East Hanover, Hanover, Florham Park: Time to Applaud Your Moms

By Steve Sears

Beth Vecchio is big on the topic of adoption.

She should be. She lived it.

Four times. On the same day.

“On the same day, they are from the same family,” she says, happily, of David (33), Michael (deceased at age 29), Kyle (30), and Julie (29). They were ages 6, 5, 4, and 2 ½ when Beth was named as their adopted mom. “They were beautiful, kind of, sort of looked like me. We fell in love after the first day. They came to my house as fosters. I did not know they were going to become adoptable. Apparently, the social workers did, but that was hidden from me for quite some time because they were observing me – they wanted to make sure it was going to be a good fit.”

A few months later, she was asked if she wished to adopt the four children. There was no question what her response would be.

This story gets better. Vecchio is single; always has been. In her thirties, she was very interested raising “a” – that’s one – child. “I specifically told the agency that I’d like a young girl that was school age, because I was a teacher and didn’t want to miss any days of school. They said, ‘Okay,’ and what I got was four children, three of them boys, and only one was in a grade for school. The others were in kindergarten, Pre-K and Pre-KK,” she recalls with a laugh. But there was a tint dilemma. “I said to my co-worker that day, ‘Oh my gosh, they just called me. I have to go and pick up four children. What am I going to do – I have to come to work tomorrow?!” That same day, her co-worker’s mother-in-law had lost her job, so the woman instantly became nanny to the four Vecchio children for a year.

“It just all worked as it’s supposed to.”

Motherhood has changed Vecchio, who is Choir and Music Director at Saint Virgil’s Parish in Morris Plains, in every way. “They matter more to me than anything. Your job is to make sure they’re fine, and that continues for a long time, even after they’re grown. It’s very important. And it doesn’t matter if you’re an adoptive mom or you bore the children, it really is the absolute same.”

For Vecchio, her mom was the most devoted. “She believed that her family was a million times more important than anyone else she knew. She didn’t disregard others, she certainly helped out others in need. She wasn’t exclusionary, but she made it very clear that her family mattered the most.”

She then speaks to the challenges of being a mother. “When they’re young, it’s all about safety. Keeping them safe. When they are getting to be their own people, it’s giving them the mentoring, the space to find themselves. Guiding and giving freedom at the same time.”

For Vecchio, her proudest moment was when the four children sat next to her on a chair after officially being named their mom. “Yes, the adoption day. We went to see the judge, and because the kids were all so little, he said, ‘Come on, guys, come into my chambers.’ He let them twirl around in is big leather chair and touch all his stuff. He really wanted it to be an experience for them, and he said, ‘This is the best day of my life as a judge. Usually I help families tear themselves apart. Today I’m helping put a family together.’”

Hanover’s Lorelei Kelly had a great Mom.

“My mother was a great mom. She was loving, compassionate, gentle and yet a disciplinarian. She and my dad married in 1933 during the depression.  They worked together to raise 4 children and had 12 grandchildren. They showed us a strong work ethic and encouraged us all to be good, responsible, independent people. My mom only went to third grade, so education was important to her.  She managed the money and the household, was a great cook, loved to read, was a role model of how to treat others. But I was the first girl in my Italian family who graduated college. She encouraged me and was proud of my accomplishments.”

Kelly is now proud of the accomplishments of her own children. Alissa, age 48, is married with five children (ages 15-23), and son Michael, 45, is also married, and dad to two girls. “There is no one “proudest Mom Moment”; the moments are watching my children raising their children to be responsible, independent, compassionate   people. Also, knowing my daughter and son are friends as well as siblings is a great joy to us.”

Kelly echoes what many moms state: You may think you are prepared to be a mom, but you never know what is really going to happen. “My older sister had four children by the time I got married. My husband-to-be Mike and I babysat and helped her a great deal, so we were both pretty knowledgeable and ready.  But we had some health issues with the births which you are never really prepared for, but it is all part of the process. You have to be flexible.” Also, motherhood is all about adjustment. “I learned to adjust to many situations, to listen differently, to love unconditionally.  I think those life lessons have helped me in my marriage, in my relationships with friends and family and in my various careers. I have been truly blessed, ‘changed’ in many ‘special ways.’”

Kelly worked as a Medical Technologist in a large hospital until Alissa was born, then opted to stay home with her. “When Alissa was 3 and Michael was 10 months old, I started selling Tupperware. I could do the parties at night when their Dad was home and be with them during the day. I loved doing the parties, met many wonderful people (fellow Tupperware managers are still my dear friends). Once the children needed me to be at home at night, I did a variety of jobs until I retired in 2012.  The children saw us work together to build a life based on mutual respect, consideration, love and hard work.”

“The most challenging was finding a balance of being a mom, friend, disciplinarian amid outside influences,” says Kelly. “I feel a mom sets the tone of the family. You need to be fair, honest and listen to your children. We made sacrifices for the kids and they appreciated us and their lives. Many of the values we taught them (and they observed) I see them instilling in their children.”

Maria C. Carrell of East Hanover will, in her words, celebrate Mother’s Day with “two wonderful children,” Ryan, age 13, and Madeline, age 9.

She turns back the clock, and then comes forward. “Nothing prepares you to become a mother for the first time!  Your life completely changes for the better. As my children grow, I am finding that each phase of their childhood brings different joy and excitement.  You quickly forget about the sleepless nights when they were infants and begin to appreciate the milestones with your children as they grow and develop.”

Sometimes that growth is done in tandem. Consider the recent Carrell family visit to Niagara Falls. “My adventurous daughter wanted to ride the zip line across the Falls.   My husband obliged to my daughter’s wishes, and they rode it together. My son and I were more hesitant to do so – we stood at the base taking photos. The next day, I could tell that his fears were getting in the way of his ambition.  I told my son that I understood his fears because I had them as well, but we would face our fears together. That afternoon, the two of us rode the zip line and experienced a tremendous sense of accomplishment. It showed my son that he could achieve anything if he puts his mind to it.”

Carrell lauds her own mom as a prime example of the word “mom.” “My mother was (and still is) the epitome of a good mother.  She exudes love and caring for others and especially has a special place in her heart for children. She and my father set high standards for both me and my brother and gave us the tools and motivation needed to reach them.”

Carrell, who has a fairly demanding job which requires many evenings outside her home says you have to learn to master the art of juggling. “My husband and I work as a team at parenting every aspect of our children’s lives – from schoolwork and dinners, to activities and athletics, we work in tandem to be sure that all aspects of their well-being are covered.”

Motherhood has definitely changed Carrell in a special way.  “It has made me a more patient and adaptable person. You learn that you cannot always fit your life into a set schedule as your children’s lives take priority.” She also views life as a mom as educating. “My most important aspect of being a mom is holding my children accountable for their actions.  I need to teach them how to be kind, responsible and productive citizens. This is also the most challenging aspect of being a Mom for I must let go and not control every aspect of their life. I must learn to let them make their own decisions and understand the consequences of their actions.”

Meet Vicky Davey, mom to Kyle (22), Connor (19), and Nicole (18).

“Motherhood is the best thing that has ever happened to me.  The day you become a mom is the day you no longer think of yourself.  Your whole world changes for the better.”

“I was incredibly happy but so nervous when we brought Kyle home from the hospital.  By the time I had Nicole I realized you do not need to worry half as much as you did for your first born.”

Davey is a working mom, she and her husband, Greg, are owners of Everlast Floors in Whippany. “Some days are more difficult than others when you have your own business and are raising a family.  My kids had to come with me to wait for deliveries when they were young. You have to juggle your time between work and kids so you can make it to important events and also get into the office to do necessary paperwork and meetings.  It’s great having your own business especially in your home town. I am lucky where it provides me the flexibility to attend school functions. It also allows me to get closer to the people of the town.”

Davey’s mother and father have been married for over 60 years. “My Mom is the greatest mother in the world.  My parents work as a team, and so do my husband and I. My mom was a stay at home mother who helped my family any way she could.  My mother taught me the true meaning of being a loving and caring mom.” Davey follows suit. “The most challenging aspect is trying to do absolutely everything for your kids.  The most important aspect of being a mom is just to let your kids know you love them and will be there for them no matter what. Each one of my kids is amazing in their own way.  I believe kids gets their confidence from their parents”.

Davey’s proudest moments are each of the days her kids were born.  “All three have given me so much joy it’s hard to say one moment. Kyle is graduating with his master’s in computer engineering from Northeastern University, Boston, MA. Connor is finishing his second year at Penn State University for Business and Nicole, who is the student council president of Whippany Park High School, will be attending Penn State in the fall.”

A day that is engrained in Davey’s my mind is the day their family was told that Connor was in remission from Leukemia.  “Connor was diagnosed with ALL when he was 6 years old. Throughout his 3 1/2-year treatment, Connor was unbelievably brave, and Kyle and Nicole were amazing support for Connor.  You never know how you family will deal with cancer and you never really want to know but I am blessed to be on the other side now saying my family prevailed with flying colors. I always say life is a gift and I truly believe that statement.”

“My kids have given me everything I could ever ask for in life and to say I am proud would be an understatement.”

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