Finally, some answers to the question I’ve heard literally hundreds of times over the past few days: What can I do to help?

First, the practical stuff: We will need dinner tomorrow (Thursday) and next week (Monday through Saturday). If you’re interested (and have time), please email my friend Julie Rink Mokotoff at with your contact info and any day you’re not available, so she can create a schedule. There are bound to be more offers than days, so she’ll do her best to work you all in now or later, depending on our needs as the weeks (and perhaps — but hopefully not — months and years) go by.  She will reply to you with your assigned day and directions on how to deliver. These need not be big or fancy meals; just enough for me and Mark (as Austin, if he’s able to eat at all, will be on a restricted diet, and Braedan will likely eat elsewhere) and we won’t often be in our house at the same time, so dinners should be something we can split up and heat or reheat depending on when we actually have a moment for mundane things like food. I’m allergic to shellfish (and have a strong dislike of mushrooms) but other than that, anything is fair game. And don’t worry about dessert — I do not intend to take those “fattening up” posts literally!

Next, playdates: Breadan will need to be picked up from school some days next week. My parents are in town and have a pretty open schedule but, since he’ll already be sleeping there, it seems more fun for him to get to go to a friend’s house. I’ve had many offers over the years from people willing to host him, but, without offending anyone, we do want him to be as comfortable and familiar as possible, so will try to accept only those offers from his already established buddies.  He finishes school at 3:05 on all days but Tuesday, when dismissal is at 2:05. His teacher has said he is welcome to stay with her in the classroom for an extra twenty minutes or so if your own child’s pick-up creates a conflict. Please email Lisa Welsh at with your availability and she will assign days and provide you with directions to Fairfax School. Again, we will try to work people in as time goes on.

And now for the less practical but just as important stuff: Back in October 2007, I decorated Austin’s hospital room with “wishing stars” which dangled from the ceiling and contained individual wishes sent from friends (and strangers) near and far.  Some were funny, some heart-warming, all sincere. And he loved them. We used to lay together in his hospital bed and he would reach up to his stars as they twirled and spun above us through those long and sleepless nights.

Given that wishing stars seem particularly appropriate at this time of year, I will once again be hanging them, both from the ceiling and on the artificial tree we’ll bring with us next week. I am happy to transcribe people’s wishes if they want to send them along electronically, but I also welcome homemade stars (the more glittery and colorful, the better) from as many of you as possible.  Drop the off at our house or with Braedan at school, and if you are a pre-school family, leave them with Lola Chicotel (in Mrs. B’s morning class) for her parents Christie and Dom to deliver to us.

The wish I will write on my own star is one I hold tight in my heart for both my children. It may seem simple at first, but it requires the attainment of many many milestones along the way. And that is that both my boys get the chance to be happy grandfathers.

If that wish comes true, then we really will be the luckiest.