For those of you who only know Nanelle and Kevin by your association with a Nawrocki or McClowry, may I have the honor of telling you a bit of their story?
First off, Thanks, Nanelle for starting the journal on January 29th. Your organizational and intuitive skills have always been incredible.
Once upon a time, Cupid’s arrow made its mark during the first week of freshman year at U of I in Champaign (but it may have been hovering overhead for a while). While talking at a party, these two star-crossed Red Solo Cup drinkers realized some things. Not only were they from high schools located right next door to one another, but that they were fourth in their family birth orders, and incredibly, had both worked at Ridge Country Club in High School… (he, a lowly kitchen cook and she, the girl with the smile like sunshine behind the reception desk).
Back in Champaign, she became true love, study buddy, and muse for the Computer Engineering, Fraternity guy who mostly loved drumming in a band. Nanelle and Kevin are both brilliant but also the humblest people ever. He aced all of his high school honors classes in front of the TV chuckling to the Simpsons. She majored in Management Information Systems and chose to leave her great job to be a stay at home mom. Nanelle and I share the same March 4th birthday and I love her like a daughter.
During their junior year of college, Kevin suffered the loss of his dear brother and favorite guitar player, Conor. To this day, Tom and I ask ourselves how Nanelle and Kevin could have kept up with such difficult courses for those two years. We believe that Kevin’s selfless strength and Nanelle’s loving care was the answer. Thank you, Nanelle for saving our precious son.
During and after college, Kevin spent endless time in Lombard at Nanelle’s parents (John and Carol’s) house and became very close to the whole family including siblings Neal, Nolan and Nicole. I remember asking Carol, “Are you sure Kevin is not overstaying his welcome?” LOL
Soon they were wed in the sunny garden of Oak Park’s Cheney Mansion on September 2, 2006. Kevin’s two Irish Catholic grandmas commented that the Female Episcopalian Minister said the most meaningful words they had ever heard in a wedding ceremony. (funny now that we even were worried about their reaction….the things we learn from our children). An added bonus to that day was the presence of Nanelle’s Grandma, Florence Piotrowski (Buscia) who had very recently had major surgery.
Like Carol and John, Kevin and Nanelle have Liam and Conor, two boys close in age and Atty and Teagan, two girls close in age. They are learning first-hand the beauty life can bring from a bedroom-sharing brother or sister. Nanelle always said how happy they were that they had four children.
Although their every thought and action is for the welfare of their children, Nanelle and Kevin are the antithesis of helicopter parents. Sure, they’ve done all the soccer, softball, Taekwondo, Dancing and Music lessons. Yet to them, it’s just an activity, not a measure of their children. When Liam continued to be the star of his first soccer team and then announced that he would rather just play at home, their reaction was “OK, sure, no big deal, Buddy.” Instead, this family prefers campfires, morel hunting with Eltzroths, backyard gardening together, Michigan with all the Nawrocki cousins, Wisconsin with McClowrys, endless trips to Brookfield Zoo, Disney with Nicole and Andy’s family, or simply watching every single Disney and Pixar movie snuggled on the couch. Kevin has also introduced the kids to childhood favorites like Goonies. They adore family games and Kevin’s creations of Dungeons and Dragons (he even carves wands) keep the kids entertained for hours. In short, Nanelle and Kevin have not lost the joy of being kids themselves.
Music is HUGE in this house on Hill Avenue in GlenEllyn. Alexa rarely stops. There is gentle encouragement to practice violin and piano and dance. The results have been marvelous. When the kids have slept over at our house, we close each bedroom door and allow each child to hear their mom or dad sing them their favorite bedtime song on the family phone. Songs range from Disney to the Beatles to pretty much anything. As a grandma, I cry at the love that comes through hearing Kevin sing.
Kevin is super funny. That’s just a given. You have to hang around awhile though, and you’ll soon realize how quietly and cleverly hilarious Nanelle is. She can imitate any accent and pinpoint the funniest of her observations on life. They laugh a lot, even in some of their darkest hours. Even now. Sometimes.
Nanelle is the perfect gift giver. Each cousin’s gift is the cutest outfit or most perfect book or the toy that never gets put down. Her gift wrapping is a work of art in itself. My house is surrounded by cozy blankets, handmade artwork, aromatic oils, a hammock and swing for our cabin and beautiful blouses and pj’s from Nanelle. And alas, I give cash and gift cards.
Kevin has a very demanding job. In spite of Nanelle’s treatments, his own Cancer surgeries and medication management and being there for his family, his relaxation is found in woodworking and the climbing wall (hasn’t gotten there recently). He gives his creations away. We have incredible handmade tables, barbecue stations, carving boards and he has even made hand-carved creations for Rory, his nephew that could probably bring in hundreds of dollars. (Goblets, chalices, mugs with dragon and Griffin crests and Dungeons and Dragon Terrains) “Love isn’t love until you give it away”
Kevin wrote in his journal that when Nanelle became a mom she became fierce. Yes indeed she did! I have seen Nanelle assemble bikes, kids ATVs, outdoor movie theaters, carry 25 Costco bags in from the van in the dead of winter, jump my car with a dead battery also on a freezing day, carry endless boxes of hand me downs and toys for cousins and stay alone to clean the cabin after her family headed home. Oh, and did I mention all of this was during and after chemo and radiation? Pretty sure Atty and Teagan will be the fierce with a Mom like that.
This is just my perspective on Nanelle and Kevin. They are not people who are immersed in politics or in who is right or wrong in this world. They are a little family who is watching a mom be sick and praying. In my opinion, bringing this many people to pray makes it evident that love really is the answer.