Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! I can’t believe my little pumpkin is celebrating his first Halloween!

halloween14 pumpkin

Baby William is going for the typical-first-Halloween-costume: a PUMPKIN!  But this is no ordinary pumpkin costume.  This has been worn for the last three years by Jacob or Audrey.  Must keep the tradition alive!  On Sunday, some of the cousins went to my grandparents’ house, Mama and Papa, to celebrate Halloween and wear their costumes.

family halloween14

These cousins are so lucky to spend so much time with their great-grandparents!

Superheroes to the rescue!

spiderman batman

Typical boy costumes.  I suppose William will get there one day. ;-)

And Elsa.

aud elsa

I’m sure noooooobody else is dressing up like Elsa this Halloween, right?  But she’s the sweetest, for sure.

It’s always a fight to decide who gets to hold and sit by William…  Audrey wins, as usual.

cousins halloween14

But then Jacob is upset, so he gets to hold William for the next picture and decide who gets to be in it with them:

halloween14 cousins

Obviously not Audrey.

All was good and they all got their William-fix.

But I don’t think we can ever have too much baby William.

william halloween14

Happy Halloween from my little pumpkin!

18 Life Lessons

Last year towards the beginning of the school year, I did a community building activity with my fourth graders on life lessons.  I have several quotations hanging up around my classroom (thanks to Pinterest!), and we read and discuss their meaning.  Every morning, one student reads a quote of the day to spark conversation and deep thinking. Words are powerful and I try to instill that in my students.

I asked them to come up with their own quotation, their own life lesson.  If they could tell the world one thing, what would it be?  What’s their big message?  This fits into our curriculum, as well, because it’s similar to determining the theme at the end of a fiction text.  Theme is the author’s message, the big idea, or the life lesson that can be applied to everyone.  Last year, the students came up with such insightful quotations and it was such an interesting activity, that I just had to do it again this year.  (Read last year’s: 24 Life Lessons.)  Here is the 2014 version with this year’s class:

life lessons

Life Lessons as Told by Fourth Graders:

  • Be nice and good things will happen to you.
  • Great ambition is great passion with great character.
  • Say something – not, “I’m giving up on this.”
  • You don’t need to be perfect – just be yourself!
  • Keep trying.  Never give up.  Do your best.  Never say you can’t.  Don’t let people boss you around.  Be who you are, don’t change who you are to fit in; people will like you the way you are.
  • Life is a book.  Turn the page and you will start a new chapter. You won’t know what happens until you read it.
  • Never give up and never surrender.
  • Life is like stairs – you have ups and downs.
  • You never know what you can do unless you try. Try! Then try harder! You know you can do it!
  • Tell the truth and never life.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak up to bullies.
  • Try. Try.  Do your best.
  • Think about success and not failing.
  • Life is like a two-way street. One is good, one is bad, but don’t wonder what if.
  • Be in charge of you; don’t boss people around.
  • Think before you say it.
  • Your imagination can get you anywhere, so never stop imagining all of the possibilities in the world.
  • The world needs you to lead a variety of tasks and open more possibilities.

Pretty awesome, right?! Once again, I’m impressed with how wise these young children are.  I have them come up with several different quotations and then they pick their favorite to “publish.”  They type their quote on the computer, play with the font, and get to make it all fancy.   Then, we paste it on a piece of colored construction paper and laminate it.  We have a whole wall full of these life lessons!  I love it because they begin to understand how powerful words can be, and I think they feel empowered taking part in coming up with these important life lessons.

If you could tell the world just one thing, what would it be?

Peas, please!

Thinking back to yesterday’s post “life is like a tree,” and roots, one of my biggest, strongest, most supportive roots is my sister Stephanie. I’ve sung her praises many times before, and I’m here to do it again.  Not only is she an amazing momma to her two little ones, but she’s also an award-winning photographer, and the absolute very best auntie to baby William.  She’s crazy busy, but always so willing to help me out in every way possible.  Yesterday, she (and Audrey!) babysat William all day while I was at work.

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(Remember when a photographer watches your baby…?)  Here’s the second edition:

William loves, loves, LOVES spending time with his favorite Aunt Stephanie and cousins Jacob and Audrey.  (Jacob’s always bummed that he has to go to kindergarten and can’t spend the day with William, too.)  Audrey, as you know, is like William’s second mom.  Yes, she’s three years old, but takes care of him like he’s her own.

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They had a full day of playing, reading, singing, and more!  William especially loves getting to play with Jacob and Audrey’s old toys, and Audrey just loves hearing how she used to use / play with something when she was little like William.

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William is well taken care of when he’s with them.  I get a full report throughout the day and the best pictures, too!  So much love and happiness.

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And if Stephanie isn’t busy enough, she offered to make William’s first vegetable: peas!  I had intentions of making it this weekend, but that obviously didn’t happen, and after eating oatmeal for a week or so, it was time to introduce a new food.  Mind you, I wouldn’t trust just anybody to make William’s food.  I mean, this is a big deal.  But Stephanie (and my mom!) teach me everything I know about being a momma, so there’s nobody else who I’d prefer to make it than her (them).  Sometime during their busy day, Stephanie managed to make me two ice cube trays full of organic peas!

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I did make her promise not to feed baby William any peas without me!  I wanted to be there for his first time eating a vegetable!

What’s the verdict?  Did William like peas?

eat peas

Sure!  I honestly think William will like any and all food that goes in his mouth.  He’s been a hungry baby since day one!  He really didn’t make that many funny faces, so I’ll take that as he liked ‘em.  So now we’ll do oatmeal in the morning and peas in the evening for several days… until I (or Stephanie lol) make his next new food… which will be… ______ (suggestions, please!).

Big thanks to Stephanie for being the best root/sister/auntie/friend ever.  I love you!

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And your million photographs of William! ;)

What should William’s next food be?  Squash? Avocado? Sweet potato?

Life is like a tree

There are some situations that really make you think about and reflect on life.  Lately, that’s been happening to me a lot.  This weekend was perfect.  It was low-key (much needed after my mile a minute week), sprinkled with good friends and family, and of course, baby William.  The weather was gorgeous which naturally puts me in the best of moods.  I went for many walks outside with William and Zoey to soak up the sun, think, reflect, and enjoy our time together.

walk babywearing oct14

recycled picture, but it was all the same – william wrapped up and zoey on a leash

I’ve had lots of time to think lately.  Walking outside is the best place to think for me.  The warm sunshine, the blue skies, the cool breeze, and the peacefulness of it all makes it perfect.  What’s more, walking is not only good for you physically, but also mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.  Fall is in full swing here in St. Louis and the trees are gorgeous as they’re a beautiful array of color.  Some red, some orange, some yellow, some still green, and some bare as all the leaves have fallen.  Some are in the midst of changing like one particular tree I noticed in my neighborhood.  It may sound silly, but that tree made me think, and almost instantly, I realized how life is like a tree.

life is like a tree

Life is like a tree. It changes, but always remains grounded.

Life constantly changes.  Whether you want it to or not, it changes.  For better or worse, it changes.  It’s what you do with those changes that help mold the outcome.  At times, it’s hard to remain positive, but focusing on what you do have control over, and what you don’t, can help you find your center, your balance.  My life is changing.

Remember who you are.  There are external factors that can change trees… or you.  Stay true to who you are.  Regardless of the number of leaves or leaf color, the trunk or base of a tree, always remains the same.  That’s true for people, too.  You know in your heart what kind of person you are, what kind of person you want to be, stay true to that, and do what you can to be that person.  That’s what I’m doing.

Stay grounded. Don’t lose sight of the long run.  While life can be challenging, there are more moments that should be cherished than there are the times you hope to forget.  Life is precious.  God has a plan.  Everything happens for a reason.  Keep believing.  I am.

Remember your roots.  True for people and trees, alike.  There are people there to support you, people who have always been there, people who always will be there.  That’s who counts.  They’re there to lift you up when you’re down, be by your side when needed, and celebrate the happiness often.  Roots are an unbreakable love forever.  Family and friends are my roots.

Whoever thought trees and people had so much in common? ;-)

How is your life like a tree?

Linking up with Healthy Diva for Marvelous in my Monday because LIFE is marvelous.

more faces and a mile a minute

So I intended on posting a recipe today, but life got in the way (not a bad thing!).  Life is moving a mile a minute these days as I’m constantly go go go!  For example, take yesterday.  After working all day, I picked up William, came home, washed my pump parts, sanitized his bottles, and got him ready for a walk as the sun was shining, the air was crisp, and it was too nice not to go outside.  Then he spit up.  Like a lot.  William very rarely spits up, so when he does, I kind of make a big deal out of it.  After cleaning up William, taking a picture, and texting my mom out of worry, she assured me it wasn’t as much as I thought.  I cleaned up the floor and began getting ready for a walk once more.  He spit up again.  At least we were in his room with hard wood floors which made it easy to clean, but man oh man!  I’m not sure if he had an air bubble in his stomach or if he was overfed during the day, but a lot came up. Twice. Yuck.

Anyway, eventually we did make it outside for a lovely stroll.  We came back in, I fed William oatmeal, gave him a bath, we played, we sang, we read, and he went to sleep around 7:15 pm.  William must have been starving due to his empty stomach after our walk because I could not feed him his oatmeal fast enough.  He actually got really angry when I stopped for two seconds to take a picture.


Sorry, baby.  But you’re still ridiculously cute.

Right when William went to sleep, I got to work.  I started a load of his laundry.  I made some concoction that turned out to be my dinner and will be my lunches for the rest of the week.  It was anything and everything I could find in my house. I browned some ground turkey.  I sautéed an onion with garlic.  I made farro which was a new-to-me grain that I found at Trader Joe’s.  I made quinoa.  I combined everything and added fire roasted tomatoes, corn, peas, carrots, mixed greens, kidney beans, and an assortment of spices.  I chopped romaine to add to it for my lunches tomorrow and last night I made a bowl of it with plain Greek yogurt, avocado, and cheese.  And since I was going a mile a minute, I never stopped to take a picture.  It was good which is important since I’ll be eating it for my next eighteen meals.  I really need to start making my big batches on Sunday.


That tongue.  I don’t know why I bothered with a bib since clearly I didn’t take the time to fasten it all the way.  Definitely defeated its purpose.  Or maybe William is going for an off the shoulder bib look?  Nah.

I’ve been in a baking mood lately.  Last Saturday morning I made this pumpkin bread (so easy to make!), Reese’s Gooey Cake Bars (ridiculously rich and delicious), and healthy blueberry banana bread which was the recipe I wanted to post today.  (Maybe tomorrow? We’ll see.)  Then last night, I made Trader Joe’s blondie bars to bring to work today because I love my co-workers.  And, not gonna lie, I wanted a couple bites of the dough…


Those eyes.  He’s like, “I know I’m cute.”  Gets me every time!

So yeah.  I’ve been on a baking kick lately.  I will get you that healthy blueberry banana bread because it’s really fantastic.  I’ve made it a couple of times to tweak the recipe, and it’s finally ready to share.  I figure after the decadent treats I’ve been making, it’s time for something on the healthier side.  Though my dinner and my lunches have been healthy.  It’s all about moderation, friends.  Moderation and balance.


Check out those cheeks.

I know this post is pretty random and jumbled, but that’s how my mind is lately.  Going a mile a minute, never stopping.  There’s always something to do, and then I think of something else.  Make William’s bottles for tomorrow.  Finish his laundry at some point.  Work is the same.  Grade papers.  Plan lesson.  Respond to emails.  The little free time I have is devoted to pumping at school.  I suppose my “down time” is the time I take in the evening to blog.  But even then I feel like I’m rushing and going a mile a minute.  Taking walks or doing quick workouts counts as my “down time,” too.  It’s all good.  I do like being busy, and I feel productive and accomplished when I get a lot done.

So far, I’ve taken a picture every time William has eaten oatmeal.  I wonder how long I’ll continue that.  Maybe I’ll make a book of all his faces.  And for those of you asking, yes I will soon try a vegetable since I’ve been doing oatmeal for a week now; I just have to make it first.  That’ll be my goal this weekend.


Alright, the timer for the blondie bars just went off.  Time to take them out, clean up the million pots and pans I used in the kitchen tonight, pump for the fifth (!) and final time today, and head to bed.  Then, right when I fall asleep, William is sure to wake up since that’s how he rolls.  Little stinker.


Oh, and I showered tonight.  I told you I was productive.  Now I even smell good, too.

What are you busy with these days?

Halloween Workout

With Halloween right around the corner, I thought I’d whip up a Halloween Workout for you!  These days, my workouts consist of walks through the neighborhood and workouts in my living room.  My equipment is limited (dumbbells!), so I like to get creative and mix things up a bit.  This Halloween workout alternates cardio blasts with strength training moves for a total body workout that is sure to leave your muscles creepily burning!

Halloween Workout

Cardio bouts are in green – get your heart rate up!  Some notes on the moves:

  • 15 walking lunges: alternate legs, lunge low, watch that your knees doesn’t extend over your toes
  • 31 seconds jumping jacks: stay low for more of a challenge
  • 15 bicep curls & shoulder presses: curl, then press
  • 31 seconds mountain climbers: wrists should be directly underneath shoulders
  • 15 squats: stick out that booty
  • 31 seconds speed skaters: click HERE for a demonstration
  • 15 push-ups: nose to the floor
  • 31 seconds frog jumps: sit your butt back as you go down to the floor, explode up
  • 15 dumbbell rows & tricep kickbacks: a row is like you are starting the lawnmower, then kickback for a tricep burn
  • 31 seconds plank: keep your butt down

There ya have it!  I was going to do this workout two days in a row, but my legs were on fire after the first day.  Thank you, lunges!

Want more Halloween posts?  Check out these links for Halloween workouts & recipes:

What’s your favorite Halloween candy?

~ When indulging in a few sweet treats, remember to practice moderation and find balance.  Don’t skimp on meals, try to cut calories, spend all day at the gym, or feel guilty about what you eat.  Be intentional with what you do and enjoy the holiday! ~

healthy pregnancy for healthy birth and healthy baby

The other day my dad sent me this article: Diet and Exercise Advice During Pregnancy Yields Better Birth Outcomes.  (Published by Pharmacy Times, so it’s definitely a reputable source!)  I was happy to read it because it confirmed what I thought to be true and what I believed throughout my pregnancy.

studio maternity pregnant itzlinz

The article supports the idea that “weight gain in pregnancy is not an ideal measure of pregnancy health.”  I love this for several reasons.  First, I never think that the scale is a good indicator of anything.  It’s more about how you feel, even when you’re pregnant.  I never got too hung up on numbers during pregnancy because I felt good and I consistently got good reports from my doctor.  I did gain the average thirty pounds during my pregnancy.  I know I “looked small” to some, but it doesn’t matter.  You know what mattered?  That I ate fairly healthy and got a moderate amount of exercise throughout.  That’s what counts!

The study reports that eating healthier and increased physical activity during pregnancy were “directly associated with significant improvements in outcomes for babies.”  They’re not talking about crazy hard workouts either!  It states 15 – 20 minutes of brisk walking most days of the week yields positive benefits.  If you followed my pregnancy journey, then you know that’s what the majority of my workouts entailed!  Occasionally I went swimming or lifted light weights, but from the beginning until the very end, I was walking.

These findings also suggest that healthier choices in terms of eating and exercise resulted in shorter hospital stays, as well.  I know a lot of ladies who have given birth, and most of the ones who practiced healthy habits during their pregnancy had easier labors (if there is such a thing!) and delivered healthy babies.

william first look 1

Disclaimer:  I do recognize that unpredictable complications occur in all types of women, even those who are healthy.  My point is that there is evidence of living a healthy lifestyle throughout pregnancy can (but does not guarantee…. nothing does) help with delivering a healthy baby!

Here is William’s birth story: the before and the during.  I had an absolutely wonderful delivery, and do attribute a lot of it to my healthy choices.  But don’t just take it from me.  I have many other bloggers who are living examples of strong, healthy women and mommas willing to share their stories, tips, and thoughts with you!

Birth Stories:

Fitness During Pregnancy:

Other Pregnancy Topics:

William Jack

photos by Stephanie Cotta Photography

If you are thinking about or trying to get pregnant, or if you are pregnant, I would strongly encourage you to check out the above posts, make [mostly] healthy choices in regards to food, and incorporate some type of activity in your daily life!  YOU CAN DO IT!  There are so many benefits, science proves it, and there’s evidence in all the lovely ladies’ stories!

*I am not a doctor.  Always consult your doctor before making any changes.

Do you consider yourself healthy in terms of food and fitness?  Moms: do you feel like a healthy pregnancy resulted in a healthy birth and a healthy baby? Please share your story!

learning to eat oatmeal

Hello and happy Monday to you!  Today’s post is scenes from the weekend which was centered around baby William learning to eat oatmeal, the messes he made, and the adorable faces throughout.  And a few other snapshots from the weekend thrown in.

This weekend was gorgeous out and we took lots of walks.  It was a little cool, so babywearing plus a new dinosaur hat was perfect.

snuggle sleep babywearing

So snuggly. So comfy.

William tried oatmeal for the first time last Thursday evening.  Our doctor recommended I try to feed him 1-2 times a day for him to practice eating off a spoon.  Among the craziness that mornings before work bring naturally, now get to have fun feeding time, too.  Friday morning we managed to eat oatmeal and get to work on time!


football monkey bib

William couldn’t be happier about it!

So I tried to minimize the mess by having William wear just a bib and pants.  Silly momma.  Those pants got dirty in a heartbeat.  In the evening when I fed him again, we went with only a diaper and I covered the seat where he sits to eat.


hawaii bib

Still messy, but at least there’s less laundry.  William is so funny.  He has learned how to blow raspberries with his mouth, and loves doing it.  He thinks it’s particularly funny to do when I’m trying to feed him oatmeal!  Oatmeal everywhere!  He thinks its funny, too, which I’m glad about since it means he doesn’t hate the oatmeal.

On Saturday I fed him just once since we were out and about a lot.


mommy’s #1 guy bib

Somebody’s becoming a chunky little monkey.  So cute.

Sunday morning came and after nursing William when he woke up, playing, and a short nap, it was time to give oatmeal another shot!


little big guy bib

We went over to my parents’ for Sunday dinner, so of course Audrey had to feed her baby William.  And she did a great job!

aud eating

My parents have those plastic type bibs which was my first time using it.  As you see in the pictures above, I went through a million bibs this weekend, but theirs was awesome because you can just rinse it off and hang it up to dry.  I think I do have a few of those at my house, too; I’ll just need to pull them out, although I am having fun finally using the cute bibs that we do have since we haven’t used them yet.

And I’ll leave you with one final photo: a precious sleeping baby.


For the record, sometimes William likes to fall asleep with that soft puppy dog lovie, but I do take it out of the crib once he actually falls asleep.  Safety first!  But I did have to snap a quick photo before I did take it out since it was just picture perfect!

How was your weekend?

Linking up with Healthy Diva for Marvelous in my Monday!

6 months baby

Yes, I already wrote William’s six month baby update post, but I have more to add with fun photos I wanted to share.  William had his six month doctor appointment earlier this week.

6months doctor

He has gotten SO BIG!

To be exact, 26.5 inches and 16 pounds 8.6 ounces!  From his four-month appointment, he went from the tenth percentile in weight to the twenty-fifth, and the twenty-fifth percentile in height to the fiftieth!  Growing baby!

6months scale

And this was the first time he didn’t cry being placed on the scale.

Yaya came with us, as she always does!

yaya 6months

so.much.love.  so.much.happiness.

William got his six month shots.  He was a champ!  Yes, he screamed right after, but was quickly consoled and seemed fine the rest of the day.


Spiderman bandaid and a big ol’ chunky leg!  I imagine this is only the beginning of superheroes… :)

Last night baby William had his first taste of food!  The doctor gave me the choice between starting oatmeal or rice first, and I chose oatmeal.  He explained that babies get the majority of their nutrition from breastmilk the first year of their life.  By six months, he recommends starting food, so babies learn how to eat off a spoon and swallow food since apparently it’s a different motion than just swallowing milk.

You’re “allowed” to start solids anytime between four and six months, but I felt absolutely no rush.  I love nursing William.  Plus, it’s so easy (now) and convenient.  Nothing to buy, no bottles to wash (except while I’m at work), and you don’t have to worry about heating anything up.  I’m always ready for him and he nurses as he pleases.  It did make me a little sad that we are moving past exclusively breastfeeding, but also incredibly happy that I have a healthy baby boy ready for solids.  On to the next stage!  We started with oatmeal mixed with breastmilk.  Photo evidence:

first time eating oatmeal

He did really well!  He smeared it all over his face and was sucking the extra off his little fingers.  Nom nom nom.  I do plan on making William’s baby food once we move past oatmeal and begin fruits and vegetables.  Any tips or tricks for that? What should I make first?  (I’ve heard peas, sweet potatoes, and squash for vegetables.)

Oh, and his second tooth popped up!  William continues to be the happiest baby ever:

6months smile


I love when he grabs his feet:

6months feet

I love everything about him!  He’s perfect.

Moms: What was your baby’s first food?

30 Recipes for Overnight Oats

Itz the big overnight oats post I was telling you about: 30 Recipes for Overnight Oats.

overnight oats recipes

But first, real quick, let’s talk about overnight oats in case you’re unfamiliar.  What are they? What’s the benefit? Why would you make them? How do you make them?  And what are the possibilities? (Oh, the possibilities are endless, my friends!)

What are overnight oats?  Overnight oats are, essentially, cold oatmeal.  Wait, don’t run away yet.  Itz actually absolutely delicious, there are so many benefits, and a million possibilities.  I promise you that you can find something in here that you like.  Overnight oats are made with oats (shocking!) that have been soaked in some sort of liquid and other add-ins.  And, if you’re weird about the cold oats thing, feel free to pop them in the microwave in the morning to warm ‘em up a bit.

What’s the nutritional benefit of overnight oats?  Oatmeal is a super healthy whole grain.  Itz a great source of fiber and protein; one serving (1/2 cup of uncooked oats) contain 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein.  Fiber and protein both help keep you full longer.  Oatmeal can help lower your cholesterol (your LDL or “bad” cholesterol) when eaten regularly.  Oatmeal may help reduce high blood pressure and may reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. (source)  Oatmeal is all natural and not processed making it a fabulous option for a meal or a snack.

How do you make overnight oats?  This is the beauty of them: you prep them ahead of time, so when it comes to eat, you’re all ready to rock and roll!  Many people make them the night before.  Since I’m the biggest procrastinator ever, often times I will make them the morning of, let them soak for thirty minutes, and then eat them.  Either way works.

So you put all your dry ingredients in a bowl, mix them, and then add your liquid (milk or yogurt).  If I’m eating overnight oats as my breakfast, then I typically use dairy milk so the protein is increased. However, if I’m making them for a snack and don’t need quite the staying power as I do in the morning, then I may use almond milk.  Overnight oats can easily be vegan if you don’t use cow’s milk.  Using Greek yogurt is a fabulous way to increase the protein content, as well, and using any yogurt makes the oats extra creamy!

Using protein powder is yet another way to increase the protein in overnight oats.  Other options for add-ins are granola, fresh, frozen, or dried fruit, or nuts and seeds and their butters.  Feel free to add a touch more of milk in the morning if you prefer them a bit runnier, otherwise enjoy the thickness!


What are the flavor possibilities of overnight oats?  ENDLESS!  I’m going to link to 30 different recipes (many by my wonderful fellow FitFluential Ambassadors!), but if none of them sound appealing to you (yeah right), I encourage you to experiment in the kitchen and come up with your own flavor combination!

30 Recipes for Overnight Oats


What’s your favorite overnight oats recipe?  Which recipe are you going to try?