Posted in books, children

Remembering the toddler days +Tess Gerritsen’s “Playing with Fire”

This morning, I started reading an article on ‘Irish twins,’ which are those children born within a year of each other (this article said about a year apart, but everything I’ve ever heard says within a 12 month period of each other).

My girls were not, technically, Irish twins, if there is such a technicality. They were 15 months apart, so not within the year, but close enough. Close enough for me to think I was crazy.

When I found out I was pregnant with Katy, Libby was seven months old. I was in shock; we weren’t really trying yet for another, but we weren’t NOT trying, if that makes sense. We knew we wanted another. We just didn’t think it would happen so quickly.

I was scared beyond belief. What if Libby wasn’t walking by the time #2 arrived? At the time, we were renting, living on the third floor, and carrying two children up the stairs seemed nearly impossible. There were so many intangibles; milestones that Libby had not reached, that I was worried she wouldn’t reach, especially if I didn’t have time to help her because of #2.

But, I kept thinking that having two children so close together meant they would be out of diapers quicker, and that they would always have each other.

None of our ultrasounds showed anything outside of the norm for #2 (soon to be known as Katy), and blood screening came back normal. I didn’t have an amniocentesis, because why would I?

Her Down syndrome came as a shock. We overcame it quickly, and I still had two girls under the age of two to worry about.

thumb (3)

Instead of worrying about Libby’s milestones (which were on time or early, for the most part), I began worrying about Katy’s.

The fact that they were so close together made those milestones a little easier, I believe. Katy worked hard to do things her older sister was doing. She rolled over and crawled pretty much on time (a little on the late end, but within normal parameters), and walked at 14 months.

(In case your worried, we moved to the first floor just after Katy was born. We even hired moving men, because how the CRAP was I going to move with these two?! And then we moved across the county, when they were three and two.)

The diaper thing did not happen as I imagined, but I was still lucky. Libby pretty much was done with a diaper the day she turned three; Katy waited until just after five, but when she was done, she was done. No accidents, nothing.

But back to my dueling toddlers. I was busy, chasing them everywhere. Double strollers help a lot. But Libby LOVED her little sister (at least she did then–now it comes and goes), and they were a nice pair.

Toys were everywhere, but clothes were (and still are) easily handed down. Hair accessories got shared. Bathes were taken together.

I can easily say the hardest thing I did with the two of them was travel. At that point in life Ted worked crazy hours, and traveling to my mom’s in Arizona meant traveling without him. So the three of us flew. Alone. We got good at it, but it was still exhausting. I could get the two of them through security pretty quickly–shoes off (thanks, shoe bomber), stroller folded, all our carry-ons settled on the x-ray conveyor belt, one walking (or running) through the metal detector, the other in my arms. It was actually harder when Ted got to go with us–he threw a bit of a wrench into our well oiled machine.

As difficult as the logistics could be, I remember the toddler years fondly, now that the girls are 11 and 12. They didn’t fight very often. They played nicely, and loved having one-on-one time with me. They listened to every word I said like it was gospel, and every experience was brand new to them (even if we’d done it a couple of times). Using the ‘car’ shopping carts at the grocery store was fun for them (until they decided to escape, leaving me with that large, lumbering cart), and a small cookie was a HUGE treat. They dressed in what I picked out, and baby/toddler clothes were CHEAP!!!

Now they both roll their eyes at me on a regular basis and think my taste in clothes is all wrong (granted, yoga pants are not much of a fashion statement). Yes, they can use the bathroom on their own, but one (or both) of them hates flushing.

Yes, there are all those things. But I can still look at their faces these days when they’re talking or playing together (rare, but it does happen) and remember those wide-eyed, innocent toddler faces. I remember back to the years when I was there whole world.

And I can hope and pray that the foundation I laid, back when I when I was their whole world, is strong enough to hold them through the tumultuous teen years that are seriously right around the corner.

Okay, onto Playing with Fire by Tess Gerritsen.


Much different than any of Gerritsen’s “Rizzoli and Isles” or other thrillers, this book will suck you in and keep you reading until the end.

The Premise

While in Rome, violinist Julia Ansdell stumbles upon a small shop where she finds an antique book of music containing a loose sheet of music, on which is written the most interesting composition Julia has ever seen. She buys the book, and takes it with her back to The States as a souvenir.

Back home, the young mother immediately sets out the conquer the melody, a haunting waltz written in a minor key. But the music does something to her three year-old daughter, causing her to fall into a violent trance.

Julia now must know the history of the music, as well as her own history, in order to understand what it is doing to her daughter. Telling the story of the past while also letting Julia unravel the mystery, we learn an ugly truth about the composer and Italian history.

A mystery wrapped in a love story told through history, Playing with Fire is an multidimensional tale centering around the making of beautiful music.

My Thoughts

Every review I’ve glanced at starts the same way for this book–this was not what I expecting from a Tess Gerritsen book. I , for one, am really, really glad.

Playing with Fire is such a wonderful mix of history and mystery, with a little romance thrown in. Julia is our modern day main character, attempting to trace the history of the music in order to discover what is causing her daughter’s violence towards Julia. Which leads her to wonder about her own past, with a mother who ended up in an asylum after killing Julia’s newborn brother.

But that’s not the only mystery Playing with Fire holds. There is also the story of Lorenzo, the young composer of the music. An Italian Jew, Gerritsen tells us what happens to this talented musician and his family before and during World War II. The romance part of the book is contained in the story of Lorenzo and his non-Jewish love, Laura. One sees the ugliness of their separation in the haunting beauty of the music.

When Julia discovers the truth about the composer, I was sure the story was going to head down a supernatural alley. Instead, Gerritsen keeps the Julia’s story on the reality road, making it a much better book.

Gerritsen surprised me, thankfully. I was ready for a boilerplate mystery, but Playing with Fire is anything but boilerplate. The characters aren’t as deep as I hoped (Lorenzo is better developed than Julia, whose history is deep but her character is not–for a good reason), but the stories are intricate and multi-layered.

I give Playing with Fire 4 stars. Wonderful, engrossing read. Get on it!!!



I love to read; writing is my outlet. My blog is my way to combine the two, with a some life stories thrown in for good measure.

2 thoughts on “Remembering the toddler days +Tess Gerritsen’s “Playing with Fire”

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