Friday, June 2, 2017

Moving...and catching up from the winter!

We are moving in one week, and I am starting to freak out.  I have done a ton of organizing and purging, but I haven't packed a single box.

Panic is beginning to set in, so obviously I'm blogging.  Because I like to avoid the task at hand when I am feeling anxious.  And I also realize that if I don't slap the photos from this winter onto the ol' blog, it might be another several months before we are out of boxes and I'm ready to post again.  Gotta get this done.

Yes, we are moving again.  AGAIN.  Last summer, we moved from one rental to another, just within Twin Falls--but this summer (eh hem, in one week), we are making a big, permanent move.  We bought our first home and everything!

We are moving to Hailey, Idaho, which is about 20 minutes outside of Sun Valley in the mountains.  Ryan is going to continue working for the same dental office, but he is buying in as a partner, and he is going to run their small satellite office in Hailey.  I think it will be a great fit for him, with a slower pace in a mountain town that he loves.  He grew up going to his grandpa's cabin in Sun Valley, and he is excited to teach our kids to ski, mountain bike, fish, etc.

I am up for it too, though it will be an adjustment.  Hailey only has 10,000 people and no stores like Walmart, Costco, or really any chain.  I don't think I would be able to do it if it weren't for Amazon Prime!

But honestly the thing that scares me the most is the longer winters.  Because man do I struggle emotionally in the winter.  (More on that in a second.)  And in Hailey, winter will be longer and colder and snowier.  My only saving grace is that in spite of the snow and cold, it is actually sunny there year-round (hence the nickname "Sun Valley") and that could make all the difference for my mental health and state of mind.  I think I can deal with winter as long as it's not six months of gray and dreary.

Which leads to the real topic of this from the past winter.  I just have to admit upfront that this winter was a doozy for me.  I was still adjusting to my medications for Intracranial Hypertension, so on top of my regular seasonal depression, I had intense depression from the meds.  I think it was probably the lowest I have ever been, mostly manifesting in total apathy towards everything in my life.  I could barely muster the motivation to get out of bed, which is not like me at all.  I finally convinced my doctor to switch me from that particular medication, and I am happy to report that I am feeling so much better.  This new medicine isn't without uncomfortable side effects, but it is 50x better than trying to function with that level of mental fog and depression.

So that was no fun.  And when you add to that that Idaho had the snowiest winter it has had in decades, it was one heck of a few months.  In January and February, we literally had feet and feet of snow envelope our city.  The local schools had something like eight snow days, and there were just huge snow drifts everywhere, which is really unusual for Twin Falls.  I heard that we had more snow this winter than in the past twenty years combined.  I'm not sure if that's true, but these photos of this year's spring run-off at Shoshone Falls seem to back that up!  Crazy!

Noah and Ryan spent a lot of time shoveling.  Sally and I helped a little, but the boys enjoyed doing it so much that we decided to just let them do most of the heavy lifting. ;)  And hey, when they came  inside with their red cheeks, we had hot cocoa ready!

Noah truly loves shoveling snow, and he could play outside in it for hours.  One day he came in and proudly told me that he and his dad had built a "tremendous snowhill!"  Ha!  I love that kid's vocabulary.  And I think he will enjoy life in snowy Hailey just fine.

Noah and Ryan also got away on a little adventure with friends one Saturday morning: ice fishing!  It was a first time for both of them, and they loved it.  Noah caught a big one!

We went tubing as a family one Saturday afternoon, and I gave myself a "good mom point" for getting out in the cold and making it happen.

Bapa came to see us one weekend and spent lots of time playing with the kids, going for pancakes at McDonalds per tradition (classy!), and skiing with Noah!  All the fun wore everyone out.  ;)

And speaking of skiing, Ryan said it was a truly epic ski season.  Sun Valley reported having some of their best snow ever, and Ryan was itching to get on those slopes every chance he could get! 

We even got Sally out on the slopes for a day.  Dad took her on the big chairlift and everything!  She enjoyed whizzing between her dad's legs, though she mostly wanted to talk about having a hot dog at the lodge when she was done.  I was standing at the bottom of the hill taking a video, and I could hear her jabbering about her hot dog all the way down.  Ha!

When we got into the lodge and got her a snack, a nice man walked by and asked her if she had gone skiing that day. I said, "Yes, it was her very first time!" He made a big fuss over her, and she said, "Do you want to see me skiing??" and grabbed my phone to show him a video. ;)  He was such a good sport to watch a two minute long video of her slowly winding down the hill between her dad's legs, and she was grinning from ear to ear the whole time he watched.

In between the various winter sports and outings, there was lots of downtime at home, with Mom not feeling good.  The weather kept us trapped inside a lot and when school got cancelled for days and days in a row, the days felt so long and hard. 

But I have to admit that as I flipped through these photos of the everyday, crazy moments with my little ones, I started to hear that corny old country song playing in my head: "You're gonna miss this, you're gonna want this back.  You're gonna wish these days, hadn't gone by so fast.  These are some good years, so take a good look around.  You may not know it now, but you're gonna miss this."

From colorful baths and smoothie mustaches, to terrible mornings when the kids crawl all over me and fight with each each other, to chaotic dinners when Ryan tries to read us the scriptures and not a soul Noah's endless creations and Sally's endless mischief...from boat building to jumping off the mantel because it's too snowy to go to the's a good good life.


And when they are grown, I know I'm going to miss it. 

Monday, May 15, 2017

For Katie, On Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day, and I am thinking about Katie.  I always do this time of year.  Yesterday was "Birthmother's Day," and she and I texted a little bit about our precious little boy who has brought so much joy to both of our lives.  It feels so sacred to share that kind of love with someone.

Today, I have felt the overwhelming urge to share more with her--more than just our hearts from a distance.  I've wanted to give her a piece of Noah to take with her this week--to fill her up and make her smile.  Because she will always be his first mother, and Mother's Day will always be about her, too. 

It has been a long time since I've written an "update" post about Noah, and I've been meaning to for months.  So even though it's 10:30 p.m., I am going to do it right now.  For Katie, as my Mother's Day gift--so she can carry the stories of this remarkable little boy in her heart this week and marvel at the amazing person he is becoming.

At age 5 1/2, Noah is one smart little cookie.  I'm allowed to say that because it's not my genetics.  He still has a huge vocabulary and it makes everyone laugh.  Just today he told me that his younger cousin has "developed a new ability" by learning how to pump on the swings. ;)   Here's to all of us "developing new abilities"!
A few months ago, he told me that Sally wasn't napping well because she has an "instinct" that makes it difficult for her to sleep with an unfamiliar blankie.  I said, "Noah, what is an instinct?"  He said, "It's like this data that you have inside of you. It is kind of programmed so that you do certain things and you don't do certain things."  I thought that was a pretty darn good explanation!

He can also articulate complex emotions, which makes it so much easier for me to teach and talk to him. He recently told me that a little girl in his kindergarten class is getting bullied (break my heart!), and so we talked about how he can be a leader and stand up for her.  He thought about this and then explained some really adult emotions to me, things like, "I guess I haven't had the courage to stop it because I'm afraid that the other kids will start picking on me instead."  He also admitted that he wants to feel "connected" to the kids who are doing the bullying, so it's hard to stand up to them. We talked about how all of these emotions are completely normal to feel and how he can work through his fears to do the right thing.

At the end of the discussion, I told him that he is a natural leader and everywhere he goes, people want to be around him and be his friend (which is so true).  I told him how special it is to have this gift because he has the unique opportunity to be a leader who stops bullying.  He said, "Mom, I think I want to be a leader who just stays out of it." Ha!  I just love his honesty and how much I can relate to his emotions.  We will continue talking about empathy, and I hope he grows into a brave and kind young man who is a big influence for good.

He really does draw people to him.  Everywhere we go, he makes friends.  He is super outgoing.  We recently met up with a family who is new to the neighborhood to go bowling.  Before we arrived, I told Noah that we would be getting to know some new friends, and he was thrilled.  He and the little boy who is close to his age hit it off right away.  When I took Noah up to the concessions counter to get a cup of water, I heard him chatting up the teenage worker.  He sat at the counter and told her, "We are getting to know some new friends tonight." She was so amused by his matter-of-fact small-talk and asked, "Oh yeah, how is that going?"  And he responded, "It's going really well!"  I almost died from the cuteness.

His Primary teacher at church absolutely loves him and has told me some hilarious stories about him.  She said that one day they were drawing pictures to give to someone they were thankful for, and he told her he was drawing a train for his Grandma.  But then at the end of class, he said, "Actually, I drew this for my teacher" and gave her a big exaggerated wink.  Then he handed her the picture and walked out. ;)

This past week we were working on potty training Sally, and I asked him to take her into the bathroom and tell her about it to get her excited.  He took her in there but then I heard him say, "And you just stand right in front of the toilet and pee, like this," so I rushed in there and said, "No no, remember she's a girl--she can't do that!"  After a moment of thought, he motioned to the toilet grandly with one arm and said, "Mom, will you do the honors?" I was happy to be the model for his demonstration.

We were at the grocery store not too long ago, and I said, "Oh darn it, Noah!  I forgot my list at home!"  He looked at me seriously and said, "That's just the way life goes sometimes, Mom. You just have to roll with it."

Today at church, a man was giving a talk for Mother's Day, and he mentioned that his mother had always kept an "immaculate" house.  He went on to explain how orderly and clean every square inch was, how dishes were done right after dinner, etc. etc.  During this talk, my kids were at my feet playing/coloring/raising hell, and of course I didn't think they were listening to a word.  But all of the sudden Noah pipes in and says, "Well our house is always a mess!" Ha!  I must admit, he will never be able to say that his mom was a master homemaker!

But in my defense, and as I pointed out to him, it's not me making all the messes! For example recently he stripped down and changed for his swimming lesson and left his clothes on the locker room floor.  I called after him, "Hey Bud, come back and pick up your clothes!" "Sorry," he responded casually, "but I've got a swimming lesson to catch!" Oh my goodness!  Don't worry, he caught his swimming lesson after he'd picked up those clothes. ;)

When I woke him up for school recently, he rolled over and said sleepily, "You didn't know I was wearing an electric super-powered jet pack, did you?" That must've been one awesome dream!

I love that he is all boy.  He climbs trees like a pro; he rides his mountain bike down the trails in the canyon and hoots and hollers; and he loves to get dirty.

He recently lost his first tooth, and it was a pretty momentous day for the entire family.  His dad had told him that the Tooth Fairy only comes for teeth that have been well-brushed and cared for--and phew, she did come that night so we were all relieved.  I must say, he is a complete wimp when it comes to pain, and he cried and whined every time he ate a meal in the days leading up to his tooth falling out.  Now another one is loose, and I'm hearing the whining all over again...heaven help me. 

One of his most classic quotes lately took place in the car.  We were driving home from school, and he started bombarding me with questions and demands.  I said, "Noah, I don't know.  I just need ten minutes of think-time when we get home to get my life under control."  He thought about that for a second and then said, "Mom, if you get your life under control, does that mean you won't let us watch so much TV??"  Hahaha! 

Our favorite thing to do together is read chapter books.  Every night, I snuggle into his bed and read him a chapter or two of a book, and he can always follow the story perfectly, even when there are no pictures.  I am amazed by how much he can absorb by simply listening!  We started with several of the How to Train Your Dragon books, and we've now moved on to Roald Dahl (we've read The BFG and James and the Giant Peach) and E.B. White (we are working on Charlotte's Web).  This is one area of motherhood that I feel like I do well.  I'm not very good at playing on the floor with my kids, but I could read to them all day long--especially now that we are reading interesting chapter books instead of just picture books.

I love hearing Noah's laugh when we read.  He often bursts into giggles, and once he gets going, I can't help but join in.  He was so amused when the wicked Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker got flattened by the giant peach in the Roald Dahl classic, and he laughed uncontrollably and hid his face in his blankets saying over and over, "This is too good, Mom!  It's just too good!"  I think that will always be one of my favorite memories.

He's a snuggler, and I love it.  He gives hugs and kisses freely, and he lets me cuddle him every night.  I feel like it's our common love language, and it's something that brings us together and makes me feel so peaceful, even after the roughest days.

I was recently having one of those days, with everything going wrong, and we were 15 minutes late to swimming lessons (keep in mind that a lesson is only 30 minutes).  Then I discovered that Noah had taken his goggles out of the swim bag right before we left home, and he refuses to swim without them, so I just decided to throw in the towel, and we headed back home.

On the way he started badgering me about what he would do when he got home and demanding to be entertained, and I'd just had it, so I snapped at him, "Figure it out, Noah!  Go outside, play in your room, I don't care what you do--just figure it out!"  He was silent for about 30 seconds and then he said, "Mom, what's wrong?"  My heart softened immediately--it was the perfect question for him to ask.  He didn't cry or scold me for being grumpy.  He recognized that I wasn't at my best and there must be a reason.  I felt like he gave me the benefit of the doubt.  It was just a really sweet "payoff" moment for me as a mom.

So I explained to him how tired and overwhelmed I was, and how sometimes as a mom you feel like you do the same things over and over and nobody appreciates it, and everything that you do gets undone by the end of the day.  He listened, and then he said, "So it's sort of like when I spend a lot of time making a big castle out of Magformers, and then Sally comes in and crushes it, and I feel like all my work was for nothing, and it makes me feel really sad and mad and overwhelmed."  I said, "Exactly!"  And he said, "So you're not alone, Mom.  I've felt that too."  Oh my gosh, sweetness!  Where do these flashes of maturity come from??

It's truly amazing to see the little person that he's becoming.  I love this age.  Don't get me wrong, he's still very strong-willed and can throw an epic fit on occasion, but overall, I'd say he's mellowed over the past year or two, and he is mostly just pleasant and fun to be around.  Our biggest battles are probably over food (he is so picky) and over the way he and Sally fight (drives me insane!)--but overall, he really has become a helper in our house and, dare I say it aloud, pretty easy to parent.  He's my little buddy.

I am so so so beyond grateful to be his mom.  I think about it every single day.  We recently faced some uncertainly with some plans for our future, and everything felt up in the air.  I was tempted to become super anxious over it all, but I thought about the experience of waiting for and adopting Noah, and I knew that everything would be okay.  It took us much longer to become parents than we had anticipated, but in the end, Heavenly Father knew exactly what we needed: We needed Noah.  That experience has taught me that when life doesn't go as planned, it is usually headed somewhere better.

As I tucked Noah in that night, I told him that the experience of adopting him will always give me more faith throughout my life when I have to wait. "You were my first miracle, Noah," I said.  He hugged me tight and said, "And you were mine, Mama."

But tonight I've been thinking about how Katie was our first miracle. She was my first miracle because she brought me my Noah.  And she was Noah's first miracle because she chose to give him life--and a life that she wanted him to have that she couldn't yet provide for him.

On August 1, 2011, she made me a mother and she became a mother--Noah's first mother, our first miracle.

Happy Mother's Day, Katie.  Words can't express how we love you.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Two and a Half!

Our Sal is two and half!  She still only weighs 23 lbs, which is something like 3rd percentile for her age.  She is a tiny little thing.  But you know what they say...Dynamite comes in small packages.  And that is definitely true for our Sal.

This girl is full of spunk, sass, and spirit.  She's a tornado.  I thought Noah was strong-willed, but we might be taking it to a whole new-level with this firecracker.  She is one independent and fiery little lady, and she exhausts me and challenges me for sure.  But at the end of the day, I would not change her indomitable spirit.  I hope she never loses the sparkle of mischief in her eye and that devious little dimple.

Here are some stories to give you an idea of how Sally has kept our life exciting the past few months:

At Noah's music class recently, I was helping Noah with his bells when another mother started motioning to me with wide eyes and pointing to the back of the room.  I turned around to find Sally stark naked, smiling at me knowingly, as if to say, "Oh yes I did, Mom, and there ain't nothing you can do about it."  As Noah said later, "Sal was wearing her birthday suit in front of all the moms and kids at my music class!" ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I sang a solo in church a few weeks ago, and afterward, I was holding Sally in my arms when an elderly gentleman came up to tell me what a great job I had done.  He said, "And does this little lady have a beautiful singing voice like her mother?"  Sally looked at him for a second and then burst into song: "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg!"  I have to admit, in that moment, I was pretty sure I have the most amazing kids on the planet. 

Another song that I have heard her singing loud and proud lately is one that she must've learned in her beloved Nursery class (she adores Nursery) with a little twist: "I hope they call me on a teach and preach and work as missionary dudes!"  (For those of my friends who aren't Mormon, the original song says, "missionaries do."  I like her version even better!)   I hope that Sally does go a mission and all sorts of adventures someday--and I have no doubt that she will keep up with those missionary dudes!

Speaking of music, she doesn't like to hear me sing.  Humph!  She often covers my mouth with her little hand when I try to sing her lullabies.  I've tried to tell her that many people enjoy my singing, but she is not convinced.  I guess I'll save my musical performances for elderly gentlemen at church who have hearing aides.

Even thought she doesn't like my lullabies, she loves to be rocked and have her back scratched.  This is pretty much the only way that I can get her to nap anymore, and I actually enjoy it because it's the only time of day that I can get her to cuddle.  She is not a snuggler at all and will almost never give kisses.  But for these few precious minutes some afternoons, I get to hold her, and then I lay her down for a doze.

She cut her own hair.  Oh yes she did.  She hid in her room and just started snipping away.  Fortunately, Ryan realized that it was entirely too quiet and went in there before too much damage was done.  When Sally saw him, she said, "Uh, I'm not doing anything in here, Dad!  You can go away now--thank you!"

She managed to give herself a pretty good mullet, but my friend Tanille is a whiz with hair and did her best to clean it up.  Some parts were so short that she had to leave them, but it's a pretty cute little bob when the hair is pulled back. When the hair is down, it looks a little bit like a 90s bowl cut, but whatever--we do urchin well at our house.  Just ask Noah and his boots.

Sally tries to put a hex on me when she's mad.  I am not kidding.  She got this from an episode of Sofia the First where one of the characters decides to be a good little witch instead of a bad one, but I guess Sally would rather be a bad one?  When she's not happy about something, she storms off and gets her little magic wand.  Then she hides behind a corner or opens her bedroom door just a crack and sticks her wand out, so just her hand is showing, and waves it around at me.  I can only imagine the curses she is muttering in her head. So hilarious.

She has this little move that we call "The Scorpion."  She will just be walking along, and suddenly she pops down on all four and sticks one leg up in the air and holds it for a few seconds like a yoga position, then pops up and keeps walking.  So random and funny.  

She doesn't like to help.  Shouldn't two-year-olds still like to help?  Shouldn't the "Clean Up Song" still be kinda exciting and effective?  I remember Noah being pumped about his little jobs, but Sal flat out refuses to help with anything.  This morning when I asked her to hang her cloak on a hook (yes, she wears a cloak), she said, "I'm too busy, Mom."  Uhhhhhh???? 

As a friend said after watching me trying to discipline Sally for a day recently, "Let me know how it goes when that little girl is a teenager."  I'm telling you, she is a pistol.  I have my hands very full.

Sal in her cloak:

Last month, I tried to be a good mom and bake muffins with her.  She really wanted to add some water from her sippy cup and kept trying to unscrew the lid to pour some in. I patiently explained that the recipe didn't call for water, and I let her add other things to the mixing bowl, but she would not give up.  Finally she just took a big swig from her cup and spit the water directly into the mixing bowl.  Ha! I was so stunned, and even a little impressed by her problem-solving, that I couldn't do anything other than move her out of the kitchen and turn on a show.  No more cooking with Sally for a while!

She has THE cutest little voice.  It's kinda raspy, and I love the way she says certain words, like "Otay!" She calls herself "Sal" all the time, and it's so funny to hear her talk in the third person: "Sal do it!"  She also often calls people "humans" which is just hysterical.  She will say things to me like, "Mom, stop talking to those humans" when she wants me to hurry up so we can go home.  She really does like humans though--she is super friendly, just like her brother.  She will willingly go to just about anyone, and she waves and says hello to people everywhere we go.  We have two very outgoing kids.  It's fun.

A few months ago, we were at a petting zoo and Sally was so excited to feed the goats.  She absolutely loves animals.  Well she quickly became incensed when she saw that the big goat was hogging all of the pellets from the littler goats.  "Stop it, Goat!" she kept shouting.  When he wouldn't listen, she finally got fed up and just punched him right in the nose.  I loved it.  A Shakespearean quote came to mind: "Though she be but little, she is fierce."  I hope she is always a defender of the undergoat.

She insists that she is "Queen Elsa of Arendelle" (don't forget "of Arendelle" or she will quickly correct you) and she pretty much refuses to take off her beloved Elsa nightgowns.  It's hilarious, endearing, and infuriating, all at once.

When I was diagnosed with Intracranial Hypertension a few months ago, I started seeing a counselor again, and one day I was telling her about how wild and crazy Sally is--and how it is sometimes hard for me to connect with her, especially when I am feeling crummy.  She doesn't like toys or books or songs...there is literally not one toy that she will play with.  What am I supposed to do with her all day when I don't have the energy to chase her around or take her to the park?

"All she likes is Frozen!"  I vented.  "She refuses to take off her darn Elsa dress!"

"That's it!" My counselor interjected. "You need your own Elsa dress!"

I was stunned.  "Me??" I stammered in surprise.

"Yes!"  She insisted. "An adult-sized Elsa dress, and you two could have tea parties and dance together.'"

I let that image sink in for a minute, and it was just so absurd that I burst out laughing--and didn't stop laughing for the thirty minutes after my appointment as I searched the options on Amazon.

So I did it.  I bought myself a silky, sequined Elsa dress--with a long tooule train, no less.  And it is every bit as ridiculous and awesome as you would expect.

As you can imagine, Sally absolutely loves dressing up together, brushing our hair, putting on red lipstick, and dancing to Frozen.  We've choreographed our own little routine to it, so even though it's not really in my nature to be playful--I like to get stuff done--when she says, "Mommy, will you dance with me?" I try to take a deep breath and let it go (see what I did there?). I slip on my dress over whatever I am wearing, and we have a grand old time twirling and building imaginary ice castles in the front room for a few minutes.  We have big windows, and I often wonder what the neighbors must be thinking. Ha!

I love this crazy little Elsa with all of my heart.  And she has her daddy wrapped around her finger as well, as you can see by their little manicure session at 7:30 a.m. one morning.  Sally is the perfect mix of a diva and a tomboy.

We sure love you, Sally Grace Nielson!  Even when you fall off of counters and get black eyes, get into my lipstick and smash the tip, and cut your own hair into a nasty mullet.  We wouldn't trade our Spunky Sal for anything in the world!