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: