Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Clover-Diggers and Dandelion-Stompers

The unseasonably warm weather today inspired me to take the boys outside for some fresh air and exercise. They like to copy what I'm doing, so today we worked in the front yard. We dug up clover, which is slowly devouring my front lawn and landscaping.

Nick is actually heavy enough and strong enough to use the small shovel this year. He dug up several huge clumps of clover, then ripped out the roots!

I'm not sure how this much clover got into my landscaping, but by the end of last year it was everywhere. We dig it up and it just keeps coming back. This year, I'm determined to fight the clover.

"Insidious clover!" 

Nick listened carefully to my gardening chatter and asked questions. "Mommy, what does insidious mean?" I explained that clover is insidious because at first there's just a little bit growing slowly, but then pretty soon it takes over and kills the other plants. Nick kept repeating that word, over and over again, chanting it at the clover as he dug with the shovel. "Insidious! Insidious! Indisious! Innisious!"

Henry tried stomping on my shovel like Nick and I did, but he didn't accomplish much. 

While Henry is definitely bigger and more coordinated than he was last year, he's at a really frustrating stage in his development. He understands so much of what we're doing and talking about, and he wants to help and participate. But his speech is pretty delayed, so he can't talk much, and he's not really big enough to do much damage with a shovel. I still praised him for smacking the clover with his plastic shovel, though.

"Take that, evil clover! Whap! Whap!"

Actually, once we took a break from the digging, Henry ended up being very helpful. He likes to pick dandelions, and he picked every single one from the front lawn. We're talking probably 30 dandelions. Henry can't say flower yet, so he said something that sounded like "owwa!" when presenting them in a pile at my feet. He reminds me of how cats sometimes proudly drop a dead mouse in front of their owners.

Have a dandelion problem? Henry works cheap and he's cheerful when on the job. 

Once he got started, Henry didn't stop until every dandelion was picked. 

I forgot how much exercise I can get just from being outside with the boys. Henry-chasing keeps me pretty busy, and I usually can't sit outside for too long without plucking, digging, or weeding something. Today I was pulling out the old sticks from my autumn joy. The boys assisted and then used the sticks for poking.

"This stick would make a great light saber!"

"Hmm, this one looks just about the right size for poking my big brother." 

I had to explain the difference between tulips and dandelions to Henry. He really, really, really wanted to pull one of these pink ones.

"Come on, Mom, just one? You let me pick the little yellow ones and even clapped for me!"

When I'm feeling down, being outside in the sunshine is the best way I can think of to help myself feel better. Spring is such a hopeful season, and watching (or chasing) my kids around the yard almost always seems to improve my mood. Though I will say that they needed quite the bath tonight. Gardening is dirty work!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Best Thing About Spring

In my opinion, the best part about spring is getting the boys outside more. We like to take little walks in the woods and let the kids explore. We went to Hammel Woods Forest Preserve, which has a beautiful trail by the river.

Climbing on rocks, looking for the signs of spring, and admiring the river all made our trip enjoyable. This spring has been kind of rough, with cold weather, flooding, and very few nice days. We've tried to catch the sunshine whenever we can.

The boys favorite pastime was throwing rocks and sticks into the river. Their socks and shoes got a little damp, but they loved watching the water and seeing what happened when things fell into the water.

Nick is particularly fascinated by bodies of water, and every time we see a pond, stream, creek, or puddle, he wants to throw something into it. 

Henry spent lots of time poking things with sticks. He was also interested in his shadow and how it moved.

I am hoping for some better weather in May, so we can have the boys outside a whole lot more.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Howling at, well, everything!

This week has been howl-worthy, that's for sure. After a massive downpour on Wednesday, we were virtually trapped in the house until Saturday morning, due to the flooding. For the first time ever, I had rain days off from school, mostly due to the fact that many roads were underwater. So by the time Saturday arrived, complete with sunshine, we were ready to get out of the house. Our planned event, The "Go Fly a Kite" festival in Wheaton, was canceled because the park was underwater. I had to find a plan b, so I consulted the almighty google. My answer: Big Run Wolf Ranch was having an open house.

No, this is not a wolf. Max is a Great Pyrenees dog, and the friendliest canine I've ever met. He even tolerated the plethora of Henry hugs, which aren't always gentle. This ranch is out in Lockport, which is maybe a half hour or so from our house, but I couldn't bring the stroller. I took the boys on a shuttle bus, and I can't carry Henry and a stroller onto the bus at the same time. Chasing, therefore, was my exercise for Saturday. No wonder it's called "Big Run Wolf Ranch." I did so very much running.

Because this ranch is run exclusively to take care of animals who cannot make it in the wild, I felt pretty good about supporting its cause by visiting. The wolves were magnificent, and they tolerated my children howling at them pretty well. I guess they're used to it by now. These are arctic wolves.

We did some chicken chasing, as well as some turkey chasing. Henry excels at this sport.

They liked the free range birds the best, especially the roosters, who did indeed "Cock-a-doodle-doo."

While we were checking out the wolves and the cougar, Nick and Henry kept running for the creek. I was afraid of having to jump in to save them, so I had to carry Henry most of the way.

The sunshine was refreshing after an entire week of rain, even if it was pretty chilly. I wonder if you burn more calories with the  adrenaline rushes that come when your children head for a creek and you must catch them in time?

SOAR (Save Our American Raptors) was visiting this event, and Nick loved watching the birds of prey. They had a peregrine falcon, a great horned owl, a bald eagle, and several hawks. It was really neat seeing them up close, but every time I put Henry down, he ran toward them. He was determined to become a snack for that eagle. Either that or he just wanted to pet him.

The second I snapped the picture below, I had to grab Henry, because he was trying to climb under the barricade.

One of the birds was injured, and Nick was concerned. Nick said he wanted to help the birds, and I told him the best way to do that is to donate money. He took some singles out of my purse, and then Henry copied and did the same thing. Henry is fascinated by money lately. Maybe it's because he doesn't see it much--I usually pay with a debit card.

Another fundraising effort was the face painting. Nick had a valuable lesson in waiting his turn, because I had Henry go first. Doesn't he look cute as a wolf? He even has the doggie ears on his hood to go with the face paint.

Nick decided he wanted to be a porcupine. I think he is sure prickly enough, especially on days when he doesn't have a nap. What do you think?

Since it is a wolf ranch, after all, Nick decided to practice his howling. Henry tried to copy him, but he sounded more like an owl.

I asked Nick what his favorite animal was at the ranch, and he said "The skunk. He was soft." This is true. I have never pet a skunk before, but this one seemed as tame as a cat, albeit with longer claws.

I let each boy pick out a stuffed animal as a remembrance of our trip. Nick chose a skunk. I wasn't surprised. After all, he can be quite the stinker. Henry chose a very cuddly wolf.

All that howling and running around made us hungry, so we found Honeyfield Restaurant, ready to feed the beast inside all of us. Nick's beast wanted chocolate chip pancakes, and I indulged him. He also tried to create his own juice by mixing jelly into his water glass. I have to give him credit for scientific ingenuity, but the experiment was a wash. Meaning, of course, that I had to wash all of his clothes as soon as we returned home.

Henry pigged out on sausage and waffles, and wolfed them right down.

When all the howling and scarfing was done, nap time beckoned.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

BBQ and White Carpeting in the Northern Suburbs

First of all, no, we did not eat the barbeque on the white carpeting. Only chocolate chip cookies, after we got back from dinner. Last Saturday, we went up to see Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jay's new place. They took us to Real Urban Barbeque in Vernon Hills.

I liked the iced tea that comes in mason jars and the yummy baked beans. Nick liked the pig decor prevalent in this restaurant. He was petting the little piggie.

I'm glad Sarah and Jay brought us here. The food was really good, and I often don't like barbeque, so that is high praise indeed.

Nick ate some of his dinner, but he was more interested in talking to everyone and looking around.

Henry loved the macaroni and cheese. He ate a whole bowl plus some of mine, though I do believe he also tried a few bites of my burnt ends (which were delicious and supposed to be burnt). Check out this cheesy grin.

Greg liked the food, so I'm not sure what this face is about. Thinking back, I think he was copying Henry's pouty face. Henry likes to grab things and throw them, and we were not letting him do that.

It's funny how I seldom get decent pictures of Greg. I was looking through my snapshots, and all I found were weird faces. I think Greg does it on purpose.

 I asked Greg for a nice smile, and this is what I got. Yup. He is doing it on purpose.

I'll be honest, though. My favorite part of the meal was the sugar biscuits. They were only 3/$1 and delightful. I brought a few home with me, though I had to wrestle this box away from Henry.

I like the picture below because it shows what Nick would look like with longer hair. Plus, he's genuinely smiling, and that is a hard thing to get him to do lately.

Henry's entire outfit had to be changed because he was covered in barbeque sauce, cheese, and sugar from the sugar biscuits. He liked his new shirt, though.

After dinner, we went back to Aunt Sarah and Uncle Jay's place to play.  They were married last December, and it was neat to see how nice a place can look without children's toys scattered all over the place. My boys found plenty of things to play with, though.

The nice white carpeting in their place proved too much of a temptation, though, especially when we were eating Aunt Sarah's yummy chocolate chip cookies. Somehow, Henry and Nick managed to get chocolate chip smears in several places.

Uncle Jay is probably one of Nick's favorite people in the whole world. Why? He will wrestle and play on the floor with the boys. I'm pretty sure he was tired after playing with Nick and Henry, though. we had an excellent evening out, and Nick asked when we could go back. I laughed, because after the chaos created by my two very active children, it might be awhile.