Moms in the Mix


Welcome to MOMS in the MIX presented by
The Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

Welcome to MOMS in the MIX, a Virtual VIP Insider Playgroup devoted to Chicago Moms featuring: special outings and VIP opportunities at The Museum of Science and Industry and other Chicago attractions for kids, the latest mommy news and parenting tips, Monthly Mom Blogs, best kid friendly places to eat and play, and much more.


Holiday spirit is alive at MSI
By Elizabeth Diffin

A lot has changed in the world in the last 75 years, but there’s one thing that stays the same: The Museum of Science & Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” exhibit still has the power to delight and amaze, even after so many decades.

Christmas Around the World celebrates its 75th anniversary this year, along with its companion exhibit, Holidays of Light (which debuted a little later, in 1994). The exhibit originally was launched as a way to raise morale on the homefront during World War II. And while this year’s display isn’t wildly different from years past, the creative and beautiful trees – decorated by volunteer groups – will more than keep your attention.

Here are some of this year’s standouts:

  • • Assyria. One of three new trees this year, the Assyrian tree represents people from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. Kids will love the bright colors and sparkles, not to mention the many Lamassu (a human-headed winged bull) scattered across the branches.
  • • Nigeria. Another newbie to the exhibit, the Nigeria tree is covered with lace fabric and wax cloth, as well as garlands made out of black-eyed peas that have been dyed to represent traditional jewelry.
  • • Ukraine. This tree’s decorations represent an old folktale of a family who could not afford to decorate their tree, so some spiders came and covered it in cobwebs. Arachnophobes beware: the tree includes many spider web and spider ornaments.
  • • Japan. Christmas typically isn’t a religious holiday in Japan, so this tree celebrates Christmas as a way to spread happiness. The tree’s ornaments are made of hand-folded origami and traditional paper cranes.
  • • Puerto Rico. During Christmastime in Puerto Rico, groups travel from house to house, singing traditional songs and playing instruments. This tree is a nod to that custom, with ornaments shaped like guitars and tambourines.
  • • Australia. The final addition to the exhibit, this tree celebrates the Land Down Under with paper chains, native Australian creatures and a cricket bat. And since Christmas falls during the Australian summer, keep an eye out for a dressed-down Santa Claus.
  • • The Grand Tree. The United States has its own tree, but this epic 45-foot tree in the center of it all is truly the must-see for native Chicagoans. It pays tribute to the past 75 years of the exhibit – and makes for an amazing family photo op.
  • But once you’ve seen this year’s standouts, where do you go next? Since the U.S. is such a melting pot, there’s a good chance that you have multiple nationalities in your blood – or else you know someone who comes from a different culture. Start with the cultures that you know (I’ll admit that I gravitated toward the Ireland tree due to my own ancestry), but make sure to experience at least one tree that comes from a place you probably couldn’t find on a map.

    Looking for a way to make it even more kid-friendly? Turn it into a scavenger hunt! The museum’s website includes brief descriptions of all the countries and cultures represented, so you can make a checklist of what to keep an eye out for.

    To get you started, here’s my own list: a crown, a white dove, the Olympics rings, a king and queen, a bald eagle, a bicycle, a llama, a pinecone, a spider web, a duck, an apple, a teacup, a dream catcher, a windmill, a fish, a daffodil and a koala. Or challenge your kids to count how many star or snowflake or heart ornaments they see. There are so many treasures on each of the 54 trees, so looking at them carefully serves the extra purpose of helping kids to notice details they otherwise might not. (Parenting win!)

    And be sure to check out Holidays of Light, which gets greater exposure this year than it has in the past. Eight non-Christmas holidays are represented in display boxes throughout the Rotunda and include interesting facts and objects for Diwali, Hanukkah and Ramadan, among others.

    Since it’s been around so long, Christmas Around the World is something many Chicago families do year after year. But don’t worry – it’s not too late. If you ask me, 2017 sounds like the perfect time to kick off a new family tradition of your own.

    To see all the Chicago Parent Blogs, click here.

    Mom to one, Katie is a marketing copywriter by day, worker-outer whenever possible and valiant lover of top 40 hits.

    November pledge: Get outside!
    By Katie Niekerk

    When I strolled into work the day after Halloween, I kept overhearing fellow parents express their disdain for the weather during the previous night’s trick-or-treating festivities. By the water cooler, in the kitchen, through the halls: “It was so cold! You can’t enjoy anything when it’s that cold.”

    Now, to be fair, I’m a pretty huge wuss about the cold. When temperatures dip into the low 40s, my hands are the first to go. The rest of me can be toasty as an oven, but my hands actually hurt with cold.

    That said, November is a glorious month, and here’s why: It’s the beautiful in-between. It’s cold, sure. But not the kind of cold that imprisons you indoors. Not the kind of cold that debilitates every limb of your body.

    November offers the kind of cold that dares you to play outside. Maybe not for hours, like the summer months do, but just long enough so that when the heated house calls, with its promise of hot cocoa, you run to its refuge with rosy cheeks and a smile.

    All this is why I’m making it a point to spend some time outdoors every day this month. I’m not talking running a marathon, but maybe stopping by the playground on the way home from school pickup. Or taking a walk around the block before heading out for the workday. Little breaths of fresh air to fill my lungs before the cold really sets in and, well, it hurts to breathe.

    I invite you to do the same. Let’s get creative in our outdoor pursuits—see how many different kinds of leaves you can collect with your child or make a masterpiece chalk drawing on the driveway. Gather a few rocks to decorate with paint, or simply toss around a football. Anything goes, as long as it means you’re enjoying everything nature so generously gives us, no matter the season.

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    See where the power of play can take you at the Museum of Science and Industry’s newest exhibit, Brick by Brick! Explore architectural marvels—all rendered in LEGO bricks—like the Roman Colosseum, the Golden Gate Bridge, the International Space Station, and more. This hands-on look at engineering and architecture also challenges you to put your own brick creations to the test under challenging conditions. For more information, visit