Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Weekend (And More Snow)

I'm starting to wonder if it will ever end!  Iowa winter has decided to extend it's stay right on into the last week of February, bringing us another snow day last Friday, and this weird, unexpected blizzard today.  After sliding through one too many four-way stops this morning and seeing a few scary accidents in between my school visits, I kept checking the news to see if there were any updates on the weather.  Supposedly, a storm system changed slightly and decided it didn't want to leave us out of the heavy snowfall.  Thus, it's snowing buckets outside, my little black flats did not make the best snow boots for digging my car out of the parking lot, and I was more than ready to pick my boy up from daycare, change my socks, and snuggle the heck out of him inside our cozy little house.

Stopping in quick to recap a little of our three-day weekend with few words and lots of pictures.  Friday's snow was storybook, and begged for Cruz and I to go dance in it for a little while.  He stayed out longer than I expected, and discovered pretty quickly that the world's biggest sno-cone awaited him outside.  Soon, his gloves were wet and his hands were cold, so we took our party inside with some afternoon cartoons and chocolate milk while the snowflakes painted our windows and danced our sills.

Time to go in!

What else did we do with our three-day weekend???

...we baked a cake.

...watched Argo.

...drank Jeremiah Weed and laughed with friends.

...had waffles in our pajamas at The Waffle Stop.

...made spaghetti and homemade sauce.

...built block towers and flash card kingdoms.

...played hide-and-seek.  He's good.

...felt the sunshine through our picture window.

...snuggled and watched (Race) Cars.  More than once.

...cheered on Beau at the annual Toads' Chili Cook-On.  

...perused the shelves of Barnes and Noble.  

...had popcorn for supper.

...watched the Oscars.  Saw Argo just in time and cheered on Jennifer Lawrence on her big win.  Hollywood needs more of her. 

March is just around the corner and I'm dreaming of spring jackets, neighborhood walks, and park swings.  It's a' coming, I can feel it! 


Saturday, February 23, 2013

Charming New Orleans

“But during all these years I had a vague but persistent desire to return to New Orleans. I never forgot New Orleans."

-Anne Rice

A week ago, I had the opportunity to travel to a city that has been calling my name ever since.  I'm not sure why, but New Orleans has never been on my bucket list.  There's really no reason, other than the fact that I just haven't thought about it; however, the few days I spent in this city have opened my eyes to a place I never really knew existed.  This city of charm put a spell on me, and I am longing to take my husband back to the sunshine, the carefree slow pace, and the gumbo.  Omgumbo.

It was a work trip, but fortunately, the conference allowed some time to explore and more importantly, eat out on our own.  It could have been the perfect sunny and 70 weather, the banjos, tubas, and trumpets on every street corner, or the ferns that danced five stories high on every wrought iron balcony in the French Quarter, but this place was so full of life, charm, and culture, that I couldn't help but smile while I walked its narrow streets.  I felt as though I had entered a new world, one that ran on slow time and took pride in its music, its art, and its amazing food above all else.  From the big pot of gumbo brewing in the open air market, the beignets and chicory coffee at Cafe du Monde, and K Paul's blackened Louisiana drum, I had some of the best food I've ever tasted, exploding with spice and flavor much like the city itself.  I loved this place --- the cathedral and all its preserved history, the miles of art that lined the iron fences of Jackson Square, the hurricanes and red beans and rice at Pat O'Brien's, and the tiny shops full of beads, masks, gators, and voo doo charm.  I found Cruz the perfect stuffed gator, a Cajun Jack and the Beanstalk, and one of my new favorite books to read to him, Mama on the Bayou.  I loved that every street just begged to be explored, and provided its own unique look at the city that most definitely earned its nickname, The Big Easy.  

And while I could have spent days exploring the open markets and cobblestone streets of the French Quarter, Bourbon Street proved to be something I've never seen before.  The people, the music, and the shower of beads that seemed to fall from the sky was something you have to see to believe.  We walked its never-ending streets, found some great food, and tipped back pints of Abita at one of the streets oldest jazz joints.

I have promised myself I will go back to the big easy.  Beau wants to book a trip in two weeks, as the stories of jambalaya, creole, and dark beer have made his mouth water in envy.  Sooner, rather than later we'll explore this city in the south and take back more stories of its soul.    

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

sometimes, all you need is a date to McDonalds

The more I grow and watch this little boy of mine, the more I realize how much I have to learn from him.  He’s my most influential teacher I have and he can’t even use the potty.  In the middle of all the ebbs and flows of this life, he is my constant, my spark at the end of a day, and my lifeboat when I find myself wading through the muck of this life.

Every now and then I’m reminded of this precious gift of mine, and the other night it just happened to be at McDonalds.

Beau had to work late and I didn’t feel like cooking dinner for Cruz and me.  It was nearing the end of the day, and I was more than ready to call it a day; however, this teacher of mine makes it pretty hard to do things that once may have been easier --- you know, substitute a meal for a bowl of popcorn, climb into bed at seven, and watch reruns of The Bachelor until I fall asleep.  Instead, I smiled through my fifth reading of Red Truck, danced to Elmo’s World, and tried my best to forget about my day with kisses and squeezes.  And then I decided it was time to go eat. 

I didn’t feel like going far or spending much, and sometimes, there isn’t much that sounds better than a greasy burger and fries at your favorite fast food chain.  It had been awhile since Cruz had had a Happy Meal, so for the time being, I kissed my healthy mom tendencies away and walked proudly under the golden arches, more than ready to devour a fish fillet and French fries with my special date.

Besides an elderly couple in the corner, we had the place to ourselves.  I could tell Cruz was excited to be out of the house, and he acted as if he knew this was a special outing for the two of us.  He was on his very best behavior, pushed his highchair up to our table, and carefully took the paper off his straw before putting it in his cup.  Then quietly and carefully, he ate every last one of his fries and chicken nuggets.  One by one, he dipped each French fry in his ketchup, and ate as if nothing else mattered in the world. 

I was soon reminded of the first of many great lessons I’ve learned from this teacher of mine.  He reminded me of the gift of time.  Life just moves slower when children are involved, and there was nothing ‘fast’ about this food we ate together.  Without a care in the world, Cruz took his sweet time, giving me time to study him and soak him up and just stop.  Stop and witness this little miracle I am so privileged to raise.  I smiled and laughed to myself as I watched him treat his fries like they were his last meal on earth, and felt so full of thanksgiving for this place I’m at in my life. 

I’ve always known that God works in mysterious ways, but never dreamed He’d use McDonalds to work in my life the way it did the other night.  It was in that moment, sitting by the window, counting trucks and sharing ketchup that I realized that God is intending me to be right here, in this moment, and nowhere else.  Worrying about the future seems so trivial when the present is so very good.

Sometimes the unplanned parts of this life provide the sweetest results.  Even when they happen at McDonalds. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Chief Good - Favorite Quotes from The Happiness Project

(I wrote, and then forgot about this post from a couple weeks ago.  Thankfully, the snow has melted since then and we are (hopefully) on onward to spring!  They're talking big snow this week but I'm ignoring it ;)

Today I'm sharing some of my favorite quotes from The Happiness Project, mixed with some pictures from (what I hope was) our last snow day at home.  Does anyone feel like this has been the winter of hibernation?  I'm not sure if it's just the stage in our life or what, but it seems we've had so many days inside, hunkered down under blankets and making due with what we have in the house instead of braving the elements and going outdoors.  It's been such a nice little pause in the middle of what tends to be a crazy life.

Yesterday, we made muffins and pigs-in-a-blanket, green monster smoothies, and ice cream sundaes, took naps, did puzzles, and read books in our teepee.  Beau went to work for awhile, but couldn't resist the two of us here without him.  UNI even cancelled classes this afternoon, meaning we had every excuse to hunker down and savor just one more day of the snow thing.  We're pretty good at it by now.

Food for thought from The Happiness Project...

"As the Spanish proverb says, 'He who would bring home the wealth of the Indies, must carry the wealth of the Indies with him.'" (Samuel Johnson)

"There is no duty we so underrate as the duty of being happy."  (Robert Louis Stevenson)

"Aristotle declared happiness to be the summum bonum, the chief good; people desire other things, such as power or wealth or losing ten pounds, because they believe they will lead to happiness, but their real goal is happiness."

"Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good."
"Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth.  We are happy when we are growing."  (William Yeats)

"It is by studying the little things that we attain the great art of having as little misery, and as much happiness as possible."  (Samuel Johnson)

"It's one of the many paradoxes of happiness: we seek to control our lives, but the unfamiliar and the unexpected are important sources of happiness."  

"The days are long, but the years are short."

"When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am fifty, I read them openly.  when I became a man, I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up." (C.S. Lewis)

"Remember to leave a little mess."

"The things that go wrong often make the best memories."   

I'm planning to start a new blog series around here, or I guess I should say rekindle an old one I started about a year ago.  I went on a quest to identify pieces of happiness in each day, and record it in weekly blog post.  I've learned there's power to be found in naming those ordinary things that happen in the middle of our day-to-day lives, even on the days when it's hard to find much happy.

Rubin starts something similar on her own quest for happiness, recording one sentence a day in a journal: "As I became more aware of the preciousness of ordinary life, I was overwhelmed by the desire to capture the floods of moments that passed practically unnoticed" (198).

Thus, starts a Friday ritual of mine - to document the good in every day, through words and pictures.

365 days. 1825 happy moments captured.



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