Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Open Invitation

On Tuesdays we look for the good in our homes.  As you know, I love my home. I love living here, I love entertaining here, and everyone is always welcome.

But today's invitation is for anyone who wants to come with rubber gloves and cleaning supplies in hand... house is being over-run by cookie crumbs, garage-sale toys, dishes, laundry...

it's time for the baby to come out! I desperately need the ability to bend down to the ground without screaming in pain (or worse yet, getting stuck down there and not being able to get up!)

I hope you are all looking for the good in your homes today.  Me? I'll talk to you after the baby comes.

******GIVE-AWAY UPDATE******* If you would like to be entered in a chance to win our give-away prize (it's going to be a good one!), make sure to "like" our page on Facebook! It's that easy!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Life is Good.

For those of you who don't know, my mother-in-law Debbie has been fighting the cancer fight since May (see earlier post, Just Keep Swimming ).  She has undergone both radiation and chemotherapy, and the treatments ended about a week ago.  Of course we have to wait a while to find out the results of everything, but we are so happy that she doesn't have to go through the painful treatments anymore.
Today is one of the first days that she has felt good enough for us to bring the boys over to play.  Matt and I took them downtown for beignet donuts this morning, and we got a box to go for their Dede (that's what they call Debbie).  Sam decided he would take his superhero cape to play with at Dede's house, and he said he was excited to go.  Matt and I told him that Dede would be so happy to see him and he said "I love her, you know".  My heart just melted.

So, we spent the rest of the morning with their Dede. Cooper started screaming "dede's house!" when we pulled in the driveway, and Sam grabbed his cape and ran up the steps.  It was so good for all of us to see her.  She looks so good, and she was even up to baking cookies with Sam!  His favorite thing!

I've been using the blog to complain a lot lately about how my pregnancy has been taking a toll on me, both physically and emotionally.  But today, none of that mattered as I watched my boys play with their grandma.  This is what life is all about. And today, life is really good.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Tapas, Batman, and a Milkshake in a Purse

This wasn't exactly a surprise...but this weekend we took a spontaneous trip to Iowa City for a double date night.  On Friday night, Laura and I were talking about how badly we wanted to eat at Devotay (remember the post about Devotay, right? Community Spotlight: Devotay).  When the two of us go there, it's never-ending plates of tapas coming to the table...and now, we are both pregnant.  Yikes!  And since my birthday is coming up next week, Laura said she would take me there to celebrate.  So, when my mom said she could keep both of the boys on Saturday night, the plan was set:  double date in Iowa City.
It was a great night.  I'm sure it will be my last trip more than 10 miles from home, considering my due date is only 4 weeks from today.  And there's nowhere I would rather go on my last trip than Iowa City!  On the drive there, Laura and I joked that we were going to order the entire menu...turns out that wasn't far from the truth.  And everything was delicious.  When I eat there, I literally feel like I'm sitting outside at a bar in Spain eating tapas and people-watching.
After dinner, we headed to Coralville to see the Dark Knight Rises.  Since we dragged our husbands all the way up there for dinner, we decided we should at least go see the new Batman movie.  We filled our purses with snacks ( fact, Laura's purse was holding a milkshake from Whitey's and a cup of iced-tea from Chik-Fil-A...hilarious) and went in to watch the superheroes.  The movie was good, our tummies were full with delicious food, and we had a great time enjoying each other's company.

A good, spontaneous date night in one of my favorite cities.  Good food, good friends, and most likely my last date night with my hubby before we become parents of three.  This is one happy girl.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

My little diva? Already?

For those of you who know me at all, you know that I am not a diva (AKA high maintenance, a girly-girl, etc...)  However, I believe that my daughter, who has not even been born yet, just might be...

...this Thursday I had an appointment for a haircut and color.  Just to give you an idea of me...most girls get their hair done about every 6 weeks, some even more often than that (I won't mention any names...cough cough Laura...).  I usually shoot for about every 8 weeks, sometimes 10.  However, it's been about 4 months since my last appointment!  I ended up having to cancel one in between because of being on bed rest. So, needless to say, this week I was going to get my hair done, no matter what happened!!!

As I sat in the chair getting my color on, the baby was moving like crazy.  Nothing out of the ordinary for her...she never calms down!  It's already uncomfortable for me to be in a sitting position, and then when she moves...well, it's just plain miserable.  So, when Nora (my stylist) said it was time to walk over to the shampoo bowls, I was glad for a change in position.  As I walked over there, you could literally see the baby moving through my dress and through the cape!

I sat down to get my hair washed, and Nora started giving me a scalp massage.  All of the sudden, it was like the baby literally fell over on one side of my stomach, and stopped moving.  She had fallen asleep! It was a miracle! Normally she never sleeps during the day...and even at night, it takes me a few hours of tossing and turning before I can feel her finally calm down.  And yet, two minutes of a scalp massage, and she's out like a light.  She literally didn't move for the next couple of hours.

We may have a diva on our hands...don't tell my husband!

Friday, July 27, 2012

A Goldilocks Moment

These past few days I’ve been really uncomfortable (the story of my life these days!).  But at the same time I’ve been thinking about how happy I am that we live here in the Quad Cities.  Not just because my family and friends are here, or because I grew up here, but because this size area is “just right” for me…not too big, not too small, “just right”.

my beloved Sevilla
I’ve always loved big cities, and to be honest if I didn’t have kids I think I would probably live in one.  During college I lived in Seville, Spain for a semester—population   . (and during Semana Santa, or Holy Week, the population grows temporarily to    people!)  I loved living there, and I’ve loved every big city in our country that I have ever visited.  One of my best friends lives in Chicago, and when I go to visit her I can imagine myself living there.  But, then I think about city life with two (almost three) kids under 4 years old…and I know it’s just not for me.  Not right now!

Good ol' Wilton Iowa
On the other end of the spectrum, small towns…there are definitely plenty of those in Iowa!  As I’ve mentioned before, we lived in Wilton, Iowa (population  ) for just under 2 years.  The people of Wilton were great, and there were some things I really liked about living there.  It was quiet, and we had lots of long, long walks there while I prepared for the birth of my first son.  However, going through my first pregnancy in a town where every place with food closes before the sun goes down and the cheapest carton of ice cream is about $8 (no joke!), I realized that small town life is not for me.  I like to go to Walgreens at 10pm (or later), just because.

And so, my ‘Goldilocks moment’.  The Quad Cities are not too big, not too small…for me (and my family), it’s perfect here.  No traffic jams, no tourists running around.  And, there’s more than one restaurant and about a thousand places to get ice cream.  This week, as I’m dealing with the last month of pregnancy, temperatures above 100 degrees every day, and lugging around my two boys, I am so thankful for this community.  I’m thankful that I can drive from my house to any number of my family members’ homes without a bit of traffic.  I’m thankful that when I’m craving a Crunch bar, I can drive to Kwik Shop in a matter of minutes.  This town is just the right fit for me…and I hope I remember to not take it for granted.  Let’s try to remember the reasons we love where we live (no matter where you live!) and be thankful for that on a daily basis...keep looking for "the good" in your community!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Junk in the Trunk: Part 2

Another set of pictures of our ridiculous car-load-fulls of garage sale bargains! The past three weeks have been insane garage aunt was here from Boston, and she and her son LOVE to garage sale, but there aren't really garage sales in their area, only church rummage sales.  So, yes, another two people to add to our caravan! Plus, my other aunt is on her summer break from her in-home daycare, so she has been out with us on the lookout for new toys for the kids!  Here's a peek at what our cars look like after a full day of bargain joke!

Trunk #1:  This day they actually went without me...only because I had been having a lot of contractions and needed to lay down at home.  But no worries, they called me about the bargains and they picked up some cute stuff for my baby girl, as always!

Trunk #2: This was the day we all went out together...I think there were about 12 of us!  Needless to say, with that many people scoping out the bargains for our houses, kids, daycares, etc., we fill up cars pretty quickly! And this one is a Suburban!  That's a LOT of stuff!

"Trunk" #3:  I ran out of room in the "trunk" of our van pretty quickly this day.  So here's a picture of my son Sam, in the midst of all of the bargains piling up in the front of the van.  He is wearing his Batman outfit (from a garage sale) and playing with a broken piece of cardboard tube, his "sword". We are quite the frugal family! Haha....

Stay tuned for more junk in the trunk you read this post, we will be out at the sales filling up our cars.  And this time we will be joined by Laura, who just found out she's having a baby girl...I have a feeling you will see a lot of pink in the next round of pictures!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Make the Most of your Harvest!

Another great post from our resident chef (and mama-to-bee!) Laura...

Is your garden exploding with produce??  I have a few tips to use and preserve some of your harvest…
Zucchini....they seem to multiply overnight and all too often you find one that's been hiding and is now gigantic!  I like to shred the giant zucchini in the food processor, measure it out into 2-cup portions and freeze in 1-quart freezer bags (*don't forget to label and date the freezer bags). These can be stored in the freezer for about 6 months.

Zucchini Bread
Since I'm not that great at baking, I use this easy recipe from the Duncan Hines website:
1 box (18.25oz) Duncan Hines Spice Cake Mix
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
2-3 cups shredded zucchini (1 medium or 3 small zucchini)
**Optional Add-ins: chopped walnuts, toasted pecans, or chocolate chips.
In a large bowl, combine spice cake mix, milk, oil, and eggs.  Beat with an electric mixer for approximately 1.5 minutes.
Add shredded zucchini, and fold in with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, just until incorporated.
Add one of the optional add-ins, if desired.
Pour batter evenly into two lightly-greased medium loaf pans (8 inch works best, but 9 inch works fine as well).
Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Let cool 20 minutes, slice and enjoy! zucchini one day you have none and the next you have them coming out your ears!

I make this recipe all the time at work; it's not a new recipe, or anything crazy, but the people I feed 5 days a week enjoy them as a side with lunch or as a substitute for dressing on a lettuce salad.

Refrigerator Pickles:
3-4 medium cucumbers, peeled and sliced
1 small onion, sliced thinly
1C white vinegar
1/3C Canola oil
1/4C water
2T kosher salt
2T sugar
1T chopped fresh dill, optional
 Combine all ingredients and let marinate for 24 hours.  Can be kept in refrigerator for 5-7 days.

Tomatoes...they are so good when they are perfectly ripe but when they are perfectly ripe, they don't have a very long shelf-life.

Here's a recipe from Rachel Ray's website on how to oven roast tomatoes:

Roasted Tomatoes:

Pre-heat the oven to 250ºF.

Arrange the tomato slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and season with salt and pepper.
Roast the tomatoes in the oven for an hour at 250ºF, then raise the temperature to 300ºF for 30 minutes. Allow the tomatoes to cool for a couple of minutes when they come out of the oven.
Once roasted, they can be stored in small freezer bags for about 6months. They are great added to soups or sauces to add a more intense summer-tomato flavor than canned tomatoes.

Hope these tips help you make the most of your summer harvest!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ridiculously Happy About Pillows...

I just had to post about this...Matt has been making fun of me for days.

As you all know, I have done the majority (and I really mean majority) of the decorating in my home from garage sales, hand-me-downs, or clearance racks.  Last week I made a new contribution to one of my favorite rooms (my sun porch) and it has been making me happy every day.

We were out in our garage sale caravan (there were about 10 of us!) last week, and there was a sale with a ton of decorative pillows.  Most of them were marked between $4-$6, which was actually probably a good deal (those things are so expensive!), but I really didn't want to pay that much.  I saw two big yellow ones that I knew would look perfect on my little couch in the sunroom, so I walked over to check the price.  No tag.

I walked up to the girl who was having the sale and asked her how much she wanted for the two yellow pillows. "Oh, let's just say $1 a piece.  How's that?" 

Perfect!  I couldn't wait to get them home...they are literally a perfect match to the yellow decoration (also from a garage sale) on the wall above the couch (a hand-me-down).  I keep walking out there just to look at them...pathetic, I know! I'm 8 months pregnant and physically miserable...I guess it only takes a little thing to make me happy these days!  Anyhow, last night I said something again about how perfect the pillows look out there.  Matt just started laughing and shaking his head.

So I guess I will spare Matt another "perfect pillow" comment and share it with you all instead!  Remember to look for the good in your never know how much it might cheer up your day!

So happy :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Doctor's Office, Gift Shop Cookies, and Sweet Memories

My younger son has a doctor's appointment today.  Just a follow-up, nothing big. (thank goodness our entire family is feeling better now!) But after his appointment, I know exactly what I will be doing with my two little boys.

You see, their doctor's office is in the hospital by our house.  The same hospital that has a gift shop that serves our favorite cookies.  The gift shop is on the whole other side of the hospital, but that doesn't matter to us!  We just get off the elevator, and Sam finds the big blue arrows on the carpet--he knows they will lead us straight to the goods!

Obviously kids like cookies.  And it's a nice treat to give them after a hard doctor's office visit (AKA the ones that include shots).  But these little trips to the gift shop hold a lot more meaning for me.  It was at this same hospital where my grandpa Sam was treated on the oncology floor for months and months.  It seems like only yesterday, but it's actually been 9 years now.  My boys weren't around, they don't know the significance of that hospital, but yet they love to walk those halls and find the bright lights of the gift shop and the aroma of chocolate chips.

The funny thing is, long before my grandpa ever got sick, he loved the hospital cafeterias.  Weird, I know.  But he was a strange one!  Whenever we would drive to Iowa City for Hawkeye basketball games, we would see all the cars driving into all the different, yummy restaurant parking lots for a pre-game meal.  But not us....nope, our car would drive straight to the University Hospital parking lot.  We would grab a tray, walk through the cafeteria line, and enjoy ourselves a "gourmet meal" before walking over to Carver-Hawkeye arena. Hilarious, I know!

And so today, as I follow the blue arrows on the carpet with my two little boys, I will be thinking of my grandpa Sam.  Oh, how he would love to be there with us...eating lunch in the cafeteria and following it up with one of his favorite things:  chocolate chip cookies.  It's so heart-warming to see my own Sammie, named after his grandpa, walking (or usually running) along with his chocolate-covered face.  Those two would have been quite the pair, big Sam and little Sam...

...sometimes life doesn't turn out the way we thought it would.  I never thought my kids wouldn't know their Grandpa Sam.  And yet, in a way they do  know him, from all of the stories they've heard and memories I've shared with them.  And sometimes it's the funniest places (like a hospital cafeteria) where we get to share those memories and remind our children of the ones they never got to know.

Today's cookies are for you, Gramps.  We miss you.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

It's a....

Laura's nickname is "Laura Bee" so I made up this basket for the special day :)
GIRL! Our favorite chef, Miss Laura, AKA my best friend, is having a GIRL! Can you sense the excitement in my typing?!?!

This week was Laura's ultrasound...I have been waiting and waiting to find out if I'm getting a niece or a nephew this December. I have to admit, I've been hoping for a girl (obviously) since I'm having a girl myself this August!

Anyhow, they decided that they were going to use the new "filled cupcakes" way of telling the gender of baby Painter. (Fill the cupcakes with pink or blue frosting, and cut them open to share your news!) Now, Laura may be our go-to cook/chef for the blog, but she will tell you herself that baking is not her thing. No's my thing! She asked me to make the cupcakes for them to share with the family, and I could not be happier to do it!  After all, that means I would be one of the first to know!!!

So, on Wednesday morning Laura and Tim showed up at my door, with a familiar white bag in hand.  Donuts! "We brought you a donut", she said, with a huge smile on her face.  I knew right away it would be cherry (pink) or blueberry (blue).  "Well, I hope it's a boy then, because I love blueberry donuts and I don't like cherry ones!" As I opened the bag, there it was:  a cherry donut.  A GIRL! (Of course Laura knew my donut preference, so she brought me a chocolate one to devour after finding out the news!)

It was such a great moment to share with them.  I immediately ran to get my pink-themed gifts (yes, I had both ready.  I've been waiting for this moment for a long time!) and watched the parents-to-be open their goodies for their sweet baby girl.  What a good way to start a Wednesday!

...and then I got to work on the cupcakes.  Funny part...I had to make both pink and blue frosting, because my older son Sam already knows the filled-cupcake process, and I couldn't have him spilling the beans before Laura's family knew!  So, I filled them all up with bright pink frosting, a smile on my face the entire time.  After work, Laura took them to her parents house and her family members came to share in the surprise.  So fun!  At the same time, I took two lonely cupcakes over to my family (who was also very excited to find out!) and we bit into ours, too!

Hooray for pink-filled cupcakes.  As a non-pink lover, I never thought I would say that.  But the thought of Laura and I pushing our strollers around with our two baby girls, only a few months from now, just makes me giddy inside!  And, like every Sunday, hooray for surprises!  What would life be without them? :)

The finished product:  surprise-filled cupcakes for Laura's family! So cute!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

People Change.

Some may try to argue, but there’s no use:  people change.  Some for the better, some…well, some not so much.  But people change.  Sometimes the people we are really close to become almost like strangers.  It’s sad, it’s hard to understand, and yet there’s one thing we must realize:  we can’t do anything about it.  All we can do is love them like we always have, and look for the good in who they have become.  Perhaps we won’t have the same group of friends ten years from now…but perhaps we will.  You just never know.

On the other hand, sometimes the people who don’t give us the best first impression, may turn out to be some really great friends in our lives.  Life is funny like that.  It never ceases to amaze me how relationships form, grow, and even fall apart, in this crazy roller-coaster we call our lives.  I’ve learned to be prepared for anything—you may think that people are predictable (which many times they are), but you just never know when life is going to throw you a curve ball or two, or twenty…

People change. But this doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  Let us just remember to love them, to ask them why things are changing, and to do our best to love them for who they have become, or who they are becoming.  As I’ve said before, the most important people in my life today are those who have been with me, and loved me, for who I was, for who I am now, and for who I’m hoping and striving to become.  Life is a process—just make sure yours is filled with people who support your changes, who still love you when times are hard, and who will be there on the long road that we are all traveling to become our true selves.

Let people change…let yourself change.  Change is growth.  We could all use a little growing-up now and then, right?

Friday, July 20, 2012

Crazy Funday Monday

Remember a while back when I told you about the FREE Funday Mondays sponsored by Family Credit Union? Well, this Monday we took FULL advantage of these free activities in our community! The boys had their cousin Bruno here from Boston, and we headed out early Monday morning with FIVE kids!

First we hit the botanical center..

feeding the fish...

...and then the Children's Museum...
fun shadows!

...and THEN the Putnam Museum!  Yes, ALL in one day!  We were all exhausted...but what a great day of seeing what fun (and FREE!) activities the Quad Cities has to offer for kids! :)

cousin Bruno helping Cooper with his flippers!

Jack in the tree!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cardboard, Styrofoam and Duct Tape: Good, Cheap Fun.

Franklin the Knight
The other day, Sam and I were reading one of his Franklin the Turtle books.  In the book, Franklin and his friends are going to play knights, so he makes a costume.  Sam asked me if we could make one, too.  Of course I said yes, but I really had no clue how to do it!  Luckily, his daddy was almost home from work.  As soon as Matt walked in the door, Sam bombarded him with questions about how they could make a knight costume just like Franklin's.  And then the project began...

Daddy and Sam
Since I'm on moderate bed rest, I was laid up on the couch while the whole thing took place (which was probably a good thing, because my dining room literally  looked like a battle had taken place!). 

Getting excited...
Anyhow, watching the two of them walk to the garage, and hearing them tear apart the box from our new air-conditioner, just put a smile on my face... 

Helping Daddy...

About an hour later, when Sam emerged wearing his new cardboard knight hat, his cape from his aunt Annie, and his new styrofoam sword, I was amazed.  It actually looked just like the picture from his book!

Sam the Knight!
You just never know what's going to make your kids happy...or what will keep them occupied for over an hour!  So, the next time you are out searching the clearance aisles for bargains, remember that sometimes (many times) all our kids need is some quality time with their mommy or daddy, or their grandma or grandpa, or whoever is special to them.

I hope I never forget the day that Sam and his daddy made their knight costume. He is a lucky boy to have a daddy like that.  (and yes...they did make an extra little sword for little brother Cooper to have when he woke up from his nap!)

My two little knights :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dinner: A Love Story

I heard about this blog recently from my aunt Kathy. She knows I’ve been looking for good blogs to read, and she knows how much I love food, so this is a perfect match! If you haven’t visited this blog yet, I highly recommend it ( .  I’m sure a lot of you have heard of it…in fact, the author of the blog has recently published her first book, with the same title (Dinner:  A Love Story).  I haven’t made it to the book store to buy it yet, but I will be soon hopefully!

The idea behind this blog is simple:  the blog-author, Jenny, has attempted to make dinner with the family easier.   Yes, easier.  As she says, sometimes we want to “surrender the flag” and admit that making dinner every night and getting our family members around the table to share it together is just an impossible task.  But no! She helps us by sharing easy recipes, reminding us the importance of keeping a food diary, and much, much more.  She even has a recipe index right at the top of the blog—easy access to easy dinners! What more could we ask for?

I know there are a lot of food blogs out there, but I highly recommend this one. The stress she places on family dinners is something that is unfortunately being lost in today’s world…don’t let your family be one of the lost ones!  Keep eating dinner together!  I also can’t wait to get her book and read it, as well.  Make sure to check out this great blog and let me know what you think of it! 

Also, what are some blogs (food or otherwise) that you would recommend? We need to get a list going to share!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Finish a Project.

Easier said than done, I know!  We all have projects around our house that need done.  Or maybe some that don't even need done, but they are ideas that we've seen and wanted to try in our own home. Especially now that everyone is addicted to a little website called Pinterest!

A couple months ago, one of my friends from the Quad City Moms Blog hosted what we call a "pinning party".  Everyone was supposed to bring an appetizer (because what's a party without food, right?) and one project that they wanted to get done.  It's such a great idea!  Personally, I love anything that involves multi-tasking...and food, too.  So why not get together with your friends, enjoy a couple hours without the kids and at the same time get something done!

My project wasn't anything that we needed done, but after I had just found out we were having a baby girl, I wanted to make some things to make the former "boys room" look more like a place for a baby girl!  So I picked the project "covered diaper boxes".  Basically, you take a diaper box of any size (which, if you are a mommy, you have plenty  of these to spare around your house!) and you pick out a fabric to cover it, and then (if you are me) you follow very specific how-to instructions online, because my brain is measuring/dimensionally challenged.  So, if you decide to do this project, I would recommend something like (she gives a step-by-step recap of how she did this in her own home)

Also, this project does not have to be baby related! You can use any kind of box, and you can cover it with any fabric you'd like...something to match your living room maybe, to hide all the TV remotes and random magazines?  Or even in the kitchen, a little box for recipes or cookbooks...anything!

Here's a couple pics of how my project went...

My fabric...VERY bright colors! Love it!

One hint...the fabric I chose for the inside of the box was too I ended up putting a ribbon around the box as well, just to cover up the rough edges where I had made a few one is perfect! :)

...and now it's all ready for baby girl Meehan...filling up with blankets and burp cloths!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Days Are Long But The Years Are Short

This is taken from Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project".  The days are long, but the years are short.  And you never understand that fully until you have children...

These last few days have been long. Very long. Even with all of my helpers, it's just been long.

And then yesterday, as we played at the waterpark, I looked at my boys and realized how short the years are.  I looked at them, and then I looked at my friend Barb's son, now a teenager. As he ran around with his friends, all of them at least a foot taller than me, I couldn't stand the thought of my boys being that big, of me not being able to hold them and carry them around anymore.

Yes, the days are long. Sometimes they are forever long.  But the, those are short.  Too short.

On that note, I'm off to spend the day enjoying my boys.  My little boys.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Surprises: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This past week, and this upcoming week, are full of surprises in our family.  Some have been good, some have been not-so-great...

On Tuesday, my grandma and my mom's birthday, the plan was to surprise my grandma for her 80th birthday...the surprise was two-fold.  Not only were we having a "surprise party" (she knew we were having dinner, but not that we had invited some of her oldest, dearest friends), but her youngest daughter and grandson were flying in that day to surprise her as well.  They were going to hide out at my house until dinnertime, and surprise her at the party. Well...that didn't exactly happen. My uncle, who didn't come with them this time, called to tell my grandma happy birthday, and told her to enjoy her time with Kathy and Bruno and he's sorry he couldn't make it this time.  Yup, he ruined the surprise.  Turns out we had made sure to tell everyone not to tell about Kathy's arrival, but we had failed to tell her own husband that it was a surprise!

My grandma and her friends
On the bright side, everyone was very happy to see Kathy and Bruno, and the surprise party went by without a hitch.  My grandma was so surprised and she thoroughly enjoyed the evening with some of her best friends.  It was so fun to watch her enjoy her special day!

Now, the the past 10 days or so, both of my kids have been sick.  Two of their cousins have been sick.  My mom has been in bed for 4 days now.  And, as of today, another of their cousins, as well as my husband, are dealing with a high fever and just plain yuckiness. Now that is a surprise that no one wants to see coming their way!  Unfortunately it came my way as well...but it was accompanied by more contractions and severe leg pain, which altogether led to my doctor sending me to the hospital to get checked out.  BOO to those surprises. BOO.

Boy or Girl???
But let's end on a good note...and this one is a great one!  Only 3 days from now, my best friend (chef Laura) will be finding out the gender of her baby.  The suspense is literally killing me.  I cannot wait to find out if I'm getting a niece or a nephew in December!!!  I'm sure she will think of a super-cute way to tell us, too.  Yet another surprise to be excited about!  Hooray!

This week I am wishing all of you some happy, surprise-filled moments.  None of the bad and ugly stuff...and if you come anywhere near my family members, make sure to wash your hands! :)

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Luckier Than Most

On Saturdays we look for the good in people.  Well, this Saturday there’s only one thing I could tell you about, and that is how lucky I am to have the people that I have in my life.

Yesterday I took a turn for the worse (yet again) in my pregnancy.  I had severe pain in my legs and my back was killing me, so I made an appointment with the chiropractor. I dropped my boys off at my grandma’s house, where everyone had congregated after a day of garage saling (my aunts, cousin, and all the kids).  I went to the appointment, came back and laid down for a bit.  Unfortunately, I only started to feel worse.

A few hours later, the contractions had gotten closer together, and then all of the sudden I spiked a fever of nearly 103 degrees. We called the doctor’s answering service, and when my doctor called me back, he said I had to go to the hospital to get checked out.  I was not a happy camper.  This would be my third trip to the hospital this pregnancy, and the thought of going again and getting sent home again just made me cry.

And so, the whirlwind of my helpers had begun yet again.  My aunt Jeannie, “aunt Barb”, aunt Kathy (who’s visiting from Boston…lucky her!) and Grandma Shirl took care of my kids all afternoon, and then when it was time to head to the hospital, my cousin Elyse was there within minutes to meet me, Matt, and Kathy.  They hooked me up to the monitors, checked me for the usual complications, and yet again everything came back negative.  And of course my temperature was back to completely normal by the time we got there.  Only the leg pain remained, and they had not a single suggestion for that.

So, around 10:30 last night, we headed home.  My dad had come to relieve everyone else, taking my kids to his house (where my mom also happens to be sick…what a mess!).  Matt headed straight to bed, because he works at 1:30 am on Saturdays.  My aunt Kathy stayed with me, helped me get to bed, and then my aunt Jeannie came for the overnight shift to make sure I was ok during the night.  She was there when I woke up, made me some toast (and even cut it the way I like it…maybe she can teach Matt a thing or two!), and when she headed off to church this morning, Elyse was there to replace her.  Elyse stayed all morning with me, helped me get up and get ready, and drove me over to my grandma’s house so that I could be with my boys.  And yet another day today of everyone helping us…as I write this, at 9:30 tonight, they are all just now getting back from taking Sam for a good walk down by the river, and I will now be heading home to get the boys to sleep.

How many people can say they are this lucky?  To have a literal army of helpers, family members, who love them and are willing to show up at a moment’s notice to take care of your every need.  I hope that I never take for granted what I have in my life.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Community Spotlight: John Deere Commons

If you live in the Quad-City Area, you know what the John Deere Commons is.  But, have you been there?  I have to admit, before I had kids, I think the only time I had been there was to take my little cousin Bruno to see the tractors.  No offense, but I didn’t see the attraction—considering I had grown up in Iowa, I had seen my fair share of tractors and didn’t understand why it was so exciting to walk into a room full of them..

They were so enthralled they wouldn't even look at the camera!
…but now I am the mother of two boys. And now I understand.  It’s like a dream come true for them—life size toys!  And you can “drive” them!  They are literally fascinated; their eyes just light up when we walk into that place.  This week we had a whole carful of boys along…their cousin Bruno is here visiting from Boston, we had their cousin Jack and their friend Landon. Five boys and a room full of tractors is truly a blast.  Watching them run from one big machine to the next (no, I do not know the names of any  of them, I’m sorry!) is so fun for me.  And even their Daddy is enthralled by the big green and yellow monsters!

Playing on the smart board
Since we last went to visit the John Deere Commons, they have added a lot of new things; lots of informative videos and demonstrations, but more importantly (at least in our case), they now have little tables full of tractors and other toys for the kids to play with.  And a Smart Board for them to write on…what a genius idea! (Heck, when I was a Teaching Assistant at the University of Iowa, even all of us graduate students used to fight over the Smart Board!  Those things are cool!)

Playing tractors
This week I was reminded of what a great community the Quad-Cities truly is…as I take my boys around to all of the great places in our town (we’ve also been to Vander Veer twice and the Davenport sprinkler park twice…all in the last week), I am thankful that they get to grow up in a place like this. As we were driving home today, Matt said to me, “what do people do in the cities?” . I had to laugh, because obviously there are a million things to do in a city, but I think what he meant is that kids love space, they love big parks with lots of grass to run around and play their own games.  And although I really do love the city and always thought I would live in one, I can honestly say  that there isn’t anywhere else I would rather raise my kids than right here in good ol’ John Deere country.

Tonight I am thankful for tractors, for good friends and family, and most of all, for my boys.

My little tiny Cooper in the great big tractor!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Is It REALLY The Thought That Counts?

We've talked a lot on our journey to "the good" about gift-giving. Gift-wrapping ideas, party ideas, the importance of friendship in our lives...and now, since it's Bargain Thursday, why not find some ways to give your gifts that extra special, personalized touch without breaking your bank or emptying your wallet?

Wouldn't this be cute to give a friend before they set out on a road trip?!
I recently came across a blog called "Thirty Handmade Days", and it inspired me to do this post.  The writer of the blog actually started it with thirty projects in mind (hence the name) to share with her readers.  She has now been working on the blog for three years!  Obviously that's a lot more than thirty projects!  It's been so inspiring to look at all of her ideas...I've only been looking through them for a couple days, and I can see that I will be spending quite a few more days on her site!

Anyhow, my point is this...let's try to remember that gifts truly are about the thought.  This is a hard concept in today's world, considering everything seems to be about monetary value--who brought the biggest gift, who brought the name-brand gift, etc.  Let's try to break that mold!  And the word "handmade" seems to have gotten a bad rap lately, and there's no reason for that, either!  Especially if you read my post the other day about Just Duckie Blankies (, you could see that handmade (and personalized) gifts are not only very special to receive, but in the end can many times be more affordable than the gifts you may find at your local mall or specialty store.  So, why not try more handmade gifts?

I love these "on the hour gifts" (works for any ocassion!)
I think if you check out this blog, you will be inspired as well.  She gives some great gift-giving project ideas, and not only are they simple enough for us to understand, but it appears that they are fairly affordable to accomplish as well.  What more could we ask for?

So I'm challenging you to make at least one handmade gift this summer...just give it a try, what harm could it do? Look through her ideas, and keep following us on "The Good" for more thoughts on bargain-priced gift-giving. I know this is a touchy subject (no one wants to be known as the friend who gives the "cheap gift"), but we want to find a healthy balance between "cheap" and "meaningful".  And to remember that it really is the thought that counts.  When my friends and family give me handmade, personalized gifts, I really do feel even more special receiving them--knowing that my loved ones have put so much thought, and time, into my gift means more to me than how much they swiped on their credit card at Target. It really does.

Happy project-making!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Midnight Feedings

No, this post is not about babies.  Well, not exactly...

...due to two sick children, being pregnant and uncomfortable, etc., I haven't slept more than a couple hours in the last five nights.  This is not normal for me.  And during the precious hours I have gotten to sleep, my lovely youngest son Cooper has decided to wake up and come to our room and torture me...he is the worst to sleep with ever!

Wednesdays posts are about food, and that's what this is all about. Any time I get woken up, no matter what time of night, I am starving.  I'd like to blame this on the pregnancy, but it's really how I am all the time--just worse when I'm pregnant, of course!  And so last night, after the kids finally got to bed at 11 and 12 (yes, that's right! too much birthday partying at our house I guess!), I had a snack and drug myself up the stairs to my bed. Two hours later, I was up again.  And again three hours after that.  You get the picture...

Unfortunately, I have had so much pain during the night, I can't even bring myself to get out of bed and go downstairs to the kitchen for a bite.  I feel so pathetic even typing this, but it's true!  So I lay there and think about food...and last night was the worst, because my refrigerator is full of yummy food that people brought for the party we had. It's pure torture!

So I leave you with this thought today:  be thankful for a full night's sleep, if you get one.  I've never had trouble sleeping, so now I have a new compassion for those of you who suffer with insomnia!  And another thought...keep a snack by your bed.  :)

Here's what was running through my head last night...

my grandma's red white and blue-themed birthday spread last night...

birthday cake #1 (my grandma's)
birthday cake #2 (my mom's)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Party House

When we first called the realtor and came to walk through our house, it was in foreclosure.  Every wall was covered in beer (and other) stains, there was not a single interior door left in the house, and every room was painted a ridiculously bright color.  As we guessed, and was later confirmed, it had been quite the party house for Ambrose students (only a few blocks away).  Long story short, by the time we moved in nearly a year later, there was no evidence left of the "party house" days.  However...
A very special wedding reception at our house. we brought more and more of our family members to see our new home for the first time, the consensus was:  "every event will now be held at Sara and Matt's house!".  This scared Matt a little bit (our family is big, and very close...I'm sure he was picturing our door hanging open with random family members walking in and out at all hours of the day).  But for me, it was exciting...I love being the hostess, and the truth is we didn't get to host too many things at our first house because we lived the farthest away from everyone.

And so, very quickly, our house returned to its "party house" status.  Definitely not the same kind of parties (I can count on one hand the number of times we have even had alcoholic beverages in our house at all), but still parties...and some great ones, if you ask me!  Not only have we had birthdays and family get-togethers...we have hosted three baby showers, a cook-off, two Super Bowl parties, a Mafia-themed New Year's Eve party, and even a wedding reception!  Every single one of the parties has been a blast, and I look forward to so many more!

Blue and Brown Owl-Themed Baby Shower!
Our Mafia/Casino New Year's Eve Party!
So why post about this today?  Because today is a special day.  My grandma Shirl, one of the best people in the whole entire world, is 80 years old today.  And you guessed it...we are hosting the party at our house.  My mom and my aunts will be invading the house to clean and decorate, and Laura (or Chef Laura, as you all know her) will be here to set things up and help us look fancier than we actually are!  And to make it even better, it's technically a surprise party!  I mean, she knows that we (the family) are having dinner at my house, but she doesn't know that a lot of special people are coming to celebrate her 80 years.  I'm so excited!  I know it will be yet another great time with our favorite people, our family and our friends, and my grandma deserves a celebration more than anyone we all know!  (And for those of you who don't know, I can't write this post without mentioning that it is also my mom's birthday, too! Such a special day for our family!)

Happy birthday to my mom and happy 80th to my grandma Shirl!