Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cosley Zoo: A great Place to Take the Kids

As a mom of an almost two-year old, I am constantly looking for activities that keep Peanut entertained, are fun, and affordable (preferably free). If you live in the Western Chicago suburbs, The Cosley Zoo in Wheaton is a great place to take the young ones. The price is right: its free for everyone for now (although starting July 15th it will be $3 per adult, free for kids still). I think the admission price is still worth it.
This "zoo" is not a zoo in the traditional sense of the word. You will not find zebras and giraffes here. What they do have are ducks, horses, cows, goats, pigs, llamas, coyotes, deer, foxes, raccoons, rabbits, and various birds. Peanut loves this. Not only does she know how to say the name of most of these animals, but she also loves that she can get up close and personal with them.
The atmosphere of the zoo is also very beautiful. It is a small park, but it very well maintained. The greenery is very pretty, with plenty of shady areas to sit. They also have a snack bar with a full menu and a picnic area for those who want to bring their lunches in.
What I really love about the zoo is you do not have to plan your whole day around going here. It is large enough to keep your children entertained, but small enough that the whole visit takes only as long as you want it to. We went yesterday and spent about 2 hours leisurely walking our way through. And with the low admission price, you don't feel guilty only spending a short amount of time here.
We really love going here and I would recommend the Cosley Zoo to anyone with young children. It is really a great place to spend the day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Tuesday Tagalong

If you are finding me through this weeks Tuesday Tagalong, thanks for stopping by. My blog is Brand New and I am hoping to get some new followers this week. Be sure to leave me a comment so I can follow you back. All my current followers, be sure to check out the Tuesday Tagalong as well.

Tuesday Tag-Along

Monday, June 28, 2010

Curried Chicken Salad Wraps

These are one of the dishes that I am making this year for our Family 4th of July Picnic. I have made them before and they are a real crowd-pleaser so I thought I would share the recipe with anyone who wants to make them for their own event.

3 whole or 6 split chicken breasts, bone-in, skin on
Olive oil
Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1/3 cup white grape juice
1/4 cup chutney(like Major Grey's)
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 cup whole roasted, salted cashews
8 burrito sized flour tortillas

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Place the chicken breasts on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just cooked. Set aside until cool enough to handle. When it has cooled, remove the meat from the bones, discard the skin, and dice the chicken into large bite-sized pieces.

For the dressing, combine the mayonnaise, grape juice, chutney, curry powder, and 1 1/2 tsp. salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until smooth.

Combine the chicken with enough dressing to moisten well. Add the celery and scallions and mix well. Refrigerate for a few hours to allow the flavors to blend. Add the cashews.

Fill each tortilla with about a cup of the chicken salad and roll up. Cut up into 2 inch pieces and serve.

Note: To save time you can use pre-cooked rotisserie chicken instead of roasting your own and you can omit the nuts if someone is allergic.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"The Look" Decoded

In my post about our attempt at gymnastics class yesterday, I talked briefly about "the look" that other parents give you when your child acts out in public. The look that basically says, "My child would never act in that way." Well, while we were out and about today Peanut had a few freak outs and as I looked around I saw several distinct "looks" from several distinct groups of people that I would like to decode now.

1. The look from the two college aged girls in the mall says (think Paris Hiltonesque accent) "Oh my God! Look at that kid! Thank God we don't have kids. There is no way I am having kids till I'm like 35 and even then they will never have temper tantrums in public."

2. The look from the elderly couple at the next table in the restaurant says (think grizzled old man accent) "In my day when a child had a temper tantrum in public all we had to do was give them a good, hard public spanking that way they will learn their lesson. Parents these days. Thank God we are done raising kids."

3. The look from the mother with the two teenagers walking down the sidewalk says "Oh I've been there although I would never really admit it to anyone. Thank God my kids are out of that phase. Now they just silently hate me."

4. The look from the wealthy couple laying on beach chairs by the pool says "Look at those parents. Our kids never act like that in public. Or maybe they do. I'll have to ask Katie when we get home. Thank God for nannies."

I'm sure there are many more but these are just the few looks that I have managed to decode going through my day today. If you can think of any more looks, please leave me a comment.

The bottom line is this: babies cry, toddlers have tantrums, and older kids misbehave in public. And I can say from experience that 95% of the parents involved in caring for them are doing the best they can. We don't want to disrupt your shopping, dining experience, or relaxation time. But sometimes kids freak out.

One other thing: at any stage in our lives we have all stared at a screaming baby or toddler in a restaurant and without even knowing it, silently judged the parents of that child for their behavior. I know I have, especially before I had kids. But maybe the next time we catch ourselves doing it, we should turn our look into a smile and give the parents the look that says "Hey, we've all been there."

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gymnastics Class: The Failed Experiment

So as my daughter has now fully entered the "terrible twos" I am constantly trying to find activities that not only keep her busy but also don't piss her off. On any given day you can find me playing outside the house in the yard, at the pool, at the playground, or at the mall, generally with Peanut on the ground next to me having a temper tantrum. She really does like to be active and run around, and she loves to climb on things and try to do headstands. I thought the perfect idea would be to get her into a gymnastics class. After all, my sisters and I all took gymnastics when we were younger and loved it. And I wasn't looking for anything too serious, just maybe a little structure to get her comfortable with being at the gym. So I found a gym close to us that offered a 45 minute parent and tot under 3 class and thought that would be perfect. Being pregnant and not knowing how much physicality would be required on my part, I decided to take Peanut to the Saturday morning class so that my hubby could come with me and help me out if need be. They also allowed us to participate in the first class for free, and I am really glad they did. We got there and filled out her information and waited for the class to start. We were instructed to take our shoes off and that is when the meltdown happened. Peanut had a complete conniption when she had to take her sandals off. I mean FREAKED out. So I let her hold onto them as we went into the gym. The first activity they had us do was run in a circle. Peanut was not having it. She again freaked out and proceeded to follow my husband around in the circle crying the whole time. Then came the looks from the other parents. I never get that. Surely every parent has had the opportunity to experience their child freaking out at an inappropriate time, yet they always give other parents "the look" when those children are misbehaving. You know "the look" like "Well my child would never behave that way." Yeah right lady, thanks. I decided to try and stick it out with Peanut and see if she would loosen up. Not so much. By the time we were on the floor doing stretches, Peanut had had enough. She was crying and climbing up the front of me on the floor, all while myself and my husband were doing stretches that we hadn't done since high school gym class. We gave each other a look and knew it was time to leave. I told the teacher that maybe we would try it another time and she said that sometimes it takes kids a few times to get used to it. I really hope so. Mostly I was happy that I didn't have to pay for the 10 minutes of Peanut freaking out in the middle of a gymnastics gym. Oh well, back to the drawing board I guess.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Secret Fit Panty Shaper: A product that I love

Being 7 months pregnant, I don't always feel that glamourous. In fact most days I don't feel glamourous at all. So when I had to attend a wedding last weekend, I was dreading it. Not because I don't like weddings. In fact, I love weddings. It was because I knew I had to wear a dress. I don't know if any of you other women out there have ever had to find an affordable, semi-formal maternity dress but I can tell you right now that they don't exist. I looked at every store possible and the only maternity dresses I found were something a 45 year old elementary school teacher would wear. I knew I really wanted a black or black and white dress so on a whim I decided to check out White House/Black Market for a dress. Not a maternity store, not even a store I had ever bought a dress from. I happened to find a really great long black and white patterened dress that worked perfectly as a maternity dress due to the empire waste. Only thing was, I hated how my hips and thighs looked in the dress. I bought the dress anyway and decided to see if I could find a maternity shaper that worked with it.

I found the Secret Fit Panty Shaper at Motherhood Maternity and could not have been more pleased. The panty fit from mid thigh all the way up to my bra line. I was worried because I didn't want anything to feel like it was constricting me. To the contrary, this shaper made everything feel as though it was being held in and supported. The dress looked great on that night and I felt really confident. The shaper also helped support my belly and really took away any back or side pains so I could dance with my husband all night. The fabric breathed really well so I never felt like I was overheating. I would recommend this shaper to any pregnant woman out there, for a special occasion or even under everyday clothing just to smooth out your clothing's appearance. Let's face it. Anything that can make us feel a little more confident while we are pregnant is a good thing. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think. If you have tried any other pregnancy shaper that worked for you, let me know.

How to Terrify Your Daughter Without Really Trying

So last night when we put Peanut to bed we realized that Cash, one of our dogs, was still laying in her bed. We decided, for fear of waking her up, that we would let him sleep in her bed. After all, what was the worst that could happen? She loves snuggling with him during the day and now is so proud that she can even say his name. So we went to bed 2am awoke to the sounds of our daughter screaming. You see, when you are a two year old who is not used to a dog sleeping in your bed, it may terrify you when what you believe is one of your stuffed animals starts to move. And, seeing as Cash is all black, it may terrify you even more when a black figure mysteriously moves around in your bed. So as my wonderful husband leaped out of bed to see what was the matter, Peanut was running toward him from her room. He put her back into bed, put Cash in our bed, and all was calm again. Oh well, lesson learned. Do not allow dog to sleep in a two year-old's bed. Got to add that one to my list.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Naptime is My Nemesis

So every since Peanut was born, she has never been a napper. Or should I say an independent napper. Oh, she took naps alright. Only when she was a baby she was firmly attached to my boob. Then as she got older she fell asleep in her infant car seat and I could bring her into stores or back into the house with no problem. She never, I mean never, took a nap in her crib or pack and play. I tried so many times to get her to sleep in her crib. I would let her cry it out, sometimes for hours on end. She would take a small nap here or there, but never the hour or more that I desperately needed.
Now we are in the beginnings of the terrible twos and the nap problem is rearing its ugly head again. The problem is now we have moved her into a big-girl bed in preparation for new baby's arrival. Nap time now involves me putting her in her bed, waiting for her to fall asleep, and then trying like a CIA operative to stealthily sneak out of her room, praying that I do not step on a creak on the floor. But, as most often happens when you live in a 100+ year old house with all wood floors, the floor creaks and Peanut wakes up. And then I am in for it. See Peanut will sleep, only as long as I am lying on the floor next to her, holding her hand the entire time. Yeah, I'm not going to be doing that. Seeing as there are a million and one things that need to get done around the house, including eating a meal without having to share it or using the bathroom with out the door open to name a few. And on top of that, I am seven months pregnant and would like to occasionally take a nap that doesn't involve being curled up on the floor of my daughter's room like a dog. So most days recently involve the biggest temper tantrum in the world complete with head banging on the floor and her door which inevitably leads to her passing out in a heap of tears in front of her door and me ready to pull my hair out. I spoke with the pediatrician about the head banging and she said it was perfectly normal and the only way to stop it was to ignore it. Yeah, not my daughter. She will bang her head until it is black and blue to get her way. So for now I am at a loss. I am trying to be more patient and understanding, but all I really want is a cocktail. I am praying for the day that the nap thing will one day click. For now, in the battle of wills, Peanut is winning.