Friday, February 14, 2020

Love and Legacy

It's been so long since I've connected with my small space in the blogosphere. Time just passed so quickly and was so full of living that I was trying to process through my head and heart. I've felt a little stuck...kind of like a vertebrae that is misaligned and can't move correctly.

The Fall passed by so quickly. The whirlwind of  Andrew's beautiful wedding and reception in August quickly lead into moving Sarah into her first apartment to start grad school. Then school started for my younger crew and I struggled to calm my heart in the midst of all the "new normals" that had been introduced into my life in such a short time.

As the holidays, and new memories pressed upon me, that feeling of stuck continued. I missed out blogging about the fun, and sometimes stressful, details of the Advent and Christmas. It took all of my energy just to juggle the everyday with all the special details that time of year brings. I thought often of how I missed my blog, but the timing just wasn't right.

Two days after Christmas, our entire family joined my parents on their most generous gift of a Disney Vacation. I had done the planning over many months...planned out our schedules, restaurants, and fast passes. Tried to work out rest time, and older sibling time and couple time. Worried about everyone staying healthy in the time leading up to and during the trip. (I have a little PTSD over a former Disney trip where several members of our party was taken out one by one by a horrible stomach bug over the course of the vacation!)

The trip had lots of fun moments. There were a few moments that weren't as magical as others....travelling with 14 people to Disney at their busiest time of year definitely has its challenges!
Thankfully we stayed healthy until the day we returned home. Ellie ended up starting with strep throat, followed by Kate a few days later, and Peter a couple of days after that! We had a week and a half of "normal" followed by round 2 of strep for Kate(!), Mike and Andrew's birthdays last weekend, and Ellie coming down with the flu and being out of school for this entire week! And with school vacation next week, I'm staring at another week where there will be no "normal".

So, what made me feel unstuck? Simply, love.

And not just because it's Valentine's Day. I'm not talking about the starry eyed love of Hallmark romances.(although I love watching them!) I'm not talking about flowers, chocolates, romantic dinners or special desserts. (although all those are great too!)

I'm talking about the deep love that matters the most. The hug when you've had a bad day, walking a fussy newborn so you can (finally) take a shower, taking turns caring for a sick child through the night, driving to countless practices and games, spending time with a challenging teenager, heading to the store to grab that one thing you forgot so you don't have to, working so hard to provide for your family and praying just as hard for them as well.

Deep love is family and relationships. Deep love is highlighted at the more extreme moments in life, like births, weddings, and when someone is preparing to go home to God.

Jay's Grandpa, Ray, will be making that journey home at any time. Grandpa has lived 99 years but won't quite reach his 100th birthday in June. Grandpa has lived a life devoted to God and family. Very soon he will be reunited with his true love, Dorothy. The love that they lived for their 65 years of marriage, and the 10 years he has lived without her, will continue on in their 11 children, 30 grandchildren, and 27 great grandchildren(so far).

What an amazing legacy of love...

Grandpa's children, grandchildren and great children are blessed to have years and years of wonderful memories....especially his love of babies! Grandpa has always loved little ones. Even as his health has deteriorated, nothing brought a smile to his face faster than seeing one of his youngest  great grandchildren. They always bring him so much joy.
Grandpa, Jay, and his youngest great grandchild, Lyla


Grandpa had a real love of learning and a very intellectual mind. He was always reading books about his faith. Jay has some cherished letters his grandfather wrote to him over the years about faith and family. As Grandpa entered into his 90's, dementia began to creep in, but his joy never left. He was frequently singing songs and hymns and reciting poetry and quotes that had been written on his heart. One of quotes he said the most will be hanging in our home soon thanks to the talent of my soon to be daughter-in-law, Marisa:

"To know and be known,
to love and be loved,
that is the essence of happiness."

On this bittersweet Valentine's Day, I hope everyone feels known and loved.  Reach out and share that message to someone that might need to hear it today.

Please say a prayer for Grandpa and for his whole family. This Valentine's Day is certainly bittersweet, but I am so grateful that God gave us such a loving, faithful man as an example in our lives. He will be missed, but never forgotten.

A favorite family pic of Grandpa and Grandma...pure joy!






Thursday, October 24, 2019

Another Year to Celebrate!

One of my favorite parts about Facebook is the memories that pop up from previous years. I joined Facebook when Kate was a baby, so seeing old posts pop up with baby and toddler pictures just melts my heart. Those years have passed so quickly...and I still haven’t been able to completely wrap my mind around the fact that four of my children are actual adults!

It always amazes me how fast time goes by! As Gretchen Rubin says, “The days are long but the years are short.”

So.very.true!

The years just slip by so quickly...a blur of seasons, birthdays, homework, summer vacations and holidays.

Speaking of years slipping by, twenty-seven years ago today, Jay and started our married life together.  It seems like such a long time(!), and yet, I have a hard time figuring out where the time actually went. While there were certainly lots of moments that will forever be etched in my mind and heart, (happy memories like the births of my children, special memories like First Communions, graduations, and the first of my children to get married...and also some sad memories like the short life and death of our first daughter, losing most of our grandparents, having a son diagnosed with Autism), so much of those 27 years has gone by in a blur of daily life that is filled with laundry, dishes, and a million seemingly insignificant conversations with the people I love. As time goes by...(and boy does that make me sound old!)....I realize that it’s all these little daily moments that fill me and create a pretty amazing life.

You’d think by now...after 27 years...I’d have this marriage thing figured out. I totally don’t. I still struggle with those moments of selfishness when I don’t want to give of myself, impatience and unkindness when Jay bears the brunt of my bad day unfairly, and moments of pride when I just want to be right.


But each day is a new beginning.

Reaching out Anniversary and looking at starting a new year with new possibilities feels really good. It gives us a reason to talk about goals and ways to live life more intentionally this year; to have things to look forward to as a couple and as the family we find ourselves becoming. We need that! We are in the midst of a season of change. We are down to four kids living home on a regular basis. We’ve added a daughter in law to our family and in 7 months from today will add another. Peter is now a legal adult and navigating this new world and all the paperwork and plans we have to put in place to make sure he is cared for through his whole life is daunting. Ellie will be a senior next year and starting her own journey to independence. While seeing our kids become independent adults is a very good thing, it’s still really hard. It’s not easy to shed our old roles and figure out how to relate to our kids as adults.

All this change makes me SO appreciative for those two bonus babies that God blessed our family with. They aren’t babies anymore but at 7 and 10 they are still young enough to keep us in a parenting stage I’m just not ready to let go of yet. (Although at Luke’s physical his doctor brought up the subject of puberty and I.just.couldn’t. Just no...not yet! Hoping Luke is a late bloomer like his brothers!!)

I got Jay this card for our Anniversary....


...and an Almond Joy candy bar. Almond Joy is Jay’s favorite, and I think it sums up our lives pretty well: “A little nutty with a lot of sweetness and joy.”

My sweet, (with a side of sassy), Kate made us these thoughtful cards: 


"You love mom and it is strong"
"The world is big and so is your love with Dad"
I'm thinking she might have a future creating Hallmark cards;)

27 years with Jay summed up in three pictures:





I’m hoping for many, many more! I wouldn’t want to be on this wild ride called life with anyone else!




Monday, September 9, 2019

A New Name

I recently shared all of the amazing moments from my son, Andrew, and new daughter-in Law, Liz's, wedding. [If you missed it, you can read all about it here(the rehearsal dinner), here(the ceremony), and here(reception).]

I also wrote a post for Catholicmom about my thoughts as a mom on the wedding. And even though there was certainly a tremendous amount of joy, there was also some pockets of grief because even good change can be hard.

Head on over to Catholicmom to read my initial reflections on becoming a mother-in law.....

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

So.Much.Joy (Part 3: The Reception)

Andrew and Liz's reception was held at Independence Harbor. It's a beautiful venue only 20 minutes from the church that has amazing grounds! We took all of the pictures there and the colors are just amazing. I can't wait to see the professional pictures!

Andrew does not enjoy taking pictures. We were almost done taking all of the wedding party and family shots and he looked over at me and said, "I'm so glad this part is almost over!" To which I reminded him that he still had to take lots of couple shots with just him and Liz....and he groaned loudly. (Which made me laugh:)



Liz and Sarah



Me and Andrew



The bride and groom with the brides parents

Me and Jay with a photo bomb from Sarah




Andrew, Liz, Luke and Kate

I like this picture...it makes me laugh.
The way Andrew is walking reminds me of Elf.  

Andre and Liz with Jay's parents(left) and my parents(right)

Me, Andrew and Jay

Kate

Love the back of Kate's dress!



Andrew and Jon


Luke and Kate


Luke, Kate and Peter

Andrew and Mike

Kate and Luke with their cousins

Jon and Marisa..the future Mr. and Mrs(May 24, 2020)

Peter




I don't have any of the couple shots except one that was sent to me by one of Liz's aunts because once all the group photos were done, Jay and I headed in with the kids to mingle a little. Andrew wasn't tortured with pictures for that much longer(!), and we all lined up to be announced. I had made a sign for Jay and I to hold as we walked in. The sign idea was mine and it came about because it was stressing me out to think of something "cool" to do as we walked in....Jay and I are not the most graceful people...so "hiding" behind a sign and not having to look awkward doing some kind of dance move seemed like a good idea to me! (Plus, it gave everyone a good laugh!)


The wedding party all got announced and entered the party in a fun (and non awkward) way. Even Kate looked cute as she dabbed her way to the table. The bride and groom made their entrance to All-Star...another Shrek reference...and lots of cheering!

Jon and Victoria


Mike and Ellie
Keegan and Sarah
Kate loves being the center of attention...Luke, not so much!


The Bride and Groom

The Bride and Groom at their sweetheart table

The speech from the maid of honor was touching and the best man had everyone laughing. Liz's dad, Chris, gave an emotional speech that brought tears to more than a few eyes. Liz's family has had a tough year with the loss of some very close family members, so there has been a lot of sadness mixed with joy. And "giving away" your oldest daughter isn't too easy either, especially since she was moving an hour away. But Chris also said some really nice things about Andrew, and his family was cheering him on to finish all the beautiful words he had prepared.

And then, it was time to party!

The reception was so.much.fun! The music was great and people danced the entire time. There was so much energy...and some of the moves those "young people" had were pretty amazing.

The mother/son dance was another really unique moment. For months before the wedding, I had talked about doing something other than just a traditional mother/son dance. My motive was mostly to try and not get all emotional in the middle of the reception! Plus, I thought it would be fun! Two days before the wedding, Andrew decided that we should do a Rick Roll. A Rick Roll is when someone starts playing a song and then' partway through, Rich Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" breaks in. So we found a video on Youtube with some simple dance moves and practiced a lot...mostly apart but a few times together. I wasn't sure if we could pull it off, but I was willing to risk embarrassing myself in front of 125 people to try it!

No one knew what Andrew and I were doing except Jay. And in my worry about the dance moves, I forgot to ask someone to tape the dance from the beginning. Thankfully, a couple of my friends started recording as soon as the "Rick Roll" happened!

So, just imagine that Andrew and I are dancing to "Humble and Kind" by Tim McGraw. Then, 18 seconds into the dance, this happened......

https://photos.google.com/share/AF1QipM9NL7mxGNs-Ti1rVl9fIYq94iJtFn-905XUfy_5RdlyIewYlWxc_WORxe-PCZVTA?key=OW4yMkp5WndTek5hakI1eEo4MlcydzA2Q1RKRkhR

It wasn't perfect! Andrew and I won't be trying out for Dancing With the Stars anytime soon(!), but we have an awesome memory. I'm SO glad we did it!

Another special moment was when Andrew and three of his groomsmen who have been friends since high school, performed the choreographed dance that they had done in high school in their senior year for the Mr. Stang competition. This was a totally last minute decision that came up at the rehearsal dinner. The guys practiced several times the morning of the wedding...(because guys have very little to do to actually get ready!)...and it was another really memorable and entertaining moment!

Keegan, Jacob, John and Andrew


Another spur of the moment idea was the best man challenging the groom to a dance off...which was another really fun thing to watch! Jon is a lot more flexible than Andrew...and didn't know about Jon's idea until the dance happened...but Andrew was a good sport! The DJ declared it a tie...because the groom can't be overshadowed on his wedding day after all!

The whole night was so special! I wasn't sure how Peter would do for a whole evening of music and people, but he did amazing. He loved wearing his tux and he was a dancing machine! It made the night even more fun. Kate and Luke danced the night away as well! So many memories were made as we shared the moment with family and friends.

Me and Peter
Sarah and Peter


Jay and his Mom

Jay, his parents and sisters

Jay loves his little sisters<3





The party ended way past bed time and the flower girl didn't quite make it to the very end.

At the end of the night, the DJ..who was awesome!..announced the last dance and invited Mr. and Mrs. Hamel up to the center of the dance floor. Andrew looked over at Jay and was clearly looking for me as well...until Jay mouthed to Andrew, "He means you." And it dawned on Andrew that he and Liz were the Mr. and Mrs Hamel that the DJ was talking about. It made us all smile. :)

The day was just perfect from beginning to end! So many special memories! And, the best part, is that now we have another daughter in our family!


The newest Mr. and Mrs. Hamel

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

So.Much.Joy (PART 2)

The morning of the wedding was filled with sunshine! It was the perfect August day...sunny and warm with low humidity. It was such a blessing!

The day for the girls started bright and early. The make-up artist started at 7:30 and the two hair stylists started at 9:30.

One of my pre-wedding goals was to keep everyone well fed and hydrated. I made ham and cheese quiches and Jay made waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. (Strawberries waffles are Liz's favorite!) The day before I had made chocolate chip muffins, Andrew's favorite, so the guys would have something for breakfast at his apartment. There was plenty for everyone!

The morning of the wedding was so special. It was filled with joy, laughter and peace....as well as random dance parties and singing. Having all of these beautiful young women getting ready to share in such a special day just filled my heart. (Jay's, too) We just kept trying to soak in the moment.

Kate's up-do

Ellie's up do




Kate and her future sil, Marisa



The beautiful bouquets!

One of my favorite things! Sarah had adult coloring cards and the girls all joined in!
It was relaxing for them...in between the dancing and singing. :)


More coloring and make-up in the background




Victoria's up do (maid of honor and sister of the bride)

Liz's parents were with us the whole morning as well. I can't express enough how grateful we are that, not only did Andrew marry into a very loving, faithful family, but Jay and I have felt that our families have bonded in a special way. Liz's parents, Patti and Chris, are such kind, generous people and we have enjoyed spending time getting to know them over the last year. Liz's sister, Victoria, has really hit it off with Ellie and Sarah and they have become friends as well. It's been an added blessing that the daughter-in-law we love so much comes with such a great family! Being able to experience and share in the early morning festivities with all of them just made it that much more special. (And Chris was extremely helpful in running out to grab things we ran out of! He saved the day when we ran low on bobby pins!!)

At lunch time, Jay and Chris picked up several orders of wings and headed to Andrew's apartment for a special lunch with the guys. Unlike the girls who spent the morning prepping and primping, the guys spent the morning sleeping, playing games, and practicing a special dance for the reception.(more on that in Part 3!)

Quick side story...Jay stopped by Cumberland Farms to grab some Coke and Dr. Pepper the guys requested. Jay had Luke with him and didn't want him hyped up on caffeine for the afternoon. So he got him a chill zone instead. More specifically, a blue raspberry chill zone. (Maybe you moms know where this is going.) Luke had drank a third of it by the time they got to Andrew's. When they walked in, Mike and Andrew looked at Jay and said, "Dad, what did you do?!? The pictures!" It was then that Jay realized Luke's teeth and tongue were completely blue! So the chill zone was disposed of and Jay spent some time scrubbing Luke's teeth and tongue with paper towels!

Lunch for the girls consisted of sandwiches and fruit. The morning and early afternoon passed quickly and before we knew it, dresses were put on and we were waiting for the bride to emerge. Liz looked absolutely beautiful!

And just like that....it was go time! Liz and Andrew got married at our Church just a few minutes away. The Mass started at 3pm...Mercy Hour...which is fitting because of our love of Divine Mercy and St. Faustina and the Polish heritage that both Andrew and Liz share.

The ceremony was beautiful...filled with a grace that I could feel. Andrew and Liz chose to live a chaste relationship, something extremely counter cultural in today's society. I've attended two other weddings,  a friend's many years ago and our God child's wedding 3 years ago, where the bride and groom had made the same choice. And at both of those weddings I had that same feeling. Just so much grace because both the bride and groom were open to receiving all God had to give them. It is truly a special experience.

The wedding itself felt surreal. I kept saying in my head, "Andrew is actually getting married!" It was a lot to take in and process. All the months of planning had led to that special moment. And, again, I tried to just soak it in.

Andrew and Jon, brother and best man

Andrew's face as Liz walked up the aisle
#priceless

Liz and her Dad





In the days leading up to the wedding, Andrew and his brothers had come up with a list of who would cry first at the wedding. Liz, Liz's mom, Jay's mom, and his sister, Julie, were all at the top of the list. Julie had texted me the morning of the wedding...she had called Jay's mom and was talking about the wedding and they both started crying. So, technically they "won". But, other than tearing up a little before the vows, Liz didn't cry at all. She was just so happy! Liz kept looking over at Andrew during the wedding with a giant smile on her face...and his smile back at her was just heart warming. (And because it was the middle of Mass I didn't take any pictures...those images are just in my heart so you will have to take my word for it;)

And just like that....I Do's were exchanged, the new Mr. kissed his bride, and we were off to take lots of pictures and to celebrate. The reception was so.much.fun...and will have a post of it's own! So stay tuned for PART 3 very soon!

In the meantime...

...........a picture is worth a thousand words...


The wedding party

All the girls

All the guys plus Peter


Andrew and Kate have a special bond<3


Sometimes it's hard being the flower girl.....

Liz's beautiful dress and cathedral veil


And on to their own version of Happily Ever After....