Wednesday, June 27, 2012

June Happenings

Since we've been home from our trip to see Ryan's family at the beginning of the month, we've had two more exciting family events in June: a weekend trip to Grand Junction to visit our cousins and swim in their amazing pool (Noah loved it) and my niece Jade's baby blessing in church (she looked like an angel).  Pictures below!


I adore this child.

He's a water baby.
Playing with Cousin Lauren

I can't handle the cuteness.  
I know it looks like a resort, but it's their back yard!

The obligatory family game of Knock Out (so fun!)
Bonfire!
Ummm...can I squeeze her please?
I told you--she's an angel!
Beautiful family (minus Callum--he was running wild somewhere)
Aunt Rachel and Uncle Ryan with their favorite niece and nephew
Could those kids be any cuter?
We're looking forward to July!  We don't have any adventures planned yet, but I'm sure we'll find some!

Baby Sleep Woes--Advice Needed!

I am wondering if anyone out there has any brilliant advice for me.  If not, it's okay--but I thought I would ask.

Noah wakes up between 5:15 and 5:45 every morning, and he wakes up grumpy.  I thought maybe it was a phase, but this has been the norm for several months now.  I have gotten kind of used to the early hour (though it's still not ideal), but I have not gotten used to how incredibly fussy he is at that time.  He generally wakes up screaming, and he continues to whine, fuss, and scream until his morning nap several hours later.  He doesn't take long naps either.  He's still taking two, but I am lucky if they are an hour-long, and he wakes up screaming from those as well.  I've read in some sleep books and I've heard from some moms that if a baby wakes up crying/screaming, then he/she hasn't gotten the sleep he/she needs yet.  Some of my friends have told me that they never go to their babies (once they are about 9 months old) if they wake up crying because they just need to fall back asleep and get the sleep that they need.  Supposedly, when they are actually ready to get up, they will wake up content and talking to themselves.  I've tried that with Noah, but his crying just escalates and he doesn't fall back asleep.  And I can count on one hand the number of times that he's woken up happy and babbling (from either a nap or nighttime sleep).  I have tried to leave him alone until at least 6:00 a.m. (as suggested by Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child), but he just gets more and more angry--he doesn't fall back asleep.  I've also tried briefly going to him and changing his diaper and giving him a bottle...that doesn't seem to work either.  I've tried putting him to bed earlier; I've tried putting him to bed later.  He already goes to bed exceptionally early, so I really can't push it any more that direction.  And when I put him to bed later, he still wakes up at the same super early hour, and he is even grumpier than usual.  I wish he would stay up a little later in the evenings, but it's not worth dealing with his crabbiness the next day. He is very good at falling asleep on his own without much fussing after a bedtime routine, so he should be able to go back to sleep without our assistance in the wee hours of the morning--but he doesn't, so maybe he is just an early riser and will always be a little crabby after he wakes up (I know I am).  We've made his bedroom as dark as possible, and he's always slept with white noise, so we can't do much else to alter his sleeping environment, I don't think.  My sister recently suggested that we start putting a sippy cup of water and a few toys in his crib after he falls asleep, so when we wakes up, he will be excited and distracted and able to soothe himself back to sleep, or at least entertain himself a few minutes instead of immediately getting upset.  We are trying this technique now...the verdict is still out.

Katie's mom (who is a nurse) told me that our bodies wake us up at least 30 minutes before they think we need to eat.  So if we are always feeding him immediately when he wakes up, he will continue to wake up at that time.  Apparently with some of the geriatric patients she's worked with, they've helped them readjust their wakeup time by adjusting their breakfast time.  So we've pushed back his first bottle until a little later, but unfortunately, it doesn't seem to make a difference for Noah (but it seems like a great idea for others who might face this problem).

Can you tell we've tried everything?? :)  I've read several sleep books and talked to lots of friends, and I honestly think this might just be Noah's active, energetic, and stubborn personality, but I thought I would go ahead and see if anyone out there has faced this type of situation and has any additional ideas.  If he was happy in the morning, I wouldn't be concerned about it, but since he is so fussy for several hours, I honestly don't know if he's getting the sleep he needs.  It was worth asking for ideas and thoughts.

A related story: A few months ago, I woke up to Noah crying, and I looked around the room and noticed it was lighter than usual.  I groggily said to Ryan, "What time is it?"  He looked at his phone and answered, "6:23."  I pumped my fist in the air and shouted, "Go Noah!!"  I then had to laugh because, in my former life, I never dreamed I would be rejoicing to be woken up at 6:20!  Oh how motherhood changes your life! :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

We have a walker!

Noah is walking!  He's been taking steps for almost a month now, but I was hesitant to say that he was "walking" because it was never more than a couple of unsteady steps at a time, and he definitely preferred crawling.   Well, in the past two days, he's started taking as many as 10-15 steps at a time, and he often chooses to walk a close distance to get a toy instead of crawling to it.  I think it's safe to say that we now have a walker!!  I can't believe it, and I am surprised by how sad it makes me feel.  It almost feels like the last major baby milestone. How is he growing up so fast?  I just want him to stop!

The first video was taken yesterday, when he was still tentatively toddling, and the second video was taken today, when he had gained some confidence and was walking with more ease.  I can't imagine what tomorrow will bring...

Oh, and, as always, please forgive my annoying "baby talk" in these videos.  I always swore I would never "baby talk" to my kids.  This joins a long list of things that I swore I would never do as a mother--but that I do in fact do.  Anyway, maybe you better just press mute before watching the videos because my voice is truly unbearable.

Enjoy!



Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Few Good Men

I know I am several days behind, but since Fathers' Day was on Sunday, I have been thinking all week about the good men that I want to celebrate and honor on this blog.  I love seeing each of them with Noah, and I feel so fortunate that my son has so many amazing male role models in his life:

Let's start with the oldest: Noah's Great Grandpa Jack.


We live about two miles away from my grandparents, and they have been a huge part of Noah's life, just as they have always been a huge part of mine.  My 83-year-old grandpa loves kids, and he begs to babysit Noah.  I don't know many old men who would be willing to take care of an energetic ten-month-old, including chasing him around and changing his diapers, but Grampy actually likes to do it.  My grandma tells me that he was a very hands-on father to his own children in a time when that wasn't common.  He changed diapers, got up with crying babies in the night, and supported his children in all of their hobbies and interests as they got older.

A few months ago, I left Noah with my grandpa so I could run a few errands.  Grampy asked, "So what can I feed this kid?"

"Well, he just ate," I responded, "but if he seems hungry you could give him a mashed up banana, or some canned peaches, or a cracker--"

"Well, what about ice cream?" he asked matter-of-factly.

This made me laugh.  Of course Grampy would be the one to introduce ice cream to his great grandson.   I told him Noah was a little young for ice cream, but he didn't seem too convinced.  I have a feeling he may have snuck Noah a spoonful or two. :)


Noah is also lucky to live close to his "Bapa."


My dad was called "Bapa" by his first grandchild, and the nickname stuck.  It's appropriate that he has a unique moniker from his grandchildren because he is the king of goofy nicknames, and heaven knows he will give them lots of different titles throughout their lives.  Thus far, a few of the most unusual pet names that my dad has given Noah are "Hunchback" (when he was tiny and floppy), "The Hulk" (when he suddenly got massively chubby), and his current favorite, "Mr. Big" (because Noah is so solid and hefty).  Dad even taught this newest name to my nephew Callum, and it is quite hysterical when Cal will say to me, "Rachel, Baby Noa--I mean, Mr. Big is crying."  :)

Just like his father, my dad is very "hands-on" with Noah and is not afraid to babysit or give a bath or change a diaper.  Recently, I wanted to attend a regional adoption conference on a Friday morning, but Noah was sick, so I didn't feel like I could take him to the nursery that was provided there.  I mentioned to my dad that I was disappointed that I wouldn't be able to go to the conference because there were some classes that I really wanted to attend on adoption topics that I have been thinking about lately.  My dad said, "Well, I could come babysit Mr. Big."  I was quite surprised by this offer because it was a work day, and my dad is a bit of a workaholic, so I never even considered that he would be able to take the day off to help me.  But my dad insisted, so he and Mr. Big spent the morning hanging out together and going for walks while I went to my classes.  Do I have a great dad or what?


Noah also has another awesome grandpa, Grandpa Nielson.


Ryan's dad, Gordon, is a very gentle and loving person.  I've never heard him raise his voice at anyone.  His family sometimes teases him because whenever he is feeling touched, his eyes well up with tears.  I think it is so sweet.  I will never forget when he came to the hospital right after Noah was born.  Tears streamed down his face as I told him the story of Noah's birth and the sacred time we'd spent with his birth parents.  It was such a beautiful moment when he met his grandson for this first time.

During the trips we've taken to Idaho since Noah's birth, Gordon has had such a calming influence on our sometimes fussy little boy.  He takes him in his arms and makes a purring noise by rolling his tongue (I've noticed that Ryan subconsciously makes the same noise when he is soothing babies), and Noah quiets right down.  This most recent trip, we went to one of Ryan's brother's baseball games one evening, and Noah was a little riled up because it was past his bedtime.  I watched Gordon holding Noah and walking him around the field to calm him down.  It looked like he was telling him about the trees and the clouds, the players and the sport.  I loved watching them interact.  Noah is so lucky to have such a patient, loving, tender-hearted grandpa.



Then, there is his birth father.


I've written more on this blog about Katie than I have about Drew, but I want everyone to know how much I love this young man.  When Noah was born, Drew was standing beside me and Katie.  I will never forget sharing that experience with him and witnessing his strength and his love for Noah.  During the emotional hour after the birth, Drew asked me if he could stay in touch with Noah and receive the same types of updates that Katie will be receiving.  I told him of course he could.  I will never forget the relief that flooded his face and the way he hugged me and thanked me.  (As if he needed to thank me when he and Katie were making such a selfless sacrifice.)  He has loved Noah from the first moment he laid eyes on him, and they are so cute together whenever we have visits.  Some teenage boys are intimidated by babies, but Drew has always had such a natural, sweet way with Noah.

It is very rare for birth fathers to be involved in adoptions--most birth mothers face this incredibly difficult decision and the subsequent emotional recovery alone--and it's even rarer for birth fathers to want to stay involved in the baby's life for the long term.  We are so lucky to have Drew in our lives, and I am grateful that Noah will never have to wonder what his birth father was like and whether or not he loved him.


And last, but certainly not least, Noah has his wonderful father.


Ryan is Noah's favorite person in the world.  It is really quite darling.  Noah is currently getting four new teeth (ouch!), and the other day, he was absolutely inconsolable--until Ryan got home from work, and then he was all giggles.  Seriously, all Ryan has to do is walk in the door and Noah starts laughing.  How do dads do that??

Ryan usually puts Noah to bed, and it takes a while.  Ryan only gets about an hour a day with him, so he savors every moment of bedtime.  I think it's important to be consistent with routines, so I recently asked Ryan to teach me how he puts Noah to bed.  As he described it to me, I couldn't stop smiling.  Noah has a small collection of toys and little stuffed animals that stay in his crib.  Apparently, after Ryan reads him books and sings him songs, he lays him down and has all of Noah's toys and animals say goodnight to him.  He picks them up one by one, says "Mr. Dog wants to give Noah a goodnight kiss" and then has the dog (or car or whatever he is holding) walk around the outside of the crib making little barking noises, and then the toy gives Noah a kiss and nuzzles in beside him.  At the end of their little routine, Noah is surrounded by all of his favorite toys, ready to head off into Dreamland. No wonder he falls asleep happy each night!


 I am so grateful for all of these good men in my life and in my son's life.  The impact of a loving father is immeasurable, and Noah is one lucky little boy to have all of these men (and his uncles and his other great grandpas and so many more) who love him.

Happy belated Fathers' Day!  xoxo

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Lessons from my Mother


I worry sometimes that I didn't really know my mom.  She was my best friend, and I spent more time with her than almost anyone, but I am realizing as I grow older that the time I spent with her was focused on me.  She knew me, certainly, but did I know her?   I knew her as Mom, not as Sally Westover, a complex individual with worries and wisdom and history and insecurities.

There is so much that I wish I had asked her.  The problem is, at nineteen years old, I didn't yet have the life experience to know what to ask.  I write her a letter every year on Mothers' Day in which I ask some of these questions--but oh how I wish she could come take me to lunch once a year so I could hear all of her answers and wisdom.

Today is her 57th birthday.  I love thinking about her on this special day.  I love remembering her and celebrating her.  As I grow older, I realize more and more the sacrifices she made for her daughters--sacrifices that I was unaware of as an oblivious child and teen.

My mom waited up for us to get home from being out with our friends.  She said she couldn't sleep until she knew we were home safe and sound, and I actually looked forward to going home and talking over the events of the night with her.   We would sit on my bed and talk for at least an hour, often about the decisions (good and bad) that my friends were making and my hopes and dreams for the future.  My mom knew that I was more likely to open up to her late at night.  She knew that I was more likely to talk to her about what really mattered to me--the worries and questions on my mind.  So she never mentioned the late hour.  She let me talk as long as I needed to.

Only now, as an adult, do I realize what a sacrifice this must've been for her.  Now that I am a mom, I realize that moms are tired at the end of the day.  Moms want to go to bed by 10:00.  On top of all of the normal exhaustion associated with being a mother, my mom was not healthy.  She battled breast cancer for 13 years, and even when she was in remission, she often suffered the effects of having no immune system due to numerous rounds of chemotherapy.  She caught every sickness and faced every health problem in the book.  And yet, she was awake and waiting for me at midnight every weekend.  I wish that I could thank her for that.

For me, it was late-night chats with Mom that worked best; for my sisters, it was different times during the day.  Mom figured out when each of us would be most willing to open up, and she made sure to be available to us during those magic moments.  My freshman year of college, I was talking to my mom on the phone one afternoon when she suddenly said, "Sorry, Rachel, but I have to go!  Laura is pulling up, and if I don't grab her now and get her talking, I'll never find out how her day was!"  It was during that conversation that it dawned on me that my mom was extremely deliberate in the way that she mothered us.  She knew us intimately, and she was always searching for ways to connect with us.  This is something I hope to do for my children.  When my older sister spent a semester teaching English in China, Mom would wake up very early because she had calculated the time difference, and she knew that Sarah was likely to be online at that time.  I vividly remember waking up to the sound of my mom laughing hysterically in the office over some story that Sarah had shared with her via Instant Messenger.  In spite of the thousands and thousands of miles between them, my mom was still searching for ways to connect with her daughter.

I miss her.  I always will.  I wish that she were here to give me advice about how to be a good mother. I've never known someone who mothers better than she did (though I will admit that I am quite biased), and I would love to hear her words of wisdom.  But since that is not an option, I am hoping that, over the years, I will be able to remember the many moments that we shared and reevaluate them through my new perspective as a mother myself--so I can see the lessons about motherhood that were always inherent in those moments, though I may not have been aware of it at the time.

She may not be here to tell me how to be a good mother--but she was showing me all along.


Happy birthday, Mama.  I love you, and I will never forget.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Jig

Last week, I got a birthday card from my friend Natalie.  The front of the card showed a bunch of cartoonish animals wearing party hats in a conga line.  The inside of the card said, "This calls for a happy dance!  Happy Birthday!  Cha-cha-cha!"

She wrote a personalized message which included this final line: "Maybe, if you're lucky, Ryan will do a little birthday cha-cha-cha or jig for you, just to show he cares!"

I laughed out loud when I read that final line.  Natalie was making reference to an infamous family story that a few of you out there probably already know.  It's the story of The Jig, and it's worth sharing here.

One night, many years ago, Ryan and I met on the front porch of my apartment to discuss our wedding plans.  It was late, and Ryan was tired, but I was brimming with excitement about all the latest developments for our big day.  He listened good naturedly as I blabbed about the band, the bridesmaid dresses, and most of all, the reception venue.

"Can you believe we are going to have our reception at the Trail Dust Steakhouse?"  I gushed.  "We are going to be partying it up in a giant barn!  All of the guests will have to do country jigs with the band!  Yee haw!" I shouted and did a little jig in front of him.  "Come on, Ryan!  Get up and do a jig with me!"

Ryan was smiling at my exuberance, but he declined my invitation.  "I can't do a jig right now, Rachel.  I am exhausted.  But you better believe I will jig with you on the night of our wedding."

"Come on!  Come do a jig with me!"  I insisted.

He was laughing as he shook his head in refusal, but suddenly I was not laughing.  In fact, I was no longer in such a good mood.  "Ryan, don't be such a party pooper.  Get up and do a jig with me!" I commanded, irrational panic and anger suddenly flooding over me.

Sensing my change in mood, and not wanting to be ordered around like a show pony, Ryan said, "Rachel, I'm not going to do a jig right now."

I was beside myself.  What did this mean?  Why wouldn't he do this little favor for me?  Was he going to be a good husband after all?  "Just do the stupid jig!!!!" I begged.

Ryan was now completely bewildered.  He looked at me with wide, stunned eyes and said, "I think we both need to go to bed."

At that, I started sobbing.  "If you won't do this little thing for me, how do I know you'll do all the big things in our marriage?"

Can we say Bridezilla???  I must've been stressed to the max!  Talk about overreaction!

I don't remember how the conversation ended.  I do remember walking upstairs with a red and puffy face, and all of my roommates flooding around me in concern.  "What happened??" they asked, probably thinking that my engagement was off.

"Ryan wouldn't do a jig for me," I said and told them the story through my tears.

At the end of my truly sad tale, they looked at each other and smiled in relief (phew--this was not cause to call off a wedding), and then they told me to go to bed because things would be better in the morning.

In the years since, a few of those friends have called me in a tizzy when they were planning their own weddings, wondering if they were indeed doing the right thing, wondering if some tiny "flaw" in their fiance was a deal breaker, and stressing over small wedding details that do not matter in the slightest in the long run.

I'll tell them, "Take a deep breath--everything is going to be okay.  Remember when I freaked out because Ryan wouldn't do a 'jig'?"  This always prompts a good laugh.

Six and a half years in, I am very glad to say that Ryan does indeed do "all the big things" for me in our marriage--and he'll even do a jig for me once in a while when he's in the right mood.

Doing a jig at our wedding

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

29 by 29

I saw this idea on a blog somewhere, and I thought it was fun.  So here are my 29 goals for my 29th year of life.

1.  Go to bed by 10:30 p.m. most nights.  (This will be a huge stretch for me--I am a night owl.)
2.  Guard date night with Ryan and don't let anything get in the way!
3.  Sneak into Noah's room and watch him sleeping more often.
4.  Exercise every day, even if it's just for a few minutes.
5.  Learn how to say "no" and don't worry so much about pleasing everyone.
6.  Read scriptures with Ryan more consistently.
7.  Make Noah laugh hysterically at least once every day.
8.  Write about the people I love on my blog.
9.  Explore the 100 Days of Real Food blog and introduce healthier foods to my family.
10.  Explore the Power of Moms blog and its resources.  Submit at least one guest post.
11.  Keep my toe nails painted.
12.  Read Intuitive Eating and implement what I learn.
13.  Make my blog books.  (Been meaning to do this for about four years now.)
14.  Partner with Ryan to create some artwork for our home.  (I research the ideas and get the supplies; he does the actual artwork while I talk to him.  Team work!)
15.  Make/plan dinner on a very regular basis.
16.  Read at least one fun book each month.
17.  Spend more time with my grandparents.
18.  Plan fun with friends.  Invite people over.
19.  Spend time outside every day.
20.  Make cookies for our neighbors.
21.  Make themed meals for holidays.
22.  Plan my time each day and stick to the plan.  This includes limiting time online.
23.  Go to the temple with Ryan on the first weekend of each month.
24.  Take Noah to El Salvador to meet the ninos.
25.  Pray for everyday opportunities to serve and follow through.
26.  Track all of our expenses using our budget spreadsheet and live frugally.
27.  Vacuum more.
28.  Decide on a plan of action for Nielson Baby #2 (IVF? Adoption? Foster Care?), and go for it!
29. Start writing in my gratitude journal again.

I'm already feeling overwhelmed... :)

Now for my most immediate goal: Getting this apartment out of boxes!!!  Ready, set, go.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pictures from our Trip to Utah and Idaho

Visiting Katie and Drew!

Noah looks quite pleased to be holding his birth mom's hand
Katie graduated from high school on June 1st, and Noah tried out her hat the day before. :)
Cute
Happy to be with his birth dad :)
Love them


Isn't the kitchen gorgeous?
Noah watched intently as Grandma made Mom's birthday cake

Caving with the family in the Idaho desert!

Sally's brother Dave and his wife Valerie are big cavers, so they took us on a Nielson-family adventure.
We're ready!
This cave was created by an underground lava flow thousands of years ago.
The cave was very easy, so Noah got to come along!
He was so good--didn't cry or whimper once.  He likes adventures.
Heading down into the depths 
Dad and Noah stooping in a narrow portion.  
And then an even narrower portion!
Don't worry--this stretch only lasted about five feet and it opened up to huge caverns on either side.
As you can see, Noah was quite happy about the tight squeeze.
Most of the cave was wide and tall like this...thank goodness.  I am super claustrophobic and quite clumbsy, so this kind of a cave was perfect for me.  
Going to Tanner's baseball games in the evenings!

Is there anything better than a warm summer night at the ball park?
It was a very very verrrrrrrrrry fun trip.  We wish we lived closer to the Nielsons.  Sometimes it just doesn't seem fair that we only get to see them a couple of times a year--but that's life, I guess.  We hope they'll come visit us in Colorado soon!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my 28th birthday.  I guess I really am an adult now--there's no denying it.  Twenty eight is a big number.

Sadly, I didn't get to spend my Big Day with Ryan.  Noah and I were in Utah visiting friends, but Ryan has now joined us and we are in Idaho visiting his family for the weekend.  I was bummed that I didn't get to be spoiled by my husband on my birthday (it's the one day of the year that I demand to be spoiled), but at least I got to see some other people that I love.  My cousin decorated her kitchen with birthday signs and made me delicious chocolate chip birthday muffins, and I met up with a few friends the night before to get pizookies (heaven!) at my favorite dessert cafe in Orem.  I knew that my birthday was going to be hectic due to our move and then our trip, so I've been trying to celebrate sporadically all month with special outings and fun little purchases.  I am all about birthdays being special, and I am not opposed to celebrating all month. 

The day before my birthday, Noah and I had a talk.  I told him, "Noah, tomorrow is Mommy's birthday, and all that she wants as a present is an extra hour of sleep.  So instead of waking up at your usual 5:45 a.m., could you sleep until at least 7:00?"  He looked at me so intently that I thought maybe he understood.

But, alas, he was up at 5:45, as usual.  The child is a very early riser.  I have tried everything to get him to change his habits, but it's no use.  No matter what time we put him to bed at night, he is up the next day at 5:45 on the dot (which is actually a lot better than 5:00 a.m., which was his habit for about six weeks).

As I dragged myself out of bed and gave him a bottle, I texted Ryan and said, "Happy birthday to me.  Our son woke me up before sunrise, as usual."  He responded an hour later (he was sleeping soundly in his bed when I was rudely awakened), "He just wanted to make sure that your birthday started early so it would last extra long!"  Well, that's one way of thinking about it.

One of the highlights of my day is that we got to see Katie and Drew!  They are so cute with our little Noah Bug, and I'll post photos later.  Did you see the guest post that Katie wrote for the National Families Supporting Adoption blog?  (It's something that I originally posted here, but they published it there as well.)  I was so surprised to see that they had published it on my birthday, on the very day that we were going to see Katie and Drew.  Crazy timing!  Check out the post here: http://familiessupportingadoption.blogspot.com/2012/05/from-one-birth-mom-to-another.html

I am looking forward to my 29th year of life.  I have lots of goals, and maybe I'll share some of them eventually.   It's going to be a good year.