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The 1st Annual Go West 'Pooley Awards'

Unfortunately, summer is halfway over. But that also means you and your family still have about six weeks left to check out the amazing public pools, splash pads, beaches and aquatic parks in the far western ‘burbs.

To perhaps inspire you to try a new a spot, we present the first annual ‘Go West Pooley Awards.’ But we’d love to hear from you: What’s your favorite water hole, and what makes it great?

The tot slide at Elgin's Wing Park Family Aquatic Center. Photo by Tara Burghart.Best Tot Slide: The shipwreck-themed slide at Wing Park Family Aquatic Center in Elgin. The slide features coconut trees that spray water; there’s even a piece at the end that bobs a bit, like you’re walking the plank!

Best Place to Get a Burger: Aquatic Park in Montgomery, part of the Oswegoland Park District. The concession stand at this pool is called the Backyard Grill and it lives up to its name. Burgers and hotdogs are actually grilled to order!

Best Waterfall: The one located on the “island” at the Turtle Splash Water Park in West Chicago.

Best Water Play Area: Aurora’s Splash Country Water Park has an enclosed area with something similar to what you’d find on a playground, except it has waterfalls, spray guns, sprinklers and more. And the water pressure is .. well, let’s say it’s a lot more powerful than letting your kids play with your backyard hose!

Best Place for Feeling Like You’re in a John Mellencamp Song: Harold Hall Quarry Beach in Batavia. I love the quarry and I like Mellencamp, so this is a compliment. What a unique spot.

Best Twilight Swim: Swanson Pool, in St. Charles’ Pottawatomie Park, has a weekday twilight swim that lasts from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. until Aug. 14. It costs just $3 per person, whether you’re a resident or not. The pool is nearly 75 years old, but it underwent a beautiful renovation this year. There’s something about being in this historic setting, floating in the twilight with my daughter, that’s been one of my favorite summer experiences two years in a row.

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Great Parks! Northside Park in Wheaton

I’ve wanted to check out a park in Wheaton for a while now, so I asked a dedicated GWYM reader and Wheaton resident for a suggestion. She told me Northside Park had undergone a lot of updates and had a wonderful playground. Within a couple of days, my daughter and I were there for a fun afternoon outing.

The new playground at Northside Park. Photos by Tara Burghart.Park Name: Northside Park

Location: 1300 N. West Street in Wheaton, which is about 18 blocks north of Route 38/Roosevelt Road. For those of you familiar with Cosley Zoo, Northside Park is only about a mile away. I had trouble getting to the park because I didn’t have an exact address and kept running into dead-end streets. But if you travel north on North West Street, you’ll run right into the main entrance.

Amenities: This park is nearly 70 acres in size and features a picnic shelter next to the playground; four basketball courts; six lighted tennis courts; three ballfields; two soccer fields; and accessible public washrooms inside a shelter building. There is a gravel path around a large lagoon, in which visitors can fish.

The impressive playground features a tot playground as well as a playground for older kids. Both have lots of climbing options and slides. The playground also features a tire swing; see saw; three 8-foot-high slides set on steep hill; and a 90-foot-long zip line (!!!). The swing set has swings for babies as well as accessible swings. The surface is cushy rubber mulch. Nearby is a sand play area and some water sprayers. (More on this later.)

In the winter, Northside offers an ice rink for skating, a sled hill and warming house. In the summer, it has an outdoor pool, although the pool has been closed due to an electricity outage from the severe storms earlier this week.

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Weekend Spotlight: Outdoor Music All Around

I so enjoyed the “River Rhapsody” series in Batavia this past week. But next time I want to imitate some of my fellow concertgoers and try a show “Ravinia-style” with lots of tasty appetizers and drinks and maybe even one of those cute low-to-the-ground picnic tables. A sophisticated night like that will also likely mean hiring a babysitter, since I spent much of Wednesday night on the playground at the Riverwalk!

Photo by P Wood on Flickr.Anyway, in that musical spirit, the Weekend Spotlight focuses on a number of chances you have to enjoy an outdoor concert, all on Sunday.

Of course make sure to check out the Go West Calendar for lots of other family-friendly options this weekend, including a Hawaiian-style lua in Geneva tonight at Sunset Pool; a showing of “Sandlot” tonight in Aurora; performances of “Annie” in Elgin, “Little Shop of Horrors” in St. Charles and “Bye Bye Birdie” in Maple Park; an “Awesome Art Afternoon” on Sunday in Batavia at Water Street Studios and a couple of options for miniature train rides.

And if you can't make one of these shows, the Go West Guide to Outdoor Musical Concerts will help you figure out a music concert you can make before summer ends.

BARBERSHOP: Elgin’s Lord’s Park Pavilion will host the Barbershoppers on Sunday at 2 p.m. for a free concert. The group is known as the “Minutemen of Harmony.”

HONKY TONK: The Hoyle Brothers will perform at Cantigny in Wheaton on Sunday at 3 p.m. The concert is free, but the $5 parking fee applies. The band promises a “honky-tonkin’ good time.”

SINGER/SONGWRITER:  Greg Boerner, a guitarist, singer and songwriter who plays blues, folk, country and rock, will perform on Sunday starting at 5:30 p.m. at the Peck Farm Interpretative Center in Geneva.

DRUMS & JAZZ: Geneva’s RiverPark Summer Series takes place at Peyton Street and North River Lane. On Sunday at 6:30 p.m. the VanderCook Drum Circle will perform, followed by Geneva’s 3rd Street Jazz Quartet. The show is free.


Mom to Mom: Being Gentle to Myself

Guest columnist Rachel Engelhardt wrote this post for her own blog a number of months ago, soon after the birth of her third child. Engelhardt owns “A Closet of Her Own” and is a member of our Mompreneur Directory. Even if you don’t have a newborn in your house, I think her column will give you lots to think about. - Tara

“I am gentle with myself” reads one of the affirmation cards that are posted on my refrigerator. I put that card up shortly after the birth of my third child, in November of 2010.

The author's baby daughter, caught in the reflection of a frame around an affirmation card.Caring for a 5-year-old boy, a 3-year-old girl and an infant fills my days (and nights). The minutes are filled with the caretaking. The laundry is piled high, the dishes piled higher. There are toys, games, markers, balls, dolls everywhere. There are meals to be made, diapers to be changed, and books to be read. Do this all today, and repeat again tomorrow. And most importantly, there are children who want to be present with me, right now, always now. These children live so easily in the ‘right now.’ They know that now is the best time for enjoyment. I try to learn from them.

Being gentle to oneself probably means different things to different people. To me, it mostly means acceptance. It means that I accept where I am right now in time. In fact, I not only accept it, but I embrace it. 

It means that the house is often messy, even though it’d sure be nice if it were clean. It means that sometimes macaroni and cheese is dinner, even though I’d prefer to cook homemade meals.  (To be honest, it means that sometimes a bowl of cereal is dinner!) It means that I’m unafraid to look in the mirror and I’m happy in this size of jeans, even thought it isn’t the same size that I used to wear. (Actually, I’m really happy if I’ve managed to make it out of my sweats and into a pair of jeans for the day!)

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She'sWrite: The Battle Against the Bulge Continues

Well, I’ve been trying to lose 30 pounds for the past four months. I told myself that after I dropped my first 10, I’d blog about it. If you follow this blog much, you’ll note that I haven’t really written about my weight loss.

Photo by GenBug on Flickr.It’s because I’m not really losing. I’d lose 10 pounds then gain back two. Then three. After a bit, the scale would start to drop again, but never the steady decline that I hoped needed expected to see. I’m down two sizes, which is great, but I still can’t fit comfortably into most of my wardrobe.

I’ve been doing OK on my workouts. I admit, I’m bummed about my shin splints, and when I bike ride or hit the elliptical, I don’t push myself as much as I do when I’m running. It’s a motivation thing, or lack thereof. I’m working on getting my mojo back.

Where I’m really lax is the eating front. I love food. Love it. And I’m a damn good cook. I was eating “clean” for awhile and Hubby and I were devouring Tosca Reno’s recipes. That was the problem. I’d fix a properly proportioned plate. Eat it with a glass of wine or two. Then, since dinner was so tasty, I’d decide to go back for a smidge more. That would be followed by more wine and a smidge more dinner. (I’m cringing as I type this because reading about my weight battle in black and white doesn’t seem as complicated as it feels.)

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