brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I haven’t been posting too much to my blog recently because nothing really exciting is going on other than HA HA HA the most boring, tedious, developmental issues possible. Temper tantrums! Lying! Separation Anxiety! Not sleeping through the night! WHO CARES! Who wants to read about this bullshit? Ugh, nobody. So life’s been both boring and frustrating and I didn’t want to just unload complaints all over this blog.

Our Christmas was very nice, and very laid back. My parents, brother, and brother’s girlfriend came over on Christmas Eve since Nesko had to work on Christmas Day. We set out a spread of crackers and crudites and dips and cheese, a bunch of cookies, and I made shredded Buffalo chicken in the slow cooker. My mom brought up a spanikopita she made. It was way nicer than trying to plan, coordinate, and juggle a big sit down dinner. We even ate on paper plates.

Our New Year was equally laid back. Nesko had to work New Year’s Eve but got off earlier than usual. We ordered pizza and watched movies and spent New Year’s Day sitting around the house… minus the grocery run I made Nesko take because we were low on food and it was snowing heavily outside. I was worried there’d be a run on groceries and since we only had one roll of toilet paper and that’s one of the first things to go in Blizzard Shopping, I had The Fear. Two days and about 8 inches of snow later, we’re snug and warm in our house. Nesko has shoveled the sidewalk four or five times, and we unleashed Niko to wade around in snow that reached up to his hips.

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola In The Snow

Nikola’s school is on Winter Break right now and we were both really looking forward to sending him back to school. But the forecast for Monday is about a million degrees below zero and I don’t feel comfortable having him walk half a mile in that, so I might keep him home. We’ll see what happens.

How’s the weather by you? Any snow? Anything unusual?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I was super excited on Friday because Niko and I were at the library (we accidentally wound up walking over a mile to get there and he fell down HARD twice, poor kid, once on the bus) and I saw they had a pass in for the Adler Planetarium. Chicago Public Libraries, like many other Library Systems, has local museum and zoo passes available at the branches that people can check out for 7 days. Adler is one of the passes that is CONSTANTLY checked out, so I snatched that sucker up and we made big plans to visit the Planetarium this weekend. Possibly on both days! We debated borrowing a car and driving up and paying to park versus taking public transit. We also talked about going both Saturday and Sunday, taking maximum advantage of the pass.

Then we wound up sleeping in until like 10:00 on Saturday and wound up just hanging around at home in our jammies all day. We decided we’d head out early on Sunday.

The thing about the Adler Planetarium is that it shares a parking lot with the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium… and Soldier Field.

The thing about Sunday is that, unknown to us, there was Bears/Vikings football game at Soldier Field at noon.

We drove past the main parking lot before 9:30 and it was already packed with football attendees grilling sausages. It smelled great, but where could we park? I remembered that there’s a tiny parking lot adjacent to the Planetarium, but when we tried to get there, we found the road leading to it was closed. We discussed parking in a lot in the City (which is expensive) and taking a bus or a cab (more money) but worried that would involve a lot of walking, which I’m still having trouble doing because of my injured knee.

We saw a sign for overflow parking for the museums/Soldier Field and tried to head for them, but there was a double line of cars headed in that direction so Nesko jerked the car out of that lane while I tried to talk with Niko in the back seat about being flexible and how we can’t always do what we planned to do. He was getting upset, when Nesko suggested we go to The Museum of Science and Industry instead.

The thing about MSI is that we have a membership to it, so don’t have to pay anything additional to go, and they have a private parking garage that we don’t have to pay for because of the membership.

It was like a flight of angels descended from heaven to sing heavenly songs about the glories of MSI. We headed over there.

The parking garage was pretty much deserted.

There were almost no lines anywhere.

We had a private tour of the Zephyr train (which I think Niko can recite by this point).

It was all around pretty great.

I’ve taken Niko to MSI in the middle of the week and had similar experiences. The one thing I don’t like about him being in a 5 day a week pre-k program is that we can’t head out and do fun stuff during the day, like spur of the moment trips to MSI or the library.

We had a specific plan for the weekend and it didn’t work out the way we intended at all. But we still had a really great time, and are going to keep an eye on the Bears football schedule and start hitting up MSI when they have home games because apparently the bulk of the city battens down and watches the game instead of going to museums.

I’m super glad we have a membership to MSI. It’s more than paid for itself by now, and it’s super great to be able to head over there whenever we feel like it… and part of having a membership is that we don’t feel as much pressure to “get our money’s worth” and stay until the museum closes, past the time when people (Niko) are getting tired, hungry, and cranky. So we’re able to leave on a high note instead of pushing our luck.

We are getting a membership to the Field Museum soon (and would have sooner if Nesko’s car hadn’t stopped being a car, resulting in thousands of dollars of parts/repair work), and might pick up a membership to the Shedd for Christmas or Niko’s birthday as well. Chicago has so many museums that we’re really spoiled for choice.

What are some of the museums and attractions where you are? What are some of your favorite ways to spend the day with your family?

Standing in front of the Zephyr.

Standing in front of the Zephyr.

Niko and Zeph, the donkey mascot of the Zephyr.

Niko and Zeph, the donkey mascot of the Zephyr.

Nesko and Niko in the Hall Of Trains

Nesko and Niko in the Hall Of Trains

Niko wore his train hat all day; it was his idea to put it atop the helmet.

Niko wore his train hat all day; it was his idea to put it atop the helmet.

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A Bloggy Sandwich

Thursday, 1 August 2013 11:11
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

When I was still taking art classes, I had a session on how to construct a portfolio. One of the tips was, of course, make sure EVERY PIECE is good. And if you’re doing sequential art, show that you actually can DO sequential art, can tell a story through art, not just have a bunch of splash pages and pin ups. But specifically, we were told to have your strongest piece as the very first one, and your second strongest one as the last one. That way, you set the tone with the first piece and then you end on a high note, so people viewing your portfolio are impressed right away and also leave with a good impression.

Then Nesko and I watched a pop sci show about how the brain works, and they just said lead with positive stuff and people gloss over the negative. First impressions super matter, apparently.

But I’m going to stick with what I was originally taught, and I’m going to sandwich some grossness between cute stories.

THE FIRST CUTE STORY

Niko no longer says “yes.”

When I say that, I don’t mean that he’s become suddenly and overwhelmingly negative. I mean that while he agrees to things, the word “yes” no longer passes his lips. Nor does yeah, or as he says it, “yay-uh.” No, it’s suddenly all “Sure” and “Of course.” As in, “Niko, would you like some milk?” “Oh, of course I would!” “Niko, would you please pick up your blocks?” “Oh, sure!” “Niko, would you like a hug?” “Oh, of course I do!”

WHAT EVEN IS THIS.

It’s like he has a secret handbook on being cute.

The other day, I asked him if he would like some applesauce and he said “Of course.” And then he said “Actually, I would really appreciate it if I would have some pudding instead, please.”

Actually.

I would really appreciate.

OH MY GOD.

Can I have another kid who’s just, like, a copy of him? Because he’s basically perfect. Except not as the next story will reveal.

THE GROSS STORY

At the age of four years and 5 months, Niko has decided that it is HIGH TIME he learns to wipe his own butt. He’s been using up flushable wipes at an alarming rate and we’ve been dealing with random poo fingers here and there. But then yesterday he apparently decided it was TIME TO STOP FUCKING AROUND. He approached wiping his own butt with a grim seriousness. LET’S DO THIS THING, he resolved.

And he started going in the bathroom every half hour to squeeze out some pathetic tiny turd nugget.

He’s kind of obsessed.

And suddenly, we’re back to having pants accidents.

“Mama,” he says sternly. “I had a little bit of a poop accident.”

He is not proud of these.

So I’ve been picking up flecks of feces from the bathroom floor, doing a lot of hand washing, reminding him that he can’t use an entire package of flushable wipes in one go, etc.

And then, just after Nesko got home, I was in the dining room when I saw what looked to my weak eyes to be a a brand new knot hole in the wooden floor. Wait. There was no knothole there before… was there? I prodded it with my toe. It went squish.

Look.

I don’t have a lot of expectations out of life.

But one that I cling to is the expectation that I can walk through my house without stepping in shit.

Nesko launched into a long story about how HE was working at a house with DOGS and they had to RUN A LINE and the yard was FULL OF POOP and I’m like, ok. That’s horrible and gross. But that, at least, is outside. In nature. Nature, you know, that thing that is a toilet for wild animals. THE GREAT OUT DOORS IS ONE HUGE TOILET. My house? Not so much. My dining room floor? NOPE.

nope_001

nope_002

nope_003

I just… no.

So then I patrolled the rest of the house, squinting at every smudge and speck, armed with a bottle of disinfectant and paper towels.

And then Nesko gathered Niko into his lap for cuddles and finger nail trimmings, and we discovered a motherlode of poo on Niko’s heel.

ugh_001

THE SECOND CUTE STORY

Niko has a baby.

His baby is named Baby.

Baby is a girl (a DWIR-OLE) except for when she’s a boy.

Baby currently lives in the bouncy seat that he used when he was an infant, that we’re holding on to until Nesko’s sister who just had a baby returns from Europe. At this point, we will have to evict Baby from her perch, her soft and cradling throne.

Niko sometimes carries Baby around, and feeds her cookies (wooden blocks, string, etc) or shares things he’s eating with her. “One little nut for me, and one for Baby. And one little nut for me, and one for Baby.” He invariably eats Baby’s portion, of course. He also brings her small toys, books, and shoes (?) for her to snuggle with so she doesn’t get lonely. And from time to time he decides that baby is taking a nap so he walks around and shushes us all because Baby is sleeping. Then he decides that Baby is fully asleep so we can be loud again. “Baby sure is sleeping hard! She’s a hard sleeper.”

Sometimes Baby needs a diaper change, or Niko decides it’s time to potty train her. He’s very encouraging. He cleans her up and cuddles her and says kind things.

It is the most adorable thing.

It almost makes me forget that I stepped in poop in the dining room.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko’s been making a lot of art recently. We worked on one together, but the other is all him.

niko_garden_art_collage

He told me that he wanted to cut out some flowers and glue them to paper to make a garden. So we sat down together and I helped him cut out some blossoms. He tried cutting out stems but got frustrated so I did that. He glued some of them down before getting bored so I finished that up, then he helped me glue the grass down. He drew the sun and I drew some clouds. I wanted him to draw the sun on a piece of white paper, or cut out a piece of yellow paper for the sun, but he would have none of that.

I’d like to do this again on a piece of bristol board, using patterned paper and a better glue (spray on adhesive instead of glue stick) because I think that’d be a cool piece of art. Using decorative paper punches that made flower heads, leaves, etc would also be cool/fun and speed things up quite a bit.

niko_art_allosaur

Remember when I mentioned the white board and how much Niko liked it? He’s been drawing a lot of awesome dinosaurs on it. This is one of them, an allosaurus. On the left you can see its enormous head and massive teeth and on the right you can see its feathered tail. You can also see its hands and feet with fingers/toes. FUN FACT: in Serbian, prst means both “finger” and “toe.” “Digit,” says Nesko. “It means digit.” I did not help with this one at all.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

My dad called me the other day and proposed that he and my mom would take us to Brookfield Zoo to see the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. They know Niko’s true and abiding love of dinosaurs, and thought he’d get a kick out of seeing some animatronic dinosaurs up close and personal. They were totally right!

Unlike Lincoln Park Zoo, which is free and closer to us, Brookfield Zoo has an admission fee and many exhibits have additional fees/admission costs as well. As such, we’ve taken Niko to Lincoln Park Zoo a few times, but neither Nesko nor I have been to Brookfield Zoo in at least twenty years. It was a little weird returning there, at least for me, since so much is the same as when I was a kid.

We parked in the North Lot, which cost $10, and met my parents. We went in together after my mom bought a family membership, which was cheaper than buying admission for 4 adults and a child and will let us come back many other times. As soon as we got in, my dad went to rent a wheelchair for my mom, who is having some hip pain, and I went to rent a wagon to haul our stuff. We’d brought a cooler of canned drinks and sandwiches, and a big bag that held swimming stuff, a towel, clean clothing, some chips, etc. There’s a splash pad we thought Niko might have fun at, but we wound up not hitting that side of the park. Brookfield Zoo has Electric Convenience Vehicles (scooters) for rent, but were out of them, so if you need one you probably need to get there super early OR call ahead to reserve one. The Wheelchair was $10.00 to rent it, but you need a credit card as a deposit; the wagon was $8.00 with an addition deposit of $10.00 which you get when you return the wagon and a barcode-printed piece of paper they give you. Niko wound up riding in the wagon for most of the visit, taking up half the space with the cooler in the other half.

Our first stop was the carousel.

Niko riding a camel on Brookfield Zoo's carousel.

Niko riding a camel on Brookfield Zoo’s carousel.

Niko’s never ridden a carousel before, and this huge and beautiful one was a great introduction. He wanted to ride the camel, which was stationary, so was a good choice for a first time rider. He held on super tightly at first, as instructed, but soon was comfortable enough to wave hello and good bye as we spun past Grandma, Tata, and Pop pop. We also found one of the limited edition dinosaur Mold-A-Rama machines near the carousel, the Trachodon.

We headed for the Dinosaurs Alive! area after that, and stumbled across two more Mold-A-Rama machines for T-Rex and Apatosaurus. Dinosaurs Alive! requires an additional ticket, and has presentations on various dinosaurs at different times. There’s big animatronics of various dinosaurs, some old favorites and some lesser known ones. Niko was excited to see T-Rex, Stegosaurus, Amargasaurus, Carnasaurus, Spinosaurus, and others he loves and was really interested in the new-to-him (some recently discovered) dinosaurs as well.

Dinosaurs Alive! at Brookfield Zoo

Some of the animatronics had control panels/buttons one can push to make the animatronics move or make noise. The buttons were pretty high up, though, so a little kid or someone in a wheelchair would have a hard time reaching them without assistance.

Niko makes an animatronic Triceratops roar.

Niko makes an animatronic Triceratops roar.

There was a “Feathers and Fossils” exhibit under a tent (which was pretty warm) with some hands on stuff kids could do, including “digging” for “fossils” (molded bones embedded in a matrix and covered in shredded rubber, which they can brush aside with brushes), reproductions of fossilized bones and eggs people can touch, articulated skeleton replicas, and animatronic dinosaurs that move and roar. There was information about recent dinosaur discoveries, like juvenile T-Rex being covered in feathers, and brief presentations about competing theories like whether dinos were cold blooded or warm blooded.

A juvenile T-Rex animatronic, covered in feathers, at Brookfield Zoo.

A juvenile T-Rex animatronic, covered in feathers, at Brookfield Zoo.

I was disappointed that the only exit from Dinosaurs Alive! involved walking through the gift shop. Predictably, Niko melted down because he wasn’t getting toys (other than the Mold-A-Ramas he was clutching in his hands at the time).

We broke for a picnic lunch after the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit, settling in on some benches under some shade. I brought sandwiches and stuff from home, which my mom didn’t think would be allowed. I double checked the zoo’s website and didn’t see any rules about outside food and drinks, or even if glass containers were banned. My gut says skip the glass containers though as many venues in Chicago ban them because of the dangers of broken glass. (Lincoln Park Zoo has a ban on disposable straws which doesn’t seem to be in effect at Brookfield Zoo, interestingly.) If you don’t want to schlepp your own big cooler around, though, there are a LOT of places to buy hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, fresh popcorn, massive soft pretzels, ice cream, beer, frozen cokes, and more. As you might expect, they’re really expensive. Like, $10 for a glass of beer expensive.

We sauntered over to the Dolphin Show after lunch, but we’d missed the show by like a minute (NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO) and the next one wasn’t for 90 minutes. So we scoped out the dolphins under water, and found the (pink) Stegosaurus Mold-A-Rama next to the (blue) leaping dolphin Mold-A-Rama.

Niko watches dolphins at Brookfield Zoo.

Niko watches dolphins at Brookfield Zoo.

Niko was starting to get tired, even though he’d been hauled in his wagon chariot for 90% of the trip, and turned up his nose at seeing the seals underwater. He lobbied hard to go play at the park near the 7 Seas Exhibit and of course we gave in. My parents left for home around that time. The playground had a train theme, almost as if they’d designed it to Niko’s specifications, and he had a fun time running around and playing tag with other kids.

Niko sticks his head through a conductor cut out at Brookfield Zoo's playground.

Niko sticks his head through a conductor cut out at Brookfield Zoo’s playground.

We lured him back into the wagon with promises of ice cream, and saw some more animals (a sleeping tapir, some sleeping kangroos…. or wallabies maybe?… some bored looking emu), and found the last two Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs (Stegosaurus and Corythosaurus) near the Rhinos/Elephants.

We returned the wagon, to Niko’s dismay. He really did not want to WALK on his FEET using his LEGS and there were several melt downs on the way back to the car that included him wailing “I don’t WANT to WALK. I’m too SLEEPY to WALK. But I really want ICE CREAM. I’m NOT too sleepy to eat ICE CREAM so I am WALKING but I DO NOT WANT TO WALK.” A woman ahead of us, pushing a stroller, kept laughing at him because he was being so dramatic and ridiculous.

We loaded into the car and drove off, stopping at a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins where Niko once again elected for a sprinkle donut over ice cream. Dude loves his carbs I guess. He sacked out on the way home and had a really long nap, his Mold-A-Rama dinosaurs keeping watch over him.

Brookfield Zoo was really accessible using a big bulky wagon. My dad pushed my mom in the wheelchair (if she were a longer term wheelchair user I expect she’d push herself… I don’t know that she’s used a wheelchair before) and neither the chair nor the wagon had problems getting anywhere we wanted to go. There’s a lot of ramps, some of them sliiiiightly steep, but not enough to give us problems. I saw a lot of people with strollers, wagons, manual wheel chairs, electric wheelchairs, and scooters and nobody seemed to have any problems getting around or into attractions. Contrast this with Lincoln Park Zoo where I had serious problems getting baby Niko into newly constructed buildings when he was in a stroller… lots of exhibits had heavy narrow doors without automatic open buttons, and lots of stairs with no ramp or elevator alternative. So Brookfield Zoo definitely wins on physical accessibility, although it’s more expensive and can be harder to get to.

We didn’t look at many animals today. Our main focus was the Dinosaurs Alive! exhibit. I’m hoping that we can visit once a month or so with my parents’ membership and get to see more of the animals, including the Dolphin show.

If you’re thinking of heading to Brookfield Zoo, I’d recommend you check out the different pricing options, bring your own lunch, and consider renting a wagon or bringing your own. The wagon made a huge difference with a four year old in tow. Check out the zoo’s map and Exhibit and Animal Guide as well as the Exhibit Updates to plan your visit. Don’t forget your sunscreen, and your water, and have a great time!

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

On the good news front, Nesko has a new job. It’s a Union gig, which means regular raises and health care and job protection and paid holidays and two days a week off, guaranteed, and overtime work is paid time and a half or double time (depending) and all kinds of fun stuff that for the most part doesn’t exist without Unions. (And before you butt in with stories of corporate jobs where this stuff is standard, it wasn’t before Unions came along.) He had Orientation on Friday, worked his last day at Previous Job on Saturday, and had Sunday off and Monday off as a paid holiday. He hasn’t had a paid holiday since, like, 2005… when he was working for a big retail company that frequently required him to work 12+ hour shifts. Anyway, his new company handed out company branded baseball caps and the Union handed out Union branded badges, and Nesko brought them both home to show off his new hat and talk about what he’d been told.

On Saturday, Niko dragged down that hat from its hook on the wall and put it on his head.

“Look at me,” he said, hat draped over his eyes. “I’m Tata.” He shoved his feet into Nesko’s house shoes and shuffled around in them. “I’m Tata and I’m wearing my hat and shoes. I’m going to go to work now. This is my car and I’m going to fix it and then I’m going to go to work.”

He waved a plastic wrench around his red Radio Flyer tricycle. “I’m fixing the brakes,” he said. “Because I’m Tata and I need to fix my car and go to work. I work hard because I’m Tata.”

He “drove” his “car” around, still wearing the hat, and banged into a book shelf. We use rechargeable batteries, and the battery recharger fell down and hit the floor pretty hard. The plastic cover fell off. Niko started freaking out, upset that he’d broken something, bewailing his fate and trying to cram the plastic cover back on. He stopped suddenly.

“Wait!” he said. “But I’m Tata. Why would I do something naughty?”

I called him over and fixed the battery recharger and he put it back on the shelf and returned to his exciting life of being Tata and driving his car around.

We’re all pretty excited about the new job. It sounds like it’s going to work out, and be a very positive thing.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Yonks ago, I worked for a small bakery that, surprising nobody, has closed down. PROTIP: if your paychecks to your employees keep bouncing and they have to handle calls from irate suppliers about getting paid, you are doing something wrong. Other than pay issues, I loved working there. Sometimes a dude would come by and sell my boss giant flats of strawberries for really cheap, and then my job would be to wash, sort, and slice them and we’d make a bunch of strawberry cakes. As an aside, I will never buy a cake/baked good containing strawberries because my boss was a little lax on what constituted mold and spoilage.

While we were driving to the store yesterday, “strawberries” on our shopping list, I caught sight of a produce truck by the side of the road. Now, I live in Chicago which is a big city, very urban, yet it’s common to find little truck stands scattered alongside busy roads. The last time I stopped at a truck stand I bought 5 pounds of cherries for $5 and Nesko ate them all in one sitting which turned out to be a bad move on his part. Despite our rocky history with poor impulse control and truck stand fruit, I made Nesko pull over and he got out of the car and bought a flat (8 pints) of strawberries and a huge bag of green grapes for $5. Apparently $5 is the magic price or something? He shoved this massive flat of fruit into the trunk of the car and we went to the store. When it was time to load our groceries (all cloth bagged, tyvm) into the car, the whole trunk was fragrant with strawberries.

I find the smell kind of nauseating, actually.

Once home, I sorted through 5 pints of strawberries and now our freezer is stocked with diced, sliced, and chunked strawberries for later strawberry based shenanigans. I tossed about 20% of the strawberries as moldy or far too over ripe (like, turning to mush, couldn’t pick them up) which seems about on par with what we get from the grocery store AND what I’d end up with when processing berries for the bakery. Niko has consumed almost an entire pint in one day. I plan to make strawberry short cake tonight, and strawberry pancakes tomorrow or the day after. Would strawberry oatmeal be tasty? What other strawberry recipes would you recommend?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko is super super SUPER obsessed with Dinosaurs right now and his driving goal is to get out to the Field Museum to see Sue, but it’s hella expensive and they don’t have a parking garage and it’d take us like 90+ minutes to take the train and bus out there, so we’re forcing him to wait until it’s warmer like the huge cruel abusive jackasses we are. THE HORROR. He’s been watching a lot of “Walking With Dinosaurs” which I’m not entirely sure is appropriate for him (there’s a lot of babies getting eaten on that show) but one upside is that the narrator is Kenneth Branagh and Niko has started narrating his play in Branagh’s voice. Some day when he’s an actor famous for his melodious voice, I’ll be there to take all credit. Yes, yes. He learned it from the teevee.

I was putzing around the kitchen the other day when Nesko walked into the living room and saw something he thought was ADORABLE. All of Niko’s dinosaur toys were lying on the floor on their sides, their heads gently resting on wooden blocks.

“Aww, Niko, are your dinosaurs asleep?”

“Yes, they are. I tucked them all in and read them two stories.”

“And their heads are on their pillows?”

“NO, tata, dinosaurs don’t HAVE pillows.”

“Oh, but they could use nice soft leaves and grasses.”

“No, they are using meat.”

“They… are using meat… for their pillows?”

“Yes.”

“That’s… pretty disgusting.”

“I know. But dinosaurs are pretty disgusting a lot of the time.”

Later he arranged all his dinosaurs in a conga line.

One of his favorite games to play with me is where I’m a Stegosaurus and he’s an Allosaurus and I’m eating ferns and he tries to menace me and I swing my “spiny tail” (my leg) at him to keep him away. He hops around growling for ten or fifteen minutes until he gets bored, and then he climbs on my back. YOU SEE, I am a mama stegosaurus motorcycle and he has to ride me. BRRM BRRRMMMM.

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Nutella

Sunday, 24 March 2013 11:22
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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The first time I had Nutella was in 1993. My mom’s best friend had moved to Australia a few years earlier and super expensive trans-atlantic phone calls once a year and letters written in cramped writing on both sides of onion skin paper and sent airmail just weren’t enough. So she used my graduating from 8th grade as an excuse to fly the both of us out to visit them. Happy graduation, let’s go to Oz! I’m not complaining, mind. It was an incredible trip. I fell in love hard with Melbourne, and it’s the one place in my life I’ve ever felt homesick for, which is weird considering I was only there for about 3 weeks. But man, I loved it so much. We stayed with our family friends and I tried Nutella for the first time. We’d been sending them care packages for years of stuff like graham crackers and Oreos and Captain Crunch and some other stuff they couldn’t get over there (coffee that wasn’t instant? lasagne noodles that you had to boil first? I forget what else.) and they’d send us Vegemite. After our return they sent Nutella as well, something you couldn’t get (or couldn’t get easily?) in the States.

OF COURSE I shared this with my friends.

They thought I was crazy.

Putting CHOCOLATE on BREAD? How ridiculous is that! No wonder you’re such a fat fatty! These FOOLS who enjoyed chocolate chip cookies, chocolate chip muffins, chocolate croissants, white and yellow cake with chocolate frosting, pound cake with chocolate ganache, chocolate bread pudding, etc could not FATHOM putting CHOCOLATE (and hazelnut) on BREAD. Ewwww, gross! I made them eat it, because that’s the kind of friend I am, and they all saw how amazing it was and liked it. And for years, Nutella was a staple in my cupboard.

Now it’s super popular and you can pick it up in almost every grocery store and there’s weird ads for it on television and in magazines where it sounds like it’s health food (it’s chocolate, people. chocolate. tasty, not healthy.) and there’s a million recipes and memes about Nutella online. You can find it pretty much everywhere… except my kitchen.

Why?

Because of Nesko.

I married a man who’s allergic to hazelnut. He’s also allergic to chestnuts and brazil nuts.

How allergic is he? I’ll tell you. Years ago, I worked at Fannie May and part of the job requirement was to be familiar with the product. I was sampling the new deluxe truffles (which were INCREDIBLE) and one of them was a hazelnut mousse filling (AMAZING). HOURS after I tried one single truffle with hazelnut Nesko came in to buy some Advent calendars for his cousin’s kids and I gave him a little kiss and his lips started tingling and got a little swollen.

Despite his allergic reactions (swelling, vomiting when he eats chestnuts) he continues to eat stuff with hazelnuts in it unless I remind him not to. His reasoning is that the allergic reaction isn’t THAT bad and hazelnuts taste good. My reasoning is that each exposure ups the chance his allergy will get worse, so stop making bad decisions you fool. So we don’t keep Nutella in the house.

Recently, some peanut butter companies have tried to jump on the Nutella bandwagon and put out their own chocolate spreads. Every time I see them I scrutinize them for hazelnut. Peanuts, after all, are tasty and they are peanut butter companies. Wouldn’t it make sense for them to use peanuts instead of hazelnuts in their java chocolate caramel whatever spreads? But no, they all cram hazelnuts in there.

Then I found these little single-serve packs by Jif. They’re one of the

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko bounced into our bedroom this morning, bright and early.

I’m awake! It’s time to be awake now! The sun is shining! The birds are singing! It’s time for every body to be awake! All the adults have to be awake and get up and get all the way out of bed!

And then he climbed around us pulling off blankets and turning on the light.

How did I give birth to a morning person? HOW?

It’s especially tough for me right now because I am in the middle of a shitty cold and was up until about 3:00 am coughing (which means, of course, I also kept waking Nesko up, but that fucker falls asleep in about five minutes LIKE A JERK so he always gets way more sleep than me) so I was tired. Tiiiiiiired. So tired I couldn’t say tired and could only say tarrrrrhd. As I lay like a lump in bed, I was vaguely aware that Niko didn’t sound great. Cheerful, yes. He sounded cheerful. And excruciatingly awake. But he also sounded stuffy.

“You sound congested,” said Nesko.

“Thanks!” said Niko.

I’ve been stuffing him full of vitamin C having things (orange juice, strawberries, red bell peppers, etc) for the past two weeks trying to stave off this cold, but he persists in doing shit like LICKING MY SNOTTY NOSE OH MY GOD WHY WHAT THE FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK etc so I’m not really surprised he sounds like he’s been eating cigarettes. However, I also predict that he’ll be fully recovered in about 3 days, whereas I’ll still be struggling to breathe by this time next month.

I’ve basically been laid up all week doing the most slack ass parenting possible (you want pretzels and gummy worms for lunch? HAVE AT IT) which super sucks because I had Big Plans to do a deep and thorough cleaning of the entire house so that this coming week I’d only have to do light maintenance cleaning in preparation for Niko’s birthday party on Saturday. But whatever I’m sick with is so awful that my joints all hurt. Back? Hurts. Knees? Hurts. Shoulders? Hurt. Neck? Stiff and hurts. Tiny joints in feet and toes? What the hell, why do you hurt? This makes it hard to clean stuff! Also: the vacuum cleaner broke. Uhm. And so did the washing machine.

It’s possible we have somehow angered the gods of domestic cleanliness, I don’t know.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko, like me, grows hair and nails super fast. So we trim his nails frequently or else he claws us up, and we cut his hair and then like two days later he looks like wolves have been raising him. He was fretting over being “chupo chupovee” (a hairy man) recently and kept asking for a haircut. At one point I went into the bathroom and someone had removed the bathmat (draping it over the garbage can in the kitchen) and put Niko’s little pink chair in the middle of the floor. WHO COULD HAVE DONE THAT. Why, Niko, of course! Preparing for his haircut. So Nesko finally took him in there and trimmed his hair. I tried to slip in there to use the toilet and the floor was entirely covered in hair and Niko was shirtless and I pretty much had a glimpse of what he will look like when he is 40: a dude with a hair sweater. It’s your destiny, dude. Sorry. Or maybe you’ll like being super hairy and bask in the glory of never being fully naked even when unclothed, I don’t know.

Nesko’s gotten pretty good at cutting Niko’s hair, but the problem remains that Niko has my hairline. Namely, his hairline almost reaches his eyebrows near the temples. It’s the opposite of Nesko’s hairline, which is very high up, giving him a smooth high intelligent looking forehead, as opposed to my brutish almost Neanderthal look. It’s like I married a dolphin, y’all. And Niko very obviously takes after me. I expect his unibrow will start coming in when he’s 12 or so.

Anyway, he’s all groomed now and looks like a tiny human and not a feral beast child, so that’s a great change. Unfortunately, he’s still acting like a feral beast child roughly half the time. It’s less than ideal.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Are you familiar with Candle Cove, that brilliant bit of horror by Kris Straub? It’s a relatively short piece of fiction in the format of an internet forum dedicated to old tv shows. Some users reminisce about a horrific low budget kids show called “Candle Cove” that was pure nightmare fuel in the most literal sense possible. It’s atmospheric and creepy in the best possible way, the unease and horror build slowly.

Skyshale033
Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Ugh mike, I got a chill reading that. Yes I remember. That’s what the ship always told Percy when there was a spooky place he had to go in, like a cave or a dark room where the treasure was. And the camera would push in on Laughingstock’s face with each pause. YOU HAVE… TO GO… INSIDE. With his two eyes askew and that flopping foam jaw and the fishing line that opened and closed it. Ugh. It just looked so cheap and awful.

You guys remember the villain? He had a face that was just a handlebar mustache above really tall, narrow teeth.

“YOU HAVE… TO GO… INSIDE.”

Niko frequently creeps me out. FOR INSTANCE, there was the time he stared solemnly up at the sky and then told me “there is a storm coming and we will never see the day again” or the time he informed me that he ate the sun and we would thus be in eternal night.

Today he stood in the middle of the living room and intoned in his spookiest voice “YOU HAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE… TO GO… INSIIIIIIIIIIIIIDE” while waving his arms ritually, a blank look on his face. He crawled under the coffee table. “YOU HAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE… TO GO… INSIIIIIIIIDE… THE CAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVE.”

JESUS GOD.

And then he started talking about picking up a cargo load of coal and making chugging and puffing noise because he was a train.

I mean, talk about your Occam’s Razor moments, right? The most obvious solution is the correct one. He’s never heard of Candle Cove, but he HAS read/watched a lot of stories about trains going into dark, spooky caves. Also he seems to delight in fucking with me and being creepy on purpose. <3

I told Nesko about this and he said “Well, we’re going to have to leave the television on AT ALL TIMES NOW so he can’t find any static to watch.”

<3 <3 <3

What’s the creepiest thing YOUR kids do? What have you done that royally creeped out someone else, all unintentionally?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

One of the things I like about our little family is the traditions we’re developing like going to Day Out With Thomas (2 years in a row) or to Wagner Farm every year for the Rotary Club fund raising (3 years in a row) or… uh. I guess that’s it, so far.

Anyway, we made the trek up to The Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Illinois for the 2012 Day Out With Thomas. It was great. It was fun last year, but it was rainy, and Niko was younger and cranky and nap disruptions made everything terrible (everything!). And even though he’s been a jerk about sleeping and napping lately, he’s old enough that he was able to hold his shit together allowing us to explore and do more things.

"Niko Posing With Thomas"

Nikola turns around long enough for a photo.

As they do, they had platforms set up for photo ops with Thomas. There were three platforms and of course the one in the middle was the most popular. There were professional photographers and you had the option to view and purchase a pro photo (perhaps in a fancy commemorative frame?) but we did not go that route because we are cheap assholes with our own (shitty) camera. How shitty? Let me just say that if you have an iPhone 4 your phone has a batter camera than my straight up camera. I discarded literally over half the photos I took because they were crap not because of anything I did but because it’s just a crap camera. Enough complaining! Niko was far more interested in checking out Thomas than turning around for his photo op, but he was very kind and patient with us and eventually turned around and consented to have his photo taken. Bless. We only backed the line up a LITTLE bit.

"Nikola checks out a hand car"

Nikola checks out a hand car.

There are many, many sheds with trains on display– engines, coaches, freight cars, CTA cars, cabooses, and more. Most of them have signs and are genteely roped off but apparently it’s ok to climb on this one. At least I hope it’s ok. Other people were doing so and there were no ropes or signs saying not to. Here’s Niko on a yellow hand car.

"Nikola sees a huge steam engine"

Nikola is stunned by the sheer immensity of a black steam engine.

And here he is checking out a huge black steam engine which, he was quick to tell us, looked just like Gordon. Well of course.

"Nikola and Nesko in front of a steam enginge"

Nikola and Nesko stand in front of a big steam engine.

I took, no exaggeration, about 50 photos of the awesome trains inside the sheds including the Nebraska Zephyr and some simply IMMENSE engines. None of them turned out. My camera, a point and shoot, has issues with its flash I guess. The photos in strong natural light, like this one, turned out much better. Steam engines are incredibly huge! And loud! And huge! I kind of have a thing for taking photos of people in front of GIANT TIRES and have done so both here and at Wagner Farm in front of a tractor’s giant tires.

"Niko on a caboose"

Niko also got to check out a caboose.

He also got to clamber around a caboose/brake van. It’s a cheerful red, as cabooses should be.

We went on a short street car ride but skipped the longer 19 mile ride because Niko was fading fast and while Nesko thought it’d be a chance for us all to relax including Niko, I was afraid Niko would get cranky and disrupt things. We checked out the Zephyr, which Niko’s been talking about for months, and also checked out the CTA train they’ve been restoring. We were also able to check out the museum’s gift shop and we bought a beautiful print for $5 of a pencil drawing of street car passing the Chicago theater.

This was a super great time and if we lived closer than an hour away we’d seriously consider buying a membership. A family membership costs $65, which is pretty cheap, and they have lots of events and it’d be super fun to just be able to look at the trains and ride them whenever we had a weekend to do so. We miiiiight look into hotels in the area and do a 3 day vacation out there, exploring the railway museum and also the Wild West Town and KOA campground and one room school house in the are. I AM A SUCKER FOR HISTORICAL REENACTMENTS, you have no idea.

Maybe you’re curious as to how accessible the museum is. There are designated handicap parking spaces on asphalt, but most of the parking is on grass, which may not be as much of an issue on NON Day Out With Thomas days. There are wide paved walkways throughout the grounds of the museum, but many of the sheds have a step to get in and some of them are not super well lit. They have paved walkways in the sheds. Some of the doorways are not very wide. I don’t think any of the trains are accessible. They are historic trains with narrow, steep, widely spaced steps. We all had problems boarding and disembarking. The museum has golf cart “courtesy shuttles” for Day Out With Thomas, but I don’t know if they have them at other times. The museum gift shop has a ramp leading up to it, but it’s narrow inside. I saw people at Day Out With Thomas using wheel chairs, motorized chairs, walkers, crutches, braces, and assistance dogs. So obviously some persons with disabilities are able to navigate the museum. There were also a lot of people using strollers and wagons along the pathways and over the grassy areas, although those weren’t allowed on the trains or in the gift store or in the museum’s diner. There were many portapotties, some of which were accessible, but I don’t know if those are a constant fixture or brought in specially for Day Out With Thomas. The diner has a big bathroom and the lady’s room had a handicapped stall but I don’t remember if the doorways were wide enough for a wheel chair user. It’s a newer building, though.

To sum up, “Day Out With Thomas” was a great time. I don’t think it’s possible for a more perfect day to have happened. We had a really good time and just as Niko talked about last year’s event all year I’m sure he’ll be talking about this year’s event for a long time as well. If you have the chance to attend “Day Out With Thomas,” or the Illinois Railway Museum, and you or someone you love is All About Trains, check it out. It’s well worth the money and the drive.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

If you’re married/partnered, how often do you and your partner fight?

I was reading a book about parenting and in a chapter in conflict resolution the authors mention a study where (heterosexual) married parents recorded every time they fought. Women recorded, on average, 8 fights while men recorded, on average, 7 fights. Per day. Which seems like a lot to me, even when I remember those misty halcyon days where I actually saw my husband every single day instead of the terrible overlapping work schedules where we don’t see each other awake for several days in a row every week because aughblarglefffffffffffffffff.

Now, I realize that “oh, but we don’t FIGHT! Ever!” is part and parcel of that whole “we’re SO SERIOUSLY BLESSED, our marriage is PERFECT, we just NON STOP HAVE FUN and ARE PERFECT and ARE BETTER THAN YOU” thing and I’m not going there. But Nesko and I rarely fight, even if you take spats like “OMG WHY DON’T YOU EVER CLOSE THE CABINET DOOOOOOOOOOOOOR” and “WHY DON’T YOU EVER DO THE LAAAAUUUUUUNDRYYYYYYYYYY” and “OMG STOP LEAVING YOUR SOCKS ON THE FLOOOOOOOOOOOOR” into consideration. We BRING STUFF UP, like, “Hey, honey? I’d really appreciate it if you could hang your wet towels on a hook to dry, instead of the bed frame. I worry the bed frame will warp/rust.” and “Sweetie, please stop leaving your boots in the door way where I will trip over them.” and “If you don’t fold and put away this laundry I WILL CUT YOU.” but it’s peaceful and just like… a conversation instead of an airing of grievances.

I don’t think we fight/argue/bicker even 8 times a WEEK.

Is there something wrong with us? With the way we communicate?

What do you think?

How often do you and your partner (or former partner!) fight?

What do you fight about?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko’s bedroom has a closet that’s double deep, something not uncommon in older buildings. I believe that once upon a time, the back space was used to store out of season clothing/coats, or possibly there’d be a dresser in there or shelves or something. But there’s literally enough depth to run 2 parallel bars and hang clothing from both bars. We took off the bar in the back, and had the back half of his closet stuffed with boxes of his old baby clothing and bed linens. I had Nesko haul all that out the other day with the goal of trimming his baby paraphernalia in half.  Nesko got all verklempt at the idea, Niko kept reminding me that he wore those clothes “when he was a little itty bitty baby” and that they were “special to [him].” I didn’t make my goal of half, but I sent 1/3 of the outgrown clothing on their way out the door, to a neighborhood clothing bank/fund raiser.

We haven’t put the remaining boxes of clothing back yet, and Niko has been having a really great time running into his closet and hiding behind the clothing/hanging closet organizer. “Mama mama mama! This is the best closet! I am hiding in this closet!” he says.

The other day he grabbed me and pulled me into the closet so we could “hide from tata!” Since Nesko was due to arrive home any minute, I agreed. We both ducked into the closet and Niko told me all about how we were hiding from tata and we were going to jump out and say SURPRISE! and tata would be SO SURPRISED etc. I heard Nesko’s key in the door and shushed Niko, who quieted down for a few seconds. But as soon as he heard Nesko entering, he started jumping in a circle and screaming while banging on the wall.

Oh, sweet child, that is not how you hide!

That is the worst hiding!

 

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

A few mornings ago, I thought I heard Niko crying in his room. There were definitely soft noises coming from there. I hurried in and found him sitting up in bed doing exaggerated stretches and yawns. Yawn. Yawwwwwn. Yawn. “It’s a new day!” he announced when he saw me. He came bounding into our bedroom far too early this morning. “Wake up! Wake up! It’s a new day! I’m awake now! It’s time to be awake!” Nesko woke up enough to mumble that it WAS a new day, and also a NEW YEAR and then Niko head butted him in the stomach or something and Nesko grunted loudly, I don’t know the specifics because I was trying to get back to sleep.

An hour or two later I was awoken by the to-me obvious sound of a tiny person jumping on the couch while yelling I LIKE BEING NAUGHTY! I LIKE BEING NAUGHTY!

I think both things are very good indicators of how the new year will progress, a double helping of adorableness and naughtyness. Adorable naughtyness? Perhaps.

 

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Oh, Canada.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011 14:49
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

My sister-in-law was in Canada recently and came back with a gift for Niko, something she does frequently. This time, she brought him a little stuffed moose in a red sweater. There’s a Canadian flag embroidered on the bottom of one of his feet, and his sweater has a white maple leaf and the word “Canada” on the front.

Niko has named him “Canada.”

He is Canada, the Moose.

Canada joins Carl the elephant, Masquerade Carl (who is a green elephant my brother-in-law won at a carnival when he was in high school), and Other Carl (who is a blue sockmonkey style elephant) as special bed lovies.

Soon after Canada came into our lives, I held up his flagged foot and asked Niko if he knew what that was.

“Yes!” he said. “Iiiiiiit iiiisssssssssss a….. FOOT!” I think, sometimes, he worries that I’m a little slow.

Later, he determined that Canada has hands with fingers growing out of his head. I tried explaining that they were antlers, like horns. I showed him photos of other moose, and a video of two baby moose drinking water from a sprinkler while mama moose looked on. He remains steadfast that Canada has fingers growing out of his head.

Nesko was putting Niko to bed one night, and Niko narrated the following:

“Canada, why you got fingers growin out of your head? Because, said the moose, I am wearing a coat!”

This is, I suppose, some kind of toddler logic; internally consistent in some way that I can’t see. Or maybe he’s making a joke. It is very hard to tell with toddlers sometimes.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

I don’t want to jinx anything, but last night was the second night in a row that I got Niko settled into our bed, read him two stories, collected my pyjamas, turned out the light, and left the room with him still awake. I could hear him humming to himself last night, and I poked around online a bit so I could hear him if he fussed/cried/called out. But he did not, and I took a shower and made my husband’s lunch for today, and did some tidying up.

This is basically the best thing ever, and I hope it continues.

Later today, I’m going to try and settle him for a nap the same way.

If we can do this all this week and all next week, bed time and naps, then the week AFTER I’m going to try and transition him to his own bed. His “new bed.” The one with “THOMAS sheets.” The one he CLAIMS to want to sleep in, then protests wildly about.

I am really looking forward to a child-free bed.

Part of this is because I’m tired of getting punched and kicked all night. He has literally kicked me out of bed before, and once he kicked me so hard he knocked the wind out of me and I woke up alarmed and gasping with a foot buried in my midsection. But more than that, I miss my husband. And it’s not even a sex thing, it’s just a general physical contact thing. Pre-baby, we’d sleep spooned up, me with one arm flung around him, my front against his back. I felt so safe with my giant husband teddybear to hold on to. Or he’d sleep on his back and I’d rest my head on his shoulder, one arm and one leg tossed over him. I miss the physical contact, the touch, the skin against skin, the smell of him.

I’m looking forward to regaining that, reconnecting.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

My father-in-law, who owns the property we live in, has been concerned with the state of our sidewalks for a while, especially as some of the them slant toward the building and funnel water inwards. The building’s settled over the past 90 years or so, you see. So there have Been Plans for over a year that didn’t quite come to fruition… then on Sunday we were told not to park in the back of the building because there was going to be big machinery and a team of dudes ripping up the old sidewalks and then pouring new. Hooray!

Sure enough, when we got home the sidewalks were all gone, which was a really weird experience. The grass is in great shape, it’s just… dirt where sidewalks once were. It seriously looks like someone crept up when we weren’t paying attention and made off with our sidewalks. Just rolled ‘em up and ran.

Nesko brought Niko home later and apparently Niko was Very Concerned about the sidewalks and couldn’t figure out where they had gone. After some questioning on our part, he decided that the sidewalks had been thrown away in the garbage because SOMEBODY had dropped them and broken them. Who dropped the sidewalk? Tata. No, DJEDO.

How naughty!

I’m looking forward to the new walks. I wonder if they’ll be finished by the time I get home today?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Waldo, Niko’s non-family caregiver, suggested that maybe part of his irritability lay in the fact that Niko was working on new teeth… 2 year molars, to be precise. And that was a good suggestion, because teething’s pretty horrible, and while he went through molar teething almost half a year ago, it only resulted in one molar. While I don’t think it caused the fever and puking, I do think it caused the irritable behavior and clinginess. It probably didn’t cause the rash, but maybe it did, because teething is a dark mystery that H. P. Lovecraft might have written about, had he had more exposure to children.

Yesterday, Niko basically ate the world, and when Nesko checked in his mouth today, he had more teeth than he did a week ago.

I was doing laundry when my in-laws brought Niko home last night. When I got outside, he was already running around the yard and hollering happily, apparently trying to get in through the front door. I heard him yell MAAAMAAAAAA and I yelled NAANOOOOOO and he came pelting around the apartment screaming I FOUND YOOOOUUUUUU, and then he ran around the gangway that leads to the back, into the back door, up the stairs, and into the apartment with no prompting. So I’m guessing he’s feeling better, if he’s pelting around hollering happily and eating, you know, food.

Usually he’s at the in-laws Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and Waldo minds him on Tuesday and Thursday, but she has a job interview today (ONE MILLION GOOD LUCKS TO YOU) so my sister-in-law is toddler wrangling. On the drive over, Niko happily chatted away about riding the brown train, and how Waldo was going to take him on the brown train, and then the red train, and he loves the brown train. Nesko responded that SIL was going to watch Niko today, but maybe SHE would take Niko on the brown train and Niko said “No! Waldo take it the brown train!” and then he got Very Serious and said “Tata take it the baby brown train. Tata brown train! Today!”

I hate refusing the kid. This isn’t the first time he’s requested we play hooky and ride the trains with him (not that he knows what all his request entails). We have tentative plans to do Something Fun this weekend, maybe ride downtown. Frankly, we could just hop on the brown line, which loops around the downtown and comes back, and not get off anywhere or do anything but ride the train, and he’d be happy. He is a cheap date! We still have our membership to MSI, so maybe we’ll do that.

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