Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Quagmire

Little-known fact about me: I am terrible at driving in reverse.  I mean, truly and pathetically terrible.

When we lived in Buffalo, I had an awful time backing out of our narrow driveway.  The houses are close together there, and in the winter, the shoveled snow piles up on both sides of the driveway.  I got stuck in a snow drift while backing out more times than I will ever admit, and I often called Ryan in a panic, "I am stuck in the driveway, and I have to be to work in thirty minutes!  Please come home and save me!"  He would leave class and sprint home to shovel me out.  (I love that patient man.)  He eventually started pulling the car out for me before he left for school, just to save himself the trouble of running home when I inevitably got stuck.

I am not proud of this weakness of mine.  In fact, I am quite mortified about it.  But no matter how much I try to learn to drive straight in reverse, I just cannot do it.  And it continues to cause all sorts of difficult and embarrassing situations in my life.

Take last Friday night, for example.  I was meeting my sisters and my cousin at D-Bar, a swanky dessert place in Denver where there is never any parking available, and I was thrilled to see a spot open right in front of the restaurant.  The only problem?  I would have to parallel park.

Ay yi yi.

I did my best, but I ended up going over the curb a little bit, onto the grass.  No biggie, right?

Well, it wouldn't have been a biggie if a broken sprinkler head hadn't created a literal bog in the grassy area next to the curb.  As I tried to straighten out my car, I felt my right tire sink about two feet into the mud and heard the bottom of my car scra-a-a-pe against the concrete curb. 

Dang dang DANG it.

A few people who were walking by apparently heard the heinous noise as well, and they turned to stare.  They looked a little bit shocked by what they saw (which I knew was not a good sign), but I played cool, acting unconcerned while I pretended to take a call on my cell phone.  (Not kidding.  I actually did this.)  As soon as the spectators walked away, I hung up my oh-so-important call and sheepishly got out of my car to survey the damage.

This was not good.



Berating myself for being so incompetent, I texted my sisters to inform them that I had landed myself in a bog that I wasn't sure I would ever be able to get out of.  They responded to let me know that they would help me as soon as they arrived, but they were running late because my little sister had bumped a curb on the way to the restaurant, and she had popped her tire.

So I guess it runs in the family.

Once my sisters resolved their dilemma and arrived to help me with mine, we all agreed that we should eat before endeavoring to push the car out of the quagmire, in order to build up our strength and also so that our embarrassing efforts might be cloaked by the darkness of night.  In the end, it didn't make much difference.  No amount of pushing on our part would've hoisted that vehicle out of the bog (believe me, we tried), and no amount of darkness would have decreased the spectacle that we created right outside of a posh restaurant with tons of outdoor seating and an outdoor waiting area (we were dinner entertainment for about fifty people).

Fortunately for us, just when we were about to give up and call a tow truck, a savior arrived: he was wearing a mud-splattered t-shirt and a camouflage hat.  One of his front teeth was missing.  He was walking through the dark alley next to the restaurant when he saw us in distress and came right over to help.  (For the record, not one of the polo-wearing men watching from the porch of the restaurant offered to help.)  We never did learn his name, but at one point, he informed us that we should call his parole officer and tell him about his good deed.  We all laughed, not sure if he was kidding, but then he showed us his ankle monitor.  I thought it was the greatest thing ever.  I love exceptionally nice ex-convicts.

I gladly agreed to call his parole officer, but he declined saying, "Actually, I get off scram on September 1st, so there is no need for you to call.  But thanks for being willing."  So, after he spent almost an hour jacking my car up, forcing huge rocks underneath the tire in order to create traction, and helping us push the car out of the bog, we gave him a piece of D-Bar's famous chocolate cake and all of the cash in my wallet.  He was quite grateful, but we were even more grateful.  Thank heaven for our Good Samaritan.



Now I think I need to learn how to drive in reverse.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Noah Atticus--12 Months Old

 

Noah Atticus

spunky, opinionated, giggly, wild

Lover of toy cars (which he rolls around the carpet saying "vroom!"), bedtime stories (which he is finally willing to sit still for), and the word "No!" (which he has heard Mom say one too many times when he tries to play in the toilet)

Who feels exuberant when he dives face-first into fluffy pillows, antsy when he is expected to sit still during church, and tentative when the vacuum cleaner is roaring around the
apartment (video here)

Who needs to start giving Mom hugs and kisses (I cannot wait for this milestone!), to continue sleeping in a little later each morning (we now make it to 6:30 most days!), and to stop growing up so fast (seriously--can he be a year old??)

Who gives a barely intelligible "thank you" to anyone who hands him a toy he's dropped, a headache to Mom when he refuses to eat foods that he used to like, and a laugh to Dad when he tries to sing along with the chorus of "Sweet Child of Mine" by Guns N' Roses

Who fears nothing, including walking off a flight of stairs, walking straight into a swimming pool, and walking away from Mom in a busy grocery store
 (none of these catastrophes has happened yet, thanks to Mom's cat-like reflexes, but he gives me a 
heart attack nearly every day with his attempts)

Who would like to see chocolate chip pancakes on his plate for every meal, the neighbor's little dog Delilah each day, and more of his birthparents and the Nielson side of the family

Resident of an apartment covered in cute photos of him (with still more to be added to the collection, thanks to his adorable one-year photo shoot*)

Denver, Colorado

 



 Photos by Molly Hunter Photography

*Which are your favorites?? I need help narrowing so the apartment doesn't become completely overrun with photos of this adorable boy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Thirty

Ryan turned 30 this week, and he is feeling old.  His knee is giving him trouble, and he suddenly developed a bad toothache a few days ago (hello, Grandpa).  On top of that, he has lost 15 pounds since starting his residency, and, as we all know, Ryan didn't have 15 pounds to lose.  Apparently when he gets stressed he stops eating.  (Man, I wish I had that problem.)

To cheer up my ailing geezer, and to make him feel a little younger and a little more hip, I surprised him and took him to see his favorite band, The Counting Crows, in concert at the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater.  It has actually been a dream of mine for sometime to take Ryan to see The Counting Crows, and I couldn't believe it when I checked the summer schedule for Red Rocks a few months ago and saw that they were coming to Colorado on Ryan's 30th birthday weekend.  It was fate, and I bought the tickets immediately.

I didn't tell Ry about the concert until the night before.  He knew that I had a birthday outing planned, but he had no idea what we would be doing.  A friend of mine asked if Ryan "flipped out" when I unveiled the surprise.  I laughed at the thought of Ryan flipping out, and then I pictured the scene when I had told him, right after we got into bed for the night:  He said, "Are you kidding me??" in a really happy voice and started grinning like a madman.  I, on the other hand, started clapping and rubbing my hands together in glee, all while gritting my teeth, scrunching up my face, and making a strange "Eeeeeee!" sound.  Then I couldn't hold back my exuberance any longer, and I sat up in bed and started pumping my fists and cheering.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm the one in this relationship who "flips out" over things. 

Despite his lack of unrestrained enthusiasm, Ryan was quite thrilled about the concert, and we had a fantastic time.  Ryan's little brother Tanner decided at the last minute to come into town with his mom for the big birthday weekend, so we got him a ticket to the concert too.  It was nice to be able to snuggle between two of my favorite guys when it got dark and a little chilly.  The moon was full, the skyline of Denver was all lit up, and the music was amazing--perfect evening.



The fun continued on Saturday night when Sally took us all to a Colorado Rapids vs. Real Salt Lake soccer game.  If there is one thing in life that Ryan loves, it's soccer.  Combine that with a visit from his family, and we have one happy Ry.


On Monday, Ryan's actual birthday, I made him a batch of homemade cinnamon rolls to take to work with him (kind of like the cupcakes that your mom used to make for you to bring in to your elementary school classroom on your big day).  Noah and I also met him for lunch at the hospital where he works:


Finally, that evening, we went downtown for a dinner date.  (Thank you, Bapa, for babysitting!)  We ate on Larimer Square, which is the oldest and most historic city block in Denver.  It has been restored and is super quaint, with white twinkle lights strung across the street year-round.  I am obsessed with white twinkle lights.  They make everything seem romantic.

Yes, I am wearing the same scarf that I wore to the concert.
Noah bought it for me with some of his birthday money.  Wasn't that generous of him?
Unfortunately, they were setting up for a big event, so the charming atmosphere of our dinner was interrupted by the incessant beeping of machines backing up (this sound is like nails on a chalkboard for me).  Luckily the crew stopped working about halfway through our dinner or I may have been driven into a fit of madness that included throwing over our table and tearing the place apart. (There I go with the Chris Farley references again--sorry.)

Earlier in the week, I had emailed some close friends and family members and asked them to send me a birthday note for Ryan.  I put them into individual envelopes, and every few minutes throughout the evening, I had Ryan draw an envelope from the stack and I then read the note aloud.  It was fun to see his surprise at the different people who had written him notes and his embarrassment at some of the nice things people said about him.  Turns out that a lot of our family and friends think Ryan is pretty great--and I agree with them!

The caution tape in the background was a lovely touch to the evening.
All in all, I think it was a memorable 30th birthday for Old Man Nielson.  I wanted the week to be extra special for him because he has worked so hard this year in his busy residency and I haven't always been easy to live with in the midst of all of his stress.  Ryan is, without a doubt, my best friend and our marriage has always been quite blissful with very few disagreements or conflicts--but this year was hard in that I sometimes felt like we were just "distant" somehow.  He was adjusting to life as an overworked dental resident, and I was adjusting to life as a stay-at-home mom, and we were both discouraged and exhausted at times.  Embarrassing as this is to admit, sometimes when he came home from work, I spent the entire evening on my computer and barely connected with him at all.  A lot of what I do on the computer is "good" (blogging, journaling, sorting our family photos, reading articles about the world), but a lot of it is also mindless and draining (surfing Facebook and random blogs, for example)--and none of it is worth ignoring Ryan over.  I mean, honestly, sometimes I barely look up when he walks in the door.  So for his birthday "gift" I told him that I am going to spend less time on my computer in the coming year.  That may mean fewer blog posts and less time working on "projects," but it will be so worth it if it means more quality time with my favorite person in the world, Mr. Ry Guy.  I am so grateful he was born thirty years ago, and I can't wait to spend the next thirty years by his side.  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RY-RY!  I hope you had a great birthday week!!

LOVE,
Your Wife

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

July Happenings

Before we get too far into August, I thought I'd dump a few of our random (but fun) photos from the month of July.

I've been spending lots of time with my adorable niece and nephew, and I love it.  Being an Auntie is the best!  And guess what--I am going to get another niece or nephew in late December when Ryan's sister, Ashley, has a baby.  Hooray!




We love our new apartment, and despite all of the hassle of moving, we are so glad that we buckled down and did it.  It is much quieter and calmer here.  Some of the perks of the new place are a huge storage closet on the porch, a second bathroom, no one getting shot at the community mailboxes, a much bigger kitchen, and a nice swimming pool next door.  My favorite thing of all, however, is the balcony.  It faces the west, and I get to enjoy the sunset every night.  Is there anything better than Colorado sunsets?  I don't think so.


Ryan did a painting for me, and I am kind of obsessed with it.  This picture doesn't do it justice.  Galatians 5 about the "fruit of the Spirit" is one of my favorite passages of scripture, and when I saw this design on Pinterest, I knew I wanted it for our home.  Thank goodness I have an artistic husband!


Noah is stinkin' cute as can be.  I love all of the new things I find him doing on a daily basis.  In the first picture, you will see that he loves Cafe Rio black beans (like his mama).  In the second picture, you will see that he likes climbing onto and sitting on any boxes (or cases of water bottles) that he finds around the apartment.  I think this photo is hilarious because it looks like he put himself in time out.  And the third picture is just sweet.  I love my blue eyed boy.




Noah got a real haircut.  He has had several hair cuts since his birth (including one shearing back in December), but this was his first real haircut by someone who knows what she is doing.  My friend Alisha cuts hair at a fancy salon in town, and she was kind enough to cut Noah's hair on her day off.  We brought Baby Einstein, and he was so entranced by the movie that he actually held still while she trimmed.  If you care to see how the experience went down, you can watch this video (but I know it will probably be boring for anyone other than Grandma).




He's not so sure about the new style, apparently.  
On a sad note, Noah has a wicked case of eczema.  You may have noticed in his birthday pictures that his cheeks were looking red and dry.  That was actually a good day for his skin.  He has had the red, awful-looking cheeks on and off for about five months now, and his pediatrician kept prescribing stronger and stronger creams.  Ryan and I tried everything to make it go away, but to no avail.   After a particularly terrible outbreak a few weeks ago (see picture below), my pediatrician finally referred me to a dermatologist.   They were booking six weeks out, but when I told them Noah's symptoms and everything we had already tried for him, they gave him an emergency appointment for that same week. I am so happy to report that the new cream that the dermatologist prescribed has worked wonders, and our boy's face has almost totally cleared up in the week that we've been using the medicine.  Hallelujah!

This makes me want to cry.  I am so glad it's gone and so grateful for modern medicine.
Finally, we've been climbing/driving up 14,000 foot mountains lately.  Ryan and my brother-in-law Logan climbed two 14ers a few weekends ago, and Laura and I drove up one.  I know that sounds lame, but it is the highest paved road in North America, and it was actually really fun and really beautiful.  (By the way, my sister Laura is living here in Denver for the summer because her husband is in Afghanistan.  It is incredibly fun to have her here.)



And that about sums up July.  I have been doing lots of blog posts these past few days, trying to get caught up.  I'm not quite done yet but getting close.  Tomorrow--Ryan's 30th birthday!  Stay tuned.

Outtakes

It's nearly impossible to get this child to sit still for a photo these days!  We had a heck of a time getting a good one of him and Ryan together for his birthday, but the bloopers are kinda fun too:








I love my little Wild Child.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Noah's First Birthday Week

I think Noah had a pretty fantastic first Birthday Week.  In fact, I'm a little nervous that we won't be able to match this kind of fun and excitement in the future.  Every birthday from here on out might be a disappointment for him.

The fun began on Wednesday morning (his actual birthday) when Aunt Sarah invited us to go to the Pancake House with her and her kids to indulge in some chocolate chip pancakes.  It was close to Noah's naptime already, so I almost said no, but then I thought, "What the heck?  You only turn one once!"  I told Sarah that we needed to hustle to the restaurant (instead of taking our usual two hours to get somewhere), so we decided that we'd all go in our pajamas.  Sarah's son, Callum, is a rather particular three-year old, and he generally doesn't like to be seen in public in his pjs (it's kind of hilarious), but he made an exception for Noah's birthday.  He said to Sarah, "I think the people want to see me in my pajamas eating pancakes with Baby Noah." Thatta boy, Cal!  Noah, on the other hand, didn't seem a bit bothered that "the people" saw him in his tight, thigh-showcasing pjs!


When the pancakes arrived, Noah couldn't wait to dive in.  We watched in amazement as he finished not one but two huge pancakes.  He is quite the chunker.

"I'll take this."
"Is this candle edible?"
"Lay off me, I'm starving!!"  (Chris Farley, anyone?)
"Don't even try to snitch a piece, Mom.  These are MINE!"
"I am so happy right now."
I was glad Noah got to have a chocolate feast on his birthday because we weren't planning to eat cake until the weekend, and it seems like a shame not to have something delicious on your actual birthday.  He definitely indulged in those pancakes and seemed very satisfied by his birthday treat.

The rest of the day was fairly non-eventful.  We ran lots of errands, and I couldn't resist forcing Noah to wear his birthday crown everywhere we went...the post office, the drug store, and the grocery store.  He caused quite a stir.  The minute I pulled him out of the car at the grocery store, a guy shouted, "It's the Birthday King!"  Then walking into the store, another guy said, "Hey, little buddy!  I'm August 1st too!  Give me a high five!" I asked him where his birthday crown was, and he laughed and said he was on his way to get one.  Everywhere we went all day, people smiled at Noah.  I loved it.  I love when people are happy.

We hit a snag in our plans for the day during our errand to the grocery store.  I had stopped there to pick up some balloons, and I accidentally locked my keys in the car.  I called my apartment complex management, and they agreed to let me in to my apartment, but I had no way to get there other than walk.  Fortunately, the store is only about 1/2 mile from our house, so I hefted Chubby Noah onto my hip, tied our seven balloons to his wrist, and started the trek home.  Hauling that 25-pound cutie home is actually one of my favorite memories from the day.  It was windy and the balloons were blowing like crazy behind us, and Noah was giggling in glee.  I just kept squeezing him tight and thinking how lucky I am to have him.  It started to lightly rain while we were walking, and it was perfect.  I love rain, and I love Noah, and I love balloons, and I love birthdays.  Such a great memory.

That evening, we used our seven balloons for a new family tradition.  I've heard of people doing "balloon releases" on birthdays, and I think it's a really cool idea.  It was easy: we handed Noah a balloon and let him play with it and walk around with it, and when he let it go, we made a wish for the coming year and watched the balloon drift away.  We made some wishes for him and some wishes for his birthparents.  We are going to keep doing this with him throughout his life.





After that busy and fun day, Noah fell right to sleep and Ryan and I lay in bed talking about how awesome Noah is and what a year it has been for our family.

The celebration continued on Thursday when Ryan's mom and his little brother arrived for the weekend.  Of course, Grandma came bearing gifts and lots of hugs and kisses, and Uncle Tanner came with lots of energy to play.  Noah was in heaven!  It was very very fun to have them here, and, with Noah's birthday on August 1st and Ryan's on August 6th, I hope it can become somewhat of a birthday tradition to be with family during the first weekend of this month.  More on what we did with the Nielsons and how we celebrated Ryan's 30th birthday in another post.  For now, back to the Birthday King...

We were having a little family birthday party for Noah on Saturday, and I wanted to make a fancy cake for the occasion.  This is really not like me at all (remember, I don't make things), but Noah's birthmom Katie is a fabulous baker and cake decorator, and I want it to be a fun tradition to honor her every year by attempting to make Noah a fun cake.  I found a photo of what I wanted online, and then I asked Katie for advice and encouragement. :)  She sent me her amazing buttercream frosting recipe and said she was sending lots of cake decorating vibes my way.  It must have worked because the cake turned out really cute, if I do say so myself.


It was definitely a team effort, and I didn't contribute much by way of artistic skills.  I baked the cakes and made the frosting; Ryan made the ark and animals out of fondant.  I did make the fondant rainbow, so that's something.  Sally helped us every step of the way, and she assembled and frosted the cake at the end.  She made everything come together perfectly.  If I would've frosted this cake, the blue frosting would've been smeared with chocolate cake crumbs.  Thank goodness for Grandma!


Other attendees of the party were: Mom and Dad, Bapa, Granny and Grampy, Uncle Tanner, Aunt Sarah, Uncle Logan, Callum, and Jade.





I love the kids' expressions in this photo.  Hilarious.
It was a very low-key party.  Noah was tired and a little cranky, but we watched him open a few presents (he got some toy cars from Callum first, which cheered him right up), then we sang Happy Birthday to him (he looked horrified by all of the attention and almost burst into tears), and finally,  we watched him mangle his lovely cake (oh the joy of turning one!). :)








 



A bite for Mommy...
but none for Bapa!

I really feel like it was a perfect week.  We had just the right amount of contemplative time and party time.  We are so grateful for our little Snuggle Bug and don't know what we would do without him.

I hope you enjoyed your birthday week, Noah, and I promise to try to make next year's birthday just as memorable!  Love you!!