Posted by: Hallie Levine | October 29, 2011

Five Years of Wedded Bliss

Today is our five year anniversary.

To be honest, we almost forgot, that’s how insane our lives have been recently. Both our dads are in the hospital, and wrapped up in the day to day drama (and melodrama) of our kids’ lives, it was the last thing we were both thinking about.

A little sad, because our wedding was the best day of both of our lives.

We were going to go out to Morton’s for steak tonight, but oddly enough, we’re in the midst of a snowstorm, so it looks like tonight after the babies are in bed we’ll curl up with a movie and Chinese food. Which, frankly, sounds just as good, especially if you factor in a fine bottle of wine, a roaring fire, and a snuggly Labrador retriever.

“Can you believe the s—t we’ve had to go through these last five years?” Jamie said to me this morning.

It’s true. It’s more than some couples go through in an entire lifetime. My dad’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma a month before our wedding. Jamie’s parents separating. My sister losing a much wanted pregnancy at 22 weeks. The shock of Johanna’s birth and learning she had an extra chromosome. Jamie’s father needing to go in and out of the hospital for major spine surgeries. My father relapsing, and now in the hospital dealing with pneumonia and the loss of his vision. Finding out that our third child also has special needs.

But there’s also beauty there, too. Bringing home Ivry, our first “child” when she was only eight weeks old.

I still can't believe she was once this tiny.

Jo Jo’s birth, the day we became “real” parents for the first time.

Welcoming Jo Jo’s new cousin, Tahlia.

The births of Jo Jo’s two little brothers, Teddy and Geoffrey.

And finally,coming together as a family. Realizing that these challenges, while frightening and overwhelming at times, are only cementing our bond with each other even more.

No, we don't routinely dress up as aging hippies. We were at a Halloween party on Friday.


It’s pretty incredible to me that we’ve managed to stick together and keep our relationship going, given all the craziness that’s gone on. But I think weathering all these storms has not only made our union stronger, but it’s really forced us to become more compassionate, caring adults.

A couple weeks ago, my friend Ellen Seidman ran one of my old posts on her amazing blog on (You can read it at I  tweaked it a bit from the original version to give it some context for National Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and I mentioned that before Johanna’s birth, Jamie and I had often used the word retard carelessly, without even thinking about it, and ignorantly laughed at TV shows and movies that made fun of people with intellectual disabilities.

I was heartened to see such a positive response (more than 8000 people shared it on Facebook) but I also did get some hate mail, mostly from people claiming I was a hypocrite since I only stopped using the word retard once I had a daughter with developmental disabilities. I got some pretty choice personal emails where people said some cruel things which I don’t feel like repeating, but the gist of it was my husband and I are nasty, stuck up people who deserve everything bad in our lives that have come to us.

I guess what I’d like to say to the people who so viciously attacked me is that they are kind of missing the point. I don’t defend who I was before Johanna was born. Jamie and I honestly never thought we’d be able to handle raising any sort of kid with any sort of disability. We were ambivalent parents going into the whole pregnancy process. But once we had Jo Jo, things changed. I’m not sure if it was just becoming parents in general, or parenting a special needs child, but we have found ourselves over the years viewing the world in a very different way. We have more patience, more empathy, and,  I would like to think, less materialism.

Don’t get me wrong–just because we have a child with special needs does not mean we should be elevated to sainthood. The bottom line is, to a certain extent, Jamie and I are still sometimes shallow, impatient, type-A people, and that will never change.  But we’ve also learned some really important life lessons these last five years that have mellowed us out to a huge degree.

And to the commenters who remark that Jo Jo and Geoffrey are God’s punishment to me—get off of it. If you’re such good Christians why on earth would you imply my children with disabilities are less than worthy anyway?

Enough negativity. I plan to enjoy the rest of the day, watching the snow fall with my kiddos and later, cuddling with my husband tonight.

I just need to remember to make sure Ivry doesn’t get any table scraps from the kids tonight. Nothing can ruin a romantic evening more than a Labrador retriever with gas.

Also, there’s some good news about my father: his doctors finally figured out that he has pneumonia, and he’s responding to antibiotics. He’ll be transferred to Dana Farber in Boston at the end of next week, once he’s more stable. Baby Geoffrey and I plan to take a drive out to visit him on Wednesday.

Happy five year anniversary, my husband. I love you very much.



  1. I love your honesty when you write. It’s refreshing. You deserve all the wonderful things in your life. Happy Anniversary! (Snowing?!?!)

  2. I’m a bit late, but may I just say “argh!!!!!!”? I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with negative, critical and cruel people. I found your post extremely encouraging and thought you were refreshingly honest (and brave to face the young man!). I’m especially sad to hear that people calling themselves Christian have been so unbelievably ignorant and offensive and rude to you and your lovely children. Jesus knows better. Xxx

    • Thanks, Alice! I did get somewhat trounced on the Internet and it is reassuring to hear that. Thanks for stopping by to chat!

  3. Came here after reading your post on parents. I have no issue with you learning how hurtful the word retarted is and passing it on to others. We all learn, we all change and doing so for the better is amazing.

    However, I do have an issue with the way you describe the teenager. To mock his apperance (ears like dumbo, acne) is hurtful and wrong.

    I found it strange that while you spoke of hurtful language, and how damaging it can be you then used hurtful language to describe an adolecent.

    He certainly was wrong to us the word he did. But to say that language can be hurtful, and knowing it is, to say that it shouldn’t be used in any way…it seemed, i don’t know, defeated? When you repeatedly mocked the teen out of anger.

    Think of it this way, say someone mocks your child’s appeance because your child has done something that hurt that person. Would you say it was okay to insult your child because the person was hurt and angry? I think the answer would be a resounding no.

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