Monday, August 31, 2009

My son the druid

Having a delightful sort of day - unbelievably crappy night's sleep, but I got up nice and early, took Samilicious out for a walk this morning. I'm trying to walk in the mornings, just to get a little exercise, a little fresh air, and Sam and I enjoyed our walk tremendously until the end. We were talking about trees, his favorite trees (which are all of them) and he was giving each one a kiss and a hug as we walked by, when it suddenly occured to him that they had no roof, and were going to get wet when it rained. Not that it was raining, or threatening to rain - but the fact of the matter was that it would rain eventually, and the thought of his favorite trees, out there, exposed and helpless, was simply too much for him, and he started to cry. Sad, heartbroken crying, and there was nothing I could say that would dissuade him. I assured him that trees weren't like little boys, and they liked the rain, it helped them to grow, but it didn't help. He cried so hard he couldn't walk and I had to lug him the rest of the way home.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

I love Sundays

Got up this morning bright and early with Samilicious. We've been playing musical beds lately, and Marc was in Jessie's bed, Jess was on the couch until about six thirty or so, and Sam was in mine. I've got to get that situation under control - a queen size isn't big enough for all of us! I left Jessie asleep in our bed, and Sam and I got up. Strangely enough - the child actually went on the potty for the first time. Ever. I asked, the way I do, every now and again, if he'd like to sit on the potty, he did, and after a little while, he said he went and I completely ignored it. Which was probably the best thing to do, as Sam's not the kind of kid who thrives on praise. I figured he was just making it up. But lo and behold, he honestly did pee in the potty. Of course, twenty minutes later, he peed all over the floor - but still - progress...

Jess and I went for a lovely walk down to the park, we held hands the whole way and talked about the new school year. She's planned out her outfit for the first day - a beige skirt and a white t-shirt, because, as she explained, she's kind of shy and wants to blend in on the first day. Then she's going to rock out on the second day, with sparkly jeans and her new pink t-shirt with sparkles on it. My mother in law got her a new backpack with wheels and she's good to go. She starts on Wednesday... and I'm filled with mixed feelings. I hope it goes well for her, I hope she loves it and makes lots of new friends and learns a lot - but I'm going to miss her so much. So much of raising kids is watching them outgrow us - she'll be in school from 8-2:30 every day, dance on Wednesdays. Next year, she'll have school, Hebrew School Monday and Wednesdays and Thursdays'll be dance. She's getting so big so very very fast. And after six and a half years of motherhood, I'm still not used to it.

The baby is doing well... although at five weeks and two days - the baby isn't doing all that much on a regular basis that I'm aware of. I still feel sick, but not as much as I'd like... which is to say, not all the time. Because, really, only when I'm sick do I feel secure about this pregnancy. I've got a lot of fatigue (but with two little kids - I'm always tired anyway, so I don't think it's much of a difference). I'm definitely chubbier, my maternity clothes are unbelievably comfortable, nursing is more and more uncomfortable...

Speaking of nursing - I've dialed back the weaning process. It was making Sam crazy - he's definitely not ready for it to be over. Although he's only nursed once today since six thirty this morning. The less I push it, the less he nurses - if that makes sense. I'm still thinking I'm going to do night weaning again, but it's so hard on both of us...

Friday, August 28, 2009

1,000 Visitors

That's huge - even if I suspect that 800 of them are just Marc, visiting again and again :-)

All is delightful here, have given up entirely on night weaning, and am considering giving up on weaning all together and just hoping for the best. Last night, I went out for dinner with some friends, and poor Sam lost his little mind, screaming and crying and chasing after me. I think it's because he's more insecure now because I'm really discouraging nursing. He used to just give a quick wave and a "see ya later, Mommy" but last night, he was really, really upset. I nursed for as long as I did because I'm committed to doing what's best for him, and I don't think weaning is what's best. HOWEVER - it's also becoming increasingly uncomfortable for me, and with any luck, he'll just outgrow it on his own. Really, really soon :-)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Morning sickness and end of summer

I feel so sick right now... and I'm so glad. Yesterday, I felt pretty good all day long, and was really worried about the pregnancy. After the miscarriage, I don't feel secure in the pregnancy unless I physically feel terrible. This pregnancy has been strong from the very beginning though, I don't ever remember getting this sick this early. I threw up the day the egg implanted, I swear - and have had vague nausea off and on ever since. I burp all the time, which is just weird, I never do that, and I'm slightly horrified every time it happens. I don't want to go too far, when I'm outside with the kids, just because I don't know that I'm not going to have to throw up at any given point. I just burned some toast and nearly vomited from the stench of black bread, in fact, just thinking about it now is awful...

The kids are so good - so happy about the new baby and so considerate and kind. Jessie has been my water girl, she offers throughout the day to get me glasses of iced water and is so delightfully diligent about it. I hate water and have passed out from dehydration in the past, so I'm really, really trying to drink a LOT, and she's made it so much easier for me. Sam is doing okay on the weaning as well. As goofy as it sounds, I filled up a bottle with icy cold milk yesterday and offered him that instead of nursing, and he was delighted. He's not done with me yet, not by far, but I'm hopeful that it'll taper off more, because it's beginning to get really uncomfortable nursing. He understands that it hurts me, and is more willing to do something else instead - and for that, I'm very proud and grateful.

Summer is over, kind of. The temperatures and the humidity especially, has dropped off and it's beginning to feel more like fall. Jessica Mary starts school in less than a week, and I already miss her.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

We're weaning on my terms

Not on Sam's, obviously, as he'd never voluntarily stop. But I can't do a cold turkey kind of thing either. I tried last night to do night weaning - where I'll cuddle him and rub his back if he wakes up, but no nursing. I spent the past couple of months really encouraging his attachment to Quackie and Georgie (his two stuffed animals), and last night, Sam and I talked about it a lot, how he's have to go all night without nursing, that the "oobies" (don't ask, Jessie named them that when she was a baby) needed to sleep because Mommy's body was busy making a baby and needed to rest. He was very concerned that they'd be sad without him (I love how his mind works), but all in all - the night went great. He nursed to sleep around quarter of nine, and then woke up a couple of times, but managed to go back to sleep on his own.

Jess crawled into bed with me around three-ish. I had suggested that Marc sleep in Jessie's room so that he wouldn't be disturbed by us (anticipating a long night with a lot of crying). I couldn't get comfortable after Jess came in - I'm queasy all morning long now - and apparently, it starts right around three thirty or so. I'm just usually asleep for that part :-). I got up, went to the bathroom and moved over to the other bed. I laid there for a long time, watching the numbers click past on the clock, thinking about financial worries (really, doesn't everyone freak out over money when they're up in the middle of the night or is it just me?) and trying to pick out baby names.

Sam woke up, really woke up, around four thirty or so. And he wanted to nurse. So badly, and I tried to say no, but in the end, I just couldn't sit there and let him cry - he didn't understand why I wouldn't let him, and at that moment, neither could I. Because he had done so well - and all night long, had woken up every couple of hours, but put himself back to sleep - I just gave up. We got up and went into the living room. I tucked him up next to me, shielded his eyes, and watched West Wing repeats. He never did fall back asleep, and eventually asked for breakfast and is now happily hanging out, watching cartoons and having cold pizza and milk.

I'm still working on it - because I really do want to push him towards independence and not nursing. I say no far more often than I say yes, and I've got him down to just once or twice during the day, and we'll keep working on the night weaning. But I can't rush this too much - it's too hard on him, and too hard on me. I can't just let him cry - I mean, I can when he wants to play with scissors, and have chocolate for breakfast. I let him cry all the time, he's not an overly indulged child. But nursing has been such a huge part of our relationship, and eliminating it takes time, love and patience.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Am I just wicked fat?

Or am I showing super early? Not that I was ever what I'd call skinny - but I don't think there's any call for my maternity clothes to fit so perfectly so fast. I dug them all out of my closet earlier - and tried on a pair of my favorite capris - and they fit. Absolutely. Then I put on my favorite maternity top - lo and behold - I'm pregnant!

I'm thinking twins. In the same way that I always think I'm pregnant, I always think every pregnancy is twins. All a result of the first so incredibly surprising pregnancy that I lost - that one was twins. Combining my natural inclination to assume that I'm having twins, with my pre-existing little pot belly, plus zippo stomach muscles after having Jess and Sam and marked dislike of sit-ups - I'm feeling huge. And looking huge - will probably be big as a whale by the time April rolls around.

But the way I'm looking at it - this is probably the last time I'll do this - so I might as well get all the enjoyment out of it that I can. That's part of why I told everyone so early - even if, God forbid, I miscarry, this is still a baby, this is our baby, and I'm already so incredibly attached to it. As is Miss Jessica - this kid can't WAIT to see the baby. It's all she talks about. And she's being so sweet, she keeps bringing me cups of water to make sure I drink enough.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Guess what?

I'm officially pregnant. Just a little bit (as anyone who's miscarried can attest, you can, in fact, be a little bit pregnant), we just got the positive result on Saturday. I'm so happy. We hadn't been really actively trying, but we haven't been using birth control since April, so it was bound to happen sooner or later. The kids are both thrilled - Jessie is pinning all of her hopes on another sister, and Sam's lobbying hard for a brother, and Marc's walking around grinning.

I've already started with the nausea, and I swear to God, I threw up once the baby actually implanted in my uterus. Ever since then, I've felt the nausea off and on. I'm clinging to it - there's NOTHING I like more than morning sickness early in pregnancy because it reassures me that the pregnancy is real. It still feels unbelievable to me - three kids - just so exactly what I always wanted.

The baby is due at the end of April, just when spring is really starting. Flowers blooming, birds chirping and a lovely brand new baby :-). I couldn't be happier.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I love my boy

It's just me and Sam tonight - Jess is spending the night at Annie's house (thank goodness for Annie) and Marc is out at the gym. Sam had asked for a bath earlier and I told him to wait until his friends went home, and as soon as Jordyn left, he whipped off his diaper. I asked him what was up, and he announced he was ready for his "bathess." We're having scrambled eggs for dinner - he and I are the only ones in the family that like them (Jess prefers boiled or "bubbled up" and Marc likes omelets) and since it's just us, we're having a tea party with eggs and milk for dinner. After the bathess.

There's something magical about just having one child here. I love having two, and am hoping for three, and between my stepdaughters, Annie's daughter Glennys, and the little ones I babysit for, I've usually got a LOT of kids running around - and it's great. I love it, really, almost all the time. But when it's just me and either Jess or Sam, it's so sweet and tender and just peaceful and loving. I'm really looking forward to tonight.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


My only excuse is that it's hot. And even though I'm happily enclosed in an air conditioned apartment, I'm still feeling like just laying down somewhere quiet to sleep. Unfortunately, I've still got sixty percent of my kids (easy math when you've got five kids here) still awake so I'm pouring a cup of coffee and hoping for the best.

Actively working on weaning - at least for today. I've embarked on this before and always gave up - this kid is just too stubborn for me. When we pit our wills against each other, I can win, but it's really hard - and he isn't giving up nursing without a serious fight. But three years is enough, I was hoping for one full year, happy to have reached two, and am now so incredibly ready for it to be over and done with. I don't mind changing diapers, the fact that he's got zippo interest in the potty doesn't bother me, the fact that he's still climbing into my bed most nights is fine by me, but the nursing has got to go. With any luck. Like any relationship, it takes two so I'm trying to gently push towards weaning. I don't think it'll happen overnight, but that's where I am right now.

In other news - the father/daughter camping trip went GREAT. The girls all had a great time, with the exception of Sarah, who woke up and got a little freaked out about being in the tent. Marc ended up getting them all up (the other two woke up when Sarah started crying) and going out to go the bathroom, which was actually lovely, because they got to see the stars. Living in a city, they haven't seen that before and it was magical for them. They can't wait to go again - I think the Daddy/Daughter camping trip will be a new summer tradition.

Jess has another two weeks until school starts, and most of the school shopping is done. I still need to get her a backpack (one with wheels like her older sisters) and a new lunchbox, but I was able to get most of her actual pen/pencil/crayon/construction paper stuff at the dollar store.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Can you be a feminist and a happy housewife?

I've been thinking about this for the past day or so, after a conversation that I had with one of my aunts. Because I am a happy housewife, a SAHM, whatever term you want to use - and I still self-identify as a feminist. I don't see the contradiction.

Part of my job, as I see it, part of my "duty" as a parent, is to provide a stable, loving home environment for my children. This includes having a roof over their heads, food to eat, clean clothes to wear and hugs and kisses on demand. Marc and I never sat down and clearly listed out what he's responsible for and what I am, but let's just say - if you plopped my family down in the 1950's, on the surface, we wouldn't seem that out of place. Marc goes to work every day, handles the bills, always knows what's in our checking account and takes out the trash. I do everything else. I nag and occasionally Marc'll do the dishes, or break up a battle between the kids, but for the most part, I handle the day-to-day parenting issues, overseeing baths and meals, changing diapers, I get up in the middle of the night with them, etc. We make all the big decisions together (which means any major purchase gets discussed, any major disciplinary action gets debated, etc) - we are a team, absolutely, with specific spheres of influence and responsibility.

It's not that I'm incapable of earning money to support my family - for most of Jessie's first year, I was the sole breadwinner. And I worked part time from the time she was two until Sam was born when she was three and a half. I know how to lug trash outside on Tuesdays. For what it's worth, I also know how to pump gas and check oil on the car - although I haven't done it in years because Marc does that. But it just works for us this way. I'm proud of what I do - a big part of my self-identity, at this point in my life, is caught up in my "job," - I'm a stay at home mom, a housewife. I feel responsible for the state of my house, I feel stressed and irritable when the house is a disaster, I worry about the care and feeding of my kids on a level that just doesn't occur to Marc, because it's not his "job." He's a loving, devoted parent - and spends a lot of time with his children - but he's not me.

I think I'm VERY good at my job. I work hard at it, I'm constantly striving to do it better than I've done it in the past, I take pride in what I do. I know my strengths and weaknesses as a parent, as a wife, in the same way that I did when I was an employee.

Is this bad? Is this somehow less than I could be? I certainly never planned on being a stay at home mom. Or a housewife - it wasn't an option I ever considered - of COURSE, I'd go back to work after having kids. They'd go to daycare and everything would be great. Then I actually had kids - and oh my gosh, the thought of leaving my tiny baby with someone and not being able to see her for hours on end hurt more than anything. That was before I had a baby with colic and reflux who relied on nursing as the only way to make the pain stop. That was before I realized what having kids did to you - how it broke you open and made you so incredibly vulnerable, because if anything ever happened to them, you didn't think you'd be able to survive - and nobody else would take that same level of protectiveness and care that you would. Nobody else would love your babies the way that you did. That was before I realized that I would do anything, sacrifice whatever I needed to in order to be the one with them.

I'm always aware of how fortunate I am - because Marc understand that. Marc respects and trusts me to know what needs to be done. I don't want to have the house clean because he'll be mad at me if I don't - as a rule, Marc pays no attention to whether or not the floor has been vacuumed or if the laundry was done. I don't sweep and mop because I feel as though I have to be subservient to my husband and make a clean house for him - I vacuum because it's just better to not have the kids crawling around in dirt. I do laundry because I like to have clean clothes to dress them in, not because Marc would yell if he didn't have a clean shirt. If I had a different sort of husband, I might not feel this way - but because there is that level of respect and trust, I don't feel as though there's anything WRONG with me taking pride in what I do, and that includes doing the dishes and folding the laundry.

I'm still a feminist - and don't at all see the contradiction between thinking that women have the choice and the right to decide for themselves and their families whether they should be full time mommies or work outside the house, or not have children at all. I teach my kids about the struggle for women's rights and how boys and girls can do the same things. I've seen first hand that Jess loves to play fight on the bed with Daddy and one of Sam's favorite games is "house" where he takes care of his babies. I love this about them, as much as I love that Jessie loves ballet class, and Sam loves to play "shoot guns."

I think my kids need me at home - I think that I want to be at home with them and if one of us has to go to work fifty hours a week, it should be Marc. Because I'm better at this then he'd be. Because he's better at that then I would be. When I was working after having Jess, I was not as good an employee as I was pre-Jess. My motivation was strictly to get a paycheck and health insurance - I did my best when I was there, but I had a much more important position, that of Jessica's mother, and if she needed me, if she was sick or teething - then that was where I'd be. I had the ability to do that because Marc was at work.

I was raised by a single mom - I know full well the responsibilities of a parent who doesn't have the option to drop everything and rush home when their baby is sick. And I don't judge moms who work, I think we fought so hard to get the right to make the choice - to not be told that we HAVE to stay home with our children. But if that's the choice we want to make, if we're making the choice to do it - that's as much a feminist move as working is. Because the choice is what it's about - and taking pride in what you do, being proud of yourself as a woman with your unique gifts and responsibilities - that's what feminism is to me.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Father/Daughter Camping Trip

Marc set off this morning with Jessica, Lilli and Sarah for his first solo trip with the girls camping. Jessie, who's been camping before with me and Becky, really wanted to go - just Daddy (we watched 18 Kids and Counting and Jim Duggar did it with his girls). So we borrowed a tent, packed up a sleeping bag, stuff for s'mores and booked a site at a campground about half an hour away.

Sam and I are staying home - for... PIZZA DELIVERY NIGHT. And I do say it in all caps, because I had to make it sound appealing so Sam wouldn't realize he was missing out :-). Marc hasn't taken the girls out by himself since just after Sam was born. I sent him to the Ecotarium one afternoon, and it was a disaster. I tend to be the one who corrals the kids, for lack of a better term. And we function really well as a team, I don't mean to make it sound as though he's incapable of handling three girls, just that he doesn't usually handle them, alone.

I'm mildly concerned because the older two are going thru a particularly difficult stage where they just fight all.the.time. And Jess, while she doesn't generally fight, is still prone to tears and drama at the drop of a hat - so it's not necessarily going to be easy. Lilli and Sarah have never been camping before and Marc hasn't ever gone camping with kids. I want it to go well - I want it to go GREAT. I want them to come home raving about the time they had. So cross your fingers for them, okay?

In other news... I don't really have any other news. My brother Eric, his wife Michelle and their three kids came over last night. It works out great because his three match up almost exactly with my three oldest - and Sam's got a hero worship thing going with his eight year old, Matt. Matt brought over a bunch of toys that he'd outgrown, and Sam is in superhero heaven. His youngest daughter, Amber, spent the night - she's a couple of months younger than Jess - and they had SO much fun together. Spent the day today with my mother - she bought Jess some new clothes for school and we hit up a couple of yard sales - which means, yes, I have even more toys here at the house. At some point - I'm going to send the children away and just throw at least half of it out - I doubt they'll notice ;-)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Mini Me

This morning, I had to drop Marc off at work for eight and then bring Jess to camp. (Which, on a side note - let me just state again for the record how incredibly glad I am to be a SAHM, poor Sammy was so tired and sobbed most of the way to where Marc works - I'm so lucky to not have to get him up, dressed, and out the door for day care every morning). We got to camp around eight fifteen, and her regular counsellors aren't there until eight thirty or so. We walked into the extended day room (where kids who get dropped off early go) and she first started to hug Sam and kind of flutter over him (which he did not enjoy, by the way). Both Lilli and Sarah were there, but they were busy with their friends and after coming over to give us a quick hug, danced back to where they were building friendship bracelets. So I gave Jess a kiss and tried to leave, and she attached herself to my leg and her eyes filled up with tears and I just couldn't do it. I know that I could have left her, she was safe, her sisters were there, she really does love camp - but none of her friends were there, the girls who usually run her classroom weren't there yet, and she was totally freaked about being left there alone.

I took her back to the lobby and sat for fifteen minutes until one of her room teachers got there. At which point, she was happy to go, kissed me goodbye and left without a backwards glance. But I was thinking, as I sat there in the lobby with Sam laying on me, and Jessie sitting as close as she could, that she really reacted just like I do. In strange settings, where I feel uncomfortable (i.e. family parties with the ex wife) I become super attentive to my kids (which is easy to do, as they have been little and demanding, and always willing to soak up any and all of my attention). Because I feel most confident being needed - and if I feel insecure, the quickest way to alleviate it is to focus entirely on someone else's needs. I recognized that in Jessie. Because I wouldn't want to go into a crowded room with nobody I knew standing with me, at least not when I was a little girl. I'm a lot more confident now, and a lot more secure about who I am... but there's an inherent shyness that I've got and Jessie is the same way.

I hate being shy - it makes things harder, I think. I've always envied the easy confidence that other people have - and while I've made my peace with it, I worry that Jess has got those same qualities. It took me a LONG time to get to the point where I'm happy with that aspect of my personality, to realize that there were quiet perks to it, I'm easy to talk to, people trust me, kids love me... and I've become more confident and better able to not feel as though I'm desperate to hide in big crowded social settings. Jess is so much like me, and even in the things that I wish she wasn't. She just is a shy girl at first, needs time to warm up, and isn't comfortable around strangers. It might be genetic, at least that's what I'm hoping, because now I feel guilty that she's watched me and learned that this is how you should feel - based on the past six years of parties with the ex :-(. That's really the only situation now where I feel shy and like I'd rather hide. And Marc - he's super friendly, in that he's never not totally thrilled to be surrounded by people. I wish she'd picked up on that instead - I think she'd have an easier time of it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The glory of a new washing machine

I know it's just a little sad... but I'm ridiculously happy about my new washing machine. IT'S SO QUIET. I've gone out three times to check on it, just to make sure that it's really, truly working. It is, and soon I'll have soft fluffy towels and clean underwear again. Joy. Truly. Just joy...

In other news... Jess is off for her last week of camp. Then I've got two weeks of undiluted Jessica and then (sob) back to school... I love having her home, I really do. Even thru the fights and the drama and the hysterical sobbing that she can launch into at the drop of a hat, she's still my girl, and I'm happiest when she's home with me. Now it's time for my pep talk in favor of not homeschooling... she's happy in school, she wants to go, it's a safe, beautiful elementary school, and her big sisters will be right down the hall. I've met her principal, I've met her teacher, I know she'll be challenged, not just academically, but also personally - she'll learn to make friends, forge her own identity separate from me - and isn't that the goal? Really? To raise competent, secure, happy adults. And the second I start to feel as though school isn't her best option - I'll whip her out and launch into homeschooling :-) It's like getting married for me - I was able to do it because I knew that if it didn't work, I could get a divorce. Knowing that strangely makes me much more willing to work hard at the marriage because it's a choice. Same thing (kind of) with school for Jess. If it doesn't work, then I can choose to keep her home. But because this is my choice, then I'll do my best to make it great for her. That means getting really involved with the parents group, staying on top of what she's learning and who her friends are, etc. And thank goodness I've still got my baby boy home with me for at least another year ;-)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

I love summer. Everything's so much better when you can wander around barefoot.

We went to Canobie Lake Park on Saturday. The kids were mostly great, except for my poor little Samilicious. He just doesn't like big crowds of people, I've decided. He wasn't miserable all day, but he didn't smile much at all, spent a lot of time begging me to go somewhere and nurse him, and was just, in general, unhappy. He wouldn't ride any of the kiddie rides, wouldn't go on anything without me, wouldn't play in the water slides. He perked up somewhat when we were eating, but then would descend into unhappiness. Not misery, not grumpiness, just not happy. But the girls had a blast... I really want to go back without children (which has got to be just a side effect of dragging Sam around, because the last time we went, two years ago, it wasn't anywhere near as difficult, because Sam was just a year old. He hung out in the sling all day and was utterly content.

We got a flat tire on the way home. 10:00 at night, with five kids in the car, an hour and a half from home - never a good situation. Fortunately, Marc was able to change it, the spare was also really low on air, so we had to drive to get air in it, and then make our way (slowly) home. We didn't get to bed until after 1:00 a.m. The kids, thank goodness, slept the whole way home - and Marc and I had a lovely little ride together...

Sunday was nowhere near as much fun. My washing machine died, so Marc spent the morning trying to fix it, but ended up declaring it dead. Heartwrenching for me, as I'm a girl who loves clean clothes... but my fabulous landlord bought a new one and it's going to be delivered tomorrow.

We had Sarah's friend party at Claytime - which was awful, as per usual. I hate parties with the ex... she introduced herself to all the parents coming in as Sarah's mom (which is totally right, she is Sarah's mom) and this is Marc, Sarah's dad. If she mentioned me at all, it was as "... and this is... Melissa." Just some random chick crashing an eight year old's party - not as the stepmother, the one who cooks, cleans, and cares for this child every single weekend. Being a stepmother is an incredibly thankless job, almost all the time, and it's not just thankless, but actually frustrating and demeaning at times like this. But (and here comes my pep talk), the girls love me, and are happy to tell their friends when they ask that I'm their stepmom - and Lilli's already ten, Sarah just turned eight, I don't have that much longer of being forced to attend these friend parties, right? And in the end, the ex can pretend all she wants that I don't exist, but I do - and will continue to, so it doesn't matter that she doesn't acknowlege my presence in the girls' life. The girls know, and Marc does - and ten years from now, I'll only have to see her at major life events of the girls, and it'll be a non issue. Sure, ten years seems like a long time - but my exposure to her will lessen more and more over time, right?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Is my marriage exceptional or is it just me?

We've been together for seven and a half years now - and I still really, really like him. Legitimately, he's my favorite person to talk to, my first line of emotional support. He's literally my best friend - but I'm also (blushing here) incredibly attracted to him as well. Our sex life is not as intense, frequency wise, as it was pre-kids, but it's as good, if not better, when it does happen.

We don't always agree - and there are days when he makes me insane. There are days when we're just so/so, not arguing but not really in sync either - but for the most part - we're just a unit.

Last night, I was driving to pick Marc up at work, with the two kids in the backseat. We drive a very old, battered Volvo station wagon, very traditional and mom-ish. I heard a song that came out about seven years ago, just after I had my miscarriage. I don't know the name of it, but the chorus goes "Its a great day to be alive, I know the sun's still shining when I close my eyes..." and every time I hear it, I get a little misty. Because that's always been my outlook, and after I lost my babies, I couldn't ever imagine feeling that way again. Everything was dark and dangerous and painful, and the first time I heard that song, I had to pull over and cry - not just because I was aching from the loss of the pregnancy that had shocked and thrilled me, but also because I lost that aspect of who I was, that level of buoyancy and joy and hope - and didn't know if I'd ever get it back.

Yesterday, I still got a little teary, just remembering what that was like, and wishing that I could go back and tell the girl I was that things would get better, and that one day, I'd be driving my two happy, healthy, vibrant children to pick up my husband, who's wonderful and loving and brilliant and fun - and that I'd get that joy, that hope, that happiness back. And it's mostly because of Marc - if he hadn't loved me so well, if he hadn't stuck thru the sadness and showed me that I could come out the other side, if he hadn't given me Jess and Sam and the little one yet to be conceived - I don't think I would have been able to get there on my own. Thank God I didn't have to.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Overscheduled children

Jess is starting first grade next year - and she wants to play soccer. Why soccer, I don't know - I would not describe her as an overly physical sort of child, she's never expressed any desire to do anything with any sort of ball, but for whatever reason, she thinks soccer is the way to go. She also dances -she's been attending dance class for four years now, and she really seems to enjoy that as well. Adding in Hebrew School (which is still meeting only on Saturdays for the next year, but will start meeting on Monday and Wednesdays as well once she hits second grade) - this child could well be a textbook case of an overscheduled grade school child.

I believe, for me and my kids, anyway (not wanting to judge anyone else's choices) that kids benefit enormously from having a stay at home parent and a lot of downtime built into their schedule. I think there's huge value in day dreaming, in reading and writing, playing pick up games with the kids in the neighborhood, riding your bike and playing in mud. I think for Jessica especially, having some "relaxing time" is really critical to her overall happiness. Unstructured play time, when she has to use her imagination and create something to do out of nothing - I think that's inherently good for a child. Builds creativity, self-sufficiency, and also a stronger sense of family togetherness - when your sibling is the only playmate available, you learn to get along and have fun.

Which is why I'm surprised to find myself wondering if I should sign her up for one day of afterschool activities as well. Dance, soccer, Hebrew School aren't enough, part of my mind is saying - let's send her to the afterschool program as well. There are so many opportunities for kids - swim class, cooking class, etc - plus time spent with friends, building relationships - the drive to enroll our kids in everything is so strong sometimes. Even though I consciously disagree with it in theory, I still find myself wishing that I could.

In reality, we are definitely going with dance, which will be on Wednesdays, and if I can confirm that soccer doesn't conflict with dance or Hebrew School, then I'll sign her up for that as well. I'm probably going to forego the afterschool program, because even though we could probably afford it, she doesn't really need it, and would probably prefer to stay home anyway. I'm just surprised at how easy it was for me to start to think that soccer, dance, Hebrew School and an afterschool program would be the perfect combination for her, knowing that Jessie would almost always rather just stay home and play, and that she's lucky enough to have a parent at home to take care of her.

In other news - Sam was riding his hobby horse today and singing to himself "Save a Horse, ride a cowboy." Not sure where he heard the song, but was terribly amused by it. Harrison and Jordyn (the other kids I watch) are reliably potty trained, mostly, but Sam still has zero interest in it.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Expectations versus Reality

I feel as though my weekends always so harried and stressful... and this weekend seemed to be especially so. Friday night, we had Shabbat dinner, and it didn't go well. I love Shabbat, it's my favorite part of the week. I make homemade challah bread, a big dinner for everyone, we invite guests and it's (in theory) this lovely, peaceful time when we all just relax and enjoy the night. And Saturday is supposed to be more of the same, quiet peace, time together as a family to reflect on how lucky we are and how thankful we are to have this life together. I love everything about it, from making challah with Sam, (he's so freaking cute, he carries all the ingredients from the cabinet to the table, naming each one as he goes, and put in extra sugar to "help,") to cooking dinner while the kids play, to sitting down with the whole family there, watching each child's face as Marc puts his hand on their heads and blesses them, Marc sings a little love song to me, and his face is so perfect and sincere. After dinner, we read together or play tickle fight on the bed and snuggle the kids to sleep.

This week, it just didn't work out that way. Friday was a disaster. Just utter chaos - the kids were horrible, screaming, fighting, arguing, shoving each other... I felt like all I was doing was refereeing. I had to take Jess to the doctors in the middle of the afternoon - she's been persistently coughing for over a month, and I finally made an appointment for her. Turns out she's allergic to dust mites - which are, for the record, everywhere. All the time. By the time I got home, the house was messy, the kids were wild, dinner still had to be made and I was hot and sweaty. It was not pleasant. My cousin came over with her husband for dinner, and it was just not fun for me. There was this lovely moment, after everyone went home, when Marc was curled up with Sam in Sam's bed, telling him a story, and Jessie snuggled up next to me and I read her to sleep - that was what I was looking for. But it was not enough to get past the general sense that Friday night had been awful...

Saturday was better - I decided to change my outlook. I was going to have a perfectly pleasant day, and if that meant that everyone else was miserable, I was okay with that :-). While this sounds awful, I think it was actually a really good idea. Because as we all know - when Mommy isn't happy, nobody is happy. And when Mommy is even more upset because she's trying to make things nice for everyone, then we end up with the disaster that was Friday night. I think a big part of it is that I want Shabbat to mean something - I want the kids to have beautiful memories of times together - and it felt like they were all conspiring to make it miserable, despite all my good intentions. The fact of the matter is that they are kids, and don't necessarily have the same expectations and hopes that I do. And that's okay - but I need to adjust my way of looking at it so that I don't end up being so angry at them for failing to live up to my expectations.

So I left Marc home with the kids on Saturday morning, took myself shopping to the library. There's little that makes me feel better than being surrounded by oceans of books and I can read whatever I want. Then we spent the afternoon at the state pool. Saturday night, we had a cookout and some friends over for dinner, and that was lovely. I let the house get crazy messy, did what I wanted instead of what I thought was best for everyone else, and we were all a LOT happier.

Sunday was a little calmer, we had Sarah over for her birthday breakfast, then sent them home. Annie took Jess for a couple of hours, and Sam, Marc and I all napped. It was great. We went out to dinner last night for Sarah's birthday - twice a year, we all get together, Marc's ex, the two girls, Marc and I, plus Jess and Sam and have dinner together. It's always a little tense, but mostly okay... Stepparenting is never particularly easy, but I think we have a pretty good situation, in that we cede virtually all control to the first wife, but are still able to spend as much time as we can with the girls. So she's happy because she's still feeling like she's in control - but the girls are growing up as part of our family, which makes us happy as well. One thing I think we do right is maintain an atmosphere of utter civility - Marc NEVER fights her, which is at times frustrating for me, but in the end, it makes for a happier situation for the girls, and that's what matters.