Wednesday, August 14, 2013

6 Days, 2 Bucket List Items

In the last six days, I have accomplished two things I have been wanting to do for more than 10 years:

I got a tattoo.

And one of my stories got published.

Last Thursday, I went to Kelly's Tattoo in Lincoln, NH with one of my sisters, two of my nieces, and one of my nephews. We hadn't planned on Family Tattoo Day during our vacation up in the White Mountains, but Family Tattoo Day we had! The decision was made the night before around the fire pit, and none of us were really sure who was going to actually show up at the agreed upon meeting time. But we all did.

We ladies got infinity hearts on our heels. To me it means family, love, harmony... My nephew got his son's name on his arm, and when he crosses his arm over his heart, his son's name touches his daughter's name. (which was tattooed there almost four years ago -- awwww, amiright?)

I absolutely love that we got them on vacation, together, in the White Mountains. Loon Mountain is our happy place, all of us. We have been going every summer for the better part of 35 years. My Dad started the vacation tradition and we've all continued it with our own children.

After years of trying to figure out the who, what, where, when of my first tattoo, I should have known it would happen at Loon. In fact, that's one of the biggest reasons I love it now, and why I'll still love it even if it turns into a blurr when I'm 80 years old.

Bucket List item #2

Today, August 14th, 2013, CausePub released the book Couch Rebels: Because Stories Like These Aren't Told by Potatoes on and I am proud to say the story I submitted was chosen for publication in this book! Over 140 stories were submitted and 86 were chosen.

(50% of the proceeds for Couch Rebels goes directly to the Blood:Water Mission, which helps bring clean water to people in Africa. Clean water is essential to life and also helps fight the spread of AIDS and HIV. For every book sold, three people in Africa will get clean water for a year!)

When my friend, Jill, first told me about the project, and encouraged me to submit something, I didn't have a chance to over-think it or say NO. Her enthusiasm for the project, and for me, inspired me to just go for it. What did I have to lose? I started my story the next day. And today it's published.

Six days. Two items off the Bucket List. I can't wait to see what's next!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Summer Kids: the 80s vs. the Millenials

Summer vacation. What’s better than summer vacation when you’re a kid? Maybe Christmas. Possibly Halloween. Easter sometimes gets a mention when my kids are asked their favorite time of year. But summer vacation aaaaaaahh… there is truly nothing like it when you’re a kid. Even Phineas and Ferb agree.

And while summer vacation in 2013 might look different than summer vacation in 1980-something, there are some universal truths that will never change, regardless of how many gadgets the human species invents.

Only 3 weeks into our summer vacation, here are the top 9 things about summer in 2013 that haven’t changed since I was a kid summer vacationing in the 1980s.

9. There is no such thing as too much swimming. We belong to the Chelmsford Swim and Tennis Club which provides my kids with the opportunity to swim nearly every single day. On a recent vacation to Attitash in New Hampshire, my children chose to skip an Independence Day celebration, complete with face-paint, candy, and fireworks, so they could – you guessed it - swim in the hotel pool instead. I would have argued with them except I would have made the same choice when I was their ages (4, 8, and 10). “I have an idea, why don’t we go swimming, have lunch, swim some more, have dinner, play a game, and then go swimming!”

8. Bed time is merely a suggestion. It doesn’t get dark until nearly 9:00. Even a 4 year old knows you can’t go to sleep when it’s still light out. Remember my May blog about how much fun it is at bed time? Well, summer bed time is even worse than that. Last night my husband and I went to bed before our 8 and 10 year olds. For real! We simply advised them to turn off the lights and put themselves to bed when they were ready. We can’t win the bed time fight, especially in the summer. They have too much energy. So, now that we’ve got them putting themselves to bed, I wonder if we can convince them to start cooking dinner?

7. Sometimes jumping in the pool is more efficient than a shower. Okay, this one’s pretty gross, I admit. Sometimes the kids go a little too long between showers. At least the smell of chlorine is better than body odor.

6. Kids are dirty. Whoever said that the true sign of a child who’s had a fun day is reflected in how dirty that child is by the end of the day, absolutely knew what they were talking about. If your child is clean – and I mean truly clean, not jump-in-the-pool-clean - at the end of the day, you’re doing it wrong!

5. Mosquitoes. Evil, blood-sucking apocalypse-surviving assholes – that’s what mosquitoes are. And that’s all I have to say ‘bout that.

4. Ice cream truck music is to children what the dinner bell was to Pavlov’s dogs. I mean, amIright? It doesn’t matter if we have the same – or better – ice cream in the freezer. They hear the jingle 22 streets away and they become frantic. Now, if I could somehow figure out how to encourage this conditioning and behavior when it comes to bed time, we’d be all set.

3. The food of summer champions: hamburgers and hot dogs. From September to April, we eat about 10 hamburgers and about half as many hot dogs in total. From May – August, we eat about that many each week. Everybody does. It’s a basic human right for every American to eat as many hamburgers and hot dogs as possible during the summer months. I think it’s in the Constitution.

2. Fireflies are always cool. Even with a house full of X-Box and Wii and Netflix and iDevices, kids STILL love to watch fireflies in the backyard. Take THAT Microsoft and Apple. Until you can make the iTouch fly around the backyard blinking, you’ll remain second to real bugs that light up.

1. Down time is for suckers. Sleep until 9:00, swim with the cousins from 11:00 to 3:00, family movie from 4:00 – 6:00, board game from 7:30 to 9:00 – “what are we going to do next, Mom?” It doesn’t matter if we fill every minute of every day with activity; children simply do NOT get tired during the summer.

Until they do. And when they do, you’ll know it because summer-tired is a whole different kind of tired than regular tired. When your children achieve summer-tired, may God have mercy on your soul.

What about you? Does summer 2013 in any way resemble summer 1984?

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Passion. Commitment. Ambition

In the summer of 2006, you would often find me at Friendship Park with Andrew (3 years) and Lia (18 months).

[Friendship Park is in Chelmsford, MA. It’s great because all the equipment is still made of wood and it doesn’t look like any other playground. It’s fun in its uniqueness.]

Andrew was old enough to run around on his own so I followed Lia around the park. She never really needed my help, unless she couldn’t reach something, so I would often chit chat with other Moms, taking my eyes off her for small amounts of time.

On more than one occasion, I’d look up and find another Mom underneath Lia as she was hanging from the monkey bars, ready to catch her.

"She’s okay, she plays here all the time, thank you, but she is really okay."
"Omgosh I just saw this little tiny girl and thought OH NO!"

[At 18 months Lia was 20 pounds]

"I know, she is really small. But this is what she does, she doesn’t want anyone to help."


Lia turned 8 years old on February 20, 2013. One month before her birthday, she was invited to one of her good friend’s birthday party. It was a pizza and ice cream party on a Friday afternoon right after school, until 5:30.

"Tomorrow is Lindsey’s party, are you excited?"
"Wait – I’M GOING? I can go?"
"Of course, why wouldn’t you be able to go?"
"Because I have gymnastics!"

[Lia is a Level 4 gymnast on the All Star competitive gymnastics team in Chelmsford, MA. She is at the gym every Friday evening from 4:00 – 7:30]

"Oh honey, I know gymnastics is important but you’re 8 years old. You need to go to your friends’ birthday parties!"

Lia went to the birthday party and had a great time! When I picked her up, she asked me if gymnastics was over yet and how much time was left.
"There is an hour-and-a-half left. But you already told them you weren’t coming so it’s okay if you want to just go home."
"No, I want to go. When we get home, just wait in the car and I’ll run up in my room and put on my leotard."


I was laid off for two months during the summer of 2012. A happy side-effect of the lay-off was that I got to watch a lot of the London Summer Olympics. Of course, gymnastics was the most anticipated sport in our house and through the magic of DVR technology, we didn’t miss a single minute.

"Mom, don’t forget to record the Olympics. I wish it wasn’t on so late!"
"I know, I won’t forget. We haven’ t forgotten yet, have we?"
"But I really want to watch it as soon as I wake up tomorrow."
"I know, don’t worry. We’ll record it!"
"I want to be in the Olympics someday, Mom, just like Jordan Wieber."

Will her “someday” at the Olympics ever come? It doesn’t really matter because I’m just thrilled she is daring to dream that big. She feels like she can do anything.

[How many of us would give anything to feel that for a single day?]

She watches the Olympics and thinks: I can do that. And she feels that way all the time, about almost everything.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Heeyyy, Macarena! Now Go To Sleep

Of all the things I under-appreciated in my youth, SLEEP trumps them all.

If you’re a parent, you read the first line of this blog and nodded your head so violently in agreement, you may have given yourself whiplash.

When Jamie and I decided to start a family, we knew, of course, that meant diapers, Cheerios, and sleepless nights. But (and here’s what no parenting book ever tells you), what we didn’t know is that the sleepless nights thing? The thing everyone told us only lasts the first few months of a baby’s life? Yeah, that doesn’t really ever go away.

Because once they stop waking up to eat every 2 hours during the night, they start coming up with an endless portfolio of other reasons to get up, or, as they get older, not to go to bed in the first !#@$#%$^ place.

We’ve all read the blogs, the stories, the books detailing the nightmare that is bed time. I wanted to share my inner dialogue, and often times my out-loud dialogue, around my least favorite part of the day.

To set the stage: Mason is 3 years old. Lia is 8 years old. Andrew is 10 years old. You ready? Here we go.

7:32 p.m.

“Mason, it’s time to get ready for bed. Let’s go brush your teeth and read books.”
(runs away while screaming): “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! I no want go bed! I play monsta with An-rew! RAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH”

“Mason, I’m going to count to 5 and if you don’t come here by the time I’m finished, Daddy’s going to put you to bed.”

[Worthless threat #1. I can’t believe I have to threaten this kid every single night to get him to go to bed. Worse, I can’t believe that stay-at-home-Daddy IS the threat… oh how the mighty have fallen] “1… 2…. 3….”

8:03 p.m.

[I can’t believe we are still brushing his teeth.]

“Momma, you sing the meatball song? You lay with me?”

“Of course, Mason. Don’t we sing the meatball song every night?”

[Seriously, every.single.night. But hey, if doing the Macarena every night would make him go to sleep, I’d do it happily.]

“On top of spaaahghettttiiiii…”

8:17 p.m.

“Alright Daddy, your turn to sing.”

[Oh, you thought he only needed 1 song to go to sleep? Ha! Amateur. He needs the meatball song – sung by Mommy and only Mommy – AND Sweet Baby James sung by Daddy and only Daddy. Why do we give in to this every night? See previous comment about the Macarena]

8:18 p.m.

“Andrew, Lia, time to go upstairs and brush your teeth, put on jammies and read.”

“READ! I don’t want to read! Reading is boring!”

“I have nothing to read!”

“Do I HAVE to read? My teacher said I don’t have to read every single night.”

“Can I have a drink?”

“Can we play a board game?”

“Want to watch me sing one more song?”

“Can I have a snack?”

“Can we have a sleepover?”

[Same questions, every night. One night, maybe I’ll just say Yes to everything, just to throw them off]

“Yes, you have to read. We have tons of books in the house, pick one. I don’t care if your teacher said you don’t have to read every night. No you can’t have a drink, or a snack, no we cannot play a board game, no you cannot sleep in the same room, and no I definitely do not want to hear you sing one more song. Please can we just go to bed, without yelling, without threatening, just… go to bed? Nicely? Please?”

8:36 p.m.

“Will you lay with me?”

“Hey, not fair! If you lay with her, who’s going to lay with me?”

“I asked first!”

“NOBODY IS LAYING WITH ANYBODY. JUST GO TO SLEEP. For the love of all things holy, if I hear one more complaint out of either of you, you will both go to bed at 6:00 tomorrow night.”

[Worthless threat #2. But they hate going to bed early, so sometimes this works. Sometimes.]

[Ahh, blissful. It’s only 8:43 and I’m already headed back downstairs! Awesome.]

8:47 p.m.


[WHY? Why? What in the world could they possibly need? It’s been 4 minutes since I left them!!!]

8:48 p.m.

“Why are you both back downstairs?”

“I can’t sleep” [Don’t care. Fake it.]

“I’m not tired” [Oh no? Well, guess who IS tired? ME! Go to bed]

“My finger hurts when I do this” (bends finger backwards) [Then stop !@@$#%#%* doing that]

“I’m scared” [What can you possibly be afraid of?]

“Remember that 15 1/2 second commercial I saw back in 2007 where the guy jumped out and made a loud noise? Well, I was thinking about THAT, and now I’m scared.” [Really?]

“GUYS, guys… listen, it’s late, we’ve all had a full day. Please just go to bed. Just, go up there, close your eyes, and just… be quiet. Okay? Can you do that? If you go back upstairs right now, you can have gum for breakfast.” [The later it gets, the worse my parenting gets]

Children stomp back upstairs.

9:02 p.m.


“Okay, that’s it! Listen to me. I don’t want to hear either of your voices again unless someone is bleeding or puking – got it? Hello? The correct answer is ‘yes Mom, we got it’”

[Silence. Maybe they figured it out!]

9:27 p.m.

“Andrew, WHAT are you doing back downstairs?”

“I’m not tired. I’m almost 11. I don’t get tired anymore.”

“Andrew, go to bed.”

“But can’t I watch the Bruins game with you?”

“Please, please go to bed? Please?”


[Whatever. Stay up all night. I’m going to start ignoring you now.]

10:33 p.m.

Kim is passed out on the couch. Her loving husband wakes her gently and suggests she go to bed. She happily agrees and walks sleepily to the room they share, and climbs into bed.

11:30 p.m.


Running can be heard coming from upstairs.

“Lia, what’s up honey?”

“I’m scared. The thunder woke me up.”

“Okay, I know, it was loud. Crawl back into bed. I’ll lie with you.” [Twin bed. Dog stuffed animal bigger than my 3 year old.]

2 hours later…

Wake up. “Uh! What time is it?” [Crap, I fell asleep up here. Plastic dog eye is digging into my neck. I’m going back to my own bed.]

1:30 a.m.

Walk into dark room. Pull back comforter. Mason. Sigh.

Whispers: “Move over buddy, Mommy needs room.” [Grumble. I love having to lift 35 pounds while I’m sleep walking]

5:30 a.m.

[Why won’t he stop moving? Just, STOP.MOVING. Maybe if I just keep my eyes closed I can ignore- OUCH. He kicked me in the stomach. That’s okay, I’m pretty sure I can stay asleep while he kicks me in the stomach. As long as he doesn’t start talking..]

6:03 a.m.

“Moooooommmmmmyyyyy! Mama! Mama! Want to watch TV with me? Mama! Mama! Look outside, it’s not raining! Mama Mama Maaamaaa! Mommy! Mama!”

The End


Jamie: “How’d you sleep last night, babe?”
Me: “Ya know, it wasn’t too bad, I feel pretty good….”

[Wasn’t too bad? Oh, right. Because it WASN’T too bad. Nobody puked. Or got a bloody nose. Or peed the bed. Or had a night terror. Or or or….]

If you need me, I’ll be over here, sleeping on my keyboard.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Power of Influence

The dictionary defines influence as: the act or power of producing an effect. But what does that actually mean? If I asked you: who has been a major influence in your life? What’s the first name that pops into your head? Is it a parent? A grandparent or sibling? A poet or philosopher? A teacher or an athlete?

We can all point to people in our lives who have influenced us and helped shape the person we are today. And whether we know it or not, each of us has influenced someone, somewhere, and helped shape the person they are today.

On April 2, 2013, I attended the Simmons Women’s Leadership Conference in Boston. The conference took place at the Boston World Trade Center and featured many successful, powerful, and influential women – including Viola Davis, Award-Winning Actress (The Help); Sallie Krawcheck, Wall Street Executive; and Judy Smith, Crisis Management Expert and inspiration for the TV show, Scandal -- sharing their stories with more than 3,000 attendees.

We heard a lot of great stories that day about how these women became successful in their careers, in their families, and in their lives. In addition to their success stories, many of the speakers were also brave enough to share with us some of their failures, times when they stumbled, made mistakes, and had to pick themselves back up and move on.

As you would expect from a women’s leadership conference, all of these women were very well-spoken, intelligent, and inspirational. The thing that struck me the most, though, was how nearly every single one of them answered this question:

“How did you become so confident? How did you come to believe that you could accomplish anything?”

The almost unanimous first response to those questions started with: “When I was a child, my parents influenced me …”

If you’re a parent reading this, think about that. Think about it every day of your children’s lives. You have the power to influence your children’s self-esteem, the way he or she views his or her self-worth. Did you know you had that much power? That’s the power of influence.

After talking about childhood, and the power of their parents’ positive influence over them, the speakers then named additional people throughout their lives that influenced them in a positive way. Some of them mentioned teachers or professors. Some gave credit to former managers or colleagues they had worked for and with. Others cited mentors and sponsors that took a much more active role in their lives.

Regardless of who was listed as a person of influence, each and every speaker had at least one person, most had more than one, that they could point to and say Yes, this person made a difference in my life; Yes, this person helped make me the person I am today; Yes, I had help, I didn’t do this on my own. That’s the power of influence.

The day after the conference, I reflected back on the stories that were shared, the advice that was given, the general camaraderie felt by everyone who attended, and I realized something: in every keynote, throughout every breakout session, even during lunch, the one thing theme that kept coming back around, taking its place in nearly every discussion, was the ubiquitous power a positive influence can have one someone’s life.

Sallie Krawcheck, a Wall Street executive, was asked what advice she would give the women in the room on how to help other women achieve what they want in life. She paused for a brief moment and responded with: “If you can influence other women, if you are in a position of influence, USE IT.”

And that is exactly what I intend to do. Who will you influence today?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Part 11 - A Year in Holland - Surgery

I haven't posted in a while-- Life, you know.. The last entry ended an hour before Mason's first surgery on October 27, 2009.

We got Mason dressed in his teeny, tiny hospital johnny and walked him around the pre-op area to keep him distracted. He hadn't eaten in about 12 hours but he was allowed his binky, thank goodness. At about 7:30 a.m., the surgical team came in scrubbed and ready, and the nurse held out her hands, waiting for me to hand her Mason.

I did, it wasn't dramatic on the outside but I was plotting plans of escape on the inside. If I grabbed him and ran, would it do more harm than good? Sigh.. yes.

So I did what I had been mentally preparing myself to do for weeks: I handed my 4 month old baby to a nurse and watched her and the team walk away into the operating room. They escorted Jamie and I to the waiting area and I cried the whole way there.

In the waiting area, the nurses told us they would come out every 90 minutes and give us an update on how Mason was doing. Thank God because even if they weren't, I was going to ask anyway. Jamie and I spent the next few hours talking, playing cards, eating lunch. I was aware of every minute that passed.

About halfway through the surgery, the pastor of our church, Pastor John Zachery, came to visit with us and to pray for Mason. He asked beforehand if it would be alright and I told him it absolutely would be. He stayed with us for 3 hours, talking about our families, talking about golf. Jamie got so into one of his golf stories that he dropped the F-bomb - in front of Pastor John! Jamie was horrified and Pastor John LAUGHED. He said his goal in visiting us was to help us pass the time and to try and relax. He said Jamie's slippage of the F-bomb was good because it meant Jamie was feeling relaxed - mission accomplished!

Pastor John stayed with us until the surgery was over and waited for the surgeon to come out and tell us everything was okay. I thought about that after the fact, what it meant, that he waited. I didn't love that particular revelation, but I was grateful all the same.

Dr. Mulliken, the amazing and wonderful surgeon and artist, came out after a little over 5 hours and gave us the news on Mason. He was pleased, extremely pleased. He is one of the best cleft surgeons in the world. People come from all over the world to have Dr. Mulliken perform their children's craniofacial surgeries. He takes amazing pride in his work and I could tell he was proud of how things turned out. He gave us all the technical details of the stitching and how he brought the lip together and re-formed the nose. That is when I realized Oh! my baby had a nose job! I always knew fixing the nose was part of the process but it never really occurred to me in those terms before.

He told us Mason had over 100 stitches! He gave us a quick run-down of how we were supposed to clean the lip every day and apply the steri strip and about how long the Logan's Bow would have to stay on. I admit I was half listening because all I wanted was to see and hold my baby boy. And I knew Nurse Dottie (also amazing) would review it with us again before we left.

Finally, he started walking towards the post-op area - we were going to see our son's new face. We were so nervous, was he awake? Was he in a lot of pain? Is he looking for us? Does he still look like Mason?

We walked into the post-op area, turned the corner and there was Mason: all swaddled, hooked up to all kinds of wires, the Logan's Bow across his face, the breathing tube pointed towards him - different, but still Mason. I was relieved, he looked beautiful! I just stared at him, amazed and stunned at the transformation. But he was whimpering. His eyes were closed, but he was whimpering the saddest sound I've ever heard. Every part of me reacted to that sound and I had to hold him.

They allowed me to hold him and they helped get him into my arms, maneuvering all the equipment so none of the wires fell out. He was still whimpering but I started talking to him. I started singing to him and kissed his forehead. And I just stared at his face.

Since I found out about his cleft at my 18 week ultrasound, I had anticipated and wondered about this moment. And now it was here. One obstacle overcome.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Part 10: A Year in Holland - The Face I Fell in Love With

Mason's first surgery, his lip surgery, was scheduled for October 27, 2009, when he would be about 4.5 months old. After getting the choking episodes under control, our main goal in life was to keep him healthy so we wouldn't have to reschedule his surgery. Keeping a little baby with two older siblings who are in school healthy during flu season - this was going to be interesting.

We didn't do much or go many places during those months leading up to his first surgery. We spent time a lot of time at home, together, as a family; we bonded with our baby, the kids bonded with their brother. We memorized every inch of his sweet little face because we knew it was going to change and we'd lose it forever.

For this blog entry, I really think pictures will tell a better story than I could ever write.

June 4, 2009

Love at first site

A good shot of the cleft in his palate

1 month old - those eyes..

2 months old

Look at that gorgeous smile!

4 months old

This last picture was taken at Boston Children's Hospital about one hour before surgery. I was so sad to take it, knowing it would be the last one where he looked like this. It was truly bittersweet.

We fell in love with this face, all of us. As we got closer and closer to the surgery date, it became harder and harder to accept that this face was going to change. In the days leading up to Mason's surgery, Andrew, who had just turned 7, came to me very upset. He said:

"Mom, I don't want Mason to have his surgery. I love the way he looks, I don't want him to look different."

I explained to him that Mason wasn't having his surgery because of the way he looked, but so he could learn to talk and eat the way we do. He seemed satisfied with that answer but I admit, I shared his sadness. I didn't want him to look different either. He truly was perfect in our eyes.