Dear Maddie,

You are five months old and full of smiles. You are the happiest and most content baby girl. We are so excited to celebrate Christmas with you this year.

You weigh nearly 19 lbs. You are mostly wearing size 9 month clothing but you still wear some size 6-9 month clothes as well. 

You love to talk. You are starting to discover more and more consonants. What used to be "Oooowwaaahhh" has now turned into "Baaah Bah Bah!" Sometimes you even say "Mah Mah" or "Dah Dah" which makes your Daddy and I really happy. And every morning when you first wake up and we say "Hi!" you say "Hi" back. Of course, we don't count any of this as your first words because we know you have no idea what you are really saying. But it still melts our hearts as you continue to mimic the sounds you hear.

You are finally rolling over again! You started rolling over quite early in life, around seven weeks, and then those thighs got in the way. Earlier this month you started rolling over again and again and again. You are a master now.

You continue to sit on your own for longer and longer bits of time. You can hold yourself up for thirty seconds to a minute before you throw yourself back in excitement or lean and fall to the side. Daddy or I are always close by to catch you just in case.

You are getting more interested in faces. You love to grab Daddy's face when he talks to you. You mirror our facial features as we talk and laugh with you.

You love being in your Johnny jump up and the sling. You hate missing out on anything. You are quite the social girl. You love visiting your cousins. They make you laugh by playing peek-a-boo and keep away with you. Your favorite toy is still your noisy paper. You are starting to love your books too. You love handling the books and turning the pages yourself.

We talk to Grandma and Grandpa Birkeland on Skype at least a few times a week. You love to talk to Grandma and Grandpa while they are on their mission in Sweden.

Happy five months baby girl! Next month we'll be talking solids!  


Three years going on forever

Three years ago, on a white December morning 
we made us forever. 

 Today, we celebrate as a family of three.


Kewpie Maddie

Is it just me or does Maddie look like a total Kewpie Doll in this pic?


Away in a Manger

Madeline Jaye Birkeland made her acting debut on December 1st, 2011 in a performance as the Christ Child in her ward nativity that is already stirring up Oscar buzz.  Fans were in awe of her peaceful portrayal of the Divine Infant.

When asked what the hardest part was while prepping for the part, Madeline said she spent all four months of her life preparing so that she could get through the 45 minute show without fussing. 

She said, "When I read the script, which was inspired by the scriptures and the hymn Away in a Manger, I was surprised when I read the line 'The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes'.  I know that Christ was perfect, but I am definitely not perfect. So playing a perfect baby was difficult and took a lot of work."

Her onscreen mother, and mother in real life, Haley Birkeland agrees. "Most actors and actresses have to work hard in order to make themselves cry.  But it is 100 times more difficult for a baby to suppress that instinct. Madeline did a great job keeping her cool while she was on a hot stage surrounded by Primary children and adults dressed as angels, shepherds, and wise men."


We asked Madeline if it was difficult to play a male role as a female actress. She replied that she was inspired by the actress Mary Martin who played Peter Pan. "If you are a good actress, gender doesn't matter."

Besides making a slight cooing noise when her daddy smiled at her, Madeline didn't make another sound during the entire production. Fans praised her for her performance remarking that "She was the most quiet Baby Jesus I've ever seen!"

Others couldn't get over her wispy white hair and glorious thighs with rolls upon rolls of darling baby fat.

Luckily Madeline isn't self conscious of her weight.

"I'm a girl with curves!" She proudly states.

We look forward to seeing more from this rookie actress.

Okay so besides the Oscar nod and the quotes from Madeline this is all pretty much true, including the part that Madeline was silent for the entire performance. Madeline played the Christ Child and Brett and I played Mary and Joseph for the ward nativity. It was a wonderful experience that we all enjoyed.


Decorating the Christmas Tree

This last sequence of photos is my favorite! :)



Our Thanksgiving morning started with the annual Birkeland Flag Football Turkey Bowl! Maddie and I went and cheered on Brett while he played. We also took pictures and video of the game. It was a great turn out and the weather has never been better. Oh, and Brett's team won. :)
The Flag Football Boys
 The night before Thanksgiving we moved all the furniture out of the family room and set up the table, chairs, and decorations. (The "Give Thanks" banner was a total last minute addition, but it didn't cost a thing and I think it turned out well.) Before dinner we had a Skype chat with Brett's parents who are currently serving a temple mission in Stockholm Sweden. The grandkids loved being able to see Grandma and Grandpa. A few of the kids sang songs to them, one of the two year olds told them over and over again that she had pockets, the other two year old spent the majority of the conversation rolling dough in his hands and telling them over and over that he was making a snake. It was a blast.

Dinner was incredible. We all had different food assignments and when it all came together it all turned out amazing. Dinner included honey baked ham, a very tender and delicious turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, sweet potato souffle, layered jello, garden corn, homemade rolls & bread sticks,  banana bread, salad, and an array of cookies, pies, and treats. 

Halfway through dinner, Maddie was pretty tuckered out. I'd blame the turkey, but obviously she didn't eat any.

I made the homemade rolls. They turned out delicious!
Brett made his famous chocolate chip banana bread!

These are the homemade bread sticks I made. Mmmmm!
We had a blast visiting after dinner. The kids colored and played in the yard while the "adults" (is it weird I still feel like a "kid"?) visited around the dinner table. Shanni and her big brother Brian had some fun chilling together. Shanni loved being in the middle of all the commotion.

Happy Thanksgiving!



Maddie enjoyed helping Brett test the lights for Christmas!

Sweet Maddie. You are now four months old. 1/3 of a year already!

You continue to grow taller and wider every day. At your four month appointment you were nearly 26 1/2" tall and you weighed 17 lbs and 3 oz. This puts you in the 98th percentile for both length and weight. You are a big girl, so most people think you are a lot older than you really are. You are now wearing size 6-9 month clothing and you've been in size three diapers for almost a month.

You're becoming such a great sleeper. You sleep for about 10-11 hours straight at night. The only down side is that you are still quite the night owl and you don't go to sleep until 11:00 or 11:30. Needless to say, Mommy gets a lot done in the morning before you wake up. But, we're still working on getting you to sleep a little earlier each night.

You are a fast eater and you now eat about six times a day. I sometimes wonder if you are getting enough because after eight minutes of eating you are done and ready to play. The pediatrician told us not to worry, "We're obviously not concerned about whether or not she is getting enough calories." Well said Dr. Carter, well said.

If you aren't sleeping or eating, you are most likely laughing. And it's not just a polite "Ha!" You have a full on belly laugh just like I did when I was a baby. You laugh when I laugh. You laugh when we change you. You laugh when you first wake up in the morning. You giggle when we give you baths. You laugh when I touch your feet. You laugh when you see Daddy when he gets home from work. You laugh the hardest when I pretend to nibble your neck. I do my best to enjoy it while I can since I am sure by the time you are a teenager I'm sure you won't find me the slightest bit entertaining.

You can sit on your own for longer periods of time now, but Daddy or I are always close by to catch you just in case your throw yourself back. Although you were rolling over at seven weeks you are now having a bit of a harder time and rarely do it. When I mentioned this to the pediatrician he laughed and explained that your now chunky thighs were the culprit. Not to worry though, it just takes a bit more strength to move that weight around which will come as you get older and continue to practice.

You love your johnny jump up and play mat. Your favorite toys are your loud pink paper and O'ball. You are now starting to occasionally take a Binky around bedtime and nap time. We don't think it's so much the sucking you enjoy as much as you just enjoy having something in your mouth. We're pretty sure you are teething. You are drooling a ton and you love to gnaw on anything we give you (and anything you can reach).

You love to do what we call "baby sit-ups". You stretch your legs out in front of you and raise them off the ground and then lift your head and shoulders off the ground, holding your breath and crunching your little abs. Add your sly little smile and it makes for the cutest and funniest sight.

We love watching you grow up baby girl. But couldn't you just slow down a little bit?


Snow Day

Today wasn't the first snow of the year, but it was the first time Madeline really saw snow. When we walked outside with her, she squinted and scrunched her nose as she fought to see through the brightness. After a few minutes she got a big grin on her face as she looked all around at the world covered in white.

She couldn't take her eyes away from the snow. I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

We were both awestruck. 


Shanni: The Greatest Sister-in-Law

When Brett's parents went away on their mission to Sweden, Shanni (Brett's older sister) moved in with her big sister's family. Taking care of Shanni while her parents served a mission was something Bec had always wanted to do. And why wouldn't she? Shanni is about as amazing as they come.  I must admit that Shanni is my favorite sister-in-law and I guarantee that all the other Birkeland women would agree (which I'm totally okay with). I mean, how can you beat perfection?

Shanni was born with many disabilities. She cannot walk, talk, see, or eat on her own. But she has many abilities as well. Besides being an angel on earth, she can calm the most unruly grandchild. With her comes an incredible feeling of peace, contentment, and warmth. Shanni brings a smile to the faces of all who meet her. She finds ways to serve others. Just last month she donated her hair to locks of love. She has an amazing connection with children, which is why she was so good at her calling as a Primary Reverence Leader. I know that it is because of Shanni's wonderful example and calm spirit that her little brother Brett is the kind, gentle, and sincere man that he is.

I was lucky to get to spend the afternoon with Shanni and Bec's daughters yesterday, while Bec went Christmas shopping. We had a skype chat with Brett's parents. Shanni was all smiles. She loved hearing their voices. She giggled and squealed while Lynne talked to her. Later, I laid Maddie down beside Shanni and they had quite the conversation. Maddie cooed, Shanni laughed, and they both rocked back and forth.

It was the highlight of my week. 


You Won't Find a Butcher's Knife in Our Bed

Apparently this is the image of co-sleeping as The Milwaukee Health Department wants you to see it. The second-leading cause of infant mortality in Milwaukee is SIDS, or sudden infant death syndrome, which often results from  ”unsafe sleep,” according to the health department’s website.  I agree that the images on this page definitely portray "unsafe" co-sleeping. But they could very well put an image of a child in a crib with pillows and loose blankets and it would likewise be "unsafe" crib sleeping. It's an ad that is indeed shocking but not informative in the way it should be. 

Co-sleeping (when done safely) actually decreases the risk of SIDS. "Worldwide research shows that the SIDS rate is lowest (and even unheard of) in countries where co-sleeping is the norm, rather than the exception" (askdrsears.com). Instead of promoting "safe sleeping" in all its forms, this ad targets co-sleeping as the root of all evil. They had good intentions but the result is completely off base.

Instead of spending money on an ad campaign aimed at scaring the community into banning the practice and making parents who do co-sleep feel like would-be murderers, why not educate parents families how to do it safely? After all, co-sleeping (when done safely) has wonderful benefits including better sleep for parents and baby, long term emotional health, decrease in the risk of SIDS, and it has been found in some studies to be safer than crib sleeping when done properly. There are also many benefits for breastfeeding mothers.

It is fascinating to see the differing views of "safe sleeping" by different cultures. Milwaukee would have you believe co-sleeping is like letting your newborn play with a butcher's knife, while mothers in countries where bed sharing/co-sleeping is the norm gasp at the thought of crib bumper use (an  accessory about as common as pacifiers here in the states).

I'm not suggesting that all parents adopt the practice of co-sleeping, it isn't for everyone, nor am I suggesting that all mothers need to throw out their crib bumpers. What I do think is that we need to empower parents to make safe decisions when choosing the sleeping arrangements for their baby, whether it be in a crib in their own room, in a crib/bassinet next to the parent's bed, or in bed with mom and dad.

Turns out this ad can serve a larger purpose than shock value. It just so happens that in this photo you will see almost all of the things you should NOT do when co-sleeping. But, as a teacher, I learned that non-examples are the worst kind of examples. So, here is a list of the things I've learned one should do when sharing a bed with their baby. (These tips were shared with me by my midwife, birth instructor, and pediatrician).

Co-Sleeping Tips:
1. Place baby on his/her back.

2. Bedding should be tight fitting to a firm mattress (no large duvets, heavy blankets, large pillow tops, or feather ticks).

3. Use light blankets or sheets. Keep all blankets and pillows away from the baby's face.

4. Take precautions so the baby doesn't roll off the bed or get trapped between mattress and wall.

5. Dress baby lightly. (A great rule my pediatrician shared is that you shouldn't dress the baby in anything heavier than what you are sleeping in).

6. Have the baby sleep next to the parent that is the most aware of the baby (usually mom). This parent should sleep facing the baby.

7. Do not sleep with your child if: you under the influence of any drug or alcohol, you are a heavy sleeper, you are overly exhausted, or if you are a smoker.

8. Oh... and leave the butcher's knife in the kitchen.

I want to hear from YOU! 
What do YOU think of the Milwaukee ad? 
What are the sleeping arrangements in your home? How do you practice safe sleeping?
Comment below and/or send me an e-mail with your comments and a photo 
of your baby sleeping safely to Haleyjaye@gmail.com
I'll share my favorites next week.  :)

*Our family practices co-sleeping with our baby. We exclusively shared our bed with our baby from months 1-3. Now, she sleeps next to the bed in a bassinet for the first portion of the night and comes into the bed for the latter part of the night.


Leg Warmers

Happy November!


Happy Halloween!

 Happy Halloween!
From our hive
to yours.

About the Costumes:
Maddie's bee costume was a gift. It's a 6-9 month costume, but we figured we'd still try to use it for Halloween. It fit her perfectly, if not a little snugly, which is a shock since she is 3 1/2 months old!

I came up with some last minute beekeeper costumes using straw hats, work gloves, and insect netting we use for Maddie's car seat and stroller. The only purchase made were the mobile bees and bees stickers from Michaels. SCORE!


Go Cardinals!

Brett and Maddie are ready for game seven! 

Brett bought this jacket long before we even thought of having kids. Brett has been a Cardinals fan since he was five years old and he couldn't pass up the opportunity to buy this jacket when we stumbled upon it in a thrift store. It's been hanging in the back of our closet for almost three years. 

Tonight seemed like a great night to break it out.
Go Cardinals!



You are three months old Madeline. Why do you insist on growing so fast? I feel that at any moment I'm going to turn around and you'll be walking, riding a bike, or driving.

At three months you are full of smiles and giggles. You are so expressive. When you smile your entire face lights up. From behind, I can tell that you are smiling by the way the top of your head looks. Your family and friends can't help but smile when they see you. You brighten everyone's day.

You love talking.  We can't really understand what you are saying yet, but we know you are pretty passionate about whatever it is. We ask you questions and you respond as if you know what we're talking about. You love making sounds and mimicking Daddy and me. You especially love to say "Oooowaaaah!"

We're reading Harry Potter now because a nurse told me that novels are best for babies your age. You love watching me while I read and I can see you moving your mouth and tongue trying to figure out how to make new sounds.

You are a big girl and you keep growing and growing. You are 16 lbs and around 25 1/2 inches long. You are wearing size two diapers and six month clothing. Some 3-6 month outfits fit while others can't stretch long enough or wide enough for you.

We're not sure what color your eyes are going to be but at the moment they are still light. We think you may beat the odds and have blue eyes rather than the hazel eyes that Daddy and I have.

You sleep for six-seven hours at night and then fall right back to sleep for another three hours after I feed you. Thanks for being such a great sleeper!

You are getting stronger and stronger everyday. You can sit on your own for short bits of time and you love standing up on daddy's lap. You are starting to use the Johnny Jump Up that Grandma Birkeland gave you. You're not jumping a lot yet, but you love being able to stand and twirl.

You have the happiest laugh. You laugh the most when we play peek-a-boo or when you first wake up in the morning.

We love your playful spirit.


Brett's Last Day @ BYU

Brett's final class at BYU was last night. He won't officially graduate till December when he finishes his student teaching, but Maddie and I still wanted to give him a little surprise to celebrate the occasion.


He loved it!


Becoming a Mother

The moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new.

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Drive-In Movies

One of my favorite summer traditions as a child was when we would bring our TV out on the front lawn along with an abundance of blankets and pillows. We called it a drive-in movie.

No drive-in was complete without caramel popcorn, red licorice, and friends. Almost every Friday and Saturday night the neighbor kids could count on the McAllisters having a drive-in the front yard.

Some summers we had a theme. I remember one summer our front yard theater only showed musicals. Another summer, only Disney movies. Another summer, only the classics like Some Like it Hot, Harvey, and Breakfast at Tiffany's

As time went on our make-shift theater got more advanced. We'd bring out the couch, we'd hook up loud speakers, we upgraded the TV, etc. When my family moved out and my college roommates moved in, we made the term "drive-in" much more literal.

There's another reason why drive-in movies hold a special place in my heart. At the end of my freshman year of college, Brett and I went on our first date.  We made caramel corn in my kitchen, picked up some Twizzlers at the grocery store, packed up my laptop and blankets, and set up a drive-in movie at the press box at East High School. We watched Roman Holiday. It was shortly after Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck kissed after escaping the police, that the battery on my laptop died and we ended up talking late into the night and doing a little kissing of our own. 

For these reasons and many more, I love drive-in movies. This summer we decided to continue the tradition and introduce Madeline to my favorite summer pastime. This summer definitely didn't disappoint.
Brett hung a white sheet between two volleyball posts and we borrowed a projector. We pulled out surround sound speakers and brought the trampoline over so it was front and center. And of course, we didn't forget the caramel corn or Twizzlers (thanks to my Mom who makes it better than anyone, it is her secret recipe after all).

Maddie loved it. Each night that we had the drive-in she was a perfect angel baby. She seemed to really enjoy the music of Up! and Tangled. But we were surprised that on the night we showed Pirates of the Caribbean she was completely captivated my the film. Her eyes didn't move from the screen. She was so into it. It was adorable.

 It is sad to see summer go, because with it goes our drive-in movie season. We look forward to opening up our back-yard theater again next year with a few more upgrades.