Thursday, December 23, 2010

Joy to the World.

As we prepare to celebrate Annabel and Willa's fifth birthday, I am full of gratitude for the wonderful ride we have been on for the last five years. My daughters have proved to be my greatest teachers yet. They remind me of the joys of just being, the beauty of a great mess and the thrill of a somersault. They have shown forgiveness when I could have done better. In them, I catch glimpses of my late mother. Through them, I know how much my mother loved me. It is my mom's words, written to me on Christmastide in 2000, that I share today, "I look into your faces and am proud of who we are- who you are as a result of being my daughters and ever more, proud of who I am because of the honor and privilege of being your mother.

Happy Birthday to my Christmas babies. Joy to the World

Monday, September 27, 2010

"A Ministering Angel Shall my Sister Be" -Shakespeare

I had my first in-vitro attempt in the winter of 2004. The commitment to the procedure was relatively brief yet intense. I often had to be in New York City (an hour away) by 7:00 in the morning for lab work. I rarely went alone. Laura and Ryan each took a turn or two with me, waking before the sun and standing on a bitter cold train platform or trudging through a record Manhatten snowfall. They shared in the excitement of my swelling ovaries and the bitter diappointment when our first attempt failed. Their unspoken words held me up like a crutch and their optismism that this would work helped blaze the trail for future attempts.

Fast forward to September 9, 2005: I found out I was having girls. I was having sisters. I. WAS. HAVING. SISTERS. With fingers crossed, I hoped that they would share what I have with my sisters...clothes, shoes, make-up, memories...but mostly. this deep bond and commitment to each other. I was concerned though. At one of my monthly ultrasounds I, accompanied by my sisters watched as Baby A kicked Baby B. All of this went on, Ryan said, "Right in front of their mother." Five years later, we have seen plenty of fights, tended to some bite marks and bandaged a scratch or two. But we have also pushed the twin beds together so they can sleep "holding hand, please", worked out a fair system of princess and superhero playing that they can lay together. More interesting, they complement each other, they look for each other and they look out for each other. They give each other room and space to be who they want as individuals and look for ways to support their sister's interests. Annabel squeals if she finds a princess crown for Willa and Willa sashays when she plays goalie in Annabel's soccer games.

As children, we had a bench, made by our Poppy. My sisters and I played school bus on that bench, maybe even princess too. My girls share that bench today, now repainted and inscribed with the above quote from Shakesphere. They use it as a stage, as a goal post, as a place to eat pirate booty. This morning, though, they used it as a place to talk about the day ahead, the pending rain and their plans to play "wedding store where spiderman works."

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Listening to.....

Knock knock. Who's there? Lettuce. Lettuce who? Lettuce in, we're freezing.

Kids who proudly count to my favorite number: eleventeen.

The vestiges of toddler/preschool speech: "birf-days, Stoy Story free"

Fights about who will be the line leader, who gets out of the tub first, who gets dressed first, who hit who first.

Squeals of delight that they can: pump swings themselves, ice skate around the rink without falling, swim without floaties, do backward somersaults in the pool...and(shouted loudly) "WATCH ME, MAMA" as they do all of the above.



When I was little my family was a member of a local swim club. We would go when it opened and leave at dusk. Ten minutes after the five minute warning, the four of us kids would emerge form the pool. We would reluctantly follow our mom, however, there were only three sets of small footprints. I made an effort to always step in the prints she the hopes that I would be like her when I grew up. In the years that followed, I had many goals: I would be a ballerina, an astronaut and an airline pilot. When each of those aspirations passed I realized, with certainty, that when I grew up I wanted to be a mother.

My journey to motherhood had many obstacles. It was my mother who walked by my side when I went to my first appointment with my In Vitro Fertilization doctor. She paced the floors while waiting for the pregnancy test results and she jumped for joy when she heard that we were having twins. When a stroke left her unable to walk, I told her about the foorprints at the pool. I thanked her leading the way so well and for so long and though she treads a lot lighter these days, I am still following in her footsteps.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Dar Williams 'When I Was A Boy'

When I Was a Boy.

Find Dar Williams video of "When I was a Boy" on You Tube. GREAT SONG.

Long before she announced that she was not going "to grow up and that is that!" Annabel countered her sister's goal of being a princess to her own: "I am going to be a boy. And that is that!" She picked Diego toys to her sister's Barbies, she got a spiderman skateboard, her sister: a dollhouse. She played soccer to her sister's ballet. She wanted hockey skates. She liked blue the best. Her favorite thing to wear: feetie jammies printed with construction equipment. In fact, we had to cut the feet off of them when she outgrew them; we could not find the next size. This girl really intrigued me. She was so unlike me. But I loved it. Every second of it. Recently, though, she traded in her jammies for dresses that twirl and wears ballet slippers as much as she wears her soccer cleats. While ice skating is still her favorite sport, she would like "figure skates. And that is that." This afternoon, though, is when this song played in my head. We were having lunch in a diner and she caught a glimpse of her reflection. She kept checking herself out, smiling, cocking her head to one side. She said she would "like some lip gloss, please." Fast forward to this evening: she puts on the bonne bell Easter bunny lip gloss, grabs her soccer cleats and heads out the door to play. Atta Girl!

Friday, July 2, 2010

First Steps.

I saw it coming. They stood up by themselves, they cruised. So why did I choke up it when they took their first steps? I cheered as they took step after step and "ta da-ed" after each stumble...but this walking really hit me hard. Was I able to foresee the opposite directions they would be going in? Was I thinking I'd have to get them baby leashes? As I thought about it, their steps grew stronger and their gait faster. Then it hit me: I was feeling ambivalent because this was the beginning of their walking away from me.

We have journeyed far since they took those first steps. We have walked into preschool, joined soccer teams, danced in a ballet recital, jumped into pools without floaties. Their steps have taken them into the bathroom for 'privacy please' and together they have sashayed into their bedroom and talked about how unfair and mean I am ;). I am grateful that their strides progressed gradually and I am equally happy when they take a step or two backwards. Like last night. When Willa tiptoed into my room and asked to sleep in our bed..with her baby blanket.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Checklist for Parents.

I came across a parenting checklist recently. It asked me to identify the things I want most for my children and how can I help them get there. BAM: I picked off two without hesitation..but I did not feel done. So I filled in the "other" option and wrote, "I want them to be mothers." I felt a little selfish..but reconciled this with the fact that this has nothing to do with wanting grandchildren (I am not there yet) but more to do with wanting them to know how much they are loved. People told me that the depth of my love for them will surprise me. It did not. What really knocked me off my feet was how much I was loved by my parents. I never doubted this, you see, I just did not know how far this love reached. It's depth is unmeasurable.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gratitude and Abundance.

In my past life I worked in the homes of many impoverished families. There were a lot of commonalities: smells and sparse furnishings, and a few, if any, family photographs. There was a lot to feel sad about when surveying the surrounds...but the lack of tangible memories really struck a chord with me. The sights and smells have long since faded but the absence of pictures did not drift far from my memory.

When my mother died my family got together around our many photo albums We poured through photographs while trying to pick up our pieces. This task lasted for hours, as we laughed at haircuts, questioned our sense of fashion and recalled memories. In many photographs, the intensity of her love, and commitment to us was palpable. Through a bunch of polaroids, sun faded snapshots and portraits, my mom was brought back to life. While I was grateful for the abundance of our tangible memories my thoughts wandered to the families I used to work with. I committed to honor my mom, a champion of the disenfranchised, and help give these families what I cherished so much that afternoon.

On my first motherless Mother's Day, I went to a homeless shelter and photographed it's families. Their stories were like the ones we revisted when we opened the dusty albums. Beautiful children being loved by dedicated mothers. Aside from my first mother's day, this was by far the best mother's day I ever celebrated. In coming up with my business plan, I committed to apply 10% of each photo session to offset the costs of continuing to give memories to families who otherwise might not be able to afford photographs. I suspect that this might be the part of this job that I cherish the most.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

In Love With...

- A cowboy rainboot, party dress wearing four-year-old.
- A soccer cleat, tutu rocking four-year-old.
- A swim goggle, lacrosse ball cradling four-year-old.
- A lip gloss craving four-year-old.
- A knock knock joke learning four-year-old.
- A twin bed sharing four-year-olds.

So in love.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Early Morning Admission

"I won't grow up." she said all matter of fact. Like she has a choice. She added, "I want to stay this age forever. And come to your bed, like now. And play all day and not have a backache." I told her about all of the wonderful things kids can do when they get older: learn to do cartwheels, skateboard, ski, swim, learn knock knock jokes and how to read, READ!! "No" she stated again, "I am not going to grow up." So I pulled her closer to me, inhaled the fading scent of baby breath and smelled yesterdays sunscreen and kissed her head. Wishing, too, that she could stay this age forver. We stayed in our cuddle for a bit, talking about what the day would bring when she noticed a hang gliding commercial on the television. "Hey Mama, Can I do that when I get big?" ;).

Monday, June 14, 2010

...And a Little Child Shall Lead Them.

"These are days that you'll remember
When May is rushing over you
With desire to be part of the miracles
You see in every hour
You'll know it's true
That you are blessed and lucky
It's true that you are touched
By something that will grow and bloom in you"
-10,000 Maniacs

My mother's copy of Bartlett's was tattered and frayed...her favorite quote, though, she knew by heart: "And the lion shall lie down with the lamb and a little child shall lead them."

My mother had been gone a short time when my father, sister and I brought my daughters to an amusement park. The spot we went as children. It was a heavy mission, one fraught with memories. We tried to find joy in the carousel, in the horse ride or even the train. The same train that she held the girls on just the year before. Every ride we went on brought us to the same place we were before: lost and navigating the new normal. Their joie de vivre led us to an outdoor shower by the beach and from there, the path to new normal. We let them stay under that stream for a long time..and over it's din I heard her:"..and a little child shall lead them."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Loud and Clear. An Open Letter to My Friends.

Your voices have been louder then the one in my head...the one that reminds me to stay in my comfort zone, to admire the tree from afar. Your words have pushed me into the forest and right up to that tree and I have been climbing it. Each kind word, each encouraging gesture has been like a limb for me to ascend. So up I go.
With gratitude I say this ....loud and clear:

Announcing: A Thousand Words. Pictures by Jenn Voorhis.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Testing the Waters

Last night I got together with six very talented friends. We brought in take-out and beer to clean the home of a good friend returning from a bad journey. With Mrs. Meyers gerainium fragrance in the air and nervous stomach I shared the news of my pending venture. It should be known that each woman present is a master of their own craft and I felt unsure if I could really 'join' their ranks but my announcment was met with such enthusiam, support and: "I was hoping this is what you would tell us." and "It's about time." That reception gave me the boost I needed. Here's to supportive friends and here's to testing the waters.

Friday, May 28, 2010


A few years ago I sat watching a little boy attempt to climb a tree. His first few rushinandattempt to scale it were unsuccessful. Then he got it. He took a few steps back and studied the tree. He walked around it a few times and pulled on a few of the lower branches. Then he did it. This kid really impressed me and taught me a lesson. I have had the tendency to give up if something looks too challenging. When I first considered this photography business the thought of everything I would have to learn overwhelmed me. Then I remembered the boy. I took a step back, walked around a bit. My travels led me to mentors, teachers and images that take my breath away. I am thisclose to my tree and my shutter finger is at the ready.

(yes, I know rush-in-and-attempt is jumbled together ;) )

Saturday, May 22, 2010

This One Is For You, Mr. Gordon

For years, (since my high school photography class (holla Mr. Gordon)), I have heard that I, "should be doing this for a living." I was unconvinced until THIS came out of my camera. With a little editing, I became convinced. So while I get to know my new camera and lenses a little better, I will continue ironing out how to approach this new venture. But before I do that, my husband is calling me to the deck. He has two cold Coronas (with lime) waiting.

Cheers, Mr. Gordon.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

May 20, 2005. The Day We Picked Up the Kids.

A picture might be worth thousand words but this one cannot be measured. It is the first picture of my daughters as they were delivered to me five years ago. To understand the glory of their story we have to start at the beginning.

A Look Back.

In 1987 my husband, then 17, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease. Prior to starting chemotherapy his oncologist urged him to freeze a sperm sample in the event that the treatments compromised his fertility. The day after surgery and in a snowstorm he did what the doctor ordered.

Thirteen years later we got married; committing to each other and to the idea that we would create a family. Our efforts proved unsuccessful so we found our way to the Center for Reproductive Medicine and Infertility. There I met the second doctor who would help us on our quest, Dr. Kligman. He reviewed our files and promised this would work. I stopped researching outcomes and trusted his words.

IVF was incredible. I moved closer to the city for the duration of cycle so I could utilize mass transit. Grand Central became a portal of hope. The subway system: not so much. I gave myself the nightly injections and hoped at each ultrasound my ovaries would reveal growing follicles. Meanwhile, we had Kent's adolescent sperm sent up and waited for the retrieval. Dr. Kligman ordered a procedure called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) a process where a single sperm is isolated, analyzed and injected into an egg. On May 17, 2004, I had my third and final retrieval. Annabel and Willa began their first day of life that afternoon...dividing into two then four cells..and so on. On May 20, with the help of Assisted Hatching (a tiny bit of acid is applied to the shell of an embryo prior to transfer in hopes that the embryo has an easier time getting out and implanting), I was prepped for an ultrasound guided transfer. The technician directed my eyes towards four white dots traveling through the catheter and spilling into my uterus. Those, she said, are them. My hopes, my dreams shining like stars as they found their way home. I whispered, "Please stay. Please." I stared at the picture of the transferred embryos all the way home

My pregnancy was confirmed two weeks later. 31 weeks later, on Christmas Eve, my doctor told me that we would be delivering the babies the following morning. Six weeks early. Like a child about to receive the bounty of the holiday, I barely slept. Instead, I listened to all three of our heartbeats on the fetal monitor. With each beat, I thanked the three doctors who helped us get here.

At 10:31 and 10:34 AM on Christmas morning Annabel and Willa were born. At 10:31 and 10:34 so was a family. Down the hall our families gathered and sung, "Joy to the World"..."Let heaven and nature sing" they crooned. I gave a fourth nod to science.

When I saw the girls I understood what all of this was for. The waiting, the emotional and physical pain and, the Hodgkin's. It was about their gift to us. I sighed. I kissed them and whispered words of gratitude to the people who helped us on our way. Those might have been the first words they ever heard.