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!