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:

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Thanksgiving weekend we did our maternity shoot:

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

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

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And finally… the newborn photos, taken by Jason:

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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.

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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:

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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:

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And here's both of the bags:

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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?

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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:

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

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A few pictures of the three of us:

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The old mine road through Oak Flat:

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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:

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Some gorgeous desert scenery:

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The sky was amazing!

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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!

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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).

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Another night time shot.

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

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

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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.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8943022&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

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.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8943053&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

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.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8943060&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

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!

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=8943235&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=0&color=&fullscreen=1

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.