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