"When you called me to be a Mama, You didn't ask for perfection. But that with every breath, I'd point them to You."

Thursday, September 29, 2011

First hair cut!

While at the Dome on Saturday, someone sitting near us asked us about Brandon -- "Is he/she a boy or a girl?" We have been getting that question much too often lately because of his sweet little curls in the back of his head (and despite the fact that he is always completely dressed like a BOY!) So we finally bit the bullet and went to get his hair cut last night. Of course it was kind of a last minute decision after we had stopped at church for supper so I didn't have my camera on me. I apologize for the quality of pictures - I had to use the camera on my phone.

Brandon did really well sitting there for the five minutes it took. In fact, one of the other ladies in the salon getting her hair cut commented on how great he did. The only thing that really bothered him was having to wear the cape around his neck.

The lady who cut his hair had her baby baptized in the same group that Brandon was at Orchard. It's kind of a small world!

When she was almost done with the cut, the lady sitting beside us said, "Oh my gosh -- he just lost all of his baby!" That's all it took. I started getting a little emotional. Seeing all of those curls get cut off -- and then having her hand me a little plastic baggy with a few of his curls placed inside -- made me want to scoop him up and rewind time about six months. :) When Cody was sitting with Brandon last night before bed, Cody was really quiet and was staring pretty intently at Brandon for a while. I finally said, "What are you thinking?" To which Cody responded -- "He just looks so much like a little boy now... and not so much like our baby." Sigh.

And so I will admit to spending quite a bit of extra time "dancing" with him in his room to music last night before placing him in his crib. I will admit to running a little bit late this morning because Brandon wanted me to cuddle with him for an extra ten minutes in front of Bubble Guppies with his blanket and pacifier in hand. Stay young, little one. Mommy loves you. :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

There's no place like Dome

Everyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge Panther fan. But what most don't know is that it's not just a love for all things football/basketball... it's not all about the wins and the losses... or the championship seasons and the "rebuilding" years.

UNI is where I grew up... literally. It's my home away from home.

It's where as little kids Jeri Noonan used to take Casey Noonan and I on Saturday mornings/afternoons... so we could run around campus, sit and eat snacks on the "couches" at the Union and visit the Campanile. It's where after a basketball game in the Dome I watched Casey run through a big purple curtain full speed and head first into a huge cement block, impacting him square on the nose and face. This is a story I have made sure to tell every single one of his girlfriends. An incident that was far from funny at the time... now has turned into -- "So... do you have any embarrassing moments of Casey from when he was little?" --- "Oh yes... let me fill you in on this one moment with a cement block..."

It's where Jeri, Casey and I used to visit the athletic training room after every basketball game, watching Casey's dad Terry ice and tape up athletes, sneaking Bubble Gum from the giant bucket Terry kept under his desk and eating the leftover sub sandwiches that the athletes didn't quite finish off. It's where I went on Sunday mornings with my mom... sitting by her desk while she worked, visiting with the coaches who were in the Dome, and looking at old Media Guides from past years. It's where I first started learning math... as Jeri would use the difference between the two scores on the scoreboard to teach me how to add and subtract. It's where I watched my dad get presented with a Letterman's jacket on the field during a football game... and where I watched my mom get inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame after 30 years of very hard work and dedication. It's where my parents met, it's how I came to be, it's where I met Cody's sister Cassi... and ultimately how I found Cody. It's where I received my diploma and fell in love for the first time. It's where a very cute picture was taken of my dad and I at my first Homecoming parade -- sitting on my dad's shoulders as a baby wearing my first UNI jacket (and my dad sporting an awesome perm). And it's where my wedding pictures were taken 23 years later.

All of this and so much more is why I feel so much pride when I see my kids recreating new memories at my favorite place in the world. Of course they don't really understand anything yet. Jaden enjoys the Fight Song and gets excited to see TC. Brandon is clueless about it all at this point. But they will no doubt grow up hearing all of the stories from my family and I -- they will know about the state record crowd of over 22,000 people that watched UNI beat the top ranked Hawkeyes in the Dome in January of 1990. They will hear why our 2005 football team earned the nickname "Cardiac Cats." They will see my mom's picture hanging on the wall in the press box. They will drive by the hideous house on the corner of College St. and Seerley Blvd. that I called "home" for two years. They will learn to enjoy a good slice of O.P pizza just as much as me. They will learn how to dance The Interlude. :) And though I don't know where their lives will take them as they grow, they will hopefully learn the value of appreciating where it is you come from... just as much as I do.

So on Saturday... we ventured out for a little pregame trip through memory lane. We let the kids run around campus for the first time, gazing up at big buildings and splashing in fountains. When we were parking the car, Jaden asked me, "Is this where TC goes to preschool???" :)

Our first stop had to be Lang Hall. This is where my dad and I both took most of our classes... and where I met Cassi for the very first time.

Brandon absolutely loved walking everywhere. Cody and I joked that when it is his turn to attend college, he is going to be the "big man on campus." He's such a little ham. And Jaden was saying "hi" to everyone we walked by.

They really wished that we could get inside the Campanile!

Good ol' Maucker Union. Oh the memories... :)

After returning home for lunch and naps, it was finally game time. We had no idea how Brandon would handle the game. He does not like to sit for long, and I wasn't sure if he would like all the noise and commotion. But he surprised us both and really did pretty well. He had a little meltdown when we first got to our seats because he wanted to be able to go up and down the Dome steps. But then he lasted the entire first half without any problems. He snacked, he cuddled, he clapped along with the crowd. He did get really mad again right before halftime, but I think it's because he was hungry. Cody went and got all of us some pizza and popcorn and then decided halftime would be the perfect time to take Brandon home. He might have lasted longer since he was enjoying the food... but the score was pretty lopsided by that point anyway.

Jaden and I stayed until the end of the game, and for the most part Jaden had a lot of fun. When the band started the pregame show, Jaden was so happy his face turned red and he was literally shaking from excitement! He did get really anxious during the fourth quarter, but with three minutes left to go, we went down and got his picture taken with TC and TC's sister, TK. Jaden's face LIT UP. And when he was done giving TC a hug, he walked away and said to me, "I LOVE him!!!" Then Jaden got to run around on the field after the game was over. He ran up to Coach Farley and gave him a HUGE high-five... and then quarterback's coach Mario Verduzco had some fun wrestling around with Jaden for a while. Jaden also enjoyed going under the garage door back by the locker room where the Panthers run out from during the pregame intros. It was a pretty cool experience for our little guy. We can't wait to do it again in two weeks!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

What Sunday afternoons are made for...

There's nothing better than a rainy and cool Sunday afternoon in the fall. While Cody visits his best friend's house to watch football, I enjoy the smell of Pumpkin Roll melting in the Scentsy pot...

...and the anticipation of a craving satisfied -- Chicken Tortilla Soup warming in the crockpot.

Our sleepy little one enjoys playing with Thomas the Train... pushing him around the tracks over and over again...

...and our big boy practices his Mario skills. He's getting pretty good at that Nintendo 64.

And once the kids go down for naps, I make use of the piece and quiet... football on the TV... browing Pinterest.com for the latest yummy recipes and Christmas decor ideas... and blogging.

Here's our latest video of Jaden. His interview skills need some polishing before he's ready to be in the spotlight on our local news channel after a great performance under the Friday night lights.

Jaden Interview

Life's about to get busy again. We are looking forward to Jaden's first school pictures on Tuesday, the first game in the Dome on Saturday... followed by relatives visiting from Florida for a week. Today... it's about recharging, comfort, yummy food... and cuddles. Hope you're enjoying the comforts of Fall as much as we are.

Friday, September 9, 2011

In the midst of chaos... a breath of Autumn air

Life has not settled down for our family since our world was shaken up by Cody's health struggles in July. We are still dealing with the fall-out. Still dealing with doctor's appointments, expensive prescriptions, and days where he doesn't feel quite up to par. Still dealing with a massive shake-up at my job, still being taught patience and still being reminded that when all else fails, God doesn't.

In the midst of a crazy world and a crazy life where things don't always seem "fair" -- this past weekend brought us an extended weekend and our first taste of one of my favorite things. Fall. Autumn. The season of thanksgivings, football, warm-up pants and pumpkin spice candles.

With the windows open and the boys playing happily outside, I force myself to breathe in the smells the new season brings and to look for the good even on the days when all I feel is tired. We are being taught a lot in this season of life. We are being taught to not wish for a lot of money... but to wish for enough. To not want the biggest house, but a comfortable cozy one that allows you to truly sink into it and feel rested at the end of a long day. To not pray for the "perfect" job -- but to pray to be surrounded by supportive coworkers and bosses that tell you often - "family life comes first, and our kids pray for Cody every single night."

We have a lot to be thankful for. We are thankful for a church that our entire family - the kids and Cody and I - are truly excited to go to every Sunday morning. It's amazing how Orchard Hill's teachings lately seemed to have been written just for us. We are thankful for a family that is there for us through thick and thin - in good times and in bad. We are thankful for a 3 1/2 year old that tells us several times a day, "I LOOVE you!" - and we are thankful for his younger brother that shows us he loves us by his dozens of hugs, love pats and requests to be picked up all day long. And I am thankful for bosses that ask me how I'm doing -- and truly care about the answer I give them.

To ring in this new season, we got up last Saturday morning and all got dressed in our purple best -- rejoicing in the opening kickoff of the season. I happily went down to the storage room and opened up our "harvest" decorations box. Nothing beats mason jars filled with cinnamon potpourri, a glowing candle that permeates the smell of pumpkin and maple throughout the quiet house after the kids to go to bed... and flowers that remind you of what the trees will soon look like when Fall is at its peak.

And it wouldn't be Fall without the annual Wing Ding. I'm not sure why this event is so fun. It's crowded, it's hard to find parking, the lines at each vendor tend to be long, and you usually have to eat standing up. But -- the food is good, the music is fun, the company's great, the weather is perfect -- and it's one of life's simple things. A community event that reinforces why we live in Iowa. In September, there's no place I'd rather be. While my boss down in Texas is rejoicing that it "only" reached 90 degrees this week - I'm enjoying eating hot wings... outside... in jeans... and not sweating.

...As you can see, I had trouble getting good pictures last night. Everyone was far too concerned with eating! This year's Wing Ding wasn't quite as busy as years past which helped us get the boys their food faster. And Jaden had SO much fun at this event. He was glued to Papa Bob's hip as they share a love for music and drums. Brandon did a good job at the beginning, but the noise from the band and the crowd got to him a bit. By the end of our night, he was thrown into hysterics and nothing made him happy. He kept pointing at the band and then running in the opposite direction. He's just not as impressed with drums as his older brother at this point. ;) He kept running to the outer edges of the park and trying to escape! Jaden's one request during the night was that the band play the UNI Fight Song. That's my boy! After we got  home, I received a text message from my dad stating that he talked to one of the guys in the band about Jaden's request... and they said they would try to work the Fight Song into their show next year. ;) This band is now all Jaden can talk about. "I want to go back to the band shelter!" 

We are now looking forward to a fun weekend. Grilling some pork chops tonight, a wedding tomorrow night (while my parents babysit the little ones), and then Cody is very excited for his first Sunday of NFL football with his buddies. And though our beloved Panthers play in Texas Saturday night and we won't get to watch it or even listen to it... I'm REALLY hoping they come home with a big win! (And that my dad will send me game updates every five minutes while I'm at the wedding!)

Happy Friday everybody!

Friday, September 2, 2011

One and a HALF!

Today our sweet Brandon is officially 18 months old... one and a half... very close to TWO. I feel like every time he ages another month I say the same thing - "I want to bottle him up just as he is now and keep him like this forever." I so much do not want my youngest - my baby - to grow up on me. I threw away our last bottle in July. I cried. (Throwing away our last bottle combined with Cody being in the hospital was a little too much for me to handle all at one time!) My dad asked me the other day, "What are you going to do with the crib here in a few months?" ...I'm not ready to not have a crib set up in our house. That crib has been a huge symbol in our lives for the last 3 1/2 years. I remember when I was pregnant with Jaden and my parents called us to the Simpson's Factory Outlet on Main St., telling us that they found the exact kind of crib they thought I wanted -- and it was on sale. I was so excited to take that crib home with us. That seems like it was just yesterday. Cute baby bedding and mobiles and crib bumpers have brought joy that I'm not ready to pack away yet.

But... all of that being said... it has been so much fun watching this little boy grow up a little more every day. His little personality possesses the best of both worlds - independence mixed in with being a mommy's boy - feisty mixed in with sweet - wild mixed in with cuddly - stubborn mixed in with helpful. He's our squishy little piece of baby heaven.

A couple of nights ago we were out on a walk as a family. Cody was pushing the stroller, and I was walking beside it. Every once in a while, Brandon would reach his hand out to me... he would hold my hand while I walked beside the stroller for a few minutes and then let go. A few minutes would pass... and he would reach his hand out for me again. Sweet. The other evening, each of the two boys had their own snack cup filled with goldfish crackers. Jaden's was almost gone, so he kept leaning over to peek in Brandon's cup. Brandon immediately pushed Jaden away every time as if to say, "Oh no you don't." He didn't do it in a mean way - but was aggressive enough just to show Jaden he wouldn't be messed with.

*He goes to bed around 8:30 every night and usually wakes up between 6:30/7:00 every morning. He sleeps through the night but averages one night a week where a dream or something wakes him up. Most of the time he can put himself back to sleep after just a minute or so of whimpering, but in the last few weeks there have been two nights where he has had to lay in bed next to me for a while before feeling comforted enough to go back to his own bed.

*He naps better now than he used to. We used to be happy if we could get him to sleep an hour to an hour and a half. Now he averages two hours... sometimes more. I credit the tubes in his ears for this. Putting the tubes in his ears made everything better and easier.

*He's been using spoons and forks on his own for months now. Every once in a while he needs some help with some of the trickier foods... but most of the time he refuses help. He also has recently learned how to drink out of a straw.

* He does not say many words very clearly, but he communicates very well and is always "talking." Words he has said at least once or regularly include: Mama, Dadda, Nana, Papa, Ella (his cousin), uh-oh, cracker, thank you (although it sounds nothing like thank you), and qack-qack (for duck). I'm sure there's more that I can't think of at the moment. He doesn't say no or yes but shakes his head for no and nods his head for yes. In fact... shaking and nodding his head are communication tools he uses very effectively.

*Though he isn't really speaking yet, there's no question that he's completely comprehending what we're saying. He follows instructions and answers questions with a shake or a nod of his head all day long.

*He loves to clap his hands for himself when he knows he's done something well.

*Has recently discovered the talent of "winking." His winking involves squeezing both of his eyes shut tight for long periods of time. It's hysterical... and he knows it.

*Is a monkey. That kid LOVES to climb anything and everything. And he's getting better and better at it. He has struggled for months climbing onto Jaden's bed but just discovered how to do that this week. The other morning I came out of the bathroom and he was JUMPING on the couch and laughing at himself. I told him to sit down, but before I reached him he managed to propel himself through the air off the couch in a perfect front flip landing on the floor on his back. He didn't cry, but stayed on his back for a minute and kind of scowled at me. I simply said, "That's what happens." He got up and hasn't repeated that since... but I'm sure he will.

*Because he's a monkey and a wild child, he is very difficult to take out to eat. He does not like to sit still for long periods of time. He doesn't have the appetite that Jaden had at his age so he's not entertained by food in the same way Jaden was.

*Whenever I sing "macho man" he walks around the house like a Sumo wrestler.

*Loves his big brother. A couple of mornings ago, Jaden was sitting in the recliner eating his yogurt, and Brandon climbed into the recliner and positioned himself right on Jaden's lap. Jaden didn't really like this because he couldn't reach his yogurt anymore... but Brandon was just trying to cuddle with him.

*Waves hi and bye to everybody and also blows kisses to the people he knows.

*Right now... he's a mommy's boy. When he was younger, he favored Cody. Mommy was good for some things, but you could tell that Cody was his first choice. Now the tables have turned. And I'm completely okay with that. :) Although I do feel a little bad about it... I think part of the reason for the change was Cody being gone in the hospital and then home and sick for so long. Brandon relied on just me for a very long time.

*Has recently started coming up and giving hugs for no reason at all. I'll be standing somewhere, and all of the sudden he comes over and wraps his arms around my legs for a few moments before running off again. I love it.

*Doesn't like when I sing along to songs on his movies or shows. He holds his hand up and screams at me as if to say, "Stop Mommy!"

*Is extremely ticklish along his diaper line on his thighs. This brings out the BEST giggles.

*Loves fruit, hates vegetables and eats his best dinner when it's goulash. He has to have a yogurt every morning as soon as he wakes up, and he's also discovered the art of dipping things into ketchup.

*Is doing great with giving up the pacifier or "binky" as we call it. I thought we were going to have a LOT of trouble forcing him to give this up, but he's done great. A couple of weeks ago I decided it was time to start restricting the binky to only bedtime and nap time. He caught on right away. Most of the time he throws it in his crib first thing in the morning before we even get him out of bed. Sometimes he forgets, but if I ask him to put his binky in his bed he does so without giving us any grief.

*He's been sticking his fingers far back into the corners of his mouth for a couple of weeks now. I haven't been able to see any signs of molars coming, but he acts like it every once in a while. He's had all of the rest of his 16 teeth since he turned one. That made for a rough first year as he was often getting three - sometimes four teeth at a time. (Not to mention the several ear infections he endured). We've had a nice long break from teething, but those molars are going to be showing up anytime I believe.

*Has already had two or three skinned knees caused by cement, but hardly makes a sound when it happens. He just gets up and continues running.

*Loves to be chased around the house.

*Wears an assortment of sizes. His shirts are getting bigger - most of the time he fits in 18-24 month shirts, but could wear 2T if needed - though that would be a little big for him. His pants need to be smaller. One pair of shorts he wears right now are sized 6-12 month. His one piece outfits vary as well... one little romper outfit is 12-18 months... a couple of others are sized 18-24 month. He doesn't need ANY clothes for this fall/winter because Jaden has so many hand-me-downs. Some of the pants that Jaden wore his first fall/winter were way too long on Brandon this past winter... but will probably fit him perfectly this winter. He's just so much shorter than Jaden was so he's able to wear clothes longer. He's got a cute little tummy though -- so shirts get tight and don't last quite as long. :)

*Has yet to have a haircut. It took a long time for his hair to come in, and it's very fine. His hair is the opposite of Jaden's. I'm just now starting to consider taking him to get a little trim... just for the hair on top of his head, as it's starting to hang down substantially on his forehead and gets pretty greasy from us constantly brushing it to the side. The back of his head, however... is completely CURLY. Four times in the last month, strangers have referred him as a "she". I blame it on the curls. My SON does NOT look anything like a girl... nor is he EVER dressed like anything other than a boy. :)

*Gives the best scowl of anyone I know. And it makes us laugh. Even Jaden says from time to time, "I want Brandon to scowl at me!"

Brandon... you complete our family perfectly. We are so lucky to have your funny, sweet, ADORABLE little self in our home and in our hearts. I love you, Baby --- to the moon and back and more.

(Click on the links below for some recent short videos). 

August 17, 2011

Brandon Winking

Macho Man