Sunday, February 4, 2018

King Henry!

King Henry!!! That's what we call him when we walk in his room. He gets a huge smile and starts to giggle. I can't quite remember life before this sweet little brown haired boy was in our lives!

Here are a few tidbits about Henry at this age:

  • He is just a 20 lb ball of absolute joy! He is just so happy. 
  • He loves his mama - tries to eat/kiss my face off and gives the best snuggles. I love it so much!
  • Now that he's crawling, he is into absolutely EVERYTHING! 
  • Loves to get in the bathroom and shred the toilet paper (we are pretty diligent about keeping the bathroom doors shut now! haha) 
  • Wants to figure out how everything works. He loves to dismantle toys and then figure out how they fit back together. 
  • Would stay in a warm bath with his sister all day if we'd let him. He loves splashing and giggling in the tub with her. 
  • Does NOT like to lay down and hold still while we change his diaper. 
  • Was eating solids really well for a while, but has recently gone on strike. The only things I can consistently get in his mouth are apples, waffles, puffs, pizza, cheese, and that's about it. I'm blaming it on his recent cold....hopefully he expands his palette soon and stops throwing everything on the floor! 
  • Sleeps on his tummy
  • Stands up in his crib and yelps for us to come get him when he wakes up 
  • Has absolutely no fear or age awareness. He is so darn strong and I legitimately watched him have a pretty fair tug of war over a toy with a five year old child the other day. He won. No joke. 
  • Signs 'milk' and sometimes 'more'
  • Says mama, baba, dada, and ball 

We love you so much, Henry. You are so handsome and such a sweet little buddy. We're so glad you came! 

Love, 

Mama 

Motherhood and Birthdays

This is a wonderful season of life. I've had countless grandmas approach me in the grocery store, usually when one of my children is crying mind you, and say, "Just cherish this time of life." or "Those were my best years." I admit there have been a handful of times that I've wanted to roll my eyes and tell her, "Great! Well why don't you get these two grumpy bugs down for naps this afternoon while I go watch The Golden Girls at your house then." But most of the time I realize those cute little grandmas are right. These ARE the best years of my life! True, some days are really really exhausting and frustrating, but most days are really really sweet.

I can't remember if I wrote about it here or in another journal, but a while ago I received an answer to prayer through reading my scriptures. I wanted to know how I could help Maddy have better behavior and how I could better express my love for her. I turned to the scriptures and read the account of Jesus in the New Testament blessing the little children. He was obviously exhausted after a long day of travel and teaching - so much so that his disciples rejected the women and children when they approached him. But Jesus kindly rebuked them and took the time to play with, talk, and bless those little children. The impression came to me that Jesus loves little children and he knows that they FEEL loved when we make TIME for them.

So I've been diligently trying to follow that impression. Some days are better than others I admit. But I've seen Maddy's behavior improve and our relationship has been strengthened as I put away other unnecessary tasks and make time to sit and play with her. It brings me such joy and makes my day so much better - even when I'm unshowered, in my sweats, and totally neglecting other things. The Spirit whispers to my heart in those moments that I'm making time for the most important thing - showing my child I love her.

Maddy just celebrated her fourth birthday! How in the world did four years go by?!! It feels like we've been celebrating her birthday for weeks now. We had a fun princess party with her friends complete with pizza, cake, princess bingo, pin the kiss on the frog, princess "duck duck goose", tiaras, wands, and candy.  She had such a fun time playing with her cute little friends and running around and dancing in their princess dresses. On her actual birthday, I got to take donuts to her preschool and stay with her the entire time. It was so fun seeing her interact with her teachers and friends. The entire day of preschool from what letter they learned to what songs they sang revolved around Maddy's birthday.  Miss Debbie is such a fantastic teacher and makes every child feel so loved and special. It was the perfect way to celebrate her birthday! That night Maddy requested Panera for dinner (of course!) She opened her new dollhouse, books, and Guess Who game.

I just love this age with Maddy. Her vocabulary is astounding.  It seems like I hear her say a new word every day. The recent new words are enormous, available, annoying, and fantastic. She has such a fun imagination and can entertain herself for hours just making up stories about dragons, princesses, trolls, and more. She loves to cook with me. She's getting pretty good at cracking eggs and measuring things. She makes her bed in the morning and cleans her room by herself. Loves to play with her little brother and takes such good care of him, keeping him safe from light sockets and choking hazards.

Every night before bed we say prayers, read scriptures, read other books, turn out the lights, and then watch a bible video from the Gospel Library app. She loves watching the stories of Jesus and it's such a sweet way to end the day. I love snuggling her to sleep and it makes me cry hearing her sweet little voice as I close the door, "Goodnight mommy. I love you."

She loves her mama, but I think she's still a daddy's girl at heart. We count down the hours until daddy gets home every day. The first thing she wants to do when he arrives is have him "jump" her on the counch - him basically throwing her up in the air over and over again. There's a reason this guy has such great arm muscles ;) When she gets hurt, he's the only person she wants. It's really sweet and I hope she'll always be close to her daddy. My greatest hope is that when she marries someday, she'll pick a guy as sweet, kind, and hard working as her dad.

Happy Birthday, Maddy! We love you so so much!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Ohio Trip & Kiddo Updates

This last week we traveled up to Kami's house in Ohio. The kids and I stayed there for a few days while Blair drove up to Chicago for his medical board exams. It was really nice to spend time with Kami and her family. Maddy and Clara are only six months apart. We lovingly call them frenemies at this age. They love playing together one minute and the next minute one or both are crying, yelling, or complaining about something the other did. I'm hoping they'll be best friends in the future and they'll grow out of this stage. Kami has reassured me that all the other cousins went through this at age 3. Fingers crossed!

Every time I'm around Kami I'm inspired by her. She has handled her cancer diagnosis and chemo treatment with such grace and determination. Every morning at the break of day she was down in her basement clocking miles on her exercise bike and elytpical machine. She buzzes around her house and town with energy and spunk. If it weren't for her shaved head, you'd never guess that she even has cancer. It truly is so astounding to me. I hope that if I ever go through cancer or another serious illness, I'll be able to reflect on Kami's example and emulate her attitude and energy. She's done with her chemo now, but facing some difficult decisions about how to proceed with treatment. We're praying that her doctors will be inspired to know how to help her. We need her around for a lot longer!

The kiddos are growing and changing all the time. Maddy is growing up so fast. She's so articulate and smart that sometimes I forget that she's only three. When she's throwing a tantrum or being unreasonable, I have to remind myself that she's still a small little bobbin and I need to have patience. One thing I love about this phase with her is bedtime. Sometimes she's an absolute psychopath at bedtime, but when she's not, it's pretty darn cute. After we say prayers and read books, she wants me to turn out the lights and lay by her. I draw letters on her back and she tries to guess what I've drawn. Then I roll over and she draws letters on my back. She always draws the letter B. She thinks it's hilarious to just keep drawing the same letter over and over again on my back! haha. It usually ends up with us both giggling uncontrollably in her bed like two little school girls having a sleepover. It's my absolute favorite! She asks me to tell her stories about when I was a little girl. She loves to hear about my dog Max and the night the barn started on fire. After I get done telling my story, she then proceeds to tell me a story of her own. She starts out, "When I was a little girl..." and then basically tells the same story I just told with a few minor changes. Pretty hilarious!

Maddy is still enamored with her little brother. I thought the shiny newness of a little baby might wear off by now in her eyes, but it hasn't. Every morning she is so excited to see him and hold him. She loves making him smile and snuggling him. I catch her whispering to him, "I'm so glad you're here. I missed you."

Speaking of Henry...my oh my we are all in love with this little boy. His little spirit is just so full of sweetness. That's all I can think of to describe him. He just has a tender and sweet little soul. He's a good eater and sleeper. He rarely fusses - only when he's tired or hungry. He just discovered his little hands this week and has been staring at them, eating them, and accidentally hitting himself in the face with his little fists. It's sad and really funny at the same time. We just love him so much! Every day I feel so so grateful that he's here. Like Maddy says, "I'm so glad you're here. I missed you."

Other than that, we're busy with work and church callings. I'm serving as the young women's president and I'm really loving it. I don't feel qualified and I have to constantly keep myself from feeling overwhelmed. But when I focus on what matters most, the sweet moments come. I'm grateful to serve with these amazing young women and I'm learning a lot about the Savior's love for each and every one of them.

That's all for this week.

-Ash

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Reflection

We've been a little under the weather the last few days, both physically and emotionally, so today has been a nice day of relaxation and reflection. On Wednesday this week, Maddy and I  both woke up with a bad cold, I realized I was coming down with mastitis again, and Henry was particularly fussy - basically crying and wanting to be held  the entire day. By the early afternoon, I was completely depleted physically and emotionally.  My friend and fellow young women's presidency member, Shonda, came over to borrow my church keys for mutual that night.  When she came to the door, she found me in a puddle of tears. One of the many things I love about Shonda is that she feels what other people feel.  Upon seeing my distress, she immediately started crying with me. I love that about her - she listens and then cries with you. I knew she had a crazy day herself between multiple soccer games, her daughter's birthday, planning and executing a mutual activity, dinner for her family, etc. Somehow amidst all of this, she managed to go home and cook a completely separate meal for me and my family, just to show me she loved me. My other friend, Cassidy, showed up with her three kids in tow and let me borrow her rectal thermometer because I was panicking that Henry was spiking a fever and I couldn't find my own thermometer. She came back unexpectedly a few hours later with groceries and other goodies to brighten my day. The next day my friend Grace brought us dinner and the following day my dear friend Becca brought us dinner. As I reflect on this week, I am humbled and overcome with gratitude for the sweet selflessness of these friends. They truly are marvelous women. They juggle so much themselves, and yet they are constantly reaching out to others who need them. I hope I can be more like them.

My mom and dad were planning on coming to visit this weekend after taking care of Kami in Ohio during her recent chemo treatment.  My mom unexpectedly developed a bad urinary track infection and is currently being hospitalized there. We've been so worried about her, but she's doing fine now and we're looking forward to seeing her and my dad here in a few days.

This afternoon I started reading through some of my emails that I sent home during my mission. It brought back memories of so many things I'd forgotten and instantly transported me back to that time and land that I love. I realized today how important it is to frequently remember and reflect on these important experiences in our lives. Today I read about pretty incredible things that happened on my mission that I had completely forgotten and it helped me to connect with a part of my soul that has been seemingly dormant. It made me want to be better. Reading those stories also made me want to dive into the scriptures on a daily basis and have a closer relationship with Heavenly Father. It made me want to live life more fully and joyfully. It made me want to practice my diminishing Portuguese vocabulary! Yikes.

Well, that's it for now. Kids are finally asleep, so I should join them.

Goodnight.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Baby Henry's Birth




In the middle of the night on March 20th, I woke up to go to the bathroom, eat cereal, and deal with the normal insomnia I'd been experiencing for the last several weeks.  I'd been leaking some fluid for a few weeks and I'd noticed that the baby wasn't moving as frequently for the past few days. I came back to bed and woke Blair up as I cried about how scared I was that something was wrong. Throughout my pregnancy I made a conscious effort to remain positive and have faith that everything would work out, but I admit there were many times when the plague of fear of losing him would completely overwhelm me. This was definitely one of those moments where I feared the worst.  We decided to just go into the hospital and have them do an ultrasound to make sure everything was ok. So at six o'clock in the morning, we threw on some clothes, raked Maddy out of bed (poor girl), and headed to the labor and delivery department. Once there, they found that everything looked fine. But given that baby movement had decreased and my amniotic fluid was a little low, they decided to just induce me.  Since I was one day away from my due date, I think they assumed I'd be relieved by their decision to induce me. But I kept saying, "Today? Oh no. I need to go home and make my bed, wash my hair, etc." This wasn't really how I imagined things going! But once they admitted me, there was no turning back.

Blair took Maddy to a friend's house and I stayed in the hospital completely panicked, calling my sisters and having a good cry. Once I finally accepted that this was happening, things went fine. They started me on the medicine and it took nearly the whole day for my body to respond. Blair and I just hung out in the hospital room, walked around, ate, slept, and talked. As the night progressed, my contractions ramped up. I wanted to get as far as I could without an epidural, mainly because I didn't want to be confined to the bed for so long. So I walked around, did lunges on the chair during contractions, hugged Blair, went to the bathroom five million times (why does labor make you have to poo an insane amount?!! TMI?!) After a couple of hours, I decided to get the epidural and that was heavenly. It didn't work fully for a while, but it took the edge off of the pain, which was nice. They kept upping my epidural since it wasn't working until I think they finally gave me too much. haha! When it was time for me to start pushing, I literally could not feel ANYTHING! It was such a strange experience pushing when I couldn't feel what I was doing. 

The delivery was everything I'd hoped for. I didn't want a ton of people in the room, so it was just Blair, our amazing doctor, Akihla, and one nurse. We had some quiet music playing and it was just so serene and peaceful. There wasn't any screaming or drama - just laughing and a lot of happy tears. I pushed for about 30 minutes and then suddenly they were handing me this beautiful screaming baby boy. It makes me cry just writing about it now. It was one of the most precious and breathtaking moments of my life. I held that little body against my chest and just cried and cried out of sheer joy. I've never felt such love for Blair, for Maddy, for Henry, and for God. It just was the most heavenly experience.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for the opportunity I had to carry this little angel for nine months and that he made it safely into our arms. I am forever grateful for him. We love our little Henry boy so much. 

Maddy came to the hospital later the next day and was immediately enamored with him as we knew she would be.  On a daily basis she says, "Thank you for bringing him home to me, Mommy." Another time I caught her whispering to him "I missed you buddy. Remember we were in heaven with Clara and all our cousins?" Her love for him is truly amazing. I love seeing how well she knows and loves him already. 

Since we've been home we've definitely been adjusting to a new schedule (aka complete lack of sleep) and helping Maddy to understand boundaries with baby brother. Sometimes this is frustrating and I admit I've lost my patience way more than I'd like to admit. But I'm grateful that Maddy is forgiving and always lovingly gives me a chance to try again. We've been so blessed with family coming to visit - Rick and Donna came first, spoiling us with endless loads of laundry, yummy food, and finished house projects. Kearstin and Kami came next for a surprise weekend visit that was so so wonderful! I was overcome with Kami's selflessness in coming to visit me while she is going through her chemo treatment. Her strength and character through this trial continually inspire me. Lindsay came the following week and was my complete savior.  I couldn't have gotten through that hellish experience of mastitis without my best friend.  In addition to all of the family visiting, my girlfriends here have been angels.  They just call and say, "I'm coming to pick Maddy up and take her to the park" or drop off meals, or treats, or offer to help in a thousand other ways. I'm so grateful for them and they've inspired me to be more giving of my time and service when others have babies. 

I love these kiddos and I'm so grateful to be their mom. It's not always glamorous and some days are really hard, but I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Baby Boy





We have a mere 15 days before our baby boy makes his earthly debut. I feel the need to somehow document my feelings, but I'm struggling to find the words. As I type, I'm watching him move around inside me making my stomach stretch and transform in hilarious ways. I can't believe there's a human inside me! The miracle of how life is created is truly just that...it's a miracle. And it's particularly a miracle for us, seemingly infertile folks to suddenly become pregnant without any intervention after so many years of trying. I've pondered a lot lately the loss of our little boy that we experienced four years ago. It's amazing the clarity and peace that time and the Spirit bring to our lives. I now see that without a doubt Maddy needed to come to our family first. I know that her birth mom, April, needed to have the experience of carrying her and following that selfless and God-inspired decision to place her with our family. That decision was life changing in the sweetest way for her. And it was of course life-changing for us! I can't imagine our life without her. She is the absolute light of our lives.

I don't know all of the details of how these things work, but I can't help but feel that this little boy has now returned and is waiting to join our family with his big sister. We've had a few tender moments with Maddy where she'll suddenly hug my stomach and say, "I want to see my baby brother." I know they must know each other well and I'm so excited to see them reunited and sharing this adventure of life together. I am extremely humbled by this gift. Although pregnancy has definitely brought some physical challenges (vomiting, fatigue, etc.), it has been such a joyful experience. I am honored to be a part of this process and forever grateful that a loving Heavenly Father is letting me do it. I can't wait to see you, baby boy. We love you already.

-mom

Monday, February 27, 2017

2016 Top 16

Well I fell off the face of the blogosphere for a bit, but I'm hoping to get back into the swing of things and do a better job of documenting our lives. In classic form, I'm doing a top 16 round-up as a way to recap the last several months that I failed to write about. Here's to a more documented 2017!

Top 16 of 2016:

We started off the year by celebrating Maddy's 2nd birthday with friends. She LOVES all things with sprinkles, so we of course had to make a delicious sprinkle cake for her. I'm not much of a baker, but I must say this cake was DELICIOUS! It's now my go-to for all birthdays.


We made a couple of trips to Ohio this year to visit the Becks. Maddy loves being with all 7 of her cousins! I think she'd easily move in and leave us behind if she could. haha.



We went to the US Open for the first time to support our friend Danny Summerhays.



Blair built us a garden box and we tried our hand at gardening for the first time.



We went to Pittsburgh for the first time. Yummy food!


We went to Idaho for a week and had such a fun Easter with the cousins.



We went on the trip of a lifetime to Fiji with some of Blair's siblings. It was amazing!! And so great to get to see where Blair's parents are serving their mission.



We traveled to Boston for Blair's fellowship interview at Harvard. We were stunned and flattered that he was accepted into their program, but Blair felt strongly that he needed to accept a fellowship instead at the University of Utah, so that's where we're headed next year.



We played with friends a lot during the beautiful summer days!



We went to Knoebels and had so many fun nights riding rides with friends.



To our great astonishment, we found out that we were miraculously pregnant! After years of losses and fertility treatments, we were shocked when we found out this just happened spontaneously. We couldn't be more excited!!



We somehow became surrogate parents to stray cats for a short time and Maddy was in heaven. She's definitely our little animal lover.



I started teaching baby ballet for the first time.



Maddy got her first dance leotard, tights, and shoes and has been obsessed with ballet and dancing ever since. We love watching her dance!


After getting through the worst part of pregnancy, my friends and I decided to have a fun girls weekend in NYC!



We went home at Christmas for our Holding family reunion. We stayed at a gorgeous home in Heber and made such fun memories together!


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Strawberry Picking

Annual strawberry picking at the Green Barn Berry Farm. We love Pennsylvania!

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Friday, May 27, 2016

Little Flying Friends

One thing that we've loved so much about living in the quiet little town of Danville, Pennsylvania is the people. We've been blessed with a lot of great friends, especially friends with young children. Maddy has always had a keen ability to remember people's names. In fact, I'm baffled sometimes by how she even knows some people's names at all. For instance, the other day I was Facetiming with my sister Lindsay and her husband, Dustin, was walking around in the background. I don't think Maddy has interacted with Dustin since she was an infant so I was surprised when she unexpectedly and casually blurted out, "Hey Dustin." We were giggling for a long time about that. Anyway, her ability to remember names reflects itself with our friendships. During the day, she regularly asks where people are, ranging from kids her age, to my friends and their husbands.

She loves playing with her friend, Sydney. Although Sydney is a few years older than her, she's always so sweet and tender with Maddy. They run around and play together with Maddy frequently dragging Sydney off on some adventure (aka mischief). A few weeks ago we took the kids to an old airfield for a picnic and bubbles. It was a great day!

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Christmas 2015

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Christmas 2015 was our most magical Christmas to date. We decided to stay home in Pennsylvania rather than fight the crowds at the airport, the jet lag, and only limited time off from work. We definitely were missing our families back home in Utah, but it was so nice to have our first Christmas alone as a family. Maddy walked down the stairs and was so excited to see her new baby doll and her new stuffed animal doggie, Ralph!

Leading up to Christmas it was so tender to read Christmas stories and talk about Jesus with Maddy. Every day she wanted to go over to the nativity on the piano and "See baby Jesus!" She may have broken his arm a couple of times. Oops! But nothing a little superglue couldn't fix.

On Christmas Day we drove up with our friends the Fagans and the Evans to a cabin in the Poconos. We stayed there for the weekend ice skating, playing games, going on carriage rides, and eating lots of yummy festive food. We had such a wonderful time. One of our best Christmases for sure!