Silhouette.

Once of my favorite Etsy shops, Le Papier Studio, specializes in "Elegant Silhouette Creations" ranging from wall art to pillows and even necklaces. I'm still working on redecorating my office on a very slim budget, and have a bunch of frames from Goodwill that I plan to paint white and fill with family photos for a wall gallery. Then I came up with the idea to make my own silhouette of Linnea to add to the collection. I painted the frame and mat white, traced a photo of her that I took while she was sleeping, cut it out of black paper using an Xacto knife, and put it on a beautiful piece of pink damask scrapbook paper. It was a fun project that turned out beautifully, although if you want an expert to do it, head on over to the Le Papier Studio and request a custom order. I personally want a necklace! Mother's day gift, perhaps? (HINT, HINT.)

So I turned this (Awwww…):

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Into this!

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The office is still a work-in-progress, but I'm wrapping it up and will be posting pictures in the near future!

Adventures in babywearing.

OK, so I caved. I've hopped on the babywearing bandwagon via the Moby Wrap.

Lately I have found that Linnea is simply inconsolable unless she's being held, and being a busy work-at-home mama, holding her all the time just doesn't work; but neither does letting the poor little thing cry and scream for hours on end. I've heard great things about babywearing, one benefit in particular being that a parent is freed up to actually get things done AND have a happy child at the same time… SOLD. Not to mention that some experts say that babywearing improves sleep habits, reduces stress and crying, and helps develop secure (but not dependent) attachments to mom and dad. Sounds like a good plan to me.

I have to admit that, at first, babywearing was off to a rough start for us. While Linnea is a very curious, alert little girl and loves to be propped up on a shoulder so she can see everything, and while she loves to be held, she also likes to have freedom to move. The first hold I tried with the Moby Wrap was the Hug Hold, which is basically her facing me front and center with her little legs dangling out below. And let me tell ya… when she was awake, she was NOT. A. FAN. She likes to be able to look around, and Mom's chest is not acceptable scenery. So we turned her around a la the Lotus Hold, and she loved it! Given that she's probably gonna be a runner like her mama (I mean, seriously, she's built just like me! With her dad's face! Haha), we let her legs be free and she kicks around excitedly when we're on the move. That's one thing- while babywearing, she's not happy unless we're moving. Hopefully that will change.

The Moby Wrap can be a little intimidating at first- it's literally a twelve-foot-or-so-long piece of fabric that you have to learn to wrap around yourself properly, or else it won't work. If it's not tight enough, it won't work. If it's too tight, it won't work. And as with pretty much everything else, it fits everyone differently. I chose the organic wrap because of its notable softness and pretty light green color (called Celery) and once I got the fit right, we were good to go. Linnea is a whole nine pounds now and growing, and the Moby Wrap is good up to 35 pounds- not sure how I feel about carrying her around at that size, but we'll see…

Hanging out around the house with Mama:

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Poolside in Fountain Hills with the Lentz family:

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Helping mama in the kitchen (and before you start FREAKING OUT, this was only for show- I didn't actually have her near any hot pots or ovens! No Linneas were harmed during the taking of this picture).

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The whole babywearing thing is still a work in progress, but it's fun and hopefully she will learn to love it as much as I do! As long as I don't get pooped on!

Next in the line-up: a cloth diaper trial.

Just because I love you.

Dear Linnea,

There is no occasion for me to write you a letter today, other than the fact that I am head-over-heels in love with you. Often I have these moments when I look at your little face and my heart is filled with such overwhelming joy that I could burst, I am that crazy about you. Your newborn reflexes have all but disappeared, but they have been replaced with a whole new set of curiosities that are such a joy to discover. Every day I think to myself, "I wish I could freeze this moment in time…" I see now that this is promise of that much more to cherish in the future that Daddy and I will share with you. I carry you around everywhere and you hold your little head up and look at everything around you; you reach out for things now, and you follow us with your eyes wherever we go. You sleep with your tiny arms up in the air and I'll check in on you and I always want to pick you up and hold you, but I don't want to wake you so I let you be. The nape of your little neck smells like what I imagine Heaven smells like; sweet and soft and calming and beautiful. A scent that takes me to a place I don't yet know. This is the gift of motherhood- the closest I will ever come to understanding God's love for us.

When I look at you I can't help but want so much for you; to protect you from anything that could hurt you, to save you from everything bad in this world; but I know that simply won't happen. It's strange, but true, that in the end even bad things can turn out to be for our best. And I want the best for you, my darling little girl. God willing, I will give you my best.

There's this look you get on your precious face whenever you're propped up on someone's shoulder, and you're looking around, and your eyebrows are raised and you're all bright eyes, and your rosebud mouth is open in inquiry, and… oh my goodness. You're so adorable. That's it- that's the face that I will see in my final moments, that's the face that I will remember forever in my heart of hearts as the beautiful face of my little angel.

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I never could have understood how amazing
being your mom would be without God's good grace in my life. And to think that He loves you infinitely more than even I do… that is a miracle in and of itself. Linnea, I love you so much. You are a tremendous blessing and I am so proud that you are mine. The years ahead of us are highly anticipated, but I will count every moment more precious than gold in the meantime.

Love,

Mama

Project Nursery: Real Rooms feature.

I am so excited to have Linnea's room featured on Project Nursery today! Kim, my client at the TomKat Studio, was kind enough to offer to feature my little girl's nursery and baby shower on their site. She is a contributing blogger for them and I was so flattered that she loved Linnea's room enough to want to feature it! Jessica of Session Nine came in last Tuesday and took photos for the post and did such a fabulous job, as always. We then had a Mommy Work Day and hung out with our kiddos and worked on each of our businesses with some HGTV in the background… it was perfect. Be sure to check out the feature and leave some love… in the meantime, here are some amazing shots Jessica took of Linnea on a bright, beautiful quilt made by her great aunt Mary!

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And one shot of Mum Mum's mirror and tray set and her Bluebirds of Happiness:

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Breastfeeding FAIL.

Linnea turned three months old this week, and as of her weight check at the doctor she still only weighs a whopping 7 lbs. 12 oz. When people see her the first comment is usually,"Oh, look at her! She's a brand new one, isn't she?"

Nope. She's three months old.

When she was first born, at 6 lbs. even, and 5 lbs. 6 oz. when we left the hospital, she was pretty tiny to begin with. I was on a mission to exclusively breastfeed, simply because it was the best thing for her, and at first things seemed to be going pretty well. The doctor said she was "perfect" at her two-week checkup and said that we didn't need to come back until her two-month checkup. I continued breastfeeding and had no idea it wasn't working until we went in at two months, and she only weighed 6 lbs. 5 oz.!

I felt awful. A-W-F-U-L, awful.

Leading up to the arrival of our daughter, we had decided that we were going to keep her on a feeding and sleeping schedule- we had read the first of the Babywise series and it sounded like a good plan for us. We knew some families who followed the Babywise plan and it was working well for them, plus we agreed with the principles presented in the book, so we were going for it. But after Linnea arrived, and we fed her every three hours 24 hours a day for a while (which is pretty typical for every child at first), we noticed that she was pretty fussy, pretty often. My parents insisted that she was hungry, but I insisted on keeping her on a schedule. Turns out they were right. (When is mom ever not right? Someday Linnea's gonna learn that about me. Ha!) I wasn't producing enough milk for her (only about an ounce at a time)
but I had no idea because, needless to say, I was ignorant. It's been
such a learning process but it's been amazing.

So we started supplementing with formula and she became a much happier baby. Her skinny little legs are filling out and her knees aren't so knobby anymore. She's also pretty much outgrown her newborn clothes- finally. She's much more alert and content- and even though I never wanted to have to give her formula because it's the second-best thing for her and not the best, her health is much more important. While formula is much harder on our wallets, I'm not gonna lie- it's much easier to deal with bottle feeding in public than it is to nurse anywhere outside our home. 

On that note, I've pretty much transitioned completely from breastfeeding to formula. I still try to breastfeed her at least once or twice a day, but unfortunately it just isn't working anymore. As a mother, it's surprisingly difficult to have to let go of that ability to nourish your child the way God intended, but on the flip side it's also somewhat of a relief. This motherhood thing can be a crazy ride- no doubt this is only the beginning!

So anyway, here are a few pictures of Cody and Linnea last weekend.

Burps:

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Try and resist me:
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Look at my loooooong eyelashes like my Daddy's:
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Linnea loves Daddy! He's the best.
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First trip to the zoo.

Last week, Linnea and I went to the zoo with my dear friend Jessica and her little man, Cruz. Jessica's family gave her a year-long zoo membership, so we got to go for free, which was great! I can't wait until Linnea is old enough to notice the animals and tell me the sounds they make and be totally enamored with them. Something tells me with all the animal lovers in our family that we will have another one on our hands 🙂

We snapped a couple of pictures in between chatting and picnicking by the lake and they are just too cute not to share. Enjoy!

I had to take a picture of a tiger because those were Mum Mum's favorites. That and they are simply beautiful animals!

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Jessica and Cruz admiring the tigers.

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Linnea and I checking out the lions. (OK… I'm checking out the lions. She's just trying not to be blinded by the sun.)

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FLAMINGOS! My favorite! Plus they're PINK!

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I'm not gonna lie, I'm secretly hoping that someday someone "flamingos" my front yard. That would be simply amazing. And I would totally leave them up until the HOA nazis start fining us. Ha!

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Such a fun day! We're gonna go again before the weather gets too warm to enjoy the zoo. Jessica, Linnea and I are heading out to the OC next month to visit my BFF Amber and that will be such a fun girls' weekend! I can't wait to take Linnea to the beach!

On another note, today is my baby girl's three-month birthday. I can hardly believe it! Time really does fly when you become a mommy. 

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. 

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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.

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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With all our love,

Mama and Daddy

Can you even stand the cuteness?

Today I took Linnea to the park, set up the t-shirt quilt (made out of my old track t-shirts- I couldn't part with them!) on the grass next to a tree, and laid a very happy, content 8-week-old in the shade, kicking her little legs in the air, looking around taking in the beauty of the great outdoors. Best. Afternoon. Ever.

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Since
this was yet again The Cutest Thing I've Ever Seen, I started snapping
pictures with my phone…

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And caught a big ol' smile on camera for the
first time! Can you even stand the cuteness? CAN YOU?!?!?!?!

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OH MY GOSH I AM BESIDE MYSELF WITH ADORATION. I just cannot get enough of this kid. I pretty much wanna swallow her whole. Just sayin'.

(Un)happy camper.

I am now on day number three of what I have dubbed "inconsolable afternoons." Clean diaper? Check. Full tummy? Check. Burped? Check. Won't burp? OK. Mylecon? Check. Comfortable? Don't see any pinchy diapers… Check. Rocking in her boppy doesn't work, binkies don't work, holding her and rubbing her back doesn't work, singing lullabies doesn't work (although my singing voice may just exacerbate the problem…).

Only two things have changed this week that are completely new to her since she was born. Number one is that Cody returned to work on Wednesday. So is this in any way connected to my husband's absence after being here consistently over the first six weeks of Linnea's life? I'm gonna say no, mostly because I'd like to think I'm enough to console her, but I may be in denial because she is already so clearly a Daddy's Girl. All he has to do is hold her and speak gently in her ear and she is GOLDEN. Sometimes when I pick her up she screams even louder… unless, of course, I'm feeding her. Then it's the epitome of peaceful in this household. 

See? Screaming when Mom holds her:

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Happy as a clam when Daddy holds her:

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And I will spare you a picture of me feeding her. But trust me, she's perfectly fine when I do.

Anyway, RULING THAT OUT, that leaves me with a solid theory as to why she's so upset in the afternoons, because I just don't think these are so-called "daily fussy times." This is knock-down, drag-out, top-of-the-lungs screaming as soon as she is done eating that has lasted almost until her next scheduled feeding. With no daytime naps. And it is COMPLETELY my fault. The theory?

Coffee.

I started drinking caffeinated coffee again. Not a gallon at a time, but a cup or two in the mornings. And after drinking strictly decaf when I was pregnant, this may have been a bit of a shock to her tiny system. Consequently I have a very unhappy infant who doesn't sleep longer than 15 minutes at a time between feedings and crashes at night. (But hey, at least she sleeps at night!) No wonder she doesn't like me. Ha!

Anyway, we'll see if my theory is correct now that I'm giving up the stuff… again. God forbid we have a colicky baby- I would feel so bad for her because I imagine that is miserable! We'll just keep our fingers crossed for more times like these:

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Mommy loves you from Andrea Alley on Vimeo.

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Daddy's girl from Andrea Alley on Vimeo.

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.