Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Smitten by Sally


My baby is almost five months old, and the time has gone by too quickly.  I am completely and utterly obsessed--so smitten.  Sometimes I feel guilty that I haven't done a very good job of recording the first few months of her life; but then I remember that I have done a good job of savoring them.  And which is more important?  I'd say the savoring.

I think I have matured as a mother, and this second time around, I'm more aware of how quickly the time goes.  It makes me less frustrated with the hard stages (now I know that they won't last forever), and it makes me more in love with the perfect stages (because they won't last forever either!).  She is constantly growing and changing--so much so that it's crazy to look back and think about what a difference even a month makes in her physical development and the development of her personality.  Oh how I love her.

So here's a quick recap of Sally in the last 4.5 months:

The first eight weeks:  Sally was a very quiet and calm newborn.  She slept so much that it almost concerned me.  She even slept super long stretches at night, and the only signal that she gave me when she was hungry was that she vigorously sucked on her fingers.  I would wake up to that sound instead of to the sound of her crying.  In fact, she rarely cried--occasionally she would have a fussy hour in the evenings before bed, but nothing crazy.  During those months, I loved to rock and nap with her.  Bliss.

Months 2-3: Sally started to get spunkier as she came out of her newborn phase.  She was still a super sweet baby but had some fussy periods most days and became a lot more vocal when she was hungry--no more sucking on fingers, now it was full-on shrieking!

She still slept like a champ at this phase, even giving me some 10-12 hour nights (before you get too jealous, let me add that she doesn't do this anymore).  Since I thought the late-night feedings were dwindling (ha!), I really cherished them.  She was just so sleepy, snuggly, and teeny--and her little head fit under my chin, her warm body curled up against my chest.  I would rock her for a few extra minutes in the night, even after she was done eating.  Can you blame me??

She loved her Bumbo and would sit in it on the counter and watch me while I cooked or while the family ate dinner.  (She sometimes even fell asleep in it!)  We often said she was "supervising" the family.  She has always seemed like a quiet and thoughtful observer to me--alert and interested--wanting to watch us, look around the room, and take in her surroundings.

One day I surprised Ryan when he walked in from work by setting Sal in her Bumbo on the laundry room floor with a little "Welcome Home!" sign.  Seriously, best surprise ever.


During this period, she became the queen of "raspberries" and sometimes blew them constantly for like 30 minute stretches, cracking up the entire family.  Often this was a sign that she was getting hungry or tired--so cute.

She started consistently giving big open-mouthed grins around two months and laughed for the first time shortly thereafter.  She is more of a good-natured chuckler than a hearty laugher.  I think it fits her low-key personality.  If you tickle her, she gives you a big grin and a little chuckle, but I've yet to hear her really lose it in a fit of giggles.

She is so happy first thing in the morning, which is the best.  Getting her out of her crib is my favorite thing.  I will hear her cooing or fussing over the monitor, and I will go into her room and see her doing her "ab exercises" (she raises her legs up and down for some reason), and I will say in the most ridiculous mommy-voice ever, "Good morning, Sweetheart!" and she will immediately grin at me with her mega-watt smile.  Melts my heart every time!

Months 4-5: Sally has suddenly become quite the wiggler.  She is so curious and always arching her back to look around.  She won't stay in the Bumbo anymore because she just wiggles around and twists right out of it.  She loves to be held and rocked facing out, so she can see what's going on, and she rarely falls asleep in my arms anymore--just too busy!  I've also found that she gets distracted while drinking her bottle if people are around or if I am talking on the phone or watching something--doesn't she seem young for that?  She has a hard time focusing on her food and just keeps whipping her head around to find where the noises are coming from.

A few weeks ago, she started grabbing her feet whenever I put her on her back (which is just about the cutest thing ever), and her newest thing is rolling onto her stomach as soon as I put her down.  She's been able to roll for a while now, but all of the sudden she is really into it.  She often gets stuck on her stomach and gets super mad, which makes naps a little harder. Overall, her nighttime sleep is not nearly as good as it was when she was younger, but I still can't complain.  She's up about twice a night but goes right back to sleep as soon as she eats.

I'd still say she is a quiet baby--not a lot of babbling or cooing, but a definite awareness of her family and her surroundings.   It's hard to know what is her age and what is her emerging personality, but I won't be surprised if she has a temperament similar to her father's someday: sweet, quiet, thoughtful, calm.  She reminds me of him in that she can only take so much chaos, and she sometimes gets overwhelmed and needs to be taken into another room to rock and calm down (Ryan definitely needs his alone time to recharge)...

This desire for calm is a bit of a challenge with an extremely extroverted older brother who adores her and gets in her face constantly--I think she is slightly terrified of him (perhaps for good reason).  I can't wait until they can play together!  I think she will willingly follow him around and will no doubt idolize him.  She is one blessed little girl to have such a fun, protective older brother.  He constantly tells people who are holding her, "You can't be aggressive with her!" "Make sure you are being gentle!"  Hmmm...I wonder if he hears that from his mother a million times a day?  We actually had a special family night devoted to trying to teach Noah to be gentler in his affection toward Baby Sally.  We put a diaper on Daryl, his favorite stuffed dog, and we practiced loving on Daryl very quietly and gently.

I wish I could say this activity revolutionized Noah's treatment of his baby sister, but it made absolutely no difference.  Noah is as crazy and hyper as ever.  Good thing she loves him just the way he is...and so do we!

Sally loves to be held and expects attention from her adoring family, which can be hard when I am trying to get anything accomplished during the day (though, honestly, since having Baby #2, I've somewhat given up on getting much accomplished--in some ways, it's made stay-at-home motherhood more enjoyable for me, as I've just embraced the chaos and decided to enjoy my kids instead of obsessing over my to-do list).  She is also fussy in the car because she would prefer to be held or entertained.  When we are at home, she will lie contentedly on the floor or in her play gym for a few minutes, but she prefers to be cuddled and interacted with, which is fine--she's too cute to ignore anyway!

And when Daddy is home, she's almost always in his arms.  Those two are peas in a pod.  Ryan savors his time with her as much as I do.  Lucky girl to have him as a daddy.

Overall, I'd say Sally is an easy baby.  She's not quite as angelic as she was as a newborn, but I didn't expect her to stay that docile forever--I want her to have a little spunk and to make her needs known! She doesn't ask for much; give this girl a dry diaper, a fairly consistent nap schedule, and a warm bottle (she's a snob now and refuses to take room-temperature bottles), and she will be happy.  Deny her those things, and she's likely to completely lose it for a few minutes.  But as soon as you get her what she needs, she calms down again and is as sweet as can be.

Have I mentioned that I adore her??  Truly, I cannot get enough.  I kiss her chubby "bulldog" cheeks all day long and smoosh her soft, squishy little body.  She is still a peanut (13 lbs or about 10th percentile for her age), but she is "skinny fat," as we like to call her.  She definitely has some chub and rolls on that tiny little body--perfect.  

I love when she holds onto my finger while I'm rocking her or feeding her a bottle or looks into my eyes and gives me a big grin.  Pretty much nothing makes me happier.

I love this Baby Girl--so much.  The last four months have been some of the happiest of my life.  I am doubly blessed to have two perfect children to call mine...Noah and Sally, my tiny little miracle babies.

Life is so good.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sometimes Ryan and I Fight

In contrast to the sappy love letter that I posted last week, I want to admit something upfront to all blog readers: Sometimes Ryan and I fight.

Shocking, right? ;)

We don't fight often, but it does happen on occasion.  I think it happens less often now than it did a few years ago.  The first few years of our marriage, we didn't really fight because we were in total honeymoon phase (um, Ryan got up early every morning to iron my skirt and make me breakfast...?????); then we started to notice each other flaws and weren't mature enough yet to let them go; and then I read this book, which has a terrible title and cover art but truly helped with a lot of my control issues; and now we are in a comfortable phase of our marriage where I feel like we really "get" each other and have both learned enough about marriage/life to know that most things aren't worth fighting over.

But fights do still break out on occasion, as I'm sure they will for decades to come.

Marriage is just like that.  I wouldn't say marriage is hard--I would say it is awesome.  But just like everything else in life that's worth doing, it takes constant effort and tweaking and soul-searching and deciding to put forth the energy to make it great.

To that end, my friend Celeste recently started a marriage blog with her husband, Rich.  They are both so funny, creative, and insightful--and completely devoted to each other and their children.  What I admire most about them is how much fun they have together.  They recently performed a lip synch to Donny and Marie Osmond's 1976 Christmas Special at their church holiday party.  I think this photo will say it all about these two (and I must confess, I stole this photo without permission from Facebook--it's just too great not to share).

Do you believe me now when I say that you should subscribe to their marriage blog because you will be entertained (and also enlightened--I promise)?  Go and do it.

Today, as part of an awesome series on "confronting infertility in your marriage," they asked me to guest post with my advice on how to take care of yourself, your spouse, and your marriage while going through infertility...and I start my article by relating an epic fight that Ryan and I once had.  So if you are interested in less sap and more reality from me, click on over to their blog and read what I have to say here.

And here's a teaser just to get you hooked:

"I wish I could remember what the fight was about.  But as is usually the case with marital tiffs that escalate into blowups, the details of how it all started are foggy to me now.  

What I do remember clearly is that we were in the car on our way to a BBQ at a friend’s house—that I picked the fight and wouldn’t let it go—and that my quiet, sweet, even-tempered husband dropped me off in front of our friend’s house and drove away.  

I felt sick as I watched him speed off, knowing that I had pushed him too far.  I also knew that he would be back in a few minutes, but I still felt sad and alone and confused."

To find out how this argument resolved go to "'Joy Will Return': Taking Care of Yourself, Your Spouse, and Your Marriage During Infertility" at I Believe in a Thing Called Love blog...

Let me know what you think!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Love Letter: The Other Half of You


I am feeling frazzled today.  The house is a disaster, and I can’t finish any of the tasks I start—because Noah needs breakfast, the baby wails if she’s not held, the doorbell rings and I am not dressed, a refrigerator repairman is waiting on the doorstep…

I am in the midst of making muffins for a friend who is pregnant and sick, decorating for Christmas, writing a guest post for a friend’s marriage blog, planning dinner, doing laundry…

I feel stressed and a little discouraged—and yet, I keep thinking of something that you said yesterday when you were holding Sally: “How can we freeze time?”

I know you were referring more to the adorable stage that she is in right now than the chaos of our current existence, but your words keep coming back to me today and reminding me that this phase of our life is precious.  Chaos, certainly—but precious chaos.  Thank you for everything you do for me to make the mayhem more manageable.  I don’t know what I would do without you. 

I chatted with a college student the other day on the plane home from Denver.  Somehow this small-talk with a stranger turned into a two-hour heart-to-heart (LOL…I am ridiculous), and he told me that he has a girlfriend but he just can’t imagine getting married anytime soon.

I told him that was obviously a decision to make very slowly and deliberately (the most important decision of his entire life!), but that I fear the young people of today’s world are afraid of marriage and commitment.  I told him that I got married at his age, and I have never regretted it for a moment.  “Marriage, kids, family life—it is amazing,” I told him. “When you marry your best friend, it is all amazing.”

And I meant that.  I wouldn’t trade a moment of my life with you.

We are coming up on nine years of marriage this month, so maybe that’s why all of this has been on my mind, but I discovered a beautiful love song today and it made me think of what we have together.  I think I had heard the song before, but I didn’t realize it was a love song (it is up-tempo, which is unusual for a romantic song), and I had never really listened to the words before.  When I did, it made me think of where we started as those young, college-aged newlyweds and where we are today:

“We are not perfect, we’ll learn from our mistakes,
But as long as it takes, I will prove my love to you.
I am not scared of the elements, I am underprepared
But I am willing
And even better—
I get to be the other half of you.

Tell the world that we finally got it all right,
I choose you.
I will become yours and you will become mine,
I choose you...

My whole heart will be yours forever,
This is a beautiful start
To a lifelong love letter…”

I am grateful beyond words for you—and that I get to be the other half of you.  How lucky am I??

Come home soon and snuggle me.


Your Wife



Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Christmas Spirit

A few years ago, I started compiling a list of ways to manage the stress of the holidays and the pressure to be "in the Christmas spirit" all December long.  It can sometimes put me in a really depressed mood that I am "not doing enough" to engage in this month-long holiday because it really is such a special time of year, and I want to savor it and make the most of it--but too much pressure to do so can leave me feeling the opposite of the Christmas spirit (frustration, discouragement, inadequacy).  I totally relate to little Cindy Lou Who in How The Grinch Stole Christmas when she sings "Where Are You Christmas?" because sometimes I feel like something is wrong with me when I'm not feeling ultra giddy and magical during the month of December or filling my days with awesome, festive traditions.

I had forgotten my list of ideas for making December less stressful until today, when my Instagram feed starting filling up with photos of moms doing cool things to kick off the month with their kids.  Looking at those cute photos, I started to feel a little panicked that the holidays are already sneaking up on me, and we don't have a Christmas tree yet, and I don't have any fun traditions planned, and Noah is at the perfect age for diving in to the fun of this holiday and I want to make every moment "count," and there are so many people to get gifts for, and...

Do you see where I am going with this?

I stopped myself and remembered my list and went to look at it.  I decided to post it here as a permanent reminder for myself, as well as to solicit advice from all of you.  Please leave your ideas/input in the comments.

I want to start with a disclaimer that this list won't be true for everyone.  This is my "notes to self" about how to make the holidays fun and less stressful for me.  I think it's awesome if you want to do an amazing family activity every day in December.  Please post your ideas on Instagram and elsewhere so I don't have to think up ideas for our family activities and can just copy yours! :)

Okay, so here we go...

Rachel's Notes to Self about Celebrating Christmas

1.  Don't feel like you need to start celebrating the day after Thanksgiving or even December 1st.  You can't maintain "The Christmas Spirit" that long.  It's too much pressure.  It's fine if you wait until 12 days before or one week before to do anything "big" to commemorate the holiday.

2.  That said, in the month leading up to Christmas, do little things to get into the mood.  Talk about Christ as much as possible.  When you are driving around town, point out the Christmas lights to Noah and tell him how cool it is that the whole world is celebrating Jesus during this special month.  Rely on easy traditions that require no work, such as watching a favorite holiday movie each Saturday night as a family or lighting the advent wreath and singing a hymn each Sunday.

3.  On a similar note, do quick things to bring the holiday spirit into your home.  I'm not talking about ultra fancy decorations (which are awesome if you can get to them but not necessary).  Make it a habit to do things like playing Christmas carols and lighting a candle every day during breakfast.  Put up simple decorations--some of which should be focused on Christ and the true meaning of the season.

4.  Shop far in advance (or as far in advance as possible) to avoid last-minute gift-giving stress.  Do not try to make gifts.  You do not enjoy crafts.  You will put off doing them, and it will inevitably take longer than you planned, and you will be hating your life as your decoupage a frame for your in-laws late into the night on Christmas Eve.  (True story.)

5.  Find time to ponder and write about the things that matter most to you.  Set aside fifteen minutes now and then to sit by the lighted Christmas tree after the kids are in bed with a candle burning.  Spend that time writing about Christ, family, your children, your marriage, your blessings or writing thank you notes to those you love. (As a side note, when my older sister read this, she said that writing deep thoughts by the Christmas tree sounded way more pressure-filled to her than spending an afternoon baking sugar cookies!  Bahaha!  I know I am kind of a weirdo.  Do whatever works for you and brings joy and perspective!)

6.  Plan some fun family activities that take a bit more effort--just a few of these are enough.  Perhaps a night decorating gingerbread houses with family, hosting a Progressive Dinner with friends, or lighting luminaries on Christmas Eve.

7.  Actively serve others.  This brings the Spirit of Christmas more than anything else.  Service should obviously be part of your everyday life (whatever month it is) but putting a little more focus on it during December can't hurt! Service doesn't have to be grand--a great idea is this simple "24 Days of Giving."  If you miss a day of service, don't beat up on yourself.

8.  When visiting family for the holidays, focus on being present with those around you.  Focus on serving in small but meaningful ways--jumping up to do the dishes after dinner or engaging in conversation with a quiet relative.  Look around you and notice where there are opportunities to bring joy and relieve stress.

9. Make time for the things that help you maintain sanity in the midst of holiday craziness, including exercise (even just a brisk walk with the family after dinner), conversations with Ryan (even if that means leaving a raucous game night for a few minutes to lie on the bed and talk), and occasional early bed times (nothing leads to meltdowns more quickly than sleep-deprivation).

10.  As much as possible, just be still and let the beauty of this season work its magic.  It's not reliant on you and your fancy traditions.  Stand at the window and watch when snow is falling, or go outside and raise your face to the sky and taste the snowflakes.  Watch the excitement on Noah's face as he points out Christmas decorations in the mall.  Talk to him about Christmas and everything it means.  Snuggle Baby Sally into your chest when you are feeding her in the middle of the night and think about that sacred baby born thousands of years ago in Bethlehem, "born that man no more may die."  Thank Him.  Think of Him.  Let your heart fill with love for Him.

December is a month to love.  I am so excited that it's here.  It's going to be a beautiful, Spirit-filled month with my precious kiddos, my amazing husband, and my wonderful family and friends.  As a wise friend once told me, "Rachel, you are too blessed to be stressed!"  (Thank you, Deborah Tilley!) That is my final note to self as we enter this month of gratitude and giving.  I can't wait!