Saturday, June 30, 2012

Forest Preserve Fun

One of the things I like best about summer is all of the walking we get to do, at least when it isn't 100 degrees out. When there is a beautiful evening, there's nothing I like more than visiting a local forest preserve for a leisurely stroll. Or for a wild chase of two boys running in opposite directions, but that's all part of the fun.

Last week we were having a rough day, behavior-wise, with the boys, so we decided to take a picnic out to Rock Run Forest Preserve in Shorewood. Picnics mean no mess (at least not in the kitchen), novelty, and very tired children, due to all the running around at the park.

Greg made a simple pasta and sausage dish with bread and butter. We had chocolate pizzelle cookies for dessert. Very yummy. Then we had to walk off all of the carbs.

When you go to the forest preserve, it isn't necessary to bring toys. Children will find natural things to play with, like flowers and sticks and rocks. Henry tries to eat all of the natural things he finds.

Nick had questions about every little piece of debris he found in the forest. He loved watching the bugs, birds, and butterflies.

Henry has been learning from Nick how to pretend to have light saber fights. Can you tell?

Henry actually walked quite a bit, considering the size of his tiny little legs. Nick ended up walking almost the entire 3 or 4 miles. Both boys were asleep almost immediately when we got home.

I think that time spent outside is incredibly important for young kids. I'm hoping that our temperatures fall out of the 90s soon so that we can go to another forest preserve.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

One of those days. . .

Did you ever have one of those parenting days when everything went as planned, no diapers exploded, temper tantrums were nonexistent, and fun abounded? Well, I did last Saturday.

I don't want to give the impression that outings with my boys are usually stress-free and successful. Quite the contrary, especially since Henry started walking. The longer I've been a parent, the less I want to judge other parents, no matter how much their styles differ from mine. I have had days when all three of us went home in tears.

I love that every once in awhile, though, I have the kind of day that reminds me why I became a parent.

I had to tutor on Saturday for the child of a friend of mine at the library, so I was up by the Riverwalk anyway. I decided to take the boys on a little adventure. We started with the fountain, which is one of Nick's favorite places to visit. Henry wasn't quite as enthusiastic about the cold water, but he did like the splashing.

Then, I decided to be brave and take the boys to Flat Top Grill. Did you know they feed kids under 4 for free? I don't think they know how much my boys can eat. Nick picked out all kinds of noodles and veggies.

Our waitress seemed amazed that Nick and Henry would eat all the crazy stuff in Nick's stir fry. She said lots of the kids just want to eat burgers and fries. I told her I wasn't going to give Nick any such option. But I did let him choose his own stir fry ingredients: noodles, edamame, green beans, pineapple, corn, black beans, carrots, pineapple sauce, and fish. It looked questionable to me, but he loved it. Henry shared my brown rice with beef and broccoli. My total bill for the meal, including drinks, was under $9.

He liked the Roti bread best, though he also ate quite a bit of broccoli.

Nick kept trying to eat with chopsticks. He didn't have a lot of success, but (most importantly) he handled his frustration well and didn't throw them at me or pitch a fit. He was polite to the waitress, and ate his food while sitting quietly on the bench.

Nick found this stone couch across the street from the Riverwalk and took a little rest. He didn't want to get up.

Did you know that there are five ice cream shops within a two-block radius in downtown Naperville? There are. We chose Red Mango, because I can't have real ice cream but I can have a little frozen yogurt. Two small frozen yogurt sundaes, though, cost more than our entire lunch at Flat Top Grill.

Nick chose coconut frozen yogurt with chocolate chips on top. I split strawberry with chocolate chips.

Henry decided that frozen yogurt is pretty awesome. . . at least until he got his first "brain freeze." He was pretty upset when that ice cream headache hit. Henry looked so surprised, as in, "How could something so delicious cause so much pain?" I had to snuggle him for awhile, and then he passed out in his stroller.

Nick continued to be well behaved at the park, and he even played in the sand with another three-year-old for a whole hour without using a stick to shoot or poke, hitting, or wrestling of any kind. (This is quite an achievement.) He was dirty but happy.

Henry stayed asleep for the rest of the afternoon. He was sleeping off the frozen yogurt headache, I guess.

I know that parenthood involves uncertainty, temper tantrums, and an insane amount of stress. I'm pretty sure that it was NOT my superior parenting skills that led to such well-behaved children last Saturday. Taking little kids anywhere is, to partially and incorrectly quote Forest Gump, "like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get."

I'm taking last Saturday for exactly what it was--a random aligning of the planets that resulted in two well-behaved, happy children. I will wait as long as it takes for another day such as this one.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Henry in a Box

Henry has been climbing into, onto, and up everything he can lately. Here he is sitting in the Lego box.

The thing about little boys is that they don't fear getting hurt until they actually hit the floor. So I always have to have one hand ready to save the day. Or wipe off the tears.

Lately Henry likes to crawl into the boxes of toys in our living room and toss out all the toys. He thinks it is great fun, even when he falls out of the boxes and bumps his head. I'm trying to teach him to toss the toys back in to the boxes, but no luck as of yet. I caught the Lego in midair with this picture.

Few things in life are as futile as picking up Legos and putting them in a box only to have a baby throw them out again. Still cute, though. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Worms and Ladybugs

Nick often benefits from many of the lessons I'm preparing for my elementary school students. I think this year my tax write-offs for things I bought for students will be especially peculiar. For two weeks I had 1,500 ladybugs and nearly 100 worms in my refrigerator. I sometimes think I have the weirdest (and the coolest) job in the world.

Right now, I'm teaching a summer school program with an ecological focus, and my students and I even put in a school garden. It's been hard work and a lot of research. Nick loves previewing the video clips and shopping for supplies with me. Oh, and playing with the ladybugs. That, too.

Since I'm creating the lessons and projects from scratch, I try to teach Nick some of what I'm working on with my K-5 students. My philosophy of teaching relies on realia, which just means using real stuff to teach whenever possible. This works just as well for teaching Nick. Last week I let him release a bucket of worms and several hundred ladybugs into our vegetable garden. It was really cool to see how excited he got at those little critters.

The ladybugs were indeed a bit freaky when they crawled around en masse, but Nick loved touching them and learning about their bodies.

I even taught him the insect song we sing at school.

"Head and thorax, abdomen, abdomen,
Head and thorax, abdomen, abdomen,
six legs, two antennae, compound eyes,
don't forget the ones with wings, ones with wings!

We were really surprised to find many ladybugs still hanging out on the plants this weekend, especially on my tomato plants. I had thought many of them would fly away, but my tomatoes must have had lots of aphids.

This week, I'm going to be bringing home some of the books I read with my students about gardens and wildlife.

Poor Henry. He'll have to wait until he's a little older to join us on our science adventures. I'm too afraid he'd have eaten the worms and ladybugs. Actually, I'm pretty sure Henry would have done just that.

Friday, June 22, 2012

One Fun Outing

Last week, Greg and I took the boys to the Children's Museum in Oak Lawn. It was pretty hot outside, and we wanted a cool place to take the boys to get their energy out. I also had a Groupon.

This museum was smaller than the ones in Chicago and Naperville, but I actually think it was better for my purposes. A smaller, less crowded museum means that it is easier to keep track of the boys!

I'm not really sure why Nick looks so conflicted about milking the cow. He almost looks sad. Hey, Nick, don't worry about it. It is a plastic cow, it doesn't mind being milked!

Henry liked the grocery area best. Pulling things off shelves is fun, but we usually stop him at home. Here, he could pull down cans as much as he pleased.

The carts were even better.

Since Henry has started walking, he loves to push things. This cart was right up his alley, as are the ladies he was clearly flirting with as he played.

Henry may love pushing the shopping cart, but his driving skills are still somewhat lacking.

Nick loved the stage best. He kept running around with different costumes on, sliding on the floors, and popping in and out of the curtain.

This does not surprise me. Nick can be very dramatic. 

Despite the stress of packing for a long outing, this one was pretty fun and low-key.

Nick has been asking about fishing ever since he got to try it on a small, plastic scale here.

I love outings where I feel like I did something special for the kids without having to strain myself too much.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Henry's First Birthday Party

My younger son Henry turned one on June 9th, and we threw him a party. He's too young to know that all the fuss was for him, but he sure had a great time.

The look on his face in the above picture is classic Henry--wry half-smile, expectantly looking at the camera, and purposely not giving us a gleeful grin. He saved that for when he had nearly finished his cupcake.

Speaking of cupcakes, I was pretty happy with the ones we picked this time. When Greg and I were in Geneva for our anniversary, we found a cute little cupcake shop called The Latest Crave. The cupcakes were yummy, but they looked elegant, too.

My sister took all of these pictures, and they turned out really well. Check out this one with the candle.

Henry is looking dubiously at the candle. Who came up with the idea of having lit candles on birthday cakes, anyway? Henry thinks we're all crazy for doing such a weird thing.

Henry received quite a few new toys for his very first birthday, and he had been loving all of them. The lawnmower, however, has a special place in Henry's heart because he can push it.

Look at all the boxes! Henry was excited by his new wardrobe options. Not really, but hey, he's a guy.

Nick kept wondering why the attention wasn't on him. He is used to lots of attention, and he wasn't sure what to do when that attention was focused on his little brother who is, after all, only a baby and not as cool as him.

My eldest, therefore, spent the party making a general nuisance of himself. Nick was jealous, though of course very happy for Henry's special day. He was especially happy to steal Henry's new toys.

I find it fascinating how very different my two sons are. . . I wonder how Henry's personality will develop in the next year.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Father's Day in Geneva

This year we decided to head to downtown Geneva for Father's Day. We'd discovered the beautiful shops on third street when we stayed in Geneva for our anniversary, and decided to come back.

On Sundays, there is a French Market, and we had a hankering for some fresh vegetables. There was a really cool statue down by the train station, and the boys loved letting drips fall on their heads. It was sure hot enough to let them get wet!

Henry loved the feel of the cold drops on his (nearly) bald head. Nick loved that his hair got all wet as the drops fell from the umbrella.

We also had plans for a late lunch with Greg's dad and stepmom, at a place called Wildwood. The restaurant had decent food and pretty good sangria, but I don't think we'll ever be returning. The reason? No changing table in the restrooms. No fun.

Anyhow, it was really nice to see Grandma Linda and Grandpa Jay and catch up. Nick was fascinated by the trains, and Grandpa Jay had lots to tell him about the freight trains we saw while we were near the train station. Nick loves anything that moves, especially trains. He was a little disappointed that we couldn't ride on a train. We told him, "Maybe another time."

I'm glad we went to Geneva. I forgot how much I like going to farmers' markets. For dinner Sunday night, we had a spinach salad made with yellow tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers, and goat cheese. We also had some yummy chicken sausage on pretzel bread. There were free samples, and I told the guy at the sausage booth that if my kid would eat the sausage, I'd buy some. He did and so that was dinner.

I'm hoping all the fathers out there had a great day on Sunday. :)