Sunday, September 7, 2014

Big heart changes

So, our big boy turns 2 this Wednesday. For months, I've have some anxiety about this day. What will I do if he's not walking by his second birthday? Will I be able to feel joy on this day? How bad of a mom am I that I fear I will be sad on his birthday. Why has walking become the holy  grail of success for Thomas (and for mama?) Will I finally stop worrying about this most precious son of mine?  I began to pray earnestly for him to walk by two. And then, it happened.

I took the kids to the Vigil Mass for the feast of the annunication. Ross couldn't make it so solo we went. It was hectic and stressful as everyone chose to act a fool at the same time. I took the kids to the narthex to threaten their lives when Thomas started grunting to go outside to his favorite bench. I set him up standing and frustrated, told him to PLEASE GO WALK. And he did. Our boy took 8 full steps (in a comical attempt to get out of Mass). There was no disputing that he walked. August 14, 2014, 23 months and 4 days old, our boy walked. I cried buckets.

But as I do, I spent about 11 minutes soaking in that gift, that answered prayer, before I began asking for the next. I'm like a kid in a toy store. One gift doesn't ever seem to be enough. A few weeks later Thomas started school. On the first day, parents were asked to come stay in the classroom for an hour to get the kids acquainted with their room and friends. I made it just a few minutes before I felt my heart begin to crumble. Thomas is the 2nd oldest in class of 12, with almost all of the children turning 2 before December. He is almost the oldest in class of children running, jumping, talking, communicating, playing. I walked out, had myself a cry and time and again tried to come back to the classroom. We are so seldom around children T's age and the differences were striking. The delays, the length of the road ahead, just so big. I know that comparison is the thief of joy. And that first day of school, I did measure my treasured son against the other children. I compared him and I suffered for it.

As Thomas gets older and we are out as a family more, the questions come. Are they twins? (and yes, Ross, I know dressing them alike doesn't help but I love me some matching outfits.) We are asked, How old are they? And as I say that Thomas is nearly two, I feel the need to explain. I haven't figured out how much or how little to share, how to share a part of our story while protecting Thomas's. But the situations present themselves daily. More and more, as this big birthday nears, I have had to hold back tears, sometimes successfully and others, (sorry if you've been subjected to them), sometimes not.

Recently, mama has made herself a new friend too and this precious new friend has a gift for connecting people, including others in conversations, activities, etc. She knew another mom at our school who she said I needed to get in touch with. That same day, amidst her busy day at work and home, she connected me to a mom whose daughter didn't walk until almost 3. A few emails later, and my heart has done a complete 180. This mom wrote "I knew in my heart that nothing was wrong with her, but I appreciated the doctor's wanting to be thorough and let them run their tests."..."even if they found something, it didn't change the fact that she's perfect."  This sweet mama must have used the word perfect 5 times. I sat on my floor, absorbing this very different mindset. Now, anyone who knows us knows that I adore my Tom (and my Tim and MK). I breathe for these kids. But my mama brain has been all "what is wrong with my son? Which specialist can we see now?  What bad thing is lurking in his body that we have to find.? Why is he not growing? Why is he developing so slowly? Do we see signs of this in Timothy?" I have been so focused on finding out what is wrong, and so much less focused on absorbing how precious and perfect God made Thomas. I have spent the first 9 months of my angel baby Timothy's life running up a mountain trying to "fix" Thomas. I can only imagine how much bad behavior I'll allow trying to atone for that over the years! Hello, guilt ridden mama is here. You may have anything you'd like Timothy Ninness!

Seriously though, I was struck by that mom's approach to her child and how different it was from mine. I talked with my friend Ashley a little bit about it and she sent me a series her church is doing called "in the meantime." When life is hard and gets harder and even harder, what do we do, in the meantime. The speaker was a man named Andy Jones who discovered that both his children had autism. The most striking thing he said was "when you focus on what's wrong, you lose sight of what God makes right."

I have been so focused on solving the puzzle, that I've missed a million little miracles along the way. Today at Mass, a part of one of Pope Francis' letters was read. He said that lay people must guard against getting wrapped up in serving simply in tasks. Their faith and spirituality must grow, must mature. My parenting has been so very task oriented lately. Calendars and appointments and goals and a few "please Jesus could you..." thrown in. I haven't stopped nearly enough to see the perfect parts of all of my babies. Today, I put Thomas down for a nap and caught MK reading on her bed. When I asked if I could read her a story, the look on her face broke my heart. "But it's not bedtime mom?" She could barely wrap her beautiful blonde head around the idea that her mama wanted to read her a story, just because.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude because Thomas turns 2 Wednesday. 9 months ago, my prayer was that we just get to keep him, in any form, in any way. So far, God has chosen to answer that prayer. And a few months later, I prayed that he would walk by 2. God chose to answer that prayer too. Yes, I am so ready for him to be walking independently and speaking more. But I think I'm finished chasing down answers. We have seen every specialist we can. If there is an answer, I want to be the mom Jennifer LaSota is, the mom who doesn't care because it doesn't change a damned thing.

Wednesday I will celebrate the living heck out of Thomas Perry Ninness. As a family we will celebrate that God sent us a boy of HIS choosing, created in HIS image. And this mama will resist any temptation to wish for an iota difference in this child. Andy Jones said that he would have never asked for Autism, but now he wouldn't give it back for all that his been changed and bettered, for all the glory brought to God because of his family's experience with it.Our lives are so, so easy in comparison, though it's never about that. It's about each of us looking to the heavens, holding our unique joys and personal crosses and whispering "thank you," for both the joys and the crosses.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spring, Summer, COME ON FALL!

It's been so stinking long since I've written here and I don't know where to start? But as this is the unofficial record of all things Ninness family, I don't want to forget.  So seasonal fun at our home...
  • Timothy turned 4 months old

  • Mary Kate finished her first year of preschool

  • To say our girl loved preschool is a crazy understatement. She thrived. God sent us the most perfect teacher for her first year, Mary Finney. They fit together like a glove. Considering we had a baby and were blindsided by another baby's challenges, this school became a saving grace for us. 

  • In May we adjusted to a calmer schedule. I finished my last year of MOPS, another gift in these early years of parenting. I'm sad to not be continuing but it's a new season and I'm just so thankful for those years and those women. May also began my busy season of work and it seems like every week we have the "is it worth it" conversation but for now, we'll keep going. Summer is just super busy and three little humans to feed and put to bed at the same time just works better with two sets of hands. It is not lost on me for one minute how lucky I am to be able to work mostly from home and help support our family in a small way. 

  • In June we began seeing a new therapist for Thomas. Father Tim's sister is an OT who recommended her friends' facility in Alpharetta. It is a drive and isn't covered by insurance but it is no doubt the best place for Thomas. He is thriving there. I feel like the theme of this year has been God just meeting us where we are, where we need Him to come. I won't lie. It has been hard, oh so hard. Some days I am bowled over by just how hard it is. By the weekend, I am just so ready to escape for awhile, craving time away from the hard. 

  • Also in June, motivated by a beach trip (yes, vanity bites again), I finally found my exercise groove again. I had been running inconsistently but tried a barre class at the Georgia Dance Conservatory. It is hard and wonderful and was what I needed to catapult myself back into taking care of mommy mode. I still can't resist a daggum drive thru window to save my life but am enjoying starting my days with a good run or barre class. I also turned 34 but can't for the life of me remember what we did? 

  • July is for celebrating MK! Our girl turned 4 and I am continually amazed at who she is becoming. She deserves her own post 
    she modeled for our friend's new tutu business and I love this face. It's her "I'm trying to sound like an adult" talk which sounds a lot like jibberish! 

    I love any picture with me holding my three babies, but especially one with matching outfits. KRYPTONITE. 

    MK's 4th birthday with her family at the pool 

    This family deserves their own post. They are the biggest gift of this neighborhood to us. They had us over on MK's actual 4th birthday, had a new belle dress up outfit and cupcakes. Madison babysits for us and is so special to all of us. Can't even describe how sweet the Ernstes family is! 

  • At 4 Mary Kate changes clothes 454 times a day, loves loves princesses, dress up outfits, playdates (she is 150% extrovert like her daddy), her grandparents, any sweets (150% like her mama here), mommy or daddy and mary kate dates, playing at the park, swimming, and school. She still naps 4 days a week or so but can manage without one (until 6 pm when she's melting into a puddle). She is helpful, kind, oh so compassionate, thoughtful, creative, stubborn, outgoing, smart and joyous. More than anything, she is a gift from God. 
  • July also brought our long awaited MRI for Thomas. Words can't describe how hard it was to watch our son be poked over and over at an unsuccessful attempt at finding a vein, then later watching him be sedated, and then wondering if there was a tumor on his brain. There's no point in trying to convey it on this blog so we'll get to the point. His MRI was normal and we absolutely rejoiced. I will confess that I still battle with "okay, well what the bleep is creating these developmental delays" but that brings me to our biggest day of August. 
  • I took the kids to the vigil Mass for the feast of the assumption. I have taken them to daily Mass alone before, but never to a full out, hour long Mass. It was as hellish as one can imagine. As we walked to the narthex, I put Thomas down in complete exasperation. I asked him if he wanted to walk and he gave us his now characteristic "yeah!" His therapist has said he is taking steps in PT but I had not seen it yet. Sure enough, on a feast celebrating the woman for whose intercession  I've prayed and prayed, he took 8 big ole steps. Our guy is definitely on his way. It's never fast enough for impatient mommy and I'm ashamed that each miracle gives way to more begging for the next miracle. But I know the Lord understands my heart and more importantly so, He has a great and perfect plan for Thomas.

  • Late August brought the first day of pre-k for MK and Thomas's first day also. MK absolutely loves school and it just brings out the best in her. Her teacher, Sis Eastland, has been at FPC for 30 years and her expertise shows. Thomas is slow on the uptake, but no one is surprised by that. His teacher is my new mentor mom, Leigh Ann Rapp. She is beautiful, faith-filled, energetic, in amazing shape and so incredibly kind. My heart bursts at God's provision for our kids and our family. 

  • So here we are, with a very hot end of the summer. Timothy has just begun sitting up which gives my brain a break from its obsession over developmental milestones. Thomas is taking steps each day, renewing my hope for our guy. And Mary Kate is basically 22, reminding me to cherish, treasure, and cherish some more. Ross continues to lead our family with an unworldly amount of patience, optimism, and unconditional love. He loves me well and absolutely delights in our children. He enjoys mountain biking and tennis on the weekend and sweetly does morning duty 4-5 days a week so I can run. My fall includes training for a 10 mile race to benefit AIDS orphans, praying about and readying up to help begin a teen mom's group at a local high school, and with Ross, starting a small group at church for young couples. My greatest desire is that we raise our children to know Jesus and trust in His love and provision for them and then, in whatever spare time I have, help others feel His love as well. 
We are excited for fall. We will celebrate Thomas's 2nd birthday after a whirlwind of a year of worrying and praying and worrying and praying more over this boy. We will celebrate 5 years of marriage in September and hope to fit in a little getaway. This man, this life, it's more than I ever dreamed, even on the very hard days. I am so incredibly grateful. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

State of the Ninnesses

Spring has sprung and oh how that improves the moods in this house!  I've never been an outdoorsy girl but having children makes you love, love, love the outside of one's home. The kids are all changing and growing before my eyes and since they make me so tired I will clearly forget it all, I wanted to document.

Mary Kate Frances


Our girl 3 months shy of her 4th birthday. She has expanded her love affair with Curious George and a side of Daniel Tiger to ALL ALL ALL things princesses. My dad gave her set of 5 princesses for Christmas, little hand held figurines. She and Thomas both love them. At the time, she didn't know any of their names. Now, she knows all the names and is in love. She still has only seen one full length feature (The Little Mermaid) but saw her first movie in the theater with Sha Sha. To say Frozen has taken over our lives is an understatement. She sings (mostly repeats) the chorus to "Let it  go" about 2,000 times a day and anyone can be her audience. There is not an introverted bone in her body and she craves playmates and visitors like her daddy. Every single day she wears one-four princess dresses at a time. She comes downstairs in some get up each day and changes her clothes 243 times each day. Her imagination runs wild and she is all girl. Singing, dancing, tutus galore- this is our girl. I am signing her up for a ballet camp this summer and we will see if she likes the structured class as much as she likes the wearing of a tutu. Despite my misgivings about the overuse of organized activities for kids, girl loves her some dancing so ballet class here we come. She loves school, the park, riding her bike, playing outside with her daddy and loving on her brothers. By far her best quality is how much she loves those boy babies. I cannot overstate how affectionate, kind and loving she is to Tom and Tim. She knows what they need before they know it. She shares with them, kisses them and protects them fiercely. My mom says that I was the same way with Patrick and we all know that love affair ended for a few years (but restarted once I moved out :) so I hope she and her brothers are always the best of friends.

Thomas Perry:

Mary Kate calls Thomas the destroyer and a messy monster. At 19 months his hobbies include knocking down towers built by Mary Kate, climbing stairs, riding in his red car, anything outside, being held by mama, taking things apart and putting them back together (Tim's bottle parts are a current favorite), playing with my phone, opening/closing doors, playing with the microwave door, emptying my cabinets and coloring. All boy, this kid can destroy a room in .2 seconds. I love it.  He is not walking yet which definitely makes his mama sad sometimes. Our precious friend/physical therapist thinks he may walk by his 2nd birthday. If I didn't see him making progress in his motor and speech skills I would be more worried but he is moving forward in all the areas. He remains extremely short statured but hope grows that it is simply a coincidence that he is very short with accompanying developmental delays instead of some underlying issue. The next step for him is brain imaging but Ross and I both think we will hold off. It requires general anesthesia and the treatment plan is likely the same- lots of therapy. He still loves mama best of all (sorry Ross :) but is doing better at letting other people hold and care for him. He loves both his grandmothers, finds his Pops to be absolutely hilarious, and tolerates church nursery just long enough for mom to hear a few words of Mass. He is flirtatious, social and handsome. He still loves to wake up MK from her dwindling naptimes and adores her. He is saying Mama, Dada, da-doo (thank you). He is signing what he wants and is really growing into a little toddler. After months of worrying about his future, I definitely treasure the moments he is simply being a rascally boy. This child is a daily reminder to pray and believe.

Timothy Sullivan


My precious little Timothy. At 4 months he is my biggest and most talkative baby. He smiles from ear to ear and simply wants to be talked to. I don't know if I will ever not feel a little guilty about his newborn months but I'll just work extra hard to love on him as he grows. He is a healthy 14 lbs (44 %) and is 2'.075 long (39%). He eats 7 oz of milk 5-6 times a day and spits up a few of those ounces each time :) He is a good napper and sleeper and as all newborns are, is a reminder to slow down and snuggle someone. Like his siblings before him, he abhors the carseat and prefers to be held at all times. There are truly worse problems. He is adored by his big sister and most common nickname is "bird" for the little shape of his mouth when he talks to you. Last night Ross played tennis and I did Tim's dream feed. He fell right back asleep on my shoulder and I stared in the bathroom mirror for a good five minutes at this little baby on my chest. I cried tears of gratitude for him, ever thankful that God gave him to us.

These days are hard. Someone, including mommy, is almost always crying. To copy my friend Rachel's jargon, "little kids ain't fer wimps." Mommy is slowly (emphasis on slowly) returning to running and trying to find her own oxygen mask. Less diet coke and chocolate morsel lunches and more nutrition and prayer. (As I put down the graham cracker). Ross is the glue holding our family together, simultaneously changing a diaper, holding a toddler and talking mom off a cliff. He goes into work late, takes lunch breaks for doctor's appointments and bears more on his shoulders than I'll ever admit out loud. But our family is well. A word that keeps coming to mind lately is "treasure." I am trying so hard to be more intentional about slowing down and treasuring the hugs from my ever affectionate Mary Kate, treasuring seeing Thomas pull up on a coffee table, treasuring smiles from Timothy and treasuring the work my husband does. I keep writing here so that one day my adult children in the throes of young parenthood will look back and see that I, too, had days where I cried and cried and days where I couldn't stop rejoicing. C'est la vie.

Tonight a blessed babysitter comes over so I can go to Confession and maybe fit in a run. I can imagine many of life's problems can be solved by this combo. My prayers these days are for my babies, for God to send them sweet, God-oving friends and one day, sweet, God-loving spouses. I pray that Ross and I show them what love and faith look like. I pray that they know Jesus deeply and fully.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Timothy Sullivan Ninness, our newest little saint

A few weekends ago, March 8, we baptized our littlest boy. It was so joyous for so many reasons. We had over 30 members of our family drive and fly to celebrate our Timothy. We opened our new home for a family gathering for the first time and it  felt wonderful to fill it with the people we love. Ross and I finally conceded that a Baptism at the Cathedral in Savannah (where we were married and MK and Tom were Baptized) just wasn't feasible. After much thought, we decided that the place in Atlanta that most feels like home is the Gift of Grace House. We brought our boy into our faith in the place Ross and I had our first date, in the place we worshipped until Mary Kate required a nursery, in the place we still feel known and loved. The Missionaries of Charity will always be a part of our story and we are so thankful they are now a part of Timothy's, too.

Timothy's godparents are Ross's aunt Chris and Father Tim. Both of these people are examples of Godliness, faithfulness, and love. I smile writing both of their names. Father Tim married us and baptized Mary Kate. He has known me since I was in college and has been an integral part of my life since then. He is serving at the North American College in Rome so he couldn't be here but assured us of his prayers! Aunt Chris is one of the most thoughtful people I know. Her handmade stained glass cross hangs in my kitchen, reminding me of her love and the love of Jesus during every meal prep or bottle washing session. When she comes into town, she has her sister (ross's mom) take her around to our favorite restaurants and buys us gift cards. She gave Mary Kate her first miraculous medal. Her heart is pure and beautiful.

Every time I look into Timothy's smiling face, I am overpowered with gratitude that God new better than we did. He knew that our family needed Tim. Even in the toughest moments of having 3 tiny children, I thank God with every fiber of my being for giving us Tim. This newest little Christian boy will forever be a reminder to me to trust God's plan above my own, to give Jesus all my cares, all my fears, and all of my plans.

Welcome to the Catholic Church, our treasured son. May the power of Jesus in the Eucharist bring you as much solace and security and faith as it has your parents. May you always know whose embrace to seek when days are hard and may you always look to the heavens with gratitude for your gifts. Dad, Mary Kate, Thomas and I (as well as our family), all know Jesus more because of you, His great gift to us.