Monday, May 28, 2012

The Month of May (In Pictures)

Loving my Baby Blue Eyes...

Hating moving (but it had to be done)...

We are all moved in to our new apartment.  Now we just need to unpack the boxes (boo)...

Thursday, May 17, 2012


So it turns out that Ryan and I don't have the best taste in apartments.

I think our problem is that we are always looking for the cheapest place.  Unfortunately, I'm starting to realize that cheap usually means bad neighborhood (shocker, right?).  You'd think we would've learned our lesson after the adventures we had on Rounds Avenue in Buffalo (ehem, robbery and mugging), but alas, some people never learn, and we went for a similar apartment here in Denver.

We knew the neighborhood was a little sketch, but the apartment was great and the price was right--and we aren't afraid of adventures.  We genuinely loved our time living on Rounds, despite the few unfortunate incidents mentioned above, and we were sure we would end up loving this place too.

We purposely chose a building right next to the courtyard, hoping we could congregate with neighbors, play outside with Noah, and enjoy a bit of nature in an otherwise concrete-and-asphalt environment. We've learned that, yes, the courtyard is a place where neighbors congregate--but that may or may not always be a good thing.

We started to worry a little bit when, a couple of months into our contract, there was a huge fight right outside our apartment.  It started between two women, but as hair was pulled and faces were scratched and profanities were screamed, their boyfriends joined in.  When the neighbors heard the commotion, they rushed outside to join in the fun, and suddenly, it seemed that the entire apartment complex was in the courtyard yelling and adding to the mayhem.  It's a good thing we had a new baby or else I may have been tempted to get out there and throw a few punches!

The cops broke up the brawl before it got too out of hand--but the whole incident was just a tad alarming.  (You may be wondering why I never blogged about this outrageous event.  I desperately wanted to but didn't want to freak out my mother-in-law.  I was hoping she wouldn't realize that we were living in a questionable area...again.:))

The woman who had started the fight (well, she claims she didn't, but who knows) decided to move out the following week, so the apartment across the hall from us was vacant for a few lovely days.

Then our new neighbors arrived, and I made a point to introduce myself to them and make a bit of small talk.  They seemed nice enough.  It was a little weird that they passionately made out in the courtyard in front of everyone, including young children, but hey, we prefer lovers to fighters, so we couldn't complain.

A few weeks later, I heard policemen in the walkway outside our door and I realized they were there to arrest our new neighbor.  They hauled him out of his apartment in handcuffs.  (I watched the whole thing through the peephole--it was kind of exciting.)  We never did find out what he did, but it couldn't have been too bad because he was back a week or two later.

Then I started noticing groups of teenage boys congregating in our beloved courtyard during the day.  There is a high school right across the street, so it didn't seem that suspect--until an interesting smell started wafting through our open window every day.  I realized, with alarm, that these young miscreants were smoking doobies in broad daylight.  I called the management once and the cops once, but no one seemed to care except for me.  I was a little afraid to speak up to these pot-smoking delinquents because I was afraid they would egg our apartment (or worse), but one day they were rolling joints with a group of young kids playing about 10 feet away, and I could take it no longer.

"Hey, " I said, sounding more confident than I actually felt, "you guys shouldn't do that here.  You shouldn't do it at all, but you especially shouldn't do it here with all of these kids around.  They look up to you."

They were very gracious and quickly put their reefer away and scurried off.  They haven't been back, and thus far, I haven't been egged, so that's a good thing.

Then there were the neighbors downstairs.  From the sound of it, they don't get along very well.  I think I heard more profanity in one of their three-hour-long screaming fights than I had heard in the rest of my 27 years combined.  It was awful.  My friend who is a speech pathologist strongly suggested that we move before Noah starts acquiring speech "or his first word might begin with F."  And let's just say it wouldn't be "father."

But the real kicker--the incident that made us decide that we absolutely must move--occurred a few weeks ago.  My sister called me and said, "Did you hear the gunshots?"

"Huh?"  I asked, oblivious as usual.

"I just saw breaking news on Channel 9 that a shooting occurred in your apartment complex about ten minutes ago!"

Well, dang.  That does it.  I have a pretty high tolerance for seedy neighborhoods, but gang-related shootings are where I draw the line.

So, we are moving next weekend.  I am not happy about it because I do love the inside of our apartment, and we invested lots of time in painting and decorating it, and moving is such a gigantic pain, and all of the nice apartment complexes in Denver charge at least $200 more per month for rent than we are paying here...but I suppose that if it keeps us from getting shot, it will be worth it.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Monday, May 14, 2012

For Your Viewing Pleasure

Mothers' Day Morning at the Nielson house: adorable baby (who was in an extremely good mood) handsome father (even at 8 a.m. with bed head)
...and one annoying mother (why do I taint every video with my narration?)


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Beautiful Reunion

Today is Mothers' Day, and I am thinking about my mom.

I have always loved Mothers' Day because it is one more reason to remember and celebrate her.

Me and my beautiful mama
I was born in an ambulance!  Here we are recovering at the hospital. :)

There's a scene that I love near the end of the movie Anne of Avonlea.  Anne has been away teaching at a boarding school for a year, and when the train gets her back to Avonlea a day earlier than she'd originally planned, she decides to walk home, even though her family isn't expecting her.

Marilla is sitting on the porch when she spies Anne in the distance, walking down the dirt road toward home with her bag and a bouquet of flowers in her hands.  Marilla starts running toward her.  When Anne sees Marilla, she throws her bag, raises her skirt, and starts running too.  As they get near to each other, they are laughing in pure delight, and then they throw their arms around each other, spinning and embracing with shouts of joy, relief, and love.

It is the embrace that only mothers and daughters share.  And it makes me cry every time.

It will be many years before my mom and I have our reunion in heaven, but I am so grateful for the knowledge that families are eternal--that I will have that reunion with my mother one day.  I am grateful to my Savior who made that possible.

And as I look back on the past year of my life, I know that there have been many moments when my mom was by my side.  I am a mother now, and I know that she has witnessed that.

Me and my baby boy
Happy Mothers' Day to all of my dear friends and family!  

Saturday, May 12, 2012

She Gave Me More Than a Son

It is a very common thing for women to sit around talking about pregnancy.  In fact, I can't remember the last time I was in a group of women my age when this topic did not come up.  During the height of our infertility and adoption wait, these conversations made me feel somewhat isolated--not angry or miserable, just a little sad and out-of-the-loop.  I remember looking around the room at a baby shower a few years ago and realizing that I was the only woman there who had not been pregnant and given birth to a child.  It's kind of a lonely feeling.

But lately I've noticed that I don't feel that way anymore. When the women around me are talking about pregnancy, I understand what they are talking about.  Sometimes, I even chime in. "When Katie was pregnant..." I'll say and share my two cents on whatever they are discussing.  I love that they all know who Katie is.

Katie made me a mother, not just by giving me the gift of a son, but also by giving me the gift of a pregnancy.  She sent me ultrasound videos, invited me to doctor appointments, let me feel the baby kick inside of her, invited me to spend the last week of her pregnancy with her, allowed me to be in the room when Noah was born, and insisted that I be the first person to hold him.  Her selflessness continues to bless my life.  Katie has given me so many gifts.

When my friends talk about ultrasounds, contractions, pitocin, transition, and the euphoria they felt holding their babies for the first time, I understand.  I understand because I've been there, watching a woman that I love go through these things.  I haven't yet experienced pregnancy and labor firsthand, and I know that I will never truly understand until I do, but I feel like I've gotten as close as a person can get without experiencing it myself.

Because of Katie, I don't feel alone anymore when I am at baby showers or chatting with friends. Because of Katie, I have witnessed what many consider a fundamental human experience.  Because of Katie, I feel like a mother in every way.

Not all adoption experiences are like mine.  Not all adoptive mothers get to participate in a pregnancy, and most don't get to be present at the labor.  I want to emphasize that adoptive moms who have a different experience than I did are just as much mothers as I am--but I also want to acknowledge that Katie didn't have to involve me in any of these intimate events in her life, and I would've totally understood if she had chosen not to, but I am so very very grateful that she did.

The past month has been difficult for her.  She has really missed Noah and ached for him when she sees photos and videos of him on my blog.  She told me that when she sees how big and fun he's getting, it makes her feel so happy and yet so sad, even a little angry, all at the same time.  She feels like she is missing everything.  I told her that I think all of these conflicting emotions are totally natural and are the result of love.  She loves Noah so much that she is glad that he is happy but sad that she can't be with him.

I love that Katie.  I love her openness and honesty.  This week, for Mothers' Day, I put together a memory book for her with all of the emails that we've written back and forth over the last fifteen months, all of the letters I've written to Noah, all of the letters that she's written to Noah, and all of the blog posts that I've written about adoption.  I made the same book for Noah, so he will have a history of his adoption story and the love that his mothers have for him.

As I flip through the pages of the book, I am overwhelmed by the experience that Katie and I have shared.  I am so glad that I decided to do this project on the week of Mothers' Day.  It has filled me with gratitude.  What a special day tomorrow will be for me, and I hope the day is happy for Katie too--because she is a mother in the truest sense of the word, and we will be thinking of her all day.

Thank you, Katie, for all the gifts you have given me.  Happy Mothers Day, from one mama to another.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Love Letter

April 17, 2012

Sweetest Noah Boy,
You smiled up at me today from your car seat, perched in the back of a shopping cart at Target, and I couldn’t breathe for a moment.  I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move. This happens to me sometimes, when your eyes fill with that utter adoration and contentment, that expression of complete devotion and total trust—like I am the most perfect being on the planet, like there is nowhere you would rather be than shopping at Target with your Mama.
Something in my soul stirs when you look at me like that. I can’t breathe because I know that I am so undeserving of such pure and guileless love.  I can’t move because I already feel the moment flying away, and I long to grab it—to clutch it tightly in my fist and press it deeply into my pounding heart.  I look at your innocent little face, beaming up at me with two tiny teeth poking through the gums, and I know that I will do anything—anything—to protect you and your heartbreaking sweetness.

I never knew love like this until I became your mother.

I love your pensive expressions, your chubby hands reaching for my finger, and your frantic splashing in the bathtub.  I love your wild blonde hair, your delicious thighs, and your fascination with the blow dryer as it hums in my hands.  I love the way you hide your face in the couch cushions when we are playing and the way you pant with such exertion when you are reaching for a favorite toy or trying out a new skill.

I love seeing you with your dad and knowing, in that most tender and sacred place in my heart, that despite all my shortcomings, you are both mine--and you both love me so completely.

I love your dinosaur noises during church and your spontaneous chuckle of approval when you are lounging in your car seat “throne.”  I love your little feet, kicking constantly while you are in your high chair or in your stroller taking an evening walk with Mom and Dad. I love resting my head on your soft hair as you drink your bottle in my arms, feeling your weight and your warmth against my chest, knowing that you are real.

I love that my heart now lives outside of my body, and that I get to watch it growing and grinning and learning.  It feels miraculous and vulnerable, exhilarating yet imprudent--to let my heart learn to walk, inching its way along the furniture, falling occasionally and sprawling across the carpet, bewildered. 

Soon, you will be running. The baby with the adoring blue eyes will run, and I will let you—my heart growing bigger and stronger with each of your strides.

It was there inside of me all along—instinctive and unconditional—and yet I didn’t know it until I held you for the first time.  Staring into those deep blue eyes, those eyes that were just seeing the world for the first time, I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move.  I felt the stirring of something emerging, something swelling and coming alive within my heart—

A mother’s love.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Back from the Buff

We are home, and Ryan is happy!  In fact, when he pulled up at the airport, he had this sign with him:

My favorite line on the sign is "Never leave me again."  It made me laugh.  We did keep in touch with Ryan as much as we could through the miracle of Skype.  It was amazing how Noah recognized him and responded to him, even over the computer!

Noah and I had a great trip.  Our flights to and from the Buff were actually quite bearable because I was able to bring Noah's car seat on for two of the legs.  He is surprisingly calm when he's all nuzzled into his car seat.  When he's in my lap...well that's a different story.  He climbs all over me, grabs my glasses, dumps his snacks on the ground, arches his back and screams in protest when I try to hold him know, typical active nine-month old behavior.  (Thank goodness I only had to hold him in my lap for two of our four flights.)  Despite how active he is, Noah is really fun to travel with because he is so friendly.  He smiles at everyone who makes eye contact with him, and I love hearing people goosh about how cute he is.  The kid is a real charmer.

We had the most wonderful week in Buffalo seeing old friends.  My "Buffalo Family" were the people who supported me during our years of infertility and adoption stress, so it was really fun for me to introduce them to Noah.  Some of them had met him in Utah when he was a tiny baby, but now he's so full of personality that it was almost like they were meeting him all over again.

We stayed with several different friends throughout the week, and I worried that Noah wouldn't do well with so much change and moving around, but he was a trooper and did just fine.  My only complaint was that he woke up at 5 a.m. every morning! (He's always been an early riser but 5 a.m. NY time is 3 a.m. CO time...what the heck??)  I think his favorite part of the trip was playing with my friends' kids.  They were so cute together.  Laney's kids, Henry and Milly, were quite obsessed with Noah.  When he was napping, Milly would wander all over the house saying, "Baby?  Noah?" I guess she's been asking for him ever since we left.  And Henry was so sweet with Noah--he wanted to feed him and hold him and snuggle with him.  He climbed into Noah's pack-n-play one day, and Milly soon followed. :)

Natalie's son Taylor was also very excited about Noah and would make airplane noises as he fed him baby food (until he would say the food just smelled "too gross" and he couldn't take it anymore--hilarious).  I remember when Taylor was a newborn baby ("Mr. Flops," as I called him), and he would sleep in my arms while I graded papers.  I have watched this little boy grow up, and it's so fun to see him with my little boy.  I think they look like they could be brothers!

I also saw several of my beloved colleagues from the high school.  They really are beloved, and I miss them so much.  It was a privilege to work for four years with people who became some of my favorite friends in the world--it made going to work every day fun.

We went to Letchworth State Park with Sherry

Sue, the high school librarian, hosted a get-together at her house.
Lots of my former colleagues came, and it was so fun to see everyone.
(Wish I would've gotten more photos.)
 English teachers and their babies!
Love these ladies!
Now that I am back home, I am trying to process how the trip made me feel.  It made me so happy to spend time with such kindred spirits, but it also made me a little sad because I am no longer near all of those people whom I love so much.  When I saw my old friends, it felt like I had never left.  But I have left, and that's just kind of a weird realization.  I miss having friends that are so close that we can go for coffee/steamed milk and talk for hours about all of the serious things of life.  I miss having friends that are so close that I can sleepover at their houses and feel 100% comfortable stumbling out of my room in the morning, still in my PJs with my hair a mess and my teeth unbrushed, to sit down with the family around the breakfast table.  It takes time to build friendships like these, and it's hard to move on to a new chapter, as good as that new chapter might be.

All in all, I'm just grateful.  I'm grateful to have friendships like these.  I'm grateful that distance and time doesn't change friendships like these.  I'm grateful that God gave us four wonderful years in Buffalo, New York and that He is granting us a new adventure now.  I am grateful to know that He wants us to have kindred spirits wherever we live, and He has already guided me to some wonderful friends here in Colorado.  I am grateful that He brought us close to family right before Noah was born because, as a friend in Buffalo told me right before I moved, "No one loves your babies as much as your family."  God is good, and life is good.

And on an unrelated note--it's Mothers' Day week!  I have a lot of thoughts on motherhood, so hopefully I can do a few mother-related posts this week (as soon as I get unpacked and get my life back in order--we've been home since Saturday night, and I still have stuff in suitcases and laundry to be done).

Off to work!