Friday, December 19, 2008

I Saw The Sign...

... and it opened up my eyes... to the undeniable confirmation of the fact that Oliver is paying attention, soaking it up, learning all the time.

Since he was about six months, we've been using baby sign language with him despite zero response or seeming interest. I have felt pretty silly simulating milking a cow, drawing my hands outward from my nose like whiskers of a cat, and tapping my fingertips together while I said the corresponding "milk," "kitty," "more". But low and behold, he got it.

Last week it was questionable if he was really using the signs as intended or if it was a coincidence. The sign for milk kinda looks like the same as the "I'm fascinated with my hand and the way it can move" gesture he had done all along while staring at his moving fingers. And the sign for finished kinda looks like "I'm throwing my hands in the air because I can and it's fun."

But this week, he's really been using the signs in context. I'd say "Milk" is the big winner with "Finished" as a close second. "More" is usually the spoken "eeehhhhhheeee, eh, eh, eh" whine/grunt instead of the more-civilized fingertip tapping. And I haven't seen those kitty whiskers surface (but I had kinda dropped that one anyway to focus on the more action-oriented ones). It really is pretty amazing, though, to see him milk the cow around bottletime and to synchronize the all-finished sign with his spitting out of whatever bite he has in his mouth.

I'm not a fanatic by any means. I mean, I don't see the importance of tracing an elephant's trunk in the air to identify the African mammal. And can't see enough distinction between the signs for cold and afraid to really bother, but now that I've seen the power of this little sponge and the help that the signs can provide, I'm sorry that we didn't tackle more sooner.

I'm going to try to introduce "diaper" and "eat" soon so he can get those into his vocabulary, too. And since we eat a lot of bananas around here, that one seems apropo. The signs for mom and dad and grandma and grandpa would be sweet, but again they are all so similar (and a little weird -- tapping thumb to forehead is dad). I'm sure there are others that would be useful (especially now that I've taken some time to poke around on the web for more examples), but I have full faith that the boy will be speaking complete sentences by the spring (right?), so we'll just wait it out.

I don't have any good pictures of him signing, but again, poking around on the Internet, I found one of a boy signing "book," which (again, low and behold) is exactly what Oliver was doing last night when it was time for a book after his bottle. I kept going, "Book? Do you want to read a book?" Each time doing the sign for book that I know, which is putting the palms of your hands together, then opening them up with the pinky sides still touching. Oliver just kept doing this cute kinda gesture that we thought was indecisiveness, like "I don't know if I want to read a book." But, duh, this wrist rotation with the hands held together is probably a little advanced for the boy, so what you see is the babies turning their hands inside out and up, but away from each other. Wow. The kid is brilliant -- or maybe he was just signing "where?" Hmmm.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Grey Ice - Part Two

I went back to the scene of the mishap over lunch with my trusted iphone in hand and was able to capture my tragic mis-steps. Classic.

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Milestone: Bipedalism

Well, almost anyway. I'm guessing he'll be walking on his own in the next couple weeks -- even before his first birthday. What a superstar!

Eric has this theory that every time we travel or put Oliver in totally new situations, he changes dramatically -- "a new baby" as Eric puts it, so likely by the time we come back from our cruise in January he will probably also be skipping and doing the do-se-do. Actually, I do give the theory some credence, so I'm sure I'll have lots to post when we get back.

I've been a bit remiss with the posting, especially with the milestones:

I mean, the kid is practically off jarred food. He's a good eater and even likes his vegetables. Like most of us, though, he leans towards the carbs: crackers (of the graham or club variety), mac 'n' cheese, cheerios, cheezy-poofs, egg noodles, etc.

He is in size 18 months jammies. Despite his genetic origins, the kid is kinda tall and all of the feet in his 12-monthers have holes in the big toe area. OK, I'll admit, this might be partially due to the claw-like nature of his untrimmed toenails. You try taking the clippers to a bucking kangaroo.

And, get this: The kid appears to be fluent in Vietnamese: "Nngng Gngung". Since I am not, in fact, fluent in Vietnamese (and neither are you for that matter) this claim cannot be confirmed or denied.

I'm sure there are loads of other things I'm forgetting to chronicle here, but I'm doing the best I can, dammit.

Oh, in other news, Oliver is starting daycare in January when we get back from the cruise.

Grey Ice

Why didn't I bring my phone with me on my bagel run so I could have snapped a photo?

Anyway... so I'm doing my morning bagel run (no, I cannot be deterred, even by several inches of snow and ice, plus I’m recovering from the stomach flu so I need my carbs, right?). And the alley that I usually walk down beside the ‘L’ tracks is pretty ice-packed, so I opt for walking directly under the tracks, which is typically ankle-twisting gravel, but in this case it seemed like traction-safe terrain with unblemished snow that I was enjoying walking on – tromping on, to be exact. Gotta get bagel.

Then I get to a part that looks like ice-covered asphalt – that grey color when black is made opaque by the ice. So I tread a little lighter, stepping gingerly with my right foot and “crack! Splash!” I’m ankle-deep in a pond. OMG! So again, I’m not deterred and instead of trying to back out, I plow forward four more steps through this pond of ice and slush. OMG! OMG! I announced with every step. And of course there were witnesses: “Don’t worry, I did it just last week,” one woman told me. Nice of her to say, since I sincerely doubt it.

Luckily, I was wearing my winter boots with jeans still tucked in them from the ice/snow removing session with my car on the street this morning. I’m not sure the boots are intended to be waterproof to full submersion, but so far, they are holding up OK. Just to be safe and with dry socks in mind, I think I’ll take them off and settle into work for the day.

I’m still grinning about what an idiot I am. On the way back, I especially enjoyed seeing my four-holed patch of ice. If only I’d brought my phone with me, I could have snapped a photo.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Today's Commute

I'm blogging from the train that I very nearly missed. Winded and relieved to have just made it, I sit down next to this guy:

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, November 14, 2008

The Boy Loves A Cat... The Boy Is A Cat?

Oliver seriously loves our cats -- one more than the other, but we won't name names. His typical reaction to spotting a cat is a huge smile and an "eeeeee" squeal. He loves to plow his head into their tummies, but first he has to catch them (see strip one below).

The other day, though, I was a little concerned because not only does he love cats, he seems to be behaving much like a cat, as well. He's totally into batting a ball or a block out away from him, chasing it down and batting it again (see strip two). This behavior is quite amusing.

Friday, November 7, 2008

He's On The Move...and More

No, I'm not pregnant again (thank goodness). The photo is to help illustrate my constant disbelief that this little tiny piece-of-rice-sized thang that grew in me for 9 months is now doing so much more than I ever expected. He's turning more and more into a boy everyday. It's really quite amazing. Downside is that all this new development means that he's too excited about stuff to sleep as much as he should, but I'm hoping that too shall pass.

It really is so cool that he is:

  • crawling! (especially chasing the kitties all over the house)
  • eating cherios (1 of every 5 even fed to himself by himself)
  • babbling (more dada than mama, an occassional uh-oh, and eeeeeee for kitty)
  • looking more and more like his daddy everyday
  • playing with the TV remote control and staring expectantly at the screen
  • standing up holding on to the couch, crib rail, or cool singing block that our friends Sharon and Milos got him.
  • looking at the appropriate person or thing when prompted with "Where's X?"
  • waiving bye-bye (not consistently, but enough to bring a crowd in a restaurant lobby into a unified "awwwww...")
  • identifying "nose" on his own and others' faces
  • patting pictures of kitties in animal books before or exclusive of others
  • sticking his tongue out constantly, making his mommy think he might actually get teeth someday
  • focusing in and pointing at the most miniscule piece of dust, dirt, or litter (almost always accompanied by an extended groan)
  • eating yogurt and cream cheese
  • weighing almost 21 pounds
  • getting a real kick out of watching other kids play
  • enjoying library time with Nani (Pushpa) - Man, I just noticed that the Picassa red-eye corrector did a number on Eric and Pushpa's eyes. They generally do not look that creepy.
  • laughing uncontrollably when tickled at the tops of his thighs
  • getting whispy little duck curls on the back of his head

And those are just the good things. I'll leave the bad for another post, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Dragon Lives in Michigan

This past weekend was our second annual trek to Saugatuck to see the fall colors and spend a weekend in the small tourist-friendly Michigan town. Eric and I went last year when I was pregnant and were excited to engage in the Fall Festival activities at a different level this year. As it turned out, we spent most of our time in bars, as the gift shops and craft booths got a little old and the outdoor festivities got a little cold. BUT in any case, Oliver was a hit in his dragon costume throughout. We're not typically "Halloween people," but something about a kid in a furry suit gives it some appeal.

Our fun started on Thursday, when I my sister
Danielle and her able, helping hands arrived from California to come on the trip with us. Friday was spent packing (a feat seriously underestimated by my husband) and driving (amazingly decent traffic for a Friday). The leaves were pretty along the way, but it was a little overcast, so not nearly as magnificent as they were when we drove around on Sunday while Oliver napped in the car.

First thing we did when we got there was go to the "Whatever we do, I'm not going to that horrible bar across from the hotel" place. Turns out that when you're not pregnant and people are not smoking, a bad bar becomes a great bar with excellent draught selection and a pretty decent menu. In fact, we returned to
The Boathouse on at least three more occassions and an attempted fourth. Oliver was a terror that night, not going to sleep until 10 p.m. and waking up pretty much every two hours thereafter.Ugh.
So we weren't especially well rested for Saturday, the big event. Oh well, such is life with a baby... We started with breakfast at the
diner across the street from our hotel, then it was naptime, so Danielle put The Monk to bed and Eric and I did the touristy shops, where I bought a book and some cards by Brian Andreas, who writes these cool little vingette story poems that actually touched me, even though I'm not normally very schmoopy. We also bought ourselves some toasty warm hats to get us through the inevitable winter.

As we tooled around town all day, we were continually running into this group of women organized into teams who were doing a scavenger hunt. Seemed like a lot of fun, so we got involved where we could and I ended up having a
woman eating a banana while sitting on my shoulders. Turns out they were all staying at our hotel, so we hung out in the community room with them while they did the final scavenger hunt counts and round-ups. Nice ladies. Great idea for the scavenger hunt. I might have to try something similar sometime.

By the time Eric and I were done exploring on our own Saturday morning, Oliver woke up, it was time to don the Dragon costume, to drink an afternoon beer, to cruise through the craft booths, and to do more shopping and time killing until the parade. Was a good time. Everything is just funnier when you have a 9-month-old dressed as a Dragon in tow. The Halloween Parade in Saugatuck is exactly two blocks long and we joined just at the end, but had a good time anyway. (We managed to miss the Adult Halloween Parade in nearby Douglas that night, but that's really another story.)

After the parade, we stayed out and about and tried to tire out our little Dragon, which seemed to work pretty well. A highlight of the tiring out was a trance induced by a Barry White "karaoke" number -- see
the 2:00+ minute video of said Dragon watching a musician at The White House Bistro -- HILARIOUS. We were grateful for the Dragon costume for keeping the little guy toasty throughout the day because it was pretty dang chilly.

Saturday night Eric and I went out to Douglas and I got my face painted like a pumpkin and drank more beer. No surprise there.

The next morning, we packed it up and headed out of town. First to Douglas's
Kalico Kitchen for some breakfast buffet -- grits and biscuits and ham and eggs and potatoes and not a piece of fruit in sight. Then, of course, we had to stop at Crane's Pie Pantry for some PIE and CRISPS. Yum! But before pie, of course, we had to drive around so Oliver could finish his snooze, so we detoured and saw some seriously awe-inspiring leaves. The sun was shining so brightly and the colors were super. We stopped at a lakeside park, too, and took turns bundling up and walking down to the beach where the waves were big and the gusts of wind even bigger. Good times!

On the way home, we stopped at a Halloween USA to get our costumes for the big party next weekend, but more on that later. And that's about it.

Sorry for the length of this posting and the play-by-play nature, but in addition to broadcasting updates to all of you through this blog, it also serves as diary / journal for me, so I'll need to come back to this next year when I start questioning the expense and the hassle of a roadtrip to Michigan. As it turns out, it's all worth it and I'm sure we'll do it again -- hopefully with Aunt Danielle again because that made it all that much more fun!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Chronology is For Losers... and other blogging excuses

So, I've been a bit negligent of the ol' blog here. Sorry 'bout that. I'm suddenly very busy and have also been getting really hung up on the standard convention that says a Blog is a Web Log and a Log should have some sense of order in time, regardless of its web-like medium. Thus, I'd need to post that cute photo I took of Oliver four weeks ago, before I can post a summary of our trip to Madison, before I can post that random thought I had (when was that, anyway?), before I can post a summary of our trip to Saugatuck. Of course, I also have some deluded belief that a blog post is only as good as its accompanying art. So that means I'd have to download all of the related photos to the above posts before anything else. And then, by that point, dammit, it's all old news. Grrr...

But, lucky you, I've decided that the time continuum is bunk. This is my blog and I'll do whatever I please, even if that means random misordering, photo-less posts, or even more than one post in a day if I feel like it. Now, preaching about this new approach and actually embracing it may be two different things for ol' Denise here, but I am going to try to let go of my need for things to be orderly in this case. Let's call it business-analyst therapy.

So stay tuned for some new posts about this and that and the other.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Well, That Made It Easy

Looks like Oliver will be making Hoyne Avenue his home for awhile.

We've been struggling since Oliver was born to figure out our next move house-wise. We hope to bring another Weinstein into the world at some point and the 2BD/2BTH condo probably wouldn't cut it, so we are trying to anticipate what's next for us. For some reason this is an extremely difficult decision for us -- part laziness, part resistance to change, part an aversion to spending money.

So, anyway, one of the top contenders for the next move was converting a 3-flat rental we own into a single family home. It has a beautiful backyard, a three-car garage, a great neighborhood, and would yield 4,900 square feet of living space (including a sunlight adorned third floor for Eric's painting studio) -- quite a move up for us.

We engaged an architect to help us figure out if it could be done, if a 108-year-old home could be converted to modern luxury. We passed that test and worked with him to do a basic layout of the dream home -- 5 bedrooms, 4 baths, and a bonus two-bedroom apartment on the ground floor (to help subsidize the mortgage). Next step was to get a contractor to give a rough estimate based on the layout -- not a specific bid, but a rough estimate. That was three weeks ago and the numbers came back yesterday.


(not including lighting, plumbing fixtures, tile, cabinetry, which would run another $80K). Hold on, let me get my check book. And keep in mind this is an estimate -- we all know what that means, right? Oh, yeah, and let's not forget that we still owe hundreds of thousands on the 3-flat itself. What a mess!

Actually, it's not too much of a mess. It does well as a rental and we'll probably just hold on to it and let the rents pay down the mortgage. And things actually seem a little less messy as we eliminate the myriad options, which was the point of this whole exercise in architecture anyway... but we've still got the big question of WHAT'S NEXT? Could be a new house in this neighborhood, or a move to another hood closer to the highway for Eric's commute, or in a better school district, or gawd-forbid the suburbs.

For now, though, as with all things having to do with finances and economy these days, I think we'll just hold tight and enjoy the conveniences of not having to walk more than 15 steps to get a crying baby from his crib or more than 30 to carry the laundry from the hall stackables to the bedroom. It doesn't mean our dreams of a wrap-around front porch and plenty of room for entertaining and guests are dead, but we are grateful to be one step closer to knowing what the next step is -- or isn't, as the case may be.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Uh-oh, I've started a very bad habit. And it seems to be getting worse.

I have this great new office space that I share with a bunch of independent-contractor types like myself. I have fully justified the expense of the rent against my sanity, my ergonomics, and my hygiene. All worth it. More than worth it, in fact.

But what I didn't calculate into the equation are the coffee runs -- not to my kitchen anymore, but to the corner cafe, Beans & Bagels. Now, if it were just Beans, it would probably be OK, but for some reason I can't resist the Bagels in there. It started with just a bagel and cream cheese (still a luxury, but reasonable) and now I'm up to a full lox sandwich every morning. Not only does this come to $8.71 with my large iced coffee, it spoils my lunch which I (or Eric, rather) packs every morning. It's like a double-whammy of waste.

But I really can't help myself. It's so delicious over there and I feel like I'm helping out the small guy in these tough economic times by passing by the Starbucks, right? Plus, it helps break up my morning. Plus, it's always an interesting walk down the alley under the 'L' tracks to Montrose. Plus, eating Jewish donuts helps me to feel more a part of the family. Plus, plus, plus...

Not sure what I'm going to do about this addiction. Unless B&B moves, I can't imagine stopping my morning break over there. Maybe when the weather changes, I'll change my ways. Or maybe if the Dow drops 777 points in a single day... oh wait, shit, that happened today.

Oy vey! And Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

4800 Block of North Hoyne

I love our neighborhood.

This is a new-found love that comes with having children, I think. I mean, I've always liked where we live, but now that Oliver's in the picture, we find ourselves fraternizing with our neighbors much more -- and really enjoying getting to know everyone. We especially love all the diversity -- Cambodian kids next door, Indian nanny, Guatamalan girl whose mother owns a Mediteranean restaurant around the corner on Lawrence Ave.

Not to equate Oliver to a dog, but I feel like a "dog person," experiencing the attention and camaraderie that comes with having a dog around. We're becoming more and more involved with all the kids in our neighborhood (even though there's nobody quite Oliver's age). It reminds me of when I was a kid running around with all the neighbor kids -- really good memories. Of course, we have city-issues to contend with -- like traffic (we're petitioning the city for speedbumps at least) and having only a sliver of a berm and a stretch of sidewalk on which to play. But all in all, it feels like community and feels like home.

Every afternoon (after school, I presume) all the kids get together and hang out on the sidewalk to play -- with a good handful of parents keeping an eye. Even our nanny (Pushpa) spends her free time out there with all the kids. Yesterday afternoon I was on my way to the grocery store (actually just Chuy's, the somewhat-pathetic corner market) and was waylaid by the gathering, put down our blanket (still in my backpack from Stroller Strides) and proceeded to hang out til nearly dark.

Oliver loves to watch the other kids. He sometimes gets a little overwhelmed, but it's all good fun. Toys are discouraged, though, because of the issues that come with "sharing" among so many kids.

We are really trying to savor these last days of summer. Can't believe next year he'll be running around with the lot of them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Happy Camper!

Oliver went on the second camping trip of his life this past weekend and had a great time. We went camping at Yellowstone Lake, Wisconsin, a favorite spot of ours -- especially every other year, when nearby Monroe hosts the every-other-year (bi-annual, semi-annual? you tell me.) Green County Cheese Days Festival.

From CAMP08_Yellowstone

It was really the most beautiful weekend for camping -- nice and cool in the shade and overnight, but clear and warm in the sun. For those adventurous enough to trek down the hill from our campsite (Eric, Dawn), there were beautiful sunsets over the small lake, too. (The rest of us just peered through the branches around our campsite at the bright orange sky).

Oliver had a great time playing with Christian, who he was also meeting for the second time in his life (I just love saying that). Christian is the son of Andrew & Christa Weiss and is just about a month older than Oliver, so it was good fun to see them play together on the Neat Sheet (which I highly recommend for outdoor fun).

The Weisses travelled all the way up to Wisconsin from Urbana/Champaign -- so great to see them! And Jim & Dawn Finn joined us on Saturday (all the way from Arlington Heights), and willingly joined into our lazy group around the campfire. Thanks for being such sports, Finns!

The friend-fest continued in Monroe on Sunday where we saw the Harts (Ryan, Catherine, Henry, and Caroline) -- although very briefly (such is life with children in tow). Check out the full photo album to see some great shots of Henry on Ryan's shoulders watching the parade. (And, as a side note, please do not get the wrong impression of all the beer/baby compositions. No babies were harmed in the filming of such fodder. There is, however, some shame in the amount of beer the grown-ups went through in just 2 days of camping. But, c'mon, when in Rome... when in Wisconsin, right?)

I have to admit to a slight disappointment in Cheese Days, though (even after I advised everyone else not to build expectations too much). You see, I LOVE cheese. I mean really, really LOVE it. And I have come to the conclusions that Cheese Days as a theme is not lived up to by the festival. Sure, they have the elected "Dairy Queen and Princess" on their float and they have a wonderful cheese tent where you can fight your way to free samples, but beyond fried cheese curds and a grilled cheese sandwich, there is a lack of cheese-inspired food choices for purchase. I'm not sure what other choices I'd suggest, but really, there wasn't a cheesy nacho in sight. How 'bout cheese on a stick? Good 'nuff for me. Or hunks of cheese shaped into elephant ears? Or a quesadilla? Is that too much to ask? There were some good-looking cream puffs (dairy-deliciousness close enough to cheese to pass the test), but between the crowds, the 4-hour parade (things move a little slower in Wisconsin), the bees, and a crying baby, we needed to hit the road.

But at the end of the day, we had a really awesome weekend. We're so lucky to have a baby who is such a trooper. Thanks for making this installment of The Oliver Chronicles such a happy one, little man. We look forward to many years of successful trips, of enchiladas in the fire, of rice crispie treats for breakfast, and of wonderful memories with family and friends.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Test Post for BlogPress

This should be a vertical photo of Oliver in a beer box.

-- Post From My iPhone

A Tired Mommy

Yes, I poured baby formula into my glass of ice water.

And yes, posting photos from my iPhone automatically treats them as landscape, which is what I was trying to test out with this post anyway. This could be SERIOUSLY limiting.

Any of my HTML-brilliant friends out there know if there is a way to rotate a photo in the mark-up? Seems like a stretch. I'll have to write a nasty review to the makers of my iPhone blogging tool: BlogPress (

-- Post From My iPhone

I Want A Blog!

I've had the strong desire to blog lately. It's not that I have that much to say, really, I just think it would be a nice diversion, a nice thing to call my own, and a nice way to keep in touch with friends and family (beyond the reaches and depths of Facebook, to which I am also recently addicted). I saw that my long-lost but recently found friend Joan (Canada) Gallob has a blog on her family and it seemed to make sense to me to have one of my own -- even if part of me questions the self-importance it might convey.

Obviously, I'll have a lot of Oliver tales to tell, but I can already anticipate some diatribes of my own, however trivial (like the Jewel shopping cart that had me ranting and raving through checkout at 7:30 this morning) or seemingly dire (like my chronic indecision over whether to go for the "dream home" or not, and the ever-pressing question of public vs. private schools -- yes, I know he's only 8 months).

I welcome all comments and dialog, so don't be shy. More to come...