Thursday, December 31, 2009

Resolutions for 2010

Nick looks a little wary about the new year. He isn't sure what it will bring, and he's a little nervous about what is to come. It is tough to be a toddler.

I'm not sure what his resolutions are, but I have a few in mind for myself. Not that resolutions usually matter by January 7th or so, but I figure it's worth a try. Something about writing down goals makes me more likely to at least attempt to stick to them. This year I want to make my resolutions attainable and reasonable. I also want to use the last day of every month to take account of how I'm doing. I'm going to try to make my last post each month an evaluation of my resolutions. So here goes. . .

Melissa's 2010 Resolutions

1. Exercise more. I don't want to set goals that are out of my league, but I think doing a cardio workout for at least 30 minutes, a minimum of 4 times a week is reasonable. That should make about 16+ workouts each month. I didn't buy an elliptical trainer for nothing.  : )

2. Continue reading to Nicholas every day. Right now I'm averaging about two books on a school night, and 4 or more on other nights. Already, he brings his favorite books to me and sits down on my lap. I want to continue reading to him every day. It is our special time.

3. Plan healthy meals each week. I am pretty good at eating healthy right now, but what will get me is if I don't have something planned for dinner. I've been known to munch on tortilla chips and call that dinner. If I have a plan, I tend to eat better. Weight loss is one goal, but not a resolution. No dieting. If I eat healthy, the last 20 lbs. of baby weight will come off once my thyroid is finally regulated.

4. Have more dates with my husband. As I re-discovered during our trip to Chicago, Greg and I have a lot in common, and we need to set aside some time to be a couple. Maybe we can finish using our dance lessons (he got me a gift certificate last year) or even go to a movie. I can't remember the last movie we went to. .

5. Start to organize my clothing better. The giant vortex that is our bedroom is filled with piles, stacks, and laundry baskets of clothing for every size, type, and season. I have so many clothes, and I keep buying more when I'd probably be okay if I could get it all put away each week. I need to spend less time desperately searching for specific clothing items. I've even been known to buy new things when I cannot find something. (I know, that's bad.) I think my first step will be to hang up everything I can find on Sunday, and pack up everything that doesn't fit. (Wishful thinking just wastes closet space.)

6. Be more positive. I am already much, much better about this than I was in my twenties, but I can improve. Cynicism is neither productive nor attractive, and I know of lots of ways to make myself feel better. My life is pretty awesome, and I need to dwell on the many wonderful things rather than the irritating things. I have a fulfilling job that I enjoy, where I can make a difference everyday. I have a husband and a son, both of whom I adore and are healthy and generally pleasant. We own our own home, have a large, loving extended family, and while we're not rich by any means, we can pay the bills despite the recession. I like my life.

7. Budget more. I'm not committing to anything crazy, but I think I can cut down on trips to the store if I plan a little better and know more about where my money is going. If I use a spreadsheet, this shouldn't be too hard. Small steps.

Well, seven resolutions doesn't sound too bad. I think I can swing these. I'm going to give it a shot, anyway. Now I'm off to put away some baby toys and have a nice glass of wine. Happy New Year, everyone!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Christmas #3--Christmas Day with Grandma Toni and Aunt Sarah

On the third day of Christmas. . . Grandma Toni let us sleep late, and Greg slept until 9 a.m., which he hasn't done in years. I slept even later. That was the best present. Nick was clapping for the presents. All of the presents. :) Note to self: Next year, take a shower and get out of your pajamas before the whole picture taking/present opening thing. Oh, and put on some makeup.

Yay! A rotary-dial phone! Very retro. Nick actually really likes it; he was pulling it all around the house yesterday. I was trying to remember if even I had seen rotary dial phones before.

He kept pulling ornaments off of the tree. That and eating wrapping paper. We spent the whole day at Grandma Toni's, then set off for home, where more presents (from Santa, and mommy, and daddy) were waiting. I'm not sure why I look so surprised here--I'm the one who bought the book. I look more surprised than Nick! :)
Greg looks surprised, too, but I think he was surprised that Nick was opening the present himself. After 40 plus presents, he finally got the hang of it.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas #2 (At Grandpa Ray and Grandma Linda's House)

On the second day of Christmas. . . we went to my mom and stepdad's house for dinner and presents. This was on Christmas Eve. My grandmother was there, and my sister (who took all of these pictures) and stepbrother, too. Nick got to stay up past his bedtime and eat gingerbread cookies and play with Tigger (the dog). He was very happy, even before the presents started. I'm constantly amazed at how well he sits and listens to books. Each time he received a new book, he wanted me to read it to him. He likes to turn the pages and point to things in the stories. Sometimes if he likes a book he'll bring it back to me again and again.
The photo below has a hilarious backstory. On Christmas Eve, I was trying desperately to wrap presents and get everything wrapped and packed up. Nick was tearing paper and moving htings around and generally causing mayhem. I noticed a couple of times he put stuff into boxes as I was wrapping them, but I caught him in time, or so I thought. I didn't even notice, but he must've put a cat toy (the little ball) into my grandma's gift bag. She opened her gift and looked at the ball, confused. "What is this?," she asked. Nick saw the ball (and heard it, too, because it has a bell) and came right over to claim it. He likes to put things into bags and baskets, and thus the "extra" gift. Later, my mom found a random pen dumped into her gift bag. It must've been the one I thought I lost while I was filling out gift tags.

Obviously my grandma wasn't too upset about the incident. Nick got a nice cuddle and a cup of milk for making us all laugh. My grandma loves sitting with him in the rocking chair. He knows a good lap when he sees it.

Oh, Nick started talking last week. His first real word? Tree. He's been saying Daddy for ages, but not necessarily to Greg. He says it to me, to the cats, etc. He does know what a tree is. Every time he walks into a room with a Christmas tree, he points and announces, "Tree!" Then he waits for everyone to clap. Finally, if he can, he'll go and try to tear things off of the tree, as you can see him doing below. I do have some video of him talking, and I'll try to post it tomorrow.

Greg was in a kind of a silly mood. Not sure why the orange was on his head. My mom puts oranges in our stockings each year. And yes, I still get a stocking, even though I'm 31. She even made one for Greg last year after we were married. I guess Santa never stops coming as long as you believe. It was a nice Christmas--Greg got this cool Cooking Light cookbook and I got some really nice watches and jewelry. But Nick made out like a bandit. I think after the whole 4 Christmases thing, he was probably wondering "When do I get to open more presents?" He didn't understand much about them on his birthday, but he sure understands gifts now!
My mom has been knitting hats again, and she made this adorable one for Nick. I wish I could get him to keep a hat on for more than three seconds. It really is cute and very soft. Nick's Grandma Linda found this string of jingle bells and Nick loved the sound they made. Unfortunately, he also tangled them into a hopeless knot.
you can see Nick clapping for himself after proclaiming, "Tree!" If no one claps for his heroic deeds, you see, he feels obliged to give himself a round of applause. Can you guess he's the first grandchild?

After this, we went to my mother-in-laws to spend the night. It was a busy day, but Nick sure enjoyed himself.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas #1 (w/Grandpa Mike and Grandma Patty and Grandma Toni)

On the first day of Christmas. . . we had Grandma Patty and Grandpa Mike over, as well as Grandma Toni, who was up for seeing Nick open as many presents as possible. I love the t-shirt Nick is wearing. If you can't see, it has two penguins and it says "Cool like daddy." And he is. :) Note the adorable doggie quilt that Nick got from my dad and stepmom. I believe this was the first of over 40 gifts Nick received this year. What a lucky, lucky boy.

Since both of our parents are divorced, we have four Christmases each year. Nick didn't seem to mind all of the excitement, though. Note how he zeroed in instantly on the cute, eminently breakable snowman bell. That and the bubblewrap were more interesting than toys. :)

Greg was very excited about our new salad set. I can see why; we just dropped a grand on an elliptical trainer, and we will need lots of salad to go with the new healthy lifestyle.

Nick was thrilled to see his Grandpa Mike, and even more thrilled with the cupcakes that they brought. My dad only had 2 girls, no boys, so his first grandson is obviously very special to him.

Here's Nick sitting with his Grandma Patty. Notice the crumby mess he left on the table. I believe he was eating chocolate chip cookies. They are one of Nick's favorites, just like his Grandpa Mike.

No, I don't believe we were tipsy, although it probably looks like that from the picture. Greg was blocking Nick from getting the envelope with his foot. Nick is always most interested in whatever is most forbidden/dangerous/delicate.
My camera takes really bad pictures, did I mention that? I think there is something wrong with it. Here is a family shot, and out of three, this was the best one. Nick was surreptitiously trying to sneak a bite of my cupcake.
Before they left, Grandma Patty and Grandpa Mike played with Nick and our cat Molly up in the loft. I can tell what Nick is thinking: "As long as I entertain them, I won't have to go to bed!" He was right, too.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

3 Days of Pampering, Exploring, and Winter Weather. . . Day Two, Part Two

Well, seeing as we are snowed in and cannot go to Delavan today for Christmas #4, (blizzard conditions in Wisconsin)I'm going to finish reminiscing about our trip to downtown Chicago earlier this week. On Tuesday, after our afternoon nap, we went to the Christkindlmarket, which is a Chicago must, or so I've been told. I'd never seen it before, and despite the sleet/freezing rain/flurries, we set out to see what it was all about.

It was very pretty; Daley plaza was set up with booths all around with food, ornaments, winter wear, and hot beverages. Greg and I split one of tastiest hot pretzels I've ever had and a cup of hot apple cider, which felt great in the cold air. We walked around and looked at all of the European tchotchkes. I especially liked the toy store that sold authentic wooden puzzles and games for kids. I was tempted but the prices made me think twice.
My camera has always taken pretty crappy pictures, and this trip was no exception. My sister actually told me over Christmas that there's something wrong with it. I'm not sure, however, if losing the original reciept voids the Nikon warranty. Anyhow, here Greg and I are standing in front of the big Chicago tree in Daley Plaza. It was gorgeous, and the picture doesn't do it justice.
Here I am on Michigan Avenue. you can see one of the Art Institute lions behind me. Isn't it nice that with digital photography, I can crop my rear end out of pictures if it looks too big? Something about puffy winter jackets tend to make everyone look like the stay-puff marshmallow man. But it kept me warm, anyway, and nighttime in the city is beautiful in December.
This is the sleet/freezing rain that fell on us as we walked around. We found a lovely hot tea place called Argo, and I had an Earl Grey Steamer, which was steamed skim milk mixed with Earl Grey tea (my favorite), bergamot, and a shot of vanilla. yummy. Before we went to dinner, I made Greg take a picture of these pigeons. They were hanging around the flame, and I don't blame them. It was cold and wet. I thought it was cute how they stick their heads down in their birdie armpits to keep warm. If that one had gotten any closer to the flame, though, he would've been a roasted pigeon.
After Christkindlmarket, Greg took me for dinner at Trattoria #10, where we had had dessert Monday night. It was so good we were inspired to visit again for dinner Tuesday. I had the best caprese salad ever and a lobster ravioli that was so good I can't even put it into words. Greg had a magnificent lamb dish, and the chocolate cake we had for dessert was absolutely spectacular. My tummy was so happy. It's funny how I may forget the other details of our trip, but I will remember that meal as long as I live.

Why the shoe pictures? Well, there was a Crocs store near our hotel, and I walked in to look at shoes for Nick. I think that Crocs make your feet look like boats, and I would never buy them for myself. The kid ones are cute, though. However, I decided (after looking at the price tags) that it was a waste of money to spend $29.99 on shoes for a little boy who would grow out of them in a month or two. Then I saw these. . . and I had to buy them. They are pretty comfy flats, and they don't look like Crocs. Plus, they were buy one, get one 1/2 off. And my feet should stay the same size, at least I hope so. It was a wonderful trip, and if we can swing it, we want to go again next year. Maybe next year we'll stay on the Gold Coast. Greg says that he knows of some great places around there. A romantic Chicago trip was a great way to start our Christmas week.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

3 Days of Pampering, Exploring, and Winter Weather. . . Day Two, Part One

Tuesday was such a great day that I think I'll have to make it into two posts. Greg got us coffee from Starbucks and we reveled in the joys of sleeping in. It was snowing lightly when we left, and since I didn't have to drive in it, I thought it was beautiful. We walked down to the Art Institute of Chicago, one of Greg's favorite places in the city. He's always been interested in art, and since he started painting a few years ago, he spends hours looking at paintings in the many art books he collects. The lions were all decked out for the holiday, and we got to see the new modern wing.

Since the last time we were at the museum (maybe 1-2 years ago?), they redid a lot of the building and added this huge modern section. It was beautiful and bright, with amazing views of the city. However, they also jacked up the prices--$18 per person admission! We were only planning on spending a few hours there, so thank goodness they give free admission to Illinois schoolteachers. Greg wandered through the modern wing admiring the paintings and the freeform art. I liked this strand of lights you can see below. Not sure what it's supposed to symbolize, but it sure looked cool. Perhaps it is meant to stand for that feeling you get when you carefully put away your lights each year and then open them up next December to find a tangle. . . I guess the point of modern art is to make you think, and the artwork I saw clearly made me think. Some of the modern conceptual art made me think, "This artist must have had a very interesting childhood," or "Perhaps psychiatric drugs helped with this painting." Something about the peaceful quiet of art museums makes me feel very relaxed and sleepy. I actually napped a bit on some of the benches, and Greg saw me and suggested that after lunch we go back to the hotel for a nap. Don't get me wrong, I love art, I guess my attention span just isn't as great as my husband, who could probably spend 8 hours walking through the galleries.

I spent most of my time looking out the windows, actually. There's a gridwork overhang and you can see the chunks of snow gather in clumps and then fall to the ground. It was spectacular.
We went to the one sit-down restaurant at the Art Institute. They closed down the old one and opened up a new one called Terzo Piano. It was ultra-modern and the food was spectacular and fresh and unique. I had the three-cheeseburgers lunch, and it was delicious. It better have been for $19! Greg and I shared, though, and he had a salad. I had a lamb burger with goat cheese, a wisconsin burger with cheddar, and a shrimp burger with this delicious sauce. It's funny how food is so important to me on a vacation. Sometimes I remember the food more than the things I'm "supposed" to remember. That lamb burger, though, I will remember for the rest of my life. It just melted in my mouth. mmmm
My favorite part of this restaurant, though, was the chairs. They had the coolest modern-looking chairs, and I'm not usually into modern plastic furniture. These chairs, however, are smiling. Check them out! They're grinning from ear to ear! I love them.
If you look out the window of the restaurant, you can see the metal gridwork I was talking about that goes around the whole modern wing. Look closely and you can see the snow chunks falling down. It was mesmerizing.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

3 Days of Pampering, Exploring, and Winter Weather. . . Day One

Greg and I just got back from three wonderful days in Chicago. For Christmas, he got us a room at the Palmer House downtown, and arranged for his mother to come and babysit for us. It was a spectacular gift, and we've decided to make this a yearly tradition, if we can arrange it. The city is so beautiful around Christmastime. I loved the lights and the music and the food. Oh, the food. . .

It was, however, very cold. I suppose the actual air temperature was in the high 20s or low 30s (F), but the wind was strong and the sky kept randomly spitting us with rain, sleet, and snow. I react to this by walking a little more slowly so as to not irritate my asthma, but Greg speeds up. Thus we spend much of our time with me walking four to ten feet behind him down the streets of Chicago.
Backing up a bit, I started out Monday by going into the spa while Greg was at work. My mom and stepdad watched Nick, and I had an afternoon to myself. I received a generous Christmas gift from a family I tutor for, with orders to spend the money on myself. I had the best experience at a place called Prima Nails in Carol Stream. I had a manicure, pedicure, and an eyebrow wax, and it felt so nice to pamper myself a little. Then I went to a salon across the street called Gossip, and the stylist (Olga) gave me a new hairdo. She did a great job, but I'm not sure if I'll keep it straight or not. I have the kind of hair that is more curly than straight, and it took her awhile to get my hair to look like this. If you have an opinion on whether I should go curly or straight, I'd love some input. I took the above picture in our fancy hotel room.
I loved the Palmer House. It was classic and gorgeous and impressive. We got a really good deal on expedia. It was divine to get away and spend some time alone with my husband. Below you can see a picture of my husband enjoying a $14 glass of Pinot Noir. Hey, you've gotta enjoy yourself on vacation. And this was a mini-vacation for us. We didn't really go anywhere this year, what with having a baby and all. The whole experience kind of reminded me of our honeymoon in Paris. I had forgotten that one of the reasons I love my husband so much is that we both enjoy the same things when we travel. Good food, a little history, a little art, and an afternoon nap. Here are some pictures of our hotel room. It was comfortable and luxurious.

For dinner our first night, we went to The Berghoff, which was very close to our hotel. Our concierge recommended it as a Chicago must. I'm so glad we went, because it was so different from most restaurants we go to. Greg and I both love trying different types of restaurants and eating well. I can't remember the last time I went to a German place. The food was pretty delicious, and the decorations were grand. Greg had a sausage trio, and I had a roast beef with veggies. The service was lightning fast, too. We walked around the city more after dinner, and stopped at a fancy place called Trattorio 10 for dessert. It's nice to go into fancy places and just have coffee and dessert. We didn't have any place to be, and we could stay up late eating tiramisu and drinking coffee and Kahlua, knowing that we could sleep as late as we wanted. :)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is there anything cuter, or messier. . .

than a baby eating spaghetti? I had to pull out the camera today at lunchtime, because Greg made the most delicious whole wheat linguine with a marinara cream sauce, sweet peppers, and garlic. Nick obviously enjoyed it, too, but the whole experience required 30 minutes of floor and highchair cleanup as well as a bath for Nick and a fresh outfit for me. He actually finished a pretty large serving, peppers and all. He even picked through the spaghetti to eat the vegetable chunks first. But boy, was it hard to clean out the sauce from inside his ears. I believe in letting kids eat the same foods as mommy and daddy, even if they are messy. I've spent a lot of time taking care of other people's children, both in daycare centers and as a teacher, and one thing I have decided is that kids live up to the expectations you set for them. Our expectation is that Nick will eat with us. I do not want to prepare separate meals for my kid. I hope that when he gets older and pickier, I can be strong and stick to my guns on this one. So far it has been pretty easy, because I have an easygoing child who loves to eat just about anything. We'll see what happens later on, when he gets older and more stubborn.
Above you can see Nicholas showing the world how much he likes this particular strand of linguine.

I finally knew he was done when he started flinging pieces of pasta at me. Then I knew it was time to start running a bath for my little messy man.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A miraculous gate and the joys of locating my desk

Today was my last day of school before our winter break. I feel free! Nick looks excited, too, doesn't he? The stress of the last few months has been getting to me, and I am totally ready for a break. I felt great when I left work today, and I fully intend to savor every last one of my 16 days without work. The last day before a holiday is always funny; some teachers really try to keep their lessons going, but by around eleven a.m., most of them have given in to the chaos. Movies are being shown, coloring is widespread, and chatting is constant. It's nice to see the kids playing and talking for a change. The teacher's lounge was very festive this week, too. Any excuse for a party. They set up a tv with Christmas DVDs playing all day, so that if you had a few minutes, you could sit down and eat some cookies while watching something festive. Oh, and the treats. . . usually we have a Friday Morning Feast, but in honor of this last week, we all picked a day and had treats EVERY day. If you've ever worked in a school, you know that the teacher's lounge is a very dangerous place for calorie counters. Between that and the seven (yes, seven) boxes of candy given to me by various students, it is like the fates are conspiring against me.
All of this partying in the classrooms led to teachers keeping their kids, and this meant that I finally had time to tackle the mess that is my desk. Me? Clean my desk? Nick thought this was so funny he laughed until he had to rest his head. (Really. He laughed so hard he nearly fell over.) This year, my desk/mess has spread from the actual teacher desk onto four file cabinets and three bookshelves. Since I share my classroom with two teachers and an assistant, we often will have to move one another's piles of stuff. Therefore, as of this morning, every conceivable surface was covered with student files, sometimes up to two feet deep. I was determined to find the actual surface of my desk, which I believe I haven't seen since perhaps October. I triumphed just in time, and it will be so nice coming back in January to a neat, tidy desk. Of course, I'm sure it will be covered in piles within about two days, but it's still great to have a fresh start.

Oh yes, onward to the gate. It is indeed miraculous, for it is gate number five. My dear, beloved husband is incredibly brilliant and a wonderful father, but tasks that involve screwdrivers and instructions are a challenge for him. Since this summer, Greg has been trying to get working gates on the top and bottom of the stairs. First, we tried a simple pressure gate (take 1). This gave easily under pressure and didn't seem very safe. So we decided that something stronger was necessary. Greg bought a more expensive gate (take 2) with many parts, and that gate turned out to be broken. So it was returned and another model chosen (take 3). Thank goodness this gate worked at the top of the stairs, because Nick was really moving by this point. (Although, I might add, that gate is slightly crooked and you have to wiggle it around and then push down with all of your body weight in order to get it to click closed.)
The gate at the bottom presented an additional challenge. First, the studs were crooked, meaning that you couldn't screw the gate into the wall on both sides evenly. So chunks of wood and a saw had to be involved. Apparently, this still did not work, because there is wood trim that makes the edges uneven. I'm probably not explaining this very well, because my understanding of all things tool is even less precise than that of my husband. Let's just say that several more trips to the baby store were involved, and there are now multiple holes in the wall around where the gate is installed. But it is installed, and I am overjoyed. Nick seems to like hanging off of the gate, for some reason. In the picture above you can see him holding it while chewing on one of my hair bands. It's funny how the cats and the kid both think plain hair bands are wonderful toys. Forget the expensive developmentally appropriate toys--give them a hair band or a cardboard clothing tag, and they are thrilled.