December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

"A baby overwhelms us with its lovableness; even its smell stirs us more deeply than the smell of pine or baking bread.  What is overpowering is simply the fact that a baby is life." -Bill Cosby

I love Christmas.  It is by far my favorite holiday, and I am always so sad to see it go.  This year I kept reminding myself that it was only a year ago that we announced we were having a baby.  (I don't think I ever posted the photo of my family members' faces when Steve shouted "Rachel's pregnant" during our Christmas eve toast.  Here it is, one year later).

No big announcements this year, but there was a little baby to cuddle and spoil.  It brought me so much joy to watch my family hold and play with Miles.  My sister and her husband Josh were so great with him, and my Grandpa Dick chatted with him like they were best friends.  We spent Christmas eve at my grandmother's house, enjoying a delicious meal.  Then, everyone except me and Miles headed to church (the downside to an early bedtime).
Like usual, Christmas day was spent at my mom's house, where we didn't get out of our pajamas the whole day (not atypical for me these days) and ate meal after delicious meal.  I think I've figured out why I like Christmas so much--it involves two delicious dinners and breakfast.  And in our house, it also involves a puzzle.
Every year we work on a puzzle on a card table in the living room.  Generally the participants rotate in and out of the chairs as we take turns watching sports, taking naps and preparing meals.  The only time the puzzle becomes somewhat competitive is when it nears completion and we begin to speculate over who will put in the last piece.  Really competitive, I know.
I made these dark chocolate peppermint brownies that I've had my eye on for some time.  It's a little bit of work to make brownies from scratch, but definitely worth it. 
Miles did pretty well staying at my mom's house, but I'm telling you, this baby does not like to nap.  Whether he's afraid he'll miss something fun, still struggling to transition through sleep cycles, or is just plain overtired, I'm not sure.  He's recently starting gnawing pretty hard on things and scratches at his ear, which I've read are both signs of teething.  In any case, it was the beginning of many more years of sharing the fun of Christmas with a little one.  I can't wait to see him enjoy it even more as he gets older.
My sister is so sweet with her little nephew, and didn't seem to mind his cries of protest during naps or tendency to spit up on her clothes.  I wish she and Josh lived closer.
So many times over the past few days, we found ourselves gathered around a blanket on the floor, just watching Miles play with toys, practice rolling over, and respond to our silly faces or songs.  We'd laugh about how easy it was to just sit and watch a baby be a baby.  I can't help thinking about how Christmas is about exactly that--celebrating the miracle of a baby.  Christ came into the world just like us, and brought not only joy and love, but also hope.  God loves us, God is for us, God is with us.  I am so incredibly thankful for this gift.
Merry Christmas!

December 10, 2012

10 on 10: December

It was a tough day to take photos.  I spent most of the day inside with a sad baby, but managed to get some fresh air and take a walk around the neighborhood. Oh, and I also ate chocolate.
More 10 on 10 sets found here

December 9, 2012

Four Months

It's easy for me to judge the amount of stress in my life by looking down at my fingers.  For as long as I can remember, I've had a horrible habit of biting at my nails and cuticles when I feel stressed (I know, it's gross).  I've tried everything: oils, bandaids, and even manicures (which I had convinced Steve I needed because I was less likely to ruin my fingers if they looked good).

Not that long ago, I looked down at my hands and realized that my nails looked perfectly healthy.  I am convinced that this is a sign of my happiness in this new season as a mother.  I have grown to love Miles more and more--sometimes I just hold him and tell him over and over how great I think he is.  I love how he does a little half smile when I am trying to entertain him with a song or toy.  I love the little spot on the back of his neck where he has a small patch of hair.  I just feel so lucky.
But over the past few weeks, my fingers have started to look a little more ragged.  It started when we decided to try sleep training.  Miles was taking forever to go to sleep at night, and starting to wake more often.  While the "4 month sleep regression" is normal, we were finding that Miles was crankier during the day--he just didn't seem as happy.  Our doctor recommended that we let him cry a bit to help him learn to soothe himself and ultimately get more sleep.  I thought I was prepared to do this (I had expected that we'd ultimately sleep train our baby), but as it turns out, it was one of the most stressful things I've ever done!
I read a few books to help us come up with a consistent plan, and felt pretty good about our decision until the moment when he first started to cry.  The first night, it lasted 45 minutes, and Miles ended up falling asleep on his stomach (he's been rolling over, which is both a blessing and a curse).  The second night, he cried longer, and the third, about the same.  He was also waking up more often in the night, crying.  I was beginning to really doubt the process.  Not only that, but I couldn't help staring at the monitor, as a million questions and concerns ran through my head: what if this is the wrong time?  maybe he's too little?  can he breathe on his stomach?  should we flip him over? what if he's getting another cold? I searched each of these questions online, and rummaged through the indices of the sleep books, sometimes at 2 am by the glow of my little night light.  All the while I knew that a million parents have gone through the same thing.  Crying was part of the deal.  Some have decided that sleep training is not for them--which I now totally understand--but many, many have done it to help their child soothe themselves to sleep.  We just had to be consistent.

On the sixth night, I put Miles down and he fell asleep in one minute, on his own.  I really couldn't believe it.  He slept seven and a half hours before waking up to eat.

Then, last Wednesday, Miles had surgery to repair the cleft on his neck.  It was tough to hand him off to the nurses, but I had confidence that he was in very capable hands.  He did well with the anesthesia, and was back to his self later that evening, except for some pretty intense stitches that were painful to look at. (You can see his cleft in the above photo, and the stitches below).

We know that we shouldn't let him cry after having surgery, so our sleep training has taken a back seat to comforting, cuddling, and making sure we're on top of his pain medication.  The nights have been hard, filled with crying and waking up about every 2-3 hours.  In the back of my mind, I'm dreading getting back to our sleep training.  I just caught myself biting my nails, just thinking about it.
So, I am deciding to focus on today.  My time at home with my little guy is running short (I go back to work in January), and he is getting bigger, becoming his own little person, so fast.  They say that these next few months are huge for development and learning, and although I have loved having a tiny baby, I'm excited to see what this next stage brings.

December 4, 2012

Thanksgiving and a Month of Blessings

Portola Valley, California has more miles of trails than miles of roads.  There are also no stoplights.  This is where Steve grew up, and the place we visit each Thanksgiving.  It's always so nice to take a break from the November rain of Seattle and visit a place like PV.  This year, with our baby in tow, we breathed in the fresh air, went on a few walks (Steve ran), and enjoyed quality time with family.  
We were so lucky to stay in the beautiful guest house of one of Steve's friends, Andrew.  It was great to walk through PV with Andrew and catch up a bit.
This little guy has been such a trooper on all of these trips to California (3 in the last two months!). 
On the day after Thanksgiving, I woke up with a fever and a horrible chest cold.  It wasn't the most fun way to round out the weekend, but luckily, with lots of rest (and many helping hands) I started to feel better quickly.
Steve's sister, Laura brought her boyfriend Jesse to Thanksgiving.  What a great guy!  He played with the little cousins, took part in family games...I'd say he fits right in. ;)
Not only am I thankful for a great trip to visit Steve's side of the family, but I'm also filled with gratitude for the ways that I am blessed daily by God's love.  This November, I joined some friends in a project and took a photo of something I'm thankful for each day--a small, or sometimes not so small blessing.  As always, seeking the beauty in daily life is always surprising and humbling at the same time.  How I deserve to live a life filled with such comforts, treats, loving people, and touching moments, I do not know.  I do know that it's so easy for me to miss recognizing these blessings, especially when I'm busy wishing for more control, time, sleep...

Anne Lamott, my favorite author, wrote "Even when, maybe especially when, we don't cooperate, this energy--the breath, the glory, the goodness of God--is given.  Gorgeous, amazing things come into our lives when we are paying attention."   
I know I still have a long way to go in truly understanding how much I've been given, but I'm thankful for months like these.  Here's to a blessed December!