Friday, July 31, 2009

Baby Push Ups and Starting to Pull Up

Nick can now do something I cannot: execute a perfect push-up. He just started doing this the other day, and he can hold it for quite awhile. Still no forward crawling, though.

I've been trying to give him lots of time down on the carpet and the floors. He likes the hardwood and linoleum the best. Maybe that helps him to slide better.
He really gets around for a baby who can't crawl with any purpose. Today he drove me nuts, insisting on doing baby push ups, backwards crawling, or butt scooting most of the day. Then he wanted to use my hands to pull up to a stand. He can't do this unless someone holds his hands just right, but he loves it. Nick would stand all day if he could. I'd be exhausted if I were him.

Yesterday Nicholas and I went to my dad and stepmom's place in Rosemont. We visited the park district there, and stayed for dinner and until Nick's bedtime. Our original intention was to visit the SplashPad, which we did, but it was rather cold, so we opted for the park and the swings instead. This July has been very odd, weather-wise. I heard on the radio today that the average temperature for this month was 69 degrees Fahrenheit. That's cold for July! Here are some pictures I took yesterday. Pardon the poor photography. You'd think I would get better, what with all the pictures I take of Nick. But, no. The one with my stepmom holding Nick? That is food on his face. Sweet potatoes, to be exact. Nick likes to smear everything on his face while he eats. Must make it taste better.

I also got some video of my dad helping him to stand. Boy, was Nick excited!

Today I read "The End of Overeating" by Dr. David A. Kessler. It was a scientific book about why Americans overeat, and it makes a lot of sense. There's no miracle cure, though. I was reading it while eating, and it made me choose blueberries instead of chocolate. He explains the way that processed and chain restaurant foods are designed to appeal to the reward centers in our brains, and how the combination of fat, sugar, and salt makes us happy. Sigh. Doesn't help with my cookie problem, but I guess knowing about it makes it less likely that I'll order anything at Chili's or Outback, ever. The book was well-written and the author's thesis makes a lot of sense.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Family

It's not often that I get them all in the same picture, but here they are: my family. I will go from left to right. Sebastian is the fat, longhaired grey cat sleeping on the armchair. You can see his ears poking up. He is overweight and doesn't move much unless there's food involved.
He is extremely lazy but lovable, and he likes to purr and knead with his paws. Sebbie is inordinately attached to me, and wishes he could still sleep in my bed. (I am allergic, so all felines are banished from the bedrooms.)

Tubby is the striped cat sitting on the red pillow. He was Greg's cat originally, and he makes a nice addition to our family, even though he's a scaredy cat. He's deathly afraid of the fire alarm and he loves to chase flies and spiders. Tubby is playful and friendly with us, but he hides when strangers come over. He is also the only one of our cats who is not overweight.

Greg is the one with the brown hair and the cup of coffee. He is neither overweight nor a scaredy cat, although he does check door locks rather obsessively. Knowing Greg, he is probably reading a book about: a.) a serial killer, b.) a famous and yet tortured artist, or c.) an airline crash.

Nick, of course, is the little guy in overalls with the board book. He's not overweight either, although he has been wearing a 12-month size since he was six months old. Since he's holding the book sideways, we know that he isn't actually reading it. But he likes to join in when we're all reading. I figure it's a good habit for him to pick up. Hopefully he'll wait to have coffee until he's a little older, though.

Molly is the calico/tortoiseshell cat sitting next to Nicholas on the couch. She always sits in the best seat in the house. In this case, she waited until I got up to take this picture, then immediately sat in the warm spot I left behind. Oh, and she likes to lick the whipped cream off of my coffee. That's why you can't see any in my cup on the table. Molly is quite chubby, and very moody and vocal. She's clearly the boss of the house. Also, she's the only cat who really likes to hang around Nick. Molly cries when he cries, and she'll rub her head on him to comfort him.

I think mornings like this are my favorite time. All of us sitting together in the living room, reading. (TheLately, Nick gets mad when he sees both Mommy and Daddy sitting on the couch without him. He yells until we pick him up and let him sit between us. Then he causes trouble. Can you see the mischevious grin on his face? (Nick's face, not Greg's.)

When I have a bad day, this is the kind of scene I picture to relax. The hot drink, the baby between us, cats purring contentedly, and the book on my lap. My family.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Renovations, Toys, and Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

Today Nick's Grandpa was over, putting in our new bathtub. He worked really hard on it. Nick was very excited, as you can see. Just wait until the whole bathroom is done and he can actually take a bath!

I had a very quiet day today, which was nice. I edited some papers for Brainmass and did some laundry, but I also had the chance to read Barbara Kingsolver's "The Poisonwood Bible." I would highly recommend it. This novel tells the story of a family of missionaries that go into the Congo and are changed forever. I love how the author changes who is telling the story with each chapter; the characters are very realistic and well-developed, and a little bit about the history of the region is woven into the story. The utter stupidity and disrespect of many white missionaries and the clash of cultures changed all of the characters irrevocably. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes historical fiction written from multiple perspectives.

I have been spending a little time each day on, and today I bought Nick 3 new toys. You can see him here playing with his new basketball hoop. Do you think he'll be into sports? Greg was and is into all kinds of sports, but I am most definitely not a sports enthusiast. But I still figured he'd get a kick out of this basketball hoop. And he did! Not a bad deal for $5.

Everytime he shoots a basket (or hits the rim with his hand), it sings and cheers for him. Plus, the balls must be pretty tasty, because he kept chewing on them.

Now I'm going to tell you about a new recipe I tried this week, one for Pumpkin Black Bean Soup. I know, it sounds kind of weird, but trust me on this, it's delicious. I am definitely going to add this one into my repertoire of recipes that I make regularly. This one is reasonably healthy, hearty, and it has a unique flavor. It was really good with a salad and some fresh bread.

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup

At least 1 cups each of celery, Vidalia onion, and carrot, cut into tiny pieces, especially the carrot
2 - 15 oz cans of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 - 15 oz can of petite diced tomatoes
Around 20 ounces of pumpkin puree
1 large box of chicken broth
5 cloves of garlic, pressed
2-3 T of extra virgin olive oil
4 slices of crispy cooked bacon, crumbled
1/3 cup of red wine
1 T of cumin
1 t. of sage
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Whatever other spices you think necessary


1. Using medium heat, pour the olive oil into the bottom of the pan and add the celery, onion, garlic, and carrot.
2. Add the spices to the mixture.
3. Saute until the onion is mostly cooked. Keep the heat low enough so that the garlic doesn’t brown.
4. Add everything but the broth, and bring to a simmer.
5. Add the broth, stirring carefully. Bring to a simmer again.
6. Taste the soup, and add whatever spices you think would be good. I added more pepper and cumin at this point.
7. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until the carrots are totally cooked and the soup tastes yummy.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Lima Beans and Homemade Granola Bars

Not together, thank goodness! I actually like lima beans. My mom used to make this ham and lima bean stew dish that was pretty good, so I figured maybe Nick would like them, too. I was completely wrong. This is the rather petulant face he made when when I tried to give him more lima beans. It's like he's saying, "More of those? No way."

Next time I'll have to mix something with the lima beans. Perhaps that will make them tastier. In my own defense, I did try them first, and I didn't think they were half bad, although I wouldn't normally choose to eat them pureed.

Nick is still struggling with the whole teething thing; he actually has two that are coming in simultaneously. The picture below shows his swollen gums. His first teeth will be on the bottom gum, in the center. Nicholas has symptoms that I definitelyrecognize. Teething is just like PMS! He is moody, randomly in pain, always wants a cookie, and he suddenly flies off the handle and starts yelling and/or crying for no reason. Hmm. I know just how he feels, poor guy. Only thing is, I can't give him a nice glass of wine, a midol, and a brownie. That's what I would do if it were me.
And orajel? Well, it works, if I can get it in his mouth. He sees me coming with the tube and starts fighting like mad. Then, once I put a dab on his sore gums, he makes the peanut butter face. You know, the same face a dog makes when you give him peanut butter. That stuff must work, because once the orajel is on, he calms down. I suppose it's better than putting whiskey on his gums. No, I would never do that. Not for the baby, anyway. When my wisdom teeth were coming in, though. . .

I had a great day today, although it started out messed up. I thought I had to tutor, so I woke up at 6:30 a.m., rushed into the shower and out the door, only to arrive at my student's home and ring the bell to find no one home. I screwed up, and I wasn't supposed to tutor today; the family is out of town. I believe that is yet another example of what you would call "baby brain."

Much of my day was spent in the kitchen, making homemade baby food (like lima beans), granola bars, and bread. I love to cook, so this was great. Nick got lots of playtime on the floor, and I got to bake while listening to NPR. (I'm afraid I'm addicted. Nick is going to start talking like Carl Kasell one of these days.)

One of the recipes I messed with was a relatively healthy version of granola bars. I love the Kashi dark chocolate cherry bars, because they're high-protein and fiber. However, they are also expensive! So I combined several recipes and came up with this one.

Homemade Granola Bars

2 cups of oats, any kind
½ cup of brown sugar Splenda mix
1 cup of white whole wheat flour
2T of wheat germ
2T of golden milled flaxseed
1/2 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
2 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1 ½ t. vanilla
½ cup of honey (I measured generously)
2T molasses
½ cup of almonds (I put them in the food processor first)
¼ cup (or more) bittersweet chocolate chips
¼ cup (or more) dried cherries

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and lightly spray an 11 x 13 inch baking pan with canola spray.
2. Put the dry ingredients in first, then the wet. Mix together, making sure to distribute the honey and molasses well. The dough will be sticky and crumbly.
3. Press the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Make sure you press hard. I used the palms of both of my hands.
4. Bake for 20 minutes or until it is lightly browned.
5. Cool completely and then cut into bars.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blooms and Some Splashing

Wow, has my garden grown! I went out today to check on it after the big rain last night, and I was amazed. One zucchini plant has a flower, the catnip are in full bloom, and the herbs are still alive, somehow. I wonder if I'll get more strawberries this year. I know I bought ever bearing, and I think that means I get two batches per year. I'm actually hoping for some zucchini, because I can make so many things with it. I remember a few years back I made this chocolate zucchini bread that was melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

I'm rather proud of myself for remembering to water regularly. I have the perfect excuse to skip it. You see, our back faucet is broken and won't work with the hose. So I've been using a watering can and hand watering the garden and the raspberries at least every other day for a month now. It's quite a workout.

Not only did I manage to keep the plant my friend gave me alive, it is actually thriving. The plants (I guess there are several) have doubled in size and now fill up two whole squares in the garden. The nasturiums even have these little flowers on them. They have yellow petals with little red dots. There's also a red flower on one of them, but it hasn't opened yet. I will have to taste them at some point. I wasn't brave enough to do that today. I need to look up recipes for cooking flowers and see what I can find.

Next year I think I want to grow spinach. I love fresh spinach salads, and they're best when the spinach is fresh. I'll have to research that and see what kinds of spinach are the easiest to grow.

So far I'm planning on spinach, peppers, zucchini, several kinds of squash, tomatoes, carrots, peas, strawberries, raspberries, and perhaps a pumpkin. I think I'm going to need a bigger garden. I like how easy a raised bed is to take care of, so I am thinking I'll have Greg help me make mine twice as big.

As for the raspberries, they're doing pretty well. I only have berries on the one in the center, but they definitely look like raspberries. That is a positive sign, I guess. The other plants are, well, alive. My mom was suggesting to me the other day that we take a piece of her raspberry plant and put it in the empty space between mine. She has a different variety of raspberries, and they are excellent producers. Perhaps in a few years I'd even have enough raspberries to have in one bowl of cereal.

I love the kind of Sundays where you don't go anywhere. I got the chance to take a nap on the couch, read and drink coffee on the screened-in porch, and bake in the kitchen. These are the best kinds of days. I just finished reading "Fresh," a nonfiction history/geopolitical/nutrition book by Susanne Freidberg. It's a kind of a history of how the modern way of eating came about. I think my favorite little story was of the Montreuil growers, in France. They grew the most beautiful peaches, and they even covered them with little paper bags while they were growing. Overall this book was fascinating and pretty in-depth. I'd recommend it to those of you who enjoy that sort of thing.

Greg put up Nick's swimming pool today, and Nick got to splash around in it. I think his favorite part, though, is practicing pulling up. Nicholas has been working on standing, and I think the water makes it easier. He's not that steady on his feet yet, but he's trying. It was all we could do to get him to sit down in the pool. Everytime he'd just try to grab on to the edge and pull up.

I spent a lot of time this weekend on a site called It's a site where I answer questions and do basic tutoring for college students. They post a question or an essay they need help with, and they give a bid for how much they think it's worth. If the question is of interest to me, and the price is right, I answer it. Sometimes I'll pick questions that I don't exactly know the answers to, just because I want to find out the answers. Then I can research them and write something up. Is it weird that I enjoy that kind of thing? Oh well, I made $49 anyway, for about 2 hours worth of work, spread out over the weekend.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Locomotion Frustration

Today was a pretty good day. We went to farmers' markets in both Plainfield and Naperville. The Plainfield one was very small, but the produce that was there was good. The tomatoes especially were delicious, and I bought some homemade strawberry jam that is just divine. The market in Naperville is bigger, but crowded and more expensive. The blueberries were amazing, though.

Despite going out, I still had enough time to read two books: "What I Thought I Knew" by Alice Eve Cohen, and "Palace of Mirrors" by Margaret Peterson Haddix. The first was an adult memoir that was well-written and honest. I enjoyed it. The other was a teen book by one of my favorite authors. It was okay, but not her best work.

It's a darned good thing I have no trouble getting back into a book once I've been interrupted. I'm just glad I had time to read, in between playing with Nick, feeding him, and trying to prevent him from bonking his head. I can't keep him in the baby cage all the time, because that would be mean. So when I am directly supervising, I let him out to play and I sit next to him. Sometimes he still flings himself into something, but you can't protect your kids from everything. Plus, if he's always in a baby cage, an exersaucer, or a carseat, he'll never learn to crawl.

Nick is still figuring out the whole crawling thing. I bought him this new toy that rolls so he can follow it. He likes it a lot, but he can't figure out how to follow it around. That is because Nicholas only moves backwards. He can get up on his hands and knees, and I think he knows this is the way to do it, but he can't move forward. Poor guy. He gets frustrated after awhile, and reverts to flapping his arms and legs. But I try to let him try for a little bit instead of picking him up right away. After all, that's how you learn.

Nicholas can move, though, and I have the video to prove it. When he's in the mood, he can use his very strong ankle muscles to move backwards on his butt. He can go all the way across the living room, and I think he'd go further if there was more room. He seems rather confused, to me at least, as to why he is getting further and further away from what he's trying to scoot towards. As in, "Hey, wait, where am I? How'd I get back here?"

Friday, July 24, 2009

Birthday Party Fun

Here I am in my mom's backyard, playing with Nick in the baby pool. He is messing with a boat and making his muppet noise, perfectly content just to sit in the water. Just the place to be at 1 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.

One thing I love about the summer is that I can be out while other people are at work. I can leisurely get an iced tea, shop garage sales, and go for walks. I get to visit the library in the middle of the day, when it's not as busy. It usually takes until about mid-July (like, now) before I stop feeling like I'm playing hooky. Then, just when I'm getting used to being at home, the school year begins and it's all over. I've been a public school teacher for 9 years now (this will be my 10th), and every summer I savor this time. It's particularly special this summer, because I got to spend it with Nicholas.

I'm counting down the days until I have to go back to work. In 24 days I'll be sitting in staff meetings, organizing classroom materials, and planning lessons. I guess I'd better enjoy every moment of my last 23 days of summer. This time is so fleeting. I'll have to get in lots of baby-playing, coffee-drinking, porch-sitting, book-reading, and recipe-experimenting as I can in these last few weeks.

Today Nick and I went to my mom's birthday party. It was in the afternoon, so Greg couldn't come. I think Nick has started to really enjoy birthday parties. We got my mom some children's books to read to Nick, all with a "Grandma" theme. I figure she can read them to him when we come visit, and he'll remember the stories and the time on Grandma's lap.

He sat in my mom's lap while we sang to her, and then he helped blow out the candles. I'm not sure what he thought about the candles, but he liked the singing just fine. Oh, and he somehow stuck his foot into the side of the cake. Not sure how he managed that one. This particular cake is a chocolate one, with green pistachio frosting. Only the edges have pistachios, though, so Nick was able to have some. And have some he did!

My stepdad enjoyed feeding Nick a little bit of chocolate cake. Then, every time he'd bring the fork to his mouth, Nick would open up his mouth, too. This resulted in a happy, cake-covered kid.

Lest you think I feed my child cake all the time, know that this is only the 2nd time this week he's had a bite of our dessert. I think that a little taste of something good every once and awhile makes life worth living. Judging from his facial expression post-cake, I think Nicholas agrees with my point of view.

Nick also got to visit the baby pool in my mom's backyard, and he was extremely excited to splash around in there. He even tried to grab the edge of the pool to try to stand up. Locomotion is getting closer and closer. My grandma commented that maybe Nick would just get up one day and walk, without ever crawling. I could see that happening. I just love his manly little swim trunks, and I think my little guy is going to swim like a fish when he gets older. Here is a video of him splashing around in the pool. He didn't seem to care that he got all wet.

Nick also got to spend some time with my sister. She takes really good photographs, far better than mine. She has one of those fancy cameras with the big lens. So she spent lots of time taking pics of Nicholas. I'm hoping she gives me copies. My pictures are mediocre, at best. But hers are very artistic and truly beautiful. Here is Nick with his Auntie. Her t-shirt made me laugh. It reads: If you don't talk to your cat about catnip, who will?

We want to put together Nick's pool this weekend for our backyard. He just seemed to love the water, and it's such an easy way to entertain him in the hot weather. As I'm typing this, there's thunder and lightning outside, but hopefully we'll have sunny skies this weekend and Nick can enjoy more time in the pool.

I picked this last picture because I think it's funny. Not necessarily the most attractive picture of me, but I was trying not to lose a contact while being splashed. Nick splashed so much water out of the little baby pool that my pants were totally soaked. But he looked so full of joy as he bashed his hands against the surface of the water. He is an easily amused baby. Oh, and the cute little hat he's wearing? Within 2 minutes of sitting in the pool, he'd ripped it off and soaked it with water. I'm not sure how to keep a hat on him for very long, so just in case, we always have to cover his little head with sunscreen.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

He just wanted to join us for dinner. . .

Nick was super-excited when he saw his daddy tonight. He got home from work earlier than usual, around 5 p.m., and when the garage door opened, Nick got very still. Then, when he heard the door open, he started squealing happily. Then, later, when Greg and I sat down to eat our dinner, Nick decided to start crying. We eat on the couch, largely because the rest of the living/dining room has been taken over by all things baby. Anyhow, Nick grabs the bars of his baby cage and gives us the most pitiful look. "What does he want?," asked Greg. "I think he just wants to sit by us," I replied.

Greg grabbed him a baby cookie, and put the baby between us on the couch. Nick smiled and was perfectly satisfied as soon as he was seated between us. However, he managed to smear cookie all over the couch, my pajamas, and Greg's shorts, but he sure had a good time doing it. He even ate some of my 15 bean soup. Nick just wanted to join us for dinner. :)

The more Nick has been teething, the more he needs baby cookies. Yesterday I bought him something called a biter biscuit, and it seemed to hold together better than some of the other baby cookies. It didn't break into tiny pieces, which is always a plus.

In this picture you can see Nick dipping his baby cookie into Greg's soup. I'm not sure why he decided to do this, but he thought it was hilarious. He ate the cookie anyway, so it must've been a taste sensation. It's kind of funny how when I take a posed picture, Nick will wait until I'm done, and then do something unplanned and cute, like dipping his cookie into the soup.

Last week I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, by Barbara Kingsolver. It's an excellent book, and I'd recommend it to anyone interested in gardening, local eating, or cooking. The author set her family up for a challenge: one year of living locally. But she doesn't propose that everyone try to do this. Rather, she gives ways that we can do something to promote local farmers. I liked how she wasn't preachy about the whole subject.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Buttermilk Molasses Wheat Bread and a Gigantic Blueberry Mess

This afternoon, I was trembling with anticipation as I walked to the mailbox with Nick in my arms. I'd been waiting almost a week. Would it arrive today? It had been almost a week, and still no sign of the delivery. My heart was beating and my son was pulling my hair as I pulled open the mailbox. Yes! My prize was inside! I did a little happy dance right there, on the curb, as the neighbors looked on in surprise. Nicholas laughed uproariously at my joy, though he couldn't comprehend it.

No, I didn't order jewelry, or a handbag, or even gourmet chocolates (that was a few weeks ago). Last Thursday, the paddle for my breadmaker disappeared. Greg and I aren't sure what happened to it, although we looked everywhere for literally hours. He tends to blame himself, and apologized profusely. I, however, do not blame him, although I was really upset not to have a glorious loaf of French bready goodness on my plate that evening.

I blame the same mysterious force that results in the whole "socks without partners" phenomenon. My husband, bless his heart, is one of those men who, when he does his laundry, does not ever lose a single sock. No, Really. Not. Ever. Not even when he went to the laundromat. When I started doing laundry for him a few years back, he would become disturbed and agitated when he couldn't find the mate to a particular sock. Persistant to a fault, he would spend what seemed like an eternity searching for the errant hosiery until I'd finally cry out in defeat, "Just stop it! I'll buy you some new socks!" And I did. My trick was to buy six or seven pairs of identical socks, and thus the tragedy wasn't so great when a particular partner was lost.

I, on the other hand, have a pile of no less than thirty-three (I counted) mate-less socks sitting in my drawer, waiting to be reunited. The chances of this are incredibly slim, but I just shrug and sigh, knowing that as soon as I throw out a sock, its partner will miraculously reappear, just to taunt me. Even though I'm neither superstitous or particularly fanciful, I always figured there was a sock monster in the laundry room. How else can you explain the constant missing socks? The whole sock situation took on new, irritating dimensions once I had baby laundry to wash. Teeny tiny socks disappear even more frequently, and poor Nick has had to leave the house more than once in socks that don't exactly match. (Not that it matters, because he has now learned to tear them off.)

But I digress. I was talking about my excitement about getting the bread machine paddle in the mail. You see, last Thursday, as Greg was still searching valiantly for the missing piece, I quickly located and purchased one from Ebay. I figured that we'd only find the bread paddle once I'd actually paid for a new one. Because that's how Murphy's law works, you know. But we didn't ever find the darned thing. So no bread, until today, that is. I suppose I should show you what a bread paddle looks like, just in case you ever find mine.

I put my left hand in there for scale, and it wasn't until I was editing the picture that I noticed how bad my hands are starting to look. Before I had Nick, I got professional French manicures every two weeks or so. I even had the acrylic or gel nails, which prevented me from biting my nails and cuticles. But manicures and baby poop do not go hand in hand, so to speak. So now I have "mom hands," which are useful but not very attractive. Oh, and the band-aid? I cut my finger while I was slicing the bread. Again. Sigh.

Anyhow, back to the bread. Within five minutes of checking the mailbox, I had pulled out my latest recipe creation, tweaked it, loaded the machine, and pressed the "start" button on the bread machine. Before the unfortunate thing went missing, I had tried several times to perfect a buttermilk recipe that incorporated whole wheat flour, ground flax seed, and molasses. I think I have a pretty good compromise between fiber, taste, softness, and slice-ability. Here's the recipe:

Buttermilk Wheat Bread

1 cup of buttermilk, warmed
1 large egg
1 ½ T of unsalted butter
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup white flour
4 t vital wheat gluten
2 T ground golden flax
¼ t salt
2 ½ T molasses
2 ¼ t active dry yeast


1. Warm the buttermilk slightly and put it into the bread pan. Add the egg, molasses, and butter.
2. Put in everything but the yeast on top of the liquid ingredients.
3. Make a well in the flour and put in the yeast.
4. Carefully put the bread pan into the bread machine. Make sure the yeast doesn't mix with everything else.
5. Choose the wheat bread cycle, light crust.
6. As the machine works its magic, check on the dough to see if it needs a teaspoon of water (if it’s too dry) or a teaspoon of flour (if it looks too sticky). Mine was fine.
7. In about 4 hours you’ll have fresh bread. I like to slice it and put it into plastic bags, pushing out all of the air. It seems to last longer that way.

This bread turned out really soft, and the buttermilk makes it smell really good when it's warm. I might make some more tomorrow, because I'm having company. The smell of fresh bread is always nice when you have company. It makes your guests less likely to notice that there was no time to vacuum.

Tonight when I was feeding Nicholas his dinner, he kept wanting drinks of water. He was ravenous, and would've eaten more than 2 jars of baby food if I'd let him. Lately, whenever he sees me with a glass of water, he opens his mouth wide and leans towards the glass. (I've been working with him on the sign for "drink," but no luck so far.) He won't drink out of a sippy cup, but he loves taking big sips from my water glass. I try to tip the glass just so, making sure he doesn't get too much, but it doesn't always work. Nick pushes his head forward to get more water, which sometimes makes him cough.

Poor guy. Tonight he started coughing and up came his dinner. He'd had blueberries and bananas, unfortunately, and therefore needed a complete scrubdown. I sat him in the sink fully clothed and started using the sprayer on him. Nick thought this was hilarious, and it must've tickled, because he was giggling so hard. This was his second bath of the day, but he didn't seem to mind. He looked so adorable sitting there in the sink that I had to take his picture.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dancing with a Monkey Friend

Nick helped me set up my classroom today. I worked with my two teaching partners, and we had a really productive morning. Nick helped by sitting on the floor and making cute little noises. I guess you could call him the entertainment.

He's doing pretty well with the baby cage, considering. I keep rotating the toys inside so he doesn't get bored, and between those and the exersaucer, Nick is a busy boy. Tonight Greg fed him some of our mushroom and spinach pizza. He seemed to like the garlic-y taste.

His gums have been bugging him, too, and he keeps biting on these teething rings that I put in the freezer and then let defrost. Poor guy. He had a great afternoon nap, though, and when he woke up he had a TON of energy. Below you can see him singing and dancing with his stuffed monkey friend.

I just finished reading Oliver Sacks The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat. I believe I read at least a few of the chapters as an undergraduate, but it was an interesting book to reread. I find the study of the human brain fascinating. I was a little freaked out by the tales of people who lost parts of their memories. One man, for example, couldn't remember anything that'd happened after 1945. The idea of this is terrifying to me, because your brain makes you who you are. My maternal grandfather was in the beginning stages of Altzheimer's Disease when he passed away two years ago. I'm very sad that we lost him, but grateful, in a way, that he still recognized all of us to the end. Grandpa retained most of his sense of self.

Probably my favorite case in the book is that of "Mrs. O'C," an elderly lady who spontaneously started hearing Irish songs from her childhood. The songs brought back incredibly vivid memories of her mother, who had died when she was 5. It turned out that she was having seizures, and they were activating parts of the brain having to do with music and memories. Some scientists hypothesize that all events we have lived are stored somewhere in our brains, dormant. Now, this is an older book, but doctors were able to stimulate healthy people's brains with electrodes and cause them to hear music from the past.

Probably I found this interesting because of my own memory, which is random and selective. I can remember general things about my childhood and adolescence, but often I'm surprised when others talk about events that happened long ago. These things ring a bell to me, but I have to think really hard to recall memories. Plus, I'm horrible with dates and such. My husband can tell me where he was on specific dates from twenty years ago, and I can't even remember what I did last Wednesday. I suppose, though, if I was reminded, that those memories would come back fairly quickly. I remember events (and the related meals) more than dates.

One thing I do like about my memory is that I am more likely to remember positive things. It isn't that I've had a perfect life, not at all. But I can think of my first year of college, for example, and mostly remember the exhilaration of living away from home and some of the great professors I had. I have a harder time recalling the loneliness and shyness I struggled with, and the devastation of my first relationship breakup. I don't think anyone has a completely objective view of his or her own life, but I'd much rather see my past through slightly rose-colored lenses.

I guess that's one of the reasons I started writing a blog. I want to remember this time in my life, and this time in Nick's life. I was looking through some pictures last week of my trip to Europe in 2004, and I was a little worried because I had trouble recalling names, people, and places. There's this one picture that I love, but I can't for the life of me remember if it was taken in Italy or France. Maybe I should label my pictures so that I know when they're from. Or I could just ask my husband, I guess. I'm sure he'll know. :)

Monday, July 20, 2009

My Little Mall Rat

Nick is such a good sport. Today he was out all day and was an absolute doll. I dragged him hither and yon and then back to hither, but he kept in a decent mood anyway. Greg and I do this funny thing on days that I tutor--I go up and tutor from 8-10 and then Greg delivers Nick and all of his paraphernalia to me in a parking lot. Then I go to my school and do some volunteer tutoring. Yes, I'm a little bit crazy. But if I didn't love teaching, I certainly wouldn't be in this line of work.

It is pretty cool to see some of my ELL students coming in voluntarily to read with me. It's almost as if they like school, which I think is awesome. I like that I'm making a difference, so I feel good about what I'm doing even though it's not paid work. I am rather attached to my students, and I'm excited to see them working so hard over the summer. We give the kids these paper books that they can take home and keep. What's great is that some of the kids are reading the books over and over again. These books are sometimes the only ones in their houses. After tutoring, a few of them stay and play with Nick. One of my fourth graders was carrying him all around the room, talking to him and listening to him babble. I think Nick really got a kick out of listening to the big kids read. It was pretty cute because he kept babbling. "What is he saying?," one of my students asked. As if I know. :)

Today I had plans to meet an old friend at Meson Sabika for dinner at 5, so I had three hours to kill and a baby to entertain. Hmmm, what to do? I decided to walk around the mall, hoping that Nick would take a nap. He did, at least for an hour or so, and I got the opportunity to shop clearance racks a little bit and get some exercise. So long as the stroller kept moving, he kept sleeping. I walked the entire mall (both levels) twice. But then he decided that he didn't want to stay in the stroller anymore. I know he's a little bit small, but I took him to the kids play area with the soft floor. I figured he could at least sit on the floor for awhile and stretch his legs. At first, he wasn't sure what to do.

He just sat on the floor and watched the big kids run around. I was sitting right next to him so he wouldn't get run over. He liked watching the big kids, and this little girl kept looking at him and smiling. Nick smiled back, as he already knows how to flirt effectively at 8 months. How come I didn't master flirting until my post-graduate years? Although I guess he doesn't have to worry about pimples or whether his pants make him look fat. He's not wearing any pants, so it doesn't matter.

The soft gushy floor was pretty cool. I need to get some of that stuff to put under Nick's baby cage so that he stops bonking his head. Then he discovered the little tunnel. He really liked that. He kept trying to touch the walls, and he flapped his arms and bounced up and down. I ended up staying in the children's play area for 45 minutes--far longer than planned. But Nick was having fun watching all the kids playing. I think he is jealous of the ones who can crawl and climb and walk. Below is a short video of him happily playing in the tunnel.

I still had time to kill, and Nick and I arrived early at the restaurant. But Mr. Nicholas did NOT want to sit in his car seat anymore, so I let him sit in the driver's seat, which he loved. He bounced up and down on the seat and tried to grab the steering wheel. I told him, "Not for another sixteen years or so, buddy."

As I'm sure you can imagine, Nick once again loved the tapas. Today he ate duck for the first time, and seemed to like it just fine. Meson Sabika serves it with apples and mushrooms in this divine sauce. Nick kept grabbing for my fork, and he ate some tilapia as well as a bite of sauteed vegetables. Here you can see him trying a tiny bite of a chocolate mousse with raspberry sauce.

Here he is with raspberry sauce all over his face. Nick was pretty pleased with himself. For a baby, he does a great job in restaurants. My friend said she enjoyed meeting him. It was funny, because she watched him when I ran to the bathroom, and that's when he caused trouble. While I was gone (all of two minutes), he dumped over my water glass, dropped his cookie, and screamed. I guess this little man knows when to seize his opportunities.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Evidence of Teething and the Challenges of Babyproofing

My son has started biting. He doesn't have any teeth yet, but I know they're coming, and I fear for my delicate skin once they arrive. Today he bit my finger, my wrist, my knee, and some flab on my arm. The season of teething is in full swing. How do I know this? Well, I do have some evidence. Please note Exhibit A:

Nick has been chewing on everything in sight. To your left, you can see Nick sitting in the Costco shopping cart the other day. If you've never been to Costco, you might not know this, but they check your receipt at the door every time. After paying, I walked to the door and the man asked for my receipt. I searched in my purse, but the man said, "I think your baby has it." And he did. . . And he had eaten it. It was mostly unreadable, but thankfully the man just laughed and said how cute he was. If he wasn't so cute, he'd have been in trouble. I could only giggle and search for my camera. Hopefully I won't have to return anything.

Then we have Exhibit B: excessive drooling. Nick has never been much of a drooler, but lately he's been having more and more drool on his clothing. He's also been touching his gums a lot. Here you can see him biting his own finger and drooling. He looks rather melancholy to me, but I suppose I wouldn't feel on top of the world if two teeth were coming in simultaneously. When my wisdom teeth came in, I was using a whole bottle of orajel every few days. So I kind of understand how he feels.

Greg says he can see the teeth under the skin of his gums, growing. I can't really see them myself, but I trust Greg. I can't feel too much, either, and Nick is not too keen on letting us poke around in his mouth. Usually he thinks it's funny and then bites down hard on your finger.

Moving on to Exhibit C: Teething on foods. Here, you can see Nick chomping down on a Ritz Cracker, his favorite. I think he likes the bumps around the edges; he usually sticks the whole thing into his mouth vertically and moves it back and forth, massaging his gums. Then he breaks it into little pieces, eats the gummy parts, and screams until I give him another cracker. I just noticed, too, that he's wearing a onesie that says, "I take BIG bites." And he does.

Below you can see Exhibit D: Random crabbiness. Nicholas is one of the happiest babies I've ever seen. I'm not just saying that because I'm his mom, either. I worked in day care centers for five years, often in infant rooms. So I have been around lots of babies and I think I have a good general idea of babies' temperments. Nick has an even, content temperment and he typically only cries when he's hungry, hurt, or tired. But lately we've been seeing these random bouts of crabbiness that don't seem to correspond to any of the above 3 reasons. So, like all parents in the history of parenting, we're going to ascribe this to teething. Unlike other parents in history, we're not going to "Rub some whiskey on his gums." Orajel, maybe.

Greg and I rearranged our furniture this weekend, and tried our best to start baby-proofing. Our house basically looks like it was hit with a baby toy bomb. No more muted blues and browns for us; we're inundated with the stimulating colors of infancy: orange, lime green, and fluorescent yellow. We finally got the baby cage area all set up. I need to get more panels to make it bigger. Already, though, in order to make it fit, we had to move our kitchen table into the corner. Ahh, well. We never eat at the table, anyway.

Above you can see the reality that is now our living room. Once it was a very adult, mature zone of enjoyment, with plenty of wine-drinking, shelves full of books, and muted color schemes. We loved the hardwood floors. Now the wine rack is empty, the adult books packed away (at least above waist level), and soft blankets laid on the hardwood floor to prevent baby bonks.

My first task was to pack up four giant plastic bins full of books. Greg and I are both lovers of reading, and we have multiple shelves filled with heavy books. I had to take everything dangerous and/or breakable off of the lower shelves, and therefore they became empty. We figured it was a lost cause, and just filled the shelf with baby toys and books. I miss my books. Plus, I have no idea how Greg managed to get the heavy bins down to the basement. Strong man!

Then, today, we had to clear a space for the baby cage. Last night Nick managed to scoot off of the blanket and carpet and fall backwards onto the hardwood floor. He clunked his head quite hard, and we realized that the baby cage was suddenly a must. After we'd moved furniture and rugs and laid down a soft, cushy blanket, we found another problem. Check out the picture below. During his scooting, Nick managed to move the entire baby cage about two feet. He moved it backwards, off of the blanket and the rug. We will have to figure out some sort of solution so that he doesn't keep moving the baby cage and clunking his head. Babyproofing is indeed a challenge, and Nick's not even crawling yet!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The French Market and Madeleines for Nicholas

Today we went to the French Market in Lisle with my mom and stepdad. It ended up being a great experience. When Greg and I were in Paris last year for our honeymoon, one of the things we liked was walking down to the street markets. You could buy anything, fresh, right there on the street. We bought fruit, pastries, and delicious cheeses from the vendors and happily ate it in our hotel. We were hoping that the Lisle French Market would have the same ambiance, and it definitely did, at least to some degree. Let's compare markets. The one on top is the Lisle French Market, and the one on the bottom is a street market in the Latin Quarter in Paris.
Well, first of all, the Lisle market is set up on a parking lot, and the one in France had stalls set up outside little shops with a pretty paved walkway in between. The view was a lot better on those pretty little narrow streets than it is on a parking lot near the Lisle train station. The market in France was much bigger, spanning several blocks. Both markets, though, had fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables that were absolutely delicious. I was especially impressed with the spinach and the zucchini. The prices were higher in Lisle, actually, even considering that the dollar was low when we were in France. I guess that must be an American thing. Cheap cheeseburgers, expensive peaches and squash.

In Paris, I wasn't offered any samples, but in Lisle, every booth had samples. That's one point for the Lisle market. I'm a sucker for samples; I often end up buying once I've tasted. My tongue gets the better of my wallet, if you know what I mean. After sampling this fruity strawberry white tea, for example, I had to buy myself a glass. On the other hand, in Paris, they did have really cheap wine for sale, and there was nothing like that in Lisle. I should tell the Lisle French Market that they'd get more customers if they sold excellent wine for $3. ;)

Now in Lisle, people were dressed pretty casually. Shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops were the norm. Quite the opposite was the case in Paris. I saw very few people in shorts and t-shirts, and most people over the age of about 30 seemed to wear slacks and blouses or nice dresses.

In Paris, everyone spoke French but it wasn't too hard to make myself understood, even though I confuse my French and Spanish sometimes. At the Lisle French Market, only one stall had a French speaker. It was the bakery booth run by this nice nun, and she spoke with a charming accent. When we'd first come in, we saw that she had some wonderful pan au chocolate. Unfortunately, by the time we came up her row, they were gone. :( My mom asked about them, and the nun answered her (in French) by saying, "Oh, everyone likes those. We're out." Another booth did sell some scrumptious French bread, but the guy there certainly wasn't speaking French.

Thus, Paris wins on location, prices, ambiance, and variety. However, the Lisle Market is a pretty darned good subsititute, considering I can't fly to Paris again for a good long time. Plus, they have samples, which are always good. So Lisle really wins the contest, if you figure in airfare and the hassle of an 8 hour flight. Here's the website for the Lisle French Market:

Besides a whole stack of produce, I bought this cool little pizza, a loaf of French bread, and two French tarts. This is all that's left.
After the French Market, my mom and stepdad came over to spend time with Nick and eat some steak and French goodies. Nicholas is the first grandchild, so he gets lots of loving from his four grandmas, three grandpas, and two great-grandmas. Here you can see my mom bouncing Nick in her lap. He had a thing for that spoon and wouldn't let it go. Nick was also scooting around the floor on his butt for quite awhile. I have no idea how he can make those little ankles move his whole body. I bet it's good exercise, though.

Here you can see my stepfather feeding Nick his lunch. Since Nick didn't have a very long nap, he was very crabby, and his grandpa was trying to coax him to eat without fussing. It worked. I wish I'd gotten a picture of Nick grabbing his grandpa's beard today. He had such a weird look on his face as he grabbed the chin hairs.

My mom bought some orange flavored madeleines from the little nun, and she saved one for Nicholas, which he dearly appreciated. We tried to give him a little pieces, but he ended up stuffing the whole thing in his mouth. He crushed crumbs into the carpet, but he really seemed to like this sweet little cake. Then he drank some water out of my glass. He hasn't figured out the sippy cup yet.

Now, lest you think that I am giving my child horrible eating habits, please understand that I do not feed him French pastries every day. He eats lots of healthy foods. In fact, just today, this child also ate homemade organic baby food, including broccoli and potatoes, green beans, blueberries, brown rice cereal, sweet potatoes, lentils, and a mixture of applesauce and apricots, and a Ritz cracker. Oh, and three bottles of formula, too. I guess I just want Nick to enjoy lots of different kinds of foods, and it is fun to see his reactions to them. Mon petit enfant. Although I guess he's not so petit anymore!