Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, May 24, 2010

Hey Mommy?

It's kinda hot and sticky today. That big drink looks mighty tasty. Would you mind if I. . .

Had just a little sip? Or maybe a really big sip? Hey, this is a strawberry pineapple smoothie. This is good!  Mmmmm, don't mind if I do. . .

Don't worry, Mommy, I left you a sip.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dental Hygiene? Hah!

Lately getting Nick's teeth brushed has been quite an ordeal. When he was really little, we used a little finger toothbrush, and he didn't mind that too much. But now that Nick has a mouth full of teeth, we've been using a regular brush. (Mostly because he started biting us when we used the finger brush. Greg sometimes still tries the finger brush, but I'm not brave enough. . . Nick has very sharp teeth!)

We got one of those vibrating toothbrushes to make it more fun for him, and sometimes it works. However, Nick still hates when we use the toothbrush to brush his teeth. He fights and throws temper tantrums. This morning, when Greg tried to brush his teeth, it set off a tantrum that lasted a good 45 minutes.

We're not giving up, though. Tonight I made it into a game, and it worked, at least for 30 seconds or so. When I gave Nick the toothbrush, though, you can see what he did with it! He was expressing his opinion of dental hygiene in general when he chucked the toothbrush across the porch. We are determined, however, and will continue trying at least twice a day.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Architecture 101: Introduction to Block Towers

My son is finally figuring out the fine art of building a tower. Up to this point, Nick has only been interested in demolition. He's shown absolutely no interest in architecture or construction. I am a firm believer in toys that encourage creative play, so Nick owns at least four types of blocks, which are usually used for chucking at the cats or his mother. When I take out the wooden blocks, he smashes them together or tries to break things with them. Nick sees the plastic blocks and thinks, "Those must be for chewing." Building with them did not occur to him before today, even though I've been encouraging block play for months. Kids, I've learned, tend to develop at their own rates, and when they're ready to do something, it just happens.

Today Nick was ready. I am proud to announce that my little boy figured out that towers are for building, not just for kicking over. Note the intense posture he's assumming in the photo above. He actually paid attention while I was building and then copied me. Perhaps it was the way I clapped for him every time he added a block to the tower. Nick got to four blocks! The squishy blocks we were using stay stacked very well, so he had some architecturally unsound structures that miraculously stayed together. His attention span wasn't bad, either--we were using the blocks for a good 20 minutes before he lost interest.


I'm very proud of Nick's newly discovered aptitude for building. Perhaps he will support his father and me in style one day with his wages as an architect. Or maybe he'll buy us a cheap bottle of wine with the wages he earns as a demolition man.  ; ) Because, you see, he still prefers knocking the towers over. But at least he's building his own towers now!

Monday, May 17, 2010

The kid's got good taste. . .

. . . because he just loves his daddy's homemade guacamole. Nick has also inherited his mommy's love for authentic Mexican tortilla chips. I think his t-shirt says it all.  : ) 

You don't think of guacamole as being a typical food. It's green, for one thing. Plus, it has chunks of onion, garlic, and peppers in it. It doesn't have anything unhealthy in it--even the avocado is a good kind of fat. I doubt I would've touched guacamole with a ten foot pole when I was Nick's age. He must have a more advanced palate. No comments about the guacamole smears you can see on our couch, please. We know we need a new one, but it would be kind of silly to buy a new couch with Nick around. Perhaps when he's older. . .

On Sunday, my mother-in-law came up for her mother's day gift. (Greg was stuck at home last week with Strep throat and couldn't see anyone.) She had especially requested that Greg cook for her. First, he made us guacamole, which we promptly demolished. Then, for dinner, Greg cooked her his fancy carne asada meal, complete with a lime cheesecake for dessert. He wasn't even mad that I bought poblano peppers instead of serrano. (The Dominick's had a list of the kind of peppers and didn't label which one was which.)

Would you like to know what my favorite part of the day was? (Besides the cheesecake, I mean. Although that was good. Delicious, in fact, considering that it was my husband's first time ever making a cheesecake. There were only a few lumps.) My favorite part was that Nick's Grandma Toni played with him for a few hours while Greg was cooking, and they let me take a nap on the couch. That was a nap for the ages. I must've really needed it. I didn't even feel guilty about it, either, since my little man was having the time of his life with his grandma. I woke up in just enough time to sit down to dinner and watch Nicholas throw steak at the cats and smear refried beans all over his face. He loved the cheesecake, too. I do believe he would've kept using the spoon to take one tiny bite at a time all night, if we hadn't stopped him.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Slap Happy Just Before Bedtime

Sometimes, when Nick gets into his pajamas and I give him a few minutes to play before bedtime, he gets a little slap happy. I guess he has to get all of the wiggles out before sleeping.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Extra Perks- "Heaven on Seven" in Downtown Naperville

One of the things I love about my job is all of the extra perks we get. Most people seem to appreciate all of the hard work educators do, and Naperville teachers get serious discounts at many area shops and restaurants, when we show our teacher IDs. Every once in a while, a new place will be added. Greg and I love eating out, but we have what one would call "champagne taste on a beer budget." (Although neither one of us drinks champagne. We do drink wine, though, so I could say that we have fancy wine tastes on a boxed wine budget. Or I could stop using cliches. Either way.) My employee perks allow us to eat at very nice restaurants while not breaking the bank.

For Mother's Day last week, Greg took me (and Nick, of course) to "Heaven on Seven," a New Orleans themed restaurant in downtown Naperville. (This restaurant gives a 25% discount for teachers!) They have bottles of hot sauce lining the walls, and mardi gras beads hanging all over the place. Really neat paintings of New Orleans line the brick walls, and the food is unique and just a bit spicy. We went there a few times while I was pregnant with Nick, because we had childbirth classes at Edward. So we'd stop and get a bite to eat before learning to huff and puff and push that baby out. (Although I suppose all of those classes were for nothing, since after twelve hours of back labor and no dialation, they knocked me out and did a C-section. But anyway. . .)

We did go with a reservation, since it was a Saturday night around 7 p.m. We only had to wait about five minutes, even though the place was super-crowded. Usually it might bother me when a restaurant is super noisy, but I was glad for the background noise because Nick was being extra-loud. He wasn't mad; in fact, he was quite chipper, considering we had him out so late. No, he was just singing. . . and yelling. . . and throwing his food happily across the table. The other diners didn't seem to mind. There was a bachlorette party and a couple of groups of adults being far louder than our toddler.

The food was very good. I always order a jalepeno corn muffin, which is simply amazing with honey butter smeared all over it. Greg had steak, but I had the prime rib. I love prime rib. My mouth is watering just remembering it. It comes on a bed of garlic mashed potatoes. It came with gumbo, which was just perfect. Nick even ate a bite or two. I also ordered mixed veggies on the side to share with Nick, but those came undercooked and covered in something so spicy that Nick spit a piece of broccoli across the table at me and tried to scrape his tongue with his fingers.

Overall, it was a really nice dinner. We're going to have to go back sometime soon. Perhaps the next time I get a craving for something a little spicy.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Eating With A Spoon? Well, Kind Of. . .

Slowly but surely, Nick is learning how to eat with a spoon. Tonight I gave him some chunky baby food in a little bowl, and for once he didn't throw anything at me. He was surprisingly well behaved tonight, even though I had to run a million errands. (Thank you, Nicholas!)

Here's a video of Nick showing off his new spoon skills. He's learning, anyway, and he's really attached to the spoon. I had a heck of a time getting it out of his hand when it was time for bed.

I think that before I became a mom, I used to take for granted the ability to run errands in my spare time. Running in to the mall was no big deal, and I didn't mind going to three different stores for groceries if it saved me money. Now I question every errand and I jump at the chance to run out on a Sunday by myself. I have to say that Nick genuinely likes going places with me; he especially likes people watching and pointing to things and asking me what they are. But every trip is shorter when a toddler is along for the ride.

Don't get me wrong, I love spending time with my son. My life is infinitely more interesting and far less self-involved with him around. But I am truly glad I waited until I was 30 to start having kids.

My crazy evening: I didn't get off work today until 5, because I'm teaching an after-school math class. So by the time I got Nick, it was already 5:15. My car was way overdue for an oil change and a tire rotation, and I had a headlight out. So I decided to kill four birds with one stone. I dropped the car off at Sears, then took Nick to find a little man suit for my cousin's wedding on Saturday. (I hope it fits him.) I had to pick up my wedding rings (refinishing) as well. After I'd run all over the mall, I got Nick a hot pretzel to share with me and decided to get my hair cut.

Yup, I'm crazy. Getting a haircut with a baby in the stroller? But he did stay in the stroller and laugh at me while my hair was cut. He also dumped most of a bottle of water all over himself, so he ended up in just his diaper and shoes. By the time I got Nick home, it was after his bedtime, but he was happy as a clam eating his dinner with a spoon.

I'm not sure if I like the haircut. It's slightly shorter than shoulder length. The stylist blowdried my hair and it puffed up really bad, but it may look okay tomorrow. I haven't had it this short since my early 20s. Oh well. The stylist said I had several inches of split ends, so it's probably healthier like this. I'll post pictures once I've figured out how to style it so that it looks less like I stuck my finger in a light socket.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Brown Rice and Beans with Chicken Sausage

Nick loves to eat beans, whether they’re chickpeas or green beans or black beans. Last week, I made rice and beans for dinner, and boy, did he make a mess! This picture was taken after we took his bib off, if you can believe it.

This recipe is a favorite of his, and we make it quite often because it makes an insane amount of leftovers. Greg originally came up with the idea, although his version is more simple. Decently lowfat and healthy, this recipe provides fiber, protein, and vegetables. It’s also absolutely delicious, and it is quite cheap because I always make it when I have vegetables that are getting past their prime. For some reason, I never seem to get tired of this recipe. Enjoy!

Brown Rice and Beans with Chicken Sausage*

-3 T olive oil (or more, as needed)
-5 cloves of garlic, minced
-1 or 2 onions
-2 sweet peppers, chopped into little pieces
-5 cloves of garlic
-A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
-8 to 10 mushrooms, chopped into tiny pieces
-2 cans of stewed tomatoes, not drained
-2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
-6 Chicken Sausages, sliced (We use Chicken-Apple-Gouda Sausage from Costco)
-At least 1 t each of red pepper and garlic powder (or more)
-2 C Brown Rice
-Tons of parmesan cheese to pour on top

*Disclaimer--I do not typically measure when I cook. However, I've made this recipe with multiple variations of the above ingredients and it always turns out yummy.

1. Heat up the olive oil on medium heat, and add in the garlic, onions, and peppers. They take the longest to cook. Make sure you don't burn the garlic.

2. At the same time, cook the brown rice according to the directions on the bag. I usually make about 2 cups so that I have lots of leftovers.

3. Start tossing in the spinach, one handful at a time. You might need to add more olive oil, if it looks too dry. It should look like this.

3. Add in the mushrooms, the spices, and the two cans of tomatoes. Let it simmer for awhile (15 minutes, perhaps), stirring frequently. You're going to let some of the tomatoey liquid boil off. Taste it to make sure you have enough spices added. I often add more red pepper if I'm in a particularly spicy mood. It will look something like this.

4. Add in the beans (drained!) and the chicken sausage. Cook for another 15 minutes on medium heat, or until the mixture is somewhat thick. Serve over the brown rice, and dump as much parmesan as you'd like on top. The finished dinner looks something like this (pardon the bad photograph). I usually serve this recipe with broccoli, a half slice of bread with butter, and a glass of milk. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Guest Blog From My Husband, Greg

My lovely wife has been pestering me the last few weeks to write something that she refers to as a “guest blog.” I am just old enough to not have much of an interest in or expertise about anything connected to the Internet or computers in general (I only check my e-mail about once a month). However, since it is Mother’s Day, and I love her so much, I will contribute today’s guest blog and write about my trip to the Morton Arboretum with Nicholas a couple of weeks ago. I was given a day off in compensation for a conference that I had to attend on a Saturday, so I decided that it would be fun to take Nick out some place so that we could have some daddy-son bonding time. It was a perfect day to go to the Arboretum. We started the day by walking through the woods along the East Side Trails. Nick likes to point to things and say what they are such as “birdie” or “water.” At other times, he would just randomly start hollering like Tarzan in the jungle.

After stopping for a cookie break, we then went to the main attraction: the Children’s Garden. Nick became very excited and started to run around and clap his hands enthusiastically at just about everything that we encountered. I tried to take some good pictures, but it is hard when you have a fast-moving toddler who is in ultra-excited mode. He particularly liked the water fountain with the frog heads that periodically spew water from their mouths.

He also was impressed with the enormity of this windmill, which I could not quite get into the frame completely. Nick’s favorite part of all though had to be the slide. He wanted to go up and down it about a thousand times. After an hour of both of us exhausting ourselves running around, we then had a late lunch before Nick went down for a long nap in the car ride home. Both of us look forward to more fun adventures this summer, this time with mommy along as well.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

These Pork Chops Get Nick's Seal of Approval

I have finally perfected one of my favorite pork recipes. Very simple to make, this recipe takes only about 30 minutes and doesn’t trash the kitchen. (Which is only part of the reason Greg likes it so much.) I made the cream cheese sauce lower in fat but still delicious. My husband loves the sauce so much I think he’d eat it with a spoon if I let him. I buy my pork chops from Costco, and they’re really thick. Sometimes I butterfly them, but I always cook them first, so they don’t get tough.

Pork Chops and Fresh Green Beans with a Cream Cheese Sauce

-4 large, thick pork chops
-Two large handfuls of fresh green beans
-8 little red potatoes
-2 cloves of garlic
-8 oz. package of Neufchatel cream cheese
-7 oz. or so of fat free, low sodium chicken broth
-Spices (rosemary, thyme, rubbed sage, fresh   
  ground pepper)

First, preheat the broiler and season the pork chops (both sides) with rubbed sage, garlic, thyme, and fresh ground pepper. I usually rub in the seasonings. Cook the pork chops for 20 minutes total, turning every 5 minutes. During the last five minutes, bake the potatoes in the microwave. (We have a funky fabric potato sack that does this is 5 minutes flat.

While the broiler is heating, put the cream cheese and chicken broth into a small saucepan. Stir as the cream cheese melts, and add rosemary and thyme to taste. Your cream cheese sauce should look like the picturebelow, and the mixture does have to boil a little bit before it gets to the right consistency. You can always add a bit more cream cheese if it's too thin, or a bit more broth if it's too thick. I take a silicone spatula and stir constantly. This sauce thickens when cool, but can be reheated in the microwave.

For the green beans, fill up a saucepan about halfway with water. Boil the water, and then throw in two handfuls of fresh, washed green beans. Let them boil until they’re tender—about 8 minutes, depending on how much crunch you want.

The sauce can be poured over the green beans and/or pork chops. It is a family favorite, and Nick loves this dish. Can you tell? (That's a green bean he's showing you.)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Daredevil in the Making

Lately Nick has been standing on his toys-even the ones with wheels. The first time he tried standing on his zebra, he fell on his head. The second time, his daddy saw him do it and went to stand behind him. We're not entirely sure how to get him to stop.  Check out how crazy his hair is getting. We need to get it cut soon, but the curls are so cute we keep putting it off.

His balance is actually not too bad, but he falls more when he tries this on toys with wheels. (!) It's pretty cute if we're around to spot him, but he tends to try it when we are looking the other way. He doesn't seem to understand that it's okay to play with the zebra, but not okay to stand on it.