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...