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Aug 17, 2014

Five years

It's been five years since I walked down that winding path to meet you. Five years since my Dad passed my hands over to yours. Five years since we promised each other Always and Forever.

It feels like we've spent a lifetime already together. Each day is an adventure with you, my love. Thank you for being such a supportive husband to me and a loving father to our Liv.

Happiest anniversary.


I still do.

Aug 12, 2014

Cheeeeeese

Recently, Liv has begun to understand what I'm doing when I pull out my iPhone or camera to take her picture. She gives the cheekiest grin, says "cheeeeese!" and then immediately asks to see the picture.

It is so much fun watching her personality unfold at this age. She has a great sense of humor, can be silly and wild, but also likes to stick close to her mama in unfamiliar situations. When Keane asks her if mama is her best friend, she enthusiastically shouts, "YEAH!"

Everyday is a new adventure with her and the belly laughs keep coming– from both of us!


Such a ham!
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Aug 8, 2014

Let's catch up

I think it's about time we caught up.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Ray family moved! From the city! To the country! Kind of. We left the hustle and bustle of Denver and bought a house in a quaint little rural subdivision, sandwiched in the middle of suburbia. All the houses in the neighborhood are spread out on large properties and are zoned for animals, so if we get a wild hair one day, we are allowed to have 2 "animal units." That is the equivalency of two horses, or one horse and one cow, or ten lamas, or one-hundred chickens, or five alpaca, fifty chickens, one large pig and two-and-a-half goats. The options are endless on the livestock front, really.

We casually started the house hunt back in April after realizing that we were bursting at the seams of our two-bedroom bungalow. We bought that house in 2012 as an investment property and planned to turn it into a rental once we grew out of it. Well, the time came quicker than we expected (spoiler alert: you acquire a whole bunch of shit once you have a kid) and we were ready for a bigger space.

We expected to end up in a suburban neighborhood (because that's what you do when you have a family, right?) so we started our search there. We looked up north where we would be closer to family and in a good school district, but the thought of living right on top of your neighbors in a house that looked like all the rest was fairly unappealing to us so we put the search on hold for a bit.

One morning we got a text from Keane's mom saying there was a For Sale By Owner sign that just went up in her neighborhood (which happens to also be up north and in a great school district). It was a cute 4 bed, 2 bath farm house on an acre of land with a horse barn and giant 2-story playhouse in the back! I assumed there was no way we could afford it because I knew what homes were selling for in that area, but I called on it anyway. I was pleasantly surprised by the price and set up a time to go over and take a look. As the seller took us around the property, Keane and I sent silent messages back and forth via hand squeezes. We tried to play it cool as he showed us the brand new kitchen they just remodeled, the original hardwood floors in perfect condition, the crazy amount of storage space (did I mention we have a ton of shit?!), the apple tree and raspberry bushes, the horse stables, and the fenced-in lot that would be heaven for our baby and dogs. We casually asked if we could take a minute alone to discuss. Once the seller was out of earshot, we both agreed, through various tones of excited squealing, that we had to have this home. We could picture ourselves having more children there, growing into the space and maybe eventually adding on in the future if we needed. That's one of the benefits of having a bit of land and no HOA– there aren't limits to what we can do. And if there's one thing I know about my hubby, it's that he hates restrictions. Since the house was listed FSBO and we were able to get a discounted price by not using a realtor, we had to do all the contracts and negotiating on our own, which was hugely intimidating. Like a couple of rookies perusing a weekend garage sale, we walked back over to the sellers and said, "Uh, so we'd like to buy your house. How do we do this?"

Luckily, the sellers were a dream to work with and it wasn't a big deal not using any agents. We developed a really good relationship with them from the beginning. We learned that we were the first people to look at the house just 12 hours after the sign went up and that they really wanted to sell it to a young family. Fate? I think yes.

With the contract underway, the next step was finding renters for our Denver house. Thankfully, it's located in a really great area so it was unbelievably easy to rent. I posted an ad on Craigslist and within 24 hours I had over 30 people asking to see it before the open house. We chose a few that we thought would be good fits, hosted private showings, and rented it for well over our monthly payment– without even having to do the open house. The whole process went so smoothly and we LOVE our tenants. It's great to know that someone is taking good care of our house and loves it as much as we do.

We've been in the house now for about 6 weeks and are still getting settled. Projects like pulling weeds, hanging curtains and updating brass fixtures take about three times as long with a toddler running around, but it is slowly starting to feel like ours. Life is very different here. In Denver, Liv and I walked everywhere: to get groceries, to meet friends at the park, to get a mid-afternoon coffee. Keane biked to work and we rarely used our cars. His commute now is about 35 minutes and I often feel like a soccer mom (sans minivan) shuffling around town from stop to stop.

But we have space to roam and time feels slower here which is what we've yearned for since moving back from Wyoming. For the first time in my life, I don't have cable and we have no intention of getting it. It is shocking to even say this, but I have no idea what is happening in the lives of my Real Housewives! We even lived without internet for a couple weeks when we first moved in. My priorities are different here. Liv and I sit on the deck and listen to the roosters crow in the morning instead of watching the Today Show. We pick raspberries and check on the baby birds in the barn. We inspect worms and dragonflies and get really dirty. Life is different here. Life is good here.

The dogs are in hog heaven with all the space. We lose Daphne on an hourly basis admits the chest-high weeds in the back and Cash has already killed his first rabbit. I found a 6-foot long bullsnake right by Liv's foot and almost had a heart attack. Keane caught it and released it into the field behind our house. That guy. So humane, it's gross.

Jul 29, 2014

12 months


I realize I'm posting this 3.5 months late but my anal retentiveness wouldn't let me forget to post the very last month in the series...so better late than never!

Here's what was going on during this beauty's eleventh month:

-Babbling all the time. Using a lot of inflection.
-New tooth sprouting
-Saying, "Whoa!" when she falls or drops something
-Smelling flowers
-Mocking Daphne's whining by imitating her
-Grinding her teeth (worst noise imaginable, BTW)
-Always on the go and never wanting to come inside

There! 
Months 1-12 are finally complete! 
Phew.


Jul 28, 2014

We're back

Well, would you look at that. It seems I inadvertently took a three month hiatus from writing. I could do all sorts of explaining about how time got away from me, but the truth is I needed a break from all this sharing. For a long time, all I wanted was for readers to find their way here. I wanted to create a sense of community and belonging among women and mothers. I wanted a space where people could come to share a laugh, commiserate about the trials of parenthood, inspire or be inspired, and most importantly, connect in an age of utter disconnection.

But a few years into it, I got scared. What if what I was writing wasn't interesting to people anymore? Was I sharing too much? Not enough? How would Liv feel when she's older knowing that I'd detailed her life on the internet? Once something is put out there, you can never get it back, after all. I began feeling insecure about my decision to write instead of empowered by it.

So I decided to take a step back and sit in silence for a while. Our days marched on and a lot of things happened. We celebrated a first birthday with the most special people in Liv's life. We bought another house and moved for the 8th time in 7 years. Life changed and we grew, and through it all, I just kept thinking, I should really be writing this all down. If for nothing else than our own memory.

I remembered why I started this blog in the first place. It's our family's storybook and our daughter's babybook. Over the years, Keane and I have spent so much time looking back through old blog posts– reminiscing about our adventures, laughing at our missteps and reliving the emotion of our biggest moments together. I thought about how, in 50 years from now, when my hair is white and my skin is wrinkled, I'll cherish this collection of writings more than most things. Memories fade but words and photos live on. My hope is that Liv will appreciate reading these snippets from her family and maybe even develop a love of writing like her mama.

So I've decided not to worry about the "audience," and just write. If people come, great. If they find enjoyment from our stories, even better. But I have to remember, first and foremost, this is for us and the pressure is off.

So for now, we're back...with stories to tell.


Apr 13, 2014

Letters to Liv: Happy First Birthday

My Dearest Liv,

It's 8:40pm and I'm writing you this letter from bed. You are sound asleep in the next room without the slightest idea of just how meaningful this moment is to me. Right now, exactly one year ago, I was in labor with you.

I remember every detail about that day so vividly. I felt my first contraction early Saturday afternoon while I rested my aching body on the couch. I was still 6 days out from my due date and had fully expected for you to come late, so I was a little shocked it was all happening so soon.

Knowing it could still be days before active labor truly started, your papa and I tried to wait patiently without getting our hopes up too much. We watched episodes of Breaking Bad and ate rotisserie chicken and mashed potatoes while casually timing my contractions. I bounced on the big blue ball, stopping every five minutes or so to breathe through the waves that rolled over my core.

Around 9:00pm, papa called the midwife to see if we should head to the birth center. My contractions had gotten strong and were coming every few minutes at this point. Another hour passed before we were given the green light to come in.

I remember walking out to the car thinking that the next time we returned home, you'd be with us and our lives would forever be changed. The air was cool and our street was silent. I paused in papa's arms through one last contraction before buckling in and making the 20 minute drive to the birth center. From the back seat, I closed my eyes and said a prayer for us. For you, that your journey into the world would be a safe one; and for me, that I could remain strong through it all.

Papa called our families to inform them that you were on your way.

The next 16 hours were the most intense of my entire life. Contractions came every 1.5 to 2 minutes and lasted 60 seconds or more. Each time one ended, I had just enough time to refocus and gather strength for the next. I labored in bed, on a ball, draped over a sling, lunging up and down stairs, floating in a tub, hanging from papa's neck, and hovering over a birth stool.

Our room was warm, quiet and peaceful. I listened to nature sounds and sniffed peppermint essential oil anytime I got nauseous. Had it not been for the unbelievable pain, I would have thought I was at a spa.

Your papa was by my side the entire time. He never asked if I was thirsty, instead just held a straw to my mouth and I drank. He rested when I did, but stood up the instant a contraction started to brace some of my weight for me. There were very few words spoken between us during labor but we were more in sync than ever before.

By about 1:30pm the next day, you were ready to come out. It wasn't at all like the movies, Liv. No one was directing me on when or how to push. There were no beeping monitors or people coming in and out of my room. There was simply a nurse and a midwife kneeling beside my birth tub, gently encouraging and praising me. "You are doing great, mama" they kept saying.

Mama! It dawned on me that I was just minutes away from becoming your mama! With a few final pushes, you came out into the water and into my arms forever.


You have changed me in so many ways, sweet Liv. I never knew I could love this deeply, live this selflessly or care this much...and all while sustaining prolonged sleep deprivation! You are sweet and sensitive, wild and free, independent and courageous. You are everything I hoped my daughter might be.

Your life is such a wonderful gift and this year has been my favorite yet. Thank you for coming into our world and choosing us as your parents. We are the lucky ones, Liv.

Happiest first birthday to you.


To the moon and back,

Mama


Mar 19, 2014

11 months

Don't know her stats but let's just leave it at this: chicken legs. 
New this month:

-Growling like a wild animal.
-Clapping, specifically to "If You're Happy and You Know It."
-Kissing. On the lips... with a wet, open mouth.
-Saying Mama, Dada, Dog, Deh (yeah), and Doh (no)
-Cutting a new top tooth (that's 5 total)
-Obsession with shredding toilet paper. She tears it into tiny little pieces and leaves a trail around the house for me to clean. She's very much like a cat. 
-Loving on command. When I ask her to give someone or something a "love," she gently rests her head on it. Her favorite recipients of loves are soft things like blankets and stuffed animals. 
-Fascination with teeth and tongues. While she nurses, she jams her fingers into my mouth and plays with my teeth. She thinks it's the funniest thing in the world when I pretend to bite them.
-Moving like Jagger. She sways one arm back and forth with bent knees anytime she hears music or I ask her to dance. It's quite possibly the cutest thing she does. 
-Carrying heaving objects around the house. She loves a challenge so anything big, heavy or awkward to handle, she lugs from room to room while grunting. 
-Exclusively walking (and running). Crawling is for the birds now.
-Better understanding of the world around her. I can say to her, "Liv, do you want to go for a walk in the stroller?" She'll respond with, "Deh" (her way of saying Yeah). I'll then ask her to get her shoes from her room so we can go. She'll stop what she's doing, go into her bedroom and emerge with her shoes in hand. Brilliant, I tell you!
-Learning about emotions. She laughs when Keane and I laugh or when she sees someone on TV laughing. She also appeared very concerned when she saw me crying the other day and actually reached out to touch my tears. I love that she's showing empathy at this age. 
-No more scowling! Thank the sweet Lord for that. 

If you need me over the next few weeks, I'll be cursing that hood rat called TIME. Because how has it been almost a full year. How?

Months 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 here


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