We had a wonderful weekend in the Fullen house. On Friday we had company over in the evening to pray the Rosary with us as we enjoyed one of our last days with the statue of the Immaculate Heart of Mary visiting our home. Saturday night a group came to take Our Lady's statue to another lucky home preparing to be enthroned and then an hour later a different group came to bring the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to our home for the week. Our friend Joe Amaral (one of the men in the group) gave a beautiful talk about his devotion to the Sacred Heart and some of the promises Jesus made to those who would be devoted to the Sacred Heart.
We will again be opening our home to those who would like to come and pray with us at 7pm every night this week. We will be having a Mass of Enthronement at our house on Wednesday at 7pm. You're welcome to join us!
Another treat was that Shaun's daughter, Cheyanne came to visit for the weekend. We LOVED having her! Cheyanne is such a sweetheart. She's intelligent, talented, beautiful, well spoken, sweet and truly her Father's pride and joy. We always love having her down for a visit, I only wish we got to see a little more of her. Ava's so lucky to be getting a big sister like her! She's going to be great with her. Over the weekend, we had some quiet hang out time at the house...
...cooked out on the grill (Shaun makes THE BEST STEAK), scared ourselves silly telling "creepy stories", attended Mass together, prayed together, and of course went FISHING...
Then later on Sunday afternoon we went to visit some friends of mine for the occasion of thier oldest son Joshua's graduation from College before he moves away to start his life as an official "adult" (yikes!)
Josh is heading off to work for American Airlines as an engineer. I CANNOT believe he's graduated... or quite frankly old enough. Boy does time fly.
"Welcome to the Gonya's"
This sign is outside their pool and visiting is certainly an experience! You instantly feel "Welcome" for sure. Shaun & Cheyanne didn't know anyone and bravely headed into this event not knowing what to expect. I assured them they'd have a good time.
Upon oour arrival, we were immediately greeted at the end of the driveway by 16 year old "Luke" (I think he might have been 5 years old when we first met) who proved himself to be the "host with the most". He biked us over to our parking spot and walked us back to the house catching us up on all the recent Gonya details between all the brothers and sisters. (Just in case you think he's not listening, this teenager knows everything that's going on!)
He was welcoming, kind, sociable, and just an all around "cool kid" (and taller than ME). We loved getting to spend some long overdue time with him.
Before I get out of order, let me see how far I can get with the Gonya names (it's sort of a personal challenge). They get blurry for me after a certain point mostly because I'm terrible with names (really bad) and because I don't get to see them nearly as often as I'd like... AND because there are 15 of them (actually 16! One more on the way, due a month after my own little "Ava Marie")
There's of course Joshua the oldest (who we already introduced) who is handsome, bright, kind, social, humble, helpful and easy to love... in fact, he's loved by all. Everyone is so proud of him and rightly so.
then there's Erin (on the right in the pink) who we just found out is recently engaged to a wonderful young man who is super lucky I must say! We plan on getting together to discuss wedding planning! Once again, I cannot even believe she's 21 and getting married next year!
On the left is Emily. Emily is ALL sweetness and with the face of a supermodel and heart of an angel. She walked around the party sort of like a modern June Cleaver helping her mother, preparing food and desserts, getting food cleared and put out, handling guests and phone calls with a smile that could make the sun seem dim and neatly dressed in her cute little outfit. I couldn't say enough good things about her, so I'll stop.
There's also Patrick (here with his girlfriend). Another doll.
Then comes Luke (our host who you already met).
after Luke comes Olivia, who is the same age as Cheyanne and also made our day! She was super-duper welcoming showing us around the house, introducing us (& Cheyanne) to new friends, their new pony,
their calf (who they're raising to milk),
the chickens (who they get two dozen fresh eggs a DAY from),
and ended up playing bocce ball in their HUGE back yard.
(here's Cheyanne with Olivia)
Cheyanne & Shaun had never played bocce before, but after watching for a bit...
Cheyanne & Shaun had never played bocce before, but after watching for a bit...
ended up being naturals! They beat the reigning team 11-0!!!
after Olivia come Peter and James (who I don't have pictures of unfortunately... well here's one in the camo (2nd from the right) playing croquet) who I was told by Luke with answer to either Peter or James... their humility in this regard is actually creatively "smart" as it does make it difficult to know what their real names actually are... perhaps they will grow up to be spys! They did after all evade my camera.
Then come the first set of twins...
(here with her little sister)
and her twin, Joseph
(here shown getting ready to go on his first trip to camp for a week... he wasn't sure at first how he felt about this and through tear filled eyes went around the party for an hour hugging each of his family members and friends before he decided that he really DID want to go and came out early dressed like you see him above!)
...after this point I get a little blurry and honestly may have gotten the order wrong a bit. Probably because I remember these two (Maggie & Joseph) distinctly from when they were still just babies and then my life got busy and and kept on rolling (and Gonya's kept coming) after the twins.
I don't have photos of all the littlest ones but do have a couple of photos of this little cutie (sorry, forgot her name! I was probably stunned by how sweet she looked)
and another couple of shots of one of the youngest in the 2nd set of twins... Michael was just TOO cute!
I somehow missed shots of the few other little ones. They could have been playing in the pool or the bouncy tent, or watching the horseshoe game, or playing swords with the boys, or playing croquet, volleyball or bocce ball, perhaps they hanging around the veritable petting zoo, playing in the house, eating some of the great food or lounging with all the relatives... these people certainly know how to throw a party!!!
Jay is the amazing "Patriarch" to this beautiful family. He works SO hard to be such a good example and role model. It is clear how deeply he loves his wife, Janine and children. He is gracious, complimental, joyful, humble, down to earth and truly the man who I'm certain his children look up to. Not only do I see so many of their mannerisms in him, but even Erin, his oldest girl commented freely on how much her fiance reminded her of her father. She said this with such admiration and respect that it was clear of how much of an influence Jay has on his children... in a good way!
Sure... she looks 24 weeks pregnant with her 16th child, right??? Sheesh! How does she do it?
with her Mom (mother of 10. Janine was one of 8 sisters and 2 brothers)
with one of her dearest friends (who married into the family through one of Janine's brothers and is now her sister-in-law)
with 2 of her 7 beautiful sisters
with the guest of honor, her son, Joshua.
Janine is the "Matriarch" of this amazingly beautiful and generous family. They exude joy and welcoming and draw everyone into the Gonya dynamic only to leave them better upon having known them. Anyone who thinks that big families are somehow "irresponsible" or "selfish" or any other silly stereotype that is floating around out there, hasn't met the Gonyas (or any number of other "big" families I have been blessed to know over the years). They attended my wedding and all of the children were well mannered, well groomed, super helpful (they were cleaning up at the end without even being asked!), sociable and just all around amazing!
Janine (now pregnant with her 16th... she looks like she's only a month behind me right??? ...uh, maybe not) has a great sense of humor and can always be found laughing. When I asked her if she knew what she was having, she said, "Well, I know it's not a puppy!" She also has great spiritual depth that leads her to "practice what she preaches" and "walk the walk". I asked her what advice she had for me in regards to giving birth and dealing with the fear that comes with getting what has now reached the size of a watermelon to come out of an opening the size of your mouth... a little anxiety sets in especially when it's your first. She quickly without hesitation said, "You go in and you grab onto your rosaries and just keep meditating on Mary beneath the foot of the cross watching her son. Any pain we suffer is nothing compared to what she had to suffer. Just keep remembering that" ...Good advice.
All in all, I love this family (can you tell?) and felt they were MORE than "blog worthy".
When driving away, both Cheyanne & Shaun commented on what a great time they had and how much they enjoyed their day. Thank you all for your amazing hospitality and witness to life and the joy that comes from living a meaningful life. You're an inspiration!