Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Make New Friends but Keep the Old"

+JMJ+

Did anyone else grow up singing that little song?

The last few weeks have been such a blur! We've been beyond blessed to have made some great connections with people and suddenly our social calendar has been busier than it has in months. In fact, Michael and I were talking about how within one week we did social activities (meaning spending time with others outside of our little family) on 6 of those 7 days. Socially, our time in a retirement community in Florida and this new place could not be more different...and I'm grateful.

On top of making new friends (thank you, Lord!) we were also graced with the presence of one of my dear college friends, MB, from Saturday until Tuesday of this week. We met early on in college (my sophomore year, her freshman year) in a Spanish class - and our shared Catholic faith and my prompting her to get involved with some campus ministry led to us becoming fast friends. Because I did a 5th year of college, we graduated together and both ended up completing a year of volunteer service with the same program - in the same city - at the same non-profit! We seriously didn't plan this and each discerned our paths separately, but I have no doubt God placed us together that year intentionally. Having her there as we experienced the ups and downs of our volunteer year is a blessing I could never put into words.

Anyway, MB is currently on spring break from medical school. Since we're all on the East Coast right now it made it feasible to see her for the first time since I got married (nearly a year and a half ago). We had lots of fun that included good food, great talks, and a healthy dose of girl time. Here are a few highlights (with pictures!):

Once MB arrived in downtown Philly we all met up at the Reading Terminal Market (which is awesome and overwhelming, by the way). Then we headed down the street to Chinatown for some window shopping, delicious Taiwanese food, bubble tea, and Chinese baked goods.

Not where we ate - but neat architecture!

On Sunday we ate brunch at a local cafe here in the borough (hi, I am new to the East Coast and need to practice using the lingo). That evening we went to a later Mass followed by a fun night chatting with a new friend we invited over.

Thumbs up from MB!

Monday we ran errands while Michael was at work. Then, I introduced MB to one of the largest malls in the nation where we had fun browsing, getting my make-up done at Sephora, and drinking fresh fruit smoothies. 

Gabriel and I had fun playing with mirrors while MB was in the fitting room

Monday night we invited Michael's and my other Hoosier friend (that currently works in the area) over to our place...which means the four of us played a nice, nostalgic game of IUopoly.


 Tuesday was spent at home while MB and I chatted away the hours leading up to her train departure. It was so good to reconnect with her and hear all her new medical school stories!

I had nearly forgotten that people used to ask if we are sisters - until it
happened (again) after church this weekend

It was a serious blessing to be able to open up our home to such a quality friend and catch up on each other's lives. It always warms my heart whenever a new friend or family member gets to meet Gabriel - and I'm so thankful for friends like MB who have stayed in my life as I've moved away, gotten married, and become a mother. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: the best friendships are those that can withstand time, changes in geographic location, and will evolve and mature as each of you do.

The past couple of weeks have been filled with such goodness. As if that weren't enough, we are heading north to Boston this evening to spend a three day weekend with my older sister, brother-in-law, and nieces. I cannot wait! My younger niece, E, turns two years old on Sunday and we are going to have a lovely little ladybug-themed party to celebrate. There's no way I'll get any blog entries written while we're gone, so I hope you all have a lovely remainder of your week!

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.” 
-Muhammad Ali

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Annunciation: a Favorite Feast within Our Family

+JMJ+

Fra Angelico. Source.

Happy Feast of the Annunciation! The past few days we've enjoyed the company of my dear college friend, M, who is currently on spring break from medical school (more on that another day). Because of M's visit and our surprisingly busy social calendar as of late, this beautiful feast day seemed to completely sneak up on me and catch me by surprise!

Fear not - we made sure to have our own dinner feast (including Gabriel, who managed to eat all of the baby oatmeal for the first time ever!) followed by a dessert of cookies and beer (for us - not the baby).

I just love this day.

Beyond the obvious things like, well, the actual Annunciation and the beauty and power of Mary's fiat, I love this day for another reason:

It was on this day exactly 3 years ago that I met my husband. Now, three years later we are married with a wonderful son named Gabriel. :)

Even though Michael and I didn't begin dating right away, our meeting on this date was significant (and I like to think it was no accident). As we developed our relationship and Michael encountered the Catholic faith for the first time, I/we began to understand for the first time (together) what it meant to have a Marian devotion. Despite the fact that I've been Catholic my entire life, I had only understood such devotions in theory - but never in practice. Another way of explaining this is to say that even though I always loved and venerated Mary, I understood Marian devotions with my head...but not yet my heart.

I could go on and on about the Feast of the Annunciation, the influential role Mary has played in Michael's and my relationship, and how this day has special meaning for our son (Gabriel), but the gist is simply this: I adore this day.

I adore this feast because of the significance it has had in my personal faith journey and what it has meant to our family, but I adore it all the more for what it means for Christians everywhere. To read a lovely, succinct reflection on this day and what it stands for, head over to my sister's blog. :)

Happy feasting!

"My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name."
-excerpt from the Magnificat

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Five Favorites (Vol. 3): Pandora Radio Stations for Baby (and Mama)

+JMJ+

One day my husband asked me if I thought Gabriel (our 7 month old son) was listening to enough music. Clearly we are first-time parents that still think about and sometimes fret over whether or not we are doing "enough." Regardless, I thought it was a good question. I love music! My entire family is musical - either vocally or instrumentally. Music is important to me (and I sing to Gabriel alllllll the time), so I thought about my husband's question and decided that while I have no idea if our son is listening to "enough" music for whatever kind of development doctors like to talk about, I really don't think it would be possible for him to listen to too much music during his playtime when I am otherwise occupied (like right now when I'm blogging and he is happily playing on the floor).


Anyway, I have been playing a lot of different Pandora radio stations lately - and it's Wednesday (the day of Five Favorites!) - so lucky for you, I'm going to link up with Hallie to bring you the 5 stations I have loved listening to lately!

--- 1 ---
Ludwig van Beethoven. 


We all know that classical music is good for babies, but did you know that (depending entirely on quite possibly hundreds of extraneous factors) it can be good for you, the parent? Well, that's what I've found in my case anyway. I began playing classical music for my son - but I think I have ended up enjoying it more than him! I had nearly forgotten how much I love classical music. It can be so soothing, beautiful, and joyful - which is exactly the kind of music a tired (or not tired) mama can use throughout the day. Don't like Beethoven? Pandora just selects artists based on who you type in, so pick a station based on whoever you like best!

--- 2 ---
Gregorian Chant.



Did you know that's a Pandora radio station? You can find just about any genre on there. In the past I've selected similar stations based on a specific group of sisters or friars that I like, but this "generic" Gregorian Chant station offers a tad more variety and has yet to disappoint. Bonus: it's pretty much always relaxing and peaceful - so it's the perfect thing to play for your baby when you know it's nearly nap time. ;)

--- 3 ---
The Wind Forest from "My Neighbor Totoro."


Haven't heard of Totoro? You may remember that I mentioned my love of this Hayao Miyazaki movie not too long ago. My Neighbor Totoro is an adorable, fun Miyazaki movie that young children will enjoy (my nieces loved it back in December and they were 3.5 and a little over 1.5 years old). Plus, the music is lovely. The Pandora station is great because it plays beautiful soundtrack music - but also plays fun little diddies from Zelda video games, Final Fantasy, and things of the like. It's kind of like listening to a playful, more upbeat classical music station.

--- 4 ---
Barenaked Ladies (Children's).
My little boy cannot yet understand that much of the English language and certainly doesn't speak...but sometimes I just want to play some fun "kid songs" for him. After all, he will learn, right? However, let's be real: a lot of children's music is annoying. I remember my older sister mentioning the Barenaked Ladies children's album awhile ago for that very reason; she and my brother-in-law discovered that it was something that they actually enjoyed listening to. Per usual, I think they're right. These songs are so fun! Much more creative and entertaining than some other things on the market.

--- 5 ---
K-Pop.


Yes, Korean Pop music. Sometimes you get tired of all the soothing, peaceful music and want to dance around to something NOT on a children's station. However, it can be difficult to find popular music here in the States that isn't geared for a "mature" audience. In my experience, Koreans tend to be less openly vulgar than Americans which is something I really appreciate. I mean, most of the lyrics I find are more reminiscent of the innocent boy bands I listened to in the '90s...and even if/when there are more grown-up themes it's in Korean...which means neither I nor my little baby know about it. Big-time bonus: He gets to listen to native Korean speakers! My husband is half-Korean, half-Chinese and I'd love it if our son (and any future children) could speak one or both of those languages.

Happy listening!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Erin Go Bragh!

+JMJ+, +St. Patrick, pray for us.+

Ireland forever! It's not too late to talk about St. Patrick's Day, right?

I'm sure many of you have a lot of love for the dear Bishop that brought Catholicism to Ireland, but St. Patrick's Day is extra special for our family because it is also my husband's feast day!

March 17, 2012 in Chicago (our first St. Patrick's Day together). We had been engaged for a month. :)

I'll never forget the first time Michael and I spoke about choosing a confirmation Saint. Like the majority of our conversations that took place when we were dating long distance, we were on the phone. I had shut myself away in the small bedroom that was my own that year I worked as a full-time volunteer in Chicago. I remember I was sitting on the bed with my laptop - ready to pull up any information Michael had questions about as his RCIA classes encouraged him to begin learning about a possible patron.

Sure enough, Michael wanted to know which Saint is the patron of engineers. I had no idea off the top of my head so I entered a quick search. Would you believe that St. Patrick is the only patron of engineers that I could find? Since then I've discovered that there is another - but at the time St. Patrick was our one and only Google search answer (Divine Providence or a faulty Google search? Only God knows.).

I then recited all the random information I could remember about St. Patrick's life and Michael was intrigued. I'm sure he probably considered other Saints along the way, but I think a part of my (future - at the time) husband's mind was already made up that night. He kept St. Patrick in the forefront of his thoughts and come April 7, 2012 he entered the Church and officially took the name "Patrick."

Also from St. Paddy's Day 2012. Photo credit for this candid shot goes to Michael's friend, Boyang.

Beyond all of that, my mother has some Irish blood somewhere down the line, my middle name is Erin, and my older sister is forever one of Notre Dame's Fighting Irish...so I guess you could say I grew up embracing and loving the Irish part of my heritage - however small or distant it may be (did anyone else listen to a Pandora radio station based on the Irish Rovers all day yesterday?).

Michael and I wanted to do something fun to celebrate his feast day, so I reached out to someone I met last week at the local Catholic Young Adults group. Sure enough, she had some friends that were possibly going to gather for a Guinness. Long story short, plans changed, pubs were crazy full (and probably insanely loud - aka not entirely baby friendly), people were generally too tired to go out, and we ended up volunteering last minute to host (and meet!) nearly a dozen other Catholics at our apartment where we spent the evening relaxing, drinking Guinness, and getting to know one another (a scenario I think St. Patrick himself would approve of).

Guinness accomplished.

Honestly, last night was more fun than I think Michael or I could have envisioned! Plus, the bonus of hosting at our place is that we were able to keep hanging out after Gabriel had already gone to bed (as opposed to us always having to leave early and miss out on social time). I'm sure all you other parents out there understand what a blessing it is to spend time with friends without throwing your baby entirely off schedule.

I could go on and on but everything boils down to this: our last minute St. Patrick's Day celebration was such a fun way to celebrate Michael's feast day! We were blessed with good company, good beer, and all of this fun came to us in our own home (which is so great when you have a baby. I feel like I can't say that enough). I'm so thankful for new-found friendships in this new place and seemingly a million other things. Everyone was here for a couple of hours and we had so much fun getting to know them that time seemed to pass in the blink of an eye. Hopefully we will get to spend some more time with everyone in the weeks to come - and I hope all of you also had a festive day in the midst of this Lenten season.

Sláinte! 

"May your troubles be less,
And your blessings be more.
And nothing but happiness,
Come through your door."
-an Irish blessing

Monday, March 17, 2014

What Happens When We Take Our Baby to a Korean Restaurant

+JMJ+

Are any of you familiar with Korean food? More specifically, have any of you ever taken a baby out to eat at a Korean restaurant? Over the past 7 months (aka since my son has been born) I have come to realize that there is something really great about taking a young baby out to eat at Korean restaurants (I'm talking about before they can sit in high chairs or really eat anything you're eating).

This might sound ridiculous, but hear me out. There is a huge, glaring difference between going out to eat at an American restaurant - or Italian, Irish, Mexican, you name it - versus a Korean restaurant. Before I reveal what this glaring difference is, though, I should point out that my husband and I probably only benefit from this cultural difference because our son is half-Asian. My husband, Michael, is half-Korean, half-Chinese (I feel like I say this all the time, but it's relevant information for anyone who  may be reading my blog for the first time right now). If no one in our family was Korean I am not confident that anything I'm saying would apply - because the restaurant employees would most likely follow the cultural norms of their customers.

Anyway, what on earth am I talking about? I'm talking about how every single time we have eaten at any Korean restaurant (that has not been short-staffed) there has been a Korean woman who swooped in to offer to hold our baby while we eat. 

...Let's let that sink in for a moment.

Can you imagine if this were the norm in other restaurants here in the U.S.? Imagine some random female employee approaching your table, reaching for your baby, and gladly whisking him away so you can eat with two hands (this is especially helpful if you've ordered Korean BBQ because that is one dish you really need two hands for). That just wouldn't happen.

I don't know about you, but if anyone else tried to do this I would react how I think most other American parents would probably react. I would be horrified. I would NOT feel comfortable letting this stranger waltz in and take my baby away from our table! No.way. (I can hear all of your American thoughts shouting, "What about germs? They could be ill. You don't know that person! What if they try and steal your baby?!" Trust me, I feel you. But keep reading and I'll explain why I don't have those thoughts - anymore.)

Even when we went to a Korean food court (in Koreatown) an employee of
the store located nearby left her store, approached us, and offered
 to hold our son while we ate.

In time I've come to realize that this is a very normal part of Korean culture. And isn't it kind of beautiful? Could you imagine living in a country with a culture that loves babies, recognizes something that would be helpful to parents, and just...offers to do it in order to enhance your dining experience? Don't get me wrong, I love having our son with us. But after having tried to eat Korean BBQ while holding a wide-awake, wiggly baby I can tell you that all it leads to is me starving while I wait for my husband to quickly eat, free up his hands, then hold our son so I can eat (I'm a nice wife that way and always let him go first. More so because he can eat a lot faster than I can, but still).

The first time this happened I was in complete shock and wasn't sure if I was comfortable with it. However, within a few minutes I relaxed, ate my dinner, and came to appreciate how kind this gesture was to the mother who would otherwise still be staring longingly at the bulgogi or galbi (so good) sitting right in front of her. I didn't die and nothing bad happened to Gabriel. Plus, every time someone has done this for us the woman has been wise enough to stay well within my husband's or my line of vision...and has returned our son promptly into our arms as soon as we make the slightest indication that we want him back with us.

Considering we are first-time parents, my husband and I discussed this together the first time it happened to us. We were both surprised that it happened, but agreed that we felt strangely comfortable with it. We both remarked that it made us feel sort of like we were with our (my husband's) family.

Once Gabriel is big enough to actually sit in a high chair and join us at the table I'm sure this will stop happening (and we will want him right there with us). But for the time being, this has been such a rare treat for my husband and me. Not only are we able to go out with our son and use all our hands to eat - at the same time because one person's arms aren't holding our boy, but we simultaneously bring joy to whoever the helpful woman is that eagerly holds our son for us. Personally, I love that our son can bring such joy to others simply because he is who he is and people love him for it. And sometimes I just like being able to use both hands.

Do you know of any other cultures that would consider this normal? I'm curious to learn about your experiences dining out with babies! 

"When you are grateful fear disappears and abundance appears."
-Anthony Robbins

Friday, March 14, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday: This Week's Faves (Vol. 25)

+JMJ+

After the night we had I was half-tempted to write a "7 reasons why every single person in this family is really sleep deprived today" post. However, that's not really my style and it would hardly mesh well with what I shared Wednesday about feeling SO blessed here and focusing on living up this gratitude. This means that instead I'll be going with my original plan to share 7 of my favorite, happiest things from this week!


Make sure you head over to Conversion Diary to join in Jen's (and everyone else's) fun!

--- 1 ---


Have you all heard of the NoseFrida? It's basically a nasal aspirator that sucks the snot out of your baby's nose (as opposed to using those nasal bulbs that are all too often s-l-o-w). Let me tell you: this thing WORKS. It's fast, hygienic, and poses no risk of damaging your child's mucus membranes because you don't place it inside the nose. Plus, it's made by the Swedes (shout out to the people of my maiden name/my paternal heritage!). Anyway, this little snotsucker (I'm not kidding - they actually call it that) combined with some saline drops has allowed me to suction out Gabriel's nose faster than ever before. Big win.

--- 2 ---
We finally got around to buying and hanging some curtains for Gabriel's room! This makes his room warmer, more quiet (so he doesn't hear people in the apartment parking lot or coming up the stairs), and hopefully the enhanced darkness will make his sleep better. I've never been more excited about curtains in my LIFE.

--- 3 ---
God hit me over the head with a genius realization this week - that we should move Gabriel's swing into his bedroom. Why? Because all he uses it for nowadays is to nap. We have the Bumbo and his highchair if I need to securely sit him down somewhere for a minute. Even though he sleeps fine in the crib at night he has never been able to nap there; he naps in all those positions they say won't give your baby enough oxygen (in my arms, a swing, a car seat, etc.). What has been the result? Not having him nap in our open living space has allowed me to feel more relaxed and free to actually do things without the constant paranoia of waking him up! I haven't felt this way since we moved his bassinet out of our bedroom about 28 weeks ago. :)

--- 4 ---
Another simple yet genius idea we put into action this week? We bought a neck pillow. It may sound ridiculous, but this has helped decrease all the neck and back pain I found myself constantly having from falling asleep nursing Gabriel far too often. I realized that I end up falling asleep in our glider/rocking chair for an average of 30-60 minutes once nearly every night. Do you know how much unnecessary neck and back pain this has caused me over the past several months? Too much. What a simple but very important game-changer in how my body feels!

--- 5 ---
Oh joy of joys, I made it to daily Mass this week - TWICE! I have wanted to get back to doing this for a good long while, but sharing one vehicle when we have a baby had made this endeavor far too daunting (because it would mean me getting up early, prematurely waking our son, dropping my husband off at work, taking the car to Mass, then having to go back out with our son to pick my husband up from work). First world problems, here. But seriously - our short stint in Florida led us to leave my husband's car with his parents and a couple weekends ago he drove it back. Having my own car ready and waiting for me to simply walk out the door has made a huge difference in how likely I am to make it to daily Mass with my baby boy in tow.

--- 6 ---
This next one is a major game-changer in how I'll be shopping for clothing (especially for our son!): I finally joined thredUP. After literally months of seeing "thredUP" pop up on all your other blogs I started to think I should probably check it out. If there are any of you out there unfamiliar with this website (don't feel bad! I had no idea how great it was until this week!), please please please let me invite you to join via email - because it will give you $10 off and give me a $10 credit, too! If you are in the market for very gently used women's or kid's clothing and accessories at fabulous, affordable prices you should definitely check it out. I managed to snag 3 button down dress shirts, a pair of khakis, and 3 casual/cotton pairs of pants for my son for only $17! I can't wait for them to arrive in the mail!

--- 7 ---
Okay, to close things out I'll leave you with this YouTube video that you all have probably already seen. Personally I think it's pretty funny that the daughter in back seems to have no interest in what her parents are doing - and the whole things is definitely cheesy and maybe even slightly obnoxious. BUT, considering just last week when we were re-watching Tangled I turned to Michael and asked if he could learn to sing one of the songs with me (the one in the boat with the lanterns - you know the one) there is a part of me that just loves this. Happy viewing and happy Friday!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Little Things and the Big Difference

+JMJ+

It sounds a tad cliche, but lately I've had such a sense of how the littlest things can make the Biggest difference. I know, I know. This isn't some great revelation of which the world has yet to be enlightened (hence my awareness of the cliche). However, I am also aware that at different points in my life it has mattered greatly which little things can make the Biggest difference - for better or worse.

Ever since our recent move, I cannot help but feel that small things here and there have snowballed to make a huge (positive!) impact on my daily life: how I feel, the way I think, how I interact with my husband and son, and even how I pray.

Now, don't get me wrong. I stand by what I said about us being in Florida at the right time. God had plans for us there, albeit temporarily. However, I can see now that we are in a different environment just how many little things seemed to be missing for me to be the best version of myself during our time down south. All of this makes me so grateful to begin a new chapter - with a greater awareness of what I can do and what God has done to help me find the daily joy, gratitude, and positive energy that lingers ever within my reach...if only I can (with God's help) awaken myself to it.

Thankfully, the timing of our relocation combined with several small things that I won't bother getting into have culminated into my heart being filled with constant joy. I have missed this. Believe me, I've had joy in my life (lots of it!), but that doesn't change the fact that I've been in "survival mode" and trying to feel more like my normal, happy, energized self amidst the flood of changes motherhood brought to my body, sleep schedule, daytime schedule, prayer life, desire (or lack thereof) to work out, and so many other things.


In short, I'm so grateful for all of the little blessings God has given me in this new place. These small things may have subtle appearances, but their great impact is undeniable and I find my heart feeling so refreshed. 
When we were in Florida there were so many things I wished I was doing on a regular basis (praying a morning offering, working out, reading the daily Mass readings, etc.). I struggled to find the energy, focus, or motivation to consistently put these things into action. Most of these things are simple - but while the little things in life are the easiest to do, they are also the easiest not to do. I find myself so thankful that this new place and its little (yet very Big) blessings have made such a Big difference in my heart, my energy levels, my motivation, and have given me a renewed sense of excitement and Hope for what is to come. These things have slowly been helping me do the little things in my daily life that I know make a Big difference in my overall physical, mental, spiritual, and social well-being.

Sometimes it's difficult to say whether it's recognizing little blessings or doing little things that gets this cycle going that rejuvenates my soul, but in my experience, one begets the other...so that is my game plan for attempting to keep this moving forward. A combination of recognizing (and thanking God) for all the little things He is doing for us here and doing my best to put things into action that are within my control. Regardless, this place and this time in our lives is so good and so full of Hope as we wait to see what else is to come.

How fitting that I find myself experiencing all of this during our liturgical season of Hope. When I think about the connection between the renewal and hope simultaneously happening within this Lenten season and within my own daily life I cannot help but be amazed. Yet again, His timing is beautiful and perfect.

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things."
-Robert Brault

Monday, March 10, 2014

St. Valentine's and Marian Shrines

+JMJ+

One of the things Michael and I thought was exciting about moving to the Philadelphia area is its geographical closeness to several big cities. We'd love to take some weekend trips and have fun exploring, though most of those adventures will probably be put on hold until we get some warmer weather.

Because St. Valentine's Day weekend coincided with President's Day this year (aka: a 3-day weekend for my husband!), we decided to take advantage of how close we are to D.C. Initially we weren't sure if we should go anywhere, but once we discovered that two of my best friends from college would also be in D.C. that weekend we were completely on board (sometimes you need that extra little incentive to willingly travel and stay in hotels with a teething baby, you know?).

Overall it was a nice weekend filled with quality time as we made a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, explored some more of the Smithsonian, and were able to meet up with my dear friends.

Socially, Michael and I agreed that one of our favorite parts was when we met up with my friends at the National Gallery of Art and got dinner together. Spiritually, however, we had some beautiful experiences that left me feeling as if we had just done one of the most romantic things I could think of for St. Valentine's Day!

For starters, neither one of us had ever been to the National Basilica. We tried so hard to make it fit into our schedule when we attended 2013's March for Life, but limitations caused by metro construction combined with my first trimester fatigue led us to instead use that time to take some much-needed naps.

We finally made it! About a year later after we first tried.

When we arrived at the Basilica we began with the lower level (read: stroller accessible entry level). Gabriel was so well-behaved as we strolled through shrine after Marian shrine, stopping to pray along the way. Our little boy was so interested in everything going on and especially loved all the shiny displays and statues. He made little more than a peep as we wove through the entire level, including the chapel in the crypt where we knelt before the tabernacle and prayed as a family (which for Gabriel simply meant sitting in the stroller and peering at us as we prayed). I had so much fun pointing out all the images of Gabriel the Archangel to him and he got really excited when I took him to the front pew of the shrine to Our Lady of Lourdes.

At first this room was crowded - but slowly people trickled out until this was the lasting image I saw before walking away. Be still my heart.

After spending an hour in the crypt, we stopped for lunch, changed Gabriel, and headed upstairs for more shrines and more time spent in prayer. Gabriel finally started to get hungry so I chose a nice spot in front of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. I didn't capture any pictures with our camera, but I did manage to whip out my phone and got this:

Hands down the most beautiful and peaceful place I've ever nursed my son

The whole time we were there I wanted us to light some votive candles but I wasn't positive which Marian devotion we should chose. We decided to choose Our Lady of Guadalupe because of the several ties and constant devotion I had to her during my volunteer year in Chicago (the year we dated, got engaged, and Michael became Catholic). Then, as we rounded the corner to enter the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine, something in my heart just said "yes. This is where we should light our candles."

+ Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, ruega por nosotros! +

Honestly there were so many breathtaking images of Our Lady that I just cannot put into words. We spent nearly another hour in the main level and I'm pretty sure I teared up slightly when we came upon this...

Adoration chapel
...and we knelt here in prayer:


The entire experience was better than I think either Michael or I could have imagined. How appropriate it felt to spend the time our world recognizes as a "holiday of love" to be in the presence of our Lord while we stood side by side as husband and wife with our baby in our arms, all the while venerating Our Blessed Mother. I honestly can't think of anything else we could have done that weekend to feel more loved and loving towards one another.

As if that weren't enough, we had one of the most amazing encounters in the gift shop before we left! We noticed a man and woman and quickly realized that we had met the man (we'll call him "T") before...at a Theology on Tap session when we lived in Ann Arbor. What a small world indeed!

Michael approached T and we all shook hands, re-introducing ourselves and meeting his friend, A, for the first time. And you know what happened next? We proceeded to chat with them for nearly two hours. Two hours!

It seems so crazy to think about, but we hit it off with these people who were practically strangers to us and when we parted ways they had invited us to join them at A's house that evening for some food and games. Unfortunately we weren't staying near there and had other plans (that included Gabriel being in bed on time since he slept horribly the night before). Otherwise we gladly would have joined them.

The entire encounter with T and A left us feeling so mystified by the ways God works in our lives. I could go on and on about it, but suffice it to say that we left the Basilica feeling blessed beyond belief...and as if we had some new friends we would be happy to welcome into our home if they ever head our way.

God is just so good. All the time.


“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance; to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him, the greatest human achievement.”

-St. Augustine

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Buzz from SAHMs

+JMJ+

Have you all seen the recently-published Buzzfeed article about Stay-at-Home Moms yet? If you haven't, check it out:


Did you see some familiar faces?! I know I did! Obviously if you've seen the post you already know what my sign said. But just for fun, here it is again:

Do our outfits look familiar? This was the same day
Gabriel turned 7 months!

I wrote this message because most people believe that SAHMs don't contribute financially to their household. I can tell by comments I hear that SAHMs are often viewed as mothers of luxury. And to be sure, that is sometimes the case. However, that depends entirely on each family's situation - on factors such as your career field, your spouse's career field, how many young children you have, and (especially!) the cost of living and childcare in your area.

People fail to realize that sometimes it makes good financial sense for one parent to stay home with their children. For some of us, staying home may be a "luxurious" choice, but for others of us, we are simply doing what is best for our family's finances. Personally, I happen to feel extremely blessed that what I happen to love doing is supported by my husband's job and it truly saves us money based on our own unique circumstances. Like I said, it depends on several factors, but the bottom line is this:

I'd love for people to stop assuming they know what a family's situation must be (and possibly making judgments) based on whether or not one parent stays home to raise their children. :)

I'm so glad I was able to join the rest of these lovely ladies and their great messages! Many thanks to my sister, Christina (have you read her new blog? She's only been at it for a couple of weeks and I'm already more than a little obsessed with it!), for inviting me to contribute and a big thank you to Ellie (the author of the post) for giving some of us SAHMs a platform to share some fun, inspiring, witty, heartfelt, or little known messages!

"I think it's a tough road if you're a stay-at-home mom, a working mom, if you have a partner, if you don't. It's the best job in the world, and the toughest job in the world all at the same time."
-Angela Kinsey

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Gabriel: 7 Months

+JMJ+

I think I say this every month, but can you believe it's been 7 months already? Seven. Often I hear things about "the first 6 months," which makes me feel as if getting beyond that point is really monumental (and developmentally speaking, it sure is). Now we are well into the second half of his first year! I can barely wrap my head around it. He's still so tiny and young but 7 months sounds like such a grown up baby - if that were a thing.

I'm also really happy to report that even though I have had two different colds since his birth and Michael had one, Gabriel has yet to be sick. Apparently most babies get their first cold between 4-6 months...yet here we are at 7 months (in the coldest winter the Philadelphia area has had in years) going strong. I'm sure most of that has to do with him not being in daycare and having been in nice Florida weather the first half of winter, but I like to think that (along with God's mercy and blessings) it's partially because I boosted his immune system so much by nursing him when I was sick. ;) I know it's healthy for children to get colds and build their immune system (and we intentionally do not sanitize his things unnecessarily because our understanding of immunology teaches us that germ exposure is good), but at this point in time I'm kind of in awe and very thankful our little guy hasn't had to go through this yet.

Here's a picture of us yesterday on his "seven-month-day!"

Clearly we hadn't been to Mass yet for Ash Wednesday +:)

On with the updates!

Eating
  • We have given up on the bottle entirely. We have moved on to the sippy cup, which he hasn't quite mastered but...I'm hopeful he can do this soon (apparently there are several babies out there that refuse bottles and skip right to sippy cups which makes me feel much better).
  • We introduced the single grain rice cereal and the verdict is: he doesn't really like it. He was taking more and more each day I fed it to him, but since then he realized what was on that spoon and he does NOT want it. So this week begins the baby oatmeal!
  • We attempted the pureed green beans and sweet potatoes: so far it's a "no" to the beans and a very skeptical "maybe" to the sweet potatoes. Until he begins taking the oatmeal on a regular basis, though, I'm in no rush to introduce anything else. Slow and steady wins the race, right?
  • Michael and I have been discussing when we think we should start weaning and begin supplementing with formula (because when I imagine myself still nursing him at 12 months I just feel...blah. And if we don't figure it out soon he will be 12 months before I can blink my eyes!). 
  • The initial breastfeeding plan was to nurse "the first 6 months and then see how it goes." Honestly, I think I have wound up enjoying breastfeeding more than I could have imagined and I don't want to stop too soon. I really do love it! I just don't want to do it forever and ever...and him never taking a bottle and not having mastered the sippy cup is probably taking its toll on my desire to continue much beyond the next couple of months. Any tips from you other mamas out there? How and when did you decide to wean?

Nap Time
  • It's officially Lent so I must refrain from using that joyful "A" word, but oh, Lord. Thank you for making "longer naps" a regular part of Gabriel's daily routine!
  • Currently he takes about 4 naps a day (morning, early afternoon, late afternoon, evening) and they range from 30 minutes to 2 hours but average about an hour. If one nap is 30 minutes, he'll usually need a 2-hour nap later and vice versa.
  • Much to the dismay of this avid "rule follower," Gabriel still will not nap in his crib. I know it's the safest way for a baby to sleep, but for some reason I have never been able to lay him flat on his back at nap time (I've occasionally continued trying...unsuccessfully). It lifts my spirits knowing that it also took my nieces several months before they would nap in a crib. By 7 months, though, I'm completely done being worried or caring if anyone else will judge me for letting my child sit in his swing for naps. You do what you've gotta do (and do it as safely as possible, of course). At any rate, he has never had issues sleeping in the crib at night - so I'm not concerned by all the research that makes it sound like your child will just be ruined at bedtime if they nap in a swing. Not true for this little boy!

Bed Time
  • We slowly transitioned him to an earlier bedtime this month and have been quite successful (hooray!). Before he naturally went to bed around 10:30pm. He slowly starting getting more tired around 10pm and then began sleeping later in the morning. Once this happened we decided to start his bedtime routine a bit earlier. The result? He goes to sleep by 9:30pm and gets up for the day between 7-8:30am. No complaints here.
  • He does still wake at night and is still teething (no teeth yet!), but on most nights he is back down to only waking 1-3 times.

Bath Time
  • Not much has changed this month. 
  • He continues to love his little whale above all other bath toys and will try diving and grabbing it when it gets free - so we wised up and began giving him the whale to play with after we are completely done bathing him. :)

Play Time

  • This past month he began to understand that my reflection in the mirror isn't literally me - so we have lots of fun with him glancing back and forth at my reflection and back at me. 
  • Currently he loves the sounds a dog and a lion make (woof woof and roooar). Previously he only liked monkey noises, but lately the dog and lion can make him laugh so hard.
  • Because he can sit and play in the Bumbo seat for much longer than last month, I have started placing his little bag of toys next to the chair for him. He can occupy himself for quite some time sorting through the toys, reaching for the ones he wants, playing with them, accidentally dropping them, and then going back to the bag to pick out a new one that's within reach. This is pretty much the greatest thing ever when I need to get something done or shower (because once he hit 6 months I could no longer leave him alone on his play mat without him rolling all the way to the other side of the room).
  • He really likes this panda squeaker that my dad gave him as part of his Christmas gift. He wasn't too interested in it until the last couple of weeks; this week he figured out how to make it squeak - and is so delighted with himself. :) Now he loves it!
  • When I read to him he still mainly enjoys hitting the book and feeling the pages, but that's to be expected. He did seem deeply interested yesterday, though, as I read him Winnie-The-Pooh and Some Bees for the first time. :)
  • He loves doing the "airplane" on my shins, being bounced/tossed in the air, etc.

Growth/Development
  • He understands that my reflection isn't literally me in the mirror.
  • I didn't know it at the time, but when I mentioned how he loved to reach for my face last month that was because he is now learning that we are separate beings. Because of this, he has been obsessed this entire last month with touching my face and reaching for my cheeks or mouth whenever he is in my arms or lap. He often takes breaks from nursing only to stare at me - then suddenly reach up, pat my cheeks, smile, bounce his arms excitedly, and return to nursing. It melts my heart every.single.time. It's like an even more endearing version of how he would stop nursing temporarily to stare and smile at me when he was 3-4 months old. :)
  • He seems to really like music and/or dancing lately!
  • He can do the tripod sit and/or sit on his own, unsupported, for maybe a minute or so before he lunges for some toy and wobbles. Because of this I can't leave him sitting alone yet (nor would I want to, because he will probably crawl soon after that!), but he will sit in the Bumbo for about 30 minutes before wanting to get out.
  • He can roll all over if he so chooses.
  • He has started rolling onto his stomach in his crib each morning after he wakes up. I come in to get him and he is working on those baby push-ups like no other (thankfully he still sleeps on his back the whole night!).
  • He has figured out how to turn his body around in circles when he is on his back OR on his tummy. Sometimes I look away for ten seconds, turn back, and am caught off guard to see him completely facing a different side of the room. He is really working those legs so he isn't that far from crawling....
  • He continues to babble and really favors the "M" sounds still. He "says" Mama all the time but, of course, is just saying that to make noise.
  • He has had zero stranger anxiety. He has been around lots of people in different scenarios - sometimes when he is well-fed and well-rested, other times when he is extremely sleep-deprived from refusing to nap or hungry from refusing to eat - and the result is always the same: he rises to the occasion and loves being around people. 
  • His love of being social actually makes it difficult sometimes because he will be so interested in what's going on around him that he will completely skip meals or naps; if we are out too close to his bedtime this results in him waking several times because he won't eat enough before bed.
  • He currently wears 6-month, 6-9, and some 9-month onesies and wears some 6-9 month and mostly 9-month pants. Crazy! He continues to be relatively tall for his age.
  • As I write this he is whining because he wants so badly to crawl and is trying so hard, but he just can't do it quite yet. Look out, world!

"A baby fills a place in your heart that you never knew was empty."
-Anonymous

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

NEW BLOG NAME AND ADDRESS! Welcome to Bluebird Songs!

+JMJ+

It's official! What was once known as "I Found Him Whom My Soul Loves" has been transitioned to its new title, Bluebird Songs. Along with the name change comes a new address:

www.bluebird-songs.blogspot.com

If you were following this blog on Bloglovin' or any other feed reader, make sure to change your subscription to the new address (to follow on Bloglovin, click on the button on the side of the blog)! If you simply follow this blog through Blogger or via email subscription I don't think you need to do anything. Hopefully I haven't confused or lost too many of you lovely readers in the transition.

Without further ado, welcome to Bluebird Songs, where I will continue to write about God's love, married life, motherhood, and whatever else my heart desires. Curious about the name change and its significance? You can read more on my "About Bluebirds" page.

Oh, and if you've linked to any of  my old posts in the past, fear not - I exported everything to a different blog and gave it the old "www.himwhommysoulloves.blogspot.com" address. So the links should live on. :) You simply won't find any new posts at that location because it's all going to be over here at Bluebird Songs.

Thanks for reading along on my continued blogging journey!

“Go back?" he thought. "No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!" So up he got, and trotted along with his little sword held in front of him and one hand feeling the wall, and his heart all of a patter and a pitter.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit