“I love you Miss. Colleen!”

If you’d ask me what I’m most proud of in my life thus far, I’d have to say my volunteer year in Chicago (as a part of the Augustinian Volunteer Program which my older sister Megan also did.) My one year anniversary since finishing the program just passed and lately I find myself thinking about my time there. I can’t believe it’s been a year!

While in Chicago, I volunteered at St. Margaret of Scotland grammar school on the south side of town. I was in the Pre-K with 3, 4 and 5 year old’s. I worked closely with a woman named Ms. Gunn, who is absolutely amazing with children and who taught me so much. She is one of the most hard-working women I’ve ever met. I admire her very much and thoughts of her will always bring a smile to my face. :)

Our Pre-K classroom truly  emitted rays of love and affection from all four corners; laughter and chattering of small voices constantly filled the space. Seventeen young children came every day to stimulate their minds and to practice friendship with one another in a comfortable, safe environment. The children in my class were the most fun ever. I loved every single one of those little guys.

Each hug, and ‘I love you Miss. Colleen,’ each and every craft and discovery made together showed me the potential these children hold. Each parent who made the effort to get to know me during my time at St. Margaret’s’ showed progress. Being the minority in school yet feeling as though people saw who I was, not just the color of my skin showed me acceptance.

I lived with three amazing people in Chicago (one worked at school with me and the two others worked at a nearby High School.) We didn’t always get along perfectly, but we were like a family. We worked well together, and I learned so much from them. Like Ms. Gunn, thoughts of my roommates still bring a smile to my face.

This year was tough – I was away from my family, friends and Colin. We all just graduated from college and all my friends were moving into Boston together, getting jobs. I was out in Chicago living with people I was assigned to live with, at a job I was assigned to, making $25 a week. I doubted why I was there many times. Why was I doing this? Because I knew I was supposed to and I knew I needed to. Why didn’t I give up and leave when it was tough (even if I really wanted to)? Because I made a commitment to my volunteer program, my roommates and most of all my students. I wanted to give up, but I didn’t; this is why I’m proud of myself.

At the end of the school year I received the most awesome gift; one of my students mother’s wrote me a letter. Part of the letter read:

“In just a few months with you, Ms. Colleen I saw a change in Milan’s attitude toward learning… This one year has changed my household. I take more joy in my children. It’s sad and great to say- it’s because my daughter met a teacher who inspired her and she came home to inspire us. She’s five- more confident, much more verbal and a heck of a lot wiser. Thank you for coming here for a spell.”

Volunteer work is not an easy task; but it is a gift unlike any other. I learned more than I ever could have in college; gained more life experience than I ever imagined could fit into a year. This note was the reassurance I was waiting for since the day my application was sent to the volunteer program.

Some photos from my year!:

Chicago!

The "Bean"

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Happy Mother’s Day!

My Mother has given birth to five children. She has raised us to look out for our siblings – to take care of each another, to have a strong sense of faith and values, to show compassion and kindness to others, to be thoughtful and generous, to help those in need, and to use the gifts we were blessed with. She has shown us how important all of this is by example; this is how our mother lives her life everyday.

I had some questions on motherhood and I thought an interview for Mother’s Day would be fun :)

My beautiful Mother

CM: What’s your favorite memory of your mother?

MM: When I was 13 my mother knew how much I wanted to see these singers (Andy Williams nephews – they were twins), so she let me leave school early and took me to EJ Korvettes  to see the show. I thought that was the greatest thing, we got there early and everything. It was so exciting!

She also always came on my school trips. We went to West Point when I was in 4th grade and everyone wanted to be in her group because she was the most fun! I remember that my mother was so nice to this other mother whose daughter (my classmate) was sick. This trip was going to be the girls last school trip, everyone knew this was her last year of school. The other mothers were so nervous around her, but not my mother! She was chatting with them and hanging out with them the whole time, making sure they felt included. That’s the type of person she was.

CM: Did you always know you wanted to have children?

MM: Yes

CM: Did you always know you wanted to have a lot?

MM: Yes!

CM: Ever consider having more than 5?

MM: Yes!

CM: Describe being pregnant for the first time (at only 23!)

MM: I knew that I was pregnant right away, it was only days. I just felt different right away. I knew something miraculous had happened.

When we got back from our honeymoon, everyone was there to greet us off the plane. I stepped off the plane saw my father, he hugged me and gave me a kiss and then said, ‘My God your pregnant’ – those were his exact words. I said, ‘Why do you say that?’ He said, ‘You look just like Mommy did when she found out she was pregnant.’ I also never ever gained weight, not even a pound! I was like 125lbs forever. And I’ll never forget it, I wore a denim wraparound skirt (they were very in style then) to be comfortable on the plane (on the way over to Ireland for the honeymoon), and thank God I had that with me, because nothing was closing on me by the end of our three week trip!

Meg was born nine months and three days after the honeymoon. Not a bad souvenir!

And my grandfather (who was blind!) always knew when I was pregnant. He even guessed (correctly!) what I was having with each one of you! He wanted to name you Matilda after Mario Cuomo’s – governor of New York at the time – wife because he thought it was hilarious! (Thanks Mom for not naming me Matilda!)

CM: Did you want to know what you were having with any of your pregnancies?

MM: Yes, but only with Molly because Patrick was sick of girls! (We have 1 boy and 4 girls in the family…) But they told us Molly was a boy so we were calling her Sean, then she turned out to be a girl! (Molly is such a trickster)

CM: Childbirth in one word?

MM: Amazing. Miraculous. (That’s two words, but I’ll accept it.) I loved all my pregnancies. Even though some were harder than the others, I was just amazed by the whole thing.

I remember asking my mother, when she told me about the birds and the bees, ‘How did you ever have a baby???’ She said that the minute they put the baby in your arms you forget the pain. I said ‘What pain??? You must remember the pain?! Was it like period cramps???’ She just she didn’t remember experiencing pain once she held her baby. And I was just like my mother, I never remembered the pain once I held each of you. I hope it’s the same for you girls. (Me too!)

CM: What has been the most rewarding thing about being a mother?

MM: Watching my children grow up to be such fabulous people. To see you guys start your lives and watch each of you grow.

CM: What has been the most challenging?

MM: When Daddy used to work late when you guys were little, having to get you all bathed and into bed while you were all running around… Managing five kids eight and under and having to do bath and bed time – that was the most challenging! I hated bath time (laughs.) Joanie and I used to complain to each other about it!

CM: How did you raise such fabulous (if I do say so myself) children?

MM: Saying a lot of rosaries! And Daddy too!

CM: Can you tell me about some of your most proud moments throughout motherhood?

MM: The Irish Step dancing competitions, your basketball games, how many people tell me how well-behaved and how kind all of you are. Both yours and Megan’s volunteer years, all of the graduations, Kelly cutting my hair for the first time, Molly going off to St. Marys, when Patrick performed at Carolines in the city, your blog, when you all used to always go to the nursing home to visit Grammy and check in on her… There are a bunch of them… You guys always make me proud!

CM: Have you ever felt like you were a ‘bad mother’?

MM: We won’t dwell on the negative! (laughs)… Thank God not often!

CM: What makes you a good mother?

MM: I think I’m patient, I’m nurturing, I have a good sense of humor and I have great faith and a great faith in my family. (I think so too!)

CM: Would you do anything differently over the years of raising us?

MM: I would have worried less about cleaning up the house. It took me a long time to get that. Like when you were little and we lived in  Islip, I worried too much about the toys being picked up. I would have gotten on the floor more and played with the toys. I’ll make up for that with our grandchildren!

(At Patrick’s house, right? :))

CM: Do you think I’ll be a good mother?

MM: Definitely. But you’ll have to learn when they’re young, not to worry about things being out-of-place. I was like that and you’ll be like that (probably worse! laughs) that’s something you’ll have to work on. But i think you’ll be a great mother! You know if you marry Colin, he’s like a kid himself, you’ll be picking up and he’ll be taking it back out! (they call him Buddy the Elf!)

CM: What do you find difficult now that we’re grown up?

MM: Being separated. I love when you come home but I hate when everyone leaves.

CM: Rewarding now?

MM: Seeing you guys making your own lives, meeting people who are your potential husbands and wives. The thought of grandchildren in my future!

CM: Do you look forward to being a grandmother?

MM: What do you think?? Yes, I look forward to that day with much anticipation! We can play with the babies, then send them home! Yea, I can’t wait!

CM: Aside from your own mother, who has been your ‘model mother,’ someone you aspire to be like as a mother?

MM: Joan Ellis – she’s the perfect combination of what defines a mother. Mrs. Caracappa, she was like my other mother. She had seven kids, plus me. When my mother was sick she always took care of me and took me in, she made a bunch of clothes for me over the years.

CM: Advice to first time mothers today?

MM: Don’t worry all about the house and material things first. Just enjoy them when they’re little, they grow so fast. And sometimes it’s better to give them a sibling rather than toys.

My mom and her hairy little baby, aka me!

Mom and I <3

It’s difficult to put into words, the relationship between a mother and child. When I was little I was completely dependent upon my mother, she was my world. Throughout adolescence and into my teenage years my hormones were going crazy, I was experiencing a lot of emotions – I started to fight with my mother more, probably even took her for granted. As I’ve continued to grow up, when I moved away to go to college and now that I live in MA full time, I’ve realized how much I miss my mother and I often wish I could always have her right here with me. Yes, we still fight and disagree every now and then but I’ve matured a bit, and I realize how lucky I am to have been blessed with the most amazing woman in my life who wants to watch over me, protect me and keep me happy. I appreciate everything about my mother to the fullest. I’ve come to realize a bit more of what she has been through, what she has sacrificed, what she has done to better our lives. I can’t begin to thank her, or praise her enough.

My mother has a beautiful, close relationship with each one of her children. It’s funny to see the different dynamics between my mother and each of us five children. We all have different requirements and we all have different relationships with our mother, yet she gives each of us the same amount of love and attention. I don’t know how she does it, she truly is amazing!

When I think of my mother I think of someone who can do anything, someone who can handle any situation. A woman who doesn’t mind hearing all of her children’s complaints and worries. My mother listens to me when something is wrong, when I’m upset. She knows the right things to say to make me feel better, to comfort me. She celebrates with me when something great happens. She is always there to support me, always cheering me on and encouraging me to find the things in life that will fulfill me and make me happy.

I have realized my mother and I are alike in so many ways – my thoughtfulness, my sensitivity, my creativity, my body shape, my hands, my butt (yep!) I’ve inherited from my mother. I am so lucky to be like my mother, and so lucky to have her. Over the years we have grown closer and I know that we’ll continue to grow closer. No matter where we are – whether the same town or different states, whichever it may be –  I carry my mother in my heart and she will always be with me.

My mother is a strong woman. She is forgiving, extremely considerate, warm, friendly, loving, thoughtful, selfless. She is the type of person who lights up a room upon entering. She’s like a magnet, everyone wants to be around her – she has the ability to make each person she encounters feel special. Although I have grown up, I have matured, and am now an adult, I’ve realized that my mother is still my world.

I am so blessed, and I am forever thankful to you Mom. Happy Mother’s Day! I love you!

With that, I’ll leave you with this: