Friday, November 20, 2009

We're leaving on a jet plane...

Our family is looking forward to Thanksgiving this year for many reasons, and one of them is a little vacation to Texas!  We're boarding a plane at 7:20am on Sunday to head to Dallas to visit some family, many of whom have never met Thomas.  It should be fun, though I admit I'm feeling a little anxious about the plane rides.  The last time I flew was to and from Costa Rica, and both ways I got terrible splitting headaches on the ascent and descent.  Oh, and this time we're traveling with a 9 month old :).  So please pray for our safe travels there and back.  I'll post with photos and a re-cap when we return!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Grandparent Weekend

This past weekend we invited the grandparents to our place for a visit.  Grandma Eileen came on Saturday afternoon, and soon after we headed to the apple orchard in town.  While we didn't pick any apples, we did purchase some along with several other treats!   Thomas was hamming it up for the camera!

Actual height: 28 inches
Fun in the swing

Thomas and the goat having a money's on Thomas.

Grandma Eileen and Thomas

Thomas putting a quarter into the box to make the train take a few laps

Leaving the orchard...can't wait to come back!

Nana and Grandpa came the next day for Sunday morning brunch.  Thomas was pretty pleased especially after being fed pancakes!  Much smiling and giggling ensued, especially over some new toys and tons of attention from three grandparents.

Breakfast time!

Grandpa listening intently; Thomas stuffing his face

Peek-a-boo!  (Note: While it may look like a weapon on the wall and/or a strange object sticking out of Grandpa's neck, it's actually just a tie-back for our curtains).

This kid means business...future linebacker?

Thomas playing with Nana...and yes, by "playing" I mean "gnawing."  Obviously.

Goofing around with Grandpa

Thanks, grandparents, for a great weekend! :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hail Mary

Tonight we had our regular family adoration hour.  Drake and I handled things as per usual by each taking Thomas for 30 minutes so that we're each guaranteed at least 30 minutes to pray.  It's worked out quite well for the past several months, and often we get more than a half hour since Thomas seems to be pretty content to play with the toys we bring for him.  In any case, my "Thomas time" was different tonight.  He started to get a bit antsy, so I brought him over to a picture hanging in the adoration chapel.

For a visual image, click here

Literally the moment his eyes met hers, he smiled one of the biggest smiles I've ever seen.  And then he started to smile up at her for a few seconds, cuddle his face into my shoulder, and repeat this cycle over and over again.  He was so in awe of her, and it made me so very aware of God's presence in that moment.  He then started looking at other things in the chapel, so we retreated from the picture for a while.  We later returned, and again Thomas was overjoyed upon seeing Mary.  This time he started to look at the picture and then up at the monstrance.  This cycle, too, repeated itself again and again.

Thomas in his 9 months of life outside of the womb has taught me so much about life, love, and beauty.  Tonight he continued to teach me, and the lesson pointed me to Heaven in a way that differed from anything else.  I witnessed his complete joy upon spending a moment with our Mother.  I saw his eagerness to return to Her after spending some time away.  I observed the delight he so openly showed each time he looked at her.

And I could not help but examine my relationship with Mary.  I thought about how often I only turn to her in times of distress and despair.  My tendency is to plead for her intercession in the moment I need help...but then it seems that our conversation typically ceases.  As Catholics, we don't worship Mary, but we do honor her.  And rather than fostering this relationship as I would with a good friend, it tends to be on a more "as needed" need, that is.  You might be curious as to why this relationship is even worth my time.  In the midst of the busyness that is motherhood and family life, why would I want to intentionally nurture this relationship?

Well, I'll tell you.

There are some more obvious reasons as to why I might want to deepen this friendship.  Mary was a wife (check), a mother (check), and she loved our Lord (check).  She took care of the home, raised a child, cooked, cleaned.  But one thing that all too often differs from my own life to date is that Mary said, "yes."  She said "yes" even though she was unsure.  She said "yes" despite her fears, questions, and humanity.  She said "yes" because she was directly told by an angel what the will of God was for her.  This was also called her fiat, and this one agreement to comply with God's desire for her changed the course of humanity.

I nearly always desire my will over that of God.  I'm stubborn, set in my ways, selfish, and seek comforts.  There are infinite numbers of ways in which I say "no" to God and "yes" to myself.  And I've noticed that being around faithful people helps make me a better Catholic.  It helps me to (slowly but surely) unite myself more closely to Jesus and finally come around to seeing that His will for me is more intensely beautiful than anything I could wish for myself...if only I would say "yes."    

One of my Advent goals: to spend time with Mary each day to better prepare my heart for the birth of her Son on Christmas.

Help keep me accountable, would you? 

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bath out, this is incredibly adorable!

Part of Thomas' morning routine is a bath after breakfast...and he just lives it up in the tub!  Enjoy!

Sometimes I'm convinced that Thomas could not possibly get any cuter...and then he does!  Happy baby=happy parents :)

Monday, November 9, 2009


Sometimes I find myself worrying.  Worrying that Thomas might be behind developmentally for the first few years because of his early entry into the world.  Worrying that I'm not doing things right as a parent.  Worrying about the fact that decisions I make might affect Thomas negatively.  Parenting is an incredible gift and a terrifying adventure.  And of course I know that this isn't just "I."  It's Drake and I, but it's also the Heavenly Host and I...and being a parent has taught me to rely more fully on the angels and saints, particularly in times of difficulty, frustration, and confusion.

When Thomas was born, an occupational therapist did some tests and found that Thomas was actually right on track despite missing out on 6 weeks of womb time.  But in the same breath she mentioned that he might be behind for the first two years of his life.  Up to this point, I've felt that Thomas was pretty much on target...he's been hitting milestones as he should be.  But as he approaches 9 months of age, I'm worried that he's not crawling.  He pushes up on his arms with no problem, but he seems to drag his butt on the ground instead of lifting it in the air.  I also feel like he's sometimes quick to give up when he's frustrated or can't get to where he'd like to go.  It's really hard as a parent...hard not only to see my son struggle but also hard to know exactly how to help him in a way that will enable him to thrive versus depend on things to be done for him, such as my moving a toy closer so that he doesn't need to reach or scoot toward it.  It's also humbling to see some 6 month olds at the library crawling around.  Sometimes it doesn't seem fair because I, like every parent, want the best for my child.  We parents all want our children to be ahead of the curve or at least be keeping up.

I've talked to many parents who have said their children were late crawlers...not crawling until 9 or 10 months, and some not really even ever getting up onto their knees at all.  One friend has a husband in medical school who recently learned that babies are hard-wired to reach milestones at a certain time so there's not a lot that parents can do to encourage it to happen any earlier.  I take some consolation in that.  But it admittedly doesn't make it any easier.  I don't want to fall back on the "excuse" that he's a preemie, though that is the reality of the situation.  Gestationally, Thomas is 7 1/2 months old with his chronological age being nearly 9 months.  And I realize that he's still within the "normal" limits for crawling.  And you know, maybe I need to worry much less about what other people think and focus more on areas in which Thomas is excelling.  With that said, I'm going to list some of the many incredible things about my son:

  • He is learning sign language really well - his face lights up when he sees signs for milk, eat, more, up, bath, all done, cereal, cracker, change, etc.  It's amazing to be able to communicate with him like this.
  • He sits up beautifully and plays independently.  He's starting to be able to interact a lot more with Drake and I.
  • This kid has the best belly laughs I've ever warms my heart to hear him crack up over silly things Drake and I do, not to mention the excitement that ensues over tickle time.
  • He's been wanting to put the spoon in his mouth by himself, and he has excellent aim!  He's been loving all sorts of different foods and has a new love for graham crackers.
  • He loves playing in his Jumperoo and Exersaucer.
  • He does a great job locating sounds and is very curious and alert.
  • He has an insanely cute reaction upon seeing a picture of have to see it to believe it.
  • He is cooing and babbling all the time...and buzzing his lips is a new favorite activity.
  • He's quite the little swimmer!
  • He recognizes the first few words to some of his favorite songs, including Wheels on the Bus, Patty Cake, and Itsy Bitsy Spider.
  • He easily transfers toys from one hand to the other and will even use both hands to support heavier toys.
  • He's recently started giving kisses...I love it so much that I typically leave the sloppy spot on my cheek until it dries instead of wiping it off.
  • His joyful personality is second to none.  
One of the biggest lessons I've learned as a parent is the importance of embracing the present moment and taking life one day at a time.  Time to relish in the now instead of worrying about the future.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

resting in my Father's arms

for some reason, Adoration tends to bring out the God the Father connection to me. grace and prayer connect me to my Father in Heaven; this connection enlightens me as a father and as a son.

tonight at Adoration, for a brief moment, i held thomas in the crook of my arm as he chewed on a cup. at that moment, we were both basking in our Father's care--i provided to him warmth, protection, safety, and love. simultaneously, i was reminded of our Father's similar loving touch, those grace-filled moments during which life makes complete sense and feels good. [praise God for having received good catechism enough to be aware of the infinite depth of the faith, much deeper than a "feeling" or "emotional bond" between me and the cosmos...that is for a different post.]

in previous Adoration experiences with thomas, i have been given similar graces upon observing fatherhood and Fatherhood. one observation is that i (lauren and i) provide everything for thomas-- his food, his clothes, his shelter, the love he receives, and, ultimately, his life. recognizing all i provide for thomas reminds me of the infinite generosity of our Lord. our Lord provides at the most basic level our lives. without our Lord's loving, generous gift of life, we would not be here. similarly, without our family's commitment to be open to life, thomas would not exist. i give thomas love, but our Lord offers His Love; more importantly, he has offered for us an invitation to the divine life through His Son, and consequently through His Church. i give thomas an apartment, and a room of his own. our Lord gives us graces to build virtues through His Sacraments to protect us from evil and bring us closer to Himself.

we love dressing thomas in fun clothes. let me be more clear: lauren absolutely can't get enough of dressing thomas in fun clothes. i kind of enjoy taking pictures of them. similarly, through grace we are given virtues like faith. i love in Ephesians when paul talks about clothing ourselves in faith--i believe the line is "put on the armor of Christ." this imagery reminds me of the spiritual battle in which we are taking part, and the importance of "gearing up." i am going to wear a cup when i play baseball: of course i'm going to wear something when engaging in spiritual warfare. that all comes down to prayer i suppose (a topic to be covered another time).

lauren and i feed thomas food--lately he has tried and enjoyed graham crackers and potatoes (no--not at the same time!). our Lord gives us spiritual food.

when i was in choir in high school, we had to do sight-reading exercises. we all hated these exercises as they diverted our attention from singing cool songs in parts and had to be sung in boring solfege. my choir director informed us we were "eating our vegetables." just like we eat vegetables to improve and maintain our health, so we sight-read to improve and maintain our musical abilities.

so it is with faith. every day, God gives us several "vegetable-eating" moments. Deuteronomy 30 talks about a choice we have each day, light or darkness, life or death: the writer urges: "choose life so that you and your descendants might live." more practically, we are given several opportunities throughout each day to choose life. "life" might be something more quantifiable like patience, understanding, right-judgment. read up on the fruits/gifts of the Holy Spirit and you might get the gist. when we practice virtues such as courage and hope, we are eating our spiritual food.

more importantly, God gives us His Son in the Eucharist each day. each day, we have an opportunity to partake in the Heavenly Banquet. more on the Eucharist in another post.

what a beautiful blessing to be given insights into Fatherhood, just by observing fatherhood. praise God!

Updates, Halloween, and Fall Fun

Well life has been hectic around here, but God has really blessed us in many ways too. Every weekend for the entirety of the Fall it seems have been filled with things to do, but we've been intentional about taking time for our family as well. And lately both Drake and I were pretty sick, but thankfully it didn't hit both of us at the same time...and Thomas managed to stay very healthy through it all!

We all just got the H1N1 vaccine too...we did a great deal of research, talked to lots of parents and doctors, etc., and we made an informed decision. It's a tricky parenting thing with these vaccines...there's no guarantee that our decision to have our family vaccinated was the "right" one. But in the end, it's the decision we made based on recommendations from health care professionals, our own research, and discussions between Drake and I about the pros and cons. So, what's done is done. And we hope and pray that we'll stay swine flu free!

Thomas had his first Halloween, and here are a few photos. Of course we didn't go out trick-or-treating (that will be more appealing next year when he can walk), but we did dress him up primarily to take pictures. We also went to a community event at the library. Neither Drake nor I are huge fans of Halloween, but we figured we should do our parental duty and dress up our son for the occasion.

The little calf...this was actually an outfit that someone gave us. It's not necessarily meant to be a costume, but I didn't really want to take Thomas out in cow print for anything other than Halloween! Next year we'll get a little more creative :)

Full body shot...

The ears on the hood were probably the best part of the cute!

That same day, we also had our second annual Steed family Thanksgiving! Last year Drake and I wanted to start some of our family traditions...and since we often travel for the holidays, we both wanted to make sure to set aside time for our family to celebrate together. We realized that our November weekends are all scheduled out already, so Thanksgiving on Halloween was our only option! Great fun (and food) was had by all...including our dear friend Steph Thomas! It was a tremendous blessing to have her with us for all the festivities of the weekend, though I must admit that in some ways it makes me miss her even more! She introduced us to a great new wine, brought over a movie that was surprisingly quite excellent, provided snacks, showed off her intense pumpkin carving skills, spent quality time with Thomas, and indulged my obsession with a Bubble Wrap game.

The next day we went out for some fun in the fall - a park about a 2 minute drive from our house is full of trees, and this time of year that means one thing...leaves! With the camera in tow, we spent time crunching in the leaves and enjoying the cool fall weather. I'm always happy about opportunities for Thomas to wear his cute winter hat, so that was a nice perk too! Enjoy a few pictures below...

Thomas flying high with Daddy

Thomas and Mommy...poor T was so tired!

Sitting in some leaves

Happy family

Fall has been a great time for our family so far...stay tuned for more Steed family adventures!