Archive | June 2011

My big, big, big girl….

Shipping my baby girl off to Hermit Island this week, up in Maine.  Not my baby baby, but my eight year old little love bug, my Miss Miz (short for Misery – Jessie was a toddler who really embraced her emotions).  I’m sending her off with my sister, who I love and trust more than anything.  And of course, my mother, my cousins, my aunts, etc… so she’ll be surrounded by family and I know she’ll be fine, but I’m still a little panic stricken at the thought of her being gone for an entire week.

But I am looking forward to being done getting ready for Hermit Island.  Jess is a girl who loves being prepared, and has a deep and personal attachment to many, many of her stuffed animals, and between packing her clothes, and repacking them after Julianna has unpacked (seriously – this kid adores throwing clothes all over the place) and figuring out which stuffed animal(s) should make the trip… it’s been a two day effort and she’s not leaving until Saturday.  I’ve now got all of her stuff in one laundry basket and am seriously considering just sending that up instead of a bunch of little bags.

House is still in shambles.  You’d think I’d either get used to it, or get a lot better at either forcing the kids to pick up or start picking up more often.  But nope, I just sort of do all three, I try to make them clean up after themselves, try to pick it all up myself at least twice a day, and mostly, I try to just resign myself to it.  Both Jess and Sam love to create these worlds with figurines, and while Jessie has mostly outgrown it, Sam is really just starting to get into it.  Sam is even willing to put up with Julianna crawling in the middle of it, mostly.  Jessie used to hate having Baby Sam in her stuff, and she’d happily set up in her room, but Sam doesn’t like playing alone in his room, so I’m constantly dealing with army men and trucks and monster figures scattered willy-nilly thru my house.

Julianna is still struggling with nighttime issues.  She’s okay once she’s down, for the most part, but getting her to sleep at night is now taking hours.  Literally.  I’m distinctly ill amused – and vetoed Marc attending a committee meeting tonight at the synagogue so he can handle her.  I need a break :-)  Bedtime used to be his special time with Sam when Sam was about this age, so perhaps that’s just the transition that we need to make.  As it turns out, I’ve started reading Harry Potter to Sam at night before bed, so this might work out perfectly :-)

Sleep issues

There aren’t that many actual parenting rules that I live by – I think I’m pretty flexible about most things, but one thing I know for certain – it’s never a good idea to get used to anything your child does, because as soon as you do, they’ll switch it all up.  Case in point, my tiny little Esmerelda baby.  She used to be the easiest child to put to bed.  She’d even gratefully agree that it was bedtime and snuggle up next to me while I nursed her and watched Grey’s Anatomy repeats.  It was lovely… but now – now, it’s a whole different story.  She fights it, climbs all over the place and fusses.  I have to keep laying her down until she eventually gives up and just drifts off.  She’s developed an attachment to receiving blankets (after three kids, I have a ridiculous number of them) and likes to have many, many of them draped around her.  She’s got one in particular that she loves, with little fat fairies all over it.

She just woke up from her nap, she slept for almost three hours and is so cute.  She’s munching on some hot dogs and water, I tried to give her tuna fish and she was horrified.  Sam is outside playing with Glennys in the pool and eating popsicles and Jessie is out to the movies and chinese food with Marc’s mother.

All in all, a pretty perfect kind of summer day ;-)

Empathy – or why I need to work harder at not picking up other people’s problems

There was a thing (that’s not all that relevant, exactly, to this post) this morning and I found out about it.  It was a bad thing, or probably is, at the very least, something happened to make some people I care about pretty unhappy.  (I apologize for the cryptic nature of this, but it’s not really my story, so I’m reluctant to share details).  My point was that I found out about it first thing this morning (one of those instances where facebook is NOT your friend), and it just set my whole day off.  I’m grumpy and unpleasant – and I need to STOP.  Because the facts are that I’m fine.  My marriage is whole and healthy, my kids are happy, whole and healthy.  I need to figure out how to feel badly for other people and not have it impact every thing about my day.  Because not only am I stressed out and unhappy, but that old adage that when Mommy’s not happy, nobody is happy could have been written about me and my kids.  Jessie is cranky and fussy, Sam has thrown himself into two different screaming fits and Julianna… well,she’s sunshiny delightful, thank goodness.   There’s little that seems to throw that one off.

Anyway…

Sam has been a bit challenging as of late.  I’m slightly scared that it’s just that he’s almost five, and maybe there’s a thing where my kids go off the rails a little bit between five and eight.  When Jess turned eight, she had a real personality change, and suddenly got so much calmer and relaxed and happy.  Sam has always been my stable, simple easy child, and it occurred to me that maybe it’s just that I’m not great with kids at this age.  Infants, babies, toddlers, even preschoolers are fun for me, and I have to say, eight so far is really fun, but five, six, and seven?  Those were not my favorite years.  I’m a believer in self fulfilling prophecies, so I’m trying not to think too much about it, but really hoping that it’s just an off day or two.

Probably it is.  Because it’s more that both Jess and Sam have been spiraling into temper tantrums lately – I’m going to blame summer.  We decided to keep Jess home from summer camp this year, and while it’s wonderful – it does also mean that there’s not a lot of structure to our days anymore.  Julianna’s nap schedule is all off too.  I need to figure out a routine and start sticking to it – or I’m going to lose my mind.

Happiness is a $10 pool from Walmart

As we were filling it up with air (it’s a 3 ring pool) and all the kids (Jessica, Sam, Glennys, Julianna, and our neighbor Caroline) were all clustered around, clutching onto the sides, (I had told them they had to hold it – mainly to keep them occupied, they were so happy they were vibrating with joy), Caroline said “I love the Cohens.”  I don’t know if she was talking to us, or if she was just making a general statement to the universe – but either way, I was happy to hear it :-).  Even happier to hear the shrieks and giggles and laughter coming from the backyard.  Because if you can buy happiness for $10, you should.  Every chance you get.

One year old deliciousness

Julianna is so cute these days.   I don’t mean to say that she wasn’t cute before, or that she won’t continue in this cuteness pattern.  Or to insinuate that my other two cherubs are equally adorable, because they are.  But Julianna is still so recently verbal – and she’s still at that glorious point where she can really only agree with us, so she seems to be an uncommonly agreeable child.

She was outside yesterday, late afternoon, and playing with the big kids.  Jessie discovered that you can take wet sidewalk chalk and use it as a serious paint, and since we had Glennys and Caroline over, it was a painting extravaganza out there.  Everyone had fun, but Julie got disgustingly gross, and by the time Glennys carried her into me, she was coated in thick blue ooze and there was no choice but to toss her into the shower.  I’d have given her a bath, but she’s still pretty freaked out about it, so the best choice is just to get naked along with her and hold her screaming, writhing body in the shower.  After we got all cleaned up, I got her out, and put her in a diaper and t-shirt and laid her down for a nap.

I was happily assuming that’d she’d nap for 45 minutes, maybe an hour.  Julianna is an uncommonly regimented sort of kid, she put herself on a schedule very early on.  For the most part, she naps for about three hours between 10:30 and 2:00, roughly, and then goes down for the night around 7:30 or 8:00.  But occasionally, she’ll get up earlier from the first nap and require a restorative little cat nap somewhere around six or so, and then go down closer to nine or nine thirty.  But with the nice weather, and the sun being up so much later, plus it’s Sunday and there’s no real schedule at all, I didn’t realize how late it was.  She actually went down to sleep around quarter of seven and slept like a rock until close to ten.

Then she was AWAKE and just delighted with herself.  She had missed dinner entirely, and was so clearly awake, I couldn’t make her go back to sleep.  So I got her up and she, Marc and I just hung out.  She had dinner with Marc and we watched Loony Toones and built with her blocks.  She’s so adorable and so perfectly happy.  But it was after midnight before she finally wound herself back down, and I’m exhausted this morning.

The apple doesn’t fall far….

Sam has spent all morning, literally all morning, playing with his army guys.  He sets them up, he knocks them all down, packs them all up into vehicles and travels into another room, sets them all up, knocks them down…  It’s fascinating, because at this age, Jessica’s very favorite thing in the whole wide world was playing with her princess figurines.  She had the whole compliment of Disney figures and would do the exact same thing.  Only princess-ish, instead of WWII-ish.

It made me think, because really, they are so similar.  And even though it’s a gorgeous day outside, neither one has any desire to be outside playing.  They like the fresh air, and they aren’t averse to activity, but are both perfectly happy, inside, puttering, reading, playing.  The television isn’t on (because while I won’t force them outside most of the time, I won’t let them watch tv during the day), so I don’t mind that they’re inside.  Which reminds me of me at their age – my mother was forever throwing us outside to play, and I hated it.  I’d sit somewhere under a tree and read… and it’s somehow surprising to me to realize that I have produced children who are not only just like each other, but also who are startlingly similar to myself at that age…

I’ve got three kids

Not two kids and a baby – but three actual kids.  Julianna has passed that indefinable milestone, where she’s not a baby anymore.  She’s still a toddler, but more than that, she’s a kid.  It’s not that she’s walking, because she isn’t.  It’s not that she’s talking, because she’s still not really doing that either.  It’s that, more often than not, she’s able to be grouped in with the other two.  I feed them all together, they play together, she’s one of them now.  Even now, all three kids are busy in the living room.  Jessie is eating her cereal (on the couch, which she shouldn’t be doing) and commenting periodically on it.  Sam is puttering with his new army guys (God bless Savers, because I bought them for a dollar yesterday) and Jules is crawling around, playing with the remote (she flicked off the television earlier) and is very content.

It used to be that she always required attention.  She was either sleeping or in my arms, or I was carefully supervising her in someone else’s arms.  But now… she’s on her own, more and more.  She’s a big girl, she’s got opinions and wants and has no problem communicating her needs.

It’s an odd feeling, when suddenly you realize that your baby isn’t a baby anymore….

Chess and my Grandpa

I was my grandfather’s favorite grandchild.  (Which, incidentally, is one of the reasons that I don’t get bogged down in worrying about whether or not my children’s grandparents have a favorite – I think it’s perfectly normal and wonderful – Jessie is, hands down, my MIL’s favorite and I think that it’s sweet and lovely for both of them.  They love all the kids, but Jess loves them more and they spend more time with her).  One of the things that my grandfather always, always did with me was play chess.  He had two gorgeous chess sets, one of them was engraved with his name on one side and mine on the other.  I didn’t get that set (long sad story) when he passed away, but I do have the other wooden set.

Sam LOVES playing chess with me.  He’s not yet five, and obviously far too young to be doing it on his own, but he really, really enjoys it.  We play every day when Julianna goes down for her nap, and thus far, I really play for both of us and let him win, but he’s learning, faster than I would have anticipated.

Every time I set up the chess set, I think of Grandpa and miss him a little more.  I’m so grateful for my relationship with him – and wish that Samuel Earl could have had that kind of bond with him.

Spiritual Paths

I’m…. not easy to classify when it comes to spiritual belief.  Which I’m actually pretty happy about, I think that it’s better to have your own personal belief system as opposed to blindly following someone else’s.  My mother was Catholic when I was born, and I was a practicing Catholic until probably right around the time when my eleven year old cousin was diagnosed with liver cancer.  After that, I sort of drifted thru goddess worship, straight up Wicca, a little paganism, I explored tarot and have had more than my share of psychic readings.  I looked into Reiki, Axiotonal healing and am fluent in lots of alternative health treatments.  I was pretty convinced that I knew what was going on in the universe, was very clear on how I thought everything worked… and then had the rug pulled out from under me when I miscarried my twins.

It was a very unplanned pregnancy, but one that was so incredibly wanted.  And the loss at ten and eleven weeks of both babies was devastating to me.  I literally became a different person.  I no longer knew that the universe was a benovolent place, I was no longer even a little bit sure that everything happened for a reason.  I felt lost and alone and more scared than I had ever been.

It was then that I got pregnant with Jessica, and started to build a life with an observant Jewish man.  Judaism isn’t a stretch for me, theologically.  It’s based on the premise that there is one G-d, neither male nor female.  That humanity and G-d are in a partnership, and it’s our obligation to make the world a better place.  That Jews are commanded to perform mitzvahs (which truly doesn’t have an English translations – because it’s more than just good deeds, it’s more than charity, it’s more than lovingkindness – the best translation I can come up with is that it’s actions (not thoughts, but actual actions) that make the world a better place).  Jews are commanded to appreciate and value the world around us, there’s literally a blessing to be said for just about everything you do during the day.  It’s a very joyous, loving faith, but also one that demands a certain level of commitment from believers.  I don’t get to just sit back and let the world swirl around me, as a Jewish woman, my obligation is to make it a better place.

But I’m finding, that almost ten years after the miscarriage, eight years after becoming a mother, and three years after formally converting to Judaism, that’s there’s still this element of spiritual questioning that I have.  I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it was the right decision to convert to Judaism, Jewish theology is so closely aligned with my own personal belief systems, and I believe profoundly in giving my children a strong spiritual base from which to explore their own beliefs.  Jewish culture, or at least Conservative Jewish culture, is still confusing to me.  I feel like an outsider at the synagogue.  While everyone there is very nice and kind, and my children are beloved there, I still feel…. a little outside of it all.

Maybe this is just a function of me.  Maybe that’s a part of my personality and anytime there’s a big group thing I tend to feel a little removed.  Maybe it’s worth exploring other synagogues in the area, see if I can find one that’s a little more… welcoming, respectful of all paths.  Maybe I need to re-start my own spiritual quest, find my own answers.  I don’t know.  I find, as my children get older, I feel a need to instill some part of my own traditions in their lives.  To show them what they’ve got from my side of the family – it’s not just Judaism, it’s Judaism and this whole other world where their grandmother can divert storms and arrange for parking spots at the mall.

I don’t have any of the answers anymore.  I don’t know anything for sure.  But I know that there’s a whole universe out there… and trying to understand it, trying to find our own higher purpose, is an eminently worthy goal.

One of the little known perks

of having a big family is watching them learn to take care of each other.  It’s not just that kids from bigger families are more independent because they have to do more for themselves (although I think that’s an element), they’re also much more likely (based on my extensive experience of both growing up in and raising a family of many children) to take care of each other.  I’m listening to Sam chatter away to Julie about how she’s a little kid and needs little bites, and he’s a big kid who takes bigger bites.  He’s correcting himself as he helps her eat her lunch – because my girl really only likes to eat when Marc is here, but is reluctantly agreeing to eat a little bit with her big brother.