Leo’s First Birthday


Leo woke up on January 10th a one-year-old.


It feels both completely insane that a year has gone by and yet it also makes total sense. If you’re a mom you get it.  The days are long but the years are short…SO SHORT.

I didn’t think we would celebrate with a party, but when the time came, as well as Auntie Erin, I couldn’t resist. The party hat my mom made for Leo anchored the whole thing. : )




Contrary to the ‘serene’ nature of these photos, the day was absolute mayhem. What you can’t see in these photos are the at least 5 other babies and children, the 15 adults in the basement, and my head spinning in circles. I don’t think I got to speak to anyone for more than 10 seconds.



Leo was entirely unimpressed with his sugar-free, gluten free birthday cake. The kid knows what’s good, what can I say.  I imagined smashed cake and a messy face but he got a bit on his hand and then tried to crawl into my lap when everyone stared at him and sang Happy Birthday.


We had a great day, we’re so thankful to everyone that came, and special thanks to Auntie Erin for most of these photos.  I’ve included some additional photos I took of him at 12 months at the end of this post as well as one from each month leading up. So fun to watch him change and grow!


It’s probably time for the ‘rocker photos’ to end.  : )








Leo – One Year

My sweet Leo,

I have high hopes to write you a letter each year on your birthday. It seems to me a great way to reflect, to pause, and to take in all that the previous year has offered up. The fact that your birthday falls shortly after the new year makes it all the more appropriate. I hope this goal is simple enough for me to keep up with, but please forgive me if I fall short., and also, forgive me if you find my relentless documentation of your life obnoxious…I just can’t help myself. : )

Leo. How can I ever explain to you how remarkable you are and the pure magic you have brought into my world? How can I express with words the ways that your presence in my every day has changed everything and shown me who I really am? All I know is that in my whole life, you are what I am most proud of.

Today you are one year old and I can say with absolute certainty that each of the 365 days you’ve been here has been filled with wonder for me as I felt my love for you grow with each and every day that passed. You have been the most wonderful surprise, which is funny because you were not a surprise at all. You have been the happiest, smiliest, and most content little boy which has made my job as your mom much easier and given me the tremendous gift of simply being able to enjoy you.

This weekend we will celebrate you with a few family members and also all of the friends we have chosen to be our family. Along with celebrating you, your dad and I will celebrate one another for handling the craziest year of our lives with as much grace as we could muster. There will be chaos and balloons, toasts and photos, and a bunch of kids running around the house.

But today, your actual birthday, it’s just you and me kid. Not much different from any of the other 365 days since you were born. You and I will spend the day doing all the same and seemingly mundane things we do every day.

Before you were born I envisioned motherhood through the lens of my friends’ social media accounts.  I envisioned the big moments. The birthdays, the holidays, all of the firsts you would experience. What I’ve come to realize this first year with you is that those are not the moments that make a mother at all. Those moments make big memories, sure, and also beautiful Instagram accounts. But feeding you lunch for the hundredth time, stealing the fiftieth kiss of any given day, calming you in the middle of the night, giggling with you during your fourth diaper change on a Tuesday, wiping your face after a messy breakfast…those moments added up over the course of a year are what have allowed you and I to share the most special relationship in all of life.

Momma and baby. Me and you.

Nobody will ever know you as I do, nobody will ever love you as I do, nobody will ever experience what we do when we look at each other. Being your mom is something I have realized you have slowly taught me how to do, every day.

You and your Dad have a special relationship as well because the minute you hear his footsteps or voice at the end of the day you are instantly recharged with a burst of energy and can’t wait to show him all that you learned that day. But when you’re tired, or you’re hurt, or you’re scared…I am who you reach for. And that can sometimes feel burdensome, but mostly it fills my entire heart to the brim, and I am proud to have earned your little arms reaching for me.

I expected to love you and I expected to feel the natural need to take care of you, but what I didn’t expect, especially with you at such a young age, is the relationship we have formed. You’re my favorite person to hang out with, the best part of my morning, noon and night. You have allowed me to become a mom with such grace and ease due to your demeanor and personality.

Which brings me to you. My little buddy.

If you read this in the future, I want you to know all of the things that make you such a special person, even at one year old. You give everyone you meet the courtesy of direct eye contact which is swiftly followed with a dimpled grin, usually a head tilt, and lately a wave. You show an innate kindness that makes this momma so, so happy.

You give people and your peers space (which you likely got from me) but are very social and interested in everything around you (which you likely got from your dad). Your love of books is amazing, your persistence through a challenge is admirable, your appetite is out of this world. You sleep twelve uninterrupted hours every night which is FOR SURE one of my favorite things about you and you greet me with enthusiasm that I don’t deserve upon every wake-up.

You show the tendencies of an Olympian in the tub, you are fearless on the slide, and your laughter when in a swing makes my heart want to explode. You are completely freaked out when you wake up from a nap and there are strangers in your house, you love to chase after Marlo, and being outside equally thrills and exhausts you. Your current favorite game is peek a boo in the basement and sometimes you get so excited and giggly that you faceplant right into the carpet.

Your first words have been ball, book, mama, and dada, you are trying so hard to walk, and you love to mock my excited voice. You know how to clap and are thrilled to show anyone that will watch. Your earnest and precious attempts to wave ‘bye bye’ make me tear up every single time. You went on 11 airplane trips your first year of life from Washington D.C. to Arizona and Michigan, and countless trips to Pelican Lake, Minneapolis, and Ada. You resist your car seat but acquiesce when I play your favorite music. You are used to the quiet, likely my fault, and are jumpy with loud noises.

You are a HOPELESS flirt and charm every single man, woman and child we come in contact with. It warms this introverts, cold old lady heart. : ) You show signs of being thoughtful, intelligent and pensive; three words that make me very proud of you.

You are a special boy Leo and your momma and daddy waited a very long time for you. We are thinking tons about your education, your skiing access, your safety, your childhood, your life, your reality. It’s an enormous responsibility we feel towards you, which you won’t understand for a long time. What we hope you WILL understand is our insatiable desire to make you smile, laugh, and feel safe.


There’s so much more I want to say, but it’s impossible to quantify the snuggles, the dimpled smiles, the head on my shoulder moments, the laughs, the heart swells, the knowing looks you give me.

Just know that on Saturday you will be surrounded by people that genuinely care about you and that they are at your party to celebrate your wonderful first year of life. And know that today, when it’s just you and me, I will be holding back tears from the moment you wake up until the moment you go to bed. Not because I’m sad that you’re turning one, but out of such a piercing happiness over the one-year-old that you are.

You are breathtaking, you are kind, you are sweet, you are mine and I cannot believe it.

I love you so much that it hurts.





Leo – Month 11

Here it is, month 11, written by Jon.  I’m trying not to be hurt by the excitement over Jon writing a post vs me, but I get it.  It’s interesting to see a different perspective and I’m so happy he expressed interest in doing this.  I would like to state for the record that he wrote this early in the morning the EXACT DAY Leo turned 11 months, but our internet was down and thus, here it is a bit late by no fault of Jon. Enjoy! : )

A few weeks ago, I brashly committed to writing Leo’s 11 month MidwestMountainess post.  Since year 1 of our relationship, I have learned that trying to replicate Ali’s strengths is impossible and unproductive, so here is my version.

This blog and Ali’s social media posts do seem to bring joy and perspective to her followers, Ali’s closest people, and Ali herself.  I hear comments all the time about Leo, his progress, and some events I’m not even aware of.  “My” camp doesn’t tend to comment or acknowledge their loyal following, but I know the truth and so do the website statistics.  Busted!  You’re reading and enjoying these the minute they hit your screen, just like me!  A little too cautious to post a comment for all to see and judge, but always enjoying when Ali will.  Thought so!  But it’s that exact trait that I have come to admire about Ali in recent years.  She is a natural introvert and tough for people to get to know, at first, but she has continued advancing with comfort and confidence in her own skin that allows for her to express the truth, the good, the challenging, the controversial, and most of all, the confidence to raise an amazing little boy the best she knows how.  She continually attracts people in the process, sometimes without their own admission.  Ali’s an amazing mom and I considered writing this entire post about her.  However, I realized there is no need, it’s all connected and everything is because of her.

Leo has been absolutely everything I could have hoped for in a son.  From the moment he arrived, I thought he was a great looking baby.  I’m sure every parent feels that way, but I wasn’t convinced I would.  Ali and I have certain “opposites attract” dynamics, but one similarity that everyone acknowledges is our skinny legs.  Leo?  One of the longest babies the nurse had ever seen and is now 96th percentile – height; 34th percentile – weight.  Haha, I love it.  Pros and cons in the skinny life, I can parent that.

From day 1, I have appreciated Leo’s demeanor.  I’m not sure I could classify it as his personality just yet, but I hope it turns out that way.  He displays an awareness of what is going on around him, and I believe that means he’s smart.  He is interested in people, especially kids his age.  Shows no fear of his peers, but also seems to respect their personal space.  I think he has leadership traits.  He has an admirable thirst for knowledge, loves books (maybe read 50 yesterday), and demonstrates pride when he figures things out.  I’ve been teaching him how to throw a ball, turn lights on/off, propel himself down the slide, identify the letters of his name, etc. etc., and when he figures it out he will look up at me with a huge proud smile – which I fully return, and then do it all again.

Month 11 has featured his ability to stand up on his own, and as Ali would put it, “standing is life.”  He loves exploring what might be on the coffee tables and getting an elevated perspective.  With the exception of repressing my helicopter protection instincts, it’s awesome watching him do it.  This month has also exponentially increased the amount he laughs, so much fun.

Leo loves his mama, and me a bit less.  He lights up when he and I turn the corner in a room, and there she is!  Or, when I come home from work and find him playing with his toys or crushing another homemade meal.  I think he eats more than me, definitely faster, but I think a similar quantity.  It’s wild.  He can’t talk, so he definitely fusses/whines in order to get our attention.  Ali gets the brunt of this, but it’s him speaking to her.  He knows her so well and knows that she is the one that is there for him.  I’m going to do my best to make sure he continues this realization and appreciation.  He has about 8 teeth, minimal hair, and is not a fan of car seat restraint.  There you have it, month 11.

Parenting opinions are endless and individualized.  I actually find comfort in that.  Ali and I do things our way, whatever we see as best.  Who knows?  I hope to give him the best odds of success that I can.  Opportunity to find what he is most passionate about and best at.  Ultimately, creating an impenetrable level of confidence.  Confidence in right vs. wrong.  Confidence in his abilities and to persevere through challenges.  Confidence to go after what he wants, but to do it with awareness and tact.  Thus far, I’m confident that he’s a success and I’m very proud of our 11 month old, Leo.

I’m not the photographer in the family, but here are a few:



Leo – Month 10

Ten months old.

That’s basically a year. How on earth has a year nearly come and gone? It’s absolutely insane. When I take time to reflect, and really remember him as a two-month-old, I guess it makes more sense. But then I remember bringing him home from the hospital and it feels like yesterday.

Motherhood is confusing.


10Month-13I’m writing this after getting home from the parent/infant class that Leo and I attend twice a week. I look forward to it because he is enthralled by a new environment and fellow kiddos for over an hour and I am not solely responsible for his entertainment. Is that harsh? Well, it’s true. Leo turned 10 months old and with that he suddenly became very, very attached to his momma. It’s pretty sweet, most of the time, but I have to put him down at times during the day to…I don’t know…DO ANYTHING, and he used to be quite content on his own and now he just whines at me.

Crying I can take, but the whining…ugh.

I think (please let this be true) that it’s a phase, but the last few weeks have been challenging.

Lucky for him I think he’s super cute and forgive him everything the minute he lays that sweet noggin on my shoulder for a nuzzle.


As far as Leo is concerned, books are life. We used to read 3-4 before each nap and bedtime, but these days I’d guess we read 20+ every day. He loves it so much and book reading is a phase I hope he never grows out of.


As you can see, the photos are getting much more challenging to take each passing month. Leo is on the move and has no time for momma’s ceaseless need to document his life.


Guess what else happened month 10?!  HALLOWEEN!

Man, before he was born I was all “I won’t care about Halloween until he does”.

Yeah right. After he was born I was all “how many costumes can we afford!?!?”

I settled on one, but it was tough. There’s a great chance all three of us dress up next year. Are you reading this Jon?

We took him to a pumpkin patch in Beaver Creek, another one in Denver, to Union Station for a raging Halloween party and he got to wear his costume to music class and parent/infant class.  He only cared about seeing sheep.


Look how happy he is to see a real live sheep for the first time. And then look how happy Dad is to see him so happy.


Hardest: thing about month 10 has been the 180 he’s taken from being very chill and self-sufficient most days to now requiring pretty much all I have to give him. I know it’s the job, but it’s a bummer to look forward to bedtime. It’s very unlike him (or at least who he’s been for his short life) so like I said earlier, I think it’s a phase.


Easiest: part of having a ten-month-old is staying off of my phone because he’ll snatch it the minute he see’s it.  : )


Worst: thing to happen month ten was a 10 day stretch from hell. Jon’s parents flew out here on a Thursday to spend time with Leo and on Friday he woke up with a pretty high fever that lasted through the weekend and into Monday. I felt pretty bad for Jon’s parents because he wanted nothing to do with anyone but Jon and me. We tried taking Jon’s mom out for a birthday dinner at one of my favorite restaurants. I was excited, I was dressed up, I meticulously packed a diaper bag full of entertainment a food for Leo – we even did an early bird special with a 5:00 reservation on a Saturday night so that he’d be in good spirits and home in bed on time. Nope. The beautiful bottle of wine was poured around the table, I got one sip and then had to bail with the baby. It was a bummer.

Then Jon left the next morning for a trip to Pebble Beach. While they were there the group decided to extend for a day. So I was on my own for four days. The day Jon was finally returning, I got Leo out of bed and he threw up everywhere. A lot. And it continued for an hour, which for the record is really scary.  So, we spent the day at the doctor, covered in puke, Leo lost nearly a pound, and this frazzled momma was all alone. Poor munchkin was finally feeling better and Jon and I were looking forward to a weekend together when in the middle of the night I woke up to VIOLENTLY throw up in multiple rooms of our house. Jon woke up the next morning feeling similarly.  So yeah. It was a marathon of a few weeks.  We’re all on the mend, thanks for asking. : )

Best: thing to happen month 10 was probably my realization that I really shine as a mom in the toughest moments (#humbebrag). Seriously though. The daily (and sometimes mundane) grind can take its toll on this girl, but when that baby really needs me, I show up in a big way. I was proud of myself for maintaining my cool when my infant was hurling vomit out of his tiny body and I was all alone at 6:00 a.m. and just had to figure it out.


Most unexpected: thing to happen was Leo learning that he can have opinions about things and express them however he deems necessary. That and the fact that he’s already tall enough for his car seat upgrade. 30 inches!


Most loved baby item: all of the books. Particularly The Pout-Pout Fish.

Funniest: thing is tough to explain but it was Jon and my first time having to try not to laugh at Leo doing something naughty.


Milestones: full on crawling, pulling up, and stressing his momma out.

Favorite memory: for me this month is from a simple morning walk to Starbucks when we stopped to take some photos in the leaves and multiple strangers and dogs stopped by to admire my cute baby and let him flirt with them.  Simple, wonderful morning.

Favorite outfit: 

Favorite photo: 


Funniest photo: this is his move every time I try to put him in his car seat.


Stay tuned because next month we’ll have a special guest writer for Leo’s 11-month post (it’s Jon).

Leo – Month 9


Suddenly this boy is NOT easy to photograph.

9 months old and he is on…the…move.

I put him in the chair, backed up a bit holding the camera over my head and flailed and gesticulated with my other hand long enough to keep him entranced for all of 2.4 seconds.  These were the best photos I could get in order to not risk his life and limb.


He’s finally crawling in a ‘more formal’ fashion. He’s been scooting around for a while now but has had trouble (or been lazy) with getting up on those arms. Jon likes to joke he inherited both of our skinny, weak arms, but it’s something I worry about. Mentally he seems so quick and determined, but physically I feel he’s going to be a bit behind, at least as far as pulling up and walking are concerned. Sometimes I think it’s because he’s SO TALL that his center of gravity is so high and that makes it more difficult. I don’t know, but he’ll figure it out. Maybe I should enjoy the fact that he’s only pseudo mobile for now.


One thing is for sure, he LOVES being outside. We’ve been loving the park and our backyard, especially this time of year when the heat of summer has passed.



Hardest: thing about month 9 has been adjusting from baby to…whatever he is now. Older baby? He’s mobile, wants to eat all day, has the ability to harm himself constantly, and requires much more of me mentally all day. It’s mostly fun stuff but it can wear a momma out!


Easiest: thing about month 9 has been that he’s still such an incredible sleeper.  I worry every time I say that he’ll flip the switch on me, but he still takes two 1:15 naps a day and sleeps 11-12 uninterrupted hours a night. It’s pretty great.


Worst: thing to happen month 9 (don’t take it personally Erin) was a major fail with a babysitter during a wedding weekend. We didn’t manage our schedules correctly and left him with this sweet girl when he was hungry and tired and he just wailed and wailed. I had not EVER heard him cry like that. Thankfully we were just down the street, but I had MAJOR mom guilt. I went against my instincts to try and have a good time and it didn’t end well. So, I put on my mom cape and whisked him out of there and home to the house we were staying in and didn’t leave to go back to the wedding until he was settled and sleeping. It was just another slap in the face of how life has changed. My BEST FRIENDS wedding. I had to leave in a rush right after my speech, missed a bunch of good stuff including the remaining speeches, their first dance and most of the reception, but it was just what I had to do. And I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself knowing he needed me. This mom stuff is no joke. : )


Best: thing to happen month 9 was threefold, bringing him to Michigan to the aforementioned wedding (he was like a celebrity), having my aunt and uncle visit for a concert, and also traveling home to Ada for an extended stay. We have so much fun on our travels with him, even though it can be hard!


Most Unexpected: thing to happen has been how much food he can eat.  He’s still nursing, but he just LOVES to eat. It’s actually impressive how much he can put away.IMG_9183

Most Loved Baby Itemhave been his wubbanubs. I know ‘nuks’ or pacifiers aren’t for everyone but they’ve worked for us and the little animals attached are great. He snuggles with them and plays with them in his crib when he wakes up. It’s so sweet.

IMG_9149Leo had an absolute blast in Ada.  He’s never slept so long or hard in his life! They wore him out and he was pretty obsessed with his ‘big’ cousin Hudson and all his cool toys!

Funniest: thing to happen month 9 is tough for me to pinpoint because he cracks Jon and I up every day. He seems to have a funny/flirty personality which has been fun to watch come out.

Milestones: are eating like a horse, crawling and sitting up.

IMG_9200Favorite Memory: is probably having him in Ada with my brother and sister, parents and his cousin Hudson. It was really hard to come back to Denver knowing how little he gets to see them, how little help I have with family so far away, and just how rare those weekends are.



Favorite Outfit: is this little romper he wore for our family photos and to Auntie Erin’s rehearsal dinner.IMG_8987

Favorite Photo: is this one from our family photo session that I’ll share later.


Funniest Photo: it’s probably not that funny to anyone else but for some reason Leo in a backwards baseball hat I find hysterical.



Leo – Month 8


Yesterday I put this munchkin in the chair and backed up to take the photo. Not three seconds after I looked into the camera I had teared up.  Suddenly I wasn’t looking at an infant anymore.  A baby, sure, but a big boy suddenly.  Maybe it’s the overalls but he just looks so grown up to me!


As you can see he’s still just the happiest kid ever.  Just this morning we were at brunch with a friend and then Starbucks and both places strangers approached me to say “is he always this happy?” to which  I always have to nod, yes. Sure, he has his fussy moments,  but when he’s awake he’s just so darn happy to be there.  : )


You see that head tilt? That’s his move.  He’s like a darn puppy and it is SO cute.





Hardest: thing about month 8 has been his newfound resistance to riding in the car. In fact, his resistance to being ‘put’ anywhere, whether that’s his exersaucer, his stroller, the baby carrier, his bouncer…etc. He tolerates most of them for about 20 minutes or so, but the car he’s terrible in unless someone is in the back entertaining him. This makes my strong ties to home even stronger, which has been isolating and difficult.

IMG_8613First trip to the Denver zoo!

Easiest: thing about month 8 has been playtime because of the basement being finished.  It is SO NICE to have that space with super soft carpet for him to roll around on and he seems to really, really enjoy it.

IMG_8716Wearing dad’s GTC hat!

Worst: thing that happened month 8 was watching him tip backward while practicing sitting up and his head did the ‘snap back’ thing and it hit the floor (carpeted thank goodness) and the look on his face of fear and pain was pretty terrible.  Only have to deal with that the rest of my life.  : )

IMG_8583He loves morning walks to the swings at Wash Park.

Best: thing to happen month 8 was getting together 3 or 4 times with close friends here in Denver with our kids and starting to feel a sense of ‘tribe’ that I’ve been longing for being so far away from family.

IMG_8388Future Besties!

Most Unexpected: see funniest below.

Most Loved Baby Item: month 8 has been our UppaBaby stroller.  It has worked incredibly well using adaptors for our Cybex carseat and obviously works great with the stroller seat it came with.  The flexibility of going back and forth between the two seats depending on the situation is awesome.

IMG_8445Joining mom and dad at their anniversary lunch.

Funniest: thing (sort of) to happen month 8 has to do with poop.  He used to be like clockwork every morning after eating, but lately he’s been keeping us on our toes by waiting until RIGHT around bath time. Basically I was on my high horse for having waited the proper amount of time, he pooped, and I changed him and lay him on the floor to get ready for the bath.  Well, he had more to come and shat all over the bathroom rug, nearly in my hand.

Milestones: are always happening, but the biggest one has been the progress he’s made in sitting up on his own.  Just last night I was watching him push himself up on his knee’s to try and crawl. It’s so fun to watch.


Favorite Memory: will probably be watching him in the pool in Beaver Creek over Labor Day. We knew he loved the water but he took it to another level with cheek cracking grins and splashing.

IMG_8663Snuggled up in a towel after the Beaver Creek pool day.

Favorite Outfit: Don’t have a photo of it!  Darn.  : )

Favorite Photo:


Funniest Photo: TEETH