Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Mini Tour of Some of My Favorite Chicago Catholic Churches

Do y'all know Giedre? If you live anywhere near Chicago and have any sort of upcoming life event that needs documenting, you should. She takes stunning photographs (case in point seen below) and I'm so happy to have her as a guest here at Bluebird Songs today. When she agreed to share about a few of her favorite Catholic Churches in Chicago I could not have been more ecstatic - because I spent a lot of time during my volunteer year in Chicago attending Mass at and soaking in the beauty of these exact same churches. Without further ado, here is Giedre to take you all on a little tour!

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I'm the kind of person who loves walking into churches - especially Catholic churches. I love the hushed sacredness of the space, the vibrant patterns of the stained glass windows, the lingering scent of incense, and how the flickering light of the candle next to the tabernacle acknowledge Christ's presence in the Eucharist. I grew up in a pretty small town with only a few Catholic parishes in the region, so now that I live in a city as big as Chicago, it still blows my mind how many churches, shrines, and cathedrals are scattered all over the place: sometimes within just a block of each other. Every single one is beautiful - many of them tremendously so - but a few in particular are my favorites.

St Mary of the Angels

This was one of the first churches I ever visited in Chicago, so it still gives me happy feelings of come-home-ness, despite it not being our parish.

  Chicago Catholic Church

Located in Bucktown, this is one of the historic and monumental Polish parishes that can be seen from the Kennedy Expressway (I love to point it out to guests when driving by!). Opus Dei now runs this parish with smoooth efficiency and welcome. I love all the light colors of the walls in this church, the towering domes, and especially all the Marian imagery. There's at least half a dozen statues and pictures of Mary scattered throughout the church, not even counting the painting of Mary surrounded by angels within the main dome of the sanctuary.

  Chicago Catholic ChurchSt Mary of the Angels 2Chicago Catholic ChurchChicago Catholic Church

Holy Name Cathedral

This Cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Chicago and located in downtown, at State Street and Superior. My Sister-in-law and her husband live close to this church, so I always associate going to mass here with being in downtown for a fun event. My husband and I will pop over to the Cathedral for Mass if we're heading to the beach on a hot summer day, or having brunch with family on a holiday weekend.

  Catholic Church

Outside, the church is planted directly near a main road, making it a little difficult to appreciate the beautiful exterior architecture - especially on the rainy and gloomy day I came by to take photographs for this post. Inside, however, you're immediately swept away by all the details. The ceilings are incredibly intense, but I love the complexity of all the paneling and the huge organ dominating the back of the church.

Chicago Catholic ChurchesCatholic ChurchCatholic Church

Notre Dame de Chicago

And finally, no church tour is complete without mentioning our own little parish.

  Notre Dame de Chicago

Grand and awe-inspiring churches are wonderful, but I do love the intimacy of attending mass at a smaller parish, where everyone is standing close together and worshiping very near to the altar. Being able to walk to Mass on Sunday mornings while holding hands and seeing our Little Italy neighborhood come to life also makes my parish all the more special to me. Best of all, I find that the music ministry in small churches wins hands down: while I can certainly appreciate a stunning, solo rendition of Ave Maria, I'll always much rather hear an entire church full of parishioners enthusiastically singing their hearts out. The individual singers might sometimes be a bit off tune, but each participates with such spirited joy!

  Catholic ChurchCatholic Church

Giedre is a family portrait photographer & blogger based out of Chicago, Illinois. She carries a canon, shoots obsessively, and always writes about it afterwards. Visit her at www.walkingdotphotography.com

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Zoo, A State Park, & A Return to the Cutest Farm Market: Mother's Day Weekend 2015


Considering I was 36+ weeks pregnant last weekend, Michael and I decided to fill our time with what could very well be some of our last "big" outings before our next little one makes his arrival. Gabriel was born at 39 weeks and 2 days, so I'm not exactly anticipating an "early" arrival...but I highly doubt I'll have much of the energy or desire to be out on my feet much in the coming weeks.

Friday night our plan was stay home and watch a movie or show, but Michael also wanted to make a quick trip to the local Asian market. Because we finished dinner early enough (aka it wasn't too close to Gabriel's bedtime), he actually offered to take Gabriel with him and let me stay home. The concept is so simple, yet that kind gesture was like a dream for my 36-weeks-pregnant self because moments of true quiet and rest are hard to come by when you're with a toddler 24/7. On top of that, he surprised me by bringing home some taro ice cream bars he discovered - which I'm convinced were a gift from heaven made just for me and my taro obsession.

The next morning we were excited to introduce Gabriel to his very first zoo! Our little boy loves animals, but his age and the seasons had never previously aligned to make it worth taking him. Unfortunately the lions (which are some of his favorite animals to impersonate) were being boring, but Gabriel still had fun pointing and telling us they were "a-seep!"

Gabriel probably would have been content to watch some of the monkeys all day long, but I think he was actually most fascinated by and excited to see the giraffes.

We were only at the zoo for a few hours, but the heat and the walking (I couldn't believe there were so many hills!) seemed to wipe both Gabriel and myself out for the rest of the day. He took a good, long nap and Michael and I relaxed by watching some shows together. I even caved and allowed us get carry-out for dinner so I could just "be pregnant" and tiredly sit on the couch a bit longer.

Then came Mother's Day! 

Considering "quality time" is one of my husband's top love languages (and receiving/giving gifts is decidedly not), we usually acknowledge smaller holidays throughout the year by opting to do something fun as a family instead of exchanging gifts. However, I did tell my husband last week that what I would really like is for my car to be thoroughly cleaned inside and out (can you tell that "acts of service" is one of my top love languages??)

It might sound like a silly gift request, but nothing would make this "nesting" mother happier than to have something big I've been meaning to do before the baby arrives completely crossed off my list without me lifting a finger. I don't mind household cleaning much and often find it to be therapeutic, but thinking of hunching over to put air in my tires, clean a very dusty dash, or vacuum out the remains of car-seat toddler snacks sounds like a miserable way to send myself into early labor. No thanks. 

Michael plans to take care of my car this weekend, but he also let me pick our fun family activity for Sunday - so after Mass I chose to enjoy a walk at a nearby state park and eat lunch at the quaint farm market we fell in love with the weekend before.

With my two little boys this Mother's Day (36.5 weeks)!
The perfect backdrop for a family photo
I just love them so
So grateful for this little boy who first made me a mother

I'd be lying if I said our entire weekend was all smiles all the time because we had a rather ridiculous encounter with the type of rude, aggressive driver this state has been known to produce and my pregnancy hormones led to more than one bout of frustration and/or tears...but when I look back on everything none of that really matters. What I remember most about this past weekend is feeling overwhelmingly blessed.

As if I weren't feeling appreciative enough of my loved ones already, I happened to check the mailbox Sunday evening and I'm so thankful I did - because waiting for me was the sweetest Mother's Day card from one of my friends! Any card with a quote from Pope St. John Paul II is pretty much guaranteed to speak to my heart, but I was even more touched by my friend's genuine thoughtfulness.

The front of my friend's hand-made card sitting in front of the carnations
my husband picked out for me when our church sold them after Mass

This weekend our current plans involve a whole lot of me staying home and relaxing...though when my husband suggested repeating our Mother's Day schedule this Sunday (Mass, a walk at the same state park, and lunch at the same farm market) I couldn't resist saying yes.

Our weekend has all the makings of what I hope will be a healthy balance between taking it easy/resting and doing what I can to get out of the house and make some fun memories with my husband and son before this baby arrives and we start making memories as a family of four(!). May your weekends also be filled with a healthy dose of leisure and fun with your loved ones. :)

"Ah, Mrs. Your husband has a very important job. Like the pope. But don't believe it. Your job is more important. The future of the world is with the mothers. It is the mothers who will give us peace and make us free. Just like Mary, the mother of Jesus, we need you the most."
-Pope St. John Paul II (to the wife of the Mayor of Boston)

Friday, May 8, 2015

A Happy Day


Do you ever have one of those days that is just really really good?

Last Friday my husband and I were blessed to have my sister babysit Gabriel so we could go on a nice dinner date; unfortunately, Michael was battling a cold and felt miserable most of the evening which means we didn't exactly have the most pleasant date night experience. I felt pretty bummed that what seemed like one of our final opportunities to go on a date before our second baby is born wasn't the fruitful evening I had envisioned it to be - but you would think by now I would know better that we are not in control of such things. Thankfully, God's plans are usually better.

Date night was a bit of a bust, but never in a million years could I have imagined how beautiful the very next day would be.

Last Saturday morning we had plans to check out an event that claimed to be one of the biggest and best consignment sales in the region for new and gently-used baby and children's items. We didn't have anywhere else to be all day, so we figured it couldn't hurt to scope it out. In the end, we didn't find anything we needed for the baby, but we scored some great toys for Gabriel - a couple of which we've hidden away to give to him when his baby brother arrives.

Waiting in line to purchase G some toys!

It was a laid-back morning with gorgeous weather, so upon leaving the consignment sale we decided to explore a little bit. We're still new to the Boston area and the sale had taken us on a journey to a new place so we were curious to see what else was nearby.

Any words I might string together to describe the glorious day that followed will certainly fail to paint the full picture - which is why all I can really say is that it was just a beautiful, blessed, happy day for us.

We didn't do anything monumental; we went for a drive that took us to a small town, enjoyed a delicious lunch at a local market, and generally had fun as we took self-guided driving tours of some neighborhoods and state parks of interest on our route home. We took our time, didn't worry about getting home for Gabriel's nap, and just let him fall asleep in the car as I soaked in the sunshine and sights with my husband.

Breathtaking Catholic Church we found on our drive

My favorite part of the day took place at the mom and pop's market we visited for lunch. As soon as we walked inside I just knew we were in for a treat because we found ourselves in what was a farm, market, cafe, and ice cream shop all in one - wrapped up in the quaintest package of a renovated and adorably decorated barn. This Indiana girl was in heaven! Everything about that place just made my Midwestern husband and myself feel so very happy and at home.

About to order the most delicious lunches for ourselves

The food was fresh and delicious and even Gabriel, who still usually won't eat the majority of what we try to give him, eagerly devoured most of his PB & J and drank chocolate milk while chair-dancing his entire way throughout the meal (he does the cutest side-to-side happy dance when he's particularly pleased with a food).

At one point my husband looked at me during lunch and said, "I don't know what it is, but I just feel really happy right now."  I quickly nodded in agreement while I sat there somewhat stunned at what I had just heard - because the sentiment he shared was typically one that I would be more willing to speak out loud. If my husband was talking that way then I knew that it wasn't just me; he really felt everything I was feeling and somehow our entire little family just seemed to be basking in the goodness of God's simple blessings and was gifted an awareness of those blessings all at the same time.

We followed up our lunches with some ice cream enjoyed outside in the sunshine and the rest is history. The day just continued to be so good - even when Gabriel poured chocolate milk all down his front (on the one day I didn't bring a bib) or I struggled to change the nastiest diaper in the backseat of our car. None of the little things that easily could have ruined our day ever managed to bring us down, which I attribute entirely to graces the Lord must have given us. To top it off, that evening we ate one of Michael's favorite Korean meals at home thanks to the ingredients we had snagged at the closest H-Mart when we were on our date the night before.
I don't always feel the Lord's presence so strongly in our daily lives, but every once in awhile He allows Michael and me (and even little Gabriel!) to feel it and bask in it together all day long - and those are just the happiest days of all.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness...."
Galatians 5:22

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Toddler Bed Transition...Or Not


I knew several months ago that I wanted to transition Gabriel from the crib to a bed sometime in late spring as we prepare for his baby brother's arrival. Age-wise it seemed entirely doable because he'll be about 22 months when his brother arrives, which meant we wanted to transition him at about 20 months. Bringing a new baby home is a big enough transition in and of itself, so I wanted to get him stabilized and feeling comfortable well before we threw the big brother curve-ball at him.

Plus, I was envisioning having to teach him to stay in the bed and not run around playing at night in addition to waking up multiple times to nurse a newborn...and that just seemed miserable to me. Had I not brought this topic up, I don't think it would have been on my husband's radar at all...so it took awhile (a few months at least) to discuss it, get him on board with the timing, find a bed, and get the transition process started.

How and when to transition a toddler from a crib to a bed is a BIG deal in the parenting world - because it has the potential to be a very big deal to our little ones and undoubtedly impacts the entire family in some way. I'm not here to tell anybody how or when I think they should make this leap; instead, I would simply like to jot down what has worked (and not worked) for us thus far.

Transition Attempt #1
Let me go ahead and spare you lots of details and say that our very first attempt was unsuccessful. Why? Well, let's just say that trying to make the switch on the very same day you've gone insane with nesting and completely rearranged your child's bedroom is most likely not the best day to begin. Oops.

Additionally, we thought we would ease into it by simply laying the mattress on the floor (no bed frame) first because we've known others that have been successful with this approach and it would ensure that if he rolled around and slid off he wouldn't fall and hurt himself. However, in hindsight I think the mattress alone was simply too "wide open" and uncomfortable for Gabriel after many, many months of being surrounded by bars.

Transition Attempt #2
Two weeks after our failed first attempt we had Gabriel's bed-frame built and felt that it was a good weekend to try again. I wasn't sure if we should begin with bedtime or a nap, but I happened to wash Gabriel's favorite blanket and pull it out of the dryer right before his nap, so he eagerly helped me carry it back to his room and happily plopped it on his bed instead of in his crib. I decided it was a sign to start then and there.

Day 1:
This time I had the wisdom to realize (especially since it was day time) that I would have to stay by Gabriel's side if I wanted him to calm down and sleep. I explained everything to him, laid him down on the bed, then went to sit down in the chair across the room and wait. And wait.

Of course he wanted to run around, but I made it clear to him that he needed to stay on the bed. I allowed him to retrieve books or toys as long as he immediately brought them into his bed to look at. He tried to make a break for it and run out of the room once, but I startled him with a firm "no" and he plopped down mid-run right where my command had caught him and I laid him back down again with instructions not to leave the bed.

What followed was basically an hour of him rolling around, looking at books, standing up then sitting down, and all sorts of crazy toddler gymnastics before he tired out, laid down, and fell asleep. At that point I snuck out and he slept a good 2 hours and then some.

First nap in his toddler bed!

Night 1:
I took the same approach at bedtime by telling Gabriel I would stay near him as he fell asleep; I sat down in the chair in the dark and simply waited. Much to my surprise, he did not attempt to stand up or leave the bed a single time. It took nearly an hour for him to fall asleep, but he laid there quietly the entire time. Success!

Thankfully my husband and I made the smart decision to install our baby gate in the hallway right outside his room, so when he woke up at 6:30am and immediately ran and shook the gate I knew he was safe until I could reach him.

Day 2:
This was the day we saw the circus, so Gabriel's nap was pushed back later than normal and he fell asleep in the car on our way home. He was so tired we had no problems bringing him inside, laying him down, and letting him finish his nap in the bed.

Night 2:
The exact same thing happened as the first night, which means it took an hour but Gabriel remained calm and fell asleep without issues. More success!

However, Gabriel awoke at 4:30am and would not go back to sleep, even with me staying by his side for an hour. At the point I gave up and we got up for the day.

Day 3:
Because he woke up at 4:30am he was exhausted by the time we went to church. During the less-than-5-minute drive he fell asleep. He woke up and was so cranky we thought we were in for the worst mass ever...but by the grace of God he was amazingly well-behaved the entire hour. He then fell asleep on the drive home again...at which point he was so tired he stayed asleep and proceeded to take an early nap in his bed after we brought him inside.

Night 3:
This time we tried to lay him down and let him fall asleep without me staying by his side...which didn't work. After at least 4 or 5 times of him running and opening his bedroom door I gave in and stayed with him. He then fell asleep after almost an hour.

It was on this night that, despite all our previous successes, we did the one thing I said we wouldn't do - which was "backtrack" and allow him to sleep in his crib. That night fed me a nice slice of humble pie as I defeatedly accepted the fact that Gabriel simply isn't comfortable enough yet to make the permanent transition to the toddler bed.

What made us throw in the towel? Well, he woke up at about 11:45pm...and would not go back to sleep in the bed. He was so worked up that he was bawling his eyes out and clinging to me as I tried to lay him down a few times. I sat by his side, sang to him, and did my best to comfort him so that after a few minutes he stopped crying. I tried to tell him I would stay in his room, but when I said anything about sitting in the chair (just a few feet away) he would lunge for a hug and begin bawling again.

This happened a couple times, at which point he began crying for Michael. I thought perhaps if Michael laid him down he would be okay, but even that didn't calm him down. He was upset with the thought of me sitting in the chair merely a few feet away from him, he barely managed to calm down with me literally right by his side, and he continued crying even after Michael joined me in staying by his side...which was when I knew: he was not going back to sleep in that bed that night without a major struggle that would leave everyone exhausted and him entirely miserable. Considering I was 34 weeks pregnant, my husband had work the next day, and Gabriel was clearly very upset, we decided it was not at all worth the struggle.

Gabriel calmed down immediately at the mere mention of his crib, so when we remade it and put him down he went right to sleep with no more tears. The following day we were amazed to see our normally happy boy in one of the most cooperative, cheerful moods ever...which solidified our belief that we did the right thing by not pushing him the night before.


So here we are. My due date is one month (!) from today, which means the toddler bed transition has been put on hold indefinitely. Michael and I have agreed that there simply isn't enough time at this point to try again and get him adjusted before our second baby is born, so we're not going to bother trying.

Realistically, the baby will sleep in the bassinet for a few months which buys us some more time...but I honestly don't know if Gabriel will even be ready to try the bed again by the time his brother needs a crib.

I have no idea what will happen, but we've already discussed the possibility that we may just need to invest in a second mini crib. It's not the solution I ever imagined us coming to, but depending on how things go with Gabriel's interest in the bed (or lack thereof) it may be the route we choose to follow.

Like many aspects of parenting, this is just one more example of how unique every single child is. It's impossible to say with confidence that "we WILL do x, y, or z" at any given point in time, because you never know what will work best for your child or your family until you get the chance to see for yourself how they react to things. Color me humbled once again.

"At its best, life is completely unpredictable."
-Christopher Walken

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Big Apple in Beantown


I'm sure that title is throwing some of you for a loop, so I'll cut to the chase and tell you that, no, New York City didn't somehow end up squeezing into the much tinier Boston...but the Big Apple Circus did find its way into town!

If it weren't for my sister and her husband I probably would have been oblivious to the circus coming to town and would have missed out on it entirely. However, my sister told me about the radio ads she had heard and her husband (who was raised in New England) informed her that he grew up seeing this circus perform and thought it would be fun to take our children to. Before I knew it, my sister had gathered some friends and family, picked a date, and we found ourselves with weekend tickets to Gabriel's very first circus show!

There are many great things about this circus that performs in NYC and New England, but one of its main selling points is its size. They do a one-ring show which means that even in the "nosebleed section" you'll find yourself no more than 50 feet from the ring.

We were in the very last row yet were still this close!

I think this is a big deal with young children - because who wants to waste money on tickets to a show that your little one(s) can barely see or focus on? I think three rings would have been overwhelming at best and scary at worst for Gabriel, who is not quite a 21-month-old.

As it stands, Gabriel thoroughly enjoyed himself and while it was a lot of excitement for him, he wasn't overwhelmed. My husband and I also enjoyed the show, but I think some of my favorite memories include seeing Gabriel's reactions to it all. I almost died laughing when a gymnast accidentally slipped, I said "oh no," and Gabriel proceeded to yell and point, "Oh NO!" throughout the rest of the segment. Nor did it ever get old seeing him happily join in the applause with the rest of the crowd.

We saw an 11am show, which meant that it ended right around Gabriel's nap-time. He was definitely greatly in need of a nap and was too tired to smile in any of the family photos we took, but don't let that fool you. There's no doubt that he has a blast!

Why yes, I am 8 months pregnant. How could you tell?

If you find yourself in New York or New England when Big Apple Circus is touring, I certainly recommend them as a good, family-friendly show - especially if you have young children (even my 4-month-old nephew handled it like a champ!). Bonus: they have autism-friendly shows, they are a not-for-profit circus, they regularly do free shows for children in hospitals, and they only use positive reinforcement training with their animals!

"Precarious, life is. A flying leap. A sweep of hand. A star flung across the night. A lucky catch in this whirling juggling circus act."
-Rivera Sun

Monday, April 27, 2015

Big Brother "Training"


Ever since my baby bump began showing, I've spent a lot of time wondering how much of this process Gabriel will be able to comprehend and what kinds of things might help "prepare" him for the day when he's no longer the only child living in our home.

Honestly, I think it's really great when you can mentally prepare a child for the arrival of a sibling - but I'm also realistic about how vastly different that can look depending on a child's age. Gabriel is 20 months old and will probably be right around 22 months when his brother is born, so I recognize that there are plenty of things he won't fully comprehend until it all happens...and that's fine. I'm not going to sweat it.

However, just because our son doesn't fully comprehend his brother's impending arrival doesn't mean there aren't things we have tried our best to do to naturally ease the transition a bit. Some of these things are entirely within our control and others are definitely not - but combined I can already see how they've been steadily working to help Gabriel be better prepared and (hopefully) happy about his new baby brother.

Here's a list and summary of the top 3 things I think have helped prepare Gabriel to be an older brother:

1. We've been talking about babies (and families). More specifically, I began asking him over and over where the baby is and he began to point to my growing belly - which I think was a good general building block. In the months since then I've begun to tell him more about his baby brother, but have stuck to simple concepts like, "when he comes home with us you can hold him and hug him and give him kisses."

Going hand in hand with all the baby talk is what I've tried to convey to him about family structures. There are plenty of books and toys that show mothers and children, so he naturally began picking up on identifying which one is the "mama" and which is the "baby." I've used photos of families (in his books or library books) that better parallel our own family to help him identify the mommy, daddy, brother/sister, and baby...and have recently started following up by telling him that when his brother is born our family will consist of Daddy, Mommy, Gabriel, and baby ____ (I can't wait to share his name with the world!). How much of this does he understand when I connect these photos of other families to our names? I have no idea, but I do it anyway.

2. We bought Gabriel a baby doll (and later on, a toy bottle for his baby boy).

Not every child is guaranteed to show interest in baby dolls, but in my (limited) experience both little boys and girls tend to be fascinated by other children...especially babies. After witnessing Gabriel carry around my nieces' dolls while visiting my sister's place on multiple occasions, I began to see that giving him his own had a lot of potential as a fun toy with the added bonus of introducing him to more baby-related concepts.

We ended up giving him the doll before we left for Hawaii in hopes that it might be a fun, new, comforting toy to make it a bit easier on him in our absence. I think the timing of the gift coinciding with our trip did wonders to solidify the baby as his new comfort object (sorry, monkeys!) and before we knew it, "Baby" was never far from Gabriel's sight.

Carrying around his baby doll has already taught Gabriel how to be gentle with a baby, how to give him nice hugs and kisses, and it's been an excellent tactic for keeping him off all the baby gear that has been reappearing in our apartment as I get deeper into "nesting mode." The first day we brought the baby swing back out, Gabriel immediately wanted to hop inside - but thanks to his baby doll he quickly stopped and began to view it as a place to put a baby...all because I suggested he put Baby in the swing instead. Ever since then he hasn't tried pushing on it or climbing in, but you'd better believe he gently places his baby inside and even rocks him on a regular basis (be still my heart).

Another benefit from all this is that the baby doll gives Gabriel his own baby to hold whenever I'll be busy nursing or holding his brother. At the end of the day, though, I've never approached the baby doll as just a "teaching tool"; it's first and foremost our son's toy that he gets to love and goof around with. It just so happens that there are conveniently lots of things he has learned about babies in the process. ;)

3. This one is entirely beyond my control, but my sister had her third baby less than a week after we moved near her. Seriously...there's no better training to be a big brother than having a real, live baby in the family that he sees on a regular basis!

Fortunately, Gabriel has always been sweet with his new baby cousin so we haven't had to referee him too much (although he quickly had to learn not to poke babies in the eyes). He's always bringing him his pacifier or little toys to look at, but this past week he did something entirely new: he requested to hold his baby cousin! It melted my heart to see how excited he was to hold him for the first time and made me that much more excited to see his reaction to the birth of his brother. 

I mean, just check these little dudes out and try not to grin at their cuteness together.... 

Less than 6 weeks to go until all this intentional (and unintentional) preparation goes into action...and I couldn't be more excited! I truly cannot wait to see how our boys interact and hope they will be the best of friends someday.

"Certainly, people can get along without siblings. Single children do, and there are people who have irreparably estranged relationships with their siblings who live full and satisfying lives, but to have siblings and not make the most of that resource is squandering one of the greatest interpersonal resources you'll ever have."
-Jeffrey Kluger

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Pregnancy Photo Timeline


...because who doesn't find it fascinating to look back on a growing baby bump?

Before I dive in, I'd like to take a brief moment to acknowledge that it's National Infertility Awareness Week and ask you to please pray for all couples carrying the cross of infertility. As we celebrate the joy of this baby boy's life and his impending arrival, let us also offer our support and prayers for those who find themselves in a very different boat. For more about infertility (whether it comes in the form of difficulty conceiving or pregnancy loss), I recommend checking out this list of 9 Ways to Support A Couple Experiencing Infertility or A Blog About Miscarriage. No matter a couple's circumstances, I hope we can all agree that fertility isn't small talk meant for strangers because those seemingly harmless questions about someone else's family planning deal with immensely private subject matter. Here's a beautiful piece explaining how we can all be more sensitive to others' experiences with fertility and infertility alike.

Now let's look at this little boy's growth, shall we?

These are almost all the random weeks I've remembered to take a photo this time around. Sorry, kid! I've just been more laid-back with you than with your brother. ;) 

If you had asked me towards the start of this pregnancy if I would be posting photos of myself in the third trimester I would have responded with a resounding, "heck NO." That just goes to show that you never fully know what to expect from each pregnancy until you live it. 

This time around I've done a far better job of learning how to look and feel more like "myself" well into the third trimester, so I actually don't mind the photos thus far...and I have no problem sharing that I owe lots of that to 4 crucial factors:
1) eating at home (Michael and I were so guilty of eating out too often when I was pregnant with Gabriel - especially in the 3rd trimester),
2) regularly working out in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters,
3) NOT chopping my long hair off, and
4) wearing my favorite lipstick a few times a week. 
Seriously - never underestimate the power of a good lipstick. I learned this valuable lesson somewhere in the midst of my postpartum days (months after Gabriel was born) when I realized how put-together and like myself a little lipstick made me feel, regardless of the last time I had a good night's sleep or washed my hair (moms, you know those days). I was never a big lipstick-wearer prior to this past year, but it's currently that quick, harmless, little thing that gives me an extra pep-in-my-step boost of confidence so I've embraced it with open arms and haven't looked back since. Whatever that thing is for you, I say "do it."

But even more seriously: I owe all my gratitude to the Lord for blessing Michael and me with this baby. Far more important than what my (thankfully positive) pregnancy experiences have been like is the simple fact that I have been blessed with a baby. A baby with his own unique body and soul and his very own guardian angel (I just love that image of being surrounded by my guardian angel and his while he grows, don't you?). What a gift to our family and the world he will be!

Today I'm officially 34 weeks pregnant, so I'm over-the-moon excited to meet this little boy in (hopefully) less than 6 weeks! Thank you again to those of you that have been keeping our growing family in your prayers.

"If I am thinking correctly," said Pooh, "a new baby is probably, undoubtedly the grandest gift that could ever be."
-A.A. Milne