Sunday, December 1, 2013


I am feeling incredibly grateful this week.  It is wonderful that we have a holiday that encourages us to slow down and take time to reflect on all the amazing blessings in life. 
This guy.  No words can describe.  How did I ever get so lucky? I praise God daily that he put us together in this world.  There is no one better I would want beside me.  It's cheesy, but he completes me.  He is my perfect compliment.  He makes me a better person.  Because of him I get to be a wife.  I get to be a wife.  To him.  How awesome!?
And this gal.  Seriously? How am I so lucky?  She cracks me up and makes me smile so hard my jaw tightens.  She makes me feel like the best person in the whole world.  Each day is incredibly special and exciting with her in it. 
Our little family.  Nothing compares.  On Thursday following the Turkey Trot, the three of us drove to the mountains to stay at the cabin.  I am so thankful that we have this opportunity and amazing friends that bless us in this way.
We arrived just in time to watch the replay of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, my absolute favorite! We had the perfect little holiday: cooking good food, enjoying each others' company, hiking, and playing.
We were surprised with several inches of snow at the top of the mountain.  I couldn't wait to get Eleanor bundled and out in it.
She did pretty great and hammed it up for the camera.
We went for a family hike on Friday, avoiding the hustle and bustle of the shops for the quiet beauty of the trail and waterfalls.
We packed a lunch to avoid the crowds at restaurants and Eleanor enjoyed her first PB&J.
I am thankful for generous friends who graciously hand down clothes like this snow suit for Eleanor.  We are the grateful benefactors of so many hand me downs and just couldn't be more appreciative.  This snow suit came at the exact right time.
Jelly face.
The holidays are my favorite time of year.  I really like summer weather and all fall activities.  But from Thanksgiving to New Year's my heart literally sings and I just sort of float on happiness.  I am so joyful this year.  I have been given so much. 
While in the mountains we met friends for breakfast and tree cutting.  We actually skipped out on a real tree (we have a fake one at home already) but we joined Shawn and Vanessa for fun at the tree farm.
I am so thankful for unexpected life.  These two little babes make the world a sweeter place.
I am not sure how you could look at a baby and not see the work of a Creator.  The sweet little life pumping through their heart, into their veins, through their lungs and out into the world.  A life so sweet and precious.  Praise God for babies!
Garret had a blast with Santa and pony rides.  Eleanor, not so much!
So if this is the the final post I am going to write here, then the final thoughts I want to put down go like this:

God is Great.  Not just because of sweet husbands, good babies and generous friends.  For this we are thankful.  But God is also great because He is just.  And He is also merciful.  I am not deserving of the life that I live.  I wouldn't be deserving of any life.  But for a Savior I get to live.  I live with abundant joy because my life was bought with a price.  Jesus died so I may live.  I, a poor sinner.  I choose wrong more often than I choose right.  I am selfish.  And I am unworthy.  But he loved me anyway.  He has always loved me.  And now I get to Him in return.  I get to be a wife, and I get to be a mom.  But most importantly, I get to be a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ.  And I get to be a friend of the One Most High, and I get to love Him. 

When I think about the people I love and question whether they understand fully the love of God, my heart weeps.  I don't know how to tell others about God.  I get tongue-tied and lost in my words.  I find it hard to explain how deep and magnificent His love is.  It is difficult to explain something that is so much bigger and better than words can describe.  God is the author and creator of life and I hope that you see that.  I hope that you can understand how much He loves you and begs for your attention.  I pray that you will someday give your life wholly to God.  That you would experience true joy in Him.

It is hard, I know that.  As people of this world, to understand something so far off, it is too difficult.  When we lean on our own understanding it is impossible.  When pride stands in the way, and we fear looking weak or ashamed we turn God away.  When others' opinions of us is more important than His, we shun our Lord.  If you are a parent of a teenager, imagine how you felt when they suddenly thought you were no longer cool enough.  When the world around her gave her all the answers and her friends and belongings were more important than you.  Did that break your heart? Did you want to shake her and make her understand that you love her and that you will always be there for her? Did you want to pull her into a tight embrace and protect her always? You once were her entire world.  You made her after all.  And now she has turned her back on you. 

Oh yes, that is how God feels.  And more.  He is jealous for you.  He wants you to know Him.  To hear Him when He speaks.  To love Him.  And to choose Him.  He sent His only son to die, to save you.  That's how much He loves you.  And because I love you too, I am sharing this with you.  It isn't that hard after all.  It's just a confession that He is Lord.  And an admission that you trust Him. 

How grateful I am that I am loved so incredibly.  How thankful for a life and an opportunity to share His word.  Oh, how thankful for this space that I have inhabited for four amazing years, to chronicle so much of my life.  Thank you for being here and participating in this journey.  May God be with you always!
And just for fun...Eleanor's second PB&J ever!
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

My one year old

Today is the big celebration for Eleanor's first birthday.  Wednesday was the actual day of her birth, but today we welcome family from out of town and all our friends to share in our joy.  I am so incredibly grateful that Eleanor is a part of my life and my family.  I am honored to be her mommy.  I couldn't imagine a single day without her.  I can't believe it's been a whole year since I met this beautiful girl.  In many ways it feels like yesterday, but mostly it feels like I've known her my whole life.
Eleanor is vibrant, completely full of life.  She gets excited to see people.  She loves to smile and laugh.  Small things are funny to her.  Because of Eleanor, we laugh so much each and every day.  I smile at her from ear to ear, until my jaw tightens.  Most days I think I couldn't smile any harder. 
Eleanor is creative and incredibly smart.  I love watching her learn new things and challenge herself.  She can stack blocks on top of each other and find the correct hole for different shapes.  You can tell she has a methodical sense, and will plan out her actions.  When she knows she has done something well she gets excited.  We will cheer for her and she will join in by clapping or making fun noises.  It is incredibly fun to see her learn and grow.  I can sit here for long periods of time just watching her move and play.  She claps to music in the car and sings along and dances in her carseat.  It is the most amazing thing and I can't help staring at her in the rear-view mirror.  Must keep eyes on the road!
Eleanor isn't walking yet, and she might not have many new "big tricks."  But her development changes each and every day.  Watching her play peek-a-boo is my single most favorite thing in the world.  "Where's the baby? Where did Eleanor go? Peek-a-boo!"  When you start saying these words she knows to play along.  It is amazing!  While my mom was in town visiting she also taught Eleanor a few new tricks.  Like to make an "ahhh" noise when we wave our hand in front of her mouth.  It's hard to describe, and at the risk of sounding non-politically correct, we used to call it as kids "making an Indian noise." Does that help explain it?  She does it when we start tapping our hand in front of her mouth and sometimes will even do it on her own with her hand.  So cute!
Eleanor can be devious.  She already knows right from wrong in many ways.  She knows she isn't allowed to stand in the tub or in her highchair and will give us a backwards glance as she slyly tries to pull up.  When we ask her to sit down or we correct her behavior she shoots us her best disapproving look.  Occasionally I have raised my voice in surprise when she bites or pinches me hard and she will smile up at me or even giggle...these, my friends, are the first signs of toddlerhood.  I know you have all been waiting with your "I told you so" smirks.  Even the best babies are not immune to the "terrible twos" it seems.
At 12 months, Eleanor's days are typically very busy, thanks to my busy schedule.  She spends most of her time with me, but also goes to the babysitter's a few hours a week.  This past month Alex and I enjoyed many evenings out without Eleanor.  These nights meant that she would take a bottle and go to sleep somewhere other than our own home.  But as always, she was perfect.  We would pick her up around 10pm and she would go right back to sleep in her crib once we were home.
We are still nursing two to three times a day, with no signs of stopping anytime soon.  Now that we have reached the one-year mark I think I will make a conscious effort to just nurse morning and night.  She is still a fabulous eater.  Most days she takes three solid meals, sometimes we will squeeze an extra snack or meal in there as well.  And she almost always eats whatever we are having.  The only time we will make her something different is when our dinner is extra, extra spicy or we aren't done cooking when it is time for her to eat.  
Other than a few early wake-ups because of illness, Eleanor sleeps through the night with ease.  She typically goes to bed between seven and eight and sleeps until seven in the morning.  When we set the clocks back last weekend she did great and continued to sleep straight through to the new seven! We are in that awkward stage of naps, trying to switch from two to one.  I think she prefers one nap a day, typically falling asleep around 11:30 and napping for two to three hours.  This works well for me too.  I get so much done during this one nap!
Our big adventures this month include apple picking, visiting the Balloon Fest, Oma coming to visit and celebrating her best friends' first birthdays (Happy Birthday Aubrey and Harper!) And of course celebrating her own birthday!
She loves to play with other kids so much.  She is intrigued by big kids and will just watch them at the play ground or at church.  On her birthday we took her to the park to swing.  We were jumping up down and being completely goofy to get her to smile for the camera (and you wondered how we captured all these amazing photos!) but all she would do was stare at the other kiddos.  I think she is so inquisitive.  
It will be so fun to watch her continue to grow and see how her personality develops.  Will she be shy? Or outgoing? Will she be passionate, caring, loving, cuddly, sweet, energetic, playful?  Will she be a leader, a thinker, artistic, dramatic? Will she ever love to read? 
I can't wait to spend the rest of our lives getting to know each other.  I can't wait to love her each and every day.  My goal is to always be a Christ-like example of unconditional love and understanding.  To be firm and consistent, but loving and faithful.  I want to show her all the beauty in the world, but also help her recognize the need of a Savior because of the evil in this world.  I want to teach compassion and tenderness, and also strength of character and leadership abilities.  I want to be an example of all these things, so I am always and constantly improving and working on my own character.  Being a mom has been such a rewarding journey thus far, but it has also been incredibly challenging.  I want to be the absolute best me I can be, so I can be the best mom I can be.
Because she's worth it.

She is worth every tear shed and difficult decision.  She is worth the four days of labor and the incredibly painful drug-free child birth.  She is worth the sleepless nights and sore nipples (yup, I went there).  Being Eleanor's mommy is worth every ounce of energy exerted.  The joy in her expression and the light in her eyes tells me it is worth it each and every day.  There are many things in my life that drain me of energy, but being her mom fills me up and restores me.  This is by far the coolest job I have ever had (and Girls on the Run is a pretty cool gig--but being a mom sure takes the cake!)
What a journey it has been.  For 365 days (+3) we have snuggled and kissed and squeezed and loved and cared for this amazing and beautiful little girl.  We have held her tight and nurtured her little body from just 6 pounds 8 ounces to a whopping 22 pounds! From 19 1/2 inches to 28 inches tall.  From thick, jet-black hair, to beautiful, whispy, strawberry-blonde locks.  Blues eyes to gray.  Gummy grin to a bright toothy smile.  From a helpless newborn, to a wonderful, independent, entertaining little girl.  

Pip, Ellie Meg, Baby, Favorite, Booga Bear, Honey Bear, Squishy, Nugget = Eleanor Margaret
My favorite little girl in the whole wide world! Thanks for being ours!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thoughts on Motherhood after One Year

I can clearly remember the moment I fell in love with Eleanor, and it wasn't on the day she was born.  That was probably my first and biggest surprise of motherhood. 
I will admit, I was very selfish on the day she was born.  All I could think about was me and how soon I would be out of pain.  I had not one care for the child that was about to enter the world.  And even moments after her birth all I remember thinking is how I wanted the pain to stop so I could enjoy that time.  It was scary. 
Soon enough the pain did subside and I was able to drink in our new reality, one that included this tiny baby girl and made our little family of two become three.  But even in those next hours, I thought little of our new life.  Instead, it was a blur of shock and probably a little hunger.  A bit of confusion and a whole lot of exhaustion.  We went home, ate our fridge empty, and bundled our tiny baby in our arms and slept. 
This was the beginning of parenthood.

The next day I fell in love.  It was mid-morning and my friends had all left.  I just nursed Eleanor and laid her on my lap and stared at her precious face.  And that was the moment my heart exploded.  I had to hand her over to Alex for fear that I may drop her or shake her out of pure joy and elation.  I was a mom and I was overflowing. 
Now, twelve months later, I often feel that same sense of overwhelming love.  Maybe not as strong, and certainly not as often.  But when I take a moment to slow down and observe Eleanor and the wonderful gift that she is in our lives, I want tear my chest open, or flail to the ground, or do something else equally ridiculous.  It is an all-consuming, uncontrolled kind of love.  Intense and incredible.  And almost painful.  It's the kind of love that let's me know that if anything were to ever happen to Eleanor I would simply die of a broken heart. 
When I am away from Eleanor I feel this constant pull to be back close to her again.  As I drive away, it is like a bungee cord is strapped to my car, restraining me.  And then when I am finally turned around heading back toward Eleanor, I feel the urgent tug forward, pulling me ever closer to her.  Being a mom is incredibly rewarding, but also very difficult work.  Not just physically, but emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

So after a year, here are my thoughts.  I will never again be the same.  I will never get to walk around this earth without always feeling a pull toward this little human being.  It is true the saying by Elizabeth Stone, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." My focus will never be 100% again.  There will always be a part of me distracted by thoughts of Eleanor. 
Love is incredible.  The way it changes us and moves us.  The way it grows.  I cannot believe I can love someone so much as I love Eleanor.  And I already wonder where I will find room to love another child.  I am reassured by so many parents that your heart just grows and your love multiplies.  What a beautiful promise!  And what a representation of the love of God!  Being a mother has helped to shape and grow my faith.  I understand better God's love for us.  I believe God created unique roles like parenthood to help us understand Him best.  He created us in His image.  And so just as He first loved us, we now have the privilege of loving others.  I love loving Eleanor.  It doesn't get better than this!
Oh, and might I add, I am also extremely tired and exhausted.  Mentally fatigued and physically beat.  I am worn out and worn thin.  I leave every day completely wiped.  But then each day is new.  And Eleanor is there to greet me with joy and love.  And I have the ability to do it all over again.  I must say, I am thankful for a baby who likes to sleep.  Without the refreshment of sleep each night, this would be a very crazy world!
Twelve months in, and many, many more to go! I am so grateful for this role and opportunity.  I am incredibly grateful for my little family and for a very supportive network of friends and family.  At the risk of overusing the word: We are so very blessed!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Eleanor's First Birthday Party!

You might recall...this girl had a big birthday last week.  As if I haven't said enough about it already, indulge me as I recap her amazing birthday party!
I tried pretty hard to keep the party low key.  I think we did a great job keeping the food and decor to a minimum, although I couldn't help but create a few pinterest-worthy pieces.  The thing that really threw Eleanor's First Birthday Party over the top was the guest list.  We really wanted everyone to share in this special occasion with us!
The thing is, we wanted to share this momentous occasion with everyone we know.  Eleanor isn't just special to us, she is special to so many people.  She brings joy and life into so many lives.  And so since we invited just about everyone, we had the party at a local coffee shop.  This was ideal since we also had out-of-town guests staying at the house.
Throwing a party outside of my home requires a great deal of organization.  And help.  I had several boxes packed up, ready to go.  Each box was clearly labeled.  And everything inside the boxes were also clearly marked.  It was Alex's job to pick up all the food and set-up the whole party, while I made the trip to the airport to pick up my family and make sure Eleanor was ready for the party.
As I mentioned, we tried to keep things low-key.  Rather than serve a big meal, we had an afternoon party and offered yummy snacks like soft pretzel bites, chicken nuggets and veggies and dip.
Our theme for the party was born out of photos from my first birthday.  I am a huge sucker for nostalgia, so I found the exact same Carebear party hats from 1985 on Ebay and ordered them for four times their worth.  I even asked my friend Shannon to make Eleanor's party dress inspired by my first birthday dress.
We didn't want to just do a Carebear theme so we rolled with it and created a "Sunshine Bear" theme-ish.  One of our favorite nicknames for Eleanor is "Honeybear" so it was fitting.  We had fun making the food fit the theme.
Cupcakes became "Cubcakes" and "StrawBEARy Cupcakes." We served Teddy Grahams and Gummy Bears and "Bear Food" (aka Trail Mix).
My one big project for the party was this photo display.  In each of Eleanor's month photos I used a different fabric for the background.  Using those fabrics I created (with my mom's help) a fun banner to hang from this beautiful picture frame.  I found a nice frame at Hobby Lobby but it was so expensive.  So I asked my dad and he made this wonderful frame and brought it with him from Missouri!  The cake table is compliments of the wonderful Whitney Dumford! As always she worked her magic, baking the most delicious cupcakes (ever!), decorating them with the cutest bears, and making a special, healthy, smash cake for Eleanor!
The absolute best part of the party was watching Eleanor dig into her cake.  I had no doubt she would enjoy every single minute!
"Happy Birthday to you..."
That photo above has to be my favorite picture of all time!
She started off slowly.  I gave her a lick off my finger.  And sliding the cake closer to her, it didn't take her long to figure out how delicious frosting is!
I have created a monster when it comes to the camera.  Eleanor is such a ham.  She pulled the cake plate right up to her mouth, opened wide, looked up at the crowd with those angel eyes and then froze in this posed bite so everyone could get the perfect photo!
Seriously! She kept smiling and flirting with the camera.  We were all cracking up!
We let her chow down for close to 30 minutes.  She put a serious dent in the cake.
For minutes at a time she sat with her mouth and nose buried in the frosting just sucking away! It was hilarious!

Eventually Alex pulled her away and gave her a bath in the bathroom sink.  She came out happy and clean and ready to play!
We were so grateful to have so many of our friends at Eleanor's party.  But especially grateful that my dad, my two sisters, my niece, my two uncles, Alex's dad, and his brother were all able to come in town for the big party.  It meant so much to us to have them there!
It was also just so special to see these girls playing together.  They are just five weeks apart in age and it is so fun to see them interact.  I really can't tell you how special it was to have my two sisters with me to celebrate Eleanor.  All the friends in the world can't replace sisters, and it makes me incredibly sad that we live so far away, especially watching these babies play together.  I am just so excited I get to see all of them in just a few more weeks for Kolbie and Taylor's birthdays!

Eleanor's first birthday party has left me extremely humbled.  There are so many people in our lives that love this little girl so much.  I mean they really, really love her.  She is in their hearts and their prayers.  I am so thankful to know how loved Eleanor is.  Thank you!

And a big, special, huge THANK YOU to Whitney Dumford who not only created that beautiful cupcake display but also took all of these fantastic photos! You are so talented my friend!