Saturday, July 31, 2010

7 Quick Takes - Picture Wall Edition

It's naptime. Nathan is sleeping. Jacob is in his crib calling for someone, anyone, to release him from that prison. And Tim and Christopher are, I think, watching a show in my bedroom. (Translation: Tim is asleep on the bed and Chris is minutes away from getting bored with his show, jumping around on the bed, and getting in a whole bunch of trouble.)  It's quiet, for the most part, and I am taking full advantage of this opportunity to lay down on the couch and do absolutely nothing. Well, except this.

I can still hear Jake calling and it makes me feel only a little guilty. And a little curious. I want to go down to check on him but know that, if I do, this quiet moment will be lost and so I will let him call for a while longer.

My chosen position on the sofa has me laying so that I can see our family picture wall instead of looking outside to the backyard. It's a beautiful summer day and looking outside makes me feel guilty for not being out there. Besides, I love gazing at this wall. Seeing the snapshots of so many happy memories, the faces of our loved ones who shared those memories with us.

Here.  I'll give you a little tour.

ONE.  A good number of the frames are filled with photos from our wedding. Tim and I with all seven of the priests who concelebrated our nuptial Mass, us walking along the golf course during the reception, my Father-in-Law's toast. I could stare at our wedding pictures all day long. If you ever come to my house, you can watch my wedding video, okay?  I won't offer but if you asked I would jump at the chance to show it to you. Without that day so many other blessings would be absent. God has been so good to us.

TWO.  Each of the boys has an 8x10 of just them. Right now I'm looking at Chris sitting on a swing in my dear friend's backyard.  Those big brown eyes looking happily at me through the glass. He is such a big, strong boy. And yet, he's so sensitive and so impressionable.  We're struggling with Christopher right now. When we first moved into this house, he handled the transition really well. IF he woke up during the night he'd just get up, run up the stairs and climb into our bed. He had NO fear.  Now, eight months later, it's not a question of IF he wakes up during the night, but WHEN. And when he does? He stands on his bed and SCREAMS for Daddy.  We've gotten through the phase of him screaming for Daddy and ONLY daddy (seriously. If I went down there he'd scream even louder, "Not YOU! WAHHH!") and he'll allow me to come to him now. But it's bad. It's really bad.  He's scared of monsters. Or ghosts. Or bad guys. Or bats. We've switched from Daddy going to him every night and are now seeing what happens if I am the one to go down. I have a slight suspicion that maybe it's less "I'm scared" and more "I want to hang with Dad," so we'll see if this breaks the pattern.  But beyond that, I have no idea what to do. If anyone has any suggestions, I will love you forever.

THREE.  One of my favorite pictures is one of my Nonno holding Christopher on his lap when Chris was a newborn. This has been a tremendously sad week. My dear grandfather passed away on Tuesday, July 27. There are many things to say about this, but I think I need a little more time.  We'll be going to the Rosary and Funeral tomorrow and Monday and I'm ready for those to be very challenging, but very healing days.  For the time being all that should really be said is THANK YOU.  Most of my online time during the month of July has been spent begging for prayers, and I have to say that my entire family has really felt the graces that have come from those prayers. Internet friends = awesome prayer warriors. I am blessed.

FOUR.  I have the hiccups. Really bad, really loud, really painful hiccups.

FIVE.  Thirty minutes in (actually, I don't think it's even been that long) and I am now typing this while SITTING UP on the couch with Chris to my left and Jake to my right. At least Nate is still sleeping. We're watching Bee Movie. Because we haven't seen it enough in the last two weeks; although, you may think otherwise when you hear ALL OF US quoting the entire movie, word for word. ("Black and yellow. Hello!")

SIX.  Jake's photo is centered on the bottom of the cluster. My happy little boy sitting at the bottom of a bright yellow slide.  He has gotten to the "Why?" stage. It is incredibly cute and infuriating at the same time.  He doesn't just say, "why?" He says it quietly, slowly, and he draws out the word into at least two syllables. "whhhyyyy?" It is so precious. Really. The problem, as I see it, is that he is far far FAR more curious than Christopher ever was.  There were never this many "Why" questions the first time around.

SEVEN.  My Nonna, my only remaining grandparent, is pictured with Christopher while he helped her blow out the candles on her 85th birthday cake.  It is such a happy memory.  It is such a unique privilege, I realize, that my grandparents all got the chance to meet their great-grandsons. Even more unique that these young boys (Chris, at least) is old enough to have lasting memories of these people who are so remarkable. So special. So loved.

I know I have said it already, but it just can't be said enough. God has been so, so, so good to us. And for that we are grateful.

More quick takes here.

Saturday, July 24, 2010


Tim's parents were over for dinner a couple of weeks back and, as often happens, we got into a discussion of what life was like for them when they were in our shoes.  My husband is a romantic at heart and much of his time is spent wondering what life was like in days gone by.  There are few days that pass in which I don't hear something to the effect of, "When I (fill in the blank) I like to try to imagine what (blah blah blah) fifty years ago." And then we talk about it and dream and imagine. But when we are actually in the presence of people who were REALLY THERE fifty years ago, there is little imagining that has to take place because they can fill in those blanks for us.  So, after dinner, we were all sitting around in the family room while they shared stories with us.  This conversation was of a more serious nature, as we listened to the joys and struggles that they faced during the first ten (or so) years of their marriage, during which (among other joys and challenges) all four of their parents passed away. It was a conversation filled with smiles and laughter, tears and hushed tones. It was the story of their life, so very many years ago.

Later that night, once we had finally gotten all of the boys to bed, I grabbed a glass of water and prepared for bed myself.  I could tell that Tim was lost in thought from the moment I entered the room. When I finally sat down on the bed, he remarked, "My parents had a really hard first ten years, didn't they?"  They sure did. What tremendous loss they faced as such a young couple. What huge challenges even beyond the illness and the loss. 

While I agreed with his sentiment, the first words that escaped my lips were, "Look at OUR first five years of marriage. We have had a VERY CHALLENGING first five years."  And it's so true. Our vows have been tested and again throughout these first years. They have been pulled and tested in ways that I never imagined we would face so early on in our marriage. Sure I knew that there would be suffering and growth throughout the course of our marriage. Yes, I expected that there would be times for "sicker" and times for "poorer." I wasn't so naive as to think that there would not be "bad times" during our life together.  But I was naive. I suppose I never gave it a conscious thought, but somewhere in me I just assumed that the good, healthy, and richer times would come first. Or, at the very least, I suppose I never factored in the possibility that those challenging times would come one after the other in rapid fire succession.

Ah young love. There we were, walking into the world hand in hand with NO IDEA  what was headed our way.

On the day I married Tim I didn't know that only one year later my mom would be diagnosed with breast cancer and would have a mastectomy only three weeks before I was to deliver my first child.  I didn't know that only eight months after that my own husband would suffer from a very serious illness which would lead to his being diagnosed with a chronic disease.  I certainly wasn't expecting that two months before the birth of my second child my husband would be laid off and we would be spending the next several months getting his own company up and running, or that just one month after that my Father-in-law would be diagnosed with prostate and bladder cancer.  While I knew that my grandparents were getting pretty old, it never really occurred to me that I would be so intimately involved in the details of my grandmother's illness and passing due to other damaged relationships within the family. 

We talked about this for quite a while that night, agreeing that "Yeah, wow. We've definitely had a challenging go of it," but also agreeing that looking back? It doesn't seem like it was that bad.  It doesn't seem like it was all that hard.

Of course it doesn't! The suffering, the challenges, seems so much less in my mind's eye than it did at the time because of all of the joys that were also thrown into the mix.  Joys that, also, could not be anticipated or planned for.

The day I stood with him at the altar provided no revelation of how I'd discover my pregnancy with Christopher just two days before our first Christmas. There was no picture of my sweet Jacob who is so tender hearted that, when seeing my crying recently, grabs my legs and says, "Mom? Tay? Tay Mom?" (And to whom I respond, "yes Jacob. Mommy is okay" with a kiss and a huge squeeze.) We certainly had not the slightest inkling that we'd be moving into the house of our dreams and welcoming our third (THIRD!) precious boy, our darling Nathaniel, both within one week of each other.

And really? While I knew there would be suffering at some point (and even though those challenges presented themselves a leetle earlier than I'd anticipated)  I also had no clue as to how much growth would come from those challenges - growth that I attribute ONE HUNDRED PERCENT to the fact that I had my best friend walking with me, holding my hand, and encouraging me to embrace the challenges with love. With compassion. With humility. With faith. With HIM.

Looking back on the conversation, I think we were both right. Yes, we have been dealt A LOT of challenges in these first five years. But no, they do not seem all that challenging in retrospect. They don't even seem "manageable" or "bearable."  The only thing I see when looking back over this time is Joy. 

And love. And faith. And friendship.

Yes, our vows have been tested. Yes, they will continue to be tested. There is always something coming down the pike. It's just the way that it is.  But our history has proven that no matter what is coming our way we will greet it hand in hand, ready to embrace the challenge.