The synagogue

I’m disconnected from it.

I don’t know why exactly.  I think part of is that I’m was so very involved for a while there, and ended up feeling really unsuccessful.  Part of it is certainly that I was just there all the time, and now need a break.  And of course, the fact that I’m now working part time, combined with the reality that only one of my kids goes to religious school, means that Saturday mornings, I have to stay home and clean.

But I think a part of it is that Jessie’s bat mitzvah is coming up, and I’m not feeling it at the synagogue.   I feel it, all the time.  I feel it, the stress, the worry, the pride, the weight of it – I feel that all the time.  My morning phone calls from my mother when she nags me about the decorations I haven’t bought, when I look at the guest lists with the missing invitations, when I start to panic about the catering.  (By panic, I mean continue to panic about it, because ever since Marc decided it made perfect sense to do it ourselves, I’ve been existing at a low-level of panic on that situation.)

But I don’t feel it at the synagogue.  I feel very unprepared for this bat mitzvah, I feel as though Jessie is woefully unprepared for this.  Despite the fact that she’s been going to Hebrew school since she was five, and studying for this for two years, she still feels lost and overwhelmed.  Worst of all, she feels like she’s not good at it – she feels like a failure and hasn’t even gotten to it yet.  I feel like I don’t have the foggiest idea what she’s doing up there, and even less about what I’m going to be doing.

I’ve got a big support system, friends that you’d kill for, a mother who’s dying to do more.  And I’m sure the bat mitzvah, the whole thing, from the service to the party, will be lovely.  But I’m not connected to the synagogue, and worried about the service.  I worry about the party too – because there’s a lot more logistical stuff going on there for me to panic about, but the service is this huge unknown to me.  All I know is that I don’t entirely know what’s happening, I don’t think Jessie is ready or feels good about her part in it, and I can’t wait until that part is over.

There’s something wrong with the system.  I’m not sure what exactly.  Because it seems like such a lovely idea – to take these kids, on the precipice of adolescence, and have a ceremony where they formally join the community of adults.  Where we say – we love you, so so much, and we’re so happy we have you, and you are ready, now, to be considered an adult in some really significant ways.   You are in charge of your identity, your relationship with the Divine and with your community.  We’ve done our best, we raised you to this point, and you are so ready for this next step.  But the manifestation of this process – the bat mitzvah process, at least for me, as a Jewish convert who’s still feels so very much out of place, it’s seems to be perfectly designed to make me feel like I’m forcing my daughter into a process that makes her feel like a failure, and I have no clue about what I’m doing.

There’s not a lot of support, for the Jewish convert mom trying to get her kid thru this.  Maybe there shouldn’t be, maybe the theory is that once you convert, you’re just good to go,and somehow all the other converts absorb by osmosis how to get this done.  How to not feel baffled and inadequate when it comes to planning this huge party, this enormous service.  Maybe it’s more me – I felt so baffled and inadequate at planning a wedding that I did in my mother’s backyard.  I don’t like planning parties this big.  My idea of a fun party is pizzas and grownups in one room, while the kids run around outside.  I’m good at those parties.  A bat mitzvah is something else entirely.

Seven weeks from yesterday.

End of Christmas Vacation

I’m so tired, I can’t bring myself to start the whole going-to-bed process.  Get Sam his meds, coax them into brushing their teeth, watch Gilmore Girls with my little girl, nag Jessie about her math homework, yell at Sam for not falling asleep yet.  Just.can’t.do.it

I’ve been a little down today.  Partly because there was just so much to do – laundry and dishes and vacuuming and grocery shopping and more laundry.  But mostly because I know that tomorrow is coming, and Sam’s stomach is starting to hurt him again.  He started complaining more and more as the week went on – and while I can deal with him having stomach pain at home, and by that, I mean that HE can deal with it, he distracts himself or snuggles up next to me… having stomach pain at school is a whole different scenario.  Having a stomach ache at school is a recipe for disaster.  It’s phone calls from the nurse, it’s him crying and me feeling awful.  It’s arguing with the principal, it’s explaining to my little guy that he just needs to suffer with it, because he can’t come home.  It’s me feeling like crap, utter and complete crap, and him feeling even worse.

Okay – maybe that’s really what the problem is.

I’m also a little freaked about the bat mitzvah coming up.  Two months to go, I don’t have invitations, I barely have the invite list put together.  My caterer just broke her poor little leg, and I’ve got to find globes and decoration and nametags and cups and silverware and assign the honors and set up an rsvp email.  Oh my God, I get more and more stressed just thinking about it.

So maybe it’s not that I’m tired, it’s that I’m so overwhelmed and stressed that I don’t want to move because then I’ll start thinking again.  Thinking about my little boy, hurting and having to suck it while he’s at school all day with teachers who think he’s faking it.  Thinking about the enormous list of things to do (and pay for) for my daughter’s bat mitzvah, the one she’s spent years dreaming of and planning.  There’s no way I’ll live up to her expectations.

Maybe a good night’s sleep will help.  It’s been a rough several nights here, with New Year’s Eve kicking off a trilogy of nights that ended later and later.  Julie napped the past two days and was up past midnight each night as a result.  So I’m sleepy, and feeling a little bit… overwhelmed and stressed and exhausted.  It’ll get better.  It will, right?

 

A 2015 Retrospective

I didn’t blog anywhere near enough this year.   It was a good year, overall.  Filled with changes and adjustments, and a broadening of everyone’s world.  One of the things that got lost, a little, was my writing, and I’m hoping to do better this year.

But in keeping with tradition, here are my favorite posts from each month…

January – January started the snow.  I think I was also achingly aware that I was starting a big year, one that I’m still coming to terms with.  There were so many changes that happened this year, and even though I saw most of them coming, it was still a struggle to adjust to the new reality.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/kindergarten/

February – I’ve got two this month.  One is my Valentine’s post, and one is about the accident.  Both of these stand out for me, one because I’m still, always, so grateful for all that Marc brought into my life, and I never think I pay enough attention to that, and one because… this is still a memory that makes me panic a little bit, and I find that I’m still dealing with the ramifications today.  The thought of driving down the icy hill scares the bejeezus out of me.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/happy-valentines-day-2/

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/my-kids-probably-wont-be-at-school-tomorrow/

March – I had some computer issues in March, and only blogged a few times.  But this is a sweet little one that still makes me smile…

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/my-boy/

April – Because he still does.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/he-still-cleans-the-vomit/

May – I was just on the cusp of some pretty major changes, with Julie graduating preschool and it was the month before I started working.  So I picked two for this month, one where I seem to be trying to get some clarity on this stage of my life that was ending – and one because seven months later – you still really shouldn’t invite my five kids to Shabbat dinner.  They’re insane.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/and-then-she-was-five/

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/reasons-you-shouldnt-invite-my-five-kids-to-dinner-on-friday/

June – I started working on June 2, and the post for this month is about my first day.  It still kind of feels like my head is spinning…

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/i-dont-know-how-she-does-it/

July – this is one of my favorite memories from this summer.  It really was a great day.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/picnic-fridays/

August – I picked this one, because in so many ways, I loved going back to work.  But in one very specific way, it was (and is) still really hard.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/i-miss-them/

September – this one isn’t a cheerful little post, but September wasn’t a particularly cheerful month for me.  This was one of the reasons why – watching your child struggle is never easy, and not knowing why isn’t even harder.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/crappy-days/

October/November – I was just busy.  Really, really busy.  I barely blogged at all these two months, but this is a pretty good representative of where I was, mentally, those two months.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/stolen-moments-2/

December – This was a good month, overall.  Whether it was because Marc and I are going to be together for 13 years next month, and we’ve just worked thru all the issues, or because I was so busy running between work and kids and laundry and dishes and trying to deal with Sam’s health issues that I just didn’t have time to think about it, I’m not sure.  But it was still December so I’ve got a December Dilemma post as well as a post on Sam’s health issues.

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/december-dilemma-defensiveness/

http://www.melissaannecohen.com/recovery/

 

Happy New Year

I’m not a New Year’s girl, exactly.  Rosh Hashana is my favorite Jewish holiday, so I get my fill of New Year’s feelings back in the fall.  And my birthday is coming up later on in January, and that’s when I do most of my introspective New Year’s stuff, in terms of resolutions and looking back.  But tonight’s New Year’s Eve, and if nothing else, it’s wrapping up the Christmas vacation and that’s worthy of a blog post in and of itself.

Christmas this year was nearly perfect.  It’s never an easy holiday and that’ll probably never really change for me.  Too weighted with emotional baggage from the conversion and family stress – and also too colored by past memories of it being awful.   Too much pressure to make it perfect, this line in the sand that I’ve drawn and insist on celebrating each year.  But it gets easier.  Reclaiming it helps – redefining traditions and doing my best to be gentle with myself.  Christmas eve was spent at my mom’s house, with the kids bopping around and quiet family time.  That night we went out to dinner with all our friends.

One reason I did the Christmas Eve chinese food is that I know there are no guarantees.  And I don’t want them, in terms of my kids celebrating Christmas.  Or being Jewish, for that matter.  They’re going to grow up and may create families that only celebrate Jewish holidays.  They may grow up and become Buddist monks in Tibet as well – but more than likely, whatever religious tradition they follow – Chinese food on Christmas Eve is a tradition that I think will stand the test of time.

Christmas Day was lovely, in the end.  We came home Christmas eve night and put all three kids to bed, and then Marc crashed soon after.  I made hot cocoa for myself, and sat up wrapping presents.  Then I sat on the couch, and wrote my letter from Santa and ate all the cookies.  We had a bunch of friends come over that afternoon for dinner, and in the end, it was actually a lot nicer than I thought it would be.

Glennys came down on Saturday and has been here for the week.  We’ve had some crappy weather, which on the upside, meant that we were home for a few days, with nothing to do but play board games and hang out together.  The downside was that we realized – again – that living on the hill from hell is such a pain in the winter. We were literally stuck on the hill from Monday night until Wednesday afternoon.  But the kids have been great – they’re all old enough to play really well together, mostly.  We had Monopoly marathons, Uno matches that lasted way longer than I thought they should.

 

Another gratitude post

I’m not in the mood this morning.  My hair is a hot mess, I’m out of good shampoo, my house is still a mess, and I need to write the thank you/Merry Christmas notes for all the teachers.  And haul my kids out of bed, get them dressed, fed, lunch packed, and then out the door.  In time to rush to work, and try desperately to catch up.

In a time-honored tradition, I will, instead of complaining about the Best Plus stuff I don’t want to do, and the lunches I’m sick of packing, I will make a brief list of why I have no real business bitching about the little stuff.  I’ve got way too many wonderful things to be profoundly grateful for, and that’s what I should be focusing on…

1.  This holiday season has been probably the least angst-ridden that I’ve had in thirteen years.  Even if it’s just because I don’t have time for it (between working and Sam’s health issues, I’ve been trying to just keep my head above water).  Maybe it’s that I’ve finally learned to just chill – the holidays are what they are.  We celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah, and it’s never going to be an easy mix.   But it’s not impossible either – and the alternative isn’t anything I want to think about.

2.  My Sammy is feeling so much better.  The new medication has made such a huge difference for him – it’s simply a non-issue now.  He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t go to the nurse, he’s not in pain.  Everything we went thru, the tears, the fights with the school, the fights at home to get him to go to school, the phone calls with the nurse, the tears, oh, the tears – he’s better now.  I’m so grateful for my healthy, happy, thriving boy.

3.  My job is still a dream come true for me.  Yes, it’s busy and hectic and I’m a little bit underwater right now, but I know that I can get it all done.  And working in the library, with dream hours – this couldn’t be any better for me.  Serendipity is when something fabulous drops in your lap and that’s what this was – this job wasn’t anything I was even looking for before I found it, and it’s still perfect for me.

4.  My Julianna Ruth is so big and still so little at the same time.  I know, I know, she’s five and a kindergarten-going girl, but she’s still my baby and loves nothing more than curling up next to me and reading or writing.  She’s a writer and a dreamer and an artist in the most adorable of ways, and she’s thriving in school.  She’s like a little sponge, just soaking up all the new words and new letters and new ideas, and watching this process is so beautiful.  Probably a little more than it was with the other kids, because she’s SO into it – she LOVES writing.

5.  Marc and I both have cars that work, jobs we love, we’re both healthy and financially, we’re stable in a way that just wasn’t possible when I was a SAHM.   It’s still busy and crazy and chaotic and hectic all the time – but it’s also easier in ways that it wasn’t before.  I can afford to splurge on a book for Julie when we’re grocery shopping or to stop and get the kids a frozen yogurt when it’s been a hard day.

6.  My husband is scary smart – and I don’t think he’s ever had a job where that wasn’t a hindrance.  Until this one – and that’s beautiful to watch.  He loves it – and I love that he’s happy and fulfilled and focused and achieving his goals.  This is a really lovely time for us, and I don’t always pay attention to that.

7.  My Jessica Mary is so exquisite – a twelve year old girl is right on the cusp of womanhood, and it’s beautiful.  She’s bright and stunningly gorgeous, but more importantly, she’s got a flexible, curious and open mind, and is eager to learn everything she can.  About everything.  All the drama and emotional intensity is there, but tempered by a little more self control, a little more poise.  Adolescence is so much more fun, somehow, than I thought it would be.

Almost there

I’m not wishing away this holiday season – dare I say, it might be the easiest one I’ve ever had as a mom?  It’s obviously a reflection of the lack of time; between Sam’s health issues, and the fact that I’m working, there just isn’t time for me to worry about how Marc is thinking about Christmas and what impact that’ll have on the kids.  Which is probably healthier overall for everyone.  It’s still Christmas, I still am aware of the issues, I just don’t have the space to think about them like I have in years past.  It helps that I eliminated any possibility of Christmas Day tension by moving my family celebration to Christmas Eve and planning on a happy, quiet, easy Christmas Day at home.  I got all the shopping done five days ahead of Christmas, which is so rare.

Sam’s doing so much better, in terms of his health.  He hasn’t mentioned his stomach in weeks.  It’s just a non-issue anymore.   Work is ridiculously busy, in part because when Sam was sick, I missed three days, hard core, and probably another few days when I was nowhere near as productive as I should have been.  So I’m frantic there, and at home, I’m drowning in laundry and dishes and cleaning and trying to carve out time to spend with all three of the kids.

And – it’s good

We’re about a week post-colonoscopy, and he’s exceeded all of my expectations.  It’s not perfect, he’s complained a few times, but it feels like he’s coming out of a fog.

Suddenly, he’s sitting out in the living room.  Interacting with people.  Building legos and playing Uno with his dad.  Talking with me and Jessie.  He helped make pizza last night, watched a movie with Jessie and did most of his homework independently in his room while he was listening to an audiobook.

After talking to his doctor, we’ve decided to keep him on the sucralfate for another week – mainly because I’m slightly afraid to stop giving it to him.  It works – and I love having my boy not in pain.  So we’ll do another week on that, and he’ll start the omeprezole the Monday after Christmas.

In other news – my girls are both demanding all the attention that they missed over the past month or so.  Jessie’s math grade is a hot mess, and Julianna is starting to ramp up some serious sensory issues.   She’ll only wear certain clothes.  They have to be very soft, they have to fit her arms perfectly – not too tight, not too loose.  They have to fall at a precise spot on her wrist, and woe to person (me) who suggests that perhaps it might not be such a big deal.  Every morning, we battle over what she’ll wear, and it’s every single item of clothing.  Once I get her to agree to pants, the shirt is definitely going to be a brawl.  And the coat, God help me with the coat.   That poor kid with her coat.  She has three of them (one brand new this year that I bought just because she seemed to hate the other two so much) and putting them on is HARD.

I’m trying to be patient.  I am.  Also trying to remember that she’s not yet six, and there’s so little in her life that she can control.

The bonus is that this year, I don’t have the time for my existential holiday crisis.  Between a sick Sammy, work, and the girls – I just don’t have the mental space for  it.  Hanukkah was a non-event, essentially.  We spent the bulk of it overwhelmed with Sam’s health issues, and while we managed to hit the highlights, like dinner out and looking for Christmas lights, we had our Hanukkah parties – but I was delighted when it was over and I got a little breathing room before Christmas.  We’re not really ready for that either, but I think it’ll be a better day, just because he’ll be healthy – and it comes at the beginning of a whole week of nothing.  I’m still working, but the office is closed so my hours are more flexible.  Marc will be home a bit more, and I can relax a bit.  Get ready for the new year.

Recovery

It’s been a rough week.  A really, really hard week.

Sam’s stomach has been getting worse and worse.  He came home from school last Wednesday and last Friday, and then on Monday, I got a call from the nurse.  Again.  He was in the office, crying.  His stomach hurt so badly.  I got him to go back to class for a while, but it didn’t last.  It just hurt, and he couldn’t stop crying.  So we picked him up and brought him home.  We brought him into the pedi GI doctor and he pushed up the scheduled endoscopy/colonoscopy to Wednesday.

If you’ve ever tried to not feed a kid for a day, then you might understand what Tuesday was like.  Of all three of my kids, the one who eats, consistently, all the time, is my Sammy.  Jessie skips meals more often than not, and Julie fasted on Yom Kippur simply by never asking for food.  But Sam – Sam always eats.  He eats breakfast, lunch, dinner, is a big fan of snacks.  The food helps with the pain.  Combining no food (which added hunger pains on top of the existing pain) with not being able to eat to help with the already onmipresent pain, and then tacking on getting him to drink 32 oz of miralax (every sip made him cry harder) – it was hellish.  We’d cycle thru from complaining to crying to begging me to help him to finally accepting comfort and then I’d distract him with something – we did that five or six times.  I called my mom and had her come out and take the girls out for dinner – because I couldn’t feed them.  I couldn’t feed myself – I couldn’t even pee.  Sam was a hot mess, all day long.

The procedure was actually the easiest part of it.  Sam was so brave, and even though he was scared, he was polite and respectful to all the doctors and nurses (and there were thousands crammed into the little room with us).  He did great, woke up easily enough after the anesthesia.  There were three different options we could have ended up with – they could have found terrible, terrible things in there, but they didn’t.  They could have found absolutely nothing wrong, and told us that he was making the whole thing up, but they didn’t do that either.  Instead, what they found was mostly an incredibly healthy boy – but evidence of inflammation in one specific section of his stomach.  We can treat it with medicine, and we’re optimistic that this will fix the problem.

As optimistic as we are – I think we’re all feeling a little shell-shocked.  He’s missed the better part of a week at school, and we’re drowning in make up work.  He was groggy and tired this morning, and I couldn’t force myself to make him wake up and go.   We took the whole day and just stayed home.  He listened to books on tape, worked on math homework and played too many video games.  I did laundry and dishes, and cleaned.  I gave the kids a bath, made a lovely dinner.

It’s been a long week, and I’m happy it’s over.  Hanukkah has gotten entirely lost in the shuffle of this week, and I can’t muster up the energy to really do much about that.

 

December Dilemma Defensiveness

I’ve got a chip on my shoulder.

Oh December.  This time of year that used to be just fun.  It was, wasn’t it?  There was a time when I approached the holidays with this sense of joy and wonder, I felt connected to everyone, all twinkling lights and candy canes.

I don’t do that anymore.

I arm myself with a thick skin and am ready for the inevitable attack.  I have convinced myself that I’m alone in this – I’m a Jewish girl who loves Christmas, and a Christmas Tree Putter-Upper (I know, it’s a stupid term, but I’m not a former Christian – I guess I could say a former non-Jew) that really, really likes Hanukkah.  I feel like society at large is mad at me.  I don’t put Christ in Christmas, in fact, I actively try and keep him out.  I embrace Christmas, singing Christmas carols and buy too many Christmas lights.

I avoid big Jewish celebrations and discussions about Hanukkah – because it inevitably slides over into complaining about the pervasiveness of Christmas and how that’s bad.  I feel insecure and protective of my Christmas tree, like it’s a huge personification of how I approach the whole dual culture quandary – and just writing about this puts a lump in my throat.  Because as much as I love this time of year, I really hate it.

I hate that my kids are stuck – even though I tried so hard for them to not feel in the middle, I put them there.  They are Jewish, they know Christmas is not a Jewish holiday.   They don’t feel guilty about celebrating Valentine’s Day, they love the Fourth of July and they really like Thanksgiving and Halloween.  Those non-Jewish holidays don’t make them feel all conflicted.  They know that they love Christmas too – because there’s a lot to love about it.   It’s my holiday, after all.  It’s got presents and an Elf that hides (so well, I still can’t find him from last year – but I digress).  They WANT to celebrate Christmas, but it confuses them.  A little. I think.  Maybe.

I know their story isn’t mine.  They are growing up as part of a dual culture family, and that’s going to be a part of their story in a way that it isn’t mine.   They’ll have to figure out for themselves how they feel about the holiday.   AlI I can do is the best I can – and now, that involves hiding how conflicted and frustrated I am by the entire holiday season.   Because there’s a lot that Hanukkah and Christmas have in common – from my perspective, there’s a lot about bringing light and joy and connectedness into the dark winter season.   Because latkes and donuts and candles and dreidels are awesome, and they deserve to celebrate that with their whole hearts. They are Jewish, and descendants from generations of Jews who have lit the menorah.   They love my mother’s advent calendars (because there’s nothing not to love about chocolate every morning), they love the tree and the decorations – and that’s their heritage and birthright as well.  They inherited that the way they inherited my shyness, my eyes and my love of reading.

The choices I’ve made have put me here.  I’m grateful for that – because here is right where I want to be.  It’s just that December is a hard month for me, and I can’t hide from that.  I have to go into it knowing that it’s a really isolating time – and hope that the kids don’t inherit that as well.  I hope that they embrace the holiday season, and own it like it’s their own.  Because both holidays, Hanukkah and Christmas, are theirs.  Just as they are both mine.  And even if nobody else in the world agrees that we should celebrate both – we do.  So bring on the tinsel and the dreidels – I’m ready.

Holiday Prep

When you start the weekend tired, it doesn’t bode well for the next two days.

Hannukah starts on Sunday and I’m woefully unprepared.  In that I have no idea where the hell the menorahs are, you don’t even want to know how much stuff is under my couch that needs to be moved in order to make room for the tree, and when I say that I’ve started shopping, what I mean is that the last time I went to the Dollar Store, I told Sam and Julie to pick out a few extra toys for Hannukah nights.

We’ve got a bat mitzvah today, we’re getting the tree, we’re shopping tonight and we’re doing the cleaning/grocery shopping/where are the menorahs as well.  Tomorrow is a mad rush of tree decorating, birthday partying and then latkes and candlelighting.

Sam’s been scheduled for a colonoscopy/endoscopy at the beginning on January and they’re going do eight different biopsies while they’re in there.  Biopsies is a terrifying word, and I’m doing my best to not think all that much about that.  There’s still a really good chance that it’s nothing, right?  We know there’s inflammation, we know it hurts, a lot, most of the time.   And I can’t decide if I want it to be nothing – because that doesn’t solve it, or if I want it to be something, because then it’s not nothing.  Does that make sense?   I worry all the time, because it’s not just the uncertainty over the health, there’s also the impact that it has on his overall life quality.  It sucks to feel like crap all the time.  It sucks to have bloodwork and stool samples.  It’s having a negative impact on his education – it’s the beginning of December, and yes, there have been Jewish holidays and three day weekends and Veterans’ Day in there, but he has yet to make it a full Monday-Friday week without either having a scheduled day off, going home sick or not being able to go at all.

Jessie is in the final prep for her bat mitzvah – which just reminds me that I HAVE to get the invites done this weekend.   So we’re going to stop this paragraph right here, because more stuff on my to-do list isn’t helping me.

Julie… what’s up with my Julie?   She’s just thriving.  Still my delightful little wierdo – gorgeous and brilliant and lovely and enchanting.

Ahh – I’ve blogged too long, and now have to get Julie up for religious school, then to drop off Sam’s sample and get Jessie to a bat mitzvah….