Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Birthday, Katie!

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Katie: Big hug, little hug. What begins with hug?
Mommy: Love.
Katie beams at Mommy and they give each other a warm hug and kiss at bedtime.

I cannot believe that my baby is four years old already. Where did the time go? All day yesterday I was flashing back to memorable moments of her through the years. She has grown up so much!

Since Katie’s birthday fell on a Monday, we had her parties on the weekend. I knew that it would be too overwhelming if we did everything at once. So, on Saturday we had her friend party. It was inside the Carousel Building of the Beardsley Zoo. Guests rode the merry-go-round four times, made animal-shaped picture frames, had lunch, and participated in an animal encounter. Katie asked for a bunny. The staff surprised us and not only had a bunny, but also their new turtle from Russia. It was like The Tortoise and the Hare right in front of us! The children enjoyed it very much. When it came time to blow out her candles and make a wish, Katie said she did not want to make a wish. She felt she already had everything for which she could ever wish. I could not be more proud of how she is becoming such a humble, unselfish and moral person.

Saturday also brought another surprise…one of the worst storms the county has seen in decades. Yup, torrents of rain fell upon us. The Norwalk River flooded cars in parking lots. Rings End, less than a mile down the road, was under water when we drove past it early Sunday morning. The deluge of rain was coupled with 70 mph winds. Power outages caused by falling trees occurred everywhere. Many schools are still out today and it is Tuesday! Every which way we turned to get home from the zoo was blocked off. There were not enough emergency crews to handle all the damage. We even saw a huge tree land on top of a car! By the time we got home, it was 4:45 pm. Phillip dozed off. Peter, who never naps, crashed on the couch and was out within seconds. Katie summed it up best when she said to me, “I am happy for my presents. I want to see what’s inside, but I just want to go to bed.” And with that, she changed into her comfy and cozy pajamas before crawling into our bed for a short nap while I made a light dinner.

Sunday we ventured out to my grandmother’s house for the family party. The driving was okay. It rained until we got just outside of Vernon. State workers were still clearing trees off the Merritt Parkway when were on it. The drive back was better as we took 91 to 95 in order to avoid the single lane movement on the Merritt.

Grandma made Katie a beautiful sweater with a matching hat. It is so soft. Katie has rarely taken it off since receiving it! My mother came over and we all shared a nice supper. Katie loved all her presents and kept commenting to me that it was such a wonderful birthday. On the car ride home, Katie and Phillip played their own version of “Keep Away” with the animal Katie received from Mom. Their giggles made Peter and I smile. It made the time on the road disappear.

Since yesterday was Katie’s actual birthday, we had a perfectly quiet and calm family dinner at home. Mom and our neighbors called to wish Katie a happy birthday. Peter called from work to talk to her just before he headed home. Katie, while admiring the tablescape, said, “Ooooo! It is just so beautiful. It is the loveliest party ever, ever. The beautifulest! I just love it, Mommy! I love my beautiful party.” The table was bedecked with princesses (of course). When Katie saw her presents from us, she commented, “There are princesses on my presents, too!” referring to the wrapping paper. We shared a meal, played with our Princess Tiana party blowers, and laughed. As she was enjoying cake, it was my turn to serenade Katie with songs I created just for her. She swayed in her seat to the music and Phillip piped in several times with an enthusiastic “Happy!” More giggles, more fun.

Phillip was so cute at bedtime. After I put him to bed, I heard him chattering. Turns out he was singing “Happy Birthday” in his own toddler way. What a fitting ending for such a perfect evening!

My baby is four years old already. Since she did not make her wish when blowing out candles, let me make one for her. I wish that she remains the “beautifulest” inside and out her whole, long, healthy, peaceful and blessed life.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


“The harder you work in fifth grade, the easier sixth grade will be; and the harder you work in sixth grade, the easier seventh grade will be…”
“So it never ends? But when do I get to rest?”
“You can rest anytime you choose. You just have to decide if that is the right choice for you to make.”
“Nothing will be handed to you in this lifetime. If you want something, if you set your mind to it, then work hard. Put in the effort to make it happen.”
“Don’t forget your poem.”
“Family is the most important thing. But if a family member does not embody the same values as you, remove them for your life. Remove the toxin. Surround yourself only with people, friends and family, who represent what you believe in.”
“Look all around you. Isn’t the wonder of His beauty amazing?”
“I am proud of you, kiddo.”
“I love you.”
March cannot begin without me thinking about my dad. I think about him daily, of course, but I have been bothered by something. When the pastor of my father’s choosing asked me to write a eulogy, I couldn’t do it. I wrote the obituary. I did all the tasks set forth before me in the manner my father requested when we spoke in private shortly before he became incoherent. But I could not write a eulogy. For these last couple of years I have tried to write a blog entry. I can’t.

I remember his last words to me. We were having one of our private, albeit brief, conversations in his hospital room. He had just begun Hospice care. I told him about how I kept seeing butterflies whenever I thought about him. There were dozens of them. I, however, never saw the butterflies at any other time. In the back of my mind, I knew the religious significance of the butterflies, but refused to fully acknowledge it. It was as if I admitted their symbolism, then I would be ushering in his passing sooner than if I denied their meaning.

He cried when I mentioned the butterflies. I knew that he, being a deeply spiritual man, was thinking about the religious connotation as well. His final words to me -so hard for him to utter- were, “Butterfly, butterfly. I love you.” He then closed his eyes with tears down his cheeks.

I asked him to send me a butterfly and he nodded that he would…

The afternoon before he passed away, Katie was watching Sesame Street, so the poor man had to listen to a children’s show on his speakers. Peter was talking with Mom. I held Dad’s hand, leaned in close, and recited the rosary with him and an additional Lord’s Prayer. Somehow I knew I was saying my final good-bye and I could hardly get through the prayers. Choking back tears as to not worry others in the room, I quietly whispered that it was okay to go. That I knew God was waiting for him and that all will be well here. Not to worry about Mom, Grandma, or me. Not to worry about what will happen to himself as God would hold him tight.

In his last act of compassion for others, Dad waited until his best friend from childhood, Bill Senk, was with him. Dad did not want Mom to go through the pain of watching his spirit leave his body. He knew she would have too much grief as it was at the time.

And, he sent me my butterfly.