Thursday, July 30, 2009


My monster boy... you are my little love bug. The first boy on your dad's side, the one to carry on the name. You are named for my grandfather and your daddy's great grandfather - that's a lot of history to give to one little boy, but you seem to equipped to handle it. From the very beginning, you have awed me with your passion and your drive. You seemed to have been born with separation anxiety, you knew exactly who I was and that my rightful place was holding you. You are my communicator, so stable and consistent, and always easy to console, once you feel as though you have expressed yourself. Your first word was "dis." Not Mama, not Dada, but "this." Looking back, I can see how well that suits you - because you have a such a strong sense of wanting to communicate with people. And "dis" allowed you to show us exactly what you were thinking or doing.

You are all rough and tumble boy, I can't even count the number of black eyes, bumps, and bruises you've had. You learned to climb long before you could walk, and loved nothing more than "jumping." I remember telling your dad that I wanted to get you a helmet and knee pads to go thru toddlerhood, because I was convinced you were trying to kill yourself. You'd pull yourself up, fall, and do it all over again. You were a colic-y little baby, with wretched reflux and there was more tears and crying during your babyhood (on both our parts) than there was in Jessica's. You challenged my identity as a mother, you made me work harder, dig deeper to find what you needed. To be the mother you deserve.

You're so much more than I expected. You've brought such joy into our lives. Not just mine, but your sisters, your dad, your grandparents. You are my heart, all sunshine smiles and clinging arms. You have a fascination with all things rescue related - super heros, fire trucks, army guys. You want so badly to be be big, to be able to do everything your sisters can do, to be able to be just like Daddy, but at the end of the day, you cuddle up in my arms like the toddler you still are. I love you, my Sammy Boy - I'm so incredibly blessed to be your mother.

My angel girl

Jessica Mary Carruth Cohen - I named you after my mother, because I could not imagine a better mother/daughter relationship than the one that she and I share. Then I had you - and you defined love to me in a way that it had never been defined before. You were my first child, my angel baby girl, and from the very beginning, you have fascinated me, amazed me, humbled me and made me feel so incredibly blessed and lucky to have you in my life. At six and a half, I can see the glimmers of the woman you'll be, but always, always, I see that teeny, tiny little baby with huge eyes and the most beautiful face.
I remember once, when you were about six months old, and you were sitting on the floor and I had walked away from you. You started to whimper, and my aunt looked at me and said "Melissa, you are spoiling her." I remember telling her that I hadn't done anything - you were like that from the beginning. An innate sense of drama, emotional highs and lows. Life is huge for you - whatever is happening matters more than anything at that particular moment. You have joys and sorrows that affect you deeply, I worry sometimes that you make life harder for yourself than you have to. But the other side of that is that you have a capacity for happiness that far exceeds most people, and for that, I'm incredibly grateful.
You are frilly and completely feminine, but with a lovely sense of doing it just because you like frills and prettiness, not about looking good for other people but because you want to look good for you. You love dressing up, but hate brushing your hair. Love pretty hair bows and beautiful dresses, but are just as happy in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. You love being outside, but are equally happy holed up in your bedroom, playing with your figurines or your baby dolls. You LOVE to read and to be read to, and fall asleep every night cuddled up against me.
You are an amazing big sister to Sam almost all the time. You are kind and sweet, but fight and argue and battle for control. You and Sam are best friends and worst enemies all at the same time. And while it makes me nuts when you fight, far more often, you make my heart melt by going out of your way to protect him, to teach him and to love him. His life is infinitely richer because you are in it.
I love you, baby girl. You make me happier than anything in the world, and I'm forever grateful that I get to be your mother.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

How you know you're doing a good job

Being a SAHM mom is odd at times, there's no review process, you don't get raises or good feedback from your boss. Most of the time, I'm just rushing from one crisis to the next, hoping that I'm not screwing the kids up in the process. I read a lot about parenting, about raising a boy or raising a girl, how to talk to them about sex, how to instill self-discipline, how to make spirituality a central tenant in their lives, how to feed them healthy food, how to encourage independence, how to instill a good work ethic, good manners, good morals, teach them about being kind and being smart, making intelligent choices, and please God, teach them to stop throwing their clothes on the floor when they take them off. How to brush your teeth, wash your hands, use the potty, sleep thru the night, how to apppropriately use sarcasm (which thankfully, they both seem to have an inate gift for).

I'm always wondering in the back of my head how I'm doing. Are my kids turning out okay? Are they going to be people you want to know, or people you talk about behind their backs? Will they be adults that are "good people" who are kind and smart and giving and funny - or will they be selfish, with a lazy work ethic and an attitude of entitlement? I do my best, but let's face it, we've all known great parents who want to raise their kids right but end up... not doing that great of a job at it. It seems to me that there's no way to tell, until it's over, if you're doing a good job of raising your kids or not. Like building a house, I'd imagine (not that I've ever built a house) - everything seems to be going okay, you really are working hard, but until it's actually done, you don't know how it'll look. Or maybe bread - that's a better example. You can put in all the ingredients, think you've kneaded it enough, let it rise high enough, but until you actually taste it, you have no real clue how it'll turn out. I've made some crappy bread over the years...

The point of the post, before I got a little carried away, was that I actually got really good feedback from a total stranger the other day about Jessie and I can't tell you how lovely it was to hear. Jess had gone to a birthday party for one of her school friends. There was a younger child there, about three or four, I'd guess, who was obviously younger than everyone else and didn't know anyone at the party other than the birthday girl. I went to the party late (Marc had gone with Jessie, and I brought the other kids in at the end of the party), and the little girl's mom made a point of telling me that Jessica had gone out of her way to make her daughter feel welcome and a part of things. She took the little girl under her wing, sat beside her on the train and during the little arts/crafts activity and the mom just wanted to let me know how kind and sweet and loving my daughter was. I felt so proud and relieved and happy - it was like getting a really good review and a raise :-)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Groggy, so very groggy

And I blame Marc entirely, although I should blame Sam, and by extension, myself. Sam likes keys, and I used to give him my house keys (I know, even typing it points out how stupid that was) and (can you see it coming?) he lost my keys. So Marc and I have one set between us, and Marc wanted to go to the gym last night. He didn't get home until almost eleven and I had to wait up, with Samilicious (who stays awake to see his daddy), to let him in. Couldn't nurse him to sleep, even though he was so tired, because Marc was going to be home momentarily and I had to go downstairs to let him in.

Thank goodness for coffee. That's all I can say.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Married dates

Marc and I signed up to be part of a Marriage Check Up study at Clark University - and every time we go in for a "check up," the results are always overwhelmingly positive, we know each other inside and out, truly love each other, consider the other to be our best friend, etc. We work great as a team to head our family - but the thing that we are always told that we need to improve on is spending time alone together. With two, or four, busy active children, one full time job, time spent at the gym or working out, trying to carve out time when it's just the two of us a real battle at times. For three years now, our version of a date is having just one child with us.

My new project is to make sure that at least twice a month, the two of us go out alone somewhere. It's important not just for us, but also for the kids to see that part of a healthy adult relationship is making the time together a priority. I have sitters, my kids are easy to watch, well behaved, Sam's certainly fine with me going off without him - there's no reason in the world not to do it.

Last night - we went to the mall. I know, the mall. Kind of a goofy date, but Marc had pulled his hamstring, so we didn't want to go paddleboating (which was a great idea I had stolen from my cousin) or a long walk... plus it was hot and humid and gross outside. We went to Bertucci's for dinner, wandered around the mall for a bit, spent almost an hour in the bookstore, and then went shopping at Macy's to spend a gift card Marc had for his birthday. It was lovely, we held hands, talked about all kinds of different stuff, he kissed me every now and again as we window shopped. I loved it.

It's easy to lose sight of our relationship - to get caught up in our parenting roles, and to focus on what we have to do all the time. Marc and I catapulted into parenthood immediately when we first met (story for another time), so it's not our default, to be just he and I, alone. But really, he's my best friend. I find him fascinating, so brilliant and smart and easy to talk to - and it's fabulous to be able to see him not just as the dad, not just as the guy I wish would bring out the trash, and could you please just change this diaper while I do the dishes - but to have him be mine. Just mine, and he loves me, loves me, loves me.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Transitioning from co-sleeping to a big boy bed

Could it really be that easy? I'm a hard core attachment parent in a lot of ways with Sam. He's still nursing at over three years old, he's been sleeping in my bed since he was four days old... and I wondered if he'd ever move out voluntarily. He got Batman sheets for his birthday, and the other day, I put them on his bed, explained that this was where he'd be sleeping from now on - and that's all it took. End of story. He sleeps in his bed now, no questions, that's just where he goes. I expected tears, heartache... nope, he's fine. He's got his own bed and he's good.

Last night, I met some friends for dinner, and left Marc home with the kids. I came home around nine thirty and he was trapped in the recliner with both kids draped over him, sound asleep. They were asleep, Marc was sweating and praying for me to come rescue him. I moved Jess into her bed, and was trying to figure out what to do with Sam, should I pick him up and then nurse him for a bit in the living room and then try to lay him down in his bed? Marc said to just go drop him into his bed, he'd be fine - lo and behold - HE WAS. I laid him down in his bed, changed his diaper, he never woke up, just rolled over, cuddled his quackie (little stuffed duck I've talked him into liking) and that was it.

When I left earlier last night, he waved me off with a smile... after almost three entire years of heart pounding hysteria on his part when I was more than a few feet away from him (I exaggerate for point of effect), he's become what all the attachment parenting gurus promised me - a secure, confident kid who's totally relaxed and independent, fine without me, happy sleeping alone in his own bed, etc. I really didn't think it'd ever happen. But it did :-).

Friday, July 24, 2009

Why I'm glad that Sam was a boy

I never planned on having a boy. Now that I'm actually a parent, I know how ridiculous that sounds. It's not like you can pick what kind of baby you get - and if you are lucky enough to be able to conceive and carry a healthy baby, the last thing you care about is whether it's a boy or a girl. That being said, I was always planning on having girls, three, specifically, and their names were going to be Jessica Mary, Emily Amanda and Meghan Rebecca. It worked out with Jess, she was a girl, Marc didn't fight me on the name (at least not very much) and I fully expected to go on and have two more bouncing baby girls.

Jess is very much like me. I worry sometimes that I say that too much, I don't want her to feel stuck or like she has to be like me - but in many ways, she just is. We look alike, same brown eyes and brown curls, she's skinny scrawny just like I was, she's got tiny hands and feet, just like me, and her personality is very similiar to mine. She's definitely her dad's daughter in some ways (you can't give either of them a list of tasks, they might complete the first one, but there's no way they'll move on without being distracted and forgetting what they were trying to get done). She's quiet and introspective most of the time, but can get silly and goofy too. She'd rather hang out with people she knows than make new friends, she loves to read, make up stories and play with her baby dolls or figurines. She likes to cuddle and sing and is quirky and kind of odd, all at the same time.

But Sam... when he was born, I was just in shock. I was expecting my little Emily Amanda! And instead, I got this little boy, with huge grey eyes and had no idea what to do with him. Adding colic (which is oh-my-gosh disasterous) and reflux - the poor little boy just sobbed for the first several months of his life - when he wasn't attached to my breast because he nursed like a madman (to the point where I had serious over-supply issues). I didn't know what his personality was going to be like, he spent so much of his time just miserably unhappy. It was so hard... and for a long time, he was very much a Mommy's boy. More than any other child I'd ever seen, Sam wanted, needed, to be with me. There was no question of me going back to work, having me disappear into the shower was enough to send him into hysterics.

As he's grown older, I'm seeing more and more of Marc in him. He looks like Marc, so much more than me. He's got my eyes, but that's it. Other than that, it's all Marc. He's also got Marc's personality in a lot of ways (other than a serious aversion to parties - Marc likes nothing more than 30 of his closest friends gathered together - and Sam hates that more than anything). But he loves all things BOY. Trucks, swords, army guys, super heros, fire trucks, Thundar the Barbarian videos on Youtube with Daddy - and lately, reruns of an old show called Emergency.

He LOVES his Daddy, in a way entirely different from the way he feels about me. He needs me - he worships Marc. When he was little, watching Marc fix things would make him tremble with awe, if Marc offered to let him hold a tool, Sam would almost genuflect, you could hear him thinking the toddler equivalent of "I'm not worthy." He runs to the door when Marc comes home, spends literally hours sitting on Marc, playing with him, discussing things, asking Marc questions. He talks to me too - but with Marc, he's got this quality of wanting Marc to explain the world to him. Like Marc is the undisputed expert on all the things that Sam feels he needs to know, and he just sits and soaks it up all. It's wonderful to watch.

Marc loves his girls. Not just my Jessie, but his daughters from his first marriage as well. He is a great father to daughters, willing to dress Barbies and babysit dolls and encouraging them to run faster and farther and try harder. But being the father of a son, being a father to this particular son brings him a certain joy that I think was missing in his life. And I'm glad that I was able to give that to Marc by having his son :-)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Sunshiney delighted today

And for the oddest of reasons... I'm not pregnant. As much as I'd like to be, I'm strangely relieved that I'm not. I'm certain it will happen, if not this month, then soon. And while intellectually, I am convinced that I don't want to prevent a pregnancy, I'm already 35, Marc is 40, Lilli will be 11 by the time the baby comes... Jess and Sam are getting older as well. I KNOW I want another baby, emotionally, but I'm okay with knowing that I will be pregnant but am not there yet. If that makes any sense.

I tried to explain it to Marc this morning. I want another baby, absolutely, and am eagerly looking forward to another pregnancy and tiny baby feet, and wearing him/her in sling and breastfeeding a tiny little baby - I like the hospital stay, I like everything about a baby. Infancy is one of my favorite ages... and yet, I'm not disappointed to not be pregnant. I like the anticipation - I think it'll be that much more exciting if it has a little more time to build. Being pregnant would be WONDERFUL - but also scary - there's a lot in flux right now, Marc wants to look for another job, we need to be in a bigger space, we have no room here for a baby... plus there's all the stress that just goes along with nine months of puking, freaking out about labor, worrying about how the kids are going to react, etc. I don't want to wait any longer - but am perfectly okay with the fact that it didn't happen this month.

Potty training is going great - if you don't factor in Sam. Harrison and Jordyn are both doing really well. No accidents, spent all day except for naps, in underwear or "bare bottomed" yesterday and I'm looking forward to continuing the progress today. I bought Sam his own potty, and will wait until he wants to try it out. It's hard not to pressure him, but I know that it'll only be harder if I'm pushing him when he doesn't want to do it.

Jess is enjoying her "relaxing" days. She's so funny - she really thrives on just hanging out at home, reading, coloring, watching a little television. She loves camp too - but I'm really glad that we built in a little down time into her summer. I have great memories of summer as a kid, long lazy days with nothing but fun - nowhere to be, nothing to "have to" do. I'm very pleased that Marc and I are able to give this to her. As enriching as camp is, having a parent at home full time gives us the ability to keep her home as well.

Volunteering all over the place - that's me. I volunteered to be on the Religious School committee and the Early Childhood Education committee at the synagogue, and I believe I'm also on the subcommittee to plan the Hanukkah party this year. I also joined the PTO group at Flagg Street, and am going to be working at the Ice Cream social in September.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Potty training

Jessica Mary was a VERY early talker. Very bright, could understand when she was wet and needed a change, and I really thought that potty training her would be a breeze. It was not. I had postponed starting her, because I was still working part time when she was two, and then I was pregnant, and didn't want to start her and have her regress. But after Sam was born, when he was about two months old, Jess was just about three and a half, we got her a potty and some pretty underwear and started. The first day went great. The second day went a little worse and by the third day, the poor kid was just accident after accident. And she was getting more and more upset... so I threw in the towel, and told her that she didn't have to potty train anymore, put her in a diaper and resigned myself to changing diapers until she was in kidnergarten.

A couple of weeks or months later (it all blurs), I found some soggy underwear and a towel in the laundry. I asked her what was up, and she said off-handedly that she had had a tiny accident but cleaned it up herself. And from that point on, she didn't wear diapers during the day. She had another accident or two, but was really reliably potty trained within a day. No pressure on my part, no effort on my part - when she was ready, she did it on her own. I put the underwear in her dresser so she could get it herself, and she handled it on her terms.

Fast forward about three years... and I've got a small boy who I think should be potty trained. Sam does not. He cares not even a little bit about being in a wet diaper, can sit in a messy one for as long as I'll let him, in fact, frequently has to be convinced to come and get changed. He's a lot more stubborn than Jessie is, and I know that I need to back off and let him do this when he's ready. I can push him, but all it's going to do is stress both of us out.

I babysit for a couple of other toddlers, so I'm potty training them :-). They have both used the potty at home, and one of them is reliably potty trained at preschool, but not here. I've got my potties set up, one for each of them, and have cookies for bribes all set up - and I'm hoping that if I can get those two reliably potty trained here, then maybe Sam will be more inclined to do it as well. Here's hoping, anyway :-)

Monday, July 20, 2009

Just to make Marc smile

(a repost from last July - with a couple of additions)

Reasons I love my husband (In no particular order)

- He always stops if there's a car on the side of the road... flat tire needs to be changed, car accident, people pulling over for a rest, doesn't matter, he stops to make sure that everyone is okay. Even when we're running late, and have a carful of children, and I'd much rather just keep going, he stops to make sure everyone is okay.

- He thinks football is a panacea. Doesn't matter what the problem is, if he could just get the game on, he's sure that it would make everything all better. This innocent faith is at times infuriating, but mostly, I'm impressed at the sincerity and purity of his love for the game.- He cleans the bathroom.

- He's really tall - not that this is something he has any control over, but I really like it :-)

- He calls me his beautiful wife. All the time. I don't think he calls me by name all that often, mostly it's "my beautiful wife."

- He might not remember to do the dishes, and will never pick up a toy if he can step over it, but he does all the gross, yucky chores around the house without ever once hinting that I should do it. Whether it's scrubbing out the bathroom, cleaning out the vacuum cleaner filter, shoveling snow, or cleaning up the vomit, he does it without question, humming a little tune to himself the entire time.

- He kills all the bugs. If a hornet or bee somehow gets in the house while he's at work, he'll stay on the phone and laugh at me while encouraging me to be brave and not hang up until I've sprayed the bug dead. He takes care of dead mice and sets the ant traps.

- He tells Jessica long, involved stories at bedtime. He's developed rituals and routines that she'll remember and hopefully, repeat with her own kids.

- He thinks my hair is prettiest when it's down, wild and out of control. He tells Jessie that she's beautiful when her hair is down. He loves us best when we're most ourselves.

- He wants me to be happy. That's all, and whatever it takes, that's his overall goal. If that means giving up his D&D game so I can go off for the day, or going out in the rain to get me ice cream, he'll do it. He'll actually want to do it, because he wants my happiness.

- He'll sit and play with Sam for as long as Sam wants to play. Throwing the ball, playing 'run, run, jump', throwing him up in the air, he'll do it. He'll read stories to him, and talk about trucks and guys and whatever else my little two year old wants to discuss, for as long as Sam can handle it.

- He's unfailingly honest. No matter what. I might not want to hear it, but I know that there's no game playing, he's telling me exactly what he means.

- He thinks. He doesn't know who he's voting for, and is willing to discuss and debate and analyze with me until we figure it out. He's always reading something - and is always happy to read books that I recommend to him.

- I can announce that we're having a thousand people over for the weekend, and he'd be thrilled. I never have to say the phrase "Marc won't let me." It's not something that would ever occur to him.

- He loves and respects and trusts me as much as I do him. He's on my side before anyone else it. He's my first call, the one I most want to be with and talk to.

- He lets me fight for him. When we are arguing, and he isn't saying what I want, he'll let me talk for him and then say "you said exactly what I mean." And mean it. Because the end goal is the two of us together and happy, and if I have to explain what I want to hear, he wants me to say it, because that's how the fight gets resolved quickest and happiest.

- His hands. Just.... his hands. He's got great hands :-)


Much, much to talk about... things were CRAZY busy this weekend, and I'm still trying to recover...

Friday night, we had Shabbat dinner. Shabbat is my thing - we have a big sit down family dinner, Marc blesses each child individually, we thank God for bringing us here to this place in this time, he sings a me a little love song, we bless the bread and the wine and the candles. And as much as the kids complain at times, begging us to do the "short version," on Friday night, I insisted on doing the whole thing, and it was lovely. Sarah (who had been the most vocal about wanting to keep it short) ended up pulling her dad back to her for an extra hug after he blessed her. I told the kids that Shabbat was one of those things that was only as special as we make it, and they seemed to really understand what I was saying. It was wonderful...

Saturday morning, we stayed home and tried to get everything ready for Sam's birthday party. I baked a couple of cakes, tried to pick up the house (failing miserably - what's that old quote? Cleaning while the kids are little is like shoveling during a blizzard?). We headed up to Green Hill Park for around 1:00 - but the party (which was supposed to start at 1:00) didn't really get going until close to three. But it was a great party, I think everyone had fun. Sam doesn't like parties - he just doesn't. Big crowds of people make him nuts, and he spent a lot of time with his face pressed up against mine (just because he's figured out that if his face is nose to nose with mine, people can't kiss him - which they will do if he's just laying his head on my shoulder). He LOVED his presents, and then we did family pictures down by the lake. After the party was over, Becky and Greg stayed to help us lug all the stuff home and we went out for Chinese food. Sam got really grubby at the party (all the candy from the pinata and sweaty from running around...) but he fell asleep in the car on the way home (had gone all day with no nap) and I couldn't justify waking him up just to bathe him.

Sunday morning, we got up super early again, and dropped the kids off at Annie's house. Marc and I are part of a Clark University Marriage Study (for which we get free marriage therapy and about $500 over a five year period). It was time for our annual check up - happy to report that we are very healthy - marriage wise :-). The one area that we need to improve on is spending time alone together. We're going to work on that, I'm going to make more of an effort to schedule "dates" and time alone... so if you'd like to sit for me, just let me know ;-).

Then we picked up the kids, came back home and packed up for the pool. I tried (again, in vain) to pick up some of the clutter, and then we picked up Lilli and Sarah, and took all five kids (because we had Glennys too) down to the pool in Clinton. We had a GREAT time - my sister and niece joined us there, my father in law came down, the kids swam and swam and swam. There's a little wading pool and a bigger pool for older kids and adults. The only kid who won't go in the big pool is Jess, but the other kids kind of bop back and forth between the two. I bring my chair with the sunshade and a book and just hang out at the wading pool and Jessie bops around in there, she's so sweet. Sam loves swimming with Daddy, so I get a real break from him there ;-).

After the pool, (Annie had come to pick up Glennys, and my father in law and sister/niece went home) Marc, the kids and I went to my mother's house. We had a cookout, ate outside, and it was just the most lovely, peaceful relaxing time. And then, of course, Sam fell asleep in car again - and slept again covered in grime, sunblock and sand. I wash as much as I can while he's asleep... but he was still pretty gross. Fortunately he took a bath first thing this morning and is my sweet smelling boy once again :-)

Thursday, July 16, 2009


I spend a lot of time thanking myself. To the point where I'm beginning to sound as though I've got another personality in here - she's called "Mommy" and I spend a lot of time saying "Thank you, Mommy" and "Please, Mommy." My kids are really good about manners, for the most part, it's really important to me that they be polite and respectful. In fact, a lot of the time, if I don't thank myself, but force myself to hold back for a second, they say it without being prompted. The snag is that I'm so used to saying it, I can't always help myself. Sam especially is great about thank you, but has a real problem with remembering to say please. He's started this demanding little thing where he lays on the floor and yells (in the most aggreived tone of voice) "I SAID I want a drink!"

Another thing we're actively working on is not interrupting. My kids love to chat with me when I'm on the phone, or talking to another adult. It's like once I'm engaged in doing something with another adult is their cue to suddenly have all kinds of things that must be discussed immediately.

Part of it is my fault... I am painfully well aware of that. I'm a big fan of attachment parenting - I think perhaps I took meeting their every need as an infant a little too seriously, and it's manifested itself in an expection on their part that they have every right to interrupt at will, because whatever they are doing is much more important that whatever I'm doing.

I don't want to create an image of these rude little creatures - because my kids are unfailingly polite with others. They are always exceptionally well behaved in public, and for the most part, do say thank you and please without being prompted (I just tend to do it myself because I'm so used to doing it). Already I can see a difference in their behavior, I started really paying attention to when they interrupt, and making sure that I don't allow it. Teaching them respect for their elders, respect for others, and graciousness is something that I think a lot of parents don't always do - I think, as parents, we assume that our kids sometimes will just pick this stuff up on their own. One thing I've discovered is that kids want very much to be polite, they want to do the right thing, but need to be told what that is, and then reminded - over and over and over again until it becomes a habit. Let's face it - it isn't in our nature to be polite - kids are born completely uncivilized, and we have to teach them.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The mean bratty girl - or how it's wicked hard to let your kids run their own lives

Jess is off to summer camp - it's at the local JCC and it's her first time going. And it's going really well, she loves it. Trust me - she really does. We battled for literally months about going to kindergarten and there's been none of that. She's happy to go each morning, sunshiney delighted to come home. The first day there, she had an accident. Very unusual, but she was trying to take off her wet bathing suit and couldn't make it to the potty in time. And there was a girl who said "EWWWWW - I'm telling!" and mortified my poor girl. Since then, she's just been bugging Jess, cutting in front of her in line, not letting her play, etc. It's not like a campaign of terror or anything, because Jessie really doesn't seem to be all that bothered by it. Just every now and then, she mentions it to me casually. We've talked about it - and I recommended that she ask her camp counsellor for help if the "mean bratty girl" (because that's how she's known around here :-) is bothering her.

Yesterday, I sent her off with spray sunblock for kids. I labelled it, by scrawling Jessica Cohen on the top and fully expected that it'd come home with her last night. But it did not. And when I asked her what happened, she said that the mean bratty girl hid it. She overheard her talking about hiding a banana boat sunblock with Jessica's name on it on the climbing thing. Jess has a very active imagination, and has certainly made stuff up in the past. She's totally not above lying to make a story better (or to create a story where none exists, on one notable occasion, she made up a story about a little boy named Trevor in her class who was mean to her and both she and Trevor were punished, but when I contacted her teacher to find out about why Jessie had been punished, her teacher told me that Jess had never been in trouble and there was no child named Trevor in either her class or the other kindergarten class) but I don't know that she knew the name of the sunblock, I've certainly never referred to it as "banana boat." This leads me to believe that she did overhear some bratty little girl talking about stealing her stuff and hiding it.

What's a mom to do? Do I storm in this morning, demanding that this miserable little brat be punished for bullying my child? This is my instinct - but I'm intentionally holding back. One of the reasons is that Jessica suggested that she tell her camp counsellor that she lost it, so that way she won't get the brat into trouble, and the brat won't retaliate against her. Jess is being very adult and in control about this - doesn't appear to be all that upset, although what she's telling me is making me want to beat the other kid up for her.

So I'm stepping back. Keeping a close, careful eye on the situation - but not interfering. Because in the end, Jessie is the one living in that world, at summer camp, and I should follow her lead when she appears to have it all under control. It's killing me though - to let her fight her own battles, to not step in and fix everything for her. Intellectually, I know I'm doing the right thing, but it's definitely not easy...

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunshiney happy today

The sun is out - we had a glorious weekend, and I feel so much more like me today. Jessica Mary danced off to summer camp with a smile on her face, she's really happy there, which in turn, makes me happy. Marc is off to work and Sam and I are hanging at home waiting for Miss Jordyn to come play with us.

I went to services at the synagogue on Saturday morning with Jess. Almost everyone there that day was much older than I was - and I still don't have the foggiest idea what they're doing most of the time. But I was still happy to go, it's nice to listen to the Hebrew and read along in the prayer book, even if most of what I do is just day dream. I was especially happy to go with Jess, and was pleasantly surprised at all of the smiles and little pats she got. I think most of the people there were very happy to see a little girl in a pretty sundress sitting so patiently thru the service. One woman gave her some candy, and a little old man patted her head when we slipped past him. It's a nice way to do Shabbat. Which is still my favorite part of the week, and my favorite part of Judaism. Of course, coming home to a messy house took a little bit of the bloom off my day. We went to the library in the afternoon, and I could feel myself rejuvenating just being surrounded by all those books. There's something so thrilling about floors and floors of books and I can take out as many as I want...

Jess has recently started being more and more interested the woman's suffragette movement - I've read her a couple of books about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Amelia Bloomer - and I'm loving that she's so curious. It was one of my passions when I was younger, I read everything I could find on the topic and I love passing that down to her.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lazy summer

I've been slacking a bit on blogging... no real reason, I'm just lazy these past couple of days. Thursday morning, I didn't bother getting out of bed until after nine o'clock, which is unheard of for me. By Thursday night, it occured to me that I hadn't showered since Monday - and I still couldn't work up the energy to haul myself up out of the recliner to get into the shower. This morning, I made myself get up bright and early, take a nice shower, pack up the kids and the car, and head out to the lake. Only to realize that all the lakes in Worcester are closed to swimming because of all of the rain. Apparently we've got high bacteria levels, and even though both lakes I checked had kids swimming in them, I couldn't see myself letting my kids go in. Drove all over Worcester to find the one state pool that's open (because the town pools have been closed all summer due to budget cuts), only to find out that they don't open until the afternoon. At which point, I gave up, directed the kids to the nearest playground, slathered them in sunblock and sat down with my book. We got home around noonish, I stopped for ice cream cones for lunch (I know, fabulous parenting - but sometimes, ice cream for lunch is a GREAT idea) and came back here for Sam's nap. Which has lasted and lasted and lasted, I'm beginning to think he'll never wake up.

Both kids are slightly sick - Sam is a little congested and Jess has had this cough for weeks on end. They don't feel sick, but you know how you can tell that something is just off? That's where these two are... things have been well here with me, other than the appalling lack of energy, Marc and I have been bickering off and on about his lack of helpfulness at doing stuff around the house - but I think my general lack of energy has factored into it. Normally, I just do it all and don't notice it, but lately, I'm noticing it all the time. The dishes have become my newest pet peeve. I hate washing dishes. The only thing worse that doing them, is knowing that they're there, in the sink, just festering and waiting for me to wash them.

I have a scary suspicion that I'm pregnant. Of course, I always think I'm pregnant. Marc says I've successfully predicted 47 of my past 2 pregnancies. Before I had Jess, I had an extremely unplanned pregnancy that resulted in twin miscarriages at 10 and 11 weeks. The pregnancy caught me by surprise - which is to say, I was more shocked than I'd ever been to realize that my period was late and OMG, I was pregnant - so I compensate now, subconsciously, by assuming that I'm perpetually pregnant. Given that I'm not on any birth control, there's always a chance that it could be, so we'll wait and see... and as much as I want to be pregnant, I'm scared of it as well. For a whole host of reasons, but one of the main ones is that my closest friend and cousin is going thru infertility issues and this will hurt her. I hate the thought of causing her pain. But I hate the thought of not having another baby as well... so right now, we aren't using birth control, but not actively trying (i.e.. charting, trying to have sex on the right days, etc.). Plus pregnant - that's just a scary prospect all the way around... But I'm so incredibly lazy and have no energy all this week... we'll see...

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Yay - I'm home!

Sammy on the "motorcycle." His favorite part of vacation :-)
Jessica and her camping buddy Jolene going on tour to see the island.

Got back last night around 10:30. We go up camping every year to a little campground on the ocean in Maine. My mother LOVES it up there, she looks forward to it every year, and my sister is following in her footsteps - they both come prepared with everything you could possibly need, and seem to thrive on it. I camp reluctantly - I love the ocean and I love the unstructured time, the hours spent on the beach, the way Jess just lights up when she's there. But the bugs - and the dirt, and the rain - yes, I freely admit it, I am a total wuss when it comes to camping. My stepsister lives about twenty minutes from her house, and this year, we slept at her house. PERFECT - all the joys of camping, long days at the beach, time spent with family - but a real shower, a bedroom with real walls and an actual mattress with sheets on it to sleep on.

The weather was blissful on Monday morning, bright, hot, sunshiney beautiful, and Jess immediately found her camping buddy (a little girl her age from Vermont who coincidentally is up there every year at the same time). The girls had a blast, my brother was up there as well, with his three kids, as well as my sister and her daughter. Everyone had bikes, and it was just a perfect kind of day. Yesterday was cold and rainy and yucky. I left Jess on island with her buddy and my brother, and my mother, cousin, sister-in-law and Sam went into Bath to bop around, have lunch and just hang out. We got back to the campground, and it was just gross weather. My cousin came up - he's got three girls, the oldest is Sam's age, and he's got twin nine month old girls, so we played with the babies for a while, but when they left, I looked at Becky and asked if she felt like driving home that night. We changed the kids, packed them in the car with snacks and they fell asleep almost immediately, slept the entire three hour trip home and stayed asleep once we got here. It was perfect :-)
For me, the best part of the trip was the drive back. Both kids were asleep and my cousin Becky and I talked the entire time. Grown up talk, about marriages and relationships and memories and life - there's literally nobody else in the world who knows me the way that she does and gets where I've come from, where I am now, and where I'm going. One of the things that my life is definitely missing is grown up girl time - I love an awful lot about my life, wouldn't trade Marc and the kids for anything - but I miss my girl time. So it was especially nice to have that uninterrupted time to talk with my favorite cousin :-)

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Judiasm and vacation

Although the title makes it sound as though they're connected - they aren't. Just two different topics that I'm thinking about this morning.

I converted to Judaism a week ago Monday. Yesterday was Shabbat, and we went to services. Usually, I try to find a sitter, my neighbor Annie usually watches at least Sam for me, but yesterday we had to bring both kids. Marc took them to the playground behind the synagogue, because Sam is absolutely horrendous in services. He cries, yells "Let's get out of this place!" loudly, and in general, makes a total nuisance of himself. Jessie isn't much better - she's got a highly developed whine technique that involves behaving as though she's a toddler, and whenever she turns that on, I know I'm in trouble. So I went in alone, and the rabbi called me up, announced that he had brought the kids and I to the mikvah on Monday and gave me a beautiful mezzuah for my door. And then the entire synagogue started singing and clapping (in Hebrew) - it was one of the oddest experiences for me. I knew nobody there, with the exception of the rabbi and the cantor, and all of these strangers were so thrilled for me, so happy and excited to share this with me, and they were all singing in a language I don't understand... it was a tiny bit surreal. I walked back down to my seat (of course, way the back) and everyone stopped and shook my hand, whispered congratulations (or mazel tov) and smiled at me.

I felt... honored and lucky. A bit bewildered, but mostly just blessed.

Vacation - woo hoo! I'm really excited about going up to Maine for a couple of days. We're staying with my sister Aimee, and spending long, lazy days at the beach, hanging out with my mom and my sister. I'm tense about packing and of course, worried about money (why is it that I always seem to be broke at vacation and Christmas? The two times I most want extra money, I always seem to be scrambling to pay for essentials). Tonight we're having the Worcester fireworks, and I delayed our trip so that we could watch the fireworks with Marc.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Daddy and his boy

Marc came home from work early yesterday, and from the moment he came home, Sam was GLUED to his side. They ate dinner together, they watched Thundar the Barbarian on the computer, they read stories, they acted out Thundar the Barbarian on my bed, they watched more Thundar, he let Marc change him not once, but TWICE (Sam normally hates having Marc change him). It was awesome. Jess and I had lots of quiet cuddle time, I read three stories to her, one of them (about Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the right to vote) I read twice because she was so interested in it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

It's raining again

In case anyone was interested.

Very groggy this morning - both kids ended up in bed with me last night. Marc has been sleeping in Sam's bed because he's got this nasty cold thing going on, and both of the cherubs were up a lot. Every now and again, Marc's boss decides to have a meeting at the crack of dawn, just to make my life difficult (although he calls it the 8 am sales meeting), so this morning, I had to pry first myself up and get dressed, choke down some coffee, haul Jess up, get her dressed and shove some breakfast at her, and then get Sam dressed (every change a diaper on a sleeping boy? Immediate erection once the air hits the penis) and out the door. Did I mention that it's raining? A lot? Thunder and lighting, buckets of rain just pouring down on us...

But now I'm home, everyone is either at work, at camp, or settled down in front of Lazy Town with cheerios, and I'm starting to feel a sense of optimism and cheeriness. Yes, the coffee is starting to kick in ;-). I like Thursdays - I'm making homemade pizza for lunch, and beans and hot dogs for dinner, in case anyone is thinking of stopping by ;-). I'm also going out tonight - library night. I might take Marc and kids. Tough to tell, but either way, I'm going because they're closed tomorrow and the rest of the weekend.

On Sunday, we're leaving for Hermit Island. I think this is the 21st year that I've gone. I missed a couple, one year I was nine months pregnant with Sam (and actually delivered him in the middle of the vacation week), but other than that, it's been really consistent - and as much as I'm dreading three days with no Marc, I'm looking forward to it as well. We're going to try and go camping around here some in August as well, I have lots of fun memories of camping as a child, and I think the kids would love it as well.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

It's July - come on - where's summer???

We've had rain every day in June. This probably isn't literally accurate - but metaphorically, emotionally, it feels as though it's been raining and raining and raining. And raining. And I'm cranky and miserable and just so ready for a bit of sunshine, just a little. I'd like to actually use the sunblock I bought. I'd like to go to the park, kick around a soccer ball, wander around the world instead of being trapped in my apartment.

Fought with Marc re: conversion this morning, because he said he'd feel exactly as my mother does. Confused, hurt and like a failure. This makes NO sense to me, and as it's easier to yell at him than it is to yell at her, I yelled at him. I'd feel confused, hurt and like a failure if my kids ended up in jail. If they were mean, selfish, materialistic and lazy. If they found spiritual comfort and joy in another religion - I'd be all enthusiastic, want to learn as much as I could about it and try to participate as much as I could - because it's not up to me to decide how they think about the world, how they perceive the Divine, how they process their own spirituality. I will raise my children as Jews, because I've done an exhaustive study of the religion and I think this is the best foundation for them. What they do with this information is exclusively their decision. To each her own, that's my theory. Religion and spirituality is such a personal decision. My goal is to raise kids who question spirituality, who search for their own truth, no matter what that may be. Apparently there are some lingering issues in my mind, some anger and frustration with how difficult this whole process has been, dealing with everyone's emotions and the weight of expectation and disappointment has been exceptionally more time consuming and emotionally stressful than I'd expected it to be.

And I'm now officially done discussing it. With anyone.

Moving on... crappy, rainy day - and what else to do in that situation but to make cookies? That's my plan for the afternoon. Sam and Jordyn will be here and we obviously won't be doing much of anything else :-)