Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chicago Tourism

View of the Downtown Skyline from Museum Campus

In November, I had a friend come visit for 6 days and we did everything on the City Pass, just without buying the city pass. Stacy Jinks Hunt and I went to music school together at the University of Utah. We did our Junior Recital together, sung duets, sang in choir together- basically spent a lot of wonderful time together. She went on a mission to Italy, and while she was gone I married Nick. Then she got back and married Oscar and moved to Oregon, so we haven't seen a lot of each other lately. On her visit, Stacy took our group pictures, so I didn't have a single of picture of her to show you- I'll have to ask her for those.
Stacy actually came to town for an opera audition, but that was done within about 12 hours of her arrival, so the rest of the week was just for fun. Saturday night we went to the Hancock Observatory for the night view of Chicago and then had the best deep dish Pizza ever at Uno's. We kept Henry out until midnight, which I admit was a little excessive, but he said it was worth it for the spectacular view and the Pizza.

Monday we went to the Museum of Science and Industry. As many times as I have been there, it was the first time I'd taken the submarine tour which was totally worth the $7. It's basically my favorite place on earth.

Tuesday is what really wore us out. The museums of "Museum Campus" were all having Community Days, where you get basic admission for free. So for just the cost of parking ($17) we saw the top floor of the aquarium, the exhibits of the planetarium (Henry's favorite part was the slide above), and as much of the Field Museum as we had time for.
These stuffed Panda's have been on display in the field museum since the 1930's. They were hunted down and shot by Teddy Roosevelt's sons, because in 1930 it was considered very manly to kill Pandas.
I love this walrus skeleton. The analogous structures of the hands and feet are so similar to humans, but are totally hidden by its flippers.

Henry and I were beat, so Wednesday Stacy took the train downtown to see the Institute of Art and Millennium Park. Henry only lasts about 10 minutes in an art museum these days, so it was nice that Stacy was able to spend a whole afternoon there. That evening we all went to Giordano's (even Nick) for a farewell dinner. The Pizza was good, but could not top the Pesto-based Pizza we had at Uno's.
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Monday, November 22, 2010

Virginia is for Friends

A couple of weeks ago I went to visit my friend Janette in the Norfolk, Virginia area. The hardest part about leaving St. Louis was leaving the people. I plan to visit St. Louis before the end of the year, but so many of our friends moved at the same time we moved- you can never go home again. Another huge batch of my friends moves away from STL this summer, so I have go back a couple times before then.

So visiting Janette and her two girls was a huge treat. There were also very occasional sightings of her surgical intern husband. We spent a week there and it was so nice to be with another adult all day, not to mention that Janette's one of my favorite people ever. During the week we spent a lot of time in their beautiful home, hosted preschool, and visited the aquarium.

Henry generously shared his cold with the girls, after a little boy generously shared it with Henry at church. But karma is out there somewhere, so we came home with a different cold. So, sorry Miss M about the runny nose. That's all our fault.
Henry loved the aquarium, pointing at the fish and watching the people. He wasn't as interested in Colonial Williamsburg, and so he tried to steal some old guy's scooter in order to make an escape attempt. He would have been content just to play with the girls' toys all week. They have a horse on springs just like the Wheadon's had when I was growing up. He also loved their slide. The stroller was loved a little too much- Henry would freak out if anyone touched it, so it got put away for the rest of our visit. He is not good at sharing, and was constantly taking toys away from Miss M, who then generally looked sad but didn't do anything about it. He tried to take away a helicopter from a girl during the preschool session, who put up a real fight. If it hadn't been my kid causing the problem, I would have loved to just watch those two wrestle for it. They were both very determined and adult intervention was necessary. As it stands, we're continuing to work on the problem.
On our way to the airport, we visited their botanical gardens. Of course they were beautiful, but Henry's favorite part is the playground. After he came down the slide, I realized there was a problem with his diaper. See how his right pant leg (our left) has a bit of bulk to it? Yeah, that is his diaper around his ankle. I have no idea how that happened. A quick diaper and outfit change later, he was back on the playground.
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Our New Roof

Our new roof was installed last week. Buying a new roof is a very un-exciting way to spend money. Once you've spent the money, you have a roof. Which is what you had before you started, this one's just newer. We knew when we moved here we'd have to get a new roof within three years. The home inspector said he would do it Summer 2011 if it were his house. However, after we'd moved in our insurance company said they'd cancel our policy if we didn't replace it before December. The contractors who came to look at our roof said they were being ridiculous- they agreed with the home inspector. However, now it's done and I can stop worrying about it.

The picture above is the roof installation in progress. The new shingle has been laid on the main section of the roof, and you can compare it with the older orange shingle on the small section of old roof on the first floor.
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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Halloween Madness

The day before Halloween, we had a "Trunk-or-Treat" with our ward. The party was held at the church, had activities and chili first, then ended with passing out candy in the parking lot. Henry had no interest in going car to car for treats, but ended up helping Nick pass out candy from our undecorated trunk. Henry is wearing an elephant costume, which is even cuter when he wears the hood part of it. I wore my Snow White dress, Nick wore clothes. To the kid getting candy: Where's your costume? Holding a toy sword is not a costume.

On Halloween, we were totally surprised by the volume of trick-or-treaters. Our neighbor had warned us, "We go through bags and bags of candy, then pretend we're not home." As a result, I bought what I thought was a lot of candy. I bough a few bags of fun size bars, some bags of bite size bars, and then as back-up, a couple hundred suckers. The trick-or-treating started as 3:30, and about 6:30, we turned off our lights and pretended to be not at home because all of the candy was gone. We spent about $70 on candy and had still run out. The saddest part of it was there was no candy for us to eat- no leftovers, and Henry had never collected any.

We estimate we had between 450-500 trick-or-treaters. One odd thing- a lot of adults were collecting candy. I don't know if it's something lost in cultural translation, but I thought it was just for kids. So a lot of adults would have their own bag for collecting that they'd put out for their treat, in addition to their toddler's treat bag. We had a few adults who had no kids in sight. I'm a little astonished by that. Of course, you always get kids and teens who you think, "aren't they a little old for this?" but I guess in this area, age knows no limits.

This neighborhood goes all out for Halloween. A lot of families have really elaborate decorations for the holiday, and in the past the neighborhood has even done a two block long spook alley. So between that and the front doors being only thirty feet apart, it makes us the perfect Halloween destination. We could quickly tell that the vast majority of our visitors were not from this neighborhood. For one thing, our tiny 6-block neighborhood doesn't have 500 kids total. But also the ethnicity of our visitors didn't match the demographics of the neighborhood.

So next year, we will buy more candy and we may still run out of it before the night is over.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Our Mute Boy

Henry uttered his first word- Caesar- seemingly forever ago. His vocabulary has been very slow to grow. He will say momma and dadda when prompted, but he doesn't initiate it. There is a particular grunt that I usually recognize as he wants whatever it is that I have. He yells "Dee!" whenever he does something like a body-slam or tackle. Everything else he needs or wants is covered with a generic grunt that's like saying "uh" over and over again. He's not exactly the most verbal child ever.

So Nick was surprised last week when Henry saw a picture of a flower and said "flower" clearly enough that it could be understood as an English word by a casual listener. Nick wondered why would that be the new word he would add to his vocabulary when he still doesn't say things that he wants all the time like milk or ball or car. I had a simple explanation. All summer I've tried to keep Henry from picking the flowers in the yard, or more accurately, pulling the petals off the flowers. Thousands of times this summer he has heard "Be nice to the flowers," or "Don't touch the flowers," or "Stop killing the flowers please." We've gone over what to do and not to do to the flowers a lot.

He may have learned to identify them, but he still hasn't learned not to touch them. We were outside today, and it was if he made a bee-line to pull the petals off the one flowering plant we have left. I guess we'll try again this spring.
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

He Seems So Serious

His last canine has finally broken through his gums. I'm hoping to have a much happier kid now. He's been Dr. Toddler/Mr. Hyde the last week, so I'm excited to have a happy Henry return.
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Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A Return to Real Life

Nick is on call right now, which means by the time he gets home tomorrow he will have worked for thirty hours, likely without any sleep.  He returned to work Monday after two-weeks of vacation.  We spent the first week in Utah with our families.  Highlights included the annual Ashworth Halloween party, shooting handguns at the Lion's Club Range, sleeping in every morning, and lots of cold diet coke.  I took pictures, but then left them in Utah, so just imagine that we were having a great time and looked like we stepped out of a Banana Republic catalog.  Cause, that's how we usually look.

We came home with a sick baby and a very relaxed dog.  The baby had a bit of a meltdown on the plane- hey guy with the C boarding pass sitting next to us- you got an aisle seat- that's worth something, but was it worth this??  You could have chosen a center seat somewhere else.  Just saying.

We spent the second week of vacation continuing to sleep in, taking naps, watching a couple of movies, and doing a few local fun things.  Most importantly we celebrated my birthday by painting our family room.  We started wall prep the night before and continued in the morning after a leisurely breakfast.  We had everything ready so as soon as Henry was napping our first coat was going on the wall.  It was our first time using Behr's new paint and primer-in-one.  Considering we were covering green sponge painting (blech!) it did a fantastic job.  The second coat was needed to get rid of visible brush strokes.  I no longer walk into our living room finding myself overwhelmed with its hideousness.  Instead, the walls are a beautiful light beige that will be a nice backdrop for the things we will put on and in front of the walls.  Pictures to come.  I'm in a photo rut and haven't taken any pictures I like recently, I'll work on trying harder.

On a side note- I've started a "Bad Picture a Day" blog.  Most of the pictures are phone pictures, featuring Henry as the main subject.  There is a link on the side of the blog to the most recent pictures.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What Happened Here?

Very sorry to tell you kid, this basket is a little out of your reach.
I'm pretty sure that's mud on your bottom, which is a relief.
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Thursday, September 30, 2010

A Favorite Painting

It's a portrait by John Singer Sargent, at the Art Institute of Chicago. It's one of the many beautiful things I saw when I visited there with my St. Louis friend Bonnie on Tuesday. She and her family spent Monday and Tuesday night with us, so Tuesday we went out on the town.

Our beautiful day was slightly marred when we returned to my car after visiting the museum. The parking enforcer had left a ticket on my windshield-not for being illegally parked, but for having tinted windows. The fine is $250, which hurts. So today, I hate the city of Chicago and Richard M. Daley, Mayor.
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Friday, September 17, 2010

Utah Highlights

W, my nephew

Henry, Caesar and I went to Utah for a week. Here are some of the highlights:

We visited all first degree relatives, saw a few second degree ones too.

Had lunch with a few friends, including Jessica R. S. and Christy R. C. There are lots of friends I'm hoping to catch in the next visit or two (for example, Sarah and Sara.) We did catch my mom's quarterly luncheon with her childhood friends, which is always too much fun.

We went to the Utah State Fair. I hadn't been in years. Henry had his first trip down the big yellow slide. Nick said he doesn't get emotional over many things, but he was very sad to have missed the first yellow slide experience. Henry's favorite thing at the fair was the chapstick I bought. He took the lid off and put it back on repeatedly, until he finally lost the lid, then he focused on eating the chapstick.

Had a sweet pork burrito from Costa Vida, but someone stole my leftovers which put on damper on the experience. Also, I ate one of their delicious coconut Popsicles.

Shopped at NPS, where I bought Henry a jacket for $3.50. Henry had a haircut by his aunt Samantha at her beauty college. He basically took it like a boss. She also straightened my hair, which made me realize how much my current haircut is not working. I haven't done anything to change it yet, other than find a barrette.

I used my mom's "On Demand" to watch an episode of "Burn Notice," which naturally makes me think of my grandma. Oddly enough, it was her favorite show (what can I say, she was very modern.)

I am now scared to drive on Utah freeways at night. People are going upwards of 70mph, and in Utah County, the freeway is pitch black. That's so different than it is here, where 55 mph feels like speeding and everything's bright.

Of course, there were lots of things I wanted to do that we didn't. Hopefully we'll get them done soon.
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Neighborhood Adventures

I dropped our car off at the dealer this morning for a repair. It's been making a horrible noise when you turn (power steering problem) but of course, it wasn't making the noise as I drove it the single mile to the dealer, and now they can't get it to make the noise either. I left the car with them, and went next door to Goodwill and then Aldi. I then had the stroller covered in shopping bags, perhaps looking a little homeless, except there was an actual child and not a bag of cans sitting in the stroller.

We passed McDonald's on the way home, so I bought a drink but faced terrible disappointment. Not only was the drink flat, but an older lady spilled coffee on my foot and sandal. She picked her tray up from the counter, loosely, with one hand, and the drink crashed on the floor. My foot was only splashed, so there was no real injury, but that coffee is one degree away from molten lava. If you are going to buy hot coffee, pick up the tray with both hands. A few minutes later, I saw her where they keep the ketchup. Her tray was covered with coffee- she had spilled the second cup of coffee they served her, just on her tray this time. Two hands, lady!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Blogging in the Sky

I'm in a chair in the sky, going 500 miles an hour. For $5, I have Internet on my southwest flight from Denver to Chicago-Midway. I didn't need it, but I bought it because I COULD. It's my first wifi plane. Henry and caesar are both asleep. Best flight ever.

How I Learned to Drive

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Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Photographic Evidence

I finally found photographic evidence that I was once a baby. I had been suspecting that I didn't exist until I was about 12 (because I've seen pictures from that age.)
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Saturday, September 11, 2010

After His Haircut

Henry had a haircut yesterday, given by Nick's sister Samantha. It was very successful. Three months ago we tried there, but he had just woken up from a nap and it did not go well. This time he was well rested, fed, had a lollipop an ipod and a pez dispenser. It went much better- there was no screaming and his hair looks great.

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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day at the Museum

Me, my new friend, and our two kids reflected in "the Bean."

My new friend Emily and I went to the Art Institute today. As usual, the museum had many beautiful treasures. I found a painting by one of my favorite artists, Bouguereau, that I hadn't known they owned. We hurried (because Henry was only going to last so long) to hit some of the most famous highlights of the museum: Nighthawks by Edward Hopper, American Gothic by Grant Wood, the impressionist collection, and the portraits by Sargent. When Henry was showing signs of meltdown, we went outside and ate lunch by "the bean," whose real name is Cloud Gate.

Emily in front of the museum, from accross the street. On the way home, I took Emily to Aldi for her first visit/orientation- sort of Aldi Shopping 101. I love introducing people to Aldi. On our way home, H and I stopped at CVS, where our new insurance forces us to fill his prescription. Aside from our new copay being ridiculously high, the experience was SO MUCH BETTER than I've ever had a Walgreen's. In St. Louis, you could never just drop your prescription off and pick it up in a single visit. Four hours seemed to be the minimum turnover time, and that's the time they would tell you, but it would actually be longer. We were in and out with the filled prescription in twenty-minutes. I've never tested her wisdom on this before, but Heidi C was completely right- CVS was so much better.
When we got home, Caesar showed that he had really missed us. We'd been gone practically all day.
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Saturday, September 4, 2010

To The Rescue

One of my favorite St. Louis people is in town, visiting her husband's family. Natalie sneaked away in the wee hours of the morning (9:00) to come over to my house. I was very excited, but also very conniving. I knew Natalie has experience and taste in painting, and we all know from the pictures of my living room that I need to do some painting. She took the bait, and within moments of coming into the house, was throwing tape on the wall to create sections for sample painting. I've been accumulating samples since moving here, but I've been worried that I'll never actually make a decision.
Natalie showed me a lot of painting tricks, and in no time, she had the paint sample up and there was no mess anywhere. A lot of the tricks are to contain the mess before it even starts. This is something that would be very good for me to learn in many aspects of my life.
Here are the paint samples. Click on the picture for a larger view. There is now a poll on the blog, to ask your opinion of which color I should use. The poll is non-binding, but I'm very susceptible to peer pressure. Natalie and I felt really great about one of the colors, but then Nick came home and disagreed. In fact, he doesn't think any of them are good enough. In his view, the perfect color would be between the Toasted Cashew and Hush. Hush is a Benjamin Moore color, and the rest are Behr.

Vote in the poll, and share your thoughts in the comments section.
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Monday, August 30, 2010


Click on the photo for a larger view.

I was excited to swap out old pictures for new ones in our wall display. Nick liked the new one on the right, but didn't care so much for the one on the left.

I still need to pick a wall color- desperately. I am just overwhelmed by all the options, and am paralyzed by indecision. I'm afraid that I'll commit to something, and that it will be wrong. I just need to reassure myself that, no matter what I pick, it cannot possibly be any uglier than what is already on the wall.
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The House Always Wins

We've had an ant problem here since about two hours after we'd moved in. We didn't even have any food in the house when we first saw them crawling over the sink and counter. The commercial baits we bought did not interest them. They happily crawled around them and continued to look for even the smallest crumb on the counter. First battle was a win for the ants.

However, the war was not over. Janette had an ant problem last year, which was quickly solved with household items. Step one: puree hot dog. (I actually minced it, because I didn't want to wash the food processor). Step two: Mix three parts hot dog puree with one part borax (sold as a laundry additive, it's cheap too.) Step three: Watch ants as they swarm on the mixture and carry the poison back to their home to share with the queen. Step four: Notice there are no more ants around after a couple of days.
(A variation on this formula can be made by using honey instead of hot dog, if that's what your ants prefer.)

So, we got rid of the ants on the counter, and that was great. But then a couple of weeks later, a new batch of ants figured out where the dog food bowl is, which is also next to where Henry eats. It became very bad very quickly. By the time Henry was done with lunch, the bits he had dropped would be covered with ants. I think ants were eating more dog food than the dog was. The challenge was to put the poison on the floor in a way the ants could get it but dogs and babies couldn't.

Add another step: Cut little entrance holes in the bottom of a sour cream container (or similar). Put the bait inside, and replace the lid. The ants can now crawl in, but larger creatures can't get to the poison. Borax is only mildly toxic to mammals, but I still don't want any little mammals here eating borax-laced hot dog.

We had one more ant breakout in our bedroom. I had thrown away a cup that had once had ice cream in it, in our bedroom wastebasket. I did not know this was the ant equivalent of Disneyland. They came in a dramatic swarm and were all over the garbage and adjacent nightstand. I was grossed out. I made a batch of ant bait, put it in the sour cream container, and waited. Six hours later they were swarming (see photo). The next day they were gone.

I win.
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Monday, August 23, 2010

Block Party

On Saturday, the next street over had a block party. We had been invited to stop by, so we went and had some cotton candy. It was so hot and humid, that it turned into a ball of goo in about 2 minutes. Henry didn't exactly get the concept of the bounce house ball pit. Then a bunch of tween girls got in and were throwing the balls at each other, which made it even less fun for H. The saddest part is, he wouldn't even touch the cotton candy. He doesn't know what he's missing.

We only know 4 people on that street, and none of them were there at the time. I had been hoping to meet people, but ended up not actually talking to anyone. I'm still working on getting to know my neighbors, and obviously I need to try a little harder.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Foreign Concept

We had a family outing to the zoo today. Nick had a rare day off, of sorts. Nick had to go to work at 6:00 PM, and then work until tomorrow around lunch. At the zoo, the Henry got to pet a guinea pig, but the rule was you could only pet it with one finger. Nick and the zoo docent got Henry model just one finger, and every time he would pet the animal, he would bring out the rest of the fingers right as he touched the fur. Very sneaky, or more likely, he just doesn't have clue.
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Sunday, August 15, 2010

We Named Our Son Jennifer

When I was in junior high, it seems all of my friends were named Jennifer.  In addition to having a bff/cousin Jennie, my friends at school were Jen A. and Jen S., and in high school, Jen H and a few more Jens, Jennys, and Jennifers.  Point being, I knew a lot of Jennifers and they were generally wonderful people, but it could get a little confusing.

When Nick and I were expecting, we considered the popularity of a name.  Because our last name is Johnson, we figured we needed an unpopular name so there wouldn't be two "Jennifer Johnson" kids in a kindergarten class.  So, we went old school.  We went for a name that I had never met someone under fifty using.  Neither of us went to school with a Henry.  We had no friends or relatives named Henry.  It was ranked in the 80's on the social security list, between some names I'd never heard people use.  The only Henry I knew the first few months of our baby's life was the octogenarian Henry in my camera club.  I thought his generation's "Jennifer" was going to be William or Aidan.

What I didn't realize, and perhaps couldn't see coming, is that we were using a name that was on an up-swing.  After he was born, we would meet people that would say "My niece just named her baby Henry last week." I've met other Henry's at the playground, the zoo, and the grocery store.  A friend recently posted pictures on facebook of her son (who has the same name as Dallas's youngest that I thought would be really uncommon) with her nephew-that's right- Henry.

By trying to go just slightly off the beaten path, we've ending up in the middle of a herd of people just like us, who all have boys with the name equivalent of Jennifer.

PS- To my Jen friends, it is a great name, and you're great too.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Stages of Waking

They say there are five stages to mourning. I'm not sure how many stages there are in the process of waking up from a nap. It begins with gentle stirring from sleep, then some stuff happens in the middle, then acceptance.

Click on photo for larger view.
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