Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Advice for Newlyweds

Katie at NFP and Me is hosting a link-up of advice for newlyweds in celebration of her second anniversary. I too have only been married two years, and while I certainly don't have all the answers regarding marriage, David and I made it past the newlywed year with our marriage (and our sanity) well intact. I've previously written a post on advice I wish my mother gave me before I got married and some of this post is a reiteration of those thoughts; however, two years (and a baby) in, some of my thoughts on marriage have changed. I'm curious what advice I will give to newlyweds twenty years down the road.

Go with the flow. It seems that many couples consider their wedding the first step in a well thought out plan: we'll buy a house in x amount of time, we'll start a family in x years later, then I'll get a promotion and move to a better part of town, etc. But when you get married you start a life together and life is unpredictable.  Embrace the unexpected because it will make you stronger as a couple.  When you get married, you are bringing two different people, with often drastically different experiences and ideas, together.  By making hard decisions, addressing the unexpected, and defining your values and priorities as a couple, you are forming your own family.  Don't make the mistake of thinking of the unexpected in only negative terms; it can be positive too.  When David and I married, we planned to wait until he graduated to start a family.  Five months later, we found ourself joyfully trying to conceive.  You don't know how marriage will change you, your desires, and priorities, so wait until you are married to set your life course together and still then keep it flexible.

It might be hard, and that's normal.  I married my husband after a two-year long distance relationship and erroneously thought that once we were finally together, life would be bliss.  But those first few months were extremely difficult.  In addition to learning the new dynamics of a marital relationship and adjusting to each other's household habits, I experienced extreme homesickness, having moved out of state to join my new husband.  My expectation that the first few months would be a whirlwind of romance quickly turned into fear that something was wrong with our marriage because I was really struggling.  Had I known that it's normal for the first few months (or even year) to be difficult, I wouldn't have felt the additional stress of thinking that something was inherently wrong and that maybe I had made a mistake in marrying the wrong man (or perhaps it wasn't God's plan for me to marry at all).  Although our adjustment period only lasted a few months, many couples report that the entire first year was the most difficult of marriage.  Know that it won't always be that way. 

Don't ignore problems. The newlywed year sets a precedent for the rest of the marriage.  That's not to say if you have some problems your first year that you are doomed to repeat them throughout your marriage, after all, just like anything else new, there is a learning curve in marriage.  However, you do need to take issues seriously from the get-go and address them as they come up.  Don't assume that things will magically get better as the marriage goes on; it won't.  If something bothers you now, it will still bother you in twenty years and your spouse will never know it bothers you if you never let him know.  Be quick to forgive, but don't move on until the issues have been addressed.

Set boundaries. The first year isn't just key for how you treat one another, it's also lays the groundwork for how you relate with each other's families.  If you have problems with an in-law, this is the perfect time to discuss boundaries with your spouse and enforce them from the get-go.  Many newlyweds expect that many of the issues with in-laws that were evident while dating will change now that you are married.  After all, now you and your spouse are your own family and there is some separation from your family of origin.  Unfortunately, not all in-laws see it that way.  It's best to address those issues before children complicate these problems even more.  Make sure you are honest with yourself about how your own parents treat your spouse and marriage, as well.  You might have awesome in-laws but your spouse might not! 

Don't make assumptions. This was the biggest problem in our early marriage.  I assumed my husband was well versed in financial matters and household maintenance because my parents made a point to explicitly educate me on these topics.  His parents didn't.  David assumed that all women were naturally skilled in the feminine arts (cooking, cleaning, shopping, sewing).  I wasn't.  We inadverantly put each other down by making each other feel like less of a man/woman.  These specific areas may not be the same as what you and your spouse struggle with, but go into marriage with the idea of exploring each other's strengths and weaknesses instead of having expectations of them.

Don't air your dirty laundry. As a woman, it's tempting to disparage my husband to my friends.  It seems that we live in a guy-bashing society, where female friends seem to one-up each other on the whose significant other said/did/wore the stupidest thing.  Before you open your mouth to join in, think of how your husband would feel if he overheard you saying such things (and simply for the purpose of making your friends laugh at him).  If your husband does something that makes you roll your eyes, there is no need to share.  If you are having a serious fight or problem, you can confide in one close friend if you are doing it because you are sincerely looking for help or advice, but make sure you fairly portray both sides of the situation.  Examine your motives for discussing it.  And for goodness sakes, even if your mom or dad is your best friend, do not put your spouse down when you speak to them.  I know this can be difficult because I tell my mom everything, but it really is key in a good marriage.  Most likely your parents already are on your side and you don't want to give them reasons to dislike your spouse!  (The alternative isn't fun either.  My parents think my husband is amazing - and he is! - but they side with him on everything.  It's not fun to get a lecture from your parents for being mean to your husband, even when you know you are right!)

Have fun. Newlywed life only lasts a short time, so enjoy it while you can!  Don't get so caught up in planning for the future that you don't enjoy the present together.  Once (if) you have children, it will be many years before you will again be able to spend so much alone time together and be spontaneous.  Use this time to create memories that will be a strong basis for your life together.  I was recently reminiscing about newlywed life and am grateful that we took advantage of all the little moments together.

What is your best advice for newlywed?  Is your advice different now than it would have been when you were first married? 

If you aren't married yet, what specific advice are you looking for?

Check out NFP and Me for links to some more stellar newlywed tips!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

It's a Date!

A date link-up, that is!  On Wednesday, August 8th, I will be hosting a date idea link-up.  Several of the women I know have expressed a need for some unique date ideas to bring a little more excitement to their relationships and I can't think of anyone better to go to than all my blogging friends!

Some guidelines:
  • Each blog post should be a complete "ready-to-go" date, meaning that if you suggest making something for the date you include a tutorial (if a craft of some kind) or recipe (if food) or a link to those sources.  The idea is that someone who is looking for a date can open your post and have a great date night preplanned for him/her. 
  • Each post should be only one date.  If you have numerous ideas, that's great!  Just write each one as a separate post and link each one individually. 
  • Link your post back to the link-up and include the link-up button (grab the code below).  
  • All date ideas need to be "Christian friendly".  No, I don't mean you need to have a built in prayer time or religious focus.  And if you are not a Christian, that certainly doesn't mean that you can't contribute.  It just means that dates shouldn't have any built-in aspects that would be contrary to Christian teaching.  In order for all the ideas to be usable to both married and non-married couples, you should refrain from including activities that are applicable to the married couple's bedroom.  In addition, dates shouldn't include illegal activities.  And yes, cow tipping is an illegal activity, so cross that off your list of potential dates to write about.

Other than that, you are free to do what you like. Be creative.  Be romantic.  Be genuine.  If it's a date you would enjoy, don't worry about whether you think others would enjoy it.  Each person has his/her own tastes and interests, but I'm sure there are several others out there that would love it just as much as you would, so get your idea out there.


Does it need to be romantic? No!  It can be adventurous, silly, fun, intellectual, crazy, weird.  Most likely if you and your significant other are enjoying yourselves, there will be an element of romance, but romance doesn't have to be the main objective.  If every date was dripping in romance, romance would lose it's luster.

Do I have to have gone on the date? No! You can write about your dream date, a date you are currently planning, the date you would love if you could just convince your stick-in-the-mud significant other to go along with it, etc.  Or it can be one you've done a thousand times and loved each time.

Do I need to be in a relationship?  No!  Single ladies and gentlemen, you are welcome to write about a date you would like to go on or a date you have liked in the past.

Any other questions? Leave them in the comments.

grab the button:

Grab the Button:
<div align="center"><a href="http://catholicnewlywed.blogspot.com/2012/08/revive-romance-date-idea-link-up.html" title="Grab the Button:"><img src="http://i1095.photobucket.com/albums/i469/Catholic_Newlywed/DateIdeaLink-Up.jpg" alt="Grab the Button:" style="border:none;" /></a></div>

I can't wait to read all your date ideas and put them into action!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

25 Activities for Your Older Baby (6-12 Months)

If you spend anytime on Pinterest, I'm sure you've noticed that there are an abundance of ideas for fun, creative, educational, and cheap activities to do with toddlers and preschoolers.  However, my little one isn't quite to that stage.  Yet she's at the point where she needs a constant play companion and gets bored easily.  I've been searching for some great activities for an older baby and haven't found much so I decided to solicit some advice from some experienced moms, search the web (ahem...Pinterest) for ideas, and compile them for other parents or caretakers running low on ideas.

What I love about this list is that most of these ideas use items you have already lying around the house (which makes them easy and free) and many of the others have cheap DIY options.  In my seven months of motherhood, I've noticed that Lucia has very little need for "real" baby toys; she actually prefers to explore the everyday items around her.  So save your money and space by forgoing the expensive baby toys in favor of teaching and playing with what you have on hand.  (For more tips on saving with baby, see the Baby on a Budget series.) Another observation I had about these activities is that they overlap each other - the same materials can be used in various ways to create new activities.  So see what you have around the house, make a quick trip to the dollar store, and start playing (and learning) with that adorable baby of yours!

1. Ice Play
source: Plain Vanilla Mom

From Becky of Growing Up Naturally In-Home Child Care: "Put ice cubes in mesh feeders or freeze popsicle sticks into them while freezing. For additional fun, add food dye while freezing and give baby paper to "draw" on with their colored ice."  What great ideas for keeping baby cool in the summer.  And food-colored ice as paint? What a fun, fairly mess free, and non-toxic option!  Another simple idea I found at Plain Vanilla Mom is to fill a container with water, toss in some fun shaped ice cubes (with food coloring for even more excitement) and let little hand "fish" for the ice cubes. 

2. Edible Finger Paint
For those who can handle a little more mess, have your child "paint" on large sheets of butcher paper with various foods.  Laura of Diapers and Drivel suggests using "room temp yogurt or room temp pudding or room temp cool whip depending on the age of the baby and allergies."  Heather, occasional contributor at Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints, says "since black and white is often still "hot" at this age try chocolate pudding and whipped cream."  Sonja of Shy Babies wrote a post about edible finger paint and suggested ways to get older children (siblings) involved as well, including having them experiment with mixing together different colors and combining art and snack time by having them "paint" on pie crusts, sugar cookies, or graham crackers.

3.  Signing
Silica of The Adventures of McBaby has seen much success from signing with her little one: "We have been signing with our son, Alisdair, consistently since he was about six months old, and now at the age of 15 months, he can sign about 75 different words! Since we didn't know much sign language, we used The Baby Signing Book which has an ASL dictionary as a reference, and the Signing Time videos to help us learn. One of our favorite things to do with signing is songs - favorites now are 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star', the alphabet, and 'Itsy Bitsy Spider.' But any song or lullaby will work - just sign the words you know when you come to them!"

4. Sensory Bottles
source: Pink Pistachio

I first became aware of sensory bottles when I worked for a short time in the one-year-old  room of a daycare.  My daughter loves to hold bottles with just plain water in them, so she's certainly ready for sensory bottles.  If you are unfamiliar with sensory bottles, here's Heather's explanation: "On the go at that age, my son was fascinated when I'd take an empty 8 oz. water bottle, take off the label, put in a few tbsp of glitter and sequins, and fill it with water. I called them shaky kaleidoscopes."  Almost anything can be put in a bottle with water to make sensory bottles: food coloring, oil, feathers, beads, rice, etc.  I love this tutorial at Southern Thomas, which uses awesome Voss bottles, a variety of items inside, and a carrying case made out of an old cardboard beer bottle carton! (And the total cost for her sensory bottle project? $6.50!) Another example from Pink Pistachio includes ribbon strips, dice, and little pom-pom balls. 

5. Blocks
Although (most) babies of this age aren't yet able to build with blocks, don't make the mistake of thinking they are too young for blocks altogether.  Build a tower and let baby knock it down.  And then do it again.  This helps her understand cause and effect (if you push on the blocks, they fall down every time).  Don't get stuck thinking you can only stack "real" wooden or plastic blocks - fabric blocks (DIY tutorial from Just for Daisy), empty food boxes (especially those individual serving cereal boxes), egg cartons, etc. can be just as fun!

6. Dump and Pick Up
Along the same line as blocks, make a game of placing certain items in a container, dumping them out, and (if the baby is old enough to do so) putting them back in to do it all over again.  Katie has a fun (easy and cheap!) suggestion of items to use: "My son especially liked clothespins in a large can (I used a utensil holder). They were clangy and interesting. Dump it out, put it back in." 

7. Cook Together
When you cook, bring baby in the kitchen with you.  Put him in a high chair or other seat and hand him cooking utensils to play with while you work.  Savannah of Simply Me writes of her son, "He loves to makes noise and when I'm cooking I give him a wooden spoon and a pot and let him go crazy! It lets me be able to cook in peace and it entertains him."  Wooden spoons, whisks, pots and pans, and measuring cups all make great baby toys.  If you don't mind a mess, as you work with different ingredients, offer your little one the chance to touch them.  While baking, put a little of each ingredient: flour, oil, etc. in a bowl separate from the one you are using.  Let your baby put his hands in it and run the ingredient through his fingers. 

8. Indoor Sledding
One of my favorite ideas comes from Laura of Diapers and Drivel: "Tie an old towel to a laundry basket and put baby in basket. Then pull them around the room."  How simple, simple, simple and fun!

9. Bubbles
For an outdoor activity, Heather, occasional contributor at Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints suggests a bubble machine: "Just point it so the bubbles will float past where she's sitting."  And, of course, a good old fashioned bottle of bubbles and wand will work just as well. (Imagine how fun this could be for baby and older sibling - older sibling blows the bubbles, baby sibling pops them and giggles!)  For a fun DIY option, check out this tutorial at Rhythm of the Home for homemade bubble wands and bubble recipe. Erika of Raising (& Teaching) Little Saints:  "Bubbles are fantastic for hand eye coordination which eventually helps with writing, holding a pencil."

10. Read, Read, Read
I hope I don't need to remind you to read to your baby, but I couldn't leave reading off the list since it is the quintessential baby activity.  Have fun with it - use stuffed animals or puppets along with the story, use different voices for each character, add your own extra narration to the story (especially useful for those baby books that only have a few words per page!).  In addition to reading to your baby, let her "read" to you and to herself.  Leave baby-friendly board books and cloth books in her toy bin.  Create a "reading time" each day, before bed or a certain time during the day.  Let her see you read for fun (perhaps sit next to her and read your book while she reads hers!). Our current favorite books are Good Night, Little One, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, cloth Thank You Prayer book, and The Corduroy Giant Shaped Board BookWhich are your little one's favorite books? 

Laura of Diapers and Drivel suggests making your own book: "If you have a laminator you can make your own books with pictures of family (particularly ones you don't see often).  You can also add different types of fabric for texture feeling.  You can do shapes that are 3D or colors." There are many great tutorials for homemade cloth books, but if you aren't very crafty, you can purchase this Who Loves Baby? photo book and just slip in your own pictures (my mom gave this to me as a baby shower gift so that baby wouldn't forget her loved ones living out of state and Lucia loves it!).

11. Massage
Infant massage is such a great way to bond with your baby.  There are also some great health benefits to infant massage (read more about them here).  Massage can get a bit trickier as your baby gets older and more mobile, but establishing a "massage time" during the day, for example before or after nap time or as part of the bedtime routine can help.  I took an infant massage class when Lucia was three months and our instructor suggested integrating massage with storytelling for older babies and toddlers.  Tell a story about a garden and demonstrate the "raking" by raking your fingers down your child's back, "plant the seeds" by gently pressing on the back with your fingertips, and "cover the seeds" by gently pressing your palms back and forth across the back.  For more resources on infant massage, check out the International Association of Infant Massage website.

12. Obstacle Course
Once your little one is crawling, Meri encourages that you set up an obstacle course to help increase motor skills.  Use pillows and cushions that baby has to crawl over, boxes to crawl through  and attach towels or sheets to a table that baby has to go under.  You can also include various materials and textures that baby has to crawl on (perhaps silky sheets and fuzzy blankets) and toys that baby has to push or move out of the way (like the Fisher Price 1-2-3 Crawl-Along Snail).

13. Tactile Books/Cards
source: make, do & friend

The idea for Tactile Exploration Cards comes from make, do & friend. Cut out cards from cardboard or other sturdy materials and paste on various materials of different colors and textures.  Some ideas include lace, sand paper, foam letters, a sponge, different fabrics, etc.  Be creative in varying materials!  Another option would be to make a homemade book with these, either by binding together cards or by purchasing a blank board book (like this one) and gluing your materials to the pages.  (Another fun option would be to add texture to the board books your child already has - add "fur" to the animals, glue fabric clothing on the children, etc.)

14. Peek-a-boo
Get creative with the classic game of peek-a-boo!  Meri suggests convert large boxes into peek-a-boo boxes.  And Laura of Diapers and Drivel has an idea to turn chore time into play time by playing peek-a-boo while putting sheets on your/their bed.  I always play peek-a-boo with my little one while my husband is holding her.  I peek around his shoulders or his sides, I've even knelt down and peeks through his legs.  After a few times, Lucia catches on and starts looked wildly around for me when I disappear and giggles with delight when she finds me.  It never gets old for her!  Incorporating a mirror into peek-a-boo and having the little one look for herself is fun too!

15. Hanging Toys
source: Paint on the Ceiling
Once my daughter started sitting up, I thought she was too old for hanging toys until I read this post by Hannah of Paint on the Ceiling.  Once babies are able to sit, crawl, and even walk, hanging objects just become more fun.  Baby can hang on them, crawl between them, or tangle them up.  Vary the objects - stuffed animals, balls, cloth blocks, mirrors, and include ones that make noise when they move or when they are knocked together.  I especially love Hannah's idea to hang the objects outside over a blanket.  Sometimes you just have those days when you have to get out of the house.

16.  Bead Tracks
Heather: "I made my own bead tracks (like the Brio ones you see in doctors offices). Super popular and he could spend HOURS with them. All you need is a block of wood, coated wire that will hold it's shape well, and large beads." What a great DIY project (and much cheaper than buying one)! I tried finding some tutorials and examples online, but only came up with ones made out of styrofoam instead of wood; if you find one (or if you do it yourself and make your own tutorial), let me know!  Or non-crafty types can always purchase one like this Melissa And Doug Bead Maze.

17. Shakers
Source: Mama Smiles

Turn your little one into a musician by filling a container with noise-making objects.  This is similar to a sensory bottle, but without the water.  Laura of Diapers and Drivel recommends using "an old medicine bottle (child safe of course) and fill it with beans". For another fun (and beautiful) option, check out these shakers made out of clear plastic Easter eggs that I found at Mama Smiles.  I think that old spice bottles would make great shakers as well.  If you make several shakers, vary the object inside so each shaker makes a different noise.  If your container is clear, different bright colors aid in exploration.  Some ideas to fill your bottles: buttons, rice, sugar (or sprinkles!), coins, beads.

18. Have a Ball
Again, this one should be obvious, but sometimes we need reminders from time to time that we don't need to constantly plan structured activities; sometimes, all you need is a ball.  There is so much your little one can do with a ball, roll it, bounce it (or watch you bounce it in those early months), and of course, take a little taste.  If you do want to make ball playtime even more "educational", you can provide a variety of balls with different shapes, sizes, materials, and textures for your baby to explore.  

19. Fun with Sponges
Sponges are really fun playthings for little ones (with and without the water).  I previous mentioned them as a fun addition to tactile cards or books because of their interesting texture.  Play with them at bath time or simply give (a clean) one to your little one to explore.  To "fancy up" sponge play, try making sponge balls with the tutorial from One Charming Party.  Or turn sponges into blocks and build a tower with your little one (I love this idea from Toddler Approved to use sponge strips to build and play with before you turn them into sponge balls).

20. Sensory Bins
A sensory bin is a container of some sort that contains several different materials and toys to let you baby or young child explore various shapes, sizes, textures, colors, even smells.  Several of the activities already mentioned are "sensory bins" of some sort - a container with water and ice cubes, a bowl of cooking ingredients, etc.  Sensory bins can be made of various items you have around the house.  Often, especially for older children, the sensory bins have a theme (for example a "nature" themed sensory bin might include dirt, rocks, leaves, and plastic insects) but since the purpose, especially with littler ones is just to let them explore new items, a theme isn't necessary.  I really like the sensory bin made up of rice, large noodles, and plastic shapes in a glass casserole dish from Play, Create, Explore.  I made a similar one last week for Lucia with wooden shapes and lentils.  Another fun one I found is a sensory bin filled with various balls.  Some other ideas: cotton balls, coffee beans, ribbons, sand.  What are your favorite sensory bin materials?

21. Tickle
I can't express how excited I was the first time I realized my baby was ticklish.  I tickled her under her arms and she laughed and laughed.  (My first thought: I can make my baby giggle on demand? Yes, please!) If you are a parent, I'm sure you don't need me to tell you how fun tickling is for you and baby.  But perhaps I can suggest a neat twist on traditional tickling: check out these homemade tickle sticks from make, do & friend.

source: make, do & friend
22. Open/Close Games
Jamie of For Love of Cupcakes: "You can get a tin in the Target dollar bins and put crayons or little toys inside.  Little One will have hours of fun!"  You probably don't even have to buy a container, you probably have several extra containers at home (old oatmeal or yogurt containers would work).  If you want to keep the lid with the container, cut a little hole in each and tie them together with a ribbon!

23. Velcro & Magnets

source: Chasing Cheerios
Make a velcro board for your baby like this one from Chasing Cheerios.  Attach a few strips of velcro to a piece of wood and to several toys or objects.  Baby will love pulling the items off!  Similarly, you can put magnets on the refrigerator (or on a DIY magnet board made from a cookie sheet covered in fabric like this one) for your little one to play with.  Remember, you can make anything magnetic by simply gluing on a magnet or two so you aren't confined to the magnets you find in the store.  Use different shapes, textures and colors to make this interesting to your little one!

24. Sorting
According to Heather, "Egg cartons make great places for "sorting" things - my son used to LOVE using them for that. Have them sort cereal (Froot Loops were always popular) and other edibles once they can chew them."  I think plastic Easter eggs (or perhaps the Easter egg shakers pictured above) would be fun for little ones to play with in the egg cartons as well.  Meri suggests using large vegetable trays to sort large objects.  Other household containers for sorting include muffin tins and ice cube trays.  At the early stages, perhaps sort items by color or type before giving them to baby and then just let him play with them however he wants.  Later on, you can help him sort by giving him different colored items (food, toys, balls, etc) and putting a piece of colored paper/painting on the bottom of each section of the container for him to match the colors.  

25. Nursery Rhymes, Songs, Finger Plays
There is a reason that nursery rhymes, children's songs and finger plays have survived generations (and in some cases, centuries); nothing can replace one-on-one contact with your baby.  When you sing and play with your little one, you are developing language skills and bonding.  Do you still remember some of the nursery rhymes from when you were little?  That's because they are powerful learning tools!  I'll admit, I've had to look several up because I couldn't remember all the words, but it's been fun for me to revisit them.  Find ways to make ones even more interactive; Meri suggests, "Use one size fits all winter glove to make "Five Little Monkey's" out of felt and sing song." A few of my favorite nursery rhymes: "Where is Thumbkin?", "This Old Man", "I'm a Little Teapot", "Mary Had a Little Lamb",  and "Three Blind Mice".  What are your (little one's) favorites?

None of these activities are meant for baby to do alone!  All of these should be supervised, especially the ones with small items and water.

If you have any ideas that aren't included in this post, be sure to leave them in the comments or email them to me at messywifeblessedlife@gmail.com and I will incorporate them into a future roundup of ideas.  Please include any blog posts you have written on activities with your baby and I'll be happy to link to it.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Seven Month Old

In the busyness of the move, I never got around to writing Lucia's seven month post and she's already half way to eight months.  But I firmly believe in the concept of "better late than never" and I really don't want to miss a month.  When I started writing her monthly updates, I wasn't quite sure why I was writing them, but now I believe it will be fun to read these will subsequent children and compare their development.  And I'm so much better at writing here than in her baby book (although I will be catching up on that soon!).

What's new this month for my little Lulu?  Unlike previous months, I can't think of much that is completely new.  This month has been more of a continuation of the development she started last month.  She is getting so very close to crawling though.  She gets up on her hands and knees, rocks back to her toes, gets frustrated, rolls around, usually scoots backwards a bit and gets frustrated that she is even further from her desired location, and yet still somehow manages to eventually get to the toys in front of her.  I think it's only a matter of a few weeks before she's really crawling.  I'm sure I'll be writing about it at at nine months if not at eight.

at the weight bench
Besides being so much more mobile, Lucia's also become much more expressive.  She has many more sounds in her repertoire, including excited little grunts which are reserved exclusively for when she sees the dogs (we have two dogs in the house now that we've moved in with my parents and Lucia loves them!).  In addition to grunting, she also kicks her legs when she sees the dogs and looks down and around the room for them whenever we leave our room.  She has new clicking noises and a puckered kissy face that are pretty darn cute too!  She's also become quite a bit more of a crier and whiner, much of this stemming from the fact that she has suddenly become much more cautious around strangers (stranger danger!) and much more reliant on having those she's comfortable with right next to her.  She had a hard time with her grandparents and aunt and uncles when we first moved back, but now she is very comfortable with all of them and quite enjoying their attention.

Lu's sleeping situation has become quite changed due to the move and is only just getting back on schedule ("schedule" has always been a loose term around our home anyway).  Although Lucia will have her own room in a few weeks, she is currently staying in our room in a pack and play until the new carpet gets put in my parents house (so that we don't have to take down and move all her furniture) and her room is repainted.  At first, the two hour time difference threw us all for a loop, but she's finally starting to go to sleep at a consistent time again.  She is regularly waking at some time in the middle of the night and spends the rest of the night in bed with us, although I think she may sleep more soundly through the night once she moves back into her own room.  She will wake a few times at night, wiggle around and then nurse, although her sleep doesn't seem to suffer for it.  David and I on the other hand are having a bit of a rough time sleeping with her in our bed now because she somehow manages to wiggle herself completely sideways in bed (see the above paragraph on her increased mobility!) and push us both off the bed at the same time.  Clever girl ends up with almost the entire bed to herself!

David and I still aren't pushing solids.  Some days she goes completely without "real food" if we don't make anything that lends itself easily to baby.  To many "old schoolers", a baby not eating solids at six months was unthinkable, but at seven and a half months (!) you would think I was the world's most negligent parent.  Lucia doesn't seem to be lacking in the least, mama's milk is keeping her thighs chunky, so I'm not concerned.  I do think that I will be increasing solids in the upcoming weeks though, not so much for the nutrition factor, but because learning to feed one's self helps with motor skills (any finger food ideas?).

packed and ready to move!
Aside from her LOOOOVE of dogs, Lucia isn't too picky when it comes to play things.  Measuring cups, burp cloths, wooden spoons, or a whisk are just as fun as toys.  (I can just tell she's going to be a baker like her mama!)  It is fun to see her start playing with some more traditional baby toys, like stackers (although she can't stack yet) and blocks (she's quite good at knocking down what mama builds).  And she does have a special place in her heart for her dolly.  Although she loves to roll and wiggle around, she does seem to lose interest quickly and need a constant play companion.

She is so full of smiles, laughs, and happy noises.  In fact, one of her newest developments is giggling.  She's been laughing for a while, but if you kiss or tickle her just right, she'll burst into a giggling fit.  It's just so fun!  In fact, everything about this age is so fun.  She seems to get more easily upset (I think it's frustration that her physical development isn't yet caught up with her cognitive abilities, so she can't do everything she wants to do), but all her emotions are heightened so she's also much more easily amused.  When she gets tired, she gets so, so cranky, but to be honest, I think it's kind of nice.  I love that she's able to clearly communicate her needs to me by different moods, different cries or fusses, so I can better care for her.  I'm excited for when she can communicate even more in the form of words and signs - still no words although her consonant sounds are awesome and her only sign continues to be milk - but for now, I feel like we understand each other.

Just started following?
To catch up on Lucia's monthly posts, click below:

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Best of Mandi & David

Today is our two year wedding anniversary! If you had asked us on our wedding day where we would be in two years, I'm not quite sure what we would have said, but it certainly wouldn't have been parents of a seven month old and just moved back in with my parents.  But if I have learned anything in these past two years, it's that marriage has the ability to bring stability into even the most unpredictable circumstances.  Every night, regardless of where we are or what the day brought us, my husband and I lay down next to each other in bed and pray.  What more can I ask for?  My grandparents celebrate their 60th anniversary next month and I can only pray that David and I will someday be that blessed.

For our anniversary, I thought it would be fun to revisit all the blog posts I've written about us, a brief run down of our "love story" in the form of blog posts, if you will.

Our Catholic Match "Success Story"

Our Engagement Story

Our Wedding Cake

Our Song

A Magical Honeymoon

Open to Life

Nostalgia for Newlywed Life

My Vocation as Wife and Mother

And some of my recent thoughts on marriage as a blessing to more than just the wedded couple...Marriage as a Gift

Happy Anniversary, Sweetheart! I know, without a doubt, that the best is yet to come!

Friday, July 13, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 64)

--- 1 ---

Lucia and I are home in Colorado! We arrived here Tuesday morning.  My husband and brother are still on their way with our vehicles and belongings, but they should (hopefully) arrive here later this afternoon.  They were originally supposed to arrive here last night, but ended up only getting a few hours of driving in on Tuesday instead of all day because fitting our items into the moving trailer turned out to be a fiasco (see #2).

--- 2 ---

It turns out, we have a lot more than we thought we did (even after selling almost all our furniture and taking several trips of items to Goodwill).  We couldn't fit everything into the moving trailer we rented and had to end up getting rid of several things, throwing out quite a bit, shipping several hundred dollars worth of boxes, and I had to bring five huge suitcases with Lucia and me on the plane.  Thankfully, my husband and brother were awesome and managed to packed everything "important" (including the rocking chair which we were sure wouldn't fit and I was heartbroken to leave behind).  The only thing we had to get rid of that we will miss is my husband's barbecue, which we won't actually need while living with my parents, but it was a wedding gift and he loved it.  We did give it to friends though, so we know it's in good hands and appreciated.
--- 3 ---

It was all worth it.  Well, I guess you'll have to ask my husband and brother if the all-nighters of packing, the 1,700 mile drive, and all the accompanying stress was worth it, but in my opinion, it's so good to be home.  I know I shouldn't get too comfortable here since we may have to move again soon if David gets a job elsewhere, but I can't help but feel that this is where we are supposed to be.
--- 4 ---

I spent the day yesterday with my new sister-in-law. I can't tell you how amazing it is to just be able to drive 40 minutes to spend the day with her.  She's only lived here a month but she already  bought a pack and play, baby toys and toiletries for Lulu when she visits. (Can you tell she just adores her neice and goddaughter?)  And she taught me how to knit!  She is absolutely the queen of Pinterest (unlike me who pins and pins and never makes anything, almost their entire apartment is impeccably decorated with homemade, upcycled decorations she learned about on Pinterest), so I'm hoping some of her craftiness will run off on me - I am going to try really hard to make our rooms here into a "home"!

--- 5 ---

Our 2nd anniversary is on Tuesday!  My parents are going to be watching Lucia while David and I go out for a romantic dinner.  Last year we were moving from Indiana to North Carolina on our anniversary, so we purposely planned our move out here to happen befor our anniversary so we can actually celebrate. 
--- 6 ---

After my brother flew out but before the packing madness began, we took a trip to the beach.  I can't believe we lived only a few hours away, but almost left North Carolina without making it to the ocean!  It was so worth the drive.  Lucia cried when we put her tootsies in the cold water, but she loved the sand (well, she loved eating it anyway).  It was a beautiful day, the sand was so soft, and we finished it all off with donuts from this tiny donut shop by the beach.  Perfect! 

--- 7 ---


We saw the first of Lucia's six month pictures today! The photographer just sent out the disc and I can't wait to see the rest.  I sense that I'll be making a new blog header soon to incorporate some of these gorgeous shots! (If you are in the Raleigh area, I highly recommend Red Fern Photography. Rebecca is amazing and very reasonably priced!)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, July 6, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (Take 63)

--- 1 ---

Betty Beguiles had a love song link-up this week!  Check out my love song play list, then hop over to Betty Beguiles for a long list of other bloggers who have shared theirs.  I've been in heaven discovering new romantic tunes (and revisiting old favorites I'd long forgotten about)!

--- 2 ---

I always have all the basic ingredients for baking on hand in case the mood strikes me to make something (or my husband puts in a last minute request).  Eggs, sugar, flour, cocoa powder, vanilla, chocolate chips, etc.  When I get low on one, it instantly goes on the shopping list (funny how other household items never seem to make it to the shopping list no matter how many times I realize we're out).  But since we're moving on Tuesday, I haven't been restocking as we run out.  I got the itch to bake earlier in the week and David wanted chocolate chip cookies.  Unfortunately, we were out of butter.  I remembered we had coconut oil, so I hopped onto Pinterest and found a coconut oil chocolate chip cookie recipe.  My husband was a little suspect, but they came out amazing!  I've been wanting to start cooking and baking with coconut oil anyway (did you know some people eat a spoonful of straight coconut oil every day for its health benefits?), so it was a win-win situation!

--- 3 ---

David and I have been struggling with Lulu in Mass recently.  She's very vocal and loud, so we feel she's a big disruption in the pews.  Since she's not crying, just "talking", there really isn't any way to quiet her.  But when we have gone in the cry room, it's an absolute zoo: parents don't even attempt to quiet their children or have them sit down, even the parents don't participate (they SIT through the entire Mass, and not just those that are holding children!), and a few weeks ago, one child was playing with a very loud musical toy that played the entire Mass (seriously, who brings a musical toy to church?).  In this midst of this frustration, it was very good to come across this piece: "Your Screaming Kids Are Distracting Me".  It is a must read for every parent who worries about their little one being noisy in Mass.

--- 4 ---

CHI Ceramic Nail Lacquer in Risque Lingerie + OPI Black Shatter = the coolest nails I've ever had! Recently, my skin is the absolute worst it's ever been (and I've never had what you could call "clear skin". It's really taken a toll on my self-esteem, to the point that I haven't even been wanting to leave the house. So I've been stepping up my beauty routine in other places: actually styling my hair and giving myself cute manicures and pedicures, and it really has helped. I can't help but feel rockin' with my cute nails.
--- 5 ---

Yo, God, Are You There? Another very powerful piece I read this week, this one about God preparing us for the difficulties ahead without our knowledge.

--- 6 ---

If you've missed any of my posts from this past week, here are a few of my favorites: The newest post in the Broken series is heartbreaking (and heartbreakingly honest), written by a woman whose "broken" relationship started at the age of 16.  I wrote a guest post for Catholic Cookie Jar's Catholic Marriage Series about marriage as a gift to those around you.  I jotted down a few of my thoughts about the links between motherhood and guilt.

--- 7 ---

We leave for Colorado on Tuesday.  My brother flew in yesterday to help us move, we'll be spending the weekend packing up, and we're headed out come Tuesday.  Lucia and I are flying, David and my brother will be driving our vehicles with the moving trailer.  This is it, it's really happening!  We're on our way back to Colorado.  Even if it just ends up being temporary, it will be nice to be "home".  I'm going to be taking the next week or so off of blogging while we pack up and get settled in.  I can't be gone too long, because it's time for Lucia's seven month post!  If you think about it, say a prayer for us next week, especially for David and my bro as they make the three day trip?  Thanks!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Guilt is to motherhood...

...as grapes are to wine. (Fay Weldon)

When I think of motherhood in the abstract, I think of love, joy, and tenderness. Yet too often the feeling that has defined my short time as a mother is guilt.  Which in turn, makes me feel even more guilty. 

Why is motherhood laced with guilt? 

Motherhood is more than a relationship between mother and child, it’s also the foundation of a community between women.  While the companionship between mothers gives women much needed support for the difficulties of motherhood, it is also the source of guilt.  Guilt when I can’t do for my child what other mothers do for theirs.  But also guilt when I can do something for my little one that another mother can’t.

I had a perfectly healthy pregnancy and a natural, intervention-free delivery.  This is something I rejoice in, for which I thank the Lord, yet when I think about it, I also experience a twinge of guilt because there are so many women who suffer complicated pregnancies and births. 

Breastfeeding also came easy to me and Lucia, and seven months in we have still escaped even the slightest issue.  Other mothers have asked me for advice or recounted their difficulties and I’m ashamed to tell them that I had no problems.  I don’t want to be the salt in their wounds, perhaps reminding them that they were unable to nourish their child as well as they had intended.  I know how it is to be on the receiving end, to wonder why motherhood doesn’t come as naturally to me, if there is something innately wrong with my ability to mother.

I feel guilt that I sometimes desire to escape from my daughter, to have a few minutes wholly to myself.  Sometimes, when she cries, I want to just leave the apartment and walk away until I can’t walk any further.  It doesn’t help that I don’t do these things, that I hold her and comfort her until she stops crying, just the thought is enough to make me feel guilty. 

I know that I am a good mother.  I love my daughter greatly and care for her needs.  I cannot control what other mothers can do for their children and I can only concentrate on doing my best with mine.  I remind myself of these truths when the guilt becomes overwhelming, but I can’t help wonder if there is a greater solution to maternal guilt. 

Would changing societal perceptions and expectations of motherhood lessen the prevalence of maternal guilt?