My sweet child,
Two years ago on this day, I finally saw your beautiful face for the very first time. It was surreal and wonderful all at the same time.
When you were born, you didn’t cry. People say that babies should always cry when they’re born; that’s how you know they’re okay. But you just looked around, eyes wide, strangely calm and curious about your new world. Someone—a nurse?—placed you in my arms and we looked at each other, you and I, as I quietly introduced myself: “Hi Henry. I’m your mama.”
Those beautiful moments in the first few hours gave way eventually to sheer exhaustion, hormonal tears (even uncontrollable weeping at times), an achy, healing body, and a fear that I could never be all that you deserved. Those first many weeks are a hazy memory, a foggy time in my life where I remember very, very little except that I was so tired all the time and my even my brain hurt to try to think.
Hitting the 12 week mark was huge for us. You started sleeping through the night, my body felt normal again, and our routine was fairly smoothed out. I finally felt some confidence in mothering and that made a huge difference in how I approached each day.
I now have 2 solid years of mothering under my belt and I wish I could go back and tell the early version of new mama self that it would get better. It gets so much better. Sure, we are now entering the stage of tantrums and big emotions and a strong will, but this is still far easier for me than the newborn stage was. Back in the beginning, I remember having swings of panic thinking, “What have we done? I can’t do this big, important job. Is this how the rest of my life will be?” And I’m not at all perfect at it now, but I do know that somewhere along the way it became truly fun. And when my mentality changed from my new role being a burden to being a joy and an honor, I allowed myself the freedom to truly let go and mother you in the best way I could.
These past couple of years, particularly this last one, have been the best of my life. I remember feeling like we hit a huge milestone a year ago. One year old! So many things became easier. But if I felt relieved to hit one year, I feel sad to hit two. You see, this past year has been so wonderful that I don’t even want it to end.
You do so many things now that make me think you’re far older than you actually are. You have a tendency to walk around with your hands clasped behind your back and it makes you look like an old man out for a stroll in the gardens. You love to lay on the floor on your stomach with your hands propping your chin up while you read books or play with your toys or watch a show. You look like a teenager when you do that. The other day, you were watching your favorite kid’s show (Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) and suddenly I couldn’t see you on the floor anymore. When I finally spotted you, you were sitting on the couch, propped up among the pillows.
You have always loved reading. We’ve been reading you books since you were a baby. And though you now beg to play with technology (iPads, phones, the TV…everything), you still love reading books. When we go to get you up from your nap, we’ll often find you laying in your bed, quietly “reading” books that you’ve pulled off the shelf and into your crib. You go in spurts where you’ll obsess over one book for several days, begging to read it over and over and over until we are all sick of it. Currently, it’s “Bread and Jam for Frances”. Interspersed with sing-song rhymes about jam, we read other favorites like “The Snail and the Whale”, Little Blue Truck”, “Dancing Feet”, “Click, Clack, Moo”, “Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile”, “Giraffes Can’t Dance”, “Sheep in a Jeep,” and “The Pout Pout Fish.”
You aren’t talking yet aside from a couple of words (“cookie” being your first and favorite), but one of my absolute favorite things that you do now is say “yeah”. You say it with such grown-up confidence, like when you bring me a book to read and I say, “Do you want to read this?”, you respond with, “Yeah.” You use different tones for it too so sometimes it like “yay!” and sometimes “duh” and sometimes “okay”. But always “yeah”. I love hearing you talk and I find your little voice to be the most darling sound I’ve ever heard.
We keep your scooter in the house and you ride it around like a champ, careening around the corners like a crazy person, dinging your little bell. You finally like stickers, though it has just been in the last few weeks that you’ve come to terms with them. (They used to freak you out; probably something you got from me as I cannot stand them to this day.) You love going to the farm to visit your grandparents; there’s just so much to do and see there. After a lifetime of coaxing, you finally road the tractor with your grandpa and discovered, oh hey, this is fun! You love all dogs and try to pet them all, even ones that don’t want to be touched. You love to play with anything with button—the remotes, calculators, etc.—and the GoPro recently caught your eye. You held it to your eyes and said “cheeeeee” with a fake smile plastered on your face. It made me laugh so much.
While there have been a few times that either your daddy or I were gone over night, earlier this month was the first time that we’ve both been gone from you at the same time. While we were in Colorado, you stayed with my parents and, aside from a 20-second FaceTime gone wrong, you were (so we’re told) a really great kid, eating well, sleeping great, listening and obeying, and mostly, having so much fun. My heart ached being away from you, but I was so happy to know that you were having a good time. We got home on a Sunday night and drove straight from the airport to their church to pick you up. You were playing on the floor in the back of the church and when you spotted us walking in from across the foyer, you hopped up and started running to us saying, “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” I couldn’t hold you tight enough.
We recently weaned you off of your pacifier during the day. It was during a course of a few weeks when you were chewing apart the pacifier wub-a-nubs and I refused to keep spending money on them when you’d tear through them in a day. (Gah, teething isn’t fun, kid!) In a full-sweep effort, we ditched the wub-a-nubs completely and gave you a plain pacifier without the animal attached while at the same time, asking you in the morning to leave your blankie and your “giraffe” (pacifier) in your bed. With theatrical dramatics, you lifted them really high then dropped them down on the mattress and left them there. We haven’t looked back. You still find comfort in having them when you go to sleep, but it’s a relief to be able to leave them in your bed.
Politics have been heavy in the world lately and all of it has made me so much more aware of how intentional we must be as you grow up. I need to be an example for you to follow; I want you to learn what’s right and what’s wrong. I want you to be gracious and loving; kind and forgiving; gentle and patient. You must know that it is never okay to bully someone. It is never okay to talk down to someone, even if they are different than you or different than most people around you. My prayer for you is that you will know God and love people. You will not fail if you do those two things. Your life has so much purpose and I’m so excited to see how it all unfolds.
Henry, you’re the joy of our lives and being your mama is hands down my greatest privilege. I love you so very much.
Happy birthday, my beautiful boy.
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Loves: cheese & milk (and anything dairy-related), “giraffe” & blankie, reading books, being outside, watching & petting dogs, playing at the park, anything with wheels, technology of any kind, crawl-through tunnels, washing hands, and playing with trains
Wears: 18-24M in clothes, size 4 diapers (size 5 overnight)
Sleeping: 7:30PM-7:30AM plus 1 nap during the day
A week ago, Kevin and I headed out to Colorado for an engagement session (it was so gorgeous; see it here!). This was the first time that we have both left Henry overnight since he was born, save that one time last New Year’s when we got the flu and my mom took Henry to their house to keep him away from us since we were both unable to even stand up. I won’t lie; leading up to the trip, I was sick with anxiety. I knew he’d be fine at my parent’s house, but leaving him was nevertheless incredibly difficult.
Thankfully, once we hit the ground in Denver, we kept our schedule really, really busy so I was able to stay distracted. We flew into Denver Thursday night, grabbed our rental car, and headed to our hotel for some sleep. Friday morning, we got up early and grabbed some breakfast on our way out of town as we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. The weather in Denver was unseasonably warm (low 70s during the day!), but thankfully we had thrown in some hats and gloves because the temperatures out on the trails and up in the mountains were much lower. We started our hike at the Bear Lake trailhead, where the early morning temperature was about 19 degrees. It stayed pretty brisk with the combination of the day warming up and us climbing higher, but back down at base, it felt great in the mid-40s!
We hiked all morning and ate lunch on the trail before heading back. In the early afternoon when we got back to our car, we drove to another trailhead, Fern Lake, to hike some more. By the time we reached The Pool, we knew we were losing sunlight and that it would get cold really quickly. We had gotten that far though, so we decided to hike another 1.8 miles to the falls. Little did we know that it was a really difficult hike with a steep incline and very rocky path. When we finally made it to the falls, we were able to rest for only a couple of minutes before quickly heading back down. We joked that we felt like the people who climb Mount Everest; after all that, they can only stay there for about 5 minutes before going back down. I also thought that maybe we should’ve planted a flag up there.
We got back to the car just as the sun was starting to dip. We were sore everywhere. My kneecaps were burning. I’ve never experienced that before. My shoulders and neck were sharp with pain (we had to constantly be looking down at our feet to watch our next steps). We ended up hiking almost 16 miles through the mountains that day with over 33,000 steps (my total for the day was 34,114 steps). As with any extensive hiking, even with our bodies being done, the views we had seen during the day were absolutely spectacular. And the snow that I ate to refresh myself on the trail was delicious, even if a bear may have peed on it.
As we were leaving the park, we came around a corner and saw a whole herd of elk grazing on the side of a hill. We pulled the car over and I grabbed the camera. As we were watching, we noticed that on the opposite side of the road, out in an open meadow, there was an even bigger herd of elk. It was so exciting to see (on our last trip to Colorado, we didn’t see any wildlife at all!) and also fascinating to hear them. Did you know that sound similar to orcas? Two young males played together, sparring in fun with their small antlers. One large make tried to mount a female; she rejected him without a thought. We were so incredibly close to them.
The engagement session was on Saturday afternoon so, after sleeping in a bit on Saturday morning, we decided to keep the day a little more low-key while giving our bodies a chance to rest a bit. In search of more animals (particularly bison), we went to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal right outside of Denver. We saw deer, birds, and prairie dogs, but it wasn’t until we were nearly leaving that we finally saw some bison! They were pretty far away, but we were still excited. What we didn’t know was that later in the day we would see some very, very closely out in Daniel’s Gate Park where I was taking engagement photos.
After the arsenal, we went to the Red Rocks. It was so beautiful there, but we were also very fascinated with everyone who was working out in the amphitheater. The way the rows are set up are perfect for a vast variety of working out and lots of folks were running back and forth through the rows starting at the top and snaking back and forth all the way to bottom. Others were doing box leaps row to row all the way up; still others doing side lunges up and down, inclined and declined pushups, stair runs, and planks. It was incredible. I wish so badly we had something like that around here.
We headed over to Daniel’s Gate Park to scope things out prior to the session and came upon these bison. We couldn’t quit figure it out since they were behind a gate; were they privately owned? (We assumed so.) And then we started discussing things like, “Do people out here raise bison like Iowans raise cows?” Unsure. The jury’s still out on that one.
After the engagement session, we headed back to our hotel downtown and ordered pizza for pickup from a place in the pedestrian mall. Our hotel was right there so we were able to enjoy some late evening walking through downtown. We grabbed our pizza and stayed in that night watching football and relaxing.
The time change was Sunday and I still hadn’t adjusted to Colorado time so I woke up at 4:30 (what my body would’ve thought was 6:30). Since neither of us could sleep, we ended up getting up and finding a place to grab breakfast that early on a Sunday. We walked to Snooze (a glorious recommendation from Sally & Erik!) and enjoyed the most delicious breakfast!!! If you’re ever in town, please try it! I got the pancake flight and Kevin got the breakfast pot pie. They were both amazing.
Our flight left Denver at 3:55 and we needed to get the rental car returned a little before 2. We figured we had time for one more quick hike before stopping over at our friends’ house on the way out of town. On a recommendation from Sally & Erik, we drove about an hour to hike up Saint Mary’s Glacier. The hike to the lake was only about 3/4 of a mile, but it was really rocky and absolutely freezing cold. The starting elevation was over 10,000 feet and the car said the temperature was 29 degrees. With the wind chill, it was much closer to 10 to 15 degrees. It sort of took our breaths away, the cold.
We didn’t stay long at the time since it was a) freezing and b) we wanted to grab some lunch to take along to James & Sky’s. We grabbed some food and got to their house around 12:30. James was gone, but it was just so great to see Skylar and meet their brand new baby, Forest (who is absolutely gorgeous and perfect in every way!).
We were only able to stay about an hour before heading to the airport. By the time we returned our car and got the shuttle the airport, we knew we were running slightly behind. Thankfully, the airline opened a row specific to our flight since so many people were waiting to get through so we made it to our gate with about 5 minutes to spare before boarding began (and just enough time to grab a coffee!). By this point, all of our activities and commitments were done and I could.not.wait to get home to see Henry again. My body was just aching to hold him.
Our flight landed a couple of minutes early and we grabbed our bags and hit the road to go pick up Henry. My parents had taken him to their church Sunday evening and mom had him out in the back when we walked in. He saw us from across the foyer and popped up off the floor and starting running to us, shouting, “Oh yeah! Oh yeah! Oh yeah!” That hug was the best ever. Traveling after kids is a whole different ballgame than traveling before. I was so glad we were able to enjoy beautiful Colorado, but it felt equally delightful to be home again, reunited as a family.
I was so excited for this engagement session and not just because the location was breathtaking–we flew out to Colorado and shot this session at Daniel’s Gate Park right outside of Denver–but also because I knew going into it that this couple was something special. Sally & Erik met during their time in college at the University of Iowa. “We had mutual friends and had been introduced briefly one time, but the first time we actually met was New Years Eve. I was going to Chicago with some girlfriends to celebrate downtown and heard that some of our friends from college would be joining. My girlfriends and I had booked a room at a hotel for the night and decided everyone in the group would meet there first and then go out to the celebration. I’ll never forget when Erik walked in the door with his friends. I was instantly curious about him and wanted to get to know him more. He was wearing a black suit and looked very handsome.
“After Erik and his friends (some of whom were mutual friends) arrived, we were all reintroduced and decided to head out to the event which was being held downtown. I’ll never forget how cold it was that night! When waiting for a car, Erik offered me his jacket which I was giddy on the inside about. What really stood out to me that night was how polite, kind, and gentle Erik was. He took the time to open doors, listen and ask questions about where I was from, and fine out what my interests were.
“Erik and I strayed from our group a little to find a more quiet corner where we could talk at one point during the night. It was so nice to be able to talk and get to know each other more without the music and people. As the night went on we danced, talked some more, and had a little bubbly! At midnight, they had a toast and then counted down until to the New Year. As midnight struck, I looked around and all my friends had a New Year’s kiss. I turned around and saw Erik, who took my hand and gave me a sweet little kiss. I tend to be very shy and modest, so my plan was going to be to just hide in the corner and wait til the infamous midnight had struck. But in the most polite and gentle way, he gave me a small kiss and said thank you for a great night.
“After midnight I was getting tired and one of my friends wasn’t feeling good and wanted to go back to the hotel, so I decided to ask the group and see who all wanted to come back with us. No one answered, except Erik which I am so thankful for! It was impossible to find a cab and not only did my friend not feel too well, but her shoes began to hurt also. So Erik, like the gentleman he was, carried her back to the hotel with me in the freezing cold for probably 5 or 6 blocks. I’ll never forget messing up the GPS getting back to the hotel and steering us the wrong way and Erik not getting upset or anything, just going with the flow and helping out.”
Sally & Erik recently moved to the Denver area and we obviously are not familiar with the area either so we relied on some suggestions from friends as well as a bit of scouting beforehand. We settled on Daniel’s Gate Park which was absolutely breathtaking. They had wanted to capture the mountains and the views that they now call home and I’m so so so excited with how perfect the weather and location was for them!
After they finished school in Iowa, they moved to Minnesota for work. Erik proposed while they were living there (they now live in Colorado–obviously–and are getting married in Iowa next year!) “The day was spent outside in Minnesota, sending time with friends and enjoying the beautiful summer weather. Erik had been acting strange all day. When we went paddle boarding with our friends, he was in such a rush to get home before dinner. We had planned to go to our favorite restaurant with all of our friends. When we got done paddle boarding, Erik was very persistant about going on a walk. I had been exhausted from exploring and paddle boarding, but finally (after some persuading) agreed to go. I was planning on wearing shorts and a t-shirt, but all of a sudden all my girlfriends started texting me saying they were wearing dresses so I quickly threw on a summer white dress! We headed out to a park that we frequently walked to and love to go to since it was so close by. As we were walking, I noticed Erik seemed very off. He was not really focused on anything I was asking or saying. When we get to the park I start to turn around to come home and he suggested we walked over to some trees. We walked between the trees and the sun was just beaming through them, creating such a beautiful scene and he began to talk. I don’t even know if I remember what he said, it was all so amazing and such a blur! He got down on one knee, asked me to marry him, and I said yes! Then all of our closest friends jumped out from the trees to surprise us! They had been taking pictures and were watching the whole time. They threw us a celebration party after and we grilled out in their backyard and celebrated. It was amazing.”
They are a perfect match for each other. Erik says that Sally is “the nicest, most positive person I have ever met before. She is always selfless, kind, and happy.” And Sally describes him as being hard-working and generous. “He is always willing to help others out and give to others. He is also the most hard-working and humble person I know. He gets to work before anyone else and is so devoted to each and every one of his office members. He is so humble about his accomplishments and does not like any recognition. His desire to work hard so that I can be a stay-at-home mom someday is so admirable and I can’t wait for our future together.”
Sally & Erik, thank you so much for bringing me out to Colorado! It was such a joy to meet you both and I’m so excited for your wedding next summer! I hope these images bring smiles to your faces and capture you guys exactly as you are in this beautiful new place you call home.
They both grew up in Iowa City, but never ran into each other until medical school. “We had a pathology small group together and sat at a long conference table. When it came my turn to present weekly, the group would look at my presentation on the screen, but Nick always had his eyes on me presenting—how obvious!” They started studying together and quickly became friends.
She claims that he tricked her into their first date. “Aforementioned, Nick clearly had eyes on my from the start, but it took me a while to warm up! We became friends and started studying together as that’s really the only thing we did in med school, but we usually kept our study time to the weeknights. After a while, he asked me to study on a Saturday night and I was (secretly) excited with the idea that could be a date! I got to the Java House early and he walked in with another girl (one of our mutual friends). I quickly dismissed the idea that this was a date and reverted to the plan that we were better as friends.
“Eventually, our other friend, Royce, joined the study group and recommended we grab a beer at Sanctuary later in the night. We got to Sanctuary and Lisa sat next to Royce and he put his arm around her, while Nick sat next to me. That’s when I realized that it was a double date! I was caught off guard, but pleasantly surprised!! I still tease Nick that he tricked me into our first date.”
To be fair, he later asked her on an official first date which has now turned into a whole lifetime together ahead of them!
The beginning to their relationship has been anything but ordinary. With both in medical school together, they faced the challenges of the school workload on top of residency relocation. “With medical school finishing, we planned to ‘couple’s match’ together—couple our residency applications so we could end up in the same place. This makes relationships serious because in this process you’re possibly sacrificing your first choice location for your career to be with the other person. [After matching together in Minnesota] and moving their together without knowing anyone, adopting our pup, and getting through the strenuous first year of residency, I knew that we could handle anything together.”
Emily is a self-proclaimed marathon addict (she’s already done 9 and wants to complete the remaining 4 of 6 world marathons) so Nick took the opportunity to schedule a couple’s massage for them with the excuse that she needed one as she was training for an upcoming marathon. “He usually isn’t the one to plan events like this so I had some idea what was happening,” she says. “After the massage, we drove home and there was no ring so I decided that it wasn’t the time after all.”
“I coordinated with a bunch of our friends up here in Minneapolis to have them come over to our apartment while we were gone and set things up (including chilling the champagne and attaching the engagement ring to our dog’s collar). Our friends then proceeded to hide on our small deck with the blinds closed. When Emily and I got back to the apartment, Archie ran over to us with the ring attached to his collar. I got down on one knee and proposed and our friends came inside as a surprise afterwards.”
Though they remember meeting in chemistry class in high school, they later learned that they had met far earlier than that. “Technically, we first met in the crib at Zach’s grandma’s house when we were in daycare. I was about 6 months old so I don’t remember that.” But his grandmother has a photo to prove it!
It didn’t take long for them to develop feelings for each other; it was chemistry class after all. He asked her to be his girlfriend shortly after going to homecoming together as “just friends.” Liz says she not sure if there was an exact time that she knew he was the one. “We went to high school and then college and it seems like he’s been with me through almost every big thing in my life. Nobody knows me or puts up with my nonsense the way he does, and I love him for that.”
I met Liz & Zach at Zach’s grandmother’s house–the same place they’ll be getting married next year!–for their engagement session. And while it wasn’t technically at the Palisades State Park, it’s right next door and we got some of the same beautiful, and private, scenery!
They brought their puppy along and within the first two minutes, she had jumped into the pond. She rocked the wet dog look though!
Zach proposed while they were on a camping (“glamping”) trip with his family. “We got to choose some activities beforehand to do while we were there so we chose to do a horseback trail ride and trap shooting,” Liz says. “There were only a million signs pointing to what was about to happen but I was oblivious. When we got to the trail ride there were only two horses (plus the wrangler and his horse). Which made me think, ‘How lucky are we that we’re the only two on the trail?’
“So we went up the mountain (at sunset…another missed clue) and Zach was really quiet the whole way. Usually he’s taking pictures and very outgoing; he would have normally been asking the wrangler a lot of questions and starting small talk. We got to the top of the mountain and tied our horses up and the wrangler told us to take our time. In my head, I was like, ‘Take our time doing what?’ So we walked up and there was a table with a dozen roses and a bottle of champagne and I said, ‘Zach, is that for us?’ but just kept on walking, kind of just confused, but still not putting it together.
“There was a big rock up ahead, named by Lewis and Clark: Look Out Rock. The blackfoot river was directly below at a dead drop off (it was terrifying) and you could see for miles. We were about to walk back down and Zach said, ‘Wait, look over here at this view.’ I turned to go back up and look out at the side view and when I turned back around to go down again, he got down on one knee and popped the question! Little did I know the champagne was really for us and he had a hidden photographer capture the whole thing! We went back down the mountain (at which point Zach was much chattier). When we got back to our camp we got to celebrate with all of Zach’s family.”
Liz & Zach, I’m SO excited to celebrate with you next year! Your wedding is going to be absolutely beautiful (we already know that, of course) and I’m so thrilled to see you start your lives as married people!
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