Thursday, November 9, 2017

dear james.

you're working. and you're busy. like you have been the past, i can't count how long it's been. waking up at four am almost every day to get to work way before sunrise to try and catch up on things. sylvie was in our bed the other morning and heard you open the bedroom door to go get ready. "Dad!?" she yelled, her voice tired and raspy. "I have to go to work Syl" you whispered back in the dark.

she wakes up in the morning now and immediately says, "aww, dada workin". She knows you're busy, but she knows she misses you even before she's opened her eyes all the way. i feel the same way. even when you crawl out of bed quietly, without trying to wake me up, i still feel you leaving.

we miss you in the mornings. remember about a month ago you stayed home and told finn you'd take him to school. he made you french toast and insisted you ate it next to him at the table. he looks up to you even when you don't notice. the way you cut your toast with the side of your fork, he watches and absorbs your movements. now he cuts his the same. and the other morning finn insisted he needs to wear a belt like you. we found one in the back of his closet and he then spent ten minutes trying to figure out a way to put it through the loops even though it was sizes too big. he wrapped it around his little waistline almost two times, we were late for school because of it, but he persisted. he wants to be like you.

and then the other morning when he woke up at 6:30 and it was still dark outside, i told him it was freezing in our house and he said he'd make me a fire. he put on a hat and a headlamp and we went outside, me carrying the wood bag, and he picked out the pieces from the pile you guys split the other day and filled up the bag. i carried it inside and he got everything ready just the way you do. putting the fire starter on the bottom. arranging the logs just the way he wanted. when i tried to help he got defensive, "you've never made a fire before, just watch" he told me.

i know there are going to be situations with finn that are going to be tough. we just faced on last weekend. we both felt challenged. we both felt upset. we both felt a little unprepared. he's growing up and becoming more and more his own strong willed, opinionated boy. he provokes us, and holds his ground and can be so uncompromising. but it's also a part of finn that i admire. even if sometimes it makes me crazy, i think him having a stance for what he believes in will be a good thing.

i don't say it enough, but thank you for being the type of man that makes me proud to watch our son emulate. reminds me of a quote i read that said "don't marry a man unless you would be proud to have a son exactly like him."

i'm proud of you.  and our son.

Sunday, July 2, 2017


my baby girl is 16 months on tuesday. 16 months on the fourth of july and i've realized besides her baby book, i haven't written much about her. every day taking videos and photos and trying to remember every little detail about her personality, and her movements, and new lessons learned.

but i need more. i want to remember more. how can i not forget all the details when time moves so fast. i'm going to write as much as i can and quickly as i can before sylvie wakes up and calls for me from her bed, her hair sticking up on the top of her head and sleepy eyes.

sylvie james, you are a joy. you wake up smiling and you fall asleep smiling. last night you sang yourself to sleep while you nursed, which you are still doing fiercely and without any signs of stopping. you look at me and say "nurse. nurse, mama" and you crawl up on my lap and we snuggle together and i'll look in your eyes and ask you questions and you nod or quietly say "mmhmm".

you started walking a couple days after your first birthday. determined to be like your big brother.

brother. you called him that from the start, although now you try and say finn but it comes out as yinn. it's especially funny when you yell it.

finnegan thinks you are the funniest person. we all laugh with you. you crack us up. and you crack yourself up. the other day in the tub you were playing with a little car, pushing it around and you dropped it and yelled "boom!" and started belly laughing. you did it for the next five minutes and each time laughed harder than the last.

you are talking so much. nonstop. you understand everything we say. some of the things you say the most are:

"thank you, mama"

"love you"

"brother. yinn"

"here you go"

"i dunno"


"i have some, mama?"

you love to say everyone's names. you know what all the animals say. body parts. you love elmo and sesame street. you watch and sing along to the songs. clapping your hands and stomping your feet. you love music. if you hear a song a few times you sing it, and you start to sing it on the right beat and the right words.

you love to be outside. any time we have to come inside you cry. you love bike rides, chalk, bubbles, walks, the playground. we had a camp out in the driveway in our pop up. the four of us snuggled up under blankets and sleeping bags. it rained and thunderstormed all night but you slept through it. we all slept in together in the morning and woke up to sunshine and birds singing.

we went to fairport harbor for a week vacation with family and you had so much fun with your cousins. you love the water and are so independent around it. you love the sand and will play on the beach all day.

you love animals. all kinds. every time you see a bird you put her hand over your mouth and gasp. you love dogs. you bark and laugh and say "hi doggy" and wave.

you kiss. you grab our faces with your little hands, look us in the eye, and kiss. whenever you do this to your dad he almost bursts from happiness.

he loves you so much. the bond you two have is so special, and one of the things that makes me most happy in my life.  you and your dad. and you and your brother.

the two of you have been best friends since birth. there was never jealousy, there was never a division, there was never any period of hard adjustment for finnegan with you. i realize how lucky we are and how special that is.

when i was pregnant i told myself that if we were to have a boy i would be so happy. and i really believe that i would have. i prepared myself so much for having a boy that i really did believe i was having another baby boy. and that would have been fine. it would have been better than fine. but when you were born, and the doctor said she's here, i was so excited and overwhelmed that i had to ask your dad if i was dreaming. i couldn't believe that i had a daughter.

sylvie, i wanted it to be you. i am so happy and lucky to be your mama.


one day i parade about the house, four years old, a bossy, imperious child. full of strong will and tantrums that i've almost outgrown. i'm wearing a blue and white sailor outfit. the sun is shining in through my parents bedroom. august summer, the windows are open and the room is bright. my mom's favorite mary cassatt painting above the bed. my parents come in and tell me to put my legs in front of me. they place in my arms a tiny baby. a six pound, small faced boy. my baby brother. my best friend.

i'm dramatic with him. i pretend he is my baby doll. i hold him in a pink rocking chair with my name painted on the back and pretend to play house while talking on a fake telephone. he's my real life figurine. he's growing and we sit in his crib together. he takes his first steps across our living room floor to me. i'm wearing a pink nightgown when i catch him and take him in both my arms.

one day he comes into my room in middle school and sits on my bed and tells me everything. what is going on in school. who his best friend is. which girl he has a crush on. it becomes a nightly ritual, he comes in my room and talks to me. he opens up to me. years later he comes into my room crying. his best friend is on the phone telling him about his father who just had a heart attack and died. my brother goes into my bathroom and cries. i feel the breath leave my lungs. i want to grab him and run so that we miss everything that is aimed, but i don't, and i let him break the way he needs to.

one day i wake in the middle of a sweltering summer night. i grab my brother and we drag pillow beds into my parents room and sleep on the floor in front of their bed with the window air conditioner blowing on us. we sleep like that the next few nights and when we go back to our rooms days later i still sneak in his room and sleep next to him.

one day i'm sitting at the sunday dinner table and i tell my family i'm pregnant. everybody is shocked. stunned yet thrilled. my brother hugs me in the kitchen and tells me he's so happy. he tells me it's "so awesome" and i feel his sincerity.

i give birth to my son on a hot summer day. my brother is at the hospital with a balloon. he holds my baby and they stare each other in the eyes. years later i'll give birth to my daughter who stares at my baby brother with the same fascination. like she sees more. like she already knows him.

one day my mom comes over. both of my kids are sick with the flu and she's shaking. she tells me my brother is hurt. alcohol and more and how couldn't we have known. i walk into my kitchen and throw a glass. my husband grabs my arm. i'm angry. but i'm mostly sad. he was lying. but now we all know the truth. now we can help. now we can get him back. the way he was before the job at the bar, before his sleep schedule had him in bed all day. before he moves to a bigger, wilder city and my kids only notice him from pictures.

there's debris everywhere. there's a trail of deceit and dishonesty, but there is also peace in the way we prop him up, especially just by being together.

i'm reminded of my son falling and cutting both of his knees on the pavement months before. a week later i'm bathing him in the tub and he notices the cuts have gotten smaller. "i'm healing" he says, "but its not easy, mama".

Monday, December 12, 2016


sunday nights and you lock yourself in your bathroom. the bathroom that is half painted from it's renovation months ago that you swear one of you will get around to one day. you lock the door and light two tea candles and turn the water temperature way up. not the luke warm water when your nine month old is splashing in the tub with you. her name means "from the woods" but it should be from the water because of the way she easily took to the tub. from the start in her baby tub you filled at the kitchen sink, she slid into the water and her body relaxed effortlessly.
the water is hot. burning almost. and the lights are off. the winters moon shining outside on the snow that has fallen. every school aged child wishing for the first snow day of the winter. and you get in the tub and your shoulders fall and the steam is rising off your legs and you notice you still haven't painted your toenails. chipped paint the past two months.
in the water and you picture all of the germs washing off of your body. the snot. the croupy cough. the hot breath sticky with fever. the viruses that encompass your being because they need you. just the way you needed your parents the other night when your son woke up and couldn't catch his breath from his coughing and your husband was night fishing, so you called your mom. you still need your mom. just like they need you. when your daughter tries to nurse but her nose is completely blocked and she falls asleep on you sitting up and you try not to move, even though your neck is cramping and you swear you won't be able to function the next day because once again, no sleep, but you'll do anything for her to get some sleep of her own.
four years of marriage and two babies later and it seems the lowest times and the most trying times of our relationship is when there is a prescription waiting to be picked up at the pharmacy. "who is going to pick up the prescription". and the lysol wipes. and more vitamin c. and some kind of magic oil blend to diffuse through our little house so these little people can breathe through their noses.
winter- and gray and everyone says "it's that time of year" and we're exhausted and yet still full of love. this is the truest feeling, the realest of them all. the times of motherhood that aren't discussed. the sitting on the couch with your husband and a sleeping baby on your lap and you look at him and say "I miss you" even when he is right there.
and after the four year old is asleep. and finally the baby is propped up in her crib. the two of you crawl under the covers and he curls against you and wraps his arms around you and your ankle presses against his calf and for a solid two hours you sleep soundly. just as you had before all those nights just the two of you. you still need him.  and he needs you too.  and the four of you will get through winter.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

summers end

the swing. pushing my four year old. i think of the summer passing. the changes. becoming a big brother to the sister he always knew he had. even before anyone else knew she was inside, he did. even before anyone else knew she was a girl, he did. before anyone else knew her name, he had already chosen sylvie. and he was right.

i push him and his bruised legs begin to pump. the bruises of a four year old boy who plays hard. the summer of learning the two wheel bike. crying because he wants a skateboard. doing tricks now on his scooter and looking for more adventure. a summer of new independence. getting himself ready for bed, picking out his outfit for the next day, teaching his baby sister little lessons and making his voice deeper than it actually is. and yet every night still asking that i lay with him, and then still wrapping his little arms around me and breathing into my neck. the other night after he was asleep i snuck out of his bed. he woke up an hour later and started crying, something he hasn't done in over a year. when i opened the door he was sitting in his bed, "why did you leave me all alone" he said.

i push him and see the sun tan on his neck. from our adventure at the beach, the last grand finale of the summer vacation. the nights in that big beach house with our family, and the mornings when he would find his little cousin and they'd walk down to grammy and papa's room. their feet echoing through the halls and laughing.

i push him. each push he comes back to me. the start of the school year when he walks into the building i went to school in. the preschool teacher who taught my baby brother now teaching my baby. he tells me he doesn't want to leave me. like a kick in the gut.  i don't want him to leave me. and yet i give him the extra push he needs to walk into the building alone.

one push.
the last summer of pushing the small of his four year old back
one push.
you're as much theirs as you are mine now
one push.
nothing lasts forever
one push
but you're still mine more

Friday, March 25, 2016


My mom gave birth to four children. Three of those birth's were natural. No medication. No epidural. Just my mom and her Lamaze training and breathing techniques. I often heard my aunts and mom discussing childbirth growing up. One of my older cousins who just had her first son asked my mom in shock, "but how did you give birth without meds?!"
 "I loved feeling the babies come out" my mom responded calmly, sending the women in the room gasping.

Growing up, "all natural" was common for us. My mom began studying homeopathy after her first was born. She became immersed, reading all she could, practicing, attending seminars, becoming friends with well known Harvard graduate homeopathic doctors, starting a study group in town meeting once a month at the local library. When we were sick, we would ask for a remedy. If my mom couldn't prescribe us the right one, or if we needed antibiotics my dad would be the one to take us to his friend who was a doctor, knocking on the side door of the building so he could check our throats and ears. My mom would always say she could have found the right remedy, but it was good that we got checked.

When I was pregnant with my first, my mom went in the attic and brought down all of her childbirth books. Most written in the 70's, I read them and giggled at the pictures. I brushed over them, reading only what interested me, always knowing that I would be able to get an epidural. I didn't need to study the different birthing positions, or the focal points needed to breathe through a contraction. I was just fine with getting an epidural.

My son, Finn, was eleven days late. I was induced and the induction was long. After 36 hours and complications with my blood platelets being low, I was able to get an epidural with a consent that my husband had to sign that said I could be paralyzed. He signed it, and later told me he went out in the hall and cried. Was this the right thing to do? I was able to sleep, and although I couldn't feel my legs, my husband reassured me I was moving my feet and that I was fine. I hated the sensation. I was tied down to the bed, and although the pain was gone, I was scared and nervous and uneasy.
After almost two days, I pushed for 25 minutes and my son was born. Healthy, strong and much bigger than the nurses expected.

After birth, my mom came in the room and cried. "Check your phone" she said, "I was hiding across the hall in an empty room. I was sending you power text messages the whole time!" Forgetting until I looked at my phone hours later, I saw over 40 messages from my mom. I read them smiling and laughing: "You can do this, Carly! You can do this! You're pushing. I hear the baby! Never mind, that was a baby down the hall. Keep pushing! He's here. I love you. You did it." She was so happy to be a grandmother. Never once did she say she was disappointed I got the epidural, and I truly knew she wasn't.

Three years later, and I'm pregnant again. The second pregnancy and it's completely different from the start. Sick, back pain, sciatic pain. We opted out of finding the sex this time. We checked my blood platelets throughout the pregnancy. They were dropping, and I knew if they continued to drop that maybe this time I wouldn't be able to get the epidural. I didn't think about it much. I didn't have time to, chasing around a three year old. 

And then one afternoon, while lying in bed with my son trying to get him to nap, I sat up and my water broke. Stunned, I looked over and told him what had happened. "The baby is coming!!!" he screamed and jumped up. After some calls and my mom coming over to be with Finn, we were off to the hospital.

It was confirmed my water broke but my contractions were not consistent. They needed to start me on pitocin to get them to speed up, and to get me further dilated, as I was just two centimeters. We checked my blood platelets, they had actually gone up since the last time. I was clear for the epidural and felt a sense of relief.

"Do you want the epidural right now?" the nurse asked. I declined with the fear of losing feeling in my legs again, I wanted to walk around to start.

The pitocin kicked in quickly as it does. Contractions coming quicker and stronger. They checked me and I was at 4 centimeters. " I think I need the epidural soon" I said to our nurse who told me the anesthesiologist was in with a c-section patient and that they would come to me next. An hour went by. I was on my hands and knees, I was using the peanut ball they have in the room you place between your knees to help open your pelvis, I was using my husband as a crutch, standing with my hands around him, him holding me up during the strongest point of the contraction.

Another hour passes. Another emergency c-section keeps the anesthesiologist. And then another hour, and another c-section. Three c-sections and no epidural yet. I couldn't believe what was happening. The feelings, the emotions, waiting, and the pain. "Where are they??" I started screaming at one point. WHERE ARE THEY?! I looked at my husband for help.
I thought of the books in my mom's attic.  I thought of my mom who had done this thirty years ago. I thought of the baby I would meet soon. I thought of my three year old sleeping in his bed, waking up in the morning to meet his new brother or sister. I could feel the baby moving down. I could feel everything.

Still no epidural, and all of a sudden, the intense need to push. The doctor on call not even making it to the hospital on time, I found myself with three nurses and my husband surrounding me, and I'm ten centimeters and I'm about to push whether they are ready or not. It was happening. I was giving birth without an epidural and I couldn't believe I was strong enough. I couldn't believe I was able. I couldn't believe that after only five minutes of pushing, after bursting blood vessels in my face and my right eye, after gripping my husband's shoulders as the nurse said the baby's head was out and I needed to get the shoulders out, and with one last push, I felt the baby come out just as my mom had. And then I could not believe when the doctor said "she's here" and I looked and saw my daughter, new and wet and crying. My daughter, yes, there she was. And when they placed her on my chest and that feeling of euphoric bliss and happiness melted through my body in such a way only giving birth can, I didn't believe it again and asked my husband if I was dreaming.

Later, my mom told me that when my husband sent the last group text out saying it was too late to get an epidural, my mom felt a little sense of pride. She said she knew I was strong enough to go without it. She said she believed I could do it.

Just like I believe now for my own daughter.

She can do anything.