Thursday, November 28, 2013

Truly Thankful.

I sit here on the couch with a sweet baby boy falling asleep on my chest while my husband cleans up the leftover Thanksgiving meal after having prepared the whole feast. Wow, grateful.

My head fills with the memories of the meals we shared with each of our families last week and the love that we share. Grateful.

I'm thankful for a year of new beginnings. For a year of life. Shedding my anxiety-ridden state of last fall, creating and growing new life, and then fostering that life now that he is outside of myself. It's been my heart's desire since I can remember to be a mother and this year it came to fruition.

Ian at two weeks.
Though there are times that are hard, cries that are inconsolable, and shirts covered in spit-up and we don't know what the next months or next year holds for residency and moving, there's so much peace about this season of my life. I am where I am supposed to be. The giggles, the smiles, and the comfort he shows when returned to my arms are constant affirmations of this truth.

I'm grateful to have Jim as my partner in this parenthood journey. And grateful he supports and encourages me to be at home with our boy.

Photo-bombed, but it's now my favorite belly picture!

I'm thankful to all of our family and friends who have supported us as we've embarked on this new endeavor. Many with meals, cards, packages, emails, phone calls, messages, and texts. Thank you for walking with us in this life. We are incredibly grateful.
The three of us. Yep, Ian's in there sleeping!
I'm moved to tears in thanksgiving.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Never have I ever... (2 months/9 weeks)

... lived a faster set of two months. Not even when I was a teacher and the summers would fly by. Not even when I was working my dream job in Wyoming, leading students through the beautiful Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. The job of being a mother is certainly the best one yet and that must be why it's flown so quickly. Unlike any of my other jobs, this one is 24/7 with no breaks for the entire two months and none coming in the future. That's enough to make any time fly by, no matter how hard, exhausting, full, dynamic, and exciting. And it's been all of those.

Ian has certainly proven himself as a good traveler so far. Not only did we take him all of the way to NW Pennsylvania from Southern Virginia, but we traveled to Columbus, Ohio for a residency interview, and then back to NW PA and then to each of our family's houses. He's a trooper.

It was definitely bittersweet to bid farewell to our family in NW Pennsylvania. We had gotten into the routine of sharing meals each night, drinking coffee together in the mornings, visiting each abode, and just knowing that the others were nearby. We have always been close. I'm very grateful to have family like them; incredibly warm, thoughtful, and welcoming.
Heidi & Ian

Since we aren't sure if Jim has Thanksgiving off until he starts his new rotation on Monday, we celebrated early with each family. On Sunday we had a big turkey dinner with Jim's parents, Erin & Russ, and Christine. It was Erin's first time meeting Ian and she gave him lots of sweet cuddles.
Then his sisters went home and we enjoyed Monday with his parents, since Kim took the day off. We visited the town of Intercourse (yep, that's the name!) and went to The Old Country store. It's an awesome old store filled with handmade goods, quilts, a quilt museum, books, and LOADS of beautiful fabric (Marianne, you'd be in heaven!). Afterward we enjoyed a picnic at "The Ladybug Park" a park name coined by Jim when he was a young boy. This park was a walk away from his childhood home in Lancaster, PA. These trees were named "Jim's woods." The trees have gotten much bigger, and so has the boy, since the name was bestowed on them. Ian slept through this whole walk down memory lane, but he was present!
Grandpa & Ian
Ian and Gramee. If only we could know what he's thinking!
Walk at Ladybug Park
Jim's Woods. Still a boy at heart :)
Next we moved on to my parents' home for Thanksgiving! We got to visit with my parents and Willem, which was really nice. Phoebe was still at school, unfortunately. Mom took the day off on Wednesday to be with us and prepare a delicious feast, but mostly to cuddle Ian. Who can fault these grandmas for taking time off to be with this little one?!
We took a hike up to Paris View with the dogs and Ian immediately fell asleep in the Boba. It was a beautiful day for a walk and the wind, which can be quite horrible on this open walk, was mild and enjoyable.
There's a sleeping baby hidden in this picture.
Then I attempted to help Mom in the kitchen, but promptly cut off the tip of my finger and was benched. Good ploy to get out of the kitchen, eh? We enjoyed a delicious meal when Dad got home from SCORE. Thank you for celebrating early with us!
Haha! I love this.
Ian & Grumps

Uncle Willem held him and played with him multiple times. He was so impressed with his leg strength and all-around strength. He joked that Ian will be able to bust down doors with one fist when he's older. A funny image to ponder.

On November 18th, Ian's second month birthday, he giggled for the first time! We were in the car and I was smiling at him and talking to him... I must be a hilarious person. His smiles are still hard for me to catch on camera because he immediately starts studying the camera when I put it to my face. But looking directly into my eyes often elicits a smile. I'll savor that! He made many a family member happy with showing them a big gummy smile during our visits. He also likes to rub his gums with his tongue and that brings loads of smiles.

Not only has he discovered his tongue, but he loves to suck on his hand. He has not quite figured out how to get his fingers in his mouth, but he's almost there. I've witnessed his thumb in his mouth once so far.

He's making more cooing sounds these days. Sometimes he'll make the sound back and forth with us for a while, which is really fun! That often brings a smile out of him. The sounds are quite soft and sweet.

Ian has started to fall asleep on his own sometimes. Up until now I have always snuggled and sung him to sleep. But sometimes, when I know he's about to fall asleep, I try putting him down before he's actually out. He's been living in five different homes over the last week and did well, considering! We're also transitioning from co-sleeping to putting him in the bassinet. It pulls at my heart to not have him right next to me in the bed, but he's still very close.

Baby Einstein
Our two month is now growing out of 3 month clothes and into 6 months. WHAT? Sizes really very depending on the company or clothes, but still! It's amazing how fast they grow.

He enjoys having his hair washed and looks so cute afterward. Hello Einstein!

Ian is also the baby who never stops moving. Must take after his mother. I was the same way. He kicks and kicks, flails and flails, pushes up, holds his neck up, you name it... he's moving. We've started placing toys that make noises around him, so that when he kicks or hits them they make a noise, Here's a picture that captures our active two month old and his mooooovement.

Happy two months, Ian!!!

You love: smiling when you hear our voices or see our faces, 
pushing up with your legs, sucking your hand, 
riding face-out in the Boba, sleeping on my chest, being sung to sleep,
& the bouncy seat.

We love you, love you.


2 Month Appointment Details: Ian weighed 15.3 lbs. (94.17%), his head circumference was 16 inches (90.3%), and he was 24.5 inches long (96.77%)!!! Wow! 

The nurse asked me if I wanted her to do the shots on her own, or for me to hold the legs, which would take a shorter amount of time. I held the legs, which was horrible, and Ian immediately began screaming as soon as she stuck him with the first shot. Horrible, I say. He cried for a good few minutes until I nursed him and he calmed down. But he had a fever through the night, which we monitored and gave him Tylenol for. Poor guy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

8 weeks!

Ian has now officially spent half of his life in Virginia and half of his life in Pennsylvania.

Let me just say that eight is great. Week eight was quite full and good. When we first arrived in Pennsylvania I felt like a slug, thought like a slug, and moved like a slug. Four weeks later I have been exercising with my aunt's class, going on outings without worrying about timing and getting in a nap for myself, and I feel like some of my mental functions have returned. I said "some." Haha. Certainly not all.

First snow
This week Ian experienced his first two snows! The first came and went within a day, but this mama had him out for a photo-shoot, in case it was all we got. The second snow came and has lasted a good while. As you can see, Ian currently enjoys being warm and cozy in the snow. One day I'm sure he'll be throwing snowballs and sledding up a storm.

Julie & Hazel singing to Ian
Now our four weeks in Pennsylvania are coming to a close and we are mourning this, as are our family members here. It's been a great month full of family dinners, outings, visits with Grandma (Ian's Gigi), morning chats over breakfast with Aunt Beth, visits with Julie and her family, and even a multigenerational nap in my grandma's living room. We're sad to say goodbye, but this may be in our future if we should come here for residency. Stay tuned.

One thing I've never mentioned but don't want to forget is how Ian sighs after he sneezes. It's adorable. He'll sneeze, often twice, and then make a really sweet sigh of relief. I'd love to capture it on camera one day, but sneezes are hard to predict ;)

Last week was BIG for Ian & me and outings. I went to Gibsonia with Aunt Beth for haircuts with her sister-in-law, Laney. I wanted a change: thinner hair and shorter, since Ian had started to grab it with his fists. I know it still looks thick, but you should have seen the hair on the floor when she was done! Then we went shopping at IKEA with Laney, her daughter Michelle, and Michelle's baby, Luca. My goal was to get a wooden play yard, but they don't make them anymore! Bummer. But, you can always find something you "need" at IKEA. Eek.

Since they didn't have what I was looking for, we made our own at home. Marianne, my cousin who lives in Germany, skyped with us and gave me the idea to just use a broom handle to make my own little gym for him. So, that's what I did! It works just swell. Though he's not looking at it in this photo, he has been focusing on things hanging in front of him and occasionally hits the toy, though probably not on purpose.
So strong!

Then on Saturday we went to two birthday parties outside of Pittsburgh and then to Julie & Aunt Beth's book club. What a great day that was! It was nice to spend time with the girls (& Ian) and then sit in on a great discussion in their book group. Let me just say that Ian was AWESOME both of these big outing days. He's a trooper and I am so grateful.

Look how strong he is now! Whoa baby, you aren't looking very newborn-y!

Saturday night Jim wanted to take a shift, so I could get some sleep again. We had gotten back late from the book club, so I went to bed at midnight. Jim never came for me and at 6:30 I was well-rested and desperate for my baby! It was amazing to have so many hours of sleep straight through. Thanks, Hon! I realized that 6.5 hours was definitely the longest I've been away from him since he was born. I woke up a few times in the night wanting to check on him, but talked myself out of it knowing that he was safe with Jim.

We had a family day on Sunday and FINALLY carved the pumpkins we got the first weekend here. We made a family of pumpkins and had plans to put pilgrims hats on them for Thanksgiving, but never made it around to that.

Aunt Beth directs Venango Chorus, which is a community choir through Clarion University. I finally went and sang with them on Monday night and had a blast. What a fun group of people and she's a great director. Ian fell asleep on the way there at 7 PM and did not wake up until 12:56 AM the next morning! 6 straight hours! Wild. Perhaps one day he'll time that for when Mama can sleep that whole time too. One can dream!

 Here's a shot of Ian after a bath. I love the smell of a freshly cleaned baby. He's starting to enjoy baths a lot. Aunt Beth has the sprayer faucet attachment on her kitchen sink and so it's like a little baby shower. He kicks and pats the water and doesn't get upset during bath time (very often) anymore.

Smiles are much more prevalent! He loves smiling at his parents, but they are still somewhat difficult to capture on camera. He really responds to voices.
 We went to The Pinery briefly and visited our neighbors, the Riggs. It was a nice visit and they gave Ian the cutest little mittens! I'm excited to introduce Ian to The Pinery and the Clarion River this summer. He'll be a bit more agile by then and it will be warm enough to dip his toes in the water! This visit we went on our first walk down River Road, a walk he'll do for years to come. Ella, a dear neighbor, made him a beautiful blue baby blanket (seen in the last picture) and a small blanket for the carseat. So sweet! Thank you, Ella!

I just love this shot. Feeling neglected, Leif? Don't worry, he still gets attention and walks.
Ian still dons red hair, though his roots are starting to be a light blondish color. We shall see!
 Jim snapped this photo during the pumpkin carving. It cracks me up! Caught in the act? Not sure what you could do while strapped in the bouncer seat?

This week Ian has started making more sounds. He enjoys making a sound and hearing us imitate it back to him. Then he'll make it again. He smiles a lot when we do this. Jim was the first to really talk back and forth with him. It was a fun night!

Happy eight weeks, Ian Forrester!!!

You certainly light up our lives with those sweet blue eyes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Veterans Day & Grampy

Yesterday's Veterans Day was quite different this year. Many of the veterans in my life have moved on to heaven within the last year or so. My grandpa was the first to pass, having served in Guadalcanal. Then my uncle John, who served in Vietnam. And finally, Jim's Grampy, who passed away early on Saturday morning, who served in World War II as well.

Each of these men touched our lives so deeply. Each of these men were our heroes. Each of these men will live on in our hearts. And each one will certainly live on in the stories we'll tell to Ian throughout the years.

Living here in Pennsylvania for these last three weeks, I have felt the sting and the empty seats at the dinner tables. This is where my grandpa and Uncle John lived. These are the trees my grandpa trimmed, returning to the house for lunch smelling of pine, gasoline, and spearmint gum. My sleeping arrangements are above the workshop where my uncle designed much of the furniture around his home. Their presences are felt, but still I yearn to hear their familiar voices and enjoy the comfort of having them near.

Saturday we learned that Jim's grandpa, Shirley Barlow, passed away early in the morning. I've met him a couple times, but most of what I know comes from stories Jim has shared over the years.

Grampy served in the Navy as a pilot in Japan during World War II.

He was a handsome fellow with a great, curly, thick head of red hair.  I once saw a picture of him in a leather jacket with his hair slicked back and he looked like a character straight out of the movie Top Gun. Some family members think Ian may have inherited his red hair. We'll see in time.

Red Barlow worked for General Electric as a foreman for most of his life after the Navy.

Grampy met Jim's Grammy, and was five years her junior, when she stayed in his family's boarding house. They fell in love and were devoted for sixty-eight full years. When we visited the two of them this past January, they were still holding hands and speaking tenderly to each other. A beautiful testimony of marriage.

Jim fondly remembers their home in upstate New York. They lived in Duanesburg and raised their five children there. The home was a small building when they purchased it, but they added additions over the years and dug a basement and foundation around the existing building. Grampy was a hard worker, always finding a new project. He would cut down cedar trees on his property and make shingles out of them to place and replace those on the side of his house.

The property had a pond, that they put in, and a beautiful creek with large slabs of rock creating cascades of water down its entirety. Jim would spend hours creek-walking and exploring the evergreen woods surrounding the creek.

In the mornings, Jim remembers, Grampy would head down into his basement and lift weights. He had a set of barbells. The pond was where Grampy would take his morning dip after his workout. Even in the wintertime, he would place a window frame on the surface so that he could take his plunge into the ice cold water. If Jim got up early enough, he would go down and watch his grandfather lift weights and then travel up to the pond with him. Occasionally he'd join him in his swim.

Jim always remembers Grampy loved having pets. He often had a big dog that he would dote on and enjoy. He had lots of dogs; one was named Bear. We brought Leif with us last Christmas and he really enjoyed getting to pet and joke with him.

Both of them also loved birds. There were many bird feeders outside their windows throughout the year and they'd watch them come and go.

Grampy was a strong specimen until only a few short years ago. An example for Jim of what he'd like to be in his old age. We are saddened by his loss and are grateful for the hope we have of being with him again, when age and memory won't play a role in our interactions.

Rest in peace, Shirley "Red" Barlow.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Nailed It.

This is an awesome article on the first year of being a mother/parent. I am going to be reading this often throughout this year. Thank you, Mary, for passing this along!
Papa & Ian
I read and read and read books before he was born and they soothed and comforted me at the time, but I have had to trust my intuition VERY MUCH now that he's in my arms. Some tips have been helpful, I've returned to some books for specific information I knew I'd read/seen, and I've thrown some stuff out the window. This article has been my favorite since he was born.

Ten True Things About the First Year of Parenthood

"Here’s the truth: you don’t know much of anything.  A year from now,  after your fantastic kid turns one, you won’t know much of anything still.  Gather wisdom around you.  Learn from your mistakes.  Stay humble.  Stay open.  When you know better, do better.  Be a better parent tomorrow than you were today, always, everyday, as often as you can.  Try things out and leave them behind shamelessly if they don’t work out.  Life isn’t a contest or a game – it’s simply only beautifully life. Live the minutes instead of scoring them.  Love that incredible baby."

Breastfeeding at the pumpkin patch.
#7 "Start stretching because it's time to get flexible."
Please take a minute to check out this article if you're in your first year, a parent, or not! It should at least give you a couple chuckles ;)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Times Change

This past weekend we experienced the fall-back time change. As a teacher I always adored this weekend, getting an extra hour of sleep, feeling refreshed, and getting just a little more time to enjoy my coffee and start my day. Until, that is, a few days later when my body quickly adjusted and I felt exhausted again. The students always seemed more fresh and awake, as well, that first day back at school after the time change.
Getting ready for a bath in the sink!
Times have certainly changed. Sleeping, eating, using the bathroom, conversations, and more, all revolve around Ian. And they should. And I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm very aware of the fact that sometime this week I would have had to return to work, if I was teaching/working this year. Many friends and family have done so and I am now aware of just how hard this would be. Wow.

This week Ian has continued to become more social and aware. He smiles quite often and more often at people than before, but they are still elusive. He can often be seen smiling for no apparent reason, just smiling away.

He is an incredibly active and strong baby. His neck muscles are almost completely developed, so we have started wearing him facing out in front of us in the Boba wrap. He loves getting to look around! It's been such a blessing this week to be able to start wearing him this way. Normally we could not put him in the wrap unless he was tired and ready to fall asleep, but now we can use the wrap often and he's content. It's also so adorable :)

The rest of his body also continues to be strong. He really enjoys pushing up from a squat to stand, supported, in our laps or on the floor. His eyes get so big and excited with each push.

One of our cousin's friends brought over one of these bouncing chairs last week. At first Ian had NO interest in spending time in it, but Monday he has enjoyed sitting in it first thing in the morning. He's able to look at the hanging toys and sounds and study them now, which he wasn't able to do just last week! It's great for me because I am able to make myself a bowl of granola, get dressed, and brush my teeth before he starts to get fussy. Then it's normally time for a walk with Leif and Ian's first nap of the day!

This weekend Jim's parents came to visit. Ian was, once again, surrounded by love and cuddles. He's one loved little boy. We went on a nice, long walk with them around the property and in the field across the road. The whole time we walked, Ian rode in the Boba with his Grammy and napped. It was a nice visit and we look forward to more time with them in two weeks!

Jim gave me a huge gift last Saturday and kept Ian through two nighttime feedings! I got almost a whole five hours of solid sleep before he brought him back to me. I had to sleep far away because any cries are impossible for me to avoid or sleep through. The next day I felt like a new person. I think that a part of my brain was allowed to function again. It was wonderful and I think it has continued to help me through this week. Thanks, Jim!

I have gone to my aunt's exercise class two times this week. That's saying something because I have felt like a blob with a mush brain up until this point. I have gone on walks with Leif in the field, but not anything strenuous. It feels so good to go out and be social and get the morning started with some structured exercise! The class is also almost perfectly timed with Ian's first morning nap. Perfect.

Here comes the "You know you're a new mom when..." moment of the week. On Sunday we went to church with my grandma, aunt, and cousin. When it came time for Ian to nurse, I hopped out of the sanctuary and into the conference room where they have a speaker so that you can still hear the service. Since Ian had dropped a huge poop that morning, I left the diaper bag behind. BIG MISTAKE. He had a huge bowel movement and was very stinky while we were in the conference room. Ugh. So I took some paper towels, that were in the conference room, and wiped out the diaper and then folded a clean one inside to go against his skin. For the rest of the service we were smelling buttered popcorn (this is how my cousin, Julie, describes the smell and she's SO right).

My friend Amanda, my roommate when I worked at Teton Science Schools in Wyoming, made Ian an awesome dinosaur/dragon hat! It fits him so well and is perfect  for some of these chilly Pennsylvania days. Plus, what little boy doesn't love dinosaurs and dragons? Thank you SO much, Amanda! We love it.

The sixth week really was the peak of fussiness (for now)! The first half of his sixth week was incredibly fussy, but as the week wore on he has become so much more calm, predictable, and, dare I say, "easy." I feel like I am finally getting comfortable in knowing if he wants to feed, needs a diaper change, or needs to start settling into a nap. I also spent the first part of this week journaling his napping and nursing times to see if there was a trend and there was! He tends to take a half hour nap about an hour to an hour and a half after he wakes up. Then he takes another half hour to an hour nap again before lunch. His longest nap tends to be early afternoon. It's so nice to know this, so I can plan to sleep with him for that last nap! ;)

It's so exciting getting to know him just a little bit better each week. There are so many changes, but each one just keeps getting better and better. I love his strength. I love the way he has started cuddling for a bit after he wakes up from some naps. I love gazing into his eyes and having him hold my gaze for long periods of time and then to see him crack a smile... I'm in awe.

Hello week 7!!!