Saturday, July 31, 2010

"Uh-Oh! Where Water?"

Yesterday I posted about our trip to the zoo, but today I wanted to show you the highlights of Nick at the splash area outside of The Living Coast Exhibit at Brookfield Zoo. This was part of my visit with Gardenmom and her son. Both of the boys enjoyed the cool spray after hours of walking around in the hot zoo. Making the water squirt the baby is a fun pasttime, especially since he doesn't mind.

The water may have been the best part of Nick's day. He must've said "Water!" about thirty times. Check out how his diaper keeps getting more and more full of water. Those diapers can hold a lot!

Nick was running around in the spray, enjoying himself thoroughly, when suddenly the spray shut off. We're not sure why, since the map says the water doesn't turn off until 5:30, and it was 4:48, according to our cellphones. Nick decided to be a detective and figure out the problem by wandering around and looking into all the holes where water usually comes out.

Lots of parents and families were standing around the water play area, watching their children, when the water was turned off. Nick immediately started shouting, "Uh Oh! Where water?" very loudly. It made quite a few of the adults laugh out loud. I only got the tail end of his announcements on the video above, but I think you get the picture.

Mister man made me chase him across the brick so I could change his very soggy diaper and put on some clean clothes. For some reason, he doesn't like to be dressed, and he always runs when it's time to put on clothes.

Friday, July 30, 2010

An Afternoon of Onomatopoeia at the Zoo

Tuesday, after summer school, Nick and I went with my friend Gardenmom and her son to Brookfield Zoo on a very hot and humid day. Gardenmom did a post about our visit too, if click here. Nick was having tummy trouble and nap issues, but I think he enjoyed himself anyway. The afternoon did not start out well, and Nick screamed more than he was quiet. Note his expression of toddler attitude and the binky in his mouth. He usually isn't allowed to have the bink unless it's naptime, but this week Nick was such a crab I broke the rules so he wouldn't drive us completely insane.

After a leisurely tour around the zoo on the tram, which Nick called the "Choo-Choo," (Close enough. Hey, he's only 1.) we checked out the Australia house and the camels. That's where the onomatopoeia comes in. Lately, Nick has been trying to learn the names and sounds of different animals. He has a tiny stuffed zebra he likes to carry around, and he calls it "Moo." Usually, I'd correct him, but heck, I don't know what sound a zebra makes. Predictably, Nick said "Moo," for the zebras and for these camels he was pointing at so eagerly.

Nick saw the elephants and immediately started stomping his feet. In one of his favorite books, Wacky Wild Peekaboo, by Tim Bugbird, the elephant makes a stomping noise. Nick has done that everytime he's seen a real or fake elephant since last winter. When Nick got to the giraffes, he just wasn't sure what to think. We don't know what sound a giraffe makes, but the one in his story says, "Munch, Munch, Munch," as he's eating leaves from the treetops. Nick just looked, mesmerized, at these huge animals. They were beautiful.

We went in to my favorite exhibit, The Living Coast, to see the fish and the penguins and the arctic birds. If you've never been to this exhibit, you should totally see it. There's this neat wave that goes overhead every 30 seconds, and you can feel the salt spray on your face and look straight into the glass. It makes me jump everytime. I even got some video. First, I took video standing in front of the wave area, looking up at the glass blocking the wave. Here is what the wave looks like:

I also took video of Nick's reaction to the wave. This video is from his 2nd or 3rd time seeing the wave, and he was really liking it by that point. He wanted to see it "Again! More Water!" My boy really loves the water. One of these days I'm going to have to take him to a real beach.  

Nick liked the birds flying overhead in the penguin exhibit and kept pointing up and saying, "Birdie!" and "Tweet!" At one point he looked like he might be trying to waddle like a penguin, but he might've just been dancing with excitement. He was truly stoked to see the flying birds and the penguins, too.

This penguin was a total ham and was showing off for all of us. See him in the window of the fake boat?

He was pressing himself right up against the glass and when Gardenmom's son moved his finger, this gregarious bird would move his beak back and forth. The penguin even posed for this picture. My friend said that it was like this penguin was telling his buddies, "Hey, man, look at all of these crazy people. They're coming right up to the glass." It was kind of like we were the exhibit, and the entertainment for the penguins. The animals were very active during this day, and I saw more animals up close than I usually do at Brookfield. We saw a polar bear totally hamming it up for the crowd. He was playing in the water and you could totally see his cute polar bear toes kicking around. I didn't get a picture of that, but Nick was able to easily recognize a "bear!"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Out of State Guests and Sprinkler Fun

I've been pretty busy this week. Besides teaching summer school in the mornings, my friend Gardenmom and her son came to visit us from Iowa. We had lots of fun, and Nick absolutely loved having another little boy around. He got so excited when they arrived. The first day we mostly hung around the house and let the kids play in the sprinkler.

Gardenmom has been my friend for nearly thirteen years now. We met when I helped her move into her dorm room at NIU back in '97, when she was a freshman and I was a sophomore. Ahh, those were the days.  : ) We had so much fun in college, and whenever we can visit, it's always a great time. It's only the best kind of friend who will stick with you through all of the madness (of men, and children, and jobs, and, well, life) that happens between 19 and 32. The boys sprayed us a few times with the sprinkler, so that's why this next picture is weird.

Nick loved having a friend to play with. He's been kind of bored with me lately because, well, I'm too old to be a quality playmate. Even though Gardenmom's son is seven, he was the perfect entertainment for Nick. He has more than enough energy to chase Nick down--way more than me, that's for sure.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wordless Wednesday: Captions, Please?

Can you help me think of captions for this series of pictures? I've seen this done before on other blogs, and I thought it was really fun. I'd love some ideas--how would you caption these pictures? Thanks!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What on Earth is a bento?

Lately I've been reading a lot of blogs with healthy recipes, and I kept hearing about bento lunches. I'd never heard of a bento, so I looked it up. A bento lunch is a small, traditional Japanese lunch served in small boxes. When they're for children, some moms go crazy and decorate all of the food to make it fun. I don't have a kid in school, but I thought that it might be neat to get a bento set, just for fun. So I went to ebay and bought a bento kit.

It was smaller than I thought, but very cute, what with the little bananas and all. But the saying printed on the case made me crack up. You can tell it was (badly) translated. I love it!

This translation is perfect for one of my favorite sites, Engrish Funny, which shows examples of bad translations around the world. I think I'm going to send it in. I love showing these examples to my students, especially when they know the language. That way they can tell me why it was mistranslated. It makes them feel really smart.

So here is my very first bento box lunch. I had a spinach salad with a hard boiled egg, red and yellow peppers, and croutons. I didn't want the pieces to get soggy, so I put tomatoes, cucumbers, and blueberries in the other box. I used those silicone baking cups to separate the ingredients. Best of all, my bento set came with chopsticks. I love eating with chopsticks, though I'm probably only as good with them as a Japanese five-year-old. For some reason, they make eating anything more interesting. They certainly make me more conscious of what I'm putting into my mouth.

I brought my bento lunch to summer school with me last week, and all of my students were fascinated with it. They said things like, "Wow, that looks really yummy!" And this from kids who often eat nothing but cheetos and chocolate milk. I thought it was great that they were interested in my healthy food, but I think the special packaging was a part of it.

Nick went crazy for the chopsticks. He walked all over the house with them. I think it might be a few years before he can eat with chopsticks, but I definitely want to try bento boxes for him when he goes to preschool and elementary school. I might even try the more complicated ones and make Nick's eggs into little animals.

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Splashy Afternoon

For my dad's birthday, I took Nick up to Rosemont to visit the Splashpad. We tried to go last year, but it was far too cold the day we went. This year it was, if anything, too hot, but hey, that's what the water is for. Can you tell that he was having a ball? Nick just kept running through the water, again and again.  All of us got really wet, and my sister, who just wore her regular clothes, got her phone wet and it wouldn't work for awhile. Nick has been playing with hoses and in the shower a lot lately, so he's not afraid of water squirting him. Can you tell that he was loving the spray?

The fountains at the Splashpad are on a timer, so not all of them go off at one time. Instead, they start and stop, seemingly randomly. In the video above, Nick was busy trying to figure out where the water went. He kept saying, "Uh-oh."

After a few hours of running around in the water, Nick took a little rest and cuddled with his Auntie Mandy.

Then we ate pizza. Nick loves his pizza with veggies. He ate three slices!

There was cake for my dad's birthday--chocolate cake. Nick did NOT want to wait for us to
sing. He wanted cake NOW!

Happy Birthday Grandpa Mike!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Garage Sale Joy

Last Friday I took Nick garage sale-ing. I could tell that he was bored with his same old toys, but I certainly wasn't going to up and buy him new ones. So I set myself a budget ($30 in cash) and off we went. Yes, I am cheap. But I also like my son to have lots of toys. Yes, you can have it both ways. I also feel kind of good about reusing things that other kids have outgrown. I wash/sanitize everything that I buy secondhand, and Nick doesn't know that his toys are mostly used. Does it look like he cares?

I am always surprised at how many cool toys I can find at garage sales. I guess it makes sense, because kids outgrow stuff long before it gets ruined. I always start out by looking on to see what places near me are having garage sales and what they're selling. I almost never go with any particular items in mind; instead, I just browse and see what I can get.

Above you can see Nick in an adorable outfit ($1) I found that says "I'm a 'lil firecracker." He's playing with his toy zoo, which makes animal noises and came with a ton of little people. After I gave his new toys a bath, Nick gravitated immediately towards the zoo. He really likes the bird. When you sit her in her spot, she sings a song and Nick dances along. He likes to try to name the animals, although he's lately been calling most four legged creatures that aren't dogs or cats a cow. He says, "Moo."

Lately, Nick likes to point up every time he sees a plane. "Pane!," he declares dramatically. I always look up and confirm that yes, indeed that is a plane. So I thought Nick might like his own airport to play with. I love the look on his face when he realized that I had bought him his own toy plane. The airport also comes with a building and a road that, ironically, goes in a big circle. It has a helicopter and a taxi, too. I think little boys are born knowing how to make car and plane noises. Mine sure doesn't need any help with that.

I did find a stack of books at one garage sale, and I got Nick a few, including this bunny book that he really likes. I also found several paperbacks for me, a nonfiction science book by Brian Greene, and a second copy of "The Happiest Toddler on the Block," by Harvey Karp. We're always losing our main copy.

Nick has Mega Bloks at his Grandma Linda and Grandpa Ray's house, and he loves them. I've been wanting to find him some for home, and I did. This huge box of blocks was only $4. Nick immediately wanted me to help him build with them. He got mad every time I tried to move away, so we ended up building together for a good hour. Not bad for a $4 investment.
So, in case you've never thought of garage sale-ing before, let me recap what I got for roughly $30:
  • Big box of Mega Bloks
  • A Little People Zoo (all pieces included)
  • A Little People Airport (all pieces included)
  • Six books for me and two for Nick
  • Three fun-shaped ice cube trays (heart, star, doughnut)
  • Two pairs of toddler pants 
  • Three pairs of toddler jeans
  • One shorts outfit
  • Four 2T tee-shirts with cute sayings
  • Five of the heavy duty toddler bibs with the pockets
  • An extra booster seat for Greg's car
In conclusion, the shopper in me cannot resist the allure of a garage sale. Nick appreciates my efforts.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Three French Hens Market in Morris, IL

Greg and I have been visiting as many different farmers' markets in the area as we can, and we were kind of excited about this one, when we heard about it. The Three French Hens Market is in Morris, IL, and is only held once a month. I found out about it on the Illinois Agriculture Department's webpage.We were excited because all of the markets we've been to thus far have been in suburban areas, whereas Morris is a small town half an hour or so southwest of us, right on the I & M Canal. Our greatest hope was for marvelous produce, and we figured we couldn't lose, since Morris is more rural. More farms=more fresh fruits and vegetables, right?

The first thing Nick noticed is that this farmers' market is right on the water. "Water!," he proclaimed excitedly as we walked towards the booths. Not only is this market near the water, it's pretty big, with a ton of tents.  The views were lovely, with trees in the background and flowers all around in the park that this market was held. I think this was the prettiest of all the markets we've been to so far.

There was only one problem--no produce. There were tons and tons of vendors, selling everything from chocolate to antiques to bibs. However, there were no fruits and vegetables anywhere to be found. At the very end, we did find one vendor selling fruit, but she ran a store that sold fruit baskets, and her fruit was from the same places that the grocery stores get their produce. So no local produce at this farmers' market.

The vendors were mostly crafters and bakers, and Nick was grateful the bakers, because we bought muffins. We found a nice shady bench and sat and ate delicious muffins and people watched. Nick baby-watched, and said hi to every child/baby/toddler he saw. This is the first time I've ever been to a market and not walked away with a bag full of produce. I thought maybe I'd made a mistake, and this really was a craft fair. However, I found this market on the Agriculture page that says, right at the top, "Farmers' Markets."

Oh, well. It was a nice little trip anyway, and a beautiful area to walk around. We would've stayed longer, but the heat was starting to get to us, so we decided to walk across the bridge and up the path. On the way we saw one of the canal boats that they had for tourists to see. Nick said, "boat."

There were trees (shade!) and a nice walking path across what looked like an old railroad bridge. No, I'm not sure why I am making that face in the picture below. I think Greg had said something funny. On a cooler day, Greg said he'd like to come to Morris again to go walking, and I agreed that this was a good spot for a picnic. Just not a good spot to buy fruits and vegetables, apparently. Nick doesn't care either way, so long as he gets his muffin.  : )

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Table Games at Lalo's

As promised, here is Nick playing peekaboo with a corn tortilla. He actually loved the corn tortillas, and the beans, and the chips. Lately, his favorite word is "Eat!," announced while pointing at his mouth.

We were eating at Lalo's, a Mexican Restaurant right by Fox Valley Mall in Aurora. This is definitely not Nick's first time there, though. Actually, he went to Lalo's when he was less than a week old. I remember that I had an appointment with the lactation consultant, and we stopped for dinner after the appointment. Our waitress and the hostess exclaimed over how tiny he was. He's not so tiny anymore. 

I was trying to figure out what he was pointing at. It was my iced tea. Nick loves it, and keeps trying to sneak a sip whenever he can. "Tea. Tea. Tea!," he'll cry when he sees me taking a drink.

The food was pretty authentic, at least from our gringo perspective. I especially like the chicken soup they serve before the meal. The salsa was a little spicy for Mr. Nick, though, who squealed when he tasted it.

I'm not sure why Nick is shrieking with joy in the picture above, but I love the look of pure happiness on his face. I'm very glad I ended up with such a happy kid. It makes us enjoy the simple things.

When all of the tortillas were eaten, Nick decided that the container they were in would make a great hat. He put it on his head, and then on mine. Yes, he is silly. But easily entertained.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Last Saturday we took Nick out for Mexican Food, and he really enjoyed it. I'll write more about it tomorrow, but for now, enjoy Nick sharing his new word. He definitely knows what "hot!" means.  : )

I've been trying to catch Nick talking on camera for some time now, since he started talking more. He tends to stop talking when he sees that I've got the camera out. But not this time!

Tomorrow I'll show pictures of him playing peek-a-boo with his tortilla.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sangria Memories

Greg made me the most delicious sangria yesterday. I think sangria is one of my all time favorite drinks in the whole world. For those of you who are uninitiated in the joys of sangria, let me explain. Basically, you take wine and pour it over fruit, ice, brandy, and triple sec. The flavors combine in a marvelous dance to create the perfect drink. Sangria can be red or white, but he decided to make white sangria, mostly because we had an already opened bottle of Riesling in the fridge.

This sangria was so special it required an extra run to the store to procure a pineapple. Pineapple gives sangria an extra little something. Nick went along for the pineapple journey, but he unfortunately did not get any sangria as a reward. He was allowed to have some fresh pineapple, though.

I should say that I'm not much of a drinker, especially lately. But the sangria brought back special memories, and every sip reminded me of the past. Suddenly, I was sitting at a sidewalk cafe in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, eating tortilla espanola and sharing a pitcher of sangria with my classmates. This picture was taken in July 2004, during my month in Spain. I was there, ostensibly to learn Spanish, but also to master the art of eating dinner at 11 p.m. and drinking pitcher after pitcher of sangria and glass after glass of wine. . .

I feel I should mention that I am second from the left, in the black tank top, with the curly hair. I say this because I was all of 25 when this picture was taken, and I perhaps might look just a tad older now, even to the point of nonrecognition. (Deep sigh of resignation at my unfortunate aging.) What do I remember from this picture? Well, it was July of 2004, and I was halfway through my stay at the University of Santiago. I was staying at the dorms just up the hill from the cathedral. We walked everywhere, and my legs were more toned during that month than they have ever been, before or since. I do believe we walked every single street in the central part of town at least once.

Along with other teachers from the Chicago area, I'd written an essay and won the opportunity for a course at the university. We lived in the dorms and took Spanish classes each morning, then had the chance to travel and practice our Spanish the rest of the time. Did I learn Spanish? Well, um. Let's just say that I struggled, and that if I ever hope to learn a second language, three weeks is not enough. I spoke Spanish with a French accent, due to three years of high school French interfering with my learning. I also mixed the two languages. For example, I might say, "Mas buerre, por favor." (More butter, please.) The problem is that the sentence is in Spanish, but the word buerre is butter in French. I did the same thing in France, using montequilla instead of buerre to ask for butter. If nothing else, I learned a greater appreciation for the struggle my students have when learning English. I loved staying in Santiago de Compostela, and I really want to visit again one day.

In Spain, meals are quite different than they are in the US, and far more leisurely. For example, in Spain, their breakfast usually consists of coffee and some sort of sweet bread, as in a croissant or a sweet muffin or bread with chocolate inside. One of the sweetest and most caloric breakfasts is something called "churros con chocolate." I tried it once on my trip and my blood sugar is still recovering. Basically the churros are fried dough dipped in sugar. Then, you take the churros and dip them into a Spanish hot chocolate. Only thing is, the hot chocolate isn't thin like it is in the states. No, in Spain, hot chocolate tastes like they actually melted chocolate into your cup. It is thick and very rich. Anyhow, that's breakfast.

The Spanish, like most Europeans, have a very different attitude about food. They eat much smaller portions, and eat more slowly than we do, because they're not in a hurry. In Spain I learned to eat tapas, which are small portions of dishes that are shared around the table. I still love eating this way, because you get to try a few bites of multiple delicious dishes without overdoing it. My favorite thing to eat while in Spain was a dish called gambas al ajillo, which is shrimp in a sizzling garlic butter sauce.

In Spain, dinner is much later than it is in the states. That's because most businesses close in the afternoon for lunch and a rest. Then people work later, and thus have dinner later. Most people tended to eat dinner after 7:00, and it was not unusual to see families sitting down to eat in a cafe after 10 pm. The Spanish have wine at the table for all meals, and, at least in my experience, refill your glass when you're not looking. The wine was actually cheaper than ordering water, and my friends and I often ordered by the bottle. My alcohol tolerance hasn't been very high since my surgery, but that summer I built it up quite a bit.

I wish I had a picture of some of the sangria we were served there, because it was just perfect. The fruits were usually from a local farm, so it was super fresh. We drank our sangria seated outside as we chatted and relaxed. I love the leisurely way that Europeans drink and eat--the atmosphere is very welcoming.

Anyhow, I wrote part of this post while actually drinking a nice glass of sangria, so if I seem a little sentimental, blame it on that. The sangria made me nostalgic, and I wanted to share just a little bit about my fabulous trip, seven years ago this month.