Meet my beautiful parents.
Tom and Anna Gallagher.
They had five children.
Thomas, Margaret, Michael, Maureen and me... Kathleen.
They also had love. Lots of love. They were married for 53 years when my Father died in 2011.
My Mother has continued to be the matriarch - the backbone - of our family. My parents were blessed with 21 grandchildren, two of which (ours) are in Heaven. Hope is the youngest and the only grandchild my Father never met.
We all really love and look forward to getting together. And it's so fun to see all the cousins together! This year we gathered at my brother, Tom's, house which is always so beautifully decorated by my sister in law, Jen.
My sister, Meg, came down from New Hampshire missing two from their family. Emily and her husband, Josh, are just weeks away from giving us the first GREAT grandchild in the family!!
Mike and Lisa came up from Virginia with their four...
...including my sweet Godson, Sean, who Brian thinks is just the coolest.
My sister, Bean, had to come to the party without my brother in law, Jim. He works (hard!) for Fed Ex. Next time your package from Amazon arrives ten seconds after you order it - or any package arrives at your door - thank your delivery man. They sacrifice so much because so many companies promise quick deliveries! But the triplets were there!! Including my gorgeous curly haired goddaughter (both of them have great curls!), Shannon.
And then there was me and my favorite little date, Brian. Ed stayed home with Hope who had croup - and fevers - and sneezes that turned into lovely waterfalls from her little nose. How can one little baby hold so much.... you know what I mean. Brian and I had a great time, regardless, and he was in Heaven with all of his older cousins.
I could look at this photo all day - it makes me so happy! I can just imagine how my Mom feels. It all started with her and my Dad! All because two people fell in love, as they say.
In our family, we have the kids pick "pollyanna" and they each buy for each other. Brian had his cousin, Dan, and we got him a nice cover for his gas grill. Hope had Isabella and got her "Sophia the First" walkie talkies!
In a funny coincidence, Dan had Brian! He gave him a cool Lego Star Wars kit. And Hope's cousin, David, gave her the Little People Preschool which she LOVES. She played with it a lot today!!
Granny loves to spoil her grandchildren. God bless her for still shopping for each one personally - she puts so much thought and effort into each child and makes them feel so special (which isn't hard).
There was a moment that made me very, very proud. As you can imagine, it can get pretty chaotic with all of the adults and kids and presents... and somehow Isabella got Brian's gifts from Granny. Sweet Isabella pulled out each gift and reacted to them like they were gold bricks.
Meanwhile, across the room, Brian was nudging me saying things like, "Ooo - look at that - that looks fun!" not knowing they were really his gifts!! Things were opened and everything before we realized the mistake and my sister threw everything back in the bag and brought it over to Brian. No fuss - no worries - he was a total champ. He even told Granny, "Don't worry Granny - it's ok!" when she said she felt bad about the mixup.
Before long, he and Isabella were comparing their Lifesaver Storybooks.
Brian bonded with his Godfather having riveting conversations and playing "Which is better?"...
...like "Which is better - a milkshake or an ice cream cone?"
And he always loves seeing his Godmother, Aunt Bean! She scored major points for finding him Storm Trooper pajamas!
Probably my favorite part of the whole day was watching Brian through the window as he played with his cousins outside. Seeing him show a different kind of confidence out there made me want to cry. His cousin, Daniel, took the time to teach him how to play frisbee and they all threw it back and forth. On the drive home he couldn't stop talking about the entire day - but especially the frisbee game. "Mom, maybe Santa will bring me a frisbee so I can practice. Then next time I see my cousins we can play again!" Santa bought that frisbee today.
We got home just in time for our neighborhood's annual "Luminary Night" and visit from Santa! I volunteered to coordinate Santa's visit on the fire truck this year. I'm grateful to our friend, John, for offering to play the best Santa I've ever seen (well, next to my Dad because...well...my Dad.)
We bundled up...
...and headed to the top of the driveway. Brian wrote a note to Santa and had a bag of cookies to give to him.
Hope was starting to feel better and was happy to be out in the fresh air!
Soon we heard the sirens and the excitement mounted! (In other news, it's really hard to get good photos in the dark!)
John was so great as Santa and personally addressed Brian and Hope.
For Brian, this visit was a huge highlight - and the perfect way to end an exciting day of Christmas celebrations!!
As we waved goodbye and watched Santa ride away on the front of the firetruck, I felt a deep sense of gratitude.
I miss my children in Heaven. And I miss my Dad so much. But I am so grateful for my family. The big one - and the little one Ed and I have here at home.