Daily Reads



I can hardly believe it, but it's been three months since our Samuel was born. It's bitter and it's sweet, watching the little ones come to life before our eyes. My heart aches for my tiny Sam, just born, with his velvety little head, his fuzzy ears and shoulders, squeaking his little squeaks. But, every day brings new growth and new joy, so of course we all love to watch him change. This time around, my newborn experience has been marked with gratitude and enjoyment. I'm obsessing less and appreciating more than I did with Michael. I have loved these first few months of getting to know Sam and watching him grow. He has been a constant joy to us. We're just so thankful that he is part of our family.

He surprised us and came into the world three weeks early. I had mild contractions all day and didn't think much of them. Then, I had strong contractions all night and started to wonder if I was in labor. By lunchtime the next day we knew he was on the way. We took Michael to a friend's house and checked in to the hospital. In some ways the labor was easy - I had long breaks of up to 10 minutes between contractions - but the contractions were very strong and by the time I delivered him I had been in labor for over 30 hours and had only an hour or two of sleep. The doctor broke my water at 8:00 and at 8:09 Samuel was born, perfect and screaming mad. (I was screaming a little bit too. I had a botched epidural, and by the time I delivered my legs were dead numb and the rest of me was not. Just like a corny movie, I remember yelling at the end, "Get him out! Get him out!" Ha!)

I am certain that no matter how many times I give birth, I will always be overwhelmed with amazement and gratitude when I meet my new babies. They laid him on my chest and he was smaller than Michael was at birth. He had a different cry too. His little head was perfectly round and he had a different nose. I was astonished by all the things that were unique about him, and yet he was so familiar. I felt like he had always been mine. 

He's a good sleeper, praise the Lord! He loves to nap in our arms, or in the sling, or in the car. And at night he will sleep for 10 or 11 hours in his crib and only wake once to eat. He's calm and patient. He's happy and he loves to coo and smile and laugh when he's face to face with us. He loves Michael and watches his every move. He loves music - especially jazz, which makes his daddy so proud. When we put on a record he sits up straighter, breathes faster, and he often coos along. He loves to snuggle. He loves to be naked. And he loves to be outside. There are so many things we love about him - I can't even begin to name them. But I thank God for everything about him. The child I prayed for. My sweet Samuel.


A few weeks ago I learned that my favorite teacher had passed away. The news made me sad - she had been dealing with cancer on and off for at least twenty years, and left behind many grieving friends and family - but it also got me thinking about what made her so special among all the gifted teachers I've known.

I met her in 1994. I was a quiet, lanky little freshman, new to my school, and not confident of anything except (maybe) my ability to sing. I came to her office during lunch to audition for her choir - her best choir. I must have looked like a ten year old to her (I looked like a ten year old to everybody) but I will never forget the way she spoke to me and looked me in the eye, as if I was another adult. She handed me some sheet music, told me to look it over for a minute, gave me a pitch and had me sing. At the end of the piece she looked over her glasses and complimented me ("Very nice job, my dear!"), thanked me for coming by, and told me that the choir list would be up in a couple of days. No wasted time, no fanfare, no fluff. Just a few moments of kindness and a fair tryout for a timid girl.

I got into her choir, and for the next few years I had the privilege of spending an hour in her class every day. I loved that hour. Because I got to sing and make beautiful music with my friends, yes, but there were so many other reasons. In the world of immature judgements and social games that is high-school, her classroom was a peaceful oasis. She just wouldn't tolerate meanness or child-like behavior. Everyone was part of the team. Everyone's time was valuable. Everyone's feelings mattered. I only remember her losing her temper twice, and on both occasions one member of the choir had disrespected another.

Her classroom was a place of consistency. Other teachers were funnier or more flamboyant, but her appeal lay in the fact that she was always the same. Fair. Honest. Straight-forward. Kind. Every day we came to choir was the same routine - announcements, warm up, chipping away at learning new pieces of music one section at a time. She expected us to pay attention and work hard every single time. When we slacked off she didn't let it slip. And when we did a good job she told us she was proud. And we ate it up. We, fickle, too-cool-for-school teenagers needed her consistency, the structure of her high standards, and the warmth of her quiet approval. We loved her for it.

On top of it all, she made it her business to open our eyes to life beyond our little town in northern Montana. My teacher chose music that took us all over the world - to France, Italy, the deep South, Israel, Africa, and Broadway. We sang Gershwin, the Beatles, and old spirituals. Latin, Hebrew, French, and German. And we traveled. She loved to have fun and she arranged for us to go on a retreat every fall and a tour every spring. We saw musicals, ate in good restaurants, rode ferries and roller coasters, laughed and joked, and all along the way we performed. I think she must have enjoyed spoiling us on these trips. I like to think that she was proud to show us off, and maybe she felt like we were her kids a little bit. She even pranked us once - the whole choir - by secretly teaching our parents one of the songs we were performing, and then having them run up on stage with us during a concert. We were completely shocked! She got us good.

These are only some of my happy memories from her class, and I am only one of hundreds and hundred of students she touched. So, it was no surprise that after her passing there was a huge outpouring of love and appreciation. If you had asked her she would have said she never did anything outstanding or noteworthy. But my dear teacher lived a quiet life of hard work, love, kindness, and fairness. And one day at a time, one person at a time, she wrote a beautiful story.


Samuel Randall

He's here! Little Sam surprised us and arrived three weeks early on August 18th at 8:09 pm.
He was a tiny little thing - 7lbs 5oz and 20 inches - born healthy, strong, and screaming mad.
It's been the most overwhelming blessing to watch our family of three expand to four.
All three of us love him to pieces.


36 weeks and dating my Michael

Friday morning I woke up to my weekly pregnancy update on my phone:

Congratulations! You are 36 weeks (9 months) pregnant!

Even when you feel 9 months pregnant it's a little shocking to see it in print like that. Over the last couple of weeks I've been doing a great job of nesting and checking to-dos off my list, but I haven't been appreciating these last days alone with Michael as much as I should. So, I decided we'd go on a date that morning - no errands, no chores, just me and Michael doing things he loves. 

When the heat index is 108* (as it has been here for nearly a week), nothing sounds as good to me as the nice cold mall. It probably wouldn't have been Michael's first choice, but on this particular day I decided we'd go to the fancy mall - the one with a carousel, and a pet store, and a Disney store, and fountains and a giant fish tank - so I knew he'd be happy. Also, I had birthday money from my parents burning a hole in my pocket, and the fancy mall has the closest Anthro, so that settled it. We put on our fancy mall clothes and off we went. 

We were only there for two hours, and I didn't buy Michael anything but a pinkberry, but we had a great time. He took his sweet time and chose just the right animal to ride on the carousel (a frog). We spent 45 minutes at the pet store - Michael chattering away to the birds and rabbits, both of us fawning over a feisty little pup who looked just like my childhood pup, Patty. We tested the entire line of Toy Story toys at the Disney store very thoroughly. We shared our first pinkberry - good! - and rode the elevators. Michael ran along beside the stroller most of the time. I didn't rush him or direct him too much, I just kept snapping pictures and taking in his happiness.

Once we were back home I started to feel a little sad that this chapter is coming to an end. Most of the time I'm so focused on what's ahead with the new baby, I only feel excitement. But our morning together was so sweet and fun, and Michael has been my little sidekick for so long now, the realization that change was right around the corner made my stomach turn. Then I remembered that when I was a girl (in a family with four children) my Dad made time to do special dates with each of us. I loved those dates and they always made me feel so special. They were never fancy or expensive dates, but I got to choose what we did and the emphasis was on spending time together - going to the beach and taking pictures, going to an art museum, and going to the movies stand out as some of my favorite memories. 

So, instead of feeling sad I've made a resolution to start having regular dates with Michael. I'm hoping Tim and I can each have one special date with him per month - no baby brother, no pressure to get things done, no agenda - just enjoying some one-on-one time and letting Michael's happiness be our guide. It's such a simple concept, but one that gets lost in the day-to-day bustle far too easily. 


What Michael said

Michael: "Buzz Lightyear is sad, Mommy."
Me: "Oh no. What can we do to help him feel better?"
Michael: (He thinks for a minute.) "Take the blood pressure."

"He kicked me!" - With a big smile, feeling baby brother move in my tummy.

"Knock knock. Who's there? Boo. Don't cry it's a joke!" - Overheard, joke-telling to one of his toys.

"Bye Mom! I'm getting on the bus! I'm going to school to see my friends!" - Waving and carrying an Elmo lunchbox.

"Happy birthday song, Mommy. Coming right up!" -- He sings, dances from the waist up, and plays along on the iPad piano.


Pregnancy faves

pregnancy faves

During my pregnancy with Michael I took weekly belly shots, wrote letters to him here on the blog, wrote things down in my pregnancy book, and worked on Michael's baby book. Things are obviously different this time around. But over the last couple of weeks, I've been feeling the need to document a little bit more before our babe arrives and the two pregnancies permanently run together in my mind. (Documenting and nesting. That's all I seem to want to do these days. And eating ice cream.)

If I had written a 'pregnancy faves' post when I was pregnant with Michael the picture at the top would have looked so different. There would be a big deli sandwich, hot thai food, bagels with cream cheese, a dog leash and a picture of Ella's face, big comfy scrubs for work, my long coat that fit over my belly until the very end, and my favorite maternity cords that I wore out the winter I carried Michael. That pregnancy was all about comfort food and being cozy. This time cool and refreshing is what I crave. Here are a few of my favorites:

1 Tracy Anderson's pregnancy workouts - tailored to each month, they're effective and fun
2 Curel lotion - it's not glamorous, but it's inexpensive and it took good care of my skin the first time around!
3 Rosebud salve - my lips always seem to be dry when I'm pregnant and this heals them up fast
4 Iced tea - sweet and cold, even better when enjoyed on the front porch
5 Fudgesicles - the yummiest way I know to handle my mad sweet cravings
6 Peaches and strawberries - I can't get enough
7 iPregnancy - my favorite app for weekly pictures and info, storing information related to doctor visits, and counting down (63 days until due day!)
8 Old Navy maternity tanks - again, not glamorous, but they fit great and the price is right (I live in mine)


Three things

...about this pregnancy.

1. The first three months were rough. I found out I was pregnant at about 5 weeks. A few days later I started feeling really sick and tired. I never actually "got sick", but for the first three months I felt like I was getting over a bout of bad food poisoning - weak, sleepy, and nauseated by most foods. I lived on lots of cereal and clementine oranges and naps during that stage. And then, at 12 weeks I felt better! It was amazing how quickly it changed, and such a relief! I still don't want meat very much, but I've had lots of other (mostly sweet) cravings: peaches, ice tea, s'mores (with peanut butter), ice cream, strawberries, milk, hummus and greek salad, pizza, and popsicles.

2. It's possible that my memory is fuzzy, but this baby seems a lot more active than Michael was. I felt the first kicks at 15 weeks and they were strong! Ever since then, this little guy has been flipping and rolling and kicking almost constantly. I'm so interested (and a little scared) to see how his energy level compares with Michael. I thought Michael was active, but I think this one might keep me even more on my toes....

3. Once those first few yucky months were over, this pregnancy flew by. We've still got 9 weeks to go, and I can feel time slowing down a little bit, but overall I can't believe how quickly it has passed! I'm so thankful that the baby and I are healthy, and I'm thankful that I have Michael to keep me distracted from the countdown. I'm so excited to meet this little man and cover his sweet face with kisses.


Babymoon 2

Coronado beach

Tim and I love any excuse to travel, so when we were expecting Michael we jumped at the idea of a babymoon. We wanted to go somewhere warm and relaxing, and new to us. So, on a snowy day in February we boarded a plane out of JFK, and a few hours later we landed in sunny St. Martin. It was heaven! We slept in, we lazed by the pool, we read on the beach and played in the water, and we drove all over the island eating all the way. It was the perfect babymoon for us then. (See a few photos here and here.)

When we found out we were expecting again we decided to take full advantage of our time with Michael and plan another babymoon - this time with less focus on relaxation, and more focus on doing all the things that Michael loves most. He's a great traveler (by my count he's already been on 18 flights and visited 9 states!) so we were only limited by my comfort when we were planning. One of the first places that came to mind was San Diego. Michael is pretty obsessed with the ocean and ocean creatures, and we had visited San Diego before and had a great time, so we knew what to expect (great weather, a beautiful setting, good food, etc.) It turned out to be the perfect choice! 

One of the great things about traveling with a two year old boy is that everything is an adventure. He was so excited just to go to the airport and see some airplanes. When we actually boarded the plane and took off I thought his head might explode from happiness.
On our second day we were up before the sun, celebrating Father's Day with balloons and cards and gifts for Tim. We spent the day at the zoo and Michael had a great time following the map and looking for animals with his new "noculars". That night we had dinner at one of Tim's favorites, Neighborhood.
We started day three with a huge breakfast at Hash House A Go Go. We spent the day at the La Jolla Cove and we all had a great time. There were sea lions, crabs, birds, fish, waves, and a cave to explore with Dad. Michael loved it! We had so much fun watching him take it all in. Afterwards we grabbed lunch at Ocean Terrace. The views in La Jolla were so beautiful - I'm so glad we spent a day there!
On day four Tim and I were so excited to take Michael to Sea World. We filled up on yummy breakfast at Snooze, and then headed to the park. Michael loved it! We knew he would, but seeing his excitement over all the animals was thrilling. He especially loved all the petting tanks, and I think he would have gotten right in the water if we hadn't held him back.
We spent the evening in Coronado playing at the beach and having dinner. One of my favorite parts came at the end of the day when we all snuggled up on one of the hotel beds and watched a movie together. We were all happy and worn out - and Michael was still holding his new Orca whales.
On our last morning in town we went back to Snooze because I had to have more Reese's peanut butter pancakes. We had some time to kill before our flight, so we played in the park at the USS Midway Museum. It was a beautiful morning, and I'm so glad we got to spend a couple of peaceful hours there.
It was such a wonderful family vacation. I'll always remember it with a happy heart and be so thankful that we had this special time while we were still a family of three.


the shoes and jewelry stage


1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

There comes a time in a girl's pregnancy when she has to stop, take stock of what is happening to her body, come to terms with the state of things, and work with what she's got. I have arrived at that place, friends. (25 weeks tomorrow!!) I think of it as the "shoes and jewelry stage" because shoes and jewelry still fit the way I want and they draw attention away from the oh-so-large parts in the middle. I've got plenty of comfy basics for summer - tanks, skirts, shorts, and stretchy dresses - but I'd like a happy necklace that will perk up my mostly neutral wardrobe and "draw the eye upward" as needed ;)

I fell in love with number 1 after I saw it here (the colors are so good - it looks great with everything!) but it was way out of budget. So, I went on the hunt for a more reasonable substitute (with some help from my sister - thanks, Van!) and found all of these beauties! Number 7 is just what I was looking for, and the price is so good I'm tempted to grab number 4 too....

P.S. This shop has some really beautiful rope necklaces that would be gorgeous for summer.


A big brother for bun

22 weeks

My pregnancy app tells me that at the end of this week I'll be six months pregnant (six months!) and I have yet to write a true pregnancy post about this sweet little nugget on the way. I could feel guilty about this - I want to celebrate every checkup, every kick in my tummy, every craving and every little thing that makes this pregnancy special as I did with Michael - but I don't feel guilty. Not at all. I'm pouring myself into my first baby right now.

I've been praying and, at times, hanging on by a thread through these "terrible twos" (which actually started around 20 months) and I think we're finally emerging on the other side. God heard my exasperated prayers for patience and guidance and whatever it was that Michael needed. And after a while when I didn't know what else to pray for I just hugged him, and loved him, and let him cling to me and push other people away for a while. I stopped trying to force Michael to grow out of that phase, and loved him through it instead. Then, one day after months of him refusing to talk to strangers without getting upset, he struck up a conversation with a woman in the grocery store, grinning and telling her about "fishies". A few days later at church, he ran through the door into Bible class without me and didn't look back. He started playing pretend games with his Dad in the evenings that didn't include me. Just like that, a piece of the terrible twos was over.

Just like when he finally started sleeping through the night, and when he stopped nursing - he did it when he was ready. I couldn't make it happen, and I couldn't have predicted when it would happen. And, I'm sure there will still be rocky times ahead, but he's ready and he has let go of me a little bit more. Where once there was a timid, demanding, clingy toddler, now there is a happy, confident, independent, funny, loving little boy. Just the kind of kid who is meant to be a big brother. Just the kind of big brother I want for our second baby.

So I'm going to keep covering him in love and attention and adventures outside and trips to the zoo and all the things that make him come alive with excitement. I'm going to build him up as strong as I can for all of the changes that will come with the arrival of his little brother. There probably won't be a lot of blog posts or an elaborate baby book awaiting this baby when he is born, but he will have a big brother ready and waiting to love him. And he will have a mama who is just a little more peaceful, a little more sure of herself than she was the first time around.

Mother's Day - 23 weeks

~linking up with Jellibean Journals~


The big blue chest of drawers

After being inspired by this photo for months, we finally set aside some time and refinished our old wooden chest of drawers and I couldn't be happier with the result! 
So here she is before her makeover. This chest has been in my family for over 25 years (and someone else's family before that - my parents bought it at a consignment shop in the 80s!) It's been used as a dresser in many different bedrooms, and now we're using it in the living room for storage and as a record stand. It's a pretty piece, and it wasn't so bad before, but  in our living room with the wooden floors and the adjacent brown leather couch it was just too much wood and too much brown. I also thought the space needed some shine, and I wanted to swap out the dark antique-style hardware for something a little more fresh and shiny. I knew I liked the look of bold color with brass hardware because I had seen it here on Little Green Notebook, and here on Hommemaker (with tutorial included).

I loosely followed the steps in the Hommemaker tutorial, above. (I skipped sanding since we were doing the whole job indoors, in our living room, while our toddler slept, I'm pregnant and not as nimble as I used to be, and I was assured by the nice lady at Lowes that sanding was unnecessary if I used primer. She was wrong. And while the finish is fine, it's less than the perfect, glossy lacquer I had imagined. I wish I had followed Orlando's instructions and just done a little sanding! Lesson learned for next time.) So, here's what we did:
First, we removed all the old hardware, and I wiped the whole chest down with a damp cloth to remove dust and anything else that might be on the surface. Next we painted the whole unit with a latex primer. We used a foam roller for the large flat surfaces and a brush for the more detailed work. Then we applied two coats of a high-gloss latex paint, allowing the paint to dry fully for 24 hours between coats. I let everything dry for three days before we put it back together and put on the new hardware (we used these and these). 

And that's it! Not bad at all, considering the way this has changed our living room. It's so much brighter and fresher now. I feel like it updated the whole space. And now that I know how easy it is, I'm eyeing several other wooden pieces around the house that could use some color....


Remember this photo? I spotted it on Little Green Notebook last fall and loved it. I've been thinking about refinishing a wooden chest of drawers in a similar color and adding brass pulls - seeing this photo again reminds me where I got the idea and has convinced me I need to do it! I love the effect and think it will bring a ton of warmth and color to our living room which has a similar neutral rug and wooden floors. Stay tuned for before and after photos!


space for our little man

space for our little man

I'll be 21 weeks along tomorrow (!) and this baby is starting to really make his presence known. My belly is growing (so much more quickly than with Michael!) and he is kicking and moving almost constantly, it seems. Sometimes, during the moments when I forget that I'm pregnant, Michael will come to me and ask to kiss the "baby in the tummy", which makes me melt, and gets me thinking that it won't be long at all until he's really here! Then, on Monday we had our 20 week ultrasound and we got to spend 15 blissful minutes looking in on our little guy, watching him kick and move, and falling in love with his precious little profile. Suddenly, it's time to start putting together a room for this boy!

We'll reuse the rocker and the crib (and the changing table) from Michael's room. (He'll be moving up to a real big-boy bed soon.) The walls in the nursery will be white, so I'm thinking of painting the crib a light grey to add a little contrast. I wanted to bring some yellow into the room and when I found this soft throw at Target I picked it right up. The solar system print isn't something I would have planned to put in a nursery, but it seems like just the kind of picture an infant will love to look at, and I love the colors, so the print has been ordered and is on its way. That isn't the name we've chosen (cute, though!), but I love the font and the colors in this name print, so I plan to order one once we've settled on a name. I'm still on the lookout for an attractive, affordable window treatment for the room, but I feel like we're on our way to having a special spot ready for this little boy.
I already can't wait to meet him.

(Here's his sweet profile, in case you wanted to have a look :)


Birthday week

On Tuesday our little guy turned two! It was kind of an unusual week - Tim was out of town on business, and we weren't having Michael's birthday party until Saturday, so we ended up having a low-key celebration that lasted all week. It was just right for Michael at this age, because while he loved being the center of attention at a big bustling party last year, this year he's happier to have excitement (and crowds) in smaller doses.
We had a "special day" at the zoo on Tuesday. He was so excited to go to the zoo - and to face forward in his carseat! 
He loved seeing the animals. On this day he was especially into the sharks, the crocodile, and the monkeys. 
He was so excited to go to the airport to pick up Daddy on Thursday. Michael talked about it  all week. It was the sweetest thing. On Friday morning we sang Happy Birthday and Michael opened presents. The play kitchen was a hit! And that afternoon cousins arrived! They picked right up the way cousins do, and played non-stop until bedtime. I think that may have been my favorite part - seeing Michael so happy to be with his cousins, and the sweet way they played and laughed together.
On Saturday we had some friends over and had a little birthday party. I was so busy running around I didn't get good pictures, but we had a great time. I made Michael an Octonauts cake (his favorite), and filled the party with as many sea creatures as I could. He loved it! He got a pet fish and an Octopod playset - that's about as good as heaven for him :) After the party (and naps) we spent the rest of the day visiting and playing outside. Michael got to play in the sprinkler for the first time with his cousins, and he loved it even though he kept getting "grasshoppers" (grass) stuck all over his feet :)
(Thanks for sharing this picture, Amy!)
I'm so thankful we got to share the weekend with people we love. Michael's still talking about Gigi and Papa, and Leah and Logan and baby Brady, and asking to blow out the birthday candles. It was a very special week.