Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Five Favorites (Vol. 4): For the 8-Month Old Baby

+JMJ+


This weekend we are flying to St. Louis for a wedding (SO EXCITED!), which means I've been busy preparing all week long. Before you go on thinking I'm just the best, most organized traveler in the whole wide world, let me point out that the majority of this is due to having a baby yet wanting to make sure I get to do what I want to look and feel nice for the fancy occasion (because I will get my fingernails painted, but only if I can spare the time once Gabriel is in bed tomorrow night - which means all the other preparations and packing needs to be done!). Maybe that all sounds a little bit vain, but hey, it forces me to do everything else under the sun for my family first so I can get some "me" pampering time...so it works for us.

Where was I going with this? Ah, yes. I have a lot to do! So let's just do some quick 5 Faves and call it good. Make sure you head over to Hallie's and check out everyone else's fabulous 5 Favorites of the week!

For some reason all of my "favorite" posts tend to revolve around baby gear. Gabriel is 8.5 (scratch that...almost 9!) months old and these have been some of my favorite things all month long (in no particular order):

--- 1 --- 
Stackable rings

Gabriel doesn't actually stack these yet, but ever since we got them (sometime around age 7 months?) he has been in love. He has lots of fun taking them off of the stand and once took a nap while holding onto the green ring the entire time because he hates to let them go (true story).

--- 2 ---
Baby Mum Mums


These have been our saving grace. Seriously. Gabriel has never taken a bottle and still won't (we try - oh, we try) take any kind of cup. He only likes oatmeal (but not that often) and has yet to take much of a liking to most soft solids. BUT he so wants to feed himself and he is teething (without any teeth yet) which makes these a perfect little snack until we can get him taking some more fruits and veggies. They dissolve easily so your baby doesn't need teeth. Your baby can easily hold onto it and feed himself. Plus, it feels good on those teething gums. Bonus: they have several flavors which is how we finally found one food that Gabriel will eat. Apples for the win! Double bonus (is that a thing?): they keep him quiet during church. :) They're very low in calories so they won't replace a meal, but they give him something to chew on and be fascinated by whenever he is experiencing teething pain and we are hoping he'll quiet down in public.

--- 3 ---
Desitin
This one is self-explanatory, right? Somewhere around 6 months I think I began changing Gabriel's diaper only once a night. Somewhere in month 7 I stopped changing his diaper at night all-together (mainly because he would be teething and screaming his head off while waiting for me to be done changing him which is zero fun...but also because I want him used to it as he sleeps longer and longer at night). Anyway, no nighttime diaper changes can lead to baby's first diaper rash. Cue Desitin.

--- 4 ---
Umbrella Stroller


That's the exact stroller we have and I love it so far (Cosco Umbria in ZigZag). We didn't want a fancy-schmancy umbrella stroller when you can find really affordable ones (and I'm optimistic about the fact that our "main" stroller I want to put money into will need to hold two babies within the next couple years). However, I wanted one with a basket which the cheapest of the cheap don't ever have (because why do I want to carry a diaper bag if I can put it in my stroller? I don't). Anyway, this one is only $40, is lightweight, collapses easily (and is very easy to open with one hand), has a basket, and gets the job done. I will say that I wouldn't recommend it if your baby can't really sit on his own yet because there's no shoulder harness - just the waist - which is perfectly fine for Gabriel. We didn't buy an umbrella stroller until this month because before we managed with our stroller frame that holds the car seat (which is still great sometimes - but he really wants to look around now) and/or babywearing.

--- 5 ---
Magazines


I don't subscribe to any magazines right now but that doesn't stop random magazines from giving us free issues in the hopes that we'll give them money for more. Magazines are perfect for babies this age - because they tend to love the feel of them, the bright pictures (especially of faces!), and have fun learning to turn the pages. I keep old magazines on a shelf Gabriel can reach just for this purpose. He has so much fun crinkling them, tearing pages, etc. And...they're free. Win win win.

That's all I've got, folks. On to more laundry!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Third Way

+JMJ+

By now I'm sure almost all of you have seen Soul Pancake's interview with Blythe about Catholicism. What a great witness (and joyful explanation of some of our major beliefs!) for the Church, right? If you haven't seen it yet, I recommend taking about 10 minutes to check it out.

Aside from the Soul Pancake interview, I also recently discovered another video treasure that properly (and joyfully!) presents some more of our Church's teachings - specifically in regards to same sex attraction.

I stumbled upon the short film, The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church, because a friend (who has a special part in the film) shared it on his Facebook page. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I watched it with every bit of fervor that I had when watching Blythe's interview!

I feel that the film's presentation of Church teaching on homosexuality is authentic, refreshing, and sheds some much-needed light for all those who may be struggling to understand what the Church really teaches and/or how its approach is one of authentic Love. After all, as the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said,

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

The first half or so of the video lays the groundwork by having individuals share their stories and faith journeys that led them to the Church. The second half of the video elaborates on Church teaching and - in my opinion - explains everything so eloquently. The filmmakers make sure to discuss chastity and how we are all called to live this virtue - regardless of the orientation of our sexual desires.

How often do we come across people that mistakenly think there are only 2 understandings of homosexuality? That everything is 100% condemnation or 100% do-what-you-want because you deserve happiness? ALL THE TIME, friends. All the time. This video addresses each of the well-known viewpoints then lovingly presents the "third" way - the way of the Catholic Church.

So for those of you that are curious about this "third" way and what it entails - or those of you that are struggling to find the words to share or feel misunderstood when people ask what you believe as a Catholic - this one's for you. In fact, I think everyone should watch this video. And I'm not just saying that because my friend is in it or it was produced by the Archdiocese of Indianapolis (shout out to my Hoosiers!).

Seriously, I'd love for you all to watch it and let me know what you think. 

If you're Catholic: do you think this video does a good job sharing the messages of love, human dignity, and the universal call to holiness? Did the video enhance your own knowledge/understanding of our Church's teachings? Do you feel better prepared to articulate the Church's teachings if/when someone asks you about it? Are you going to share this video with others (and why or why not)?

If you aren't Catholic: do you feel that the video helped you to learn about/better understand the Catholic Church's teachings on homosexuality? After watching the video, do you think this is a teaching you can get on board with? Do you have more questions? Do you feel like you understand how the Church's teachings are unlike the other 2 common approaches towards homosexuality here in the U.S.? What do you think about it? Regardless, I'd love to have a dialogue with you about it.

Okay, enough chatter. I hope you enjoy the video! I highly recommend watching it when you have time to sit through it in its entirety (it's almost 40 minutes long). Skipping scenes probably won't help anyone seeking explanations to absorb the full message of what we believe and why - but if you happen to be a busy mom like me and already know what the Church teaches, feel free to jump to the second half for a nice little refresher by speakers like Christopher West and Jason Evert (and more).


 

And now for a disclaimer that I have a feeling will be entirely unnecessary (but you never know - it's the internet):

Disclaimer: this is my personal blog and I will exercise my right to delete any comments that I feel are disrespectful or unhelpful in this dialogue. I may also delete any comments that clearly demonstrate a lack of understanding due to not having watched the full video. I do not allow anonymous comments, but please feel free to make up a name or simply email me directly if you do not wish to publish a visible comment for others to read but want to talk about this issue further.

"[persons experiencing same sex attraction] must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided."
-Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2357

Monday, April 28, 2014

I Found Where the Sidewalk Ends (and it's in Pennsylvania)

+JMJ+

First things first: what kind of blogger would I be if I didn't give a shout out to arguably my most dedicated reader on her birthday? Hi, Mom! Happy birthday! I love you!

Also, did you catch the Shel Silverstein reference? I hope so because I told Michael what I would probably call this post and I cracked up laughing while he just looked confused. "Get it? Do you get it? Where the Sidewalk Ends? You know, the book?" *Crickets* until I pulled up an image of the book cover online and he said, "Oh! Yeah."

This entire post is neither here nor there, but I took lots of pictures and by golly I'm going to use them to tell a story that may or may not be worth sharing (welcome to the internet).

Last week we ordered an umbrella stroller that arrived on Friday. The weather was gorgeous and I was eager to test it out, so Gabriel and I went on a little stroll around our apartment complex.

Now, I learned early on when we moved here that our apartment complex isn't that great for walking. You see, the sidewalks are kind of a joke. They look normal when you're just coming in from your car, but as soon as you try and actually walk around you'll realize that none of them connect (which will force you to go for a walk in the parking lot if you want to walk more than 50 feet). This seems odd to me because all the other apartments we've lived in have had some semblance of a walking path (especially because many residents have dogs they need to walk).

Not only is this true in our apartment complex, but for some reason it's the norm all around us. Truly, the only places we have seen consistent, walk-able sidewalks have been in the boroughs (which is a fancy way of referring to the townships that govern what *normal people simply refer to as the "downtown" area of each town). When we moved, I was so excited to discover that we'd be across the street from a Catholic Church (hooray! I can walk to daily Mass with my baby!)...until we moved here and discovered that A) there are no sidewalks and B) there are blatant "no pedestrian crossing" signs posted all over the intersection.

WHAT?

So anyway. If I want to go to daily Mass we literally drive across the street which just seems silly - though it's legal and safe that way. But enough about the crossing the street debacle. I still haven't shown you what it's like within our very own apartment complex. Are you ready?

Here's what our walk was like (in pictures):


Oh! Hey, this sidewalk ends in a wall of bricks. I guess it's time to go "off-roading." Or, more accurately, "on-roading"...because we'll be in the line of vehicular traffic....


This isn't so bad. At least everyone who lives here knows there aren't any sidewalks so they tend to drive carefully....


Great! We made it to the leasing office where there is a sidewalk again. Let's enjoy this while we can.


(Looking across the parking lot) How funny - another sidewalk that dead ends. I'm sure glad I'm somehow still walking on a decent length of sidewalk over on my side!


Still going strong. This is nice!


Wait...
...That was short-lived.

I don't know what to do with this. Am I supposed to roll the stroller down the bumpy hill(s)? Not happening. Better to go in the parking lot, I suppose.


And we're back. Let's start looking for the next sidewalk.


Hmm. Where could it be?


Oh THERE you are, sidewalk! 
But...you're really not being helpful. I mean, a big curb connected to a parking space in which a car is parked? Good joke. 

So there you have it. We arrived home safely but not before I began to feel like a character in a Shel Silverstein poem (except not really, because we were basically forced to stay in the land of asphalt). The sidewalk situation here is sad, to be sure, but at least it gave me some good chuckles along the way. Plus, there was this sweet moment:


Gabriel was so mesmerized by the tulips that he refused to look at the camera (phone) and probably would have sat there sucking his thumb and s-t-a-r-i-n-g all day long if I let him. Which, in all seriousness, was my very favorite part of the walk - regardless of the fact that we were in the middle of a traffic zone so the precious moment was a little too short-lived for my taste.

All in all, though, I'm grateful for this beautiful weather, good health for our family, and a nice, new stroller that Gabriel enjoys (as do I!).

*read: the good people of the Midwest...and everywhere I've been save for the East Coast

"...Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends...."
-Shel Silverstein, Where The Sidewalk Ends

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Christ is Risen!

+JMJ+

He is risen indeed!

Because we don't live close enough to any family, we didn't have big plans this Easter aside from attending Mass. Gabriel is still too young to appreciate things like Easter baskets or dyeing eggs, so we gave ourselves a "pass" on all the little traditions this year. 

Us in our Easter finery...which we seriously didn't try to color coordinate.
Maybe next year we'll get a photo with 3 genuine smiles!

Honestly, we hadn't thought very far ahead in terms of what we would cook on Easter Sunday or anything of that nature. Then, when we attended last week's local event for Catholic young adults some people we know asked about our Easter plans. Soon enough, we realized that we could all get together to celebrate! Somehow, between us still being new here, several people being in Europe leading up to the canonizations, and most people having their own plans with family, we hadn't realized that we actually had a couple of friends here that we could make Easter plans with!

Excited because Christos Anesti! And maybe because...
babies love to see themselves and/or phone screens!

At the last minute, Michael and I decided to host a couple friends for an Easter dinner. Instead of the traditional Easter ham, we decided to go with steak (which worked out well with our guests' preferences), mashed potatoes, a nice Malbec wine, and our friends brought asparagus, rolls, and a banana cream pie. They even surprised us with sweet little Easter baskets, hand-crafted out of Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs (amazing). It's a shame I didn't get any photos because our meal was a veritable Easter feast! Much more so than it would have been if it were only Michael and me.

Look at those eyes turning brown....
We enjoyed the remainder of the evening by playing a game and chatting. Pretty soon it was Gabriel's bed time and our friends (who each had 20 and 40ish minute drives back home) took their leave. 

A snapshot of some Easter JOY!
It was so nice to be able to open up our home, share a meal, and celebrate such an important day of the liturgical year with some friends. Happy Easter to you and yours!

"Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song."
-Pope (almost officially "SAINT"!) John Paul II

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Sometimes It's Okay to Just Eat Ice Cream with Your Husband

+JMJ+

My husband has a sweet tooth. I don't particularly remember this being the case when we were dating, but then again we were long distance the entire time...so I probably just didn't know about it yet. Since we've been married I cannot tell you how many times Michael has - out of the blue - suggested we go get ice cream, cookies, cheesecake, danishes, or some other kind of dessert.

For me, his dessert suggestions came a little too frequently - and for awhile there I was pretty good at convincing my husband to settle for some healthier dessert alternatives. Then I got pregnant and hit my third trimester and all bets were off. My husband would suggest we get something and I'd say, "let's go!" 

Once Gabriel was born I got better again at not always giving in to my husband's cravings for sweets. In fact, you would probably think that we gave up sweets for Lent (and perhaps we should in the future) but that is not the case.

Eating ice cream together back in 2011
Throughout this Lenten season I've tried to be mindful that it's a penitential season of sacrifice. Even though I didn't give up desserts for Lent, I would often catch myself trying to hold back and maybe eat less or skip the dessert altogether when opportunities to indulge would present themselves. But here's the thing: while I wholeheartedly think that small sacrifices here and there are good and can provide opportunities to grow in holiness, I realized this week that I got so caught up in the "big picture" of Lent that I almost missed an opportunity to grow closer to God in a very different way.

Michael had been craving a milkshake from a local chain we recently discovered and on Tuesday night he suggested we go get some after dinner. My immediate reaction was to adamantly oppose his proposition, proclaiming that, "it's Holy Week! We should wait until it's Easter to indulge in things like that."

You see, the entire concept of living liturgically is one that I'm very attracted to. I have this great vision of our family a few years down the road where we'll be celebrating the Church's seasons, feasts, and fasts in tangible ways (beyond what I imagine most Catholic families already do) that help us cultivate a deeper, more personal understanding and experience of it all.

However, our very young family isn't quite there yet. Maybe someday we'll be so in tune with the changing liturgical seasons that it will be second nature to sacrifice simple dessert indulgences on non-feast days in Lent (ha...we'll see), but that is going to take time. Not to mention, we didn't even give up sweets for Lent!!! Yet here I was, trying to make us sacrifice something we didn't even choose to sacrifice (individually or as a family) all for the sake of "living liturgically" when we haven't yet discovered what that means for us after a mere year and a half of marriage.

Suddenly a light bulb went off in my head and I realized how completely I was missing the mark by getting bogged down in little self-imposed (unnecessary) regulations. Yes, it's Holy Week. Yes, sacrifices in order to better unite ourselves with our Lord during this penitential season are great and can certainly help us on our faith journeys. But drinking a milkshake with my husband when he has practically been begging me to go there with him all month? Was avoiding that occasion that would bring so much (harmless) joy to my man and forcing him to wait a few more days just because it's not Easter really going to bring us that much closer to God in that moment? Probably not. I think that's what they call "choosing your battles."

That realization combined with a fleeting thought about how precious and short our lives on earth are (as I remembered one of several tragedies that have recently taken place within my home state) led me to immediately be filled with a desire to seize the moment and comply with my husband's eager request. As I let go of my self-imposed rule that we should apparently not have any fun or do anything happy because "it's Holy Week" and life is all somber and serious...I felt myself filled with joy and gratitude for this time with my husband. As I conceded and agreed to Michael's milkshake request I gave him a huge hug, lots of quick kisses, and simply stood there hugging him in the kitchen, never wanting to let go. In that moment I felt more consciously aware of God's loving presence than I think I have all week (aside from many moments with our son because babies just radiate God's love and joy, don't you think?). I'm definitely no theological scholar. And perhaps we have 'failed' at "living liturgically" in the way I still envision for our future by getting dessert in Lent for seemingly no reason (no feast day, I mean)...but I thank God for that precious moment in our kitchen when I simply said, "yes" and embraced my husband.

Plus, those milkshakes were delicious.

Peanut butter. So good.

Maybe next year we'll find ourselves able to resist milkshakes during Holy Week, but this year I chose to instead take that opportunity to enjoy dessert with my husband - literally thanking God for Michael and the blessed life we share together. After all, He died to give us eternal life...and loving and being loved by my husband in this life is one of the best ways I can begin to wrap my head around all that He has given us.

"If you want to feel rich, just count all of the gifts you have that money can't buy."
-Anonymous

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

First Sunday: Art, Chinatown, & the Archbishop

+JMJ+

Ever since we moved here we've had our eyes set on checking out one of the largest art museums in the nation. We patiently waited for the first Sunday of the month (aka "pay as you wish" day!) to coincide with the time frame in which we could view the special Treasures from Korea exhibit - so on April 6th we finally made it!


A few weeks ago we learned that the Sunday evening Mass at the Cathedral is celebrated by Archbishop Chaput, which fit beautifully with our plans to spend a Sunday at the art museum. We drove into the city, paid $1 in museum admission, spent the afternoon basking in the glory of some serious artistic beauty, took an outdoor stroll, ate an early dinner in Chinatown, then concluded everything with Jesus and our wonderful Archbishop at the Cathedral.

SO.MUCH.ART.  Baby.need.nap!

After Mass we were able to shake hands with our bishop and he gave our son a blessing. He also told us that Gabriel was a beautiful baby...so let the record show that Gabriel was blessed and complimented by a man I'm prettyyyy sure will become a Saint someday. ;) I know he is a normal person just like you and me, but I have a lot of respect for Archbishop Chaput and am beyond pumped that we now live in his diocese...so you'll have to excuse my Catholic fan girl moment.

Spring has finally sprung!

Anyway, it was a gorgeous day all around. Great art, lovely springtime weather, delicious food, and a powerful Mass (boy, have we missed that incense!). I'm thinking that perhaps we should make this into a "first Sunday of the month" tradition because A) the art museum is huge and we still have a lot to see, B) I like to take advantage of basically free admission at museums, and C) I loved being able to attend Mass at the Cathedral with the Archbishop. Plus, dinner in Chinatown is probably the perfect icing on the cake to convince my husband that this is a good plan. ;) And the possibility of getting quality taro milk tea at least once a month is making my mouth water already. Okay, it's official. As long as Michael agrees, you can find us at the art museum, in Chinatown, and at the Cathedral in Philly on the first Sunday of each month. Maybe I will see you there!

"The highest art is always the most religious, and the greatest artist is always a devout person."
-Abraham Lincoln

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Southern Garden Tea Party Surprise for One Special Bride-to-Be

+JMJ+

Remember how I mentioned that I ventured into a land that is entirely foreign to this new mother? Literally speaking, that land was New Jersey, but I was aiming more towards the figurative - which is something along the lines of "an entire 6ish hours without my baby by my side."

Right. So you may remember that my big adventure across the bridge was all for my cousin's bridal shower - which was a surprise, by the way. That's right. A surprise bridal shower! I had never seen a bridal shower successfully executed as a surprise until that day and I've got to say that I was very impressed by everything.

Look at these clever little favors for the guests!

All of the guests arrived about 30 minutes before my cousin so that everyone could mingle, get settled, and (obviously) be there to surprise her when it was time. The shower was held in a social room at her church and my aunt had successfully convinced my cousin, Emily, that they were headed to some sort of ladies' luncheon/tea party that would have various speakers. Emily wasn't thrown off by this because it wasn't uncommon for their church to host such events.

When I think of Emily (who in all honesty, I haven't seen nearly enough over the years), I think of a classy young woman. Despite the fact that we've grown up several miles apart, I've had the pleasure of (thank you, social media) watching her grow into an intelligent, beautiful (inside and out), highly-driven young lady who carries herself with the kind of poise that is woefully uncommon among American young ladies nowadays. She is the kind of girl that others look at in awe because - even though she is freshly out of college - she has her life together (no, really. She even has a blog about how to better organize your life).

With the glowing bride-to-be!

In June we'll be celebrating her actual nuptials and attending her bridal shower gave me a glimpse into how epic this wedding and reception are going to be. Seriously, y'all. This side of my family can be a real riot and I know we are in for a treat! There will be lots of laughter and dancing which is as it should be...because I'm so so happy for Emily and what the future has in store for her!

Okay, enough rambling. Before I wrap this up I'd like to jot down some highlights from the shower.

  • The theme of the shower was "Southern Garden Tea Party" which meant that hats and gloves were encouraged. These women wore some of the most awesome hats I've seen in a long time - and thanks to my sister (who let me borrow her fascinator) I received many compliments on my attire.
  • My experience as a maid of honor and bridesmaid several times over in recent years has apparently fashioned me into a wedding-themed word scramble champ...so I won a beautiful little set of teacups!
Aren't these darling?! Her bridesmaids have good taste.
  • My aunt is hilarious but it wouldn't be politically correct for me to elaborate. Just know that she is hilarious.
  • I got to wear a normal dress - meaning I didn't have to plan something that was nursing-friendly. In fact, it's not possible to nurse in the dress that I wore. WHAT. Perhaps that sounds shallow that it made the list of highlights - but it's a happy memory!
  • I was blessed to see my family, including my uncle - who made a guest appearance towards the end of the shower!
  • The surprise was a huge success - and Emily was brought to tears when she realized what was going on and saw several loved ones she never thought would be able to make the journey (including her future mother-in-law who flew up from Arkansas!).
  • We ate delicious food, enjoyed wonderful company, and best of all: we celebrated Emily and her joyful engagement to an upstanding young man. 

What a happy day it was. And now I'm PUMPED for June! Congratulations Emily and Jason! I can't wait to celebrate your wedding and the start of your marriage in only a couple of months!

“The best time to love with your whole heart is always now, in this moment, because no breath beyond the current is promised.”
-Fawn Weaver

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Our Wedding Song

+JMJ+

I'm starting to feel a bit like a broken record over here, constantly going on and on about how our social life is so much busier here in the 'burbs of Philadelphia (and we've been here less than 3 months!), but that's because it's astonishingly (in a good way!) true.

I didn't write too much about it while we were living it - especially because we knew that it was a short-term project and would soon (hopefully) be led by the Lord to somewhere that would be a better fit for us outside of my husband's job - but now that it's a thing of the past and I can shout from the rooftops that God is blessing us in abundance in the friendship department, I have no problem saying it: our time in Florida was a social desert...unless you count the sweet elderly people smiling at us at church as something that could somehow fill this stay-at-home mom's social interaction quota for the week (for the record: it didn't. And I believe it's by the grace of God that I didn't go mental having a newborn without any family or friends around to liven up my many, many homebound days. Thank goodness for my amazing husband who made sure he got us out of the apartment even when I would have been otherwise unmotivated or tired!).

So why am I going on and on about our boring-in-Florida and now exciting-in-Pennsylvania social lives? Well, because of all the meetups we've had this week I haven't been able to blog much. I still want to recap my cousin's lovely bridal shower from Saturday and our awesome Sunday spent in the city, but that will take time that I probably don't have today.

-end longest lead-in ever here-

BUT, you know what I am confident I can crank out during my limited blogging time this morning?? A quick entry per Grace's request, who wants to know what song everyone chose for their "first dance" in her Wedding Song Dance Along link-up!

Michael and I never really had "a song" when we were dating. Whenever he would come visit me in Chicago we were always listening to music in his car. I even made him a couple of "love song" CDs for our first Valentine's Day together (a bold move because I included some songs that made it pretty clear I wanted to be his wife someday - so thankfully he proposed that weekend before he had a chance to hear the CDs!). But we really didn't have "a song." In a way, I think there was an unspoken understanding that Lifehouse had sort of become "our" band because we attended a Lifehouse concert together very early on in our relationship. But Lifehouse doesn't have a ton of songs that are very "wedding dancey" - if you know what I mean.

When it came down to it, I listened to a bunch of romantic songs then had Michael listen to them. We narrowed it down and both agreed that When You Say You Love Me by Josh Groban was perfect for us.



The funny thing is: my older sister and brother-in-law helped teach us some basic partner moves and spins and Michael and I planned out the timing in the song when we would do each dramatic move. I was so excited because it was all going to be so beautifully choreographed! Then, as we began our "first dance" for real I realized that the cap sleeves on my dress would.not.allow us to do half of the moves...unless I wanted to tear my wedding dress - which I did not.

After Michael spun me the first time and I realized how limited we would be in our movements, I quickly leaned in and told him we couldn't do the other kind of spin because of my dress. We agreed that we would change the game-plan and stick with the basic spin in place of all the fancier ones...and in a way it was kind of a relief. At that point we just kind of chuckled to ourselves, got lost in each other's gaze, and cherished that alone time together before things got busier again with our family and friends. It was just us - which made it beautiful. And our guests were none the wiser.


Photography by Brian Powell

Want to share your wedding "first dance" song, too? Head over to Grace's and join in the fun!

"You're where I belong
And when you're with me if I close my eyes,
There are times I swear I feel like I can fly
For a moment in time
Somewhere between the Heavens and Earth,
And frozen in time, Oh when you say those words

When you say you love me
The world goes still, so still inside and
When you say you love me
For a moment, there's no one else alive"
-When You Say You Love Me, Josh Groban

Monday, April 7, 2014

Gabriel: 8 Months

+JMJ+

Saturday was a big day for our family. In the morning I drove about an hour to my cousin's bridal shower in New Jersey (more on that soon!), spent the afternoon with a great bunch of ladies, then made the drive back home...completely solo.

That's right. This past Saturday was the day Gabriel "officially" turned 8 months old and it was the first time in his young life that he was apart from me for more than a few hours! The astute reader will also pick up on the fact that this means I also finally went somewhere/did something for an extended amount of time without Gabriel for the first time in his life.

All I can say about this is that even though I missed him, it was a long time coming and I'm so grateful to have finally had this kind of experience. I love love love our little boy and I love being with him...but it was good for this new mom to remember what it felt like to go somewhere without being "the mom with the baby" to everyone I encountered. Don't get me wrong - I love playing that role. I embrace it with open arms. But this time I was just me. Still a mom. But what a different experience! I even got a little crazy and blasted the car radio more than once. Crazy, I tell you.

So how did my husband and our son fare without me? Very well, actually! Despite the fact that Gabriel never took a bottle (ever - not just that day), still won't take a cup, and doesn't particularly like any pureed foods we've tried giving him, he ate. And there were (I'm told) relatively few tears shed until the last couple of hours when Gabriel had probably reached a somewhat frustrating level of tiredness, teething pain, and hunger. He didn't nap as much as normal but he did nap...and he ate...so I'm calling it a huge success! And oh, the joy he expressed when we awoke to me being home is just too priceless to put into words.

Now on to the things you probably expected to be reading in this post - the 8 month updates!

Don't be fooled - he didn't really eat that bowl of sweet potatoes....

Eating
  • We've tried sippy cups (with and without valves) and the baby straw cups...without much success. Will this child ever learn to latch onto or suck on anything other than his mother? The jury is still out on this one. Advice, tips, tricks? Encouraging words? I'll take them all - please and thank you!
  • I've also tried taking lids off of cups and pouring it in Gabriel's mouth and/or trying to let him drink from the cup on his own...which he didn't like very much, either. Help??
  • Gabriel likes baby oatmeal!!! The one saving grace that probably kept him somewhat well-fed while I was gone on Saturday.
  • "Soft solids" we've tried introducing him to thus far: rice cereal, oatmeal, green beans, sweet peas, sweet potatoes, bananas, and mangoes. 
    • "Soft solids" he has seemed to like in the slightest: oatmeal. Just oatmeal.
  • My sister let us know about Mum Mums (great for teething babies and babies that still have no teeth!) so we introduced those last week. He doesn't seem to love them but he ate 2 while I was gone so that's a start!
  • He still nurses frequently. Way more frequently than children his age (like every couple hours - occasionally going 3 or 4). I'm pretty sure he is a perpetual grazer.


Nap Time
  • Pretty much the same as before...although he did manage to (after somewhat of a struggle) nap in a portable crib when we visited my sister in Boston. Maybe we can try this at home soon?

Bed Time
  • Also basically the same as last month. Although we have begun discussing "sleep training" more seriously. Nights like last night (when he woke up 5 times) make my tired body think this needs to happen asap...and make my brain think it's going to be a rough few nights. Helpful tips or personal anecdotes?

Bath Time
  • He still loves it! Especially if he has a toy or can get his hands on the plastic cup we use to pour water on him.


Play Time
  • I don't even know where to begin. He loves the stacking rings and plastic shapes we gave him this past month!
    • He doesn't yet stack the rings on the stand, but he loves taking them off...and holding onto them forever. Sometimes never letting go during a nap or the entire time we go to daily Mass.
  • He is getting better at throwing.
  • He seems to love music more and more - and will often start bouncing to the beats when I turn it on.
  • He seems to like books more and more - mainly because he likes how they feel when he hits them...or chews on them. But he does tend to sit through The Very Hungry Caterpillar and some Winnie-the-Pooh stories with more interest (especially because of the illustrations) than when I read other stories.
  • He loves the noises I make for elephants, lions, and dogs. Especially the dog's "woof woof."
  • He has lots of fun turning our light switches off and on whenever I take him to play with his reflection in the bathroom mirror.
  • He looooooves being tossed in the air!
  • We've been having some pretty epic giggle fits around these parts.

Last week during his first cold ever. Still loving life! Probably in large part
because he is just a joyful boy - but also because we invested in a NoseFrida
last month! What a lifesaver so he could breathe better.

Growth/Development
  • No teeth yet, but still teething like crazy.
  • Oh, object permanence. Gabriel has shown signs of this understanding for at least a couple months but it really picked up this past month. 
    • He always remembers toys (or the NOT toys) are still there and will fuss when he can't have them.
    • I had to take more care than ever before to keep talking to him or stay in his line of sight when leaving him alone on the floor or leaving the room momentarily so he wouldn't get too upset.
  • He can sit without doing the tripod stance! He could do this before, but not for very long before he would topple over. Now if I give him a little Boppy pillow support (mainly to ease when he eventually gets tired and falls/lays down) he can happily sit and play for a loooooong time. 
  • Nowadays we don't use the Bumbo unless I need to securely fasten Gabriel in somewhere for some reason.
  • He is basically crawling without really crawling.
    • His rolling and maneuvering tricks have advanced to the level of being able to traverse any length of the room in order to procure whatever item peaks his interest.
    • He rolls, wiggles, spins himself around, scoots, and can even pull his body forward if he can grab onto something stable.
  • This morning I turned around to find him rocking on his hands and knees for the first time ever! Traditional crawling, here we come (or so I think).
  • This morning I also saw him push himself back up into a seated position from playing on his tummy for the first time ever. 
  • He remains tall and thin.
  • His hair is so thick! At least compared to when he was born and compared to every other baby from my side of the family. Not so much compared to the thick head of hair his daddy was sporting at his age, but that's fine. Give it time.
  • He can now sit in practically any restaurant high chair! Last month this was still iffy and largely dependent on the style of the highchair's back and sides because he is thin. Sometimes we still need to give him some extra padded support via blanket or my jacket, but he can sit (and often enjoys it) nonetheless.
  • Vocally, he still babbles (mainly Bs and Ms), and he has picked up the "H" sound...which he likes to repeat in a way that sounds like an awkward laugh (heh...heh...heh...ha!).
  • He is really exploring his vocal range again - constantly shrieking and forming new noises in all possible pitches (but mainly the high-pitched variety).
  • He gave his first kiss! It was for his cousin, S, when she said goodnight to him during our recent stay in Boston. He has yet to kiss anyone else...except for his reflection in the mirror. For real.

I'm sure there are countless other updates but it's so hard to think of them all! I'm thankful that these posts force me to try and jot it all down before it becomes too much of a blur. Overall this past month was a huge one in terms of development. The pseudo-crawling, independent sitting, and public highchair usage are real game-changers. I can't wait to see what Gabriel has in store of us this next month. :)

P.S. On this date 2 years ago (it was Easter Vigil 2012) my husband received all 3 Sacraments of Initiation in the Catholic Church. Happy Baptismal Day, my darling!

"For infants and toddlers learning and living are the same thing. If they feel secure, treasured, loved, their own energy and curiosity will bring them new understanding and new skills."

-Amy Laura Dombro

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Lilies and The Rose

+JMJ+

Today is the day. I'm finally going to share about a lovely experience I had one month ago that I've been meaning to document for...well, a month. If you like Carmelite Monasteries, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Bl. Louis and Zélie Martin (the parents of St. Thérèse), or venerating relics, then you're in for a treat! Or perhaps you'll just acknowledge what a treat my little family got to experience...but if you live near or are travelling to Philadelphia any time this year you could get to experience it, too!

The Carmelite Monastery in Philadelphia is opening its doors to the public on the first Sunday of each month throughout 2014. Why? Because they were gifted with these:



Be still my heart.
Isn't it breathtaking?

The two lilies, joined together with golden "wedding" bands, contain relics of Bl. Louis and Zélie Martin (only the second spouses in history to be declared "Blessed" as a couple!). Centered behind the lilies you'll see the rose - which stands before the container holding the relic of St. Thérèse.

You can go venerate these relics on the first Sunday of each month for the remainder of 2014. We were told they aren't certain whether or not the relics will be housed permanently at the Philadelphia monastery of if they will move on to another Carmelite location after this year. Only time will tell - so if you live near Philadelphia I would encourage you to take advantage of this beautiful opportunity while you can.

We went on Sunday, March 2nd, and it was a quiet, peaceful experience. We arrived close to 3pm, which means that shortly after our arrival everyone in the chapel began to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. After we offered up our prayer intentions we headed down to their bookstore. The only thing we bought was a short book that explains the history of the Carmelites in Philly and how the relics came to be there - which I actually learned a lot from. It was a fascinating, quick read; I had no idea how crucial the Philadelphia Carmelites were in spreading the devotion to St. Thérèse in the United States! But then again, I tend to spend more free time hanging out with and learning more about the Dominicans. Isn't it fascinating (and inspiring) how many charisms and spiritualities you can find within our Church? There's really something for everyone. I guess that's part of why they call it (lowercase "c") catholic (read: universal). ;)

I'm not positive if we'll make another short pilgrimage to venerate the relics again this year, but if we do I am happy to offer up any petitions you all have - so please feel free to send me any prayer requests if you have a devotion to (or would like the intercession of) St. Thérèse, Bl. Louis, or Bl. Zélie!


“I understood that every flower created by Him is beautiful, that the brilliance of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not lessen the perfume of the violet or the sweet simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all the lowly flowers wished to be roses, nature would no longer be enamelled with lovely hues. And so it is in the world of souls, Our lord's living garden.”
-St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Which a Little Girl Turns 2 and We Declare that Life is Good

+JMJ+

I just realized today is April 1st. What happened to the entire month of March?! Oh, right. We were blessed to have a very busy social calendar which included hosting one of my close college friends and a 3-day weekend visit to see some of my family in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Our weekend was very long and entirely too short all at the same time, as it often is when you travel with a baby to see people that you love. My sister, Christina, already wrote a beautiful, brief summary of what we did while in Cambridge/Boston - so I'll opt to skip writing my own version and let you read hers instead (I'm so happy that my sister is blogging again!). :)

The only thing she forgot to mention is the part where she volunteered to babysit Gabriel so Michael and I could go out on a dinner date Saturday night. Isn't it so great to be with family?! The dinner was quick and I think we surprised my sister by being gone less than an hour and a half, but the food was delicious and the date gave us some precious time alone as husband and wife.

Ready for our dinner date!

The drives to and from Boston were long and far more arduous than I would have liked (especially after Gabriel decided to sleep like a newborn again while we were away - forcing me to co-sleep with him beside me on the air mattress in order to get any sleep at all), but I would do it all again in a heartbeat. I just love being with Christina, my brother-in-law, and my two adorable nieces, S and E. It's usually chaotic when we all get together with the children, but it makes for some really fun memories - and the highlight was when we celebrated E's 2nd birthday on Sunday!

To read more about our weekend, check out Christina's blog. To see some pictorial highlights of E's birthday, look no further!

E and S: ready to get this ladybug-themed party started!
Even Gabriel got in on the antennae fun
Happy to be reunited with his Godparents
Some birthday cupcakes for the little ladybug girl and her guests
Ladybug girl got her wings!
Happy cousins! E, Gabriel, and S

As we made the long, rainy drive back to Pennsylvania, an aggressive headache (for me) and sleep deprivation (for both of us - thanks, Gabriel!) led my husband and me to have several incoherent conversations. I was feeling tired and confused - not sure what we were even talking about - when all of a sudden my husband spoke words that finally made perfect sense to me. As I paused, Michael (like the awesome husband he is) said, "All I know is...life is good." Suddenly it was as if the hazy fog lifted, my tired, moody spirit was much-improved, and I thought, "yes. Life is good." I'm truly thankful for all that God has blessed us with and am so grateful that we could be there for E's special day.

"Family - like branches on a tree, we all grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one."
-Anonymous