The Harnisch Family

The Harnisch Family

May 13, 2010

My Niece is graduating!!!

Oh my goodness, my mind is racing. I cannot get over the fact that my niece Erika had her last official day of High School yesterday. This is SOO crazy. My baby niece is graduating from High School!! Where has the time gone??
Now you must know, Erika is VERY special to me. Of course, all of my nieces and nephews are special to me...but I must say there is a very special place in my heart for her. She has touched my life in a profound way. I will share that in a little bit.......

Last Friday evening we had an impromptu gathering with Erika to view her senior video (of which her Dad made). It was 30 minutes of TEARS, all happy tears of course, as we watched Erika’s precious little young life flash before our eyes. Each and every photo and video clip brought back so many WONDERFUL memories. Not to mention the fact that the images were accompanied by the perfect song selection, great job Dan! This little angel came into our lives 17&1/2 years ago, brightened it up and brought pure joy and happiness to all who met her. She forever changed the course of where our family is going and what our family stands for.

It seems like only yesterday (I was in 7th grade mind you) when we learned the news that my sister Keri was unexpectedly expecting a baby. It was the summer before her senior year in high school that her life would be derailed and changed forever. I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and while this specific news came as quite a shock to our family, you have to believe that we, as a family, were quick to accept that Keri was bringing a blessing into our lives. I still remember so vividly that night. This is how I (at that time a young, immature 12 year old) recalls that event. Keri had been experiencing severe back pain for quite some time. Finally, after no relief, my mom and dad took her in to get it checked out. It was late, well past midnight. Heather, Lisa and myself were growing concerned. Why was it taking so long for them to come home from what we thought was a simple visit to the doctor? We assumed they'd prescribe her some meds and she'd be home soon...much later, when they finally arrived home, we greeted them at the front door, us three girls sitting at the top of the stairs. Right then and there, in the middles of the night, we had an intense family pow-wow. My Dad, with a serious and endearing expression on his face immediately shared with us the news that Keri was having a baby. Whoa…did I hear this correctly? My sister, of whom everyone who knows her will agree, is a VERY good girl, she has a very nice boyfriend, she is VERY responsible, VERY smart, VERY athletic, she has EVERYTHING going for her. How is this possible? This sort of thing does not happen to girls like her. We were all in tears…At that very moment my dad (who most know is a man of few words and is not overly opinionated) shared with us as a family that Keri realistically has 3 options, but in this family, Keri has 2 options. I don’t think I need to spell them out for you. He said "We AS A FAMILY are going to stand behind her and support her with whichever decision SHE chooses to make. It is ultimately up to HER." I have never had more respect for anyone ever before in my whole life. Those words my dad managed to get out, holding back tears, spoke volumes to his and my mom’s core values. I firmly believe, at that very moment, a moment of darkness, confusion and a little bit of fear for the unknown, our family grew to be close. This is WHY we are as close as we are today. This is the first real challenge our family had faced. And from that moment on I truly believed that FAMILY is everything, with the support of family we can get through anything! We hugged, embraced and wept hard. I still do not and probably cannot really imagine what exactly was going on inside Keri’s heart that night. But I hope she knows that her baby sister still loved, respected and admired her very much. I had always looked up to her and hearing this news did not change anything! Bright and early that next morning we ventured out, as a family, to our Grandparent’s homes to share this news with them in person, as a family. I have deep respect with how this news was broken. It was presented with a “matter of fact” attitude. “Mom, Dad, our daughter Keri is having a baby”. I recall them, strategically, not using the phrase “pregnant”, because the term “pregnant” can come off as so clinical and insensitive. “Keri is having a baby” came off as much more personable, light hearted and endearing. I do believe I remember my Grandma and Grandpa Lee receiving the news very positively, while immediately providing words of comfort, support and productive encouragement. From what I remember, the news was a little more difficult for my Grandma and Grandpa Salisbury to take in. If you knew my G&G Salisbury, you would know that they are (or at least were) pretty strict, very Catholic and stuck in their ways. Growing up we were always careful as to not "dissapoint" them. I remember my Grandma asking in a judging tone “what are you going to do about it”? I remember my dad, responding promptly. We are not here to “ask” you for your acceptance or opinions, we are simply here to share with you this news and to let you know that we, as her parents are supporting her with whatever she needs". Period. Bottom line. That was that. I think that was difficult for my dad to do and say, but it NEEDED to be done. From that day on, we all went on with this new reality and embraced everything beautiful that came along with it.

Keri experienced several complications and was in and out of the hospital with life threatening issues for several months leading up to Erika's birth. Among other things, she had severe blood clots and even underwent blood & plasma transfusions after the delivery. I had mentioned previously that my G&G Salisbury were initially shocked, but once that wore off, they were 100% supportive. During all of these days spent in the hospital they were right there with Keri by her bedside. My Grandma was knitting and my Grandpa spent most of the time playing Tetris on the hand-held Nintendo Gameboy! :-)

The day Erika finally arrived is still a bit foggy to me, but I do recall being by my sisters side through it all. I also recall, vividly, having to leave the birthing room as her contractions increased. You see, due to her condition, she was not able to have an epidural, so as you can imagine, was in severe pain. There was loud screaming and a few not so nice words. I was and still kind of am scarred to tell you the truth. I decided to just go ahead and wait out in the lobby! Blessed be the Lord a beautiful baby girl was born perfect and healthy! September 28, 1992, weighing in at a little over 6pounds, she was the most adorable angel I had ever held in my arms, such tiny and perfect little features. She was truly a miracle. I was such a proud Aunt!!

Fast forward.

Is this NOT one of the cutest little girl's ever...I especially loved watching her at her little baseball games in that big oversized hat :-)

Keri went on to, of course, finish high school. She and her boyfriend, Erika’s biological father, had, for good reason, gone their separate ways. I am so proud of my big sister. Against several odds, she went on to graduate from the College of St. Mary (with two majors & high honors) while holding down a full-time job with US Bank. She still works for and is very loyal to US Bank to this day. They continued to live at home those first few years after Erika was born. Erika was like a baby sister to me. I loved having her around. I loved that she came and cheered me on at all my ball games, she was my biggest fan! All of my friends just adored her. What a joy she brought to our lives. She was like a sister to me. I have many memories of watching Barney with her and reading the Sunday Comics to her very frequently. We also liked to watch the Little Mermaid together. :-) She was one of my best friends! She not only touched the lives of our family, close friends and neighbors, but the entire community of Waterloo embraced this little girl.
A few years later, Erika’s mommy met a prince named Dan Mallory. Dan is an amazing man! He and Keri fell in love, he proposed (in true firefighter fashion), they wed and were sharing a beautiful life. He loved Erika as his own, that was APPARENT. The day he proclaimed to God, stood in front of the judge, signed the papers and officially adopted her was one of the most beautiful days I can recall.
What a celebration we had. Keri and Dan went on to welcome two more babies into the world…Colton and Anna.
Fast Forward

My quick note to Erika: Erika, you are so beautiful inside and out. I could not be more proud to say that I am lucky enough to be your aunt. Before you were born, I strongly believe that you had a choice. God asked you, “what do you want and who do you want, it's up to you, take a pick.” I believe that you hand-picked your mommy. You chose wisely as she certainly IS one of the best. You are the BEST thing that has ever happened to her. You made her who she is today…and for that…I know she in eternally grateful!
Let me rephrase that…you are one of the BEST things that ever happened to all of us. You made US who we are today…and for that…WE are eternally grateful.
We all know that you are going to go on and do great things. You have all the potential in the world to do so! Your mom and dad have instilled the finest of qualities, morals and ethics upon you. Please allow us to continue to share in your wonderful “adult life” journey!!!

So to conclude, I look forward to watching you receive your diploma on that big stage with the rest of your fellow Burke High classmates next Wednesday. My heart will be warm with pride.

Love, Aunt Sherri

I now leave you with a few sweet photos of my dear niece :-)

This photo was taken just before her Senior Prom a couple weeks ago.

Last Christmas! I do believe Erika is somewhat to blame for some of our family craziness :-) The leader of the Pack.

Erika swimming with McKenzie a couple summer's ago. She is so great to all of her little cousins! They adore her and are lucky & blessed to have her watching over and loving them :)


  1. Perfectly said Sherri! Those memories of sitting at the top of the stairs is so fresh in my memory as well. To think back now it probably wasn't a good idea to spin her around crazily on the Tea Cups at Walt Disney World that June. I remember hitching an emergency ride back home from Wayne State College as Keri was in the hospital delivering Erika. I, of course, didn't have a car up there. We all in many ways have contributed and/or sacrificed alot over the years. It was ALL worth it. WE LOVE YOU ERIKA!

    First Favorite Aunt Heather!!!

  2. That was awesome! She was the cutest little baby ever!! Very well written.

  3. Chris (Mom/Grandma Lee)May 13, 2010, 4:21:00 PM

    Oh, my God, nobody could have said it any better. I know you warned us, but it did not help. This little girl has brought so much joy to all our lives and will continue to do so. Dad and I are so proud of her, Keri and Dan for what she has become.


  4. That was beautiful Sherri. Made me tear up!

  5. Wow!!! TEAR JERKER!!! Nice Aunt Sherri...Erika - I know that you know how lucky you are :) I too have many memories of a little chatty 2 year old "neighborhood reporter" who would meet me in the driveway most days when I came home from word and fill me in on what was going on around Waterloo. Then when my boys were born, she was a God Send...she was the perfect age to come play with, read to and later on babysit my boys who called her EEEE KA and love her very much! Love you Erika!!

  6. ohhhh, Sherri. Everytime I visit your site I cry. And yet again tonight, I cried. Just a quick moment of bragging, (as I AM her mother), I must admit, she turned out absolutely wonderful and I couldn't of asked for a better daughter with such a heart of gold and great character. Now I must let her go and share with more people what we have had all to ourselves for 17 short years. Look out world, she will rock it!
    It feels so raw to to go back to that time when finding out she was about to enter our world, and boy did I turn everyone's world upside down. But litte did we know, as everyone always told us,Everything DOES happen for a reason and there is a plan for each and everyone of us. To this day, I truly believe that was my biggest challenge and succeed I did, BUT, not without the help up my Family. Because it took a "Family" to raise this special little girl and not just a single mom. To my family, and now my dearest husband, I am forever thankful. Dad may have said realistically that I had three choices, but in all honesty, I made my choice immediately. I was going to raise her. I told Mom and Dad this on the very night we found out. They were nothing short of AMAZING. Not one lecture of "you know how this happens, blah, blah, blah," nope. "Keri....We Love you and we are here for you no matter what you decide." I knew from that moment on that I was going to be a mom, that I, was going to raise her.
    My fondest memory of Erika's birth was how Mom got to be the first one to feed her since I had fallen very ill right after birth. My second memory is how Dad would have me wake him up every morning at 4:00 a.m. I just did the diaper change and got the bottle ready, and then he would feed her and fall asleep with her in the recliner. This allowed me to get in a little more zzz's and then ready for school. WOW, I only took two weeks off.
    Then 17 years just flew by. Like flipping through a book so fast I didn't even have time to check out the pictures. Gosh, I LOVE this girl and am so glad you put this together. What a great place to reflect on the things that truly are the most important in our lives. Congratulations "Smidgen, Eeeeeeka, Emerica, of the many names, but to me, MY DAUGHTER! And thanks to my entire family for helping raise such a Great Kid.

    Love, Keri

  7. Oh Keri, you just had me in tears!! Gotta love a "Mommies perspective".
    I too recall many naps on the couch with (as Anna now calls her) Ka-Ka. She was such a sweet cuddly baby! And very "go with the flow"...which was a good quality as we were ALL pulling her in a million directions.
    I still to this day am baffled at how a single mom can pull off three fulltime, work & did it gracefully. I think you had just the right amount of independent "i-wanna-do-it-myselfness" and humble "okay-I-could-use-a-little-helpness". At the end of the day you knew that's what would be best Erika. :)
    btw - When I was a Senior, I was soooo excited to have her start Kindergarten at my (and your) very school, Waterloo...I also loved being able to be a Kindergarten aide that year. It was lots of fun watching and playing with her and her little friends that first year of school...oh, and I dooo remember her playing many games and chatting with one cute little boy in particular...Bradley. Tehe. Funny how many things "come back around"!

    Oh and one other thing...I think I remember being slightly jealous of her sometimes too. J.K. But no seriously! She was quite the attention stealer. Many a times her Aunt Lisa and I would have friends over to swim in the hot tub (okay, a party if you will), and this little girl usually had the popular boys in her room reading her stories, playing with puzzles and cooking in her kitchen...I think I recall Brandon Walvoord, Jesse Hays, Jeff Tesmer and especially Mike Safford being her biggest fans. :-)
    And Kristi, I totally remember her being the little "neighborhood reporter"!! too funny :-)

    She sure did have a lot of people (not just family) who loved her!

  8. Awww :) Thankyou so mcuh sherri! This means the world to me! You are such an amazing aunt and have made such a great impact on my life and the person i have become. This blog meant so much and made me feel so great and thankyou for all the great comments!

  9. You are such an awesome aunt! Your niece is lucy to have you!
    Elizabeth Seim

  10. Oddly enough, I even remember hearing about when Keri was pregnant (ask Jodeen, I do have an odd memory!) I love what you wrote about your niece - you have an incredible talent, and an even more incredible family! God is truly good!