Monday, August 19, 2019


       I’m a fairly superstitious person. I’ve always chalked it up to being from New England.  You can't be a Red Sox fan without a healthy fear of  jinxes…both big and small: upside down horse shoes, black cats, walking under ladders, “calling” a no-hitter when the pitcher is having a golden game, and my personal plague: saying “never."  The very utterance of the word "never" works to ensure that the thing is bound to happen. 

Perhaps the most ironic of my “never” declarations comes from my fear of being a mother.  There is no job for which I feel more ill-equipped and terrified of than that of raising small human beings into decent, God fearing adults. Mothers are 24/7 life or death decision-making executives for 18+ years straight.  This job description doesn’t play to my strengths. I mean I see both sides of every decision. I may take a definitive stance on whether or not I want my appetizer when it's ready or with the others.
      And then….of course…because I said never, I became a mom. Within hours I realized that there is no way to prepare for being a parent. It was far more difficult than I predicted  and yet exceeded any joy I could have imagined. Still, it was terrifying to continually have someone depending on me for their basic needs.  So, I maturely and promptly vowed never to have another child. 

But apparently, jinxes are stronger than birth control and only 25 months later my next baby was born, a beautiful tiny girl with perfect pink lips and striking blue eyes.  A boy and a girl, both healthy and beautiful, I might be overwhelmed but I knew this kind of happy doesn't come around often.  I had everything I never dreamed of and I never planned on having a third.

Yet again, one year later I learned we were (despite all medical explanations) having a third. This was by far the most scary and taxing of my pregnancies.  To be honest, most of it I can’t remember: dehydration, hemorrhaging, constant nausea and lapses in and out of  consciousness.  I learned the hard way I had to depend on others just to survive. And after a complicated and traumatic delivery, I was told that having another child would be a huge risk.  I was not worried, I was happy that this third tiny person was in my arms and I never needed to go through all that again.

  Four years passed and I started to get cocky, all my children were potty trained and out of early intervention.  We didn’t need to lug a stroller or diaper bag everywhere, heck my kids could even buckle their own car seats.  The really insane infant/ toddler stage had passed and both the kids and I had survived.  I even got to sleep through the night on a regular basis. Nope, I was never having another kid.  But I am getting smarter with age and I realized that with my luck I could take no chances.  So, I went to my OB-GYN to have an IUD put in.  As part of the “pre-op” they had to give me a pregnancy test to make sure there was no baby already occupying that space. 

There was.  The doctor came back with the strangest look on her face like she was as shocked as I was that modern medicine is truly no match for fate. I was…I am...having a fourth baby.

  My whole world came crashing down on my head.  I’d already lost my career, my health, my independence once, how could I do it again?  Could I even live through the next nine months?  And as I sat in my long awaited, seemingly huge SUV, after years of squeezing three babies in a sedan, I realized we would once again have no extra seats or room to pack anything other than baby gear.  I began to sob. 

Then a verse sprang into my heart so clearly I had to sit up and think, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”  Maybe the "curse of never" wasn’t fate, or superstition or a cruel joke. None of the things I had said, "never"  to are mere detours or cosmic mistakes, they are the best of me.  So, I think it's about time this "advanced age maternal patient"  trade in my weak superstitions and finally live by faith in a God who loves me, no matter what, who is a better parent than I will ever be, who fills in the gaps when I fall down and fail.  The God for whom nothing is impossible.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Women's World Cup: Hometown Hero


 It surprises people that I played Varsity Soccer in high school.  Some people passively acknowledge their disbelief by making vague comments about “athletic people,” of which I am clearly not considered. Others just come right out and say it, “God, I would NEVER think that YOU played sports, you just don’t…uhhh…like seem like the type.” But I did, I played three seasons of varsity sports and in my senior year I was captain of  two: soccer and lacrosse.  Believe me...I don’t say this to brag.  My graduating class was 42 people, roughly half of us were girls.  Also, we had more than one sport to choose from… so, despite having a lazy eye and being legally blind without my glasses, I was, at the time, considered one of the most athletic people in my tiny Private School bubble.  
The weird thing about a small private school is that you have many “athletes” like myself who love the game and have a healthy competitive nature.  But then there are others with honest to goodness insane talent. Truly Big Fish in small ponds. But none as big as one that arose from our rival school, Christian Heritage. As the Women’s World Cup races on and I continually see her on TV, being an all star, and I marvel that I really and truly know her.  I mean, not on like a heart to heart level, she did go to our rival school after all but being from such a small world, I was good friends with her cousin and my youngest sister was inseparable from hers at summer camp. Our parents were friends as well.  
It’s surreal for me how  far she has come. She has flown out of the small pond we both came from and end up dominating in the real freaking ocean.  It makes me feel proud and jealous and just all around amazed that an every day person, real flesh and blood is capable of the super human feats we see on TV.  
Unless you also went to private school in Connecticut you may not know that I am talking about the tough as nails Alyssa Naeher.  Now, I will admit, when I first met her on the pitch I was less enthusiastic than I am now, watching from my couch.  
In my senior season of soccer two eighth grade twins were allowed onto our rival school’s soccer team. This was not unheard of since our schools were small and often lacked numbers.  But these two were much more than numbers. The twins did not appear threatening at first.  They were identical, short and skinny with bowl cuts that never seemed to fall into their eyes. They were wiry, tough and absolutely unstoppable.  One of them played goalie and one striker (actually they both probably played both. I honestly don’t know.)  We often made jokes that they’d have to get sick or hurt for us to even have a chance.   For years they dominated our league.  No-one scored against the goalie, no-one could stop the striker.  My younger sister played them without success, then my youngest sister as well. Finally, they went off to college and the rest of the league returned to status quo.  
But seriously, watching her rise to national and international level is inspirational.  She was young and talented but that is never enough.  She had setbacks, she had losses, she had to wait and wait and wait….but she never gave up.  And the hard work, the day in day out dedication is paying off.  I love to watch her play and for all us New Englanders I think she truly deserves the title of  Hometown Hero.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Safety from The Storm

David had this crazy idea recently to start telling our kids stories before bed.  As an English teacher I am BIG on reading to our kids and literacy but had not really considered telling stories, even though I love the idea.  David has incredible oral traditions in his family and many nights I have been tempted to capture and put on paper.  But the next best thing and maybe the better thing is to pass them on to our children, so that they know who they are.  Still, I couldn’t help but write mine up as I pondered them and share them with you all.  I hope you enjoy…
 When I was just starting elementary school my mom got a job a secretary for Michael Kelly Blanchard, the musician  He was a folk singer songwriters whose music we adored and my mom was looking for a job with flexible hours, preferably one she could bring Anne to. (Stop now and buy all his songs on iTunes!!! Be prepared to cry.  Winter Babies and She Knows have special meaning to me.)   The plan was for Anne to nap while mom worked.  My mom was a great worker.  She had graduated the top of her class at Katherine Gibbs Secretarial school in NYC.  She was really what we now refer to as “an administrative assistant.”  She did everything but write and sing the songs.  She and my dad even helped produce them if needed.  The Blanchard’s house in Torrington had a loft sort of attic that they had turned into a recording studio.  Mrs. Blanchard was a teacher at my school so either she or my dad would often bring me home, along with her daughter Esther and her son Reuben.  Reuben had bright, flaming red hair and the Blanchards called him, “Copper Top battery boy.” (also a song) No-one at school dared call him that. He was way too cool.  In fact, I barely had the nerve to talk to him at school, despite the fact that our school boasted only a couple hundred kids K-12.  He was just that far above my social station at school.  But at home he was like a brother, a best friend.  He introduced me to Tale Spin followed by Dark-wing Duck.  He knew every word or the McDonald’s Big Mac song.  He would play it on his mini record player that only played plastic records. The player was yellow and red; I think he might have gotten it from a happy meal or as a mail in prize from a cereal company.  The prizes back then were SO much better.   

Anyway, Reuben was super cool and super nice. He was two years ahead of me in school. Esther was amazing too, she was four years older than us and since she was in middle school she rarely had time to watch cartoons.  She mostly had to work on homework when we got back from school. But sometimes on Saturdays like the one when Hurricane Grace hit, she’d take care of all of us, plan something fun.  Hurricane Grace was not the biggest hurricane to visit the east coast, but it became the most notorious. It was pulled into a storm that was never named, and has lived in infamy as the No-Name storm among New Englanders.  To the rest of the world, it is known as “The Perfect Storm.” The storm where a boat full of men was lost at sea never to be found again.  A storm that inspired a book, that inspired a movie that put Gloucester, Massachusetts on the map.  Famous for the tragedies of that very storm.
We had no idea about any of this however, Saturday morning my parents were planning on recording with the Blanchards.  I believe it was the album “Heartguard.”  I loved that album, mostly because of the cover of the Vinyl it was a lock that was shaped like a heart.  A lock that was actually given to me by my godfather.  It was old and rusty but it still worked.
We were not allowed to be anywhere around when they were recording so we had to go out which meant we needed Esther.  She let us play hide and seek in the backyard, and ride bikes up and down the street.  Eventually, we even convinced her to take us to the bakery downtown for cupcakes. The Blanchard’s had an old Coca-Cola machine in the garage.  So old, the sign said a coke was only ten cents.  It didn’t really work anymore so Mrs. Blanchard used it like an icebox or refrigerator and Reuben used it as his piggy bank.  We got enough out for a cupcake or two and started downtown. It had been raining on all morning.  I’d heard on the news driving over that there might be a hurricane but it didn’t seem particularly threatening.  I only remember it was eerily warm and wet all day.  At noon, just before we headed out to the bakery, the fire station siren went off.  It was a town wide bad weather warning.  That happened a lot.  We figured unless we saw lightening we were okay.  
Then the wind started.  It would be still as a lake in the morning and then blast against us like an ocean wave.  The wind was so strong it actually knocked Anne down several times.  In fact, one time in knocked her down and she rolled into the street.  She scraped up her hands and knees and so we headed back to get band aides. 
Our parents were frantic when we got back; Where had we gone? What were we thinking?  Didn’t we know we were in the middle of a hurricane?  Still, once they realized we were alright, we all decided to do the most foolish thing possible and sit on the front porch watching the wind and the rain.  The sky was orange, a strange ominous color like the heat was coming from the wind itself.  The raindrops were huge.  We put on rain coats and played and splashed in the puddles.  They had a radio out on the porch and played music for us to dance interrupted only by storm updates.  When the music played, I turned my head up to the sky and danced and laughed.  I loved the rain I would laugh with it and dance with it.  I would not be afraid.  But soon, the radio was warned everyone the Governor Dukakis and Governor Weiker had both issued a state of emergency.  That meant we had to get inside.  
Fortunately, boring just wasn't part of the Blanchard's vocabulary.  Reuben would play along as Anne and I would reenact The Star Wars Episodes IV, V and VI with Mrs. Blanchard’s trivets (see galactic).  Then, we would all gather around, even the adults and we would play board games and laugh until our sides ached.  Our two favorites not even when the power went out.  Mrs. Blanchard would get out the old school Narnia board games and we would fight like cats and dogs to be the valiant mouse Reapacheep.  Next, we’d move on to Encore where we had to ban Mr. Blanchard for using his own songs, especially those still in progress.  Finally, when the power went out, we would sing old folk songs and the parents would take turns reading out loud until we fell asleep.  And while we slept the storm passes.  That is what I remember about the Blanchard’s house.  Thought the tumultuous years of growing up they were a safe haven my sister and I could always count on and not many people have that.  

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Wildling

       Confession time: I watch Game of Thrones... obsessively and.... yes there is gratuitous violence, nudity, incest and other atrocities that shall not be named. Still, something about it fascinates me and makes me think in new ways about life, death and power.  I think often of something a coworker mentioned once long ago, in the first season, "No one is sacred, anyone can die."  The mortality and the sinfulness of both the most lovable and hatable characters reminds me ironically enough of a scripture, "For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  No one deserves that wretched Iron Throne (although I have my theories) and all have lied, betrayed, killed, stolen or worse.  Westeros and Essos may be fantasy but "All good fantasy has a solid base in reality."*.  So, I got to thinking....

    If I was really and truly a character from Game of Thrones who would I be? I began to take stock in a deeper way, considering all aspects of my life, not just who is my “spirit animal" (Tyrion Lannister according to Buzzfeed) or who I wish I would be (Ygritte, if you must know).  And who I came up with would be one of my last choices...

Being a mother rules out most of the women I most identify with in a fantastical sense:
I am no cold blooded Arya, no cynical Sansa, nor beautifully manipulative Margaery Tyrell. I am no single-mindedly brash Brianne of Tarth. I only wish I could be the multilingual Missandei.
 But though I have a career and grew up dreaming of being a fighter, there are other things that define me and nothing more than the children I have borne and the way I love them.
So, I look at the mother figures I might resemble if I lived in the land of Fire and Ice:

Daenerys Targaryen- Mother of Dragons….but I feel like she is really more of a dog mom.  Her love is deep and real but her children’s needs are slightly different than most mom’s experience.

Cersei Lannister- God forbid- She is the original helicopter indulgent parent.  She would totally blame a teacher for her child’s teacher for a B+ rather than be okay with it or think maybe her child needs a good hard spanking.
Olenna Tyrell- Too old and rich- She’s a force to be reckoned with and I love that.  However, I just don’t think I have a murderer deep inside of me.  But… all bets are off if one day I have grandkids and one of them is betrothed to a known sociopath.

Caitlin Stark- In a way the one who started it all- Still, she is northern, strong, loves her sister and devoted to her husband, all things I find to be integral to how I would like to define myself. But her encouragement of Arya to fit in and her rejection of Jon Snow just feels wrong. Never-mind, the way she keeps her waist length hair pristine and waltzes around in beautiful gowns.  I'm just not noble or proper enough.

So, that leaves Gilly…The Wildling, Samwell Tarly rescues. She and I are more alike than simply our shared English curse of poor dental hygiene.  She is a survivor. Her manners may be terrible, and her awkwardness abounds.  She knows nothing about being a mother except making sure her son survives.  I complain way more than she ever would but as a character I share her feelings of shame or embarrassment in a world I don’t full belong to. I also share her amazement not only that someone could love me and does, but that someone is a man who noble, wise and brave. And perhaps it is this other worldliness not magic or power but simple lessons you can only learn in the school of hard knocks that will make her a major player.  She knows there really is a battle between good and evil. She has first hand experience of the terrifying rituals of the Night King. She has faith and she has love.  I guess the more I think about it, the more I flatter myself with the comparison.

* I am not in any way encouraging or condoning watching graphic content.  It simply was a catalyst that got me thinking more about my real life, about who I really am.  I hope it gets you thinking too.  What matters most?  Beneath the obvious who values what you value? 

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Showing up for Snow Days

        I have mixed feelings about snow days.  I love that I don’t have to scramble out of bed in the morning, push aside the piles of books that cover every surface of my house and pack unvarying unhealthy lunches that my kids won’t like. I don’t have to rush and brush my teeth before I wake the kids up because I might not have the chance once they are up and I am herding them out the door like cats to a bath.  Instead, I look out my window at the drifts of pristine white snow. Not yet concerned with the weight of aforementioned snow or what to do with aforementioned kids.
  The concerns become very real as I "sense" a tiny person standing next to my bed just staring at me with round blue eyes reaching out until her small hand touches the blanket and tugs at it insistently. This would totally freak me out if it wasn't how my kids woke me up every day. 
Suddenly, the whole day stretches out, unstructured before me. What may sound blissful to those free spirits like my husband immediately causes my throat tighten and my heart constrict. 
        No structure means everything is in play, more balls than I can possibly juggle. I immediately begin to fuel my arsenal to combat: boredom, complaining, bickering, breaking things, need for exercise, and worst of all, meals and snacks.  And that is just what I’m preparing for on a behavioral level.  I also have to think through the possible pitfalls of emotions; mine and theirs… panic, anger, frustration, and disappointment all seem more potent on unstructured days.  

So here is what we did.  I didn’t really plan it.  After almost 9 years it is starting to dawn on me that anything I plan will be thrown off and anything I think I've figured out will change drastically in 6 months when they all go through new phases of growing up.
   1. I left breakfast to David and since he'd already prepared eggs and bacon Saturday and Sunday, we decided to use this as an opportunity to teach the kids to be self-sufficient and fend for themselves. Fortunately we had plenty of time for the five to ten spills that inevitably ensued. After breakfast, I strongly encourage getting dressed which one of my children resists more strongly than the others (hint: it’s NOT the one who has somehow procured a Disney princess outfit for every day of the week. Even though we wear uniforms to school and buy almost everything second hand.) 
2. Next, I worked on tiring them out…chores and shoveling.  Everyone has to go outside.  My Disney Princess does NOT like this rule.  She is constantly trying to relocate to Florida or California, both of which put her near  her three favorite things: Disney, the beach and grandparents and away from the cold, heavy lifting and unflattering hand-me down boots. 
3. I always decide to have school anyway because I am a teacher. I am also the daughter of a zealous teacher.  Fortunately, I have the perspective to see how good for me it was.  So, we all spend 30 min to an hour working on things we are learning.  For my four year old that is still the alphabet.  The six year old challenges herself to identify her first sight words. And my darling dyslexic high year old sets his face like flint to the Orton-Gillingham workbooks. I do my best to be satisfied with 5 minutes of focus and 45 of emotional meltdowns and fighting because apparently I missed the memo that the whole point of snow days is NO SCHOOL and everyone is a little hangry.
4. So we have lunch.  Again with the all important fending for themselves.
5. Now it depends on timing but we throw on a TV show or perhaps like today if they are being undeniably well behaved I read aloud. Finally, nap time and screen time. The only real requirement for these two hours are that it is quiet.  

The rest of the day is somewhat of a blur because it is not very unlike a school day. Today the girls made an art gallery which my son promptly sabotaged.  We watched a Barbie movie and got pizza.  David made a fire and I set the vacuum on fire trying to tidy up the debris from the logs and accidentally sucking up a spark that had flown out of the fireplace.  

Everyone is now in bed. We survived the dust fueled inferno, the fighting and the noise.  They ate and slept and read.  Still, one of the hardest things about being a parent is that there is no real metric.  No daily check in to see how I fared on the cosmic parenting scale.  So, before I climb over the stacks of books next to my bed I remind myself of a Woody Allen quote I once pinned, “80% of success is showing up.”