Category Archives: Liam

“I love what you are, I love what you do…”

The title to this post comes from one of Sandra Boynton’s many wonderful baby books, Snuggle Puppy. In the book a parent dog sings a song to her “snuggle puppy” about how/why she loves him. Without digging too deep into the philosophy of a book geared for people who can’t read, speak, or think abstractly, I will say that loving a child (or anyone for that matter) both for who they are and for what they do is good and important. What a person does and who a person is often contradict each other. Perhaps the most famous example of this is King David from the Bible, who is “a man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), yet breaks very nearly all of the 10 Commandments in the episode with Bathsheba and her husband, including actual adultery and murder. At the same time David is a man after God’s own heart, yet what he does is horribly wicked. It is not inconsistent or hypocritical to love someone for who they are and yet abhor some – or perhaps most – of their actions.

Also important is loving someone simply for being. I have heard Tim Keller say in multiple sermons that when a wife asks a husband why he loves her, the answer should simply be “I just love you.” No wife can be assured of love based on attributes that change: beauty can fade or be destroyed in an instant, even the best personalities transform, the most generous person can become miserly, the most loyal person can become a traitor, the best mother can turn into a fiend. Loving someone for any of those qualities is unwise, because such love is not unconditional: if the foundations of love are actions and qualities that may very well change, then love is completely conditional based on what a person does. Loving a person simply because they are – because they were born and lived on Earth – is unconditional. Such love is based on something unchangeable, not on temporal attributes that are subject to change and decay.

Loving their spouse unconditionally should be the goal of every husband and wife, but such love comes much easier for children than it does for our spouse. The reason is because when we first meet our future mate we are attracted to changeable things – appearance, personality, etc. I would suggest we fall in love with a person for those things, but at some point we add a deeper love – an abiding love based on the simple fact of their existence alone. We may still be “in love” with all their wonderful qualities, but beyond that there is also an unconditional love: we love who they are and what they do.

Liam's first trip to the beach in January.

Loving a child for who they are comes very easily to most parents. We love our little ones just because they were born, not because of any intrinsic positive attributes. I felt immense and unconditional love for Liam the day he was born, if not before. At that point he had done nothing whatsoever to earn anyone’s respect or admiration, much less intense love. I love him just because he is. Understanding God’s love for us becomes much easier now that I have a child: God loves His people because He has chosen to love them unconditionally, not because they have done anything whatsoever to earn it. Would even a man such as David be “worthy” of God’s love based on his actions? Of course not, yet He loves us to a degree that I understand much more as a parent. He loved us so much that He gave His Son to die for us. Other than Melissa in the most horrifying scenario imaginable, there’s no one in the world I would even consider sacrificing Liam to save. There are plenty of people I love, but not to that extent. That God would physically and spiritually kill His Son to redeem us, who are beyond odious compared to Him on a good day, is shocking, overwhelming, and thoroughly comforting.

Despite that tangent, the real purpose of this post is much lighter: to highlight some of the things Liam does that I love. We’ve established that I love Liam for who he is, that loving his actions and his being separately is good and right, and that I read way too much into a baby books. I love so many of the things that he does. Here are a few of them:

Liam had a blast on a toy horse in Spain.

1. Laughing. Watching Liam laugh is my absolute favorite thing. He has an uninhibited, purely joyful, almost raucous laugh that can’t help but bring a smile to my face, and usually laughter of my own to boot.  His smiles light up the room, but as a parent I find his laughter to be the most wholly gratifying emotional response. Not only is it irresistibly adorable, but it is comforting as a father to know he is – at least for the moment – happy. Liam has two types of laugh: the chuckle, which he does at random things that warrant a response beyond a simple smile, and a head-back, hard core belly laugh that at times turns into a shriek as much as a laugh. The former type is cute and sweet, but the second is the real kicker. His chuckle occurs several times on a daily basis, but the “big laugh” doesn’t happen more than 1-2 times a week, if that. Below are several videos of him laughing. By the time we get the camera out the major paroxysms have passed, but for those who haven’t seen his big laugh in person, these videos will at least give you an idea.

The first video was taken Thanksgiving weekend after we arrived back from Atlanta. Mr. Octopus always elicits a strong response from Liam:

The second video is Liam in the Aria hotel in Las Vegas. He was tired and giddy, so there was plenty of laughter and “talking”

2. Inspecting. Since birth Liam has often had a furrowed brow with an intense look at times, as if he’s seriously pondering the events around him or trying to decipher the secret meaning behind an object.

Liam has always had an intense, inquisitive look at times. This was at Thanksgiving, with lots of new faces to figure out.

Now that he’s developed some eye-hand coordination, he tends to turn his intense gaze and thought process to whatever object he is chewing and/or sucking at the moment. It started while breastfeeding, when he started clutching the breast with both hands, taking it out of his mouth, inspecting it carefully by turning it side to side, up and down, and when satisfied with his studies, pulling it back into his mouth and continuing to eat. Such a ritual is not uncommon for his toys and pacifier (or as well call it, the “chupete,” derived from the Spanish word chupar, which means “to suck”). Even after enjoying the comforting nipple of the chupete for an hour or more, he will still decide to take it out of his mouth, inspect all of it very carefully, and then pop it back in his mouth (or at least attempt to). All manner of toys are subject to the same routine, from chew toys to stuffed animals to play books.

Liam eating a Red Butterfly in his exer-saucer.

I haven’t really figured out why he does it. Is he just bored and wants to look at something, with the most convenient item being whatever is marinating in his saliva at the moment? Does he taste something funny and want to check it out further? Or is he genuinely curious about what he reflexively shoved between his toothless little gums without a second thought? I wonder if he’s ever had “sucker’s remorse,” so to speak – has he ever decided there was something he should not have placed in his mouth? I doubt it, since virtually everything is dutifully restored to mouth from hand. Regardless of the motivation, it is interesting to see and, of course, incredibly cute.

3. Eating. Of the first 2 hours of his life outside the womb, Liam breastfed for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Right then we knew he was going to be a good eater, and that has turned out to be true. Despite his small stature (his weight hovers in the 5-8th percentile on the growth curve), he has always been good at breastfeeding, and now is having no problem scarfing down solid foods. Breastfeeding is no doubt still soothing to a certain degree, but he really enjoys partaking of some delicious, fresh breast milk. It has gotten to the point where he recognizes when Melissa is about to breastfeed him (getting out the boppy or loosening her shirt), and starts to “whine” and stares at her chest. When she is ready, his mouth is already wide open, ready to go.

The same is true for solid foods now. He recognizes when Melissa goes to the kitchen and prepares his food, and his eyes remain fixed on her every move. When she brings in the bib and his little bowl of puree fruits and/or veggies, he gets antsy and starts to whine a bit in preparation for his meal. He does well eating, and often starts to cry and “ask” for more when the bowl is empty.

Mmmmm, sweet potatoes.

I enjoy watching him eat solids. When he sees the spoon coming he opens his mouth wide and takes a big chomp, which may or may not result in most of going into his mouth. He gives a little mini-chew, presumably swallows, and it’s not long before he’s ready for the next spoonful.

Liam already has a hierarchy of food preferences. At the top of the list are bananas, followed by applesauce, pears, sweet potatoes, acorn squash, peas, carrots, and at the bottom is definitely yellow squash. The first time he ate squash was hilarious: he took the first bite expecting something tasty, and ending up frowning and squinting in disgust. He only made it through a few spoonfuls before losing interest altogether. So we started doing combinations: bananas and squash, carrots and applesauce, pears and zucchini, and a particularly daring cocktail of applesauce, bananas, peas, and squash. Yes, it looks and sounds disgusting to us, but for him it’s positively delectable. Whatever works!

Another baby, in this case his friend Jaxon, is a tempting target for Liam's reach.

4. Reaching. Since he was 3-4 months old, Liam finally figured out that he had arms and hands, and then that he could actually control them. Now he reaches for everything, usually with the goal of putting it into his mouth. Colorful objects, toys that make certain noises, and, well, pretty much anything can be the object of his reach. Of course whatever we have in our hands he wants in his, including food, cups, the remote control, and even the laptop I’m typing on right now – he has indeed attempted to put this HP Pavilion into his mouth. It’s intriguing (and of course cute) to see him reach for things. Reaching is something we take for granted as adults – how many things do we successfully reach for and use without even thinking about what we’re doing? But for a 7 month old successfully seeing, extending arm and hand, grasping, and moving an object to mouth is a major accomplishment. Liam has a natural curiosity about everything, as I suppose most babies do. I hope he continues to reach for new and interesting things for the rest of his life. Well, maybe not every new and interesting thing.

The most enjoyable part of him reaching is when he reaches for us. He now realizes that when Melissa or I (or any else for that matter) reaches out to him it usually means we want to hold him. He has started responding in kind.

5. Recognizing. Daddy and especially Mommy are easily recognizable to Liam now, and he has even started to fuss sometimes when Mommy leaves the room. He clearly knows when we walk in the room, and will usually stop and stare for a few seconds, and if we’re lucky we’ll even get a little smile. He recognizes other people as well, especially the abuelos (he even recognizes them on Skype!), and Lulie and Don-o, especially the former.

Liam's smile when he sees you over the edge of the crib is hard to resist. This was in Huntsville during the Holidays.

He also recognizes us when we walk in his room at night or when he wakes up in the morning. Fussing or “talking” quickly turns into smiles and excited kicking and waving the arms when he sees us peer over the edge of the crib. Of course, this recognition can be frustrating at night when he’s fussing and we want to check on him and/or coax him back to sleep. Seeing Mommy or Daddy at 2 am somehow translates into playtime in his mind. This can make for a very difficult night, especially given his well-documented sleeping woes. Plus, it’s very hard to resist the little guy when he looks up with a big, excited smile and kicks his chubby little legs.

Recognition is rewarding because our love for him is reciprocated in some way. Of course we shower him with affection in the form of kisses and hugs, but until the past few months we were essentially just like anyone else – merely two big people fawning all over him. Now he recognizes that we are special, along with his grandparents. This recognition is extremely gratifying as a parent. It makes us feel more like actual parents than caregivers, and that is a wonderful feeling!




Filed under Liam, Miscellany and Tomfoolery, Parenthood/Pregnancy

My Villagers

It takes a village to raise a child. I’ve heard this quote for years and I never really understood the depth of this statement until I had my own child. I could not agree with this statement more…well,maybe not so much a village but at least Mama, Daddy and the Abuelos!

I have been so blessed to share the birth of my first-born with my parents as well as his first six months of life.  Because of my parents’ job I never dreamed of being able to enjoy this time with them. I am not sure how I would have survived without them, I will cherish the memories we have made for a lifetime. Unfortunately, as life would have it, they had to go back to their home in Spain and I have been left here to try to figure out this thing called mothering on my own. Okay, Okay…I’m not really on my own, but that is the way it seems from where I sit right now, sulking in my physical loneliness.

I have had plenty of support from people other than my parents. The first few months of Liam’s life were pretty rough emotionally and physically for this new Mama (as it is for so many new mothers). But, I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my true feelings with anyone besides my immediate family. Even though no one else outside my family knew how I felt I received many encouraging e-mails, FB messages, and texts from other mothers, some that I barely knew. What a blessing!  How did they know?  I have felt this sense of comradery with these amazing moms, a connection that will never be broken. I feel as though there is this unspoken, universal understanding between us moms. I cannot  explain it and you cannot understand it unless you are a mother. Something changes inside you when you become a mother. I see the world and those in it differently.

Going back to missing having my parents around. Here is the funny thing: as a young adult I looked forward to the day that I was independent and self-sufficient. I worked throughout college and nursing school to get myself to this point. I remember longing to be out from underneath my parents. In fact, God personally told me my senior year in high school that I should move back to the U.S. and finish off my high school years there. (It had nothing to do with the fact that there was a boy that I was infatuated with, nothing at all, it was 100% Divine calling.) To this request my parents said “we know for a fact that God wants you with us” and maybe a few other choice words. Well, ten years after high school and I have accomplished the goal of being independent from my parents. I am a nurse who could and has survived on her own. Here is the dilemma: I don’t want to be independent anymore. I need my Mom and Dad around. More importantly, I WANT them around and I think they feel the same way.  Independence is not all that it is cracked up to be. I have felt the loneliest when I was the most independent.

So where does this leave me?  Well, first of all, I know that Mason and I are not on this journey of parenthood alone. We have the wealth of knowledge from our parents, plus their love and support. This in and of itself is one of the biggest blessings and is completely invaluable.  Mason and I have been raised by amazing parents who are still teaching us so much. Secondly, God has blessed us with dear friends. Several of our closest friends have embarked on this journey of parenthood at the same time as us. Friendship is priceless to me and going through all of these stages with some of my closest friends is something that I will always cherish. My friends who have virgin uteri are my link to reality and to a life that I sometimes find myself missing. And finally, there is this thing called the internet. There should be a warning sign out there for mothers searching the web. Just to give you an example, when Liam was first born he had a “rash” for several weeks. After researching on-line I was led to diagnose my son with some sort of flesh eating disease that would scar him for life and lead him to a life full of drugs and unhappiness. Ends up he only had eczema.

Besides realizing how much I need and want others speaking into my life I have also realized a few things on how I would like to raise our children. I would like to instill in them a sense of interdependence…hopefully between themselves as siblings and between us as their parents. I also want them to be raised with a deep connection with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. I hope they see through our relationships how important being a good friend is and how important friendships are in life. Now to only figure out how in the world to instill these and many other invaluable concepts in Liam’s little life…I am going to try my best Little Man. You are such an amazingly adorable little sponge. I pray that God will teach me daily how to be the best Mommy I can be for you. You deserve more than the best. I am trying to become that for you.

OK, so now I think I have rambled on enough…I am pretty sure this post makes absolutely no sense. That is ok though, I think most of the post I write are more for me than you, the reader. I find that writing helps me to process my thoughts and feelings. I also write these posts in hopes that one day Liam and our other children will read them and feel an even deeper sense of connection to me!



Filed under Liam, Parenthood/Pregnancy

On Fatherhood – Redux

On July 18 – a full 17 days before Liam was born – I posted my thoughts heading into fatherhood. After actually being a father for the past 5 months I want to revisit that topic, looking at how my perspectives have and have not changed, along with some new thoughts.

First of all, the past 5 months have been both joyous and difficult. Melissa’s pregnancy and delivery were about as close to perfect as can be expected: she had no major health issues, for the most part enjoyed being pregnant, and the delivery proceeded exactly according to plan. But parenthood – especially for Melissa – has been fraught with an unending run of relatively minor but nonetheless irksome difficulties. The biggest problem has been Liam’s poor sleep habits. Of course babies wake up and cry during the night – that is an expected part of infancy. But our son is far worse than most – by 12 weeks of age 96% of babies sleep through the night on a consistent basis. Now at 18 weeks old, Liam has slept through the night perhaps 4, maybe 5 times in his life. And I don’t mean he’s woken up once or twice every night, I mean he generally wakes up 3-4 times a night, if not more. Thankfully there is nothing wrong with him: he is well-fed, has no real health problems, and is delightful and happy during the day. Nights are a different story.

Liam loves breastfeeding, as does Melissa. But it hasn't always been easy.

I’m sure this seems like petulant whining to some of you, and I’m sure plenty of you have had difficult, colicky babies. But for Melissa, who is heroically determined to continue breastfeeding, waking up every 2 hours every night for 5 straight months is an exhausting endeavor. Even with my help and her mother’s help, it has been an ordeal for her. Now consider her personal difficulties: baby blues (not unusual, but exacerbated by a new city with no friends), followed immediately by mastitis and a yeast infection that began in early October and persisted to mid-December, a severe cold that is just now resolving, and most recently oral surgery from which she is only 4 days out. The mastitis was painful: imagine a knife plunged into your nipple every time you breastfeed, which is 6-7 times a day every day for 10 weeks. After multiple antibiotic regimens, a trip to the ER for borderline sepsis, a lengthy course of anti-fungals for her and Liam, she is finally better. But her milk production decreased because of the infection, dropping Liam’s weight from the 30th percentile to the 10th percentile for the past 2 months (it held steady on the curve over the past month, which is good). The decreased production also makes pumping difficult, which means she must physically breastfeed him every time he’s hungry rather than allowing someone else to give him a bottle. Both Melissa and Liam have had a cold for over a week, and Melissa just had painful oral surgery this Tuesday, limiting her food choices and adding a bevy of medications to her daily routine. Add all of that to perpetual sleep-deprivation and you get a sense for how hard these months have been.

I love this picture of Liam taking a bite out of my hand during his "night time routine." Nothing is off limits for his oral cavity, including Yorkie paws - have to keep a close eye on what's lying around!

Yet despite these difficulties, the joys of parenthood easily counterbalance the frustrations. Melissa loves Liam and loves caring for him, even though it is often anything but fun. I haven’t had it nearly as rough, so I have been able to enjoy fatherhood much easier than Melissa has enjoyed motherhood. Indeed, I wrote in July that I expected to enjoy his infancy, and that has been the case. I love watching the pensive expressions on his face when he looks at new things. It is fascinating to see his obsession with lights (especially Christmas lights), and watch him crane his neck and bend his body in all sorts of contortions when his eye catches a new light. He laughs often, and it always brings a smile to my face. He smiles often as well, especially when he sees a familiar face. Of course he chews on everything now – it’s as if every new object must pass a taste test.

Watching him develop has been intriguing. For the first 2 months or so he was minimally interactive, both with us and his surroundings, which is fairly normal for a newborn. But since the 3 month mark he has become more and more social, “talking” to us eye to eye in emphatic baby lingo, maintaining eye contact, tracking movement around the room, and most recently reaching out and grabbing everything within arm’s length. Most mornings he is in a very good mood – it’s always nice to hear him talking to himself while still in his crib; often we’ll be greeted with a smile, his arms still clinging to his snuggly. I’m a bit surprised that he likes baths as much as he does. He seems to enjoy reclining in his little tub, looking around and sometimes eating (solid food) while he is washed from head to toe.

And he’s discovered food. Starting around Thanksgiving he starting watching food as it made its way from plate to mouth, and in mid-December we started giving him some rice cereal and have gradually

Liam has no problem opening wide for a little sweet potato.

added sweet potatoes and winter squash to the daily routine. He loves it all. He was a natural in terms of the physical act of swallowing, and is at the point where he wants spoonfuls in rapid succession – delaying the next bite even for a few seconds is met with a demanding fuss. Our beverages are also interesting to him, as he looks at our glasses and opens his mouth wide as if asking for a nice swig of Coke or tea, which of course we refrain from giving him. Last night he decided our ice cream looked pretty tasty.

So I am enjoying Liam’s infancy even more than I expected. Yet along with the fun and joy comes responsibility, which was one of my thoughts back in July. My first concern was providing materially, and so far that has been relatively easy. Our income isn’t as high as we expected, but we have been blessed abundantly. We have more than enough for our basic needs, and have been in position to purchase things, take trips, and give Liam everything we can.

Most of my concerns in the July post were for his development beyond infancy, when discipline and values and healthy respect for authority must be instilled. Those are still valid concerns, but there are other indirect responsibilities that have not been easy to fulfill. Spiritually, I pray for Liam and Melissa, though certainly not as much as I should. Finding a church has proven much more difficult than expected, and we knew it was going to be tough transitioning from Redeemer to pretty much any other church. We currently attend Destin United Methodist, and while their beliefs don’t always coincide with my own theological paradigm, it is a Christ-centered congregation with a good pastor. Importantly, they have a solid small group program that we are looking forward to entering this month, and even plan on leading a new group.

Christmas is certainly different with a new addition to the family.

Perhaps the most challenging aspect of fatherhood – my third July observation – is maintaining a vibrant relationship with Melissa. In some ways this has proved more difficult than expected, though we are by no means having difficulty in our marriage. With her staying at home with Liam and effectively centering her life around caring for him, her day to day activities are far different from mine, which are spent at the hospital and clinic. Her attention is heavily focused on Liam, while mine is more fractured. While she doesn’t envy my work per se, she does long for more adult contact and interaction, even if it is in a professional setting. On the other hand she is much closer to Liam – she knows his wants and needs and how to interact with him much better than I do. She has a routine, she knows where everything is, and she has a much better sense of the ebb and flow of parenting him. At times, I feel like an outsider looking in on their world.

So our relationship now  is very different from our relationship in New York. There we both worked during the day, but living across the street from the hospital made it easy for me to slip home for meals and breaks, and Melissa had plenty of time at home with her flexible schedule. We saw each other throughout most days, and when we made it home in the

Our new family, shortly after Liam's birth.

evenings it was just us. Our spheres, so to speak, almost perfectly aligned. But without friends in the area, without work, and staying at home with Liam all day, Melissa is very focused on him. Because I am away from home much more, I cannot be as focused. Thus our spheres overlap, but aren’t as tightly congruent. Again, there’s no real friction or problems in our marriage, but there are plenty of other “distractions” from each other.

It won’t be easy, but we must strive to make our relationship with each other the priority. With the help of Melissa’s parents we have been able to go on dates, which has been nice. When they leave next week it will be more difficult – but no less important – to carve out time for the two of us. I need to do a better job of being sensitive to helping Melissa and giving her a break, and proactively looking for ways to make things easier rather than simply reacting. I love Melissa more than anything, and am exceptionally proud of the job she is doing as a wife and mother. I love Liam and want to cultivate a strong bond and relationship with him. As I said in July, love is not a zero sum game – there is no reason I can’t be a great father to Liam and also an exemplary husband for Melissa.

In closing, being a father has made me appreciate my parents much more than I ever have. I realize the devotion and sacrifice it takes even from an early age. I’ve always said my parents were wonderful, but now I understand how their parenting extended far beyond what I remember. My mother was exceptional and my father was a great. He wasn’t perfect (no father is) and I can learn from his mistakes, but I want to emulate his devotion and selflessness. There was never any doubt he cared deeply for my brother and me – this was evident throughout our lives. I hope Liam will know a fraction of that love, devotion, and undying loyalty.

Four generations of Mandy's.



Filed under Liam, Parenthood/Pregnancy