So this is where we are. I press tofu now. For fun.

It’s legit fun, I genuinely enjoy slicing tofu for some reason.

Julie is a vegetarian. She’ll still eat fish, for the next little while, so she’s technically a pescatarian, but plans on phasing that out by her birthday. She very quietly just made this huge lifestyle change, and I’m so proud of her.

All is well. Really. We’re all still healthy – which is the main thing. But there are, as always, minor irritations and challenges that pop up. The biggest issue for me, right now, is Sam’s allergies. He’s been throwing up a lot lately, with an irritated sore throat and bloody noses. I’m 99% the problem is the allergies, but getting resolution is harder than one might imagine. My pediatrician very suddenly left, and while I’ve registered him with a new one, there isn’t anyone to call and get advice from presently. I have a consult with an allergist at Children’s Hospital, but the earliest appt I could get was 2/19.

In other news – Jessie has her first acceptance, from UMass Lowell, and an interview with Yale this week. She reminds me frequently that interviews mean nothing, really, just that her application isn’t dismissed out of hand. But college is becoming an ever present thing here – and the reality that she’ll be moving out of my house in eight months is still not something I’m ready or willing to face.

Julie is starting at TECCA in a few weeks, and I think we’re all looking forward to a little more consistency. She’s also vegetarian, since November. I’m really impressed with her, she decided to stop eating meat. And then did so. She’s switched to whole wheat bread and is willing to try new things and explore new flavors and textures. Her hair is also blue. Which is… okay. Blue is lovely. And while I miss her long brown hair, the short blue hair is adorable.

It was a covid Christmas. So, right off the bat, it was going to be a little weird. But it turned out to be one of the nicer holidays. Very peaceful and quiet, but still lovely.

Jessie has covid toes, which her doctor has diagnosed based on symptoms and a picture. She thinks she probably had covid-19 several weeks ago, and was mostly asymptomatic, but now this is the lingering aftereffects. Her toes are swollen and tender, but other than that, she’s fine.

We cancelled the Christmas Eve get together at my mother’s house this year, with Becky, Aimee, Abby and everyone else. I did start to go down there with Marc, Sam and the girls, but Sam got so super sick, we turned around to go home. I dropped off Marc and Sam, and the girls and I went down there. We exchanged gifts, visited for a very short amount of time, and then took a slow drive back home. Picked up take out, and then put everyone to bed. Marc and I wrapped the presents and set everything out, went to bed, and got up an hour later with a poor so sick Samilicious boy. He was throwing up, and shaking and dizzy. I was really worried about him, because he just seemed SO sick, but eventually he dropped off to sleep, and woke up the next morning better. Not all the way, but not actively vomiting.

He’s been sick all weekend, not a ton, not throwing up, but not healthy either.

Christmas day was lovely, though, except for the sick Sammy portion of the day. We got him a Playstation 4, and got Julie a new phone. We got Jessie books, many, many books. Jessie cooked dinner – with some help from Marc. Turns out, Jessie’s pretty horrified by raw chicken. But she made a cheese board, and spiced nuts, and we had chocolates and read and relaxed and had an easy, no-stress sort of day. The girls and I broke down the tree, and for the first time ever, Jessie and Julie packed the boxes while I dismantled all the lights and ornaments.

There are perks to growing children, and having a kid make dinner, and actually be a serious help in terms of breaking down the decorations is HUGE.

Tomorrow, we’re waking up at 3:30 to go watch the sunrise over the ocean.

It hits me at different times, and for random reasons. Tonight it was her walking into the bedroom while I was putting Julianna to bed. Her hair was pulled back with a headband, and she was carrying her toothpaste and toothbrush (she keeps them in her bedroom because Sam’s blind and was prone to grabbing whatever toothbrush he could find – a problem I’ve since fixed by switching him to charcoal toothbrushes, which also helps because it’s got enough contrast for him to easily see the toothpaste). But she walked in, carrying her toothbrush with her hair pulled back, getting ready for bed, and it hit me all of a sudden that this time next year, she’d still be doing this – and other people would be there to see her. She’d be chit chatting with other people, and I’m going to miss her so much.

I’m trying to convince myself that this is normal. This sobbing randomly, at odd times and with no warning. That’s it’s even healthy. Because I’m dealing with it now – so I’ll be all prepared for her to move out of my house.

One can only hope.

I have a closet in my dining room. It’s supposed to be a china closet, but as I have no china, and three kids, I use it mostly as a quick spot to shove stuff that I don’t want to lose but don’t have time to put somewhere else. My oldest decided to clean it out last week. We found her hanging locker shelf that she had used since starting sixth grade. The one that was in every locker she had, up until March 13 of this year, when she cleaned out her locker to go home for what we naively thought would be a few weeks until we got the virus under control.

It’s not under control, and three months into her senior year, we’re pretty sure she’s not going to go back into the building for in person school. Ever again.

There was something about that blue hanging locker shelf. It suddenly seemed so real to me – that time in her life was over. She’s (please God) going to get into a great college and moving on to new challenges and opportunities. She’ll be moving out of my house, and into adulthood. I started to get tears in my eyes, and then I started crying harder, and suddenly I was sobbing all over her shoulder, crying too hard to tell her that I wasn’t ready for it to end.

She laughed, and I laughed, and I pulled it together. Until she pulled out a framed letter she had written me when she was four, and I was in tears again. Then the baby pictures came out, and I gave up any semblance of control. Ever since then, I’ve found myself on the edge of tears more often than not. Everything seems to be a milestone, everything seems significant and I can’t seem to catch up with where we are.

I google “parent sobbing senior year” and try to remember if any of my friends went through this. I hear a song on the radio that reminds me of her babyhood, her toddlerhood, even the early Taylor Swift songs she loved when she was a tween, and I’m crying again.

I want her to go to college. I’m thrilled with how hard she’s worked, so proud of the young woman in front of me. I want her to move on to the next step. But there’s a part of me that already misses having her beside me.

I find myself wishing for a Jewish life cycle event. It feels like her bat mitzvah in some ways. She’s worked so hard on college applications and supplemental essays and AP exams, it’s reminiscent of the months studying her Torah portion and writing her d’var. We recognize and commemorate a child’s birth with a baby naming, her entry into Jewish adulthood, but there’s nothing to mark this stage.

Having a high school senior in the 2020/2021 school year means you may not get any milestone events. No National Honor Society assembly, no scholarship dinner, and probably no graduation event. In many ways, she already feels done with high school, her classes are done at her desk in her bedroom, and her focus is on scholarship applications and filling out the Common App.

Parenting doesn’t end when your child turns 18 or graduates from college. I know that. But it changes. And while it’s been changing for years, and I like to think that I’ve prepared her for the future and she’s more than ready for it, I know that it still feels like it’s too soon. I wasn’t ready for her birth, honestly. I was used to being pregnant. I loved her infancy, her babyhood, the toddler stage, the preschooler, and all the way right up until now. I wasn’t ready for any stage to end. I know it’s harder with her, because I haven’t done it before. I might be relaxed and carefree when my younger kids reach this point. But right now, I just want to press pause for a bit. To sit with this stage, to recognize what’s changing and what’s coming up next. I want to honor the sacredness of what’s happening, as this daughter of mine reaches the end of her childhood.

Parenting doesn’t end at 18 and the end of senior year. But this year is going to signify the completion of something. And while I’m not sure what it is, exactly, because at seventeen, my daughter is independent and brave and making her own choices about just about everything, I do know that I can’t stop crying. Not out of sadness, but more out of a recognition. I’ve loved having her grow up beside me. So I’m resigning myself to a year of tears and extra hugs and heightened emotions. Because being her mom is one of the best and brightest parts of my life, and I’m not ready for this stage to end.

We’re settling into a routine, if you will. I mean, one of the hardest things about this covid isolation is that we constantly feel like everything is tentative and might end any day now. There’s no way to count on anything – will the numbers get better or worse? Will you get sick or someone you love? Nobody knows anything. Ever. And it’s all fragile and scary and tentative.

My mother tested positive two and a half weeks ago. I hadn’t seen her for at least a week before she tested positive, but I saw my sister the day before. And my sister lives across the street. Mandi tested negative twice, so I didn’t have to test or quarantine, and I never had any symptoms. My brother and niece both tested positive, but were asymptomatic.

I think she’s getting better. She seems better. The idea of her not getting better is such an incredible anathema to me that she must be getting better.

But she is. She sounds more energetic, she sends me oxygen levels and talked on the phone with me today for 20 minutes. All of which is a good sign.

But we’re in a routine here. Jessie is at school – she threatens to drop out every few days. I’m relatively sure she’s kidding. We’re in this limbo area, where the college apps are mostly in and we wait.

Sam is thriving. There are issues – because he’s not using any of the accessibility features independently, but he’s kicking ass academically. I figure I’ve got the rest of high school for him to learn how to do this on his own – and this year, I’m just trying to keep my head above water. It’s easier for me, right now, for him, for me to just assist. So I sit beside him, and click “next page” and read the questions to him and transcribe the answers. He’s doing the work, but not the accessibility stuff. Given that his IEP isn’t really even in place yet – we don’t have the assessments or the equipment, I figure it’s okay.

My Julie – this has not been fun for her. But she’s starting at TECCA in January, and for right now, we’re focusing on an eclectic, sort of unschool-y sort of homeschool, relying heavily on reading, typing, math facts and ELA workbooks. She’s also learning Hebrew. We’ll get through it. She’ll get through it. I’m so proud of her, she’s figuring out ways to make this whole time better for her. Establishing routines and plans, because they make her feel more centered and in control.

Marc is back to work, and seems to be doing well. He works so very hard, but his company loves him, and that level of appreciation helps on every level. Not just financially, but also emotionally.

As for me, I crochet. Badly, but I make blankets. Without cessation, I just sit and crochet. And read. And wait for a vaccine.

Oddly enough, I’m so much more productive on the days when Marc is out of the house. I don’t know why – it’s not like he isn’t working when he’s home, it’s not that the stuff I do doesn’t need to be done on the days he’s home. But today, I got Sam all caught up on school, washed his bedding, made my bed, walked the dog twice, made Julie’s bed and mine, took Julie to Walmart in Oxford to order another pair of glasses, did the grocery shopping, checked in with my in-laws, got Julie to do typing, xtra math and reading, checked in with Aimee and my mother, unloaded the dishwasher, reloaded it, vacuumed the living room and made dinner for everyone. I’ve even cleaned up after dinner.

But now it’s 6:15, and I’m tired.

And so it happened. Thanksgiving 2020. It wasn’t all that I had hoped it would be, but it wasn’t as bad as I feared it would be either. I still missed my mom, my sister, my cousin, my aunt. I missed the traditions we’d built up over the past thirty years.

But I did learn that a dinner table with just our kids and Marc’s parents is a lot more relaxed and manageable than a huge table filled with crowds of people. I took my girls to Carlisle and walking around the cranberry bog, or at least as far as I could coax them into going because it was rainy and cold. I watched Christmas movies and drank more cocoa than was reasonable.

We’re settling in to the second wave. Or third. I’ve lost track, all I know is that the covid situation is awful, getting worse, and I’m pretty sure that Christmas is going to be a hot mess, in terms of contagion. But at this point, I’m getting used to it. We sit, I crochet, we watch too much television and read all the time. I struggle to figure out how to teach Sam and get Julie to learn her math. I exist with this low level of constant anxiety and panic, because on Tuesday, we find out if Jessie gets the Questbridge scholarship. Marc works thirty hours a day, and Julie is a pescatarian. Most of the time. We’ve decided it’s a lifestyle choice, which means if there’s a special occasion or a reason why she wants to eat meat, she can. But as a rule, she’s a pescatarian. We also discovered that Jessie can’t cook white fish, but that’s another story.

Sam has finally, mostly, stopped throwing up. I think it’s allergy related. Based on my extensive diagnostic skills. His allergist thinks I’m crazy, she sees thousands of kids a year, and allergy shots don’t cause vomiting. But the non-stop nausea started the week after the allergy shots, and stopped when I skipped a week. He started on an antibiotic, hoping that would help. Oddly enough, the puking started right back up again when he got the next week’s allergy shot. Not to be deterred, I kept freaking out about the puking. And bringing him in for allergy shots. But it occurred to me to do the research, going back thru the appointment dates, matching up when the vomiting started versus when the allergy shots started.

So now I’ve discontinued the allergy shots. Despite the fact that his allergist thinks I’m crazy. Covid-19 is everywhere, so the thought of bringing him into Children’s Hospital for more testing is less than desirable. I have no idea what I’m doing with him – but he’s feeling better, and that has to be worth something.

(Just realized I never posted this – and we’re about eight months into it…)

We truly have become a family of introverts. Whenever we spend too much time together, everyone splits up into separate rooms and we don’t talk. For hours.

Nobody ever does laundry except for me. I don’t know why. Everyone will do dishes occasionally, the kids will all clean the living room, or clean off the dinig room table. Marc happily cleans the toilet and shower, and sometimes it’s without being asked. But literally nobody, ever, even attempts to do laundry. It’s like there’s this odd bubble around it and they all collectively believe that you need ovaries and to be above a certain age in order to operate the equipment.

Julianna is really, really talented at arts and crafts. And cooking. She’s just starting to learn to cook, and I think she’s much better at it than either Jessie or I. She follows directions, first of all, so right off the bat, she’s in a stronger position.

Sam is endlessly sweet, and never, ever gets mad. Ever. That’s slightly concerning, I guess, but also so lovely. He occasionally gets miffed at his sisters, and he certainly has times when he’s stressed or anxious, but he always, always wants to make me happy and do whatever I want him to do.

Jessica Mary is rolling into her senior year, and everything feels precious and important to me. Like it’s all coming to an end soon, and I need to soak up all of it. She’s ready for college, I’m ready for her to go to college, and it’s going to break my heart into a million pieces when it happens. And that’s all I can write on that subject at the moment.

It’s 2020. Of course it’s not going to be a normal Thanksgiving.

But it’s still Thanksgiving, which means that there will be drama. Always with the drama.

I don’t like to focus on it, and I’m always a little impatient with people who blithely claim to be an empath and thus are unable to handle things. But the reality is that I really do get overly impacted by other people’s emotions – and there are a LOT of emotions around Thanksgiving. It’s not just that it’s my mother’s favorite holiday, it’s also my daughters’ favorite, it’s got traditions that we’ve been doing forever, Marc and Sam have their own traditions, it’s this huge enormous THING and summarily cancelling it is HARD.

Nobody wants to get sick, and nobody wants to spread covid-19. You can’t get a test for love or money, and even if the test is accurate, it’s only accurate for the moment when you got the test taken. You could get infected on the way home from the test, get the results four days later and think you’re safe, meanwhile, you’ve been spreading corona all over the place. Everything is risky, everything is scary, and the only way to guarantee safety is to stay home, in your house, and not ever let anyone in.

Which then starts up all sorts of other issues – namely, having money to buy food and keep a roof over your head. Marc has to work, and he’s going into people’s houses all day. He’s being safe, he’s masked and gloved and doing as much of it as he can outside. But he’s still exposed to the general public. I go to the library for book pick up and go grocery shopping. And there’s a mental health component too – giving up everything all the time takes a toll as well.

So we’re having a very different sort of holiday this year. No Pie Day, no visiting with my mother – and that devastates me. Breaks her heart too, and my girls are unhappy and sad. But we’re going to celebrate at home, with just immediate family (and I include Glenny in that group, because she is immediate family – plus she’s been quarantining for two weeks). Marc’s parents are coming. It’ll be exactly 10 people – but we have a big family, in and of itself.

Christmas isn’t going to be much different. The numbers aren’t likely to be much better (and might be significantly worse, if that’s possible). But Christmas doesn’t feel as weighted as Thanksgiving does. If for no other reason than we don’t have a lot of traditions built up around Christmas. We’ll skip our annual Hanukkah Open House, obviously, but otherwise, we’ve shifted around traditions almost every year for Christmas.

I’m pinning all my hopes on things getting better in the spring. I want to watch my baby graduate high school, and have a huge party to celebrate her. I want her last summer at home to be amazing, with tons of beach trips and adventures.

Mostly I just want my life back.