There are moments when your life changes in an instant. December 1st was one such day for us. Brian had left for work as he always does. The oldest three kids were up and getting ready for school. I was laying in bed awake, but not up yet when the phone rang. I sat straight up and looked at the clock. 6:09 am…My heart sank. Nobody calls at 6:09 in the morning to tell you something great. When I reached for the phone, it wasn’t there. i jumped out of bed and raced down the hallway as Jake handed me the phone. “It’s dad.” he said. “Hello! What’s wrong?” I asked. “I am fine, but I was in a major car accident.” he replied. He went on to tell me that he wasn’t sure what was going on, the policeman was trying to talk to him and he would call me back. My legs were shaking and my stomach turned as I tried to wrap my brain around what had just happened. He said that he was fine. That was good, right? But a major accident, that was decidedly bad. I called my parents, not quite sure what else to do, while I waited for Brian to call me back. I just kept saying, “I don’t know what to do! I just don’t know…” My parents recognized the stress and fear in my voice and my dad took over. “Call Joan and see if she can come out and stay with the kids. I will come and get you and we will go and get Brian. ” Ok, a plan. That’s what I needed. I needed to do something. I called Brian’s mom, trying to downplay how scared I was and I told her what I knew. Brian had hit black ice and then a car hit him. She immediately agreed to come and stay with the kids. We hung up and I called my parents back and told them that she was coming. Dad said that they were on their way. I started to get dressed when Brian called back. He told me to meet him at the GetGo gas station. He had to go again to talk to the policeman who was filling out the paperwork. Within 30 minutes Joan and my parents were here and I was on my way to Butler. I still wasn’t quite sure what had happened. I just wanted to, no NEEDED to see my love. I needed to know that he was actually ok. The 45 minute drive felt like it took days, but we finally got the meeting spot. I got out of the car and walked into the GetGo and there he was. He was all in one piece and seemed to be ok. I ran over to him and he wrapped me up in his arms. He felt ok. It must not have been as bad as I thought. He seemed fine. We got into my parents’ car and headed to the place where the jeep had been towed. It wasn’t until then that we got the whole story. He had been heading to work, as usual, and was almost to work when he hit a patch of black ice while driving on an overpass. He slid and hit the median head on. It was dark and he was facing the median, so nobody could see him. He saw the headlights coming at him and realized that he was basically a sitting duck. He tried to pull himself into the middle of the jeep because the car was heading straight for him. He said that it was only moments, but it felt like forever. He braced himself for the inevitable collision. The driver of the first car hit him at about 50 mph. He spun so that he was now facing the oncoming traffic. He was hit again and spun again so that he was now facing the other side of the road. He was hit by a third car on the passenger side and spun a final time so that he was heading in his original direction. The fact that he was able to get out of the car was a miracle in and of itself. The only way that he could get out was to climb out through the hatch in the trunk. I was getting sick to my stomach as I he went into detail. It was indeed an major accident. We pulled into the place where the jeep was sitting and got out to see it and I was shocked. Here was the love of my life, my handsome, sweet husband standing in front of me with nothing more than a scrape on then top of his head. And here was our jeep a crumpled, tangled mess of glass and metal! How in the world did he walk away from that mess with a tiny scratch? The severity of the accident hit me then. Tears filled my eyes as I realized how close we were to losing him. The policeman had said to him, “Somebody must have been looking out for you.” as he pointed to the sky. “God must not be finished with me yet, ” He said with a grin. “Ummm Hello! I’m not done with you yet! We have 9 kids to raise!” It serves to remind all of us that our lives can change in an instant. For me it brought some much needed clarity. It is so easy to get discouraged and frustrated by all of the things that aren’t going “our way.” But Brian’s accident reminded me that all of the things that were stressing me out aren’t really that important after all. When I looked at him and then looked at what used to be our Jeep, I was reminded of what is really important. Family is important. People are important. Having someone to go through the day-to-day with is important. Being able to say, “Thank you God for keeping my love safe and sound and intact,” is important. So, I will now say, thank you God! Thank you for keeping my family together and safe.
As the mother of a “mega-family,” I feel as if I have a responsibility to be a good example of what a mother should be. It’s not that having 9 children makes me more qualified, it’s just that it makes it very difficult to remain inconspicuous. We are kind of like a circus sideshow pretty much everywhere that we go. Church is the prime example of this. Regardless of how early we arrive at church or how much we try to just “slip in,” it NEVER happens. We burst through the doors with a subtlety somewhat reminiscent of a bull in a china shop. My Big kids each helping by holding the hand of a little one or carrying a diaper bag. The middle kids bump and bang into each other as they race to the Holy Water font, to get a much needed blessing. This is all going on while I am trying to quietly shush them and scout seats for the 11 of us…no easy feat. Trust me. We can fit somewhat comfortably in about 9 seats, and have actually managed to squeeze into 7 if necessary. This is all going on while my partner in crime, my hubby, parks the car. People look at us and smile (usually) somewhat entertained by the chaos that surrounds my family. I really don’t know because I am trying to take everyone’s coats off and get the little ones settled before mass begins. Brian manages to squeeze into our row and immediately takes Aiden. God bless this man. Aiden is, hands down, our most difficult, busy and noisy toddler. Every mass, Brian holds/wrestles him, trying in vain to keep him quiet. I have Jonathan duty. This is getting progressively more difficult now that he has entered the “Listen to all of the cool and extremely loud noises that I can make!” phase. He just grins and smiles and growls and squeals. What am I going to do? Duct tape is frowned upon as a parenting tool, particularly on a 10 month old. …I just plaster on a smile and pray…a lot! Noah requires constant monitoring as well. He can sense a weakness and knows that we are vulnerable. For the most part he is ok, but he definitely pushes the envelope. As Brian and I battle the three littlest and most unpredictable of our family, we also have to keep an eye on the middles of the family. They are pretty good 80% of the time, but still require an occasional “look.” You know what I mean. It could be a raised eyebrow or slight glare. Just enough to get the point across without looking like a prison warden. The oldest three are the second line of defense. They act as the bathroom chaperones and gatekeepers to the middles. They have, on several occasions, snagged a potential runaway. Thank God for blessing us with such helpful big kids! Most Sundays, we manage to muddle through Mass with a few trips to the back to quiet the wee ones. We do what we have to. We try very hard to not be a distraction, unfortunately that isn’t always the case. Last Sunday was a perfect example of that… Dj, Coley and Jake had stayed overnight at their Papa Hough and Nanny’s house. Normally this would be a minor inconvenience, but not a huge deal. This Sunday, however, Brian was scheduled to be an Extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, which meant that he had to go to the front of the church behind the altar for a portion of the Mass. Normally, I would hand off Jonathan to one of the big kids and hold/battle Aiden while Brian served. Well, no big kids equals no extra hands. Up to this point Aiden was actually being rather cooperative. I saw a glimmer of hope that maybe it wouldn’t be that bad and I would be able to handle all three littles by myself. That hope was crushed almost immediately. The second I thought it, Aiden looked at me and saw a weakness. He decided that he would at that moment start fussing and talking loudly. I grabbed him by the hand and lead/dragged him to the back of the church. I need to explain something here. Our church has no cryroom/nursery. Under normal circumstances I don’t mind. We just take the kids to the back until they quiet down and then we go back in and slip back into our seats. With the Christmas season, came beautiful decorations like the big Christmas tree in the vestibule. With the big tree came the inability to close the doors to the gathering space. Not good. As Jonathan, Aiden and I made our way to the back of the church, I was holding very tightly to both boys who were trying to escape. We stood in the back for a minute or so with little incident other than some squirming. Aiden was standing quietly so I had loosened my death grip on his hand. And then it all took a turn for the worse. Jonathan’s nose started to run. (And I mean run in a “two snot worms making there way out of his nose and heading straight for his mouth” kind of way. YUCK!!!) I let go of Aiden’s hand for approximately 7 seconds as I wiped Jonathan’s nose. HUGE mistake!!! He realized that he was free and immediately started to run into the church. I started after him, but I was handicapped. Not only was I carrying Jonathan, but I had worn my high-heeled sassy shoes. Not ideal for toddler chasing. ( I have no idea why I thought they were a good shoe choice. That won’t happen again, I promise!) I was trying to quietly call to him, begging him to stop and come back but he looked at me grinned and yelled, “Ha ha mommy!!! Can’t get me!” Seriously!??! I was trying to catch him without being a huge disruption, because this was all taking place at a very reverent, very quiet part of the mass. He ran around the back of the seats to the front of the church and then ran right in front of the altar! I wanted to die right then and there. I looked at Brian and we shared a horrified helpless glance. It seemed as if the entire church was looking at us and thinking, “They are in trouble!” No matter what I would have done, it would have had a bad ending. Aiden kept looking at me and which ever way I started to go, he ran the other way. I was so embarrassed and quite frankly, helpless! Aiden started to run to the back of the church and a kind sweet gentleman scooped him up and carried him to the back of the church for me. I was so relieved. Once I got back there, I grabbed Aiden’s hand and this time, I didn’t care what came crawling out of Jonathan’s nose, I wasn’t letting go. That is when I heard it, the voice of an angel. Lizzy, the daughter of my dear friend Amy, said “Nicole, do you want me to hold Jonathan?” Reinforcements had arrived!! I handed her Jonathan and I picked up Aiden and that was how we stayed until the end of mass. I wanted to crawl under the chairs and disappear, but that was not an option. With my head held high, I walked back into the main part of the church to gather up the rest of the kids and wait for Brian so that we could go home. I was so embarrassed but I was trying to smile because when you get down to it, it is what it is. And what it is, or what Aiden is, is a two year old little boy. He is trying to learn how to behave in church. Well, maybe he isn’t trying to learn, but we are trying to teach him nonetheless. We are not a small family that can go unnoticed as we quietly slip in and out of church. We are a family full of kids trying to figure out where they fit in our church family. They are trying to figure out what is expected of them and how they are supposed to act. We still have some work to do, obviously, but we are making progress. They seem to have the basics down. They love Jesus and they love God. That is the important thing. We are working out the kinks. As I sat there struggling to get the kids’ coats on them, a lady from church came up to me and smiled. I forced a smile and said, “Todays’ entertainment is brought to you courtesy of the Hough family?!” “Don’t you worry about it!” she said. “It was fine. He is so cute!” Our kids are comfortable in church, perhaps too comfortable. But Church isn’t a foreign place to them. It is a familiar place where we are surrounded by friends, where we are loved. Thankfully! I guess that I need to worry a little bit less about trying to be the perfect mother with perfectly behaved children. That is not who any of us are. We are flawed and noisy and disruptive and chaotic. We are also blessed in abundance with healthy, active, smart and loving children. And while I am sorry that we are sometimes disruptive at church, I will not apologize for our large family. We may not be an example of a perfectly behaved family, but we are an example of a family that tries to be open to God’s will for us. Sometimes that comes with lessons in humility and trust. These are lessons that we all must learn, sometimes in front of our entire church!
Every year on the Saturday after Father’s Day, the Gaggini Reunion occurs. My dad’s side gets together at the firehall in West Kittanning. We eat, we play games, we participate in the auction…
The kids’ games
Look at the fleet footed Isabella
Franny shows her daddy and Pap-pap her basketball
Perhaps one of the coolest pictures that I have ever taken
Dylan and Gianna
Gianna and Isabella were going head to head with the hula hoops
The big boys played basketball
Mama and Jonathan
Coley was creating art out of chalk
Aiden and Daddy were tired
Katie and Jonathan
My husband is one of the best dads that I know. His love for his kids is obvious in all of the sacrifices that he makes. He gives up his time (which is a very precious thing) to attend as many games as he can in addition to coaching Isaac’s basketball team. He teaches faith formation at our church where he (finally) has the twins. He makes an effort to spend a little bit of one on one time with the little ones. This is probably why they always like him better than me. In our house, Dad is the fun guy that loves to wrestle and tackle and tickle. He is also the one that sets the bar high, knowing that our kids are more than capable of surpassing our expectations, but pushing them to always try their best. But the most important thing that he does is to actively fulfill his role as the spiritual head of our family. Our kids know that God is number 1 ALWAYS! Church is not optional and Jesus is your best friend. He is an amazing guy, my husband. I couldn’t ask for a better dad for my kids…all 9 of them.
While Aiden is trying to follow in his dad’s footsteps, I think he has some growing to do, before he can fill his shoes!
Noah used his own money to buy Daddy the perfect gift…a steelers robot keychain.
Hannah bought Daddy some candy…his favorites!
Gianna gave Daddy a picture frame and his favorite gum.
Jake designed a Michael Jordan travel mug for him.
Bubbaa and Coley bought him a Michael Wallace jersey.
On Father’s day we loaded u the van and headed to Erie for mass at Father Larry’s church and a picnic at Presque Isle with our dear friends Missy and Steve and their little guy Jonah.
Hannah and Gianna were looking lovely as usual!
Aiden, true to form was trying to run away…I know you are all shocked.
Jonathan was enjoying Jonah’s chair
Missy and Jonah
Hannah and her mermaid
The sand camel…the project of the day
It was a great Father’s Day for a great father! We love you Daddy!!
We were blessed to have a trip to the zoo. The weather was perfect and the kids had a great time.
Gianna loved the Flamingos
Jake was showing Aiden the tigers
Hannah and Gia and the rhinos
Jonathan enjoyed the view from his stroller.
Isaac was our navigator
The wild animals
My wild beasts!!!
Jonathan LOVES his Sissy
They loved the nasty mangy deer
It was a beautiful day and we had such a nice time. The kids loved seeing all of the animals.
I skipped a few birthdays and I wanted to post a few pictures of Jonathan from the early months…so here are some pictures from April 2011
Noah and Aiden love there new little brother…maybe too much!
Nice to meet you Godmother, Alexis!! Mister Bright Eyes!!
Jake, Gianna and Aiden’s joint birthday party….
Poppa Hough and JP Miss Franny and Jess
The cakes were a labor of love…
Happy Birthday guys!!!
Jonathan at 2 months
I have been realllllly behind with my blogging. So rather than trying to catch up for the entire summer and fall I am going to post a few of the big things. Nothing too in depth, but some highlights….so here we go!!!
May 2011…We were blessed to celebrate my mother-in-law, Marge’s, 60th birthday. We loaded up and headed to their house in Dubois where we celebrated with a picnic enjoying the beautiful weather.