Monday, June 20, 2016

Chicago Summer - Construction Season

So, we've been out a week and so far so good, (she says, immediately jinxing things). Ex Little Guy, (now just past his 13th birthday so need a new nickname), attended metal-working camp last week. Now, contrary to the movies etc, not all American kids' camps are over night-y jobs. In fact some of them aren't even full day - like the metal-working camp last week. It was just like having him back in half-day nursery school - dropping off at 9am and picking up at 12.30pm. I have time to come home, do one thing, and get back in the car. Mainly because of ..(See next paragraph).

There's a joke in Chicago about road works etc. - "There are two seasons in Chicago - winter, and construction." It's true - it's too cold in the winter to do any construction 'cause digging frozen ground is hard, and the sub-zero temps play havoc with the concrete and tar. So basically, as soon as the weather gets decent, the roadworks start. Even the smaller side streets are "dug up" because our winter temps are so severe, they crack the roads - so many of them have to be re-paved during the summer. It's like a geography puzzle trying to figure out how to get from A to B and avoid heavy traffic due to one lane traffic.

So not only do I have to contend with still-getting-up-to-attend-to-child, I also have to contend with drop-off driving. I whine about this because son walks to school and I rarely use my car all year (not a good reason) and my back is still un-OK enough that sitting in a car for any length of time is not good.(legit reason).

"How far is this camp?" you must be asking. Oh , less than three miles. And yet - it takes me almost half an hour to get there, then I drop child off and turn back - and now I'm in rush hour traffic heading for downtown. And I do that again at noon-ish. Not good for the back.

This week however, he is playing tennis outdoors, on the lakefront. An idyllic drive with no construction in sight. I will try to take a photo when I'm not behind the wheel! 

Friday, June 10, 2016

And Just Like That - School's Out, Again

Well, here we are again. I swear this year went past in the blink of an eye. Yes folks in the UK, you might have just finished half term, but most of us here are already knee deep in the interminable long, three month summer. Actually, for me this is day one, but it's already proving a long one -  "How long have you been playing your PS4?" type long.

Every year I hear talk of trying to make the summer break shorter. Teachers complain that because kids have spent so much time out of school it takes weeks to get them back to where they were at the end of the previous year. According to Wiki, year round schooling (or YRS) has been around since the 1900s and first appeared in urban areas like Chicago, that were not tied to the agricultural cycle. (Kids used to be taken out of school during the summer to help on the farms.) I must say though, I'm not aware of any YRS's in Chicago today. A bit of research however, tells me that Chicago introduced year round school in 2009 - but in true Chicago fashion, only about a quarter of its schools were put on this schedule. Sigh. Not surprisingly, it dropped the experiment in 2014 because many families with kids in different schools found it too difficult to juggle. I'll say. 

Three months off also gets to be rather expensive. For working parents there's obviously the "What to do with the kids" question, hence the reason for so many American kids attending day and sleepover camps. Even if you're home with your kids, it's not much fun when all their friends aren't around. I remember one summer when the big kids were little, I decided I'd be a fun mom, and do fun things with them instead of sticking them in expensive camps they didn't much enjoy. That plan lasted about a week when it became clear that there is such a thing as too much mom-fun. Back to camp with their little friends they went. 

This year the newly minted teenager (no longer the Little Guy) has an eclectic range of camps lined up - Metal-working, Archery, Tennis, School of Rock - Beatles show, and something that involves going all over the city and having adventures. For the rest of today however, I am making him empty his backpack and throw 99% of its contents away. This kid hoards more than I do given the chance! 

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer in Chicago - No jacket required

So, after the usual six months of cold, cold winter, summer is here. No warning, no "shoulder" season of jackets and no fleeces; just Wham! Summer.

I have a decent collection of nice jackets and blazers that seem to hang in my closet from one year to the next, desperately hoping for a chance to be paired with flats and jeans, or heels and whatever. (I just exhausted my fashion know-how right there, in case you didn't notice.)  I bought myself a lightweight navy blazer last year, which barely saw the light of day. I was going for the "classic" look of jeans, white shirt and blazer but I can't remember actually being able to wear it. We went straight from wearing ski jackets to as few clothes as possible.

And it's happened again this year. Problem is, having been more or less inert for four months due to back injury and surgery, my summer stuff is a little "snug" at the moment. I have only just been allowed to start exercising and I seem to have forgotten how to diet, so the extra poundage is clinging to me. It's not that much in the scheme of things, but as I said, enough to make my shorts and capris look, well, too tight.And as we all know, a tasteful jacket hides a multitude of sins. Or would if it weren't 83F/28C and very, very humid. Unlike in dry heat, where an extra layer (ie. a shirt) can protect you from the sun, in humidity it just sticks to your skin. I remember when I first moved here and I did that in an attempt to avoid sun burn. My American husband was aghast, and sure enough, within ten minutes the shirt was drenched. 

Despite the extreme heat, I'm not and never was, someone who exposed a lot of skin. (OK, perhaps leg, but usually in tights.) Even when (looking back) I was young and gorgeous (as all young people are to old people), I didn't wear teeny clothes. And I certainly don't now, which makes living in the heat a challenge. 

Thank god for air-conditioning. 

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