Memorial Day

When our Memorial Day began with drywall goop splattered across the basement floor, I was a little worried. I could think of about a million things that seemed far more appealing than listening to my poor husband sing Pearl Jam as he smeared globs of drywall mud over tape that doesn't stick. It may have been true that the two of us spent our first anniversary tearing out a kitchen together, but this holiday weekend, I could live without a finished project.  After all, we have a third party to impress now.  A third party who does not do well with dry wall dust and loud noises. 

Thanks to great friends, Kyle and Jen, Beau had to forgo his mudding and taping venture to have lunch with them as they were passing through on their way home to Minnesota.  Kyle is Beau's closest childhood friend who is now about twenty weeks from becoming a daddy.  Kyle and Jen are expecting their first, and it was their very important 'reveal' weekend.  As we sat down at Newton's, our new favorite lunch spot in the Cedar Valley, Jen snuggled baby Cruz and announced that he would have a little boy to play with next fall.  We couldn't be happier for them.  Another 'Beau and Kyle' to follow in their fathers' footprints.  Let's just hope they don't follow all the paths their dads wandered down ;)  

(If you live in the area and haven't tried Newton's, I suggest you do.  The food is ah-mazing.  The tenderloin....HUGE).

After lunch, we got some sun at a little park near Newton's.  Jen and Kyle let Buddy, their dog-child, roam for awhile, and Jen and I talked babies.  Meanwhile, Cruz developed a liking to Buddy, who we decided will do just fine with a little baby of his own.  After watching the two of them bond, for a split second I thought it would be fun to buy a dog.  Don't get your hopes up, was only a split second.  

Sometimes, I feel like the city limits of the Cedar Valley are caving in on us; that we've been there, done that a thousand times, eaten at every restaurant, been to every landmark, and seen all there is to see.  But yesterday, I realized our small town isn't as small as it seems sometimes.  Before heading home, the three of us decided to explore downtown Waterloo.  The bridge over the Cedar River was lined with American flags, and there was a stone sidewalk and set of stairs leading down to a newly developed river walk.  Illustrated signs that told the history of Waterloo lined the river walk, and the historic Black's Building towered above us.  Across the river was a beautiful view of the Iowa Veteran's Museum and the Five Sullivan Brothers Convention Center, all complete with the red, white, and blue.  I never realized the deep history weaved within a town we are often so guilty of writing off.  It's amazing what you sometimes find when exploring your own backyard.  

After we returned home, I successfully talked Beau out of finishing his drywall project, and he successfully talked me into our first bike ride of the season...with Cruz.  Last weekend, we splurged on our very own bike trailer.  I like that we can now take advantage of the great trails in our area, and also like that we can store about two days' worth of belongings in the back, but neither one of us considered the weight addition of pulling our little sandbag along.  With 30 mph winds, a hot sun, and our first real workout in awhile, we were beat!  Beau compared pulling the bike trailer to pulling a parachute.  Cruz, on the other hand, was enjoying his first bike ride.  He wasn't so much a fan of his adorable little helmet, but thoroughly liked the sights and sounds of the great outdoors.  We took a break at George Wyth, spread a quilt across the grass, and gave Cruz some puffs.  He fell asleep with the quilt propped against his sun-kissed little cheek, and all was content (that is, except my butt, which definitely wasn't used to a bike seat...)

"seriously, mom?  do I really have to wear this thing???"

We ended our Memorial Day weekend with a big bowl of watermelon, some guacamole, and an impromptu barbecue with friends.  A great end to a great Memorial Day weekend, and a perfect start to summer.  

Happy RED, WHITE, & BLUE...

From our family to yours.

5 Weeks Old

Hey everyone, Avery and I had an interesting week this week.  Things were a bit up and down this week as I continue to "learn the ropes" of being a mom. By no means were things bad this, there were just times when Avery really threw me for a loop!  For example, most days she falls asleep for a nap around 11 AM or so, and sleeps for 2-3 hours...this is when I get my workout, shower, and makeup like I mentioned in this post (aka the things that keep me sane!).  But two days last week, when it was time for her nap, she had a hard time falling asleep and when she eventually did she only sleep for about 15 minutes or so.  On top of this it seemed like her sleep at night was changing too, as I was getting up even more with her and she wasn't sleeping peacefully like she did in those first few weeks.  I suppose this is why raising children is hard, among other things, because you think you have it all figured out, (like "I do this and it makes her happy," or "I put her here and she sleeps longer,").  But then you wake up one day and everything is different,  ("That does not make her happy," and, "That will not help her sleep longer.").   Perhaps she was going through a growth spurt last week, or maybe it's just the fact that she's only 5 weeks old! Either way, she's teaching me how to just go with the flow and accept the fact that everyday isn't going to be exactly the same.  What can I say, we're both growing in this journey together. Here's some things I have learned from this week:
I'm teaching mom all kinds of things!
1- Miracle Blankets really are miracles! I mentioned in this post that we'd been swaddling Avery for her naps and when she sleeps at night, but lately she kept breaking out of the swaddle wraps like a little Houdini...which woke her up and then woke me up!  Thankfully, my "green" friend Kelly offered to give me the Miracle Blankets she used with her daughters when they were younger, and after the first time using them, I was hooked (thank you Kelly!).  You can read more about the difference of these blankets here from other swaddle wraps here, but basically they have special flaps that pin the baby's arms down (sounds harsh, but it really is comforting to the baby!).  Anyways since switching to these wraps, Avery's naps are much more consistent (she's not waking herself up as frequently because she's broken out of the swaddle) and she's sleeping longer at night (she slept 7.5 hours last night! Talk about body and I weren't quite ready for this! I'm sure it was just a fluke, but still it's better than being up 3-4 times a night).  So, in short...if you swaddle, go with the Miracle Blanket!

2- The second thing I learned is that some babies are loud sleepers! Anyone out there have a baby that makes all kinds of sounds when they sleep? Well, I do! Sometimes she grunts, clears her throat, sighs, and even gasps just to name a few! Granted she isn't always noisy in her sleep, but during certain stages I have learned that she makes quite a bit of noise!  At first, I thought there was something wrong, she was hungry, or she was fussing...but when I checked her, her eyes were closed and she was asleep!  After some Googling, I found that it is somewhat of a normal thing and that some babies (as adults) are just loud sleepers! The past few nights I've been trying to ignore her sleep sounds and not bother her (usually I'd pick her up and assume she needed to eat or something) and instead just let her a result she's been sleeping longer and happier!  Obviously if I thought something was wrong I would check her, but most of the noises she makes are her "sleepy noises" as she drifts from one stage of sleep to the next.  Guess she just likes to make some noise during her sleep? Can anyone else relate?

So that's what I've been learning about my baby girl this's what else we've been up to:

She really seems to be interacting more with us, which has been a lot of fun.  As you can see we've been getting lots of smiles too!
Happy smiles
I sure do love my Daddy!
We're still working on Tummy Time and this week she's really started lifting her head up even higher and she keeps it there for longer.  She also loves to lift herself up on my chest when I'm holding her, like she's doing little baby push ups!

I'm getting stronger guys!

Life is good when I'm napping 
Diaper changes have been forever changed at our house because Avery has a new friend...this panda from the book, That's Not My BearI was reading this book to her one day during tummy time and her eyes lit up when I got to this page.  So when she was fussing during a diaper change one time, I ran and grabbed this book and opened it up to this page...what was the result? One happy Avery!  As you can imagine, I use this Panda page often during diaper changes and as you can see, Avery loves to stare at him and sometimes she even reaches her hands out to the page.  Diaper changes have also been fun this past week because Avery started making babbling/cooing sounds for the first time and that's got us really pumped! Brandon is able to get lots of great sounds out of her and so does Panda, lately she's even been giving me some!  It's kind of crazy when you're used to hearing certain sounds out of your baby and then out of the blue one day they make a totally new sound and you're like, "What did you just say? I've never heard you say that before!"  Granted there's only a few "gaas", "neighs" and "daas" there, but I'm sure it will continue to grow more and more each week!
Meet my new friend...Panda
Well that's about it for week 5.  This coming week our midwife comes for our 6 week check up and we can't wait to find out how much she weighs because this girl sure loves to eat.

Sweet Summertime

Dear Cruz...

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the kick-off to all that is summer.  Friday was my last official day with students at school, and sandwiched between were two days of doing a whole lot of nothing.  Summer has arrived and you are about to experience what carefree is all about.

Last year, you got a taste of summer.  You could feel the mix of the steamy sun and refreshing pool water as it hit the baby bump.  You tagged along for late night walks and always let us know you were around with your hiccups and soccer kicks.  It was a summer I will never forget: painting your nursery and ordering your bedding, buying every color of Target sundress, resting my copy of Eat Pray Love on my growing belly, and noticing a more defined waddle with every neighborhood walk we went on.  I loved preparing to bring you into our house and into our world.  They are memories I will never forget...the summer of Baby J. 

This summer, however, is the one I've been waiting for.  A summer spent introducing you to the joys of summertime in Iowa.  Ice cream with sprinkles and sidewalk chalk stains on bare toes and feet.  Blowing bubbles and making s'mores, grilling burgers and listening to the Cubs on 1650 'the Fan.'  Staying up past bedtime and sleeping with the windows open, bike rides, parades, and fireworks.  My childhood is filled with such great memories of summer, and I feel so blessed to be a part of building a book of memories especially for you.  

This weekend, we introduced you to a few reoccurring chapters of our latest book of summer memories.  After all, what would a summer be without a little home improvement?

We aren't tackling much this summer, but are attempting to make a little more living space for your growing accumulation of toys.  While your dad worked hard on his drywall project in the basement, you liked visiting and checking out what all the noise was about.  You even took a two-hour nap during all the clamor.  You're all boy, that's for sure.  You cry when the vacuum is running, but don't flinch when your dad is cutting drywall with a Dewalt reciprocating saw.  

You may be all boy, but that doesn't mean you don't like hanging out in the kitchen with your mom.  I thought the drywall dust might be a little too much for you, so we hung out upstairs and baked chocolate chip cookies.  I don't know why, but I always bake chocolate chip cookies on my first weekend off from school.  I guess it's my way of replacing the usual Sunday afternoon grad-a-thon.  I even restocked the freezer with some new things for you: avocados and bananas, strawberries and cantaloupe, and BEEF!  We'll see just how 'boy' you are!

Other signs of summer...

...burgers on the grill.  

...sleepy post-supper walks, and a happy baby afterwards.

...a big bowl of melt-in-your-mouth watermelon.

...the carefree feeling that goes along with knowing that the nights will last a little longer, the mornings will come a little later, and afternoons are made up of chocolate chip cookies and naps together on the couch.  

Summer is here.  Lots of sun in store for us!

101 Things...


Cruz waiting patiently for his new wheels, in the back of our wheels...

We took it out for a short test drive, but haven't ventured too far yet.  After spending an hour attempting to find a place for it in our already-tight garage, we decided to call it a night!  We are looking forward to covering more ground soon! 

Sherbet Pips :-)

My little great niece had to undergo major surgery so of course a little quilt was in order. She loves dogs and I love Sherbet Pips' little dogs so I made just a simple quilt using white and the pink print.

 Do you think she is checking out my quilting to see if it is up to par?  ;-)

 Really giving it the once over! I think it passed muster though.

Hope everyone is doing well,

Find New Homes For Your Junk... Out In Your Yard

In the age of sustainable design, why is it that I still find myself driving by mountains of junk sitting in front of people's homes waiting for trash pick up? Instead of spending tons of money at home stores and nurseries why not repurpose your old junk into new landscape creations.

Anything can be reused or repurposed with a little elbow grease. Do you have an old, broken ironing board you want to get rid of? How about turning that old ironing board into a plant shelf or maybe a whimsical cocktail bar?

There are so many options when you reuse or repurpose things you consider junk. An old BBQ can become a fire pit or a rustic planter, broken pottery or glass can become decorative mulch for planters, old counter tops can be broken into pieces and become stepping stones, the list truly is endless.

Anyone can be green and practice sustainability if you stop and think before you throw things away. Take a step back and look at the item, use a little imagination, you never know what you might come up with. People always use the expression, "one man's junk is another man's treasure", but maybe we can figure out how our own junk can be made into our own treasure?


On Sunday, I attended the coolest graduation commencement ceremony ever.  I watched 50 of the most talented, diverse, and creative seniors walk across the stage and proudly accept their diplomas.  We laughed in amazement as Rachel and Joni sang their graduation speech to the tunes of four popular songs that defined their four years of school.  We wiped tears from our eyes as Sarah gave her emotional, heartfelt reflection, and we celebrated the accomplishments of Jyothi as she once again amazed us with her ability to string together words like poetry.  For one final time, we were entertained by Jody and Andrew Stone's back-and-forth banter, and clapped along to the choir's performance of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water.'  And finally, we celebrated the class of 2011 by dancing along to a choreographed version of 'Be True to Your School.'  It was an unforgettable ceremony from an unforgettable class.

The Class of 2011 was my first class.  Three years ago, I walked into a class of 52 sophomores, sophomores who would teach me more in that year of American Literature than I could have ever taught them.  As their teacher and class advisor, I would follow them throughout the next three years of their lives and watch them succeed, make mistakes, and grow into pretty amazing young people.  

And last Wednesday, I had the honor of standing in front of them at their Senior Class Luncheon on their very last day of school.  I spent weeks mentally preparing for this speech, scouring their writing I kept, outlining their accomplishments, and reflecting on their futures.  In the past, I've written twenty-page research papers, presentations for groups of seasoned teachers, and one, fifty page Masters' paper, but I've never stewed over a task like this.  It was a daunting task, but one of the most rewarding experiences I've had as a teacher.  

And as it turns out, my son shares my love of the Class of 2011.  He and my husband traveled to twenty-some graduation receptions with me this weekend.  And as Beau and I stuffed our faces with the most amazing graduation food ever, Cruz turned up the charm.  And since about ten of us seemed to always be on the same graduation trail, he got pretty well acquainted with a few individuals, who he developed quite the liking to.  Taryn, and Jeron and Karen, and Niki.  The NU Science Department, especially Mr. Spurr and Dr. Stone, and Sarah, another senior.  Cruz loved her.  He turned into jello every time she picked him up.  So, while Beau and I filled plates of apple pie and chicken wings, homemade barbecue and all the fixings, and a hot dog buffet that followed a map of America, Cruz bonded with my students.

This weekend, I saw evidence that school is much more than what we make of it.  It's more than essays and tests and presentations and projects.  It's more than concepts and skills, class rank and GPA, competency-based grading and standardized testing.  It's about relationships and change, trying new things and learning from our pasts, and making the most we can of our 'presents.'

As I watched my students fight over who would hold Cruz and delegate how much time each person had to hold him, I couldn't help but think about the student Cruz would become.  And although a part of me shudders to think of him in a cap and gown someday, I can't wait to see the young man he becomes.  

Congratulations Class of 2011!

Who would've thunk it?! fast babies grow out of their clothes!  I knew the months would go by fast, but when you stack the fourth eighteen-gallon Rubbermaid full of clothes onto the next one, it's really put in perspective.  So now that the next Baby Gap size covers a six-month range instead of three, does that mean Cruz stops growing so fast?  

And the cute little hooded towels?  We realized it was time to move up a size when it seemed as if we were attempting to wrap a washcloth around all them baby rolls! 

...while sleepers are still my favorite night-time attire, Baby Gap's sleep sets are hilariously cute.  According to the fluorescent yellow tag we cut from the newest set, the pajamas are skin tight to avoid a fire hazard.  This is probably there for a reason much like the 'Caution: Hot' sticker that's on every coffee cup at McDonalds.  Who knew?!  I personally think the pajamas are skin tight to show off the little man's bod, but it's good knowing I can rest a little easier now that he's wearing fire-safe pjs.

"I hate when my mom talks about my bod!"

...When we shop, I feel this urge to want to buy everything for my child.  I can't walk down a toy aisle without immediately trying to justify why Cruz needs a LeapFrog Learn and Groove Musical Table or a Little Tikes Tap n' Tunes Baby Piano.  Friday night, we took our first family trip to Toys R Us since having Cruz...I can now see why parents avoid this place at all costs!  While Cruz watched wide-eyed and patient from his cart, Beau and I made a deal that we would each pick one toy.  After all, we are both pretty good parents.  I think Cruz is enjoying our reward too.

...Cruz LOVES it outside.  He loves exploring the grass between his little fingers, or the bird he can't quite locate in the tree above him.  He loves getting to know the neighborhood, the walk down the sidewalk, the park in our backyard, and the dog next door.  The other day, after our umpteenth graduation party, Beau and Cruz retreated to the backyard for an afternoon nap.  I bought Beau a hammock for his first 'soon-to-be' Father's Day last year...he put it to good use on Saturday.  An image in my head brought to life before my eyes... meal plans on the fridge of parmesan-crusted chicken with capers, or grilled cedar-plank salmon can morph into meal plans of pureed butternut squash and sweet potatoes, rutabaga and carrots, and baby's first chicken casserole.  I still love being in the kitchen, but would rather spend my nights in front of my little Beaba Cooker than the stovetop.  I've promised to reignite my love of adult cuisine this summer, but am looking forward to filling a freezer full of baby smoothies and baby guacamole, too.

...the change you feel in your life in a matter of one year.  Last year, I was a pregnant, nesting one, seeking to dig my dust-mop in every crevice in the house.  This summer, I'm a mama, ready to let the dust build a little bit.  Ready for picnics, bonfires, and sweaty babies.