Monday, June 30, 2014

A West Point Wedding

+JMJ+

A couple of months ago I wrote about my cousin's lovely (surprise!) bridal shower and how excited it made me for her upcoming nuptials. Well, she and her wonderful man tied the knot on June 21st and I could not be happier for them!

Our weekend began once Michael got off work a bit early that Friday afternoon and we headed north to New York. Thankfully, living near Philadelphia has placed us much closer to all things East Coast-related and we were able to make the drive in less than 4 hours. Driving provides so much more flexibility than flying - especially when you have a 10-month-old infant in tow!

That night we enjoyed some amazing food and reconnected with lots of family at the rehearsal dinner. As the only baby in attendance, Gabriel received a great deal of attention from family and strangers alike. Not to mention, the venue (Eisenhower ["Ike"] Hall) provided the most breathtaking views of the Hudson River, paired with a mountainous backdrop accented by the blue hues of the water and sky.


Once Gabriel had reached his social limit and slightly surpassed his normal bedtime, we headed back to the hotel. After we made sure he was sleeping soundly, we snuck out of our room - party animals that we are - to while away the hours catching up with my mom, one of my uncles, and my younger sister.

Considering we stayed up way too late talking with family, Gabriel seemed to awake far too early on Saturday morning. However, Michael and I were able to nap during his morning nap which helped us all feel better rested for the main event - the WEDDING in Cadet Chapel!

My cousin, Emily, truly made a beautiful, joyful, radiant bride. My heart was filled with joy as we watched my uncle escort his only child down the prominent aisle - tears forming in each of their eyes. The rest of the ceremony flowed smoothly as we heard a couple of readings and Emily and Jason professed their vows, exchanged rings, and kissed for the first time as man and wife. :)


Have you even been to a military wedding? My first was in high school when my eldest cousin on my dad's side (Air Force) got married to her husband (also Air Force - currently FBI) at Langley. It had been a long time and I was happy to have an excuse to witness another military wedding due to the groom's recent graduation from West Point (many congrats to the 2nd Lieutenant!). In addition to all the normal things I love about weddings, it never gets old to see young men dressed in military attire escort the ladies down the aisle of a chapel steeped in our nation's history. Nor do I ever tire of seeing the bride and groom exit through a tunnel of sabres!

During the break before the cocktail hour began, we decided to enjoy the gorgeous weather and spend some time outdoors on campus with all of my immediate family (plus another aunt and uncle). This way my nieces could run around in the grass for a bit as they belted out all the Frozen songs.

Did I mention that ALL of my immediate family (minus my dad) was present at this wedding?? My mom, both sisters, my brother-in-law, nieces, and the vast majority of extended family on my mom's side were all in attendance...which made for a rather long overdue reunion and fun-filled reception.


The morning after the wedding Gabriel and his cousins
accidentally matched! Those are blue and white stripes
on all 3 of them. :)

What else can I say about the wedding day? It was everything everyone hopes a wedding day to be. It was filled with love, laughter, delicious food, music, dancing, and breathtaking views from the floor-to-ceiling windows in the West Point Club (which looks out on the water and the mountains across the river). Most of all (and most importantly), two people made sacred vows to one another and it was a joyous celebration for a joyous occasion that radiated love everywhere you looked. Not only was I grateful for such quality time with loved ones as we celebrated Emily and Jason, stayed up chatting each night, and got breakfast with my older sister and her amazing family, but we were blessed to witness the start of Emily and Jason's marriage journey.


Congratulations, cousin! Marriage is certainly not the beginning or the end of your love story - but it's about to get really good! You will be in our prayers and I can't wait to hear about your trip to St. Lucia!

"The ultimate purpose of marriage is not to make us happy, but to glorify God."
-Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hoosier Mama

+JMJ+

Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post. It's just for fun!

Not too long ago I was contacted by Fanatics - one of the leading online retailers of everything sports-related. Whether you're a fan of college teams or professional leagues, they seem to have gear for every type of sports fan. Right now they're running a "Future Fanatics" campaign featuring pictures of the "superfans of tomorrow."

Now, if you've read the "about me" section on this blog, the beginning of my "how I met my husband" series, or about the time we ran into Coach Crean in Florida, then you already know who this Indiana girl is rooting for! That knowledge, coupled with the fact that my high school class awarded me the senior superlative of "Most School-Spirited," should help you understand that you don't have to ask this gal twice to take a picture of my baby donning some Indiana gear!

Regardless of where I currently reside, I'm forever an Indiana girl and IU Hoosier. Because we don't have cable, I miss plenty of games...but that won't stop this Hoosier mama from raising my boy right! Unfortunately, Gabriel already outgrew the only baby-sized IU apparel we had many, many moons ago so I had to improvise. These pictures aren't the greatest because 1) do you know how hard it is to make a baby pose with an unfamiliar hat (or any hat) on? and 2) do you know how hard it is to snap a photo before your baby eagerly removes your winter hat from his head in late June? But, hey. I managed to capture these two shots...

Go Horse!
Hoo-hoo-hoo? HOOSIERS.

...which totally makes this Hoosier mama smile. :)

"I grew up believing that one person could make a difference. In Indiana, you saw that with basketball. The small town could beat the big town, like in the movie 'Hoosiers.' That is one of the things that attracts me to entrepreneurs."
-Mary Meeker

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Baby Boy "Problem" I Never Saw Coming

+JMJ+

I imagine that raising boys vs. girls gives rise to their own unique parenting challenges. However, I come from a family with a lot of girls. I am one of three sisters and so far my older sister also has all daughters. When we discovered that we would be having a boy I was incredibly excited! But I was also slightly anxious. I mean, I don't have lots of experience with little boys...but everything I've always heard made me think, "wow, we are in for a trip." (And what a crazy, fun trip our little Gabriel has brought us on indeed!)

Realistically speaking, all parents are in for a trip. Regardless of whether you have girls or boys, motherhood is something far different (and greater) than any babysitting or nannying (is that a word?) gig can prepare you for. Still, I think most mothers of little boys would have lots of helpful suggestions to other moms who are about to have a little boy - stereotypical things like how to protect yourself from getting urinated on during diaper changes, what laundry supplies provide the best stain-removing action, etc. Like I said, these kinds of things are stereotypes (and I'm well aware that plenty a little girl exists who can be every bit as messy or rambunctious as little boys are built up to be), but they are stereotypes I was somewhat mentally prepared for.

Currently my son is 10 months old and I'm happy to report that I think I have only been urinated on once (maybe twice?) during a diaper change. However, there is another thing that my husband and I have experienced quite unexpectedly since welcoming our little bundle of joy into the world...and I'm thinking that most of you would never guess what it is because this is often portrayed as a baby girl "issue."

People frequently mistake our baby for the opposite gender.


Here's the sweet, tired little man himself. Taken earlier this morning.

The first memory I have of this took place during our wedding anniversary trip to Miami. As I checked us in at the hotel front desk, the employees swooned over Gabriel - who was being a cute almost-8-weeks old baby, sitting in his car seat. He was sporting an orange onesie that read, "Pinch me, I'm cute." While I was waiting, a young man behind the counter proclaimed that, "She is beautiful!"

She? My sleep-deprived brain struggled to comprehend what just happened - but somehow I managed to follow up immediately with a surprised, "Oh! He's a boy actually."

All 3 of the employees behind the counter were surprised and the young man apologized profusely, explaining that his confusion stemmed from the fact that "...he is just so...beautiful!"

We all laughed it off and I certainly wasn't offended. I mean, Gabriel is beautiful, right? Sure, sure, all babies are beautiful - but most little boys look so blatantly like...little boys. Ever since birth Gabriel has had softer features than most little boys I've seen.

Long story short, I've heard many a mother lament the fact that their little, bald, girls who refuse to wear headbands or hair clips frequently get mistaken for little boys...but I have yet to encounter another mother whose little boy constantly gets mistaken for a little girl! I'm sure I'm not alone in this, though.

In the past 10 months of his life, Gabriel has been mistaken for a girl on too many occasions to count. In fact, it happened 3 times just this past week. Typically this happens when he's wearing colors most people consider to be "gender neutral" (yellow, green, white, orange, etc.). However, this also occurs when I dress him in outfits that I think most people in our society would deem very "boy"ish. Since I've started always running errands with him wearing this hat,


the number of times he gets mistaken for a girl have drastically reduced in number. He could be wearing pink or purple but if I add that hat suddenly it registers with strangers that Gabriel is a boy. Pink or purple without the hat would certainly lead to people thinking he's a girl (for the record - we haven't dressed him in either of these colors yet). Take the hat off, though, and an outfit of the darkest blues, greens, or gray won't necessarily stop strangers from referring to him as a "she." Aren't clothing choices and societal norms such funny things sometimes? Regardless, I love that hat.

Honestly, I've never been offended and nowadays I'm no longer the least bit surprised when this happens. After all, he is a baby. Sometimes (especially when wearing onesies) it's truly difficult to tell whether or not babies are boys or girls. At this point, I'm very used to politely explaining that my baby is actually a boy - but it never ceases to fill me with wonder and give me a little chuckle. Realistically, it's not at all a "problem" - but this just goes to show that regardless of how much you think you're prepared for motherhood, there will always be those little surprise situations along the way. 


"While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about."
-Angela Schwindt

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Michael's First Fathers' Day

+JMJ+

Earlier this week my sister and I had fun making some crafts with all the kids for Michael and my brother-in-law. As she began to write, she paused - and debated whether or not she should write Father's or Fathers'. We lamented the fact that the grammatically correct version (Fathers' Day) is rarely seen or used (for the record, Father's would be correct if you are simply referring to it as your father's day - as in one father). It also made me remember my post about Mother's Day and how I agonized over that title - and eventually caved and used the common (incorrect) apostrophe placement. I admired the way my sister decided to go with the grammatically correct version, stating that she'd rather know she was right and have other people think she's wrong than vice versa.

Without further ado, Happy Fathers' Day!

We have a nice day planned that involves going to Mass, making spaghetti for lunch, possibly spending the afternoon at the pool, and a carry out dinner (Michael's choice!) from one of the best, local Chinese restaurants we've found without having to go into the city. Plus, there are all the fun things Michael doesn't know about: how I plan to make him breakfast (he is currently still sleeping) and the gifts I have for him. I got him this Fathers' Manual and a picture frame that holds 5 pictures - which I filled with photos of him & Gabriel and Gabriel's 10-month baby hand-print and footprint. I really hope he likes everything because I'm really excited to surprise him with it all!

Most importantly, though, I hope and pray that I will be able to help him better understand on this day how much I love and appreciate him for who he is and all that he has done over the past year in his new role as "Father." I've had the pleasure of watching Michael grow from not knowing anything about changing diapers, baby food, various stages of baby development, baby gear, or pretty much anything about babies - into a man that is confident in his knowledge and abilities in virtually all things related to our son. Beyond knowledge and confidence, Michael is a good father - plain and simple. He cares deeply about our family and loves Gabriel in the ways only a father can. He changes lots of diapers, helps out greatly with bath time, and can make Gabriel belly laugh in the evenings on the days when I simply can't. He is present and he is involved in Gabriel's life.

When Michael and I were engaged and met with the priest who would celebrate our wedding, the priest sat and listened to us. Then, he looked at Michael and said, "You remind me of St. Joseph. I can see how you are much like him."

Amen. As soon as he breathed those words, I knew he was right. Since getting married and having a baby I have only seen them become more and more true. What a blessing to have Michael as the head of our little family!


I'm blessed to have Michael as my husband and the father of our son. I smile when I think of all the future holds for us as our family grows - and Michael evolves even further in his fatherly role.

On this day I thank God for fathers - for the man my husband is, for my own father and all I've been blessed with because of him, and for all fathers throughout the world. I pray for all children who will never know their fathers and those who have only poor examples of fatherhood. May we have the intercession of St. Joseph, Jesus' foster father here on earth and head of the Holy Family. And may we always recognize our heavenly Father as the ultimate example of love and fatherhood that He is.

Happy Fathers' Day!


"One father is more than a hundred schoolmasters."
-George Herbert

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sister, Sister

+JMJ+

Just popping in to say that the blog will probably remain pretty quiet this week. Why, you ask? Well, as is often the case, the blog stays quiet when real life gets louder. And this week is going to get loud in the happiest of ways! Because my brother-in-law (the MIT PhD candidate) is presenting a paper in Zurich this week, these three beauties are about to arrive on our doorstep for a week overflowing with sisterly and baby cousin love!


We last saw Christina and company this spring when my niece, E, turned 2. Before that, we had the joy of hosting them down in Florida for a week in December, and before that we saw them for Gabriel's baptism. What a blessing that we have been able to share so much fun family time together since Gabriel made his arrival! I cannot wait to watch S and E dote over their very first cousin whom they lovingly refer to as "baby Gabey." Nor can I wait to be reunited with one of my best friends in the entire world! Aren't siblings one of the greatest gifts?

It's going to be a good, chaotic week around these parts.

"A woman without her sister is like a bird without wings."
-Anonymous

Friday, June 6, 2014

Gabriel: 10 Months

+JMJ+

Our baby boy officially turned 10 months old yesterday! I say it every month because it's true: I cannot believe how time has flown by! Gabriel is at an age where his personality is revealing itself to us more and more and being by his side for everything is such a delight!

Thanks to some traveling (on our part and on my dad's part), Gabriel was able to see both of his grandpas (along with almost all of Michael's immediate and extended family) this past month. Check out these sweet moments I managed to capture:

Left: with Yéyé (Chinese for grandpa on your dad's side - pronounced like "yeh-yeh"). Right: with Grandpa.

Here's what else has been happening in Gabriel's little world (and therefore our world) this past month:

Eating

  • Baby led weaning has proven to be the way to go for Gabriel. Ever since I understood that he wants to feed himself and fusses over any help you give him, we've modified our entire approach and he is thriving! No more puree attempts for this boy (at least until he can feed himself with a spoon - which he demonstrated a good start on last night with some mashed potatoes).
  • He consistently eats some "solids" at least 3 times each day. Some days his solid food intake is greater than others, but 3 times a day is a huge improvement since last month.
  • He is finally utilizing the mesh feeders we have, which makes it much easier to introduce some more juicy and/or slippery foods (like watermelon - which he LOVES).
  • The solid food he will always eat (even if he rejects fruit, veggies, or anything else) is...Multi-Grain Cheerios. I'll take it.
  • He has been successfully learning how to take a cup! Granted, we've only started with water as he learns (and manages to spill liquid through the sippy lid), but I think he will be ready for some milk very soon. I can see the light at the end of the exclusively-nursing-tunnel. So close, yet so far. But at least I can see it. No matter what, I'm still going to pray that any future babies God blesses us with will accept a regular bottle and make the transition and weaning much easier.
  • Overall, I feel so much more hopeful in this department than I did last month. It's taken awhile (over 3 months of trying?) for him to accept regular solids and drink anything aside from being attached to my body - but we've been persevering, he is healthy, and all is going so well right now. Praise be to God.

Nap Time

Remember how I said we'd put something on this wall
eventually? We followed through when we brought
this gem back from Michael's childhood room.
  • This is old news, but I can't help but marvel at how life-changing it is when your baby will take naps in his crib. Life-changing.
  • We sleep-trained his naps at the same time we did all the other sleep-training this past month, so I no longer have to bounce him to sleep for his naps! What a blessing.
  • He naps twice a day - once in the morning (as soon as he has been awake for 2 hours - like clockwork) and once in the afternoon (usually after he has been up for another couple of hours, but this one is more flexible and we can stretch/push back/alter it without it exhausting him when we're out and about). 

Bed Time
  • Baby boy is sleep trained. I'll just let that sink in for a moment.
  • His bedtime has creeped closer to 9pm (as opposed to the previous 9:30 routine) but we're still waiting to see what his morning wake time will settle on. In the beginning of the sleep training it ranged from 7-8am but lately he has had some 6am mornings. Only time will tell.
  • Because of the sleep training, I no longer have to get him out of the crib at night and weaned him off any nighttime feedings. Not ever accidentally falling asleep in a chair in the middle of the night along with not bouncing him to sleep for naps means I am finally experiencing life without constant aches and pains for the first time since...sometime in early pregnancy? Alleluia!
  • We sleep trained him in 2 nights, but he got thrown off when we recently traveled to Ohio and his first tooth started seriously trying to make its debut. We got back on the bandwagon once we were home and it took him one night of sleep training to get back to sleeping through the night. Amazing.

Bath Time
  • Last night Gabriel's eyes lit up as he watched me squirt water from his bath toy. I think he finally understood it, which was a precious moment to witness. Other than that, same old same old. He likes his bath time!

Play Time


  • Gabriel especially loves anything involving household or everyday items, including (but not limited to): a plastic whisk, pots and pans, a plastic spatula, any cups or water bottles, plastic hangers, door stops (ohhh, how he loves these), doors, hinges, cabinets, shelves, chairs, light switches (if I am holding him and he can reach) and of course, all the "no-no" items like wires/cords, the Xbox and controller, remotes, floor lamps, his baby nail clippers, and our small elliptical machine. Obviously we do our best to hide or steer him away from all "no-no" items but that doesn't lessen his interest in them at all.
  • Let's not forget about his hair brush. He is mildly obsessed with it. Last week he also began using it to try and brush his own hair!!! He was so proud of himself and made sure to give himself some applause. :)
  • We finally got some toys that have buttons, play music, or talk (only the least annoying ones we could find) and he loves them. The turtle he has is essentially the only reason I can clean up the table and his baby mess (without him getting into danger zones or underfoot) after breakfast and lunch each day.
  • He has also (thanks to the same turtle) begun to roll some push/pull toys across the floor a bit.
  • He loves music and really enjoys his new drum. Instead of only using his hands, he likes to hit it with his own made up drumsticks - which is often times a spatula, but anything he is holding will do.
  • He has started to play with us a bit more. If we crawl behind him, he gets really excited, squeals, and crawls away, looking behind him to make sure we are chasing him.
  • This morning I placed some uneaten Cheerios inside a couple of milk storage bottles. After putting the caps on and handing them to him, he had so much fun shaking his new, see-through, Cheerio-filled "rattles." It really is the simple things.
  • This began a couple months ago, but now he always wants to turn the pages (and can usually do it!) when I read him books.
  • Gabriel dances all the time - whether it's by bouncing and tapping his hands (or clapping) when he pulls himself up to stand somewhere, sitting on the ground, or by doing his recently-invented "chest dance" in the highchair, car seat, stroller, or laying flat during diaper changes. My favorite (hands down!) is the chest dance. He'll do this while sitting or laying down any time I sing to him or he is pleased by something. He could do the demo in this video (circa 38 seconds)...for real.
  • He is obsessed with doors - pushing them open, swinging them, and (as of recently) even pushing them shut. He has playfully shut himself in our bedroom on multiple occasions (while I'm supervising, of course).
  • He remains one of the most joyful and social babies I know and will grin, giggle, or wave at many friends, family members, and strangers.


Growth/Development


  • His eyes are still looking green, which makes me think they might remain forever hazel (genetically speaking, brown and hazel are the only options for our children).
  • He is a master of crawling, standing up, climbing up (and down!) the one step in our apartment without face-planting, cruising, and has even managed to stand up without any support on a few occasions (only for a few seconds, but it's an amazing feat no less). He also frequently stands and holds on with only one hand, using his other hand to wave, grab toys, etc.
  • Gabriel has mastered waving and clapping this past month! He happily does these things seemingly all the time.
  • He babbles babbles babbles! He has moved on from the "M"s and has focused a lot on "L" and "D" this month.
  • On June 4th (one day before officially hitting 10 months old), after 6.5 months of teething, his first tooth busted through his gums! It's his bottom, middle, right tooth.
  • He has started to hold onto us when we carry him. Isn't it just the sweetest thing when your baby clings to you and looks like they're hugging you for the first time?
  • We have been working on baby sign language all month, and on more than one occasion he has responded to my inquiries with his own version of the "milk" sign!
  • The boy can't walk yet, but he wants to climb. He will climb onto or into anything that suits his body size and skill level. Mostly he tries to climb up me (or Michael) when I'm sitting on the floor - and will often try and climb over my shoulder onto the couch. He also likes to try and climb over our shoulders when we're holding him in church.
  • It's hard to say if he has "self-awareness" when looking in the mirror now...because he is always too distracted by whatever is on the counter, the sink faucet, and everything else under the sun to be bothered with looking at the mirror too long.
  • He randomly began shaking his head this month (while sitting, clapping, or dancing, etc.) so I began pairing this motion with telling him not to do/touch something. Now he responds to any "no-no"s with shaking his head no. :)

I honestly think this has been one of my all-time favorite months of Gabriel's life. I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every stage of his development, but this age provides seemingly endless fun. More fun than I could fathom just a few months ago when I thought those were the most fun months ever. He constantly makes Michael and me smile and laugh and he interacts with us in countless adorable ways. Each day is certainly a new adventure!

"Any day spent with you is my favorite day. So, today is my new favorite day."
-A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh