Thursday, January 7, 2016

Ryan James: 6!

Dear Ryan,

Two thousand, one hundred and 90 days ago you came into this world. You did not come willingly or on time (you were 9 days late, and came via c-section after all the pitocin (a special medicine given to mommies to help get the baby to come out) in the world didn't make you budge, not even one little millimeter) but ever since you have been here you have nestled yourself into our hearts and our lives and we can't imagine life without you.

This past year was a year full of much change for you. We put the only home you ever knew up for sale. Throughout this process you were excellent at reminding your brothers, "We can't make a mess so someone will buy this house!" and you were helpful in running around and cleaning up whenever someone wanted to come look at the house at the last minute. After a few weeks, someone wanted to buy the house and we had to move out a lot quicker than we expected. On July 2nd (mine and Daddy's 10th wedding anniversary....what a way to celebrate! ;) we moved into NeeNee and PopPop's house for the next four months. We were so grateful to have their home opened up to us, and in many ways, it was the perfect "second home," but living there was harder on you than I expected. You were used to your beloved NeeNee and PopPop only seeing you at your absolute best, and even the best kids like you have rough moments. And it was hard for you to have those moments in front of two people you adore so much. But, you persevered and so did we right along side you.

Then, in August you started Kindergarten. You had to "commute" to Kindergarten while we lived with NeeNee and PopPop and I thought for sure you would come home every day grouchy and tired and miserable. But you didn't. Not even once. Watching you walk into school on your very first day, barely looking back to give me a quick wave, I swelled with pride. Here you were, in the midst of the biggest changes you'd experienced to date in your short little life and you were just rocking it. And you've been rocking school every day since. You are inquisitive, eager, and creative. You want to learn and you're doing a fantastic job.

Finally, on November 11th we moved into our beautiful new home, and watching you continue to blossom as we were once again in our own space has been a joy. You are back to your old self, and it makes my heart so happy to see you growing and developing into such a kind, independent, confident, loving, thoughtful, and inquisitive little man.

 Being in our new house one of my favorite things has been watching the way your relationships with your brothers are growing. In our new house you have space to play independently and come up with fun games together. You wrestle and argue, and play, and jump, bounce and run. You ride bikes and chase each other around inside and out because there is plenty of room to do all those things. You certainly have your moments when your brothers drive you crazy, but most of the time I can tell the three of you really do love each other and there is nothing that brings me greater happiness than watching those relationships develop. Remember, they're the only brothers you've got. One day, they will be the people who knew you longer than anyone else. They will be your links to the past and the future and I hope you cherish those relationships forever. Zachary and Connor look up to you so much. They want to be like you. And Ryan, if you keep on the track you're on now, then they couldn't have a better role model.

And yet, I write all this, not to make you sound perfect. You're not. You have your faults as we all do, and as I would expect you to. You hate to lose, and you get frustrated when you do. We're working on that. You don't always listen the first time, but, you're improving. You sometimes talk back in a way that Daddy and I find disrespectful. Sometimes you're a little too rough when playing with Zachary. But one of the biggest signs of your growth is your own realization when you've made a mistake and the increasing frequency with which you apologize on your own, and that, makes me a very, very proud Mama.

Recently, in a continuing sign of how much older you are, Daddy and I agreed to let you get your first pet (besides Rocky the beta fish who bit the dust shortly after we moved out of our old house....RIP Rocky). So, this year, for your birthday, you got two pet rats, yes...rats. Rizzy and Ryder (we let Zach name one...even though we all know they're really both yours) joined our family a week and a half ago and so far, they're proving pretty fun. They're still getting used to us, but even Daddy and I think they're cute, and I love watching you care for them and enjoy them. They'll be a learning experience for sure.

When I write these posts I try to take time to talk about what it is you most like and enjoy. You played soccer on a team this year for the first time and while you didn't love it, you enjoyed it and were very proud of the trophy you got (which I explained was for being a good sport and working hard, because, the whole "everyone gets a trophy no matter what thing" is just ridiculous. ;) And a few weeks ago you started basketball, and I am your assistant coach. You seem to like basketball more than soccer and that couldn't make me happier. I secretly hope this is a love we will share. 

But, if I had to list one thing, that you love more than anything else I would say you love people, specifically, your family. If you could, you would choose to spend your days surrounded by those you love the most: Daddy, me, Zachary, & Connor, your beloved cousins Caitlin and Julia, NeeNee & PopPop, and your Aunts and Uncles who adore you. You'd have Grandma and Grandpa visit every weekend and you'd share all your favorite things with all of these favorite people as often as possible: Star Wars, riding bikes/scooters (though we still need to work on getting those training wheels off), making pearler bead creations, learning about volcanoes and space,  going on treasure hunts, eating pizza and chicken tenders.

Earlier this year, two days after we moved out of our old house we went on vacation with our entire family to Bethany Beach. This added to the chaos and unpredictability of life at the time, but you loved every minute of "having all the people [you] love all in one big house," as you so aptly put it. I love the way you love your family so much. It is truly heartwarming. When we returned from that vacation, you would cry every night at bedtime for a week or so because you "just missed everyone being together so much." Weeks later, when you came across a stuffed animal you won while on vacation the tears started again and you explained, "I just had so much fun being with everyone." It wasn't what we did on vacation that you loved so much. It was who we were with, and I just love that about you. I hope this love of family is something you carry with you forever.

And while you adore your family members, your circle of people you're becoming comfortable with and wanting to spend time with is growing. You don't think twice about spending a few hours outside with our new neighbors. You love getting to go to Mrs. Becky's house to play with Emily, Drew, and "Madz," and you love being in school with your teacher and classmates. You've had sleepovers at Auntie Catharine's and Uncle Mark's (where eating a whole bag of skittles was the highlight!) and NeeNee and PopPop's and the fact that you are comfortable being away from us is a sign of your maturity and growth. 

Ryan James DeBoy Caminiti, when you were growing in my belly I had so many dreams of the person you would become. So far, you are more amazing than I ever dreamed you would be. I cannot wait to watch you grow over the many decades ahead of us. I believe in you completely. I know if you continue to persevere, to seek joy, to ask good questions, to notice when people are being unkind, and choose not to just sit back when you notice that, to love, be respectful, and follow your heart in all you do, then without a doubt, there are amazing things ahead. I am so privileged to have a front row seat.

Happy 6th birthday, sweet boy! As you told me the other night, "I love you to the farthest planet in the universe that they haven't even discovered yet, and back!"



Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Why You Won't Find Us in Church this Christmas

To be fair, my husband and I are not very religious. We were both raised Catholic, we went to Boston College, one of the top Catholic Universities in the Country, but to say we have grown disillusioned with our Church of late is an understatement. Additionally, with the strong theological background I got from Boston College, and being raised in a family where questioning was encouraged, I can honestly say, there is much about the Catholic faith I no longer believe. And yet, if you asked me, I would still identify as Catholic. Being Catholic is not just about the doctrine to me, it is also very cultural. Much of my childhood is wrapped up in the traditions of my family's Catholic faith and that is indeed something that is important to me and something my husband and I both want to pass on to our children. So, while we rarely go to church, we still see the value in a Church community.   We have the intention of going to church more regularly when our children are older and can get more out of it. But presently, it is not how we choose to spend our Sunday mornings. But, we have always made a point to go on the "big days." Yes, we are one of the "hypocrites" (as my father-in-law would call us) that make it difficult for all the regular church-goers to get a seat on Christmas and Easter.

For the past 5 years we have traipsed each of our kids (currently almost 6, almost 3, and 14 months) to mass on Christmas eve. We get dressed in our dressy Christmas clothes. We get there early (at least 30 minutes) to try to get a seat, though we never do. If we got there early enough to get a seat (at least an hour) our kids would be DONE before mass even started. So, we cram into the back of the church where our kids can't see anything and have to stand. We try to engage them. We explain what is happening. We lift them up to watch the beautiful Christmas pageant that is so well done by the kids, but they can neither see nor hear very well. We try to be overly enthusiastic when singing songs in order to keep their attention. And despite all our best efforts we each end up taking turns walking the kids around outside, trying to distract them, and feeding them Cheerios. No one really gets anything out of it.  My husband and I had a long chat about how we could spend this time in a more meaningful way. So, this year will be different.

On Christmas Eve during the time that we would be going to church, we will instead be taking our children to a homeless shelter for women and children that serves our local community. We will go to Sarah's House and bring food, diapers, and toys for each of the 30 children who currently call this shelter home. This past Sunday the boys shopped with Daddy for the food, taking the time to talk about what kind of healthy food we should get, while including a few kid friendly snacks like Goldfish. Yesterday they shopped for diapers with me, and we also picked out 30 small toys. Ryan and Zachary were so engaged in choosing small toys that "any kid" could like since we don't know the ages of the kids. At one point I said, "what can we get for the babies?" Clearly, the fact that we had bought diapers hadn't really clicked with Ryan yet and he said, "Babies live there? There are babies who don't have a home?" The sadness and hurt on his little face was heartbreaking. And yet, he then immediately got to searching for the perfect toy for a baby, while also realizing that we don't know how many babies there are. So, he chose a collection of balls saying, "Babies love balls! But big kids can have fun with them too!" He turned his sadness about the realization that yes, there are babies that don't have a home into action. And that is a skill I hope my boys will carry with them far in life.

In addition to the toys, food, and diapers, Ryan, Zachary and I have been working on 30 hand made cards to go with each of the toys. We've talked a lot about how living in a homeless shelter, despite being surrounded by other people can be a very lonely experience. We've talked about how sometimes the people who live there might feel forgotten, and that by making these cards and giving these gifts we hope that each of the children and their parents will feel a little less forgotten this Christmas.

Our intent is to make this a tradition each Christmas for our family. I also hope to volunteer at this shelter with the boys throughout the year so that when we donate at Christmas time, it is a tangible place that they know and have a relationship with.

None of this is to say that Church isn't meaningful. And certainly, we could go to church and do what we're doing for the shelter, and one day, when the kids are a bit older, we will do both. But for now, this is what makes sense for our family. We will begin our Christmas Eve with the reading of the book I created for the kids the first year I was a mom. It's called "The True Meaning of Christmas" and it is a book that talks about how Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus. We've read this book often. But we will read it again.  It explains that we celebrate Jesus' birth because he was a good man, who treated everyone with kindness and compassion, and who taught others how to live the same way. It doesn't even mention Jesus being the son of God...because if we're being honest, I'm not certain he is. I'll leave it to my kids to decide for themselves what they believe. But at the very least, I can fully embrace celebrating Christmas as a way to remember a man who lived life the way we should all seek to live our lives: in the service of the greater good. And so, this Christmas, my kids won't hear the Nativity story at mass. But they will experience a little taste of what it means to live like Jesus...and that, that is what Christmas is all about.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 1 Year!

My Dearest Connor,
Today you turned 1! Yes, one YEAR old! I spent much of today looking back at pictures and video of you being born. It was an amazing day…One I will never forget. I realized as I was looking at these pictures that I never really shared the video of your birth. Initially I didn’t because we weren’t supposed to take video. But, I’m fairly certain that ever since the story of your birth aired on NPR, with audio from the video we took that most of the world knows we recorded it. So, I’ve made a special video for you. (For anyone viewing it, it is a video of a surgery. So, there is blood. And yes, it is a video of a birth, so my chest is bare. Don’t watch if either of those things offend or bother you). Every time I watch this video I cry tears of joy. Connor, your birth was an AMAZING day. And Daddy and I are so very happy we got to spend your very first minutes on this earth, with you, together.

But as amazing as those early minutes were, the past year has been even better. You are just a joy to be around. I call you “Happy Connor C” when I tag pictures of you on Instagram and it continues to be true. You are rarely sad. The only times you cry are if you’re tired or hungry, and even then, you’re amazingly tolerant of our busy life with three boys that has you eating and sleeping on much less of a schedule than your older brothers were ever on. You’re a happy little guy who is happy to go wherever we go. Though, more and more you want to be up and about and are no longer content to just stay in the carrier snuggled against Mama or in the stroller.  So, outings are more interesting these days, but you still make traveling with three kiddos pretty easy, considering!

You love your brothers, you love your NeeNee and PopPop, you love Mommy and Daddy, and you love books! Boy do you love books. You love books more than any one year old I have ever met, including your brothers! You especially love the “That’s Not My….” touch and feel books and if you could, you would snuggle in someone’s lap all day long and have them read to you. Every morning, when Nee Nee or Pop Pop wakes up (because we are living at their house right now while we wait for our new house to be built) the first thing you do is grab a book, hand it to them, and wait for them to scoop you into their lap to read. It’s adorable, and I think it is one of the things you, NeeNee and PopPop will miss most once we move into our own house!

You continue to be a good eater. You are MUCH more of an adventurous eater than either of your brothers was at this age. You will try pretty much anything and so far there are few things you don’t like. I hope it stays this way, because having at least one kid who eats well is wonderful! (To be fair, Ryan is getting better….Zachary is still one of the pickiest eaters I have ever met!).

Sleep is another issue….but that’s Mommy and Daddy’s fault. We’ve spoiled you. We let you sleep in our bed once you wake up and I’m not sure how we will ever break you of this habit. Oh well, you’re only little once. I’ve made the song lyric, “let them sleep in the middle, oh, let them be little” our theme song. J

Connor, you are a wonderful addition to our family. We are so glad you’re ours and we cannot wait to watch you grow over the next year and all the many years after that. We cannot wait to watch the relationships with your brothers continue to develop. We hope the three of you will be best friends. We can't wait to see you develop even stronger bonds with the many people in this world who love you. You're a special little boy and it is clear that you have a special way of finding your way into the hearts of people who meet you. We love you so, so, so very much! Happy 1st birthday sweet boy!

Love always,


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Connor Matthew: 11 Months

Dearest Connor,

Somehow we are only one month away from your 1st birthday. I truly cannot believe it. While Ryan started Kindergarten this week, and I somehow did not get too emotional about that, I can tell you with certainty that I will be VERY emotional when you turn one. You're my sweet baby. My last. My littlest guy. I wish I could just stop time and keep you this little forever. And yet, you're such a joyful, special little boy that I am simultaneously excited to see what the future holds and to learn more about the little person you will become.

So, what have you been up to in the past month? Well, you continue to be our "HappyConnorC" who smiles constantly. You laugh the funniest laugh. Its actually more of a cackle. You babble and "talk" all the time. You seem to constantly be "saying" something, though we often have no idea what it is. You also do this rather obnoxious yelling thing anytime you want something or someone. You point and yell and reach for whatever it is you want. I do not remember your brothers doing this and I'm not quite sure how to get you to stop! While I am confident that I will never have to worry about you making your voice heard as the youngest of three boys, I am eager for you to be able to say actual words instead of yelling!

But you do have a few actual words. You say "Mama" very clearly and often. I hear you say Dada too, sometimes, but its more often when Daddy isn't here and you seem to be looking for him. You say "Ha" and "Bah" (hi and bye) and wave while doing so. And goodness do you LOVE to wave! You wave at anyone and everyone and you bring frequent smiles to strangers everywhere we go. One of my favorite things about having a baby in tow is the ability to bring joy to other people with such ease. Connor, you do this so naturally as a little guy and I hope that is a trait that will stay with you throughout your life.

You are a great eater, and not such a great sleeper. I may have finally figured out how to avoid a picky eater by the third kid (you'll eat just about anything I put in front of you), but the sleep thing I still haven't figured out. Although, that's because with you (and with Zach) I've taken a much more relaxed view of sleep and most nights just let you join Daddy and me in our bed. That allows everyone to get more sleep!

You continue to love your brothers fiercely and are perhaps at your happiest whenever they are around. Now that Ryan goes to school every day you and Zachary are starting to interact more and more. And every day when we pick Ryan up at school it is so cute to see you eagerly looking for him and then get so excited when he is finally there.

You continue to be very much a Mama's boy, but you are getting more and more used to NeeNee and PopPop. Living here with them, while we wait for our new house to be built, is challenging for all of us. Its certainly no one's fault ( might be a little bit our fault. It has to be pretty miserable for NeeNee and PopPop to have their lives invaded by all of us!). But, the absolute BEST part of living with them is seeing the relationship develop between them and you. I have a feeling you will have an extra special bond with your NeeNee and PopPop, and that's saying something, since they already have such a special bond with your big brothers!

In other news, you love crawling up the stairs. And if I take my eyes off you for even a few seconds I can be certain to find you on the stairs, crawling your way up, usually laughing hysterically as you go. Whenever I come around the corner and find you, you start giggling even harder. You know you're not supposed to go up by yourself and yet, you do it anyway, all. the. time. 

And perhaps the biggest news of all, is that you started walking! (Note: I started writing this on your actual 11-month-day, and I'm not finishing it until today, September 3rd) But just this morning, the 3rd, you took your first independent steps. You'll be flying around the house on two feet in no time! You were quite proud of yourself this morning after you took those first few precarious steps! 

Booyah! I can walk!! 

Connor, while I can't believe you're already 11 months, I also can't believe we ever lived without you. You bring such joy to our every day lives. You add to the immense joy we already felt from Ryan and Zachary. We are so glad you're a part our family, and we can't wait to watch you grow (well, we could wait a're just so much fun right now...minus the screaming for stuff you want. ;)

Happy 11-month-day, Sweet Boy! I love you more than you will ever know!

Love always,