Wednesday, December 19, 2012

In Memoriam

Death is a challenge. It tells us not to waste time... It tells us to tell each other right now that we love each other. 
- Leo Buscaglia 

Victims in Connecticut elementary school shooting remembered by family, friends
Published December 17, 2012
                                                  by the Associated Press

At the very start of their lives, the schoolchildren are remembered for their love of horses, or for the games they couldn't get enough of, or for always saying grace at dinner. The adult victims found their life's work in sheltering little ones, teaching them, caring for them, treating them as their own. The gunfire Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School left a toll both unbearable and incalculable: 20 students and six adults at the school, the gunman's mother at home, and the gunman himself.
A glimpse of some of those who died:
They were supposed to be for the holidays, but finally on Friday, after hearing much begging, Charlotte Bacon's mother relented and let her wear the new pink dress and boots to school.
It was the last outfit the outgoing redhead would ever pick out. Charlotte's older brother, Guy, was also in the school but was not shot.
Her parents, JoAnn and Joel, had lived in Newtown for four or five years, JoAnn's brother John Hagen, of Nisswa, Minn., told Newsday.
"She was going to go some places in this world," Hagen told the newspaper. "This little girl could light up the room for anyone."
Daniel's family says he was "fearless in the pursuit of happiness in life."
He was the youngest of three children and in a statement to the media, his family said Daniel earned his missing two front teeth and ripped jeans.
"Words really cannot express what a special boy Daniel was. Such a light. Always smiling, unfailingly polite, incredibly affectionate, fair and so thoughtful towards others, imaginative in play, both intelligent and articulate in conversation: in all, a constant source of laughter and joy," the family said.
His father, Mark is a local musician. The New Haven Register reported that Mark was scheduled to play a show at a restaurant in Danbury on Friday, a show that was later cancelled.
On the biography on his professional website, Mark Barden lists spending time with his family as his favorite thing to do.
Days before the Connecticut shooting rampage, the boyfriend of Rachel D'Avino had asked her parents for permission to marry her.
D'Avino was a behavioral therapist who had only recently started working at the school where she was killed, according to Lissa Lovetere Stone, a friend who is handling her funeral planned for Friday. D'Avino's boyfriend, Anthony Cerritelli, planned to ask her to marry him on Christmas Eve, Lovetere Stone said.
Lovetere Stone said she met D'Avino in 2005 when D'Avino was assigned to her son, who has autism, in their town of Bethlehem. D'Avino, 29, was so dedicated she'd make home visits and constantly offered guidance on handling situations such as helping her son deal with loud music at a wedding.
"Her job didn't end when the school bell rang at 3 o'clock," Lovetere Stone said.
Police told her family that she shielded one of the students during the rampage, Lovetere Stone said.
"I'm heartbroken. I'm numb," Lovetere Stone said. "I think she taught me more about how to be a good mother to a special needs child than anyone else ever had."
Images of Olivia Rose Engel show a happy child, one with a great sense of humor, as her family said in a statement. There she is, visiting with Santa Claus, or feasting on a slice of birthday cake. Or swinging a pink baseball bat, posing on a boat, or making a silly face.
Olivia loved school, did very well in math and reading, and was "insightful for her age," said the statement released by her uncle, John Engel.
She was a child who "lit up a room and the people around her." Creative with drawing and designing, she was also a tennis and soccer player and took art classes, swimming, and dance lessons in ballet and hip hop. A Daisy Girl Scout, she enjoyed musical theater.
"She was a great big sister and was always very patient with her 3 year old brother, Brayden," her family said, recalling that her favorite colors were purple and pink.
Olivia was learning the rosary and always led grace before the family dinner. "She was a grateful child who was always appreciative and never greedy," the family said.
Her father said she was a 6-year-old who had a lot to look forward to.
Dan Merton, a longtime friend of the girl's family, recalled that she loved attention, had perfect manners and was a teacher's pet.
"Her only crime," he said, "is being a wiggly, smiley 6-year-old."
Josephine Gay had just turned 7, three days before the shooting.
She liked to ride her bike on her family's quiet cul-de-sac, and over the summer she set up a lemonade stand, according to CNN.
Josephine loved the color purple. On Monday, there were purple balloons attached to her family's mailbox, and on the mailboxes of all the neighbors. The yellow house she lived in had a jungle gym out back.
A person who answered the phone at Mother of God Catholic Church in Covington, Ky., said Josephine was the great-niece of the pastor, Father Raymond Hartman.
Polly Larsen in Sunnyvale, Calif., said she was close friends with the cousin of Josephine's mother.
"`Joey' is a beautiful little girl, may she never be forgotten and live forever in our hearts," Larsen wrote on Facebook.
DAWN HOCHSPRUNG, 47, principal
Dawn Hochsprung's pride in Sandy Hook Elementary was clear. She regularly tweeted photos from her time as principal there, giving indelible glimpses of life at a place now known for tragedy. Just this week, it was an image of fourth-graders rehearsing for their winter concert; days before that, the tiny hands of kindergartners exchanging play money at their makeshift grocery store.
She viewed her school as a model, telling The Newtown Bee in 2010 that "I don't think you could find a more positive place to bring students to every day." She had worked to make Sandy Hook a place of safety, too, and in October, the 47-year-old Hochsprung shared a picture of the school's evacuation drill with the message "safety first." When the unthinkable came, she was ready to defend.
Officials said she died while lunging at the gunman in an attempt to overtake him.
"She had an extremely likable style about her," said Gerald Stomski, first selectman of Woodbury, where Hochsprung lived and had taught. "She was an extremely charismatic principal while she was here."

Dylan Hockley smiles online in a series of family photos, as Shrek or "Super Dylan," his mother writes, according to a profile by the Washington Post reported. He can be seen posing with his brother, Jake, in other photos. According to the Post, Dylan, 6, lived across Yogananda Street from where the violence began. His neighbor, Nancy Lanza, was the mother of the suspected shooter.
Dr. Matthew Velsmid was at Madeleine's house on Saturday, tending to her stricken family. He said the family did not want to comment.
Velsmid said that after hearing of the shooting, he went to the triage area to provide medical assistance but there were no injuries to treat.
"We were waiting for casualties to come out, and there was nothing. There was no need, unfortunately," he said. "This is the darkest thing I've ever walked into, by far."
Velsmid's daughter, who attends another school, lost three of her friends.
Catherine's parents released a statement expressing gratitude to emergency responders and for the support of the community.
"We are greatly saddened by the loss of our beautiful daughter, Catherine Violet and our thoughts and prayers are with the other families who have been affected by this tragedy," Jennifer and Matthew Hubbard said. "We ask that you continue to pray for us and the other families who have experienced loss in this tragedy."
Chase Kowalski was always outside, playing in the backyard, riding his bicycle. Just last week, he was visiting neighbor Kevin Grimes, telling him about completing -- and winning -- his first mini-triathlon.
"You couldn't think of a better child," Grimes said.
Grimes' own five children all attended Sandy Hook, too. Cars lined up outside the Kowalskis' ranch home Saturday, and a state trooper's car idled in the driveway. Grimes spoke of the boy only in the present tense.
NANCY LANZA, 52, gunman's mother
She was known for the game nights she hosted, the holiday decorations she put up at her house, her love of the Red Sox and her growing enthusiasm for target shooting. Now Nancy Lanza is known as her son's first victim.
Authorities say her 20-year-old son Adam gunned her down before killing 26 others at Sandy Hook. The two shared a home in a well-to-do Newtown neighborhood, but details were slow to emerge of who she was and what might have led her son to carry out such horror.
Friends say she spoke proudly of her sons, but discussion of her home life, particularly its trials and setbacks, was off limits.
Kingston, N.H., Police Chief Donald Briggs Jr. said Nancy Lanza once lived in the community and was a kind, considerate and loving person. The former stockbroker at John Hancock in Boston was well-respected, Briggs said.
Court records show Lanza and her ex-husband, Peter Lanza, filed for divorce in 2008. He lives in Stamford and is a tax director at General Electric. The split-up was not acrimonious and Adam spent time with both his mother and father, said Marsha Lanza of Crystal Lake, Ill., Peter Lanza's aunt.
A neighbor, Rhonda Cullens, said she knew Nancy Lanza from get-togethers she had hosted to play Bunco, a dice game. She said her neighbor had enjoyed gardening.
"She was a very nice lady," Cullens said. "She was just like all the rest of us in the neighborhood, just a regular person."
Six-year-old Jesse Lewis had hot chocolate with his favorite breakfast sandwich -- sausage, egg and cheese -- at the neighborhood deli before going to school Friday morning.
Jesse and his parents were regulars at the Misty Vale Deli in Sandy Hook, Conn., owner Angel Salazar told The Wall Street Journal.
"He was always friendly; he always liked to talk," Salazar said.
Jesse's family has a collection of animals he enjoyed playing with, and he was learning to ride horseback.
Family friend Barbara McSperrin told the Journal that Jesse was "a typical 6-year-old little boy, full of life."
A year ago, 6-year-old Ana Marquez-Greene was reveling in holiday celebrations with her extended family on her first trip to Puerto Rico. This year will be heartbreakingly different.
The girl's grandmother, Elba Marquez, said the family moved to Connecticut just two months ago, drawn from Canada, in part, by Sandy Hook's sterling reputation. The grandmother's brother, Jorge Marquez, is mayor of a Puerto Rican town and said the child's 9-year-old brother also was at the school but escaped safely.
Elba Marquez had just visited the new home over Thanksgiving and is perplexed by what happened. "What happened does not match up with the place where they live," she said.
A video spreading across the Internet shows a confident Ana hitting every note as she sings "Come, Thou Almighty King." She flashes a big grin and waves to the camera when she's done.
Jorge Marquez confirmed the girl's father is saxophonist Jimmy Greene, who wrote on Facebook that he was trying to "work through this nightmare."
"As much as she's needed here and missed by her mother, brother and me, Ana beat us all to paradise," he wrote. "I love you sweetie girl."
James Mattioli especially loved recess and math, and his family described him as a "numbers guy" who came up with insights beyond his years to explain the relationship between numbers. He particularly loved the concept of googolplex, which a friend taught him.
He was born four weeks before his due date, and his family often joked that he came into the world early because he was hungry.
They wrote in his obituary that 6-year-old James, fondly called `J,' loved hamburgers with ketchup, his Dad's egg omelets with bacon, and his Mom's french toast. He often asked to stop at Subway and wanted to know how old he needed to be to order a footlong sandwich.
He loved sports and wore shorts and T-shirts no matter the weather. He was a loud and enthusiastic singer and once asked, "How old do I have to be to sing on a stage?"
His family recalled that he was an early-riser who was always ready to get up and go. He and his older sister were the best of friends. He was a thoughtful and considerate child, recently choosing to forgo a gift for himself and use the money to buy his grandfather a mug for Christmas.
A funeral for James will be Tuesday in Newtown.
With broken hearts, the parents of Grace Audrey McDonnell said Sunday they couldn't believe the outpouring of support they've received since the little girl who was the center of their lives died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
Lynn and Chris McDonnell called their 7-year-old daughter "the love and light" of their family in a statement released by the little girl's uncle.
The family also shared a photo featuring Grace smiling into the camera, her eyes shining and a pink bow adorning her long blonde hair.
"Words cannot adequately express our sense of loss," the McDonnells said.
ANNE MARIE MURPHY, 52, teacher
A happy soul. A good mother, wife and daughter. Artistic, fun-loving, witty and hardworking.
Remembering their daughter, Anne Marie Murphy, her parents had no shortage of adjectives to offer Newsday. When news of the shooting broke, Hugh and Alice McGowan waited for word of their daughter as hours ticked by. And then it came.
Authorities told the couple their daughter was a hero who helped shield some of her students from the rain of bullets. As the grim news arrived, the victim's mother reached for her rosary.
"You don't expect your daughter to be murdered," her father told the newspaper. "It happens on TV. It happens elsewhere."
Quick to cheer up those in need of a smile, Emilie Parker never missed a chance to draw a picture or make a card.
Her father, Robbie Parker, fought back tears as he described the beautiful, blond, always-smiling girl who loved to try new things, except foods.
Parker, one of the first parents to publicly talk about his loss, expressed no animosity for the gunman, even as he struggled to explain the death to his other two children, ages 3 and 4. He's sustained by the fact that the world is better for having had Emilie in it.
"I'm so blessed to be her dad," he said.
Jack Pinto was a huge New York Giants fan.
New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz said he talked to Pinto's family, which is considering burying the 6-year-old boy in Cruz's No. 80 jersey.
Cruz honored Jack Sunday on his cleats, writing on them the words "Jack Pinto, My Hero" and "R.I.P. Jack Pinto."
"I also spoke to an older brother and he was distraught as well. I told him to stay strong and I was going to do whatever I can to honor him," Cruz said after the Giant's game with the Atlanta Falcons. "He was fighting tears and could barely speak to me."
Cruz said he plans to give the gloves he wore during the game to the boy's family, and spend some time with them.
"There's no words that can describe the type of feeling that you get when a kid idolizes you so much that unfortunately they want to put him in the casket with your jersey on," he said. "I can't even explain it."
Jack's funeral is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Monday at the Honan Funeral Home in Newtown, followed by burial at the Newtown Village Cemetery.
Noah was "smart as a whip," gentle but with a rambunctious streak, said his uncle, Alexis Haller of Woodinville, Wash. Noah's twin sister Arielle, assigned to a different classroom, survived the shooting. He called her his best friend, and with their 8-year-old sister, Sophia, they were inseparable.
"They were always playing together, they loved to do things together," Haller said. When his mother, a nurse, would tell him she loved him, he would answer, "Not as much as I love you, Mom."
Haller said Noah loved to read and liked to figure out how things worked mechanically. For his birthday two weeks ago, he got a new Wii.
"He was just a really lively, smart kid," Haller said. "He would have become a great man, I think. He would have grown up to be a great dad."
Caroline Previdi had an infectious grin and a giving heart.
"Caroline Phoebe Previdi was a blessing from God and brought joy to everyone she touched," her parents, Jeff and Sandy Previdi, said in a statement. "We know that she is looking down on us from Heaven."
On Facebook, friends remembered when her big brother, Walker, was in preschool, and how Caroline would come with her mom to pick him up. A Sandy Hook dad posted photos of Caroline with another shooting victim, Olivia Engel, as well as his own daughter, who survived the attack. All three are grinning and wearing blue tutus.
Family friend David Sutch said Jeff and Sandy talk about their children all the time. On Thursday, the day before the shooting, the Previdis' annual Christmas card arrived. It had a picture of Caroline and Walker on either side of the family's Lab.
On Monday, Sutch wore a white shirt and green tie -- Sandy Hook's colors -- in memory of Caroline.
Sutch, who lives in Brookfield, Mo., described the Previdis as loving and compassionate, always having other children over to the house, willing to befriend anyone.
"I can't imagine a family that deserved this less," he said.
"Jessica loved everything about horses," her parents, Rich and Krista Rekos said in a statement. "She devoted her free time to watching horse movies, reading horse books, drawing horses, and writing stories about horses."
When she turned 10, they promised, she could have a horse of her own. For Christmas, she asked Santa for new cowgirl boots and hat.
The Rekoses described their daughter as "a creative, beautiful little girl who loved playing with her little brothers, Travis and Shane.
"She spent time writing in her journals, making up stories, and doing `research' on orca whales -- one of her passions after seeing the movie `Free Willy' last year." Her dream of seeing a real orca was realized in October when she went to SeaWorld.
Jessica, first born in the family, "was our rock," the parents said. "She had an answer for everything, she didn't miss a trick, and she outsmarted us every time." A thoughtful planner, she was "our little CEO."
"We cannot imagine our life without her. We are mourning her loss, sharing our beautiful memories we have of her, and trying to help her brother Travis understand why he can't play with his best friend," they said.
"We are devastated, and our hearts are with the other families who are grieving as we are."
No information is available at this time.
Lauren Rousseau had spent years working as a substitute teacher and doing other jobs. So she was thrilled when she finally realized her goal this fall to become a full-time teacher at Sandy Hook.
Her mother, Teresa Rousseau, a copy editor at the Danbury News-Times, released a statement Saturday that said state police told them just after midnight that she was among the victims.
"Lauren wanted to be a teacher from before she even went to kindergarten," she said. "We will miss her terribly and will take comfort knowing that she had achieved that dream."
Her mother said she was thrilled to get the job.
"It was the best year of her life," she told the newspaper.
Rousseau has been called gentle, spirited and active. She had planned to see "The Hobbit" with her boyfriend Friday and had baked cupcakes for a party they were to attend afterward. She was born in Danbury, and attended Danbury High, college at the University of Connecticut and graduate school at the University of Bridgeport.
She was a lover of music, dance and theater.
"I'm used to having people die who are older," her mother said, "not the person whose room is up over the kitchen."
MARY SHERLACH, 56, school psychologist
When the shots rang out, Mary Sherlach threw herself into the danger.
Janet Robinson, the superintendent of Newtown Public Schools, said Sherlach and the school's principal ran toward the shooter. They lost their own lives, rushing toward him.
Even as Sherlach neared retirement, her job at Sandy Hook was one she loved. Those who knew her called her a wonderful neighbor, a beautiful person, a dedicated educator.
Her son-in-law, Eric Schwartz, told the South Jersey Times that Sherlach rooted on the Miami Dolphins, enjoyed visiting the Finger Lakes, relished helping children overcome their problems. She had planned to leave work early on Friday, he said, but never had the chance. In a news conference Saturday, he told reporters the loss was devastating, but that Sherlach was doing what she loved.
"Mary felt like she was doing God's work," he said, "working with the children."
VICTORIA SOTO, 27, teacher
She beams in snapshots. Her enthusiasm and cheer was evident. She was doing, those who knew her say, what she loved.
And now, Victoria Soto is being called a hero.
The 27-year-old teacher's name has been invoked again and again as a portrait of selflessness amid unfathomable evil. Those who knew her said they weren't surprised by reports she shielded her first-graders from danger by hiding them in a closet.
"We heard at one point that they found some people hiding in a closet, and all of us said Vicki would never be hiding in a closet. She would be out there protecting those babies," her mother, Donna Soto, told CBS' "This Morning."
Soto said her eldest daughter, who had two younger sisters and a brother, used to joke that she was "the perfect one" of the siblings. They got back by calling her "The Queen V."
"She was the best daughter any mother could ask for ... She loved her family more than anything. Teaching and her family was her life," Donna Soto said.
Photos of Victoria Soto show her always with a wide smile, in pictures of her at her college graduation and in mundane daily life. She looks so young, barely an adult herself. Her goal was simply to be a teacher.
"You have a teacher who cared more about her students than herself," said Mayor John Harkins of Stratford, the town Soto hailed from and where more than 300 people gathered for a memorial service Saturday night. "That speaks volumes to her character, and her commitment and dedication."
Music surrounded Benjamin Wheeler as he grew up in a household where both his mother and father were performers.
They left behind stage careers in New York City when they moved to Newtown with Benjamin and his older brother Nate.
"We knew we wanted a piece of lawn, somewhere quiet, somewhere with good schools," Francine Wheeler told the Newtown Bee in a profile.
She is a music educator and singer-songwriter. Sometimes the musical mother would try out tunes on her own children, with some tunes that she made up for Ben as a baby eventually finding their way onto a CD, she told the newspaper.
In writing songs for children, melodies needn't be simplified, she said. "I try to make it my mission to always present good music to kids."
Benjamin's father, David, a former film and television actor, writes and performs still, according to a profile on the website of the Flagpole Radio Cafe theater, with which he's performed in Newtown.
The family are members of Trinity Episcopal Church, whose website noted that Nate, also a student at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was not harmed in Friday's shooting.
No information is available at this time.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Colorful Language

It is both fascinating and frightening to watch your child's use of language develop.
Fascinating in that every new word is a discovery, a revelation, and frightening in that some newly acquired words are a pure abomination.

When we lit the Hanukkah candles last night and said the prayer in Hebrew, my son yelled out to his friends in attendance, "What the HELL was that?!!"

At what point did my three year old's language head south?

It started so innocently a year ago when he would yell, "Oh, Cheeze-its!" (Jesus)

He quickly moved on to Larry David references, much to his father's delight: "Get outta here, Shmohawk!"

Now, he's calling his baby brother, "Mr. Poopyhead," and badgering the pizza delivery man, "Hey, ya l'il weirdo!"

The other day I overheard him yell at his one year old brother, "Come back here, you little BALLBUSTER!"

Oh. Boy.

When I call my husband to report our boy's offensive word of the day, he wants to know if our son used the term in a grammatically correct and logically appropriate time.

Oh. Man.

Growing up, my sister and I were never allowed to say so much as, "Shut Up," and the only time I ever heard my dad curse was when he stepped on a nail.

On the flip side, name-calling and teasing in general is part of my husband's being.  He is one of five (4 boys and a girl) and he was forced to develop a sixth sense for picking out the idiosyncrasies of his siblings as a defense tactic. He and his brothers can sniff out a strange pronunciation of the word, "tilapia," or "out" a person who has yet to shower on a given day or draw attention to one eyebrow waxed a tad higher than the other.

He comes from a world where all the guys sport nicknames:

Tony "the Shakes"
Nicky "One Ball"

You get the idea.

So, I guess this boy name-calling madness is what's in store for my near future.  But, still I try.

"What the HECK?!" my son yells.

"Better!" I say.  "I like that better!"

"Mommy, I didn't say, what the HELL!  Right?  Hell's a bad word?  What the HELL?  I didn't say that."

Oh. Here we go.

Now, I'm trying a new tactic.  Teaching my son Spanish, while trying to brush up on my own.

He does not know any bad words in Spanish yet.  It's a revelation.  And, sometimes it's nice because I can tell our babysitter things about him in Spanish without him understanding what I'm saying.

"So, I got a call from his teacher this morning. There were corroborated reports from several children that he was . . . como se dice, "under the pirate ship on the playground with his pants down"?"

Like I said, fascinating and frightening no matter how you say it!

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Modern Man

I recently saw comedian Tom Papa's hilarious discussion about dads today vs. old-time dads.  You can check it out here:

It got me thinking about the modern man.

The modern man knows more about Braxton Hicks contractions than most women who are older than 50. He has the breathing down pat, the bags packed, and the doctor's cell phone programmed into his iPhone months before the delivery date.

He knows how to swaddle a baby like a burrito, how to steam up the bathroom like a sauna for bath time. He palms a newborn as comfortably as he would a football.

The modern man carries a manly diaper bag (oxymoron, yes).  He knows how to change diapers, give medicine, take care of boo-boos. He will bathe a toddler at 3 a.m. if a stomach virus hits, and he will bathe him again at 4 a.m. if necessary.

While taking care of his family, the modern man also takes care of himself.  He grooms himself better than Olympic swimmers. He's not afraid to purchase $100 worth of dulce de leche soap.  All for himself. He uses a pink or sometimes purple mesh solange in the shower.  He is discriminating when it comes to his hair products, but a whore when it comes to eyebrow waxing.  He will lay down for any woman in any nail salon. He will even bring a pajama-clad toddler along.

The modern man is creative.  He can make up a game of "bogeyman lurking dangerously outside the window" and make a 9 month old laugh with fear when he creeps over to the blinds and peeks out, then freaks out. He can make a paper ghost zip-line down the staircase at his children's request.

The modern man works harder than ever, with longer hours, no time to turn off the phone, emails, texts.  Yet he knows how to make conference calls regarding complex financial instruments sound sexy.  Sometimes.

He is not afraid to express his emotions. He tells his children all day long how much he loves them.  How he is absolutely crazy about them.  He dances with them to Louie Prima  while throwing together the best bruschetta this side of Sicily.

He takes them to the playground, pushes them way up in the sky on the swings. He takes care of them for TWO days and TWO nights while his wife gallivants around NYC with her girls.

The modern man lets his son fall asleep on his chest while he is typing on his computer.  He is a renegade. A dynamo.  A balabusta.

He is a new-age hero.

Sure, times have changed.  But, I have to say, the modern man is marvelous.

(At least mine is).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Little Prince

The image of Prince Harry sitting beside his big brother, Prince William, in the backseat of a Rolls Royce on their way to William's royal wedding was captivating. I was 12 weeks pregnant and all of a sudden, as I watched the two princes share an intimate moment, albeit in front of the world, it hit me. I knew I was carrying another boy.

The TV commentator mentioned that Princess Diana's sons have always and will always have each other to celebrate life's triumphs and to help handle life's greatest tragedies.

It was an unforgettable sentiment and image. Harry, with his devilish grin, appeared to be whispering dirty jokes to his more composed big brother, perhaps helping William shake off pre-wedding jitters. William was calm and regal, waving gratuitously to the millions of people who lined the car's route to wish him well.

My eyes watered watching the brothers.  My two year old son was going to have a little brother.  Forever.

An ultrasound a few weeks later confirmed my suspicion. It was a boy!

"We need to hit the gym hard," my husband insisted, grinning, right there in the ultrasound room.
(Because, in case you were unaware, two boys can run you into the ground, spike your blood pressure, and even kill you before they reach the age of 3). "Yes, we need to get in shape, seriously."

Despite the fear of our imminent switch from zone defense to man-to-man coverage, we were ecstatic over the thought of having another boy.  You see, expecting a second boy is phenomenal when you have baby boy clothes overflowing from every nook of your house and car and purse. It is equally cool to have a second boy when you have toy vehicles overflowing from every nook of your home, car, purse, even rain boots.

The challenging part of having a second boy is having double the boy energy tearing through your home, car, purse, rain boots, even sanity. But, that boy energy is equally amazing. (If they could bottle it and sell it in nursing homes, the elderly would be slamming down their walkers, head-butting one another, and running to the kitchen to demand a "SNACK! And not fruit!")

My second little prince was born one year ago today.  His brother asked when the baby was "goin' home" the first few weeks of his life.  He thought, hoped, that the baby belonged to the baby nurse who was staying at our house, helping us care for him. But slowly, my son started to warm up to his baby brother.  He began to talk to him in the sweetest baby voice, kiss him, tell him he smelled like french fries and the like.

On the other hand, there were many moments in the past year when my two princes were vying for court jester and not behaving in a manner of which the "Queen" approved. There were escapades rivaling Prince Harry's scandalous rendezvous in Vegas and there were raucous nights stretching way past bedtime at the palace.

Most of all, in this marathon year of diapers and time-outs and diapers and poop on the floor and diapers and bottles and diapers and teething and diapers and crawling and diapers and crying and diapers . . . . there has been an indescribable amount of love overflowing from our home, thanks to our two little princes.

Wherever their paths take them, knowing that my two boys have each other along for the journey brings peace to my soul. The best gift we could ever give to our big prince and to our little prince, today on his birthday, is something they each already have: a brother.

(Just pray for us that they don't both turn out to be "Prince Harrys.")

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Politics Unusual

The race is heating up and neither candidate has his eye on the White House.  In my house, two guys are running ruthless campaigns to determine which one of them will be President of the Imps.

The incumbent, long-favored by anarchists everywhere, has two and half years of experience on the newcomer.  Despite the fact that the newcomer, a staunch libertarian, has only 10.5 months of age (and thus, experience), he is already showing strong signs of creating a level of mischief not seen for generations.  What he lacks in words, he makes up for with a devilish gleam in his eye.

Of course, the incumbent not only has a vocabulary as vast as the real candidates, he can negotiate as well as them too.

"How many cookies do you want, 1 or 2?"


"You stay in your room in tell I tell you timeout is over!"

"But, mommy, I'm worried about you!"


"What did you say?!"

"I'm worrrrrried about you!"

"Come down here right now.  What do you mean you're worried about me?"

Like I said, the new guy has tough competition.  But, since he acquired his first 6 teeth in the past two weeks, he's become something of a Parana.  He'll rip apart a cheesesteak and likely his competition too.  He has nearly bitten off the finger of someone he loves, so you can imagine what he might do in a real fight.

Too proud to crawl his way to the presidency, the newcomer would rather gallop (rocking) horseback or run with the help of his mommy.  He does not sling mud (yet), but will fling himself backwards at the drop of a cookie or his premature removal from a warm bath.

The incumbent has mastered more advanced and sinister tactics, such as poo flinging, and he won't hesitate to pee on the newcomer's floor to mark his territory in the presidential race.  It is guerrilla warfare with him.  He knows how to roll his eyes, slam doors, talk back and scale dangerous heights to retrieve toys that were taken away from him.  

 He is also a tech master and can send someone calling his mommy or daddy to voicemail faster than he can look up from Angry Birds and smirk.  He is the king of mischief.  He is not afraid of time out, nor the principal's office, nor anything, except for scary music in G rated movies.

And that is why this presidential race is so frightening to the People.  The People imagined after the incumbent's years as President of the Imps had run its course that they would be free to enjoy their lives as they had known them before.   Now, with the possible rise and domination by the newcomer, the People are doomed.

Both candidates are upping the ante, digging in for the long haul and awaiting anxiously that glorious day when the People will declare:

Yes, Sir, you are President of the Imps.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Mad Libs for a Mad Week

Potty training was a cinch.

"Okay, this morning we are going to wear these awesome underwear and all pee pees and poopies will go in the potty."

Cut to little boy jumping on bed in awesome underwear.  Checking himself out in full length mirror wearing awesome underwear.  Texting pics of himself in awesome underwear.

Then, shortly thereafter, things were not so awesome.

"No worries, buddy, everyone has accidents."  So we changed him into another pair of equally awesome underwear.

"But, Mommy, I'm ______ on the floor."

"It's okay, we'll just clean it up.  Remember the potty."

We did stickers, stamps, reading while sitting on the potty.  We heard Lightening McQueen rev up his engine on the special potty seat about a thousand times.

And still.

"I need to go ____!"

"Looks like we missed the boat on that one, buddy."

We dumped the ____ into the potty.  We threw out that formally awesome pair of underwear and changed into another pair.

Then we went to the shore.  We told our extended family that our boy was potty trained.

We came home from an hour outing to the supermarket to hear tales of ____ and _____ and narrowly missing the potty and our nephew running into the bathroom after our boy to see how a big boy goes ___ on the potty and oops, stepping in the ___ that was sitting on the floor.

"Mommy, I went ____ on the potty and just a little bit in my underwear!"

We apologized for the small footprints of ____ in the house, the cleaning up that was required, the mental anguish suffered by all present.

We returned from the shore and things were going astonishingly well on the pee pee front.  Still, the ___ was an enigma.  I warned his new camp counselor.  Kept tossing out those once awesome underwear.  Found some ____ on my floor.  Thought about calling pest control.

Then, took my little guys to the playground the other afternoon.  We were the only ones there, thank ___.  My boy climbed a gigantic curved ladder about 7 feet.  I had never seen him so agile or mature.

"Did you just climb that whole thing?" I yelled up, elated.

"YEP!  Cuz that's how BIG BOYS do it!" he told me.

Within 2 seconds of that bravado, "Mommy!!!  I need to make ____!"

Like only a superhero would, I whisked him from the high platform of the jungle gym and brought him down to Earth, while ripping his shorts down at the same time.  To do what?  _____ right on the playground?  (I'm sure you're asking.)  I had no choice.  No diapers.  No plastic bags.

But it was too late.

The ___ was already there waiting in the not at all awesome underwear.

"Get it out," he yelled.  I masterfully had him step out of the underwear.  Oops.  I did it again.  The ___ fell onto the wood chips at the playground.  Now I clearly needed a pooper scooper.  My boy had no shorts on at that moment and I was pulling out wipes from my stroller's basket.  My 8 month old was sitting in the stroller, looking up to the heavens, thinking, as Jenny in Forest Gump did, "Deah God, make me a bird so I can fly far far away...." And just at that moment, two twenty year old guys walked in our direction towards the basketball court nearby.

"Put these shorts on quickly!" I instructed.  I grabbed the underwear and wipes and scooped up the ___.  The basketball players just ___ at me as I walked ____ to the trash can and said to them, still somehow smiling, "Oh, the ___ of parenting!"

Sunday, May 20, 2012

All That You Can't Leave Behind

When you're a cross between a sentimental sap and a hoarder, what do you leave behind and what do you bring with you when moving to a new home?

Positive pregnancy tests from the bathroom drawer?  Take.

Rabbit's foot a friend gave me for good luck when flying?  Leave.

Notebooks from law school containing meticulous outlines?  Trash, except for one to show my sons when they are older and don't believe that anyone ever hand wrote anything, or studied that hard for an exam.

Photographs?  Take every single one.

Birthday and wedding and anniversary and baby congrats cards?  Take them all.

My husband's grafitti on the inside of our coat closet, saying, "I GOT THE POPS!" (as in Pops Water Ice, in South Philly, which I ate almost exclusively during the summer of my first pregnancy).  Left the grafitti; thought it added some urban flavor to the condo.

"Sexiest Man Alive" special of People Mag with Bradley Cooper on the cover?  Fished it off the 20 foot high nook in our living room which it landed on when my husband grabbed it out of my hands and tossed it up there in a jealous rage.

Book of printouts of the first emails my husband and I ever exchanged?  Took it, of course.

Pee stain on my bedroom carpet from my 3 year old's defiant act while in timeout? (I heard the sound of a diaper ripping off and threw open the bedroom door to find him without a stitch of clothing.  "What are you doing?"  "I'm peeing on your floor.")  Cleaned it up, sure, but that memory remains on the floor.

Clothes that I was wearing on 9/11/01?  Took.

Notes from middle and high school friends?  Took them.

Pee-stained bathroom mat?  (You know who).  Trashed it.

Red cowboy boots that I wore when I was 6 years old?  Took them.

Snoopy that I've had since I was 1 year old?  Took him.

Wrist bands that my babies wore in the hospital after they were born?  Took them.

Waffle iron?  Left.

Dumb bells that are just an accident waiting to happen?  Left them.

Stink bug?  Left it.

Good karma? Took it.

Pain and suffering and grief?  Left them.

Laughter and joy and gratitude?  Took them.

Memories of a home filled with love?  Took each one.

My best guy?  Took him.

My son and his 5,000 cars, trucks, trains, planes, and snacks?  Took every one.  

My baby and his belly laughs and his newly discovered voice saying, "a-Da, Da, Da"?  Took him.

A new direction?  Took it.

A new road?  Took it.

A new home?  Just a reminder of all that you can't leave behind.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

A Run Down Memory Lane

Tomorrow I am running the 10 mile Broad Street Run. It will be my 4th time (and 1st time post-babies).   My ob/gyn has assured me that my uterus will not fall out. So, I'm set.

The Broad Street Run is a lot like an actual marathon, for a non-runner like myself.  It's also like watching my life flash before my eyes.

The journey begins in North Philadelphia, at Broad Street and Somerville. A gospel choir greets me as I set off on course, laces on my sneakers bound along with the knots in my stomach. The African-American ladies in the choir, dressed in sparkling white robes, remind me of my baby nurse, who lives just down the block, and the hymns she sang to my newborn babies.

I approach Cecil B. Moore Street with caution and pride. I can feel all eyes on me as my Criminal Law professor grills me in front of two hundred classmates. "'Judge' Heenan, did the defendant have the required mens rea (state of mind) to be convicted of rape in the state of Alaska?" My head and body start to ache, imagining how long 10 miles really is. I remember wanting to drop out of law school after the first week. I decide I can stick out this race, just like I stuck out those three grueling years.

A drunk dude cheers for the runners as he stumbles home from a bender the night before. I think about the hundreds of subway rides I took to and from law school and the characters I encountered along the way. "Fine oils and incense!" one enterprising young guy would call out, strutting his way from one subway car to the next. I think now maybe I should have purchased some. Just because. Outside on the street, there is a male runner dressed in drag, juggling oranges.

I approach Broad and Girard and pass the high school where I first met Antionette, when she was just 15, a freshman. I was in my early 20s, determined to be a mentor, and I strolled through the metal detectors at her high school's entrance, trying to forget how many people had once referred to my own high school as a "country club." Who would have thought that more than a dozen years later, Antionette and I would be bound for life. As I run by her school, I remember taking her to buy her prom dress, attending her college graduation, and rocking out with her on the dance floor at my wedding. I am like a proud parent when I realize how far she has come from this humble place; this high school that could not break her spirit nor cage her expectations, no matter how many bars were on the windows.

Next, I run pass Vine Street and imagine zipping down the road, over the bridge and straight down to the shore. I think about the time before SPF60, bike helmets, and seatbelts.  I feel my hair blowing in the wind with my dad driving his convertible like he was still on the AutoBahn, singing Bob Marley's Buffalo Soldier at the top of his lungs. On a constant loop for the entire hour.

I pass by Broad and Chestnut, where I spent 4 great years at my former law firm. It's the place where I met some of my best friends and encountered some of the most bizarre circumstances one can imagine. Bunny rabbit with a grapefruit sized goiter in its neck hopping around at work? yes. Mailroom guy selling sex toys on the side? Check. Fox vagina soup at happy hours? Frequent point of discussion, yes. Pinatas and blindfolded partners in the main conference room? Yes, on more than one occasion.

Okay, I'm moving right along. Wait! How can I forget the restaurant where I met my husband on the day that we discovered I was pregnant for the first time?

Next, I'm at Broad and Walnut, right down the street from where I used to call home. I had my first date with my husband at Rouge on Rittenhouse Square and 9 months later, married him right across the square.

I'm racing past the Italian market now, the route Rocky ran. I'm thinking of all of the dinners my family has shared at Villa Di Roma, one of my sister's favorites.  Next, it's on to Broad and Oregon and Pop's Water Ice, which I ate religiously and almost exclusively in my first trimester of my first pregnancy.

A little further down, I pass by the neighborhood where my husband grew up and where my in-laws still live. It is a place where tradition is alive and warmth is all around. The butcher still delivers meat door to door, people mark their parking spots on the street with lawn chairs, and Santa Claus is well represented on Christmas Eve (and even entertains the wishes of Jewish girls). I think about the gatherings, holidays, and endless laughter that has imprinted this part of Broad Street on my heart and soul.

The soles of my feet are now burning.  I pass by Broad and Snyder, the stadiums of Philly legends and on to the Naval Yard and I spot the FINISH LINE!  I remember how proud my parents looked at the finish line the first time I ran this race.  My mom begged me to never run Broad Street again, just like she begged me not to do penny-drops off the swing-set when I was eight and not to go skydiving when I was older.  Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I look at my friend, Bess, next to me, who is the reason I am running this race; the reason I am running period. I am not a runner, but she has convinced me (and half the city of Philadelphia) that indeed I can be a runner, if I just put one foot in front of the other.  And that is exactly what I am doing.

The finish line is a miracle, like a sunset over Positano. But, I never for a second forget that it's not the destination that matters.  It's always about the journey.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Throwing Binkies, Throwing Sofas

It feels great to hurl a sofa off a second floor balcony.

That much I can tell you for sure.

It's no small feat when you've barely been to the gym in the past year and you've been weighed down by a baby in utero and then in a baby Bjorn and a toddler who wants "horsey rides" every other minute. But I managed to use all of my might and give that old leather sofa a decent fling.

And I didn't kill anyone in the process.

My husband suggested that he throw the sofa over the balcony and that I go down below and "catch it" so that it wouldn't hit any cars parked nearby. I passed on that suggestion.

I told HIM to go down and "catch it."

What brought us to this temporary moment of insanity where liquidating a leather love seat in such an unconventional and dangerous manner seemed like a good idea?

A million moments of insanity prior.

It started in late October, when our 2 and a half year old son asked for one week straight about his newborn baby brother, "Um, Mommy, when's Baby Blake goin home?"

That innocent question soon turned into not so innocent behavior at home and at school. My once angelic toddler started getting daily timeouts in school for throwing wood chips and chucking cars. Thankfully the teachers overlooked his habit of peeing on them on purpose when they changed his diaper and eating sticks on the playground, which clearly only a boy would do. (As if driving to pick up my son with an inconsolable newborn in the backseat isn't stressful enough, I am now transported back to my middle school principal's office when I see my son's teacher approach the car, giving me her "stern face," reporting on his daily shenanigans).

Things at home have not been so serene either. My baby has a case of reflux which had made him, up until this week, the saddest baby this side of the Mississippi. When I tell you that he cried day and night for weeks, I don't think that quite does reality justice. I almost had a heart attack the first time I saw him smile. Didn't recognize him at all.

Thankfully, now everyone is referring to him as "joyful" and "sweet," but it took a long journey through formula/nipple/medicine changes/rocking/swinging/bouncing/upright/and downright insanity to get him to this peaceful destination. Over the past few months, we've had nature sounds in every room. You name it: crickets, waves breaking on the sand, birds chirping. More frequently, we've had the call of the wild - both a toddler and a newborn battling it out for Champion of the Criers.

In the midst of all of this, we managed to go trick or treating, eat turkey and stuffing, light the menorah, see Santa, watch the ball drop in Times Square, while doing nightly feedings and trying not to lose our minds.

Sure, my sweet husband has thrown binkies against the wall (equivalent to a normal person committing murder) and I have thrown a sofa from a second floor balcony, but all in all, I think we may still be up for Parents of the Year.

Our sons are clean, well fed, doted on, and generally "joyful." They are learning to live together slowly but surely. Comments like, "Mommy, I'm gon give Blake a hair cut," (with plastic Handy Manny toy pliers in hand), have not been uttered in a few weeks. And, they're even learning to share. "Mommy, I asked Blake if he wanted a cheerio and he said no." (How a 6 week old conveyed a "no" response to my toddler, I'll never no. I'm just glad the baby didn't "say" yes).

We are 12 weeks out as of today. First time I've had a second to blog. Second to sit. Second to think. So here's to me, to us, to all of you who survived the first 12 weeks, once, twice, or more than that. My hat's off to you, party people!

Wishing you all a "joyful" new year!