Monday, March 30, 2015

Easter Traditions for Preschoolers (and their grumpy mamas)

Easter Week is here, and it's a good thing--because I have been super grumpy lately!  I am looking forward to this week of fun, spring, peace, and Jesus.

For a few years now I've wanted to do some simple, spiritual Easter traditions and lessons with Noah, but I just haven't found/made the time.  (Plus I was pregnant and super sick last year, so I get a pass, right?)  There are so many great ideas on the Internet for spiritual Easter fun with kids--I just needed to take an hour to click around and make a plan.

So I did it on Friday.  And the irony wasn't lost on me that I was incredibly crabby with Noah as I was doing it.  (I think Mom may need these lessons about Christ's life much more than Noah.)

I thought I would share my ideas (which are not actually my ideas because I found them all online, mostly here and here) on this blog, so if some mom out there reading this doesn't have an hour to click around on the Internet, she can just take my list and go with it. You can do these activities/discussions in any order, and they don't have to be elaborate.

I want to give this disclaimer, though, about my Easter traditions:

I was going to start on Saturday with a visit to the beautiful grounds of our temple here in Twin Falls and a discussion about how Christ cleansed the temple in Jerusalem and how we can feel close to Christ in the temple--but Saturday was a crazy day and it didn't happen, so I decided we would start on Sunday.

And then yesterday, we were going to walk to church and gather blooming spring branches for an "Easter tree"and come home and find our favorite pictures of Christ online and print and laminate them and hang them on our Easter tree--but that didn't happen either.  You see, I insisted on taking some photos of the kids before we left for church, and this is how that turned out:

And of course because of my (very successful) photo shoot, we cut it too close on time and couldn't walk to church, and when we got home I had to rush to a pharmacy to get some penicillin because, lo and behold, I contracted strep throat AGAIN and all of the pharmacies close early on Sundays, and by the time we'd had dinner, there was no time for Easter tree, so we cleaned up and got the kids to bed and then collapsed in our bed and wasted time surfing Facebook.

So.  All that to say that your Easter traditions don't have to be perfect, so don't stress or get mad at yourself if these activities don't happen according to plan (or happen at all).  This is real life we are talking about.  And real life is messy and busy and unpredictable.

Okay, so here are a few ideas that I plan to make happen this week:

Easter Walk

Tonight for Family Night we are going to start our Easter Week (so help me!) and we will kick it off with an Easter Walk.  (I got this idea here.) You read the clue from the scriptures, and then each child has to run and find an object to match.  If you can't keep the attention span of the little ones long enough to read the actual verse, you can also just tell them about each part of the crucifixion and resurrection story in your own words.  Here are the clues:

Clue 1: Mark 15:17 - Find something pointed and sharp to represent the crown of thorns.

Clue 2: John 19:17-18 - Find something made of wood to represent the cross.

Clue 3: Luke 23:46 - Find something dead to represent the Savior's death.

Clue 4: Luke 23: 44-45 (Bible), 3 Nephi 8:23 (Book of Mormon) - Find something dark to represent the darkness in Jerusalem and in America.

Clue 5: Mark 15:46 - Find something hard and round to represent the stone placed in front of the tomb.

Clue 6: Matthew 28:5-6 - Find something alive to represent that Jesus Christ is alive again.

Washing Feet

One day this week, we will talk about how Christ's whole life was about service, and we will watch the ten-minute portion of this video that beautifully depicts a lot of his miracles.  And then we will wash each other's feet in a soapy basin, like Christ washed his disciples feet at the Last Supper.

Dying Eggs and Visiting a Cemetery 

One day we will dye eggs (original, right?) and discuss eggs as a symbol of new life and discuss the resurrection.  We will watch a video depiction of the crucifixion and resurrection.  I haven't decided which video yet, but when I do, I will come back and post the link here if you are interested.

If the weather is cooperating, and if it's not already 8:00 p.m., and if I'm not on the verge of collapse after a day with the littles, we might make a visit to a cemetery and talk about how the grave has no power over us because of what Christ did for us.  If we were living in Colorado, I would totally take the kids to the cemetery where my mom is buried to have this discussion.  And if we were living in Buffalo, I would totally do an Easter egg hunt in Forest Lawn Cemetery--which may sound morbid, but honestly you have not lived until you have walked the grounds of this insanely spectacular cemetery.

Garden of Gethsemane

One day we will talk about the Atonement and watch a video depiction of  the Garden of Gethsemane.  (Again, will post link later.) We will talk about what it means to repent and how Christ made that possible.  If the weather is good, we may go have this discussion in a grove of trees or something.  As you can see, our traditions are not very formal or well-planned around here.

Last Supper

One night we will have a very simple version of the "Last Supper."  (Maybe Thursday night since that is when it happened during the first Holy Week?)  We will have pitas, cheese, and grape juice--maybe some lentil soup because I actually have some frozen.  (Score!)   We will talk about how Christ instituted the Sacrament and what the bread and wine (or for us Mormons, water) represent.  We will talk about how we can be more reverent during the Sacrament each week at church, as we remember Jesus and what He has done for us.

Easter Vigils: Lanterns, Luminaries, Sky lanterns

Saturday night, we will have some sort of "Easter Vigil" on Easter Eve.  We might make these darling Easter lanterns, but I don't think our tree is sturdy enough to hold them, so maybe we will just use the luminaries we have left over from Christmas or even the sky lanterns!  That would be awesome if it's not windy.  We will discuss how Christ is the Light of the World, and we will go to bed with our lanterns burning bright, waiting for Easter morning to come.

Easter Day Fun

Sunday morning we will wake to some awesome religious music like the Hallelujah chorus and special Easter hymns.  We will have a yummy breakfast (maybe this ah-mazing coffee cake with fruit and hardboiled eggs?), and then we will watch our church's annual General Conference. It will have some beautiful, inspiring sermons, if anyone is interested!   (General Conference is the first Sunday of October and the first Sunday of April--it just so happens to be Easter weekend this year.)

We may have some simple symbolic foods with our Easter dinner.  I'm not going to do a full-out Seder dinner like this post recommends, but I may pull a few of the ideas from it and use it.

Who knows what else this week will hold!  I will try to make it special for our family.  And if all havoc breaks loose and it's not as peaceful as I'm imagining, I will not get crabby with my children.  And if I do get crabby with my children, I will repent and think about Jesus.

Happy Easter Week, Friends!  I hope you have some special moments with your families!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Motherhood. It's something.

Last night was one of those nights.  You know what I mean, mamas.

I am recovering from the stomach flu, so I meant to go to bed early—but, I’m recovering from the stomach flu, so I need to get caught up on the life stuff that I completely neglected for several days while I lay on the couch and watched Noah and Sally tear our house apart.

So I didn’t get to bed as early as I’d hoped, and then I lay there with my mind racing for a while, and of course within what seemed like minutes of drifting off, I woke with a start to Noah shrieking my name.  And when I say shrieking, I mean ear-splitting, world-ending, he-must-be-dying screaming.

Certain that he had probably caught my bug and was vomiting his guts out as I had been a few night before, I raced to his room and pulled him into my arms. 

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that, no, he was not throwing up: his maniacal screams were due to…are you ready for this?…a stuffy nose. 

Yes, a stuffy nose. 

I just—yeah I’m not sure what to say here.

Don’t get me wrong.  I know stuffy noses are uncomfortable.  And I know that three-year-olds aren’t used to discomfort and don’t like such sensations.  But stuffy noses don’t generally cause death, and they aren’t usually cause for ballistic wailing at 2 a.m., so even as I tried so hard to be loving and patient, I will admit that I was annoyed.

I offered him a Kleenix.  I rubbed his back and offered to sing him a song.  I assured him that everything would be okay and asked if going to the potty and getting a drink of water would help.  When he continued to wail and flop around like a suffering fish, I realized that he wasn’t even hearing me—that he could not be reasoned with at the moment—and I just had to leave.  I gave him a kiss and told him I hoped he felt better soon and I would see him in the morning.  And then I left.

Maybe this wasn’t the “nurturing mom” thing to do.  Maybe I should’ve gotten in bed with him and endured his shrieking and just been there for him until he calmed down.  But this kid’s emotions are always 0 to 60 in an second, always insanely intense, and I do a pretty good job of being patient during the day and even most nights (he’s been waking up and wailing in the night a lot lately)—but last night, I just couldn’t do it.

So I left, and then I lay in my bed and listened to him howling for another thirty minutes.  Of course I couldn’t sleep as I lay there and wondered if I am ruining my child. 

Am I too soft? Am I babying him too much? Is that why he has these fits--because I put up with it?

Am I too hard? Should I be more compassionate?  Is that why he has these fits--because he is having a hard time and I am not giving him the attention that he needs right now?

Should I just let him have a good rage and settle back to sleep on his own, or does he feel scared and abandoned and need me right now? If I go back in there, will it just reinforce that he can wake me up on a whim any time he wants in the night?  If I don't go back in there, will he feel like my love has been withdrawn in a time when he is confused and struggling and needs me the most?  

As usual, the answers weren’t clear, so I just followed my heart, and once his shrieking had calmed to a whimper, I went back in and hugged him and told him I will always be here for him—but sometimes mommys need sleep too, and sometimes noses just get stuffy and there’s nothing we can do about it, and I wish I had a magic wand to make his snot go away but I just don’t, and when he wakes up in the night, can he try to take care of whatever it is without waking mommy unless it's a *real emergency* because it’s really hard to take care of him and Sister when I am exhausted the next day?

He seemed to understand, and after I snuggled with him for a few minutes, he willingly let me leave and told me he would see me when his light turned green in the morning.

So that ended semi-well, but the night’s adventures weren’t over yet.  I will spare you all of the gory details (I really didn’t mean to give you so many about the stuffy nose incident--apparently I needed to get that off my chest?), but suffice it to say that Sally has a terrible cough and couldn’t sleep without being held, so Ryan and I took shifts with her, and her hacking often leads to throwing up, and the night ended with me covered in spit-up with a crick in my neck from “sleeping” in the rocking chair with a sick baby on my chest. 

Not the best night of sleep I’ve had in a while. Which is fine.  A few poor nights of sleep never hurt anyone.  I'm not writing this to complain--I don't even know why I am writing it, other than that it seems to be a pretty revealing snapshot of motherhood, and I want to remember it.  

I also want to remember that most of the time, I had no idea what I was doing in this midst of this mothering gig.  But I always tried my best.  I really did.  

And this morning, after the night from hell, Noah came wandering into Sister's room to find me with the baby asleep on my chest, and the minute she heard his voice (informing me that he had wet the bed, of course, because, well duh that would happen after a night like we had!), she woke up and grinned like she wasn't sick at all, because she adores her wild brother more than anyone on the planet.  And then Noah asked if he could snuggle with us and he climbed up into the chair, wet pants at all, and I just held them both, feeling inexplicably peaceful and completely bewildered by this experience that I'm having.   

Sunday, March 8, 2015

The Tale of our Minivan

It all started when I noticed that Ryan was spending hours online looking at minivans.  My husband is not exactly one to take tons of initiative in researching things, particularly something as matronly as a minivan, so I knew that he must be seriously tired of squeezing his skinny bum between the kids' carseats on road trips.  (See photo here.)

Recognizing that this was my chance to get the car of my dreams, I jumped in and helped with the research.  We recruited the advice of knowledgable friends who have sold used cars, we checked the listings every day, we contacted people and haggled prices...lots of invested time, lots of back-and-forth...and then, one night, we saw it come up on Craigslist: a beautiful 2012 Honda Odyssey in Bountiful, Utah--with an amazing price and all the features we wanted!  Bingo!

The next morning, I called the seller, asked for more details, and told him I would be on the road in an hour.  I dropped my kids at a friend's house, rented a car, and headed to Utah.  It was all rather a whirlwind, and while I was making the long drive, I thought, "This van better be as good as it looks online!"

Well, it was.  It is.  It's amazing.  And now it's ours!  Never has a man been happier to own a minivan!

Of course nothing can be as easy as seeing a listing, getting in your car the next morning, and driving to get a perfect and perfectly priced minivan.  Oh no, not in Rachel Nielson's world.

It's possible that as I was driving the minivan home, in the death-stretch between Snowville, UT and Burley, ID, I ran out of gas on the highway, at 10:30 pm, in the pitch black nothingness, in the middle of nowhere.

Who does that???

I called roadside assistance, and they contacted a service station in Snowville, and a friendly old man came and brought me some gas.  He asked me how many miles the van gets to the gallon, and I said, "Um, well, I'm not really sure.  I literally bought it two hours ago."

Hahahahaha!  I am a ridiculous human being!!!!  But in my defense, I wasn't expecting to buy a car with an empty gas tank, and I didn't know that the "gas empty" meter or whatever it's called would be a TINY little light on the bottom right of the dashboard.  Sheesh!  (Okay, and I'm a moron.  I will freely admit that, but COME ON.)

To make the story even better, two days after getting our new beauty home, an old lady backed into me at the post office and dented the driver door.  Ding #1 taken care of!  I guess that's why it's best to buy cars used--particularly when you're Rachel Nielson.

The good news is, we love it.  So much room, so easy to drive, so many convenient features.  Noah was so excited about it when we first got it that he literally told everyone about his "new minivan with magic doors that open by themselves!"  He also woke his baby sister up that first morning by climbing into her crib and whispering, "Sister, sister!  Wake up!  I have to show you our new minivan!"  Normally I would freak out about him waking the baby, but when I heard him over the monitor telling her about the van, how could I be mad?  We were all just giddy about the new addition to our family.  You'd think we had won a Porsche by how we were acting.

So we are a minivan family now and couldn't be happier about it.  Best purchase we've made in our ten years of marriage--and with some stories to tell about it as well.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Snapshot of Us

About a month ago, I decided it was high-time that we got Little Sister represented on the blog header and sidebar.  (You know, only took me six months to do that...)

Still trying to get the clarity and sizing right on the header (that will probably take me another six months), but here is the image, designed by my awesome friend Tia, and I love it.  And if anyone has any advice on how to get the sizing right so it fills the length of the computer screen, let me know.

Those of you who read the blog on a phone won't ever see the sidebar, so I thought I would post our current "autobio poems" here (plus that way they will be saved in my blog books for posterity as well--I should've been doing this all along).


Lover of squishes from Mama, snuggles from Daddy, and tickles from Brother
Who feels content and smiley first thing in the morning
Who needs shoes that will actually stay on her wiggly feet
Who gives mega-watt grins that melt the heart
Who fears the raucous (but affectionate) smothering of her older brother
Who would like to see her aunties and grandparents more often
Resident of a comfy one-story home where she is the queen


Lover of the Polar Express, all things sugar, and his "Baby Sister"
Who feels ecstatic when "chuffing" one of his beloved trains around the house
Who needs explanations for everything, big and small
Who gives strangers a reason to smile with his friendly chatter
Who fears "spooky" shadows, scary scenes in movies, and toilets that flush by themselves
Who would like to see a friend come over to play every single day 
Resident of a house covered in photos of him and his sister


Lover of conversations with a kindred, homemade chocolate chip cookies, and Idaho sunsets
Who feels overwhelmingly happy when nibbling on one of her delicious children
Who needs daily quiet-time to think
Who fears losing someone else whom she loves
Who gives care packages to her friends and love letters to her kids and Ryan
Who would like to see more openness, compassion, and individuality in the world
Resident of a little house with cute daisy bushes in front


Lover of ice cream, the night sky, and dance parties with his happy kids
Who feels glorious at the peak of an Idaho mountain
Who needs alone time to just look at the ceiling when he gets home from work
Who gives froyo gift certificates and sugar-free suckers to his dental patients
Who fears talking on the phone and settling for less than his potential
Who would like to see family cartrips in a minivan to explore the West
Resident of Twin Falls, ID

Love my little family!  Love my life, even when it is hard.  I've been getting some good emails with advice on feeling "burned out" lately as a stay-at-home mom, and I am feeling much better this week.  Maybe I will compile some of the advice I've received and post it here soon.

And speaking of the kids, I love my new photo with them.  When I was updating the sidebar, I realized that I didn't have a single photo with me and both of my kids.  Horrible, right??  So on the spot, Ryan snapped a few with my iPhone, and I am amazed that we got a good one.  So happy to now have my blue-eyed cuties captured at this stage forever.

Life is good.  Have a great week, everyone!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Our Princess Menace

Who me?  A Menace?
My Sally Grace is seven months old.  Each month brings new milestones and changes in her temperament.  It is truly mind-blowing how quickly this baby girl is growing and changing!

Valentine's outfit for church
She loves being on her belly.  From the time she was about five months old, she would flip onto her stomach immediately any time we set her down on the ground.  I sometimes called this “stomach surfing” because she would often lift her head erect and put her arms behind her in a yoga pose. She could hold it for a surprisingly long time! She also flipped onto her stomach in her crib at night, and she is now a committed stomach sleeper.  Snoogie woogie.

Because she loves being on her stomach so much, she crawled earlier than Noah did (he absolutely hated tummy time), but she doesn’t sit up nearly as solidly as he did at her age (he was sitting up by 4.5 months, and I feel like she is still wobbly when she sits).  She has become a professional army-crawler in the past several weeks and can literally get anywhere in the house—and quickly too.  She even climbed up onto the fireplace step today.  I can’t keep up with her!

What, Mom?  No big deal.
She is a complete wiggle-worm. Everyone who holds her or watches her for a few minutes comments on this.  She puts everything in her mouth, grabs at anything within reach, finds all sorts of mischief, pulls my earrings out, throws my glasses, knocks plates off the table, and twists and wriggles to get free if you try to hold her still.  I am truly astonished by how “busy” she is—so much so that I looked back in my blog archives to see if Noah was this way when he was her age.  Maybe all babies are this busy and I have just forgotten?  Nope—she’s in a league of her own.  She has earned the nickname “Menace” lately because she truly gets into everything.

She eats solid foods but isn’t too interested in them yet. With Noah, I was so excited for each new stage and introduced solids right around four months, but I was too lazy with her and realized that there was no need to rush it.  We started her on rice cereal around six months, and we try to give her a solid once a day during a family meal, but she’s only interested in a few bites.  She’ll try anything we give her, but she doesn’t seem to have any standout favorites yet.  

I think she was excited, don't you?
Such a peanut in her big high chair
First bites...
Well, now that I think about it, she does have some favorite foods, actually: paper, shoes, computer cords, trash cans, and plastic sacks.  You know, all the things she shouldn’t suck on but makes a beeline for when I set her on the ground.  And of course she has zero interest in toys and teethers.  Good grief.  Oh...and don't forget that her big brother Noah fed her a Fun Dip one day while I was in the shower.  Yes, pure blue sugar in sour apple flavor.  Awesome! 

Eating my to-do list
I didn't eat a Fun Dip...I have no idea what you're talking about.
Sally’s nap schedule is…inconsistent.  For a while there, she was taking long naps twice a day, and I started to think I had a “textbook” baby—one of those magical few who actually follow the schedule that the baby books say they will.  Alas, that phase was short-lived, and she now prefers 30-40 minute naps three times a day.  The short naps are driving me bonkers.  I get her down, and then I go and help Noah with whatever he needs, and then she is up again.  Seriously, can a mama rest for five minutes??  Believe me, I know all about sleep schedules and techniques/strategies for helping babies consolidate and get into a rhythm (I read every book I could about it when Noah was so hard as a baby), and I’ve tried it all with her too—it doesn’t make much of a difference.  I’m starting to think those baby books are a hoax.

Fortunately, her night-time sleep is much more predictable.  After getting over an eight-week long cold (more on that in a minute), she recently started sleeping through the night—often going from about 7:30 p.m. to about 5:30 a.m.  I’d actually love for her to wake up and eat once before I go to bed at midnight so she could sleep all the way until 7:00 a.m., but “dream feeding” her before I go to bed only seems to make her wake up more often in the night, so 5:30 a.m. wake-up time it is!  And hey, she goes back to sleep until 7:00ish, so, really, I can’t complain.

I love seeing this face first thing in the morning!
Speaking of her never-ending cold, Sally seems to have a pretty crummy immune system and has been sick a lot this winter.  I wish I could have nursed her longer so maybe she could have gotten some of the health benefits.  I was only able to nurse her for about six weeks because I just never made much milk—a common problem for women with my fertility issues—and she wasn’t growing or thriving, so we had to switch to formula.  I felt so sad and guilty giving up breastfeeding, but now I can see that it’s no big deal.  It’s more important that she is getting enough to eat.  She was14 lbs 8 oz at her last appointment—still a little small for her age, still wearing clothes a size down, but healthy and growing. 

Absurd fleece vest for our first big snow day
And ridiculous baby ball gown courtesy of her Aunt Sarah, of course...
I have a bit too much fun dressing up this baby girl!
Despite how the photos look, Sally isn’t nearly as content as she used to be.  She is still a really good baby, but she’s usually not willing to sit in her bouncer or high chair for very long anymore because she doesn’t like to be contained; and when I put her on the ground, she army-crawls after me and whines and fusses pathetically until I pick her up.  I’m not sure what that’s about, and I keep waiting for a tooth to pop through or something, but none have.  Maybe she just really likes her mama—and honestly who can blame her? ;)  When she was younger, her needs were so easy to decipher.  If she got fussy, she needed to sleep or eat.  Now, I’m somewhat at a loss for how to help her when she’s grumpy, but she likes being carried around on my hip so we do a lot of that.  She also likes to be outside and out-and-about, so we try to do as much of that as we can as well (though seriously, sometimes I just need to make dinner!).

She loves swimming with the family.
She loves being outdoors.
Life has become quite busy and chaotic these past two months as Sally has gotten more demanding—but I love seeing her little personality emerge.  She grins at everyone and everything, and she laughs when you tickle her belly or pretend to gnaw on her hand while you are feeding her. Though she is not willing to be snuggled during the day (too busy!), she is so comfy to snuggle when I am feeding or rocking her at night.  It is pretty much heaven.

She is the joy of our lives, and we all adore her!  Noah even calls her “The Princess” on occasion, and it makes me laugh every time.  She really is our Princess Menace.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Burned Out

I have so much to catch up with this blog--so many happy, fun things.  But today I feel like sharing some of my heart, and not just the pretty parts.

I feel burned out.  I have no idea why.  I have two great kids and a loving husband.  I get breaks more often than is probably fair: I've been on several fun weekend trips these past few months, including one without my kids.  (I mean, honestly, kid-free in San Diego, California with my sisters!  Does it get any more relaxing??)  My dad also just came to visit us for a long weekend, and we had a great time with him at the family cabin in Sun Valley.

And yet between these highlights, and sometimes even in the midst of them, I just feel foggy and tired and overwhelmed.  And then I feel selfish for feeling that way.  And wimpy.

But I just can't keep up.  I can't keep up with the mess--with my children--with the laundry, grocery shopping, meal-planning, kitchen-cleaning--with the whining, fussing, teething, ear-infection-ing--with the bedtime routines when I am way past exhausted.

Honestly, I don't love being a stay-at-home mom, and yet I don't want to be away from the kids either.  I love my children more than anything in the world, yet I am sometimes so tired of taking care of their every need.  Sometimes life just feels like Groundhog's Day--like each day is the same, and I am on a hamster wheel, and I just don't know what to do to snap out of this funk I am in.

I am naturally a solver, so when I confront a problem like this, I always try to think of a way to solve it.  What would help?  A long talk with my sisters?  A girls' night out?  A more consistent scripture study routine?  A session with a counselor?  A date night with Ryan?  An increase in my anxiety medication (only partially kidding)?  A part-time job?  A good night's sleep?  A cleaning lady?  An attitude adjustment?...

Time?  Is that the key--just giving it time and waiting for this moment (or week or month) of discouragement and frustration to pass?

I've written before about some of my unexplained health issues, and though I don't mention it often or like to dwell on it, some of those health problems persist.  Not to the point that I am debilitated, but sometimes I just feel like maybe my body or my hormones have something to do with this fogginess and discouragement that I feel.

And maybe this is just motherhood, particularly with little ones.  Maybe this is just the stage of life that I am in.

Do any of you have advice?  Have you ever felt this way?  What have you done to make your days with little ones more meaningful?  What have you done to manage the mess and the housekeeping?  What have you done to find peace and joy in the midst of whining and fussing?

I have a beautiful life, and though I don't expect to feel joyful every moment of every day, I want to feel more joy than I have been feeling lately.  I would love some ideas and suggestions.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Love Letter to a Little Cherub

Baby Girl,

I peeked into your crib this morning as I got ready to leave for my early-morning flight to San Diego.  You were curled up on your tummy, your sweet little bum in the air, your chest rising and falling with your steady breaths. 

And then the smell of you—that perfect baby smell of you—wafted up, catching me off guard, making my heart seize at the thought of leaving you. 

You are a treasure.  A squishy, blue-eyed, army-crawling treasure.  You scoot your way along the carpet, a little inch worm intent on reaching whatever it is that has caught your attention—a package of wipes, a sheet of paper from the printer, a cord from the computer charger.  It was just this week that you really started getting around—you are suddenly into everything, and you want everything in your mouth.  Let the baby-proofing begin!

The other day, I laid you down on the floor in my bedroom for a moment, then ran back into the kitchen to do something, and when I came back you were gone.  I could hear you, but I couldn’t see you—until I got down on my hands and knees and peered under the bed. 

There you were, big blue eyes staring back at me, a grin spreading across your face as soon as our eyes met.

“What are you doing under there, Baby Girl?” I asked laughing, delighted and shocked by your new mobility.

You rolled your way to the other side of the bed, content as you could be in your newfound cave, and when you got close to the other side, I grabbed your roly-poly little leg and pulled you out, tickling your belly and making you laugh.

You make me feel so loved.  The way your face lights up when I come to get you out of your crib in the morning, the way you crane your neck to find me whenever you are in someone else’s arms.

I love when I feed you bottles and you look at my face so intently, reaching up to touch my hair or my cheek or to tug on my glasses.  The other night, you pulled my glasses down to the tip of my nose as you were drinking, and I peered over them and said, “Well hello there.”  You giggled appreciatively, and the milk in your mouth spilled down your chin and onto my shirt. A messy, perfect moment.

And when you were finished, I put you up against my shoulder and gently burped you, as I always do. It’s the one time of day that you are willing to be quietly snuggled, and you nuzzled your head into the crook of my neck and relaxed, your tiny body melting into my chest, heavy and warm.  As you drifted off to sleep, I rocked and rocked and breathed you in and out, in and out—our hearts beating together, my heart full to the brim with gratitude for you.

You were so worth it.  Worth every uncomfortable fertility treatment, every shot, every hormone-induced breakdown—worth every moment of nine-months of nausea, every tearful morning in the recliner with a trashcan in my lap. 

You, my precious daughter, are a miracle.  And each day as I search your face—your dimpled chin, your rosy cheeks, your pink cherub lips, your crazy cowlicked hairline—I am reminded again of God’s tender mercies.  Again and again and again—every day of your life, I will be reminded.

I am grateful beyond words to be your mother.  Just when I didn’t know if my heart could hold more love for my family, you came along and showed me that it could.

On this Valentine’s Day morning, as I am minutes away from boarding a plane that will take me far away from you, it seems only appropriate to share one of my favorite poems.  These sweet words express how I feel about you, my little love, and how I will be feeling these next few days without you:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

i fear
no fate (for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

I will love you forever and ever and always, Sally Grace.


Your Mama