Thomas's First Christmas

Christmas. It's my favorite time of year. For a long time it's also been a hard time of year. Watching siblings and friends create fun traditions and magical memories with their kids while yearning to do the same thing with kids of our own.

But this year I got to. It was my first christmas as a mom, Ryan's first christmas as a dad, Thomas's first christmas ever. It made this an epically big year for us. And it was such a long time coming. It was so longed for. So anticipated.

Baby Thomas permeated every second of the holiday with an extra dose of joy. He made christmas fuller and sweeter. And I was just overflowing with love for this little baby of mine, for this little family of mine. I was overwhelmed with all the firsts we got to experience together, all the traditions we are establishing. My heart was bursting with joy the whole Christmas season in a way I could never fully describe.

This baby of ours has made our lives better in every single way, and he has absolutely no idea! 


We gave Thomas his Christmas gifts from us before we left and were worried about Christmas morning being anticlimactic, so we picked up this "frosty" balloon from Santa. Best decision ever! He loved it.

Also, turns out we had absolutely nothing to worry about, he got spa-oiled by cousins, aunts, uncles, great aunts, great uncles, grandma & grandpa (especially grandma & grandpa) and even great grandparents. It was really so touching for us! He is certainly loved.  


All that family time, delicious food, and late-night game playing didn't hurt things either. It was just a really good Christmas! 


He couldn't quite figure out these food packs at first, so this is how he ate them. Haha! He had us in stitches every single time! Like a little bird that one. 



On Being an "Older" Mom

A girl I knew in high school recently had a surprise fifth baby and captioned one of her midnight feeding pics with: “I’m too old for this.” It made me laugh. Mostly because we’re the same age and here I am just starting my little family. It also made me wonder if motherhood would have been easier had Thomas arrived nine years earlier when I was twenty-four.

When I was 21, I once pulled three all nighters right in a row to finish my final art project. At the time, three nights without sleep didn’t even seem that hard. Neither did waking up at 5:00 every morning for two years straight. Now when Tommy sounds the alarm at 5:00 am, most days I feel like I am going to die.

People assume that because we’re a little older being parents is going to come easier. That we are a little more prepared, a little wiser, a little more financially stable, and a little better able to cope with life’s challenges. Maybe we are, but we are also a little slower, a little more tired, a little more prone to injury, a little less likely to hide the effects of midnight feedings, and a lot more used to life without a baby.

I guess it’s impossible to know if 24-year-old-us would have made for more energetic and capable parents. Maybe we would have just traded energy for naïveté. Either way it doesn’t really matter. I’m 33 and I’m a first time mom, that’s just the way it is. It’s not how I would have scheduled things, but in retrospect, the timing seems altogether perfect. And you know something, I would have happily waited eight more years for this perfectly adorable baby.

And more tired or not, something miraculous happens as a mom, even at 33 years old. Yes, even at 5:00 in the morning! Somewhere between my warm bed and his bedroom door, all that reluctant exhaustion turns into genuine excitement and I can hardly wait to see my baby boy. By the time I reach his room I’m always smiling like an idiot. I can’t help myself, it happens every single morning. My sleepy squinty eyes belie my inner enthusiasm and I am talking to him even before I see him. His crying stops the minute he hears my voice. There’s a baby in that room, and I get to be his mama. Every single morning that makes me happy.

I think that kind of mama joy makes up for a myriad of faults, including my relatively late entry into mommy-hood.


How I Survived New Motherhood

** I wrote this post a month ago. It's taken me that long to actually upload my iPhone pictures and hit publish. For the record the second month of motherhood has been pretty much the same. Except with more fast food and takeout. **

St. Patricks day was Thomas's first holiday so I wasn't about to let it pass
without our annual corned beef and cabbage. 
(This year we also added a toasted coconut pistachio pie with a chocolate crust into the mix.
It's not traditional Irish fare, but it's green, so it definitely counts as st. Patty's worthy.)
It was the first time I cooked dinner in over a month. 
I'm not kidding.

I'm still trying to figure out how moms prepare meals, clean the house, do laundry, get groceries, and simultaneously take care of children.
Thomas is such an adorable (and occasionally loud) distraction! 
I spend entire days gazing at him. And hours counting the slowly appearing chub rolls on his arms and legs. I genuinely can't get enough of his little cooing sounds, and I've made up more ridiculous songs about his pudgy body parts than I can count.
So that pretty much takes up the bulk of my day. 

But there have been a few things I've done, and so many things other people have done, that have quite literally enabled us all to survive this first transition month. Or at the very least helped us come out of it better fed and much much happier about life.

1. A clean house.
This was mostly for my own sanity and it was so nice to bring our newborn home to a clean house. Because of the unexpected 3-day notice before our birth mom was induced, we went ahead and hired some cleaning professionals to come get it done. 100 percent worth every penny!

2. Fully-stocked everything.
I got us stocked up on essentials like toilet paper, hand soap, laundry detergent etc. and stocked our freezer with ready-made meals. It's been a lifesaver that totally rescued us this month, making not cooking for thirty days possible, supplemented with only a couple take-out meals along the way. 

3. Flowers.  
 Nobody gets you flowers when you adopt a baby, so I just went right ahead and bought myself some.
Twice, actually. It seems like such a little thing but having fresh flowers around the house does wonders for my spirit. It makes my whole mood lighter and happier. And, along with a couple bottles of bubbly, really helped establish a feeling of celebration and excitement about finally bringing our son home. Because I may not have birthed him, but it was still a freaking long hard road to get us all here.

4. Time.
Ryan took two weeks off of work, and that first week we selfishly kept all to ourselves as a sort of baby-moon. A chance for us to soak it all in, get to know each other, and figure out this parenting thing a little bit on our own before any visitors came to help. Those were some pretty hard nights but some insanely lovely days with just the three of us. I'm so glad we did it.

We even hung a little sign on our door announcing our baby-moon and how excited we were to welcome visitors in a couple of weeks. A little perk to that was that while we were hermit-ing away we were getting quite a few fun packages, and the mail man would deliver them daily with a "Congratulations!" "How are things going?" "Getting any sleep?" and "You've got some good ones today." He was really cute about it all. 

And we are blessed to have some truly amazing people in our lives, without which I simply cannot imagine making it through this first glorious and harrowing month.
It all would have been so-so-so much harder without them.

1. We had friends who drove four hours round trip and completely surprised us with a decorated home full of balloons, streamers, treats, and  photographs of our new son. They left signs, and gifts, and frozen dinners, and desserts, and salads, and some sparkling cider to make it all feel like a big celebration. Friends who just knew we'd be getting home late at night after one of the longest and most emotional and difficult and exciting and overwhelming days of our lives and who didn't let us come home to a dark and empty house, knowing we don't have any family close by to do it. It was incredible, and it made us laugh and it made us cry. 

2. We had family who drove twelve hours through a snowstorm to come stay with us during our second week and help us adjust to the sleeplessness and strangeness of new parenthood. Family who cooked, and cleaned, and bought groceries for us. Who walked, and talked, and shopped with us, and who let us run errands on our own one night to help everything feel a little bit more normal. Who loved on our little Thomas like nobodies business and made us feel like we had just won the baby lottery (which indeed we have.) Who never let us clean a single dish the entire time they were here,
and left our house cleaner than when they arrived.

Especially a mom who scrubbed our toilets for us, and vacuumed, and dusted. Which was genuinely one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, ever. Perhaps surpassed only by the night she stayed up with Thomas the entire night and let us both get a full nights sleep. We've had some pretty great nights together, Ryan and I, but this was perhaps the greatest. I kid you not. Sleep is such a precious commodity these days.

3. We had a friend come visit from salt lake bringing giant bags full of snacks and all sorts of tasty no-fuss sustenance, including freshly baked bread, coconut dusted almonds, fancy drinks, gourmet popcorn, an awesome cinnamon/sugar grinder, chocolate croissants, cookies, and most important of all, a fresh supply of wipes. A friend who spoiled me with long talks, and extra love, and tons of support, and more gifts than any baby boy will ever need but meant so very much to his weary mama. 

4. We had a brother (and soon to be sister) drive all they way from salt lake armed with all the ingredients to cook us dinner, including fancy drinks and desserts (yes, plural). Who showed up at our door with arms fully loaded (seriously, loaded!) with all sorts of baby essentials we had not yet got around to getting but which we so desperately needed. Who spent the night loving on our little Tommy, watching movies with us, and basically making the whole night feel like an incredibly fun double date.

5. We've had people bring us warm home-made dinners, people who dropped off boxes of diapers unexpectedly, people who folded our laundry unsolicited, and really lovely people who threw us incredible showers to help celebrate the long awaited arrival of baby boy Reigle, arming us with baby essentials. And so many other people who came long distances just to meet our new little fellow.   

Basically, we have all sorts of insanely kind, thoughtful, and generous people in our lives who have had me questioning why I have not been hugely more attentive to all my friends who've had babies in the past. Who basically made me feel both incredibly spoiled and also a lot like the worlds most selfish human being. And it's definitely given me a fresh perspective and some great ideas on how to help new moms in the future. 

But honestly, we've been so touched! And more grateful than we could ever possibly say.
We'll never forget any of it you guys. You are amazing! Truly.


What it Feels like to be a New Mom.

It's been 31 days since we brought Thomas home from the hospital.
31 days since we walked through the front door and our entire world felt different.
Louder. Stinkier. Harder.
We've been more tired than we've ever been for longer than we've ever been.
He's taken over our whole lives and every second of every day revolves 
around this tiny human being we first met 31 short days ago. 
Parenthood, in so many ways, has completely kicked our butts.
I'd love to know if anyone has ever become a parent for the first time and thought, "Oh man, this parenting gig is so much easier than I thought it would be!"

And babies are not new to me. 
I'm the second oldest of eight kids so I've already changed more diapers than I can count.
And most of my adult life has been spent nanny-ing little ones to put myself through school. 
I think all this baby experience had me naively believing I was impervious 
to the stress and toll of new motherhood.
I am now realizing how thoroughly I have underestimated new moms in the past.

It's not like nobody tells you it's going to be hard. 
Everybody tells you it's going to be hard. 
Everyone tells you it will change your whole life. 
Pretty much everyone who knew we were adopting would happily 
warn us that our lives would never be the same again. 
"Sleep now", they told us. "Enjoy your freedom", they said. "Prepare yourselves because everything is about to get really different" they repeatedly warned.
But nobody tells you what all that different feels like. 
I think it's a hard kind of change to describe. 

But quite honestly, being a new mom feels like culture shock. 
Moving to a foreign country is the only thing I've experienced that's feels even remotely similar.
Of course you're thrilled and excited to be there, and riding on pure
adrenaline through a lot of the initial experience.
But it's always an adjustment, and that adjustment can be really tough. 
Everything is new and unfamiliar and foreign. 
And that's coupled with the exhaustion of jet lag.
(Which feels almost exactly like new-mom exhaustion.) 
And with being isolated far away from family and friends. 
(A newborn baby can isolate you in an very similar way.)
And with having to resolve unrealistic expectations about it all. 
(Because trust me, no matter how prepared or sensible you thought you were being about the whole thing, parenthood or relocation, there are always unrealistic expectations to contend with.) 
The decision has already been made.
It's final and there’s no going back now.
Not that you would, but the finality and permanence of the commitment plays a pretty big part in 
why, at times, it feels so entirely overwhelming.
Now all you can do is buckle down and ride it out, knowing it's not always going to feel this way.
Knowing, eventually, everything that initially seems so strange and unusual 
will one day feel really very normal and comfortable.

Just recognizing that has often helped propel me through the early 
and most difficult part of adjusting to a new culture.  
And for me, the beginning of this acclimation process in a foreign country always has me vacillating irresolutely between the euphoria of the honeymoon phase 
and the overwhelming anxiety of the disorientation phase.
Motherhood, I have found, is the exact same way. 
At least it is for me. 

So, here I am, 31 days in. 
And like every mother I've ever known, it's harder than I thought it would be.
But in a lot of ways, it's much better too.
Like no matter how sleep deprived I am, there are still times when he is 
peacefully napping and I have to forcibly restrain myself from waking him up. 
 Just because I desperately want to hold him, and squeeze him, 
and gently kiss his soft little neck over and over again, and simply because I miss him. 
At the end of the day there isn't much I wouldn't do, no matter how hard, to have our little guy here with us, sleeping in our bed, waking us up at all hours, and basically completing our little family. 
I mean just look at this adorably funny little nub! 

I'd love to hear, what did becoming a mom feel like for you? 
And how would you describe it to a soon-to-be first-time mother?


New Years 2014

This year is speeding along at an unprecedented pace!
After ringing in the new year with games, and laughter, and hors d'oeuvre's and bubbly with our good buds, Ryan and I finalized some goals for the year.
And then we secured them in a little wooden box purchased as Michaels to be used as our new and only new years tradition, a time capsule.
We threw a couple pictures of the festivities in there, our fortunes from the cookies that accompanied the Chinese food, and a sheet with all our goals written out so we can congratulate ourselves on how well we did next year. 
It's a lovely tradition - if I do say so myself - and I'm sorry I didn't think of starting it years ago.
This year we have a couple different areas of focus, but my main one is to wear my seat belt.
It's true. I've just always been really terrible at it.
Spending 18 months in Romania where seat belts are practically nonexistent didn't help things at all.
So this is the year I turn things around.
It seems like a good idea seeing as how this is also the year we become parents.
Gotta' set a good example and all that.
Yup, it's going to be a pretty fantastic year for the Reigles, I can feel it in my bones! 


Christmas 2013

Christmas was amazing! 
Every time we get our whole family together there is a period of time among all the chaos when I just feel incredibly overwhelmed with love and gratitude for our boisterous clan.
They're a pretty good little group if I do say so myself!


We were spoiled with more fun, laughter, conversation, gifts, games, food, treats, and happy memories than any one person could possibly deserve!