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

Monday, October 7, 2013

Gabriel at 2 Months!

+JMJ+

Before our Sunday afternoon stroll yesterday

I just. Can't even. I'm just. Okay. Let's try this again....

I just got home from Gabriel's two-month check-up (as of Saturday, the 5th, he is officially two months old and today he is exactly 9 weeks old!). Any of you that have children know that the doctor's appointment at two months old equals one major thing: vaccinations (round one). Call me pessimistic (I call it being realistic), but I was anticipating the worst of the worst while hoping for the best. In my mind I imagined Gabriel screaming his head off at the doctor's office followed by a day of him being quite unhappy with life and potentially developing a fever.

Well, if there is anything I've learned in the past two months it is that for some unknown, wonderful reason Gabriel is what people call a "good baby" (even though that's silly because all babies are good things and a huge blessing....but you get the idea). Whatever situation we encounter he almost always has the best possible reaction you could imagine (praise the Lord!) and it leaves the other moms feeling a little bit jealous.

Gabriel had 6 vaccinations today (1 oral and 5 shots) and he cried at the doctor's office for less than 30 seconds...including the time it took his insanely speedy nurse to administer all 5 shots in his chubby, little legs. As soon as she was done I picked him up and he stopped crying. Then, after I nursed him for a few minutes he actually smiled at me as I changed his diaper and got him ready to go home. What? Who is this beautiful, non-crying child that just had 5 shots in his legs? I mean, is he even a baby? Is he a little adult disguised in the body of a 9-week old child? Oh wait, that's right. He's my easy-to-take-care-of baby. :) My incredibly happy, calm, and adorable son! Take note, future children; your brother is setting the bar pretty high....

Honestly I'm still confounded and pleasantly surprised at how well he handles everything life has thrown his way thus far (hence the flustered intro)...but I'm not going to sit here questioning how or why he doesn't cry about much of anything and just revel in the goodness of a baby who cries way less than average. And let's pray that as the day progresses our little guy isn't in pain and doesn't develop a fever (though I do have baby medicine and I'm not afraid to use it).

So seriously. Let's thank the Lord for how amazing my son's temperament is and for all the blessings God continues to surprise Michael and me with through Gabriel. Here's a little recap of the goodness the past 2 months has had to offer (plus photos!):

Our little thinker :)

Nursing
  • Still a rockstar...and still eating almost every hour during the daytime (but going for longer and longer stretches at night!).
  • We tried introducing breast milk in a bottle at about 6 weeks and it didn't go over too well, but it's our goal to try again this week so we can have a little more flexibility (I have this vision of a weekend afternoon where Michael watches Gabriel and I can go to the pool for a couple hours...and not have to worry about feeding the baby because Michael can give him a bottle. Or a day when I can go to the gym for more than 40 minutes because I don't have to rush home for a feeding. Someday. Soon!).

He's happy even in his dreams

Sleeping
  • At one month old Gabriel was sleeping for at least one 3-hour stretch at night...which lengthened over the next couple weeks to 4 hours...which lengthened in week 7 to (drum-roll, please) 5 hours!
  • He is currently sleeping for one 5-7 hour stretch at night, followed by another stretch that ranges from 2-3 hours. Then it's back to his daytime routine of never sleeping much longer than an hour so he can eat eat eat.
  • In week 6 Gabriel started being able to fall asleep on his own (as long as he has a full tummy). This means instead of having to bounce/rock/swing him into a deep sleep in my arms before laying him down in the bassinet after each night feeding, I have begun soothing him for less than a minute before laying him down - regardless of whether his little eyes are wide open or not. Amazing.
  • I am a happy, well-rested mom that only needs a nap once or twice a week instead of the almost-daily naps I needed the first three or four weeks. :)

Happy happy happy on his daddy's birthday

Bath Time
  • As long as he is warm enough he loves it. Baby smiles all around!

He's cute and he knows it

Play Time
  • By the end of his first month Gabriel loved his play mat because it meant staring at his stuffed panda forever and ever (he loved it). Now he loves his play mat because he can't get enough of all the different hanging animals! He bats at them, eagerly kicks them, and he smiles and coos at them even when I'm across the room (unlike the end of his first month when he only stared at the zebra if I pointed it out to him).
  • He tends not to like his swing when he's incredibly alert (I usually place him there when he's really sleepy during the day), but occasionally he gets in a trance and stares at the mobile of birds and/or his reflection in the hanging globe. When the mood strikes him he can do this for a long time. It's pretty cute - and entertaining. :)
  • He still loves faces the most - and has begun to love his own reflection whenever he catches his own eye in a mirror.
  • He loves music and often likes to smile and coo along with me as I sing to him. And twice now he has bobbed his head side to side to the beat of a song we've been listening to. :)
  • He despises tummy time. It's the one thing in life he really doesn't enjoy, actually. But it's a great way to clear gunk out of his nose because he cries. Every time.

I get to see this face each day :D

Growth/Development
  • As of today he weighs 11 lbs. 11 oz. (meaning he has gained almost 5 lbs. since birth - 4 since his two-week check-up). He is in the 50th percentile for weight now (he was in the 14th at two weeks old)!
  • He is 24.25 inches long (meaning he has grown nearly 5 inches since birth - 3.25 since his two-week check-up). He is in the 75th percentile for height. What a tall little baby!
  • His head circumference is 15.5 inches (it was 14 at his two-week check-up). The doctor said his head is "nice and round" so that's good.
  • He smiles, smiles, smiles, and coos like it's his job! 
  • The little noises he makes sound like "goo," "how," "yeah," "hiii," "ah," "ooh," etc.
  • He usually says "how" when he's getting really hungry (so I imagine him saying "Hungry! Now!") and repeats "goo" over and over after a meal (so I like to think it means "Good. Yummy!"). 
  • He still only laughs in his sleep...so I'm waiting for the blessed day we get to hear that one for real. :)
  • He appears to be incredibly strong and already likes to hold his head up on his own for a few seconds here and there. Every time we hold him it seems he needs less and less head support.
  • Overall he has hit all the milestones he should be hitting and he is healthy. Hooray!

Our hipster half-Asian baby <3

"A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, home happier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for."
-Unknown

Saturday, October 5, 2013

28 Reasons: A Gift for My Husband's Birthday

+JMJ+

If someone asked me to sum up the highlights of this week I'd say it really boils down to two special, annual events in my husband's and my life: our first wedding anniversary (on Sunday) and Michael's birthday (which I mentioned was on Thursday)! We had a lot of fun exploring Miami for our anniversary, but I didn't want Michael's birthday to be overshadowed by it all...which meant I needed to come up with something really good to celebrate my man. :) Last year on Michael's birthday we were having fun cave-tubing and zip-lining in Belize for our honeymoon - which sets the bar pretty high as far as all future birthdays go....

I had already decided on a present that I ordered online, but I wanted to actually do something meaningful as a gift - beyond buying something or going out for a special dinner. Maybe it's because I've been recovering from a cold all week, but I was struggling to think of what to do...aaand cue Pinterest where I found this little Pinspiration:


One glance and I was sold. I knew I wanted to create my own version of this for Michael's birthday. Thus, the "28 reasons" why I love my husband (on his 28th birthday!) project began. :)

This sequence was posted on the first wall he saw when entering the apartment

I looked at the photo of all the balloons attached to the pieces of paper and thought it looked awesome - and then I realized that I in no way wanted to deal with procuring helium in order to create that full effect. Instead, I turned the idea into my own by deciding to put all the pieces of paper with the reasons why I love my husband on the wall - and figured I would attach balloons to them so they would hang down, decorating the walls.

I had to run to the store for balloons and ribbon, but decided to use various pieces of paper from my scrapbooking stockpile. I took advantage of one of Gabriel's naps and frantically wrote down the "28 Reasons" I love Michael on a variety of paper colors and textures, cutting some of them into different shapes and sizes. Some were written directly on the paper and others had to be opened like a little book to see what it said inside.



#15: we are obviously Catholic ;)

Initially my goal was to attach a balloon to each of the 28 pieces of paper...but the reality of me recovering from a cold all week kicked in and I realized my lungs were definitely not up to the challenge. Plus, I was worried I was beginning to run out of time (you never know when a sleeping baby will wake!) so instead I blew up 10 balloons to hang from all the papers hanging over doorways or on the wall by the window. I also initially thought I would hole-punch each "reason" and neatly tie the balloon's ribbon to the hole...but that also got thrown out the door as I got worried Michael might get back from work any minute - so I just taped the ribbon directly on the back of the paper. And guess what? It didn't matter. After all, Michael had no idea what my original vision for his surprise was...so he definitely wasn't disappointed. In fact, he told me at the end of the night that his favorite part of his birthday was coming home to the balloon-and-reasons-why-I-love-him surprise. :)

Finished product - 28 reasons wrapping around all 3 walls

After giving him a card and walking him through the room so he could read the 28 random reasons why I love him, we went out to dinner (where they sang to him and gave him a free dessert, of course!). Then we came home to enjoy a glass of wine and the cheesecake I also surprised him with (with a 2-month old baby that eats every hour during the daytime I decided it was a bit ambitious to bake a cake - so instead I bought him a kind of cheesecake I knew he had been eyeing at the store for awhile). Michael's co-workers even surprised him with a birthday cake and took him out to lunch - so I'd say he had quite the day filled with special surprises - and desserts! Hopefully his 28th birthday helped him remember how loved and appreciated he is by so many people. I know I thank God that he was born - because I couldn't live without him!


Happy birthday, my love! I'm so blessed to be by your side on this journey that makes up our everyday lives. May God bless you with many more happy birthdays for us to celebrate together. :)

"A gift consists not in what is done or given, but in the intention of the giver or doer."
-Lucius Annaeus Seneca

Thursday, October 3, 2013

"Hope for the future of our Church"

+JMJ+

Earlier this week I wrote about our weekend trip to Miami that we took to celebrate our one year anniversary (which was Sunday, September 29). In that post I mentioned that we attended mass at Gesu Catholic Church - the oldest in all of southern Florida (note: this obviously means there is no such thing as a "cry room" that exists in this church)! I wanted to dedicate an entire entry to our time at this parish because through those experiences God truly blessed us with a wedding anniversary gift like no other.

Don't worry - I snapped this after mass
The English mass was at 11:30am but we showed up at 11 for confession. It turns out that we got there just in time because the 10am Spanish mass was still wrapping up and immediately after Michael and I had each had our turn in the confessional the mass ended and a long line began to form.

Michael focused on keeping Gabriel (who was 100% wide awake) calm while he generously allowed me to kneel and pray my penance first. Right as I finished up, Gabriel began getting extremely squirmy from hunger so I then took over "baby watch" and began to nurse him so Michael could complete his prayers (now that's marital teamwork - helping one another get to heaven - in action!).

Unfortunately the timing of nursing Gabriel was such that I couldn't stand up to physically participate in the opening of the mass (my favorite is when Gabriel conveniently needs to eat during the homily and everyone else is seated, too)...but babies need to eat when they need to eat.

Before I continue I should mention a few tidbits of background information:

  1. My husband and I both feel that babies have every right to be at mass and we have no problem with taking our son...and we don't sit in the cry room (I know there are all sorts of philosophies on this, but the purpose of this post isn't to debate them - I'm simply stating where we stand on the issue). Of course if Gabriel ever began full-on crying we would then utilize a cry room or step out into the gathering space, depending on the church's layout...and would then rejoin everyone else once the episode was over.
  2. I have no problem with nursing (with a cover) at mass. I know people have varying levels of comfort with this issue as well, but as I said earlier - babies need to eat when babies need to eat (and, might I add that Jesus was once a baby with a human mother who nursed him so I'm sure God understands that I'm in no way being irreverent by doing this thing He designed my body to do.... I wish to be present for the entire mass and don't feel that I should have to leave simply because my baby needs to eat).
  3. Gabriel has (in his 8 weeks of life outside the womb thus far) been a pretty stellar baby in church. The first 2 weeks he slept through the entire mass but considering he tends to eat every hour during the daytime I - more often than not - end up having to nurse him at some point. Even though he wakes up to eat, Gabriel is a quiet baby in church. He might make a few small noises as he wakes up, but to this day he hasn't really cried for more than one second during mass.
Okay, moving on.

So this past Sunday I nursed Gabriel at the beginning of church. Right before I nursed him he was getting fussy, but this was before mass had even started so he certainly wasn't interrupting much. Normally eating would make him tired and he would proceed to doze peacefully through the end of mass...but not this week. For some reason he stayed wide awake and (I don't think he ate well the first time) he wound up needing to eat again. Even with all of this happening, he was still a very good, quiet baby - except he did do a little, one-syllable, baby call/shout of "HOW!" leading up to his second feeding...which tends to be the noise he makes when (I imagine) he means "Hungry! Now!"

Overall I suppose I would say that this past Sunday was the most vocally distracting Gabriel has ever been at church (even though realistically he was about as quiet as a baby can get without sleeping the entire time).

Remember how I said that God gave us an anniversary gift like no other at this parish? Well, at the end of mass there were a few announcements...then the deacon went on to say something along these lines (if I could quote him verbatim from memory I would) while staring directly at us:
"At this time, I'd like to take a moment to speak to all of the parents - the parents of young children and especially babies. I'd like to say 'thank you' for bringing your children to mass. It's always nice to see them with you at mass because it gives us hope for the future of our church. And just a reminder to everyone that even when a baby cries it's not a disruption - it's a sign of life within our parish and it's truly a blessing. We don't have a cry room or anywhere to go here - we're all just one big family...so parents, please continue to bring your children with you and thank you again."
Did I mention that he was looking directly at us?? Then, the priest took over to finish out the blessing and started with, "You know, someone once said that when a baby cries, it's God singing."

What the what? I had tears in my eyes. Tears...which I frantically blinked away before they could leave my eyes.

Now as if that wasn't enough, the priest said they have a tradition of recognizing all visitors to their parish and asked everyone who was at Gesu for the first time to please stand and be greeted (by applause). Obviously we stood up along with a handful of others - and I seized the opportunity to quickly glance around the massive church (seriously massive - as in 700 person seating capacity) to see how many other young children or babies were there. If my eyes didn't deceive me, I'm pretty sure we were the only people with a child under the age of five. And even then it appeared that there were less than a handful of children around age 5ish. No wonder the deacon made such a point in thanking us!

Finally the mass ended, we went in peace, etc. Then a couple (probably in their late thirties to early forties) approached and greeted me (Michael had run to the bathroom). We proceeded to have a lengthy conversation all about where I was from, what we were doing in Miami, how adorable my son is, what his name is, how old he is, the fact that we were headed to Vizcaya (and how they l-o-v-e Vizcaya!), how we heard about their parish, and so on and so forth. They were so incredibly nice and welcoming! Even though I rave about how much we loved our parish back in Ann Arbor nothing like this happened to us there...ever. It's happened a tiny bit at our parish in Palm Beach but never has anyone taken such an interest beyond complimenting us on our baby.

All of this left us feeling beyond rejuvenated and oh-so-happy as we left mass that day...on our anniversary no less! What a gift to be recognized, validated, and appreciated - on our anniversary - for our marital vocation and call to serve the church by creating our own little "domestic church." It was so refreshing to be greeted with such open arms, especially as parents of a little baby - which is how I think every single Catholic Church needs to be each week towards newcomers. After all, "we're all just one big family." 

Tangible hope for the future of our Church - nearly 2 months old!

And one more quick note: today is Michael's birthday! Please offer up some prayers for him if you get the chance. Thanks in advance! :)

"Children are our most valuable resource."
-Herbert Hoover

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Bienvenido a Miami!

+JMJ+

(That's "welcome to Miami" for all those non-Spanish speakers out there)

This past weekend - in order to celebrate our one year anniversary - Michael and I took a mini-vacation to Miami! Neither of us had ever been to Miami and (considering it's less than an hour and a half from the area we recently moved to) we decided to check it out. After all, we didn't want Gabriel's first trip to be too far away (for his sake and ours) - so a weekend trip to Miami seemed to be the perfect baby-on-vacation "trial run."

Friday morning the preparations seemed endless as I bathed Gabriel (didn't want to deal with that in a hotel), packed his things, showered and got myself ready, printed off the e-tickets we needed for some of our excursions, and packed all of Michael's and my things (whew!). Michael worked longer days last week so he could take off early on Friday and (by the grace of God) I managed to accomplish all these tasks by the time he made it home at 1:00ish.

Before long it was late afternoon and we were checking in at our hotel in downtown Miami. Then, we took a short stroll to Bayside Market - where our first official vacation outing began! We hopped on a boat for a scenic, hour and a half long tour of Biscayne Bay. It was a great, relaxing way to learn more about the city's history while soaking in the sights of the Miami skyline, South Beach, and various other islands (including where most of the millionaires live). Not to mention, it was Gabriel's first time on a boat (ex utero - because we did go to Mackinac Island back in May) and his first time riding in our new baby carrier for more than 15 or 20 minutes. I'd say the boat tour was a success all around!



Friday night we ate at a Peruvian restaurant that, sadly, was a disappointing experience (especially considering it was our first time eating Peruvian food!)...but we shook it off and went back to relax at the hotel. It was Michael's first time hearing Gabriel wake up at night since we moved him into his own room at three weeks old - so Michael didn't sleep that well but I definitely did. Our son is such an easy baby to take care of (thank the Lord) and I'm pretty sure our hotel neighbors would have been clueless that we even had a baby, which is truly noteworthy considering he was almost-but-not-quite 8 weeks old this past weekend.

Saturday we ate breakfast at the hotel then headed across the bridge to the island of Virginia Key, where we spent the majority of the day at the Miami Seaquarium. Hands down the best parts of this excursion were the "Flipper" dolphin show, the sea lion show, and the Pacific white-sided dolphin & killer whale show. It was the first time I had seen a killer whale in person so I was every bit as excited as the children around us!


I was giddy over this whale

We went back to the hotel to cool off for a bit before heading to Little Havana for the evening. We ate traditional Cuban food for dinner, shared some Cuban coffee, and ended with some guava and mango ice cream (delicious!). We did all of this on the infamous "Calle Ocho" (8th Street) right by Maximo Gomez Park, which is a popular hangout for the locals to play chess and dominoes. All in all I'd say we got a pretty good taste of the Cuban flavor Little Havana had to offer (plus I got to use my Spanish!).


One of the sweetest, most simple memories I have of the entire weekend happened shortly after Gabriel woke up for a diaper change and feeding that night. After I took care of him I climbed back into bed, only to discover that my husband had also woken up. We both looked at each other, realizing that it was officially September 29th. We whispered "Happy Anniversary" to one another, kissed, then Michael said "One year..." and we drifted off to sleep once again. Be still my heart! This is the stuff everyday love is made of and truly "I found him whom my soul loves." :)

Sunday morning we got breakfast at a little Italian bistro then walked over to Gesu Catholic Church - the oldest Catholic church in Miami and all of southern Florida! When we were planning out our morning timeline before we went to bed Saturday night, Michael asked if they had confession available and suggested we go (have I mentioned that I love my husband?!). Sure enough, they offered confession a half hour before the mass we planned to attend. Last year we each went to confession right before our rehearsal dinner...so it was nice to not only ensure that we were in a state of grace, but also to begin this second year the same way we did the first - with the compassionate and loving, divine mercy and forgiveness of our Lord. 

We proceeded to have a truly wonderful experience at Gesu Catholic Church which I fully plan to write about soon - but will omit from this particular entry because it really does merit an entire post all to itself. :)

Gesu Catholic Church in downtown Miami

After mass we changed clothes, ate lunch, and headed out for our final Miami adventure at Vizcaya Museum and Gardens. It's basically a fancy, early 20th century mansion surrounded by the loveliest gardens. Not to mention, it's located right on the water...which gives this already-gorgeous location the added bonus of quite the desirable view. Even though we naively brought Gabriel in the stroller instead of the Baby Bjorn (seriously, if you go there - a carrier would be significantly easier than anything on wheels), it was still the perfect way to spend the afternoon of our first wedding anniversary. Everything about Vizcaya screams "romance"...which is probably why it's a popular venue for wealthy individuals to rent out for weddings and such.



Clearly Gabriel was enthralled by the museum and gardens....

You would think that our weekend-long celebration stops there, but we weren't done yet! Upon returning to Palm Beach we went out for a delicious sushi dinner - and were given a complimentary dessert in honor of our anniversary.

Green tea and vanilla ice cream

Finally, we wrapped things up with a glass of wine and a movie back at home (we watched The Notebook...and it was Michael's choice! What a keeper). I was so so excited to break out this particular glass of wine because it was given to us as a wedding shower present by my brother-in-law's parents (as in, my older sister's husband's parents - they are so kind!) and we had been saving it all year for this very occasion. What was so special about this wine, you ask? Well, it was none other than wine from Cana!

I know that the wedding feast at Cana is an insanely popular choice for the Gospel reading at many Catholic weddings, but that passage has special meaning to Michael and me because of our shared Marian devotion and therefore doesn't seem cliche to us at all. We used the Cana reading in our nuptial mass so it was fun and romantic to drink the Cana at Galilee wine as we celebrated our first year of marriage. :)

Interestingly enough, this tastes like my very favorite communion wine
(blood of our Lord) I've ever had

We had a wonderful anniversary, which also happens to be the Feast of the Archangels (and Michaelmas) and therefore the "name-day" for my husband, Michael, and my son, Gabriel. So.much.love. Thank you to those of you that wished us well and/or prayed for us on our special day! I can't wait to see what this second year holds in store for us. :)

“The greatest marriages are built on teamwork. A mutual respect, a healthy dose of admiration, and a never-ending portion of love and grace.”
-Fawn Weaver