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.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Yesterday sucked. Today didn't. A lesson in hope.

Yesterday sucked. Absolutely sucked. "Sucks" was a forbidden word in our house growing up. But sometimes nothing else fits. Yesterday can't be described any other way. It started out wonderfully. I was awake before everyone in the house. I pumped before Timothy started crying. Mary Kate came down to breakfast on the table. If anything is a recipe for a good day, that is. Then about 11 minutes later, everything went to pot. Then it got worse. And even worse. And when I didn't think it could possibly get any worse? You guessed it. There was lots of crying. Lots of "I can't do this." Lots of anxiety. I read this post by Mama Needs Coffee and it fit perfectly.

The jury is out on whether I may have a touch of PPD. I will talk to the doctor soon because thou shalt not mess with that stuff. But today, today is different.

I woke up to flowers from Ross with a post it that said "Today is a new day." My precious friend Anna sent a text that said "Enjoy today." The sitter arrived and I took my girl to do some grocery shopping.

We met a friend for lunch and both big kids napped when I got home. While the big kids napped, I chatted with Timothy. I fed him while I read a "just for fun" book.  I said a few silent prayers to stop resisting the needs of my children, to embrace all.the.needy.  I don't feel fabulous today, but I don't feel like roadkill either. Life isn't easy but it's manageable. Yesterday, it was a slice o' hell.

The point in this rant is for the tired mama who will look back in a week, when another day just sucks. And it's for Mary Kate when she's a tired mama. There are horrid days of motherhood (or any job). But my senior yearbook quote said it perfectly, "The sun'll come out tomorrow."  The sun does come out. It may take a few days. It may take more than 2 nights of not getting up to feed a baby, or pop his paci back in, or turn him back onto his tummy. It may take more than the end of that 4th trimester of newborn chaos. But it does come back out.

Spring is here. Lent is nearly half over. New life is coming in every way. I hope that the next time a day is kicking my rear, I won't crawl into the hole that tells me the rest of my life will be like this. It's so easy to forget that the pain and frustration and anxiety and fatique is just temporary, in any situation. Bad days are followed by good days which are usually followed by bad days again. It's just life. The trick is not believing that any of it is permanent, enduring the bad in await for the good and then treasuring the good, for as long as we are blessed to have it.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What's hiding behind your back?

When Mary Kate was a few months old, I attended a Lenten retreat at my church. The visiting priest had us tear up a few pieces of paper and write down our most prized possessions on them. Then he came around with a basket and asked us to drop them in there. He asked each of us to be willing to give up these things for Jesus. He took up all the pieces of paper. We all sat, arrogantly thinking we were willing to give up everything for Jesus.

Then he asked us what was behind our backs.

What are you holding behind your back? What is the ONE thing you can't or will not give to Jesus.

Mary Kate. My baby. I can't give you my baby. Like Abraham carrying his long awaited Isaac, this required a faith that I was just short of having. I am sorry Lord. She's my baby.

Holding my children so tight behind my back has manifested in so many ways over the years. Anxiety about leaving them for a weekend. Slight craziness about their schedules, what they eat, how secure their carseats are. That our parents even want to see their grandkids is probably a miracle for all the hoops I make them jump through. I have lived under the mistaken assumption that the tighter I hold, the more safe they are.

Until now. Now, I am holding so tightly to Thomas even as the Lord whispers to me, "bring him to my altar." "Bring him toward me." And some days, I respond, "okay, Lord. He's yours. But you are just testing me like you did Abraham, right? You just need to see my faith. You won't literally take him, right? RIGHT?!?!?"

Since December 12, when my entire world changed, I have been holding my fists tighter and tighter behind my back, filled with anxiety and worry. Then this weekend I got to go to a few hours of the IF gathering, live streamed at a friend's house. I could barely sing the worship music I so love because I was mad at Jesus. Like a child, I was resisting him because he wasn't giving me what I wanted. How many zillion times does a pregnant woman say, "we just want a healthy baby." Yeah, Lord, that's all I'm asking here. I don't think that's too much to ask of you. Just give me a healthy baby. Until then, I'm gonna worry and cry and have panic attacks and make my home one of anxiety and fear. Okay? Good.

And like a child resisting her parent's embrace, the Lord just held me tighter and tighter until I stopped fighting him. One of the women speaking at the conference had a childhood taken from a horror movie. Every evil that can be committed against a child was inflicted upon her. And her answer? "GET A NEW PROBLEM in 2014." Yes, life sucked for her. But move the heck on. Take whatever is hiding behind your back, give it to the one you supposedly believe in, and let's all move forward.

In the past few days a few key things have happened.
  • I was able to speak to my dear friend, Sister Brunetta, in her new convent. (long story but Missionaries of Charity are not typically permitted to maintain contact after they are transferred). I sobbed into the phone about Thomas. Her beautiful Indian accent, whispered that there was no need to fear. She would pray for our boy, just as she did all those months of our bedrest when the only outing I was permitted was to her home for Mass. She said she would commit our boy to the Blessed Mother and to Blessed Mother Teresa, as we asked. She asked that I write to her but assured me of her prayers, even if we weren't ever able to speak on the phone again. 
  • We finalized plans for Timothy's Baptism, deciding to have it at the Gift of Grace House with Father Fallon. There are actually some logistics in this, as their house is not a parish, but in 24 hours, the Sisters had excitedly approved it, Father Fallon happily accepted an extra Saturday Mass and our home church agreed to write the baptismal certificate. In one of many conversations with Father Fallon, he told me that Tuesday, (today) he would spend the entire day in prayer for Thomas. He told me that I needed to be prepared because when he has done this in the past, miracles have happened. He didn't want me to get my hopes up, but yes, miracles have happened. 
  • Ross, who has reinjured his back, has experienced some really God-given relief and renewed hope in his physical healing. 
  • I have felt my fists unclench, little by little. Thomas may be fine. And He may die. Mary Kate may live until she is 95, or she may get hit by a car tomorrow. I am guaranteed NOTHING in this life, no amount of time with my children. But unclenching does let me live with a little less worry and lot more fun. 
So today, in preparation for snowmageddon part 2 in Atlanta, I took the 3 kids and the sitter to Catch Air. Mary Kate ran and played. We tried to get some play therapy in for Tom, (he preferred mama's lap today) and tried to stop having my every thought be about Tom's future. Then we got into the car to come home and I received a call from the geneticist.  Thomas's appointment at Emory was scheduled for AUGUST 7. Children's can see him in April, but today we found out that he can be seen this MONDAY. Remember that today is Father Fallon's day of prayer, the day I could expect a miracle.

I rushed to email in all the paperwork and added his last 4 pediatrician visit notes. We see the geneticist Monday and the neurologist Tuesday. Our answers may very well come from these places. And I should be happy. Instead, I feel my fists clenching again. I know what diagnoses are in the forefront of my pediatrician's mind. I feel worry and fear settling in again. But I will unclench. I will walk him into those appointments praying my neck off that Thomas is just slow as all heck to hit milestones. I will pray that these doctors think he is stubborn and his body is stubborn and to enjoy these months before he can run away from me. I will pray that if they tell me that his life will be different that what I originally hoped for him, that it will mean he will have a life. A long, happy, different, ordained by God life. And if they tell me that I will need to be Abraham, and that my offering of my son isn't symbolic, well, I just pray that I will be able to praise during our grief. There are oh so many reasons to praise.

So, we may know sooner than we ever thought possible what's going on with our boy. My stomach is in total knots, but I'm not hiding anything behind my back. Whether I learn to give my babies to the one to whom they really belong now or in the many tests to come in the future, I will have to learn this. Because hiding them doesn't change the outcome. Being mad at Jesus isn't going to change His perfect, PERFECT plan for Thomas. Being hopeful and thankful and faithful WILL change me. It will change the tone of this home, the health of our family and my marriage. And whether I have Thomas, or Mary Kate or Timothy for five more moments or five more decades, they deserve a mama who is hopeful and thankful and faithful.

Prayers appreciated next Monday and Tuesday. Oh how happy I'd be for Ross to remind me every hour how dramatic I was over all of this :)

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Treasuring what is

Here we are, exactly one month since my last post and wow, has life changed. Timothy is a 7 week old, on the sweet cusp of sleep training. Mary Kate is 3.5 and is equal parts sweet and sass. And our Tom. Well, our Tom is expanding our hearts every day.

When I envisioned Timothy's first weeks at home, I thought that our  family would hole up during the winter months, playing, nursing the baby, and enduring the sleepless nights with cozy days at home. I thought we would start feeling normal again right about the time spring rolled around and we would all come out to play, enjoying our new home, new hiking trails and beautiful nature.

Tim was born amid such relief and gratitude for another healthy baby. Thomas turned 15 months a day later and our pediatrician agreed to see them both for their well  child appointments on the same day, assuming like I did that we would be in and out in 20 minutes.

2.5 hours later, we left with a severely jaundiced baby and a host of concerns for Thomas. We spent literally every day of Tim's first two weeks of life at the doctor getting his little heel pricked countless times, spending one awful night under bilirubin lights, and waking every 2 hours to feed him. We even did blood work because the doctor could not figure out why his levels weren't decreasing. It was exhausting. And that wasn't the hard part.

7 weeks later, I am not nursing my baby (I am pumping 6x each day, which may kill me), I am not sitting around, cuddling a newborn (not that this was a realistic vision. I don't think any of my mama of 3 friends sat around cozying up to their 3rd baby). Timothy is fed many more bottles from other people's hands than mine. He is not held often during the day by me. My heart aches for the mama that I can't be to him right now. He is loved immensely though and our "village" is giving him lots of TLC. His daddy is more smitten with him than any newborns past because of lots of quality time.

Instead of cuddling my new baby, I am advocating and fighting and trying to help our middle baby. I spend my days on the phone (all too often on hold), or in doctors offices. Thomas will be 17 months old in two weeks. He is no longer on the growth charts, after a year of being very low on them. He has gross motor and speech delays, nowhere near walking and not saying any words in context. The older (and heavier) he gets, the more obvious his challenges become. I cannot carry two babies at once, when one weighs 27 lbs so we are learning how to juggle twins who are 15 months apart. We don't yet know a reason why all of this is happening.

And I am learning how to cope with a baby who needs more than I feel capable of giving. Thomas is phenomenal. He is smart and mischievous and incredibly curious. He loves figuring out how things work and his fine motor skills are definitely compensating for the gross motor skills. He is a social butterfly and can flirt like you have never seen. He is happy and funny. He is learning signs and is able to communicate a little more. Intensive therapy starts next week while we wait, wait, wait for blood tests and specialist visits. My heart explodes and breaks every day I spend with him.

I am 7 weeks post partum and haven't even been to my post partum doctor's visit. I am sad that our boy's path has these unexpected curves. But as I told my friend the other day, I know that every minute I spend grieving for what we may be facing, I am not treasuring exactly who God made Him today. I have hard days where I let the 'what if's' take me to a sad place. I googled his symptoms one night and vowed to never, ever do that again. It does not matter one iota what his eventual diagnosis, if there is any, may be. My heart bursts for this little guy, and his siblings, any way God chooses to give them to me. My friend Natalie gently suggested that it may be a very long time before we know anything. She is right. The waiting, it is hard. But each day that I wait, I get to renew my trust and faith that God knows what He is doing with our son. He has a great and beautiful plan for Thomas's life. God is making me into the mama he expects me to be through this journey. I only want for Thomas what the Lord desires for Him. It's all I want for all of my kids. So each day, I will continue to fight against fear and worry, choosing instead to praise and treasure these  gifts.

And if you are reading this, please pray for our boy. Please pray that God equips Ross and I to give him everything he needs to thrive and to live out the Lord's plan for his life.

a little physical therapy at the germ factory/bounce house

fun times with dad at the doctor. Dad is now a pro at handling Tom during blood draws :(

tired mommy on her first walk with all the kids

first smiles from timothy

no smiles from mk
Little Timothy meeting his Godfather Fr.Tim
surviving waiting rooms

how mama gets dressed