The mischievous grin



I sometimes forget that Jack can’t speak. He’s very much part of the conversation here on Clinton Avenue with his bright eyes and broad smile. Days can go by without so much as a thought about his lack of words. Then, something happens that has me desperate to climb into that brain of his and get some information.

Usually, the need for intel is surrounded with worry, especially when there’s a something brewing in his health. Fevers, pain, lethargy – not knowing the source of the problem can be both frustrating and potentially dangerous. And, sometimes it’s that I know something has happened, but I can’t figure out how. Like the mysterious bite marks that Jack came home with a few years ago. I kept showing him pictures of potential culprits, as though they were mugshots and not pictures of his classmates. All I got from him was either a blank stare or a giggle (there was finally a confession and his bus assignment was switched).

Now, thanks to Jack’s whiteboard and pointing power, we are able to get many questions answered without too much trouble. He can answer “yes” or “no” and even “ears” or “throat” when he’s not feeling well. It’s making life much easier, but still the answers that require broader explanations are hard to obtain.

The last couple of days I have been curious about what’s going on in Jack’s mind. He’s had the most mischievous grin planted on his face from the time he wakes up in the morning until he goes to bed. Last night I checked on him in the middle of the night, and there it was. The grin. Even while Jack was sound asleep, it was shinning up at me.

Every time I mention the grin to Jack, it grows even bigger. I’ve asked him about school and girls and funny jokes. I’ve racked my brain and nearly worn out the whiteboard with all my questions, but Jack’s refusing to share any news. He’s such a teenager.

I was thinking about how unfair it is that he’s not able to share what’s sparked this glittery mood, when it occurred to me that Anna doesn’t always share her life with me either. I swear some days Anna seems to avoid even glancing at me, as though she’s worried she might accidentally let something slip. She’s a great girl, and I trust any secrets are of the pure/legal/good-kid variety, but still I’d love to get some nitty gritty details out of her. Getting information out of teenagers can be a challenge, and now both my kids seem to have secrets.

I’m sure my friends with teenagers can relate. Us moms aren’t always advisors, counselors, friends. We’re sometimes just the cooks, chauffeurs, and wallets as our kids tackle (or enjoy) their lives without asking us for any input. It’s natures way, I just thought that my complicated boy would not follow this path. I though he would always be willing to share whatever he could, but this week I think he’s enjoying having a little secret. He seems to love all my eager questions and watching me suffer from ignorance.

Not fair — I share all my secrets with him. Oh well, at least I get to spend time with the grin.


Love, Jess

Wandering through middle age


Back from our trip, trying hard to hold tight to my mexican mood. It’s so much easier to define yourself as content and happy when your biggest worry for the day is where to go for lunch and whether you want a swedish or a deep tissue massage. I’m just hoping that my new outlook doesn’t fade as quickly as my tan.

My mood has improved dramatically since Dan and I went on our anniversary trip. Time alone with my husband in beautiful Tulum is just what I needed to bounce out of the hole I’d found myself in the last couple of months. Allowing others to take the reins also reminded me that we are not alone – we have people in our lives more than capable of helping out. Thanks Nonno, Mymom, Maria and Jeremy for holding down the fort.

During the quiet moments on the white sand beach, I had a lot of time to count my blessings and to contemplate what has been bothering me. The list is rather long, but the simple answer is CHANGE. We’re starting a new chapter. Anna is becoming increasingly independent and Jack too is growing up and requiring us to adjust – again. I need to prepare myself for this next stage so that I don’t get caught in another landslide. But how do I prepare? Making a plan is a good start, but that has me a little lost.

What/where/who/how do I want to be when I grow up?

I’d always thought that by 46 I would know who I was and would have all my ducks safely in a row. My life has taken some major detours, but I’m starting to realize that most people our age seem to be wrestling with similar feelings as they wander through middle age. I’ve been focusing so much on “poor me” that I hadn’t appreciated that most of my peers are going through similar issues. Knowing we are all going through this together makes me feel better.

The lives that we all envisioned rarely come to fruition. And, even if they do, they often look very different through older eyes. Besides, even if life took us just where we expected, we all have periods of change. Change can be exciting, but it can also be daunting.

Middle age comes with so many life changes. Preparing children to leave the nest or not (in the case of many special needs families and friends who didn’t have children). Career changes or the realization that projected careers never materialized. Grappling with how long to keep our homes full of memories but with taxes high enough to pay for a few European vacations a year. Whether or not to cover the gray or let nature take over.

All this crap is hard, but for me the realization that I’m not doing this alone is rather liberating. There’s safety in numbers. I’ll keep you all posted on any great ideas of how to soften the blow of middle age, but for now only one thing is for sure — Dan and I need to plan for more trips. There is something magic about having your feet in the sand.


Is there even a word in spanish for FUNK?

images-6How can my mood NOT improve?

My mood lately has been inconsistent. One minute I’m smiling through my day and then something will hit me – hard. It’s not that I’m buried in a full blown depression (buried in piles of laundry maybe), it’s just that I’ve been in a bit of a funk.

Once I was able to acknowledge the funk, I started working out ways to make life a little less complicated. I’m trying to avoid situations that might trigger my sour moods, I’m trying to make better choices (less wine, more kale – some days I’m better than others), and I am allowing myself to let go of some of the less-than-glamorous aspects of my life. Being a good parent doesn’t need to mean changing every diaper.

Dan and I have made time alone together a priority ever since life changed. We are determined that we will stay in the 10-20% , and being able to focus on each other for a few days (especially out of our element) helps. We are blessed that we have the means to travel and generous people who are willing to help, but I recommend that all couples try it, no matter your circumstances – even just a trip to the local Holiday Inn can allow you to reconnect;)

So, with the goal of reconnecting and to help me feel less overwhelmed about life, Dan and I planned a trip to Tulum, Mexico. We are celebrating 20 years of marriage (it was in June – it took us a while to pull the trigger). We had fun picking the perfect spot and my parents quickly offered to help out with the kids. Then, it was time to sit down and start planning being away for five days.

Ironic that a trip planned to help us relax, further proves how complicated our lives are.

My parents are very capable people. Not only did they successfully raised three children, but my mother is a PHD and has worked with The Red Cross for more years than I can count and my father is brilliant and has such a connection with Jack, that Jack starts laughing as soon as my father enters the door. It should be easy to just hand over the house keys, and let my parents dive in.

Only it’s not.

Although my folks have helped us out before, it’s been a while and the kids are at a different stage. They are teenagers. Jack is complicated and 17. It’s not just the medication and the diapers. Bathing and changing him can be a challenge – he’s strong and about as helpful as a stubborn cat. Anna is a sophomore in high school, with a busy schedule and an active social life social life. And, we have two dogs  – one goes by the name “Bad Dog”. Nothing is patricianly difficult, it’s just a lot of moving parts. Although we have our wonderful team of Jack helpers on board, it’s a lot to oversee.

I always leave a list with important information when we go out of town and this time, it’s managed to grow into a five page document. As soon as I think it’s done, I think of some other random detail about life at 26 Clinton Ave. I keep trying to walk away from it, but it keeps sucking me back.

We leave tomorrow (NOW TODAY!!) for Tulum, Mexico, which by all accounts is paradise. Five days alone with Dan on the beach is just what I need. And, as soon as our flight takes off, I’m sure I will relax, but until then I will continue to add to the never-ending list.

Thank you Nonno and Mymom for filling our shoes this week and sorry for the long list of crazy. There are really only three things that you need to remember – Jack needs his medication, Anna curfew is 11:00 and NOOOO people food for the dogs;)

Adios Amigos!!