Recipe For Good Mothering


Standing at my bookshelf, my fingers follow the worn, familiar feeling of my books, old friends that I have forgotten. There are books of poetry, art and religion; books on growing things and making things; books on building business; books of dreams once pursued. Mysteries, memoirs and fiction that used to carry me far, far away.

I have come here now for a book of recipes, yet still, I am drawn to the now-dusty books about parenting. A shelf that started with a copy of What to Expect When Your Expecting and was filled to overflowing when the unexpected happened. Books on epilepsy and illness, advice and encouragement, books I once feverishly read my way through -- looking for answers, that only life would bring.

I find the baking book I have come for, it's sunshine yellow cover calling out to me, the vintage rose color calming me. I bring it to the kitchen where my daughter Zoe is waiting. No longer does she need the step-stool, or even for me to stand behind her. She stands by herself, leaning against her walker for balance. In middle school now, she has grown out of the little girl apron she used to wear, and favors a pink t-shirt instead. She smiles at me, her confidence and excitement radiating as she finds the page and begins to read the recipe aloud. Her supplies at the ready, she starts with slow, careful movements.

And with patience I stand back, knowing that what makes this recipe work is not my help or what is written on the page.

It is the shallow pan that will catch the overflow of flour and sugar, carefully measured by a shaky hand. It is the notepad nearby that will keep count, by Zoe's written " X's, the number of cups she has poured. It is the flattened bowl that will hold a steady surface for eggs to be cracked and pieces of eggshells extracted.

This is different from when I bake with Zoe's big sister, when it is a team effort to try new techniques, perfectly fill each measured cup and and correctly approximate each teaspoon, that puts my teen girl and I in unison. When it is her idea of what to make, her confidence growing with each new creation. Our collaboration brings us closer together.

Later, when I am alone, the recipe book still lays open, the written words worn, splattered and sometimes hard to read, this recipe replaced by real life.

I know now it is the real result that is better than the expected. It is the authentic, on-hand ingredients that deliver goodness. It is the directions we ignore, the techniques we adapt and the new processes we create that make each batch wonderfully unique -- and never exactly the same.

It is the sweetness that rises above, that masks the imperfections and the missed ingredients.

This is the real recipe of mothering.

Dear Summer Camp " Buddy",


I couldn't help but write you this letter, and I hope that's okay. I have so much to thank you for, first for being Zoe's ' buddy" at summer camp.There is more I want to share with you too. My hope is that you will tuck this letter away and read it again at different times in your life.

I hope it will help you make sense of your world, maybe inspire or comfort you when words like these are what your heart needs.

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Honeymoon Summer

“ I like helping you..” My daughter Zoe tells me. We are cruising through our neighborhood grocery store, as I weave through the aisles, with my shopping bag overflowing and hanging from the back of Zoe’s wheelchair. Zoe expertly balances a half gallon of milk, green bananas and a loaf of crusty bread on her lap as she goes on.. “ I need to learn this stuff,  how to be a Mom for when I grow up. I have been thinking about this....” Her words stop and start again, as she retrieves the word she was looking for and finishes the string of her sentence. She ends with most difficult question. “ Is it hard to be a Mom?” She is smiling, happy to imagine her future- self this way.

I can’t imagine Zoe being a Mom. She is 11, and without detailing her prognosis, and debating the opportunities for adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, there are basic truths I have come to accept; Zoe’s metabolic disorder is progressive, her generalized epilepsy diagnosis is complex, and looking into the future makes my heart hurt.

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Through Tragedy and Terror, Written Words Touch A Million Lives


I held my first daughter tight against my breast as I watched the Twin Tower tragedy unfold on television. Tears dripping onto the soft red curls on her infant head, she slept soundly, as I held her tighter and tighter, believing this would keep her safe from the terror at hand. Innocently she slept, unaware of my growing grief,  only awakened by the fear in my voice , as I phoned my husband, describing minute by minute,  the unimaginable images.

It was the terror that every one talked about that week. The true stories of the heroes, took weeks, months and even years to be told. News events were still reported then, in the paper, on tv and online , at the time of 9-11,  social stories were not “ shared.” 

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The Lesson I Learned Again, The Day I Cried In My Car

When my daughter Zoe was little, I looked to the doctors to forecast her future. After all , they had the clinical experience from thousands of patients , and I was the first-time parent of a special needs child. I  would cover Zoe’s baby face with kisses, all the while wondering, “ Will her words ever come?” Will she ever walk? The doctors were uncertain. 

As Zoe grew older, she missed  “ milestones” , yet amazed us with her tenacious achievements. We learned to embrace her uniqueness,and I found peace with the fact that as her Mother, I knew her the best. 

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A Personal Confession: Taking Care of You, Getting Fit.. and Taking Care of Family.

Zoes drawing
I never imagined Zoe as the 'tween she has become. She talks alot now about growing up , and asks those difficult questions that make me feel old and sometimes sad. The last ten years have flown by, but when I look in the mirror I can see every moment. The way my life evolved from a master plan to just getting through each day.. learning to shift my life from " black and white" to an okay shade of gray. The way there is little time for anything besides family, home and work.

Things have been kinda calm lately, and after a whirlwind of working non-stop for the last year,parenting my girls ,ten plus years of not sleeping through the night, and long talks with my husband with his repeated reminders to " slow down" ,  I kinda had a revelation. Something has to give.

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Don't Sweat the Small Stuff - " Change it Up!"

LavenderI don’t sleep through the night. A good night means I am up only twice. My day starts at 5 and ends by 10, and the mothering I do all day is a physical, eyes and hands-on type that Moms’ of toddlers can most identify with.  I am the mom of a girl with special needs, and I have been blessed with the gift of perspective.

It is an awesome gift I have earned. When you hold your child throughout painful or difficult medical procedures one day, and the next she wants a chocolate brownie or to wear her princess tutu to the grocery store.. it’s a no brainer. It’s perspective. 

When the bedroom floor is strewn with toys at bedtime, but the sound of laughter still lingers from her afternoon of play, it’s the gift of perspective that allows you to push the mess aside and climb in - to give your girl a goodnight hug, grateful for a good day.

Managing stress is always an issue from me, managing work, home, marriage and mothering. Years ago, I picked up the first edition of “ Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff For Mom’s” and was moved by the poignant, short common sense chapters. I especially needed support with the accepting that I cannot do everything, taking care of myself was mandatory, and sometimes just surrendering was okay. 

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Running Through Life

 Yesterday, Zoe RAN for the first time. And it was real, I could feel her determination, she kept pumping her tired legs, to go a little faster ,and climb the slight hill.

I could see the happiness spill from her smile , as she passed others on the running path . I felt the thrill of it, as she finally crossed the finish line, elated and spent.

Standing behind her, I saw what she saw- the incredible imagery of the wii game graphics on the big screen-- the dream-like sequence of images, as my little girl stood in her walker, pumping her legs with a rhythm her legs were never meant to find. As she imagined it was her hair flying in the wind and that she really was that girl on the screen- running in the sun, legs galloping with ease over the grassy hills.

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The " Good Enough" Mom..



I am about 12 years into motherhood now.. and like a lot of Mom's I know, I still don't feel like I'm getting it right. Mothering kids with medical issues takes a purposeful amount of focus and attention, the kind that sometimes prevents you from being that cool " chill" kind of mom..yet still I try , and every day I learn. 

I have learned that sometimes rolling off the bed as a result of a tickle fight is the kind of good clean fun that all kids need, low muscle tone or not. 

I have learned that a smiling , happy faced kid, that got that " 5 more minutes!" in the pool she desperately wanted can help you dismiss and not obsess over-the flushed color of her fatigued face. 

I have learned that your sad, crying kid- can break your heart at any age- whether a sick toddler unable to tell you what's wrong or a frustrated, overtired 10 year old that just can't verbalize every feeling she feels.

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Message for ALL Mom’s .. LOVE your kids, as if they were dying..




My day today began like any other, I was up at 5 packing lunches and backpacks, while trying to gulp down some coffee. I have an appointment at the office later, so I spent a few minutes standing in front of my closet sighing, before getting dressed and rushing through the morning rituals to drop my oldest daughter at school first.

 Later, it is just Zoe and I in the car.  The sun is streaming through the car windows. I put on some music and began making small talk with Zoe about her day. 

I am used to the starts and stops in our frequent conversation. Zoe,  is almost eleven now,  and a thinker-  yet she slowly forms her thoughts, chooses her words and processes it into speech. There are pauses as she searches for the word she wants, and fatigue can slow the pace, slur the word . Remembering all the years she could barely even communicate, I wait patiently and am still grateful each time she begins to speak. 

 Her thoughts come in word pieces and listening carefully, I fit the puzzle together ..

“ Mom, when I grow up and become a Mom, would this be a good car for me to drive and how do you learn to be a Mom anyway?”  There it is, her question. And suddenly it’s as if the clouds have pushed the sun away, and my daily “ cup half full" approach to life has been smashed to hell. Zoe can't see my face, and I am glad. I don't want her to know the raw pain that is causing me to to hold my breath .

My girl is growing up, and thoughts of the future, are close , more menacing than when she was 5, and although she is an awesome kid doing amazingly well- she still has a progressive metabolic disease. She still has generalized epilepsy, kidney disease and although she grows more steady with the growing size of her body- she will always use a  wheelchair and a walker to explore her world. 

What I couldn’t say to Zoe is that with her vulnerabilities I can’t imagine her “ being a mom”-  that her physical impairments alone ,will prevent her from ever driving a car. I refuse to even contemplate the complex medical conversations we have had about Zoe’s life expectancy, we just don’t go there.

Yet this reality is what sometimes separates me from other Mom’s. Tragedies that take kids too soon are always unexpected. As busy Mom’s we just forget  that we are all fragile. We sometimes forget that the messy room, the lapse in homework , the bad grade -aren’t the important things about mothering.

In the last few months, I have heard too many stories about children lost too soon. Within the special needs communities, the families were fighting, and winning. Their kids survived surgeries, hospitalizations, and the everyday challenges that often come with raising a special needs kid. These parents were managing their kids health, their kids were stable, even improving with therapies. Their parents were seeking refuge in that stability that meant success-until the day their kids weren’t stable. Until one day their physical vulnerabilities were  cause for taking their child’s life, and they were just gone.

I am guilty of doing it too sometimes. Getting caught up in the day to day. Zoe is doing well, we are managing , we are “winning” and then an illness comes along, a news story, a medical test, or a conversation like this one Zoe and I shared - and reality comes crashing through, grounding me again to what is really important.

 And it’s this reality , that I wish every mom knew. It sounds  harsh, I know.. - but it’s a secret that special needs moms have learned along the way. It’s something that I think all Mom's should know, or just think about sometime. That all that other stuff- just really doesn’t matter. 

Let your KIDS light your soul and commit to be present in their moment , commit to really love your kids, love like they are the MOST important , love with the heartbreaking pain that comes with it. LOVE your kids, as if they were dying.


The Anonymous Note, Part 2 And Those Kids Who Inspire Special Needs Moms


When my daughter Zoe was a toddler, she didn’t spend her days spreading out her toys and playing on our cool tile floor , or toddling around clutching her favorite doll with sticky juice hands like her big sister Olivia did.

Instead,  Zoe preferred to cuddle for comfort. Her speech didn’t develop until late so I spent a lot of time trying to interpret her sound and movement, solicit a response, and get to know my little one, trying to discern what made her happy and what was making her hurt.

Zoe was 3 years old when she was finally diagnosed, when we learned she would never walk by herself. She was 4 when we learned she may eventually lose her vision, and when she was 5 she experienced a stroke like event- yet through it all, when she wasn’t sick,  Zoe has been a pretty happy, smiling kid. 

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The Value in Life


“The hard part is trying to answer the questions Walker raises in my mind every time I pick him up, What is the value of a life like his — a life lived in the twilight and often in pain? What is the cost of his life to those around him? … If Walker is so insubstantial, why does he feel so important? What is he trying to show me?”  -excerpt from Ian Brown’s Memoir “ The Boy in the Moon: A Father’s Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son“

It was this passage of the book  The Boy in the Moon: A Father's Journey to Understand His Extraordinary Son  that first stopped me. We have all imagined the future of “ what if’s?” managing care for our children when symptoms worsen or a disease progresses. So these detailed diaries of Brown caring for his son Walker, did not disturb me. Instead I found the idea- “ What is the value of my child’s life?” inspiring.

As parents we set out to do the best we can for our kids. We take each challenge in stride, try to make the best decision, take the best approach, give our kids the best advantage. We watch how their  talents develop, we nurture, guide, help them grow, so that they contribute, feel valued and posses a strong sense of self esteem. 

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The Words That Matter Most

I remember the exact moment I got the news, when my world stopped and for the moment -nothing else mattered. I remember the way the doctor led us across the recovery room and into the makeshift office of the medical tech I saw scurrying away.  Some guy who, at the doctors urging, left so fast, his abandoned cup of coffee still sat steaming on his desk. We sat talking until that cup of coffee grew cold.

 At first there was relief, I was strung out from sleep deprivation, and determination. I knew something was very wrong, but no one in  Arizona could figure it out. Thanks to my father’s celebrity connections,  Zoe and I had flown across the country to meet with a team of special doctors. 

  I made it through that meeting , learning a lot from the doctors words and more from those converstions that  followed.  Most doctors are practiced at the art of breaking bad news.

 Over time I have learned how much to say, how to have these conversations- and when it is best not to try. 

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Moments Like These

 Girlsrainbow It is past 8 o'clock at night, and my ten year old should have been asleep a half hour ago. But she isn't, she had to finish her book, have another snack, get a drink of water and now she is over tired. Her face is pale, her body is tired, and the aches and pains of a busy day have caught up with her. As I check on her one last time, dim her lights and prepare to kiss her goodnight.. I get a verbal  recant of all that went wrong with her life that day, and all that my tired girl thought I was to blame for.. I get a litany of not so nice little girl words. Within minutes, I know she will be passed out from exhaustion. She has an ice pack wrapped around her leg, her baby blanket around her neck and her favorite stuffed animal tucked against her chest. I kiss her goodnight and let the words flutter and fall from the air.

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Love and Laughter.. . We'll Live Happy Ever After

Photo[1] To reach for the fun of everyday.. it has to be easy and at- hand- and sometimes simple is best. By that I mean, the seasonal art basket has to be in reach, the kitchen table rearranged so a little girl in her walker can look out the french doors on the side patio to check on her own blooming chalk flower garden, and that access through these doors is quick and easy so  chalk sessions on the patio can happen spontaneously in the late afternoon- even though  this little girl has had a tough week healthwise and big sister is coming down with a cough. Flowers Oliviasart

Because there is no medicine like love and laughter, add some  sunshine, chalk and water..  and I believe with that.. we'll  live happy ever after.Zoes









The Soul of A Special Needs Mom

It's late, so the house is quiet and the lights are low. My box of kleenex is now empty. I hit the remote to turn off the tv and head first to O's room . And instead of quieting my craving to climb in bed and gather my first born's body in my arms, I instead bend down brushing my lips over the tip of her nose , and then close to her ear whispering.. promises. I love you's. More promises. I move next to Zoe's room, her cheeks are flushed yet she sleeps peacefully. First I gently kiss her forehead, and then each cheek. Finally her lips.There are no words for her. Just questions, questions I keep silently repeating. Am I doing my best? Making the right choices? Making memories? Teaching my daughters enough? Loving and Laughing enough? And the loudest question that is buried the deepest in my mothers soul -now is pounding in my head.." Will I have any regrets?"

I had just finished watching the movie Extraordinary Measures. Through mostly tear filled eyes. A lot of the drama for me was the imagery , the kids in power wheelchairs, the machinery, the illness, the fear, the desperation that was ever present. The emotional and open soul of a special needs mom.

The remarkable true story details a father's fight, and race against time, to not just find a cure, but to make the medicine that will save his children's life. Not a new story- and I had already read both books, mostly because I stumbled on them in my local library and I happen to read a lot. First I read " The Cure" written by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Geeta Anand , the non fiction life account on which the screenplay is based- and then I read John Crowley's personal perspective " Chasing Miracles" .

Sleepy, yet unable to surrender, I lay in bed  last night, thankful for the comforting warmth of my husband beside me, thinking... " Am I fighting hard enough? "

I fought hard for the answers and the eventual diagnosis. I pushed and pushed-first fighting for Zoe and then for O. But with a metabolic disease, there is a certain amount you have to accept. With their illness, it is the mitochondria that is damaged all throughout their body. It is on a cellular level that cannot be re-engineered, at least.. not yet.

 It is morning now, the next day- and still I am moved and distracted by the difficult answers to all of these questions. I know am trying my best to make the most of everyday with my daughters. I am their best advocate. I support the cause and believe in the future of medicine and scientific advancement- but what is most important to me now is living like a typical family, I know this is best for the health of my kids today - even though fighting the hardest fight might be best for their future of tomorrows.

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