Waiting on Sissy

We’re less than 2 months out from the arrival of our little girl and our expansion to a family of four. John-Paul remains enamored with my rotundness that is his sister. We refer to her as “Sissy” (or as JP calls her “Seeeessssyyyyy”) and I think he is starting to connect Sissy with being a baby, but this kid probably will still be in for the shock of his life.

Although JP had quite the attitude on the day of our family photos, I’m so glad that we captured this moment in time… these extra special moments with John-Paul as we eagerly await his sister. (and some serious props to our photographer, Ashley Mauro, for her kind patience and mad photog skills!) I think we often operate in the mentality of scarcity – will there be enough love to go around? When really, love multiplies with each new life that joins our family. We love each other of course, and we love John-Paul. And now our baby girl will have parents to love and cherish her, plus she will have a big brother to love her (and  pinch her and poke her). And hopefully she loves all of us back 😉

Yes, children are a ton of work. Yes, it will feel like I have less time. Yes, I will have my hands full with two littles. Yes, I will be SO TIRED.  But as my favorite tote bag says: Hands Full, Heart Full. My prayer is to move from this mentality of “there’s not enough to go around!” and move into “Look how much love we have to give!”

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Slippery, slippery time. What has it been…three, four months since my last post? Between the throes of a rough pregnancy and adjusting to life in our new location, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind. The days aren’t particularly busy, but taking care of a toddler who wants to be on top of the keyboard and mouse isn’t very conducive to writing. Plus the last couple months I’ve usually opted for a nap during JP’s nap time. No regrets.

Instead of trying to catch you up on the day to day minutiae of our daily routine, I’m going to jump back to Easter when Mama Heidi, Nana and Poppy came to visit. It was Nana’s first time visiting! And it was extra special to have all three of them at once. We filled our days with baking and cooking German food, an Easter feast and of course, desserts. We relaxed, too! One big highlight was our day trip to Fort Wayne, Indiana. Poppy spent the first 16 years of his life in Fort Wayne (they moved to CA when he was 16) and this was his first time back since he was a teen. Living so far away, he thought he’d never see his old stomping grounds again. But lo and behold, we’re only few hours drive and we knew we just had to visit. Click through the photos to read the captions for details. It’s laundry and rest time for me!

I thought…

I thought that I’d have an all-natural, no intervention birth and then I didn’t. And it was still beautiful.

I thought we’d never get the hang of breastfeeding, but after weeks of pumping, exhaustion, tears, lactation consultations, nipple shields, nipple butter and some growth….we made it through and I’m still breastfeeding at 12 1/2 months.

I seriously thought that I would never stop leaking milk all over my clothes when I even THOUGHT about nursing John-Paul. But eventually that stopped and my laundry pile was a little smaller and my clothes less wet.

I thought I’d never be able to breastfeed with ease in public places, but we do now and it ain’t no thang.

I thought to myself, “How will I ever, ever, ever manage to cook and clean and do anything else besides sit on the couch and take care of John-Paul?” But as time goes on, we’re able to balance more.

I thought we’d have to lug him around in that ever-awkward-to-carry infant carrier forever and ever and ever, but that stopped. And he’s outgrown his first carseat.

I thought I couldn’t be more thrilled than I was when JP first smiled…but then each milestone proved ever sweeter.

I thought I’d never get the hang of the wrap or the sling, but with some good youtube videos and an extremely kind stranger at Target…I can wear JP.

I thought that I just might die when I had to fly alone with John-Paul across the country. It was exhausting, but we did it! and then we flew alone again 2 more trips out west.

I thought I wouldn’t know what to do with JP once he outgrew his rock’n’ play. Where would I put him when I cooked or needed to do something? But he outgrew it and we adjusted.

What about when he outgrew his bumbo? His Johnny Jump Up? His exersaucer? What would I do with him then? (I didn’t learn it the first time) We adjusted.

I thought teething would never end, but after four long months JP finally caught a break. And we got a little sleep.

I thought that it would be so long until he sat up, and sometimes it certainly felt long…but he sat up and changed my life by being able to sit in the grocery cart.

I thought I’d never see an 8 hour (or please, just six) stretch of sleep again in my life, but recently we’ve had a much more tolerable sleep schedule. Thank you, son.

It seemed like forever until JP learned to “crawl” (it was a slither for a couple months…) but now he’s so quick and I can barely go into the kitchen without him crawling off into some mischief.

And then before I could even think he was standing up, scooching around the couch and responding to things we said.

I thought I could imagine the love I’d feel for my child before we had John-Paul, but I realize now I couldn’t fathom the depths of the love I’ve felt grow each day since we found out we were pregnant. John-Paul stretches my heart to contain love I never knew was possible. Sometimes it’s easy to look back and think, “Gosh life was so much easier before we had a kid!” and it’s true, life was much easier, much more convenient. This last year has pushed me to many limits, and I often still feel overwhelmed, anxious and very uncertain about what the heck I’m doing as a parent. Even though many days I have dark circles, greasy hair and feel exhausted…life is full with John-Paul. He gives our family life and deepens our love. Through his total dependence on us, he challenges us to be less selfish, more giving. John-Paul, we are thankful for you!

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One Year.

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A few days late, but better late than never! Happy birthday, JP! What a year it has been. Even though we’ve lived the majority of it through a haze of exhaustion and baggy eyes, there is nothing that compares to having you in our family. And since you can’t remember these beautiful moments, I made a little 9 minute video in fast forward for you to look back and see your first year of life.

At One Year…

You’re not quite walking, but you totally could if you wanted to! But you’re content crawling and scooching around the edges of all the furniture.

You love to crawl in the cupboards and pull everything out.

All of a sudden you no longer want to spend time in the bath, so it has to be a very quick operation.

Still not really sleeping. Someday when I’m trying to wake up your teenage self, please remember that you kept your dear, sweet mother up for pretty much a year straight. Even steven.

You still have 8 teeth, no more yet!

You love to read books. Right now Animals, Baby Signs, Dear Zoo and Goodnight Moon are your favorites. You’re so good at opening the flaps in Dear Zoo and you love to touch the Mouse and little House in Goodnight Moon.

You love to sit up and look at everything when we go on walks and you’re in your stroller. You used to sleep, but now you’re so excited to observe the world around you.

You like to point to EVERYTHING in the grocery store. You USUALLY don’t get mad when you don’t get what you want 😉

You’re still soothed by children’s music and are happier entertaining yourself with music playing.

On your birthday your Grammy Heidi and I tried to take pictures of you at the State College Arboretum, but you weren’t having it. We set you down and your promptly crawled away and didn’t look back! (this terrifies me for when you start walking and running…)

When you came downstairs for your birthday party you got so excited and couldn’t believe all the people were at your house – big smiles and limbs flailing! You wanted to grab all the kids and play/wrestle them….especially Lucas!

John-Paul, you are a joy. We love you so much, son. We thank God for the blessing of your life and every moment we’ve gotten to spend with you. Know that we’re always here for you, for all of our days. We are praying for you! May you be blessed and grow in knowledge and love of the Lord.

Pope Saint JP II, pray for us!

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Mr. John-Paul Goes to Washington

A couple of weeks ago we headed south to Washington, D.C.. A while back Josh signed up for the DC triathlon, and around the same time his Uncle started working in a position that allows him to give tours of the White House. We had a blast visiting with our family – staying with Josh’s Uncle, another Uncle happened to be in DC that weekend and Josh’s cousin also did the triathlon! And of course, getting to see the White House was a real treat. The first year I went to DC was a year after 9/11, so White House tours were no longer allowed (same case for my subsequent visits). We’re so grateful for the opportunity to spend time with loved ones and enjoy the richness of our nation’s history in the capitol city! JP, you look like you just sat through a filibuster, but we hope you enjoyed it as much as your baby self can. Can’t say we didn’t try to give you some culture!

(almost) one year later.

Last night Josh, JP and I went to the Lantern Tours at Penn State. Last year they hosted them on Halloween, so that little outing ended up being the last time Josh and I went out on the town without a little one in tow. As we walked around last night, it was fun to think of the past year and how much our lives have changed. Instead of just wondering, “where should we get coffee before the tours?” we now think about things like “Do we bring the stroller? What about all the stairs? Where will we leave it? What time should we go so JP doesn’t get cranky and lose his mind?” And things like balloons and the Nittany Lion mascot all of a sudden seem awesome because we have a kid (although there were MANY adults that were thrilled to pose for photos with the lion).The Lion Ambassadors hosted the tours a month earlier than last year to, I think, have warmer weather for the event. So these photos are almost a year apart. And although we must consider a hundred different things when going out with JP, life has certainly changed for the better.

Adventures of a Seven Month Old

John-Paul should…

Get a Delta credit card and cash in on some frequent flyer miles. He made his third flight to the Twin Cities to witness the marriage of John and Christine Goerke. Christine is a dear friend from Grand Forks. She has one of the kindest, purest, gentlest souls in all the land and reuniting with her (and Amanda!) was a breath of fresh air. John and Christine’s beautiful wedding filled our hearts with joy. Watching them embark on this new season of life made our summer! Leaving the reception, I had tears in my eyes because I have so missed close friendships while starting over in a new place. Being far from the friendships where I grew up, leaving behind friendships to attend 3 different universities, moving away from best college friends, leaving dear ones in Grand Forks…it’s hard on my heart (sorry JP, I’m hijacking your 7 month into a mommy update). Keeping up with long distance friendships is tough when I’m also trying to be present in the new places that I live. But being with my sweet GF friends reminded me that balance between staying connected and staying present is important. Friends are precious.

While in Minnesota, we went up to Bemidji and visited Jackie and Grant. We stayed at their cabin once before, when Josh returned from his deployment. Oh the good times! We sat out by the lake, went for a boat ride, sipped wine and enjoyed alllllllll the catching up we had to do. From wedding stories (congrats Madeline and Carson!) to long discussions about youth ministry and sharing about John-Paul…And laughs. Many laughs! What a blessed visit.

Unfortunately, there were weather issues when we went back to the MSP airport. Our flight got delayed so much that we missed our connection and they couldn’t rebook our flight for two days. It was a stressful moment and an exhausting end to the trip. But we’re so grateful that Christine’s parents took us in for a couple days. Thanks, Mr. and Mrs. Thelen!

After we finally got home, we had a day of recovery and then a drive up to Albany, NY for Father’s Day and Josh’s first triathlon of the summer. Everyone made it home (except for Dan! We missed you!) and good times were had by all.

John-Paul has…

6 teeth! SIX! We are just waiting on two more bottom teeth, and the gums are already swollen there so I’m guessing he’ll have all 8 by 8 months. (or at least I hope so, we could really use a break from teething!)

Gone for his first swim. He started out a little unsure of the water, but seemed to enjoy himself by the end. Josh hopes to keep up his swimming lessons so they can do a relay triathlon together.

Been to two weddings and gone on three round trip plane rides

Developed a little bit of stranger danger…but not consistently.

Started taking longer naps most of the time

Decided that rolling from his stomach to his back is something he is not interested in doing. He just stopped a while back and hasn’t picked it up again? Weird?

John-Paul loves…

Green beans, scrambled eggs, butternut squash, spaghetti squash, yogurt and strawberries and cheese

Jumping in his jump-up

The Raffi song “Ducks Like Rain”

Scratching and pinching my face

Sleeping in the car

John-Paul: Made New in Christ

Baptism is God’s most beautiful and magnificent gift…. We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God’s Lordship.

– Gregory of Nazianzus, quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 1216

John-Paul’s Baptism was a beautiful celebration of faith, hope and love. We thank God for our loving family and for John-Paul’s faith-filled, prayerful Godparents. My dear little JP, you are precious to all of us, and especially to Jesus. May the Holy Spirit guide you all the days of your life. May you follow our crucified Lord, knowing that you have been baptized into His death, that you may rise with Him into new life.  And, like your namesake Pope Saint John Paul the Great, may you have a deep love for the Blessed Mother, who will always lead you closer to her Divine Son.

Totus Tuus.

Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.

Our Lady of La Leche, pray for us.

4 Weeks.

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Today I am 4 weeks old!

To my Mother’s delight, I can now breastfeed exclusively in the cradle hold! Big victory. I stopped needing the shield a few days ago, and now I want to eat all the time!

I met my Grammy, Heidi, and she spoiled me and the parents for 10 days. I’m pretty sure Mom forgot how to change my diaper because Gmama and Dad changed me so much. Speaking of which, I got real good at peeing on them (and my clean diapers, and the walls, and the carpet…) while they changed me. I even got Gmama right on the forehead! #igotaimyall

My cord stump fell out, and to celebrate Mama and Gmama gave me a bath! Which I loved. Not. I cried the whole time. But I looked really cute in my flower.

Gmama and Mama took me grocery shopping but I don’t really remember because I slept in the cart the whole time while they debated over what kind of stuffing to get. Another day, however, they took me to Michael’s and I had a mini meltdown and mom had to nurse me in the car. I figure it’s giving her good practice for the future. You’re welcome, mom.

I had lots of tummy time and my neck is getting super strong. Sometimes when my parents are trying to burp me I like to fling my head around and pretend I’m going to jump off of them. Makes them nervous, keeps them on their toes.

We also went to Target and my Mom put me in the ring sling…with the help of the nicest stranger of all time who saw that mom was struggling to put the sling on correctly. This woman, Brittany, helped her get the sling on and gave her some helpful pointers. Thank goodness, cause my Mom was really riding the struggle bus.

It was a brief meeting, but I also got to meet my Grandma, Liesl – daddy’s mommy. I’ll get to see her and Papa John more at Christmas! I also got to meet “Crazy Uncle Matt” and he said in the future that we’ll hang out, have a brew and that I’ll help him pick up chicks like Peyton Manning in the United Way sketch.

I’ve taken a liking to waking up at 2, 4 and 6am. I’d wake up, get changed, nurse for about 30 minutes and then mom would reswaddle me and get me back to sleep. I live a pretty cushy life, but Mom on the other hand was not sleeping much. I’ve had pity on her though and have only woken up around 1:30 and 5:30 the last few days. Then I’ll wake up around 7am again and Mom will cuddle and nurse me until she gets motivated enough to get out of bed. I usually reward her with involuntary smiles and other cute faces. She seems to appreciate that…at least from what I can see with my eyes that only see a few inches in front of my face.

This week is also an exciting week because I get to meet my Uncle Mike, Aunt Rachel and cousin Sophia…at my baptism! I am getting baptized on December 7. We can’t wait for family time and for me to receive the Sacrament of Baptism!

A word (too many) from Mama:

What a few weeks we’ve had a here! Call me cliche but…I can’t believe that JP is 4 weeks old and how much he has grown already. It’s hard to measure because he hasn’t really hit any official milestones, but each morning he seems a little bigger and his face looks a little older. There are other small things, like he’ll lift his head up more, or respond to my voice by moving his eyes my direction. And I just can’t believe it! I’ll miss my tiny guy, but I’m really looking forward to the exciting moments ahead as he grows.

Also, I had no idea that Josh wrote his blog post on the birth experience. I’m so glad that he shared his perspective as a father. We like to tease that Josh has a heart two sizes too small because of his hard exterior…but nothing is further from the truth, as you can see in his writing. He’s given me alot to think about from his words, but more than anything, I am just so grateful to have as kind, thoughtful and loving husband as Josh. He’s an amazing father (he changed ALL the diapers last night when I wasn’t feeling well) and it’s such a joy to experience falling more in love with each other and with JP every day. Not that it’s all gumdrops and sugar cookies, but we find it’s more helpful to focus on the positive.

Another great blessing. My mom was with us for ten glorious (GLORIOUS) days. And those ten days passed way, way too quickly. She was so helpful, kind and understanding…and basically spoiled us rotten with all the meals and helping out with keeping the house tidy. Seriously, she is the best. She has mastered the art of always answering my questions and offering helpful tips without giving an overwhelming amount of advice. She’s also so overjoyed with JP, and that makes my heart happy to see how much she loves him. She so generously watched JP one night so that Josh and I could go to dinner and see Mocking Jay. It was a much needed break, but by the time the movie was over I was missing JP and just wanted to see him again! It was perfect timing, too, because he was getting hungry and the syringes weren’t cutting it anymore. It was so great to have her with me as JP and I ventured out of the house for some of the first times together…I felt too nervous to attempt that on my own. Now I feel that I could manage if I needed to go somewhere with him, but I’m still hesitant. But I’m feeling the need to get out and at the very least get a little exercise. But now the weather is turning and so it’s even harder to motivate…so we’re working on that. Slowly. Which is ok. But back to the main point…which is that my mom is amazing.

Also…Yay for the breastfeeding! We had a doctor’s appointment while my mom was here, and JP’s weight was GREAT. He was gaining more grams per day than the doctor hoped. Since JP is (obviously) non-verbal at the moment and cannot even express in body language that he is happy, having the doctor tell me “good job, mom” and affirming that I am indeed nourishing my baby gave me a huge boost of confidence. I just needed to know that he was getting what he needed to keep hanging in there.

Overall, I feel like we’re getting closer to hitting some sort of stride. It’s amazing how challenging (and LONG) those first few weeks can feel, but now that they’re behind us, it doesn’t seem so bad. It’s easier to see the big picture…and thinking about having other kids isn’t as overwhelming because I have a sense of what living with a newborn is like and what kind of trials can arise. I think mornings are the toughest part right now. Sometimes it’s just hard to get out of bed and start the routine all over, because it can be monotonous (and like I said, I’m not getting out much so there’s no break from the cycle). JP is actually pretty good with bedtimes, and we have a pretty decent routine for the evening hours…with which he usually cooperates. Bless him.

Anyways, that’s enough rambling mom stories for a 4 week post. I hope you’re having a blessed Advent!