Zoo Lights 2014

Whew, Friday. We’ve had a great but very long week and I’m looking forward to some R&R this weekend, enjoying my Christmas tree and not making turkey and gravy. After the whirlwind that was Thanksgiving we got back to it- work, daycare, the usual. On Wednesday B had his office holiday dinner which is always a nice time. We got a babysitter, we had good conversation, caught up with colleagues and friends and had a nice night out. It is always nice to eat dinner without worrying about a toddler throwing something or getting antsy.

Last night was the Lincoln Park Zoo’s members night for zoo lights- they close the zoo to just the members, set up all sorts of activity stations and open up the carousel for free rides (among other things). We had a good time despite getting there late due to Bears game traffic. Please note that toddlers feel no obligation to work with the camera.





We had a fun encounter with the lion, he was sleeping right next to the viewing window as we watched he suddenly woke up, looked right at us, wiped his face, rolled over, flicked his tail around and was generally really, really cool to watch. Of course Gracie tried to lean through the glass to get to his fuzzy tummy with her fingers, all while yelling “TICKLE TICKLE LION” which was pretty funny. She was not a fan of the free carousel rides though, as soon as this picture was taken she informed me “NO WANT” and I held her on the platform for the ride.


We had a good time looking at the lights, picking out our annual ornament (Gracie tried to convince us to bring home a few different stuffed tigers, declaring “I FOUND IT! I YIKE IT! TIGER” and carrying them around, except the $1000 one that was so huge she just stood there hugging its leg) and letting her run around since the crowds were so light. ZooLights2


This weekend we have grand plans of Gracie’s last swim lesson, seeing my Dad as he comes through town on his way to the East coast, and watching some Christmas movies. I can’t wait.

Shopping for the Little Ones

Ahhh Cyber Monday. Here we are, filling up our carts to fill up our stockings/trees/menorahs. After extensive research (read: Google and other Mom-friends) here is what I’m going with for Gracie and my almost-six year old nephew……Amazon links are affiliate but you should shop wherever you want, duh. (Shopping for a different age? Check out my Christmas/birthday ideas for 10 month olds and one year olds here)


Stockings will be filled, for the most part, with a plethora of Target dollar bin items (think Sesame Street and Frozen) and small art supplies like crayons and bath paint. I think I’m also going to grab a bottle of “bath drops” to color the bath water – definitely a good bribe to get kids in the tub. CM Bath Dropz

In the same “small stocking stuffer” though process I think my nephew would really love one of these magnetic storyboards, perfect for car trips and waiting rooms/restaurants.

CM Robot Tin

The Books

I think books are a part of any great Christmas. I love Adam Rubin/Daniel Salmieri books so my nephew definitely needs Super Secret Pizza Party while I think Gracie is ready for Dragons Love Tacos. I’m well under way collecting Christmas books for Gracie and I think this year she will be getting How Do Dinosaurs Say Merry Christmas which fits well with her current dino-love. CM SSPP


The Big (and Littler) Stuff

This year I really wanted to get Gracie something big – either a Learning Tower (which is on an amazing Cyber Monday deal, holy smokes) or a wooden kitchen set- but we are traveling to Utah and the logistics of a physically big gift seemed daunting and/or cost prohibitive.

CM Kitchen

CM Learning Tower

We did a mini Christmas with B’s parents this weekend and they got her a pretty awesome baby pram (the Costco one, recommend highly, but it is only sold in stores not online) so her “something large” needs are fulfilled.

For Christmas morning we’ve decided on a few Santa items that we know she will love, namely a kids Dyson vacuum and a toddler sized Ergo babydoll carrier. She is all about acting like a grownup (helping to clean up, taking care of her animals and babies) so why not let her?

CM Dyson

CM Ergo

Based on recommendations from friends, we are also getting Gracie the Thinfun Roll & Play game. It comes with a suggested age of 18 months and up, where kids can roll a die and pick up a card with simple instructions. I think this will be a lot of fun this winter when we need indoor things to do!

CM Thinkfun

No Christmas is complete with out Little People, this year we opted for a dump truck that she can fill with all her treasures and push around.

And finally, I’d like to get her the Aden and Anais muslin dream blanket which is 4 layers of muslin and seems very cozy for winter…in fact I really, really want the adult sized one for myself, but neither here nor there I suppose.

CM dream blanket

For my nephew we decided to go big with Magformers, the magnetic tiles you can build with. After comparing them to the popular Magnatiles we decided the Magformers were more up his alley because they have gears and “moving part” kits you can add on to them. We are getting him a 37 piece kit with some gears, I think Gracie will be ready for a non-gear set sooner rather than later. I have it on good authority other family members will be supplementing his set.

CM Magformer

And for things that are more experience based, we bought a family membership to the nature museum (we can park at the zoo and walk over!) that definitely counts towards the Christmas haul.

And with that, I think we are done. It is so easy to go overboard (kids items are so inexpensive when compared to the adults on the list!) and I like to think we’ve struck a nice balance of special but not totally spoiled.

Happy shopping!



I spent Thanksgiving being thankful. For family and good friends and a full house and overflowing fridge. For our ability to provide for our family and use a little something extra for those in need. For a husband who makes the lows bearable and who I want to share all the highs with. For a daughter who delights us daily, who amuses us and confuses us and makes us so glad we are her parents. For a dog that snuggles up every night and settles in for a good chin rub, for a house with room to host guests and a table that always seems to fit just one more chair around it.


I am merely thankful. Life is pretty good when you take a moment to soak it all in (and use your potatoes to soak up some gravy).

Photo of Gracie and me, after the plastic surgery team at Lurie Children’s Hospital said her eye looked great and discharged us from their care. Just gotta get the thumbs up from opthalmology and we can consider that disaster done and done.

Butterball Has a Hotline?

Oh man you guys. Thanksgiving. The best day of the year!!

This year with 7 adults and 1 toddler we will be dining on the following:

The cinnamon rolls and cheesecake are in the freezer, along with the sage butter to make sage bread for sandwiches later. Our general timeline: on Tuesday we make the turkey brine, mashed potatoes and cranberry relish. On Wednesday we make corn pudding, pumpkin pie, green bean casserole and the crispy sweet potato roast. On Thursday morning we prep the turkey and get it in the oven, make the dressing and get all the premade side dishes out to begin coming up to room temperature. As the turkey is coming out the carrots and Brussels sprouts get made while all the other dishes go back into the oven for heating. Last but not least, make some gravy and serve it all!

Lets all pardon & eat some turkey!

Oh and make sure to wear your Thanksgiving pants

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