Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Kid Update - 15 random facts about Jessica

1 - She consistently self identifies as the "middle child," despite the fact that in reality, 90% of her time is spent as the oldest of three.

2 - She dotes on her baby sister, but seems firmly convinced that her little brother is out to get her.

3 - She really likes reading, but it's not the love of reading that I hoped she'd inherit from me.  She'll read and enjoy it, but it's not her favorite activity.

4 - She's very poised and confident with other adults.  Probably comes from being the oldest (despite what she thinks - she IS my oldest).  I can send her into the dry cleaners or the store to grab something without hesitation.

5 - She's got major drama tendencies, and with very little provocation, can sink into an all encompassing sobbing fit.  It's not depression, it's like an overwhelming embrace of whatever feeling she happens to have.

6 - She's incredibly thoughtful.  By that, I don't mean that she's incredibly considerate, although she certainly can be.  But she THINKS about stuff, very much an in her head kind of kid.  She's got a lot of questions and theories on how the world works that I find fascinating.

7 - She still sleeps with her teddy and special blankie.  And honestly, she's almost always rather sleep in my bed than not.

8 - She's majorly afraid of heights.  Being picked up over Marc's head freaks her out.  A lot.

9 - She's really, really good at math.  Doesn't like it - but is really good at it.

10 - She's achingly polite.  If offered something, she'll more than often, politely refuse, rather than have someone put the effort into getting it for her.  Especially if we're at someone's house and they offer her something to eat or drink.

11 - She's got a definite style, a specific way of dressing that amuses me.  Because it's so different from me - I wear whatever I can find and hope it's clean, but she's very distinct in her likes and dislikes.  Won't wear jeans, hates sneakers, but will don a scarf and pair of oversized sunglasses and look like a movie star.

12 - She will resist taking a shower or a bath, but once in there, will often refuse to get out until she's totally out of hot water.

13 - She really, really likes cosmetics, perfume, etc.  She carries a little purse filled with nail polish and lip gloss and sunglasses and is never happier than when she's in front of a mirror, beautifying herself.

14 - She's terrified of loose teeth.  Marc forcibly removed a loose tooth (actually two) when she was five, and she's freaked out now about anyone touching her teeth when they're loose.

15 - She's amazingly sensitive, achingly sweet, and incredibly stubborn at times.  She's my angel girl, my first little baby, and I'm always, always stunned and grateful that I got lucky enough to have a daughter like her.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Forays into homelessness

We were technically homeless.  We weren't living on the street, thank goodness, and have a strong safety net of friends and family who were all very helpful and loving and thank goodness for wonderful friends who housed us and made us feel welcome and loved.  But the facts are that, for a month, my husband, my three small children and I, were homeless.  That terrified me.  Still terrifies me.  Because even though we're moving into our new place next week (YAY!), it was so easy to reach the point where holy moly, we have nowhere to go and oh my God, we're actually homeless.

I didn't use the word around my kids, but I couldn't help shouting it to myself all the time.  It wasn't our fault, really.  We had trusted the wrong people, entered into a lease that wasn't enforced with a landlord who had a whole bunch of issues, plus we were just coming off of fourteen months of unemployment.   It was a combination of events that led to a perfect storm of me and my family homeless.

I'm still a little shell shocked, honestly.  I know it was a momentary blip, I know that Marc's got a great new job and is doing well.  I know that the kids rode it out surprisingly well, they're amazingly resilient, and of course, it helped that we were staying with such great friends who made us feel so welcome.  And it was less than a month, after all.  Our new place is lovely, really.  I already adore it and I'm not even moved in yet.

Things still feel a little fragile and scary.  I imagine that they will for a while, for me.  I hope not for the kids.  I wonder how they really felt, in their own heads, about it.   They seemed okay, mostly.  Jessie could talk about it, which helped to mitigate some of her fears and frustrations.  Sam had some other issues that manifested itself, but for the most part, he seemed to sail thru it without too many problems (it definitely helped that we were staying with his best friend).  Julianna was a little off, but adjusted quickly.  I worried the least about her, she's still at an age where her security is still really based on my availability.  As long as she could snuggle up next to me, she was fine.

I'm feeling more like me these days.  The past month, two months, really, have been exceptionally difficult.  I was depressed and miserable and trying so hard not to be.  But I feel lighter, more cheerful and optimistic.   Signing an eighteen month lease will do that to a girl.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Crisis of faith

I have a hard time articulating my spiritual beliefs.  Actually, I don't know that it's a hard time articulating it, more it's a hard time understanding them.   I'm Jewish - of that, I'm certain.  I believe in a divine presence, and I believe that it's benevolent.  I believe in free will.  I also believe in destiny, and somehow manage to blend the two into a oddly reassuring theory that I chose my life before I was born.  That it was almost like writing a story that has to contain some things - but I was able to choose the awful things that happen knowing that it would balance out in the end.  That with some perspective, I would be able to know that this was exactly what needed to happen to get that.  This and that being variables that change depending on circumstances.  For example - Marc and I miscarried twins very early on in our relationship.  And as devastating as that was - and it was truly the worst thing that had ever happened to me, and there were days when I didn't ever think I'd be able to smile again - I can look back now and say that, without that, I don't know that things would be what they are today.  Without that trial by fire, without that early loss to bind us together - I might well have messed up the relationship with Marc.  We were looking for different things at that point, and I think that I might have been too scared and he might have not wanted that level of commitment so soon after the divorce - but when we lost our twins, it brought us so much closer together.  So I have Marc, and Lilli and Sarah, and Jessica and Sam and Julianna and this whole life together - and I'm not certain if that would have happened without my twins.   Ten years ago, I was not so sure.  I was devastated and lost and terrified - because I WANTED those babies so badly, and I had prayed so hard for them, and when they died, I didn't just lose my babies, I lost my faith.  I've gotten it back mostly - or thought that I had, but find myself feeling a lot of those emotions these days.

So I try to find some perspective here.  Because January will be great, and we've got a good chance at getting a lovely place to live, and if I can get thru the next three weeks or so, I think we'll be okay.  But I'm struggling financially in a way that nobody likes to be struggling in December - and I'm bitter and angry about it.  And when people say to me (as they do ALL the time) - "You'll get thru this - you just have to see it happening."  I want to scream in frustration.  Because positive thinking can make it easier, but doesn't make the bad stuff go away.  And being positive is no guarantee against the really, really hard stuff.  Like being homeless, and worrying about where the Hanukkah gifts are coming from - I don't KNOW that this will be fine.  I knew that we'd be okay before our landlord summarily moved his stuff back in when we had nowhere to go.  I knew for sure that we'd be in our own place and we'd be fine.  And we're not.  I'm angry and enraged when people assure me that positive thinking is what I need most to make this better.

We are so lucky - I know that.  And my kids are doing great - because we have wonderful friends who are happy to have us around and family who loves us and we'll be okay.  Of that, I'm pretty sure.  But I can't blithely assume that just because I want it all to work out, it will.  That puts too much pressure on my ability to think my way to success.  I believe things will be okay - because Marc has a good job, because we've built a stable life together and we'll get back to that place soon.  But I know now that there are no guarantees, and that simply wanting something to work out perfectly doesn't make it so.  I just wish I didn't have to learn this lesson every ten years or so...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sorry for the hiatus...

But I'm realizing that I blog when I'm happy - and when I'm really struggling emotionally, I'm not much in the mood to write about it.

So after having our feet kicked out from underneath us, and being basically evicted on three weeks notice, we were unable to find an apartment quickly enough.  We met with a couple of landlords, and there was one or two that would have rented to us, but they weren't in great neighborhoods and the places we liked were reluctant to rent to us because Marc was still unemployed.  So we ended up putting our stuff into storage, and are staying with our friends Sara and Arlen.

The good news (no, great news - because this really is great news, it's just that things seem so hard right now it's hard to focus on it), is that Marc started a fabulous new job on Monday, and apparently has an uber high credit score, so we can probably qualify for a no money down home loan and buy.  We don't have any debt and have been living exceptionally frugally, and paying our bills on time pays off :-)  But after talking to the loan officer, it looks like if we wait another six months, and then apply for a loan, we'd be in a much better position to qualify.  So she recommended a tenant at will place for six months and then go for a house.

So that's our plan.  And it's a good one, and I'm really trying to stay optimistic about it - but right now, I hate the fact that we aren't in our own place.  This is really, really hard for me.  Thank goodness for wonderful friends like Sara and Arlen, and my lovely new realtor, Annamarie, because she's talked me down off the ledge several times so far.

The kids are adjusting beautifully.  Sam is doing great - really.  I mean, I'd say, of the three of them, he's really doing the best so far.  Jordyn is one of his best friends anyway - and this way, he's in a familiar setting, gets to sleep right next to me every night, and so far, I don't see any problems with him.  Jessie is having a harder time - because there's no alone time for her, and no space for her to arrange her stuff.  Jessie loves her stuff, and arranging her journal and stuffed animals is challenging because there's not a lot of space here.  Julianna is doing... okay.  She's adjusting fine to being here, it's missing her daddy that's hard for her.  She's so not used to having him gone, and I feel so bad for her sometimes.  She talks about "Yaya" all day long, and wakes up at night talking about him.

It'll be okay - I try to keep telling myself that.  But this has shaken me on a level that's usually not shakable, if that makes sense.  It's very, very difficult.  I find myself really hating my former landlord for putting us into this position, and feel very powerless and unable to make it better.  This isn't a normal feeling for me - I generally try to go with that peace and goodwill towards all philosophy - and I'm angry and bitter.  I'm also enough of a control freak that being in this position is making me nuts.  I just have to wait and see what Annamarie can find for us, and hope for the best.  I know that we're all healthy, and thank God for that.  I'm not blind to the fact that this could be SO much worse.  We had our choice of people to go stay with - we are blessed with wonderful friends and family, and everyone is so kind and generous - but I'm the one that people stay with - not the one who goes to stay with others.

But we are all healthy and the kids are adjusting as well as they can.  And Marc has a wonderful new job and the van is still running great.  We're on the cusp of great and wonderful things - but I can't begin to tell you how grateful I'll be to be in my own place again.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It's official - I'm crap at packing

We're moving into a friend's house for a month - because the apartment we want isn't ready yet.  It's insanely frustrating, because we're putting stuff into storage and it's just messy and yucky and I hate every last little bit of it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It's that time of year again...

The annual freak out over Christmas vs. Hanukkah.  And again - I end up being frustrated that it's so hard for Marc to feel okay about celebrating Christmas.  It's unfair of me, I know that.   I totally know that.  Because as  he points out - he celebrates right along with me, and doesn't show the kids that it's an issue for him.  He's doing everything right, but inside, I know it's hard for him and I feel guilty and resentful because it's hard for him.  I was reading over the past December entries on this blog (how lovely to have documentation of how I felt in years gone by) and yeah - we go thru this EVERY SINGLE YEAR.

http://musingsofawritermom.blogspot.com/2009/12/december-dilemma.html

It's pretty lights and Santa Claus and candy canes for me.  It's peace on earth, joy to the world and goodwill towards men.  It's family and presents and fun.  And I think my kids deserve that.  I think I would be depriving them of something wonderful if I said that because we are Jewish, we don't get to celebrate Christmas.  I think I would start to resent Judaism if it meant that I couldn't be who I am - because I'm a girl who loves her some Christmas music.  I'm a big fan of holiday lights, I get giddy when it's time to decorate the tree.  This doesn't conflict with my Jewish identity.  But it does very much conflict with Marc's, and that's hard for me.  Hard for him, obviously - but hard for me because I'm making him do it.  Because I want him to convert to the Church of Melissa - which includes membership at a synagogue, celebration of all Jewish holidays, observation of Shabbat, a sneaking suspicion that fairies do exist, colored eggs and chocolate at Easter and yes, candy canes, Christmas carols and presents on 12/25.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Epically stressed

Is "epically" a word?  I may have made it up, I do that periodically.  I mean, hugely stressed.  This move process is slowly driving me insane.  I wake up in the middle of the night, freaking out about boxes and where we're going to go.  The place we really want may not be ready in time for us to move into it, and I'm beyond panicked about what we'll do.  Which is why I'm awake and on my second cup of coffee.  Woke up with Julie around six thirty and nursed her back down, but then my mind started racing and hasn't stopped.  I hate this.

In other news... Julianna Ruth is officially a walking girl!  I know I've announced this several times before, but mostly that was just hopefulness.  She'd walk a little - but now she's walking all the time, all over the place.  Nineteen months old - so she's a late walker, but happy to report that she's officially a toddler now.  She's a sick toddler, with a kick ass cough and just so sad about it.  She's such an uncommonly cheerful kid - really, she's the happiest little thing, so when she's irritable, you know there's something wrong.  She refuses to take any kind of medicine, vomited up the motrin we tried to give her yesterday so last night, we went out and got suppositories.  And she slept well for the first time in almost a week.  Poor baby - it's just a winter cold, but she's not happy.  Jessica also has the cough, and sounds terrible.  No fever for either of them, but the cough sounds really bad...


Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday Traditions

My family loves Thanksgiving - and we've got traditions that dovetail together to make the holiday something special for every one of us.   I grew up as the oldest of four children and the daughter of a single mother who has a serious aversion to touching raw poultry.  I was trained as the official turkey maker early.  I think I was ten when my grandfather finally got tired of coming over on Thanksgiving morning to take out the "yucky stuff" from inside the turkey and taught me how to prep the bird for the oven.  Ever since then, making Thanksgiving dinner has been something for my mother and I.  We always play Christmas carols and gossip.  She makes the stuffing and I prep and stuff the bird.  She flutters around the house, setting the table, getting out everything else and I peel ten pounds of potatoes.   It's my favorite part of the whole holiday - once the whole family arrives, and chaos ensues - that's not Thanksgiving to me.  Thanksgiving is my mother and I, in the kitchen, getting ready.

After Jessie was born, it was simple enough to roll her into the tradition. She and I just slept over at Grammy's house in Clinton and she would play on the floor.  As she got bigger, I was able to incorporate her more and more.  Marc realized quickly that hanging with us in the kitchen was not his cup of tea so he would usually sleep at home, stop at his parents for breakfast and them come over later in the day, be there for the dinner and football game.  After Sammy was born, I just took both kids with me.  Sam was still nursing, so it made sense for him to stay with me.  But two years ago, I was pregnant and sick - and Sam was entering into a definite Daddy stage.  He was realizing that he was a boy and so was Daddy and he didn't want to stay with the "girls" at my mother's house.   So we started a new tradition.  On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Julianna, Jessica and I go to my mother's house.   We get take out, my cousin Becky comes over with her daughter Abby (Julie flat out worships Abby) and her mother, my aunt Aimee.  My sister Mandi comes with my niece Bella and we hang out, chat, visit.  Then we get up at the crack of dawn, and have our Thanksgiving morning together.  Mom and Jessie make the stuffing and set the table, I still handle the turkey, Bella plays with Julie and watches the parade.  There's coffee and pastries and parades and Christmas carols.  It's lovely - and I look forward to it all year round.

Marc and Sam have a whole other routine that they've developed.   After dropping us off, they go out for Chinese food, and then come home.  They snuggle up in our big bed, watch what we call "inappropriate television" (SpongeBob, I hate SpongeBob) and then play "Fight On the Bed."   This year, Marc said that they wrestled off and on for a couple of hours, before poor Sammy finally just dropped off to sleep when my husband went out to the kitchen for a drink.  They get up late, hang out, eat a "man breakfast" and finally make it down to my mother's house, just in time for dinner.

But after dinner... after dinner is when our whole family gets our time together.  We all pile in the van, and drive home from my mother's house.  We fix leftovers and all pile on the couch to watch the Charlie Brown Thankgiving special.   I read somewhere that things are special only because we make them so - and we make Thanksgiving special every year, by starting traditions that the kids will remember.  I hope that thirty years from now, I'm still making Thanksgiving in the mornings with my daughters and granddaughters, and that my husband is still going out for Chinese with our son and grandsons.  And then we'll all gather back together, eat too much turkey, gorge on desserts we'd never eat any other time of the year, and then cuddle up together and watch Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty learn that what the holiday is all about is being together.  Because it is.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

So glad I'm still nursing this girl

I've done the toddler nursing thing before and am somewhat leery about it, only because weaning Sam was so difficult.  Julianna and I had so many nursing struggles in the beginning, there was definitely a part of me that didn't expect to make it thru the first year of nursing, and so I'm slightly surprised that at almost nineteen months, she's still very much a nursing toddler.

She's sick today - which is notable because it is so rare.  She is, like Samilicious Boy was, a staggeringly healthy child.  Jessica was riddled with ear infections, and while there's no way to know for sure, I believe that the fact that she was the one child who stopped nursing before she was nine months old contributed to why was my sickest toddler.  Anyway - so Julie has a yucky runny nose and feels like crap - which is why I feel so fortunate to be able to nurse her and make her feel better.  Not only is it comforting to her, I also don't have to worry about her not eating or not drinking enough.  She'll be fine, she'll spend most of the day snuggled up to Mama and nursing, and by tomorrow, I fully expect she'll be on the mend.

While I'm at it, I'm also grateful that I can spend all day snuggled up with my girl.  As a stay at home mom, sick kids are not a problem at all.

All about gratitude today, that's me.  I'm also stressed to the max, freaking out because Marc's at an interview, we still haven't heard definitely about any of the apartments we've looked at and I'm surrounded by half packed boxes and kids who are on the edge.

Sam is actually not all that stressed yet.  I know from past experience, he'll freak when we move.  Getting ready to move doesn't bother him at all, but actually getting used to a new place is very hard for him.  Even those three days we were without power and staying with friends were hellish for him.  He likes to be at home, and not have to deal with any changes.

Jessica, on the other hand, is a complete wreck now.  She's fine once we move - because she's more like me.  It's the anticipation of it, the stress that she's picking up from me, that's making her nuts.   She's holding it together most of the time, but sometimes she just loses it over something so minor.  The past two Hebrew days (last Wednesday and again yesterday) she's been absolutely hysterical about not wanting to go.  And she loves Hebrew.  But I know it's the stress of the move.

I hate my landlord.  Just saying... the fact that I have to do this to my kids, put Jessie thru this now, and will have to put Sam thru it after the move, just absolutely enrages me.  This last minute move, with no warning, is so unbelievably wrong.  I wouldn't have moved in the first place if I'd know it would only be for a year, and I certainly would have moved the hell out of here in August, if I'd known he was going to pull this in November.  So furious at him....

So I'm focusing on gratitude today.  Because a serene grateful Mommy is a lot better for everyone than an enraged, frustrated one.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Decluttering

The dumpster was delivered today, and I'm already thrilled to betsy about it.  With three children, two stepchildren, two kids I babysat for five years for, and a plethora of nieces and nephews, I have a ridiculous number of toys.  Toys that nobody ever plays with, toys that nobody loves because they're broken down, battered, abused and desperate for the sweet relief of a dumpster.

I'm not a hoarder, in fact, I adore throwing things away.  What I do have is a compulsive need to please and an inability to say no when something is offered to me.  As a result, I have a LOT of stuff that I don't want or need and whatever isn't in good enough condition to donate to the local Savers store is going in the dumpster.

That being said, I have two children who are hoarders.  Sam is worse than Jessie, in that he doesn't ever like anything to be thrown away, but Jess has more than her fair share of crap that she's collected and would never notice if it wasn't there.  Which is why I'm delighted about Monday and Tuesday of this week.  I plan on just throwing stuff out.  All day long.  Both days.   The dumpster will be here for ten days, but I plan on getting rid of as much as I can on those two days.

After that, let the packing begin!  Yes, I still have NO idea where I'm going.  You'd think this would throw me off, but nope - I'm serenity personified.  I'm sure we'll find a place.  We're still waiting to hear about one apartment and we're going to see three more today and one on Monday.  Surely one of these will work.  Tell me one of these will work...

I'm getting rid of all the stuff.  I am.  All the old baby clothes, limiting myself to one little bag for each child of baby clothes that I adored them in.  But I can't quite bring myself to get rid of my pram, even though Julie rarely sits in it and she's never going to use the lay down portion of it again.  I also can't quite get myself to donate my slings and baby carriers.  We're probably done.  Probably.  But I'm still hanging onto my very favorite baby stuff, just in case.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Worrying will only make me crazy

This is my new theory.  Not only will freaking out over my impending homelessness make me insane, it will adversely affect my children, who are super sensitive to my moods.  Not that I'm going to be homeless - I'm not, obviously.  Our landlord isn't going to throw us out on the street if we can't find a place in time, and even if he did, we've got enough people who we could stay with temporarily until we find another place.  Our requirements aren't grand, but they are specific - deleaded, three bedroom, in this area, and in our budget.  The perfect place is out there, and we'll find it.

In other news - we're getting the dumpster delivered tomorrow.   I'm very much looking forward to getting rid of a LOT of stuff.  Broken toys, random little McDonalds toys, stuffed animals they never touched, crap...  We've got a lot of crap.  I don't really know how, because we are exceptionally frugal and rarely actually buy anything new.  But both the older kids are complete packrats and save everything they've ever seen.  My problem is that I've only got Monday and Tuesday to be throwing stuff of theirs away - because after that, they'll be home "helping" me go thru the playroom.

The kids are holding together well, I think.  They're both aware that we are moving, and I keep presenting it as a wonderful new adventure.  Something fun and exciting, and I keep repeating that they don't have to worry, Daddy and I will find the perfect place near their friends and they won't have to change schools.  But I know it's hard for them.  Jessie worries so much about everything, she's a thoughtful kid, and somewhat of an anxious one - so I know that this is going to be an issue.  And Sammy is so attached to things - he really, really doesn't like change.  What makes me so angry is remembering how hard it was for him to move here last year for him, how sad he was to leave our last place.  Somewhere deep inside, in a place that I'm trying to ignore, I'm absolutely enraged that I have to do this to him again.  I would never have moved in the first place if I'd know it was for a year.

Change of topic - because anger, like worrying, isn't going to be beneficial here... Julianna is walking.  Not all the time, but a LOT more than she used to be.  She's on her feet more often than not, and going for longer distances.  She's so cute and excited with herself, I love the look of concentration and pride on her face as she toddles around.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Blatant Sexism - I hang my head in shame...

So I'm continuing on in our quest to find housing before the end of the month.  It's not going well, but I'm growing weary of focusing on that, so we're going to ignore that for right now... and we were leaving an apartment and trekking back to the minivan with Julianna.  She was propped on my hip and I was walking up the street, past a garbage truck.  It was one of those cool ones, that picks up the recycling bin, tips it into the top of the truck and then slowly lowers it down.  And I just walked by.  Like it wasn't even there.

If I had been holding an eighteen month old Samilicious Boy, I know I would have stopped, gazed in wonder at the truck.  Probably chatted with the garbage guy and really made an event out of it.  Because I did it with him. But because I had Julianna (girl) instead of baby Sam (boy) with me, I didn't even notice it until we were past it.

I did realize before I popped her back into her car seat, and stopped and went back.  I pointed it out to her and told her how cool it was, and she appreared to be dutifully impressed.  But I was HORRIFIED at the fact that I didn't even blink when we walked by the first time.  It didn't even occur to me to show it to her, because she's a girl.  Horrified.

I have some excuses that my mind keeps trying to get me to accept.  Like, I'm tired, and Julie's not feeling great anyway so I was just thinking that I wanted to get back home.  Like, maybe it's Julie's fault, because Sam would have grabbed me and MADE me look at it.  But I know that the excuses are just that - bottom line, they're just paltry excuses and I'm obviously a secret sexist who believes that girls don't like trucks.

I didn't know this about myself.  I was a card carrying member of the National Organization for Women in high school.  I still proudly call myself a feminist.  I read feminist biographies with Jessie.  I don't consciously believe that Julianna shouldn't love her a garbage truck.  But actions speak louder than words, and I can't deny the reality.

So when we got home, and there was a bucket truck outside, with guys working on tree removal, I dragged her out there to see it.  And she wanted to go back inside.   Sam and I spent ages sitting on the stairs watching guys working on construction things when he was little.  He LOVED it.  Julie was mildly interested.  Mildly.  Is it her or me?   Do I send her a message that she's not supposed to like big loud trucks that do stuff, or do I pick up on her lack of interest and respond accordingly?  One thing I've always been aware of is how very feminine both of my girls are and how masculine Sam is.  Jessie and Julie both seem to gravitate to baby dolls and frills and pink, and Sam has always been fascinated by army guys, superheros and tools.  I never thought that I had an opinion either way - I'd love a little tomboy as much as I love my little princessy girls and I'd probably feel more comfortable dealing with a boy who wasn't quite so fascinating with violence and bad guys.

I'm still not sure, if it's Julie or me.  If I'm subconsciously steering my children into strict gender roles or just rolling with what they like.  I'm pretty feminine.  I like pink, and babies, and crocheting and I love me some ribbons on just about everything.  And Marc is very traditionally masculine, spending most of his leisure time doing hard core boxing and mixed martial arts.  So maybe they're just modelling what they see us doing.  Or maybe Jessie and Julie genuinely love baby dolls and Sam genuinely loves superheros.

But either way, I dug Sam's old trash truck out from the box of toys I'm getting rid of and put it upstairs next to the baby cradle where Julie keeps her baby dolls.  Just in case...


Monday, November 14, 2011

How do you know when you're done having children?

I've got, by most standards, a big family.   My husband and I have our own three children, my oldest daughter is eight, my son is five and our baby girl is a year and a half.  We've also got my husband's daughters from his first marriage, they're twelve and ten.  That's five children.  That's a lot.  It's a mini-van full, it's a table full, in fact, it's two tables at lot of restaurants.  It's no exaggeration to say that we bring the party to pretty much any party we go to, because when you've got five kids, anytime you go anywhere, you're bringing chaos and fun and excitement.   My life is busy and there are absolutely times when I'd love the opportunity to be cloned so that each of my kids could get 100% of my attention.

My last pregnancy was really hard, non stop nausea and horrible, horrible itchy dry skin.  Braxton Hicks contractions all the time.  I don't really like being pregnant, honestly.  I love feeling the baby move, and I like the clothes (I think maternity tops are cute, I know it's weird), but the rest of it?  The peeing all the time, the heartburn - it's not fun.

So why did I go misty at the Ecotarium yesterday, when I saw a mom wearing her newborn baby?  The sight of those little leggies and that sweet little baby head snuggled up against her chest made me go all gooey inside.   I freely admit that I adore babies.  I flat out love them.  And I know, I know, they keep getting bigger, and as they get bigger, they get more complicated and more challenging.   I've got an eight year old just starting to deal with peer pressure, a five year old who's not at all happy about kindergarten, a toddler who's already embracing her independence and two stepdaughters that are rapidly approaching adolescence.

Even with all the challenges, there's an incredible beauty to raising children.  Watching the children grow and learn and develop.  Seeing glimmers of the incredible women that my stepdaughters will be, watching my first baby girl grow into this big, big girl, my son (who still looks so tiny to me as he walks into kindergarten) forming his first real friendships with kids that aren't my friends' children, and my baby, my baby girl toddling around the house, singing and mooing and growling - every single developmental stage is represented here and I love every minute of it.

There's a part of me that feels like maybe, just maybe, there might be another baby in my future.  My husband would be delighted to just keep going, a la Michelle Duggar.   He's not adamant about wanting more children, just absolutely open to the idea.   I don't know.  We're getting older, at thirty seven, it probably won't be as easy to get pregnant as it was, and there's a part of me that's superstitious about it.  I've been so blessed with healthy children.  Should I tempt fate once again?  Should I just be grateful for what I have - when so many people I know wanted to have more and couldn't?  I haven't made any decision yet, and probably won't for a while.  I like the three to four year age difference between children.  Right now, I'm way too busy to contemplate another pregnancy.   But I do.  Contemplate. A lot.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Situational Depression

I don't know if it's actual depression.  Because it feels more like I'm just in a bad mood all the time.  And it's all because of the move.  I still haven't found a place to live, and I feel the clock ticking down to December 1 all the time.  I need a three bedroom, deleaded apartment in the West side of Worcester.  Add to that that our primary breadwinner is still collecting unemployment and we were completely unprepared to come up with first/last/security (because we were promised that we would be fine here thru the school year) and it's all I can think about.  On paper, we don't look like good prospective tenants - and that makes me angry, because we ARE.  We pay our rent, we're nice people, we're friendly.  I'm just mad.  When I'm not mad, I'm stressed and panicking.  I hate this time.

But on the upside, we are all still healthy and happy, relatively speaking.  There are apartments out there, and once I move, I'll have a lovely landlord that I can depend on, and life will be blissful once again.  And Marc's got a second interview set up for next week, and there's a lot of potential there.  I'm not panicking financially, or I wouldn't be, if I wasn't looking at moving in less than three weeks.  But I digress.  Which is what I'm saying - I keep digressing back to anger and frustration...

Brief kid update -

Jessica Mary is thriving.  Just absolutely thriving.  Doing very well in school, seems happy socially.  She loves her teacher, and I'd say that third grade is probably her easiest year so far in terms of her adjustment.   She's got her school conference on Tuesday, and I'm looking forward to getting a more in depth perspective.

Sam is also doing well - other than the freak out over school pictures and a recurring problem with entering the art room.  As it stands now, I'm the official art helper, which seems to help.  He still looks heartbreakingly little to me every morning as he trudges off to school, with that giant backpack that he insists on carrying, but I have to reluctantly admit that he's growing up.

Fortunately, I've still got my Julianna.  Who is still not really walking.  She can - but won't.  She walks on her knees.  She's also talking more and more, she can say animal noises and several other words - and has also perfected the art of making the kids laugh on purpose.  She performs for them, and it's so sweet.  They just flat out adore her, she's such a lucky baby...

And Marc - thank God for Marc.  I'm achingly aware of how lucky I am.  I can't imagine how I'd do this without him....

Thursday, November 10, 2011

the joy that is Glennys

My Glennys is back from NH.  She moved up there earlier this summer, and my kids have been bereft and miserable without her.   I honestly can't tell you which one is happier, Jessie, Sam,or Julie.  Glennys is Jessie's best friend, and she's so missing her, but Sam worships Glennys with a love that's so pure and overwhelming.  He literally wants to be right beside her, holding her hand all the time.  Even Julianna, who didn't entirely remember her, is thrilled to betsy to have another buddy here.  As for Marc and I - Glennys really is my fourth child.  Or sixth.  Depending on how you count kids (ahh - the joy of stepmotherhood....)

In other news - we're still homeless.  We've only been looking for a week, but it feels like forever.  I've been to see four places so far, and two of them were... okay.  Not great, but okay.  One was wonderful, but out of our price range and so I'm afraid to hope, and one was just awful.  My stress level is constantly high and it's literally my last thought before I go to sleep and first when I wake up.  And because Julianna is still waking occasionally, I also get to freak out in the middle of the night as well.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Don't be looking for Sam's Kindergarten Pic

Because he was crying too hard to have it taken.  Why?   I don't know - I think it's got something to do with all the attention - being singled out.  He was flat out terrified of it.  Woke up crying and was such a wreck about it, in the end, I just gave up and told the teacher not to bother.   I know what he looks like, and take enough pictures, I'll just dress him up nicely one afternoon soon and pose him outside and get that developed to hang on the wall.  Jessie looked adorable, as per usual - although she cried this morning to, because, as she explained to me, I fail to dress her appropriately for picture day.  I had proposed a pair of jeans and a nice top - given that they only take a picture of her top anyway.  But she claims that the rest of the third grade will be in "suits and ball gowns" so she had to make do with a boring old non-ballgowny dress from her closet :-)

I'm not depressed, precisely, but I am super stressed out and very tense these days.  We're still actively searching for a place to live, and I hate it.  Hate it, hate it, hate it.  We've seen two places so far, and neither one is acceptable.  My standards aren't high, but it has to be clean, in a nice neighborhood, and close to a park or have a yard to play in.

I'm sure we'll find something wonderful, but mostly, right now, I'm just stressed and aggravated.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sometimes, I'm absolutely awful at this

The whole parenting thing, I mean.  Sometimes, I suck at it.  Today, in fact, I sucked a lot.  I'm super stressed out, my landlord announced that he's moving back in and we have to find a place in less than a month.  I'm financially stressed to the max, emotionally worn out and so tightly wound that I can barely stop shaking.  And I'm a crappy mom when those circumstances exist.  I'd really like to be endlessly patient and calm.  Serene, even.

But the truth is that my kids in inextricably linked to my emotions.  When I'm a wreck, they're wrecks right along with me.  Which means that they're going to be having more tantrums, they're going to be clingier and fussier and more demanding.  At a time when my patience is nonexistent, and my energies are focused on making sure that we can keep a roof over our head - it's not an excuse, I know I'm a crappy parent, but it's a bit of an explanation to make myself feel better.

I yelled at Sam today.  A lot.  Screamed at him, really.  He's developed a technique of just opening his mouth and screaming at the top of his lungs when things don't go his way.  He's frustrated and just hollers.  Loudly, incoherently and constantly.   It makes me crazy.  How does he know so perfectly how to push my buttons?  I can say, officially, that screaming back at him does not help.  It doesn't make him stop.  It doesn't make me feel better, and it sure doesn't diffuse the situation.   I'm not sure what would work, honestly, to fix it.  I'll keep trying.  I think what works is actually when I stay completely zen and not react at all.  When I lose control, it just feeds into it.  I thought this was unique to Jessie - because Sam hasn't really gone down the road of making me nuts with temper tantrums, but I'm now thinking that maybe it's just something that all my kids do, once they hit five years old.   I'm great with infants, toddlers, preschoolers.  Maybe I'm just crap with five year olds.

Serenity.  Calm.  Peace.  These are what I want.  These are what I need.  These are what I must cultivate.  Deep breaths.  Remember that these are temporary problems, with easy solutions.  I just need to find them.  And I will.  

Because really, my kids need a fully functional mother.  And a screaming lunatic is not really my idea of fully functional.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Holy Moly

My town looks like a tornado blew thru it.  I've never seen anything like it, trees down EVERYWHERE.  Downed power lines, huge branches and limbs and actual trees just lying dead on the side of the road.  It's horrifying and fascinating and holy moly awful out there.  And I'm so grateful to be back home in my little house, with my happy children and singing husband and know that we're safe and warm and everyone is back where they belong.

In the northeast, we're used to blizzards.  We're even kind of happy about them, there's a sense of camaraderie and local pride about being able to weather the storms - but a noreaster in late October is ridiculous.  Just ridiculous.  And the trees agree with me, because they were ill prepared for the storm.  In that they hadn't even HAD TIME TO CHANGE COLORS YET.  So when all the snow fell, the poor trees were still still heavy with leaves and with the added weight of heavy wet snow - they all fell.

We lost power on Saturday night, late, after the kids were asleep.  All day Saturday, we had been preparing for it.  I did all the laundry, I made all the beds, vacuumed, made sure the dishwasher had run and been emptied and reloaded.  We gathered all the candles, put batteries in the flashlights - and the lights didn't go out. The kids were practically breathless with anticipation - they had never experienced a power outage and were half excited and half terrified.  But the power didn't go out until close to midnight, and at four thirty, Marc, Jessica and I were all up and looking out the window at all the trees that had already fallen.  We're so lucky, none of them hit the house, but we lost big branches off of three of them, two in the backyard, and one in the front.  The one in the front of the house is being held up by the electrical wires running from the street to the house.  Which makes me feel super safe.

Sunday, we packed our stuff, some of it, and headed across town to our friends' house.  Sara and Arlen, thank goodness for them, took in not only my family of five, but also our friends Joy, Skip and their two kids.  Saturday night was kind of like a party - with thousands of kids running around and lots of noise.  Needless to say, it was a rough nights sleep.  Marc was downstairs, Jess was on the couch, and I was in the bedroom with a very little twin bed, two five year olds and a toddler.  Jordyn abandoned me pretty quickly and ended up crawling into bed with her parents, so I slept on the twin with Julie on one side, Sam on the other, and as you can imagine, it didn't go well.  The only time I regret being a co-sleeping mom is when we're at someone else's house and my life would be easier if they'd sleep alone on the floor.  Instead, I moved with the two kids to the floor, nursed Julianna while Sam fell asleep and then crawled back up onto the bed with Julie and slept there.  Kind of.

The next night was marginally easier, because we moved to Joy's house.  I felt so guilty about imposing on everyone (even though both Sara and Joy were awesome about telling me not to worry about it) that I wanted to keep moving to a different house every night, so as to spread it out.  We all slept in Harrison's room, and I was on the floor with Sam, while Jessie was in a nest over in the corner, and Marc slept with Julianna on the futon.

We still had no power, and no heat either, so we couldn't go home.  And when in doubt - I go to my original home.  Even though my mother isn't living in the house I grew up in - where she is, that's home to me.  And when I finally got there, dragged in all my stuff, and dropped my kids in her living room, I felt so much better.  Jessie was so stressed out, she wasn't eating - she ate on Monday afternoon and then didn't eat until Tuesday night at my mother's house.  Sam had been so restless at night, neither one of us had gotten any good sleep since Saturday.   And Julianna's schedule was totally off - she was barely napping sometimes, and taking huge long naps on other days.

I'm profoundly grateful for my friends, who were so warm and welcoming.  And grateful for my mother and stepdad, because they got my little girl to eat finally, and stuffed my son full of candy and laughed at Julianna who was walking, not on her feet, but on her knees.  But mostly - I'm grateful for us - for the team that Marc and I are, and how lovely it is to be home, with Julianna and Sam and Jessie in our already cluttered and messy living room.  For a hot dinner of turkey bacon and eggs, and the prospect of curling up on the couch with everyone and watching The Middle in ten minutes.

I'm a lucky, lucky girl....

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nursing a toddler

First, my disclaimer.  I'm a big fan of nursing.  Big.  In fact, when Julianna went on a nursing strike at three days old, it was one of the worst days of my life.  Postpartum hormones combined with no sleep made it impossible for me to grasp that not nursing her didn't mean that I was the worst mother in the entire world.  I believed so strongly that nursing my baby was not only what was best for her, but also that it was the most important thing in the world.  I distinctly remember thinking that we'd never be able to bond if I couldn't nurse her, that I wouldn't be able to have the same relationship with her if I wasn't able to nurture her the way I did my other two children.  And nursing Julianna, in the beginning, was utter hell.  After the nursing strike, we ended up with nipple shields, which transitioned into thrush.  I ended up with "multiple fissures" on the nipples, and a kick ass staph infection to boot.  I WORKED at nursing this child.

And to add to that disclaimer - I nursed Sam until he was three and a half.  Longer, he was close to four before he finally stopped nursing.  I can do toddler nursing.  I just don't want to, very much, not anymore.

Maybe it's just a bad morning.  Julianna had a rough night's sleep last night, and since we cosleep, that means that I had a rough night as well.  I'm working at transitioning Sammy into his own bed, and it works some of the time, but last night, he was in there as well, and he had a bad dream during the one two to three hour stretch that Jules did sleep.  So I'm tired, and headachy and not really in the mood.  But I know that after nursing Julianna all morning, from roughly four thirty until I finally got up out of bed around seven, when she started clawing at my shirt to nurse at seven thirty - I was really reluctant to do it.

I believe in nursing as long as the kid wants to nurse.  I believe that when you meet a need, then they can outgrow the need easily.  And I'll be honest, there are definitely times when I'm grateful that I can still stop a crying fit in seconds, that putting her to sleep is so easy and I even still appreciate the bonding and closeness of knowing that only I can provide something that suits her so perfectly, and makes her feel so safe and loved and happy.

Weaning Sam was awful, it was part of Julianna's pregnancy, which is still such a hard time for me to think back about.  I had a rough pregnancy to begin with, with the itching and the nausea, and there was a ton of really ugly family drama (my extended family, not my immediate one) going on then as well, but having a screaming three year old begging me to nurse on already sore breasts that were no longer producing milk definitely added another negative layer to that time in my life.

I dread weaning Julianna.  I know she's not ready, and I suppose I'm not really ready yet either.  She's still so little, and I'm not ready for her to be a big girl yet.  But I can see myself getting there, and I just hope and pray that her weaning is peaceful and easy, no tears, on either of our part :-)

Friday, October 28, 2011

A typical afternoon at my house

Marc brings all the kids home from school at quarter of three.  On Mondays, Wednesdays and every other Thursday, Jess has either Hebrew School or Brownies, but today is Friday, so they're all home.  Plus Jordyn is here because my friend Sara had to work until three.  Jessie came in, hysterical, because she had left her book at school and was going to have no book to read all weekend.  Because I could easily relate to that, I drove her back to pick it up.

I got home, and Julianna was still sleeping.  Sam and Jordyn had opened their bags of Halloween candy and had spread out a blanket in front of the television, where they were watching "A Charlie Brown Halloween."  Jessie made popcorn, I made coffee and we all talked and hung out for about an hour.  Sara came and picked up Jordyn, we talked about the weather reporting up to fifteen inches of snow (!!!) on Saturday night.  Julianna woke up and I began to think about making dinner.

I made homemade chicken nuggets, rice and broccoli.  I don't much like cooking and kind of bailed in the middle and Marc finished up.  Julianna nursed three times during the afternoon, off and on.   The kids and I ate dinner, Marc went downstairs to work out, Jessie disappeared into my bedroom where she could watch the Disney Channel unmolested by little brothers and sisters.  Sam has stacked blocks, doll highchairs and pillows onto the couch, for reason that make sense only to him.  He's now busily engaged with throwing plastic packages of diapers (we bought a new box of diapers yesterday and he opened the box and is using the two wrapped packages of diapers for toys) and then hurling himself onto them.  When questioned, he explained that he was practicing "Capture the Ghost," a game that he either made up or learned in gym today.  Julianna has taken all of the cups out of the cabinet and spent fifteen minutes rearranging them to her specification.  It would appear as though she just tossed them, wily nily all over the kitchen, but she put a lot of time and effort into it.

My house, which was actually really clean around two thirty (because Julianna took a good nap and Marc was at the school helping with the Halloween party, so I had a lot of time alone), now looks like a bomb hit it. Actually several small bombs, because there are small pockets of cleanliness.  The kitchen is mostly clean, except for the aforementioned cups and bowls all over the floor and under the table.  And the dining room looks great.  The living room... well, lets just not mention the living room, okay??

Because sometimes, Julie just wants Mama

I just send Marc into the school to volunteer with set up for the Bookfair tonight.  I had signed up originally and should be the one doing it, but I've been without my Julie girl a lot this week, and I miss her.  More to the point, I think she misses me.  And when she wakes up, she would have been heartbroken to discover that I was gone - so I stayed here.

With Sam, and with Jessie to a lesser extent, I was absolutely primary in their lives.  Sam liked nobody else, and Jessie was okay with other people, but really only thrilled to betsy with me.  But Julianna is so much more social and interactive.  Yesterday, my friend Sara came in and Julianna offered her a potato chip.  Which isn't really earth shattering or anything - but it took Julie noticing that she was there, liking her, knowing that Sara likes a chip, and thinking to offer it.  All of which was new to me, because Sam, to this day, wouldn't acknowledge that an adult had entered the room.  Jessie probably would have smiled at her, but been too shy to offer.  Whereas Julie was just confident that Sara would of course welcome the offer of a chip, they had shared chips in the past, and didn't hesitate to be friendly.

I forget sometimes that she is still so little, and so needy.  She still needs her mama.  She is happier when I'm around.   Thank goodness that I'm able to stay home with her, I'd really hate leaving her every day....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An oldest child raising her children

I've been thinking a lot, of late, about the baggage we bring to motherhood.  About the lessons we learn about childhood and responsibility and growing up, and how that translates to the way we mother our own children.  I had, by many standards, an absolutely wonderful childhood.  I had a warm, loving relationship with my mother, a fabulous grandfather, a close knit group of aunts and uncles and cousins watching out for me.  I had a roof over my head, food on my table - and while we were never even close to wealthy, we were not so poor that I did without what I needed.

But there's another perspective - and that's the one that I struggle with sometimes.  My father had left early on in my childhood, and because I was the oldest, and so close to my mother, I definitely felt the lack of that additional parent.  I grew up early, and assumed a lot of responsibility.  I had a tremendously close relationship with my mother, and while it was (and is) wonderful on so many levels, I don't necessarily want to give my own daughter that much responsibility.  It didn't work for me, not entirely.  I have an unbelievably crappy relationship with some of my siblings now, and I think a big part of that can be traced back to our childhood.

So I'm conflicted - especially with Jessica.  I want for her to be protected from too much responsibility too soon, and I think I overdo it sometimes.  I also think that I don't give her enough responsibility - and that she fights for control and respect more than she needs to - simply because there's a part of me that wants to shield her from having to grow up too fast.  I'm realizing that a lot of our biggest battles boil down to power - who is going to be the one in charge of her life, and when I ease back a little, when I give her as much control as I can (within reason), her stress level is noticeably lower.

Last night - she didn't want to go to bed.  Which is not unusual - she's a lot like me and doesn't fall asleep easily.  Sam is more like Marc and just announces he's tired, lays down and sleeps.  Jessie has always required more - I need to ease her into sleep, and she fights it all the time.  As an infant, Jessie would cry before bed, and it broke my heart, she'd be sobbing in my arms, so tired and just refused to sleep.  So the bedtime battle wasn't unusual, or even unexpected - but this time, instead of demanding that she go to sleep, I just gently explained that her body needed rest, and she needed to lay down and let her body relax.  She could read or listen to music or sleep, it was up to her.  And once I gave her that power, the fight went out of her immediately, she was asleep within minutes.

I don't have any answers - and I'm pretty sure that I'm always going to be a little unsure if I'm giving her enough or too much responsibility.  But I do know that being aware of my own baggage, being aware of my own desire to protect her might be overwhelming her need to assert her own personality, being aware of that can only help me to make the decisions based on what's best for her, at that moment.  I want to give her more room - so that she doesn't have to fight quite so hard to get it from me.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Why I hate fruit snacks, sick Jessie, and holy moly - she's actually walking!!!

Marc took my Samilicious Boy shopping yesterday.  Marc loves quality time alone with a kid, any kid, so he's always game to bribe them into going shopping with him by letting them pick out a treat at the grocery store.  And my son, God bless him, always, always wants those disgusting sticky fruit things.  Fruit by the Foot, Fruit Roll-ups, Fruit Gushers.  He LOVES them.  But the problem is that once they're in the house, it's all he can think about.  They went shopping last night, and he's already had three sobbing temper tantrums because we refuse to let him eat the entire box.  Sam is oddly easy going about most things - but there are some things that just capture his little mind and he can't be distracted or dissuaded.  I'm reminded of the art class debacle.  Having decided that art is bad, throwing a huge fit and screaming like he's being tortured is the only reasonable response.  And knowing that there's a big ole box of craptastic fruit treats in the cabinet is the only thing he can possibly think about.  There is no distracting him - and I can guarantee that until the box is gone, he'll ask for one every ten or fifteen minutes until eventually, I'll just scream - "EAT THEM ALL - DO IT NOW - AND I'M NEVER EVER BUYING THEM AGAIN!!!" and I'll throw the box at him.  I'd like to pretend that I'll stay all tough and firm - but in the end, he'll win, because he's way more stubborn than I am.   

Jess was home sick yesterday.  Actually sick, which is a rarity here.  Usually, she's pretending to be sick to get out of doing stuff - or actually, I don't think she's consciously pretending - I think she doesn't like going to school or Hebrew or dance (likes being there, just doesn't like going), and tricks herself into feeling sick to get out of it.  But yesterday, she was actually sick.   Spent all day in bed.   And as much as I recognize that having a sick child is bad - I was happy that she was in bed and being sick.  She wasn't just playing me, she really didn't feel good and spent the whole day in bed.  I felt very good mother-ish, and even made her chicken soup and brought it to her on a tray.  It was a dream come true for her, a whole day spent alone with the Disney Channel.

Julianna is actually walking.  For real, this time.  I know I've been saying for a while that she's on the verge of it, but she's really doing it.  She isn't walking for long stretches - it's not like she's walking from the living room down to the bedroom or anything.  But she's on her feet more often than not - and she's absolutely delighted with herself about it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Favorite Things Friday - Volume II

1.  On Wednesday (aka The Day Sam Lost His Mind Because of Art), after I dragged him out of the car, and passed him off to two teachers, who then dragged him into class, the school got Jessica out of class and had her come and soothe him.  As awful as that morning was - I was so happy that Sammy knew that his big sister would make him feel safe and that she was capable and ready to step into that role.  I have a whole bunch of issues, personally, around being the oldest of many children, but it was more gratifying than I would have imagined to see my daughter step up to the plate and calm her brother down when none of the adults around him could do it.

2.  Julianna is moving ever closer to being a walker.  She's standing more and more, taking a step or two at a time.  It may have taken a lot longer than I expected it would, but she's a glorious walking girl, and I'm very proud.

3.  And in keeping with the kudos to Jessie theme - we kept the kids home today.  It's a Jewish holiday, Simchat Torah, and we went to the synagogue.  There are some holidays where it's a no brainer to keep them home, like Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, but Marc and I have traditionally gone the celebration at night and skipped the daytime services.  This year, I stayed home with Sam and Julianna, and Marc went with Sarah and Jessie, and then we all went today during the day.  (and by "all,"  I mean, the three kids, Marc and I - Lisa sent Lilli and Sarah to school).  Anyway... Jessie arranged with her teacher to hand in her homework a day late and even asked if she could take her spelling test on Monday as opposed to missing it altogether. VERY adult of my third grader...

4.  My sister is moving!  She'll still be about twenty minutes away, but she's getting a place with one of my favorite cousins.  I lived with my cousin for eight years, before Marc and I met, and have the best memories... I'm very happy for her.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Smooth sailing this morning

Which again begs the question - what is it about the art class that freaks my child out?  He was angelic this morning.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Poor little boy...

Sam doesn't like art.  There.  I've said it.  He doesn't like coloring.  Can't stand painting.  Just flat out hates art class.  It's been an issue for a while, with frequent references to "I hope tomorrow isn't art class..." as he drifts off to sleep.  I've been very tricky about it, specifically not finding out which day he has it (plausible deniability, we call that) so that I could always answer, "it's probably not, don't worry about it, now go to sleep..."  But in the end, he figured out that on Jessie's library day, he also had art.  And today is Jessica's library day.

After the first week of school, Sam has basically been blissful about going to school.  Not always delighted about it, but never crying or seriously objecting... but this morning, he started off saying he didn't want to go.  He didn't eat his breakfast, and kept repeating he didn't want to go.  He didn't like art, today was art day, and he wasn't going.  I gave him a little extra attention, a hug and made sure that he was wearing his favorite hoody. Got him down into the van, we all drove to school and at the last minute, he flat out refused to leave the van.

Jessie hopped out, and rushed into school, and we pulled the van out of the drop off lane and parked it.  I unbuckled, and got out.  Sam, at this point, had unbuckled as well, and scrambled way into the back of the minivan and was huddled in a fetal position on the opposite side of Julianna's huge car seat.  I've got the kindergarten aide out there with me, trying to coax him out, and I'm crawling into the van, hauling my five year old.  He's screaming and yelling, the aide is still trying to convince him that it's a GOOD idea to go, and I'm grimly trying to wrestle him out without hurting him.  I finally get him out of the van, and the school secretary rushes out to help haul him into school.  I ask if I should stay - because this is KILLING me to make him go - but I KNOW I have to go.  I know he'll calm down faster if I leave, but.... then the poor little guy starts screaming "JESSIE - I WANT JESSIE!!!!" over and over again, and the teacher and secretary can't understand him, so I holler to the other teacher who was coming to help "JESSIE COHEN - SHE'S IN THIRD GRADE, MRS. RING'S CLASS - GO GET JESSIE!"

I called when I got home, and Karen the secretary, assured me that he calmed down once I left and Jessica got there.  They were hugging each other and she said he was fine.  The school adjustment counselor was with him and it was okay.  I'm still a wreck.  I know he has to go to school.  I believe that.  I believe that if I gave into him, he'd learn that he doesn't have to do what he doesn't want to go, he's got to go to school.  I know that.  Giving into him is not the right answer - but it's so hard to force him to go when he really doesn't want to.  And it begs the question - what is it about art that freaks him out???

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Success, at last

My mother has a lovely habit of taking grandchildren out for special one on one time.  And Sam has steadfastly refused, from infancy, to go.  Ever.  And since quality fun, one on one time with Grammy is rarely achieved by dragging a kicking and screaming kid into the car, she's never been able to do that with him.  She's got twelve grandchildren, and the one kid who never got any alone time with her was Sam.

But now that he's going to school - I suggested that she pick him early from school and take him out for lunch.  It officially marks his first ever going out alone with Grammy.  I'm ridiculously pleased by this - as is she.  Sam was pleased that he was going to get early dismissal and ice cream.

There's something magical about watching my mother and my children interact.  I think because we are so close, my mother and I have always been each other's best friend, I love watching her interact with my kids.  There's an amazing physical resemblence between all of them.  I know that I look like her, and they look like me, so I'm the obvious link, but when I look at my daughters and my son with my mother, I just see that they have the same eyes and the same smile.


Monday, October 17, 2011

Sukkah party

We had our first annual sukkah party this weekend.  Unfortunately, it was so cold that everyone pretty much ate at our dining room table, as opposed to outside in the sukkah.  What I like most about Sukkot, as a holiday, is that it's really like you build a little Jewish clubhouse, decorate it up, and hang out in it for a week.  In theory, you're supposed to be eating all of your meals in there, and even sleeping in there, if you're so inclined.  We were not that inclined.  In fact, I think we've only managed one or two meals, but it's mid-October in New England, and not precisely the best weather to be dining outside.  In fact, with the pouring rain and wind, one of our new ways of celebrating Sukkot is to watch out the window to see if the thing was actually going to blow away.  Thanks to some serious PVC glue, it's stayed standing so far.  It was Marc's first time building a sukkah, and it has been remarkably resilient.

In other news - Julianna is almost sort of walking.  Maybe.  If your definition is extremely generous.  She's standing more and more without holding onto furniture, and occasionally taking a step or two.  Given that she'll be a year and a half in two weeks, I'm just all the way thrilled.  She's so cute, she's all about being a "big" kid, she wants so badly to keep up with her older brother and sister.  God help us if we get just Sam some breakfast and not serve her the same thing.  Whatever we're doing for one of them, be it brushing hair, or helping with shoes, etc - Julianna insists on being included.

We also had my stepdaughter Sarah spend the night on Saturday night.  Having done this stepparent thing for a while now, I'm becoming more and more aware of how it changes.  The relationships ebb and flow, sometimes they love being here, sometimes they hate it.  Sometimes one of them will decide she wants to be here all the time, sometimes they want to be together and sometimes separate.  Lately, we've had a lot of time with Sarah and it's been lovely.  We still see Lilli, but the older she gets, the more she's carving out her own identity, and part of that is breaking away from the little kid thing we have going on here at the house.  She still loves us, I know, but we don't see her as often :-(.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Privacy...

Sam is exceptionally private.  For those of you who know Sam, this will come as no surprise to you.  Because I'm not a really private person (case in point, I've been blogging for the past couple of years), it does frequently come as a surprise to me.  Jess isn't all that private either, and Marc, God love him, would like nothing more than to share every last detail with everyone.

But it strikes me that at some point, Sam is going to find out about this blog, and probably read it, and be flat out horrified at the information that I've been sharing about him.   Last night, the poor little guy was sick and we were having a party.  I went out to the living room, and commented that Sam had thrown up, and I was putting him to bed.  He cried for ten minutes because he didn't want anyone to know that he had thrown up - and I felt like I had betrayed him by telling everyone.  I can only imagine what would happen ten years from now if one of his friends stumbles onto this blog and teases him about nursing for three and a half years...

This blog is pretty important to me.  I've fought for it, the right to write whatever I wanted.  There was, and is, probably, some pretty serious animosity towards me because I have blogged about personal matters among various members of my extended family.  And I pushed thru that, because this is my story.  Mine.  The hitch that I'm running into is that the story of me raising my children is also inevitably going to be a story that also belongs to my children.  And while I think that Jessica would be delighted to read this blog years from now, I'm not positive that Sam would appreciate having the rest of his childhood put out there for the world to see.  I can't tell what Julianna would say, but either way, I don't feel good about having my blog be so easily identifiable as about Sam Cohen when Sam Cohen is becoming so very private and aware of wanting to not share details of his life.

So I'm going to be moving the blog over to a private address.  I'm not going to make it public, exactly.  I'm still trying to decide how public to be with it - but probably what I'll do is come up with another name for it and then move the whole thing over to the new address.  Because I don't want to lose the last couple of years of blog posts.  I also don't want to lose any readers - so if you'd like me to e-mail you the new address, please send me an e-mail at melissa.cohen0214@yahoo.com.

It'll probably take me a day or two to come up with a title (how does one go about naming a blog something private yet catchy?).  If anyone has any ideas, or comments or thoughts - feel free to either e-mail me or comment on the blog.  I love feedback :-)

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Favorite Things

So I'm trying a new thing... each Friday, I'll post favorite moments from the past week.   In no particular order...

1.  Wednesday night, we had dinner in the Sukkah.  Marc built us a little hut outside, and Friday night, we bundled up in hoodies and had beans and hot dogs outside.  It was lovely, peaceful and sweet.  Jessie brought out her spelling words, Sammy chatted about how much fun school had been, Julianna ate her beans and hot dogs and babbled along with us.  There's something magical about the five of us together, and I never take that for granted.

2.  On Wednesdays, I cover Jessica's library class.  Sam's teacher lets me pull him out of class each Wednesday so he can come and be my helper.  I love that we get that little break in the middle of the week together.  He's doing so well in class, I'm so proud of how he's adjusted.

3.  There's a whole bunch of third graders out there that still refer to me as "Mrs. Jessica's Mom."

4.  Last night, we did two sheets of Mad Libs that Jess brought home from school.  And it turns out that Marc really does still have the sense of humor of a toddler.  Or no, it's actually more like a ten year old boy.  He kept  using completely inappropriate words (madlibs are supposed to be inappropriate, right?), like "penis," "toilet" and "booby."  It was ridiculous, and the kids were thrilled.  But the best part for me was that Marc was absolutely delighted by this - it's like some part of him just didn't mature past early adolescence.

5.  We play "Find the Sukkah" in the car these days - which is similiar to "Find the Christmas Lights" when you drive around and yell excitedly when you see them.  Only sukkahs are mostly in people's backyards and not all that pretty... but either way, I've been playing it in the car on the way home from school with the kids, and my stepdaughter Sarah really gets into it.  She's so much fun to play it with.  The older she gets, the more I like her :-)

6.  Jessie is actually reading at night in her room.  She's been on a reading strike, as of late, and it's making me insane (which is why she's doing it, I'm sure).  She actually took Hop on Pop out of the school library on Wednesday.  But the past two nights, she's been snuggling up with a real chapter book before bed, which thrills me.

7.  Julianna is now really, really into brushing her teeth.  She loves it, and is so enthusiastic about, she'd do it three or four times a day if we'd let her.

8.  I just sent Marc to the store with instructions to get me something lovely.  And he will.  Enthusiastically.  I like that :-)

9.  My sister, this morning, sounded happier than I've heard her in a long time.  Joy is contagious.

10.  My niece Abigail Bridgett, is officially a crawling girl.  Mere weeks away from being a toddling girl, as she's pretty enthusiastic about walking along when someone is holding her hands.  I can't wait to see Julie and Abby running down the hall together giggling, and this is a major step in that direction.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Okay - I'm kind of ready for her to walk

I like the crawling stage.  I do.   I enjoy the early, early toddler stage - where they're just starting to walk, just starting to talk.  Everyone has ages that they seem to prefer, and I really like the first year or so.  I mean, I love my kids always, but my favorite age has always been the first year to year and a half.

So I don't mind that Julianna is an exceptionally late walker.  I didn't mind when her younger cousins started walking and then running before she did.  She can stand on her own, balancing fine for extended periods of time.  And she's been reliably cruising along furniture for a long time now.  But she's definitely not walking.   Defiantly not walking.   Because I truly believe that she could walk, but she's adamant that she won't.

But all of her peers are walking.  I went to the library with her yesterday, which I do fairly often.  And Julianna has always loved bopping around the library.  She crawls all over the place, following along behind me, chipper as can be.  And yesterday, we went to the library, and she helped me return the books, putting them into the bins and then we crawled (she crawled, I sauntered) thru the new books, and over to the fiction section, down past the teens and into the children's room.  We picked out books and started to make our slow way back to the front of the library to check out.   We saw another toddler, who was, go figure, toddling.  Julianna was thrilled - she loves people in general, and was perfectly content to sit and chat with the little girl.  They showed each other their dresses and Julianna showed off her new sneakers.  All of this was done with grunting and pointing, as neither kid was actually talking, but they communicated really well.  The other mother dragged the kid away eventually, and then another mom wandered by with her two boys - and they were commenting about why that little girl (my little girl) wasn't walking yet.  They were actually laughing at her, because she was crawling and not walking yet.

It turns out that the little girl she was playing with was fifteen months old.  Julie is almost eighteen months.

I'm not freaking out about it, because I know damn well that kids meet their milestones on their own schedule.  Sam was a comparatively early walker, he was walking by the time he was thirteen months.  Jessie took her first steps at eleven months, but didn't reliably walk until she was right around this age.  But Julie is steadfast about not walking.  Determined not to - and it appears to be a decision that she's made, she's not walking and that's it.  She's crawling, and if we gently encourage her, she gets either mad or sad, and has on more than one occasion, when someone has hinted that perhaps she'd like to say, walk over to Mama instead of crawling, laid her little head down on the floor and moaned for sympathy.

I know I'll miss my crawling girl - but right now, I'm thinking that I'd like a little toddling monkey.  I'm ready - and I know that she is.  If I could just somehow convince her of that....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Because it's impossible for me to get a pic with all three smiling at once

I've resigned myself to a lifetime of pictures where only two thirds (at most) of my children are smiling and looking at the camera.  You'd think with a digital camera, I'd have a better chance of it, but nope - I have lots of duplicates of the three of them, in the same pose with different ones looking at the camera...


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Sukkah building and apple picking, oh my







We're embarking on our third of four Jewish holidays that fall, boom, boom, boom after one another in early fall.  First we had the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, and the Yom Kippur.   Now we're starting on Sukkot and we'll finish up with Simchat Torah.  Sukkot is a cool holiday - we build a little hut outside, to remind us of what it was like when the Israelites wandered in the desert.  Very nature based and kid oriented.   This was our first year building one, and I'm not entirely sure that it's kosher, but it's pretty.  Added bonus is that the birds and squirrels are DELIGHTED that we have built a little hut for them, and have spent most of the past two days out there exploring it.

We also did our annual apple picking trip this weekend.  I had been waiting and waiting to go, hoping that Miss Julianna would start really walking, but alas, she's still mostly a crawling girl.  She'll walk, accidentally, if she forgets that she can't do it.  But mostly she just staggers along furniture and crawls if there's nothing to hang onto.  The apple picking was, as per usual, a lot of fun.  Julie sat in the carriage and ate many, many apples, the girls chased butterflies and Sam was instructed on how to pick the apples nicely so as to not hurt his friend, the tree.








Saturday, October 8, 2011

New Years Resolutions

It's the Jewish New Year - or actually, it was the Jewish New Year last week, but I'm just now getting around to resolutions.  As a convert Judaism, each year I have to relearn what each holiday is really about.  Because each year, it seems to mean a little something different to me.  This year, I'm very focused on resolutions - about thinking about the kind of person I want to me, the ways in which I failed to live up to what I should have been in the past year, and the opportunities going forward to make the world, my world, a better place.  I'm a 37 year old woman, a wife, a daughter, a mother, a stepmother, a stepdaughter, a sister, step-sister, aunt and niece.  My life is made up of relationships, and at this stage of my life, it's really more dominated by my relationships rather than my own identity.  Which is okay, as long as I don't lose sight of the fact that there is more to me than how I relate to other people.

So I'm thinking about how I could have been a better daughter, a better friend, a better wife, a better mother.  Ways in which I want to change.  I want to be more patient, more present.  All the way around.  I have a tendency to multi-task, like most moms, and unfortunately, I tend to multi-task all the time.  Which isn't great, in terms of being able to actually pay attention to the child in front of me, or the husband trying to tell me something or the mother on the phone.  It's great in terms of getting stuff done, because I get a lot of stuff done, but for this year, I'm going to try and focus less on getting stuff done and more on paying attention to what's right in front of me.

Another resolution that I've been working on, and hope to continue to improve with, is not apologizing for the clutter.  I have three small kids, two stepdaughters, a husband, friends who are in and out of my house.  My house is always a mess.  Always.  Looking around the room now, I can see a thousand things I'd like to sweep thru and pick up, and it's never not like that.  But you know what?  I've got a family, and a life, and my house will never NOT look "lived in."  And that's okay.  It's not filthy.  It's not unhealthily dirty, it's vacuumed and swept and mopped, but I'm never not going to have shoes scattered everywhere, baby dolls willy nilly all over the place and blocks galore.  Well, not never, but not for the foreseeable future, thank goodness :-).  I never go to someone's house and think to myself  "my God, what a disaster, you'd think she'd clean a little..."  And if that's what people are thinking when they come to my house, well, then, I sincerely hope they keep it to themselves or that they just don't visit anymore.    


Friday, October 7, 2011

I left, and she cried until she vomited

I feel kind of like I'm in a relatively new stage of my life.  With two kids in school and a toddler (who STILL stubbornly refuses to toddle) at home, my life is very different than it was when I had a kindergartner and a toddler at home, or a second grader, a preschooler still at home and an infant... I was more home based then.  I didn't volunteer much with the school, I was a stay at home mom with very small children.  Especially because for all of Sam's life, I've had an extra kid or two here with him, because I was babysitting for Jordyn and Harrison.  My days revolved around naptime.

But now - I've both my big kids out of the house during the day.  And Marc is still home during the days, so I've also got someone here all day who loves my baby as much as I do.  Added bonus is that Julianna adores her daddy, so I've been feeling very ... free.  I've volunteered for a LOT at the school, because I've got three kids at the elementary school, Jessie, Sam and my stepdaughter Sarah.  Which means, if I volunteer for one class, I feel obligated to volunteer for all three of them.

Today, I had two library classes to cover.  I left for the first one and came back about an hour later.  When I left, Julianna was sitting on the floor and she started to fuss as I left, but I knew she was fine.  She's a daddy's girl, it was before her nap time, and I knew she'd be fine.  I didn't worry about it.  With Jessie and especially with Sam, I was always reluctant to leave them.  But I really thought Julie would be fine.

When I got home, she was curled up asleep, in just a diaper, up against Marc and under a blanket, and he said that she had cried so hard, she threw up all over herself.  I felt... like the worst mother in the world.  The fact that she had been that upset broke my heart, and picked her little naked self up and brought her into the bedroom, snuggled her until she drifted back off.  The whole rest of the day, every time I left, I dragged her along with me.  She came to pick the kids up, to drop off at Brownies, to pick up at Brownies and to drop Sarah off at home.

I had been so cavalier about how easy it is now - because she is such an easy baby.  Because she is so relaxed and happy with her daddy and so very social.  But she still needs her mama - and yesterday I realized that all over again.

Julianna is such a different kind of baby from the other two.   One of the obvious things you shouldn't do, with more than one child, is to compare, and I know that, but do it all the time.  Julie is just so much more social than either of the other two.  Especially Sam, but even Jessie was relatively timid with strangers.  We were waiting at pick up at the Brownies yesterday, and Julie started a conversation, with hand gestures and grunts, with a total stranger.  She showed her the socks on her feet, and then pointed to her shirt and then her pants.  Waited after each one until the woman commented appreciatively, and then moved onto the next item.  She kissed Marc's friend Mike before going to bed last night.  It was only last year that I could get Sam to talk to Mike when he was over.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bedtime Battles

Confession time here - I'm crap about putting my kids to bed.  I like to cuddle them to bed.  I just do.  I nursed Sam until he was almost three and a half, and Jessie liked me to sing and read her to sleep.  I just never got in the habit of shoving then into bed, flicking out the lights and dancing out into the living room for grownup time.  But I'm working on it - because at eight years old, my daughter has developed a serious aversion to falling asleep.

Mornings have been impossible with Jessie lately, because she's so overtired.  Yesterday, we had a long conversation about ways that we could improve, and since her health teacher (God bless her health teacher) had recently done a class on how much sleep the average third grader should get (which is at least ten hours), Jessie was completely on board with the fact that she needed to go to bed and get more sleep.  We decided that if she slept from 9:00-7:00, that would be a solid ten hours and life would be lovely.  We also agreed that going to bed at 8:30 would give her enough time to doze off on her own, to ensure that she was actually asleep by nine.

Last night was the first night - and she fought it bitterly.  Just bitterly.  She wasn't angry or weeping, but resigned and resentful that I was enforcing the rules.  She listened to her Sound of Music CD, and was asleep by nine.  And this morning was, as promised, lovely.  This afternoon, I went to the library and got her books on CD, so she has other options to listen to as she drifts off.

Sam is still a work in progress.  He's always been such a good sleeper, so I'm probably going to stick with what works with him - which is for him to fall asleep next to me in my bed and then trek him into his own bed.  Most of the time.  Sometimes, I'm sure he'll just end up crashing in my bed still... and Julianna still nurses at night, and since we've co-slept from the beginning with her (as we did with Sam), I'm in no rush to kick her out of my bed.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

October Update

Starting from the top... Jessica is doing really well in third grade.  She really likes her teacher and her papers coming home have been consistently in the 90-100 range.  I'm really pleased by this - and have now decided to consider second grade just an aberration.  I think the combination of it not being a great fit, personality wise, between her and the teacher, plus the fact that she took a little longer than most to stop reversing and transposing numbers was what led to her difficulties there.  She seems happier socially as well, which always makes things easier.  She's such a big girl - she's so much help sometimes.  The past two days, I was running the day care room at the synagogue with my mother, and when Jess was in there, it was like having another adult in there to help with the kids... She still fights with her brother pretty consistently - but even that seems to be getting better at times...

Sam is doing great at school.  Just freaking awesome.  The first week was utter hell, but after that, things gradually started to improve.  He's so much better about going in the mornings now, getting out of the van on his own.   He's entering an easy stage, I think.  He's just a calm, relaxed, easy kind of boy.  Although, with the exception of the massive separation anxiety, he's always been a breeze.

Julianna Ruth is STILL not walking.  Just not doing it.  She can balance fine, standing up by herself, but at this point, I think it's a mental thing, she's so used cruising along stuff that she won't walk independently.  But she's so much fun, all singing and charm.  She's getting so big in so many ways - but still so little.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oddly enough

My life, in many ways, got easier once I had two kids in school.  Suddenly we're all organized and with a majority of kids on the same schedule, life is just easier.  Bedtime is a breeze, no more battles to get Jess to sleep, Sam goes down by necessity earlier than she does.  No real freak outs in the morning - Sam is easy peasy to get out the door (and is even going into school by himself now) and Jess seems to somehow know that she doesn't have a chance in hell in staying home, now that I have to get out there anyway to get Sam to school.  Not that she hasn't thrown a few Hurricane Jess fits, but they aren't as overwhelming, because we all seem to know that it's just for form's sake, she's going regardless.  Plus Julianna is still taking a two to three hour nap in the middle of the day.  I'm finding myself with huge oceans of spare time.  It's lovely.

I've very seriously considered going back to work.  Side effect of the aforementioned spare time.  But I'm not sure if I'd make enough to make it worthwhile, after paying for childcare for Julianna.  I've been out of work for five years now.  That's going back entry-level, essentially.  Plus, Julianna isn't even a year and a half yet.  I'd really rather stay home with her for at least another year, maybe two.  And at that point, I need to decide whether or not I want to go back to work, or have another baby.  At this point, I can come up with compelling reasons for both of these.  I'm leaning slightly towards no more babies and going back part time when Jules is four.   With Marc still home, it's tempted to start looking for a job, because he'd be home with her, but between the two of us, he's got a much higher earning potential.  And he could get a job at any point, which would mean that I'd have to quit, assuming that I could find a job.

Julianna took three steps a couple of days ago, and hasn't attempted it again.  Which is still sort of amusing - like she's saying "yeah, okay, I can walk, but I'm not gonna!"