October 18, 2015

the Woods

If you know me well, then you know I love trees. I am at home with the underbrush and the dappled light. Growing up, I lived in a house at the edge of the woods. One of my earliest memories is going into the backyard woods with my mom and climbing and walking on a fallen down log and also hunting for mushrooms. In kindergarten, the land behind our house slid. They thought it was mine subsidence, but eventually ruled against it I think. It changed the landscape of our backyard, and many trees came down. We no longer walked on the log, and I don't think we ever found any morels after that either.

But as I got bigger, I started going further into the woods. I remember trying to follow my sister and her friends on a hike by the creek and not being able to keep up. I couldn't make it from rock to rock like they could to make their way up the creek. I kept growing though and I came into my own relationship with the woods.

I had my favorite spots... the old girl scout camp, the double sycamore on the hill, the clearing, and most of all the tiny waterfall (like 1 foot high) right behind my house. When I was young there was a giant log that stretched across the steep banks of the creek. It was covered in ivy and made a curtain hanging down to the creek, and when you passed through it, there was the waterfall! Just above the shelf of the waterfall, the creek took a couple turns and was spread out over a wide rocky bottom. Frequently, the water did not cover all the rock so soft moss did instead. It was beautiful.

In grade school, I occasionally used the woods as a short cut to get to or from a friend's house and I would use the ivy covered log as a bridge. I even made the trek barefoot once, just because I could.

Most of the time I would spend my time among the trees alone, but sometimes, I would take my friends for adventures. My best friend and I tried carving our initials into a tree along the bank. I still know which tree it is, and there's still a mark at the bottom that looks like it could be my "A" but I don't know for sure.

The woods were an endless source of treasure and history for me as well. Old glass bottles were a common find (I think we even used a couple for our wedding centerpieces) and old bricks and railway markers from the coal mining days. In fifth grade we read Where the Red Fern Grows for school. It was such a sad book, and I will always remember the ending. He left his ax stuck in a tree in the woods, and describes many years past when the handle will be rotted off. Well, my friend and I happened across a fallen rotting tree, and in the hollow of that tree we found a rusted ax head just like the book. I kept that ax head for years and years up until we moved out of that house a few years ago, and between my parents and us I think we still have it somewhere...

For a short time during my childhood, the woods got really popular because of a rope swing that someone made. It was really quite dangerous, as you started on a steep slope and swung out very high above the rocky creek. It didn't take long before someone fell and got hurt. Either the rope broke during the accident or someone cut the rope high enough that it couldn't be reached anymore, but that piece of rope still hangs there today.

When I first brought Tyler to my hometown, it was important to take him through the woods. It seems like an essential part of really showing people who I am... Hi, I'm Amy. Please meet my woods! They are a big part of me.

We've since had plenty of our own memories in the woods, including finding our wheel (which we have displayed proudly in our front yard)!

Yesterday was a special day. We took Hazel for her first hike in my woods. She slept most of the way but she was awake at the beginning and could hear our feet crunching through the leaves.

I desire to provide Hazel with a special childhood. I want it to be full of wonder. I dream of fairy forests, mushroom tea parties, and lightning bug firework shows. I think spending time in nature is the best source of wonder and humbleness. It is incredible in its power and stillness. Through the calm of a peaceful day the woods are still bursting with life and possibility. Within their boughs, the trees hold a magic that whispers to my heart and I hope the same enchantment will grow within her as well.

Hazel woke up in time to enjoy the beautiful sun shining through the clearing at the end of our hike. We soaked up the warmth of the sun after walking through chilly shadows.

We played together on a mossy log, just like I did with my mom.

{  and I'm lucky to have a husband who knows how special it is to me - who also captured it so beautifully  }


October 16, 2015

7 Months of Hazel

Dear Hazel Basil,

Today you woke up as a seven month old baby. This morning you slept in a little bit, and when I heard you gurgling to yourself I went into the bedroom to see you, and you were double-fisting your pacifiers. You weren't totally awake yet, but you were just content with your eyes closed trying to get both pacifiers in your mouth at once. I'm sorry to say, but I think you've inherited my large thumbs. I had to wake you up because your thumb was stuck in the middle of your pacifier, which sometimes happens, and I always worry that it's cutting off all of your circulation to it. So I popped it off (it really does make a loud popping noise) and you were awake! ...and smiling of course.

You currently weigh approximately 16.6 pounds and are (your dad took the measurement and can't remember) inches long. You are a long and lean little bean, so you've grown out of a lot of your clothes length wise. You can pretty solidly wear 9 month onesies and we just went out and bought you a bunch of 12 month sleepers to accommodate your long baby legs. You are definitely a 12 month in pants too because every other size is just capris at this point.

Food! You are eating real food now. You started off with sweet potatoes, then squash, carrots, and most recently avocado. You are pretty funny when you're trying new foods, sometimes you really don't like them at first and scrunch up your face, shudder, and stick your tongue way out. Today you were even making gagging noises because of the avocado (even though you really enjoyed it last night).

You are jibbering and jabbering quite a bit. You like to say dadadadadadadadada although you don't actually associate it as  a name for your dad yet.

You sit really sturdily, and you're a strong stander (with help still). You're not officially crawling yet, but you're getting there! You want to move forward, and sometimes you lay on your belly and hit the floor like you're trying to say, "okay, let's go!" You have the individual motions down, but you just need to get a little stronger and more coordinated to put them together. I'm convinced if I could find you some rubber pants that would provide a little more traction, you'd be army crawling all over the hard wood floor.

We have a lot of fun playing with you. You love action play, like having your dad turn you upside down, or singing the tick-tock song at Books for Babies where to get to swing from side to side. As you can see by my many blurry pictures, you're always moving. You also like to get kisses, and I can frequently make you giggles by covering your face in smooches.

All of your toys have been getting good use lately. You really seem to like them all. You frequently shake your rattle toys and bang your block together or on the wood floor to make lots of noise. You like to play in an upright position in your walker too (in which you can only move backwards) because I think it makes you feel like a big girl.

You have been working on your pinching skills. Instead of grabbing with your whole hands you can now use just your pointer and thumb. You like to practice pinching my hair while nursing.

One of my favorite things you do right now happens when you are really tired and we lay you in your bed. There's no fussing or mussing, you just stick your pacifier in your mouth, roll over, and stick that little tushie high in the sky. Cutest thing ever!

Sometimes you sleep pretty well, but other times you still wake up a lot! I think you slept through the night once this month, but you're really just all over the map when it comes to sleep still. We thought you'd be sleeping better after we introduced "solid" foods to you, but at the same time your teeth decided it was time to come in so that may have hindered any progress... That's right, you have two bottom teeth that poked through your gums a little over a week ago!

The scariest moment this month was when your highchair tipped forward at a restaurant. I always leave the bar up on your car seat when it's on a high chair for this very purpose (I frequently prep for worst case scenarios in my head), so luckily the bar hit the table instead of your face, but it was a close call and very scary for me! You weren't hurt and probably didn't even notice anything happened...

Your dad has had a lot of fun shopping with you this month. I sent you guys on a big grocery shopping quest to get things in preparation for a party we had, and despite a head bumping, you both pulled through. We also all went to a toy store and he had a blast playing with the floor piano and helping you ride on a ball bike.

You bring so many smiles to our lives! Not just the amazing one that you flash at us, but also the ones that you bring out in us and in all the strangers around you. I think it's impossible to look at you for more than a minute without smiling. You are a such a little light. and we love you more and more each day. Even when my heart feels full, you manage to make some more room.

Love you little one,

{  Play hard, sleep hard  }
{  Aunt Cath and Court came to visit!!  }

{  I am making an open complaint to Google for making it so difficult to upload photos in the right orientation! This momma doesn't have time to fiddle with this!  }

{  1st time apple picking - for her and Aunt Cathy!!  }

{  What are these, Dad?  }

{  I'm not too sure, Aunt Court...  }

{  Helping me plant bulbs in my garden  }

{  Baby fashionista  }

{  We had our first full girls weekend while her dad was on a hunting trip. This is when I ruined her world by explaining what hunting was...  }

{  Sweet morning face at school drop-off  }

{  She was really proud to be a CSU Ram this month  }

{  Yes, I'm pretty sure she can see into your soul with those blues.  }

{  I can't sit and look at you, momma, because this chalk really needs to be wiped off...  }


October 14, 2015

Sounds of the Season: Fall

Something that I have loved about working from home is the ability to listen to music throughout the day. In my previous office, the occasional sports radio coming from the cubicle next to me was as close as I got. Working from home can be a little lonely (have you heard about how I made friends with a spider outside my window and named her Charlotte?) but it is less lonely with some good tunes setting the vibe.

I have a very mixed taste in music, however, during these fleeting autumn weeks I get pretty specific in the music I listen to. There's certain music that is just so FALL to me. I am always nostalgic at this time of the year, and so I tend to lean toward more melancholy melodies to be my soundtrack.

As I was thinking about some of my fall favorites, I decided to make a YouTube playlist... and since I was going through the trouble to make a playlist, I wanted to share it. So please take a listen and enjoy this beautiful season to a beautiful set of songs.

Some of these songs have been my go-to's for years, and some are brand new to me. I hope this list speaks to you and helps you heighten your autumn mood.

My current song crush.

Remember those headphone stations at Borders? Back in highschool, that's where my friend, Jordan, and I discovered the Weepies. If I remember correctly, we were looking up Dolly Parton's Jolene and ended up listening to the Weepies' Jolene. It's been love with them ever since! 

Who doesn't need a good Shins kick from time to time? Eh? Eh?

What is it about songs titled Jolene? I haven't met one I didn't like. 

I have my friend, Austin, to thank for sharing this one back in the day!

You don't get a more fitting song for fall than this one. 

I didn't know I liked any Death Cab for Cutie songs, and I certainly didn't know they sang this until I just looked it up... Never would have guessed.

I'm so thankful that I was studying in a Fort Collins coffee shop on the fateful day that I first heard this song. It has my birthday in it, and I liked it so much I made the barista figure out who was singing it because I knew I'd be listening to it forever more. This is not her last appearance on this playlist.

This one is pretty new to me. "...when you run make sure you run to something and not away from..."

I remember singing this in the hallway of the dorms freshman year of college with Madi while Nick played along on the guitar. I miss freshman year, you guys!!!

I shared this song in a post a few years ago in the fall as well. The video makes me so happy. Do yourself a favor and take the long way home while the trees are at their prettiest!

Gotta have some Swifty. I think this is her only song that's haunting enough to make this list. Also, does anyone else get this confused with the intro of Burning House?

The Mumford & Sons Pandora station is frequently playing in my house these days.

If anybody has wintergreen corduroys, consider yourself lucky!

I love this song. I teared up the first time I saw the Chipotle short film with the Willie Nelson version. It still gives me goosebumps (not sure if this is normal)... and when they hold hands at the end. Gah! Check it out if you've never seen it. And if you've made it this far in the playlist perhaps you'll "go back to the start!"

{{  Click here to play all  }}
If you think of some similar music/songs/artist that would make a good addition, please let me know! I'm always up for falling in love with more music.

EDIT: I've already thought of more I want to add! I will probably continue adding to this playlist as I go!


October 5, 2015

Techno Age

I want to first take a moment to address my last post... I hope it didn't come off as too rant-y. It really wasn't meant to be. And it definitely wasn't directed at anyone. It is a phenomenon that I've mostly observed and wanted to touch on, as well as offer words of encouragement!!

I have not been sleeping well the past few days (hello, teething!?), and I really should be napping instead of blogging, so please bear with me!

Today, I wanted to address technology. Throughout pregnancy and parenting so far we've really had a lot of fun with all that the latest technology has to offer. 

There are so many useful apps and devices out there and I'd love to share a few. 

During pregnancy, I used BabyBump. This is one of the apps that compares your growing fetus size to fruits and vegetables and let's you know what's going on in there. It's fun to know what your baby looks like along the way.

When I thought I was going into labor and having contractions I used ContractionTimer. Pretty straight forward.

Once Hazel was born we used Baby Daybook to track diapers and feedings (which was easier to do than remembering to log it on the sheet of paper the hospital provides). I love this app. We used it for the first few weeks pretty religiously. It synced between both my phone and Tyler's so it didn't matter who changed her or pressed start or stop to log a nursing session. I liked it while we were still figuring out nursing because I knew exactly how long she had nursed on each side. It was also nice that Tyler could get a peek at our day when he was at work (I'm not sure if he actually did that much, but it was nice to have the option). This app has the ability to track so much more than what we used it for. You can track pumping sessions, naps, tummy time, baths, walks, etc. I still have it downloaded because now when Hazel is sick I use it to log her temperature and medication. I was so happy I did this when I took her to the doctor and they asked for a pretty specific fever history. No way would I have been able to answer accurately without this log!

Another one we use now is Tinybeans. It is a fun way for us to share pictures and track milestones. Family can get access to our account to see what we enter too. I like that it is in a calendar format so you can really keep track of when certain things happened! There's an option too, to buy a photobook that they automatically create from all that you've uploaded. When I peeked at this, it seemed a little pricey, but still pretty cool especially if you aren't crafty or just plain have no time to put something together. 

An informational app we refer to is Wonder Weeks. It let's us know about typical developmental milestones and helps us get a sense for when Hazel might be going through a "leap" based upon her due date. It predicts time periods that she may be crankier than others because of these leaps, and it's reassuring to know that a fussy phase is probably just because of "such and such" development and isn't just her new personality! It gives suggestions for helping her through her leaps and for fostering the new things that she's learning.

We also use white noise apps for nap time when needed. I use Lightning Bug and Tyler uses another one that sounds like a train track. For some reason I was against using white noise at first (who knows why?) but now I love it because I think it helps her go to sleep easier and stay asleep longer. Win, win! We don't use it all the time, but when it's needed, it's really helpful! -- This also helps with my goal of being on my phone less (see below) because when she's napping, my phone is in with her serving a more important purpose.

Our neatest gadget that we got, is probably our Dropcam. It's a wifi enabled camera that let's us see what's going on from a phone or computer from afar. Before Hazel was born we set it up to watch Norbert during the day. We caught some naughty footage of his eating a bag of Brillo pads (looking around to make sure no one was watching) and also getting food off the kitchen counters. It has a microphone as well, so if we caught him in the act we could tell him "No!" You can watch live, or it stores a little bit of footage so you can rewind a little bit to see something. I love that we have the ability to save footage off of it too. If Hazel takes her first steps in the nursery while the camera is on, we can still be in the moment with her instead of reaching for a recording device because we'll have the ability to save the footage from the camera. When Tyler is away, I'll sometimes let him know if we're hanging out in there or if Hazel did something really cute, so he can take a look. He can even talk to us through it. It even has night vision so when Hazel eventually starts sleeping in her own room we'll be able to check on her without disturbing her.

While all of this is really cool and helpful, it has become apparent already to me how difficult it is going to be to navigate the technology world with our baby. We haven't introduced Hazel to any baby screen time yet, other than the overflow of what we are doing, like watching a show while we nurse or play or just using our phones. It was amazing to me when these screens switched from being something in the background that she never noticed, and turned into a beautiful, interesting thing to stare at. It makes me much more aware of what we are doing and the amount of exposure she gets. She is already drawn to my phone like a bug to light. She knows it's something special and she really wants to eat it. I was actually prompted to write this post when she started crying after I turned the screen of my phone off while she was looking at it. I am amazed how well she automatically smiles at it when I whip it out for photos (which I do constantly). 

I try not to use it too much in front of her, but I still do way too much. Screen time is addicting, and I would really like to set good examples for her because she is obviously learning these things ALREADY. It is very hard though. Especially when I am constantly trying to share pictures with our family who isn't around. It's easy to go from taking a picture, to texting it out, to posting it on Instagram or Facebook, and next thing I know I'm mindlessly scrolling. 

Tyler and I both downloaded an app call Quality Time that tracks how much we use our phones, and it is astonishing and rather depressing. This same app has the ability to lock you out of certain apps at set times. so we've both implemented family time periods. Isn't that sad? Even with this knowledge that I am on it too much, I still do it... it's so easy to be sucked in. We have to have our phones block us instead of our natural self control. Looking at the screen is just like quicksand.

I urge you to give this app (or one like it) a try! See how much you are looking at your phone everyday. For many it will be a huge wake-up call. I used to think I wasn't too addicted because I frequently leave my phone at home when we are out doing things as a family, but this app has showed me that when it's with me, it's an issue.

I know technology is going to play a huge part in Hazel's life and I want her to be able to use it well, but I'm not ready to formally introduce it to her yet. I am astounded at how intuitive small children are with devices. I want her to be able to tap into that because I think it will he helpful to her long term, but I am concerned about it's effects on outdoor and imaginative play. My strategy at the moment is to delay sitting her in front of a screen as long as possible, and try not to have too much of our screen time overflow into her time. If I need additional entertainment while I'm home alone with her, I'd like to try podcasts or other audio recreation. I figure even with these efforts she will STILL have enough involvement with screens and devices she'll know exactly how to use them before we ever try to teach her.

This is something I would actually love some advice and discussion on. Parents of small children what is your stance on screens and your kids? How do you manage? Please share in the comments below!

To my amazement, I've written this whole post without Hazel waking up... I totally should have taken a nap.