Baby’s first letter.

Dear Linnea,

Two months ago today, you came into the world in such a whirlwind I could barely see straight. I went to work that morning feeling totally normal and left that afternoon in bona-fide labor. You were born less than thirteen hours later. It was the hardest, most physically demanding, exhausting, BEST THING I have ever done. And your daddy was there helping all along the way. 

Alley Delivery-29_2
I tell you all the time how I grew you in my belly. What a miraculous thing God had in mind when He knit you together. You, my beautiful baby, my little angel, are an amazing little creation.

Alley Delivery-75
I have spent this time watching you grow, cuddling you incessantly, seeing how quickly you are falling in love with your Daddy- like you could possibly help that. He is one wonderful man. I always knew you would be a daddy's girl. I don't think any man will ever love you as much as your Daddy does (but we are praying that someday one will!). There is nothing more precious than when he comes home from work and all he wants to do is hold you in his arms and make faces at you so that you smile at him. And oh boy, that smile! The first time you smiled at me a couple of weeks ago filled me with so much joy! As if you weren't already beautiful enough- you go and do a silly thing like smiling at me. Goodness, child. Sometimes I think my heart might just explode- and yet it somehow contains this growing love I never could have understood until you came into my life. 

P1000347
I find myself getting excited to share experiences with you. I took you to the park one day and we laid under the shade of a tree together and you smiled and cooed at me all afternoon. I went to the toy store the other day and bought you a tea set that we can play with together when you get a little older. I am excited to take you to Disneyland and throw birthday parties for you and teach you the different noises animals make when you see them at the zoo. Right now, you don't do much more other than kick those little legs of yours and reach out with those tiny little hands that look just like mine. You're still such an itty bitty one- less than seven pounds- but from what Daddy and I can tell, you are bright-eyed- SO bright-eyed- and healthy. And we are so thankful for that.

IMAG0008IMAG0011 IMAG0012
I love to sing lullabies to you, even silly ones like that ridiculous "binky song" I made up this morning. "I've got a binky, binky for my girl- binky for my girl- binky for my girl!" I love holding you and rocking with you in my arms while I feed you. I love weekends when Daddy gets up in the morning and brings you into our bed, and we take in the wonder that is our daughter. I love your little newborn kisses. I love your drama arms. I love when I pick you up from your crib when you're fussy and you calm down right away. I love when you hold your little head up, peering over my shoulder at your surroundings, or other people in the room, making everyone go, "Awwww!" I love how completely smitten I am with you. I love how completely smitten everyone is with you. You should see your Amma- oh my. If she could have you all to herself forever and ever she would take you in a heartbeat.

P1000071
Now that you're here, Linnea, it is impossible for Daddy and I to imagine life without you. We hold so much hope for your future and pray that we will be the parents you need us to be to become the woman God made you to be. You have gifted us with a brand new perspective on the whole of life that only exists by your presence.

But you- you are a priceless gift. We love you so much, Little Monkey. We are looking forward to many more months and years of watching you grow up- and we will cherish every second of it.

P1000237

With all our love,

Mama and Daddy

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.

P1000307

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.

P1000156

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

P1000315

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

P1000309


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!

P1000310

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).

P1000312

 
Another night time shot.

P1000163

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

P1000292  

P1000306

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

P1000301 

P1000296

Princess or Pioneer Woman?

When I was at the library the other day, I picked up a great book for Cody called Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know
by Meg Meeker. The other night, I started reading it and simply couldn't put it down- in the span of three hours, I had nearly finished the whole thing! Good stuff in there. There were several things that impacted my view of fatherhood and made me reflect on my own upbringing by my dad. It certainly made me thankful for the father I have and the things he has taught me along the way, as well as the things he tried to teach me that I was too stubborn to listen to- but do my best to take heed of now.

The thing that caught my eye the most was when the author discussed the type of woman you want your daughter to become, and she described two types of women: princesses and pioneer women. One thing we do NOT want our daughter to become is a princess- a girl who expects everything to be handed to her and everything to be done for her, and who gives nothing in return. We have seen too much of this going on in society as a whole- especially since my hubby works at a university and observes the spoiled antics of the New MTV Generation (have you SEEN "My Super Sweet Sixteen" or "16 and Pregnant"? This is the garbage they are feeding to our kids?!) on a daily basis, much to his disgust. He says that our kids are coming out of high school and into college with absolutely no idea how to do ANYTHING, and are so helpless and self-absorbed that they can barely function without someone holding their hand. And if they can't do something or if they fail, it is ALWAYS someone else's fault. This is just a general observation- we know there are some kids out there who do not epitomize this stereotype. Thank goodness. But the sense of entitlement really is quite prevalent these days.

The discussion of princess vs. pioneer woman has definitely helped me evaluate my own princess tendencies and redirect my energy toward becoming a truly proficient and productive member of our growing little family and of society in general. I'm not going to lie and say that as an only child who grew up in Scottsdale, I never displayed any princess-ish behavior and I was always a hard worker who had no expectations that my needs would always be met. Anyone who knew me would be quick to correct me and all the smoke I'd be blowing up your… well, you know.

Looking back, in a lot of ways, I was TERRIBLE. Irresponsible, reckless, entitled; and I can say with confidence that I'm still paying for past mistakes. When I look at life now, and I absolutely understand the sacrifices my parents made in the name of stability and provision, my behavior was just laughable. I didn't have parents who just gave me whatever I wanted when I wanted it- I went without my wants many times. But I never understood the value of the things I had because I didn't take the time to appreciate what it took to get them. God knows I do now. And if I can't lead my daughter by example, she would be quick to recognize the hypocrisy of what I would be expecting from her. And I would rather start now than wait until after her arrival when the demands of motherhood overwhelm me from taking on any other new responsibilities. And I am happy to say that I have an amazing dad-to-be on my hands who fully supports this philosophy as well.

So, here are a list of my goals. I'm terrible at goal-setting, but today is all I have for now, so why not jump in head-first and get this show on the road?

  1. Become more proficient at sewing and other crafts
  2. Open up an Etsy store
  3. Become a Virtual Assistant of some kind to generate income from home
  4. Keep on blogging!
  5. Keep a creative journal
  6. Take more pictures
  7. Start a habit of family dinners every night
  8. Support my dear husband in all his endeavors, and lighten his load whenever possible
  9. Use coupons for EVERYTHING
  10. When I need to buy, only buy used or on sale items
  11. Serve the community through our church
  12. Avoid being wasteful
  13. Making "Be resourceful!" my way of life!
  14. Run in the Rock 'n' Roll Marathon next January in order to get back into shape post-baby (I'll probably do the half)
  15. Spend quality time with family and friends
  16. Love God more so that I can teach my little girl who He is and pray that she loves Him too

My goals tend to morph and shift as life unfolds, but these are what they are for now. In light of this, I always enjoy reading "The Wife of Noble Character" from Proverbs 31 for inspiration:

10  A wife of noble character who can find?
       She is worth far more than rubies.

 11 Her husband has full confidence in her
       and lacks nothing of value.

 12 She brings him good, not harm,
       all the days of her life.

 13 She selects wool and flax
       and works with eager hands.

 14 She is like the merchant ships,
       bringing her food from afar.

 15 She gets up while it is still dark;
       she provides food for her family
       and portions for her servant girls.

 16 She considers a field and buys it;
       out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

 17 She sets about her work vigorously;
       her arms are strong for her tasks.

 18 She sees that her trading is profitable,
       and her lamp does not go out at night.

 19 In her hand she holds the distaff
       and grasps the spindle with her fingers.

 20 She opens her arms to the poor
       and extends her hands to the needy.

 21 When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
       for all of them are clothed in scarlet.

 22 She makes coverings for her bed;
       she is clothed in fine linen and purple.

 23 Her husband is respected at the city gate,
       where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.

 24 She makes linen garments and sells them,
       and supplies the merchants with sashes.

 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity;
       she can laugh at the days to come.

 26 She speaks with wisdom,
       and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

 27 She watches over the affairs of her household
       and does not eat the bread of idleness.

 28 Her children arise and call her blessed;
       her husband also, and he praises her:

 29 "Many women do noble things,
       but you surpass them all."

 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
       but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.

 31 Give her the reward she has earned,
       and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

p.s. If Baby Girl gets anything with the word "Princess" on it, it will quickly be burned or returned. Just sayin'. If it says "Pioneer Woman," on the other hand… well, that's a whole other story. She'll wear it loud and proud. Hats off to Pioneer Women everywhere!

The Two Ns.

Names and nurseries.

After a post-ultrasound celebratory brunch at Cracker Barrel (yeah, we're redneck like that), Cody went off to work and I went straight to Target to scout out their baby name books. I left with The Complete Book of Baby Names: The Most Names (100,001+), Most Unique Names, Most Idea-Generating Lists (600+) and the Most Help to Find the Perfect Name and went straight to work reading through all the lists, names and definitions, and have come up with a list of… eight names. And I'm all the way through the letter "O" right now. If there are 100,001+ names in this book, half of which are girl names, and I am more than halfway through the alphabet and have only come up with eight names… either the book stinks or I am incredulously picky.

The funny thing is, as I flipped through the pages while lying in bed the other night while Cody was trying to drift off to sleep (not something that was going to happen with a wife full of name ideas at his side), one name in particular popped randomly into my head, one that fit perfectly with the middle name we both like, and I asked him what he thought of it. His response: "I thought of that name earlier too. I like it."

Oh really?

"Like, this same name? Randomly popped into your head? Because I'm not even in the right section of this book to come across it right now. I just thought of it out of nowhere. And you did too? What do you think that means? Is it a SIGN from GOD? IS THIS OUR DAUGHTER'S NAME?!!!"

"Perhaps. Weird, I know. I like it. Going to sleep now…"

So the same name randomly pops into both of our heads and we both like it? What are the odds? Of course I wanted to analyze this at midnight the night before a maddeningly early morning for my husband, but I decided to spare him and turned out the light after a few extra minutes of searching. There were some cute names I made note of, but the whole time, that one name kept ringing in my head.

And no, it's not on our preliminary name list. I think the only way we would revert back to that is if I give birth, and a boy pops out.

And no, we're not telling you the name. For now, anyway.

Second on my list: the nursery. My whole life, I always vowed that if I was having a girl, I would NEVER be The Pink Mom. Pink is dumb! Pink is so cliche! Pink is for sissies! Pink Moms are SO ANNOYING!

Well, guess what. I am now The Pink Mom I swore I'd never be.

I am having visions of ever-so-pale pink walls, white lace, bird decorations (kinda trendy but I dig it), fresh flowers in mason jars, splashes of green and yellow, crocheted blankets, fluffy pillows… I know, I'm already getting completely ridiculous. As much as I wanted to be the mom who would do something different when it comes to her children's decor, I am a total sucker for pink. Not just any pink, though: it has to be pale pink. Bright colors have to be done just so in order for me to consider going there. My parents painted my room Pepto-Bismol pink when I was a kid, and looking back now, I'm not sure how my head didn't spontaneously combust. But I'm sure that it was a good idea at the time, given that it was the early 80s, and so many things were acceptable in the 80s that should simply never be mentioned EVER AGAIN.

I'm currently scouting the blogosphere for nursery ideas and would love to hear your favorites. So far I'm a big fan of Making It Lovely, The Lovely Little Things, and Craftynest. They aren't nursery/baby specific but have some great ideas. I love to be creative, and get some really great ideas in my head, but sometimes putting the ideas to paper or into existence requires some tactile inspiration that I have to see in order to fully realize my own visions. Shoot me some of your favorites and I will get this show on the road!

And finally, I can hardly stand another second of living without my new sewing machine, courtesy of Amma. I want to have craft days with my mom and grandma with all three of our sewing machines zipping along, making some of the cutest little girlie items ever for the fourth generation in the room. Oh, and perhaps a fancy new camera with which to document our adventures and finds- one of these days, anyway. For now, my ghetto Canon Elph with the broken, taped on battery case cover will have to suffice.

The “New Normal.”

I'm seeing a lot of this "New Normal" business on the news shows on network TV lately. People living in tents, in motels, kids without shoes, etc. etc. "With the economy the way it is…" I'm really beginning to get tired of that statement. Yes, the economy sucks, and I am not one to deny its effects on many in our country, I promise. I've said it myself a time or two. But sometimes I think it's nothing more than a GIANT COP-OUT for anything that happens to a person these days. There comes a point when you have to take personal responsibility for the things that are or aren't happening to you. 

I've been a complainy, whiny mess lately. My hormones are off the charts and I don't handle feeling sick like a champ unlike some people. I try, but quite honestly, I fail. I am thankful for friends and family who let me vent, and understand, and have compassion, and am annoyed with the ones who do not. I am annoyed that my paychecks have been cut by more than half; in fact, I'm just annoyed with how that whole situation was handled, period. I am annoyed by things that are affecting us that are out of our hands.

I cannot, however, be annoyed by the things that I can control. And we can always control where the money that we do have goes. 

We live in a nation of absolute excess. My husband's income alone places us in the top 3.5% of earners in the world using that number. It feels so… ridiculous. That is an eye-opener, for sure. We both seek to be giving people, and giving should be a sacrificial and joyful thing. Nobody wants to receive something out of reluctance or obligation. It's scary to give when you aren't sure your own needs will be met. But it is what anyone with the title "Christian" is called to do, and God is faithful to provide when you show you trust Him to do so. 

My friend Amy posted a fantastic blog on this subject. I read it right after I woke up and it was such a timely read in the midst of all the stress and uncertainty we are living in now. Not because I believe in distribution of wealth (I'm not sure she necessarily does either, as she clarifies later in the comments); I believe that people who earn whatever they earn deserve to keep it and do with their income what they see fit. I also think giving and charity should be a huge part of what people do with their earnings, but it should not be forced on them. (OK, I'll spare you. I'm off my soapbox.) I enjoyed her post because it pointed out that we have to be responsible to the choices we made to get us to where we are now, and what can we ACTUALLY complain about? I can't complain about not being to pay for things if I'm out buying a new shirt at Anthropologie because I "deserve it" or even something as small as a $2.00 bag of Starbursts because I was craving them, as I did tonight, because every penny adds up these days. Never before has the reality of being really, and I mean REALLY, frugal hit me so squarely in the face. I realized that up until now, we were trying to be frugal, but we still allowed ourselves luxuries from time to time. Unless money starts magically appearing in our bank account, we simply cannot afford those luxuries anymore. 

And in a strange way, while still fearing it, I'm actually looking forward to it. 

There are things I've been missing out on in life. Laziness and fear have gotten the best of me. I don't feel like doing much RIGHT now, but once I start feeling better I don't want to miss out on life anymore. It's strange because I feel that in some way, by being forced to forego the little things we usually enjoy, like eating out, seeing a movie every now and then, or buying the latest book that gets our attention, we will find other, more meaningful ways to enjoy life. I can see how God would be teaching us and stretching us more than we ever thought possible during this time. I know that there will be times that I HATE going without; honestly, I always have. I would be lying if I said I didn't get pangs of envy when I serve some of these girls my age who come in with their friends and their giant diamond rings and cute outfits and fancy purses and Lexus key rings and order their salads and lattes without a care in the world. I've always had expensive taste- just ask my dad, or my husband 🙂 But going WITH those things makes a person lose perspective on the things that are really important. 

And I want more out of my life. And more for our new little life. I'll just be trusting God's provision along the way, more than ever before. 

WAHM.

Work at Home Mom. I hope to achieve this title in the near future. I just can't seem to figure out a legitimate way to do so. 

Lately I have been overwhelmed by all I have laying ahead of me, and all I have to get done, everything I have to learn, not knowing what I don't know but need to know, and wondering how we are going to stretch our dollars without my income anymore. Because insurance companies are evil and view pregnancy as a "pre-existing condition," Cody is stuck at his job at least until our little one arrives. And because ASU is run by a communist- I mean, Michael Crow, they have things like forced mandatory retirement funds that don't let you choose how much or how often you put in money, and they require employees to pay for parking (and Lot 59, which was a mere $50 when we were in school, is now $270 per year for EVERYONE and is the cheapest parking on campus!), plus unpaid furlough days to cut everyone's salary by 10%, on top of taxes, and you have a paycheck that is whittled down to less than 70% of what you would normally take home from that same salary anywhere else. Cody is very good at his job and has gained great experience since he started there three years ago, but he doesn't necessarily want to stay there long-term, and without his Master's degree, there really isn't a way to move up, at least not in the next six months or so. And even if he did, his income couldn't be impacted all that much with all the FEES that are FORCED on ASU employees. Grrr… 

I have a love-hate relationship with the whole scenario. In spite of everything I don't like about it, I am SO thankful that Cody was able to keep his job through all the budget cuts that happened there last winter, and I am so thankful to have great health insurance. Things could be a lot worse so I know I need to keep that in perspective. I am frustrated with employment in general on many levels these days and all I can say is that I know both he and I are worth WAY more than either of us take home every two weeks. 

Cody is a scholar at heart and wants nothing more than to go to seminary for his Master's degree, and even talked about getting his Ph.D so he can teach at the college level someday. He would be SO good at this, but an education like that costs a pretty penny- a pretty penny we thought maybe we could swing BEFORE we found out that we had a baby on the way, and now we're like, "THE MORTGAGE! THE A/C! DIAPERS! THANK GOD WE DON'T HAVE A CAR PAYMENT! HOLD ON A SECOND! DO WE NEED A NEW CAR!" 

I'm happy to report that the panic phase has passed, but we still don't have any answers. That's the thing about trusting God- you don't know what He's up to, but you have to trust the fact that He is always up to something, and it is always for our good. It's our humanity that makes us freak out, and I still do from time to time. My hours at work have been cut in half (which was NOT part of the deal) and my pay was cut too, so I've been trying to figure out what exactly I'm supposed to go out and do. Go get a new job, tell them I'm prego and not even stand a chance at the job (no matter how illegal that is), or don't tell them and let them figure it out when they see The Bump, and then say something like, "Oh, that? I didn't mention it before? My apologies. I won't be here much past January." I mean, really. Who does that.

So I'm researching like crazy trying to find something I can do from home that brings in a steady income but gives me the flexibility to care for our baby. I've found like, two legit sites, but one of them is already ruled out because it requires a PC, and we are a Mac family. I've gone through all the steps that are required of applicants to be considered for an opening on the other site, but the follow-up I received totally goes against everything I already did. I of course am beginning to question its legitimacy. 

For right now, I just want a paycheck. I have dreams of doing other things but those things will have to wait for a time. For instance, I LOVE to sew. I am a total novice at it, but it was a childhood hobby of mine that I'm starting to pick up again, and I'd love to make something of it. My Icelandic grandma was a professional seamstress and used to make all sorts of goodies for us when I was growing up. I would love to do what she did and learn her tricks (she had SO many cool tricks) and sell my items on Etsy… I know, I know, this is SO TRENDY, it almost makes me not want to do it. It seems as if talented, well-practiced, formally trained artists of the handmade variety are a dime a dozen anymore- it's overwhelming- and why would anybody want the work of a mere hobbyist like me? I have so much inspiration and a lot of ideas but when it comes to executing them, it's almost like I get paralyzed. By what, I don't know, but I am surrounded by people who are just going for whatever it is that they have always wanted to do and I want to do it too. I am so inspired by them. It'll take time to achieve these things, but I'm sure it'll be worth waiting for. 

But on that note: if anyone has any ideas for income in the meantime, please, enlighten me.