Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Honored guests

This week we have felt humbled and honored to be invited to two very important occasions. The first is the 40th anniversary celebration of our friend, Fr. Fallon's ordination to the priesthood. Fr. Fallon is a precious Irishman who often breaks out in "Sweet Sacrament Divine" during a homily. For years, he has been coming to the Gift of Grace House to say Mass for the Missionaries of Charity, the HIV patients and a few families. He is the prison chaplain for the Archdiocese and spends his Saturdays at the state prison ministering to inmates. AIDS patients and prisoners- truly the "least of them." What we love about Fr. Fallon is that he is so honest. He has struggled the way all human men struggle. Like all of us, he doubts himself, he experiences being excluded, he longs for peace, community and unconditional love. But unlike all of us, he takes it right to the foot of the cross. His commitment to prayer to overcome his hurts and his complete love of Jesus inspires us. Thank you, Father, for inviting us to your joyous anniversary Mass and the ridiculously fun dinner and party. Sitting next to my husband, in Mass, sans baby, was an absolute joy. And even more exciting was seeing a hometown music legend singing at the party! Harry O'Donahue has been singing Irish tunes since I was a child. My sister went to school with his daughter for 12 years and his voice brings me straight home to Savannah. The evening was perfect. A great date night to celebrate a wonderful, holy man!

Our second invitation this week was to celebrate little Daniela's 4th birthday. Daniela's parents longed for a child for many years. After novenas and prayers for Mother Teresa to intercede, they finally got pregnant at 47 with Daniela Teresa. We have been blessed by Tito and Maria's parenting wisdom. We know them through the Gift of Grace house and love seeing them there for Mass or other special occasions. Thank you, Daniela, for inviting us to your birthday Mass this morning and for a reason to eat cake for breakfast! Thank you, also, for always being so sweet and gentle with Mary Kate. I am excited for her to get to grow up with you and the sisters.

Fr. Fallon's friend, Fr. Peter, singing "Oh Danny Boy" in Thai with Harry O'Donahue :)

Our precious Father Fallon serenading us at his party.

Sister Brunetta and her babies, Daniela, Lucas and Mary Kate

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The thing about pain

I am spending a good amount of time in the gym these days. After losing my mind signing up for a half-marathon, I have found myself back in an exercise program for the first time in almost 2 years. And during these long (for me) runs, I am learning a lot. This blog may be taken over for a few weeks by my revelations. It also may be retitled "the blonde who threw up on the treadmill." My run yesterday taught me about pain.

First, the mental pain. The kind of pain that says "you are not a runner. You cannot do this. You will have to stop and walk and your husband will be disappointed in you. Your baby is crying in the kids club while you selfishly run. She is probably hungry too." The whole 'mind over matter' thing has never worked well for me. When under pressure from the voices in my head, I almost always cave, barely putting up a fight. I know enough about exercise to know that the mental battle is often bigger than the physical one. So yesterday, on my longest run yet, I faced the mental pain almost from the start. We got a late start because of the rain and it was getting close to MK's dinner time. But a few hail mary's, a few distractions praying for my sick husband at home and friends in difficult places and I was able to divert those thoughts. Eventually, the mental pain went away.

Now, the physical pain. I am not a runner. I repeat, not a runner. For years, I have had pain in both knees and shins that, despite many a doctor, remains mysterious. I have scrawny, bony lower legs and honestly feel like those bones just cannot hold up the rest of me. Many years of ballet did a number on the knees. And let's not even talk about what childbirth did to the core that is supposed to hold me up while running. I am at the beginning of this training and the runs still hurt almost the whole run. The ligament that burned my whole pregnancy has reared its ugly head. My knees feel like they are breaking. But, every few minutes, I'll find myself just running. I will be running without pain and without staring at the clock for the end of the current interval. I am trusting that with continued effort, I'll have more of this time of just running. The pain, it does eventually go away.

How much is this a metaphor for life? None of us are immune to our seasons of aching and hurt, mental, physical or spiritual.  I think of my pregnancy, full of one pain or another for 9 months. That pain went away. I think of my struggle with depression in college. For now, praise God, it has gone away.  But then I think of my dad, with chronic, severe back pain. His pain has not gone away. I think of a friend who has not slept more than 2 hours in a year. Her pain has not gone away. I think of a little girl named Kate, battling brain cancer.  Her pain has not gone away. Lord knows I'd never be so cavalier as to say to them "it will go away, it will get better." Because when you are in the midst of pain, the future tense is simply not acceptable. You need relief now.

But the truth is, the pain does indeed go away. Whether because you have pushed through that 5th side cramp or because you are in Heaven with Jesus, the pain goes away. Isaiah 41 says "Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand." His promise is there, in the written word.

I hope that the next time I am in a season of pain, I will think back to these hard, difficult runs and remember that the pain subsided, and little bit by little bit, I reached my goal.

even if the pain of being trapped and bonking your head EVERY morning is extended while your mom takes a picture, this too goes away :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eleven and a half months

To my almost one-year-old baby girl,

Holy cow that makes me weepy. How are you almost one year old?? I have such foggy, sleep-deprived memories of your first weeks and these last few weeks you give me no time to create memories, just time to get you out of the fireplace. Somewhere in between,  you grew up. Already you are this special, unique person making the earth better just by being you.

Mary Kate Frances, I love everything about you. I love how you have learned to hit your hand on the wall between our bedrooms when you wake up in the morning so I'll come get you out of bed. I love how no matter how many toys I put in your sight, you speed crawl to the stereo, the toilet, monty's bowl, the house plants or the fire place. I love how you will finally let me read a short book to you, but just want to move the pages. I love how you love to pat/slap dad and I in the face. I love how when you wake up from nap, I will squat down on the ground and you will reach you arm through the slats to "try to get me!" I love how you love to play peek-a-boo and will clap your hands in delight. I love how much you love your daddy. I love how you aggravate Monty by crawling all over him or by trying to help him eat his dinner. I love how you need 3 baths after any meal. I love how you are finally starting to show mommy some love. I love how you brighten a room with your smile and big ole teeth.

Sweet girl, I even love how changing your diaper or your clothes is an olympic sport. I even love how you feed Monty half your dinner. I even love how you stiiiillllll don't like the carseat. I even love how you rarely wake up past 6:15. I even love how you are growing out of all your precious 12 month clothes. I even love how going to Mass with you makes me cuss. I even love how much activity you need and how "just chilling" is so not your thing. I even love you on days when you take bad naps and crawl on the dishwasher and pull dirt out of the plant and fuss and whine just to make me crazy.

This month you have gained so much weight (after that small starvation issue we had from months 6-9) and are sooo much more busy. Lord have mercy are you busy. You will be the proud new owner of your first pair of shoes this afternoon. Busha came with us to try some on today and you are a size 4 wide with a lot of "fluff" on the top as the shoe lady said. Your foot looks like a marshmellow. I will happily drive in the car alone, sans "Jesus loves me" tonight to go pick up your new kicks. You are pulling up on everything and scaling a little on the sofa. You took a few steps the other night on your walking toy but dad and I think walking won't happen for a bit. Crawling is a much more efficient means of getting to the dog bowl and you are an efficiency girl. You are in exclusive 12 month clothes now, making me wish I would have bought 18 month stuff for this summer. You sleep from 9-11 ish and 2-4 ish each day, depending on how long you talk/cry/jump in your crib and from 7:30- 6 each night. You are sporting a precious little mullet these days and I think the scissors will be coming at you in a few weeks. Dad comes first in your life, no doubt, but mom is making  ground and I love it. I accidentally let you fall in the pool at Aunt Rae's last week and naturally you were scared to death. I watched your little face under water for a second and was scared to death myself. The good part was you finally let mom console you and comfort you. It was a scary accident but a sweet moment  for us.

In two weeks our family will transcend upon our house and your aunt and me-maw will ensure you get the over-the-top birthday party I would have never consented to. But as it draws closer, I am excited to celebrate life, your life. I am excited to celebrate making it through the first months of crazy and the journey to this toddler baby that makes every day pure light.

Today we had lunch with Busha and dad at the train, Orient Express. The sweet waitress brought you your own fortune cookie. Your fortune read "You will be involved in many humanitarian projects." I mean, can you warm a social worker's heart any more?? I can't think of a better wish for your life. I truly hope you SEE the homeless and clothe them. I hope you open your heart to the hungry and feed them. I hope you feel the loneliness in someone and sit and talk with them. I hope you sense the despair in someone and pray for them. I hope you witness injustice and act against it. But more than any of this, you sweet social worker's daughter, I hope you love Jesus, know him, feel him and find JOY in wherever He leads you.

Some photos of month eleven~~

starting to "play" with Joy Elizabeth. This was a sweet day when she napped at our house while your mommies had some much needed girl time sans baby-wrangling by the pool. Y'all had just woken up and were excited to play together after nap.

had to include a pic of your favorite dolly by my favorite seamstress

fuzzy phone pic but sooo telling of our life these days. You on your toes, finding something to destroy!

mommy is training for a 1/2 mar. You are training for separation from mommy in the kids club! It's your first time in any kind of daycare other than mops so this is new. Good for mommy, getting better for MK :)  

sweet one of you and daddy on my birthday. Daddy was d.o.n.e with photos at this point. And it was probably time to take you off the ledge :)

There are a few other cute ones from our play date with Melissa and Nicole but Melissa's blog won't let me steal her photos. Sad because it was a precious day with lots of beautiful girls!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mary Kate, about your dad

from day one, you had his heart. I will never forget how he yelled "it's a giirrrrl. We have a daughter!" Your eyes met his and you were forever bonded as father and daughter. He will love you, teach you, and protect you for as long as you live.

Your dad is the most motivated, active, helpful husband and father on this planet. There was never a diaper he wasn't happy to change, a load of poopy clothes he wouldn't wash, or two hours of walking you around the living room, bouncing his crying girl while mom slept for 2 hours.

You were so tiny and at times, oh so fussy. But from an early age, you decided where you were most comfortable. You grabbed hold of dad and haven't let go. While I wouldn't mind a mama's girl one bit, I am almost more pleased to see the total and complete love affair you have with your dad. He gives love so freely and so completely. You and I are the luckiest girls in the world that he loves us most.

It's no secret that he loves his gamecocks. In that trying "4th trimester" you were soothed so often by bouncing on his lap, so often content just by being with him, watching his team.  He loves to share his love of sports with you. I hope you like tennis. That's all I can say!
Your dad gets you. He gets that when you are fussy, you are very often bored. And dancing around the living room to 80's music is almost always a cure. If I leave you two at home together, I can return and expect to see you crawling over him in the hammock, playing in the grass with him, rolling a ball to him or watching him mow the grass from your pack and play. You have his spirit of adventure and desire to be doing something.

No matter where he is, he is wants you with him. Other than a morning tennis match or afternoon of frisbee golf, he wants to be with you. Yesterday morning he took you to Home Depot and you would have thought I bought him a home in Texas he was so happy. Your dad's love language is far and away quality time. You, my dear, are very lucky.

So I've avoided (I think) shirtless photos of dad on here. But your mornings with us in bed are something we treasure. You love it and we love not having to put our feet on the floor at 6 am! Dad made a song about this red whale and it remains one of your favorite toys. He does not leave for work until 8:30, but is awake and playing with you by 6:30 each day. He tickles you, lets you crawl all over him, lets you grab his nose and pat his face. There is no amount of attention he won't give you.

Your dad will take you on adventure after adventure. After a long day at work, nothing made him happier than throwing his girl on top of his shoulders and exploring a park in our little town. I have said it before and will say it again, this man, this dad of yours, exudes JOY.

I love this picture of your dad because we can see his smile, his happiness at just playing with his girl. This house is overlooking a beautiful lake. There is a cooler full of cold beverages to the left. There were good friends to talk to and games to play. But he was here. With you. And loving every second of it.

Little lady, you will see so much of God's beautiful creation because of your dad Your little person spirit already craves action, adventure, activity, new challenges. On this father's day, you can thank your wonderful da-da for that!

And because both your dad and I have such wonderful, wonderful examples of what it means to be a father, Happy Father's Day to the daddy who taught me just how incredibly special and crucial a dad is to his daughter. And Happy Father's Day to the man who first introduced my husband to the hidden trails and rolling hills of Texas, thus beginning his love of all things outdoors. We love you both.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thoughts on Thirty

Today was magical. The only image I can use is that of an astronaut in space, looking at the earth. I felt like I could step far enough back to really see my life. I was too far back to see our tiny home and our black leather sofas. I couldn't see the piles of clothes my husband would pay me $100 to hang up or the crazy low ceilings darkening my home. What I could see, it was beautiful.

I woke up to see my husband walking in with our baby, already with a bottle, holding a plate with a kashi waffle and a diet cherry dr. pepper. I saw my girl smile at me and my husband lay her next to me. I saw the clock and the first number was a miraculous 7!

A little while later I took the girl and the boy on a walk and saw our neighborhood. Instead of seeing the tee-niney houses, I saw sweet elderly person, one after another, raking or mulching or walking, each saying "Good morning" or "look how sweet." I saw our graying puppy prance around the neighborhood, smartly resisting the urge to take MK and I down as he chased a squirrel.

I came home and put the babe down to nap easily and saw birthday presents from my sister and parents. The generosity and love in those packages is unmatched. From mom and dad, there was a gift for something just for me,  non-mommy, non-wife goals. From Katie, a blank check (so dumb :) to buy a fun necklace and a new book, an indulgence, again, just for me.

A bit later I got an unexpected phone call from an old friend from the Catholic Center. Larry Dempsey is in his 70's and took me under his grandfatherly wing years ago. He came to our wedding and despite his daughter's cancer and his grandson's recent injuries, he remembered to call me on my birthday. My heart was so full with the love sent from Watkinsville this morning.

Shortly thereafter, a precious girlfriend called to say happy birthday and my four favorite words: "let's go to lunch." A slice and a salad later, Mk and I returned home to see our favorite man of the house. My amazing husband was having a rough morning and decided that giving me my birthday present would cheer him up. I was happy to selflessly oblige and am now the owner of a special, special jewel on my right ring finger. Having had a semi-serious family budget talk just a day before, I was floored by this generosity and his insistence that I have it. In the battle between wishing I didn't want material things and still being a girly girl at times, girly girl wins today. And my husband is a rockstar. Just sayin.'

I spent MK's afternoon nap reading my new book by the pool and soaking up one of the many perks of working at home. She woke up a few hours later and we shared some time outside together, me getting some Vitamin D and she eating some watermelon in the sunshine. At one point I looked at her and felt that outer body experience- that feeling of "how did I get so lucky." Then I looked down and she tee-tee'd all over her exercauser and the concrete. I laughed out loud at my life and how quickly God will bring a girl back down to earth.

Things only got better with a Nuevo Loredo b-day dinner. Our girl loves mexican food as much as we do and we took full advantage of the relative ease of life with only one little babe by an impromtu drink at the Six Feet Under rooftop. I told Ross that I just feel so full and so satisfied with our life. He choked on his last sip of Bohemia.

The night ended with me rocking our girl, her pot belly (and mine) hanging out in all it's glory. Her little left hand, holding her ear and her little legs kicking in her striped pajama pants made the day.

Really though, the biggest blessing of today was a hiatus from the dissatisfaction and discontent that can plague a rough day sometimes. It was a day that did not feel the least bit monotonous ( I could handle the monotony of lunch time gifts in tiny boxes though!)  or tedious. It was a day where God blessed me with the ability to find immense joy watching my daughter devour piece after piece of watermelon and where looking into my husband's eyes showed me all my dreams coming true. Every day I am blessed. Today I am extra blessed because I felt that in every ounce of my being.

So far, 30 is perfect. Texts and FB messages from best friends, work friends, long-ago friends and calls from the ones I love most made me feel so loved. Impractial and heartfelt gifts made me feel so special. From this view, away from dog-hair covered floors, dirty bottles and piles of laundry, my life is pretty close to perfect.

My prayer is that this decade is full of brothers and sisters for Mary Kate, biological and maybe even adopted. I pray that my faith explodes and our home is one where prayer is shared daily and lived every minute. I pray that on my 40th birthday, I am more in love with my husband than I can even fathom today (which is a helluva lot). I pray that our children grow to be compassionate, aware, joyous and loving people. I pray that my children see a mom who is commited to her physical, spiritual and emotional health. I pray that my husband thinks I'm hot 10 years from now. I pray for his success, personal and professional and for that success to afford us more babies or the ability to help more babies through mission work or philanthropic work. But above all else, I pray that 10 years from now, I wake up to my husband and my child(ren) who are healthy, faith-filled people who love the old lady in their lives.

Pure joy on this 30th birthday!!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

having my doughnuts and eating them too

Today we ventured out in bravery to our most scary destination. Sunday Mass. We are lucky to be a part of a church that has many options for getting to church and we have tried all of those options. The nursery at most churches is during MK's morning nap. We attempted Mass in the mountains last weekend during her morning nap. I've said it before. I think even Jesus was ready for our family to leave.  Needless to say, Ross and I tag-teamed taking her outside (too loud for the narthex- that's my girl!). She played with wood chips and we rubbed our temples. As I attempted distraction after distraction today, I found myself growing really weary. "Why the heck do we even try," I asked myself. I watched the couple with 2 kids under 18 months in front of us. "They are crazier than we are," I thought. I can tell you two things about Mass. One was that the first reading was from Acts. And the second was that Father's homily was about homesickness and I thought about Fr. Tim's new adventures and prayed that he wouldn't be homesick. That is the extent of my spiritual experience for the morning.

Ross and I talked about how to resolve this. The problem, I realized, is that I want my after-mass doughnut and I want to eat it too. I want to have Mary Kate attend Mass with us as a family. I want Ross and I to go at the same time, not taking shifts keeping MK at home. As Ross said today, our faith is the foundation of our marriage- it is what holds us together on our best and worst days. So, one of us staying at home isn't an option. While I'm pretty sure we'll take her to the nursery when she gives up this morning nap in a few months, a part of me doesn't want that either. Attending Mass as a family is what I've always dreamed of. We don't have a church with a cry room very close to us, though we hope for this in the future if we move. Right now, we want to attend Mass as a family. I don't want to say 'I'm sorry' to each person's hand I shake during the sign of the peace. We want our girl to grow up to know and experience the comfort and joy of celebrating the Eucharist. I don't know if she'll get that crawling around in the back of the church and crawling up the legs of unsuspecting ushers.

I can only hope that as countless moms before me have done, we will get ourselves out of bed. We will put on our Sunday clothes and "go see Jesus" as I tell MK in the morning. And whether or not we have any clue what transpired during that holy time, I hope that Jesus just looks down on us and smiles. I know with all my heart that His love is not contingent on where we are on Sunday morning. But I also know that the sacrifice of the Mass has been everything to me in my life. During the periods of darkness during college, uncertainty during my 20's, excitement during my marriage and baby, going to Mass has been my comfort and my joy. I need it to be a good mom and wife. And I want my girl to have that. Wherever she chooses to worship as an adult, I want her to look back and know that if the world was going crazy around her, her family would stop everything and put their butts in the pew on Sunday, with or without a loud, squirmy, active baby in tow.

I know I sound whiney. Today I really missed actually praying during Mass. I missed kneeling on the kneelers instead of sitting to catch my child from trying to play with the toes of the lady behind us. I want us to be there as family and we will be. But I really really want a 10-month-old who will look at a book or eat a stinking cheerio (despite my conflicting feelings on that too!) and let her mom and dad LISTEN to the Mass.  I am kind of laughing at myself for even thinking that could be possible. A girl can dream I guess.

Does this not look like the face of a quiet, compliant, reverent baby??

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Stream of Consciousness

R has been out of town all week and MK has been sick and not sleeping so mama is a little loopy. We are still computer-less so precious pictures from our memorial day weekend will get posted soon. Until then, random thoughts.

  • lunch in buckhead the other day showcased a plethora of pencil skirts on working women. Never have I been more happy to not technically be a working woman. It is apparently the office piece de jour and I am so thankful to not feel the pressure to subject myself (or the world) to that.
  • the only thing more sad than a sick baby is how much of a lunatic it turns a mother into. I never thought I'd want to see 6 am so badly, but if my kid can make it until 6 anytime in the near future, I will feed her ice cream for breakfast.
  • I signed up for a stinking half marathon and already regret it. I find it absurd how much these people want you to pay them for this torture. Who is paying me? Katrina??
  • Despite my child being all kinds of gross, I am convinced that Atlanta Street Trucks will make her feel better. Or it will make mommy less insane, so we're doing it. Come on down to midtown if you feel like fabulous food served from automobiles.
  • Ross is in the bedroom rapping to Mary Kate. It is funny to hear despite the fact that my poor girl is stillll whining.
  • I sent Fr. Tim a message a few weeks ago saying that people who take small children to Mass shouldn't have to go to purgatory. Today I've decided that people with children whose husband's travel for work shouldn't have to go either.
  • In an effort to not cook dinner for myself or MK the other night, I grabbed some animal crackers from the check out line in target. When I realized that they were a mega choking hazard for my kid (and got annoyed that I now had to find her some fresh fruit or something), I thought I should drive half way across town to give them to Betsy. Maybe they'll still be fresh when we get a play date together in 2013.
  • I watched 2 hours of Khloe and Lamar the other night. Guess I'm headed back to purgatory.
  • I love my child more than life but dream of sleeping until 7am. I have full confidence that the day she does this, God will choose that moment to bless us with another bundle of early-waking joy.
  • Rapping not working anymore. Must go save husband from irritable, puffy-eyed baby.
Back this weekend with photos of our favorite hide-a-way!