I am blessed beyond measure by my family-in-law. All of those connotations that go along with the phrase "in-law" do not apply in my case. My mother-in-law and I have spoken on several occasions about the shock and surprise we both encounter when we tell people about how well we get along. Really, sometimes I get along with her better than I get along with her son! (I love you, honey. All in fun, all in fun)
This October, Maureen was set to celebrate her 60th birthday, and her daughters hatched a plan to surprise her. Not just any old surprise, but a surprise that would bring the entire family home from all corners of the country at the same time! No small feat, but miraculously everyone was able to make the timing work. Even more miraculously, she never had a clue until we were sitting on her back deck on a Thursday evening. There's no way we could have pulled it off without Paul- he played it straight even as he was cooking food for the surprise party the following night, and even up to the moment he called her downstairs to look at something on the computer as we all crept through the alley and up the back steps to the deck. The timing was great. She was shocked. It was absolutely perfect.
We had all arranged to stay in the hotel near the house, so besides the fact that Maureen didn't have to host us all out of the blue, she even got to enjoy the hotel pool and complimentary breakfasts with us every morning! Every night we were there, we put the grandkids (seven now!) to bed in our rooms and hooked up baby monitors down to the lobby so we could gather to play games after bedtime. Worked like a charm! (Don't worry, it was a small hotel... we weren't too far away)
On Friday, the surprises continued with the appearance of Maureen's two sisters and a party in the evening. Then Saturday we got up and prepared for Maureen's birthday gift from everyone: a family picture! She had been trying desperately to make sure we would all be around at Christmas so we could snap a picture of everyone together, and I think she may have been getting a bit frustrated with how nonchalant we all were about our arrival times. Little did she know that we already had a photo shoot scheduled with a great photographer and friend of the family, Daniel Photography and Design. They did an absolutely beautiful job! Bonus: we were all smiling at the end. I think that's the sign of a truly successful photo shoot. Later on Saturday, the Halloween preparations took over. Pumpkins were carved, costumes were donned, and off we went to collect some candy!
The rest of the long weekend was a bit of a whirlwind, visiting all the old haunts (Dinosaur Park, the YMCA pool, various parks and playgrounds) and even managing to snag an adults-only lunch, thanks to Maureen's incredible friends who babysat all seven grandkids and made it look easy! Too soon it was time to say goodbye, but parting was made a little easier by the fact that we will all be together again for Christmas... just around the corner!
When I first met Paul, I have to say that my future family-in-law was about the furthest thing from my mind. When we fell in love, I would have married him regardless of who else came along in the package deal. But oh man did I hit the jackpot! I married into a family that gained me not one but three amazing sisters, and two new brothers who aren't half bad (just kidding, they're wonderful too!) a father-in-law who is an amazing spiritual leader of his family, and a mother-in-law who gets her own whole paragraph:
I am an intensely sensitive person. I take things personally, I worry about what people think of me, and I want to please everyone. If I even get the slightest whiff that someone doesn't approve of what I'm doing, it eats away at me and shuts me down. In the nearly ten years that I have been married to her son, not once have I ever felt judged, put down, or disapproved of by my mother-in-law. We have an open and honest relationship, and she speaks her mind, but I know that every word comes from a place of love and caring. She is supportive, kind, and just plain fun! I can't say it enough, she is one-of-a-kind.
Happy birthday, Maureen. Many, many more!
All photos by Daniel Photography and Design (besides the Halloween ones, of course)