A thank-you note for a priceless gift.

Cody and I have some fantastic friends- I could write blog after blog about all the wonderful people we have in our lives. But this post is about one couple in particular- Jason and Jessica Williams- who have been so thoughtful, supportive and generous to us as we have prepared for and entered into this new season of our lives.

I found out that I was pregnant on May 13, 2009. Before I even knew I was pregnant, somehow Jessica knew right away- so in a sense, she was the first to know! I woke up that morning feeling very fatigued and kind of shaky, and because when I was in college I was borderline anemic, I thought that maybe that was the issue. Since we had moved to the same part of town as the Williams, I sent Jessica a message asking if they had a good family doctor she could recommend. Her response? "ARE YOU PREGNANT?!!!!" Ha! Furthest thing from my mind, and by the way, ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK?!!!! I assured her that the idea was absurd and she was entirely crazy, but when I recalled all of the bread pudding I had consumed in recent weeks at work, and I realized that the idea may, in fact, have some merit. That afternoon, two pregnancy tests indeed confirmed my status as a mom-to-be, and I sent Jessica a message telling her that she was right. And we were so freaked out and PLEASE PRAY FOR US. Hard.

I was immediately met with the most amazing support from this dear friend who had recently ventured into new mommyhood herself. She came along side me and promised me that not only would everything be absolutely amazing when our little one arrives, but that if we needed anything, she and her hubby were there for us. Our lives had followed parallel paths in so many ways and it was exciting- and reassuring- to have someone to share the journey with.

As Cody and I were getting ready to start a new chapter of our lives, the Williams were starting a new venture of their own as photographers. Because they were just starting out, they offered to do a shoot with us to build their portfolio, and also offered to do my maternity photos and, if I wanted, birth photos as well. Little did any of us know that their business would literally skyrocket within weeks- I also had no idea the precious treasure they were so generously giving us: our new baby's life in pictures. So here are a few of my favorites from start to finish.

Exactly one month after learning we were expecting, we had our first photo shoot:

Alley 54
Alley 17
Alley 26
Alley 34
Alley 43
Alley 50
Alley 58
Alley 11

Thanksgiving weekend we did our maternity shoot:

Alleys Maternity 1
Alleys Maternity 10
Alleys Maternity 21
Alleys Maternity 28
Alleys Maternity 34
Alleys Maternity 41
Alleys Maternity 58
Alleys Maternity 67

Jessica surprised me by taking pictures at my baby shower as well! Thoughtfully planned by my BFF Amber and Kelly:

Alley Baby Shower 1 
Alley Baby Shower 6 
Alley Baby Shower 10
Alley Baby Shower 15
Alley Baby Shower 30
Alley Baby Shower 20

Alley Baby Shower 22
Alley Baby Shower 33
Alley Baby Shower 40
Alley Baby Shower 51
Alley Baby Shower 56
Alley Baby Shower 57
Alley Baby Shower 58
Alley Baby Shower 8

Then, when Linnea decided to arrive early, Jessica was there to shoot the first pictures ever taken of her:

Alley Delivery-2
Alley Delivery-10
Alley Delivery-17
Alley Delivery-38
Alley Delivery-42
Alley Delivery-56
Alley Delivery-57
Alley Delivery-58
Alley Delivery-71
Alley Delivery-74
Alley Delivery-80
Alley Delivery-88
Alley Delivery-93
Alley Delivery-94

And finally… the newborn photos, taken by Jason:

Linnea Alley-4
Linnea Alley-16
Linnea Alley-18
Linnea Alley-24
Linnea Alley-27
Linnea Alley-30
Linnea Alley-32
Linnea Alley-42
Linnea Alley-45
Linnea Alley-49
Linnea Alley-51
Linnea Alley-56
Linnea Alley-58
Linnea Alley-69

Linnea Alley-68

Jay and Jess-

You are an amazing, inspirational team as photographers, parents, and husband and wife. Thank you so much for these precious moments you captured for us. We will cherish them- and your friendship, wherever God leads you- always.

With love,

The Alley Family.

Diaper bags.

Before Linnea was born, I had plans to make diaper bags for Cody and myself. I had already gotten an awesome Amy Michelle bag from three dear friends of mine when I was in Minnesota for my friend's wedding, but if you know me you know I like to have options… plus I like to make things 🙂

I set out with my mom for fabric and found some wonderful patterns at JoAnn. In a perfect world, I would have been able to find some amazing oilcloth while we were there, but as much as I love JoAnn, they don't carry any of the stuff. It's actually incredibly hard to find anywhere, which is unfortunate because oilcloth is waterproof and super easy to clean! Someday I'll find the perfect oilcloth and the perfect project to use it for. But I digress.

I immediately fell in love with this book by Lotta Jansdotter, a Scandinavian artist and designer, and used it for the very simple pattern for Cody's daddy diaper bag. I took Cody to JoAnn so he could pick out the cloth he wanted to use, and we ended up with army green canvas and bright orange rip-stop fabric for the lining. We also got flourescent orange reflector ribbon for the accent. Here's a couple of details:


I made my bag a bit bigger because it would also multitask as a purse- and it needed lots of pockets! My mom had the great idea to cut out some of the flowers on the inside liner fabric and applique them to the outside of the bag. I also used quilting batting to thicken it up a bit since it's so big. Here's the finished product:


And here's both of the bags:


I was pretty stoked when I had it on its first day out and got a compliment on it from the cashier at Bookmans 🙂

My next project is to take this shirt and make it into a dress for Linnea! Anyone know of any great tutorials?


Our trip to Oak Flat.

Last week, Arizona had one of the BIGGEST winter storms in recent history- it was nuts. The single day rainfall record was nearly double the previous record, and higher elevations had such intense snowfall that interstates and most roads up north were shut down for days. For goodness' sake- it was so out of control that we actually had TORNADO WARNINGS in metro Phoenix! Say what?! So what do Arizonans do once the insanity passes? We head straight for the areas where the action is!

Our route of choice was an impromptu drive to a place called Oak Flat between Superior and Globe, an area where I used to go climbing, bouldering and camping (three pastimes I would like to take up again… someday). On our way there, we not only got a closer look at the snow-capped peaks surrounding the Valley, there were also waterfalls all along side the US-60, and the sky was breathtaking! Here's a few pictures- it was super cold, so we left Linnea in her car seat the whole time. Didn't stop me from snapping a picture or two of her 🙂

One of many waterfalls at Oak Flat- this was up by the mine:


The snow-capped hills surrounding the area- the light was beautifully contrasted:


A few pictures of the three of us:


The old mine road through Oak Flat:


Here are a couple of pictures of the waterfalls that formed on the side of the highway. We snapped these as we were driving by:


Some gorgeous desert scenery:


The sky was amazing!


Next road trip adventure with our little one: Sedona and Flagstaff sometime before the hubster has to head back to work on February 3.

Nursery photos and a happy baby in pink.

I think I've mentioned before that I never thought I would be the "Pink Mom," but it's safe to say that I threw that thought out the window when I found out I was having a little girl. Pink is now my favorite, favorite color ever, and I find all kinds of inspiration in its many shades. Here's a cute video of her cooing in her crib I shot yesterday- Cody and I love when she is awake and alert and not fussy- it's the best.

Pink crib from Andrea Alley on Vimeo.

When we first started planning the nursery, we had originally intended to paint the walls in a super pale shade of pink, but we nixed that idea the closer we got to her due date. I narrowed down the color scheme to pale pink, ivory, and black, with natural wood furniture and a vintage bird theme. I also wanted to incorporate as many handmade items as possible, made by myself or anyone else who was so inclined. Cody's mom and my parents were also huge contributors to her nursery! Here are some pictures of the finished product:

This is what you see when you walk in the door.


I made the mobile and the flags hanging on her crib and painted the
giant "L" gold for the shelves. On the shelves are some pictures from
our maternity shoot and my childhood prayer plaque that I always had
hanging above my bed when I was little. It says, "Jesus, guide me
through the night, wake me with the morning light." We may add some more photos from our birth shoot and newborn shoot as well. My best friend
Amber made the birdhouses on the book shelf and my Hummel music box is sitting on top- I always used to fall asleep to it as a child. My Amma's dear friend from
Centralia made the blanket hanging on the rack in the corner, and our
friend Adria made the pillow in the corner of the crib. We found a night stand at Savers for $8 that Cody refinished and adorned with hardware from my favorite store ever, Anthropologie. We even have my dad's newborn shoes sitting on the bottom shelf 🙂 I love all the
handmade touches and keepsakes that went into our little girl's nursery!

Below is a night time shot.


View from glider. Cody refinished and antiqued my childhood dresser for Linnea's room! He did a great job 🙂


One of my favorite details- the vintage bird hardware Cody surprised me with from Anthropologie for the top drawer of the dresser.


Another wonderful detail is this chalk board Cody made. We found the frame at Goodwill for $3 and bought a board and some chalk board paint and voila! Homemade chalk board!


The glider and changing table. My Amma gave Linnea the beautiful mirror, and the quilt hanging on the back of the glider was made by my great aunt Inga in Iceland. I made the pillow and the pictures on the wall with the help of Cody, who sanded and painted the frames black (he's such a rock star).


Another night time shot.


And of course, how could I leave out pictures of the nursery's precious occupant?



Our dear friend Katie made the green bird rattle laying next to her- so adorable!



Advice on cloth diapering, please…

To cloth or not to cloth…that is the question.

I've been looking more into cloth diapering recently and have to admit that I am still a bit intimidated by the whole thing, mainly because- not gonna lie- I don't deal well with what is contained in the diaper itself. I've heard awesome things about cloth diapers, and have done some research on sites like Wildflower Diapers in Scottsdale- which I can't wait to visit in person- but I need some advice from moms out there who have actually done it or are currently.Things I wanna know:

Do you love it or hate it?
What's the biggest challenge?
Is it more of a hassle than it's worth?
Do you ever mix it up with disposables- for example, is it an inconvenience to deal with cloth diapers when you're out and about?
Any inkling on what your child prefers?
Did you find it more or less expensive than disposable diapers?

Because at the rate our 6-lb. child is going through disposables, she is going to bankrupt us before she's potty trained! Ha! She is completely worth it but COME ON. I figure there has to be a better way to do this thing. 

So shoot me a comment with your thoughts! I'd love to hear what you have to say- and you'll really help me make the right decision moving forward.

Wildflower Diapers

Cute videos.

Just uploaded a couple of videos of Linnea doing cute things. They probably won't be that exciting to you, but she can do pretty much anything and it makes me all giddy inside.

Here's one of her waking up doing what I call "drama arms." It's actually a newborn reflex called the moro reflex that they do whenever they feel like they're falling or off-balance. Anyway, it's cute. And she does NOT wanna wake up.


Drama Arms from Andrea Alley on Vimeo.

This one is just of her laying around in her newborn napper on the day of her newborn shoot (which I cannot WAIT to see!), when she was two weeks old. Apparently we were rocking out to "So Hard" by Rihanna. Awesome.


Newborn Napper from Andrea Alley on Vimeo.

OK. So maybe I'm a mean mom (since she's basically screaming the whole time) but I think it's so funny when we put her binky in her mouth when she's crying- she can't seem to make up her mind whether she should cry or suck, so she does both. And it's sooo cute! I laugh at her for a couple seconds, and then I pick her up and hug her- don't worry naysayers. No permanent psychological damage allowed in this household.


Crying vs. Binky from Andrea Alley on Vimeo.

And, of course, the classic hiccup video. It's funny to see her do it now when she used to always get the hiccups in my belly!


Hiccups from Andrea Alley on Vimeo.

I'll post more videos when I take some more. Because I know you can't get enough of her either. Welcome to the center of my universe.

In closing, Cody got an app on his iPod touch called "Atomic Fart." As if regular farts weren't enough, I now have to listen to different renditions of farts at his sole discretion. Sometimes he leaves it sitting around on a timer to surprise me with a fart later. At the moment, he is trying to find the closest match to Linnea's farts, as she lays innocently cooing herself to sleep in her crib.

Somebody shoot me now.

("Shoot you now?" he says. Oh God, he's getting out his iGun app… forget what I said about permanent psychological damage. Clearly we have no standards around here.)

What really matters.

It's not just a cheesy multi-billion dollar company's tagline: Having a baby changes everything.

I've found that Linnea's arrival has completely altered my perception of everything. I used to think that my pregnancy changed things immensely (and it did), but I had no idea what I was in for when we were blessed with an amazingly beautiful, perfectly healthy little girl. I am so thankful for how fortunate we are to have had no complications in the pregnancy or the birth, to have a home to return to, cars in great condition, that my husband has a job, and wonderful friends and family to share life with. I wanted to correct things that weren't right for the sake of our daughter, and I'm happy to say that I was able to do that in some cases, but sadly, not all. I recently read my friend Jessica's blog on forgiveness and boy, could I ever relate to literally every word she wrote. It's a good, honest read and is exactly how I feel. It's funny how similar she and I are in so many ways- right down to the struggles we face in life! 

As we all process through the recent events in Haiti- the heartbreaking loss of life, the devastation, the long road the country has toward restoration (and wait for news on the Compassion kids we sponsor, Flandie and Makendy)- and follow stories like that of Kate McRae, I look at my precious little family and can't imagine my life without them. I can't help but think about what really matters in this short time we have on earth. There's always that part of me who wonders if our worst fears were realized, who would be there? Any why would they be there? I'm not one of those paranoid types who thinks that the worst case scenario will ALWAYS happen if you're not prepared, but it's clear that no one knows what God holds for each of us. There is simply so much that is out of our control. But what about the things we can control? And in any major event in life, whether it be good or bad, why let a large black cloud hover over those events? Is it ever worth withholding forgiveness and restoration if it means you miss out on amazing parts of life- or if you know you would be sorry if you never had a chance to make things right? 

I don't mean to sound morbid- it's just hard not to think about these things when it's so front-and-center in the news these days. Like I said, our little one has changed the way I look at everything, and while I know I will make mistakes, I want desperately to live as a good example for her sake. I found myself at a crossroads as her arrival neared, and I tried to make things right the best way I knew how, and was shot down and shut out by two people who will always mean so much to my husband and me. I can't condemn the parties involved for being hurt and angry, because God knows I was as well, but I came to the realization that it's not worth living this way anymore- and it's not worth pretending there isn't a problem either. Like Jessica said in her blog, it hurts to have an apology go ignored time and time again. It hurts to be utterly misunderstood, especially when you're trying to make things right. It hurts when you feel like you can't be yourself, and you can't be human and mess up, and be accepted too. And it hurts to be told that all is lost when you see something worth rebuilding. 

When you truly love someone, and they truly love you back, you should be able to have even the most unbearable disagreements and end up with a stronger relationship when all is said and done. That's what I learned through restored friendships that I never thought stood a chance. I don't have all the answers; I just see things differently than ever before. And all I have left to do now is hope and pray that things change- and ask God to help keep things consistently in perspective so that bitterness doesn't ever take root in my heart over the capacity to forgive that He so graciously gave me.

At times, I didn't think I had it in me- and then I met Linnea. She truly has changed everything.

Life with a new life.

It's been three weeks since Linnea was born, and we have been sucked into a veritable time warp to say the least. Apparently today is Friday, and now that it's 5:00 p.m. I just caught on that it is not actually Wednesday. I can safely say that I have her attached to one boob or the other for a grand total of a third of my day- yes, friends, that is the equivalent of a full-time job. Cabin fever has set in on more than one occasion, especially for the hubster, who loves our home but hates being stuck here for too long. I barely find time to eat, let alone go to the store to fill our perpetually empty kitchen, and because she has to eat every three hours, going anywhere is always a bit of a time-limited production. I find myself using words like "binky," "Boppy," and "burpy" at least fifty times a day, and for the first time in my life I have started falling asleep sitting up on a regular basis. Our laundry volume has increased exponentially- and it's not because of the additional wardrobe of tiny clothes that has been added to our hamper. (They are, after all, tiny clothes.) It's mostly because we have to change our own clothes twice a day due to being victimized by her pants exploding all over the place, or things like the infamous "fountain in the backseat of the Nissan" incident in the corner of the Kohl's parking lot that we won't discuss right now.

Welcome to parenthood!

I've never been happier to have my life turned completely upside-down, however. I am completely enamored with our little girl. Every day is an opportunity to watch her grow and take in the world around her. Her little voice, even when she's crying inconsolably, is my favorite sound ever. I love watching her lay quietly in her crib or in my lap when she's awake, cooing and doing her little newborn things- sighing, sneezing, grasping my fingers with those tiny little hands that look like miniature versions of my own, rooting around for something to suck on. (Newborns will suck on anything.) I love kissing her little face and burping her and singing to her. I love the little sounds she makes. She's simply the most breathtakingly beautiful baby I've ever seen. And I just adore her to pieces. I had no idea how much love my heart could hold, and then she came along.

I can't wait until she smiles at us, giggles when we tickle her, or looks around in awe on her first visit to Disneyland. But I want to savor the moment we find ourselves in now. She is so tiny and precious and amazing and I don't ever want to forget the little things she does that bring so much joy and wonder to my heart. What an exciting road we have ahead of us.

Linnea Joelle, you are loved!


A surprise birthday gift for my hubby.

So remember in my last post how the doctor said that I had a good ten days before Elska made her debut? 

Turns out she was WAY off.

December 22 started out like every other day. Woke up, made hot chocolate, ate cereal. Went to work for a few hours. Ate lunch after my shift. It was then that things began to change.

I worked a five hour shift at Liberty Market and had some mild cramping and back pain all day, but with no contractions- something I attributed simply to pre-labor pains. There was nothing excruciating about it and I was able to work through it without any interruptions. A friend of mine warned me that she felt something very similar to that when she was pregnant, and it turned out that she was in the beginning stages of back labor. To which I replied, "Yeah, but this isn't so bad, and anyway my doctor said I have ten days or more, so there's just no way I'm starting labor. This is just pre-labor." Her response: "Uh huh."

After my shift ended at 2:30, I sat at the pizza bar and began eating a salad, when suddenly I felt the beginning of a contraction- no big deal, I had been having those for a couple weeks now- but this one began with pretty gnarly pain in my back that moved around to my front. "WOO!" I said. "This is different." A couple of guys that were working there stopped what they were doing and asked me if I was OK. I told them, "Sure, yeah, I'm fine………… Uhhh….. Hmm." About ten minutes later, it happened again. And again a little less than ten minutes later. 

"Welp… gotta go," I said as I abruptly exited the building to head home. I called my husband and told him that I wasn't really sure what was going on, but that I was having painful contractions, and gee, this is new, we should probably call the doctor when I get home to find out what is going on. I hated the idea of being that first-time mom who thinks that any pain means I'm going into labor, but when I had four more contractions on my fifteen minute drive home, I knew there was some major shifting going on in my body.

Before I continue, let me just say for the record that we were so completely unprepared for our child to arrive that particular day and FOR THIS I TAKE NO RESPONSIBILITY. All I've been hearing this whole time is that I'm so neurotic and my hormones are making me more ridiculous than usual about getting things done and there's no rush, we still have time and BLAH BLAH BLAH. To that I say, I TOLD YOU SO. Nobody listens to the crazy pregnant lady until the contractions start coming three weeks early and crap! We aren't packed for the hospital! And who is staying with the dogs! Do we have a pediatrician! And is the dresser done yet because the baby's clothes were never washed because we have nowhere to put them! And why of all days does the house look like a tornado went through it and I AM IN NO SHAPE TO CLEAN ANYTHING RIGHT NOW!

"Oh, you're probably just dehydrated," said the nurse over the phone. "Drink some water, and if it doesn't calm down in a half hour, head in to the hospital and they'll check you out." Two hours of excruciating contractions and one long, hot shower later, we managed to pack our bag, throw our poor dogs in their cages and head to the hospital in the pouring rain. We checked in and were sent to triage, where I was hooked up to all sorts of fun monitors and my dilation progress was checked. I was at a whopping 2 cm. Further along than the day before at my checkup, but what I was really thinking was ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! An hour later I had progressed to 3.5 cm, but the doctor still seemed to think that I was just dehydrated and needed to walk around the hospital floor for an hour, freezing my butt off and sucking down ice-cold water in order to hydrate my suddenly temperamental uterus. After several knock-me-to-the-floor contractions and one promise to my sweet, patient husband that I AM NEVER DOING THIS AGAIN, I learned the sad news that I had in fact made no progress over that fun hour and they were sending me home. With an Ambien (prescription sleeping pill) and a pain pill, only one of which worked, and to narrow things down for you it was NOT the pain pill. It was 10:00 p.m. 

Before we even got home I was completely knocked out. The best part was that I was dead asleep for about three minutes at a time, since I would wake up with every contraction and those came along about every four minutes. Yep. Awesome. I vaguely remember my other half getting into bed, turning out the light, and not long after that waking up to a contraction accompanied by my water breaking, i.e. a giant gush coming out of my pants and running down my leg. YES, THIS IS CLEARLY A DEHYDRATION ISSUE. Good Lord. Like I said, no one listens to the crazy pregnant lady.

So around 11:00, we went back to the hospital. I marched my half-asleep butt in there and said, "Epidural. NOW." But much to my chagrin, it was a rainy night, and apparently when the barometric pressure drops, everyone who could possibly go into labor does exactly that. At this point I was dilated to a five, still half asleep through the whole thing with no relief from the back labor I was having. An hour later, I was at a seven, and an hour after that I was at an eight. The nurse, Holly, was doing everything she could to get an anethesiologist in the room but had no luck whatsoever. By the time he showed up, I was at a nine (out of 10, mind you), and all he could give me was a spinal block. Which, honestly, didn't do anything to help the situation other than numb my legs and slow down my contractions, after which I promptly passed out cold and all the nurses left the room. Shortly before 3:00 a.m., I woke up thinking I was peeing all over the nurse. I immediately began apologizing profusely (and I also apologized afterward) but fortunately and unbeknownst to me there was a catheter involved. All I can tell you is that there is nothing dignifying about childbirth.

Pushing commenced in one form or another. I was told not to push and no matter how hard I tried not to push my body was simply doing whatever it wanted- mainly pushing. Finally the doctor arrived and I got the green light to start pushing and what a bizarre process. I kept getting told to push as if I was making a bowel movement (I would consider this the Mother of All Bowel Movements), so I would try that and I just wasn't sure I was doing it right because NOTHING was happening. I had a whole cheering squad of nurses in there telling me I was doing great and making progress but I couldn't feel any progress at all, but I could definitely feel everything since the pain meds had long since worn off. I saw the doctor sitting there with a syringe and had no idea what she was doing and I didn't really care. Turns out she had to make a little more room for baby to come out and boy was she smart not to tell me. I would have FREAKED OUT, and I already couldn't control my breathing and consequently was donning a super sexy oxygen mask (giving my dear friend Jessica from Session Nine a whole lot to work with for our birth pictures, I'm sure).

Looking back, everything happened so incredibly fast. At 3:50 a.m., on Wednesday, December 23, 2009- Cody's 30th birthday- our daughter Linnea Joelle was born. She weighed six pounds even, was 19 inches long, and was simply the most beautiful thing I had ever seen in my life. She has her dad's eyelashes and a full head of blonde hair and my long fingers and skis for feet. I had no idea how much she would change everything in my world- not just my priorities, but everything- from how I view my relationships, to how I spend my time, to valuing what is truly important and making life count. 

I had grand visions of the perfect birth- it would be Cody and me, in the zone, focused on each other, fully present and in the moment. It was nothing like that at all. But when all is said and done, none of that matters. I have a healthy, precious little angel that I get to hold in my arms, to love and raise up with my husband, a whole new adventure we can share together. Labor was hard, but it could have been worse. And who knows, maybe we will do this again. After all, when you look at her little face, it's easy to understand why moms forget the aches and pains of pregnancy and childbirth and want to do it all over again.