Monday, May 25, 2015

Say It Again, Now

I think that's a look of terror on his face

Gentle - be gentle! Remember he's just little so - DON'T BITE THE BABY. Gentle remember geeentle. Aw, what a good big sister you are to give him kisses wait are you - DON'T BITE THE BABY.


[Repeat ad infinitum until tantrum or binge drinking, whichever comes first.]

Friday, May 22, 2015

7 QT

Jumping back on the link ups train with 7 quick hosted by Kelly at This Ain't the Lyceum.

Tom's grandmother passed away this week. She was the last of both our grandparents and we both have felt so grieved by her passing - and our distance from his family. I keep thinking of all the amazing things I knew about her, how it seemed she could do so many things - how she made my mother-in-law's wedding dress, how she not only collected but made dolls, and the darling little Winnie the Pooh set of dolls she made for my husband when he was a boy. Such talent and kindness in one person. Please keep our family in your prayers as we mourn such a lovely woman.

I've been thinking lately about how sartorial choices define a person - and how as an adult, I really should have a set 'style' to define already, right? And yet I still find myself drawn to clothing, jewelry, and home choices that have two distinctly different aesthetics. I feel this is a failing of my adult self. Anyone else have thoughts on this?
(partly triggered by Laura Scanlon's quick take about the parent company of Dress Barn buying out Ann Taylor - which made me really turn my nose up, honestly)

David's baptism was the other weekend and wow, did I do so many things differently from the first time! Not having grown up in a Christian household, I'm really making most of our traditions up from scratch - and this whole kids-receiving-sacraments thing is new to me too since I'm an adult convert. With Zuzu, I really didn't do much of anything right except having a great huge party - but I didn't even blog about it successfully! (Part II never materialized) This time, greatly aided by Kathryn Whitaker's excellent baptism series, I arranged for someone to hold the camera during the baptism, ordered personalized holy cards to give as favors, ordered godparent gifts in advance, and even coordinated my family's outfits. The pictures were taken by Jen and I've just gotten a few sneak peaks - they make me eager to see them all!

The gals over at LMLD have had some GREAT posts on nursing and the postpartum period, probably inspired by all the adorable babies they're having over there! Rosie and I were nearly pregnancy twins, and it was so exciting to see the news of her welcoming her new little one not even a week after we had David.
What I most appreciated was Auntie Leila's point that although not everyone can breastfeed their baby, everyone can nurse the baby. It's so easy to lose the point of breastfeeding - so easy to forget that we're not just making sure the baby doesn't starve. We're also teaching him that love and food should always go together, that his mother will meet his needs, that it's good to be close to her. These are the reasons I love's so wonderful to begin a child's formation from day one, and to have the lessons be so eternal.


On a much less sentimental note, do toddlers have another volume besides super duper loud? and how can I access it? Good thing she's cute...

Any favorite picture books that you feel are off the beaten path? Our favorites include The Selfish Giant (the version with illustrations by Lisbeth Zwerger is really phenomenal), Mirette on the Highwire, and A House Is a House for Me (possibly one of THE BEST books for rhyming and vocabulary growth!).
Not that we have any more room for books in our house...

The BBQ restaurant that my sister and brother-in-law are general managers for won an award - one of the top 25 BBQ chains in America! If you're ever in Leesburg, FL, stop in!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

{Pretty, Happy, Funny, Real}: Life Lately

Joining the lovely ladies at Like Mother Like Daughter to 'capture the context of contentment' in my everyday life! Be prepared for picture overload...there's just a lot of goodness to savor right now.

We're spending the week in Orlando with my parents and siblings - a long-overdue visit so my siblings can meet David, and Zuzu can spend some time with her cousins. 
You know the best part about Orlando with toddlers, don't you? Tons to do - including Disney water parks! 

Enough hair for hairstyles! Finally! 

I am struck over and over again by how beautiful my daughter is! How did we get such a darling (and precocious!) towhead? A good friend of mine said it best as she remarked, "as soon as you bring home that second baby, you're amazed at how big your firstborn is!" And that is the truth - when did my little girl get to be so...big? 

Enjoying morning snuggles in Mama & Daddy's bed - one of my favorite times of day


Thanks to some generous friends who gave us a very nice gift card, we attended the children's matinee at the Naples Philharmonic - a performance of Peter and the Wolf, with live animals! It was our first big outing as a family of four and couldn't have gone better. Zuzu is a true daughter, and granddaughter, of musicians - some of her favorite books are about opera houses and her favorite car ride music includes 'Ride of the Valkyries.' 

Few things are better than getting to see your family love on your children - and few families love newborns like MY family! And since I'm the only one still supplying those, my children will never suffer from a lack of attention. David was passed around a good deal at our 'girls night' the other night - no one wanted to be left out of loving on our sweet boy. Isn't my mom so sweet holding him?


I captured the exact moment that David had a blowout on Auntie Kim's lap! It was pretty impressive and very, very funny.

Girls night May 2015: I can't tell you what joke I made here, but it was reeeeally funny. We have a nearly identical picture from my wedding. Amidst all the hilarity someone said, 'wait, where's the baby??' We were having so much fun and he was so quiet, we forgot all about him - but he was sitting right there in his car seat on the sidewalk, looking like this - 

A bit bewildered by all these shrieking women, I think.


After several days of non-stop fun, I caught this one of the Zuzu-girl last night. Waterlogged from so much fun, a bit fuzzy from a very late nap, she went to bed happily - and even went down for a nap today at her 'regular' time. Vacations, and family, are great for wearing out active toddlers! 

Monday, May 18, 2015

Good to Know - I'm a Horrible Person

If you ever wanted to find out just how much of a horrible person you are, become a parent. Then, if you're still not sure, become a parent again. I'm not positive, but I think you can lather rinse repeat until you're totally convinced on this one.

Before I had children, I would have sworn that I was walking proof of the fruit of the Holy Spirit - in some nascent form, at least. To some degree, I believed deep down, I am loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and okay maybe I struggle with self-control.* The good news (non-capitalized) is that I now suffer from none of those delusions about myself.

I know now that I am a horrible person.

Children are little sanctity makers, I had heard. The family should be the school of love, John Paul the Great said. I nodded along while reading these things in my copious amounts of free time, right before I took a leisurely shower and had a full night's sleep. The fact is, when my life was generally of my choosing with few responsibilities, it wasn't very hard to be the person I wanted to be. Given that I normally had a great deal of sleep, ate what I wanted, had time to work out, pray, and see my friends, I did not struggle to be virtuous.

In other words, previously, I had never really been virtuous at all - because being virtuous is having a "firm and habitual disposition to do the good." (Catechism) Turns out, my disposition towards doing the good was neither so firm nor habitual. It had been shallowly developed in an easy, rather selfish stage of life and as soon as it faced true hardship, my virtue revealed itself to be just an expression of my temporary wants, instead of a true habit.

There isn't a single virtue I have even come close to mastering, or even just getting a grip on. The ones I thought I was starting to approach mastery with have fallen to sub-par levels, and the ones I thought I might be gaining some proficiency in have completely disappeared from my radar: self control? what even IS that? pass the leftovers of the cross cake, please.

This starting point - true humility, knowledge of one's sinfulness - is actually step one for most spiritual exercises or true growth in the faith. So I guess what I'm saying is: it took me until age 30 to even get to step one on the path to mastering virtues that I thought I had mastered 8 years ago.

Cheers to you, vocation of marriage - you'll get me to Heaven, eventually.

*Obviously all of that is like a huge red sign going DING DING CONFESS PRIDEFULNESS, but hey adult converts have a steep learning curve, okay. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Slowly Coming Back

I haven't wanted to write.

Everything that I was pondering and working through in the last few weeks of my pregnancy - trying to prepare for not having an only child anymore, mentally grappling with being overdue, some bigger family changes - just wasn't ready to be written about.

Then we had David.

David Gregory, named for my dad and my uncle, weighing over a pound more than his sister, but oddly enough coming in the exact same time frame (labor starting at 6am, him born at 2:15 - compared to Zuzu starting at 6:30am, born at 2:12pm).

And I love him. Oh, reader, I love him so much.

photo credit: Jen :)

When you have a perfect family, any change is frightening. It sounds pompous or conceited to say that - a perfect family - but our family life is thriving. We are perfect in that we are what we need to get to Heaven; there is constant, life-giving joy in every struggle. Every since we had Zuzu, Tom and I would just look at each and say "This is amazing, this is perfect, this is the life." As just a family of three, I was so happy - happier than I had ever been. And so this new baby brought so much fear to my heart: what would change? would we still be so happy? would we still be 'good' parents?

Final days as a family of three...all of us singing Molly Malone on stage...

Right after David was born, there were hard, hard days and nights - struggles we went through that I still don't discuss at large. Our family was processing all the change and some of us managed it better than others. I found in myself a protectiveness of my little family, even from close friends or extended family, that surprised me. I didn't want us to be judged based on our adjustment time - I didn't want commentary on our learning curve, on all of us doing our best to learn new ways of doing and being. With an eye towards protecting my family, I wanted to need as little as possible, so that I could spend time looking out for my little brood.

And that's how I suddenly realized that nursing David wasn't just a little uncomfortable; it was truly painful. I hadn't really been paying attention; he'd had a great latch from Day 1, my milk supply was great just like it was with Zuzu, no problems besides engorgement. So often when he was nursing, I was focused elsewhere: reading a book with Zuzu, trying to talk to/focus on my husband, trying to engage company, or maybe even eat! But as soon as I couldn't ignore the pain anymore, it got worse. Way worse.

Sibling quality time: David gets his 5 min of sun, while Zuzu explores 

I started to sob uncontrollably every time he latched, the pain wracking my body into shaking spasms. I dreaded when it was time for him to nurse. I cracked and bled, then stopped nursing him on the right (more painful) side altogether.  It must be his latch! I thought, so I started looking for relief for my breasts and trying to get him to latch better. Thank God someone suggested there was a deeper cause and then his pediatrician diagnosed thrush. After the diagnoses, I then had  figure out how to make it better. My midwife was sadly less than supportive - she didn't do one follow up after blithely texting me to use acidophilus. But man, Lord bless the was my breastfeeding support group on Facebook (and Calah) who finally told me what medications to get and how they'd help.

Nice and puffy, post-delivery. 

Coming out now on the other side, I am amazed at how such a small (in the grand scheme of things) struggle has really changed my motherhood. It was about nine days of thrush and two weeks of really hard adjustment, but compared to the relative bliss of our adjustment to Zuzu's existence, it felt like an eternity. It deepened my love for Tom, whose dedication and unfailing service to me while I was suffering melted my heart. I valued so much more my community, both virtual and real, who rallied support around me: I received comments, prayers, meals, gifts of many forms but especially presence. It made me miss my mother even more, and realize the special pain of parents who have to see their children suffer from afar.

Jen, myself (with David), and Steph after Mass

So now I'm slowly coming back. Nursing is back on track, thank God, and both sets of parents have left so it's just us to figure out what the heck we're doing. I'll get back to talking about that soon - it's good to be back!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Beyond Friendship Bracelets

Adult friendships are such a tricky thing. I knew they were tricky long before I got married, but post-wedding bells, they've gotten even more complicated.

I used to think that my best friends would always be on speed dial. I would drop everything for that 3am phone call from my BFFs, ready to chat about anything, ready to jet out on a plane to solve any crisis. But reality has set in: my phone at 3am will always be on silent, because I don't want the baby to wake up. Sometimes, I really can't chat - not for days or weeks, because the season I'm in is hectic, and all my emotional energy is being eaten up by trying to maintain my marriage and love my child and offer something to my Savior. My friend themselves are busy, with their own families, work, volunteer responsibilities. We all have our own seasons of crazy.

But that is the modern narrative for friendship: "being there" for someone, which means attending to them excessively in their hour of need no matter what. What happens when you suddenly have other real responsibilities in your life, that means you can't 'be there' for someone the way they need you to at that second, because you already promised before God that you'd 'be there' for someone else for your whole life?

For my part, I have ended only a few friendships, most for egregious actions not on the 'being there for someone' spectrum. I rarely begrudge people for growing apart from me, and I enjoy renewing acquaintances with long-lost friends. Although it's hard when I reach out and someone doesn't reach back, I try to understand that I am not their primary responsibility. Unlike what Sex and the City portrays, I don't have only my friends - and they don't only have me. We live in a wider world of responsibilities and relationships: we have extended family, husbands, children, and work, to name a few. I don't expect my friends to be everything to me.

It seems that lately, what really makes a friend, is actually being able to work through a genuine disagreement. It's easy to be a friend when together you and the other person are putting up a united front against something else, but much harder when you feel at odds with one another. It's at that point that you have to dig deep: be willing to be honest and humble and uncomfortable. It doesn't mean just covering over or ignoring our differences or default apologizing just to assuage the other person, but really getting to the heart of the pain or difference. I'm beginning to realize that most people just aren't willing to do this; they either don't want to examine the hurt or they don't want take the time to hash it out - they don't want to feel discomfort. It's easier to ignore it or write off the friendship entirely.

I'm finding what this means in practice is that I have fewer and fewer good friends as I get older. There's nothing wrong with that, but the shifting landscape of my adult friendships often leaves me feeling lonely and confused. It seems all the rules have changed and it's hard to learn the new ones since they vary from person to person. Sometimes, it means I just let all of it go and try to survive without nurturing friendships. It can feel like so much work - work that feels one-sided, with no standards to hold the other person to. If I feel like my husband were not pulling his weight, I would have a standard to appeal to - but friendship? I'm not sure what I'd say if I felt the same way about a friend.

How to make friends, keep them, and flourish within these friendships has only gotten harder once we move past the stage of friendship bracelets. You out there in internet land - how do you balance your friends with...everything else? And how do you navigate difficult times within the friendship itself?

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

5 Favorites: New Baby Edition

Linking up with Jenna from Call Her Happy for my favorite materialistic blogpost!

So I'll take a break from talking about the items I love for myself (although I really could do another pregnancy one) and do one for ze babies. I've only had one! So I'm no expert - but this time around I have a refined idea of what I want and need...and y'know, what babies actually LIKE. These are my picks for my favorite things for the baby:


Hear me out - I know it's a mucho expensive bouncer thingy. I like it because from the reviews, it seems to last for a very long time (so the money is worth it? maybe?), it doesn't look dumb (I hate baby items that are hokey), and it appears to work magic. With Zuzu, I was not concerned about never holding her - because that's all I did. Hold her. For the first 8 weeks.
That was great! But I don't think I'm going to have that option this time around and I'm beginning to value things like showers and household cleanliness more than I did in the past. So I am counting on this sucker to be my ticket to 20 minutes of hardcore cleaning. Thanks to my incredibly generous parents, I am indeed the proud owner of one of these babies - so I'll let you know if they deliver.


I am not actually anti-stroller, but Zuzu hated strollers when she was little (along with carseats! you can see the source of my craziness!) and I hated not being able to go anywhere. Enter in the Boba. Although I also own a sling, Baby Bjorn Air, a Moby Wrap, and a Baby K'tan, the Boba is by far my favorite. I have since gotten rid of the Moby wrap because it was way too much fabric and SO HOT. The sling I can use till 10 pounds before it kills my shoulder, the Baby Bjorn is great fun once they have good enough head control to face out, and I haven't actually tried the K'tan yet, but imagine it to be a stress-free Moby, so I'll let you know.
BUT! The Boba! I love it. It buckles, so there's no confusion about tying things. You can use it from birth - 45 pounds (i.e., I still use it to get through airport security with Zuz), you can nurse in it (I swear - it's really easy), and it carries on the front or the back. The patterns are very cute - I have the Soho, pictured above - and you can wash it, if you need to (though I've only washed mine twice - mostly I spot clean it). It has been worth every penny, especially since we traveled a lot when she was little and this was the easiest way to get around with her.


So my thing about hating baby items that look dumb? It extends to highchairs, majorly. Why are they all made of plastic with these horrible nooks and crannies that you can NEVER EVER EVER CLEAN? I'm all for the ones that hook onto the table, which are far easier to clean and space efficient, but I still fear my child plunging to their death.
Wooden high chairs are actually becoming popular again, which just means that you can't find a cheap vintage one on eBay and Babies R Us hasn't caught on yet and started carrying them again. Once again, my mom to the rescue with the Keekaroo. Pricey? Yes. But also made of real wood, extremely durable, can morph into a toddler chair, and then an adult chair. So those are my justifications. (I'm really good at this justifying thing, as you can tell) There are no hard to reach nooks or crannies, you can get it in the wood finish that matches your dining room, and I don't find it hideously ugly. I will say - it is big, so it's not a space saver. But I like it!

Don't laugh - I know, what could be more unnecessary than baby leg warmers? But they are more useful than they first appear. First of all, they serve as a great anchor for elusive baby socks that never want to stay on skinny little feet. Tuck the socks under there and they stay put! Secondly, I hate it what I have to get the baby nearly entirely undressed for a diaper change - especially because then they get so mad because they're so cold. Baby legs to the rescue again! All you have to do is unsnap the onesie, but their legs stay covered as do their feet because of aforementioned anchored socks.


It's not necessary they be Aiden+Anais that everybody loves, there are some knock-off brands that are sold that are just as great! But living in a warm weather climate, I found these blankets to be really indispensable. They weren't too heavy to be used constantly, washed up easily, were very soft, and fit very easily into my diaper bag. Also, they're huge, so they're really easy to use as a nursing cover if you happen to forget yours.