Saturday, June 29, 2013

Alli

Today is my sister-in-law Alli's birthday.  She married Ryan's older brother Derek about two years ago, and it has been so fun to have her in the Nielson family!

When Alli and Derek were dating, we tried to get juicy details out of him, but he is very private and doesn't like to be pestered about his personal life.  So we did what any self-respecting family would do: We stalked Alli online.  My mother-in-law let me sign in to her Facebook account where I looked through Alli's photos and also found her blog address. :)   After reading some of her blog, I was really excited to get to know her better--she seemed spunky, fun, and smart.

We met her at a family dinner over Christmas, and I was impressed by how outgoing and talkative she was--she didn't seem nervous at all to be meeting her boyfriend's family.  Six months later, the Nielson family went to Hawaii, and Derek asked if Alli could come too.  I remember the night before the trip I felt a little worried that Alli wouldn't like me.  She just seemed so sophisticated and cool, two things that I am not. :)  But the minute we met at the airport, we talked without ceasing.  If there is one thing Alli and I can do together, it's talk.  

We talked all week and became great friends.  One day while we were sunbathing on the beach, Alli rolled over next to me and said, "Okay, so tell me--what's it like to be married to a Nielson?" :)  This was super exciting because Derek would never tell us whether or not they were even discussing marriage, so it was fun to be let in on the gossip a bit.  We talked for about an hour about marriage, Derek, their relationship, and family dynamics.  I told her that she couldn't dream of better in-laws than the Nielsons, and I told her that even after spending six years with their family, I had never witnessed a single thing that would give me pause in telling a close friend to marry Derek.  He is smart, funny, handsome, respectful, religious, loving, dedicated--he's just a good, good man.  And he deserves an equally amazing wife!

And guess what?  He got one!  Four months later, Derek and Alli were married, and we were all thrilled that D ended up with such a great girl.  In the almost two years since, I've grown to love and admire Alli even more.  She is outgoing, confident, and opinionated.  She is a good listener and a great conversationalist (sometimes when we get together for holidays, it's like we literally can't stop talking).  She is passionate and determined.  She laughs easily, which always makes me feel more humorous than I actually am.  She and Derek have so much fun together and really bring out the best in each other.  They are expecting a baby girl in November, and I simply can't wait!  They are going to be incredible parents.

I love Alli, and I love our long talks about life.  I can't wait for our next deep conversation--maybe in August after we move to Idaho?  It's going to be so fun to live closer to them next year.

Happy Birthday, Alli!  I am so glad you are my sister now!  I hope your birthday is perfect and that Derek spoils you rotten.

Love,
Rachel


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

And I thought May was a crazy month...

What a month it has been!  I've had some strange health struggles (more on that below), but I've also had a lot of really great moments in the midst of the madness.  So here's a brief recap of the month of June:

We started off the month with a visit from Ryan's mom.  I was supposed to go to Buffalo to see my girlfriends, and Sally was going to watch Noah while I was gone.  As I mentioned in a previous post, I got really sick when I started taking a medication that was supposed to help with my fertility, so the doctor and I decided that I shouldn't go to Buffalo after all. :(  (Super bummer, to say the least.)  Though she would no longer be watching Noah on her own, Sally came to Denver anyway to help me for a few days.  It was amazing to have her here.  She grocery shopped, cooked, made freezer meals, watched Noah while I planned for our move, and essentially saved the day!  I am so blessed to have her in my life.



Noah had a grand old time following "Gra-ma" around.  He helped her cook, watched her do her hair in the mornings, took her on a day trip to the aquarium, and enjoyed all of the gifts that she had brought for him, including a new (adorable!) quilt and a couple of Lightening McQueen and Mater toy cars.  Noah loves looking at the quilt because it has "engines" and "freight cars" (in the words of Noah--thanks, Thomas the Train!) on it, as well as airplanes, trucks, and wagons.  What more could a little boy want?  He asks me, "Cover up?" every night now, so I tuck Grandma's quilt around him in his crib. :)  Noah also loves his Mater car.  He goes to bed with it most nights, and it often falls behind the crib, so first thing in the morning, I hear him calling, "Mater?  Where are you, Mater?  I'm gonna find you!"  He kills me with his cuteness.





After Sally left, I had about a week of good health, and then one morning, I woke up feeling awful and nauseous.  I threw up and had some other digestive problems (I'll let you figure out what that means), so I thought I had a stomach bug.  But the symptoms pretty much disappeared by mid-day, which seemed odd to me for the flu.  When it happened again the next morning, I started to think maybe I was miraculously pregnant.  No such luck.  When it happened on day three, I started to get a little concerned.  Almost two weeks later, I am still throwing up every morning and feeling pretty awful, and the doctors aren't sure what's wrong.  They think it's unrelated to the medication that made me sick earlier in the month, but might have something to do with a lemon-sized hemmorhagic cyst on my ovary (TMI? Probably!).  They are going to remove it this Thursday with a laparoscopic surgery.  I've had a laparoscopy before, but for some reason, I am feeling really nervous about this procedure.  I hate going under general anesthesia, and this is really horrible timing for us because we move to Idaho in two weeks.  I hope I have a quick recovery so I can help Ryan pack boxes next week!  More than anything, I am nervous that I am still going to be sick even after they remove the ginormous cyst, since the doctors can't guarantee that the cyst is the problem.  Ryan and I both prayed for guidance and felt really strongly that I should do the surgery now instead of waiting, so I believe there must be a reason.  Sorry to get so personal on here and share such lovely details about my ovaries--I just thought I'd let everyone know what is going on so I can get a few extra prayers this week, if you're willing!  I feel like I need them!

To end on a happy note, Ryan and I got to go on a little getaway this past weekend.  He will be done with his residency this Friday (he will get his own blog post for that huge accomplishment!), so we decided to go to the mountains to celebrate.  My sister watched Noah, and Ryan and I spent two days and two nights hanging out together and exploring Rocky Mountain National Park.  It was blissful.  We had no schedule and no where to be.  We enjoyed beautiful drives, held hands and walked through Estes Park, talked about the upcoming changes in our life, went on a lovely hike to a mountain lake, and just enjoyed each other's company.  I was still sick every morning, but I felt good enough during the day that the trip was really fun and relaxing.  Such a relief after the couple of crazy weeks we'd had.   Thank you, Sary, for watching the Noah Bug for us!!!





One of my favorite moments from the trip was when we pulled over in Grand Lake because Ryan was so tired from all the driving: he took a nap under a tree, and I sat on the dock and felt the wind on my face, listened to the sound of the water lapping on the shore, and whispered an audible prayer to my Father in Heaven.  For me, the biggest blessing that comes from trials and difficult times is the closeness that I feel to Him.  In the month that I haven't been feeling well, I've really slowed down the pace of my life and spent more time than usual praying, reading scripture, and pondering.  I've felt vulnerable and weak, and so I have turned to God in earnest to help me get through.  I have felt His peace and have witnessed little miracles along the way, letting me know that He is aware of me.  It is super humbling, and I am so grateful.

In regards to this mysterious illness and my upcoming surgery, my dad keeps telling me, "Everything is going to be okay."  Hearing those words from my dad gives me a lot of comfort.  I know he is right.

So here's to a healthier July!  And Ryan being done with 11 years of post high school education (college, dental school, and residency)!  And a new life in Twin Falls, Idaho in just a few weeks!

On to the next adventure, right??

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Love Letter to my Tantruming Twenty-Two Month Old

Holy moly, Child, you are entering the terrible twos! Today has been a day of meltdowns, tantrums, and high-pitched screaming (yours, not mine--though I was tempted to join you on a couple of occasions).  When Dad got home from work, you were in the midst of one of your colossal fits, and he looked at me with wide eyes and said, "Who is this kid?"  We are both a little bewildered by your sudden change in temperament; you were pretty darn easy for the last nine months or so, but I have a feeling that things are a'changing around here.  (Which is okay.  I think it's quite normal for you to start asserting your independence and opinions at this age.)

Tonight, to de-stress from our tumultuous day, I decided to sit down and reflect on all of the things that I love about you.  It was pretty easy to come up with a big list.  As strong willed as you are, you are also insanely adorable and fun, and I am so grateful to be your mama.  Recently, a woman at the grocery store asked you what your name is.  You pointed at yourself and said, "Cute!" :) Well that is certainly true!  Here is a list of some of the cute things that I love about you at this age:

Ready for church
I love the sound of your sweet little voice.  You are speaking in full sentences now, and some of your favorite phrases crack me up, such as when you inform me that your food is "nice and warm" or when you say "Excuse me, Sir" to inanimate objects.  You congratulate yourself when you do something difficult with an enthusiastic, "Good job, Boy!"  (I have no idea why you call yourself "Boy," but it is pretty stinkin' adorable.)  And your favorite question, which I hear all day long, is, "Whacha doin', Mommy?"  It always takes me aback when you say that because you seem so grown up.

Playing at the park
I love the way you dance and sing to music in the car.  Watching you in the rearview mirror while you gleefully clap to "Bingo" makes my heart happy.

Showing off your guns and your Dr. Majeroni Orthodontics tattoo
I love the pinwheel cowlick on the back of your head.  You have always had crazy hair, and I have a feeling you always will!

"Cheeeeeese!"
I love that you adore your Daddy, even though I'm sure it annoys him when you shout his name over and over whenever he leaves the room. :)  He is your best friend and favorite playmate.

Forts with Daddy
I love watching you discover the world.  The other night, I was outside cleaning the car when I spotted a full rainbow in the sky.  I called to Dad, who was in the midst of putting you to bed, and told him to bring you outside.  Your face lit up when you saw in real-life what you'd previously only seen in books.  "Rainbow!" you whispered and pointed to the sky.   It was magical.

First rainbow
I love when you come to find me for your goodnight kiss.  You pucker up and give me a little peck, then grin mischievously and take off running toward your room where Daddy is waiting to tuck you in.  Nothing is cuter than the sight of you dashing away in your tight PJs, your arms flailing and feet pumping as you dart down the hallway.

Posing with your beautiful new quilt from Grandma!
I love that you are obsessed with books.  You will request your favorite stories by title or memorable phrase. (Today you insisted on "Gnash their terrible teeth" AKA "Where The Wild Things Are.") Whenever you are in the midst of a meltdown, if I pull you into my lap and start reading a book, you will usually stop screaming within three seconds.  I have a feeling we may be reading together a lot over the coming months!  My favorite time of day is before and after your nap when we read together in our cuddle chair and I can squeeze your pudginess and rest my head on your soft hair.
You weren't so fond of me forcing you to model your new church tie.
Quick, grab a book!
I love how friendly and social you are.  When your pals from church come over to play, you absolutely light up, and then get ridiculously wound up and hyper.  When we are at the grocery store, you chime a cute little "Hi!" to everyone we pass, and whenever you see a group of children, you say, "Hi, Kids!" or "Hi, Friends!"  I hope you will always be so outgoing. 

You love pizza!
I love hearing you sing.  Your favorite songs are "Rock-a-bye, Baby," "Edelweiss," and of course, the ABCs.  You quietly sing the ABCs to yourself whenever you are playing with your cars or trains, and it makes me grin.


I love that you always announce a rule right before you break it. "Only on paper!" you told me, right before you scribbled with crayon all over the blinds.  This makes it so I don't have to feel guilty when I put you in time-out, since you clearly understand what you did wrong!  (And it also gives me something to chuckle about once I've left your room.)  Today, as I was loading the dishwasher, you looked at me and said, "No stand on it.  Dishwasher broken!" and then you climbed right up onto the open dishwasher door and looked at me smugly.  What a stinker.


Looking at those photos and writing that list has actually made me excited to spend tomorrow with you, tantrums and all.  No matter what the day brings, and no matter how many fits you throw, you will still be my best little pal. 


I love you to the moon and back--and always, always will.

Love,
Your Mama

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mama

Today is my mom's birthday, and I am thinking of her.  I am hoping she is nearby and aware of us on her special day.

When my mom passed away, people often told me that she would "always be with me" and would never be too far away.  I loved the sentiment and was always grateful to those who expressed it, but I honestly wasn't sure if it was true.  I believed that my mom was in heaven--I just wasn't sure what that meant.  Do people in heaven have constant access to the people they love?  Do they see everything?  Can they watch over us at all times, or is that privilege reserved for special occasions such as weddings, the births of our children, and especially difficult trials?  I always felt that my mom would be with me for milestone events, but I wasn't sure how often she would be by my side during the dailiness of life.

Since becoming a mother myself, I've become more certain that my mom is aware of me and is probably nearby much more often than I realize.  I always knew that she loved me when she was alive; but now that I am a mother, I realize for the first time just how much she must have loved me.  It's amazing to think that she must've loved me--imperfect, flawed me!--with the same intensity that I love my precious Noah.  And just as I would never leave Noah behind, I know she would never leave me behind either.

This past winter, we were staying at my in-laws' ski cabin in Idaho when Noah started screaming in the night.  I usually ignore his fussing when I can tell he is just going to settle back to sleep, but this was a different kind of crying.  I could tell he was terrified, most likely because he was in a new environment and was confused and didn't know where his parents were.  I ran to him, picked up his quivering body, and held him close.  He was sobbing and clinging to me.  As I shushed him and calmed him, I kept whispering, "I will always be here, Noah.  You don't have to be afraid.  I will always be here."

As I said those words, a thought came to my mind: "How can I really promise that?  What if I were to unexpectedly die in a car accident?  Can I really promise him that I will always be here?"  And just as quickly as the first thought had come to me, another followed: "YES.  You are his mother.  Your role in his life is eternal.  Whether you are here or in the afterlife, you will always be his mother, and you will always be allowed to be with him."  I felt such peace.  I felt like this was a message from my Father in Heaven about the eternal nature of families, and since that night, I no longer doubt that my mom is with me when I need her, just as she would be if she were still living.

I think of her so often.  I mentioned in my last blog post that I recently got very ill from a medication I was taking, and through those rather terrible couple of days, I kept thinking about my mom.  She was so sick for so many years, and she had to take countless medications that affected her physically and emotionally, and yet she somehow continued to mother us with love through every day.  I remember her telling me that when she was only 35 years old and in the midst of her first round of chemotherapy and throwing up much of the day, my then three-year-old little sister would come into the bathroom and say, “When you’re done frowing up, Mommy, can you play a game with me?”  

That story absolutely breaks my heart, and it makes me want to go back in time and help my mom.  I want to make dinner, clean her house, and take care of her kiddos for a few hours.  Thank goodness she had so much support from my dad, my aunts, my grandparents, and our church community.  She couldn't have made it through without them.

That story also makes me feel something a little unexpected: It makes me feel grateful. It makes me appreciate my life and my health.  It makes me appreciate normal.  Sometimes I really--and I mean really--hate cleaning my house, doing laundry, and making meals, but having the health and ability to do those normal, mundane things is such a blessing in its own way.  I’m sure when my mom was in the hospital for three months recovering from her bone marrow transplant, she wanted nothing more than to go home and resume her everyday responsibilities as a mother—mundane cleaning and all!  It’s good for me to remember that, and sometimes it does help me to adjust my attitude when I think about it.  I turn on some music and dance around the kitchen a little as I'm doing dishes and notice how healthy and strong I feel.  I am so grateful for my health, and I hope I never lose it.

This is the photo of my mom that I have framed in Noah's room.  I tell him that Grandma Sally is in heaven, and she is watching over us.  When Noah was born, he had a birthmark on his forehead.  Some people call those birthmarks "angel kisses," which always makes me think of my mom.  If there was an angel in heaven kissing Noah on the forehead before he came to earth, I'm sure it was my mother.


I hope there are beautiful sunsets there in heaven, and I hope my mom knows how much I love her and miss her on her birthday and every day. I'm grateful for the knowledge that she was not just my mother for 19 years--but will be my mother forever and always.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Our (Crazy Busy) Month of May

We had an exciting May (and I got way behind on blogging!).

*I attended a Power of Moms Retreat and Board meeting in Park City, Utah.  It was a great experience.  The board meeting was the night before the Retreat, and I loved having the opportunity to meet in-person all of the women with whom I work online.  I also loved sitting down together and brainstorming ways that we can improve the organization and the website.  Using feedback from the meeting, we've already revamped the submissions categories for mothers who are interested in writing for the site. (Don't forget, anyone can write for the site!  You should do it!)


Power of Moms Board
(minus those who couldn't attend the meeting)
The Retreat was so informative and inspirational.  I took lots of notes which I still haven't found the time to sort and compile--but my friend Sarah did a great write-up on her blog about what she learned from the conference.  You can check out her post here.


I also spent lots of hours at the end of April/beginning of May editing a book for Power of Moms which will come out next spring.  I am super excited about it because it is a compilation of some of their "best" essays from the last five years, and I think it's going to be an excellent read.  Finding Power of Moms was an answer to prayers for me, as it has given me a way to continue pursuing my interests in writing and editing while also learning more about motherhood in the process.  Now if only I could find more time to write for the site, instead of spending all of my time editing!!

*A few weeks later, we had a visit from Katie, Noah's birthmom.  She came to Denver to audition for the X Factor.  She is so beautiful and talented, and Noah had a blast with her while she was in town.  We missed Drew (in fact, when we pulled up to the airport, and Noah saw Katie standing with her bag alone, he asked, "Where's Drew?").  Fortunately, we were able to Facetime with both of them once Katie got back to Utah.  I love how much Noah's birthparents adore him.




*My dad had the main floor of his home remodeled.  This is the house that I grew up in, so it was a big deal for our entire family, and it turned out so beautiful.  The kitchen was the biggest project (with new cupboards, appliances, and granite countertops), but I think my favorite part is the new windows on the tall wall in the living room.  They let in so much light, and all of the green leaves of the trees outside make me feel like I am in a tree house whenever I walk down the stairs.



*We got family photos taken when my little sister and her hubby were in town because who knows when we will all be together in the same place again!


My grandparents joined us too, for a few multigenerational shots, and when the photographer was taking a picture of Gramps and Grammy together, Gramps said, "Make this good!  It's going to be our obituary pic!"  I love that old man!  And could these two be any cuter??


*Noah went to the dentist for the first time.  Dr. Daddy did his exam, and he came through it with no cavities!  (Thank goodness--because that would've been really embarrassing for Ryan!)  All of Ryan's colleagues were so excited to see Noah and showered him with so much attention that he got really bashful and nervous.  It was cute.



*Speaking of Dr. Daddy, Ryan went to Florida with his co-residents to present a research paper at the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry Conference.  He has been working on the research for the past year and a half, and he is so glad to have that presentation behind him.  Despite the stress of his residency, he has loved working with his co-residents and always has so much fun with them, so the trip was a great vacation.  He and his buddies went to Hollywood Studios and stayed at a Disney Hotel.  Ryan dominated in mini-golf one night, getting five holes-in-one and winning a limited edition Disney golfball for having the low score of the day.  That's my Ry!




*We ended the month with my 29th birthday.  I love birthdays, and I insist on celebrating all week.  Ryan had the day off on Memorial Day, so he sent me shopping by myself (so much more fun than hauling a toddler along!), and I found several cute new outfits and even bought myself a delicious caramel apple from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory.  (Does it get any better?)  Two days later, my sister hired a babysitter for our kids so I could go with her to lunch and shopping at an antique store in Castlerock.  We were looking for furniture for Dad's new living room--we didn't have any luck, but we sure had a fun day together!  Two days after that, on my actual birthday, Ryan surprised me by leaving a beautiful potted orchid on the kitchen table and a humungous helium balloon in my car.  When Noah saw the balloon, he started shouting, "Oh my goodness!  Oh my goodness!"  Made my day.  One of my closest friends also took me to breakfast--I am a lucky, lucky girl.


We were supposed to go camping with some friends that night, but, sadly, I spent the evening of my birthday in the company of the toilet because a new medication I'd started taking that week made me super sick.  It was miserable.  I'm glad I started celebrating my birthday early so I didn't feel ripped off when I was throwing up on my big day.  The medication continued to have crazy side effects over the weekend, so my doctor told me to stop taking it, and I am relieved.  That was no way to start my 30th year of life!!

*Overall it was a very busy month, and life has not slowed down since.  Ryan and I are preparing like mad for our move to Idaho in a month.  We still have so much to do.  But life is good, and we are grateful.