Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Happy Halloween, everyone!  My little nugget may be a little unsure of his costume this year, but he's a big fan of his 'puh-kin.' 

Any guesses on his Halloween costume this year???  

Keeping our fingers crossed that he wears his costume tonight!  He's pretty leery, especially of that hat!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nothing Gold Can Stay...

'I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.'

-Anne of Green Gables

Last Thursday, I decided on a whim to go and get my hair colored.  I tend to be pretty conservative with my hair, but was feeling a tad bit impulsive and decided to run with it.  I told my hair stylist I wanted to go dark, back to my roots, and that my hair was in desperate need of some 'life.'  A color, a trim, and a bottle of sea salt texturizing spray later, and I felt like a new woman.  It's amazing what an hour at the salon will do for a girl.

As I was watching Ashley apply gobs of dark color to my sun-bleached locks, I laughed when I thought of one of my favorite young adult books of all-time --- S.E. Hinton's, The Outsiders.  And while my fondest memories of this story may involve a movie version and a young Matt Dillon on a hospital bed in his underwear, I developed a deeper love of Hinton's narrative, her ability to bring these young boys and their issues to life in a way that called me to empathize as a reader, and the beauty in the way she streamed her own love of literature into the words of Ponyboy, Dally, and Johnny.  

Early on in the book, Ponyboy is watching a sunset and is reminded of the Robert Frost poem, 'Nothing Gold Can Stay.'  The poem reads:

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leafs a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.  

This poem becomes a metaphor for the entire book; a deep look into issues of life, loss, and breaking the walls of traditional barriers that sort and separate people from a common understanding.  I love this poem simply because it reminds me of beauty, and the loss of, and that the beautiful things in this world are often beautiful simply because they don't stick around.  

We grow tired of things that outstay their welcome.  The winter months grow long, laundry never ends, and sun-bleached hair just doesn't look as good when that summer tan fades away.  So many of the good things in this world are good because they leave us too soon.   

I think this is why I love October.  And babies.  And Christmas.  They exist for such a short, fleeting period of time, and we do all we can to enjoy, and savor, and take advantage of them while they're here.  It's not always easy, especially when fall turns gray, and Christmas gets expensive, and babies teethe, and poop, and cry when we're really really tired, but these moments seem to be far overshadowed by the golden hues of these seasons... absolutely gorgeous October afternoon, crisp air, golden hues, and a new wool scarf wrapped just so around your neck...

...a movie under the Christmas tree, a log on the fire, and a verse of Silent Night by candlelight...

...and those sweet babies, their first smiles, and those peaceful moments of rocking them to sleep and wishing they would stay that small forever...

This weekend, we enjoyed our last weekend of October.  We carved pumpkins and roasted the seeds, made caramel apples, and drank hot cocoa.  We danced during bath time, let Cruz bang on pots and pans while Beau strummed his guitar, and practiced our trick-or-treats with a parade at Grandpa Ray and Grandma Mary's.  It was an October weekend, exactly as it should be.  



So whether it's my hair color, or this favorite month of mine, or this two year old boy who seems to grow bigger every single day, nothing gold can stay...

...but I'm afraid that if it could, it wouldn't be as sweet.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Prayer and a Finger Prick

The last few days, I've been thinking a lot about prayer --- its purpose, its importance, its power in my life, and more importantly, how I can cultivate my life in a way in which prayer is weaved seamlessly through everything I do.  It seems like lately I'm in a sort of tug 'o war with God, one minute trying my best to control my life in the way I think it should be, and the next minute, looking to Him with requests for help when I think I need some assistance in carrying out my plan.  It's the order of events that sometimes gets me all screwed up.  I first try and take matters into my own hands, in large part due to the fact that I've never been one to sit back and let things happen on their own.  But, too often it seems, I go to God after I've already tried to make things happen myself.  I'm the rebellious teenager crawling to my parents for help only after getting in over my head. 

In church on Sunday, our pastor talked about prayer, more specifically, our response when God seems to answer our prayer.  For various reasons, we have a hard time sharing with others those moments when God follows through on a plan, answers a prayer, or makes His presence known through the big and small miracles that occur throughout our lives.  He's there and we know it, but we oftentimes struggle to accept that He wants us to go to him with requests and expect Him to work in our lives.  It's what He does, and it's our job to be aware and share the daily things he's doing with others.  To be salt and light.  

Since Sunday, I've been praying with audacity - open and honest about my fears, my requests, and my ultimate trust in God's plan for my life.  And although he hasn't exactly presented my requests on a silver platter, He's shown me His presence the last few days.  He always has, it's just that now I'm seeing it.

Today, God gave me just what I needed.  He gave me Cruz.  I worked this morning, but had to take off after lunch in order to get Cruz to his two-year doctor's appointment.  Now, the idea of taking poor Cruz to the doctor to get his finger pricked and sweet thigh stabbed with a flu shot is about the last thing I would have pictured as God's answer to a prayer, but I've learned throughout my life that he indeed works in mysterious ways.  Through shots and all, my little boy gave me just what I needed.

Beau couldn't go to Cruz's 2-year check, and although I realize I am perfectly capable to go on my own, I invited Mom along, hoping to catch a quick lunch together and some much-needed 'mom time.'  I was really expecting the worst, in large part due to the fact that both Cruz's 12 and 18-month check were pretty awful.  He was well aware of the fact that we were indeed at a doctor's office, and he cried through the entirety of both appointments.  He didn't want us to take his clothes off, screamed when the doctor tried to measure his head, and wouldn't let our doctor go near him with the stethoscope.  By the time we even got to the true test, aka, the shots, Beau and I were exhausted and hell-bent on keeping him quarantined because quite frankly, anything sounded better than those shots.

And don't get me started on the finger-prick.  The poor innocent lab nurse, who, bless her heart, was just trying to small talk her way through the obvious anxiety in the room, got a stare-down from this mom who was not in the mood to talk about the weather outside.  And while the prick itself wasn't too bad, the slow squeezing to get a test tube full of blood while my son looked at us in completed desperation was another story. 

Needless to say, you can see why taking Cruz for his two-year check wasn't exactly on my bucket list for the day.  I prepared for the worst, and warned my mom that she was about to see her grandson in a whole new way.  The minute we pulled up to the hospital parking lot, I looked for signs of recognition in my little boy's face.  His big brown eyes were big, and he clenched my shirt a little tighter as we approached the massive revolving doors of the hospital.  I did lots of 'mom talk,' building everything up to be super cool, while also doing my best to downplay the situation, all the while trying to hide my own fear and anxiety about waiting rooms, needles, and my poor baby scared and sad.

The minute we walked in that waiting room, I could sense that things would be different today.  Cruz squealed at the sight of the fish "pool" and loved pointing out the animals in the mural painted on the wall.  He thumbed through a Parents magazine with Mom, and seemed quite at home in this strange, sterile environment.

I thought things were about to go downhill when Cruz refused to stand on the 'big boy' scale to get his weight.  He held onto me for dear life and stood shakily on his tippy toes until I rescued him. Once we entered the Finding Nemo room, however, Cruz quickly got over his fear, and turned on the charm to our favorite nurse, Sarah.  Before I knew it, Sarah had worked her magic and had Cruz 'playing doctor' with her while she collected his stats.  He listened to 'Superman's' heartbeat (I will never go to the doctor again without a character on his t-shirt), let her take his temperature, and even climbed back on that big boy scale for his weight.  He put his full trust in this sweet nurse, and his vulnerability completely melted his Grandma and me.  I don't think I'll ever forget the sweet look on his face when he listened to his heartbeat.  He was concentrating so intently, yet every now and then he would glance up at Sarah with his big brown eyes without saying a word.  So out of character for my boy, which I think made it so much sweeter.

He continued to be a trooper through the rest of his appointment, giving the doctor a high-five, and letting him see his 'muscles' underneath his shirt.  I could tell things were about to take a turn for the worse when it was time for his flu shot, but my big boy continued to amaze me with his innocent strength and courage.  With his hand clenched tightly around his sucker, he continued to cry out "all done" through his shot, but quickly recovered with a lick of his sucker and a reassuring 'mmm...' less than five seconds after his poke.  Oh, to be inside that head of his wondering what the heck was going on. 

We made it through the finger prick, thanks to a sucker, my iPad, and some silent prayers, and Mom and I zealously celebrated our tough guy all the way out the door.  Cruz remained calmed, licked his sucker, and periodically reassured himself that all was in the past by proclaiming a very confident, "all done."  We celebrated a successful appointment with a kid's meal at Burger King, and Cruz was sound asleep before I even pulled out of the parking lot.  

There's nothing like watching your sweet baby go through any sort of pain to make your mama bear instincts go crazy.  He was fast asleep by the time I got home, and I just couldn't bring myself to bring him back to daycare and go back to work.  So, I worked from home with a sleeping boy next to me, answered emails to the sounds of his heavy breaths, and silently thanked God for my strong boy.

The rest of the afternoon was an unplanned, special one for Cruz and I.  Beau had his networking meeting, which left Cruz and I to fend for ourselves, just the two of us.  I gave him my attention, focused on play, and loved this time together.  We painted with apples, snooped around in our favorite bookstore, and laid on our tummies and colored while we watched 'Dancing with the Stars.'  A little temperamental recently, quick to get upset and frustrated when things don't go his way, Cruz showed no signs of this yesterday, and was his sweetest self all the way through bedtime.  He held my hand in the parking lot to Barnes and Noble, covered his mouth with his hand and giggled when we played with a funny app. on the iPad, and fell asleep in my arms during bedtime stories in the recliner.

When I put Cruz to bed and kissed his cheeks, I couldn't help but think that I didn't think about my personal stress, or deadlines, or the things weighing on my heart all day long.  Because just when I started to let myself go there, I turned my sights to this sweet, strong little boy in my life.  It may have taken a flu shot and finger prick to get there, but I was so thankful for this day and the quiet reassurance that I don't have to do it all on my own.  

I vividly remember a night shortly after Cruz was born --- Beau was at networking, and it was one of my first long day and nights alone with this helpless, fragile little being.  I was nervous and fearful to be home by myself, and wondered if I could handle things on my own.  That night, we snuggled on the couch and I watched a chick flick, my arms tightly enveloping this perfectly swaddled blessing.  I remember feeling so at peace, and remember feeling God's presence there in such a real, reassuring way.  Those moments become my tiny glimpses of Heaven --- moments where you celebrate peace and contentment and trust in its truest sense.  

I'm a work in progress when it comes to prayer, but am learning to look for God's presence in my life in many different ways.  He's there, through a finger prick, a lunch with Mom, and a chick flick on the couch --- and I guess it doesn't hurt to have a precious baby boy there, too.  


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Party DIY 2

Stopping in quick on this Wednesday to share one of my favorite party details from Cruz's 2nd Birthday Bash.  These 'C2' crayon molds were a best-seller at Mr. Hooper's Store, and were fitting with our letter and number of the day theme.  Finally, they were the 'safe' alternative to Elmo's two favorite things.  While I was tempted at first, I didn't quite know what parents would think if I sent their child home with a new goldfish pet!
They're really quite simple to make, and make such great use out of old, broken crayons.  I became quite addicted to different color combinations, and loved that every single one was unique. 

DIY Crayon Molds:

-Silicone Letter Trays - I ordered these from Amazon
-Old, unused crayons - paper liners removed and cut into 1/4" pieces
-Cooling racks

1.  First, prep your crayons by removing all the paper liners.  We used a razor blade which made this process MUCH faster.  Then, cut your crayons into small pieces, about 1/4" each.  The smaller the pieces, the more variance of color you will see in your molds.

2.  Next, fill your molds with crayon pieces.  The crayon wax will sink as it melts, so don't be afraid to fill your molds to the very top, even heaping slightly.  I did some with lots of colors, some with different shades of one color, and some pretty boring.  Some tricks I found through practice?  Some pieces of white crayon mixed in with your color will give you lighter shades, and an equal balance of darks and lights will give you browns.

3.  Because I was only working with my 'Cs' and '2s', I decided to microwave mine and was pleased with the results.  Just pop the trays in the microwave and heat for about 4 minutes.  The trays are very hot, so I let them cool for a few minutes before moving them to wire racks.  The key for removing the actual molds from the trays is TIME.  There were a few times when I got too anxious and broke some of my favorite ones because they weren't quite ready to come out yet.
Suggestion!  If you have the time, I would recommend doing your melting in the oven.  Since the crayons melt slower in the oven than in the microwave, they hold their shape a little more, creating more color variance in your final product.  I would bake them at 250 degrees for about 12 minutes or until melty.  

Now that we have our fair share of Cs and 2s around here, I've got plans to do a complete alphabet set for Cruz Man's art nook.  I also think they would make adorable gifts for daycare friends, teachers, and any art enthusiast.  Google 'crayon mold trays' for lots of different shapes and ideas! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Cool Down Weekend

About a month before I became pregnant with Cruz, Beau and I started P90X, a super intense workout program that does not mess around.  For sixty minutes every morning, Beau and I worked muscles we didn't know we had, and Tony Horton became this semi-annoying brother that lived in the basement.  Thanks to P90X, I now know what a pot-stirrer is, and will forever have Drea Weber to thank.  

I've never been one to work out, although I wish I was.  It's all about the start for me, and once I get started, I find that I actually enjoy doing it.  It's one of the few things in life that instantly makes you feel better about pretty much everything after you're finished.  You work really hard, feel pretty good, and keep your eye on that clock waiting in anticipation for that rewarding, deserving cool-down at the end of a job well done.  And unlike some, I savor that cool down for every second it's worth.  

This weekend, we finally entered cool down mode.  After a whirlwind start to October with birthday parties, work conferences, and a few busy weeks at work, the marathon is over, thankfully, just in time to enjoy our victory lap with a weekend at home with 70 degree warmth and lots of sunshine.  After weekends full of plans and places to be, we abandoned all plans and soaked up a weekend with absolutely nothing to do.  Well, besides pick up a turkey and watch a pumpkin launch across a field in a punkinator...

Our weekend was the best kind of weekend.  It started with a Friday night date night, Cruz happy at home with his favorite baby-sitter, and Mom and Dad soaking up some overdue alone time with pumpkin pasta at the Montage, a stroll through the mall, and cuddling up with some lattes and guitar at Cup of Joe.  Saturday morning brought a slow morning in pajamas, a trip to the Farmer's Market to pick up our Thanksgiving bird, an afternoon of baking, and a Saturday night in, watching football, devouring apple crisp, and cheering Cruz on as he mastered every one of his puzzles.  He's pretty awesome at puzzles.

Sunday brought a pumpkin spice latte at church, an afternoon nap for three, and an inaugural trip to the pumpkin patch.  I'm even surprised that I've never visited a pumpkin patch before, and have always done my pumpkin shopping at the front entrance of Hy-Vee.  This year, however, a pumpkin hunt at a real patch was in our stars, and it didn't disappoint.  With hay rides and corn mazes, blow-up houses and our favorite, a pumpkin canon better known as 'the punkinator,' that 'chucked' pumpkins through the air towards a yellow school bus that had definitely seen better days, there was something for all of us. 

Cruz loved petting this piggy --- he's quite the fan of petting zoos!  

After an afternoon of fresh air, pumpkin hunting, and a pit-stop for some ice cream at Hanson's, we ended our weekend outdoors with one massive leaf pile in our backyard.  This was another first for our family of three, and at first, Cruz preferred to stay on the outskirts of our mountain while Beau and I lounged in its luxury.  Soon, Cruz climbed on his daddy, stuffed leaves up his shirt, and insisted on catching some family pictures of the moment.


When it comes to taking pictures lately, Cruz has been somewhat of a ham, however, he's learned a thing or two about being behind the camera from his mom over the last couple of years.  I had the tripod set up, and Cruz turned into quite the photographer behind the lens.  He would hide behind the camera for awhile, push some buttons and make sure his settings were just right, then peek out from behind the lens and wave at us with this cheesy grin on his face as if to coerce his parents to smile for the camera.  It was at this point that I realized that although Cruz may not always smile for the camera, he is paying attention to his crazy mom's tricks along the way.

It was a happy, restful weekend around here, a perfect cool down after quite the start to October.  I'm looking forward to a slower end to this great month, more weekends with abandoned plans and firsts for this family of three. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Cruz is TWO

Well, we're one week into Cruz as a two year old and I tell you what --- he's definitely acting it!  Both Beau and I have commented on how different he acts lately, how much he's picked up the last week or so, and how fun he's been at home.  I've heard other parents say they can almost see their child grow from age one to two, and I'm now seeing the proof.
A few things to remember about Cruz's first week as TWO...

...lots of words are now turning into fun little phrases.  My favorite is when he laughs and says, 'No, mommy,' or 'No, daddy,' when we're doing something silly (or annoying) to him like tickling him during a diaper change or standing in front of the TV when he's watching Elmo.  He's also started the twenty questions, all in the form of 'What's this?' for everything, even if he clearly knows what something is.  We play this game with his new kitchen where he pulls each food out one at a time, hands it to me, and asks 'What's this?'  He clearly knows all the foods, but now thinks he's created some fun little game out of it (evidenced by the grin on his face).

...he loves his bed and LOVES his blankies.  After books in the recliner, he knows and appreciates when it's bedtime.  We carry him up to his bed, lay him on his pillow, and pile about three different blankets on top of him.  He burrows under his duvet cover, and usually takes his favorite blanket and hugs it in front of his face.  He looks so snuggly in there and seems to sleep very well under all his covers. of my absolute favorite things Cruz does happens almost every time we change his diaper.  Beau started this thing where after he takes his diaper off he asks Cruz, 'Who's gonna throw this diaper away?' to which Cruz usually lifts his hands in the air and proclaims, 'ME!' with genuine enthusiasm every time.  It's no fail, and happens even when he's in the middle of a cry session, an episode of Elmo, or a favorite toy.  It's hilarious, and he never disappoints.

...Cruz comes to life at story-time.  He loves his books, and has favorite go-to actions and sounds with every one of his favorites.  Like pointing out every instrument in Elmo's Count to Ten book, or making commentary on every page of his favorite, 'Little Dump Truck.'  I read him 'Where the Wild Things Are' for the first time last night, and he was in awe of Max and his monsters.  I could see the wheels turning through his big brown eyes as he watched Max's room transform to the mysterious jungle.  Reading to him is one of my absolute favorite past-times and something I hope we do for years to come.

...Cruz now 'swims' in the tub during bath time.  He rolls over on his tummy, sprawls out like a frog in a pond, and exclaims that he's 'swimming' in his 'pool.'

...We may have the makings of an architect in the family.  Cruz loves playing blocks, and his fine motor skills have finally allowed him to tower blocks as tall as he is.  He, of course, likes to knock them over, too...
...LOVES his new kitchen, even though I wish he was as organized as I used to be when I played in mine!  Although his kitchen comes equipped with multiple cupboards, he insists on piling every single piece of food in the oven, then proceeds to slam the oven door and inform us that it is very 'hot.'  I've tried to organize for him, but he usually gets upset with me and puts it back where he wants it.

Speaking of kitchen, we celebrated Cruz's birthday with a quiet day just the three of us, some birthday essentials, and a few surprises throughout the day.  Last year, his birthday was special simply because it was the first one, but this year was the first year he seemed to really get it.  He loved being sung to, got into the whole blowing-out-a-candle-thing, and became quite the pro at unwrapping presents.

We went for a hike and played in the leaves at Hartman, had tacos and cheese quesadillas at Rudy's, and of course, a birthday in Cedar Falls wouldn't be complete without a cupcake from Scratch for dessert.

I must say, the big kitchen reveal after nap time was worth the two and a half hours it took us to put that thing together.  Case in point, I will never buy an Ikea kitchen...I'm not sure my marriage would survive it.

Love at first sight...

The premier of two came big and loud and simple and sweet.  We rang in the year with big parties, but savored that special birthday with a quiet day of play and some of Cruz's favorites --- a gooey cheese quesadilla, restaurant play in the middle of the living room floor, and an epic candle moment at Scratch.  And although the premier may be over, the celebration continues...

Happy TWO, Cruz.


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