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Jan 25

Turning 41 is SO much better than turning 40

I was scared to turn 40.  It seemed so momentous to me, like it was such a major milestone, and I wasn’t ready to meet it.

But turning 41, that’s just lovely.

I had the nicest of days today yesterday, given that I’m still kind of sick.  We’ve all had a bad cold, and it’s slowly made it’s way through the family.  Started with Marc, and he was down for most of last weekend.  Sam got it next, and missed Thursday and Friday of school.  I started to get sick on Thursday and have spent most of the past two days binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy on netflix.  Jessie’s got it now, and Julie – well, Julie either has missed it entirely or she’s been sick the whole time.  She claims that she’s very sick (actually, after watching the cold medication commercials, has taken to telling everyone she’s got chest congestion).

Massachusetts got one of the first big storms since Thanksgiving this year, and we were essentially snowed in all day.  Marc called into work, and we spent the entire day at home.  Marc made pancakes for everyone, Sam and Julie shoveled (a little bit), and then it devovled into a battle of whether or not they were going to make a snow fort, a snow bed, or a snow man.  Jessie stayed on the couch all day too.  Marc did everything, dishes, meals, most of the child corralling throughout the day.  He finished up the night by making chicken and homemade french fries, and then whipping me up a vanilla cake and homemade frosting for breakfast tomorrow.

This is what I wanted.  This is the dream.  And while I like to think that I’m always aware of how incredibly blessed I am, I really struck by it today.  Julie kept stopping what she was doing to come and purse her lips at me so that I could kiss her, and Sammy is in is room, making me some sort of birthday gift out of legos.  My husband worked diligently all day, bringing me tea and coffee and benedryl, and Jessie has been curled up next to me all day watching Friend’s reruns.  I’ve got this gorgeous, brilliant, incredibly kind husband who loves me more than anything.  I’ve got beautiful children, smart, funny, creative kids who make my whole world.

Jan 22

The dreaded cold

We don’t get sick all that often around here. My oldest had ear infections all the time when she was a baby, but other than that, we’re a relatively healthy family. My youngest has never been on an antibiotic, and I think Sam was once, maybe. Allergies – we all have some form of seasonal allergies, and Jessie has an allergy to dust mites (and a hard core love of stuffed animals, which doesn’t help…). My point is that we’re healthy.

Except… we’ve all got the dreaded cold. It started off with my husband. Marc is one of those people who doesn’t multi-task. Which, now that I’m thinking about it, kind of sums up a lot about the differences between us. He has incredible focus – and part of our family ethos is that if you want it done right, go to Daddy. If you want it done fast, go to Mama. Because he will focus and concentrate, think about the best way to tackle a problem, and then execute the solution. A perfect example is a bookcase that’s falling apart in my living room. The back is falling off, and it’s leaning dangerously to the side. Marc’s solution, upon examining it, was to plan to remove all 87,000 books, reattach the back painstakingly, and then he’d probably end up alphabetizing the books before replacing them. Mine was to shove the television stand into the bookcase, straightening it out. Not done right, and not a great long term solution, probably, but it did get it standing back up again.

What was the point I was going for again?? Oh yeah, the focus and multi-tasking. Marc got sick first. And he got SICK. Dizzy, congested, slightly feverish. He went to bed, and stayed there for two days. He was sick. I started getting sick yesterday (just in time for him to get better…) and I was lazy. I read a lot more yesterday, continued binge-watching Grey’s Anatomy repeats. But I didn’t go to bed, I just complained a lot. I got up this morning, popped a few advil and a sudafed, and am hoping for the best.

Sam’s home today, he’s been fighting off the same cold. Julie isn’t sick, not really. She’s probably a few days behind Sam in the development of the cold, and I’m on the fence whether I should send her to school or not. She’s not feverish, but I don’t know that I feel up to battling with her to get ready. Jessie, thus far, seems to be healthy, so she’s definitely heading off to school today.

Spring can’t come soon enough…

Jan 19

They Just Keep Growing

I had a moment last night, where all three of the kids were bopping around the house, and they all seemed SO BIG to me.   Each one wandered by me within the space of about ten minutes, and each one seemed somehow taller, more articulate, more… developed, for lack of a better word.  If you spend most of childhood becoming an adult, all three of them seemed to be so much further along that track than I think of them as being.

Jessie was in her room, happily hanging up her newest acquisition – a map of the world, with push pins denoting where she’d like to visit someday.  She’s grown a few inches lately, and we went out to get her some new pants earlier in the day.  But she hates shopping as much as I do, and we agreed that we’d put it off for a few more weeks.  Instead she bought a map, and another bulletin board/whiteboard combo to hang on her wall.  She’s got PLANS, my girl – and I love that she’d rather get a map than a new outfit.

Sam was on his second playdate of the weekend, this time with Harrison.  They had completely destroyed his bedroom, building some sort of zombie barricade (and stocking up on canned goods, bottled water and pop tarts, because that’s what you’d need if the zombies were coming).  He’s gotten taller too, and lost some of that little boy chub.  Sam grows out and then up, and always has.  He’s stretching out now, and with the new haircut he got last week – he suddenly looks so much older.

Julie – I still call her the baby, and I need to stop.  Because she’s not a baby anymore.  Not a toddler, almost not a pre-schooler anymore.  She’s a little girl, and I think I’m having the hardest time adjusting to that.  I still think of her as mine, and she’s becoming her own person more and more.    She’s writing her name (everywhere) and starting to learn the names and sounds of the letters and figuring out numbers.  Everything is new and exciting for her, it’s like she’s realizing how much STUFF there is out there to learn, and she’s so eager to soak it all in.

This is such a different stage for me, in so many ways.  Like, right now – it’s quarter after eleven, and all three of them are busy somewhere in the house.  Julie is writing on her whiteboard, after getting herself dressed in what she says is a matching outfit.  I didn’t suggest she get dressed, or suggest that she do a little writing – she did it all on her own.  Sam is in his bedroom, playing minecraft.  He got himself breakfast (poptarts and bottled water, no doubt, but he did it himself unprompted).  Jessie is holed up in her room, reading.  They’re all very content, very self-sufficient and somehow so much older than I think they should be.

Jan 18

Kindergarten

We’re almost there. Somehow, the fact that January came is now pushing the kindergarten enrollment into the forefront of my mind. My youngest will be starting full time school in September, and in a very real sense, my whole world is going to change. I’m facing some choices, like should I go back to work full time, or part time, or should I really focus on a free-lance writing career, or should I knuckle down and try and finish the book I started two years ago.

There are more changes than just the impending start of all of my kids in school. My husband is starting a new job, one with regular hours so he’ll be home all weekend. He’ll be gone pretty much all week long, leaving before the kids get up in the mornings and coming home probably post-dinner most nights, but he’ll be here on the weekends, and that’s a HUGE change for us. My weeks are going to change because I’ll be the only parent available during the day during the week. That factors into the decisions around working full-time as well.

I’ve got to think about summer camp, about getting my baby used to going places without me and being confident without me there. She’s great at preschool now, a little wistful at drop off, but mostly happy about going. But she’s going for two and a half hours twice a week. That’s not the same as going five days a week for six hours a day. We need to work up to that, I think. And while there are compelling reasons to send her to summer camp (it’ll help her get used to going, help her learn to be confident with other adults, and give her some structure so that school isn’t such a huge change in September), there are just as many reasons to keep her home this summer. It’s summer, and while there are definite disadvantages to having a full time SAHM (like less money, a less cool car, etc…) one of the advantages is that I’m home during the summer. They can sleep in, spend afternoons daydreaming outside under a tree, we can pick up and go on vacation or visiting with no planning, etc. Having the whole summer structured changes that.

I’m not sure what the summer or fall will look like for us. But once January comes, everything kicks into high gear, in terms of planning ahead for me. I’m excited to see what seventh grade, third grade and kindergarten means for my kids. I’m excited to see my husband thrive in a new industry, and I’m even cautiously excited about branching out of full-time motherhood for the first time in more than a decade.

Jan 07

Driving in the Snow

I’m old.

That’s the best explanation I can come up with.  I’ve turned into one of those little old ladies who’s afraid to drive when there’s snow coming down.

I scorned these women, in my not-so-distant-youth.  These wimps, these babies.  These hyper-afraid, making themselves weak women who insisted that they didn’t drive in the snow.  I vowed to never do that.   I would be tough.  Strong.  I would embrace living in New England, it snows, and that’s a part of life.

Then I moved to Worcester.

It took the better part of a decade to wear me down, but I’m officially throwing in the towel.  For the past four years, I’ve lived on two hills, and I’m terrified of driving down them when it snows.  Driving up them doesn’t scare me as much – I think gravity is on my side then.  But driving down them… nope, can’t do it.   Last year, I slid into a snowbank, and got the car stuck on the way to drop the kids at school.  I cracked the poor front bumper on the car, and while it didn’t affect the driving – it did make my car look stupid.   And now, that I’m driving a borrowed car – I’m that much more skittish about it.

I could burrow in, and simply refuse to drive, except that I’ve got three kids, and a husband, and two stepkids.  And commitments and obligations and dammit – they really can’t walk home in this.  So I brave the elements, shutting off the radio, and demanding that they speak only in soft tones and with utter and complete kindness in the car (as opposed to the normal snapping, screaming, sarcasm and hollering disaster that our rides can deteriorate into).  I try to look relaxed and calm, not tense and terrified.  Because the second my kids realize how much I really really am afraid that I’m going to slide right out into traffic – they’ll ramp up their own anxiety and then we’ll have a whole car full of fear.

So I’m out there, driving around.  Going miles out of my way to stay on flat ground and well traveled surfaces.  White-knuckled and going as slow as I can get away with – because I’ve learned the hard way that stepping on the brakes when the road is icy is hit or miss (literally).  And praying for springtime to come – because I love driving in the spring, when my only concern is that my hand starts to hurt from high-fiving the kids every time we see a forsythia bush.

 

Jan 05

Perspective Matters

That’s my theme for the year.

Because I don’t think things happen for a reason, I think crappy things happen sometimes for no reason at all. But I do believe that your perspective on it all matters more than anything else.

Each year, I read my blog from the year before.  One thing that really stuck out for me was this theme that I had at the end of 2013 and 2014 – which was that it was a really hard year, and I was ready for the next one.  And in that moment, when I was writing those posts, it really did feel that way.  It felt hard, and like it was an uphill battle all the time and I was ready for a plateau.

But there is no plateau – not really.  And the uphill battle really isn’t all that steep.  My challenges are nothing compared to what they could be.   The struggles and the angst – they really aren’t about anything life altering or scary.  It’s about paying the electric bill, wanting to move to a bigger place where I can get a dog.  It’s about challenging schedules, and being harried and stressed and busy, busy, busy all the time.  Is that really how I want to think about my life?  Is that how I want my kids to remember their childhood?  That it was hard, just hard, all the time, and the struggle really never went away.

But is that really a battle?  A struggle?  Or does it just feel that way, in the moment?  And if it’s just a matter of it feeling hard, then can I change that?

My marriage, after almost 13 years, is still vibrant and whole.  He’s still my best friend, my partner and the person I want most to be with.   That’s huge, and amazing, and if you’d told me, fourteen years ago, that I’d be here, now, I would never have believed you.

My kids are all healthy.  They’re all healthy.   Sam and Julie have never been on an antibiotic, and Jessie hasn’t been on one in years.  They all eat well, run around, are active and happy.  Jessie is blossoming into this lovely young woman, Sam is social, smart and loving going to school.  And my Julianna is writing her name everywhere, and identifying letters and is so ready for kindergarten.

My life is going to change a lot this year.  After more than a decade as a full time stay at home mom, my youngest will be in school full time.  I don’t know what that’ll mean for me, whether it means we should think seriously about another baby, or if I want to look for a part-time position somewhere, or if I should finally crack down and actually finish the book I’ve been trying to write for the past few years.  Marc is starting a new career, with new responsibilities, new hours and new goals.

My goal for this year is to remember that one phrase – perspective matters.  Because I have so very much to be grateful about, and so very little that’s an actual struggle or problem.  I don’t want to look back on 2015 and wish that it was better – I want to look back and know that it was one of the best years I’ve ever had.

Jan 01

2014 – My Favorite Posts

I don’t have a big blog, and it’s never been a blog that attracted a lot of comments.  Which is fine, I’m not complaining, but it does make it a big more challenging to do a “Here are the top blog posts from the past year based on the number of comments” sort of round up.  So what I did instead is a round up 0f my favorite posts from each month.

Here’s January.  This one is about my Sammy, and represented some pretty major growth on his part.  Last year was a big year for Sam in terms of being able to articulate his problems, and problem solve independently.

Shoveling

February was a good month for me, I had a hard time choosing.   Then I remembered that I could put whatever I wanted in.  So here’s one on Judaism, and my on-going struggle to fit in and figure out where I fit.  The second one is one of the more popular posts, and it’s one of my favorites as well.   The last one is one of my favorites on marriage, and what that looks like after 12 years.

A Good Jew

Parenting Fails

Twelve Years of Marriage

March was another month where I was thinking a lot about religion.  I’ve got a day-in-the-life one in there too, and I wish I had done more of those throughout the year.

Interfaith and Why It Matters

A Day in the Life

Here’s April. This was a month with Passover, Easter, and the attack on the JCC out in Kansas City.  It’s also the month my boy learned to ride his bike.

Passover and Kansas City

Sammy Can Ride!

And May.  Also known as the month that I suffer through Mother’s Day and realized that I can only assist with math up until fifth grade.

I don’t like Mother’s Day

Banned from math homework

June – the end of the school year, and a lovely mid-point to the whole year

Lunch with Grandpa

Polly Pockets and Junior High

July - I picked two for this month, one that’s Jessie’s favorite, and one that came from the heart about my cousin Bridgett.

Healthy Means Something Special for Me

Co-Sleeping Struggles – AKA Midnight Zombie Attacks

August

Why My House is a Disaster

Mothering an 11 year old

September – you can tell that my life got holy-moly-crazy once the kids went back to school, because my blogging activity went way down.  So if you stuck with me over the past few months, please know that I appreciate it, and I promise to do better next year.

My last weaning story

October

Confidence

November

Bring it on

December

Rearranging

 

Dec 29

Christmas 2014

It was a day that we probably won’t forget any time soon.  It started out lovely, with our annual trek out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve.   We had sixteen people total, and it was just fun.  Everyone had a buddy or two that was around their age, and it was this peaceful little oasis in the middle of holiday chaos.

I do Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, and years when they all blend together are hard.  Too much holiday, all at once and no time to catch your breath.   This was a hard holiday season overall, with Marc working crappy hours.  Hanukkah got lost, somehow.  Because he was working so late most nights, we didn’t really get to focus on the holiday at all.  We did the BI Hanukkah night, and that was lovely.  We had my in-laws here one night, and then another night for my MIL’s birthday.  We got Glennys down one night and went out for dinner, so that was lovely.  And one night, we got hot cocoa and drove around to look at Christmas lights.  The whole holiday felt rushed, though, and I’m left wishing that we had a do-over.

I’d actually like a do-over for all three holidays, now that I think about it.  Thanksgiving was kind of crappy, and Christmas had some moments that… well, just keep reading.

The morning was a little rough, for a variety of reasons.  Part of it just has to do with the weight and drama that gets associated with Christmas – all this pressure on having this one day of utter joy and family love and peace.  It never quite lives up to the expectations, and I was not handling it all with the grace and aplomb that I’d like to have.  So I was a little fragile, and that was before Sam totaled the car.

We heard a crash, or a bump, from somewhere outside – but didn’t immediately react.  We were all busy, looking for shoes or coats or fighting with our hair.  Sam was the only one ready, and he headed outside.  What happened at that point is still up for debate – but somehow he managed to knock the car into neutral and rolled it down the hill into the garage.   A few minutes after the bump, Marc glanced out the side window and yelled over to me, asking where I had parked the car the night before.  I told him that I put it in the driveway, because of course, I DID, but it wasn’t there.  We both made the connection at the same time – missing car, crash a few minutes ago – wait, where the HELL is Sam??? and ran outside.

The car is a hot mess.  We’re still waiting to hear back from the insurance, but there’s no way that it’s not going to cost more to fix it than it’s actually worth.  It was an old car with really high mileage.   The garage isn’t all that bad, and the insurance will cover the property damage (and we had the added bonus of filing our first insurance claim listing our eight year old as the driver).  Most importantly – Sam was fine.  Terrified, and he bumped his head on the snow scraper, but he had (thank God) jumped from the front to the back and assumed the “crash position” once the car started rolling.

We’re okay – because we’ve got wonderful friends who offered a car before I even finished telling them what happened, and because it really could have been SO much worse.   I don’t always park in the driveway, normally I park on the hill.  Sam could have been so badly hurt, or done so much more damage – we were so lucky that it ended as well as it did.

And on the upside, we just stayed home for Christmas.  Marc and Jessie worked on her new dollhouse (completely taking over my dining room table for the foreseeable future) and Marc and  Sam worked on his dinosaur skeleton and model bi-plane thing that he got.  Julianna was very busy with her new tea party set, and we had friends over in the afternoon for dinner.  We finished up the night with Annie bringing Glennys all the way down from NH (along with a car we can borrow).

Then the kids locked the bathroom door shut, from the outside.  After a hour with youtube and google, a coat hanger and an itty bitty screwdriver, Marc gave up and took an aluminum bat to the doorknob.

Once Christmas was over, things got better.  The holiday vacation has been delightful – little moments of chaos, but mostly just fun.  Marc had Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the day after that off from work, so we got a lot of quality time with him.  Plus we’ve got Glennys here all week, and that really does make all three of the kids so happy.  All five of the kids, because Lilli and Sarah love it too.

Am I the only one who’s ready to wave goodbye to 2014?  I think 2015 is going to be fabulous.

 

Dec 19

Overwhelmed

Is it just the holidays?   I feel as though I’m running, running, running all the time and never quite getting caught up with all that I have to do.  Forget the housework, I can barely stay on top of dishes/laundry/vacuuming (those are my top three that HAVE to get done – everything else is a bonus).  And there’s stuff getting missed, I completely missed Julianna’s book fair this week, spaced that Jessica had an outdoor field trip on Thursday and sent her to school in a sweater instead of a winter coat, and Sam… actually, I haven’t forgotten anything with the Boy.  Or I have – but haven’t remembered it yet.

(a holiday pic from 2009 that was so cute, I threw it into the blog instead of an actual Hanukkah shot from this year.  Confession – I haven’t actually taken any Hanukkah shots this year yet.)

It’s the fourth night of Hanukkah, or maybe the third.  Or fifth.  I really can’t remember.  But I do know that we’ve only managed to light the candles at home that first night.  Marc’s been working every other night since, and by the time we get home from picking him up, lighting the candles keeps falling to the bottom of the list, with putting the kids to bed, finding jammies, reminding everyone to brush their teeth, etc – taking precedence.

Jessie and I went to a funeral on Wednesday, for my friend Annie’s mom.  Annie and her daughter Glennys are forever friends of ours from almost nine years ago when we moved to the apartment under theirs just before Sam was born.  Glenny is a year older than Jessie and I was so glad that I had taken her out of school that day to go, because when Glenny saw her she ran into her arms and then burst into tears when I hugged her.  She’s my fourth child, and I was extra glad to take her home with us on Tuesday night for a bonus visit before she went back up to NH with her mom.

That might be part of why I’m feeling so off – the whole week was confused with the mid-week trip to RI for the funeral, and then having Glenny here for Wednesday night and all day Thursday.  It’s like we’re on vacation, sort of.  School vacation starts next Tuesday.  Julie’s been sick with a cold all week – not sick enough to BE sick, just sick enough to be ultra-clingy and crabby.  She’s sniffly, and slightly feverish.  Our car overheated on Monday and had to spend the day at the mechanic – which meant that Sam missed school for the day because we couldn’t get him there, and both kids missed religious school.   Then he missed Wednesday as well.  He started complaining his stomach hurt, and I yelled at him.  I thought he was faking – or worse, just not even trying to go.  I knew he probably didn’t feel great, but he wasn’t running a fever, wasn’t throwing up – and had already missed Monday.  So he stayed home, but I was bitter – and he ended up vomiting about an hour after I left to go the funeral.

Ugh – it’s just been a crazy, stressed out sort of week.  On the upside, this has to be one of the least drama-filled Decembers we’ve ever had.  Part of it is simply that we don’t have a lot of extra energy to invest in emotional drama this year – between Marc’s job and the schedule and the running around – everything is so busy and rush-rush-rush, we don’t have TIME to invest in a big existential debate about the spiritual identity of our family and where Christmas fits into it.

But a bigger part  of it, I think, is due to  experience.  Last year, I struggled with the whole Christmas tree/Hanukkah thing – seeking approval from everyone.   I learned from that – and this year, I went into the holidays with a very different attitude.  There were two lessons that really resonated for me, and I’ve tried hard to keep them forefront in my mind. Number one, the holidays are what I make of it – and seeking out commentary on choices we’ve made is a recipe for disaster.  If I want the holidays to be happy and filled with light and love – I have to make it so.  And second – December is just going to be lonely for me.  I’m a Jewish girl with a tree – and my Christian family is going to be a little perplexed and a little hurt that I downplay the holiday, and my Jewish community is going to look at my tree and be a little freaked out by it.  There’s one time during the year when I’m going to feel the most distant from Marc – and it’s going to be the week or two leading up to Christmas. That’s okay – and if I don’t want to hear the comments, don’t ask.  I didn’t chair a December Dilemma discussion group this year, and very deliberately have avoided any pointed conversations with everyone.   December isn’t going to last forever, and a week from now, I’ll be breaking down the lights and repacking all my boxes.

I love the holidays, and suffer through them at the same time.  They aren’t easy, and they always raise questions about identity and heritage and I’m always going to over think them and analyze every little aspect – because that’s how I roll in December.   But I’m getting better at them, and that’s enough of a reason to celebrate for me.

 

Dec 10

Rearranging

I like to rearrange. Or rather, I like the results of having rearranged. I like the way a room looks completely new when you move the couch from one side to another. But I have a big couch and a little living room, and sadly, there’s aren’t a lot of configurations for my living room that actually work.

What I do have is bedrooms. And bedroom furniture that works for boys or girls, and kids who are always up for a change. This last weekend was the last one for a while where I’m home alone with the kids without other plans, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity. My husband does not enjoy rearranging – he’s always pretty sure wherever we last had it (whatever “it” happens to be) was perfectly fine, and moving it is a waste of time and energy. I’ve learned to limit my house reshuffling to days when he’s at work all day.

In theory, it should have been quick and easy – except that none of my kids got the memo on making sure their rooms were clean first. And once I was in the mood to move, I just plowed ahead, ignoring entirely the prep work that should have gone into it. Midway through the day on Saturday, with one bed broken apart and moved out into the kitchen, three bookcases emptied (with their contents strewn all over the living room) and bedding, laundry, and lego guys all over the place – I began to regret it. The kids were enthusiastic helpers, as long as what I was doing was fun – like emptying bookcases ( or the case of my older daughter, arranging all of her dust catchers, books, notebooks and figurines back on the bookcase). But they were not really all that helpful about shoving dressers back into place, or hauling giant queen size mattresses hither and yon all over the place.

It’s three days after the fact, and we’re still not done. Oh, the furniture is moved, and the beds are made. The bookcases are even restocked. I donated three bags of toys and outgrown clothes this morning, and filled another two bags with broken toys, trash (and why kids think that stuffing trash under their dresser is a good idea is a mystery I’ll never solve….). But the giant pile of dresses and jackets that need to be hung up in my daughters’ closet is still waiting, and the stuffed animals appear to have mated and reproduced while we weren’t looking (where else would they come from?? There are thousands…).

My goal was to have everything all organized and put away before decorating commences. I dug out the Christmas/Hanukkah boxes and even managed to get the Hanukkah candles purchased. But we are a long way from organized. Fortunately, the next three days of rain postpones our tree shopping, and I’ll have the rest of the week to finish putting the house back together and ready for the holidays.

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