Monday, December 16, 2013

O Christmas Tree

+JMJ+

Last year was our first Christmas as a married couple. It was only a few months into our marriage (and a couple months into pregnancy!) and we weren't even in our Ann Arbor apartment on Christmas Day...so what I'm really getting at is that we didn't really do much in the way of decorations. We had a nice fireplace in that apartment so I meticulously placed all of the Christmas cards we received out on display which gave the living room a happy, festive feel. But we certainly didn't procure a Christmas tree.

This year we are still living simply when it comes to the decorations - but we did manage to find a small, table top tree (Target: $12) to (at least) display our collection of ornaments.

Did I mention that I love our growing, little collection of Christmas ornaments? Probably not, but that's actually the main reason I'm writing this post.

When we started going on adventures and taking weekend trips we were in search of some kind of souvenir that we could find almost anywhere we traveled. For example, I remembered that Kelley and her husband collect napkin rings (did I remember that right, Kelley?) and two of my college friends buy a new piece of artwork wherever they travel. I loved both of those ideas but we needed something that suited us (and was conducive to our current lifestyle of potentially packing up and moving around in the next few years). So what did we decide to collect? You guessed it - Christmas ornaments!

Ornaments are quite common in gift shops...although they were surprisingly difficult to find on some of our trips. However, we have managed to find something to commemorate all but two of the trips we took this past year.

About half of these were ornaments I acquired back when we were dating or
engaged or were gifts to us last year - the other half are from
our adventures together :)

Words cannot express how grateful I am that we decided to do this! Decking our little Christmas tree is officially a tradition that will grant us a happy trip down memory lane just as I could see it has always been for my family growing up. Don't get me wrong - I love those pretty, matchy matchy ornaments that follow a particular color scheme...but I also love an assorted collection of ornaments that have their own unique stories behind them. And one year later, for our second married Christmas, we have begun a humble collection of such shared memories. :)


What kinds of Advent or Christmas traditions do you follow in your family? How and when do you decorate your tree (if you decorate one at all)? This year we happened to decorate our tree just in time for Gaudete Sunday (which happened to fall on my birthday this year!) - but I'm not certain when we will decorate in the future.

"O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
Wie oft hat nicht zur Weihnachtszeit
Ein Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!
O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!"
-from "O Tannenbaum"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My (Half) Asian Baby

+JMJ+

It's not lost on me that two of the most common searches that bring people to my blog are "Asian babies" and "adorable Asian babies." The post I wrote that announced my pregnancy with Gabriel (entitled "Asian babies...for real!") is currently my second most popular blog entry of all time. I get it. I mean, long before I even met my husband I totally did frequent Google searches for Asian babies because...they are adorable! Then, once I married Michael and we knew we were expecting we had lots of fun searching online for photos of half-Asian children as we wondered what our baby might look like. One thing became obvious about our searches: we were not alone! There were tons of forums with people posting baby photos and sharing what kind of ethnic background their children were. Anyway - if you arrived at this blog in hopes of seeing pictures of an Asian (or half-Asian) baby, this post has been written specially for you! 

You search, I deliver. Or something like that. Just think of it as an early, virtual Christmas gift from me to you. ;)

First things first. I know you're dying to know so I'll tell you. My husband (who is American-born - 1st generation) is half Korean, half Chinese. Personally, I think my husband looks more Korean...and our son looks more similar to other babies I have seen that are half Caucasian, half Korean. But you can be the judge. Our son is half Caucasian, one quarter Korean, and one quarter Chinese.

First, I'll give you all a gratuitous photo of my husband and me:

No, my hair isn't actually naturally red and yes, yes, my
husband is really that handsome ;)
Oh, what's that? You need one more photo of us before I show you tons of photos of the beautiful son we have been blessed with? Okay, if you say so:

Now you can see our faces better. This is an oldie from the month before we got engaged. Aren't we cute?

Without further ado, here is a glance at our son throughout the first 4 months of his life thus far. I like to call this collection "The many faces of Gabriel."










Because Gabriel is so young we are still waiting to see when his eyes turn brown (or if they will settle on hazel. Right now they are a brilliant blue!). We are also waiting to see what color his hair becomes - because currently the back is light brown and the top is practically blonde...and in the sunshine it looks almost red. So many fun things to discover with time!

"I love Asian babies!"
-me

Update in September 2014: As I type this Gabriel is now 13 months old. His eyes are unquestionably hazel (the only two options for us, genetically speaking, would be hazel or brown). His hair is strawberry blonde, although it's quite possible that it will get darker (I was light blonde until I was 4, at which point my hair naturally became light brown). Want to see some more current photos??? Head on over to Gabriel's 12-month update. :)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

So Thankful

+JMJ+

I know, I know, Thanksgiving was a couple of weeks ago already. But after an unintended blogging hiatus I'm finally getting around to writing about some of the goodness and the life that we have lived this past month or so.

The week of Thanksgiving entailed lots of travel for us - namely because we opted to drive to see some family members (rather than flying). The details about why we drove are long and boring because they have to do with license plate renewals and all those boring things to be done at a BMV...so we will just leave it at that.

The pros of this course of action? Keeping my vehicle legal is a good one. Plus, we saved lots of money! It probably would have cost at least 3 times what we spent had we gone the airplane route. We even got to experience legitimate "Southern hospitality" along the way. And, I finally felt as if I had some inkling of a geographic understanding of what we had traveled through when I was 38 weeks pregnant (what a blur) and we made the move to Florida. Cons? Honestly, not too many - other than the usual things that go with road trips (long hours, getting tired of driving, etc.) plus the bonus of trying to keep a teething infant happy. But seriously - it wasn't that bad! The first 2 hours leaving Florida were the worst and after that (probably thanks to the prayers I frantically sent up to heaven) it was relatively smooth sailing. I definitely believe that God was watching out for us because everything with Gabriel could have been much more difficult than it was.

So where did we go? We'll be spending lots of quality time with Michael's entire family for Christmas, so this quick visit was dedicated to a few of my family members.

One of our main goals of the trip was to visit my Grammie (my dad's mom) in Cincinnati. This autumn she had some bad falls, broke her collar bone, and has been in a couple of rehab facilities ever since. Prior to these past few months she was still living at home in the house my grandpa built and my dad and his siblings grew up in. While we're on the topic, please pray for her! She is 89 years old and is one tough cookie but I have never seen her look older or more frail than when we saw her a couple weeks ago. Please pray also for my Uncle Jim - who is her main caretaker (outside of the employees at the facility where she currently resides) and has spent countless hours visiting her. He is already very busy with his job as a social worker so it's bound to be wearing him thin.

Anyway. All of these medical concerns with my grandmother have taken a toll on my family (especially my dad, my aunt, and two uncles) and have had us very concerned for her health as of late. She was unable to travel to my wedding so she had only met Michael once (when we visited her a couple months after getting married) and we wanted to make sure she met her newest great-grandson...so obviously seeing her was a priority.

Currently my mom is staying with her step-mother (Grandma Rita) to help her recover from the heart surgery she had back in August (to be clear: Grandma Rita had surgery - not my mom). Grandma Rita lives in Lexington, Kentucky and so does my Dear Ma (my mom's mom)...and Lexington is on the way to Cincinnati...so you can probably see where this is going.

We left Florida on that Tuesday afternoon, arrived in Lexington Wednesday night, and spent Thanksgiving Day in Lexington with my mom, Grandma Rita, Dear Ma, and my younger sister who was on break from grad school. Grandma Rita graciously allowed us to stay in her beautiful home and you'd better believe Gabriel had a grand time receiving all the loving he got from his extended family members!

Gabriel with his Great Dear Ma

That Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) we drove to Cincinnati with my sister to take care of my car stuff, share a meal with my dad and some extended family, then headed to the nursing home with my dad to visit Grammie.

Unfortunately, Grammie has been experiencing some dementia since one of her falls so she didn't know who we were the entire time - even though she knew that we were family. All in all it didn't matter, though, because despite the fact that she probably couldn't place our faces with our names most of the time and she was frustrated with the staff she was filled with joy when I presented Gabriel to her. Every time she got upset or there was a lull in the conversation I showed her Gabriel again, told her it was her newest great-grandson, and she smiled and motioned that she wanted him as I handed him over to her. It made me so so happy that even though I couldn't directly bring her happiness that day I was able to provide her with joy by sharing my son with her.

Gabriel and his Great-Grammie

That night we drove back to Lexington to share one last meal with family before we hit the road.

I honestly don't know what to say about Thanksgiving other than the cliche that I am so thankful. But I am. We were blessed with safe travels with our baby (who was probably about as happy as a 16-week old could be when traveling nearly 40 hours in a few days), quality time with family, happy memories, delicious food, and took care of my car's license plate situation to boot.

Words cannot express the gratitude I have for all that God has blessed us with. If everyone in the world were to experience the kind of love we had showered upon us and our son the world would surely be a much happier place. May we pray for all those who are not quite so fortunate to share in the same blessings of love, family, warm shelter, and good food to eat during the upcoming holidays. And may all of you be blessed with the love, peace, and joy we experience as we anticipate celebrating the birth of our Lord!

P.S. My Dear Ma is currently ill with bronchitis...so please pray for her speedy recovery as well!

"'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding."
-Alice Walker

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Gabriel: 4 Months

+JMJ+

Wow, time flies! Apparently I have taken a month-long hiatus from the blog. This is mainly due to the week of Thanksgiving (during which we traveled nearly 40 hours with a 16-week old baby - maybe I'll get around to posting about that someday), procuring Christmas gifts for family members, getting Christmas cards ready, and simply trying to be "present" to my family and my relationship with God during this Advent season. I'm very thankful that Michael and I already have all the gifts done so that we can now focus on preparing our hearts for the birth of our Lord...and some very exciting upcoming time spent with family and friends!

Anyway. This post is supposed to be all about our growing little man. :)

Gabriel is in his 18th week (EIGHTEEN! Seriously, time flies) and as of the 5th is "officially" 4 months old. I waited to post about his 4th month until he had his appointment with the pediatrician for his vaccinations and physical exam. That way I would have all his updated measurements. :)

The day before he turned 4 months old :)
Nursing

  • He is finally settling into another pattern that is more spaced out than his "every hour on the hour" nursing sessions from his newborn days. Currently he tends to eat every 2 or 2.5 hours throughout the day (sometimes going 3 hours!). This makes it much easier to get out and do things without always having to stop and nurse everywhere we go.
  • Bottle shmottle. Gabriel still prefers the real deal...but we are working on it. His Aunt Christina has already offered to let me leave him at home with her and take my nieces somewhere fun when they visit next week. Either he will take a bottle or get really hungry until I return. His choice. ;)

Nap Time
  • Gabriel used to just...fall asleep for naps. If he was tired, he slept. Easy peasy. This changed somewhere around the time he turned 3 months old and now he needs to be soothed to sleep (which consists of me bouncing, rocking, and singing or talking softly to him for anywhere from 5 to 30 minutes). When all else fails I bust out our Baby Bjorn and walk around until he conks out. This isn't too surprising, though, considering all of the cognitive developments happening around this age.
  • He takes 3-4 naps a day (3 during the daytime, one in the evening) that range from 30-60 minutes. If he is really tired he will take a long nap of 1.5 or 2 hours and only need one other nap during the day.

Bed Time
  • He is still amazing at falling asleep for the night when he is tired. We change him into PJs between 9 and 10pm (whenever he needs a diaper change during that hour or right after his bath on bath nights), he eats one more time - usually between 10 and 10:30pm and falls asleep in my arms once he is full. Then I lay him down and he stays asleep or falls back asleep on his own if he happens to wake up.
  • He "slept through the night" (baby speak translation: slept 5-7 hours in one stretch) at 7 weeks, but he definitely had that 3-month "regression." The very night I wrote his 3-month update he began waking up again during the night. For the next 3 weeks or so I readjusted to getting up 2-3 times a night.
  • A couple weeks ago he had some bad nights where he woke up 5 or 6 times, newborn style. Eventually we figured out he had begun teething (silly parents) and since then (because we got him some natural Orajel) he has started sleeping better again.
  • Currently he is back down to waking up only once...so here's to hoping he will get back to sleeping through the night again soon. :)

Bath Time
  • Still no issues here! Although we did figure out that we greatly prefer the Baby Magic Calming Baby Bath to the Baby Magic Original Baby Scent wash. The original scent makes it smell like you've smothered your child in gobs of baby powder...so if you like that kind of smell, go for it. If not, stick to the calming Lavender and Chamomile (which smells heavenly). 
  • I also just learned that it's a good thing we stopped using our Johnson's head-to-toe baby shampoo (we switched because we really like the smell of the Baby Magic calming wash) because it contains 2 potentially cancer-causing chemicals. Did you all know this?! Dioxane and Quaternium-15 release formaldehyde. You'd better believe I'll be boycotting this product until they remove them (for the record, they do make some products without these chemicals now. But not all).

Play Time
  • This is just the best. He can now aim, grab, clasp, etc. very well.
  • "Oh Mr. Sun" is still his favorite play-time song. It almost never fails to make him smile.
  • He loves having raspberries blown on his tummy, having his chest tickled, and more. He can even blow raspberries with his lips on his own now, too. Adorable! 
  • He is fascinated by any weird noise I can create with my mouth - loud kissing sounds, raspberries, tongue clicking, trilling, etc. You name it, he loves it. In fact, that's how I managed to calm him down several times on our epic Thanksgiving road trip.
  • Current favorite toys include his soccer ball rattle, monkey blanket rattle, and some plastic rings that have varying textures (especially because they are easy to grab and place in his teething mouth).
  • Tummy time is no longer his least favorite thing in the world!!! I have no idea what his least favorite thing could be now, actually. He is so happy in general.
  • He loves loves loves mirrors. Show him his reflection and he will adore himself with smiles and giggles.
  • He likes books a lot more...and even sat through me reading The Story of Ferdinand (which is quite long for a baby his age!).

Growth/Development

    • He can roll over from front to back!!! Which means all of a sudden (as of that first roll on December 3rd) he has no issues with tummy time and can happily look around/stare at himself in the mirror from that position for at least 5 minutes before he gets tired and whimpers a little bit.
    • He has outgrown all of his 0-3 month clothing except for his "3 month" onesies that are made by Carter's (which is quickly becoming my favorite baby clothing brand) and some shorts and pants.
    • We bumped him up to size 2 diapers (we use Pampers Swaddlers) a couple of weeks ago.
    • As of yesterday he weighs 13 lbs. 9 oz.!
    • He is now 25.5 inches long (over 2 feet)! This currently places him in the 60th percentile so he continues to be a "tall baby."
    • His head circumference is 16.5 inches. At yesterday's appointment his doctor commented on how pronounced and visible the blood vessels going to his brain are; I always assumed it's just because I have fair skin - which means you can easily see several of my veins. Instead, she said that his brain is obviously growing a lot and those blood vessels are working hard to keep up with feeding that growth. I don't know why, but the way she said it made me chuckle.
    • He began teething a couple weeks ago...but we didn't really figure it out until last week (right around the time he turned 4 months old). 
    • He is still amazingly vocal and often sounds like he is saying certain words like mama, mom, hey, etc. So fun.
    Needless to say, it's been a great 4 months and this is a very fun age - especially since he still likes strangers but will now always smile at and prefer his mommy and daddy. One of my favorite things every single day is when I walk into his room in the morning (once he is awake); Gabriel greets me with the biggest, happiest smiles I have ever seen. If that isn't enough to melt a mother's heart (even on those sleep-deprived mornings) I seriously don't know what is.

    "Life isn't a matter of milestones, but of moments."
    -Rose Kennedy

    Thursday, November 7, 2013

    Some Thoughts on Being a [Catholic] Blogger

    +JMJ+

    Those (very few) of you that have had the patience to follow my blogging journey for more than a year probably remember my former blog, "I'll follow You into the world." I began it during my final year in college and it chronicled my life and spiritual journey as I actively discerned and sought God's will as I graduated, completed a year of full-time volunteer service, got engaged, and married Michael. In many ways it was more of an online journal, written only for God and myself - but at times it also served as a platform for sharing information and/or discussing or reflecting on various Catholic teachings...especially during the Presidential election year.

    I guess you could say that my first blog didn't always have a clear vision, purpose, or structure beyond writing about daily observations, God-incidences, or experiences that helped to shape my relationship and trust in God. I certainly didn't always include photos or bother worrying too much about whether or not I was being too "wordy." I didn't really write it "for" other people (even though it was public and I didn't mind if others read along) and I remember feeling annoyed when a former roommate informed me that they enjoyed one of my blog entries but said that it "needed more pictures." I felt agitated because I distinctly remember thinking, "It doesn't need more pictures. It wasn't written to entertain you. That's not the purpose of my blog!" 

    With time, however, I came to realize that the only real benefit to having a public blog documenting my daily life/spiritual journey was the off chance that someone could find it, read it, and somehow gain inspiration, encouragement, or be aided in their own spiritual journey. And who wants to read a stranger's writings when they are insanely wordy with little or no pictures? The answer is...hardly anyone, my friends. Hardly anyone.


    When I began my current blog I put more time and effort into coming up with a basic structure. I had a vision of what kinds of entries I wanted to write and share with the world (or handful of people that cared to read what I might have to say). I became more aware of the visual aesthetics, reader friendliness, etc. I never wanted to write specifically "for" other people because I've always wanted my blog to be authentic, based on my personal experiences, and a way in which I present my love for the Lord and glorify Him - and creating entry ideas for the sake of drawing in readers or becoming well-known just isn't my thing. However, I am now aware of the fact that if I'm trying to use this blog as a witness of Catholic joy I actually need people to want to read what I have to say. It's a tricky balance sometimes - wanting to write in order to share my joys as a Catholic wife and mother and not losing sight of my blogging intentions when, in fact, I actually do need an audience if my words are ever going to bring joy to anyone beyond the scope of my immediate family and handful of friends who read this from time to time. Although if those are the only people God desires it to reach then I'm certainly okay with that.

    Such is the struggle of any blogger who tries to document their own life's journey but doesn't actually want their blog to be about themselves. At times it seems contradictory. How do I write about my own life without the message readers take away becoming all about me? How do I write about my life's journey and my personal vocation yet strive to direct the eyes and hearts of any readers away from myself or themselves and, ultimately, toward Christ?

    Everyone blogs for different reasons. Bloggers have different writing styles, senses of humor, and goals (or no goals) for what they write. But I'd be willing to bet that many of my Christian blogging peers have similar desires deep down inside - that their blog may be humbly used to remind others of God's love...whether it be subtle, unspoken, or completely obvious and smack dab in the middle of reader's faces. So what methods do you all use to (hopefully) achieve this? Surely I'm not the only one that worries on occasion that my blog might be a little too much about...me. Right?

    In the end I could tell you what I do in order to (hopefully) maintain a blog about my life that strives to share the Lord's goodness with others...but we've already established that bloggers (even those united by a common faith) come in all shapes, sizes, styles, etc. What I do may not work for you - and the kinds of things I think about when writing may never even cross your mind(s) as you all write beautifully about your lives and/or the Lord's goodness. All I know is that the internet is a big place that has plenty of room (and more to spare) for bloggers of all writing styles, goals (or lack thereof), etc. And it's quite possible that God is working through us all in unique ways that fit with our own unique blogs. At least that's what I hope - because that means it's possible that God could, in fact, be using my humble blog to reach others in the way I secretly hope for - or better yet, in the way(s) that only He could imagine.

    Interestingly enough, this entire entry is nothing like the one I thought I was going to write when I sat down at the keyboard today. However, I said the same prayer I always do before blogging - which suggests to me that perhaps what I've written is, in fact, what He would want me write...rather than what I may have thought I should write. Oh, how He constantly teaches me lessons about what it means for me to be a Catholic blogger.

    AMDG.

    "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven."
    Matthew 5:16

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    Gabriel: 3 Months

    +JMJ+

    Gabriel is currently in his 13th week and as of today (the 5th) he is officially 3 months old! Check him out:

    Getting ready to go to church this past Sunday

    Our son is growing growing growing! A couple of weeks ago I thought that perhaps I would forego a "three month update" and instead write about Gabriel's development once he hit the 4 month mark and had another doctor's appointment. Then I began to realize just how much he has changed in only one month's time and I knew I couldn't skip a month just yet. :)

    Nursing
    • He is still a great eater and even though he still has spurts of needing to eat every hour during the day, he is also starting have stretches that are 1.5, 2, 2.5, or even 3 hours between meals sometimes! His hunger signs have also become somewhat more difficult to differentiate from other needs, so you can imagine that this has started to make for some fun confusing times of me completely upsetting Gabriel when I mistakenly thought he was hungry and he was not.
    • He gets quite upset if I try to feed him and he isn't hungry (in case you missed that implication from above). My bad. Just trying to make sure my child doesn't go hungry.
    • Well, he still detests bottles of breast milk...but this is partially our fault for not trying to give him one very often. 
    • We are starting to have a little bit more bottle success since his Godfather wisely suggested that we temporarily give up on the awesome Medela Calma nipples which closely simulate actual breastfeeding (the baby has to do the same sucking motion - which helps prevent nipple confusion) and instead try the free sample bottles we got that have "normal" nipples (where the milk simply flows out). It was pointed out to us that perhaps the consolation of not having his mommy there is to have a bottle that doesn't make him do any work...and the first time we tried this he actually ate half an ounce. I'll take it! Baby steps, you know.

    Sleeping
    • Gabriel still sleeps through the night (hooray)! I've heard of babies having a regression around 3 months but so far, so good. He goes to bed between 10 and 11pm, sleeps 5-7 hours, nurses, then goes back to sleep for another 1-3 hours. He's been doing this for about 6 weeks now and it's glorious.
    • A recent major change has taken place with naps. Gabriel has always been a pretty happy, easy baby and has never had trouble falling asleep...and he still has no troubles at bedtime. However, starting somewhere between weeks 11 and 12 he began needing to be soothed to sleep for most naps.
    • If he falls asleep for a nap after a feeding there's no problem. However, because he is sometimes going for longer stretches between nursing sessions this means he often needs to nap when he hasn't just eaten...and that's when I end up having to do a lot of work. He gets really worked up because he's tired and calming him to the point of sleeping can take anywhere from 5 to 30(ish) minutes. But honestly? It's not that bad...it just breaks my heart when he does his "angry" cry and I'm doing everything I know to calm him. Compared to what I imagine other parents deal with I have z-e-r-o complaints, though.

    Bath Time
    • No problems here! He stills enjoys a good bath.

    Play Time
    • This is largely the same as when he was 2 months old...except that he has seriously begun to hone his aiming skills. He intentionally reaches his arms and/or legs towards his desired hanging animal target on his play mat and skillfully hits it; it's really cute to watch him twist and turn and work so persistently to get some of the hard-to-reach animals. :)
    • Somewhere in week 10 he began to intentionally raise and lower his left arm with great skill - and he would do this and hold it in place over his head so he could just stare in amazement at his fist. After his arm would get tired he would then let his fist fall to his mouth and begin inspecting everything about that hand with his little baby mouth. He can move his right arm, too, but for some reason he only did this with his left.
    • Around the time of the last update he began to really notice his hands...but now he really notices and loves his hands. He can't seem to get enough of sucking on them, staring at them, or doing this adorable thing where he literally holds his own hand...because he clasps his hands together and holds his own fingers. Super cute. He will also clasp onto anything he can.
    • He's at that point where he loves to learn about things by sucking on them...which prompted us to order some new rattles and teething toys so he can have a wider variety of textures to explore.
    • He still loves being sung to and I discovered that he loves loves loves the song "Oh, Mr. Sun."
    • We got him a Sassy baby mirror this past month and he has enjoyed staring and/or talking at himself whenever he happens to look that way on his play mat.
    • In the past month I've also noticed that he seems to get really excited on the diaper changing pad. He kicks vigorously (in a happy way) and some of his most excited, talkative times happen during or after diaper changes...even if I don't do anything playful to initiate it.
    • He loves having his feet kissed (and kisses anywhere), having raspberries blown on his tummy, and having his nose and/or mouth playfully tapped.
    • He has taken a sincere interest in books beyond the black and white pages within Goodnight Moon.

    Growth/Development
    • Gabriel had his first baby laugh! It happened the night of October 24th (during his 12th week) while we weren't doing anything remotely funny. I was simply holding him and he was intently staring at Michael when out of nowhere he let out two happy giggles. He still doesn't laugh regularly, but it happens from time to time during play.
    • He is so close to rolling over! All of a sudden yesterday he began rolling onto his side and really kicking and making an effort to roll. Any day now....
    • His hair is coming in much thicker! It's also growing in darker on top to match the darker hair on the back of his head.
    • He has outgrown a handful of 0-3 month items of clothing and we've had to adjust the carrier, the car seat straps (multiple times), etc. I think he is probably still in a high percentile for height.
    • Supposedly a baby's crying peaks from 6-8 weeks but Gabriel hardly ever cried until we hit weeks 10 to 11. He became noticeably fussier and clingy from weeks 11 to 12 (hence me needing to rock and soothe him to take naps). Still, I think he cries far less than most babies.
    • He remains incredibly vocal - articulating a variety of noises that sound like "uh oh, uh uh, goo, hii, yeah, uh ma, mom (yes - he makes a noise that sounds like mom!), ooh, ahh, how," etc. He does all the normal coos, a howl, and this week he began to imitate raspberry noises which is too funny (and adorable). And as I was writing this he actually trilled his lips for the first time ever (is that what you'd call it?) to get my attention, haha.

    One final note: Up until this week Michael and I had been extremely pleased that our little boy had not yet decided to urinate during a diaper change. Well, that changed Sunday night when he decided to pee all over Michael's hand (because Michael managed to block almost all of it). I knew those glory days wouldn't last forever, but let's hope this doesn't become a regular thing!

    "A babe in the house is a well-spring of pleasure, a messenger of peace and love, a resting place for innocence on earth, a link between angels and men."
    -Martin Fraquhar Tupper

    Friday, November 1, 2013

    Happy Hallowtide!

    +JMJ+

    Happy Hallowtide! Last weekend Michael and I set out on a search for pumpkins - and not just store-bought pumpkins, but pumpkins from a legitimate farm...because that's how us Midwesterners roll. However, we had our work cut out for us down here because pumpkin farms - in South Florida? Who has those? Well, apparently there is one (one!) in our entire county so you'd better believe we hopped in the car and drove nearly 45 minutes to check it out.

    They had a nice market (we bought apple cider! yum), fresh corn, and a ridiculous amount of food and other random vendors that gave the entire thing more of a carnival-like feel than I have ever seen at a farm where you can pick out pumpkins. Florida "fall" just continues to baffle us "northerners." 


    That corn was consumed about as quickly as I could blink
    Gabriel was falling asleep....

    They also had a "hayride" which was actually just a couple of shaded benches being pulled by a tractor...but we totally took a ride and will count it as Gabriel's first (at least until we live somewhere else that has hayrides with, you know, hay). I will say that the ride was quite peaceful, sunny, warm, and we even saw an alligator! This was our first natural sighting since arriving in Florida and I was quite happy that our tractor-pulled ride was much too high off the ground to strike any fear into my heart. Instead we all took photos and gasped in amazement while Michael and I continued to muse over how incredibly different everything fall-related tends to be in such a tropical climate compared to what we're used to.

    After the hayride we selected three beautiful pumpkins that happened to come in what we considered to be perfect "Daddy, Mommy, and baby Gabriel" sizes.

    We then took advantage of the fact that we were already 45 minutes from home and drove the remaining 8 miles to an authentic Korean restaurant because again - good Korean restaurants in South Florida? Few and far between. Times like these certainly make us realize how good we had it with Asian cuisine back in Ann Arbor. Yum, Asian Legend....

    Moving on.

    Tired little Pooh Bear

    Yesterday was Halloween so Michael and I had lots of fun dressing Gabriel in his costume, sharing an intensely-decorated caramel apple (courtesy of Publix Greenwise), and painting our little family of pumpkins. Then we ended the evening by starting my all-time favorite Halloween movie: Hocus Pocus.


    All in all it's been a festive week since our trip to the farm and I'm finally feeling like it's actually autumn around here...because Florida weather tricks me into thinking it's still summer everywhere. Hooray for pumpkins, apple cider, Hallowtide festivities, adorable baby costumes, and having loved ones to share it all with! I feel so incredibly blessed.

    Happy All Saints' Day!

    "Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered... the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith... All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown."
    -St. Thomas of Canterbury

    Wednesday, October 23, 2013

    "In Him you have been baptized"

    +JMJ+

    "You have put on Christ/in Him you have been baptized/Alleluia/Alleluia!"

    If you're thinking that this post is about Gabriel getting baptized...you're right! This past Sunday, October 20th, our little boy was officially welcomed into the Catholic faith when he received his first Sacrament. :)

    My older sister and brother-in-law are his Godparents and we were so so excited that they (along with my precious nieces) were able to make it for the baptism! Not only were they able to make it, but so were my parents, my younger sister, and one of my grandmothers. We actually took up an entire pew! This made us very happy considering we initially doubted whether or not anyone in our family would be able to make it down to Florida for his baptismal weekend. God truly provides, I tell ya.

    Not to mention, this was the first time that several family members got to meet Gabriel! Oh, it was so joyful. My heart just melted every time I saw him being doted on by his cousins - who are completely excited and smitten with their very first, little, baby cousin, by the way. :) All of this makes me look forward to Christmastime that much more - because then my husband's entire family will get to meet Gabriel as well. 

    Honestly I'm at a loss for words in describing this past weekend other than to say that it was fun, joyful, and better than I could have dreamed (Michael agrees). We are so grateful to have had a wonderful weekend filled with family fun and love...so without further ado, here are a few photo highlights to help paint the picture of goodness a little bit more:







    I'd also like to point out that the beautiful, white baptismal garment Gabriel is sporting was made by my sister (his Godmother). It was first worn by his cousin and we plan to have all the future cousins wear it at their baptisms as well. :) But seriously, isn't she talented?! This is the same sister that handmade ALL of our wedding favors - which were crocheted bluebirds that she turned into clothespin magnets:


    Fortunately for any of you that may be interested in hand-knit or crochet items, she has a Facebook page which displays some of her past creations and allows you to request a very reasonably-priced custom order. For real. Blankets, infinity scarves, baby and toddler scarves, headbands, mug or wine cozies, rosary bracelets, Christmas stockings, hats, you name it...she probably has it (or can make it). You should probably check it out. ;)

    Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go pick up my little boy and breathe in that wonderful smell of chrism oil that has managed to linger on his bedtime hat (which he is currently wearing because I gave him a bath and wanted to help warm him up). 

    "Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit (vitae spiritualis ianua), and the door which gives access to the other sacraments. Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: "Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.""
    -Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1213

    Friday, October 18, 2013

    "Praying Twice" with My Baby

    +JMJ+

    When I reflect on my prayer life, I would have to say that there are two years of my life (thus far) that really stand out. During those two years I was so on fire and was praying constantly. I got into a rhythm, prayed much of the Divine Office on a regular basis, and even attended Mass nearly every day. In my mind, it's no coincidence that during those two years I met the man who would become my husband and discerned my vocation to marry him. He even converted from being an agnostic to becoming part of the "one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church"...and I'm certainly taking no credit in that master plan of the Lord's - although I'm sure my prayer life and our shared prayer life didn't hurt the process either. After all, a rich prayer life and relationship with God does wonders in drawing us into Him and revealing His plans for our lives.

    This isn't to say that I'm no longer on fire for the Lord. Far from it! However, the structure and tasks of my days are vastly different from the days of finishing college, working a summer job, or volunteering to do full-time ministry at a domestic violence agency for a year while living in community like the Dominicans. I am so in love with our Lord and my heart yearns to have a more structured prayer life but "structure" just hasn't been my prayer strong suit as of late. And those of you that have ever had little babies and a household to run know what I mean.

    I think many Catholic moms can relate when I say that my regular rosaries or chaplets have been temporarily traded out for brief prayers of thanksgiving as I stare at my baby sleeping in my arms - or heartfelt pleas for the graces needed to make it through one of "those" days. You know, those days when you haven't slept well but still need to be on your game to take care of a little, helpless human being - or the days when your baby is pooping so much that it explodes all over his beautiful swing, his clothes, and yours...right after you just washed all the other "poop" laundry (thankfully this is not a regular occurrence with us and I truly have nothing I could justify complaining about right now).

    Any serious person of faith probably knows that every little thing can be turned into an opportunity for prayer and/or to grow in holiness. And I knew approaching motherhood that this would look different than it did before having a baby and that my prayer life would need to adapt accordingly. One way I've found I can do this is to use those moments I know I will have each day (like nursing Gabriel - it's bound to happen...a lot) and turn them into times of prayer. Sure, often times I like to read blogs on my phone while I'm nursing him - but I've managed to get into the habit of not doing this until after I have read the daily Mass readings or learned something about that day's Saint. This simple effort has helped reconnect me to the days of being able to attend daily Mass (something I miss dearly and hope to be able to incorporate into my life again when the circumstances allow it).

    So my days have continued in this manner - with quick prayers of thanksgiving here, there, and trying to find some daily tasks that help remind and root me in prayer or spiritual reading whenever possible. Recently, however, I realized that there is one major, special way I have maintained a regular, fulfilling prayer life - and that is through song.

    During those two years in which I probably had the most "consistently" powerful prayer life I listened to Christian music constantly. Whether it was a contemporary Catholic artist or a traditional prayer set to music or chant I just couldn't get enough. I come from a musically talented family and it has always been a powerful way in which I've connected with the Lord. Even though I've never felt I could truthfully call myself "a singer" (that just makes it sound as if I have years of choir and voice lesson experience or something...which I don't), but I have always sung for God every single time I go to church. In college I even sung as a cantor for 3 years and eventually joined the student choir in my final year of studies.

    Anyway, you get the gist. I've never been one of those singers who walks around singing anything and everything 24/7 (every person I have known to really identify with being "a singer" does this), but I love love love singing hymns, prayers, or songs that turn my thoughts to Christ. I believe it was St. Augustine that said something along the lines of, "He who sings, prays twice." 

    When Gabriel was still in the womb I knew I should probably talk and sing to him...so what did I end up singing? Hymns. Prayers. Basically the only songs I can ever remember all the words to off the top of  my head (of course since his birth several children's songs and lullabies have come back to me out of nowhere...but you get the idea). Now when I nurse him or rock him to sleep more often than not I find myself singing him The Servant Song, a Dominican blessing, the Dominican Magnificat, or the refrain of a Steve Angrisano song I first heard in high school at NCYC.

    All of the songs I've been singing to Gabriel have sort of been second nature and often I've done it without much thought. On really good prayer days I've sung these songs specifically to intentionally pray while I am taking care of my child. But it wasn't until this week that it suddenly dawned on me: by singing hymns and prayers with my baby I am actually praying with my baby. Of course he can't understand words or prayers yet, but when I pray in this way he can get involved and coo alongside me. I never fully realized this until this past Sunday morning when Gabriel burst into a huge grin and began cooing along with me as I sang the words, "Open my heart, Lord/ Help me to love like You." As I sang those words I realized God was answering my prayer in that very moment. As my baby eagerly smiled and cooed along with the song I knew that instant that the Lord was indeed opening my heart and helping me to love like Him. The love I felt for my son in that moment just seemed to multiply by a gajillion and I couldn't help but tear up with joy.

    My baby this past Sunday before a Halloween-themed event

    It sounds cheesy, but it was beautiful. So simple yet so profound. While I fully plan to continue reading the daily Mass readings and offering little prayers each time I think to do so, I think the easiest way to ensure that I pray every single day at this stage in my life is to simply keep singing to and loving on my child...which I will gladly do!

    "The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy."
    -Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1156

    Monday, October 14, 2013

    Walking with My Husband

    +JMJ+

    When I was single I had an idea in my head of what kinds of qualities and interests my future husband would probably have. I tried hard not to let myself get caught up in "lists" or things of that nature, but there were some essential things I had discerned were important in a man I would marry - like sharing my Catholic faith, for example (and my husband was agnostic when we first met - so God really works in our hearts in mysterious ways!). There were also things I dreamed up that were hardly deal-breakers, but were more like little things I could envision bringing me much joy in life - the kinds of things I wouldn't dare to complain about not having, but would secretly rejoice in having should they ever come to pass. 

    One of these little visions I dreamed up was of having a husband who would go on late afternoon or early evening strolls with me. It's such a simple vision - but somewhere in my heart I wanted that. Before dinner walks, after dinner walks, whatever. I just wanted that regular, quality, physically active time that allowed me to be with my man someday. The funny thing is that I didn't put much stock in it and probably forgot that my heart ever desired such a simple thing...until it started to become a reality.

    My husband and I got married in late September (2012), so when we returned from our honeymoon and I made the official move to Ann Arbor to join him it was already chilly October weather. Autumn is my favorite season, but the one thing I learned about my 10 months in Ann Arbor is that there are basically two seasons you get to properly experience there: winter and summer. In my experience, there wasn't much transition between the two. This meant that shortly after we were finally together (no more long distance!) we had to put all our dreams of "Michigan outdoor adventures" on the back-burner unless we were interested in heading further north to ski (we weren't). 

    By the time "spring" rolled around we were aching to get outdoors. We missed warmth, sunshine, and having the motivation to do something other than hide beneath a thick blanket all day long (maybe that was just me dealing with the combo of a Michigan winter and the first trimester of pregnancy?). As soon as some semblance of warmer weather appeared in April (meaning it began to creep up into the raining/sleeting 40s on a more regular basis....) we decided to begin walking in a nearby park.

    We loved that park. It was just a few minutes drive down the road from where we lived and it had a few different walking/running/biking paths - all with scenic views of the Huron River. Even though the earliest days of walking there were realistically quite chilly, we had so much fun on those walks together. It gave us time to unwind, expend energy, and talk in a way we couldn't do during our separate workouts in the gym. 

    As I got further along in pregnancy, walking became one of the only active things we could do together. I mean, as much as I love kayaking that hardly seemed to be a desirable activity given my size and physical discomfort (although I'm thinking perhaps canoeing could be peaceful next time around...). 

    Pretty soon we made the move to Florida and baby Gabriel made his big debut...which meant a whole lot of wonderful things, but it also meant I wasn't yet cleared to do any physical activity beyond walking...nor would I have had the energy or strength to do much else. Thus the walks continued!

    At first it was so hot that Michael and I made frequent trips to the mall just to have an air conditioned space to walk around. Pretty soon, though, it began to cool off slightly and we started to feel more comfortable about having Gabriel outdoors for a little while. Finally, we were able to begin taking advantage of this gorgeous Florida warmth and our mind-blowingly-convenient (and scenic) walking path in our apartment complex. Not having to drive anywhere to walk is such a blessing for any mom with a young child.... 

    It's sounds simple enough. And it is. We have become one of those married couples that goes on evening strolls (with our baby happily dozing as I push the stroller). It's nothing grand or world-changing, but it's something I rejoice to have with my husband (and now son). I've watched our evening walks evolve over the past year into a regular occurrence for our little family and I can now look back and see how what was once some silly-sounding dream has become the reality of my everyday life with Michael. Acknowledging this causes me to give thanks to our God who has been so so good to me in the simplest and sometimes silliest of my heart's desires.

    The fact that we currently live in Florida has only helped to solidify this regular activity that I so look forward to enjoying with my family...because it's mid-October and this...

    Photo credit: my husband!

    ...this is what a Florida sunset on one of our walks around the apartment complex currently looks like. I mean, really. We may not be running marathons with our 1.5 mile walks, but this? It is well with my soul. 


    "Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you."
    -Oscar Wilde

    Friday, October 11, 2013

    7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 22): In Which I Re-Cap...A Lot

    +JMJ+


    Well, it took a couple of months but I think I'm finally beyond the "final days of pregnancy/beginning days of motherhood" hazy thoughts phase. Somehow I've managed to get back into a rhythm of writing - including rejoining Jen's Friday Quick Takes! It's been awhile so let's get this party started. And don't forget to check out Jen's blog for more quick takers. :)

    --- 1 ---
    I just realized that I haven't done a "Quick Takes" entry since we moved to Florida. You'd think that a quick takes post would be the most likely thing I would have kept up with on my blog after a move, in my final days of pregnancy, and in the earliest of newborn/exhausted mom days because they should be quick and easy. Except not. Apparently that was too much for my brain to handle. Who knew? Perhaps it means I need to stick to simpler quick takes....

    --- 2 ---
    This also means I haven't done any "Quick Takes" since Gabriel was born! And now he's already 2 months old. :) Can you believe it?! He's already gone from this:

    3 days old
     To this:
    8.5 weeks old

    For more on Gabriel (who is now 9.5-almost-10-weeks old!) you can check out these posts that highlight written updates or photos (or both) of him:


    Needless to say, it's been a pretty happy couple of months filled with all the love and joy a brand-new baby brings. :)

    --- 3 ---


    My mind is still reeling from the fact that I've been married for one whole year already! And what a good year it has been. I wrote all about it here.

    --- 4 ---


    I almost forgot: you can also see some pretty adorable photos of Gabriel in the post I wrote about our one-year anniversary trip to Miami. :) 

    --- 5 ---
    Conveniently enough, Gabriel received his first round of vaccinations right after Respect Life Sunday during these Forty Days for Life...which makes the timing of my "How to Be Pro-Life and Pro-Vaccinations in 5 Easy Steps" post quite apropos, don't you think?

    --- 6 ---
    I think that's all the shameless self-promotion these quick takes can handle. So how about I promote some other blogs instead? Did you read Simcha's piece entitled Seeing Pink? Follow the Money.? I hardly ever post anything on my husband's and my shared Facebook account, but this was just too good not to pass on. And this piece (You're a Stay-at-home mom? What do you DO all day?) by Matt Walsh about SAHMs. It's quite possibly the best thing I've read since...I can't remember. It's THAT good. And it's written by a man, so props and many thank yous to him! Give it a read when you get the chance! And no, I didn't intend to make this quick take another link to one of my own entries...but if you fancy a read about shared Facebook accounts, who am I to stop you? ;)

    --- 7 ---
    Up until this past weekend I hadn't purchased any new music in a year. I remember because the last time I made an iTunes purchase was for our wedding reception playlist. The no-new-music dry spell has been broken, though, since I purchased Audrey Assad's Fortunate Fall, the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist's Mater Eucharistiae (shout out to these wonderful ladies in Ann Arbor I once went on retreat with), and Almeria by Lifehouse. Little Gabriel and I have had lots of fun rocking out (or calming down and/or praying) to these fabulous tunes all week long. :) I highly recommend all three albums!

    P.S. I completely changed my blog's header and tweaked the color scheme this week. Like or dislike? I'm thinking that it makes my blog look a little more clean/professional-looking...even though I would consider my blog far from professional whatsoever. :)

    And that's all she wrote. Have a happy weekend!

    Wednesday, October 9, 2013

    How to be Pro-Life and Pro-Vaccinations in 5 Easy Steps

    +JMJ+

    On Monday I wrote about my 2-month old son's first vaccination experience. I mentioned that he received his 6 vaccinations (Hep-B, RV, DTaP, Hib, PCV, IPV) in the form of 1 oral and 5 separate shots. The reality is that I easily could have elected for him to receive fewer shots by allowing the nurse to administer the "Pentacel" shot - which combines DTaP, IPV, and Hib all in one. Fewer shots for my baby? Undoubtedly most mothers would choose this option for their child.

    In fact, most children would automatically be given the Pentacel shot because doctors and nurses are all about administering less shots when they can. This means that unless you specifically request not to have your child receive Pentacel the odds are that you will automatically get it - without even being told any other options such as Pediarix (an alternative combination shot you can find available some places) or that you can have each shot administered separately. Ultimately I consciously decided to have Gabriel receive all 5 shots individually for one very important reason: the lining of the Pentacel shot is derived from aborted fetal cells.



    The unfortunate reality is that many vaccinations are made from aborted fetal cells. In fact, some vaccinations are only made from aborted fetal cells which means currently there are no ethical alternatives for those of us that are pro-life. This knowledge is incredibly frustrating, but unfortunately there are a couple of reasons why this is the case here in the United States:

    1) Most people are unaware that aborted fetal cells are often used in the making of vaccinations and/or
    2) the culture of death that has become so rampant and commonplace nowadays has numbed many individuals from caring.

    It's the same reason several people see no problem with embryonic stem cell research; they fail to recognize and honor the dignity of aborted children because they simply don't view them as babies whose lives were ended prematurely. As a new mother I would have been clueless about all of this had I not remembered my older sister speaking about it when my first niece was born. Thank goodness I have someone in my family that was educated enough about this issue to share this knowledge with me!

    So what does this mean for those of us that are both pro-life and pro-vaccinations? I'm all about having my baby immunized; I realize the dangers in this day and age of not utilizing what science has given us to protect our children from otherwise deadly diseases. If you are someone who doesn't believe in vaccinations, this post is not written for you. My goal isn't to open up a debate about whether or not children should be vaccinated - because I wholeheartedly believe that they should. My issue with vaccinations (which will be addressed in this post) has entirely to do with scientific practices that I believe are unethical.

    Source.

    At this point it's worth saying that the information presented in this post is relevant to all pro-life individuals - whether you have a religious affiliation or not. Personally, I am Catholic - which is the foundation of all my decisions dealing with morality/ethics. Therefore, I do write this from a Catholic perspective...but any non-Catholic readers should realize that my Catholic faith in this instance simply means I am unabashedly pro-life. So if you identify as pro-life - regardless of whether or not you agree with the rest of my religion - I'm pretty sure you'll find this information about vaccinations and what our options are to be very useful.

    As a Catholic, as soon as I became aware of this common medical practice I wondered what this meant for my day-to-day life. Did it mean that I couldn't vaccinate my child if an ethical shot was unavailable? The short answer is: no! However, it does mean that I should request the ethical versions of shots when they do exist. 

    Why, specifically, as a Catholic (and/or pro-lifer), am I against vaccinations derived from aborted fetal cells? LifeNews.com put it pretty succinctly when they wrote the following:
    "The morality of fetal cell use is analogous to that of organ donation. If the patient died of natural causes or a traumatic event, then is is morally permissible to use their organs for the benefit of others. It is not morally permissible to intentionally and prematurely end a person’s life and then take their organs for donation. Using fetal stem cells from aborted fetuses is analogous to using organs from death row inmates or victims of euthanasia."
    You can read the rest of what they had to say here. Their article also linked to a very helpful explanation from Bishop Robert Vasa in which he said:
    "Thus my reading of [Dignitas Personae] inclines me to conclude that parents may use these vaccines derived from cell lines of illicit origin but they should inquire about the availability of a more ethical alternative and they must make their objections known to the physician, to the health care system and to the FDA. Clearly, the use of these vaccines, while morally permissible, is not entirely morally neutral….
    In reality, if everyone did this then one of two things would happen. The pharmaceutical companies would stop making the vaccine or they would begin to look seriously for alternatives that are not tied to abortion. Without our protest, however, these companies have no incentive to change their ways. They will continue to do evil that good may come from it; we will continue to receive the good they produce, and we will thus give moral and financial support to their heinous practices."
    So there you have it. As faithful Catholics are we "allowed" to receive vaccinations derived from aborted fetal cells? According to various Bishops and the Pontifical Academy of Life: yes, "...the use of such vaccines is morally permissible because those vaccinated do not directly cooperate in producing the vaccine."  (Source.)

    However, the Pontifical Academy of Life also "...stressed the “grave responsibility” to try to use alternative vaccines and to object to vaccines with “moral problems." (Source.)

    Ultimately, it's up to us to carefully and prayerfully consider whether or not we can accept these vaccinations without compromising our beliefs and strongly held convictions, but regardless of whether or not we (or our children) receive these vaccinations deemed to have "moral problems," one thing is crystal clear: we can and should make our voices heard. 

    Not only can we request ethical vaccinations when they do exist, but we also have a responsibility to make our objections known.

    The first step is to educate ourselves. The Children of God For Life website makes it easy to quickly learn about the cell linings of vaccinations children receive (as recommended by the CDC) from birth to age 18. I printed a couple of their charts out and brought them with me to Gabriel's appointment yesterday - just in case I couldn't remember what to request and/or to show his pediatrician if necessary.
    Source: Children of God For Life

    In summary, these are 5 easy steps that we can and should take as pro-life individuals when it comes to vaccinations:
    1. Educate yourself about vaccinations. Learn which ones use aborted fetal cells and which of these have ethical alternatives available. The Children of God For Life and Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute websites are both great resources. You can print off user-friendly charts from their sites (including the one pictured above) with all the information you need.
    2. Request the ethical versions of vaccinations from your doctor - and make it known why you are doing so. Tell your physician, your health care system, and the FDA. Help put pressure on them to begin providing more ethical options!
    3. Donate money to this Ethical Vaccines campaign, found on the Sound Choice Pharmaceutical Institute's website.
    4. Sign this petition to the FDA for ethical vaccines, found on the Children of God For Life website.
    5. Spread the word to others!
    ---

    UPDATE (February 2015): In light of the recent measles outbreak in the U.S., there has been much discussion in the Catholic community on this topic. Listed below are some additional resources I recommend.
    • National Catholic Bioethics Center's FAQ on the use of vaccines
    • Measles Are Making a Comeback, So What Does the Church Teach About Vaccines? (Personally I think this is a helpful, pro-vaccination piece that discusses most of what I've written here...but it doesn't expand on this one, very important sentence: "The document goes on to say that Catholics should express their opposition to vaccines developed from aborted cells and that there is an obligation to use alternative vaccines, should they exist." Hopefully this is where what I've written can help you!)
    ---

    "A very important thing to know is that Japan has approved vaccines against rubella and hepatitis A, which have been prepared without the use of human cells extracted from aborted fetuses. These vaccines represent a morally preferable alternative since they have not used cell lines of illicit origin, but they have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and therefore are not readily available in the United States. This is why the Document, “Dignitas Personae,” has added: 'Everyone has the duty to make known their disagreement and to ask that their healthcare system make other types of vaccines available.'"

    -Bishop Robert Vasa