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  1. As a mom to a boisterous four-year-old girl, I am always looking for ways to entertain her and keep her busy. That's why I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to take my daughter, Clarke, to see The Nutcracker for the very first time this year. Clarke has been captivated recently with dance and gymnastics - so I figured an opportunity to take her to see the greatest holiday show ever would be as magical for her as it would be for me! Growing up, I was the girl that always dreamt of going to fancy shows and getting dolled up to go out with my mother. However, with two busy working parents and four other siblings, there was always either a shortage of time or money which meant no ballet performances for me; the closest I would get would be to watch a performance on television. So, once the ticket notification hit my inbox, I was overjoyed! We were going to see The Nutcracker for the first time ever!! In all of my excitement, I ignored warnings that my daughter might be too young to admire the amazing skills of the dancers or to be truly interested in a performance without words or animation - but as we got closer to our performance date, I began to worry about her attention span and a little bit of everything else. Will our seats be close enough for her to see what's actually going on? Will she want to talk the entire time? Will the people near us be patient and understanding if (when) she does talk the entire time?? Will other kids her age even be there??? Alas, our performance date arrived, here's how it went and how I did my best to prepare her. Hours before the ballet: The afternoon leading up to the ballet, we talked about how ballerinas can be girls and boys and how they study dance and practice for years to take part in performances. We also watched a few clips from a YouTube video on the work that goes on behind-the-scenes to prepare for The Nutcracker performance. Personally, I watched a video about the history of The Nutcracker. (Did you know that it was originally written in 1891?!) I didn't set out to watch this video on my own but my daughter was not at all interested in this content. On the way to the ballet: On the way to the ballet, we listened to the famous Tchaikovsky tunes from The Nutcracker while I called out different melodies that I hoped she'd be able to recognize later. During the ballet: After struggling to find parking, we ended up arriving 8 minutes late and had to sit in the late section for the first act. This was the roughest part of the experience for Clarke. She kept asking questions about why the dancers were so far away and trying to rock around in her seat to peer a tiny bit closer at the action on stage. I silently counted down until the conclusion of the first act so we could move to our actual seats. After intermission, a snack, and a bio break - we finally settled into our seats and enjoyed a much closer view. To my delight, we sat next to a five-year-old girl that was also there for her first show with her mom. Her mother and I exchanged smiles of support as the lights dimmed for the final act. Much to my surprise, Clarke was completely enthralled! She was focused in and amazed at the movements. She recognized many of the songs we'd listened to on the way there and she giggled along during the hilarious moments and clapped loudly at the end. I'm pretty sure I sprained a cheek muscle from smiling ear-to-ear for 45 minutes straight. Afterwards: For about a week, our kitchen floors received a complimentary wax as a result of all of the spinning and gliding from Clarke and her fuzziest socks. She was going to be a ballerina, she exclaimed! The kind that dances with nuts. We definitely just started a new tradition in our home. I cannot wait to take her back next year and to personally experience the magic again, myself. The Joffrey Ballet’s “Nutcracker” runs through late December at the Lyric Opera House. A very special thank you to The Silverman Group for providing complimentary tickets and making our dreams come true!
  2. During a week in July, my husband and I hosted his family for vacation. Spread between three houses (including ours), were 19 family members, ages 6–70 years old. With a small backyard and a basement only a teenager would love, we had to get out and about in the city. To help inspire anyone who's in a position to play host this fall and beyond, I'm sharing what we did and how it went — both the "goal" and the "reality." Chinatown on a (sweltering) Tuesday ⭐⭐ Goal: Drive to Chinatown, take a water taxi to downtown and back, shop, eat, drive home. Reality: The water taxi was only running on weekends over the summer. Bummer #1. Parking was easy in the Chinatown North Parking Lot (2001 S. Wentworth Ave.). After parking, we met inside the beautiful, air-conditioned library (2100 S Wentworth Ave.). So far so good. We ate lunch at Triple Crown Restaurant (2217 S. Wentworth). Amazingly, they sat all 19 of us right away, at two big tables right next to each other. The dim sum was delicious but it was a severely hot day and the A/C couldn’t keep up. I sweated through lunch. [Related: Chicago date-night ideas that go beyond dinner and drinks] After lunch we tried to stay together, but as a big group on a narrow sidewalk trying to make a decision about where to go next, this was not fun. Eventually we all made it to the plaza together and that was much better. Bubble tea, shopping, finding some shade…everything was OK again. Except for the fact that when we got to the parking lot, we realized that we had neglected to get our parking tickets stamped at the restaurant, and had to pay full price for parking. Sigh. Downtown on a Wednesday ⭐⭐⭐ Goal: Take the El downtown, go to the Skydeck Ledge in the Willis Tower, then to Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park. Eat lunch along the way. Reality: We purchased tickets to the Ledge ahead of time and took the train to Willis Tower. There was no wait to get into the elevator. So far, so good. The winding line that we stood in to actually walk out onto the Ledge was long, but moved quickly. We were a group of 20 and they allowed 14 of us on the ledge at once. Pictures turned out great! Back down at street level, half of our group went home. The rest of us (ages 6-70) ate lunch outside at Willis Tower and then walked to the Crown Fountains at Millennium Park. Everyone had a good day. Climb Zone on a Thursday ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goal: Let the kids burn some energy while (some of) the adults do other things. Reality: We had eight kids in our group, ages 7–16. They all climbed and played video games, bumper cars, and laser tag. We ate pizza, chicken strips, and salad. Parking was tight in the lot (2500 W Bradley Pl.), but we had the inside almost all to ourselves. Easy and fun. [Related: Chicago venues that cater to kids with special needs] Miko’s Italian Ice on a Sunday ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Goal: Walk to Miko’s (4125 N. Kimball Ave.), eat Italian ice, be happy. Reality: Exactly as planned!
  3. NPN Lauren

    Daycation: All I ever wanted

    Family vacations are overrated. As we’ve read on our Forum, seen on social media, and heard from fellow parents, “Vacations are basically just taking the sh*t show on the road.” With little kids, they’re anything but relaxing. So with spring break in the rear view and summer “vacations” still a ways off, it’s time to plan the next-best thing: a daycation, all to yourself. Here’s how. [Related: To the moms running on fumes, here's how to refill the tank] Mark your calendar You know how people say that the hardest part about exercising is getting to the gym, or even getting out the door? Same goes for a self-prescribed holiday: the hardest part is making the mental commitment to do so. If you’re the type who uses a calendar, go ahead and block it out as you would a true vacation day or mental health day. I recommend blocking a Friday, so you can treat yourself to a three-day weekend instead of having to hop back into reality post-daycation. Block the full day — don’t wimp out and just book the morning. I’m talkin’ 9AM to 5PM. Better yet, block 8AM to 6PM. If you can get out of dropping off and picking up the kids on this day, do it. That saying “It takes a village” applies to solo daycations, too. No guilt allowed. Allow yourself to daydream Now that you’ve got a day off to look forward to, it’s time to think about what you would truly enjoy to do with your day. (Imagine that!) Try not to default to a combination of forced “relaxation” and obligatory busywork, e.g., eating half a gummy and washing your delicates. Newsflash: That’s not a vacation, parents. That’s a Saturday night. [Related: 3 steps moms can take to get some me time every week] Think bigger: What does your ideal (solo) vacation look like? Can it be loosely replicated in the city of Chicago in a single day? Unfortunately, we don’t have any private islands within our city limits. But we do have a lot of wonderful ways to play hooky. While I can’t pretend to know what your daycation fantasy is, I can share mine (a full day at the Langham complete with lap swimming, lobster rolls, and literally any of these treatments), and hopefully inspire some well-earned daydreaming. For instance, if you love nothing more than pretending to read a paperback novel while dozing off poolside, this can be achieved. So can a truly luxe spa day, a gorgeous day spent hiking in nature, a decadent brunch followed by hours of bookstore browsing, an unexpected day-trip to another city, or even a deep meditation session. Make it happen If you have an agenda in mind but are struggling with execution, check out the list below for some ideas. Then, book it and start the count-down. Anticipation is half the fun. Enjoy! Spa Day $: King Spa & Sauna in Niles $$: Aire Ancient Baths in West Town $$$: Kohler Waters Spa in Lincoln Park $$$$: Chuan Spa at The Langham in River North Pool Day FREE: Portage Park Pool $: InterContinental Chicago Magnificent Mile $: East Bank Club $$: The Peninsula Hotel Forest Bathing & Nature Days FREE: Calumet Woods in Riverdale FREE: Forest Glen Woods in Forest Glen FREE: LaBagh Woods in North Park $: Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe $: Morton Arboretum in Lisle Day Trip Wilmington, IL — 75 minutes Michigan City, IN — 75 minutes Milwaukee — 90 minutes Harbor Country, MI — 90 minutes Lake Geneva — 90 minutes
  4. NPN Jana

    Laws and Paws

    until
    Ankin Law Office LLC, in collaboration with Wicker Park Advisory Council, presents LAWS & PAWS, a local gathering in the Wicker Park Field adjacent to the Wicker Park Dog Park. The event allows the Chicago community and their canine friends to learn about dog safety, the frequently overlooked legal ramifications of dog bites, the importance of pet insurance and common liability scenarios. Dog walking safety lights that attach to a collar* will be given to the first 100 guests. RSVP Required. Please go here to register *Must pick up the collar in person at the event no later than 6:00 pm This is an external partner event. Please contact the organization directly with any questions or concerns: sheila@marketjd.com

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