It's a neat feeling to be able to remember the day your brother-in-law was born. It's an even better feeling to be able to remember the dayyour brothers-in-law were born. With Johnny, I remember sitting in my French Literature class with my cell phone on my desk hidden behind the top of the back of the chair in front of me. Le Chevelier au lion this, Lancelot that (I despise that story though ...), je ne sais pas this, WHY ISN'T MY PHONE LIGHTING UP WITH A TEXT?? that. With Ciaran, we were all in San Diego winding down after a 46 person (with only four families) Boxing Day dinner. I was crocheting a scarf for my sister-in-law when I got a text from my mother-in-law that the baby was going to be born that day. Oh happy day! The rest of the day was a bit chaotic and is a tale for another time, but this happened:

Brother/godfather Chris, nephew Ryan, Uncle Ciaran

I love that now both Geena and Becca are Harrington wives!

and one more was joyfully squeezed into this family.

People are normally very surprised when I share that Ryan has an uncle who is younger than he is. Some are kind of frightened at the thought, but for most, the surprise is a good one. A question I get pretty often is, "So ... what's it like since your mother-in-law has both children and grandchildren the same age?"

First grandchild's first trip to the beach and your twelfth child in your belly.

Well, I wouldn't have it any other way. She has given my children playmates. Playmates! Uncles your age are worth a hefty amount of don't-tell-your-parents-its-between-us ice cream cones and candy. My generous parents give our kids plenty of doting and spoiling. 

I've done a lot of reflecting on the abundant familial setting we are blessed to be in since we did just spend three out of four weeks together so I'll delve deeper than the obvious uncles as best friends gift. 

Conor, Johnny, Ciaran and Ryan

Johnny and Ryan

Ciaran and Ryan

How has my mother-in-law spoiled her grandsons while having little ones herself besides buying a tub of cream cheese just for Ryan and hiding it in the fridge for him? 

She has given our boys an infinitely more confident and comfortable mother in me by being my first mom friend. 

When I was pregnant with Ryan, I knew one person my age who was also expecting, and she lived states away. No one that I was personally close with had been pregnant recently. I had no one to turn to but the internet and all of its cRaZy forums to lurk.  Eventually I found a different forum that used capitalization and spelled correctly, but it kind of made me feel discouraged that I wouldn't find parents to relate to. Someone posted, "I would love to roast a turkey tomorrow for Thanksgiving, but we don't have childcare tomorrow." OooooOoooO went my eyes. I hadn't found the blogs that are great instant shots of parenting espresso and solidarity yet. And as wonderful Chris is at listening to my rambling, he ain't ever gonna know what it's like to be pregnant.

It would have been a very isolating time if I didn't have my mother-in-law to text and call to chat her ear off. She had just been pregnant! Johnny was not even two yet. And she had given birth eleven times in every possible scenario. I just remembered that she called me before Christmas asking if I wanted her to have David spend Christmas with us so we could have some family close and so my one-week-from-my-due-date self wouldn't have to cook anything. Gosh, I'm crying just thinking about that now that I have Ryan and Conor because I can recognize the sacrifice! She was going to send her son to be with us. I'm going to bawl my eyes out when I don't get to spend Christmas with my sons, but she was willing to sacrifice a Christmas with him for our sake. (I refused to let it happen though :) We had chili for Christmas, ha!).

The best part is that with all of the experience and knowledge from parenting twelve different souls, you would think that she would at least some of the time act like she knows everything. No. She waits to be asked for advice. I've come to know this even more as we went from parenting in the womb to parenting stubborn boys.  She is never high and mighty. She is the most humble and most real friend that you could ever have, and she gives just what a new mom needs and craves, a steaming hot cup of solidarity and understanding. I wish we could sit down for a cup of coffee together, but let's be honest - it would last two minutes and later in the day we would find our room temperature mugs long forgotten in the microwave. 

Johnny's Baptism. I was flipping out on the inside because they asked me to be in the family photo, and we weren't even engaged yet!

With baby Johnny and toddler Molly

She let me see raw motherhood with a newborn. When Ciaran was born, I went out to help for a week. Now, when Johnny was born, Chris, David and I went to visit and "help" for a week, but I was completely clueless as to how much a mother needs. This time, I was ready to make all the meals! Chauffeur all the kids! Check all the homework! Bake all the lactation cookies! Fill all the glasses with wine! I was a mom now! I was going to be helpful!

I was floored by how much my mothering was helped a thousandfold. Didn't I have this down? It was humbling to see that I still had (have) so much to learn. 

My mother-in-law was nursing around the clock because she had trouble with her supply since she was twenty-sevens years into this whole nursing business. She was so overjoyed that nursing so much had allowed her to have more than enough milk that she actually let down, unlike her most recent pregnancies. The house was crazy and full of young and LOUD life, the baby was crying, her shirt was soaked and and yet she answered the door when someone rang the doorbell. I was stunned. My new mother self was still embarrassed if I had to nurse Ryan, and here she was just going about daily life, soaked shirt and all.  It really is perhaps the most beautiful memory I'll have of her.  She was just mothering, and she was my friend enough to let me witness that.

The person my sons call Oma not only gives them playmates, she has given their mom a friend from the start and thus, a whole lot more sanity and a whole lot more direction in this crazy vocation. I cringe at myself so much throughout the day, but I can't imagine what I would be like for my children without her wisdom, love and hearing her say, "Okay, Katrina, they're climbing up my legs!"

Love you, Mom. Sorry for embarrassing you with this post. You can send your kids to me.