Sunday, January 30, 2011

FOCUS 2011

This weekend, Ross, Mary Kate and I headed north to Nashville to attend a FOCUS conference. Encouraged and helped by our favorite priest-friend Father Tim, we made the trek to the gorgeous Gaylord Opryland Hotel. 'Hotel' is a little misleading. A more accurate word might be 'town.' It was massive and toting a 17 lb baby monster totally counted as exercise for the weekend! Anyway, we joined Father Tim and 1500 college students from around the country, including our favorites from SCAD and GSU. It's a little early to process it all but I want to get it down before the week runs away with me.

I can describe the conference like this. For college football fans, a part of the joy of the game is the energy you get from all the people around you, all as pumped up as you are cheering on the Dawgs. Or if you love Jimmy Buffet, it's awesome to wear your  goofy shirts and sing along with other parrotheads who love him as much as you do. Well, for me, being in a room with over a thousand people who are all there to worship and praise their God as well as to learn and grow their faiths- it was pure joy. I stood next to my husband who was happy that one of the praise songs sounded more like Bono and less like my "loaf" songs (His translation for the Atlanta radio station, the Fish). Our child snug on my chest, I sang too loudly and too off- key but could not have been happier. Surrounded by my little family, watching those students pour out their hearts in love of and in need of Christ was pretty freaking awesome.

I feel like it was yesterday that I was one of our Campus Crusade retreats at UGA with chill bumps on my arms. I remember reading "the Light shines in the darkness" from the gospel of John. College was both a wonderful and difficult time in my life. Alongside the good, I was battling depression and terrible self-image. Being at one of those retreats where I heard over and over that God loved me no matter what I did or didn't do, no matter what I had done or would do- it was amazing. It seemed like the light truly was beginning to shine in a time of darkness for me. So, eight years later, I smiled, looking at the students knowing the hope that some of them, experiencing their own darkness, would find during their time in Nashville.

Some other tidbits of excitement for me during the conference came from the breakout sessions. The director of FOCUS missions spoke about love of God and love of neighbor being 'inseparable' and forming one commandment. Because, in a sense, God is your neighbor. He is the guy on the exit ramp holding a sign or the family member making you want to pull your hair out. If we claim to love God, there is no choice but to love our neighbors.  I loved that. The executive director, Curtis Martin, spoke later about how we often serve God. He told a great story about a pope who was sick with a bad heart, confined to his room in the papal apartment in Rome. Starting with one person and then multiplying to thousands, people said "Father, Take MY heart," out of a desire to literally give their hearts to save his. One day, the pope teetered out to his balcony and said, "okay, I will blow this feather down and who ever it lands on can give me their heart." People were excited, ready to give their heart to save the pope. Except that as the feather grew nearer and nearer to them, they started to blow it away.

It's hard to get the effect without hearing the story, but I loved the point- that we frequently say "I'll follow you anywhere God, do anything for you, be it done unto me according to your will" except in certain cases where your will might be uncomfortable,  scary or not involve cable tv, chocolate and diet coke.  I left feeling pretty convicted about areas of my marriage, about plans for our family and our future where I was talking a whole lot of smack about trusting God but in the end, blowing the feather of God's will away when it got scary.

So, in the end, this weekend for me was an exhilirating, exhausting, encouraging and wonderful experience. To spend a weekend in worship with my family was a lifelong dream come true. Even if the littlest member of this family was up literally every hour Friday night in what Ross agrees was maybe the worst night since she was BORN (saying a lot because that monster was a pain in the neck months 1-3). We forgave her quickly Saturday morning when I discovered the culprit as her first, precious, piercing baby tooth. It was wonderful even if taking a 6 month old to Mass 3 times in 2 days is akin to cruel and unusual punishment. It's okay, we fully expect for there to be no roadblocks on our way to St. Peter for that craziness ;)  And despite our belief that no weekend away should ever include a baby crib in our hotel room, we are so glad we went. Our time with the students, our wonderful talks with the nuns and priests there, our time worshiping God lit a fire inside my heart to keep  answering God's call for my life- as a wife and mother and sometimes social worker. Every bit of squealing baby and the absolute craziness that is traveling with a child was worth it. Thanks to Padre Tim for making it possible and for being so accomodating and to the many, many students that loved on and smiled at and complimented the little girl squealing during talks and Mass.

MK and FT during praise and worship. Our only pic of the weekend (we were tag teaming that smiling little loud mouth) but one that melts my heart into a puddle.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Portrait of a Day

January 23, 2010. Also known as Katie Sullivan's 21st birthday. But in casa Ninness, just another glorious day.

6:30 am. Wake up in the guest bed. No, not a fight with my husband, just a desperate attempt to sleep more than 3 hours without interruption. Husband agreed to do early morning feeding for MK so I could sleep in. Baby did not wake me up.  The consequences of forgetting nursing pads did. Loovely. Of course, since I was already awake, baby slept until 7 and I figured I might as well feed her in her preferred manner and not have husband get up unnecessarily.

7:30 am. MK having normal morning play time in bed with Dad and Monty. Mom is "making" MK's lunch courtesy of my best friend Medela (who I am growing a little tired of, p.s.)

8:30am. Take 200 pictures of MK holding b-day sign for Aunt Roo. One remotely works. The other 199 have her trying to eat the sign.

8:45-9am, wash face, brush teeth, dress baby, put on two different earrings and a semi-matching outfit. Note lack of shower.

9-10:30. Lovely Mass though no clue what was said or what scriptures were read. Did leave with a years supply of mum-mums on my nice pants. So there's that. Re-connected with two old gift of grace friends and excited to spend time with them again soon.

11:00-12:15. Baby asleep in car, breakfast made for mom and dad. Dad vacuums. 2 points for mom.

12:15-1:30- play with baby, feed baby, wipe pear of MAMA's face, listen to MK scream as I refuse to let her gag herself with her spoon.

2:00- take baby to target (read: stupid.mama.). Quickly realize baby is STILL allergic to target. Despite having a bjorn and floppy seat, I carry baby on hip. Nice target lady removes mum-mum from my hair. A second nice lady says 'oh, sad, you have a paint splatter on your uggs. I would Diiiie if anything happened to my uggs.  "No, ma'am. That's not paint. It's spit up." Lady pretends to faint.

3:00- after 2 packages of mum-mums consumed and a child already emotionally eating, leave target. Drive around the parking lot for 20 minutes purposely hitting all the speed bumps to put baby to sleep.

3:30- success.

3:45- home. Husband looks at me, mentally surmising what the heck his wife wore OUT of the house and teasing me for my fountain diet coke (number 3 of the day).

4:00- start reading for MOPS steering bible study tonight. Read something I want to memorize and repeat to my daughter every day (and husband, per his request).
Isaiah 54:10- "Though the mountains be shaken and hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed, says the Lord, who has compassion on you."   The book, Tender Mercy for a Mother's Soul, asks me as a mom to know this is how the Lord feels about me. But we all know how successful I am about believing how the Lord feels about me. We'll work on that later.

5:00- start to blog. Instead of reading for bible study.  Question how narcissitic this blog can be sometimes, cringe, and press post anyway.

Happy Birthday to my favorite baby sister in the world. You are amazing. And you clearly deserve more than a pic of your niece holding a sign. Can't wait to celebrate in the mountains with you soon!!

Friday, January 21, 2011

picture post

the big snow!

dad and monty's attempt at sledding

playtime. yes my child looks scary and yes there is an item in this picture that I tried to crop but couldn't and am slightly embarrased :)

showing off our new trick- sitting up!

bedtime book

bathtime fun!! LOVING the bath toys our friends Emily and Luke gave us (just can't see them since we cropped for modesty !)

Have a great weekend folks. One of the only reasons I love the winter time is the many weekends of nothing on the calendar, just sweet time at home with reinforcements the family.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


My facebook post tonight says "wine in hand, butt on sofa, headphones on ears to drown out the 6-month-old protesting her bedtime. I think headphones might be my second favorite invention. Next to wine." Obviously computer is on my lap as well for the first time all day. I should be making sausage balls for MOPS tomorrow (I've never made sausage balls. or sausage.) I should also be tying up loose ends for Mops childcare tomorrow. I could be cleaning the kitchen from the tornado that ensued after I began to prep for sausage ball making. I could be shaving my legs. Now that's just funny. Anyway- like I said to facebook, I can't do any of those things because I need to drown out my child. For any of you who have a hard time with the "crying it out" method, I recommend headphones, a good playlist, and of course, wine.

So I sit down to the computer for the first time today and started my blog catch-up. I started here. I have been praying for this family for such a long time, since before they got their 2nd child. They just brought their 4th child home from the hospital (note, they have had 3 children in one year, born one 3 different continents. Hellooo inspiring.) I about jumped out of my headphones when I saw that their little boy is home with them.  Next I went here. She should just consider me her stalker groupie. I was following her blog long before I knew that she was the dear friend of a dear friend and have been blessed by talking in real, non-cyber life. LOVE her. Next I went here to see if she finally updated us on the cliffhanger her husband left. She hasn't. Boo Betsy :)
Next I went here for my weekly pee in my pants laugh. Former sorority sister and now blog friend Sherri is like a Christian, not-crude Joy Behar. So funny. And I re-played this video of one of my dearest friends. And this time I just might have dribbled wine on my shirt laughing again. And finally, because those sausage balls aren't going to make themselves (my mops mom may prefer that...), I went here and here to see if there were any updates. Both a friend I love and a girl I so wish I knew are going through some things. Sweet Nicole has a new baby and has had her older twins under the weather. And Erika, who despite having a cult following on her design blog, could use some prayers.

The point of this isn't to give y'all a play by play of my evening, but to justify to myself how this blog world can really be wonderful. Yes, I have fallen into the traps of envying Darby's recipes, Natalie's new kitchen, Sherri's sense of humor, Kriya and Melissa's seemingly flawless transitions to child number 2, the blog world can also bring such goodness. For those of us at home, the honesty with which some gals write brings a solidarity, a sense that we are not alone under our piles of diapers. Other times, these blogs bring perspective. The blog I mentioned first, Adrienne's, was a reality check for me when I was pregnant and wanting baby girl out. I saw a picture of her pre-mature baby, same gestational age as MK, got a grip, and started thanking God for my healthy baby. Her posts have encouraged me time and again to step out of my own haze and pray for someone else. And many other blogs do that. So, yes, there is an element of peeking through someone else's windows. Maybe that's being nosy. But maybe it's finding comfort in another's similar struggles or joy in their successes. Or maybe you just wanted to make sausage balls and one of them had a 3 ingredient recipe that even an idiot like you could do :)

Friday, January 14, 2011


I just came home from a two hour lunch at our chick-fil-a. I met a sweet new friend there and a few other sweet new friends also happened to be there (along with every other person within a 40 mile radius dying of cabin fever.) While the baby is napping in the car under the carport, I am sitting in a very quiet house feeling very full (and from more than the 3 cups of tea I consumed).

One of my favorite topics to discuss or read about in a novel or see in a movie is female friendships. As one of those female friends told me years ago (Natalie??), "Keri, you are a chick flick." Busted. But that's fine by me. I give most of the credit to St. Vincent's academy, where, if you couldn't get along with girls, well, tough luck. I consider that education (that all-girls Catholic) education, among the top 5 gifts in my life. My parents scrimped and worked extra jobs and made friends with Sr. Gilmary in the finance office so they could sometimes post date a check. And while at the time they thought they were giving me a faith-based, stellar academic education, they really gave me skills for what would be a lifetime of rich, rich relationships with other women. (I'll happily substitute that for the slightly sub-par chemistry education :) I have since returned to SVA and spoken to the students about many topics and I always incorporate the need to find at least one good friend out of the 400 women they will spend 4 years with. To this day when I hear a young woman say "I'm better friends with guys" I am a little sad for what they are missing out on and the experiences that led them to that place.

Anyhow, highschool brought me some lifelong friendships and those blessings continued to college. ADPi brought me the best friends money could buy :), though I sincerely believe those women would have bombarded my life even without the ole blue and white. Those ladies too have given me more blessings than I can say without ruining my computer with tears.

While after college most of my friends went on to re-create these great female-blessed lives, I kind of stayed in neutral. I had a few fabulous ladies in my life and would never diminish these post-college girls but things like serious boyfriends, stressful jobs and constantly changing lives start to take a toll. I watched my other friends re-create these awesome communities of women around them and I missed that- the community.

Fast forward to now. In what was a crazy (have I mentioned this transition to mommy-hood has been difficult? don't think I have ;) change in my life, I one day decided to crash a Mothers of Preschoolers meeting. I didn't know to register so in I walked with my baby wrapped on me and sat a table assigned to bring breakfast. No breakfast in tow, no warning that I was coming but these ladies opened their arms (and offered their hashbrown casserole). One of the first ladies I met was a former ADPi president, mother of a little-girl around Mk's age, all around fabulous and also Catholic (only interesting because we were at a protestant church). Love how the holy spirit works. Things haven't been the same since. And I haven't stopped thanking God since either.

Today at chick-fil-a, I was able to go to the bathroom and refill my tea with my child smiling at multiple other moms. I talked about my husband, my missing Grady, the arizona shootings, Herman Cain (yes Ross, be proud), crock-pot recipes, nap schedules, new years resolutions, schools and books (a nice blend of the mundane mommy life and the former semi-intellectual life I lead). It was refreshing and made me feel like this new life in the burbs with a baby isn't so much a twilight zone. As I have known for many years, there is a part of my heart that is so filled up by strong ladies and I am so happy and thankful for Cumberland Church MOPS who have brought that back into my life.

So to the girls in my life, past, present and future, thank you. There is a part of me that you fill with such richness and I love you all dearly. I look forward to many years of watching my girl find her own BFF's and pray already for the little girls who will one day, fill up that part of her heart too.

So, for nostalgia, and courtesy of facebook hijacking, some of those great girls over the years...

just had to add this one- getting MK started early on the many joys of girlfriends! We love sweet Sadie girl.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

6 months

This girl is 6 months old today. Besides reminding me of the need to use an actual camera in actual light the next time I do this, this photo makes my heart swell. I am tempted to go wake her up to take a better 'on her actual month birthday' photo but I have not lost my mind quite yet. I will remember this sixth month of her life as the month I finally, finally decided I love this gig.  This is the month where she realized she would not starve if she went more than 2 hours without a feeding. This is the month she realized she has a dog and I realized that I am fighting a losing battle in this house with that shedding, hyper, jumping beast. This is the month she started solid foods and took to the spoon like white on rice. This is the month she started really playing with toys, able to be distracted from an impending meltdown. This is the month she started taking semblances of n.a.p's. This is the month she grew big enough to be carried on my hip (that realization nearly brought me to tears. nerd.) This is the month she really became a person to us, not just an eating, pooping, squealing ball of baby rolls. This is the month I learned to love each and every thing about that ball of rolls. 

As my friend Melanie shared with me, the newborn stage is not for everyone. If these little gremlins could exit my womb at even 4 months old, I'd so channel my inner Michelle Duggar. Maybe for number 2 I will feel differently, having learned some life-changing things about motherhood. Who knows. Regardless, this is the month where mothering this little squealer became everything I always dreamed it would be, with about a million times more challenges than I ever dreamed, but worth every one of them. 

So, for the online baby book (since, again, the hard copy baby book is a wee-bit empty), Miss Mary Kate is now sitting up for a few seconds on her own or longer with a little support from a pillow, a boppy, or one of mama's thighs ;) She has started solid foods which deserves a post of its own but I am trying to delay being so lame as to post about my kid's eating habits. I will brag and say that, for now, I have made her first few batches of food (sweet potatoes and squash) and am taking lots of crap about barely having the ability to cook my husband dinner but insisting on making a go of homemade baby food. I promise I am not that crunchy yet, instead, I am just hoping to get my girl on a muuuuch better nutritional path than her little debbie eating, diet coke addicted, lemon-heads and red wine for dinner loving, processed food-aholic mother. But I have to quote a MOPS friend's facebook post where she said "for baby number one it was all organic, homemade baby purees. for number three, she just ate 2 marshmellows off the floor while I watched." I have no illusions that this will not be me one day! Okay, back to the milestones. We have her 6 month appt this week so I have no idea what she weighs or how tall she is. My eyes tell me she is getting taller and less pudgy but I'm sure that means she will be in like the 150 percentile for weight and is the same height as last time. She grows more crazy about that shedding, hyper, licking beast of a golden retriever every day and is clearly on team dad when it comes to Monty. Oy vey. She pulls on him and attempts to crawl toward him and seems to not mind the piles of dog hair I find attached to her lips throughout the day. So gross.

I can't think of any other major milestones for the girl but will always remember this month as the one where I started to feel like I can do this. Every day I question that statement, but more often than not, I feel good about being a mom. I know a lot of this has to do with finding support and now being able to do more, get out more. I am getting involved, have started a part-time/mostly from home job and just feel like my brain is working more now. I hope I remember to one day write a post about my hope to have my "own" interests, an identity not solely in my role as mom. As I see some of that materializing, I definitely see increased satisfaction and less anxiety. I'm sure that's no coincidence.

Okay- done rambling. Happy half-birthday to the girl whose smiles I dream about and cannot wait to see anytime after 6 am each day :) And since I have NO idea what was said or read at Mass today due to the squeals of the birthday girl, I'll quote a little Philippians, "I thank my God in all my remeberance of you."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

the more you do it...

I have a belief- the more you do it, the more you do it.  The less you do it, the less you do it. What is it, you ask? Well, any number of things. Exercise, reading, staying in touch with a friend, communicating with your partner, having a quiet time. Profound? Maybe not, but so true with me. I am a creature of momentum, an all or nothing kind of girl. Digging deeper, I'm sure it has to do with the fact that all kinds of goodness come from exercise, reading, talking with a friend, investing in my marriage, and this goodness makes me want to keep going. I could get all social worky and talk about the less you do it in terms of addiction or gossip, any ole bad habit. Once it finds its way out of your routine, it is easier to keep it gone (whether it is a good or bad thing). Anyway, lest you think I am putting another overly self-reflective, neurotic post here, I am talking about the blog. I've gone a few weeks without writing and kind of don't know where to start. So, just to get the words flowing again, I'll cop out do what every "blogger" does when a writer's block comes and just make a list. Since I bailed on a Christmas post (it was beyond awesome, p.s.) we'll just recap some of the greatness of 2010.

  •  passed my LCSW exam and became a licensed clinical social worker, a goal since graduating 6 years ago
  • took a little "baby moon" to Naples with my husband. Awesome trip
  • took a girls trip to the beach with my college best friends. awesome trip numero dos.
  • read The Help, now with a cult following and worth every devotee. Amazing book.
  • experienced pregancy for the first time. never going to be the girl who enjoys being pregnant all the time, but nonetheless so, so thankful to be able to have a baby
  • A life long dream came true and now, six months after it happened, I am totally digging this new life. As in, can't believe how awesome this is. As my dad used to say 'my butt was on my shoulders' for awhile there, and my kid didn't sleep and ate every 32 minutes, so I wasn't enjoying it much. Nooow I know why people do this willingly.
  • Became a stay-at-home mom. holy life change. In some ways, this transition was harder than becoming a mama. But I am finally (see above) removing my butt  from my shoulders and opening my heart to what God wants to do in this season of my life.
  • welcomed my brother and dad home from the middle east. Now both having finished their second deployments and watching my bff mourn losses of her friends, I am all the more aware of how lucky we are to have them both home and healthy.
  • took my 5 day old to Savannah to watch my brother's church wedding. After hemming and hawing over whether or not to go, me, my two favorite people and my percocet made the trip. My husband finally convinced us to go, knowing I'd be a post-partum, hormonal, more crazy than normal mess if we missed it. Plus, my brother is so awesome y'all. Truly- he's fantastic and he gave up his vacation and came from halfway around the world for my wedding.  Pay back was painful, but oh so worth it.
  • attended and spoke at a diocesan college student retreat with Ross. This put the little spark of passion back in me for high school and college student ministry and I am excited to see how God will use that spark to annoy hopefully encourage folks in the future.
  • Baptised our baby in what had to be the most chaotic, rushed, loud (thank you Mary Kate) ceremony ever, but nonetheless, my favorite priests welcomed my favorite girl into the church I love so it was a success. Followed that with a beach trip with the family Ninness. While I don't know that an 8-week-old and a baby mix, it was a great vacation
  • celebrated my one year anniversary with my husband at arguably the best meal I've ever had at Alfredo's. Go there for the best italian on earth. Don't be surprised if you sit next to Don Corleone. Seriously.
  • Celebrated our first Thanksgiving and Christmas as a family of 3. I may or may not have cried at random intervals in gratitude that this really is my life.

    Stay tuned for a mushy, only for the grandmothers post on 6 months with my daughter tomorrow. A few photos from Christmas ( Bad mama did not take many photos, hence my resorting to posting Christmas morning/no makeup photos. nice.)

    hanging out with brother in front of the unfinished tree
  • checking out ornaments with aunt roo
    Christmas morning with mommy
    everyone sleepy except MK who was bright and happy at 3 am. (note poor Ross's face from falling on ice during the ice storm a few weeks ago )
    helping great-grandma and me-maw wash dishes.