Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bright Spots

I'm working hard to try to see the positives in what has been a bit of a difficult week. The SNOW continues, and O. hasn't been to school since last Monday. Perhaps he'll actually have his Valentine's party at school tomorrow. J. has been at a sales meeting for all week, in Oklahoma City. The days are long, and the evenings longer. But now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. And although N. has been difficult this week (wanting to change outfits hourly, asking for different items of food by the minute, and never settling for any one activity any longer than a few seconds), O. has been mostly agreeable and helpful.
Looking back, here are some of the highlights of the week:

N: "I need has to go potty!"

If it weren't so draining to follow her into the bathroom every ten minutes, I would be rejoicing that N. has largely potty trained herself during this long camp out at home due to snow. She is wearing "unnerpants" almost exclusively when we are in the house, and hasn't had an accident in days (except when I forgot to put a diaper on her when I put her down for a nap). We're even trying out Pull-Ups and public bathrooms on our brief forays into the real world. So much easier to get a girl to want to pee on the potty than a boy, so much more logistically difficult to manage it, especially in public. The germs. The touching of all body parts onto them. The poor quality of toilet tissue. The widely varying heights and configuration of seats. With O., it was always just a matter of getting him to stand on my feet -- now I'm living in fear of her falling all the way in.

N to O in the back of the car: "O, that is naughty words."

Apparently, she did not care for the nonsense song he was singing. When he switched to singing numbers instead, she pronounced, "Dere. Dat Better."

O: "Mommy, you know why I love you? Because you take me to places I will love, like the museum, and the zoo, and the inside playground place. And just being by you makes me happy."

See? Agreeable and helpful. Even to my mental health.

N: "Daddy on are-plane? He go to Okey-homa? That funny name."

Yes, and I bet Daddy was finding it really amusing when he finally arrived there four hours late, after multiple snow delays and discovered his luggage had probably never left Cincinnati. He finally received it the next day. But don't worry, Delta gave him a Sky Team t-shirt to wear in the meantime.

O: "Mom, what I want for lunch is some Tigers. Yes, Tigers. You know, those orange things you bought at the store. The ones I always wanted and you finally bought for me. Tigers. Oh, yeah. Cheetos."

Oh. O. If you give me this sort of a laugh in the middle of the day, I'll buy you whatever junk food's name you'd like to mangle.

O: "What's dog varnit?"

This, as he was following me to the kitchen where I was retrieving the carpet cleaner and a rag to take care of a suspicious puddle in the living room, possibly canine puke.

N: "Chicken and fries. Mommy made em for me. Soooo....Beetuz...Soooo. I like em. Yeah. I wear peejamas. Sooo. Beetuz. Tumfy Tozy."

She was telling her daddy about her day on the phone, perfectly mimicking my own conversational tics and pauses.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Blogtrotters, if you've ever wondered...*

Wondered, that is, what life is like in suburban Cincinnati, Ohio? You are about to find out! Thanks, Blogtrotting readers, for stopping by for a visit! If you've been following along this week on the Blogtrotting tour, we've been to some pretty exotic places. While I can't claim any tropical views, there are many things I love about living in southwestern Ohio, and I hope you'll enjoy hearing about a few of them.
I live in Loveland, on the northeastern side of the loop of highway that surrounds the city. As mep mentioned yesterday in the hint about where this tour would go next, people really do send their Valentines to our post office to be hand stamped with a special "Mailed with Love from Loveland" postmark by volunteers.
I grew up just south of Dayton to our north, so I've been living in this section of the country my whole life. Word has it that Cincinnati and Dayton are poised to become one big city, like Dallas/Fort Worth, after this year's census, due to the suburban sprawl that extends north across I-75. Not sure that changes much of anything, as the two cities are both places known for their friendly people and down to earth Midwestern values. Many people have said it before me: this is a great place to raise a family.
I wanted to get out and take some photos of Loveland and some of our favorite places in it this week. But, in typical Cincinnati fashion, pretty much everyone in the city is holed up watching weather reports after a few inches of snow. Happens every year at one time or another. Here's the view from my kitchen right now:

Pretty gorgeous, but I'm really fine with looking at it from my window, and will be fine when it decides to turn spring around here. In fact, one of my favorite things about living here is that we have four distinct seasons. I thought I'd share with you some of our favorite things to do in each season here in Cincinnati, all things we'd recommend you try if you visit, no matter the season.

The very first time the weather starts to get warmer, we start hitting the parks. We actually live in a township, rather than the city proper, and it has an excellent parks and recreation department. There are camps and activities scheduled year round, and many well maintained parks with playgrounds to enjoy. We have a regular rotation of all the different play equipment and walking trails. There is also an amazing bike trail, made from the old railroad line that runs along the Little Miami river, including right through downtown Loveland. It's a great place to bike, walk, or push a stroller.

We also really enjoy tromping around in the woods, looking for signs of emerging wildflowers and new life. Sometimes we explore the ones right in our yard, but when we want a little more room, we head to the Cincinnati Nature Center.

It has tons of trails of varying difficulty, including a few that are stroller friendly. My kids especially love the pond filled with fish and frogs, where we almost always spot tadpoles in varying stages of metamorphosis. We can also feed turtles in another pond. There is a cool indoor area for birdwatching and learning about local wildlife, and the staff is always very kind and informative. The Nature Center has a small admission fee most days unless you are a member, but is free to the public every Monday.

Our favorite summertime destination is the Cincinnati Zoo. We are members there, so
we get free admission year round; my kids pretty much think they own the place. We have particular animals we always need to visit, (giraffes, monkeys in the Jungle Trails, and the nocturnal house) and we usually end our morning visit with a picnic lunch on one of the benches. It is also a botanical garden, so there are many flowers and plantings to enjoy, especially the masses of daffodils and tulips during Zoo Blooms in April. Our zoo is world renowned for its breeding program, especially of Sumatran rhinos, and they have
a strong collection of big cats as well. My kids have been following along on the news as our manatee friends were prepared to be released into the wild, and look forward to seeing some new ones arrive this spring. Here they are right outside the manatee's home, along with my cousin's little boy.
Come fall, there are lots of autumnal events and attractions for us to enjoy. We live close enough to the city of Cincinnati (a 20 minute drive) to enjoy its benefits, but are also close to the rural roots most people think of when they think of Ohio. We love to get apples at Rouster's Apple House, and every year take a hay ride and hang out with the farm animals before picking out our Halloween pumpkins at Shaw Farms:

Probably our favorite place to enjoy the fall colors is Sharon Woods park. There is a mile long loop through the woods and around a small lake, with an excellent playground near the parking area. You can also rent paddle boats, fish, or golf at this park. In the summer, there is a water play area for the kids.

In the winter, (actually year round), you can find us at Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal. It's a complex of three different museums plus an OmniMax theater all inside one of Cincinnati's greatest architectural treasures. Perhaps some of you who grew up watching Superfriends recognize it as the inspiration for the Hall of Justice??
We love it here. There is a museum of natural history, complete with a recreation of southwestern Ohio in the Ice Age, a giant sandbox for preschoolers, and DINOSAURS. In the Museum of Cincinnati History, the kids get to ooh and aah over the many trains on the scale model of the city from the 1900's to the 1940's. Downstairs, there is the Children's Museum: O. and N.'s idea of nirvana. It has a water play area, a giant ball machine area, a construction play site, an entire pretend play city, and a forest themed area with a whole warren
of caves and trees to climb in. There is always a traveling exhibit on location. Last year it was giant moving, interactive dinosaurs, and I don't have to tell you how exciting THAT was for the four year old future paleontologist in our family:
Those are some of our family's favorite haunts, all places we would take visitors new to the city. And because food is also a topic near and dear to my heart, I feel obligated to tell you about some of our favorite Cincinnati treats. If you come to visit, I'll be sure to start you off with some lunch at Skyline chili.
This is what Cincinnatians like to call chili, but to those not familiar, it would probably look more like a thick meat sauce served over spaghetti or on a coney. The secret ingredients are Middle Eastern spices like cinnamon, allspice and cocoa, but the end result, with neon orange shredded cheese, onions and/or beans and served with oyster crackers in a little bowl, is pure Cincinnati.
We'd also swing by Dewey's Pizza for some excellent house salad and a gourmet pizza. My personal favorite is the Edgar Allan Poe with whole cloves of roasted garlic.
For dessert, you must have a scoop or two of Graeter's ice cream.
Everyone raves about the raspberry chocolate chip, but since I'm anti-dairy, I go for the lime
sorbet, and it is delicious.
Other places we love to eat that are singularly Cincinnati include Montgomery Inn (ribs that may not win any "authentic" barbecue contests but are fall off the bone delicious) or Zip's Cafe (amazing burgers in a crowded fun atmosphere), and when we're feeling fancy, a restaurant owned by either Jeff Ruby or David Falk. Those of you really looking for the suburban experience, there is also a small circle of family friendly places we frequent in our very own Loveland on Friday nights: Shooter's, Paxton's, The Works, and (for the best fajitas in town) El Picante.
When we have a night without the kids, my husband and I often return to the place we met, Crowley's Bar in the lovely hilltop neighborhood of Mt. Adams (proof that not all of Ohio is flat farmland!). We also have been known to take in a show at Playhouse in the Park, and are season ticket holders for Xavier University's basketball team. Go Muskies!
There is so much more I could share about what I love about living in the Cincinnati area, but I fear I've already surpassed my 500 word goal. I hope you enjoyed the little tour, and hope you'll leave me a comment to tell me from where you are visiting! While you're at it, if you haven't signed up to be a tour guide yourself, head on over to Blogtrotting right now!

*Recognize the beginning of the lyrics from WKRP in Cincinnati? Several years ago, my brother was dating a girl who lived in NYC. When she told her friends she was going to Cincinnati to visit him, the only reference they had was the theme song to this show. While I'm a fan of the show, and I'm aware that Cincinnati is not exactly a world power, this seems really strange to me. Thank goodness he ended up with a Midwestern girl instead.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I've always said she's an angel!

It had been a while since I had uploaded pictures from my camera to my computer, and I finally got around to it this morning. What I found was a collection of the same kind of pictures I always seem to take in January -- shots of the kids wearing mismatched outfits, climbing on the furniture, posing with block towers, and generally goofing around. There was one whole series of the two of them showing me their (clothed) backsides. There was even this adorable one:

My new theory on taking decent photos of the two of them together is that they have to be lying on the floor.
What was the impetus for the download today, you may ask? Well, I took a few shots of N. this morning to document her most recent injury.
Last evening, in those dangerous last fifteen minutes before bedtime, O. and N. were pretending they were horses. They were being quite cute about the whole thing, procuring tupperware bowls to eat pretend apples and hay out of, building stalls out of couch cushions, and whinnying and rearing their hooves back. Of course, the pretend play could not end there. No, it had to progress to horse races. And yes, my children have been to the race track. They actually love it there.
On about the third lap through the family room, living room and kitchen, N. tripped and did a full fledged header into the coffee table. Luckily, she missed her mouth, but took the full impact to the nose. I screamed, O. stood frozen with fear, and J. swooped in to grab her and get ice on it.
She seems to be fine today, though she's more than a little swollen, and a little bit black and blue.
Here's the shot I took, which does not quite show what it looks like in real life.

In actuality, I think this is a little more like it:

Just kidding, though perhaps that's too bad. I hear vampires are pretty big right now, so maybe we could get her a gig on the next Twilight flick.
What a week it's been...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Not So Quicker Picker Upper

I live in constant fear that I am turning into a 1950's era housewife. While I don't don pearls to fold the laundry, and you'll never see me taking a toothbrush to my grout, I do spend a fair amount of time investigating ways to make my home run in a more smooth and organized fashion. A lot of my waking hours are devoted to civilizing children and moving clutter from one place to another.
It's probably why I don't post to this blog as often as I could. If I wrote about every day's concerns and triumphs, there's a danger this site could look a lot like Hints from Heloise. As much as I enjoy caring for my family and as rewarding as it ultimately is, I try to use this spot to remind myself I have other interests and skills as well.
But (you sensed there was a but coming, didn't you?), there are times when it's all just a little too much, and I need to share. Witness the silly putty debacle of a month or so ago.
I have never claimed to be a spectacular housekeeper. I don't think my house is particularly dirty, but I also do not clean bathrooms or floors quite as regularly as they probably should be. And forget about dusting. I just really don't do it. I do vacuum my main living spaces quite frequently, though not daily.
I don't get to my upstairs bedrooms and hallways quite as often. It just doesn't seem to need it as much. Add to the fact that J's office is up there, and N. naps for a chunk of every afternoon, the moments when it's possible to make that kind of noise are just pretty limited. So, I'll admit it had been a couple of weeks since I'd hauled the vacuum upstairs.
My particular vacuum has this feature called "Intelliclean" that uses some sort of dirt sensing technology to figure out just how filthy your carpets are, and to adjust the intensity of the sucking and brushing. It goes from green to light orange all the way up to an angry red. Red means lots of dirt. There are times when it is pretty satisfying to see that change from red to green, and feel like I've actually made a dent in the battle against dust and pet hair.
I don't always wait for the level to go down to green, figuring that I'll be vacuuming again soon, It took a lot of wrangling to get all the stuffed animals, books, blankets, and assorted plastic detritus cleared out of the kids' rooms this time, so I figured I might not get back to it again too soon. So I spent nearly an hour running my vacuum back and forth over the same tracks, hoping to see that little meter turn green. I counted on one area, and it took 25 passes, only to go back to orange a little bit later.
I'm a little suspect of this function, though I'm not sure what reason the manufacturer would have for making me feel as if I have to my vacuum back and forth repeatedly to get it clean.
So my question for you is, do you have such a feature on your vacuum? If so, do you pay attention to it? And if you don't, how many times would you say you move over the same spot when you clean?