Monday, May 27, 2013

Twin Birth

What an incredible experience. If you haven't already, please go to my photography blog to see my twin birth photos! They really are gorgeous.
Click, click:

Friday, May 17, 2013

A Letter to My Son on His First Birthday

Dear Axton,

I'll admit it. I've been putting off thinking about this day for the last month, now. I've pushed it to the back of my mind, and allowed myself to get busy with other things. But now the time is come, your birthday is here and you are a one-year-old. Already I see you turning into a toddler, your baby-ness long behind you.

Looking through all your pictures from the last year, I find myself infinitely grateful for cameras. There is no way I would have remembered that you ever used to look like this, if it wasn't for the photos. There is no way I could ever have realized how much you've changed. I was clueless to how much kids grow up in a year.

I've loved you from day one, in the way only parents can - strong and consuming. I've enjoyed you from day one. But, man did I start really liking you around the 8-month mark. (And it's probably no coincidence that that is also when you started sleeping through the night and I got a bit of my sanity back. It really changes things, sleep). You really started to show off your personality at this time, though. Started to interact and react so much more, and it hit me so hard then just how fun being a parent could really be. How awesome it is to teach you new things, watch how it clicks in your mind, and how you interpret and receive information. I started to realized that I could want another child, someone for you to play with, to call your brother and sister.

Being your mother is, of course, a whole-body experience. It sucks up every ounce of patience, energy, and love from my very core. It affects my every physical sense. Let me explain.

I see your two little teefers sticking up in your wide open smile, your nose crinkled in delight.
I see your big round belly making the buttons on your vest pop.
I see a deep dimple sinking into your cheek.
I watch you learn to walk and climb, pulling yourself on top of things, getting braver between letting go and grabbing on.
I watch you interact with others, learning how to be a friend to other people your age and size. I like to sit back and wait and see what happens before I jump in and rescue you (or the other kid, as the case may be).
I've watched my mom become a grandma, my dad become a softy grandpa, my brother an uncle. I watch other people love and grow and change simply because you are now in their life.

I hear your sweet babble from the backseat of the car, doodoo's and dada's and mama's and baba's.
I hear your big hearty laugh that sounds too old for your body, and your squealy giggles that sound like a 10-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert (who's Justin Bieber you ask? Oh nevermind. I'm sure you can google it)
I hear loud, whiny cries at my knees, asking to be picked up and snuggled and hugged.
I hear big baby toots that go unnoticed by you, making them even funnier to me.

Your hair. Oh, child, your hair. It smells like heaven after a bath, fresh and clean. It smells like dirty little boy, playgrounds and leaves, old milk, cheerios, and summer. Sunshine and barefeet, flowers and rainy days. Your hair smells like all of that, separate, distinct, and all at once.
I smell your warm breath as I snuggle you while you nap, milk and applesauce.
I smell poop! You've pooped in the tub, you've pooped on Dad and I, on the carpet. I've smelled sick, constipated, breastfed, and whole raisins. It's just the business of babies.
I think I will always want a package of baby wipes in my house, just because the smell will bring you back - all of you.

I rub my cheek against your wispy blonde hair, so fluffy and soft.
I caress your silky smooth back, and pat your squishy tushy.
I'm wet with your big slobbery kisses and constantly-running nose.
I ache with head bonks, bit nipples, clawing at my arms, the weight of carrying you up the stairs (and your stroller, and bags of groceries on my arms)
I've felt the sting of a fever on your forehead, the sweat of your brow and back.
I melted into a puddle the very first time I felt your little body crawl into my lap and hand me a book to read to you.

Salt. Everything with you is salty.
Your big salty tears linger on my lips as I kiss them away.
I taste fingers shoved in my mouth, covered in dog hair and who knows what else!
Salty boogers smeared all over me.
Raisins and animal crackers shoved into my mouth, evidence that you are learning to "share."

This is what it physically means, what it physically feels like to be your Mommy. It's a completely encompassing experience - using all 5 senses.
But of course, it's more than that. And this last one is even more overpowering than all the other senses combined;  it's what I feel in my heart. The joy, the heartache, the exhaustion, the utter pride, the hopes, the dreams.... The Love.

It's the most real thing I've ever known.

You've taught me so much, and not just the typical things that kids teach a first-time parent. Not just the things that having any kid will teach you, but the things that having Axton as your kid can teach you. Important things like seeing others around me as equals, and not judging them according to their looks. You, son, will smile at anyone. You will make anyone else smile back at you. People I would have, in my rushing and my judging, passed without a second glance. You take the time to brighten others' days, no matter who they are - old, young, pretty, ugly, grungy, fancy, it doesn't make a difference to you - and I've not only learned that it's worth it to take the time to do so, but that that's what Christ would do. That's what is so special about you: I see Christ in you. I catch glimpses of the powerful spirit you were in Heaven before you came to me and I wonder how I got so lucky, so blessed.

I carried you in my belly for nine months. Felt you move and stretch before anyone else ever saw your face. Axton, I may have made you (with a little help from your father), but've re-made me. I'm becoming who I was meant to be by raising you. And it's the highest privilege God could ever have granted me, to be  your mommy.

Happy First Birthday. I am so glad I get so many more birthdays with you!


Thursday, May 16, 2013

A Day in the Life

*I got this idea from a lady in my ward. She says every year for Mother's Day she writes out the complete script of an entire day - conversations her kids had, what they did, what they ate, etc. She says she's loved doing it because each year it provides a little snippet in time of what her children were like at that age. I decided to give it a try this year, and even challenged myself to not only write, but also photograph, our day. This day happened be a strange one for us, (mostly because Axton slept in extremely late) but I chose it and I stuck with it, even though it was atypical. It is also the day before my son turns one, and is therefore especially significant. It may be a little dry to you, but this is a little piece of our life, a single day in my first year of raising Axton and is beautiful to me.

ps All photos are unedited, except for white balance and converting from RAW to JPG

The day technically started at 1am, when I finally finished editing photos and headed to bed. Just as I shut the door, I heard Axton start to cry. This is unusual for him these days, so I wait to see if he will go back to sleep. When he doesn't, I go into his room, a (third) pacifier in my hand. I put it in his mouth, pick him up, and rock him. He settles for a minute, but is soon arching to get out of my arms. Okay, I won't cuddle you then. I lay him back down, cover him back up, and walk out. I don't hear from him again.

7am - I awake to Adam getting ready for work. He eats cereal, gets dressed, lets the dog out. I slumber off and on, he comes in and says a prayer with me before leaving. He blows me a kiss goodbye at the door, I stretched my legs and point my toes, and say, "Don't be jealous," referring to the fact that I'm still in bed and he's heading to work.

8am - I'm officially up, checking email, facebook. I lounge around waiting for Axton to wake up. Finally, I decide to write some emails I'd been putting off for Primary. I even figure I might as well actually do my hair and make up for the day, while I've got the time.

First photo of the day: Proof that Axton slept in long enough for me to get ready.

I eat breakfast - cold cereal and milk, not wanting to make any unnecessary noises that could wake up Axton.

It's now 9:30am, and Axton's been sleeping for 14 hours straight - again, so strange for him. I'm wondering if I should at least peek in on him, but don't want to wake him. I text a friend, call my mom, start working on more photos. Once I'm on the computer, I hear him start to grunt. He finally wakes at 10am. He's never slept in that long.

He squints at the bright light of the camera and waits for me to finish before standing and reaching his arms out for me.

 I pick him up, only to lay him back down again and change his diaper. I dress him in a once-white-now-gray, eighteen-months onesie and jean shorts.

He nurses, and I try to get the only shot I've ever taken of him nursing me. The whole time he is holding on to my lens cap, trying to put it back on the lens for me. This child has an obsession with putting lids back on.

We go to the patio door, open our blinds and let the sunshine in - something we do every morning. While he looks out the window and pounds on the glass, I notice the giant boogies hanging out his nose. Looking around for a tissue, and finding none nearby, I spy the dirty shirt he wore yesterday lying on the ground. Meh, it's already dirty. And use that to wipe his nose.

Then, like every morning, it hits me:

What are we going to do today, little bud? (Besides continue to try to put my lens cap back on for me)

(This is the whiny face I see everyday, tugging at my pants and wrapped around my knees. He's lucky he's cute!)

Instead of coming up with an exciting adventure for us to have, I sit down at the computer and start typing up notes for this blogpost. While I do, he stands in front of the desk next to me and pulls down every scrap of paper in sight. He pulls on a plastic piece on the printer - the same piece we've told him not touch countless times before - and gives me a big grin as he does so. I do what we've learned to do: turn the printer to the side, unplug the cord so he can't even reach it.

I text my friend Kim to see what she's got going on for the day, and she tells me they are having a Mommy get-together at her place. When I hang up, I remember I left Axton's carseat in the car and therefore can't go anywhere in a car today. I'm bumming until I come up with a genius plan: Axton desperately needs a new carseat anyway, his feet have been hanging over it for weeks now, and he's got to be getting close to the weight limit. I decide to walk to our nearby Target and just buy him a new carseat. My friend Alisha agrees to pick me up at Target.

I get Axton strapped into his stroller, and push him out the door. Then I remember: Adam said he might come home for lunch today. Do I sit around and wait in case he does? Or do I go and miss the opportunity to eat lunch with my husband? I decide on a selfish medium - I'll go, but at least I will leave him a note. Axton is already out in the hallway, so I rush back inside, looking for a pen and paper, leaving Axton outside.

Taking too long. Something says in my head. This will take too long. Bad decision, mommy. 

So I rush back out, pull him back into our doorway, and start writing the note. Axton is now screaming because he thought we were going outside and then I tricked him and now we're not going outside. I scribble a note, tape it on the door.

Adam, I'm at Kim's. Sorry if I missed you. See you at 4. Love you

With my diaper bag swung over my body like a messenger bag, I hoist Axton and his stroller up, and carry him down my three flights of stairs. He's still a little whiny, and angrily turns away when the bright sun hits his eyes, but he gets over it when we pass a lady walking her dog. He might have even waved at the dog, but I can't remember.

At Target, there is, of course, way too many options so I just give up and pick one of the cheaper ones. It has cup holders, that's what sold me.

Putting Axton in his new, big carseat is so strange to me. He looks so toddler-ish in it, and I want to rush out and buy him a sippy cup to put in the cup holder, but I refrain. Alisha picks us up, and we are on our way.

At Kim's house, Axton hangs out with his buds, 3 other babies who are all about 6 months apart from each other. He does things like read Dora books

Make car sounds while pushing this Turtle on Wheels (nothing cuter, really)

Eats food pouches, his first hotdog (which he gobbled up. A whole giant hotdog!), some dried blueberries

Opens and closes the door (a favorite pastime of his)

Plays with his buddies, Oliver, Jonathan, and Rylee

Puts this piece of plastic on his head and on Mommy's head like it's a headband (it's a game I play with him. Sometimes I say, "Look how cute he would be as a girl!" and Adam never likes that)

Chews on his thumb (because he's got some serious teething going on)

And, as always, whines at Mommy's legs

We try to take a few group shots, but Axton hates being on his back. I give him a phone to play with, but it doesn't help much. All da babies are getting tired by this point.

I try several times to get Axton to take a nap on my lap, but he's too distracted - the tv is on, everyone else is still playing and talking. Eventually I take him into another room and rock him asleep, and then lay him down in their sleeper. He is way too big for it, and he looks so silly in it that I just have to smile.

An hour passes, and I think I hear a noise in the room. I walk in to find him wide awake, and he kicks his legs with joy when he sees me.
"Hey little bud, you just been waiting for me to come get you or what?"

When Kim's husband is home and they hint at a date night, we all disperse to our own hubbies. By this time, Axton is quite cranky and not happy to be back in the carseat. When we get home, he cries when he's on my lap, he cries when I walk away from him, he cries playing with his toys, he cries reading his books. Daddy comes home, and Axton gives him a fleeting smile, and is back to his grumpiness. I tell Dad, "Take your pick: Entertain Axton or make us dinner." He chooses Axton, and pushes him like a race car in his stroller, the dog barking and following right behind. He teaches him how to play "I am a Child of God" on the keyboard.

I soon realize we need a trip to Wal Mart before dinner, even though it will be late and everyone is hungry. We pick up a few last-minute items for Axton's party tomorrow. At the checkout line, we have to wait 15 minutes for a price check on charcoal, but Axton is rolling with laughter at the cashier playing peek-a-book with him. I can't even get him to laugh like that!

On the way home, I ask Adam if he has any desire/plans of weaning Axton off his pacifier, now that he's turning one. He says Nope, not at all. And I agree.

*Sadly, this is where I stopped taking photos. Dinner/bedtime just got busy.

When we get home, I whip up some egg burritos (Axton loves eggs), and within twenty minutes the missionaries and someone interested in becoming a member of our church is at our house. Axton is all smiles for them, the food and the company erasing his crankiness. He walks between them and us, zombie arms out and falling in between steps. The missionaries can't help but smile and laugh at him trying so desperately to get their attention. He shows off to them, squirting out of my lap and crawling/sprinting along the inside of the couch, squeezing behind the investigator's back. I apologize, worrying his activity is disrupting what should be a spiritual lesson. Around 7:30, he starts getting cranky again, arching his back when I try to hold him still in my lap. We are about a half hour behind our usual bedtime schedule, so I excuse myself from the lesson to give him a bath.

He plays with the bath plug, putting it on and off, watching the water drain and I tell him, "Bye bye bath! There goes your water! You better hurry!" He shows me Eeyore and Duck, and I show him the sea turtles. Sometimes he tries to drink the nasty bath water and when he's down there he discovers a body part sticking out from under his belly. He pulls on it, and tries hard to see what it is but his big round belly is hiding it and he just can't quite get there, but it's funny to watch him try. It was like me when I was pregnant, couldn't see anything down there!

He drains his own water, and slips in the now-empty tub twice, and that means he's ready to get out. I wrap him in a towel and brush his two tiny teefers. We squeeze past the missionaries, go into his room, and close the door. It's dark and quiet and I give him a pacifier while I dress him in his jammies and diaper. A choke rises in my throat: It's your last night before you turn one. This time last year....

But I swallow it down, sit in the rocking chair, and he nurses. I spike his wet hair, and watch him. He likes to suck, suck on me, and then take a suck, suck on his pacifier, so I take his pacifier from him until he is done. In between sides, he lifts up my shirt, looking for his paci. I know it's around here somewhere, Mom! 

When he's done nursing, he takes his pacifier back and does his usual sleepy moans in between sucks. I want to hold him and snuggle him just a little longer, but he is already resisting, ready to go into his crib. I kiss his face and lay him down, putting an extra pacifier into his outstretched hand. He grabs onto it and relaxes while I put his blankies over him.

Good night sweet boy. In the morning, you'll be one.