Happy Birthday, Dani (2013)

I promise this is not a birth story. I already did that, Here.)

Dani at dinner with her Fried Ice Cream last night

Ten years ago today, it had rained beginning on a Friday night and had rained non-stop Saturday. It actually continued to rain through Monday that Labor Day weekend. It was that heavy, rain that is heavy enough you know it is going to last a while, but not torrential or anything (in our region).

I found out from my doctor on Friday, August 29, 2003 that my pregnancy was continuing fine (due date was September 11) but that I had low fluid. He said if I didn’t want to drive to his office every other day for the duration of the pregnancy to get that checked, he was okay with inducing — the baby looked fine and ready for that. So on Saturday, I set about grabbing the last few things we needed from the store (in the heavy rainfall), toting Sarah around with me. Craig was working his part-time shift so it was just the two of us. We went to Mass, then dropped Sarah off at her Grandma’s and headed to the hospital for induction.

Dani was born on a Sunday. And it was Labor Day weekend and I got so much attention at the hospital that I wondered if I was the only person who had a baby that weekend. 🙂 

Raising Dani has been my first experience with the mommy-guilt associated with splitting time and attention between two children. Of course, since we’ve gone at this having children thing a total of six times now, you can see I got over it. But a wise man, a father of eight, calmed my fears one day when I mentioned to him how I felt guilty that Dani wasn’t getting the one-on-one attention Sarah had gotten and wasn’t learning her letters and colors as fast as Sarah had. He said, “Michelle…Dani was born into a situation with a built-in best friend. She doesn’t need 100% of your time and attention because she has Sarah.” There was more to what he said, but that’s the gist of it and I couldn’t be more pleased that I adopted this mindset because having more children has never caused me the anxiety that I could have imagined back then.

A couple weeks ago, holding her cousin, Gunnar

At 10 years old, Dani is my child that most loves just BEING who she is at the time she is. She doesn’t aspire to be five or ten years older than she is. She doesn’t WANT to grow up quickly. She enjoys the present more than anyone I know. She teaches me daily what it means to live in the present, to eschew the past and not pine for the future. It’s such a blessing to watch her enjoy playing with dolls, reading fantasy books, continue the imaginary play long past the point that Sarah did. 

Dani’s faith seems to me that she truly embraces the idea of a “child-like” faith. She is not as serious as Sarah always was. Dani has the element of joy that comes with her faith experiences. 

Unfortunately that means that when the less pleasant aspects of our human lives infringe on the joyful, Dani takes it harder than the others. The funeral for Gregory was something that touched Dani in her sad realm. It destroyed just a tiny bit of her innocence, but I like how she found the positive quickly thereafter. I remember taking Dani and her sisters out for dinner the Sunday after Gregory died. Dani was talking about sharing with a friend at school her sorrow at losing her baby brother. But then she said, “And then I realized, it’s really a great thing…I have a brother in Heaven interceding for me directly to God! Isn’t that really cool, (friend)? My family has our own little Saint!” And it brought tears to my eyes then and sobs to my chest, but now it still brings tears to my eyes but a smile to my face.

My sweet, serious, sensitive, smart girl. I love her so much and am so amazed at the beautiful young lady she has become!

Happy Birthday, Dani!!

Happy Birthday!!!!!



Happy Birthday, baby girl!

Today is Helen’s 7th birthday!

Helen and I have an intense relationship.  It was so from the beginning.  She was the baby I was determined to breastfeed.  And I did.  For about 5 months.  

Things were different with Helen from before birth actually.  I prayed for a baby that wanted her momma.  I did.  Sarah was my oldest and far too independent to “cling” to anyone.  Dani was a “Daddy’s girl.”  I told people throughout, “This one is MY baby.”  I was quite possessive of her future emotions.  I wanted her to want me like no one had ever wanted me.  I needed it.  I needed to have a close bond with a child from the get-go.

And…I got it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have a strong relationship with Sarah and Dani and Dominic and Vincent.  But I also have a different relationship with each of them.  And the intensity varies.  And Helen’s and my relationship is, by far, the most intense of them all.

The nursing relationship was interesting.  We co-slept and she reverse-cycled and nursed and slept with me in my bed until 6 a.m. and would often sleep until 2 p.m. in the afternoon while I was at work.  I ended up needing no pumping because she never took it anyway.  She only wanted me to hold her and I never objected.  I carried her around in a sling, I carried her around making dinner.  From the time I got home in the evenings until the next morning basically, I would hold her and she would fuss and scream if I had to put her down (which of course, I did have to do, to take care of the others).

The toddler years maintained the intensity.  Helen would cling to me.  She had eyes only for me.  She loved me “the most.” She had (and still has) a direct connection to my heart.  

As she has moved into the schooling years, I marvel at her because I always thought her need for attention from me, displayed with her defiant and often ornery behavior would spill over at school and the teachers would have to send notes home telling me that she needed to behave better or something.  But instead I get lovely notes from the teacher saying she is a “great example to others” and parents of other children who tell me how cute and sweet my Helen is and the kids seem to love her as well.  

I’m very over-protective of Helen because of my own body-image issues.  I build her up as much as I can because I don’t want her to think or say that she “has fat thighs”.  I want her to understand that God made her beautiful and she has a strong, athletic body that will never betray her.  

Today we have a birthday party scheduled at the skating rink.  Helen got an American Girl look-alike doll (which she named “Jessica”) for her birthday and literally fell in love with her.  It’s so cute to watch her carry Jessica around with her through the house and play with her and take care of her.  

I am so blessed to have this sweet, beautiful baby girl in my life.  I never deserved such a complete answer to my fervent prayer for a baby who loved me and needed me.  But I’m so thankful God saw fit to send her anyway.


My Little Buddy is 4 Years Old Today!

Happy Birthday, Dominic!

Four years ago, you were born on a snowy, wintery day. You are my first son. From the minute they left you alone on the warmer, and you were alert, but quiet, and you draped your leg over the edge like you were just “hanging out, dude”… from that moment, I knew you were a laid back kid. I had a hunch you would be “just like your daddy” and you really are in so many respects.

 For starters, you’re the spittin’ image:

All of my boys in Nov 2012
Dominic at 3 years 11 months


I have been known to say that I carried you in my womb for 9+ months, but that’s pretty much the only obvious way to tell you’re not a Craig-Clone. 🙂

But not only are you a look-alike model of your daddy, you are compassionate and sweet and oh-so-smart! You have a wit that most people would die for. You find the perfect opportunity to say something funny and you make people laugh. You are happy and full of beautiful life!

You have taught me so much.

You started preschool this year…wow!

Dominic all ready for his 1st day of preschool!
Dominic with his preschool teacher

You have such a way with people and it’s amazing because you are so young!  You like to make faces…

Dominic’s “Home Alone” face

Dominic’s pensive look
You enjoy yourself and you are a pretty cool cat…

I could never have imagined all the blessings bestowed on our family because you are here. You’re a wonderful baby brother to your sisters and a loving big bro to Vincent. You’re a sensitive boy who avoids getting in trouble or having to sit in time-out. 

You have the sweetest demeanor about you…

yes, it seems like it is ALL. THE. TIME.
Happy Birthday, Little Buddy.  
Your mommy loves you more than you could ever know.  
You’re gonna knock ’em dead as a 4-year-old!

Five Years Ago

Five years ago this week, I was miserable.  I mean, I was carrying around a big baby.  We didn’t know how big, but we could tell she was big.  She was so big, I had told the doctor, “This baby feels big.”
My due date was February 26, but the doctor stripped my membranes at my February 21st appointment and scheduled me to arrive at the hospital the night of February 22nd to begin preparing for induction.
We arrived late on the 22nd.  We had taken the time to go out to eat with Sarah and Dani, and tuck them in at their Grandma’s house.  So we arrived around 9:30.  Well, the nurses had expected me to arrive at 7:00.  Oops.
They checked me and I was already dilated to 4 cm, so they couldn’t do what they were scheduled to do that night.  And seeing how hospitals are not hotels, they sent me home.  We went back to Craig’s mom’s house and he slept on the couch next to me in a chair.  I was miserable, but we weren’t going to drive all the way home (the hospital was about 45 minutes away from our house) when I just had to be back at the hospital at 7:00 a.m. next morning.
We showed up at 7:00 a.m. after a big breakfast and they got things rolling.  Doctor broke my water around 8:45 a.m. and by 10:30, I asked for an epidural.  Something I have always done is labored as long as I possibly could without an epidural, hoping to avoid the stalling in labor I have always heard about with epidurals.  Well, the anesthesiologist took his sweet time…I think at 12:00, he still had not shown up to put it in.  Even the nurse was angry with him!  I had stalled at about 6 cm and was in a lot of pain.  Finally, I got the epidural (amid lots of shouts of, “this is my 3rd kid, don’t explain it to me, just put the **** thing in!”)  Within 30 minutes of getting the epidural, I was to a 9, and by 1:45 p.m., I was ready to push.  Epidurals speed my labor like nothing else. 
And at 2:06 p.m. on February 23, 2006, my Helen Olivia was born.  All Nine pounds Eight ounces of her!  She screamed from the get-go and had one-month-old’s thighs (as the nurses kept saying).  A side note:  I absolutely intend, should she ever complain about her thighs to be sure and tell her she came into the world with those thighs…God gave ’em to her so she better be nice!  🙂
Helen is a family name.  My paternal grandmother’s name is Helen.  My father’s only sister claims Helen as her middle name.  My first given name is Helen (my parents always called me by my middle name).  Helen is the perfect name for my third-born daughter. 
Helen is my “mini-me.”  I have often said that there are times when I just don’t know what to do with Helen because I don’t always know what to do with myself.  I want to scream at Helen sometimes and try to make her see that she is so stubborn she’s really going to blow it and nothing is going to save her.  And that’s because I know from experience. 
And then there are the times that I am amazed at how smart and kind and self-aware Helen is and I think…maybe she’s not that much like me.  Of course, she’s my cuddle-bug.  She is a “mama’s girl” through and through.  She has been from the day she was born.  She was the child I held all the time wondering if she would be my last baby.  She’s the only one I had the wherewithal and the courage and the perseverance to nurse for any length of time (5 months).  One of these days, I’ll have to scan in some pics I have of myself at age 5 and you all can see that she is the one of my children that looks the most like me (the others favor their father much more).  
Helen is sweet…
happy and funny…
beautiful and eccentric…
sometimes loud, assertive, but mostly cool and collected…
Happy birthday to my beautiful brown-eyed blondie.  

We Have A Birthday!

Two years ago, today, I’d checked into the hospital the night before to begin Cervadill and begin the process of inducing labor.  The night went by quickly with regular checks and contractions started sometime around 3:00 a.m.  The doctor stopped by around 7:00 and broke my water.  The contractions started coming a bit harder and faster and lasting a bit longer.  I was able to breathe through them ok, though.  My husband, my helpmate, my rock through all of my labors and deliveries was there with me.  We opened up the blinds and saw a winter wonderland in front of us…it had snowed during the night.
I asked for an epidural around 10:30 and was able to get one fairly quickly (for a Friday) and my husband and I commenced playing Cribbage and listening to the radio.  The nurse on duty was the same nurse on duty when we’d had Helen three years before.  She and Craig had known each other in college (her best friend and Craig’s best friend had dated for awhile) so we talked, caught up and all of that jazz.  
Even with the epidural, I could feel the pressure of the contractions.  I do not see this a failure of the epidural, I like still feeling some pressure…but it did remind me just how painful those contractions could be without the epidural (I’m not much on pain).  Soon, it was time to push.  As the doc arrived, he brought someone with him and asked could she observe (she was a med or nursing student, can’t remember which).  I just said, “Hey, I’m gonna do my thing…she’s welcome, it’s not going to change how we proceed.”  So, I pushed.  and I pushed.  My husband helped count to 10 through each push.  Finally, that head crowned and the body proceeded out with following contractions and my beautiful baby boy was born!  At 1:16 p.m. on 1/16/09.
We have been so blessed by Dominic’s presence in our lives.  The girls have a baby brother to care for, to hang out with and to learn from.  Dominic is one of those people you just have to experience.  He is fun, gentle, sweet-tempered, and laughs easily.  Dominic is the kind of kid that makes you want to have another baby.  The importance of his addition to our family is difficult to put into words.  All of our children are miracles, but they each bring a unique perspective to life, to our family, and Dominic is no different.  
Dominic’s smile, his very presence, illuminates the true meaning of the gift of life.  Thank you, God, for sending us our little Dominic.  He completes us all in ways that we never could have foreseen.
Happy Birthday, Dominic!!!