The Twelve Days of Birthday

Today is the last day of September.  It's Friday night and I am more than content with a night in, complete with a Papa Murphy's pizza, an Oktoberfest, and a pair of yoga pants.  It's going to frost tonight, and I'm looking forward to curling up in our nest with lots of blankets and a forgotten alarm clock.  After all, tomorrow is a very big day.  It might as well be Christmas Eve around our house.  
Okay - so tomorrow might not be Cruz's birthday, or even the day of his party for that matter, but it's the eve of the day we prepare for Cruz's party.  The day we gather with family and friends to celebrate all that is Cruz.  The day we gather to remember the day he was born, all eight pounds, 21.5 inches of wonder that he was.  The day we gather to smile and laugh, and maybe even shed a few tears of happiness as we remember the year that changed everything for us.  The year Cruz made us just a little more complete.

So, after months of visualizing and planning this 'simple little get-together,' I'm nearing an end of sock monkey overload.  Tonight, I wrap just one more gift, hot glue one more pom pom on a party hat, and pick up a hundred of tiny pieces of toilet paper Cruz stole from the bathroom and used as confetti in the hallway.  Even he's starting to get the drift of this whole birthday party thing...

Lots to do tomorrow and Sunday.  I can't wait to bring this party to life this weekend and see how Cruz Man reacts to the role of BIRTHDAY BOY!  
(Did I mention that I can't wait to find the floor of one of my guestrooms?)


Decisions, Decisions, or How I Chose Which Book to Buy Today

I have a Nook Color, which I might have mentioned that I love. But, it has changed my book-shopping habits more than I anticipated. Now that Amazon has unveiled the shiny new Kindle Fire, I plan to become a dual e-reader owner. (I had to have color, you see.) And I can easily justify to Sugar why it's essential that I have both--I hope.

Anyway, about book shopping....

Today I perused my to-be-read list, which consists of a stack of actual books purchased pre-Nook, and 21 books I've downloaded to my Nook but haven't yet read. These are all books I'm eager to read--some are written by friends, some by favorite authors, some both. But, on any given day, what I want to read is driven by the mood I'm in. Nothing in my to-be-read list jumped out, grabbed me by the throat, and shouted, "You must read me now!"

I checked the Goodreads recommendations--this is a great feature, by the way. Goodreads checks what you've read and rated highly and recommends books for you. There were good suggestions on the list. I decided to download either Lethal, (the new Sandra Brown novel) The Affair (the new Lee Child novel) or (and this was the odds-on favorite) Robert B. Parker's Killing the Blues by Michael Brandman. I SO miss Jesse Stone.

With those three novels in mind, I logged on to the B&N website. Yes, I know I can easily shop directly from my Nook, but because the screen--and therefore the store--is bigger, I prefer shopping on my laptop.

I clicked Nook Books, selected fiction, then mystery. I sorted by Bestselling. The first 2 books on the screen were The Affair and Lethal. Should've been an easy in and out of the store, right? Not so fast. I love browsing books. So, I meandered down the list. Number three was a Michael Connelly--also a favorite author--and this was a steal--a back-list title for only $1.99. But, it was a title I'd already read and own in paperback.

The first page of 573 pages of mystery novels held 30 titles, most by name-brand authors. Many of them I've already read. Some I just wasn't in the mood for. I went to page 2. More of the same--some new titles by favorite authors, some back-list titles--plus here a few authors whose names were familiar, but whose work I've never read, along with an unfamiliar name or 2. My scrolling slowed.

There, on the bottom line of page 2, a cover and a title caught my eye" January Kills Me, by Evan Katy. I read the first sentence of the overview: "January Kills Me is a romantic comedy, an action filled mystery and a cautionary tale of how not to go about recovering from a divorce."

DING-DING-DING! We have a winner. That caught my attention. I glanced at the reviews. There were only 12 ratings so far, but the overall rating was 4.5. The five reviews on the first page were all glowing endorsements.

But, wait... the book is only 99 cents? Is this a back-list title of someone I haven't read before, or an indie author? Great cover, great title, great reviews--nothing that screamed, "This is somebody's first draft of her first novel, and she got her cousin to upload it because he knew how." It was a completely professional package. And (I had to look) Evan Katy is an indie author.

I can gamble with 99 cents. Jesse Stone, I still miss you, but maybe next week. The budget is a little tight just now.

Peace out,


P.S. As a reader, I never looked to see who published a book until the day I started researching publishers and agents as a writer. I'm not an advocate for independent publishing or authors. Neither am I predisposed to think that a novel written by an indie author is of poor quality. I am a lover of good novels, however they arrive on my e-reader. I am also the CFO of my family budget.

Fair Trade Feature: Greenola

Hello all :) I'm really excited to share this feature with you. I've been crazy busy with school and it's about damn time I gave you something to read!

Choosing eco-friendly fashion isn't just about shopping for sustainable materials like organic cotton and recycled polyester. It's about keeping in mind where your clothes are coming from. Many consumers fail to realize the atrocities involved with garment manufacturing. I was absolutely appalled when I read about the rape factory in Jordan. Sure, those clothes may be cheap, but those prices don't factor in abuse.

That's why I'm happy to have discovered Greenola. Greenola features beautiful accessories and clothing handmade by Bolivian women. Through their work, these women are able to support not only themselves, but their community as well. Everything from Greenola directly supports the fair trade movement and the fight against unfair labor. Here are some of my favorite items, I adore them!

From left to right: RAYA Infinity Scarf, CALYPSO Semi-Precious Stone Bracelet, TACHE Handwoven Purse

Founder, Jennifer Moran, is extremely passionate about her work. Even after only a few online exchanges, I could tell how important this cause is to her.
"I am inspired to create a Responsible Style Revolution. We currently can pick any food item off the shelf and choose exactly what we put into our bodies. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about fashion. We read the label and have no idea who made the garment, or what goes into making the fabric... With Greenola, we have full transparency."
Besides running a fashion business the way it should be run, Jennifer has also teamed up with Solidarity Bridge, an organization that helps bring medical aid to impoverished Bolivian communities. 10% of every purchase is donated to the charity, helping the Bolivian population overcome such severe poverty.

So now's your chance to support a good cause and scoop up some cute stuff! Jennifer has supplied me with a coupon code, specifically for you lovely readers. Enter the code FORTHELOVE at checkout and receive 20% your entire order (one per customer, expires 12/31/2011). Oh, did I mention that everything is crazy affordable to begin with? Happy shopping!

Interested in the history of Greenola and it's founder, Jennifer Moran? Check out this article (page 5).

5 Months Old

So my little girl is 5 months now! Wow, almost half-a-year old! This past month has been quite a whirlwind now that I'm back in the routine of working, and on top of that, little Missy here has been growing like crazy! Aside from growing out of all of her clothes, she's been rolling over, cutting teeth, and starting to crawl...all of which you'll see later in this post.  When the photo shoot rolled around this month, Avery was ready.  As you can see in the photo below, I placed that sticker on her onesie, sat her in her chair and it then the smiles started coming out! 

"Welcome to my crib!"
As you can see from her stats, she's gained two pounds in the last month, but hasn't gotten any taller.  This puts her at about 95th percentile for weight and still above 100th percentile for her height.  Let's just say the girl still loves to eat.
Her 5 Month Stats

Want to see her 95th percentile chunk? Check out these legs sticking out of the Bumbo seat! Love love love! ( :

Here's a trip down memory lane...month one all the way to five. Take a look!

Aside from lots of physical changes this past month, Avery has gotten very vocal in the last few weeks and as you can see from the photos below, and we got quite a talking to during the photo shoot.  Another favorite vocal thing to do....scream (in excitement usually)! Here are some of the vocal shout outs we got this time around..
"Oh ga ga ga ga ga!"

"Ahhh da da da da da da!"
As well as a few more highlights from the photo shoot:
Dad offering some photo shoot entertainment between
Is that five fingers she's holding up? Let's pretend it is- he he!
Teething: Now as I mentioned above, one of the changes we've seen this past month is that two little pearly whites have started poking up and through Avery's gums. I can't believe it! I was letting her chew on my knuckle one day and I felt something sharp and sure enough it was the beginnings of a tooth! A few days later I felt another little sharp bump, which was a second tooth, also on the bottom row.  Since Avery's my first, I was kind of clueless as to how this whole tooth thing would work.  Do they start tiny one day and then all the sudden you can see the whole tooth? Or do they just gradually start to come in? Well, it's been about 2-3 weeks since I felt the "razor beginnings" of the teeth and here is where they're at right now.
Look close for those two little bottom teeth!
For the most part, teething hasn't been too horribly bad (despite what the picture may look like! The only way I could get a pic of the teeth was when she was crying during a diaper change one day...sorry girl!).  There have been days where she seems a bit fussier than usual, but I think the amber teething necklaces that I blogged about here have been helping.  Granted it's hard for me to know because I don't have much to compare it to, but it sure doesn't hurt to wear them.  In some of my research about these necklaces, I read that the lighter colors of amber can sometimes be more helpful with the inflammation, so as an alternate, I bought a second amber teething necklace, which you can find here. I haven't really noticed a difference between the two mainly because her mood varies each day, so it's hard to know if it's the necklace is having an effect.  We'll see as more teeth continue to come in.

Sporting her lighter color amber teething necklace.

Crawling: One of the most exciting thing Avery's been doing this past month is starting to crawl...which I can't believe is already here!  Gone are the days where I can just leave her to just sit and stay in one place. Leave her for just a second and she'll be rolled over and try to move somewhere! It all began when she got really good at rolling over at the beginning of the month, and once she mastered this skill, she started lifting up her back and bottom, almost like she was planking-lol!

From here came backwards crawling. Look below for a play-by-play of a backwards crawling session that took place earlier this month.  Boy was she determined to go somewhere...even if it was in reverse!
"Are you ready?"

"Get set.."


"Am I there yet?"

"This crawling business is hard work!"

Following backwards crawling came forward crawling. I say "crawling" loosely because she isn't literally crawling, but she is propelling herself in a forward motion on a consistent we'll call it crawling for now.  Actually, since she's still building strength in her arms and back, her crawl looks more like she's doing "the worm"! Now after the past few months of encouraging her to get her head up, then her shoulders up while on her tummy, it's so cool to see her get her tummy and knees up off the ground. I wonder what that feels like for her? Talk about building some core muscles. 
Lifting everything off the ground.

Crawling is always more fun when Daddy is around.

A front view of the "pre-crawl plank".
Now to really see her forwards crawl in motion, we usually set up a book or toy a few feet a way from her and see if she can crawl towards it.  Here's the "worm/crawl" in motion...
 First...lift up.

Next propel forward...even if it means body slamming
into the floor!

Now try to get some balance.

Push up.

Don't forget to use "the sweeper arm" to check and see where
you are and if you're close to your target.

Yipee! You made it! Celebrate...and read!  Here she is looking
at a fun board book I made Brandon for Father's Day  from this website.
  Both he and Avery love it!
Also this month, we've enjoyed a little break in the weather and as a result, spent some more time outside soaking up some well as spending some quality time with our silly dogs. 

Taking "tummy time" outside.

Saying "Hello" to Jackson.

"That's my dog Jackson...he's my buddy."

Exploring the grass...and still being watched by Jackson!
Another funny thing she's been doing this month is gaining more control of her hands and arms, which has led to her using them to explore the world around her.  Sometimes this works out great because she can reach and learn about things like the grass above or the leaves on a tree in the pic below. 

Unfortunately her aim and strength aren't quite on the same page yet, so I often get whacked in the nose, poked in the eye, or my personal hair pulled by my little wrestler. I jokingly call her"Avery the Avenger" and the "claw move" you see below is just one of her many wrestling moves...he he! 
Taking a "claw" to the face from "Avery the Avenger!"

Watching our silly dogs.
Now for some more fun pictures from the month....
I don't think someone is sleeping...

Bumbo Seat fun!

Working on her standing.

At her first cross country meet to cheer on Coach/Grandpa
Frank's team.

We had to break out this bear hat (from Etsy) for the
 cooler days we've been experiencing lately.
And now for one of my favorite and final pics of the month.  I've posted before, about how my mom tags along with Avery and I as we go to the grocery store each weekend and since they are "backseat buddies" she will sometimes have her stand up and lean on the backseat (obviously with support) to watch me while I load and unload the groceries in between stores.  Here she is this past weekend, rocking her Baby Banz sunglasses and just hanging out watching me unload the groceries. 
"I love grocery shopping with my mom!"
Who knows what month 6 will have in store for us? Let the fun continue!

Bilingualism and Growing up Abroad

I just read Libby Stephens' blog  Bilingualism and Emotional Competency. I would like to encourage parents, educators and third culture kids to read her post. It is really full of information.

Libby writes that language is so often tied to identity. I really agree on this one. Many of you have probably read my story. I was born and bred in Africa. After living there for the first 19 years of my life, I left Zimbabwe and headed off to the Netherlands to study at university. All my years in Africa had not changed the colour of my blond hair and blue eyes. My passport too was Dutch. So even though I had never really lived there many people referred to me as the Dutch girl. Well let me tell you that "the Dutch girl" was so happy that her parents had made the effort to teach her to speak, read and write her own language: Nederlands (or Dutch).

During my time in Africa many hours of my holidays were spent learning Dutch. It was compulsory. My parents always ensured that we spoke Dutch in the home. You must understand that all my schooling was in English. In Malawi I attended international schools. Often it was very tempting to switch to English when I was playing with my siblings, but my parents kept their ears open.

We were encouraged to write letters in Dutch to our grandparents and extended family. My mother ensured a never-ending supply of Dutch children's books. In Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe there was a small library with Dutch children's books and so we would travel 366 km to get new library books. I am telling you this to show you the amount of effort needed to learn a language or to keep the language fluent.

I am so grateful that my parents encouraged us and made such an effort to teach us our family language. How would I have ever been able to communicate with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins etc if I had not been able to speak Dutch? Please parents make wise choices on this language issue. Seek expert advice, don't take the easy road. Remember language has everything to do with identity. Remember there is also a language of the heart.   

Every now and then I meet people who regret that their parents did not teach them to speak their home language. Well I could write another whole post on this subject but maybe I can summarize it in two main words: PAIN and REGRET.

Morgu file Vahiju
Recently I even read that bilingual brains are more healthy.  Canadian neuroscientist Ellen Bialystok finds that people who speak two languages cope significantly better with the disease. Even late-life language learning is beneficial, probably because it is way of keeping the brain active.

Some time ago I wrote a post in Dutch called taal.
I also wrote about the book Make Your Child Multilingual by Silke Rehman.This is my most recent post: Third culture kids learning their mother tongue.

Do you have advice on bilingualism or multilingualism? Do you have tips for parents? Did you grow up bilingually? What's your story? Please share it.

Cruz Loves Clothespins

The older (and more importantly, mobile) Cruz gets, the harder it is to take pictures of him.  Actually, the older and more importantly, mobile Cruz gets, the harder it is to do anything.  In order to successfully change his diaper, he typically needs to be holding (and chewing) on his toothbrush.  In order to successfully prepare his supper, he typically needs to be munching on Gerber Veggie Sticks from the comfort of his highchair.  And in order to successfully snap a picture of Cruz, he needs clothespins.  Yes, clothespins.  

My jar of clothespins can distract this child more than just about anything.  First he lifts up the entire jar and shakes it a bit, hoping the pins will explode from the top like confetti.  Then, he pounds on the jar lid as if it's his very own snare drum.  Next, he unscrews the top, and pulls out pin after pin after pin.  It's adorable to see how he concentrates on this process, his big, nearly-brown eyes focused on the prize.  And while he plays, I snap away, hoping to stop time one more time from behind my lens.

I love a boy in blue.  I think it's his best color.