Monday, January 28, 2013


Just some things I've recently read or heard that made me think, smile or sigh...

"Bates. Anna. Yawn." Rachel B in a great review of Downton Abbey

"Mary Kate, STOP PUTTING JESUS IN THE TOILET." ~ yours truly

"mommy, Jesus doesn't like swimming in the tee tee." ~ a future theologian

In a joke told by Fr. Frank Sunday, "a little boy was sitting with his father listening to a terribly boring homily by Monsignor Corbett. He pointed to the red light above the sanctuary (representing that Christ is present) and said, Dad, when that light turns green can we please go."

While walking behind a little boy into the chick-fil-a playground and smelling a little somethin', MK says oh so matter of factly (and loudly), Mama, that boy has gas. Die.

Today, when being inticed by sweets for a little number two in the potty, MK says "mama, we needa go buy some ice cream for when daddy goes poo poo."

On a non-potty-training note-a little bit of Fr.'s homily from Sunday on a question I often get asked "Why do I need to go to Church. I can experience Jesus in nature, etc?"
Do you need to come to church to see the divine? NO! You can see divinity all around the world- in the flowers, in a mother kissing a child's knee, in a man helping an elderly woman with her groceries, in art, in music. Why do you need to come to church? Because it frees us from our self-delusions that we are the center of the world. When we come to church, we see that the world is big, that people come from all corners of the world, including corners we don't really like. We sit shoulder to shoulder with people we may not even like and are reminded that people all over the planet are celebrating the Eucharist at the same time. We walk into a church and can be humbled that we are just a small part of a big world. ~ Father Frank McNamee

"Courage does not always roar. sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying 'I will try again tomorrow.' -Mary Anne Radmacher, by way of my sweet friend Elizabeth.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Saturday takes

--- 1 ---
It's Saturday. I soooo selflessly gave up my run this morning (please read the sarcasm in that) so that Ross could go to a half day retreat/talk on dad's by the famed Msgr Lopez at St. Pius today. The first line of the flyer read: “A child is not likely to find a father in God, unless he finds something of God in his father.” - George MacDonald.  Dad being gone all morning means only one person in this house is dressed (Thomas) and MK is running around in her birthday suit teaching her baby Emmy how to go potty. It also means we're having chick-fil-a for lunch. Spiritual nourishment for dad, a noble excuse to miss a run I was dreading, and a bad for me it's quick service NOT fast food lunch. Not a bad start to the weekend.
--- 2 ---
On the note of MK potty training her baby doll, we've been inside all week (awful) but are well on our way to cutting our diaper bill in half. Sorry amazon mom, you're one subscription less! It wasn't half the battle I anticipated but imagine that minimal clothing and not going anywhere helped immensely. When we resume our regularly scheduled weekly activities (costco, church, mops), we'll test out just how successful we were. I'm cautiously optimistic and feel rewarded for the ridiculous case of cabin fever I have.
--- 3 ---
This week I finished a great book A People of Hope: Archbishop Timothy Dolan. One of the best lines comes from Pastores Dabo Vobis, written by Blessed Pope John Paul II. "The great temptation today is to define our worth by having and doing, not being." This struck me and was so comforting as a mom in the throes of potty training and sleep training and laundry and do we buy a new house or a new car or whatever new "thing" we think we need. As I write this, I even want to define myself as a mama to a little clothes-less girl on my lap holding a rosary and kissing Jesus. But even that isn't right. Whether I'm raising a child who loves Jesus or is still running around naked at 25, whether I ever use my master's degree again or contribute to our family financially, doesn't matter. None of that matters. It matters that I am a child of God, loved by God, valued by God- regardless of any of that. Thank you, Father Tim for a great, great read! Hope to compile a whole post full of thoughts on the rest of the book. There were so many more fantastic takeaways.
--- 4 ---
I hope hope hope, pray pray pray, we have turned a corner with Thomas's sleep. The past 3 nights he has slept 11-12 hours and it has been heavenly. So heavenly that I've skipped training runs to try to make up for 10 months of night waking. That stops next week because really, a few night's of sleep is perfection for outlook and perspective but it's not going to be an insta recharge for perpetual exhaustion. Regardless, it is a new life for our family that I'm sure I just jinxed. I have to give Ross the credit. He has taken the nighttime routine for Thomas since he was born and did most of this with MK as well. He knows our kids and has (seemingly) found the perfect combo to make that little vampire sleep! So thankful for a persevering husband (who I'm sure was just at his wits end with his tired wife).
--- 5 ---
MK spilled a cup of water at lunch yesterday and thankfully the only casualty was the 'P' button on my blackberry. So, lest you think I can't spell (I can, I was second place in every spelling bee- thanks to Wendy Ondriezak who stole the first place spot every time), know it's an occupational hazard. And do you have any idea how hard it is to type out work emails without using the letter p. Big problems over in casa Ninness.
--- 6 ---
The coming weeks and months are chock full of decisions for us. I am a terrible decision maker. I get knots in my stomach trying to ascertain what the next step in anything should be and have a long history of staying stagnant just to avoid stepping out of my comfort zone. From where to send MK to school next year, to if/where we should move, to where we should look for new opportunities, to when to start Thomas on solids,  I neurotically obsess over it all. For me,  many times anxiety (run of the mill, not severe) stems from not being a great place in my faith. If I believe that God really does have a plan for our family, a specific desire for us, then there is no room for anxiety. There is just an abundance of room for patience for him to reveal that plan. Now, to work on the patience part.
--- 7 ---
This past week was a very, very, important birthday. To Roo Roo, I remember the day you were born (and mom's 5 false labors). I remember coming home from 3rd grade and finally hearing that mom wasn't faking it anymore and we did indeed have a baby sister. I couldn't love you more. Thank you for being a wonderful aunt to my kids and to very often being a "big" sister to me.
And to dad. You don't read blogs but happy happy birthday old man. I knew exactly what to look for in a husband and a father because of your example. You sacrficied everything and more to send us to Catholic schools and to give us all we needed and most of what we wanted. Thank you for being a big kid, for rolling on the floor with my kids, for being such a great g-daddy. You were made to be a grandfather!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Being Brave

Many a morning when Thomas was a newborn and I'd been awake all the dark hours of the night, Ross would hug me goodbye and in a very uncheesy way, tell me how brave I was being. I almost always translated this to mean "please don't be in such a bad mood when you exit this bed that the devil would cry."  But he used that word, brave, many times throughout those early weeks.

Lately, Thomas had decided to relive the glory days and we've really struggled with him since Christmas. I am doing everything "they" tell you to do. Earlier bedtime, more milk during the day, first tastes of oatmeal (today. he hated.), lots of water and some new milkmaid tea for supply, a nap schedule- you name it, we're trying it. And at 3:30 this morning, I had tears rolling down my face because never have I felt like such a failure as I have during this trial. We're back to Ross using that word daily.

Except, I don't feel brave. I feel exhausted and overwhelmed and convinced that I can never parent another small babe again. And yes, I know I am not supposed to analyze anything while in the throes of exhaustion. But here I am, feeling very unbrave.

This morning I dropped off a meal for one of our MOPS moms and stopped to get Ross coffee. At 7:30 am, awake since 3:00 (because 4 month old Thomas doesn't go back to sleep after a feeding the way 2 month old Thomas did. I liked 2 month Thomas very much), I drove, praying for the patience and energy to get through the day. No amount of that oh so awesome Super B complex vitamin (thanks Grace), can make up for 6 hours of sleep missed. As I was praying/whining to Jesus, the song "We were made to be courageous" played.

I took a deep breath and resisted the little ugly bird telling me I am being a whiny brat. I resisted the world telling me to suck it up. Jen recently wrote a wonderful post entitled "A meditation on the shocking idea that maybe we're actually not just lazy whiners." Have you ever read a better title?
She's right y'all. Yes, most of us most certainly have first world problems. Most of us have a million more reasons to be grateful than we have to be overwhelmed. But it does us no good to ignore the overwhelmed. It's okay to say, "okay, we need a new game plan."
Because dammit, it does take courage to mother these minions. It takes a brave person to step out of the bed each day after 1.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep and face a toddler who demands Mickey yogurt instead of Dora, who will whine ad nauseum should Curious George go to commercial. It takes courage to discipline bad behavior that only comes around when she sees you nursing the baby, knowing full well that unlatching Mr. Razor jaws to relatch him after her consequence makes me want to eat a razor. It takes courage to put that pacifier back in his mouth 245 times because after 4 months and 44 paci's tried, he still can't hold it in his mouth for more than a few minutes. It takes courage to read Sweet Pickles to your sweet girl when all you want is some mindless television and a Swiss Cake Roll. It takes courage to ask your husband how his day was when you really want to spew a litany of all the things wrong with yours. (I am terrible at this, p.s.) It takes courage to take the 2 minutes to say a blessing, reteaching the Sign of the Cross for the 2,405th time before each meal when all you want to do is fast track the heck out those awful meal times. It takes courage to mother, to parent with love and some semblance of Godliness. Whether you work inside or outside of the home or do a combo of both, whether you are rich or poor, whether you have great babysitters (and the funds to pay those angels) or not, mothering takes a freaking lot of courage.
It is Saturday, and for a stay at home mom, Saturdays are the same as most days. Yes, we have the priceless extra 2 hands but those 2 hands have things to do also. So most of Saturday looks like all of the rest of the week. And that is daunting. Weekends are more of the same and that takes courage to step into it and try to make it different and fun and to enjoy the time as a family of 4, instead of a family of 2 wild beasts versus one indefensable mom.
Are we slightly dramatic and overly exhausted, yes. Yes, ma'am. But I am reminded today, thanks to Jen Fulwiler and Casting Crowns and the Holy Spirit's little whisper, that I am brave. I am brave to parent these precious gifts and to be open to more (please Dear God, a little time though). I am brave to put my feet on the floor each day and to absorb the trials and the triumphs that each day with little people brings.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Our Sister

I've written a lot about our friends at the Gift of Grace House. Run by Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity, this is a home in Atlanta for women with HIV/AIDS. It is also where Ross and I had a part of our first date, where we considered our "home" church to be, where we brought Mary Kate for Mass as a baby, where we attended when I was on bedrest. The sisters were one of the first calls when we found out we were pregnant with Mary Kate and Thomas. They have been the first call when we needed prayers. They came to the hospital when MK was born and came to pray with me when I was in pre-term labor with Thomas. I knew them before I knew Ross. These special women (the sisters and the ladies they care for) were my family before Ross and Mary Kate and Thomas. They watched me grow my family and have been an indescribable source of encouragement and inspiration every day of this new vocation.

We have known for some time that we would be losing Sister Brunetta. We know her better than the other sisters since, while not customary, she has been there since 2005. She was one of the first sisters I met and has been the closest to us. Having her for so long is unusual and was a gift. But in some ways, it makes knowing I'll likely never see her again even harder. The Sisters strive for their attachments to only be to Jesus. For this reason, they don't have personal possessions and do not maintain direct contact after they have been reassigned. We will ask special permission to send letters and pictures but may not be able to do so. We are excited for a new challenge for her, and happy that the difficulties she faced in Atlanta are over for her. We have met her replacement, Sister Justice, and it took Thomas all of .2 seconds to smile and laugh at her. I know the Gift of Grace house and the special sisters will remain in our lives. But oh, oh how we miss the ones who have already left and how we will always, always, always remember and love Sister Brunetta. She has our most fervent prayers for all the intentions on her heart and we know she will always pray for us and our babies.

Lots of these are repeats and are out of order but I am happy to have them all in one place.

the convent chapel and their "MC knees" (toughened from praying many times each day with their knees directly on the concrete floor. I can barely make it through one Mass in their home on the concrete)
puffy and pregnant with Mary Kate. The Sisters and Rabi, one of my former Grady patients and mine and Ross's goddaughter.

snuggles with Sister Abelet, waiting on Father
Sister Brunetta meeting Thomas for the first time

listening to Father's Homily next to Sister Brunetta

one week old Mary Kate with Sister Anunciela

on cooking duty, pre kids (maybe not even married here??)

Chocolate on MK ("no sister, please don't give Mk a cookie.") and a scared Thomas :)

playing with Sister's glasses

A 5 month old Mary Kate, ever so thrilled at the idea of this vocation

7 months later, at the 1st birthday party the sisters threw for her

Since MK routinely woke before dawn, we'd often head down for 7am daily Mass. Picking flowers with sister at a year old (still in pj's from the early rising!)

Mary Kate meeting her sisters for the first time

playing peekabo, 2 years old

Telling Sister "I'm so big." Ironic, because Sister Dominique is 4'9 (and the tallest in her Indian family!!)

Sisters Dominga and Brunetta, meeting sweet Thomas

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Be not afraid

This weekend was supposed to be full of fun. And in some ways, it was. I got to have a real, adult, no kids menus allowed dinner with a dear old friend in town for the night and some of her great girlfriends. My kids were with their dad, so there was not a bit of anxiety over what they may or may not be doing. I should have been footloose and fancy free.

But hours before the dinner, I found out that a young man from my church/school in Savannah who had been missing was found murdered.  I grew up with the Ray family, was a cheerleader with their daughter, saw them at Mass on Sundays, and played at their house on multiple occasions. Their Uncle Jimmy was a huge supporter of my first mission trips and leadership seminars, all of which cost more money than we could ever have done alone. I knew their oldest, Charlie, pretty well growing up. I picture the faces of his sister, little brother, mom and dad as they find that their son has been brutally murdered, his body dismembered and strewn across two states. I couldn't help but think that this makes 2 people who had once been in my life, even peripherally, who had not just been killed, but literally torn apart. And despite my better judgement, I couldn't help but go there. I couldn't help but imagine the unimaginable, the loss of a child. And as if that weren't enough, to lose a child and know they were treated with such indignity, such evil. I won't soon get the image of Charlie's mom out of my head. I will await the trials of his killers, and that of Lauren Giddings and pray for justice.

I can't wrap my head around the evil, can't stop thinking about their last moments. It's awful, but even worse, to know that this evil exists makes me want to live in fear and anxiety. It makes me not want to let my children out of my eyes and to drop them off at the nearest cloistered convent and seminary as soon as they are old enough. I've had to force myself not to look at Mary Kate and think of Lauren and her parents. The same with looking at my precious boy with the same love Sandy Ray has had for her boy.

I don't know where I'm going with this, except to say that if you have extra prayers, please, please pray. There is so much on everyone's hearts these days. Every minute there's another horror. But I guess the challenge for me is to honor the lost innocent lives in the way I live mine? I don't know. I know I balk at the idea of sending Mary Kate to school 3 days a week next year because that seems like so much time away. I know I need Ross to hold Thomas for about 8 minutes when he gets home before I want him in my arms again. I sang "Hail Mary, Gentle Woman" to Mary Kate 14 times tonight, knowing full well she was stalling, but also knowing it was worth it when she sang it back to me so perfectly and beautifully. I want to hold them tighter and love them better, but I don't want to do that simply because I'm afraid of being asked to endure what the Giddings and Rays and Sandy Hook families are having to endure. I want to do it because they are a gift  from God and should be treated as such. To live in anxiety and fear of losing them is to deny a God that upholds and heals and sustains in the most horrific of situations. I don't honor Charlie or Lauren with my fear. The Gospel of Matthew (14:27), as well as about 200 other places in the Bible, tells us "Be Not Afraid." It is also my favorite hymn. "Be not afraid, I go before you always, Come Follow me, and I will give you rest."

Eternal Rest grant unto Charlie, O Lord. And somehow, some way, bring peace to his family.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Two and a half

Fair warning: cheesy, cliche post of a letter to my daughter. Must have for those of us who can't manage a baby book.

Dear Mary Kate,

Today you are two and a half years old. In 6 months, you'll be 3. 3. 3. 3. It happened so fast, you going from a baby to a small human. I love this age with you. You are my little buddy, doing your best to engage me in semi-adult conversation all day. Young motherhood can be isolating, even with good friends around you. But I don't feel it very often with you around. When I make myself think of who you are at this stage, the first thing that comes to mind is 'big sister.' Or more accurately,' amazing, fantastic, how did I get so lucky big sister.' I don't want to deny you your identity as an amazing, fantastic, unique little person, but right now, life is all about acclimating to the newest person.

To say you adore your brother is the understatement of the year. Memaw, g-daddy and all my aunts and uncles tell me how much I loved your Uncle Patrick when he arrived. I was close to 3, so a little older than you were when you began sharing your world, but I loved him like you love Thomas. And to this day, I still love that kid. As every mother does, I pray my heart out that you and Thomas will always love each other, always be close, always be there for one another. Many times a day I'll hear you say "you're a good boy Thomas," as you mimic how dad talks to Mack. Or "it's otay buddy. It's otay." Or, "mama, Thomas needs to eat." You hand me his paci and bring me burp cloths and all kinds of motherly things and you do them with joy. Your greatest wish would be for us to let you kiss him as much as you want, without direction to "kiss the top of his head or his knees." You always beg to kiss his hands or his cheek- mostly because you know that's typically off limits. (It shouldn't be because despite herculean efforts to keep him from catching your constant toddler crud, he caught it anyway.)

Outside of your obsession with your little brother, you are equal parts girly girl and tom boy. You love wearing jewelry "so pretty mama," you say. But 5 minutes later I find you riding in a dump truck. (Thank you Melanie).You love playing in your kitchen and making coffee for dad. You love to ride your bicycle outside and to play with your 3 baby girls, Emmy, Cindy, and Anna. You watch 2 shows, Curious George (I cannot overstate your obsession with that monkey right now) and a 10 year old Sunday School songs "vay-de-oh." P.S. Back then, they didn't put "repeat" as an option. I'd pay so much money to have a new version of that video so I don't have to hear "what happened vaydeoh" 300 times. Speaking of "what happened," that's one of your favorite phrases. You are very inquisitive and interested in anytime someone is upset, hurt or sad. I am having to muffle my grunts when I feed your brother these days so I don't listen to you ask me 425 times if Thomas hurt mama.  (We are making strawberry milk over here, is all I can say. (Read Amy's post for a lovely account of this issue).

You are neither potty trained nor sleeping in a big girl bed and both are due to an extreme bout of laziness by your mother. You are absolutely capable of both but mama likes to keep her cud caged and I also don't know how the millions of other moms manage carseats and public restrooms. Just know that if you want to tackle either of these milestones, you're on your own.

I can't yet offer predictions on what you'll grow up to do and be. You love to sing and after a short getting to know you period, will break into song for anyone. Your favorite is a combination of Jesus Loves the Little Children, I've got the Joy Joy down in my heart and If I were a Butterfly." You are creative and innovative in your music and truly enjoy having an audience. It does, as it always has, take you a few minutes of observing, acclimating before you'll step on stage or start a new activity. I'm totally fine with that. We have too high a deductible for a "dive right in" kind of kid.

My absolute favorite time of day lately is bedtime, and not for obvious reasons. You request daddy and Thomas come get on your bed. You request that mama sing "Hail Mary" (Gentle Woman) and then we say "God bless..." You always start with Aunt Rae Rae and go through your cousins and Uncle Steve before you get to the rest of the family. You really know your family well now, feel their love, and love them in return. As a mama, I am so thankful for all the love that surrounds you.

As we near 3 years since that amazing Friday evening in 2010, know that you are a generous, loving, unique and valued girl. The love dad and I have for you is superceded only by Jesus, who adores you far more than any of us can imagine. Know that no matter how many times your nose touches a corner each day or how many "pops" you get for yelling "NOO!" at me, our love for you will never, ever, ever change.


Friday, January 4, 2013

7 quick takes Friday

--- 1 ---
Writing is like exercising for me. The more I do it, the more I do it. A small hiatus usually turns into a long hiatus and then I have no idea where to begin. It doesn't get much easier than quick takes so here we go. Please don't expect much.
--- 2 ---
I read somewhere on twitter that if you read 5 pages a day, you can get through 9 books in year. I told Ross and he was intrigued so we're both opening a book each night, seeminly for just 5 pages. Not surprisingly, we almost always get sucked in and read more. I love that this is getting him away from O'Reilly (don't judge him too harshly, please) and me away from the Kindle word game (nerd.) He is reading EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey and we're both getting tons of takeaways and I'm reading " A Hole in Your Gospel" by Rich Stearns, the head of World Vision. Both are so awesome. 
--- 3 ---
Father Tim is in town and the good news is I will make him splash some holy water over my kids' rooms so maybe they will be healed of the constant plague they've had all winter and maybe the holy water has special sleep powers too.  He is off mountain biking with Ross (who took a half day for wilderness time) and I am feeling very 4-year-old-ish in wondering when mama gets a half day. That is every bit as whiny and childish as it sounds. Having two kids/a newborn has definitely minimized my social time. It just has to be way worth it to spend the 35 minutes prep/carseat time to leave the house only to surely forget a diaper bag or a must have baby doll.
--- 4 ---
In my great effort for time awayawayaway, I am back to 5:45 am runs during the week with my running group. Except for me it's 5:15 because I have to pump first. It is early and cold but oh so worth it to do something, anything "ALL BY SELF!!!" I also signed up for the Music City/St. Jude Half Marathon in April, mostly for an excuse to go away for the weekend "ALL BY SELF" (MK's translation) and to play with one of my favorite people. Now if our other friends Natalie and maybe even Betsy sign on, it will be a great party!  The things we do...
--- 5 ---
MK is now a full fledged conversationalist. I love talking to her, listening to her talk. Her vocabulary exploded recently and it's so fun. Favorite mispronunciations right now, grocery "stork"  (store),  "memalade" (lemonade), "chich a lay" (CFA) and "sanmurch" (sandwich).  She also loves to sing and after getting acquainted with you for 2 minutes, she will sing a combo of "Jesus loves the little children, I've got that Joy Joy down in my heart and If I were a butterfly." She sings it loudly and proudly. We adore. Thomas Perry is a sweet, sweet little man. I am slowly getting back into the swing of things as he approaches that wonderful 4 month mark. Have I mentioned how I am soo not a newborn person? He is cooing and smiling and as long as he's not in his carseat, is a happy little person.
--- 6 ---
Ross and I had a nice, octogenarian new year's celebration with dinner reservations at 5pm. My parents followed us back into town from our mountain vacay (I haven't written about it yet because my kids were heinous monsters all week and I'm still recovering) and stayed at our house long enough for us to grab a quick meal out. One of my resolutions is to get dressed 4 days per week, even if I don't leave the house. And YOGA PANTS DON'T COUNT. After a quick convo with Ross about some lycra I was considering wearing out of the house, it donned on me that my postpartum self prob shouldn't be in public with these things, even if I try to have a longish shirt/coat on. So, real clothes, 4 days a week. I'll post more because between that and the early morning runs, productivity around here has soared. Surprising, huh?
--- 7 ---
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!