Growing too fast.

Yesterday at Starbucks I was chatting with one of the baristas who is pregnant with a little girl, due in January. That was me a year ago, and it feels like yesterday. She was oogling over LJ, and I looked at her and said, "Cherish every moment. It goes by way too fast. And you are going to LOVE having a little girl."

Then the other barista said, "There is no faster hourglass than the life of a child."

OK, Proverbs. But seriously.

Sometimes, I look at my daughter, and I can't believe I'm a mother. I'm still in awe when I'm struck with the realization that God entrusted me with this little life, and how is she already eight months old, and she seems to hit a new milestone every day, and I can't believe how small she once was, and these tiny newborn clothes that I'm packing away are small enough to fit a doll, and she was soooo tiny and there's so much that I will never get to experience again with her. 

LJ has been commando crawling for a while now. And now she's getting up on her hands and knees and doing "the rock." She's learned to feed herself with a bottle, and yesterday I had to lower her crib mattress because she's starting to pull herself up. (Feeding herself a bottle? No, no, no! I want to hold her in my arms and feed her!) Obviously it brings me great joy when she reaches a new milestone, but it's always accompanied by this strange, bittersweet feeling that my tiny girl is growing so incredibly fast and I will never get this time back. And, looking back, there is so much I would have done differently if only I had known.

*Enter mommy guilt.* (But that's a whole other post.)

But it's OK. It's my job to help her grow and learn and set her free someday. I am SO thankful that I get to be with her while she is small. I am such a sentimental person that I tend to want to hold on to each precious stage of her life so that I never forget, but I can't. And now I know that as a mom, those memories are etched on my heart forever and ever. I couldn't forget what it felt like to hold my baby in my arms or the smell of her hair or the first time she smiled at me if I tried. This is the first time in my life where I'm not so focused on the
destination that I miss the journey. Perhaps motherhood is God's way of
reminding me that the journey is actually the best part. All I can do is be present every day. And count my blessings on each one of her ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes.

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Moms… what do you miss the most about when your kids were babies?

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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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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.

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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