Monday, February 28, 2011

Little Chili Pepper

Today, I feel like Gumby.  After a whirlwind weekend of Friday night cleaning and grading, a Saturday of running and hosting friends from out of town, and a Sunday away at the 9th Annual Toads Chili Cook-On, I feel like I was stretched in about a million different directions this weekend.  Last night, I started feeling sick and ended my weekend shivering from chills under a pile of blankets.  Fortunately, Cruz was worn out too, and the three of us were in bed by 9:00.  And although I probably should have listened to my hubby and opted for a sick day today, I'm picking my foggy head off my desk and attempting to make this week count.  Just two weeks 'til Spring Break...

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

And although it seems I'm nursing one crazy weekend hangover this morning, it was a good one.  A weekend that included a trip to the mall with Mom and Cruz, where Cruz held his very own bottle BY HIMSELF in his stroller while his mama scored all kinds of amazing deals at Younkers.  A weekend that included the most phenomenal roast beef sandwich at Newton's Cafe in Downtown Waterloo, followed by a night of board games and baby time with great friends.  A weekend that included some Dash and Jersee time, a handmade chili pepper shirt, and 27 different chilis.

Beau had lots of people come out to support his quest for his fourth consecutive win in the 'People's Choice' category of the Chili Cook-ON.  His unique, 'Farter Starter,' chili is getting quite a name for itself, as we heard it referred to over the loudspeaker several times throughout the day.  It's no surprise that Beau took away medals for 'First Pot Gone,' as well as, 'Best Presentation.'  After waiting in line for what seemed like hours, I didn't even get to sample my hubby's creation.  I guess it was more fun to hang out with our little marketing campaign anyways...

Unfortunately, Beau's chili did not reign supreme.  The Farter Starter came in 2nd place to Big Al's Chili, a close competitor the last few years.  If it weren't for those bacon-topped sticky buns...

We are still proud of our chili con questodore.  Cruz and I dig your chili.



Friday, February 25, 2011


This morning, one of my ninth graders wandered up to my desk and announced that she could not begin her memoir because she had a case of 'writer's block.'  I, of course, proceeded to give her a number of prompts, brainstorming ideas, and lists to help her fill pages and conquer the daunting blank page staring her in the face.

And now tonight, as a freshly bathed and clean pajama'ed Cruz lazily sways in his swing, I sit and stare at my blank computer screen.  Writer's block has settled in my pores.  My fingertips shy away from the keyboard for fear of failure, and my pinkie has spent too much time on the backspace button this week.  So, in hopes of conquering my own blank page and foggy head, I will practice what I preach. 

It's called a stream-of-consciousness write.  A writing exercise I often give my students to help unpack the thoughts that fill their hormonal heads.  A chance to write whatever it is that is taking up space in one's mind, hoping that the process will puncture a hole that allows the creative juices to flow freely on the page, and that in a swarm of words, something thoughtful, meaningful, or worthwhile will spill on the page. 


...Cruz got his first phone number today.  One of his cute, blond daycare girls followed us out the door this afternoon and shyly said she put a 'note for Cruz' in his school bag.  She wanted to know if we had a baby-sitter for him and that if we didn't, she was interested.  She said she loved our son and would love the chance to watch him outside of daycare.  And sure enough, in his bag, there was a little note with Cruz's name on it, along with his very first set of digits.  I'm just glad to know there are some girls out there who can look past his terrible smelling toots...

...Cruz has been battling another cold this week, and had his first 'guy's day' with Dad on Wednesday.  And thanks to a suggestion from a fellow Mama, we discovered a wonderful little life-saver with a somewhat disgusting concept.  It's called the Nosefrida, aka, 'Snot Sucker.'  "Doctor invented and Dr. Sears recommended," it's basically a nasal aspirator for parents who kick ass.  This is because in order to get the snot out of the baby's nose, you suck through a tube-like device that connects the baby's nose to the parent's mouth.  Trust me, it's "snot" as bad as it sounds.  The tube is quite long, and there's a sponge that serves as a stopper in the middle of the tube.  The baby phlegm doesn't get close to your mouth, and it works like a dream.  Possibly one of the best finds we've scored since bringing home baby.  And besides the fact that we kind of feel like we're performing brain-sucking experiments on our little man, it doesn't bother him at all. 

...I'm ready for spring.  It's been so dreary this week, and after that 62 degree 'teaser' last week, winter has become slightly depressing.  I'm ready to clean windows, plant flowers, and play Superman with Cruz on a quilt in the middle of the backyard.  I'm ready for nightly walks, grilled burgers, and sunshine.  I'm ready for dates at the park, ice cream cones, and tulips.

...To nurse my weary winter blues, I found a few treasures to brighten up my living room and feed my need for a little season change.  Our living room has become a baby haven, and the burp cloths, baby toys, and blankies have slowly taken over.  So, while Cruz watched from his jumper, I slowly replaced pacifiers with fresh votives, Baby Einstein toys with a pot of tulips, and fleece blankies with a new pillow. 

It did the trick.

...Tonight, Beau is brewing with his guy friends and I am soaking up a Thursday night at home with my baby boy.  I held him extra long while he slept, smelled the top of his head, and pressed my cheek against his little forehead.  He was so tired, the kind of tired that allowed me to cradle his limp little body like a sack of potatoes.  These little moments are the kind that make me wish I could stay present all the time.  The moments that leave me a little out of breath knowing that every day he's growing bigger and someday, he's not going to fit this way in my arms.  

...We have a busy weekend in store.  A weekend of cleaning and laundry, friends, and chili.  Yes, the Annual Toads Chili Cook-ON is this weekend, and my husband is going for his fourth win.  More to come!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Charly Grace!

Today, my niece Charly is ONE!  One year ago, her dark little head of hair and sweet personality entered this world.  She's a little dolly to all of us, and has been such a joy to watch grow this past year.  

Last week, we celebrated her special day with a party at Jordan and Kelli's.  We watched her twirl around the room like a ballerina before opening her presents, hug her new dolly, and timidly inspect her very own birthday cake.  We watched her smile, giggle, and walk around the room, and I fell amazed at how fast little babies change in just one year.  What a blessing these 'littles' are to us...

Happy Birthday, Charly Girl.  Your Aunt Ashley, Uncle Beau, and Cousin Cruz love you to pieces and can't wait to see the little girl you become in year two!   

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear Cruz...

Dear Cruz,

I hope I always remember you at this stage. Four months old. Since you were born, I’ve been amazed at how much you’ve changed; however, the last few weeks have been especially astonishing to me. It seems that every day, you see and understand more of the world around you. It’s as if you know you are part of our family, a perfect piece of the puzzle. I love the little person you are and look forward to every smile, every morning, and every new experience with you.

You are such a happy baby. You love to smile, and show us your wide-mouthed grin all the time. Sometimes, your dad and I will crowd over you, laughing at your latest or attempting to make you giggle, and you’ll look back and forth at us, smiling as if you’re playing along. You love bath time and play time, car rides and tours of the house. Last night, you laid in front of the glass door and watched me take down Christmas lights. You are very easy going, and it seems the busier the environment is, the more you seem to enjoy yourself. 

You definitely know what you want, and aren’t afraid to express that in more than one way! The other day at day care, Kari, the director of the center, who probably had a million things to do, decided you needed a change of ‘pace,’ and gave you a tour of the facilities. You apparently hung out with her in the main office and were as happy as can be. I think you have the girls at BB wrapped around your finger….before we leave in the afternoon, you always flash them one of your flirtatious little smiles. Our transition to day care has really went better than expected. We are blessed with a wonderful day care, and my best part of each day is picking you up.

I love nights like tonight. No plans, a Ray Charles playlist on Pandora, and just the three of us. These are the nights I dreamed about when I was pregnant with you. I love how proud you look when Daddy is holding you above his head, or the smile on your face when it looks like you’re trying to impress me. I love how excited you get when you eat your cereal, and how funny your mouth looks as you try to figure out this spoon situation. I love when you are fed and content, and will lay in our arms and talk and talk. I love the smile on your face when we play peekaboo, the way your arms move up and down when you are excited, and the way you nestle into our chests when you get tired. 

Thank you for completing our little puzzle and lighting up our lives.



101 Things...

I came across a blog the other day that created a list of 101 things to accomplish in 1001 days.  And for a goal-driven, list-maker like myself, I was thrilled to embark on a new challenge!  Beau was instantly apprehensive, as he thinks I already give myself enough to do; however, I reassured him that my list would only include things that would bring me happiness, as well as things that really need to be done anyway.  Call it a realistic Bucket List of sorts. It took me about twenty minutes and dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings to come up with this list, and by the time I was done brainstorming, I had more than 101 things!  This list carries no burden whatsoever, but I promise to track my accomplishments right here.  

Start Date: Sunday, February 20, 2011
End Date: Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cruz will be three years old!

3. Lose some weight
6. Host a cocktail party at our house
7. Get something published
8. See Jack Johnson in concert
9. End every night in prayer
12. Go camping with my boys
14. Take a photography workshop
15. Play in the rain
16. Pay off debt
18. Finish my self-mission statement
19. Organize picture files on my desktop
21. Sponsor a little baby from Mozambique
23. Speak at a national convention for teachers
25. Go on a spontaneous, unplanned weekend getaway with Beau and Cruz
26. Reconnect with a friend I haven’t seen in years
27. Build a sand castle with Cruz
28. Join a small group at church
29. Buy a funky pair of sunglasses
30. Spend an afternoon in the library with Cruz
31. Perfect a pie crust
32. Learn to love running
33. Finish my DIY letters for Cruz’s room
35. Create a new photo wall display
36. Learn to crochet...seriously this time
37. Create my own blog domain
38. Attend a Blogher event
39. Go sledding
41. Flatten my tummy
43. Go on a technology fast for one week
44. Get a Caribbean body wrap at Jiva
45. Have a picnic in Millennium Park
46. Donate blood - after giving birth, I think I could round up the courage to accomplish this!
47. Give up pop for an entire month
48. Drink 32 oz. of water every day for a month
49. Buy a new set of furniture
50. Sort and develop an email inbox system
52. Read the New Testament – start to finish
53. Spend a day doing ‘nothing’
54. Go to a drive-in movie
57. Go on a girl's weekend
58. Buy a little fishing boat
59. Sort and clean out kitchen cabinets
60. Finish the Hunger Games Trilogy
61. Write a new unit for each of my classes
62. Plant some tulips
65. Go apple picking
66. Keep indoor plants alive
67. Buy new towels for the bathroom
68. Attend a marriage retreat with Beau
69. Teach Cruz to take regular naps in his crib
70. Redo the living room
71. Host a tried and true barbecue at our house
72. Get a makeup lesson
73. Buy a funky pair of high heels
74. Learn how to do a side French braid
76. Go to Target Field
77. Go tubing with a group of friends
78. Spend an entire day at the park
79. Roast marshmallows by a fire
80. Beat Beau at a game of Scrabble
81. Get better at sending cards
82. Family pictures
83. Build a piece of furniture to hold our electronics
84. Create a new photo wall display in the living room
85. Plant a tree
86. Visit a state I’ve never been before
87. Learn how to make an Old Bay Shrimp Feast
88. Buy a new watch
89. Stay in our wedding night suite again
90. Go fishing
91. Baby in sink picture
92. Buy a new purse
93. Start a college fund for Cruz
95. Clean the garage
96. Dance until my feet hurt
97. Clean out my closet and donate clothes to Goodwill
98. Go to a flea market
99. Go to garage sale-ing
100. Resurface something from the garage sale or flea market

And because Cruz decided to take a THREE HOUR NAP in his crib this afternoon, I decided to cross #1 off my list!

Hello, (room for) towels!  Now I just have to finish that load of laundry...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Iowa is Waking UP

It happens every year.  A day of above-average temperatures in the final weeks of winter.  A taste, a tease, and a glimmer of hope that spring will eventually warm us again.  Today was the day.  Sixty-two degrees on February 17th.  Enough warmth to forget coats, forget hats, and forget the piles of grading I have to do. 

I do love winter.  I love the months of hibernation, the cozy nights pretending to be 'snowed in' without a place to go in the world.  The fires, the comfort food, and the family time.  I also love winter for the fact that it makes us Iowans appreciate spring that much more.  It really is a fresh start, a new beginning, a sort of rebirth each year.  And what's hibernation without the escape?

We're like bears.  I swear I've seen our neighbors twice since the first snow fell in November.  And today, the entire neighborhood was out.  Two old men sitting on their front steps, yelling to their neighbor from across the street:

"Isn't this awesome?"

Kids running up and down the streets, splashing in the melted remains of snow, wearing shorts, t-shirts, and rosy red cheeks.  Finding treasures buried months ago, having the time of their lives sweeping the sidewalks for their dads, and begging their moms to stay out just...

"Five minutes longer?"

We took Cruz on a walk.  We laughed at how much bigger the neighborhood kids had gotten since last fall.  We grilled chicken breasts, contemplated getting ice cream, and I finally took my garland off my porch rail.  And just like every other year, I attempted to convince myself that I don't need to hang Christmas decor outside next year...

Today was a good day.  Even though I saw twenties in the seven-day forecast for next week, this day was the glimpse of good things to come.  The fresh air was good for the soul.  And soon, that thick, spongy ground will thaw and dry and be the perfect place for a blanket, a glass of ice tea, and a summer afternoon soaking up my baby...

It's a comin'...

Spring is in the air!

Ron Sock-o

If you know my husband, you know he is an avid and ever-faithful Cubs fan.  And about this time every year, as the snow starts melting, the temperature starts rising, and the football season has ended, he starts gearing up for another hopeful year of Cubs baseball.  Today, the weather is as nice as it's been since last fall, upper 50s.  Another thing you might know about my husband is his love (or obsession) with grilling.  So tonight, after he comes and speaks to my 10th graders about sales (ala Death of a Salesman), we will grill, maybe open a window or two, and maybe sneak the Cruz-Man out for some fresh air.  

There is one more thing that goes hand-in-hand with grilling and Cubs baseball.  Ron Santo, aka, the voice of the Cubs.  Listening to Ron Santo's commentary on the back deck with Beau speaks summer to me.  Beau is a big fan of Ron and has been known to run home in the middle of a night out to grab a book on the Cubs just to provide some substantial evidence to a hater as to why Ron deserves a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame.  This winter, Ron passed away after a long battle with diabetes.  Listening to the Cubs just won't be the same.

Beau has always tormented my family (and myself) by threatening to name our son, Ron, in honor of Ron Santo.  First, it started with our cat.  For the first few months of Jade's life, Beau referred to her as 'Santo.'  Then, when we found out we were having a boy, I was not surprised when Beau attempted to persuade me into the namesake again.  Still to this day, I'm not sure if he was joking or not...

So instead of our son being named after the Cubs legend, we have named Cruz's favorite stuffed animal Ron 'Sock-o.'  It will be a staple around our household and a way to teach Cruz about his daddy's favorite Cub.   

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Try this!

So if you read my Valentine's post from yesterday, you might remember me mentioning my supper last night, the meal that screamed the 1950s, Leave it to Beaver, 'finish your plate or go to your room,' meal minus the freshly baked apple pie cooling on the window sill.  Well, the meal was simple, home cooked, and insanely good.  Here is the recipe for the crock pot pork roast...


1 large onion, sliced into rings
2-3 pound boneless pork loin roast (this would be about right for four, with left overs)
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup white sugar
3 tbsp. red wine vinegar
2 tbsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. ketchup
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
Dash of hot sauce, or to taste

-Arrange the onion slices in the bottom of your crock pot.  Place pork roast on top of onion.
-Season pork roast with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. 
-In a bowl, mix together water, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, and hot sauce.  Pour over roast.
-Cover, and cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Before serving, shred with a fork.  We had this with some Pasta-Roni and some peas.  The flavors were perfect together. 

And guess who is showing lots of interest in 'people food' these days?  If he sees us eating, he grunts and fusses until we pick him up.  Then, with both hands on the table (or on our plate), he opens his mouth like a bird with every bite I take; it's amazing how fast these babies catch on.  Last night, he would watch me wind noodles around my fork, then follow his little mouth until the noodles hit my mouth.  He looked like a little fish going in for a bite.  Baby torture I tell ya :). 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

Because I'm a sucker for the holidays, I like to go all out.  And because Beau is married to me, he usually plays along.  Valentine's Days in the past have meant long nights at Indulgence, a local wine shoppe in Cedar Falls, scouring the racks of wine for the perfect bottle to, well, indulge in.  Nights out on the town, sipping on martinis, or cuddling up with a bowl of buttery popcorn in a cozy movie theater.  One year, we made a four-course meal and set up a candlelit card table in our living room.  Another year, we had a fondue carpet picnic, complete with champagne, candles, strawberries, and pound cake.  

This weekend, my parents came to babysit Cruz so Beau and I could have a date night.  I thought about it all day, tried on four different outfits in order to find 'the one,' spent extra time on my hair, and envisioned a night 'like the old times,' complete with martinis, great food, and googly eyes.  Although we thoroughly enjoyed our night out together, we were home two hours later, fighting over Cruz and changing into our sweat pants.  Yes, I admit it.  A Saturday night opportunity to go all out and we were home after two hours.  And did I mention that that two hours included a stop at Walgreens on the way home?  Pathetic, I know.  (Beau will be utterly embarrassed I'm admitting to this).

Have we turned into lame people desperately lacking a social life?  Have we forgotten how to be romantic, celebrate our relationship, and enjoy a night out alone?  Maybe a little, but I think it's more than that.

We are learning how to balance.  Learning how to be the best parents we can be, while also maintaining the spark that made us fall in love more than six years ago.  The spark is still there, but the fuel that's igniting is what's different.  That's the pretty amazing thing about love.  It changes.  It begins as something thrilling and passionate, and evolves to something rock steady and firm.  The forever kind.

This Valentine's Day, we share our hearts and our lives with another little person.  A person who has taught us more about life and love than we ever dreamed possible.  And although I hope we can always find room for the romance...nights out on the town, spontaneous adventures for the two of us, and maybe a weekend getaway here and there, it's more about the little things now.      

So today, we celebrate Valentine's Day after a hectic day at work and the trauma of Cruz's four-month doctor's appointment.  We nurse battle wounds from baby shots, open little presents wrapped with heart paper, and clink our wine glasses to love.

Tonight, we celebrate Valentine's Day with a pork roast, peas, and pasta, the kind of meal that makes me want to say, "Cruz, you are not leaving this table 'til you finish those peas," because it screams 'family,' instead of 'couple.'  We celebrate Valentine's day with a bottle of wine, and a night of entertainment, watching our little one have the time of his life with his newest Valentine's gift.

It's been awhile (Christmas) since I've splurged on something fun for the Cruz dude.  And since there was a square foot of living room floor space unoccupied by a baby toy, I thought it was time to fill it up.  I'm working to create Baby Adventureland in our living room.  

This thing is legit.  It's a Johnny Jumper minus the scary-hang-from-door-frame assembly.  It lights up and plays music every time Cruz bounces.  It's stimulation overload.  Every where he looks, there's a rainforest creature staring back at him.  It satisfies his need to sit like a big boy, and occupies him while we cook supper.  Most of all, he looks so cute in it and every time I ask him if he likes his new toy, I get this.

What else am I lovin' this Valentine's Day?

...Dancing with Cruz in the living room to Etta James', At Last.  Maybe if I start him early, he won't be embarrassed to dance with me when he's sixteen.  

...Applebee's Perfect Strawberry Margarita.  Beau hates Applebees, but I talked him into it the other night.  I know it's weird, but I feel strangely at home eating at Applebees.  And after being introduced to the $1.99 Long Islands on Friday nights, Beau might not be so opposed to eating there in the future.  Good food, lots for Cruz to look at, and a family friendly environment.  Cruz sat on the table, reached for my shrimp, and tried to score us a deal by smiling at every waitress that walked by.  A show-stopper, that one.
...The feeling of wearing my favorite pointy-toed heels without tights on our date Saturday night.  A sure sign of Spring.  

...Basil crusted pork medallions with an apple and pear chutney, sweet potato puree, and a maraschino bundt cake with hot fudge and homemade whipped cream.  Enough said?  Oh, and the Cu's famous lobster bisque.  When Beau and I score a date night, we eat.  

...Holding hands with the man I love while walking back to the car after dinner.  The little things...

...the first glimpses of Iowa spring.  40 degree days equals grilled burgers, spring coats, and driving with the windows down.  It's time to go, snow!

...Sunday pajama days.  My dad came to help Beau put in a sump pump in our basement, hoping to someday expand Baby Adventureland to a family room in the basement instead of our living room.  Mom tagged along and brought egg bake and cinnamon rolls, and we spent the majority of Sunday tickling baby feet and nuzzling baby necks.  

...Valentine's gifts from Grandma.  And Great-Grandma.  A pretty sweet hat and some much needed reading material.  And of course, some adorable Baby Gap clothes.  

Someone's trying to sit by himself...

...getting home from work to a vase of peach roses on the table, and better yet, picturing my two loves in Hy-Vee, searching for the perfect bouquet.  Beau said a lady smiled at him when he asked Cruz which ones "Mommy would like best." 

...opening a Valentine's Day card from my son. husband.  The love of my life.  The man who will move appointments in order to come be a 'guest speaker' to my class of unruly sixteen year olds.  The man who teaches me how to love and how to be a better person.  The man who stole my heart six years ago, pulling a frisbee out of the bushes across from my college house, wearing nothing but a pair of cargo shorts, a backwards cap, and a pair of flip flops.  The man whose dimples still make me melt over and over again.  

...and the man who gave me this little man.  The little man who talked all weekend long, perfected his fish face, and learned how 'motor boat' his lips.  The little man who is already trying to kick his feet and move his arms into a sudo-army crawl, and sit on his own (resting on his formula belly, of course!).  The little man who loves to smile, loves to cuddle, and loves to be talked to.  

What are you soaking up this Valentine's Day? 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What is LOVE???

Even at his age, Cruz is puzzled at the four-letter word...

And because I know that the male species often struggles with ever truly figuring out the meaning of the L-word, I decided to surround his existence with it one day.  A snow day experiment.

Instead of choosing to catch up on grading, clean the bathroom, or cook a nice supper during my snow day, Cruz and I played.  We cut out twenty paper hearts.  We, of course, took hundreds of pictures.  And we wrestled with this 'crazy little thing called love' all afternoon.

When I was growing up, I was aimlessly in awe of anything 'love.'  Heck, I memorized every song on The Bodyguard soundtrack, practiced my wedding vows at the age of eight, and dreamed about the first time someone would whisper, I love you, in my ear.  I was, and still am, loyal and quick to fall in love.  It's in my DNA.  I remember drawing up house plans with my childhood love, Dana, dancing in the living room and fishing off the front steps.  I remember the butterflies I felt when I saw the smile of one of my first boyfriends, pedaling to catch up with me as I delivered my paper route in the summertime.  I remember lying in the grass, staring at the clouds, sharing secrets and making promises.  I remember caring and aching for him and the pain he felt in his life.  And I remember the raw emotions of falling in love for the first time.   

But just as I remember the butterflies, the highs, and weightlessness of love, I remember the hurt, the heart break, and the emptiness when a love ends.  That is why love is so powerful.  It can cause the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. 


Teaching high school students, I oftentimes get bombarded with the highs and lows of love.  I worry about my sophomore girls who fall madly in love with a senior boy, and ache to warn them when I see the signs of heartbreak coming.  But most of all, I want them to see that it will all be okay, and that what they are feeling at the moment is a mere stepping stone in shaping them into a person who knows when love is the right thing.  

It may sound weird, but I want Cruz to experience it all.  And I pray I can be the mom he needs to celebrate the highs, and be there during the lows.  I want him to build a rock steady path for his future wife. 

But for now, I'm more than okay being the only woman in his life...

Happy love day, future heart breaker...

Celebrate and learn from it all...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...