Thursday, June 30, 2011

Who are you and what have you done with my son?

Nick had a really good day yesterday. He hasn't had too many well-behaved days of late, so I was absolutely thrilled. Frankly, it seemed like I had borrowed a different two-year-old for the day. Weird.

I packed up the boys and picked a random park. It was one we'd never been to before, and we thought it was pretty cool.

Nick loved playing at this park. It was designed for kids his age, and I hope I can remember how to find it again. Is it weird that I drive through random Chicago-area subdivisions looking for new parks? Hey, it's cheap entertainment, anyway.

Henry napped in the carseat the whole time we were at the park, and I kept the cover pulled up so he was shaded. It's kind of nice that newborns sleep so much--this will be harder once Henry starts crawling around.

You want to know what the best part was? I gave Nick a five-minute warning before we left, and he actually heeded it. "One more time on the slide! On the slide!" he said. And then, indeed. . . he went down the slide one more time, took my hand, and walked to the car with no screaming, dragging, or threatening.

Then, we went to Target and, miraculously, had no screaming, even though I had to pile groceries up on top of Nick, and an avalanche of Greek yogurt and toilet paper came crashing down on him. All he said was, "Mommy, I stuck! Ouchie!" So how do people with two children go shopping? Do they drag a second cart behind them? I can't figure it out. Henry (in his carseat) fits in the front of the cart, and Nick sits in the back part. But where do I put the groceries? This is a serious dilemma. Any suggestions?

So I decided to push my luck and take the boys to lunch after our Target trip. I was an incredibly daring woman. Also a hungry one. Plus, Henry had this funky looking rash across his nose and cheeks. He got it while we were at the park, even though he was in the shade every second and it was only in the lower 80s. I think it must be heat rash, because it happened to him again today. Anyway, I figured I'd go to a restaurant and chill in the air conditioning for awhile, and if the rash didn't go away, I'd head to the doctor's office before going home.

I decided on Houlihan's in Naperville at Route 59 and 95th Street, mostly because I love their small plate menu. It's perfect for Nick and I to share. Check out his perfect lime-squeezing technique. He knows just how to put a little citrus on his calamari.

He doesn't just eat the rings, either. Nick loves squid.  :)

Nick was remarkably well-behaved, once again because of the promise of a sweet reward at the end of our meal. He (generally) stayed in his seat and used an indoor voice. Nick shared my lunch, and ate everything I gave him, even my tuscan bean salad (which was delicious!). They let me substitute spinach, and I think this is my new favorite summer salad. Nick loved it, too.

I've been told it's crazy to take kids to a sit-down restaurant alone, but I prefer it, honestly. Let's say I had chosen my only fast food favorite, Panera, instead. I would've had to juggle Henry, Nick, two drinks, plus our food tray simultaneously. Not a relaxing lunch. At Houlihan's, on a random Wednesday after the lunch rush but before the dinner rush, there were maybe three other tables filled in the whole restaurant, so we weren't annoying anyone. Plus, the waitress brought us everything, so I didn't have to juggle food.

It was a yummy lunch, and Nick earned his white chocolate banana cream pie. (I got to eat some, too, because I was also well-behaved in the restaurant.)

I forgot to mention Henry's behavior. I don't want to neglect my second-born.  ; )  He slept peacefully in his carseat the entire meal, then woke up while we were having our dessert and had a bottle. His rash was gone by the time we left. I'm figuring it must've been heat related, because we were in and out of my car all day.

Nick behaved himself all the way home, too. He asked me nicely to turn on some music. "No talking! Pweese! Want to listen to songs!" Lately, Nick has been doing this to me whenever I turn on the radio. Sigh. This means no more NPR for me, I suppose. I used to listen to NPR almost exclusively in the car, but Nick is not a fan. I miss it. Oh well, at least he doesn't criticize my choice of music. . . yet.

After such a wonderful day, I wanted to ask Nick, "Who are you and what have you done with my son?" I'm hoping this is a trend. Or, at least, a flash of what he'll be like once the terrible twos start to subside. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for more days like this one.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: Enjoying the Sunshine

Filling up with (imaginary) gas. . .

Going for a drive. . .

Happily napping. . .

Working on the lawn. . .

Snuggling up all cozy. . .

Monday, June 27, 2011

Getting to Know Henry

Henry and I have been spending a lot of time together lately. Between midnight nursing, random cluster feeding sessions, and diaper changes, I feel like I know my younger son pretty well so far.

I took this picture of Henry yesterday while he was just staring at me. He does that a lot.

Henry sleeps pretty long stretches at night--up to four hours. This usually means that I only have to wake up once--Greg does the 11 p.m. feeding, I do the one at 3 or 4, and Greg is awake anyway at 7 and feeds Henry before he goes to work. I get to sleep until 8 or 9, thank goodness. At this stage with Nick, he was still waking up every hour or two to feed, and I was a gibberish-spouting zombie. No, really, I once put baby formula in my coffee.

Because Henry lets us sleep at night, we indulge his every wish during the daytime, and he gets snuggled quite a bit. Here's a little video clip of Henry being extra cute.

Things I've learned about Henry so far:

1. He is generally immune to Nick's loudness. I guess he was hearing it regularly in utero, so he just tunes it out. Even when he's sleeping, Nick's screeching seldom disturbs him, unless it's right next to him.

2. He loves having his little feet rubbed. When I pull out the lotion and go to town on his toes, he gets this look of perfect baby bliss on his face. 

3. Henry prefers my right side. Every time I lay him across my stomach, he scoots over to my right side, exactly where he laid when he was inside of me. Strange.

4. He hates being cold and wet. I mean he really hates it. View the evidence below from a spongebath last week:

5. Henry loves to put his fingers in his mouth. We're trying to get him binky-trained, but he prefers his whole hand right now.

6. He does push ups all the time--he wants to see everyone's faces. Henry has done this since his first night in the hospital, and he's pretty strong. He pushes far enough up that he can peer questioningly into your eyes. Then he just kind of stares.

7. He already looks up to his big brother. Nick is always showing him his toys and talking to him, and Henry really listens.

8. He likes story time. Henry sits with me and Nick while I read to him, and he sure seems to be paying attention. Perhaps he just likes my voice, but (since I'm a teacher) I am very glad he's already listening to stories at only two weeks old.

9. Henry has very long fingers and toes, and a cute, pointy little chin.

I can't wait to learn more about Henry as he grows. He's already such an interesting little person.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Taking Walks With My Two Little Men

I can't drive yet. Hopefully next week the doctor will clear me, but until then, at least while Greg is at work, Nick, Henry, and I are limited to walking around the neighborhood. We've taken a bunch of walks this week.

Actually, I'm not quite ready to venture very far with two kids, at least not yet. But I know that I need some exercise, and Nick turns into a monster if he doesn't get his energy out. So we took walks this week--at least on the days it didn't rain. Considering that I just had a c-section, I'm feel like I'm recovering well; though my energy levels aren't anywhere near pre-pregnancy levels, I have way more energy than I did for most of the third trimester of pregnancy.

Shall I address the baby leash first? Well, last year Greg and I had a special tether that we used with Nick--basically it was a baby leash. We stopped using it sometime last summer because Nick started rebelling. Basically, he'd run until he ran out of leash, fall down, and cry. Then, he'd stand up, run, until he ran out of leash, fall down, and cry. Repeat fifteen times. Sigh.

But now, I have this little man to worry about. . .

. . . and after the first time Nick ran from me, I decided that a new "leash" was in order. He ran, leaving me the unenviable task of frantically setting the brake on the stroller, then chasing Nick down and tackling him before he got to the pond. I was freaking out about both boys at the same time.

A woman can only handle so many stressful moments before she decides it would be better just to stay home. Plus, I'm still not supposed to lift Nick. Yeah, right. The doctor who came up with the whole "lift nothing heavier than your baby" obviously didn't understand the realities of caring for a two-year-old. It is physically impossible to care for Nick without having to carry him.

Anyway, I bought a more appealing version of a baby leash. This one we call Nick's "backpack," and it comes with a tether. I like this one better because it has some elastic give to it. When he reaches the end, it pulls rather than yanks, so Nick doesn't end up on the floor. He heeds the warning fairly well. Plus, the tether means I'm willing to risk walking to the park.

I've been avoiding the park that Nick broke his arm at last year, even though it's the closest park to our house. Perhaps it's just superstition, but it's also that this particular park has several tall areas without guardrails. I'm not taking any chances. There are lots of parks within walking distance, and I prefer the one across the street from the elementary school the boys will attend someday. Nick was super, super excited when he found out where we were walking. Henry? He just continued to nap. Something about the stroller relaxes him.

We stayed at the park a good forty minutes or so, and then it was time to walk home. Nick didn't want to leave. "No," he said. "I just want to play at the park for a little while more." Then he repeated this, at full volume, while stomping his feet. It's not as cute while coming from a screeching child. Also not cute when Mommy has to haul you over her shoulder and drag you out of the park, caveman style. That's what I mean about doctor's having unrealistic expectations about not lifting a 30-lb. child.

I suppose I could've stayed at the park until he was willing to leave on his own, but I was hungry, and it was getting near naptime. Finally I wrestled Nick's "backpack" on and we headed home.

Did I mention that this park is farther away? It's at least a half mile away, probably more. Nick has walked way farther than that, so I didn't think it'd be an issue. It wasn't until we got about halfway back. Nick sat down on the concrete, told me "I'm ready to take a sleepy nap," and refused to move. I had to literally beg him to get up and walk home. I ended up carrying him the last two blocks because he tried to climb into a hole that had been dug to plant a tree. He refused to stay away from the hole.

Hey, at least I got my exercise, right?

Friday, June 24, 2011

Picking Strawberries and Making Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

My strawberry crop is in a little later this year, but we're still getting a pretty good amount. There's nothing like fresh picked strawberries from your own backyard. They are smaller than the ones from the grocery store, but they are sweeter, too, and far more delicious, in my opinion.

I think I got even more strawberries this year than last, but Nick was a little more helpful this year. Although he did eat more strawberries than he put into the bowl!

We've been picking strawberries every two days or so since I've been out of the hospital, and the crop isn't showing signs of slowing down quite yet. Check out Nick's strawberry hands.

Today, after we picked a few cups of fresh strawberries, Nick and I decided to make some muffins. I recently found a recipe I wanted to tweak, and I haven't gotten to do much baking lately. So I put Henry in the sling, and we all proceeded to make quite the mess of our kitchen.

I started with this recipe, but made lots of changes.

Strawberry Oatmeal Muffins

-1 c. old fashioned oats
-1 c. sour cream
-2 T. ground flaxseed
-2 eggs
-1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
-3/4 c. of brown sugar
-1 c. white whole wheat flour
-1T vital wheat gluten
-1 t. cinnamon (I use Penzey’s Vietnamese Extra Fancy)
-1 ¼ c. fresh strawberries, sliced very small
-3/4 t. baking soda
-1/2 t. salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a muffin tin generously with non-stick spray.

Mix everything through the brown sugar, then add the dry ingredients. DO NOT over mix. Stir in the strawberries last, then pour batter into each muffin cup (about 2/3 full). I sprinkled some oats on top for decoration. Bake 18-20 minutes, then let cool slightly before taking out of the muffin tin.

Here's what the final product looked like.

Nick ate two of them, and begged for more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday: The Many Faces of Nick

As the child of a therapist, is it any wonder that my eldest can express his emotions instantly, upon command, at age two? He is very in touch with his feelings.

All we did was tell him to "show us angry," "show us excited," "show us confused," etc.

Does he have a future in acting?    : )   Or is there some other way to market such a skill?

Here's one face of Henry, just to keep things fair.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our First Family Outing

Last Thursday, we decided to go out as a family, just one week after Henry was born. We've been nervous about going out with two kids, and decided it was better to just try it and see what happened. We went out for Italian food and then to a really cool kids playhouse called Kiddie Klub Lane, in Lombard.

Actually, it wasn't too bad. We held dessert over Nick's head so that he would sit down and not scream. It worked fairly well. Henry, of course, was extremely well behaved. I just put him into the baby sling and he slept through our lunch. He did wake up when I dropped bread crumbs on his head, though.

After lunch, we took the boys to Kiddie Klub Lane, which is a little storefront place with playhouses for kids. There's a little firehouse, a gas station, a newsstand, a diner, a theatre, etc. For adults, there are tables with magazines in the center, so you can sit and relax while watching your kid play. I'm definitely going to be returning, because Nick cannot escape.

I thought the concept for the place was really neat. After all, in bad weather, where can you take a little kid to play? Plus, you don't feel guilty sitting down with a magazine, because you have a perfect view of your child the entire time.

I thought Kiddie Klub Lane was very clean (for a place with toddlers running around). That's because all of the kids have to wear socks and take off their shoes. The toys were quite creative too, and the kids could dress up and play different roles. Nick loved the fire truck and all of the toys with wheels. He also liked pretending to cook.

We all took turns playing with Nick and watching Henry. In another year or so, I'm sure Henry will love playing with all of the toys, too. For now, he's mostly interested in his bottle. That and being held. Isn't -Henry's onesie cute? I didn't even know that they made baby "wife beater" tank tops. They were a gift from one of my co-workers, and I think they're just adorable. They make me giggle every time I put one on.

Nick literally had to be carried out of this place kicking and screaming.

Our first outing as a family turned out pretty well, especially for Nick, who had a ball. He fell asleep in the car (thank goodness) and napped the whole way home.

Maybe we can handle this whole "having two kids" thing, after all.  ; )

Monday, June 20, 2011

June: The Craziest of Months

For my family, June has always been a pretty busy month. Between my birthday, my sister's birthday, and my grandmother's birthday, there are plenty of parties to go around. When you add in Father's Day, my wedding anniversary, and now Henry's birthday, June has truly become the craziest of months.

Yesterday we went to my mom's house to celebrate three of these major June events: my grandmother's birthday, Father's Day, and the second anniversary of my sister's 29th birthday (if you know what I mean). In the picture above, Henry is reclined on Gigi's lap, and I do believe I have never seen him more relaxed. She has the magic touch.

My mother made some really delicious chocolate cupcakes with cream cheese filling. Aren't they gorgeous?

Nick got to play outside in the pool, and his favorite thing to do was empty the pool one bucketful at a time into the grass. I thought this was a wonderful way for him to expend his energy, so I had Greg buy a similar swimming pool for Nick on the way home. We'll see if he does the same thing at home, and tires himself out.

Everybody wanted a chance to cuddle little Henry, but Nick made sure he got his share of the attention. Something tells me that my oldest son will never let anyone else take the spotlight for long. While we were fussing over the baby, check out what Nick did to get our attention. . .

If nothing else, June in my family will never be boring, because of all the celebrations! Greg and I did plan to have a baby this time of year, so I could avoid taking unpaid maternity leave. Nick was more of a, um surprise, so his November birthday wasn't planned. But I do think summer birthdays are nice because everyone can gather outside.

We have a lot to celebrate this year.  : )