Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Noah Is Funny

Noah has a new phrase: "Want it!"  He often says this when we are in public places and he is looking at the toy that another child is playing with or the food that another child is eating.  He reaches dramatically for the desired object and yells pathetically, "WANT IT!!!!"  So embarrassing!

He doesn't even like food--so I don't know why is always begging other kids for it.  Seriously, Noah has turned into the pickiest eater ever, and it is driving his mother nuts.  His four food group are: bananas, pancakes, peanut butter, and cream cheese.  He is OBSESSED with peanut butter, which he calls just plain "butter."  If he had his way, he would eat nothing else.  The other night, I was trying to get him to eat cheese tortellini, which I knew he would like if he just tried a bite, but he flat out refused...until I put a dollop of peanut butter on it.  Disgusting, yes, but he gobbled it right up.  He is almost equally obsessed with pancakes, which he calls "Cancakes."  He can often be heard throughout the day, when it's not even mealtime, whining for "Cancakes! Cancakes!"  My dad watched Noah for us the other night, and when he heard Noah sobbing for pancakes, he decided to take him on a date to Village Inn.  Cancake Date with Bapa!  What could be better?  (As a side note, I could really use some advice on the picky eating--so please leave a comment if you have any ideas for me!!)

Noah also LOVES balloons, and he has come to associate the grocery store with these helium-filled delights.  As soon as we walk into the store, he starts asking, "Balloon?  Balloon?  Balloon?"  We always make a stop at the florist and find a balloon to tie to our cart for him to play with as we mosey around the store.  Sadly, he never gets to take it home.  (I think Secret Cupid is going to bring him a balloon for Valentines Day this year and tie it on his crib, so he wakes up in the morning to his dream come true.)

I love my little Noah rascal.

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Today is my brother-in-law Sam's birthday, so I thought I would spend a few minutes thinking about him and writing a little blog tribute.

Sam was in Afghanistan for eight months last year, and it was during his time away that I realized that something in our family is missing when Sam is not around.  Family gatherings are just not quite as fun, somehow.

When he got back from deployment, he came to Colorado for a long weekend, and the family felt complete again.  I know that sounds corny, but it's true.  Though Sam is very chill and would never want to be the center of attention or the life of the party, he has this playful, sarcastic wit that often comes out of nowhere, and he is just so darn pleasant to be around.

Sam makes up nicknames for people that could be misinterpreted as offensive if you didn't know him--but he means them as total terms of endearment.  For example, when Noah was about 13 months old (and in that stage where he wasn't a baby anymore but wasn't quite a toddler yet either), Sam started calling him "The Fat Hobbit."  It fit him perfectly.  Noah really did look like a squat little man as he wandered around the house in his skinny jeans.

Sam also has interesting terms of endearment for his wife.  Laura is the skinnest little twig of a person you've ever seen, but she can pack away food like there's no tomorrow (she's been known to eat ten cookies in one sitting), and Sam thinks it is adorable.  He calls her "Pigman." She is even saved in his phone and email contacts by this flattering moniker.

Some of you may realize that "pigman" is a reference from Seinfeld.  Laura and Sam have all of the Seinfeld episodes memorized, and they throw lines from the show into their everyday conversations and emails.  And I must say that watching Seinfeld with Sam is a very enjoyable experience because he laughs maniacally at all of the jokes.

In addition to being funny, Sam is smart and well-informed.  I can think of many interesting conversations I've had with Laura and Sam over the years, usually when we are driving in the car somewhere.  We will talk about life, religion, politics...you name it.  I love that Sam pipes in and shares his opinions and perspectives, instead of just letting the girls gab.  I admire Sam and think he is very wise.

I am so glad that Sam is part of our family.  My older sister and I are very protective of our "Little Laura" (as we still think of her), and not just anyone was going to do when it came to her marriage.  I honestly didn't know if we would ever think anyone was "good enough" for our precious little sis...but then Sam came along, and we knew he was special.  With his sense of humor, his smarts, his strength of character, and his devotion to God and family, Sam is a perfect match for Laura.  We love him, and we are grateful for him.

Happy Birthday, Sammy!  I hope Pigman makes you a delicious cake today!  (And I hope she doesn't eat the entire thing!)


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Noah Goes South

Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Noah.

Noah decided that he wanted to go on an adventure with his Mama.  "Let's go visit Aunt Laura, way down south in Mississippi!" he said.  His mother just happened to find a great sale on plane tickets with Southwest Airlines, and she had not spent her Christmas money yet, so she agreed.

They went to the airport and stood in a long line at the ticket booth and then another long line at the security station, and then they boarded a crowded train, and when they got off the train, Mama took off running down the concourse at full speed, pushing Noah in his orange stroller, faster than a roller coaster.  Noah heard Mama's name being called over the loud speaker, and he thought they might not get to go to Mississippi after all (he is used to missing planes with his Mama)--but they got to the plane just in time.  Mama was so out of breath that Noah was afraid she might die, but luckily she didn't.

Because they were some of the last people to board the plane (two others actually arrived after them), they had to sit in a middle seat, and Noah didn't like being smashed between two people.  He climbed all over Mama and ripped off her glasses and gave her sloppy kisses and spilled her drink and drove his toy car on her head and across her face.  Mama was very relieved when, after three hours, the plane landed and they could get off!

Noah was so happy to see his Aunt Laura that he gave her a big hug and kiss, and in return, she took him to her favorite fried chicken place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

After their big meal, they went to walk around a cool part of the city called The French Quarter.  It was beautiful and felt a little spooky due to the thick fog that had settled on the city and the flickering gas lamps everywhere.  They walked so much that they decided that they needed to stop for french beignets and hot chocolate.

Right outside of the beignet shop, a crazy man was playing his saxophone.  Noah was quite intrigued and walked right up to him and watched intently for several minutes.  The man played Noah his own rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.

That was just the beginning of the night's music: Noah got to go to his first real concert, a jazz concert in the famous Preservation Hall where Jazz had its beginnings.  The building was very old and very small.  Everyone had to stand up and squeeze in like sardines.  Mama was a little nervous to take Noah to the concert, but he promised that he would behave, and he kept his word.  He was so entranced by the musicians with their shiny instruments that he hardly made a peep.

After the concert, they got in Aunt Laura's car and started driving.  Noah fell asleep to the sound of Mama and Laura talking, and when he woke up, they had reached Mississippi.  It was dark outside, and the moon was up, and Noah almost stayed asleep on his Mama's shoulder--but then he was awakened from his peaceful slumber by the loudest sound he had ever heard!  A ginormous train was rumbling by, about 40 yards from Aunt Laura's apartment, and the blare of its horn almost shattered his ear drums.  Aunt Laura had warned him that a train track ran very close to her home, but he hadn't realized that it would come by about twenty times throughout the day and night, and it would literally shake the apartment.  Noah was excited about the train; Mama was not.  She was afraid that he would not nap or sleep at night, but he promised her that he would, and again he kept his word.  By some miracle, the train did not disturb his slumber at all during the week that they spent in Mississippi.

One day, they went to see alligators.  Noah thought the babies were cute, and he even got to touch one.  He liked the big ones too, and it took a lot of effort for Mama to keep him from walking too close to the fences.  She was afraid the alligators would want to make Noah their dinner (and who could blame them?)

The highlight of their visit to the alligator ranch was an airboat tour that they took through the swamp nearby.  Apparently, a boat with a typical motor won't work in the swamp because the water is generally less than a foot deep.  So they boarded a crazy boat with a gigantic fan on the back of it, and they rode around looking for alligators.  They got so close to one that Mama almost could've reached out and touched it. Don't worry--she didn't try.  The man who drove the boat liked to go fast.  Noah liked it too.

Another night, they went to walk on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico.  Noah had never seen the ocean before, and he was quite fascinated by the expanse of water.  He kept saying, "Water!  Water!"  Finally, Mama gave in and took off his pants, and they all waded around and enjoyed the sunset.

In addition to all of these new experiences, Noah tried lots of new foods.  It is Mardi Gras season in Louisiana and Mississippi right now, and everywhere Noah went, he saw colorful (and slightly ugly) cakes called King Cakes.  He tried a King Cake donut at a local bakery, and it was so tasty that he asked Mama and Aunt Laura if they would make him a real King Cake. They willingly obliged, using this recipe that they found online, and it was surprisingly delicious. They celebrated like it was Mardi Gras, right there in Laura's kitchen.


Another culinary delight of the South is a little place called The Waffle House.  Ever heard of it? There is one on every corner.  Literally.  It is a a tiny, greasy diner type of establishment, but the waffles are actually quite good, and it's a great place to get to know the locals.  Noah went to breakfast there with Aunt Laura, Uncle Sam, and Mama one Saturday morning.  Their waitress would shout, "Welcome to the Waffle House!" or "Welcome to the Waffle Kingdom!" in a strange voice whenever anyone walked in the door.  It was quite humorous for them but I imagine it gets very old for all of her co-workers.

With all of the fun that Noah was having, you would think that he would've been in a swell mood all week, right?  Well, the truth is that Noah was not a very happy camper during his time in Mississippi.  Though he had his gleeful moments, he was unusually fussy and clingy throughout the entire week (which made Mama very tired, but she tried to be patient since traveling can be tough on little people).  When Mama and Aunt Laura visited a local souvenir shop, they saw this t-shirt and knew that Noah just had to have it to memorialize his time down South:

Mama and Aunt Laura got some awesome hats.  (Just kidding!)  In the evenings, after a long day, Mr. Crabbie did enjoy settling down in front of Uncle Sam's big screen to watch a few minutes of Sesame Street before bed.

On their last day in the South, Aunt Laura took them back to New Orleans for a quick tour of the beautiful Garden District.  They visited a creepy old cemetery, and Mama and Laura were a little scared.  Noah told them that everything would be okay, and he was right.

Then it was back to the plane, where Noah and Mama had a three-hour flight home.  Noah was really sad to be leaving Aunt Laura and screamed bloody murder for over an hour of the flight.  (Not kidding.) All of the other passengers thought it was adorable. (Definitely kidding.)

When they got back home to Denver, Noah's daddy did a little examination of his mouth and discovered that he had cut two molars while they were in Mississippi.  Go figure, right?!  Mama told Noah that she forgave him for his crabbiness because she would be pretty grumpy if she had two teeth pushing out of her gums too.  Poor baby.

Despite some painful gums, Noah did have a fun week in Mississippi, meeting alligators, wading in the ocean, tasting delicious foods, and hanging out with his Aunt Laura, his Uncle Sam, and of course, his Mama.

He can't wait for his next adventure.

The End.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

What I've Gained Since High School

I started this blog post over a year ago, but I never got the courage to publish it.  I just couldn't bring myself to post something so honest and revealing.  Though I haven't lost a pound in the year since this post was originally written, I have found a lot of peace with myself, through praying, reading, writing, and going to counseling--and even though it is still scary for me to publish this, I hope that by sharing some of my journey, I can help other women who struggle with this issue as I do.  

What I’ve Gained Since High School

Last night, I went to the baby shower of an old friend.  While I was getting ready, a nagging worry kept popping into my head: “What will everyone think when they see how much weight I’ve gained since high school?”  The familiar ache, dread, and embarrassment stung in my chest, as I picked out the longest sweater in my closest, an effort to hide what cannot be hidden.

See, I’ve gained a lot of weight since high school.  Sixty pounds to be exact.  Sixty pounds that weigh on my heart and my mind like a ton.  I am always aware of it, always worrying about it.  Now that I live in my hometown again, I worry about whom I will run into who knew me in my former life—my “skinny life”—and what they will think when they see me.

“Man, she’s really let herself go!”  
“Wow, she has gained a lot of weight.”
“I never thought that Rachel would let herself get fat.”

Just thinking about it makes me want to cry.

Though I am a very open person, this is not something that I often talk about.  I have never blogged about it, and I honestly can’t believe I am blogging about it now.  It’s one thing to blog about my struggle with infertility, which is not my fault and everyone knows that.  It’s another thing to blog about my struggle with weight gain.  It feels like such a personal failure, and somehow I think, “Maybe if I don’t say anything, no one will notice.”

But how could they not notice?  Of course they notice.  

As human beings, we are always sizing each other up, comparing.  Who has gained and who has lost.  But I’ve been thinking today that while it’s easy to see when people have gained weight, it’s not so easy to see what else they have gained along the way. The most important gains and losses in life are not visible.  

And the more I thought about that, the more determined I became that I am done being ashamed of what I’ve gained in the last ten years.  Because I’ve gained a lot more than just sixty pounds.

     I gained a deep love and respect for persons with disabilities as I worked three summers at an Easter Seals camp in the mountains of Colorado.

     I gained a closer relationship with my Heavenly Father as I took care of my mother who was dying from breast cancer and then had to tell her goodbye.

     I gained a college degree in a field that I love.  During my five years as a teacher, I taught 600 teenagers how to read more critically and write more analytically.  I gained invaluable knowledge and skills that I will use for the rest of my life.

     I gained a husband whom I love more than anyone on the planet.  He makes me happy, and I make him happy, and he loves me unconditionally, +60 pounds and all.

     I gained immense gratitude for my family, my health, my opportunities, my warm shower, and my washing machine as I lived in an orphanage for persons with disabilities in El Salvador.  I gained relationships with the beautiful children there that have continued to bless my life as I’ve visited them almost every year since.

     I gained incredibly meaningful, life-long friendships--first in my college years at BYU and then in our dental school years in Buffalo, New York. 


     I gained strength, faith, and empathy as I endured years of fertility treatments and adoption disappointments.  And then--miraculously and mercifully--I gained a son.  A precious perfect little boy whom I waited for and hoped for and fought for.  

The most important gains and losses in life cannot be measured by your pants size or gauged by the quick glance of an outsider. And it is that knowledge that helps me realize that I don’t need to be embarrassed anymore. 

Because a number on the scale will never be able to quantify everything that I have gained since high school.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


This is my little brother, Tanner.  I love him.   Today is his birthday, so I want to honor him with a little blog tribute.

The first time that I met Ryan's family, I was nervous.  I remember walking into the house and meeting his mom, making small talk and feeling a little awkward and intimidated--and then Tanner came bounding into the room.  He was a squirrely eleven-year-old boy, and he greeted me with a huge grin.  He stuck his hand out to me and said, "Hi, I'm Tanner! I've heard a lot about you!"  We all chuckled, and it totally broke the ice.  I shook his hand and introduced myself, and Tanner and I have been buddies ever since.  I've always felt absolutely at ease around Tan, even early on in Ryan's and my courtship.  Tanner was young and sweet and so much fun.

I remember going to one of his little league baseball games and having a Twinkie picnic afterward and steamrolling down the grassy hill.  I remember sitting next to him on the drive home from the game and showing him my photos from the Easter Seals summer camp where I worked, and he looked at me with these big, interested, amazed eyes and asked me questions about all of the kids.  I remember sitting on a Love Sac next to his bed and talking about middle school, girls, friends, and teenage drama.  I remember when, during my first trip to the family cabin in Sun Valley, Ryan asked him how long he wanted me to stay around, and Tanner responded, "Forever!" Ryan and I got married about a year after that, so Tanner was indeed stuck with me as his sister forever.

He is very affectionate and has always made me feel so loved.  Though he is all grown up now, he still gives me big, tight hugs every time he sees me.  We've always been able to talk about just about anything.  During this recent trip to Sun Valley, Ryan and I stayed in the loft with Tan, and one night, Tan and I laid in our beds across the room from each other and talked late into the night.  Every few minutes, I would hear through the darkness, "Hey, Rach?  You awake?"  And then we would talk about something for a while, until it got quiet again for a minute, and then I'd say, "Hey, Tan?" and the conversation would go on.  I loved it.  It is one of my most precious memories from the trip.

I am grateful that after more than 20 years of having only sisters, I gained three brothers when I married into the Nielson family. (More on the other two when their birthdays roll around!)  I am grateful that Tanner is such a loving uncle to Noah.  You can see it in his face when he is around Noah...he just adores him.  When we met the family at Market Street Grill during my "perfect day" a few weeks ago, Tanner watched Noah throughout the whole meal with an amused smile on his face.  I said, "Isn't he awesome, Tan?"  And Tanner responded, "I can't stop watching him!  He's just so amazing!" :)  I love seeing these two together.

I will always love Tanner as that eleven year old boy that I first knew.  He will always be my little brother.  But I am also so proud of him for the man that he has become, and I look forward to watching his life unfold in the coming years.

Happy Birthday, T!  I love you more than words can say, and I hope to see you very, very soon.


Friday, January 11, 2013

So, I went to see a counselor...

A few weeks ago, I mentioned on this blog that I went to see a counselor and that I would eventually write more about my experience.  It felt a little embarrassing to admit that, but I don't know why.  There is no shame in admitting that I don't know everything, and I'm not perfect, and someone outside of my friends and family had information that has helped me. 

I wrote a little bit about my experience with counseling for an article for The Power of Moms, which was published yesterday.  For the article, I simplified the explanation of why I went to counseling.  I said that I wanted to learn more about healthy ways to deal with stress, and that is true, but what I didn't get into on their website was the fact that the counselor that I went to see specializes in eating disorders.

For the past ten years, I have dealt with stress through food--both undereating and overeating.  The year that my mom was dying, I barely ate at all and ran between 5-8 miles a day.  I remember actually having the conscious thought that I couldn't keep my mom from dying, but I could control the amount of food that I put into my mouth and the number of miles I ran every day.  This pattern of using food as a means of coping with stress and negative emotions has continued in the ten years since, but during my years of infertility and adoption stress, it went to the other extreme.  I remember coming home from fertility appointments and thinking, "Well, if I can't have a baby, I am going to have a brownie (or the entire pan) instead."  The year when we had the ectopic pregnancy and all of the failed adoptions was by far the most stressful year of my life, and I ate to comfort myself.  And then adjusting to being a stay-at-home mom with a baby who rarely stopped crying in a city where I didn't have any friends yet made things even worse.

I don't have any of the "major" eating disorders like anorexia or bulimia, but I just feel like I've had a dysfunctional relationship with food for the past ten years, and I have tried to overcome it on my own, but it has never worked.  So that's why, with lots of prayer and the support of my sisters, my dad, Ryan, and several trusted friends whom I truly believe God brought into my life, I decided to go talk to a counselor about it.

It has been a really good experience.  It's definitely awkward (I kind of hate talking about myself so much--it feels selfish and one-sided), but I have learned a lot, and, most importantly, it has helped.  I don't feel controlled by food or my emotions anymore, and I just feel so much happier in general. I've let go of a lot of my perfectionism, which has definitely fed this problem. In addition to one-on-one counseling, I also attended a ten-week therapy group where we discussed Dialectical Behavorial Therapy (DBT), which is basically just healthy ways of dealing with stress.  (It's like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, if you've heard of that.)  My article on The Power of Moms shares one of the strategies that I learned in the DBT group that is simple and has helped me a lot.  So check it out if you're interested.

In the coming weeks, I will write more on this blog about some of the specific things I've learned and insights I gained, but for now I thought I would just put this out there.  I don't think I am the only woman on the planet who struggles with this problem, and if it helps even one person to know that she is not alone in this struggle, then I am willing to open up about it. There have been a lot of times in the past ten years when I have felt very alone in this struggle--ashamed, weak, hopeless--but I don't feel that way anymore, and I don't want others to feel that way either.  None of us is perfect.  We all struggle with things.  I want people to know that they can talk about the things that are difficult for them and the things that matter to them.  That's what life is all about.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Give-away Winner!

I used random.org to determine the winner of the Power of Moms give-away, and Katie/Chris Kelley's comment was chosen!  Hooray!  Katie, I understand that you are a friend of my sister's, so she will give you my email address.  Contact me, and I will let you know how to get your free program!

And for those of you who didn't win--don't be too sad.  There will be another POMs give-away  in the near future.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Now presenting my FAVORITE photo from the Christmas season!

He just looks so content to be snuggled up to a strange man with a ridiculous artificial beard.  
Worst Santa in history...cutest kid, though!
(And, for the record, Santa was very nice.)

This classy photo was taken at the mall in Twin Falls, Idaho.  Noah and I had to kill some time while Ryan checked out a job opportunity with a pediatric dentist there.  Turns out the mall in Twin Falls isn't very big (shocker!), so we ended up spending some time in a photo booth as well.

 Noah's mother is insane.  He likes it.

P.S. Does anyone have any thoughts about living in Twin Falls, Idaho?  This is the very beginning of Ryan's job search, so we are far from committing to anything, but he only has six months of residency left, so it's time to get serious about making some decisions for our future.  (Scary.)

P.P.S.  Today is your last chance to enter my Power of Moms Giveaway!  Do so before midnight!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Highlights of Christmas in Idaho

Ryan had the week before Christmas off, so we spent ten days in Idaho with his family.  It was such a great time.  I am going to let the photos do most of the talking as I recap the highlights of the week:

*Sled hill in the backyard! Gordon came home early from work one day and announced that he was going to build a sled hill and a snowman for Noah.  Best Grandpa ever!

*Holiday cooking and baking!  Sally was in Boise helping with Ashley's new baby for the first few days of our visit, so I did the cooking (with lots of help from the guys).  It was actually really fun to work together on meals.  I made my "famous" chicken pot pies one night.  (It's literally the only dish I make well.)  Once Sally got home and started cooking, Grandpa often sat Noah on the counter to watch Grandma work.  Every once in a while, Noah got a taste of the whipped cream or whatever delicacy she was making.

*Annual trip to the family cabin in Sun Valley!  We skiied and snowboarded, played games, ate delicious food, drank hot cocoa, and sat around the fire chatting.

I love this beautiful town.
I bought Noah's ski sweater long before he was born.
(I bought it the weekend that we met Katie for the first time and found out that Noah was a boy!)
I knew it would be perfect for winter days at the cabin.  He looked so cute in it.
Ryan had a blast snowboarding with his dad, Tanner, and Cole for several days.
Derek and Alli joined them for one day too. Noah and I stayed at the cabin.  Maybe when we go back
in two years we'll get Noah on some skis!
*Sweet Baby Kate!  Nate and Ash surprised us by showing up at the cabin with Kate on our last night there, and then they came with us to Pocatello for Christmas.  Noah wasn't sure what to think of the little peanut at first, but then he warmed right up to his cousin.  I was addicted to her from the first moment I laid eyes on her and held her as much as possible throughout the weekend.

Happy aunts!
"Mom, can I touch her?"
Christmas Eve cuties!
*Family Nativity play on Christmas Eve.  This is a tradition in my sister-in-law Sara's family, and we were glad she proposed it to the Nielson clan.  Everyone got really into their roles, and the make-shift costumes were classic.  Fun memory!

*Christmas morning!  Is anything better??

Happy family!
Opening presents!
I was apparently quite excited myself about the stellar gift that we got Noah: a miniature magna doodle.
It was the only present he got from his parents, poor neglected child.
(We knew he would be plenty spoiled by aunts, uncles, and grandparents--we were right.)
*And the best part of the trip???  Noah's bonding time with his aunts and uncles and his wonderful grandparents!!  This little boy is so blessed with so many people who love him.

Ice skating with Uncle Cole
Shopping with Aunt Sara
Books with Aunt Ashley and Uncle Nate
Uncle Derek and Aunt Alli gave Noah an awesome set of toy musical instruments
(so much cooler than what he got from his parents!).
After his long day of snowboarding, Uncle Tanner willingly shared his Peanut M&Ms with Noah (after biting them in half). That is true love!
Admiring the tree with Grandpa
Bedtime stories with Grandma
Notice the dog and the blanket! :)
Christmas Eve with the two grandbabies                
It was a Christmas that we will always remember, and we are grateful!