Monday, March 31, 2014

Dear Sweet Baby Girl



You curled up and snuggled into me, your teeny legs moving to find a comfortable position, your impossibly fragile back arching into a curve and lifting your bottom into the air.  There on the ultrasound screen, you found a position that was so familiar to me—the position that babies often settle into when they are nestled in footy pajamas in their cribs.  And yet, you are not in a crib—you are inside of me—and you are only six inches long.

I caught my breath.  “Is she arching her back?”  I asked the ultrasound technician, sure I must be imagining that such a tiny being could already make such a recognizable movement. 

“Yes, she is,” she responded, smiling.  “I can hardly get a good picture of her face because she is so nuzzled into you.  Looks like she is going to be a snuggler!”

She. It felt surreal to hear the ultrasound technician say it—and even more so to say it myself. I felt timid uttering the word aloud at first—acknowledging that you were not merely a hypothetical or our “baby bean” or a flashing heartbeat.  One minute ago, you had been “the baby”—a nebulous presence that still seemed too small and too good to be true.  But then the sonogram wand had paused on my belly, and the world stood still while things came into focus.  I saw and knew before the technician said it aloud—

It’s a girl. 

Your dad and I left the hospital holding a small scroll of photos, grinning and giddy.  Whatever it was that I meant to get done that day was forgotten.  I felt lightheaded, dizzy with joy, overwhelmed, and amazed.  I laid on the bed and texted family and friends while your dad got your brother Noah down for his nap. And when he came in to lie next to me a few minutes later, I put my phone down and said, “Come over here, and hold your girls!”

He wrapped his arms around me, and I kissed him, long and hard—flooded with emotion that I get to share this experience—this life—with him.  He smiled and stroked my hair, and we talked about you, wondering aloud what you will be like and what gifts you will bring to our family.

He lay beside me and dozed for a few minutes while I continued the texting frenzy, and then he went into the kitchen to make chocolate chip cookies (we both agreed that we needed something sweet on such a special day).  I lay on the bed thinking, the sound of the mixer whirring in the background, and all of the sudden, as it always does on occasions such as this one, I felt the exhaustion closing in.  It happened on the day that your brother was born, and it happened on the day after I found out I was pregnant with you.  After the elation, the thrill, and the flurry of excitement comes an unexpected feeling of overwhelm—whispers of inadequacy and vulnerability tugging at my heart.

What if I’m not a good mother to her? the whispers said. And then the deepest fear of all wrenched and twisted within me: What if I lose her, before she’s even born?

You’re not a hypothetical to me anymore.  You’re real, and you’re my daughter, and you are deep within me.  Now that I’ve seen you—now that I can picture you as a sweet baby girl in pink pajamas, a wobbling toddler with blond pigtails, a gap-toothed elementary schooler hopping off the bus—the emotional stakes are higher.  It’s hard, being a parent—unconsciously giving your heart to little human beings who can get hurt and sick and who are not invincible—and yet who own every tiny fiber of your soul.  It’s a scary kind of love to feel.

I lay on the bed and closed my eyes, and as I felt sleep coming, the tears came too.  Tears of exhaustion and overwhelm, tears of joy and elation.  So many emotions, all wrapped up in one sweet baby girl.

I woke up an hour later to a little boy with bed-head eating cookies at the kitchen table.  Dad had gotten him set up with the iPad before he left for a church meeting so I could have a couple more minutes of rest.  The fatigue and the fear had faded with sleep, and when I took my seat next to Noah at the table, I was smiling groggily.

“What ya doin’, Mommy?”  he asked, looking up from his show, chocolate smeared across his face.

“Just thinking about Baby Sister,” I told him.

“The baby in your belly?”  he asked, peering at my stomach as if that would give him some confirmation.

“Yes, sweetheart,” I responded.

“It’s a gwirl baby, Mama,” he informed me, remembering what we had told him that morning after we’d picked him up from the babysitter.

“Yes it is, honey.” 

“Is she ready to come out and play with me?” he asked innocently.

I smiled.  “Not quite yet, Noah…But she’ll be here before we know it.”

We’re all excited to meet you, Baby Girl.  August can’t come soon enough.  Please stay healthy and strong.  Keep growing—keep snuggling close—the next time I see you, you will be in my arms.

Waiting with love and faith,
Your Mama



Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Realized...

I've been reading my copy of Motherhood Realized this week, and I realized something (no play on words intended there): our needs as mothers change constantly.

Shocking, right?  Well what prompted this grand revelation is that, though I read all of these essays before when I was helping to edit the initial manuscript, totally different essays stand out to me now.

I first found Power of Moms when I was a discouraged new mother with a colicky baby.  I was adjusting to a very new life as a homemaker, and during those long winter days when the weather was too awful to get out much, I sometimes turned to Pinterest to fill the time.  I would get totally overwhelmed by all of the beautiful and delicious-looking recipes, the money-saving tips, and the advice about chore rotations to keep your home spotless.  Is this what I was supposed to be able to accomplish as a stay-at-home mom?  So many other moms that I knew seemed to be able to get decent meals on the table and keep their homes deep-cleaned.  As my baby screamed in my arms and I looked around at my messy apartment, I felt like I was failing.

Then I read Your Children Want You, an essay written by the founder of Power of Moms, which assured me that "...it is our uniqueness  and love that our children long for...it is our voices.  Our smiles...Of course we want to learn, improve, exercise, cook better, make our homes lovelier, and provide beautiful experiences for our children; but at the end of the day, our children don't want a discouraged, stressed-out mom who is wishing she were someone else."

The whole essay, in which she shared tender, real moments with her own mother and her own children, spoke to my heart and reassured me.  Reading that essay lead me to search for other articles and resources on the Power of Moms website which were invaluable to me during my adjustment-period to motherhood.

Now as I read that same essay, though I still think it's so well-written and such an important and timely topic for mothers, it doesn't resonate as much personally.  I've matured as a mother; I don't compare myself as often as I used to or hold myself to such an impossible standard; I've learned that I can focus on my talents instead of wishing that I had others' that just don't come naturally to me.  (And I've stopped looking at Pinterest because it makes me feel too overwhelmed.)

So while I enjoy reading that essay now, there are others that speak more to my current stage of mothering.

For example, the essay Love Loans describes one mother's experience of feeling totally exhausted by caring for the needs of her young family and catering to the requests of her toddlers.  This, I understand.  Noah has been unusually whiny, needy, and defiant lately, and though I know this is normal two-year-old behavior, sometimes I feel like I just can't do another moment of being patient.  Not one more moment.  The author of Love Loans reaches a similar point with her children--"there wasn't an ounce, sliver, or tiny shread of patience left in me."  But then, as she was putting her son to bed  and "mechanically" going through the motions, "sweet mercy of miracles...the love came unbidden, bubbling up and over, into the cracks of my consciousness."  She suddenly realizes, "...I have a Partner in this mothering that I do.  A Partner who helps me, lifts me up, and loans me love when I'm certain I've run out."

Love Loans is the only essay in the book that's religious, and I love it.  That last line gives me goosebumps because I have had moments like this--moments when I've received a "love loan" from my Father in Heaven because I literally have nothing left to give.  He fills me up and makes me more than I am on my own.  He allows me to feel the incredible, overpowering love that He has for Noah and for me, and somehow, I am able to make it through the umpteenth reading of The Cat in the Hat that month, or the 3,000th shriek of "But why????" I've heard that day, or the third messy underwear accident I've cleaned up that week (true story--this happened this morning), without completely losing it.

This is what the essays on Power of Moms, and in their book Motherhood Realized, have done for me--they've given me something to think about and relate to during the different moments and stages of my mothering.

I will admit that as I've promoted this book this week, I've started to feel a bit self-conscious.  What if other people don't like it as much as I do?  My sister, after ordering one for herself and several for her friends, asked, "Do you promise this is actually a good book?"  Hahaha...no pressure or anything!

I've thought about her question, and the answer that I've come to is, yes, it's actually a good book.  It's written by varied mothers with varied experiences.  Will every single essay in the book resonate with you, your personality, and your current mothering experience?  I doubt it.  But I sincerely believe that some will.  And I believe that others may start to apply more as your stage of life changes.  At least that's the experience I've had.

So that's my disclaimer about the book and my review of it.  If you think this book is something you would enjoy reading, you should order a copy of it today (Saturday).  Today is the last day of pre-sales which will determine if the book makes the NY Times Bestsellers' List.  Apparently we are close which is exciting.  Here's the link: http://powerofmoms.com/motherhood-realized/

Okay, off to play with my little cherub now.  As hard as he can be at times, he really is my favorite.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Waves

On Monday evening, I hit a wall.

We had just gotten home from vacation, so the day had been full of getting life "back in order."  Laundry, grocery shopping, picking up...you know how that goes.  On top of that, Noah had been sick while we were on our vacation, which meant he was crabby as can be and didn't sleep well for most of the week (which meant that I myself was crabby and didn't sleep well for most of the week).  On top of that, he is learning to use the potty this month, and although I think it's going okay, it just takes a lot of consistency and energy from me, and energy is in short supply for me these days.  I'm still not feeling very good with this pregnancy: I have had chronic problems with UTIs, so the doctor recently put me on an antibiotic that I will take daily for the rest of my pregnancy; I've also had killer headaches and a wretched cough that won't seem to go away; and, at 21 weeks, I still struggle on and off with nausea.  It's not nearly as bad as it was during the first 17 weeks of my pregnancy, but I still feel moments (and sometimes hours) of nausea fairly often.

But all of that actually isn't what caused me to hit a wall on Monday evening.  I'm sure all of that contributed to my pity party, but the biggest thing that got me down is that Noah has recently been diagnosed with all sorts of allergies.  We've known for a while that he is allergic to eggs (due to some unfortunate vomiting and hives incidents, one of which resulted in a frightening trip to the ER when he was 11 months old); what we didn't know until last week is that he's also allergic to wheat (WHEAT!!!!), almost all nuts (almonds and peanuts being the worst offenders), corn, soy, strawberries...the list goes on.

Poor, sad little back
The doctor wants us to eliminate all these allergens from his diet and see how his skin, appearance, and behavior changes.  Then he wants us to slowly add them back in and watch for reactions.  Monday was the first day of our attempt to eliminate allergens, and by the end of the day, I was so, so discouraged.

Now, I know this isn't the end of the world.  I know that there are mothers out there who care for children with chronic illnesses and disabilities.  Really, this trial is not something major in the grand scheme of things.  But I have always struggled with meal-planning and meal-prep.  Like, really struggled with it.  It's one of the biggest sources of daily stress in my life, which I know is ridiculous, but it's just not something that comes naturally to me.  It is HARD for me.  Plus, Noah is currently a fairly picky eater, so I feel like our options for food with him are already so limited.  I felt so overwhelmed on Monday thinking, "What am I going to feed this kid??"  "How am I going to change our family's habits and diet to help him feel better?"  "How can I manage to cook for a kid with lots of allergies when it's a huge stress for me to even get a normal dinner on the table most nights?"

Noah had several meltdowns that day when he couldn't eat his "staples," and we didn't really have much food in the house anyway due to our vacation (brilliant of me to start his allergen-elimination diet on a day that we didn't have any food, right??), so I felt utterly defeated by about 5:00 p.m.  Like I said, dramatic, I know--it was probably all of those small annoyances I mentioned earlier crashing over me at once--but whatever the reason, I sat in the car in our garage after running an errand, and I just felt sad and sorry for myself.

But this post isn't actually about allergies--or even about me feeling sorry for myself and hitting a wall--it's about what happened later that night.

At about 11:45 p.m., I dragged myself into the laundry room to fold a batch of clean clothes that was just finishing up in the dryer.  I know, I know, a tired pregnant lady should go to bed earlier, and I usually do, but I hate leaving clothes in the dryer overnight because they get all wrinkled; so even though it was the last thing I wanted to do at that moment, I decided to take a few minutes to fold before heading to bed.  As I shook out Noah's little shirts and folded his soft footy pajamas, I was suddenly overcome--I mean, completely washed over--with gratitude.  It was so unexpected.  Earlier that evening, I had been in the depths of despair, and all of the sudden I felt incredible happiness, while folding laundry of all things!, because looking at those little clothes reminded me that I have a precious, precocious little boy who wears all of them.  I think I actually smiled fondly at his little Adidas pants as I placed them on top of the pile and gave his stack of Thomas the Train undies an affectionate pat.

What the heck??  How did that happen?  How did I go from one dramatic extreme of emotions to another--and all within the same evening? I know pregnancy hormones are partially to blame (especially for the surge of affection for underpants), but I think something bigger was going on as well.

When I went to therapy for my eating disorder last year, one of my counselors told me that emotions come in waves.  Like the waves of the ocean, they cannot stay with you forever--they ebb and flow--they rush onto the shore and knock you over, and then eventually and inevitably, the tide rushes back out to sea again, and they are gone.  She said that when she was overcoming her own eating disorder, she learned to feel her emotions instead of using food to run away from them--because she learned that even the hardest, worst emotions can't last forever.  (And for that matter, neither can the happiest, best emotions.)  She told me that during her recovery she would actually lay on her floor when she felt sadness or stress threatening to overwhelm her, and she would say, "Come and get me!  You can't kill me--and you can't stay with me forever!"  I loved that image and have thought of it often.

After my (slightly insane) tender moment in the laundry room, I walked into our bedroom to put away the clean clothes, and I saw Ryan snoozing in our bed.  And it happened again--the gratitude--swelling, crashing over me.  I stood there and watched him sleeping, and I realized how lucky I am to have a husband who loves me and loves our son.  He is my partner in life and in parenting.  He is there to help me wade through potty training and allergies and pregnancy nausea.  Oh how blessed I am.

I decided to write him a note right that minute, to thank him for everything he does for me, so I walked into our office/guestroom to get a sheet of paper.  This room will soon be transformed into the baby's nursery, and I've started a little pile of baby girl stuff on the bed.  Can you guess what happened when my eyes fell on the little pink sleepers, the floral print shoes, and the fuzzy blanket, all precious gifts from family and friends who are waiting to welcome this sweet baby girl to our family? Yep, another wave.  Joy.  Peace.  Utter excitement.

I'd started the evening in a funk, and somehow, I ended it in a state of contentment.  And it was nothing I'd done consciously to try to "adjust my attitude" or snap myself out of it--it was just the waves.

(And I should add that after my initial freak out over Noah's allergy diet, it hasn't been that bad this week.  He may be subsisting on Rice Chex, Greek yogurt, and applesauce for now, but I am determined that we will expand his palate over time.)

Emotions, like trials in life and waves in the ocean, they come and they go.  I guess I've always known that, but I hope I do a better job of remembering it in the future.  I can savor the sweet waves that lift me up and wash over me, and I can hold my breath and dive deep during the ones that threaten to drown me.  I will eventually come up for air--and it's only a matter of time before a gentler wave will carry me back to shore.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Motherhood Realized


I write and edit for an organization called Power of Moms, and they are releasing a book this month called Motherhood Realized.  It's a compilation of some of their most read and most shared posts from their website.

I know I may be biased, but I think the book is pretty awesome.  I helped with some of the initial editing of the manuscript, and I was amazed by the quality of the essays, which are all written by everyday moms about their everyday experiences.  Though these are not professional writers or childhood psychologists, the insights that they share are profound, touching, and encouraging.  I think the title "Motherhood Realized" is fitting because this book represents the realizations that dozens of mothers have had over years of calming tantrums, witnessing milestones, struggling through family heartbreaks, celebrating family joys, and living each day as mothers. These topics have been addressed in countless books and articles over the years, but what struck me as I read over the manuscript of this book is that the insights shared seemed really "fresh" and unique to me--not just the same old motherhood cliches.

This is a book a busy mom could easily read because each essay only takes a couple of minutes to peruse.  You could keep it on your nightstand and read an essay each night or each week to help inspire you after a long, chaotic day.  After each essay, there is a "question" and a "challenge" to get you thinking about your own mothering experience.

This is not a "how to" book with ideas about getting your baby on a schedule or feeding your kids organic foods or anything like that--it's about the realizations that come along the way as we mother, about finding more joy, about enduring the hard times with grace, about loving our children better and more deliberately.  There is nothing in this book that will give you "mom guilt."  Nothing.  It will leave you feeling uplifted, I promise.

Two of the essays I have written for the website are published in the book: one about my mother's battle with breast cancer, and one about my difficult first year of motherhood.  I will also be reading the essay about my mom at a "book launch" event that Power of Moms is hosting in Salt Lake City on the evening of Thursday, April 3rd.  If you live in that area, you should come!  The founders of POMs will be speaking, and many of the authors published in the book will be reading their work.  Details here.

I strongly recommend buying this book!  I don't think you will regret it--in fact, if you do, I will buy your copy back from you and give it to one of my friends/sisters as a gift.  (Yes, I just offered a money-back guarantee on my family blog...I feel like a real saleswoman!)  Power of Moms is hoping that the book can make the New York Times' Best Sellers list, so more moms worldwide will hear about it and will be uplifted by the message that nothing in life is as important as family, and motherhood, though difficult, is beautiful and worthwhile.

So if you are interested in buying the book, don't delay--do it right now, or this week, because the pre-sale numbers are what determine whether it gets on the "best sellers" list.  I get a free copy of the book because I am published in it, but I am going to head over to Amazon today and order a few more to give as gifts. (I think it would be a great Mothers' Day or baby shower gift.) Amazon will restock the books by April 8th (the official release date) but don't hesitate to order now.

Power of Moms is offering some additional gifts/give away opportunities to people who order the book this week, so check it out here if you are interested: http://powerofmoms.com/motherhood-realized/.  I know this might feel a little gimmicky, but I promise you, this is an amazing organization that has blessed my life, and this is an amazing book that I really think will bless your life as well.  (And remember, if it doesn't, there's always my awesome money-back guarantee.)

And just because this post isn't long enough and salewoman-ish enough already, here is a link to one of my favorite essays published in the book (it's really hard to choose, but this one stands out to me for some reason): http://powerofmoms.com/2012/12/the-power-of-pause/. Maybe I will post some more of these links this week to convince you that you really need to order this book.

Okay, done now!  Have a great week!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

15 Classic Noah Quotes



Tonight, I want to write a post about Noah because he is my happy place.  He makes me laugh every single day.  Read some of the quotes below, and I think you will see why.  (And if you really want to humor me, tell me in the comments which quotes are your favorite!)

1. One day I said to Noah, "You are my little, tiny best friend."  And he responded, "You are too, Mommy...but you're not little, tiny...you're a big lady!"

2. When I was lying on my bed feeling nauseated a few weeks ago, Noah grabbed onto my backside and hoisted himself up next to me while saying, "Don't worry, Mommy--I'm only grabbing your buns so I can get up here."


3. Noah has a flair for the dramatic.  He recently said to me, "I'm starving, Mommy!  I mean I am really, really starving!" Then he grabbed onto his stomach and sort of keeled over for effect.  When he could see he had my attention, he said, "I need some marshmallows."

4.  Another example of his dramatic phraseology: When he had something stuck in his teeth, he came to me and said, "This tooth is bother-ling me, Mommy.  It's actually killing me!"


5. While looking through an album of photos of himself, he kept saying, "Look at that cute boy!  Awww, he's so cute."  Glad he's got confidence. :)

6.  When we were at the park recently, a random mom was calling to her son, trying to lure him over to eat lunch.  She was saying, "Lucas, come over here!  I have crackers!"  At the mention of the word "crackers," Noah perked up and said, "Oooh...if that boy won't go over there, maybe I should!"


7.  While playing with three apples slices at dinner tonight and talking animatedly to himself (I swear, the boy turns everything into a toy), Noah pushed them together and said, "Family squeeze!!!"  Cutest.

8.  The other evening, Ryan made the bath water a little too hot, and Noah acted like he had been scalded for life.  (It was literally just a tad too hot, but, as I said before, Noah enjoys a dramatic scene.)  I explained to him that Mommy and Daddy do their very best to take good care of him, but sometimes even we make mistakes.  He put both of his hands out dramatically to make his point and declared, "But now Daddy has spoiled everything!!"  

Looks like Noah got over it

9.  When we went to church in Sun Valley while on vacation, Noah walked into the nursery room like he owned the place and said, "So do you guys have good toys here??"

10.  As I was rushing around the other morning, desperately trying to get us to a doctor appointment on time (story of my life), I said to Noah, "Your mom is a wreck, Noah!"  He looked at me very seriously and said, "Yes, you are, Mama.  You are the wreck."


11.  Noah has a slight fascination with Thomas the Train, which means he has picked up on some British words, and whenever he gets frustrated or upset lately, he says, "Oh I'm so cross!"

12.  On Sunday, Ryan was getting ready for church and came out of the closet looking for his dress pants.  He was wearing a white collared shirt and his underwear, and Noah looked up from the toy he was playing with and said, "Dad!  You're lookin' good!"

So excited that Dad let him put on deodorant before church
13.  Noah asks to wear his sunglasses everywhere, and he doesn't seem to notice that he always puts them on upside down and totally askew.  The other day, he insisted on wearing them into the allergist's office (upside down, of course), and when people in the waiting room and behind the front desk complimented him, he said, "Thanks! I love my sunglasses!  And did you know that Mom let me bring my monster blanket here?  He usually doesn't leave the house, but she said I could bring him to the doctor's office because Monster Blanket helps me feel better!"  He can carry on long conversations with perfect strangers, and I love it.

14.  Sometimes when I tell Noah to do something, he will scold me and say, "We don't boss people, Mommy!"


15.  On a recent walk to the park, Noah pointed out a fire hydrant to me.  I didn't know he knew that word, so I said, "You are one smart cookie, Noah."  He was insistent: "No, Mommy.  I'm not a cookie.  I'm just a boy!"

Is it just me, or is he hysterical?  The boy's got some personality, that's for sure.  Sometimes I think I am a bit too obsessed with him, and I need to tone it down or people will think I'm annoying.  But I can't help it--he's just too cute for his own good.  I thank Heavenly Father every day that I am his mama.  Lucky, lucky me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Noah Shares the News!

After excitedly getting dressed and ready for my 19-week ultrasound this morning (and even curling my hair for the occasion, which I never do!), I came out of the bathroom and laughed when I saw what Ryan had chosen to wear to the appointment.  Of course, he hadn't knowingly picked a blue shirt--and neither had I--but I wondered if our unlikely "twinners" moment meant that our subconscious minds knew something we didn't...

Ryan snuck into my "belly pic" which I thought was only appropriate since selfies are just awkward anyway.
I'm done with these belly pics for a while.
On our way to the appointment and feeling excited
To find out if our choice of outfits was indeed revealing of the outcome, watch the video below! :)

We are so excited!!!!!


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Noah Skis and Sculpts


Over Presidents Day weekend, we went to Sun Valley with the Nielson family.

The highlight of the trip was definitely getting Noah on skis for the first time.  He loved it.  The first day, he spent about an hour going up the tiny "magic carpet" conveyor belt and then "skiing" down the incredibly gradual slope with his dad and grandpa (think sliding on skis at a snail's pace).  The second day, they actually took him on the chairlift up the kiddie hill, and then he coasted down between his dad's legs.  He loved riding the lift and spending time on the mountain with Dad and Grandpa.  Cutest little skiier I've ever seen.

video

Love these two
Tiny skier between Grandpa and Dad
Cheese!
" I want to go again, Mama!"
Another highlight of the trip was building "Old Man Winter" outside the cabin.  Ryan's dad and our brother-in-law Nate built up a huge snow mound (probably around 9 feet tall), and then Ryan got on a ladder and used his mad artistic talents to sculpt it.  Is there anything this husband of mine can't do??


Noah provided moral support by standing on the ground next to his dad with a tiny shovel, scraping at the mound and quoting The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (which just happens to be my least favorite storybook that we own, but he requests it all the time. :/). "There is no time for fun.  There is work to be done. All this deep, deep snow, All this snow has to go."  I honestly can't believe Noah's memory.  I have to be very careful what I say around him because he memorizes and repeats everything.


It was a fun weekend with the Nielsons as always.  Next year, I will get on the ski mountain with Noah!

Group shot!
Don't mind the devil eyes