Friday, October 9, 2009

Stretch Denim

You may have noticed that I changed the look and feel of The Oliver Chronicles blog earlier in the week. I did this for three main reasons:

  1. I've noticed that I'm rather verbose in my posts and the old layout just made me seem verboser (intentional misuse) because the real estate allocated to the post itself was so narrow. This new layout stretches out to the width of your browser, thus making the post seem shorter and easier to digest. I like this stretch feature. Plus, the template's name is Stretch Denim. Cute.
  2. I wanted an excuse to get you email notification / RSS subscribers to hit the site itself. Figured curiosity over what the heck I'm talking about with this new/old layout business would get you there. There is lots of other content (photos and slide shows and archives) that may interest you on the full site, plus I frequently edit posts after they are published to fix errors or to add a note that didn't occur to me when I originally posted. If you subscribe, you only get the original. C'mon, click on thru: Bookmark it. Make it your home page. Or at least, visit often. And LEAVE COMMENTS. A blogger lives for comments and so many of you are spoiled by the email notifications and feeds that you don't bother to remark or just hit reply instead of commenting for posterity. C'mon, humor me. You can even go back and comment on old posts -- just use the archive links at the right or click OLDER POSTS at the bottom of each set of entries.
  3. As always, change is good. Just mixin' it up over here.

Would love to hear what you think of this new look. Hope you like it.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thank Goodness for Bedtimes

Dear Gods of Toddlers, please don't jinx me for saying so, but "Oliver is a good sleeper." Since he has been sleeping through the night, it is a fairly rare incident that he wakes up (short of a nightmare or a tooth coming in or being overtired for some circumstantial reason). And he goes down with such ease.

I pray this ease continues, as it makes our lives so much more predictable. Oliver's bedtime is 7:30 sharp. It goes: milk, books (as time permits), kisses, woosher, bink, woobie, bed. Like clockwork. Tonight I let him stay up until 7:45 but only because Daddy was unavailable for kisses until then and I'm hoping it pays off a bit on the other end because he's been waking up earlier than we'd like. But typically he goes from "crazy monkey jumping on couch and throwing plastic food items around the room," through the sequence above, to sleeping baby in like 3 minutes flat. It's such a blessing – again, one that I hope I'm not jinxing with this post.

It means:

  • He gets ample sleep according to the Pediatric Association guidelines: 13 hours total – 11-11.5 overnight and 1.5-2 at naptime (more or less).
  • The countdown to bedtime is pretty predictable and is used as a guide to fit in play, dinner, bath, books, and milk accordingly.
  • Either of us parents can go out without much guilt after the bell tolls. Oliver knows no different. (Eric is at the Hopleaf now with Boris and Ryan, in fact. And I look forward to my regular "Club of the Month Club" meetings).
  • Evening conference calls with the offshore teams in China and India are uninterrupted and guilt-free.
  • Babysitters can rely on a set schedule without much ambiguity at all and enjoy a relative freedom post-7:30.
  • The routine feeds routine which combats any combat about going to bed. (Yes, I know the day will come where he will fight back, but for now we're loving the routine and lack of combat.)

I wouldn't go so far as to call us bedtime Nazis or anything like that, but we are pretty regimented about the whole thing – because it serves us, and it serves him. Lots of parents value their kid's flexibility and willingness to adapt. For us, our given level of predictability is a fair trade for those qualities. I mean, he'll roll with the punches if we bend the rules a little bit, but we really try to honor them overall.

I find this pattern of predictability worth commenting on tonight, especially, as I am able to pen this post (in advance; I'm post-dating it) without interruption, as Eric is able to enjoy a night out with the boys, and as I remember the crazy days of infant irregularity. Is it really time to go for #2, where bedtime as bedtime simply doesn't exist?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Like a House on Fire?

You've heard the expression "like a house on fire," right?

The Oxford English Dictionary lists "like a house on fire (afire)" among proverbial colloquial phrases containing "house." Its definition is "as fast as a house would burn; very fast or vigorously." And thus, the irony on Monday when I found Oliver donning a fireman's helmet when I arrived to pick him up from school. I mean, really, the kid is in the habit of doing NOTHING "fast or vigorously," at least when it comes to moving from one locale to the next. So to find him in that typical limbo wearing the fire hat was just too perfect.

Firstly, I was surprised that he would put anything on his head and leave it there, as it's clearly not the case when I try to put a sunhat or sock cap on him. But really the irony came into play as he danced around the place like he had nowhere in particular to be, like it was still middle-of-the-day playtime, like the toe-tapping staff were in no hurry at all. He ignored my pleas and motions to move-it-on-out and continued to climb and dance and act silly with that fire hat on. We needed to go. I said, let's go. Really, now I'm serious, we're going…

I'm not going to lie: There were tears. It wasn't pretty. But eventually we made it out of the joint and into the car.

Then we went to Harvestime, our local produce market and familiar haunt. He was pretty cooperative as we shopped there. It was a short trip with a short list. But even a short list can result in a HEAVY bag if filled with two pounds ground turkey, one pound deli meat, four cans chicken stock, and fruit and stuff. It was only the one bag – I have these great big reusables from Target that I love, love, love (and can never find anymore – these are the ones that are oversized and fold to snap) – but it was heavy enough that I couldn't carry it and carry Oliver at the same time (and HT doesn't allow carts to go to its parking lot and I felt a little lame asking the bag boy to carry just one bag for me). So we walked. And I thought the walk would be OK since Oliver had been fairly cooperative on the way in, even holding my hand and walking himself across the street. But once again, I was WRONG!

Oh, so wrong. I had forgotten, on the way out, we had to pass the gumball machines.

Why me? I try to be patient as he's doing his thing and "exploring," as they like to say, but at some point after taking photos, checking email, smiling at comers and goers until the comers became goers, I have to strong-arm him out of there. To my relief, he complied willingly with the first tug on his arm, but only then to walk as slow as a turtle down the sidewalk with a "Hi, car…. Hi, car…. Hi, car…." and a small wave to each and every parked vehicle we passed. Cute, I know. But totally unnecessary: Not one of those cars even mustered up a smile in response.

Time, at this point, is creeping away and all I want to be is HOME. But, no, it can't be that easy. Oliver doesn't operate "like a house on fire."

We cross the street again to our car. I put the overweight bag in the front seat. And Oliver begins his avoidance routine. (Or is it obliviousness? Hard to say.) Up and down the sidewalk he gallops, stopping only to rattle the wrought-iron gated doors along the block. With a scream and a howl, he's like a caged animal in reverse – clamoring to get in instead of out. To be honest, at this point, I know how he feels. I want to be in that car, all bound and buckled and safely on the way HOME. But, alas, he has to play around some more. There are leaves to shuffle through, sewer covers to jump on, pedestrian paths to meander into. And then, ultimately, there is the back to arch and the squeal to squawk as I wrangle him into the car seat once more.

He had been pretty excited about the rice I bought at Harvestime, so I thought that getting him inside for some of that mess-making tastiness would be a no brainer, that he'd rush in "like a house on fire." Nope. Not a chance. I'll spare you all the gory details, but again, I'm not going to lie: There were tears. It wasn't pretty. And I gave in entirely. Just left those groceries, perishables and all, in the foyer of our building and let him lead me "ow-seye" (outside), up the block to "nah-nees" (nani's/old nanny), down the block to "dah-gees" (doggies that hang out in their owners windows), across the street to "side" (slide), to the corner of the playground for "wa-er" (water from the fountain), and various places in between.

It was exhausting. It is exhausting. It will continue to be exhausting, I'm sure. What I'm not sure about is how long my patience (what little I exemplify, that is) will last in this regard. I mean, if he's this stubborn at 21 months, what is the ornery little booger gonna be like at 2 or 2-and-a-half? Plus, keep in mind, winter is well on its way. Imagine these delays in freezing temperatures. I'm sure it seems like that would be a no-brainer deterrent, but really you should know better. I do.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Packing It In, Packing It Up

Grandma Inez came in this past weekend and we had another great visit. Well, Oliver did anyway. I found myself busy and distracted as ever with work and Eric's art show and brunches and chores and plays, but it was still great nonetheless and I am so grateful to have the help and to be able to fit in lots of fun in such a short time.

Friday night while Grandma babysat, we went to this great benefit for Cystic Fibrosis called Festiv-Ale. I'm sure you can understand the draw from the name. We had a great time. Great cause. Great beer. I thought I had won the silent auction for an All-You-Can-Drink Happy Hour at Duffy's, but I haven't heard the final word yet. Eric and I met way back in September of 2001 at an All-You-Can-Drink Happy Hour at Duffy's, so I thought it would be appropriate to bid on it. Sorry, folks, but it's about as close to romance as we get around here.

Saturday was the Ravenswood Art Walk, in which Eric was showing. So after a morning of getting up at 5:30 a.m. with Oliver and out the door by 6:00 for a busy morning out in Des Plaines putting together the SSS Catalog, he rushed down to the studio to sit around for two straight days while people ogled his art. These things are kind of a mixed bag. The exposure is great. The feedback is interesting. The sitting around sucks. Anyway…

I worked here at home on Saturday morning testing a new website that allows policy-holders to submit property loss claims online. I know, I know… could it get any more exciting than that!? It was great to get some work in, though, while Grandma was able to bond with the Monk. Finally we mustered and went over to see Eric at the show. Then it rained. Then we went to Target. Then we got Starbucks. Then we went to Borders. All of which was in an effort to get Oliver to snooze in the car. After the early wake-up, he really needed a second nap that day. Of course, none of our plans worked and he fell asleep instead in concert with the left-hand turn-signal to turn onto our block at the end of our adventure. Never fails. But at least it gave me a chance to catch some quiet time and to catch up with Mom as we sat in the car while he snoozed. Why not? Sometimes the forced inertia is a good thing.

Sunday was Uncle Brian's birthday brunch at CafĂ© 28. Good food. Good visits. Good times. The rest of the gang went on the Art Walk, but Eric went to the studio and Mom, Monk and I came home. While he napped, Mom helped me organize 21 months of clothes – also known as "ridiculous amounts of clothes." It's hard to believe he was ever so small, really. But now everything is all packed away by size in ginormous zip lock bags – have you seen these things? Not sure what they are waiting for, though, as I haven't quite mustered the gumption to go for #2 yet. Maybe Leslye (Eric's sister) will have a boy. She's due in January around the same time Oliver was born, so season-wise it would be perfect. My gut says she's having a girl, though. Alas, I suppose her gut is the only one that really counts in this case.

In the afternoon on Sunday, Eric's parents stopped by, exhausted from all the art-seeing. (Made me kind of glad I skipped it.) So we visited for awhile and I did some chopping. (I just can't seem to keep myself away from the cutting board, really.) Poppa took Oliver out for a quick trip to the park and learned the valuable lesson of how "ows-eye" (outside) can turn into "all day" when Oliver is involved. The kid just doesn't want to come in. Drives me absolutely crazy.

Anyway, the rest of Sunday was a bit of a scramble, but an enjoyable scramble. I went to pick up Eric at the studio and Ryan and Catherine and Caroline and Henry were just arriving, but since I was whisking Eric away it seemed only fair that I whisk them with me, too. We rushed home where the moms had set the table and the Poppa had changed the tank on the grill and where the opener was waiting for the nice bottle of wine Ryan and Catherine had brought. And we had a lovely meal, appetized with aged cheddar and served with Chilean grass-fed beef (Thanks, Jaime!) as a main course and a key lime frozen pie I had whipped up for dessert. Wah-la. I love it when things come together. Of course, in this case, together with lots of help from grandparents.

The grandparents also helped with all of the aftermath. More than helped, actually, they did all of the dishes on their own because Eric and I had to rush off to go see a play at the Goodman. (Stoop Stories, which we gave a C-. Thank goodness it was short at least. Oh, and that we had time to find street parking – would have really stung had we paid to park, as well.) Then it was home to bed. Gladly. Except, of course, that Monday marked the start of the grind and the departure of the grandma once again.

Monk came home from school on Monday and went immediately to grandma's preferred spot on the couch and said, "Grandma," which ironically we couldn't get the kid to say all weekend. He was definitely sad to see her go – we all were. See you for Thanksgiving, Grandma! Have fun in California and tell my aunts and cousins I say HI!

Friday, October 2, 2009

TAKE 2: Testing Office-to-Blogger Integration

I just noticed that Word has a publish to blog feature that allows the user to compose a post in Word and then with a single button publish the text and upload images (to own server). We'll see if that really works. If it does, then you'll see this short description and a picture of a beer below, because that is on my mind right now. T.G.I.F:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Winning Dishes

For those of you who know me, you know that I really enjoy cooking. It's a somewhat new (say, within the last 5 years) interest, but I spend a lot of time researching, planning, and cooking. It's just fun for me. It can definitely turn into a lot of work, but overall I find the experience very rewarding, even cathartic, particularly the chopping. In any case, we have a pretty diverse palette around here. Lots of International foods and an affinity for spice, so it's not always easy to find a dish that suits the whole family, which now includes Monk -- that very good eater we know and love, but yet still a toddler. Of late, I've found a couple winning dishes, though, and am so proud. I seriously doubt that they will stick because it seems the kid is as fickle as he is ornery, but it's still quite a feat.

Last week I tried a recipe for Chicken Florentine out of The Big Book of Chicken -- just spinach and rice and parmesan and chicken in a casserole. I was shocked that he ate it. I'd have normally amped up the garlic and onions the next time, but since he and we liked it, I should probably add it -- as is -- to a normal rotation.

I like to make a casserole dish on Sunday or Monday of a week in case I'm feeling lazy on a subsequent night of the week and we can just have leftovers. Thus, I made a lasagna this week. And the kid ate it tonight for dinner. I was pretty impressed. I think he really ate mostly the cheese and noodles, but may have also managed down a few pieces of Italian sausage as well. Good times.

As I type this, I have some Palak Tofu brewing in the crockpot. I can't imagine Oliver will go for Indian food, but it's worth a shot. If nothing else, he'll grub on the rice, I guess.

Nothing too exciting in all this recipe trial and error, I suppose, but it is an interest (if not an obsession), so I thought my cooking should make an appearance in The Oliver Chronicles.

I love love love a cooking blog and find many of my recipes on blogs. The Palak Tofu recipe is from a blog called A Year of Slowcooking, where the author made a meal in her crockpot every day for 365 days. Wow. Impressive. I'm a fan of the crock, but haven't nearly mastered it. And my adventures in cooking are hardly worthy of a blog of their own, but you may see them make an appearance here now and again. Let me know what you think or if you have any must-try recipes or favorite cooking blogs. I'm always up for something new. In the meantime, I'm sure glad to move away from the soy nuggets and american cheese and frozen peas that has been the menu of choice up til now.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Like mother like son. Oliver loves to pick at stuff. Woobie nubs, noses, and on Monday at the park: tree bark. For like 30 minutes. Slides and swings be damned. Made for some relaxing time on the neat sheet for mommy, though.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Adventures in Babysitting

Granted, the title of this post may be a little misleading to some, especially those who are familiar with the popular 80s film. But in our case, it's kind of turned on its head. I mean, it's us who gets an advenure when there is babysitting going on. And how lucky we are in that regard.

We are just kind of getting the hang of this babysitter thing to be honest. I mean, we like spending time with the boy and are otherwise pretty beat so, on most occasions, welcome the couch and the clicker. But sometimes, every so often, we get the gumption and actually put a plan together to get out and about for an evening in this wonderful city of ours. Wednesday was one such night! And many, many thanks go to Bubbie and Poppa (Eric's parents) for babysitting -- especially on such a late night out and especially without a TV (ours is in the shop).

About 6 times a year for the last 3 years (at least), Eric has been threatening to charter a moonlight sail. Seriously, I can't tell you how many times I've heard: "We should really get a boat and a group and go out. I'm gonna look into it." On a recent trip down Lake Shore Drive -- the route which so frequently inspires the comment -- I responded with an: "I'll believe it when I see it."

And it worked. Next thing you know, Eric is IMing me with dates and times and boats. And he called. And he confirmed. And we went. Wow.

Ryan (not pictured at left) and Catherine (at left) joined us for dinner at a place amidst the hub and bub on Broadway called Wilde. We sat outside and enjoyed some Irish pub grub -- and after stumbling upon their half-price beer special, stumbled out to Belmont Harbor and met our captain Ben (at left), who was good-natured and witty and charming and, of course, skilled -- everything you'd want in a captain.

It was the perfect night for sailing. Clear night, full moon, fireworks off of Navy Pier, and the first day of rides for that new weird air balloon thing. It really was gorgeous. And despite the modest wind availability, we were still able to put 'er up for part of the trip. Catherine and I even took the wheel for a bit. (Please excuse my lack of sailing terminology.) To be truthful, my time at the wheel was more of a photo op, but Catherine really did take responsibility for heading us south toward the pier.

We had such a nice time. It was enjoyable, right down to our Jamaican cab driver on the way home. I highly recommend the outing. I highly recommend it with the following cautions:
  1. Do NOT end the night on a cheap bottle of red wine purchased at Walmart in Beloit, Wisconsin.
  2. Tether your camera to your body so as not to throw it away in a park district trash can when disposing of the empty beer bottles.
  3. Don't even bother trying to take flash-less night photography on a moving vessel.
  4. Be prepared for one or more days of post-sail "sea legs."
  5. Try not to be such a "motor-mouth" that you miss the beauty and serenity of it all. (Eric's all-too-valid feedback on my overzealous conversational style that night. What can I say? It was good to catch up with R&C.)
  6. Watch out for foot-high plastic fences when you're walking into the woods to take a pee after dark. (This last piece of advice is courtesy of Eric who fell face first in the dirt due to said obstacle. Ouch!)
  7. Wear something nautical. Wish I had. Wouldn't that main photo of me have been that much more stunning in stripes?

See a video of our view of the fireworks below (complete with a silhouette of Eric and ooo's and ahhhh's from me). Good times!

Friday, September 4, 2009


As a parent, one should be cautious about making rash, broad-sweeping statements having anything to do with their own or other's children. This much I know. For example, anything starting with "XXXX never..." or "XXXX always..." are especially dangerous. But I thought I was on the safe side with my proud announcements early on that Oliver was "take it or leave it" with his binky (pacifier) and woobie (security blanket).

Once again, he has promptly proved me wrong.

Literally overnight he has grown very attached to both items. Used to be he'd only use them at night and if I asked him for the binky he would gladly just hand it to me, but now he's having this odd behavior where he'll be playing and then all of the sudden start screaming for his "bee" and "oo'bee." And thank goodness the two usually travel in a pair because I wouldn't be able to distinguish the two requests given Oliver's toddler accent. This on-a-dime change in behavior is so amazing to me. In any case, I thought these photos say it best:

"What? So? I'm only marginally interested in my binky and woobie.
I could take 'em or leave 'em anytime. Really, I could."


"Ha-ha-ha, sucker! You actually thought I didn't like my bink?
You seriously fell for that feigned ambivalence? Ha-ha! Fooled you!"

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Taste of Fun

Last weekend we made the trek to the big city of Fort Wayne to see Grandma. We like to hit the town when there is some sort of goings on. In this case, it was Taste of The Arts, "downtown Fort Wayne's premiere arts and food festival."

I started out the weekend by scrambling out of the house and out to a cafe near Oliver's school to do one last conference call and cram a soup and sandwich down and before grabbing him and hitting the road. This adventure started at 12:30 for a 1:00 call. Off to get Oliver at 2:00, then out to Eric's office to get him (in HORRIBLE traffic -- a 30 min trip took an hour). So at this point, I'm feeling like a CTA bus driver with all these stops and pick-ups and a little like the victim of poor route planning (again, not unlike the CTA -- sorry Emily) to go west to get Eric then to head east to Indiana.

[Blogger's confession: I had planned a told-ya-so commentary about the irrationality, inconvenience, and unnecessary length of our route. However, while generating the Google map to illustrate my point, I discovered that it's really just about a 10-mile difference to run out and get Eric before going east. It's just a long drive, no matter how you chalk it up. Still think I'm sticking to my guns and making Eric drive downtown next time instead of the perpetuating the standard of curbside service.]

In any case, suffice it to say that it was a LONG trip. We managed to arrive just before Oliver's bedtime, but of course, he fell asleep in the car just as we were pulling into town, didn't survive the attempt at smooth transition, got overly excited to be at grandma's house, and ended up staying up way later than he should have.

We had a great time at the Taste of the Arts on Saturday -- and on our way, a quick stop at the Barr Street Market, because who can resist a Farmers Market, right? At the taste, Oliver spent most of his time trying to climb up on this huge orange sculpture. We watched some belly dancers and some inner-city youth strut their stuff on the performance stage. We ate sausages and drank beer and sampled cheesecake and spicy pasta. Good times. Then we came back to the house for nap time -- for all of us. Lots of zzzzzz's in that house.

Upon waking, it was, of course, time for more food, so we whipped up some turkey burgers and fired up the grill. Before we could get very far into the meal prep, though, Oliver set his sights on some corn we had bought at the Farmers Market. So Grandma shucked it for him as she endured the sound of his gruntlike chant: "Co, co, co," which escalated in intensity to the point where I suggested snarkily, "Just snap it in half and give it to him raw," thinking that either he wouldn't be able to eat it or it wouldn't taste good and he would lose interest, at least until we could get some water boiled to properly cook it. But I was wrong. Very wrong. That kid ate every last kernel off the cob and then sucked any remaining juice until there was simply nothing left. We all thought it was very cute and funny and took a series of photos to commemorate:

What wasn't so cute was the diaper aftermath the next morning. Traumatizing. Seriously traumatizing. But anyway... I digress. After dinner Oliver was quite cooperative and went to bed (we must have really worn him out) and Eric and I took the opportunity to go see a movie: Away We Go at the "dollar" theater. I really liked it. Eric thought it was just OK. Really can't beat an Under $10 date, though: 2 McDonald's sundaes ($2.16), 2 Movie Tickets ($6), Change ($1.84).

Sunday we hit breakfast at Sara's, a home-cooking family restaurant and another of our Fort Wayne favorites (although I think we decided that our standby Ashley's Skillet over there has fallen from grace a bit). After breakfast, we needed our nature fix, so went to Fox Island (a 605 acre park, which contains the largest contiguous forest in the county. Six miles of marked trails through the preserve enable visitors to enjoy the beauty of the park.) While we didn't hit the full six miles of marked trails, we did have a nice walk around the small lake that is part of the park. So nice. A little mosquito-y, but so nice. And we got our fix of critters, too: frogs and butterflies and ground squirrels. Then it was home for naps again. As Grandma and Oliver snoozed, Eric and I hit the road for some toddler-free errand running. A little less than inspired, we went to Target and loaded up on fall clothes for Oliver. Then, sadly, it was time to pack up and head back home.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Long Weekend

We all look forward to long weekends -- Memorial Day, Labor Day, Fourth of July, or for the lucky government employees: MLK Day, Washington's Birthday and Columbus Day (puh-lease), but sometimes a weekend is as long as the activities you pack into it. Last weekend was one such weekend. (Here it is Friday again already (time flies), so I don't want to lose sight of what was a great stay-at-home-ish weekend we had -- especially in comparison to July where we were out of town for every. single. weekend.)

Eric was home a little earlier than usual on Friday, so we had intended to go for a walk around Andersonville, one of our favorite Chicago neighborhoods, but then it started raining. Lamely, our intended adventure turned into an outing to Target -- but hey, at least we got out of the house. Besides, options are pretty limited when the boy goes to bed at 7:30 and dinner was out because Eric had spoiled his by eating with deep dish pizza for lunch (3 PIECES!) with Ethan after their field trip to the MCA (must be nice). So Target was fun and we bought Oliver an awesome set of plastic food (a space-minded substitute to the play kitchen that I know he would totally love), as well as one of those annoying echo microphones. Anyway, he loved the food set, especially putting the french fries and hot dogs into his mouth sideways. Can you say "choking hazard"? Those pieces have since been removed from the set. So anyway, after playing with china-made plastic for a half hour or so, he went to bed happy and Eric and I watched Secrets and Lies on DVD. Great flick.

Saturday morning, we got up bright and early with the Monk, did a quick round of triage around the house, then headed out to the Green City Market, where we dropped a LOAD of cash on locally grown produce and fresh flowers and hand-crafted cheese and organic pastries (whatever that means). We so love a market and Oliver did too, as he helped himself to samples of berries along the way. It's hard for the vendors to detect a 33" thief, I think. They had a bluegrass band there that he was really digging, too. Good times.

In fact, the times were so good that when we got back to the car, he
completely sacked out. Rather than heading home for the precarious transfer of nap locale, we decided to ride it out and headed up north to Abt, where we needed to shop for a new TV since ours is a POS. We arrived at Abt to find Oliver still snoozing, so we continued to drive and drive and drive. Finally, we got hungry for lunch and Eric ran into Pita Inn to get takeout for us, when, of course Oliver woke up at last. So we chowed on some fresh, delicious middle eastern food before hitting the electronics superstore.

Abt is like a Disneyland of electronics and other attractions, including a HUGE aquarium complete with two green moray eels (wow), a big fountain, a bubble maker, an interactive butterfly exhibit, and home-baked cookies among other things. Oliver went NUTS. He was like a maniac, arms outspread running from one thing to the next with total disregard to all of the shoppers (and there were sooo many, very busy). He ran not just to the fountains and ball mazes, but also to microwaves and vacuum cleaners. He was in heaven. (Seriously, you have to check this place out -- here's a virtual tour.) Shopping for us, on the other hand, was a bit of a challenge. It was like asking the kid at Disneyland, right in the middle of it all, to stop and read the details on a commemorative plaque. No chance.

After we dragged Oliver out of the Abt kicking and screaming, by Eric's suggestion we decided to decompress in some nature and went for a quick stroll through the Linne Woods forest preserve. To our relief, Oliver found this adventure to be as exhilarating as Abt. We kept him in the Bob for the first 7/8ths of the trip as we traversed a bunch of mud puddles from Friday's rain and then let the wildthing roam for the last 1/8th or so, which in terms of time took about 12 times as long as it would have if he had stayed in the stroller. There were sticks to be picked up and poked with. There were bridges to cross -- and recross, and recross. It was a fun adventure, though.

So now Eric and I were starting to fade since we didn't get the 2.5-hour nap that Oliver did, so we set our sights on the couch, but first in preparation for that, we hit our local library to rent a movie and let Oliver roam the stacks. We had such success with Secrets and Lies, we thought it would be a good idea to enjoy another award winner. We rented Children of a Lesser God, but then didn't end up watching it. By the time we got things organized around the house and got The Monk to bed, we were too pooped even for a movie.

And then there was Sunday -- but I'm fearing that this post is getting out of control and I think I've made my point about a weekend being as long as you make it -- so in bullets, Sunday had:
  • Painting at studio for Eric.
  • Foster Beach for Oliver & Mommy
  • Brunch with Joy, while Oliver napped.
  • Back out to Montrose Beach.
  • BBQ at Leslye and Brian's.
In essence, another FULL DAY -- trying to make the most of these fading days of summer:

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Tomato Tango

We are trying to grow tomatoes in a container on our deck this year. My Uncle Gary helped us to plant them and our only responsibility has been to water and love thereafter. And in that regard, we've been doing pretty good, really. We had one branch, heavy with unripened tomatoes fall off when we were moving the container to a new spot on the deck, but otherwise, Eric and I are doing our part.

Oliver on the other hand is doing his part to sabotage the whole plan. The kid loves tomatoes. Not sure if this love is normal or not, but he especially loves tomatoes that he can pick right off the vine and plop into his mouth. Occasionally, he'll treat himself to 5 or 6 at a time, but right now there aren't any in the orange stage yet. (Despite the variety claiming "Husky Cherry Red," they are orange when ripe.)

He's tried a green one -- even chewed and swallowed -- but we're trying to teach him to wait, that he can only eat the orange ones. He gets it. I'm certain that he gets it. He gets it, but he does not like it. At. All.

Oh, the drama! As is the predominant toddler-parenting protocol, I have found myself brainstorming preventative measures. How do we avoid this type of breakdown moving forward and still teach him all the lovely lessons of self-sufficiency, organic gardening, and the nutritional benefits of lycopene? (Only partial sarcasm intended here.) So far, to that end, I've:
  • looked into plant foods to make the tomatoes ripen faster
  • blocked the path to the plant with rideable toys
  • smuggled store-bought cherry tomatoes to the porch for the ol' switch-a-roo
  • allowed him to pilfer unripened tomatoes from the plant (path of least resistance)
  • distracted him with watering cans (risky proposition)
  • and more
Really, brainstorming avoidance and prevention techniques pretty much occupies the majority of my brainpower these days. The tomato tango is just one of many situations that could produce a tantrum, really. I'm fairly certain we're going to hit the terrible twos full force within the next month or so. He's already showing significant signs of it. What can I say, he's advanced for his age. Ugh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Oy, Oy, Oysters and Tamales Bay

I'm throwing the chronology of our trip to California completely out the window -- much like Eric throws the logic of a direct route from Point A to Point B out the window. This trait is sometimes enviable -- that he's willing to go off the beaten path, that he takes interest in seeing things others might miss, that he's more drawn to water than land -- but in this case even he will admit we took an unnecessary detour (to a place we'd been 3 times before, no less).

Tamales Bay is a coastal estuary located on the central California coast north of San Francisco. They are famous for the oysters that they harvest there and on our first trip to California, we made a wonderfully memorable spur-of-the-moment stop at a place called Tony's, where Eric had a dozen on the half shell, I had a grilled cheese, and we both had an ice cold Sierra Nevada while the sun was going down (or at least that's how we remember it). Tamales Bay, thusly was doomed to become that classic the-first-time-is-always-the-best time.

During last year's trip, we routed ourselves that same way only to find that Tony's was closed. Then this year, Eric chose once again the twisty turny Highway 1 to Tamales Bay on our way to Santa Rosa. (We had made a stop in Sausilito first.) He just won't give up on trying to recapture "the first time."

As we're driving, he mentions that he thinks Tony's is closed on Tuesdays -- or is it Thursdays? (I'm sure you can see where this is going.) So with me behind the wheel twisting and turning in our rented Jeep Laredo (thumbs-down), we make our way north. The scenery is no doubt beautiful and the eucalyptis scent produced a much-needed calming effect, but eventually, as we wrap up "the-detour-that-cost-us-two-extra-hours-on-the-road," we approach Tony's to find it closed once again. They are only open on WEEKENDS! So we moseyed up to the next roadside stand (whose name escapes me) to shovel down a dozen oysters and a beer on the "barrel tables" they require you to sit at if you want an adult beverage.

As you can see from the main photo in this post, Oliver is not interested in Oysters (at least not beyond knocking the shells about). I was less interested than usual myself and ate only 3 of the 12. Eric polished the rest under the pressure of the displeased and delayed crowd, and then we hit the road to Santa Rosa just in time for Friday commuter traffic. Next time, if Tamales Bay is in the cards, we are going to Santa Rosa, driving west, eating, and driving east back to civilization and 101.

The Pacific Coast Highway is one of the most beautiful drives in the world, I think, but it is by no means the most direct route and should be used sparingly in that regard.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Blueberries. Lots and lots of blueberries.

The title of this post was my response to an email I just got from Oliver's daycare:

From: Tanya T. Fugitt
Sent: Monday, August 24, 2009 2:48 PM
To: Denise Burch
Subject: Black POOP

Denise we were concerned because Oliver’s Bowel movements (2) were almost black. Can you shed some light on the situation? Maybe it was something he ate?


High Hand

Looking at all these photos of our trip, I just can't get over how much ground we covered and what a great time we had just being in each and every moment (a rarity for me as an overbooked, chronic planner). But in that regard, it was very yogic to be so very present. And in that spirit, how appropriate that this post is about our visit with my dear friend Colleen and her beautiful family, since (a) Colleen is a fantastic and committed yoga instructor and (b) it was her yoga that brought her within reach for a visit in Loomis near where we had been staying.

On a warm Sunday morning, after their 2-hour-straight drive from the Bay Area, Colleen, hubby Steve, Jake and Samantha met us at this beautiful nursery and cafe called High Hand. I'd never seen a place like this -- part botanic garden (except everything is for sale), part organic cafe, part fair trade market, and part art gallery (although I didn't get to see this part). We had a lovely breakfast, complete with $8 mimosas, and then let the kids run around the nursery, where all of them took to the fish pond that had these huge koi to be fed. (The nice gardener gave us some food and everything.) Oliver was especially drawn to all of the fountains and water features. The kid loves wa-er, wa-er, buh-buh-buh (where the latter is his sign -- fingers strumming lips -- for water).

Oliver got to know Colleen a little better (since the last time he saw her the only interaction he was really capable of was accepting a bottle and subsequently spitting up on her). She's very patient, that Colleen, especially as Oliver wanted to explore and touch everything in sight. And he warmed right up to Sammy who offered him delicious strawberry ice. YUM (and so cute)! Jake brought him an awesome dinosaur, which he was pretty afraid of right away, but after another week with it as our roadtrip companion, he grew fond and even somewhat attached.

Steve and the kids were able to hang out with us back in Lincoln while Colleen did her yoga thang in Roseville, which was so nice, too, but more on that later. In a nutshell -- great location, great visit, and grate-ful that the Millens were able to make it!

Oh, and I suppose that picture of Eric warrants commentary, but I think I'll let it speak for itself. Ew (not so coincidentally the man's initials).

Friday, August 21, 2009

Aunt Melissa's Chickens

We spent several nights throughout our California vacation at my sister Melissa's house in Orangevale (near Sacramento). If you asked Eric and I about the highlights there, we'd probably say: swimming in their great pool, delicious bbq dinners courtesy of brother-in-law Andy who is a great grill master, Noah's bagels courtesy of my early-riser sister, or visiting with our teen nephews, among other things. But, if you put that same question to Oliver, he would undoubtedly answer: CHICKENS! Aaaaahhhh! Bak, bak!

My sister has 6 chickens that run around on her property, obviously a novelty for a city-dwelling toddler. After spending every morning and evening outside chasing these chickens, he's now officially crazy for chickens. He even does the "Chickens! Aaaaah! Bak, bak!" exclamation when we pass the Pollo Vivo shop on Lawrence Avenue on the way home from daycare. (Yes, there is a place that sells live chickens in our neighborhood -- 1.59 lb mediano / 1.69 lb grande.)

It was such a treat to see him get so excited over these things that I seriously considered our options for rearing a chicken on our back deck. As a second option, I also considered the awesome plush chicken puppet they had for sale at our local toy shop, but I'm way too cheap at $29.95. As a third option, I asked the balloon artist (Balloon-a-tic) at our block party last weekend if she could make a balloon chicken. Her response: "Nobody has ever asked."

So we'll just have to limit our Gallus domesticus interactions to trips to the farm at Lincoln Park Zoo, I guess. Oliver's school has a field trip planned there for this Friday, so I'll have to be sure to warn them of his obsession. I'm half expecting a call to come and pry him away from the chicken-viewing fence like we had to later in our vacation when he saw more chickens at the Sonoma County Fair. Those baby piglets and goats didn't stand a chance of winning his affections:

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Ahhhh, California!

We got back from our 11 day vacation to California just a few short weeks ago (Aug. 3), but it seems like a lifetime ago, really. It's crazy how time flies. But the memories are still sharp. We had the best time! It was the ideal vacation with a perfect balance between rest and activity (that's always our goal, especially with a little one in tow) and we were so lucky to see so many friends and family. Perfect. We made the rounds all over Northern Calilfornia, even making a stop in Napa for mommy's 20-year high-school reunion.

It was such a great vacation, each leg unique on its own, so I think I'll share the details of each experience in separate posts. In the meantime, I thought I'd share my awe at how much Oliver has changed in just a year's time. Every time I download a new batch of photos from the camera, I end up taking a trip down memory lane looking at older albums on my laptop. I always say that this is one of the main benefits of digital photos. Otherwise, I don't know if I'd ever look at older photos. So anyway, I found this photo in the CALI08 folder -- from our trip to California last year. Wow has that baby grown up!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Time Flies

Time flies when you're having fun, right?! That's my excuse for the blog neglect and I'm sticking to it. Sadly, I haven't taken the time to post since May, but during that time we've had some great fun, so I'll do my best to post a few back-logged memories of our family and the boy. Please forgive this photo-less post in the meantime. They say, if you write down a goal and share it with others, it increases your chance of success. So let it be said that it is my goal to post to the blog more frequently than in the recent months past.

Actually, on second thought, maybe it's all more forgivable if I post with an Oliver photo. Not of great significance in terms of an event or a memory, but here's the most recent photo I have of him on my iPhone. He's borrowing our downstairs neighbor Maggie's pink car. Ubercool, Monk!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bats Have Many Uses

Remember this thing? Oliver's plastic bat?

Well, the ball still hasn't been untethered from it's packaging.

And he still likes to push the ball-end around the house like a vacuum cleaner.

And he still hasn't figured out how to actually swing it as it should be swung (and for this I am grateful), but yesterday he did find a new use for it.

Aparently it functions well as a herding stick. That is, if you are a Cat Shepherd. Oliver was using the bat (his is red) to wrangle Junior (our cat) out of the living room and down the hall with the utmost care. And Junior was complying willingly. Do you think it would be cruel if I dressed him as Bo Peep and let him carry his "herding stick"? So cute!