Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dear Cruz...

I'll admit, sometimes I question how much extra time I would have if I decided to give up my blogging endeavor.  I know I'd have lots more time to grade that stack of papers hanging over my head, or cook more, or even update my 10th grade class blog on a more regular basis.  I might have more time to clean, or crochet, or cut coupons.  Sometimes, I think a small weight might be lifted from my shoulders.  One less expectation, one less 'thing to do.'  I try my best to make this blog something I want to do, but the problem is, there's always too much I want to do.

But just when I think of giving it up, I snap a few pictures.

I capture some piece of you, or some moment with you, and I feel compelled to write it down.  To spill every inch, every piece of you onto my computer screen in hopes I won't ever forgot it.  The hundreds of pictures I take each week becomes my personal narrative of life with you.  Every expression, every look, and every outfit brings back a particular day, a new experience, or a memory of your life.  And that, baby, is priceless.

You, Cruz Bennett, are halfway through your sixth month.  You are such a happy, fun-loving, easy little boy who loves to laugh and loves to be a part of everything.  You're content just being, whether that is stacking your plastic cups, watching Swamp People on Dad's lap, sitting in the bathroom sink while I do my makeup, or watching me fold laundry from your crib. 

So what do I wish to capture this month???

...those first looks in the morning, after those first little chirps I hear from your room.  Some mornings, you cry, but others, you chirp.  I find you on your back, gently playing with your pacifier or chewing on the corner of your blankie, talking and humming sweetly to yourself.  I tip-toe in, lean over your crib, and am greeted with a smile. stinkin' cute you look in your pajamas.  Last night, you wore your first 'big boy' pajamas and they are awesome.  Cute little cotton stretch pants and a tight little muscle tee.  It took everything in me not to 'Add to Bag' on Baby Gap!

...cuddling with you.  You can be quite the little ham to hold sometimes, especially now that you figured out how fun it is to look around from upside down, but when it comes down to it, you are such a cuddle monster.  I love this about you and wouldn't give up those nights rocking you to sleep for anything.

...feeding you!  It's much more fun to make your own baby food when you absolutely love eating it!  From cauliflower to squash, bananas to pears, and avocado to rutabaga, you love trying new foods and sitting in your high chair.  Feeding you is definitely one of my favorite times of each day; however, you keep me busy!  Now that you're eating three 'meals' a day, I need to stock up on the veggies!

...Your squeals, your screams, and your shrieks, especially when you are jumping in your jumperoo.  It's your favorite toy in the house, and you get quite the leg workout. 

...your soft, chubby little legs.  Your daddy thinks you look like a tater tot and even calls you that sometimes!  Our blond, chubby little tater tot.

...all your looks; your look of determination as you attempt to grab a chunk of my hair, your curiosity as you lean over our shoulders to spot your bottle, your look of mischief as you try and bond with your cat, your look of pride when you sit atop your daddy's shoulders, and the way you sometimes grab my face with both hands as if you're going in for a big one.  

I know that all too soon, there will come a time when you won't stare stone-faced at the camera, where you won't sit still and smile when I say something funny or shake a rattle above my head.  So, I will continue to snap, click, and capture the art of you for as long as you'll let me... 


Your mama

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Change in plans...

This week was going to be crazy.  Yesterday, after teaching all day and welcoming Senator Grassley to our school to speak with our high school students, I had five hours of senior presentations, a culminating project completed by my 12 senior advisees and graded by yours truly.  After that, around eight o'clock, I was planning on jetting it home to rock my baby to sleep, then pack for a two-day conference in Des Moines, aka, my first official overnight away from my boy.  Mom was planning to come stay with Cruz while I learned about eCurriculum in Des Moines, and I was planning on my first Skype play-date with the Cruz Tuesday night.  

But as I've learned a thousand times over, just when you feel like you get this crazy little life in order, and master a plan for tackling what was supposed to be an utterly stressful and crazy week, plans change.  

(In comes the start of poopy diapers)...

We got a call from daycare around ten yesterday morning.  Cruz had had four runny diapers since we dropped him off; therefore, he needed to be picked up.  Happy and seemingly healthy, our smiley boy was exiled from daycare for 24 hours (do I get a discount for this???).  Meanwhile, as I'm trying to arrange a place for my sophomores to go and figure out how the heck I'm going to make this all work, I get an offer to attend a conference in D.C. in July.  A conference that just happens to fall on the same week of my follow-up conference I was supposed to attend tomorrow.  Hmm...

I phone Beau because that's what I do when I'm stressed.  And because I'm absolutely terrible at making decisions on the fly and expect others to make them for me, I get mad at Beau for not helping my dilemma.  Sometimes I feel like I'm not ready for all these big kid decisions...

Well, needless to say, I used my sub plans.  Skype, however, will not be needed.  I traded in my eCurriculum Conference in Des Moines for a date with my little boy.  He had a mad total of nine runny diapers yesterday (as if you really needed to know that), and I still haven't determined if he's sick, teething, or recovering from the Easter weekend and a little too much apple juice.  It's times like these when I realize I'm still so new at this whole mom thing.

So today, we play.  We pack on the Butt Paste, soak in a sudsy tub, and play face-to-face instead of via Skype.  Plans changed and although I'm still not sure I made the right decisions yesterday, I've learned that there's no use dwelling on it.  Life happens and you just go with what works. 

One day at a time. 

Happy Things

My name is Ashley.  I am a shopaholic.

I sometimes believe I was born with the addiction.  From a very early age, I remember being fascinated by all the authentic, handmade baby doll clothes at one special booth at the UNI-Dome Craft Show.  I would run my fingers along the soft fabric, listen to the sound of buttons snapping or zippers zipping, and study the vibrant colors of each piece.  And I remember feeling so happy and so excited when I would have enough money to purchase something, waiting for just the right time to show off my purchase on my favorite Cabbage Patch doll, Hannah. 

I've always loved clothes.  It's by far one of my favorite things in the world.  I love watching the styles of the stars, thumbing through the latest Victoria's Secret magazine, and organizing and re-organizing my closet.  It's Christmas time when an Express coupon arrives in the mail, and the smell of Abercrombie and Fitch is a smell that far exceeds even the aromas of the best Thanksgiving dinner.  

Since having Cruz, however, my clothing obsession has shifted from Express to Baby Gap, Abercrombie to Amazon, and Von Maur Women's to Von Maur Baby.  I love putting outfits together for him, washing his little clothes, and 'accessorizing.'  Sometimes, I get so excited getting him dressed that Beau actually refers to Cruz as my 'accessory baby.'  

My latest accessory???

I like hats.  And it turns out, Cruz does too.  He can pull off the fedora better than Brad Pitt :)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Simon from Cyrene

I've always loved Easter.  I remember seeing the Easter story performed at Cedar Valley Community Church, closing my eyes and listening to my heart beat a hundred times a minute as the sounds of the nails pounding into the cross echoed through the church.  I remember the anticipation that followed the moments after the crucifixion, and the thunderous bass that accompanied the stone as it rolled from the tomb.  I loved that annual performance and am still saddened I can't let Beau and Cruz see it for themselves.  It was amazing. 

I've heard the Easter story again and again; however, I'd never heard it from the perspective of Simon from Cyrene.  I remember reading and hearing about Simon, the man who was pulled from the crowd to carry the cross when Jesus couldn't do it himself, but I always assumed it was Simon Peter, one of Jesus' disciples and closest friends.  But knowing the story of Simon from Cyrene gives it a whole new meaning.

Simon from Cyrene was a no-name.  A passerby.  An unconnected, unrelated man from out of town, passing through in the middle of a parade.  A parade where people were cursing, scrutinizing, and accusing a man they had praised and followed just days before.  Simon stopped, probably in innocent curiosity; He had no intention of being in the middle of the commotion.  

That is, until a Roman soldier pulled him from the crowd and demanded he carry the heavy, bloody cross of a criminal.  Carry the burden of a man who would later carry the burden and sins of the entire world.  The Bible doesn't say why Simon was the man pulled from the crowed, or more importantly, what was going through his mind when forced to take over the grueling task.  Although many of these questions are left unanswered, one thing is for sure.  Simon of Cyrene felt shame.  Shame, because in that parade, the onlookers now looked to Simon as the criminal.  

Simon from Cyrene taught me a lot this Easter.  Most of all, he taught me that it's not okay to simply be an onlooker.  Someone content with sitting in the crowd and blending in.  God chose a simple man like Simon to teach us the power and influence we all have.  The power to stand out from the crowd and be a true follower of Jesus.
Easter weekend was a good one.

It began with an early morning breakfast, early with the sunrise, a snuggly baby in blue footed pajamas and a bowl of rice cereal with mixed fruit...

...followed by some playtime and a baby-food-making-spree, complete with cheesy cauliflower and tomatoes, onions and carrots, pears and apples, and Cruz's favorite, butternut squash.

I stuffed my first-ever Easter basket...

 And made one little boy feel pretty important sitting by his very own Easter treasures...

I thought it'd be cute to let Cruz play with his dyed Easter eggs...

...that is, until I had a baby with two blue lips, two blue hands, and one very blue tongue!

...We went to church at Orchard on Saturday night, just the three of us, and felt cozy and thankful for the very special blessing in our lives.

Sunday morning, we woke up to more Easter basket fun: a new set of blocks, a very first Peter Rabbit book, and some CDs that play the same music that lulls our little one to sleep every Sunday at church.  Of course, Cruz was more fascinated at the Easter grass and plastic cover on his new sippy cup.  This Christmas, he's getting a cardboard box...

We headed to Allison Easter morning, to show Cruz the church that his mommy and daddy were married in.  Since Cruz got his typical 'sermon nap' in on the half-hour car ride, I was a little worried about how he'd do during church.  For the first twenty minutes, he was a ham!  Grabbing the back of Jordan's shirt, smiling at the girls behind us, and doing his famous, 'no, no, no,' head shake every two minutes.  But just when I thought the children's nursery was in our future, he fell asleep in my arms.  A sweet sleep that resulted in a rosy-cheeked, happy little boy.

We had breakfast at Great Grandma Henrichs', and lunch at Great Grandma Hoodjer's.  Cruz ate at the table with us, cleaned up his peas and carrots, and even tried some of Grandma's famous carrot casserole.  He played, he snuggled, and even jabbered, but hardly slept.  Tomorrow will either be a catch-up day at day care, or a day with one wired baby!  

We celebrated a great first Easter with our Cruz Man.  Tonight, I am tired, but feeling blessed beyond words.  I love my little bunny and feel so thankful to be his mama... 


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter Eve...

He is Risen, Indeed!

Happy Easter, from one bunny to another.

In Christ alone, my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm

What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless Babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save

 'Til on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again

And as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Bought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From a life?s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny

No power of hell, no scheme of man
Could ever pluck me from His hand
'Til He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I stand

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Egg Candy...

Last week, we savored the seventy degree weather with a quilt spread across the back yard, an ice cream cone form Hanson's Dairy, and Cruz's first experience with bare toes and green grass.  Summer was in the air and warm thoughts of a break from school and days at the pool were about as clear as the hot sun on our bare skin.

But as nice as the warming trend was last weekend, we live in Iowa after all and were therefore welcomed with a weekend of forties, rain, and wind advisories.  As I picked up Cruz from daycare Friday afternoon and shivered as I filled up my car with gas, I couldn't help but feel October in my bones instead of April.  

But because we Iowans are about as weather resilient as it gets, I relished a weekend of sweatpants, comfort food, and movies. And just because there may have been snow flurries falling outside, doesn't mean we can't make a little Springtime inside

...Springtime means new life, new projects, and new recipes.  A pasta with red pepper, zucchini, and fresh basil leaves.  A glass of chilled Stella Rosa.  And a movie that made me bite all ten fingernails until they were raw (see The Next Three's a definite nail-biter).

Saturday night, I set the table with place mats, wine glasses, and CLOTH NAPKINS!  And while I chopped basil and Beau boiled fettuccine noodles, Cruz jammed along to Ben Harper and curiously chomped on a stolen cucumber from the lettuce salad.  He loved everything about cooking in the kitchen, but grew tired of the festivities about the time we sat down to eat.  Impeccable timing.  I guess I'd be mad too if I 'helped' prepare a delicious meal and didn't get my slice of the pie :).  Let's just say, Cruz is no longer content watching us eat.    

...New clothes sizes.  Saturday morning, as I sat a jammied Cruz in his crib to play while I cleaned his room, I spent an extra half-hour sorting through his clothes.  This time, I packed away most of his 3-6 month stuff, smelling the baby smell and refolding each one until they stacked just right.  It seems like yesterday I was washing, folding, and carefully placing each piece into a new dresser, awaiting a new baby who would wear it.  Now, as I say goodbye to the sweet little winter stuff and look ahead to plaid shorts, t-shirts, and onesies, I can't help but wonder if I'll have another little boy to wear it all someday.   

...New traditions.  Sunday afternoon, I decided to throw an impromptu Easter party for Cruz and Charly.  We mixed enough egg dye for the entire town, munched on sweet chex mix, marshmallow Shredded Wheat nests, and jelly beans, and transformed cupcakes into adorable Easter baskets, all while Cruz played with his plastic cups in the living room, and Charly climbed up and down the stairs.  And although they could have cared less about the marble-dyed Easter eggs or the satin ribbon tied around our cupcakes, it felt special to have everyone together.  It's a real, down-to-earth kind of special; one that isn't made from weeks of planning, preparing, and perfecting, but a round of applause after a tower of plastic cups is knocked down, or a happy baby eating carrots next to a table filled with frosting, pipe cleaners, and green coconut.

Egg dyeing wore out the littles.  They both fell asleep within minutes of each other.

I like this kind of special.  Somewhere amidst Cruz's major spit-up, the green-dye-on-the-seat-cushion-catastrophe, and the egg shells in the sink, life just felt right.  A messy, comfortable, satisfying right.  I think the eggs speak for themselves.  They're not perfect, but that's what makes them special.

(Charly learned to give kisses.  Cruz tried to take a bite out of her cheek)

Unique, imperfect, art. 

...A New idea of sleeping in...Although Cruz is a champ at sleeping, he hasn't received the 'weekend memo' yet.  Sunday morning, I heard his soft cry at six o'clock in the morning, and just wasn't ready to get up.  I rescued him from his crib, grabbed his blanket and paci, and nestled him in the warmth of our comforter next to his dad.  Propped up on my pillow, he laid really still, one hand on his dad's back, one hand on my cheek.  Our deep, sleepy breaths put him in a trance, and before too long, he drifted into a sweet sleep.  I love these moments in the morning...the ones where life seems to slow down.  I watched his little eyelashes flutter, weaved my finger into his warm little hand, and soaked in his baby scent.  Moments like these are what it's all about.

...The Newness of The Easter Story.  I love our Sunday morning routines.  We slow down the morning, play with Cruz in bed, and drag out his breakfast.  He starts getting starry eyed and sleepy about the time we leave for church, but perks up again for the opening songs, greetings, and announcements.  In such a large church, you'd think you never knew who was and was not at each service; however, Orchard is beginning to feel much like the small town church I grew up in...that is, everyone sits in the same spot!  With Beau's client to our left, his old secretary across the aisle, his friend, Cory, to our right, and our school's science teacher behind us, Cruz gets body-surfed for the first five minutes of church.  He just goes with it, and seems rather content traveling from one lap to the next.  Then, like clockwork, Cruz starts drifting to sleep during the last song before the sermon.  I cuddle and sway to the music, hold him tight, and sing softly in his ear.  And I always get tears in my eyes, knowing these are the moments I will always remember.

Although the temperatures, winds, and clouds didn't show it, Spring was here this weekend.  It was here in the form of three-dozen colorful eggs.  It was here in the form of glass of wine, a plate of pasta, and a good movie.  It was here in the form of jelly beans, baby kisses, and chocolate eggs.  And it was here in the form of a sleepy baby, a parade of palm branches, and shouts of 'Hosanna in the highest.'



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