Saturday, December 29, 2012

Happy Anniversary To Us!

Yesterday was Ryan's and my seventh wedding anniversary.  I love using milestones as an opportunity to look back and remember (I am a very sentimental sap), so during Noah's nap, I spent the hour thinking about our marriage and reminiscing.

I really wanted to write something meaningful about Ryan and our last several years together.  On our fourth anniversary, I wrote this essay, which has remained one of my favorites.  I thought perhaps I could just add to it--use the same format but add a portion about facing infertility/adoption disappointments together and add a portion about being new parents together. But the words wouldn't come.  I think that essay needs to stay just the way it is.

I have found with my writing that I have to be in just the right mood--I can't force it.  Sometimes I will think about an essay that I'd like to write for weeks, but I can't figure out quite how to word it, and every time I sit down to try, I feel stuck.  And then all of the sudden one day--Boom!--I will sit down and out it pours.

So since I wasn't feeling the writing vibe, I started going through old journals.  Seven years ago, I wrote a letter to everyone who attended our rehearsal dinner thanking them for the influence that they'd had in my life, and I have copies of all of those letters in a binder, along with copies of the toasts that my dad and Laura gave during the wedding reception.  So I sat on my bed and read through some of those letters and felt very grateful for all of the good people in my life.  Then I read my dad's toast, and I think it is just perfect because it is so him (humor and sentimentality perfectly woven together).  Maybe I will post his toast on this blog sometime.

Then Noah woke up, and that was that.  But it was still good to have a little quiet time to think.

Noah and I headed off to my friend Cami's house, so she could curl my hair and make me look pretty for my anniversary date.  (I have no skills in the beauty department, and sometimes I get tired of looking like a frump all the time, so I have to recruit help.)  Ryan came home to a foxy wife with curled hair (I even hummed the "Foxy Lady" song from Wayne's World and danced a little when I debuted my new look), and we went to see Les Miserables and then to dessert at Maggianos.

The movie gave us lots to talk about.  We talked about sacrifice and consecration--how seeing so many people in poverty always reminds us that we are not doing nearly enough to help with the suffering in the world.  It's so easy to get comfortable and forget that most of the world's population doesn't get the luxury of going out to a restaurant on their anniversary--or ever.  I want to do so much more to use my resources, talents, and skills to help others who weren't born with the blessings that I was, but it's so difficult to know where to start.  We talked about some ideas, and it felt great to discuss the stuff of life with Ryan.  I'm going to be honest and admit that, after seven years of marriage, sometimes we don't have a lot to talk about when we go out to eat.  Sometimes we sit in contented silence. :)

I am grateful for Ryan.  I am grateful that he is my husband, my closest confidant, and my best friend.  Marriage isn't always easy and blissful.  I've heard people say that the first year of marriage is the hardest, as you are adjusting to life together, but that wasn't the case with me and Ryan at all.  Our first year (in fact our first five years) were super fun with almost no conflicts.  For me, this past year has been the most difficult, as he was so busy and so stressed with his residency, and I was tired from chasing Noah around and managing most of the housework by myself.  Sometimes I resented him for the way our roles had changed, and sometimes he was grumpy because he was so stressed, and sometimes we got annoyed with each other...but we kept pushing forward day by day and rarely lost our tempers with each other, and that's just the way that marriage works, isn't it?

I am so grateful for opportunities to get away together and reconnect, like our date last night.  And I am grateful for the way that I have carefully chronicled our life together, so I can look back at my old journals or an old love letter from him and fall in love all over again.

Sometimes I tell Noah, "You are the second best thing that ever happened to me.  The first best thing is your daddy." And it's so true.

Happy Anniversary, Ry Guy!  What will the next seven years bring??  xoxo

Don't worry--we didn't eat it all!  But man was it delicious!

Thursday, December 27, 2012


I am feeling very, very grateful today.

My dad once told me that when he ponders his life and his many blessings, all he can think is "You've gotta be kidding me!"  He said he knows it isn't fair that one man should be so richly blessed.  That's exactly how I'm feeling today.  I've been cleaning the apartment, trying to get life back in order after vacation and holiday mayhem, and instead of feeling grumpy about it (like I usually would), I am feeling overwhelmingly blessed.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to stay home with my son.  I am grateful to witness little moments, like when he knocked over the laundry basket today, and as it hit the ground he said, "Bonk!" Then he leaned over, put his hand on the basket reassuringly, and said, "Ooo ok? (You okay?)" in his little voice.  I love that he comforts inanimate objects the same way that I comfort him.

I am grateful for services like AAA that come right to my home and fix my battery when my car won't start.

I am grateful to be able to wash and fold my husband's clothes neatly and take care of him in this small way.  (I usually hate laundry, but today, for some reason, I was able to see it as a labor of love.)

I am grateful that I can take a warm shower when I have a cold (makes me feel better every time).

I am grateful for my in-laws.  Seriously, I won the lottery when I married into the Nielson family.  We had such a great time with them last week.  I love every single one of them more than I can express in words.

I am grateful that I have gone to see a counselor these past few months who has helped me realize that I don't need to be perfect and I shouldn't be so hard on myself.  (That was kind of scary to admit to the worldwide web.)  More to come on this topic at some point...just trying to figure out how to put it all into words.

Life is so good.  I feel like I close many of my blog posts with that phrase, but it's just so true.  Life is good, and I am so grateful.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Family Photos 2012

My older sister has many virtues--one of which is that she is a good photographer.  It is very convenient to have a sister who can take our family photos at a moment's notice.  (We were already at my dad's for Thanksgiving and decided to go outside and take a few.)  As usual, many of the photos are in front of my dad's signature blue door.  Does this shot look familiar?

Oh it does?  Probably because we took the exact same shot last year.  I think Noah has changed the most in a year. (Ya think??)

A few more of my favorites:

We are happy and blessed.  I love my little family.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Child of Grace

"Child of Grace" by Liz Lemon Swindle
As I watched Noah climbing all over the pew in church yesterday, revving his toy car loudly and energetically coloring on the paper program during the Sacrament, I wondered again, as I have so often this month, if Jesus was once like my little boy.

Before I became a mother, I pictured Jesus as an innocent and perfect newborn baby, sleeping peacefully in soft hay, or I pictured him as a strong and perfect man, walking the roads of Galilee with his disciples, stopping to minister to the poor and the ill and teaching sermons on hillsides.  I never pictured him as a toddler, with big innocent eyes, wild hair, an infectious giggle, and endless amounts of curiosity and energy.

Did he reach for his mama with dramatic sobs when he was hurt, exhausted, or out of sorts?  Did she hold him close and whisper in his ear that everything would be okay?  Did she wipe sticky little hands and chase after him when he darted away and sing songs at bedtime?  Did she ever feel tired and frustrated, or did her knowledge of his divinity give her perfect patience?

"She Shall Bring Forth a Son" by Liz Lemon Swindle
I have also spent the month thinking about Joseph, as I’ve watched Noah in the arms of his father. Did Jesus call for his daddy first thing in the morning, as my son does?   Did Joseph walk the house with him when he was fussy, tickle and wrestle him when he was rowdy, and kiss him gently before bedtime?

Like my son, Jesus was raised by a man that was not his biological father—yet a man who I know loved him just as completely and as fiercely as he would have loved his own flesh and blood.  As I watch Noah and Ryan together, I realize that Joseph was Jesus’ father, and that God intended it to be that way.  He wanted his Only Begotten Son to be raised by a man who was good and gentle, a man who was totally committed to his mother and to him.  Our Heavenly Father wanted Jesus to have a family.

"In the Arms of Joseph" by Simon Dewey
As Ryan and I put Noah to bed tonight, I thought about what Mary and Joseph were asked to sacrifice.  Their sweet little boy would grow to be a man—and then he would take upon him the sins and pains of all mankind.  He would be scourged and mocked, beaten and crucified.

I wonder if they worried about him.  I wonder if they prayed for him.  Did they have perfect faith that allowed them to bear the weight of his calling with total peace?  Or did they sometimes want to protect him from the pain that would be necessary in order for all of us, including them, to gain salvation?

"Silent Night" by Liz Lemon Swindle
Picturing Jesus this way—as a vulnerable, precious little boy—makes my heart swell with gratitude and love for Him, for the man He became, for all that He did for me. 

And being a mother at Christmastime makes me revere Jesus’ parents so deeply, these young parents who loved their son so much and were asked to let Him go so that we could all live.

I know that He lived on this earth.  I know that He was born an innocent baby in humble circumstances.  I know that He was a toddler once—a little boy who grew and learned and was taught by His mother and His earthly father, just like any other little boy.  And then He chose to do the will of His Divine Father, becoming the Savior of the world and suffering incomprehensible pain for each one of us so that we could return to be with Him.

"When Did He Know?" by Liz Lemon Swindle
I love Him.  I love this time of year where we commemorate His birth and spend just a little bit more time thinking about Him.  I want to be more like Him—a more Christ-like mother to my little Noah, a more Christ-like wife to my Ryan, and a more Christ-like friend to all those whom I am fortunate to know.

Merry Christmas, Friends and Family.  May the Spirit of this sweet little boy "born that man no more may die" be with you today and always.

"The Holy Men" by Liz Lemon Swindle
**Artwork from  

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Precious Baby Girl

Sweet Baby Girl Cuoio was born yesterday, December 15, 2012 at 5:47 p.m.  As you can see from the look in her mama's eyes, she is so loved.

After a bit of deliberation, they decided to name her Kate Sophia.  I love the name.  I love her.  I love Ashley and Nate.  I love being an aunt.

I can't wait to meet this little peanut (she is only 5 lbs 9 oz, 17 inches long) and give her a kiss and a snuggle.  Sometimes I find it hard to put into words how special it is to be part of a family--how thrilled I am for my family members when they have moments of incredible joy, such as the birth of a precious baby.  It feels so inadequate to say, "Congratulations!" when they have just experienced one of life's most profound moments.

I just can't wait to love this little girl and be part of her whole life.

There is something so sweet about babies being born at this time of year, when the world is celebrating the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Just the other day, I read this beautiful blog post pondering what Mary might have felt in the days leading up to Jesus' birth.  I have thought about Mary so much this month, as I watch my little boy grow and change.

We are hoping that Baby Kate will be with us to celebrate Christmas next week.  Her birth has brought a sacred, peaceful feeling to our family during this season of busyness.  I love her so much already.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How I Got Involved with Power of Moms

I've noticed that this blog has become largely devoted to documenting the life of Mr. Noah--which is fine, but I also want to occasionally write about what I've been up to.  I do have lots of thoughts beyond nap schedules and baby milestones.  Today, I want to tell you about how I recently got involved with the website Power of Moms.

A few months ago, I was surfing Pinterest one night, and I started to feel very overwhelmed.  The sheer amount of information and ideas that are available through the internet is a bit paralyzing to me; once I know that something exists, I feel like I should be doing it.  For example, when I discovered that there is a website called 100 Days of Real Food, I suddenly felt pathetic for feeding my son processed granola bars.  I had never given a second thought to the "real food" movement until I found out about it on Pinterest--and all of the sudden I had yet another thing to feel guilty about in my life. (I have problems.)

I've heard a lot of women say that the crafts and party ideas on blogs and Pinterest make them feel like they aren't measuring up--but for me, it's not so much the photos of the crafts and fantastic parties that make me feel inadequate (I gave up on that dream a long time ago)--it's the ideas about better ways to live.  Each new website about health, service, scripture study, learning activities for kids, gardening...the list goes on...just adds to my mental list of things that I "should" be doing.

So that night, as I was surfing Pinterest and feeling grumpy, I decided to get off of the site and actually do something productive with my time--like check Facebook.  (Yes, I am making fun of myself here.)  For once, my quick check of Facebook did in fact prove productive because I noticed that an article was being shared by many of my friends, so I decided to click on the link.

The article was titled "Your Children Want YOU!!!" and it started like this:

"There's this crazy phenomenon going on right now.  Good, devoted mothers get on Pinterest...and blogs...and Facebook...and Twitter...and then they flip through parenting magazines and TV channels (full of advertisements and media hype)...and they're convinced they're not enough."

I was hooked.  And as I read on, I became more and more touched.  The author writes about moments with her husband, her children, and her own mother that have convinced her that the only person that she needs to be is herself.  She points out that she doesn't care that her mother "didn't specialize in home decor and gourmet cooking" or  "lift weights or run marathons," and neither do her children.  "At the end of the day," she concludes, "your children don't want a discouraged, stressed-out mom who is wishing she were someone else...Your children want YOU."  (If you haven't read the entirety of this article, you really should.  It's awesome.)

I was so inspired by this essay that I went to the website where it was originally posted, and I started reading other articles.  I noticed that they sold programs for mothers, and I eventually bought a few.  Then I subscribed to their email newsletter, and it was there that I noticed a listing for an editor.  I applied for the position--and I got it.

I really love the work that I am doing for them.  I thought that I would just be editing for commas and run-on sentences, but I actually get to help make decisions about which articles are published on the site, and I get to make suggestions for revisions when articles need to be tweaked. The work that I am doing for them draws on some of my favorite aspects of being an English teacher.

Also, as I edit the submissions, I am so inspired by the mothering insights and experiences that are shared.  Unlike Pinterest, this site doesn't make me feel overwhelmed and inadequate--it makes me feel empowered and excited.  The ideas are doable.  The essays acknowledge the difficult realities of motherhood, while also presenting some ideas for solutions.

If you are my friend on Facebook, I'm sure you've gotten tired of my "liking" a million articles from the website.  I can't help it--they are just so good.  If you look above, you will see that I've added a tab for "Power of Moms" to my blog homepage: I am going to use that page  to continually add links to some of my articles that are published on the site (so I don't have to write a blog post announcing each one, which could get really annoying), as well as some of my favorite articles that are written by other people (there are so many great ones).  Don't forget, anyone can write for the site!  You totally should!

Through this editing work, it's also been super rewarding to "get to know" some of the other women who work for the site.  I hope to meet them in person someday!  Who knew that I could make friends with people I work with online?  We live in a crazy (but cool) world.

They recently asked me to write a "Spotlight" for the website, which I did.  It was published this past week, and the title that they came up with made me laugh: "Rachel Nielson: A Mother, A Writer."  It's so dramatic and serious, and it just makes me sound so legit.  Click on the link if you want to read my spotlight.

Now that I am a legit editor, I can do a giveaway of one of their programs on my blog--so stay tuned for more info.  They really have some awesome resources, and I am so glad to be working with them.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Weekend of Holiday Fun

Ryan and I have had a weekend of holiday festivities.  It all started with an Ugly Sweater 5K on Saturday morning.  There were 7,500 runners there in tacky holiday garb.  It was fantastic.  Lots of dogs were dressed up too--and, really, does it get any tackier than that?  My friend Nancy (whom I have known since fourth grade, when we both wore ugly sweaters and sweatshirts on a regular basis) was the one who informed us about this classy event and invited us to run with her.  I'm so glad she did.  There was hot chocolate at the mile-markers, random inflatable Christmas decorations all along the route, and snow machines blowing fake, bubbly snow at the finish line.  Our sweaters were courtesy of Sally Westover's closet.  My mom had many amazing qualities, but she didn't have much of a fashion sense.  I wish you could see the sequin detailing on my sweater more clearly in the photos--it was super ugly, just take my word for it.

At the starting line...
My old friend, Nancy
At the finish line...
Unfortunately, Mr. Noah was grumpy and screamed through most of the run.  This is very unlike him--he usually loves being outside and going for walks.  Maybe he was frightened by all of the heinous sweaters...or the ginormous inflatable Santa...

After the run, we rushed home and started getting ready for our church congregation's Christmas party. Ryan was recently asked to be the president of the men's group, but the old president forgot to tell him that the men were in charge of the Christmas party this year.  Ryan found out with hardly any notice, but somehow (with about a million phone calls to Ryan's mom for ideas and lots of help from our friends at church), we got everything done.  I am so relieved that it is over and that it was a relative success--not perfect by any means, but it wasn't a total flop either.  Phew.

Then tonight, we had several couples over for a big Christmas dinner.  I am not used to all of this excitement and hosting of events--I am generally a pretty boring person who doesn't host or get out much.  But for several years I've wanted to plan a "progressive dinner" around Christmastime, and this was the only Sunday that it would work for us; so even though it was the day after the church party, I decided we should do it.  The idea behind this event goes back to my years as a teenage girl when our youth group at church would hold a progressive dinner in December.  We would meet at one house for appetizers, then we would hold lighted candles as we caroled to the next house, where we would eat the main course, and then we would walk and sing with our candles all the way to the last house, where we would have dessert and a devotional.  I think candles are perfectly romantic, especially during the holidays, and I have wanted to recreate this magical tradition with friends as an adult.  A few years ago, I planned a progressive dinner while we were living in Buffalo but had to cancel it last minute because we were contacted by an expectant mother who was considering adoption and wanted us to come meet her.  (That adoption didn't work out, but it was worth going to meet her because she lived in NYC, and NYC is gorgeous at Christmastime.)  I was determined to make the progressive dinner happen this year; but, alas, Mother Nature disagreed with me and sent freezing temperatures to Denver just in time to make it impossible to walk from house to house caroling with little kids.  It was 70 degrees earlier this week, but right now it is 7 degrees.  Go figure.

So we had everyone here for all three courses instead.  We rearranged our furniture to accommodate seating for 12 adults and 7 kids, I pulled out a few Christmas decorations from the boxes in the storage unit, and we quadrupled our recipe for Zucchini Soup.  Progressive or not, it was still a lot of fun.

Make-shift banquet table
Noah helped Dad get ready for the party
Only Dad lets him stand on the open dishwasher
Good grief. :)
Now that this weekend of chaotic fun is over, our bedroom looks like this:

Does anyone else chuck everything in a side room when you are hosting a party??

I am worn out.  I am going to clear some space on that bed of mine and crash right this minute.  On tomorrow's "to-do" list?  CLEAN THE HOUSE.  (Maybe Noah will help me.)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Sharing family love (and germs) at Thanksgiving

We spent the long Thanksgiving weekend at my dad's house.  My older sister and her family live with him, and my little sister and her husband were in town for the holiday, so we decided that we couldn't miss out on all the fun and excitement--so we stayed there too.

Turns out the "fun and excitement" included a stomach flu epidemic that got every single member of the family (including the babies!), but we survived and still managed to have a great time together.  And I will say that having the stomach flu added another level of gratitude to my Thanksgiving week: nothing makes me as grateful for my health as having the stomach flu.  I don't even realize what a blessing my health is until I am moaning on the couch with a trashcan next to me, just in case.  (Sorry for the details.)

Fortunately, the flu bug didn't hit until a few days after the feast at Grammy's (my favorite meal of the year).  The Old People were thrilled to have all of their great grandkids in town this year, and we managed to get a photo of them literally buried in kids and babies.

9 boys, 1 girl, and another girl on the way
Well, at least Granny and Grampy are looking at the camera.
Other highlights of the weekend included:

*Hanging out with Miss Jade.  (Noah's favorite thing in the world is to steal her pacifier and try to stick it back in her mouth.  She is an amazingly good sport about it.)

*Hanging out with Cousin Callum.

Twins, thanks to Aunt Sarah!
Amused by watching Ryan jump on the trampoline behind me
Snuggling while watching "How to Train Your Dragon."
*Hanging out with Aunts and Uncles.

Uncle Sam has a real thing for Jade...and you can't really blame him!
Talking on the phone to Aunt Sarah.
Cute video here. 
Getting a little work done with Uncle Logan
*Hanging out with Bapa.

An early Christmas present from Bapa: Firetruck!

Putting up the Christmas tree
I am very grateful for my family.  And I'm grateful for the two years that we've had to be close to them. It is fun to witness how much they love Noah and how much Noah loves them.  I have so many reasons to give thanks!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Happy (very belated) Thanksgiving from the Nielsons!

(Yes, I realize it is December 8th...that's just the way we roll around here.)

Cute family photo...
with a nice green plastic thing in the background. Awesome!
I almost ate him for Thanksgiving dinner.
Thanks to my big sister for always making Noah festive outfits to wear.  (I somehow missed out on the crafty, seamstress genes in my family.)  Did you know she regularly contributes to a blog called Craft Quickies which features 30-minute crafts for busy moms?  She is awesome.  This turkey shirt took longer than thirty minutes, so it's featured on a different blog.  Go here for the tutorial if you are interested.

I love this little turkey!
More on the holiday weekend in a future post!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A Thanksgiving Love Letter

November 21, 2012

Sweetest Boy,

It’s the eve of Thanksgiving, and I am sitting on my bed listening to your cute chatter over the baby monitor as you settle down to sleep. My heart aches with the love I have for you. 

I just want to tell you how grateful I am for you.  The past few weeks have been perfect.  Perfect.  This is the happiest I have been as a stay-at-home mom.  Every day, I thank God that I get to be home with you, that I get to be the one that you run to when you are afraid of the vacuum cleaner, that I get to be the one to hear your new words and witness your milestones. 

A few days ago, I noticed that you were stinky, and I said aloud, “Someone needs a new diaper…”  You looked at me thoughtfully, got a self-satisfied smirk on your face, and then ran back to your bedroom.  You emerged waving a clean diaper and giggling wildly.  I could not believe it.  It was the first moment that I realized that you understand me.  My Noah Nugget isn’t a baby anymore—you are a little boy—you are my little boy, my buddy, my best friend.

And then yesterday, you were eating breakfast when I heard a suspicious rumble reverberating from the seat of your high chair.  You looked up at me innocently and said, “Toot.”  Shocked, and wondering when your daddy taught you that word, I burst out laughing.  You make me laugh every day.

You have your birthparents’ eyes—Drew’s shape, Katie’s color.  Every time that someone comments on your gorgeous eyes (which, believe me, happens almost daily), I am filled with love and joy and thanksgiving—for the gift that you are in my life, for the gift that they are in my life.  I would not be a mother without them.  I will never forget their sacrifice.  

Sometimes, I watch you from the doorway of your bedroom when you are absorbed in a task—when you are concentrating on putting your white noise machine together, or sitting on your globe with both of your chubby hands on the glowing surface for balance—and my heart swells, and I can’t stop smiling, and when you finally look up and notice me there, you smile too. 

Thank you for being my son.  

Thank you for bringing me storybooks and climbing into my lap, saying “Book?  Book?  Book?” until I set aside whatever I am working on to read to you.  There is nothing that I wouldn’t set aside to snuggle with you. 

Thank you for spinning in circles until you fall over when we listen to Taylor Swift together as I clean the kitchen.

Thank you for searching the night sky for the moon—and lighting up with absolute wonder when you find it. “Moon!  Moon!” you’ll say, arching your back so you can watch that spot of light all the way into the house.

Thank you for reminding me how beautiful this world is and how lucky we are to be a part of it—just one mama and one little boy, rocking in our creaky blue chair as we read bedtime stories together—the moon outside our window watching over the whole world.

I love you, Noah.  And of all things under that big starry sky that I am grateful for, tonight, I am most grateful for you.

Happy Thanksgiving, my precious, perfect son.


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ode to the Brown Bomber (AKA "Why I am Thankful for my Parents")

It is Thanksgiving Week, and I am thankful for my parents.

I was recently going through our family photos albums, and I stumbled across some priceless pictures from the year 1983.  Apparently, when my parents' 1976 Ford Torino (the Brown Bomber, as she was affectionately called) hit 100,000 miles, they threw a little party in her honor.

The party guests all piled into the beloved vehicle, and then they drove around the block a few times until the odometer hit exactly 100,000.  They pulled over to the side of the road, the guests climbed out of the car, and my dad stood on the hood to make a solemn speech.

I am so glad that my mom put a type-writer copy of his remarks in the photo album:

"This is a great day.  It is appropriate that the weather is beautiful as we celebrate this milestone in our old friend's life.

My remarks shall be very brief, lest I embarrass the Brown Bomber, which has always been a humble creature.  I hope you don't mind if I read my comments.  It will make it easier for me to control my emotions.

Only a select few--those who truly appreciate and have experienced the goodness and worth of the Brown Bomber--have been asked to be here today.  It is heartening that there are at least a few true believers.  For, sadly, there are many who, blinded by outward appearances, scorn and ridicule this noble machine, unwilling to look beyond the surface in an attempt to discern true worth.  Indeed, quite recently, a friend (shall we say a former friend), upon encountering the Bomber for the first time, exclaimed in disgust, "Is that your car?"  We mourn for the makers of such remarks because, due to their prejudice, they shall never have their lives enriched by a meaningful relationship with this well-traveled, mature, and venerable friend.

But let me conclude.  To you, Brown Bomber, hats off!  Your virtues are many.  You are dependable, solid, and strong.  You have traveled, undaunted, through 100,000 miles of searing heat, bitter cold, and terrifying Boston traffic.  We make special note of one of your noblest achievements: On December 25, 1982, at an age when most cars are fit for nothing but the junkyard, you forged your way through over two feet of new snow to bring family and friends together on Christmas Day.  We shall not soon forget such acts.  In today's world of flimsy and insubstantial foreign cars, you are an inspiration.  We salute you.  May you travel another 100,000 miles.

(Whereupon each person present is invited to leave with the Brown Bomber a lasting token of his esteem--by striking the Bomber with a hammer.)"

Yes, they really did hit the car with a hammer.  And then they went back to my parents' house and ate a cake, lovingly prepared by my mother in Bomber's honor.

The sense of humor and fun conveyed in that story is just one of the many reasons I am grateful for my parents.  My dad is a reserved person, and those who don't know him well might never know this goofy side of him--but, honestly, I don't think it takes more than a few minutes of talking to him for flashes of his wit to come out.  That speech is going to have me laughing all day.

Happy Thanksgiving Week, everyone!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Blog Booking

I recently made a book of all of my blog posts from 2011.  I say "recently," but what I really mean is for eleven stinkin' months.  Who knew that making a blog book would take so much time?  I started it in January, and granted, I didn't work on it diligently every single month, but I think I spent close to 100 hours putting that (d-word) book together.  I must qualify that by saying that 2011 was a huge year for us, so there were tons of posts and tons of photos (the finished blog book is 210 pages), and I must also acknowledge that I am the world's biggest perfectionist, so I'm sure that some of those hours were poorly spent with me rearranging and trying to make everything just perfect...but still, what a project.  

Before I started this colossal undertaking, I researched websites to use, and I found Blog2Print (which just slurps your blog into a PDF file and binds it, and you don't have to do any formatting at all)--but when I tried that, it made the spacing in my book all wonky, and there was no way to go in and edit it.  The photos were also super small, and it was just one long, continuous document, so sometimes the title of a post would be at the bottom of the page didn't look professional, and I knew it would drive me nuts.  If this was going to be our family journal and photo album, and if I was going to pour time and money into it, I wanted it to look really nice.  So I decided to use  It slurps your blog into a file, so all of the words and all of the photos are there, but then you have to go through post by post and choose or create layouts that fit.  It sounds easy enough, but let me tell you, it takes some serious time (especially when you are still figuring out the program).

 I love the way my book turned out, but the thought of doing it again--for the years 2008 and 2009 and 2010 AND 2012--makes me shudder.  There has to be a better way.  I mean, can I honestly keep blogging if it is then going to take 100 hours to transfer a year of posts into a book?

I do think the next book will go faster, now that I know the computer program better and know that I can't be such a perfectionist, and I do recognize that the years 2008, 2009, and 2010 will probably add up to the same length as the year 2011...but I am still feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of starting again.

Any suggestions?  Has anyone else run into this problem?  Have you figured out a way to make it more manageable?  Do you have tips for better ways that I can write my posts in order to make the transfer to a book easier?  I would really appreciate some advice!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Update on our Mr. Noah

Noah is just over 15 months now, and he is fun.  Every day I say to Ryan, "Aren't we so lucky?  Isn't he the best?"  I just can't get enough of him.

He had a "word explosion" this past month and is talking up a storm.  He says about 35 words--all the basics like cracker, milk, shoes, ball, book, apple, baby, go, bread...the list goes on.  The other night, we were coming inside our apartment, and he pointed up at the sky and said, "Moon!"  I was shocked.  It is so fun when he busts out a new word that I didn't realize he knows.  I love it when he says, "Hi!" in a very friendly voice whenever he sees someone new, even Baby Jade (as if she could understand him).  Or sometimes, if I am holding him and talking to a friend for a long time, he gets tired of all the gab and starts waving at the other person and saying, "Bye!"  It's his polite way of saying, "I'm done--please leave now."

He still says "whoa" at appropriate moments, and it cracks me up.  Sometimes I have rowdy outbursts of song and dance--often when Noah is eating peacefully in his high chair--and whenever I suddenly burst into loud song with crazy dance moves, Noah responds, totally deadpan, "Whoa."  It is perfect.

His newest favorite word is "Callum."  He says it more like "Cow-m."  The other day, he heard me telling Ryan a story about my nephew, and when I said "Callum," Noah looked up from his toy and said, "Cow-m?  Cow-m?  Cow-m?" and ran for the front door.  I guess he thought his cousin was coming over to play.

Speaking of Cal, Sarah and I made them matching glow-in-the-dark Halloween shoes (you can probably imagine that this was Sarah's idea), and the boys loved them.

We wanted to get some pics of them in their Halloween shoes and sweatshirts, but getting a good photo of a three-year-old and a one-year old together is easier said than done.  This is how that went:

Ha!  We did manage to get this shot of them--though neither boy is smiling, I think they look like hipsters.  Cute boys.

Noah is a little parrot.  He imitates words, but he also imitates sounds, such as singing and sighing.  I never realized how often I must make long, belabored sighs of stress throughout the day.  Now that I have my parrot, whenever I let out a tired sigh, he does too.  Sometimes he'll even sigh and say, "Okay..." at the end, like he's gearing up to do something difficult like clean the kitchen. :)  It reminds me that I shouldn't take my life too seriously.

Noah developed a crush this past month--not on a cute little girl from church, as you might suspect--no, on someone even "hotter."  Literally.  He seems to have fallen in love with his space heater.  We recently put a space heater in his room to combat the plunging winter temperatures, and he is enamored with it.  He tries to carry it around with him everywhere he goes.  A few weeks ago, whenever we put him to bed, he would scream for a few minutes before settling down to sleep.  Though he always fights naps, he doesn't usually fight bedtime, so I couldn't figure out what the problem was.  I peeked into his room one night when he was carrying on, and I saw that he was standing in his crib, reaching dramatically toward the space heater, and sobbing.  He wanted his buddy to come to bed with him.  I've learned that I have to hide the space heater from his view to avoid this tantrum before bed.  Too funny.

Here is a video of Noah trying to lift his space heater.  His grunts of exertion, as well as Ryan's coaching that "It's all in the legs," had me laughing through the whole thing.  I also love how he tries to walk away from it, but he just can't bring himself to.

He has started to like playing independently for short spans of time.  Sometimes he will be playing in his room, and I will go peek to make sure everything is okay, and when he sees me, he runs over to the door and shuts it in my face, like "Give me my space, Mom!"  It is lovely to have a few minutes to myself every day, but he is also at an age where he is into everything, so I constantly have to check to make sure he isn't up to no good.  Fortunately, he almost always gives himself away when he is getting into trouble because I can hear him saying "No! No! No!" from the other room.

"No! No! No!  I shouldn't be getting into Mom's canned goods!"
He has become obsessed with electrical outlets.  He can plug things in, such as his beloved space heater, and I have to be very vigilant about always making sure the guards are on all of the plugs in the house.

I love my little rascal.  I know I said this last month, but this is my favorite age yet.  Being a mom to a toddler is so much fun.  Especially when I can dress mine up as a newsie for church: