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

Niko’s been watching some Princess movies recently (“Tangled,” “Cinderella,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Brave,” etc) and also talking with a friend of his who is very keen on Princesses in general. He’s been practicing drawing Princesses for her because she’s more interested in that than in dinosaurs and he’s trying to branch out a bit, and also talking about Princesses… including describing a show that he wants to see. It is a show about Princess Dinosaur.

“Is she a princess who is a dinosaur, or is she a princess who rides on dinosaurs?” I asked.

“She isn’t either of those things,” he explained. “She is a princess who travels back in time to STUDY dinosaurs.”

Which, I mean, if “Dinosaur Train” can feature dinosaurs who travel through time to study other dinosaurs, certainly there’s a market for a PRINCESS, perhaps with a cuddly animal companion, who travels through time to study dinosaurs as well? I’ll press him for more details and share some drawings with you as I can.

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

Niko’s been sick.

He hasn’t been take-him-to-the-doctor sick, but he has been two-severe-colds-in-a-row, miss-almost-two-weeks-of-school sick. His coughing-till-he-vomits has been way less than previous sicknesses, so either he’s growing out of that or he… just wasn’t that sick. I don’t know, but dang am I glad he only barfed once, although he did it all over a pillow that I made BY HAND and stitched BY HAND out of fabric I selected personally years before he was born. And it’s not the kind of pillow you can wash (too big, wrong kind of fill) and it was VERY soaked in barf, so… I put it in the trash can. GOOD BYE PILLOW.

So that’s the worst thing. Not that I had to throw out a pillow (although I miss that pillow. sniff.), but that my poor sweet baby has been so tediously ill. It’s really not fun being sick and starting to feel better enough to feel antsy and then feeling sick and ill again. He’s been a trooper through the whole experience, though, and hopefully we’re in for healthier times.

The best thing recently is that Niko has kind of leveled up in his art. He’s been bugging me lately to copy the art on some dinosaur flash cards he has, and then after I do so he critiques me heavily. So the other day I was all DUDE, DO IT YOURSELF and he was all I CAAAAAAAN’T and I was all DO ITTTT DOOOOOO ITTTTTTTTTT JUST TRY and he did and it was really cool! He impressed himself. So he’s been copying pictures HIMSELF and it’s super interesting to see what he picks up on as important details, and he’s started adding more details to his dinosaurs… which are essentially really stylized stick figures. But now they are really stylized stick figures with crests and feathers.

He also, and this is even more cool, has started making little still lifes and dioramas with his dinosaurs and plastic trees etc and then… drawing those scenes that he has made. That is absolutely the best and most awesome thing he’s been doing lately.

Well, other than coming up with Princess Dinosaur, but that’s a topic for another post, I think.

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Pulling Teeth

Saturday, 21 December 2013 20:28
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Cleaning house with a four year old is like pulling teeth, if the person whose teeth you’re pulling keeps jamming the pulled teeth back into his bloody gum holes while also running around the room naked and screaming fart jokes at the top of his lungs. It’s kind of an exercise in futility is what I’m saying. And it’s the reason we don’t have a Christmas Tree up yet, because Niko’s been promising to clean up his toys for two weeks now with zero follow through… or he’ll clean up a thing and then get distracted and start playing and then toss the original cleaned thing all over the floor along with a fine layer of shredded tissue paper and also a bunch of mashed up Pringles crumbs or something else nasty. “Why don’t you help him,” you might ask. I have tried! And I either end up doing all the work SOMETIMES WHILE HE WORKS TO UNDO IT, or else he gets mad at me because I’m doing something wrong and seriously pissing him off and throws a fit. Either way, almost nothing gets done except we both get hostile and gassy.

Our living room is currently reasonably clean (Nesko even took all the cushions off the couch and vacuumed them because he is my hero) with a few small things needed to make it Decorating/Company ready. Or it was. And then I spent most of today 1) making cookies and 2) cleaning the bathroom and Niko seized that opportunity to scatter toys all over the place and pull a bunch of leaves off my house plant and scatter them around the floor.

I guess he’s just most comfortable LIVING IN A GOD DAMNED FILTH HOLE OR SOMETHING.

Anyway, I was cleaning the bathroom today and got all done except for taking out the garbage and sweeping/mopping the kitchen floor. I took a break to take a shower and then run to the store so the floor could dry before the sweeping. The bulk of our cleaning products are currently stored in a plastic milk crate in the bathroom and I shoved them out into the hallway outside the bathroom so the floor under it could have a chance to totally dry and then I hopped in the shower. The thought flitted briefly through my head that I should perhaps put the cleaning supplies someplace else, someplace Niko couldn’t get at them. But I banished that thought immediately. HE IS FOUR, I scolded my baser instincts, HE KNOWS BETTER.

I was wrong.

I am a fool.

I need to trust my baster instincts.

I took a lovely shower in a clean bath tub, got out. I went into my bedroom to get dressed and discovered a crayon in the middle of my bed. I called Niko in to put it away and when he took it from me, I noticed that his hands were cold and wet.

“Your hands are gross and wet,” I said. “Did you have an accident? Did you make a mess?”

He hesitated and then said “YES. I did make a mess. But it was on ACCIDENT. It LOOKS like it was on PURPOSE but I ASSURE YOU it was ON ACCIDENT. I did not do it on PURPOSE.”

I noticed that his pants were soaking wet.

I walked, naked, into the living room to take stock immediately. And internets, it really did look like he’d made the mess on purpose. The coffee table was covered with wooden trains, soapy water, and wet play dough. Also: remnants of his lunch, and soaking wet tissues. Do you know what happens when playdough gets soaking wet? It turns into gooey snot, super slick and gross. And it was smeared all over his trains and the table. and he’s tried to clean it up with foaming hand soap (taken from the crate of cleaning supplies), tissues, and half a bagel. Why use a bagel to clean up a mess? I don’t know… because he’s four?

That’s my answer to every baffling thing he does, by the way. “Because he’s four.”

The playdough smeared into the cracks and crevices of his trains was bad enough. Adding the water made it even worse. But squirting the foaming hand soap everywhere? Goddddddddd. And he apparently dropped the bottle and cracked it, leading to even greater messes… stealth messes… messes discovered later.

One of my big parenting things, one of my personal parenting rules I try to follow, is to not yell at Niko when he tells me that he’s made a mess or had a problem– especially if he comes to me to tell me about it or ask for help. This is a hard rule to follow because it’s so, so tempting to give in to anger and holler, or to ask WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR or WHY DID YOU DOOOO THATTTTTTTT (because he’s FOUR, duh) or remind him that YOU KNOW BETTER THANNNN THISSSSSSSSSS. I am, of course, not perfect with this. But I try. And the main reason I try is that I WANT HIM to come to me when he’s made a mess or has a problem. Because quite frankly, I’ve seen how he handles cleaning up his own messes (it is TERRRRRRIBLLLLLLLLLLE) and while I know that he’ll get better at physically wiping up spills, the messes he makes will get more complicated as he gets older. And I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help when he’s older and his messes include failing classes, crashing cars, STIs or unplanned pregnancies, anything like that. I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help, knowing that he can count on me to support him.

Which, of course, doesn’t mean that I protect him from consequences. I cleaned up his table mess and I’m cleaning up his trains, but those trains are going into time out for a while. I want to be able to help him, I want him to turn to me, but yeah… he’s going to be dealing with consequences. That’s another parenting goal of mine, a guiding rule.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got these pliers and somebody needs to clean these torn up leaves off the carpet.

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

Until he started school, we’d never taken Niko to the doctor for anything other than scheduled check ups. He had no big illnesses, no big accidents, nothing. I mean, he whacked his head HARD once and I debated taking him in, but there was no urgent YES MUST GO IN NOW moment. Then he started school and started getting sick all the time. We’ve taken him in twice for illness since August and I expect that we’ll take him in a few more times. A very nice and helpful nurse assured me at our last visit that after the first year’s exposure to germs he’ll be back to hardly getting sick at all. Which is lovely to think about, considering that Winter Vomiting Sickness is apparently sweeping through Niko’s school right now, and there’s a lice outbreak in his classroom even as we speak.

That’s not the worst thing about starting school, though. It’s irritating and sometimes a little bit scary, but it’s not the worst.

The worst thing is that Niko is now exposed to 17 other kids on a daily basis– kids with a variety of backgrounds and behaviors and lifestyles. And while it’s great to think that kids can get together and teach other things good habits and behaviors and ways of being, the truth of the matter is that kids are jerks and they only pick up negative things from each other.

We’ve seen all KINDS of negative behavior that’s totally new and frankly some of it utterly baffling. Also making an appearance: whining. He flirted with whining briefly about a year ago but we were able to nip it in the bud. Now it’s a daily thing, nasal and drawn out and as irritating as fingernails on a blackboard is to most people. And I know EXACTLY the kid he’s picked that up from. He’s picked up some very bossy turns of phrase, and has started demanding things instead of asking for them. It’s like my kid is channeling someone else, some other personality; acting as a medium to the most irritating ghost in existence. I hate it so much.

And, you know, my kid is far from perfect and I cringe at the thought of the other kids bringing home his less than sterling habits (which include screaming fits, I’m sorry to say, and also licking snot off his upper lip. I’m not sure which is worse.)

It’s really frustrating to see certain behaviors that we’ve worked hard on establishing go completely out the window the first time he interacts with other kids.

Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

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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 successfully made it to the 2nd day of school.

Yesterday, the teacher said we had to go to Door Blah and the teacher’s aide would be there to take the kids inside, and we parents were to just drop our kids off and bolt. There were no adults or kids waiting outside (maybe we just missed them?) but there WERE a lot of parents bringing their 3 and 4 year olds inside so I took Niko inside. He had a hard time getting into the classroom because the doorway was thronged with adults just chillin’ so I helped him inside, got his bag put away and his name tag on, etc, gave him some kisses, and left. Some other kid was sobbing and screaming so hard he was gagging and sounded like he was about to barf. Poor kid! Poor parent! Niko was chill.

On the way home, I fretted about my knee and how it hurt and how I couldn’t wait for our insurance to start up in November so I could get an MRI done and see if there’s tiny chunks of bone floating around scraping shit up or what, because I’ve been dealing with knee pain for a LONG TIME, ever since we were rear ended in 2003 and my knee slammed into the dashboard of our car. I forgot to get it checked out at the ER, and it’s been bugging me ever since… for TEN YEARS. So I’m walking home, kind of limping a little because my left knee aches, and my right hip starts hurting because I’m walking funny, and I decide to take a short cut through the alley, and suddenly there’s a snap and searing pain in my knee.

HA HA FUNNNNNNNNN. I said a lot of cusses and general inarticulate NOISES and babies, if I had insurance, I’d be chillin’ in the ER right this very second. But I don’t have insurance, so I hobbled home with the aid of a fence post I found lying in the alley NO LIE and now I’m sitting on the couch with my leg up a bit. Our house mate has agreed to fetch Niko from school and I’m hoping I remembered to put him on the authorized adult pick up list. I’ll have to call and see.

If worst comes to worst, he can probably handle drop offs and pick ups for a while, so I’m glad I have someone I can rely on to be totally boss and helpful. But I’m super pissed at my knee. It’s been hurting more than usual since my mouth blew up, like having inflammation in my mouth was an excuse for the rest of my body to go to hell and act up and hurt and be shitty or something. I absolutely was not expecting this level of searing agony, however.

But whatever.

I was trying to get Niko to help me clean up his toys the other day and he basically refused and we had YET ANOTHER talk about how he needs to respect his toys and belongings and if he can’t do, if he can’t be responsible for his own things, maybe we should put them away. And he agreed to that. So we boxed up most of his toys over the weekend. He’s kept out his wooden trains and train tracks, his musical instruments, his puzzles, 4 stuffed animals (he has two garbage bags full of other stuffed animals) and coloring books and art stuff (most of which is kept in a cabinet out of his reach). It’s been a lot easier for him to keep this toys picked up, and at the end of the week we’ll see if he wants to cycle out something else. This is working very nicely so far and I’m not tripping over stuff as much or feeling as resentful about having to clean and reclean constantly. We set a timer for 5 minutes and anything he doesn’t get put away in that time goes into time out. We haven’t had to put anything in time out. It’s nice.

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

Today isn’t just the first day of school in Chicago, it’s Niko’s first ever day of school. He’s starting preschool at our neighborhood school. Since Chicago is so big, there’s a bunch of little (and medium and large, his school is actually pretty large) school buildings and you default into a specific school based on your address. But there’s also Selective schools that, for higher grades, are Gifted or STEM or International Baccalaureate or various flavor of Charter or what have you. It’s incredibly hard to get into Selective schools in Chicago. Like, there’s literally hundreds more kids who qualify for and want to get into separate Gifted programs than there are available slots (Niko’s school has a Gifted track, but I don’t think all neighborhood schools do). We are going to have to do some serious thinking while Niko is in kindergarten about what kind of school we want him to go to for first grade and on, because generally speaking if you don’t get into your first choice school in first grade (or 6th or freshman year or whenever the school’s lowest grade is) you’re never going to get in. There’s just so much competition, so many students waiting to get in. Which means a lot of kids start really specific types of schooling (STEM, Classical, IB, a school with a fantastic music program, a school with an emphasis on physical education, etc) when they’re like 6… which is ridiculously early to make those kinds of decisions. So we might just go with the flow and keep him at his neighborhood school and supplement at home and with museum memberships and stuff. But then if he’s at a neighborhood school, will he get into a competitive high school and then college? I kind of resent that I’m feeling pressure NOW, when he’s FOUR, to do everything right so he has a successful adult academic career (which, I mean, that assumes he even WILL go to college and not just, like, become an auto mechanic or electrician or something else he’d go to a trade school and apprentice for).

I have an Anxiety Disorder and tend to spiral into alternate universes of WHAT IFs at the drop of a hat, so I’m trying really hard to just… Let Go and focus on the important thing right now, which is to shepherd Niko through preschool. The school is being less than helpful by waiting until super late to send out official notices (including school supply lists, nearly creating a financial issue for us), and not telling us ahead of time which door in a building the size of a full city block we should enter for his first day of school. I mean, if they’d just included the notice “Use door X which is on street Y” we wouldn’t have started the first day of school literally soaking with sweat and flushed from walking 4 additional blocks, quickly, in 90 degree heat. I’m also a little peeved that I signed him up for morning classes and they plunked him into afternoon, which take place riiiiight when he’s normally taking a nap. But there were too many kids signed up for AM so whatever.

But now we know what door to go to and what to do if he wants to eat lunch in the cafeteria first and we plan to have donuts or ice cream every Monday after school, and we know for sure which class he’s going to be in and which time, and that he’s going to have 3 field trips this year (the zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier). He’s got his own cubby and he’s met most of his class mates (and WOW there is a girl in his class who is a future Homecoming Queen/Lady President) and he’s gone on record as saying he won’t cry tomorrow when I drop him off and leave him there. So we’ll see how it goes.

School is a half mile away so unless I hang out up there (at the school? at Dunkin Donuts down the street?) I’ll be walking 2 miles a day to drop off/pick up. I’m not looking forward to doing that come winter. But we’ll survive.

Niko Dressed Himself

Niko Going To School

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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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Reading Wednesday

Wednesday, 31 July 2013 08:33
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Are you on Goodreads? I am!. Why don’t you head on over and check out my reviews.

In the meantime, here are some books that Niko especially enjoyed.

What books do YOUR kids enjoy? What books do you enjoy reading to your kids? What books stand up well to the “read this book 50 times in a row” test? Hit me up in comments!

"The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish"

“The Day I Swapped My Dad For Two Goldfish”

“The Day I Swapped my Dad For Two Goldfish,” by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, is the charming and seriously weird story of a kid who swaps his dad for two goldfish. His mom objects (of course) and he has to follow a chain of swaps to get his dad back. It’s a little adventure story. The illustrations are really something else. I bought this book in 1997, WELL in advance of having kids.

"Shimmer and Splash"

“Shimmer and Splash”

“Shimmer & Splash: The Sparkling World Of Sea Life,” by Jim Arnosky, is a lushly illustrated book by an artist/naturalist who really looks like he loves what he’s doing. This is a fantastic introduction to the ocean and the life in it, although it’s also very text heavy, so it can be hard to sit down and read aloud in one sitting. We usually read sections of this book, or Niko looks at it himself. Arnosky has written a lot of books about ~NATURE~ and I want to get more of them for Niko. NOTE: I won this book in a giveaway at Bebeh Blog.

"Dogs On The Bed"

“Dogs On The Bed”

“Dogs On The Bed,” by Elizabeth Bluemle & Anne Wilsdorf, is a rollicking, goofy, rhyming account of what happens when you have a bunch of dogs in your bed. It also made me miss having a dog, while being glad I’m not dealing with a bed-stealing, shedding, slobbery, fur furnace any more. A mixed bag! The illustrations are absolutely charming and expressive and the writing is playful and fun. This is a book that lends itself well to reading outloud, and expressively. I think the people who will most appreciate this book are people who love dogs and have more than one of them. A really fun read!

dinothesaurus

“Dinothesaurus: Prehistoric Poems and Paintings,” by Douglas Florian, is a playful and quirky book about dinosaurs. Unlike a lot of dinosaur books for kids, the text isn’t just rhyming. No, it’s actual straight up poetry, playing with line breaks and stresses and language. The poems are bouncy and fun, a joy to read aloud, unlike most stilted, predictable rhyming couplets you see in kidlit. The illustrations are likewise unique and crafted, vaguely reminiscent of Dave McKean’s painting-collages, but simplified. Toward the back of the book is more information about the dinosaurs mentioned as well as a bibliography of texts for more and deeper reading. If you’ve got a dinosaur lover for a kid, this book is a good addition to your library.

"It's Time For Preschool"

“It’s Time For Preschool”

“It’s Time For Preschool,” by Esmé Raji Codell & Sue Rama is a scripting book for kids entering school. A lot of kids don’t handle change or the unexpected well, and giving them a script and telling them what to expect can be very helpful. This book opened a lot of discussion and reassurance, and I’m going to pick it up again before Niko starts school this fall.

What Lives In A Shell?

What Lives In A Shell?

“What Lives In A Shell,” by Kathleen Weidner Zoehfeld & Helen K. Davie, is a book about shells and the animals that live in them. Some live on land, some live on water. Some are large, some are small. This early science book, designed for pre-k and kindergarteners, is a nice introduction to shelled animals. The text, and sentences, are short and engaging and the illustrations are clear and attractive. The book stands up well to repeat reads. It’s a great introduction to science book. I’m very pleased with this series.

get_wet

” I Get Wet,” by Vicki Cobb & Julia Gorton, is a solid science book about the science of water, including some fun and easy hands-on experiments kids and adults can do together. The text is simple and easy to understand, with some interesting artistic typography in places. The illustrations are fun, too.

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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)

Niko has seriously levelled up in some aspects of his problem solving/helpfulness skills and it’s both adorable and ARGH NO STOP PLEASE NO at the same time. For instance, pouring his own drinks leads to massive spills, wiping his own pooey bum leads to poo everywhere, and jumping up and using a tool to turn on a light switch is an awesome idea but when that tool is a crayon it leads to crayon on the lightswitch/walls. There’s also the frustrating fact that he is ABLE to fully dress himself but still insists on us “helping” him where “helping” is “doing almost everything.” However, I think that’s primarily him being a bit clingy because a lot of stuff is changing and changing fast (Nesko has a new job and isn’t home as much, school is starting soon, we’re talking about moving albeit not for at least a year, etc). But I look at my little baby who came into this world as a helpless squalling grub, and every day I get closer to seeing the adult who’s going to leave my house.

He spent most of Saturday with his Tetka (aunt), and didn’t get home until pretty late. He had a super great time with her (he always does, she’s great) and before he left she told him that LATER ON as in IN THE FUTURE he could come over again and “swim” in the pool (a little wading pool, nothing big/fancy… if it was a real pool you know I’d rudely move in and never leave). He interpreted this, as little kids do, as TOMORROW.

So instead of sleeping in on Sunday he bounded into our bedroom, bright and alert, at 5:00 a. m.

I’M AWAKE NOW! IT’S TIME TO BE AWAKE! HEY WHY ARE YOU GUYS STILL SLEEPING?!? IT’S TIME TO BE AWAKE NOW! I NEED YOU TO HELP ME PUT ON MY SWIMMING CLOTHES! I’M GOING SWIMMING WITH TETKA NAMEREDACTED! I NEED TO PUT ON MY SWIMMING PANTS! WHERE IS MY WATER SHIRT? I’M GOING TO GO PACK MY BAG!

Then he scampered off.

He came back a few minutes later wearing swim trunks (over underpants).

I’M ALL PACKED NOW! WHERE IS MY WATER SHIRT? WHEW IT’S GOING TO BE A HOT AND SUNNY DAY, I NEED MY SUNSCREEM. WHERE IS MY SUNSCREEM? WE CAN ALL PUT ON SUNSCREEM AND GO SWIMMING IN MY LITTLE POOL. IT’S SOOOOOO HUGE IT’S ENORMOUS! I PACKED MY BAG! HEY, WHY AREN’T YOU UP? I NEED TO EAT SOME CEREAL YOU GUYS! I HAVE TO EAT A GOOD BREAKFAST BEFORE I GO SWIMMING!

I dragged myself out of bed and helped him get a bowl of cereal (WITH MILK OK MAMA) and told him he had to not wear underpants with his swim suit, so he stripped down and redressed in just the trunks. He scarfed down two bowls of cereal and I checked his bag. He’d packed:

  • a full change of clothing including underpants and socks
  • a hat
  • sunglasses
  • his water bottle
  • appropriate snacks in little containers

This child does not need me anymore, except to get things off of high shelves. OBVIOUSLY.

Nesko called his sister who was all yeah no, I’m busy all day, I meant LATER and we broke the news gently to Niko. But not until he’d told me just how BIG and HUGE and ENORMOUS his swimming pool is. Internets, his swimming pool is SO BIG it is the size of my butt.

Apparently my bottom is now a unit of measure.

I told him that my butt is pretty small for a swimming pool and he said OH HM WAIT NO. MY SWIMMING POOL, he said, IS THE SIZE OF THAT THING YOU GOT UP THERE and he pointed at my shoulder which, I mean, that’s even smaller than my butt. Whaaat?

He’s decided that today is a good day to have a picnic so he’s spread a little blanket on the floor and consuming all food (breakfast, snack, lunch) right there. I can dig it.

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

I folded up a load of clean clothing for Niko, all neat little packages, sorted by clothing type and drawer (he has a drawer that holds pyjamas, underpants, and socks; and a drawer that holds long and short pants and long and short sleeve shirts, each of those getting their own section). I placed them carefully in a basket and told him to put away his clothing.

He refused.

He offered that I could help him, and we could work together, and I could put them away for him.

I declined.

He asked if he could watch tv.

I declined.

He eventually hoisted the basket and brought it into his room, threw it onto the floor, and stared at it, then stared at the dirty clothing on the floor next to his empty hamper.

Then he picked up one t-shirt from the middle of the pile, shook it out, walked over to the underpants drawer, opened it shoved the t-shirt in, closed the drawer, and walked back to the basket.

He proceeded to pick up each item individually, carry it over to the drawers, open the drawer, place it, and close it for each item. SO MANY EXTRA STEPS. He took many breaks to drink water, show me his electric train, pick up (individual) pieces of dirty clothing (one by one) and drop them in the hamper, move dinosaurs around, climb into the basket and rub his head all over the clean laundry, etc.

What should have taken five minutes MAXIMUM took fifteen and I finally grabbed a stack of pyjamas, thrust them at him, and ordered him to put them in the drawers. I did the same with the t-shirts, insisting LIKE SOME KIND OF JERK that they all go in the same drawer that holds his other t-shirts.

Oh my goddddddddddddddddddd.

He’s been super “helpful” all day including asking if he could help me clean the bathroom then rejecting all tasks I offered him and standing RIGHT NEXT TO OR BEHIND ME the entire time. Like a limpet, but one that tells really shitty jokes (why did the chicken cross the road? BECAUSE OF A RADIATOR!)

We started the day off, btw, by testing out our new sprinkler in the front yard. Our yard is so small it was hard to adjust it to not water other peoples’ yards and houses, the sidewalk, etc. One of our next door neighbors (who listens to Rush Limbaugh REALLY REALLY LOUDLY) came outside to monitor our progress and I started getting super paranoid he was getting pissed off at us for watering his steps but then he kept laughing at Niko’s antics so maybe he was just curious I DO NOT EVEN KNOW. Our sprinkler’s adjustable and I kept darting over to it, trying to avoid the spray and also make it not spray in peoples’ windows, and I’m sure that was comedic to watch. Niko looked like he was having fun the whole time, but after the fact he complained about how he hates getting wet and he hates water and the only reason he spends an hour+ in the bath tub splashing around is because he HAS to get wet to get clean. THE ONLY REASON. Playing in water is AWFUL and HORRIBLE and for SUCKERS. I didn’t take any photos of him pretending to have fun running into the hose and sprinkler because I didn’t want my camera or phone to get wet.

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

When Niko and I went and enrolled him in pre-k, the teachers asked a few questions about his skills and if we read to him at home etc. They mentioned that it would be helpful if we could work on him writing his name. I think I’ve mentioned before that we have been working on teaching him to write, and I figured I’d tell you some of the stuff that worked for us.

Pencil Holding

I thought about getting some of those triangular finger positioners that you can slide onto pencils, but decided to skip it. Like a lot of really little kids, Niko has a hard time physically holding a writing utensil. One of the things that helps him hold his fingers the correct way is to put a little something in the palm of his hand for his smaller fingers to curl around. We initially used a bit of wadded up tissue, which he objected to. I picked up a little baggie of pom poms from the Target dollar bin and he likes those a lot better. We don’t have to remind him as often to hold his writing utensil the correct way, it’s becoming a habit with him.

Making Lines

There’s a few things we’re doing to teach him how to make straight, slanted, and curved lines (IE, letter components). One of the earliest things I did was draw dots on a piece of paper and have him draw a line from dot to dot. It was a fun thing that we did together, and we’d take turns making the lines. You could also use stickers or something for the “dots.” This ties in to later activities like connect-the-dots and draw-a-line-to-match games.

There are worksheets you can buy from stores or print from the internet that have dotted lines to trace, making up straight, diagonal, curved, etc lines.

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)

After playing a bit of phone tag I finally managed to set up an appointment to come down to the school Niko will be attending this fall to enroll him. I had to bring his birth certificate and his medical card. If we didn’t have state insurance we would have had to bring other documents. The school wasn’t overly concerned with proving our address, I think, because it’s not a super great super desirable school. I’m not saying it’s a bad school, but some CPS neighborhood schools are HOT SHIT and people lie and scheme to get into them if they don’t live in the neighborhood.

The school’s 4 blocks (half a mile) away, which means I’ll be racking up 2 miles of walking a day once he starts, between drop offs and pick ups. We left early today to get to the appointment, because 4 year olds can be jerks on walks, and he kept insisting he was feeling pukey and needed to sit for a moment in the cool, cool shade under a tall, tall tree. Ha ha, what? Only he DOES barf when he gets over heated sometimes, only it usually involves 1) a car or 2) massive running around.

Despite our frequent stops, we got to the school early to enroll this boy.

It was interesting. The staff made 2 basic assumptions about our family, based largely on the neighborhood: 1) that we’re on state insurance (which is true, and we might continue to be on it (albeit paying for it) when Nesko’s eligible for insurance through work, we’ll see) and 2) that we don’t speak English at home (which would be true if my FIL had his way). Most kids coming into that school take a language fluency exam to determine which level of ESL classroom they’ll be in, but Niko’s really fluent in English (it’s his primary language) so he’ll just be in the English speaking class. School starts toward the end of August, there’s a class size of 22, and instead of buying supplies off a school supply list we outfit Niko with a book bag, give the school paper towels and tissues and hand soap, and pay a fee. That fee covers school supplies and a school-branded t-shirt they wear on field trips and for gym class. There’s two preschool classes, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and it lasts 2 1/2 hours. I signed him up for the morning class so he can come home and take a nap. I got a good vibe from the staff we met with. They seem very open, friendly, and caring. It sounded like they required Niko to be present (as opposed to “you can bring him if you need to” or whatever) but they didn’t really interact with him and instead he played with dinosaurs and then a really cool dollhouse while I filled out paperwork.

There was… a lot of paperwork.

I was kind of nervous or something… I’m dealing with some ~~ANXIETY~~ lately and being thrust into a new situation of enrolling my baby in school kind of ramped that up… and my hand writing was AWFUL. I was like “ahhh what am I dooooing I’m writing illegibly…. hand stop that. write nicely. hand! what the fuuuuuuck. I CAN PENMANSHIP I SWEAR IT!!!”

The regional gifted center is directly across the street and has a pretty nice (and completely unshaded and thus hot) playground. After all the boring paperwork I took Niko over there and he played with other kids and ran around for almost an hour.

My only concern with the enrollment process was that they asked some personal medical questions — which I understand the need for– but in a very public way. So you ask me, you know, is there any history of mental health issues in the family and I say yes… and I didn’t go into my own business because I was flustered but everyone around me (including other parents) heard what I said. And they asked why I had a C-Section. Some other medical stuff. Internets, you know I bloviate endlessly about the horrific mysteries of my gross body, but that’s somehow different from dropping info bombs in front of the parents of Niko’s future classmates. On the internet I discuss shitting my bed immediately after having a C-Section. In real life, I try to abstain from the grossity. Given the set up (a bunch of grown ass adults crouched on tiny chairs around circular tables in a class room) I don’t see how that could be prevented, though.

The teacher he will probably be having next year asked that we practice with him writing his own name. He’s gotten good at his nickname, but we’ll work on the whole name.

We need to get him a physical and dental visit and have the appropriate doctors fill out paperwork, but don’t need to do a vision or hearing screening (the school handles that), which is nice. They also offer flu vaccines.

Anyway, after the enrollment and playground playing we stopped at Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins for ice cream (which, as usual, turned into a donut) where I realized I didn’t have 1) my bank card or 2) my transit card. WIN! THIS IS WHAT WINNING LOOKS LIKE! Luckily I had a $5 Visa Gift Card that had enough of a balance on it to pay for our donuts, and when my emergency transit card turned out to be expired the driver just waved us through. Now Niko’s sitting around in the living room in his underpants, eating ice cream and playing with dinosaurs, and what I thought was a sunburn on his arms is pretty much faded, whew.

So.

Preschool in August.

Wow.

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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)

Niko was fooling around on the bed the other day when he rolled right off, banged into the wall, and hit the floor hard. No harm done, he laughed and scrambled back onto the bed. I called him a doofus, which delighted him, and he spent several minutes fake rolling off the bed and demanding that I save him. I generally oblige him, and rolled him back onto the bed each time.

Later on, we were playing and cuddling in the bed before starting the rest of our bed time ritual (brush teeth, wash face, medication, jammies on, 2 stories from a book, 1 story “from my head,” 1 song, cuddles, kiss and hug, that’s it) (Nesko’s bedtime ritual involves sleeping with him, sucker) when he started pretending to fall out of bed again.

“Save me mama!” he called. “Saaaave me! Mama, save me from being a doofus!”

“Aw, baby boy,” I said. “Nobody can save you from being a doofus. You can only save yourself.”

He promptly fell out of bed.

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

Niko’s greatest love is dinosaurs.

After that, though, he loves mysteries. Also: trains, cars, My Little Pony, and Chicago’s architecture. But he’s really keen on mysteries and went through a phase where he was super into “The Great Mouse Detective” and “Busy Town Mysteries.” If someone is looking for something, his first question is ‘well, where is the last place you saw it?’ which is a pretty helpful question to ask.

He was helping me clean the dining room yesterday, running a microfiber cloth around the molding and windowsills and chair legs to dust them. Then he wandered off. I needed that cloth so I could dust the tops of some things, so I called him back into the dining room to ask him where it was.

“Hm,” he said, rubbing his chin. “Hm. It sounds like A MYSTERY.”

“Dude, just tell me where it is. Where did you put it?”

“I didn’t put it! It’s lost. It is… A MYSTERY.”

He walked over to his easel and flipped the paper out of the way, picked up a chunky piece of yellow chalk and tapped it against the chalk board.

“What did it look like?”

“What do you mean what did it look like? You just had it.”

He tapped the chalk board again.

“WHAT did it LOOK LIKE mama?”

“It was a yellow square of microfiber cloth.”

“Uh huh. Uh huh. AH HAH.”

He drew a close approximation of a square on the chalk board.

“A yellow square. OF CLOTH. Where is the last place you saw it?”

“You were dusting the window sill with it. Did you take it into the living room to play with?”

“I must LOOK FOR CLUES. You wait here.”

He ran off and came back with it.

“FOUND IT. I found it. SOMEBODY put it… IN THE LIVING ROOM. Another mystery solved!”

Mirrored from Now Showing!.

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

Niko’s gotten really into coloring and painting lately. He pretty much exclusively is interested in dinosaurs ONLY and gets super pissed if a dinosaur that’s supposed to have spikes/plates/a frill/horns/etc isn’t portrayed as such so he will DRAW THEM ON while scolding the original artist. “How could they even DO THAT? They should KNOW that a Kentrosaurus has a big spike on its side! They should KNOW THAT!”

He likes to paint, mostly with tempera paint (finger paints make his fingers feel icky, so mostly he uses a Popsicle stick to scoop paint onto the paper then push it around). He paints stegosaurs and allosaurs and baby sauropods eating ferns, and he adds some trackways (footprints), and then he draws a giant comet coming straight at them. It’s a whole story process.

We used to set him up with an art easel in the kitchen, which has tile floor. Now that he’s marginally less prone to sloping paint EVERYWHERE I set him up on the dining room table, over the hard wood floors.

I pour some paint into these little paper cups I picked up for free somewhere. They’re about the size of a dixie or bathroom cup. A 1/2 cup sized reusable plastic storage container, small glass, or ice cube tray would also work. And then the pain, paper, etc gets set down on the plastic table cloth we saved from his birthday.

When we were ordering birthday decorating supplies, I splurged a tiny bit on a blue plastic table cloth. It’s meant to be disposable. I did not dispose of it. Instead, I wiped off all birthday crumbs, folded it up, and stuck it in our big white cabinet that holds printer paper, art supplies, and computer cords. And when he wants to paint I pull that sucker out and lay it down on the table. It’s water resistant, so if he spills a bit of water on it the water doesn’t soak into the table cloth or (antique) (and ugly, but emotionally priceless for Nesko) dining room table. It protects the table and table cloth from paint spills. And when he’s done, I just fold it up and put it away.

We’ve gotten a lot of use out of it. It’s way cheaper than “oil cloth” (which is not actually oil cloth, may I pedantically point out), and less likely to be impregnated with cancer-causing chemicals. It reduces my anxiety about paint RUINING EVERYTHING. And it lets Niko MAKE A LOT OF ART!!! Which he loves doing.

Speaking of child!art, what do you do with it? I have kept a total of maybe 3 pieces (two of which are drawings of us as a family, and the first drawings he made of humans) and I display the rest for a while before tossing it. Or I send it to family or friends. But really, I toss a lot of his art. I might scan or photograph some of his current stuff before tossing it, but really I consider it ephemera.

What’s your take on this?

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Mirrored from Now Showing!.

December 2015

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