brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I haven’t been posting too much to my blog recently because nothing really exciting is going on other than HA HA HA the most boring, tedious, developmental issues possible. Temper tantrums! Lying! Separation Anxiety! Not sleeping through the night! WHO CARES! Who wants to read about this bullshit? Ugh, nobody. So life’s been both boring and frustrating and I didn’t want to just unload complaints all over this blog.

Our Christmas was very nice, and very laid back. My parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend came over on Christmas Eve since Nesko had to work on Christmas Day. We set out a spread of crackers and crudites and dips and cheese, a bunch of cookies, and I made shredded Buffalo chicken in the slow cooker. My mom brought up a spanikopita she made. It was way nicer than trying to plan, coordinate, and juggle a big sit down dinner. We even ate on paper plates.

Our New Year was equally laid back. Nesko had to work New Year’s Eve but got off earlier than usual. We ordered pizza and watched movies and spent New Year’s Day sitting around the house… minus the grocery run I made Nesko take because we were low on food and it was snowing heavily outside. I was worried there’d be a run on groceries and since we only had one roll of toilet paper and that’s one of the first things to go in Blizzard Shopping, I had The Fear. Two days and about 8 inches of snow later, we’re snug and warm in our house. Nesko has shoveled the sidewalk four or five times, and we unleashed Niko to wade around in snow that reached up to his hips.

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola’s school is on Winter Break right now and we were both really looking forward to sending him back to school. But the forecast for Monday is about a million degrees below zero and I don’t feel comfortable having him walk half a mile in that, so I might keep him home. We’ll see what happens.

How’s the weather by you? Any snow? Anything unusual?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

When i entered Kindergarten I was already reading on a 2nd or 3rd grade level, could write, knew all my letters, could count pretty high and do basic addition. I was also socially awkward, clumsy, and super bored by the class. The kindergarten teacher took stock of the situation and decided I was developmentally delayed, and had me assigned to a special ed class. My mom found out over a year later, based on something I said. She went down to the school, raised hell, and had me actually tested, at which point they offered to skip me a grade or two based on my test results. This would have been pretty disastrous, actually, as I hadn’t actually learned anything in that year or so. She pulled me out of that school and enrolled me in a (private, religious) school at my grade level, where I was incredibly behind in math and remained so until Geometry class in high school, where for the first time I had a teacher who encouraged me and didn’t dismiss me as just a girl (literally, I got a lot of “well, of course you don’t get this, you’re a girl” and “oh well, you don’t really need to know this, you’re a girl.”). Skipping a grade or two with that level of math deficiency? Ugh. Horrible idea.

Nikola has asthma. It’s mild, and it’s cough variant, so he’s never had a classic wheezing panicked asthma attack. Instead, he gets this weird cough that to me is very distinctive but most people don’t notice it as unusual. He takes montelukast/singulair every night and uses a rescue inhaler a few times a year. For instance, we gave him a dose before bed tonight because he has a cold, so it was kind of a preventative thing. He may not have needed it, but you know. It might help him sleep better. His teacher is aware that he has asthma, and when he had his sinus infection, she called me to get him early one day because he had an asthmatic coughing fit in class. It wasn’t a big deal, and if I hadn’t told her I’d be near by and to call me, she probably wouldn’t have and just would have informed me of it at pick up.

She told me that because he has asthma he’s eligible for a 504 plan.

The term “504 plan” refers to a specific section of the Americans With Disabilities Act prohibiting discrimination of special needs students from federally funded schooling. It covers accommodations like peanut-free lunch rooms or tables, wheel chair ramps, ASL interpreters, special keyboards, and similar. Since he has asthma, which can require medication and can be triggered by specific things, he may need accommodation. So the school social worker, school nurse, his teacher, and I sat down at a meeting to discuss his needs.

I got a written notice and had to sign a form saying I consented to the meeting before the meeting was even scheduled. Once I signed the form, I was given an appointment date and some paper work about what a 504 plan is, and some confidentiality information. The meeting went well and everyone seemed on the same page about providing Niko with the best care they could. The school takes asthma really seriously and all teachers and staff have been trained in asthma care and on dispensing asthma medication from a variety of inhalers. I stressed that he had COUGH VARIANT asthma and so doesn’t have typical wheezing etc and everyone seemed to know what I was talking about. They talked about potential accommodations he’d get during the full day program next year, including when he’s in gym class (eg, be able to take a break from physical activity to catch his breath, being able to get water as needed).

While in the meeting, I brought up some concerns I had about his speech (he has trouble saying sh, ch, f, v, and some r sounds. For instance, he says “doll” and “girl” in very similar ways), and about some fine motor difficulties he has with his hands/fingers. His teacher said that upon me bringing it up, she remembered that he had some fine motor issues but since the kids are so young, they mainly focus on pincer-grasp motions which he’s great at (he is) and she was quick to reassure everyone that while he doesn’t consistently hold a pencil in the “correct” grip, he also doesn’t hold it in a fist. IE, it’s not super serious but they can look into it. So they arranged to have an informal session with the school’s speech therapist and occupational therapist to assess his speech and fine motor skills.

They were really responsive to my concerns and I feel like the meeting was a positive thing.

I know that a LOT of people have difficult and stressful 504 and IEP meetings, but I’m super happy at how ours went. Part of this, of course, is that his accommodations are super minor and, at least so far, don’t cost any money. But I got the feeling that the school he’s at is very concerned with extending educational opportunities to all students to the best of their abilities and meeting every need they can.

And, of course, the meeting made me think of my early education experience and the high handed way that a single teacher decided I had special needs and, without consulting or informing my parents, had me shunted into a classroom where I did nothing but pet bunnies and watch film strips. We weren’t even allowed to use safety scissors. Times have changed and there’s a lot more legal protection for kids and parents. But the more closely I look at Niko’s school the happier I am with it. It really feels like his teacher, the staff, have his best interests in mind.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I was super excited on Friday because Niko and I were at the library (we accidentally wound up walking over a mile to get there and he fell down HARD twice, poor kid, once on the bus) and I saw they had a pass in for the Adler Planetarium. Chicago Public Libraries, like many other Library Systems, has local museum and zoo passes available at the branches that people can check out for 7 days. Adler is one of the passes that is CONSTANTLY checked out, so I snatched that sucker up and we made big plans to visit the Planetarium this weekend. Possibly on both days! We debated borrowing a car and driving up and paying to park versus taking public transit. We also talked about going both Saturday and Sunday, taking maximum advantage of the pass.

Then we wound up sleeping in until like 10:00 on Saturday and wound up just hanging around at home in our jammies all day. We decided we’d head out early on Sunday.

The thing about the Adler Planetarium is that it shares a parking lot with the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium… and Soldier Field.

The thing about Sunday is that, unknown to us, there was Bears/Vikings football game at Soldier Field at noon.

We drove past the main parking lot before 9:30 and it was already packed with football attendees grilling sausages. It smelled great, but where could we park? I remembered that there’s a tiny parking lot adjacent to the Planetarium, but when we tried to get there, we found the road leading to it was closed. We discussed parking in a lot in the City (which is expensive) and taking a bus or a cab (more money) but worried that would involve a lot of walking, which I’m still having trouble doing because of my injured knee.

We saw a sign for overflow parking for the museums/Soldier Field and tried to head for them, but there was a double line of cars headed in that direction so Nesko jerked the car out of that lane while I tried to talk with Niko in the back seat about being flexible and how we can’t always do what we planned to do. He was getting upset, when Nesko suggested we go to The Museum of Science and Industry instead.

The thing about MSI is that we have a membership to it, so don’t have to pay anything additional to go, and they have a private parking garage that we don’t have to pay for because of the membership.

It was like a flight of angels descended from heaven to sing heavenly songs about the glories of MSI. We headed over there.

The parking garage was pretty much deserted.

There were almost no lines anywhere.

We had a private tour of the Zephyr train (which I think Niko can recite by this point).

It was all around pretty great.

I’ve taken Niko to MSI in the middle of the week and had similar experiences. The one thing I don’t like about him being in a 5 day a week pre-k program is that we can’t head out and do fun stuff during the day, like spur of the moment trips to MSI or the library.

We had a specific plan for the weekend and it didn’t work out the way we intended at all. But we still had a really great time, and are going to keep an eye on the Bears football schedule and start hitting up MSI when they have home games because apparently the bulk of the city battens down and watches the game instead of going to museums.

I’m super glad we have a membership to MSI. It’s more than paid for itself by now, and it’s super great to be able to head over there whenever we feel like it… and part of having a membership is that we don’t feel as much pressure to “get our money’s worth” and stay until the museum closes, past the time when people (Niko) are getting tired, hungry, and cranky. So we’re able to leave on a high note instead of pushing our luck.

We are getting a membership to the Field Museum soon (and would have sooner if Nesko’s car hadn’t stopped being a car, resulting in thousands of dollars of parts/repair work), and might pick up a membership to the Shedd for Christmas or Niko’s birthday as well. Chicago has so many museums that we’re really spoiled for choice.

What are some of the museums and attractions where you are? What are some of your favorite ways to spend the day with your family?

Standing in front of the Zephyr.

Standing in front of the Zephyr.

Niko and Zeph, the donkey mascot of the Zephyr.

Niko and Zeph, the donkey mascot of the Zephyr.

Nesko and Niko in the Hall Of Trains

Nesko and Niko in the Hall Of Trains

Niko wore his train hat all day; it was his idea to put it atop the helmet.

Niko wore his train hat all day; it was his idea to put it atop the helmet.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Have you seen this blog post about collaborating artistically with a four year old? Making art with a kid is super fun. Niko and I do something similar, except usually I’ll draw whatever dinosaur he dictates me to draw, and some background, and then he adds trees and colors everything in and adds “a big glop of poop comin’ outta dat dinosaur’s BUTT” or blood to their teeth or something I DO NOT EVEN KNOW. He’s pretty down with nature red in tooth and claw.

Today, while I sit in my chair and refuse to get up because my knee is filled with angry hornets and hate, I’ve been drawing for him. At his request, I drew a brown line train at the station. It’s only 3 cars long, which he claims is the perfect length (probably because we usually ride when it’s not the rush hour) and although I drew the Kedzie station he requested I add the buffers that are at the end of the line. Sorry train, you’re not going any further. There’s buffers in your way! I doodled it all out, including the cool little stools they have clustered on the platform, and handed it over. he proceeded to draw two other trains (sharing a track! DANGER ZONE!) and a buffer for them. I took a picture with my phone so it’s not the best, but here you go:

brown_line_001

Speaking of art he’s doing, he seems to have made a jump forward in his art production lately. Instead of sticking only to dinosaurs, trains, dinosaurs waiting for trains, and the occasional picture of his family, yesterday he drew a cement mixer. This was a very WHAT moment because he’s never been super interested in cement mixers in general or drawing trucks or any vehicles other than trains. And yet, cement mixers. He’s also been drawing himself lately, which is cool, except he has a certain technique for drawing dinosaurs that includes a big mouth full of teeth that is kind of creepy and he adds that giant mouth of teeth to himself. He also adds hair. Lots of hair. Today he drew a picture of himself and an HO model train in a house, complete with a roof and a chimney, but no smoke, because it’s OUR house and we have a decorative fireplace therefore no smoke.

Welp.

He’s also been drawing whales, carnivorous whales, fish, and “the dead part of the sea that’s got too much water so sharks can’t swim in it. I know because scientists who study dinosaurs said it. I looked it up on my phone!” Uh huh.

I’ve been meaning to pick up a sketchbook for myself for a project I’m working on, but I think I’ll pick up another one for the two of us to fill together. How cool is that? I’m nowhere near as good an artist as busymockingbird, but it’ll still be way fun.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We successfully made it to the 2nd day of school.

Yesterday, the teacher said we had to go to Door Blah and the teacher’s aide would be there to take the kids inside, and we parents were to just drop our kids off and bolt. There were no adults or kids waiting outside (maybe we just missed them?) but there WERE a lot of parents bringing their 3 and 4 year olds inside so I took Niko inside. He had a hard time getting into the classroom because the doorway was thronged with adults just chillin’ so I helped him inside, got his bag put away and his name tag on, etc, gave him some kisses, and left. Some other kid was sobbing and screaming so hard he was gagging and sounded like he was about to barf. Poor kid! Poor parent! Niko was chill.

On the way home, I fretted about my knee and how it hurt and how I couldn’t wait for our insurance to start up in November so I could get an MRI done and see if there’s tiny chunks of bone floating around scraping shit up or what, because I’ve been dealing with knee pain for a LONG TIME, ever since we were rear ended in 2003 and my knee slammed into the dashboard of our car. I forgot to get it checked out at the ER, and it’s been bugging me ever since… for TEN YEARS. So I’m walking home, kind of limping a little because my left knee aches, and my right hip starts hurting because I’m walking funny, and I decide to take a short cut through the alley, and suddenly there’s a snap and searing pain in my knee.

HA HA FUNNNNNNNNN. I said a lot of cusses and general inarticulate NOISES and babies, if I had insurance, I’d be chillin’ in the ER right this very second. But I don’t have insurance, so I hobbled home with the aid of a fence post I found lying in the alley NO LIE and now I’m sitting on the couch with my leg up a bit. Our house mate has agreed to fetch Niko from school and I’m hoping I remembered to put him on the authorized adult pick up list. I’ll have to call and see.

If worst comes to worst, he can probably handle drop offs and pick ups for a while, so I’m glad I have someone I can rely on to be totally boss and helpful. But I’m super pissed at my knee. It’s been hurting more than usual since my mouth blew up, like having inflammation in my mouth was an excuse for the rest of my body to go to hell and act up and hurt and be shitty or something. I absolutely was not expecting this level of searing agony, however.

But whatever.

I was trying to get Niko to help me clean up his toys the other day and he basically refused and we had YET ANOTHER talk about how he needs to respect his toys and belongings and if he can’t do, if he can’t be responsible for his own things, maybe we should put them away. And he agreed to that. So we boxed up most of his toys over the weekend. He’s kept out his wooden trains and train tracks, his musical instruments, his puzzles, 4 stuffed animals (he has two garbage bags full of other stuffed animals) and coloring books and art stuff (most of which is kept in a cabinet out of his reach). It’s been a lot easier for him to keep this toys picked up, and at the end of the week we’ll see if he wants to cycle out something else. This is working very nicely so far and I’m not tripping over stuff as much or feeling as resentful about having to clean and reclean constantly. We set a timer for 5 minutes and anything he doesn’t get put away in that time goes into time out. We haven’t had to put anything in time out. It’s nice.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Today isn’t just the first day of school in Chicago, it’s Niko’s first ever day of school. He’s starting preschool at our neighborhood school. Since Chicago is so big, there’s a bunch of little (and medium and large, his school is actually pretty large) school buildings and you default into a specific school based on your address. But there’s also Selective schools that, for higher grades, are Gifted or STEM or International Baccalaureate or various flavor of Charter or what have you. It’s incredibly hard to get into Selective schools in Chicago. Like, there’s literally hundreds more kids who qualify for and want to get into separate Gifted programs than there are available slots (Niko’s school has a Gifted track, but I don’t think all neighborhood schools do). We are going to have to do some serious thinking while Niko is in kindergarten about what kind of school we want him to go to for first grade and on, because generally speaking if you don’t get into your first choice school in first grade (or 6th or freshman year or whenever the school’s lowest grade is) you’re never going to get in. There’s just so much competition, so many students waiting to get in. Which means a lot of kids start really specific types of schooling (STEM, Classical, IB, a school with a fantastic music program, a school with an emphasis on physical education, etc) when they’re like 6… which is ridiculously early to make those kinds of decisions. So we might just go with the flow and keep him at his neighborhood school and supplement at home and with museum memberships and stuff. But then if he’s at a neighborhood school, will he get into a competitive high school and then college? I kind of resent that I’m feeling pressure NOW, when he’s FOUR, to do everything right so he has a successful adult academic career (which, I mean, that assumes he even WILL go to college and not just, like, become an auto mechanic or electrician or something else he’d go to a trade school and apprentice for).

I have an Anxiety Disorder and tend to spiral into alternate universes of WHAT IFs at the drop of a hat, so I’m trying really hard to just… Let Go and focus on the important thing right now, which is to shepherd Niko through preschool. The school is being less than helpful by waiting until super late to send out official notices (including school supply lists, nearly creating a financial issue for us), and not telling us ahead of time which door in a building the size of a full city block we should enter for his first day of school. I mean, if they’d just included the notice “Use door X which is on street Y” we wouldn’t have started the first day of school literally soaking with sweat and flushed from walking 4 additional blocks, quickly, in 90 degree heat. I’m also a little peeved that I signed him up for morning classes and they plunked him into afternoon, which take place riiiiight when he’s normally taking a nap. But there were too many kids signed up for AM so whatever.

But now we know what door to go to and what to do if he wants to eat lunch in the cafeteria first and we plan to have donuts or ice cream every Monday after school, and we know for sure which class he’s going to be in and which time, and that he’s going to have 3 field trips this year (the zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier). He’s got his own cubby and he’s met most of his class mates (and WOW there is a girl in his class who is a future Homecoming Queen/Lady President) and he’s gone on record as saying he won’t cry tomorrow when I drop him off and leave him there. So we’ll see how it goes.

School is a half mile away so unless I hang out up there (at the school? at Dunkin Donuts down the street?) I’ll be walking 2 miles a day to drop off/pick up. I’m not looking forward to doing that come winter. But we’ll survive.

Niko Dressed Himself

Niko Going To School

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

After playing a bit of phone tag I finally managed to set up an appointment to come down to the school Niko will be attending this fall to enroll him. I had to bring his birth certificate and his medical card. If we didn’t have state insurance we would have had to bring other documents. The school wasn’t overly concerned with proving our address, I think, because it’s not a super great super desirable school. I’m not saying it’s a bad school, but some CPS neighborhood schools are HOT SHIT and people lie and scheme to get into them if they don’t live in the neighborhood.

The school’s 4 blocks (half a mile) away, which means I’ll be racking up 2 miles of walking a day once he starts, between drop offs and pick ups. We left early today to get to the appointment, because 4 year olds can be jerks on walks, and he kept insisting he was feeling pukey and needed to sit for a moment in the cool, cool shade under a tall, tall tree. Ha ha, what? Only he DOES barf when he gets over heated sometimes, only it usually involves 1) a car or 2) massive running around.

Despite our frequent stops, we got to the school early to enroll this boy.

It was interesting. The staff made 2 basic assumptions about our family, based largely on the neighborhood: 1) that we’re on state insurance (which is true, and we might continue to be on it (albeit paying for it) when Nesko’s eligible for insurance through work, we’ll see) and 2) that we don’t speak English at home (which would be true if my FIL had his way). Most kids coming into that school take a language fluency exam to determine which level of ESL classroom they’ll be in, but Niko’s really fluent in English (it’s his primary language) so he’ll just be in the English speaking class. School starts toward the end of August, there’s a class size of 22, and instead of buying supplies off a school supply list we outfit Niko with a book bag, give the school paper towels and tissues and hand soap, and pay a fee. That fee covers school supplies and a school-branded t-shirt they wear on field trips and for gym class. There’s two preschool classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and it lasts 2 1/2 hours. I signed him up for the morning class so he can come home and take a nap. I got a good vibe from the staff we met with. They seem very open, friendly, and caring. It sounded like they required Niko to be present (as opposed to “you can bring him if you need to” or whatever) but they didn’t really interact with him and instead he played with dinosaurs and then a really cool dollhouse while I filled out paperwork.

There was… a lot of paperwork.

I was kind of nervous or something… I’m dealing with some ~~ANXIETY~~ lately and being thrust into a new situation of enrolling my baby in school kind of ramped that up… and my hand writing was AWFUL. I was like “ahhh what am I dooooing I’m writing illegibly…. hand stop that. write nicely. hand! what the fuuuuuuck. I CAN PENMANSHIP I SWEAR IT!!!”

The regional gifted center is directly across the street and has a pretty nice (and completely unshaded and thus hot) playground. After all the boring paperwork I took Niko over there and he played with other kids and ran around for almost an hour.

My only concern with the enrollment process was that they asked some personal medical questions — which I understand the need for– but in a very public way. So you ask me, you know, is there any history of mental health issues in the family and I say yes… and I didn’t go into my own business because I was flustered but everyone around me (including other parents) heard what I said. And they asked why I had a C-Section. Some other medical stuff. Internets, you know I bloviate endlessly about the horrific mysteries of my gross body, but that’s somehow different from dropping info bombs in front of the parents of Niko’s future classmates. On the internet I discuss shitting my bed immediately after having a C-Section. In real life, I try to abstain from the grossity. Given the set up (a bunch of grown ass adults crouched on tiny chairs around circular tables in a class room) I don’t see how that could be prevented, though.

The teacher he will probably be having next year asked that we practice with him writing his own name. He’s gotten good at his nickname, but we’ll work on the whole name.

We need to get him a physical and dental visit and have the appropriate doctors fill out paperwork, but don’t need to do a vision or hearing screening (the school handles that), which is nice. They also offer flu vaccines.

Anyway, after the enrollment and playground playing we stopped at Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins for ice cream (which, as usual, turned into a donut) where I realized I didn’t have 1) my bank card or 2) my transit card. WIN! THIS IS WHAT WINNING LOOKS LIKE! Luckily I had a $5 Visa Gift Card that had enough of a balance on it to pay for our donuts, and when my emergency transit card turned out to be expired the driver just waved us through. Now Niko’s sitting around in the living room in his underpants, eating ice cream and playing with dinosaurs, and what I thought was a sunburn on his arms is pretty much faded, whew.

So.

Preschool in August.

Wow.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

My dad called me the other day and proposed that he and my mom would take us to Brookfield Zoo to see the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. They know Niko’s true and abiding love of dinosaurs, and thought he’d get a kick out of seeing some animatronic dinosaurs up close and personal. They were totally right!

Unlike Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free and closer to us, Brookfield Zoo has an admission fee and many exhibits have additional fees/admission costs as well. As such, we’ve taken Niko to Lincoln Park Zoo a few times, but neither Nesko nor I have been to Brookfield Zoo in at least twenty years. It was a little weird returning there, at least for me, since so much is the same as when I was a kid.

We parked in the North Lot, which cost $10, and met my parents. We went in together after my mom bought a family membership, which was cheaper than buying admission for 4 adults and a child and will let us come back many other times. As soon as we got in, my dad went to rent a wheelchair for my mom, who is having some hip pain, and I went to rent a wagon to haul our stuff. We’d brought a cooler of canned drinks and sandwiches, and a big bag that held swimming stuff, a towel, clean clothing, some chips, etc. There’s a splash pad we thought Niko might have fun at, but we wound up not hitting that side of the park. Brookfield Zoo has Electric Convenience Vehicles (scooters) for rent, but were out of them, so if you need one you probably need to get there super early OR call ahead to reserve one. The Wheelchair was $10.00 to rent it, but you need a credit card as a deposit; the wagon was $8.00 with an addition deposit of $10.00 which you get when you return the wagon and a barcode-printed piece of paper they give you. Niko wound up riding in the wagon for most of the visit, taking up half the space with the cooler in the other half.

Our first stop was the carousel.

Niko riding a camel on Brookfield Zoo's carousel.

Niko riding a camel on Brookfield Zoo’s carousel.

Niko’s never ridden a carousel before, and this huge and beautiful one was a great introduction. He wanted to ride the camel, which was stationary, so was a good choice for a first time rider. He held on super tightly at first, as instructed, but soon was comfortable enough to wave hello and good bye as we spun past Grandma, Tata, and Pop pop. We also found one of the limited edition dinosaur Mold-A-Rama machines near the carousel, the Trachodon.

We headed for the Dinosaurs Alive! area after that, and stumbled across two more Mold-A-Rama machines for T-Rex and Apatosaurus. Dinosaurs Alive! requires an additional ticket, and has presentations on various dinosaurs at different times. There’s big animatronics of various dinosaurs, some old favorites and some lesser known ones. Niko was excited to see T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Amargasaurus, Carnasaurus, Spinosaurus, and others he loves and was really interested in the new-to-him (some recently discovered) dinosaurs as well.

Dinosaurs Alive! at Brookfield Zoo

Some of the animatronics had control panels/buttons one can push to make the animatronics move or make noise. The buttons were pretty high up, though, so a little kid or someone in a wheelchair would have a hard time reaching them without assistance.

Niko makes an animatronic Triceratops roar.

Niko makes an animatronic Triceratops roar.

There was a “Feathers and Fossils” exhibit under a tent (which was pretty warm) with some hands on stuff kids could do, including “digging” for “fossils” (molded bones embedded in a matrix and covered in shredded rubber, which they can brush aside with brushes), reproductions of fossilized bones and eggs people can touch, articulated skeleton replicas, and animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar. There was information about recent dinosaur discoveries, like juvenile T-Rex being covered in feathers, and brief presentations about competing theories like whether dinos were cold blooded or warm blooded.

A juvenile T-Rex animatronic, covered in feathers, at Brookfield Zoo.

A juvenile T-Rex animatronic, covered in feathers, at Brookfield Zoo.

I was disappointed that the only exit from Dinosaurs Alive! involved walking through the gift shop. Predictably, Niko melted down because he wasn’t getting toys (other than the Mold-A-Ramas he was clutching in his hands at the time).

We broke for a picnic lunch after the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit, settling in on some benches under some shade. I brought sandwiches and stuff from home, which my mom didn’t think would be allowed. I double checked the zoo’s website and didn’t see any rules about outside food and drinks, or even if glass containers were banned. My gut says skip the glass containers though as many venues in Chicago ban them because of the dangers of broken glass. (Lincoln Park Zoo has a ban on disposable straws which doesn’t seem to be in effect at Brookfield Zoo, interestingly.) If you don’t want to schlepp your own big cooler around, though, there are a LOT of places to buy hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, fresh popcorn, massive soft pretzels, ice cream, beer, frozen cokes, and more. As you might expect, they’re really expensive. Like, $10 for a glass of beer expensive.

We sauntered over to the Dolphin Show after lunch, but we’d missed the show by like a minute (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) and the next one wasn’t for 90 minutes. So we scoped out the dolphins under water, and found the (pink) Stegosaurus Mold-A-Rama next to the (blue) leaping dolphin Mold-A-Rama.

Niko watches dolphins at Brookfield Zoo.

Niko watches dolphins at Brookfield Zoo.

Niko was starting to get tired, even though he’d been hauled in his wagon chariot for 90% of the trip, and turned up his nose at seeing the seals underwater. He lobbied hard to go play at the park near the 7 Seas Exhibit and of course we gave in. My parents left for home around that time. The playground had a train theme, almost as if they’d designed it to Niko’s specifications, and he had a fun time running around and playing tag with other kids.

Niko sticks his head through a conductor cut out at Brookfield Zoo's playground.

Niko sticks his head through a conductor cut out at Brookfield Zoo’s playground.

We lured him back into the wagon with promises of ice cream, and saw some more animals (a sleeping tapir, some sleeping kangroos…. or wallabies maybe?… some bored looking emu), and found the last two Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs (Stegosaurus and Corythosaurus) near the Rhinos/Elephants.

We returned the wagon, to Niko’s dismay. He really did not want to WALK on his FEET using his LEGS and there were several melt downs on the way back to the car that included him wailing “I don’t WANT to WALK. I’m too SLEEPY to WALK. But I really want ICE CREAM. I’m NOT too sleepy to eat ICE CREAM so I am WALKING but I DO NOT WANT TO WALK.” A woman ahead of us, pushing a stroller, kept laughing at him because he was being so dramatic and ridiculous.

We loaded into the car and drove off, stopping at a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins where Niko once again elected for a sprinkle donut over ice cream. Dude loves his carbs I guess. He sacked out on the way home and had a really long nap, his Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs keeping watch over him.

Brookfield Zoo was really accessible using a big bulky wagon. My dad pushed my mom in the wheelchair (if she were a longer term wheelchair user I expect she’d push herself… I don’t know that she’s used a wheelchair before) and neither the chair nor the wagon had problems getting anywhere we wanted to go. There’s a lot of ramps, some of them sliiiiightly steep, but not enough to give us problems. I saw a lot of people with strollers, wagons, manual wheel chairs, electric wheelchairs, and scooters and nobody seemed to have any problems getting around or into attractions. Contrast this with Lincoln Park Zoo where I had serious problems getting baby Niko into newly constructed buildings when he was in a stroller… lots of exhibits had heavy narrow doors without automatic open buttons, and lots of stairs with no ramp or elevator alternative. So Brookfield Zoo definitely wins on physical accessibility, although it’s more expensive and can be harder to get to.

We didn’t look at many animals today. Our main focus was the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. I’m hoping that we can visit once a month or so with my parents’ membership and get to see more of the animals, including the Dolphin show.

If you’re thinking of heading to Brookfield Zoo, I’d recommend you check out the different pricing options, bring your own lunch, and consider renting a wagon or bringing your own. The wagon made a huge difference with a four year old in tow. Check out the zoo’s map and Exhibit and Animal Guide as well as the Exhibit Updates to plan your visit. Don’t forget your sunscreen, and your water, and have a great time!

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We have a membership to the Museum of Science and Industry. We have a family membership which includes OMGFREEPARKING. That’s $20 per trip saved, right there. If you are ever looking for a biggish gift for nerds and/or people with kids seriously consider a family membership to a museum or zoo near them. It’s well worth the money, although it can be a hefty initial investment, and I can guarantee you that they will think of you every single time they visit that museum or zoo. Trina, I love you SO MUCH, thanks for helping us stretch Niko’s brain.

Back when Nesko worked at his old job, he had Mondays off, which is pretty great for visiting museums. Especially when school is in session. Nobody’s there! He and Niko went to MSI a few weeks ago on a Monday and there were so few people that there were no lines and they got a special private tour of the Zephyr. With that in mind, I emailed a friend of mine and asked if he wanted to drag his kid out with us to MSI on a beautiful Friday.

He did! We made plans to go early in the morning, as he had a family thing to do that evening.

Morning was, of course, a scramble to get ready. I pulled a shirt out of Niko’s closet for him, one with buttons, and he was surprised that I’d pick so fancy a shirt. It’s not like we were going to church! I told him that sometimes it’s just fun to look nice and he agreed that he likes to be pretty and said that he hoped Beka likes his pretty shirt. While he was getting dressed, and I had soaking wet uncombed ratty hair, Elliot’s voice drifted in through the window. HE WAS EARLY. Possibly the ONLY of my friends/family who is punctual/early. WHAT. This is not what I was expecting! PUNCTUALITY? I hauled down Niko’s carseat and mentioned to him that he and Beka would be sitting next to each other in the back seat, which really excited him because THAT meant he and Beka could HOLD HANDS and he couldn’t wait to HOLD HER HAND in the backseat. (SPOILER: they didn’t hold hands in the car.)

Elliot hooked up the carseat in his glorious and enormous car that is stocked with books and toys like some kind of living room on wheels, and I scrambled to pack some snacks, and off we went! Niko only got a LITTLE bit carsick, sneezebarfing on his shirt and thigh. Once on our way, Elliot mentioned that this was a free day for MSI so there would probably be a lot of field trips there.

FUCK!

He was right.

He is usually right.

The museum was pretty busy and Niko was a little out of it from his rocky car adventure. We looked at the Zephyr a bit, looked at baby chicks, visited the play area that sneakily teaches physics lessons in the guise of chucking balls into water and building gears that move a hammer to strike a bell, and then took a break for a snack. Niko perked up considerably and we talked about what we’d do next.

Sadly, Elliot et al had a prior engagement that evening. We knew from the start that it would not be a LONG museum visit, but time was passing by and we decided to skip the (probably packed) ice cream parlor on premises to get ice cream someplace else.

The trip to get ice cream was a success in that nobody barfed. Yay! We stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts/Baskin Robbins where Niko elected to get a donut instead of ice cream, and I got a massive iced coffee because SOMEBODY drank all the iced coffee in the fridge (that somebody may or may not have been me) (it was totally me) and picked up birthday crullers for a friend of ours. Niko and Beka charmed everyone at the DD/BR and had a mini dance party and Beka may or may not have proposed marriage to Niko.

We arrived at the museum at 10:30, left around 12:30 and got home around 2:00-ish.

2 hours ABSOLUTELY is not enough time to explore the museum unless you are spending it all in one area (for instance, only exploring the Zephyr, or other trains, or the baby chicks/DNA, or the history of bicycles exhibit, etc), but it worked well for us since both our families are used to MSI and pretty familiar with it. We hit some favorite stuff and bailed when kids started getting cranky/hungry. I’m far more likely to head out there with the parking being free, as there’s less pressure to get my money’s worth out of parking, which means I’m more likely to head to the museum period.

We have plans to get a membership to the Field Museum, so I’m really looking forward to that as well.

Elliot and Beka are free Tuesdays and Fridays so look forward to more exciting adventures from the four of us.

I have no awesome photos to post of this trip because my camera is absolute ASS and every single photo was blurry and dark. “That’s what burst mode is far!” Elliot helpfully advised. IT IS TO LAUGH. My camera doesn’t have burst mode. My camera is shit. How am I supposed to become a well known super rich blogger who lands a lucrative book contract and retires to live on my own private island without a super expensive camera? I’ll let you know when I figure it out.

IN TOTALLY OTHER NEWS, we were supposed to get letters this week saying which preschool accepted our kids. Neither Elliot nor I have gotten these letters yet, apparently they haven’t been sent out. Leah, I know you’re laughing at my pain. Knock it off. Still no idea where Niko will be going to school this fall. Or, really, if.

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Last night, I had the opportunity to attend an Adler After Dark event courtesy of Izea. Part of the deal, of course, is that I would tweet and instagram and social media the shit out of the event using my ~~SMARTPHONE~~. Sadly, a smartphone is only as smart as the person holding the phone, and I managed to leave my phone at home.

Which, you know, was also really inconvenient because that’s how I talk to people and also how I tell time.

There I was, with my cute(ish) shoes and shirt and wearing make up like an adult, all purse having, towel over my shoulder (because it was a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy themed event and I am a hoopy frood) and no phone.

Noooooo phone.

That thing I carry with me all the time and rely on?

At home.

I could probably spin this into an inspiring “and that’s when I realized I spend too much time on the phone!!! time to be PRESENT in the MOMENT blah blah grateful cakes” thing but fuckkkkkkk thattttttttttt. There was so much cool shit, you guys. Adler’s got it going on.

I can’t wait to go back to the next one.

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Hey, thanks to Izea, I had a super fun time at Adler After Dark. Click on through to read about my adventures!

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Thanks to IZEA, I was able to snag a friend and go to Adler After Dark yesterday night. I can’t even remember the last time I put on eyeshadow and did a thing that didn’t involve a small child, so it was a VERY welcome break. I double checked my info right before leaving and was stunned and thrilled to find out that the event was a themed Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy event.

Did I bring my towel?

Of course I did.

And then I felt like a big doof because I was the only person lugging a towel around and what kind of dork hauls a towel around with them even if there IS a HGttG event going on? But then I saw these guys:

Two guys dressed as Arthur Dent (robe, towel) at Adler After Dark's Hichhiker's Guide To The Galaxy event.

Two guys dressed as Arthur Dent (robe, towel) at Adler After Dark’s Hichhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy event.

I have not seen that book in years. <3

And then later I saw a bunch more people with towels and felt better, and used the towel as a pad to cushion my butt while sitting on stairs so it DID come in handy, as towels always do.

We hung out on the patio a bit and took some photos of the skyline, like this one:

Chicago's Skyline, taken from the patio of the Adler Planetarium.

Chicago’s Skyline, taken from the patio of the Adler Planetarium.

Chicago is so freaking gorgeous.

We also checked out the big solar system models hanging from the ceiling, like this one:

Part of the Solar System exhibit at Adler Planetarium.

Part of the Solar System exhibit at Adler Planetarium.

And we investigated the Historic Atwood Sphere which is a year long astronomy display and discussion in ten minutes. It’s a big globe of really thin metal with holes punched through it, replicating a starry sky. Living in Chicago, with all the light pollution we have, we don’t see that many stars. I remember the first time Nesko took me to my parents’ home and saw the sky, all lit up. It was impressive, a flash back to his own childhood vacations in Wisconsin. This was a nice flash back. Also: some of the stars portrayed are no longer visible to us because they’ve died and their light no longer reaches us. HISTORY. The Sphere usually involves a special ticket that cost $6, I’m really glad we were able to see it.

One thing I thought was really cool was an Armillary that transforms into an Astrolabe. How cool is that? Very cool.

Armillary

Armillary

Astrolabe

Astrolabe

There was so much to see, and we didn’t manage to see it all. There were science talks and displays and shows, so much going on!

We also got to see a special sneak preview of Project 891 Theatre Company’s “Jim and Dave(‘s blood meets Jupiter),” a funny buddy comedy intergalactic road trip musical that will be premiering in… August? Maybe? I couldn’t find information about upcoming shows, but we have tentative plans to check it out. It shared a lot of effortless-seeming absurd comedy with HGttG.

I haven’t been to Adler in about five years, and forgot just how great it is. The 146 bus drops off at the front door, but there’s also a small parking lot close by (we paid $13 for night time parking, I think it’s a little more for day time parking). If you’re interested in visiting Adler, their admission information page is here and really clear to read, unlike some museums we’ve looked at recently. They have a lot of super fun looking special events. Niko’s big love right now is Dinosaurs, with Trains a close second, but outer space is not far behind at all. I foresee a membership to Adler in our future.

I really love Chicago, and a big part of that love is how many different awesome museums we have. Sometimes Niko watches “Sid the Science Kid” and the kids troop off to a “Science Center” and I feel a little bummed because we don’t have those in Chicago. But duh, we have That Adler Planetarium, The Museum of Science and Industry, The Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium, and more.

I am super, super glad I got to attend an Adler After Dark event. I’m excited about upcoming ones, and would love to take Nesko to them as a recurring date night or something. OMG NERRRRRRRDS. They happen once a month, on the third Thursday. Admission is only $12 in advance ($9 for members) or $17 at the door ($12 for members) and includes access to all the exhibits (like the Historic Atwood Sphere, which usually is an additional $6 ticket) and sky shows AND if you have your act together and get there between 6:30 and 7:45 you can check out the Doane Observatory (if you are the type of person who’s late to things, though, you can reserve a space ahead of time).

If you’re in or near Chicago, check this out! It’s well worth a special trip. Just remember it’s 21 and up only, so leave any kids someplace else.

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One of Niko’s favorite books right now is this coffee-table like book that’s full of photos of Chicago. It’s about fifteen years old, so there’s some photos of Marshall Field’s, and the Carson Pirie Scott building isn’t a Target, etc. Niko likes to look at the buildings and Nesko and I talk to him about what buildings we’ve been in, and he likes to look at the skylines and try to find CTA trains and buses.

We drove down to visit my parents and their dogs yesterday, and on our way back we detoured through downtown Chicago. It was night and the buildings were all lit up, and Niko could pick out the John Hancock building and the Sears Tower (fuck you, “Willis”) and looked for the CNA building but couldn’t see it. He kept enthusing “Oh, oh! This is just like my Chicago book! This is just like being in my Chicago book!” so that was really cool. And now we have a list of places he wants to walk around and visit when it’s warmer, including the Buckingham Fountain and having a picnic on the green grounds outside of the Shedd Aquarium, and going on a boat tour on the river.

We had plans to go to the Aquarium or the Museum of Science and Industry today (some glorious angel gave us a family membership to it) but it’s cold as hell out, two of us are recovering from illness and one of us is tiptoeing in illnesses direction, etc so we’re staying in and spending some family time together instead.

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brigid: Two adults and a child, wearing gas masks, peer into a pram. (anxiety)
Around 9:00pm last night, while it was raining heavily, I heard what sounded like people in the foyer of our two flat, talking in (unaccented) English. That was a bit alarming as the other family who lives in our building speaks Spanish. The kids speak English, but they don't sound like adult men; the adults in the family, and their friends, either speak very heavily accented or no English. I am not used to hearing people speaking English in my building unless it's my immediate family.

Extra alarming was the fact that they were talking about a stabbing.

"Why'd you go and stab me?"

"I didn't stab you."

"Yeah you did."

I crept to the door and tried to peer through the peephole but couldn't see anyone. I don't know if they were actually in the apartment or just on the sidewalk immediately outside the door. I heard their voices drift away and didn't call 911 because... I've called 911 before and not gotten a response. I've also lived someplace else where a dude regularly made phone calls at 3:00am right outside our bedroom window, where he'd scream threats of stabby murder into the phone for half an hour, 45 minutes, or so. At least, I think he had a phone.

Around 9:30 I heard more (male, speaking unaccented English) voices outside, including someone shining a very bright narrow beam flashlight around. Someone asked "is this the place?" and someone else said "I don't know, I can't see an address." Someone said "there's blood everywhere." I heard the crackle of a radio and a car drove the wrong way down the street (I could see the headlights), something that pretty much only cops do. So these were cops. Probably. Except there's a history of people trying to gain entry to buildings in this neighborhood by pretending to be cops, the FBI, or city workers. Nobody tried to come in. After they left I scampered downstairs, found the front door was unlocked (!!!), peeked outside and saw reddish brown liquid all over the sidewalk, and nearly gave myself a heart attack trying to close and lock the door before OMG DISASTER!!!!!!!

I called our precinct to inform them of the stabbing and ask if there had been actual cops on my property or not. I was told that no cops had been out there (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) but then after I gave the cross street (instead of just the address) the guy I was talking to said "Oh, wait, no. They're bringing the perp in now."

I called Nesko at work a little after 10:00. A few minutes after that, someone started POUNDING ON THE DOOR LIKE THEY WERE TRYING TO BEAT IT DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! wa ha hey! I know that that's the absolute best way to get me to open the door, after someone's been stabbed on my doorstep! right? Sound like you're trying to break the fucking door down you can bust your way in and stab more people! I almost died. I also went down to check shit out.

Our front door is a lovely old thing that features a giant pane of glass in the middle. You cannot sneak up on that door. You cannot monitor who is down there without being seen. I have never felt so exposed by that door. The dudes standing outside were wearing cop clothes, though, so I let them in and gave a statement. It was still raining heavily.

I knew what time the guys had been arguing outside because I mentioned it in a chat with someone and it was time stamped. Nerd.

The cops checked out the stairs, asked some questions, left. Nesko got home. I went to bed. He said the cops came back "after I went to bed" (so around midnight) and took photos. So 3 hours after the incident, in the rain. I don't know what help they'll be.

I'm still shaken.

I know our neighborhood isn't crime free. There's gang activity, the occasional mugging, that sort of thing. I live in a big city, and I live near disputed gang territories. The first murder of the new year happened in my neighborhood. But I've never felt unsafe before, not really, and I used to regularly walk home from work at 1:00 am. I've never been afraid to live here before. I feel violated.
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

One of the things I like about our little family is the traditions we’re developing like going to Day Out With Thomas (2 years in a row) or to Wagner Farm every year for the Rotary Club fund raising (3 years in a row) or… uh. I guess that’s it, so far.

Anyway, we made the trek up to The Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois for the 2012 Day Out With Thomas. It was great. It was fun last year, but it was rainy, and Niko was younger and cranky and nap disruptions made everything terrible (everything!). And even though he’s been a jerk about sleeping and napping lately, he’s old enough that he was able to hold his shit together allowing us to explore and do more things.

"Niko Posing With Thomas"

Nikola turns around long enough for a photo.

As they do, they had platforms set up for photo ops with Thomas. There were three platforms and of course the one in the middle was the most popular. There were professional photographers and you had the option to view and purchase a pro photo (perhaps in a fancy commemorative frame?) but we did not go that route because we are cheap assholes with our own (shitty) camera. How shitty? Let me just say that if you have an iPhone 4 your phone has a batter camera than my straight up camera. I discarded literally over half the photos I took because they were crap not because of anything I did but because it’s just a crap camera. Enough complaining! Niko was far more interested in checking out Thomas than turning around for his photo op, but he was very kind and patient with us and eventually turned around and consented to have his photo taken. Bless. We only backed the line up a LITTLE bit.

"Nikola checks out a hand car"

Nikola checks out a hand car.

There are many, many sheds with trains on display– engines, coaches, freight cars, CTA cars, cabooses, and more. Most of them have signs and are genteely roped off but apparently it’s ok to climb on this one. At least I hope it’s ok. Other people were doing so and there were no ropes or signs saying not to. Here’s Niko on a yellow hand car.

"Nikola sees a huge steam engine"

Nikola is stunned by the sheer immensity of a black steam engine.

And here he is checking out a huge black steam engine which, he was quick to tell us, looked just like Gordon. Well of course.

"Nikola and Nesko in front of a steam enginge"

Nikola and Nesko stand in front of a big steam engine.

I took, no exaggeration, about 50 photos of the awesome trains inside the sheds including the Nebraska Zephyr and some simply IMMENSE engines. None of them turned out. My camera, a point and shoot, has issues with its flash I guess. The photos in strong natural light, like this one, turned out much better. Steam engines are incredibly huge! And loud! And huge! I kind of have a thing for taking photos of people in front of GIANT TIRES and have done so both here and at Wagner Farm in front of a tractor’s giant tires.

"Niko on a caboose"

Niko also got to check out a caboose.

He also got to clamber around a caboose/brake van. It’s a cheerful red, as cabooses should be.

We went on a short street car ride but skipped the longer 19 mile ride because Niko was fading fast and while Nesko thought it’d be a chance for us all to relax including Niko, I was afraid Niko would get cranky and disrupt things. We checked out the Zephyr, which Niko’s been talking about for months, and also checked out the CTA train they’ve been restoring. We were also able to check out the museum’s gift shop and we bought a beautiful print for $5 of a pencil drawing of street car passing the Chicago theater.

This was a super great time and if we lived closer than an hour away we’d seriously consider buying a membership. A family membership costs $65, which is pretty cheap, and they have lots of events and it’d be super fun to just be able to look at the trains and ride them whenever we had a weekend to do so. We miiiiight look into hotels in the area and do a 3 day vacation out there, exploring the railway museum and also the Wild West Town and KOA campground and one room school house in the are. I AM A SUCKER FOR HISTORICAL REENACTMENTS, you have no idea.

Maybe you’re curious as to how accessible the museum is. There are designated handicap parking spaces on asphalt, but most of the parking is on grass, which may not be as much of an issue on NON Day Out With Thomas days. There are wide paved walkways throughout the grounds of the museum, but many of the sheds have a step to get in and some of them are not super well lit. They have paved walkways in the sheds. Some of the doorways are not very wide. I don’t think any of the trains are accessible. They are historic trains with narrow, steep, widely spaced steps. We all had problems boarding and disembarking. The museum has golf cart “courtesy shuttles” for Day Out With Thomas, but I don’t know if they have them at other times. The museum gift shop has a ramp leading up to it, but it’s narrow inside. I saw people at Day Out With Thomas using wheel chairs, motorized chairs, walkers, crutches, braces, and assistance dogs. So obviously some persons with disabilities are able to navigate the museum. There were also a lot of people using strollers and wagons along the pathways and over the grassy areas, although those weren’t allowed on the trains or in the gift store or in the museum’s diner. There were many portapotties, some of which were accessible, but I don’t know if those are a constant fixture or brought in specially for Day Out With Thomas. The diner has a big bathroom and the lady’s room had a handicapped stall but I don’t remember if the doorways were wide enough for a wheel chair user. It’s a newer building, though.

To sum up, “Day Out With Thomas” was a great time. I don’t think it’s possible for a more perfect day to have happened. We had a really good time and just as Niko talked about last year’s event all year I’m sure he’ll be talking about this year’s event for a long time as well. If you have the chance to attend “Day Out With Thomas,” or the Illinois Railway Museum, and you or someone you love is All About Trains, check it out. It’s well worth the money and the drive.

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There’s a lot I like, even love, about living in Chicago. One thing I hate, though, is how unutterably jackassy people get behind the wheel of their cars. I’m talking about stuff like using the sidewalk as a turn lane, passing on the left cars that are trying to turn left, routinely passing people in the intersection, routinely using the bike lane as a car lane, and treating stop signs like a really good suggestion for other people.

About a year ago, the state of Illinois passed a law saying that motorists must come to a complete stop to allow pedestrians in marked crosswalks to finish crossing, as opposed to just yielding to them, edging ever closer, honking angrily because some jerk pedestrian is FORCING them to stop at a stop sign. People largely disregard this law and sail gayly through crosswalks that pedestrians are trying to dash through. I’m currently temping on UIC’s campus, and the situation is so bad that there are signs literally in the middle of the road reminding motorists that they have to stop at the crosswalk if there’s pedestrians in it.

People ignore the signs. You know. The signs that are literally in the middle of the road, mounted on neon yellow traffic cones between the lanes.

I have to cross a four-lane divided boulevard to get to the train station after work. I made it to the median with no problem. People stopped, pedestrians, crossed, etc. I looked to my right and saw two cars coming, one in each lane, but they were far enough away I figured that I could safely cross. And even if they were going faster than I thought they were, they had ample time to stop. I’ve been crossing the street for a long time, and I’m very conservative in my estimates of whether or not it’s safe to go, just to put things into perspective. I don’t fuck around with street crossing. I go when I feel safe. I felt safe. I started crossing.

The guy in the lane farthest from me SPED UP to try and cross the crosswalk before I got there, which is neither “stopping fully” nor is it “yielding.” It’s “being a complete and total jackass who is willing to endanger the lives of others just to save a few seconds.” I kept walking. He slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting me.

It had rained recently and the street was both wet and slick.

There was a long, loud screech of brakes and tires-skidding-on-pavement and that motherfucker nearly hit me. I’m not exaggerating here, he came very close to hitting me with his car. His very large, very heavy, fast moving car.

At least this time I only had one brush with death, as opposed to a few years ago when two different cars came shooting out of two different alleys and nearly hit me. The first one, I jumped back and out of the way as another pedestrian jumped forward, and this HUGE dude came running up and started screaming at the driver. The second time, less than five minutes later and a block from my house, the car shot out his bumper was literally touching my coat. I heard the plink of my coat buttons and his bumper colliding. And then he honked at me, for walking along a sidewalk in front of him while having the right of way. 1

I don’t like walking around my neighborhood, or pretty much any part of Chicago, because it’s literally dangerous. There are a LOT of motorists who don’t obey the rules of the road and who act in aggressively unsafe ways. Those examples I cited earlier, about driving on sidewalks etc? Those are things that I, personally, have witnessed. I feel unsafe walking on sidewalks. I know several experienced cyclists who have been hit and dragged by cars that then drove off, leaving them bleeding and badly injured by the side of the road, their bikes totaled. This is a normal occurrence. I read blog posts and news articles about cities that are pedestrian and bicycle friendly and I am so incredibly jealous because that? Is not my city.

And it could be my city. We have the bones of a great mass transit system in place. We have great weather for about half the year. In theory, it should be possible to make this city a haven for people who don’t drive. All of our buses are ADA compliant (although our sidewalks and curb cuts aren’t), many of our train stations are ADA compliant, which means that people using wheelchairs and scooters and assistive devices… and pushing strollers and shopping trolleys… can use them for $2.25 a pop. We are so close to having this great, walkable, bikeable city… and instead of improving the infrastructure to favor pedestrians and cyclists and mass transit users, we keep pouring money into repairing roads and adding more lanes and cutting funding for the CTA. It’s frustrating.

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  1. That day, just as a note, I also had a concussion from the arm of a parking garage entrance/exit falling on my head as I passed it. It hit me hard enough to rattle my teeth together and my glasses went flying off my head. I was in down town Chicago during rush hour, and other pedestrians noticed what had happened and came over to check me out, THAT is how hard it hit me. That was pretty much a terrible day all around.

Jobs, jobs, jobs.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011 10:25
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

A little over a week ago, I worked as a Parade Marshal for Chicago’s Gay Pride Parade. I’d never been to the Pride parade before, and the floats and groups in the parade were AMAZING. Some of them made me cry, but I am a huge softy. It was a really hard job, and not one I’m eager to do again. There were too many people, and too many of them were drunk and belligerent. There were fist fights (although I didn’t witness any); people in apartments flanking the parade route threw glass bottles down onto the pavement (which was PACKED with people); someone in the parade was handing out cans of beer to people, including a minor; and the parade ended early because for some reason (miscommunication? general inconsideratenes?) a flood of people jumped the barricades and started walking down the middle of the street. I mean, I was stationed 2-3 blocks from the starting line and there were floats still lined up ready to go, and the street was filled with people. I don’t know if the human flood happened before or after the police tried to re-route the parade due to too many people being present.

Part of my job involved preventing people from jumping over the barricade and wandering into/crossing the street. People in the street is dangerous because at best it can hold up the parade because there’s a bunch of people in the street. At worse, it’s dangerous because vehicles pulling heavy parade floats can’t stop very quickly and a slow moving car that crashes into a person hurts an awful lot. I spent a lot of time running up an down the street yelling at people to get off the barricade, to get behind the barricade, etc. One woman drunkenly slurred out the query of whether or not I was aware my job was to be “a complete buzz kill bitch.” I think she may have been trying to insult me, but seriously, that was my job in a nutshell. I mean, do you have ANY IDEA how hard it is to find a job where you’re paid to be a complete buzz kill bitch? Very hard! Yet I managed to find one. Go me! Anyway, it kind of boggles my mind that telling someone they can’t wander in front of a multi-ton float is enough to kill their buzz. You are at the fucking Pride parade! How are you not having fun?

I made poor decisions while leaving that morning, and those poor decisions resulted in an incredibly horrific sunburn on my face, arms, and scalp.  I haven’t had a burn this bad since… 1999?… when I was working landscaping and lost touch with reality and decided to work a full day in the beating sun with no sunscreen, no hat, and a tank top. I got blisters the size of quarters and should have gone to the hospital but didn’t. My back and shoulders are now covered with like reverse freckles, little spots of absolute white, with no pigment. It was foolish of me. I thought I’d learned my lesson, but apparently I didn’t! A week and a half later and I am still suffering. This too, however, shall pass. Assuming I don’t get melanoma cancer, a cancer that runs on both sides of my family.

I’m currently working a 2-month full-time gig at an institution I’ve worked at before, but in a different department than I’ve worked out. I am, once again, a place holder until a real full time employee can be found. Which means I’m getting paid to sit around and not do much. I answer the phone here and there, I helped a student worker organize the supply cabinet, but other than that? I’m playing with Google+ and getting some writing done. The first few days, actually, were utterly terrible because I had no computer and spent 8 hour shifts reading books. Which, you know, if you said “Brigid, how’d you like to spend 8 hours a day getting paid to read books?” I’d jump at that. But oh my LANDS it was so stultifying. I kept checking the time, thinking half an hour had passed, to find only five minutes had. Maybe if I had a comfortable chair it would have been different, I don’t know.

I’m in some serious trouble, though, because there’s a cafe on the first floor and they sell fancy coffee drinks. DUN. DUN. DUNNNNNNNNN.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

My headphones have been slowly dying, a wire lose from being bent too often. I was listening to my mp3 player today while walking to tutoring, and the sound quality was terrible. I could get the lead guitar and drums of “Me First and the Gimme Gimmes” really well, but everything else? Almost inaudible. The singer was distant, faint, sometimes sounding underwater.

And for a brief moment, I was back in high school, listening to bootleg cassette tapes, or listening to a live band with poorly mixed sound, the vocalist drowned out. Do you remember cassette tapes? How if you listened to them enough the tape would start wearing thin, and you’d sometimes hear a bit of music from the other side? The tinny chipmunk skirl as you fast forwarded? The heavy click and pop as you ejected the tape? Did you ever tape things from the radio, finger poised over the “play” and “record” buttons, trying to get the timing just right? Mix CDs just never felt the same as mix tapes.

Walking back home, I passed a clutch of kids skateboarding on their high school’s cement steps. I remember when nobody in the midwest skated, when skate shops were far and few between, skate magazines a window to some exotic wonderful culture… to freedom.

Sometimes I feel old; other times I feel caught in time. I don’t want to go back to my youth, but it’s nice to reach out sometimes and brush my fingers gently against it.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

For my GQ/Trans* friends, are any of you attending Be-All 2011? A friend of mine mentioned it to me, and then I mentioned it to a few other people and none of them have heard of it, so here’s a heads up if you’re unfamiliar with it.

Here are the Seminars, Vendors, and Registration Info. Like most conventions it costs money. They have Scholarships which one can apply for. A lot of the seminars look REALLY fascinating and informative.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

It’s snowing again. I guess 20 inches wasn’t quite enough. Weather reports predict 1-3 inches, with a few outlying 4-incher areas. We’ve already gotten maybe two inches of soft, fluffy stuff.

It’s a bit disappointing, because the 6 foot mountain of snow blocking one end of our alley, the result of an apartment complex bulldozing their parking lot’s snow into the alley/side street, was only just “dealt with.” And by “dealt with” I mean someone shoved it all into the alley so that our alley is essentially paved with snow and suddenly incredibly slippery and hazardous to drive down. But people can enter/exit that end of the alley again. Or they could. I’m sure the company will just shove snow into the alley again, like antisocial jerks.

It was supposed to have stopped snowing at noon, and now it’s just after 12:00 and really enormously fat flakes are drifting from the sky. We need to run to the grocery store, and to Target. Wish us weather-related luck.

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