15 Years: Normal. Average. Ordinary. (Day 221, Year 2)

Fifteen years ago, we packed our bags, which were absolutely overweight and stuffed with HEB fresh tortillas and Salt Lick sauce, and left Houston to return to our life in New Jersey. 

Lily had finished 30 rounds of proton radiation. She was 17 months old. Just four months earlier, she had begun vomiting at random without explanation. One month after that, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor called ependymoma. 

I still feel shocked that all of this happened. 

Today, our beautiful 16 year old is officially 15 years cancer free.

A lot of times, at these milestone moments, I will list all the ways my daughter is extraordinary and special. Of course, she is these things and of course, Mike and I think these things because she is our daughter, our double miracle, our rockstar, our Lily-Lou-Lou. But Lily is also really average and normal.

And that friends, is the gift of her survival. 

After all these years of MRIs and PT and OT and speech and shunt revisions and endless, endless cancer things, Lily gets to be an average, normal, regular teenager. She had rowing practice today and helped with a theater class and had a bit of drama with a friend and nagged me about driving lessons and laughed on the phone with another friend and swam in the pool with her brother and cleaned up after dinner. She threw her clothes on the floor of her room and watched videos on TikTok for longer than is advisable. She pretended to read her summer reading book (but absolutely did not because the book is downstairs and she announced she was reading upstairs). 

Normal. Average. Ordinary teenager things. 

For every extraordinary thing Lily will accomplish, my prayer for her is to have 100 ordinary things. The ordinary--work, homework, chores, fights, apologies, lies, truths, celebrations--is the very thing I have prayed for with every single breath for my daughter. I want her to live and yes, I'd love for her to be wildly successful and live a loud, bold life, but my deepest wish is simply for her to live, a normal, ordinary life. 

This whole journey of being Lily's mother has taught me more than anything to be grateful for regular things--housework and homework and work work and chats on porches with friends and laughs over text and clearing up misunderstandings and even the misunderstandings themselves. All those ordinary  things can be snatched from your finger tips in an instant, friends. 

And I know the fragility of the ordinary firsthand, because for me, Lily's mom, my motherhood was almost snatched away 15 years ago. I remember the last shower I had at my home before Lily was diagnosed, before I knew what was making her so sick. I was sobbing because I had this deep, dark sense that something was trying to take my daughter. I remember saying out loud, "It's been so good. Why does this have to end?"

Thankfully, it did not. I've gotten to be a really average, regular mother. Yes, there have been some extraordinary circumstances, but every time Lily tells me "You don't understand" or "You've never done anything for me, " I think:

Thank you Jesus, for this sassy, ungrateful, smart, regular teenage daughter of mine.