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!