What I realized while in Paris

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Sitting at a dinner table in the heart of Paris I watched my mother and daughter debate everything from single-sex college dorms to the definition of rape. Suddenly it occurred to me that I was watching two extraordinary women. Two of my closest friends.

I’ve always been close to my mother – first as a daughter and then as a friend. I remember when our relationship turned from mother/daughter to friend/friend. I was older than Anna. I needed to be older than Anna. I needed guidance well into my twenties (okay – I still need guidance, but my mother is much better at slipping her advice into polite conversation – usually).

It’s strange when your mother becomes your friend because she becomes human. She’s no longer the person behind a curtain who you fear but can’t really see. This new person makes mistakes and bad decisions (not you, Mymom – I’m just trying to describe most mothers). She goes from telling you what to do, to what she did and how she learned. This women asks you for advice and helps you without needing to take over. I loved when our relationship switched, but I was an adult when my mother’s curtain fell. My curtain seemed to fall off without me even noticing.

Anna learned early in life that I am human. I blame ALD for the weakened grip on my motherhood curtain. ALD has a way of stripping down resilience. Too much energy is taken with worry and late nights. It been quite a while since I was careful with my answers to even the most “adult” questions and I’m certainly not great at hiding four-letter words or less-than-perfect mother behavior. Fortunately, Anna has always loved me unconditionally and she seems to know which of her mother’s characteristics to emulate and which to stay away from . . . She has grown into a remarkable young woman. Anna’s not just a good student, but she’s smart – not always the same thing. And, she’s funny and kind. I’ve known all this for a while, but in Paris while sitting at the dinner table covered with a thin white tablecloth, I gained an appreciation that she has also become incredibly self-assured and well-spoken. Watching her with my mother, debating rather inappropriate topics for a sixteen-year-old and her grandmother, I thought WOW I want to be just like Anna when I grow up.

Anna and I have talked about going to Paris since she was a little girl – a girl’s trip to celebrate her sweet-sixteen. We invited all the women in the family to join us, but life is complicated for everyone and Mymom was the only taker. As disappointed as we were not to have the whole crew, it was lovely to have just the three of us on this adventure. Museums, long walks through the city, elegant meals, even a Segway tour (don’t ask Mymom about it – she’s still recovering). It was all perfection, but my favorite part was watching these two people that I adore debating each night at dinner. I came from one and created the other. Nothing is more amazing than that.

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This week has been busy with Smiles and Duct Tape getting out there. I’ve been distracted with marketing strategies and thank yous and begging for reviews on Amazon (not that I am doing that here), but I keep thinking about our magical weekend in Paris. I have two such strong, impressive (opinionated) women in my life. Lucky me.

Love, Jess

PS Anna still has a curfew. She might be mature and amazing, but she’s still only sixteen.

I’m gonna say it. It’s not appropriate or good parenting by any stretch. I can’t believe I am going to put this in writing, but her it goes — my daughter is my best friend.

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Bad Aunt

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I woke up on Sunday morning under a cozy down comforter. I was in a quiet guestroom feeling quite wonderful (far better than the previous morning – long story – don’t ask). Such a luxury to wake up to no alarm, licking dog or smelly diaper. I just threw on some sweatpants, brushed my teeth and strolled downstairs to enjoy the company of old friends and greasy sausage. It was a great end to a perfect weekend.

The relaxation managed to linger with me the first couple days of this week. It wasn’t until today that I realized that things fall through the cracks when I lose my structure.

Generally I’m pretty organized. Not if you look at the piles on my desk (or behind the sofa in the living room), but if you peek around my house the beds are made, the closets are arranged, and dishes are never left in the sink. I need to credit Maria and Lilly (babysitting/housekeeping/duct tape) for some of the organization, but even without their help our home is fairly structured.

I need this structure. Without it I get lost. I’m someone who get’s easily distracted and if my environment becomes chaotic, I start to fall apart. I can’t concentrate on making dinner if the fridge is overflowing, I can’t get dressed if the bedroom floor is littered with garments and I can’t remember anything without the help of my screens.

Thanks to Apple I’ve managed to create a life that is tightly managed through my imac, iphone and ipad. I start each day by turning off my alarm and opening my icalendar. I rarely miss a thing.

Until Sunday.

Without my trusty screens, I missed my nephew’s, birthday. I didn’t call or send a note. I didn’t even remember to put a shout-out on Facebook. Worst Aunt EVER!

Now, looking at my icalender I’m noticing I also missed an appointment with a plumber – or did he forget – and I forgot to send a writing assignment to my writing group. Is it possible that one weekend away totally messed up my structure?

Love, Jess

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AIDAN! You are an incredible young man and I adore you!!

Weekend Away = Panic

photoThis is when I start to panic. I start to think of all the possibilities of what could happen while we’re 229 miles away (yes, I looked it up). I have the usual concerns – What if Jack gets sick? What if the dogs get lost? What if the G-tube falls out? And, this year I have the added anxiety of leaving our high school daughter with limited monitoring. Anna’s a great girl, but I’m always waiting for her to turn into the rotten teenager of my past.

We’re heading to Massachusetts for a visit with old friends. Dan and I are lucky to share an incredible pile of friends from college. A pile that manages to find any excuse to get together and pretend that we’re still eighteen (with better wine and tougher mornings). When Jack first got sick, I never imagined that we’d manage to keep up our mini-reunions, but early on we decided that time away with old friends was a necessity.

Our friends have always been a big part of our lives and for the last seven years they’ve been a big part of our survival – duct tape. Being with old friends and escaping reality with my husband a few times a year is priceless. This crew let’s us just be Jesse and Dan, alleviating us from being ALD parents. And, being away reminds us that other people can be in charge without the world imploding. We’re not the only people who can bathe and medicate Jack and gently remind Anna to put her phone away. We may come home exhausted on Sunday, but we’ll be refreshed.

So it’s all great. Dan and I are getting time with each other and old friends; the kids are getting time with each other and Maria (Jack’s sitter, my savior, and an amazing cook). So why am I spending nights awake thinking of all the things that could go wrong? Why is going away so stressful, even when I know that the kids will survive and Dan and I will have a ball? Maybe it’s just a mom thing.

Dan doesn’t share my crazy panic. He’ll wake up Friday, throw some clothes into his weekend bag, give the kids a smooch, and hop in the car. Meanwhile, I’ll make Dan turn the car around twice before we reach the highway to double check my three page list of instructions. We will be in Connecticut before I can breathe. And, I will call so often this weekend that Anna will start to answer with, “Mom. Are you kidding me?”.

I’m here at my desk working on my “list” and making sure I haven’t forgotten anything critical. My bag is already packed and in the mudroom and Jack’s medication is drawn and labeled for the next week (What if something happens and we can’t make it home by Sunday?).

If the world doesn’t collapse, Dan and I are heading out Friday morning. If you see the kids around town this weekend, give them a hug AND if you see me post any pictures on Facebook, please send me a text with a gentle reminder to put MY phone away.

Love, Jess