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Thursday, July 24, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 56.0° F  Fair
The Paper


Mama Madison: Another year older
It's time to consider the past and the year to come

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On New Year's Eve 1988, home on college winter break, I got together with my high school posse to watch the ball drop on TV. We were all seniors, happy to be back together again to offer up cheap champagne toasts to the dream jobs and grad school acceptance letters we hoped to land that spring. Freshly engaged four New Year's Eves later, my husband-to-be and I raised our glasses not just to the rest of our lives together, but to a year of wedding planning, "do I take his last name?" decisions and figuring out how (and if) to merge bank accounts. But on January 1st 1997, there was no bubbly flowing, at least not for me. I was four months pregnant with my first child and knew that a "dry" New Years was just the first of many enormous life changes that were headed my way.

Fast-forward and I am now the mom of three. And this New Year's Eve, like those in the past, I've got lots of big things to toast in the coming year. Our family has major life cycle events planned, like my middle son's Bar Mitzvah this spring. And this year my youngest will graduate from elementary school and start the exciting, and tumultuous, time known as "middle school girl." And, if all goes according to plan, 2013 will be the year my oldest will learn to drive. It still seems impossible to me that the baby I was carrying that New Year's Eve 16 years ago could possibly be a licensed anything.

But as I've hung out with my kids over the last few weeks of 2012, I've been reminded that it isn't just these big moments that are special. There are a million little things in between that are really kind of awesome, too. Like two delightfully unexpected, albeit backbreaking, snow days to help kick-off winter break. Or the fact that my teenagers still think spending a snowbound afternoon filling out Mad Libs -- using "fart" for every noun and "poopy" for every adjective -- is still absolutely hysterical. Or having all three kids feign reverence during the Les Miserables movie, regardless of their actual level of interest in a French rebellion-inspired sing-a-long.

This coming year I will help at least two kids build science projects. I'll drive (perhaps with some eldest child help) dozens of carpools. The whole family will watch countless TiVo-ed episodes of The Office together on the couch. It's not the kind of stuff that makes the year-end holiday card or requires a photographic record, professional or otherwise. But when you add these little things up, they make up the lion's share of our most intimate times together.

So as I get ready to toast the New Year (with something sparkling and alcoholic of course, no more pregnancies for me), I'll do my best to resist the urge to think too grand. Maybe 2013 doesn't need to be the biggest or brightest one yet. Instead, I'll raise my glass to a year of continued little more snow days, to more chances to use the word "poopy", and to the sincere hope that at least one of my children will come around on this whole Les Miz thing.

Happy new year!

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