Friday, June 4, 2010

Looks like we made it!

Joe officially graduated last Friday. Yep, we made it! I can hardly believe that we’re still here and in one piece. The past 4 years have had some incredible ups and downs, and there were times that neither of us was sure we’d get through it.

Joe started law school in August 2006, one year after we got married. In October 2006 we found out that Ella was on her way. Yeah, how’s that for timing. I wouldn’t trade Ella for anything, but even now I wonder what made us (me) think it was a good idea to have a kid while Joe was in law school. The first year of law school is the most stressful, and with us expecting a baby and him working, things were definitely stressful…but we made it.

Ella was born in June 2007. God’s timing is perfect! She was born after Joe’s finals and he wasn’t taking any summer classes, so we had the entire summer to deal with having a new baby, let alone a new baby with EB. The thought of Joe dropping out of school crossed both of our minds, but we had worked too hard and in my mind, quitting wasn’t an option. I believe the conversation went something like this:

Joe: I’ve been thinking…
Me: I know what you’re going to say and it’s not going to happen.
Joe: I think I should drop out of school.
Me: No.
Joe: Just for a semester, then I can go back.
Me: No.

I don’t remember how the conversation ended, but Joe stayed in school and here we are 3 years later. Ultimately, God gave both of us the peace that it was going to work out.

In September I went back to work and Joe quit his day-job to stay home with Ella. He started working a part-time job that he could do on the weekends or during his free time (as if he had any). He stayed with Ella during the day while I worked. At 5:00 pm I would leave my office and meet Joe in a parking lot in Crystal City, half way between my office and our house. We would move Ella from his car to my car, then I would drive home and he’d go to class. I had to leave at exactly 5:00 because if I left even 10 minutes late then it meant that Joe would be late for class. Joe got home around 9:30 pm and would eat dinner, then I’d go upstairs and prepare for Ella’s bath and bandage change. At this time her bandage change was still taking us at least 2 hours, usually longer. We’d start around 10 pm and if we were lucky we were finished by midnight. After cleaning up and pumping (sorry if that’s TMI for you men) we’d go to bed. I woke up at 6 am the next morning to pump again and get ready for work. I was on the road around 7 am to sit in traffic for an hour so I could be at the office by 8, and our schedule would start all over again. Thank heavens we got Metti at the end of November, which definitely made things easier, but Joe and I were still doing the bandage changes at night. In December I was blessed with a new job that was just 1 mile from our house, so I didn’t have to make the hour commute anymore. The following semester Joe was able to work his schedule so that he only had class 2 nights a week, so we just skipped bandage changes those nights. It worked out so much easier. By the time we reached Joe’s last semester of class we had life down to a science. Metti started helping with the bandages or I would do them alone, and by the time Joe got home from class we could have a somewhat “normal” life.

At the time people kept asking us how we were balancing it all, and the only answer we could give was, “I don’t know.” If I was asked today how we made it through law school, especially Joe’s first semester back after Ella was born, I would give the same answer, I don’t know. The only explanation is that God provided us with the strength we needed. I used to lay in bed and cry from extreme exhaustion and pray that God would take my few hours of sleep and multiply them so that I could just function the next day. Joe was just as exhausted. I assumed that during the day Ella would sleep and Joe would be able to get a good 2 hours of studying in. Not so. She only slept for 30-45 minute increments and between her naps Joe was feeding her or just taking care of her. Needless to say, studying for law school in 30-45 minute segments isn’t the most productive way to study. Regardless of how it happened, here we are, 4 years later and Joe has a law degree. I couldn’t be more proud of him!

My parents came into town on Sunday May 23rd to spend the week with us and to be here on Friday for Joe’s graduation. Janet (Joe’s mom) came into town Thursday night and Joe’s brother and 2 of his sisters left their homes bright and early on Thursday morning to drive down for the graduation ceremony. It was so great to have family here to celebrate with us! Thankfully we didn’t need tickets for the graduation, so anyone who wanted to come could. That meant that those listed above, along with myself, Metti and Ella all headed to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the ceremony. Thank heavens Janet got there early and saved seats for all of us, because the place was completely packed!

I was fully prepared to cry through the entire ceremony, but I kept swallowing those lumps in my throat and made it through without any hysterical bawling. Of course after the ceremony when Joe came over to us and I saw him completely decked out in his cap and gown, that’s when I completely lost it! He looked so handsome and I was so proud of him. The sisters (Jenny and Trish) and I decided that when they called Joe’s name we were going to stand up and yell…and boy did we yell. Everyone knew who Joe belonged to! And every time anyone clapped for any reason, whether a speaker, another graduate, or anything else, Ella would clap her hands and say, “Yay daddy!” I must also note that on Friday morning when Ella was getting ready for the graduation, she picked out her very special glitter shoes (chosen by our loyal followers) to wear for the occasion. They are still a bit big, which is why she hasn't been wearing them around, but she knew they were just what she needed for daddy's graduation.

After the ceremony the school put on a wonderful reception. This wasn’t just cookies, cheese and punch. This was a major reception with sandwiches, a mashed potato bar (I had never heard of one but it was so good), pop corn, ice cream, cup cakes, chips, and on and on. We were able to sit together and talk about the day and all the wonderful things that surrounded it. After lunch we headed to our house to relax for the afternoon. Unfortunately we had to say goodbye to Jenny and Trish who had to rush back home, but the rest of us went to dinner to complete the day of celebration.

Saturday morning we woke up early (Joe’s brother, Billy, headed home before the rest of us woke up) and headed to breakfast while the cleaning lady came and cleaned the house for the party (oh how I love Ana!). After breakfast Janet, my mom (Gale) and I headed to the grocery store to get everything for the big celebration. My cousin drove in from Durham, NC to go to the party, and my dad’s cousin and her family all came down from MD to be there. We were really touched by how many people were willing to travel to come celebrate with Joe. The party was a hit and we are so thankful to everyone who made the time to come celebrate with us. (Side Note: It had been a long few days for Ella, so she stayed in her pajamas all day on Sat. Too bad the adorable outfit I bought for the party remained in her closet, but at least her jammies had cupcakes on them.) After the party we were exhausted, so we ordered Chinese food and stayed at home. I think we were all in bed around 9:30 pm.

Janet left Sunday morning and my parents left Monday afternoon. Our house is now quiet and Ella’s days are back to just her and Metti. It was a great weekend! Thanks to everyone for helping make it special. Joe started his bar class last week, so now he’s spending his nights back in class. The good news is that this is only 8 weeks…although all of my lawyer friends have told me that the next 8 weeks I need to be more understanding and forgiving than ever before. Apparently people get very cranky while studying for the bar.

**As I mentioned in my previous post, our internet was down for several weeks and we just got reconnected. I know we are seriously lacking in pictures, so I'll be sure to get some new ones downloaded this weekend. And yes, there are plenty of graduation pictures, although none from the party since I was too busy talking to our guests and not taking pictures.


Katherine Klegin said...

Hooray for Joe for being an awesome dad/husband/student!! Congrats buddy!

jr high said...

Wow, Talk about running the race!
Congratulations to you all!