Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Kate's 1st Birthday Party!

My niece Kate turned one on December 15th.  I love her.  One of my favorite parts of moving to Idaho is being closer to her and getting to watch her grow up.  It was so fun to be at her first birthday party.  We went to a really cool indoor pool and water playground at Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, and then we had pizza, cake, and presents at the Nielson's home afterward.  It is so special to be near family so we can be there for milestones and events like this.

Kate is spunky.  She has serious personality.  She crinkles up her nose when she smiles, and she gives a death glare when she is uncertain about someone.  I used to get that glare a lot, but she is warming up to me lately and finally coming to realize what I have always known--that I am her favorite aunt!  (Shh, don't tell the others!)

Here we are playing peek-a-boo:

And here she is giving me a death glare at her birthday party (not sure what I did wrong):

This little lady is teeny--she is in the first percentile for height and weight--and yet she toddles around like a champ and has a huge personality.  She never stays still--never has, even as a tiny baby.  She has always been a mover, into everything and exploring the world.  I have a feeling she is always going to be feisty and smart, and I can't wait to witness her learning and growing over the years.

Happy Birthday, Kate!  I love you and am so glad we moved to Idaho so I could win you over!

Your (Favorite) Aunt Rachel

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Dear Baby Bean

Hello, Little One. This is your mother, writing to you for the very first time—which seems fitting since I saw you for the very first time today.  You were just a tiny speck on the ultrasound screen, a little seahorse-shaped bean, but I could see your heart beating wildly (144 beats per minute!), and it made my heart beat a little faster as well.  You are real.  You are really on your way.

Your dad was beside me, wrestling with your big brother Noah who was, of course, being a pill in a moment that I had imagined would be still and spiritual.  I think Noah’s squawks must have drown out the heavenly choirs that were singing, but it didn’t matter—when I turned to look at your dad, he was grinning from ear to ear watching that little heartbeat on the screen, and that was sacred enough for me.  I love him, and I love that you are a piece of him.

After that fleeting magical moment, I mostly just felt nauseated and a little overwhelmed as I lay there on the exam table.  Pregnancy and motherhood consist of a lot of feelings, many of which are not romantic and blissful—but I do feel like it’s important to capture the moments that are perfect.  As a friend once told me, the magical moments may not outnumber the hard or mundane moments, but they definitely outweigh them.

For example, I vividly remember the moment that I started wishing for you—well, I’ve always wished for you, but I remember clearly the moment that the possibility and dream of you first became real.  I hadn’t felt ready to even consider another baby for over a year after your brother was born.  Adjusting to motherhood had been difficult and disorienting for me, but one day when Noah was about 16 months old, we were playing in the bathtub, and as he squealed, splashed, and splattered bubbles on me, I felt overwhelming joy and thought, “I hope I get to do this again.”  I was surprised to realize that, quite suddenly, the thought of another baby joining our family brought excitement instead of fear.  I knew then that it wouldn’t be an easy road to get you here, and it hasn’t been—but I also knew that I would do whatever it took to make it happen.

Now that you’re on your way, I feel so many things.  I feel excited to pick out a special name for you, to have a baby bump and to feel you kick inside of me, to experience labor and bringing you into the world, to rock you and snuggle you, to watch you learn and grow and develop personality and spunk, like your brother.

But I also feel scared sometimes—mostly that I am not up for the challenge of two children.  I often feel like I can barely manage my life as it is, with one child.  After over two years, I still haven’t “mastered” being a stay-at-home mom.  Some women are naturally so good at this—at getting up and getting going for the day, planning fun outings and activities for the kids, enjoying every moment (okay, probably just most moments) with their little ones while managing their homes with ease.  Me, not so much.  I’m going to be honest and say that most days, I am still in pajama pants, unshowered, at 3:00 p.m., and we are lucky if dinner gets on the table and the dishes get done each day.  This has been especially true lately with fertility treatments and now pregnancy exhaustion, hormone-related blues, and of course, the ever-present nausea.

But what I need to remember is that I’m a good mom.  I might not be a good homemaker, but I’m a good mom.  I love Noah fiercely, and I love reading to him and teaching him.  I know that I have enough love to give to another child, even if it sometimes feels like I don’t have enough time management (or organization or motivation or whatever it is!).

I can’t wait to welcome you to our family.  I can’t wait to see how you fit and what you bring to us.   Right now, you are just our little bean, but before we know it, you will be here, fresh from heaven and ready to start teaching us.

I can’t wait to hold you and to look into your eyes for the first time.  But for now, I will treasure the memory of that little beating heart—and the way that it filled and settled into mine.

I love you so much already, my little miracle baby.

Keep growing.  We will keep praying.  And we will see you again soon.


Your Pregnant Mama

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

IVF, News

I thought that I would figure out a poetic/literary way to announce this...but the truth is, I am excruciatingly tired (good sign, right?), so I guess I will just get right to the point and say it:

I am pregnant.


Several blood tests have confirmed it, and my HCG levels are doubling every 40 hours, and so although I am still ridiculously early on to be announcing this news, I thought I would go ahead and do it--because with IVF, everyone knows your general timeline anyway, and everyone is asking and wondering...so you really can't keep it a secret for long.

So there you have it, friends: I am a whopping 5 1/2 weeks pregnant and feeling so relieved and grateful and overwhelmed and vulnerable and happy and scared, all at once.

I am ever-aware that I am still in the miscarriage danger zone, and will be for several more months, so continued prayers are appreciated.  My doctor did say that with my HCG levels, the risk of miscarriage is low, but I know this is never a sure thing.  I know this life inside of me is very fragile.  It makes me feel vulnerable to announce this news so early on, but I figure that if the worst should happen, I will want to share and seek support on my blog anyway.  So I am announcing it now and praying for things to continue progressing normally.

I am also ever-aware that I am extremely blessed to have had this outcome the first time that I did IVF.  So blessed.  Most of my friends who have done IVF have not had it so easy.  It feels weird to write that because IVF is never easy, but compared to the journeys of some of my friends, my path was fairly straightforward.  Again, I am so grateful.  So so so grateful.

I know how much infertility can sting, and I hope this pregnancy announcement doesn't cause pain for anyone else.  For those of you currently struggling with infertility, I am so sorry for what you are going through and I love you.  Truly.  I always pray for those who are facing infertility or waiting to adopt--I pray by name for those whom I know, and I pray in general for those whom I don't.  So if anyone is reading this news and your heart is hurting, I really mean it when I say that I am praying for you.  Please hang in there.  Sometimes that's all we can do.

As for me being pregnant (what??), it feels too good to be true--so surreal and so exciting--this little life inside of me.  I was looking through an old photo album from Ryan's childhood today, and I decided that I hope the baby looks like him.  I mean, honestly, should this kind of cuteness even be allowed??

And speaking of Ryan, the baby's due date is August 6th, which just happens to be Ryan's 32nd birthday!  This was also Noah's due date at one point, though he ended up being born on August 1st.

And speaking of Noah, I love him.  He has these new skateboarder shoes (be still my heart), and today when a random stranger complimented them, he said, "Want to see how fast they go?"  And took off running around the room.

He makes me smile every single day.  He made me a mother.  He is the reason I found the courage to try for another baby.  Ryan and I often shake our heads in wonder when we look at him--he is the best thing that ever happened to us, and I will always be grateful for my infertility because it brought Noah to us.

When I asked Noah if he wants a brother or a sister, he said, "Both!" :)  He's probably not going to get both of them at once, because although they did transfer two embryos, my HCG levels are not indicating twins at this point.  (I know some of you out there were wondering.)  We won't know for sure until I have an ultrasound, but for now, the doctor says it appears to be one healthy and growing baby in there.  Sounds miraculous and perfect to me.

Thank you all for your prayers.  Thank you for supporting us on this journey.  Thank you for loving our family.  Thank you for sharing in our joys and our sorrows over the years.  This is another chapter which we are hoping will have a happy ending in August.

I simply can't wait.

Monday, December 2, 2013


Today I get the privilege of writing a birthday tribute to one of the women whom I love and admire most in this world: my mother-in-law, Sally.

From the first time I met Sally about nine years ago, I’ve been able to talk openly with her and share my heart with her.  It is not unusual for us to talk for hours, on the phone or in person.  Though our interests and hobbies aren’t really the same (she is a great tennis player and a brilliant homemaker, while I am neither athletic nor domestic), I feel like our hearts are very similar.  We both care deeply about our family and friends and would do anything for them; we both enjoy discussing life with kindred spirits; and we both want to be and do good above all else.  When I talk to Sally, I feel like she “gets” me, and I hope that feeling is mutual.

If I had to define Sally in one word, I would say that she is a nurturer.  She loves to take care of people.  Even though her children are grown and all but one are married, she still takes such good care of us and is infinitely thoughtful and encouraging.  She told me once that she often prays for each of her children and their spouses by name, going through the list and sharing with Heavenly Father her concerns for each of us.  I cannot express how much comfort it gives me to know that Sally is consistently praying for us individually.  I know this habit of prayer has lead her to be inspired in how to reach out and help us on more than one occasion.  She truly watches over our entire family, and I don’t know what we would do without her.

It is no surprise that she is also an amazing grandma who genuinely loves having the grandkids at her home making messes.  She plays with them and reads to them, and she can’t bear to hear the babies cry.  I have to turn off the baby monitor if I ever let Noah “cry it out” at her house because she just wants to go get him up—she would willingly rock him and read him stories until 2 a.m.  (And he knows it!) :)  Sally loves to love others, and she is so very good at it.

Though we’ve always been close, my relationship with Sally has become even deeper in recent years as I’ve become a mother myself, and I treasure many of the moments I’ve shared with her in this new “role” in my life.

The day after Noah was born, I was surprised when I suddenly became totally overwhelmed by a wave of conflicting emotions—elation that I was finally a mother, but also fear that I was not up to the task; indescribable gratitude for Katie and Drew’s sacrifice, and yet overwhelming guilt that I was so happy when they were hurting; all-consuming love for my little baby, and yet inadequacy at the thought of doing everything I could to provide for and teach him.  Though I am not usually a crier, I could not stop sobbing for over an hour, and quite frankly, it scared me.

Ryan, who I’m pretty sure was completely bewildered by this uncharacteristic outpouring from his wife, insisted that I talk to his mom about it.  I remember saying, “No, I can’t tell anyone that I am feeling this way!  No one will understand!  I am just supposed to be happy and grateful today.  What is wrong with me?”  But the more I cried, the more insistent Ryan became.

So, through my tears and in a shaky, breaking voice, I told Sally everything.  I remember that we were sitting in the parking lot at Costco (Ryan had run inside to print the photos of Noah’s birth), and Sally didn’t judge me—in fact, she comforted me by sharing a very personal story from her own life about a time when she felt  overwhelmed by motherhood and by the fear that she wouldn’t do it “right.”   I felt understood, and I felt hope—because if Sally Nielson, who is such an amazing mother and nurturer, had some of these fears in her early days as a mom, then I realized I would probably be okay!  I will be forever grateful that Sally was there for me during that life-changing time when I was a brand-new mom.

A few months later, I had another interaction with Sally that reinforced her loving nature.  Noah had colic, and he cried constantly, no matter what I tried to do to make him comfortable. I felt exhausted, overwhelmed, and extremely sad much of the time.  For all of those reasons, I was overly sensitive, and when Sally made suggestions about Noah’s care, it hurt my feelings.   I finally decided to tell her how I felt, so I wrote her an email expressing my thoughts and concerns (I was afraid that if I talked to her about it, I would just burst into tears).  In Ryan’s and my six years of marriage, Sally and I had never had any sort of conflict or reason to disagree, and after I sent the email, I felt so worried that she would be offended and that it would alter our relationship forever.  A few hours later, I got the most loving reply, apologizing for any suggestions that had “overstepped” or hurt my feelings and assuring me that I was doing a great job and was a wonderful mother.  I was so touched by her compassion and humility, when she easily could have gotten defensive or pointed out that I was being oversensitive.  What a blessing that the first time we ever had to talk about hurt feelings and a difference of opinion on childrearing, it was a good experience that brought us even closer.  These types of situations are bound to arise now and then within families, and I’m so glad that Sally made sure to set the precedent that we would always treat each other with respect and empathy.  This experience made me admire Sally even more and become even more convinced that I am so lucky to have her in my life—most of my girlfriends do not have this type of open and supportive relationship with their mothers-in-law.   I know how blessed I am.

Sally has been an immeasurable support these past six months as I’ve struggled with infertility-related illnesses and complications and as we’ve undergone the process of IVF—we really couldn’t have done it without her.  Again, I just have to marvel at what a gift she is in my life!

Happy birthday, Sally!  Thank you for showing me how to be a nurturing, loving, faithful, committed, and understanding mother—and mother-in-law.  Someday, I hope to be the type of mother-in-law to Noah’s wife that you are to me.  Thank you for being one of my closest friends and confidants and for always seeing the best in me.  You have always made me feel so loved and so welcome in the Nielson family.  I will never be able to thank you enough for it.  I love you!  xoxo

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

IVF, Part 2

I am sitting in Barnes and Noble, drinking a hot chocolate, and feeling pretty normal for the first time in weeks.  My IVF is done.  My embryo transfer was two days ago, and when it was all over and the doctors and nurses left the room, I lay on the exam table with Ryan by my side and cried—tears of relief that it is over, tears of hope from the news that my embryos were great quality and we had several left over to freeze, and tears of exhaustion after such a strange and stressful month.

It’s been intense, that’s for sure.  In some ways, it feels like it’s been the longest month of my life, and in other ways, it feels like it was just yesterday that I found out my ovarian cysts were gone and I could start the IVF drugs.  It’s hard to believe how many medications, injections, doctor appointments, invasive procedures, and drives to Utah I’ve packed into the last six weeks.  It’s all a little disorienting, and I feel like I haven’t processed it all—like I just robotically went through the motions and followed the checklist from my doctor without allowing myself to feel much of it.  I don’t think that is necessarily a bad thing.  I think it’s a defense mechanism that our bodies and minds engage in so we can get through some of the most overwhelming experiences of our lives.  But now that it’s all over, I want to take at least a few minutes to sit down and figure out how it all felt.  And I guess I’ll start at the beginning…

My first medication was a nightly shot that “quieted” my ovaries before the process of follicle stimulation began.  This lovely medication gave me uncharacteristic flashes of anger but mostly made me feel totally overwhelmed by the daily tasks of life.  The IVF nurse told me that this drug drops your estrogen levels and essentially puts you into extended PMS.  Fun, right?? 

Though those first few weeks were difficult, I was still home in Twin Falls and if I kept to my routine of getting out of the house with Noah—grocery shopping, kids’ class at the YMCA, post-naptime stories—then I was okay.  I wished that I had my sisters or my closest girlfriends around to distract me during those anxious days, but I discovered that I really like yoga and I started going to a local class twice a week, and I also allowed myself to cut corners whenever the overwhelm started to press too heavy.  (Not feeling up to making dinner? Café Rio it is!)  I had the distinct impression during those weeks that lots of family and friends were praying for me and that their prayers were buoying me up—that they were carrying part of my burden.  I felt so grateful.

Then I added the follicle-stimulating hormone shots, and initially, I didn’t feel too much different.  I even looked forward to my upcoming week in Utah for doctor appointments because my mother-in-law would have Noah in Pocatello, and I thought I would enjoy my kid-free week.  I scheduled visits with friends and family and envisioned having lots of time to journal, blog, read, and rest. 

I’m glad I did most of my visits within the first two days that I was in Utah because after that, I completely hit a wall.  Those next several days were, without a doubt, the hardest part of my treatment.  The hormones really started taking their toll, and I felt weepy, fuzzy-brained, crampy, dizzy, and bloated—not to mention bruised and tender from three shots in the stomach every evening.  Perhaps worst of all, my elevated estrogen levels gave me insomnia, so even though I was absolutely exhausted, I couldn’t sleep at night.

During this time, the injections became more involved, and the dosages increased and changed each day depending on what the doctor was seeing on my ultrasounds and in my blood work.  I was in charge of measuring and administering my medications, and I constantly worried that I was going to mess something up.  I am a worrier by nature, but I think the hormones increased this tendency, as I found myself fretting between appointments that something dramatic was going to go wrong with me medically and the doctor wouldn't catch it in time.  I have an irrational phobia of medical problems (I think because I witnessed my mom's thirteen-year battle with cancer), and all of my fears became magnified when I was on the IVF medications.

One night, I hit a blood vessel when I did a shot, and as blood oozed into a pool on my stomach and my head started to spin, I wanted to lie right down on my brother-and-sister-in-law’s kitchen floor and burst into tears.  I didn’t—because for some reason I always feel like I need to keep it together in front of other people—but I did excuse myself to a corner where no one in the living room could see me and lay down for a few minutes until the world stopped spinning.  

And then I stood up and gave myself my next shot.

I missed Ryan, I missed my own bed, I missed my normal routines.  I felt very alone.  Though I was surrounded by people who were concerned about me, I still felt alone.  I often felt the prompting that God understood and was aware of me, and I tried to pray and tell him how I was feeling—but it was hard to put it into words.  I usually just stayed on my knees for a few minutes by the side of the bed, my head on the edge of the mattress, and let the emptiness that I felt do the talking.  I think God understands those kinds of prayers too.

In the midst of all of this, I had beautiful moments with my loved ones.  My sister-in-law was expecting a baby any day, and I loved being with her during a time of such excitement.  We went for a walk on a lovely autumn day and talked about pregnancy, life, and motherhood.  My brother-in-law read me lame Laffy Taffy jokes while I was doing my shots to get my mind off the pain.  I received phone calls or texts every few days from my best friends in Buffalo who have done IVF and who know what a difficult and lonely path it can be.  One of my closest friends from college spent a few days with me, and she was so attentive and concerned about me.  We went shopping and she helped me pick out some stylish brown boots (my first pair of boots ever!) to wear with my church dresses.  Though my body ached and my brain felt fuzzy during most of our outings, I was so grateful for the distraction.

How, with all of this amazing support, did I feel alone?  I don’t know, and I honestly feel a little weak and ungrateful admitting how lonely I felt.  But it’s just something about fertility treatments—about the realization that no one, not even your husband, is as invested in this journey as you are or will ever understand what it feels like to have the most sensitive parts of your body examined and to have medications that mess with your personality and emotions pumped into your system.  But one thing I know for sure is that this process would have been much harder without the love and support of my family and friends.  I am so grateful to them and for them.

My mother-in-law brought Noah to Utah a few days before my egg retrieval so we could be together, and as excited as I was to see him, he was very out-of-sorts from so much change to his routine.  We were both exhausted and overwhelmed, and he screamed every time I put him to bed and threw tantrum after tantrum when he didn’t get his way.  I kept telling myself that we would be home soon and back into a consistent, stable routine, but it didn’t keep me from stressing out about his behavior.  Thank goodness Sally has been so willing to help with Noah this month—it has been such a blessing to live close to them during all of this.   

Finally, finally, Ryan arrived in Utah the night before my egg retrieval.  Noah and I went outside to greet him, and Ryan scooped Noah into his arms and we stood under the stars with our arms around each other.  “Family snuggle!” Noah said, as we wrapped him into a tight hug and looked up at the moon.  This was one of the perfect moments—those moments that remind me why I am doing all of this, that remind me that building a family is worth whatever effort it takes to get there.

Once Ryan arrived, the worst of everything was over.  Even the egg retrieval and my subsequent recovery wasn’t as bad as that week of shots and appointments in Utah.  Several of my friends have done IVF, and I think it’s so interesting how our bodies have responded differently to each step of the process; for some of them, the hormone shots didn’t affect them very much but the egg retrieval was brutal.  For me, it was the opposite.  Of course I was uncomfortable and swollen, but I’m fortunate that my body was able to bounce back fairly quickly and I didn’t suffer the debilitating pain that some of my friends have experienced with that procedure.

After the retrieval, as we headed back to Idaho, I lay in my reclined seat in the car and texted so many friends and family who had been asking for updates about my procedures.  I was overcome by the realization that I am blessed—so blessed—to have all of these people to update.  I glanced in the backseat at my little Noah, who was sound asleep in his car seat and clinging to his monster blanket, and then I looked at my hand in Ryan’s on the center consul of the car.  I squeezed it tight.

It’s been a week since the egg retrieval, and we’ve been back to Utah for the embryo transfer, and now we are back home again, ready to resume our normal lives.  With the exception of a few hormones I have to continue taking to give me the best chance at pregnancy, IVF is over—which is kind of hard to believe. 

And what’s perhaps even harder to believe is that as I sit here with my mug of hot cocoa, only days after my treatment has ended, I find myself thinking, “Was it really that bad?”  I think this is another defense mechanism employed by our minds—minimizing the pain after the trial is over so we will choose to do hard things again in the future.

The truth is, it was that bad.  It was hard—really hard.  But now that I’ve written all of this down, made some sense of it and captured some of the worst and best moments in words, I can let the pain fade away.  IVF is over, at least for now, and we are so fortunate to have had strong embryos to transfer and several more to freeze. If I don't get pregnant this month, I won't have to do the shots all over again because we will have the frozen embryos to use. I am grateful beyond words for that. 

So now we wait.  We wait two weeks for a blood test that will reveal whether or not we’ll be welcoming a baby to our home in nine months.  Oh how I hope and pray that a little one is on the way to us.  But no matter what that pregnancy test reveals, I know that we will be okay—

Somehow, we always are.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Babies, Babies

In the past two weeks, two new babies have joined the Nielson family! It has been exciting and emotional--with group texts flying almost every day to share labor progress, baby arrivals, and newborn photos. I think it is amazing how technology unites families even when we live far apart.

My nephew Tate was born to Cole and Sara in Missouri on November 7th.  I wish we could be closer to them during this special time, but I am grateful that we've been able to Skype. I love watching Cole snuggle and rock his first child.  And Sara is such a beautiful and gentle mama. I love this little family so  much and can't wait to meet Tate...hopefully in the not-too-distant future! (Come see us in Idaho, Tate!!)

I love the joy, emotion, and excitement in both of their faces.  Sweetest.

Oh I want to smooch his scrumptious cheeks!
Then this past Saturday, my niece Lily was born to Derek and Alli in Utah. I actually got to spend several days with them in the week just prior to Lily's birth because I had IVF doctor appointments in Utah, and it was so fun to be with them as they anticipated Lily's arrival.  There was a lot of talk about contractions and labor...and lots of guessing about when Baby Girl would make her appearance.  I'm so glad that Lily waited to arrive until I was back in Utah for another doctor appointment because I got to go visit her in the hospital on her second day of life.  Oh, I love her!  What a little snuggle bug...and with so much soft, beautiful hair!  Derek and Alli are going to be the best parents.  They are so cute and loving with little Lily. 

Just wanted to make sure that everyone knows I am pointing to Alli's baby belly in this pic! :)

I love being an aunt!  And I will have another little nephew in a few months...my little sister, Laura, is expecting a baby boy in mid-January!  I can't wait! 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Outdoor Fun in Idaho

When Ryan and I were dating, a friend of a friend asked me to tell her about my boyfriend.  I mentioned that he was from Idaho, and she freaked out.  "Idaho!  Such a romantic state!  I feel electric when I am in Idaho!"  

Now obviously this girl was a real character, but I have thought of her comment in the years since, especially when I've seen all of the beauty and varied landscapes that Idaho has to offer.  I don't know if I'd say I feel electric when I am here, but I am often surprised by all of the hidden beauty in this state.  And I've never even made it to northern Idaho--areas like Coeur d'Alene, which I've heard are absolutely stunning.  (That's on my bucket list.  Maybe Ry should take me for my 30th birthday in the spring?)

We had some great family adventures exploring the outdoors of central Idaho this fall.  Whenever Ry has a day off and the weather is good, we try to go on a little day trip (otherwise we end up wasting the day doing chores and surfing the Internet).  Here are a few photos of some of the highlights: 

*Balanced Rock.  This interesting rock formation is in the middle of the Idaho desert.  Noah loved climbing around, and he still tells me that certain foods or shapes he sees remind him of "Balanced Rock."  Interestingly, just a mile away from this desert landmark is a green, verdant little park in a river canyon.  Such a contrast in scenery!  And on the way home, we stopped at the local Cloverleaf Creamery and got farm fresh milk and ice cream.  Yum.

*Miracle Hot Springs.  This little gem is about 45 minutes from our house in the middle of nowhere, and it was surprisingly nice.  Pools of different temperatures open all year round.  We will definitely go back, maybe in the winter when it's snowy.  That might be kind of fun.

Sorry if you are blinded by my husband's sexy white chest.
*Sun Valley.  We are no strangers to this part of Idaho; Ryan's grandparents have had a cabin there  his whole life, and I've written before about how I fell in love with Ryan there.  But this fall, Ryan embarked on a new adventure in those familiar mountains: He biked 110 miles over Galena Summit and back with his dad!  They did an organized ride with lots of other bikers, and they really enjoyed it.  The only catastrophe was that Ryan got stung by a bee right underneath his eye, and he swelled up and looked a bit like Quasimodo.  A darn cute Quasimodo--I can't believe I didn't get a photo!

*Thousand Springs State Park.  This is actually a series of seven parks between Twin Falls and Boise, and we haven't yet figured out the best places to go.  It's confusing because there doesn't seem to be any rangers or park information anywhere to direct you to the most scenic spots.  But we will keep searching for great places!  A few weeks ago, we went to the Malad Gorge and were disappointed, but then we got lucky and went to Niagara Springs and really enjoyed it.  I don't know if the photos do it justice, but these springs just come pouring right out of the middle of the canyon walls.  They don't originate in rivers--I guess they originate in underground lakes that spill out of the soft canyon rock.  Crazy.  

*And last but not least, good ol' Twin Falls.  I am amazed by the beauty that is right in our backyard, particularly with the Snake River and the canyon nearby.  There is a paved Canyon Rim Trail where we enjoy walking, and there's also a short but pretty canal trail near our house that passes some spectacular and huge trees.  The fall colors were beautiful last month.

Don't mind the port-a-potty--aren't the trees awesome?

Idaho really is a beautiful place.  I am sad that it's cold now so we can't continue going on our outdoor excursions, but maybe we'll find some wintery fun in the coming months.  We'll see.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Life in Twin

For months I’ve been saying that I would write an update about our life in Twin Falls, Idaho.  Here it is.  It’s long and scattered and a little dry, but hopefully it will give you a taste of our life in this new and different place. 

“Twin” (as the locals call it) has a population of about 40,000.  It feels like a good size to me.  We aren’t living in a tiny town with only one stoplight, but we also aren’t fighting traffic and crowds all the time.  In fact, one of my favorite things about this small city is that I never run into traffic.  I can get anywhere in town in 10-15 minutes (most places in 5-10).  Beyond that, it is farmland.  And the farmland is beautiful.  Before we moved to Idaho, I never thought that my two-year-old would know words such as “silo” and “hay bales.”   He loves seeing all the cows and horses, and he especially loves the spinning wind turbines along the highway to Pocatello and Boise. 

Twin Falls is quite literally in the middle of nowhere.  It does not connect to bigger cities.  Pocatello is 1 hr and 45 minutes east, and Boise is 2 hours and 15 minutes northwest.  On the drive to both of those cities, you’ll see some small towns, but mostly, you will see farmland.   When my dad recently asked Noah what he had seen on our drive home from Boise, he responded, “Cows.”  When my dad asked if he had seen anything else, Noah thought about it for a moment and then said matter-of-factly, “Nope.”  Sounds about right.

Twin has a small mall (where we did our Where’s Waldo photo shoot), and it also has a Target, Old Navy, and some good restaurants.  So it’s not exactly a shopper’s mecca, but I am not a huge shopper anyway, so it has been just fine for me.  If anything, it’s kept me from spending money because I’m not tempted to go check out sales at Baby Gap. :)

My favorite thing about Twin (even more than the lack of traffic) is that it is right on the Snake River.  It is gorgeous.  The Snake cuts through a deep canyon that is breathtaking, and we’ve found several places to walk and hike as a family. Pretty amazing.

This summer, we had a lot of fun exploring the outdoors of Twin Falls and surrounding small towns.  We found plenty to do, including a great little lake less than ten minutes from our house that is perfect for wading, swimming, and hiking.


I am a little nervous about finding stuff to do in the winter.  I’ve heard it’s not that snowy, but it is very windy which makes it cold.  Maybe I will actually have to brave Pinterest (that site gives me a panic attack) to try to find fun things to do with Noah indoors. I've started taking him to a nursing home near our house once a week to chat with the residents for an hour or so, and I'm thinking I will sign us up for a mommy-and-me swimming class at the YMCA this winter... any suggestions of things to do with a toddler in a small town during the winter?

To get into the city of Twin Falls, you have to cross a huge bridge over the Snake River, which is the memorable Twin Falls landmark.  It’s also one of the only places in the United States where it is legal to base jump.  People come from all over the country to jump off this 486-foot-tall bridge with parachutes.  Crazies!  Ryan and Noah even caught a video when they went for a Saturday morning hike together down in the canyon. (Click below.)

We love the house we are renting.  It is 1800 square feet, three bedrooms, two bathrooms. It is small enough to keep clean but big enough to feel like we have plenty of space and storage. It is all one level, which is awesome because I am lazy and don’t like climbing up and down stairs a million times a day.  We found the house on Craigslist and had only seen a few photos before we moved in, so we were so thrilled by all of the little extras it has, such as a laundry room with a folding counter, a three-car garage with tons of storage shelving, and a walk-in pantry.  Heaven!  I also loved the cute gardens this summer—the daisies in the front yard are my favorite. 

We like our neighborhood, though it is quiet and people haven’t really gone out of their way to be friendly.  (Kind of surprises me, since small-town Idaho is known to be a really neighborly place.)  I think I will have to make some pumpkin bread this month and take it to our neighbors.  We’ve met a few of them but not all, and those whom we have met we don’t know well at all.  I’d really like to know my neighbors.

There is a Mormon temple in Twin Falls, actually right by our house.  It is amazingly beautiful, and Noah sings “I Love to See the Temple” every time we drive by.  

Looking at those photos of the temple reminds me of another thing I love about Idaho...the wide open sky!  The clouds and the sunsets are absolutely amazing, and it doesn't get dark in the summer until almost 10 p.m.!

Photo taken at 9:30 p.m. in July!

We’re enjoying our church community thus far—lots of young families and friendly people.  One problem that I’m finding is that most of the young moms have 3-4 kids, so they aren’t in the same stage of life as I am.  With only one toddler at home, I am looking for friends who want to have playdates at the park, but these moms have elementary schoolers and are just in a busier, different stage.  So although I have “friends” whom I chat with at church, it’s been a little hard to get to know people on a deeper level.  I am someone who really craves deep friendships and kindred spirits, so I’ll admit that I’ve been a little lonely for the past few months.  But I am okay, and I know it takes time for bosom friendships to form.  There is one other young mom with just a two-year-old, and she is great and our boys have tons of fun together, so that’s a blessing.   Also, two of the families who went to church with us in Buffalo live here in Twin (isn’t that random??), and I’ve loved being close to them again--but they live across town, so I don’t see them as much as I’d like.  One thing that Ryan and I have been trying to do in order to make friends is invite a different family to our home each Sunday for dessert so we can get to know people better.  That’s been fun, but building friendships just takes a while.

Speaking of our church community, there are lots of Mormon people in Twin Falls, which actually concerned me a little before moving here.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Mormons (hello, I am one), but I’ve always had friends of all beliefs and backgrounds and I feel like it has really enriched my life.  I don’t want to only have Mormon friends.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised that there seems to be more diversity in this town than I thought before moving here.  There are tons of churches all over the city—lots of different denominations.   There’s also a refugee center here, and as I drive around town, I see lots of people who are clearly from varied backgrounds.  The problem is, now that I’m not working, it’s more difficult to meet people.  I’m trying to figure out ways to get involved in the community, but I’m kind of drawing a blank.  Does anyone have any ideas for me?  I’ve thought about looking into opportunities to volunteer somewhere, possibly at that refugee center, and I even thought about looking into teaching an English class at the community college here in town, but first we were moving and settling in, and then I started IVF stuff, so I just haven’t gotten to it yet.  I hope to do that in the near future and would welcome suggestions.

Ryan is really liking his job.  He is an associate at an office with two other pediatric dentists and one general dentist.  I think he joined a great practice, and I’m grateful.  When he’s at work, he’s crazy busy seeing about 30-35  kids a day.  I’m sure that is incredibly tiring because many of those kids are scared and/or crying, and their parents are nervous as well, so Ry is constantly trying to calm kids and/or parents in addition to doing the dentistry.  But he enjoys the work and the work environment, and he has great hours and never has to bring work home with him.  It’s kind of amazing.  So different from dental school and residency.  I love having my husband around.  On one of his days off last month, he brought me into the office  and did some of my dental work.  I had two cute dentists working on me...score!  

So there you go…that’s our life in Twin Falls in a nutshell.  It feels difficult to capture it all in words, but I did my best.  People often ask me if we are going to be here forever; the truth is, I don't know.  So far, we really like almost everything about it, but I am so hesitant to commit to "forever" in one place...so I guess time will tell!