Monday, August 29, 2011

A Little of This, A Little of That

Now that we're falling into our back-to-school routine, complete with our three-family-dinners-a-week, early evening bath nights, and fighting to keep C-Diddy (Beau's new nickname for Cruz) up past eight, weekends are as valuable as a precious gem.  We welcomed Friday and kicked off our weekend with steaks at Texas Roadhouse.  It was a special night, as Cruz ordered off the kids' menu for the very first time.  Instead of a smorgasbord of foods from our orders, Cruz got his very own plate of mac 'n cheese with a side of applesauce.  He loved it!

The rest of our weekend was filled with lots of this and that.  A busy day on Saturday, followed by a quiet Sunday.  Feeling blessed to be adopted children of God at Orchard Hill's The Gathering, and watching Beyonce reveal her baby bump on the VMAs.  An airshow picnic, a new pair of shoes for Cruz, and a raspberry peach pie from the Farmer's Market.  A clean fridge, a nap with dad, and a grandpa on a birthday saddle at the Texas Roadhouse.  

Yes, we had Texas Roadhouse twice this weekend.  And yes, Cruz had mac n' cheese and applesauce twice.  The funny thing is, I think I could eat Texas Roadhouse again tonight.  It's just that good.    

While Beau, Jordan, and my dad celebrated his birthday with 50,000 other people at the Waterloo Airshow on Saturday, we decided it'd be safer on Cruz's ears if he'd just go shopping with us.  And since he couldn't hang out with the guys and watch stealth bombers soar through the air, we spoiled him.  His very own peanut butter blossom cookie at the Farmer's Market, a new pair of Robeez from Peekaboo, and a grilled cheese panini at Soho.  After a stroll through my favorite street in town, we spread out a blanket and did a little plane-watching of our own next to a go-kart track and miniature golf course.  

Cruz barely napped on Saturday, but proved to be quite the sport.  We put Grandpa Curt on a saddle for his birthday, and by the end of the night, Cruz was ready to lay his head in his mac n' cheese and call it a night!  

After Sunday morning's church service at Gallagher Bluedorn, a performing arts center on UNI's campus, Beau and I decided our church should really consider worshiping there every week.  There's something so thrilling about pulling up to the parking lot and seeing literally hundreds of people 'gather' together to kick-off another school year with Christ as a focus.  The theme for the service this year was on adoption, and I left Gallagher Sunday feeling more than blessed to be a child of God.  

After church, we visited the fountain at the Union and held tight as Cruz attempted to pry himself out of our arms to take a swim.  His only distraction from the water was a group of college girls writing on the cement with sidewalk chalk.  He thought they were cute, so he waved!

Lots of fun this weekend!  Looking forward to getting an extra day next weekend!

Happy Monday and Happy Birthday to Grandpa Curt!  We love you!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Back at it...

After just a week back to school, we are beginning to readjust to our new routine.  As the weekdays fill up, the weekends become our precious time, time to catch our breath, reconnect as a family, finish some projects, and have some fun.  And while we'd like to eventually find room to park in our garage and find the floor of the laundry room, the weather was just too nice to work on our never-ending list of house projects all weekend long.  We did find some time to work on our basement haven, though, thanks in large part to our son who definitely needed to catch up on his shut-eye...

Cruz slept 11 hours straight Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night.  I made him a big breakfast Saturday morning, took him grocery shopping, and by the time we got home, he was already rubbing his eyes, a sure-fire sign he's ready for a nap.  I rocked him to sleep and put him in his crib for what I figured would be a short nap.  Two and a half hours, a clean basement, and assembled futon later, Cruz was up and ready for 1:30 in the afternoon!  He was well-rested and so ready for a night of attention from Mom and Dad.  

We managed to get quite a bit done with our basement project, and saved lots of room for my favorite type of weekend....

...We scored half-price Cherry Limeades at Sonic and went furniture shopping.  While Beau and I tested out every comfy sofa and recliner at the store, Cruz crawled under end tables and nestled himself in an over-sized bean bag in front of a flat-screen TV. 

...We picked up a thin-crust pizza, put on some sweats, and tested out the makings of our new family room.  Our child-proof, long-time-coming, den-of-comfort is in its final stages, and we are beginning to see that an end is near.  We have some furniture, a $24 lamp from Lowes, and an area rug.  Cruz loved the space and even Jade fell asleep next to us.  Beau played his first game of Madden in months, I cuddled with Cruz and watched, and we actually got some use out of the baby monitor after I carried Cruz to his bed.  Beau is dreaming of Sunday afternoon football, and I can't wait for a place for Cruz's toys and a place for cozy movie nights.  We're getting closer, and I'll post some before-and-after pictures soon.

...Sleeping in 'til 8:00 on Sunday morning!  I'm used to my little human alarm clock sounding much earlier than that, but waking up long after the sunrise was a welcomed surprise.  With just an hour before church, we hurried through coffee, breakfast, and showers with minutes to spare.  Ironically, the sermon at church was about hurrying through life.  More on that later...

...After church, we decided to dust off the bikes and take Cruz on a trip down memory lane.  Instead of George Wyth, Hartman Reserve, or Prairie Lakes Park, we took Cruz on a bike ride around our Alma Mater.  We stopped at 23st Market for some Gatorade and the famous, freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, popped a squat on a bench and watched the new college freshmen scour the campus to see where their classes are, and let Cruz crawl around the Campanile.  It's such a pretty place, and a perfect spot for Cruz to explore.  Clean, safe, and the occasional college girl walking by to make him smile just enough for me to get a picture.  And believe me, I was taking pictures.  After all, it's been a whole week...


Happy Monday!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What I will remember about Cruz's first week as a 'Scooter'

It's a little bittersweet to say, but tomorrow is Cruz's very last day in the 'baby' room at daycare.  Monday, instead of walking him to the room where I first dropped him off when he was just a tiny, 13-week old baby, I will bring him to the 'Scooter' room.  Instead of being the 'big kid,' Cruz will once again become the 'underclassman.'  And while he's more than ready to keep up with the other rambunctious 'Scooters,' it is a little emotional for this mama to take in.  

This week, Cruz transitioned, spending a couple hours in the Scooter Room and gradually increasing his time each day.  It's been fun getting to know the new routines of the room, and been fun to see small changes in my little one when I pick him up every afternoon.

Life as a 'Scooter...'

1.  You come home so dirty!  I was warned by Cruz's lead teacher that I may need to rethink my Baby Gap and invest in a set of 'daycare' clothes for Cruz.  Every day, they spend lots of time outside, lots of time crawling on a playground matted with a black rubber, tire-like material.  So every day, I pick up a little boy with black knees, black feet, and black hands!  Today, when I picked up Cruz, I found him strapped in a stroller with four of his other friends, each of them spotted with dirt!  Brown noses, brown fingertips, and even brown in his fingernails.  They all looked so cute and the girls said they had a great time digging up treasures outside!

2.  You are learning new things!  This week, you learned about important parts of the human body.  You must have worked on your ears and hands, as you've been playing with your ears and clapping your hands like crazy this week.  It's so fun to see the new things you learn how to do.  I just wonder how long before you learn to walk by watching all your friends.

3.  You are eating new things!  Although I still pack a little lunch for you, you are trying new things every day.  It's so fun for me to read what you eat every day.  This morning, you had freshly baked cinnamon rolls and mandarin oranges!  Tomorrow is mac n' cheese and chicken nuggets day.  Although you're not quite ready for a 'hamburger on bun' or 'soft-shell taco,' I'm excited about all the new foods you'll get to try.

4.  You aren't napping!  I'm not sure if it's because you're used to napping in your crib this summer, or that there's just too much going on, but you've decided to forgo your daily naps for the time being.  Today, you napped for a total of 25 minutes.  This is making for a very tired baby at night.  While you are happy to see your mom and dad, you have a hard time keeping those eyes open after 7 o'clock.  I'm hoping you start napping soon because I'd really like to spend more time with you at night!

5.  You are in love with this little plastic rocking horse in the play area outside.  Friday afternoon, after a long week away from you, I couldn't pick you up fast enough.  I pulled up to the parking lot, saw your teachers in the play area, and knew you were out there somewhere.  I scoured the area for your blond head, but all I saw were walking babies.  Then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted you.  All by yourself, toward the edge of the play area, just rocking and rocking on this little plastic rocking horse.  He were holding on tight, lazily swaying back and forth, looking off into space in your own little world.  I'm not sure if it was the emotion of being away from you, or the fact that you looked so big on that horse, but I lost it right then and there in the playground.  The entire way home, my rear-view mirror was pointed not at the road behind me, but at this little face in the backseat, the face of my dirt-stained Scooter.    

6.  How excited you are to see me every afternoon when I pick you up.  That big smile and instant crawl to my arms lights up my entire day.  I just can't wait to squeeze you and kiss those cheeks.  We grab your log sheet, pack your bag, and sing in the car...all the way home. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Yummy Banana, cont.

Directions for 'Yummy Banana,' as promised in previous post!  Great for babies transitioning to chunkier 'people' food...

Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in saucepan over low to medium heat.  
Add one sliced banana to melted butter.  Cook for one minute.

Add 2 Tbsp. orange juice.  Cook one more minute.  
Mash and serve warm! 

Goals for a new year...

Last week at this time, I was lying in what I thought was my death bed.  Although it was never 100% confirmed by way of spinal tap, I came down with what was expected to be one nasty wave of viral meningitis.  Not its scarier, more threatening, 'bacterial' brother, but still not fun, especially for a young mama who had hopes of enjoying her last week at home with her babe before beginning another school year.  I ended up in the ER on Sunday night, back at the doctor on Tuesday, and in bed the rest of the time.  Thankfully, after a shot in each of my hips to take care of my nausea and unrelenting headache, I was feeling back to myself by Thursday.  Now, a week later, I just finished my first day of school with students.  It's amazing what a week's time will do for a person...

Looking back on recent events, however, I've decided that being sick every now and then is about as important as having your heart broken.  While they suck at the time, they do allow you to appreciate life or love when it's good.  Just as having my heart broken allowed me to hang on tight to the real, life-long kind of love when I found it, being sick last week made me appreciate the remainder of my summer break on even a deeper level than I had experienced all summer.  I took Cruz to the park last Thursday and it was almost a euphoric experience.  Everything was highlighted.  The smells of the grass and the dirt underneath our toes, the sun beams shining through the trees, and the bright blue backdrop above.  Although I ended the week before school more unprepared than past years, I had a clearer mind and a clearer heart, not to mention well-rested and very appreciative of the help from Beau and my mom.  I couldn't have done it without them.

This is the attitude I need to have as I approach the upcoming school year.  A clearer mind, a clearer heart, and a clear focus on what my priorities are.  My fellow teacher friends out there know that it's so hard to follow the whole 'leave work at work' mentality.  Besides the lesson planning, paper grading, and email responding, there's a mental and emotional side of teaching that is difficult, if not impossible to abandon at the end of every school day.  Last year was a trial year for us, a half-year to 'practice' being a full-time teacher and a full-time mom.  Since my maternity leave ended in January, I think I was pretty much in a survival mode of sorts.  This year, however, I'm starting on a clean slate, an entire year to slide into this role of 'Working Mom,' and develop a system that works for the three of us.  I have goals, let me tell ya.  I have goals...

...To cook together and eat together.  Last year, we went out to eat...a lot.  Cruz was great to take to restaurants and because we always thought our days of eating out in peace were numbered, we took advantage of that as much as possible.  This year, we still want to enjoy a dinner out every now and then, but are going to view it as a reward.  If we can cook dinner and eat dinner at the table THREE NIGHTS each week, we will reward ourselves with a dinner out ONE NIGHT a week.  The other three days each week will be about leftovers, take-out, and easy, throw-together meals, but the other three nights will be the idealized, Leave it to Beaver kind of meals.  A set table, a well-balanced meal, conversation, and hopefully, a set expectation for Cruz to grow up with.  After all, I recently read that kids who grow up eating dinner around the table are 40% more likely to get As and Bs in school.  

So far this week, we've set the table and ate as a family two nights.  Tuesday, Beau had a late appointment, so Cruz and I shared a picnic outside.  There's something really nice about being in the kitchen together and preparing a meal that allows you to forget about the day's events and reconvene as a family.  We share in conversation without a computer screen between us, relax with a glass of wine, and reconnect after a day apart.  It's so important that we instill this family expectation (well, without the wine part) in our kids, too.  

Last night, we grilled Margarita Chicken.  It was delicious, especially paired with mango salsa.  Cruz had yummy bananas, a homemade, super easy form of banana pudding.  Both recipes follow...

Other than our family meal nights, I have goals to be present at home, to do my best to leave school work at school, and really concentrate on my boys at home.  I have plans to do a ten-minute pick up every night before bed, to put away my technology and focus on Beau after Cruz goes to bed, and make the bed every morning.  I have plans to keep up with laundry, send more cards, and remember birthdays.  

We've almost survived WEEK ONE!  Cruz is now a 'Scooter,' and has fully transitioned to a room of movers at daycare.  Needless to say, he's been a bit tired at the end of every day this week. We've had a hard time keeping him up past 7 this week!  I'm hoping this gets better as we get into the swing of things more.  8:00 would be perfect.  Other than that, he's loving the increased interaction at daycare, and I'm loving seeing his excitement when I pick him up after school.  

And of course, I couldn't help but take a 'first day of school' picture!

Margarita Chicken with Mango Salsa...


2 large limes
2 cups liquid margarita mix
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup cilantro
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
3 Tbsp. tequila (optional)
3-6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

-Cut limes in half.  Squeeze juice into a shallow dish or large zip-lock freezer bag.  Add squeezed lime halves to marinade.  Add margarita mix, next four ingredients, and, if desired, tequila.  Whisk (or seal bag and shake) to blend.  Add chicken; cover or seal, and chill at least 3 hours or overnight.  

-When ready to serve, grill chicken (about six minutes on each side).  Serve over hot cooked rice and with lots of mango salsa.
Mango Salsa:
2 mangoes, peeled and chopped
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
Juice from one large lime

Chop and chill.  Easy.     

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Yesterday was my 27th birthday. I celebrated with a morning pedicure, a new pair of shoes, an afternoon on the lazy river with my boys, and a night gathered around the dinner table with family, good food, and lots of oodling over Cruz. I ended the night with a tired little pajama’ed boy snuggled just right in the crook of my arm.

Tonight, I don’t have a lot of words to describe how I’m feeling. Words have a way of slipping out of reach when you’re staring into something as peaceful as a sleeping baby. I feel blessed beyond belief for this life of mine, for 27 years of growing and learning and falling and getting back up again. Most of all, I feel blessed to be Cruz’s mommy. 

Today is the last day of my first summer with Cruz, which probably has a lot to do with the mix of emotions I feel right now. I’m sad and scared, anxious and excited, but mostly happy. Happy in the place I am now. 

Happy and thankful that I've had this summer at home, a summer to just focus on being a mom, watching this little person grow from a tiny, helpless, immobile baby, to a funny, smart, and oh-so-tan ten month old.  

I won't ever forget this summer.  Dragging out the mornings in bed, just the three of us, letting Cruz play with our phones, taking turns tickling his sides, and grabbing his feet just before he dive-bombs the floor.  I won't forget filling freezers full of homemade baby food, or buying sack-fulls of basil at the Farmer's Market, or strawberry smoothies at Sturgis Falls.  I won't forget your first scrambled eggs for breakfast, your first strawberries for lunch, and your first cheesy pasta stars for supper.  

I won't forget our afternoons together.  Afternoons at the pool and afternoons at the park, watching your little toes touch the grass, or the water, or the sand for the very first time.  I loved the simplicity of these days at home with you.  

These are the images I will take with me as we start another school year.  Images of you, your tan baby legs, a white onesie, and the blue sky above.  And when things start to pile up and life gets busy again, I will think about these summer days when life consisted of nothing more than a stroller ride, a big quilt, and a handful of Gerber Puffs. 

I have plans for this school year.  Plans to stay present, to not let work-stuff interfere with home-stuff, and to stay focused on what's most important.  And when stress finds its way into my great plan, we'll retreat.  To the park, to the pool, or the bookstore when it gets too cold for the pool.

Happy (Last Day of) Summer Break.  It's been the best thing ever.

Friday, August 12, 2011

My Boy is Double Digits!

He dances, claps his hands, and waves bye bye.  He smiles all the time and says 'mama,' 'dada,' and 'kitty.'  He eats pizza, mac 'n cheese, and prefers his juice with two ice cubes to make it extra cold.  

He's growing, our boy, and is getting more and more fun every day.

Today, Cruz Man is TEN months old.  In just two months, we will be celebrating a year of having him in our lives, a year that has went incredibly fast, and taught Beau and I more about life and what's important than any year before.  It's surreal to me to think that last year at this time, I was thinking about sub plans, baby nurseries, and casserole freezing, and this year, well...

...I'm thinking about the fact that Cruz is transitioning to the Scooter room at daycare on Monday, which officially means he is not a 'baby' anymore.  He will now be keeping up with the other movers and shakers, eating breakfast around a table together, and learning songs and Bible stories during daily circle time.  I'm not sure who is going to be worse about the whole transition thing.  For some reason, the baby room just seems safe and secure, like a baby Joey in its mama's pouch.  The Scooter room seems a little terrifying, like sending your five year old on a bus the first day of school, or leaving your college freshman in a dorm room with an unfamiliar roommate and unfamiliar smell.  I'm sure it will be far less terrifying in reality, but my crazy train brain likes to worry sometimes...

...I'm also thinking about shoes.  Baby shoes.  Cruz got his first pair of shoes this month, and has worn them for a total of two hours.  He likes them, though, if only I would remember to put them on his adorable little feet.

I have cut the tags off by now...just wanted to make sure they fit ;) 

...I'm thinking about groceries, too.  This month, Cruz's food world has expanded to include a lot more grown-up food.  He still gets three bottles a day, but is far less interested in them than he used to be.  He would much rather suck ice water out of straws from our glass, eat Teddy Grahms, or share a slice of pizza with you.  Although I haven't quite been able to give up my baby purees yet, I am expanding to chunkier, more complex, and more flavorful foods.  Cruz's new favorite food this month would be pasta.  Tiny little pasta stars from the grocery store are perfect for babies.  

Puffs and deli meat.  A perfect combination to hold the hungry one over while I prepare his second course. 

...I'm thinking about anti-slip mats.  Tonight, during his bath, Cruz pulled himself up to standing position.  While this created the perfect chance to wash his tiny little tush, it also made me realize that our days of chasing a mere crawler around the house are numbered.  A month ago, I would have said that Cruz has a long time before he's walking.  Now, he's strong on his feet and getting steadier all the time.  He loves standing by our low living room windows, and I love the baby hand prints sprinkled on the glass.  

...I'm thinking that all too soon, we will be in that stage where we have to watch what we say for fear that our mini-Beau will repeat something meant to stay behind closed doors.  I say this because our little man is quite the imitator.  He's very observant and didn't seem to miss a beat.  This month, Cruz learned to play catch.  If you roll or gently throw a ball to him, he'll kind of flick it out of his hand and wait for your applause.  Yesterday, after Cruz had spent a day at Grandma's, he learned how to smack his lips together and put both hands up to his face and do the 'Home Alone.'  

"Soooooo Big!"

And what we like to call, 'The Praise Singer..."

Earlier this month, I walked in on yet another face-off between Cruz and our cat, Jade, only this time, Cruz was on a mission.  Clenching her cat brush in his hand, Cruz was crawling as fast as he could, eyes on the prize.  When she let him get close, he proceeded to do exactly what he watches his dad do every single night, groom his kitty friend.  Poor Jade tried to be a friend, yet wasn't too sure about Cruz's method of brushing.  She ran away, then watched, as Cruz grunted and crawled, brush in hand.  He really doesn't get rejection.

We have had so much fun with our Cruz Dude this month.  He's the happiest baby, always full of smiles and always game for anything.  We think he has a pretty funny personality, and I'm beginning to see a sense of humor similar to his dad's.  This summer, I will forever remember our chubby legged, blond, bronzing baby boy!  

Happy TEN Months, baby boy!  


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