Sunday, November 11, 2012


Things people say to me:

A few weeks ago while at Sand Beach on a chilly but sunny day in October.  The older girls wanted to "go swimming" which means jump in all the way and get out.  They are trying to get a picture of themselves doing this every month--we have already done this in March, April, May, June, July, August, Sept and they wanted October.  So when we went to Acadia, I packed their suits just in case they wanted to.  They did and as they were running down to the water, a woman said to me, "Are you REALLY going to let them do that??"

Answer:  YES!  It is their challenge, their body, their choice.  Would I choose to do this??  Absolutely not!  But it isn't about me "letting" them do anything, as if I'm the all-knowing Mother who simply knows what is best for them.  I know what is best for me (swimming in the Northern Atlantic in October is definitely NOT best for me!) but I don't know what is best for them.  I can use my experience to guide them, but in the end it is their choice.  My experience suggests they will be cold.  They knew this and packed accordingly (extra sweaters, socks, hats, etc.) but explained they really had the desire to just see if they could do it.  Case closed.  Was I really going to let them do that??  Absolutely!

It is amazing what kind of joy you can get from trusting your child to know what is best for them.  Instead of leaving with warm, disappointed, angry kids who think they aren't capable of trusting their own choices, I left with happy, joyful kids who were, admittedly, slightly cold!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another dream

Last night I had a dream.  I was in a van with some friends.  I don't know where we were going or who was driving.  I was sitting in the second to last row and was turned around so I could talk to Amy who was in the last row.  We were just chit-chatting when I asked her to recall the funniest thing she could remember from college.  She proceeded to tell a story of when we were in costume and hanging out with some friends playing cards (I'd tell the whole story but it really, truly was a "you just had to be there" moment and there is no way all of you would find it in the least bit funny).  I was sitting on this van with her, laughing hysterically because once she said it, I completely remembered that incident, but up until that moment, I hadn't really remembered it.

Then I woke up.  And know what??  I totally remembered the moment she was talking about in the dream.  It was something that happened sophomore year and it was absolutely a night of laugh-until-you-cry hysterics.  I remember it so clearly now even though it hasn't remotely entered my consciousness in nearly 20 years.  Oh, my friend, sometimes I miss you so much I don't know how I have survived this long or if I can take another step without you!  But then you show up, one way or another, to prove that you will always be with me.  Thank you, Amy, for the reminder.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I have been feeling so overwhelmed with gratitude lately!  I'm not sure why.  Perhaps it is because we are falling into a rhythm of learning, playing, chores and life.  Perhaps it is because I have the most wonderful family and best husband ever.  Maybe it is because I now live in a place that I can walk/bike just about everywhere I need to go.  Maybe it is all these things.  What I do know is that right now, life is pretty good!

This is what I wake up to most every morning.  Is it any wonder I wake up smiling??

My wacky gang out on Smuttynose Island.

Erin and her friend about to learn the word displacement.

Some of my gang on the edge of a cliff at Schoodic.  I was a work and therefore not worrying about their safety.  Good thing!

He just couldn't be any cuter!  

My little adventurer! 

See?  Life is good!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Wow...I'm definitely neglecting this blog, huh??  Things have been more insane than usual lately, and while I can apologize for that, I'm not seeing a change in that pattern anytime soon!  We moved into a new house and trying to unpack and set-up has proven to be a challenge with four kids.  I'm still working part-time and homeschooling/parenting full-time while trying to enjoy my husband's slightly more relaxed summer pace (which ends today!).  I'm the assistant coordinator for a conference in November and, because it is my first year in this position, I have no clue what I'm supposed to be doing and the person in charge lives far away from me.  The floundering I feel in that position is temporary, however, as we work to put it all together.  Basically, all this is to say that life has been really, really busy and I promise to work more time in for this blog.  In the meantime, please bear with me!

Monday, August 13, 2012

A letter to the public

Dear Non-Homeschooling people we know,

Please stop quizzing my children when you see them.  I am fine with how smart/stupid/hard-working/lazy/geeky/happy/annoying/whatever my child is.  If you want to know how they do or do not measure up to your public school system, you can ask me for specifics.  Leave my kids out of it.  Feel free to love them for who they are not what they know.  If you can't do that, feel free to go away.  Really...go away! 

Please stop disciplining my child just so they "learn to take direction from others."  This is a life skill they will pick up from lots of other places (camp, swimming lessons, gymnastics, chess club...).  They don't need it from you just because you assume that my homeschooled kid isn't out in the world.  Leave my kid alone.  If they are doing something you would rather they didn't do, tell them.  They will listen.

Please stop asking my child if they want to go to school or if they think they are missing anything.  If they wanted to go to school, they would be in school.  If they were in school, they would be missing something--it is called life.  And we are loving ours right now, so back off.

Finally, please...PLEASE...stop talking to me about their socialization!  If we are standing around watching our kids all playing happily together, CLEARLY my kids are "socialized" enough to be there playing happily.  Get over yourself and your socially warped view of what is necessary for kids to grow and thrive!

A homeschooling parent...or rather, EVERY HOMESCHOOLING PARENT I KNOW!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Erin has a friend whose father just passed away suddenly.  This little boy is 9 years old and facing the rest of his life without his dad.  Obviously our family is aching for this boy and his mother as the community rallies support around this wonderful family.  Loss is loss, quite frankly, and Chris and I have been talking about how we can help this family a few weeks from now, knowing that the hard part really begins when people start to move on.  The grief kicks into gear when you try so hard to move towards some kind of normal life and realize that nothing will ever be "normal" again--at least not the old definition of normal.  So what can we do?  Cook meals, offer up child care, and give them space to grieve.  Space and time to just let it all go and be sad.  People who haven't dealt with life-changing grief don't understand how hard that work is, how much time it takes and how much space you need to do it.  It is such hard, important work--too much for a 9 year old boy, but do it he must.

As we were having this conversation with Erin about what we can do to help, Erin disappears into her Lego room.  I originally thought she had gone in there to putter--trying to escape the sadness and wrap her brain around the idea that this person (who she had dinner with a few weeks ago) was gone.  I was wrong.  She comes out and hands me a few mini-figures that she had assembled.  "What is this?" I asked. 

"Oh, that is Eragon, Harry Potter, Boba Fett and Anakin Skywalker.  They are for sympathy magic."

At this point, she explains to me that Sympathy Magic is something she read about in one of her books (Percy Jackson maybe?).  What her friend has to do is pass his sadness into these characters who all have had the same kind of loss as him--in this case, the loss of a father.  From them, he can draw the strength he needs to continue on.  "Because," she said, "what [her friend] needs now is the strength to be sad."


Monday, July 9, 2012

RIP Ariel...we'll miss you!

First you get married.  Then you get pets.  We got lots of pets.  Two dogs and three cats...definitely enough for us.  THEN...oh then...THEN, you have kids.  And, sad as it is and as difficult as it is for people without kids to understand, your pets fade into the background.  Yes, you still love them and yes, you take good care of them.  No doubt.  But they aren't the center of the universe they once were.

Cosmo, our wonderful golden retriever, went back to the resuce we got him from as his old age and our young kids did not mix so well.  (He was abused as a puppy, but we had him for 8 wonderful years and he lived another 5 with an older couple who loved watching him swim in their pool--he was a happy, happy puppy!)  

Anastasia, our first kitty, was the next to leave us.  Never a healthy cat to begin with, we loved our blind-in-one-eye and deaf sickly kitty!  She died a few years ago.  

Athena, our other cat, was part Maine Coon and definitely knew how to hold her own.  One night she didn't come home.  I'm pretty sure she is living happily in the woods somewhere, having beaten the snot out of a fox to take over his den.  Just let me believe this, please.  

Chester, our beloved Chester.  What a fantastic, loving, wonderful, happy, amazing dog.  We just loved and loved this little guy.  You may remember when he died last year, just weeks before my best friend from college passed away.  His death was overshadowed by Amy's condition, obviously, but the void in our family was real.  

That left Ariel, our wonderful cuddle machine.  Sitting down?  She was on your lap.  Sleeping?  She was on your chest.  Eating breakfast?  She was wrapped around your neck like a feathered boa.  Seriously, she was!  She has been slowing down a lot the past few weeks as a thyroid condition was getting the better of her.  Her meds had stopped working and we were trying something else that we were hoping would work, but didn't seem to be improving her condition.  Today, she went into the cool of the basement and closed her eyes.  We found her there this evening, all curled up.  The last of our pre-kids menagerie....  Sleep well, dear Ariel.

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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Fourteen years and counting!

Fourteen years ago today, I promised him my heart.  He still has it, cradled gently through everything the past 14 years has brought us.  From our early journeys out west to our rapid-fire moves and career changes back here, he has cared for it.  Through childbirth, the deep love and awe of becoming a father, and the smiles of a growing family, he has carried it.  Through the agonizing death of our baby and the equally agonizing struggle to bring ourselves back into this world, he has protected it.  He hasn't broken it yet and it is the most amazing feeling in the world to know he never will. 

Happy Anniversary to my wonderful husband! 

Friday, June 29, 2012

The "S" word

I was out to dinner the other night with a group of colleagues and students that Chris works with.  A student had successfully defended his thesis and the gang was out celebrating (sometimes being the "spousal appendage" gets you a free meal and a cold beer!).  There is just something about the ability to have adult conversation once in a while that makes me enjoy the company--even if the discussion often centers around rocks of various types.  Anyway, there are usually other non-geology spouses to talk to and one in particular often asks me about my kids and homeschooling and such.  And, often, the conversation turns to that annoying (oh-so-annoying!!) word, socialization.  I mean, seriously [person I'm talking about], you know my kids, you have hung out with my kids, you have often commented on how wonderful my kids are!  Why are you so hung up on their supposed lack of socialization??  Can I just tell you how ANNOYING it is to homeschool and hear that word every place you go??  (Sorry, I'm just venting right now!)  Let it go, people!  Let it go!  There is not a homeschooling family in the country that hasn't heard this a million times.  We obviously think about it and we are aware of what kinds of socialization needs our kids have.  And even if you think we aren't thinking about it, it isn't your business.  Just so you know.  Yes, you know someone who knows someone who has a kid who is very "strange" and just not properly "socialized."  Great.  There are a million reasons that kid could be different--and none of them are up for debate or need to be discussed.  That kid does not need your judgement!  Know what?  Odds are that kid is pretty happy.  Different? Yes.  Doesn't fit into your mold?  Probably not.  But happy...truly, deep down, happy with who they are.  Case closed.

Another annoying email....

My health insurance company sends me weekly emails designed to encourage me to be healthy.  Usually it includes statistics about smoking or cancer or how exercise is important or ideas for improving my diet and/or controlling my blood sugar.  I often ignore these as they rarely have anything to do with me, but today's headline was about bedtime struggles with kids.  Here was one of the "tips" for getting kids to sleep:

See that your child is active. Aim for 60 minutes of daily activity, but if that sounds overwhelming, start small -- maybe 15 minutes. Outside playtime during the day is ideal.


Does that make anyone else physically ill???  I can't even fathom my children getting ONLY 60 minutes of active time a day, never mind 15 MINUTES!!  No wonder we have such an obesity epidemic in this country!  It is SUMMER--your children SHOULD be OUTSIDE for MOST of the DAY!  Heck, it is pouring rain right now and my kids are outside!  I would be too, if I didn't have to do the dishes and laundry while the baby was sleeping (shh...I recognize I'm blogging and not doing either of those right now...but still!)

It just makes me mad that kids don't play outside anymore and that as a general rule, we should be "aiming" for 60 minutes a day.  Along with those plastic toddler stationary bikes that your kid rides while watching TV, this is the kind of thing that just gets me fuming.

But I'll stop now!

Thursday, June 21, 2012


Someday I'm hoping for more than 10 minutes to myself so I can blog again...stay tuned.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Father's Day!

The picture is old but the message is kids are the luckiest kids in the world!

Happy Father's Day to the man who makes it all possible.

We love you!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

She's going to jump!

An old friend called me the other day.  She wanted to reconnect, get an update on our lives and, the real reason, talk about homeschooling.  She and her husband are on the verge of pulling their 7yo son from a school that doesn't seem to be challenging him or allowing him to really delve deep into the things that interest him.  And know what?  She is scared.  Of course she is, we all were when we started!  She is totally over-thinking every little choice and situation and question that she will encounter--just like all of us do/have done on this journey.  She is worried about community reactions, teacher reactions, friend reactions and (the big one) family reactions.  I listened to her and tried to calmly reassure her that every single solitary worry that she has is completely normal, natural and, for the most part, totally unnecessary*.  Yes, there will be tough reactions and even tougher questions.  There will be people who are for it and people who think she is crazy.  There will be people who can see the good and people who think she is ruining her son's life.  And none of that, NONE of it, matters.  Why?  Because she will be out having an adventure with her son.  THAT is the only part that matters.  A while ago, I blogged about taking the first steps towards becoming the person/parent you want to be by simply taking that first step.  Don't worry about how big the overall change is, just take the first step.  If you can see how being home with your child every day loving, laughing and learning together would be good for him, don't even stop to think about what the community, friends or relatives think...just do it.  Do it one step worth and then if that feels good, do it two steps worth and then three.  If it works for you, keep doing it, one day at a time.  If something doesn't feel right about it, change direction (slightly) and try again.  Repeat.

There will be days when you wish they would just go to school and leave you alone.  There will be days when you are sick and can't take a sick-day (when can moms EVER get a sick day???).  There will be days when he doesn't want to do what you want and there will be days when you don't want to do what he wants.  It is all part of the journey and you will work it out.  In between working out the bumps, you will go to the beach, do a bird walk, play board games, watch cool videos, jump on the bed, take up an instrument, learn a word in a foreign language....

So we talked for nearly two hours--we talked about curriculum, homeschool conventions, legalities, groups, emotions, what to say when people question you, daily life, and everything else that was crossing her mind.  And in the end, when she said she felt like she was just standing on the edge of something scary I told her, "Don't over think it, my friend, don't over think it.  Take your son's hand in yours, wrap your soul tightly around him, close your eyes and jump.  You won't regret it."

I'm excited to see where this journey takes them.

*I need to stress that I, along with everyone who has ever begun homeschooling, had all these fears too!  I am in NO WAY talking down to her or trying to brush off her concerns--they are all legitimate concerns that take time to fade into the background of daily life.  My point is simply that they WILL fade into the background of daily life...or rather, daily life will become so full that it will leave little time to think about those concerns!  


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Mom Enough

I've been asked to write a post on this, so here goes!  YES!!  I *AM* MOM ENOUGH!

I am Mom Enough for Erin who needs someone to roll her eyes at when [I] don't know enough Star Wars trivia to suit her.  I am Mom Enough to lose constantly at chess and yet still say I'd love to every time she asks me to play.  I am Mom Enough to sit back and give her the freedom to live life the way she wants to and still Mom Enough to cuddle her at the end of the day when mistakes are made.

I am Mom Enough for Megan who needs someone to cheer her new gymnastics skills and help her work the abacus.  I am Mom Enough when she wants stories read and music played as she crawls into bed.  I am Mom Enough to do her pig tails exactly the way she wants them.

I am Mom Enough for Sophia, my shining star and the broken piece of my heart.  I will always be Mom Enough for her.

I am Mom Enough for Evan, our miracle baby boy who sends my head spinning and who wants Daddy Daddy Daddy (because Daddy is a boy, you see!) until cuddle time and then it is all me.  Go ahead and ask him...I'm all the Mom he needs!

I am Mom Enough for Jordan.  I provide milk, cuddles, love, warmth and security.  I am Mom Enough to nurse her just a little longer every day and hold her just a little tighter because we know she is our last little one.

I am Mom Enough for all my kids.  And you are Mom Enough for all of yours.  Mothering is not a competition and it is not a spectator sport that you get to be the judge of all the other mothers around you.  We all want what is best for our kids and even if we have disagreements about how to get that, we cannot lose sight of the fact that all our children are precious and wonderful and deserve our love.  All of our children deserve mothers who are Mom Enough...and know what??  ALL of us are!  The question should not be "Are you MOM enough?" the question should be "Are you a Mom?"  If the answer to that is yes, then the discussion needs to be about how we can best support each other on this mothering journey.  It isn't a is a team sport that involves risk and sacrifice and love and commitment.  It requires hardships and triumphs and mistakes and joys and requires all these things and know what?  WE ARE ALL ON THE SAME TEAM!  Let's come together as a team, work together and support each other...because in the end, we are all Mom Enough.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Willows!

Yesterday was the birthday of one of my best friend's dear baby boy.  He would have turned 5 yesterday, but he passed away in the arms of his mother 28 minutes after he was born.  Willows had a whole head of dark, curly hair and the cutest little pouty lips you have ever seen.  His 3yo sister has those same lips and I'm hoping the baby coming this fall will as well--they really are very cute!

Last night we went over there for dinner and birthday cake.  After dinner I was sitting in the kitchen with Laura and I asked her how she was feeling about being 5 years out and the first thing she said was, "This is it.  It is the year everyone else has forgotten."  And I know exactly how she feels.  It is almost like a dream at this point.  I have to ask myself sometimes, did this really happen?  Did she exist?  Because obviously these babies don't exist the way our living children exist.  Five years from any loss gives you enough distance that you are clearly living your daily life, caring for your children, changing diapers, doing laundry, planting a garden, driving your car, singing songs...all those things that life lets you do.  Five years gives you perspective.  Willows and Sophie brought so much to our lives and now we can see that losing them was a piece of a much bigger puzzle.  Five years gives you back your doesn't feel suffocating like it once was.  You no longer feel like a frenzied, crazy person just searching for something, anything, to hold on to.  You no longer feel completely and utterly lost

But, perhaps because you are no longer that frenzied, crazy person...people forget.  And just like that, *poof*, your baby is gone.  I'm sure this is very similar to other kinds of grief (losing a spouse, a friend, a sibling, a grandparent...) in that the river of time is continually flowing and it isn't that it stopped for you when you were freshly grieving, you just weren't in it.  You were completely unaware and uncaring of the fact that it was even moving.  Now, five years out, you are definitely back into that river--living, laughing, loving and flowing further away from that point waaaaay back there when you had just lost everything.  Can you still see the spot?  Absolutely.  If you want, you can hike back there easily and stand on that spot and relive the whole thing just as clearly as the day it happened.  You can remember the sights, smells, the feeling of that baby in your arms, the curl of his hair...all of it.  You can relive it down to the second.  But most will think you are crazy and the fact still remains--that spot is way back there.  And if you want to go back there, fine, have a visit...but nobody is going with you.  Nobody else remembers that spot anymore.  And so here we are, five years down the road and we turn and look longingly back at that spot, half wanting to go back there (just to hold him one more time, just to feel her last kick) and half perfectly happy down here, away from all that.  Five years.

Want to make a difference in a Babylost Mama's life?  When her baby would have been 5 (or more!), just go up to her, put your hand on her shoulder and say, "I remember."  Happy Birthday, Willows.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sitting Quietly...sigh

He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.--Martin Luther King, Jr.
Consider this blog post my protest...because I should have protested louder when I was in the moment and I didn't.  I wish I had.

I'm sure this is common, but it seems to happen to me a lot.  I'm in a situation that I'm leading a discussion or support group of some kind and someone says something that is completely counter to what I believe and/or what the group is trying to promote.  I'm fairly skilled at getting around the comment and getting the discussion back on track, but afterwards I always think of something I should have said that would have actually had the person who "derailed" the discussion thinking about whether or not the choices they are making are the right ones for their family (i.e. I could "protest" their actions a bit...make them think about it more).  A big example of this is always around discipline.  Now, I'm not saying I have the best behaved kids ever, but they are pretty good.  They are respectful (usually) and kind (nearly all the time) and courteous (again, usually...we are talking about kids here!).  They are also children, not little adults, and I am careful about how I react to their mistakes.  My children have never, ever, been hit by an adult.  Ever.  I know what you are saying, and I hear you--I do!  I, like you, have had times when I have wanted to smack them to make the behavior that was driving me to drink just stop.  Obviously spanking is a clear solution and one that would be quick and easy.  But NOT hitting them??  Now THAT takes some thinking.  That approach takes work, time and patience.  And, it is an approach that I believe in so deeply that I get physically ill when I think about kids growing up in households that hit as a means of discipline, no matter how infrequently it may happen.

(I wonder if I should carry information around in my backpack so that I can hand out little pamphlets to parents whenever the topic comes up.  Of course if I took this approach, I would have handouts on discipline, breastfeeding, circumcision and local foods...I wouldn't have room in there for much else.  And people would probably begin to fear me...Oh here comes that crazy woman with all those pamphlets again--RUN!)  Anyway, I'm holding a discussion group a bit ago and the topic turns to discipline.  One of the mothers in the room says, quite frankly, "I'm a spanker."  She goes on to describe how when her older daughter was a toddler and reached for something that she shouldn't touch, she would get a few warnings and then a slap on the hand.  Of course this grew to full out spankings "when necessary."  I quickly jumped in with how there are loads of other ways to discipline children and the conversation moved back into territory that was gentler for children.  But then I got home...and I thought of all the things I could've/should've said.  All the information I could have given her about the harm she is doing, the distrust she is creating, the fear...but I didn't.  All I did was readjust the conversation to "safer" ground.  And there she sat, cuddling her precious baby at her breast without any further information.  So now all I can think of is how that beautiful little girl is going to reach for something as a toddler and get whacked.  Never mind moving the shiny crystal vase out of her reach until she is bigger, noooo...this toddler needs to be taught not to touch it.  Really?  Because while you are teaching her not to touch the vase, you are also teaching her that someone bigger can hit her.  I'm sorry, I simply don't agree with this!  Keep in mind, please, that as I'm rambling here, I am holding absolutely NO DOUBT in my mind AT ALL that this woman LOVES LOVES LOVES her kids.  She firmly believes that what she is doing is right and necessary and important!  We all want kids who respect authority and are kind and know right from wrong--I get that.  I simply disagree with how she goes about it.  Again, this woman LOVES her kids with all her heart and is completely devoted to them.  And, in addition to that, I'm sad about her choice of discipline. 

Leave it better is a motto I have taught my kids--whether we are talking about the park down the street, a relationship with a friend, or our relationship as a family.  Leave it better.  See trash?  Pick it up--leave the park better than you found it.  Fight with your friend?  Work it out and make sure it is better and stronger than before.  If my kid does something that goes against our family values, what can I do to help them see it was wrong and then leave the situation better?  I can see absolutely NO situation in which hitting them would ever Leave It Better.  It wouldn't help the situation and it wouldn't help our relationship.  Would it stop whatever behavior is causing the tension?  Perhaps...but does it make the person or the relationship stronger/better?  Absolutely not!

I'm not judging this mom and I've never been in her shoes so I don't know where she learned her approach to discipline.  I love and respect all that she has done for her kids--she truly has wonderful ones!  She is a pretty amazing woman!  I'm also pretty sure this mom won't change her disciplinary approach.  Which leaves me sitting here rambling about it while my heart breaks for her baby girl and that moment, that exact second, when she first learns that her mom is willing to purposely hurt her.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Happy Birthday!

I take great pride in rattling off my kids' ages...last year they were 2,4,6,8 (with 4 being our missing one).  This year they are 3,5,7,9.  Except there is always a problem between the end of Feb (when all the other kids have had their birthdays!) and the beginning of May.  Because for that short time, Megan hasn't changed over yet.  Well, folks, yesterday it became official!  I can now say my kids are 3,5,7 and 9.  (Of course, there is the baby now, that throws it all off...but I digress!)

Megan turned seven yesterday with a large piece of chocolate cake and a big dollop of ice cream!  I'm so proud of what my little Goose has become and I can't wait to see what the coming year will bring!  Happy Birthday, Megan!

Friday, April 13, 2012

It's A Goose!

Before Amy died, I made her several promises. One I wrote about here. Some others have taken me longer to fulfill. The two I'll mention in this post are 1) she wanted me to put some of her ashes in Lower Lake at Mt. Holyoke College (picture above) and 2) she didn't want us all sitting around crying when we talked of her. She wanted to be remembered with smiles or not at all. I easily promised the first of these, but was unsure if I could pull off the second. Turns out, these two promises are related....

When I first met Amy, we were firsties at Mt. Holyoke College. We lived right next door to each other in a dorm down on the lake. Now, in the lake there lived a sizable population of ducks. All of the ducks were mallards, except one. There was one white duck in the lake. Once, fairly early on in our first year, I was talking to Amy about something and she mentioned the swan in Lower Lake.
"What swan?" I asked.
"The white bird," she said, "the swan!"
"Amy, that isn't a swan," I replied, "It's a duck!"
After several retorts in which she insisted it was a swan, I explained that it was a domestic duck living among the mallards and that yes, normally ducks are brown (as she always thought they were), but that domestic ducks were actually white. It took some convincing, but she finally realized her mistake and we joked about it. For the rest of our time together, the punch line for every joke became, "It's a duck!" Anything we couldn't identify we would shrug and say, "It's a duck!" For graduation, I gave her a picture of the duck and I had the frame engraved with (you guessed it!) It's A Duck.

About 5 or 6 years ago, there was an article in the MHC Alumnae Quarterly about how this white duck that lived down on Lower Lake had died. It was very sad! Amy called me immediately and we laughed, sharing our memories of this duck that lived in our lake.

This is the story I shared with Erin as we went to MHC this past Friday to fulfill promise number 1 above. As we walked across the bridge to the lake, I was sharing the story and pointing out to Erin where we had lived and what fun things Amy and I had done in college. Taking Amy's ashes out of my bag, we gathered on the edge of the lake as I opened the box they are in. I was fighting back tears (breaking that second promise) as I reached in for some ashes. All of a sudden, this HUGE white bird comes charging out of the bushes and ATTACKS us! I'm NOT kidding! It came right at us, hissing and spitting and making a really ugly honking noise! It was a big-a@# GOOSE! Not knowing what to do, I flung one small handful of Amy's ashes into the lake, grabbed my child and stumbled up the small hill towards the dorm. Erin and I stood there looking at each other. We spent the next several minutes trying to put the ashes into the lake--Erin would go to one side and distract the duck and when it went after her, I would put in more ashes. When I approached the lake, it would turn away from her and come after me. Then Erin would get its attention again while I backed off and then when it went for her, I could go down to the edge again. Finally, when we had gotten enough of her ashes into the lake, we backed off for good. Geese are VERY territorial and, frankly, quite mean!! Erin and I were laughing as we were doing this and, as we crossed back over the bridge to the main part of campus, Erin said, "I don't know were Auntie Amy is right now, but I'm pretty sure she is laughing!"

Yeah, she is! Leave it to Amy to find such a creative way to help us fulfill the second promise!

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's a girl...

I haven't written about Jordan's birth yet because it had such profound implications to me and to our family. First of all, she is our final baby. We are done. I'm feeling more confident about putting that in writing because we are hopefully going to be taking steps soon to make that a permanent decision. We are done. I've had 7 pregnancies, 5 babies and 4 living kids in the past 10 years and I think my uterus is done. I know there are people out there whose uterus has done more (in some cases MUCH more), but I'm getting older and part of this choice is a somewhat selfish desire to get my body back to myself. Another part of it is our desire as a family to do more travel together and if we are always lugging an infant/toddler, that limits our choices to some extent. We are ready for the next phase of parenting (no diapers!).

But in addition to all the practical reasons to be done, we are feeling as if our family is as complete as it will be able to get. Going back a bit, I know I've written about this before, but when I was pregnant with Evan, I needed him to be a boy. Really and truly, he had to be different from his older, missing sister. The last thing I needed was for him to be a third girl and for people to say to me (or think to themselves) Well, at least Sophie has been replaced and you are all set! Evan's birth brought so much love and healing into our family, but he did NOT bring Sophie back. Duh! Fast forward three years to my husband and I walking around the block while I was in labor with Jordan. Chris and I were discussing an issue that had been an undercurrent during the whole pregnancy, but, for some reason, was the first time we spoke of it. "If this is a boy, will you still feel done?" he asked me. I couldn't answer that question. Neither could he. We would still be done, but would we still feel done? To be clear, if a boy was what had been working his way out of me at that moment, we would have been THRILLED! Evan would have been thrilled! Two older girls and two younger boys--it would have been PERFECT! But would we have felt done? Chris and I were walking down the street holding hands, about to be parents for the 5th time, facing a very difficult reality. If this baby was a boy, the bottom line was that we were never going to hold a baby girl in our arms again. The reality was that our last baby girl had died. Died...and that would never change. How could we feel complete with that reality?? We knew that boy or girl, this baby was going to be our last. And we knew that if it was a boy, we would really, truly be head over heals in love with him. AND, we knew we would have to struggle with this intense sense of loss all over again. Walking around the block with Chris, feeling mild contractions, it all swirled around us like a fog. Yes, we would be done, no, we would not feel complete...but in a different way than we currently don't feel complete...if that makes any sense.

Later that afternoon, an 8lb baby girl was placed on my chest. A baby girl. Can you believe it?? No, she absolutely did NOT bring Sophie back and she absolutely IS her own person and I will never, ever compare her to her lost sister. She is NOT a replacement. She is, however, the soul that completes our family of seven and the living being that completes our family of six. She is the baby girl we were meant to have at this time and in this space. She is the one who makes me feel landed and grounded in a way I haven't for the past 5+ years. Here I am, a mom of five making my way solidly through a world that will only ever see a mom of four. But, because of this little baby girl, I feel secure in our decision to be done. I can look back at where we were five years ago and feel truly, deeply sad for the woman (and the family) standing there, in that deep dark pit having lost an indescribably priceless treasure. I can see her, feel that sadness, and then turn around and face front. We are here, right now...because a baby girl was placed in my arms. Forward we go.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Slump

We are in a bit of a homeschooling slump right now. Well, a Radical Unschooler would call it "life" and a Regular Unschooler would call it a slump while a School-At-Homer would call it just plain lazy. (And, of course, there are a thousand choices in between each of the three above!) Anyway, whether it is because of the new baby or the traveling or the nice weather, it has been a while since we have really done something "productive." That isn't to say the kids haven't done anything--they have been to Grammy and Grampy's twice, gone to the Museum of Science in Boston, done a week of camp (swimming, rock climbing, hockey, soccer, ropes courses...), and continued with all their regular activities (chess club, science class, yoga, and a new comic book drawing class). And when I see it all written out like that, it seems like a lot. To be fair, we haven't been bored!

But I feel like we are in a slump. Erin seems to be resisting all attempts to move her academic progress forward and for some reason, Megan seems to be unable to complete any projects...even the ones that SHE has chosen to do! I'm not sure if I have to change my ways and become more Teacher with them and go through the fights that ensue whenever you have a student who isn't exactly motivated to learn something that may or may not interest them, or if I have to just go with it and give them a bit of a break. It is very tempting to go with that choice, but, like all homeschooling parents, I feel the pressure to keep up...though with what, I'm not sure. Erin is well ahead of her peers in typical academic subjects, so maybe with her I just feel the pressure to continue to move forward from her particular starting point. Megan is probably above average for her grade level, but definitely not so far ahead that standing still is an option for her. Or is it? Or should it be? The Unschooler in me just trusts that my kids will learn what they need to learn when they need to learn it. The MustFitIntoNormalSociety parent in me thinks they need to be doing projects to prove mastery of a specific subject at regular intervals throughout the school year. I'm not sure who to give in to at any given moment, so lately, I've been doing nothing (except having a baby and managing a household with four kids who all, for some reason, continue to need to be fed, clothed, etc.)

The bottom line is that I don't know what the right answer is. I do believe in Unschooling--truly and deeply. And one of the biggest bottom lines in this family is that I will NOT fight my children to learn anything. If I have to yell at them or beg them or bribe them, then they are not learning whatever it is I "need" them to learn at that time. I simply won't do it. AND, in addition to that belief is the feeling that I would like to see some more forward progress from them at some point. So round and round we go on this roller coaster called homeschooling. At times we are up and learning every minute of every day and at times we are down, floundering around trying to decide how to proceed. In the end, I hope my kids will have found joy in the ride. But if they wanted to sit down tomorrow and write a book report, just for fun, that would be okay too!

Megan being a beaver on a recent hike in Acadia.

Super Evan down by the river.

Erin about to go night fishing in the Keys.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Erin is NINE!

We have just returned from our awesome trip to FL, but before I post pictures of that, I need to throw out our last birthday post for February...

February 27th was Erin's 9th baby girl, the one who started it all, the one who made me a mother for the first time, turned 9. in almost in nearly in the double in WHERE ON EARTH DID THE TIME GO???

On Erin's birthday we flew to FL and went directly to a beach. Erin promptly removed her shoes and began to run down this incredibly long and beautiful stretch of beach, right next to the water and into the wind. She was feeling totally free and so happy. She ran and ran without looking back and she apparently had no fear about how far she was going or where she might end up. Arms open wide, sand and water splashing all around her, she just radiated the joy that she was feeling at that moment. It was a beautiful scene...made all the more amusing by the fact that her father had to run 400 yards down the beach after her before she even remembered to look back. We played at the beach for over an hour and then changed into dry clothes and waited until precisely 6:33pm so that Erin could officially begin life as a 9yo on the beach. The sunset was beautiful and we headed off to my brother's house for pizza and cake. While I'm sure that easing into the double digits will not be bump-free, I'm confident that this coming year will radiate with as much joy as Erin had when she was flying so freely down the beach. I'm so lucky to be watching her grow!

Erin and her friend Nick on a hike at Acadia. Photo credit to Nick's mother who is a FAR better photographer than I am!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Fun Quiz..

Here's for all the family...go ahead...try to tell who is who! Good Luck!

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Friday, February 24, 2012


I've been trying, for some time now, to put up a post about Amy. February 12th marked one year that we have been without her presence in our lives and I'm having a hard time putting that into words. In the past year I have NOT deleted her number from my phone, deleted her address from my address book, or taken her off my email list. I don't know why. In the past year I HAVE woken up from a dead sleep to sob uncontrollably about how much I miss her, reconnected with old college friends to talk about her, seen the last Harry Potter film without her, and named a beautiful baby girl after her. I do know why I've done all those things....


One year has gone by in which I didn't hear your voice, see your smile, or feel your touch. One year of birthdays that you didn't get to celebrate with us, one year of milestones that you didn't get to hear about, one year of jokes and accomplishments that my kids didn't get to tell you about. I could be all spiritual about it and say things like how I know you are in a better place, how I'm happy that you are no longer in pain and how everything happens for a reason...but I just don't feel those things. I miss you so much that it overwhelms me at times and I just wish you were here.

A friend of mine recently sent me a message that commented on how she admires how I live my life with gratitude and how, despite the losses our family has sustained over the past few years, we continue to move forward with joy. I guess today, I'm just not feeling that.

And so I'm off to embark on another year with you. Another year of milestones, birthdays, holidays and just plain ol' regular days...all without your smile. I know that I need to remember how lucky I am to have had you in my life for the short time I did. I know I will continue to hear your voice in the crashing of the ocean waves, see your smile in the stars, and feel your presence in every unexpected penny. And while I know, truly know, that your spirit is watching over us, while I can feel your love supporting us in tough times and wrapping around us in good times, and while I continue to find pennies in unexpected places, I still, still, find myself wishing more than anything that you were here (yes, I know I've already said that!).

I love you, Amy, and I miss you. There isn't much else to say.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy Birthday!

In the crazies of the past five days, I neglected to write about some very important people in our family! So, while I will post about some other people in the next few days, let me post some pictures of the zany, loving, wonderful, miraculous, imp of a toddler who turned three on Sunday. I will never, ever forget the indescribable feeling of holding that little boy for the first time--the amazing realization that our family would rise from the ashes of our losses and be stronger than ever. Perhaps that is a lot to put on an 8lb, 1oz baby boy, but he has held up his end of the deal tremendously well! One look into his beautiful blue (sometimes scheming!) eyes and you know. He is our Little Man. He was meant to be here with us and we are so much stronger and happier because of him. Happy Birthday, Evan! We can't wait to see what you do with this coming year!!

The Yoda cake!

The ever important ability to hold up three fingers!

Breakfast pancakes with whipped cream. Or, really, a pile of pancakes to sit uneaten while Yoda feasts on the whipped cream!

Mr. Fix-It. Of course, usually he is Mr. I-Broke-It first and Mr. I'll-Get-My-Hammer second.


It is official! Her name is Jordan AmySophia Gerbi. While Evan was still heavily leaning towards Yoda, we managed to persuade him to use that as a nickname instead of her real name. Welcome to our family, Jordan!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Some revealed tomorrow!

Here is our latest addition - a beautiful baby girl, born after a rocket-launch rate labor. Eight pounds, born at 4:42 pm on February 10th. We'll reveal the name tomorrow once we've decided on it! What a different way to birth - not being induced made it almost fun. (I'll let you know about the panic moment some other time!)

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Fudge Story

When I was about 4 or 5 years old, my father sent me to ask my mother what she wanted for Mother's Day. I did and got the response, "Oh, let me see...I would love some penuche fudge!" I knew she meant from a small local candy store that used to be near our house, so I took that answer and went to my dad, "Mom wants a pound of peanut butter fudge!" I told him confidently. My dad looked a bit skeptical, but believed me without ever checking to see if I had gotten my facts straight.

We got her a pound of peanut butter fudge that year...and every year after that. For both her birthday AND Mother's Day. Every single year. It was a tradition I proudly continued well into adulthood.

Fast forward about 20 years...I was out to dinner with my mother and a good friend and it was just before my mother's birthday. My friend was asking what we wanted for dessert and I suggested we go out to a local ice cream place because they had the best peanut butter/hot fudge sauce EVER. My mother just shrugged it off and said, "Nah, I don't like peanut butter."
I looked at her, stunned. "But you love peanut butter fudge!" I said.
Without even blinking, she said, "Ugh! I HATE peanut butter fudge!" And then she froze...clearly recognizing her mistake. The deer in the headlights look came over her.
"WHAT?? Mom! I've been getting you a pound of peanut butter fudge twice a year for 20 years!!!!"
"Yeah..." she kind of stalled, "and I guess I've learned to like it...a bit."

You can imagine how the rest of this conversation went. Turns out she had been giving it to her administrative assistant and sharing it with students forever! They loved it, apparently.

As I am now a mother and can clearly imagine what crossed wires would happen if my husband trusted any of the younger ones to pass on a message, I just need to say happy birthday to the woman who went without her favorite fudge for 20 years. This year, the kids picked out some flowers to be delivered today and we will find some good fudge when we get down there to visit next month. We won't get her peanut butter.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

She would be five....

Five years ago today, our lives changed in ways that are impossible to describe. Now, it is possible (most of the year) to look back and recognize that we got far more from Sophie than we lost, but on this day, the only thing that we have to focus on is the little blond tornado missing from our family. Because she would have been nothing less than a tornado...this, I know!

When we found out we were expecting again in 2006, we were delighted. Our family was going to be complete with three kiddos and we eagerly awaited the new arrival. Having already given birth to two girls, it was one of the first pregnancies where I found I really, TRULY, didn't have a preference for gender. I mean, I know moms are never supposed to have a preference and I probably didn't with Erin (though I was convinced she was a boy!), but when Erin was a girl, I confess that I really wanted her to have a sister (probably because I never had one). Megan gave me that reality and I knew I could just settle back and enjoy my third pregnancy--boy or girl would fit into our family just fine. (I think my sister-in-law, who is the youngest of three with two older brothers was hoping for a boy...she said something about two older girls torturing a baby brother for a change!) Anyway, it was to be my last pregnancy. Three kids, close in age, was all anyone could handle...right?

We found out she was a girl in the last moments of her life. And at that moment, that exact second, I knew that having three girls was absolutely the perfect family for us. As soon as the fact that she was a girl became a reality, that reality was gone. And as soon as that reality was gone, it was the only reality I could have ever wanted. My three girls.

Fast forward to now. There are many families who have had losses who can say that their subsequent child may still have been born had the lost one lived. I don't know if I can say that. Would we still have had Evan? Timing-wise, it is entirely possible. He is two years younger than Sophie and clearly would have been a possibility. But would we have had him if I was running around chasing all three of his sisters? I doubt it. And yet, now, when I picture our family of "what should have been," it is three girls followed by Evan. Would that have been our reality? I have no idea and there is no way to know. The bottom line is that we are missing one and we have gained one (almost two!) since her death. As we sit here awaiting the Grand Finale for our family, I can't help but picture my life with all 5 of my kids and I can't help but talk about it as if that would have been our reality, even though I truly can't answer that question.

A good friend has started a new blog about her life as a mom of four. She wanted a space away from her blog that was almost entirely about the loss of her firstborn nearly 8 years ago. Because, she admits, it is hard to know how to answer the question, "How many kids do you have?" and she needed a space to concentrate on just being a mom to the four she got to keep. And yet, the loss that defines us so completely changed our mothering that it is hard for it to be separate, you know? Anyway, her new blog is called Four Minus One Makes Five and because she is such a clever writer and I'm so...well, NOT a clever writer, I'm borrowing the phrase from her. Because it is so true. People will always look at me as a mom of (almost!) four. After this baby is born, there I will be in the grocery store with my four kids and all most people will see of me is my four kids. And these four kids will take up all my time and all my days and all my world. And I'm so happy to be able to do that! I'm so lucky to be able to do that! And yet....

Four minus one makes five. Happy birthday to the child who rocked my world more than any other, the one so few people remember to see anymore and the one who brought us the amazing perspective we have on this life. Happy birthday to the piece of my heart that will forever and always live in the stars. Happy birthday, my little Sophia Anne, you are so dearly loved and missed.

Monday, January 9, 2012


I haven't posted in a while, for no reason other than things around the holidays were busy and now as we find ourselves settling back into a routine, I have more time to think about the fact that January is here...again. It comes every year, doesn't it? Without fail, after the bustle of the holidays comes this long, cold month that seems to fight my honest attempts to keep a positive attitude. I plan fun stuff with the kids, we do plays and watch videos, we go to the library, the museum, spend weekends with friends, do whatever we can outside...and yet, at the end of the day, the exhaustion that settles into my bones just feels heavier this time of year.

I got an email from some random parenting site that is one of millions that must have my email address and the ages of my kids...I usually delete them without opening them, but on this one, the subject line definitely caught my eye. "Your child will be 5!" it said, "This is a major milestone! Look inside for ideas on how to celebrate with style!" I paused...who were they talking about?? Of course less than a millisecond later it hit me like a ton of bricks. Sophie would be turning 5 this year! We will definitely celebrate, but probably not in the way the email suggested. We will invite a bunch of friends over, have cake and ice cream, and celebrate the wonderful ways that Sophie has changed our family. We will dance and sing and be so very thankful for the gifts she has brought us and we will honor all the friends who have stood by us for the past 5 years. Later, privately, we will weep for the little girl we miss so much and who would have been such a joy to have in our family. Because, truly, even 5 years out, those tears are still there. Really.