Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The hardest thing about parenting

Back in September, when one of my best friends was expecting her first baby, she asked me and another dear mom friend, "What's the hardest thing about becoming a parent?"

The other mom said, "Definitely the sleep deprivation! I joke that babies are like terrorists—they try to break you through lack of sleep."

I said, "I think it's just the fact that they're around literally ALL. THE. TIME. You never really get a break from being a mom, and that gets exhausting."

Then we told her that we would ask her the same question in a few months when her baby was born!

Since then, that's become my favorite question to ask other parents. It's fascinating how everyone gives a different answer!

When I asked Frank, he said, "The hardest thing is having to have so much patience. I struggle to be patient, and now I need to be patient all the time."

I asked another guy friend and he said, "I think the hardest thing is not having as much time with my wife as I used to." I thought that was sweet, and then I offered to babysit for them some time so they can go on a date!

My friend who first asked me that question had her baby a few months ago—the sweetest little boy ever. We were out to dinner with her and her husband a few weeks ago when I found my chance to ask her that question myself.

"Now that you've been a mom for a few months, it's your turn to answer!" I said. "What do you think is the hardest thing about parenting?"

She works out of the home full-time, so she said, "Honestly, the hardest thing for me is pumping. I get so tired of it!"

Then I asked her husband the same question. His answer was profound.

Shortly after their baby was born, he found himself in a scary, threatening situation while he had the baby with him.

"Before the baby was born, I was never afraid to go anywhere or do anything," he explained. "I knew I could always run away if I had to. But now, with the baby, I realize I can't do that anymore. I would have to stay and fight if something threatened him."

I think his point was not that he feels tied down but rather that there is something more valuable to him than his own life—something so vulnerable and in need of his protection. Isn't that beautiful?

So now I'm curious—what's the hardest thing about parenting for you?

(And here's a happy picture to remind us all that parenting is awesome too, even when it's hard!)

Friday, March 27, 2015

Everyday photo challenge!

Agh. I really dropped the ball on this one.

I got thrown for a loop on Day Two, when the challenge was "a photo of yourself in your favorite spot in the house or yard." I was like "Uh... it's dark out by the time Frank gets home... I don't want to do a selfie... This picture is gonna be terrible!"

So I didn't take a picture that day. But a few days later my friend came over, and she obligingly took the photo for me:

This was my "nursing chair" back when Frankie was tiny and nursed all day (and night!) long. I probably spent 40 hours a week in this chair for the first three months of his life. I read a bunch of books in that time (including Lark Rise to Candleford! Now I need to get around to seeing the mini-series), and you can see the vestiges of that in the gigantic pile of library books stacked behind me. I should really get those back to the library today. 

Also of note—my two favorite throw pillows (on the left)! Frank gave me the one on top ("Pray for me... I'm married to an Irishman"), which always gives guests a good laugh, and the bottom one (with the cute Vespa) was a thoughtful Christmas gift from my sweet sister-in-law, who said it reminded her of our Roman honeymoon.

The third day, I was challenged to take a photo of "meal time." Of course that would be a week when Frank and I didn't eat dinner together most nights. So I decided to take a photo on Sunday night when we went out to dinner with my family at our favorite Cuban restaurant for my dad's birthday:

That was a great day and an amazing meal, as always.

Day Four was photos with friends, and conveniently Frank and I went out for fancy cocktails with friends on Friday night, so I asked him to get a photo of me with my dear friends Giedre and Theresa:

Frankie stayed home with a friend from the babysitting co-op I'm in with five other Catholic moms, and can I just make a quick PSA? If you know a few other moms who are close to your geographical vicinity, please do yourself a favor and start a babysitting co-op! It's seriously the best. Free, on-demand babysitting. All you have to do is babysit for the other moms too, on occasion. We have loved our experience being in a co-op and have nothing but good things to say about the experience!

The prompt also encouraged me to take photos of my kid with his friends. I was happy to oblige, especially since his little friends are so cute!

This little guy and Frankie are almost exactly the same age:

They have a great time together, and we are sad that he and his parents will be moving away from Chicago in a little over a year! (They're living here for grad school.) We love having them here and will miss them a lot when they go.

This little lady, on the other hand, is doing the opposite of moving away. She and her parents are moving into our building—into the apartment right in front of us—this weekend!

Words cannot express our excitement about that. We're already plotting daily walks to the park and playground, weekly potluck dinners on our patio, and lots of other fun shenanigans.

But after that, the challenge took a turn for the not-relevant-to-my-life. The prompts asked for stuff like "a picture with a teacher or coach," "a picture of your child reading," "photos of school." We aren't quite in that stage of life yet! So I skipped over those days, and I'm planning to pick up the challenge again once the prompts are more relevant for us.

Ok, so there's the first week of the photo challenge done!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Louisville Road Trip: Sunday

We started Sunday morning with Mass at the gorgeous St. Martin of Tours.

I don't even know where to start talking about this incredible church. From the 26 reverent (and adorable) little altar servers to the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, everything about this church was clearly centered on Christ. I turned to Frank after we left and said, "I think that might be the only parish I've seen that's more awesome than ours." 

Frankie was really enjoying shouting through the service (he could hear his echo! What's more exciting?), so he and I spent most of Mass hanging out in the back of the church. I was wearing him in my k'tan when a very sweet woman wearing her baby in a ring sling came over to talk to me. She welcomed me to the church and told me, "This is a very special parish. I don't know why, but it has an unusually high number of big families and families with special needs."

After Mass, at least two other parishioners came up to Frank and me to welcome us. Again with the Louisville friendliness! We loved it, and definitely plan to return to this wonderful church whenever we are in Louisville.

Next we met up with my dear friend Mary Kate and her fiance (plus her sister and brother-in-law!) for brunch. She found a fantastic restaurant called Ditto's with a great Sunday brunch menu and plenty of high chairs for the babies. Our sweet waitress told me all about her one-year-old baby at home and thoughtfully brought out a fruit cup for Frankie—cementing my impression that Louisville has the nicest people. I really enjoyed catching up with Mary Kate, although I'm bummed I forgot to get a picture together. We're looking forward to being back in Louisville in June for her wedding!

Finally, we headed to the place Frank had been dreaming about and looking forward to for months: The Louisville Slugger Museum.

We got to watch the process by which Louisville Slugger bats are made, and we got to hold bats that used to belong to Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle (among others). I don't think I can convey to you the level of Frank's happiness. Let's just say that since we returned from Louisville, he keeps expressing profound regret that he didn't choose to work at the Louisville Slugger Factory instead of becoming a lawyer. ;)

We loved this "Women in baseball" section that reminded us of a moive we love, "A League of Their Own."

Slugger Museum selfie!

There was a fun baseball-themed play area next to batting cages for adults. Frank and the others tested out their swing but I decided not to display my lack of athletic ability.

We tried to get a picture of Frankie on the giant baseball glove, but he was NOT having it:

We tried again later on, after getting him a cute shirt from the gift shop. This was the best we could do, but hey, you guys can see the quote, right? Can you name the movie it's from?

There was also a neat exhibit from the company that makes baseball trading cards. We loved the displays for Major League and Indiana Jones, among many other awesome ones! Frank took pictures of the Beatles display to send to his dad.

Yes, that is the real whip from the Indiana Jones movies!

Finally, here's the whole group with the giant bat in front of the museum.

What a great group of people. We're grateful for these wonderful friends!

On the way home, we stopped off at Three Floyds brewpub in Indiana for a fantastic dinner and drinks. And that was that.

Louisville is a great place for a weekend trip. I'd definitely recommend it if you're in the Midwest!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Louisville Road Trip: Saturday

I always laugh when I think of that episode of How I Met Your Mother in which Lily and Marshall are trying desperately (and failing) to find other "couple friends" to hang out with. It really is harder when you're in a relationship to find friends you BOTH want to hang out with than it is to find friends when you're single.

Luckily, Frank and I have found a pretty amazing bunch of couples who we both love spending time with. From the couple at our church who described our first meeting as "couples' love at first sight" to the friends moving into our building later this month (CAN'T WAIT), we are spoiled with awesome couple friends. So this past weekend, we decided to do something a little crazy and went with two of our couple friends on a road trip to Louisville.

I had high expectations for the trip, and they were totally exceeded. We had so much fun. All three couples are new parents, so everyone was very understanding when someone had to stop for a diaper change mid-travel or take a break from sightseeing to breastfeed. It was the perfect group.

I took about a million photos so I'm breaking the trip into two posts, for the two days we were there. Here goes!

We drove there Friday night and checked into our Super 8 Motel. For a minute I was hesitant to tell you guys where we stayed (not the coolest place, right?) but then I realized that honestly, Frank and I love Super 8s. They have free wifi, free (and usually great) breakfast, AND they'll only cost you about $45/night. What's not to love?!

Saturday morning, after breakfast, we drove out to the Buffalo Trace Bourbon Distillery—the most award-winning distillery in the world.

We strapped on our babies for a day of adventure...

It was a bit rainy outside, but nothing could dampen our enthusiasm.

Man, that place was cool. It's been around since the 1800s and was one of the only distilleries allowed to keep operating during Prohibition.

The smell in this barrel room was UH-MAZ-ING:

Everyone who worked there was incredibly family-friendly. The gift-shop ladies gushed over our little ones, and the sweet tour guide offered me a private room when Frankie was being loud and I had to take him outside.

At the end, we got to sample a bunch of different kinds of bourbon.

My goal for the trip was to acquire a taste for bourbon ... and I utterly failed. I still can't stand the stuff. But I did discover this magical and amazing drink called "bourbon cream" that tastes like drinking a smooth, bourbon-y milkshake. Sadly it's only available in Kentucky, but we brought a bottle home with us. The best.

Next we headed to Frankfort, the state capitol, for lunch around 1. We decided to check out a pub we found on Yelp, but when we walked in, we found it completely packed with people—all of them wearing University of Kentucky blue—while the televisions blared the college basketball game. With our babies and lack of blue clothing, we really stuck out!

We started to leave but a friendly waitress encouraged us to stay. This was in keeping with the general theme—everyone we met in Louisville was SO FRIENDLY. I don't know if it's a Southern thing or what, but it was really nice!

So we sat down in the midst of the basketball frenzy with our babies on our laps, since the pub didn't have high chairs. We felt pretty awkward but all ended well since the place turned out to have fantastic pub burgers. And Frankie discovered his new favorite toy: a drinking straw.


Next we headed back to Louisville to visit the Frazier history museum. Like with the distillery, we were so impressed—the museum is beautifully put together and has an extensive weaponry collection, which the guys especially enjoyed.

The babies enjoyed socializing while their parents checked out the exhibits:

The weather had finally cleared up when we left the museum, so we decided to walk to a local brew pub called Bluegrass Brewery.

The stroller brigade on the way there:

We had talked about visiting Bardstown, home of Thomas Merton, but ultimately decided to save it for another trip. Still, it was cool to see a plaque in his honor downtown:

We passed by the Cathedral of the Assumption, the head church of the Louisville diocese. I was extremely excited to discover that the cathedral was founded by Father Stephen Badin—the same man who my college dorm was named after.

We enjoyed some fine beers at the brew pub until it started getting a little too cold for the babies.

So the stroller brigade (dads' turn this time) went back to the cars and then headed out for dinner at Smoketown USA.

Smoketown serves the best barbecue I've ever had in my entire life. I would highly, HIGHLY recommend it if you're ever in Louisville!

By the time dinner was over, the babies were pretty pooped. So we all headed back to the hotel to get some rest before our next day of adventure.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Photo Challenge Day 1

Today's challenge was to photograph a "physical quirk" of someone you love.

Frank was at work so Frankie was my only subject. My mind started racing with what I could pick. His curly blonde ringlets? His funny long toes? The way he likes to stick his lower lip out, puff out his cheeks, and blow "pppppppppp" sounds?

At first I thought I would use this phone photo I took over the weekend:

Frankie is normally a side or back sleeper so it cracked me up how he was sleeping curled up on his belly like that.

But then I figured the whole point of this project was to use my "real camera" more, plus it felt like cheating to use a photo I took before the challenge.

So I decided to try and get a photo of his cute and hilariously long toes. It proved harder than I expected since every time I got close, he tried to eat the camera.

Well hello to you too, little man.

So I decided to distract him with a book.

Frankie loves his board books. He will sit for 15 or 20 minutes at a time picking up one book at a time and carefully flipping through the pages. In fact, two weeks ago, he said his first word—I was pointing at books and saying "Book, book" when Frankie softly repeated, "Booo... kkkuhhhh." I kind of flipped out. Is he my child or what?

 And a closer look at those silly little toes:

Plus an extra "physical quirk" shot of his crazy wet hair after a bath this morning:

He's got his father's wild curls for sure.

Ok, Day 1, over and out! I'm really rocking this thing so far! ;)