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Meet Melissa!

How old are your kids and how long have you lived in Westport? Ready for it…I have 6 amazing kids: 16, 15, 13, 13, 11, and 8. The older four are girls, and the younger are boys. First question I get asked- did I birth all 6? No! I am blessed to parent all. I remarried a few years ago adding 3 wonderful daughters to my life. Do I have twins? No, the two 13 year olds are step sisters and best friends. We have lived in Westport since July 2012.

How did you end up where you are now in terms of your job, or whatever passion project it is you might be doing? When I started out college I was hoping to be a doctor, as there are quite a few in my family. At some point I realized it wasn’t a good fit and I moved to therapy. One day I sat in on a presentation on Sensory Processing Disorder, and I was hooked. That’s been my focus ever since.

What is your favorite family activity to do in Westport or the surrounding towns?There are so many to choose from; we love Westport. Sometimes we bike to the beach as a family, but I would say that going for a hike at one of the local parks is at the top of the list. We love to head up to Devil’s Den for a quick loop around the lake.

What’s your can’t-live-without beauty product? I recently got a Dyson hair dryer. It seemed a bit over-the-top initially, but I love it now. It’s like driving a Porsche, but for your hair!

If you could pick one restaurant or store to come to Westport that isn’t here now, what would it be, and why? We need a great, full-service sport shore in town, similar to Paragon in NYC. This is such an active community and to be able to have a “one-stop” shop for all our needs (i.e., skiing, biking, hiking, skating and tennis) would be amazing.

What are you most excited about in life right now? This has been a huge year for me professionally. Sensory kids (my pediatric occupational therapy clinic) just opened a second location, this time in Wilton. This location is our first multi-disciplinary center, and is a joint venture with The Southfield Center. SFSK, as we’ve nicknamed it, really developed out of passion. As a family-centered clinic we often hear parents’ frustrations with wanting to receive a comprehensive evaluation that truly integrates all the disciplines and interventions into one thorough report and provides a highly integrated treatment plan. By having access to all of our specialists at one location, our families receive the specific help they need, as well as benefit from collaboration between every specialist on the team or within the Center to get one complete plan. SFSK does just this in a warm, inviting environment. I also played a large role in designing the new facility. I hope to spend more time in the future consulting with other facilities nationwide on their design. It has become a passion of mine.

What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you? That I’m actually pretty shy; I get quite nervous in big groups or before going to parties. It always goes well, but it can be tough for me. I’m happiest at home with my family.

If you weren’t doing what you are today, what do you think your career path might have been? Full-time mom or ski bum. Maybe both.

If you had 24 hours to do whatever you wanted – what would you do? Easy – in winter, pack up the family and head to Vermont to ski on fresh powder. In summer, pack up the family and head for a bike ride and a picnic.

What is your most marked characteristic? I couldn’t really answer this question, so I asked my husband. He claims its my persistence. He’s probably right – if I believe in something, I don’t give up!

What was your most memorable family vacation and why? This is a tough one. Vacations and family time to me are the most important to me. If I have to choose one, on the basis of “memorable”, I’d have to say my trip to Washington DC. It was the first vacation the 8 of us took as a blended family. There were a few bumps on the road, but plenty of laughs and amazing memories. For example, we tried biking with the six kids around the memorials. Starting out, we had three on their own bikes, two in a trailer behind by husband, and one on a “kangaroo” on the back of my bike. Along the way, one of the kids decided she was done riding. We still had a ways to go. We had to tow her bike behind the trailer, where she squeezed in with the other two – quite a sight! Problem solving that situation, both logistically and emotionally was a challenge, but together, we figured it out. I knew then we had what it took to raise 6 kids together.

What is the best white lie you have told your kids? I remember telling my daughter, when she was 3, that there was a “pacifier fairy”. The pacifier fairy takes the pacifiers and gives them to other kids who needs them and leaves a gift in place for being so kind. Believing this, she gladly gave up her pacifier to help out the other kids in need (Sorry you had to find out like this, Faye!)

What is your proudest mommy moment? More than anything else, I try hard to raise my kids to be good and honest people. I truly am in awe of my children and how they treat others, their friends and family. Seeing this enacted out daily- makes me so proud!

What do you most value in your friends? Honesty and being just “real”.   I love grabbing a drink and sitting in front of the fire to just chat and catch up on life or go for a hike.

What is your greatest regret? I wish I’d spent a year traveling the world before going to Colombia for graduate school. Life is so full now it’s hard to find the time. I’m hoping in upcoming years I have the opportunity to get out and travel more.

What is best piece of advice you’d pass on to other moms? Turn of the screens (this goes for the kids and the parents) and sit and talk to your kids. Play a board game; enjoy the moment. Sounds corny, but it’s true: they grow up fast and in the blink of an eye they’re out living their own lives.

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