Archive | April 2013

I’d do it again in heartbeat.

It was my toughest pregnancy, by far.  I ended up on nausea meds with my other two kids, but with Julianna, the morning sickness seemed worse.  And the itching – oh God, the itching.  My skin was so dry, and nothing seemed to help.  I was contracting all the time, and I wanted to have that baby out more than anything in the whole wide world.  I didn’t want to be pregnant any more.  I wanted my baby, in my arms.  I wanted to hold her and see her and squeeze her.

I cried more during that pregnancy.  I remember sobbing when Marc would come home for lunch, and crying when he’d come home at night.  I itched, oh God, I itched.  I worried about how Jessie would handle it, I worried more about how Sammy would handle it.  Sammy potty trained, and weaned during the nine months we were waiting for Julianna.  He grew up so much, so fast, I worried my pregnancy was forcing him to miss out on some of his babyhood.

I just wanted to have my baby.  I didn’t like being pregnant anymore.  It was hard, I was puking all the time, I had to pee constantly, heartburn was horrendous.

So why am I all wistful and sad tonight?  I look at Julianna today, in all her three year old glory, and she’s bright and beautiful and goofy and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her in it.

I don’t know if I’m feeling sad because I want to have another baby or if I just miss having baby Julie.   Because my girl is big and bold and so not a baby anymore.

Daddy’s girl

My Jessica wasn’t ever really a Daddy’s girl.  Not like the other three girls were.  Lilli and Sarah were always close with him, and Julianna thinks the sun rises and sets with her Yaya.  But Jessie was always my girl.  Not that she didn’t love her Daddy, of course she did, and he’s always adored her.  But she’s always been closer with me.  Part of that is my fault, I was raised by a single mom, so my default parenting style is to do everything.  I’ve gotten better about sharing as each child came along, but my instinct, especially with Jessie, is always to do it all.

Jessica is an intense kid – which is to say, she’s always been a girl who lives with an enormous amount of drama.  Where none exists, she’ll create it.  It seems to fill some need within her, and it’s been a part of her personality from the start.  Not that she always enjoys it, but she can get herself completely and totally wound up over virtually nothing, and talking her off the ledge is always a challenge.  Because in the end, the only one who can really get herself off the ledge, metaphorically speaking, is herself, and teaching her to calm down, and relax and breathe, instead of losing herself in the drama of it all is one of the hardest things I’ve had to learn.

Today was one of those days.  Her hair wasn’t working, and it was more than she could bear.  Between the hair slipping out of the ballerina bun, and the persistent thumb injury, she started crying and just couldn’t get out of it.  I tried, I really did, to try and stay calm, not feed into the emotion, but eventually, I got mad, and started yelling at her to calm down and knock it off.  Oddly enough, this didn’t seem to help.

Marc took her to religious school, but she was still a hot mess, crying and distraught and emotional as could be.  After about fifteen minutes, he took her back home, and I put her in her room.  I gave her a hug, told her I loved her, and handed her a book.  Told her that she couldn’t think of anything else, I didn’t want her to do anything other than to sit and escape into the book for at least ten minutes.  And she was so worn out, she did just that.  She sat and read for a while, and then I went in to talk to her.  She still couldn’t decide if she should go to religious school or not, and started to get upset again, and I cut her off and told her that I was making the decision to keep her home.  I wanted her to stay home, eat something, and just relax.

Then I took the younger two off to the tot services.  Julianna flat out adores it, and I didn’t want her to miss it.  And Sam has a new sports coat that someone gave us, and he wanted to wear it in the worst way.   I spent the morning with my younger two, and Jessica spent the morning with her dad.

It was strange, because normally, when Jessie is emotional and upset, I’m her go to girl.  I’m the one that wades into the hysteria, and makes it all better.  But today, Marc just handled the whole thing so beautifully.  Not only did he sit with her for twenty  minutes or so outside of Hebrew school, after I left with the other two, he then took her grocery shopping with him.  They came home and baked birthday cakes, and then he took her out to lunch before dropping her at dance class.

I was… thrown off, a little.  Part of it was just realizing (again) that he’s as good with Jessie as I am, and part of it was, I think, not envy, but something sort of like that.  I didn’t have a dad like that, and I realized today how much I missed out on.  Because I had my  mother, all the time, and she was fabulous and awesome.  She’s where I learned how to be a mother, and I’m pretty good at it.  But I didn’t have a dad that would sit with me for twenty minutes while I sobbed because my hair was crappy, and then take me shopping and feed me lunch.  My girl is a lucky, lucky girl, and today, I’m extra happy that I married her father, because he’s awesome.

Allergies/cold/what the hell is wrong with my eye?

I feel like my kids don’t get sick all that often.  Exception for the past month, which included two concussions and a thumb injury, they don’t ever get injured.  And I’ve never had allergies before in my life.  Julianna, in particular, tends to be a really healthy kid (due in large part to nursing – Sam was never ever sick until he stopped).

But holy moly, we are a wreck today.  Julianna has a drippy, sad little nose, and she’s cranky and miserable because of it.  And my eye was so swollen earlier after an hour outside with the kids that I could barely see to drive home.  I took a benedryl, which helped, because I can now open it, but it’s still tearing and itchy and sore.   Sore because I keep wiping the tears away – and it won’t stop.   If I take another benedryl, I will quickly fall asleep, which would be lovely, but really not all that productive, given that I have three kids who still require some modicum of attention before bed.

In other news… I’m pondering a move… our lease is up in a few months, and we’re not sure if we want to move or stay put for another year.  I like where we are, the neighborhood is pretty and the apartment is big enough, I guess.  But we can’t have any pets, and that’s really bugging me lately.  Now that the kids are getting bigger, I really do want a dog and a cat.  Plus it’s far away from everything.  I don’t have any close neighbors that I like, it’s ten minutes to the highway to get anywhere… but – it’s got a great yard for the kids to bop around in, and the landlord is fabulous – and it’s not super far away.  Ten or fifteen minutes to get the kids to and from school and all activities, which isn’t a lot, really.

Bottom line, I want desperately to move, but am trying to convince myself that it won’t be too bad if we stay for another year.

Housecleaning

I don’t like it.  Mostly because it’s completely thankless, never ending, and really, it’s like shoving a big rock up hill.  Even if you manage to get it up to the top of the hill, the kids are only going to come home from school and it’ll be a disaster by dinner.

But today’s my at home cleaning day.  Actually, I’ve been fairly productive this week, in terms of big cleaning projects.  Monday, I took apart the living room in a misguided attempt to locate the back of the remote control (because my batteries keep popping out when I throw it on the couch) and Julianna’s cowgirl hat.  I rearranged the furniture a little bit, moved all of the couches out and swept underneath them.  I found a ridiculous amount of tiny little toys, and was able to throw most of them away (on the theory that if they’d been missing, nobody would notice if they just stayed missing).

Tuesday, I didn’t clean.  Laundry/dishes, of course, those are daily – but I spent the day at a friend’s house, snuggling her baby and watching Julie play with her twins.

Today – today, I cleaned.  I got a BUNCH of hand me downs yesterday, and by last night, my dining room was a sea of new clothes for Sam and Jessica.  I had already gone thru the girls’ clothes last week, weeding out what I could hand down to others, and what I was just going to donate to Savers.  But I did all of Sam’s clothes this morning, systematically going thru each drawer, figuring out what still fit, what didn’t and then refolding and putting it all away.  Then I was on such a roll, I put his bookcase back together, put the blocks back in the bucket, and assembled all of the weaponry back in the bucket.  Then I kept going and went thru Jessica’s bedroom.  Did the bathroom, most of the kitchen and now I’m tired of cleaning.

Only as happy as your least happy child

So that’s not a good mantra.  I understand that.  And really, with the drama and intensity that my kids have when it comes to temper tantrums, it’s not a good prescription for my own mental health.  There has to be distance, for their sake as well as my own.  If I allowed myself to get drawn into their unhappiness, then I wouldn’t be able to help them see how to get themselves out of it.  Which a lesson I’ve had to learn over and over again.

That being said – when my kids are HAPPY, I’m blissful.  This morning was the first EVER day back to school after a vacation when Sam wasn’t miserable.  He didn’t, not even once, mutter anything at all about not wanting to go back to school.  That’s unprecedented, and you have absolutely no idea how happy it made me.

Sam’s struggled so much with school.  Not with academics, but with separating, with having his own identity outside of being next to me.  It was really, really, REALLY hard for him.  Hard for me, hard for Marc, even hard for Jessica.  He’s finally at a point where he’s just happy being Sam, without being attached to me.  He’s happy to go to school, and bounce around with Ryan and Jack and Nicky, and Phoebe and Malak and all the other kids at school.  He’s my boy – the boy that I saw all the time at home, happy go lucky, sweet, funny, rambunctious and active, but now he doesn’t feel so scared and anxious and unsafe at school anymore.  His safety isn’t tied into me anymore – he’s confident and capable and secure and can’t even begin to express how incredible that feels, as his mother, to know that he’s thriving at school.

Today will go down as one of the best days ever.  Not only because Sam was blissful about going to school, but also because Miss Jessica was happy and content, and Julie is bopping around in her tiara and pretty dress, convinced she’s a princess.  Because Marc kissed me extra before he left for the day, because I’m going to a playdate with Aviva and the twins, when Julie will dance around with her best buds and I’ll get to snuggle baby Zoe for a few hours.  Because I’m making pasta tonight for dinner – which is everyone’s favorite, and then I’ll get to curl up with the two older kids and watch the third hour of the documentary I recorded over the weekend on the 1980’s.

Today’s a day when I’m awfully glad to have the life I’ve got.

 

My cuddlebug

Jessica Mary is ten years old.  And quite independent, most of the time.   Specifically, she never sleeps in our bed anymore.   Which is normal and natural and perfectly fine… except that last night, Marc and Sam were sleeping over at Battleship Cove with the Boy Scouts, and Jessie crawled into bed with me to watch television and ended up falling asleep next to me.

Julianna has a toddler bed, in our room (partly because she still nurses at night occasionally, and partly because I don’t want to make Jessie find room in her incredibly overcrowded space for her little sister).  So she was sound asleep in her own bed, and Jessie and I were curled up together.  It was achingly familiar, but she hasn’t snuggled like that with me in a long time.

She was my first baby, and for a long time, longer than Julianna has been alive, she was my only.  She snuggled like that every single night.  And even after Sam was born, she was still my snuggly girl.  Sam doesn’t snuggle at night, and neither does Julie.  Even though both the younger two nursed for years longer than Jessie, both of them sleep better alone.  As soon as they could roll, they’d roll away from me in their sleep.  Only Jessica curled into me every night, like she’s trying to burrow under me.  Only Jessica fits her little self into the perfect spot next to me and cuddles up in the most beautiful expression of mother/child snuggles.  She’s not an overly affectionate kid with anyone else – but with me,  she was always happy for a hug or a snuggle.  I was so happy last night with my little/big girl.

Happy and somewhat wistful, because I know how rare it is now.   She’s mostly outgrown it now.  She’ll still creep into bed with us occasionally, but not really.  She’s done with it.  And that’s as it should be… but I cherish those times when she does snuggle up against me.

Each one of my kids has taught me something different, and I love each one more than I can say.  But Jessie taught me about being a mother for the very first time, and with Jessica, I learned how incredibly perfect it is, just to have your little baby close to you.  That doesn’t go away when they get bigger.  It still feels perfect in a way that you only understand after you have a child.   Last night was perfect in a way that I’m going to try very hard to remember the next time she’s glaring at me and muttering under her breath about me.  Because there’s a part of her that’s always going to remember that feeling of safety and warmth and love, and a much bigger part of me that’s always going to want her next to me.

Writing Haitus

I’m back!  I took a week or so off from blogging and writing, not intentionally, really.  Part of it was that I had all the kids home for vacation, so things were crazy and hectic.  But a bigger part of it was that I had just finished taking a book proposal class and needed some time to think about it.

I finished my book proposal, and got as far as finding an agent or two that I wanted to send it to.  But I wanted to pause for a minute, catch my breath, and think about what I wanted from the book.  And what I wanted for myself, going forward.  How big do I want the blog to get, how much of a platform am I comfortable with, what exactly are my dreams and goals.

I’m not certain what the answers are yet.  But I feel refreshed and ready to pick it up again.   I love to write, and more than loving to write, I really need to write.  It’s how I process stuff, it’s how I think about things.  And I need to have it read.  There’s something incredibly satisfying to me when someone reads what I wrote and likes it.  But I’m not comfortable putting so much of myself out there, in a huge public sort of way, so I’m going to slow it down, stop putting all this pressure on myself to build an audience and expand the platform.  I’m going to focus on that which I do well, and that which I know I love doing.  Blogging for me, for MassMoms and InterfaithFamily.com.  I’m going to investigate freelance writing, actually getting paid for some of this stuff would be fabulous.  I’ve had a couple of pieces published.  Let’s look into getting some more.

And my book.  I love my book, not that it’s much more than a pretty proposal right now, but I think it has potential to be something wonderful.  It’s about my spiritual journey thus far, how I came to be comfortable and then enthusiastic about Judaism, and how I was able to convert while still feeling as though I didn’t have abandon who I am.  It’s a big book for me, it’s a topic I’ve been writing about since I met Marc, and I’m definitely going to continue working on that as well.

It’s hard for me to be ambitious.  I’m not sure why, I think part of it is transitioning from full time motherhood – I have been so focused for the past decade on having babies that thinking about what I want, for me, for my professional life, is literally something I’m not used to doing.  And even as I write that, I can hear Julianna starting to yell at her sister, and Jessie starting to get aggravated with her.  Which reinforces why it’s hard to focus on myself at times.  Is it just me?  Are there other moms out there that struggle to find time and space to think about themselves?

 

 

Separation

It’s hard for me.   For a whole bunch of different reasons – one of which I’m pretty sure is because I had my kids late (compared to my siblings – I was 29, with three younger siblings and nine nieces and nephews before Jessica was born).  I had also been the family babysitter for my mother’s younger siblings.  There were four or five of my younger cousins (I’m the second oldest of 23 grandchildren) that I was enormously close to.  So I had spent probably fifteen years or so having to give kids back to their parents, hearing them cry when I left and not being able to do anything about it.

I always wanted to be a mother, for as long as I could remember.  I mothered everyone and everything I could.  It’s family lore that I was my siblings’ second mother, I started babysitting at ten, and still do it today.  I took my cousins overnight when they were toddlers and I was in my teens.  When I had nieces and nephews of my own, I took them as often I as I could.

It’s no real surprise that my kids would be especially attached to me.  Kids have always liked me.  I like them.  And I like my kids more than I’ve ever liked anyone :-).   I want them with me.  Sending them to school or dropping them off with people isn’t my favorite.  My default is to want them with me.  Even when I’m so tired of refereeing between Jessie and Sam and I think if Julie asks to nurse one more time, I’m going to cry, I still would rather they be with me than not.

BUT – they need to feel safe without me.  They need to feel like their whole world is bigger than me, and in order for that to happen, I need to give them time without me.  Sam, in particular, has really struggled with it.  And I think I’ve trained myself to meet that need, to be there all the time, in hopes that when he feels comfortable, it’ll be easier for him. I worried, a lot, that Sam’s separation issues were my fault.  But then I had Julie, and she was just such a vastly different personality that I was able to see that kids are who they are from the very beginning. As much as I tend to blame myself for everything with the kids, there’s only so much of it that I can really claim.

Julie just came into the world delighted with everyone, convinced that everyone is her friend.  I didn’t do that, it’s just who she is.  And Sam’s determination that the world is better when I’m at his side is just a part of his personality as well.

I’ve noticed, over the past few weeks or so, that Julie has become increasingly shy.  More reluctant to engage with people, more likely to hide behind me when people talk to her.  Because that’s a major shift from where she was before, I wanted to try and find ways to make her more comfortable, so I asked people to start taking her without me.  She’s literally with me, all the time.  Becky, my mother, Marc, etc.  I joined the local gym, not really because I wanted to work out, but because it was an easy reason for me to get out of the house and leave her with Marc on the weekends. I left her with my mother yesterday and took the older kids hiking, and she had a wonderful time.  I’m even thinking that I could leave her with my mother for a few hours a week and take the laptop somewhere and actually get some uninterrupted writing time on my book.

I dropped her off with my mother yesterday, and took the older two to Purgatory Chasm for hiking with Becky.  I was dreading it so much, as much as I intellectually knew it was the right decision.  The kids really wanted to go, it’s not safe to bring a little one to Purgatory, and there’s literally nobody else I trust more than my mother with my kids.   Marc, of course, but he was working.

And Julie was fine.   More than fine.  She waved me off happily enough, and had a fabulous time with her Grammy.  They fed ducks, visited cousins, went shopping, and she was sunshiney happy the whole time.  Burst into tears when she saw me and immediately crawled into my lap and nursed for a bit, but she had fun.

Thoughts after a busy weekend

- Sam is kind of in a unique position as the only boy among all the girls.  I wonder how that’ll impact him throughout his life.  We spent yesterday at the zoo, with five Cohen girls and one Cohen boy.  He stands out because he’s the youngest (Julie is so much younger than the girls that she also stands out) but he also stands out because he’s the lone boy in the middle of all that estrogen.

– Speaking of estrogen, we had a 14 year old, two 11 year olds, and a 10 year old girl.  Adolescence run amok, there were tears, hurt feelings, frantic running and playing like they were afraid we’d tell them they were too old to go on the swings.  It’s a completely different experience, going to the zoo with that many older kids.

– I love that we have the Cohen Girls.  I love that it’s a group of girls who are sisters and best friends and mortal enemies all rolled into one.  I especially love that one of the Cohen Girls is actually a Chambers – Glennys is down for the week from North Conway, and it feels like my family is complete again.

– I don’t like having two cars.  Yes, it makes my life a thousand times easier, it makes Marc’s life a zillion times easier.  But I miss driving with him, I miss the long conversations we’d have together with all the kids in the backseat.  I was lonely driving home, especially when the two kids riding with me fell asleep ten minutes into the hour long drive.

– Julie is growing up as the much adored mascot of this family.  She’s so absolutely convinced of her place in the world and completely secure and content about it.  I envy her sometimes – wouldn’t that be a cool way to grow up?  A big older brother she adores (confession – I wanted an older brother in the WORST way when I was younger), and three (sometimes four) older, gorgeous sisters that are so much older she won’t feel the need to compete with them?  I think she’s got the best birth placement in the bunch….

– Jessie is so grown up and beautiful… I still can’t quite believe it.  I’m not stunned that Sam is almost seven.  I’m not even (that much) thrown off about Julie turning three – because I’ve already adapted to Jessica being that age.  You know what I mean?  But the mere fact that Jessie is ten still takes me by surprise.

 

Being a baby

Julianna isn’t a baby.  Not really.  She’s a few weeks away from turning three years old, but if you ask her, she’s still a baby.  She watches “baby shows” and likes “baby books.”  She also (and this is what inspired this post) likes her “baby potty.”  She’s been potty trained for a long time, we started with potty training soon after her second birthday.  I never thought she’s actually do it, I thought I’d just get her a potty and let her get used to it.  She loved the whole idea of it, and potty trained really, really fast.

She was easily a year ahead of her her brother and sister, in terms of when they were reliably potty trained.  She was good to go, day and night, by mid-September, and I honestly can’t remember the last time she had an accident.  Sounds great, right?  BUT – she’s only ever gone on her little pink potty.  She’ll use other kids’ potties, if we happen to be at someone’s house and they happen to have a potty training toddler (which happens more often than you’d think).  But sitting on the big toilet is completely an anathema to her.  She’s horrified at the suggestion of it.

It works, kind of.  She’s like a camel, with amazing bladder control.  She can easily hold it for a few hours or so.  Sometimes longer.  If we’re going to be out all day, I’ll usually tote along the little pink potty, but it’s only for a while, say half a day max, I’ll just have her go first and trust that she’ll be okay.  I always have an extra outfit in my bag for her, but I’ve never actually needed it.

But really – she’s got to move on.  Jessie never used a little potty, my girl potty trained herself after I gave up, and just started sitting on the toilet on her own.  Sam moved over to the big potty pretty quickly too, within a week or two, I think.  But Julie is adamant, babies don’t go on the big potty, and she’s a baby.  I bought her a little Minnie Mouse toilet seat that sits on the toilet, and she’s amused by it.  It’s got Minnie on it, so she likes it, but the thought that she’s supposed to use it is crazy.  As she explained to me today, babies don’t sit on the big potty.  I pointed out that Mama couldn’t use Minnie, Minnie was just for babies, but you could tell that she thought I was an idiot.  She politely told me that she’d still be using her pink potty and then left the room.  Leaving me to wonder if she’d still be using the little pink potty for the rest of her life….

It’s the “baby” thing that confuses me, honestly.  Most kids seem to WANT to be big kids – and there’s very little about this girl that would make you think of a baby.  She’s fully verbal, completely potty trained (pink potty obsession aside), drinks from a cup, feeds herself neatly.  She can clean up after herself, tattle on her siblings, and has memorized several books (leading the uninformed to believe that she can read).  But she’s still nursing, and I think that’s what’s really driving the “baby” desire.  Babies nurse, and she’s not willing to give up that title and the privileges that go along with it.  I’m not sure where she got that impression, I nursed Sam until he was closer to four, so while I’m more than ready for Julie to be done with nursing, it’s not like I’m pushing for her to wean anytime soon.  It’s not even like she’s nursing all that much anymore.  She really only nurses when she’s ready for sleep – or if she’s really emotionally stressed out.  Which doesn’t happen all that often, so it’s not unusual for her to go all day without it, especially because the nap is becoming more and more a thing of the past.

But for now, I’m happy with my “baby.”  Even though she’s not a baby, and she and I both know that.  She’s a big girl, and getting ever bigger every day.  And maybe someday soon, she’ll actually use the Minnie toilet seat… and if not, well, she’s a skinny kid.   I bet her little butt will fit on that training potty for a long time to come.