Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Teresa gets around

Here are four videos of Teresa's new mobility.

First, her first crawl...if you can call it that. She steps with one foot, drags the other leg, and cries the whole time.

And here she is standing at her musical table, cruising a little:

Now our little sugar plum goes after her ball:

I took a second video to try to get a better shot of her crawling after the ball, but she does some other amusing stuff instead.

Anybody know how to tighten outlets? My vacuum plug is forever pulling out of that one and others around the house.

Teresa's first "word"

Who needs real pets when you can watch an aquarium of fish on your computer? Ever since I changed my screensaver to 5 goldfish with a changing aquarium background, Teresa has enjoyed watching them swim around.

Yesterday morning, we watched them together and I told Teresa they were fish repeatedly. She stared at them and said, "tsch!"

That's cute, I thought. She can mimic the end sound of the word I repeated for her.

Hours later, I picked Teresa up and brought her over to the computer to watch the fish. Without any prompting from me, she said, "ish." Yay!

I was home alone, so this video is the best I could do while holding the baby.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Shuffling and clucking

Teresa LOVES shuffling along the couch back. She's also taken to clicking her tongue against the roof of her mouth. Enjoy!

Just Playin'

Nothing too special but it will make Memere smile anyway...


We've been impressed by Teresa's growing range of consonant/vowel combinations, such as sssuh-ssssuh, bob-bob-bob, and the ever present "Da!" But sometimes she just prefers a good ole squeal:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Book Review: Thank God Ahead of Time

The second book that I received from The Catholic Company through their Reviewer Program was Thank God Ahead of Time: The Life and Spirituality of Solanus Casey by Michael H. Crosby, O.F.M. CAP. I chose this book because I've been interested in this holy man since I first read about him in a Word Among Us article in November 2003. I think my friend Fran read the same article that month, because she felt inspired to seek Fr. Solanus' intercession on my behalf while praying with me just days later. Either way, God was telling me something: learn more about my disciple Solanus Casey. His life and spirituality will touch your life and your spirituality.

The author of Thank God Ahead of Time, Michael Crosby, is one of the key people behind Solanus' cause of canonization. As part of his role, Crosby compiled all of Solanus' existing writings (including a journal and a ton of letters) and the testimonies and letters of many who knew Solanus personally (between 1870 and 1957). Crosby prepared several volumes of this material and sent it off to the reviewers who would determine Solanus' sanctity. Then he sat down and wrote Solanus' biography and spiritual "story" - this we have in a single volume,
Thank God Ahead of Time.

Overall, I like and recommend the book. It's a bit dry/dragging in parts (especially the beginning), and Crosby's writing style is academic, stilted, and lacking in pizazz or poetry (the last chapter on Solanus' spirituality is particularly blah). But he does a fine job of conveying the story and soul of this humble, holy, inspiring servant of God, Capuchin Father Solanus Casey. His life was interesting enough to carry the book.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes by or about Solanus:

"Those who embrace [marriage] should do so determined to bear the burdens of the holy state they enter. They should remember that their duties and privileges are one and the same and must be taken as such if peace is to reign in the individual soul, in the family, and in human society." (p. 60-1)
Lord, help me to accept the challenging responsibilities of my vocation with gratitude and thereby know joy and peace.
"Life is to live and life is to give and talents to use for good if you choose. Do not pray for easy lives, pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers, pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God." (p. 122-3)
Yeah, baby!
Of Solanus: "When he was speaking with you, you felt that he was constantly God-centered, on fire with love for God, and constantly God-conscious, seeming always to have his eyes on God. He seemed to see everything as flowing from God and leading back to God." (p. 126)
If only I could do that a fraction of the amazing that he was like that ALL the time!
Solanus played the violin very poorly but thought he might be of some entertainment to the other friars during their recreation time. One recalled: "As he began to play, one of the men went to the radio and kept turning up the volume. Without saying a word, Solanus left the room and went down before the Blessed Sacrament and continued his playing. Each Sunday night after that he would go with his violin and 'play before the Lord' for a half hour or so..." (p. 142-3)
I especially like this story because I used to play my guitar for Jesus in the tabernacle when I was a volunteer at a monastery in Oregon. The Lord loves to hear us make a joyful noise unto Him...even if others don't!
People flocked to see Solanus and ask for his prayers and blessing, but the friar was ever humble. Said a brother priest: "I am convinced that he was not aware that others held him in such high esteem. ... He loved his God and he knew that God loved him. That was all that mattered." (p. 159)
One of many of Solanus' character traits we must strive to emulate.
"I hope this finds you well, which means of course hopeful too. This latter is something that is sadly overlooked (these days) to the great detriment of spiritual progress as well as physical." (p. 174)
Wow, hopefulness as an essential part of spiritual and physical wellness? I don't think about that (or pray for hope) often enough.
"Our Faith - Religion, is the science of our happy dependence upon God and our neighbor - of our living in his grace and dying in his love." (p. 228)
That statement is packed with truth. And it's just how Solanus lived: dependent upon God and others, living in grace and dying in God's love. His last words were, "I give my soul to Jesus Christ." Beautiful!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Little Pink Kitty

Thursday, October 8, 2009

7 month skills showcase

She reaches forward and lifts her bum a little, she frantically waves her arms, she vocalizes with several consonants and lots of "eeeeee!", she razzes (especially when I'm trying to feed her), she claps, she folds her hands "in prayer", and she is even starting to wave a little.

Didn't it sound like she said "Hi!" back to me? :)

PS Teresa loves to watch herself in this video.

Teresa picked a good melon

Teresa's cute purple cool-weather outfit was a gift from her Aunt Ellen. :)

In the background you can see her BeechNut cereals (rice and oatmeal) - it's the only brand I've found that doesn't contain soy. Every morning she eats a couple tablespoons of one or the other mixed with expressed breastmilk.

You can also see my NatureMade Prenatal Multivitamins - one bottle almost empty and two new bottles for the future (not yet put away since I needed to enter the reward codes from the boxes online). When I was buying them at the grocery store recently ("buy one get one free" sale plus two $1 off coupons meant they were a GREAT deal!) the cashier asked me if I was expecting again. Her question surprised me but I quickly explained that I continue to take them because I am nursing but I could become pregnant again any time. What surprised me even more than her question itself was the joyful, hopeful tone in which she asked it. She would have been delighted to hear if I was pregnant again, even with Teresa less than 8 months old (we had been chatting about babies, including her grandchild). How refreshing!

Teresa sitting on her papa's shoulders

Let's ease back into posting on the blog with a few videos, shall we?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Another media spotlight on us

David and I were mentioned and quoted in a recent story in the Catholic Star Herald newspaper of the Diocese of Camden, NJ. You can read it on page 3 of this special marriage supplement (available online as a PDF) - the article is about using Catholic websites to find your spouse. We remain very grateful for and the role it played in introducing us and fostering our relationship.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Give a hand for Teresa

On Thursday Teresa took up clapping. I first noticed when we were at the Lap Lovers storytime at the library. My mom insists she taught Teresa to clap during her visit earlier this week. Either way, we love to see the little one clapping - and she seems to love it, too!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Security in Charlotte

Hi all...David here. So thanks be to God, we have a loan and we'll be living in a house. One of the many priorities that need to be addressed will be the security system. Anyone have any good tips in addition to resources for companies here in Charlotte that are reputable. CPI was used by the previous owners, but after checking some online reviews, I'm hesitant about jumping into their services. It does seem that most of the companies will go through the cable line which is also different from when my folks had their security system.

Thanks and keep the prayers coming because we can't do it without Him.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Swimmin' and Splashin'

David took Teresa "swimming" in our apartment complex pool again recently. She seemed to feel very comfortable in the water (securely in his hands) and even smiled a few times.

Teresa has discovered the joy of splashing this month. In the following video David is wiping the water off her face and then she splashes more on herself unwittingly. :)

Speaking of splashing, it's definitely time for Teresa to start bathing in the big bathtub. Any tub seat reviews or tips you want to share?

Teresa got the hang of jumping

She loves jumping in her Jumpster. She especially loves jumping when someone's watching her jump and showering her with praise. ;)

Teresa standing supporting herself

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Lunging for food

Teresa is showing high interest in the food we eat: she loves to lunge for it whenever it is within her reach. We're constantly pushing plates away when she's sitting in our laps at the table, but she has gotten her fingers in our food a few times. Here's a video of her going after David's treat:

Video from July 25

Due to Teresa's food sensitivities up to this point (I'm still not eating dairy or soy), we decided to delay the introduction of solids until she is at least 6 months old. Well, that's only 9 days away! I'm excited for this next step, sharing God's wonderful gift of food with Teresa and letting her experience all the delicious tastes and fun textures.

Don't worry - ice cream bars will not be on her food list for a long, long time! I'll probably start with rice cereal after her well baby visit on August 18th or after we move into the new house August 22nd. Yay!

Playing with her feet

Many a parent has told me, "wait until she starts playing with her feet." I didn't fully realize what entertainment value these appendages have for babies until Teresa got comfortable holding on to hers. Pretty neat!

Video from July 28th

High five

David called me in to see this. I was very impressed.

He did it again at the table the next day. Then, just to see what she would do, David held a large flat object in front of Teresa and said, "high five!" Yep. She reached out and touched it, too.

So she doesn't discriminate when non-people/non-hands want a high five. Good girl. ;)

Thursday, July 30, 2009


This is the kitchen sink in the soon-to-be-ours house. Cosmetically, it looks just fine. I can get over the fact that it isn't stainless steel. But there are two things about it that really bother me:

1. Situated against the end of the counter, it has no counter space to the left.

2. The left-hand side of the sink (the one with the garbage disposal) is really small.

I have to rethink the way I use my kitchen sink now. In our apartment, I prefer to have dirty dishes (that can't go in the dishwasher) stacked to the left of the sink. I don't like putting them in the sink unless they need a soak. But if I put them to the right of the sink, where will I put the dish drainer? Can it sit on the top counter ledge without falling off?

And how will I do dishes? Currently, I wash in one side and rinse in the other. But that small side doesn't look like it will accommodate the rinsing of large dishes. My mom suggested washing in the big sink by starting with just a little soapy water and rinsing over it to increase the water. I'm afraid I still won't have enough space to rinse big pots and such. Maybe I could use the sprayer (lift the spigot) and rinse from a greater height to accommodate large items.

Finally, what good is that little side with the disposal? What can I do in it besides rinse off food gunk into the disposal?

I'm open to any and all ideas, especially from anyone who has worked with a sink like this. Thanks!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fun feet and colored shapes

Teresa has been playing with both of her feet for over a week now; her right hand is much better at grasping her right toes but her left hand skills are improving. Alas, she may have inherited her mother's lack of flexibility - the feet haven't made it up to her mouth (yet).

A set of colored shapes I got at a thrift store has also been helping Teresa develop her ability to manipulate objects. Although this video only shows a second of her loudly banging the shapes together (something she loves to do), it does let you see how she is already able to pick them up between her thumb and forefinger.

Teresa has silly parents

I just wanted you to see how well Teresa sits by herself and maybe catch her flapping her arms in front of her the way she does so often these days. But David made this a funny video...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Seeking input: Washer & Dryer

Appliances are at the top of the list of things we will need for our new home, specifically a refrigerator, a washer, and a dryer. We are prepared to spend the bulk of our small "moving in" budget on these parents are strong advocates of "buy once, buy right" when it comes to appliances. The Maytag washer and dryer they bought for their first home lasted 25 years (washer) and 30+ years (the dryer is sitting in the garage at their river house, ready to quick-dry wet winterwear). I've been told they don't make them like the used to, but I'd really like to purchase appliances that are going to last us a long, long time...and perform their functions efficiently. I'm a big fan of high efficiency appliances that save resources (such as water) and energy (and therefore money).

In this post I am requesting any an all advice about washers and dryers, especially if you've acquired some recently and are familiar with current options. Here are some of the questions running through my mind:

  • I think that Maytag and Whirlpool are good brands - am I right? What other brands are trustworthy? Kenmore, Frigidaire, LG?
  • Are the high efficiency models worth it? Do they clean and dry well? How about with cloth diapers?
  • Have you dealt with incomplete draining and/or mold growth in a front-loader?
  • If I go with front-loading HE models, do I need to buy the pedestals as well? What do you use those drawers for?
  • I am considering shopping for appliances at a local Sears Outlet store, where "cosmetically flawed" units are discounted. I don't mind a scratch or ding if it saves us money. Have you ever made a purchase at a store like that?
Please share your experiences and ideas with me via the comments, email, or Facebook message. Thanks!

Photo credit: chris.corwin

Sunday, July 12, 2009

"You have served my purposes, Bear...

...and now I toss you away!"

Friday, July 10, 2009

We're buying a house!

We accepted the sellers' counteroffer yesterday and signed the contract papers last night. Today our mortgage loan was approved at the fabulous rate of 4.5%. We're scheduling the inspection for next week and getting other ducks in a row. What an exciting time!

Here's a picture of the backyard through the screen door:

The deck canopy and wooden playset are staying. The yard is flat and well fenced, and there's plenty of sun so I can grow a garden. What a blessing!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Brusha brusha

When I went to the dentist's office to have my teeth cleaned a few weeks ago, I took Teresa with me (David was working that day). I nursed her right before I went in and she played in her car seat for a while. When she started fussing the dental hygienist recommended I cross one of my legs over my other knee and hold Teresa in the pocket while the cleaning continued. It worked! Teresa was fascinated by the whirring equipment.

While we waited for the dentist to arrive and make his inspection, the dental hygienist gave Teresa a baby toothbrush with a fat, rubbery handle. She recommended I allow Teresa to play with the toothbrush even before she gets teeth to help her get used to it. Teresa took to it right away. Because the brush end is small, I have to supervise her closely to make sure she doesn't choke on it. She enjoys chewing on both ends, and I'm impressed by her coordination!

PS The dentist gave me another clean bill of (dental) health - no cavities, yay!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Third time's a charm?

Today David and I made an offer on a house. This is the third time we've completed offer paperwork since we started house hunting almost 2 and a half months ago. We never expected how time-consuming and energy-draining this process would be, nor did we realize how much we had to learn about real estate markets, home purchase financing, and so much more. But we've taken in stride some tough lessons, difficult decisions, and frustrating delays and now we're really, really, really hoping everything will go through for us to purchase this house. We feel great peace about it.

We're going to wait to share any details about the house and its location until things are more settled. But I wanted to post this news quickly and thank everyone for their prayers and understanding as we've searched for a home for our little family. We've let all sorts of things (including relationships) take a back seat during this time, so we're looking forward to getting back on track and picking up the slack soon (how's that for mixing idioms?).

Your support and continued prayers are greatly appreciated. God's will be done!

Monday, July 6, 2009

An unexpected Facebook friend

This morning I had an email informing me that someone had requested me as a friend on Facebook. Someone with the same last name as the Filipino boy I sponsor through CFCA . . . someone who looks a lot like Manuelito, too. Could it be? A message from the person confirmed it: my dear sponsee found me on Facebook. How's that for modern technology?

I shouldn't be too surprised, since Manuelito indicated in a recent letter that he's interested in studying computer technology at college (go him!). Apparently he goes by a different first name on Facebook - I sent him a message to get to the bottom of that. I can't understand most of what he and his friends have written to one another via Facebook since it's in Tagalog. But it's so good to see his pictures and know that he is mastering the tools available to him so that he can get a good job, be a blessing to his parents and younger siblings, and - hopefully - prepare to support a family of his own.

This unexpected event reminds me that my Facebook profile/presence should always be a witness of Christian virtue...I must be mindful of everything I share and what impression it might make on my friends (near and FAR) who see it.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Dairy-free, soy-free treats

I have a sweet tooth. I love desserts, especially chocolate ones. Since I've had to forgo foods containing dairy and soy for Teresa's sake, I've discovered just how prevalent those ingredients are, especially in boxed mixes. So many desserts - even those made from scratch - contain dairy...I challenge anyone to find a restaurant that serves a dairy-free dessert. Thankfully, I've found a few sweet treats that I can enjoy these days:

1. Enjoy Life chocolate bars

My friend Jennifer found these at Whole Foods: dairy-free, soy-free, and nut-free chocolate bars. She got me two different flavors: dark and rice milk. Both are excellent!! I've tried 2 other dairy-free, soy-free dark chocolate bars (by Dagoba and Green & Black's - both organic) and both were very bitter. But Enjoy Life's is not. Yum yum!

2. Purely Decadent "ice cream" made with coconut milk

During my mom's recent visit she treated me to a pint from Harris Teeter. I got the chocolate flavor and it was absolutely delicious. I like coconut milk in recipes, so the flavor in my "ice cream" doesn't bother me at all.

3. Made from scratch chocolate cake

I have a recipe clipped from an old magazine that doesn't call for dairy or eggs. It's so easy to put together and the results are moist and delicious. David spreads frosting on his pieces, but I don't think it's necessary. Here's the recipe:

Cinnamon-Chocolate Cake (12 servings)

2 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cup sugar
6 T cocoa powder
2 t cinnamon
2 t baking soda
3/4 cup oil
2 T white vinegar
2 t vanilla
2 cups water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Stir in oil, vinegar, vanilla, and water until well-blended. Frances tip: Grease a 13 x 9" baking pan with the excess oil from your measuring cup. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 25-30 minutes until cake pulls away from side of pan. If desired, sprinkle with powdered sugar.


In putting together this post, I discovered that Enjoy Life also makes chocolate chips, so I may have to purchase a bag to try in our pancakes (made with rice milk). I've missed chocolate chip pancakes!! Now the only thing I need is to find a decent dairy-free brownie recipe. I've tried a couple and they weren't any good at all.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Early June Teresa videos: Random

Teresa happy in Bumbo (up high) while Mama washes dishes:

Teresa fell asleep in Papa's arms:

Teresa all cute in her summer dress:

Teresa pulls paper off the table:

Early June Teresa Videos: Playtime

Teresa playing in her exersaucer for the first time:
(I think my conversation with David in the background is funny)

Teresa sucking on her exersaucer:

Teresa playing in her exersaucer after some practice:

Teresa fell over on her toy:

Grandpa meets Teresa

My dad came to visit Teresa for the first time last week. He got a lot of "big grins" out of her, as he called them.

Teresa also had some sad times while her Grandpa was here. Here are two videos from his visit:

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quick Housing Update

I haven't thought much about blogging lately, mostly because we're putting so much mental energy into the search for and choosing of a home to purchase. The seller of the Killingdeer house refused to come down much from his asking price, which we believe is more than the house is worth. My dad visited us earlier this week and I took him to see the house, which he confirmed is in need of much work. Therefore, we ended negotiations with the seller on Tuesday and returned to house hunting. I believe it is providential that we did not end up with the Killingdeer house...God surely has something better for us in mind. Now, if only we could determine what that is, and soon!

Here's an opportunity for you to help us: do you or have you ever lived in a house with one large living space? How do you use it? How do you keep it tidy (especially considering children's toys)? My second choice house has a split bedroom plan (master on one side and two other bedrooms on the other side) and a long great room with the kitchen off to the side. The great room has a window, a fireplace, and a sliding glass door to the backyard. There's a chandelier over the dining area, and the rest of the room is wide open.

David is wary of buying the house because he's not sure how we would configure and use the great room. Will doing all of our eating, sitting, playing, computer time/working, learning, and family prayer in one room build our unity as a family or drive us crazy?

Saturday, June 6, 2009

What's in a (street) name?

Negotiations continue on our first choice house...we may have to walk away on this one. I am incredibly grateful I can trust God and my husband on this!

One interesting thing about this house is the name of the street it is on: Killingdeer. I Googled it to see if it is a reference to something else, but the only hits were related to that specific street. It is a unique name...with a somewhat negative connotation (although the hunters in my family probably find it amusing). I did discover that killdeer is the name of a bird, but the street is not Killdeer - it's definitely Killingdeer.

Which leaves me thinking: who comes up with street names? I've seen nice developments that go on themes; Camelot, for example, might have a King Arthur Rd., a Guinevere Ct., a Round Table Cir., and an Excalibur Ln. But when houses in an area are built at different times by different builders, who decides?

And here's another question: what would you like to name a street, or a set of streets in a development, if you could?

PS On our honeymoon in the North Carolina mountains, we drove by several dirt roads labeled Hicks. No kidding!

Photo Credit: kittyz202

Thursday, June 4, 2009

We made an offer on a house today

Some of you know that David and I have been seriously house hunting for about a month now. So much time and mental energy has gone into this process, especially David's. He's been incredibly diligent with researching areas of town, crime maps, flood plains, home listings, repair/renovation estimates, and more. We've been out with our realtor several times and have seen about a dozen houses. We've number crunched, deliberated pros and cons, and pored over pictures and details with family members.

Yesterday, after seeing 3 new (old) houses, we returned to our previous top choice and sat in it for a while (I nursed Teresa while sitting on the hearth). It just felt right. So we decided to make an offer. This morning we met with our realtor to complete the paperwork. Now it's in the seller's hands.

Overall, we have great peace about moving forward on this house. We've put it all in the Lord's hands and we trust that He will continue to guide us. However, an eminent "big change" has left me unsettled and poor David is suffering the brunt of my stress-induced behavior. My mind is already racing ahead to all the stuff we will need to get and do if we get the house. A mixture of excitement (so much to learn!) and fear (so much could go wrong!) about the future is hindering my ability to function in the present. Lord, help me!

David knew we both needed a break, so he suggested we go to see the movie "Up." I was fearful about taking a 3-and-a-half-month-old into a movie theatre, but David was reassuring. Everything turned out wonderfully! The movie is really cute and, although the high volume woke Teresa up as soon as we took our seats and kept her awake the whole time, she only fussed briefly twice. The rest of the time she nursed, stood supported on my legs, or sat in our laps and watched the screen. We covered her ears when the soundtrack got intense, but she was happy as a clam. Even changing her diaper in my lap went smoothly. Deo gratias!

One last little thing to share: when the movie ended, I had Teresa in my lap covered by a cream-colored blanket with medium-sized bears on it (a spare blanket we keep in David's car and rarely use). She actually bent forward and stroked one of the bears repeatedly. She is amazing!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Humbling experience of the day

Today I bit the bullet and performed one of my least favorite chores: I scrubbed our bathtub. Just as I was finishing up the job (rinsing off the walls and knob and spout), the drain stopped draining. Dirty water pooled in the bottom of the tub.

I reached in to see if the drain was plugged with hair - nope. I tried the plunger - that only stirred up more muck. So I called our apartment office and asked whether a maintenance man could come and unplug my drain. The assistant manager wrote up a ticket for me.

Two hours later, the friendly maintenance man arrived. When he first came to work for the apartment complex and paid a call to our home, he noticed all our sacred art and inquired about my faith. He shared the story of his (recent) conversion to Christianity. So we have a little bond. And maybe he won't tell everyone how silly I am after our encounter today!

Back to the story: after he explained that my long hair was the likely culprit (even though we use a hair trap), he took a wetvac into our bathroom and started suctioning. Then he turned the machine off and called out to me: "Do you ever take baths?"

"No," I replied as I went into the room.

"How long have you lived here?"

"Two years."

"Have you ever taken a bath here?"

"Maybe two when I was pregnant," I answered, remembering the relief a hot water soak provided when I was in labor and forgetting the lovely little soaks I took postpartum.

"Did you use a stopper or did you flip the drain switch?"

"I used the switch," I assured him. Then the lightbulb went off.

"It was up."

Doh! I had accidentally flipped up the switch while I was cleaning it, but I didn't even think about it when the water didn't drain. So silly!

I thanked the maintenance man profusely, apologized for taking his time for something so silly, and lightheartedly proposed that it was probably a pleasure for him to get such an easy job. He agreed, having replaced a water heater and a garbage disposal already today.

As we prepare to purchase a home this summer, I'm thinking about how much I'm going to miss the ability to call the office for maintenance help. Then again, I'm sure I'll learn a thing or two when I have to do it myself (with David, of course). For instance, how bath drain switches work!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

More videos: signs of development

Teresa's definitely growing stronger and showing us new skills this week! She enjoys being pulled up to sit and even stand for a little while (I don't have a video of that yet). And she kicks with both legs on her changing table when she's between diapers (we call it "smackdown" and probably won't get a video for modesty's sake). Here are some other things she's done:

"Talking" and playing with toys on her Bumbo tray:

Turning herself part way over (she can twist her shoulders but can't quite flip her big diapered bottom):

Lifting her head way up during tummy time, and even using her arms a little:

Friday, May 22, 2009

Your latest dose of Teresa videos

I can almost always get Teresa to smile at me when I wave her arms around and make high-pitched sounds:

Teresa loves to touch Papa's hair:

She usually hates tummy time, but this one was successful for a minute or so:

Does this count as playing with Teresa?

Today Teresa enjoyed some time in her new (used) Bumbo seat:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Book Review: A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family

Do you know the feeling of not wanting a book to end because you enjoy reading it so much? I definitely felt that way the whole time I was reading A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family by Mary Ostyn. The author is a mom to TEN children (six of whom are adopted, 2 boys from Korea and 4 girls from Ethiopia) who homeschools her brood in Idaho. I'd first read Ostyn's writing at Owlhaven, her blog often linked to by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer (another blog I followed for a long time). When I discovered that Ostyn had written a book about her experience as a mom to many, I put in a Request for Purchase at my local public library and was delighted when they bought 5 copies (if you live in Charlotte you can place one on hold here). One came right to me and I dug in.

I did most of my reading while I nursed Teresa, which was very appropriate...I hope to begin implementing Ostyn's suggestions with our first daughter so that parenting becomes easier as we add to our family (God willing). I enjoyed Ostyn's perspectives on welcoming additional children (and the discernment involved in that decision), the resources needed to raise those children well (money, space, and training - music lessons, sports, etc.), vacations, schooling, and building relationships with and between your children. I found her advice regarding discipline, chores, and activities to be especially helpful - she has gleaned much wisdom from her experience and shares it in a humble, honest, and engaging way.

Here's an example I can completely relate to:

"Play is not easy for me. I am a ridiculously task-oriented person. Sometimes I literally have to look at the clock and force myself to play for 15 minutes straight without wandering off. But I never regret disciplining myself in that way." (102)
I highly recommend this book to anyone hoping to have, enjoy, and successfully raise lots of children. When God blesses us abundantly, He also gives us the graces we need to give Him glory with those blessings. I count A Sane Woman's Guide to Raising a Large Family as a conduit of God's grace.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Fist sucker

Teresa has taken up fist sucking. Sometimes she tries out individual fingers, too. It's slightly alarming when she looks incredibly uncomfortable with her fist or thumb in her mouth and yet pushes it further in still. But she's gaining control and seems to enjoy this sucking endeavor. She doesn't use a pacifier, but I'm fine with her soothing herself this way for the time being. We're definitely washing her hands more often now!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Let sleeping babies lie...and take pictures of them!

These are all from May - seems I can't help myself!

She is so beautiful!


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Customer appreciation II

One month ago I wrote a post about contacting companies whose products you love. Sometimes they will mail you coupons and other stuff just because you asked them to! Here's a list of the companies I've since contacted who have responded positively (with links to their contact webpages):

Jif (Smuckers) - 2 35 cents off coupons
Amy's Kitchen (organic)- brochure and coupons (3 x $1 off, 5 x .75 off, 1 x .50 off)
Eggland's Best - frequently asked questions brochure, Mr. Food cooking booklet and a coupon for a free dozen Eggland's Best eggs
CedarLane (all natural frozen foods) - 2 55 cents off coupons
WestSoy (Hain Celestial Group - they make the only rice milk without soy that I could find) - 3 55 cents off coupons
Born Free Eggs (Radlo Foods) - 1 35 cents off coupon
Thai Kitchen - 1 free Thai Kitchen product coupon, 1 free Simply Asia product coupon, 1 50 cents off Thai Kitchen product coupon, 1 50 cents off Simply Asia product coupon, and a Rice Noodle Recipes and Cooking Tips booklet

General Mills and Kellogg's both denied my requests for coupons via form emails. :( It appears the biggest brands that regularly offer coupons in the newspaper circulars and online do not mail customers coupons directly.

Thanks again, Sarah, for the tips on Amy's and Eggland's Best. Also, Carrie received free product samples when she contacted Lansinoh. Does anyone else have stories to share?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Review: Bless Me, Father, for I Have Kids

The first book that I received from The Catholic Company through their Reviewer Program was Bless Me, Father, for I Have Kids by Susie Lloyd. I chose this book because it's created a buzz in the Catholic blogosphere lately and I wanted something faithful and lighthearted to read while nursing.

I read Lloyd's first book, Please Don't Drink the Holy Water, when it was published several years ago. I remember thinking that she was an admirable woman for raising six daughters and finding the time to write. I also remember thinking she wasn't a very good writer.

Wanting to believe her writing had improved, I dug into Bless Me, Father as soon as it arrived. Alas, it failed to satisfy.

Lloyd tries to share her thoughts and experiences with various aspects of parenting and homeschooling a large, Catholic family in a funny way. Her stories of teens driving, kids telling family secrets, and families attending Mass together are supposed to be humorous. Maybe they are, to people with a different sense of humor than I have. Maybe I'm too critical. But I have to admit, I didn't laugh. I just didn't think the writing was very clever (it's reminiscent of Erma Bombeck but falls way short of her wit). Some of it really bothered me (Lloyd treats drunkenness, smoking, anger, and violence too lightly and makes fun of her husband in the book). But I made myself finish Bless Me, Father so I could give a fair assessment in this review. I've seen Lloyd's approach described as "offbeat" - well, it's too offbeat for me.

If you are looking for sweet, short stories about Catholic life from the perspective of a homeschooling mom-to-many, I HIGHLY recommend Danielle Bean. She is just fabulous, as is her writing (clever, vibrant, and either highly amusing or deeply thoughtful, depending on the article). I loved My Cup of Tea, and I'm pretty sure Mom to Mom is great, too.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Love is all she needs

So says the shirt. But how can we NOT love this cute baby? :)

Teresa's health update

On Friday we went to see a Pediatric Gastroenterologist. He was a very friendly, very laid back doctor. We explained everything that has happened with Teresa in the past 3 months and all the steps we've taken to try to help her. I told him that I'd last seen blood in her stools about 4 days prior. It seemed to appear every 3 or 4 days, just a tiny bit, even when I was on the elimination diet. The doctor reviewed our family medical history (which is rife with G.I. illnesses).

And then he said Teresa should be just fine. He suspects she has allergic colitis - an intolerance of the milk and soy proteins that make their way into breast milk. He hopes this allergy will clear up by the time she is 6 months old. He told me there is no need for me to avoid any other foods or to stop or supplement my breastfeeding. He tested a fresh stool sample for blood and the test came back negative. Then he did a brief (but painful, for dear Teresa and her protective papa) rectal exam and said he found nothing of concern. He ordered some blood work and we agreed to see him again in 3 weeks.

Shortly after we left his office, Teresa pooped again...and it had blood in it. We've seen blood in her stools at least 5 times since the appointment. We wonder whether the doctor aggravated her rectum with his (well-intentioned) prodding. When we return to his office we will ask more questions.

One thing is certain: Teresa is a much happier baby today than she was 2 months ago. Her fussy times are far less frequent and it's not too difficult to console her. Nursing continues to go well, and now that I can eat a lot more I'm feeling better, too. The improvement (or, I should say re-broadening) of my diet may have contributed to Teresa's stools improving in color, too (from green to yellow).

After Mass on Sunday I spoke to another mom whose first child had blood in his stools at 10 weeks of age. Her doctor had her stop nursing and put the baby on the super-expensive hypoallergenic formula Nutramigen. A colonoscopy revealed that the casein protein had inflicted much damage on the baby's colon: it was highly ulcerated. Yikes. What made that case different from Teresa's? Could her condition be more serious than our doctor suspects?

We're still not on top of this, and we continue to be grateful for your prayers for our sweet daughter.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

1st Mother's Day as a Mama

Thank you, Frances, for being an amazing mother and wife.

Thank you for bearing Teresa into this world.
Thank you for helping to bring her up in Holy Mother Church.
Thank you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Surprising, awesome video

This message is set to air during American Idol's season finale, according to a post I read at Faith and Family Live. I'm not going to give it away...just watch and tell me if it doesn't make you think, "Wow!"

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Teresa with toys

Here are two videos that show how Teresa's playing skills are developing. She can now grasp toys and shake them and hit toys with greater control.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Play Date

My friend Lindsay and I got together today for a picnic and walk at Freedom Park. Because I am still off dairy, soy, gluten, and peanuts, we had to be creative and careful about our picnic fare. Lindsay made a delicious chicken salad (with canola mayo - most mayo has soybean oil), which we enjoyed in lettuce wraps. I brought tortilla chips, hummus, salsa, strawberries, cantaloupe, and grapes. We ate well and the girls (her Adelaide is just one week younger than Teresa) were in good spirits. They enjoyed sucking their fists together:

Then they took turns sucking their fists:

It was a beautiful day for a walk on the paved paths through the woods and around the big pond. The girls decided they were hungry at the same time (or maybe one prompted the other) and they cried in unison while we searched for an open bench:

Lindsay and I look forward to the day when Teresa and Adelaide will play together, but for now we enjoy opportunities to get out of our homes and talk.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

More faces

I thought these deserved their own post (photos taken April 17th - Teresa is 2 months old):

The many faces of Teresa

Here are just a few:

Smile (4/8)

Complaint (4/11)

Irritation (4/13)

Blowing bubbles (4/13)

Looking over Papa's shoulder (4/14)

Crying (4/19)

Wonder (4/19)

Concentration (4/20)

Teresa's first bottle

Yesterday we decided to try giving Teresa a bottle of breast milk to see if she would take it (one previous attempt when she was around 3 weeks old hadn't worked). I had about an ounce of milk* in the fridge from that morning, so I warmed it in a dish of warm water and David offered it to Teresa when she appeared hungry midday. She accepted the nipple without much hesitation and proceeded to drink more than half an ounce. Not bad for a first time! Afterwards, I nursed her until she was satisfied.

Although we do not plan to offer Teresa bottles often, it's good to know she will accept her nourishment from one just in case we need/want to leave her in someone's care for a couple hours or if anything should cause me to not be able to nurse her for a short while (hospital stay, medication, etc.). To that end, I have a half dozen bottles of expressed milk in our deep freezer.

*(only read this if nursing details don't make you uncomfortable!) This ounce of milk was not expressed - it was caught while I nursed Teresa from the opposite side first thing in the morning. I am amazed at how much will just drip out of me due to let-down when I'm full! Catching while nursing is an easy way to get foremilk to store, though I know I should express some hindmilk to add to it.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Customer appreciation

One of my missions in my relationship with David has been to challenge the numerous brand loyalties he developed before he met me. The bargain shopper in me is easily frustrated by his preference for certain brands of food, clothing, and personal care items. Sure, I've found things that work well for me, but I'm usually open to trying alternatives if I find great deals. As the primary shopper in our marriage (though David does a fine job when duty calls), I sometimes present David with alternatives for him to try. And he sometimes (but not always!) tries them.

But I accepted long ago that David will only eat Jif peanut butter. The king of PB&J sandwiches (he takes one to work with him every time he goes, and we even served them at our wedding reception!) is loathe to cover his slices of bread in anything but Jif. So I stock up on it when I find it on sale or have coupons to use. I recently matched a sale with coupons to get some of the new Natural Jif for us to try (and yes, he tried it!). I found it so good (both texture and taste) that I felt compelled to write to the maker.

So I visited and typed a little message to customer service, explaining my husband's loyalty to Jif and my delight in their new product. I took the opportunity to request coupons, too.

Less than a week later, this showed up in my mailbox (click the image to see it larger):

Way cool! The two grocery stores we visit most frequently both double coupons (even when the coupon says "do not double"), so I'll get 70 cents off each jar of peanut butter. Yay!

I encourage you to email companies that make things you purchase regularly and request coupons. This isn't the first time it's worked for me (Newman's Own also rewarded my efforts, which is why I have at least 4 jars of our favorite pineapple salsa in the pantry). If you've already done this, please let me know which companies respond well!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Day

Holiday gatherings now offer an additional joy: numerous people to hold Teresa!

After a late night (poor, fussy Teresa kept us up until 2 am! I think it was the caffeine in the 2 glasses of sweet tea I drank that day) Teresa and I slept in while David went to morning Mass and took Communion to a homebound parishioner. After a simple breakfast of Rice Krispies with strawberries and rice milk, I baked the gluten- and dairy-free chocolate chip cookies David had gotten for me. They were fabulous!!

While David tackled a mountain of dishes, I put Teresa in her sweet purple dress and then got her situated in the Snugli David was wearing backpack-style. She is still a little small for it (according to the instruction) but I was supervising her, we only kept her in it for an hour, and she seemed quite content therein (she fell asleep and stayed asleep despite the constant movement and clatter).

Around 2:30 we headed over to David's sister's fiance's parents' house (six degrees of separation?) where we've also celebrated the past 2 Easters. When I wasn't nursing her, Teresa spent most of the time in the arms of her nana, aunts, and friends. I loved being able to admire her cuteness while not holding her constantly.

Teresa's good spirits continued that evening and she "went to bed" at 9:30 and slept over 5 hours. I ate a bit of chocolate (dairy-free but did contain soybean oil) yesterday, so we'll continue to watch her diapers for negative effects.

Hooray for holidays!

Easter Vigil

God's graces were flowing during the Triduum. David and I took Teresa to the Mass of the Lord's Supper on Holy Thursday and she slept through the whole thing.

On Good Friday, while David worked, I watched The Passion of the Christ (as is my custom) while Teresa nursed, slept, and played quietly. Then I took her to the Good Friday service and she slept the entire 1.5 hours. We went home for supper (lentils and rice for me - another tradition) and then returned to church for an absolutely beautiful Tenebrae service. Once again, Teresa slept through it all. I was amazed and delighted. I praised God for the change in Teresa's temperament and the healing of her digestive tract we were witnessing. The sacrifice of the elimination diet was bearing fruit, and I savored it.

Still, I kept up my prayers that Teresa would also sleep through the Easter Vigil, at which I was scheduled to read two of the seven first readings. She had another great day on Saturday, but when it was time to leave for church, she was not sleepy. We dressed her up really cute - perhaps the fabric irritated her? She started crying before the service began, and I stayed in the church to nurse her while the congregation processed in with their candles. Then I left her with David to take my place at the front. My first reading, Genesis 1:1 to 2:2, went off without a hitch. Several readings and psalms later, I thought we just might make it. But, during the fifth reading, Teresa started fussing. David took her out to check/change her diaper and try to calm her, but she cried in the hallway. I felt terrible! I was stuck at the front of the church, unable to help. I love serving as a lector, but can I really balance it with caring for my baby? I wondered.

I read my passage from Baruch, sat through a responsorial psalm, and then, as soon as everyone stood for prayer, I bolted to the back of the church. I ended up missing several readings, the homily, and initiation/sacraments of the catechumen while I nursed, changed, walked, and bounced Teresa in the hallways, bathroom, and cry room. Finally she was quiet and I returned to David's side for the last portion of Mass.

The Easter Vigil is usually my favorite liturgy of the entire year, and I was sad to miss out on experiencing it all with recollection. However, it was our true joy to be able to celebrate Christ's resurrection with our beautiful daughter, whom we hope will come to know, love, and serve Him as we strive to do.

Me: "What do you think of your cute outfit, Teresa?"
Teresa: Sigh.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Talking with Teresa

I am a quiet person. At most social events, I prefer to situate myself in an unobtrusive spot where I can observe. Most of the time I think before I speak. Sometimes I think so much that I don't speak at all. I am an internal processor.

When I began communicating verbally with David (over the phone about a month after we'd met online) he challenged me to speak more - to share more of myself out loud. He asked incisive questions to help me dig deeper and expose my true thoughts and feelings. Sometimes I reacted poorly, especially when he kept wanting to talk about sensitive topics or things we disagreed about. He called it "clearing away the debris" and he emphasized how important it was for our relationship. We had to be completely open with one another and address all the issues that might come between us. I was grateful at the same time as I was frustrated by the experience.

I must admit, after a year and a half of marriage I'm still not very good at volunteering my deep thoughts and feelings, especially when I deem them to be sinful or less than charitable and really just want them to go away (wouldn't saying them outloud give them substance?). But David continues to encourage me and always responds well when I am forthcoming.

Even when it comes to day-to-day stuff, I'm not a very chatty person. I don't really like to talk on the phone (which explains, if you are my real-life friend, why I don't call you often, even though I like you very much!). Opportunities for casual conversations often leave me feeling self-conscious and/or incompetent. Because I don't practice much, I'm not a good talker.

I have been reflecting on all this because little Miss Teresa has challenged my reticence in a whole new way. I've been reading about ways to provide babies with stimulation to help their sensory development (mostly in What to Expect the First Year, which I recommend). One of the best things we can do for our children to help them develop language skills is to talk to them often. What to Expect encourages parents to offer their babies a running commentary.

"Don't make a move, at least when you're around your baby, without talking about it. ... It doesn't matter that your baby hasn't the slightest inkling of what you're talking about. Blow-by-blow descriptions help get you talking, and get baby listening - thereby starting him or her off on the path to understanding. (p. 160)
The book also recommends asking children questions (and providing the answers yourself when they can't), giving them a chance to respond (with coos, comments, etc.), imitating the sounds they make, and varying pitch when speaking or reading to them. Sounds good, right? Well, for someone who finds talking "normally" with adults difficult, talking to a baby is even more of a stretch. It just feels unnatural. But I am determined to overcome this reluctance. In the past few days, I've started talking to Teresa. A lot. The more I do it, the easier it gets. And she seems to like it!

Last Friday Teresa's nana came over to hang out with us. When Teresa was fussing, Nana held her on her knees and talked to her. It had a great effect: Teresa quieted down. Since then, I've tried this tactic several times myself. I've discovered that Teresa cries because she wants more attention, and talking to/with her meets that need. Sometimes random chatter with varying pitch and exaggerated expressions can get Teresa to cease even the loudest wailing. She tolerates baths better, too, with a little commentary.

Seems so simple, but I needed others to explain and demonstrate this for me. I have so much to learn!

Nana talking with Teresa:

Sunday, April 5, 2009

"Look what I found"

Sweet dreams (from Friday):

As I post this David is working his third night shift this week - and hopefully his last for a long time. He will be a day shift nurse, but his unit has all the new nurses do a week of night shifts during orientation. Needless to say, the schedule change has left him a bit tired this week. His naps are well-earned!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday in Lent

Laundry is good for the moment. Frances cooked sweet potatoes and we have some meatless tacos ready to be worked up tonight for dinner. The apartment is tidied as much as it can be in this stage of our lives, Frances is taking a well deserved nap, and Teresa is entertaining herself a few feet away from me on the bed. A sweet, momentary respite in the Liberto household.

Frances has done such a great job over the last few weeks with Teresa. Sometimes I’ll stay up a bit later and wake up earlier to take care of Teresa, but Frances is the one who’s primarily waking up at all hours of the night and morning to care for our daughter. Sometimes the bags under Frances’ eyes are so large, I wonder how she can function.

Then I remember that she trusts in the Lord. She receives all of her strength from the Lord.

Even with the sacrifices of these past couple weeks in determining Teresa’s food allergies, Frances has been amazing in how she unceasingly cares for Teresa. In light of her fatigue, Frances has been gentle, patient, loving, and compassionate with Teresa. She’s learned some hard lessons, but her reception of God’s graces, especially prudence, temperance, justice, and fortitude have allowed her to be a great mother.

Flashback to the last hour of pushing seven weeks ago: when all of her strength was depleted, Frances continued solely relying on God’s strength. It was like she was receiving a divine IV infusion of grace. It was an amazing display of how God ensures that He will never abandon us, especially in times of need. It also foreshadowed all of the times we as parents will need to rely on Jesus.

I know that there are many new mothers and mothers with new babies out there who are doing an amazing job with the help of God’s grace. (Diana, Sarah, Katherine, Missy, Missy, Lindsay, and Kate to name a few). I applaud you all and we are praying for you all.

I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been praying for our little family. God hears you and small miracles happen here everyday. We are praying for you as well and we’re grateful for the wonderful people God has brought into our lives.

Being a Friday in Lent, I am reminded of all that Jesus gave everything for us. How sweet it is. It's amazing to see how Frances is giving everything for Teresa, thanks to our Lord, Jesus Christ. We are blessed.

...and the silence bows out as soft cries take the stage...

Monday, March 30, 2009

It's a beautiful day

and I'm grateful to God for it. This morning for breakfast David made me the insides of breakfast burritos (since I can't have tortillas right now): potatoes, sausage, and eggs with salsa. We also skipped the sour cream and cheese, of course.

Then I went to Massage Envy for my first ever professional massage. It was David's surprise birthday gift for me. What made it even more special is that David used the points he'd earned by getting an employee award from the hospital (he got a lot of WOW cards in January - both patients and coworkers recognized his good work) to request a Massage Envy gift card. He turned his reward into a gift for me! Isn't that nice?! The massage experience was just what I expected: calming. My masseuse worked on the knots in my upper back and released some of the tension I had in my neck and shoulders from nursing and carrying Teresa. Sweet.

For lunch David made us chili with rice. It was a filling meal - I guess I'm not going to waste away after all!

Tonight we are going to Sushi 101. I missed sushi my whole pregnancy (well, I did get California rolls from Costco once - yum! - but they weren't the eel rolls I've come to love!). So when David asked me where I wanted to go out to eat for my birthday, it was the first thing that came to mind. And it will be doable on my elimination diet! Fish, rice, seaweed, ginger...the only things I can't enjoy are the salted edamame and the soy sauce. Oh well.

And though I'd really like a big, fat piece of chocolate cake for dessert, strawberries and Cool Whip will still be a treat. :) (UPDATE: Cool Whip contains milk in the form of casein. Boo! So I just had strawberries in sugar.)

So far Teresa's been sleeping a lot and fussing only a little when she's awake. Very good!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Elimination Diet

I request your prayers for our little family. Teresa's symptoms of food allergy have continued, even though I have been dairy-free for 2 weeks and off soymilk and chocolate for 1 week. This weekend she exhibited 6 of the 11 signs of dairy sensitivity listed here: extreme fussiness, congestion, a pin dot rash (or widespread acne) on her face, frequent spitting up, gassiness, and green, mucousy, bloody stools. It's the last one that's most alarming: two diapers with some blood in them. Obviously, I'm still eating something that's bothering her poor little digestive system.

Food allergies are so difficult to determine! She might be intolerant of any of the multitude of ingredients I've consumed. I've started keeping a food log. With David's assistance and encouragement, I will take the plunge and stop eating anything containing gluten (wheat, oats, and barley) or soy. We've made a bare bones menu plan for the next 7-10 days, and then we'll decide how to proceed.

Giving up dairy was tough. At least I can eat my cereal with soymilk and dark chocolate for dessert, I thought. Then those were forbidden as well. I managed. But now all soy and wheat? I've shed many a tear at the thought of it: What a joyless life! What CAN I eat? Will I waste away? I'm already too thin! Will Teresa still get enough nutrients? Is this really worth it, or should I just stop breastfeeding? That would be a humiliating defeat. You get the idea.

So I ask your prayers: that Teresa would be healthy and grow and know comfort and happiness. That I would embrace this sacrifice/challenge with peace and hope. And that David would continue to be the patient and loving husband and father that he has proven himself to be thus far. Thank you.