Highlights of Avery's 1st Week

Hey everyone, I'm sure you're wondering what I've been up to this past week with Baby Avery, and now that I've got a few spare minutes while she's napping, I'll fill you in!  So, I know I like to think of myself as someone who is prepared for everything, but I understand now, that nothing can prepare you for the role of becoming a parent for the first time.  All nine months I read up on newborns, breastfeeding, diapers, etc. and yet the second she was born I felt completely clueless.  For years, I've ranted and hated on those girls from 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, but now I give them (and any other first time moms) so much grace.  Granted, some of them make a number of bad choices with themselves and their babies, but I completely understand how overwhelmed they felt when their babies were born.  Suddenly you are responsible for another life...nothing can prepare you for that!  On top of that, you're body is still recovering from labor and delivery!  This would have been enough for me to process for several days, even though I had an amazingly, positive experience! But to have a newborn to care for and breastfeeding to figure out, it all became very overwhelming, very fast.  Luckily Brandon has been there to support me, my midwife has been there for me to call, and each day seems to get a little bit easier as I learn more about Avery and get more practice in this new role as "mom".

I read in a baby book that this is the time when a woman experiences the most changes in her entire life (when she has her first baby) and I can attest to that.  It kind of feels like I've abandoned my old life, routine, and schedule for a completely new and different one...and while it is exciting, rewarding, and amazing, it's also a bit scary because it's so new and I don't feel very good at it yet.  I'm learning though, one day at a time.  For example, during day 1 and 2, breastfeeding felt like rocket science.  I had to be in the rocking chair, with the Boppy, with complete concentration, and I couldn't move a muscle for fear that she would let go.  Now, I can get her started eating in the in all different locations, positions, and even in the dark in the middle of the night...woo hoo! It feels good to get some confidence going in that area because it's so vital to her growth and well being. 

I'm also feeling much better about things now that I can leave the upstairs and return to my life in the rest of the house.  Yeah! I can make my own smoothie, help with dinner, and even do laundry! Doesn't sound so exciting does it? Well, for someone as independent as I usually am, it feels good to do somethings on my own again. 

Okay so enough low down on all the "new mama emotions" that are running through my head, let's get on to the highlights of the past week!

On our first day as new parents Brandon's parents treated us to some Chipotle...which we ate in bed, the place where we basically camped out for the first two to three days.  Most people would have liked this time to relax, be waited on, and pampered, but I did not.  It was a bit difficult to be limited to staying on one floor, being dependent on others, and not being able to workout (I know, I know but when it's your daily routine it's hard to stop...even if you've just had a baby.  This "bed rest time" taught me two very important lessons: take time to let your body heal, and don't be afraid to let other people help you (especially if they are bringing you Chipotle)!  Want to know what I'm eating here? Check out how I go gluten-free, vegan at Chipotle back in this post.
Chiptotle Time!
So in the first day or two she slept lots...sometimes 4-5 hours at a time.  This had us both a little worried, but sure enough, after a few days those long sleepy naps wore off and now she sleeps for about 2 hours or so at a time.  We just love watching her sleep, so peaceful. 
Our Sleepy Girl

On the 2nd day we had our first "new parent" scare, when we noticed a rash on Avery's whole body.  Turns out it was just something called erythema toxicum, which my midwife described as a benign newborn rash.  It sure looked scary (almost like measeles or chicken pox), but it turns out that it is pretty common in newborns, we did nothing to cause it, and it usually goes away on it's on in a few days.  Luckily her's went away after a few days...yeah!
Check out that rash on her arm  ) :

On day 6, we tried out this Fischer Price Rock 'n Play Sleeper for the first time.  Kind of funny how in the first few days we felt bad when we would put her down...put after awhile we realized we had other things to do (like taking a shower and eating dinner!) so we gave this a try. 
Time to "Rock 'N Sleep"!

Most of the time she likes it, but we find it works best when she's sleeping...other times she would rather be in our arms!
"I think I like this you guys!"

On Day 7, we made our first trip out in public to the chiropractor (midwife approved!) for both Avery and I.  She seemed to like riding in the car, mostly while we were on the highway because it vibrated her car seat quite a bit. 

Happy and peaceful after the chiropractor.

Here I am watching out for my little girl on her first ride in the car. 

Here are our dogs, Jilly and Jackson looking out for Baby Avery as she hangs out in her Mamaroo Infant Seat.
"We'll protect her!"

Here's a closer shot of the Mamaroo Infant Seat.  This is a fun new gadget that takes the place of traditional bouncy seats and swings in how it mimics the movements of parents with 5 customizable and unique motions: ocean wave, kangaroo, tree swing, car ride, and rock-a-bye.  After watching some videos of it on YouTube, we were sold! Another fun feature is that you can plug your iPod right into it and have it play music while it's moving.   We don't use it too much, but it's great for while we are eating dinner or when I'm walking on the treadmill like in the pic below.  I'll keep you posted on how it works out for us.

Here's a fun shot of what we like to call her "Poopy Face".  This is when she gets all quiet and still, like she's up to something, then...BAM! Mega bowel movement-lol! ( :
Here it comes....

On Day 3, we got to cut the clamp that was holding her umbilical cord stump, and then on Day 8 her umbilical cord stump fell off...leaving this adorable little belly button!
Check out that little belly button!

Here she is napping in her Arm's Reach Mini Co-Sleeper that sits right next to our bed. 

And here's one last cute picture of her thinking hard as she gets her diaper changed.
"I wonder..."

So that's the highlights of our first week with Avery.  I wonder what fun new experiences await us this week? Can't wait to share them with you all!  Eventually "green" blog posts will resume, but for now it's "All About Avery" around here.   ( :

Easter Egg Leftovers? Don't throw it away or let it go stale...

by Katy Green

Chocolate Easter Egg

"Sharing is Caring" 

my daily mantra and whenever prudent and/or helpful to the environment I pass along information that will help the planet. I encourage you to pass this along to your friends and family as well!

Every wonder what to do with all the left over candy from Easter?

Don't throw it away instead give it to your local dentist office, doctor's office or any place that you frequent.

Out of chocolate for baking? Melt the leftover Easter Egg chocolate and use it to top your desserts, cakes or ice cream. For more creative ideas, check out the ShopSmart article.

Precycle, recycle and share daily!

Dear Cruz...

I'll admit, sometimes I question how much extra time I would have if I decided to give up my blogging endeavor.  I know I'd have lots more time to grade that stack of papers hanging over my head, or cook more, or even update my 10th grade class blog on a more regular basis.  I might have more time to clean, or crochet, or cut coupons.  Sometimes, I think a small weight might be lifted from my shoulders.  One less expectation, one less 'thing to do.'  I try my best to make this blog something I want to do, but the problem is, there's always too much I want to do.

But just when I think of giving it up, I snap a few pictures.

I capture some piece of you, or some moment with you, and I feel compelled to write it down.  To spill every inch, every piece of you onto my computer screen in hopes I won't ever forgot it.  The hundreds of pictures I take each week becomes my personal narrative of life with you.  Every expression, every look, and every outfit brings back a particular day, a new experience, or a memory of your life.  And that, baby, is priceless.

You, Cruz Bennett, are halfway through your sixth month.  You are such a happy, fun-loving, easy little boy who loves to laugh and loves to be a part of everything.  You're content just being, whether that is stacking your plastic cups, watching Swamp People on Dad's lap, sitting in the bathroom sink while I do my makeup, or watching me fold laundry from your crib. 

So what do I wish to capture this month???

...those first looks in the morning, after those first little chirps I hear from your room.  Some mornings, you cry, but others, you chirp.  I find you on your back, gently playing with your pacifier or chewing on the corner of your blankie, talking and humming sweetly to yourself.  I tip-toe in, lean over your crib, and am greeted with a smile.  

...how stinkin' cute you look in your pajamas.  Last night, you wore your first 'big boy' pajamas and they are awesome.  Cute little cotton stretch pants and a tight little muscle tee.  It took everything in me not to 'Add to Bag' on Baby Gap!

...cuddling with you.  You can be quite the little ham to hold sometimes, especially now that you figured out how fun it is to look around from upside down, but when it comes down to it, you are such a cuddle monster.  I love this about you and wouldn't give up those nights rocking you to sleep for anything.

...feeding you!  It's much more fun to make your own baby food when you absolutely love eating it!  From cauliflower to squash, bananas to pears, and avocado to rutabaga, you love trying new foods and sitting in your high chair.  Feeding you is definitely one of my favorite times of each day; however, you keep me busy!  Now that you're eating three 'meals' a day, I need to stock up on the veggies!

...Your squeals, your screams, and your shrieks, especially when you are jumping in your jumperoo.  It's your favorite toy in the house, and you get quite the leg workout. 

...your soft, chubby little legs.  Your daddy thinks you look like a tater tot and even calls you that sometimes!  Our blond, chubby little tater tot.

...all your looks; your look of determination as you attempt to grab a chunk of my hair, your curiosity as you lean over our shoulders to spot your bottle, your look of mischief as you try and bond with your cat, your look of pride when you sit atop your daddy's shoulders, and the way you sometimes grab my face with both hands as if you're going in for a big one.  

I know that all too soon, there will come a time when you won't stare stone-faced at the camera, where you won't sit still and smile when I say something funny or shake a rattle above my head.  So, I will continue to snap, click, and capture the art of you for as long as you'll let me... 


Your mama

White Vinegar - check label, multiple uses and Yeast Allergy sufferers beware!

by Katy Green

White Vinegar has so many uses and I am sure you are aware that white vinegar is great for cleaning your coffeemaker. You can ride the earth friendly wave, save money and reduce your consumption of products by thinking in multiples ways instead of one way.

White Vinegar or Organic White Distilled Vinegar can be used for a variety of household cleaning tasks:

Note:  If you don't like vinegar, revolted by the smell of vinegar or if you have a yeast allery you should try Solay All Natural Cleaning Products Package: the Solay Package will effectively clean, sanitize and keeps your home, laundry, fruits and veggies and your air quality healthy, safe and non-toxic. 100% free of petroleum based or other hazardous ingredients, SLS, fragrances, phosphates, animal by products, dyes and other common triggers for respiratory or skin irritations.

Uses for White Vinegar or Organic Distilled Vinegar:

  1. Help kill germs and deodorize
  2. Remove some carpet stains
  3. Clean chrome and cookware
  4. Clean counter tops
  5. Unclog drains
  6. Clean shower heads
  7. Gardening
  8. Kill bugs
  9. Clean Tools
  10. Remove hazy film from the car window and remove stains
  11. Multiple health and beauty uses
  12. Laundry
  13. Get rid of fruit flies
  14. Wipe grease off exhaust fans, inside of your oven, or anywhere grease gathers.
  15. Remove a label, decal, or price tag, and/or even wall paper. Soak the cloth you use in white distilled vinegar. 
I could list over 100 uses instead I will share: 131 Uses for Vinegar lists many ways to use vinegar and 245 Organic Uses for Vinegar offers pure organic alternative uses for vinegar.

Note: Don’t use white vinegar or organic white distilled vinegar on acetate fabrics, such as in some tablecloths, because it can dissolve the fibers

Concerned about the smell of Vinegar?

According to greenerchoices.org, the smell of white vinegar is strong while wet but when drys it leaves no odor.

White Vinegar Definition:

As always I like to provide detail on any item I feature because you have the right to be informed. There are many definitions for White Vinegar but the most common: White vinegar is an oxidizing distilled alcohol or corn; high in acetic acid and is very sour and harsh-tasting. 

Organic Vinegars:

White Distilled Organic Vinegar or Spectrum Organics Vinegar claims to be safe from chemical or petroleum or Heinz® Vinegar and all claim to be petroleum free - although the FDA is not aware of any manufacturers that use petroleum to start their vinegar. Another alternative to using vinegar for cleaning is Solay Cleaning Products.

Suffer from a Yeast Allergy?

If you suffer from yeast allergies then you should avoid white vinegar and there are many types of vinegar you should avoid: apple cider vinegar, malt vinegar, balsamic vinegar, rice and wine vinegar to name a few.

Distilled vinegar has the least amount of yeast although it is not yeast-free because the process to make it distills it to concentrate the acetic acid and purify the vinegar so there is very little yeast protein in it, depending on how carefully the distillation process has been conducted.

Remember to read the label, always research your products and find multiple ways to use your household items. Check out our article on multiple uses for coffee!

Stay tuned for more ways to use your household products and remain green and healthy!

My Birth Story

So, I've finally found a few spare minutes to get on here and tell you all about Avery's Birth Story!  I could probably ramble for hours and tell you all the details, but since my free time is a little shorter nowadays I'll try to keep it simple and to the point!  Now just a head's up, it might have a little "TMI" for some of you, but when I was pregnant I was very curious about all the details that lead up to and are included in labor and delivery...not just the general facts...so if you don't want to read that skip on down to some new pictures of Avery-hehe!
Let me tell you how I met my daughter...

So here's the cliff notes on how it all went down...on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 (11 days past my so-called due date):
  • Midnight Tuesday night, lost mucus plug that looked like clear mucus (kind of like when you blow your nose) and this continued to come out throughout the day
  • 6 AM woke up to contractions that were 6-8 minutes apart. These contractions felt different from any I'd had before because I actually had to stop what I was doing to close my eyes or lean up against something while they were happening. Despite these, I still managed to squeeze in one last yoga workout!
  • 8 AM called hubby to come home-had a feeling "today" was the day! 
  • 9 AM to 1 PM- hung out and watched TV (specifically favorite episodes of The Office), ate lunch, tried to take a nap...contractions were about 5-7 minutes apart
What I watched in the
beginning of my labor!
  • Afternoon was fuzzy...more contractions
  • 5 PM contractions were 3-5 minutes apart, called midwife and she said to stay up and moving around during the contractions even though it was uncomfortable because each contraction was bringing me a little closer to meeting my baby.  She then said to call her back in a few hours and let her know how things were progressing. At this point, I remember feeling tired and frustrated. I had got pretty accustomed to what it felt like when a contraction would hit and I didn't like that feeling, so each time I felt one coming I would be like, "Oh no..not again!" I also remember feeling tired since I had been having strong and consistent contractions for a few hours. I remember thinking, "I just want a time-out. How about I time-out this labor, go get a good night's sleep, a good meal, and then I'll pick it back up tomorrow when I feel more rested, confident, and prepared!" Ha! Silly Ashley!
  • 7 PM contractions were even closer together, even stronger, and my legs and body would not stop shaking.  The only place I was comfortable was sitting on the toilet...lovely right?! Brandon called midwife this time and she said my "shaking" was probably my body transitioning into active labor, and that I should go ahead and get in the water birthing tub. 
  • 7:30 PM got in the tub, immediately felt like I had to go to the bathroom so I got back out of the tub.  While on the toilet, my water broke (nice timing right?).  Called the midwife again, she said she was on her way over and that it seemed like we were going to have a baby before the night was over!
Here's what the tub looked like
on our practice run a few weeks back.
  • 8 PM got in the tub and turned on "Gentle Surge" music track on my iPod.  During each contraction, I would hold onto B and focus on my breathing.  I also found myself using my voice a lot to get through contractions, not in the form of yelling but low moans. 
  • 8:30 PM Midwife arrived, I was still laboring in the tub
  • 9:00 or so, midwife asked if she could check how dilated I was, I said yes.  After she checked she suggested I reach down and feel for myself how far along I was.  Amazingly, when I reached in about an inch or two I was able to feel my baby's head! This was very motivating to me and gave me strength I needed to keep going.
  • Probably around 10 PM or so, my midwife suggested I try sitting back in the tub so that the baby would be able to go down and around the pubic bone on it's way out.   (I currently had been leaning over the edge on Brandon and a change in position was just what I needed to keep going).
  • Moved to sitting back position with my feet resting on the handles inside the tub.  During each contraction I began feeling the urge to push.  I was slightly hesitant to push, fearing that I would tear but with each contraction I could feel her head pushing out more and more, so I went with it...gently.
  • It also helped that my midwife was in a way "coaching" me through each contraction.  She helped me direct my breath and vocalizations to best support the baby coming out.  So she would tell me to make deep, low, sounds (as if saying the word "Low") as opposed to yelling "Ahh!".  I really took to this advice and it gave me something to focus on rather than the pain. 
  • After a while of pushing and hearing how I was progressing, "Her head is out to about her forehead at this point." I remember realizing that as each contraction ended, she went back in...and this frustrated me.  I was very encouraged by how far she would come out and to find out that she was going back in, made me want to keep pushing long after the contraction had ended as if to "hold on" to the progress I had made.  I realized quickly that this was a bad idea, as it was working against my body and making me even more tired.  My midwife reminded me that there are breaks between the contractions to help my body rest and instead of fighting them I should embrace them and relax my body.  So I did.
  • Throughout the time I was in tub, my midwife kept checking my baby's heart rate with a Doppler to make sure that she was not distressed and each time she checked she said she was doing just fine, which was reassuring to hear and it helped me relax even more.
  • At that point I had no idea what time it was or how long I had been in the tub, all I knew is that I was getting closer to the end.  At some point I remember that I was holding back instead of pushing...again for fear of tearing, but my midwife suggested that I embrace the pressure and allow my body to push.  Things started picking up when I began doing this.  Basically this pushing felt a lot like I was having a really large bowel movement, and although it was tempting to push hard and fast, I tried hard to make gentle, slow pushes. 
  • Not long after I heard my midwife tell me the words I'd been waiting to hear: that her head was out and after the next contraction, I would have my baby! I remember saying out loud, "Oh I can do this!" To which my midwife and Brandon replied, "Of course you can do this." LOL.
  • Brandon then went around and got positioned to "catch" the baby.  And sure enough, with the next contraction, I pushed one more time and the rest of her body came out.  Brandon received her and brought her to my chest.  At 10:59 PM, my baby was born!
What happened after the birth?
-After being placed on my chest, we held Avery for about 30 minutes while we continued to sit in the water.  This was truly the most amazing part of the birth because instantly after Avery was born and placed on my chest, she was calm, alert, and had her eyes open and was looking right at us. Words can't describe the feeling we had as new parents to be holding our daughter for the first time.  On top of that the fact that she was so calm and alert made the moment even more surreal.  During this time our midwife checked her out to make sure everything was alright, and a few minutes later, I birthed the placenta.  On a funny TMI note, Avery had her first pee and bowel movement right there in the tub, good to know all systems are a go for her-lol! 

-About a half hour or so after she was born, I got out of the tub and made the move to our bed where I would try nursing her for the first time and also so my midwife could check me to see if I needed any stitches   As it turned out, I did have a small tear and it required a few stitches, which she gave me as I began nursing Avery. 
-Then my midwife helped clean up the tub and did a few more checks on Avery, all of which turned out great.  Then I went back to the bed and she gave me my restrictions for the next couple of weeks:
Because of the stitches:
-Stay upstairs (where our bedroom is) for 5 days because the stairs could open the stitches, not to mention put a strain on me
-Try to keep my legs together to help with the stitches, and avoid cross-legged positions as they might open the stitches for at least the first few days. 
Other restrictions on me:
-Stay home for 2 weeks, with full time help for the first week (thank you Brandon!), and part-time help for the 2nd week (thank you mom!).  I loved my midwife's analogy about why I need to stay home and take it easy: While showing us the placenta she said to make note of it's size (quite large) and remember that it was attached to my uterus...now it's out so it's basically like there is a large scab (the size of the placenta) in my uterus and if you had a scab that large anywhere else in your body, you would take it easy.  The same is true for this...so this mom is staying home!
-She also suggested limited visitors for Avery to reduce germs she's exposed to, to keep her and I from getting overwhelmed, and just to increase our new family bonding time. 

Our first family picture about an hour after she was born
in our comfy bed. Boy did I love being at home.
How did I use my Hypnobirthing practice?
-One of the primary Hypnobirthing tools I used was the Gentle Surge music track I mentioned in this post, which was playing in the background while I was laboring in the tub.  I put it on repeat and the combination of that with the dim lights and the water really helped keep me from stressing out and becoming overwhelmed as I got through each contraction. I couldn't have made it through my labor without this track (and the support of Brandon!). 

My Thoughts After the Birth:
-I truly am so happy and excited that I was able to have the home/water/hypnobirth I'd been dreaming of and planning for since before I was pregnant. I feel grateful that my birth was so short, so easy, so natural...what an amazing experience. I am happy that my baby was able to born in an environment that was quiet and calm with dim lights, only a few people (Brandon and my midwife), and not to mention in the comfort of my own home. It was probably the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my life and I have a whole new sense of confidence that I will take with me from this day forward. And to know that I was able to give birth to my baby free of drugs, stress, and fear makes me even more happy and proud as I look back on the exciting day I met my daughter.

Now for some cute pictures of Baby Avery...

Love it when those eyes are open.

You know she'll be one "Green Girl"!
One proud daddy!

So that's my birth story and I can't wait to share more stories and pictures with you all on our new adventures in parenting.  Until then...it's time to go back to my little girl! ( :

Change in plans...

This week was going to be crazy.  Yesterday, after teaching all day and welcoming Senator Grassley to our school to speak with our high school students, I had five hours of senior presentations, a culminating project completed by my 12 senior advisees and graded by yours truly.  After that, around eight o'clock, I was planning on jetting it home to rock my baby to sleep, then pack for a two-day conference in Des Moines, aka, my first official overnight away from my boy.  Mom was planning to come stay with Cruz while I learned about eCurriculum in Des Moines, and I was planning on my first Skype play-date with the Cruz Tuesday night.  

But as I've learned a thousand times over, just when you feel like you get this crazy little life in order, and master a plan for tackling what was supposed to be an utterly stressful and crazy week, plans change.  

(In comes the start of poopy diapers)...

We got a call from daycare around ten yesterday morning.  Cruz had had four runny diapers since we dropped him off; therefore, he needed to be picked up.  Happy and seemingly healthy, our smiley boy was exiled from daycare for 24 hours (do I get a discount for this???).  Meanwhile, as I'm trying to arrange a place for my sophomores to go and figure out how the heck I'm going to make this all work, I get an offer to attend a conference in D.C. in July.  A conference that just happens to fall on the same week of my follow-up conference I was supposed to attend tomorrow.  Hmm...

I phone Beau because that's what I do when I'm stressed.  And because I'm absolutely terrible at making decisions on the fly and expect others to make them for me, I get mad at Beau for not helping my dilemma.  Sometimes I feel like I'm not ready for all these big kid decisions...

Well, needless to say, I used my sub plans.  Skype, however, will not be needed.  I traded in my eCurriculum Conference in Des Moines for a date with my little boy.  He had a mad total of nine runny diapers yesterday (as if you really needed to know that), and I still haven't determined if he's sick, teething, or recovering from the Easter weekend and a little too much apple juice.  It's times like these when I realize I'm still so new at this whole mom thing.

So today, we play.  We pack on the Butt Paste, soak in a sudsy tub, and play face-to-face instead of via Skype.  Plans changed and although I'm still not sure I made the right decisions yesterday, I've learned that there's no use dwelling on it.  Life happens and you just go with what works. 

One day at a time. 

Happy Things

My name is Ashley.  I am a shopaholic.

I sometimes believe I was born with the addiction.  From a very early age, I remember being fascinated by all the authentic, handmade baby doll clothes at one special booth at the UNI-Dome Craft Show.  I would run my fingers along the soft fabric, listen to the sound of buttons snapping or zippers zipping, and study the vibrant colors of each piece.  And I remember feeling so happy and so excited when I would have enough money to purchase something, waiting for just the right time to show off my purchase on my favorite Cabbage Patch doll, Hannah. 

I've always loved clothes.  It's by far one of my favorite things in the world.  I love watching the styles of the stars, thumbing through the latest Victoria's Secret magazine, and organizing and re-organizing my closet.  It's Christmas time when an Express coupon arrives in the mail, and the smell of Abercrombie and Fitch is a smell that far exceeds even the aromas of the best Thanksgiving dinner.  

Since having Cruz, however, my clothing obsession has shifted from Express to Baby Gap, Abercrombie to Amazon, and Von Maur Women's to Von Maur Baby.  I love putting outfits together for him, washing his little clothes, and 'accessorizing.'  Sometimes, I get so excited getting him dressed that Beau actually refers to Cruz as my 'accessory baby.'  

My latest accessory???

I like hats.  And it turns out, Cruz does too.  He can pull off the fedora better than Brad Pitt :)

Carrycot Winner :-)

I am sorry that I am so pokey picking a name. The weekend got away from me with Easter preparations.
The winner is the last commenter, Susan.  If you will please send me your address, I will get it in the mail for you on Wednesday. Also, if you would like a name monogrammed on the pillowcase, please let me know and I will add it.

Thank you so much everyone for visiting my blog and entering.
Take care,

Simon from Cyrene

I've always loved Easter.  I remember seeing the Easter story performed at Cedar Valley Community Church, closing my eyes and listening to my heart beat a hundred times a minute as the sounds of the nails pounding into the cross echoed through the church.  I remember the anticipation that followed the moments after the crucifixion, and the thunderous bass that accompanied the stone as it rolled from the tomb.  I loved that annual performance and am still saddened I can't let Beau and Cruz see it for themselves.  It was amazing. 

I've heard the Easter story again and again; however, I'd never heard it from the perspective of Simon from Cyrene.  I remember reading and hearing about Simon, the man who was pulled from the crowd to carry the cross when Jesus couldn't do it himself, but I always assumed it was Simon Peter, one of Jesus' disciples and closest friends.  But knowing the story of Simon from Cyrene gives it a whole new meaning.

Simon from Cyrene was a no-name.  A passerby.  An unconnected, unrelated man from out of town, passing through in the middle of a parade.  A parade where people were cursing, scrutinizing, and accusing a man they had praised and followed just days before.  Simon stopped, probably in innocent curiosity; He had no intention of being in the middle of the commotion.  

That is, until a Roman soldier pulled him from the crowd and demanded he carry the heavy, bloody cross of a criminal.  Carry the burden of a man who would later carry the burden and sins of the entire world.  The Bible doesn't say why Simon was the man pulled from the crowed, or more importantly, what was going through his mind when forced to take over the grueling task.  Although many of these questions are left unanswered, one thing is for sure.  Simon of Cyrene felt shame.  Shame, because in that parade, the onlookers now looked to Simon as the criminal.  

Simon from Cyrene taught me a lot this Easter.  Most of all, he taught me that it's not okay to simply be an onlooker.  Someone content with sitting in the crowd and blending in.  God chose a simple man like Simon to teach us the power and influence we all have.  The power to stand out from the crowd and be a true follower of Jesus.
Easter weekend was a good one.

It began with an early morning breakfast, early with the sunrise, a snuggly baby in blue footed pajamas and a bowl of rice cereal with mixed fruit...

...followed by some playtime and a baby-food-making-spree, complete with cheesy cauliflower and tomatoes, onions and carrots, pears and apples, and Cruz's favorite, butternut squash.

I stuffed my first-ever Easter basket...

 And made one little boy feel pretty important sitting by his very own Easter treasures...

I thought it'd be cute to let Cruz play with his dyed Easter eggs...

...that is, until I had a baby with two blue lips, two blue hands, and one very blue tongue!

...We went to church at Orchard on Saturday night, just the three of us, and felt cozy and thankful for the very special blessing in our lives.

Sunday morning, we woke up to more Easter basket fun: a new set of blocks, a very first Peter Rabbit book, and some CDs that play the same music that lulls our little one to sleep every Sunday at church.  Of course, Cruz was more fascinated at the Easter grass and plastic cover on his new sippy cup.  This Christmas, he's getting a cardboard box...

We headed to Allison Easter morning, to show Cruz the church that his mommy and daddy were married in.  Since Cruz got his typical 'sermon nap' in on the half-hour car ride, I was a little worried about how he'd do during church.  For the first twenty minutes, he was a ham!  Grabbing the back of Jordan's shirt, smiling at the girls behind us, and doing his famous, 'no, no, no,' head shake every two minutes.  But just when I thought the children's nursery was in our future, he fell asleep in my arms.  A sweet sleep that resulted in a rosy-cheeked, happy little boy.

We had breakfast at Great Grandma Henrichs', and lunch at Great Grandma Hoodjer's.  Cruz ate at the table with us, cleaned up his peas and carrots, and even tried some of Grandma's famous carrot casserole.  He played, he snuggled, and even jabbered, but hardly slept.  Tomorrow will either be a catch-up day at day care, or a day with one wired baby!  

We celebrated a great first Easter with our Cruz Man.  Tonight, I am tired, but feeling blessed beyond words.  I love my little bunny and feel so thankful to be his mama...