Sunday, December 22, 2013


I had lunch with a dear friend last week. We exchanged gifts and swapped stories about what's new in each of our lives. As we chatted, she said, "I'd like to share with you a tender story." This actually meant she was about to tell me something that would make me cry right into my BLT.

She explained that last week was her office gift exchange, a secret Santa. As staff opened their trinkets, she began to empty the contents of her bag. Much to her chagrin, her bag contained just two things, lottery tickets and an ornament. Even more disappointing was the fact that none of the tickets were winners and the ornament was purple...and covered in rhinestones. Not exactly something she planned to put on her tree.

She held up her ornament for others to see, sharing snickers and glances with her colleagues. There is nothing worse than making a good faith effort to bring a good gift and then end up with the booby prize. As she sat down at her desk, a co-worker approached. "So, what did you get?" as he leaned over her cubicle wall. "A bunch of losing lottery tickets. And this." She held out the ornament, waiting for his reaction.

She watched his face, waiting for him to wrinkle his nose in disdain, just as she had. "Oh, you did!?!?" He exclaimed, unable to mask the pride in his voice. My friend paused, confused by his reaction. "My granddaughter made that. She painted it by hand and glued on all of those rhinestones herself. Isn't it beautiful? She takes so much pride in her work." He went on to explain, "She's 12 and she has autism. In fact, she didn't speak until she was six. When she was little, her mother used to pray that she would one day call her 'Mom' -- now she talks all the time. We are so proud."

My friend sat, dumbfounded and embarrassed. She also has a grandson with autism. And he is six, and does not speak. And suddenly, that little ornament transformed into something magical. The strange purple hue was now vibrant and stunning. The awkward rhinestones were now intricate and hand crafted. What had been her biggest disappoint had suddenly become her biggest lesson.

In an instant, that ornament became a reminder, a reminder that things are not always as they appear. In an instant, that ornament became a symbol, a symbol of hope and potential. And in an instant, that ornament humbled her, humbled her in a way that will forever make her pause before she passes judgment on those around her.

And as I sat, indeed weeping into my sandwich, I couldn't help but think how timely her tender story was. As we sit around the tree this year, full of hope and excitement as we open gifts, I will be mindful of her ornament. I will pause to remember that each gift, each token, is a symbol of love and generosity, no matter how small. Most importantly, I will be grateful for the friends and family in my life, and for the people who constantly shower my daughter with love and support. For I know that those are people who would marvel at her purple paint and gush at her rhinestones.

 May your Christmas this year be full of wonder, and may you find magic in the most unexpected of places.

Sunday, December 15, 2013


I took these pictures of Morgan this summer, just before school started. It was one of those moments that was such a metaphor for life. She was climbing a tree, inching her way up the trunk and through the branches. She never hesitated, never asked for help. I just stood their watching, in awe of her confidence, amazed at her strength. In hindsight, I should have paid more attention to that moment.

Now that school has started, I take Morgan to school every Wednesday. It's our time together, when we talk about her day, her friends, even what's on the menu for hot lunch. Over the past three months, our conversations have evolved. No longer are they just about recess. Our relationship is changing, growing, catching up to the transformation I started to witness in that tree. 

Last Sunday, we did something we rarely, if ever, do. We went to church. And it wasn't even a holiday. The pastor talked about forgiveness and love, all couched in the recent passing of Nelson Mandela. I realized that we hadn't ever talked to Morgan about him, his message, or his legacy. 

On the way to school this week, I shared with Morgan a bit about South Africa and taught her the word apartheid. I told her that Nelson Mandela had been sent to prison for a very long time for trying to change the laws of his country but did not harbor hate or resentment against those who had imprisoned him. Morgan listened intently, finally asking why they would send him to prison when he was trying to make things better. I explained that people hated Nelson because of the color of his skin, something that still happens today. She was quiet for a long, long time. "But Mom, what does the color of your skin have to do with anything?" Exactly, my precious daughter. Exactly. You are wise beyond your little years. You teach me, every day.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Okay, fine, I haven't even seen Sharknado. But I can tell you that my child has provided me with the first indication that braces will inevitably be on our horizon. Remember when I mentioned that Morgan had her first loose tooth? Well, that little phenomenon went on for nearly a month. No progress. None. And then I figured out why. Her permanent tooth had popped itself right on up behind her baby tooth. And I fuh-reaked out. Then I did what any good parent would do...I Googled the shit out of it and discovered Morgan has what's known as "Shark Tooth". Not uncommon, not even an emergency, but still hella weird.

At first, Morgan pretended to be a shark at almost every opportunity. But then she decided that having so many teeth was more traumatizing than cool. And dinners became the world's most horrifying painful exhausting emotional experience ever. Consuming one piece of chicken We barely survived. And by "we" I mean me and two glasses of wine.

I was beginning to get nervous that we were going to have to get her tooth pulled. But then we went to visit my brother, who has 3 kids and has weathered many visits from the tooth fairy. Without a bit of warning, he reached right in her mouth and pulled that little guy out. And now Morgan thinks he's her hero. I might just have to agree.

$3.00 and one mini tube of toothpaste later, we are ready for the next round. If this experience was any indication, the tooth fairy might need to start bringing me a bottle of Merlot.

Thursday, November 28, 2013


I haven't posted all month. Not because I don't have plenty to be grateful for, but more because it's taking everything in me to get through the day-to-day of my life lately. I have watched friends and family post their daily list of things they are thankful for and I keep telling myself that I need to sit down for a few minutes and just put down my thoughts. Of course, that never happened.

Then, as I was prepping for our Thanksgiving dinner last night, I realized I do have something to be thankful for, something that is near and dear to my heart. Cheesecake.

For the past 10 years, I have spent almost every Thanksgiving with my in-laws. Sometimes my family joins us, and some years we have brought in friends who didn't have anywhere else to go. But no matter the crowd, I make the same marble cheesecake.  It's not my grandmother's recipe, nor is it some sort of gourmet find. In fact, I don't even know if I can call it a tradition yet; it's really more of a ritual, marking my own transition to the holiday season.

Last night, as I dug out the wrinkled and stained recipe, I noticed the date I had originally printed it: November 23, 2003, the first Thanksgiving I spent with David, the first year I invited his parents into my home. We had been dating just a few months- I can still remember how nervous I was when we sat around the table and how overjoyed I was when I realized my dessert had won my future father-in-law over. The way to any man's heart, especially an Italian's, is through his stomach. 

As I measured the sugar and blended the eggs, I could hear the scraping of Morgan's stool as she dragged it across the kitchen floor. In a matter of minutes, we were working together, chatting above the hum of the mixer. She asked me questions about the recipe, I told her that it's her grandpa's favorite. She asked to lick the spoon, I obliged.

The cheesecake wasn't done before Morgan went to sleep, which meant she didn't get to see the finished product. As she stood over my bed this morning, she whispered, "Happy Thanksgiving, Mom. Can we go see our cheesecake?" We made our way into the kitchen, and Morgan gasped as I opened the fridge, "It's just so beautiful, Mom! And we made it!"

And so this year,  I am thankful for cheesecake. For the way it connects my family, the way it connects me to my daughter, and for the way it reminds just how full and wonderful my life is.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Toothless Wonder

Morgan has her first loose tooth. Ever since one of her friends lost a tooth this summer, Morgan has been wiggling her teeth daily. She has tried to convince me on several occasions that her tooth "broke off in the night" and that a new one grew back while she was sleeping. On the day she wiggled her tooth and it actually was loose, you would have thought The Publisher's Clearinghouse Prize Patrol had just showed up at our house with a check for $1 million. I, on the other hand, immediately began checking the Tooth Fairy's going rate. Times have so changed.

As we get ready for yet another milestone this year, I could remember all of the unfortunate experiences we have already had with teeth in our family:

January 2009: Morgan had just started daycare and was promptly bitten on the face by some bully 7 month old. I briefly considered pressing charges.

April 2009: Morgan cuts her first teeth...

And then immediately uses her new found chompers on me. I again consider pressing charges.

December 2009: David and I celebrate our 5th wedding anniversary -

Were we decide to share David's new party trick with our family and friends. They briefly considered pressing charges.

In discussing her loose tooth, Morgan asked whether David and I had ever lost any teeth, I explained that we all lose our baby teeth and then keep our adult teeth forever. Unless you're David, who smashed his face into the bottom of a swimming  pool when he was nine. After 2486 patch jobs, our dentist decided he just needed a new tooth. When Morgan excitedly asked what the Tooth Fairy brought him, I told her a $4,000 bill and a bone graft. She's stopped wiggling her tooth.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Grin and Bear It

Thank you all for your kind words and support for my friend Brittney. Some of you have asked how you can help; if you are interested, a memorial fund has been set up for her: We have spent the last week trying to get back on track, keenly aware of just how fragile our little family really is.

On a lighter note, this week also marked our very first parent-teacher conferences. I will tell you that I was a smidge petrified. Prior to the conference, David and I were discussing our own experiences as children, recalling those fateful nights when our parents would walk in the front door, lips tightly pursed and brows furrowed. Those conferences never went well.

David is always quick to retell his own elementary school traumas as a young boy in Catholic school. One year, David's parents were called in after David was caught stealing Jolly Ranchers out of his teacher's desk at recess. For whatever reason, the school frowned upon students stealing from nuns. Go figure.

I, on the other hand, have been plagued with the same comments on my report card for my entire life. In fifth grade, Mrs. Brady wrote, "Amy needs to learn to sit quietly while those around her are finishing their work." Mrs, Brady, I am still working on it. Those same comments may or may not have appeared on my last performance review.

As we entered the conference, we hedged our bets.

Morgan's teacher was just delightful. She is working hard to instill a sense of responsibility in each child and is actively creating a positive learning environment. She showed us samples of Morgan's work, highlighting how well she is performing academically.

I was almost breathing a sigh of relief. Almost. Until she uttered these words, "Morgan does really well in class. That is, when she's focused. She just really is a little social butterfly." Dammit, dammit, dammit. I am not going to suggest I was even remotely surprised, but that didn't make the sting any more bearable. I endured so.many.years of having to will myself quiet when I was POSITIVE the rest of the world was dying to hear exactly what I was thinking. And I had passed my affliction on to my daughter. To add insult to injury, I had also just lost a bet to David. At least she's not stealing...yet.

As we parted ways, Morgan's teacher handed me Morgan's school photo. When I opened the envelope, I couldn't help but chuckle:

If that smile doesn't say "fake it 'till you make it" I don't know what does. I suppose I would be too if I had just found out I have to spend the next 12 years sitting quietly. I feel your pain, baby girl. I feel your pain.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

The Deepest Sorrow

I am not sure this story is appropriate for my blog. It's not funny, it's not joyous, and it has nothing to do with my daughter. But my heart is so heavy, almost suffocating, pulling me into a place of despair I do not know how to navigate. 

I told part of this story last summer when I wrote about a wedding that David had the unique opportunity to officiate. I wrote these words, "David spent the next 20 minutes performing the most beautiful ceremony, helping two wonderful people begin their lives together." As with so many couples, Alan and Brittney had a story. The path to finding each other had been a long and arduous journey, giving them each the unique insight to know just how precious their relationship was. And they let us share in that day.

We were especially endeared to Alan and Brittney, perhaps because they reminded us so much of ourselves. A love for each other, a passion for the outdoors, and a commitment to building a life that mattered. And they were so in love. 

On the day of their wedding, I took this picture of Alan. We were on a boat, headed to the secluded shore that would serve as the backdrop for their ceremony. His eyes scanned the shoreline, watching for any glimpse of his bride. As with many grooms, Alan was nervous, fidgety, restless. But he was also at peace, confident that he was about to begin his life's journey with the person who truly was his other half.  When their eyes finally met, I watched him. His shoulders relaxed, his smile broadened, he knew. This day was magic. And it was. 

In an instant, it was shattered, broken in a way I will never understand. Alan was killed in a car accident on Monday night while on his way home from work. He leaves behind his bride of just a year, and a precious newborn baby daughter. The night we found out, I laid in bed next to David, listening to the deep swells of his breathing. I sobbed, crushed under the weight of knowing Brittney slept alone that night.

I hadn't seen Brittney since their wedding. The last vision I had of her was so radiant, so full of life. As I entered the church, I saw her standing among dozens of friends and family, all gathered to show their love and support. She was gracious and kind, thanking everyone profusely for attending.

We hugged, and the tears immediately began to flow. As with everyone there, I just kept telling her how sorry I was, how brokenhearted I was, how incomprehensible this was. She leaned in and whispered, "Amy, our fairy tale wasn't supposed to end like this. It just wasn't supposed to end like this."

No, it wasn't. It wasn't supposed to be like this at all.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Two Wheelin'

We went camping last weekend for the first time this year. I had two goals on this trip. One, cook my dinner over an open fire. Two, get my child to ride her bike sans training wheels. We nailed both.

Sunday morning, we got ourselves all geared up for the event. After several wipe outs earlier this summer during prior riding attempts, Morgan had requested some additional padding. This included not only the standard issue helmet, but knee pads, elbow pads, and wrist guards. At one point she asked me if we could get something, "To keep my hiney safe if I fall." I declined, explaining that genetics had already given her plenty of padding in that department.

After crashing into three bushes and a tree stump, David decided to help give her a running start. And by running, I mean scrambling like hell on his short little legs and Fred Flintstone feet. That guy can hustle.

And then it just clicked. She balanced, pedaled, and steered. At the same time.

Right after I took this video, David decided it would be a great idea to have her start from the top of a small hill at the edge of our campground. Not surprisingly, she immediately crashed into a concrete pylon and refused to get back on her bike. One step forward, two steps back. Because that is how we roll. But she'll get back's like riding a horse. Or a bike. Whatev.

Friday, September 27, 2013


David and I met ten years ago today. Yes, we still celebrate it. A friend of mine took this picture on our 2nd date. It was 2003. My hair was a little bigger and we were both a little smaller. We were smitten. Perhaps the biggest indicator of just how new our relationship was is the fact that David actually appears to be 2 inches taller than I am in this picture. He's not. I've quit slouching. I now wear heels. He pretends I'm a chubby super model. We're a good match.

In the spirit of our ten years together, I will give you one guess as to the answers for each of the following:
  • On a scale of one to ten, how much I generally like this guy.
  • The number of days each month he actually annoys me just a little.
  • The number of gray hairs I've gotten since we've met.
  • The number of stretch marks I earned got carrying around his daughter for 9 months.
  • The number of calls he makes to me at work every day. Unless he’s off for the summer, then you can multiple that by ten.
  • The number of times he likes to tell me the same story over and over, especially if I don’t laugh at his punch lines the first time.
  • The number of cell phones he has dropped or broken since I have known him.
  • The number of coffee cups I found in his car last week.
  • The number of Morgan’s Barbies I also found in there.
  • The number of times he tells me he loves me each day.
  • The number of times I tell him right back. 

To ten years of magic. May there be a million more. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Sign

I had lunch with a friend last Friday. As we often do, we gave each other the quick and dirty on our lives. She shared a hilarious, if somewhat traumatizing, story of being locked out of her house while her husband was gone hunting and then having to push her three year old through the dining room window to unlock the door and let her in. We talked about babies (she also has a newborn), raising kids, and about how you sometimes do things as a parent just to survive. I shared my own traumatizing story about the fact that my daughter didn't sleep through the night until she was three and how I am still tired two years later.

Really, it was just delightful. That is, until she asked me about how things are going with the adoption. As I do with everyone, I summed it up in a series of one word answers, "Nada. Nothing. Nowhere. Ugh." We commiserated about how frustrating this has been and whether David and I should close out our adoption file and move on. It was a very sad and painful conversation for me.

But then I got home that night and checked the mail. As I mindlessly thumbed through the array of bills, coupons, and catalogs, a small white envelope caught my eye. I yelled to David, "We got something, we finally got something!" I frantically tore the envelope open, discovering that we are now officially licensed. Major development. But something wasn't right with the letter. I glanced back to the envelope, only to see that it wasn't addressed to me and David, it was addressed to me and someone named Mark. We don't have a single person in either of our families named Mark. No relatives, no neighbors. No one.

Before I completely began to panic, I read the letter itself. Nope, it was also wrong:

Objectively, I know this was just a typo. Emotionally, this just symbolized everything that has been wrong with this process. Every set back, every speed bump, every disappointment. I think we need a new plan.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Big Pond

We just started our third week of kindergarten. My daughter, who has fought mornings since the day she was born, is excited to get up each day. I want that to last forever. I want her to love learning the way I do. 

The first day of school was just as I had always envisioned. We picked out her outfit and carefully packed her lunch together. I taped a quarter inside the lid so she could buy milk at lunch, only to find out later she bought licorice instead.

We stood outside, like so many other families that morning. She was beaming, not one bit scared, just so eager to start her new adventure. With every click of the camera, I took a moment to blink back the tears that were threatening to spill onto my cheeks. Her eyes caught mine, and she patted my arm, "It's okay, Mama. You know I'm coming back, right?" 

But I knew she wasn't coming back. The wide-eyed little girl who stood on my front porch that morning was never coming back. She didn't know it, but her life was about to change forever. Her world was about to get so much bigger, the first stones of her life's path were about to be laid.

We paused for a minute, as I held her hand in mine. For a brief second, I was certain I could stop time, rewind, and hold my newborn baby daughter once more. But of course, time does not stop. As she grows so must I. And so I let her go -

And off she went, without so much as a glance over her shoulder. I waited, and watched, and hoped, but she never looked back. She was ready, so ready for this day. I'll get there, I'll be ready someday. Until then, I'll be here, knowing that one day she will look back. And when she does, I will squeeze her tight and let her go all over again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


August was a big month at our house, the biggest yet. Morgan turned five and then started kindergarten within the same week. I want to talk about both of these days and reflect on how deeply these two milestones have affected me. But I can't. Not without my chest tightening, not without my breath catching, not without the panicked realization that my most favorite little person isn't quite so little any more. In the truest form of denial, I will instead talk about something that happened three months baby graduated from pre-school.
On May 31, 2013, the graduating class of New Horizon Academy was presented. In little tiny caps and gowns, with little tiny diplomas, and huge, huge, grins.

They all recited the Pledge of Allegiance - or at least moved their mouths to make it look like they knew the words.

The teachers talked about how proud they were, conveniently glossing over the fact that several kids still weren't potty trained and one little boy refused to wear his gown, opting instead for his Spiderman costume.

And then it was time for the commencement speeches. Unbeknownst to the parents, the class had been preparing a few remarks that outlined each of their life's ambitions. Morgan was the first to speak, confidently taking the microphone. "Hi, my name is Morgan Lorenzo and I am four years old. When I grow up, I want to be a cheerleader." Yep, that was it. A cheerleader.

It took all but a few seconds before the entire audience was chuckling. Morgan paused briefly, unsure of how to react. But then she realized that it didn't matter who was laughing, it was her moment. And she was beaming. Yep, she's gonna make one hell of a cheerleader.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

15 Minutes

Earlier this summer, David and I had the unique opportunity to record part of our family story with a national organization, Story Corps. Story Corps travels the country, helping to weave together bits of American history through the storytelling process. Interviews are then archived at the National Library of Congress. It's like we get to become historians without making any effort...or taking out any student loans.

I will give you one guess who David and I used that opportunity to talk about. Our time in the booth was centered around Morgan, from the minute she was born to the way she continues to keep us on our toes. We got a call on Monday that our local affiliate wanted to air part of our story. We provided the radio station with pictures of our family and gave them the green light to share with the entire state our first few moments as parents.

Take a listen; this little interview documents for all time and eternity just how little we know about being parents. That, and it's about as close to celebrity status as we're ever going to get.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Tea Time

Five years ago today, I was at the car wash, feverishly vacuuming my car while navigating around one VERY pregnant belly. I had just left the doctor's office after receiving some vague assurances that I would eventually go into labor. 24 hours later I gave birth to the most precious and dynamic little bolt of lightening who has literally rocked my world every day for the past four years and 364 days. But because Morgan doesn't actually turn five until tomorrow, I will save my emotional trauma for another post. Instead, I bring you tea.

The irony of a tea party for my child was not lost on me. As many of you know, my child is wild and full of life. Her spirit is often overwhelming, occasionally on the verge of feral. But she asked for a tea party and that is just what we did: 

We set the table, complete with fancy paper plates and a mismatch of tea cups and saucers we found at thrift  stores around town.  

The tea set was real silver, on loan from my mother in-law. As the mother of two boys, she literally swooned when she received her party invitation and realized her little set would be the main event for seven little girls. I think she spent an entire afternoon polishing it while my father in-law tried to figure out if they could have gotten any money for it when the Antiques Roadshow was in town.

Of course, no tea party is complete without finger foods. I talked David out of making cucumber sandwiches, but everyone did get a PB & J (sans crust, of course). If you look really closely, you will see tiny little cups filled with macaroni & cheese...always know your customers.

Once David helped everyone decorate their party hats (he's totally getting Father of the Year), we officially kicked off brunch.

I heard plenty of "please and thank you" and maybe even spotted a few pinkies in the air. The "tea" was pink (of course) and may have tasted mostly like kiwi strawberry Crystal Light. Again, know your customers. 

I sent the girls on a treasure hunt for tea bags, forgetting to consider just how perfectly little sandals can crush an entire row of pansies. There was a brief moment, despite the fancy hats and dresses, that things got a little intense. A tea bag was spotted, elbows went flying, and several pairs of Hello Kitty undies were flashed - one child rose as the victor, a crumpled little pouch clenched between her tiny little fingers. I had no idea this day was going to become a contact sport.

I then lined each girl up for her chance at "Pin the Spout on the Teapot" - Half the group refused to let me spin them in their blindfold, which may have significantly altered the results. Either that or they could see under their mask and conveniently failed to tell me.

These two little activities accidentally led to a very big life lesson and one very sad birthday girl. Apparently, I forgot to tell her that even though it was her birthday, she didn't get to automatically win all of the games. 

Of course, she eventually rallied. There were presents to be opened and more tea to drink. The show had to go on, as did the backyard parade. 

As we get ready to close out another year, big things are on the horizon. We start kindergarten next week and are working feverishly on learning how to both read a book and ride a bike. As I watched my daughter and her friends spend their first little afternoon as "ladies," I couldn't help but wonder where she will take me next. That, and marvel at the fact that, for the first time in her life, didn't use her dress as a napkin.