August 3, 2006


Dear readers,

I am leaving Chicago Parent. My last edition will be the upcoming September magazine. I'm sorry that some of you had to find out first on our Web site rather than through me. But it happened fast and frankly, it surprised me. I am going to work at the Chicago Foundation for Women, the country's largest philanthropic organization for women, where I will be changing my career to head up advocacy and communications as well as play a role in the foundation's yet-to-be-announced violence prevention project. The offer came from a wonderful woman who I worked with at the federal government. She loves and respects me and offered me a job with better money and better hours. One would think it was a no-brainer. All you have to do is read the description of the foundation from its Web site to know it's a great opportunity: "One of the largest women's funds in the world, Chicago Foundation for Women believes that all women and girls in the Chicago metropolitan area have the opportunity to achieve their potential and to live in safe, just and healthy communities. We support the achievement of social justice through grantmaking and advocacy. Since 1986, Chicago Foundation for Women has impacted social justice through advocacy, leadership development, and public and grantee education. In addition, we have awarded more than 2,000 grants totaling $13 million to hundreds of organizations that make life better for women and girls." How could I say no? Yet, it was a very hard choice. I love this magazine and I love this work. I've been here about four and a half years and I couldn't believe in the work more. I know that Chicago Parent helps parents and make a difference in people's lives. I know because you tell us. How many jobs give you that type of satisfaction?   And I have felt quite honored to work with our Publisher Dan Haley and the whole wonderful team of people at Chicago Parent. Dan not only says, "Good journalism is good business," he believes it. As a result, I've been able to go to town and do the type of journalism I believe in--hard-hitting facts and issues, surrounded with good writing and top-notch storytelling. I've been accorded a budget to build a wonderful team of employees and a dependable stable of freelancers.  I've been allowed the chance to learn and to grow-something that does not happen by accident in a workplace, it has to be built into the culture of the company. I hope I have helped Chicago Parent remain true to the foundation built by the former editors Mary Haley and Sharon-Bloyd Peshkin. We've always remembered our mission as a regional parenting magazine. And yet we've also covered national issues, looking at them through a local lens. As a result, we've even broken some national stories. We've had a lot of fun and we've even won some awards. We've built up an intern program, established a strong relationship with the Medill graduate program while maintaining the one with the undergrad program. We've raised the magazine's visibility in the region through a strong public relations effort and regular television and radio appearances. We've brought Chicago Parent into the Web world and kept it alive and running, setting the stage for the massive Web charge that Dan is now leading. We've revamped Chicago Parent Going Places into a glossy quarterly while taking on Chicago Baby. We even produced a CD.

But despite all of that, this is an opportunity I can't pass up. Dan told me when I started my mission should be to take Chicago Parent to the next level. I hope I've accomplished it. But if so, none of it was done alone. It's been a real team effort with a team of funny, bright and talented people. We will leave behind four months of planned story lists and covers for the next team to give them a good, solid launch. And to be frank, I will also leave behind a piece of my heart. The hardest part about leaving Chicago Parent is that I feel as though I am leaving good friends and a place that has served as my home while I was redefining what home meant to my family. Chicago Parent has been a constant for me and for my two dear boys in a period of change in our lives and I will be forever grateful. In the end, the choice came down to what would be better for my children.  I am very grateful that I have had the opportunity to be a part of your lives. Always know that the readers of Chicago Parent are a special breed. They are wonderful caring people who keep this magazine on the right path. Keep talking to Chicago Parent. Keep telling us what you want, what you need and keep making this magazine a wonderful resource for more than 250,000 families in the six county Chicago area. And if you are a strong editor and writer, please read Dan's job description. We need two wonderful people to run Chicago Parent and I am sure those two are already Chicago Parent readers. My best and my thanks,

Susy Schultz Associate Publisher and Editor Chicago Parent

 You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown"

"Not bad. Not bad at all." This describes life for Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy, in "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown," now playing at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre for Young Audiences. These words also express exactly how I felt about the play. I have always enjoyed Marriott's shows, and this play was no exception.

My favorite scene in the show was the "Not Bad At All" song that I quoted above. It was sung by Charlie Brown's dog, Snoopy (Mark David Kaplan). The song had heartwarming lyrics and a wonderful, moral message about life. There were at least five other great parts in the play, such as Lucy (Liz Baltes) teaching Charlie Brown (Chris Gunn) how to kick a football and Charlie Brown's lack of cards on Valentine's Day. "Suppertime," energetically sung by Snoopy, was also a favorite of the kids and parents. It took on a new flair, in which the music was half jazz and half gospel. The characters had tambourines that looked like dog food dishes. It made the show a little bit more interesting and fun.

Someone that many kids can relate to is Linus (Michael Mahler), who is constantly sucking his thumb and playing with his blanket. Linus sings a song called "My Blanket and Me," while he and his blanket dance together. Another act that the audience enjoyed was "Happiness Is," a song sung about life's greatest and simplest treasures.

The show is divided into mini-scenes. Each ranges from about 30 seconds to three minutes. This was one play that didn't have younger toddlers dozing off in the middle of a scene because it was constantly changing. "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" does not tell one specific story. Instead, it takes many small, entertaining parts from the Charles Schultz stories and throws it all into one big play, which lasts for about one hour.

There are differences between the play and the "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" home video. They obviously don't include all of the scenes in the play, and the actors don't have much of a set to work with. The only thing that is onstage permanently is four large, brown wooden boxes. I think that the stage would have a happier look if the boxes were painted bright, vibrant colors. However, there were a few props that went on and off the stage, such as Snoopy's doghouse, which was a big success with the children in the audience. Another charming prop was a scoreboard that enters the stage from above the lights. This is used in the "T-E-A-M" song sung during the baseball game, which the whole Peanuts gang takes part in.

At the end of the show there is a Question & Answer session for children, which is a tradition at Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre for Young Audiences. This is a great time for your child to have his questions answered from the actors in the show regarding costumes, rehearsal, music, the set or anything else that they may be curious about.

My mom and I both agree that children would enjoy the play much more if they have seen one or two of the Charlie Brown home videos or read the comic strip and books. It definitely helps to be familiar with the characters and basic plot line.

Although it was adorable and humorous, I think that some of the mini-scenes could have been a little more fast-paced. Much of the choreography needed a little more spark to its step. Actually, one of the best numbers was the very last, during the curtain call, when we heard the famous "Linus and Lucy" theme that we all remember from the Christmas show. The characters did a great, energetic dance across the stage which was very sweet.

My mom liked the show because of the characters, who tried their hardest to put all of their energy into making the kids in the crowd laugh. My 9-year-old brother enjoys all of the Charlie Brown home videos, and he liked the play because it included many of the scenes from them featured in the live performance. His favorite was the baseball game because of the way Sally (Cristen Page) holds her mitt. "Happiness Is" seeing "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" this summer. It is a show that belongs on the top of your summer to-do list for children, parents and grandparents of all ages.

Allie Sakowicz, 12, Park Ridge

Tickets for "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown" are $10 for all ages. It runs through Sept. 2 at the Marriott Lincolnshire Theatre, (847) 634-0200. The shows are 10 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday.

 "Stars of the Pharoahs and Egypt Days" at Adler Planetarium

If you're feeling like it's time to make your field trips with the kids a little more educational, head over to the Adler Planetarium this week to learn more about Egypt and how the ancient Egyptians used the stars to track time.

My three kids and I visited the Planetarium last week to see their two new shows "Stars of the Pharaohs" and "Egyptian Nights: Secrets of the Sky Gods." The shows run until Jan. 1. All three children, ages 8, 10 and 12, have always enjoyed the Planetarium's shows, but they recommend that other families see just one of these movies because they were too similar. "Stars of the Pharaohs" was definitely more visually engaging, especially the scenes where you actually felt like you were driving through Egyptian monuments.

My 12-year-old and I enjoyed learning about how the Egyptians created the 365-day calendar that's still used today and we both were awed by the incredible sculptures and pyramids created without any of today's modern technology. The visual journey into King Tut's tomb, as seen through a hole built into his pyramid to help his journey into the afterlife, was fascinating.

But some of the history of Egyptian gods in both movies was a little difficult for my youngest child to follow and the "Egyptian Nights: Secrets of the Sky Gods" graphics were a little less captivating. I'd definitely recommend the movies for the 10-and-up crowd.

For the younger children, try visiting from 1-3 p.m. this Saturday, Aug. 5, when the Adler will host "Egypt Days," filled with interactive activities. Exhibits such as "Telling Time Like an Egyptian" will teach kids how to build their own shadow clock, which is how Egyptians were able to tell what time of day it was. There's also an exhibit to create a pyramid.

The "Egypt Days" activities are free with paid admission. The movies are extra and you can pick and choose from other movies as well. The Adler has lockers available for a fee, as well as a cafeteria that overlooks Lake Michigan. Between movies, we enjoyed hanging out at a table along the windows watching the boats.

There are also lots of interactive exhibits at the Adler, where kids can get hands-on as they figure out such things as which has more gravity-the moon or the earth. Although the Planetarium is stroller-friendly, I really wouldn't recommend the event for very young children-they won't sit through the movies and many of the exhibits will just be beyond their understanding.

Beware that a day at the Adler can be pricey. We parked in the lot near the Planetarium's south gate, which cost $15 (cash only). Entrance fees start at $16, $14 for ages 4-17 and free admission for kids 3 and under. The entry fee includes one movie-you pay extra for additional movies you choose to see.

While you're there, you may want to check out the preview of the Jim Lovell exhibit. Astronaut Jim Lovell donated his personal space collection to the Adler and it will go on permanent display in November. Right now the museum offers a sneak preview of the fully-restored Gemini 12 spacecraft flown by Lovell and Buzz Aldrin in 1966. My kids were fascinated by the fact that these two men were crammed into that little spacecraft for days. And luckily, the Adler thought to answer kids' inevitable question - where did they go to the bathroom? Unused samples of the plastic "waste" bags they used were also on display. We're looking forward to seeing the entire exhibit when it opens Nov. 11.

Liz DeCarlo

Adler Planetarium, 1300 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago. Hours: 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. First Friday of the month, hours are 9:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

 "Return to Route 66: Photographs from the Mother Road" at Elmhurst Art Museum

No summer's complete without a few detours off the main drag.

My 6-year-old triplets and I traded the cool of the pool for the air-conditioned Elmhurst Art Museum one summer afternoon to view their new exhibit, "Return to Route 66: Photographs from the Mother Road," by photographer Shellee Graham. The visit provided a geography lesson and craft for the kids, and a trip down memory lane for me. It's worth stopping in if the museum's close and you need to kill an hour (longer, if your kids are older and can read).

If you haven't been there, the Elmhurst Art Museum building itself is a striking structure to see-its facility is built around a house designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Its sleekness made me sheepish to enter with three minors (after all, there's a sign that politely asks that you wipe your feet before entering), but we were put quickly at ease by the friendly staff.

Route 66 began in the 1920s as a road to connect Chicago and Los Angeles. It covered 2,400 miles, three time zones, and eight states. Although it's now been replaced by major interstates, Route 66 remains "the Mother Road" to many, including Graham, who has traveled it extensively.

Three large museum rooms showcase 69 photographs, many of which were taken by Graham in 1991 of landmarks sadly now long gone. The gorgeous photos are organized by state, and a mini-story accompanies each. I longed to linger and read, but the kids' patience waned, in large part because the photos were displayed at an adult's eye level. Two adults with younger kids could tag-team to take in more of the exhibit.

Vintage gas pumps, motel signs and dilapidated road relics filled the photos, along with older people who remember the Route 66 heyday. Photos of the Big Boy, a '50s hamburger icon, brought me back to my childhood. It was amusing to baffle the kids by explaining a drive-in movie. All three kids were charged up seeing the highlights from Arizona. The Wigwam Motel, which has teepees as rooms, reminded them of the new Disney movie, "Cars."

The kids had the most fun looking at the maps next to each photo and seeing in which state it was taken. They also enjoyed the craft table, where they designed their own postcard of a place they'd like to visit from the exhibit. The museum is displaying all of the postcards on a bulletin board for all to see, and will mail them back to kids after the exhibit ends. Younger kids (ages 2-5) can decorate small wooden cars, the size of Matchbox cars. (Note: crafts are available 1-4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.)

To soak up the most this exhibit has to offer, it's probably best to go with older kids (ages 8 and up) who have an ample attention span. But if you enjoy art and kitschy history, and your kids are patient and like crafts, you'll get some kicks.

Jill S. Browning

Kids Eat Chicago

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