Friday, February 28, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 24)


Somehow I'm back for the second week in a row! It's been awhile, but I'm slowly getting back into a blogging rhythm. This week's quick takes will truly be "quick" because I'm basically going to share a bunch of links with you all (hey, it's better than not doing any quick takes for another 4 months, right?). Make sure to head over to Jen's to discover alllllllllll the other quick takers. :)

--- 1 ---
For starters, did you know that Kathryn is hosting a baby name link-up?! I love reading about the process parents go through to name their children (and of course I shared our story about Gabriel's name) so this is a really fun one to check out. Happy naming! Or reading! Whichever.

--- 2 ---
Did you all hear about the woman who saved her baby nephew's life on the Miami expressway last week?! This story with a happy ending makes me feel inspired and terrified that I never took an infant CPR class all at once. But go Aunt Pamela!

--- 3 ---
While we're on the topic of inspirational things, you should probably check out this news story about a math teacher whose secret good works shocked the students at his school when they found out. This is just so precious. And what a good man of the Lord, am I right?

--- 4 ---
Do you ever read about something your Archbishop is doing and think to yourself, "that's MY bishop! I feel so blessed to be a part of this diocese!"? If you are Catholic and answered "no" to this question then...I don't know. Perhaps we need to send up some prayers for your diocese. Just kidding, but not really. Bishops always need our prayers! Anyway. I had one of those moments this week when I read about Pope Francis telling Archbishop Chaput (in so many words) to bring his "A game" to Rome to become the latest recruit for the Pontifical Council for the Laity. My new Archbishop (new to me, anyway, since we just moved here) is doing big things for God which is how it should be...and is such a blessing to the people of Philadelphia.

--- 5 ---
This happened to my Alma mater this week. Yikes.
"The exposed information includes names, addresses and Social Security numbers for about 146,000 people* who attended or graduated IU between 2011 and 2014."
If only I hadn't added a new degree right before my junior year and had to do that 5th year...I would have graduated in 2010 and could have left unscathed by these web crawlers. Let's pray that my graduation date in May 2011 leaves me out of this mess, please! 

*including satellite campuses

--- 6 ---
This next link I'm sharing at the very polite request of the webmaster and editor of the Catholic Dating Blog. Apparently they have compiled a list of "101 Catholic Priests You Should Follow On Google+". So if you actually understand and use Google+ (I don't), feel free to check it out! I'm sure these gentlemen are probably sharing a lot of great information for all their Google+ followers. :)

--- 7 ---
And to close out the week, I'm leaving all of you with this link to a Totoro and Company home decor sale because...I'm in love with practically ALL the Totoro things. If you don't know who Totoro is you are sorely missing out. In fact, if you haven't heard of Hayao Miyazaki or Studio Ghibli you should remedy that asap. You're welcome.

Oh, and those sale items are going fast. Michael and I may or may not have bought a few of them late last night. Our baby (and - God-willing - future babies) pretty much have to love Totoro now. Or else Michael and I will just play with that 10-piece figurine set ourselves....

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Final Days in Florida (a recapitulation)

+JMJ+

Why is the word "recapitulation" so much better than its shortened form? Anyway, this should be my final recap of the December-early January days when I seemed to be MIA from my own blog. After this I'll be getting back into the swing of recording things that have actually taken place this month. 

After we returned from our Christmas visit to Ohio we spent the next couple of weeks simply enjoying our final days in Florida. This meant lots of quality family time for the three of us as we soaked up the Florida sunshine and began preparations to move north to the Philly suburbs. New Year's Eve was a quiet night at home with our baby - who fell asleep in my arms (and therefore got put down in his crib) about an hour before we watched the ball drop in Times Square and toasted each other with some tasty strawberry champagne and kisses.

When I reflect on our Christmas break, I'm so thankful that Michael's project in Florida came to an end when it did. The last day was shortly before our trip to Ohio and he didn't start his next project up north until a month later...which left us with one whole month of lots of family time to make some final memories in Florida, pack up our things, and leisurely move (compared to our quick move down to Florida, that is - because anyone who has moved with a 5-month-old baby knows that it isn't exactly leisurely).

Once Michael's project in Florida wrapped up he immediately began saying that he thought his start date in January was too late and that he should move it up because...well, the man is not used to staying at home with us all day. In fact, none of us were used to him staying at home with us all day and it took a bit of adjusting for all of us. He continued to muse about having "too much time off" for awhile (which was mildly frustrating to me because we hadn't done ANY packing yet and I just knew it wouldn't be too much time once the moving process began), but in the end I got him to admit that with the Christmas traveling, holidays, and packing it really didn't feel like that much time after all. Then he got me to agree that next time (assuming it isn't surrounding the holidays again) he can take off only 2 weeks instead of 4 (see that? It's called the makings of a happy marriage and happy home - compromise). Regardless of how he felt about it, I know I was grateful to have his help at home during those days (especially once we began packing!). Admittedly, though, the packing is so much easier when you aren't 37 weeks pregnant.

January 2nd in South Florida

We made sure to visit our pool, a nearby boardwalk, and the beach at least once more before gearing up for the coldest winter the Philadelphia area has experienced in literally years. We also made sure to hit up the Gymboree semi-annual sale and made good on the gift card Michael's sister gave to Gabriel for Christmas; people in Florida don't need cold-weather clothing so we bought seemingly ALL the baby boy sweaters that were on sale for $5 and managed (with the gift card help) to spend a whopping $3.44. With Gabriel's warmer wardrobe in tow we (along with the accompaniment of my mom driving my car so I could ride in back with Gabriel) hit the road!

Moving day! Final family photo in Florida. My, how Gabriel
has grown since then (and how much more I've shrunk back
down to my pre-pregnancy size. Wow.).

Honestly, I believe God was watching over us well before we knew where we would be headed next. Not only did He provide a great work opportunity for my husband with great timing (he stayed with the same company he worked for in Florida), but He delivered us safely to our "northern" destination during the ONE week in January that the temperatures were warmer and there wasn't snow and/or ice covering the ground. Within half a week of our arrival the next snowstorm came and I was so so so thankful that we were done moving in and nearly unpacked (and had been to the grocery store) by then.

Truly, God is good.

Those days in Florida seem quite recent (we were there up until about 5 weeks ago) yet strangely long ago already. I won't pretend to understand this thing we call "time" because when you move around and live in 3 different states (in 3 distinctly different regions of the country, no less) within a 6-month time-span it gets more than a little mind-blowing. Especially when there's a new baby involved. Instead, I'll simply thank the Lord for His good timing and all the good things that have poured forth from us following Him wherever He has seemed to lead us.

Most people think we must be lamenting having left Florida in the middle of January to come here during what is seemingly the "worst" winter in recent years, but Michael and I are both SO excited about all that potentially awaits us here. I think we have figured out which parish we want to register at and I've already found some (hopefully) promising 'mom outlets,' but please pray for us as we continue to settle in and meet people. I'm not even being shy about asking God to bring a good SAHM friend into my life because after living in a retirement community in Florida I am SO READY to find my "people." Or even just one quality mom-friend that stays at home so we can have play dates, solidarity, and fulfilling conversation while our husbands are off providing for our blessed lives.

"Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him, and He will do it."
Psalm 37:5

Monday, February 24, 2014

Christmas 2013

+JMJ+

I know, I know. Christmas is long gone by now...but I've just recently gotten around to documenting things that took place in December (my birthday, the DRC trials, etc.). Better late than never, right?

Christmas Day 2012 (our first Christmas as a married couple!) was spent with my family in my hometown in Indiana. Because all of my immediate family met Gabriel before or during his baptism weekend (October 2013) and Michael's family had yet to meet him (that's what happens when your family is in the Midwest and you move to South Florida right before the baby is born), we decided that Christmas 2013 "belonged" to Michael's family, if you will. Plus, we were able to see a few of my family members for Thanksgiving and then in December due to the DRC trials. So when Christmastime rolled around, off to Ohio to see Michael's family we went!

Gabriel was about 4.5 months old when we boarded his first airplane. Thankfully, he did wonderfully on his first flight and alright on the second (we had a brief layover in Charlotte). There were a few more tears shed on the second flight and our poor little guy just wanted to be done traveling, but overall things went pretty smoothly.

For five days (December 22nd-27th) we had lots of fun introducing Gabriel to all of his daddy's side of the family. And when I say "all" I seriously mean all - except for one of Michael's cousins and one aunt and uncle. Everyone else was there at his parents' house or at the big family dinner on Christmas day. But I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.

Gabriel with his grandma

First, we had Christmas Eve! Michael's family isn't Catholic (he converted while we were engaged) which meant we were the only ones headed to church to ring in our Lord's birthday. We decided to go to the vigil Mass at a nearby church (I love love love Midnight Mass, but I wasn't foolish enough to think my love of it would somehow override Gabriel's need for an earlier Mass time...so earlier in the evening it was). The weather was cold (with snow on the ground!), the church was warm, and our son was sporting a brand-new sweater vest we had gotten just for the occasion. The reality of Advent, Christmas, and the changing liturgical seasons finally came alive for us - something I think us Mid-westerners struggled with in a place where liturgy changed but seasons did not. #FloridaWasConfusing

The next day we all headed over to Michael's Chinese grandmother's house for a big Christmas meal. There Gabriel met the rest of Michael's extended family and was showered with generous gifts. And, per usual, there was a LOT of seafood. I was just thankful that this year I was able to stomach some of it (unlike when we all got together for this meal in late December 2012 and I was pregnant. That year Michael and I had to duck out after he ate so we could hunt down some food I could stomach - which happened to come in the form of Burger King's chicken tenders, by the way).

Christmas dinner with Michael's family

All in all our visit to the Midwest was pretty much one big doting-on-Gabriel visit. After all, he is the very first baby of his generation in my husband's family. Everyone loved him and it was definitely fun watching everyone interact with him. Some of my favorite photo highlights include him being held by his Korean and Chinese great-grandmothers. :) When we saw some of my family for Thanksgiving, I managed to get photos of him with each of my grandmothers...so these two photos made my collection complete. You'd better believe I'm going to frame the pictures I have of him with each of his 4 great-grandmothers and hang them in his room - because how many people get to meet all 4 of their great-grandmothers?! What a blessing. If you recall, one of my grandmothers passed away recently (a couple of months after meeting Gabriel), so these are memories that I truly cherish.

Look at the joy on their faces!
She left the dinner table early to go hold him - which I am told has NEVER
happened before. Usually she remains at the table until everyone is done.

The day after Christmas we also managed to see some of Michael's hometown friends (including two of our groomsmen!). That night we had fun with some married friends at their house and the women played with the children while the men drank beer in the basement and/or kitchen. It was pretty much the epitome of a gender stereotype, but we all had lots of fun. Not to mention, it was adorable watching our friends' son interact with Gabriel and vice versa. Introducing little children to one another and watching how they interact is one of my new, favorite things since becoming a mom. ;)

As it is with all good journeys, we had loads of fun but were happy to return to our "normal" way of life when our trip came to an end. While Michael's family showered us with presents for Gabriel (most of which we had to leave in Ohio until we can reclaim them at a later date), we had left the rest of our gifts unopened back in Florida. It was fun to return to all of the presents from my side of the family and have our own, little Christmas celebration back in our home. We even had our own, tiny Christmas tree for the first time as a married couple!


Overall it was a nice holiday filled with family memories - and I can't wait to see where we'll all be come Christmas 2014!

"When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time. Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?"
-G.K. Chesterton

Friday, February 21, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday (Vol. 23)

+JMJ+


--- 1 ---
You know how you know you haven't done a "quick takes" post in a long while? The answer: when you have to search through your archives to figure out what "volume" number you're on. And/or once you find your last post you realize that it was published more than 4 months ago. Yep. Soooo I'd like to say "I'm back!" but this week could also be a fluke and I may not be linking up again for another 4 months. Guess we'll have to wait and see!

--- 2 ---
Speaking of blog things I've been meaning to do for literally several months and have yet to accomplish, I really want to redesign my blog. Let me rephrase that: I really want to pay someone else to redesign my blog the way I want it. Alas, I have no idea where to begin finding such a person that will do beautiful work and not break the bank, so to speak. Who do you all recommend??? Please, please send me recommendations! Even if you haven't hired someone to revamp your blog, surely you know of someone who recommended someone else once upon a time?

--- 3 ---
This week I dug out all of our "decorative" things (photo frames, artwork, vases, the usual knick knacks, etc.). I've already figured out what should go where (for the most part) in our new apartment, but have any of you tried decorating a new place with a 6.5 month infant who has gotten really good at rolling all over the floor? Well, it's kind of hard. So to help me keep my sanity my husband has agreed that we can spend some time Sunday afternoon finally hanging all the things I naively thought I could hang this week while he was at work. :) I can't wait!

--- 4 ---
Michael and I decided that we are going to explore (read: eat good food, walk around, and buy lots of good food to bring home and prepare) Koreatown tomorrow! Can you believe we have lived here for 6 weeks already without going to Koreatown? Also, can you believe we actually now live close to several pockets of Korean food in the suburbs?! We are going to one of these areas tomorrow - not into the "city city." After living in a place without any good Korean markets or restaurants within 45 minutes of us for the past 6(ish) months you'd think my husband (who is half Korean, half Chinese) would have jumped at this opportunity immediately. Anyway, he is really excited which in turn makes me happy. :)

--- 5 ---
Did you all read this interview with Dr. Caroline Heldman, PhD about empowered womanhood (found in Verily magazine)? If not, let me just point out one little thing that I know all you SAHMs will appreciate:
"One of the biggest faults of our culture is that we don’t value homemaking. It’s the most common occupation that women have, childrearing and homemaking. More women are doing that than any other single job. Even if you’re working outside the home, the vast majority of women are still working inside the home. So what does it mean when we as a culture do not value the primary activity that women undertake? We see it’s lack of value in many ways, one is that it’s not seen as work, even though Chase-Manhattan Bank does an analysis every year to assign a price tag to homemaking. Last year it was over $130,000."
That's right. If you take care of just ONE child your imaginary salary is valued at $130,000. Boom. Not that I need a bank to attempt to put a price tag on the value of taking care of children, but...still. It's kind of a nice thought, right?

--- 6 ---
Another interesting (read: sad-but-not-surprising) read: NBC Depicts Married 23-Year-Old Olympian as Living 'Alternative Lifestyle.' My favorite quote from this response piece?
"Well, at 23, he is an adult. He has been an adult for five years. He is old enough to have graduated from college, gotten married, started a family, become a world class skier — all kinds of adult things. Because he is an adult."
Seriously. Preach! Props to my older sister for posting this (and the Verily article!) on her Facebook page for me to find. ;)

--- 7 ---
These "takes" are supposed to be "quick," but does anyone else find that sometimes they take far too long for you to come up with? Or is that just me? Or am I just way out of practice? Either way, my son's first nap is nearly over so I'd better hurry along. Don't forget about my plea for blog design recommendations...please! Help a sister out. :)

Make sure you head over to Jen's and discover all of today's other quick-takers!

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Real Life Terminator (and why my sister's life currently revolves around robots)

+JMJ+

In my attempts to get "caught up" on blogging I've been covering some events that took place in the past couple of months. I mentioned in my birthday re-cap that my brother-in-law's school/work brought him to South Florida in late December...and this post will expand on that theme. :) If real life robots interest you then read on!

Have any of you heard of the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC)? Unless you're really big into robotics and/or happen to work for the Department of Defense my guess is that you haven't. Truth be told, I knew nothing about this challenge until I learned that my brother-in-law was competing in it with his lab at MIT (where he is completing his Doctoral work).

I could attempt to explain the DRC, but their website already has a succinct summary that does a better job than I possibly could. So without further ado, here is a little background about the competition (emphasis mine):
The DRC is a competition of robot systems and software teams vying to develop robots capable of assisting humans in responding to natural and man-made disasters. It was designed to be extremely difficult. Participating teams, representing some of the most advanced robotics research and development organizations in the world, are collaborating and innovating on a very short timeline to develop the hardware, software, sensors, and human-machine control interfaces that will enable their robots to complete a series of challenge tasks selected by DARPA for their relevance to disaster response. Three sequential DRC events place equal emphasis on hardware and software:
  • the Virtual Robotics Challenge occurred in June 2013 and tested software teams’ ability to effectively guide a simulated robot through three sample tasks in a virtual environment;
  • the DRC Trials occur December 20-21, 2013 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, where teams guided their robots through eight individual, physical tasks that tested mobility, manipulation, dexterity, perception, and operator control mechanisms;
  • the DRC Finals (date TBD) will require robots to attempt a circuit of consecutive physical tasks, with degraded communications between the robots and their operators; the winning team will receive a $2 million prize.
Technologies resulting from the DRC will transform the field of robotics and catapult forward development of robots featuring task-level autonomy that can operate in the hazardous, degraded conditions common in disaster zones.

If you haven't guessed by now, my brother-in-law's team passed the first challenge in June and also moved forward from the DRC Trials back in December (only the top 8 teams go on to the finals and they placed 4th)! The December competition is what brought my brother-in-law to South Florida while we were living there...and in turn brought my sister and nieces to stay with us for a week right around my birthday! :) 

Michael, Gabriel, and I were able to make it to the second day of competition and had a lot of fun watching MIT's robot complete the "ladder task," which my brother-in-law was in charge of controlling from a garage out of sight. Not to mention, there were some pretty innovative robot designs that were really exciting to watch (if you happen to appreciate robots, that is). Speaking of cool robots, check out this Atlas robot, dubbed the "real life Terminator" (the one MIT competes with!):

Atlas robot: the "real life Terminator"

Now that I've written about my birthday, the week my sister stayed with us, and the DRC Trials, you all probably have a better idea what I was doing with my time back in Advent (besides preparing for the birth of Christ, that is). The date for the DRC finals is TBD, but if you all could say some prayers for my sister and brother-in-law as he continues to work hard with his lab I'd surely appreciate it! As you can imagine, my brother-in-law's work (and therefore my sister's entire household) has been consumed by this competition for many, many months and we are all so proud of his team for moving onto the finals! Goooo Team MIT!

P.S. Happy St. Valentine's Day!

Michael and me (each with Gabriel) cheering on Team MIT at the DRC Trials in December 2013

"The unpredictability of the real world requires a robot that can maneuver effectively in environments it has not previously encountered, use whatever human tools are on hand without the need for extensive reprogramming, and continue to operate even when degraded communications render motion-level control by a human not feasible."

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

26.

+JMJ+

I had been meaning to recap my birthday for quite some time now. When I opened up the draft I had written about my birthday I found this piece...already completed. Apparently I thought it was incomplete at the time but now that it's nearly 2 months later I think this summary does it justice perfectly well. Enjoy!

For many years my birthday could have been considered synonymous with "final exams." Without fail it seemed that all throughout high school and college my birthday was filled with studying for and/or taking exams before Christmas break. Even during those fortunate years in college that I didn't have an exam on my birthday it seemed that all my friends did. Anyway, I've already had a few birthdays post-college but you'd better believe that each time my birthday rolls around and I'm not taking any sort of exam I am so so grateful!

This year's birthday was nothing crazy, yet it has already managed to go down in the books as one of the best ones I think I have ever had. And it wasn't because of presents or cake (although those things are nice, too!)...but because of mi familia.

Living in Florida means my husband and I are far away from all of our immediate family...and none of our extended family members that live down south are that close (geographically speaking) to South Florida. You can imagine my joy a few months back when my older sister called to inform me that her husband would be coming to South Florida for school/work in December (more on that later - in another post perhaps) and asked if it would be alright for her to visit with my nieces for a week. Um, yes yes yes yes yes YES, of COURSE was probably my immediate response (at least in my head).

So the day before my birthday we had the joy of welcoming my sister, brother-in-law, and 2 nieces into our home. The next day we all had fun rejoicing together because 1) it was Gaudete Sunday (get it? Rejoicing!) and 2) it was my birthday!

Birthday lunch

After Mass we went out to eat a "birthday" lunch at a nearby restaurant that is completely outdoors (an amazing December concept this "northerner" still has difficulty wrapping her head around...). That evening my sister babysat (what a treasure all of you mothers close to family hopefully never take for granted!) and I went out in public sans baby for only the second time ever since his birth. Michael and I enjoyed our time alone together with a movie date (we saw the second Hobbit movie) then ran inside the nearby grocery store to pick up a 6-pack of beer...because I realized I hadn't had one in over a year. Livin' on the wild side, I tell ya.

When we got home we learned that our son still refuses to take breast milk from a bottle, ate the delicious cake my sister baked for me, drank a beer, and just enjoyed having time with one another.

The next morning my sister drove her husband further south to the place he needed to be for work all week then returned to us for a week filled with sister (and niece/nephew) fun!

Honestly the entire week is kind of a blur but I do know that it was the most exciting week with the most outings in my short life as a stay at home mom. We took my nieces to see some local sea turtles, took a couple successful trips to the mall, played at the beach, and I caught a glimpse of how amazing it must be to actually have mom friends to do things with (especially now that Gabriel is finally no longer nursing every.single.hour of the day).



Cousins!
I even got to go to the eye doctor without a baby in tow and my sister had the same freedom as she went to get her hair cut. Can we take a moment to admire her haircut, please?!


I could go on and on but the gist is the same: I love love love love love love my family and I feel so blessed to have had such precious time with my older sister and my nieces. It was the best birthday week I think I could imagine at this point in my life (unless, of course, more of my loved ones could have been here as well).

Hooray for birthdays with loved ones and happy memories!

Side note: two years ago on this day (February 12) Michael asked me to marry him! Can you believe how much has happened in two year's time? Hint: engagement, wedding, honeymoon, pregnancy, baby...and living in 3 different states in a 6-month time span. God is good!

"People give one another things that can't be gift wrapped."
-Nadine Gordimer

Monday, February 10, 2014

The City of Brotherly Love

+JMJ+

Did you all know that Philadelphia is the "city of brotherly love?" I didn't until recently...but then again I have never lived on the east coast or known much about Philly (okay, technically our place in Florida was on the "east coast," but you know what I mean - the northeast). Apparently the name Philadelphia actually means "brotherly love" in Greek...so that's all there is to it.

For now I want to re-cap our very first trip to Philadelphia! We had never been to downtown Philly, so one Saturday (February 1st) when the weather was a bit nicer than it has been lately we decided to take a little day trip.

Initially we wanted to explore the Art Museum because A) it's one of the largest in the United States and B) it's a great, stroller-friendly, indoor activity we could enjoy in the heart of winter. However, we changed our plans when I went to their website and learned that admission is "pay as you wish" the first Sunday of every month and each Wednesday after 5pm. Not only that, but I thought I found a listing saying every Sunday is currently free right now until early April...though now I'm not sure where I read it. In other words, we plan to explore the Art Museum on several other occasions...most likely Sundays.

Philly Cheesesteaks
Instead we decided to get lunch at the infamous Pat's and Geno's so we could try our first legitimate Philadelphia cheesesteaks. For the record, we prefer Geno's...and apparently so does everyone else who attended the Super Bowl party we were invited to; this became apparent during Geico's #cheesesteakshuffle commercial (because everyone lamented the fact that he was standing on a table at Pat's).


Geno's for the win!

Italian Market
After lunch we strolled north on 9th street and walked the length of the Italian market - which is awesome, by the way. If we lived in the city I would definitely purchase loads of fresh produce here instead of buying any of it at a grocery store. One random bit of trivia is that this is the oldest outdoor market in the nation!

I will say that while Michael and I love to explore local "mom and pop's" type places, these are not the most kid-friendly when it comes to diaper changes because they rarely have changing tables - or even a bathroom counter large enough to do the job. However, the urban "hipster" movement that has taken over the area surrounding the Italian market certainly made me feel 100% comfortable nursing Gabriel in a random coffee shop (which had a delicious chai latte to boot). Perhaps I should clarify that I don't feel uncomfortable nursing him in public (with a cover), but it is always nice to nurse him in a place where I'm pretty sure no one else would bat an eyelash.

My husband carried Gabriel all day long. Basically the definition of attractive.

Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul
After walking the length of the market, we caught a bus to the Cathedral Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul. The church was every bit as beautiful as I imagined - and there's something about visiting the Cathedral of any diocese I am a part of that really warms my heart.

Pretty much any photo of these two warms my heart

Speaking of heart-warming, we arrived at the church in the afternoon with plans to explore a little, head to confession, then peace out before the 5:15 vigil Mass. When we arrived there was some sort of service in progress and we were confused. After all, it was way too early for the vigil. Was it a wedding?! Nope. Then I wondered if it was a funeral...also negative. We quietly looked through the side chapels and waited for the Mass to be over, still wondering what was going on. Then, all of a sudden I figured it out. It was a married couple renewing their vows! It must have been their 50th wedding anniversary - and as they processed out they were followed by a large family that must have been their children and grandchildren. All of the men wore dashing tuxedos and the ladies had varying formal dresses. Oh, it was so sweet.


Michael made it to confession while I fed Gabriel - then we headed back into the chilly air for our final destination that evening.

Chinatown
After taking some photos that highlight the massive size of the church and ducking into a small cafe for some water and birch beer (yum!) we hopped on a bus to Chinatown.


After living in Chicago for a year I must say that Philly's Chinatown seemed tiny(!)...but as long as they had good food, bakeries, and bubble tea I don't think it mattered to us much. We had fun strolling through a few stores and bakeries before hitting up a restaurant that got some of the best reviews for Taiwanese food (they passed the test). Afterwards we finished out the evening with bubble tea before heading back to the train station.

Public Transportation
I wanted to mention that we parked at a nearby SEPTA station (a 12 minute drive from our apartment) and caught the train into the city that morning. People were very friendly and our ride from the suburbs was relatively quick. We purchased the $12 "Independence" Pass which gave us unlimited access to all trains and buses for the day and I literally thanked the Lord that we did this. After taking two trains and 3 different bus rides the passes saved us money and made our entire day's travels much smoother than it would have been had we driven or taken taxis. I do not recommend driving into Philly if you've never been there before...and I seriously thanked God over and over that He blessed us with the wisdom we needed to decide to utilize public transportation for our first trip downtown. Such a blessing.

All in all it was a great day and I think Michael and I are both excited for our next weekend adventure - whenever that may be! Being in the suburbs of Philadelphia has made me realize that my year in Chicago (back when Michael and I were dating and got engaged) really shaped a lot of Michael's and my shared interests and ideas about what kind of area we'd like to live in when we "settle" somewhere in the future. We are both happy to be near a large city once again and I'm so thankful that we have this opportunity to learn a new part of the country! And if any of you have recommendations for us to check out, please let me know. :)

"A great city is not to be confounded with a populous one."
-Aristotle

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gabriel: 6 Months

+JMJ+

Six months! This past month has been a whirlwind of many sorts with the new year, our recent move, and Gabriel's rapid growth and development. Seriously. The boy hit another growth spurt and is filling out (height-wise...because his waist is still thin) 6-9 month sleep 'n plays, all of his 3-6 month pants, and more. Before I reveal all of the updates let's take a look at some photos of him from this past month:


Be still my heart.

Now for the updates! Side note: once we head to the pediatrician in a few days I'll come back and fill in his new weight, length, head circumference, etc.

Eating
  • He still won't take a bottle. The most he has ever eaten is about half an ounce. Sooo. Yeah. We have tried the sugar trick, different types of bottles/nipples, and we make sure Michael is the one to give it to him while I'm completely out of sight. Any other tips?
  • He nurses on average every 2 hours during the daytime - sometimes he goes 1.5 hours and other times he goes 3 or (rarely) 4 hours. People tend to gasp in horror when they learn this because "babies should be eating every 4 or 5 hours by his age!" to which I say...um, okay. Thanks. I know that on average that is how frequently children his age will eat. But since when has Gabriel ever eaten the actual number of supposed meals a baby 'should' eat each day? (Answer: never.) And who comes up with those numbers anyway? I'm pretty sure some healthy children eat much more infrequently and my son happens to eat a lot more frequently...and yes, he is getting enough food and is growing well so I'm not concerned. #EndRant
  • He had his first solid food! We introduced rice cereal a few days ago (February 2nd) and he isn't in love with it but he doesn't hate it...and he eats a little more each morning I give it to him.

Nap Time
  • I don't know if it's tiredness brought on by his current growth spurt/cognitive development or if this is the introduction of a new pattern, but lately he takes a few short naps (20-45 minutes) and one long(er) nap each day (1.5-2 hours). If this is the new norm I have all sorts of hopeful ideas about what I can begin to accomplish during his long nap time!
  • He still won't nap flat on his back (yes, I know babies should always sleep on their backs and I promise he does at night no problem)...so the swing remains our nap-time hero. He did sleep in a crib for a nap once because we were at a friends' and he was wayyyy over-tired/sleep-deprived that day.
  • Because of his teething he still needs to be soothed for naps (read: bounced bounced bounced until he's out and I can buckle him in the swing seat). 

Bed Time
  • Still teething...which means he still wakes up 2-6 times each night after I go to bed. Lately the average has dropped back down to 2 or 3 so that is seriously great.
  • I should mention that he is able to fall asleep on his own. He was first capable of this at 6 weeks but in the past couple of months he has stopped falling asleep every night after his final feeding...which means we have become intentional about laying him down at a certain time even if he appears wide awake. Sometimes he fusses to the point that I bring him out for one last nursing session (after which he usually falls asleep) but other nights he simply falls asleep within 20 minutes of me laying him down (I'm so thankful to have a baby that can fall asleep on his own at this age! I know it's not true of all babies at this point in time).

Bath Time
  • When he turned 5 months he had just barely started splashing with his hands...and he quickly became the splashing master. 
  • He loves to splash, play with bath toys (well, one whale in particular that he seems to love above all others), and you'd better believe he excitedly reaches for the cup we use to rinse him off with (and loves to reach for and/or try to drink from the little waterfall of water we pour over him).
  • We also have to be very careful about where his little whale ends up floating because he will try and dive for it. There have been a few close calls where he almost threw his head into the side of the tub, but so far we've managed to prevent such things from happening. 

Play Time

This is one of the hardest things to jot down because there are so many - so when I try to recall everything it's kind of a blur. Here goes:
  • He is very intentional about reaching for toys.
  • His hand/eye/wrist coordination is ever-improving (you should see the way he rotates and shakes rattles!).
  • He gets fussy if I let him play on his back too long because he wants to be sitting, standing, or some excited combination of both as he sits then stands then sits then stands, haha.
  • He currently loves to reach for my face and hold my mouth as I talk or make goofy sounds. He gets such a kick out of it.
  • He reaches for who he wants (i.e. if I hold him and sit down by Michael he will reach towards Michael and vice versa).
  • Supposedly babies his age get tired of toys after a few minutes but Gabriel has had a long attention span for these things for a few months now. He will study a toy extensively - feeling it, staring at it, tasting it, turning it over and over, dropping it and picking it back up, etc (this is very helpful to me because I can leave him alone on his play mat in the morning [when he is happiest] and talk to him from across the room as I clean or do whatever I need to do).
  • I didn't think he could love his mirror more but...I think it is seriously one of his all-time favorite things right now.

Growth/Development
  • His hair is really coming in!
  • His eyes are slowly turning more and more brown in the sunlight (in artificial lighting they still look bluish grey). It's just a matter of time before we say goodbye to those baby blues.
  • He can do the "tripod" sit very well without support!
  • He can sit in his Bumbo seat and play for about 30 minutes before he gets tired of it.
  • He can roll both ways! Two days before the 6-month mark he rolled from his back to his front for the first time. In the past couple days he has begun to master this skill and has started to travel across the floor by rolling a few times in a row (time to start baby-proofing for real!).
  • He still babbles. Currently he loves the "m" sounds and says "mmm," "mmhmm," and "mama" a lot (I can't wait until he intentionally calls me by name!). 
  • He is getting great at all sorts of mouth tricks (raspberries, lip smacking noises, etc.).
  • He has become obsessed with his tongue and often sticks it out like a little lizard. :)
  • Gabriel knows/responds to his name.
  • Updates on 2/10/14 (after seeing the pediatrician):
    • Height: 27 inches (50-75 percentile)
    • Weight: 15.2 lbs (10th percentile)
    • Head circumference: 16.5 inches (5-10 percentile)
"Babies are always more trouble than you thought - and more wonderful."
-Charles Osgood