Zucchini Pop

I present the next big thing in toddler snacking! Are you ready?
The zucchini pop! Just kidding... unless it totally takes off. And then, I want all the credit for this idea.

At least William approves... just another reason that I need to put in a garden next spring! The other reasons being basil and cilantro and the fact that they died in the little window containers I tried to grow them in. So maybe that's a reason against putting a garden in? We'll see how I feel in the spring.
Also, this kid inherited his grandpa's bright eyes... and we're pretty sure a few other qualities too.

The Loves of My Life

Looking at these pictures makes my heart swell. One moment I am completely unaware of the involuntary beats and the next I can feel every part of my heart as if my it has been swaddled and all I can do is concentrate on the warmth that radiates through my body from that space. And I am reminded of a quote that I've read and discussed many times, a quote that perfectly embodies Romeo's tragic flaw, "Did my heart love till now?" 

Only for me, instead of wondering that for a different person each week, I have that feeling again and again for the same people. And so, for me the quote transforms from beautiful and tragic to a principle in the infinite capacity of lasting love. 

And I am reminded of my dad, who often looks up from the table with bright eyes and sincerely says, "This is a best bite I've ever had" or, "This to best bite of my life." As a child and teenager, I used to scoff at his sentiment, but now I am in awe of it, craving that superlative experience over and over too. And I wonder if maybe the key to true and lasting love is having that feeling again and again, allowing yourself to wonder at your love over and over for the same people.
They are the loves of my life. I am in awe of them each and every day, and I hope that never stops.

Also, on a slightly less sentimental note, these pics are from this past hot and gloomy (which is what I'm blaming the graininess of the pictures on) Saturday, when Jason, William, and I spent the afternoon all together in the kitchen. Jason and Will sorted and chopped and stirred and made the entire house smell amazing. The delicious recipes that all three of us happily ate for dinner that evening and lunch the next day are below if you are interested.

Balsamic Bruschetta 
(Jason says to sub fresh mozzarella.)

Linguine with Shrimp Scampi

All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld: A Request More than a Review

I just finished this book yesterday, and it's due back at the library tomorrow. If I can't renew it, I might just buy myself a copy, a real, live hard copy so that I can re-read it and then make my mom and my sister read it too because I'm positive it's one of those brilliant books that will give you a very different experience upon the second read, one of those books that I just can't stop thinking about, one that I feel needs a few glasses of wine and some in-person discussion. So, I have a request... Will you please read All the Birds, Singing and then come to my house or meet me at Robust's patio, and I'll happily provide the wine?

And no. I'm not going to tell you what it's about, and I don't think you should read the synopsis. I've been approaching more and more books without having read the synopsis, and I find it's a much more provocative experience. So really, that's two requests. A do and a don't, or a don't and a do. Don't read any synopsis, ever again (Okay. If you try not reading the synopsis and find you don't enjoy the experience, you can go back. I give you my permission as long as you really try.) and do read All the Birds, Singing.

Also, hi! I'm back after some traveling and lots and lots of reading and online shopping.

Summer Reading

There is something about this time of year. I always thought it was because I was just getting out of school (first as a student and then as a teacher) and had more free time, but this year school began and ended without me, and that last week in May, I still felt the call deep inside to read. Voraciously. Apparently, Will has been feeling the same way. He just can't get enough reading time. Besides bedtime and nap time, he has started reading in the car, and I often find him reading a book after he wakes up from a nap.

He has just started putting himself down for his afternoon nap and for the night. (Basically because he just stopped falling asleep in our arms.) After the first couple of times that he rolled around in his crib, putting himself to sleep, I started finding one, two, or even three books in his crib with him. We have a little ottoman where we keep his favorite books right between his crib and the rocker (You can see the set up in this post.) from which he has been lifting the books. This morning, I watched him on the monitor get one book, look at it, put it back and get another one. We (meaning Jason) already built some of these front-facing bookshelves for Will's room, but now, I'm thinking of adding one by his bed just like the family from the post did for each of their crib.
I've been enjoying downloading all of my books for free from the library. Have you tried that yet? You do have to actually go to the library to get (or renew, in my case) a library card, but after that you can do everything on your iPad (or preferred e-reader). My library allows me to download books through two different apps, Overdrive and 3M. I use both because I like the look and feel of Overdrive better, but 3M seems to have more titles available. One night while we were watching a particularly violent episode of Game of Thrones and I needed something to distract myself, I went through and looked up every book I had heard about over the last few months and either downloaded them right away or put holds (a library term that means I'm in line for the book after everyone else in line reads it) on them. 

So far, I've read and LOVED: 

And you can see everything I have on hold (and the look of OverDrive on the left and 3M on the right) below. I can't wait for my holds to become available. In the meantime, I'd appreciate any recommendations!

Also, William in a tank top... I cannot get enough of those white upper arms.

They Fit!

Remember those white skinny jeans that I hadn't been able to fit into since before I was pregnant? Well, today, on National Donut Day of all days, I decided to try them on, and as you have probably figured out by now, they fit! I'm glad I tried them on because I have been eating really well lately, but I often let myself cheat and then cheat a little more and then a little more until I am eating a lot of junk. These pants fitting were the motivation I needed not to join in celebrating National Donut Day.

As far as weight loss, I don't have much to report. I'm currently at 157 lbs, but as I said, I have just started eating really well again in preparation for our beach vacation in a few weeks. So for now, I'll take the jeans as progress and hope to see a little more (less?) on the scale soon. Also, I have been really happy with my results from our push-up challenge... at least in my shoulders and upper arms. I'm hoping if I keep going, the results will start to progress until I am ripped all the way to my elbows. I am up to ten real push-ups/30 total in one minute. The plank challenge, on the other hand, is brutal. I hate it, and if there are any results, they must be hidden way under there where I can't see them. Or maybe, my jeans fitting are the result? Yeah, I'm going to choose to believe that instead. It's much more positive.

Also, please excuse the awkward cell-phone selfies, but I wanted to show you proof... And I still need to teach Will how to use a camera.

Freshly Picked

Will and I have something serious to talk to you guys about (about which to talk to you ladies, really). You're probably going to need to sit down and take off your sunglasses for this.

It's no secret that babies' feet are shaped like blocks, a fact that, as an aunt, often left me frustrated and my nieces and nephews barefoot when in my care, a fact that I was sure was going to torment me as a parent, but then, just when William was starting to pull himself up and cruise all around, necessitating something more than slipper socks on his feet, I discovered Freshly Picked Moccasins. Easy for me to put on (not to brag, but I can do it one handed), hard for him to take off, enough traction without turning his foot into even more of a block, high-quality leather that wipes clean and wears well, and fun colors. Serendipitous, I say!

Now that Will is walking, running, and dancing his way through each day, we have moved on to our second pair. Will also owns Converse, Sperry's, Target, Gap, and Old Navy shoes, but really, our go-to shoe for playing, shopping, picking strawberries, puddle-jumping, strolling through the botanical gardens, or going to church is his Freshly Picked Moccasins.  If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you already know this.
Freshly Picked is such an amazing company that when I contacted them to let them know how much I loved their shoes, they sent me another pair to review. I really can't recommend these shoes enough. Unlike other shoes, these were easy for Will to walk in when he was first starting to strut around. They have never caused so much as a red mark let alone a blister or callous. And, Freshly Picked is offering a pair for me to giveaway to one of you! Yeah, now I've got your attention! See below for details.
***GIVEAWAY CLOSED: Because so many of the people who entered were family and friends, I numbered all your entries and used the random number generator at random.org (as opposed to just swirling my finger in the air and pointing... I don't know) and am so happy to announce that Maggie B. is the winner! Congrats! Even if you didn't win this giveaway, you will feel like a winner every time your easily slip the pair of moccs that you order your little one. I just ordered the next size up in Iced Mint, but I also have my eye on Goldenrod and Glacier... and Neon Green is kind of awesome. How will Maggie B. decide? ***AND NOW ENDS THE LONGEST EVER GIVEAWAY WINNER ANNOUNCEMENT

First, a quick disclaimer: Like I said before, Freshly Picked is an awesome company that has lots of giveaways, so the winner of this giveaway can not have won any other giveaway including a pair of Freshly Picked moccasins within the last 60 days. Alrighty?

To enter, please visit Freshly Picked to peruse thier beautiful products (They just added some totes to their line and have some of their moccasins on sale right now!) and leave a comment below. For an extra entry, you can like my page and share this post on Facebook and/or follow me and regram this on Instagram. If you choose to complete either of the extra entries on Facebook or Instagram, please come back and leave another comment here letting me know that you did so that I am sure to count your entry. This giveaway will close on Friday when I will announce the winner. In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions I can answer about the moccs and good luck!

Alright, you can put your sunglasses back on now.

Also, a fun little bonus of the high-quality leather is a sweet footprint, from the heel to each little toe, that gets worn into the sole of the moccasins, a sweet keepsake after your babe outgrows his or her moccs.

Loves me? Loves me not?

William turns fourteen months old today, a fact that surprised me when I realized it yesterday. Not because I can't believe fourteen months have passed since his birth. No. Because I had thought he was going to be fifteen months old today, so much so that on Sunday I opened my calendar app on my phone to see when, exactly, his fifteen-month checkup was this week. And to my surprise, I had to scroll all the way to July second to find the appointment. After counting on my fingers to check the math while contemplating the idea that I put the appointment in on the wrong month, an awkward dinner conversation with my husband's old boss at the wedding we attended a few weekends ago replayed in my head about how old Will was and what month he was born in. Now, I understand her puzzled expression. Then, I thought about all those people who we encountered over the last month who told me how masterfully Will was walking/running for a fourteen-month-old who could have be even more politely amazed, but alas...

Will at fourteen months loves tangerines. He has switched allegiances and become quite the mama's boy. (Loves me?) He prefers his whole milk in a bottle as opposed to a sippy cup, which is still fine because I was told by my pediatrician we needed to be rid of the bottles by fifteen months. (We've got another month!). He is using his pacifier less and less, even made it through an entire mass without it on Sunday! He has started to actively throw his food, mostly peppers, off his tray, and when I tell him, "Ah-Ah, keep your food on your tray," he either laughs hysterically at me and throws another piece off or laughs hysterically at me and says, "Ah-Ah!" (Loves me not?) He loves being outside and playing with/around other kids.

Also, he's got quite a way with the ladies (well, at least with me). Not only did he carefully choose and give me this rose (after throwing all the other roses I had cut on the ground), but yesterday, while I was getting him ready for bed, he reached up and grabbed my bangs (Loves me not?), pulled my face in close to his, and planted the juiciest kiss on me. (Loves me!)

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Large Birds According to Our Neighbors (Also, some mostly unrelated ((and kind of old)) pictures of Will.)

On our walk this morning, we came upon our three neighbor children at the end of their driveway holding ice scrapers, the large kind with a brush on one end and the scraper on the other, and what I'm guessing were sawed-off broomsticks. They looked to be sweeping a puddle or poking something in the puddle when we approached and the following conversation happened:

Girl: Hello, neighbor!
Me: Hi!
Girl: Did you see that hawk over there? (I had seen that hawk; it was actually a large vulture/buzzard that had been feasting on a opossum for the last two days.) My brother told me that hawks can come pick you up and carry you away, so we're protecting ourselves with these. (My nieces were actually terrified to step outside our house because of a similar converstation they had with my dad.)
Me: That's smart. I've got my dog to protect us. (We all look at Lola, who wags her tail and licks her lips as if to say, "I've got this human to protect...can I kick you?")
Boy #1: Yeah, and we've got to protect our pond too...from the geese. (All three brandish their weapons.)
Me: (Having graduated from SIUE and having extensive knowledge of this) Yeah, geese are mean.
Boy #2: (brandishing) Yeah!
Boy #1: That hawk over there has been eating a opossum!
Girl: (simultaneously) One time, a goose stole my binky.
Boy #1: No, that was a swan. (Looking right at me.) When our cat died, a swan danced in the ashes.

The Wonderful Thing About Williams

...is that William's a wonderful thing.

He's a wonderful thing who declares he is done with a meal, refuses to eat another bite--will even try to toss his food to Lola if you are not watching--only to desperately grab at any morsel close enough and shove them in his mouth like a starved prisoner as soon as you try to wipe his hands and mouth and remove the tray.

He's a wonderful thing who giggles every time he sees Lola underneath the tablecloth or walking through the door to greet him after a nap and has started using her as a chair, carefully positioning himself between her front paws or by her belly and then leaning back his full weight into her.

He's a wonderful thing who sets goals and works hard to achieve them, lately seeking out any "short" steps so that he can try to step up and step down while standing up like a big boy... much to my terror.

He's a wonderful thing who eats a popscicle faster than anybody I know and loves to carry around and chew on ice but will not let ice cream anywhere near his mouth.

He's a wonderful thing who now not only kicks and dribbles any balls he sees but has also just recently started saying ball too.

And that's the thing. Each day reveals so many more and so many of the same wonderful things about William that I feel silly and sinful for worrying about the things that he is not doing or saying. Last week, I got an email with the subject line, "Warning Signs of Language Delay," that I let cause me much more stress than I should have. Although Will is a happy, physically precocious boy, who follows directions well, he wasn't really saying "mama" or "dada" regularly or pointing at things in the sky or shaking his head, all things the email listed as "warning signs" for a twelve-month-old. And even though in the week since that email, he's started saying "dada" more and can point out different animals in his books, he'd still be wonderful if he didn't do those things and if he did have a language delay or some other issue. He'd still be my wonderful thing, my pride and joy, the little boy that God entrusted to me to love and raise to serve Him and others. So the lesson for me here is the lesson I need to be reminded of over and over again: less time email/internet reading, no time worrying, and more Bible/prayer time. Less of the world and more of God and family.

Also, would you like this rock?

Walking in a Wonderland

You know how when you or someone you're close to buys a new car, and then suddenly, you see that car everywhere? It's like every tenth person went out that same day and bought a shiny new Buick Enclave and decided to drive it around at the same time as you are driving around your trusty (and a bit rusty) Jeep Liberty. And how you start to wonder if maybe you're in some psychological experiment or that maybe you're living your own version of The Truman Show, but then, in order to get through the day without being completely solipsistic, you tell yourself no, it's just an adjustment in your perception and awareness? That your brain is an amazing thing that blocks certain stimuli and emphasizes others throughout your day and just the very fact that you've taken an extra moment to look at something and talk about it and compliment your friend on their choice of SUV means you notice it more. And isn't that an even more amazing experience than being part of some secret experimental reality television show because what if it means you could control what you notice and don't notice to some greater extent? 

You know that experience? 

I keep having it with flowers. A few weeks ago with lilacs, and just in the last few days, with honeysuckle. They aren't just growing and blooming in my yard or along my morning walk route. They're growing and blooming everywhere I go right now, and I not only see them but really notice them and pay attention to them and remember the week during the summers that I used to spend at my grandparents in Southern Illinois, when my grandpa taught me how to harvest the sweet nectar from the honeysuckle and how I would then wander around their neighborhood looking for new bushes. And then I start wondering when I can teach William to do the same and IF I should teach William to do the same and make a mental note to Google honeysuckle and poison when I get home before scratching that mental note because, "I survived," a phrase I tell myself and Jason quite often. 
And then I look up and see what I suspect to be Columbine and remember my Grandma De and trips to Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park.
And then, I round a curve and see lots of other purple flowers and am in awe of God's timing, how when one flower seems to be done blooming, some others are just starting to bloom.

Every once in a while, I start to yearn for those paved concrete roads or dream of sidewalks to smooth our daily walks, but then I look up and a fox darts out of the woods or a red-headed woodpecker starts in on a nearby tree, and I have no problem with the gravel in my shoes or the mosquito bites on my ankles. I choose to focus on the peace and beauty, not because the pain and inconveniences don't exist, but because my mind is an amazing thing that is capable of making that choice and following through with it.

Also, for some reason this made me happy this morning.

Splish Splash

I think Will might have the best abs out of anyone in our family. And his passion for splashin'? Well, you can see for yourself. Next time, we'll approach the water table sans clothing. Diapers, hats, and sunscreen, that's it. Heck, maybe just hats and sunscreen are all that's needed because even though Piper and I approached the table with caution, Will was determined to get every last drop of water out whether it be on the ground, on himself, or on his cousin.
Piper was determined to save herself, but when that didn't work out, she settled for saving the water tower. Every other day or so, I catch part of the trailer for the new Godzilla movie and am not surprised by how closely it resembles my day to day life. Any other mamas out there feel me?
Also, check out all those teeth we've been working on. I think we're at ten, but in all honesty, he doesn't  hold still long enough for me to get a good look, and I've given up trying to count by sticking my finger in his mouth.
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