Thursday, December 30, 2010

That's a long time...

Ten years ago tomorrow, Luke and I began "dating."

"Dating," at that time, consisted of me calling him my boyfriend as he played basketball and I cheered in my uniform on the sidelines. Every now and then, when it was a real special occasion and he got paid for cleaning his dad's office, we would get to go to Applebee's. 95% of our conversations took place on Instant Messenger. We held hands in the halls at school.

Over time, dates included movies, trips to King's Island, dinners with friends, walks around IU's campus, plays, sports events, romantic restaurants, days of shopping, apple orchards and pumpkin patches, and getting ice cream.

Who knew then that we would grow up to get married and have a baby together? I have been trying to pinpoint the time when I knew I wanted to marry Luke. I am not sure if there is a moment in time or more of a feeling of "I cannot and will not live without you" that evolved within me...but either way, I knew I needed to be Ashley Ernstberger.

I began dreaming of getting engaged my freshman year of college. What, 19 isn't old enough to get engaged? ;-) I thought I was a lot older than I was...didn't we all?! Praise Jesus...Luke did not propose to me then. In hindsight, we were still pretty young when we did get engaged at the end of our junior year...but we had a plan...we were on a path...we knew where we were going and we were going to do it together.

So tomorrow...on New Year's Eve 2010...I will smile as I think about what I was doing 10 years ago...when my 16 year old self decided to give this Luke Ernstberger kid a chance.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A very merry Noelle

With Noelle's very first Christmas now a beautiful memory in our minds, I wanted to take the time to document all that made it special.

I don't think it was a secret that I was feeling the seasonal stress in the days leading up to December 25. We had a lot of places to be, a lot of people to see, a lot of gifts to buy, a lot of things to do, and of course not a lot of time to do any of it in. However, we put our game faces on and took deep breaths as we began our Christmas festivities with Luke's family. Noelle enjoyed opening her first presents and we enjoyed hanging with family. Really nothing can beat just laying around in your sweats and lazily addressing the day's order of events. We ate great food and relaxed and played and watched the loved ones around us.

When actual Christmas came around, we attended Christmas Eve Mass at St. Simon...us with about 4,000 other people. Wow. I have never seen a Christmas Eve Mass this huge. I also have never seen such outfits at church. High heels, lace tights and leggings, short mini skirts...whoa. My royal blue sweater and jeans looked a little frumpy in comparison.

After mass, my parents and brother joined us at our house. For the first time in all of my Christmases, we did not spend the night at my mom and dad's house. This was strange yet nice at the same time. I felt like a true adult, whether that is a good thing or not. We watched Elf and ate yummy food and tucked Noelle in bed for her to have visions of sugar plums dancing in her head. She left a plate of cookies for Santa and wrote a note asking for Peyton Manning to be under her tree.

When she finally fell asleep that night, we tiptoed into the guest room and pulled her pile of Santa presents out to place under the tree. We hung the stocking with goodies inside. We shook our heads in disbelief as we were finally playing the part of Santa for our sweet baby girl. We gave her one last kiss and went to sleep. I could barely sleep because I was so excited for the morning. I watched House Hunters International until I couldn't bear to see one more rich Costa Rican 30 year old buy a summer home at the beach.

On Christmas morning, we were the ones waking Noelle up, excitedly singing her "good morning" song and willing her to wipe the sleep from her eyes so we could open presents. She was very confused and seemingly annoyed with our excitement. I think she would have slept a little later! We gave her a great Christmas breakfast and then encouraged her to tear the paper off the boxes. She wasn't too into it, but once we showed her what she could play with, I think she started to figure out that Christmas was a cool thing! My favorite gift we got her was a Fisher-Price shopping cart that makes noises. She even will push it and take a few steps with it. :-) I also got her a sweet little baby doll named Baby Stella.

When we were finished with our own Christmas, we headed to Muncie to share in the joy with my mom and dad and brother. We opened presents until the afternoon, taking our time, eating breakfast, and allowing Noelle to soak it all in! We had a great time and relished not having to be anywhere or do anything but just exist that day.

My mom and dad did WAY to much for us, as always, and we are still trying to find a place to put everything. Noelle is such a loved little girl-- so blessed in so many ways. I know that many children all over were not given the Christmas that Noelle received at only 9 months old. And, of course we know that Christmas is not about gifts. Christmas is about family, and faith, and love, and hope, and magic, and Jesus's love for all of us.

Christmas doesn't suck. ;-)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Jingle Bell Run 2010

In all the sarcasm with my postings lately, I almost forgot to mention that I completed another 5K race. This was my 3rd official race in 2 years. I took a good year off of running to grow a small human and bring her to life.

Luke and I trained for the Jingle Bell Run this year like we did for our first one 2 years ago...using the Cool Running's Couch to 5K plan. For anyone who is NOT a runner, I definitely recommend this plan. It literally takes you from not being able to run for 1 minute to running a full 30 minutes for a 5K in just 9 weeks. Two years ago, I started it from week one and successfully completed a 5K (the Jingle Bell Run) outside in December. I would have never thought I could do such a thing.

This year, I could already run for about a mile without stopping or feeling that bad, so I started the plan at about week 5. We trained pretty consistently, despite the nasty weather and despite Luke having to push our jogging stroller with Noelle in it. We rigged up a beach towel with clamps to cover her stroller completely so that no air could get to her. She typically liked the rides and was always warm when we were finished. I am sure we looked hilarious doing this, but we had to do what could!

Anyway, this year's Jingle Bell Run went through downtown Indy, which was a change. It was a good time, and it wasn't too cold, either. Abe & E watched Noelle and surprised us by bringing her to the finish to cheer us on. It was really fun and sweet.

I did not beat my personal best time, which was to get it under 32 minutes. I ran the 5K in just about 33 minutes. However, I felt pretty good and finished really strong. I do remember running the first mile and not seeing any mile marker sign, and I was starting to feel winded, so I was getting worried that if I was this tired at not even the first mile, then there is no way I would be able to finish 3.1 miles. However, I asked Luke where Mile 1 would be, and he said we had passed it a while ago and were working on mile 2 at this point. What a relief! In all my focus, I had missed the Mile 1 sign. Praise Jesus!

I am really determined to not get totally out of running shape. I hope (after the holidays) to run at least twice a week in combination with my Zumba schedule.

These last 10 pounds are really pissing me off, and it is high time they hit the road.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Censorship.

Apparently my "Christmas sucks" entry was read and misunderstood, which caused me grief...and since I am one who tends to want to make everyone else happy but myself, I have taken it down and decided to censor myself.

This is the 2nd time I have removed a post from my blog...not wanting to, but doing it to save me the anguish of having to defend my own thoughts and feelings. This blog is public. I know that. But this blog is mine, and I am an adult, and I can say and think what I want...but when someone feels the need to criticize my own thoughts and feelings, it frustrates me, overwhelms me, and causes me to just delete the post.

My colleagues don't call me a doormat at school for nothing.

It's not worth it in the end. I am considering starting a private blog so I can be as honest as I would like, but until then, I will leave you with this...

Censorship sucks.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

9 Months Old!

This post is over-due, but better late than never, right? Our sweet baby girl turned 9 months old on the 11th. She had her 9 month appointment last week, and we were surprised to learn that Noelle is in the 50th percentile for weight and 40th percentile for height. We couldn't believe that she was actually on the smaller side for her age! We of course think she is perfect and know that she is just the size she needs to be, but the last time we went she was in the 80th-85th percentile in each. She has never really shown a trend in her growth...being on the high end on one appointment and the low end or middle on another, so we don't really know what "size" she will be when she is an adult. I suppose she has a 50/50 chance of being short and squatty or tall and skinny...and unfortunately for her later on in life, she already has my legs. :-)

Noelle can stand holding on to the ottoman, couch, chairs, her crib, drawers, etc. She is very sturdy! She is not showing much initiative to crawl. Yes, this bothers me. I figured she would be crawling by now. I know everyone says it's normal and some people don't crawl and I "don't want her to crawl because then I will have to childproof my house," but I think it is human nature to want your kid to do all those milestones WAY early. Like...she should have started crawling at 3 months, duh. No, no...I am kidding...I know I can't compare children to children, and that the milestones have quite a bit of range to them, but I am hoping that she will figure the crawling thing out here shortly! Luke and I comment that she might be a big of a "quitter" because she tends to try once and get frustrated and then just yell about it. I wonder who she got that from...?

But...all of that withstanding...Noelle is doing so wonderfully, and I can't wait until I am on Christmas break (tomorrow!) and I can truly enjoy this holiday time with her. I feel bad because I wanted to start all these mega cool traditions this year, and life has gotten in the way...so a lot of the things I have wanted to do and things I have wanted to integrate into our family's holiday celebrations will have to start next year.

Please enjoy her latest monthly picture installment and some of my favorite pictures as of late.

P.S. I am starting to plan her 1st birthday, and this terrifies me. How has it been almost a year already?





Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oh, hi.

My first post for December. Blog, I am sorry I have neglected you. While on my "blogcation," I was doing lots of very important things, such as finding World Peace and figuring out why the hell the Pay at the Pump screen has so many questions to ask me as I am freezing my butt off pumping my gas. NO I don't have a Kroger card. NO I don't want a car wash. NO I don't want a receipt! Gah.

Anyway, as much as I am really excited for Christmas for Noelle, it seems I have lost a little tiny bit of my Christmas cheer. Last year, I did a Christmas Question of the Day on Facebook for 40 days before Christmas. This year, I mainly post things on Facebook about how I can't wait until Friday or what I ate for dinner. Lame.

I think the external stress of life has really gotten me down this holiday season, and that really disappoints me. I know I am better than that. I know that I really just need to let things go and try to live my life happily, but between school, residency decisions, money (lacking money, of course), and just the wears and tears of life, I find myself just looking forward to going to bed so I can get the next day over with quicker. What a horrible way to feel. (that was Good Ashley talking)

So, I suppose I will discuss the residency decision. Luke has finished interviewing at all 4 of his options. He has "liked" each one. He doesn't seem ready to say anything definitive at this time. I think Luke will fight a battle between his head and his heart on this one. I know there's tremendous pressure on him to make the "right" decision, and there's a lot of pressure on me to be there for him and to accept whatever conclusion he comes to and to be positive at all times. Good thing my middle name is Positivity. (that was Bad Ashley)

I suppose the good thing about the residency thing is we know we will either be in Muncie or Indy, which is comforting. It's not like we are moving across the country...although sometimes that seems tempting.

I know this post didn't accomplish much. Noelle is doing wonderfully. I have a post planned to talk about her 9 month birthday and all her stats. But she's not 9 months yet (2 more days), and I am not going to rush it. She is growing too quickly as it is.

Alright...I'm going to go look for my Christmas spirit.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

What's in the way?

What's in the way of your happiness?

I have been thinking a lot about this lately. I hear people say, "If I could only have __________, I would be happy." "If I could only be _____________, I would be happy." "If I could only weigh _____________, I would be happy." I am as guilty as the next person in doing this. I am human, so I get jealous and want what others have. I see people living their lives and appearing so happy and healthy, and it makes me want that, too.

But then I have to stop and shake myself....what IS it that I would change...or what IS it that I would want...if I could have 3 wishes...would I ask for a new life? The answer is no!

I was thinking in church today that the things that seem so complicated and scary in my life are really very trivial in the grand scheme of things. I will be the first to admit that I am pretty interested in material possessions. I am being 100% honest when I say that I enjoy shopping...for myself and for others...and I am not one of those people who "doesn't get wrapped up in the commercialization of Christmas." I mean, HELLO...read my previous post about scraping my knees on Black Friday, shopping at midnight! But I find that my fascination with "things" really stands in the way of me being completely happy with where I am in my life. I use "things" as indicators of success for others, so when I see someone buying a new house or a new car or getting Colts tickets or fill in the blank whatever, I translate that into their success. They must be SO happy...they must have the BEST job...they must be rolling in the dough. But really what it could mean is that those people have a fat, nasty credit card bill. Who knows? All I know is that I have to stop viewing "things" as an indicator of the success and happiness of others.

I asked myself if I could get the "I want that thing that someone else has" roadblock out of the way, what else is standing in the way of being happy? A really big one here lately is the uncertainty of the future. Luke's residency interviews are starting Tuesday, and we will be making a fairly hefty decision in a couple months that will determine not only where we will be for the next 3 years,  but potentially where we will settle down forever. Though the decision of Indy or Muncie seems quite small, it is really huge when you consider I have a job in Muncie and a house in Indy. I have family in Muncie and I have lots of fun in Indy. I lived 23 years in Muncie and 3 in Indy. It's all quite nauseating. But as I was processing this in my mind...I thought...if this is all that is standing in the way of true happiness for me...I am pretty lucky.

So, what are your roadblocks to happiness? What will you do to break them down?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I fell down on Black Friday.

Hello. I'm Ashley. I was crazy and shopped from 12 midnight on Friday morning until about 1 p.m. on Friday afternoon. I also fell down and scraped my knees on Black Friday. Which of those two make me more of a dumbass?

I have to say...I had a lot of fun shopping with Elizabeth on Black Friday. We had fun laughing at all the people lined up outside while we waited nice and toasty in the car until the lines dissolved inside. A lot of people were quite negative on Facebook about how they were NOT going to be CRAZY and wait IN LINE outSIDE the DAY after thanksGIVING...they will SAVE their MONEY and not spend it like an IDIOT! (I am using the all caps for dramatic effect, to imitate the dramatic nature of these Facebook postings) I got some good deals, mainly for myself (HA!), and I was able to get some people I love some nice gifts.

I am extremely confident in the gifts I chose this year. I think that everyone will love everything, honestly. This is the first year that I know what I am going to get my parents before about December 21 (because you are the two most difficult humans to buy for- Hi Mom & Dad!). I feel totally in the spirit and am ready to wrap presents and get them under the tree! Luke is going to have a GREAT Christmas, and Noelle's first Christmas will be fabulous, without being overdone. I promise there are still toys at Toys R Us.

So...about the title of this post. At midnight, Old Navy opened, and E and I were approaching the store. We were getting ready to get in line when I stubbed my toe with my big fake Ugg boot on this EXTREMELY HIDDEN AND HARD TO SEE step! I lost all my balance, leaned way forward, I believe I grabbed E's butt for pure survival, and then I bit the dust. It was hilarious. It's a good thing that I absolutely do not care about making an ass of myself because I totally fell down in front of like 300 people waiting in line at Old Navy. A 15 year old brace face girl asked me if I was OK. Seriously.

Black Friday 2010 was amazing. I have the skinned knees to prove it.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful for Babies!

Well, I am waiting for Elizabeth (the tall sister-in-law) to get here so we can go out at midnight for some Black Friday shopping. It's quite ridiculous. We really have nothing in mind that we need, but we are going anyway, just to be crazy. But...I thought I would give a little update because I have been blessed to hold not one but TWO new babies in the past 24 hours!

My friend, Jenn, had her son Lawson yesterday morning! She didn't know the sex of the baby until he was born, so it was a great surprise and a lot of fun to wait for that special text message! Allison and I went to the hospital to hold the little guy (and see Jenn & Justin of course) last night. I can't believe how quickly I have forgotten that Noelle was that size once. Nearly nine short months ago, Noelle was just as small and squirmy and breakable. Now she is a bouncing, giggling, smiling, wiggling, sitting, table-food eating CHILD!

Then, last night, we got another great text message (what would we do without them?) from Luke's brother Seth saying that Liz (the short sister-in-law) was in labor and would most likely deliver our THIRD niece or nephew on Thanksgiving day! We waited for a follow-up and we got a call at about 7 a.m. that Artemas Ernstberger was born and completely healthy! Since we were going down to New Albany anyway to be there for Thanksgiving, we expedited the process and got down there in time to hold the newest precious baby in our family. He is so tiny compared to his two older brothers, Gus (almost 4) and Sol (almost 2). Gus, Sol, and Art...a great trio already! :-)

Congratulations to both families who have yet another reason to be very thankful on Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Noel/Noelle!


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

The house is almost all decorated! We are anxiously awaiting Santa's first trip to our house.

Noelle even has a tree in her room, complete with lights and a pink tree skirt. 


Saturday, November 20, 2010

2/3

In your first year of life, there's much less to go than the amount of days that have passed. At 2/3 of a year old, you are a babbling, bouncing, beautiful baby girl who lights up our lives, which is the lamest way to say that your birth is the most amazing "thing" that has ever happened to us.

Holding you close and kissing your sweet cheeks makes me realize that, though I want to expand our family someday, you are all I will ever need to feel complete.

This time of year is full of magic, excitement, surprises, love, family, friends, music, great food, sparkling ornaments, twinkling lights, the fantasy of Santa, and the reality of Jesus's love...and your sweet name represents all of those beautiful things. We chose your name for you because we want you to have the spirit of Christmas in you always, all year, all of your life.

With each new milestone you reach, I praise you openly but think to myself, "Slow down, Baby Girl." The older you get, the farther apart the milestones will be, but they will become greater and more momentous...such as learning to drive, taking the SAT, graduating college, getting married, having a child of your own. My biggest wish is that I am with you all the way, still praising you and still wishing that you would slow down.

You are not yet able to speak what you feel, but I truly believe you have the sweetest heart. Just by the way you look at us, look at others, and others look at you...I feel how sincere, genuine, and beautiful you are on the inside.

At 8 months of age, I already know that you will have no problem fulfilling the beauty of your name.

I'm so proud of you. (but slow down, Baby Girl)


Sunday, November 14, 2010

This week...

This week...

I spent two nights at my parents' house in Muncie to save a late-night trip back to Indy. Luke and Noelle stayed, too. It's nice to be around family.

I had dinner with a friend who I hadn't seen in a long while, and we had great conversation.

I ordered tickets for Luke and I to see Cats at Clowes Hall on November 27th!

I ran two miles without stopping as part of week 5 of Couch to 5K.

I registered for that 5K I will be running on December 11 (Jingle Bell Run). Luke is running, too.

I took pictures of a sweet 6 month old.

I watched in amazement as our daughter turned 8 months old. Teddy Bear picture to follow soon!

All in all, a good week. :-)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Plan B

So...I had this fabulous post about Noelle and how great she has been the last few days and how I have memories that would bring tears to your eyes. I also have documentation of her first bites of chicken. However, for some reason, Blogger failed me at the end of my post and lost all of my writing. I am mad, so you will have to read my Christmas list instead. Two reasons. 1) It is almost Christmas. Yes, it is. Snap out of the denial. 2) A list is easier to write than an essay about my precious girl after a long day of teaching and spell bowl coaching.

I feel like I "want" a lot, but know that I "need" nothing...so I am kind of looking at different things this year.Of course, I have that little pipe dream that "Santa" will drop an iPad into my lap or get me that Le'Vian Chocolate Diamond ring I have been eyeing...but I know that is not realistic, possible, or even reasonable.

So...Santa, if you have Internet at the North Pole and are frequenting this bliggity blog...take notes.

1.  Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook

2. Philosophy Purity Made Simple face wash...extra large size w/ pump

3. TVP Necklace (with You Are Worth It All around the edge and N in the middle)

4. A gift card for The Loft to go toward a pretty dress for Luke's graduation.

That's it for now. Maybe more later.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Here's your sign...


So today, I decided, I would not be a fatty. 

I made good choices with food.

I went to Zumba, even though it was as dark as 3 a.m. outside and I was in general in a feel-sorry-for-myself mood. 

And, I kid you not, I woke up and the first thing I thought was, "I need a McDonald's sausage biscuit."

Can you see how I have problems losing weight?

But...no sausage biscuit for me today. It was all Fiber One and a lean pocket and sandwich thins and Wendy's chili and a baked potato (not all for breakfast!...now that would make me fatty, and remember the sign...? no fatties). 

Baby girl will be 9 months old in about a month. What I wouldn't give to see those last baby fat lbs melt away just in time for the holidays...and just in time for me to celebrate having my baby girl outside of me for as long as she was on the inside. 

No fatties...you hear? 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

GET YOURSELF TOGETHER, ASHLEY!

Oh, hiiiiiiii.

Do you know that I have started a mental list (soon to be a physical, paper list) of all the blog entries I need to write? Such items on the list include why politicians suck, and therefore the education system sucks, my anxiety about the big RESIDENCY decision and how that is going to end up screwing me no matter how it shakes out, and my obsession with Diet Coke. But for now...I choose to write about my big, fat ass.

I am in a lazy slump. I have started putting on my hibernating weight for the winter. My body thinks it is a bear. I am having a lot of difficulty getting these last 10 lbs off from the baby weight. I am getting discouraged and annoyed. I go to Zumba as much as I can, but sometimes I find it upsetting to go and check out all the bodies that look so good, rather than allowing it to motivate me.

I know I am just in a funk, and that if I really "wanted" to, I could do it. I know that it is my own decisions and choices that have brought me here today, but I just can't seem to shake it.

My friend Allison and I used to say that we were self-sabotagers. We intentionally screwed ourselves over in the weight-loss department so that we couldn't be happy. Am I still doing this today at 26.5 years old? Is there something holding me back and keeping me from wanting to be happy deep down inside?

Am I just a lazy loser, destined to be on Hoarders or Maury where they have to cut people out of their homes?

I suppose if I had to choose...I would choose Hoarders.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We are lucky.

We don't have lots of money.

We don't have a large house.

Luke doesn't have a functioning CD player in his car or a working gas gauge.

The damn cleaning lady didn't show up for the thousandth day in a row...

But we are lucky.

I don't know if I will have a job next year.

We don't know where we will be living next year.

We don't know where Luke will be placed for residency next year.

But we are lucky.

And I will force myself to believe this if it kills me.

We are lucky because Noelle is healthy and happy.

We are lucky because we have a heated home this winter.

We are lucky because we have each other.

We are lucky because this will ((hopefully)) be the roughest and most stressful time of our lives, and if that turns out to be true, we truly are lucky.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Vacation: Accomplished

After toying around with the idea for what seemed like years (really, a couple months), I decided we needed a Fall Break getaway, and I literally threw a dart at a map and it landed on Nashville, Tennessee. OK...not really a dart...but we had never been, and we decided it sounded like a doable trip with our 7 month old nugget.

So, off we went on Saturday. Noelle did amazingly well the whole way there (5 hours!). She didn't cry. She slept most of the time or played with her toys. She ate in a high chair at Wendy's (because you aren't American if you haven't been in a high chair at a fast food joint before 1 year of age).

We arrived safely to our hotel...Aloft in Cool Springs, TN. It was a really cool, modern little hotel that had an elevator that was nearly all charcoal gray and had curtains hanging in it. The floor of the elevator had this blue gel stuff that turned white when you stood on it. Cool, huh? (or creepy when you are standing in it with strangers)

Our room was neat. It had a cow print painting above the bed. The bathroom was subway tiled (like the way my future kitchen back splash will be), and the free shampoo and soap? From Bliss spa. Don't tell Luke, but I paid $36 for body scrub from that brand once. Here they are, giving the crap away for free? Don't think I didn't throw the baby sized shampoos and soaps in my bag. I ride dirty like that.

Saturday night, we headed to Vanderbilt's campus and hung out at Centennial Park. They have a replica of the Parthenon there. I am still trying to figure out why a park in Tennessee has a replica of a structure that was built to honor the goddess Athena, but it was pretty cool to see and made for some cute pictures.

We ate at a great pizza place, thanks to Amanda Eichenberger's recommendation, and we headed back to the hotel to swim. Noelle was adorable in her little swimsuit and was splashing and playing like a little maniacal nugget. She squealed and laughed and hissed (the thing she does now when she smiles and blows air out of her crinkly nose...it sounds like she is hissing). Her diaper swelled up like some fast-rising bread dough, and I totally didn't care that the sign said "no diapers in the pool unless wearing rubber pants." My daughter does not wear rubber pants. Nor will she ever. Period.

Anyway, Sunday, we got up and went to breakfast at a place called J. Christopher's. It was yummy. I had pumpkin pancakes. Our waitress was from Noblesville! Crazy, right? We had a great chat with her and headed out to the zoo. The Nashville Zoo is soooo pretty. The habitats for the animals are just so well designed and really, really cool. The Indy Zoo probably has more animals, but the Nashville Zoo was prettier to look at. The only thing I missed was the aquarium/dolphin show. I wish it would have had one of those. Other than that, it was a totally great place, and Noelle had a great time!

After the zoo, we went downtown. We had no idea the Titans had a home game, so it was pretty busy. We were on a mission to find this place called the Cupcake Collection. It was a bakery I had heard about. I love cupcakes and decided that we had to find it. Finally, we found it, and Luke enjoyed a sweet potato cupcake while I had a wedding cake cupcake. Soooo good. I wish we could have bought some to take home, but it was pretty warm outside that day. Melted cupcakes don't taste as good.

We ate at a place down by the water and listened to the football game. I guess a difference I noticed was if we were in Indy on a Colts home game Sunday, the restaurants/streets would be crawling with people in Colts jerseys, just trying to be close to the game. There was really no one walking around in a Titans jersey (for obvious reasons... haha), and we got right in to a restaurant that was literally a stone's throw away from the stadium.

After lunch, we walked down the streets and marveled at all the cowboy boot stores. We also loved walking by each bar...which seemed to have a spot in the front with an aspiring music artist singing away. It was fun to walk past each doorway and hear something different each time. It definitely was everything we thought Nashville would be.

We did make the trek to the Opryland area, just wanting to see the Grand Ole Opry and the hotel from the outside. They were still working on repairing the flood damage, so we couldn't get in at all. After that, we went back to the hotel to swim once more and then get ready for dinner.

We found a restaurant called Saffire in Franklin, TN. We enjoyed a really great dinner there. I loved that none of the tables/chairs/center pieces matched in this restaurant. It was really funky and dark and cool in there. Noelle slept most of the time, so we were able to enjoy a nice, long dinner. It was a great ending to a fun trip.

The next day, we were up before the sun and ready to head out. Our trip home was uneventful, though about 30 minutes before we were home, Noelle decided she was done with the trip and wanted to be out of the car. She cried the rest of the way home, but I suppose it was a small price to pay for how well she did the rest of the time.

Now it is back to the daily grind. {enter long-winded sigh here}

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

sweet girl

you are my sunshine.

my only sunshine.

you make me happy

when skies are gray.

you'll never know, dear,

how much i love you.


please don't take

my sunshine


away.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

She's 7 months old already!


This little nugget of love is 7 months old!
She clearly is much bigger than the bear, and she is sitting back to back with the bear because she quite an issue with attacking the bear as we tried to take her picture. She could not sit beside the bear without grabbing it or pushing it down. 

See?

But of course we loved every minute of it.

Noelle is just shy of 20 lbs. Why I don't have amazing gun-show arms from carrying her around is beyond me. She is so adorable and squeezable and cuddly that I would carry her around if she was 50 lbs. OK...that might be a stretch. You get my point.

She is sitting completely on her own. She rolls across the room. She can no longer be trusted on beds or couches while we run to the next room to answer our phones. She loves bath time but is pretty much too big for her whale tub. I think the ducky tub will be inflated for the next bath. 

She eats baby food 3 times per day, usually a serving to a serving and a half. She loves EVERYTHING...I have yet to see a food that she didn't like or had a reaction to. 

She is starting to get curious about feeding herself. We give her puffs on her tray and she picks them up and "puts them in her mouth." I applauded her for doing such a good job, and then when I picked her up out of her chair, there were about 10 puffs under her butt. So...she misses her mouth every time, but she feels like big stuff so that's all that matters! She also loves the rice Mum Mum things (that turn to goo when she gums them down...or as Luke says..."boogers").

She is working on standing while holding onto something, and she really isn't figuring out crawling yet. While on her belly, she will see something she wants and realize that she needs to move to get it, but she starts pushing backwards instead of pulling forward. I am not worried...but of course Luke wants Noelle to be #1 in the class so we have to get working on this!

She makes all kinds of funny sounds and she giggles much more frequently. Her sense of humor is hilarious because you really never know when she is going to think something is funny.

She is just a doll who brings such joy to those around her-- and as her mother, I think that is when I am proudest of her. When she makes my parents smile from ear to ear...when she captivates my colleagues at school...when my students stare at her pictures and say "she's SO cute! I want to babysit!"...when a perfect stranger in a store makes a comment about how beautiful or happy or adorable she is...that is when my soul shines.

Happy 7 months, Baby Girl. Only 5 short months until you are 1 year old. Heaven help me...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October 15th

October 15th is the national day to remember pregnancy losses of all kinds. Seeing as how it is just a couple of days away, I find myself with some thoughts and emotions.

With all of the joy surrounding Noelle and the fulfillment she has brought to our lives, I must admit that I don't think about the miscarriage much. I don't know if I have just gradually moved on or if I have just shoved it to the furthest depths of my mind, but either way, I don't wake up thinking about it nor cry myself to sleep the way I used to.

The thought that overwhelms me the most right now is if it ever happened again, I know it would be 10 times harder than before because I know firsthand what having a baby is like....and I would know the ultimate loss so much more than when I had never had children. I am trying not to dwell on the negative....but it darn near killed me the first time around...I can't do it again.

I guess the point is it darn near killed me. It didn't kill me. I am stronger because of it. Our lives are defined not by what happens to us, but how we handle what happens to us.

So-- October 15th...I will remember our first little one who we never got to meet. I will think about all the other couples who have experienced the loss of a pregnancy...which is a loss that is not easily understood by others, as I learned the hard way 2 years ago. Thankfully....we are moving on, together as a family of 3.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Christmas Crafting: It's a Process

I have decided that I am going to make my own Christmas ornaments this year.
I love crafting. I love Christmas. Why not marry the two? ((here's hoping this marriage doesn't end in a bitter divorce))

I have assembled a list of Christmas ornament crafts that I am going to attempt in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Do you know that Christmas is a mere 70 something days away? Which means that we can officially start decorating in like a month??? This is nuts to me, but I am so looking forward to our first Christmas with the little nugget. She is going to be so amazingly cute this winter. Furry boots, snow hats, crawling around, and most likely destroying any little Christmas craft I actually make.

Oh well. I like a challenge.

Here's my list:
http://www.marthastewart.com/article/cookie-cutter-ornaments?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/christmas-ornaments#slide_24

http://www.marthastewart.com/article/snowy-ornaments?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/christmas-ornaments#slide_23

http://www.marthastewart.com/article/button-wreath-ornament?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/christmas-ornaments#slide_20

http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.3a0656639de62ad593598e10d373a0a0/?vgnextoid=b15dce908332f010VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default&backto=true&backtourl=%2Fphotogallery%2Fchristmas-ornaments

http://www.marthastewart.com/portal/site/mslo/menuitem.3a0656639de62ad593598e10d373a0a0/?vgnextoid=f35e78e45f405110VgnVCM1000003d370a0aRCRD&vgnextfmt=default&backto=true&backtourl=%2Fphotogallery%2Fchristmas-ornaments

http://www.marthastewart.com/article/beaded-snowflakes?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/christmas-ornaments#slide_25

http://www.marthastewart.com/how-to/glittered-paper-cutouts?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/christmas-ornaments#slide_27

http://www.marthastewart.com/article/3-d-ornament-and-tree-topper?backto=true&backtourl=/photogallery/christmas-ornaments#slide_30

Saturday, October 9, 2010

You crazy kids...

Today was Ball State's homecoming. I was in Muncie doing a couple of photo shoots, and I decided to head to the tailgate lot and see who I could see. The first thing I noticed was the massive amount of horrific outfits that the youngfolk were sporting. We're talking leggings & jeggings with short t-shirts, short shorts on girls and boys alike, hot pink suits, and cut up BSU t-shirts worn as bandeau tops. Yeeps. It was ugly. I only felt mildly old and out of place in my mom jeans and Irish sweatshirt. Thank goodness the people I was hanging with were all dressed like me (well, not just like me...that would have been weird and creepy and cultish).

I looked around...and everyone I saw was plastered. Hammered. Wasted. Shitfaced. A few short years ago, that was me. Acting a fool, jumping on people, cruising the aisles of the lot like I owned the place. Today, I felt like an outsider. Not the "I'm alone and have no friends" outsider. It was more like a person looking into a fishbowl going, "What's that little guy doin'?"...that kind of outsider.

So what was separating me from the majority of the crowd? Why was I feeling so out of place? I suppose it has something to do with the wedding ring on my finger and the baby that 7 months ago was still baking away inside of me. It's funny how kids can make you feel old. And it's even funnier that I could care less.

I was perfectly happy drinking my bottled water and watching the world around me. I looked at everyone not in a judgy way....just an observant way...enjoying their fun as they had it...remembering the times when I had that kind of fun, too. In a way, I missed it, but in many more ways, I was happy to be done with that phase of my life. I didn't have to worry about how I was getting home, and I had the best prize of all when I actually got home...my sweet, smiling baby girl.

My old roommate and friend Lo was at homecoming, too, and she ran into a group of college girls at the tailgate. She struck up a convo about how they should live it up because it goes so fast. The proceeded to tell her she was pretty for her age. She's 25.

Another homecoming has now passed, putting me one year further from that awesome day in May 2007 when I walked across that stage and got my degree. I had 4 awesome years at BSU and don't regret a thing...but it seems to me that pulling into my driveway this afternoon was the best homecoming yet.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Up yours, bragging mommies

You know who I really don't like?
People who act like they really aren't bragging, but really they are.
Especially when it comes to their babies.
I just read an article from a "celebrity" saying that her 4 month old is already scooting and she rolled over really early, and "that really frightened me!" Yeah right. You probably get your jollies from telling a parenting website that your 4 month old is scooting, knowing good and well that the majority of people reading it have kids that are almost 7 months and showing no real motivation to crawl (example? me). All of us "normals" are giving you the finger right now.

Look...unless I ask...I don't want to know that your kid started walking at 9 months or sprouted teeth at one week post-womb. I don't want to know that he can say your name and count to ten prior to graduating to size 3 diapers, and I most certainly do not want to hear about how your baby is just a tiny little thing whereas my precious baby girl gets the "she's a big girl!" comment every time we go out.

Yes, I am sensitive...but I am also protective of my daughter's feelings...even at (gasp) 7 months (on Monday)! I don't call her big. I don't call her fat. I don't even really like the word chunky. I love her leg rolls...and I don't care that she isn't crawling yet.

(ok...maybe I care just a little...but she's perfect just the way she is).

Monday, October 4, 2010

Family Pictures!











Finally...pictures that I get to actually be in with my family! :-) Always behind the lens, I find myself missing out on those beautiful moments with Noelle and Luke. Amanda of Amanda Nicole photography did a great job. I can't wait to get the pictures up on our walls. Remarkably, with the thousands of pictures I have taken of Noelle, we have ONE up on the wall. ONE! What a crime!!!

Negative Nancy needs to go on a vacation.

If it's one thing America loves, it's a good comeback.
(and no, not the "yo mama" comeback you might be thinking...)

Recently, I have been thinking about how many people I know who are on a comeback...maybe even their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th comeback, but a comeback nonetheless. They are leaving the past behind and moving forward. They are trying to do good for themselves and others around them. They desperately need the support of others to do this...and I have to say...I haven't been so willing in the past.

I have always been a "lifer." You are one way the rest of your life. Once a cheater, always a cheater. Once a drinker, always a drinker. Once a druggie, always a druggie. Once a failure, always a failure. If you're thinking of how horrid of a person I am...yeah, I guess you could go there. I don't know if I am that horrid, or if I am just that naive/negative to think that you can't change...but you can think what you want.

All I know is that I am obviously trying to be taught something by someone greater than me about the power of a comeback. About the power of positive thinking. About the power of unconditional support.

And I'm listening.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hello Again

I didn't write last week because, you see, they don't have Internet service in Hell.
Nope. I couldn't even steal a wireless connection from Purgatory. Meh. Oh well. Here I am.

Last week was not a good week for me. Everything went wrong (except for Noelle...she was awesome...and decided to sprout a full-on tooth)...but after a few pep talks and cry-it-out sessions in my car, I decided that this week would be better, and it already has been.

Enough about that.

Luke and I have had some great weekends lately. From enjoying this Fall weather to spending time with friends around a fire pit to watching Colts play good football to getting our family pictures taken finally...we have really enjoyed the time together. Fourth year of med school is turning out to be great, and Luke is afforded a lot of free time that we didn't think he would have. He has successfully submitted his residency application, and he has already been called for an interview. It's pretty nutty that this is all going to go down here in a couple months. He will interview, and then in March we will know where he will be for residency. We have a lot of prayerful decisions to make in the next few months about where to go and what to do, so let's hope that the can of tomatoes I accidentally stole from Target a few weeks ago doesn't come back to bite us in the ass...earning us a residency in Utah or something.

I have gotten back into running. And by "back into," I mean I have done it twice now. And by "running," I mean rhythmically swinging my arms faster than my legs are moving to make it appear like I am running faster than I really am. But...I am doing it. With each step, I have this schizophrenic battle between my "This SUCKS" voice and my "You can do it " voice. Regardless, I did about 2 miles on Sunday and 1 mile tonight.

Little Noelle is so wonderful. Her little bottom tooth is poked through, and she has the best little personality. We are anxiously awaiting her first Halloween, and we just love looking forward to each day with her. Her smile pulled me through my funk last week, and I know that no matter how chaotic and crazy and frustrating and Hellacious my life can be...her smile will always make me happy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Epic Fail

You know you need a weekend if...

you forget your daughter's bottles at home on the counter and have nothing for the little girl to eat at daycare.

or...

You know you need a weekend if...

the day after you forget her bottles at home, you send her to daycare without her pacifier.

Yes. That lady needing the weekend? It's me (just visualize me jumping up and down, waving my hands frantically, shouting, "me! me! me!")

I don't know where my mind has been lately. I have been so forgetful. Yes, I left Noelle's bottles at home on Thursday. Thankfully, River of Life had extra bottles and I had extra formula there. Today, I left home without her pacifier, but they went to Wal-Mart to get her a new one. Isn't that great of them? I'm telling you...this is a WONDERFUL daycare center. They love Noelle like she is their own. What a relief.

It's good to know someone else will pick up the mother baton when you drop it...
in a puddle of mud...
as it breaks into 1000 pieces.

In life, I feel you can either do 100 different jobs and none of them very well, or you can do a few jobs and do them with 100% of your being. I think I have been trying to do the whole have a 100 jobs and just give a little of myself to each of them, rather than actually focus on the most important roles I have (wife, mother, teacher, friend) and give all I have. Oh well. Isn't that part of life? Learning each day and figuring out how tomorrow is gonna be better?

So...even though I failed at the bottle thing and the pacifier thing...
...and even though Luke and I had PB&J for dinner this week...
...and even though the laundry is piling up and the cats don't have food...
...I have succeeded in one thing, and one thing only.
...Opening a bottle of wine and pouring me a glass.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Deep breaths

I have had a rough start to the school year. My kids are trying and testing me the way they did when I was a first year teacher. I am stressed, strung out, and not enjoying really any aspect of my life right now...that is except for Noelle, of course! The highlight of my day is picking her up and taking her home. Of course I could do without the hour drive in between, but I have learned to tell myself, "Suck it up and do it" over and over again until I go numb.

I am praying that I get my life together soon. I am disorganized, discombobulated, disconnected...I just want to do my job and do it well, and then come home and be with my family. Is that too much to ask?

In other news, I am taking pictures of babies/kids/families every weekend (Saturday, Sunday, or sometimes both) in September and October (aside from our Nashville mini-vacation). I am excited about this, but this makes me even busier! Oh well...it's good stuff.

Here's Noelle's latest teddy bear picture to cheer you up. Oh, you didn't need cheering up? Oops. I meant....cheer me up. Sigh.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

A sippy cup? Really?

Noelle went for her 6 month appointment today. Where has half a year gone? I don't understand!

She is doing great...weighing in at 17.5 lbs (80th %) and 26.5 inches long (78th %). The doctor encouraged us to do more baby food and introduce a sippy cup! I of course used that as a great excuse to go to Target and buy her one with handles. We gave her some formula in it tonight, and she did great with it. She is growing up so quickly!

We get our family pictures taken on Saturday, and I am so excited! I am always behind the camera. I never get to have a good picture taken of us! We will have the photographer take her teddy bear picture this time!


Here are some of my favorite pictures as of late. Enjoy!
At her first Notre Dame game!



Shopping with mama!


Crinkle nose!


So sweet!

So I'm not a total domestic failure...

I cooked this week.

Here's the proof (aside from the scale that isn't budging and the pile of dirty dishes in the sink).

Frank's Buffalo Chicken Dip
(I had a hankering for some buffalo chicken dip...sooooo something the former Ashley would never touch...so I made some last weekend rather than pay $8 for an appetizer at Scotty's Lakehouse or O'Charley's. It was real good.)

8 oz of cream cheese (I used 1/3 reduced fat)
1/2 cup of Frank's Hot Sauce
1/2 cup of reduced fat ranch dressing
1/2 cup of reduced fat shredded mozzarella
2 cans of white chunk chicken (from a can...and it does in fact smell like tuna, so I can see how Jessica Simpson was confused)

Soften the cream cheese and stir it in the bottom of a pretty deep baking dish (give yourself at least 4 inches deep).
Add the hot sauce, ranch, cheese, and chicken, and mix it all around all smooth-like.
Heat oven to 350 degrees and bake about 20 minutes...until there's a golden brown crustyness to the top.

Eat with multigrain tortilla chips. YUM.

Simple Shrimp & Pasta
(I like to just throw things together and make things up myself. For example...this recipe.)

1/2 a box of whole wheat thin spaghetti
10-12 cooked shrimp (get the kind without the poop veins and take the tails off, weirdos)
1 tablespoon of red pepper (or more if you're feeling crazy)
1 medium Vidalia onion (I am really into Vidalia's these days), cut into thin rings
Spoonful of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of butter

Cook the pasta like normal, then drain. Melt the butter on medium heat. Add the garlic. Let it get a little toasty. Add the onion and saute for a few.
Add the red pepper and the shrimp. Only cook the shrimp enough to get it warm.

Add the drained pasta to the sauce/shrimp and let it soak up all the goodness. Serve & eat. Drink water because it has a kick to it!

Pizza Rolls
(not Totinos...though those are good, too)

1 can of Pillsbury crescent dough in garlic butter flavor
1 small can of tomato sauce
shredded mozzarella cheese
turkey pepperoni

Unroll the dough on the baking sheet. Separate all the triangles. Add a thin layer of sauce to each triangle. Then add about 3 pepperoni to each. Lastly cover with cheese (not too much!). Roll up the crescent and bake according dough directions. Sprinkle with some parmesan cheese when you're done.

Red Chicken Chili
(I have made this a  lot over the past year or so. It's really good this time of year.)

Recipe too long. Google it.

I also made Fruity Nut Muffins from the Flat Belly Diet book. You can look that one up, too.

Look at me, I'm Rachael Ray!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Days gone by...

Well, another Rubbermaid tub full of Noelle's clothes that no longer fit has been filled up and stowed away in the attic. I took her newborn bottles out of the cabinet and put away her newborn toys like her tummy time mat and her bouncy seat. The Boppy is gone away, too.

I find myself choked up and sad. My little girl is growing so quickly, and there's nothing I can do to stop it. I remember buying all of the stuff or getting it at showers and just visualizing what my baby would look like with it. Now she has outgrown all of the things that used to soothe her, entertain her, and meet her needs.

We used to turn the bouncy seat on and let it vibrate as the little one slept in complete comfort. Now it is in a trash bag and the batteries are completely dead. I know (hope, pray) that another little baby will enjoy that bouncy seat someday, but it will always be Noelle's...and now she has moved on to bigger and better things.

She went to bed so early tonight. I hardly had any time with her. I have peeked in on her a number of times tonight, in between sorting through her clothes and pulling out the things that she can no longer wear. I stopped at each item, remembering the time when she wore it...and realizing that she will never wear it again. Of course, she has a new bag of Carter's clothes in larger sizes, but that's beside the point...

Noelle is more joy than I ever thought possible. She is the bright spot in a world full of darkness. Her smile just melts my heart, and her tears rip me into pieces. I can't believe we go for her 6 month check up tomorrow. I'm so proud yet so sad all at the same time.

Each new day brings a new development...a new milestone...a new memory, but my living room now seems much emptier without that bouncy seat.

signs of fall

cafe mochas.

pumpkin delight cakes.

fall scented candles.

cool breezes.

hot apple cider.

spiked apple cider.

sweaters and scarves.

dark denim and boots.

cozy blankets.

fleece & sweatshirts.

little pink noses & cheeks.

sipping wine.

golden leaves.

bare trees.

halloween candy in stores.

football.

all the signs of fall are here...and i am not enjoying any of them because i am too stressed about school, life, money, etc.

something has to change....because everything else is changing and i am missing all of it. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Happy Friday

Because I am a teacher striving for excellence and trying to avoid doing the same ol' thing over and over again...I decided to do an Egg Drop Experiment with my kids. Two weeks ago, they were given an assignment to go home and design a contraption that will protect an egg from breaking when it is dropped on concrete. This was to practice the scientific method and all that good stuff.

Today was drop day, so I needed eggs. Last night was Open House, and I wasn't home until 9:30. I didn't want to go to the store at that time, so I decided to get them this morning. I dropped Miss Noelle off at daycare at around 7:05, so I had plenty of time to get the eggs.

In case you were wondering if gas stations (namely, the VP at Morrison and McGalliard in Muncie) sold eggs...that would be a big, fat NO! I saw Totino's pizzas and milk and of course every kind of chip and candy every produced, but no eggs. I then said to myself..."What the hell...get a donut." So I did.

I then went to Marsh or Lo Bill or whatever it is called these days. Indy ones are open 24 hours. This was was open at 8. It was 7:15. So...the decision was made. I had to brave...the Wal-Mart.

I hauled ass to the bag where the eggs were, grabbed 2 dozen, and then I hoofed it back up to the front. OF COURSE only one lane would be open with 10 people standing in line. After frantically looking for another cashier to open, I saw a light on at the other end of the store. I booked it over there and found it to be a 10 Items or Less lane. YES!

Well...it was there that I found a lady with her cart FULL of items...like...100 items...complete with potatoes and coke on the bottom of her cart. She was taking her sweet time and apparently not reading the sign on the aisle she was standing in. "10 ITEMS OR LESS!" NOT "OH, YOU HAVE MORE THAN 10? GO AHEAD. 100 IS CLOSE TO 10 ANYWAY!"

I  then started thinking all kinds of mean, inappropriate thoughts to myself...such as..."I have a JOB to go to, what about you?" and "Can you not READ?" and "Take your sweet time, Princess." Oh, I was so mad. If I had had cash, I would have thrown it at the register and taken my eggs shouting, "Keep the change!"

Finally, she finished...and her total was $192 if that tells you anything about how full her cart was. She even had to buy a box of ever-so-classy Wally World perfume that was locked in a plastic box that had to have a special little tool to open. Gah. The horror!

When she finished, a young man ahead of me put his stuff up on the counter. Two packages of Hanes boxer briefs in...wait for it...camo print. Mmmmmm. Remind me to get some for Luke soon.

I finally paid for my eggs and ran for the door. I made it to school right at 7:40, which is the time I have to be there. The egg drop was successful and fun. The kids had a great time checking their contraptions to see if they passed each level of challenges. We dropped them first from shoulder height, then chair height, then 6 foot ladder height, then top of the bleachers height. I had a kid bring in a Rubbermaid container of OATMEAL and put his egg in it. The egg didn't break, so I guess the idea was a success. I also had a girl bring a baggie of water and put her egg in it. She wasn't so lucky. She ended up with a wet mess and a broken egg. Oh well...good times!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Skinny Jeans

Skinny jeans.
A concept as foreign to me as camping or playing chess or changing a flat tire.
(beats chest, drags knuckles)..."what 'er dose?"

I'm fat. I'm not looking for compliments. Don't talk me out of it. I am fat. I have successfully stalled in my post-baby weight loss, and I am now just sitting here at the weight I was before I decided to do something about my fatness two years ago. I put my mind to it and lost 20 lbs, but that also required me to run (A LOT) and eat (A LITTLE). I have the motivation, but do I have the time? the determination? the skillz?

Having a baby changes everything. This, I know. My life is so much better because of that little cheesy nugget, but I just can't let go of the fact that my evenings are totally sold out before they even begin. It is stressful trying to find time for the house, my husband, my daughter, my job, and then my super-size body on top of it all.

Gah.

I bought a pair of fat jeans in my first trimester of pregnancy so that I could wear regular jeans for as long as possible (I don't know why I was avoiding the maternity jeans for so long...how I WISH all my clothes now had a stretchy band holding them up instead of a button and zipper). Well, these fat jeans are now my regular ol' me jeans. They are the only ones that fit. And that sucks.

Someday, maybe, I will get my shit together and just decide I am tired of trying and I am just gonna do it. But for now, I am gonna focus on a different kind of skinny jeans.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A New Normal

On my drive to school, I do a lot of thinking. I spend a lot of time in my car alone, so for now it is where I can best sort through my thoughts and feelings.

This morning, I started to feel sorry for myself again. I was bitter that most of my colleagues hadn't even gotten up yet and I was already on the road heading to school. I was sad that Noelle was slumped over in her car seat, fast asleep, while most other babies were home in their cribs. I was angry that I have already filled up my car three times in the past week, and I hate spending all that money on gas. I started about thinking about how short my evenings are by the time I get home and get Noelle set for the evening and how there's never enough time to do what I want.

Then I caught myself. I recently saw Eat, Pray, Love with family and there was a quote that really stuck with me. He said, "Choose your thoughts like you choose your clothes." It never really dawned on me that I could control what thoughts went into my head. I always thought that you felt how you felt and nothing could change that. Well, this morning I tried to choose my thoughts. I convinced myself that this was just my new normal.

Yes, normally, people don't get up at 5:00 a.m. to go to work. Normally, they don't travel an hour each day. Normally, people don't have to take their kids with them for 2 hours in a car each day. Normally, teachers can leave at 3:10 and be home by 3:30 in the afternoon. Normally, people don't fill their cars up 3 times a week with gas. But...this is my new normal. It's my life. I am no longer waiting for my life to complete itself. That happened on March 11, 2010. It is now my turn to live it up as much as I can...to enjoy all the time I do have with Luke, Noelle, friends, and other family. This is my challenge to be productive and efficient so that I can have more precious minutes for the important things in life. This is my new normal.

Of course, I would love to get up at 7 a.m. and be home before 4 p.m. and work 5 minutes from my home. I hope to do that someday. But, until then, I will be thankful for my job. I will cherish any and all minutes I have in the day to be with the ones I love, and I will do anything in my power to appreciate this life I have.

Monday, August 16, 2010

5 Months Old

Well, I can hardly believe it, but my Noelle is almost 1/2 a year old already. 

Right now, at 5 months and some change, she is over 16 pounds. 
She smiles all the time, but we still haven't heard a belly laugh since the Jenny Jump-Up event. We don't know whether to worry that she's not laughing or be relieved that she isn't laughing at us and all the ridiculous things we do. Either way, I am asking Doc about it in a month at our appointment. She's such a happy girl, but this no laughing thing has me perplexed.

She is eating a wide variety of baby food now. She has tried almost everything. We know it's a little early for foods, but Doc said it is ok and Noelle is doing great with it. I think her favorite is peas right now.

We are working on sitting. She can do it for a little bit (like 7 seconds), but then she leans forward. 

She is an absolute joy and makes us sooooo happy. 

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Series of Unfortunate Events

Yesterday was my first day of school with my students. I put on a cute pink shirt I bought at Ann Taylor Loft this summer. I liked it.

Thankfully, I decided to wear my hair curly yesterday because it ended up raining, HARD, all the way to school. Straight hair would have been a hot (and frizzy) mess.

I took Noelle to daycare for the 3rd day in a row. No, it hasn't gotten easier. I still hate taking her there, despite the nice people she's with and the smooth transition we have had. I still wish that I was the one with her all day. But...that's another story. So, upon getting her out of the car seat and getting ready to hand her over, I thought that her butt felt warm. At that moment, her teacher pointed out that she was peeing on the floor! Her diaper had leaked, and the pee was dripping out onto the floor and all over my shirt! Hey, Kids...welcome to my room...oh, that smell? Just my kid's pee on my shirt! I still have faith in the Target dipes. It was a bad diaper job at 5:00 a.m. that I did when I was half awake.

I left the baby girl and headed to school. The kids came filing in. We had a pretty good day. It was a very typical first day of school. They were all excited and talkative and ready to impress me. I have 23 students.

The day ended...I ran out of there to go get Noelle. I am taking advantage of not having much to do in my room while I can and leaving as soon as possible. When I got there, they were ready to give her the last bottle, so I got to feed her. While I was feeding her, a dad came to get his cute little girl...maybe about 16 months old. The little girl was so excited to see her daddy that she ran for the door. She tripped over her clumsy feet and fell head first into the door. She smacked it HARD! She then let out one of those silent screams...you know the ones where the mouth is gaping open, tears are pouring out, and no sound is coming out of the mouth. It was so sad. Her daddy scooped her up and held her while she caught her breath and screamed bloody murder. I seriously wanted to cry for her. My empathy button is really sensitive these days. A kid fell out of his chair yesterday on the first day of school and instead of wanting to reprimand him like I would have in the past for not having "four on the floor," I wanted to cry because he was probably embarrassed. I see Noelle in all of my students now. Well...not the kid I find incredibly annoying.

Anywho...I got home, went to Zumba, then began the rat race of trying to get dinner made, Noelle a bath, and the bottles and lunch ready for the next day. I was very stressed and multiple mental breakdowns occurred. Luke got the bottles ready for the next day, which I was thankful for.

We got Noelle down and everything was fine...until we discovered the cats had been peeing in her bike trailer we just bought. Great. GREAT. Cat pee...such a fine fragrance. One more thing to add to the list of "clean thoroughly or BURN."

This morning, I went to get the bottles out of the fridge. I happened to open the bottle bag to check them, and I found them floating in a sea of formula. One of her new bottles totally cracked up the side and leaked formula everywhere! I am glad I checked though, because I would have sent that bag to day care and she would have been short one bottle!

I swear, I was so upset and crazy this morning...it's amazing that I wasn't served with divorce papers today citing, "My wife is a crazy b$%*&" as the cause. I cried my whole way to school...feeling sorry for myself and our situation. I am tired. I am not in the routine yet. I am trying to figure out how to be a wife, mother, teacher, friend, and still have time for myself at the end of the day. It was a really tough way to start the day.

But on the way home, I found myself laughing about it. Now, either I have been granted some kind of sweet ass grace, or I am just going to straight to the insane asylum...but either way, I am happy I could laugh this afternoon.

Now...on to get Noelle out of the car seat (where she is napping). Poor girl...her little butt will probably look like a baboon's by the time this year's over from being in the car seat so long. I wonder if they make an ointment for that...

Monday, August 9, 2010

Noelle's First Day

Well, today was the day I have been dreading since I found out I was pregnant over a year ago...Noelle's first day at daycare. From the second I knew I was going to have a baby, I began fretting over who was going to watch the baby while I was working. Staying at home is not only not an option for me, but it also really isn't my true preference at this point as I am just hitting my stride in the classroom. However, I knew then that I would love this child more than life itself, and finding a babysitter would be no small task.

I put it off until about January, and I started looking in the Indy area. The going rate was about $250 per week. For the month, it would be more than our mortgage payment. We had been pretty diligent in saving money for child care, but this type of cost would just about wipe us out...and all for someone else to take care of our baby. We put Noelle (at the time, Baby E) on the list at one daycare just down the road from us, and we stopped thinking about it for a while.

Noelle was born (yay!), and I immediately started stressing again over this childcare decision. Finally, in June, I decided to get my butt in gear and start exploring other daycare options. Something was tugging at my heart, telling me that the daycare we had signed her up for wasn't quite right. I took personal recommendations from my colleagues at school, and I was able to find some good options in Muncie. I was always so hesitant to bring Noelle to Muncie with me each day, but the pros far outweighed the cons in this situation. With her in Muncie, we would be saving about $400 a month, she would be 10 minutes away from me and even less away from my family as well as Luke's. If she ever got sick, I could leave immediately and get her. Plus, as Noelle gets older, she and I can use the time in the car to talk and sing together.

After much consideration, I decided on River of Life Church as the daycare provider for Noelle. I personally know the director and lead infant room teacher, so I felt good about signing her up.

And then came today. Where did my summer go? I seriously feel like I was just packing everything up at school, and now we are back already! Anyway, we gently woke our little angel up this morning at 5:30 and began the process of getting her ready for her first day. She was SO cute. She had squinty eyes and her hair was sticking straight up. Baby bed-head is sooooo cute. She was rubbing her eyes and smiling sweetly at us, clearly wondering why the heck we were waking her up so early. Luke fed her while I got ready, and then we loaded her up and I hit the road.

I could tell that Noelle was asleep by the time I got on I-69, and we made it to Muncie without any problems. I nervously took her to the baby room at River of Life and I handed her off to the teacher there. She was smiling and staring at the fun stuff hanging from the ceiling. She seemed to be trusting and didn't show any anxiety. I took this as my moment to leave, and I turned around and headed out. Of course I got choked up and my eyes filled with tears, but I refused to let myself get any more emotional than that. I knew that if I started, I wouldn't stop...and I didn't bring any make up to touch up with. :-)

I thought about Noelle allllll day. I wanted to go get her numerous times, but I knew that she was OK and in good hands. My parents went to visit her and said she was doing fine, so I got through the day and waited for my chance to go get her. I was so excited to go pick her up and hold her! She was finishing a bottle when I arrived and seemed to be OK. We safely made our way back home.

Today proved to me a couple of things. First off, motherhood has made me very strong. I have faced so many fears over the past year, and I have learned that I can get through anything with the right attitude. Second, Noelle is a very well-adjusted and happy baby. She trusts me, and when I am at ease, she knows that everything is going to be alright. She doesn't need me to be around all the time, and she can be flexible in a number of situations. She is such a wonderful little girl, and I can't wait to see how her personality develops.

Here's hoping tomorrow is just as smooth as today.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The Extra Mile

For weeks, going on months now, I have been trying to burn off this stubborn post-baby weight. I am plateauing. It sucks. I wish I could break through. Unlike Giselle Bunchen, breastfeeding was not the ticket to losing all the baby weight. Such a shame because we are so alike in so many other ways... :-)

So in an effort to try and get back on track, I have been going to Zumba twice a week for an hour, and then I stay after and do an extra mile on the treadmill. I also try to get in to the gym at least one other time to do a longer run like 2 to 3 miles.

I try to run that extra mile extra fast (fast for me is like a 6.3 speed, which is about an 8 minute, 30 second mile) so that I can get home and see my baby. I also try to push myself to compete with the person on the treadmill next to me...unless that person's Luke. He ran a marathon, remember?

Running is something I never used to enjoy. Now the fact that I can run 3 miles at a time is pretty thrilling. It is so gratifying to know that you accomplished something that you set your mind to...which brings me to the October 5K I am going to do at Fort Ben! I haven't done a 5K since the May before I got pregnant, but this will be my third overall. I also plan to do the Jingle Bell Run in December. One great thing about living in Indy is there is a running event every month that you can sign up for.

So, now I am in "training mode." I hope to improve upon my old race time and get my new race time in 30 minutes or less (kind of like a pizza delivery guy). Hopefully as the weather gets cooler, I can run outside because there is a major difference between treadmill running and pavement running. Major.

A really super cool invention for runners (or people who want to be a runner) is the Nike Plus sensor. You put it in your Nike Plus shoes and it syncs up with your iPod to give you your stats as you are running...distance, speed, calories, time, etc. It tells you when you are almost done. It allows you to set goals and achieve them. I really like it...especially when the woman's voice comes on to say I am done! It's a really great $30 investment.

And, as always, running the extra mile can translate into other situations in life...not quitting when you're tired...not giving up when you want to....setting your mind to something and achieving it....it's a good thing.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Why Homeschooling Insults Me

I read a lot of blogs. I like it. I like blogging. I would like to be a blogger. I like the word blog. Blog blog blog.

In a lot of the blogs I read, the women homeschool their children. I read them. I try to see their points of view, and they are totally allowed to have their opinions about why homeschooling is better than traditional schooling because they are writing on their blogs. This little bliggity blog is my space, so I then get to write what I want.

I find homeschooling insulting. The whole concept of it. What's that? You'd like an explanation? OK...twisted my arm...

I went to college to be a teacher. I took it seriously. I graduated with honors. I had great recommendations. I worked my butt off to get my first teaching job (the job I still have today), and I have been working EXTRA hard ever since to keep that job. I love what I do...even when I hate it, and I carry the responsibility of educating children with me at all times. I spend a great deal of my own money on my classroom. I don't nickel and dime the system, turning in for reimbursements for staples, notebooks, binders for my kids, cute chairs for them to read in, etc. etc. I could probably set up my own teacher store in my room and sell 1/2 of my stuff and STILL have enough to feed a third world county (that is, if third world country people enjoyed eating brightly colored posters, borders, letters, and stickers). What I am trying to say is...I am a teacher 365 days a year, not just August through May, and I am teacher from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep. Rarely am I not thinking about how I can be better and do better. I strive for excellence, people!

And I would be willing to bet that the majority of teachers out there are built about like me. I know it's easy to be all Negative Nancy and say that the education system is full of old crusties who need to hop off the dead horse and retire away to Central Florida already (and believe me, there are a few-- not you, Mom), but I am going to err on the side of positive and say that I have many teacher friends and family members who are committed to this profession.

I don't know too many bankers, doctors, financial advisors, nurses, (you get my point) dragging home their work in bags with apple appliques on them to sit and complete while having one eye on the TV and one hand on their dinners. People make a fuss about summer vacations saying dramatically, "I wish IIIIIIIIII had a summer vacation!" Well...I have been to school 6 times on my summer break, spent countless hours reading educational reference books, surfing inspiring educators' websites, and I have dropped a nice amount of cash for some new things for my room. I seek inspiration for new lessons and projects from everywhere...I mean everywhere...Lowe's, Goodwill, children's books and more. My mind never quits.

All that being said, it saddens me when a parent feels that he/she could do better homeschooling their child, especially when that parent has no training in teaching or child psychology or instructional methods or state standards. Education is the foundation on which everything else stands...how can you really think that you can do better than professionals when it comes to giving your child the tools they need to succeed in life?

Kids need time away from home and their parents. They need socialization with other kids and adults. They need rules and boundaries. They need traditional school. There, I said it.

Don't parents need a break, too? Do moms really want to make breakfast, clean it up, get kids dressed, brush teeth, wipe butts, and THEN sit down and try to teach all the subjects of school? And when you homeschool, you cannot tell me you sit down for 6 hours straight and educate like a traditional school. I do that for 180 school days and STILL have material I can't get to. A couple hours a day of homeschool can't possibly equal out to the full school day in a traditional setting.

Believe me, I know that there is more to life than tests and standards. I am always looking for new ways to infuse my classroom with excitement and non-tradtional ways of teaching. However, I believe in accountability. I believe in the standards. I believe that if we don't have standards to worry about, we would have no way of knowing if our kids were ready to face the big, scary post-high school world.

Speaking of high school...homeschooled kids are ROBBED of all the wonderful experiences in high school. Making the cheerleading squad. Playing on the basketball team. Eating lunch with friends. Homecomings. Proms. Wearing that cap and gown. How do homeschooled kids graduate? Their parents pat them on the back and say..."Well...I guess you're done now!"

Many argue that homeschooled kids still get to go to prom because they have little homeschool groups that get together and do it. I don't know how fun that could possibly be, but I won't judge that. They say that their kids are safer, they are free from peer pressure, and they graduate quicker. I think a healthy dose of peer pressure is good. Kids need to learn how to stand up for their beliefs, fight for what's right, stand up against what's wrong. They will not be in a bubble forever, and they will have to face this world at some point. The pressures will still be there, and without practice and experience in resisting peer pressure, they will no doubt fail at it....or just live their lives scared shitless. Graduating quicker? Who wants their 16 year old going to college? Why are we rushing childhood? Why can't kids be kids until they are 18? I always felt this way about people who were determined to graduate early from college. Why? College was THE best time of my life. I wish it were twice as long.

One blogger I read said that she doesn't want her child confined to pencil and paper or learning inside. I suppose she will also have a problem with her child's boss when he asks her to complete a task on ((gasp!)) paper using a ((GASP!)) pencil! Most jobs require these two tools. Also, we learn outside all the time. My kids were outside everyday for a week last spring doing cloud observations. We do spelling with sidewalk chalk. We read outside on nice days. We did an XY coordinate grid on the playground.

So, in my opinion (yes, I know it is only my little, unimportant opinion), homeschooling is an insult to teachers everywhere. People not trained in the field are saying, "Teaching, smeaching....it can't be that hard! I can do better!" The "do it better yourself" concept has gone too far. Save it for laying tile in your bathroom or growing a garden for fresh produce. Don't go DIY on your child's education.