Category Archives: socializing

Advice From A Five Year Old

Advice From A Five Year Old

We were at the playground the other day and one of the kids there… well. He’s a bit of a dick. He’s 7 or so and enough of a bully that the other kids have completely turned on him. It came to a fever pitch a few weeks ago when every single kid on the playground (maybe 10?) cornered him, chanting a name-rhyming-taunt. His behavior hasn’t improved since then, and has included stealing Niko’s shoes, shoving him down, and slapping him on the back of the head in passing. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that 1) his mom doesn’t do ANYTHING about his behavior other than mild “now now, CHILD’S NAME, that’s not how we act” (when, uh, obviously it is?) and 2) Niko gets along with that kid’s younger sister and likes playing with her.

So anyway, most recent playground outing, those two kids were there with one of their babysitters (and their babysitters are much more hands on and disciplinarian than either of their parents) and Older Kid was being a real terror including chasing people around and kicking them. Like, kicking them in the chest/arms, aiming for their heads. Babysitter pulls him aside and starts trying to reason with him. “You shouldn’t kick and hit your friends!” “Oh, it’s ok, he’s not my friend.” “So you were just… you were just attacking him? Child’s Name, that is NOT right.”

It was at this point that Niko butted in, all concerned.

“You know, Child’s Name, if you weren’t so HORRIBLE all the time, maybe everybody wouldn’t HATE YOU.”

While true, that’s not really an appropriate thing to say, you know?

Later on, that child tried to join in an impromptu soccer game. The other kids ignored him entirely as he chased them around, tried to hog the ball, and bragged about how long he’d been playing soccer on a team (again, he’s S E V E N, it’s not like he can possibly have been playing THAT LONG), eventually breaking down in tears when everybody managed to keep the ball from him. Every single kid in the group was one he’d physically harmed that day, as best as I can tell with no provocation whatever.

It’s kind of hard to watch. It’s like watching someone repeatedly bashing their head against a brick wall trying to get through the wall when there’s a door right there. Unlocked. Not even fully closed. Just push it open. I don’t know why he acts the way he does… is he acting out? Terrible at reading social cues? Ignorant? A massive entitled jerk? He’s in a Gifted school, so at the very least he… uh. Takes standardized tests well. I just don’t get it. And it’s hard to watch my kid deal with that, with him, with this out of nowhere aggressive and hurtful behavior. He wants to teach that kid how to be friendly and have friends and get along with everyone and I don’t think there’s any seven year old on earth eager to take social lessons from a five year old who insists his REAL name is Raptor because he has TOE CLAWS and IS A RAPTOR, DUH.

WELL THANK GOD I HAVE ALL THE PARENTING ANSWERS AND MY CHILD IS PERFECT, AT LEAST.

In other news, we’re finally repainting Niko’s room over the holiday weekend. We have all the paint and supplies, including spackle. We’d been putting this off because we want to gut his room, upgrade the wiring, and install soundproof insulation and possibly refinish his floor but… if we wait until we have the money and time to do ALL THAT it will never get done. So we’re going to screw the wall back to the stud where it’s pulling away (yaaaay hundred old buildings wooooooo), spackle everything up, and slap some paint on. It’ll look a lot nicer when it’s done.

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Adler After Dark: Totally Awesome

Adler After Dark: Totally Awesome

Thanks to IZEA, I was able to snag a friend and go to Adler After Dark yesterday night. I can’t even remember the last time I put on eyeshadow and did a thing that didn’t involve a small child, so it was a VERY welcome break. I double checked my info right before leaving and was stunned and thrilled to find out that the event was a themed Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy event.

Did I bring my towel?

Of course I did.

And then I felt like a big doof because I was the only person lugging a towel around and what kind of dork hauls a towel around with them even if there IS a HGttG event going on? But then I saw these guys:

Two guys dressed as Arthur Dent (robe, towel) at Adler After Dark's Hichhiker's Guide To The Galaxy event.

Two guys dressed as Arthur Dent (robe, towel) at Adler After Dark’s Hichhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy event.

I have not seen that book in years. <3

And then later I saw a bunch more people with towels and felt better, and used the towel as a pad to cushion my butt while sitting on stairs so it DID come in handy, as towels always do.

We hung out on the patio a bit and took some photos of the skyline, like this one:

Chicago's Skyline, taken from the patio of the Adler Planetarium.

Chicago’s Skyline, taken from the patio of the Adler Planetarium.

Chicago is so freaking gorgeous.

We also checked out the big solar system models hanging from the ceiling, like this one:

Part of the Solar System exhibit at Adler Planetarium.

Part of the Solar System exhibit at Adler Planetarium.

And we investigated the Historic Atwood Sphere which is a year long astronomy display and discussion in ten minutes. It’s a big globe of really thin metal with holes punched through it, replicating a starry sky. Living in Chicago, with all the light pollution we have, we don’t see that many stars. I remember the first time Nesko took me to my parents’ home and saw the sky, all lit up. It was impressive, a flash back to his own childhood vacations in Wisconsin. This was a nice flash back. Also: some of the stars portrayed are no longer visible to us because they’ve died and their light no longer reaches us. HISTORY. The Sphere usually involves a special ticket that cost $6, I’m really glad we were able to see it.

One thing I thought was really cool was an Armillary that transforms into an Astrolabe. How cool is that? Very cool.

Armillary

Armillary

Astrolabe

Astrolabe

There was so much to see, and we didn’t manage to see it all. There were science talks and displays and shows, so much going on!

We also got to see a special sneak preview of Project 891 Theatre Company’s “Jim and Dave(‘s blood meets Jupiter),” a funny buddy comedy intergalactic road trip musical that will be premiering in… August? Maybe? I couldn’t find information about upcoming shows, but we have tentative plans to check it out. It shared a lot of effortless-seeming absurd comedy with HGttG.

I haven’t been to Adler in about five years, and forgot just how great it is. The 146 bus drops off at the front door, but there’s also a small parking lot close by (we paid $13 for night time parking, I think it’s a little more for day time parking). If you’re interested in visiting Adler, their admission information page is here and really clear to read, unlike some museums we’ve looked at recently. They have a lot of super fun looking special events. Niko’s big love right now is Dinosaurs, with Trains a close second, but outer space is not far behind at all. I foresee a membership to Adler in our future.

I really love Chicago, and a big part of that love is how many different awesome museums we have. Sometimes Niko watches “Sid the Science Kid” and the kids troop off to a “Science Center” and I feel a little bummed because we don’t have those in Chicago. But duh, we have That Adler Planetarium, The Museum of Science and Industry, The Field Museum, The Shedd Aquarium, and more.

I am super, super glad I got to attend an Adler After Dark event. I’m excited about upcoming ones, and would love to take Nesko to them as a recurring date night or something. OMG NERRRRRRRDS. They happen once a month, on the third Thursday. Admission is only $12 in advance ($9 for members) or $17 at the door ($12 for members) and includes access to all the exhibits (like the Historic Atwood Sphere, which usually is an additional $6 ticket) and sky shows AND if you have your act together and get there between 6:30 and 7:45 you can check out the Doane Observatory (if you are the type of person who’s late to things, though, you can reserve a space ahead of time).

If you’re in or near Chicago, check this out! It’s well worth a special trip. Just remember it’s 21 and up only, so leave any kids someplace else.

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Nikola is four. FOUR.

Nikola is four. FOUR.

SO.

The child I had surgically removed from my body an eon ago is now FOUR.

We decided to celebrate. I invited way more people than our apartment could comfortably hold and decided on a space theme since Niko is super into the idea of aliens and space exploration right now. Or he was. He quickly vetoed that and wanted OMG TRAINS. He’s still into Thomas and decided that Gordon would be his special birthday friend because Gordon is number 4 and Niko is 4. So I bought some Thomas invitations and we were set.

I set the time of the party for 1:00-4:00 because then we wouldn’t have to provide lunch or dinner, but then I went and blew literally $100.00 on snack-type food (crackers, cheese, crudites, dip, hummus). My MIL brought over her Pita (not the puffed up flat bread, but layered phyllo dough and cheese, or cheese and spinach, or meat, etc. If you’ve had spanikopita (note that pita in there) it’s similar to that but in a log or coiled or round) which was A-MAZE-ING.

I had big plans to spend the week before the party deep cleaning and organizing and getting everything awesome so the week OF the party I’d just have to tidy and maintain. Then I got super sick and spent that week horking out brown slime and complaining about how I wished I was dead, so none of that got done. And the house didn’t get fully cleaned. But I kind of stopped caring.

This was one of our decoration inspirations:

I handed the job over to Nesko while I frosted the cake THE MORNING OF THE PARTY because REASONS that were outside of my control. I also made a zillion cookies… a bunch of tiny engines covered in different colored sugars, and also larger cookies in the shape of an engine, coal tender (I put non pareils on top to be “coal”), a coach, and a caboose. Niko loved them and ate them like this: “oh hey train I’M GONNA EAT YOUR COUPLING NOW! nom nom nom NOW I EAT ALL OF YOU!!”

When he was done, it looked like this:
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Well, actually, we hung a bit more crepe paper in swags on the front, but didn’t take any photos of that. I wanted more balloons all over the top but the balloons kept falling down. Nesko couldn’t figure out how to get them to stay up. Was our tape bad? Greasy walls? I have no idea.

Here’s the cake!
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Gordon is a splendid blue engine with red detail. His number is yellow and outlined in red. So I carried that over to the cake. I was going to do a red circle around the cake but then decided not to risk shaky hands and a lopsided circle so I didn’t. I also didn’t level the cake so that red ruffle is hiding gaps in the frosting between the two layers. Niko said he wanted strawberry cake. This was a lie.

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My camera is a piece of junk, a point and shoot that takes FOREVER to actually take the photo once you’ve hit the button, and which takes a long time to recover from taking photos. My friend Waldo, who is a photographer, used it and managed to get some good photos despite the limitations of the tool she was using.

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I made 12 chocolate cupcakes, 12 strawberry cupcakes (as requested), and the cake is a layer of chocolate and a layer of strawberry. If I hadn’t been doing the “4” thing on the cake I would have just made cupcakes. They are way easier to serve and eat then slabs of cake. We also picked up ice cream bars so we didn’t have to deal with dishing out scoops of ice cream, but then forgot about them. Uh. Duh. We currently have 10 strawberry cupcakes left over.

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Some of the other kids “helped” Niko open his presents, for varying values of the word “help.” Everything he got was super thoughtful and something he absolutely enjoys. He got a bunch of books which was kind of a problem because he wanted to stop everything and read them. Presents? Who cares about presents? BOOKS.

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Leah made this hat for Niko and I’m hoping that if I am really really nice she’ll make one for me too.

It was a really great time. Some friends were able to come in from out of town, we had some pretty good food even though I didn’t really cook anything.

I think next year I might have a party that’s just kids and make some pizza or something, and then have our adult friends come over the next day for some board games and happy birthday wishes and leftover cake. It was just too many people in our house and it got a little over whelming. It was SUCH a great time, though.

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Parents: please keep your disgusting, germ ridden, plague vectors at home.

Parents: please keep your disgusting, germ ridden, plague vectors at home.

We went to a spring-y party some friends of ours hosted over the weekend, which included a fish release in a pond/canned goods party, brunch, and egg dying. And lots of babies/toddlers. We left before the egg dying because we live about an hour away from them and had to get up very early to make it to the fish release and the egg dying kicked off riiiiiight around nap time. So we scooted on out of there. It was fun, but there was one issue.

One parent brought her two kids, one of whom was getting over a cold and was mobile and putting EVERYTHING into her mouth and sucking/chewing on it (which is, you know, developmentally appropriate) including Niko’s toys. And her infant child sat in a seat and hacked and gagged and snotted and coughed wetly, spreading germs into the air.

Dude. If your kids are sick, please fucking keep them home.

Niko’s been out of sorts and hair-trigger tantrum-y the past few days, and yesterday and today he’s had this croupy phlegmy cough (which involves coughing so hard he can’t breathe, making a face, chewing, and swallowing whatever he just horked up. AWESOME.). He isn’t running a fever (yet) but he seems on the cusp of illness.

And last time he had a lung-involved cold? He stayed sick for a really long time. Because he has asthma. Because this shit settles in his lungs.

So, thanks parent who decided bringing your actively sick kids to a social function was a good idea. Now my kid’s getting sick, and he’s going to be gasping and wheezing for weeks, miserable and unable to breathe.

Shit.

On the other hand, Niko had a blast dumping a bucket of minnows into a pond, played on a brand new playground, played with a bunch of kids at the playground, ran around a jogging trail, ate a bunch of really fresh fruit, and played with a bunch of little kids and practiced sharing toys. He totally didn’t mind that someone else was slobbering all over his beloved Thomas And Friends water squirty tub toy trains, although he got a little possessive over a pink princess ride-on toy. Because, you know. Car. Vroom.

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Blogroll Updates

Blogroll Updates

Hey, all. I updated my blogroll. It’s all the parenting/kid blogs I read that aren’t Live Journal type blogs. If you write a blog, drop a link in comments here so I can check it out! Sometimes reading what other parents are going through is the only thing keeping me from jumping out the window to escape.

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Happy First Birthday! (Party)

Happy First Birthday! (Party)

We had Niko’s first birthday party on Saturday.

I was GOING to make a cake, then cupcakes, ahead of time but I slacked off (and generally didn’t feel well) so wound up making cupcakes using a recipe I’d never used before on Friday night.

They burned.

Just a bit, on the bottoms. Some of them.

We invited something like 30 people. I didn’t know how many out of 24 cupcakes were burnt (we had several vegans who would be eating different cupcakes and some people who don’t eat cake at all coming, so 24 cupcakes for 30 guests would have worked).

Saturday MORNING I dithered around, had no muffin paper cups, and so made an actual two layer cake. I used the same recipe as the night before, and made frosting using an unfamiliar frosting recipe (1 pound milk chocolate, 1/2 pound dark chocolate, 3 sticks of butter, some vanilla). It was very rich and CHOCOLATE-Y, but the frosting was very firm and shiney. It looked (and tasted) great, but in retrospect, should have been soft and fluffy for better baby mashing.

I will post photos later, and possibly a more detailed run down, but I’ve been up since about 4:30 trying not to vomit (food poisoning? GERD? the devil? WHO CAN SAY) and my camera’s in the same room as a sleeping guest and I don’t want to wake her. So I’m just going to post Things I Have Learned.

30 people is too many people for Niko to handle.
There were too many people in our apartment and they were too loud. This is not the fault of the people who were over, Niko simply isn’t used to large groups. I need to expose him to large groups and crowds more, and more strangers. He met (and warmed up to) a LOT of strange folks, and he in general handled it well, but there were some melt downs.
Niko isn’t used to other babies.
Niko wasn’t sure how to react to the other two Tiny People suddenly in his home. One is 5 weeks older than him, the other 2 months younger than him. Both sat on him (at different times) and he cried. One shoved him (lightly) and he cried. There was no hitting or biting that I saw, no real rough play. But he just did not know how to cope. So I need to expose him to more babies/little kids.
Niko is very empathic.
Either Niko is incredibly empathic, or one of the little kids is able to telepathically make other people feel her pain. She took a tumble, falling on her face, and scrambled back up. Niko saw this and started screaming and wailing. Perhaps we should start wearing tinfoil hats around her.
Frosting matters
I made a chocolate cupcake for Niko with chocolate frosting. The frosting was a bit ganache-like and it dried to a beautiful firm, glossy finish. Om nom nom. We gave Niko his cupcake and he didn’t know what to do with it. Was it food? Was he supposed to eat it? Look at it? Nesko turned it over (you could pick them up by their frosted tops, that’s how firm the frosting was) and picked off a bit of tender, crumbly, superchocolatey cupcake and offered it to him and Niko proceeded to mash it into his face (and chest, armpit, pants pockets, shoulders, nose, etc).
Set an end time
Niko is usually super good about falling asleep when people are over, so I didn’t think to set an end time for the party. This was a mistake. In the future, I’m going to set a firm end time of 7:00- 7:30 so that Niko has a chance to wind down a bit and then settle in to bed. He was over stimulated and over tired and had a BIG problem getting to sleep, and then staying asleep. It was very unusual for him. (he also had utterly terrible flatulence, but some of that may have been caused by screaming and swallowing air.)
Have a place for time outs
We tried to keep our room clear and our bed clean for people to go and chill with their kids. The only people who used it were us/Niko. But a few times he needed to be away from the crowd and the noise and someplace that was just more calm.
Cupcakes are awesome
The cake was kind of a pain to slice and serve. Cupcakes can make a really nice visual presentation, and also are single serve and easy to manage. I will probably do cupcakes for the next party we do, and keep a closer eye on them so they don’t burn.

I’d never been to a first birthday before, at least that I remember, or any small child birthday. I guess they usually are very short affairs? We didn’t break into the cake for quite a while, in part because we (where “we” is “I”) were waiting for some guests who were held up to arrive. In retrospect, we should have done cake soon after the bulk of people had arrived, and then done presents, and gotten things done and out of the way. There was a lot of good and awesome socializing that went down and I think everyone had fun, even though there were a bunch of people who didn’t know each other at all who were suddenly thrown together in a noisy place with nothing but cursory introductions. (I understand that people who aren’t me are able to handle such things fairly well, however, so maybe that wasn’t a big deal?)

So, yeah. I have a better idea of what to do for his next birthday. Cupcakes are a super great idea, easier to handle and manage and serve and eat.

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