Saturday, March 26, 2011

joseph pio

love at first sight!
nearly having his eyes poked out for the first
(but most definitely not the last) time

our dear friends Anna and Paul (Fr. Michael's sister)
welcomed their first baby the same night we welcomed Joseph. 
this happy coincidence added a lot of fun to our hospital stay!

"freckle" gets his first blessing at 5 hours old

not saying "mama" yet....

what ARE those little things that keep flying in front of my eyes?!?!

it's almost ridiculous to be so tiny

6 pounds, 8 ounces.
18 inches.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Our son is born!

On Saturday morning, 26th March, at 7:30am, our son Joseph Pio was born, weighing in at 6 pounds 8 ounces.  Kelly says the labo(u)r was her most peaceful yet, and mama and son are both happily recovering at Tauranga Hospital overnight.

More on the labor, no doubt, will be posted by Kelly in the days to come.

In the meantime, thank you for your prayers for the birth - the timing for the labor couldn't have been better in so many ways, and it was truly a beautiful experience for all involved!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Bernadette sings only two songs. The first is simply, "Alleluia!" The other is of her own composition and it goes: "Oh Glo-ri-a! Oh Mnyah Mnyah!" (We do play "normal" secular children's music in our home, but The Wheels on the Bus just haven't seemed to roll into that little heart quite yet.)

Mnyah Mnyah is a person. Well, a phenomenon, really. "Mnyah Mnyah" is Bernadette's best effort at pronouncing the name of Fr. Michael. That's what she calls him. And she loves him. Every morning as he proceeds from the sacristy to the altar, Bernadette is (loudly) repeating, "Hi Mnyah Mnyah! Hi Mnyah Mnyah!" He's the only person she pretends to call from my cell phone. He's also the only person she succeeds in calling from my cell phone. When the doorbell rings, she asks excitedly if it's him. I think all four of us feel that way. It's actually a little odd that the girls have taken such a shine to him because, frankly, he has no "children skills" - nor does he seem to have any ambition to cultivate some. He talks to Maria (almost 4) in baby talk. He reads Dr. Seuss books to Bernadette as if they were written in the meter "rap".  No, seriously, please pause for a moment and imagine Jay-Z performing: Hop. Pop. We like to hop. We like to hop. On top of Pop. [Personal Coolness Disclaimer: I had to ask Richard for the name of a famous rapper. And for the spelling of the name he supplied.]

Children skills or not, Fr. Michael is every bit as fantastic as my children believe him to be. He is the funnest person we know. I'm willing to break one of the most basic grammatical rules to make that point. Heck, I break a lot of grammatical rules on this blog. Anyway, he's simply fantastic company, a one-man variety show: extraverted, quick-witted, passionate, hilarious, opinionated, engaging, enthusiastic...all things intense wrapped up in the strongest imaginable personality on the entire spectrum of possibilities. And the man loves Jesus like an insanity. (He might be unbearable if he did not.) His humility before Jesus balances out his Goliath personality. I see that most in the Confessional - the man who never misses an opportunity to tease suddenly becomes as gentle, calm and meek as any mortal man is capable. One might have to experience this to believe it.

Fr. Michael in younger, skinnier, hairier days

Fr. Michael loves the Church. He loves his vocation as a priest - and he gives himself fully as a priest to the Church. But that's not exactly why I'm writing about him right now. I chose him as tonight's blog topic because Rich took me out on a date last night. We don't get to do that very much - I think it's been 2 months since our last date. We went to a wonderful Italian restaurant and enjoyed our first New Zealand moonlit beach stroll afterwards. There were no young children interrupting us, smearing food or being cranky. Even Freckle was still. We had the charming restaurant to ourselves, our food was amazing and I saw my first ever shooting star during our walk. It was a perfect night. And all we talked about was Fr. Michael. (We never stopped laughing.) We agreed that - of all the many wonderful things we are enjoying about our time in New Zealand - the most precious for both of us is the joy of spending so much time with Mnyah Mnyah. We met him 7 years ago when we were all studying in Ohio, but we've not seen him at all for the past 5 years - and we missed him very much during that time. The opportunity to spend 2 years catching up with him was a huge "pro" when we were discerning the decision to come to New Zealand. We did worry about how the dynamic of our friendship might be affected by working with and for him. There seems to have been no need to fear. The past ten months have been nothing less than blest, fruitful and hilarious.

Rich and I both are asked very frequently by friends back home what it's like here, how things are going, what we're enjoying, etc.... Those are huge questions and the answers can all change from moment to moment! But last night I think Richard and I realized that perhaps the most purely fun and intensely enjoyable thing about this entire adventure is not a thing at all. It's a person. And while, unlike Bernadette, we reserve our "Gloria!"s for things divine, we do almost understand where she is coming from. Almost.

learning the YMCA at our wedding
(one thing I realized while writing this post was that 
for all the TIME we are spending with Fr. Michael, 
we have way more outdated photos of him than recent ones.
I'll have to make a conscious effort to remedy that ill)

Friday, March 4, 2011

secret artistic talents of a missionary

I have a very close friend who is a religious sister. Ever since she entered the convent a few years ago, I have not been able to call or email her. Our friendship has been sustained through a very small amount of visits and LOTS and LOTS of letters!

I wrote her a letter tonight, complete with illustration. Rich and I had such a laugh over the text and drawing that he commended both to the blog. It occurs to me now that perhaps they will seem funny only to us. Ah well, a risk taken by geeks throughout history.

I had written to tell Sr. Grace Dominic (formerly Henrietta) that after 9 months of indecision, Richard and I had definitely agreed that we will plan to be in New Zealand for 2 years, rather than 3, or possibly more. [It's relevant to note that Sr. Grace Dominic is also very close friends with Fr. Michael (we all met in grad school)].  I wrote:

"I have good news that I think I can best explain through an analogy. I signed up to run a race. I'm not a runner and have never really run a race, nor did I ever specifically dream of running, but I was invited to run a 2 mile race and I accepted. The race is this mission in New Zealand. I felt really excited for this race and spent months attempting to train (having really no idea what the race course was like) and then finally the race was upon me. And as soon as I began to run it I realized that running a race is hard! It was much harder than I expected. The sun felt hot, my throat felt parched, my legs seemed weak. I recognized I was not as fit as I had thought. But I wanted to run and run well. So I was just taking in these things and deciding how to pace myself accordingly when my teammate (Richie) turned to me happily and said,

"Hey, do you think maybe Coach meant that we should run a third mile!? you think He might want us to run even more than that?!?!"

I immediately responded, "No! Coach (God) never said that to me! I didn't hear Coach say that! Coach specifically said we were to run for two miles! That's exactly what He said. TWO miles."

My teammate looked at me with a bit of pity and reproached me gently for not obeying Coach.

The waterboy (Fr. Michael) overheard the conversation and joyfully began teasing me about the third mile. He thought a third mile was a fantastic idea! He and my teammate were having a blast in this race - throwing a frisbee back and forth, tossing a ball around, giving each other high-fives's a photo:"

I went on to write to Sr. Grace Dominic that knowing now where the finish line is has made it much easier to run freely and joyfully. It's been a source of renewed energy and stamina, a reminder to deeply enjoy this exhilarating race. I can push through the inevitable burning muscles and the sun's heat - and I can also now take in the birds and the breezes and the beauty of the course....and the very entertaining antics of the waterboy. It's just a simple race again, not a potential marathon. And in time, as we draw near to the finish line, I will be looking and listening for Coach. Perhaps He will gently ask me, "Can you run a third mile? Would you try?" Perhaps He will. And perhaps He won't. He won't ask if it's impossible. He won't ask unless it's a great good. He won't demand. We'll be free to choose. That's Coach. Isn't He beautiful!