Thursday, June 30, 2011

When all else fails, buy an orchid.

Today is the last day of June.  It's been an interesting, somewhat frustrating month thanks to a few work-related issues that leave me longing for the much needed summer break I couldn't wait for.  And while it's true this diva has had more days off than many (including my husband), it seems like I'm lining up daycare and leaving my boy more than I should be these days.     

But because I'm not wasting a single minute wallowing in my own self-pity, I went searching for inspiration today.  
I didn't have to look too far to find it. 

...I found it on the chubby thighs of Cruz, thighs that are so cute you can't help but give 'em a playful pinch or a head-first nuzzle.  He's ticklish, which makes it that much more fun.

...I found it in a tiny bowl of fresh strawberry gelato from Scratch.  And later, just to be certain I was inspired, I found it in that lemon raspberry cupcake, too.

Oh yea, Cruz LOVED the gelato.  This child never stops eating! 

...I found it in a pineapple panini at Soho, a pepperoni pizza at Tony's, and a bag of Orbitz Donuts for the road.  We took advantage of the perfect summer day yesterday and made sure to dine outside.  Twice.   

...I found it in the dozen roses my hubby brought home from the grocery store.  He works all day, stays at the office until six making calls, and drives to Des Moines and back for a meeting, but brings me roses because 'I'm working too hard.'  He's a keeper, that one.

...I found it in a good meal and ice cold beer.  Recipe follows... 

...I found it watching Cruz in the middle of the living room floor, dressed in nothing but a diaper, drinking his bottle and watching Your Baby Can Read.  If only I could have realized that flashing words across a screen and touching my nose or raising my arms could have made millions...

...I found it in this orchid, an orchid that is supposed to survive on three ice cubes, once a week, room temperature, and a little sunshine.  It's amazing how something so simple can brighten your spirits and attitude toward a room.  And, new things always make me in the mood to clean!   

...I found it in the carefree afternoons of hanging out at home.  Taking the extra thirty seconds it takes to cut a lemon wedge for my iced tea, hang a basket of clothes on the line, or take a pit-stop at the park during our afternoon walk.  These are the days that fill me with happiness more than any other.    

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"If I had my every way, I'd eat PEACHES everyday..."

As much as I love using my Beaba Babycook, it's fun watching Cruz enter this next, very independent stage of eating.  It started with Gerber Puffs, and has morphed into most kinds of fruit.  Little chunks of banana and strawberries, blueberries sliced in half, and his latest favorite, fresh peaches.  As soon as he sees me carrying the cutting board towards his tray, he gets super excited, sucking in a little breath of air with a smile on his face, exposing those little baby teeth, and waving his arms up and down.  Then, he problem-solves.  Grabs a fist-full of fruit, slides it across his tray to the upward edge, drags it up off the tray, and shoves his entire fist in his mouth, a fist usually filled with fruit.  He's gotten quite good at this system, and besides the occasional banana on the floor or strawberry under his onesie, he rarely misses a piece of fruit.  

We've just started figuring out that instead of sitting across from him and watching him eat, we should use this time to eat ourselves.  The other day, as Cruz dove into a fresh peach from Hy-Vee, I decided to enjoy my own.  Of course, Cruz quickly became intrigued by the peach I was eating and decided his was boring.  So, as his sticky fingers reached for mine, I decided to let him give it a try.  

And he knew just what to do! 

The same thing ensued the following morning.  I enjoyed the top layer of skin on my peach, then gave the rest to Cruz, who sucked the juice out and scraped off chunks with his teeth as if he's been eating apples for years.  


The only problem with Cruz's new eating adventures is that he's showing less and less interest in the pureed portions I'm making for him.  I'm pretty sure he'd eat fruit until he'd turn into a peach himself, but he's not a fan of his veggies.  He used to love squash, and now, does his best to avoid the spoon.  He reaches for the table, turns his face toward the ceiling, and casually ignores the one-sided goal.  After lots of coaxing, some trickery, and yes, even the airplane and train sound effects, we'll eventually get it down, but, with far less satisfaction on both sides.  Has Cruz already graduated from baby food to toddler food?  Has he just developed a mind of his own and decided he's not a fan of vegetables?  Are there tricks for sustaining an interest in peas and squash and broccoli, while still giving him the fruit he loves?  What's the trick for reigniting the foodie in Cruz-ie?!?!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Picnics, Parades, and Mini Donuts!

I wish every weekend would begin and end with a picnic.  After the 30 percent rain chances, cloudy skies, and foggy drizzle cancelled all plans to be outside most of last week, the mix of sun and puff clouds on Friday lured us outside for lunch.  We drug our quilt out of the back of the car, and hauled out glasses of iced tea, bowls of bing cherries, and of course, puffs for Cruz.  The picnic did the trick, as Beau decided to call it a day and spend the rest of his Friday afternoon at George Wyth with us.  

Last night, we picnicked again.  This time, we joined my extended family for grilled burgers, Mom's macaroni salad, and a deliciously store-bought cherry pie.  We introduced Cruz to some relatives he had yet to meet, and introduced him to Wilder Park, a park that has grown up a lot since I was a little girl.

Yea, our son started this biting thing...

Sandwiched between our picnics this weekend was a smorgasbord of summertime events that left us all a bit worn out when we returned home Sunday night.  Cruz, as always, went with the flow all weekend, but was a bit unruly today.  I blame it on a busy weekend, and of course, baby teeth.  He had his first temper tantrum today when I tried to rock him to sleep.  He put up a fight, but I, along with some Baby Tylenol, Orajel, and a frozen teether won out in the end.  After a two hour nap, about a pound of strawberries, and a good soak in the tub, he's seeming a bit more like his happy self again.   

This weekend also marked our annual city celebration, Sturgis Falls.  I've always been a sucker for small town festivals.  The parades, and carney food, and live music brings me back to days spent at the Butler County Fair, or up way past bedtime at the Allison Days street dance featuring the latest classic rock band.  Those celebrations were the highlight of my summer.  My neighbor, Stacy, and I would plan an itinerary for the entire week; and because in reality there wasn't a whole lot to do, we'd find entertainment at the hog show, make friends in the cattle barns, and wander through the 4-H buildings, sampling fresh pies, Culligan water, and elk burgers.  We'd sit at those crane games for hours, listen to the carnies heckle us for more money, and ride the tilt-a-whirl until we felt sick (or until a girl got sick all over my sandals).  I have fond memories of those days, and will always feel a hint of nostalgia when fair time rolls around.  This year, at Sturgis Falls, Tourist Park was booming with a Bon Jovi Tribute on Friday and yes, a Journey Tribute Saturday.  This small town girl was ready to introduce her little man to mini donuts, strawberry smoothies, and 'Don't Stop Believing.'  

Cruz loved the people, the music, the balloons, and the live music.  He squealed from Beau's shoulders as we tried authentic gyros, and even got his very own taste of my fresh strawberry smoothie.  I changed his diaper next to a tree behind the beer tent, and dressed in his skulls and crossbones sleeper, he drank his bottle from his stroller, serenaded to the sounds of 'Every Rose Has Its Thorn.'  About the time the strobe lights and smoke filled the stage and we realized we were one of about five couples left with a stroller, we decided it was time to head home.  We took one more stroll through the midway as Cruz drifted off to sleep, and decided to sit curbside at Tony's for a late night slice of pepperoni.  We were home, in bed, and asleep by 11:00, probably about the time my little brother was making his way to Cedar Falls.  Oh, the stages of life ;)

Cruz liked watching this guy get down...

...and wondered how he might make the same moves...

Saturday, we were up bright and early for Cruz's first ever parade.  I figured we might as well take advantage of the candy-less parade while Cruz doesn't care!  It's a long parade, but my boys did great.  Beau like the classic cars, Cruz liked the UNI Dance Team, and I got some use out of my telephoto lens.

Waiting for the start...

Oh, Sunny...

After the parade, we took one more walk through the park, grabbed one more bag of mini donuts, and went home to take naps.  Then, after a fresh bowl of guacamole, we headed to Jordan and Kelli's to celebrate Kelli's 29th birthday, as well as a visit from Dave and Kara, friends from UNI who now live in Australia.    

What a weekend!  When I think about it in hindsight, I can't believe how much I ate!  Maybe it's a good thing we don't have picnics and city celebrations and birthday parties every weekend!  

Last week of June.  Hoping for a long, sunny, and relaxing July, filled with lots of picnics and pool days!    

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

June's Simple Pleasures

"Is this Heaven?  It's Iowa.  Iowa?  I could've sworn this was Heaven.  Is there a Heaven?  Oh yeah, it's the place where dreams come true.  
 Maybe this is Heaven."  

-Field of Dreams, 1989  

Last night, as I was tiptoeing my way around the house getting ready for bed, I heard soft lullaby music coming from Cruz's room.  I pushed my ear against his door and sure enough, the sounds of Rock-a-Bye Baby were playing from inside.  As I was just about ready to push his door open and see what he was up to in his crib, I heard him pull the blue stuffed elephant's tail again, signaling another verse of the song.  There I stood on the other side of his door, waiting for my sign to go in, smiling at the thought of him entertaining himself in the middle of the night.  I never did go in his room, and never heard another peep.  I now wonder how many times that little tail gets pulled during the night, and how many times Cruz falls back asleep to sounds of his crib music.  

The story I tell is an illustration of how I'm feeling this summer.  These are the days I've been waiting for.  If I was up past 11 during the school year, it was probably thanks to a pile of research papers I was already behind on grading, and a little lullaby from my son's room would only signal that Cruz was up when I wanted to go to bed.  Now, the sounds from Cruz's room make me stop, smile, and stand by the door of his room, soaking in another moment of this stage in our lives.  

I am so thankful to have these days at home with Cruz.  It's been such a blessing to see his routines on a day-to-day basis, and really focus on being a mom without so many of the distractions that exist during the school year.  The two of us have connected on a whole new level lately, and I've fallen madly in love with my boy's budding personality.  

We've been having such a good summer, just enjoying the simple things in this stage in our lives.  Spending nights on a blanket in the backyard, grilling on the deck, and taking Cruz on stroller rides through our neighborhood or bike rides around town.  Cruz loves being outside, loves exploring new territory, and loves being with his mom and dad...we've been trying to give him as much of the three as possible this summer.

Enjoyin' the simple pleasures of summertime... 
...Like Tropical Sno.  There we sat on a quilt in the back of the Kia, taking turns giving Cruz small samplings of the melt-in-your-mouth summer treat.  Cruz was a fan.  A BIG fan.  He started screaming when we refused to give him more, so while Beau risked a major brain freeze and ate his as fast as he could, I ate the rest of mine on the way to the trash can.  We were afraid Cruz wouldn't sleep due to his first possible sugar high, but it didn't seem to affect him.  And for fellow Tropical Sno lemonade, lemon, orange, and guava...deliciously refreshing!

...spontaneous backyard grill-outs with friends.  Our friends, Mike and Donna, have a killer backyard.  A pergola straight out of HGTV, wine bottles transformed into citronella candles, a tree house with a rope ladder and rope message system, and a gorgeous garden.  We sipped Skinny Girl Margaritas, munched on guacamole, pita chips, and bing cherries, and watched the kids take each other down in tug 'a war contest.  Cruz sat and watched from a blanket and munched on his first ever graham cracker.  

Cruz and his friend, Sparkes with Abbie and her friend.

...a glass of iced tea with a sprig of my very own, home grown mint.

...fresh fruit for breakfast.  There have been many 'food firsts' for Cruz the past couple of weeks.  Last summer, I craved fresh fruits while I was pregnant with Cruz, and I think it paid off.  He LOVES fruit, especially when he can pick pieces up and eat it himself.  We started with bananas, and have moved on to strawberries, peaches, and mandarin oranges.   

I'm still making baby food, too, and now get a little shaky if my freezer starts to look bare.  I'm digging the endless options of fruits available right now at our local grocer and have gradually been devising my own concoctions.  Sometimes, as I'm pouring the latest smoothie into the ice cube tray compartments, I'm tempted to stick in some popsicle sticks...they look so good! 

...the simple pleasures of our hometown.  If someone who has never been to Iowa were to ask me what it's like in the summertime, I would get my magic ball and show them last Friday night.

We went to Movies Under the Moon, an event our town holds on a few Friday nights during the summer.  They have bands, serve Maid-Rites and homemade pie, and at dusk, play a family-friendly movie on a projection screen.  Families are welcome, picnic baskets are encouraged, and blankets and pillows are an absolute must.  So, Friday night, we packed pajamas for Cruz, a cooler and a bottle of wine for us, and enough blankets to sleep under the stars if we wanted to.

Friday night proved that even a picture can only do so much.  The weather was perfect, the first fireflies of the season lit up across the big projector screen, and popcorn popped from the shelter house.  Babies curled up against their parents' chest, restless toddlers danced with their mamas, and people of all ages shared pie and beer and conversation.  A fireworks show lit up the sky, providing quite the 'coming attraction,' before the feature presentation.  And as Cruz fell asleep on his tummy between the two of us, we were reminded of why it is we live in one of the greatest places in the world.  Field of Dreams, baby.

Oh, how I love our little town.  It's truly the perfect place to raise a family.  Big enough to keep busy and have options, small enough to feel the community.  And if I wasn't still slightly terrifed by the flying monkeys in Wizard of Oz, we'd be attending the next Movies Under the Moon event ;).

...sweaty babies on swing sets.  It was the best way to cool off in the middle of a heavy, humid bike ride on Saturday.  It was also a chance to 'cool off' after an Oriole dive-bombed my head and attacked my ponytail while I was riding my bike.  I must have been threatening her babies or something, because this bird meant business.  It was terrifying and hilarious, or at least Beau thought so.

...when I asked Beau how we wanted to celebrate his first Father's Day, I wasn't surprised when his idea of celebration involved his grill, a drink, and some time with family.  Saturday, we made fajitas.  We ate an entire bowl of homemade guacamole.  We poured margaritas in fancy glasses and garnished them with a lime wedge.  We made a fajita bar, a ramekin for roma tomates, and one for cilantro.  We pretended we were Picasso as we created our 'masterpiece on a tortilla shell' and went on and on and on about how good they tasted.  Either we don't cook as much anymore, or I need to marinade my steak in Italian dressing and a fajita seasoning packet every time we make fajitas.  

...and dessert.  It was the only way we could keep a happy baby while we happily finished our food.  In nothing but his diaper on our back deck, Cruz got a preview of what his first birthday will entail.  A tiny chunk of angel food cake, followed by, what do you know, a spoonful of strawberries.  There he sat on the deck, devouring his strawberries, oblivious to the fact that he was the only one out there while we cleaned up dishes inside the kitchen. Every now and then, he'd stick a strawberry in his mouth and look around for someone to observe.  We laughed and said that if DHS drove by and saw a naked baby abandoned in a high chair, we'd have some explaining to do.    

...early evening walks with pajamas and cozy blankets.  My favorite are nights after his bath, bundled up in a fresh blanket, during my favorite part of the night.  The sun is just setting, the wind has died down, and all is peaceful in the neighborhood.  Cruz usually doesn't make it past Del Matro Street, and sleeps sweetly while I water my flowers.

...and SWIMMING!  Although still a little timid in the water, Cruz is definitely intrigued by the water - that is, if I'm in it with him.  Not exactly what I had planned, but I guess it's a sacrifice I'll make to model courage and bravery! 


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