Friday, December 28, 2012

Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store

Thanksgiving to New Year's is nuts - for everyone, of course.  But it is especially so for interfaith families who celebrate both, practice neither.  This entails Thanksgiving, 8 nights of Hanukkah, no less than 4 Christmas parties, 2 holiday work parties, and a partridge in a pear tree.

It's crazy and it's stressful - and it's generally a TON of fun.

This year we had the added stressor of my final days at my job, which included a lot of work closing it out, paired with a side of grouchiness as I prepared to exit that (very large) part of my life.  

And truth be told, Quinn hasn't had a great couple of weeks.  She is down almost an entire pound, on a body that is barely on the charts as it is.  There is discussion of home health nurses after the new year and it is just so demoralizing to consider that she may have an extremely severe case of one of the most severe genetic disorders.  

So of course our goal was to make this simultaneously the most extraordinary and most routine holiday season ever.  For while we wanted to give Quinn a tremendous December - after all, ♪ It's the most wonderful time of the year ♪ - we also want her to simply slide into our existing traditions, which goes hand-in-hand with making fabulous memories.  

But no pressure...

Thanksgiving was lovely and small at uncle Brian and aunt Maria's house - a great start to the season.  

That weekend was our first Christmas celebration - our first annual kids' holiday party for the families on our block.  Colin & Reid's friend Luke was a perfect host (read: Luke's awesome parents know how to throw fabulous a party) and Quinn had her first (of four) Santa meet and greets!

Quinn even got a private audience!

We had a great time celebrating the first two nights of Hanukkah by attending our town's Menorah lighting ceremony with Grandma on the first night, and by decorating our Christmas tree immediately prior to lighting the candles and giving the kids Hanukkah gifts with Nanny on the second night.

The final night of Hanukkah was spent with our extended "step" family at Popsie's house with good number of latkes, a bunch of jelly donuts and too many presents!

Happy Hanukkah!
one of Quinn's first Christmas ornaments
decorating the tree with Nanny

Colin, Reid and Quinn enjoyed their second Santa sighting at my family's annual Christmas party where my uncle Gerry dressed up as a very realistic Santa Claus and passed out the 458,921 gifts (only about 83% of which belonged to Quinn and the boys).  And she was privy to Santa Claus in her very own house on Christmas night when he arrived via uncle Brian to pass out the marginally less 264,097 gifts (about 76% of which belonged to Quinn and the boys).  

Reid and uncle Gerry Santa Claus
Colin and his awesome gifts
Quinn and cousin Colleen

right before the mayhem
Colin showing Reid that it is, in fact, a joint gift
Santa brought glitter Toms!
Colin showing Quinn her new dollhouse from Santa Claus
daddy and his boys with the quintessential Christmas gift - big boy bicycles! 
Quinn surveying the aftermath of a truly enjoyable Christmas morning 
this is about as good as it gets :)
Quinny showing off her pretty Christmas dress
Santa Claus came to town!
watching Santa descend the stairs

And last night we had the pleasure of riding the Essex Steam Train to the North Pole!  An old friend of mine from high school actually drives the train on the weekends and invited us up as his guests.  Holy cow - it was sooooo cute!  The boys could not have been more excited to go to Santa's house.  Cookies and hot chocolate were given out, carols were sung and there was even a special gift that Santa dropped from his sack that just so happened to have The Linzer Family name on it - five jingle bells, each of our names on them.

almost as exciting as The North Pole - our hotel had an indoor pool
waiting to depart
this is too cute for words!
Colin joined in the dancing
with my friend from high school, the conductor on that night's trip

It is exhausting living each moment to its fullest, but Quinn has taught us that living any other way simply isn't living.  We even included the sentiments in a sort of pay-it-forward attempt on our holiday cards, from Henry David Thoreau:

Live in the present,
Launch yourself on each wave,
Find eternity in each moment

And truthfully, somehow the most extreme of circumstances - such as the one we find ourselves in - has actually allowed us (read: me) to just chill out.  (Brett even politely inquired if I had ingested any mood altering drugs on Christmas day because I was so non-plussed as we awaited the arrival of our 16 dinner guests haha).   Because really - who cares?!  What's going to happen - dinner may be 20 minutes later? The biscuits may not make it to the table?  The shirt bought for the cousin's aunt's stepdaughter's dog isn't the right color or size?  

None of that matters.

Maybe Christmas doesn't come from the store
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more

So yeah, ok - maybe even the Grinch had it figured out before me, but I got there eventually.  And just in the nick of time. Because who would want to miss one minute of this face stressing about the perfect proportion of candy canes to red velvet bows on the tree?

Santa's Lap
Quinn's Ideawoman: Michelle Mastrande

Quinn's Benefactors: The Pignataro Family, uncle Gerry, uncle Brian, Brian Messinger

Quinn's Wing(wo)men: her friends and family

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Misery Does Not Love Company

In between appointments at Duke, Brett and I would stop and feed Quinn, charge up phones and jump on the Internet in one of the many sitting areas at Duke Children's. 

About halfway through our stay, we ran into a couple with a chubby, beautiful baby girl and we got to talking. The mom excitedly told us that the baby, who was five months old, was 3 months post-transplant (liver) that day for unexplained dysfunction found at birth. The baby had an armboard on which let us know she had just had bloodwork and we assumed that was the reason for their visit.  Until the dad returned from the desk and said, "He's done - he should be out soon."

"He?" I asked. 

Her son, she explained. It turns out that 1 month earlier, and only 2 months post-op on her newborn, it was discovered that her three year old son had leukemia. 

I looked at Brett and knew immediately he was thinking the same thing as me - See, it really could be worse. A morbid game of Would You Rather.

Then that mom innocently said something that just stopped me cold. 

It could be so much worse. His cancer has an 80% survival rate. At least there's something we can do.

WE were her worst case scenario - the woman who had endured a newborn's liver transplant followed by a three year old's cancer. Somehow, we were her unfathomable

I think of that mom pretty often - the way it seemed to dawn on her as we abruptly packed up to go because I was on the verge of tears. And I thought of her again today, because I found my unfathomable. 

Today, a 20-year old 'man' stepped into an elementary school armed to the teeth and murdered 20 children and 6 adults. Those babies were just months older than Colin, and their parents weren't given notice, they weren't given time, they weren't even given the opportunity to hold them as they passed. 

Those parents were given nothing but nightmares and worse, daymares, of the course of events in that classroom. Of knowing their baby not only died at the hands of evil, but that - given their ages - they were almost definitely calling out for them.


And they couldn't get to them, couldn't hold their hand - even if not to change the outcome, but to be there to help them through it. 

This is my unfathomable. 

When tragedies happen, I have a completely unhealthy approach in dealing. I feel it is my obligation to immerse myself in it, to feel even 1/1000th of what those who are dealing with it feel. After all, I have the luxury of turning off the tv and walking away from the news sites; those parents don't. So I don't. I watch, I learn the names, I cry, I get angry. 

To the parents - and friends, families, ClassMates - of those lost today, if I could take away an ounce of your pain, I would 100 times over. 

No one should have to endure the unfathomable.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Case of the Tuesdays

"Oh!  You're still working??!"

That is invariably the response I receive when I mention work in any conversation.  When I confirm that yes, I am still working, the conversant (also invariably) does a 180 and catalogues the merits of continuing to work. 

No hard feelings - I totally get it. Truth be told, I would probably be equally as incredulous if the roles were reversed.  What I usually share is that it wasn't a decision I ever actually made. 

It wasn't a decision I made because we were down at Duke on our whirlwind trip up until Wednesday, September 12th. I was scheduled to go back from maternity leave on Tuesday, September 18th. Around the 16th it was kind of like oh, Tuesday is the 18th - I go back to work that day. 

So I did.

no work post would be complete without an LIRR reference

I have been incredibly fortunate with the flexibility my company has offered me. I went part-time last June (as part of the negotiation to have a third child) and with Quinn's swallowing issues - which we originally assumed she'd grow out of - they agreed to let me work from home two days while Quinn was with a nanny and in the office one day - Tuesday - while she was with one of our moms. 

The plan was to work until I couldn't any longer, based on Quinn's condition. 


I find it both cute and insane that I am still naive enough to 'make plans'.

That plan was shot the morning I read - on the train into the city - about Jacob Brooks beginning hospice care. I cried my eyes out the entire walk uptown to my office and made a decision that I just needed to be home.

these three are reason enough to make the change

The decision part was pretty easy given Quinn's diagnosis but oh wow, has it been ever difficult to execute. 

I like to work. I enjoy it and I like to think I'm fairly good at what I do. I also find that, under normal circumstances, I'm a better mom for working.

But these are not normal circumstances and I am no longer better for working. Instead I long to be with Quinn to capture the moments of clarity she still has rather than feeling like I am only her end-of-life caretaker.  And because of the new laws, I am fortunate enough to be able to do so since Quinn, despite her pre-existing condition, can switch health insurances.

It is not without its sadness though.  I cleaned out my desk today since I have only one day left in the office and it really hit me how much I am going to miss it. The people, the productiveness, the distraction it has provided during this whole ordeal. 

my view in the morning (that's the MetLife building)
I start work at 6:30am so I get to see the 'night' skyline

my other window - that white patch is the Rockefeller Center skating rink
(those dots are people skating haha)

I've been asked what I plan to do ... You know, later.

I am hereby dispensing of plans for the time being, other than planning to enjoy every possible second I can with Miss Q. 

I'm finally learning.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Here I Am, Little Counselor

Ours is an interfaith family, with roots in Catholicism and Judaism. We celebrate both but practice neither, and as such our kids have never had any religious ceremony like a bris, a naming or a baptism. 

And yet, as things were becoming clearer at Duke, both Brett and I separately came to the conclusion that we would like something for Quinn, a Blessing of some sort. 

Our wedding ceremony was performed by an interfaith minister, a wonderful woman named Pamela Bloom. Pamela literally created a celebration of our partnership, interweaving aspects of both religions with some Eastern philosophy and secular readings. It was perfect, and it was what we were hoping to have for Quinn's Blessing. Thankfully Pamela was not only willing to oblige (twice, thankyouverymuch Sandy!) but presented it as a gift to Quinn!

Pamela, almost 8 years earlier at our wedding

Our families and close friends came together that morning, a bit tense. No one knew quite what to expect and they were slightly apprehensive, especially those who came with children. 

Pamela struck the perfect tone, keeping it a celebration of Quinn's Life. 

When we met with her, Brett and I had explained to Pamela that we would like to incorporate the Catholic tradition of godparents and wanted those chosen to recite a vow. But two godparents is not enough for the 'Community Baby' - no sir.  Quinn now has 148 (one hundred forty-eight!) godparents. Every person there was asked to stand up for her and recite the following vow:

From this day forth, we vow to walk beside
Quinn Madeleine Linzer
as her devoted godparents
to love and cherish her,
to support and inspire her,
to reflect her own beauty back to her,
to help her fulfill her mission,
and to celebrate each moment with her
in love, joy and gratitude

Colin and Reid were presented with 'Best Brother' certificates and showered Quinn with rose petals (in lieu of holy water, as at a baptism). The matriarchal lineage was celebrated with the grandmothers and great-grandmothers called up (honoring the matriarchal role in Judaism).

best big brothers...ever!
photo credit: Angela Marshall Photography

the vow, attached to the bracelets we gave out which read:
I'm a part of Quinn's WonderFULL life!
photo credit: Angela Marshall Photography

the matriarchal lineage
photo credit: Angela Marshall Photography

'baptised' with rose petals

And Quinn's name was discussed, as in a Baby Naming. Quinn means 'Counselor'. Madeleine means 'Little Girl'. 


Amazing. Simply amazing. 

This child could not have been more aptly named. And that is not meant to pat myself - or Brett - on the back for such an apropos selection. We truly picked the names because we liked them, with some input from the boys as Madeline is one of their favorite books (thank you writers of Glee and Ludwig Belemans :)).

the original source of Quinn-spiration (sorry, I had to!)
photo credit:
the French book with the Americanized spelling (?!)
though we're not French, our Quinn's 'Madeleine' honors the traditional spelling

Pamela surprised us and also gave Quinn a Hebrew name during the ceremony. The name she gave her is Hineni, which means Here I Am

Here I Am. Your Little Counselor.

the wise one
photo credit: Angela Marshall Photography

Quinn looked beautiful that day - even moreso than normal, which is no small feat. She actually completed a
List item with her wardrobe.

Every girl should wear a wedding dress

The first thought I had after we decided to have the Blessing was that I wanted to have a replica of my wedding dress made - from my wedding dress - for Quinn to wear. The seamstress did an incredible job (though there was a moment of misunderstanding when I feared she was going to call CPS as I showed her my strapless wedding dress and said I wanted a replica for my six month old daughter!)

Her Every little girl should receive a gift in a little blue box necklace was the perfect finishing touch.

isn't she lovely, isn't she wonderful?
photo credit: Angela Marshall Photography
the original
The cherry on top was the donation of time and talents by a local photographer.  Local.  As in affected-by-Hurricane Sandy, lost-her-home photographer.  And as you can see, her own circumstances certainly didn't deter her from her task - we were presented with incredible images.  Thank you, Angela!

The day was perfect. Better than perfect - it was Us and it was Real.

one of my favorite photos of the day
photo credit: Angela Marshall photography

Quinn's Idea(wo)men: mommy, daddy, aunt Michele (wedding dress)

Quinn's Benefactors: Pamela Bloom, Angela Marshall Photography

Quinn's Wing(wo)men: mommy, daddy, Colin, Reid
Nanny, Grandma, Nana, GiGi, Popsie, Grandpa David
aunts Mary, Maria, Michele, Sheryl, Lydia, Pam, Shirley, Anne, Kathy, Colleen, Leslie, Eileen
uncles Ricky, Brian, John, Erik, Terry, Bob, Murray, Kevin, Stu, Gene
cousins Richie, Katie, Sean, Maria, Brian, Dahlia, Edward, Erin, Megan, Patrick, Ryan, Colleen, Matt, Andrew, Reva, Matt, Ross, Richard, Jane, Justin, Tess, Josh, Adi, Howie, Ana, Rob, Chris, Ashley, Krissy, Nicholas, Erin, Kelly, Steve, Katelyn, Pat, Allison, Billy, Alex, Emma, Kathi, David, Trevor, Mike, Zack, Keri
friends Mo, Sam, Annabella, Erik, Wendy, Mr. B, Mrs. B, Jay, Beth, Brad, Jordyn, Camryn, Austin, Candace, Marty, Scarlett, Evie, Max, Nicole, Oren, Ellie, Therese, Thomas, Claire, Shaquan, Janessa, Justin, Jaden, Amanda, Jed, Dylan, Jordan, Jon, Seiko, Kai, Dave, Allison, Charlie, Gabriel, Liza, Joyce, Maria, Junior, Anthony, Gianna, Michelle, Guy, Gianna, Guy Anthony, Angelo, Cristian, Lauren, Frank, Luke, Scot, Adi, Debbie, Kweon, Kweon, Jolie, Caleb, Marc, Al, Melissa, Sammy, Lexi