The Minnesota Zoo (Photo Heavy)

We spent the entire day at home yesterday, which is not usual for the Jones crew, so this morning D.Jones and I were trying to think of something fun to do.  The Mall of America and it’s rides are totally out of the running on weekends now, until after the holidays.  It’s just way too crazy.  Then we realized it’s been about a year since we brought Cooper to the Minnesota Zoo, so the zoo it was….

Cooper was totally into it for about the first 40 minutes, and then something snapped.  Apparently my boy can only handle so many animals in one trip, because after that point, he was more interested in befriending other childern, and pulling his shirt up and slapping his belly (oh God, he really is going to be a frat boy like his Dad, isn’t he?) and pushing buttons on soda machines, than actually looking at anything.

Thankfully our $33 to enter at least got us about an hour.  And we did see some really cool stuff.  Here’s a little glimpse of our trip…

We began in the Tropics area where we first encountered my favorite….

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And some cool coral reef action

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And this guy.  Are those teeth or is that just how his mouth looks?  EIther way, he was kinda freaky…

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And lots of turtles, which Cooper really seemed to dig.

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we passed this guy leaving the Tropics, and some lady walking alongside me said “There’s no sign saying what it is…do you think it’s a Kookaburra?”  Suffice to say I was singing that song in my head for the rest of the trip.  Thanks lady.

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We stopped into the Zoo Lab, where I remember them having snakes you could touch and stuff, but there was no such thing.  I’m probably remembering times from my own Girl Scout days, so it probably hasn’t been there for years.  What they did have was just an area where kids could play with some animal-related toys, and do some photo rubs of animals.  D.Jones tried to help Coops do a rub of some kind of animal picture, but by this time, he was too scattered to pay much attention. 

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Speaking of scattered….  While D.Jones was trying to do learning activities with our child, I was doing this…

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 The place was like a sauna, too, so we didn’t stay long.  Plus, I quickly bored of taking pictures of myself in mirrors, so off we went to the aquarium.

I guess we had spent too much time at the coral reef prior to that, though, because Cooper wasn’t even interested in the dolphins, who were zipping around so fast I couldn’t get a good shot of them.  They were totally putting on a show and it was awesome.  But I did get pictures of my child running crazily through a shark’s mouth…

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The last stop was the Minnesota Trail.  You walk partially outside, so it was freezing, and it was the last straw for Cooper.  He loved the first part of the exhibit, which is still inside, and involved frogs.  Anything frog-related is good by him and if it’s frog-related and makes noise?  Heaven on earth for Mr. C. Jones!!  We had to tear him away from this thing, which allows kids to push buttons and listen to the frog noises of their choice.  Very, very loudly, I might add.

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After the frogs, you begin your outside journey through some MN lake stuff, and then a wolf area, which is awesome.  I love wolves!  There is something so beautiful and yet so intense about a wolf.  And a little bit creepy.  I jumped a mile when I was standing on the trail trying to get a good picture of a wolf, in front of a big red sign that says “Caution: Animals may bite” (what!?) and all of a sudden I hear the loudest wolf howling ever!  I start looking around all frantically as D.jones starts laughing.  Cooper had found yet another noise-making button. 

I did get a few shots of my wolves, though…

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After the wolves, we saw a beaver dam, and some owls (which are another animal I think is super cool), and then we were alerted to a ruckus a little farther down.  Doug was trying to stop Cooper from pulling an emergency alarm on the wall, and I headed down to see what people were talking about.  Turns out one of Doug’s favorite animals, the wolverines, which he refers to as “B.A. animals” (for bad ass), were in a bit of a  B.A. scuffle.  I managed to get one shot of them attacking each other’s faces.

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Unfortunately, the next ruckus I heard was Cooper Jones-related and signaled the end of our zoo day.  He had run outside into the snow and was refusing to come back onto the trail.  After wrestling him into his stroller we told him that his behavior was resulting in a hasty exit to come home for nap time, since he was now screaming bloody murder through the remainder of the exhibiit.  People love that in confined spaces, don’t they?

He calmed down as we really did near the exit and he realized we weren’t kidding.  As we were walking through the parking lot he returned to being our sweet boy and said “Mommy, Daddy?  I’m sorry for yelling in the zoo.”  I told him that it was okay and that sometimes people just get overtired and perhaps hungry and that it usually means it’s time to go, to which he says, in the cutest voice ever “Oh yeah…sometimes it just happens.  So, mommy and daddy, are you happy again?”  Yep, we are, buddy.

For some other pics from our day, check out my photo blog here.

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And He’ll Say Ho, Ho, Ho?

On Black Fridays, D.Jones only ever works a half day, so Friday afternoon he and I decided to brave the crazy mall crowd and try to take Cooper to meet Santa.  I wanted to go early in the season in case he had another melt-down of last year’s proportion, thinking that perhaps we could have a second visit for a photo op if this one didn’t go well.

He was pretty sure he didn’t want to go at all, so on the drive to the mall he was asking a ton of questions.  “Will Rudolph be there?  What’s Santa doing at the mall?  What is he going to do?  What is he going to say?” and all of his deluge of questions always ended with him repeating “And he’ll just say ho, ho, ho?”  I think he wanted to be certain that Santa wasn’t going to get all crazy, so if I would keep verifying that there would be nothing more than a little “ho, ho, ho” action, all would be well.

Our fears were quickly dispelled when Cooper ran right up the ramp when it was our turn, headed right for Mr. Claus’s chair, and jumped right up on his lap.  I couldn’t hear what he was saying, but there was a lot of this thinking pose, and then more talking…perhaps making quite a list for Santa to work off of.

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Anyway, Mr. Jones and Mr. Claus had quite a conversation, and when S. Clause gave him a candy cane at the end, well, he was more than appreciative.  He’s never had much minty stuff, and has never had a candy cane, but anything with “candy” in the title seems good by Cooper, and he thoroughly enjoyed it.

As we exited to take a look at the pictures that had been snapped by Santa’s elves, a passerby stopped to chat with Cooper and ask him if he told Santa what he wanted for Christmas.  Cooper said “Oh yeah, I sure did…I told him I want John Deere’s!” 

After checking out the shots and paying for our stuff, we headed to a game store that D.Jones wanted to check out.  As we walked I asked Cooper “So, what else did you ask Santa for?” and I got, what unfortunately, I think will be the blow-off response of the future.  “Just some toys, Mommy.”  It wasn’t exactly what he said, but more how he said it…like I was infringing on his private conversation with Santa, and it wasn’t any of my business.  I got a glimpse of my future when I ask things like “what other boys are going?  Who’s parents will be there?  What time will you be home?”  Yep.  I saw it.  The slight eye roll, the sarcastic tone, the annoyance at the question.  Hmm…it’s begun already.

Cooper had a great time at the mall since many of the small stores were displaying remote control cars, helicopters, rideable Jeeps for toddlers, and all sorts of things interesting to a 2 1/2 year old.  He just couldn’t get enough of it all, until he began saying “I need a new car or truck.”  FIrst we tried to ignore it, but after he had said it approximately 2504 times, and was getting louder and more insistent, I finally had to put my foot down and I told him he would not be getting any toys during this trip.  That wasn’t the right answer.  He started wailing “I NEEEEED a new truck, Mommy!”  Seriously, you would have thought the kid was in serious pain if you had just heard the voice and not the words.  I tried to be reasonable and told him “you can’t have something new every time we go to the mall”, to which he responded “yes I can!”  Okay, that didn’t work.  I hoped beyond hope that my next response would go over better so I said as firmly as I could “Listen.  You will not be getting anything until Santa brings you toys, and at that time,  I would not be surprised if you didn’t get three new trucks, not just one.”  Bingo.  He stopped right in his tracks.  He looked at me wide-eyed and said “really??”  Ooops.  Why did I pick “three”!?  Well, it’s drilled into his mind by now because for the next couple of hours he’d randomly say, “Do you think Santa’s bringing me three trucks!?”  Great.  Guess I have some more shopping to do.

Our Turkey Day

Yesterday started out slowly, just hanging out at home in our pjs, watching a little bit of the Thanksgiving Day parade and doing a little cleaning.  Ahh…sweet relaxation mid-week.  That doesn’t happen very often~

Then we packed up and headed to my brother and sister-in-law’s for the big meal and some family time.  My mom usually hosts, but my brother and his wife offered this year and I think it was a nice break for my mom.  They also got to show off their gorgeous new kitchen that they just had remodeled.

Cooper had an incredible time playing with his cousin Sarah, and getting tons of attention from everyone.  My neice also kicked my butt pretty badly in Wii bowling!  She’s pro-status, don’t you know?

Dinner was served around 2:30, which is also a couple of hours after Cooper’s usual naptime, but he was a trooper, and even sat quietly while Sarah read him Babar, her new “cursive” book.  Have you ever seen a book written in cursive?  I haven’t, until now.  She is doing great at reading the cursive writing and we were all impressed.

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Dinner included all the usuals, and everything was fantastic!  We were missing my other brother and his crew, who stayed at their house to host Thanksgiving for my sister-in-law’s family.  It’s rare that part of the group is missing, so the less crowded table seemed weird, and they were definitely missed.  Cooper couldn’t get enough of the lefse, and when I told him “no more, until you eat some of the other stuff”, he promptly ditched me to sit with my dad, where Papa allowed him to consume more than his weight in lefse. 

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After dinner included some major relaxation time.  My nephew K.C. has an entire media center in his bedroom, including a wall-sized movie theater screen, surround sound, etc., so a few of us stretched out in his room to watch Lilo and Stitch.  D.Jones fell asleep on their huge “corduroy”, which is a monstrous sort of beanbag chair kinda thing, and some other folks found comfy spots upstairs to watch the football games.

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When poor Cooper could no longer function from being worn out, we packed up and headed home.  We had a great day at the Iversons, and are again thankful for holidays filled with such fantastic family time.

Oh, it also seems that my nieces Sarah and Caitlin had a little fun with my camera, so in retribution….here they are for the world to see.  Ha!

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Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving morning, as I sit at the computer sipping coffee and listening to Cooper and D.Jones play Cooper’s new V-Smile game and giggle uncontrollably, I realize that my original thought of jotting down a few things that I’m thankful for is not as easy of a task as I thought it might be…there is way too much.

In these times when so many folks are struggling for various reasons, this time when we are a country at war, and these times when so many people have worries that include how to keep their families warm and safe, how to find a place to live, and where to find their next meal, we are blessed.

We are blessed with a huge extended family that loves us and we are blessed with parents who are here to help us, whether it’s a tutorial on how to change an air filter, how to bake a pie, or how to raise a child, they are always there for us, and for that, we are so incredibly blessed.

We are blessed with a 2 1/2 year old boy who regularly gets so rambunctious that we need to put a stop to it before someone gets hurt.  Rambunctious because he’s healthy and happy and 2 1/2.  For that, we are surely blessed.

We are blessed with our home, where we have to mow and weed, sweep and mop, take the garbage out and paint the walls…because it is ours.  For a warm home to call our own, in a safe neighborhood for our child, we are blessed.

For these things and so much more, we are mindful of all that we have to give thanks for as we sit around the table with family this afternoon, sharing a meal and creating another memory of special time spent together.  That is a blessing to be sure.

So, wherever and however you spend your Thanksgiving, our wish for you is a safe, happy day full of wonderful things that you are thankful for as well.   Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday Ramblings

I haven’t been able to go the gym since last Sunday, being the biggest gap in my workouts since we joined on October 1.  It’s amazing how much my energy level changes (for the worst) when I am not able to workout.  We were home because Cooper had a slight cold, but with his runny nose and coughing, I didn’t think they would appreciate me sticking him in the gym daycare with all the other kids.

He missed it too, and was more than happy to return to playing with his friends when we went this morning.  He once again received praise from the gym childcare providers and had a great time playing with 4 other boys all his age.  when I returned to pick him up and I was chatting with one of the ladies who works there, he came over and waved to her as he grabbed his jacket and said “thanks for being my friend and playing with me.”  You would not believe the “awwwws!” that produced from the women working there.  Now I know why they all rave about him being so “sweet”.  He certainly can be, though he has all but mastered the “terrible twos” at this point as well.  He must reserve the latter for life at home….lucky us.

At the gym I have been mixing up my cardio routines so that it doesn’t just include running, but also the elliptical, the bicycles, the stair master, etc., which I thought would play a positive role in my running, so imagine my surprise when I went to run my 3.1 miles this morning and it seemed incredibly difficult!  It could have just been one of those “off” days, but I’m thinking that there is such a difference between running and the other forms of cardio, that not focusing on my running has been a negative.  I still did okay, but it wasn’t what I hoped for…  The journey continues.  My goal is just to get to a point where I can run 5 and 10ks next summer with “some” ease.  Plus, having a good run seems like such a positive boost to my psyche as opposed to a good workout on the elliptical.  I’m sure that’s all in my head, but whatever…

This weekend will mark the Jones fam going full-force into the holidays. I plan on dragging out some of our holiday decor (much to D.Jones’ dismay) over the weekend, and completing it next weekend.   I always get all of my stuff up the weekend after Thanksgiving, and I can’t believe it’s almost here!  It seems ilke the end of summer brought on a very fast segue to the holidays.  Where was autumn!?  It was like a blink!  I love Christmastime though, and cannot wait to have a sparkly tree with all it’s trimmings back up in my living room.  Doug makes fun of me because I’ve been known to plop myself on the couch in the living room, turn off all the ights, get the fireplace roaring, grab a glass of vino, and just stare at the tree.  I love it.  It relaxes me, and I love to just think of Christmases of the past and how much they all mean to me….  My parents are to thank for that, for all that they have put in to every Christmas holiday.  What great memories they have provided for all of us, and continue to provide.  What a wonderful time of the year…

And to get things going, on Sunday we are off to my brother and sister-in-law’s house for our annual sibling charity “event”.  This year we have each “adopted” one boy and one girl, close in age to one of our own kids, and will provide them with a ton of fun holiday stuff.  I loved doing the shopping for “my kids” because I rarely get to look at all the adorable 2 to 3 year old girly stuff.  How cute is the girl stuff!?  I picked out the cutest ever pink sparkly slippers for her, and a pink hat and pink mittens, and pink everything!  Maybe it is best that we had a boy….  My love of pink might get a little old for poor D.Jones after awhile!

Speaking of boys, D.Jones and Coops have more and more fun all the time, it seems.  Their nights have become increasingly boys-only and they have a blast playing with cars and trucks and one other thing that you’ll be able to guess from my recent vid. 

That’s right.  The Godzilla figurines that once freaked Cooper out are now a nightly father-son routine.  it’s so fun to hear them playing together, though, and it seems after some boys-only time, Cooper’s mood is incredibly lightened.  I think he gets frustrated having to play with a mommy who isn’t good at car noises all day.

Now I’m off to get ready because D.Jones is taking us both out to dinner tonight.  I hope all of you have a wonderful weekend!!

Sweet Dreams?

Late last night I was reminded of all the folks who told me that having a newborn is “boring”.  That, as a stay-at-home mom it’s important to find something to do because they sleep for the better part of 24 hours, and I would need something to do with my “free time”.  Clearly, these nice people offering their opinions had never met Cooper.  He’s never been a good sleeper…not from day one.  And he still isn’t.

I remember those days, when he was too tiny to convey his thoughts, wants and needs by any thing more involved that a very loud wail.  I spent many, many nights in our condo overlooking St. Paul from the 21st floor.  Rocking and rocking while I watched the lights in the buildings around me, knowing no one else was around except the sighting of a security guard here and there.  Then, as I rocked him, praying for him to sleep, I would watch the sun come up over the city, and the dark buildings with the white glow of fluorescents turn to pink hues as the sounds of traffic picked up.  That is the moment it would dawn on me, too, that I was out of luck for yet another night.  Might as well make coffee, right?

I remember an afternoon when I cursed all the people who would say “get him on a routine, and then sleep while he does.”  Yeah, when is that?  His schedule did not include much sleep…what do you do then?  That same afternoon, I laid him next to me on our big bed.  I laid on my side facing him and pleaded with him for just a half an hour of sleep.  He was not cooperative.

Since then, people ‘in the know’ about child rearing (mostly my parents) have commented on how good he is about bedtime.  Essentially, we’ve tried to have him on such a strict schedule with no deviation, that when we say it’s bedtime, he knows there’s no sense in arguing.  There aren’t any throw downs, no screaming fits, no non-stop begging.  He usually whines for a moment, and then grabs his blankie and says “oh, alright…”.  My parents telling me how great this is, starting about a year ago, when he turned two, gave me some hope.  Perhaps things were looking up, because the year from newborn sleepless nights had segued into long nights of trying to alleviate the pain from my screaming, teething baby.  Boy he had a rough time with teething.  Sometimes he would scream so horribly that Doug and I were close to running him to urgent care, having convinced ourselves that something must be terribly wrong.  Then, just as we were about to call someone, he would zonk out.  No in-betweens with this kid.

So, when he turned two, and had all of his teeth, and was on a fantastic schedule, I dreamt the dream of the apparently, new parent.  I thought…now!  Now I’ll catch up on all of those sleepless nights.  Now, I will sleep the slumber of the parent of a toddler.  Nope.

We have turned a corner, it’s true.  Things are definitely different now.  Now, I don’t hold him in my arms, rocking him and singing cute baby songs to him.  Now, at 4 a.m. I am trying to convince him that it’s not time to play with “cars and trucks”.  That it’s not time for cartoons.  No, that it is, in fact, still the middle of the night.   This, after having been up with him at 1;27 a.m. because his blanket “wasn’t right”, and then again at 3:21 a.m. because “square bear pillow fell off the bed”. 

 “You need to sleep now, Cooper”, I told him just last night at the 4 a.m. waking.  But now he doesn’t coo and snuggle into my arms when I say it in my softest ever Mommy voice.  No, now in this new light of my 2 1/2 year old’s world, he is old enough to convey his thoughts, needs, and wants.  Now he responds often like he did last night.  By shaking his finger in my face and yelling “NO, you listen, Mommy!  I don’t want to lay down right now!  I want to play trucks!”

Sigh.  Maybe when he’s four? 

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Date Nite!

Last night D.Jones and I had one of our scheduled date nights, thanks again, to my Mom & Dad.  It was actually not so much “scheduled” as last minute, but we’ve been wanting to see the movie Religulous for a while now, before it leaves the theater, which always seems to happen to us.  A movie we both want to see comes out, and by the time we schedule time to go, it’s not even showing any more.   Pathetic.  This time we made it!

As soon as Cooper got up from his afternoon nap, I ran him out to my parent’s house to play and then I headed downtown to pick up D.Jones from his favorite pub.  We stayed for one cold one, and then we drove to Uptown to find a spot for dinner. 

In the past, it seems that our date nights are so infrequent that there is a lot of pressure to go to one of the finest new restaurants in town, to dress to the nines so that D.Jones knows I can still look okay and that I don’t always live in workout gear, and to have fun!  For anyone who doesn’t know this yet, pressure to have fun usually results in, well, no fun.  Think New Year’s Eve.  There’s always that pressure to find the best soiree and to look fantastic.  I finally got so frustrated with it never actually amounting to my expectations, that for the past, oh, five years or so, D.Jones and I have agreed to do nothing on New Year’s.  Nada.  That’s fine by me.

Anyway…back to last night.  We didn’t make a res-o at a fancy restaurant, we didn’t plan every minute of the evening…we just decided to wing it.  And it was awesome.   We ended up at Bar Abilene for dinner, which was good.  It’s Tex Mex.  D.Jones enjoyed some interesting tacos, like spicy crab and four cheese.  They looked delish.  I had steak fajitas which were really good.

When we were done, we realized we had about 45 minutes until the flick, so we walked down to Zeno…a dessert and wine bar.   We grabbed some bar stools, had a seat and were introduced to our bartender/manager.  We perused the menu and decided on a port sampler.   For about four years we’ve been on a mission to find this port that we had at Solera so long ago.  We haven’t been able to find it.  It was mellow, with more than a hint of tobacco and a slight vanilla finish.   Deeeelish.   We thought maybe our flight would help us pinpoint something similar.

D.Jones excused himself to go to the restroom, which is when I made friends with the manager.  He was fantastic; knowledgeable, lovely, and best of all, free-flowing with the samples once I praised him.  In all, I think we sampled about 7 ports, a lovely white wine, a fantastic red, and a ridiculously expensive scotch.  Oh, and a creme brulee.  Talk about decadence!  I loved him….and all the samples.  We’ll be back, no doubt.

Doug knows that I’m freakishly anal about getting to movies early and getting the seat I want, so to hassle me, as we were leaving Zeno, he tells me the movie is starting.  He grabs my hand and we run hand-in-hand down the street with me bitching the whole way.  He lied.  We were more than there on time and got the perfect seat.

As we sat in the theater, we held hands and chatted and told each other that we still think each other are the best company on earth.  I truly had such a good time with him last night.  We laughed so much that my cheeks hurt..and that was before the movie.

Once the credits rolled at the end of film, (which we both loved by the way) we walked out holding hands, smiling, and feeling incredibly refreshed.  It was a very good night.