Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Pictures of my Heart

When Sally was two weeks old, we packed up the family and drove two hours to Pocatello to get some photos taken by the amazing Allie White of AK Photographie.  I had seen her work before and loved it, and since I didn't know any photographers in Twin Falls, I thought we might as well go and have her do a family/newborn session with us.  But on the morning of our shoot, I remember thinking, "This is crazy!  I am still hobbling around as a result of labor trauma, I am so fatigued from getting up in the night, and the baby and I are big-time struggling with breastfeeding.  What am I doing trying to get the family cute and photo-ready, just to drive several hours for a long and tiring photo session??!!" I silently vowed that I wouldn't do something so silly in the future, if we ever have another baby.

Well Allie made it all worth it.  She made the session so fun and low-stress.  She was a miracle worker with Noah, somehow getting him to calm down and cooperate for some amazingly sweet photos with his baby sister.  Honestly, I love all of the photos that she took and am having a very hard time narrowing them down for framing (and for sharing on this blog!).  I feel like she captured my heart through the lens of her camera--all of the love, joy, and adoration that we feel for our tiny Sally Grace.







Sally is every bit as sweet and angelic as these photos make her seem.  A friend of mine recently called her a "magical baby," and that description fits pretty perfectly.  She rarely cries, she sleeps long stretches at night, she takes great naps, she loves to snuggle and be held, and yet she also sits contentedly in her swing while I clean or work on projects.  I sort of hate to admit all of this publicly for two reasons: 1. I fear that I will somehow jinx myself and she will suddenly become a screamer, and 2. I fear that someone reading this blog who has a colicky baby will come away feeling very defeated.  Oh colic is sooooo hard.  And when I was going through it with Noah, I was so jealous of moms who had "easy" babies.  (If you have a colicky or fussy baby, email or call me, and I will let you vent/cry/curse all you want, and then I will send you a care package of brownie mixes because that's the only way I got through it!)

Having a hard baby first was a blessing, though.  It forced me to read and research and pray and soul-search, and what I learned about sleep schedules, swaddling, letting go of control, sacrifice, love, and ultimately myself has benefited me so much this second time around, even with a content baby.  I am a better mother and person because I had a colicky baby.  Silver lining, right?

I love my children so much--and I think it will be obvious why as you look through these photos.  I love my Noah's spunk and my Sally's sweetness.  It will be interesting to see how their temperaments change and/or stay the same as they grow older.  They are both magical--and such a gift.






And now for a few more of my favorites from the session.  It was so hard to narrow it down even this much (and this is an overload)!  Please give feedback if there are any that you particularly love.  Needless to say, if we ever have another baby, we will be making a hectic but worth-it trip to Pocatello for photos!











Friday, September 12, 2014

Noah is Three!


Noah turned three on August 1st, and he is getting so big.  I swear, he has aged ten years since the baby was born.  It makes me nostalgic, and I sometimes have a hard time falling asleep when I think about it (I blame postpartum hormones for that).  The other night, we were out for a family walk delivering thank-you notes for baby gifts, and Noah was riding ahead of me and Ryan on his little tricycle (which he is obsessed with and frankly looks too small for him these days).  As I watched him swerving into and out of each driveway saying, "Speedy delivery!  Nope, not this house!" (he has a constant dialogue going with himself at all times--he literally never stops talking), I had the thought, "These moments are so precious."  Sometimes motherhood really, really wears me out, and being home all day with little ones can feel quite mind-numbing at times; but even though some days are long, the years fly by.  I try to remember that when I am in the midst of a tough mothering moment.

Noah and his beloved tricycle
Noah's birthday was pretty low-key due to the arrival of Baby Sally less than two weeks earlier.  On the big day, my dad took him for an early morning walk so I could sleep in, and then I took him for a Mommy-Noah date to get doughnuts for breakfast.  He opened a few gifts throughout the day and enjoyed playing with new toys and games.  That night, we had brownies and ice cream in the backyard and popped our leftover 4th of July streamers.  His cake certainly was not a masterpiece like previous years when I had the help of my mother-in-law and his birthmom, but he was happy enough with a boxed brownie mix.  The next day, we went to a bounce-house place with a couple of his little friends, Stella and Eliza.  He had a great time throwing himself down the big inflatable slides.  All in all, I'd say his birthday was a success.

Cool dude, out for a walk with Bapa
Idaho Boy
My dad had no idea these photos were artsy when he was taking them.
During his birthday "interview" on our doughnut date
Loving the attention
Cute friends
So what is our Noah Boy like at age three?  


He is outgoing and talkative.  Noah loves people, and he is always excited and eager when someone rings the doorbell.  One day, I opened the door to a salesman on the front porch.  He introduced himself and said he was from Big Dog Satellite.  "I'm sure you've heard of Big Dog before," he said confidently.  I shook my head, "Umm, no."  He looked a little shocked.  "You haven't heard of Big Dog?"  (I guess they are a well-known company in this area.)  Noah, who was of course right by my side and listening to every word of this conversation, suddenly piped in, "No, but we do have a little dog!  His name is Daryl, and he sleeps with me at night.  But he's not a real dog--he's a stuffed animal."  I don't think the salesman knew quite how to respond to this precocious little toddler, so he continued with his spiel, saying I could get a great deal on satellite TV through their company.  "Well, actually, we don't have a TV," I said, shocking the salesman yet again.  "You don't have a TV?!" he asked in disbelief.  To this question, Noah confidently responded, "No, we don't.  But we do have an iPad!  I like to use it to watch PBS kids!" :)  I love that Noah will tell anyone his life story.  

Noah is dramatic.  He uses exaggerated hand motions, vocal inflections, and facial expressions when he tells stories or makes declarations throughout the day.  "Mom, we are all out of peanut butter!!" he will exclaim, aghast after a visit to the pantry, with his eyes wide, his mouth open, and his hands held up in surprise and horror.  I am not the only audience member who is privy to these dramatic scenes. Take a recent trip to the grocery store, for example.  Whenever we go to the store, Noah picks out a mylar balloon to carry around.  I never actually buy these balloons--we return them to their spot before we leave--but they keep him happy and occupied while we are shopping.  Well one day not too long ago, the green balloon that Noah was carrying got sucked up to the vents on the ceiling, and Noah was beside himself with grief.  He told every worker that he saw some version of this sob story: "I had a green balloon that I had loved all my life" (never mind that he had only had the balloon for five minutes) "and he got sucked up to the ceiling, and I really miss him!"  He ended this tragic tale by hanging his head and frowning pathetically.  All of the workers thought he was so cute that they gave him all sorts of free stuff to make him feel better--a cookie from the bakery, a dum-dum sucker, a sticker.  One lady even went and got a pole to rescue the balloon, and she paid for it herself so Noah could take it home.  This kid sure knows how to work his magic.  He's generally not using his drama to manipulate on purpose (he has no idea how cute and funny he is), though it does happen on occasion.  I recently left him sitting at the dinner table because I am so fed up with his pickiness, telling him that he had to eat one bite of his chicken before he could be excused, and after shrieking loudly about this injustice for quite some time, he started wailing, "You're making your little boy cry, Mom!  Don't make your precious boy cry!"  I tried not to laugh, but it was impossible.  Oh man, he kills me.  

Noah is stubborn and independent.  As I mentioned in a previous blog post, I attempted to potty train Noah several times in the past six months, and though he definitely knew how to use the potty after a few days of training, he flat out refused to do it on command.  He hated when I would interrupt his playing and sit him on the potty, and when I told him that he had to use the bathroom at specified times, such as before we left the house, World War III ensued.  Realizing that I was fighting a losing battle--I could force him to stay in the bathroom, but I couldn't force him to empty his bladder--I decided to give it up and allow him to do it on his own timetable.  I tried to totally remove all pressure from the potty experience and not mention it, force it, or act like it was a big deal to me when I was changing his gross diapers (it was! seriously, three years of messy diapers is too long!).  I started to doubt my tactics when he turned three and was still showing no interest in the potty, but sure enough, a week or two after his third birthday, he informed me that he was a "big boy" and "big boys wear underwear."  He has had almost no accidents since.  When he needs to go potty, he goes into the bathroom and takes care of it all by himself--I don't have to do a thing.  He even wears underwear at night and stays dry.  I am amazed.  I've learned that the more I try to force Noah to do something, the more he resists.  I think this is a good lesson to learn when he is young, so I can carefully pick my battles when he is older and the stakes are higher. 

Noah is persistent.  Going along with being stubborn, once Noah gets an idea in his head, it is nearly impossible to get it out.  If I ever tell him "no," he makes the same request over and over 3,000 times, thinking that my answer might change if he asks it a slightly different way or offers an even better rationale.  Sometimes when he assumes my answer might be "no," he asks a question and then immediately answers for me before I have a chance to: "Mom, can I have ice cream for breakfast?  Oh that's a good idea!  That could be great!" He started climbing trees this summer, and while I am all for little kids climbing trees, it almost gave me a heart attack when I turned my back at the park recently and he scaled halfway to the top of a 50-foot pine tree.  You probably think I am exaggerating, but I'm not.  Now when I tell him that he's not allowed to climb that tree, he says, "But I promise I won't fall, Mom!"  I've tried to explain to him that most people don't try to fall out of trees so his oath to remain safe doesn't really reassure me. :)  He is always making promises like that to me, and he can be surprisingly convincing for a three-year-old.  He recently promised me that he wouldn't spill chocolate milk on his floor, so, like a dope, I let him take a cup into his room.  Within three minutes, we had a nice new stain on our carpet.  How does he convince a grown woman that things like this are a good idea??  It's ridiculous!

Noah is smart.  He has invented a clever word that means "in the recent past."  When he knows that something occurred within the last week or so, but he's pretty sure it wasn't yesterday, he will say "lasterday" instead.  I think this word is super awesome and I am going to start using it myself. :)  In addition to making up cool words, he remembers every word he ever hears.  For example, lasterday he says to me out of the blue, "Remember when we went canoeing and that lady on the paddle board was not wearing her life vest?"  Amazed that he would randomly think back to an incident three months earlier and remember the details with such precision, I replied, "Yes."  He sighed and said, "That was a long time ago.  That's when Baby Sister was still in the womb."  The womb????  I could not believe that he knows that word and used it correctly.  This kid astonishes me daily with the words he uses and the concepts he understands (the other day he asked me why I was being so "aggressive" when I was kissing him and tickling him forcefully).  I swear, if he hears a word used once, he adds it to his active vocabulary.  Makes my English-teacher-heart happy.

Noah is curious.  He starts many of his sentences, "Mom, I was wonder-ling..." and then launches into a question or a request.  For the past six months, his favorite question has been "Why?" and he asks it about 45,000 times a day.  Often when I read him bedtime stories, he asks, "Why?" at the end of every page, so we have a little discussion about each situation or the emotions of each character or whatever.  It can be exhausting, but I'm glad he is so interested in the world.  When we go out for walks, he asks me about everything he sees, and it makes our little outings really fun.  His curiosity can also get him into trouble, such as when he asks me things like, "Mom, why is your bum so wobbly?"  Thanks a lot, Kid!

Noah is delightful.  He makes people smile.  When we were delivering those thank-you notes recently, I noticed that everyone who came to the door lit up when they saw Noah standing there.  He really is so much fun.  He talks to anyone and everyone; he says hilarious things; he is cheerful and full of chatter; he carries on earnest conversations; he loves learning, people, and life.  He is truly a delight, and I have at least one moment every day when I look at him and feel that familiar swell of awe and gratitude.  He is certainly a handful, and sometimes his stubbornness drives me absolutely bonkers, but I would not trade a single day of the last three years.  Even the exhausting, discouraging, frustrating days were days spent as Noah's mother--what a privilege.

I love you, my little big boy, and I love witnessing who you are and who you are becoming. 

Happy Third Birthday, Noah! 

"Cheese!"
Family scripture study before bed
(we did this about three times)
Lovin' his shades at Shoshone Falls
What, Mom?  It's totally normal for a three-year-old to be glued to a documentary about the English translation of the Bible on a Sunday morning. ;)
Baking with Noah...always an adventure
"Tallest tower in the world!"
(And I'm sorry--doesn't he look 15 in this picture???  Too big!)
Thrilled that he has some caps to stack, like the peddler in the story
Riding his plasma car (a birthday gift from Grandma and Grandpa) with Daddy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Snapshots of Seven Weeks with Sal

Baby Sally is seven weeks old, and we love her!  For the first month, I allowed life to pretty much stand still as I recovered from pregnancy and we all got to know our little Sally Girl.  As difficult as those first few weeks postpartum were in some ways, they were also so peaceful and blissful in others: I did not cook, clean, work on projects, or, in all honesty, shower or get out of my sweatpants very often. :)  Pretty much all I did was snuggle my baby, take naps with her, read Noah books, go for slow and short walks, and enjoy my family.  It's not very often that life "pauses" like that, and it felt sacred.

We were so lucky to have my mother-in-law, my dad, and my sisters all come to help us over the course of that first month, and it was simply amazing to have them here.  Perhaps I will eventually write more about the struggles that I faced those first few weeks postpartum (most notably lots of anxiety as my hormones leveled out and difficulty breastfeeding as my fertility problems prevented me from getting a full milk supply); but for now, suffice it to say that I could not have made it through those first few weeks without the help and support of our family.  I am so grateful to them--words really can't express it.

After that first month, normal life started to resume somewhat, and we are slowly getting back into the swing of things.  It feels good.  Sally has made things easy on me--she is a very sweet and content baby and has honestly been the easy part of this postpartum period.  She does get fussy at times, but she can almost always be soothed with snuggling and rocking, and, really, who can complain about that?

Noah is doing great too.  He adores his baby sister ("Sis" or "Sissy Sue," as we've taken to calling her around here), and he has shown zero resentment toward her.  I am surprised and pleased by how well he has adjusted to being a big brother.  Sometimes I wish his shows of affection could be a little less forceful (he tends to maul her in the process of giving her hugs and kisses), but she doesn't seem to mind his aggression too much, and I guess she better get used to it...it may be the story of the rest of her life!

Overall, life is so good, and I am happy.  I sometimes feel stretched to my limit during the day when both kids need me, the house is a disaster, and I haven't had a moment to sit, eat, shower or rest, but I feel like I am adjusting well and becoming a better mother as I exercise patience with the kids and with myself.  It's good to be stretched, and these kiddos are more than worth it.

So with no further ado, here is the last seven weeks in snapshots.  Enjoy!

First week home
Her bruising from delivery was still healing
Happy brother
Sweetest
First bath
Thank goodness for Grandma's help that first week!!
Family story time!
Noah always requested that "Little Sis" read his bedtime book with him during those first two weeks
Meeting Aunt Ashley
Our Peanut chilling out peacefully at night
Happy Daddy
What is she dreaming about?
Meeting Grandpa Nielson
Snuggling on her quilt made by Grandma Nielson 
A visit from Bapa
Nugget
Conked and comfortable with Aunt Laura
Snuggling with Mom and Dad
Cute little creature
Two girls, ready for the day
Tummy time with Brother
Chillin' in the backyard with Mom 
Chillin' at the park with Dad
What blue eyes you have
Family Selfie
Sally's first time to church 
Mom's first time doing her hair in five weeks 
Already learning how to pray... :)
Burrito
"Nuggle Nap" with Aunt Sarah
Cheeks!
Morning cuddles
Happiest Mama