a pain in the neck.

Jack is killing me one hug at a time.

Jack’s hugs are legendary. They’re intense and over-powering. He doesn’t just hug with his arms. He uses his whole body – his whole soul (if you believe in that kind of thing). Generally, these hugs are encouraged and stolen as often as possible. Something I look forward to as I get him out of bed each morning and as he steps off the school bus in the afternoon. But, this week I am avoiding them like the plague.

I woke up last Friday with a little crick in my neck, and by Saturday afternoon I found myself on the living room couch, crying to my mother on the phone because I was having trouble getting myself up. Dan rescued me and took me to the doctor. With a shot in the ass (not sure of what – I didn’t ask too many questions), and a pile of pills, I was sent home and told to “take it easy for a few days.”.

If you know me, you know that those are welcome words. Binge watching bad TV without guilt, generally would sound like a mini-vacation, but I wondered if the doctor really understood my ability “to take it easy” and the hidden dangers that lurk in our house.

Luckily, it was Saturday and Dan and Anna are unbelievable caregivers. They took charge of the dogs and the cooking, and set me up on the couch with a heating pad on my neck and my feet up. I was on a cocktail of valium, steroids and muscle relaxers and was finally able to forget about the pain and focus on the horrors (and blossoming love) unfolding in the Foxworth grandparent’s attic.

Jack was my partner. He loves nothing more than hanging with his mama on the couch and never complains about my choice of viewing (one of the benefits of having a non-verbal child). But sitting quietly on the couch watching Lifetime’s attempt at the Flowers in the Attic trilogy was far from relaxing. Jack would throw his leg on my lap, making me move and sending a spasm to my neck. Then he’d grab my arm causing the same reaction.

It happened again and again and I started getting frustrated, which made Jack sad. I could see him trying to figure out what he was doing wrong and how he could fix it. Suddenly, his beautiful brown eyes locked on mine and he knew what he needed do to make his mama feel better. He went in for a hug. Unbearable pain!

It’s been days, I’m off my medicine and feeling much better, but every time I see that look in Jack’s eyes, I get a little nervous. It’s going to be a few weeks before I can trust those arms around my neck again.

Love, Jess

Here’s just one example of the intensity of a Jack hug. Be warned.


non-flossing, slacker mom


How many of you floss every day? Be honest. Don’t give me the answer you tell your dentist. I want the truth. Do you floss daily or a couple times a week when you’re given the luxury of an extra few minutes in the bathroom? Now, I want you to picture flossing a sixteen-year-old boy. A strong teenager who doesn’t follow directions and is not afraid to bite.

I wrestle with Jack every morning. Literally. Getting Jack ready for school is a work out (I have 2000 steps on my Fitbit by 8:00 am and toned arms to prove it). It’s not a routine that I resent, but it’s not a part of the day that I look forward to either. And, I’m certainly not anxious to add anything to our morning regimen.

I get Jack out of bed at 7:00 am, lead him to the bathroom and sit him on the toilet. I give him some time alone, while I throw his sheets and PJs in the wash (a daily requirement following what Dan and I refer to as Jack’s nightly “pee pee party” ). I return to the bathroom to shower, dress and pin Jack down to put on his deodorant. The last thing we do before heading downstairs is brush his teeth. By this point, I’m usually glancing at my watch, counting down the minutes before the bus arrives. We still have medicine, hydration, breakfast and his leg braces to deal with.

Some mornings I do pause long enough to hear the words of his dentist whispering in my ears, “You really need to floss his teeth every day.”

Jack has a dentist, an oral surgeon, an OT, a PT, a speech therapist, a pediatrician, an endocrinologist, an orthopedist, an ophthalmologist, two neurologists, and ALD specialist. Each of them provide me with their own list of daily obligations. There is no way that we could incorporate everything into our schedule. My job is to pick and choose which of these obligations are necessary, which are a good idea when we have time, and which are ridiculous under any circumstances. Of corse, I’m not always completely honest with our choices.

“Yes, we floss every day. It’s a little tough to get in there, but that doesn’t stop me.” Is my usual answer when we see the dentist.

I tell our doctors exactly what they want to hear. I want them to know we appreciate them and respect that THEIR specialty is what is holding our little man together. I need to feel secure that if we ever reach out for anything, they will pick up the phone and not think of me as the non-flossing, slacker mom.

I love being Jack’s mom. I also love being Anna’s mom, and Dan’s wife, and a daughter and a friend. I like walking, teaching my art classes and writing in my blog. I might even enjoy going out, eating rich food and drinking too much wine. I’m not a model parent. I’m just a normal parent, trying to balance what’s necessary to keep my kids safe, my family happy, and me sane.

I’m just hoping that I’m not alone. Please tell me that I’m not the only person who doesn’t follow all the rules. Jack rarely gets flossed and he never uses his leg braces on the weekends. My dogs sometimes miss their monthly dose of heartworm medicine. Anna texts while doing her homework and I always let her break curfew if she has another parent willing to drive her home. We order chinese food at least once a week and I buy those “ready made” salad mixes. The TV is often on when we eat dinner (around the island in the kitchen, with paper towels as napkins). I could go on and on, but I don’t want you to judge me  — too much.

Love, Jess

I’m heading to my own doctor next week. I can already hear myself, “Social drinker? One or two glasses of wine . . . on weekends? That sounds about right.”