Monday, February 28, 2011

More dinosaurs

Oliver's been on a bit of a dinosaur kick recently, and we discovered that the Peabody Museum at Yale was having "Dinosaur Days", so off we went to check out the bones on Saturday. He and Daddy had gone to that museum with Grandma and Pop-pop when they visited last fall, a trip he brings up every now and then. I think the dinosaurs had made quite an impression on him. Or maybe it was the dinosaur sticker book that Grandma bought him in the gift shop.

Unfortunately, my camera had some issues, between a dying battery on my speed light and an exposure adjustment setting that had gotten changed unknowingly, so I had a really hard time taking pics. I know, excuses, excuses. But I got a few close ups, so I thought I'd share the faces of Oliver for the day. Hey, it's the end of February, life is boring these days, so this is what I've got. Okay? Enjoy the cuteness!

 Oliver was excited to be there, as were the thousands of other screaming children. It was busy and loud in there! 

 Actually sitting still for a picture, and not giving me the cheesy grin!!

 Future museum lecturer, perhaps? He had to know the names of all the dinosaurs, in a dialog that went something like this:
Oliver: What's that?
Mommy/Daddy: That's a Fillintheblankosaurus.
Oliver: That's right. It's a Fillintheblankosaurus. 
(as if he knew all along, and was just testing us)

 I'm pretty sure he's in the middle of saying, "What's that?" here. He asks that a lot.

 Giving me the evil eye. I probably did something horrible, like ask if he wanted to go potty.

Daddy and Oliver, pausing for a snack.

A little while later, we passed the gift shop, otherwise known as the Dinosaur Store (to Oliver). This was pretty much the most excited he was the whole day. We looked at puzzles and toys and books, but all he wanted was a sticker book. There were several to choose from, and he chose one a little bit different than the one Grandma bought for him last trip. Then we walked a few blocks to have lunch at Moe's, and on the walk back had to pass by the museum again. At this point, a very tired Oliver was crying to go back to the "Dinosaur Store!" Turns out he no longer wanted the new sticker book, but wanted to go back and get the one like Grandma got him. That was a tantrum we did not indulge, and he ended up being perfectly content with the one he had. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

Minestrone Dinosaur

Oliver, as an artist, does not limit himself to any one medium. As we've seen, he works in crayon, pencil, paint, paper, pudding, and computer graphics. He recently added another to his repertoire: minestrone.

 He was not so interested in eating his minestrone for lunch this day.

 Instead, he picked a penne pasta piece to use as a paintbrush.

Declaring his masterpiece "all done!"

He told me, "It's a dinosaur . . . no a dinosaurus!" Can't you tell?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Zoo

We had a sudden few days of warm weather this week, so we decided to have a play date with Oliver's friends Annabelle and Nathan at the zoo this morning. Yes, it's still winter, and the snow hasn't totally melted yet, and we knew most of the animals would be tucked away somewhere, but it didn't matter. We were going to take the kids outside in the sunshine and let them run around!! Finally!

I didn't tell Oliver until about an hour before we were supposed to leave. He was so excited! He started yelling, "Yay the zoo! Yay the zoo!" over and over again and jumping around. Too cute.

I tried to get some good photos, but it was next to impossible to capture 3 two year olds except to get the backs of their heads, so I didn't get many photos at all.

 Oliver and Annabell watching the wolves through the glass.

 Nathan, Annabelle, and Oliver at the duck pond. You'd never know that Oliver is almost 2 weeks older than Nathan would you? Nathan is tall for his age, and Oliver is short for his.

Right after this a huge goose came up to the fence honking loudly, probably begging for food (they had food to buy for a quarter). Oliver freaked out, I'm not sure I've ever seen him so scared. He was also afraid of one of the wolves, the pigs, the cows, the bison, and the tiger. And that was pretty much the only animals that were out. I mean running in the other direction screaming his head off afraid, though the goose was the worst, I think because it was so close. This is a new development. We went to at least 5 zoos last summer and he loved them all and was never afraid. However, he was afraid of Marty's aunt's dog at Christmas. I hope this is just because of his age and not a sign that he takes after me. I was afraid of everything as a child, everything. But I work very hard not to encourage any fear in him, so I don't know. It's either genetic or a two year old thing. I'm hoping the latter!

Of course, we had to go to the Merry Go Round! Linsey and Annabelle look like they're about to be attacked by the white tiger!

Mr. Cheesy Grin's favorite part of the day, of course. He isn't afraid of these animals! He rode the panda bear and the elephant, the same ones he often chose at the zoo carousels we visited last summer. 

As we were leaving he asked/demanded, "Come back to zoo tomorrow." I'm pretty sure he meant just the carousel.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Recipe: Tuscan Baked Chicken and Beans

I know it's not very original that I copy recipes from Cooking Light to my blog. But I can't  help it. I love that magazine, and I love every recipe I've cooked from it! I can't help but share, so here's tonight's yummy meal. This is definitely going into our rotation, it was delicious and simple, and healthy!

Tuscan Baked Chicken and Beans

Yield: 4 servings (serving size: 1 breast half or 1 leg and 1 thigh and about 1 1/4 cups bean mixture)


  • 1  (3 1/2-pound) roasting chicken
  • 1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • 3  slices center-cut bacon
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 1/8  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 2  cups  packed torn spinach
  • 1/2  teaspoon  chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2  (16-ounce) cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1  (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained


1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Trim excess fat. Cut chicken into 2 breast halves, 2 drumsticks, and 2 thighs. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Cook bacon in a 12-inch ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from pan; chop and set aside, reserving drippings in pan. Add chicken pieces to reserved drippings in pan; cook for 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan; set aside.
3. Add onion and 1/8 teaspoon salt to pan; reduce heat to medium, and cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown. Stir in bacon, spinach, rosemary, beans, and tomatoes; remove from heat. Arrange chicken pieces on top; bake, uncovered, at 350° for 40 minutes. Discard skin before serving.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 307
Fat: 4.9g (sat 1.2g,mono 1.5g,poly 1.4g)
Protein: 36g
Carbohydrate: 30g
Fiber: 9.5g
Cholesterol: 91mg
Iron: 5mg
Sodium: 759mg
Calcium: 238mg
My  note: I basically cut this in half, but used one 10 oz. can diced tomatoes w/green chili because that's somehow all I had in the pantry. It added a nice subtle heat. I also kept the 2 cups of spinach, since it shrinks down to nothing when you cook it.
Cooking Light, October 2010

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Other Job

I'm totally slacking on my 2011 List promise that I would blog every day. My excuse du jour? I'm working on ideas for renovating our bathrooms in the new house. We want to have all our plans made before we move home in hopes of getting it done quickly. So I've been scouring the internet for ideas, and drawing up plans with our Home Architect software. That takes a lot of nap time!! So, I decided I should share our plans. Today, I'll show you the ugliness that is our current master bathroom. I should be embarrassed to show these photos. They were taken during our whirlwind 2 week visit last summer, and the mess was horrible. But hey, all the better the "after" pictures will be, right? Over the next few weeks, I'll share some of our ideas for how we're going to redo it, as well as Oliver's bathroom and our powder room downstairs. But for now, the master bath:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Sweetheart Delight 5x7 folded card
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Rant on Bad Parenting at the Mall Play Area

I know it's winter, and the playgrounds are covered in ice and children are going stir crazy. I didn't expect the new play area in our renovated mall to be empty. I knew it would be crowded and it was. It was our first time seeing the new space, and it was disappointingly much smaller than the old, so the kids were all over each other. That's fine when the kids are a bunch of 2 to 4 year olds, climbing and falling all over the place and each other. What I don't understand is why parents blatantly ignore the rules of the Mall Play Area (not to mention polite society), which are clearly stated on the big sign right where you enter
  • Children must be under 42 inches tall to play here.
  • Children are required to be supervised by an adult at all times.
So no, Mr. Dad on the Cell Phone ignoring your child, your nearly 5 foot tall approximately 11 year old daughter should not have been playing there. Nor should she have been bullying the little kids as she fought her way to the top of the slide. Nor should she have been pushing toddlers out of her way! That's right, pushing 2 year olds, including mine. Now Oliver barely noticed, but I did, and I made sure to say something to her directly in front of her father, who continued chatting on his phone, noticing nothing. I was polite. I simply said, "Don't you dare push my child again." Ok, so maybe I wasn't polite so much as I was a pissed off mother. She didn't care. She kept running around, jumping in front of the kids to get on the equipment before they could, and not letting them on. Then a gang of 3 boys, not as obviously bigger as she was, but definitely also over the height limit, sat on the top of the slide, blocking the way of the 20 or so toddlers all scrambling to get up. Again, no parental involvement. I couldn't even tell who their parents were. I don't get it. Do these parents ignore the sign that states the rules? Are they even capable of reading? At best, perhaps they misread it to think it means the kids have to be over 42 inches?

I don't understand it. Whenever I allow Oliver to play in a play area, or playground, or wherever, I never take my eyes off him. Not only to watch for his safety, but to make sure he's not behaving rudely to others. I simply cannot understand the mentality of a parent who can sit ignoring their child talking on the cell phone. Not even a glance to notice how poorly she was behaving, or worse, if he did notice, he didn't care. Because that conversation was obviously more important than his child. Even if I get on my phone, I still never take my eyes off my child, and intervene when needed. What makes me even angrier is not that this happened today, but that something like this happens almost every single time we go to a mall play area. And not to bash dads, because honestly, it's usually the moms ignoring their kids, and sadly, often the nannies. Marty worries about germs, I worry about broken bones. Not an irrational fear. The granddaughter of one of our friends had her arm severely broken when an older boy fell on top of her at a mall play area. There is a reason they have rules like the height limit; it is dangerous to the little kids, the ones the play areas were designed for.

I'd finally had enough. Marty had been shopping while I watched Oliver, and when he joined us, I said loudly enough for the Cell Phone Dad and many of the other parents to hear, "We have to go. It isn't safe with these older kids bullying the little ones." Unfortunately, Oliver is a toddler, and toddlers don't liked to be pulled away from their favorite activities suddenly. He threw the worst tantrum ever, kicking and screaming, trying to go back to the play area. We couldn't even get his shoes back on. I'm sure we were drawing the attention of everyone in the mall, who were questioning our parenting since we couldn't control our child. He's strong! You try to keep him in your arms when he doesn't want to be!! And when he's that mad, his screams are like the growls of a caged animal. Finally, I told him if he didn't calm down, he wouldn't be able to go to the play area the next time we went to the mall, and that helped a little. So we'll go back, not that I want to, but I know he enjoys it, and the playgrounds are still covered with snow. But bad parents be forewarned: I will be watching you and your evil children, and you don't want to be on the wrong end of the tantrum I'll have if something happens to my child. So please read the freakin' sign and follow the rules! Don't make me call that mall cop!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo Friday

Making art, the old-fashioned way.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not a good day

We had music class this morning, but our teacher, Miss Julie, was out sick with a cold. So we had Miss Sarah instead. Did my easygoing child just go with the flow and enjoy class? Of course not. He turned into super rigid toddler, and started screaming "Go away!" over and over again, and tried to push me toward the door. Normally if he were acting out in class, I would threaten to take him home, but of course, I couldn't do that this time because it's precisely what he wanted. So I took him into the hallway and explained to him that Miss Julie was sick and that Miss Sarah was here and we were still going to sing and dance and have fun like we always do. I got a reluctant, "Okay." So we went back in. He was still very pouty and stayed on my lap. He got mad once when she started singing a song that he didn't want, and then again when she did a verse differently than Miss Julie does. The pouting got worse. In the middle of a song where we were using egg shakers, he laid down on the floor. Then when Miss Sarah came around to collect the egg shakers, he took mine and his and threw them at her, narrowly missing another child. And out the door we went again. I put him in time out in the next classroom. Then he asked to pee, which we did successfully in the church bathroom. I asked him if he was going to be a good boy when we returned to class, and he said yes. I told him if he acted up again, he'd get no computer time when we got home. He was somewhat better after that, but he still pouted quite a bit and refused to sing or dance the rest of the class, but at least didn't yell at anyone or attempt to hurt anyone. Not enjoyable.

After class we took some quick trips to Target and the grocery store, then back home for lunch. After lunch, he watched the last half of Sesame Street while I cleaned the kitchen. At one point he came in and told me he hurt his eye, and needed his Elmo Boo Boo Buddy. I saw no actual injury, but he often asks for Elmo at the slightest bump, so I gave it to him. I continued cleaning the kitchen, and a few minutes later he comes in and shows me his now chewed on Elmo, and points in his mouth and says, "I ate it." Me: "WHAT?!?!!" Sure enough, under the teeth marks was a hole, with goo oozing out of it. Gross! He knows that's not allowed (thank goodness they are non-toxic though), so I immediately sent him to time-out, since it was a potential hazard. He went obediently to his time out corner, no screaming or crying. I go back to cleaning the kitchen. Just when his time was almost up, he comes running into the kitchen again and says, "Peed in time out corner." Me: "WHAT??!!?"

Now, I know you're not supposed to get mad at accidents, that I'm supposed to brush it off and let it go and praise the successes instead. But O.M.G.! He hasn't had a pee accident in weeks, and I am quite certain this action was deliberate. He stood in that time out corner, and peed. Not on the time out mat, no that would be too easy to clean. But on the wall and the carpet. Now, this has happened once before, but that was on the first day of our first attempt at potty training, when he was having accidents everywhere. It wasn't totally deliberate then, just an out of control thing. This time was very much a deliberate, "I'm mad at mommy for putting me in time out" action. I mean, our bathroom is literally 5 feet away. He's potty trained. He wasn't even crying this time. I didn't even know how to handle this one. Trying not to explode, I told him to go sit on the potty while I dealt with the mess. I got the carpet cleaner (made just for pet stains!) and sprayed it on there and while it was setting, I went in the other room to calm down. Then I finally went to see him in the bathroom. I asked him if he peed in his time out corner on purpose. He started laughing. I walked out of the room to keep my head from exploding. Breathe. Count to 10. Then I returned to the bathroom and calmly reminded him that he should be peeing on the potty instead of the floor. Then I told him that he had to help me clean up his accident, and gave him a big rag so he could scrub it. Then I washed his hands really well because I hate the thought of him touching chemicals.

Lucky for him, nap time started a few minutes later. Not that he's sleeping. I don't want to know what is awaiting me in that room when I go get him. He's up there now saying "Wake up Mommy!" over and over and over and over again. I'm going to hit "publish post" now in the hopes that we are done with the very bad part of our day, and the rest is enjoyable. If I come back later and post an addendum, you'll know it's been a bad one.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Computer Artist

I don't think you'll need any further evidence that Oliver is the perfect combination of Marty and I after this post. When I was pregnant with Oliver, and daydreaming about who he would be, I usually imagined he would take after one of us, but not both. He'd either be like me, an optimistic, creative art historian/interior designer, or his father, a cynical, orderly engineer and computer nerd. Hey, opposites attract, right? But do they blend? Apparently, they do!

Yesterday, I mentioned how Oliver has become more obsessed with the computer, though this isn't really a new development. We've watched youtube videos together for a long time now. But he is definitely becoming more independent about doing things himself in many aspects of his life, and this is just another one. The list of activities he enjoys on the computer has grown so long that he would spend hours on it if we let him. He types his beloved alphabet, he listens to music, watches videos, browses our photo collection, and he paints. He is proficient at clicking the mouse, scrolling, typing, making menus selections, and reformatting things. As I said in yesterday's post, it's really quite amazing, and scary. Of course, we are always watching him to make sure he doesn't ruin anything, or worse, buy anything, or wander where he shouldn't. I do wonder a little bit how healthy this obsession is, but so much of what he does is creative that I don't feel I can discourage it. I'm not sure how common this activity is among kids his age, but I get the feeling that he's probably  more interested in the computer than most.

Lately, he has been waking up from his naps and groggily declaring, "Want to paint." By the way, yes, he's sleeping again, but only after he peruses all his Curious George books. So he often wakes up with book imprints all over his face and arms. Anyway, he doesn't mean with actual paintbrushes and paints, but with the far neater Windows Paint program on the computer. I think his interest started last summer on a visit to Grandma and Pop-pop's house, when Marty was trying to entertain him when Grandma was busy, and opened the Paint program on their computer. Then Oliver remembered it when we visited them again at Christmas, and hasn't forgotten it again. I started trying to save some of his pictures when I can, though he often screams at me when I try to grab the mouse and click save. And other times I see an amazing picture on the screen, only to have him completely blacken it out minutes later. But I've saved a few, and thought I'd share them with you, and see if I'm not the only one who thinks he is immensely talented. I'm supposed to think that, I'm his mom. But I'm also an art historian, and I think these rank up there with the best!

I had to compress these for the blog, so you can click on them to see them bigger, though the line quality is better in the original files.

 Doubly creative: playing music and painting!


Check out those compositions, color choices, and creative decisions! Are these awesome or what?! I think I'll choose a few favorites and have them printed poster size to hang in his room after we move.

Don't worry, I'm still encouraging his manual creative skills. He does lots of painting at school, and coloring at home. So what does the combination of artist and engineer become? Architect? That would be fitting, since my first degree was in interior design in an architecture program. Graphic designer? Computer game designer? Oh, that would be Marty's dream come true! I don't know, but I love it, and I love watching him become the person he will be.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What a Wonderful World, take 2

Oliver has become quite obsessed with our computer lately. Lately? Who am I kidding, he's always been a fan. But now he can do stuff on it. All by himself. It really is quite scary and amazing to see what a 2 year old can figure out, and how quickly. We try to only let him on certain areas of the computer. Right now, he loves the Paint program, which is a whole other post soon to come. When he gets tired of that, he usually moves on to Windows Media Center to look at our archive of photos, mostly of himself of course. He recently found the Videos section of Media Center, and now also enjoys watching old videos, mostly of himself of course. What's funny is that he also tries to recreate them. For example, we get reenactments of the video of him saying his name and ours at the dinner table all the time, except now he calls me Mommy.

Yesterday, I caught him on video dancing to the Ramones, just like I did back in July of 2009. With the same dance moves, exclamations, and extreme close up of the original. He even "falls" the same way he did the first time, though back then it was because he was still pretty unstable on his feet. The first one was shot soon after we moved here. I cannot believe how much he's changed in that time! I'm going to say this every day from now on aren't I? Where did my baby go?!

So here they are, first from July 2009:

And from February 2011:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Quick Pic

It's all I have time for today!

When did my baby get this big?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Another Victory!

We have reached another milestone in potty training success: Using the potty outside the house. Today Oliver peed on a big potty in the public bathroom at Lowe's! This was our next hurdle, because he got scared of the big potty and refused on Thursday during music class. But I guess we'd been shopping a bit long (hey, we have a new home to renovate), because he asked to pee, so we quickly found the bathroom, and he climbed right on up the toilet and did it! Hooray Oliver!!!! Of course, then I had to go, which he proceeded to narrate to then entire bathroom. Fun times.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Photo Friday: Sword Fighting

 I'm not sure who loves this game more, Oliver or Marty!

 Charge! (Don't tell him the sword is backwards)

This was his "attack face."

Hours of fun, courtesy the Dollar Spot at Target

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A sign of love

Sometime last year, during our "youtube time," Oliver stumbled across this video showing the alphabet using sign language. We had done a little signing when he was a baby, but just some basic words like more, thank you, and all done. My alphabet-obsessed son started watching it again a few months ago, and because I happen to know how to sign the alphabet, we worked on it from time to time when he'd ask me to. By Christmas time, could pretty much sign the whole alphabet. So cool! When we'd sign the alphabet together, I'd often end by signing "I love you," which he eventually learned to do back to me. Well, tonight, we were sitting and playing with his magnet board, and he stopped and looked at me and signed, "I love you" with a sweet smile. While he's been saying "I love you" for a long time, there's something about him signing it without prompting for the first time that felt like the first time he said it, or the first time he smiled. And my heart melted.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Two Stickers!!

I have a potty training success to share tonight: we have poops!!! Poops in the potty, that is, and even better, all on his own. I didn't ask if he needed to go,  and the timer hadn't rung. In fact, I was on the phone with my mom, and when he went into the bathroom I let him go alone because he's in that "Oliver do it!" stage. He came back out and said he peed, so I gave him his 1 sticker for peeing. He kept running around playing and not letting me put his underwear back on, so I let him be naked boy for a few minutes. Then he went back into the bathroom again. I figured he was just on a sticker campaign, so I kept talking on the phone. A few minutes later, he came back out and said, "I pooped!" I said, "You did?! On the potty?!" He said, "Yes! Two stickers!!" (he gets 2 for poops). So I go check, and sure enough, he had pooped on the big potty (he puts the potty seat on there himself now and climbs up using a step stool). So we had ten high tens (high 5 times 2 hands 10 times equals 100), and lots of celebration.

A little bit later, he tells me he wants to go play upstairs in his room, so I let him go, still on the phone, figuring I'll follow soon. I hear him calling for me a few minutes later, and he was stuck in his room and couldn't get the door open. So I open it and he runs out and says, "Got poops!" and heads for daddy's bathroom, where we have another little potty. He sits on it a minute, than exclaims "Oh no, get potty dirty!" and stands up in a panic, with something hanging from his behind. I told him that was okay, that is what a potty is for, but he wouldn't hear it. So I hung up on my mom (sorry mom!), cleaned him as best I could and got him down to his "regular" potty seat on the big potty for him to finish. It was quite the production, but we did it!

I think we've hit a new level of success! Before, he was "saving" his poops for nap time (he's in a diaper for naps and bedtime). Not only did he poop twice today, but he also asked to go pee when he needed to, so we only used the timer a few times. We've gone days without any accidents, and he did great in school this week too. Is it possible that this is actually working this time?! Hooray! I know you're all excited too, since you won't have to read poop-themed blog posts anymore!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Recipe: Kung Pao Chicken

Kung Pao Chicken
Making Chinese food at home is not easy, and eating it out is usually not very healthy. This was a very simple and delicious recipe. I served the peanuts on the side at the table, because I am not a peanut fan.


  • 2  tablespoons  dark sesame oil
  • 1  cup  chopped onion
  • 2  garlic cloves, minced
  • 1  pound  skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3/4  cup  water
  • 3  tablespoons  lower-sodium soy sauce
  • 2  teaspoons  cornstarch
  • 1  teaspoon  brown sugar
  • 1/2  teaspoon  bottled minced ginger
  • 1  to 1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1  cup  thinly sliced red bell pepper (about 1 large pepper)
  • 1  cup  snow peas, trimmed
  • 2  tablespoons  chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts


1. Heat sesame oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes or until softened. Add garlic; sauté 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add chicken; sauté 3 minutes or until chicken begins to brown.
2. Combine 3/4 cup water and the next 5 ingredients (through crushed red pepper), stirring with a whisk until sugar dissolves. Add water mixture to pan; bring to a boil. Add bell pepper and snow peas to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until vegetables are crisp-tender and sauce thickens. Sprinkle with nuts.

Nutritional Information

Calories: 275
Fat: 13.8g (sat 2.6g,mono 5.3g,poly 4.8g)
Protein: 25.3g
Carbohydrate: 11.9g
Fiber: 2.2g
Cholesterol: 94mg
Iron: 2mg
Sodium: 502mg
Calcium: 41mg