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

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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Topics I Should Be Blogging About

I started this blog back in January 2008, which means I’ve got close to seven years of steady blogging.  But lately, blogging is getting harder and harder.  Everything is different now, my schedule is all over the place, and I’m missing out on that TIME.  The quiet time when it’s just me and the computer (even if it’s just fifteen minutes), I don’t have that so much anymore.  My days are spent in the car, I’ve always got dishes to be done, and I’m never caught up on the laundry.  I’m not complaining – this seems like the natural progression for my family.  I’ve been a stay at home mom for eight years, and for those eight years, I was pretty much at “at home” mom.  I baked, I cleaned, I went to the park.   I nursed my babies, and gave them long and luxurious naps.

Those days are gone.  My kids are all in school (even though Julie’s only going two mornings a week), and they’re all thriving.   Marc is working a thousand hours a week, and I’m the one who makes it all happen.  Literally – I drive them all where they need to go.   Yesterday, I drove Sam to school, came home and picked up the girls.  Dropped Jessie at school, dropped Julie at school.  Came home and picked up my aunt Aimee,went shoe shopping, dropped her off at the bus station.  I came back and picked up Marc, dropped him at work, picked up Julie from preschool.  We went grocery shopping, came home, had lunch, did the dishes, then picked up Sam.  The two little kids and I tried to go shopping for Halloween costumes, but struck out.   So then we picked up Harrison from school, and drove to Jessie’s school.  The kids played on the hill while we waited, and then I picked up Jessie.  We came home, I made dinner, and hung out with Joy, Harrison’s mom, when she came to pick him up for a little bit.  Then I packed them all back in the car, and took them Halloween shopping.  Grabbed Marc from work at eight, and then came home.  And that’s a totally typical day for me.

But there is exciting stuff going here – stuff that totally deserves a blog post.  Julie is “blossoming” at preschool, according to her teacher.  Participating and talking, doing art projects and making friends.  She LOVES going, and I never take that for granted.  Last year, things were a lot tougher, and in retrospect, I’m so glad that we stuck it out, because she’s so happy at school this year.  Sam’s adjustment to second grade has been absolutely perfect, his reading skills have taken off, and his anxiety is so much calmer.  It’s not that it’s gone, it’s that it’s so much more manageable.  Jessica is probably the one who’s changed the most lately – she’s changing faster than a toddler, everything is new and different and, when it’s not unbelievably stressful because WOW, can those moods shift quickly – it’s kind of awesome.  She’s discovering everything, so fast and so beautifully.

So I’m hoping to carve more time out for blogging in the future.  Because there’s a lot of STUFF going on around here, and I don’t want to miss it.

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Bedtime Battles

Julie has been a hot mess during bedtime the past two days (it’s taken close to three hours to get her to go to sleep after declaring bedtime).  UNHEARD of – I’ve never had trouble getting my kids to sleep.   Jessie always required a “routine” but it was reasonably short and she always fell asleep quickly enough.  Sam literally just drops when he’s tired, the challenge is making sure that he’s in jammies, teeth brushed, book read, etc before he conks out.  He’s fallen asleep under the table, in front of the rocking chair, on the couch, jammed in between the bed and the wall… he’s my easiest kid to put to sleep.

But Julie – oh, my Julie.

She nursed to sleep for four and a half years (it’s still a little scary to admit that, extended nursing was one of those things I just didn’t talk about, and I still dread the judgement).  Nursing to sleep was perfect – so easy and peaceful and took minutes to get her to doze off.  Now, she’s learning to fall asleep on her own, and it’s hard work.   I’m caught off guard, because this is my third child, and so often, with Julie, I find myself thinking – I should KNOW how to do this.  Maybe I remember doing this when Jessie gave up the pacifier?   Sam didn’t really have any issues dropping that before bed nursing session – it was a LOT harder to get him to stop during the day.  In retrospect, I think that’s why I didn’t really think all that much about Julie nursing at night, it took a few minutes, and didn’t seem like a big deal.  She never nursed during the day.

So here we are.  With a little girl who can’t/won’t fall asleep without hours of prep work.

I snuggled my little ones to sleep.  Jessie liked to be read and sung to as she drifted off, and Sam (unless he just conks out somewhere) still likes to snuggle up against Marc or I as he falls asleep.  Jessie has long since outgrown it, and Sam is getting there… but I always liked the process, and am in no rush to give it up with my youngest.  But after the past two nights of being up past eleven o’clock, and resorting to yelling at her before she finally falls asleep – I have to come up with a new plan.

Any suggestions?   Because seriously – this child needs a lot more sleep than she’s getting.

 

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Confidence

I think that’s what parenting all comes down to.  Well, not exactly, patience, intelligence, sense of humor, all those factor in as well – but really, for me, confidence is the biggest challenge.

I think I’m a decent parent.  I’ve got the mechanics down, mostly.  (I’m still kind of crappy at putting them to bed in their own beds and making them go to sleep.)  They’re fed, dressed, educated, etc.  But it’s the other stuff, the battles over sarcasm, and have you cleaned your room, and why won’t you stop nagging me, and if you’d just DO what I’m asking the first time I wouldn’t have to nag.  That’s when I start to really question myself.   Jessie asked me (well, hollered at me, really) the other day why I bothered having kids in the first place if all I was going to do was yell at them.

Because let’s face it, none of us know what we’re doing.  We’ll all just closing our eyes and leaping, hoping it turns out well.  We decide to have a child, and have no idea what that really means.  We imagine pretty blankets and cute bonnets (or was that just me?), peaceful afternoons, rocking a sleeping baby.  And we get that, we do – but we also get nights when the baby won’t.stop.screaming.  Or the babies that won’t.stop.nursing.  The ones that refuse to brush their teeth, and the ones that insist on wearing three pairs of underwear.  The ones that hide under the table instead of coming out to say hi, and the ones who haul off and hum a truck across the living room when the frustration of having their sibling breathing in the same room are too much.

We worry about whether we’re doing the right thing, cry it out, or snuggle every night.  Force the veggies or let them make their own decisions.   Let them choose their own outfits and look like a neglected child, or insist on matching socks and a neatly brushed hair.  Should we make them do their homework, or just suffer the consequences at school?  Push joining a sports team or force religious school?  Expose them to an instrument even if they’ve got no desire to play one?  Get them a tablet because you want them fluent in technology or refuse to cave and make them lug around a book everywhere they go?

The truth is there are no easy answers, and possibly no answers that are right all the time for all kids.  Even with my three, what works with one won’t work with the other, and the third one challenges me in new and completely different ways all the time.  We’re all just feeling our way through the process, trying to enjoy the little moments (Julianna has started kissing me twenty or thirty times at night, just before falling asleep.  She wraps herself around me, holds my face, and kisses my nose and cheeks and forehead and mouth over and over again, and then whispers that she loves me, and then closes her eyes).

Confidence is one of those things that works like happiness.  At least for me.  I don’t necessarily have to FEEL it to ACT it.  And if I act like I know what I’m doing, eventually it starts to feel true.  I start to remember that even if I don’t have all the answers, I do have thirty something years of experience on these kids.  I also have the added bonus of having their best interests at heart – and I’ve got a better grasp on the bigger picture than they do.   So I just keep winging it, and have faith that in the the end, when I look back, I’ll remember only the good things, the decisions that were right, and the moments that were so sweet (and not the truck flying across the living room, the temper tantrums, and the forgotten homework).

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Career Options Currently Under Consideration by Kids

Jessica – 11 years old

- A constitutional lawyer, because the Constitution is “cool”

- A judge,  because she likes to be in charge

- A balloon designer, because she’s got plans on a TLC mini-series

- A preschool teacher

- She wants to start an on-line bakery, move to a food truck, and then finally a “bricks and mortar” store.  It’ll be called “The J Cafe” and sell baked goods based on recipes I stole from google.  The building where it’ll be housed will also have a bookstore and a dance studio.

- Some sort of executive, see explanation for “judge”

- Writer and babysitter

- She also plans on having four children, two daughters, (if I’m remembering the names right), Ellisandra Melissa and Megan Coriel, and two boys, I think they’re going to be named Jackson and the other one might be Matthew.

Sam – 8 years old

- soldier

- rickshaw driver

Can you guess which one I’m more in favor of?

- Sam also plans on having children, and after some thought, came up with Isabelle and Matt for names.  Jessie is most irritated that he’s planning on “stealing” her name.

 

Julianna – 4 years old

- She just wants to be me.  Or possibly a princess.  And she’s only going to have one baby girl and name her Jewel.

 

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My last weaning story

I’m not a particularly earthy-crunchy sort of parent.  My kids had pringle potato chips for lunch, yesterday, just as an example.  I yell, I do time-outs, I make my kids go to school when they really don’t want to, and I never did the cloth diaper thing.  Meant to, but never actually did.

But I did nurse my babies.  I never planned on nursing a toddler (or even, gasp, a four year old) but I did.  And now that it’s over, I don’t regret a thing.

With Jessie, she self-weaned at eight or nine months, and we transitioned pretty easily to formula for a few months, and then onto cow’s milk.  There wasn’t a lot of heartache over it, for either of us.  Jessie was always a no-nonsense nurser, she did it because that’s where the food was, and once she realized that she could get nutrition in the form of applesauce and pears and sweet potato and diluted juice, she was all over that.  She slowly dropped one feeding at a time, nurses less and less, and then one day we were done.   She was a HUGE fan of the pacifier, and didn’t give that up until she was at least four.  Maybe five.

Sam was VERY different.  He just was.  He was diagnosed with severe separation anxiety when he was five, but really, he came out of the womb with a strong sense that the world was dangerous and the only safe place was in my arms.  Preferably nursing.  He latched on right after birth and nursed all.the.damn.time.  He ate solids without a problem, but still loved nursing.  My two closest friends were also nursing their toddlers, so I didn’t really think much of it.  He wasn’t ready at a year, or eighteen months.  Or two, or two and a half (now my friend’s babies were gradually stopping)… I didn’t see an end in sight.  He was so anxious and so scared, I couldn’t imagine not letting him nurse.  It wasn’t about nutrition, it was comfort.  It was how he fell asleep, it was how he calmed down when he’d freak out.

When I got pregnant with Julianna, he was still nursing.  Not a lot, but he did.   He used to follow me around the house carrying a book, knowing if I was reading, I’d be more likely to nurse him because I’d be sitting.  It was a long, hard weaning – and there were a lot of tears on both sides.  Because nursing while pregnant HURTS, and for Sam, he wasn’t ready to stop and having to confused the hell out of him.   We accomplished it, finally, when I was about six months pregnant.

On Julie’s third day (also known as the Worst Day Ever), Julie went on a nursing strike.  I had left the hospital the day after she was born (it was a ridiculously easy delivery, four hours of labor with an epidural and she was out after the second push), and the visiting nurse came to our house the following day.  Jules had dropped down to below seven pounds, losing close to a pound from her birth weight.  She was jaundiced, but it wasn’t too bad.  Yet.  The nurse told me that she’d be okay, but my job for the next 24 hours was to nurse.  Nurse, nurse, nurse – we’d flush the jaundice out, and have her gain back some of the weight she’d lost.  Julie was my third baby, and after Sam, I was ridiculously overconfident.   I could nurse her, of course I could.  Then she stopped.

After six or seven hours of trying desperately to get her to latch on, Marc finally convinced me to give her a bottle.  I was devastated (post-partum hormones are no joke).  I was convinced that she’d never really bond to me.  How would she ever know I was her mother if I could be replaced with a bottle?  I literally cried all.day.long.  She got formula for close to a week, with me pumping (and not producing enough), before her weight got back up to where it should be, and the pediatrician told me that it was okay to make her nurse.  Discontinue the bottle.  I ended up using nipple shields (God bless whoever invented those) to trick her into nursing, and quickly developed thrush.  Which turned into a staph infection… and three or four different doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong.   But I was GOING TO NURSE this child.  Dammit.  Eventually I ended up trying the ointment that Marc used for athlete’s foot, and that finally got rid of the thrush for good.   By the time she was six or seven months old, nursing was easy and seamless.

After fighting so hard to get her to nurse, combined with how difficult it had been to wean Sam… I didn’t push weaning with Julie.  And somewhere along the lines… she got big.  She did everything early.  She potty trained at two, was fully verbal by eighteen months, gave up the afternoon nap by the time she was two and a half or so.  Nursing seemed like the last step – and because everything else came early, I was in no rush.  She separated easily and happily, but loved snuggling and nursing with me.  I switched to the don’t-offer-don’t-refuse method when she was about a year and a half, and then went with the don’t-offer-refuse-as-often-as-possible by the time she was two.  But for the most part, it was a non-issue.   She rarely nursed in public, she was happy to go without it during the day, but always nursed before going to bed.  She wasn’t waking up to nurse, and whenever possible, I’d distract her with something else if she asked to nurse.  But I didn’t insist on weaning for a very long time.

I didn’t really have to insist all that much.  She was ready to stop.  Mostly.  With Sam, the last nursing session to go was the one right before bed, and he started falling asleep with Marc.  I was so pregnant, I’d go to bed when Jessie did, and Sam and Marc would sit up and hang out.  Watch Discovery Channel documentaries and that’s how he stopped.   Julie didn’t do that.  She liked hanging with Marc, but she’d always want to come and have me put her to sleep.  There was a couple of rough nights, one in particular when she cried for about fifteen minutes before finally, tearfully, drifting off to sleep.   Several times, she’s complained that it’s not fair, she didn’t get to decide to stop, I made the decision on my own. We list the names of her friends who don’t nurse (which is all of them), and then we talk about how none of them nurse anymore (and I wonder how much I’m instilling that whole need for peer approval into her).

She hasn’t nursed in almost a week and a half.  And I’m celebrating that for the first time in nine years (if I’m doing the math right, I got pregnant with Sam in October of 2005), I’m not pregnant or nursing.

I never planned on nursing so long.  I wanted to nurse Sam until he was a year old, mainly because I wanted to avoid having to buy formula again.  With Julie – I just wanted to be able to nurse her.  By the time she came along, so much of how I parented a baby, and a toddler was nursing.   I couldn’t imagine NOT nursing her, but I certainly didn’t anticipate that she’d ever nurse as long as her brother did, let alone a full year longer.  I’m grateful for this time in my life, and also grateful that it’s over.  Because nine years is a REALLY long time, and I’m happy to have my body all the way back.

 

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