Building Blocks


My Boy is 13 today.

When I look at him my heart flutters in panic – no please stay little and young and mine forever.

Then I look at him again and see every moment of my little boy – all the moments and birthdays leading to this one – and know that every bit of my little boy is wrapped up tightly in the bones and muscles and cells of the young man before me.

My heart flutters knowing that my little boy will always live in the heart of the man he becomes.


Yesterday was my birthday.  I turned 44.  It was my favorite kind of day, quiet and unplanned.  My husband and kids waited on me hand and foot.  “Are you having a good day?” they kept asking.  And I was.  I wrote and read, took a long walk, swam and joined the kids in a water balloon fight.

Every year on my birthday, I love to rejoice in the ordinary.  Let the day unfold and see what special memories arise.

Last year, my son and I walked down a country road and took tons of black and white photos.  It was truly a gift watching him discover a passion for photography.

He took these photos that day:




For my 40th birthday Lee and the kids took me to dinner at an old inn with thick white tablecloths and older men at nearby tables dressed in navy sports coats.  When dinner ended, we walked down the road to the old New London Barn Playhouse that’s held Summer Stock theater since 1934.  The musical playing was Cats.  It was my third time seeing it, but the first since discovering that it was based on T.S.Eliot’s poem The Song of the Jellicles.

We sat in the front row of the once hayloft balcony.  The performers were so close, maybe just 20 feet below, that it felt like they were singing to us alone.  Sitting in the darkened theater with my husband and children, joy fluttered in my chest and I wondered, Could it get any better than this?

And then it did.  Toward the end of the musical, Grizabella, the old glamour cat, stepped to the front of the stage and began to sing Memorythe song based on T.S. Eliot’s poem Rhapsody on a Windy Night.


See the dew on the sunflower

And a rose that is fading

Roses whither away

Like the sunflower

I yearn to turn my face to the dawn

I am waiting for the day . . .”

As the notes left her mouth, the children, sitting on either side of me, clutched my hands.  I couldn’t take my eyes of the luminous woman standing in the glow of the spotlight.


Not a sound from the pavement

Has the moon lost her memory?

She is smiling alone…”

And then the theater went black – a power outage.  The aisle lights went out. The fans stopped turning.  The audience collectively sucked in their breath.  But the singing never stopped.

Engulfed in darkness, the lyrics washed over us.


All alone in the moonlight

I can smile at the old days

I was beautiful then

I remember the time I knew what happiness was

Let the memory live again…”

And then on her next high note,


Grizabella was suddenly awash in a slanted, yellowy light radiating from the back of the theater.  (Later, we’d find out a quick thinking stagehand used the entry ramp to position the headlights of his Chevy!)

“Touch me

It’s so easy to leave me

All alone with the memory

Of my days in the sun

If you touch me

You’ll understand what happiness is 


A new day has begun.”

Had it ever.  If this was the start of 40, bring it on.

Leaving the theater we saw that the entire town had lost power, and the four of us walked hand in hand down the main street lit entirely by the glow of dazzling starlight. 

Do you have a favorite birthday memory?

The Game of What?

A Friday night dinner with dear friends.

We fed our kids and theirs early and sent them upstairs to play board games. An adult evening – Ah.  Lee put on music, I lit candles and our friends uncorked a bottle of wine.

The wine was passed and stories were shared. Candle wax dripped onto the table.  Nora Jones crooned and forks were set down between succulent bites.  Cabernet was flowing into my glass when the call came from upstairs.  “Mom!  We need help!”  I sipped my wine and chose not to answer.  Then the call came again. “What is it?”  I called back.

“We need help.  We don’t know how to play The Game of Life.  Will you teach us?”


Setting the bottle back on the table, I called back up the stairs,  “Choose another game.  The Game of Life is too confusing.”

I lifted my glass to my lips and started to sip when I noticed the silence.  Looking up, I found my husband and dinner guests staring back at me.  “What?” I asked.

“The Game of Life is too confusing?” my husband repeated.

Then I heard what I’d said.

And even though I believed what I’d said was true, I called back up the stairs, “Hang on, honey.  I’m coming. I’ll teach you how to play The Game of Life.”

I pushed my chair back from the table and thought, If only I knew how.

Summer Reading


When I told my dear friend, Libby Barnett that I was reading The Swiss Family Robinson to the kids this summer, her face lit up.  “My father read that to me when I was a little girl,” she said.  She got a far away look in her eyes and said, “I remember it so clearly.  How I loved the oldest boy Fritz and all of their adventures and wished I was on the island with them!”

Watching her remember, as if she’d gone back in time, I wondered if my children would remember the stories I’d read to them.

So I asked.  And it turns out they do!  Before I knew it, we’d created a list of our Very Favorite, Most Memorable Books.  Please help us add to the list and tell us some of your favorites!

Picture Books 

When these “Oldies but Goodies” get pulled off the shelf, everyone smiles, nestles in a little more deeply and casually tries to claim the book as a bedtime companion.  After looking over the list we’d compiled, I wondered why out of all the books on our shelves, we chose this particular handful of picture books.  Then I remembered.  When Andie was in her NICU home, two-year-old Tucker and I recorded a tape of us reading stories in to a mini-tape recorder and left it in her isolette.  Even when we weren’t there, we knew she’d hear our voices when the nurses played the tape.  Can you guess what books we read onto that tape?  Yup, the books on the list below!
summer-reading2-150x150Koko’s Kitten by Dr. Francine Patterson – The story of the gorilla Koko who communicates in sign language and expresses her desire for a kitten as a friend. A beautiful, true story – a real tearjerker.
summer-reading3-150x150The Mitten by Jan Brett – As a little guy, Tucker would point to the mitten lost in the snow and say, “Uh, oh.” We love all of Jan Brett’s books! Another favorite is Trouble with Trolls, where a young girl tricks the trolls and makes her get away on skis!
summer-reading4-150x150Husband and wife team, Don and Audrey Wood, she writes, he illustrates have created some of our favorites: I’m as Quick as a Cricket, The Napping House, The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear and our all time favorite King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub, about a silly king who refuses to get out of the tub!
summer-reading5-150x150Speaking of tubs, The Tub People by Pam Conrad is another of our beloved books. The story of little wooden people who happily live on the edge of the tub until the tragic day the tub boy is lost down the drain. I’ve never read it without choking up.
summer-reading6-150x150Flossy and the Fox – This is the story of a clever young girl who tries to outsmart a fox. The story was told to the author, Patricia McKissack by her grandfather and in the audio version, she reads the story in her native language of the Deep South. My attempts to replicate her accent are always good for a laugh!
summer-reading7-150x150Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman, a protégé of Theodor Geisel, aka Dr. Seuss. How can you not love a story where dogs party wildly on top of a tree? We also admire the frank, truthful language, “No I do not like that Hat.”
summer-reading8-150x150Billy And Blaze: A Boy And His Horse (and the entire series) by C.W. Anderson. These picture books that tell the adventure stories of a boy and his horse. They are longer picture books and serve as a wonderful bridge before moving on to chapter books.

Chapter Books
summer-reading9-150x150The BFG – We love all of Roald Dahl’s books, but this is our favorite. This is the book where Daddy perfected his “giant voice” and created a Big Friendly Giant our children will forever remember and adore!
summer-reading10-150x150Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh – One of my all time childhood favorites. I couldn’t wait for the kids to be old enough to meet Harriet, the incredibly wise and wonderful child who literally spies on people and chronicles their lives in her ever-present notebook.
summer-reading11-150x150From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg – This Newbery Award winning book chronicles the story of brother and sister, Jamie and Claudia who run away from home and spend the night in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
summer-reading12-150x150Grayson by Lynne Cox – This is the extraordinary story of a teenage girl who spends a morning swimming of the California coast with a baby whale who’s searching for his mother. Just thinking about this true story gives me chills.
summer-reading13-150x150The Wayside School books by Louis Sachar – The Wayside School was supposed to a single story with thirty classrooms side by side. Instead the classrooms were built one on top of the other, creating a school thirty stories tall! These stories are completely absurd, absolutely hysterical and a must read! If you can find an audio version and hear Louis Sachar reading in his nasally voice, your car trips will never be the same!

We love listening to Audio Books. They’re expensive, so we borrow them the library or set up an exchange with friends. They’re great for long car trips, but we often have a story playing just for the daily trips back and forth to school. We have many favorites, but one is Charlotte’s Web, read by E.B. White. To hear him tell the story in his rich Maine accent is truly a delight.

Parenting Books

Thought I’d add of few of my “go-tos.”
summer-reading14-150x150Mitten Strings for God: Reflections for Mothers in a Hurry by Katrina Kenison – Found this in the hospital gift shop the day after Andie was born. Need I say more?
summer-reading15-150x150Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish – This book has truly been a life saver when my children are constantly fighting and I’m ready to pack up and move out!


Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Kim John Payne – True disclosure, I haven’t finished reading this book yet, but from what I’ve read so far, it’s right on. The book has allowed me to see that our family, like so many others, is moving too fast and like frogs in a pot of water that’s slowly coming to a boil, we don’t even know it!
summer-reading17-150x150Finally, a book I just finished reading last night, not a parenting book necessarily, but a book about living life Wholeheartedly. It’s so amazing I’m ready to stand on a street corner and pass out copies, The Gifts of Imperfection; Let Go of Who You think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene’ Brown. More to come about this book, as I’d like to devote and entire blog to this one!

We’re hoping this will be just the beginning of a growing list as you share your favorites as well! Just click on the Comment link below to leave your suggestions. Even if it’s just one favorite, we’d love to know about it!

Little Ducklings?

LittleDucklings2Ever year when school resumes in the fall, I count down the days ‘til summer vacation begins.  I can’t wait to get the kids back in my nest, to allow our days a rhythm without alarm clocks, scheduled activities and homework.  To let their sleepy brains awaken over a plate of syrupy pancakes and watch their creative energies emerge ready to paint, draw, build Lego villages, or simply lie on the grass and look for shapes in the clouds.

When I think back on our summers past, I picture myself as a mother duck, the kids my little ducklings, following wherever I lead, rejoicing at places we arrive, delighting in activities I suggest, cheerfully eating foods I provide, and nesting in for sleep when I say the time is just right.

I assumed this summer would be just like all the others.  Yet as soon as school let out, I quickly learned that 10 and 12 year old ducklings don’t necessarily want to follow Momma Duck’s lead anymore.

In fact, they don’t really like Momma Duck’s food or bedtime or chores or quiet walks in the woods or fairy house building or puzzles or coloring.

What pre-adolescent ducks do like is TV and Wii and hanging out with friends and sleeping late and going to bed late and complaining and loud hip-hop music that ruffles Momma Duck’s feathers and iPods and computers and arguing and pecking at each other to the point where Mama Duck’s feathers just might fall right out.  At the same time, the ducklings still love ice cream cones and big bowls of popcorn and movie night, water balloons, and wiffle ball and swimming, and curling up next to Momma to listen to stories.

So it seems this summer is about Momma Duck learning to let these growing ducklings sometimes take the lead, or at least swim by their sides, all the while, keeping the nest soft and inviting, allowing the ducklings a safe and familiar place in which to return to rest.


Real Women’s Soccer

Soccer1The only thing my husband wanted for Father’s Day was my participation in the first annual, mother-daughter end-of-season soccer game. It was our first and only free Sunday in June, and the last thing I wanted to do.

But by Sunday, I felt guilty about the complaining I’d done all week and decided to embrace the event.  Between Lee and Tucker’s closets I pulled together an outfit; Tuck’s Irish soccer jersey (too tight), Lee’s white socks with green stripes (too long), Lee’s soccer shorts and shin pads (too big) and Tuck’s still-too-big-for-him, hand-me-down cleats (just right).

I was filling a water bottle at the kitchen sink, when Andie came in.  I waited for her to laugh.  Instead she said, “Mom, you look AWESOME!” and gave me a big hug.  When Lee and Tuck came in, their faces broke out in huge, happy smiles, and I decided to leave my back-up clothes at home.

When we pulled into to the parking lot I saw other moms out on the field.  They were all in loose yoga pants, sweatpants, cute tank tops, too big t-shirts and sneakers!  I willed those extra clothes I’d left back at home to magically appear in my car.  I scoured the back seat, turning over notebooks, torn magazines, snow scrapers, water bottles, dog leashes and crushed up chips in the hopes of miraculously finding a stray shirt or pair of pants.  Nothing.

I stared out the front windshield and Lee motioned Come on from the field.  Slowly I opened the car door and stepped out.  I wobbled and nearly fell over as the cleats found their footing on the gravel parking lot.  Pulling my baseball cap low over my eyes, I made myself walk forward.  When I reached the field, Lee threw his arm around my shoulder and whispered, “You look great,” in my ear.  I looked up to make some snarky reply, and there before my eyes was Louise, another team mom, and she was wearing tall orange socks and cleats!  When I lifted my cap for a better look, I saw several other moms wearing a hodgepodge of their kid’s/husband’s soccer clothes, too!

As the 9 and 10-year-old girls easily lined up in their field positions, we moms milled about, trying to decide who would play where.  The only mom with a bit of experience was quickly elected captain.  “Who’s up for playing up front – doing a lot of running?” she asked.  I’d been walking a bit lately to tone up, so I raised my hand.  So did Louise and one other mom.  The other moms found places on the field and the game began.

Within the first 5 minutes, my legs and throat were burning, but we surprisingly held our own.  Louise even managed to score a goal, tying the game at one all.

When the ref (my husband) announced next goal wins, the girls came on hard, shooting again and again at the goal, where our only experienced player and captain, repeatedly blocked their shots.  After one save, she punted the ball hard and it landed right over my head, bouncing toward the girl’s goal.  I turned to follow the ball and saw that I had a clear break away.

I forced my exhausted legs to run and saw that the only thing standing between me and a game-winning goal,  was that cute little goalie bouncing on the front of her toes.  I pulled my right foot back, ready to shoot and bring it home for moms.  My foot released, sailing forward, yet just before my cleat met the ball, a bright yellow cleat, toe pointing straight up, slid in and knocked the ball out of bounds.  I fell back toward the ground, glimpsing a long blond ponytail and Andie’s face looking down at me with an enormous smile on her face.

The girls scored right after that and went on to win the game.  But that’s ok, because now I’m inspired.  Throughout my daily walks, I pick a mailbox, a tree or a street sign about 50 yards away and sprint as fast as I can, all the while imagining a soccer ball, a goal and my daughter trying (unsuccessfully!) to catch me.

Whoops, Silly me!  Wrong Picture!


Here it is!


Go U.S. Women!!

Independence Day


My dad’s birthday is on the 4th of July. For years we woke to the mixture of him blasting John Phillip Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever and my mother shouts of “Turn that music down, Jerry.”

We spent all his birthdays at my aunt, uncle and grandparent’s summer cottages in Henderson Harbor, NY.  The only time during the 4th of July that I didn’t spend in the water or making tents out of towels on the lawn, or running around with lit sparklers was when everyone gathered around Nam and Gramp’s black and white, rabbit-eared TV to watch Wimbledon.

I remember one year, leaning back against Dad’s legs watching Chrissy Evert battle Martina Navratilova.  Chrissy had just hit a beautiful winner down the line.  “Dad,” I said, “I bet she could beat you.” Everyone had laughed. Confused and embarrassed, I pulled my knees into my chest, until Dad patted me on the back as if to say, it’s ok.  Then I knew my silly mistake.  Of course she couldn’t beat my dad.  Nobody could beat my dad.

For years I’d sat on the grass outside the courts, watching him play.  His opponents would always tease, Oh no, he’s brought his good luck charm, and I’d wait for them to finish so I could get on the court with Dad.  Eventually I’d stand on the opposite side of the court, trying to return his serve, trying not mishit the ball as he charged the net, and trying to win that promised hot fudge sundae if I ever beat him.  We’ve been playing for years and I’ve yet to win that sundae.

The summer I turned 16 was the first I spent away from Dad on his birthday.  Instead, I spent the day at The Wimbledon All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club.

Wimbledon!  I’d traveled to England on a High School summer exchange program and a group of us spent the night sleeping on the payment outside the stadium in hopes of securing tickets.  When the gates opened on the morning of July 4th, we were tenth in line and ended up with front row seats on Center Court.

I tried to mentally record every detail to later share with my dad. The reel still plays in my head of the traditional bowl of strawberries and cream, the delicately manicured pea green grass of the courts, our Chrissy playing just yards away from me, the misbehaving fans screaming from the standing-room-only section, Jimmy Connor’s bow to Princess Diana that made her blush so deeply, and how she was so pretty in a soft, fuchsia dress that several times I ended up watching her instead of the tennis match.

So there I was, across the ocean from both a dad and a country celebrating birthdays.  A 16-year-old girl experiencing her first true taste of independence; all the while wishing her Dad was by her side to share it.



Connection1After Andie was born nearly four months early, I longed for a woman who had walked in my shoes.  I needed someone to hold my hand and nod her head in understanding as I voiced my fears and uncertainty.  But that woman never arrived, and my loneliness, grief and fear took up residence just below the surface of my skin.

As the years passed and our beautiful daughter grew and thrived, surpassing our wildest expectations, I poured all those suppressed emotions onto the pages of a memoir.  It took years to thoroughly excavate the buried memories and feelings, but once my book was complete, I believed I was healed.

And then I received an email from a preemie mom named Babs.  She worked for the organization Hand to Hold, whose mission is to provide support to parents of preemies, parents of babies born with special health care needs and parents who have experienced loss.  When she and Kelli, Hand to Hold’s founder and president, told me their premature birth stories, something deep inside me cracked open, and I thought my tears might never stop.  I realized my long ago need for connection had never really gone away.

Since that time, Babs and Kelli have become dear friends and asked me to write for Hand to Hold’s June newsletter!

The topic, Summer with your Preemie triggered memories from Andie’s third summer, when fear had become such a part of my daily life, I often found everyday events simply terrifying.

I hope you’ll visit their webpage and read the story in its entirety!


The sun shone in through the kitchen window spreading across the breakfast table, bathing the kids in a warm glow.  I let out a long, slow breath.  Summer had finally arrived.

My husband walked into the kitchen.  “The pool’s open.  Let’s take the kids over today.”

I looked at the sweet little swimsuit I’d bought for Andie hanging on a hook by the back door.  Size 3 tags still dangled from one of the straps.  I marveled at the fact that she was three.  She’d come so far.  We’d all come so far.  I watched her take a piece of waffle off her big brother’s plate.  I sat back in my chair and smiled.  Another cold and flu season was behind us and with summer’s arrival we could finally let down our guards…

Read more…


Summer Shift

SummerShift1I couldn’t wait for the kids to get out of school for summer. To sleep in late, eat leisurely breakfasts without making lunches at the same time and not have to race to school before the 7:55 bell ran.

After the end-of-year ceremony on Friday morning, we had a picnic back at our house for both Andie and Tucker’s classes. The party was scheduled to go until 1:00 pm, but the last family left just after 4:00 and a couple of kids stayed over for the night.

Saturday brought soccer games and more end-of-year parties, and Sunday brought even more of the same. The kids were tired, yet loved every minute of the constant entertainment.

Then Monday morning arrived with pouring rain, and not an activity in sight. I was thrilled.  I woke early and read in bed, imagining the glorious, unscheduled day that lay ahead.

But by 1:00 in the afternoon, after saying no to TV for the hundredth time, repeatedly congratulating the kids on the luxury of being bored, tolerating their fighting and running out of chores for them to complete, I started to panic.

I wondered if it was too late to get them into summer camps. I wrote out a grid of calendar squares and made lists of all the activities for which I could sign them up. I remembered the fliers I’d seen at the café and the personal ads in the school newsletter. My pencil scratched across the page listing tennis lessons, guitar and drum lessons, math tutoring, pottery and painting lessons, swimming lessons, archery, basketball, soccer and circus camps. These kids wouldn’t be bored by the time I was done with them.

Then a photo on my desk from last summer caught my eye. The kids were tanned, wearing over sized sweatshirts, sitting on beach chairs around a backyard campfire with s’more sticks balanced in their hands. I studied the picture and told myself to hang in there. Give the kids some time to make a shift and remember what it feels like to have unplanned, open-ended time. They will remember, I told myself.  Resist the urge to plan.

So I slid my lists off to the side of my desk and let out the breath I didn’t know I’d been holding.

A little while later, the house had grown so quiet that I went in search of the kids. Soft talking and laughter was coming from Tucker’s room. When I peeked around his door, I saw the kids up on his bed with a card game spread out between them.

“Oh, hi Mom,” Tuck said, when he saw me looking in. “Andie’s teaching me to play Zeus on the Loose. You wanna play?”

The rain continued to splatter on the roof, and I felt our summer shift begin.

“There’s nothing I’d rather do,” I said, climbing up on the bed with the kids who would be all mine for the rest of the summer.


We’re always on the look out for fun summer games and activities? Any you’d like to share?


We’re always on the look out for fun summer games and activities? Any you’d like to share?


Moments1As a parent of a premature baby, or the parent of a child facing any sort of challenge, or the parent of, well, any child…there are those moments… those moments that stop you in your tracks, and simply take your breath away.

It might be a first…a child’s first word, or step, or lost tooth, or first ride on a bicycle without training wheels, or first day of Kindergarten.

It could also be a last…a child’s last bottle, or diaper, or last day of third grade, or ball game of the season.

It may be one of those ordinary, everyday moments…lying in bed sharing a favorite bedtime story, or a little hand coming down to rest on your shoulder, or watching your sleeping child’s breath gently rise and fall.

You can’t predict when they’re going to come, and it’s often when you least expect it.

I had a big one the other day.

The founder of NANT – The National Association of Neonatal Therapists Sue Ludwig has become a friend and asked me to speak at next year’s convention.  Before this year’s convention held in May, Sue asked me to send her some photos of Andie for a video she’d show during the convention.

I heard from Sue that the convention was a great success and the video was a hit, so I scrolled my mouse over to the highlighted blue link and pressed play when the video came up. Images of tiny babies flashed on the screen, and then, there was my girl, all grown up, sitting tall and proud on the back of a horse and in the middle of a field of blazing buttercups.

I’ve now watched the video many times, but each time it continues to be one of those moments all over again.

What moments have stopped you in your tracks lately?