Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The boy who cries poo

This being a blog with a family (and young child) focus, it was inevitable that we get around to the subject of poo. Here are a few toilet-related anecdotes. 

I was having a shower the other morning and Nic was crawling around the bathroom floor. He got my attention by kicking the bathroom rubbish bin (the metal sound made a great noise against the tiles). I took a peek out to find a very good imitation of the Kleenex / Cottonelle puppy toilet tissue commercial. Nic had caught himself in the toilet paper (bathroom tissue), and this had travelled with him across the floor. He was having a great time (see photo above).

Luc is not yet toilet trained at this stage. He has shown absolutely no interest in being trained. So, we have taken the advice of many a wise parent and carer and not bothered. We haven’t even bought a potty – since it was explained that it was easier in the long run, without. 

I have an open door policy whenever I go to the toilet. This is particularly important in public toilets, so it happens at home too, although Paul is not so keen on it! Whenever I flush the toilet, for whatever reason, Luc exclaims “Good-bye Poo” or (to my horror) “See you later Poo!” This happens in public toilets too – which can be rather embarrassing! 

It is amazing the lengths children will go to gain attention. I’m sure that every parent has experienced the child that needs to be picked up / fed / read to / cuddled / supervised / dressed… as soon as one picks up the telephone to make a phone call. When Luc needs attention, he tells us “Poo!” We ask if he has done one, he says “yes”, but when we inspect, there is no poo in sight. Luc – 1, Parents – 0.  Since a recent bout of vomiting, Luc’s attention seeking repertoire has extended to include, “Mummy, Daddy, I burp… in the bucket” which has seen us jump to lesser heights the more we have heard it.  

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Reduce, reuse, recycle

When we first arrived in Chicago, we were living in an apartment block. All our waste was put into a receptacle in the hall that took everything away down a garbage / rubbish / trash chute… never to be seen again. It was all very convenient, but we started to have a mounting pile of recyclables in our kitchen. I am so used to sorting refuse, it was against all my principles to include glass, tin, paper and plastic items with general household waste. My parents were responsible for ingraining these principles: we had a compost container, newspaper pile, different bins for recyclables, and general waste, even a container for food waste to go to the birds. Even when living in Brisbane, we had a separate bin for recyclable products (and a compost heap for some time – that sprouted several trees!) Most containers and packages have a recycle logo and plastic products have a number to define the plastic type. I am still scanning all containers in the hope of finding a recycling logo. The majority of packaging here does not carry this. 

Old habits die hard and I tried to find out a way to manage recyclable goods. I have seen a couple of recycling stations. These are no good for a cold climate or for people without cars, let alone the motivation that is required to transport goods to such a service. Someone mentioned to me that there was a ‘blue bag’ program for recycling waste. I had no idea what this meant so I did quite a bit of searching but found it difficult to find any clear information. I ended up buying some blue bags from Peapod (online grocery delivery service). Apparently, the blue bags can be filled with recyclable goods and these are then sorted (by some unfortunate soul) from general refuse. Different bags are to be used for paper goods, plastic / tin / glass / aluminium, and garden waste. Nowhere on the bags or the box that they come in, is the need to sort by different garbage type mentioned. I have since discovered that Wholefoods offers blue bags for groceries (if requested). It seems very strange to put all the garbage together – landfill and recyclables

Wastage extends to water usage. An abundant supply in the form of the very large fresh water Lake Michigan makes water use and wastage so easy. Advertisements for housing all note ‘steam’ or ‘spray’ showers, Jacuzzi tubs, and other high water usage appliances. These are the antithesis of the water saving shower heads promoted in Australia. The parks are very lush as sprinklers spray day and night. Footpaths (sidewalks) are often wet with the overflow from people watering their gardens. If only we could package up all this water and send it over to Australia. My second cousin, Chris Griffith, has put together an online project report about the dire straits of the Brisbane water situation. Check this out at: 

Last night, Paul and I saw the movie An Inconvenient Truth. This is a movie about Al Gore’s (former Vice President and “former Next President of the US”) personal crusade to stem the impact of global warming. It was inspirational to see someone of such high calibre taking such a strong personal stance. I have been really impressed by former political figures using their clout when political imperatives can be put aside for moral, humanitarian and global advance. Including our own ex-prime minister and Liberal Party member, Malcolm Fraser and his work and high profile with Care Australia.  

The current Australian government, also the Liberal Party, does not share such global or humanitarian insight. While 163 countries have signed the Kyoto Protocol, two developed countries refuse to sign: Australia and the USA. What an embarrassment. Australia is currently one of the highest emitters (per capita) of greenhouse gasses in the world. Our small contribution due to our low population is continually cited as a reason for not signing. Despite the USA not being a signatory, nine states (and some 192 cities in the US) have agreed to reduce emissions in line with the Protocol. This includes the state of New York that, coincidentally, has a population comparable to Australia. 

Thursday, June 8, 2006

Fetch puppy

Luc is dog mad. I think this has been quite apparent in his collection of stuffed animals of the canine variety. His very first ‘cuddly’ was ‘P’ or ‘Pup P’ whom he used to carry around everywhere. He had been given this dog as a Christmas present at his first Christmas. To avoid some of the separation anxieties experienced when Luc’s cousin Jacob was separated from his ‘Ruff’ for a whole weekend (and the hell he put his parents through), we bought two replacement puppies and were careful to rotate these on a regular basis to ensure that they were equally ‘loved’ (read matted / bedraggled  / scruffy). 

Luc has a need to ‘chat’ to almost every dog he sees in the street, even if this is just to greet the dog with a “Hello puppy dawg”. We have had conversations with many of our neighbours this way, and most dog owners are only too happy to make a brief stop so Luc can pat the dog and have a brief conversation. This takes place mostly with a lot of giggling and some dodging and weaving of displays of affection (on Luc’s and sometimes the dogs behalf). 

The ultimate expression of Luc’s obsession became the evident the other day when he raced up to me in the park and started kissing my face. I was a little startled and asked him what all this affection was for. He made some slurp slurp sounds and then woofed. It dawned on me, Luc was a puppy. I asked him if he was a puppy. He answered “Woof”. It was official. I asked him to sit. He did so. I then asked him to bring me a stick. He obliged, so I threw it for him and commanded "Fetch Puppy!” Puppy Luc dutifully retrieved the stick for me, so I threw it again. This game continued for some time until I thought I would try another command. “Roll over”. Puppy Luc rolled over. I thought this was hilarious. I have never seen such a happy puppy with bright blue eyes and dimples. 

Luc has continued to be a puppy all week, particularly in the park. I have had to explain this to people when Luc’s greeting comes across as a growl. He has added playing dead to his repertoire of tricks (thanks to Harry the Dirty Dog), although he hasn’t seen the point in begging... yet. 

As a puppy, Luc is quite well trained and responsive. I wish Luc the toddler had the same degree of respect! 

Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Spring has sprung... Summer too

Before I get roused on for not submitting a blog entry, let me say that summer has arrived! Well, not the official summer (this starts on June 21st), but a very good sample of what summer will be. The locals here say that there are two seasons in Chicago: Hot and Cold. We have been told that Spring and Fall (Autumn) seasons, last for approximately 15 minutes each. 

What a fantastic 15 minutes Spring has been. It did appear to take only minutes for the trees to transform from a lifeless and barren grey to a soft green fuzz, through to full lush green full leaf. Yellow bursting from the ground in the form of daffodils was followed by the whites, yellows, pinks and deep reds of tulips. Azaleas bloomed, and in the blink of an eye, there was lawn. Lifeless gardens soon became green with bursts of colour with a abundance of leaves and prolific flowers. Simply beautiful. 

The people also seem to bloom. All of a sudden, there is a profusion of people out walking, running and riding bikes. People amble and are all-akimbo instead of rushing with purpose with arms folded and shoulders hunched to avoid cold draughts. People now get up early and stay out late. Families pushing strollers are abundant on weekends. Dark colours and long coats have been replaced by bright shorts and t-shirts. Everyone is wearing trainers. Chairs and tables have spilled out of restaurants and cafes onto the pavement. Chicago has become al fresco. We love it. 

Having lived in sub-tropical Brisbane for 10 years, I had lost touch with seasonal differences. Melbourne’s changes in season are more drawn out and not so ‘instant’. Even in England, I don’t remember the onslaught of spring to be quite as dramatic. 

All this change occurred in time for a visit from Rowan and Shirley. Rowan (Paul’s brother) and his wife Shirley, live in Houston, Texas. They decided they would visit us over the Memorial Day weekend. Paul took Friday off, and we had a public holiday on Monday to provide a really long weekend. 

After several delays to flight times, Rowan and Shirley arrived late on Thursday night. We took them out to breakfast at Toast on Friday morning to avoid the impossibly long waits for tables on weekends. After a very full breakfast of omelette, eggs benedict and coffee, we caught the El from Fullerton to the Loop. We walked past Paul’s office and headed towards the Sears Tower with a coffee break on the way (as the boys were sleeping). The views were a little limited as ‘fog’ was about. Off to Millenium Park after a lunch of sushi (Luc’s favourite) at Marshall Fields. It was great to see this park in warm-weather. The Crown Fountain is very popular with the kids as it is now in ‘fountain’ mode, with a shallow layer of water over the pavement surface and gushing mouths spurting streams of water at regular intervals (see photo above). The ice skating rink is now an alfresco bar area. We had to experience it in this guise. Very civilised indeed. We then walked up Michigan Ave to have a look at Paul’s downtown gym and its amazing climbing wall before heading back home to bathe and feed children before our sitter Lisa arrived. Out for dinner on our local stretch of a very lively Clark Street. 

Saturday saw us chill out at the Lincoln Park Zoo. This is a weekly destination with the boys as it is less than 10 minutes walk from home… and it is free! We had some lunch here and rides on the lovely old carousel before checking out some of the animals. In the evening, we went out to see Baby Wants Candy, an improvised comedy routine in the form of a musical based entirely around a title suggested by an audience member. This was hilarious. We ended up having dinner in a bikers bar. 

Sunday, Rowan and Shirley checked into a downtown hotel and we went for a trek down Michigan Avenue (sans boys), after a visit to the Billy Goat Tavern – the original seedy hamburger joint. Back to feed and bathe the boys before meeting them once more at the Hancock Tower for cocktails as the was sun setting. Then to the bustling Rush Street for dinner at around 11pm. 

Monday, we met Rowan and Shirley downtown to take an architectural boat cruise along the Chicago River. It was then that the perfect weather had a momentary aberration. We had some brief showers while sitting on the boat deck (only not enough to make us seek cover). We stopped into Wholefoods on the way home to buy some provisions for dinner, and arrived home for Nic and Luc (in particular) to have a bit more uncle and aunt bonding time. 

We ended the weekend by paying a fortune in baby sitters fees, but had a sensational weekend-away-at-home as a result. Great company, great weather, great outings… this is partly why I have not written more!