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 ;)