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!