Tuesday, December 21, 2010

What Gives?

My friend Elizabeth has been sending me posts by Betty for awhile now. I usually read them, smile, think 'that's awesome!' and go on my merry way. Tonight I sat with glass of wine in hand, turned off the trainwreck that is Skating with the Stars tv, and read back through some of Betty's posts. Betty is a former advertising ex whose husband is the president of Oglethorpe University in Atlanta. At a crossroads in her life and with a recent inheritance in her hand, she decided to give away a $100 a day for 365 days. She has clearly done her homework and has a great blend of local, grass roots organizations and international large scale philanthropies. As a disclaimer, I wouldn't choose every organization she chose and don't agree with everything she says. But the idea?  In the words of my high school pal Amy, me loves.

And folks, that got me thinking (go ahead and fall off of your chair in surprise.) With the budget tightening, today I found myself getting creative with the term "tithe" as I took one of my young Gift of Grace buddies to lunch. I told Ross that when he saw our lunch on the card to classify it as our tithe for the month. (p.s. Betty is a member of my 2nd all time favorite place to attend Mass on the planet and gives a tweet-like blurb about it and her tithing to it here). Anywho, I realized that when I made the family budget for the holidays, everyone, including 5 month old baby who needs all of nada, got a column. The poor, the needy, yep- you guessed it, bleeding heart social worker left em' out. I feel like a word that starts with Jack and ends with ass. But thanks to my little outing with Marita today and reading over this blog, I'm getting to it. While I won't divulge how much we'll give (because it's pitiful), I did think about who would be getting the newest line in the budget after I return some the of the crap said 5 month old does not need).

And in no particular order~

Obviously these folks, the Missionaries of Charity. They live in my 1st most favorite place to worship and love my daughter like their own (and clearly embarrass and aggravate her as their own too). But more than that, they care for women dying of HIV/AIDS. Their love, compassion, and commitment to prayer and service is unmatched as far as I have ever seen.

Next, I am going to dig out the card I threw in the recycle bin from the humane society of cobb county. I am not an animal lover. But I gave my child a name that honors St. Francis of Assisi and my little sister is an avid animal lover whose first inclinations toward service were toward 4 legged creatures. Per my mom's request, I ensured that this is a "no-kill" shelter and will consider this my gift to the Monster (since as a bad animal mother, there are no bones under the tree for him).

My next meager check goes to Operation Hungry Child. This is a fab grass roots organization started by friends from Savannah. They use one of my most favorite hobbies, reading, to help my most favorite people, lil' babes. This is also special to me because my child is clearly in a month long growth spurt and is alwaaaaays wanting to eat. While I am most happy to oblige her, I ache thinking of the kids whose cries for hunger go unheeded.

This next one is kind of already accounted for but is something Ross and I are excited about. For years, students of many faith traditions have had awesome ministries to nurture and grow them during college. Young Life, Campus Crusade For Christ, Hillel, and others have given college students a place to worship and pray, hang out and play.  While I wouldn't ever trade what I gained from those ministries in college, I am pumped to say that the Catholics are jumping on board! Fellowship of Catholic University Students has been around for a few years but is really taking off and we are so excited to attend their conference this year to learn more about how to support the great work they are doing. This guy below has brought FOCUS to Georgia for the 1st time and tons of Georgia Southern students are blessed because of Him. (photo posted without permission :)

And lastly, because my husband is running out of money, I am giving money to my friend Audrey. I met Audrey when I worked at the Department of Family and Children Services in Athens. My job was to investigate child abuse and, in the worst cases, remove children from their homes, leaving them in a foster home. This was heart-wrenching in every case and made more awful by knowing that this happened to my own mom time and again. Audrey was a foster care worker whose job it was to ensure those kids were safe in the foster homes and to work for permanent families, either their own (ideally) rehabiliated or adoptive homes. Long after I ran like hell left that job, she is still there, still working her crazy butt off. And since I am not comfortable sending a random check to the state office, I am officially giving Audrey an I.O.U. for a check to go toward some project or need Athens' foster kids may have. I trust her not to buy wine with it.

So, I guess that's as good a Christmas post as you're gonna get. I love to hear about organizations or causes that folks love so if you feel so inclined, tell me where you'd send your check if you knew how to forge your husband's signature on his checkbook like I do :)

Merry Christmas !

Thursday, December 16, 2010

graceful and grateful

Tonight (the same night as I wrote the previous post begging my child to cut me some slack), I was nursing our girl. Each evening I do this, I think of a post Rachel wrote when her girl was young. She said she used the constant nursing as time to pray. Some nights I do, as well, other nights I play word mole on R's phone. But tonight he was gone and I was feeling reflective. See, my husband is sitting in a Minneapolis airport waiting to come home, after arriving there at 3 am today. He called tonight and I gave him the low-down of our fussy afternoon. I wasn't complaining (like most days), just talking. But as I fed MK, I thought of the last few months. We all know how unexpectedly challenging they were for me. I recently wrote a post on marriage but it remains in the draft box thinking it may be too personal, even for me. A small bit of it was about needing my husband to understand just how hard this new 'job' is. I have been concerned, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not, that R sees this job as a woman's dream, the biggest blessing in the world with no reason for angst or frustration. And I've been hell bent on making sure he knows it is as hard or harder than his paying job. While dinner may be on the stove and I may even have lipstick on, you better believe he gets spewed on with the bad of the day. I think that I have not been willing to share the joyous parts because I need him to understand the bad parts. The damage there has been that by not sharing the joys, I haven't reflected on them myself and have let the bad days erase the greatness of the good days.

So feeding gal tonight, I let myself choose the joy over the difficulty of the past few hours. I don't need to tell y'all of the blessings of being at home with your babe. But I needed to remind myself how freakin' awesome it is to see her reach out to Monty for the first time, to squeal at the Christmas lights, to eat her first bite of rice cereal like it is filet mignon, to hear her first laughs and her glass shattering squeals, to get to smother her in kisses for more than an hour in the morning and evening. I sat in that rocker and let myself think of all the good. And (hello sherlock) it felt so much better than thinking about how she cried for the last two hours. I started thinking that even if Ross does think that these days at home are all rasberry kisses and mother-daughter bonding, that's okay. Because it feels better to feel grateful.

I thought too about my conversation with Ross earlier.  I thought about how much I would hate to fly out of Atlanta at midnight into a blizzard, arrive at 3 am, be in a meeting by 8 and be back in the airport a few hours later only to be delayed again. And what did my husband want to tell me about his day? Not the snow, the frigid temps, not driving in weather he's never driven in, not his 4 hour nights sleep. He wanted me to know how amazing his omelet was at the continental breakfast at the Hilton. If that man can focus on the awesomeness of an omelet, surely I can find some positivity in my day at home with my favorite butterball on the earth. And I did tell him about the good. I spared him the gory details of the last few hours and told him how cute his kid was. For a quick minute, I felt graceful. What a refreshing feeling that was.

I guess the take-a-way for this overly analytical gal is that it just feels better to express gratitude and interact with my husband with grace. He may think I have the easiest job in the world. And that's okay (I'll leave him with her Saturday and he'll see. Or maybe he won't. Y'all know she'll be on her best, sweetest, cuddliest behavior with dad). The job will be a little easier if I remind myself that it may be challenging, but it really is the best job in the world.

To my husband, thank you for working your freezing tail off for us. Thank you for wanting to sacrifice the new car and the bigger house and the SEC championship ticket to give our family this great gift. To Rachel, thank you for the reminder to pray as I rock that little girl, opening the door for the holy spirit to inspire me toward grace and gratitude.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dear. Sweet. Precious. Daughter.

In the words of Uncle Jesse, "Have merrrrrcy."

It is 5:45 pm. Your dad will not be home until after midnight and is gone again tomorrow night.  We HAVE to work together. Mom has given you rice cereal, nursed you, put orajel on your baby gums, given you tylenol, and has now resorted to Baby Einstein- WHICH ISN'T WORKING?! Darling, why are you the one baby on the planet earth who will not watch and listen to the soothing lullabies of Mozart?? Remember how I said that I kind of love the "Louisa Kate" brand of fire-cracker-ness? I lied. I am so sorry for lying. Tonight, and until your dad is back in action, I need you not to be a fire-cracker. Tonight, I need you to be malleable, compliant, easy-going (can't even keep a straight face writing 'easy-going' about you, m'love). But could you please throw your mother a bone here. I cannot nurse you any longer or I might cry. And I really don't want to pour that 2nd glass of wine. I know walking you outside would do the trick but kiddo, it's 30 degrees. And your face is chapped to hades and back so that would likely make you cry more later. I am so sorry your mouth hurts and you miss your dad and you just don't feel good. I have a lot of compassion for you, truly. It's just that my head hurts and I miss your dad and that makes it hard to come up with new ways to distract you from your fussiness. So, like I said, Have Mercy on your mama.

I need you to go from feeling like this....

to feeling all happy about your double chin-ness.

thanks. love mom.

P.S. you are sooo going to bed early. after which I am sooo pouring that next glass of wine.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Five Fabulous Months

well...okay...maybe 2 fabulous months. The first 3 were kind of hellacious. But some things to remember about our girl this month~

  • you are leaps and bounds more fun than you used to be. You are waking up to the world so much more and are pure entertainment. THIS is what people meant when they assured me all those times that things would get better. Right they were.
  • we held off on rice cereal because mom is lazy, but are starting this weekend so your me-maw and aunt Katie can witness the momentous occasion. (I'm kind of nauseated even writing that but I guess the first time a kid tastes mush is important!)
  • you notice Monty more and more which is cute. He licks you for a split second and runs to his one ally in the house- dad. I can say that the best thing about that shedding, toilet paper eating, shedding, licking, jumping beast is that I know y'all will be best buds.
  • your attention span is notsofabulous and you grow bored with one of the 200 pieces of baby equipment we have. Hence the need for 200 pieces of baby equipment.
  • you are totally teething. This means three things. 1) aquafor is now bought in bulk for your chapped, drooled on face. 2) lansinoh is bought in bulk. nuff said. 3) the 8 weeks we had of you sleeping through the night are over. I do indeed hate teeth. I love your gummy smile and it can stay that way until you are 40 if you sleep through your achy gums.
  • you are still exclusively breastfeeding even though I can admit this is becoming a struggle- for a few reasons, the least of which is above. We'll keep trudging along though because you are growing great and, while it may not be related, you get over a cold in 24 hours and are healthy and active again (just in time for mom to have caught that cold that takes her 200 hours to get over)
  • your best "nap" of the day is now around 1pm and usually starts while we're driving home from whatever activity got mom out of the house for the day. While I love this nap, I almost think you contrive it. Because, see, I don't dare take you out of the car. So I leave you in there and either sit on the porch or do chores inside. The time with you asleep is great but going out to check on you every 10 minutes kind of defeats the purpose of that nap (lest you think it's for your own rest and growth- it's not. It's for mom's relaxation and sanity).
  • you are opinionated (don't blame me. I'm sure it's not from your genes since everycottonpickingpersoninbothmomanddad'sfamily has the same "problem." But like I've said before, I kind of like having a daughter who will be assertive and sure of what she wants.
  • this 'opinionatedness' got you kicked out of MOPS childcare this week. Your first school expulsion. How cute! Now, a little background here. Mom is the coordinator for childcare for all the mothers of preschoolers meetings. One of the workers called out sick so I told the remaining workers not to hesitate to come get a mom if one of the babes was just not having a good day. The first (and only) mom to be called out?? Yep, that's me. Punk.
  • You are now rolling over every which way. I'm glad I finally realized you can easily roll from back to front and have stopped coming to get you when you scream during your nap from flipping yourself over to your back. You shouldn't have let me in on the secret that you are perfectly capable of getting back to your tummy. Game over kid.
  • You still love dad- and I don't just say that because every mom is supposed to affirm the dad and all. You love the guy and smile and smile at him. This is especially cute when I have complained that you have fussed from 4-6:30 and then you smile from 6:30 (when he gets home) until bed, making mom look like a drama queen.
  • Your 1st Christmas is approaching and I'll admit that with the cold you gave me and the business of life, I was tempted to get a table top pink tree and be done with it. I didn't (because your aunt Roo would murder me) but we are excited to celebrate the season with you. I'm proud to say that our tree is not yet up but our advent wreath is sittin' pretty. I sooo look forward to the coming years of making Christmas all about Jesus for you and celebrating his big birthday with you.
  • I'm sure there's more but the fed ex man just left something on the porch and I need to go outside before he calls DFCS about the baby in the car. I will just leave it on this note kid- never, ever, ever question God's plan for your life. Because what He will give you will be far and away better than any plan you could have for yourself. I couldn't have dreamed a more perfect child for me and couldn't have dreamed I could ever, ever love a non-napping, biting, poopy, drooly little chicken more.
Some photos from your 5th month~~

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Whatever you do for THEM, you do for HIM

and whatever you do to them, you do to Him. And however you love them, you love Him. These were the words spoken during a wonderful Mass tonight commemorating World AIDS Day. Archbishop Gregory, one of the greatest speakers I've ever heard, put a different spin on Matthew 25.  Just prior to Mass, folks were asked to write the names of people they knew who have died on a banner. I wrote...and wrote...and continued to write the first names of patients I'd seen over the years at Grady.  As Archbishop spoke, a slideshow of faces went through my mind. The patient in a diaper, scuffling down the hallway, asking me if I'd consider marrying a skinny man with AIDS, the patient who begged me to videotape her labored, dying breaths to get kids to stop using drugs, the 27-year-old with the greatest dred locks you've ever seen, the man who cried as we said a decade of the rosary after he was told he could not be operated on and would soon die, the patient whose little girl held her hand whispering to her demented mother not to be afraid, the transsexual who just asked that his nails be painted when he met St. Peter, the girl my age who drove me crazy (written about here).  I thought about my interactions with these folks. Some days, I was a good social worker, hopefully bringing some bit of help or laughter to their day. Some days I did for them what I would have done for Him. Other days, I was mediocre, stressing out over finding them a nursing home or a treatment facility or locating nexts of kin. Other days I didn't let myself see Christ in the eyes of a patient who had relapsed for the 56th time or in the face of someone demanding services that weren't available.

I don't work with HIV patients every day anymore. I miss the patients. And I really miss the folks who care for and treat the patients. I am realizing though that I do not have to work with AIDS patients to act out my faith.  I hope that I can now fill in the blank "whatever you do for ___", you do for HIM.  Whatever I do for my husband, I do for God. Whatever I do for my daughter, my home, my family, my neighbor across the street..."   But I am really proud of the friends I know who treat the "least" of these.

**thinking especially of Tyler this World AIDS day. I knew Tyler in college and am not surprised at all that he has taken a terrible diagnosis and turned it into a way to educate and inspire so many!**

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Invisible Mother

Hey y'all~ I woke up groggy this morning and received the message below in my inbox from my friend Fr. Tim. I love how the Holy Spirit works with timing. It couldn't have been better. Like many of you, we traveled for the holidays. And while it was rich and blessed (if stressful at times), we are now in that awful place of re-acclimating a baby back to normal time (and "normal" sleep.) notsofun. Anyway- for the days that feel monotonous or insignificant, read this and keep it in the back of your mind. You are building something (someone) so great for the world and for God!

Invisible Mother.....

It all began to make sense, the blank stsares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?'

Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible.. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this??

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'

Some days I'm a crystal ball; 'Where's my other sock?, Where's my phone?, What's for dinner?'

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature -but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going, she's going, she's gone!?

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe .

I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription:

'With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devoured - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work: 1) No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names. 2) These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished. 3) They made great sacrifices and expected no credit. 4) The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof, No one will ever see it And the workman replied, “Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.

No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for 3 hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he'd say, 'You're gonna love it there...'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.

The Will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you.

May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer

Monday, November 22, 2010

Weekend with the grandparents

Just wanted to post a few quick photos of Mary Kate's great weekend with her grandparents. My mom and dad came up to help me take Mary Kate to see Santa at Phipps since her dad refused :) I will say that our experience has me thinking Phipps is a little full of itself and I don't know that we'll be back. But we've got photo proof that our girl did meet Santa and while she was not so sure of him, she was too young to be afraid.

We also took the chance to take some family photos and neither of our children cooperated simultaneouslly though I suspect we have a lifetime of that dilemma coming our way :)

My parents kept MK while Ross and I went on a real date and drank real sangria and did not change one real diaper. It was fabulous! We have not gone out too much in the last 4 months so it makes these nights so sweet! Thanks mom and dad for loving on our girl while we remembered what it was like to eat without a child laid across our lap :)

Another post coming on how God is answering prayer after prayer about fellowship, purpose, and peace. If it doesn't make it up before the holidays, may you all have wonderful thanksgivings, filled with gratitude for all the goodness in our lives!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Shutterfly Christmas

Hey y'all~ in an effort to send you all a cheesy precious Christmas card this year and not break the stay-at-home mom bank, I decided to review some of Shutterfly's products for you. Excited? Great!

We all love receiving Christmas cards. When I took care of the Garmany girls in Athens all those years, I loved seeing the doorway covered in their friends' cards. Kellie kept them year after year to see how the little ones had grown. This year, a girl at my MOPS group suggested keeping them in a stack and daily praying for the family on the top. I kind of love that. So if you need some extra prayers sent your direction, make sure to send the Ninnesses a Christmas card. Plus Ross looooves when I tape them to the doorway (right babe? :)

So, without further ado, some favorite cards from Shutterfly 2010.

What I like that Shutterfly is doing this year is offering some cards that send portions of the proceeds to charity. Cards like this one benefit Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization dedicated to ending hunger and poverty and caring for the Earth. Since 1944, Heifer has provided livestock and training for families to improve nutrition and earn income for health care, shelter and education. Shutterfly will donate 10% of net sales from each Heifer International card purchase back to the organization.

Cards like this one benefit the American Lung Association. How cute is this card??

And cards like this, benefit Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG

And while the card below is does not benefit a charity, I couldn't resist. Nothing sweeter than a sleeping baby. Not that I would know a thiiing about sleeping babies :)

So to get your Christmas card goodness, go here. or here. or for fabulous gifts that the grandmas love,  like this, go here.

I hope everyone has a fabulous and safe holiday this week!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"you cannot impart what you do not possess"

So I'm sitting here, enjoying a glass of wine and some dark chocolate, a new book in hand. It was a good day. I spent my morning at my new MOPS group and am already seeing such fruit from those women and my role there. I had a sweet afternoon with my mother-in-law and cleaned my house while she entertained my gal. On my second attempt, I registered for a bible study in time to get MK in their childcare. Some kind friends accepted my plea to help me pass the witching hour over Mexican while R is away on business. Mary Kate went down without so much as a peep. It was a very good day and my heart is full.

The new book is Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul. Through a path that could only be paved by God alone, I have found myself on the steering committee of my moms group. After 2 meetings there, they had a need for their childcare coordinator, and knowing I wanted to be more involved, I blindly volunteered. In a few short weeks, I am seeing so many blessings from that push from the Holy Spirit. The book is being read by the steering committee and used during one of our twice monthly meetings as a meeting/bible study. I read two chapters tonight over the chocolate and wine. And whether the urge is coming from the sugar rush or the happiness from an easy day, I really felt the need to get this down.

I know the reviews on this book are just starting, but it took all of 4 pages for me to be smacked. "We cannot impart what we do not possess." Holy. cow. I stopped and thought of what I most want to impart to MK. Without too much introspection, I came up with 3 things. 1. self-confidence, peace in who she is as a person. 2. healthy and active- for nutrition and physical activity to just be a part of her normal life.3. for her to know Jesus and feel His warmth, love, and protection every day of her life.

Now- to the 'we must possess' part. Ouch. I think I want these things for MK because I want them for myself. I crave peace in who I am, self-acceptance and confidence that God made me and loves me for who I am. I so want to really treat my body as a temple and give what it needs (right now it needs chocolate), rather than focusing on a jeans size. And I want to really, really feel Christ every minute of the day- not just during evening prayers with MK or at Sunday Mass. Ross teases me that while I say I will fill this house with fruits and veggies, I'll have a stash of Little Debbie's under the bed. "Fine," I tell him, our kids will (insert my mom's favorite line), "do as I say and not as I do." Well folks, I have known my daughter for 4 months and 8 days. And I can already tell you that she is not going to buy that line of crap for one minute. The book is right. If I don't possess it, if I don't live it, she's not gonna get it.

Good thing the answer is pretty straight-forward. If I see myself as God sees me, I will be filled with confidence. If I truly believe that God gave me this body to use for good, I will treat it as such and fuel it with nutrition and exercise and the necessary splurge when the time is right (like right now.). And If I let Jesus into every mundane, repetetive, monotonous task of the stay-at-home mom day, my girl will grow up seeing Jesus through her mom (God willing!!) As the author writes "The goal for your real life is a family who honors God with children who become independent, spiritually healthy adults who love Jesus." Can I get an Amen now!

Okay, bedtime. Today was too easy. I have a feeling my renewed thoughts on raising the gal are going to be tested at about 6:10 am :)

Love, love this girl!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

How do you do it?

To any of you who stopped over from facebook, thanks much. I have brains I need to pick. The topic, new-mommyhood. What has at times been a desperate plea for advice is now a genuine interest. Please feel free to comment on any of the following questions. I am looking for a life preserver on the bad days and comraderie on the good ones through your thoughts ;) Some questions to consider

  • What are your secrets to surviving these first beautiful, heinous, exciting, exhausting, blessed, glorious, hellacious few months?
  • For seasoned moms battling the inevitable set of new challenges and new joys that come as babies grow bigger, what do you wish you would have known? What would have made it easier?
  • And for new moms, what makes you tick (or rather, keep ticking?) What is most helpful at getting you through the day with a smile on your face? 
  •  If you are staying at home, what are your tricks for finding joy in the seemingly mundane tasks (feed, burp, throw your clothes and baby's in laundry after said burp, unload the dishwasher, put baby down to 'not' nap, repeat x 17) ? 
  •  Have any of you found your marriages changing, in good ways or difficult ones? Any thoughts on how your marriages are affected by this new, fantastic person in your life?  
  • Any tricks for making your home a place of real joy?  A place your husband looks forward to coming home to and one you feel proud of?
  • For any of you who have left a career you liked or didn't like, how has the transition been?  (my new boss over here in smyrna is kicking my butt...)
  • If you don't have kids, what did you learn most from your mom? What did she do well that you want to emulate one day or encourage others to do?
I appreciate any and all thoughts. Life-changing does not begin to describe this experience. It has been nothing like I thought it would be, having been so blissfully naive about the challenges of family life. But it has also been so blissfully, unexpectedly amazing. I kind of still can't believe she's mine...

Many thanks friends~~

Thursday, November 11, 2010

4 months (and 2 days...)

to any non-family readers out there, feel free to skip :)

Miss Mary Kate Frances,

You are 4 months and 2 days old. To celebrate, mom finally got with the times and figured out how to upload photos from her phone. I guess now I have to stop badgering dad for a blackberry!  So, your month in photos, m'love.

we celebrated your 4 mo birthday having a chocolate muffin and diet coke with Karen at Rev. (your mama may or may not have known it was your 4 mo bday until Aunt Roo texted us. Sorry babe).

Just before you turned 4 months, we tried out the exercauser. It was a hit. Mom's favorite toy and yours too! We have to turn you around from the tv though because your little couch potato self will watch tv for hours if we let you!

taken in your rocker on 11.10.10 just before we left for Melanie Johnson's birthday dinner. You were a ham at dinner, smiling at Mel's little boy Grant and being held by everyone. This was special for mom because it was a hard mommy day for me. You gave me this smile just as we woke up from a nap. The nap + the smile made the day so much better.

this is the month you finally decided not to flip out during bath time. clearly you are still not in love but you are tolerating us bathing you nowadays :)

this is also your 4 month birthday (before mom realized what day it was). You take your morning feeding in the bed with mom now and it is special time. I feed you and then dad steals takes you and talks and prays with you. I love this photo because we can see your multitude of precious chins!
this was taken 10.28.10 and you were just being smiley on the bed. It's these moments that make being home with you worth every minute!

this was taken 11.6.10 after we hiked at the Chattahoochee river. We love it there but it was a little cold that day. You fussed for the first 20 minutes but after your negligent mother finally warmed up a bottle, you went along for the full 3 miles and loved it.

this is proof that you are also starting to tolerate the carseat. As long as you are either totally full of food or tired, you will give us some peace and quiet in the car. We are excited about days ahead sans speeding tickets and a screaming little girl :)
this is also your 4 month birthday at the coffee house. Mom got to read a book for a half hour while you slept like this. Your dad has reminded me how much you love this position and it quiets you often. Even though on dad's birthday, the ladies at the mexican restaurant chided mom for letting you lay like this saying you were going to fall on your head :) Had they heard your yelling, they probably would have let us take the chance!

Happy 4 months kiddo. Every day gets more joyful, more tolerable, more exciting. How we ever got blessed with you...

Love mom

Monday, November 8, 2010

Figuring it all out

I am sitting here while MK is doing that thing she never does which I won't say outloud for fear that she will stop doing it.  I realize I need to have a list of things I should accomplish if/when she does that thing I won't say. Instead of doing any of those things, I'm thinking. (as mentioned before, this is a bad idea usually). Anyway, yesterday I saw my girl's birth announcement on my sister-in-law's wall. I realized that little missy's face has changed so much. She looks little like the newborn she was. She is chunkier, more animated, more lovely. And I barely remember it. So while I do not want this blog to be a stay at home mom's effort at communicating with the outside world, full of weight percentiles and developmental milestones reached, I also know that these first months turn your brain to mush and this blog may be my only way of remembering these special/crazy times. So, grab some ginger ale for the nausea if you are still inclined to read the sometimes/often nauseating accounts.

Today my thoughts are on figuring it all out. The transition from adrenaline-junky, drama thriving social worker to SAHM with puke on her new target shirt has been a challenging one. (disclaimer just once- I am so, so aware that 90% of full-time working mamas would love to have the choice to do this. That I even have a choice is such a gift. I get that, so much.) That said, I don't quite know what to do with myself. It's such a delicate dance of getting out of the house, keeping my sanity, being involved outside of the house while respecting our budget and having really intentional, really quality time in our home with our girl. I will say that this familia has made mega, mega sacrifices for me to be at home. We are foregoing many of the pleasures I would looove to have but need like I need a hole in my head. I want to have lunch each day with a friend or my husband- to get out and have adult conversation. This does not equal budget friendly. I am having to figure out how to get creative with getting out but not spending. And don't tell me to take a walk. Yes, it's a good idea. But I'd like sweet tea and some fries on my outings. Thanks ;)

I am also figuring out things like how often the house should be vacuumed and that if I am staying at home I should now clean things like blinds and baseboards. Should I be organizing our junk drawer and making schedules for our family. What does one do in this new role? I am slowly getting into a groove but it has not been easy. I am so thankful for working friends who acknowledge how difficult staying at home can be. I feel like such a brat even writing that it can be hard. Good Morning America had a segment on the happiest people today and one of the indicators was at least 7, SEVEN! hours of social interaction a day. I about coughed up my waffle. As a social worker, I see the truth in that and know that this has been one of the hardest areas.

So we'll keep trudging along, keep trying to figure out what this new life I have been gifted with looks like. I keep coming back to a quote I found by Martha Washington.
"I've learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances"

Since my child is now no longer doing that thing she was doing so I need to run but instead of bemoaning the end of my alone time, I will choose to see it differently, to have a different disposition. Because this kid is my heart and soul. And even if she never ever does that thing (please God help me here though), I am still so, so thankful that I get to be with her every day, watching her discover the world, hearing every new inflection in her newly discovered voice, watcing her finally find her thumb, seeing her wide grin when she stops nursing long enough to look at me with her big ole blue eyes sparkling and crazy hair standing straight up. And while I am eager to find a groove for these days at home, I am happy that I get to figure all this out alongside my gorgeous, gift from God, my precious partner in crime!

totally irrelevant but love the pic! 1st braves game :)

Friday, November 5, 2010

On the lighter side

My kid is a morning person. She is bright, bubbly, so happy that her mom rescued her from the depths of her jail crib. I have always been the same way (well, maybe not bubbly first thing, but definitely a morning person). In our years before chil'ren, Lizzie La Lu and I used to meet at the gym at 5:45am. The best part of that, besides the abs that I oh so miss, was the drive home, specifically the stoplight at Freedom Parkway and Boulevard. The sunrise over the city made me love Atlanta. It made me happy that I had gotten out of bed. Not so happy that I repeat that process these days, but I digress.
I am happy that my girl likes the morning time as much as her mama. These pictures show her morning joy. And I love it. (blackberry picture quality, forgive ; )

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A good swift kick in the butt~from the book of Wisdom

That's what Sunday's scripture gave me. I am no theologian and have no business trying to decipher what whoever wrote this book of the bible meant. I will say that as I heard the words, I felt God shaking his finger at me, lovingly, firmly. The words below are proof that I can be an idiot. Because, you see, for many years I have felt like I was beyond mercy and beyond forgiveness from the creator of the earth (narcissistic much?)  I perceived my sins as sooo great, my short-comings as sooo hopeless, that they could never be forgiven- you know, by the One with nails in His hands. As a friend in college said to me once, "so the cross wasn't quite enough for you?" ouch. But I needed to hear that then, and in this newest season of life, I needed to hear it now in this scripture. I have had some sad days, feeling that I am not grateful enough for the non-napping babe in the next room or for the the gift of staying at home . I have wondered why I am not all warm and fuzzy about caring for our home or preparing our meals. I was never voted "most likely to be a domestic goddess" but I have not been happy with my heart during these changes. Admittedly, I have been doing what I do. I take a normal struggle and instead of trusting that God knows the challenges of this transition, I decide that I am THE biggest stay at home sinner who ever lived. (gag reflex anyone??)  And this opens the door for despair, for self-loathing and a descent into a gross place. However, through some prayer and affirmation from my ever-patient husband, I climbed out of it and made it to Mass Sunday. And our sweet God was there, ready to put his foot on my rear-end.

 From Wisdom, chapter 22

Before the LORD the whole universe is as a grain from a balance

or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
 you have mercy on all (all must therefore include Keri).
and you overlook people's sins that they may repent.
as hard as I try, I can't see the fine print that says "you overlook the sins of everyone BUT Keri"
For you love all things that are and loathe nothing that you have made; for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
as hard as I've tried to convince myself over the years, holy scripture says it right here. He  loathes nothing He has made, and since He made me, He must not loathe me.

And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it; or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
could it be that God really has willed me to stay on this earth, that He himself has preserved me despite my best efforts at sabotaging that?
But you spare all things, because they are yours, O LORD and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things! Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little, warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing, that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O LORD!
and so He does, rebuke us, rebuke me, warning me of where I go awry. He does so lovingly and mercifully and I am thankful that what I once called "self-awareness" may have been the sometimes gentle, sometimes forceful poke of God saying 'get with it Sullivan.' God is not asking me to wallow in guilt or self-reproach. He's simply asking me to fess up, dust off my yoga pants and believe in Him.

Sorry for the journey to the center of my brain but I needed to remember this. I know myself, and chances are I'll go back to that place of "you are the worst sinner alive and deserve nada." Hopefully the words of holy scripture will remind me that, like it or not, God created me and has a desire, a purpose for this life, beyond wallowing in why I am not Mrs. June Cleaver ;)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Full Circle

In April 2008, I was in a new relationship. I was intrigued by and really falling for a new guy. We were approaching Holy Week and this new guy suggested we take a half day on Good Friday. We spent the afternoon hiking up Kennesaw mountain, and after finding a huge boulder, sat down together and said a rosary. I got home that day and immediately wrote my grandmother a letter. Dear Grandma, there's this new boy. And today we said a rosary. out loud. together. during a hike. The rest is history, beautiful, complex, blessed history.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years, one wedding and one baby, and we were preparing to celebrate Ross's 33rd birthday. Not one for material gifts (other than a good bottle of scotch), he requested we take our new babe on a hike back up Kennesaw mountain. The fall weather made it a perfect choice and up we went. Admittedly happy to have the extra 15lbs attached to me to tighten up these, well, everything, we set out and had a wonderful day. With only one minor-'when the heck are we getting there, mama is tired' moment, we reached a perch with a stunning view of Atlanta. We sat down. I fed our little gal and Ross began the The glorious mysteries. I was holding my baby, saying a rosary with my husband, on the same mountain where I knew he could be the one just a few years ago. I don't know when I've felt such utter peace, confirmation, joy.

So, happy birthday to God's single greatest gift to me. Thank you for getting this book worm off the sofa and into the great outdoors. I'd be missing so much if it weren't for you. I can't wait for our girl to see all the beautiful nature, hand in hand, with the best dad in the world!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

40 days

Hey y'all~ my aunt gave me this article and I could write a complete thesis on it. I love it. While I won't say I battled post-partum depression, I did have many days of "what the heck were we thinking followed by torrents of tears."  I loved this explanation of western society and how we are getting it all wrong.  So, grab a cup of tea and feel affirmed. It's not our fault ;)

40 days
By Jen Rognerud, Sunday, August 1, 2010, 7 comments

 I hear about it all the time. It’s my job to hear about it. What I’m most often told is this: “It’s like a light suddenly flipped on.”

Women tell me of bluer skies and darker nights, of fluctuating emotions and unexpected, bone-shaking beauty. They tell me that they can smell the earth beneath the snow, taste toxins in the air and hear the phone ring before it actually does.

They talk of orgasmic pain, unbearable pain, or else they thank God for drugs. They are wild, angry, and soft. They are beautiful, beaten, and grounded. They love their midwife. They hate that one nurse. They have a little crush on the handsome doctor. They wonder if they will always regret the C-section with this much intensity. They wonder if they knew love before this. They wonder if they will ever sleep again.

They are all a little bit different. Only one thing is the same: They are a really big deal.
In many cultures, birth is still an animal act and the postpartum period an exalted affair. The new mother is revered as the most important being in existence, and the community makes sure she knows it. Her strength is commended, her tenderness protected; her worries and wounds are soothed. She is massaged with sacred oils. She is fed special soups, lovingly prepared by those who have walked the path before her. It does not matter if it is her first baby or her fifth. After each birth, she is pampered and worshipped, an adored queen.

While true parenthood begins in an instant, with new life’s first breath, the full transition from pregnancy to motherhood takes a little while. Around the world, 40 days seems to be the magic number. That’s 40 days of the mother lying in with the new baby, 40 days of bonding, breastfeeding, and embracing her heightened sense of being. The Latin cultures call it la cuarentena, but it is not an actual quarantine. It is a period of respect for the woman’s metamorphosis.

Some communities insist that the woman stay in bed, while everyone else works around her. Other traditions include quiet celebration, intricate ritual, and contemplative walks in the woods. Usually, female relatives tend to the postpartum woman - they feed her, clean her, and teach her how to nurse. While 40 days is the approximate time period for concentrated care, it is understood that the new mother may need a little extra help for the better part of a year.

In the Western world, the postpartum period is not a beautiful, celebrated time. In fact, it is often thought of as a time of chaos and despair. In the United States, we try to recognize a period of 40 days. Six weeks is often when a working woman’s maternity leave is up and it is when she goes for her final appointment with her obstetrician. That six week check up is our big ritual, and the main purpose of it seems to be to get the green light for sex and exercise (although most women don’t honestly feel like doing either until much later).

American postpartum support generally consists of a few casseroles, a present or two for the baby, and unsolicited advice from mothers and in-laws. The pregnant woman is fawned over and spoiled, but the postpartum woman is discarded in favor of her precious offspring. She has most likely had a clinical hospital birth, somewhat rushed and with professionals calling the shots. She is pushed from the hospital within 48 hours and once home, she finds herself isolated, overwhelmed and exhausted. I’m not speculating. This is the norm, and this is why postpartum depression is a Western phenomenon.

While Americans like to say that “it takes a village,” villages don’t exist. We have walls between us and thick social boundaries. Even in the tightest communities, casseroles are the standard in reaching out. Smart visitors might throw in a load of laundry or take older siblings for a walk to the park, but for the most part, the postpartum woman is expected to entertain her guests.

Our relationships with our own mothers are often strained. Families are fractured, separated by distance and tension. Close friends aren’t as close as they should be. New moms don’t feel comfortable expressing their emotions, which range from ecstasy to exhaustion, from sadness to rage. And somewhere along the way, we’ve written out quiet but persistent expectations for our postpartum women. They should put on their make-up. They should get out of the house, maybe just scoot over to Target for a bit. They should pull themselves together as soon as possible, because if they don’t, we’ll start to worry. And by worry, I mean talk.

Basically, we’re getting it wrong. Basically, it’s a mess.

That’s where I come in.

As a postpartum doula, I support new mothers in the month or so after birth. I cook, fold laundry, make tea, bake muffins. I give foot massages and hugs. I keep visitors in line and I keep Mama from writing thank-you notes if there are dark circles under her eyes. I offer to do it for her. It’ll be our little secret.

I am CPR-certified and overeducated on all things newborn. I know the signs of postpartum depression, postpartum psychosis, birth trauma, and mastitis. I know how to achieve a good latch at the breast, I can make a bottle with one hand, and I know several tricks for soothing fussy babies.

I honor birth stories, I shoulder anger, I dissolve guilt and fear. I do not judge and I do not try to do things my way. I teach, but I don’t give advice unless asked. I am a humble servant, I am a secret keeper, I am a baby burper. I am a mother to the mother.

To put it plainly, I give American women their 40 days - their much-deserved rest, ritual, and fanfare.

I didn’t go looking for this. This is not what I wanted to be when I grew up. As weird as it sounds, I was called to it. There is a need for this service, a deep and desperate need that I simply cannot deny. And I think there’s a quiet little need for me in particular, because I get it; because I believe in what I do.

Still, I’d be more than happy to be taken out of a job. I’d love it if our communities embraced the doula’s responsibilities, making my role obsolete. I’d love it if Americans could see beyond the split-second text message in front of them and realize that mothers, quite literally, make the whole world.

So yes, I’m calling us out, America. Come on out, aunties, bosses, sisters, brothers and friends. Wake up neighbors, grandmas, and book clubbers. Mamas need more than baby showers. They need more than maternity clothes and pre- natal yoga videos. They need to be cherished. They need love and support and time. They need those 40 days.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

random observations from a weekend away

mega stream of consciousness- consider yourself warned.

Mary Kate and I came to Savannah for St. Vincent's Tea and Tour of Homes. It was a great day and brought back a bazillion memories of our days there. Sister Pat held Mary Kate and MK gave her as much trouble as I did back in the day. I think Sister is happy that she will likely be retired before she has any chance of another Sullivan girl roaming her hallways. On that note, I really really really miss Savannah. I miss everything about it. But I know that 45 stars have to align all at the same time for us to get back home. And as I told Jesus at Mass Saturday, 'not my will but yours be done.' I'm smart enough to know that if I force the issue it will not end well.

Speaking of Mass, we went twice this weekend. As I've said 30 times before on this blog, one of my most treasured memories is attending the Saturday evening Mass with my grandmother. I debated on taking the squaker (new nickname. after 5 minutes with her, you'll get it) since she had almost no nap but settled for some quiet time with mom as sufficient and put on her church clothes. It was so worth it. My kid hammed it up for all the ladies on the handicapped row, smiling and cooing. She and my grandma talked to each other so much I had to separate them. I love that my kid made the ole ladies feel so special. I was a proud mama.

There was another mama there that I have thought about a bunch. She looked about my age, maybe a few years older. She looked exhausted, hair uncombed, disshelved, unshowered. I say this because she had her five children with her- and while she looked like she had been run over by each kid on their bicyles, the kids were angels. They behaved, participated in Mass (minus the expected pinch in the side or two), and walked to communion with hands folded in reverence. That mama may not have gotten a shower that day, but heck if she didn't bring her kids to see Jesus. I hope God blesses her for raising great babes. I know He will.

There was also another mama there who was sitting behind us. The few times MK decided to squak, this nice lady, Ms. Fisher, held her finger and smiled and talked to her. My gal rewarded her with a smile. It was nice to sit next to people who didn't expect me to get up and leave at the first squak.

Today we went to Mass with my mom and dad (mom and Katie were cooking a big family dinner when grandma and I were there the night before and mom's faaav thing to do is show off her grandchild at Mass. We went twice just for grandma. And because I didn't get  too much prayer time in the night before trying to keep squaky quiet). Anywho- she was less behaved today but it was still really nice to be there. Being at your childhood church is just special. I loved it.

I debated on leaving later tonight but right now I'm watching my kid perched on my mom's stomach. Mom and Dad are talking to MK and she's talking right back. As much as I miss my hubs and our home, I won't take this away from mom and dad, or MK. Plus I want one more free meal out of this trip (and maybe a tank of gas???) Any ideas on when I'm too old to mooch of the parentals??

My child will not take a pacifier so today mom took off the nipple of a bottle, stuffed a burp cloth in it and MK sucked herself right to sleep. I'm sure that's a bad idea but also sure I'll be trying that again. I am tired of being my girl's pacifier.

I have easily gained 5 lbs since being home. And since I own about $500 in jeans in a size BELOW where I am, my new status as un-employed mandates that I fit back into those jeans. Plus mom bought me some precious boots from Red Clover that will only work over those size 4 skinny jeans. Am I sounding superficial enough yet??

The best part of being home is having extra hands to handle my girl. It's nice, though I start to miss her. Sweet baby was in Aunt Roo's arms at TJ Maxx and caught sight of me. She put out her bottom lip, let it quiver for a sec, and then started crying . It both melted me and broke my heart at the same time. I think it's the first time I realized she knows me by sight- you know, apart from smelling her dinner on me. I felt special.

Another benefit of being home is getting to actually read. Fr. Tim sent me "The Birth Order Book" and so far, it's pretty fascinating. I'm excited about understanding the people in my life better, my husband, siblings, and using it to get my kids better in the future. It may take me 2 months to finish without the extra hands but I'm loving it.

I'm a little nervous about the drive home tomorrow. My smart husband suggested I leave Atlanta last week right after MK's 6:00 am feeding since she usually goes right back to sleep. I looove my morning sleep but agreed and he was right. Except she woke up at 5:00 am for that feeding but whatev. We got to Savannah without stopping once. Heavenly. Now, for tomorrow, we're in a different boat. The good news is that since being here, she has dropped that morning feed (probably because my mother and sister exhaust the poor child). So I don't know what she will be doing tomorrow. So, I took the suggestions of facebook friends and bought some calming potion elixer from Brighter Day and hope the drugs work.

Okay, the squaking is now full on yelling. I should go rescue mom. I know she loves/craves/worships this time with her granddaughter, but have I mentioned I miss my husband? 

Forgive the random assortment of thoughts. It was just fun to type with two hands for a change.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mary Kate 3- months

Hey little girl,

I am bad about routines, yours and mine. But since I see you sleeping better and behaving better with a routine in place, I am working on it. I'm also working on keeping better records of these precious few months. So, a week late, thoughts on your 3rd month.

This month you continue to awake to the world more and more. Our best smiles from you come from the changing table (for obvious reasons). You coo and make the g sound and squeal at us. It's just the beginning of your finding your voice and we know genetics alone ensures us that you'll have lots to say in the coming years.

You are sleeping better and better and for this, mama is on her knees in thanksgiving. (As I wrote those words you started crying 30 minutes into your nap. nice.) You sleep from 9:45-10 until 9:30-10 am with a feeding between 5:30 and 6am. I succumed to pressure to put you to bed earlier and that got me 4 nights of 3:30 am feedings. So to the birds that plan went. Mama has the great luxury of staying home with you so if you want to sleep until 10, by alll means. Diet coke and English muffin are consumed with 2 hands happily.

This month mom and dad celebrated our 1 year anniversary and readily help folks do the math. You were not a shotgun baby, my love. We left you with Aunt Rae Ann, only the 2nd babysitter you've had after me-maw. We could have never dreamed we'd get to have you so quickly but wouldn't have it any other way. Now, your brother or sister, we can wait on them. Mom has a loong memory of the first few months with a newborn. But back to you.

You are slowly letting me put you down while we eat dinner or mom cleans. The swing and the bumbo seat buy me 10-15 minutes of peace before you realize there are no hands snuggling your sweet self. You have discovered fans this month and this also buys mom a few minutes of teeth brushing, hair combing in the bedroom. You can see the tv now and if I am not careful, I will easily turn you into a couch potato. You definitely like the lights and sounds of dad's tv. But how you could not see it- that thing is obnoxiously big.

You are still nursing like a champ and this one mostly easy task for us makes me very grateful. You will finally, finally take a bottle without much complaint and for this I am also very grateful. While my favorite place on the planet is with you, some tiny bits of separation are good for mom (and you.)

Some of my favorite sights throughout your 3rd month: clasping dad's shirt while he walks around with you, noticing monty for the first time, your big, huge smiles that make your eyes squint, family talks at night when you coo and make sounds at mom and dad, watching you look at dad while he gives you a bottle, seeing you and dad watch tv, those profiles so similar.

You still really don't like the bath and have discovered that arching your back delays that little bum from hitting the water. Distraction works sometimes and my rendition of "Don't you wish your girlfriend mama was hot like me" got us through a bath without much yelling the other night. Don't judge, you are not the easiest of babies.

You also DETEST your carseat. Please hurry out of this phase love. Back arching also delays the carseat. If you want to be spoiled by me-maw and loved on by aunt roo (translation: never put down), you cannot scream the whole drive to savannah this time. Have mercy on mom, this upcoming trip is solo.

Sometimes to my detriment, I don't read a lot on baby stuff and don't always know what you "should" be doing at this exact moment in your development. The doc has give us her stamp of approval so we'll trust her training. At your 2 month appointment, (which was 3 weeks late, so it was technically a 3 month appt), you were in the 90% percentile for height and 75-90% for weight. While we call you a chub or a tank often, Dr. Combes says much of your weight is in those long bones. Dad may get his volleyball player afterall.  You were 13.5 lbs at that appointment which floored me because 2 weeks earlier you were there with your first cold and you were 12lbs 6 oz. You know what kid, maybe you'll be long and lean like dad's family. Maybe you'll be roly poly kid. Folks loooove to comment on precious chubby babies (I do too). Whatever you are, whoever you become, know a few things please. 1. Jesus loves you just as you are. You are exactly the girl he wants you to be. Love him. He's awesome. 2. Your beauty comes from your smile, your compassion, the way you treat others. And at this very moment, your dad I  think you are radiant. We love your chins (note plural ;) , your rolls, your smile, your cries, your back arches, your squaks, your cuddles, your coos. We love you just as you are, today, tomorrow, in 40 years.

As this 3rd month ended, we saw some welcomed changes in the overall ease of you.  You were not a colicky baby (like granddaddy reminds me I was 30x a day) but no one will ever accuse you of being laid back. It's not really your fault though, no one has ever called mom or dad laid back either. You fit right in to our high energy, sometimes high strung family m'love. But we are enjoying you more and more. And because of you, I never forget to say prayers anymore; because it's impossible to fall asleep without thanking God for the gift that is you.

You at 3 months and 1 day (Brady K's 1 year birthday!) Thanks to his LaLa for the photos because (see above about routines) mom is bad about taking pictures of you each month. Aunt Roo will be all over me about that! 

P.S. today, 10/13/10, you rolled over for the first time. I guess that's what all that squaking was from your crib. You had a trick to show mom! Good job kid!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Saying Goodbye to the Gradies

Today I turned in my badge. I handed off my parking decal. I had lunch with co-workers. And as I fed my baby from the seat of my car on Coca-Cola Avenue, I stared up at the Gradies. This huge, amazing, ugly green hospital has been my work home for four years this month. Four years ago, I excitedly took a job as an HIV/AIDS social worker, happy to be in Atlanta and happy for this new leg of my social work career. I never in my life imagined...

I never imagined that one of my first patients would be among my most memorable, that I would beg a judge to grant him mercy to keep him out of jail. I didn't imagine that I would help him get clean and sober, get him contributing to society, only to too quickly watch him fall back into his addiction. I never imagined how hard it would be to help him die in peace.

I never imagined that most days I would pass a girl my age with spina bifida and HIV on the street, a girl who would become my patient and who challenged every morsel of me. I never imagined the breakthroughs we would have together and the prayers I would say for her as she sat in her wheelchair, panhandling money for her pimp. I could have never fathomed the abuses and wrongs that got her to that place.

I never imagined a job that would introduce me to the most amazing group of women, the Missionaries of Charity and how that would change the trajectory of my life so profoundly.

I never imagined that I would get to hold the hand of a little girl and explain to her what was happening as dementia took over her young mother. Helping her understand this awful thing was an honor.

I never imagined how much of a priviledge it is to work with a team of young doctors, nurses and social workers who care for the poorest of the poor, the most addicted of the addicted, the "least of his brothers and sisters."

I never imagined the amount of days where I would put my head in my hands and say I could not watch one more person suffer, could not prepare one more person to die. And then I would wait, knowing the Holy Spirit would send me something to keep me going- a young man living a great life in spite of his HIV, a kind priest saying a Mass for a patient- giving her the dignity in death that she never got in life.

I never imagined the inspiration I'd gain from people living wonderful lives despite a crazy regimen of pills, therapies and pain. I never imagined how much they would fill my heart with awe and love.

I never imagined the quality of people I would meet in doctors who forewent the hundreds of thousands guaranteed in procedural specialities and instead committed their lives to an $80,000 salary when that amount was a fraction of what they owe in student loans. I didn't imagine the nurses who could have easily gotten into a higher tax bracket but stayed at Grady, committed to Grady and it's special patients.

I never imagined how much better a social worker I would become from those days, good and awful and how thankful I would be for that experience. I never imagined how amazing it would be to work with a small team of people who would become like family, who care for these special people so well and who cared for me so very, very well.

I never imagined how valuable I would feel learning about the medical aspects of HIV while I helped teach the physicans about the many, many other aspects of HIV that would affect their treatment.

I never imagined the memories that would be burned into my heart of the patients, of each of their stories and how each of them changed my heart forever.

I will miss most parts of my work at Grady. I am thankful for every part of it.

May God bless every one of the Grady family, the employees and the patients. Our city and our state are so much better because of that crazy place!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Morning prayer

My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Scafidi, told us once that she started each day with a simple prayer and I have never forgotten it.

"Good morning, Dear Jesus, this day is for you. I ask you to bless all I think, say, and do."

Each morning when my high maintenance girl is on her changing table, we say this prayer. She smiles and coos and I begin the day really trying to dig into my faith and let Jesus be a part of everything I think, say, and do. Usually by 9am I am saying an Act of Contrition instead, but A for effort, right? Anyway, I was thinking about exactly what this prayer means in this 'new normal' life.

Good Morning Dear Jesus, This Day is for you.
Each day I should be living this day for HIM. The goal at the end of the day really shouldn't be that I fold 4 loads of laundry or sweep 2 tons of dog hair. It shouldn't even be that MY goals are met. It should be that in every instance, I did the most mundane of tasks FOR HIM. Tall Order Mrs. Ninness...

I ask you to bless all I think.
Let's start off with the most difficult first. One of my BFF's recently hugged me good-bye and said "don't think so much." I left laughing. That was comical, a real knee-slapper. Me, Keri, social worker, over-analyzer, don't think so much. Hilarious. So let's be realistic. I'm going to think. A Lot. I'm me. But maybe I can pray pray pray for God to bless what I think. Because we all know that thoughts lead to actions. So, I pray that my thoughts slide right on past baby weight, guilt, my multitude of inadequacies. I pray that God would bless me with the ability to re-direct onto things of HIM- a beautiful, thriving child, a patient, hard-working husband, a family who loves me at my worst, beautiful fall weather, etc, etc, etc. I know the good things exist, I just too often fall into the trap of thinking too much about stuff that serves no purpose in living my day FOR GOD (see above).

I ask you to bless all I say.
Yeah, this one's hard too. I am getting more sleep these days so my tongue is not as slippery but too often kindness is not the first thing out of my mouth. I ask that God helps me to complain much less, to say words of gratitude and appreciation, affirmation and support. It's pretty easy with that pudge of a baby girl, but my husband and mom and even friends deserve more than they've gotten lately from negative Nancy here. And I am smart enough to know that it's all cyclical- positive thoughts, positive words, positive thoughts...

I ask you to bless all I do.
That same BFF from above also shared some great advice to me. "The best way to mental health is physical health." In the case of a girl with a mild case of the blues and a moderate case of bad health habits (read: too much aspertame, sugar and not enough exercise), this struck me. So I ask God for help in motivating me to simply get out and enjoy this beautiful weather with a walk or hike or run. And maybe a tall glass of H20. And a whole lot less diet coke (anyone know of any correlation between artificial sweeteners and depression?) I digress. I have also noticed that I need my days to have some structure, some plan. I don't know what should fill them, but am working on a balance between some quality time with my girl and not punishing her with too many trips in the carseat and mama's need to get O.U.T. Regardless, I hope for God's blessings on the things that I do, on making my actions reflect my belief in HIM, my FAITH in HIS plan for our family and my gratitude toward Him.

Okay- the little tank is awake after her 11 minute nap. On to trying to put this prayer into action once again...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Celebrate Good Times

The past week has brought so much joy as we celebrated both Mary Kate's baptism and the first anniversary of our marriage. It is so truly surreal that less than a year after our wedding, we are bringing our child into our faith. We are really, really blessed.

While Mary Kate did not particularly enjoy the Mass prior to her baptism, or Fr. Tim pouring water over her head, and while she made sure that the entire Cathedral of St. John the Baptist and the surrounding Savannah squares heard her voice, it was still a very special day. To have the two priests who celebrated mine and Ross's wedding turn around 5 minutes 11.75 months later and welcome our child into our church was amazing. Every dream I ever had came true. Mary Kate wore the gown my grandmother's mother made, the gown my dad and 4 siblings wore and the gown my sister and MK's godmother wore. It was plenty wrinkled by picture time but the love inside that beautiful gown was easily seen! The people who love MK most were by her side as she screamed as she entered the Catholic faith. Despite a quicky baptism and a looong Mass prior to it, we enjoyed a beautiful day and are so thankful to Fr. Tim for celebrating and to our families for traveling and being a part of this day.

 Thank you to Aunt Roo/Godmother for making a beautiful cake

My precious grandmother's mother made her baptismal gown in 1950
MK, mom and dad with sweet Fr. Tim and godparents Aunt Roo and Uncle Steve

After a special day, we went spent a few days in Hilton Head with Ross's family and are really thankful for the vacation away. We had great time with family and great time in prayer and reflection. It was wonderful. MK has a little bit of a rough time adjusting to all the newness but thankfully the Ninnesses were very patient and loving to our little pain in the neck!

This new mama doesn't take beach photos but here is a sweet one from a delicious seafood dinner at Skull's boathouse.

After a 7.5 hour trek home from Hilton Head (someone thinks that her carseat is filled with nails), we made it home. We finished the week with MK's two months shots, two weeks late and then some awful football with good friends. And exactly one week from MK's baptism day, Ross and I celebrated our one year anniversary. We ate our weight in Italian at Alfredo's (please please gift yourself with dining here!) and talked about where we hope to be September 26th 2020. We shared a bottle of amazing wine and I sat, staring at this man, and wondered how my kid and I got so lucky. Sorry for the cheesiness, but one year in and I am smart enough to know how truly blessed I am.

So excited to wear makeup and go out without a nursing cover in tow!

All in all, this week has been about celebrating the life God so inexpicably gifted us with. It has not been without its stress (it's my life, after all) but it has been full of  grace and goodness. I am so, so thankful!