What Circle Loves About the Holidays

It’s official. The holiday season is underway! With that in mind, we wanted to share our staff’s favorite holiday traditions – new and old! Some employees even offered up their favorite songs. Enjoy them with our Spotify Staff Holiday Picks playlist!

noah and grandma

Jennifer’s grandmother and son.

Jennifer Skarinka, Executive Assistant/Events and Marketing Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: My favorite tradition would be my family’s Italian Christmas Eve, which consist of recipes passed down from generation to generation and spending time with our extended family. The food at our Christmas Eve is certainly at the top of the list, but the best part, for me anyway, is spending time with my grandma, whom is 102 and still going strong. She is the matriarch of our family and a beautiful person inside and out. I remember as a kid looking forward to this day every year and still do to this day (now married with two children). Here is a photo of my grandma, Theresa Spagone, and my son, Noah, a couple of years ago.
Favorite Song: “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby. It’s a beautiful song that immediately takes me back to my childhood at Christmas whenever I hear it.

Gina-Marie Mariano Madow, Attorney
Favorite Tradition: Christmas shopping and baking cookies with my mom!
Favorite Song: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

Kelly Chandler, LICSW, Manager of Surrogate Screening and Matching

Favorite Tradition: Gathering around the fireplace, drinking hot cocoa, eating homemade pie with family and friends. Decorating the tree and stuffing stockings!

Amanda Greenwood, LCSW, Program Manager
Favorite Tradition: My favorite holiday tradition is picking out the perfect Christmas tree. Ever since I was a child, my family would go to a farm and take a sleigh ride out to where the Christmas trees grew. We would spend hours looking for the perfect tree, and once we found one that wasn’t too little or too big, too round or too empty, my father would take a saw and cut it down. I loved how our tree would always fill our house will the smell of pine, and we would decorate it with the ornaments we collected over the years while drinking hot chocolate. I still carry on this tradition with my own family, as it brings back such warm memories.

Rona Yang, Attorney
Favorite Tradition: Family game night (Monopoly always finds itself into the yearly rotation) after everyone has opened their presents.
Favorite Song: “Jingle Bells” by Ella Fitzgerald- A very jazzy rendition of the classic carol!

Alicia Abdella, LCSW, Social Worker
Favorite Tradition: Ever since I can remember, my family has gathered at my grandmother’s house for Christmas Eve dinner, Italian style. In our family, Christmas Eve is a bigger holiday than Christmas itself!  I always look forward to the few days before Christmas Eve, helping my grandmother in the kitchen as she makes recipes dating back to when she grew up in Italy. I hope to continue that same tradition for years to come.

Brett’s beautiful boy in the local nativity play.

Brett Griffin-Young, International Outreach Associate
Favorite Tradition: One of my favorite traditions is the Children’s School Nativity, which is a very British tradition. The photo to the left is of my son as a shepherd in the play last week! Another favorite of mine is picking our annual family Christmas tree and decorating the tree and house. What Christmas really means to me now is family—family time and watching the magic unfold for my children. For me though, Christmas does not start until we have watched the Movie “Elf,” and I have heard my favorite song (see below), which is again a VERY British thing!
Favorite Song: “Fairy Tale of New York” by the Pogues

Dory Ziperstein, Program Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: Making latkes and Challah and celebrating Hanukkah with friends. I have joined by boyfriend’s family with their tradition of going to Waffle House on Christmas morning.

Emily Sonier, LICSW, Clinical Director
Favorite Tradition: Hanging stockings on Christmas Eve with my family all together.
Favorite Song: “Let it snow” by Vaughn Monroe

Brian Manning, Communications Manager
Favorite Tradition: My dad, my brother, and I spend Christmas Eve morning in the North End (Boston’s Little Italy) buying fresh bread, cheese, and pastries for the whole family from a little Italian market. We always stop for a cappuccino at the same café once we’ve finished shopping. Then we come home, make spaghetti with quahogs, make a fire, and watch Love Actually.
Favorite Song: “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love


One of Michelle’s beautiful creations!

Michelle Coughlin, Program Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: My favorite tradition is Christmas card making. With so much technology available to us, hardly anyone prints their pictures anymore. I take photos of family and friends then edit, design, print, and cut my own cards. I send them out to about 100 people!

Kayla Mossien, Communications Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: My favorite holiday tradition dates back to my childhood. It was the day we brought home our Christmas tree. This was always a really special, all-day event, treated with the gravity of a presidential coronation. We’d play all our favorite Christmas music while we decorated the house, with ornaments both store-bought and homemade. Both, of course, had to be equally fussed over and admired. As we decorated, the familiar aroma of cookies baking—always four different kinds!—would spread throughout the house. While I don’t get to share this experience with my family these days (they recently moved down south, where, I suspect, decorating the palm trees isn’t quite the same), it’s a memory I cherish year-round. It’s a tradition I will carry on to my kids (they, too, will be required to fuss over my homemade ornaments) and, I hope, on to theirs.
Favorite Song: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

Elinor Sidman, Egg Donation Manager
Favorite Tradition: I just love sharing the holidays with my friends and family (all of the holidays, as I am Jewish and I share in Xmas as well) and I love giving gifts. I enjoy shopping and I always love to give gifts.
Favorite Song: I do not have a favorite song, but I enjoy most music. I enjoy it all!


Frannie with her brother on Christmas!

Frannie McBrian, Communications Associate
Favorite Tradition: As little ones, my brother and I would wake up with the sun every Christmas morning, eagerly watching the clock until it was an “appropriate” time to inform my parents what day it was. This information always came in the form of a pig pile; my brother and I in our Christmas footie pajamas with tousled hair and toothy grins. This was only the first step in getting to the living room and to the stockings filled with goodies from Santa. My dad would go down in his bathrobe and slippers to start a fire as my mom headed to the kitchen. As we waited on the stairs taking in the scents of Christmas morning, a mix of cinnamon, bacon, and smoke from the fireplace, we whispered about the reindeer who had been on the roof just hours before. No peeking was the name of the game as we waited for everything to be ready- for the coffee cake to bake and the bacon to spit. Every Christmas, my brother and I still sit on the stairs that are braided with evergreen, taking a moment to channel our inner child and giving in to the anticipation of the grand entrance into the living room. I am incredibly grateful for this tradition and to my parents for keeping it alive. Christmas morning has become a time when the world outside gets put on hold. Tousled hair is acceptable, even encouraged, familiar smells fill the house, and my brother and I embrace our inner child as we wait for the pieces of our family tradition to all come together again.
Favorite Song: “Silver Bells” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree

Christmas Cat

Ryan’s favorite tradition: the lighting of the Christmas cat.

Ryan Peterson, Program Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: The Lighting of the Christmas Cat – A family tradition where Black Pearl, the catboat I sailed as a kid, is strung with lights and lit at a neighborhood gathering on Cape Cod.
Favorite Song: “Little St. Nick” by The Beach Boys

Nancy Weatherby, Client Development
Favorite Tradition: My favorite holiday tradition is celebrating with family and friends, of course! Spending time with family and friends, exchanging gifts, and celebrating with great food and fine spirits is so much fun! But equally important is taking time to recognize how lucky we are and to share with those less fortunate!
Favorite Song: As odd as it may sound, my favorite holiday song is the Band Aid single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” While others may not agree, I find it uplifting and a gentle reminder of how important it is to help those in need and to appreciate what we have.

Elizabeth Francis, Trust Accountant and Financial Liaison
Favorite Tradition: Heading to snowy upstate New York to spend Christmas with my whole family.

Solveig Hubbard, LCSW, Social Worker
Favorite tradition: My sister and I do some sort of arts and crafts with my mom every Christmas Eve (water color, charcoal drawings, pastel) after we open presents, and then we spend Christmas Day with my dad and his family.
Favorite Song: “Silent Night” by Norah Jones

Family Photo Kids Christmas Party

Nicole with her nearest and dearest.

Nicole Chandler, Medical Records Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: Every year we have a kids’ Christmas party with the whole family at our house. We have tons of food and desserts. There are games for the kids and Christmas music. The kids make a Christmas craft, and Santa comes. The parents each bring a gift for their child wrapped, and we put them into Santa’s bag. All the kids get to sit on his lap, tell him what they want, get their picture taken, and receive a small gift from him. We have been doing this for the last 10 years, but for the last four years at our house.
Favorite Song: “All I Want for Christmas Is You” by Mariah Carey

Christina Clark, LCSW, Social Worker
Favorite Tradition: Since we were very little, every year on Christmas Eve my parents would read “The Polar Express” and “The Night before Christmas” to me and my sister before we went to sleep. Now that we are older and not always able to be together for Christmas, we continue the tradition by reading the books through video chat every year. When we each have children in the future, I think my sister and I both plan to continue the tradition.
Favorite Song: “Sleigh Ride” by Natalie Cole


Jeni’s favorite sweet times!

Jeni Denhof, Program Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: Every year, for as many years as I can remember, we’ve had a cookie decorating party the day after Thanksgiving. All of the adults and kids in our family (friends often join, too) get together for dinner, drinks, and fun cookie decorating. It’s usually loud, typically messy, and ALWAYS a great time!

Chelsea Hassell, Screening and Matching Administrator
Favorite Tradition: Everyone opening their first gift on Christmas Eve.
Favorite Song: “(It must’ve been ‘ol) Santa Claus” by Harry Connick, Jr.

Scott Buckley, Director of Operations
Favorite Tradition: My favorite tradition is going out to dinner on Christmas Eve before church and then getting the cookies and milk ready for Santa.
Favorite Song: “The Grinch Song” from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

Jen Rachman, Outreach Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: I didn’t grow up in a traditional home, but my husband did. When we were dating, he bought me my own menorah for Hanukkah (one with candles not the electric one I had growing up) and taught me the prayers when lighting the candles. Now that my son is old enough to get excited about the holidays, it’s even more meaningful to have him be a part of the tradition. Oh, and making latkes with applesauce.
Favorite Song: “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” by John Lennon


Dean with his holiday munchkins.

Dean Hutchison, Director of Legal Services
Favorite Tradition: Spending Christmas Eve with the family and all the kids in their Christmas PJs.
Favorite Song: “It’s the Most Wonderful time of the Year” by Johnny Mathis

Emily Milstein-Greengart, Program Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: Even though my family is Jewish, my favorite holiday tradition is going to my mother’s friend’s house to trim her tree (she has over 300 ornaments!), eat ham, and decorate gingerbread houses.

Minette Bryant, Program Coordinator
Favorite Tradition: My favorite holiday tradition is making an enormous mess with crafting! I was raised by a mom who took crafting REALLY seriously, and I’m passing that on to my kids. This year, my kids and I crocheted 20 doggie blankets for the Humane Society, made 60 Oreo suckers, four giant plush toys, and a whole lot more…my house is WRECKED! But the gifts under the tree are pure love!
Favorite Song: “Little Drummer Boy” I remember getting choked up over that song when I was just a very little girl.





Becoming a Surrogate: Top Questions in the Early Stages (Part 1)

becoming a surrogate top questions Women interested in becoming surrogates typically have a laundry list of questions before completing the surrogate application. To help ease any uncertainty, we’ve provided answers to some of the most frequently asked questions we receive from potential surrogates.

What are the steps involved in becoming a surrogate? Before you apply to become a surrogate, it’s important you ask the right questions, research different agencies, familiarize yourself with the process, and discuss your feelings with your support system. The Internet is a great resource for women interested in applying to become surrogates. There are forums, Facebook groups, blogs, and videos available to anyone with web access. Take advantage of these options and ask questions, create pros and cons lists, and educate yourself. For a list of free, downloadable guides on surrogacy and becoming a surrogate, visit the selection of downloads available on our site or visit our blog to learn more and find answers to some of your questions.

After you’ve decided to apply to become a surrogate, one of Circle’s team members will be in touch to guide you through the next steps. For an overview of the entire surrogate process, take a look at this page.

Review the list of requirements for women interested in becoming surrogates at Circle. Note: These requirements can vary between different agencies so be sure to take a look!

requirements for surrogates

How much do surrogates get paid? Compensation for surrogates varies depending on where you live, whether or not you have been a surrogate before, your insurance coverage, and other factors. Your eventual total compensation reflects the sum of your base fee and any additional fees that may have been negotiated in your Carrier Agreement. Additional fees may include compensation for travel allowance, maternity clothing, transfer fees, and signing bonuses among other things. Base fees for first-time surrogates are as follows:

  • $30,000- approved applicants from California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. Surrogates from these states are the most requested by intended parents due to favorable surrogacy laws.
  • $30,000- approved applicants from other states with approved maternity and dependent insurance coverage.
  • $27,500- approved applicants from other states with approved maternity insurance coverage.
  • $25,000- all other approved applicants. Please note: because of the nature of surrogacy laws within their states, Circle cannot work with surrogates from Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, Washington, and/or Washington D.C.

For a detailed overview of surrogate compensation, click here.

Continue reading “Becoming a Surrogate: Top Questions in the Early Stages (Part 1)” »

French Council of State Allows Citizenship for Children Born Through Surrogacy

Friday marked a positive development for French parents through surrogacy. The country’s Conseil d’état, which serves as the highest court for administrative law, issued a ruling dismissing challenges to a Justice Department memorandum requiring citizenship documents for children born to French parents, even if the children are suspected of being born through surrogacy.

1920px-Conseil_d'Etat_Paris_WA Surrogacy is illegal in France but French intended parents, like other Europeans, have turned to surrogacy in countries like the United States, where it is legal. The subject has been in the news frequently over the past year, as rightwing and anti-gay groups in France have challenged the practice.

In January 2013, the country’s Justice Minister issued a circulaire (memorandum) requiring French authorities to issue Certificats de Nationalité Français (CNFs), citizenship documents, to children even if they are suspected of having been born through surrogacy. Opponents countered that the government was allowing parents to circumvent the country’s anti-surrogacy law, and that the Justice Minister overstepped her authority. They filed challenges, which were presented to the Conseil d’ état, and culminated in Friday’s decision.

The Council’s decision reaffirms the circulaire. It is excellent news for French intended parents who are pursuing surrogacy abroad. The Council also invoked the June 2014 decision of the European Court of Human Rights (CEDH) when it condemned France for refusing to grant citizenship to children, stating that doing so was a violation of the children’s human rights.

We are thrilled that the Council has recognized that children should not be treated differently just by virtue of how they came into the world. We will continue to analyze the Council’s decision and its effects, and will provide advice and guidance to all our French intended parents with respect to the getting their children home safely.

Read more (in French) about the decision here.

Giving Birth during the Holidays? 5 Surefire Ways to Cope

Delivering during holidays

With Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s around the corner, there’s plenty to keep you occupied—attending social engagements, shopping for presents, hosting dinners. But if you are nearing the end of your surrogate pregnancy and are due this month or next, the holiday season may be tad more stressful than usual.

To help get you through it, we’ve listed 5 ways to make it through the season unscathed.

1. Make sure you are comfortable with your plan to get to the hospital. It’s essential to have your route to the hospital planned out if you’re celebrating the holidays some place other than home. And take the weather into consideration if you live in an area where winter weather is a factor.

Continue reading “Giving Birth during the Holidays? 5 Surefire Ways to Cope” »

Becoming a Surrogate – The Screening Process [Webinar]

Want to know what happens after you fill out the surrogate application? If so, watch our new webinar: Becoming a Surrogate – The Screening Process. Circle’s Alicia Abdella, LCSW, and Dr. Susanne Haskell, Massachusetts Board Licensed Psychologist, discuss the:

  • pre-screening process;
  • phone interview with a social worker;
  • psychological testing; and
  • next steps.


Elizabeth Banks on Becoming a Parent through Surrogacy


In a recent article for the German publication Zeit Magazin, actress Elizabeth Banks shared her story on becoming a parent through surrogacy. While many celebrities are open about their experiences with surrogacy, most stories stop at “baby born through surrogacy” and go on to discuss the eclectic range of baby names that were in the running. However, Elizabeth’s thoughtful reflection of surrogacy as a universal option for people trying to conceive is laudable in its effort to both reach an audience and make a statement.

A loose translation of the interview, which was published in German, reflects Banks’s initiative to speak about surrogacy on a larger scale: “I speak about [surrogacy] because I think it helps other women who have difficult[ies] becoming pregnant. You are not alone. And there are solutions. Also, I talk about it because it is a political issue: it’s about our freedom of choice. When women [are] deprived of the opportunity to plan their lives and their famil[ies], their li[ves] [are] not quite [their] own.” We couldn’t agree more with this sentiment, and would just add that any individual should have the right to pursue options to build his or her family.

Continue reading “Elizabeth Banks on Becoming a Parent through Surrogacy” »

New Parents through Surrogacy Share Their Story

You hear about people becoming parents through surrogacy, but don’t often get a first-hand account of it all. Luckily the Marsolis share a candid account of their journey. Take a look into their lives and surrogacy with You Can’t Make this Sh*T Up (loving the title!).

Part 1: The Marsolis Went Down to Georgia

The Marsolis

Part 2: The Birth of Our Son

The Marsolis2

Continue reading “New Parents through Surrogacy Share Their Story” »

Becoming a Surrogate: Two Free Informative Online Events

Webinar Skype Blast

Circle Surrogacy is excited to announce two upcoming opportunities for potential surrogates to learn about becoming a surrogate. Read on to learn more about our surrogate-led webinar and group Skype session!

Upcoming Webinar

Have questions about what the screening process entails? If so, this webinar is for you! On December 10, 2014, 1pm EST, attend Becoming a Surrogate: The Screening Process. Panelists Alicia Abdella, LCSW, and Dr. Susanne Haskell, licensed psychologist, review the steps involved in becoming a surrogate, including:

  • The pre-screening process;
  • The phone interview with the social worker
  • Psychological testing
  • Next steps, such as matching with intended parents
  • Q & A Session

Click here to register!

Group Skype with a Former Surrogate

Join us for a live face-to-face group Skype session on December 11, 2014, 12:30pm EST, with former surrogate, Jeni Denhof. Jeni is the perfect person to answer your questions about becoming a surrogate. Plus you’ll get to connect with other women who are also considering this incredible act of kindness.

Click here to register!

 Image courtesy of Skype


Top Holiday Gift Guides for Your Nearest and Dearest

Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Just because you’re all grown up doesn’t mean you can’t revel in the merriment of the holiday season. That’s why we’ve compiled a spectacular list of gift options for you to bestow upon friends, family, co-workers, and beyond.

For the Techie
CNET rounds up the best tech gifts at low price points. Check out everything from solar rechargeable batteries and Bluetooth speakers to headphones and fitness trackers. All featured gadgets will cost you $100 or less.

For the Little Literary Bug
There’s no arguing that one of the biggest gifts you can give your kin is literature. And thanks to The Federalist, which stepped outside the box with their 2014 gift guide, you can peruse quite the comprehensive list of books for inquisitive children. And yes, it includes the original versions of Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit stories.

For the Person Who Has Everything
We are always on the hunt to find unique gifts for friends and family. This rings especially true for those who seem to own everything under the sun. So what can you buy for someone who falls in this group? Refer to The Atlantic’s 2014 Holiday Gift Guide, which catalogs monthly services, holiday rentals, fashion accessories, music lessons, and more. Our favorite is the Library Bookcase Chair!

For the Modern Chef
Thanks to Digital Trends, you can find a full list of all the best cooking gadgets in the business. Not to mention the guide boasts some low-tech staples items with modern twists. There’s something for everyone.

Continue reading “Top Holiday Gift Guides for Your Nearest and Dearest” »

State Spotlight: Surrogacy in Florida

surrogacy_in_florida Circle is dedicated to informing intended parents and surrogates as much as possible about surrogacy, including the different state laws addressing the practice. Here is a brief overview laws pertaining to surrogacy in Florida.

Surrogacy in Florida
Florida has long been the destination for people seeking sun and relaxation. What you may not know is that it is one of the best location’s to pursue surrogacy (for both surrogates and intended parents). The Sunshine State’s favorable surrogacy law has allowed Circle Surrogacy to successfully match surrogates with intended parents since 1995.

Since surrogacy is so well protected in Florida, it’s no wonder it’s become one of the most coveted states for surrogacy arrangements—gestational and traditional. It’s also one of the few states where the laws have kept up with the scientific advances in assisted reproduction, in cases making it more affordable and less prone to legal conflicts.

Continue reading “State Spotlight: Surrogacy in Florida” »