Monday, August 30, 2010

Bubble Fun

Nick and I have been loving having his Grandma Toni here during the week. Last week, she stayed from Tuesday evening to Thursday evening, and we had lots of time for fun stuff like bubbles. I cannot believe how much easier parenting is when there are more pairs of hands around to help. There are two people to blow the bubbles! Do you know how lightheaded one can get while blowing bubbles continuously for 30 minutes or more? Two blowers are much better. 

Nick really wants to blow his own bubbles, and he will keep putting the bubble wand into the soap solution again and again. Unfortunately, he doesn't get the idea of "blowing." Instead, he simply sucks on the bubble wand.

Nick seems disappointed when sucking on the bubble wand does not elicit any bubbles. You'd think he would dislike the taste of soap, but it doesn't seem to bother him. I guess I won't be washing this kid's mouth out wiht soap. Nick would think it was a treat!

The actual bubbles themselves are very exciting to Nick, and he loves to chase them. But he always tries to steal the bubble wands, even if he has his own. I guess he figures that if the bubbles are working, that bubble wand must be special.

Here's to more bubble fun before it gets too cold outside!  :)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Language Development Update

Earlier this year, I was concerned enough about Nick's talking (or lack therof) that I went and had a developmental evaulation done. Since Nick had only about three words at fifteen months, I wanted to make sure everything was okay, and our pediatrician recommended that we have one done. The evaluation showed no significant delays, but they did tell me that he was about three months behind in language. Not enough to worry about, but just something to watch.

Well, Nick is certainly not behind now. I cannot even count the words he knows. Since July, his language development has really exploded. I think he's learned at least 100 words just in the last month. He remembers them, too. For example, we had him at the public pool today, and this boy hadn't been in a pool (or a sprinkler) in nearly a month because of his broken arm. On the way there, I told him we were going to go swimming. "Swimming water?" he asked. "Yup," I replied. When we got there, he knew right away what it was. "Pool!," he exclaimed as we walked towards it. "Water swimming pool! Down!" (The "down" meant he wanted me to put him down so he could go into the water.

I took the video below right before bedtime this evening. Nick was in an especially talkative mood, and he kept playing with his toy refrigerator. I was astounded that he knew the names of everything inside, so I quickly grabbed the camera to get some proof. I even got him to repeat most of the words on command.

Also, it'll be really nice to be able to remember later what his talking sounded like when it first really took off. I can remember this time last year, when Nick was learning to crawl, I took lots of video of him scooting across the floor on his butt and "helping" me cook. I think I'd totally forget about these times without the videos.

Lately I can actually have a little conversation with Nick, and he responds. He can follow directions, sometimes even two-step directions. Nick loves reading stories, and will go through the same book again and again, looking for the things he can name and repeating the parts he knows. He can also recognize a circle, a square, a star, and a heart. Not too shabby for a kid who was behind just a few months ago. 


It is still, however, impossible to reason with this one-year old. But he does respond to bribery (quite well, actually). Thus the advent of the "diaper cookie." All I have to say is "diaper cookie" and he knows what to do. I break one of those little ginger cookies in half, and give him half. He immediately gets still and eats his cookie while I tackle the diaper situation. Then, if he's been still with "no kicking," he gets the other half. Is this good parenting? I have no idea, but it works for me. I got the idea from Harvey Karp's book, "The Happiest Toddler on the Block." I'm cool with anything that makes my son sit quietly while I change his diaper, with no kicking or flinging of the diaper's contents.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Grandma's Little Helper

Nick loved helping his grandma sweep the porch on Wednesday. His broom skills aren't quite proficient yet, but he tries. A few months ago, we got Nick his own broom, since he was always trying to steal the big one.

Nick loves being a helper. Today he helped me wipe up spilled milk and put the blocks back into his toybox. Howeve, he then flung his fork at Greg's head during dinner. So I guess it all evens out in the end.

We're getting used to our new schedule. Nick goes to a home daycare three days per week, and his Grandma Toni comes to watch him the other two days. He's getting rather attached to his grandma. In fact, when I picked him up from daycare today, he kept asking for his Grandma "Toni? Toni?"

Having two adults around in the evening makes it a lot easier to take care of Nick. I've even been able to work out every day this week. On the days that Nick's grandma is here, she watches him while I do either an elliptical trainer workout or a pilates dvd for at least a half hour. I seem to do better when I can work out immediately after getting home. Then I have time to play with Nick.  :)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

No More Cast!

Yup, Nick got his cast off on Tuesday. The doctor said his arm was all healed, and apparently he didn't even get scared when they came at him with the saw to cut off the cast. I guess the doctor was saying that after three weeks with his arm bent all funny, most adults would have a hard time bending it. But little kids are so flexible. Greg said Nick moved his arm all around right away as soon as the cast came off. He is under orders to avoid the playground for at least another week or so, and then he's totally good to go.

When I saw Nick later that evening, I insisted on a bath. So Grandma Toni and I gave him quite a splashy one. He hadn't had a real bath in three weeks, and this boy gets dirty. Now he is all clean. Nick was absolutely thrilled to be able to sit in a full bath and splash with both of his hands (and his feet, too).

After his bath, Nick ran around in circles making funny noises and yelling and just generally being silly. He is getting better about recognizing shapes. He knows square, circle, and star for sure. (square=bear and circle=erkel) He's still working on triangle. I took this video of him right after his bath. Listen through until the end to hear what he says he did (and right after a bath, too).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

French Baguettes

Nick calls any kind of bread, "BED!" He's even been known to stand right next to where we keep the bread box on the counter, screaming "BED!" until he gets a piece. Heaven forbid if I am out. I've been making our own bread about twice a week for well over a year now, and I love how I can control what is in it. No preservatives for us!

On Sunday I made some fresh baguettes to go with a fancy salad Greg made (Spinach and chorizo with tomatoes and a roasted garlic vinaigrette dressing). We were both cooking in the kitchen at the same time, which is quite a challenge when you have a 21-month old underfoot. He could smell the bread rising and baking, and Nick isn't very patient, so we heard a lot of demands for "BED!"

These baguettes are the same ones I made for my mom's birthday, in July. I wanted to make them again before posting the recipe so that I could show how the dough looks like before you bake it. I got the original recipe here. These baguettes are a lovely recipe to make when you're just sitting around the house all day. They aren't difficult, just time consuming and addictive.

French Baguettes (Lovely and Crusty)

1 cup water
2 1/2 cups of bread flour
1 1/2 t. of bread machine yeast
1 t. salt
cornmeal to sprinkle on the baking sheet

Warm 1 cup of water (I put it in the microwave for 30 seconds.) Add that into your bread machine. Then dump 2 1/2 cups of bread flour evenly on top of the water. (Yes, it has to be bread flour. Put the salt on top of the flour at one end and the yeast on the other end. Close the lid and start the "dough" cycle.

Once the dough cycle is complete, take out the dough and divide it into two balls. You don't have to knead the balls entirely, but do push out any air bubbles. Place them on a greased cookie sheet and put a towel over them in a warm area for 20-30 minutes, or until they've doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then form the dough balls into baguettes. Sprinkle some cornmeal on top of the cookie sheet under where you are going to put the baguettes. Place the baguettes on top of the cornmeal, and cover them with a towel. Above you can see what mine looked like before they rose for the last time. Let the baguettes rise near or on top of the preheating oven for another 30 minutes, or until they've once again doubled in size. They'll be bigger, like the ones in the picture below.
Cut 4 or 5 slits diagonally across the top of the baguettes, and brush them lightly with water. (I used one of those silicone brushes.) Then put in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes. While they're baking, brush with water again at least two more times. They get just slightly browned when they're done.

Above you can see what the finished baguettes look like. They're pretty consistent, and I've made them four or five times now. For a fancy and delicious appetizer, spread some goat cheese on slices of bread and sprinkle fresh thyme and rosemary on top. Place in the broiler for just a few minutes, until lightly browned. Delicious! Can you tell that Nick likes my baguettes? Especially with butter, which he calls "Butt!"

Another variation on the baguette recipe actually makes them higher in fiber. I tried it once and they turned out great. Just use 1 1/4 cup of white whole wheat flour and 1 1/4 cup of bread flour, and then add 1 T of vital wheat gluten. Follow the recipe the same way, and you'll have a lot more fiber in your yummy bread.

Nick gives this recipe his seal of approval!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Vroom! Vroom! Cars!

This afternoon with Nick was pretty fun. First, Nick did a pilates workout with me (that's my mat he's sitting on). Nick hasn't yet mastered the pilates stance, but he sure tried to copy me as I was doing my routine. Nick liked the one where I stretch my leg over my head the best. He liked it so much he sat on my tummy while I was doing it. Nick also pointed and laughed, both at me and at the ladies in my Pilates Bodyband DVD. I'm just proud of myself for actually doing a workout. I think I need to do them immediately when I get home, before my rear end hits the couch.

Oh, and you can also see our new couches in the picture above. They look silly because of the slipcovers and the foam that Greg and I used to cover up the arms. We don't want the kitties to scratch our nice new furniture, so we resorted to drastic measures and put foamboard underneath the slipcovers under each arm. We'll see if it works. So far, our kitties have only used the couches for napping. (fingers crossed) You can see Sebastian on the top of the couch in the background and Molly watching the cars go by on the cocktail table.

After pilates, Nick and I played cars for a good 45 minutes. You would be surprised at how many times this little boy can make his car go down the little ramp while narrating. "Car! Car up!" and then "Buttton," and "Car down." If the car went under the couch, he'd ask me, "Where car?" and then, when he found it, he'd say, "There it is!" (He says that all as one word, but he uses it correctly.) Sometimes he'd say, "Vroom!," and other times, when he'd make his car sail down the ramp while still in his hand, he would announce, "Whee!," just like when he goes down the slide.

Boys sure love their cars. I see a lot of hot wheels in my future.  :)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

He Screams For. . .

Some kids scream for ice cream. Others scream for cake. Actually, our kid screams for both of those things. But check out what he's screaming for in the video below:

Yup. Avocado. My boy screams for "Cado!" Greg made a delicious brunch for us on Saturday--Juevos Rancheros, with chorizo sausage and beans and, of course, yummy avocado. That was Nick's favorite part. I believe he ate nearly an entire avocado.

As for the volume? We're working on that. Nick's going through a phase lately where he yells every request. Hopefully it isn't a very long phase.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Keeping Cool

Nick adapted pretty well to his new schedule. In fact, I think he is happier during the school year, because he has more to do. When I picked him up from his babysitter's house on both Wednesday and Thursday, he threw royal temper tantrums because he didn't want to leave. He was having too much fun with the other kids! It makes me feel good to know that Nick doesn't mind being away from me. I loved my summer break, but we'll be just fine now that school has started. Honestly, I think the time we have together in the evenings is more special when I've been working all day.

This year, our schedule will be a little different because Nick's Grandma Toni will be taking care of him two days of each week. When I told Nick she was coming, he ran to the window, shouting "Toni! Toni! Toni!" So I think he'll enjoy his time with his grandma. It's really nice that they'll get to be so close. Last week she took Nick on a nature walk and read him about a million stories. These pictures are all from this week. :)

I guess I don't mind going back to school so much. In fact, I always get excited at the beginning of the year. I am one of the few lucky people in this world who really loves work, at least most of the time. In my opinion, I have the best job in the world, and I get a lot of satisfaction from working with my students.

What I'm not enjoying is the heat. My school doesn't have air conditioning, and lately the heat has really been stifling. Hopefully the heat and humidity won't last too much longer, because we were pretty much melting all day yesterday.

Today, we stayed inside until it was almost dark and then took a walk, in order to avoid the heat. It was nice walking around in the twilight, with Nick running ahead of us in his squeaky shoes. Lately he likes to say hello and goodbye to animals and things. For example, he'd say "Hello moon!" and then when we walked away, "Bye-Bye Moon." He did that for bunnies, cats, and even cars we saw as we walked down our street.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Beans, Shopping, and Yogurt!

Summer is almost over. My first official day was Wednesday, when I led some training for new teachers. School starts next Tuesday. To end our summer, Nick and I went up to Woodfield last Thursday to visit Grandma Toni and Aunt Sarah. We met at a Mexican restaurant, where Nick promptly ate an entire bowl of black beans. Yup. The whole thing. Good times, good times. 

Then it was off to the playland at Woodfield. This play area was both bigger and cleaner than the one at Fox Valley. In fact, they kick everyone out of it a few times a day and clean it. Nick loved climbing and running around. There were so many kids, though, that the three adults had a hard time keeping track of Nick. It was like a game of Where's Waldo.

I've realized that if Nick doesn't have a certain amount of time to run around and climb, he starts to go nuts. He'll throw fits and climb the furniture and launch himself off of it. This was his time to be active. His cast sure isn't slowing him down any.

After a few hours of shopping, we had some Yogen Fruz. Usually, I can't eat ice cream without getting a tummy ache, but I can handle frozen yogurt just fine. I had strawberry frozen yogurt with chocolate chips. Aunt Sarah had vanilla with oreo cookie chunks. Nick got both. He got very excited after he had his first bite. In fact, he kept demanding to have more "Yogurt!"

By this time next week, I'll be longing for my next vacation, when I can take Nick to the mall for fun and frozen yogurt. But I think he'll be just fine. He loves going to the babysitter, because there are other kids for him to play with, and they run around outside every day. Plus, this year Nick will get to spend two days each week with his Grandma Toni. Lucky boy.  :)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Semi-Naughty Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies and a Cookie Thief

In our little family, chocolate is the ultimate food. Even Nick loves all kinds of chocolate--even the darkest chocolate. But my husband noticed yesterday that his dress pants were a little bit tight. I've been trying to eat healthier as well.

I believe in treating myself, though just in small portions. I suppose I could also call these compromise cookies, since they're slightly healthier without tasting like "diet food." For me, lowering sugar and raising the amount of fiber are dietary goals. This recipe is a combination of several I found online, with a few of my own twists. The whole wheat flour and flaxseed give these cookies some fiber, and I've lowered the sugar somewhat. Don't worry, though, these cookies are very chocolatey. Enjoy!

Semi-Naughty Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Start out by preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Cream the following in a metal bowl:

• 1 cup butter, well softened (It's okay if a little of the butter melts--it'll make the cookies chewier.)
• ¾ cup sugar
• ¾ cup baking splenda

Then combine the dry ingredients in a very large bowl:
• 2 1/4 cups white whole wheat flour
• 1/2 cup cocoa powder
• 1 t. baking soda
• 1/2 t. baking powder
• 1/4 t. salt
• 2 cups of oats (I used the old-fashioned kind.)
• 1 cup semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips

In yet another bowl, mix together:
• 2-3 T of ground flax seed
• 7 T of water
• 2 1/2 t. vanilla
• 1 egg

Add the liquid mixture to the butter mixture. Stir.

Pour the wet ingredients into the large bowl with the dry ingredients, and mix it all together. Above you can see what the dough looks like. Be careful not to overmix; that'll make your cookies tough. I used my hands to form small circles with the dough, and then I flattened them on the cookie sheet. These cookies don’t spread much while they bake, so it's okay to put them close together.

Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes. Then you can eat them, and if you only have a few, they're not too bad for you, either.  ;) 

Nick absolutely loved these cookies. I gave him one, and then another, and he just went bonkers, shouting "Cookie!" and stomping his little feet. I bet Greg will do the same when he gets home.

Do you think my boy likes chocolate? 

Yummy cookies. . .  mmmm

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Acting His Age

Yesterday we went to a wedding. It was my cousin Amy's wedding, and it was at the Copernicus Center on the Northwest side of Chicago. The ceremony and reception were lovely, and we would have had a delightful time, if we'd left Nick with a babysitter. The food was phenomenal, especially the rice and the peppers. But we didn't get much time to enjoy anything. I knew my relatives would want to meet Nick, since many of them haven't seen him at all. My dad's side of the family is wonderful, and I don't get to see them very often. So I'm glad we brought him, but by the time we left, I was so tired I fell asleep in the car.

I don't have a lot of cute pictures from last night, and the reason is that Greg and I spent the entire time at the wedding and reception chasing and quieting a very active toddler. I managed to snap a few quick pictures at dinner, but that's about it.

I've tried not to be one of those parents who complains incessantly about their child's behavior. I think that children pick up on that, and live up to your poor expectations. Rather, I try to find the humor in situations where my son causes trouble, because I know that he's usually just acting his age. I also have a pretty good idea of what so-called "normal" behavior is for kids at different ages, because of my many years of working in day care centers. My kid has an easygoing temperment, and he's been great at eating, sleeping, and even following directions, at least most of the time. In the baby lottery, we hit the jackpot.

But Nick is still only 20 months old, and asking him to sit still and be quiet is just more than he can handle. Greg and I are still learning to deal with the embarrassment of public temper tantrums and such. There were plenty of other families with children. For some reason, though, our child was by far the loudest and the most obnoxious at this event. In retrospect, it's kind of funny, and I want to remember all of the cute/annoying/obnoxious/hilarious things he did. Here's how our evening went.

Problem #1: The rule of toddlers is that if you give them a bath and dress them in fancy clothes, they will inevitably get dirty. We arrived at the wedding just in time to realize two things: 1. Nick had filled his diaper to the brim, and 2. There was no changing table in the restroom. So we started our evening out in the 90 degree heat in our fancy clothes, wrestling with Nick in the back seat of the car, trying to change his diaper.

Problem #2: Nick loves music. This ceremony had some great classical music, played live by two musicians who were very good. However, any time they stopped playing the music, Nick would shout "Uh-oh!" very loudly. We stuck a binky in his mouth, but he'd just take it out and yell every single time the music stopped.

Problem #3: Nick has learned to talk. This is a wonderful thing, but we haven't figured out yet how to make him stop when it's quiet time. Such as when a wedding ceremony is in progress. The Copernicus Center's Theatre has a lovely ceiling that looks like the night sky, and Nick kept randomly pointing to things and naming them. Loudly. As in, "Sky!" or "Moon!" So the minister would be reading a solemn prayer, and Nick would suddenly pull out his binky and should, "Clock!" (There was a clock in the theatre, too.) Only he doesn't say it like that. He tends to leave out the "l" sound. Sigh.

Problem #4: Toddlers don't sit still. He had to be taken out of the ceremony because he started screaming to be let down. Greg had to run up the aisle and take him to play outside, and he missed the second half of the ceremony.

Problem #5: While we were upstairs having appetizers, Nick ran around stealing food from plates, smashing crackers into the carpeting, trying to drink out of people's glasses, and playing with toothpicks. He reminded me of that guy at the college parties, you know, the one who walks around finishing everyone's abandoned drinks. At one point, he tried to throw broccoli from the balcony and steal stuff from someone's purse. You'd think, "Well, why didn't you just carry him?" Yup, tried that. He screamed every time we picked him up for most of the evening.

Problem #6: We neglected to bring either the stroller or the booster seat. There were no high chairs either, so Nick had no restraint other than our arms. Thus the chocolate smears all over Greg's sleeve. I wish I'd taken a picture of Nick in his suit, post dinner. It was quite hilarious. But Nick still out ate most of the people at our table. He loved the food.  :)

For much of the evening, Nick screamed whenever we wanted him to sit with us. Greg and I ended up taking turns chasing him as he walked around. At one point, while Greg was getting his dinner, I was watching Nick and he ran away from me, right into the men's room. I had to recruit a nearby male to go and retrieve him. Nick thought the entire thing was hilarious.

We left pretty early, but still about an hour after Nick's bedtime. Honestly, we were afraid of what would happen if we stayed any later. Nick was as well-behaved as he could be, for a toddler at a wedding. Something tells me that later on, we'll look back on this night and smile.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Feeding Time for Miss Lucy

It's a little hectic here tonight, between Nick throwing spaghetti at us, the torrential rains, and the delivery of our new living room set. Our whole downstairs is in disarray, since we have to move everything around and try to get the new slipcovers on. So my post tonight will be short.

Tonight, I'm going to post a quick video from yesterday, when Nick and I visited his GG (short for great-grandmother) and her puppy, Miss Lucy. Nick was fascinated by her food dishes, and he had a great time moving her food back and forth between the dish and a bucket. He thought he was being very helpful.

My grandma also introduced Nick to something new: twizzlers. We'd never given him red licorice before, but GG pulled it out while I was trying to hold Nick down to change his diaper. He quieted right down and ate the whole piece. Nick loves his GG.  :)

Oh, and here she is. . . the cutest puppy in all the land. My grandma thinks she looks silly with one ear up and one down. I think it's charming.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Naper Settlement, Complete with Heat and Mosquitoes

Last summer, we had planned to take my mother in law to Naper Settlement. It kept raining everyday we planned to go. So this year we tried again, and yup, it rained. Thankfully the rain was done by the time we got to the parking lot, but the humidity was still there, and the air was heavy. Too bad the early settlers of Naperville didn't have air conditioning.  ;)  The temperature and humidity were really bad on Sunday, and we were covered in sweat within three minutes of being outside. This summer has been really bad, at least as heat goes.

Nick loved walking the paths, although he didn't necessarily want to go the way we wanted to go. I love the expression on Grandma Toni's face in the above picture. Nick always seems to take three times as long to walk to any given destination, even though he practically runs everywhere.

Anyway, Naper Settlement was just lovely, despite the crushing humidity. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Naper Settlement is a living history place where you can learn about the early settlers in this part of Illinois. I'm a history buff, and I really enjoyed this visit. My minor in college was actually history, and social studies is always one of my favorite subjects to teach.

I think my favorite part was the tour of the Martin Mitchell mansion, and the stories of the strong women who lived there. I did feel bad for the people dressed in historical costumes in 90 plus degree heat, though.We want to go back and visit Naper Settlement again, on a less humid day, because we didn't get to see all of the buildings. They have limited hours on Sundays, and we figured a few hours would be enough. It wasn't. This place is gorgeous, and the grounds are meticulously kept. The beautiful sunflowers in the picture from yesterday's post (with Nick and Greg) are from the grounds of Naper Settlement. Check out the giant garden below. I asked Greg if I could have a garden that big, and he said sure, because it'd be less grass to mow. I was just kidding, though. It looks like a lot of work.

Actually, visiting Naper Settlement reminded me of when my mom and my sister and I used to volunteer at Kline Creek Farm in West Chicago, back in the early 1990s. We dressed in those heavy petticoats and bonnets and worked in the chicken coops and the kitchen and on the grounds. Cleaning out the chicken coops was my least favorite job. My mom actually worked the old wood stove in the kitchen, and I remember leading tours in the dining room around Christmastime one year.

Volunteering was kind of fun, and got me into history. But I remember how uncomfortable those dresses were. I'm on the left in the picture above, standing with my mom. I was probably in junior high, which is why my bangs look so hideous. They were long because I usually wore them sprayed four inches into the air. When in costume, we had to wear our hair traditionally. I remember that the chickens were really mean, and I was glad when they killed them for a chicken dinner.

Nick really enjoyed walking around the grounds of this place, because there were no cars and he could roam free. The only issue we had, other than the heat, was the mosquito problem. Has anyone else noticed that there are more mosquitoes around than ever before? I can currently count at least twenty four mosquito bites on my body. The little buggers tend to prefer me, and I believe it has to do with insulin resistance (IR). My body is a feast for mosquitoes. Sigh.

I'll end with one final picture--this is Nick with his Grandma Toni at Heaven on Seven, a restaurant we go to quite often in Downtown Naperville. We went there after our trip, and had a delicious dinner while we cooled off.