Piper is ONE!

(To see a few more pictures of my girl at one, go to the photography blog here)

To Piper on Her First Birthday, 12-23-2009

Piper Jane,

You grew in my deepest space while we traveled like people without a home. Our first thoughts of you began in an RV in California, pulled by a truck running on veggie oil. Your little cells started to divide while we lived in a house with many athletes, all focused on a similar 2008 Olympic goal. My stomach turned in nausea, your heart beating deep within mine already (and still is), as those athletes cooked their various meats and healthy foods in our kitchen.

I couldn’t be in the same room as meat. As a being the size of a lima bean, you were already dictating a part of my life.

While your brain started to send synapses to your heart, telling it to pump blood, we moved from that house with all those athletes, back into our RV space. For weeks, we talked about what would be next. Where you would be born, where you would take your first steps. Your dad and I were not exactly on the same page. Sometimes I wonder if there is an effect on your psyche from the tension of those days of decision. Did you feel my stress, my uncertainty, my tears on many of those hours? We tried to shield Rowan from it, but we couldn‘t really wait until you went to sleep.

As your lungs formed to one day handle air, we moved to Michigan. First we lived with Grandma and Grandpa, then Nana and Papa, then we had our own place in a friend’s guest house for a month. Then we lived with the Heffners for several months. Then, you spent your last week in my womb, in my childhood home, with my mom and dad. And that is where you lived your first 3 months on the outside of my body.

Hours before the contractions that brought you forth began, I sat with your dad in my childhood family room. Maybe I had a premonition, because I spent the day organizing…and then, right before we turned in for the night, I said to your dad, “if I go into labor tonight, and we have a girl, what will we name her?” Our girl name had not been finalized yet (we thought we had time! Over a week until your due date!) He looked me directly in the eyes. “Piper Jane.” We still deliberated a bit after you were born, but I think it was mostly for show. I knew the night before that if you were a girl, you would be Piper.

And here we are now, you are turning one year old. In our own house. In a stuck house. In Grand Rapids. It is quite possible that you will live here, on these old wood floors, using that bathtub, for many of your early years. The circumstances of your conception and growth within me do not match the relative stability of most of your first year.

Ironically, it’s something your dad worries about for you. Not the crazy beginning--he worries about the lack of adventure in your present and near-future.

I had longed for you, child. Did you know that? How I wanted to be pregnant again, to feel those tumbles within. To experience giving birth again. To breastfeed, and smell that newborn smell. It’s fierce, that biological drive. Just ask your dad. I don’t think he knows how to contend with it at times.

But just so you know, you were wanted, in the deepest way possible.

I was prepared for the worst when adding you to our family. Sibling rivalry, sleepless nights. Crying, and lots of it. After all, I’d done this once before, and now I was going to do it WITH an older child. Some of my expectations were met (a year later, and we’re STILL not sleeping through the night!), others seem a distant and silly worry.

It’s nice to have a baby around, you know? Those chubby legs (oh, the legs!), the toothless grins (and now the 4-teeth grins, almost equally as cute, although the gap between your top 2 teeth is alarmingly wide!), the open-eyed wonder at just about anything (you giggled tonight in the tub when you figured out how to make sound come out of a flute-type thing--you almost couldn’t repeat it because you kept laughing so hard every time you began, so pleased with yourself in anticipation.)

Here are some snapshots of your first year:

-wrapped up like a burrito, tuft of hair sticking out all over, sleeping that deep newborn sleep in the crook of the couch.

-riding in and loving the Moby wrap, any way we wrapped it.

-your quick and business-like nursing.

-watching Rowan, watching Rowan, watching Rowan.

-trying anything--and I do mean anything---to figure out how you would sleep the best.

-getting diagnosed with pneumonia at 5 months and all those tests, pricks, and prods, too much for a baby.

-trying to figure out what to do with all your hair, finally settling on 2 ponytails, eventually taming down to be able to handle 2 barrette-like clips.

-your quick smile and hearty laugh.

-getting baptized with Rowan and your cousins Shae and Tayva--your great-grandpa Pekelder baptized you all, and I’ll never forget holding you in my arms…and your wide eyes as you watched his hand come over you, you smiled, almost laughed, at the surprise of the sprinkle.

-your assertive spirit. That’s a nice way of saying that you are strong-willed. Which is a nice way of saying that you are bossy. In the last few months you’ve especially revealed this trait---you’ve played around with throwing tantrums, you can whine with the best of them, and you absolutely scold anyone who crosses your will.

-the way you’ve made the sign for “nurse” your own. It’s supposed to look a bit like milking a cow, a fist opening and closing. You tried that for awhile, but have settled on a 2 handed version of the sign for “cash-money”, more like rubbing your thumbs over your other fingers. Give me the milk now, momma.

-the way you journeyed into solid foods with gusto---and the equal gusto with which you started showing preferences. You went very quickly from a varied, impressive diet that included all kinds of dark green vegetables and things as exotic as kale and artichoke….to literally scraping pureed food out of your mouth with your whole hand, and stubbornly refusing to try something suspicious by burying your chin into your neck. Did I mention the strong will?

-your negotiation skills. I’m pretty sure Rowan never tried a chip, a french fry, a cookie, ice cream, goldfish, a rice krispie treat, or sips of momma’s tea, before her first birthday. You, my love, have convinced us to let you taste all of those things, and more.

-the way you love to read books. You’re bringing them to us, now, and you get so excited when we first sit down with a book. You have some favorites. You ohh and ahh. In this photo, you've just spotted a bird in your book, and you're giving me your sign for bird. You are really that excited.

-your drunken walking. I adore the stage of early walking, if only for the way your butt waddles like an old lady.

I know you intimately, child. I could fill page upon page with the details I know about you, the quirks that I love, the many moments throughout a day that I want to smother you with kisses and wrap you up in my love.

Stay here awhile, will you? Just-turned one is a good age.

I love you, Piper Jane. And I always will.

Happy Birthday.

(Post-script: I wrote this on the eve of Piper’s birthday. Had a rough night for the 3rd night in a row, so called the DR this AM…and Piper got a fun first birthday present: a double ear infection. Wasn’t exactly in our plans for the day, but we’ll roll with it! She's miserable. And thankfully, presently sleeping.)


On haircuts and girlhood

I’ve been looking at Rowan with fresh eyes the last few days. She is a girl. Not a baby, not a toddler, not even a little girl anymore. She’s almost 5, and she’s a girl. I saw a photo of her the other day from just a few years ago. She had those chubby toddler cheeks. I look at her now and in my mind’s eye, I can see her at 13, maybe even at 22.

When I picked her up from pre-school yesterday, her teacher pulled me aside. Rowan had a tough day at school, she said. Some girls were unkind to her, one even said that she didn’t want to be Rowan’s friend anymore. Rowan told the teacher. Rowan cried while they talked about it. I’m so thankful for a teacher whose eyes well up with tears as she recounts a hurtful experience for one of her students. Rowan wasn’t mean back. But she was thrilled when, later in the day, one of the little girls decided to be nice to her again. A bit too quick to forgive and forget.

Oh, my heart. There are so many things I cannot protect her from. There are so many things I won’t be there for. I am shifting the way I look at her---she’s a girl, on her way to becoming a grown-up adult, completely separate from me, and she is capable. Sure, it’s my job to help equip her for what she might face. To listen, to offer advice if she wants it. To cry with her, hold her, reassure her.

But she will come across other mean people in her life, when I’m not there to protect her or tell her what to do, and she has to figure out how to deal with them.

I waited for Rowan to tell me about it, feeling thankful for the heads up from her teacher. Rowan told me kind of nonchalantly at first, clearly wanting to gauge my reaction. I dropped what I was doing (which was taking care of 5 children under the age of 4 :)), got down on my knees right by her…looked her square in the eye, and said that I was so sorry that happened and how much it must have hurt her feelings. I told her how terrible it made me feel. Great big tears sprung to her eyes. Out of hurt feelings, yes…but also out of relief from being heard, I think.

We talked about it on and off the rest of the day. She seemed so pleased that the girl was being nice to her by the end of the day, defensive almost---and I struggled to express to her that I wanted her to protect her heart, that she shouldn’t tolerated being treated poorly, that the little girl should apologize to make things right. That Rowan should tell her how much it hurt her feelings. But those are grown-up things, and in Rowan’s mind, all was well because the girl decided to be nice again. Maybe we should all be so quick to forgive. I just don’t want her heart to get trampled on. How do I help her find the balance?

We had our first huge snow a few weeks ago and school was canceled. All the neighbor kids were sledding on our front lawn by 9:00 AM. I got Piper and Rowan all bundled up, but Rowan was frustrated. It’s hard for all those layers to feel right to her. She was finally dressed, and went to the mirror to inspect herself. “I just don’t look good!” She declared. And so it begins. She cares about how things feel AND how things look. A girl.

Last week, Rowan was standing in front of that same full-length mirror in our closet, this time totally naked, brushing her hair. Joe passed through the closet to get something, and Rowan asked him “do I look beautiful when I’m naked?” Super star dad response, without skipping a beat or even having to think about it, Joe said “Rowan, you have a great body.” His response detracted from the beauty issue, and the nudity issue, and affirmed the goodness of her created physicality. She’s picking up all kinds of things already about what it means to be beautiful….and I can see in her little face how receptive she is right now to what her mommy and daddy think.

Joe was gone tonight and Piper went to bed early. Rowan has been wanting to take a bath with me, which we haven’t done for a long time….so we did. We talked about all kinds of things in the warm closeness of the tub. Why the woman at Meijer’s had her head covered with cloth. What day-dream means, and what we day-dream about. About Advent, and Jesus’ birthday party at school tomorrow. She washed my feet. I washed her hair, then blow dried it. A few weeks ago she wanted me to blow dry her already dry hair---“because it makes me feel warm and good all over!”

While I was blow-drying her hair, she asked if I would trim her hair. I’ve done that once before, and it didn’t really need it tonight, but I thought why not? She wanted me to do it a little shorter in front (not bangs, but kind of layers). Mind you, I have no idea how to cut hair. A straight trim across the back makes me nervous. But I figured I could give it a whirl and we could always go get a real haircut tomorrow.

Rowan is very particular, if you hadn’t noticed. And I am not one to be trusted with something as sacred as your hair. As I trimmed, our eyes caught in the mirror, and she grinned a little---her face one of complete love. Total trust. I thought to myself “Do you have ANY IDEA how horrible this haircut could turn out? Do you have ANY IDEA how little experience I have at this?” Oh yeah, and I smiled back.

And I thought….Truth. I don’t really know what I’m doing cutting hair, but I’ll give it a try for you, child. I’ll do my best. Your confidence in me only spurs me on. And aren’t a lot of things in life about confidence? About smiling and acting like you know what you’re doing?

Just like I’m not a hairstylist, there are some days I don’t feel like I know what I’m doing as a parent, like I am out of patience, tired, have other things to do, and am completely confused about this issue or that. But I’m doing the best I can for you, child. I’m doing the best I can.

As long as you look at me with those big, trusting eyes. And even when you don’t anymore, maybe even more so then, I will keep plugging on. Praying. Discussing things with your dad. Calling my girlfriends. Hoping. Hugging you.

Smiling at you in the mirror.

I am capable.

You are capable.

And your haircut isn’t half bad.


A new blog, just for my photography!

I have started a new blog, separate from this family blog, to begin recording my photo sessions and work with non-family members!

I have one post up there as of now (and alas, the initial photos are of my girls, already posted to THIS blog!)---but am planning on adding many more as the weeks progress. It'll be a way for clients to get a sneak-peek of their sessions, and also a way for any one who is interested to follow my current work. And a way for me to continue to grow as a photographer. Ill actually be going back and posting from some sessions over the last few months....and eventually catch up to be in real-time.

Check it out! Put it on your blog favorites or on google reader or however else all you blog-stalkers (you know who you are!) keep up on us! I'd love to see you over there!

The web address is:


I've also updated the website a bit (although I'm having some glitches and needed to take a breather from fighting with the system)...but there are some new photos on there. The main website is still:


Thanks for all your support!


an old letter to Rowan, when she was 11 months old

So I was going through some old stuff on the computer this weekend and came across this thing I had written for Rowan when she happened to be 11 months old. Piper is 11 months old today---so it kind of struck me. I didn't have this blog back then, so I figured it was worth a posting....almost 4 years later! I think I had read this question in an Oprah magazine, of all things, and the following was my reply to Rowan.

What’s the most important piece of advice you can give your daughter about being beautiful, feeling beautiful?

You’re 11 months old today, and I don’t think you could be any more beautiful than you are right now. Last night, you ran your hands, covered in pizza sauce, through your hair and over your face—then looked to us in delight. You make these hilarious faces; we call one of them your “evil eye,” without self-consciousness, only to make us laugh. You strut around in your holy nakedness with pride and pleasure. You are pure. You don’t care what anyone thinks of your appearance. It’s hard to imagine you fretting over how a pair of jeans fits, or sneaking makeup to put on after you’ve left the house, or groaning “oh mother” when I don’t allow you to buy a shirt that looks “soooo cute” on you. But I know those times are coming. Eventually you will learn how interested this world is in beauty.

Always know that I thought you were most beautiful today—at 11 months, with broccoli in your hair, and that I will also think you are most beautiful at 11 years old, and 31, and 61.

When you think too much about beauty, when you worry about it obsessively, when you spend too much money on it, when you shed tears about it--as soon as you work too hard to be beautiful, you become less beautiful. The most beautiful women I know don’t spend that much time on it. One of the most beautiful women I know wears her hair the exact same way every single day, and has for over twenty years. The most beautiful women don’t really understand how beautiful they are…and if they did, they wouldn’t really care. Because they’re more concerned with the latest social injustice they learned about, their amazing children, or their rewarding careers. Be passionate. Love what you do. Beauty will be secondary, and automatic.

Take care of yourself. Floss. Get enough sleep. Wash behind your ears. Exercise. Wear clothes that fit. Take chances. Try new styles. Be pampered once in awhile.

Care less about yourself. When you focus on the people around you, you realize how unimportant it is to have the whitest teeth or the tannest skin. Be selfless, and you will be beautiful.

Don’t believe the smiling, overpaid celebrity you see touting the next miracle cream. Protect your heart. Protect your confidence. Tell yourself “they’re not real!” over and over again if you have to--about fake boobs, botoxed eyes, impossibly thin magazine cover images. They’re not real.

Don’t wear makeup every day.

Love your skin--the thick skin covering your elbows, the delicate skin between your toes, the vast desert of skin over your back, the ocean of skin dressing your stomach. Love it when it’s smooth and tight when you’re 15, love it when it’s stretched over a miraculous pregnant belly when you’re 28, love it when it bears the stretches and strains of that life-giving at 40. Love your skin when it deepens with wrinkles. Love it when it jiggles on the underside of your arm as you wave goodbye to your grandchildren. Tattoo it, if you can be that committed. Pierce it, if you can handle the pain. Don’t do either in a place that cannot heal or be covered up for an important interview. Celebrate your skin, celebrate you.

A guy likes a girl who can go from being sweaty playing basketball or hiking in the woods to looking acceptable…no, looking beautiful… for a symphony in under an hour. 30 minutes is even better. 15 will make you the most dateable girl around. Just ask your dad.

Don’t fight getting older. You’re not supposed to look like a 21 year old forever, and no one expects you to. Wear your gray hair proudly. Your dad thinks it’s sexy when an older woman wears her hair long and gray. Marry a man like your father.

Marry a guy who thinks supermodels are not real.

Marry a guy who understands that true beauty should not require hundreds of dollars of skin cream and makeup, and who doesn’t expect you to wake up in the morning looking like you’re ready for the prom. Marry a guy who thinks you’re beautiful in sweatpants, beautiful after giving birth, beautiful when you’re singing off-key in the car, beautiful when your nose is runny, beautiful when you’re 65.

Have I always followed this advice? Of course not. Has anyone? But I’ve tried, and I think I’ve done pretty well. I can get ready for a fancy event in no time. I don’t bother with makeup most days. I didn’t get a real haircut until I was an adult. I married your father. I thought my body was the most beautiful when I was 9 months pregnant with you. But sometimes I find myself fretting over a poorly timed pimple (yes, they still happen after adolescence), wishing that my hair was more this, my thighs more that, my skin more whatever. If I’m having a particularly self-conscious day, I see a stunning woman at the supermarket and I get a twinge of jealousy. Don’t beat yourself up. No one is perfect, not in beauty or in wisdom. If someone, someday, tells me that you are a beautiful person on the inside--it will be one of my best moments.

I have this friend. She lost 3 of her babies. Then she lost both breasts to cancer. Then she lost her hair. We’re the exact same age, 28, born a day apart. She knows more about beauty than I will ever know. She has the most radiant smile. She always did, really, but it took stripping away her luscious hair (she had the best hair), and flattening out her breasts, to really get a look at that smile.

It stops you in your tracks.

Want that kind of beauty.


i'm in love...

with these girls!

I'm trying out some new lighting techniques and also some new fabric backgrounds. These are from this morning. There are a few more shots on this set-up here.

Sigh. Are they really mine?


sisterly love

While Joe and I prepared dinner tonight, Rowan came downstairs and proudly displayed the sign she had just made for her door: NO PIPER, with a picture of Piper with an X over it. She did this all on her own initiative, and I especially like the rendering of Piper's hair.

Have I mentioned how particular Rowan is about her things? She loves having friends over, but struggles deeply with sharing her toys....and I know that for her, it's equally as much letting go of the organization she has in her room as it is letting someone play with her stuff. She really doesn't like her room to be messy. For a long time after we moved in, she absolutely did not want me to go in her room without her...for fear that I would move something or disrupt her idea of organization.

So you can imagine how she feels about (a now VERY mobile) Piper playing in her room. I've noticed that 10 month olds don't have much respect for order. And they tend to like their big sister's stuff.

It's the first time, honestly, that Rowan has really struggled with having a sister.

Later in the evening, when Rowan taped her sign to her door, she told me "This is really good news and really bad news. It's really bad news for Piper, but it's really good news for me."

If only a sign on the door could keep Piper at bay. I'd put one all over my door at 2:00 AM!


Piper is taking steps

She's officially taking steps....more than just a few at a time. The last few days, it's been 10, 12, 15 steps at once. Of course, there is still a lot of crawling going on...and a lot of falling....but you can tell in this photo how pleased she is with herself about the walking!

Like most babies, she is also obsessed with drawers, doors, cabinets, and making huge messes wherever she goes. She loves the dishwasher. She actually helped me put all the tupperware lids away yesterday! Starting to pull her own weight already!


love this girl

My lovely lady this morning. Don't you just want to kiss her cheeks?

And don't miss the two posts below this...both put up yesterday :)


Kitchen and Dining Room Completed!



I'm finally getting around to posting some photos of our finished kitchen and dining room. You'll have to head over to the set on flickr to see all the pics and all the details....but I'll list some of the information here, too.

Oh my, where to start. Once again, Joe has done an amazingly detailed job on this space. I'll start with the kitchen. I did manage to convince Joe to purchase the cabinets rather than build them himself (it took a lot of convincing)....but he installed them all, including adding a few inches to everything but the island (for us tall folk). Then he designed and poured the concrete counter tops...which you'll have to check out all the pictures to see some of the details there. An integral drain board (seems simple...but how do you make a form for that, including the steel channels? a bit mind-bending), a built-in knife rack, a subtle indented "fruit bowl"...and what has earned him the moniker "lover-boy" by the neighbor guys: a really cool L + J design that Joe originally came up with for the cover of a gift he made while we were dating....and eventually showed up on our wedding ceremony, and evolved into the design that is on each of our wedding rings. Joe found a guy who cut the design into steel, then Joe put it into the counter top. Around the stove on the island, Joe made part of the counter out of oak....then added some stainless steel circles that serve as hot pads.

I'm sure I'm missing some details. Follow the link at the end of this post to see the photos and notes.

The dining room--Joe had the idea of using steel sheets as the background for wainscoting instead of something more traditional (wood or paint), then he trimmed it out with detailed wood-working including inlays of a darker wood.

The trim throughout the downstairs is white oak that Joe bought from a guy on Craigslist. This guy gets trees that are already coming down from utility companies and other construction jobs, then he mills it all locally, and sells it for a great price. Joe's dad has done all the window trim and helped out a lot with the other trim--incredibly detailed and beautiful work.

So now we have the second half of the downstairs left: the living room and back room (den?) and 1/2 bath in the back. These rooms are a lot less involved than the kitchen and dining room---and much of the ground work has already been laid (yes, he already took out another wall:) And the bathroom is all plumbed and the electrical is all done. He is taking a few days detour to re-do the flat roof on the backside of the house....but we're not far off now!



Before you head over to flickr to see the rest of the photos of the kitchen, make sure to check the post directly below this, too, because I also added some photos of the girls there today!
To see more photos of the kitchen/dining room, click here.

Autumn Photos

Just a few photos of the girls from the past few weeks....enjoying fall in Michigan!
To see a few more photos from these days, click here.

The first 2 photos here were taken by my friend Jill....she also took the last dozen or so photos in the set on Flickr. Thanks Jill! It is always such a challenge to get my own kids photographed....I love the help (and thanks to Mom, too, for helping with a very fussy Piper in the first set of photos! where does my happy baby go when the camera comes out?)

Piper is taking a few steps---I love this first photo, it captures these fleeting weeks when steps are so tentative...how quickly they give way to full-confidence walking!


big photo update

I have put 2 sets of photos on flickr, one from july/august, the other from september/october.

Since I am so far behind in updating, I'm just going to let the pictures do the talking. I've added more details under each photo than normal---so you can see any updates by looking at the photos!

To see the set of photos from July/August, click here.

To see the set of photos from September/October, click here.

One of the best things to happen in September: the birth of my sister's son, Kai!


how can you not smile....

...when you have this to greet you after a nap??

This is our girl, Piper, at 9.5 months. I have not posted a photo of her in awhile, and this one just cracks me up. I have lots of photos to go through and post--but I took this one today when I went in to get her from her nap, and I just had to post it. The hair, the smile...can it get any better? This is also evidence of why I always put her hair in ponytails :)

And then a few shots of a proud Piper who has learned to clap. These photos are the best I could do to capture it today, but she is very excited about this new skill and just lights up when I start to sing "Clap, clap, clap your hands, clap your hands together!"

You'll notice in the photos that Piper is eating in a high chair. That's right. A high chair. At our table. In our dining room.

I promise, I promise...just a few more pieces of trim, and then I WILL post pictures of the kitchen and dining room!!

I have been keeping really busy taking photos of people and trying to keep up with the editing. I'm assuming that as the weather turns colder, I'll be able to stop and catch my breath and get things updated (most of my shoots have been outdoors).

Thanks for checking in on us!


she does not have allergies

Click here to see an example of how photos that are sold on istockphoto might be used.

This clinic actually contacted me directly because they had seen the photo on the blog and wanted to purchase the right to use it....TOTAL coincidence that it is a business in Grand Rapids!

Kinda fun, huh?


she knows what she wants

Two firsts for Piper today, both discovered in bed while we snuggled this morning.

1. her first teeth are poking through---two bottom ones at the same time. finally some teeth! and they don't seem to be bothering her too much at this point (not that her sleep could really get any worse for an 8 month old, but oh well!)

2. her first unprompted sign! we did a lot of signs with Rowan, but I don't feel like I've been as consistent with showing Piper how to do signs yet. It's hard to be motivated to keep modeling them when the baby can't do them yet. I've been trying to do "more" and "nurse" and "please" and a few other simple ones.

This morning in bed, she was happy, crawling around, finding things to amuse herself. She was kind of nuzzling her head into me, then suddenly she got up on her knees with purpose, thrust that left hand towards me, and unmistakeably squeezed her hand together to indicate that she wanted to nurse. Joe and I both saw it. She had her paci in her mouth, but still gave us this cheeky grin of satisfaction when we both praised her with clear excitement.

I uploaded some family photos that we tried to take last weekend. Our friends Jeff and Ruby were visiting from MO, so I thought it would be a good time to set up the tripod, let the camera fire away, and have our friends yell and holler at the kids to get them to look in the right direction (occasionally). We got a few good ones! Click here to check them out.


The trick to getting her in photos

I've figured it out.

One pink, fluffy, swingy, totally girly skirt made of yards and yards of tulle.

Watching a few other pretty little girls be photographed in said skirt.

And there you have it, one 4 (and a half!) year old, actively participating in getting her photos taken! Wish I had figured this out sooner!

To see a few more photos of this pink skirted session, click here.

I have many other things to update on...and many other photos to upload...but I'm having this tiny little problem, which is...


A good problem, yes, but I can't seem to get on top of all the editing (notice the horribly outdated photos on the right side and top of this blog, for example), and my floors need scrubbing, and someone around here hasn't been cooking many dinners, and, well, I basically communicate with Joe while staring at a computer screen.

So I'll get there eventually. I have cute kid stories to tell, lots of photos from summer sessions to share (I'm thinking of starting a photography blog...never understood what those were for until recently, when I've had lots of photos from sessions I want to share, but don't know where to share them), and photos of the house-in-progress to post. Just stay tuned!


important stuff

Tonight as I was tucking Rowan into bed, we were talking about the day. She's been doing lots of playing with neighbors and cousins...crossing over into that age when she often prefers to be with friends than with mom or dad. I've been thoughtful about that process, and aware of the things in her life I might not know about anymore, simply because I'm not with her every minute.

Me: Rowan, you know you can tell me anything, right? And you can ask me anything. Always, anytime.

Rowan: Like what do you mean, Mom?

Me: You can always talk to me about anything. Like if you want to tell me about something that happened with a friend, like if your feelings get hurt. Or, if you want to ask me about heaven, or growing up, that kind of thing.

(She's thoughtful here for a brief moment, then perks up with this:)

Rowan: Or, if I want to know how the sewer works?

I had no words, I just smiled and laughed out loud. Exactly, Rowan. Come talk to me if you want to know how the sewer works. Save that relationship and heaven stuff for later.

I love this kid.


We have a crawler on our hands

It's official. Piper is crawling.

She's been working on it for a few weeks. That adorable thing where babies get up on all fours and rock back and forth, like the rocking just might propel them forward. She's managed to scoot around, sometimes by rolling or by going backwards, for awhile now...but in the last few days, crawling has clicked.

For proof, check out this short video on my mother-in-law's page: click here.

One might think that learning a new skill would please a developing baby. Not so for Piper. This developmental milestone has been accompanied by some serious personality changes....namely: whining, being bored, frustrated, more frequent crying, and loudly scolding us for reasons we aren't quite sure.

She still doesn't have any teeth, so it's easy to hope that it's just "teething." We'll see. I have a growing suspicion that the crawling deal has given her just a taste of freedom and control over her environment---and she wants more. NOW please. Where did my sweet, quick to smile, easy-going 6 month old who stayed in the place I set her down go?

Oh, that's right. She's crawled to the bathroom.


My Family is Famous, Sort of

I've posted before about selling some photos through istockphoto...if you haven't seen my portfolio there before, you can click here to check it out. I've sold over 400 images through istock....but you never really know where they are being used. Some in print, brochures, that kind of thing. But also on websites.

Well, we've gotten a few calls from friends this week because a few of my images that were sold through istock are being used on many different photo sites as place holders in their greeting cards, announcements, that sort of thing. We had 2 different friends who were randomly looking at making announcements or other cards see a photo of Joe and Rowan!

One picture is of Joe and Rowan...the other is just of Rowan, kind of hiding her face behind a towel.

Click here and then click on "photo cards", then scroll down just a bit, to check it out. They are using both photos in several different spots all over the "card" section.

They are using the same template and photos at Walmart, Walgreens, and Meijer. Kinda cool!

In other photo news, I've been really busy with shoots this summer. Trying to keep up with all the editing, which is a good thing! I need to post some of my most recent work...I've been really pleased with some of my new stuff this summer. Fun fun!


Hula-Hooping Rowan

For as good as I am about taking photos of my kids, I am equally bad at taking video of them. Good thing my mother-in-law is diligent about it, and apparently more technically-savvy than me, too, because she figured out how to put these little clips on Flickr!

To see Rowan and her amazing hula-hooping skills (notice the TWO hula hoops), click here.

To see a cute little video of Piper making noise, click here.

Maybe this is motivating me to catch more of their antics in live-action....we'll see!


Piper at 6 months

So Piper is actually 7 months now....but I've been meaning to post this since she was 6 months, so that counts for something, right?

Ah, 6 months. 6 months is a huge sigh of relief. Half way to a year. But more importantly....6 months is a whole bunch of other fun things.

6 months is sitting up. Not wobbling, but steadily. Sitting up gives you a whole new view of the world, a whole new sense of control over your environment. Siting up is a Good Thing. 6 months is also rolling over with proficiency, starting to scootch, and just in general feeling more engaged with the world in a physical way.

6 months is eating lots of new foods. I've been making all of Piper's baby food (I may not have a fully functioning kitchen, but gol darn it, I have baby food cubes in the freezer to feed triplets through the winter, it's at least one thing I can have control over!) I've enjoyed cooking and pureeing all sorts of veggies and fruit. She's eaten the basics (sweet potatoes, peas, pears, green beans, squash, peaches, bananas, etc) but also the slightly more exotic: avocado, artichoke (yes, artichoke), mango, papaya, apricot, zucchini, chard (yes, chard), kale, tofu, and tomorrow she'll try her first egg yolk. And rice and oats, of course. She loves it all, as far as I can tell.

6 months is a slightly more predictable sleep pattern. Especially during the day. She takes a morning and an afternoon nap, each ranging in length from an hour to two hours. Depending on the quality/duration of those naps, she sometimes needs a little 30 minute power nap in the late afternoon to get her through until bedtime. No more napping in the car or stroller...and seldom even in the Moby. Give this girl a flat surface please, and her paci, and a blanket, and she's good to go.

Night-time sleep is still a bit up and down. She's sometimes going with only 1 brief wake time during the night (I can do that)....but some nights she is still waking 2 or 3 times. Not always to nurse, just to see what's going on. She's getting better at putting herself back to sleep after these wakings...so we're progressing in the right direction.

I've started to do a "dream feed" with Piper before I go to bed at night. Basically I just pick her up while she is sleeping, nurse her, and lay her back down. She never wakes up...and the hope is that it tanks her up enough to make it through the night without waking. It seems to help sometimes...and at least puts my mind at ease when she does wake between midnight and 5:00, I know she isn't hungry. But mostly, I just loving doing it. She is still such a fast nurser that the whole thing takes me about as much time as it does to brush my teeth. And it's just so sweet...a sleepy baby, still groping for the milk, her face all warm and snuggly and soft. It's the only time I hold her while she's sleeping anymore. And I kinda love it.

6 months is flirting. This girl can flirt! She smiles, coos, flaps her arms like she is about to take off, smiles at you and then buries her head in the nearest neck. We are all just madly in love with her!

Oh, and the stats: Piper is 19 lbs, 13 oz, and 27 inches long. She's a big girl!

To see some more photos of Piper at 6 months (and her sister and momma!) click here.


Huge May/June Update

I have missed many events and updates over the last few months, so I'm just going to hit on some highlights...but this will still be a long post! And there are a bunch more photos posted to Flickr here.

The first of the photos is from a very sweet, spontaneous wedding here on Allerton. I don't know whose idea it was, but the neighborhood kids staged two very cute ceremonies, complete with bouquet tosses and celebratory dances. Not surprisingly, Rowan was a spectator. I did get a few hilarious photos that will be great for taking bribes if we still live here when some of these kids are teenagers. All my Allerton friends, let me know if you want any of these photos of your kiddos for the same purpose :) And excuse our backyard, the scene for one of the ceremonies...complete with it's gas can and dandelions. Let's just say that the outside of our house is low priority at the moment.

We've continued to love living on Allerton. We spend many afternoons and evenings hanging outside, talking to whoever is out, watching the kids play. We've been swimming at Phil's pool, getting ice cream from the ice cream truck, and swapping play dates. Rowan's at the age where a play date is usually a help for me--she's so occupied, I can get lots done.

Check out these handsome neighbor boys!

What else. On Memorial Day, my sister-in-law Stacia and I decided to take all 6 of our kids to the beach. First we stopped at the cemetery where my Grandma and Grandpa Hoeksema are buried, then we stopped at the cemetery where my Grandma Pekelder is buried. We had the kids put lilacs on the gravestones. I hadn't been to their graves in awhile and it was really good to share that with our kids. The beach was fun, too, albeit a little bit chilly. I didn't take any photos there...I haven't been able to figure out how to lug my big camera on excursions like this when I am responsible for 2 kids (one in arms) and all our stuff.

I'm so thankful to live by Tom and Stacia. I love conversations with Stacia...we have a good time together and I respect her deeply. And there is just something about cousins being together. So much fun to see them know each other and see each other with regularity.

Grandma Thomas (Joe's maternal grandmother) also came up to visit from Illinois for almost a week. It was really good to have her in town. We had several meals over at Joe's parents' house and Grandma got to see our house.

Rowan had her first sleep-over with her cousin Shae. They had a lot of fun....took a bath together, watched a movie and ate some candy...even fell asleep eventually! It's fun to watch their relationship grow.

Joe's cousin, Megan, was in the area for a week working on a Habitat for Humanity project. She just graduated from college out east and it was so much fun to see her! We got to have dinner with her whole crew...she came over to visit our house another night...and I met her downtown at Festival of the Arts with the girls. Joe has a lot of really cool cousins and I love that they feel like MY cousins, too!

Joe's best man in our wedding, Curtis, and his wife Amanda came to visit for a few days. They had their first son, Micaiah, just 6 weeks before their trip from Florida to Chicago...they are brave! They came up to GR to see us and so that Curtis and Joe could camp for a night out on lake Michigan. It was great to see them and get to spend time with the new baby.

Our time got cut a little bit short because Piper was diagnosed with pneumonia while they were here! And they decided to play it safe with a newborn and not expose him to Piper.

Piper had been running a fever for 2 days and was just out of sorts. She's never slept great, but she was sleeping particularly poorly. I really thought she had an ear infection or something minor, so I took her to the Doctor to get checked. I was so thankful for thorough care from my doctor, because I honestly thought my doctor was over-reacting the day we went in! Piper didn't have an ear infection, so they did a catheter to check for a UTI...wasn't that either. Then they had me go to the lab to draw blood....and finally over to Children's hospital for a chest x-ray! I'm an eternal optimist so I really wasn't stressed out through all of this, mostly just wondering why they were making me do all these needless tests on a poor baby! Joe, who was still camping with Curtis, has too much science knowledge...and knew that a high fever without clear reason could mean something really bad. Strangely enough, even though Piper was not coughing or wheezing and no one could hear it through a stethoscope, the chest x-ray came back with several spots on both of her lungs. Pneumonia. She had a course of antibiotics (was allergic to the first one, but we took care of that, too) and recovered quickly.

A really special day in June was the 9th, when Tom and Stacia went to court to officially adopt Shae and Tayva. We all got to attend and it was just a joyous occasion. The girls have been a part of our family since November, but it still felt great to have it all be legal and done and closed and final. It was cool to watch the proceedings in court and listen to the judge talk about how good it was to do adoptions...that usually his job can be quite depressing, and adoptions are so filled with joy. Another highlight was that the girls' foster mom (affectionately called "granny") voluntarily got up to talk in court--she expressed her support of the adoption and how much she has seen the girls grow and develop and how much she appreciated the Hoeksemas. To see photos of this adoption day, click here.

After that, we made a trip to Jonesboro for a visit and to photograph a wedding of a good friend of ours. It was great to be in Jonesboro again, but we agreed that we felt more nostalgic about Jonesboro in March...when it was 70 degrees there and still late winter here. Late June in Arkansas can be very hot...and the wedding we attended was outside, both the ceremony and reception. It was close to 100 degrees and humid as all get out. Plus, we were working our butts off taking pictures! I don't think I've ever had so many people ask me if I was okay or if I needed a drink of water. Hoeksemas get red in the face when we get hot...and we sweat on the face. A lot. I was looking pretty ragged! If you are interested in seeing some photos from this wedding, go to my website (www.cebulskiphotography.com) and to the right, click on "client proofs" and the password is: adairwedding

We made a detour on our way home to GR and stopped in Moberly, Misouri, to see our good friends Jeff and Ruby. Jeff and Ruby lived in Jonesboro when we did. Jeff competed in the decathlon with Joe (plus they worked on many other projects together) and Ruby and I were fast friends. They have a 3 year old daughter and also added a son in February, so we were all eager to see each other! Jeff built a beautiful house near their families in MO and we had a great time relaxing, catching up, swimming, and fishing. Check out a few photos of our time with the Sanders here.

To see photos of everything else in this blog post, here is the link again: click here.


little gestures

Before we had a second child, it seemed like most people with two or more kids would always talk about how different their children were from each other. And truly, it is amazing how different two offspring can be....from the same genetic materials!

Lately, though, I've marveled at some little details that make me feel like I'm back in rowan's infancy.

exhibit #1: the thighs. oh, those thighs! i squeeze them with regularity....my hand doesn't even fit around their widest part anymore. Rowan had a very similar body to Piper. Their faces (and their hair) are as different as can be...but their 6 month old bodies, so much the same. I love the heft of a 6 month old on my hip. Lurching here and there, so strong really, but still so portable. Sitting up with some degree of confidence on those sturdy, meaty thighs.

exhibit #2: the full-body excitement about eating real food. Legs kicking, arms flailing, short breaths in-and-out, in-and-out....I remember this well. I just wish Rowan still got this excited about sweet potatoes, peas, and bananas.

exhibit #3: the "mamamamamama." Piper's favorite syllable. I looked back in Rowan's baby book and in her sixth month...I had written down that she was constantly repeating "mamamama." I secretly like to believe that it is directed towards me, but I know better. It's just an easy sound to make....but both my girls have made it with gusto, in their sixth month.

exhibit #4: the fake cough. Joe plays this little game with Piper where he fake coughs, she mimics him, and then he rewards it with some fabulously excited gesture or surprised face. Piper has started actually instigating this game (only with Joe)....it's the first time she has controlled her world in this specific way. And we remember Rowan doing the exact same thing....fake coughing, lots of laughs.

exhibit #5: lurching for her crib, arms extended, immediately when she is through nursing and ready for sleep. This is the most heart-breaking one of all: the desire and the ability to sleep alone. So you know all those baby books tell you to lay your baby down while still awake, so they learn to "self-sooth" and sleep through the night better. I was never good at that....mostly because I love snuggling a sleeping baby. As Piper has gotten older, she has become increasingly less willing to snuggle...and I can hardly remember the last time I held her while she was sleeping. The last few weeks I have tried, unsuccessfully, to hold her for awhile after she nurses. To smell her baby smell, look on her sleepy face, and just hold on to this for awhile. She protests the snuggling. And then, a few nights ago...she started doing exactly what Rowan did at this age: lurch for the crib right after nursing. Literally, a physical throwing of her body, all rigid and extended, in the direction of her crib, as if to say: I'm tired, I'm ready for bed. Please just put me there.

I know some kids don't do this...and always seem dependent on a parent to get to sleep. You gotta admire a girl who knows what she wants, but I'll tell you one thing. Should a third child ever bless our lives, I am not going to spend ONE SECOND feeling guilty about not laying my awake child down for sleep. I'm going to hold my sleeping baby whenever and wherever possible. Because now I know (reinforced by child #2): the time comes too soon when your baby is too big to hold, too old for snuggling, too independent to need you for sleep.

Pictures soon, I promise. I'm almost there.


a few photos

We've been traveling and I've had too many photos to go through...I will get around to them eventually, but wanted to post just a handful of my girls from Lake Michigan last week. 6 month baby bottom and a cowboy hat on the beach...can't get much cuter than that.


pretty things

Rowan was playing with her friend and our neighbor, Eden, yesterday. They were playing lots of pretend in Rowan's room. I love listening to conversations between kids when they don't know that an adult can hear.

A little back-story. Rowan is fussy about shoes...so we've had some drama again as the season has changed about what shoes she will wear for summer. Sandals have not felt right to her after a long winter in boots and regular shoes. A few weeks ago we tried on some of her sandals from last summer/fall that were her favorites---wore them every day. They are plain black sandals...similar to tevas....I got them in the boy section, but other than being black, there isn't anything particularly "boy" about them. I guess a lot has changed between the summer of being 3 and the summer of being 4, because Rowan told me that the sandals felt comfortable...but she didn't like how they looked.

So Eden apparently took these sandals out of Rowan's closet...and this is what I overhead Rowan saying to Eden, in a sort of defensive voice, as I passed by her room:

"Those are the sandals I wore when I was a kid and I didn't care about things being pretty. Now I'm a princess and I care about things being pretty!"

Oh my. It's certifiable: we have a girly girl on our hands.

I have so many personal photos to upload, edit, and share. It's a bit ridiculous. But I also have lots of photos I'm working on for other people (and have 3 more photo shoots this weekend!)....so that's a good thing! Eventually I will get caught up and get everything uploaded.

Also have some updates...including a surprising diagnosis of pneumonia for Piper last week (she's fine now, except for some pretty horrible night-time sleep habits!)..continued progress on the house....and lovely things in Michigan in the summer. I'll get to it all one of these days, promise.


Piper at almost 5 months and Other Stuff

Piper had her 4 month check up last week (a few weeks late!) In addition to the dreaded shots (one in each leg, she handled it with a few good cries, then some grace), she smiled endlessly at the nurse and doctor, weighed 15 lbs 13 oz, and is 25 1/4 inches long. She seems really big to me...but the weight and height put her in the 75-90%, so nothing off the charts of anything!

4 months old is so much different than a newborn. She's so strong...really wants to be sitting up or standing up. Doesn't tolerate the reclined angle of a bouncy seat or car seat very well, primarily because she is working her abs the whole time to get more upright.

And she wants to be upright because she wants to engage. That's the fun part. She smiles so easily, talks and coos a lot, laughs out loud (mostly at Rowan). She tracks what's going on in the room, who's going where, and all of this is just easier to do when you're sitting up.

She reaches and grabs for toys and makes a fast panting noise when her favorites come into view.

When she is awake, she is generally happy. I've recently gotten brave enough to take both girls to the grocery store. Not for a long trip, but definitely not and in-an-out trip, either. Piper actually stayed in her car seat the whole time (a revelation!)...happily gazing at the lights and ceiling fans, the whirring groceries as we passed. This may seem like a normal occurrence for a baby at the store, but for me, after Rowan's baby-hood, this is a minor miracle. To go to the store with my hands free, with no crying. A miracle.

And the car trips, too, are much improved. She will cry if she is tired, but that seems to be the only time she cries in the car nowadays.

I've been putting Piper's hair in two ponytails. I had to do something, it's getting so long. My friend Jill (thank you very much for doing this without asking, for helping a hairstyle deficient momma out) put her hair in one ponytail on top of her head a few weeks ago...and I realized it was possible. And sort of cute. It just makes her look so old. If old is 7 or 8 months, at least :)

Sleep has been our only frustrating category. For about a month now she's been back on her schedule of waking every 3-4 hours. Usually happy, sometimes hungry. But way too frequently for an almost-16 pound 4 month old. She isn't waking up in discomfort, as far as we can tell....she's just waking. Maybe out of habit. Who knows. Last week we decided to let her cry for graduated periods of time. The first night, she cried an hour and a half, then later in the night for 45 minutes, then later for 30. We thought we were on the right track. The next night, she cried from 4:00 AM until after 6:30 AM...it was quiet about 20 minutes (did she even go to sleep, or was she just pondering child abandonment?) and cried out again at 7:00...at which point we decided she must really be hungry by now, it was, after all, morning.

Those are the worst times. I think hell might be perpetual waking between the hours of 2:00 AM and 4:30 AM. Time would never advance past those hours...just get to 4:30 and go right back to 2:00 AM, and you're still not sleeping. Or maybe you've just finally fallen asleep, only to be woken again.

Then you just start questioning everything: does this qualify as child abuse? is she really old enough to know that we will be here in the morning, that she is safe? could she be hungry? maybe she is sick. maybe her diaper is full. maybe her foot is caught in the railing. maybe a spider bit her.

But then, at 7:00 AM, after basically 3 hours of crying, she greets me with a huge smile, wants to coo on the changing table. Huh.

So we're still figuring the sleep out. Most people say to go in and check periodically to make sure there is no pressing need...then to let them cry for graduated amounts of time. Seems easy enough. But there are still a million things to question!

She has done this 2-3 hour period of crying more than a few more times...usually in the early early morning hours....and never succeeds in falling asleep. Needless to say, we're tired. From listening and waiting it out. So we're giving it a break for a few weeks to see if she makes any improvement in her sleep naturally. The last several days she's experimented with the very fun possibility of waking, for good, at about 5:00 AM. Good times.

I've uploaded a bunch of photos to Flickr from the past month or so. A few shots from Mother's Day (of the girls with their Nana, a few with me), some more pictures from the actual day Piper was 4 months old, some pictures of Piper's evolving hair-dos, a few pics from an apple orchard, some silly dress-up. You'll also find a random shot of some retro wallpaper we found while doing some demolition at the house, a picture of Rowan working on a mural we're doing in Piper's room, and several pictures from a nice Sunday hike we took when the leaves were just budding. To see this random assortment of photos, click here.

We're just pointing out the resemblance, that's all :)

Joe should really write a post about what he's been up to. In addition to trying to finish our kitchen, he has been really busy doing some side projects for other people, and coaching pole vault a few days a week at a local high school. He has some fun stories to tell!