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Writings on Motherhood, Judaism, and Happily-Ever-Afters

Happy Thanksgiving!

For my mother – because Thanksgiving is our holiday.  More than any other, this is the holiday where I celebrate mothers and daughters.  Because this is now Jessie’s holiday too – and I know that the only way my mother will give up hosting it in her house is when Jessica is old enough to host it in her own home, because Jessie is the only one who loves it as much as she does.  This Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my mom, and for my oldest daughter, because you guys make my Thanksgiving a day to look forward to every year.

For my husband, who created traditions with Sam and Julie that mean as much to them as Jessie’s traditions mean to her.  You three will go out for dinner tonight, somehow, in the show, and will snuggle up together to watch movies and then watch the parade tomorrow morning.  I’ve watched the anticipation build – and those kids are so excited about having this special time alone with Daddy.

I’m grateful for the past few months, for the struggle and the worries and the stress.  Not because I’ve enjoyed it, because I didn’t.  And it’s not over, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m proud of us for coming thru it.  This hasn’t been easy, there’s been no time.  The kids and I have missed Marc, Marc has missed us.  Between working and studying – our time together has been reduced to a few snatched minutes here and there.  But we’re still here.  We’re still us – he’s my partner and my love, and our kids know that we do this together.

I’m grateful for the teachers and staff at Flagg Street School, Goddard Scholars Academy and the JCC.  Because my kids are thriving, and excited to be learning.  Each one of them are growing and changing in new ways – and I’m so grateful for the environment that they get to be in each day.  For the friends and the math homework and the powerpoint and the letters and the Cam Jansen mysteries that challenge them, inspire them, and make up such a huge part of their days.

I’m grateful for a car that may be held together with wire and tape, but it starts for me every morning, let me change the radio station and enables my kids to rock out to Bob Seger, The Eagles and Carol King, as well as sing in a foreign language.  The doors may be decorated with their sticker collection, and it’s never really clean – but it’s where we spend a huge portion of our days, and there’s magic that happens there.  There’s a lot of yelling and squabbling too, but there are conversations in that car that surprise me and makes me grateful.

I’m grateful for the Beth Israel, for the place where my kids feel safe and loved, and are able to embrace their Judaism in a way that I love so much more than I ever anticipated I would.   I would never have predicted that I’d have a synagogue on a gratitude list, but there you go.

This hasn’t been an easy year.  But it was a year with enormous growth and challenge and change, and I’m grateful to have survived it.  I’m grateful to be here, in this place, with this man and these children.  And I’m also grateful that they’re all still asleep, and I have time for a second cup of coffee and a hot shower before the chaos begins.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

 

 

 

 

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Waking my baby for preschool

I’m not good at it.

She’s only four, and I find myself thinking that the sleep will do her more good than the two hours of playing and running around that she’s going to do.  Plus it’s swim today, and Girlfriend hates swim.  I know she has to learn, I know it’s part of the class (and part of why I signed her up for the class in the first place), but Tuesday mornings are becoming my least favorite of all the mornings.  Because her day starts with tears and ramps up until they have to pry her off of me at drop off.

Okay, that only happened once, but it had an impact.

Sam’s staying home today too.  I don’t really think he’s sick, but he might be.  Stomach ache, head hurting, maybe his head is a little warm.  Of course, one of the realities is that EVERY kid’s head is a little warm when they first crawl out of bed, but he sounded really pathetic when he asked if he could stay home.  He rarely asks, and it’s the day before Thanksgiving.  How much are they really going to learn?

So two of my kids are home today, and one is still sound asleep.  I did try to wake her.  I turned on the light and knocked hard on the door.  That’s after singing to her, and gently calling her name.  Then I crawled into bed next to her and rubbed her back.   She kept snoring.

Life is short, and one missed morning at preschool isn’t going to make a difference, in the overall scheme of things.

Plus, is this not a girl who generally embraces the day?  

 

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Bring It On

It’s here, the season is upon us. I’ve bought my Thanksgiving turkey (actually, I bought two, one for my mother’s house and one for Shabbat dinner this weekend). We’ve got our plans for Thanksgiving finalized – on Wednesday night, I’ll take my oldest daughter down to my mother’s so we can get up super early and cook with my mom. My husband will keep the little ones at home, for Chinese food and cartoons I won’t let them watch (Spongebob is their Thanksgiving tradition). We’ll meet up at my parent’s house, eat until we can’t move and then end the night at our friend’s house for dessert.

On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I’ll take down all my colored turkeys the kids have made for me, all the scribbled little gratitude lists they make each year in school and put them all away in my not-Hanukkah-and-Christmas holiday bin, and dig out the three or four bins of holiday decorations.

BeFunky_girls hanukkah.jpg

Last year, I promised myself that I was going to celebrate the December Dilemma is all it’s glory. To teach my kids that December is not a month where their mother is completely stressed out and frustrated, where Hanukkah and Christmas are embraced and appreciated. I’m going to sing Christmas carols and buy enough Hanukkah candles for the sixteen menorahs I managed to collect over the past few years. I’m going to create new traditions for each night of Hanukkah, and make cocoa with candy canes every night. I’m going to throw snowflakes up all over the walls, buy oceans of twinkling holiday lights, and read all the PJ Library Hanukkah books I can find. I’ll take the kids to the menorah lighting in Newton Square, I’ll listen to the Christmas CD my mother gave me ten years ago.

Most of all, I’ll try and remember that these are the memories I’m creating for my children. If I want them to grow up loving their Jewish identity, while still embracing the traditions and history from my side of the family, I have to show them that they can exist peacefully together. And this is incredibly hard to do, but only in December. In December, our family tradition includes a lot of angst, and endless debates about why we put up the tree, and if we’re doing enough to make sure that Hanukkah isn’t getting overshadowed by the candy canes and pretty lights.

The December Dilemma has always been an issue for us. We are not an interfaith family, we are a “dual-heritage” family. In December, those heritages are at odds, and it’s never an easy season. But this year, I’m promising myself that I’m going to hold tight to that image, the one of a peaceful and content and gratitude-filled holiday season, where the focus is on spending time with family and friends, eating latkes and cocoa with candy canes, and bringing as much light and celebration as possible into the cold, dark winter nights.

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My favorites

I’ve been on a writing haitus lately – for a bunch of reason.  Some of them time-related, some of them mood-related (because when I write, whatever I’m thinking or feeling comes out first, and I don’t think anyone really likes reading my rants about my schedule).  But despite the time challenges, despite the chores and financial woes – there’s an awful lot about my life right now to appreciate.

I’m married to possibly the kindest, smartest man in the world.  He’s still my best friend, he’s still the person I most want to be with, and I’m forever grateful for whatever I did in a past life to deserve him.  No matter what, he’s my partner, and I could not possibly do what I do, the way I do it, without him.   This is a particularly challenging time in our lives, no time, not enough money and far too much to get done, all the time.  But I’ve never, not once, wanted to do this without him.

My oldest daughter, Jessica, is in the middle of the loveliest transition from a little girl to a teenager.  Her milestones are not as anticipated, there’s no baby book for the first time she goes away for the weekend on a youth group retreat, or uses her cell phone to call home for a ride.  I worried about the transition, about adolescence.  I’ve been warned about it so many times, ever since she was an infant.  She’s so dramatic, so moody – everyone told me that puberty would be horrible.  And they were so, so wrong.  I’ve often thought that Jessie is the kind of person who didn’t like being a kid.  The older she gets, the happier and more focused she becomes.  Watching her turn into who she will be is one of the nicest parts of my life these days.

My son, my Sammy, my little guy – he’s come through so much.  He’s a fighter, and he had challenges that I don’t think I’ll ever fully be able to understand.   Watching him overcome the anxiety, the fear, and learn how to handle the emotions and push past them to be able to live his life – he’s so much happier now.  He’s himself now, all the time.  It’s very rare that I see the anxiety taking over anymore, and he’s able to talk about it when it happens.  He bounces into school and religious school without hesitation, he’s social and friendly and engaging and I’m so, so proud of his journey.  He’s the most relaxed and social of my kids, I can plop him down into a group of kids and know that by the time we leave, he’ll have made friends.   All of Julie’s friends ask for him at playdates, and he’s got a buddy here every single day after school.   He collects old cardboard boxes and carves them up and tapes them together to build buildings and spaceships.

My Julianna – my baby.  She’s such a love, literally.  Her favorite spot is still my lap, she kisses me a thousand times before she cuddles to sleep.  She’s doing everything on her own these days, pouring her own drinks, getting herself dressed and picking out her headbands.  She’s off to kindergarten next year, and I’m still trying to fully believe that.   Because she’s the youngest and the only one still at home with me, she’s had to deal with the killer schedule, hours in the car, and afternoons spent playing on the floor at the synagogue.  She’s so adaptable, almost all the time.  Unless you cross her, or try and do something that goes counter to her version of the way things should be done – like put on her socks before her pants, or yank on her coat before she’s fixed the arms of her shirt.  She’s got an incredibly strong personality, but tempers it with this flexibility and laid back attitude.  Girlfriend has a good sense of perspective – and doesn’t sweat the small stuff.  Unless the small stuff is incredibly important to her, in which case, she’ll force the entire world to bend to her whim.

 

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Confessions of an Uneducated Voter

I like to vote.  I registered to vote on my eighteenth birthday, and have proudly voted ever since.

(photo from Blue Nation Review)

I believe in voting.  I believe that women, especially, have to vote, because it wasn’t all that long ago that we were considered incapable of it.  I still remember the utter shock and confusion (and honestly, sense of betrayal) when I realized that was so incredibly recent – 1920.  In 1980-something, when I figured that out in history class, I was stunned.  I’m a child of the 70′s – it had simply never occurred to me that there was a time, in the not so distant past, when I would have been forbidden from voting.  I read everything I could find about the suffragette movement, and vowed that I’d never take that right for granted.

But I failed.

Not on the “taking for granted” part – but I’m not an educated voter.  Not by a long shot. At least not anymore.  I might be again, but right now, at this stage, educating myself about the people running fell to the bottom of the list of things to do. I read the questions carefully, read a couple of articles about them, discussed them with a few people.  I even wrote up the cheat sheets for my family (a tradition that dates back to high school when I wasn’t old enough to vote and wanted to desperately – I’d decide how other people in my family should vote and provide helpful cheat sheets for them to take to the polls).  I’m a Presidential Election Junkie – I love the Presidential elections.  I watch all the debates, it’s never too early to discuss the next election, and I really, really love all the ads, articles, debates and discussions that surround the Presidential elections.

But I’m utterly clueless about the local elections.  I don’t know who’s running for what.  I blithely decided who’d I’d vote for on the whole Seth Moulton/Richard Tisei match up (a local election that it turns out is not at all in my district and I can’t vote for either of them).  So I’m going to go to the voting booths this afternoon, and guess who I want to vote for.  It’s just a guess – I think I’m probably going to vote against the incumbent – because I think change is good, and I’ll probably vote for the woman who keeps dropping flyers off in my mailbox, trusting that if she inspired that many volunteers, then she’s probably okay.

I’ll take my kids to vote this afternoon, because they love it, and I’ll hope that they’ll be better voters than I am, when their time comes.  I hope they’ll pay attention to the local races, because I KNOW that this is where the decisions get made.  I know these votes count more than my carefully considered vote in the Presidential elections (especially because I live in MA – the Democrat is getting my electoral votes, MA ALWAYS goes Democrat).  I want them to vote not along party lines, but because they’ve carefully considered the candidates, and thought about the issues.

But I’m a crappy uneducated voter – and I’m a little ashamed of myself.  Those women in the picture above would not be proud today.

 

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Je suis fatigue

(just part of why I’m exhausted these days…)

It’s all I retained from high school French.  Mom phrases, as it turns out.  I can also demand that my kids comply “tout suite!” and I’ve been known to holler out “Avec Moi!”  But mostly, I just say I’m tired.

I’m exhausted today because I stayed up far too late.  For no good reason, just wasn’t in the mood to sleep.  But it strikes me that I haven’t blogged in a while, so figured I’d throw up a quick status update, in case anyone was interested….

My life is easier now.  It’s a lot busier, I mean, a LOT busier, but it’s easier.  There’s a lot to be said for having all the kids capable of going to the bathroom on their own, get their own snacks, buckle their own carseats (kind of, I still have to buckle Julie, but it’s a booster and a thousand times easier).  They all dress themselves, in a pinch, they can all pick out their own clothes.   They all sleep by themselves.  It’s a trade-off, I know that.  There used to be long, lazy days, when my schedule revolved around naptime and nursing every few hours.  I’d strap all the kids into strollers or carrier and head to the park, feed the ducks or stay home and bake cookies and fold laundry.  Now I’m in the car, kind of all the time, and I have taken to driving around with dry cereal and snack bars in the front seat because I don’t have time to eat at home anymore.  But it’s still a lot of easier -just physically less demanding, and even the stressful parts of parenting seem to be easier now.  It’s fun, and I find myself marveling at how much I genuinely enjoy this stage in our family.

Jessie really is so much happier at this school that I can’t really imagine how she lasted so long at the last one.  She’s calmer, smiles a lot more.  It’s hard to describe, especially because her responsibilities have multiplied.  She’s switching every class now, with a lot more homework, a new instrument, and bat mitzvah lessons on top of it.   But despite the increased amount of STUFF to do, she’s getting along a lot better with her siblings, waking up happy and content, and is just a lot more fun to be around these days.   Her bat mitzvah is inching ever closer, and I’m looking forward to it for a whole bunch of different reasons, not the least of which is that I’ll be able to stop nagging her to DO HER BAT MITZVAH STUDYING.

Sam is just chugging along in second grade.  He’s still kicking butt in bath, and struggles a little bit with reading.  Struggles isn’t quite the right word, because he’s really improved so much in the past month or two.  Socially, though – that’s really what I worry about.  My kids are smart, academically.  I don’t worry, even if they have the occasional hiccup, I’ve never had to worry about their academic abilities.  Socially, that’s what I want to know about – and with Sam, that’s just a non-issue.  He plays happily with anyone and everyone, and never hesitates anymore at separation.   He’s thriving, and I never, ever take that for granted.  When he jumps out of the car every morning and runs to catch up with his buddies, I think back to those days when he’d start crying at home and just escalate as we got closer to the school.  It was  LONG journey to get to where we are today.

Julianna is in her second year of preschool, and so resilient that it still surprises me.  I know it’s wrong to compare kids, but it’s also (for me, at least) inevitable.  Things that would just shatter Sam at that age are manageable for her.    She decided last week that swim class was unendurable, because she had to get her hair wet, and she hates that.  She cried before she went to bed, and woke up sobbing because Tuesday was swim.  I told her she was going anyway, and we’d just tell Miss Jessica that she didn’t want to jump in.  I know that wouldn’t have worked with Sam, and didn’t expect it to work with Julie – but it did.   It’s just so much easier for her.  I don’t mean to minimize her feelings, because she was definitely dreading going to swim, but she was confident enough that she’d be safe, that her teachers would take care of her, and that’s she’d be able to handle it without me there.  She’s got two best friends, and  every day, comes home with smiles and stories about her day.

Marc is still working a thousand hours, and then studying every spare second.  It’s like he’s working two jobs, and I hate it.  I mean, I really hate it – but I keep telling myself that it won’t last forever.   It won’t.  But I miss my buddy, my husband, my partner.  We try to cram quality conversation into the twenty minute car ride twice a day to get him to work and back, but mostly it ends up being logistical stuff, discussions about who’s going where, when, and what we’re doing for dinner and who’s going to pick up and what time.

Halloween tomorrow, and I insisted that Marc take the day off a few months ago.   I’m glad I did, because he would have hated to miss out on dragging my ballerina, army guy and Cinderella out for trick or treating.

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Halloween Prep

We do Halloween in our house.  We do most holidays, but Halloween, where it’s socially acceptable to ask for and then eat candy all the live long day – that one is one of the more popular.

Every year, we buy pumpkins and then Marc carves them.  Without fail.  I don’t think I’ve carved a pumpkin in the almost thirteen years we’ve been together.  But this year – for the first time, Jessie and Sam carved their own (first and second on the left).  Becky carved Abby’s pumpkin, and Marc did Julianna’s bat pumpkin.   Sam was so proud of himself.  Not that Jessie wasn’t, but Sam was HUGELY proud, whereas Jessie was fairly blase about the whole thing.  Julie was mad that she couldn’t carve it herself.

This was a tough year, pumpkin-wise.  It’s a tough fall, honestly, because Marc’s schedule is so challenging.  He’s working all the time, and when he isn’t working, he’s studying, and it doesn’t leave a lot of time for celebration.  But we managed to squeeze in a pumpkin carving party.

It started the day before, with a very impromptu Shabbat party.  I like to do Shabbat dinner whenever possible, and because Marc had Friday off, I scheduled a playdate for Julianna here that afternoon.  The plan was for Marc to go to the gym, pick up the kids at school and come home for dinner.  Julie has a buddy who attends the same preschool (although because Evie goes on MWF, and Julie goes T/TH, they don’t actually “go” to school together), but since we get the friendship list, we found each other anyway.   She and her little sister, and her mom, came over for a playdate, and ended up staying for dinner.  Her husband came down, my stepdaughters came over and the volume in our house kept going up and up and up.  But the challah was yummy, the kids recited all the blessings along with Marc, and when it was all over, I curled up on the couch and watched Footloose with the girls.

Saturday mornings, we got up and went to the synagogue.  We were at services until after one, and then I met my mother and Becky down at the mall.  We went trick or treating, and lost Sam for a very scary five minutes or so.  I wasn’t scared that he’d been stolen, but I knew he’d be terrified and was desperate to find him.  He had run ahead to find me in the costume parade, not knowing that I had waited for him back at the beginning.  By the time my  mother and I realized that neither one of us had him, he was already halfway down the mall.  So if you were at the Solomon Pond Mall on Saturday, I’m sorry if I shoved past you.  By the time I caught up to him, he was so scared.  Not crying, at least not until he saw me, but he was soaked with sweat and shaking.

We left the mall.  Too many people, too much stress.  We went grocery shopping, and then to the Home Depot for more trick or treating (and to pick up Marc).    By the time we got home (surviving a few sibling battles along the way), we had just enough time to make a quick dinner before starting the pumpkins.   My friend Stephanie stopped by and kept me company while I washed more dishes and started cooking.

By the time yesterday rolled around – everyone was exhausted and nobody wanted to go anywhere.  So we didn’t.  I let Marc take the car, and the kids watched movies and chilled out all day.  I cleaned (although you wouldn’t know it today) and got ready for this week.

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December is coming…

(I love this pic from a Hanukkah several years ago….)

It’s always at this time of year that I start thinking more about interfaith issues.  After last year, I promised myself that I was going to go off-line for the month of December.  Close myself in a little cocoon, and surround myself only with people who knew and understood where I was coming from, when it came to celebrating Christmas.  Last year was when I had an article published on kveller.com, and the response caught me totally off guard.  Especially when the next day, a rabbi posted her response, questioning whether I was providing my children with a strong enough spiritual foundation to sustain them as they grew up.

I’ve thought a lot about this, over the past several months.  Because I know it’s coming – December.   That time of year, every year, when all the decisions I’ve made fall under the  microscope and I question whether I’m doing anything right.   When I stumble into a conversation with another Jewish mama, and we start talking about interfaith issues, I feel myself lighting up.  Because this is a huge part of who I am, and what I struggle with, and the more I talk about it, the more WE talk about, the easier and less scary it becomes.

The rest of the year, I’m a happy Jewish girl.  Lighting Shabbat candles, braiding challah, running the Sisterhood at the synagogue and reading PJ Library books to my kids.   But then the fall comes, and I celebrate the Jewish holidays.  I spend so much time thinking about my Judaism, and talking with the kids about it.   It’s so much more in the forefront when I’m at the synagogue four or five times a week, with religious school and other commitments.  I know that December is coming, and there’s a part of me that’s already dreading it.

December is about family and about childhood memories, and about honoring my traditions and where I come from.  It’s about passing down those things to my children.   My Jewish children.  There’s a conflict inherent in that, and it’s not one that I handle well.  I think I could, by myself.  Left to my own devices, I’m very much at peace with it all.  I love being Jewish, I feel at home and safe within the traditions, and it’s exactly what I want for my children.   But I also want my kids to honor their heritage from my side of the family – and that means Christmas.

(Four Jewish kids decorating my tree)

Converting to Judaism has added so much to my life, but it has also added some additional complications.  Hurt feelings on the part of my mother, who loves me and wants only for what’s best for me and the kids.  But she can’t help wishing that we celebrated her holidays more fully.  Confusion and anger on the part of my sister, because why am I giving up so much?  My husband would rather skip the whole Christmas thing too – and there’s that added level of knowing that it’s hard for him to have what, for him and so many other Jews, is a Christian symbol of a tree in the living room.  Plus there’s that balance of deciding what to give for Hanukkah or Christmas, and knowing that we aren’t celebrating Hanukkah as fully as other Jewish families, because my kids are also getting gifts later on in the month.  Some part of Jewish identity is tied up in NOT celebrating Christmas.  That’s an element of Jewish identity that I’m not passing on to my kids.

December is coming and I’m aware of it.  It’s there, waiting.  I know I won’t be able to avoid the judgement or the condemnation, the confusion or the hurt feelings.  But I’m hoping that this year, I’ll be able to focus a little more on the beauty that comes from melding two different cultures.  Because that’s what we do – every year.  We teach the kids about the traditions we grew up with, I make my grandmother’s donut recipe and serve them with latkes at our Hanukkah party, and Marc gets the kids psyched about watching “Santa Claus is coming to town” and fixes my tree when it topples over.  I hope that this year, I’m able to survive December without the angst.  To light the Hanukkah candles, and hang the candy canes with joy and celebration, and not guilt and feelings of isolation.  To not worry so much about what everyone thinks about the way we celebrate in the middle of the winter, but embrace the traditions that come from both of us.

 

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Gratitude List #47

I’m not particularly loving this stage of my life.  I hate typing that, because I know damn well that once I admit it, it’s going to get worse.  But the past few months have been especially challenging for me, and I’m struggling.  I’m not working, I’m not at home, I’m certainly not writing as much as I’d like.  What I’m doing is driving.  All day.  I drive all the kids to different schools, I drive Marc to work.  I pick them all up, and deliver them to different after-school activities.  I pick Marc up from work, feed the kids late, fish clean clothes out of the dryer (if I’m lucky) and then do it all again the next day.  It doesn’t feel like there’s any time to do anything.   Sometimes it feels as though I’m failing all over the place, the house is a disaster, my parenting is reduced to hollering at the kids to stop fighting in the backseat and I fantasize about a killer snowstorm that cancels everything and forces us to stay home and just… breathe.   I’m not accomplishing anything – I’m just racking up the miles.

I know it’s temporary.  I know it’s a byproduct of Marc working two jobs, and it’ll get easier in a few weeks.  I know that there isn’t anything I could cut out to make the schedule better.  I know that in order to make it better, I have to change my own attitude towards it.  Embrace the car, if you will.  Find little moments of peace and quiet indulgence, turn the music up louder and take the scenic route instead of the highway.

A lesson I learned a long time ago is that when things get really challenging – make a gratitude list.  So here’s the list of reasons why I especially appreciate this stage – even when it’s incredibly challenging.

- Jessica Mary is closer to twelve than eleven, and while I was dreading the onset of puberty, I’m delighted to discover that it’s kind of awesome.  She’s changing so fast, and it’s beautiful.  She’s beautiful.  She’s smart, and funny and perceptive and eager to discover everything she can.  She’s independent and determined, focused and driven.  She’s right on the cusp of everything.  It’s all new and watching her grow and become who she’s going to be is one of my favorite parts of this stage.

- Sam is just such a happy kid these days.  It’s not just that he’s happy in school, has a lot of friends and really enjoys going.  He’s just generally happy.   Everything seems easy with him these days, there are the normal “Dude, you HAVE to calm down before I lose my mind…” moments, and sometimes he goes out of his way to bug the hell out of his sisters, but for the most part, he’s all the way good.

- My Julie is still little enough to be my baby, but so big in all other respects.  We’ve conquered the bedtime battles, and settled into a routine that works well.  She’s very happy going to preschool two days a week, her hair is almost down to her waist and she’s got the cutest little habit, before she falls asleep, of kissing and kissing and kissing me.  I showed her butterfly kisses the other day, and she giggles every time.

- Marc and I are still… us.  We’re coming up on our thirteen year anniversary next year, and he’s still my best friend, my other half.  My partner.  Even now, when our time together is so incredibly limited, and we’re both rushing around all the time – he’s still the one I want to talk to the most.

- My car radio is… quirky.  It works, but sometimes it’ll assume command and won’t let us change the radio station or skip songs on a CD.  So we leave it on the sports radio station because if we change the station, we may not be able to get it back  and Marc requires access to the Patriots games at all times (and I’m only slightly bitter about that).  I listen to CDs all the time.   I’m slowly rebuilding a CD collection, by “borrowing” them from my mother, or buying them at Savers.  I’ve got the kids rocking out to music that I grew up with, and Julianna singing Carole King, or Sammy doing the drums to Old Time Rock and Roll, and Jessie belting out “All American Girl” by Melissa Etheridge – it’s awesome.

- The leaves are gorgeous.  You can’t beat the fall in New England, it’s the prettiest time of the year to be bopping all over the place in the car.  I get to see way more foliage than I would on a normal year, simply because I’m in the car driving around all the time.

Perspective matters, and while it’s true that this is an especially challenging time in my life, it’s still a time that I think I’ll look back on and miss.  Parts of it anyway.  I won’t miss sitting in a grubby car (why, why is it always dirty???), wading through traffic or watching my gas gauge creep ever closer to empty (I filled it yesterday and am already down a quarter of a tank).  But I will miss the days when my kids were still at home, where I was still intimately aware of everything that happens in their day, and when Marc and I were jamming quality time into the twenty minute drive back and forth from Home Depot.

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Sukkah Hopping, Spouse Swapping and a Corn Maze

It’s Tuesday, and I’m a happy girl.  A slightly stressed, wishing I had about four extra hours today because there’s no way I’ll get everything done, content girl.  It was a crazy busy weekend, but one of those that was filled with good friends, family connections and holiday celebrations.

Saturday night, Marc’s cousin got married and her wedding was beautiful.  Also beautiful was spending time alone with my husband without the kids.  We’ve never been particularly “good” at date nights, and sending the kids off with sitters or family so that we could get time alone is something we always talk about doing, but never follow up on it.  There are a bunch of different reasons for it, some of it was certainly that we didn’t like to skimp on family together time, especially with my stepdaughters because they weren’t with us all the time.  Part of it was that the kids didn’t really seem to like it (and by “like it” I mean, endure separation without losing their minds screaming and sobbing.  I’m looking at you, Samilicious).

But the wedding was kid-free, and we danced and talked and danced some more and spent time with people we see far too rarely.  And the kids were fine without us.  In fact, when we went to pick up the next morning -Sam was having far too much fun at his buddy’s to come home.  We had split the kids up, sending Sam to his friend’s house for a 24 hour video game and testosterone filled extravaganza that he adored.  Jessica and Julianna went to our friends David and Aviva’s house.  They have twins that are Julie’s age, and a toddler who thinks the sun rises and sets with my Jessie.  So everyone was happy, and already asking for their next sleepover.

We’re in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.  You may have noticed little huts in the backyards or driveways or porches of Jewish families.   Sukkot is a harvest festival, and also commemorates the temporary shelters that the Israelites lived in when they were wandering around the desert.    Coming so soon after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, it’s perfectly situated in the Jewish calendar – because it comes at a time when you really WANT to sort of envelop yourself in Judaism.   Sukkot gives you the opportunity to do it for a week.

It’s an incredibly happy holiday, and all the way fun.  Last weekend we helped to decorate the sukkah put up at our synagogue, and this weekend, we were there on Sunday for “soup and salad in the sukkah.”  Which I’d go to anyway, because I like alliteration, but it was extra fun for me this year because all the kids are getting older and more social and more fun.  We had my stepdaughters there, plus Jessie and Julie.  We met some new potential members, had some interesting and enlightening conversation, and, in general, just enjoyed being part of the community.

Living in Worcester, we get the opportunity to be a part of our immediate Jewish community, at our synagogue (), and a part of the larger Worcester Jewish community.  Saturday, we were able to spend time in our sukkah at the synagogue with our rabbi and cantor (both of whom are wonderful and engaging and make me happy to be Jewish), and then we stopped over at another sukkah party, and saw lots of people that I only get to see a few times a year.

We finished up the night with a tiny sukkah dinner party at our friends’s house.  Their sukkah is the perfect size for six screaming children, and we happily stuffed them all in there, and had a grown-ups only dinner together in the kitchen.  The kids ate pizza, made paper chains, yelled a lot and took it very literally that they should party in sukkah.

Which brings me to the spouse swapping portion of the weekend.  Marc LOVES Halloween.  I don’t.  I like the candy, and I like dressing the kids up in cute costumes, but the scary stuff freaks me out.  I don’t do haunted houses, I hate scary movies and you couldn’t pay me enough to go to the Factory of Terror.  But my friend Sara is married to a wise, wise man, who happily agreed to come out for ice cream with me and the kids and send his wife off to be terrified with my husband.

Monday, Marc had to work, but the kids were off for Columbus Day.  We went down to Schartner Farms to do the coolest corn maze ever.  It was my first corn maze, so I might not be the best source, but it was really cool.  We went with friends, which was perfect, as there is NO way I could have kept up with Sam and still been able to walk with/haul Julie.  Sam and Jessie were running all over the place, and I’m certain that I would have lost them if I had tried it alone.   Finished up the day with a visit to my mother’s house, and then dropped Jessie off to do  “Sukkah Hop” with the Youth Group from the synagogue.

One more Jewish holiday (Simchat Torah is on Friday – the day we finish up reading the Torah (the Five Books of Moses) and start again – and then celebrate with dancing and singing) and we’ll wrap up this portion of the holiday season and get ready for Halloween.    I’ve got a glamorous princess, a marine and Cinderella who are already counting down the days.

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