure to keep up with our autumnal activities over on Instagram, too! Go apple picking. Go on a nature walk to admire the fall colors. Rake leaves…and of course jump into them! Head to a local pumpkin farm and pick your own pumpkin. Throw a pumpkin carving party. Celebrate Oktoberfest at some of these family-friendly celebrations. Drive around Chicagoland to visit some of the absolute best decorations and homes that are decked out for Halloween. Take part in the biggest jack-o-lantern display in the Midwest! Have a big family bonfire…with s’mores, of course! Check out some of the many family friendly fall fests going on around Chicagoland. Pop some popcorn and watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Collect colorful leaves and make some crafts from them (paper plate, scissors, glue and you have the perfect fall leaf wreath). Go on a search for the best pie in Chicagoland. Don’t know where to start? Check these out! Happy fall, y’all!

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