The Sunday Services committee at our Unitarian Universalist church asked me to speak (along with two others) today on why this place is home for me. Here’s what I had to say:

I didn’t grow up with a church community. I was an only child and home for me was watching Cheers while sitting on my dad’s lap, inhaling the smell of second hand smoke brought home on his dress shirt from the tabloid newsroom. At Cheers, when Norm walked in, everybody knew his name. Not to compare church to a bar, but there wasn’t really a place beyond my neighborhood when I was growing up where everyone knew my name. I’d visit churches on holidays with my grandparents or cousins, but I didn’t know a soul and didn’t understand the seemingly intricate rituals that I wasn’t allowed to participate in since I wasn’t baptized. While I was raised with canoe trips down the Loxahatchee River for the sole purpose of cleaning up litter and spent much time volunteering with my Girl Scout troop, my family had no organized religion or spiritual community. My parents said they didn’t force religion on me so that someday I could make my own decisions about what I believed, but without any reference of what was even out there to choose from, I felt a bit lost.

Ryan and I moved to Manchester from Florida in 2002. Ryan grew up in a Catholic church and we planned to church shop and see what was out there as we settled into our new community. Sometime after buying a house and moving to this side of town in 2004, we began visiting UUS:E. It’s the only church we’ve ever visited. Ryan connected with Bob Richardson (music director) and volunteered here and there to play on Sundays. At some point, we drifted away.

Almost seven years ago we had Margeaux and again we visited. Ryan connected with Pawel (music director) and we started going more frequently. He enjoyed playing music on Sundays and outside of church with Pawel. I enjoyed the sermons and found it easy to attend with a sleeping newborn. Margeaux was dedicated as an infant in this church and the powerful words read back by the congregation moved me deeply. But as she grew and became mobile, it became harder and harder to concentrate on the sermons while juggling a cranky toddler. I know the ‘holy hubbub’ (our reverend’s term for babies babbling during sermons) is encouraged, but I was unable to focus and it became a chore to attend with her. I wasn’t quite ready to send her downstairs to the nursery and at that time we didn’t have a staff member and relied on volunteers. Without a familiar face week after week, I felt uncomfortable leaving her while I was upstairs. So again, we drifted away.

I should stress, music was ALWAYS bringing us back. In the early days, Bob would call on Ryan and then later Pawel would reach out to him. And back we would go. Simone was dedicated here and again, the powerful words of support that the congregation repeated to us were so uplifting. We loved being here. Pawel would always be open to Ryan’s suggestions for pieces he wanted to play and he would come to Ryan when he had something in mind and needed a bass player, and sometimes even a cello player! Music always pulled us back and for some unknown reason, we always seemed to drift away again.

And then Pawel died. I don’t believe I have ever felt a pull so strong to be in a physical space. The outpouring of grief, love, compassion, community, support and so many other things that I saw come out of this congregation at that very difficult time in so many people’s lives made me see what an amazing, wonderful, caring, spiritual place this is. I felt to honor him, I needed to be here. I needed to bring my family here. I needed to connect to something bigger than myself. It was time.

We started coming more regularly. Ryan connected with Mary. We were excited when Emily was hired to run the nursery. Simone, who was two at the time, felt comfortable going to her each week and we felt that we had someone who really knew our child. Now we are so thankful to have Claire in the nursery. And she’s joined each week by wonderful volunteers who we’ve also come to know.

Margeaux joined Spirit Play and is now in Superheros. She enjoys seeing her friends each week and learning about UU Superheros from history. While hesitant at first, I am enjoying being an assistant in Margeaux’s class about once a month. On the other weeks, I enjoy volunteering with other aspects of the RE program, or attending upstairs. I recently spent an hour teaching Matteo how to play chess and that got me thinking I might like to volunteer with the older kids next year. Both volunteering and attending upstairs fill my soul.

Our kids have made great friends in their classrooms as well as with older and younger kids at UUS:E. Through our circle group gatherings, they’ve met folks from upstairs that they might not have gotten to know otherwise. Downstairs, where we hold religious education, I’ve connected with moms that I am learning from, growing from and just love being around. They bring so much positivity to my life. We’ve all been exposed to amazing music and powerful words from this pulpit.

I think one of the most important aspects of parenting is modeling the behaviors you want your children to develop. I love being part of a community that has so many amazing role models for my children. From handing out hot cocoa with Michelle and others at the Manchester Road Race to learning about gratitude from Gina, I have many wonderful partners on this parenting journey.

There are so many more opportunities to get involved at UUS:E. I’m interested in the book group, the movie discussions and the environmental work being done. I am also moved by the amazing social justice work being done by Josh and this congregation. I want to do all the things!

Up until Pawel’s death, I would say we were always just visiting and drifting, visiting and drifting, visiting again and then drifting again. But now, two years later, I can say with much certainty that we are home. My family is excited to come each week and “giving up” our Sunday mornings doesn’t feel like a sacrifice at all, it feels like finally coming home to a place where everybody knows my name. And if you don’t, let me introduce myself: My name is Jenn and this is my home.



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Happy 4th Birthday Miss S.

My littlest baby is four! How can this be?! I just went back and read her three year old post and lots has changed and there’s a lot that’s the same. She still loves to snuggle just as much as she always has. She still sucks her thumb when she’s tired (usually only in the car and at bedtime) although the pediatrician wants her to stop now that she’s four. She still wakes about once a night about every other night or so. She just wants to come give me a snuggle and go back to bed. How come they never go over to Daddy’s side of the bed?! (spoiler – it’s because he doesn’t wake up).

One thing that has changed greatly over the past year, really since March, is her eyes. In May she got glasses and in December she had eye muscle surgery. We had her six week checkup just after her fourth birthday and they are very pleased with the results. We have not noticed crossing when she has her glasses on at all since the surgery. No matter what, this doesn’t seem to slow my girl down at all. She’s been totally resilient and unfazed by the whole thing.

Since last year, she’s started at a new school. It’s still Montessori, but now she’s in a public magnet school which is a tiny bit closer to our house than the other private school (and much more affordable). She seems to be adjusting well and enjoying herself.

She still wants to do all the things her sister does, but we’ve talked her into playing the cello instead of the violin. She’ll start lessons in the fall. She’s into Daniel Tiger and can play alone in her room with her stuffed animals and dolls for hours on end, making up big stories about what all the characters are doing.

She had an amazing birthday party at the Carousel and we celebrated at home with pancakes and ice cream cake for dinner.

Four Year Old Stats:

Height = 39.5 inches (25th percentile)
Weight = 31.5 lbs (10th percentile)


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S First Time Ice Skating


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Christmas In Florida

We had a quick, but wonderful, trip to Florida for the holidays. I was able to take most of the week off from work and really relax on the trip. We did about a million Christmases, saw my niece in the Miami City Ballet Nutcracker, snuck in a trip to the zoo and got back in time for an uneventful New Years.




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2016 Book List

1. The Sparrow Sisters by Ellen Herrick
2. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (Cathy’s Book Club)
3. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood
4. Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard by Liz Murray (My Book Club)
5. Life and Other Near-Death Experiences by Camille Pagán
6. After You by JoJo Moyes

(Not much reading this year – more in 2017, I hope!)

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Blog Catch Up::Eye Muscle Surgery

*Back posting for December, as I realize I never blogged about this!

Starting in March 2016 we saw one episode of S’s eyes crossing uncontrollably. Then six weeks later it happened again. Her doctor quickly ruled out anything neurological and we were sent to a pediatric eye doctor. After several follow up appointments the crossing was increasing frequency to several times a day. We started with glasses, then bifocals and then in December she had eye muscle surgery. She was an absolute champ and recovery was not bad at all. She wouldn’t open her eyes the first day but but the second day she was doing a lot better. She hated the ointment we had to put in them, but overall she did really well. This experience was WAY BETTER than M getting her tonsils and adenoids out. Surgery was on a Thursday. She was out of school only Friday and was back by Monday. She had a follow up appointment on Monday and then another at six weeks post-op. Her eyes were red on the inside of the white part only (closest to nose) and only for less than 10 days. All in all not too terrible!

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We continued our family tradition of going to our local park to see Santa. S asked for a scooter and M asked for a sleeping bag.


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