Monday, March 4, 2019

A Wedding In Pittsburgh - Part 3

The Main Event was here and we were ready.

Blurry, but ready and excited

St. Paul's Cathedral was breathtaking and brought a tear to my eye with it's beauty.

St. Paul's Cathedral, Pittsburgh, PA

The program asked us to keep phones and cameras away and that was the best advice.  We took it all in without worrying about taking pictures.  We were in the moment.

Everyone looked beautiful, of course.  But the ceremony was so much more than that.  One thing I like to do when the bride is about to come down the aisle is turn around and look at the groom and the mother of the bride.  I just love watching their reactions to the joy about to take place and imagine what might be going through their minds.  So much depth in the perception.

Mass was wonderful.  The priest, the music, the cantor, even the altar servers made it a reverent, beautiful sacrament.  The love in that church - both the human and Divine - was palpable.

After mass, I got a quick hello in with Billie Jo!!  And then we were off to the reception.  It all took place in the lobby of the hotel and the adjoining rooms.  It was transformed from what we had seen the night before at check-in.  There was a pianist and a violinist to welcome us there.

Before dinner, many in Madison's and Nicolas' immediate family gave little speeches.  This was one of my favorite parts of the evening.  Standing there listening to the two families and their heartfelt memories along with their wishes for the couple, you couldn't help but realize this marriage had a strong foundation that it was going to build upon. 

My first order of business, however, was to find and meet Danielle, another blog friend of Billie Jo's who I had heard was going to be there. (you can find her sweet blog here ) She and her husband and son were so nice to get to know in the short time we had together before dinner.  Such nice people!!  Next, I just had to meet BJ's mom and of course, Marian!!! She is so nice and easy to talk to; no wonder she's BJ's BFF. How wonderful it was to meet all of these people I had read about for years on BJ's blog.

My one and only pic of Billie Jo 🙄...2nd from right. She looked amazing!!

At dinner, we sat with Madison's Aunt and Uncle who, as luck God would have it, introduced us to their daughter and son in law, who are also foster parents. We met Nicole and Andrew soon after dinner and it is a gift to find new friends who understand our journey.  We have since gotten together and met each others was wonderful.  Lovely, lovely people.  Ironically, they were the family we had seen the night before when we checked in.

Here is the gorgeous happy couple.

And this is how nice Madison is....after we took her picture, she insisted on taking one of me and Bill on my camera just so we'd have one together.

Billie Jo and Steve made us feel so welcome. And all of their children-- The Newlyweds, Peyton, Rhett, and Flynn all greeted us with open arms and smiles galore. Considering we had only met once before, they made us feel like a part of their family.  It takes some really special people to make someone feel like that.

The circumstances that brought us there was nothing short of divine intervention, I believe.  A wish on my heart became a reality thanks to a feeling placed on BJ's heart.  And now, we have new friends because of this.  Friends who have already brought us inspiration and strength on this journey called foster care.  It is truly amazing.

Sunday we left bright and early to head back home.  One last picture.

I wish Madison and Nicolas much love and happiness and a very big thank you for allowing us to share your special day with you.

For more amazing pictures, check out Billie Jo's blog here and Madison's blog here.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

A Wedding In Pittsburgh - Part 2

Our house was clean, schedules were written, dinners were prepped, and our bags were packed.  My in-laws were arriving in the afternoon the day before the wedding.  We were staying in Pittsburgh for two whole nights.  Even though the anticipation was half the fun, I was still excited to get in the car and GO!

We arrived to our destination around 10:30 that night.

Oh, the hotel!

Mansions on Fifth/ Photo: Craig Photography

Because we were taking the place of a family member who at the last minute couldn't make it, we had a room right at the venue where the wedding reception was taking place. It is called Mansions on Fifth.  Fifth Avenue was home to the elite in the early 1900's.  The Mansion was commissioned by a prominent lawyer back then.  A 20,000 square foot home was to be built for his family.  Large for a family home, the hotel now has twenty cozy rooms available for guests. 

When we checked in we were greeted by a grand staircase, a fire in the fireplace, and a baby grand piano.  There was also a side room with a small bar area,  another fireplace and one family, sitting quietly and chatting.  The ambiance was to die for!!

As much as I wanted to get a glass of wine and strike up a conversation with them (all the guests of the hotel were guests for the wedding), we decided to get some shut-eye.  Mostly. 😉

Because Madison and Nicolas' wedding wasn't until 4pm the next day, we could sleep in and then do a little sight-seeing in the morning.  I gloried in a shower that I didn't need to rush through before a baby cried.  It's the little things.

We decided to have breakfast in the strip district at a little place called Cafe Raymond.  Delicious.  I gloried in the fact that I could eat slowly and not be distracted before a baby cried.  It's the little things.

I enjoyed just how nice it is to be with Bill, sometimes talking, sometimes in a comfortable silence.  We walked through a huge antique shop,  stopped in for a wine sampling, and walked the streets that were wall to wall with Steelers and Penguins gear. Being from Philly, I still didn't mind.  The people here were so nice and it was great to see the love they show for their city.  Until I saw this t-shirt!

You're killin' me, Pittsburgh.  But I forgive you.

We also got to do this cheesy tourist attraction called the Duquesne Incline.

At the bottom of the incline

Great views from the top.
We checked in with Mom and Dad to make sure all was well at home.  They were doing an amazing job taking care of everyone there.  They sent us these pics.

How grateful we are for them!!

Before long, we had to head back to the hotel.

It was now time to get ready for the Main Event!!

To Be Continued......

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Wedding In Pittsburgh - Part 1

"I love how God strategically places people in your lives at just the perfect timing."

That was a recent comment a new friend of mine wrote on her Instagram page.  I thought it was the perfect way to start off this post, because without a doubt, God was in all the details I'm about to write about.

Billie Jo has been follower of my blog since I started back in 2011.  In fact, if not for her and her faithful comments on each and every post of mine, I may not have stuck with These Joyful Mysteries for very long.  She was a positive influence and silently encouraged me to continue to write and journal about my family and faith.

Our families had the opportunity to meet a few years back.  They were lovely.  I felt so fortunate to be able to meet them in person and see just how awesome they all were. (You can read about that meet-up here.) Unfortunately, we live about 4 hours away from each other, so that was our only visit.

BJ and I continued to keep in touch via our blogs, text messages, and Christmas cards.  I had been following her updates about her oldest daughter Madison and her fiance' Nicolas in recent months.  They were going to be married in February.

I frequently joked with Bill that I was going to drive out to Pittsburgh (5 hours away!!) and crash the ceremony.  I had so badly wanted to see Madison get married.  I heard she was in love with a great man, has an eye for elegance, and that the entire wedding would be a class act.  I even thought about having my whole family do a weekend trip to Pitt just so I could catch a glimpse.  I probably would have done that if not for the little babies making travel a bit difficult.  Furthermore, I dreamed that it would be perfect if Bill and I could get away from all the crazy of our lives and go to Pitt by ourselves.
No joke.

About 3 weeks before the wedding, as I sat in my family room watching Avengers: Infinity War with Bill and the kids, I got this text from BJ.

I must have stared at the screen for 5 minutes straight.

I passed the phone over to Bill so he could read it.  I had tears in my eyes asking if we could make this happen.  He called his parents.  They said yes to watching ALL 7 kids.  God bless them and their generous, giving hearts.

This was actually going to happen!!

Friday, December 28, 2018

My Long Hiatus

Hello, Friends.

It's been a long time.  I have missed being able to sit down and write.  Even if I found the time to do so, I was afraid it would be all negative.  Instead of hashing out my feelings on here, I've taken a liking to food and have deemed myself an emotional eater.  The lbs on the scale can concur.

It was back in mid-July that we found out that Baby J's mom was expecting another baby in October.  Within days we were also told we could take in a second foster child because our oldest child, Billy, had turned 18.

From July until October we thought of nothing else.

What to do.  What to do.

On the bright side, both Bill and I were on the same page of confusion.  It wasn't like one of us was pushing to take in the new baby and the other one of us wanted nothing to do with it.  We both knew the pros and cons.

We wanted Baby J to have her sibling with her.  One who would be close in age; a playmate to grow up with if she were to stay with us.

On the other hand, we just had 11 months of not sleeping thru the night. We feel it in our bones everyday that we aren't as young as we used to be and it is taking a toll. We also knew, after experiencing it twice with our own kids, that having 2 babies so close in age is....well, a nightmare.

My mind would not relax in those months between July and October and I was beside myself emotionally.  I was under the impression that there was only one way to look at the situation.

Take the new baby: Good Person
Don't take the new baby: Bad Person

We met with a priest friend who, thankfully, put that terrible thought to rest.  From there we were able to look at things more objectively.  Once the end of October came, we made a decision:  We would be a back-up to another foster parent who was willing to take the new baby.

Fast forward one week - mom goes into labor, the call from the county caseworker comes, and I tell her, "We will be a back-up; go ahead and call the other foster mom."

In that hour that followed all I could feel was a terrible hurt in my heart that we had made the wrong decision.  We called back and said "We will take him."

On October 29th at just 3 days old, Baby JJ came to us. We feel that he is where he needs to be.  The adjustment has been difficult.  I shed a lot of tears.  It is HARD everyday.  When they are awake at the same time all my mind can think is, "This is the hardest thing I have ever done."  And then I think what a brat I am complaining that this is hard.  But still....

There is no real update on what will happen to either Baby J or JJ.  Their endings will most likely be different, unless they end up with us, which is unlikely.  The system is an ugly place; you hear that all the time and it is true.

I worry about my own kids.  This has been the most selfless act on their part, thrust upon them by me.  My guilt is real.  And hard to bear.  But they are championing this cross like you wouldn't believe. I pray when it's all said and done, that they will come out on top of this with more fulfillment than regret.

And I can't forget the man of the house.  By my side every step of the way. Always ready to do the right thing, even if it means doing something that might break his own heart. He fights for the underdog, whoever that may be at the, the babies, even their mom--who is a victim of circumstance and not a bad person.

Count your blessings.

I hope to get back to blogging on a regular basis.  However, showering must come first 😉 I am on Instagram now so please feel free to follow me at kathleensweeney5.  There I post some family happenings with heart emojis that hide the beautiful faces of J and JJ, which makes me sad. I wish you could see how cute they really are.

I wish you much love and happiness in the New Year and I hope to be back soon.....

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


It has been so long since my last post.  I am happy to report we are all doing well.
There's so much going on around here so I think it's best to do quick post for each person in the house, starting with--

Billy, the Third.

This guy turned 18 in May.  Crazy, isn't it?  To think he was only 11 when I started blogging.

Turning 18 made him eligible to vote, too!  And he was happy to do so.

Also in May was the prom.  The junior and senior prom is combined and it coincided with the 8th grade farewell dance.  Here are the 3 oldest.  Busy night, but fun.

Billy went to the prom with his friend and coworker.  They had fun.  Pictures were taken outside the venue, which happened to be at Bethlehem Steel.  Cool backdrop in pictures other than mine that only seem to capture random people in the background.

The biggest event was Billy's graduation!!

What an accomplishment.  For ALL of us.  *ahem*

Graduation was wonderful.  I loved every minute of it.

A new tradition was started this year at our elementary school.  The graduating seniors were invited back to walk the hall with the 5th graders who are headed to middle school next year.
(This is the school where I am an aide and Matt is a student.)

Billy's 3rd grade teacher

Billy's 2nd grade teacher (and Matt's 1st grade teacher)
We recently took Billy to Villanova University for a weekend retreat for incoming freshmen.
Most families dropped their kids at the front door.  But we embarrassed Billy by walking him to his dorm room.

Billy is currently finishing up his last few weeks working at Rita's Water Ice while simultaneously learning to transition to become a Midshipman 4th Class. There's a lot to learn and memorize.  He begins the college program for Navy ROTC in August.

We are all excited to see what the future holds for this guy.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Inductions, Sacraments, and Birthdays, Oh My

Another snow day, another blog post.

I gotta be honest.  Last week started out really tough.  On Monday I was dreading the week ahead.  There was so much on the calendar and Bill was away for a few days and I just felt completely overwhelmed.  It's funny, when you have a baby in the house, your schedule takes an ugly not-able-to-get-much-accomplished- kind of tone to it.  And I don't mean funny-ha-ha.
But when Tuesday came and I'm sitting at work (actually, standing because my job is lunch and recess duty, so I don't sit) I had this A-HA moment. 

Everything I had going on was GOOD stuff. What was I freaking out about?  Wait until you see what the week was like below.  I have to say though, the change I had from one day to the next can't just be about having an attitude adjustment. It can't be that simple. It must have a lot to do with hormones, amiright?  And that's all I have to say about that because my brothers read this blog and they might get weird-ed out about this revelation I had. 

So, let's continue on to the greatness of the week.

Tuesday: Ann's induction into the National Junior Honor Society.

Ann came home last month with a letter saying she was being considered for the NJHS.  She needed to fill out multiple forms about her service, character, leadership, and citizenship accomplishments.  It was pretty straightforward.  She debated about whether or not she wanted to actually be a part of it.  I think it was her lazy side not really wanting to fill out the forms.  We forced encouraged her to do it because there are certain opportunities in life that you just don't turn down.  She handed it in and found out soon after she had been accepted.

The ceremony and reception was really nice.
I could tell she was proud of herself. One more notch on the confidence scale for her.  Bill was away unfortunately, and Mary had too much homework, but I forced encouraged the rest of the kids to go.

Thursday: Tommy's Confirmation!

He is now fully initiated!
Funny story.  I had not ordered a red robe for him to wear because I figured he would just use Billy's old one.  I hung it up the weekend prior to help get the wrinkles out.  The day before Confirmation Mary says, "You know that the size for that robe says 5'3-5'5", right?" (Tommy is about 5'10") I hadn't realized that but I figured it would be fine, maybe just a tad bit short.  So I nonchalantly ask Tommy to go try it on.  Oh my word....the sleeves were up to his elbows and the hem was near his knees!!  I scrambled to text everyone I knew who had sons that might be able to lend me one of theirs. In the end, a friend had one to give me and she dropped it off in the nic of time!  You might say the Holy Spirit was looking out for us!

Thomas Andrew Peter
 Billy was his sponsor and did a great job.

Tommy asked for a low-key and xbox.  We added cake so it would feel like a celebration.

Friday:  Ann's 13th birthday!

My little girl is now a teenager.  We did morning doughnuts before school.  After school she and Tommy had to go to their Jazz Band competition. Bill and I were able to head over to watch them perform. 
Ann holding one of their awards
(a special shout-out to my friend Heather who manages to get great pics of my kids and sends them to me!)

We didn't get home until 11pm that night but we managed to squeeze in some ice cream cake to celebrate Ann before bed.

The next day, Ann had some friends over to watch a movie and have pizza and cake. I neglected to take pictures.  But Ann had gotten a Polaroid camera as a gift (so cool, so retro) so we took a picture for each kid to take home.  This was a picture of the one Ann kept for herself.  (she really was happy, just a bad pic of
her 😏)

The rest of the weekend was spent doing social stuff with our parish retreat family.  Lots of baking, gatherings, and masses but definitely one of my favorite weekends of the year.  Bill and I went on our parish retreat 10 years ago and it was life-changing.  We have the best parish ever!

I'm so glad to have another snow day to sit back and document the good week we had. 

Signing off to spend it with my 7 favorite peeps. 

Happy Snow Day!