This is the last February vacation with Lilli at home.  Next year, Sarah and Glennys will have their licenses.   Jessie will be in high school.

And can I confess, I’m kind of excited?

I’ve had a lot of February vacations like this – Jessie’s in eighth grade this year, which means this is my ninth February vacation with this group of girls, and my Sam and my Julie.  My February vacations have revolved around these girls, and Sam and Julie have been along for the ride.  There was a critical mass of girls – and the two little ones were happy to go along for the ride.

But now… I’m sensing the end of it all.  Next year, Lilli won’t be around.  Even if she comes home for every vacation and devotes hours to hanging out at our house… mid-February won’t be when she’s at home.  Sarah and Glennys will be driving.  They won’t need me to bring them to playgrounds and out for ice cream cones.   It’ll be a whole new world.


While there is so much about Sam’s life that is BETTER now – he’s not in any pain.  Right off the bat – that is the biggest and most amazing improvement since the accident.  Nothing hurts now.  But there are two lingering after-affects of the accident, and they aren’t going away.

The first is obviously his vision.  He’s legally blind, and it impacts him in a lot of different ways. He’s adjusted to it so well, so well that it’s hard sometimes to remember that he can’t see that much in front of him.  But the reality is that he is still seriously visually impaired, and while I think it’s improving, slowly, slowly, slowly – you could make compelling argument that it isn’t improving, it’s just that he’s getting better at handling it, and adjusting to the disability.

The other problem is his sense of taste.  He was on a really strong medication, diamox, immediately after the diagnosis, and the bitter irony is that it didn’t appear to work at all at what we needed it to do.  It was supposed to reduce the pressure, and it didn’t.  Which is what led to the possibly permanent damage to his optic nerves.  What it did was kill his sense of taste.  It got worse and worse, until eventually he went eleven days without eating any solid food.

We were able to take him off the meds post-surgery, and his neurologist confirmed that his taste buds were essentially destroyed by the medicine.  They’ll regenerate – but she predicted that it would be better within six to eight weeks.  We’re going on on six to eight months now, and food is still an enormous issue for him.  There’s psychological trauma we’re dealing with – on several fronts.  Academically, because he was already dealing with some massive anxiety and school based phobia prior to the accident, and then the accident happened, which led to a whole other level of trauma and medical fears.  Added onto that, dealing with a disability and losing the ability to eat…

Suffice it to say – he’s got a lot to work through.  The food is the most immediate and most obvious – and in some ways the most challenging.  He’s so much better – it’s moved from him eating nothing at all, to him being my pickiest eater.  There are a LOT of things that he’ll eat now, but he doesn’t LOVE to eat the way that he used to.  And what he does is find one thing that he likes, and eats that, only that, every day for three weeks or so.  Then there’s this panic for an afternoon or a full day, where he’s sick of whatever that food is, and has no idea what he’ll eat next.

That’s what today was… and it was hard.  He wasn’t furious or raging, he was just sad and scared.  We got thru it, and he agreed to try a bowl of cheerios.  He loved it, and had two more bowls after that, so we’re safe for another couple of weeks.  He can eat a wider variety of things, and I just have to keep reminding him, and reassuring him that he’s okay, there is a whole list of things that he can eat and enjoy.

But for today – he’ll eat cheerios.  And life is good.

It’s not quite adult.  Not quite.

But it’s closer than it’s ever been before and you know it’s right around the corner.  She still trusts me for everything, she still thinks that my opinion is the one that counts and I’m still her first call.  I hope it stays that way – I hope that her world broadens and brightens and that she still comes back to me.

Jessica Mary is my first child, and in some ways, she’s different from the other two.  Of course, they’re all different – there are ways in which Sam is different and ways in which Julie is different, and while I love all three of them more than I can express, I have a different and intimate relationship with each one.

Jessie is the baby that turned me into Mama.  She fundamentally changed everything about the way I looked at life the way I approached decisions, the way I thought about the future and the way I looked at the past.  She’s my baby girl, my right arm, and one of the best and brightest parts of my life.  At fourteen, she’s beautiful and smart, and one of the funniest people I know.  She’s infuriating and dramatic, and there’s nobody who can make me madder faster than my daughter.

We’re entering into a new stage in our lives, with Lilli graduating high school this year.  Now, we’re going to start subtracting kids, instead of adding them.  Our Shabbat dinner table will get a little smaller, and I feel the clock ticking on the rest of them now.  In a way that I didn’t before this year.  Fourteen years is only four years away from eighteen.

She’s still my baby.  I know now that it doesn’t change.  She’s always going to be my baby.  She’s always going to fit in my arms, perfectly, and she’s always going to make me laugh harder than anyone, and frustrate me and fight me.  She’s never going to do anything the easy way, she’s going to question everything.  She’s got goals and dreams and can waste an entire weekend on instagram and pinterest.

Happy birthday, my baby.  Happy birthday, my big tall girl who’s so much smarter and prettier than she realizes.  Happy birthday to one of the best parts of my life.

I don’t know that I ever thought being married for fifteen years was a possibility.  I think it was something I thought other people did – get married and stay that way forever.

But here we are.  Five kids (or three, depending on who’s counting).  A fat little epileptic dog, a teenager researching the North Korean/China relationship, a ten year old building creations on minecraft, and six year old who just graduated to chapter books yesterday.  A trip out for coffee and grocery shopping as the celebration – because between blizzards and a new job, there’s no time for anything else.

A lot has changed in fifteen years.  I think when we first got together, nobody, including us, thought it would last.  He was newly divorced, I was almost immediately pregnant.  He was five years older, Jewish, and even though we grew up less than an hour away from each other, neither of us had ever been to the other’s hometown.

But from the very beginning, I’ve never wanted anything other than him.  We’ve never not shared that same vision – of what our life could be, of what really matters, and what we were willing to sacrifice to get there.  It’s not just the five kids, the ones that he brought to the marriage and the ones we created together.  It’s not just the Shabbat dinners every week, the books read out loud, the family day trips and the days when we’re snowed in and can’t leave the house.  It’s not just the coffee that he makes every night and pours for me every morning.  It’s not the laundry or the Patriots games I suffer through every fall and winter.  It’s not the science projects, the D&D games with our son.  It’s not the nights in the hospital, the times we held our son down for medical treatment and cried in each other’s arms afterwards.

It’s not the flowers he brings me once or twice a year, or the way he cleans off my car after a storm.  It’s not the way that he cleans the vomit, or solves Jessie’s math homework when I gave up three years ago.

It’s all of that.

Marriage isn’t easy.  Everyone says that, and mostly, I agree. But on a really core level, it’s not about easy or hard – it’s the foundation for everything else.  It’s what my life is built on, the dreams for the future, the backbone of the memories and the undercurrent of my present day.  It’s how I survive the hard things, and why the fun stuff is so much more fun.  I work at our marriage, and so does he – but mostly, we do take it for granted.  We can, because it’s such an unquestioned and absolute reality of our lives.  Our kids don’t wonder about our marriage, their reality is that Daddy loves Mama and vice versa.  I never wonder if he wants me to call or check in during the day, because of course he does.

Fifteen years looks… the truth is that I had no idea what fifteen years of marriage would look like.  But my life, this life, with this man, and these kids, looks like everything I dreamed of having, and never really believed would be possible.


You know the new mom?  The inexperienced one, the one who has that scared-I-don’t-really-what-the-hell-I’m-doing-here look on her face?  I’m that mom.  All the time.

Yes, I’m 43 years old, and I’ve been a big sister for 41 of those years.  I started babysitting at ten, and by the time I was sixteen, I was watching kids overnight by myself.  I had six nieces and nephews before I had my Jessie.  I knew how to do the basics – I had the diapers, the burping, the napping down pat.

But I still don’t know what I’m doing.  I still feel totally, totally unprepared for this.  Not with Sam and Julie.  Even when I have completely new experiences with them – like the accident, for example. I had no experience with a seriously injured child, no experience with hospital stays and how to get a kid to take tons of medicine.  But I was still an experienced mom to that child.  I knew my son.  I knew who he was and how to communicate with him.  I had been a mom to a nine year old before.

With Jessie – I’m always a new mom.  Always.  I never really know what I’m doing – I’m just feeling my way thru it.  I make mistakes all the time and I’m always a little shocked when the next milestone pops up.

She’s almost in high school.  High school.  Let’s take a minute and sit with that.

This baby girl – the one who made me a mom, the one who changed my whole world around, the one who I can still picture as a tiny little girl who fit in my arms like she was born to be there (because she was) – that tiny little thing is old enough to walk into high school.  Where she’ll be taking AP classes, and the expectation is that she can dual enroll in college.  She’s there.  She’s ready for it.

And I’m sitting there, in the dark auditorium, watching her 8th grade chorus performing with the high school one, and thinking to myself that I’m not ready for this.  I’m not prepared.  It was two seconds ago that I was sitting in a similar chair, watching her preschool graduation.  She was voted “Most Kind.”  That memory made me cry tonight. I watched her, standing up there, surrounded by a whole bunch of kids I didn’t recognize, and she was so grown up. I can’t… I struggle to figure out what I’m feeling and how I can process the fact that this little baby girl, the one who fit in my hands, is on the cusp of adulthood and I still feel just as baffled, as swept away and overwhelmed with love and pride and confusion and oh-my-God-I-hope-I-don’t-screw-this-up feeling as I did almost fourteen years ago.

Part of it is that she’s almost fourteen.  I’m less than a week away – and birthdays in general make me emotional.  I get weepy every February, July, and April.  I cry at every performance – every parent’s day observation at dance class, every time I watch a concert or a Model UN conference.  There’s something amazing to me, to see your child out  in the world that she’s created, with people I don’t know and doing things I didn’t teach her.

High school.  I’m not ready for this.  She is, but I’m not.