Thursday, July 30, 2015

8,9, and 10

Months 8, 9, and 10 have pretty much consisted of the Larson summer. What a fun and different summer this has been having a little moose crawling around and keeping us company. We wouldn't have it any other way though. It has just been so much fun and craziness each day

6 Flags baby pool and lazy river has been our summer hang out. This girl LOVES the water and all things wet and wild. I think we would go every single day if 6 Flags wasn't so crazy busy this year (seriously I think the number of people has doubled since last year). We are going to be really sad when we can no longer look forward to pool days.

What this picture doesn't show you is that this is an almost EVERY meal occurrence and also that it is caked into her hair as well. Lydia and Food equals a mess. No exceptions. Mealtime equals a bath right after. And having a bath right after adds a lot more work to a normal day. 

I bought our little pink pool last year when I was pregnant so that Brian and I could watch a movie outside and sleep under the stairs by filling the pool with pillows and blankets. This year it was quite a different scenario- we actually filled it with water and a little baby girl.. and boy oh boy does this little girl love to swim in it. I think she would stay in it all day long if she could.

This girl can sure move! I lost her in my house once.. that's right.. in our teeny tiny house I lost my own baby. I went to throw her diaper away in the kitchen and turned around and I couldn't find her anywhere. I must have run up and down the stairs about 6 times thinking she was upstairs and then downstairs and then up and then not wanting her to fall down them and dreading the worst-bah! It was a mess and I kept calling and calling her name. And she happened to be sitting behind her highchair just watching me freak out with her huge blue eyes. I about had a heart attack and couldn't help but think of the many more times I would feel this way in life with this girl ha.

Month 9 was an exciting month for Lydia and me but super boring for Brian as he studied and studied and studied for his Step 2 exam. Lydia and I busied ourselves with swimming, walks, time with friends, and lots and lots of playing. Thinking back on the 9 months of pregnancy and that this little girl has been around now for 9 months is crazy to me.

9 Months in and 9 Months Out. I learned so much in the time spent with this girl and the more I learn the more I realize I have even MORE to learn. I am constantly on my toes, my house's new normal is called messy, and our night times consist of Brian getting home, having dinner, playing with Lydia and then putting her down around 7:30. Then Brian and I break out Harry Potter and read. 

It sounds pretty boring to other people and honestly if you would have told me this is what our night life would be a year ago when I was still going down water slides at the pool being 32 weeks pregnant and doing 16 mile bike rides at 36 weeks then I probably would have been a bit nervous about what lay in store.

I have learned that I love this simple life. I love rereading Harry Potter books with Brian for our who knows how many times we have read these books. It isn't our ideal date night but I'd take reading about Harry competing in the Triwizard Tournament and having a snoozing baby in the other room over late night shows anytime. 

A few times a week Brian, Lydia and I go on bike rides around the neighborhood. Lydia can be in the worst mood, but we stick her in the bike trailer and she is on cloud nine with excitement. And honestly-so are we... I love good weather and I don't want it to end!

Look at that hair finally growing a bit! It has a strawberry tint to the blonde and sometimes can look flat out red in the sun or in the bathtub. It still has a mind of it's own but every now and then I can get it to actually lay FLAT! Whoot!

Lydia's favorite thing to do is walk around the house with her brightly colored walker that sings "welcome to our learning farm..."♫ ♪ over and over. She is a very determined little girl with that thing.

She is the best at waving and clapping. Especially when she says "hi" or "ba" as she does it. It makes my heart sing a bit each time she waves at someone-even when it is a stranger. I should probably be worried that this girl has no stranger danger anxiety at all.. but I was told by a sweet lady in church last week that I should never worry about her being "too friendly" because it is her special gift. 

She said that Lydia has a special way with people and making them smile and I have to agree with her. We often tease about how Lydia will pick out the person in the room who isn't paying attention to her and crawl up and make that person pay attention.

But this sweet lady said that she probably isn't seeking the attention for herself as we tease-but looking for the people who need the attention from her and need to know they are loved. Whether this is true or not-the truth remains that she is a pretty special baby.

10 months with this angel has been amazing. We never get tired with our nightly routine of going into her room to check on her each night and then just watching her sleep.

The other night she opened her eyes as we were leaning over her crib to look at her-she gave us the biggest cheesiest smile and then fell right back asleep. I got weak knees as our hearts melted. Parenthood is challenging sometimes-but is constantly rewarded by the love our babies give us back.

Monday, July 6, 2015

9 Months in and 9 Months out

I remember thinking when I was pregnant-9 months is such a long time! It was January and I had to wait all the way until September to have this baby? It sounded like an eternity and sometimes it felt that way.

Somehow through the nausea, weight gain, vomitting, heartburn, sciatic nerve pain, nervousness and orange sherbet and brussel sprout cravings- a baby was born. I held that beauty in my arms and told myself that I was going to drink in every moment with her. I wanted time to stand still and for me to just look at her. 9 months and 4 long days of waiting and here she was.

And then.. it happened. 

September became October faster than I could even blink and then Christmas was here and all of the sudden I was buying an Easter dress for my 6 month old and then came the day when I looked out at my crawling maniac wild child who was trying to drink the water in the pool without letting her knees touch the rough cement and I realized.. Oh my heck! She is 9 months old and 6 days. She has been out with me longer than she was in  me.

When did that happen?

And as I watched her nose-dive into the water because it just wasn't possible to do a downward dog and drink nasty pool water at the same time and as I picked her up to sit her on her bum and she immediately started crawling away again to grab the floating sand toys- I started thinking about the past 9 months and how the time had slipped through my fingers. 

I started to feel a bit sad for the newborn stage that was long past and the immobile times when you could just put the baby in one spot and go throw a diaper away and come back and they hadn't moved an inch. I started to miss the  midnight feedings and the funny things we parents would do to get any kind of smile to appear.

And I decided to push down the sadness I was feeling for a time gone and passed and to think about the things I had learned in the 9 months that this baby had been out with me.

1- The first thing I thought of came easily-a mother's post baby body. I was sitting at a pool of all places to be having this inward conversation. 

When I tried to put on my old jeans a week after having Lydia I couldn't button them up so I sat down on the closet floor and sobbed. And then there was the time a few months later that I was told that I was "just big boned" by a friend and I went home and cried some more. As I was sulking in my pity party I had the words of the last line of my patriarchal blessing come to my head, "Is there anything more lovely in this world than you? The answer to that is no." I decided from then on to try my best to have a better outlook.  

As I looked around at the other moms with their kids I thought about all the different shapes and sizes of each woman I saw. One woman held a 6 week-old baby in her arms while chasing a 2 year old through the splash pad. Another went down the slide with her 8 year-old daughter. One mother just sat on the shallow end splashing with her twins.

And I thought to myself, "We are all truly beautiful women." We need to give ourselves a bit more credit and flip the magazines in the check out lines to the back cover so that we aren't tempted to read about "getting flat abs fast" "drop 10 lbs in 1 week" or be tempted to compare ourselves to this so and so on the cover.

A woman's post-baby body looks and feels different than the body they had before-whether that it now has stretch marks on the right side of the belly button leaving the tummy looking lopsided or that the wider hips make jeans feel way different than before. Change happens and it can be hard to accept. Some days I tell myself “Yes! You’re doing great” and other days I just want to sit on the couch and watch Gilmore Girls with a bowl of cookie dough and feel sorry about my new body.

But hey, I am still learning. I'm learning to take care of myself and this new body. I'm learning that when I take care of myself then I feel better and can take better care of my wild baby. I am learning that this body who was the home to this baby for 9 months and 4 days can also be healthy and beautiful 9 months after that baby was born. And who cares if other people see it as long as I think it and feel it?

It takes work to accept and make your post baby body beautiful in your mind-but don't give up.

And remember to reflect often about the beauty of this body that our Father in Heaven has created and the miracle that we can grow another beautiful body inside our own. What an honor we have as women.

2- While it is great to have goals, don’t set too high of expectations for yourself-some days the laundry has to wait because the baby’s nap was shorter than usual which put the baby in a bad mood resulting in more attention needed to the ornery wild child which resulted in oatmeal drying in the carpet and a dirty diaper left on the floor for a little too long.

Sometimes we are much too hard on ourselves and we need a reminder that “some things can wait” but your tired baby who is more interested in climbing on you for attention than in her basket of toys and books- can't wait. Tomorrow is another day to get what you want done, and if you don't get anything done besides feeding the baby and making sure she doesn't run around half naked then great-success!

3- You are not a bad mother if you look forward to bedtime. I love this little moose that crawls around and tries to climb up the stairs when she thinks I'm not looking, but sometimes it is nice to put her down for bed and have the house clean for a couple of hours and go to bed with it sparkling because you know in the morning it will soon be covered in banana mushed fingerprints and formula spit-up carpet stains.

And if the day has just been too tiring and you don't want to clean the house in your silent moments and you want to sit down and read a book or just stare at the wall then that is fine too.

4- My baby isn't the only one who does better with routine. I need routine as much as my baby needs routine. It helps keep me sane as well as helps me feel a bit more productive. While it is great to have a resilient baby, it is also great for me to have a little bit of order in my life.

When I was working I had a routine of going to work and coming home, making dinner, cleaning and a bit of free time before bed. It was simple. 

When I had the baby the schedule was all over the place while I tried to figure out a little bit of a nap schedule and get the baby to sleep the night and not the day. Brian would come home from work and I felt like I had to tell him everything I had done that day to show him that even though I only nursed and changed the baby's diaper all day long-I had been very very busy. 

One day he sat me down and told me I didn't need to go through play-by-plays with him. He told me that I didn't need to make dinner for all the neighbors and plan and conduct a service project to feel useful. He told me that by feeding and changing the baby's diaper I was doing enough.

Once I realized this, I was able to put myself into a routine so that the time I did have available I could fill it with productive things if I wanted or I could just sit and relax. Either way, I felt worthwhile and like I was doing enough.

5- Breastfeeding is wonderful and a beautiful thing and I loved it while it was a good option for us. But around 6 months it wasn't what was best for my baby and I had to choose a new option. 

Everyone has a different breastfeeding journey and I spent way too much time caring about what everyone else would say to me if I switched to formula because my baby just wasn’t getting enough from me. And now that I have been done for 3 months I realize that it just doesn't matter and I made it way more of a big deal than it needed to be.

6- Support is not only wonderful-it is needed. Before I got pregnant with Lydia I had a miscarriage at 7 weeks along. We hadn't told anyone that I was pregnant yet and I regretted that because I longed for the support and love from my family and friends as I sat on the airplane with cramps up the whalloo and a sinking heart knowing that I was miscarrying my baby.

So when I got pregnant again, I didn't wait as long to tell my family and friends. Support is wonderful in all areas of life. It was in pregnancy and it is still now.

With us living away from family, it’s good to have friends, both with kids and not. The ones who don’t have them remind me to still be the same person I was before I had kids-it keeps me grounded with the weird quirks and girlish habits of painting my toenails and watching The Bachelor as I read romance novels. The ones that do have kids help me to realize that I’m not completely insane and that chasing a naked baby around the house 3 times to get a diaper on can be pretty normal. 

It's great to call up my sisters or mom or a friend we have met along the way and talk about life and vent a little about how the baby blew out in her diaper for the 3rd time and one of them was when she was sitting on your lap. It's great to seek and hear advice from women you admire and love. It's great to cry as well when you start putting away the newborn clothes or start putting on the size 3 diapers. Support is needed.

7-The marriage came before the baby. My relationship with Brian is important and needs to be number one. Just because my baby needs me to survive doesn’t mean that my relationship with my husband doesn’t. It does just as much if not more.

Adding a baby to the mix, mixes up the relationship a bit. There needs to be adjustments but also rekindling of the fire and passion we started with. Dates don't end when you get married and marriage doesn't get put on hold when you have a baby.

Our marriage needs to be a priority more than ever before. We have to communicate differently now.. we will fight and cry and laugh and smile.. and it will be wonderful because we will continually work together to build a stronger marriage.

8-It is said that comparison is the thief of joy, but so is judging. Judging another person is not worth the time or effort. Whether that judging is watching a mom break down in frustration at her 3-year-old for throwing a toy out of the cart and thinking, "What's the problem woman! He only threw his toy out of the cart" and not realizing that maybe it was the 4th time it had happened and that maybe the mom was tired because she had been up all night with a sick baby and was only in the store buying Tylenol to help soothe the baby. 

Or maybe it's judging the mom who shakes up the formula bottle instead of offering breast milk, or gossiping about the lady who doesn't have kids and thinking maybe she just can't handle them or prefers her career over raising a child, when really she has been trying for 7 years and hasn't outwardly complained once but privately has shed thousands of tears as she knelt on worn knees in prayer for a child of her own. 

I've been that mother on the airplane where the baby just won't stop crying and fussing and you just don't know what to do because there is no where to go to comfort the baby but in your seat. I've seen the rude expressions and judgmental thoughts fly across others faces around me and know just what they are thinking, "Why can't this woman get that baby to calm down? Doesn't she realize there is more than just her on this plane?!" And I've been tired and exhausted with my eyes swimming with tears as the older woman across the aisle comforts me and says, "My babies are 34 and 29. You're doing great and believe it or not you will miss even the hard moments like this because it meant they were once little enough to fit in your arms." 

And those words were perfect and just what I needed to hear.

Whatever the circumstances are that we see other people going through there is never a time to judge. I repeat this quote over and over again, but it is my favorite.

9-The top thing I realized that I had learned in the last 9 months of watching this baby grow was that sure, I made a baby in 9 months inside me, but now this baby was out and in 9 months she had truly made me and was continuing to make me. 

I loved this baby from day I thought I was pregnant to the day I found I could call her a she, to the day I held her in my arms and now the days that I am chasing after her around the house. That love has caused my heart to swell 5 times larger each time. 

I love going to get her from her crib in the morning and seeing that smiling giggling face. I love how when she bumps her head she'll crawl right to me for comfort. I love the cheesy smile she gives me as she runs her sticky macaroni through her hair and the way her legs kick and wiggle when I hold her under her arms. I love watching her chase the cat around and how she will give me the guilty expression when I say her name in the warning tone as she starts climbing the stairs when she knows she shouldn't. 

I love the good moments and appreciate the bad ones because they make me treasure the good ones that much more. I'm grateful for what I am learning and how I am growing. I've loved this second 9 months with my baby.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Kayak Chicago

    When we first moved out here, we kayaked lake Michigan off the shores of Chicago. It was a blast back then and we knew ever since that experience that we wanted to kayak on the actual Chicago river that cuts through downtown. 
    My Grandpa Johansen who passed away about a year and a half ago now, would always tell Brian and me that we needed to take a river tour of Chicago when it was dark. He told me this right up until the last time I saw him before he passed away. I mentioned to Brian that it was something that I wanted to do before we left Chicago and so for Christmas this last year he got me the chance to see Chicago at dark---by kayak!

     We met our Wateriders Kayak group at 7 pm, an hour or so before sunset and loaded into our kayaks. Brian and I took single kayaks while everyone else were in tandem kayaks. While it would have been fun to be in the same kayak, it was fun to explore, race, and just look at each other. We have very badly needed a date like this one. It was both romantic and adventurous-just our style!

      I have fallen in love with this city. It is hard to believe we have only 9 more months left in this grand city before the next big adventure. Being on the river put a little outdoors into the city and I loved it.

      We would kayak a ways down the river and then we'd stop and our tour guide would tell stories of different Chicago gangsters and ghost stories. It was super fun to listen to these stories and even get a little spooked by some of the areas he showed us-for example, we stopped in an area of the river where 840 people had gotten trapped inside a boat that sank and every one of them had drown in only 18 feet of water. 
     This year marks the 100 year anniversary of that boat sinking and "supposedly" these people will be roaming the shores of Chicago river all summer long. ooooooooohhhh! Haha  


     While I think this would be a fun tour to do during the daytime, I think night was perfect because the river can be really busy during the day with cargo ships, tour boats, and other personal crafts. There were a few times when we had to be a bit more careful crossing the river because there was a lot of traffic.

     After about 8 pm, there were no boats and it was just us in our kayaks out there. It was like this peaceful moment where the river was still and silent except for our paddles breaking the surface of the water, but then we were surrounded by the twinkling lights of these huge buildings. The sounds of the city echoed very faintly around us which made it pretty magical.

Definitely the very best way to see the city.. hands down.

Chicago has stolen a bit of my heart.