Thursday, August 21, 2014

New Glarus brewery!

Frank is kind of an obsessive fan of New Glarus beer, which you can only buy in Wisconsin—so a few weeks ago when I went with my mom to pick up my little sister from sewing camp near Milwaukee, we made a pit stop on our way home to buy him a 12-pack of New Glarus. He loved the surprise and I was surprised to find that I liked the beer too (normally I am NOT a beer drinker. Pass the sangria!). Pretty quickly there was more than one New Glarus fan in our family, so when Frank suggested a day trip to New Glarus on Saturday, I was all in. This really has been a summer of mini-road trips for our family.

Frank dressed his mini-me in a new outfit and we loaded up the diaper bag for a day of adventure:

Little man slept most of the way there. He sleeps really well on car trips (which is probably why we've been taking so many road trips!). I pulled a blanket over his eyes to block the sun, and I had to laugh at how funny he looked sleeping with just his little nose and mouth sticking out.

Here is the brewery—for some reason we thought we'd have the place kind of to ourselves, but it was absolutely packed! It's definitely a popular destination.

We took a self-guided tour of the brewery...

And I couldn't resist taking photos of this awesome Beer Soap. I mean, what?

It came in four different "flavors".

This was the least of the gift shop's fabulous treasures. We saw everything from beer shampoo and beer cookbooks to New Glarus aprons and themed frisbee golf discs! I somehow resisted my urge to take photos of everything.

Little man was none too pleased at being awoken from his nice nap in the car. He tolerated the brewery tour and the beer tasting outside:

But was much happier when we settled down on a shady picnic table to look at the view.

The brewery has a fantastic deal where you can try three beers for only $3.50. I opted for that (small glass on the right) while Frank went with a regular-size glass of a seasonal ale. We both got to keep our awesome glasses as souvenirs (and we also bought a few other kinds of beer at super-low prices to take home).

Good times, good times.

I had to laugh when I saw Frank carrying our purchases back to the car. With a baby in one hand and a carton of beer in the other, what more could a man need? :p

Afterward we visited the little town of New Glarus, which was settled by Swiss immigrants and has a charming old-world feel. It's full of antique shops and restaurants. We stopped in a cheese and chocolate store for some dessert, and I found a new blue-and-white plate to add to my collection.

The drive was a little long for a day trip, at 2.5 hours each way, so I think next time we would probably stay the night in New Glarus and spend more time in the town. Nonetheless it was the perfect short escape, and we will definitely be going again.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Of nuns and Irish music

So many things to catch you up on, and so little time for blogging these days! Gah! Ok, deep breath, here we go.

Four years ago I spent the summer living in New York City, interning at a major news corporation and spending my weekends traveling around the East Coast. It was glamorous and fun, and I declared it "one of the best summers of my life." That summer, I met a lovely girl named Marilis at some Catholic young-adult events. We were the same age and we had a ton in common, so we quickly became friends and then each other's go-to wing-women. I remember giggling together over the cute boys we met and road-tripping out to Princeton together one crazy weekend. We were both trying to figure out what we were supposed to do with our lives, and we had a lot of conversations about vocation in the midst of all the fun.

Fast forward to the following January: I hadn't seen Marilis since the summer, and although we kept in touch on Facebook and with occasional texting, it had been a while since we'd talked. I was amazed when she announced on Facebook that she would be entering a religious community of Franciscan sisters the following August. I called her up and we had the longest phone conversation of life in which she told me all about how she discerned that this was her calling. It was a beautiful and moving story, but what struck me the most was simply the fact that this was actually happening. A girl just like me, someone who had crushes on boys and loved babies and liked to party, was going to become a religious sister. It had never really occurred to me that a religious vocation was a viable life option. I was so impressed with her example, and her story helped me take a good long look at my own life. I even thought about whether I should share her vocation.

After she entered the convent, we kept in touch via letters, so she knew I was married and had a baby. But we still hadn't seen each other since the summer of 2010. Then a few months ago, I received word from her family that she would be making her first profession of vows as a sister on August 14, which I was told is like her wedding (please correct me if this is wrong—I don't know very much about religious communities). The convent is near St. Louis, a five-hour drive south of Chicago, and the ceremony was on a Thursday (and Frank couldn't take off work) but I wanted to be there so badly that I talked my younger sister Maria into driving down with me the day before, spending the night near the convent, and driving back to Chicago after the ceremony.

Yeah... it was a really crazy trip. Maria gets my eternal gratitude for driving both ways so I could entertain Frankie in the back seat.

I was thrilled to see some friends at the ceremony, Lauren and Mary Clare...

They're friends of hers from college. It was such a pleasant surprise to see some familiar faces there!

The moment when my dear friend met Frankie for the first time, at the post-ceremony reception, was just incredible. We were both crying! She said, "The last time I saw you, we were both trying to figure out what to do with our lives. And now I'm a sister and you're a mom!!!"

She received her new black habit at the ceremony (formerly she wore a white one) and I have to say, she absolutely rocked it.

I don't have any pictures of the ceremony, as we were asked not to take photos, but I did get this photo of the chapel where the profession took place:

I will never forget the sight of her kneeling in the middle there, in front of the altar, wearing her new black veil as the vows were made. It was powerful and inspiring. Despite the craziness of the trip, I'm so very glad I was there to witness it.

The local bishop celebrated the Mass and gave a beautiful homily about the religious life and how it is a radical imitation of Christ that bears witness to the Gospel and serves the Church's mission, giving an example to the world. I unfortunately didn't hear too much of it, as I was wrangling a certain grumpy three-month-old in the back of the chapel. I did really appreciate that the sisters set up a separate room with CCTV of the ceremony for nursing moms—it was so thoughtful. Sisters for the win!

When we got back to Chicago, I drove home and then turned right around and went out again as I had promised Frank we would attend an Irish music concert that same night. I was pretty beat at that point, but I still enjoyed the music. Frankie absolutely loved it. That baby shares his father's taste for Irish music, probably because Frank played it for him incessantly before he was born.

(Sorry for the quality of these photos—it was dark in there.) In between chewing on his bib, Frankie had a marvelous time.

The funniest part of the evening was how every single person who saw Frankie had to make a comment. You take a room full of Irish Catholic people, who are mostly all from big families and who are all old enough to have grandchildren, and you throw a baby in the mix, and that baby is going to be a star. Some of the best comments of the night:

An elderly gentleman sat next to me and said, "You'd best be careful bringing such a little one to this kind of concert! It's dangerous! We brought my youngest son to these sorts of things when he was a little baby, and he went on to play in an Irish music band for many years." To which I replied, "Well, that would be awesome!"

A group sitting behind us asked, "How old is the baby?" When I said, "Three and a half months," one guy said, "Yes!! I was right!" It turns out they had all been guessing how old he was and placing bets!

A sweet elderly lady came up and said to me, "It's good to see you're so young with your little baby. I wanted to have more babies but I waited until I was 40 to have children and by then I was too old. Best to start young." I didn't really know how to respond to that, so I just smiled and said, "Thanks."

And then there was the couple who told me, "Just you wait, tomorrow he'll be going off to college!"

I'm not very familiar with Irish music, but Frank frequently plays music from Planxty and Bothy Band in the car, so I knew these musicians and really enjoyed their stuff. The baby fell asleep halfway through the concert, so I stood with him in the back, where it was quieter. It was a nice night.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Quick announcement

My mom recently sent me this brochure about a series of classes for new and expectant parents on child development in the first three years. Friends of hers put it together and are leading the classes. She asked me to spread the word far and wide and invite all my friends, so I thought, what better way to spread the word than to post it on here?

All the information is below. Let me know if you think you might be able to make it! Frank and I are still deciding whether we can commit to it, but it sounds like a fantastic opportunity regardless.

Update: If we end up doing it, we'll be at the Naperville one!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Enjoying it

So, I should have mentioned this earlier, but I'm actually not at The Hundred this weekend after all (in case that wasn't obvious from my Instagram photos). With my career change, things are a little tighter financially than they were a few months ago, and after adding everything up we realized it really wasn't practical for me to go right now. On top of that, a close family friend was getting married in Chicago this weekend (p.s. Hi Michelle from CT who I saw at the wedding!), so that sealed the deal and I sold my ticket. But I'm absolutely loving all the photos and posts from the event, and I definitely hope to go next year!

It's currently 2:45 am and you would think that the reason I'm writing in the middle of the night is because the baby woke me up, but actually, the baby has been sleeping innocently for the past three hours. I actually wish he would wake up so I would have an excuse to be awake and someone to hang out with. Instead I just have a random bout of insomnia (don't you love those??). So I lay in bed trying to fall asleep for a while, and finally gave up and decided to go blog.

I've been thinking lately a lot about motherhood lately (no duh, Tess, you're thinking). It's kind of a funny experience being a first-time mom while also being the oldest in a big family. On the one hand, I'm incredibly calm about things like letting people hold the baby and taking him to all kinds of events. That child has been to at least eight happy hours and he's barely three months old. But on the other hand, I totally do some classic new-mom things like checking to make sure he's breathing every two minutes. Before he was born, I swore up and down that I would be the most laid-back and calm first-time mom ever, but now I actually like being a little bit of a worrywart since I know all moms are that way with their first and it's fun to look back later on and laugh about how uptight you used to be.

Last week my grandma called me and asked how everything was going. After filling her in on all the latest Barber happenings, I paused to assess everything I'd just said. "Honestly, Grandma, I'm really happy," I said. "There isn't a single area of my life I would change." She laughed and said, "I think that's more a product of your temperament than your circumstances, because I don't think I've ever felt that there was nothing about my life I would change." I mean, yes, I am pretty easy to please, but I think the main reason I feel that way is because I'm finally doing what I've always wanted to do, and always felt called to do.

Whenever someone asks me (and they do a lot!), "So how do you like being a mom?" or "What's it like being a mom so far?", I always have the same answer: "I know this is my vocation. I feel called to being a mom, and I love it." It reminds me of when I worked as a book editor. That job was tough and I worked long hours and I often got tired of it, but I felt that I was doing what I was called to do, and I loved the job even when I didn't like it. I feel the same way about motherhood, but it's even more fulfilling than that job was, and I have a feeling it will only become more so as time goes on.

We were at a happy hour Friday night when one of my friends said, "Tess, you seem to really enjoy being a mom. You just seem so joyful about it." That meant so much to me because that's exactly how I feel. I really do enjoy it, even more than I thought I would. If there's one thing I want people to know about me and motherhood, it's that this vocation brings me so much joy. It's seriously the best.

Friday, August 8, 2014

3 months

Well technically Frankie turned 3 months on Sunday, but I'm just now getting around to writing this today.

Whoever said babies get easier at 3 months (and "whoever" in this case is literally everyone I've ever talked to) was on to something. The chaos seems to be settling down and life is more predictable.

In honor of his three months, I took a bunch of photos of the little man, nicely staged on a blanket outside, and he just would. not. look. at the camera. He wouldn't smile. Nothing.

So finally I gave up, came inside, put him down on a blanket for tummy time... and BAM. He gave me the cutest little look and there it was, the perfect photo of Frankie at this age.

I was going to write 3 favorite things about Frankie at 3 months, but there are way too many to pick just three. I love our changing table conversations, when he gets really chatty and vocal while I change his diaper. I love how he'll lie in his crib making "ahhhhh" and "ohhhh" and "ehhh" sounds softly to himself, what we call "practicing his vowels." I love how he laughs when we tickle his belly. I love how, when he likes someone, he gives them this huge, goofy, open-mouth grin, and drools at them. I love his complicated relationship with Sophie the Giraffe (he loves her and is also a little scared of her). I love how, if I smile at him while he's nursing, he'll get distracted and will stop eating to giggle at me. He is just the sweetest and happiest little guy.

I've heard that a baby's personality around this age is the same personality he'll always have, and that makes me really happy, because his personality is as cheerful and laid-back as they come. We definitely have our fair share of "please just go to sleep already" and "why the heck are you crying" moments, and some parts of life with a baby are just never going to be fun (changing diapers = shoot me), but overall he is almost exactly like a live, snuggly teddy bear. And cuddling him is practically my full-time job.