Archive | May 2013

Five Questions Friday

I’m linking up with Five Question Friday (which is fun, because I like answering questions, but also helpful because I don’t have to come up with a blog topic) from fivecrookedhalos.blogspot.com

 

1. What is an acceptable age for girls to start dating?

I don’t think you should have a separate age for girls, in all honesty, I’d be a lot more afraid of Sam getting someone pregnant than one of the girls getting pregnant.  Not that dating = sexual activity, but… What is an acceptable age for dating, regardless of sex?  I don’t know.  The later, the better is what I’m thinking, but I’d rather not make a blanket policy.    I haven’t even thought of it yet, I’m more concerned with what age should I let Jessie have her own email or a facebook page, or a cell phone.


2. Do you think your kids should have summer homework?

I think there shouldn’t be any summer vacation at all.  With a child suffering from separation anxiety, three months to hang at home with me just makes September that much harder.   I’d rather sprinkle in a lot more three day weekends, maybe a week or two off every couple of months than to have that whole season off.  As much as I love having them home, September is so much harder than it should be because separating is so hard for Sam.

I’m actually going to be experimenting with homeschooling this summer.  Jessie needs to build some math confidence, and Sam typically has such a rough beginning, I figure if I can give him a head start into first grade, so much the better.

We’ll fit in some fun, day trips and mini-vacations, and with any luck, we’ll be moving into a new house this summer – but yeah, I’m in favor of summer homework.

3. Would you prefer to live without AC or heat?

Heat.  I’d rather be too warm than too cold.  I know it’s easier to just toss on a sweater or a blanket, but I’m happier barefoot, and hate wearing a coat.

That being said – we’re on Day 2 of a four day heat wave, and I’m profoundly grateful for the AC chugging away in my window.


4. What the worst thing about staying in a hotel? (Besides not being with your family)

I don’t stay in a hotel all that often – but I think the worst part of it is that’s it’s a new place and nobody sleeps all that well.  The last time we went away, I spent all night terrified that Julie was going to topple out of the bed.  I kept waking up and yanking her back towards me.

5. So, do your kids really get “104 days of summer vacation”? (Bonus points for those of you that get this reference!)

This summer, we’re barely getting two months because of all the snow days last winter.  But that’s an awesome show – we love Phineas and Ferb!

 

 

 

Parenting Books

I read a lot. I’ve always been a reader, in fact, when I realized that the principal at my son’s preschool was my old life studies teacher from the eighth grade, he remembered me from twenty years ago strictly because I was the one with my nose in a book all the time. So it’s no real surprise that once I had kids, I was delighted to realize that there was a wealth of books that I had never thought to read before. Pregnancy books were my first indulgence, and I devoured them at a scary rate. I moved on to infancy, breastfeeding, attachment parenting, free range parenting, skinned knee parenting, books about why parenting was so hard, why the media tells us it’s so awful, why women should stay home, why women should work. I’ve read books on step parenting, sibling rivalry, on divorcing parents, on single parents. Potty training, sleep training, discipline techniques – I’ve probably read it.

Part of it is just that I like to read. Part of it is that it’s how I process things, I read all that I can, think about it, and generally then follow up with writing about it. Now that I’m thinking about it, parenting is really an incredibly literary thing for me.

Over the weekend, I read three very different books, with very different viewpoints. What I like most about them is they were all really thought provoking – so if you’re into that sort of thing, here’s some book recommendations…

What to Expect When No One’s Expecting – America’s Coming Demographic Disaster by Jonathan Last. If you’ve been concerned about population boom, don’t be. My newest concern is the population implosion. The book had a LOT of numbers and statistics and the main thing I took from it is that the whole world is big, bad trouble because nobody’s really having kids anymore. Fairly depressing, but also eye-opening. One caveat, the author is pretty open about being anti-abortion, and comes from a pretty conservative background.

Why Have Kids? A New Mom Explores the Truth About Parenting and Happiness by Jessica Valenti. I just found this depressing. Partly because the poor author seemed fairly unhappy about everything, and partly because she was also pretty adamant that everything about the way I’ve chosen to live my life is not only wrong for me, but also wrong for my children and society at large.

Both of the two books above referenced societal shifts – how we make individual decisions and don’t necessarily think of how society at large is making similar decisions, and how that will impact everyone’s future. I didn’t decide to have three kids because I wanted to replace Marc and I, plus have an extra, and I’m probably not going to have another to boost the population, but when fewer and fewer people are having fewer and fewer kids, it has huge implications that I never thought about. Making the decision to stay at home and raise children – it was the right decision for me, for my husband, and for my kids. But is it the right decision for the feminist movement, for the generations coming after me? Both books gave me a perspective that I hadn’t thought of before – always a huge bonus in a book.

The Gender Trap – Parents and the Pitfalls of Raising Boys and Girls by Emily W. Kane. I just started this, but so far, it’s pretty interesting. I’ve always thought my kids were sort of naturally falling into very typical gender roles, because I consciously tried to make sure that Jessie had trucks and balls and Sam had baby dolls – but I did gravitate towards girly clothes with flowers and lace for Jessie and Julie and wouldn’t have dressed Sam in a pink sleeper. I’m not sure that you can tease out nature versus nurture, especially as it relates to gender identity, but it’s interesting to think about.

After this – I’m switching over to some straight up escapist fiction – Sharon Shinn – her Thirteen Houses series is phenomenal, if you’re looking for some fiction recommendations.

Shabbat

It was what sold me on Judaism in the first place.  Shabbat represented family harmony, elevating common everyday things to a sacred level.  Taking a whole day, an evening and night and the whole next day to just appreciating what you have.  Preparing a big dinner, taking a quiet moment to light the candles and thank God for the food and the light and the family in front of you, spending the next day partially with community, and partly with just family… It was the first thing about Judaism that felt like it was mine, the first thing that made me feel like I wasn’t just doing it for someone else, this was what I wanted.  For me, for my husband, and for my kids.  It’s the foundation for me, it’s what keeps me grounded in Judaism.  I don’t speak Hebrew or Yiddish, the emphasis on the Torah is sometimes confusing to me – but Shabbat, Shabbat I understand.  Shabbat brings me back, week after week, to what I want most for my life.

So why is it so hard?

I think it’s a function of my life right now.  I’m essentially alone with all three kids all week long.  Marc works so much, and the hours are so brutal.  I’m achingly aware, all the time, of his absence and how much the kids miss him.  How much I miss him.  And how much EASIER it is when he’s home.  Just having another adult in the house, someone to answer the questions or pay attention or help with homework, even just someone to pour me a cup of coffee when I’m too busy to do it myself.

Friday night comes and goes, and he’s not here.  I’m trying to make an effort to at least light the candles with the kids, but last night’s dinner was beans and hot dogs.  I put Julie to bed, and then Jessie conked out on my bed next to her.  Sam was rocking and rolling until Marc came home around nine thirty or so.  He ended up falling asleep on the couch while poor Marc ate leftovers after everyone else was sleeping.

This morning – I was just irritated.  The house was in shambles, coffee wasn’t made.  Julie was up at the crack of dawn, followed almost immediately by the other two.  The kids were battling, Julie was exhausted and screaming, literally screaming whenever something didn’t go her way.  Nothing went her way.  And I yelled at Marc until he finally left the house just to escape.

I drove to the BI, in no mood for any kind of spiritual activities at all, but Julie loves it so I went.  Dragging a reluctant Sam, because he wanted to stay home and color.  Jessie had gone to my in-laws for a visit, so I just had the two little ones.  They did not behave in an exemplary fashion, and at one point, I had to lean over and hiss in Julie’s ear “If you don’t stop right now, we won’t come again.”  That’s right, I threatened to take away Shabbat if she couldn’t behave.  Stellar parenting right there.

As I was driving home, still aggravated and feeling put upon and stressed out, I grumbled to myself that I don’t like Shabbat.  I was thinking it’s too close to the work week, there’s too much stress and pressure and I need a day to decompress before I can really relax and appreciate my life.   But Julie piped up from the back about how much she LOVES Shabbat, she get to see Ellen and Aviva and Abi and Tali at the kids service, and challah and grape juice.  I thought for a minute or two, but even after that, I was still crabby and unpleasant.

Then I got a brief window of time, went out all by myself.  Marc took the kids and they let me go without too many tears.  For a brief period of time, I was able to just… be.  Just exist.  Do what I wanted, go where I wanted to go.  So I got take out chinese, and went to get books.  Of course.  And I felt better.

Maybe a whole day for Shabbat is just out of reach for me at this point.  Maybe all I can manage is a few minutes, here and there.  I did light the candles last night, and Julianna, oddly enough, can recite the blessings by herself.  I didn’t know that until last night.  And Jessica cleaned the house while I was gone earlier and had a tea party with Crabbianna to keep her occupied.  On my way back, I picked up Sam and brought him shopping with me, and we picked out dessert for tonight.

Maybe Shabbat is found in little pockets of time that I manage to cull out of my life these days, maybe I should try harder to find them during the week.  Moments like yesterday afternoon when Sammy sang on stage, and last night when my Jessie snuggled up next to me like she was a little girl and fell asleep that way.  Moments when Marc loves me despite the fact that I yelled at him until he left, rather than fight back with me, because clearly I was too irritable to have a rational discussion.

Maybe I need to rethink Shabbat.  Just a little.  Just for a while.  Because there’s opportunity for holiness everywhere, and gratitude and solace and harmony.  There are moments, every day, I just need to be more present and aware of them.  Maybe I need to focus more on trying to have a little of it every day, instead of resenting the fact that I can’t have a whole day of concentrated Shabbat-ness.

His victories are so much sweeter

Sam has some anxiety issues.  And he’s really stubborn too, so when he starts to get really anxious and panicked about something, he kind of sinks into it, and it’s wicked hard to pull him out.  And apparently, I’m kind of a trigger for explosive tears.  He can hold it in and appear to be fine, until he sees me.  And then… yeah, suffice it to say that today was not one that I’d want to repeat again.  Except for this one moment… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

They were having the annual spring concert today at their elementary school.  And by they, I mean my stepdaughter, daughter and son.  Grades sixth, fourth and kindergarten, respectively.  And in a misguided attempt to prevent overcrowding in the auditorium, and also to make it more meaningful and fun for everyone, the powers that be divided the grades up into two different shows, added a reading off of everyone who had served in the armed forces/fire/police/EMT and then let everyone who wanted to sing/dance/play an instrument/recite a poem perform.  So it was LONG day.  For me, and especially for a toddler.

Julie was mildly amused at going to see her sisters sing and dance.   She was less amused after they read of 300 names and even less so after sitting for an hour or so.  I was bopping back and forth between the lobby and the auditorium, because she’d get really loud in the audience and I’d have to leave.  And then get really bored in the lobby and I’d take her back in to see the kids.

Jessie and Sarah were on first, so I got there for 10:00.  Sam’s portion of the program was going to start at quarter of one, and in theory, I’d be able to swing into his classroom, hang out, read with the kids for a while in between shows.  But I knew he was nervous about performing today, and also knew that seeing me would be a bad idea.  My goal was to avoid the wing where his class was, to say out of his sight until after the performance.  But I didn’t anticipate that he’d pop out into the lobby.

He came out with a buddy on some errand, and once he saw me, he just fell apart.  He was so nervous and wound up about the whole thing, and could only hold it together when I wasn’t there.  Long story short, I ended up leaving, because he couldn’t calm down while I was there.  It’s heartbreaking, because this is my boy, my baby – and the only thing I could do to make it better was to leave.

I know in theory that it’s okay.  I know that what looks like good parenting in most kids can be contraindicated in kids with anxiety, so trying to soothe and make it better and reassure him just reinforces that there’s something to be nervous and afraid of.   But walking away from my child, while he’s screaming and sobbing for me – begging me to take him home and not make him do it, is absolutely the hardest thing I do.

In the end, though, the books were right.  His teacher (who is a goddess and I worship at her feet) is right.  Walking away allows him to pull it together.  Because I’ve got a strong support system in place, his school is filled with people who love him, and sincerely want for him to succeed.  I could walk away, because I knew it was what he needed.   He needs to know that he can do this – that he can conquer the anxiety and the nerves, that he’s strong and capable and can do it without me there – and he just can’t learn that if I’m there.

When I snuck back in, after his performance had started, and stood in the back so he couldn’t see me – I watched him on stage.  Sitting beside his best friend, singing his little heart out.  I cried.  Just a little.  Because his victories are so hard fought, because what looks so easy for everyone else is unbelievably hard for him sometimes.   Because he was so scared and it was so hard for him, and because I’ll always second guess myself and wonder if I’m doing the right thing when it comes to pushing him versus indulging him.  But he sat up there, wearing his stupid little hat, singing like all the other kids, and I was prouder of him than I can possibly express.

More kids?

(Disclaimer – given my basic personality and overwhelming need to analyze, debate and ponder everything, you should probably expect a post on whether or not we’re having more kids every three or four months.  And probably, they’ll go back and forth, for and against, usually in the same post)

So, I’ve been reading a lot lately.  If by lately, I mean the last thirty years or so, because really, I just read a lot in general and always have.  But I noticed that, as of late, I’ve been reading an awful lot about special needs kids.  Autism, deafness, down syndrome, profound mental and physical handicaps, schizophrenia… and it’s having an impact.  I may be subconsciously choosing my reading material to influence this choice, but I’m leaning more and more towards being done with having children.

My kids are healthy.  Not without their own little neuroses and issues, but on the whole, healthy, happy, well adjusted kids.  Would I be tempting fate to do it again?  Possibly.  I know I was waiting, during Julie’s ultrasound, for the other shoe to drop.  It didn’t.  She’s healthy.  They all are. Plus, with Marc’s schedule the way it is – I’m really bordering on overwhelmed most of the time.

I’ve got it under control, kind of, most of the time.  But he’s not home during the week, at all, really, and it’s just me, home with three kids, of different ages and temperaments and needs – and I don’t always handle it well. I’m not always good at it. I frequently have to put one kid’s needs above the others, or make one kid suck it up because I don’t have time to parent that particular one the way I would like to.

Somehow, it’s generally Jessica or Julie that get the shaft lately, although I’m fairly certain that Sam also sees his share of benign neglect.  Jessie tends to be more independent so I have to try harder to notice when she needs me and just isn’t asking.  When she wants me and isn’t asking.  Julie’s nap is haphazard and often overlooked, not because I don’t want her on a regular schedule, but because I just can’t fit it in between pick ups and drop off and homework and dinner.

Bottom line, I can barely keep my head above water as it is.  I’m not complaining, although it probably sounds like I am.  Truth is, I love having three kids.  I love the chaos, and the craziness, the jumble of all of them on top of me at bedtime.  I love the fact that there’s such a great age difference between them, I have Jessie – who’s seriously drop dead gorgeous and just on the cusp of adolescence, and Sam, who’s just so freaking awesome and really starting to enter into that lovely self-sufficient stage of late childhood, pre-puberty.  And Julianna Ruth is still my buddy, still thinks the sun rises and sets because I make it so.    It’s not that I’m barely keeping my head above water – it’s that I’m fully immersed in mothering right now, exactly what I wanted.

After Jessie was born, I knew I wanted more kids.  After Sam was born, it still felt like someone was missing.  But now – I kind of feel like I’m done.

Maybe I’m just done for right now.  Maybe a year from now, I’ll feel differently.  But I realized yesterday that if I got pregnant this fall, there would be a bigger age difference between Sam and the new baby than there is between my two girls.  Not that I wouldn’t love another girl, of course I would – but I would like another boy, I’d like for Sam to have a brother.  But if I did get pregnant, and I did have a boy (neither of which is a guarantee), they’d be in completely different worlds pretty much all of their lives.  Julie is always going to be seven years younger than Jessie.  They won’t ever share friends or activities.  Don’t get me wrong – Jessica is phenomenal with her baby sister – but it’s her baby sister.  They aren’t peers.  And probably won’t be for another twenty five years or so, not until they’re both adults.  Sam wouldn’t have a buddy kind of brother – he’d have a baby brother.  Which, again, not a bad thing – but the image I had in my head of Sam with a little brother buddy – that ship has sailed.

So maybe we are done.  And maybe that’s okay.  Not sure if I’ll ever be able to say with any kind of finality that I’m positive I don’t want any more kids.  I don’t know that Marc would ever say that.  But for now, for the foreseeable future – I think I might be.

Life with a toddler

I set Julianna up with her favorite lunch, pita and hummus, and was bopping around the house, doing whatever it is that I do all day.  Suddenly, she starts hollering in from the living room… “MAMA – I dot hummus on my toes!”  As I’m wiping hummus off her grubby little feet, I ask, not really wanting to know the answer, how did the hummus get on her toes.  By sticking her feet into it, she explains patiently, like I’m an idiot, because really, isn’t it obvious?  So then we had to have the conversation about how toes don’t belong in our food.  She reacted as though this was completely new information….

She also brought a dandelion into the car the other day.  Which isn’t a big deal, she’s done that before.  But unbeknownst to me, her older sister had shown her how the dandelion fluff could be pulled off and scattered around.  So now as I drive down the street, I’m constantly on the verge of freaking out, because I’ve got FLUFF floating around my car all the time, and I keep thinking it’s a bug.

 

 

 

Sisters

It’s a topic that I’m kind of an expert on.  I was raised by a mother with four of them, and I’ve got one of my own, in addition to two stepsisters.  My cousin and best friend is truly an older sister to me – we’ve grown up together and I always count her as a sister.  I have two daughters of my own, plus two stepdaughters.  I’m thinking tonight about those relationships – because they’re complicated and messy and intimate and hostile and while it’s true that nobody can bug you more, there’s also something amazing and beautiful about the relationship between sisters.

My mother’s sisters were always her best friends.  I mean, growing up, they were her friends.  She had other friends, but it was my aunts that she talked to every day, my aunts who acted as surrogate mothers when she wasn’t available, and it was their children that I was closest to.  She doesn’t always get along with them, and sometimes they fight just like little girls – but her relationships with her sisters is long and deep and a connection that I envy.

My cousin and I grew up in different parts of the country.  She lived in Colorado for several years while we were kids, and I was here in MA.  But we kept in touch, the way that kids do.  When we were old enough, we wrote letters back and forth, like diaries to each other.  Which actually, now that I think about it, forged our relationship like nothing else could have.  She was somebody I could say anything to – and I think I’m the same for her.  We lived together for most of our twenties, and have stayed close.  Her daughter, Abby-with-a-bow, is Julianna’s bestest friend, and I like to think that they will be as close as we always have been.

My own sister is five and a half years, almost six years younger than I am.  Six years isn’t a lot now, but it was when we were younger.  We’re dramatically different in so many ways – she’s impatient and hot tempered, I’m relatively calm and rarely lose my temper.  But she doesn’t hold a grudge, like I do, and she’s emotional and passionate.  She’s actually much more like my mother than I am, which is odd, because I’ve spent most of my life thinking I’m just like my mother.  But in reality, it’s the two of them that have the most in common.  My sister and I don’t always talk – but she’s right there, one of the backbones of my life.  I can’t imagine not having her.  She’s bright and beautiful and I’m enormously proud of her.

My stepsisters and I are even farther apart in age.  Ten and twelve years, if I’m remembering correctly.   They’re scattered around the world now, one in Europe and the other in Hawaii, and I don’t entirely like it.  I’m proud of them, I’m slightly envious of the paths they’ve chosen, but I liked it a lot better when they were closer.

As for my daughters, and step daughters… I adore their relationships.  The four of them are the Cohen girls – a recognizable unit.  Lilli is fourteen, Sarah almost twelve.  Jessica is ten, and Julie just turned three.  Individually, there’s potential for a lot of conflict, especially among the older three (because really, fighting with a toddler is a waste of effort).  Watching the three of them grow up, recognizing that while Jessie is my oldest child, she’s the middle of Marc’s kids, and the youngest of the older kids.   Nobody makes Jessie angrier than her sisters, and nobody makes her laugh harder.  She’s at times maternal with Julianna and sometimes she squabbles with her like she’s a toddler herself.

I wonder what their relationships will be like as adults.  If Jessie and Sarah will still make each other roll on the floor laughing when they’re thirty and thirty two.  If Lilli and Sarah will always have that bond between them, the connection that’s almost visible, even though they look nothing alike.  If Julie will always feel like the baby sister, or if she’ll ever stand beside them as an adult and not feel like the little one.  If Jessie will ever feel like birth order makes any sense, and if she’ll feel like she’s the oldest, the middle or the youngest.

And I also think that Sam is going to be the best boyfriend and have the best luck with girls.  Because he’s freaking awesome with girls – he’s an incredible big brother to Julianna – and with three older sisters, it’s not like there’s going to be any mystery with how girls think or behave.

Way Back Wednesday

(Here’s a post from May, 2008.  Reading it made me smile, remembering my two year old Samilicious Boy.  He’s grown up a lot in the past five years, but his personality is still the same.)

Sam tried to bake his ducks

Being the good mom, thought I’d whip up some cookies for my children. My mother bought me some cookie dough, so I put the oven on three fifty to preheat and spooned out the dough onto the cookie sheet – after a few minutes, I opened the oven to discover that my son had put his two favorite stuffed animals (Quackie 1 and Quackie 2) into a sleeping bag cover bag and stuffed it into the oven. Where I baked it.

I feel as though am I ill prepared for a boy. For this boy – Jessica would NEVER have attempted this. It just wouldn’t have occured to her… I could have burned the whole apartment down if I had actually let the oven preheat the way I’m supposed to – fortunately, I’m not a patient baker and the ducks just got a little toasty, and not actually hot enough to catch on fire. Did I mention it’s a gas stove??? I knew he put stuff in the microwave, I’m used to opening that and finding straws or toys or measuring cups – but he’s never done the oven before. I’m afraid of what he’ll do next.

I was on the phone with my mother, telling her what her grandson had just done – when I realized that he was standing on the desk next to the computer, applying sunscreen to the monitor…. he’s lucky he’s cute. He toddled out of Jessie’s room earlier with a pull up on his head like a hat, sucking on a medicine dropper like it was a cigar. It’s moments like that – that’s what’s saving him from me killing him.

Two steps forward, one step back

Julianna is weaning.  Slowly, slowly, but I’m starting to see real progress towards her not nursing at all anymore.  I initiated the process, but really wanted it to be as easy and non-traumatic as possible.  I have miserable memories of weaning Sam.  Part of it was that he was older than Julie, he was closer to four by the time he stopped.  But mostly it was that I was pregnant with Julianna and incredibly, incredibly uncomfortable.

With Julie, a couple of things have really helped the process.  Number one – I put her in her own bed.  It’s not a huge transition, she’s still in our bedroom.  But she’s got her own bed, and sleeps in it all night long.  She very rarely wakes up at night to nurse now.

I also started really limiting how long she’ll nurse for any one session.  I didn’t focus on eliminating nursing, I focused on shortening the duration.  That took a little while to work, but now she knows that it’s only going to be for a few minutes, and it’s got the added bonus of eliminating some of her desire to do it.  She’ll still ask, but it’s not as a big a deal anymore.  We’re down to one or two nursing sessions in a 24 hour period.  And we’ve done it with no tears (on either of our part – which is HUGE compared to how rough Sam’s weaning was) or frustration.

I’m also doing my best to mirror the potty training experience.  No expectations, or exceptionally low expectations, and then let her do it on her own.  I let her nurse when she needs to, and don’t get frustrated or angry about it.  She’s going to backslide a little, every now and again, and that’s okay.  She’s been nursing for her entire life, and it’s a big change to outgrow something that fundamental.  But she’s making more progress than I expected.

I found out I was pregnant with Sam in late September/early October 2005.  Which means, this fall, I’ll have been pregnant or nursing for eight years.  I’d like not to reach that goal.   I don’t know that we’ll get there, but that’s my hope.

Mother’s Day

I’m thinking today about five people.

My mother – she had turned twenty two the day before I was born.  That boggles my mind now, because I had just turned twenty nine when I had Jessica.  By the time she turned twenty nine, she was newly divorced, with four little kids, starting on a journey that was harder than anyone anticipated it would be.  Raising children with a loving, devoted spouse is hard, raising kids straight up alone must have been unspeakably difficult.  I imagine, in so many ways, it still is.  Because it’s her job, hers alone.  All that we are, all four of us, all of our faults and successes and heartbreaks and triumphs – she’s our only parent.  She bears all that weight, by herself, all the time, and I don’t think any of us really get that.  But she’s taught me about selflessness, and unconditional love and support and how to make stuffing and why going to the ocean makes everything better.  She’s my mom, my best friend, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like without her.

My husband – Marc came into my life at a time when I not sure what I was doing.  Single, in a career that was fun but not particularly meaningful.  I was searching for him, for what we have, without even knowing that it could exist.  I had no model for a successful, happy marriage.  I had no framework for a devoted, hands on dad, and no idea how to parent when it wasn’t a one person job.  Marc loved me long before I was ready for it, and waited until I caught up to see that he was exactly what he said he was, right there, going nowhere, loving me and loving the family that we’d create.  He’s the foundation that I build everything else on, what we have together makes my life possible.  I wouldn’t be the woman I am today without him at my side.

And my kids – my Jessica, who’s held my heart from the very first moment I looked into her eyes.  Dramatic and stubborn, thoughtful and intense, she’s my first baby, the one who made me Mama.  My Sammy, who’s taught me more about mothering than I ever thought I’d learn.  I’ve never thought I was a fighter, until I had a child who needed more from me than everyone thought he should get, and he stretched me and tested me and challenged me and taught me more about myself than I ever thought possible.  My Julianna Ruth, after the worst pregnancy and the easiest birth, I was giggling when she was born.  She’s feisty and imperious, sweet and loving and the center of everyone’s whole world.

Thank you, to all five.  Thank to my mother, because she showed me what motherhood is all about.  Thank you to my husband, who loves and supports me, and without whom I would not be a mom.  And lastly, thank you to Jessie, Sam and Julie.  You three are my center, my heart and everything I ever wanted.  I love you more than you’ll know.