November 30, 2006

  "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" at the Morton Arboretum

Morton Arboretum is holding its annual "Holiday Traditions", an event, featuring heated trolley rides, ice sculpting, professional choral groups and walks in the Children's Garden followed by a steamy cup of hot chocolate. Additionally, a charming holiday train exhibit is on display that includes a variety of passenger and freight trains making their way around the North Pole.

One of the rather unique attractions is the Theater-Hike. As its name suggests, this is a play performed outdoors while both actors and audience members complete a one-mile hike. Everyone walks together from one place to the next as each act of the tale unfolds. This is definitely a unique way to "move the story along," so to speak. Docents provide a few blankets for the audience to use when sitting on the ground, while some viewers bring along collapsible chairs. We were lucky enough to have unseasonably warm weather, which made the experience more enjoyable.

The featured Theater-Hike this holiday season is based on the book The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus, written by famed Wizard of Oz, author, L. Frank Baum. It was adapted for the Theatre-Hike by Frank Farrell and is comprised of a talented cast. The play is a fantasy tale that relates how young Claus was adopted by fairy creatures living in the woods and how he became a toy maker bringing joy to children everywhere.

While the play was suggested to appeal to kids 5 and older, I would recommend that children be at least 7 or 8 to enjoy it. The vocabulary is quite difficult for youngsters to follow and the style of the language is almost Shakespearean. I found myself whispering a "translation" to my children so that they could grasp the story. Another suggestion would be to tell the children a synopsis of the story before they view the play so they might have better understanding. They were looking for Santa's red suit and reindeer and didn't quite grasp that this was about Santa's younger years.

Unfortunately, my children (ages 4 to 7) could not make it through the entire two-hour play. In all fairness, they had just come from a visit in the Children's Garden, so it was difficult for a play to compete with that excitement. I enjoyed being introduced to the concept of the Theater-Hike and it was appealing to sit in a natural environment surrounded by the smell of pine while watching the story unfold. Theater-Hikes for 2007 run from June through October and include "Tom Sawyer," "Treasure Island" and "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." Lisa Stiegman

As with any outdoor event, the weather is a big factor in how much you enjoy yourself, so dress appropriately. The performance will be moved indoors during bad weather. Ice sculpting and singing take place 1-4 p.m. Dec. 3, 10 and 17. The trains can be viewed 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday during December and Dec. 26, 28-29 and 31. "The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus" runs 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 17. Tickets are $15 per person, $12 for members and can be purchased online at or by calling (630) 725-2066.


 Disney Mobile Phones

Are you looking for a great gift to get for kids? Well I know something that can entertain your kids and can keep them in touch with you. It is a Disney mobile phone.   I loved it because it's also a camera phone. I took so many pictures of my puppies, family and neighbors. It was so fun. It also has a GPS so that the adult can track the child. When I was at a party, my mom wanted to check on me but I didn't answer my phone (I had set it down outside and couldn't hear it ring). My mom used the GPS and it showed her that I was outside my friend's house.   This phone was very easy to use. I learned how to use it in less than five minutes. Even my 8-year-old sister could use it without any help. I loved everything about it. I would recommend this phone because it was specially designed for kids, with a parent phone and a kids' phone. The parents can set limits on calls and text messaging on the kids' phone and they can also set the hours of the day and days of the week kids can use their phone. My mom likes that parents can program restricted and always-on phone numbers for the kids' phone. This would be a great phone for my teenage cousins who are always messing around with their phones.   The phone also has games on it and there were a few ring tones on it as well, including "I Just Can't Wait To Be King" from "The Lion King."  Emma DeCarlo, 10, Darien

Disney Mobile has family plans that run from $59.99 to $249.99 and individual plans from $24.99 to $169.00. For more information visit


"Shoot for the Moon" at the Adler Planetarium

The "Shoot for the Moon" exhibit takes you through 1960s space exploration with Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin in Gemini 12. At first I thought it wasn't so great. In the beginning it was just glass cases with stuff like Jim Lovell's helmet, which was pretty cool to see but wasn't fun. Once you got to the later part it got a lot better.

They had a place where you got to lie down on a cushion and kick off of the wall. You went high up and could see yourself on the screen as if you were jumping on the moon. I never knew you could go that high on the moon. I tried the landing video game and crashed the spaceship on the moon twice. Then we watched a short, interesting movie about the launch and the purpose of this trip to the moon. Encased in glass was the actual cockpit that Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin rode in.

Overall, I would say it's good for all ages and is especially great for a 5-year-old boy who is obsessed with spaceships. I would definitely recommend it. Besides the "Shoot for the Moon" exhibit there are many other fun things to see. You will definitely have a lot of fun if you go. Alek Pedersen, 12, Oak Park

"Shoot for the Moon" is Adler Planetarium's new permanent exhibit. For tickets and more information visit

The questions come with more frequency every passing year. How can Santa get to everyone's house in a night? Can reindeer really fly? How can the elves make so many toys? And the biggest question of them all: My friends say there is no Santa. Is Santa really real?

Keeping the magic of the jolly old elf alive for as long as possible becomes an increasingly difficult task for parents as their kids enter grade school. My 7-year-old, Arlee, was really beginning to doubt Santa this year-until he personally called her Friday night thanks to

This fun Web site allows parents to schedule a time for Santa to call. Each call is personalized with information parents provide about their child, such as their interests, their favorite colors, what they want for Christmas and even some not-so-pleasant things parents might, want Santa's help fixing. The conversation is recorded on a CD or MP3, forever preserved.

Arlee hasn't stopped talking about how Santa sounds ("like a grandpa"), what she told him she wants for Christmas and what he told her he wants her to do to stay on the good list (stop whining and keep listening to her parents). And just for good measure, we keep reminding her that Santa's listening. She's a believer again, so positive Santa exists that this should be an extra magical Christmas for her.

The Web site is filled with other things for kids, too. They can check out Santa's blog for a little insight into the goings on in the North Pole, Santa's schedule (he takes yoga on Fridays to help with that big belly of his), jokes, news about the reindeer, games, a recipe and even a weather report from the North Pole. Tamara L. O'Shaughnessy

Live calls from Santa start at $15, with an MP3 recording for $31.95, a CD recording for $37.95 and extended calls for up to three children for $49.95. Schedule calls online at Parents also can buy Santa's arrival messages for Christmas Eve that will help kids track the elf's journey around the world. The five personalized, prerecorded messages that arrive every hour during his journey cost $17.95.

Kids Eat Chicago

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