Saturday, August 1, 2015

Lady Laura: 0-5 Months

Oh, sweet lady Laura, my little love duck! There is simply not enough written about this baby.

Laura is an excellent example of an individual. When I was pregnant with Bebe Deux, people liked to give me a heads up: this baby is going to be a handful. 

So far, their prediction is completely wrong. This baby is an utter delight. Even when she is teething and crying, her sweetness is overwhelming. You just want to comfort her, and kiss her. It is so gratifying looking into the face of this little girl and having her eyes light up, and reach for her mother. I am glad we have this summer time to extra bond, and the time while Grace sleeps to have our own Laura-Mama time. 


One Month

Two Months

Three Months

 Four Months

Five Months

This baby:
  • rolls
  • smiles
  • grasps
  • amuses 
  • watches
  • coos
  • pivots
She is our little lady, and we all love her immensely. Grace is an especially sweet big sister - kisses and hugs her, and even called her "La-La" (once!). Laura is so strong - tummy time champ, and is trying to crawl on her belly. I suspect that is coming soon... I've also put her in the exersaucer, and she goes to town! She loves it a lot more than Grace did, and Grace is now re-newing an interest in said toy. It all rather amusing. The jealousy monster comes over for play dates!

Laura Kathleen was born during a very busy period of my life, and yes, I'll try to finish her birth story soon. If you are wondering about two under two, mamas, have no fear. Is it an adjustment? Of course. Is it hard? At times. Is it worth it? Yes.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Thanks Key & Peele! Thankful to be drafted - gotta buy my babies those diapers!

The latest developments in pro teaching... back to updating my course pages.

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Monday, July 27, 2015

This is my Confession: A Lesson in Humility

We're home from vacation!

Not as restful as vacation should be... the girls never sleep well away from home, but Grace officially (and successfully!) slept in a bed! Every night! The funny memories came when we put her down for a nap, only to see her knocking on the glass sliding door leading to the porch.

Sunday's second reading really hit home for me. Ephesians 4:1-6, emphasis mine:

Brothers and sisters:
I, a prisoner for the Lord,
urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another through love,
striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:
one body and one Spirit,
as you were also called to the one hope of your call;
one Lord, one faith, one baptism;
one God and Father of all,
who is over all and through all and in all.

Humility. Gentleness. Patience. Bearing in love. Unity through the bond of peace. 

What a tall order! What is needed more in this world - in the public and private spheres.

My failings are obvious: I was crabby for half of vacation. I can freely admit this now, having gotten way more sleep now that we are back home. I didn't want to be, and I tried not to be, and, at Will's gentle urging, I ended up apologizing to every member of my family for the fog I felt around me. They, of course, were gracious and understanding (as they cuddled my children).

So, this past Saturday, I went to Confession. It seemed to be the thing to do after vacation, plus Will had fallen asleep on the couch instead of in bed (another no-sleep SICU shift left him passed out before he finished his lunch), and the girls needed to get out of the house. I took the girls with me on a penitential trip when I went to the wrong parish at the wrong time. I went an hour early to the one farther from our house, and decided to not risk missing my turn by driving to the other parish.

We creepily followed the older lady up to the church steps, only then seeing the sign that confession was in an hour. She offered to let us in, but I balked, saying I would take a walk with the girls instead.

Mistake. It was SO HOT OUTSIDE. We said half a rosary, and hurried back to the cool air condition to wait out the rest of the 40 minutes. Grace and Laura were very reasonably behaved, especially considering Grace was missing her second nap for mama's reconciliation.

Finally, it was almost time for Father to come out. The older lady re-approached me, and introduced herself as Monica, the sacristan before 5 p.m. mass. She offered to watch the girls while I was in the booth. I piled the girls into their double stroller and off they went! Monica very slowly pushed them around the church, and it seemed to calm them both into silence.

Father came out: I stood awkwardly, allowing him to put out his little name plate before I dove into the kneeler. It had been too long since my last confession.

And it was a good one. I felt my heart being opened. The beauty of confession is that, while Christ already knows all, you are the one that brings forth your sin and admits to them. You must present yourself honestly, humbly and with the dignity of knowing you are wrong, and determine to do right. The priest is a minister of Christ: in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. ("Only Christ is the true priest, the others being only his ministers" as St. Thomas Aquinas said, as quoted in the Catechism). This man of God listened to me, and responded so gently and thoughtfully that I finally had to say,

"Father, that is my child screaming."

Yes, in an attempt to quiet Laura's more frequent whining, the lady had picked up Laura, who then realized her own mother was not pushing the stroller, and thus decided to test the acoustics in the buttressed church.

She was full-out crying. Father acknowledged this, and continued his counsel. I have to tell you: I expected to feel mortified. I did not. I felt love.

I felt the love of this priest, counseling me.
I felt the love of the Lord through the sacraments.
I felt the love of a community of believers as they (yes, I walked out to many) tried to pacify my daughter. (Grace was shockingly calm! They usually pair up when one starts crying.)
I felt the love of my baby daughter, crying out for her mother.
I felt the love of forgiveness; the love of mercy.

I also thought of Hell, which is not to be feared for its flames, but rather, the total absence of God. Laura felt my absence, and wailed. I thought, This is what brings me back to mass every week, and to confession: my soul screams for God because I love him, even when I am not feeling amorous. Sin does that - pushes us away from God. Reconciliation brings us back.
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you and I detest all my sins, because I dread the loss of heaven and the pains of hell. But most of all because I have offended you, my God, who are all good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins, to do penance and to amend my life. Amen. (An Act of Contrition)
As I walked out of the booth, I felt light and immediately went to pick up Laura, red in the face and sobbing. As I held her, even for those brief first moments, she calmed down and stopped crying. My child, I love you. I said this to Laura. God says this to each of us.

The lady then offered to help me to the door ("You can say your prayers later, okay?") and I laughed a little at the whole scenario. I buckled Laura back into her seat, thanked the lady, and off we went. Both girls ended up falling asleep before we arrived at our next destination: the grocery store.

That was the first time I've wrangled both girls to confession by myself, and surely not to be my last. It was, more importantly, another opportunity to say "I am sorry." We're teaching Grace to say "sorry" - she says "uh oh!" when she drops things, which is super cute, except when it's on purpose/ food-related. I repeat ad nauseam: "Uh oh! You did that on purpose, Grace! Let's say, Sorry Mama!"

Is Grace saying "sorry" yet? No. Does she understand what "sorry" means? Absolutely. Today, Will and I were busy cleaning, etc. and not paying close attention to Grace. She became absolutely irate at us, and we scooped her up and placed her on our bed. She wouldn't look at us. We sat with her, explained that we were cleaning, we love her and we are sorry she is feeling upset. We apologized to her and asked for a hug. She hugged us both.

It's essential for me to model humility; the inability to admit one is wrong (or might be wrong) is a harmful vice - it leads to dishonesty, stubbornness and a close-mindedness that is hard to crack. I want my children to know that struggling is okay. Struggling breeds innovation if positively encouraged.

Pride is forever my confession-worthy vice, but I, a disciple of the Lord, "urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace."

Love like a child, forgive like the Lord. God, keep me humble! (Ouch, this prayer is going to hurt.)

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Picnic Post and Poconos

Hi gang!

We're off to vacation today! We're going to the Poconos (1-2 hours away, depending on who you drive with) with my family and in-laws. My mom and two of my sisters arrived last night, and we'll leave soonish. Wanted to drop a little link love for the next week:

Three billion miles away, no problem: Houston, we have pictures of Pluto! Thanks NASA!

If you've never heard of Sr. Theresa A. Noble, now's the time. A former atheist/ current Catholic nun, she writes (well!!) for Patheos. Her latest is gold: 5 Tips: When Friends and Family Disagree on Gay Marriage

I've been perusing the web for some supplementary reading for my AP kids, and ran across this great piece by Lawrence Reed at The Freeman (publication of FEE, or Foundation for Economic Education) about Anne Hutchinson: America’s First Feminist Was a Radical Libertarian

If you're interested in urban planning, I loved this piece from The Manhattan Institute’s Center for Rethinking Development: Four Jane Jacobs Ideas that Should Have Made a Difference

Laura at Mothering Spirit touched a lot of hearts with her piece "the essay I never wrote"

As a ballet lover and a mother of a child with cerebral palsy, I adored this post on the NYC ballet: "The New York City Ballet Conducts Workshops For Disabled Children"

Nike collaborated with a CP kid to make these shoes too. So cool.

For my vacation week, I bought Harper Lee's latest and am very excited about it. NPR's review is spot-on, especially concerning the initial backlash: 'Go Set A Watchman' Is A Revelation On Race, Not A Disappointment

This is a surprising piece from NYT's Modern Love section about how a couple faces adversity: Superheroes, Just for Each Other

Thanks First Things for this woman-roar!! piece: Learning from Bodies

Finally, this is THE BEST article I have read on marriage, well, ever: The Wedding Toast I’ll Never Give

Cheers from us Baldwins, catch y'all in a week!

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Teaching Grace to Walk the Walk

Lately, we've been doing a lot of walking. Grace is a cruise master - she can walk along furniture and the wall to get where she needs go.

Here she is at the pediatrician's office a few days ago:

We're practicing walking on different kids of surfaces too - this was yesterday with her Dad. Please note the fabulous pink shoes with bows, a surprise mistake from Zappos!

At both her physical therapies this week, her therapists talked about how she is doing more advanced movements than first steps, but she is lacking the confidence. She does not need the balance, but she wants it. 

We found a nice park about a mile from our house, so the last two days we've been introducing Grace to the straight, bumpy and twisty slides; the monkey bars; the unsteady bridge; plenty of wood chips. She loves it, which makes us so happy.

Laura loves it too!

We're working a lot on walking... and it's just frustrating for all parties. As long as she feels comfortable, she does well. If she feels unsure (like walking on wood chips), she is much more stiff. This affects her gait. Here is a short video - we're really encouraging her to walk with minimal support:

Then again, if she doesn't want to walk, she won't. 

She wants to walk and move on her own... our hope is that she takes off on her own by the end of summer, or before her second birthday. It's tough to be in limbo. Don't misunderstand me  - we are over-the-moon for how much Grace has improved and how well she is moving: her therapists are beyond pleased. We're grateful that she's high functioning in this way. And sure, even after she's walking on her own, there will still be more to work on. A prescription was written for an AFO (ankle foot orthotics), so we'll get fitted after we get back from vacation next week.

As always, God provides and guides. Grace is flourishing, happy and overall responsive to therapy. Her normal movements are fluid and controlled, and she has does a deep plie!

The park was a total success, by the way. Mom and Dad got their walk in too!

I don't mind answering questions about Grace walking; I would prefer other questions, as well:
  • How's Grace?
  • Tell me about Grace's therapies!
  • What does Grace like doing these days?

(And don't forget about Laura! Wink.)

If you're unsure what questions to ask, a safe bet is to ask about the child over asking about progress the child is making. If the child is plateauing, it can be a less desirable topic. If you're the parent/ loved one and you're feeling sensitive about your child, just be honest: "[My child] is working very hard in therapy right now; he/she is loving _____!" You do not owe anyone outside medical professionals the full story - but don't be afraid of the story either. It's yours too!

Grace is such a bright, spirited child. She loves and feels deeply: she loves shoes, dressing up, coloring, building blocks, dancing to music, and being sweet/ super close to Laura, as well as cuddling with her mom and dad.

It's going to be great when she does walk, but this is where we are now. Thanks for asking, y'all!

Stay tuned for more pictures of that fantastic neighborhood park; we are thrilled to find this treasure within walking distance! Such a nice borough we live in for now.

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