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

Thanks to my parents, we managed to drag Halloween festivities out over multiple events.

Niko at Brookfield Zoo, on a lion statue

My parents have a family membership to Brookfield Zoo, so we met them up there on the last weekend DINOSAURS ALIVE! was there. Niko had previously decided he wanted to be “a fancy Baryonyx” which is to say a Dinosaur (Baryonyx) in a top hat and fancy clothing. We picked up a assemble-it-yourself out of felt and foam stickers costume for $10 at Target, consisting of a mask, tail that hooks into a belt loop, and gauntlets that slip over the hands/lower arms and have foam sticker “claws.” Since October in Chicago is usually pretty gross, we suited him up in his fancy red wool coat. The pants he selected didn’t have belt loops so we added a belt, and wound up putting it on the outside of the coat so the tail didn’t get squished/bang against his legs.

Niko pushes buttons on a plaque to make an animatronic dinosaur move and roar.

He wasn’t too fond of the mask or gauntlets when it came to actually wearing them, but he kept the tail on. We saw a bunch of animals including lions, wolves, and bison, as well as free range peacocks, geese, pelicans, and guinea hens.

A Wandering PeacockNiko admires geese in a fountain.Guinea Hens wandering around the zoo grounds.

And, of course, we saw Dinosaurs!

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He also sat on a Polar Bear statue.

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Two days before Halloween, his costume already purchased, we got a letter from the school saying that masks and face paint are both not allowed.

WELP.

We brainstormed at home the 31st to decide what to wear instead. We weren’t able to get to the store and buy a different costume, so we had to stick with stuff we had on hand. Possible suggestions included:

  • A Magician (he had a top hat from his fancy dinosaur costume)
  • A Paleontologist (jeans, plaid shirt, bucket hat, bucket with shovel and paint brush and dinosaur skeleton toy)
  • A Pirate/Captain Hook (we had NO items to make this costume, but it’s what he wanted)
  • A Ballerina (see above)
  • A Firefighter (he had rain boats and a rain coat that were vaguely fire fighter looking)

He settled on firefighter which actually turned out to be a great costume because it was a gross chilly rainy day.

Once in class for his party he promptly stripped off both the boots (hard to walk in) and coat (hot) and didn’t look like he was in a costume at all.

DSCF5186-cropNiko at school, not in costume.

Nesko and I stayed in the classroom for the whole day, walked home in the rain, and then finished carving the pumpkins we hadn’t had a chance to carve earlier. Nesko works 12-15 hour shifts so wasn’t around to help with them, and if you carve a pumpkin too early it just rots.

Niko demonstrated the face he wanted on his pumpkin, I drew it on a paper, and Nesko cut it out.

Niko demonstrates his pumpkin's face.

Because it was still raining we wound up trick or treating at the mall, but most of the stores had run out of candy, so Niko only got about 5 pieces TOTAL for an hour of walking around. He did, however, get to ride in a train.

Nikola riding a train ride.

.Niko has the day off school today and is working on every nerve I have OH MY GODDDDDDD. It’s not even a too-much-candy issue because I’m super mean about candy consumption and put it all high up pretty much right away.

How was YOUR holiday?

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

Have you seen this blog post about collaborating artistically with a four year old? Making art with a kid is super fun. Niko and I do something similar, except usually I’ll draw whatever dinosaur he dictates me to draw, and some background, and then he adds trees and colors everything in and adds “a big glop of poop comin’ outta dat dinosaur’s BUTT” or blood to their teeth or something I DO NOT EVEN KNOW. He’s pretty down with nature red in tooth and claw.

Today, while I sit in my chair and refuse to get up because my knee is filled with angry hornets and hate, I’ve been drawing for him. At his request, I drew a brown line train at the station. It’s only 3 cars long, which he claims is the perfect length (probably because we usually ride when it’s not the rush hour) and although I drew the Kedzie station he requested I add the buffers that are at the end of the line. Sorry train, you’re not going any further. There’s buffers in your way! I doodled it all out, including the cool little stools they have clustered on the platform, and handed it over. he proceeded to draw two other trains (sharing a track! DANGER ZONE!) and a buffer for them. I took a picture with my phone so it’s not the best, but here you go:

brown_line_001

Speaking of art he’s doing, he seems to have made a jump forward in his art production lately. Instead of sticking only to dinosaurs, trains, dinosaurs waiting for trains, and the occasional picture of his family, yesterday he drew a cement mixer. This was a very WHAT moment because he’s never been super interested in cement mixers in general or drawing trucks or any vehicles other than trains. And yet, cement mixers. He’s also been drawing himself lately, which is cool, except he has a certain technique for drawing dinosaurs that includes a big mouth full of teeth that is kind of creepy and he adds that giant mouth of teeth to himself. He also adds hair. Lots of hair. Today he drew a picture of himself and an HO model train in a house, complete with a roof and a chimney, but no smoke, because it’s OUR house and we have a decorative fireplace therefore no smoke.

Welp.

He’s also been drawing whales, carnivorous whales, fish, and “the dead part of the sea that’s got too much water so sharks can’t swim in it. I know because scientists who study dinosaurs said it. I looked it up on my phone!” Uh huh.

I’ve been meaning to pick up a sketchbook for myself for a project I’m working on, but I think I’ll pick up another one for the two of us to fill together. How cool is that? I’m nowhere near as good an artist as busymockingbird, but it’ll still be way fun.

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

We had ISSUES yesterday involving TEARS and RECRIMINATIONS because Niko wanted to paint but didn’t want to clean up his toys first, which I set as a requirement… in part because I couldn’t even get TO his painting stuff to get it out, so thick were the wooden train tracks and stuffed animals upon the ground. He eventually came around and we Cleaned All The Things but he’d lost the urge to paint.

It came back this morning.

He helped me get his supplies, including spreading out the blue plastic table cloth we put on the table to protect it. He took off his shirt and painted several dinosaur scenes and practiced writing his name with big chunky paint brush and tempera paint.

I really need to video Niko painting because he narrates what’s going on while he creates. This is the sky and this is sand down here and here’s a Mamenchisaurus with its RIDICULOUSLY LONG NECK and its really big feet and here is a Diplodocus with its long neck and long tail and its spikes on its back and now here are its really big feet. And these are its footprints! And here are some clouds, because it’s going to rain and it’s going to rain on them and here are some rain drops falling on them and they’re falling on the ground and over here on the sea. This is the sea. And here’s a baby! It hatched out of this egg and here’s some other eggs in a nest.

It’s wonderful and adorable and he got very covered in paint. I had to scrub it out of his ear and one arm pit. TOTALLY WORTH IT.

After about an hour of painting we cleaned up and he got into his play dough and made an apple that is lumpy but recognizable as an apple, complete with stem and leaves, and then he made a potato (what?!?) and some cookies and a pancake.

He also lamented that it was SO SAD that he didn’t have A SPECIAL TABLE FOR HIS TRAINS like he’s seen at some stores. I reminded him that he has a really big table in the living room that he could PUT trains on, so he constructed a city on the table with wooden block sky scrapers, wooden train tracks, plastic trees, and rocks. There’s a train station with a parking lot.

After his nap we’re going to work on writing some more.

It’s a good life.

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

“Niko, did you finish your apple? Go take your plate to tata if you want bacon.”
“NO! I do NOT want… oooh! Yeah! I DO want bacon!”

“Mama, is this dinosaur a plant eater, or a meat eater?”
“Well, it’s got forward facing eyes and big sharp teeth. It looks like a meat eater.”
“No, I think it’s a plant eater.”
“But look, it’s a therapod. It’s got two feet with three toes on it, and a long tail for balance, and–”
“WELL MAMA, next time Elliot comes over I will ask HIM if it’s a plant eater or a meat eater.”
“And will you believe what he says?”
“I will if he says it’s a plant eater.”

“Ahhhh! Ahhh! Ahh! The living room is fulllll of dinosaur zombies!”
“Oh, huh.”
“DO YOU KNOW HOWWWWW to stop dinosaur zombies?”
“Do you…. I don’t know. How do you stop dinosaur zombies?”
“WITH FLOWER GUNS! pew pew pew pew pew.”

“I wanna watch that train show with that fox and that hound.”
“Oh… do you mean “The Fox And The Hound”?”
“Yes, it’s got a train in it.”

“Niko, no puppet show in the kitchen. No toys in the kitchen. You need to take that puppet show out of here.”
“TOO BAD it’s stuck to the floor TOO BAD I can’t move it OH WELL TOO BAD.”

“Hey, do you want to watch ‘Word World’?”
“Yes! They make words on that show, that word world show. Do they make the word dinosaur?”
“I don’t think so, that’s kind of a big word and they mostly spell little words.”
“What about Stegosaurus? That’s my favorite word.”
“Why is that your favorite word?”
“Because of all the S’es.”

We are ONCE AGAIN trying to transition Niko to sleep in his own little bed and not in our bed, kicking and punching us all night. The night before last he was up literally every hour, yowling and crying, resulting in three very tired people the next day. I had a headache LITERALLY ALL DAY from lack of sleep. Nesko slept in until almost 11:00, scuttling our plans to run errands in the morning. Niko was lobbying hard to go to the park that day and I told him that we’d planned to take him to the park in the morning but we were too tired to go because he’d kept us up all night. TOO BAD. He asked several times and I told him the same thing each time. Why can’t we go to the park? Why can’t we go outside? Why can’t tata play with him? Because he’s sleeping, because he’s tired, because he was up all night because Niko was being mean and unkind and not being quiet and not letting us sleep.

Last night went much better. He did wake us up with his crying once, but I think it was a legit nightmare. Nesko settled him and came back to bed. We both went to bed around 10:30 (although I had a hard time falling asleep) and woke up around 8:00 and my mood and energy levels are both vastly improved. I’ve still got a sleep deficit but am feeling a lot better. Niko and I had a talk today about his future allowance.

Basically, he gets 10 cents for each night he sleeps through the night without being a dick and if he makes it for a full week he gets an additional 30 cents, which makes a dollar. Also, if he helps us pick up all his toys and books before going to bed he gets 10 cents with a 30 cent bonus if he does it every night for a full week. This is another dollar. So he’s got the potential to earn $2.00 a week just by being a decent person and not an asshole. He wants to buy some more trans, so he’s got a goal to work toward. I’m going to make a chart so he can see how well he’s doing, including showing how well he’s working toward his goal. The train he wants costs $10.95 and I figure Nesko and I can handle the tax since he’s so young. When he’s 6 or so he can start figuring that out and accounting for it himself.

I know some people will object to “bribing” him for basic good behavior, but honestly, I want him in the habit of doing these things and I want to give him an allowance any way. Some people push for giving kids a base allowance that’s not dependent on behavior or chores. I think most people just do what their parents did, but neither Nesko nor I got an allowance so we don’t have that to fall back on.

How do you handle allowance in your household? Was it an easy decision, or hard? Is it what your parents did, or different? Is it dependent on chores, or not? What’s your pay scale? I’d love to hear more.

BTW, I wrote a post about diets, body size, and taking photos of yourself at my main blog. Please feel free to check it out.

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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)

We dressed Niko up as a train engineer/conductor, which is a super easy costume that can be reworn year round. We slapped a white shirt and striped overalls on him. How easy is that? Very easy. He also had a striped cap from “Day Out With Thomas” that we held onto as a special Halloween costume component surprise and although he loves it (actual quote: “It THOMAS! I love it that hat! Oh! Thomas!”) he refuses to actually wear it. Also a red kerchief would have completed the look but we didn’t have one of those either… Nesko’s sister moved on the 31st and a lot of Nesko’s time was taken up with helping her locate, clean, and move furniture so we didn’t have a lot of opportunities to go bits and bobs shopping. We also had an orange jackolantern bucket (I have no idea where it came from) lying around so that was useful, too.

We went around our block and up and over one other block. There were a lot of houses that were decorated, including one that had one of those expensive inflatable decorations, but the interior lights were off and nobody answered the door. Now, perhaps they simply weren’t home from work yet or were out with their own kids, but it feels like kind of a cheat to have a decorated house and nobody giving out treats. If you don’t want to give out candy or participate, that’s fine… a LOT of houses were dark and we didn’t try them, assuming they weren’t into the Halloween spirit of things. But to decorate and then not be home? Eh. DISAPPOINTING.

I was worried that people wouldn’t know what Niko was. Would they think he was just wearing some overalls? But no, pretty much everyone got it and told him how cute he was, even when he tried to barge into their houses. He said “Trick or Treat” unprompted and said “Thank You” when reminded. One lady near the river was giving out full size candy bars; one dude was giving out pretzels. We stopped into a few shops and a nursing home/rehab center thinking they might have a program for the residents and they didn’t but the front desk had candy.

There’s this tiny house set way back from the street that looks like it used to be the carriage house or guest house or something for the gorgeous bungalow next to it. It’s surrounded by giant trees and instead of grass it’s all hosta and ivy and lilly of the valley and other shade loving plants, the long walk lined with little solar lanterns. It looks like something out of a fairy tale. It’s got a gate that is always closed, with a sign asking people to keep the gate shut/keep out, but last night the gate was open so we tried the house. The dude who answered the door gave Niko a FISTFUL of chocolates and also a bunch of pennies, and I know pennies get a bad rap as a Halloween thing, but Niko is at that age where pennies are glorious things. The guy was really nice and we chatted a bit and then we moved on; the huge houses flanking him were dark and nobody answered the door.

Our street in particular and neighborhood in general has a lot of multi-unit buildings, which tend not to be active in candy giving. Last year, for instance, we got zero callers and I didn’t see anyone out on the street, either. We’d discussed going to a different neighborhood for trick or treating, but I’m glad we didn’t; I’m glad we stuck close to home. Niko didn’t get much of a haul, but we only covered about 2 1/2 blocks and that included some businesses. He’s a toddler, he doesn’t need a lot of candy. To be very honest, most of what he got will be going into Nesko’s lunch bag.

We had fruit snack pouches to give out but nobody came while we were home, which isn’t surprising as we live in a 2-flat. We didn’t buy any Halloween candy this year because we’re boycotting slavery-produced chocolate in general and Hershey’s products specifically (they manufacture a lot of stuff that’s sold under brands other than “Hershey”). So once the chocolate currently in our house is gone, that’s it  unless we buy fair trade stuff, which on the one hand tends to be more expensive… but on the other hand tends to also be higher quality and tastier.

Niko keeps asking me if he can go trick or treating again. Sometimes he comes up to me with his orange bucket and says trick or treat and I stick something in it that’s at hand (a book, a sock, a nail file, a block, WHATEVER) and he thinks that’s hilarious. I’ve tried telling him that Trick Or Treating only happens once a year, and that next up we have Thanksgiving and then Christmas. He said “Oh, that when I get Rusty and the Boulder!” That is the Big Gift we purchased for him a while ago and stashed in the office. We have not mentioned it around him. I don’t know if he’s seen the side of the box and guessed or is just wishing really, really hard. It’s hard to tell with him, sometimes.

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

Here are five totally ridiculous things my 2 1/2 year old says, that wouldn’t sound ridiculous coming from an adult, but seriously, he’s 2 1/2.

  • Surely not!
  • Can you come here for a minute?
  • Good bye! Have a good day!
  • Despicable!
  • I’ll be riiiiiiiiight back!

Now, those of you with young kids might recognize “despicable” as something James says on “Thomas and Friends.” The rest? Apparently stuff he hears us say a lot. Luckily for us he’s picked up on adult-sounding conversational phrases and not cusses. I have no idea how we dodged that bullet.

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

Some of you might remember a few months ago when I agonized over whether or not Niko had asthma and whether or not I should mention it to his pediatrician and then over whether or not I was a shitty parent for not addressing the situation, and his asthma, earlier.

We started treating him with children’s claritin and albuterol and after a few months we eased up on the albuterol because he was doing a lot better. Well, it’s allergy season once again, and we need to start dosing him again.

If you’ve ever wondered what an asthmatic kid sounds like when he’s having a little trouble breathing, I’m embedding a video of Niko singing and playing with his trains. The little breathy grunt gaspy thing he does? That’s a sign of asthma. If you hear your child (or an adult in your life) making that noise? Time for a doctor’s visit.

As you can see, he’s not in DISTRESS. He’s playing and singing and happy. You might not even be able to hear the grunt he’s making. But it’s there, and it’s unhealthy, and it can be treated.

If left untreated, asthma can severely affect a person’s quality of life, leaving them more open to illness and respiratory infections. The pathways of the lungs can literally reroute themselves, reducing the body’s ability to intake oxygen. When properly treated, people with asthma can lead totally normal, healthy, productive, active lives.

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It’s Storytime!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011 13:23
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We did our usual bed time routine last night, which Niko tried to drag out by changing his mind halfway through his second story. “Not that one!” he claimed. “A different one!” but then I was unable to pin him down as to which story he DID want, so offered him the choice of finishing up the one we were reading or putting the book away. I am cruel firm but fair. After finishing the second story, he threw a fit because he wanted another story and I’d read the wrong story to him. OH NOES! So I offered to tell him a story, which he accepted because he likes my stories ok. This is the story I told him.

“Once upon a time, there was a pretty kitty. His name was Roy, but he was such a Pretty Kitty that everyone called him Pretty Kitty. He had red ears and red paws and a red tail and red hair and a red nose and red hair and a red tummy. He was red all over. He had a best friend named Ninuta 1–”

“Noooo! Funny mama!”

“Oh. So what was his best friend’s name?”

“He name… NINUTA!”

“SO one day, Pretty Kitty called Ninuta up on the telephone and said ‘Hello hello! I am calling you! Are you there? It’s me! Do you want to ride on the train?’ and Ninuta said ‘Yes, I love to ride the train!’ so Pretty Kitty came over and they packed some snacks. They packed some goldfish crackers, and some pretzels, and some apples, and some carrots, and some apple juice, and some dinosaur yogurt, and some raisins, and some chocolate milk, and some train track cookies, 2 and they went for a walk and got on the orange line.”

“The orange train!”

“That’s right. Where did they go?”

“They go to the AIR PORT.”

“That’s right. So they got on the train and it went puff puff puff… chug chug chug–”

“No, mama!” Niko laughed. I mean, he literally was laughing at me. “THAT’S A DINOSAUR TRAIN!” 3

“Oh. That’s the sound the Dinosaur Train makes?”

“Yeeeeah.”

“What sound does the Orange Line make?”

He looked at me intently and silently.

“Is it very quiet?”

“Yeeeah.”

“So they got on the very quiet Orange Line and rode alllll the way to the airport. They got hungry and ate some apples on the train, and then they were at the airport! They watched the trains landing and taking off, and then Pretty Kitty said ‘Ninuta, I have a surprise for you!’ ‘Oh boy,’ said Ninuta. ‘What is it? Is it ice cream?’ ‘No, it’s better than ice cream! We are going to fly on a plane and see Trina!’ 4 Ninuta was very glad to hear that. So they got on a plane that was headed for Rhode Island. It took off and they flew and flew and flew. They were up so high. They were higher than buildings and higher than trees and higher than birds. They were even higher than clouds, way up high above them! After flying for a while they landed and got off the plane and went to find Trina. She was very surprised to see them, and gave them grilled cheese sandwiches and grape juice and whumchucks 5 and they played with some cars and then they went back to the airport and flew in a big plane back to Chicago. Then they got back on the very quiet orange line and rode home, where they had some chicken and rice and some ice cream for dinner and then they went to bed. The end.”

I looked over at Niko at that point. He smiled at me.

“That a WUNNERFUL tory mama,” he said, and curled up to sleep. Later in the night he kicked me so hard it both woke me up AND knocked the wind out of me, so that was exciting. But it was a pretty wunnerful story.

  1. “Ninuta” is how Nikola says “Nikola.”
  2. In case you couldn’t guess, these are some of Niko’s favorite foods.
  3. “Dinosaur Train” is a kid’s show on PBS about dinosaurs who ride a train. Yeah.
  4. Trina is my best friend. She came to visit us a few weeks ago and slept in Niko’s “new bed!” in his room. He likes her very much and has been looking for her ever since she left.
  5. A whumchuck is like a big swinging hug that eventually devolves into tickles, and you say whuuuuuuuuuuumCHUCK while doing it.

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

The weather forecast went from predicting a 40% chance of rain on Saturday to a 50% then a 60% chance of rain. A few hours before we were set to leave, the heavens opened and rain came lashing down in torrents. Thunder boomed. Lightning crackled and flashed. Niko was excited.

“Go outside? Inna rain! I put on rain coat. Rain comin down! It rain on cars. Cars all wet! Tata’s car all wet! I go outside in rain coat and splash.”

We did, in fact, bundle him up in a rain coat but then we prevented him from splashing because we are total killjoys. We took our knapsack loaded up with snacks and water and changes of clothing and piled into the car and somehow — SOMEHOW– managed to get out of the house on time. We drove through the rain and I told Niko, who was yawning and also chatting happily away at us, that we were going to do a lot of boring driving so it was ok if he fell asleep. He told me to stop fooling (actual words: STOP FOOLIN MAMA) and made fun of me a little bit, but five minutes later he was suspiciously quiet. A quick peek back revealed that he was dead to the world. Score! He slept the entire drive down, including when we pulled off at an Oasis1 for lunch and ate in the parking lot waiting for a bit of the rain to let up.

It had stopped raining by the time we got to Union, IL, home of the Illinois Railroad Museum, and we were mere feet from the parking lot when we had to stop at a small railway crossing. Niko woke up and stretched and looked around.

“What dat? Oh. It’s a train! OH! IT’S THOMAS!” Sure enough, the train came along the track, and there was a bright blue cheerful Thomas puffing away! Niko’s tiny mind was blown.

We got there around 2-ish, picked up our tickets, hit the first tent where Niko played with megablocks and wooden trains a bit, and then walked around some. We found an area with picnic tables and Nesko told Niko that he had to eat lunch first then we would go ride on Thomas. There were a million portolets (including some baby changing portolets), and also flush toilets inside buildings. Sadly, we had no cash because we live in a bright and shining futureworld where everyone takes debit cards, and the ILRR museum grounds hasn’t reached that future yet, so we did not have Lemon Shakeups or ice cream cones or corndogs or any other fair food. Niko finished eating and we walked over to the giant snaking lines waiting to board the coaches. We got there just in time, as people began boarding, and trooped on.

Niko was a little wary of the trip. This train was very different from the ones he’s ridden before. But he still had fun and looked around a lot.

We also saw a LOT of train exhibits, walked past but did not wait 20 minutes in line for a photo with Sir Tophamm Hatt, rode a red cable car, walked some more, and Niko jumped in a bounce house for the first time.

He was super wired all the way home. I thought he’d fall asleep again, but no, he demanded and ate a bunch of snacks in the car, and then sang every single song he knew in a desperate attempt to stay awake. We stopped at IHOP for dinner (a huge mistake, the food was bland and the service was… not very good. PROTIP: when you’re serving adults and children, bring the child’s food FIRST and not LAST.) and he was a real handful the whole time, very loud, very antsy. We got him home and topped him off with some more food, then into bed.

We woke up on Sunday and asked him what he’d done on Saturday. “Snakes bite [me],” he answered. Then he claimed he’d gone to the beach. When we challenged that claim, he gave us A Look and spoke very slowly and clearly. “I tooka brown train to the BEEEEEEEESH.” 2 We asked him again, and he said “I ate food an then I went on THOMAS,” and then he talked excitedly about how he rode on “a red Toby.” Toby’s a tram car and we did not ride on a tram car, we rode on a street car. Gah, small child! How could you make that sort of mistake? Anyway, it’s interesting that he lumps eating lunch with the Excitement that was ACTUALLY RIDING ON THOMAS’ ACTUAL COACHES.

It seems that he’s needed to take awhile to process what happened, because he was chattering excitedly today about seeing Thomas, and when Nesko dropped him off at Baba’s, Niko was telling her alllll about it, with great gusto.

He was pretty sold on this beach thing, though. If we’d done that instead we’d have saved about $100 or so. Something to consider.

I took about 150 photos and I’ll post them later. I’m at the point where I’m considering just installing a photo album on my webspace because I have more photos than the free version of Picasa will support. If I do that, I’ll have an album just for Thomas.

  1. Oases seem to be an Illinois thing. It’s like a rest area by the highway, but instead of pulling off alongside the road you pull off and there’s a gas station and truck wash and 7-11 or whatever… and then a giant bridge spanning the entire highway, with bathrooms and fast food places and Starbuck’s and ice cream and places to buy sunglasses and maps and hats and mugs and all that. You can sit inside and eat and it’s air conditioned and has wifi and you can watch the cars streaming to and fro beneath you. Well, not literally beneath you. The floors are not transparent.
  2. Note: the brown line doesn’t go to the beach, but he likes claiming he takes the trains various places, including that he takes the orange line to the air port. To get onna plane and fly away an visit TRINA on a airplane at the airport.

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

Thanks to Leah from Tin Roof, Rusted for giving me the heads up about the upcoming Day Out With Thomas. Our tickets are purchased (Nesko’s a huge softy and got some kind of super deluxe package thing plus limited edition this that and the other) and we’re going tomorrow afternoon. It is A Big Secret, although Nesko keeps hinting at it to Niko, which is kind of… why bother? He doesn’t know that Day Out With Thomas exists! But Nesko is sooo excited and can’t wait to blow Niko’s tiny toddler mind.

Our sneaky plan is to pile Niko into the car around noon-ish, run a bunch of REALLY REALLY BORING ERRANDS (like grocery shopping, maybe I’ll buy a bra at the fat lady store, IDK) and then while Niko’s lulled into a false sense of tedious security, head toward the museum. It’s like an hour away so hopefully he’ll nap in the car and be refreshed for our arrival. I’ll let you know if that works or if we just wind up with an exhausted overwhelmed over stimulated jerkass toddler.

Speaking of Thomas, one of Niko’s favorite Thomas episodes is called “Rusty and the Boulder.” I think I’ve mentioned this before, how it simultaneously entrances and terrifies him, how he re-enacts the episode, how his new favorite train game involves rolling a basketball around the train tracks while yelling “OH NO! BOULDER! YOIKS!” etc. One of the things I love about the internet, and about youtube, is that people put up videos of themselves/their kids re-enacting episodes of Thomas with their own trains etc. One of these is called “Rusty and the Boulder and Evan.”

Evan is adorable as fuck, and apparently is British? He says “boulder” as “BOUL-DAH!” and Niko specifically requests to watch “Rusty anna boulder an EVAN!” And lately he’s started saying “OH NO! BOULDAH! YOIKS!” and otherwise imitating Evan.

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